Dec 11, 2006
The courts here in SA recently legalised same-sex marriages amidst a furore from religious communities in SA. In light of this, I found this M&E cartoon extremely funny and satirical.
The definition 'lobola' can be found here. Contrary to the Indian custom (dowry) where the bride's family contributes to the wealth of the newly weds, the southern African custom of lobola works vice-versa. The husband (and perhaps his family) shows his commitment to the wedding by paying the bride's family.
I've tried researching the history behind these customs, but haven't really had any luck. It would be quite interesting to see how (and more interestingly, why) these traditions came about. I'm surprised lobola didn't work out the same way as the dowry system (the flow of payment, I mean) given the male-dominated culture that was inherent in early native African life.
I'm really looking forward to Mel Gibson's film Apocalypso. Its based on the ancient Mayan civilisation that existed for almost 1000 years, but suddenly (given the time frame) ceased to exist with ancient Mayan religious sites and pyramids the only proof of their existence.
Theorists blame the geographical and political catalysts behind their sudden disappearance. Mel's apparantly attempting to highlight similarities between this and the USA of today.
Hmmm... Can't wait to formulate an opinion... :)
Dec 8, 2006
Heartfelt thanks to my regular visitors, friends whose arms I've twisted, and the search engines of the world...
Comments are welcome... please go ahead; make my day.
On that note, here's a link to the latest addition to a kiddie terrorist's weapons arsenal:
Dec 4, 2006
The view from where we were sitting. The clouds were ominous throughout the game.
The gang... some of us anyway...
The poster... (came on TV during the post-match presentation... yeah!)
More of the poster...
Nov 30, 2006
After almost a month here, certain cricketers have certainly helped lend a hand at creating a post on the their talents both on and off the field. This post is a follow-up on a previous one on certain members of the SA cricket team.
Ajit Agarkar: Namade Ajit... He is proof that it takes a lot more than fragile stature and flappy ears to bring down a batsman. His reasoning at bowling a slow bouncer in the last over of a tight match has been referred to in various textbooks on Unexplained Human Behavior. Peter Jackson's S-FX team had contacted him for the role of Gollum in LOTR, but it was subsequently rejected due to lack of enthusiasm (apparently namade Ajit didn't know Liv Tyler was taken).
Virender Sehwag: The case of Missing Wickets has been filed against him is reportedly being referred to the Police commissioner of SA. Complaints have come from fans about the various ways he manages to lose his wickets. Cricinfo's chief statistician has been given the go-ahead to start a new stat on the number and various ways a single batsman has gotten out. Our Virender apparently leads the table (followed closely by the Royal Canadian Mounties cricket league's standby 11th man). A gangwar is currently brewing among members of the Mumbai underground on who's playing the Sehwag card.
Mohammed Kaif: Quite possibly selected due to his experience in the ODI squad; this tactic backfired because selectors didn't realise at that point that the experience was actually for the betterment to the bowlers that bowled against him. Cricinfo's chief statistician has not yet recorded a shot off the middle of his bat. The 8th annual Gum-Maker's association convention tabled 'sticky gloves' on the top of its agenda after realising the possibility of making enormous amounts of moola from selling gloves to him. Due to the slow advancement of technology, the gum is not yet strong enough to ensure the bat stays still in his hand, hence sticky tape and genetic technology is being considered.
Dinesh Mongia: A major mystery nagging the Indian cricket selectors and the general public has been how Dinesh managed to make the ODI squad. Many suspect diplomatic involvement - apparently Dinesh was included because this move would inevitably lead to SA taking a series white-wash, and thus would ensure continued inter-government ties thereby ensuring lasting Indian investment in Africa. The possibility of few other moles have not been discounted. The Chinese are crying foul, and are considering sending their rugby team to SA.
The rest of the players seem to have played their hearts out, hence their roles will not be brought to light (not just yet)...
(Disclaimer: the above post can be considered as the lamentations of a proud, but unimpressed Indian supporter. Any remarks against a reader's hero is purely uncoincidental and intended).
Nov 28, 2006
I recently had to visit Gabarone, Botswana for work, and was really not looking forward to the bland food on offer at the hotels. But, I was blissfully surprised when my friends took me to a South Indian resturant in Gabz...
We had Kappa and fish curry with fish fry as a side dish... Just loved it! Its times like this that make being a Mallu so kewl... The possibility of enjoyin my favourite South Indian dishes a couple of km's away from my hotel is one of the many joys of this beautiful country...
Yesterday I had the most succulent fillet of steak I've ever had.
Nov 15, 2006
Very big mistake - the place was uncharacteristically populated with brown-skinned, camera-toting Indian families furiously scouting every nook and corner for signs of a celebrity.
The evening started well for us though. In true alpha male fashion, we decided we would stop over at the Nando's Portuguese fastfood chicken outlet before sending out the search parties. After ordering the usual, we grabbed a table and started engrossing ourselves with chicken and chit-chat (why the chicken crossed the road seems to be the favoured topic at this restaurant). Through sheer luck, I let my eyes wander from my plate (bad Pramod! bad! No food for u!) to the unfunctioning escalator in front of me. Lo, and behold, the figures of Munaf Patel & Wasim Jaffer walking down and turning towards the information board. After meekly mentioning it to my buddies :-) and startling a few customers, we strategised on our next move. Luckily, there weren't any other scavenger Indian supporters around, so we decided to make our move (ok, ok- it was more instinctive).
Anush decided he'd go up to them and ask them where they were from and what they wanted. I was left to look after the food (again, true alpha male style). Lucky guy, that Anush - his fluency in Hindi has never let him down. After approaching them, and chatting for a couple of minutes, he came back and announced that they might be having supper at Nando's (yeah!). They also promised photographs after their meal. So, cool and composed, we carried on with our supper, peeking up frequently to calculate how much distance was reduced between them and our table.
They eventually ordered and sat at a table next to us. In the mean time, we prepped ourselves with possible advice to give to them on how to beat the South Africans at home. For the gossip columnist reading this blog, Munaf Patel eats a s*(&(t load of food - one full chicken and 4 Portuguese rolls (usually reserved for a family of 4).
Feeling a little embarrassed of the possibility of making fools of ourselves next to our cricketing heros (and the rather impatient row of people waiting for out table), we decided to wait for them outside the restaurant.
While there, we met another league of supporters from TCS who also spotted the pair and decided to meander around the restaurant. One of them mentioned that they had spotted Dravid around the corner. Our party quickly broke up with half of us rushing to that side of the mall in search of him. No luck - apparently he'd left. I have my doubts - I think our fellow supporters were trying to wiggle their way to the top of the queue... Hmmm..
Well, they eventually came out, and we took a few pics before letting them go. The TCS pack started running after them like little schoolgirls, but we decided to keep our pride and try the hotel area instead.
Best move of the evening. We (by luck) managed to block off Tendulkar, Sehwag & WAG, and Agarkar on their way back to the hotel. Pics taken with them was posted earlier.
Details of this unscrupulous operation the next post...
Nov 10, 2006
While browsing through an the online newspapers on India, I came across the article on
Ganguly being considered for a position in the Indian cricket "due to his marked form in the
domestic series, as well as the disappointing form of the current team setup".
Normally I would have dismissed the article as a mere attempt by the West Bengal Board of cricket to bring back their prince, but after Team India's recent form in the Champion's trophy, I'm rather inclined (with a slight queasy feeling) towards bringing him back.
Never been a huge fan of Ganguly. I always felt a number of his hundreds were flukes (dropped catches, bad teams etc.), but, to his credit, he does have a handy repertoire of shots. When he pulls it off, it looks good. The real test though, would have to be his (and I guess, any other ODI player's) real test would have to be his performance against the Aussies. I pulled out the stats from the StatGuru section from www.cricinfo.com for analysis:
Mat Runs HS BatAv 100 50 W BB BowlAv 5w Ct St
unfiltered 279 10123 183 40.65 22 60 93 5/16 37.31 2 96 0
filtered 30 647 100 22.31 1 4 7 3/41 46.42 0 12 0
for India 30 647 100 22.31 1 4 7 3/41 46.42 0 12 0
Australia 30 647 100 22.31 1 4 7 3/41 46.42 0 12 0
In other words, an average of 22.31 against Aus vs 40.65 against all teams.
The hundred was in a VB series match in Australia in 2000 where India lost the match chasing a total.
So a rash player, in serendipitous form, with a apparent negative influence on other players of the team (according to Chappell). Does Team India really need a player like that?
I hate to say this, but I think they do. The current team setup is lacking an experience left-handed batsman with a bit of attitude. Now would be a real good time to bring him in, as there won't too much pressure on his ability to bat. The pressure would rather on the rest of the players and coach of the team. Hopefully he won't hash it by blocking 40 balls without scoring a run (like he did in his last test match against Zimbabwe).
Hopefully this will be the last chop-n-change exercise on the team. Time is rapidly running out on the team of selector's attempts at finding that star new player for the team, and I believe they should rather focus on correcting glaring errors in the current team, and prepping them for the matches in the WC next year.
I also feel we aren't seeing any of that 'risky' cricket. Dravid's captaincy is solid, and dependable; but I can't see some of his tactics pulling through against the might of a strong team like Australia. I was impressed by Brian Lara's captaincy at the ICC championship. The manner in which they approached the last game was truly courageous, and I believe they could have pulled if off, if it weren't for some slacking at the 2nd half of the WI innings.
I also believe that this is how a match can be won against Australia - by keeping a foot on the pedal at all times, thereby controlling the flow of the game, and ensuring that the opposition
always keeps trying to enter the game. The incredible SA-Aus game at the Wanderers was an excellent depiction of such a tactic. The Aussies really looked out of it that day; or rather, were never allowed to command the game like they're used to doing. The game is still one of my favorite of all.
England's defense of the Ashes this year is gonna be pretty interesting. Looking forward to some good cricket when India comes over here next week. I plan to attend the first ODI at the Wanderers. Look out for a bunch of 40-odd rowdy, ill-dressed Indian supporters on the grass embankment furiously waving placards with Malayalam swear-words.... ;)
Nov 6, 2006
Watched Bollywood director Farhan Akthar’s remake of the Amitabh Bachchan 80’s classic ‘Don’ a few weeks back (on premier afternoon, in fact). Expectations of this movie were almost nothing as I had never had the pleasure of watching the original, nor had any clue of how the plot would unfold (the advantage of watching on premier day).
The director’s previous 2 endeavours have been Dil Chahta Hai (DCH) and Lakshya. DCH is still currently holding strong on my top 5 list of the best all-time hindi movies – the defining aspects of this movie were the charming scriptijng, some innovative shots, a great team of actors, and last but definitely not least, a star director. I was heavily impressed by the debut and it was with great anticipation when I saw Lakshya. Bad mistake – every time I’ve watched a movie expecting a big one, I’ve always been disappointed.
The first half of the movie was slightly dragging especially Don’s encounter with Kareena Kapoor’s character (perhaps to pay homage to the original). Deciding to meet on a beach to conclude a business transaction might have also been a bit contrived. But it was the multiple shots of the action scenes (see editing) that caught my attention. The fight scenes never faulted through false shots (not usually the case, esp. in Malayalam movies ;) ). Every punch, throw or movement of a car seemed as real as can be through some slick editing that showed just enough to keep the intention sensible. This technique has been perfected in English movies for a while now, and more recently in Tamil movies (‘Gajani’). I thought a few of the stunts may have been copied from somewhere, but I might be mistaken...
The music by Shankar Ehsaan Loy was fantastic. Another attempt at paying homage to the original by remixing its music (I wouldn’t really call it a remix as each song or score had a fresh originality in it). The use of techno music in the theme and in a couple of scenes in the movie is sure to strike a chord (intended!) with the modern generation (ala DCH).
The locations were superb.
The best part of the movie was obviously the ending. Don’t worry – no spoilers here. Credit to the director for pulling off a ‘James Bond’ style movie, with ample twists and turns to keep the audience on their toes till the end. The authenticity of the movie has definitely set a new standard in Hindi movie-making. Here’s hoping for a lot more on similar themes.
Oct 25, 2006
Just take the pic on the Cybershot phone, select 'blog it' and wait for about half a minute. Fantastic stuff! A 300KB pic gets uploaded just like that. Now if only I could link my phone to my laptop so I could hear streaming audio through the headsets attached to my phone...
Oct 24, 2006
* Most popular entry was the blog on Gandhigiri with 19.44% of the keyword searches on the word. The effect of the bollywood film industry... what more can I say? (The following 'interesting' keyword searches also linked to my blog :
- mahela jayawardene's wife's name (i'd like to know that too... she's damn fine);
- malayalam film song hackers (now how do u hack a song..? lemme know, i'm interested);
- youtube mens workout from baywatch (huhh!!).
* More than a third of visitors came from South Africa (prolly 'cause of the large SA content); the US and India follow closely behind. Scored a hit from Vietnam (yeah!)
* Google is the top search engine and source of most hits.
* Windows XP rules the OS department with IE6.0 the preferred browser, followed closely by Firefox.
* Sundays seem to score the most hits during the days of the week with a steady rise and decline from Saturday through to Monday (respectively).
* The Madam & Eve blog still scores most of the hits from SA visitiors. Varnachitram and the Kerala Blog roll are also popular entry points (thanks for that!).
* Aravind is still the sole 'comment adi kaaran' (thanx Machu...).
* Anush is still my biggest fan ;)
Till the next 500 hits... KANK!
Oct 19, 2006
Oct 18, 2006
In keeping with the gale (excuse the pun) force waves from the start of this long cricket season, as an avid fan of the sport, I’m dutifully prompted to spend some time on the ‘legends’ of SA cricket; and perhaps provide some insight into the reason they’re a team to reckon with this World cup.
Graeme Smith: the chubby captain of the SA team, he’s the SA cricket board’s answer to the NZ tactic of giving captaincy roles to college freshmen (“its worked with Stephen Fleming, so it should work anywhere”). He’s renowned for his links to an SA model who left him after he misunderstood her tips on how to bowl a doosra. He’s been credited for having the uncanny ability to allow the opposition to snatch victory from the hands of defeat. Democrats are currently conducting in-depth research on him.
Herschelle Gibbs: probably the most fearless batsmen in the SA team (probably ‘cause of all the pot from the previous night), Herschelle gained instant celebrity status after his 175 against
Shaun Pollock: declared SA’s best all-rounder a few years ago, till they realised the title lead to a slump in his batting average (its been continuing the steady negative gradient ever since). Commentators have used it reservedly ever since. His claim to fame came after using a 1st edition ‘Idiot’s guide Duckworth-Lewis’ to predict the results of a career-defining match. The editor is currently being sued. The proceeds are to be donated to Herschelle Gibbs’s garden (see above).
Makhaya Ntini: credited for being the only SA player to take 10 wickets at the Lords. It’s a closely held secret that high-level diplomatic talks were held at No.10 Downing Street to ensure adequate protection for Makhaya against tempting seducers while in England (for a continuous cross-country relationship with SA) – the 10 wickets were part of the deal. His claim to fame is his classy single to 3rd man to draw level with
Jonty Rhodes: No one messes with Jonty… not even me (he's an ex-colleague, you see).
Hansie Cronje: SA cricket’s very own spiritualist, he is credited for bridging the gap between reality and the underworld through conversations with the devil himself (usually after meeting a bookie). His characteristic slog sweep has seen numerous spectators on the long-on boundary suffer flying projectile injuries (one injured spectator was confirmed as a bookie). Theories on the reason for his high efficacy on this particular shot include his constant struggle at swatting the devil sitting on his left shoulder.
Jacques Kallis: only referred to as SA’s best allrounder in close circles and under strict confidentiality (see Shaun Pollock), he’s popularity draws heavily from his role as the 'Sanex shower jell guy'. Since the first release of the advert, the Sanex marketing offices have been flooded with applications from bald, buck-toothed, untanned men looking for opportunities in the modelling market (the ads stopped screening ever since its apparent influence on prominent politicians in SA). Baywatch producers have contacted Jacques for a 2nd interview. The Hoff has apparantly taken to cricket.
(Disclaimer: the comments above reflect the blogger's sole opinion, and is not intended, in any way, to harm the players' dismal record on the field.)
Oct 13, 2006
Oct 10, 2006
Isn't it sometimes quite amusing how the mind and the subconscious churn out these weird yet wonderful stories in our heads when the body is in a state of rest. I've often replayed a few interesting dreams I've had, and marveled at the freakish level of imagination I never believe I could never have. Having read a couple of books that describe how dreams are, in essence, a state that we would like to see ourselves, or how we perceive ourselves to be, with reference to our current state (bleddy stochastic processes course). Some books say dreams can be interpreted.
I believe that, to an extend, it can be.
My reasoning is hence: our mind is constantly aware of its surroundings (that may explain how internal body clocks work).
The fun part is that most dreams are just plain imagination - the creative side in each one of us that churns out those fantastic paradise destinations with the people we are close to doing things we never thought (but probably wished) they would do.
And, as we exercise this creativity in those gravity-defying car chases, Bollywood-hero-styled cricket matches and lustful conversations (to name but a few), there is one aspect we can reflect on as we wake up to reality to start the next day. An appreciation for sanity.
Oct 6, 2006
Oct 3, 2006
Sep 26, 2006
It was heavily embarassing hearing of the demonstrations, strikes and fighting in India's 100% literate state due to reports that an international softdrink company had excessively high amounts of pesticide ingredients in its products. It was embarassing to watch grown men throwing punches at each other and shouting taunts as they picked sides on who was right and wrong.
Makes you wonder whether its really a good idea to proudly state that we're 100% literate. The directors at Coca-cola must be canning themselves at the way the 'literate' people in Kerala are handling the issue.
I don't understand why the growth of a multi-national company would stunt the fortunes of the ordinary citizen. The benifits of freedom of choice should surely outweigh extra weight in a few politicians' pockets? And on the question of pesticides - there have been more that plenty of forwards stating the acidic properties of coke (bad for teeth, toilet cleaner etc.). Ok, so we've heard of it. Now give us freedom as citizens of a democratic country to exercise our rights to the choices we make. Surely, 'literate' citizens would be able to make an accountable decision?
Who says we've progressed since 1947?
On a lighter note, check out this cool video on YouTube. Its all the intros (run to couches) of the Simpsons cartoon series (16th/17th season).
Sep 21, 2006
Sep 20, 2006
Not bad, considering the whole function was planned by and for the youth of Gauteng. A coupla pics from the day:
First sitting. The females are served by the males.
The second seating. Males getting served by the Females.
Sep 18, 2006
In the previous encounter between the teams, the Windies were cruising with Chanderpaul and Gayle blasting their way to the target. Then a sensational collapse where 7 wkts fell for around 30 runs let to the Aussies taking the game away from them. A similar situation almost befell the Indian team with 5 wkts down with the score in the 30s.
I've always been a keen follower of international cricket; and one aspect that still holds my respect is the way team Australia handles pressure situations (big match temperament). I don't think there are any other cricket teams that can handle pressure as well as they do (and choke off an opposition as often as they do).
Experience on the field has taught me that its on that rare occasion that a team gets to pull themselves out a high pressure situation where all the tables are turned against them. Its sometimes a 'hero of the day' that comes around that changes the result of the game - but never seen a team do that.
Its this aspect of Aussie cricket that any avid supporter (no matter which team you support) would have to sit up and take note of. Its not luck. Not when it happens time and time again. There have been many occasions where just the slight glimmer of a win has prompted the whole team to drive a successful result (as was the case in the last match, and almost the case in todays).
So whats the secret? Perhaps developing strategies on how to handle situations such as these? Or perhaps the team's motivation jumps exponentially during these pressure situations? Maybe its individuals in the team that motivate each other? Or maybe special courses in BMT?
Whatever the reason, its still highly entertaining to watch the Aussies in action - especially when they look down and out of the game. Its never over till the fat lady waltzes.
Sep 15, 2006
South Africa's only pay-for-view TV station, Multichoice (part of the Naspers group of companies), has embarked on a SA version of the popular Survivor reality series. The first series is currently showing on TV and has, apparantly, a growing fan base. The series is set in one of the uninhabited islands in Panama (a la the CBS version). I've not had a chance to watch an episode yet, but its highly recommended by the people around me (well, so was Prison Break, and Lost... maybe I shouldn't take much from this) :)
The joke going around these days among friends is that Survivor series should have rather been set in Hillbrow or Mamelodi or Diepsloot or, or, or... the list is rather large. These suburbs in and around Joburg have the notorious image of the highest crime rates (in the world). I've never been to Hillbrow though its about 10kms from where I consult to. Driving through the streets of Hillbrow is apparantly a huge adrenalin rush, 'cause you'd never know what to expect.
The joke is that contestants should be placed around Hillbrow with cameras focused on them, and entertainment would be provided through their 'survival' techniques. Instead of alliances between contestants, it would rather be with the local gang leaders or the corrupt police official. The little Survivor challenges should include 'dodge the bullet' or 'falling TVs' or 'sell the most drugs'. The Immunity idol would be a personal bodyguard. Examples of rewards would include bullet-proof vests, pepper-sprays, or security fences.
Perhaps Mark Burnett should consider this form of reality TV...? Should lead to some rather interesting dinner topics.
I found this interesting site on a day in the life of a crime fighter in Joburg.
Sep 14, 2006
Director Michael Bay has been credited for being the youngest billionare director in Hollywood. His collaboration with the genius (and extremely wealthy) producer Jerry Bruckheimer has seen many hits such as Bad Boys I & II, Armageddon and Pearl Harbour. He has been widely acclaimed for his control of action-packed movies such as the ones mentioned before. I've always been a big fan of his use of the camera on characters, as well as his fast editing sequences.
The Rock is still one of my favourite English movies. It had a 'different' plot, controlled acting, punchy dialogues, fast-paced action and creative cinematography. The shot of the F18s whizzing past a kneeling Nicholas Cage with Hans Zimmer's climatic music still creates one of my classic climaxes of all movies so far.
Credit should to to the director for setting the pace of the movie while giving time to the established actors to get their characters into motion. Hans Zimmer is one of Hollywood's better composers whose accomplishments include The Lion King and Gladiator. The theme to Black Hawk Down is still one of my beloved themes. I've always been a huge admirer of his compositions, and the background score to The Rock does not fail to impress.
The highlight of Michael Bay's movie is the use of the cameras and fast editing to create an atmosphere of action and pace during the action scenes. His use of slow-motions and dolce orchestral music during these sequences show some of his really innovative film-making techniques that I've hardly ever seen before in another director's movie.
Some of the 'easter eggs' that are characteristic of a Michael Bay movie include the slow-motion high angle spiral shot of an actor (usually the main character) as he/she picks himself off the ground. Look out for it - its... different.
Sep 12, 2006
Cricket season is upon us again... yeah! The washed-out tournament between India, SL & SA had high expectations but failed due to the persistent bad weather. What a disappointment? I was really looking forward to some action between 3 formidable teams for the next world cup.
My current predictions for the best 4 performing teams in next year's WC are Sri Lanka, India, South Africa & Australia (I tried hard not to put the last one, but reality is, in effect, a percentage game).
SL are my current 'stars' of cricket. What a performance against the English a couple of months ago? I've always been a keen observer of Mahela Jayawardene, the last few months have been a real revelation. He was never the sublime player; an odd couple of 50s in ODIs before the SL captaincy was handed over to him. He's really taken on the role superbly, playing out of his normal game while displaying some polished leadership skills on the field (totally against the modern trend where captaincy equals loss of form). My players to watch out for are Mahela, Dilshan & Sangakkara.
My patriotism to Indian cricket still continues. Rahul 'the wall' Dravid is still my favourite cricketer. I've not seen sparks of genious from his leadership, but his consistent form and dogmatic attitude should be interesting to watch. Looking forward to some innovative moves (that brings out positive results!). Sachin's back for his last WC - the player of the tournament in the last WC has the uncanny ability to bring about form when required. I have my sights set on all players in the team. Looking forward to seeing them raise the WC next year :)
I was never a big fan of SA cricket. I have always been a fan of Herchelle Gibbs, and this was cemented in the incredible 438 in that last Aus-SA match in the Wanderers. What a brilliant match?! I've got a highlights copy of the game and have watched it often, but it still stuns me how well the run chase was orchestrated. Captain Greame Smith and the enegmatic Andre Nel will be players to look out for this season.
The Aussies will surely be the team that other nations will benchmark themselves against. A popular saying around here among cricket commentators is that the best way to check if you as a player are in form is to determine whether you can make the Aussie ODI team. It will be interesting to see which teams will dethrone the current champions. I get the feeling Pakistan's the most likely to do this... if everything comes together.
This season's gonna be a rocker! Can't wait for the WC. And there's a faint chance I could make some of the matches of the WC in the Carribean ('touch wood'). "Eeee maan.. toss me dat bottla Jamaikan rum".
Sep 8, 2006
I'm still not sure how to deal with this day... Was looking forward to it a few days ago, but now it feels like a deja vu. Maybe its a mood thing.
To the next 25 years...
Sep 5, 2006
I received this SMS early this morning. Really cool! Here it goes - "Niraparayum... Nilavilakum... pinne orupidi thumpapoovum manasil nirachu orupadu snehavumayi... orayirum ONASAMSAKAL..." This really made my day.
Hope you have a splendid one too...
Sep 1, 2006
Work was chillaxed on Wednesday, so I decided to take the afternoon off and go watch the much publicised KANK at one of the only two theatres that show Hindi movies in Johannesburg. Before this I had heard (after futile attempts to block opinions on a film) that the movie generated a lot of controversy through its positive protrayal of extra-marital relationships. There was also comments on the local Indian radio channel that the movie is adult-oriented and should not be viewed by children, and that someone from Mumbai had murdered his wife after watching the movie. Blah blah...
There have been a few really good movies on extra-marital relationships. The Malayalam movie Meghamalhar is an excellent example on how such a topic is handled. The director took great care in creating a story on film without placing an opinion on whether embarking on such a path is good or bad. A little thread was left at the end of the film from which the viewer is left to hang on to, to decide for themselves whether the path taken by the main characters was good or bad. This movie was a classic example of the quality of scripting and movie-making by the Malayalam film industry (not being biased - watch it and decide for yourself!).
I thought the Karan Johar crew was brave to venture into unchartered territory in an attempt to explore this theme. The movie is littered with little sub-plots (as is characteristic of a Karan Johar movie) with loose ends (like Dev's mother and son, or Rishi's life, or (sic) Black Beast), but the story around Shah Rukh Khan & Rani Mukherjis' characters was handled well, I thought. In my opinion, the movie was handled well. The theme may not be everyone's cup of tea, but that should not lead to any blindfolding just because its considered 'wrong'.
The plot gets my thumbs-up. The acting was pretty good. Abhishek Bachchan was stylish and funny (a marked improvement). Priety Zinta was glamorous as ever. Rani Mukherji carried on from her excellent acting in Black. King Khan and the Big B flowed in their characters.
The music and cinematography were my 'stars' from the movie. The songs (esp. 'Mitwa') were melodious and were coupled effectively with the visuals. Almost every frame seemed picture-perfect. I forgot to mention the artwork and the detail given to the costumes and sets - dazzling.
Direction was as good as ever. The slick editing between the tension-filled scenes played a large part in getting the story going.
The length of the film though was real big let down. Ok, so its value for money in theatres in India, but really! I thought a shorter version would have helped the slow pace in the 2nd half.
I don't think the film should be shot down because of its theme. That just shoots down the reason films are popular. Another medium of art to express one's opinions. Us viewers should be educated enough to take in the maker's understanding of a topic, and be able to make a judgement on its affects (I liken this to the Da Vinci code). In the end, we should be able to realise that the movie was... different. A change from the masalas that get churned out on such regular basis.
Aug 31, 2006
The trio has created musical magic ever since - each movie that they've composed for have had their tunes following the flow of the movie, like the aussie instrument in DCH, or the heart-beats for Kal Ho Na Ho. Another favourite is the (brave) attempt at macabre music in Kyun... Ho Gaya Naa. Their music has made my movie experience a whole lot better.
Another 'Hindi' composer I admire is AR Rehman. Though most of his Hindi work is a rehash of hits in Tamil, they seem to have that special variety that keeps listeners hooked. I'll post some thoughts on the Tamil music industry at a later stage.
A composer I've tried to follow after listening to a few hits is Sandeep Chowta. He worked on a few films by Ram Gopal Varma like Mast, Company (maybe more, I stand to be corrected). Its the background score that is real quality - quite necessary for some of the suspense-filled stuff from the South Indian director. I also enjoyed his work in Bollywood Hollywood.
Another up and coming composer is Pritham (Dhoom, Kaal, Garam Masala). Some really catchy numbers.
My big negative in the composing arena in Bollywood is Anu Malik aka Mr Xerox. Maybe he was creative in his young days, but now (at least since I've started listening to his music) he seems to have lost it all, and relies on popular work from other composers (especially English songs) to make his hits. He has thrown a few surprises during the course of his work like the theme from Ashoka, and songs from Refugee, but in general, his composition really shows a lack of creativity. Maybe its just me.
I'm sure I've missed many, but on a whole, the Hindi music industry has displayed a lot of innovation and creativity lately. I'm really optimistic of the kind of work that will be produced in the future.
Btw - have you listened carefully to the string-filled background music while viewing Desperate Housewives? Just love the stocatto and pizzicato notes...
An interesting link on how to play the didgeridu - http://www.aboriginalart.com.au/didgeridoo/dig_background.html
Aug 28, 2006
The comic strip first started a few years before the new democratic government came into being in 1994. The charming way life was depicted during those times as well as currently is sure to bring some nostalgic memories (I know I had quite a few of those moments while reading through the collections for the first time). The cartoonist, Rico, should be complemented for suceeding to bring out the classic expressions of the primary and secondary characters (especially Thandi, Gwen's son's Zulu girlfriend's baby sister - mixed relationships, just one of the many themes that get touched on).
My favourite week of cartoons (and there are many - this one happened to pop up at this moment) was the head-hunters going after the latest black graduates for top positions in BEE companies. The way the the graduates deal with their hostage negotiators still cracks me up.
Go ahead. Browse through the cartoons on the site. Even if you are not living in South Africa, you'll be able to relate to the stabs they creators take at international events.
The cartoons spawned a TV sitcom (a let-down from the cartoon) and many international prints. The cartoon has a large fan base, and many of their publications are a hit at the local libraries. One columnist even suggested that every coffee table in SA should have a copy of Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom and a copy of a Madam & Eve collection. I agree.
Here are a couple of cartoons, courtesy the Madam & Eve site, that I found hilarious.
Aug 25, 2006
South Africans were on a high earlier this year when the announcement that the home-grown, 'proudly SA' production of 'Tsotsi' had won the Oscar this year for best foreign film. It was the first time that a SA film (or African - I could be wrong) has won an award at the Oscars. As is typically the case, all the problems of crime and corruption were forgotten for some time and the focus was rather on a significant achievement. Example instances of such phases have been the winning of the 1995 Rugby WC and 1996 African Cup of Nations, breaking the 400 run barrier (again) to chase down the highest cricket score in history, winning the right to host the 2010 Football WC.
As you can see, most are sports-related. Going beyond the fields and arenas to the cinema world was a significant leap for the SA film industry. Only Charlize Theron's Oscar for best actress (in Monster) had ever put SA on the international film stage.
Ok, back to the movie. I watched Gavin Hood's Tsotsi ('thug' in street language) after the awards were announced, so it was with a bit of anticipation (always a bad start - especially when I watch Hindi movies). The result was a provoking, and thoroughly enjoyable work of art. I think the film made more relevance to me as I could relate to most of what was being relayed by the production. At the time, the SA film industry had hardly any reputation for producing quality movies - this one was a pleasant surprise.
The movie is based on Athol Fugard's play by the same name, but adapted from the 80s to make more relevance to life in SA today. It tells the story of the life of Tsotsi, a faceless teenage criminal who, through events in his life, evolves towards an ordinary citizen. It touches on a number of themes close to the heart of someone living here - Aids, domestic violence, crime, the growing divide between classes of black families, etc..
The soundtrack was a major highlight. The mixing of SA-style Kwaito music (at the right places) really gave that authentic, downtown feel. Cinematography was excellent. I enjoyed the creativity of shots in establishing a scene as well as during the portrayal of the emotions of a character (especially Tsotsi's at the climax). The screenplay will also get my thumbs-up for its adaptation, dialogues and the all-important climax.
But its the excellent role of Tsotsi and the actor that played it (Presley Chweneyagae) that gripped my attention till the end. The way that the character is peeled away from the image of a hardcore gangster to a ordinary human being with feeling was a real treat to watch. Towards the end I was hoping (spoiler warning!) Tsotsi would not get shot (apparently he does get shot, but only after the end credits have rolled).
Well done to Gavin Hood and his cast & crew for bring out a real and passionate film without falling for the temptation of commercial filming. I enjoyed the fact that the focus fell entirely on the slumlife in SA without a hint of the visual extravaganza of modern Johannesburg. The movie is now the highest grossing SA film ever, and apparently inspired real-life gangsters to turn a new leaf (don't ask! :) ). Presley Chweneyagae became a star overnight and has featured in a couple of commercials since. New film cities have been planned in Cape Town (SA's cultural capital).
Pros: the kwaito soundtracks, Presley Chweneyagae, theme, the climax
Cons: very few. I could possibly mention the additional characters that failed to add to the central plot (like the disabled homeless guy on the wheelchair).
Aug 22, 2006
I've not really played around with sound editing software mostly because the previous PC I had couldn't handle most apps. In fact, I recall using the computer just for work and the occasion music through winamp (old versions). The work done in the open-source world has kept me interested ever since I started working. After a few searches for audio ripping software, I came across Audacity.
Its a really cool software for sound editing and mixing. It was quite easy to understand the functionality available, and after a couple of minutes of messing around I think I've got the hang of it. Love the little effects available. I managed to download and install the LAME encoder for conversion to mp3 formats. The only problem was that the software (in true open-source fashion) only supported non-propriatory encoders/decoders. Since almost all malayalam videos come in VCD and DVD format, the ripping wasn't really possible at this stage.
After a bit of searching this morning I came across a shareware software called Alpeak AudiMovie Express. Really neat. I managed to test it on a VCD format, and the output (mp3 format) was perfect. Its got a trial period, but serves me well at this stage. I've been using mplayer for Windows for a long time now to play movies (compressed and non). Apparantly its possible to rip audio from VCDs through this software as well - I haven't yet tried it out.
Another recommended software was virtualdub.
Open-source's the coolest thing since ice cubes!
Aug 21, 2006
Yesterday a controversial, yet informative consumer advice program on MNet called Carte Blanche mentioned that owning a car in SA is the worst possible investment someone living here could do. Most cars averaged a 30% drop in value after its first year of use, while the Citroen's figured really badly. The comparison was conducted against other 'luxury' fixed assets such as boats, planes and cattle (?). Interestingly, the Nguni cattle (a local bovine) scored highly, thus owning such a farm provides the best return on investment.
A car is an essential if you want to survive in the Johannesburg urban jungle. Public transport is dismally poor (the government is apparently on course for a public transport rejuvenation through taxi & bus upgrades & the development of a new train service as part of prepping for 2010), and the local taxi's and trains are only recommended for thrill seekers with well-covered life insurances.
The motor industry segment in SA is one of the most profitable of all industries. Cars apparently costs 30% less in countries like New Zealand. Still, its a major status symbol among the up and coming Bluppies (non-derogatory term given to the fast growing black executives (yuppies) in SA) in Jozi (nee Joburg). Research by a weekly Sunday newspaper revealed that SA has one of the fastest growing number of millionaires in the world (other countries in the top 4 include South Korea and India).
SA has great potential, but I fear, unless government does something to curb the growing divide between the rich and poor, the bubble is going to burst. The regular industrial strikes that has made the news lately is testament to that.
Aug 17, 2006
The Tamil movie left me dumbstruck the first time I watched it. During one of the occasional visits to Fordsburg (the 'Indian' area in Joburg), I spotted the DVD while dancing my way through the obstacle course of little stalls in the square. This was around 6 months ago. The humour of the week amongst my friends were the various stunts that the viewer had to endure when watching a Rajnikanth ("naanda Rajnikanth... naan lateaate sollaathe, stylee sollee...") movie. One of the classic that I can remember was the scene where there's Rajni and two villains plus Rajni's one gun with one bullet. How does he kill his attackers? Simple - he puts a knife's sharp end next to the barrel of the gun and fires. The bullet splits and hits both of his attackers. All in a day's work...
The DVD had Rajni's latest offering, Chandramukhi (an adaptation of Fazil's Manichithrathazhu - a far better outing that the Tamil version, but that's another debate), as well as 2 unknowns that I had never heard of - Anniyan & Sachien. I bought the DVD thinking I'll get my fair share of laughter through Rajni's stunts. My experience in Tamil movies was very limited. The only other movies I had seen were Minnale and Kkaka Kkaka. I enjoyed both immensely, and have been an avid fan of the director since.
After the first half an hour of Rajni's entrance and stunts, as well as a couple of minutes of the pretty Nayantara, I got bored and decided to surf the other movies. Sachien looked the typical romantic drama, so I gave that a miss. The other movie I had never heard of - not even about the main actors or the director.
The story took some time to start taking shape, but once hooked, the story started to grip me. The plot was unique, the characters were realistic, and the actors brilliant, particularly the main actor Vikram. I was impressed by the quick character-changes by the main actor between the various personalities towards the end of the movie. The direction and slick editing helped further enhance the viewing experience. It was pure exhilaration watching the Matrix-style action sequences. Vikram seemed to flow with the action and never looked awkward (credit again to the action team and the video edits). It was a change to see familiar Malayalam faces like Mani, Nedumudi Venu & Cochin Haneefa in this movie.
The highlight of the movie was definitely the gripping soundtrack (the composer is an established Harris Jayaraj who composed earlier hits for movies like Kkaka Kkaka), and the strong portrayal of the character Anniyan. The credits for the latter goes to the combined team effort of the actor, director, composer and last but definitely not least, the script writing team. Its a classic example of how a well-worked character (hero, in most cases) will drive the outcome of a movie. Other excellent examples of this include Tom Hank's Forrest Gump, Russel Crowe's Maximus Meridius, and Mel Gibson's William Wallace. A Malayalam movie hero that stand out include Mohanlal's character in Kireedam.
I enjoy watching movies where a clear evolution of a character can be seen. Usually, a difficult character reversal protrayed to perfection, sticks to my mind like butter on bread. This movie was highly entertaining and real visual head-rush. Loved it!
Pros - acting, direction, gripping plot, entertaining soundtrack.
Cons - the songs may have been forcefully entered into the movie; Prakash Raj seemed to have been wasted - his character was a bit unreal.
Aug 16, 2006
After a couple of years as a consultant in the field of information security, it looks probable that I might be moving away from this field in a couple of months time. Its been serendipitous experience for me in this area of work. The only prior knowledge I've had in this field had been a couple of information security courses at varsity.
It was with high expectation that I started working in this field, but that was dashed quite quickly when I began to realise that most of the interesting work was done already, or was being done by specialist computer scientists. All I had to do was to use the work they did to prove to others that they were indeed right (if u know wot i mean). Anyway, that phase is almost done, and I might be moving to another side of engineering pretty soon.
Now might be an apt time to share some of my experiences in this field:
1. Security is one of the last items in the list of priorities amongst the clients I've worked with. Some of my best work has been broken down because the client did not understand the importance of change (and why should they? "if its working fine, why mess around with it?"). I've often compared IS consulting to flogging a dead donkey. Yea, yea - so its my responsibility to educate them? Screw that - I'm an engineer, not a primary school teacher...
2. The 'sensational' part of security is the cool tools and techniques to demonstrate a hack eg. breaking an XP password, or surfing the internet when other cannot, or messing around with someone else's machine. These little tricks earned a lot of respect amongst friends and colleagues.
3. Anyone can be an expert in this field. All you need is some experience working with OSs and Cisco products, and a keenness to play around with open-source security software.
4. Very few keep up to date with the latest hacks. Its unlikely a minion company may be affected by an attack because of the effort and skills required.
5. Having said all this, the glorified role of a IS consultant is still an essential to many major organisations like banks because, like every aspect of modern business, bad news can have serious negative implications on the services offered by an organisation. When the sh!t hits the fan, everyone gets to feel it. I've not heard of any such news in my years in this role, but, like 9/11, anythings possible. In my opinion, the information security field is a dying field, as safer options for performing essential functions will begin to appear - and the role of a hacker will begin to diminish.
Aug 14, 2006
The skit for our onam festivities is progressing steadily after the lengthy 7hrs spent working on it on Saturday and the couple of hours yesterday. The scriptwriting team usually starts off with a toast (the meeting should really be sponsored by Heineken considering the rate at which beer is polished off) and a few thara jokes. The alcohol's supposed to be the catalyst that inspires our creative genius; I think its just a really good excuse to get sloshed.
The script is peppered with dialogues from those classic mallu movies like Paandipada and Killukkam, some good ol' character and actor bashing, and some (hopefully slick and funny) soundtracks. The plan is to incorporate a few other item numbers into the play such as the thiruvaathira kali (a traditional south Indian dance characterised by sari-clad pennengal with slow but sure hand and foot tapping movements. I know, there's a lot more - please excuse my lame definition).
The highlight of onam for me is the sadhya. I just love the variety of items on store in a sadhya. Ahhhh... Can't wait for it.. :)
I've spent a few onams in Kerala a long time ago, and I remember all the traditions and activities that were in store when the festival time arrived. School festivals, flower arrangement competitions, atham, vellamkali... the list is endless. I hope to one day spend time in Kerala during the Onam festival week and relive those moments again. And I would highly recommend this to any tourist visiting India during this time. Its just the place to be.
Back to reality. The date for the function here is set for the 3rd of next month. We're doing good for time. Looking forward to pulling this off as well as we have being doing in the last couple of years. Now how about that round of beer...?
Aug 11, 2006
I had an appointment yesterday with a sales rep from a reputed security company in South Africa. Since I moved to my new place, I've not really spent much on the upgrading its security. The townhouse came with all its typical SA decorations - burglar bars, security gates, intercom, electric fences... A rendition of the kind of lifestyle the residents of South Africa face nowadays.
The debate on the SA's high crime rate is a favorite topic between the people here. One can hardly remember a day that does not contain any reference to the crime. Typical arguments that source crime ranges from lack of employment to illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe and Nigeria.
The infamous Rivonia offramp is now patrolled at night by 2 police vans. Patrolled is actually the wrong word - more like sitting and waiting for something to happen. I can only feel sorry for these policemen that have to lay await for something to happen. What about the crime lords that have to put something on their tables - they can kiss the Rivonia offramp goodbye now, because some dumbasses decided to hit the same place twice in 2 weeks, and that too high-profile individuals. I can imagine the group that hit the offramp standing in front of the presiding underworld judge answering to their stupidity - "who the *@&(* hits the same place twice".
The sales rep showed me a range of options from pull-shut mechanisms, to reinforced steel, to plastic-free paint covers. I plan to take a few quotes before making my mind. Its funny - little children dream of one day playing with angels, or going to this chocolate factory. We South Africans dream of one day moving to a land where we won't have to lock our doors at night, or walk on the streets without worrying about the people walking around of you. Many South Africans see New Zealand and Australia as typical places where this dream can be fulfilled.
So, in spite of all this, what makes me "proudly South African" (a government initiative to discourage people from leaving SA by stressing the positives of SA while sweeping the problems under the carpet)? I've thought about this for a while, and came up with this - its that little glimmer of hope that something positive can be concocted. That one day, the butterfly would emerge from its cocoon.
Aug 10, 2006
I recently watched the Malayalam movie Udayan aanu tharam. Its your usual feel-good movie, spattered in true Sreenivasan style with situational comedy, one liners, and a central theme that moulds the movie from beginning to end.
The movie looks at the malayalam film industry with a touch of satire. From the role models of aspiring directors and scriptwriters, through to acting skills training and the various 'side businesses' of the superstars.
I've a couple of key criteria that I must be satisfied with before I can give a favourable verdict.
1. (And most importantly) a great script/plot.
2. Character-driven acting.
3. Innovative cinematography and sound & visual editing techniques.
4. The movie has something different about it when compared to others in its genre.
This movie had an excellent underlying theme. I liked the protrayal of the 'ordinary' scriptwriter/director. The climax may have been a bit 'utopian' but its unfortunately part and parcel of the mallu masala movies from the last couple of years.
The actors fit their characters to the tee. I thought Salim Kumar's character was a bit of a third leg. The pick of the lot was definitely Rajappan aka Saroj Kumar :) The end where Saroj Kumar pulls the facial reactions of a 'psychic' reminded me of Sreenivasan at the end of Kaalapani when a gun is pointed to his head.
The cinematography had nothing spectacular, but nothing more should be really expected from a drama/comedy. The various instances of visual humor worked without being too obtrusive (over aaki illa).
I thought the scenes between Sreenivasan & Jagathi and Sreenivasan & Mohanlal were hilarious. The background score and all the songs (though maybe out of place in the movie) was melodious. Sreenivasan's son has a future in music. It was good to see Indrans (kalyanam kettan minimum, thaali kettan olla arogyam venam).
Verdict - A must see. I'll definitely watch it again.
Dialogue that stands out - Heh... Make-upinoke oru parithi ille da...
Comparable movies - Vadakkamnookiyendrum, Chinthavishtayaya Shyamala, English Medium.
Downfalls - The ending, half-utilised characters, nothing spectacularly different about this movie.
The creation of a blog has been toying in me for some time now. Its been the usual story - work, work work. Never really had a chance to make it an ongoing thing. I started a blog a while back on a South African ISP called MWeb. Very pricy (subscription, I mean), and the interface wasn't really that user-friendly ('ergonomically incorrect' - as some fellow engineers might put it). Got a few tags 'cause of my unfallable commitment to the Indian cricket team (most of the other bloggers agreed with my opinions on cricket commentators (particularly SA & Aussie (yea.. say no more)).
So its back to the writing pad again (so to speak).
Here's to a successful second outing.