Thursday, August 06, 2009

Hail Zoya!

Just watched "Luck by Chance".

When the pre-release promos for this movie came out, I thought this is a movie I should watch. Reasons:
a) The plot sounded interesting...thoda hatke.
b) Farhan akhtar..."Rock On!" showed that this guy is a multi-talent. Singer, director and now actor. And he can act.
c) Of course, Konkona. I have been a fan of this lady's mother Aparna for as long as I can remember. But boy, she is better. Not a heroine...an actress. And a fantastic one at that.

I got negative reviews from friends who had seen this movie. Slow hai, booring hai yaar. So I refrained from watching it. Until tonight.

Adhering to my motto (KISS, in case you didn't know), I can say that I liked the film. Nay, I loved it. Amazing movie. Amazing screenplay. Amazing camera-work. And amazing acting. Hope to write a more coherent review later, along with my other pending reviews of The Dark Knight and Harry Potter 6.

Here's hoping for the best and...a toast to the Akhtars! You guys rock! :)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Extreme contrast at Matscience

A contrast of the reigning hair-styles at Matscience. I should have taken this picture a few days ago, right after Prem returned from Tirupati. But his shadowy pate still contrasts well with Rajeev's nine-month-long labour, pun unintended.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rain

kokhon kobe kothaye kishe
pother dhare matiye mishe

rongin paare jhilik kete
ramdhonura bejaye sheje
shobdo tule moshmoshiye
megho-dadu bojrobeshe
tapur-tupur mishti henshe
bishti-didi nupur bajiye
aashen shobe jhomjhomiye
ei sraboner deshe

Something I wrote while jobless and very sleepy some time back. Thought I would put it up here and be embarassed. The "poem", if you can call it that, is in Bangla. It tells how the rains and the clouds and the rainbows come to visit us during the rainy season. This stems from my own love for the rainy season, of which I hope to write about in these pages soon.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

SINGGHHH IS KINGGG ... MAMATA WINS JANATA

When we were kids, we used to randomly shout "Statue" at random people (of our size, obviously). The hapless person would then have to stay unmoving (unblinking, if possible) until someone would say "Move". I was rather amused when the same thing happened to one of our esteemed political leaders this time around...rather appropriately too, one might gather.
I had reckoned that it would be a close fight. While I don't follow politics very closely (and I rarely switch on the telly nowadays) I had kept an occasional eye on the papers which, coupled with the exit polls, led me to believe that there could be a hung parliament this time around. However, it seemed the exit poll pundits were destined to join the Astrologers and Weather Forecasters' club. India voted for stability. The blue turban will once again lead this country.
I was a bit worried about the statement i made in the previous paragraph, the "India voted for stability" part. It seems weird how local groups of people having different loyalties would be able to spontaneously synchronize themselves in such a manner. Maybe this point needs careful analysis.
Thanks to Nandigram and Singur, I expected the Left vote-share to decrease somewhat. I expected Mamata Banerjee to at least reach double figures after the debacle last time. What I did not expect (and what I guess most people did not) was the Left getting steamrolled in this fashion---both in Kerala and West Bengal. Does this mean we shall see change in the Writers' post-2011, or is it simply a setback for the Red Brigade; one which will be dealt with the next time around---with classic Left efficiency? That my friend, is a 24-karat question.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

[It might be a bit late to write about this movie, but who cares!]

My first reaction on watching this movie was "Good movie, but not oscar-worthy". That is the same view I have presented to anyone who has cared (dared?) to ask me about it. The comment leads itself to speculation---what do we mean by "oscar-worthiness"? Is it a benchmark for a movie to be considered "more than good"? Then I hit upon a bright idea. Lets redefine the phrase "oscar-worthy" to mean "movies that are better than those deemed not oscar-worthy". There. Problem solved. :)

The following article does a seriously good job at reviewing this movie. It looks at it from different viewpoints and presents a consolidated review. Good job, Avani!

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1556355/slumdog_millionaire_isnt_about_millions.html?cat=9

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Friday, March 20, 2009

What if the Matrix ran on Windows?

Long time no post...so here's one to laugh our heads off on (not on). What would happen if the Matrix...the virtual reality construct designed by machines to keep us blissfully unaware of the fact that we are nothing better than triple-A batteries...ran on Windows? The following video explains: (warning: Mac users might not get the joke...anyway, the apple never falls far from the window)

http://www.collegehumor.com/video:1886349


.

Friday, February 27, 2009

TBK-KBT

Life is unfettered as usual. Nothing much to think about, nothing much to do, nothing much...in quite a few respects. Hence the title of the post. Bengali people will catch it...it has to do with certain plain-tasting but healthy vegetables. So is life healthy when it is plain? Studies will show, with definite certainty and a ten-minute warranty that both viewpoints (the statement and its reverse) are absolutely 100% on the spot. So, as a friend of mine so unobtusely observes, WDW!
Slumdog Millionaire has swept the oscars with 8 wins out of 10. Kate Winslet has realized finally that the oscar statuette is actually not a shampoo bottle. Ben Stiller has lost his razor and a few of his marbles. A R Rahman has redefined the word "laconic". So what do we take home from all this? IMO, a cold breakfast and 3 hours of wasted sleep.
Last week's movie had "The Kite Runner" on show. Pretty good movie. Kites and...um, other things featured prominently. A cowardly young boy with a baloonful of hot air "grows up" and rescues his "nephew", both physically and mentally, from the nasty talibani once-neighbourhood-bully. Very nice. Very...cathartic. Two hours was not wasted.
Recently, Hofstadter (hope the spellings wrong) has been talking (to me) about Bach, Escher and Godel. What the poor fellow does not realize is that we are much more interested (right now) in solving the problem about Me, I and yoU than listen to him babble about six-part fugues and strange loops and incompleteness theorems.
To finish off my own babbling, let me put the MIU problem here. The solution is in the book, but I haven't looked at it. Takes away all the fun. See if you can solve it ( without peeking at the book). If you can, and are sure you have done legally, mail it to me at my gmail address (if you have it, good...if not, don't bother) and I might...just might...let you buy me coffee.

Problem statement:

An alphabet consists of three letters...M, I and U. You are given a string MI to start with. You have the following four rules to work with.Your goal: generate the string MU.

Rule 1: If a string ends with the letter I, you can append a U at the end.
Example: MI becomes MIU.

Rule 2: If a string has the form Mx, where x is the remainder of the string, then it can be transformed to Mxx.
Example: MI can become MII, MIU can become MIUIU.

Rule 3: If the sub-string III occurs anywhere within the string, then it can be replaced by U.
Example: MUIIIU can become MUUU.

Rule 4: If the sub-string UU occurs anywhere within the string, then it can be dropped.
Example: MUUU can become MU.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Friday, February 06, 2009

Stuperspace

Four scientists set out one day to write a paper that would revolutionize the field of supersymmetry (in physics) and make a lot of people very sick. Here is that seminal paper. This is the pdf version.


Warning / Disclaimer:
I am not to be blamed for any fatalities caused by asphyxiation or hyperventilation. The blame rests solely on the authors.


P.S. For more information, contact Warren Siegel at Stony Brook.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Water is blue because...




...because it is blue. Or so it says in this article.

[Photo credits: to the people who took them :) . Hope they don't mind me linking to their pics!]

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Laptop update

I mentioned in my previous post that it is not possible to install WinXP on my laptop (Compaq CQ-60 104-TU). I am told that it is possible to install XP on this series. However, the job is somewhat non-trivial as these new models are a bit cavalier with their backward-compatibility duties. Anyway, Vista seems to be working fine(!!!) after installing the appropriate drivers. And it looks good as hell! As a small benchmark test about the performance of the lappy, I installed Warcraft III yesterday. In our* lingo, a computer is considered good (a ballpark estimate) if it can run WarIII at nearly full power with very low frame-drop (I know, I know, old game and all that. But we have been testing our old comps with WarIII, and it has been a pretty good benchmark...so far!). It ran on fullest (sic :) ) power, and then some, like hot knife through molten butter! :D Yay! Time to get a new benchmark! Hee hee!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Of laptops and sports watches

Starting off with Satch: I was never a very big fan of rock music. It all seemed too loud, too devoid of music. It all changed sometime in the middle of last year, when I started listening to the alternative rock of Coldplay, the psychedely of Pink Floyd, as well as some songs from Dire Straits, Led Zeppelin etc. I also liked the Rock On! album. Can't say I was turning into a rockhead, but I could start appreciating the effort that went into creating that music. Very recently, I got hooked on to Joe "Satch" Satriani's guitar compositions and started liking his way of playing. In particular, I liked the song "Love Thing" from his "Crystal Planet" album. A very nice piece of guitar playing: not too hard, but with the right flavour of rock.

Coming now to the title of the blog: the sports watch bit refers to my interest in purchasing a sports watch if possible. My current watch is running fine. It is a Titan with a white dial and reflective hands that lets you see the time even when it is pretty dark. Make no mistake, I love my watch. It's the band that gets me down. I got it changed not long back---I prefer brown leather bands. However, much to my chagrin, it is almost in tatters now. Since I am looking for a new band, why not a newer watch? :)

About the laptop bit: a bigger post will come shortly. Just for a summary, I bought a Compaq CQ-60 series lappy recently from Kolkata. When we tried to install WinXP to the FreeDos system, we failed. It was then found out that this series of lappys do not allow XP installations! Further details will come at a later post.

As for other news: saw and liked "The Shawshank Redemption" today. :) Here is a nice review of the movie posted at IMDb. The review, though a bit long perhaps for an online review, is one of the better ones on that site. Also, as a trivia, TSR is the top-ranked movie on IMDb currently.

"Shawshank Redeems Hollywood, 27 August 2002
10/10
Author: Wesley S. Walker from Paducah, KY

Can Hollywood, usually creating things for entertainment purposes only, create art? To create something of this nature, a director must approach it in a most meticulous manner, due to the delicacy of the process. Such a daunting task requires an extremely capable artist with an undeniable managerial capacity and an acutely developed awareness of each element of art in their films, the most prominent; music, visuals, script, and acting. These elements, each equally important, must succeed independently, yet still form a harmonious union, because this mixture determines the fate of the artist's opus. Though already well known amongst his colleagues for his notable skills at writing and directing, Frank Darabont emerges with his feature film directorial debut, The Shawshank Redemption. Proving himself already a master of the craft, Darabont managed to create one of the most recognizable independent releases in the history of Hollywood. The Shawshank Redemption defines a genre, defies the odds, compels the emotions, and brings an era of artistically influential films back to Hollywood.

The story begins with the trial of a young banker, Andy Dufrense, victimized by circumstantial evidence, resulting in a conviction for the murder of his wife and her lover. After a quick conviction, Andy finds himself serving a life sentence at Shawshank prison, with no hope of parole. He exists in this prison only in appearance, keeping his mind free from the drab walls around him. His ability to do this results in the gaining of respect from his fellow inmates, but most of all from Ellis Redding. Ellis, commonly referred to as Red, finds gainful use of his entrepreneurial spirit within the drab walls of Shawshank by dealing in contraband and commodities rare to the confines of prison. Andy's demeanor and undeniable sense of hope causes Red to take a deeper look at himself, and the world around him. Andy proves to Red and the other inmates that in the conventional walls of Shawshank prison convention will find no home in his lifestyle.

By creating the film's firm foundation, the meticulously chiseled screenplay paved the way for this film's success. Frank Darabont outdoes himself with the phenomenal adaptation of Stephen King's equally noteworthy novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. In this novella, King demonstrates that he can break free from the genre he dominates and still create a marvelous piece of modern literature. Though the film mirrors the novella in many ways, Darabont illustrates a focused objective of improving upon the areas where the novella came up short, resulting in one of the best book to film transitions ever.

While maintaining some of the poetic and moving dialogue of the novella, Darabont also proves that a film's score can generate a great deal of emotional response from its audience, as dialogue does. He employs the cunning Thomas Newman, son of the legendary Hollywood composer, Alfred Newman. Darabont shows recognition for the film's needs by employing Newman, who makes the gentle piano chords whisper softly to the viewer, as if a part of the scripted dialogue. Newman lends himself to individualism and tends to drive more towards the unique in the realm of score composition. His effort in Shawshank did not go unnoticed, as his score received an Oscar nomination in 1995. While unique and independent, Newman's score never once intrudes on your concentration or distracts from the film.

With work from vast array of talented scene designers, costume designers, composers, cinematographers, and various other Hollywood artists, the cast of The Shawshank Redemption had a strong foundation to work with. The marvelous cast of this film will dazzle you with some of the most convincing performances you will witness in a film. While both Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman shine as Andy and Red, respectively, the true spectacle of acting lies within the plethora of amazing supporting actors who easily disappear into their roles. Most noticeable of these, the veteran film star James Whitmore, who portrays the elderly Brooks Hatlen. Brooks, a man incarcerated for an unmentioned crime for so long that he finds himself attached to the Shawshank and the daily life he has lead. Each of these actors show a true dedication to their art, and a focused purpose in their motivations, creating a convincing setting that never once caters to anything unbelievable.

With all of the aesthetic touches and attention to cinematic detail, the most beautiful part of the film lies within its thematic material, such as its focus on the human desires for the most abstract concepts, like hope and freedom. These themes, which concern things the human spirit undoubtedly yearns for, seem so intricately woven into the plot that it easily draws its audience in to its story. Though full of hardened criminals, your heart will go out to these men as they display the most basic of human emotions, and deliver some of the most quotable lines in a film to date. Like a great novel, this film manages to succeed at greater things than simply entertaining an audience. Darabont tells his story most masterfully, illustrating principles and inspiring his audience to think. He leaves us a poignant film with a powerful message of hope, and redemption, something we all seek.

This film manages to redeem Hollywood in the eyes of people who feared it long lost in a dark sea of clich├ęs and predictability. Darabont shows us that artists still work in the Hollywood studios and production facilities. These artists show their capability to produce art; real art that inspires you to look at the deeper aspects of life and the world around you. The Shawshank Redemption delivers much-needed breath of fresh air for anyone who realizes the capability of film. It proves that masters of the craft still live on this earth, and still bless us with timeless masterpieces that we will never forget. "

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Life of Pi

I finished the book "The Life of Pi" by Yann Martel a few days back. I had started it on the train from Varanasi to Chennai. What follows is my review of the book that appears on "Books at LivingSocial".

"I started reading this book on my way back to Chennai from Varanasi. I was intrigued by the first part of the book which I managed to finish in the thirty-six hour journey. The information I gained about the behaviour of zoo animals was an eye-opener. Yann Martel's analysis of religion and the similarities and differences between the three faiths was refreshing to read. This part was most enjoyable.
The rest of the book II finished in Chennai. I would say that although the first part promised a lot (and gave me high hopes), the second part does not really hold up. The dilemma induced in the minds of readers by Martel is interesting, and will make one think long and hard about the veracity as well the philosophical implications of the extraordinary story of survival by Pi Patel. But in all, I would not give it any more than a 3/5. It raised hopes...but it has failed to fully live up to it: regardless of, and especially because, it was the Booker winner."

I bought the "Sea of Poppies" by Amitav Ghosh yesterday and plan on attacking it soon. This was also a day when I managed to get a lot of things done. Sadly, and as usual, it turned out that I will have to do the entire thing all over again in a different, albeit more accurate way, tomorrow. Such is life.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Not quite 1:34 am

If I thought I would not be posting the first post of this blog at the promised time, would I have been so presumptuous so as to give the blog the promised time, let alone create such a blog? It all depends, in an indirect way, what you had for lunch...and in a more direct way how fast your typing speed is. Slightly salty old curd curdles your brain, while a refreshing glass of sugar-tipped nimbu-pani restores parity.
Hoping for a better future for this blog than my previous attempts. :)