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. :)