Thursday, December 28, 2006

Celebrazione Cinema Paradiso

Movies can have a strange cast on you. Most don’t, but the rare ones manage to get past the veneer that’s the outward you and touch the deepest corners of your emotions and leave you shaken. Just like that.

You walk in the park filled with stale air and there’s a sudden breath of a cool fresh breeze and you simply want to unwind and give in to such an experience. Watching Cinema Paradiso is just like that. You realize the movie start, and progress, and slowly, unknowingly, get so engulfed that the world’s noises get gradually but completely muted and you reach a point where you become completely oblivious to what’s happening around and instead get into the minds of the characters and start living their life and feeling their darkest, deepest emotions in their rawest form.

Cinema Paradiso is one such experience.

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Just when you think you’ve seen it all, in all colors and all known flavors, there’s a gem that stands out. After reading these reviews, you think nothing can surprise and blow you off anymore, but you are nowhere close to imagining the experience that awaits you.

Some might say the movie is emotional, some romantic, some funny, and some plain classy, but it is none of these. It’s a work of art. It’s the cheery you always wanted to pick.

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Yes, that’s what it is. Cinema Paradiso is a celebration of youth, friendship, romance and the everlasting magic of movies. For once, you are almost certainly going to miss something if you don’t end up seeing this. And I most certainly don’t write such stuff often.

And oh, don’t you bother to look at the ratings. Nobody ever said the world is fair.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Metallica by Apocalyptica

Metallica fans, listen up.

If you are a fan of the cult number Nothing Else Matters by Metallica, you are going to love the cello version of the same by the Finnish band Apocalytica. I just got hold of a bunch of Apocalytica's Metallica numbers (guess some of you might already have this) after hearing about the same from some web community, and they are awesome.

Needless to say, just search the web for the audio/video. And once you get 'em, let your speakers blare as you just float in the music, coz Nothing Else Matters.

Update 1: An Anonymous commenter has this to say: "They are absolutely phenomenal - listen to their latest CD, the self-titled "Apocalyptica," and look for the new one to be released in 2007."

Update 2: I got hold of a track titled "Cohkka" in the album "A decade of Reinventing the cello". It is M-i-n-d B-l-o-w-i-n-g at full volume. Go beg, borrow or steal! [Do get your sub-woofers right before you attempt listening.]

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Carl Sagan Blog-a-thon

Well, better late than never.

On December 20, 2006, bloggers all over the world celebrated Carl Sagan Blog-a-thon, in remembrance of the 10th death anniversary of arguably the most popular popular-science author-cum-astronomer Carl Sagan.

It’s been 10 years since he left us, but the Voyager series of spacecrafts that he helped design have traveled the farthest distance any man-made object has. Voyager carried with it a message, a greeting, to life, if any, outside our solar system.
Both Voyager spacecrafts carry a greeting to any form of life, should that be encountered. The message is carried by a phonograph record - -a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. Dr. Sagan and his associates assembled 115 images and a variety of natural sounds. To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, and spoken greetings from Earth-people in fifty-five languages.
Voyager 1, according to the Wikipedia entry, is now in heliosheath and will cross heliopath in 2015. Just reading about all this gives me goose-bumps!

For most of us in India, science was a drab thing better forgotten. We remember science as a subject filled with complex formulae and dull theories. Even subjects that were interesting by nature were made to look complex and intricate so as to leave us confused. And we all mugged up the subject simply coz we had to compete and that bunch of girls over there excelled three times over at that specific activity.

In short, the science that we ‘studied’ lacked romance.

And that’s exactly where Carl comes in. He makes the subject – everything from astronomy to physics to chemistry to molecular biology – so very interesting that you almost want to rewind some of your life and go back to the childhood days to see, with childhood innocence and ignorance and with the ‘why’ question tingling in your lips, what a wonder science is.

Here’s a High-five to one of the best specimens of the extremely-fickle yet smartest-ever species that walked through this ‘Pale Blue Dot’, as he would describe Mother Earth.

My previous post: Remembering Carl Sagan.

Update: The Celebrating Sagan blog has picked up my posts on Sagan. Ignore the mistakes in my English in that post... was typing when it was past 01.00 hrs. Feeling like a special Sagan fan now. :-)

Other Links that might be of interest:
NASA photo journal
Nick Sagan (Son of Carl) blog

Monday, December 18, 2006

IQ and religion

Last Sunday was like one of those days when your quest about everything and nothing ends up heading in the direction of a bottomless abyss. Haunting yet inherently unanswerable questions such as 'what's the point of human existence?' kept forming circles over my head, and nothing, not even a hot plate of Maggi washed down by a favorite cup of HotChips coffee followed by a pack of reddy-red Karondas, did any good.

It all started when I stumbled upon a famous Richard Dawkins video - The Big question: Why are we here?. In the end of what looked like a totally unproductive day, I found something of interest. The correlation between IQ and religious belief has been found to be a strong negative - a mind-boggling minus 0.886. In very simple terms, people with higher IQs have far less belief on religion than people with lesser IQs. There is no margin of statistical error since the correlation is almost a full negative (-1).

This isn't the right place to express my views on religion coz most people don't indulge in such discussions (the last time I started the topic over a table, the coffee went cold and I positively heard people snoring), but suffice to say that the result confirmed what I think about belief and spirituality. If you are the kind that loves such discussions, the coffee is on me when we meet next time around!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Odori Maharaja a.k.a Comedy King Rajnikanth

I know some of you guys are going to blast me for this, but I couldn’t resist posting after I got to see the link.

Our venerable Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has cashed in the Rajni craze in Japan during his speech in the Japanese Parliament. Guess he wanted to start the speech in a lighter mood.
"I am delighted to hear the popularity of Odori Maharaja among young people here. Our children were delighted to see Odori Asimo - the dancing robot!" Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in his historic address to a joint session of the Diet, the Japanese parliament, Thursday.

The moment he said that magic word "Odori Maharaja", Japanese parliamentarians let go of their fabled restraint and fastidiousness, and burst into a deafening applause.

Rajnikant exploded into Japanese consciousness when his popular film "Muthu" ran to packed houses in some theatres here a few years ago.
By the sounds of it, I think, much unlike in India where Rajni is a demi-god, an action-hero and a super-star all-in-one, Rajnikanth invokes the image of a great comedy hero to the Japanese. The developed world would certainly find his popular lines like “ponnunga veetukku ulla iruntha nallathu, pasanga veliya pona nallathu” [good girls should stay home and guys should be out of home (roughly translated)] amazingly funny and irresistibly comical. Sambhar Don’s earlier post on the topic gives even more dope on this line of thought.
They sing songs and dance, when they are happy. They sing songs and dance, when they are sad. And they sing songs and dance, even if they have no reasons. In fact, they are singing and dancing in the better part of the movie.
Sounds like the text a Govinda movie would gather among Indian audience.

Anyway, it’s common knowledge that Rajnikanth beat the hell out of all actors in India – including Big-B and Shah Rukh Khan – and became the highest earning actor in India with his movie Chandramukhi. Let's see what's in store for his next.
Japanese are eagerly waiting to have a glimpse of Rajnikant in his new film "Sivaji" - said to be the most expensive Indian film costing over $15 million - to be simultaneously released in Chennai, in southern India, and Tokyo.
Hell, if Japanese can’t wait, so can’t we. Action hero, or a super star, or a demi-god, or a comedy king, Rajni seems to rock. All over the world.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Gartner on Blogging

There's been some bold predictions by Gartner on blogging and how the trend might see saturation around next year. (via BBC)

Here are some insightful excerpts.
"Everyone thinks they have something to say, until they're put on stage and asked to say it."

The analysts said that during the middle of next year the number of blogs will level out at about 100 million.

The firm has said that 200 million people have already stopped writing their blogs.

"A lot of people have been in and out of this thing,"

I like the first one. A number of people I know have started and then have stopped blogging. Despite wanting to blog, most don't. Many say they don't find the time, but I guess that's one of those simplest excuses you could come up with.

Even if it saturates at 100 million, that's a lot of blogs. That requires every 1 soul of 70 in the world to blog. A tall order, one can say.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The world's fastest Indian

This one is exclusively for the speed junkies.

Guys, go watch “The world’s fastest Indian” without fail. It’s running in Satyam Cinemas, Chennai. I can’t say enough of this movie. The title is prone to misinterpretation - Indian happens to be the brand name of the motorcycle that Burt Munro uses to set the under-1000 cc land speed record in 1967. The record still stands, and Burt Munro has been inducted in the Motorcycling hall of fame.

The movie is based on real events concerning the record setting.

Sir Anthony Hopkins. Record setting despite heart-attack stricken post-retirement old age. Travel from the Kiwi-land to the Bonneville Salt Flats in the US. Need I say more?

Watching someone clocking 331 Kmph on a big screen has some untold romance. This happens to be the first New Zealand based flick that I’m seeing, but it doesn’t get better.

Some sparklers from the movie:
“You live more in five minutes on a bike like this going flat out than some people live in a lifetime.”
“If you don't follow your dreams, you might as well be a vegetable.”
“If you don't go when you want to go, when you do go, you'll find you've gone.”

When I went there, flicks like Dhoom2 and Vivah had gotten sold out but this one was half empty. Some irony that was.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Cars! Cars! Cute lil' Cars!

Maruti has phased out the old Zen and has released a new version - Zen Estilo. The word Estilo technically means style, but for some reason I find the older Zen more attractive. The new one has become a yet another standard-styled car - with the tall boy design, supposedly to attract the youth. Santro, Matiz, Wagon R, Getz, Indica, to an extent, and now Estilo. Tall Boy design is so boring. I used to love Zen's old design. Call it an end of an era. Here's R.I.P to the old Zen!

You just can't stop admiring Maruti's 800 and Zen stable. Both are small, entry level, peppy, and best of all - cheap on maintenance and fuel. I have a huge emotional attachment to Maruti vehicles because I know the difference these cars bring in. We used to spend a bombshell of money on maintenance of our Fiat. 10 years of owning it, we started calling it a white elephant. It really was a mammoth task keeping it up and running all the time. Enter Maruti 800 and the maintenance expense came down to Rs. 500 to 1000 a year and the petrol expense fell by 40%.

After eyeing many models over the past two years, I think I'll either settle down (sometime next year) for a Maruti Esteem or the Renault Logan that's going to come around next year. I was interested in an Opel Corsa, but I've learnt that although it comes at a dirt cheap rate for a entry level luxury car, the maintenance is a bombshell. Mileage isn't anything to write home about. On the other hand, I don't really like Indigo from the Tata stable. The other options are the Ikon or a Fiesta from the Ford stable. Ikon comes relatively cheap but has really bad mileage - 8/9 Kmpl in the city. After getting used to a car that gives 14Kmpl in the city, I can't begin imagining what I'd be spending on petrol with these cars for the amount I drive. Maintenance again is a pain in some corner of the body. A mechanic guy we met last week said, as an example, that if the replacement for an electric part is 400 bucks for the M800, it would cost 600 bucks for an Esteem and 1500 bucks for an Ikon. I simply don't want to venture this into stuff. On the other hand, I've been hearing good stuff about the Fiesta. But I'm actually scared about the thought of maintaining a 7 lac car. One set of trashed rear lights alone would burn a big gaping hole in the pocket. And you can’t possibly avoid stuff like these in Indian traffic since it’s out of your hand.

On evaluating all this, Esteem seems to be a great option. Its design is old and might not get the head-turn of a Ford, but I don't mind that. It gives an amazing mileage of 14KMPL in the city and it comes for 5 Lacs on road. And best of all - it's vintage Maruti when it comes to cheap spare parts and easy maintenance. Don't even start me on the service network. It's got a real peppy engine and its 1300 cc engine, just short of Ikon, is a breeze on the road. More than enough on Indian roads. Its Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is unbeatable. And, after all, you can think about other cars after 6/7 years! The only other alternative seems to be the Logan from the Renault stable, but my father happens to be of the opinion that the European strategy is to sell things cheap and extract the most on maintenance. Something to think about.

Any suggestions, veterans?