Tuesday, January 19, 2010

About Time, Neh?


I don't know why this makes me so happy, but I'm so happy this happened. About bloody time, I think.

Here are couple of things that are vitally important to know.
  • When the Filmfare award for Best Cinematography went to Murthy for Kaagaz Ke Phool, he was actually in Greece where Guru Dutt had sent him, to learn what he could from the making of The Guns of Navarone!
  • There is a long and lovely audio interview with Murthy available on the Kamla Bhatt Show website.
  • There used to be a lovely interview with Murthy in PDF format at Sarai, can't seem to find it now. I'm pretty sure I have it downloaded somewhere, let me see.

Some data are presented, thanks to Cricinfo's wonderful searching, filtering, sorting and querying capabilities.

Of course, several of you will scream bloody murder. In the interest of fairness, we present this.

Determining who the better batsman is, is left as an exercise for the reader. [Hint: The relevant numbers that should help clinch the issue are marked in bold in the pictures.]

P.S.: Inspiration? This.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I Would Be Going To Listen To The Saxophone In The Park


It's been an age since I cribbed about the abuse of English. Maybe I'm an older, kinder, wiser, more forgiving man now. More likely I'm just a lazy bastard. To compensate for this horrifying neglect of language rants, I present the misuse of the word "would" as the #1 candidate for Most Misused Word in Indlish.

The thing is, "would" can be used correctly in many contexts. As far as I can tell, there is only one egregious goof; unfortunately it has permeated the qaayanaat, somewhat in the manner that the arterial blood of the next person who, in my presence, screws up "would" would permeate his/her clothes.

There, I've done it. Alea iacta est. Using "would" to talk about things that WILL happen in the future, ay there's the rub. "I would be coming to your house tomorrow." And I WILL detach your goolies from you and play ping pong with them. [I'm not sure what goolies are, don't ask. Everyone has them. They're inside you. And getting them out involves the supreme pleasure of punching through your flesh with my talons and ripping them out, as you would look on, somewhat surprised and puzzled. This is all before the excruciating pain starts, of course.]

This Darth Vader of "woulds" shows up in all kinds of places, I can't pinpoint the rule which makes it incorrect, but I'm pretty damn sure that it's wrong when I hear/read it. Apparently, lesser minds than mine have given some thought to this. The British Council, for example. Englishpage.com has an excellent matrix where they nicely docket "would" and "wouldn't" into pockets.

[The #2 candidate for godawful desi officialese is "revert". But for that rant you'll have to wait for me to revert back to you.]

Saxophone in the Park

It is kind of nice that on a cool-ish January evening, I can walk out of my house, past several T-junction pillayars, to a park, buy a plate of porotta with pepper chicken, and listen to the dolorous notes of a saxophone singing Carnatic. Thanks, Chennai Sangamam.

Of course, lots of kacheri type fraud taaLam putting maamas and maamis were frowning away at all the decadent non-veg eating happening till their brows seemed to be frozen in that knotted fashion, but who cares? It was hard to decide whether the pepper chicken was more satisfactory, or the sax. I do wish they allowed some Mallu joint to put up a beef fry stall, that would be delicious in all respects! Through all this, some of the evening-park-circumambulating maamas continued the good work, and could be seen rotating around the whole scene like so many planetoids.

Candy floss for dessert!

French Puppets

This Sangamam thing just gets better and better. Today they had French "puppets". 8 giant (30 ft.+) giraffes, made of some silken fabric thing, manipulated from below by 2 fellows each, a woman all tarted up and singing arias while lashing out with a whip at a hapless and yet simultaneously scary clown! All this on a street named Venkatnarayana Rd.!! They paraded down the street, went into a park, did some time pass there (fiery hoops were involved) and then finally played 'Mustafa Mustafa' and the giraffes and the gathered throng danced together, while the clown and the woman rode their respective giraffes. Surreal, and smashing! Chennai Sangamam rocks!! Photos in the papers tomorrow, hopefully.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Carnatic Krithi, A Rock Classic

In which the title of the post is a con


Seeing as there was a Facebook meme going on a couple of days back about this subject, this may be relevant.

Not for the weak of stomach. The essay describes how a "surgeon" removed a tumor from Abigail "Nabby" Adams' breast in 1811, without the use of anesthesia. You have been warned. Thanks to Orac for the link. This is how it was done.
Warren then straddled Nabby's knees, leaned over her semi-reclined body, and went to work. He took the two-pronged fork and thrust it deep into the breast. With his left hand, he held onto the fork and raised up on it, lifting the breast from the chest wall. He reached over for the large razor and started slicing into the base of the breast, moving from the middle of her chest toward her left side. When the breast was completely severed, Warren lifted it away from Nabby's chest with the fork. But the tumor was larger and more widespread then he had anticipated. Hard knots of tumor could be felt in the lymph nodes under her left arm. He razored in there as well and pulled out nodes and tumor. Nabby grimaced and groaned, flinching and twisting in the chair, with blood staining her dress and Warren's shirt and pants. Her hair matted in sweat. Abigail, William, and Caroline turned away from the gruesome struggle. To stop the bleeding, Warren pulled a red-hot spatula from the oven and applied it several times to the wound, cauterizing the worst bleeding points. With each touch, steamy wisps of smoke hissed into the air and filled the room with the distinct smell of burning flesh. Warren then sutured the wounds, bandaged them, stepped back from Nabby, and mercifully told her that it was over. The whole procedure had taken less than twenty-five minutes, but it took more than an hour to dress the wounds. Abigail and Caroline then went to the surgical chair and helped Nabby pull her dress back over her left shoulder as modesty demanded. The four surgeons remained astonished that she had endured pain so stoically.
What an unbelievable woman she must've been! Must've got her genes from mum (Apparently the first recorded use of "Mere paas maa hai." is from this era.) Abigail Adams (the mother, the daughter was named for her) was a major intellectual studmuffin. When her husband John Adams, later to be the second president of the newly formed United States, was part of the Continental Congress, trying to cobble together a constitutional form of government, she wrote him:
"...remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.
And on slavery she
...explained that she doubted most of the Virginians had such "passion for Liberty" as they claimed they did, since they "deprive[d] their fellow Creatures" of freedom.

Tern, Tern, Tern

The Arctic tern undertakes a "colossal" (where colossus = 70,000 k.m.) journey every year from Greenland to the Weddell Sea. Scientist type fellows fitted the birdie type fellows with little tracking devices. Surprisingly, the devices don't work off of GPS or other such sat nav technologies. Instead
The devices record light intensity. This gives an estimate of the local day length, and the times of sunrise and sunset; and from this information it is possible to work out a geographical position of the birds.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Clearance Sale - Mylapore

Friends are moving. See below if you're in Chennai and want to pick up any of the below.

I am moving from Chennai to Mumbai in the next 3 weeks. In that context, we are planning to sell off a few items from here before we go. If interested please email me at choultry [AT] gmail [DOT] com

Moving Sale (All items to go by Feb 1 2010) - Mylapore, Chennai

Please also find below the list of products and expected prices. Most of the items (all except Maruti Swift) are only about 1.5 years old and each equipment in fine working order.

List of items: (Please go to link above for details)

Red Maruti Swift Vxi, 26000 KM run: Rs 3.25 lakhs
Honda Activa (1.5 years old): Rs 35000
LG 2 tonne Split A/C: Rs 20,000
LG 1 tonne Split A/C: Rs 10,000
Whirlpool Fridge (6th Sense, 250L): Rs 12500
Cane Furniture with jhoola: ~ Rs 10,000 (Can discuss if you need individual pieces)
Whirlpool Washing Machine (6th Sense, 6.5 litres): Rs 10,000
2 large King sized beds: Rs 10,000 each (only the cot, not the mattress)
Shoe Rack: Rs 2000
Rotating TV Stand with rollers (ideal for large drawing/study rooms): Rs 4000
Metallic Study Chair: Rs 750

Friday, January 08, 2010

See? Links...

Cannot be bothered to bring forth original content all the while, so we'll do with industrial quantities of links.
  1. Group Gives Up Death Penalty Works. Via Veena.
    Last fall, the American Law Institute, which created the intellectual framework for the modern capital justice system almost 50 years ago, pronounced its project a failure and walked away from it.
  2. Astonishing pictures show how a Devon kayaker got up close and personal with a humpback whale feeding frenzy
    When you’re in a tiny kayak and a 40-ton giant of the deep decides he’s a bit peckish, the sensible option is to scarper as fast as your paddle can carry you.

    But wildlife photographer Duncan Murrell does the opposite. To capture images of humpback whales feeding and surging through the surf off Alaska, he often ventures within 15ft of the fearsome creatures.
    And while we're on the cetacean theme...
  3. Seaquake Theory
    The concept that mass stranded pods of whales and dolphins were injured three to six weeks prior to the beaching by excessive and rapid changes in the surrounding water pressure generated when the rocky bottom jerked violently in the vertical plane during certain undersea earthquakes was first presented in 1987...
  4. Fruitful Decade for Many in the World
    IT may not feel that way right now, but the last 10 years may go down in world history as a big success. That idea may be hard to accept in the United States. After all, it was the decade of 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the financial crisis, all dramatic and painful events. But in economic terms, at least, the decade was a remarkably good one for many people around the globe.
  5. A visual map of the arguments for and against human-caused global climate change - Looks like an excellent place to get a quick-ish summary of the pro- and anti-AGW arguments.
  6. What does it take to save a species? Sometimes, high-voltage power wires
    Then, one bright June day in 2006, eureka: The bee was found in a hillside meadow...

    ...Even more remarkable, though, was the environment where this find was made: In a 250-foot-wide power line corridor off Route 163 in Southeastern Connecticut. Transmission corridors have long been considered symbols of environmental degradation, with their enormous steel skeletons and high-voltage lines slicing through forests, wetlands, and salt marshes; they divide the landscapes that thousands of species need to survive. Yet now they are gaining a new reputation: As critical homes for faltering species of birds, bees, butterflies, plants, and a host of other species.
  7. Apparently, mobile phone radiation 'protects' against Alzheimer's. Notwithstanding what the fair city of San Francisco wants, I think I'm going to permanently strap my phone to the side of my head. [All sidey remarks about how this will serve the dual purpose of keeping me from losing the phone will be treated with the contempt they deserve.]

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Publius Trivius Vigneshwasaurus

Every few days or so, I go walkabout around T. Nahar to see that which is to be seen and learn that which is to be learned. The other day, one train of thought came, on Platform No. 3.

Anyone who knows Madras knows that at all T junctions, there will be a small shrine to Pillayar a.k.a Vinaayakudu, Ganapati, Vighneshwara, Vishwaksena (depending on geography, caste etc.) The P. man will be facing directly down the stem of the T. It's not clear why this practice started. One side-splitting internet explanation goes like so:
The figure of lord ganesh is a auspicious figure which is full of cosmic energy. The figure of lord ganesha has got wave length equal to the wave length of T- Junction the T- Junction in front of a main entry of a building is inauspicious and it obstruct the flow off energy in a building. Hence to rectify the negative impacts of T - Junction the figure of lord ganesha should be placed at the main entry.
So the dude has a "wave length" now? I suppose if I lived on a T junction street I could say "Ganapati and me understand each other completely, we are on the same wavelength, I say."

Anyway, the other explanation I've heard is that he's put facing the stem of the T so that he can ward off any Trouble that comes hurtling straight towards the house. Very curious. Apparently, Trouble is capable of charging down streets in the manner of a cavalry division, but hasn't quite figured out how to turn corners.

Now T. Nagar is chock-a-block full of these quaint little shrines. Each of them is scrupulously maintained. There's fresh flowers usually, a lamp, various condiments pasted on the stone etc. There also seems to be a small-ish army of motorcycle riding priests who dart around (from Pillayar to post, as it were) servicing these temples.

Here begins the Paranoid Conspiracy Theory. In some distant past, when they were doing the town planning for T. Nagar, did some cabal of pujaris strike a deal with the powers that be? Did the powers that be draw the map so that T. Nagar got more than its fair share of T junctions? Is the very name T. Nagar a code word for T Junction Nagar? Were quantities of karpooram handed over from priestly hands to the civic authorities in those days of yore? Do the descendants of those enterprising priests pay off their municipality counterparts even today? Are illicit and illegal massively parallel chantings of the Vishnu Sahasranaamam available to the elected ward council members? Am I insane? (This one we know the answer to.)

Other random points in respect of the jolly god of trivia:
  1. At what point does a Ganesha become necessary at a 3-way junction? In other words, when is a T junction truly a T junction? At what limiting value of θ, where θ is the (acute) angle between the stem and the cross of the T?
  2. There are a couple of places where the 3 streets meet at 120 degrees in respect of each other, like the Mercedes logo, as opposed to T. Here, the conservative builders of houses have, bless their souls, in some cases installed 3 statues! A Holy Mexican Standoff! These Vinaayakas are surely overtaxed. Imagine having to switch constantly between 2 streets while looking out for Trouble. Anything could happen.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

On New Year's Day I...

  • Drank

  • Danced (using a very very generous interpretation of the word "dance")

  • Wrote a little bit

  • Slept well

  • Made breakfast at home

  • Was driven in a car...

  • ...to a delicious home-made lunch

  • Watched a little TV

  • Took a train...

  • ...to Mambalam and drank filter coffee in Pondy Bazaar

  • Got some work done

  • Took a bus...

  • ...to a katcheri...

  • ...and into the bargain discovered what seems to be a rather nice temple

  • Contrary to default behaviour, took the initiative to catch up with friends and older friends, rendezvouses have been planned

  • Took a share auto...

  • ...and bought a biryani

  • Read a little bit...

  • ...and went to bed at a civilized hour.

On the whole, a highly satisfactory day. There are 3 VERY IMPORTANT and very pleasurable things I did not do yesterday, but on balance, all is well.

On the katcheri

Despite many promises to myself and others, I only managed to go to 2 performances (and more importantly 0 caterers) the whole month. Viral fever, trip home and so on more or less became eastern Iberians in the machinery. The concerts I did manage to go to were rather nice. The first was Sanjay Subhramanyam in a cavernous and freezing auditorium, but a most enjoyable concert. I am definitely more partial to Carnatic vocal than instrumental, so this was a good one to go to. Although, I have it from unimpeachable sources that 2 hours before the concert, the artist was doing Farmville updates on his Facebook profile, which makes the whole experience fluctuate between charming and disturbing.

The Ramani concert was a more intimate affair, a small-ish hall next to the temple tank. The performance was superb, even to Philistine ears. The violinist also sounded like a very manodharmam, paddhati, thirukuzhikundram sort of fellow. Enjoyed the whole thing thoroughly. The vennai on the pongal, as it were, was a speech by one sabha organizing mama that punctuated the performance. "Andha Todi! Enna Todi!! Onnume vidaame oru Todi!!! Todi si bewafaai..." and so on. Just scintillating.

Part of the concert paisa vasool is, of course, watching audience maamas and maamis putting taaLam. I have spawned a theory, bear with me.

Personally, I find it impossible to listen to both the main performer and the percussionists at the same time. If I start foot-tapping with mridangam, I can't pay attention to the other fellows, and vice versa. This reminds me rather of the time that my sister tried to measure my pulse rate, and thereby hangs a tale. And honestly, I suspect that the audience M&Ms (multi-coloured as they are in pattu podavais and angavastrams) are in the same boat :P It just comes us an utter surprise to me and the candies when on some downward foot-tap, some momentous conclusion occurs on stage, and we're all very thrilled with each other and much mutual pleasurable beaming occurs.

Usually, I end up scouting the neighbourhood to see if there is a competent and authoritative looking taaLam putter, and try to copy-paste her gestures. Once in a while, I will lose my count, but will catch up sooner or later. Unfortunately, ever so often, I end up picking some number which is mutually prime with the actual beat, and will only catch up after 17x8 beats. Ah well....

Finally, the audience demands the sabhas next year that the promising artiste on the tanpura yesterday become a feature during the season!

Friday, January 01, 2010

What Is Good?

What is Good? - The Search for the Best Way to Live is not a bad book to finish on a December 31. Or a bad thing to write about on a January 1. A.C.Grayling, Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London, reviews the answers to this quite profound question that various Western philosophers tried to come up with.

Grayling starts with the classical Greeks - Socrates, Plato, Aristotle. The Cynics, Epicureans and Stoics are considered and the "religions of the book" are (rightly) dismissed. The train stops next at the Renaissance, addresses the Enlightenment, and so onto the age of Darwin, Bentham and Mill. He ends with today's headaches (terrorism, medical ethics, free speech) and concludes like so:
To the question 'What is good?', then, the answer can only be: 'The considered life - free, creative, informed and chosen, a life of achievement and fulfillment, of pleasure and understanding, of love and friendship; in short, the best human life in a human world, humanely lived.'
That's quite enough, for 2010. Good night.