Thursday, November 30, 2006

The cuppa that cheers

Seattle Metblogs, that lovely purveyor of all things Seattle, rhapsodizes over the drink that makes Seattle what it is. I'm happy to note that I've been to most of the Seattle places on the list, though a few still remain.

I'm getting to be a bit of a coffee snob, comparing my poison of choice across different branches of Starbucks, Tullys, Peets and the various fine establishments mentioned in this blog entry. Choice quote:

"If you have to ask why Seattleites love their coffee so much, you obviously haven't been here during the long, dank winter when it feels like the whole world is made of grey. A little liquid love goes a long way towards easing the daily doldrums."

Monday, November 27, 2006

Blog Alert - Passion for Cinema

George Thomas points to Passion For Cinema, a blog run by and for cinephiles. Anurag Kashyap, one of India's finest scriptwriters (Satya, Shool, Yuva) is blogging there and documenting the creation of his new film, No Smoking. One hopes he at least gets this film released - Paanch and Black Friday went down without a release.

He has a couple of great posts on the making of Satya - more in this series are expected in the future. 1 2

Satya IMO is one of the best films to come out of the Indian film industry in the past fifteen years, and I do not say this statement lightly. 

Anurag's posts point to the enigma that is Ram Gopal Verma, a creative process gone awry and how greatness seems to stem from chaos. Recommended reading if you're interested in Hindi films of any sort.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Movie Minutes

Flushed Away

The delightful whimsy of the creators of Wallace and Gromit (I still haven't seen the film, but I remember seeing a couple of shorts someplace) makes this very silly comedy work. It's a relief that the gratuitous pop-culture references which really killed Shark Tale for me don't surface here as often.

High points of the film:

- A group of slugs/leeches/what the hell were they? singing "Don't worry, be happy" and a couple of other cleverly picked songs.

- A French mercenary frog voiced by Jean Reno. His gang says "We surrender" at random times. They stop for five-hour lunches. And yes, they travel with a mime.

- Bill Nighy and Andy Serkis ('My precious' Gollum) as a pair of good 'fer nothing sidekicks.

Don - the chase begins

Farhan Akhtar doesn't disappoint in this slick re-visitation of the classic. SRK is surprisingly good, especially as the comic Vijay. His Don is as much respectful tribute as personal interpretation. Priyanka Chopra is competent and Boman Irani shows serious acting chops to complement his comic timing I've seen in various other places.

The soundtrack too is a good re-work, using the high points of the old and blending it smoothly with new refrains and  lyrics. The new title song and Raat Baki work well and the songs don't flag the pace of the film. The fight sequences are slick and except for a couple of sequences which are really arbitrary, they re-define Bollywood style for this generation.

Neatest touch: In Don's 'safe room', Edvard Munch's Scream is hanging on the wall. The painting itself was stolen in 2004 and recovered in August this year. Assuming they shot the film before that, it's a good painting for a man wanted in 11 nations to own.

As always, the blighted weather outside and a general lack of outdoor-sy things to do will meet the 'end of Oscar nomination' season and lots of movie viewings are in order. Still pending: Iraq in Fragments, Babel, The Prestige, The Departed and The Illusionist. Yes, I'm also looking forward to Casino Royale. The fun just began.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Useless Fact for the day...

Johnny Cash's hit single I walk the line turns fifty this year.

It's a weird coincidence, learning this fact last week after hearing a cover version of the song by Live more than ten times in three days. I can't help it. If a song's stuck in my head, I have to scratch that itch till I get the song out of my system. Recent candidates for this honor include Rage Against the Machine's Renegades of Funk and Sigur Ros' Saeglopur. But I digress.

While the original Johnny Cash version is in his trademark country-blues style, the Live cover is all seriousness with good use of the electric guitar. This (in my opinion) probably suits the song better than Johnny Cash's style. Heresy, I know, but that's just me.

The song however reveals the power of Johnny Cash's writing, wrapping so much feeling in words so simple. It's something Live (and a lot of songwriters for that matter) could do well to learn from.

It's your TV. Have it your way.

Earlier: XBox 360 and the digital hub

Now:  The XBox 360 to sell TV shows and films via downloads.

The XBox is primarily used by that elusive demographic - 18-34 year-old men. These people don't watch much TV,  don't subscribe to newspapers much and are likelier to surf the web or play games. It's not funny to see the amount of real-world socializing gamers do about playing online. (It's the hot workplace conversation topic - even in the land of the NFC Champions).

Microsoft and Sony (whenever the Playstation 3 launches) are going to be prime candidates for trying to convince this demographic to get TV shows and movies via their game consoles. HD downloads is what will drive this at first since there are no HD downloads available on any online stores as of now. Hi-Def DVD standards are still converging, so it makes more sense to just buy your HD content on the 'Net, especially since you are likely to keep your XBox for 3-4 years.

Add a Media Center PC to the equation and there's interesting twists on the whole experience, including recording HD cable and over-the-air shows using your TV tuner card to play back on your TV(s) in the house. Plus downloaded shows via your XBox in the hall can be played back on your bedroom TV.

The digital home entertainment world is converging. And we're still waiting on Apple's ITV.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Useful IE7 hacks

Internet Explorer mostly brought tears to my eyes not too long ago. IE6 was slow, and before XP SP2, really vulnerable. They worked hard to lock it down but the lack of tabs and any real utility made me look at Firefox and boy, did I love it.

However, Microsoft launched IE7 a few weeks back. It is a significant re-write and update of features for Internet Exploer on both XP and Vista. It is important, simply because even now, more than 85% of the market uses IE. A few quick notes:

- Tabbed browsing finally comes to the IE world! On Vista, you can drag and drop and re-order tabs. El Neato.

- A big plus for me is the ease of use with respect to RSS. My browser is my default RSS reader now and the ease with which I can import and export OPML lists makes it easy for me to use my favorite feeds across multiple machines. I prefer it over Sage and Live Bookmarks in FF personally, though YMMV.

- A couple of things about it to me are still annoying - the text search is still archaic. Come on, vi had inline text search, what, twenty years back?.

However, IE's add-on API set isn't too bad, and we have Core Services' Inline Search to our rescue. Quick to install, and easy to use. Sweet. A number of add-ons are listed here -

- Also, while Wikipedia and the major search engines are all in the search providers that are available easily, I wish IMDB were as easily available.

This is solved by the nifty customize menue under 'Find more search providers' that Microsoft provides on their website, making it easy to add your own search providers. Providers I added include, IMDB and the local county library online database.

This is a feature that copies the Opera/FF world, but the last bit of customization makes it better than its predecessors. (I mean, would anyone really write a custom provider for my library? I'd do it myself, but that's besides the point. What would a newbie user do?)

Firefox has significant momentum behind it, but IE7 may be just about able to stem the bleeding of users away from IE. IE is still playing catch-up with Firefox in terms of end-user features, but at least there's a modicum of competition now.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I heard it on the radio

When I was in India, I'd listen to the song "November Rain" by Guns n Roses and think "It doesn't rain here in November*."

The song is beautiful in a way only sad, epic songs can be. Axl Rose's rasping voice, the piano, the strings and Slash on the guitar put together a song that washed away so much pain in an eight-minute orgy of excess. The video is no less with a real story, back-story and loads of symbolism to go with it (more here). Then there was Slash blazing away on lead guitar, standing on top of a grand piano in his trademark wide-legged stance. 

It's pouring outside on a cold November Friday. The radio plays, aptly, "November Rain". I soak in the lyrics and the music and I think back to another beautiful song.

"Radio, what's new? Someone still loves you."

In other news:

KMTT, my favorite area radio station is crowned one of the five best in rock radio by Rolling Stone.

*At least it never did where I lived.

Friday, November 03, 2006

When it rains...

There's a saying in Marathi about a tree branch breaking exactly when you sit on it.

Two days after I complained about the unfair depiction of Seattle rain in many places, it rains cats and dogs and maybe a few orcas as well.

In other news:

I link to Ramanand's general review of Alexander McCall Smith's books. "The Number One Ladies Detective Agency" is exactly like the title sounds. It is droll, slightly quirky and thoroughly enjoyable. While he may not win a Booker, he wins the prize for most interesting book titles with gems like "The Kalahari Typing School for Men" and "Morality for Beautiful Girls".

The book's hard to dislike and the best part of the book is the fact that it paints a different picture of Africa - an Africa that is civilized and on the path to progress. Not the one in the media perennially in need of 'saving'. That by itself makes it worth the read.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


There's something irresistibly adorable about a child all dressed up as an angel of some sort yelling 'trick-or-treat' and then 'thank you' (on a watchful parent's reminding).

As I watched my bag o' goodies deplete, I smiled indulgently. Even as work deadlines tick ominously around me, I turn around and say 'You're most welcome' to every one of those kids. After all, they livened up my workplace. They chased away my blues.

Work will wait. Halloween only comes once a year.

Elsewhere: Bhavna's office livened up last year.