Sunday, September 30, 2007

Truly Dystopic!

This piece is intended for those friends who have it in their mind to embark upon an academic/research career. Please read carefully.

"The American academic scientist earns less than an airplane mechanic, has less job security than a drummer in a boy band, and works longer hours than a Bolivian silver miner."

Boy does this guy give me the shivers!

This story
highlights the life of a SUNY Buffalo PhD who decided his calling was the job of a convenience store clerk.

This site debunks the myth of a desperate labour shortage in the Software Sector.

PS: The career guide for the as yet unslaughtered.

PPS: Also read this "No PhDs need apply"

PPPS: Play The Game at this guy's website to find how big a loser you are. The average score is 32. I scored -18. Really funny. If you're a Science Fiction freak, single, loner and generally consider yourselves to be inept at handling the opposite sex conversationally or otherwise then expect stern responses from the cyberdate and a comfortably negative score.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Stuff Movies are Made of-A Veritable "Anand" Redux

See Randy Pausch, the pioneer of Computer Human Interface, delivering his Last Lecture (literally) at CMU.

Delivered on 18th September 2007, this is video makes him a rockstar of the scientific community putting him in the league of scientists like Richard Feynman, George Gamow, and Gian Carlos Rota. Bravo!

Take hundred minutes out of your schedule and watch this video. You owe it to yourself.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

I like Frank Miller because he takes comic books so seriously that the term 'comic' becomes a misnomer. A totally reinvented, old, brooding, semi-cruel, dark Batman greets you in his return from retirement. The change is apparent in the following images taken from the comic:

It is significant because Batman too had become a victim of caricature especially in the Batman TV Series where guest stars from Hollywood indulged in generous overacting as The Riddler, The Joker, The Penguin etc (Vincent Price starred as Egghead in one such episode). Adam West starred as Batman and Burt Ward was Robin. It was all in the tradition of 'healthy entertainment for kids' and all. (I remember during the mid '90s, sitting in front of TV and waiting for the series to begin desperately on Star TV (Ma always used to confuse the beginning for the end of the episode)). Batman used to beat the shit out of all the villains and there on top of the screen were green coloured alphabets that read "POW", "BOFF" etc with cheesy music accompanying it.

Ahh...those were the best days of my life!

But I grew up and apparently, so did Batman. Christopher Nolan with his Batman movies ("Batman Begins" and the yet unreleased "Batman Returns") is one of the few (along with Tim Burton who made the '89 Batman movie) who are doing justice to the vision of Frank Miller.

Let's end by some more old Batman pictures eh? (Insert "POW", "BOFF", "WHAM" etc wherever appropriate)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Guess what I stumbled upon?

This is what I came across while casually exploring the cavernous hollows of Youtube.

It has the great team of the DDFC performing the ultra famous "Ek Anek" video. Featured in this legendary Spandan '05 DDFC presentation are Anup (Founder-Director of the Shaktiman Fan Club whose membership boasts of 20 billion humans on earth alone!), Billa (another legend whose name inspires fear in the heart of the unbelievers), Josie (also known as Kumar_parvatam, Kala Pahad etc whose nuanced and balanced acting made DDFC the only club which could make the hard hearted, semi human species called Final Years cry tears of grief), Masti (he should've gotten married by now (?); guess what his wife will make of this?), Sardar (as the heartless Vyadh (=chidiya pakadne wala), Meena, Trivedi etc

What a find! Gawd is this brilliant!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Hungry Goat

Those who know me, know me to be a voracious reader of all possible kinds of things. "I use it as a means to pass time, that's all", is my response in defence. But this time, post summer, I have bettered myself. Within a month of my stay at the University, I have read seven full books and am well on the way to finishing my 8th. By the way, that reminds me of a bibliophile joke:

Two goats go to the cinema to watch a movie
After the movie:

Goat 1: How did you like the movie?
Goat 2: Not bad...but the book was better (satisfied bleats in unison)

The last three of these books have been (yeah guys, hold your breath!)
1) Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
2) V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd (yeah the real one, with paper pages; not the .pdf you losers!)
3) Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear

Pandu asked me how was I able to get hold of these books, for you see, most of the new ones that I have read belong to that holy collection which Pandu, Nitesh, AK and I, being the Science Fiction freaks that we are, had been trying to get hold of. The answer is the Science Fiction Forum at the University.

Basically they are a set of really cool guys who share the same passion for science fiction that we had back there at Surathkal. But they are not lazy bums like us who were content with the .pdf graphic novels and SF anime (that Panda and Ra used to supply us with) and the Science Fiction library of Professor Timothy Poston (which by the way, was by no means small). They are dynamic, armed with more resources than the annual budget of a decently sized Indian University and they are willing to share which makes them totally cool. Hats off to them...

Snow Crash is a real nice cyberpunk book but still pales in comparison to what I believe is the greatest Science Fiction book-Neuromancer-the most compact, concise, brilliant, dark and (most importantly?) dystopic science fiction I've read. Snow Crash kicks ass too by the way. It amalgamates many divergent and totally unrelated topics into the cyberpunk sensitivity and has a brilliant, wry sense of humour that Neuromancer did not have either time or space for. However, let me end by quoting from one of the best opening lines ever for a novel (Neuromancer)

“The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel”.

About V for Vendetta: the duo of Alan Moore and David Lloyd have created a masterpiece of sorts (I concur with the goats and think that the book was better). I finished the book with an evil smirk stuck on my face. Totally satisfying! Goats are wise!

It is ironical that the comic book was far more mature and subtle than the movie where everything is caricatured. The Fascist Leader is totally evil, V is more a freedom fighter than an anarchist and The Party captures power by nerve gas detonations or something and not the fair way through democratic elections as is shown in the graphic novel.

Darwin's Radio will be covered sometime later. Let me mention however, that it is one of the few books that was mentioned favourably in the magazine Nature for having portrayed things as they are.

Well, while you losers slug it out in the real world sitting in your cubicles programming for giant code factories for people whom you've not seen and probably will never know, I am on this SF mission.

Let me get back to you when I've finished the Sandman Series. (L to you!)

Books read during Fall '07

1) Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson)
2) V for Vendetta (Alan Moore and David Lloyd)
3) Darwin's Radio (Greg Bear)
4) Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (Frank Miller)
5) Ronin (Frank Miller)
6) Top 10: Book 1 (Alan Moore and Gene Ha)
7) Top 10: Book 2 (Alan Moore and Gene Ha)
8) We (Yevgeny Zamyatin)
9) Software (Rudy Rucker)
10)Flow My Tears the Policeman Said (Philip K Dick)
11)The Master and Margarita (Mikhail Bulgakov)
12)The Divine Invasion (Philip K Dick)
13)Ubik (Philip K Dick)
14)The Peace War (Vernor Vinge)
15)The Cathedral and the Bazaar (Eric S Raymond)

Monday, September 10, 2007


Maybe it's all an elaborate joke played on me by god but the place where I live is called Chapin Apts and I wasn't very surprised when I learnt that I was allotted the L block...

Yes...L'd again!

Top Bass Lines

I think that the three top bass lines ever are:

Born Under a Bad Sign (Jimi Hendrix)
Echoes (Pink Floyd) (the 'ding tinga...ti ding ding tinga' part)
Heard it through the Grapevine (Creedence Clearwater Revival) (the eleven minute cover of the Marvin Gaye song)

These are such artfully constructed bass pieces that they seem perfect for just any kind of guitar solo and obviously the sheer genius of the bands lay in providing just such a screeching, wailing solo.

I wonder if others will agree with me...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Of Anwar, Lucknow, B Grade Townships in recent movies and the likes

I saw "Anwar" a few days ago. I didn't want to write about it because I was feeling lazy and I thought it did not deserve mention. But it kept hovering over my mind and there were many things about the movie that kept coming back to me. And yes, the movie has much of Lucknow in it. Given that not many movies mention the city and the few that do, often go back in time and dwell on the famous Lucknawi tehzeeb and nautch girls etc (a notable exception is "Main, Meri Patni aur Woh" which captures beautifully daily life in a small, upcoming and growing city) I thought I gotta write about this.

The first thing you'll notice is the absolutely topnotch album of the movie by a guy called Mithoon (exceptions are the atrocious songs "Bungla Khulla khulla" and "Maula Mere Maula(remix)") but more about this later.

I want to first talk about the Director here. The guy is Manish Jha and has to his credit a previous movie called "Matrubhoomi" which I remember clearly, polarised the movie watching junta of our hostel into those who had liked the movie and those who simply couldn't stop laughing at what the movie turned out to be (Nitesh was in the laughter gang). I didn't see the movie but was intrigued. Hence when I came to know that this guy has made another movie, and that too about Lucknow, I grabbed the chance to view it (online!).

The Directorial vision, in my view, in deeply flawed. I'll tell you why. Basically, most important characters are in deep shit on account of their love life. This is one common thread that connects all major characters. Vijay Raaj meets his sorry end because the cute dramatics chick tells him that he is a bhikhari, the local junta gets fucked and Valentine Day celebrations turn sour because the minister gets L'd by the wife of the IAS officer (incidentally all love lives in this movie get fucked on Valentine's Day...some kind of fancy symbolism on the part of the Director?), the hero, obviously suffers on account of his love for the cute Nauheed Cyrusi who, incidentally, looks delectably cute in the movie, most of all in the "Maula Mere Maula" song, which in turn is what a beautiful song. Manisha Koirala longingly takes out a picture of Sushant Singh (who never comes up in this movie again apart from this photo) and is shown to have broken up with her boyfriend or something, the SP harps upon his wife dying due to Cancer and he not being able to do shit about it...basically no end of this sorry state of affairs, all due to stupid love problems.

Now all this is not bad per se. And I think the Director is trying to say that even after this shit, love is cool etc. Again, not bad by itself, but in the Universe of Manish Jha, politicians are evil, scheming villains trying to take control of the world (or India as the case may be) just like The Joker or The Penguin would try to do the same in Batman Comics or what Daku Gobar Singh and his sidekick Dhamaka Singh would try to do in the homegrown comic world of Chacha Chaudhary. He would also want a comedian like Rajpal Yadav to indulge in lameass comedy and totally forget what happened to him in between the movie (he totally vanishes after a certain point in the movie and what happens to his efforts to nab Osama bin Laden etc is something that the Director seems to have forgotten to mention).

The basic criticism of the movie is that it lacks subtlety. It has to be loud mouthed about every which sensibility that the Director cares to speak about and this is what pisses me off most. The Director is not without talent. Certainly, I would definitely see his next movie (again, probably online) even after all this but I would expect that he understand that evil, bad criminals and politicians don't act that way brazenly, even if they pride themselves on being evil and bad and have taken up office only because they are in the pay of Pakistani intelligence agencies. It also looks like that a lot of serious editing has been done and many things have been left incomplete (Manisha Koirala's role and Rajpal Yadav's etc are examples) and the basic premise of the movie-the suspicion of terrorism and the follow up to that on the basis of some stupid sketches is laughable. Even evil, criminally insane ministers of god-forsaken states (like UP, Bihar and Orissa) would never create such a ruckus based on that flimsy piece of evidence.

If this was all that the movie had to offer, I would have not written about it, nor would this movie have occupied my mind for such a long time. Actually every other thing apart from the above in this movie is wonderfully done. It captures very smartly the atmosphere of Lucknow, its ruins, its dilapidated, no longer paid attention to mausoleums and palaces. All this is done not in an obtrusive way, not in loudmouthed way that could've meant "Hell, we're shooting in Lucknow, so you've got to see this". This subtlety is thoroughly lacking in the other departments of the movie. The dialogues sometimes sound corny but not corny enough to receive flak. The movie also has a good story and does a decent job of telling it. It also takes a very good and informed look of the ambience of UP, the villagers that dwell in there, the ways they are manipulated, the local flavour of the love story, the interesting side love story, the betrayal, the redemption-all of it adapted well to the setting that must have been chosen very carefully etc. This is something only those who would've stayed in UP for a long time and absorbed all of its nuances could've done.

And yes, the soundtrack. With the exception of the two aforementioned songs, it is a gem. Roop Kumar Rathod has sung a memorable "Maula Mere Maula" in the highest traditions of Sufi music. The song itself is picturised in a brilliant way and all that is good and beautiful about Lucknow comes forcefully to haunt you during the time the song plays. Ra, if you're reading this and you come to see this movie, you will clearly be able to spot the Ambedkar stadium in the song where we spent that scorching afternoon in the 43 degree hot sun. You will also see the places we went to in Old Lucknow when we visited Zebi, the old Imambara, the old homes that many people in Lucknow still live in, the dirty and green/black-with-moss/sludge Gomti and the many minars and ruins that are interspersed, so to say, throughout the timeline of the movie.

The song sounds particularly wonderful to my ears because probably it reminds me of the brilliant trip to Nainitaal that Himanshu and I made during summer '07 where I first heard the song.

I am providing a link to the movie. You can view it online on Google videos. The song "Maula Mere Maula" lasts from the 43rd minute to the 49th minute (for those who want to see the brilliant song/video). Here it is.

Basically this movie is another in what is now a rather long list of movies, mainly by young Turks of the Hindi Film Industry. Examples that come to mind are "Main Madhuri Dikshit Ban_na Chahti Hoon", "Main, Meri Patni aur Woh" (both by Chandan Arora), "Iqbal", "Dor" (both by Nagesh Kukunoor), "Bunty aur Babli" (maybe...(Shaad Ali), "Omkara" (Vishal Bharadwaj) "Haasil" (I forget the name of the Director here but the first half of the movie was brilliant and Irfan Khan as the Student Leader of Allahabad University kicked ass!) etc. All these movies have given the Hindi Film Industry a strong boost by making use of creativity and showing the viewers some artful, artsy yet quintessentially commercial cinema. Cheers to the new face of Bollywood.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Books read before Fall '07

1) The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula K Le Guin)
2) Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad)
3) Fathers and Sons (Ivan Turgenev)
4) The Monk who Sold his Ferrari (Robin Sharma)
5) The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Times (Jefferey Sachs)