Sunday, July 30, 2006

In-utero Entertaintment

Sowmya, one of my favorite bloggers, writes about the in-uterus entertainment that babies get during the 10 month journey. She discusses a few common practices that happens till-date.

P.S: She is a science wiz and she is taking 'viewers requests' on topics to research about and post in her blog. So you can fire away.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Movie Review: Lady in The Water

Sidetrack: The movie critics haven't taken very well to this movie. There seems to be some sort of a stand-off happening between Shyamalan and the movie critic fraternity. This movie attacks movie critics rather un-subtly. I think, in this war, the movie critics lost big time. Not because this movie is good. This movie is bad. As bad as a movie can get. They lost because, none of the critics actually commented on the movie. They spent considerable review space psycho-anylyzing Shyamalan. The behaved just the way "how can a human being pretend to know another human being's intentions" dialog mocked them to be. The critics fell right into the trap and commited idiocy exactly when they were being called idiots. How much more caught-red-handed can it get? I have completely lost respect for many movie critics (especially the idiot who is subbing for Roger Ebert). They are pussilanimous freaks who don't react well to critisism. Reading the reviews you would think the character of the movie critic, called Mr. Faber (guy who plays the NBC chief exec role in Seinfeld) is the main character of the movie. But he appears for about 5 minutes. Shame on these so-called movie critics for being obsessed with that.

The movie is bad. It appears childish (not child-like) and progresses in a very silly fashion. I never liked Shyamalan, the director. I am least interested in him as a person. But for the now-cliched Sixth Sense, I thought he was way below par in his other three movies. Unbreakable did not have a story that was worth making a movie out of. Signs was a let-down. The Village was a sham and like Unbreakable had material only worth a 1 hour X-files episode. A classic case of hype over matter.

The main flaw with the movie is, people in this movie, don't react the way normal people would. They are so naive, so trusting, so cut-off (like people in his other movies) from the rest of the world. If a situation happens and you expect a normal reaction and you don't get it - The atypical reaction better be good, at least logical. This movie like many of his other movies, have laughably silly reactions. We, the audience, all aren't from the blue world, are we? Then why is the movie so childish? For example: In this movie, once Mr. Cleveland knows that Story (name of the female lead character) is a fairytale Narf from the blue world, he doesn't alert the police, call the NSA or do anything that is large-worldish. He lets a stranger stay in his house forever. Who would do this? He, a grown up man, believes in this narf story thing too soon for my comfort. He takes the words of a Chinese mom's recollection of a grandmother's story to be the encyclopedia of the Blue World. The way the other residents, all grown up adults, believe it in such a blindingly quick fashion, makes me think they have no brains at all. The whole interpretion scene using the newspaper crossword puzzle and cereal box, to determine the future course of actions just takes us for a ride. It is silliness smack on your face. I was vomitting repeatedly when they assemble near Story for the healing process. This silliness makes me doubt if the director ever put some serious thought into making this movie. Signs, had a reasonable amount of sincerity in the script, even though it had, pretty much, the same flaws this movie has. This movie is such a sham. M.Night Shyamalan, right now, is a one-hit wonder.
If I have to name a positive in this movie, it is the self-reference. The 5-minutes that the movie-critic appears and talks - events surrounding it are actually a commentary on the movie itself, giving rise to pretense of layers within the movie structure. Brief but exciting. The story's premise is very good. It in fact is a very good idea. Just poorly executed.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Weekend Video Round up: Ross 2006, Sivaji, Kevin Spacey & Jiffy Lube

Before I start the video thing, I recently heard that the US customs folks are confiscating toor daals and all the other varieties of daal from the poor desis, who are trying to save a few bucks by bringing daal supplies from India (Note: India has banned export of Daal to the US and so it costs 10$/packet here). Can anybody confirm if this (the confiscating) is true ?

MBA Class of 2006, Ross School of Business and the whole $100 Million extravaganza.

Here is a quick life-atRoss video by the class of 2006. It was good fun to watch. (Video starts after 22 seconds)



As it has been publicized many times before, Michigan Business School is getting a $100 million grant from an alumnus - Stephen.M.Ross. This led to new state-of-the-art buildings, name change and ranking related improvements. Here is a last-look at the old buildings and auditorium, which are now demolished. The Demolition of the current school happened this summer, the construction will begin in Fall 2006 and the new Building will be ready for incoming students in Fall 2008.

This following video is a good video that takes us through the buildings that are being demolished, all the anecdotes about sleeping, Jeffrey Immelt etc happened in Hale Auditorium. The camera takes us through the corridor in the Office Of Career development. The corridor of the (play scary music) interview suites (shudder!). Everytime I see it I am reminded of the shake-interviewers-hands walk-down-the corridor make-small-talk and do-the-elevator-pitch memories. This video also shows a computer animation of the proposed state-of-the-art building. I sure do envy the students entering Ross in 2008. Things look really awesome and grand. I am so overcome with jealousy that I don't wanna expand further. So with without further delay...



Sivaji: The Shankar-Rajinikanth movie

This is the next best thing since the caveman invented fire. Its bigger than anything in the last decade of my movie world. Shankar and Rajnikanth getting together. I am licking my lips in anticipation for the Deepavali release. Although I was let down by Anniyan & Boys, I still think Shankar is an awesome director and would give a hit-of-the-century kind of a movie. Sad that a similarly created hot-combo of Gautam-KamalHassan - Vettaiyadu Velaiyadu did not come through. That would have been, to understate grossly, a treat.

Here are some behind-the-scenes shooting clips from Sivaji.



This is another song that is being shot in Bilbau, Spain



Kevin Spacey & The Old Vic

Found this in my company website and then saw in the maanga that it was available in google videos also. Here is one very good hour with Kevin Spacey. Charlie Rose explores Spacey's theater exploits among other things. Just to set expectations: Its a 1 hour video, has nothing about Superman and spacey's imitation of Bill CLinton is only a 30 second affair. This video was good for completely different reasons.

The Jiffy Lube

So this is the car repair scam thats becoming popular. I used to argue with my friends, that we don't know anything about cars anyway and if the mechanics just looked around, drove around in our car for 2 days and gave it back to us without changing anything, we would never know the difference until something drastic happened. This is what they apparently do, claims this video report.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Indian School Text Books

It seems they are going to peep into text books and look for communal elements.

While these ministers will actually be opening school books for the very first time in their lives, it also means more brain washing is about to happen. We have a fantasy fiction subject called Social Studies, History & Civics. It basically takes bull shitting to a new level. Imagine the carnage that will happen if you give the syllabus editing rights to an evangelist. The brainwashing that has happened so far is much worse than that. So worse that I had to spend years after college to actually learn history and forget the crap that was fed.

Now Congress + DMK will continue to whore up the text books through out the country and make it tell lies about people from Akbar, Aurangazeb to Gandhi and Nehru. Language histories will be distorted, gay sounding eulogies will be written as facts.

Na. Ko. Naansense!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Smart Ass: Reservation


One more Question to increase my world knowledge.

Is the chapter over? Have all the bloggers who were offended or made happy by it, followed-up with Arjun Singh to ascertain if he read their opinions and changed the bill accordingly? (No offense meant to the select few bloggers who had gathered enough reader agreement on their rigorous use of logic to argue for/against reservation, and have decided to contest elections, based on the new found support)

Seriously, right now, how relevant to our lives is the current state of the doctors, who were striking, and how is it different from an asteroid losing a splinter of matter, near Alpha Centuari?

On a related note: How do I find out if some affair, is like, still a current affair? (You see I just skip the newspaper and go straight to the sports section.)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Electronics and Communication (ECE): Question(s)?



Edit: This news item here is what got me started

Also called "elktraniks n kamnicason". I have some major questions on this branch of 4 year Bachelor of Engineering (B.E) course. The mooostesttt major question is listed first, the supplemental questions are listed later

1) Do people, who study this Electronics and Communication, after finishing it, work on jobs that have something/anything to do with Electronics (or) Communication? If there are people like this, you know of somebody like this, or you think you are one (even after a ego introspection) - please leave a comment stating the nature of your job and why you think its got something to do with E (or) C ?

Supplemental Questions

2) Is there such a group outside of Tamil Nadu (or outside of 4 southern states) ?

3) Why can't a person with Computer Science & Engineering Degree do a job, which ECE folks are recruited for?

I am trying to build

Argument-1: 99% of the jobs that ECE people end up doing, require them to learn completely new subjects - on the job. Thereby throwing to the dustbin the previous 4 years of education. If this is true anybody with a non-engineering degree, who is intelligent, and who has done a NIIT course on C/C++/OS should also be given equal preference for the job. If the latter undercut the ECE students by settling for 70% of the market salary, ECE students could have a problem.

Argument-2: 90% of the 55-60 odd courses/subjects that ECE students do in their 4 years is a total waste of time. Like Electron Devices, Solid State Circuits I, II , Electromagentic Wave Theory(remember this horror story), Transmission Lines and Wave Guides, Fibre optics are good examples of useless courses.

I want to know (really do) if my arguments hold good. If it does not, I will at least stop arguing this in the future. If it does - I will propose theories (not to the government but during my futile arguments) in the form of these questions.

4) Are there enough people doing PhDs in Microwave electronics or Solid State Electronics to justify this blatantly crappy syllabus?

5) What factors should decide framing of a syllabus? Should the fact that 0.25% of the graduating class do DSP jobs and another 0.5% do something that interfaces with DSP lead to a whole new branch of study?

6) Why shouldn't ECE/CSE be consolidated to 1 single stream with a wider option of electives in the final year?

7) Now that we have totally idiotic courses like B.Tech Information Technology, I am getting ideas of patents on courses like (a) B.Tech Computer Technology (b) B.Tech Electronic Technology or (c) B.E Networking Engineering. Having started such bogus courses, I can claim royalties on all colleges who start this course and a percentage on salaries of people who get jobs based on these degrees. Essentially everybody is going to go and "do" "kamputer" (or 'kaam' - 'putter' as they say in the north) job. Why not cash in on it?

P.S1: I did ECE.
PS2: I have heard my share of people who were doing generic coding and claiming it was a pure ECE job.
PS3: I am aware of the whole "signal processing" extravaganza, which is why I listed question # 5.
PS4: If you work for a Indian IT Services company, please remember this is not a resume you send to a client. Think deeply before you say you are doing a ECE job or not.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Weekend Cooking

Growing up, weekend cooking in my house was a separate beast. It was much different from the weekday cooking. I do not know if it is traditional or in anyway representative of anythinng larger than just my family, but many people I have spoken to share similar experiences.

Saturday

By nature of the day being 'shani' or whatever the cooking resembled the day's name. In my younger days, I seriously resented my house's saturday cooking. However, I grew to love it much much later. South Indian Tamil cooking for novices consists of certain basic structure and variety happens within that strict structure. For example there is rice. And then things are made that is mixed with Rice. Then there is a side dish. Usually 3 kinds of things are mixed with rice (1) Sambar (2) rasam (3) Buttermilk. Ofcourse variations and corruption of modern western culture :-) and the advent of kali yuga, MTV, and Da vinci code - people have started mixing anything from Sidedishes(vegetables) to daal powder -> cocunut powder -> pickles with rice. I will just deal with the usual suspects.

So on Saturday we had

1. Rice: Nothing special here. Its basically Madurai Ponni Rice or a variant. Cannot be boiled rice or puzhungal arisi (at least in my house). Basmathi rice, though more healthy, is also a no-no. I think what we have is called Raw rice.

2. Sambhar/ Kuzhambu (Mixed with rice and Eaten): On saturday my mom made Mulagu Kuzhambu: Kuzhambu or Sambar, as it is more popularly called, is thick, maybe more viscous (who knows). Some kuzhambus have dal (toovar/toor daal) and some don't. The Mulagu kuzhambu in this instance does not have daal. I have to say Mulagu Kuzhambu is the most despicable of all kozhambus. I mean, the first time it was given to me, I hated it. No matter how well it was done, I hated it. You can bring the world's best mulagu kuzhambu cook and do the best kozhambu ever, I'd still hate it. The presence of Mulagu, as the name suggests, was the basic cause of the disharmony. I hated mulagu in any form in any food. Having a Kuzhambu made just out of it was torture. However, nowadays for the sake of variety I have not raised strong objections to this. In fact I have secretly confessed that I have begun to like it.

3. Seera (Jeera) Mulagu (oh! no! not again) Rasam: Rasam is sort of a free flowing thing. By the ancient order of the food serving sequence, after you finish the sambar+rice+vegetable combo, more rice is put on the plate and rasam is poured on top of it and second serving of vegetable is kept. Many who do not know the value of rasam, prefer to eat it as soup. Some people also call it by its ancient Tamil name - pazha-satru-amudhu ( Nectar made from fruit pulp). This name so rightly describes Rasam(what does rasam mean?). To me Rasam is like the queen among food items. But not Seera(jeera) + Mulagu rasam. This again, although liked by many sane(r) people, was, according to me, the most horrible among all rasams. I literally moaned and bitched when this double horror was served to me on saturday mornings. My mom would never listen to my abuses and calls for justice. She would calmly serve it and leave regardless of the negativity of my profound opinions. I now know that it is good for health and in some way it could be called tasty, but I still dont understand why something that is good for health refuses to be tasty.

4. Vegetable: This is ofcourse the side dish (thottuka) that is served along with the 3 main rice items. If the cooking is grand you get 2-3 vegetables. Vegetables if made along with moong/toor dal and presented in free flowing form is called kootu (which I think means combination / mix). A grander version of this with many different vegetables and cocunut(its a keralite invention so it comes with the mandatory cocunut) is called 'avial' (normally eaten with adai, which I hate). Saturday we have just 1 vegetable. That too is the horrible - vazhaikka (unripe bannana?).

5. Curd Rice + pickle (nothing extra ordinary here)

So as you can see. Saturday cooking no matter how delicious it was to other people, has always been my enemy. The lull before the storm, the cheap advertisemnt before the movie. Most of my family loved it. Many people love. I began to love it when i reached 1000 buffalo's age. But I have to say Saturday cooking never beats the Sunday Speciaaaal!

Sunday

As the old saying goes "Sunday is over if you take a bath" and it is so true. My house, which insists on lunch at 9:00 AM, waits until 1:00 PM for lunch on Sunday. While waiting hungrily for this special cooking, I eat saturday's idli left overs. And its not just idli. My mom mixes the idli with chilli powder and mashes it into a pongal sort of thing and gives us the 'idli urundai' (which is the idli + chilli mashed thing rolled into a sphere).

The Sunday cooking which is what makes Sunday - Sunday is as follows.

1) Rice:

2) Onion Sambhar + Drumstick: The key is to fry the onion until it turns brown, put tomatoes and fry further in the beginning.You have to do this until you see the oil separate from the mix. I think the amount of time you spend blending the onion and tomatoe in the beginning is directly proportional to the taste. This sambhar has daal and lots of it.This is essentially the 'paruppu kuzhambu' but since 'onion' takes anything to a whole new dimesnion, it becomes vengaya sambhar (tadaaa), which is further bolstered incredibly by (drum rolls) (see 2-a)

2-a) Drumstick: Drumstick is important. So important that it gets a special serial number for itself. Regardless of Bhagyraaj's personal opinions on this issue, Biology says its the only thing to have Vitamins A, B, C, D. Drumstick is my favorite favorite dish. Anybody reading this, if you are planning to invite me for home - remember drumstick. It is food fit for gods. Really. I have not tasted anything that equals the drum stick. Drum stick is either added in sambhar in the initial stages itself or put in the cooker with daal and added to sambar later.

3) Vegetable: If its Sunday its either Potatoe or Ladies Finger( Vendaikai/Okra/ Bindi). If its potatoe, it has to be cut into small-small pieces and roasted like crazy. If Okra is made then I give unsolicited advise to the person who is cooking - I remember the half-baked chemistry knowledge I have and say " put some butter milk or lemon in it". The question will come back " why the hell?" and I will pontificate "okra is alkaline with high pH values and butter milk/lemon is acid with low pH values - so if you mix both it will neutralize the alkalinity and make the okra less fluid or watery and more strong. You know, for lack of a better word, less kozha-kozha. In the sense it will look more separated and graceful" Ofcourse I sucked in Chemistry and apart from knowing that pH ranged from 1 - 14 with either 1-7 = acid and 7-14 alkaline or vice versa. But I said it anyway with a lot of authority. This advise is usually ignored unless my grandma is around to nod her approval. She doesn't know chemistry either but these old people - they know all the tricks. Cabbage or Sepannkazhangu (what's the english name for this?) could topple Potatoe or Okra sometimes in the fight to the Sunday lunch plate. It is hard to decide if Sepankazhangu is awesome or the channa dal+other stuff (the things that are added initially to the oil) is awesome.

4) Rasam: Tomatoe Rasam + Daal. Now this is rasam at its best. Nothing beats this rasam. Definetly not Lemon Rasam (which occasionally spoils Sundays). Ofcourse I have to say my mom makes the best rasam I have eaten so far - I know I know it has become mandatory and cliched for everybody to say that - but I think I can be politicaly incorrect and say nobody ( I have seen) beats her rasam (this includes wife, friends, relatives and all that crap).

5) Appalam: Also called pappad. Its hard to explain this to a person who has not seen an appalam. I am not even going to try it. Its like chips but much bigger and much better (and is not made of potatoe). What many dont know is the existence of this appalam called 'maracheeni' appalam ( play stunning music in BG - tadaaaa). It is dark brown in color and has grid shaped lines on it. When fried in oil it just blows up into this awesome thing. I got introduced to this in Thirunelveli. This is by far the best appalam among the three. What three? You may ask. Well! you have your regular Ambiga (not the actress - far from it actually with much less curves) Appalam. Thank God for that. Then there is the Arisi appalam (made of rice flour, i guess), which is So-So. We had all 3 appalams on sunday. It is not Sunday if it there is no appalam.Seriously! lets not start an argument on that.

6) Keerai/ Spinach: This is cut-green spinach + daal. This is awesome. Whoever invented is a God. I specially invite my grandma to cook this for me. Again, politically incorrectly, i have to say her keerai is the best I have seen so far. It is has to be watery and free flowing. Thats the way I like it.

It is important that you eat this food watching TV. It has got to be an awesome program. The food is more tasty if cricket is going on :-)

I think I pretty much covered the weekend cooking. I know half the people must feel hungry by now and the other half must be thinking if I should be punsihed for the gluttony sin. I felt bored this weekend eating in stupid Devon street (everything in Devon street sucks now). And I couldnt help thinking about the grand old Sunday cooking.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Kabali Times News Flash: Illitrate Home Minister Blocks House Addresses

Kabali Times Special Correspondent(s) Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, July 19 2006:

Home Minister of Government of India received a note from RAW stating that certain Small Intenstine Manipulating Individuals (SIMI), were using Internet 'addresses' to communicate among themselves. The RAW apparently were dissapointed to find that their agents constantly developed bowel movement problems after eating in the military canteen and wanted to communicate this to the minister. The Home Minister, who in school had never passed into a standard, where Social Studies actually diversified into Geography and History (but has a honorary PhD doctorate to cheat all his 23 grandchildren), assumed that the 'Internet' was a 'Madrasi' town near Vijayawada and sent a GOI notification that banned several addresses. This would prevent people from actually walking into/visiting several home addresses. Press agencies say that major colonies and suburban places have also been blocked off. All service providers were intimated of the government block notice. As a result in many places in Mumbai and Chennai - autos, trains and buses refused to travel to certain parts of the city. Our 2 special correspondents report from Chennai and Mumbai in that order.

Mr. Pitchai Appan resident of Coimbatore, while talking to Kabali Times reporter said, "I got down in Central Station, Chennai and asked the Auto Driver to take me to Anna Nagar". "No sawari saar. We dont know what Anna Nagar is" was the shocking answer given by the auto driver. The pre-paid auto stand's brochure curiously displayed a "Page Not Found 404 Error" in the place of W.Mambalam, Thiruvottiyoor and Anna Nagar. Poes Garden, residence of former Chief Minister J.Jayalalitha, although not in the original list was deliberately blocked out by the local DMK government. Subsequently, the auto drivers upon confirming that Pitchai Appan's Tamizh was pure and unadultrated assumed he was a village bumpkin. When Mr. Pitchai asked them to name the place nearest to Anna Nagar, 3 drivers shouted "R.A.Puram, Mahabalipuram, Trichy". Finally one driver agreed to drive Mr. Pitchai till MMDA Colony but charged him Rs. 4 Lacs. The train porter had already charged M.r Pitchai 2 lacs. While this in itself did not shock Pitchai, he fainted when the auto driver casually told him that he was only charging Rs. 10 more than the meter rate and that was only because this was his first boni. When the Police rushed to the spot to investigate possible fraud, several auto drivers claimed that they did not know what a 'meter' was. Surprisingly the sessions Judge, Mr.Pazhanichaami, upheld this claim.

In another shocking development, postal mails were not being delivered to some places in Mumbai. Residents of Powai, Mumbai were heart broken when the postman continued riding his 70 year old cycle without stopping to deliver Powai's share of junk mail and the notices for Rs. 70,000000 pre-selected winners from an unknown company in Mexico. Suburban Trains in Mumbai refused to stop in Bandra and carried on to the next station. The same was the case with South bound suburban trains in Chennai, which refused to stop in W.Mambalam and Guindy. The station, the pan stains and waiting passengers appeared as "Page Not FOund 404 Error" to the Engine Driver. Mr. Abhay Tiwari resident of Bandra, PH: 9840366702, speaking on condition of anonymity (err.. well... moving on) said that he suddenly could not remember his neighbor or his neighbor's address. A huge "404 Page Not Found" hoarding was found in the place of the house. Residents of the house apparently could see the outside from inside but could not see themselves???!!. In what was a true exhibition of Mumbai spirit, rains continued to pour the next day, residents urinated on the road-side happily signifying the abundance of true Indian spirit, drunken husbands beat up their wives, people talked to 404 Page not Found boards, birds chirped and the local traffic constable near W.Wadala signal continued to accept Rs 10 bribe for No Entry violations. Meanwhile several Chennai residents developed mental problems and a few died of heart attacks in R.A Puram, when outbound filter coffee and 'The Hindu' news paper were not delivered from W. Mambalam. Inspite of all this the Mumbai-Dabbawalas continued to meet their Six Sigma standards.

The extreme commotion has caused many residents to come out and protest against the Home Minister. In a 700 odd group that had gathered. People were shouting slogans against the Home Minister. 7 Residents, from the state of W.Bengal were found shouting slogans against Greg Chappell. They quickly dispersed when they did not see a finger coming out of the Home Minister's dressing room. Kabali Times reporters see this as a devloping story and would like to manipulate the public by focussing on 6th standard student Bhargav Bansal, who has not returned from school to his house for 3 days because his house address was blocked. Kabali times will totally try to exploit, for commercial gain, the pitiable scene where his parents can see him but he cannot see his house or parents, until they shift to a new address.

Kabali Times reporter Sardeep Rajdesai contacted the home minister and asked in his own stupid overly arrogant way, as to why people could not even go to their own houses. The home minister's reply was littered with pauses-to-think for 7 hours between every two words. He was aware that Vajpayee held the record for the longest pause between two words and wanted to break the record. And it was already the 2nd anniversary of address blockage by the time he completed his sentence, "Wo madrasi tawun, vijaywada ke paas... Internet... usme terrorist problem hai. Isiliye sab address ko bandh kiya". When our reporter Ms Darka Butt (No relation to Salman's Butt, one of Pakistan's 6572 openening batsmen) interjected, talked for 20 minutes on an unrelated topics, thereby exposing her ignorance on most issues under the sun, and asked (to further expose her ignorance of Indian geography) "but Vijaywada is in Karnataka region? Why block addresses in Chennai & Mumbai?" The minister got angry and said before leaving in a huff "India is a secular country why do you media people mix music and religion" confirming to his partymen that he did not know what 'region' or 'Karnataka' was.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

First Button in the Shirt

Why do some men undo their first few buttons? I have had long arguments with friends who do this. Very few blame the Indian heat. Many say that it is stylish or sexy. They say it is sexy. Can you believe it? They are making shirt upper buttons the low-hip equalant of men.

Which girl, in her right mind, would want to look at an ugly neandrathal with his first few buttons undone. I had a friend (nicknamed : Kaatu Panni - Wild Pig) who consistently undid his shirt buttons wheneverer a girl walked in the vicinity. KP used his hand to hold the collar of his shirt behind his neck, lifted the shirt up and dropped it down. In this process, some parts of his unwashed, dirty, smelly chest became visible. Causing men near him to fall dead (thereby eliminating competition). He believed it turned on women. When I told him that this sort of poor dressing is bad, he confronted me like a jungle rhinocerous and said "dei avalukku mattum *athu* illaya" (What ..don't you think women do have *it* in them? ). I never understood him.

Maybe its me who is living under a cave.I seriously want to know? Even in a beastial way does this sort of ape behavior turn on women? Do they, upon seeing the bare dirty chest, develop the urge to throw away their clothes and jump into the hay with this guy?

And then there are those who do it to imitate stupid bollywood/kodambakkam movie actors. It is style it seems. Think of the poor stupid tailors who are adding 2 extra buttons to keep the collar tips attached to the shirt. How stupid are they?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Language/Scripts: Tamil-Brahmi Script found in Thailand

In continuation of blog posts on learning about Ancient Indian Languages series, The Hindu Reports that a Tamil-Brahmi inscription, dated around 2 A.D, was found on pottery in Thailand. Prof. Richard Solomon, University of Washnton, US, an expert in Indian Epigraphy says;

Prof. Richard Salomon of the University of Washington, U.S., an expert in Indian Epigraphy, has made the following comment on the inscription:

"I am happy to hear that the inscription in question is in fact Tamil-Brahmi, as I had suspected. This is important, among other reasons, because it presents a parallel with the situation with Indian inscriptions in Egypt and the Red Sea area. There we find both Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions and standard-Brahmi insciptions; and we now see the same in Vietnam and South-East Asia. This indicates that the overseas trade between India to both the West and the East involved people from the Tamil country and also other regions."

Iravatham Mahadevan adds: "Already we know of the existence of a touchstone engraved in Tamil in the Tamil-Brahmi script of about the third or fourth century AD found in Thailand and presently kept in a museum in the ancient port city of Khuan Luk Pat in Southern Thailand. There is every hope that the ongoing excavations of the Thai-French team will bring up more evidence of ancient contacts between India and Thailand."



Monday, July 17, 2006

Origin & Author of Suprabhatham

Ramanuja (1017 - 1137 AD) apart from being a great philosopher and author of the brilliant Sri-Bashyam ( an extraordinary commentary on Badrayana's cryptic Brahmasutra), was also one of the earliest social reformers & Quality Control architects in history. In his extensive travels, he systematized & standardized the - for lack of a better/simpler word - pooja procedures in all the temples that he visited. As a result, today, many vaishnavite temples essentially follow a single procedure and basically do the same thing, thereby giving a homogenous feel. He also set-up a heirarchy of 64 saints ( called muthalis) under him. Many were dalits and even more were from non-priestly class. There were also a few women acharyas. [As a sidenote: the recent law that allows people from all castes to be temple archakars is not a new one. It is also not a violation of Agamas. It is an inadvertent copy of an age-old practice].

After the passing away of Ramanuja, difference arose in nature and interpretation of prapatti among his followers. As a result there was split and one group congregated around Manavala Maamuni ( the other group followed Vedanta Desikan's principles). Manavaala Maamuni was responsible for ensuring that the consistent system of temple procedures, initiated by Ramanuja, spread and was maintained. Manavala Maamuni had 8 followers called ashtadigajas. One such ashtadigajas was called P.B Annan (expands as Sri Prathivadhi Bhayangaram Annangaracharyar ). Manavala Maamuni requested P.B Annan Swamy to compose a song for Thiru Vengadam (Thirumala). This song was meant to precede the Thirupalli ezhuchi, composed by Thondaraipodi Azhwar, sung every morning for Lord Vekateswara of Thirumalai.

And so the song - Suprabhatham - was composed by P.B Annan. It draws from various puranas and Sri Suktham. It serves to awaken Sri and Venkteswara. Many commentators have said that Suprabhatam has all aspects for being called a wellrounded puja. It has four aspects (1) Venkatesa Suprabhatam, which is the actual awaking of Sree and Vishnu, (2) Stotram, which is essentially a Praise, (3) A Prapatti through Sree and (4) A Mangalam, which serves as a conclusion (Incidentally the later part of the song that begins with 'kamala ...' is said to be composed in Madyamavathi raagam - can anybody confirm?). The mangalasaasanam was composed by Manavala Maamuni himself. Also interesting is that both 'Venkatesa' and 'Balaji', names which are used quite frequently nowadays are not part of the Vishnu Sahasranamam (1000 names of Vishnu). I remember reading an explanation for this in some forwarded mail, which essentially said that Venkatesa avataram, is a more recent kali yuga avatar, whereas Mahabharatha (where the Sahasranamam appears) belongs to a earlier Dwapara Yugam. Venkatesa is also considered by some to be a Sanskrit translation of Azhwar's "Thiru Vengadam". Anyway these are all just theories from various sources.

Moving on - In many vaishnavite temples, for example Thirupathi, this is how the morning begins. A cowherd wakes up the chief priest, the priest holds the key to the door of the temple and he accompanies the cowherd to the temple (correct me if I am wrong - some temples like Uppuliappan temple has a cow accompanying them also). Both the cowherd and the priest, then request permission from the Dwara Balakar's (Jai & Vijay) standing as guard in front of the temple, to enter the premises. After this, as part of the daily rituals in Thirupathi, a descendant of Talapak Annamacharya sings a song. Then the recitation of Suprabhatham begins. This is followed by the Thirupalli Ezhuchi of Thondaraipodi Azhwar, which includes or is followed by the Sarrumurai. (All vaishnavite temples give Suprabhatham recitation a vacation between Dec 15 and Jan 15. Andal's Thirupaavai is sung instead)

Ofcourse for most people M.S Subbulakshmi's name is synonymous with Suprabhatham. Folks at Madras always romanticise about the triple cannon of The Hindu Newspaper, filter coffee and M.S rendition of Suprabhatham. However, for me, interest in both 'The Hindu' and 'M.S Subbulakshmi' has waned over time. The romance and the myth of it is gone. The coffee has also become sporadical. 3 years ago, I happened to buy a CD from TTD Branch Office at Venkatnarayana Rd, Madras. It was a recitation of Suprabhatham by Ananthasayanam & Party. Although, the English commentary preceding the suprabhatham, leaves a lot to be desired, the sequence of the cowherd, dwara balakar, annamacharya is explained and simulated very well. Also following the Suprabhatham is an 'Aashirwadam Mathra' and a recitation that just lists out all the raagas in carnautic music. I found the latter very intriguing. Since I do not have the CD cover with me, I do not know the name of the song. Also on a related note, M.S Subbulakshmi is also know for her recitation of Sahasranamam (with a combintaion of Bhaja Govindam and a introduction by Rajaji). In continuation of moving away-from-MS extravaganza, I found Malolam Kannan's rendition of Sahasranamam very good. No comparisons to M.S intended. He says it slowly enough for people to understand whats going on. His pronuciation is excellent and it can double up as a daily CD or a learner's sing-along. I found this CD by chance in Sriperambadur but I guess it is available everywhere. I recommend trying both these CDs

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Movie Review: Imsai Arasan 23 Pulikesi - The Darrriyal Begins

Verdict: A bold & novel concept (quite whacky by any standards), its very funny and whats more? It has a message.



What if you are travelling on a flight and suddenly some emergency happened? You rush to the cockpit in the hope of finding a valiant captain to rescue you - Instead you find Bugs Bunny, with a carrot in hand, asking you - "Whats up Doc?". That describes this hilariously funny, spoofy historical comedy about the loony king from 1771, Imsai Arasan 23 Pulikesi, in short for you. It's not a serious movie and doesn't intend to be. The warning before the movie does not want to offend people in other planets, the Royal Watchman and the Royal Lizard are carefully pointed out in title credits. If V.S.Raghavan's dialog "Rettai kuzhanthaigal porantha thiraikathai vera enga poga mudiyum" (Where else will the screenplay go if you have twins?) doesn't tell you that, then you have comprehension problems. It's a looney tunes historical.




You have to credit the producer and director for coming up with such an ambitious idea for a movie. Its a historical movie with raja kind of dialogs and cloths after almost 3 decades. At a time when love stories and adultry themes are being called 'different' - while they are clearly not, this is the sort of an experiment, as they seem to call it, is really what makes a 'different' movie. I liked the movie and it is obviously very good. But before I venture into the positives here is one HUGE negatives that made me very angry.



Nobody, I mean nobody on screen, barring the legendary Manorama (and the great Nagesh during his 2-minute appearance), could talk Tamizh. Seriously, this language is dead as far as the film world is concerned. It shows that Kamal Hasan and Manorama (maybe and ironically Rajinikanth) are the only people who are fit enough to mouth historical dialogs. The entire cast couldn't say 'zh' as in Tamizh, azhagu, vazhga, vazhkai. The 'paradesi dogs' kept saying tamil, alagu, valga, valkai. They didn't know the difference between the big 'la' and the small 'la' . They only knew the small 'la' (Porkalam, Pookal). I mean if its their stupid road-side romeo movies, I wouldnt care but this is a historical movie and it makes it so obvious that none of them can speak the language properly. None of the so-called puratchi (incidentally vadivelu couldn't say Atchi, he said achi) tamizhars of the movie world (vijaykanth, napolean, etc) can speak Tamizh. Every time vadivelu or Naser penathified Tamizh, I couldn't help but squirm. This was the biggest negative point.



With that out of the way, this film is completely a laugh riot. This movie is a mixture of my two favorite historical classics 'Uthamai Puthiran' and 'Naadodi Mannan'. A king (Nagesh) after 22 obortive attempts finally produces a child. And lo behold! he gets twins. The Queens brother (a Shakuni character played by Naser) wants to co-operate with the British and does not want to fight for independence, so he decides call an astrologer to help him select a boy to retain and sends off the other boy to, where else, the river. One grows up as a puppet king, who revels in sex, corruption and idiocy. the other ofcourse is an idealist and a warrior. But bear in mind both are played by - who? who? - by none other than the buffoon, Vadivelu. That Vadivelu who Goundmani, the greatest philosopher of modern India, called "Michael Jackson's sister". Actually Vadivelu's Goofy like comedian image suits this funny movie. The opening songs for the brothers, a remake of 'yaar adi nee mohini' from Uthama Puthiran, for King 23rd Pulikesi and a remake of 'acham enbathu madamai' for his brother. Its a tribute of sorts. There is a tribute to Mel Gibson too.



Everything Pulikesi does is funny, the riddles he asks his ministers, the way he shivers before setting out to battle, the way he surrenders to a neighboring king - this 'white flag' scene alone is worth the price of the ticket, his bear hunting antics, and the punishments he gives. He makes fun of poets who earn by praising the king, the poets who give kings various posts and names are also ridiculed, the guy who announces the king's arrival is literally torn apart, the bird that carries messages is roasted and eaten. You just can't stop laughing at these instances. At the same time you also wonder if kings those days were really scared. Yes! we were shown all those war movies, where kings spoke of bravery etc. What if they were scared like our own Pulikesi # 23? Everytime the situation gets serious, you can't help wondering, its 2006, its a historical movie starring 'esaki - vaigai puyal' Vadivelu. What the hell?

Director Chimbudevan uses the brother Vadivelu(Ukirabuddhan) as a foil to Pulikesi's crazyness. Through him, he passes valid social commentaries on castes, corruption, lazy government workers etc. The vieled attack on pepsi & coke sort of makes sense but not a lot. But we know through the eyes of history as to how the problems are still relevant and unchanging even today.

Whats the solution for the riddle?

Thattanukku sattai pottal
kuttai paiyan kattaiyal adippaan?
Adhu Enna?
My dirty mind thought it was Mr.Johnson? But thats just me. As people spit on each other in the movie, till the throat goes dry, "pedhapify" and call each other "krathaga", I can't help but saying....

k ka kaa po!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Boy Mistakes Menstruation for Mensuration: Panic in Vadodara


Kabali Times, Vadodara, Gujarat, July 13th:

A boy caused wide spread panic and commotion in southern parts of Vadodara city due to an inability to differentiate between menstruation, the female monthly period of menses discharge, and mensuration, a mathematical subject on measurement of geometric quantities.

Arjun Singhal, 17 year old resident of Vadodara, son of an owner of 2 BMWs, student in M.S University hit the headlines like never before. Arjun was sitting with his girlfriend Sarika Patel, 15 years old, in a cozy corner of Kamati Bagh. As he cooed up to her in a sexy way and asked her if they could break the IPC together. Sarika replied "No Arjun! I have my menstruation period. It is not possible now". Press reports and reports from other mannerless, eavesdropping onlookers told us that Sarika almost fainted in bewilderment when Arjun replied "Yes! I can totally understand. Menstruation is extremely difficult for me too. I suffered for two years because of it. I could not pass 9th standard because of it"

Residents, near IPCL Refinery, reported a terrified Sarika running away from Arjun shouting "you cheat! you rascal". This caused a commotion and the PTI agencies were alerted of this sudden development. Press reporters rushed towards Arjun, who was having a Vada Pav, in Motilal Snake Center. After polishing his 24 carat 6 Kg gold chain, spitting out the remanants of Pan Parag, and paying the shopkeeper in kesh, Arjun Singhal confronted the press.

"You know it is true", he said with indignation. " Menstruation comes in 9th std right? I could never pass menstruation. My brother passed it, my uncle passed it, even my father passed. No matter how hard I tried, I always couldn't pass. It is difficult you know. Even my girlfriends in 9th standard were passing menstruation, but I couldn't. It became a status problem and social stigma for me. I have been pregnant with self-esteem problems since then"

The Police, who were informed of this incident, came 3 hours later than usual. 'The usual' - was a delay of 24 hours. DSP Niral Jindal confirmed to waiting mediamen that Arjun Singhal would be provided appropriate medical care. Famous cricketer and Baroda player, Parthiv Patel went on strike upon hearing this news. He vowed never to play for India again and resign from the post of the baby-faced cricketer. Human Rights association demanded equal rights for Arjun and were seen protesting, curiously in front of Gujarat Animal Husbandry Department. They were also found to be shouting slogans against President. George Bush. When contacted, Suman, the leader of the small group, mentioned that enough time had not been given for his group to practice slogans against this new situation and so they went ahead and protested with their old slogans. "I was told that it is a violation of human rights to force uneducated paid-by-the-hour human right workers to learn new slogans overnight. I had to take the logic at face value", he announced regrettably to the 2 Kabali Times press reporters gathered around him.

Finally, Lalitha Madam, Surf Detergent Advertisement Model & English teacher, Sardar Vallabhai Patel School, put the situation at rest by showing Arjun Singhal's 9th standard report card. It showed that he had scored the lowest in English - 9/100. This cleared all doubts about the apparent Mensuration and Menstruation issue. It became clear that Arjun Singh could never read English properly and always assumed both as the same thing. Arjun was last seem pleading to mediapersons that he was indeed weak in menstruation. Meanwhile unconfirmed reports from (un)reliable sources told this pressperson that his mother, Sarita Behn (Behn not a surname), has not yet returned after leaving home to search for her son in the non-existent men's ration shop. This is seen as a developing situation in CNN

Kiran More was unavailable for comment

Reuter, Kabali Times.

Cell Phones in Class

Michigan Professors view cell phones in class rooms seriously. One year before our batch, they had 2-3$ fines everytime the cell phone rang and disrupted class proceedings. In our year, one professor chose to allow cell phone rings to disrupt not only the class but also class participation grades.
Its not only the cell phones that causes disruption but also music from laptops. In an auditorium full of 450 people, a desi friend of mine switched on his laptop. Suddenly, it started blaring out a Hindi song. He did not know how to react to the glares and giggles if 450 people around him. In the moment of panic, he quickly closed the laptop and put it in his bag.
Ofcourse that didn't shut the laptop.
The song still kept blaring and he had to take his bag, run out of the auditorium and shut down the song. Apparently what had happened was - he had been hearing the song earlier during the day and he hibernated the laptop when the song was playing. So when he switched on his laptop, the laptop resumed where it stoppped and did the needful.
Another professor took the cell phone menace - a level up. If your phone rang in class, you would have to quickly handover the phone to her and she would answer the phone. I am dumb enough to not switch off my cell phone but I also extremely absent minded, I forget to take my cell phone to school most days. So I never got caught. But I disrupted class in other ways. I have to say - the tune that gets played automatically when windows boots in your laptop is really annoying. The embarassing 2.5 seconds that ensues seems like a year and makes you cringe. Back to cell phones. Inspite of this rule, some students still forgot to switch off their cell phones.
As a result, we got to hear some interesting conversations in class. Such as...
"you're her boyfirend? Well I am her Marketing professor and I am afraid your girlfriend doesn't know how to follow rules"
"Your mommy did not switch off her cell phone in class. She has been a bad student. Tell mommy to switch off her cell phone when she comes to class next time"

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Chennai RTI

Before I start my Chennai RTI pitch, a quick 'light bulb moment'. I met one of the Chennai RTI person in my brother's wedding. They had come up with a very innovative idea for the wedding gift. They donated Rs 1000 to a charity organization in the Groom's name and gave the receipt to the groom as a wedding gift. I thought this was an awesome idea. Some people also donated money to temples and just enclosed the receipt as a wedding gift. I was totally impressed by this. Again, just a thought you could have next time you sit to decide on a wedding gift. Okay moving on to Chennai RTI.

What is RTI?

It is called Right To Information Initiative.

Here is an excerpt from Anti's blog (Please read the blog for all the details on RTI. Its your chance to stop whinging about the government and do some help)

What is this?

This is a citizens’ initiative whose objective is to spread awareness among fellow citizens about effecting a transparent and accountable government.

Can you tell me more about this?
This initiative will
• Aim to encourage participatory democracy.
• Use legal and constitutional methods to achieve its objective.
• Not be an NGO or a political organization.
• Strive to be a people’s movement.
• Be built on the effort of volunteers who will spend less than three hours a week on projects pertaining to this initiative.
• Not require solicitation of funds/donations from volunteers.


Here is more on whats happening to RTI. Again .... Please go to Anti's blog and Anti's blog. He has accurately summed up in these 3 posts as to what RTI is all about (reminds of of Einstein and his driver joke but lets not get into that).

Where is it?

Want to change your world? Join the Tamil Nadu Right to Information Initiative. Drop in at the the address given below between 9am and 5pm one of these days.

Bharatiyar Ninaivu Illam,
No 83, TP Koil Street,
Triplicane,
Chennai.

Whats Happening There?

There is a national RTI campaign on right now (from July 1 - July 15). NDTV & CNN-IBN have been giving good coverage to the campaign. Tamilnadu junta are starting it this week. ChennaiRTI and a few NGOs are working together for the TN arm of the campaign. For logistical reasons, the Chennai part of the campaign starts on Wednesday.

Is anybody Blogging about it?

http://unmitigatedlearnings.blogspot.com/

Okay Now moving on to Flyer 1



Here is Flyer 2

Farewell Zizou

A collection of best moments of the only person in FIFA, who could use his legs better than Capt. Vijaykanth. The goal sequences nearing the end of the video are interesting.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

True Mumbai Spirit

Munna Bhai's movie runs for 100 days. He is a celebrity. People worship him.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Its a panch! Its a beer belly! Its a fat woman! No its a baby!

A month ago, I met a lady at a marriage reception. I was talking to the lady and while we were talking many people came and congratulated her. Curious - I asked what the occasion was and she told me that she was pregnant. "I am 7 months pregnant. Can't you see?", she exlaimed in bewilderment. I looked up and down and said -- "no". People mocked my innocent pleas and said I should see an eye doctor. Ofcourse I am the kind of person couldn't distinguish a man from a woman (in just one instance).

But at least I was the third person in that instance. Now who would believe this? 'The Hindu' newspaper reports that a woman was unaware that she was pregnant until she actually delivered the baby.

Last Sunday, Fathima came to the Saraswathy Speciality Hospital in Madipakkam complaining of acute stomach pain. The attending doctor, K. Priyadarshini, suspected a pregnancy and ordered a scan. The scan confirmed that Fathima was indeed pregnant, but she still refused to believe it. "She believed it only after the child was born," Dr. Priyadarshini said.

Seriously! what were they thinking? Obviously somebody was vomitting and getting fat. Did they think it was a pot belly? Agreed, premature menopause could be an argument for not missing the monthly beast. But for heavens sake the woman was getting fat!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A good remix, which remixed the original, which remixed the remix...and so on

This is one of the best remixed songs, I have come across. Not only that - it is also one of the best videos for a movie song that I have seen in recent years. The editing the choerography, the set everything is just so perfect. Very creative. I just can't stop appreciating the creativity in the choreography and editing. And what can I say about the song itself? Just awesome. This song was among the few songs I obsessed about and listened to 20-30 times a day. I am still totally blown away by this song. This is among the top 5 best music + best video combo that I have seen this decade. See the original (well ...the original of the remix video + remix song) here.
The original is a song called "thotta poo malarum" was composed by the awesome Viswanathan Ramamurthy duo for the movie Padagotti. The sexy guitar (is it?) of this song is in everybody's memory. It starred the legendary combo of MGR and 'kannada paing-kili' Saroja Devi. The remixed video has S.J.Surya and the awesome body of Simran. The remixed song was composed by A.R.Rahman.




Now...here are two remixes on the remix. Sort of like a recursion on the remix.

First the remixed song is remixed with the original video. Here it is.



Then the original song is remixed with the remixed song and the remixed song's video :-). Here it goes. This is all so cool.

Friday, July 07, 2006

PuduPettai: One of the Better Gangster Movies in Recent Years





So... this is how 'Scarface' or 'City of Gods' would look if were a Tamil movie? I can see where these comparisons to Coppola and Manirathnam is coming from. Its technically savvy, very smooth, slick and well taken. The multiple cuts to show 'Kokki' Kumar's fear when he sleeps next to his dad, who has killed his mother a few hours ago and will kill him before dawn, is just awesome. Kumar urinates in his pant as he opens the door to escape from his dad. Its just a classic beginning to a very good movie. I know I am seeing this movie after everybody else has seen it. Its ran its heart out in box office (is it a hit?) and is probably out of the theatres by now. I found it to be way better than 'Sarkar'. Far more original and more bold. In a way Selvaraghavan is more raw and more grounded in reality than RGV or even Manirathnam. The latter made movies which had an urban middle-class way of looking at local gangsters. This movie, seems like one that is made by a gangster as a tribute to his mates. This is the real deal. Raw, unapologetic and cruel.

In contrast to other reviewers, I enjoyed the second half also. Yes! its way over the top. It takes an animal in 'kokki' kumar to bring him the upper echelons of the underworld. But the second half shows that he need brains to sustain himself there. Kumar doesn't have brains. He is an ape-man, a jungle animal, ushered into a VIP gansta' club by mistake. He plays that role to perfection. I simply loved the way he'd get to have sex with Sonia Agarwal. Like a cave-man he sees his friends sister and just grabs her. Like an ape trying to grab a fruit from another ape. He stupidly uses the same logic to get an MLA seat from his party leader, only to find that there are much more powerful apes in this world than him. In the cave-fight that follows (seriously if you tune out the language and replace it with growls, the scene is like an ape gathering in a primitive cave - with animals growling and intimidating each other), he cowers like an animal and flees.

In the case of grabbing Sonia, his friend's sister, seconds before her marriage, he honestly admits that if she refused to sleep with him, he'd just threaten to kill her brother. He honestly admits that even though someone close to him has just recently been shot dead, he still would like to sleep with her. She is beautiful in the classic sense, she's got a wonderful body and she calmly sleeps with him. Her only question, and she asks Kumar's preference on this, is if the light needs to be ON or OFF. No tamil ponnnu sentiment or anything extravagant. "Survival of the fittest" applies not only to Sonia Agarwal, it also applies to Sneha, as she just plays the pregnancy card to somehow stay with Kumar. It is a movie where all characters will do anything to stay alive. It does not preach morals or any other noble virtues. It stays unapologetic till the end. This could be the reason why the second half was not liked by many. If people expect some sort of retribution, change of heart or some goodness in 'kokki' Kumar, its not there. He is genuinely a bad person and that his childhood contributed to it - in no way alters or mitigates this fact.

It does have several logical flaws. Kumar fleeing in a tricycle after killing rival ganster's brother comes to mind. But it did not distract me from the overall charm of the movie. If you dont like violence this movie is not for you. Also, Selvaraghavan has this thing with women and sex. Its at a minimum - unconventional. Some could find that disagreeable. Its certainly not a 'family entertainer' and we have to thank Selvaraghavan for that. This is neither Nayagan or the next best thing to happen for Tamil Movies. It shows that Selvaraghavan has potential. And if he stays away from Dhanush and works with someone like Arya or Jeevan, he will do really well.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"Its the person not the voice - You Idiot"

Warning: 'PG 13' Rated. Contains brief references to nudity and sex

The incident happened during my first Fall/Autumn in the US. I dont think all the concerned parties would forget it for a long time to come. Its been almost 8 years and I can remember it so clearly.

Grad school life was setting in. We were slowly tuning ourselves to course work + TA (teaching assistantship) combination. I was a TA for a VHDL lab class and I did not know crap about VHDL. I'd sit in on the lecture class and get to know what the hell was going on. The professor was someone like Bertie's Aunt Agatha in those wonderful PGW novels. The woman had a robust voice, when she shook my hand her two fingers could break my spine by just twisting my outstreched hand, and she had this nasty habit of ending her classes by saying "I won't be having office hours this week, the TA will clear any doubts you may have". Which sort of put me in a spot because I didn't understand a word that was said in the class.

Most students didn't bother me with questions, they just took the course because it was a required course and they knew it sucked anyway. There might've been a few students, who were misled by the ugly rumor, which claimed that Indian students were intelligent and hardworking. They quickly dismissed those rumors when they saw me walk to class sleepy, unshaven, dishevelled with the 'XL' sticker still sticking to the chest of my hastily put-on new Shirt (I had worn the shirt twice thinking the 'XL' was some sort of a stylish print, until a friend of mine pointed it out - it didn't help matters because the friend was a girl I was trying to impress). Anywho - if the shirt didn't ward off the students, the usual "let me get back to you in email" responses made them understand who they were dealing with.

However, there was one pesky little student who insisted on meeting me during my office hours. This student was determined to make me earn my paystub. So I put office hours at 8:00 AM in the morning or late at nights. Ha! Ha! The evil genuis of the desi mind. That did not, however, deter this student. This person was a Sri Lankan, closely cut hair, spectacles - had the makings of a desi geek. The curious thing was this person was a Sri Lankan Tamil, and insisted on speaking to me in Tamil (and you will all agree that SriLankan Tamil is as good as a foriegn language for a Madras guy). There was a another Graduate Assistant for this course. A person responsible for a tool called 'Mentor Graphics'. He was my room mate and senior and both of us worked for the same Professor/Advisor. Lets call him Mentor Maran. Both of us had to coach the students of this class. The students of my class also met up with Maran to clear their 'Mentor graphics' related doubts.

So it all happened one night in a VHDL lab room - Maran, myself and a few other sex starved desi roommates inhabited it. It was 11 PM and we were, as usual, discussing and bitching about the lack of sex in our lives, the complete lack of any relationship with the female species and the zero probability of this prospect changing any time in the near future. This discussion was usually followed by marathon bitches about the average undergrad american student having too much fun with girl friends, statistical calculations on the probability of an undergrad student who is doing homework with his hot girlfriend - actually getting to his homework etc. You know - the usual over-a-hot-filter-coffee discussion you'd have with your grandmother or any other elderly family member of the house. Grad school, to my shock, in complete contrast to our undergrad life, had no girls.

There was something else I was unprepared for - the desi gang in grad school. We were waiting for another friend to join us. Lets call him 'Suri'. He was the kind of one-in-a-million totally stoned and out-of-whack characters you could ever meet. You could write 6 volumes on him and you wouldn't have scratched the surface of his crazyness. The first time I joined this gang, I was intrigued and mildly shocked by this game called 'SDS' (Situation Development Scenario). This game indicated to me, early on, the kind of decadent life I would be leading for the next two years. 'Suri' held the patent for inventing this game. It involved picking the hottest girl/actress/model Suri had just recently seen. He would then proceed to randomly select one of our friends and ask him how much of bodily organs the randomly selected contestant would give-up to spend a night with that hotgirl/actress/model (One person incidentally was willing to give-up both his legs and an arm after a night with the actress - one Ms Shetty. Another person gave up his IIT degree within seconds of the game starting). Suri would start with the stakes low and would slowly develop the 'situation' by making the list of things to give-up so atrocious that it would be hard for a self-respecting person to give-up anymore. Ofcourse we had no self-respect and the conversation was hypothetical anyway. It made us forget our sad lives. So we played along. This particular night, after 'Suri' arrived, we intended to start our usually every-night 'SDS' (Situation Development Scenario) game. We had planned that Suri would be 'given' the test that day instead of the other way around. Anyway enough of technical babble.

The door knocked, I went and opened it expecting to be Suri - I had a great SDS for him. But it wasn't Suri - it was this Sri Lankan. As my enthusiasm began to dampen, the student quickly said " I came to see Maran". Relieved and thankful, I let the student get to Maran and they began discussing some doubt, the kind which this student had a knack of coming up with. The door knocked again - it was Suri this time. He walked in enthusiastically and was dissapointed to see a student inside. Suri had a crazy habit of talking before thinking. Sometimes we'd wonder if there was a even an iota of human sensibility in him at all. Before, we could control the beast, he said in chaste Tamil " *tha Yaar da ithu...seekram thorathu da" (Filtered Transalation: Who the hell is this. Get rid of this person). Understandable, it was late and we all wanted to go home. The only catch was - the student knew tamil and Suri assumed otherwise. I was embarassed and as I was struggling to divert Suri's attention (not an easy task - once his mind is set on something), Maran came to the rescue. He quickly introduced the student to Suri by saying "machaan he is srilankan tamil. he also knows tamil". While we all curiously waited for Suri to turn embarassed, the student said something none of us will ever forget for the rest of our lives.

She said: I am not a 'he'... I am a 'she'

There was stunned silence in the room. Nobody talked. I mean Nobody. I could almost hear Maran's chest thumping. This was too much for a person of Suri's condition. Suri's circuits got all burnt up at this amazing opportunity to rape Maran of his happiness and couldn't stand this anymore, he excused himself and left the room. The door closed and we could hear him laughing outside. Loudly. Then Maran said something that he would never forget.

He said: oh... I'm sorry. I didn't know that.
She said: You didn't know that...how could you not?

Silence again.

This time it was cruel. Then we couldn't stop giggling. The rest of the gang including me, left the room, closed the door and joined Suri, who by then was lying on the floor drowned in his laughter. I laughed till my stomach hurt. We knew we wouldn't spare Maran for quite sometime.

I have to admit I made the same mistake as Maran. It was..hmmm ...how shall I put it...difficult to distinguish. And thank God! Maran said it first and I did not. While walking back home, Maran in an effort to save his face said " I always thought the voice was too feminish for a boy. I thought it was a boy and his voice was screwed". To which Suri replied - [ Please refer to blog post title ]

Monday, July 03, 2006

Ancient Languages Of India

If our school textbooks seriously missed something, it is a chapter (or a few chapters) on the languages of India, its origins and its speakers. This would have at least sensitized people to the languages of their country and brought about an understanding of the origins of other people inhabiting India, which, like it or not, is just a random collection of loosely coupled provinces. What started as a hobby to kill time 8 years ago as a bored graduate student, developed into a full-fledged passion. History, more than linguistics, is such an intoxicating subject. Most of what I have written has been synthesized from various, books, web sites, talking to people. I have linked to popular sources, such as wikepedia, which does provide some partial information on the topic. The rest I have just written from memory. I hope to provide links which discuss many of these theories sometime in the future. There maybe a few errors here and there but given the diversity of sources from which, I culled the information, it has been difficult to reconcile and present information in one coherent story.

India is the home of 2 of the 8 classical languages - Sanskrit and Tamil. What is a classical language? -George L Hart a professor in UC Berkley says - " it should be ancient, it should be an independent tradition that arose mostly on its own not as an offshoot of another tradition, and it must have a large and extremely rich body of ancient literature "

Sanskrit is classified under Indo-European languages. Among the many miscellanious websites and books that I read, some claimed that DNA tests had already established that the Aryan invasion of India as true, and that the aforementioned event led to the arrival of Sanskrit in India. This is however, strongly refuted by many people within India. These people claim that the Indo-European languages originated in India and from Sanskrit. However, most experts on the subject have dismissed this theory as untrue. According to experts, only Dravidian languages, were born in India and Sanskrit shows much similarity towards Indo-Euro languages than dravidian ones. The Indian government ofcourse has no firm official position on anything important and so it is pointless to expect them to have a position on something as mundane as languages and historical origins. The oldest Sanskrit work according to most sources is the Rig Veda, which is dated at around 1250 BC (Atharvana - 800 BC is the most recent). The form of Sanskrit used in the vedas is called Vedic Sanskrit. This over the years led to Classical Sanskrit, which was a refined form of Vedic Sanskrit, refined so by Panini in 5th century BC. His Samskritham (the non-anglicized name for Sanskrit) was not called that until 5th century. It evolved into this name (Samskritham means "refined") because it was a refined form of the many dialects spoken at that time.

The orgin of languages is, obviously closely tied to the origins of civilizations in India. The highly controversial Aryan Invasion, theory, says that the Eastern Iranian invaders, the Arya, were supposed to have come through steppe, a passage from Europe to India. These invaders purpotedly brought their languages and gods with them, when they travelled to India (Incidentally they are also held responsible for arrival of horses & charriots in India). The arrival of these people, coincided with the decline of Indus Valley Civilization, which had been prevalant in India (and modern day Pakistan) before the invasion. Indus valley civilization's decline has been attributed to many causes. Apart from the invading Iranians, natural disasters were also believed to be a factor. What historians refused to believe was a complete erasure of a civilization. The pushback of the Dravidians, who existed in the northern parts of India in 1500 BC to southern parts of India is believed by many to be connected to the decline of Indus Valley Civilization. The whole theory is highly controversial. Indian historians (and a few others) believe this serves to divide the Indian community and more specifically incite dravidians to look at Aryans (N. Indians & Tamil Upper Castes) as invaders and plunderers and consider disengaging from India (which Periyaar briefly demanded in 1920s). Indian historians argue that Indian history was rewritten by prejudiced Western, more specifically Christian, historians. Their version of Indian history served mainly to ensure that Christian tenets, such as Moses and Exodus, was unaffected by the ancientness of Indian civilization. Many believe that DNA tests actually refute the Aryan invasion theory and does not support it. It is their view that Sanksrit and Tamil though are radically different languages, have a common origin. Regardless of the validity of the Aryan Invasion theory - Did the language of the Indus valley civilization become a Dravidian language?

This is where Tamizh, the oldest of the dravidian languages, comes into the picture. Tamizh, given the fact that it is completely independent of Sanskrit, has been having a very interesting tussle with Sanskrit in terms of date and aging. Given that, barring a few villages, Sanskrit is almost dead as a spoken language, Tamizh is the oldest language among the currently spoken Indian languages. The oldest Tamizh works lead up to 750 BC. The discovery in Adichanallur, Tamizh Nadu and in Srilanka etsbalished that Brahmi Script was used to express Tamizh (Brahmi also expressed Sanskrit). The flavor of Brahmi was integrated with the Tamizh spoken in Tamil provinces during 6 BC. Later Grantham script (which still can be seen expressing Tamizh on the temple walls in Thirumala, Thirupathi) was also used to write both Tamizh & Sanskrit. However, the scripts were taken in very carefully by the ancient tamizh people. They weeded out non-Tamizh sounding letters. Fearing adultration, the fiercly territorial Tamizh kingdoms of that time carefully disallowed any prakrit forms of the script (a.k.a Sanskrit) from getting mixed with Tamizh through Brahmi & Grantham. Grantham later led to vettezhuthu and so on... But thats a different story. The origins of Tamizh existing in those kingdoms were however, unclear.

This was however, before the discovery of the century. A school teacher near Mayiladuthurai pushed back Tamizh by many many years, possibly beyond Sanskrit. He found tamil words "murukkan' (possibly meaning 'wrathful killer') inscribed on a Indus Valley artifact and dated around 1500 BC. This makes the language, if not the script, atleast 3500 years ald. Thanjavur has long held the view that Tamizh should be dated back to 2500 BC. Now, it does not sound as far fetched as it sounded before. Folks in Thanjavur have argued, time and again, that many of the literary Tamizh works dates back to much older dates than what historians have credited it for. Just to give an example from my own knowledge - Thirvaimozhi - a very old set of 1000 poems - from the 4000 Prabhandams was discovered by Nathamuni in 6th Century AD. He dated the poem to be 3000 years old (somewhere in 2500 BC). However, historians put the date of the poem as 6 AD - which was the date of his discovery. Same is the case of many such literary works that were dug out during the famous Bhakti movement in 6-7th century. There could many such examples, which can potentially to push Tamizh's date farther and farther away.

In the next article on this topic, I hope to discuss theories on other old indian languages, theories surrounding the connection of Mayan civilization and Tamizh, the theory of 'Mayan' the common evil-dude in both cultures, and the origins of astrology (which could possibly be sourced to Mayans and Tamizhs).

(To Be continued)

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Superman returns...and falls flat on his face

I went in with lot of expectations and I have never been this let down. I think in 1991, when Boris Becker lost his temper and the finals to fellow German Michael Stich, I was brought close to tears. And then this.

Hollywood has begun to frustrate comic book fans. I think the success of Spiderman has set a wrong precedent. Writers and directors have started to place human drama above real good comic book action. This has been so over done in 'Superman Returns' to the point of reducing superman to a side 'loser' character. He rarely appears and when he does he gets beaten up or simply..does nothing except mouth inane Star Wars dialogs. It is surprising that Bryan Singer has not understood that Superman as a logical/regular character sketch has too many holes to pass off as a emotional drama. I dont think thats more interesting than the plot, the action or the special effects.

The story is so poor that it is almost non-existant. In what is a sham excuse for story. Luthor (played competently but indifferently by Spacey) gets hold of Superman's Krypton-crystals from the Fotress of Solitude. The crystals have a way of generating EMT waves and spawning an entire continent that looks like the fotress of solitude. He decides to put one cystal (combined with of course Krytonite) in the atlantic ocean quite close to the USA. The crystal is supposed to generate a continent that will drown and eclipse USA (curious - Luthor talks about physics concepts and he doesnt realize - matter can neither be created nor destroyed). He drops the crystal and it does threaten to destroy New York City ..no err.. Metropolis. He combines the crystal with kryptonite and the resulting continent is green and dirty. I am not sure how Luthor can sell such bad real-estate. I am not even sure who he plans to sell it too - given that all of USA is dead. Whats even more baffling is that it is unclear why this greencontinent does not grow big and destroy USA. It (the growing continent) pauses and lingers on until Superman - in a painfully slow fashion - in this unnecsarily long movie, rescues a few people here and there near Daily Planet and gets to it. It is still unclear as to why the crystal/7th-continent does not expand further. Things like how Supey can lift a budding kryptonite-continent and throw it into space are best left undiscussed. But he falls flat back on eath and on the movie theaters, which a huge bunch of yawning fans can sadly attest.

I'll tell you what the problem I have with this movie is - Clark Kent and Superman have a total of 10-15 sentences between them as dialogs, they have no screen time at all. Worst of all there is no action - remove the first plane rescue scene and you have nothing. There is a few showcasing-what-superman-can-do scenes thrown in like the original 1978 movie did. Frankly those scenes suck. All he does is stop bank robbers, like he did 2 decades before. The movie suffers from lack of creativity and imagination. They could NOT think of anything new for Superman to do than save small children - again. No tense plot line (except for a sham traingle love story one thats no different from Spiderman -II). A sorry undeveloped father-son tale. Its just banality.

Bryan Singer just made a movie about "why the world doesn't need a bad superman movie", which Louis Lane plagiarized and won the Pulitzer.

I am so sad.