Monday, April 30, 2007

Frabjous day!

A genius unfettered!


Uber tired of house hunting. Just hoping that it ends today. An uneventful weekend except for the purchase for the The Children of Húrin. Done with about 30% so far - its like living in a whole new (or should I say old) world. By the way, whats the deal with some men ? They seem to get better with age, or in some case just transform into sexy beasts with time. Sample:

(Mrs. Brown, 1997)

... and Now!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Broken Flowers

Was flipping channels on a Sunday afternoon, when I stumbled onto this movie starring Bill Murray. While I think that The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou is the best movie Murray has done post Lost In Translation, Broken Flowers was an interesting watch.

An aging Don Juan's (Don Johnston, played by Bill Murray) comfortable retirement is shaken when he gets a letter from an anonymous former girlfriend about a son he doesn't know about. More than Don, his neighbour Winston (Jeffrey Wright) is excited. With Don's help, he draws up a list of women that Don has dated in the past. He then forces Don to embark on a wildass trip to meet those women and discreetly enquire about a son he might have had with any of them. Plus, Don has to carry pink flowers to all of them!

Armed with addresses, maps and a custom-written travel CD (which makes for some pretty interesting background score), Don sets off to meet his former ladies. And what an interesting trip it turns out to be! Don sure does have fine taste in women - a closet organizer (Sharon Stone), a former-hippy-turned-meek-wife (Frances Conroy), an animal communicator (a plastic looking Jessica Lange), and an angry biker chick (Tilda Swinton). While Laura (Stone) seems genuinely happy to see him, the others receive him with varying degrees of wariness. And the only woman that Don mentions the L word about, is already dead - no answers there either. After a fruitless search, Don returns home empty handed. But not before every he starts viewing every young man who gives him a second look with great hope.

The photograph above just about sums up Don's state of mind at the end - he's had a good life, great women, great career, good money, and that life is over. His current girlfriend (Julie Delpy) has walked out on him and he is left alone to ponder about a son that he might never know (or probably never had). In one scene, Don mutely reaches out to the young woman who offers him some sympathy and a bandage for his bruised eye (courtesy Swinton's jealous boyfriend). Don is so desperate for affection, its sad. Pretty scary, especially for one who is thinking about remaining single.

Bill Murray, who really didn't get the kind of roles he should till Sofia Coppola unearthed him in Lost In Translation, gives an earnest performance. The problem is that the narrative is so detached that he fails to strike a chord despite his best efforts. While one does develop some sympathy for the lonely old man searching for his son, it feels like watching someone you know bumble through something awkward. You just want him to get over with it so that he can be spared the embarrassment. Like I said, I liked him better in Zissou.

Verdict: Not bad.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ring any bells?

Haven't heard the story before, but I certainly have heard the name Gilgamesh. Salon does a wonderful job with such gems - How an ancient epic full of sex, violence and a pre-biblical flood got lost and found, and how its legacy lives on in "Lethal Weapon".

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Can't wait

Didn't watch Spidey 2 because I didn't feel like it. After Spiderman (1), I thought it would be just downhill from there. But with the adorably cute Topher Grace (That 70s Show) cast as mean ol' Venom, things promise to get interesting. Spidey turns to the dark side - gotta love the dark suit. The fight sequence between Peter Parker and Harry Osbourne (the new Green Goblin) was a big adrenalin trip! And the Sandman looks pretty interesting too.

Lighten up, you guys!

I remember someone asking the woman writer who was present at the book reading of "The Manticore's Secret" (by Samit Basu, who happens to be my favourite Indian writer at present) about why women writers write such gloomy books. Reading Kiran Desai's Booker winning "The Inheritance of Loss", I kept wondering why women writers lack the wit to make something more bearable. Indian writers seem to stick to the tried and tested mould, which gets a little too tedious. The last Indian woman writer who made me laugh was Arundhati Roy (lets deal with the language issues separately, ok?).

And its not just the women, the men are equally ponderous and self conscious. And the judges at the Booker seem to just lap it up. I'll make an exception for Rushdie, who was sheer genius when he got the Booker for Midnight's Children.Why does the Booker have to go to something serious (DBC Pierre was less reverent, but did conform to Booker specifications)? Why can't Samit Basu win a Booker? Because his book is such a delightful, spoofy SFF?

Also read Kurt Vonnegut's delightful "Sirens of Titan". Now realize where Douglas Adams got his inspiration from. Vonnegut is probably the wittiest SF writer I've read. Loved the Big Brother/apocalypse imagery as well. Slaughter House Five is on my must read list. Love Landmark for making such amazing books accessible!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Some days are just cloudy...

Some days are dry, some days are leaky
Some days come clean, other days are sneaky
Some days take less, but most days take more
Some slip through your fingers and onto the floor

Some days you're quick, but most days you're speedy
Some days you use more force than is necessary
Some days just drop in on us
Some days are better than others

Some days it all adds up
And what you got is not enough
Some days are better than others

Some days are slippy, other days sloppy
Some days you can't stand the sight of a puppy
Your skin is white but you think you're a brother
Some days are better than others

Some days you wake up with her complaining
Some sunny days you wish it was raining
Some days are sulky, some days have a grin
And some days have bouncers and won't let you in

Some days you hear a voice
Taking you to another place
Some days are better than others

Some days are honest, some days are not
Some days you're thankful for what you've got
Some days you wake up in the army
And some days it's the enemy

Some days are work, most days you're lazy
Some days you feel like a bit of a baby
Lookin' for Jesus and His mother
Some days are better than others

Some days you feel ahead
You're making sense of what she said
Some days are better than others

Some days you hear a voice
Taking you to another place
Some days are better than others

Video on YouTube. Loved Zooropa.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Napster wasn't ever a bad thing!

The following is apparently an open letter from Merrill Lynch's head of research.

March 22, 2007

Dear Client,

Not long ago, something very disturbing happened to me while I was sitting at my desk listening to our morning call. That morning, we featured a contrarian upgrade of a major U.S. company's common stock - which went on to generate over a 40 percent return for our clients. What happened was that within 60 seconds of releasing our opinion change, this same information we had just sent out on our private platforms was being replicated with plagiaristic precision by a New Jersey-based digital financial news source. This is a website that purports to provide its paying customers with research it compares to "having a seat at Wall Street's best houses and learning what they know when they know it."

The heart and soul of what sell-side analysts do is to provide well-grounded investment ideas to individual and institutional clients to support them in making timely and (we hope) profitable investment decisions. But that day I realized that, much like the music and film industries before us, Merrill Lynch Research is in the throes of being Napsterized. I also realized that like every other content provider - from the Walt Disney Company to obscure news outlets - Merrill Lynch Research needed to regain control of our distribution channels in order to preserve and protect our hard-earned intellectual capital for you.

So, starting this month, we have begun to take a number of aggressive steps to ensure that we can continue to provide premium products and services for the exclusive use of our clients. We are rolling out a digital distribution strategy that 1) terminates research access to non-clients on our proprietary site and external vendor platforms; 2) further restricts and delays media access to selected content; 3) eliminates existing licensing arrangements that erode the value of our written product and 4) establishes licensing agreements at market prices competitive with services offered by other providers.

For a number of years, I have been listening with mounting frustration to a never-ending litany of statements that erroneously predict the demise of sell-side research, labeling it as virtually without value in the digital era. Certainly the ease and speed with which the fruits of our efforts can be posted on the web for the world to review has pointed yet another arrow at the chests of sell-side research organizations. Yet, when I listen to these predictions, I feel like Tom Sawyer covertly present at his own funeral: perversely proud to be there while basking in an inviolable certainty that sell-side research is alive and well.

Sell-side research is not only surviving but thriving in today's global marketplace, because it plays a critical role in ensuring that corporate, fixed income and other securities are priced as fairly as possible in the primary and secondary markets, thereby delivering one of the most important functional elements of a market economy: efficient capital allocation. Sell-side research turns information into insight - both in the form of investor education and specific recommended investment ideas. Merrill Lynch currently employs 750 analysts who follow more than 3,000 stocks and other securities for institutional and individual clients. The educational value and investment recommendations produced by those analysts is not only broad, it is exceedingly valuable: Last year, our recommendations produced a total global return (calculated in local currency) of 19.5% versus the MSCI's 16.2%.

Fortunately, clients grasp the value of sell-side research. According to a recent poll of more than 2,000 institutional clients by Greenwich Associates, U.S. respondents reported that they effectively allocated nearly half (42%) of their total commission spend on high-quality sell- side ideas. And, the much-bandied-about notion that hedge funds value research less than other money management firms is further contradicted by the same poll's finding that U.S. hedge funds allocate 55% of their commissions for research, as opposed to 33% at mutual funds.

There is little doubt that sell-side research continues to be highly valued by those in the know, yet at the same time it is incumbent upon us to nimbly adjust to the ever-shifting exigencies of the digital era. By continuing to deliver alpha and eliminating access to research by non-clients, we can and will regain the recognition that the sell-side research profession deserves, and we will also better serve you.

Candice Browning
SVP, Head of Global Securities Research & Economics
Merrill Lynch

Being a sell side analyst, I can understand why he feels this way. Not that I agree, but what I do object to is the word "Napsterized". Napster was a revolution that challenged the monopoly of the big bad record labels! Yes, they had it castrated, but that doesn't mean it was a bad thing. I loved it when it was there - techies of the day spoke about it with awe and wonder. Now its a bad word???

Why I'm happy in India...

After schools, its universities that are unsafe in the US. 32 people killed, including Loganathan, a professor originally from Erode. When Mr. Bush talks about purging evil, does he ever think of banning guns in the country? And its not just Dubya, no politician would want to do anything for fear of losing a big vote bank (not to mention money bank) if he brings in gun control. Is this what the American Dream has been reduced to - constant fear from within and without? What a shame! At least we can send our children to school secure in the knowledge that there are no guns in lunch boxes(!) here!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I cant wait!!

I came away from "The Children of Húrin" with a renewed appreciation for the fact that Tolkien's overarching narrative is much more ambiguous in tone than is generally noticed. As has been much discussed, he was a devout Catholic who tried, with imperfect success, to harmonize the swirling pagan cosmology behind his imaginative universe with a belief in Christian salvation. Salvation feels a long way off in "The Children of Húrin." What sits in the foreground is that persistent Tolkienian sense that good and evil are locked in an unresolved Manichaean struggle with amorphous boundaries, and that the world is a place of sadness and loss, whose human inhabitants are most often the agents of their own destruction.

When is it hitting the shelves here???

Monday, April 16, 2007

On beauty

It's an old epistemological debate, older, actually, than the koan about the tree in the forest. Plato weighed in on it, and philosophers for two millennia afterward: What is beauty? Is it a measurable fact (Gottfried Leibniz), or merely an opinion (David Hume), or is it a little of each, colored by the immediate state of mind of the observer (Immanuel Kant)?

Boy, this article made me ache with longing. Thanks PP, for being kind enough to send the link.

Whats the story, morning glory

"You know that when any member of my family has decided to do anything, he does it. Be it the freedom struggle, the division of Pakistan or taking India to the 21st century." Dude, your family decided to free India? Wasn't the pathetic state of the Indian economy the real reason behind liberalization? Well, didn't your grandfather divide India in the first place? In that case, shouldn't he talk about the emergency, Bofors, Golden Temple... what an ass! And one arrogant bugger.

Wonderwall is a bit too mushy for me. And I like it better when Liam sings. This is the song that made me fall in love with the (then) bad boys of Brit rock.

Watch a foul mouthed babe out-act Will Ferrell in this hilarious video! Watched Undercover Brother a few days back. Awesome fun!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Maybe I should have a separate music blog.

What say?

Don't you think you oughtta rest?
Don't you think you oughtta lay your head down?
Don't you think you want to sleep?
Don't you think you oughtta lay your head down tonight?

Don't you think you've done enough?
Oh, don't you think you've got enough, well maybe..
You don't think there's time to stop
There's time enough for you to lay your head down, tonight, tonight

Let it wash away
All those yesterdays

What are you running from?
Taking pills to get along
Creating walls to call your own
So no one catches you? drifting off and
Doing all the things that we all do

Let them wash away
All those yesterdays
All those yesterdays
All those paper plates

You've got time, you've got time to escape
There's still time, it's no crime to escape
It's no crime to escape, it's no crime to escape
There's still time, so escape
It's no crime, crime..

Do we need a code of conduct?

The other day, someone I know remarked on the use of "copulation" on my other blog. Why not use the common 4-lettered term, was the suggestion. Well, my first thought in response was if my 10-12yr old cousins read this, I don't want to be source for bad words/set a bad example. Not that I don't use 4-lettered words, but I try and keep it to a minimum. Ditto for mudslinging and other forms of incivility. I might disapprove of what you say, but I wont get abusive about the disapproval. With the recent explosion of self-appointed pundits in the blogosphere, people are now proposing a code of conduct. Unfortunately, you can't just pass a bunch of rules to make incivility go away, says Tony Long. And I agree!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

In memoriam?

Some bridges just wont let you burn them down. I should have told you, dear friend, that the sight of John Frusciante making that battered guitar wail moved me so.

I'm hoping it'll be Bookends instead!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Home for the weekend

"We don't have to like each other. We're family"
(Claudia, Home for the Holidays)

I'm off for a 4 day trip back home. Have a nice weekend, folks

Damn, I need to see this movie!

Vanaja, a one of a kind movie and probably the first indie Telegu movie. Check it out here, and don't miss reading the Intro and bios of the cast. The director (Rajnesh Domanpalli) has actually roped in real life people and trained them in acting, music and dance to make this picture. Looks like we've found Nagesh Kukkunoor's successor. Amazing venture!! (Thanks Ju, for sending me the link!)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A close encounter of the scary kind

Those of you who are regulars at Nariman Point will know all about the shared cabs that one is forced to take from Churchgate station. Was squashed inside one this morning, when the cabbie decided to take a stupid turn near Mittal Chambers (Towers?? I never get that right). And promptly collided with a bus trying to turn as well. I sat frozen as this bus came right at me and banged into the door on my side. The only thought in my mind was that I was a goner! Thankfully, the bus was rather slow and the driver hit the brakes on time. Lucky me!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Did you know that Alanis has a great sense of humour?

This is hilarious!

Cant Stop

Love the song, love the video. So RHCP!

Can someone mail me the mp3?

In other news, here is a previously unpublished interview with Douglas Adams. Which reminds me, I haven't re-read the Hitchhiker's Guide in a while.

Monday, April 02, 2007

I loved 'em all

Once upon a time, someone who was a friend told me that he would've love The Doors even if Morrison hadn't been a part of the band. I disagreed with him then, and I disagree with him now. Morrison's beautiful lyrics and resonant vocals will always be an integral part of The Doors. But then I'd always admired the way the other 3 members (Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore) made music together. When Jimmy boy was going bonkers on stage, doing his wild shaman routine, the trio got their chance to create some really beautiful music.

It was magic, the way the music just went wild even as their lead singer went about enthralling the crowd. Was Jim doing the other three disservice by distracting the crowd with his antics? I suppose, but then he wasn't a rock god for nothing. While I don't agree with the concept of the 20th Century Doors (I'll make an exception if they rope in Eddie Vedder!) and I absolutely hate the remixes (its blasphemy!), I love them for their wonderful music. If only they'd stop using Morrison lookalikes even as they trumpet that they were the brains behind the music, and stop making fools of themselves!