Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dec 25

I neither celebrate Christmas nor mourn MGR's death. Mainly because I am not a Christian and have no opinion about M.G.R. But I'd like to wish "Merry Christmas" to Christians who do celebrate Christmas. So this subtle 'ban' from wishing others "Merry Christmas" is extremely confusing and in some instances amusing. The reason for this ban, as I understand it, is that there are some 'alla kai' minorities who also have their big festival going on during this time. And they feel offended when the are on the other side of a "Merry Christmas wish. They also feel offended when 2 christians wish each other the same way because now they feel plain left out. So the liberals have taken up the cause of minorities. I feel for the Christians. They would much rather want to wish everybody "Merry Christmas" and be corrected if they barked up the wrong tree. But they can't because you have these liberals constantly getting offended at everything to do with religion.

The need to be politically correct in corporate America, has people wishing each other something as inane as 'Happy Holidays'. 'Happy Holidays' - really? It does not get any more profound than this. The only reason they have a holiday is so that people can celebrate Christmas. Now Christmas has become an inconvenience and you've got people celebrating the holiday instead. Why? Is it because a 'holiday' is so rare (after all it comes only twice every week) ? I think the logical next step would be to remove the 'happy' out of the 'Happy Holidays' because MGR died on Dec 24. Where is your secularism when you offend the 2.75 Tamils living in USA ?

Secularism, much like liberalism, has been perverted by the stupid generation Y. Funnily enough, in today's world, you are called parochial when all you do is mind your business and celebrate festivals relevant to your religion. Secularism is deemed to be present when a liberal Palakkadu Iyer in USA stops celebrating 'golu' because its too desi, a secular Thanjavur Iyer buys a huge ass Christmas tree (or a "holiday tree' or whatever he calls it to make it non-religious) because he needs to be a 'roman in rome' and when a over-enthu Srirangam Iyengar can forward Obama's deepavali mesage to everyone. Secularism is said to be at its healthy best when all these idiots join together and start wishing each other 'Happy Holidays' during Christmas and force every other person to do the same?

At least we don't have this problem in India. We have all the freedom to wish converted Christians like James Anbazhagan or Charles Adaikalraj - 'Merry Christmas'. Nobody complains. We go about our way and they go about singing "yesu naadhar azhaikindraar.... avar enna solgindraar" There is some self-interest in this because it would avoid 'Happy Deepavali' from becoming 'Happy Purattasi' or some shit like that.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Avatar: Trees Are People Too

The Distinction between "what" a movie says Vs "how" it says it is more visible in Avatar. Avatar's breakthrough technology reminds us of the impact Terminator 2 had when it was released in 1991. Seeing liquid metal dynamically pour into rooms, floors and faces, one got a feeling that movie-making technology had broken into a new dimension. Avatar gives you the same feeling. I watched this in IMAX 3-D and the special effects was so fantastic that I felt motion sickness at the end of the movie. This is truly a movie where special effects blends very well with the story and wows you when needed and stays silent when not. From purely a special effects point of view, I have never been so swept off my feet. This movie will entertain you. Regardless of your scepticism on the overly positive reviews/peer-fanboy-gush that this movie seems to be getting, you will feel that this movie is a landmark event in the history of movies. And no amount of praise feels enough for the spectacle that it is.

Now to the 'what'. The story is mediocre. It reminded me of a sugary chick-flick called Titanic. Almost every plot point, turn and twist in Avatar is predictable. First generation Star Trek episodes were filled with plot lines such as these. Where Kirk & Co refused to tamper with planet natives but situations sometimes forced them to get involved. Very similar to one of those episodes, this movie's story involves Earth people invading planet Pandora for a piece of rock that sells for $20 Million back home. The director explores all the usual cliches of clear cut black and white heroes and villains. There are no shades of grey. There is a bold marine in a scientists boots and the movie brings out the contrast between his casual recklessness and their careful timidity. There is a falling in love part with a native, a conflict in mission, and finally an action showdown with a clear-cut villain - who is just a bad.

The dialogues (especially the ones by Army men) are just plain bad. That's the only part that reminded me of Star Wars. Some plot holes are too gaping. The natives aren't rally as scary as the initial war briefing made them out to be. The Na'vi, who like vedic rishis believe in a 'brahman' like life-force that pervades all beings, surprisingly take Scully into their confidence, train him, do upanayanam for him (twice-born) and finally get betrayed. There seems to be no scrutiny on him because he is the "chosen one". Cameron was once this bold director who employed, a forceful plot line, violence, unique characters and gave an incredible adrenalin rush to the viewer. You sat on the seat-edge wanting John Connor to live although you knew he will live. You get this edginess when Jake is on the loose and is being hunted down on his first night alone in the forest. But this feeling gets diluted over time. When the trees were attacked and natives killed, I did not feel anything for natives. The empathy was never established. Post Titanic, the effemination of Cameron is indisputable. Playing to the gallery of "Green" lovers is the last straw. "Green" has become a religion unto itself where people seem to appreciate anything around this as "noble". I now suspect that the favorable movie reviews for Avatar is colored by it.

The review might seem a tad negative probably because no movie can surpass the unbelievable expectation one has built up in mind for a Cameron movie. The unbelievable visual ecstasy this movie offers matches every expectation you may have built up. My father, while walking out of the movie hall mentioned that he felt transported into the world of Na'vi and wondered how movie technology had changed from 'parting of the nile' days. This is really true. You feel like one among them. The scene where Jake tames and adopts a flying-dragon thing is a fantastic scene. Avatar will thrill any teenager or child and fill their mind with endless imagination. Just feels like I was given dessert when I went in expecting a 3-course meal.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Vettaikaran

You are called a fair reviewer only if you judge a movie based on "how" well it says, "what" is has set out to say. Agreed. Assuming that a movie does the "how" part very well. In that it communicates/presents/shows "what" it has set out to say extremely well - does that alone make it an awesome movie? What if "what" it has set out to say is - - - "stupidity".

Should a good reviewer then put the "pattu kunjalam" for the "velakkamaaru" and write: 'What' the movie communicates is that the actors, producers, director and the audience are extremely stupid. 'How' does it go about saying this? It says this in the most effective and fantastic way imaginable. It says it so superbly that when you walk out of the theater, there is no doubt in your mind that you are the stupidest person in the world. Therefore I highly recommend you watch it.

Reviewers are essentially re-phrasing the above in a different way when they write: "This is a commercial Vijay movie and so should be viewed from that lens".

p.s: I have not seen Vettaikaran.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pari, Charriot, Mullai etc

It is no surprise that God chose to reside in her voice.

M.S. and her group returned to Madras on November 15. During her tour she had ensured that plans for two temples could transform into reality thanks to the money that was collected through her performances.

The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan could have a new home. Yet the star herself was returning to Madras where she was now without a residence to call her own. The sprawling Kalki Gardens where she and her husband had lived for three decades and had entertained every celebrity possible and had hosted lunches and dinners for many friends and well-wishers, had been sold owing to financial compulsions. She and Sadasivam moved into rented and very small premises in the Valluvar Kottam area. A way of life had ended. It would have been a shock for anyone and for today’s generation where a “mood out” can happen for anything trivial, undertaking an international concert tour and making a success out of it while something as traumatic as the sale of a loved home was taking place, would appear inconceivable. Yet M.S. and Sadasivam had done it, thereby proving that their faith and Gandhian way of life were unshakeable.

Every paisa earned during the concert tour had gone for charity. Had M.S. or Sadasivam so wished, they could have asked for and got a share of the proceeds for themselves. But this was anathema to both of them. On learning of their living in rented premises, M.G. Ramachandran as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, offered them a Government bungalow for free. But the couple refused.

Theirs were hands that could extend only to perform acts of charity and never to receive them. And they practised this till the end.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

NRI

Reading NRI blogs, being one and living amongst NRIs has made me realize that many, if not all, NRIs go about their life as if it were some kind of a movie running for the benefit of parents & relatives back in India. They extensively communicate small little 'behind the scenes' details, pause for applause, and complain when attention or applause is not forth coming. These trivial details in-turn are relayed by parents to several other 2nd tier relatives, who listen to this type of talk only because their are waiting for their turn to talk about their NRI children.

Reminds one of the plight of parents living in Chettinaad and Nellai districts, whose children had migrated to Bombay or Madras. A group of relatives will surround the postman (or school vadhiyar as the case may be), who reads out from an inland letter, minor little details involving trips to Gateway of India. This system was more efficient because the postman read out all such letters to a common audience and so the second-level relay of communications was rendered unnecessary.

For the NRI, the passing away of the audience to their movie, is sorely missed, if it occurs well before the "transition time". Then the NRI is rudely awoken from a dream sequence. Transition time is when children get bored of playing out this elaborate movie for their parents and instead turn around to start watching the movie of their kid's life.

This is where a joint family system is valuable. The pain of having to communicate every minor little detail to parents is unnecessary. There is no need for the NRI to pretend to folks back home that he is a "modern man" who (a) helps around the house and (b) is demonstrative about his love for children and wife. One can move on unmindful of these silly botherations and can cease to be this 'live show' for people in far away lands.

One can just live life.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Avatar Background Music: Interview With James Horner

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

King Of Thamizh Nadu

I often wonder, how I'd use the benefits of monarchy. For example - if I become the undisputed king of Thamizh Nadu and had the power to do anything with impunity the following is what I would do (Maybe not as my first order of business but certainly as soon as I get around to having orders of business).

1. Shutdown Thamizh Nadu film industry. Ban them from making movies for the next 5 years. After 2.5 years Thamizh people (more importantly, their King) will realize that they need to do something else if they have to get a life

2. Cinema actors will never appear on TV for the next 5 years. They will never use words such as "interesting projects" or "working on an experiment" in the context of movies. They will never be seen on TV in the context of (a) appearing to be overly humble and (b) appearing to praise others as 'great' etc. The reason being - there is no need for them to be humble and nobody is 'great'.

3. All game shows that involve people dancing on stage will be banned. In other game shows, segments where people talk about their personal emotions will be edited out. People will laugh at and will cruelly mock contestants who get eliminated. Happy music will be played at that time to the chorus of "you suck".

4. Shows where children participate will be stopped with immediate effect. That "stand-up" comedy show included. The children who participated will be sent to sivakasi for folding crackers.

5. In any game/competitive-type show there will be a rule that the appreciation:criticism ratio will be 1:5. The judges will compulsarily criticise, very harshly, 5 out of every 6 contestants.

6. All mega serials will be banned. Deivyani will be sent to Maharashtra as a punishment for that state. People who watched Kolangal regularly will have their taxes doubled. People who say "I hate mega serials, but kolangal is different. Except for kolangal, everything else is bad" will serve as bonded laborers in Andaman for the rest of their lives. As a general principle Anuradha Sriram, Anu Hasan and Suhasini shall be sent to Karnataka permenantly.

7. Entire Kamalagasan's family, his relatives, onnu vitta thambi, Sathyaraj family will not be allowed to express their views on politics, religion or for that matter any other issue in any form of media. The reason given to them will be that - they are cinema people, hence sub-human and by virtue of that their views are worthless.

8. Cinema people will be devalued to an extent where they will be charged by my kingdom for every unit of oxygen they breathe.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Magnifying Glass On Fine Print

People who work for Verizon's pricing division must be wetting their pants on seeing this letter.

Please provide a description of whether or how a customer seeking to sign up for Verizon Wireless service by first selecting a device or service plan on the Verizon Wireless website would be able to find out about the levels and terms and conditions of the ETF, other than by calling up the formal Customer Agreement accessible in small type at the bottom of the web page.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Controversies, offense, liberals et all

Expanding on the previous post. Disclaimer: For whatever it is worth: I am not offended that nude pictures were drawn, not boiling over in angst or see any religion being thoroughly diminished by this one instance.

1. There seems be an equal an opposite argument to almost every argument one can come up with on this issue. And all arguments including mine seem to be equally flawed. This post probably adds more to the nonsense and is tagged under my new theory 'awareness, though is something, is not everything'. The flaws are exploited by both M.F and shiv sena so that they can do their own thing. Flaws/Loopholes serve to maintain equilibrium in the real world. M.F. had his way and shiv sena theirs.

2. I disagree with people who say that M.F. already has lot of money and so this is not about money. For all his richness, I think M.F. still needs to maintain and increase his money/fame. This is not about art or freedom of speech. Completely not. This is just like so many other 'revealing' autobiographies. The controversy is for marketing purposes. Money. So let us just treat it like that.

3. Most of the controversies surrounding religion, I have seen so far have always been about money. Some publicity is created by mocking some aspect of religion, The characterization of this controversy is someone stupidly picking an aspect of religion completely out of context. They get away by claiming some reference to old literature.

4. The people who "truly" oppose such "blasphemies" because it offends their religious beliefs are not the ram sena, shiv sena goondas. In fact the goondas care less about it than the common man. They overreact to get political mileage. For purposes of telling the common man that 'hey! I am here for you'. And violence during such instances always allow the goondas to finish off past personal vendetta.

5. So in effect the people who create the controversy and people who get offended are 'extremists' and do it for purposes other than adherence to religion.

6. The news carries only the extremist (both M.F Hussain and Shiv Sena in this case)point of view. But not the common man's view. Gives an impression that there can be only two categories - 'liberal' or 'conservative'. Just like marriage matrimonial ads where people ask for 'traditional' or 'broadminded' alliances. There is no space for 'normal' people here. When I see the words 'liberal' and 'broadminded' being used, I wonder what crap do people throw out in their everyday lives that they are desperately begging for me to be 'broadminded'. They think that's their only hope for acceptance. Normal people do not need to tolerate idiotic behavior of other people in the pretext of having the broad mind. The 'normal' mind will allow of toleration of normal behavior. I suspect the extra broadness is allow for 'abnormal' behavior on part of the extremists.

7. When prominent personalities say "hindus are offended" at some controversy. Amit Varma and other liberal types react by saying "hindus are not offended" and also say "xyz person is not representative of hindus". Thereby they commit the same logical flaw of talking on behalf of a larger cross section of people. Let me commit the same logical flaw now. Such liberals, to me, do not represent normal people ('yes' I get to define 'normal' and as mentioned this post is not without its flaws). They follow the logic of 'liberalism' or 'broadmindedness' described in # 7 above. 'Normal' Atheists don't hate god and don't passionately believe that the opposite of god exists. They just don't share the beliefs of religious people and leave it at that. Conversely - when 'normal' religious person believes in God they love God like a family member or in some cases even more. 'Normal' behavior is to get offended when someone makes nude art out of it or puts it in toilet papers. 'Normal' atheists won't get offended at such things but will certainly recognize that it is natural that an average religious person will be. If there are so called 'liberals' who are not offended and expect other to not be offended - then they do not have normal adherence to their atheism or their religion. They throw out crap because they want people to be broadminded and take in that crap. So regular people who don't feel the urge to eat crap need not be expected to tow the line of such liberals.

8. Saying one instance of controversy does not break a great religion is also, according to me, very stupid. "siru thuli peru vellam". Small drops create an ocean. The sum of the parts of all these small controversies is larger than any one instance. It is the growing trend or aggregation that is distinctly and deliberately favoring the anti-religion point of view that concerns any average religious person. Normal people are intelligent enough to know the value of "one instance" they don't need liberals to point it out for them. When someone slaps me in school today. The one instance will not kill me. But if he does it from LKG to 12th standard every other day then it definitely is a big thing. Being asked to not react to it for the sake of being "liberal" and for the logic of "will this one slap kill you" is just plain idiotic. Which is what I find liberals saying today.

9. Lastly, many good things can be destroyed. A 'good thing' cannot be defined by its 'invulnerability' or 'permanence'. In fact it can be the opposite. I would expect good things to be 'vulnerable' and 'hard to hold on to'. People are wrong when they say that "if you beieve hinduism is a great thing then it should not crumble because of a single criticism". Most good things like good habits in profession, academic, science, research are difficult to adopt and are extremely fragile. If you are not disciplined enough it will slip away in notime at all. And most good things need not make 100% sense in today's context. They will have things you don't understand and things that can be taken out of context. Let us assume that in some corner of religious literature available there is a passing reference to 'lakshmi' or 'saraswathi' as nude. It is not wholly representative of the entire religion. The person who did that may or may not have the same intention as Hussain. Picking that out, singling it and saying that is representative of religion because people have done it before makes me suspect that your intention is not about representing religion truly (M.F. Hussain is not so devout a hindu that he felt great sorrow and angst that a part of hinduism was fading away into obscurity. He did not pick out this nude art to fill a gap or some crap like that). To give an analogy - Its beyond posting photos of great leaders going to the toilet or posting photos of them having sex, in their biography books, just to ensure that a 'full picture' of their lives get represented. It is posting such photos in a newspaper without any other context and claiming "why not? leaders do have sex, they do go to the toilet. Why shouldn't I post photos to truly represent them". Yeah right! I know why you do it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

M.F. Hussain

Since, every 10 paisa artist in Italy does nude pictures of females, his claim that people don't understand his 'art' is misplaced. Typically in things surrounding nudist and modern art - there is nothing much to understand. However, people do not want to state the obvious and be regarded as a fool. So they spin their own stories that praise his art. Such praise is based on loose interpretations of fancy crayon work and is doled out by those who want to be regarded as a connoisseur. Add a few 'social activist' sleveless salwar + jeans chics from Metros into this mix and the legend grows on.

In a very logical world this religious fundamentalist would be in jail for deliberately slandering identities of another faith and wilfully disturbing the pretense of communal harmony. But we have idiots in this country who define "tolerance" as the "ability to absorb insults in perpetuity". Since these idiots have labelled themselves as 'liberals', the normal people who oppose their idiocy will get slotted as their opposites - namely 'conservative'. As one listens to their gibberish of why M.F. Hussain's pornography is a great thing for 'democracy', one feels for the lost advantages for monarchy where the right thing can be simply done without pandering to the lowest common denominator of the country's intellectual pool.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tendulkar Critics

There are two categories of Tendulkar critics. Category 1 are those who say (a) "when Sachin hits we don't win games" (b) "Sachin is overpaid" and (c) "sachin plays for himself and is interested in records". Category 2 are those who indulge in every other type of criticism of Tendulkar.
One can safely say that category 1 people do not have the requisite level of logical skills to follow and appreciate a game. If you are looking to have a good cricket conversation/argument you will quickly find out that they know very little beyond the quotes mentioned above. This inference can be deduced independently based on non-tendulkar conversations as well. Just that this particular conversation a high-confidence indicator.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Kalyanam Notes

1. Nobody watches the wedding videos, except the married couple. The couple who get married watch it maybe once (probably lose interest after 30 minutes or so). But close to 30,000 rupees is spent on it.

2. In the 80s and 90s video and camera were a big thing. So they cameraman was given more respect than the brihaspathi. Now since we have camera fitted into everything from key chains to condoms, the fancy'ness is wearing off.

3. The camera men form a wall between the audience and the to-be-wed couple. The couple (and parents) cannot see who has come. The audience cannot see who is getting married. Given that the audience, the couple's parents and the couple themselves won't ever see the marriage live or recorded in video, we can safely conclude that the only people who witness the marriage are the 4 or 5 video camera crew members. Not Agni Sakshi but Camera Man sakshi.

4. Given all this people complain that the vadhyaar sambaavanai is too much nowadays, when it is still less than the camera man's. Apparently the rising 'velai vaasi' should not apply to vadhyaars. From a religious function with some odd distractions, marriage has morphed into a "see my velli paathram and saaftwear engineer mappillai" showcase ceremony rudely interrupted by unimportant mantrams.

5. There is always someone who cracks the 'azhukku joke' about akshadhai not falling on the couple but the front seat people. Then 2 very very old people suggest some "funny" ways to deposit the akshadhai on the couple. Pretty much the same joke they 'cracked' a few hundred years ago when they were 60.

6. There is someone who accosts you and asks "do you remember who I am". I usually don't. If I did, the blank stare wouldn't be on my face. So asking the question the second time is useless.

7. 50% or more items that are bought for the purposes of wedding is a waste. A wedding budget of 10 lacs can be reduced to 5 lacs with nobody noticing the effect. The sherwani for reception, coat & suit for jaanvaasam, and pattu podavai for every small sub-function are areas where budget can be cut ruthlessly. There is a huge market for "clothes for hire". The camera man can be replaced by hiring a friend's camcorder and having a hapless cousin cover what he feels like covering. Nobody would know its not professional work. The huge ass adhirsams can be retired. The 7 side dishes can be reduced to 2. On second thoughts this gets a separate post.

8. The 'hand wash' area is anything but. People gargle, pour a bucket of water into their mouth and make all sorts of strange and rude noises. If you didn't know better you'd think somebody was getting murdered in there.

9. Just before the Muhurtham, in the 'oonjal' phase the bride joins all her fingers like a flower bud and points the fingers upwards. The brihaspathi then asks the the groom to wrap his hand around the bride's fingers saying that "until the jalaba homam is done after the sapthapathi, the person I am touching will be my life partner with whom I will share happiness.. children... etc etc". "Avar" honored guests have no clue that this was said. All they know is that they have to wait for "mangalyam Thanthunaane", handover the Rs 101 envelope and rush to the dining hall before office time. Like a herd of elephants they run over the brihaspathi thrust their hands out to the groom become his wife, eat and go on to live an adulterous life. 200 years of British rule has killed 2000 years of saying namaskaram.

10. Marriages are serial eat-athons. If you are not a peripheral guest and not the main guy but somewhere in-between - marriages resolves to eating 8 times in 1.5 days and alternating that with sitting and watching the bums of cameramen, listening to akshadhai jokes, and getting asked "who am I" by octogenarians who are living past their sell-by date.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Real Estate

Real Estate prices in W. Mambalam seem to be more expensive than California. Based on random anecdotal evidence, Madras prices seem to have not dropped as steeply as bangalore. People are buying a 1700 Sq Ft house in arbit places in bendhakilathoor because they wouldn't get even a 1000 St Ft house in Mambalam for that budget.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Living The Moment

Improvements in digital storage technology may go on to ruin our lives. Here is a familiar sight: go to any tourist spot, concert, game, show, event, temple functions - essentially any place where stuff happens - you will see 10 morons with cell phone based image/video cameras, recording that stuff. Nobody really knows why they record it. What is evident is the fact that they are not paying attention to the event and instead are focused on operating the recording device.

If you look at their faces you may notice that they have a serious air about them. They give an impression that they are experts in the field of the stuff being recorded. It is a look that misleads us to believe that it is their profession to capture such events for archiving. Probably they want us to assume that they are interested in this stuff more than the average person. That they are recording this event to pore on it it, study it for 300 years and research the heck out of it for several years to come. In reality these morons don't even know what the event is about and probably don't understand any aspect of it. They are just passing tourists who record anything, including them going to the toilet, as a matter of reflex. There is no sight that is more irritating than 10 or 15 morons, blocking your view by raising their hands and recording events that they will never see again.

Even more irritating is the fact that these morons are recording the event purely to post it in facebook.

Leads me to suspect that humans may have already lost the ability to soak in and live the moment. At one point they were capable of going to a (a) place for vacation and truly enjoying the place or (b) concert or a discourse and simply listen. Enjoy. Feel the moment. The intense experience of the moment caused them to remember the moment for years to come. But that was in the past.

I realized this recently during the course of two Jesudas concerts - a carnatic one at Madras during the last music season and a film songs based one in Seattle a few months ago. There was a noticeable theme in both concerts and probably all concerts to do with Jesudas: he prohibits video and audio recording of his concerts. This clause is his contract with the sabha or show organizers. I have to say I love that. I don't really care about his intellectual property rights. I loved the reason he provided for prohibiting this - when yet another moron with a cell phone, right royally went to the front of stage and began to video-record a song.

Jesudas stopped this moron and said: "There was a time where we could recollect a concert from 10 years ago. It is because we didn't have any distractions during the concert. We went there and applied all our concentration and attention on enjoying the concert. As a result our memory held on to the experience for a long time. Nowadays people are more focused on recording the concert. For what reason? How many people play this recording again and listen to it? How many people see these photos that they take now? It simply resides in some corner of their computer unattended"

This is what life has become in the world of Facebook, Twitter and blogs(in the case the blog this is probably known old news). I actually know people who attend events for 5 minutes or just long enough to take a photo of the event, post it in Facebook and leave. Humans have started to do things so that they can TPT about it later. The only purpose of taking photos is to put them on facebook and orkut. They have stopped living the moment and committing anything to memory. Instead they bring surrogate memory along with them and deposit their experiences there. And certainly nobody goes back and listens to audio recordings of a discourse or views videos of an old event. These recordings rot in some corner of their computer. Once they have TPT'ed about it in the Facebook, the event for all purposes is meaningless to them. As a result people miss out on great public events, personal life events (marriage, birth of child, functions) and even interesting events (concerts, meeting a celebrity etc) by focusing on a recording device instead of the moment.

I suspect that people will lose the ability to attach an emotion to a moment because the only emotion they had at that moment was a sense of panic to quickly take the recording device out and click the record button.

Disclaimer: Stating the abovious again: This commentary is more about excesses and less about Internet travelogues and Facebook TPT done in moderation.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Farex Wars

There is a moment in parenting life when parents try and feed food to the infant. And we are talking about a human being which has lived on this planet only for very few months. It probably does not even know that it has fingers, legs and a mouth. It has no case history or assessment of the reputation of its parents. This infant, at this stage, decides that its parents are wrong. Thats simply it. It turns its face the other way and refuses food. In effect it is telling the parents; "you are wrong. you don't know stuff. I know better and I am saying I don't want this food". This is the beginning of several decades long Farex wars that happens between a parent and a child. This is the first foray and a harbinger of many such things to come.

The parents and child are locked in a tussle on a variety of subjects: school, marks, sports, lunch, breakfast, dinner, tiffin, mid-tiffin, special dinner, going to cinema, not going to cinema, talking to relatives, paying respect to elders, religion, diet, weight, height, color of finger nails, slipper choice, dress choice, boyfriend, girlfriends, friends, marriage, work, spending money, choice of sofa, having children, naming the children, shashti-abhda-poorthi, booking cook for shashti-abdha-poorthi, sadha-abhishekam, booking cook for sadha-abishekam, driving scooter after 80 years, travelling in second class, travelling, not travelling, booking tickets to America, staying in America for 6 months, old age home, will, and finally love.

Here are two germ-sized people standing on a rock of dust hurling through space, locked in a tremendous tussle. A long line of ancestors are standing in line trying to push upwards and downwards. They are standing with arms locked trying to push the other and the other won't budge. Yet there is love. Like a rough and sturdy coconut cover that wraps around its tender kernel, the farex wars wraps itself around the purest love in the world.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Where the mind is lost and knowledge absent

She is very small now, almost the size of her great grand daughter. They have locked her up in a room, where she lays in her bed day and night, oblivious to the smell of her own feces. What is she thinking of? About the time she threw the plate full of food in her daughter-in-law's face because it didn't smell right? The only person who agreed to do this job walks in to clean her: "ennai kulipaata vandhirukkiya" she asks gleefully and is carried into the bathroom almost single-handedly. She goes in singing "maru kelaraa" loudly.

In the other bathroom her great grand daughter is also being bathed. The child was carried in wailing and crying and continues to cry as it is bathed. Meanwhile, she is having fun. She goes into high pitch with "O' raagavaaa..". Both are bathed, powdered, dressed and made to sit in a chair. The grandson is introduced and question is asked "yaar theriyarha sollu" ("do you know who this is "). The baby cries and looks away. When it is her turn, she says "theriyume. ennoda peran". And then asks "amerikkavula irukkiya nee". Upon receiving confirmation, she says "nalla iru". . The boy asks "eppadi irukke paati"? And she gives back a blank stare. She suddenly has no recollection of him. They give up after an hour of trying.

Two people are fed and tucked in their bed during daytime. Both have dodgy memories and won't remember the events of the day. They are waiting. One for life and the other death.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Deepavali in Madras

Sadly, as evidenced this deepavali, the concept of fireworks has reduced considerably in Madras. This is a a great disservice to the magnificent minds at Sivakasi who conjure up so many varieties of firecrackers. There was a time when you could hear crackers at 2 AM. This was a time when I lived in Mylai and deepavali crackers were 50% over at the break of dawn. That was a time when Red Fort 56 Deluxe was a huge thing and you only bought 15 or so of those for the entire day. Red Fort by Standard Fireworks is my favorite cracker. I can burst that variety alone for the entire day. There is something about a 'sara vedi' that is very sexy. There is a thrill associated with lighting it, backing away and watching it zip through. My watchman would shout - as I reached out and wafted the air like a blind man trying to somehow connect the 'killi vitta thiree' and the 'oodhuvathi'. "Pottai pulla madhiri thiriya killittu.. appadiye ethu da..." he would say. 'killi vitta thiree' is now a thing of the past.

Atom Bombs generated a fear that 10,000 walas did not. Sivakasi introduced the hydrogen bomb, the bullet bomb and many other bombs that were designed to scare you before the bomb was lighted. The beauty of the design was that these atom bombs carried a large fuse. It would be coiled around the bomb and when you removed it - it was a good 30 second worth of fuse. The wait was more terrifying than the blast. Rockets are evergreen like 'sara vedis'. They are famous because of their unpredictability. The charm increased because people used innovative methods to launch them. Plastic bottles, used flower pot, holes dug in the mud were the great launch pads. Of course "Colour rockets were for the wusses. Real men fired bomb rockets". Afternoons were mainly for atom bombs, lakshmi vedis and bijilis. As a child these were fascinating things that held enormous opportunity to have fun.

Yesterday, I got used to the latest deepavali trend in Madras. More of aerial shows and less of bombs and lakshmi vedis. This time my purchases had a distinct Kaliswari bias and very less Standard fireworks. As is well known now, Deepavali begins very late these days and it was almost 5 by the time I heard the first sound of something bursting. By 8 AM things were brought to a close and I did not hear another cracker sound until 5PM. Gone are the days were you could continuously hear something from 2AM to 10PM. The fun is getting killed year-by-year. Children prefer to watch TV rather than burst crackers outside. Children today will not know the thrill of lighting up a bijili with a hand and throwing it into the air. The modern world will suck the fun out of life and eventually turn everyone into walking zombies.

Part of that is because fireworks are more expensive than cars. In the 90s my father purchased fireworks for about 4000 - 5000 rupees and those crackers came in 2 big boxes and a plastic bag. On Friday I saw a boy buy crackers for 7000 from Standard fireworks. The entire lot fit into 1 small plastic bag. He wouldn't be able to burst those for more than an hour. Remember the MRP prices that they put on crackers in the 80s. You'd look at them and wonder "The guy who put these prices was smoking something". Well those are the real prices now. 1 Redfort 56 shell Deluxe is 63 Rupees. 1 box of 30 cm Sparklers cost 120 Rs. The trend is moving towards air shows - like the ones we see on July 4th. We bought a few of those and they lit of the sky well but somehow one felt that the thrill was missing. I did the 10,000 wala thing though. I love 10,000 walas. While in Mylai, I had to walk to chokkalingam street to see Crazy Mohan's family burst 10,000 walas like it was nobody's business. People used to discuss what chokkalingam street would burst a few days before deepavali. The whoe street would be covered with paper at the end of the day. Unfortunately, in the case of my 10K wala, one spark from the lit (and bursting) side of 10,000 wala flew all the way to the unlit side of it and the giant 'saram' started bursting from both ends. The show got over quicker than I wanted it to.

There is sadness when deepavali ends. It is a majestic festival. Not many countries in the world celebrate life this way. This I thought was true cavalier Indian style. Full of fun, life and energy. It is an expression of joy that is unique and very demonstrative. Whatever it was, it was certainly not dour. People didn't wear suits, exchange gifts and sat down for dinner. Finally there was a festival that wasn't just about food (and a stupid dance to loud music). Literally a whole country 'bursts' into celebration. It allowed people to let go and vent out the stress of daily life. It was a vacation that allowed people to escape into something that they wouldn't do any other normal day. Such a pressure valve has rarely been designed in the history of civilization. Standing in the terrace and watching the sky getting lit was an amazing sight. Madras night is beautiful on Deepavali.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

TPT, Facebook, etc.

1000 years ago people were aware that human beings loved to talk about themselves. People wanted to be heard, considered important, be valued and appreciated. Everything we do involves, to a certain extent, pretense. We pretend to be a certain kind of person or drop hints to make the audience form certain opinions towards us. Favorable opinions. Which is why Shakespeare, apart from saying "no god is equal to sabapathi", also said "the world is a theater". Humans derived pleasure when their deeds, virtues, and struggles were recognized, called out as great by a large group of unknown people. Yes! blogs are a great example of that. But first things first. In that order. For over 2000 years, it was hard for human beings to achieve this easily. You needed to be a great warrior, a king, a poet or a religious leader in order for people to sing praises about you and appreciate you. So essentially, only 1% of the entire population had their cravings satisfied. The rest were starved or simply resorted to singing their own praises to other unlucky listeners. In the early age instances of self-trumpeting (TPT) was rare as there was too much emphasis on humility etc.

After several thousand years of suppressed cravings, humans sprung a leak. In the 80s, some very sad parents vented this suppressed craving by relentlessly, ruthlessly and really tirelessly singing praises about their children. You could never shut those parents at all. They would go on and on about "my son is so awesome. he is class first, will get into IIT etc". Such parents exist today and can't stop yapping about their how great their 6 month old baby looked when it pooped.

Leaving parents aside, there are some luminaries we see everyday who innocently exhibit these cravings publicly. They remind us that this trait is present in all of us but it manifests itself in the luminaries because there is opportunity for them to display it. Take a classic example of 'Koffee with Anu' for instance. For a year she interviewed other people and allowed them to sing their praises and sometimes even sang their praises for them. But really what she was waiting for was a chance to speak about herself. She didn't really have an acting credentials or any other credentials, so voluntary praise wasn't necessarily forthcoming. So she did an anniversary show and got Prakash Raj to interview her, sang praises about her own struggles (which as expected very extremely trivial and told us what we knew already - that she was a moron). One should have expected this TPT from her because her cousin Suhasini, is an expert TPT. She inserts "when I was cameraman.." or "when I was god and knew everything under the sun" in almost every sentence she gets to speak on TV. The only reason why she has agreed to do the 'movie review' show is to tell us how great she is. The reviews are incidental and if she could she'd do without them.

Take Anuradha Sriram, the playback singer, as another example of humans displaying this trait. She reminds me of the time when Joey Tribbiani ( a character in FRIENDS who plays the role of an aspiring actor) gets to make a wedding dinner speech. Once he finds out that a movie casting director is on the table, his whole speech changes. He starts by saying a few words about the newly wedded couple and goes on to display range of emotions - sadness, happiness, shock, fear and ends with "as a person who can emote, fight martial arts and do partial nudity...I wish the couple a happy married life". His speech had nothing to do with the wedding but everything to do with showcasing himself to the casting director. Every time Anuradha Sriram talks on TV, it is about how great she is. Even when she is called upon to praise KJJesudas, she first praises herself, sings a note or two herself, and mentions a few irrelevant things about herself and in the end says "As a person who is so awesome I can say that KJY is sort of cool"

But praising children, getting on TV, talking to others about yourself requires a lot of work. Probably even talent. What about the average idiot who can't get on TV. Us? Where do we get to sing praises about ourselves. Enter facebook, twitter and blogger. Facebook is the subject of focus here. Facebook has removed any and all subtlety that was previously required to do TPT. It allowed Users to forthrightly say 'I am awesome, please know that as a fact'. The common theme among all facebook messages is "look at me, I am so awesome". 99% of status messages has people saying "I am soooo busy" or "Working like a dog" or "I am doing work and if I wasn't there an entire country of people would need to work for300 years to do what I do in 2 days" or "I jog 300 miles in 2 nano seconds" or "I lifted 3000 pound dumbells with my little finger". Some subtle people join the "Become a fan of 4.0 GPA" and others become fans of "high performing employees group".

Then there are these freakin' facebook quizzes that showcases unknown traits of the user. These quizzes are carefully designed to trumpet the User. You see a post that says "Margabandhu took the 'how long is your dick quiz' and the answer is '20000 million miles' " or "Vishwanath took the 'What kind of person are you quiz' and the answer is 'you are sensitive, awesome, great, fantastic, chicks should dig you, chicks should strip and surrender to your love'". "Ganapathi took the 'what kind of car are you' quiz and the answer is 'Ferrari, chicks should dig and dig and totally dig you'". Facebook is to satisfy the cravings of mediocre boneheads, who cannot and will not gain any sort of acclaim in real lives. It makes them feel that others will read their quizes and status updates and go "oh my god! what a fantastic supertastic awesome guy he is, i am a piece of dirt if front of him, i should go lick his feet". The correct quizzes these people should be taking are "Muthappan took the 'what fart smell are you quiz' and the result is ' you smell like fart after person has eaten 8 dhonnai puliyodharais, 8 eggs that have been spoilt and 2 kilos of potatoes'". Unfortunately those quizzes don't exist.

Note1: TPT refers to Thar Perumai Thanigachalam. 'Dabur' from OSU was the first ever TPT the world has known.

Note2: The scope of this post obviously includes blogs, this blog and its author. It is uncool and pointless to restate the obvious that I draw from my own experiences while writing this post.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Mahan Gandhiye Mahan

Whenever this time of the year approaches, I am reminded of a song that has been my favorite song for many many years. 'Naam Iruvar' is a very good movie that was telecast several times in DD. It is such an old movie that most of the actors featuring in the movie might've died by the time I first saw the movie. It depicted good values and in general was a very goody goody type movie. The running time for 'Naam Iruvar' movie was 3+ hours but it felt more like a few years. There was a song every 2 minutes in that movie. As old technology and cheesy as the movie was it was certainly very endearing. My feelings towards Gandhi has changed over time from intense liking to indifference to critical to ' i don't care about having such opinions anymore'. But this song still remains one of my all time favorites

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pleasant Surprise

I could tell you the exact minute it comes. But I'll let you watch it. It comes for 2 secs max. So don't turn away.



Also visit this

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thenkachi Ko Swaminathan

I listened to his "Indru Oru Thagaval" (Message for Today) every day in AIR at about 7 AM'ish every morning. His name and his voice reminded me of van rides to school, and for strange reasons Kerala Saloon and other barber shops where I listened to him. His voice had a deep bassy tone to it. Sometimes a person's voice inherently has a tinge of sarcasm. Even if it is unintended, the sarcasm sort of adds a nice touch to what is being said. Thanjavur folks would have liked him. They would have said "pisuru padaama pesuvaar avar" (he does not stutter or use fillers when he talks).

A year ago I thought of writing a post about him wishing that AIR compile all his short stories and releases it as a CD collection. It would be a priceless collection that we could play for future generations. Unfortunately, I have postponed that post to the point where it became an obit. Thenkachi, for the uninitiated, told short stories in All India Radio and capped it off with a 'moral of the story'. He had a nice way of taking very little of our time and at the same time make us feel that he was telling the story with a relaxed pace. I liked him for doing the R.K. Narayan like thing of taking us back to simple times.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dreams

Some dreams can be frustrating because it can easily cause you 3-4 hours of needless tension. While this tension is as futile as anything else you get tensed for in the real world the futility of dream triggered anxiety seems more obvious and irritating. And you can do nothing to change the dreams. For the past several years I have a recurring dream that I have to take my 12th standard board exam again. The context is generally - the board has introduced a new subject in the recent years and everybody who has completed 12th must go back and write an exam on this subject. The other contexts are (a) they have changed the XIIstd Chemistry syllabus and so everybody has to take Chemistry board exam again or (b) I have travelled back in time and find myself a few days away from exams. There are some rare occasions where the dream has no courtesy and does not tell me why I am taking the exam and directly throws me into a situation where I know there is an exam and I have to write it. Of course occasions where I am the only one naked is not rare and - sigh - quite frustrating

The dreams have a variety of settings too. Sometimes I write the exam with my college classmates as opposed to my XII std classmates. Sometimes they are office colleagues or grad school buddies. Sometimes the class is in America but the teacher is my XII std teacher. Suddenly, I find myself sitting next to my milkman who is also preparing very hard for the exam (The aluminium milk can is on top of the desk during class hours). Tension begins when I know that there is a lot of syllabus to cover and I can't get myself to read anything. I never get to the point where I open the book and read. My dreams begin and end before the exams. So I never get to know if I did well or not. I never get to prepare at all. The entire 4 hours (or what seems like it) is filled with tension that exams are coming and I am not preparing or doing anything about it. Occasionally there are 3 or 4 chemistry related words dropped in and I become aware that I don't understand any of them. So I get more tensed

Today morning, I had set my alarm for 5AM. It rang, I switched it off planning to get up immediately. But unknowingly I went back to sleep and got transported into yet another exam situation. Woke up sweating and really really afraid. There may be a thousand Freud'ish explanations for these dreams but what use are they? I can't do anything to avoid the tension.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cricket

In order to align everything with my larger theory that this the stupidest generation to walk on the face of the planet, I made an observation on this blog several years ago that twenty20 cricket - tailor made for the idiot generation - will kill cricket in general and test cricket in specific. Twenty20 is like the twitter of cricket (Interestingly, I also compare Tests to book publishing business). Much like the way twitter allows any twit who can type random 140 characters to be popular, twenty20 will allow 'gaada' suthifying batters to be stars. Recently, I watched Twenty20 after a long time and it was really painful. The world is gravitating towards brainless fast food type sports and reading habits.

A popular blogger wrote a post that Twenty20 will benefit Test cricket rather than kill it. He was right. We have stopped playing test cricket now. Thanks to the country which has the least vision and most idiocy. India. Goes on to show that the "west", especially Britain and Australia were probably better in safeguarding the beauty and charm of cricket than the 'mutta kammanatis' at BCCI. In about 10 years when someone does a CPR to revive cricket, one of the key lessons they will take forward is that India cannot be given any authority/responsibility to determine the future of cricket.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Unnaipol Oruvan

This was an engaging movie with a very simple and straight forward script. Liked it. Kamal Hasan plays an anonymous person (subnote: curiously many reviewers have caught on to the term "common man" that he refers to in a dialog and repeat it like a parrot. They say "Kamal Hasan plays "common man:" like the way they'd say Christian bale played Batman or Christopher Reeve plays Super Man etc - wonder why?) who threatens to bomb selected spots in Chennai if they don't negotiate with him. He tries to make us forget that he is 'kamal hasan' by making his appearance rather modest or ugly to say the least. This is important given the context of the story. Because if we see too much Kamal Hasan it may work against the movie. This effort works to a great extent but there is a little bit of Kamal hasan still sticking on to the character he plays. This sort gives - deliberately or not - many clues as to what the end of the movie would look like. I was not surprised at the ending. At all. I guess many wouldn't be.

Overall - I liked the movie and I am glad I saw it.


After Thought: I did not think that this movie had a lot of scope for major level emoting or in general displaying excellent acting talents. This is in a way very cut and dry movie wit limited focus on character development. So the benefit this movie gets by the presence of Mohan Lal is simply just that. There is not a lot of scope to make Maraar, a better done character. Mohan Lal makes it look smooth. But there is nothing extra-ordinary in either Kamal's role or Mohan Lal's role that makes anyone go "wow! superb acting" unless one is compelled to say so because it is Kamal and Mohan lal. Something needs tobe said of Lakshmi's role though. Pretty Yucky. Needless role. Her dialogs were inane and sometimes senseless. Very poor (over) acting to boot.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kanye Vs Taylor

I know it has become obligatory for people to diss Kanye for what he did because it is the politically correct thing to do. Since I don't really care about any of the parties involved (except that I believe Beyonce is way more hot than Taylor), I don't feel the need to get angry or offended at what Kanye did. Don't feel the urge to call him names or criticise him. This post discusses a different aspect surrounding such incidents. I believe that if someone is embarrassed very publicly then the crowd is embarrassed as well and actually feels for the person. This is true. The crowd cringes along with the person being insulted. I have often wondered about this particular kind of embarrassment while watching the Oscars. How it would feel if someone jumped on stage and insulted the award winner, grabbed the mike and told the Academy that the award belongs to someone else. What a thrilling moment that would be purely because of the rarity of its occurrence?

The 'cringe moment' in this case was thrilling and hilarious to watch. You have been seeing award functions for such a long time that purely because of the way probabilities and law of averages work, it is about time such a thing happened. And the amazing thing about the human mind is that it processes embarrassment in a disproportionate fashion. Taylor couldn't bring herself to speak at all after Kanye handed her back the mike. Not everyone thinks she is undeserving. Probably Kanye is the only one who thinks so. But her mind wouldn't absorb it that way.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Putting the 'Pool' in Car Pool

So - many years ago I had a roommate in grad school who like many desis before and after him multi tasked as a NFL coach, College football coach, President of USA, Supreme Court Chief Justice, Prime Minister of India, Sankaracharya, Expert in comparative religion and of course also spent few hours teaching undergrad kids MS Word for $1,100 per month. Typical of many desis of that time who hadn't touched a drop of alcohol or hadn't tasted egg until they landed in US, he'd fill his weekend nights with several rounds of 'chivas regal' and several plates of chicken. At the end of it, he'd develop sudden expertize to comment with absolute certainty on vegetarianism, the source/reason/state of religion, how stupid his parents-living-in India were and why he became N times more "fundoo" than them by simply stepping into the US soil etc ..etc.

So this boy within 1-month after landing did all the customary things: started referring to the state as "my state" the football team as "our team" and of course the country as "inga namma oor'la". He had to travel 30 miles once-every-week to do some team-based research for his professor. He did not own a car. The rest of his lab mates had a car and they took turns to car pool. The person who was chosen to drive that day picked my roomie up and dropped him back home. However, when he referred to these trips during the weekend, he'd say "I car pooled with my friends to go and do research for NASA". He didn't really own a car and was simply bumming a free ride. So for a while we were confused, thought he'd picked up the word "car pool" from somebody and really liked to use it. So we let him go. But he kept saying that again and again like "I didn't want David to car pool with us because David is so out of the way. But I am okay with it because it helps to discuss the project on the way". One day while he went on for the Nth time about car pooling, a drunk guy stopped him mid-sentence and asked him "dei nayee... ungitta car irukka da". Confused, our man says "No I don't have a car". Pat came the reply:

"appo mathavangellam car kondu varanga nee {refer_to_title_of_post} kondu poriya ?"

This Ghantaknaath must be very similar to my roommate. Look at him say this:

"Because I don't want a public option or any surrogate for it, which just puts the system in an even worse position than it is now.

But, if a public option is indeed passed, then I will be really pissed if it excludes end of life counseling or does not cover abortion expenses."

If I remember correctly, saar is on a F-1 visa. As part of the stipend rules and immigration rules, the university compulsorily withholds some money from his stipend to pay for his insurance. The university chooses his insurance provider. Even if he wanted to change his insurance provider, he has to work extra hard and convince quite a few people. Ivanukku indha altaapu thevaiyaa? 3 more years in F-1 + 9 years to a green card + 6 years to a citizenship. He is almost 2 decades away from having a say on such topics. Pammittu irukka vendiyadhu dhaane.

Someone Like You

Friday, September 11, 2009

Larry Gelbart

He was the writer for M*A*S*H. The series was great only partially because Alan Alda was glib or the slapstick pranks he pulled along with B.J were very funny. It was great mainly because of the usage of words. M*A*S*H was simply magic with the English language. You were often left thinking - I didn't know I could construct a sentence like that. Larry made humor a weapon.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Deivamee

Jeppiar's opening day speech to students of Sathyabama Engineering college is so legendary that one need not introduce it to people at all. It is part of the folklore. When boys discuss college stuff after several rounds of (OH)4 this speech certainly figures in that. I have been fortunate to witness it once. I promise you, I can never forget it. Here is a sample of the eloquence, precision in language, and sophistication he brings to the table.

Friday, September 04, 2009

FUW - I

There are some words and phrases that you get tired of reading (or writing). Maybe because you have used them frequently or you see everybody use it frequently (because it is considered fashionable). I'll kick start this series with 3 words/phrases that have annoyed me in the recent past like no other word.

Sanctum Sanctorum WTF?! Seriously. What doe this even mean? Romba bandha thaanga mudiyalai. I would prefer a long 'that room inside the temple where they keep the idol of god' as a better alternative to this rubbish phrase. I don't know what religious writers in the 1940s wee thinking when they began to copy this word just to impress the British. I certainly don't know what writers today are thinking when they use it incessantly. If people who use too much English are 'peter' then people who use too much Latin should be called 'litter' or 'thaadikaran' etc. What do they email their relatives "I went to the sanctum sanctorum of thirupathi and they said ''reight reight.. jaragandi... jaragandi"

Hype and the Hoopla: Stop. What is this 'hoopla' 'goobla' crap. Appadinna enna da? It is almost as if the keyboard instinctively types 'and the hoopla' after it types 'hype'. If you go to a mental aaspathri and they ask you to do word association, I am sure most of the mental cases would correctly answer 'and the hoopla' the moment doctor says 'hype'.

Protagonist: Now people who use this are downright pretentious. It seemed fashionable at some point and so I used it but then later I couldn't help thinking 'what the hell does this even mean?'. To put it simply, I don't like the way this word sounds inside the head. It is like referring to people from Kumbakonam as 'kumbakonist'. What about 'simble' words like actor, hero, person with yellow shirt etc. 'protagonist' 'pootagonist' sollitta nee enna periya Newyork Broadway theater performance reviewer'a?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

She has not sunk/drowned and She will be a green bodied woman

The amount of personal information strangers begin to share with you - when you announce that your wife is pregnant - is simply incredible. The moment you announce, It feels like a secret door opened. Strangers, even desi strangers, suddenly assume that it is appropriate to discuss stuff about the reproductive system that is normally considered private. Most good Thamizh boys know nothing about the intricacies of female reproductive systems. While they skipped chapters to peep into "The Female Reproductive System" chapter in the 8th standard biology textbook, all that precious knowledge was soon discarded to pursue much higher intellectual stuff - porn. So naturally going back to 8th standard biology is a retrogression of sorts.

Now, these strangers are people who were mild-mannered and silent until they heard your announcement. But after the secret door opens they tell you the scariest of details. They discuss all that they ever knew about pregnancy. Like "my wife's sister had a discombobulated cervix" "Susan's egg formed in the fallopian tube" "you know how it works right..the egg flows down from the ovary to the uterus" " it attached to the uterus wall near the cervix" " one of my friends had a partial placenta previa". The desi male's brain cannot comprehend so many tubes, pipes and complicated mechanics going on there. The thamizh boy has one word for all these scientific jargon.

'keezha'

Down under. Somewhere down. Down there. It not much of a word. But it is simple, humble and has a lot of love. If you feel a question is too personal (or too 'teginigal') you can simply say 'ya ya vayathula keezha baby form aagum' and leave it at that. It can explain many things, which half-baked science experts, who can google very fast, cannot. Simply saying 'kizha anga engayo' can answer all questions. Take this very real conversation for instance with a google-searching desi engineer.

Stranger: Do you know where the placenta has attached itself.
Me: Keezha
Stranger: You know my friend had a ectopic pregnancy and ruptured one of her fallopian tubes. How is the pregnancy facilitated ? Is one fallopian tube enough?
Me: It is facilitated 'Keezha anga engayo'.
Stranger: Does the cervix have to dialate 10 cm before the baby comes out?
Me: Baby comes out from keezha.
Stranger: Dei keezha seri da. Keezha enge?
Me: Adhaan da. Keezha anga engayo.

'keezha anga engayo' is a fantastic PG-13 phrase to respond to several over-enthusiastic questions that seem intrusive. In fact it is very dignified and impersonal. It gives out enough detail to let others know that you won't fail in Geography but hides a lot of Carpentry, Engineering Drawing, Physics and other difficult 12 mark questions out of it.

We always knew that women are comfortable discussing this with other women. Here is another surprise - once the wife is pregnant, other women feel the need to dole out advise to the wife in front of the husband. Now men get to hear the gory details of the whole pregnancy process. What horror!?? They discuss it as if they were discussing computer hard drives. Little do they know that they are committing the sin of taking a 40-year patron of Woodlands drive-in restaurant to its kitchen and let him see the gory details of how his favorite food is cooked. We don't want to know how it all works and how things are made. For men it is sex. It is sacred. From Emmanualle to Erika Eleniak - the various goddesses have symbolized this sacredness. Don't spoil it for us. Mr. Johnson has spit so many times into the sunlight and into plastic covers. He had no idea that if he spit 'keezha' he'd potentially be slaying a holy cow. If he had he would have thought twice about it.

I fell victim to this 'get biology knowledge' mania. I got caught up in accumulating useless knowledge under the assumption that" a modern husband who is progressive mannangatti etc has to know all these details to be perceived as supportive". I mean what is the point of doing "viradha homaam" on the morning of the marriage if you cannot have a intelligent conversation with the Radiologist? So I tried my best to learn the pipes, the different containers and the whole flowchart diagrams. Every 'aaspathri' has wall-size pictures and diagrams. You can't miss them. It is sort of like trying to look at the source code of a video game you are playing.

But I kept saying the wrong things. Kept confusing one pipe and the other. Mixing up containers. Kept saying there were two uteruses and one ovary. Just the way all Chinese people look the same to people from Mannargudi, to men all female body parts pretty much looked like "keezha". The 'illustrative' videos to get the man up to speed were all hazy. Apparently the doctors are used to over enthusiastic men who pretend to be mild-mannered software engineer during the day and super powered gynaecologists during the night - capable of jumping tall ovaries in a single bound and stop speeding sperms. So they never cared to describe what the hell anything meant.

Meanwhile at work and at many social gatherings people are bombarding you with unheard of words. I am not a prude and don't get offended that easily but my god! are the details awful. It is almost as if there are two worlds out there. One is a world where people don't talk about reproductive organs in gory detail. The other is where they see you enter into the "parents world", see you get access to some sort of privileged member club benefits. In this world complete and total strangers discuss the most intimate private body parts in a matter-of-fact way. The transition is sudden and if a person is caught unawares he is in for it.

The modern desi living in amrikka needs to know pages and pages and volumes of stuff that the SBI officer 20-30 years ago simply referred to as - "keezha anga engayo" or "edho ladies matter saar yaarukku theriyum"

Monday, August 31, 2009

Movie Review: Pasanga

A movie about events surrounding a couple of kids presented to us the way those kids see themselves in the illusionary world they live in. Falls in the category of low-budget minimum expectation movies that manages to not suck by keeping the story simple and within limitations. Your expectations are so met near the end of the movie that you sort of overlook the vayishal climax scenes. This is by no means as good as 'Anjali' but really really better than those Baby Shalini/Shamili/Simbu movies.

With this - Sasikumar related movies have nearly saturated the effects arising out of small-town Tamil Nadu look & feel and the 80s song nostalgia triggers. It is not a novelty anymore. Unless he has some radical new story to offer under the same construct, he needs to make movies that follow a new formula with actors who shave regularly.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Chris Nolan & James Cameron

Two really awesome movie to look forward to from two high quality movie makers.

Avatar

James Camron after giving some fantastic movies decided to semi-retire (except for directing the final TV episode of Farscape) after giving the sucky Titanic. Now he is back with an exciting movie.

This trailer looks really exciting



Inception

Can Chris Nolan better what he did with Prestige?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

'Crazy' Venkatesh

In 'Meesai Aanalum Manaivi' he played 'military'. Where he cutely said "aiyoo enakku thalai sutthardhu" to which Maadhu would reply "unnoda heightukku thalai sutthina fan sutthara madhiri irukku". He became famous for the dialog "rendu gundu vechirukken" and he would use those 2 bullets in many contexts "nikka vechu oru gundu suduven oda vittu oru gundu suduven" or "idupukkukku mela oru gundu iduppukku keezha oru gundu". Yes! the same 'militree' who falls in love with Maadhu's wife sumangali and takes the drama to new heights of confusion.
'Crazy' Venkatesh - that tall lean guy with a handle bar moustache is no more. He was a regular in 'Crazy' Mohan's drama group. Possibly one of the favorite members of the troupe for many folks. The last I spoke to him was during a show in Madras. During the interval I went behind the stage and introduced my to-be wife to him. He could barely walk and was really in pain. He was playing the role of the turbaned iyengar in 'Crazy Ghost'. He had began limping during his 2002 American tour and persevered bravely through Madhu +2 show in Dallas.
His biggest break came when he was called upon to act in Michael Madana Kamarajan, which went to become such a huge cult hit that every character in that movie became etched in people's minds. He chased down Kamal Hasan after Kamal Hasan in a TVS 50. When he says "thooki kaatu da" and the gets the response "che ponga annen vekkama irukku" the entire theater erupted with laughter. Somehow the best memories of him comes from Doordarshan days when they showed a 13 episode series of 'Crazy' mohan dramas.