Saturday, December 19, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
The one great joy that every summer vacation visit to Kolkata brought, when I was a kid, was TV. Granddad’s B&W TV was an engrossing device and I could spend hours glued to the screen without a care in the world. Though the visits to Kolkata were to ostensibly renew familial bonds, my agenda was shamelessly laid bare for all to see. Thankfully, no one seemed to mind.
Doordarshan, the state-run national television channel, used to air wonderful late night flicks in those days. Now I don’t quiet remember if the credit goes to DD or leaked Bangladeshi state television airwaves, but one of the late night movies I got to see was The Time Machine, by H.G.Wells. The name sounded futuristic – just as I liked – and I was all agog to watch it.
Watch I did, but the movie scared the hell out of me. So petrified was I that even after transmission ended I was too scared to get up from the couch and switch off the set. To make matters worse, I was all alone in the room as everyone else had already called it a day. The door right next to the TV opened to a dark aisle connecting to a bedroom, a verandah and the exit gate. I imagined ghosts ambushing me.
Mustering all my courage, I finally did manage to switch off the set and go to bed. I guess I must have spent a sleepless night. A few years later, I bought the book and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. There were no ghosts this time, only fascination at time travel.
I downloaded the movie a couple of days ago and converted it to .mp4 before transferring it to my iPod. I’m looking forward to it!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
I found headphones (this also implies earphones) very amusing. Why would man come up with yet another useless product that essentially miniaturized speakers far enough to make them as small as or smaller than the ear? Why would some selfish creature keep his music to himself and not share it with the world? Why would someone like wires to seemingly jut out of his head. Why would someone bother to carry the weight of a silly contraption over his head? Wanna look geeky perhaps, hmmm?
I somewhat tested the waters when I chanced upon a cheap earphone costing just Rs.5. Though a 1-ear experience hardly suffices, it was more than enough for what my begged money could buy. I found it amazing that I could finally listen to music and float around in my imaginary world without bothering didi studying next to me. So headphones aren’t entirely useless, I thought. I was far from convinced though.
How amazing a conventional pair of headphones could possibly sound was yet another serendipity. I had two transistor radios under my ephemeral possession. Tinkering with them once, I tuned into the same radio station and placed myself between them. The aural experience was wonderfully spacial. That was it, I had to defect to the other side and try a pair of headphones myself.
That’s how I ended up buying my first pair of ‘conventional’ headphones, costing me all of Rs.40. There was only one problem: the jack had a stereo pin, while our Aiwa cassette player was mono. Sound was emanating from just one side. In popped Ghosh Babu, dad’s trusted audiophile. He replaced the stereo jack for a mono and my aural world was restored.
Since then, I’ve had affairs with innumerable headphones as technology marched in leaps and bounds. Mono gave way to stereo, cassette to CD, raw to compressed and localized to networked. My newest pair arrived today. Its noise-cancellation is so effective, I can’t hear anything extraneous as I listen to a violin sonata by Bela Bartok in FLAC.
Addendum: This has been my first ‘long’ post in, what feels like, more than a century. I feel all revved up now! Glaring fissures remain, but I’m healing. Blogging is therapeutic, I’m convinced.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
The earphones disappoint- which expedited the order I placed yesterday: Creative Labs EP-630/A. With my iPod earphones already busted, the order had to happen anyway.
Friday, November 06, 2009
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
I blog straight from the heart, the direct dil se way – as Siddharth put it a few years ago. I didn’t realize it then but now I do.
These are such tumultuous times that I’ve had to stop listening to my heart to keep from being adversely affected. An ill-consequence has been the abrupt silencing of my beloved blog. My thoughts are out of order and vastly incoherent - mark the semantic leap from the previous sentence and you’ll know!
I hope I’m able to tide over these difficult times soon…’coz I sure miss my blog.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
|Various Artists - 02 / Sheep May Graze Safely - Bach|
|Found at skreemr.com|
I had first heard this composition 13 years ago. Though the tune was hauntingly beautiful, I forgot the name of the track and was desperately looking for clues…the only thing to aid me was the composer's name which I still remembered- JS Bach, a Baroque great I’m not particularly fond of otherwise – his Brandenburg Concertos being one of the few exceptions.
Listen to it and think of a pastoral landscape. The two get along very well – I give you my word.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
I’m dangerously putting off things till the very end. The only thing I don’t procrastinate is procrastination itself!
Though I had promised to blog on the unlogged events that have occurred over the past few months, I failed to keep my word…but not anymore. Starting today, I’ll publish the missed posts that’ll hopefully fill the 3-month void and bring my blog up-to-date.
Remember Ross from Friends who suddenly assumed an inexplicable British accent as a university professor? Remember further how Rachael made fun of him by placing a prank call from the fictitious Fake Accent University? Ha!
The fake accent seems to be an epidemic amongst South Asians in UK. No sooner do these guys hit the British shores and join biscuit packing factories or supermarkets in droves than they flaunt their superior air by junking their native accents at once and buying into the local one.
This is not a generalization and there certainly are exceptions.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I’ve been pseudo-guilty of failing to blog regularly for over 2 months now. Next week, the abeyance meets its procrastinated death sentence.
My Net access is still extremely limited, but I figured offline blogging isn’t as bad as it may seem prima facie. What’s lost in these 2 months of non-blogging is irreplaceable – not that I’m always to blame for it. I was travelling, meeting people, hitting a nostalgic high, putting up overnight next to the beach, pretending to meditate, learning to cook, getting acquainted with a new currency, acclimatizing to civilized traffic, reading maps, shopping, reading free offline tabloids in the absence of Internet access, negotiating with cunning people, reorienting towards my wife and listening to Classic FM on my radio. All this left little space for anything else…although, ironically, this was also the most fertile time to blog.
My posts next week will chronicle some of the events that happened in these 2 months. The week after, normal blogging will be up and running in full steam. For the rest of the current week, I intend to tweet - just to gather some momentum.
Friday, September 04, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
This little beauty was a serendipitous find on Amazon when I was probing it like crazy for the best possible radio set my money could buy. I was so enamored by the rave reviews the Creative Soundworks 705 had received that I decided to place an order and have it shipped to my wife's London address even though I was still in India.
On my arrival to UK 4 days back, one of the first things I did was to open the Amazon carton and reveal its precious content - my 705. The weighty black beauty stole my heart right away. Turning it on turned me on as well!
My wife plays second fiddle to the 705 sometimes.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
We had a memorable get-together at Rakesh Nilayam last night. Amit and Mantu cooked chicken while Satya and Suman annotated on the barrage of reality shows hogging prime-time TV. Sam & I love to hate Rakhi Sawant’s theatrics and launched verbal missiles at her anachronistic swayamvar. Mani hung around overlooking all the sudden hustle and bustle.
The only guy missing was Santosh. He called me in the morning and we had a long chat. It would be great had he been here.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Mani managed to unearth one of Santosh’s extraneous contact numbers from the itemized landline telephone bill we receive from Airtel. The absconding culprit, as usual, said he was just about to contact us. Yeah, we’ll fall for that lie alright! He’ll probably leave for Bangalore on 22nd July.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Be it Baroque, Classical or Romantic music, I’ve heard them all. Today I began the exploration of contemporary classical music with possibly the most renowned composer of our time – Philip Glass. While I haven’t enjoyed all that I’ve heard from him, some of his compositions were breathtakingly stunning. I guess I’m more than ready to take on the new genre.
I’ve taken the liberty of leapfrogging 20th century classical music altogether. I hope the chronological gap won’t adversely affect my understanding of the evolution of music over the eras. I’ll begin with 20th century when I’m ready to take on the most intimidating of all composers – Stravinsky. That’ll be my ultimate conquest!
Here’s something interesting. Philip Glass’s father owned a record store and consequently Glass’s record collection as a kid consisted, to a large extent, of unsold records. And which records might that be? Classical, of course!
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Astronomy and classical music are two of my greatest fascinations. One relies on longitudinal waves and the other, transverse.
Listening to a BBC essay on Haydn immensely surprised me to learn that the discoverer of Uranus, the brilliant astronomer, William Herschel, was also a composer of classical music. It was equally surprising that Haydn even met the celebrated astronomer and one of his renowned religious works, The Creation oratorio, might have been partly influenced by the atheistic view to the birth of our Universe.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
How is it possible that a carton could carry my laptop all the way from Malaysia to India, but India Post refuses to parcel it from Bangalore to Kolkata?
I’ve some clothes that need to be shipped to Kolkata. My laptop carton was the ideal container and I managed to stuff it with 14.85 kg of clothes, most of which recently enjoyed being tossed and tumbled in Sam’s washing machine. I pasted the address sheets, sealed the container and took an auto to the local post office.
To my surprise, I was asked to cover the entire carton with a piece of cloth! Now where the hell could I get a piece of cloth big enough to cover the carton? The smiling lady suggested a nearby store. Mantu went in pursuit but returned with only a large envelop. The idea was to get some more and cover the carton on all sides! How on earth does that serve our purpose? When we approached the lady, she said the idea would suffice. Cool! India Post needs some psychiatric therapy.
It was close to 2:30 pm, the blessed moment our post office shuts down to the public. We returned home with a few more envelops. I’ve got to get down to the silly business of ‘enveloping’ the carton with the ripped open envelops in the evening.
I’ll take another trip to the post office tomorrow.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Remember the golden era of Indian television, when DD towered over none (for none existed!) and a certain lady with a fetish for ‘K’ had yet to ruin our evenings with mass-manufactured histrionics? If you do, you’ll probably recall the mother of all mega-serials: Hum Log. Here’s a tribute by Rediff.
Monday, July 06, 2009
Ever since Sam moved in, our belongings have had to be repositioned in order to make more room to the new entrant. One major casualty has been Mani, whose daily clothes have now been strategically relocated to my room. And since my room affords more privacy than others, Mani makes frequent guest appearances here to strip and don something else. He tries to make his presence doubly felt either with a very annoying and loud Bollywood hum or by verbally engaging me in a totally impertinent issue.
I’ll miss all this fun.
That would have been Aaj Tak’s punchline had they been on Santosh’s trail. Our docile roommate seems to have disappeared into thin air ever since his wedding talks (the one we were closely monitoring) failed to materialize. We’ve been trying to get in touch with him for the past few days but he’s unreachable on his number. Last time we heard, he was enquiring about rail tickets to Bangalore. He seemed very eager to return.
Kidnapping grooms isn’t uncommon in Bihar. Sometimes, there is such a severe paucity of consenting bachelors (dowry and caste could be major flashpoints) that parents, desperate to get rid of their daughters, kidnap them and forcefully wed them off to their daughters.
Of course, it’s very unlikely that Santosh has met this unfortunate fate. For all we know, he may be merrily wandering the rural terrain without a care in the world!
Friday, July 03, 2009
What can I say about this gorgeous blonde except that she’s every bit as gifted in the writing department as she is in looks! And that’s just a fraction of what makes her such an incredibly wonderful person I had the good fortune of befriending during her stay in India. She’s indeed of stellar magnitude.
Keep shining, babe!
Thursday, July 02, 2009
Was Spiderman a Christian? Or Batman a Buddhist? Barring the ‘real’ men behind the masks, I’m not really sure - their religious identities were never enforced or projected while fighting crime. Tarzan may actually be an atheist since he was reared mostly away from civilization. The animals that raised him hopefully didn’t corrupt him with religious propaganda.
Why then does Islam need an ad-hoc team of 99 super heroes to teach the world of its tolerant and peaceful nature? Why did the gorgeous Queen Rania of Jordan have to launch her own YouTube channel towards the same end? Why do pacifists have to constantly plead with the world to believe that Islam indeed teaches love and respect for all human beings?
Because reality starkly points to the contrary. Islamic militancy is a global menace today and much of the civilized world is reeling under its tyranny. Sharia law is deeply regressive and curbs all forms of personal liberty. Women are treated like dirt and flogged for venturing out without being accompanied by a close male relative. People accused of adultery are stoned to death. Public executions are commonplace. Minor offenders could be sentenced to their limbs being amputated. Homosexuality is a crime punishable by death. The Quran instigates its followers to wage a war against those who do not believe in Allah. It asks the fight to last until the only religion is that of Allah. It champions jihad to the point of self-annihilation. Those who attain ‘martyrdom’ in the name of Allah are promised unending sexual gratification in heaven while the non-believers are condemned to burn in eternal hell.
The verdict is clear. Islam preaches hate, intolerance and subjugation. There is no room in the modern world for such hate mongering. As long as Islam lasts, feeble but desperate attempts to justify its ‘teachings’ will continue, but all in vain.
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
My first was a red, locally assembled ‘Sanyo.’ It was bulkier, heavier and more expensive than most Walkmans. I chose it because it had a 3-band graphic equalizer, a rarity. I was in Kolkata, just after my 12th board exam. Boredom was hitting a peak and I needed something to focus on.
My Walkman served me faithfully, though the audio left a lot to be desired. I was happy that the equalizer worked well, the only quirk was the 10KHz band that became too hissy when upped. I bought cassettes from the famous Symphony outlet in Esplanade at an alarming rate. Can’t help it, I reasoned, since Kolkata had so much more albums to offer than Jamshedpur.
My second was an imported Aiwa with a built-in tuner and, yet again, a 3-band graphic equalizer. This one was a prized possession. It was much smaller, lighter but equally expensive. Bought it in Pune during graduation.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
These artists have kept me entertained over the years via my cassette player, radio, CD player, walkman, laptop and iPod.
The representation doesn’t seem to be very accurate but it’s close enough.
"Music - The one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend."
Saturday, June 27, 2009
It’s fun to see authoritarian regimes cringe under the growing power of technology to circumvent online censorship. The latest darling of Iranians wanting to access news and freely express themselves in the face of disputed presidential elections is Psiphon. The software has already been downloaded by 18,000 Iranians in the last 10 days.
Iranian authorities are so petrified of dissidents stoking protests over the rigged elections using Psiphon that they have accused Canada of supporting the software maker’s “efforts to spread insurrection in Iran."
Freedom can only be delayed, not defeated. Religious fanatics and authoritarians will learn it the hard way. So be it.
I had my eyes set on a USB mains charger on Ebay for the past 2 weeks. I was all set to up the killer bid in the dying moments of the auction this afternoon. But as ill-luck would have it, there was yet another short-circuit in our vicinity just 15 minutes prior to the end of the auction and I was left in the dark at 0 hour, literally.
By the time power was restored, the damage was already done. Anyway, I was glad to learn that I didn’t really lose anything. Bids went so high that I would have pulled off anyway.
Friday, June 26, 2009
She wasn’t really his wife, though the prospect loomed large over him for some time. Since Santosh is away and we didn’t have the heart to grill the poor guy over phone and incur roaming charges, we let him off with a quick quiz. The details are rather murky but here’s what we learnt.
The girl’s parents had shown the photo to Santosh, which, it seems, was edited via Photoshop! We don’t know how Santosh came to know of the retouching. Anyway, they were not willing to let our guy actually see the girl in person. However, they were willing to it directly at the engagement, when he couldn’t possibly back out! How ridiculous!
Santosh, rightly enough, refused the alliance. I’ll get more details on his return to Bangalore.
Yahoo! stunned me this morning with the breaking news of Michael Jackson’s death at the age of 50. This was certainly a devastating development for his many fans all over the world.
Flashback. I was a kid and lived in Jamshedpur. Mom had run into serious trouble for losing a key. Months later, when I accidentally rediscovered it, she was ecstatic and promised to reward me with a music cassette. Since my taste was already inching towards the esoteric, a realm mom had no inkling of, she innocently bought an album by Michael Jackson called Thriller. I was less than thrilled and made no bones of my disappointment. I realized a lot later how rude I was to her.
That’s how Michael Jackson joined my tiny assortment of cassettes. It was an embarrassment, a complete misfit. I never added another of his albums. His hoots, shouts and screams never really impressed me. It was largely to his credit that music had become more of a video experience than audio, oddly enough. To me, the flamboyant MJ was a dancer, a performer, an entertainer, a superstar, but certainly not a singer nor a genuine artist. His onstage performances made crowds go wild with hysteria, he had built an empire worth millions and he even managed a cult following rivaling Elvis. His signature costumes gave rise to a whole crop of talentless impersonators. Money made him go wild and he did some pretty silly things.
However, it’s undeniably true that Michael Jackson will go down in history as the King of Pop. That title, in today’s culture, can’t have a more rightful claimant.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Expect the clowns running this country to constantly tickle our funny bones. This time, it’s the turn of our Harvard-educated Union Minister of HRD to come up with an absolute gem of a suggestion – scrap Class 10 board exams altogether.
Maybe our aged and honorable minister needs to be reminded that calibration of students through exams is an essential exercise in every educational system and can’t be done away with. How on earth is he expecting to grade the quality of our students? Maybe weight, height, color of skin, community, age and caste could be used as alternatives! Maybe we can have a lucky draw and certificates can be distributed amongst students based on how lady luck shines upon them.
And why stop at abolishing just the Class 10 board exams? We can go further and abolish Cass 12 board exams, competitive entrance exams, annual health exams, blood tests, medical exams of rape victims…in fact all forms of exams. We can leave everything to destiny and let our over-populous Gods in heaven take care of the rest.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
I was stunned at the news from NYTimes. I wondered how could I have missed such an important development even though I’m constantly watching TV news and occasionally flipping through the newspaper.
The Times of India reported the sad demise on page-9. TV channels are busy reporting on a rape case and training their guns on the Indian T20 team for the World Cup debacle. Who has space or time to spare for irrelevant events like the death of a maestro?
Dad had a few tales to recite about Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and his father, the equally renowned Ustad Allauddiu Khan. The latter, in fact, was one of our subjects in what is now Bangladesh.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
I vividly remember the first time I saw her. It was love at first sight for me. I embraced her tight, she didn’t resist. I breathed fast, she breathed faster. She smelt fresh. I asked her if she knew me. She remained speechless and continued staring at me point-blank with her beautiful eyes. In fact, speech was a faculty she had yet to develop. She was, after all, not even one. She was the most adorable thing in the world for me, my niece- Diyasha.
Over the next few months, we drew closer and became the best of friends. When mobility on the floor was what she yearned, she never really crawled. Instead, she pushed with her feet and slid on her stomach. Our favorite haunt was the drawing room table and we played countless games of hide-and-seek around it. A wild glee was on her face each time she spotted mine, never mind the innumerable times her head bumped against the edges of the table in trying to ‘seek’ me. She never gave up until I called off the chase.
The vertical dimension must have made her curious. She scaled them and attained new heights, quite literally. She gradually learnt to stand erect with support from anything she could manage to hold on to. Getting bolder by the day, she would try the stunt of letting go of a support and balancing on her tender feet for a precious few seconds before latching on to something else. This was how she took her first steps…eventually discovering it was better than sliding on her tummy. She soon mastered the art of balancing unsupported. Coupled with her tiny steps, she had taught herself to walk. What an exhilarating moment it must have been!
It was now the turn of her voice-box to utter meaningful words. Tea was the first to be conquered, followed by countless others that kept adding to her fledgling vocabulary. We no longer had to talk her language, she was talking ours. She began to beg for curd after lunch each day. She worked her charm on us and almost always had her way. Soon she was the most talkative member in our house. She even learnt to croon aloud, her favorite sessions occurring each time she was perched atop the potty.
She learned to read and write. Countess pages were sacrificed to her insatiable demands. She learnt to draw and color, concoct stories and strike poses picked from TV. She learned to dance, chat over the Internet and make friends with everyone. Soon she’ll learn much more than we’ll ever know.
Diyasha is growing real quick. Sometimes I wish she wouldn’t.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
A few days ago, I bid on a laptop table via ebay UK. I was sure I would win…and promptly went out to buy Gobi Manchurian, a personal favorite. So confident was I that I didn’t even bother monitoring the end of the auction, and instead settled for the idiot box. Logging into my laptop a few hours later, I had a minor shock. I had been outbid 9 seconds before the auction ended. I was amazed at how meticulously people chose to bid…and eventually win.
The same vendor relisted the same product a few days ago. This time I was ready. Someone placed the initial bid, I waited until the final 30 seconds before I made my move and placed the winning bid 6 seconds before the auction wound up!
I guess the outsmarted original bidder has learnt a lesson just like I had 2 weeks ago. Let wisdom propagate down the bidders!
Friday, June 12, 2009
Santosh left for Patna today to attend a wedding and also expedite his own! The man is on a mission…and I wish its quick and happy fruition.
Sam is back fom Pune and his presence resonates across all the rooms in our dwelling. There’s a minor space crunch since his bed, washing machine and chair are taking up precious space. It’s not much of a problem though. In fact, the drawing room now has a more filled-look.
Sam’s entry was timed just right for Santosh who has recently lost his phone. As luck would have it, Sam had just bough a new phone before moving in and Santosh can make do with the old one for now.
I’m exploiting Sam’s washing machine to the fullest. Some of my clothes are so dirty, they’ll need multiple washes.
Mantu has once again settled into his role as our home manager ever since he returned from Ranchi on Tuesday. His is a presence welcomed by one and all. We’re indeed lucky for having him around.
I have a carton of clothes and books to be sent to Kolkata. I’ll probably get it parceled from the post office.
Sunday, June 07, 2009
Farewell, my sister
fare thee well.
Wish I could write more
But my pen won’t tell.
Pretty apt, I must say!
The first 2 lines were by Shakespeare. The remaining ones were too abstruse and I replaced them with my own. These lines go into a farewell message by Sam for his sister who leaves town soon.
Saturday, June 06, 2009
Friday, June 05, 2009
After the rebuff from ebay, I couldn’t put off buying the one thing from Amazon that has stolen my heart away. It has won so many rave reviews (I have done an extensive research) that I couldn’t risk Amazon UK escalating the price from ₤20 to the original ₤56. The price on Amazon US and everywhere else is $120.
I bid for a laptop table but lost to the original bidder. He upped the ante on seeing that he was outbid in the dying moments of the auction.
Lesson learnt – place a bid only in the dying seconds (not minutes) of the auction.
I’ll be wiser next time.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
It came as a stunning revelation to me when I calculated that I’m spending as much as Rs.400 per month on dispensable Web luxury. Here’s how:
- Times Reader - $40 per annum
- Flickr - $24 per annum
- Domain - $35 per annum
All this roughly amounts to Rs.5000 yearly. Times Reader, I realized, wasn’t worth the $40, even though this was the heavily discounted rate over the actual $175. All the content is directly accessible from the web free of cost, albeit I’ll have to make do with constant scrolling and other distractions. I cancelled my subscription yesterday.
Flickr is another white elephant. Since I’m not really a photography buff, I don’t need the extras the paid account brings in. Though the free account shows only the 200 latest photos, it actually archives all. An image URL that points to ‘hidden’ photos will work perfectly. The workaround to this little annoyance is to store all image URLs in my blog. I’ll do it before my account subscription expires later this year. There’ll be no renewal.
I’m not to blame for the domain price going up drastically from $10 when I had first registered it. MelbourneIT, Yahoo! partner for domain registration and web hosting is the real culprit. I’ll switch to GoDaddy as soon as I’m a little less engaged from the current commitments.
- Times Reader - $40 per annum
- Flickr - $24 per annum
- Domain - $25 per annum
That’s a good Rs.4500 saved annually! My monthly Web expense will plummet to a measly Rs.40.
Monday, June 01, 2009
Sunday, May 31, 2009
The more I read about Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s Hispanic nominee to the US Supreme Court, the more I dislike her. She appears to be presumptuous, opinionated, dogmatic, intimidating, dismissive, vociferous and racial – great vices for a judge. I’m quick to jump to the conclusion myself, an aberration mitigated by our natural tendency to judge either way. My ideas are fanned by a darling icon on the right-side of my desktop that launches the Times Reader. It’s so easy to get updated on worldly events now; HTTP trickles factoids round-the-clock into my laptop to satiate my thirst for news. No more waiting for the newspaper guy to roll the day’s paper and tie it at the center or bend it like a boomerang before targeting my balcony.
It may sound ironical, then, when I say that I’m not exactly a fan of the new way of news delivery. It’s more convenient, but it’s also less fun. I miss spreading the newspaper on the table or bed, I can’t flip pages and make that inimitable sound, I can’t fold and unfold, I can’t smell, touch, drop, scatter, gather or stack – all essential sensory delights intrinsic to the experience of reading the real thing.
An article from yesterday's covers Amazon’s Kindle 2, a milestone in e-book readers. The author owns one but laments missing the old way of reading books, magazines and newspapers. I wanna own the Kindle (or Plastic Logic’s e-reader) one day, but when I have one, I’ll have enough reasons to gripe about yet another technological marvel stripping us of the fond experience of holding a weighty book, cracking open a new arrival, smelling the glossy pages and searching for something in the bookshelf. The Kindle makes procuring a book in the US ridiculously easy. You punch your credit card number and the book is wirelessly transmitted to you within seconds. If what you’re looking for is a classic, you may visit Gutenberg and download it absolutely free of cost. The comfort isn’t without merit.
Magazines will suffer the same fate. Already publishers are realizing that dwindling sales will eventually make their present business model unsustainable. Many, like TIME and National Geographic give out all their contents free of cost on the Web. Some, like India Today are going as far as replicating the magazine using fancy Flash or PDF. Others are charging for the luxury. The fun element of discovering an important cover story while casually browsing the local newsstand may be a thing of the past soon.
Music has altered course like none other with the advent of the digital age. I’m no longer as desperate and resigned to fate I once was in the hinterland of Jamshedpur. I don’t need to wait for my summer vacations to visit Symphony at Esplanade in Kolkata to add to my fledgling Jazz archive. Now I simply need to search for the artist or album and download the bytes via P2P. The music is free (though mostly illegal, I must confess), the music player is solid state (iPod Nano) and I can transfer my music between devices in seconds. Best of all, I don’t need to worry about the magnetic head’s friction against the tape eroding and eventually destroying my music. My music is less tangible now, it’s almost surreal - which explains why I no longer sleep with audio cassettes…or keep swapping favorite cassettes between covers…or even buy a 2nd copy of The Very Best of Jim Reeves.
Even the pen-&-paper relationship of yore now seems to be headed for a slow divorce. Paper is increasingly used for hard copies of electronic documents rather than as something you scribble on. The pen is being replaced by the stylus to tap on virtual keys on touch-sensitive screen or write a note on a screen armed with handwriting recognition software. Letters are no longer indispensible, they were long replaced by email, which made way for blogs that broadcasted personal egos to anyone willing to listen, which, people realized were still not worth the effort. Further economizing on diligence, it was finally the turn of social networks and 140-character limited tweets to send the message across.
I have a dream of detoxifying my life of digitized craze and embracing analogue warmth – like the warmth Dad’s valve radio radiated.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Yahoo! is shutting Jumpcut and I spent hours yesterday downloading my videos from there and transferring them to YouTube. Yahoo! has not made the download process very user-friendly and I’ve decided it’s not worth the effort to guess which filename relates to which video. In effect, I’m forgoing some videos that I had painstakingly edited and uploaded to their servers. One such video regularly attracts traffic to my blog from Wikipedia. Damn!
I have a grudge against TVs for stealing precious time. The idiot box made its intrusion when I was a 3rd grader, thought television broadcasts weren’t yet round-the-clock and the channel-selector was a vestigial ornament since we had only one channel to ‘select.’ Antennas aiming for the relay tower proliferated and jostled for precious space atop all buildings. The remote was a luxury and our set didn’t feel terribly handicapped without one. Though color sets were the object of envy, B&W set owners still had their pride – especially since India was the largest manufacturer of such sets in the world.
TV watching habits were synchronized across demographics. The young ones especially loved Chitrahaar and the Sunday movie. Monday mornings in the school assembly area were spent in discussing the comic passages from the previous day’s flick. Television reruns were unheard of, the only exception being UGC’s Countrywide Classroom – a 1 hr Monday-Saturday afternoon broadcast meant strictly for academics, repeated in the evening.
The current set I have to contend with is a 14” relic bought for a bargain price by Mantu. It works well, except that the remote is overzealous and sometimes races up the channels without manual orders. I’m watching a movie – a blonde says something romantic and I almost fall for her charms, when…all of a sudden, Mamta Banerjee is crying hoarse about the greedy CPM, Aaj Tak uses dramatic effect to fill its air-time with rhetoric in the absence of news, the business channel talks about recession blues, a fat and ugly South-Indian star is singing and dancing his way into the heart of his lady love, … . I leap at the remote and press the erring button to put a stop to the auto-surf. Sometimes when that doesn’t work, I have to hide the remote in the shelf.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
Sunday, May 17, 2009
A cacophony of television blare and vociferous exuberance awoke me early yesterday. Santosh had just returned from work and was enthusiastically talking to Mani. My slug vanished in a flash as I listened hard to the import of words. I soon discovered the cause behind the unusual ebullience – marriage.
Santosh’s relatives have been scouting for a bride for him and they seem to have finally found the perfect match. Everyone says she’s pretty, Santosh reminds us with annoying regularity. The girl is a science graduate and can adjust to city life – just what the doctor ordered. Our newly-in-love boy is desperate to catch a glimpse of his phantom bride-to-be, but there seems to be no means to this end. He can’t visit her place for now, there are no scanners or internet access in his village and he’s too embarrassed to ask for her photo to be couriered. I hope my roommate is pulled out of this misery soon.
Sam, who now visits our place less regularly, dropped by after noon and almost immediately set about hunting for his shorts. He finally discovered them blissfully worn by the napping Mani. Sam was a man on a mission to reclaim his shorts; he made this amply clear when he tugged at the pants with all his might. Mani, awakened suddenly by the prospect of going bottom-nude, put up a spirited fight against Sam’s invasion and held on to the shorts. Sam relented after a mercy plea; Mani wrapped a towel and let the shorts slip. They went up Sam’s legs just as quickly.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Have netizens taken to opium? I’m truly stumped by people going gaga over the new TR. I’ve photographic evidence to stake my claim that the old TR was better.
The NEW Science Page (look at the ad.)
The OLD Science Page (more like a newspaper and no ad.)
How text appears in the NEW Reader
How text appears in the OLD Reader (it’s clearer)
Ads by Google in the new Reader (old Reader didn’t have them)
Need more screenshots?
Monday, May 11, 2009
The new Times Reader 2.0 is a DISASTER. On a Windows machine, have you ever done a juxtaposed comparison of the old and new Reader?
- The new Reader isn't remotely as legible. WPF beats ADOBE Air hollow. Since you're in the news business, this surely shouldn't be news to you.
- The new Reader takes more time for news updates.
- The new Reader takes far more memory. ADOBE Air applications are always bloated.
- The new Reader has less reading space.
- The new Reader bombards me with extremely annoying internal ads. and ads. by Google. When I'm paying you, I'm expecting you to remove the noise factor. You were...until now.
There's no doubt in my mind that TR 2.0 is a regressive step. The only good thing about the new Reader is that it supports video.
I know these are desperate times for newspapers, but is the New York Times this desperate? It's understandable that NYTimes is looking to broaden its reader base by making Times Reader more platform agnostic. However, as far as Windows readers are concerned, the new Reader is undeniably a raw deal. Maybe you could keep the old version available for Windows readers.
What worries me the most is the poor legibility of the new Reader. Even the browser makes for easier reading. Frankly speaking, I've made up my mind to unsubscribe when my current subscription expires next year. Using FeedDemon to subscribe to the free RSS feeds makes better sense. Wouldn’t you agree?
Sunday, May 10, 2009
As a kid, I loved looking through the glass walls of our clock. I remember mounting the cement shelves to peep into the mechanical organs, the intricate motions endlessly fascinating me. But what really stole the show was the hourly chimes. All of a sudden, seemingly passive parts would spring into life, wheels would being to rotate at varying speeds, their collective vigor finally transferring into an arrow-shaped blade that would furiously rotate into near-invisibility and cranking up a tiny hammer that would strike as many times as the hour. Half-hourly chimes were no less fun.
Saturday, May 09, 2009
Personal blogs are generally so boring, I hardly read them, my own being no exception. The trail left behind by the forgotten posts of Deepanjan Nag’s Magnum Opus has sometimes landed me in serious trouble and I’ve been left ruing the fateful moment when I decided to test the murky waters of web logging. To be honest, I’m more grateful than rueful, but that doesn’t discount moments of deep anguish I’ve suffered for being proverbially BIG-mouthed while blogging.
More than the trail, it’s the individual posts that are to blame for heartburns. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes impossible to give the whole picture, often it’s just an aspect that gets projected. When taken out of context, the impression painted is completely misrepresentative of the original thought. The reader isn’t at fault, but the realization that posts come with this innate handicap shouldn’t be lost on him. Some details are deliberately jettisoned to avoid chronicling the immensely painful moments I’ve lived through, which, I’m sad to say, I’ve had more than a fair share of.
Blogging has been a huge solace, especially when Dad passed away and I had no one to turn to. I felt trapped in a dark dungeon with writing being my only way of expression.I shared thought that I needed to and some that I didn’t. When I am referred to posts reflecting nothing but supreme moments of imbecility, I can hardly believe my eyes. Was it really me, I think. Therein lies the beauty of blogging – it’s an entrapment of ephemeral thoughts preserved for later. With time, well written personal blogs end up capturing a whole gamut of emotional upheavals – a treasure trove beyond compare. The hazards, though, are more immediate and come with a heavy price. With my frugal living, I’m not sure how far I can afford it.
This blog will end one day, perhaps long before my own time is up.
Pallavi, her mom and some relatives left for their native place this week. When they return at the end of the month, it’s unlikely that I’ll get to see my little friend. The folks are expected to shift to a new place, the security deposit with the present landlord being the only hindrance. I miss Pallavi running into my room each morning and giggling me awake.
Thursday was Mani’s birthday and we broke into an impromptu celebration late in the evening. To my surprise, even a birthday cake was smuggled into my room to mark the occasion, much in keeping with a tradition we had established and religiously followed until recently. I had always looked down upon this silly practice with utter disdain. The rekindling made me realize how much I missed it. I guess being occasionally silly is immensely wise.
I downloaded Saheb Biwi aur Ghulam this week and relished every moment of the nearly 2.5 hrs that it took to watch. It’s still as riveting as it was 20 years ago when I saw it for the first time.
Saturday, May 02, 2009
I’m unilaterally signing the NPT to reduce the proliferation of posts in my blog for the current month…and this might well be extended into the next. I’ll try to confine posts to the weekends. Weekday posts will happen only if something earth-shattering happens, like an alien coming for a visit, my lost briefs being auctioned at the Sotheby’s or my nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize for finally cleaning my bed sheets.
It’s amazing how indelible ideas etched on us while we were kids really are. Childhood is an age of innocence, ignorance and gullibility. Religious faith is forced upon us even before we develop cognizance to corroborate or refute its tall claims. Often, years or even decades of disciplined study of reality (an art we call science) aren’t enough to purge flawed assumptions. A healthy debate to deal with glaring contradictions is seldom or never encouraged.
Humans are innately resistant to change. Ideas of spirituality and self-preservation as promulgated by religion are immensely gladdening to the self not comfortable with the obliteration of conscience. The proverbial carrot dangled by all religions (Christians are promised a halo and a harp, Hindus are exempt from the birth-death cycle and Muslims are assured infinite libido and unending promiscuity) is all too much to resist even in the face of glaring discrepancies.
However, it’s hard to entirely dismiss contrarian evidence. Religion puts up a brave fight in many ways, ranging from the absolute denial of reality and repression of dissent (epitomized by the Taliban) to treading the middle path and hoping the believers will continue with their patronage. The crusade to salvage religion has been through several rounds of evolution itself, an ironical cycle of versioning that morphs according to need.
The BioLogos Foundation is a case in point. Founded by Dr.Francis Collins, an evangelical Christian, the foundation’s mission is euphemistically put as promoting the search for truth in both the natural and spiritual realms, and seeking to harmonize these different perspectives. The real agenda, in layman’s terms, is to prove that science and religion can amicably coexist without necessarily contradicting each other. It’s hard for Dr.Collins to bend the laws of science to meet this end. After all, he’s the former director of the Human Genome Project. Instead, he’s chosen to implore the faithful to not take religious manuscripts literally. We’ve heard that before, but Dr.Collins has cleverly put his years of scientific training and insight to good use by evolving ideas that promise more mileage to antediluvian notions, albeit not without ceding some ground to science. This ingenuity has won him a fan following, mostly from less evolved Evangelicals desperately seeing reconciliation between scriptural teaching and scientific evidence.
The ingenuity is commendable. Dr.Collins contends that evolution is right after all and that this was how God chose to create life on Earth. Regarding how did Cain (son of Adam and Eve) manage to get a wife, Dr.Collins conveniently latches on to scientific evidence suggesting a larger population at this point in history. He contends “human-like creatures had evolved to the point where they had the mental capacity to reason; God then endowed them to distinguish between good and evil, and in that way they became ‘in the image of God.’" To me, all this is convoluted and essentially flawed thinking. You can’t really pluck arbitrary ideas from fundamentally incompatible models hoping to erect the perfect sanctuary for the faithful.
The mileage of this latest caravan of faux wisdom remains to be seen. What’s a foregone conclusion, however, is its inevitable faltering. The faithful will then have to scamper to a nimbler postulate.
If you’re in a country that heavily curtails your right to information and communication, Tor could be very useful to you.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Yesterday was Duke Ellington’s 110 birth anniversary and how beautifully it was celebrated! It holds a special significance to me since Take the ‘A’ Train is the most spanning and nostalgic signature tune I’ve ever heard. Conover comes to mind yet again.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
We had little reason to…and we grabbed all of it to break onto a chicken feast for dinner. Mani was away in Ranchi and Mantu seems to have forsaken Bangalore for good. Santosh and I hardly have the time to speak to each other what with his odd hours making communication nearly impossible.
I suggested mutton, at which Santosh readily concurred. We walked to Monday-to-Sunday but found mutton too expensive and settled for chicken instead. I placed an order for a few photo prints en route.
Switching between IPL and flicks made dinner all the more fun.
Monday, April 27, 2009
After 2 years of patronage, it was time not to renew my Yahoo! Plus Mail account subscription. Paying $20 for a service that I don’t use anymore just didn’t seem to make sense. Google Apps works a lot better. I hate to concede Yahoo! ground to Google, but this time the game was overwhelmingly in favor of the latter.
The suspension of subscription was also my muted protest against Yahoo! Domains charging me a staggering $35 while others charge just $15.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Oops, it’s me!
After years of wandering adrift through the world of news and even drawing a semblance of non-hierarchical order via RSS, it was finally time for me to settle down with something a little more austere and less distractive than conventional news sites. I chose loyalty to The New York Times. Not only is the quality of reporting exemplarily superlative and globally renowned, I love its conservative and intensely analytical style. It suits my taste.
To be honest, I hardly think NYTimes is the best source of news on all possible topics. It’s America-centric, technology news is abysmal, science articles could do with some proliferation and there are too many frivolous categories that should be consolidated into one. Still, it’s the literature that leaves no doubt in my mind that this is the one news source I wouldn’t mind allying with.
Friday, April 24, 2009
It’s raining elephants and blue whales as I write this post, quite contrary to what the weatherman had said: today will be bright and sunny with no prospect of a rain. Experience has taught me to be dismissive of such predictions. They are often so wrong, I have a hunch it’s the anachronistic astrologer doing the back-office job for our meteorologists. The forecast from The Weather Channel for today until a few hours ago painted the sun in such resplendently incandescent yellow that I feared the pixels forming the circle on my screen would burn up. At least the sun is now shown sheepishly slipping behind a patch of clouds…if only to make reluctant amends for the egregious prediction.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
Sunday, April 19, 2009
I wanna learn the piano…not kidding.
The solo piano rendition of Rimsky Korsakov’s The Flight of the Bumble Bee by a gorgeous Chinese pianist named Yuja Wang at the YouTube Symphony Orchestra was breathtaking. Though the composition was originally meant for the orchestra, the piano transcription was almost equally impressive in depicting a bumble bee in flight.
Here’s the orchestral rendition.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
I’ve always had a fascination for calendars, starting with the ones Dad would get from TELCO where each flipping month would adorn the wall with a beautiful new TATA vehicle. Pohela Boishakh is remembered for the fascinatingly decorative and flimsy Bengali calendars that vendors would gift their customers in hopes of continued loyalty and goodwill.
P.S. - I had planned on a lengthy post on this one, but I’ve just lost interest and deleted 2 paragraphs. I’m uninspired.
Music and the Internet are without a doubt two of the most powerful unifying forces. Even gravity pales in comparison! And so it was only a matter of time before people from all over the world with a passion for music would somehow attain a logistical victory to assemble in New York after successive rounds of audition, undergo quick but grueling practice sessions and finally perform at the renowned Carnegie Hall. The auditions were open to all and selection was done by the YouTube community. What a remarkably democratic accomplishment!
The selection process was rigorous and winning an invitation to Carnegie wasn’t easy. After all, I can play the fool reasonably well but that didn’t win me a ticket. It’s another matter that I figured out my worthlessness on my own and didn’t even apply. The only instrument I could play as a child was the harmonium but I’m not sure the orchestra would be willing to accommodate such a horrible instrument.
The YouTube Symphony Orchestra summit this month represented nearly all regions of the world with 96 musicians from 30 countries - only Africa and the Middle East were conspicuously absent. I guess people in the Middle East are busy butchering and bombing each other to gain free access to 72 virgins in heaven - no credit card required! On the other hand, Africans are fiercely communal and would rather use money to buy weapons for ethnic cleansing than on food and bandwidth. It’s such a shame.
In the end, the event was a resounding success with the potential to dramatically alter the way musicians come together. The YouTube Symphony Orchestra literally levels the playing field and extends a helping hand to passionate musicians who would perhaps have otherwise never had the opportunity to showcase their talent. It’s a paradigm shift and does its bit in dissolving borders. Bravo!
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Star Diagonal 90° Mirror Diagonal 1.25"OD . . . . Rs. 300
I guess it’s time to knock on the doors of my beloved Tejraj & Co. I’m looking for an inexpensive star diagonal for my Galileoscope and Tejraj seems to be the only manufacturer in the whole wide world that fits the bill perfectly. Others cost more than the telescope itself!!!
There’s one critical glitch. Tejraj remains a brick-&-mortar shop whose only web presence lies in a few partially-constructed web pages. There’s no Internet payment gateway and orders have to be placed the old fashioned way.
Monday, April 13, 2009
I’ve 2 pillows, both suffering from a weight problem. The first one had a caesarean over a year ago and since I never bothered to stitch it up, it’s been losing mass ever since. It seems to have a half-life of 1 year.
The second one had an unexpected but normal delivery a few days ago. Half its content just came out before I stuffed it back in. I didn’t know asexual reproduction was in fashion again.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Gardhab Das created by cartoonists brothers Neelabh and Jayanto Banerjee was a comic section run in the Indian youth magazine Target. The main character Gardhab Das had a donkey face and was always depicted wearing a kurta and pajamas. His main trait was his singing or lack of it. He was a perpetually unemployed music teacher. Famously known for disturbing the peace with his vocals and his harmonium, he was always at loggerheads with his landlord, being a penniless 'singer'. In various strips, he gets jobs as a siren for the fire department, as a weapon during a war, and he also manages to fight and get the better of people like Tike Myson, a play on Mike Tyson and Bruce Lee. He also trains the double of Mykill Packson (Michael Jackson) on his tour to India. His only weapon: his vocals and his harmonium. The name Gardhab itself means 'donkey' in Sanskrit and Das is a common Indian surname.
The strips were simplistic, and their appeal lay in the funky illustrations. This along with Detective Moochwala made Target a highly anticipated magazine for children all over India during the mid 80's through till the early 90's.