White noise is a random signal (or process) with a flat power spectral density. In other words, the signal's power spectral density has equal power in any band, at any center frequency, having a given bandwidth. White noise is considered analogous to white light which contains all frequencies.

Who am I?

Neo-hippie cinephile. Follower of the great Jim Morrison who once said "If the doors of perception are cleansed, everything would appear to man as it truly is, infinite."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Random Laziness, or Lazy Randomness?

I am amazed how the delivery of maternal love from across the Atlantic Ocean prompted me to leave work relatively early and run to Chhotu's. Of course you are going to say that the materialism in the form of the Chaklis, Shankarpadi and Besan Laddoos was the real magnet, but in my defense, I did not even touch the Laddoos. What is even more astounding is how this nicely prioritized itself over an invitation at the new University campus, highlights of which were a promise of mid-week Scotch accompanied by discounted ice extended by the Prof and Bouthan's magical chholay. As I sat munching, I realized this was going to be a close fight with little knowledge of how wrong I was. The owner of our gym popped out of nowhere with white wings while fat bald Shankar Halwai had grown two little red horns and was hovering around like uninvited hijras at a wedding.

I had even left my bag behind at work, thinking that would force me to return and thus enter the gym. However, self-will and all other such angelic qualities that motivational speakers like to harp on were subject to a mass genocide this evening as the laziness quotient, subdued for a while probably because of the perceived Brownian motion of the brain cells, struck back with incredible vengeance employing a plush spread on Chhotu's divan made in Iran, or some such exotic oily mess. The W keeps boasting about LSD from his limited narcotic experience and how it made him feel the various veins in his brain, which incidentally is the same effect on the listener. But who needs psychedelic drugs when you have such royal comfort for your behind. I am not at all exaggerating when I say I could feel each and every vein in the derrière.

At some point Chhotu noted that this was the height of laziness since we didn't even change the channel when ads interrupted a slapstick comedy sitcom of Brad Garret's, whose humor was exponentially increased by the spread. Well, maybe for him. Shankar wanted to have a little more fun and slipped in a KFC ad with buckets of nothing but copious golden fried unhealthy chicken. How I wished the chicken could walk up to me on those plush leg pieces and walk back the avian equivalent of Somalian refugees. Once the gym idea had been completely murdered, a phone call to KFC proved that they didn't deliver fried storks and chickens to your door in this country. Dunno why they even have a phone then? A few Renaissance Youtube moments followed with me introducing Chhotu to such neo-classics as GMD and the Sutta Song. Bionic woman had replaced Garret on TV but refused to take her jacket off while running, even after the many requests my current state of inactivity allowed. So there was no point watching her.

The KFC had closed its doors on our stomachs by 8:30. After some Harold-Kumar camaraderie, we ended up at Carl's, where to compensate for the gym miss, I had a jalapeño burger sandwiched with a delicious cow and some golden deep fried groovy aloooooo over an Avant-Garde discussion of incidents during the formative years when we had heard our Dads swearing. The Brownian motion intensified as we were about to leave and I just had to smuggle out some black jahar (as the Dawg has rechristened it) in my translucent cup meant for water. The sudden activity from running away from the chasing Mexican employee who was running as if reminiscing her border crossing days made me miss dope like I miss Tina. Failed at having stopped me, it's as if she invoked the memory of some ancient Incan God because the moment I sat in the car, I was overcome by an exhaustive bout of coughing. Or maybe it was the virus' continued (more than a week now) infatuation with yours truly, shattering the notions of possible withdrawal symptoms.

Without access to any of the herb, Chhotu introduced the idea of hookkah. We couldn't connect to any of the unsecured networks while driving around to access Local Google. Sheah! And they call this place the Tech Capital of the World! Once home, Chhotu started reading reviews of these places and expressed fear of large not so fair and lovely men at such an hour at these places. I acted like that pissed me off and walked out on his open jaw and door.

The Blue Lady was singing 'Under Pressure' to me when I noticed that the load from my bag from work was potent enough to signal the passenger seatbelt sensor sign. Deep isn't it? The White Lady though, scarred for life from the hurt of showing misguided blind sheep the way during dark shepherd-less moments, shining like a Crazy Diamond against a navy starless uniform was showing me the path home. On chaining up my light jacket as a feeble protest to the sudden and unannounced onset of cold after sundown these days, I realized I was dressed for a funeral - in complete black like Johnny Cage, a prisoner to the demons within his inner self. I just hoped the funeral wasn't for any part of me. Once home, had to feign mental sobriety and disguise the coughing for the sake of a long distance phone call from Aunta, who for a change, made no mention of our family fortune teller's latest predictions about me.

Maybe the meeting of an old friend who goes by the name of August has sparked this random laziness, or lazy randomness, as he calls in from the Welfare State, or maybe it is the unsuccessful anticipation of the mind to attain Nirvanic calm. August, you SOB, stop f!@#ing with my mind and trying to make me Comfortably Numb. I don't want to be like you. I want to scream from the rooftops about my struggle with daily mundaneness, reach out to the White Lady and share a tear or two of anguish while the rest of the sheep sleep. I saw her during the day today too - feeble and tired against a supposedly clear backdrop. No one else did. Only I did. The Blue one has competition again these days I tell you. The White one may be round these days, and not as ever beautiful as the Blue one, but she gives me warmth and I can cry out my fears and lose my tears in her scars. But for how long? Isn't it only a matter of time before she too will leave me. Of course she will return, but will it be her again? Will she be my White Lady, or some poetic teen sensation too drunk in her moonlight to pay her real Romeo any heed?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Satyajit Ray's Speaking of Films

Finally got done with this amazing collection of essays by the great man last night. Most of the contents deserves to end up in a text book for film making, and there are very few parts where Ray expresses his opinion on matters, rather than explain his technique or thinking behind a certain method. Translated by the award winning Gopa Majumdar from the Bangla Bishoy Chalachitra, who has done great justice to this I am sure, much like Ray's Feluda stories. I am indebted to Jabberwock, on whose blog I first heard about this.

The first few chapters showcase the history of film-making, with a emphasis on Russian cinema and then gradually progress to Bangla cinema of yesteryears with sporadic mention of a few American directors of the pre-talkies era. It is apparent that Ray's favorite Russian film maker among a few geniuses he talks about is Eisenstein. Will try to watch his Battleship Potempkin which Netflix claims to possess in its vast collection. The biggest challenge these film makers faced in a controlled USSR was the lack of freedom of speech in its true sense. It is unfortunate to note that film makers today face similar problems in what is known as the world's biggest democracy due to the Censor Board's rape of creativity.

By no stretch of the imagination can I be considered a connoisseur of Indian classical music. However, the chapter on background music is enthralling and packed with useful information such as the use of certain ragas to portray certain a certain time of day. He talks about his artistic association with maestros like Pandit Ravi Shankar and Ustad Vilaayat Khan for his initial films, before he gained the experience and confidence to compose music for his own films.

Ray maintains throughout the book that dialog should be a director's last weapon of choice after he has exhausted more subtle options like angles and lighting conditions. However, his admiration for Bibhuti Bhushan's writing is apparent as he says that the writer's stories are so descriptive that the art department's job becomes a piece of cake and even the script writer's. He stresses the need for natural dialog - lines that the character's equivalent in real life is likely to speak, thus far removed from over the top and histrionic lines of theater.

The chapter that got me thinking the most was the one on color. Today it appears as if every film maker takes color for granted. What Ray says is that this is hardly the correct approach. Directors should only use color if they are able to justify it. Citing examples from his work like a married woman's vermilion or the shade of blue of the sky, he talks of an era when color was new to the Indian and thus Bangla film industry, not to mention an expensive option.

A couple of chapters are dedicated to Apur Sansar and Charulata and answering a critic named Mr. Rudra, mostly justifying his methods and answering some ridiculous criticism in my opinion, such as the film's script not following the original story. Apur Sansar still remains one of my favorite for its sheer tragedy, paling even the classical Shakespearean ones. I have got to see Charulata. Didn't know Tagora had woven such an intricate spiderweb of emotions with so many human angles, long before Hindi cinema was smarting over the Pati, Patni aur Woh concept.

The last few essays talks about his experience of working with amateur actors and their surprising natural acting skills and unexpected lack of camera shyness, most notably Chunibala Devi (Indir Thakuran in Pather Panchali). I like these essays for they reveal the more or less down to earth man behind the strict facade of the dominant director, which mind you, is essential to the completion of a successful film.

Some interesting points that came through were his dislike for theater because of its confining of space, and thus the imagination of the director, his dislike for Shantiniketan because of its emphasis on Oriental art as opposed to modern art, his pragmatic approach to the question of success of parallel cinema (he maintains that it is a director's duty to be loyal to the producer, who, is really a businessman while remaining true to art), and finally his fears of the death of the art of cinema in India. When the essay was written there may have been a dearth of creative cinema, but I think he would have been fairly satisfied with the current state of cinema in India, notwithstanding the Censor board of course.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bheja Fry's

Angelina Jolie once said “I felt beautiful when I was in Cambodia [for Tomb Raider]. I was sweaty, and my hair was matted and all over the place. And I was happy and hot and accomplishing a lot and running around, and I could feel my heart beating, and I felt beautiful.” The United States may not be able to boast of such orgasmic satisfaction to its tourists, but herculean efforts are made to keep the residents of this country happy. One such effort saw the birth of a chain of stores called Fry's Electronics in select cities across the country. The cities that were selected are proven to be the hot pockets of nerdy activity, according to demographic data. I have the great fortune of living in the hottest pocket of them all - Silicon Valley and needless to say the stores here, and the characters one meet there, are extra special.

As you pull up to any of these stores, it becomes very clear from the onset that the owners mean strict business and nothing else. Accompanying the enormous Fry's sign on the store is an equally enormous sinusoidal curve, with the middle wave being of the highest amplitude, signifying the heightened pleasure customers receive when they walk in. This logo ensures that no glutton ever mistakes this for a fast food joint, and the lack of a cutesy furry animal, which pretty much monopolizes all logos, keeps off the hot, dumb, superficial women, even if they err and end up there somehow. The parking lot is equipped with special security, armed with an alarm from the store itself no doubt. If any car that is not a Toyota or Honda make gets as close as twenty feet to the building, the alarm radiates a supersonic wave that propels the infidel cars out of the parking lot. If you manage to sneak in in a friend's Toyota or Honda, there are more surprises awaiting you at the entrance. There is a retina and feeler scan test that allows only entry to customers who pass either of two tests. The first test allows only people with less than two centimeter square of retina showing entry. The second test searches the customer's upper lip for more than twenty centimeter square of bushy growth. A few steps ahead an employee asks simple and basic science questions like the definition of Einstein's relativity theory and other such world changing phenomenon. I hear a question bank of such questions is now available on Ebay.

Once you enter the store, begins an Alician journey through a maze of cornucopia of electronic gadgets, ipods and tripods, wires of all species mating with each other to produce more interracial breeds, and of course the famed piano in the middle of the maze played by the epitome of female beauty, robotic that is - Screw. Screw is surrounded by giant LCD and Plasma screens hooked up to the latest versions of man toys. Young nerds, started out early in this noble way of life by their parents can be seen peering onto these giant screen through glasses whose power dominate their ages and holding wannabe mini guitars and 'dancing' with intense aerobic fervor that would shame even the khatiya used by Govinda and Karishma in their famous song. If you listen very closely, you can hear proud parents gloating about how many kills their wards have amassed on the latest mindless violence games. The kid's sections of Fry's can boast of a lot of cute things on display, like the robotic Barbies and energy saving light sabers. Around a few aisles, you might meet smiling young mustached Indian men. Do not fall for their charming smiles. No, they are not Agents, but worse - they are Ambay folks, and before you know it, they will trap you in their inclusive love and pyramidal money making schemes with long winded talks which start innocuously about things like homesickness and end up with you handing them blank checks, like a gay spider that terminates its victims by first seducing it and then devouring it.

Fry's has as stringent a hiring policy as Microsoft, except that they do not compromise unlike Microsoft. All the candidates are chosen from the MENSA pool - the rejected lot from the superhero schools, presidents of chess clubs in Ivy League colleges, and of course, the members of the 4.0 club. Inside sources claim that your chances of landing a job there increases exponentially if you are armed with a unibrow and poor communication skills and lack any kind of knowledge other than in the technical field. If you meet all of the above criteria and still manage to turn out hot, you are instantly rejected. The working environment is as productive as that of Dilbert's with the same dress code. The tie has to be tight enough to make you squeak and your shirt has to be tucked in either at the back or in the front, not in both places.

The best time to visit Fry's is during Thanksgiving. It is full of vibrant, colorful, sleep deprived 'people', literally fighting over handicrafts made by little hands in China, India or some other Asian country that has to deal with the ethics of child labor. Last year, Wired Magazine reported that the Engineer brothers - Shahrukh and Sagar, found each other there after being separated in the same exact spot twenty four years earlier. Incidentally, both of them had tattoos of capacitors inscribed on their left arms. Amit and Rekha (names changed) met here five years ago. Amit says he fell madly in love when he saw Rekha running past valleys of discounted DVD's to grab the last 12-feet S-Video cable in the store. Three years back, Nirupa Roy (name changed) went into labor while waiting in line to checkout her purchased goods, and the line took so long to move that she delivered by the time she got to a cashier. Ms. Roy also holds the distinction of having given birth in the parking lot in a shopping cart during a different Thanksgiving. While this wonderland has given life, it has also taken some. Every year, about 25% of shoppers lose their lives in the ensuing stampede on this fateful day leading historians to name it Black Friday. I do not know if Mars has life, but all I can say is that, if Fry's was another planet, it would have the ability to not only sustain life, but also recycle it, thus producing a thriving environment for generations of nerds.

Friday, November 23, 2007


I don't know why but I get the most philosophical when I am working out. *Flexes calf muscles. Maybe my gym should market themselves that way - 'Think while you Stink' and have that muscled ancestor of John Abraham - The Great Thinker be the brand ambassador (the thinking got lost genetically somewhere I guess). Let me stop before I continue any longer on these tangential roads. The reason may have something to do with the fact that the mind is not really used when you are running for your life as if some product of a canine breeding experiment gone sour, is after you.

The television was playing the local news showing people who had nothing better to do on Thanksgiving randomly giving out food to homeless people. Let me stray a bit here and stress how much cooler homeless people in San Francisco are, compared to the rest of the country. I have met men (ever wonder why most homeless people are male? I bet it has something to do with patriarchal society. OK feminists, don't kill me; I love you all) who held up signs so proudly that they could have read 'World's Greatest Dad' or 'Arnie for President' (the Cali Guv, not me), but then this is not a post about paternal love, or politics (don't ask me what this is about - I wont be able to answer). The signs said 'Why lie? I need the money for beer'. I guess they were all hippies during all the Summers of Love.

So anyway, this led to severe introspection. What was I doing for others this Thanksgiving? Well, I could say I was working for my boss, but then my boss isn't homeless, and I was really doing it so that she didn't have to interview new candidates soon for my job. What else? Let's see. I was working out, but that too wasn't to render the stock of my gym bullish. Was I really better than those scores of people who cheat sleep every Thanksgiving to buy themselves expensive little electronic sidekicks that tell them when their coffee is getting cold or find them adult entertainment stores? Maybe I am getting soft with age and maybe one day my heart will become cookie dough like that generous old pink wrinkly woman's heart who left all her money to her dog, well, comparatively speaking at least, but when I saw those hot, kind otherwise homemaking women (this should sway the feminists) hugging those poor homeless souls and lighting up their faces along with their joints, something stirred inside me, or maybe it was just the heart working out on the cardio machines.

Granted they don't have Thanksgiving in India, but what did Satyajit Ray ever do for the homeless of India? Maybe he did a lot financially, and the fact that most of you, and I don't know about it just glorifies anonymous charity. Or maybe his Pather Panchali which ran for 34 weeks in The Big Apple (according to his Speaking of Films {Bishoy Chalachitra}, which I am reading at the moment) did generate enough sympathy in the Rich White Man (aastey leddiss {ack. JAP}, and Woman), henceforth known as RWM/W for the rest of the post, to generate a lot of charity for our nation, which of course pisses the f!@# out of a few overtly nationalist friends of mine. They feel that Ray's only contribution to the world has been to tear apart the shawl covering the nudity of India's poverty. Of course, they haven't watched his Calcutta trilogy - Jana Aranya, Pratidwandi, Seemabadha (my favorite of all his films that I have seen, in that order) or the children's double delight - GGBB and Hirok Rajar Deshe. Or maybe it is the RWM/W that chooses to glorify exclusively these poverty showcasing works of the greatest artisan ever born.

PS: If you have managed to labor through to the end of this post, you will realize that there are too many things going on in parallel in my (not so humble, by this admission at least) mind. I only have the manufacturers to blame for this, for not manufacturing any siblings. PJ alert! Maybe I will perform a Norton/Thevenin analysis to simplify things. If you got that, please go shoot yourself (which should really be very simple if you live in this country with its awesome gun control laws). Thank you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Arey Huzoor Wah Saaz Boliye

Was fortunate enough to see Ustad Zakir Hussain in concert today. The concert was marketed exactly that way, with Rahul Sharma's name appearing almost in fine print. However, as the concert started and with time, which flew by like an invisible being, it was quite obvious that Sharma was the literally the central attraction. Initially, I thought this had much to do with the tabla being a support instrument, rather than a lead one, which really shows my depth of Indian classical music, or rather the lack of it.

Rahul Sharma took some time to warm up, but once he had accomplished that, he seduced the audience with great finesse, taking them up to the crest of the musical wave, but not creating that explosion, alternating these with some troughs. In the first half of the recital, he played a purely classical raga whose name has been lost somewhere in those melodious pockets he created in my mind. In the second half, he played a lighter version of the raga Kirvani called Misra Kirvani. His performance reminded me of a deer out to fool the deadliest predators - elegant and enticing.

There is something about Zakir Hussain that will make you smile by just looking at him. He gives off that happy, warm feeling without stimulation that few people can boast of. At one point, you could see a smile of satisfaction light his already bright face up telling you "I love what I do, mate". He played the tabla like he was a lion - subdued for the most part, but roaring at times with some breath-taking hand action which has earned him the Grammy and world renown, almost as if to tease the younger maestro a little. Mind you, Rahul more than held his own during such moments. The humility of the great tabalchi was apparent as he sought to keep the limelight on Rahul at all times when the audience was applauding.

The jugalbandi between the two performers was akin to a long earned point in a tennis game between two equally good players - Zakir supporting Rahul first, then the other way around, sending each other volleys of musical notes, and each one equal to the challenge, and finally, what I had been waiting for - the fabulous fast rhythmic climax of a cathartic experience, in terms of treatment, which completely overshadowed the aalap in both pieces. During the alap, the mind, as trained by countless images of beautiful Kashmir against the backdrop of the sound of its santoor, did exactly that, but once the jugalbandi was in full swing, I felt like I was on a train somewhere warmer, looking out through the three horizontal bars of a non-AC berth into the passing greenery. I know it sounds clichéd but nothing else in the world mattered then. They even improvised a little - a flourish here and there, trapping the overall naive audience on more than one occasion by pausing, to be greeted by applause. The audience, which comprised of a lot of ABCD's (which speaks volumes of Zakir's international appeal and efforts at making the tabla a 'cool' percussion instrument), tried to unsuccessfully persuade the performers to do an encore a la rock concerts, thus again exhibiting their lack of knowledge of Indian classical recitals.

I was not too impressed with the theater logistics. My legs did not fit in the cramped space. And, it wasn't just my ogre ones that had a problem. Shorter friends were cramped for space too. Luckily there was no one to my left and I watched the entire concert sitting at an angle of 45 degrees. The lighting was very random. You would expect cooler colors initially when the performers were warming up and warmer ones once the jugalbandi got hot, but there was no such logic, and it seemed the lighting changed merely when the light guy was bored with his Solitaire game. Hot chocolate was over before I got to the cafe. Granted this is Bay Area, but it does get cold at night here in November, you know, and I have a cold, and didn't wear a jacket to show off my kurti and had to park three to four blocks away. Despite the bitching in the last paragraph, the concert was worth every penny I paid for my $25 balcony seat.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Last Night

I starved myself to sleep last night

Just to feel the poor man’s plight.

I slept on the pavement last night

Just to see if I could brave frost bite.

I ran into a wall last night

Just to feel the hindrance of might

Like a disposed little kite

Forced to stop in mid-flight.

I cut myself up last night

Just to see how it feels to get into a fight.

I fell on my face last night

Just to give my loved ones a fright.

I fell into a well last night

A space completely closed and tight

Where nothing but darkness comes into sight.

Just to see the world with no light.

I had a chat with a leader last night

Just to see if he was really that bright.

I toyed with a dog last night

Just to see if its bark was bigger than its bite.

I experimented with a prism last night

Just to make sure all colors did combine into white.

I looked down from a roof last night

Just to look at the world from that height.

I did things last night

To see all that is not alright.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Doom Bhulaiyaa

When Priyadarshan claimed he would stop making comedies after Dhol, he was being dead serious. What emerged was Doom Bhulaiyaa - something new not only for this director more at home with slapstick comedy, but a novel movie making experience very alien to Bollywood. Industry insiders claim that Activision, the makers of the famous video game series Doom, considered by most gamers as the Godfather Trilogy of all First Person Shooter video games.

The movie combined this First Person camera angle with a non-violent Indian touch. The protagonists did not carry guns, but had to play the juvenile Indian game of Eye Spy with the monster of the script. An innovative cinematography technique known as jitterbugging, which involves making a sufficiently malnourished cameraman run behind the subjects through 'Ramuly' lit long narrow corridors carrying a movie camera as heavy as the most elusive rocket launcher in the Doom series on his narrow shoulders was used in this movie. I hear the patent is pending.

Akshay Kumar arrives quarterway through the movie to Spy on the monster but the weak script does not do justice to his otherwise excellent comic timing on a regular basis. There are occasional flashes in the deadpan producing a few laugh out loud bullying scenes. Akshay, like Priyadarshan had also promised to explore other aspects of his acting persona. He does exactly that as he expresses his love for small, ahem, marbles and takes a one on one trip with the owner of these while throwing little yellow flowers up in the air a la Rekha in Silsila with a peppy, yet incoherent with respect to the script song playing in the background and playing another juvenile Indian game - musical chairs with little boats.

Look out - spoiler alert! The makers of OSO may be patting themselves on the back after the much hullabalooed 31 star studded item number, but Priyadarshan did another cinematic first as he got a huge (yeah OK, much leaner now) comeback star's self-designed ornament to do an audio guest appearance for his film. In order to publicize her latest film Aaja Nachle, in which she plays the ghungroo of a dancer facing mid-life crisis with irregular bouts of patriotism, Madhuri Dixit's payal plays the role of the monster with great jhanak (indigenous tautology anyone?) and impeccable Bangla pronunciation. Rimi Sen is proud of the latter achievement as she coached the ghungroo after Priyadarshan was impressed with her Dhoom performances, much like Salman Khan took the young unmuscular Hrithik Roshan under his wing before the making of Kaho Na Pyar Hai. Sen muses tangentially on the 'Pay It Forward' quality of the act, and hopes that the ghungroo will perform the favor for another struggling Bollywood actor or piece of inventory in the future after reaching cult status following Aaja Nachle.

Shiney Ahuja looks positively royal, as his character is meant to be, but gets too carried away with the whole Angry Young Handsome Royal image. He was screaming with almost the same regularity as the baby in the hall. I don't really dig horror films. Efforts to scare me end up amusing me, that is efforts involving supernatural beings. However, if the efforts involve deranged varieties of the human psyche, my laughter disappears, because that gives the entire story more of a realistic feel. As Tina knows, the fear quotient of my mind was scratched very early in life during a late night Doordarshan showing of Satyajit Ray's Teen Kanya, so much so that even today, a woman delirious with laughter without any apparent reason sends a chill down my spine. The feeling is exponentially aggravated if she is also unnaturally hot. Looks like Tina's been consulting for Priyadarshan.

Priyadarshan raises the question of belief in supernatural powers effectively, but falters when he attempts to answer that very question, chiefly because of a script inundated with holes that has way too many unnecessary characters (a Priyan signature I know) and thus is intense enough only in parts. However, I am feeling generous and the effort is transparent enough to be worth a slight nod.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Jimmy Boy

They call him Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in China; Aston Martin, BMW, Omega and major International fabric companies vie against rivals to ensnare him as their brand ambassador; he is licensed to kill. In short, he is every straight and bisexual man's dream idol. Since the readers of this blog also include unmanly men and women (both manly and unmanly I assume), let me go ahead and define what James Bond movies are all about - loads of action and tons of semi-clad singeing women, not always in a mutually exclusive setting.

I don't know if anyone else has got this very homophobic feeling from the most famous of the 00 agents at His Majesty's Secret Service. And, you know what they say about homophobes: they are homosexuals still living in the closet. At this point you are thinking ArSENik has gone mad (or more mad, depending on how well you know me), probably a poor victim of his own poison, but before you email me the directions to the Ranchi penitentiary, let me provide some proof of my claim.

We have had six Bonds so far, and all of them start behaving like a hungry Jerry around cheese, whenever they see any woman. I mean these are able bodied men with Baritones as silky as the fitted suits they wear. You would assume that they can bed any woman in the world, and yet, when anything with a sixth sense walks by, they loose all their five. This act can only be as genuine as Chandraswamy's hermit life.

Think about it. Who is James Bond in reality? He is a 30-40 something British widower. Need I say any more? All the women here will agree that British men are so boring that they make Gujarati men look like Elvis. And these are those rejects of the British society that have passed their 20 something Westlifish pop appeal and Hugh Grantish floppy hair. All they have left are their stiff upper lips, and M only knows what they use them for!

Most heros need sidekicks - Sherlock Holmes had Dr. Watson, Batman had Robin and Amitabh had Shashi Kapoor, but what about Bond? This conspicuous absence of a male bosom buddy is alarming, isn't it? He isn't Superman you know. In the mid-seventies, Felix Lighter of the CIA did team up with him often, but that was because of the hangover of the American producers from the Summer of Love.

A highlight of the Bond movies is the title song as the credits roll. While the British have their flaws (like bland food, thus calling the curry a British dish these days, and weak governments, to name a couple), they can certainly play music like the pyromaniac Nero. Have you ever wondered why great musicians like Elton John, or the members of the band Queen were never approached to write and perform a song for these movies? Yes, the creators of the series were worried about Bond's image and the supposed harm the sexual orientation of these musicians would cause it.

What is the most common pose you have seen any of the Bonds in? Slightly bent over, holding up a long cylindrical gun vertically, with an overtly long silencer attached to the head. I don't know about you, but if I was Bond, I would not go around that way if I was getting so much Love in Russia in the form of Thunderballs and Goldfingers from the Man with the Golden, ahem, Gun with a License to Drill, "Moon"raking for My Eyes Only, even if he was a Spy who Loved me. I rest my case.

Friday, November 09, 2007

D - The Festival

D is the Indian festival closest to my heart. No, it's not because of countless memories during my formative years, or any sentimental jing bang like that. Nor is it because the great Lord Ram kicked Ravan's ass since he could make out with ten apsaras at the same time dirty south style, aided by the mythological version of the cast of Animal Planet's reality shows. Nor is it because of the new jobs it creates in fire departments all over India every year. Then why is it, you wonder, that godless souls like mine revel in hypocrisy every year-end and wish fellow Indians 'Shubh Deepawali'.

My reason is simple. It's the godfather of all Indian festivals with enormous national appeal. The women love it and so do the men (the only other thing in this world enjoyed by both sexes). In fact, if D was actually a Don, I bet you women would bend over backwards to be made offers they couldn't refuse by D. New clothes, new presents, new coital promises or threats, hardly digestible delights and all the merriment aside, it is an excuse for people to meet and greet each other and show off their thunderous fake laughter and compare the starchiness of their kurtas and sarees.

A very disturbing recent trend in this regard, orchestrated mainly by the fag, I mean tag team of Rituporno Ghosh and Karan Johar has seen that very same maternal dupatta that has historically wiped our tears as we failed board exams or wet our beds, has found its way to cover the abs of many a fine young man today. Call me conservative, but coital promises had no role playing involved back in the day when the virility flouting Ravan hit the Colombo night scene.

Before you get all judgmental on D, let me point out where he scores over all his communalistic little rivals - the Pongals and the Durga Pujos and the Onams and the Bihus and the Guru Padwas and the Karwa Chauts and the Baisakhis. D brings all Indians together. Sure, there are those awkward moments when friends of other faiths wish you a happy D and you just smile silently like your wife's pregnancy has just been discovered. The Prof. after years of research at deca-annual House Pujas, came up with a response last year that stunned all 72 virgins when he handed an unsuspecting Captain the arti thali. Yes, there are the Eids (of various sizes) and the Christmases which are nothing but wannabe D's when we gulp down umpteen bowls of shirkhuma and disillusion the children about a fat old man with a reindeer fetish. These don't hold candles, or rather, phuljharis to D simply because we, the very people who celebrate D, have shown these peaceful influences, over years of loud fireworks (leftovers from the previous year's Chinese New Year's celebrations by the Left) that Might is indeed extreme Right.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Jab We Met Review

I should have listened to my heart, as the protagonists kept telling each at various parts of the screenplay, and left the theater in the interval. Then the experience would have been nice, for now, as it turns out, the aftertaste left by the second half, reeking too strongly of the age-old funda of the generic Bollywood romantic date movie, is too strong to even loose oneself in the nicely shot peppy song with phirang women in coolie attire, accompanying the end credits.

The first half of the movie is well made. The screenplay is fast paced and manages to hold your attention. Just when you think you have it figured out and start abusing it for doing a DDLJ in 2007, you realize that it is only meant to pay a little homage to the mother of all romantic Indian movies, and nothing more, as can be seen in the subtle differences. Jab We Met shatters the perception of Romeo being the roadside loafer and Juliet the shy little maiden and reverses the roles, which is the case with a sizable portion of real-life couples today.

Kareena is undoubtedly the central character, so much so that, the film could even have been called Geet (her character) and still worked, but 'Jab We Met' is meant to represent the love story of GenX, with their sprinkling of Angreji in the local dialect. Besides, I have a fetish for women with unisex names. She does an excellent job. One of the best scenes, in terms of acting, of the entire movie is when she goes all red as her character is supposed to be embarrassed. Shahid Kapur has a difficult supporting, yet probably meatier role to play. He is very believable and sincere - a huge improvement from his previous performances. Your heart goes out to him when he talks about the broken marriage of his parents since he went through the same thing in life. Their accents sounded authentic enough to me - the Punjabi accent with a little Mumbaiya in it and the Mumbaiya accent with bouts of affected Punjabi. I believed the casting was good till the lips and tongues of the protagonists decided to take the title of the film too seriously towards the end, granted a improvement from their MMS days. I am no Shiv Sainik and have no problems with people displaying their 'laav' for each other in public, but there are few things more disgusting in this world to the bystanding observer than two people making out, especially when you are forced to watch it on a 72mm screen. The actor playing the Anshuman character (who reminded me of the W - physically and otherwise) makes most of the second half tolerable with his matter of fact yet hilarious expressions, especially during moments of personal emotional duress.

The songs are all nice, except the first one, but all of them are unnecessary. I am sure they add to the commercial appeal of the film as the almost 100% seat occupancy for a Tuesday show indicates. A special mention must be made of the diligent Julie Andrews who did the English subtitles, not letting even the 'Sa Ga Re Sa Ga Re' in one of the songs go and turning them into 'Do Mi Re Do Mi Re'. I also learned today that 'Morcha Nikalo' in Punjabi means 'Rock the Party'. Another commercial aspect was the Punjabiness of the film. The color, the loudness and 'Laav' with a capital L of the larger than life Punjabis proved to be the right tonic for my semi-depressed mind - an extension of yesterday's state and helped by a shitty day at work. I was also glad Chhotu went along so that we could take the second half of the film apart with wise-crack first row (aka the rickshaw wallah row) comments. I found myself reminiscing about those Bhangra house parties from half a year back and suddenly had a momentary impulse to join the little ABCD kid with the bling bling 80's light emitting shoes in the front of the theater doing a homosexual rendition of the folk dance.

The most important thing for me was that I left the theater is my usual high spirits, without even consuming any. So, if you aren't depressed, I suggest striking up a deal with the theater wherein you can pay half the price of the ticket and leave by the interval.

PS: 'Goal' had gotten me senti last time I saw the trailer appealing to memories such as solidarity et al with the inspirational music. Didn't happen this time.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Tale of Two Depressions

I am sure you haven't been able to sleep at night for the past few days. I have received many an email, reeking of tears and other bodily fluids, imploring me to post something, anything. I received missed calls at ungodly hours waking me up from surreal dreams. Well, I exaggerated just a little bit there, just like any sincere blogger would, but you get the drift. Comcast (ISP and Cable provider) would like to extend their apologies to you. I came home one day from work to find the W sprawled on the floor looking at the modem like it was a Rubik's cube that was winking at him with its six little lights (LED's for geeks) in random order and the 42 displaying a depressing "There is no service" or something morose like that, which was more suited on a tombstone.

The W went into depression, thus exhibiting the 21st century man's extreme reliance on the World Wide Web, much like an addict's manic craving for a hit during withdrawal. The Internet has trapped the average non-suspecting citizen of society (bespectacled and otherwise) into its Web (Ever wonder why its called Web?). While I was feeling bad about not being able to blog and thus spread yuletide and joy among my readers, as I have come to do in the past month or so, the sadistic mind wanted to see the W writhe in mental agony as he fidgeted from the couch to balcony, and then back to the couch with periodic mutterings of 'Life is so depressing'.

This reminded me of those days back in Calcutta, almost two decades back when we were hit by regular bouts of what was commonly known as "load shedding", when I got breaks from mugging up Bangla chhora (children's poems) about bullock carts in lands that existed only in my reluctant imagination to carefully make my way up to our terrace with the help of a candle to cuddle up next to Amma (my paternal grandmother) and watch the often star studded sky. She loves the sky and actually wanted to christen me Akash (and still refers to me that way in moments of extreme affection) but my parents thought the name was too common and shot the idea down, but that's a whole different family controversy.

An improvement in the economic situation meant that inverters gave us the feeling of pseudo "load sheddings" since only certain lights were allowed to be on but no fans, before we officially broke into the upper middle class with a generator which took away the whole experience altogether. Along with the summer sweat of "load sheddings", also disappeared the romantic charm of the darkness and the clear sky. Net failures are the "load sheddings" of our generation, albeit with a less cooler name. Who knows, maybe I will recite the story of the W and the lost Net to my grandchildren some day when the Internet will be replaced by something stronger, faster and more secure, unless we manage to destroy the world before that.

Came across Anurag Kashyap's blog today (Jai Google!). I have become a fan of the man after watching No Smoking recently. Reading some of the blog postings did nothing to lessen the sentiment. The postings are as honest as his films and his writing, often written after a few pegs have been downed, thus often without apparent regard for grammar. He can come across as bitter and arrogant, but I think he is just angry and frustrated more than anything else, and the reasons he spells out affected me a bit the same way, surprising me.

He talks about the sorry state of independent films in India and being a cinema enthusiast, I could only reflect how empty life would be without delightful little indigenous films like Bheja Fry, Johnny Gaddar and of course No Smoking being made; about how this discourages paranoid people like me who go to bed with film making dreams in their eyes every night to abandon their current semi-luxuriant lives to give shape to their abstract ambitions; about going through life without ever coining the words job and satisfaction in the same breath. I was so absent-minded, I even honked at a pickup that did not turn when the light to go straight turned green.

To make matters worse, right now Born Into Brothels is showing me the half-baked dreams of the unwanted children of the sex workers of Calcutta on the 42. Its showing me hope in their eyes that has a very slim chance of being converted into reality, even with the filmmaker's magnanimous attempts on a relatively small sample space of such individuals. What are striking are the matter-of-factness of some of the children when talking about their dead or socially reclusive parents and some of their artistic talents. The W laughs at my theory that some of the kids are so talented because their fathers are gifted individuals of the high strata of society we reside in. Damn! why did Comcast have to correct their mistake?

PS: Thanks to everyone who had a hand (or should I say n fingers, n being the number of fingers you use to type, assuming no one has this saved in their favorites) to play in making the Number of Visits counter in my blog hitting four figures.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Shaken Not Stirred

Off late, California has been in the news for all the wrong reasons - first the crazy forest fires in SoCal (as people from there like to call it, making it sound like a capsule you would take for indigestion or some such ailment), then the hurricane again down south, and now finally the mini-quakes that have caused sympathetic vibrations here in the Bay Area. While I don't particularly care about the first two incidents (mainly because I am a localist), the third matters to me since it affects me directly.

The religious among us would ascribe it to the wrath of God, the superstitious would ascribe it to too much sun, and subsequently, sunscreen, but I smell a conspiracy here. Those of you who have seen the Simpsons' movie that was released recently will remember that the President of the country was my near-namesake Arnie. Arnie, having not much to do at work, saw it too and quite liked the idea of him doing the most laid back government job in the country. My theory is that Arnie has a secret pact with the cosmos. His relationship with her goes back a long way to the 70's when he was crowned Mr. Universe. In fact, it is believed in some political circles that he is the illegitimate child of her and the omnipresent and popular Mr. Steroids.

Please note that he has not made any announcements of his candidacy to run for the Office with the other good ol' white Republican boys. I wonder why, oh yeah, that's right, because he is not one of them! He is playing The Protector of all Californians right now, and thus by extension of all Americans since California represents quintessential American anyway - bad traffic, great taxes and a large number of illegal Mexicans, and will swoop in to the Presidential Race right before Judgment Day in the wake of lack of strong (not just physically) Republican candidates.

The people of California are reacting to the quavers in different ways. Stressed out middle-aged Asian software engineers combating the combined forces of the waning of close-range vision and mid-life crisis feel it is good stress relief and provide reasons to laugh (as a colleague told me today). Illegal immigrants from south of the border who have hit puberty are using fear as an excuse to put their unwanted, yet hard-working genes to good use by passing them on. When the author of this post used his two semesters of college Spanish and spoke to the average such specimen on the street, what filtered through the translation was an allusion to the proven theory that man, when threatened with extinction only thinks of continuing his race. It is a corollary to the Survival of the Fittest Theory. I, not being a middle-aged Asian software engineer or a horny illegal immigrant, am definitely shaken, but not stirred, and no, not from the quakes, but from my near-namesake's chess skills. After all, isn't life just an extension of the addictive board game?