Monday, December 27, 2004

Can't turn away

I am so glad that I don't have a TV at home. Looking at the pictures on the net is bad enough. A Tsunami in India, who'd have thought of it? If media reports are to be believed, about 20,000 people have lost their lives. Shocking! One morning, you lie half-awake in bed, or take a walk on the beach, enjoying the sunrise - and before you know it, the ocean opens its mouth wide and gobbles up everything - you, your home, your loved ones, everything.


The time of the year when Santa comes ho-ho-ing with Rudolph's red nose lighting up the hearts of little children (and some not-so-little-children) with the joy of giving, and more importantly, receiving gifts. For a non-Christian kid, it is about carols sounding from the neighbour's house, begging Dad to let me hang a star on the porch, and hoping that the jolly old man in the funny red suit doesn't discriminate on the basis of religion -" I know all the stories from the Bible, Santa". Christmas is about the colour Red, chocolate cake and wine. And the beginning of a long party session.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

New monkey species found

Scientists have found a new species of macaque in Arunachal Pradesh, India. The Macaca munzala lives in high altitudes, IMO, the first known macaque species to do so. Nice to hear about the discovery of a new species of primate, when so many others are fast becoming extinct.

Monday, December 20, 2004

On Phiolosophy, or why we invent it

'Swades' turned out to be one long movie. Shah Rukh is a surprise, with a performance that is devoid of most of his usual antics. However, the movie lacks depth and utterly fails to convince me that a guy should give up a potentially promising career at NASA and settle down in a gaon in India. Is the movie trying to tell us that we can actually do something about everything else? Yes, the plight of villagers in India is miserable, but haven't we learnt to turn a blind eye to misfortune when it is not ours? How many young sparks have we met that have turned into wizened old men who think that action depends on a veil of illusion. Understanding destroys action, says Philosophy. The sad part is that most of us understand too well.

Friday, December 17, 2004

On working out

I'm at an age and position where I simply must start to exercise. It is a pain to discover that the days of eating everything you can lay your hands on and still stay skinny are over. The age of working out has arrived. What's the problem with that? - it requires a supreme effort of will to make yourself start after a dull day at work and 3 hours of travel. But get past that, and its a real good way to bust the accumulated stress. Plus, the bliss after the workout is almost spiritual. May the Powers That Be give me the courage to start everyday!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

What's life without a little fantasy?

One of the best things about travelling in Mumbai's local trains is the conversation. This morning, I was trying my best to sleep in the women's first class when three college kids got in. Usual talk - clothes, boys, parents... till the topic of movies came up. Harry Potter. One of the girls then said that she hates movies about magic, like Harry Potter, Star Wars (!), and the Lord of the Rings. Quote - they have no base in reality!-Unquote. Well, as a person who reads fiction like my life depends on it, I'd like to say this - What's the fun in reality? We are faced with more than enough of it in everyday life, work, money, people... What's life without fantasy? A little bit of the unreal can spice up your life. Try it, and you'll be amazed!

Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Now they have a robot that is a musical instrument. Designed by Lemur (League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots), GuitarBot is all set to star in a concert called "Robo Recital". USP - No Human Performers.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Hail Mary

The half-eaten Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich seems to be a big hit. And e-Bay did a smart thing putting it back on its site after de-listing it initially, says Rick Munarriz at Motley Fool. Can we look forward to Siddi Vinayak Vada Pav or Velmurugan Rava Idli on Bazee anytime soon?

Movie Magic

Finally managed to get tickets to Veer Zaara yesterday. Verdict: ***. The film is a throwback to good old days of boy-meet-girl Hindi cinema. It would have helped if it had been shorter by an hour. If you thought that Preity Zinta couldn't look earthy and demure, think again! Shah Rukh has stopped being anything but himself for a long time now. Nothing new there. (Doesn't mean that I don't like the guy, he's still King Khan, remember?).Madan Mohan's music is wonderful, and I hope that Udit Narayan wins a lot of awards for this one. Takeaway moment - Kirron Kher tells her daughter, who talks about love so deep that one would die for it - " Such a thing could happen only in movies"- Bingo! Probably why movies like Veer Zaara are made,... and probably why they shouldn't be.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The competition is getting hot

Microsoft has released the beta version of its MSN search service. Google has recently doubled the number of pages it indexes. Interesting race. Lets see who wins.

An update: Yasser Arafat finally passed away in France. And he will not be buried in Al-Quds, but in the Muqataa, his headquarters. RIP.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Fight for the chair

Arafat's lieutenants have been busy squabbling over who will take over from him. With speculation rife about how his death could cause talks to fall apart, his condition continues to be critical. We've already had reports of him being brain dead. Now his aides are planning his funeral. For God's sake, let the man die first!

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Au revoir, mon cher

"If I could add one thing, it would be this - don't ever turn down pleasure because you were afraid of what other people might say." - An apt end to what is probably the most interesting personal journal I've ever read. Visted Belle de Jour's blog after a long time and found that she's decided to end it. Well, she'll be missed. Maybe I'll buy the book when it hits the stands.

Preparing for an alternate profession

A couple of friends and I attended the Smirnoff Amateur Bartending session this Sunday at Sidewok, NCPA. And boy, did we have fun! We spent an entire day making (and tasting!)martinis, cosmopolitans, B-52s, Caipirojkas, Bloody Marys and a lot other cocktails. Now I am a Smirnoff certified Tastemaker, and can whip up a really wicked martini. Stirred, not shaken.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Bobby Jindal makes it to the Senate

Now we have a Republican Indian American in the House of Representatives. And he's trying hard to stay American - "It is not about being White, or Black, or Brown, it is about being Red, White and Blue, it’s all about being American". Point taken. This guy is an American at heart. He's not going to deny his roots; he's a politician after all. But when his constituents lose jobs to Indians, he's going to have to take offence. It's all very well to be proud of our boys out there, but we seem to forget that they are playing for the other team.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

It's Evolution, baby!

Nature's latest issue carries a report on the discovery of a new species of humans on the island of Flores in Indonesia. Homo floresiensis, nicknamed 'hobbit', is barely 4 feet fall, with a brain one-third the size of that of modern humans. The skeleton is just 18,000 years old, which could mean that our entire ancestral tree needs to be re-drawn. Interesting.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

U2 drops marketing bomb

U2 has tied up with Apple to include tracks from its latest album " How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" on the new i-Pods, along with some older tracks. The music industry is calling this "A historic shift in music marketing". Speaks volumes about the state of music these days. With major bands like U2, Metallica and the like churning out numbers to please the studio bosses, music has become just another saleable product. Gone are the days when real musicians played from their hearts, and people thronged to watch them play. Today, bands are put together by record companies by placing ads in the paper. Can Ms. Spears strum a guitar? Can Westlife write their own music? And now, a big rock band like U2 is worrying about how to push sales. Whatever happened to real music? The Gods of Rock have gone to sleep, and left their followers to despair.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Google Desktop Search

The Google Desktop Search is quite a cool thing. I have a rather slow PC at work, and searching for files takes forever. The Google Desktop Search seems noticeably faster and it works pretty well with Windows (It is compatible with only Windows 2000 and XP, I think). It does take a long time for building the index on its first run, though. As the guys at Google suggest, put it on before you leave for a long lunch! In true blue Google fashion, the software is completely free, and wont intrude on your privacy (If you don’t want it to, in this case). Google has been up to quite a lot lately. It would be worth it to wait and watch what the company does with all the goodwill it seems to be generating.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Bandit King killed in encounter

With the killing of Veerappan, the Special Task Force finally managed to put an end to a menace that had been plaguing the governments of TamilNadu and Karnataka for nearly three decades. TN Chief Minister Ms. Jayalalitha has been quick to pat herself on the back, calling the STF "a precious jewel of her government". Hats off to the STF and Additional DGP Vijay Kumar for putting an end to a 20 year man hunt.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Bride & Prejudice - a taste of India

Maharashtra went to the polls yesterday, giving me time off to watch Gurinder Chaddha's "Bride & Prejudice" in the evening. Bad adaptation, to say the least. Too many songs, and interest wanes after the first two. The leads seem frigid and lack chemistry. Henderson is all right with those baby blues, but he is no Colin Firth. Bride offers a taste of India to a non-Indian audience. Mildly entertaining.

Monday, October 11, 2004

More than a bird, more than a plane...

Christopher Reeve passed away today. He was 52. I am not going to wax eloquent on how great a man he was. There are plenty of places where you'll find that. I am reminded of this documentary I saw on Discovery a few years back. This was shot just before Reeve's accident, and he was tracking whales across their migratory routes. In a touching moment, Reeve runs his fingers over the back of a spouting whale, and laughs with the joy of a 10-year old. It is a moment that will stay with me forever. May his soul rest in peace.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

"All art is quite useless."

"It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style. They affect us just as vulgarity affects us. They give us an impression of sheer brute force, and we revolt against that. Sometimes, however, a tragedy that has artistic elements of beauty crosses our lives. If these elements of beauty are real, the whole thing simply appeals to our sense of dramatic effect. Suddenly we find that we are no longer the actors, but the spectators of the play. Or rather we are both. We watch ourselves, and the mere wonder of the spectacle enthrals us."
- Lord Henry in the "Picture of Dorian Gray".

I have lost count of the number of times I've read this book. It is mind blowing, to say the least, and absolutely wild(e). The story is that of Dorian Gray, a fresh young man, who descends into a life of sin and stays untouched, while his portrait grows old with the marks of his crimes. But the really fascinating character is Lord Henry, who makes Dorian aware of his youth and beauty, thereby changing him forever. He also gifts Dorian the book that acts as the latter's source of inspiration - and ultimate ruin. Whenever Henry is around, the dialogue sparkles with a wicked wit - "I can stand brute force, but brute reason is quite unbearable". He takes an almost perverse pleasure in corrupting Dorian, as one might call it, and does a pretty good job of it.

I am not saying that this book is perfect. In fact, it is far from it. There are sections where the reader is quite lost, like the one that describes Dorian's passion for collecting the best in the world. Dorian's "immoral acts" seem quite tame - collecting the best things in life can be described in other words. There is mention of the lives that he has ruined, but one never gets the true sense of moral debasement that Dorian is supposed to represent, except perhaps the senseless murder of Basil Hallward. It is hideous, the way Dorian thinks of the dead man - "But the thing that had been sitting at the table was gone".

This book was Wilde's outcry against the hypocrisy of the times he lived in, the society that frowned upon his lifestyle and choices. Ultimately, the very same society turned it against him, and incriminated him for "gross indecency". Not very different from the times we live in, is it?

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Hey, look! Annan's found his voice

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is certainly making a hue and cry about how the war in Iraq is illegal. Why he is so eager to denounce the war all of a sudden? How come we didn't hear him so loud when the war began? By now, the world has realised that the UN would be as effective at stopping WW III as the League of Nations. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the UN has been largely one-sided, and powerless to stop an act of aggression such as Iraq. One could argue that there wont be a WW III because we are wiser, blah-blah, but the fact remains that if the US decides that it is going to war with a country, there is simply nobody to stop it.

I am not accusing the US of war mongering. A sizeable part of the politico-social machine in the US opposes war, there is great concern over homeland security, and not everybody likes Bush. But the US economy is precariously perched, the defence manufacturers need business, and the parties need contributions. And a President has to do what a President's got to do. Right, Dubya?

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Sexy Beast

The new iMac G5 is a thing of beauty! Jonathan Ive clearly wants to make it look like iPod on your desktop. Its super cool features include a CPU which vanishes into a 2-inch thick screen, Mac OS X, faster processor, invisible stereo speakers, and almost noiseless operation. Memory is an issue - the new iMac comes with only 256MB of memory. Available at a price range of $1300-1900. Looks like Apple is trying to increase the market share of its PCs by capitalising on the popularity of the iPod.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Longhorn to be released without search facility

Google can breathe easy, Microsoft has announced the release of the updated Windows OS in 2006, without the advanced file search capability. Microsoft will release WinFS as an update after the Longhorn release. While people are looking at this move as a set back, Bill Gates has announced that the glass is three-quarters full.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Another Issue

The TCS issue is the 3rd in terms of M-cap, and construction baron Pallonji Mistry has doubled his billions. Now it is wait and watch for investors who are hoping that the stock will make them rich. Interest in the scrip is certainly very high, with TCS displacing Infosys from the top of the IT M-cap list . However, TCS does not have the fundamental strength of either Infosys or Wipro. The biggest plus is its scale of operations. In the longer term, I see Infosys reclaiming the top spot.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Google is the 25th largest American IPO

Google has gained 27% since its listing. And it has disappointed Wall Street by failing to be a disaster. Will Google be able to live up to the hype? Fingers crossed.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Good News?

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has ruled that P2P network owners and software developers can't be held responsible for copyright infringements that happen on P2P networks.

Of stars and egos

The one thing that I came back with from I, Robot was... Will Smith. In fact, the movie should have been I, Smith. I don't understand why a story inspired by Asimov should become another star ego trip. This isn't to say that I don't like the movie, or Will Smith. But it is just another action thriller which pretends to have higher aspirations. Smith is capable of more than such routine fare.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Customer Service in India

I have a post-paid connection from Orange. This month, I used a payment gateway to pay my Orange bill online. A few days later, my outgoing calls were barred for non-payment. My bank shows that the amount has been transferred, but the Orange database apparently does not. And getting through to the customer service in Mumbai is painful, to say the least. Yesterday, I hung on for a full hour and still couldn't get through. I am still trying to avoid the actual trip to the Orange outlet, but I guess I'll have to do it eventually. And ask them to stop calling me every week and telling me to convert my pre-paid connection into a post-paid! So much for customer service!

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The Simoqin Prophecies II

I'm reading The Simoqin Prophecies again. Parts of it really crack me up. Sampler:

"You must remember that he's a very new Death"
"A new Death?"
"The old Death died"
"The old Death died?"
"He was a very old Death"

:). Also read "Keep the Aspidistra flying" by George Orwell. A book about a young poet who declares war on the Money God. Pretty good.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

The Simoqin Prohecies

An SFF novel from the 23-year old Samit Basu, the Simoqin Prophecies is extremely witty and engaging. The book is about Asvin -a hero who is chosen to defeat the rakshas Danh-Gem if and when he rises from the dead, Maya - a really smart spellbinder, Kirin -the only ravian left on Earth, and Spikes - Kirin's pashan bodyguard. The book is full of cheeky references to practically every action fantasy- Robin Hood, Ramayan, the Mahabharat, Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings.

The best feature of this book is the blurring of lines between good and evil, quite unlike traditional SFFs like the LOTR. I cant wait for the sequel to be published.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Van Helsing

Finally managed to see Van Helsing this weekend. A singularly bad movie. Even the extremely sexy Hugh Jackman in a loin cloth cannot save this movie. Count Dracula looks, and acts, like a big joke. And as for the script and dialogue, the lesser said the better. Van Helsing? Give me Anthony Hopkins any day! If Jackman wants to live up to the hype that he's been generating, he'd better start choosing his movies with more care.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Smashing Pumpkins

Playing the Smashing Pumpkins on my player today. Some numbers are pretty neat. Sampler:

If emptiness is loneliness, and loneliness is cleanliness
And cleanliness is godliness, then God is empty... just like me
Intoxicated with the madness, I'm in love with my sadness
Bullshit fakers, enchanted kingdoms
The fashion victims chew their charcoal teeth
I never let on, that I was on a sinking ship
I never let on that I was down.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


Loved the third Harry Potter movie. The movie is clearly the best Harry Potter adaptation so far. There were a few disappointments - no explanations for Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs, the stag conjured up by the Patronus charm - but its pretty dark, and stays true to the spirit of the book. The Dementors were really scary, and Snape in drag was a riot. Must see for all movie goers.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Use Prozac to get rid of the blues - and Cupid!

Prozac and its cousins work by boosting the effects of the chemical messenger serotonin in the brain, and take weeks to relieve depression-- with side-effects ranging from indigestion to sexual dysfunction. These anti-depressants can also disrupt neural circuits involved in romance and attachment. Read on...