Mdeii Life - Anand Krishnamoorthi's blog
Friday, July 28, 2006
Slightly old link, but...!
A very good 'primer' to market economics from Vernon Smith. The lapel microphone I suspect, was badly pinned. The levels are very poor and the voice is muffled in many places, yet, usable audio (at the FEE link).
Thursday, July 27, 2006
WTF? So help!
I am still not able to access blogspot.com or typepad.com. And a customer service executive at my ISP told me that they have not blocked any sites. She also suggested that I type in the IP address instead of the name, and when I did that, presto! There was Blogger in all its glory.
Unable to resolve target system name blogspot.com.
Tracing route to 188.8.131.52 over a maximum of 30 hops
1 133 ms 119 ms 128 ms 184.108.40.206
2 120 ms 128 ms 118 ms 220.127.116.11
3 179 ms 128 ms 119 ms 18.104.22.168
4 365 ms 351 ms 351 ms 22.214.171.124.static.vsnl.net.in [126.96.36.199]
5 2189 ms 359 ms 351 ms core1-0-0-8.lga.net.google.com [188.8.131.52]
6 375 ms 487 ms 367 ms 184.108.40.206
7 350 ms 359 ms 358 ms 220.127.116.11
8 373 ms 375 ms 376 ms 18.104.22.168
9 471 ms 382 ms 376 ms 22.214.171.124
10 392 ms 382 ms 376 ms 126.96.36.199
11 383 ms 376 ms 392 ms 188.8.131.52
12 471 ms 376 ms 374 ms 184.108.40.206
13 396 ms 384 ms 382 ms 220.127.116.11
14 364 ms 376 ms 384 ms 18.104.22.168
So how the heck does this happen? Anyway typing in the IP is no big bother, but I am sick and tired of workarounds when the straight thing should work. I am fucking paying for it. How could this happen? Is the name server screwing up? What do I confront my ISP's customer service executive with, the next time I call?
Monday, July 24, 2006
Grab your dick and double click for porn porn poooorn!
Note: All links safe for work (if you work in the right sort of place, that is)
Avenue Q is an award winning Broadway musical (with 'Muppets'), and one of its songs, "The Internet is for Porn" is a bit of a cult classic online. And it's all over You Tube in various versions.
Link to a You Tube video of a Broadway performance. (Camera print! But I suppose legal enough to be on You Tube)
Link to a flash animation (via). (Just so you can hear the words properly and appreciate the video better)
Apparently it plays in London as well. One of the few things that make me regret having moved back to India.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
A History of Violence, Sex and the illogic of Indian Censorship
The last David Cronenberg film that really caught my attention was Crash (not the multiracial ensemble drama of last year). In A History of Violence, he proves that he is also a very good director of actors. Such a director not only brings the best performances out of his actors, but also allows in his shot selection for such performances.
The film itself is important because of its underlying structure, which I should say is fairly interesting, to the point of being considered uncommon. Any classification of violent cinema is wrought with oversimplification, so I am not going to fight that when I have my two-bit theory to add.
I suppose one can identify two kinds of structure in violent cinema: the Sam Peckinpah, and the Quentin Tarantino. In the former (typified in Straw Dogs), the violence builds up, breaks out against the protagonist when he is wronged, then this creates a motive for more 'build-up' and the film ends on a larger-scale orgy of vengeful violence unleashed by the hero. This is the formula in most of our classic Indian violent-film narratives, from Virumandi to Jeyam.
The Quentin Tarantino, on the other hand involves a uniform unleashing of violence that usually does not 'build-up'. This creates an entirely different reaction in the film audience. These films are like porn: violence is no longer erotic or provocative (unless you are entirely new to the genre). So this allows for a mechanical titillation, detached study, or even a parody of violence. You can still jerk-off to porn, but the need for porn in the human mind is different from the human need for sensuality and sex. A typical example of this type of violent film, apart from Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, is Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.
A History of Violence, on the other hand is slightly different from these two types. Its violence seems to build, but the audience quickly notices that it is actually of the mechanical sustained sort that has been fairly in-your-face since the opening scene. But what creates the tension akin to the 'build-up-to-violence' type, yet while it seem to actually be of the steady-state sort? Two reasons: one, is because the victim-perpetrator relationship keeps flipping back-and forth continuously (aided by the constant introduction of newer threats); and two, what actually 'builds-up' is not the 'threat of violence', but the 'threat of non-violence'.
(You cannot keep me from discussing either Hitchcock, Kubrick, or The Godfather) In the first Godfather film, the threat of violence was what kept building up, and then was unleashed in an orgy of vengeance to achieve dramatic and emotional closure. The failing (if you want to call it that) of the third and last film of the Godfather trilogy was while the narration was infused with the idea of this 'threat of non-violence', it was not carried through in the direction. The reason I think the third film was considered to be fairly out of sorts with the first two, was not because it was unlike the first two, but it was too much like the first two. If it was to have been a story of a quest for 'redemption' and the futility of it, then what the story should have fought should have been a constant threat of non-violence. It does allude to it, after-all Coppola isn't an idiot. The father's narrative is threatened by non-violence because the son becomes a wimp singer etc. but it does not carry it through because the 'projected hero' (Andy Garcia, not Al Pacino) becomes a replacement to the Michael, and the Vito of the first and second parts, and his narrative naturally is one of 'a fight against the threat of violence', eventually directed against his lover and cousin.
The narrative of A History of Violence, thus constantly fights the threat of non-violence because the Viggo Mortensen character (we quickly realise unless we are totally stupid) is actually filled with an almost invincible 'superior' violence since the beginning. Unfortunately, there are two things that prevent this idea from reaching the Indian audience (which by the way, has a penchant for keeping its mobile phone on during the show, and also prefers to take the call and loudly chat-away as well, inside the cinema). The first of the two reasons is the understanding of what a film should build up to. This is because our film culture is obstinate enough to be entirely imitative, and cannot hope to explore beyond the 'build-up to violence' sort of narrative that we have rehashed through our film history. The second reason is that our film censors decided to cut out the sex scenes between the Tom and Edie characters.
Tom's unusual finesse in carrying out the first set of killings in his diner should have been the first clue to the character's inherent superior violence, which means that his narrative's denouement is built-up to, not by threatening him with violence, but by threatening him with non-violence. The next clues would have been his behaviour in the sex scene with his wife. For until then, we are ready to accept the myth that he might still be a docile small-town good-American stereotype. But small-town good-Americans do not shag like that, and small good American man's wife is never a sex object; but the scenes show that she is. Unfortunately, none of us in India get to see these scenes (available otherwise here), and get to these understandings of Tom's slight deviance from the norm of 'the victim hero who has been wronged' archetype. Also, the Indian audience is so damn accustomed to even otherwise docile heroes being masters of specialized martial arts during the fight scenes, that the reality that docile men fight-back very differently does not sink in as a clue to the character.
So, there is utter disappointment for the Studio 5 audience when the hero's narrative does not end with a display of an already disappointing one-sided scene of violence; but actually ends with an even more important resolution at the hands of loving domesticity, which he does receive with a certain morbid relief—the non-violence that has been dogging him, which he finally succumbs to. This scene is not merely a post-orgasmic catching-your-breath and hugging-around-in-bed affair. It is the climax. And has been beautifully directed (I should say with just a hint of a comic-book sort of cheekiness/cheesiness).
How can I close any film analysis without a rant at the illogic of Indian censorship? Anything vaguely resembling ass, tits and snatch are out, yet missing facial features, mutilated body-parts, gurgling blood, and 'motherfucker' after 'motherfucker' is in. This merely point out the illogic of the idea behind censorship that talks about 'prurient material that corrupts human minds'. If so much gore and language is not going to provoke us, how the fuck will a bit of skin and bush do? Or are Indian brains considered to be extra-sensitive to only sexual provocation? Bunch of repressed old men who are not getting any, if you asked me.
Idea for Nilu: Porn terrorism. If we are so mature in the face of violence that it does not provoke us at all, then sex should be the next thing terrorists should carry out. Only so that Indians can become mature in the face of that as well.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
What 48 fucking hours? My ISP has still not permitted access to blogspot. And it is fucking VSNL. If I should stop payment of my renweal cheque, I should do that quick.
But start with 'process' first
The government apparently has an arbitrary policy on enforcing article 19 (2) of the constitution, when it comes to content on the internet. Now, in a democratic country, if due process is not followed, you always have judicial recourse. Now we have RTI as well. A 'ban' can thus be contested purely on technical grounds for flouting due process of law, irrespective of whether the government's motives were justified (or not) based on 19 (2). That is an entirely different argument.
So consequently, even if the government does go through the right motions to carry out the ban, it can still be contested, if you feel it is an inappropriate use of 19(2). What happened in the case of the Da Vinci Code in certain states of India is proof enough that it works. While I had argued on purely technical grounds, the court judgement went a step further and took the view that it was indeed an inappropriate use of powers granted in 19 (2).
Let's take the argument to the next logical level. If the government does successfully prove that it was well within the ambit of 19 (2) to restrict free speech, only then do you go about questioning the very validity of the sections contained in it when you appeal the decision in a higher court (or submit a new writ or PIL). So there is no point in talking about the larger issue of 'unfettered right to freedom of speech' right now. The first amendment in America, even though it apparently guarantees such an 'unfettered' right to freedom of speech and expression, cannot uniformly protect all cases using it for argument. For that matter 19 (2) also cannot be applied arbitrarily. The words 'reasonable restrictions' in 19(2) therefore, is our reverse-version of the American first amendment. And even in this advanced stage of things, cases contesting the validity of the usage of 19 (2) are argued first based on precedent and definition, and only later, on certain vague notions of 'right', 'morality', 'ethics', 'logic', 'convention', and that quote attributed to Voltaire.
Even to do that, you need an extraordinarily clever lawyer as demonstrated in the Fuck the Draft case in America. Read this to know more on the issue of word taboo in American judicial practice (page 35 of the PDF document available for download from the linked page describes how Professor Melville Nimmer broke the word taboo, and thus won the case). Probably this case in India needs such a strategy if taboos even among the judiciary are to be broken.
That is with respect to the judiciary, but the two other arms of our democracy are run not entirely by those who are generally supposed to be convinced by the use of logical reasoning. They comprise of elected representatives. And politicians, as you know, are not always clever. But nevertheless, represent their constituency perfectly. As Nilu points out, we, the people of India are prone to illogic, and have a definite lack of regard for proper process in whatever we do. So, it is only natural that we democratically transfer these incredible qualities even to the highest levels of government.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Manoj Night Shyamalan
I have wanted to write about him for a seriously long time, in fact ever since I saw The Village. Now that his next film is on its way, I thought it would be a very good time to do just that. And this is because I feel that Shyamalan is one of the best contemporary American filmmaking minds around.
While talking about Shyamalan and his films, it is all too easy to make the Hitchcock comparison; but simply because the comparison is so obvious, I am not going to disregard it.
Hitchcock's rather stylish artificiality was seen to perfectly fit the notion of the American pot-boiler, and that was until a bunch of French New-Wavers decided to study his storytelling, and extol his skills as a master of the medium. Take the kind of stories he told, it takes a lot of intelligence and virtuosity to pull all them contrivances off anyway. So, while Hitchcock's 'genre' is easy to pastiche, his individual work is very difficult to understand and emulate. Now, Shyamalan for most parts works with the same genre: Thriller/Horror/Mystery, and also in a lot of cases deals with plots with extreme contrivances. But the comparison to Mr. H does not end there, it merely begins.
Any film genre has a set of conventions, that are usually exploited to extreme levels of predictability. Likewise, every filmmaker is attributed a set of typical stylistic devices, character traits, narrative knots, etc, that recur in their films, that are also done to death. This means that for any one filmmaker to work on the same genre over and over again, and yet make successful films, requires a certain level of genius—starting with a very good understanding of the medium.
Hitchcock had a definite notion of what makes for suspense and surprise, tension and release, and information supply. That made him fairly prolific as a filmmaker, but his best films involved the use of these techniques to not only to tell an interesting story, but also to come up with wonderful character essays with strong psychological conflicts. His greatest successes are when while remaining well within the genre, he flirts outside of it. Vertigo is acknowledged as probably his best work. Obviously enough, it was not really well received when first released, as people were probably expecting something a little more predictably Hitchcockian. Yet, it is a quintessentially Hitchcock film, as much as Notorious and Rear Window were. His later films like Psycho, The Birds and Marnie explored the genre a little more, and with varying levels of success. While the first two achieved cult status, the last, was a commercial failure.
Shyamalan has pretty much the same kind of understanding of the medium and the genre. And he even attempts to consciously go beyond both their limits; and go beyond Hitchcock.
Genre, and what is perceived as a director's predilection and strength, usually precedes him.The Sixth Sense, to most of us defines Shyamalan's oeuvre, and unfortunately so. It is a superb film in its own right. But every film of Shyamalan's we watch, and we want that same twist in the end. We actively seek that, and in the case of a film like The Village, find ourselves very disappointed.
Here I'd like to get a little flippant and make direct comparisons between the two directors' films. Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense resembles Psycho and was even publicised as that, getting as much of a cult status. A huge mistake made about the film was attributing its success to the 'unexpected twist' in the end. But the genius of the film is that it is as exciting on repeat viewing, when you already know the whole story, including the 'twist'. This is where Hitchcock comes in. He was one to believe that surprise was never as effective as suspense, where the audience is actually already supplied with all the information necessary. So the ability to maintain tension lies in both knowing how to use pictures and sounds, but also in understanding the peculiarities of the human mind that make that kind of storytelling possible. A keen filmmaker understands that.
Unbreakable was one film that I was not very impressed with on first viewing, but unfortunately, never got to see it again to come to any measured understanding. Signs and The Birds have thematic similarities, and stylistically match as well. But my favourite Shyamalan film to date is The Village, which, much like its Hitchcockian dead-ringer Vertigo is less about thrills, and is more a moody love story.
So for all those who did not like The Village on first viewing, now that you know the 'story' and the 'mystery' for whatever it is worth, watch the film again, and look at it as a character essay. Watch the film for the wonderful use of the medium. The best way to understand Shyamalan's grasp of which, is to watch and listen to the scene where the creatures stalk the village and people are locking up and hiding underground. It would be good to discuss it shot by shot. But unfortunately I do not have a DVD on me to be able to do that right now. But if you do have it, please watch the film again and forget that Shyamalan ever made The Sixth Sense or Signs. I know that is making an unnatural demand, but look at it this way: years down the line, when The Village is as ancient a film as any of its predecessors, what a difference that would make.
Now, I've always held that a film's success is in how much money it makes and how many people watch it. So in the past, it was easy to attribute the commercial failure during the theatrical-release of a good film to bad publicity, and to marketing to a wrong audience. But, that was in the days when most money was thought to be made in the original theatrical release. That is certainly not the reality though, and this is where Shyamalan most resembles Hitchcock the businessman. Hitchcock was prolific, and went and even did a bit of television in just the right time. He knew his films and therefore tried his best to market them as suitably as possible. He knew that his films were classics, and as and when they stand the test of time, would be veritable cash-cows to be milked for years to come. Since his passing, his already wealthy estate continues to make a lot of money from re-releases and DVD's of masterpieces like Vertigo.
Shyamalan is no less a marketing man. His pre-release publicity is immaculate. And, even if his films do not fare well in the cinemas, he knows they need a little more time to be better understood, and therefore spends a lot of time and care on the video release. I had already argued that The Village is his best work so far, and the DVD is making the money to prove that.
The Lady in the Water is being touted as a children's fairytale. What image does that create in you? Bright colours and merry music, with only mild perils? That is what adults understand children's tastes to comprise of. But what did we really like when we were children? Cartoons were fairly violent, and the Grimm Brothers seriously gave me the kicks. Everybody knows how Tolkien started writing The Lord of The Rings! Well, whatever is to be expected from Shyamalan's newest tale, I would like to know if he is going to push the limits of the genre and the medium. If he does, I would certainly like to see it, as I think, of all the American directors today, he's the one most capable of doing such a thing.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Private Investigations: Unearthing online terrorist networks
Apparently, (it is as yet unconfirmed) but people generally are of the opinion that, the government is indeed blocking blogs in a crackdown on terrorists. I really never knew terrorists blogged, that was until now. I quickly ran through my blogroll and started reading many blogs between the lines, and horror of horrors, quite a few of them are in fact... terrorist! (The Horror! The Horror!)
I've actually managed to unearth a whole network. The terrorists claim allegiance to a variety of seemingly disparate organisations with names like Jang-e-Django (J e D) and Pormboq-i-Sothai Serup (P i S S), yet they are considered to be allied under an umbrella organisation the C.U.D.I (Caliph ud Dumeel Idiot).
According to the latest on the blog of Ammani (online name of Ahmed Qik Tal), the UK based cell this highly dangerous terrorist leads, has now gone into sleeper mode. Among other members of the same cell are Chakkapani (aka Chaq i Pani) who is said to have his anti-India grievances stemming from a recent unsavoury trip to the Indian Embassy in London. The 'Quarter'master in this group is a person who calls himself Ranga du Buq, considered to be of Algerian descent.
The Indian operations of C.U.D.I are said to be directed from secret locations in the Inaccessible Tribal Areas (ITA) region of West Mambalistan, where local tribal leaders incessantly convene useless Jirgas (village councils). The remote high-rises of the ITA are said to shelter P i S S terrorists who write and translate propaganda poetry (from the weblog of D'ab' Al Emir), or formulate the organisation's economic theory (from the writings of the elusive one-eyed old bloke who goes by the unremarkable name of Coffee House). Here he writes about how many years ago, he visited Bombay, thus undoubtedly establishing his connection to the blasts.
Even though Madrastani leader Generally Pervert Musthave promised a crackdown on the activities of terrorists like Abu Puke (wanted in India for once picking his nose on a public bus), and Abu Fat (also wanted in India for his role in the dastardly 1980 event of his birth), when Musthave joined the American War Against Terror, he has yet not kept his promise. These two most-wanted terrorist-bloggers continue to operate with impunity.
Malayalee terrorism is not a new phenomenon in India, but its newest face seems to be a blog called Varnam wherein chief ideologue Mullah JK writes his own twisted and violent version of the holy scriptures, and Indian history.
The American State department in its last briefing had added the city-state of Ban Al Ur, just west of Madrastan, to its global axis of evil, which already includes rogue states like Syria, Iran and North Korea. Disgraced Madrastani scientist Dr. AQ Suman, is said to be currently in exile in Ban Al Ur. Terrorists-bloggers in this city have openly declared major city infrastructure as their targets, which shows that they are actually against the economic development of the region.
The Gujarat riots of 2002 are said to have disgruntled many people of the minority Bombay Cartelian community. Though the Prime Minister and the Home Minister have been quick to state that their targets are not Cartelians, but only terrorists, and that terrorists have no religion (even though the Cartelians believe in none either), the Samajwadi Party has warned that if any Atheist Libertarians are arrested, fifty million of them would flood the streets of the nation in protest. Many commentators believe that political parties have an eye on the upcoming Bombay nursery school elections. The blogger-terrorists are said to have links with the banned MIMI (Must I Masturbate Individually) and many activists' blogs are being tracked (1, 2), the latter blog expressly advocating and exhorting torture of innocent realities in its tagline.
Blogger-terrorists are also said to exist in America, and many of them have been linked to the September 11 attacks as well. As a result of interrogations on many Guantano Bay inmates, a very sketchy profile emerges. Most of them are said to be from the disgruntled Black and Asian communities. One of them has a series of posts on engineering car bombings called Kollywood Car, while another recent Cartelian convert Kingsley Jegan (formerly Cat Stevens) has a post that even has a picture of a crude bulb-bomb. George Thomas, who has connections with the Bombay underworld makes openly threatening posts against Bollywood in his blog. Of all the American terrorist-bloggers, the most interesting is a white convert to Asian ways, who goes by the name Prince Roy (also referred by the US State Department as the enemy within), whose main concern seems to be food terrorism. He openly claims to have recently visited a Pakistani restaurant for training.
Europe is in no way immune to blog-terrorism, especially in the immigrant ghettos. Jag, who specialises in terrorising innocent users of public transport was on an MI5 watchlist until he escaped to Munich from where he is said to have coordinated several attacks on graffiti artists. Another terrorist Mohammed Neha, from what is now commonly referred to as Londonistan, was on a recent trip to an undisclosed location in Eastern Europe, apparently to attend some sort of conference with Global Terrorists Online. Waseem Akram (Aka WA), also said to have travelled extensively in Europe, is now scouting British water bodies, in what could only be an attempt at bio-terrorism or chemical warfare. Finally, Mullah Scian, based in Britain is said to be a radical cleric, who recently offered a reward for anyone indulging in literary terrorism.
I am still reeling under my own revelations, especailly since I have met many of these people face to face. I cannot believe I have stared at the face of terror!!!
I wholeheartedly support the government's crackdown on terrorist-blogging. By severely curtailing free speech, we shall forever be free from fear and terror. When these cowardly and stupid terrorist suddenly find themselves unable to read each others blogs, they are sure to give up their meaningless ventures. Let us show our middle finger to blog-terror in the full confidence that they will never be able to use proxies to circumvent this very astute act of Indian intelligence. Jai Hind!
Saturday, July 15, 2006
How not to attract Scientific talent
NDTV Reports that the Government of India and Kapil Sibal seem to have some sort of 'science policy' thingy going. Very laudable, except Kapil Sibal spoilt it all by talking something about the expat scientists' love for India, and why they would return home to conduct cutting-edge research.
In India (and I suppose in most of the world) a politician is accustomed to condescendingly and consciously undermining logical thought for the sake of rhetoric and a misplaced notion of 'simplicity in communication' (also called dumbing down), when talking to most of their audience. But it is tough to expect Sibal, or anybody else to attract scientific minds to work in India if they go ahead and treat them like they do a TV studio/Rang De Basanti audience.
For heaven's sake, you are supposed to be an intelligent politician (grant me the assumption), and intelligent politicians can discriminate their different audiences. To a man (or woman) of science, what appeals is logic, infrastructure, freedom to innovate, government non-interference, and money. That's the whole bloody reason they went abroad in the first place. RDB crap about patriotism and 'love' will only turn them away.
The recent spurt in 'foreign' investment in research in India is because of India's economy and universities, not 'love' for the land that invented zero.
Also refer to something from the Nilu archives that points to a similar thing.
Sex and Violence
Does the CNN-IBN copy editor really know what a 'gang-bang' is, or is it some attempt at a pun in the title to echo an 'orgy of violence'?
(also posted as a comment on the article)
Update: I can only guess if CNN IBN took my comment on their story seriously. For one, my comment does not show up, but they have changed their headline. The link though, contains the same old name.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Does not penetrate?
Apparently a woman cannot be charged with rape in India because it is 'conceptually inconceivable'. I certainly hope this is not hailed as some sort of landmark judgement.
Tap Tap! Is that the government up your ass?
All this nonsense about stoicism in the face of terror, and the idea that somehow factors greater than survival have something to do with people getting on with their lives, is not just ridiculous and amusing but also fairly dangerous.
What are the real implications of acquiescing to the demands created by this mass hysteria of bleeding hearts? To being pressurised and morally obliged to show at-least 'solidarity' or 'defiance'?
Loss of privacy: because the cops want to tap your phone calls and feel your balls; because you, and your personal belongings will be frisked at every frickin transport hub; because you flights, trains and buses will be delayed; because this reaction to terrorism will inevitably create in you if not fear and panic, a real disinclination to travel.
Do you guys think that any large terrorist organisation worth its salt is stupid enough to engineer events that actually bring people together and strengthen their resolve? Absolute bollocks! So please stop writing nonsense about how this is not going to affect us at all. Of all the things this terrorist attack achieves, the most important is the loss of private and civil liberties in India, and worse still our eagerness to lose these without even being aware of the implications.
India is not a country that has ever been greatly bothered about privacy issues, civil rights, data protection etc. even at normal times, even though it is an important and conscious aspect of any democracy. This is yet another example to prove that India is a democracy not by design, but by default: it is a functioning anarchy, where somehow things seem to just work out because of the sheer number of conflicting interests and deficiencies.
Yes, the police and the government are not going to do anything with my data when they acquire it because it would be of no use to them for their current investigations, even if they are able to correlate it at all. But the inefficiency in the system in not even being able to misuse its powers, is in no way an excuse to grant them those powers in the first place.
India is an identity theft hotbed waiting to happen. International customer data in BPOs will be better protected, but think of the number of places and people who have your phone number, copies of your passport, copies of your driver's licence, your bank account number etc.. Think of the number of people and places that have access to your date of birth, your place of birth, your mother's maiden name! Think of all the rights that you have already relinquished because the government wanted every corner shop to have all these details just to give you a mobile phone number!
This is a system which is pushing the accumulations of its inefficiencies up our asses, but we just seem to be cumming with joy and asking for more.
With news just coming in, now it is apparent that everybody will be exhorted to grab their torches and pitchforks to go after the Pakistani demon instead.
First things first, the digital projection system at Sathyam is such a relief. No more prints that have been run through sand, and no more jerky reel-changes. But of course, on the flip-side, I don't suppose the system has as much latitude as film. This means that blacks are never rich, and underexposure and subtle lighting comes across awfully, especially in the twilight scene set amongst the clouds in this particular film. Plus, the 'lamp' is not as bright. But, in a fairly meticulously controlled hall like Sathyam, the system is perfect for your average Hollywood film.
Now Superman Returns itself, if perfectly Hollywood. And also reflects much of what Hollywood has become of-late. It is not like in the 80s and 90s when they were certain to produce trashy pot-boilers. Today, it is almost as if mainstream American cinema has an existential crisis. They want to be imitation smart/intelligent, they want to be imitation sensitive/please the ladies, they are imitation politically correct. But how successful are they?
No doubt Superman Returns was long awaited, and also pleases for most parts. The director is certainly better than other contemporary Hollywood yuppies (same reason why Christopher Nolan was chosen for Batman). But the film definitely runs in to the same trap Batman Reloaded, or whatever the last film was called, ran into. Today, when even home cinemas screens are big and loud, I still cannot understand these guys making most of the 'dialogue' scenes for the 4:3 29” TV. Which means, the made-for-cinema set-piece sequences stand out, and the rest of it is a big let-down.
Also, I said when I reviewed Bend it like Beckham, that multiple climaxes please the ladies simply because it is a biological possibility filmmakers must exploit. Superman Returns takes it quite literally. A series of denouements without the required build-ups, fall flat. It is multiple ejaculations, not multiple orgasms.
The superhero genre appeals to a certain psyche, so there is no point in over-'pink' ing it either. The leading man is fine. The biggest disappointment as Lazy points out, is Kevin Spacey, but I suppose the inability of the filmmakers to attempt subtle and elaborate character expositions was because they were too preoccupied in telling the story. Mind you, the only reason the film has enjoyed any success is because the storyline and its plot-points are Hollywood-perfect. But, if the aim is to explore 'character', and show the 'other-side' of the superhero, then screenwriting has to give room for that, and here is where screenwriting is complemented by direction. How-much-ever a screenwriter layers the script, it is the director, who has to execute it.
Just yesterday I watch Hitchcock's Marnie. Forget how caught-up Hitch was with certain presumptions while writing and directing the film, it is yet a very good example of a film that (like Vertigo) is very beautifully able to layer character exposition on top of story exposition and then weave them together.
Superman Returns certainly did not disappoint, but didn't overly thrill me either. Anyway, while walking out of the cinema a good friend of mine opined on a rather interesting aspect of this film: If Superman is indeed a 'man of steel', then Lois Lane would've certainly enjoyed the shag!
Monday, July 10, 2006
Busting a few Myths
On the bus to Satyam Cinemas to watch Superman Returns, I encountered a rather interesting incident. Somewhere near Panagal Park bus stop, there erupted a bit of a commotion on the bus. The conductor appeared to be loudly telling off a passenger, and I suppose the guy responded with protests. The argument continued for a while and soon the conductor's admonitions began to to be interspersed with words in chaste Tamil. Then I heard the passenger loudly responding in what could only be a broken Tamil with a Hindi accent, interspersed with words in chaste Hindi.
As it often happens in such cases, each of them soon discovered that they had better things to do: the conductor was busy giving away tickets and the passenger was looking for a place where he and his baggage could stably park themselves for the rest of their journey. Despite that, each of them was mumbling away in their own languages, but not at each other.
The passenger found a place near where I was seated, and then almost immediately, a concerned fellow-passenger began to talk to him in a heavily Tamil accented and broken Hindi, interspersed with Tamil accented English. They then started discussing the events that lead up to the fracas, in Hindi. (I do not wish to go into the details here as I was not paying too much attention, plus, buses are usually noisy enough to have loud, yet private arguments). Then another chap joined in the discussion, also in moderately accented Hindi and English. The three men, all strangers, two of them obviously Tamil, were having a rather elaborate conversation in Hindi, speckled with Tamil and English, on a bus in Madras. Ok, how random was this incident, or how typical would this be? Not very, considering that on this occasion I got a seat on a bus (a rather rare event), but yet, it showed up a few things. Some of us (including me) are more multilingual than we're prepared to accept.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
I've written about him before, and have read quite a bit about him. In fact, I first became a big admirer of his when I read his book On Filmmaking—a veritable bible for me. I consider the man a filmmaking genius, and a great teacher of the craft. But somehow strangely, I never got to see any of his films; that was until now.
The Man in The White Suit is certainly a masterpiece. It is a masterpiece because it is so finely crafted, with wonderful performances, amazing editing and camera work, and outrageously exquisite sound design. It is a masterpiece because it has an incredibly tight screenplay that is at once a science fiction thriller, an ironically subtle comedy, and a rather stark commentary on the politics of economics. But most importantly, it is a masterpiece because it achieves a sophisticated directness (yeah!) in its storytelling, which has a lot to do with, while it yet belies, the fact that it is such a dense and loaded film.
Adjectives sugar coat, yet I cannot refrain from calling it delectably enjoyable. If you get hold of it, please watch it. Meanwhile, can someone point me to where I might get hold of Sweet Smell of Success please?
Friday, July 07, 2006
The Odd Dyssey Code
Slightly smarmy (secretly paedophilic) Lobert Rangdon, finds the curator of the James Joyce institute murdered. Then follows his racy adventure of finding out the centuries old conspiracy hatched by scholars of Classics to hide the actual identity (and gender) of Homer. James Joyce, in his Ulysses had hidden little clues (did he ever not) to the truth that Homer indeed was a woman. In a new reading it is found that it is actually Stephen Dedalus who represents Odysseus, Leopold Boom represent HC Earwicker, Molly Bloom stands for Nora Barnacle, Nora Barnacle stands for Homer, Homer stands for Joyce, and also that Leopold Bloom is not just homosexual, but that he's also a hermaphrodite.
These new readings intensely excite Rangdon, especially the idea that Dedalus is also secretly represented as an eight-year-old girl who constantly licks a big red lollypop (the holy grail). He teams up with street urchin turned professional Thai-kickboxer Nophie Sevueueueuexiselleette (terribly French sounding name that!). Now Nophie (easier to use her first name here) unknown to either of them is actually Ithaca.
But before that, the dynamic duo have to contend with the secret organisation of retired Classics professors, the Herodotus Died. These leatherclad vile old men practice BDSM and have attempted to hide for centuries the truth that Homer was a woman (or at-least a cross dresser). The only piece of evidence that have is found in an art Gallery called the riverrun which, in reverse is nurrevir, which means nothing, but read in Greek does not mean Ithaca, who is actually Nophie.
Rangdon is forced to go into hiding as the wily professors of Classics have hidden clues (and also in a fit of uncontrollable humour, little colourfully painted chocolate eggs) throughout the works of James Joyce. While Rangdon and Nophie solve all the puzzles, one that involves the riddle What is pink and long? (Answer: a pink thread) confounds them to no end. Their adventure ends when they discover the answer quite by accident, when studying Joyce's childhood, where he is asked the same question in Catholic school.
Feminists organisations overwhelmingly take to this interpretation of Greek Literature, and this in turn helps Rangdon to finally get laid. Yet, questions remain unanswered, especially regarding the clues hidden by Matt Groening, when his Homer says "D'oh!". This mystery is discussed in the sequel, The Springfield Beer Bottle
Also read: Homer was a woman
Calling all geeks; well not all of 'em
Kind reader, if you are the sort of gentle computer geek who likes to build interesting machines, or if you know someone of that disposition, please email me.
Now, the best way to do that would be to take my first name (provided on the header of this blog); add a dot; then take my second name (also, rather conviniently provided on the header of this blog: note the non-standard spelling, which is the handiwork of a clerk in a certain educational institution of some repute that my father attended sometime in the 1960s); now that you have my first name and my second name only separated by a dot and no other, also note the interesting fact that it is part of a gmail account.
I am looking for some informed help in custom-building a piece of handheld portable hardware for a specific purpose, mainly to do with my area of work. I Thank you in earnest anticipation.
Email me, ye fuckers!
Thursday, July 06, 2006
If it is not communism, it is geriatrics
The old man is getting all desperate to leave a political legacy behind. Plus Amma was hot on his heels.
But he's just won an election, why should he be so desparate? Unless of course, he is very concerned about his son named after the comrade, rather than his 'capitalist' grandson who anyway has his family business. Either that, or he thinks he's so near the end that he's hankering for his good-old days of lying among the sleepers.
From the Beeb archives
The 2003 Reith Lectures were delivered by Vilayanur Ramachandran.
Of the many plattitudes that I find irritatingly misused, there is one that is understood to assert that analysis and enjoyment are somehow mutually exclusive. அனுபவிக்கணும், ஆராயக்கூடாது. It is a fallacy to think that art and the abstract are better off not dissected, and must only be superficially consumed.
Contrary to popular opinion, I enjoy a film more when I am able to go into its mechnics and workings, and am glad that I have access to an endless supply of films that provide me these thrills.
Ramachandran in his lectures, discussed the blurring between the sciences, the arts, and the humanities; when the 'methods' of science help understand the hitherto inviolable abstact areas of human faculty (as a corrollary, I suppose the 'madness' of art applied to the sciences is what are called 'inspiration' and 'genuis').
Of all the abstracts to analyse, Ramachandran's forte is the human mind: thought, emotion, even the human propensity for illogic.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Kind Hearts and Coronets
If in the mood for a morbidly dark, delightfully gentle, subtle comedy, with exquisite performances and spellbinding direction, allow me to direct your attention to this singularly pleasurable motion-picture from Ealing Studios.
Why the fuck can't we make a film like this today eh? And they wanted to remake this with Robin Williams and Will Smith? Mike Nichols I can understand, but not the actors.
Update: I've just seen it for the second time, and my regard for it has grown even more. Remember the first half of Barry Lyndon? Multiply its humour by four. Also there is so much the director, and the actors, have stowed away for the repeat-viewer in this film that it is such a pleasure to watch again. Parts of it are sheer genius. Continuing with the rant, this is one more film to prove that 'pacing' has nothing to do with gimmicky camerawork and 20 shots in half as many seconds.
In their own way, things seem to work out
With our executive caught-up in a swirl of spineless political correctness, and with our legislature held hostage by unrealistic ideologues, the noises coming from the judiciary are very encouraging. In most cases, the judiciary seems to be the last refuge of our democracy; as amply demonstrated in the recent censorship debate.
This is one more step forward, especially as introducing plea bargaining helps make itself more efficient. The courts should ideally then have more time to discuss more pressing issues.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Lessons for us all
While Europe has so much learn from India on how to run a multicultural liberal democracy, there are a few things we can learn from current and past European history.
Let us take for granted that the Indian economy would continue to move the way it currently is going, and as consequently, the states, esp the southern states cross certain indices in economic performance and social demographics in the coming years. Now what I read recently has interesting implications.
Are we ready for immigration from the north?
Yes, there are a few unconfirmed second-hand and third-hand reports that North-Indians are not too fond of migrating to the south for many supposed reasons, but I guess most of these 'reports' concern the professionally qualified person, who has a certain amount of informed choice before making the decision to migrate. What we need to discuss are economic migrants, who's decision to migrate has very little to do with individual choice. The expansion of the EU shows how the economically less well-off, yet demographically better-placed eastern European is moving westward. Should we look forward to such a situation in India as well?
I cannot speak for all of the South, but I can speak for Tamil Nadu. This migration would probably provide the best image-altering opportunity for us. There is so much to gain from the influx of the Gujrati and the Bihari into Tamil Nadu. Not that we have not had migrants from these parts of India before. Take a look at the prominent commercial and cultural institutions of Madurai and Thirunelveli, and you would see how the Saurastrians and other 'Northern' immigrants in the past have neatly integrated into, and even defined Tamil culture (Ex: Thirunelveli Halwa).
Of course, there will always be issues regarding the pace of immigration, ghettoisation, right-wing backlashes, claims of cultural erosion etc. In Tamil Nadu especially, there is an acknowledged, probably minority, opinion that the North is already culturally dominant. This mostly uninformed insecurity would certainly distort the discourse then. Yet, in Tamil Nadu, there is also the pride of having come out a fairly ancient culture, and even having been the centre of an empire. This manic-depressive duality of insecurity and pride, also find echos in Europe. The Brits who suddenly lost an empire, the Germans who lost two wars, the Italians who probably have only the past to be proud of when it comes to politics and so on.
Let us look at Europe and learn from it.
Monday, July 03, 2006
Another actress in temple row
Today Allied News-United States (AN-US) reports that famous actress Sharon Stone admits to have entered and worshipped in a temple. The chief priest of the Therupuzhudhi Kozhaiadi temple in Madras, confirmed this and expressed great shock and disappointment at what had happened. He has since initiated purification rituals in the temple.
The temple does not permit the entrance of people with IQs greater than 50. Stone, who's IQ is greater than 150, is thus said to have committed sacrilege by her act. Stone, in a statement released through her lawyer, said that she “regretted it” and also with significant irony said that it was a “stupid, unintelligent thing” that she did when she was only 2.
The incident is said to have happened in 1960 when Stone had visited Madras along with her parents. While her parents had been busy arguing with a nearby potti kadai owner regarding their purchase of two small bananas, the young Stone had taken baby steps towards the sanctum sanctorum of the temple situated next to the shop on the platform. Even as a two-year-old, Sharon had exhibited significant levels of intelligence, and was thus unpermissible in the temple.
The temple was founded in 1955 by Kozhaiadi Swamigal of Saidappettai who while lying on the platform in a fully inebriated state one Saturday morning, had chanced upon the embodiment of the lord of the lower IQs when he saw written on a cement slab the letters 'MC'. Swamigal immediately understood that this meant 'IQ'. Also since 'MC' had been written in upper-case, this also meant that IQ should be understood to be lower (case).
Just last week, newspaper reports had said that famous astrologer 'Saasthiram' Swaminathan had accurately predicted the reason for the inexplicably small collections in the aluminium hundial of the temple between 2:00 and 2:20 PM on the 1st of December 1960. He had attributed this to the presence of intelligent human beings in the vicinity. On reading this report, which had been picked by her feed-reader, Stone is said to have realised her folly, and since released the statement in Los Angeles late yesterday.
While many devotees have been in silent mourning since the revelations came to light, some have even questioned Sharon Stone's contention, and claim that there are sentries posted near the potti kadai who conduct routine IQ tests to confirm the lack of intelligence in their worshippers before letting them step onto the platform. One of these tests involves playing the famous MGR song where he is disguised as a Punjabi folk dancer. Those who gasp with surprise, when MGR in a close-up shot, briefly removes his moustache to reveal his identity, are ushered in to the temple. Those who merely laugh are turned away.
Even though it has not even been a few hours since the AN-US revelations on the web, many bloggers have picked up this story and have written lengthy rants. While some claim that lack of intelligence involves personal choice where one can choose to be stupid, and therefore entry to the temple cannot be denied on logical grounds, some others point out to the fact that Kozhaiadi Swamigal had never expressly stated that only stupid people are permitted entry, he had merely stated in transcripts of his famous drunken rants that large IQs are threats to his institution. This, they say, does not constitute a direct prohibition on intelligent people.
Whatever discussed, the truth remains that many dumb people have since refrained from visiting the temple citing the evil presence of intelligence having sullied their hallowed ground. The purification rituals, said to cost the temple trust a whopping 50p and one heavily chewed beetlenut-tobacco mix, is to take more than 3 years to complete, while the faithful are gearing themselves for a long wait of 20 seconds before thronging the temple in droves again.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
Général De Gaulle dirait
S'il étaient vivant aujourd'hui,
Oui, c'est l'Europe, depuis l'Atlantique jusqu'à l'Oural, c'est toute l'Europe, qui décidera du destin de la Coupe du monde.
PS: Zizou Zizou Zizou
I know I'll get kicked for this
I was somehow always expecting (and wishing for) Portugal to win. Trust me, there were moments when England looked a slightly better side, but overall, they never impressed me through the finals. My sympathies therefore slipped to Portugal purely by default.
PS: I have to admit, my favourtie dance partner was Portuguese, but I swear, that has nothing to do with my support for her team!
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