Conceit

This’s got to be the funniest thing that happened this week. Remember K. Balachander? The ultimate talent scout who introduced both Kamalhassan and Rajinikanth to tamil cinema. Visu’s sole competitor for the honor of having every movie of his feel like a stage drama. The guy that introduced numerous novel concepts to Tamil cinema … Like using a hand to tear days off a calendar to signify the passage of time. Or using rapid shots of an assortment of news magazines to signify (you got it) the passage of time. Yeah, that guy.

So he watches the latest big blockbuster in Tamil – a sensitive movie called Kadhal that has won rave reviews. Impressed, he praises the director. And then tells the heroine Sandhya, “You are the next Saritha.” Saritha? Ok. Whatever.

Later he talks to the press and deplores the state of Tamil movies today. Says movies are becoming vulgar. And then follows up with the punch line for his joke: “I will make a movie like Maro Charitra to rescue Tamil cinema from the depths to which it has sunk.” I laughed hard, then read the comment again, and laughed hard again. If you dont get the joke, go watch Kalki. Or Duet. Or any of his 90 other movies.

Since then, the movie has been announced

Cardkeys of the Future

I love the Science and Technology content that the Economist offers, culling neat ideas from all over the world, and explaining them lucidly. Here’s one I thought was especially smart.

Cardkey readers are ubiquitous at almost every office building in America, and the cost of running wires when you want to add an extra card key reader can be prohibitive. December’s technology page has this stunnigly simple idea to make card key based systems cheaper: Just make the cards part of the network. A cool application of the idea of decentralized networking.

Read more at Economist.com Technology Quarterly

Storm in a B cup

Ok, a horny dude checks out some Latino websites, and comes across a video of someone bathing. When replaying the video for the 19th time, he realizes with a gasp that the girl in the video bears more than a passing resemblance to Trisha, a popular Tamil actress. So horny dude forwards said video to his equally horny friends. Friends forward some more, and in all the frenzy the Trisha look-alike video gets magically transformed into the Stolen Trisha Bathing video. One of the friends was very kind by nature, and so he posts the video on some website, and soon the video is the most popular Tamil movie of all time, beating Padayappa hands down. Hmm… maybe not, but almost. Wait, please read the whole blog before you go googling for the video.

Now since Trisha doesn’t watch Indian movies, she had no idea all this was happening. Until some loser that does watch Indian movies brings this “Indian” movie to her mom’s attention. Livid mom goes to the media, and over a two-week period, makes a series of statements that provided an immense amount of publicity to the movie in question. And some comic relief to people who wanted a break after repeatedly watching the same two-minute clip. Among other things, she claimed (with a hint of pride) that the girl couldn’t be Trisha, because she was strewing her clothes around in the bathroom I don’t know about you, but that increased my respect for Trisha.

Finally, Trisha threatens to complain to the police, and collections skyrocket some more. In fact, this is the highest grosser of all Trisha movies. As in all of her other movies, Trisha didn’t act in this one either.

Now the newspapers and magazines join (birthday) suit. Almost every newspaper worth its salt carried the story, although the respected ones used small typeface to maintain their reputation. (No, the Hindu is not worth its salt.) Finally, a tech-savvy editor figured out how to make screenshots and published them in his magazine, only to get arrested. One of the “investigative” journals went on to claim that the movie was shot in Hyderabad using a micro-camera and that a member of (who else?) the mafia did it. Wow! Sure, the original horny dude could have been Telugu, but to call him the mafia is a bit of exaggeration I wish I had thought of first. Link here.

Last I heard, the police were using “body-structure experts” to figure out if the girl is indeed Trisha. As a side note, have you ever wondered what the coolest job in the world was?

PS: Someone got a link to the video? You can only gather so much from grainy screenshots.

PPS: No, I don’t have the grainy screenshots anymore.

Gape, then Gasp, then close browser

This has been a good year for that miniscule segment of men interested in celebrity wardrobe malfunctions.

Kirsten Dunst’s bikini top decides to move away just a little bit when surfing at St. Barts. Again at St. Barts, Anna Kournikova has a brain malfunction, and decides to check out what is inside her, um, clothes. No, no links for you. This is a family-friendly website.

Ok, who wants to pay for Aish to make a trip to St. Barts?

Poor Mr.Pinto

All the Indian Blogs seem abuzz with a story about this guy called Rohan Pinto plagiarizing content from numerous other blogs and putting them up on his site as his own. (Details here.) Amit Varma also touches upon the fact that plagiarism is not restricted to the blogosphere. Why pick on Mr. Pinto? He is just a symptom of a wider malaise.

Several online-only Indian publications do the same thing,and try to make money out of it. Case in point: http://www.cinesouth.com/ plagiarizes almost all its content from newspapers and magazines and passes it off as their own. Cinesouth is brazen enough to have a section called “Nangal Suttavai” (Stolen Content) which has articles and interviews from several magazines and make it part of their paid section.

As a society India doesn’t really care about plagiarism. Every other Hindi movie seems to have Hollywood roots. Most of the popular composers have plagiarized at least a few songs from somewhere. ( http://www.iespana.es/i2fs/) . Even one proven instance of stealing, and a western composer would have lived the rest of his life in ignominy. We dont care : we will still watch “inspired” movies ; listen to “influenced” albums and generally pretend like it never happened. And we blog away furiously about the Pintos, while listening to Anu Malik’s latest.

Books : Laboring through the Baroque Cycle

I like Neal Stephenson a lot. His Snowcrash and Diamond Age were my introduction to Cyberpunk, and the follow up to these books – Cryptonomicon turned out to be a bestseller and possibly his best book to date. I loved the numerous digressions , the insider geek-jokes, and the irreverent tone of the book. Whole pages (and sometimes chapters) were dedicated to things had at best a tangential relationship to the plot. Like a whole chapter filled with a bad short story written by one of the characters. Or (really) Perl source code for a cryptographic algorithm he describes in the book.

And so I looked forward to the Baroque Cycle, a 3000-page trilogy about the Baroque Age. Quicksilver, Confusion and The System of the World – one book every six months, starting October 2003. Stephenson’s fictional creations cohabiting the book with Hooke, Wilkins, Newton and Leibnitz. This was going to be so good.

Not really. The Baroque cycle is a bit of a letdown.

Sure, there were some good segments. Jack Shaftoe was cool. So was Eliza. The board game that Eliza organizes for French noblemen to explain financial concepts was hilarious. The Royal Society sounded like a fun place to work in: Hooke seemed like a cool dude, and Newton a grumpy old bastard. A big chunk of the second book was devoted to India, and there were some intersting nuggets that I didn’t know. I’m not sure if this is true, but apparently, the women of Malabar (Kerala today) were so sexually promiscuous that most of the time kids didn’t know who their dads were. And thus started the tradition of children taking the mother’s last name. But I digress: In between the good parts, there was so much pointless fluff that any half-decent editor would have gotten rid off. And try as hard as I did, I couldn’t find a plot. Sometimes the book felt like I was reading a smart schoolboy’s scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings from the 17th century. The whole is so much less than the sum of its parts.

Note to Neal: Digressions are cool and all that, but digressions don’t make a book. Not a 3000-page book. And you forgot the plot!