Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Recap 2008: End-of-the-year Nostalgia

20 years from now, what will be the first thing that comes to your mind when you come across something dated 2008? Besides the fact that that 'something' is no longer in its warranty period/edible, what will it be? Of course, it may be something personal, but how am I to know that. All I can do is list out a few events which I think 2008 will be remembered for. In no particular order (or rather the order in which they come to my mind, thus dependent on their importance, their taking place in January/December and whether they fall in my areas of interest):
  • The year of the meltdown
    Sadly, the first thing that comes to mind is the Economic Recession. The time when every other news item/advertisement reminds you "in these hard times"... But then, every other decade has had its recession. Let's just wait for the global economy to rise back and hope we ride the boom in 2009.

    Alternately: The year the stock markets fell, The year of the mortgage crisis,  The year the investment bubble-burst, The year of the Recession etc.

  • The year of Heath Ledger
    I could have bulleted it as the year The Dark Knight was released, but this is just too close to my heart, as to anyone's who's seen this guy play 'The Man who laughs' the way nobody ever has. On a related note, I plan to blog about the movie as well as The Joker's philosophy in the coming year.

    Alternately: The year of The Joker, The year Heath Ledger died, Why So Serious?
  • The year of Obama
    2008 will always be remembered, by me and the rest of the world, as the year Barack Obama was elected President, of a nation half-way across the globe from where I'm writing this. 2009 will see the Presidential Inaugration of Obama. This makes 2008 the year we all said, Yes We Can. I will be blogging on Obama pretty soon as well.
    Alternatively: The year we said Yes We Can, The year Obama became President, The year Bush left the White House, The year Hillary almost became President, and quite possibly: The year Obama First became President.
  • Mumbai Attacks
    No one can ever forget the attack on India's largest city that took place on 26/11, often dubbed as India's 9/11. While the crisis was massive, with 10 coordinated attacks taking place in the city, they were rather dwarfed by the reactions to the crisis. A range of resignations and political changes, and almost insurgent movements my civilians. International reaction for the attacks was also widespread. Media coverage highlighted the use of new media and internet social networking tool in spreading information about the attacks, observing that internet coverage, especially the blogosphere, was often ahead of more traditional media sources.

    Alternatively: The year of 26/11, The year of the Mumbai Hostage Crisis, The year of Taj, The year we realised it was enough

  • The Year of the Iraqi Shoe
    Oh, nobody can forget Muntadhar-Al-Zaiydi, though nobody knows how its spelt either. The guy who did was millions of people in Iraq, in the United States, and across the world wanted to do. Though it's a pity Bush dodged the farewell kiss, and quite quickly at that.
    Alternatively: The year Dubya got his farewell kiss, The year Iraq thanked Dubya with all its sole, The year of THE shoe
Of course, these are not the only major events of 2008. I am just predicting that these are the ones that'll be remembered throughout.

Now for those for which 2008 will NOT be remembered: (in no particular order, as before)
  • Our Olympic Medalists
    Nobody cries about not winning medals at the Olympics more than India. No one celebrates their victories and joins their orkut fan clubs more quickly than us. And nobody forgets them the way we do too.
    How many medals did India win at the Beijing Olympics? And which ones? And who won them, and in which events? Was he a colonel or a major who won that Silver last Olympics at Athens? And what was his name? And did you have to use Google to check any of this out?
    I think I need not say any further.

  • Possibly, the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks:
    While we are all up in arms against the politicians at the moment, aren't we going to vote the same bunch of goons back to power again? Not something that I hope, but expect.

  • Chandrayaan, and the record-setting 10 satellites sent into orbit with a single launch by ISRO.
    The next time you complain about India lagging behind in technology, try sounding C-H-A-N-D-R-A-Y... in your mind.

  • Ghajini
    Sorry guys, for bringing this up again, but I just couldn't resist all the forgetting/amnesia punny situation. I hope we DO FORGET this one. I also hope I forget certain scenes from Harold and Kumar's escape from Guantanamo Bay. While the aforementioned The Dark Knight holds the record for being the highest-grossing movie of the year, this one is the most Gross movie I've ever seen.

  • I'm sure there's some more, but I seem to have forgotten already.
So there you are, 2008 for you. The new year's eve is also seen as a time when people take stock of their lives, but I prefer doing that on my Birthday, which falls in the same week anyways.

My resolutions will be coming up on my Birthday. You make sure you keep up with yours atleast till the next weekend. Let's try make this world a better place to live, and we'll see what we've got by this time next year. With these thoughts, I wish everyone reading this, a very prosperous 2009. Happy new year, everyone.

For the last time this year, I bid you, Peace...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Ghajini - A Review

Go on, read the review. Absolutely no spoilers!!! Except Ghajini itself of course.

For the first time, I saw a movie being touted as a Hollywood remake not being anywhere close to the 'original'. And for another first, I actually wished it was a blatant copy, not an ‘original’. Of course, in Bollywood terminology, a frame-by-frame reconstruction is a remake, but if you pick up 3-4 good Angrezi films and make a messy cocktail, well that's ORIGINAL. So there it was, a drop of Memento (just a drop, mind you), a bit of The Butterfly Effect, with a large serving of THE HULK. Add some good old Rajni-style action for some desi tadka, and that’s Ghajini for you!

So there’s this medical kaalij Professor assigning projects to final year students, but he wouldn’t let Nishabd girl Jiah Khan take the “short-term memory loss” patient (apparently the term “anterograde amnesia” is not good enough for a final year medical student researching neuroscience). Anyways, her heart yearns to know this guy, and next thing she knows, she bumps into him by pure chance. Knowing his past was a cakewalk using his journals. Oh did I miss the journals part.

Chairman/ Managing Director/ CEO/ Maalik (terms used interchangeably) of India’s largest telecom company, and very conveniently one of the world’s largest as well, with firangi execs scampering around like pooches, this multi-billionaire returns from the States and goes to office dressed in tight body-hugging almost-cut-sleeved office wear (now that’s corporate muscle-flexing). And like all good Harvard-bred Chairmen/MDs/CEOs/Maaliks, he maintains a regular journal in Hindi, on his affair with his oh-so-simple & ah-so-gentle goody-goody girlfriend. And while this Sridevi 2.0 (or make that 1.0) helps blind-old-baba cross the street while giving him complete and colourful descriptions of the kids playing and wives beating their husbands along the way (she guessed it compensates blindness), she’s all over the mass-media falsely telling the world she’s in [mutually] love with the tycoon. The catch here is that neither she nor anyone else in the country has seen a picture of Mr.Rich-n-Famous or have any idea what he looks like. Oh, and about the journal, no hindi Romaantick diary is complete without shayari, and no reading of the diary complete without a bit of dancing around the trees with a whole bunch of colour-coded extras (dance routines which also serve as an additional showcase for that elusive 8-pack and the bulging biceps). But there’s another side of the eight pack..uh... story as well. The Diary stops right before Mr.Eligible-8-pack-Bachelor turns into the hulk.

Didn’t I tell you about the Hulk? Man, this anterograde amnesia short term memory loss thing is getting to me. Anyways, the rich-guy-poor-girl candy floss love story gets all bitter and really f***ed up with the girl getting brutally killed and the guy getting amnesiacally injured by this Haryanvi gentleman, Ghajini (Oh c’mon that’s hardly a spoiler...this is revealed at the beginning). Against all expectations, Ghajini’s a minor character in the movie, and played by a [deservingly] unknown face. Don’t blame Amir for using that for a title, it’s a remake after all. Mr. Ghajini also happens to be a Chairman/MD/Maalik of a pharmaceutical company (again very conveniently one of India’s biggest) and comes complete with a whole ensemble of skull-cap donning body guards.

So while Ghajini moves around attending college fests and trading kidneys, our bhoolne-ki-bimaari patient brandishes his injury on his head and goes all the way eight-packing to avenge his fianc√©’s death, armed with pecs and abs and a Polaroid camera (complete with a beep every 15 mins) and notes and tattoos... Wait, tattoos?

But why the tattoos? To remind him every morning of all that stuff that he can’t remember? Hmmm... But he lives at his own home, which is full of post-it notes and helpful graffiti anyways. Maybe it’s just not the text, but rather looking at all that meat on which it’s imprinted that makes Mr.Mutton-ki-dukaan go into The Hulk mode. Anyways, don’t blame Amir. It’s a remake, remember. So what if the tattoos actually served a purpose in Memento. And unlike Memento, our avenger does not visit the local tattoo artist, and saves on his money in these difficult times by keeping a tattoo gun home. He’s obviously trained himself to tattoo on his chest and arms and legs all by himself.

So here’s our Hulk roaming around the city looking all over for... his own house at times, travelling in autos and buses, in malls and jewellery shops, all the time looking helpless and confused, but at the same time ceremonially beating his breasts and pumping his breath furiously to keep the fire of revenge burning. There’s the medical student to help him (whom he, by the way, almost murdered once, not that he’d remember that) track the G-guy, and keep reminding him of his mission. She understood the whole story by herself from the journals and newspaper archives (Man, why didn’t the police think of that. Everything was there in the old newspapers to solve the murder mystery.), which also helped our avenger re-learn his own story (√† la The Butterfly effect). The 15-minute memory span conveniently vanishes during such times. It of course, reappears mid-fights, when our guy doesn't know why all these goons are piled around him like used polythene bags.

So while Amir throws around 15-20 goons at the same time, attacking them with bathroom fittings (At one point, he’s confused to see this tap sticking out from this guy’s tummy, only to turn it on and see blood flow. But damn the Censor Board!), the fight sometimes has to be choreographed by the to-be-doctorni. The fight sequences are doubtlessly Rajnikant inspired, and some of the old-school Bollywood dhishoom-dhishoom makes its way into the movie as well, mostly providing comic relief. But that sariya going through the navel, that’s gotta damage the picturesque eight-pack. Well, you win some, you lose some...

Till now everything you've seen is oh-so-bollywood-ishtyle, that even if I don’t tell you whether it’s a happy ending or not, you know it already. As for me, I was just happy it ended.
Maybe I’m biased in my opinion for having watched that masterpiece of a motion picture, Memento. Anyways, even ignoring the unique non-linear narrative of the cult film, Ghajini does not even remotely touch on the themes of memory, perception, grief, self-deception or reality the way Memento does. While the screenplay writer’s wildly swerving train of thought does seem to flirt with scientific coherence briefly, it may just be considered a chance event. The amnesia switches on/off as and when convenient. By the way, Memento has been cited by prominent medical experts as one of the most realistic and accurate depictions of amnesia in popular media and is recommended by neuroscience researchers to those interested in exploring the neurobiology of memory.

Anyways, I am still pretty sure this movie will do well in the first couple of weeks, and will probably be declared a hit. In case it doesn’t, there’s always the Recession-excuse for the producers to cushion the fall. I am an ardent admirer of Amir, but the perfectionism is reflected not in the content but only in the marketing of Ghajini. Look who’s using the brand name now.

My advice to you: if you are planning to watch Ghajini, well, don’t. Run to your nearest DVD-rental shop and get a copy of Memento for the weekend. Or, contact your nearest IITian for another cult classic, Gunda.

[Needless to say, comments are more than welcome.]


Monday, December 15, 2008

This is a farewell kiss, Mr.Bush

If you want the facts, it's a size 10 shoe that he threw.
--George W.Bush

US President George Bush, who was on a surprise visit to Iraq, was in for a bit of surprise himself. An Iraqi journalist just thanked him with all his sole.

Muntadhar al-Zaiydi, a local television correspondent, in Prime Minister Nouri-al Maliki's palace threw his pair of shoes, one-by-one, at President Bush during a joint press conference with Maliki. The president quickly had to duck to avoid the shoes, while Maliki stretched out his right hand to try to catch the second one. Neither leader was hit. As he threw the shoes the man, Zaiyadi yelled "This is a farewell kiss, dog!" and, "This is the end!". It may be noted that just over 5 weeks remain before Dubya hands over the Presidency to Barack Obama.

Displaying the soles of shoes or throwing shoes is not polite behavior anywhere, but in much of the Arab world the shoe is used as a special tool of insult or affront. Before the Iraq war, Saddam Hussein had a mosaic of former President George H.W. Bush on the ground at the entrance to the main foreign hotel in Baghdad, the Al-Rashid. You had to step on Bush's face to get in.

Right after the fall of Saddam, men beat his ubiquitous posters with their shoes.

Mr Zaidi, a correspondent for Cairo-based al-Baghdadiya TV, was then wrestled to the ground by security personnel and hauled away.

Bush, who reacted spryly as he saw his assailant winding up, joked about the incident, saying, "That was a size 10 shoe he threw at me, you may want you to know. "

As security grabbed the man, White House press secretary Dana Perino got knocked beneath her eye by a microphone and ended up with a small shiner.

After order had been restored to the room, the man could still be heard screaming from another room. Al-Baghdadiya's bureau chief told the Associated Press that he had no idea what prompted Mr Zaidi to attack President Bush, although reports say he was once kidnapped by a militia and beaten up.

Shrugging, Bush said, "So what if the guy threw his shoe at me?"

"It's one way to gain attention," he said. "It's like going to a political rally and having people yell at you. It's like driving down the street and having people not gesturing with all five fingers."

I don't know what you think about Zaiydi, but I'm a fan.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ask Steve Jobs: It's all about Peace...(Part-II)

This may be considered a sequel to Peace...

The essential part of the philosophy is knowing, realising and coming to terms with a simple fact, and don't expect it to be anything you haven't heard before. It's very simple: It's an unpredictable world.

What? Hadn't I told you it's a simple fact. While it's an oft-heard statement, few realise its significance. Before I go expounding my interpretation philosophically, why not consider the case in point: Steve Jobs on being Laid off.

I was lucky - I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents’ garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4,000 employees. We had just released our finest creation - the Macintosh - a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our board of directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.......

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the world’s first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I retuned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.
This comes from Steve Jobs' Stanford Commencement Speech, which I came across on Sramana Mitra's Blog. You can also watch the speech:

And as for why I reproduced it above- other than the obvious fact that Steve Jobs' Picture and name in the title might have actually got many of you to read this post, it was the best example that came to my mind. You see, Jobs, immediately after his boardroom coup, and the inevitable resignation, must have seen it as a great failure on his part, since at that point of time, it seemed, to him AND to the world, that between 'being kicked out' and 'not being kicked out', the latter was obviously a million times better for his future than the former. Had he not caught hold of himself after that devastating moment, he could never have gone on to rebuild his universe. For all we know, he might just have joined Hare Krishna or otherwise escaped from the valley. And what resulted is for all to see: Steve is back with a bang, with another boardroom coup at Apple, but this time making him the CEO. I consider Jobs Peace personified.

There are tons of other examples, what's important here, is not about rising from your failures. It's about knowing that there are no failures. It's just a different route taken by destiny. Whether it's the whole world, or just your peer group (which are in fact the same for most people), who believe that you've lost, it's you who should know that there is no such thing as a permanent loss. Life is indeed not about ups and downs. What seems down may just lead you to the top faster than you can imagine. It's an unpredictable world after all. Who can say where your circumstances might take you, how things may turn out. If you're down, don't be. Take a cue from Steve. Go ahead and bite that Apple!


Friday, December 05, 2008

Blogger's Code of Conduct (?)

You know a blogger is going through Writer's Block when he actually writes about Blogging (or writes about Writer's Block itself). Of course, it may also be because he is too busy to come up with something for his/her blog and has to write something he just stumbled upon to maintain a respectable blogging frequency. And then, perhaps he might just have seen something of interest to share with his readers, who are usually bloggers (I assume not many people outside of bloggers themselves read blogs).

Irrespective of whether I am the recipient of your benefit of doubt or not, I present to you  the Blogger's Code of Conduct. While it may already be common knowledge amongst many of you, I'll confess that I recently came to know about it. Tim O'Reilly, active supporter of open-source and free software movements (or Free culture movement), and famous for coining the term 'Web 2.0', came up with this set of rules as a response to another blogger's complaint, about being targeted by a series of increasingly violent and disturbing anonymous comments on her blog and a series of weblogs that appeared to have been created for the purpose of celebrating cyber-bullying. O'Reilly and others came up with a list of seven proposed ideas:
  1. Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you allow on your blog.
  2. Label your tolerance level for abusive comments.
  3. Consider eliminating anonymous comments.
  4. Ignore the trolls.
  5. Take the conversation offline, and talk directly, or find an intermediary who can do so.
  6. If you know someone who is behaving badly, tell them so.
  7. Don't say anything online that you wouldn't say in person.
For detailed description of each of the guidelines, do refer to the original Call for a Blogger's Code of Conduct. An alternate code of conduct has also been suggested:
  • Be courteous.
  • Give accurate information in the spirit of being helpful.
  • Respectfully disagree.
  • Use the correct venue for your post.
  • Admit the possibility of fault and respect different points of views.
  • If you screw up, take responsibility for your actions.
The code is under further review with the aid of a wiki. Doubts have been expressed over its fairness and feasibility. A comment management proposal has also been given by Jon Garfunkel, and endorsed by O'Reilly.

Of course, whether to follow these or not is a personal choice, and I personally feel that Blogosphere is too free from any power to heed any commandments. Your call!!