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Punny game February 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Navaneethan @ 10:35 am
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Modi & I were talking on the phone yesterday, discussing movies.

Modi: Yeah, so I watched ‘Die Hard’ yesterday.

Me: Oh, how is it? I’ve never watched any of those movies.

Modi: Really? I think they’re pretty good.

Me: What about ‘Die Hard with a Vengeance’? What a stupid name for a movie. I mean ‘Die Hard’ ‘with a vengeance’. Thu.

Modi: … Yeah, I guess it’s a silly name, but it’s a good movie.

Me: What about LFODH? ‘Live Free or Die Hard,’ it seems. Why don’t the producers come up with a slightly more sensible name?

Modi: No. That’s a terrible piece of crap. It’s one of those movies that’s all about the computers, and then gets it horribly wrong. Not one technical thing is correct.

Me: I HATE those movies. Sort of like the VB GUI clip from CSI: New York.

Modi: Yeah, like that. Besides, it’s not made in the same mould as the previous Die Hard movies. Not at all like them, it really annoyed me.

Me: (with obvious delight writ large in my voice) So, hmm, it’s probably not for a die-hard fan, eh?

I was waiting to say that from the start of the conversation.

Modi: Uh… macha, you’re a dumbfuck da.


Four stories February 6, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Navaneethan @ 1:46 am

This happened last week.

We were in the bus, on a long journey – tiresome and uncomfortable at its worst. To alleviate the stifling boredom, I said, “I’m going to tell you four stories.”

She said, “Okay, shoot.”

A: Three lifetimes ago, when I was much younger, less worldly-wise and more content, I participated in the preliminary rounds of the Inter-House quiz contest. I wasn’t very good, but, with my mum’s encouragement, I decided to give it a shot. One afternoon, after school had ended at 1:30, 4 of us lined up by the basketball court, and the Head Boy, who was in my house, conducted an informal oral round of selection. I remember him asking where the Winter Olympics were being conducted that year, and I blurted out, “Tokyo,” or some such thing. As it happened, that was the right answer and I was elated. Unfortunately, the question hadn’t been addressed to me, and the bright opportunist whose question it was picked up the slack and immediately repeated my articulation. Fighting tears, I pointed out how unjust the selection was, and was told, “Tough luck.” Watching the quiz a few weeks later, I remember my classmate answering, in the final, tie-breaking round of the quiz, that entomology was the study of the environment. His house lost, and perhaps, it was us who won. There was a bout of elation in class that afternoon and a round of jeers for the boy who had got it wrong, because we had studied precisely this topic in biology a few weeks preivously.

She asked, “Did you ever go up for another quiz?”

“Yes,” I said, “A few years later, I remember very well being in the team that came last. The only question I managed to answer involved identifying the movie that Seal’s ‘Kiss from a Rose” featured in. Another house got a question on Kapil Dev’s 175* against Zimbabwe in the ’83 WC. But anyway, that was another lifetime, and it wasn’t important.”

B: Two lifetimes ago, a little older, a tad wiser (or perhaps I was deluding myself), I used to play tennis in the mornings at the University courts under a coach. It was a glorious summer, perhaps one of my favourites – warm weather, blue skies and plenty of friends. It was in that summer when two friends came over one evening – one of them was spending the next few days at my house, since his family was going to be out of town, and the other was just passing time – we really had nothing much to do in those days; perhaps a little work, an hour or two at most, in the day, after tennis, and the afternoons and evenings were devoted to television, long phone conversations, downloading music and stuff like that.

That particular day, we were talking some nonsense and generally goofing off, listening to music (Alternative was the flavour of the year). At some point in the evening, I had an argument with one friend, and I told her to get lost, before leaving in a huff to my room. I showered, cooled off and came out and life carried on as it had before. A few weeks later, I found out that during the course of my ablutions, the other two had kissed, in my study, behind the stained glass, in a tiny alcove.

“What happened when you found out?” she asked me.

“Well,” replied I, “I felt betrayed that they felt they couldn’t tell me then. I was angry, but I controlled myself for a few weeks, and when a friend who had left school the previous year returned for a visit, I told him. Oh, there were many tears shed. But it didn’t sour anything or have any real lasting effects.”

C: A lifetime ago, after a concert in early August, a friend and I were looking desperately for a place to eat and drink. The previous year I had managed to sneak into a bar underage, and we were looking to repeat that feat. When we were told that the bar was full, we were pretty annoyed and walked around to find another place. While crossing the road near a flyover, I felt the urge to run in my new shoes and while sprinting about, I tripped in the middle of the road and fell flat on my front. No harm, no cars, fortunately. My friend and my driver looked at me strangely, probably wondering what the hell I was doing. Ten minutes later, we found ourselves at a restaurant that had opened very recently. There was going to be a bit of a wait, but it was a reasonably pleasant evening, so we sat on one of those EB boxes with the little ledges. My friend pulled out his pack of cigarettes that I had just bought him and took a puff. We were not discussing anything in particular – watching the traffic go by at a more sedate pace than usual, it being 10 pm or thereabout on a Saturday evening. A large, well-designed hotel was across the road, and we watched the cars full of guests enter and leave.

“Did you finally manage to have the drink?” she asked.

“No,” I said, “But that wasn’t the point of the evening – we weren’t looking to get drunk or anything, we had to go home after that. The drink was just to, you know, sort-of chat around, if you get what I mean. The time we spent outside the restaurant, and after that, while we were eating dinner served the same purpose, without the inebriation.”

D: In this lifetime, there was a great period of loneliness when I interned in a big city on the coast. I didn’t know too many people around my flat or at work, and consequently, I spent most of my time by myself. Most Saturday afternoons, when the weather was warm, I would take the train to a hookah bar and sit in their courtyard, I guess, and smoke and read or listen to music and watch the world go by. One evening, a blond guy wearing glasses sat at the next table, and we struck up a conversation either about the exorbitant price of the sheesha or the book he was reading, which I had read parts of. We talked and talked and talked for hours until even the summer sun decided to bid us adieu – we had discussed subway systems, his travels to the Middle East, banking systems, economics, his admission into a prestigious university on the other coast for a PhD, the tsunami that struck a few years previously, my city, his and all topics under the sun. I never got to know his name, but remember him riding away on his bicycle as I headed in the opposite direction the train station.

“Found him on Facebook?” she asked.

“As what?” I replied, “I don’t remember whether he told me his name, and even if he did, I don’t know what it was. I know where he studied, and where he was going to study, but that’s all.”

“I have something to ask you,” she said, “What do these stories have to do with each other? And what do they have to do with anything? I mean, it’s not that I didn’t enjoy hearing them, but what am I supposed to make of them? I can’t see how they’re connected or anything…”

“There’s nothing more to them than what you just said – I was just thinking about my past. How it used to be, what it isn’t now.”


$10 laptop February 3, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Navaneethan @ 10:49 pm

I heard of this remarkable invention last week, and was amazed that it had escaped my notice. Today, in Tirupati, the Ministry of Human Resources Development unveiled a project that was a joint collaboration between the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and IIT-Madras to develop an inexpensive laptop to be used in schools and colleges across India. As you may have guessed from the title of this post, it is to cost $10.

I’m completely and utterly confused by what’s going on, though. People knew that the announcement was going to happen today (3rd Feb). A quick search of Google News assured me of this. What is less clear is what exactly happened. The reason for my confusion is that last week I knew what, broadly, what the laptop would be like – 10″ by 5″ screen, 2 GB drive, ethernet, wireless, and, AMAZINGLY, 2 Watts of power consumption.

What’s confusing to me is, if we already know what we do know, what was the purpose of today’s grand proclamation? Today, according to what I can comprehend from various conflicting and possibly contradictory sources, the laptop prototype (not displayed, not shown, not seen) will have “a 10″ x 5″ screen, 2 GB hard drive, ethernet, wireless, and will operate on 2 Watts of power.”

Thanks for last week’s news. What will the laptop look like? What are the technical specifications? All this and more hidden behind a veil of mystery.

However, the reason that said event even merits a post on this blog (which seeks to only cover the important stuff, of course) is this corker from the Times of India titled “$10-laptop proves to be a damp squib“.

Let’s see the rest of this article, shall we?

First para:

The much-touted laptop for the masses said to have been built by students of Vellore Institute of Technology that would cost a mere Rs 500 actually turned out to be only a computing device.

Only a computing device, you say? Only a computing device. It’s true that I’m not the smartest chap, but the last time I checked, a laptop was a computing device. And now they go and change the definition on me. Unfair!

Second para:

… joint secretary N K Sinha said the computing device is 10 inches long and 5 inches wide and has been priced at around $30 at the event. However, he refused to comment as to why was it being projected as a laptop when it was not.

One website says $20, another $10 and this one says $30. Despite the vast disparity in prices, I won’t say anything, because there are as many contradictions among reports as there are reports themselves. However, if the “computing device” is not a laptop, then what exactly is it?

The third paragraph takes the trouble to clear my doubts (emphasis mine):

The so-called laptop actually turned out to be a storage device containing megabytes of data info which can be accessed by a user by connecting this device to a laptop. It meant that unlike the internet, this device can display that information that has already been stored.

So, this device contains several megabytes of this mysterious “data info” that can be accessed upon connecting the “so-called laptop” to an actual laptop. The author sees something that I don’t because there is a comparison between a standalone device and a network consisting of billions of devices (i.e., the Internet). The “device” can display information that it has stored in it, but the Internet can’t, it appears.

Earlier, I said that the 3rd paragraph cleared my doubts as to the nature of the “computing device”, right? I was wrong – my doubts are now magnified, amplified, exponentiated – whatever you want to call it.

How on earth did Times of India publish this writing?


Heaaaavvvvvvyyyyy Entertainment (repost from my old blog) February 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Navaneethan @ 10:37 pm

This is one of my favourite posts. I used to write so much better than do I now. *sigh*

It was a sultry Monday in July at the time. I remember it quite clearly (takes a sip of his coffee, and thinks back with a pang of nostalgia at the bitter-sweet irony of life and continues with the story after making a rather long and pointless parenthesised comment, a pathetic attempt to amuse himself and others). It was my 3rd or 4th week in PS in the 11th and we were being rigorously schooled in the procedures and protocols of the Chemistry laboratory.

Thinking myself too good for the institution, I was acting cool. Hands in pockets, lips pursed and an air of indifference about me, I stood in the back and paid little heed to the useful (coughs to hide laughter) information being disseminated by Mrs. Anandavalli & Sundari.

Fatman, also uninterested in what they had to say, was a model of restlessness beside me. No longer able to bear his constant fidgeting, I put out a tentative feeler, “What’s up da?” This was at a time when Fatman & I weren’t the bosom buddies we are now. We struck up an conversation about humdrum topics such as who he knew in Sishya, the weather and why Jaya (the lab attendant) yelled so much. The focus shifted to music, and Fatman, being something of an enthusiastic show-off, proceeded to inform me of his vast knowledge of the English music scene (to his credit, he knows a fair bit).

He interrogated me on my tastes and preferences. Having heard Robbie Williams’s “Come Undone,” only days previously, and being quite impressed by it, I dropped that singer’s name. With a triumphant “Aha!” Fatman seized the opportunity to tell me that he was well aware of Mr. Williams’s style and several of his songs, one of them being “Heavy Entertainment.” He proceeded to sing the chorus rather badly, with a pained expression on his face, “Heeaaaaavvvvvvyyyyyy Entertainment!”

I hadn’t heard the original, though after this rendition, I hastily made a mental note not to listen to it. However, as Fate decreed it, I bought a CD that very December that had a song by Robbie Williams on it. It was called “Let Me Entertain You.” As I’ve mentioned before, I quite like his music, so I put the track on. Listening to it, Fatman’s scrunched-up face and arms flailing in an attempt to imitate a guitar came to mind. I immediately collapsed on the bed in peals & spasms of laughter.

In my car, a few days later, I played Fatman the song, and insisted that he listen to it. Being the lying ass that he is, he swore, upon his mum, dad, and several ancestors, that he had uttered the same words Robbie was crooning, that fateful day in the lab.

To this day, he denies any such incident.

But you, (hopefully amused) reader, do know the truth. And truth it is I tell.


The Big Picture

Filed under: Uncategorized — Navaneethan @ 9:30 pm

My obsession with blogs continues. The Big Picture, a blog on boston.com, contains huge photographs from various current events and some of them are fantastic. I usually like the ones with landscapes, both natural and urban, while I’m not really a fan of shots that have people in them – seems to spoil it somehow.

Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 3 subway station

Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 3 subway station

This one is part of a series featuring Beijing’s preparation for the 2008 Olympics in August. I urge you to check it out post-haste.


The Curious Case of Forrest Gump

Filed under: Uncategorized — Navaneethan @ 7:46 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I watched The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in December. BBC’s Strand podcast (31st Jan 09 edition) reviewed it, and they didn’t have a very high opinion of it either. The movie is 2 hours and 48 minutes long. I can handle a Tamizh movie that long, but an English padam that goes on and on like the was Button does is a smidge intolerable. And, to top it, it was somewhat pretentious, assuming the air of a grand epic film that captured the human condition, where in fact, it was merely a thin veneer of pretense that covered a flimsy, somewhat annoying yawnfest of a story.

However, bad movies make for interesting parodies.

I recently learned that the writer of Button also wrote Forrest Gump. Some great chap has made a mashup of the two, and it’s quite funny. I poked around on the site for the code to embed the video, and being somewhat inept at all this Web 2.0 shite, it took me about a minute to realise that the word ‘Embed’ was writ in the centre of the screen in bold. Anyway, without further adieu, I present ‘The Curious Case of Forrest Gump‘.

Update – As I said, I’m not good at all this embedding nonsense, and tend to get very frustrated when technology doesn’t work immediately and perfectly. I tried embedding the video and the stupid thing just displayed the embedding code. Either there’s a problem with the original site, or, I’m useless. In either case, here is the video.

‘Life is a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get,’ has to be one of the silliest things I’ve ever heard. How did Tom Hanks not laugh in that woman’s face? I suppse that’s what separates actors from the rest of us – the ability control their laughter in the face of side-splitting lines like these.


Phantom India (L’Inde Phantom) February 1, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Navaneethan @ 9:35 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Last week, I read of a documentary on India by a French filmmaker, Louis Malle. After reading a review of it in the NY Times, I decided to borrow it from Rentertainment, a Champaign DVD rental store. The review was unabashedly positive, speaking of an “epic portrait of a nation” or some such thing. Made in 1968, to me, it presented an opportunity to see India, albeit through a foreigner’s lens, from a period I really had no clue about – the 60s, to me, were defined by the anti-Hindi riots in Tamil Nadu (in which my father claims to have participated).

Since my computer refused to play the DVD, I went over to Kaushik’s place and he, Vivek and I sat down to watch it. The first episode (of six) is called ‘The Impossible Camera’ and starts off with Malle saying (as a voice-over) that talking to the middle and upper classes gives him no perspective of the real India, and how he and his mates are going to traipse about filming whatever they see instead of having a pre-determined script or even an outline. Fine idea, I suppose, as the 1st episode does a pretty decent job of showing off parts of India that I hadn’t seen before – fishermen on the Andhra coast haggling with dealers and middlemen, a Hanuman dance in Mysore (incorrectly labelled ‘Muslims dancing for Muharram’ by Malle), vultures and dogs pecking away at the carcass of a buffalo, Kerala’s communist legions opposing a rise in postage prices and the wedding ceremony in the Gypsy (Nari Korava) community. For inexplicable reason, he also interviews two stoned Frenchmen and speaks to an disillusioned Italian nudist.

The 2nd episode, the reason I really wanted to watch this series was about Madras. ‘Ah,’ I thought, ‘Despite being completely clueless about the rest of India, I can tell how well he does Madras.’ It starts off reasonably well at the Chariot Festival from Mylapore Tank. Then we see ‘Mohammed bin Tuglaq’ and a mini-interview of Cho. We are taken to the sets of ‘Thillana Mohanambal’ and to a family planning clinic. So far, really interesting. Very cool stuff, Madras like I’ve never seen before.

Then, he ventures into Kalakshetra Foundation, at the time, beyond the outskirts of the city. Speaking to Bharatnatyam dancers and teachers, he begins to film the lessons (after much hesitation on the part of the Foundation’s authorities). And films. And films. And films. This goes on for about 20 or 25 minutes. At this point, all three of us had lost interest, and were verging on the point of irritation. Where was the beach? The lighthouse? Cooum? Adyar River? Fort St. George? The railways, buses, Central Station? Ripon Building? T. Nagar? Nothing. None of these captured Malle’s attention, and he spent (or wasted, depending on your PoV) 25 minutes filming Bharatnatyam dancers. While I have great appreciation of the art form and the artists, I think it’s unfair to the viewer to say that the episode is about Madras and not show the city at all.

Now, we had some sort of baseline to compare with – and decided that despite our limited knowledge of the rest of India, this chap couldn’t really do justice to it. Give up only are there.