Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
By the early 1980’s, the Computer Science community at Carnegie Mellon was making heavy use of online bulletin boards or “bboards”. These were a precursor of today’s newsgroups, and they were an important social mechanism in the department – a place where faculty, staff, and students could discuss the weighty matters of the day on an equal footing. Many of the posts were serious: talk announcements, requests for information, and things like “I’ve just found a ring in the fifth-floor men’s room. Who does it belong to?” Other posts discussed topics of general interest, ranging from politics to abortion to campus parking to keyboard layout (in increasing order of passion). Even in those days, extended “flame wars” were common.
Given the nature of the community, a good many of the posts were humorous (or attempted humor). The problem was that if someone made a sarcastic remark, a few readers would fail to get the joke, and each of them would post a lengthy diatribe in response. That would stir up more people with more responses, and soon the original thread of the discussion was buried. In at least one case, a humorous remark was interpreted by someone as a serious safety warning.
This problem caused some of us to suggest (only half seriously) that maybe it would be a good idea to explicitly mark posts that were not to be taken seriously. After all, when using text-based online communication, we lack the body language or tone-of-voice cues that convey this information when we talk in person or on the phone. Various “joke markers” were suggested, and in the midst of that discussion it occurred to me that the character sequence :-) would be an elegant solution – one that could be handled by the ASCII-based computer terminals of the day. So I suggested that. In the same post, I also suggested the use of :-( to indicate that a message was meant to be taken seriously, though that symbol quickly evolved into a marker for displeasure, frustration, or anger.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Say "keep within the boundaries if you want to play."
Say "contradiction only makes it harder."
How can I be what I want to be?
When all I want to do is strip away
These stilled constraints
And crush this charade, shred this sad masquerade
I don't need no persuading
I'll trip, fall, pick myself up and
I'll be clumsy instead
Hold my love or leave me high...
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Heard it first on Pandora. Miss Pandora.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Monday, September 10, 2007
Friday, September 07, 2007
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Khaled Hosseini's over-simplified book does not aim to answer any of the above. Instead, the author proceeds to milk the premise of mistreated women in Afghanistan to fill his coffers with royalty payments. Having read The Kite Runner, it was easy to anticipate the narrative in Suns - Hosseini's repertoire is quite limited. At no point in the misery laden lives of Miriam and Laila could I connect with the characters. It is easy to sympathize, but something made me stop short of truly caring about these battered women and their plight. Still, the horror of living in a country where there is no way out is staggering just to think about. When Laila is about to deliver her second baby, the doctor performs a c-section without anesthesia, under constant fear that some Talib might find out that she's taken off her hijab in order to see better while she's operating. For the sake of the Afghan women, I hope Hosseini's just exaggerating.
One thing the Hosseini does well (as he did in The Kite Runner) is bring out the rather violent and murky history of Afghanistan. Living in a country like India, which had no single ruler till the British came along, I sometimes wonder if we're meant to be a single nation. Afghanistan, by Hosseini's account clearly isn't. There are too many factions, too much aggression in these people to be a peaceful unified country. But then, that would be true of all human nature wouldn't it?
Verdict - Average. Hosseini will have to come up with something really good to make me read him again.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Monday, September 03, 2007
Various reviews have suggested that this is fairly routine stuff for a studio like Pixar, and I agree to some extent. This is a rather simple but warm hearted tale of Remy, a wannabe chef whose primary handicap is that he isn't human. Inspired by the Munnabhai-Gandhi-like spirit of the jowly chef Gusteau, Remy pursues his dream. With some help and co-operation from the hapless Linguini, the garbage boy with no talent for cooking.
Story wise, this is nowhere in comparison to the originality of Monsters Inc. or the hilarity of Toy Story or even The Incredibles. But its a Pixar movie after all, and the quality of animation keeps getting better and better. The landscapes are just brilliant - both rural France where Remy first lives and the great French capital are brought to life in breathtaking detail and splendour. Remy, for some reason, is blue, but he is 100% rat down to every strand of fur and his cute little nose.
The humans are highly stylized as well, especially Skinner, Ego and Linguini - one look at them and you can sum up the kind of people they are. Linguini is tall and loose limbed with the kind of wide-eyed earnestness that stops just short of total vacancy. Chef Skinner, at about 2 and half feet, is all malice; his pencil thin moustache is as expressive as the sneer he sports. But deserve all applause for Anton Ego (voiced excellently by Peter O'Tootle), the severe food critic who cannot swallow if he doesn't like the food. He is coloured like he's always a minute ahead of being 6 feet under and so painfully thin that you wish that people would cook some good food so that the poor man wouldn't starve.
While Monsters Inc. cracked me up with just the ridiculousness of the premise, the humour in Ratatouille is more physical - Remy's ingenious way of controlling Linguini and as described earlier, the very characters themselves. Regular fare for people like me who have come to expect more from Pixar. The obligatory Disney sweetness in the second half is a bit too tedious. Otherwise, not bad at all. The absence of less-talented-but-more-famous celebrities as the voices of the main cast helps as well.
The best bit about watching Pixar movies are the shorts that precede the actual movie. Lifted, the short that played before Ratatouille was freaking amazing and totally hilarious! I got my money's worth from that alone! Enjoy.