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Archive for December, 2008

The News Crawls Back

Posted by anandrr on December 30, 2008

CNN is allegedly retiring the crawl. Pity it won’t improve the quality of its news all that much. I stopped watching the TV news a long time ago, if it’s not on Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, I’ve probably not watched it. True to form, I’ve watched a total of about 5 minutes of TV news since I returned to India about a year ago. But the first of those minutes had me reaching urgently for my camera. As I remembered it (of course since I haven’t watched TV news in a while, this might not be still true), US news networks feature a talking head, sometimes a banner announcing the story and a crawl. In India, we have this:

Indian News Channel Screen GrabFor those of you keeping score at home, that’s:

  1. A banner headline at the top telling you what the story is about
  2. A news category white on blue
  3. The latest on this controversy crawling below that
  4. The time and a crawl of unrelated news below that
  5. A completely different crawl of more different unrelated news below that

I got your information overload right here.

Posted in Bertie Heads to the Photo Shop, Media, Shutterbug, TV | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Merry Christmas

Posted by anandrr on December 29, 2008

Ammupatti is all busy writing about Christmas cheer. So in a rare bit of media empire friendliness (this being the season and all), here’s my bit to spread the cheer. Stephen Colbert has written a new Christmas song. I tried as hard as I could, but I can’t get it to embed, damn you WordPress, damn you to hell!

If you’re like me, you’ve already downloaded the track when Itunes released it as their free single of the week earlier this week. If you’re not a cheapskate like me, you downloaded it last month when they released the entire album.

Posted in Media, Nostalgia, Showbiz, Timeout, TV | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Book Review: The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie

Posted by anandrr on December 28, 2008

I first read an excerpt from The Enchantress of Florence in the New Yorker many months ago, it was the part of the book that describes Akbar, his capital at Fatehpur Sikri, his “invisible wife” Jodha, and Akbar’s battles with his self and his sprituality. The essay represented the Rushdie writing that I love best, his beautiful English describing with loving care an apparently faraway land and time, the characters surprisingly life-like (even Jodha), the writing was fluid and evocative, and most of all it held out a promise of much much more in the real book. Then the book came out and I heard someone (possibly Krasny) on KQED talk about it as East meeting West, and I dismissed it as the book I certainly didn’t want to read. There the matter would have lain, and I would have gone through the rest of my life describing the book as one of Rushdie’s minor works, until on one of my recent trips to the US, I spent a couple days at a friend’s place, and this friend had this book lying around the house. The time that we didn’t spend walking the streets, discussing alternative energy or reliving the Republic of Mysore, I spent reading the book.

Needless to say, Rushdie had me at the dedication. The pages turned quickly and I hated that I was having to leave before I got to finish the book.  Never mind, as soon as I was back in India (always respect the cost arbitrage on books) I got myself a copy and a week’s worth of night-time reading later, I was a happy and contented man.  Enchantress is perhaps not as great as Midnight’s Children but it marks a return to form from Ground Beneath Her Feet which had  rather disappointed me, even Bono couldn’t rescue it. Enchantress is of course very beautifully written, Rushdie has such a remarkable facility for English, he seems to write with such ease that reading his work is extremely pleasurable. His choice of subjects also lend themselves to such description, Akbar, his harem, his court, his city and medieval India; Italy, medieval Florence, great sea voyages, pirates, and more, all of these make for an enchanting backdrop against which to tell his tale.

And what a tale! At one level, it is of course about East meeting West, Machiavelli, master political strategist, meets Akbar, emperor, philosopher, spiritualist. And hovering behind them all, Qara Koz, the “Enchantress,” a lady in the west of incredible and unsurpassed beauty, but as it turns out a not-so-distant cousin of Akbar’s. But these are set in a time when it seems entirely unremarkable that the emperor has an invisible wife, an even more invisible distant cousin, herself constantly accompanied by her “Mirror,” a maid who mirrors her mistresses’ own feelings (and as it turns out plays a non-trivial part in the raison d’etre for the book). Back then, these were common we’re told, the fantastic always mixed with the real unlike our heretical lives now. This is of course a recurring theme in Rushdie’s books, the fantastic always play a part in our reality.

At another level, this is a story about women. The Enchantress is a woman who moves from man to man using her incredible beauty to exercise great power over men and history. Eventually she exercises her power over Akbar entirely remotely, from the great beyond as it happens, and his courtiers look on helplessly. Jodha also holds the emperor in her thrall until Qara Koz arrives in his life, at which point she finds herself relegated. This leads to one of the funnier scenes in the book, where Akbar’s real harem finally find that they can make peace with the imaginary Jodha now that
they are all part of the sisterhood of Akbar’s past affections.

But most of all, it is a book about religion and spirituality. Akbar is searching for an answer to religion’s ills. He believes that God far from providing us a moral anchor, has given us a reason not to create such structures for ourselves.  His quest for this human-created morality dominates his life. It finally fizzles out of course, as does Fatehpur Sikri, and as we’re all aware the Mughal Empire went downhill from then on.

Posted in Book Review, Literature, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Flashback Friday: Name That Band

Posted by anandrr on December 26, 2008

Identify the rock bands?

Identify the rock bands?

Remember some 2-3 years ago this picture was making the rounds and it had some 100 rock bands cleverly hidden in it, and you had to identify all of them to prove your rock cred and all along you thought it was just some elaborate joke being played by Virgin and damned if you were going to get sucked in but you had to because otherwise your music cred was entirely at stake? And  you were walking around saying Radiohead was the greatest and you just knew somewhere in there was a guy with a radio for a head but damned if you could find it and this was only going to make you look worse than you already did.

I finally got around to listening to the latest Girl Talk yesterday. Oh it was downloaded the day of release for free and everything, but we clean forgot about it until we were reminded yesterday. And such joy. Easily among the top albums of the year. And non-stop entertainment as you try to name that band and song. Perfect!

Posted in Nostalgia, Showbiz | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Beautiful Bangalore VIII

Posted by anandrr on December 16, 2008

Twilight during the monsoon season in Bangalore

Twilight during the monsoons season in Bangalore

Posted in Bertie Heads to the Photo Shop, Monsoon, Shutterbug | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Tale of Two Pakistani Kids

Posted by anandrr on December 14, 2008

Almost a month ago, young Nasir Sultan, 15, was released from a jail in India and allowed to return to his hometown in Pakistan.

Nasir Sultan returns to Pakistan. © AP

Nasir Sultan returns to Pakistan. © AFP

Young Nasir was guilty of sneaking into India. He idolized Shah Rukh Khan and wished to make a career for himself in Bollywood. When found, he was put in jail, but released quickly because who among us has not been guilty of wanting to meet the King of Bollywood? Most Indians would have been sympathetic towards young Nasir, and nobody wished him anything but a safe return.

Exactly one week later, India woke up to this picture in their newspapers of another young Pakistani who had sneaked into the country.

One of the Mumbai terrorists.

One of the Mumbai terrorists.

Both pictures show us a confident, young man, dressed like any reasonably well off middle class kid in the subcontinent, and but for the weaponry virtually indistinguishable from one another. One sneaked into India because he was attracted by the glitz of Mumbai, the other, well, apparently for the same reason, but with different motives.

But here’s the kicker. In the future, expect young Nasirs when they are found to be treated with no kindness at all. After all, who’s to say? Any cop who finds an errant Pakistani kid in India will certainly make sure that the kid pays not only for his current sin of being on foreign soil without a permit, but for all the sins of his fellow-countrymen. And that’s the real tragedy. All young Pakistani boys and men suddenly moved into the enemy column. But mostly, they really just want to be Shah Rukh Khan.

Posted in Culture, Films, Foreign Policy, Politics, Showbiz | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Flashback Friday: I Want my MTV

Posted by anandrr on December 12, 2008

All this talk about the first video on MTV reminded me of 1986, back when DD would show us a heavily edited 30 minute versions of the Grammys, Oscars etc. I remember back then, sitting in front of our new colour TV watching the Grammys, all agape as Dire Straits came on with their Money For Nothing video. The animation blew my mind. (The music was wonderful also, but the music I already knew). Looking back at it now…

Posted in Nostalgia, Showbiz, TV | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What Would Adolf Think?

Posted by anandrr on December 9, 2008

I’m not much into cameras, and couldn’t tell a D3X from an F2 and wasn’t even sure whether my own camera was a Canon or a Nikon till I checked. But this is bloody hilarious.

And just last night I was transfixed by the movie. One thing that stood out yesterday, but I don’t remember from the first time I watched it (maybe I’ve just forgotten), is how the camera shakes every time a shell explodes. Even on TV it’s effective.

Posted in Advertising, Films, Funny, Media, Timeout | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Story of My Experiments at a Bookstore

Posted by anandrr on December 9, 2008

Mein Kampf and Gandhi sit cheek by jowl at Gangaram's

Mein Kampf and Gandhi sit cheek by jowl at Gangaram's


There aren’t many places in the world where you’d find this incongruous placement of wares. But to most Indians Hitler is just another charismatic military general.

Posted in Bertie Heads to the Photo Shop, Literature, Shutterbug | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

The Hopelessness of Our Dreams

Posted by anandrr on December 7, 2008

Conversation dated 4-Nov-2008 during my recent visit to the states:

Precocious-8-year-old: Whom are you voting for today?
Me: I can’t vote, I’m not a citizen.
P8yo: Oh! If you could vote, whom would you vote for?
Me: I wouldn’t vote.
P8yo: Why not?
Me: I guess I’m too cynical.
P8yo: What does cynical mean?

When I lived in the States, I was what the common American (Joe The Plumber, at any rate) would term a pinko Communist redistributionist. Here in the rest of the world, I’m some sort of Milton Friedman ogre incarnate. I never liked Bush, Lord knows I did my little bit to keep him from getting elected, I attended every single anti-war rally in SF back when anti-war rallies weren’t cool, and as most people know the title Comrade is quite the honorific in my lexicon. So one would think I would be all hopped up and excited about our Hope-And-Change Messiah and here I am as blasé as you could be. Partly it’s my inherent cynicism I suppose, but mostly it’s just that I don’t think he’s all that.

When you have Hillary Clinton leading your team on the Foreign Affairs front, Joe Biden at Veep, Robert Gates still at the Pentagon, a bunch of ex-Clintonites at State, and the lady apparently responsible for your aggressive foreign policy differentiation shunted off to a post in New York, there wouldn’t be much hope of any change in your Iraq policy. And when you have a bunch of the old guard running Treasury, I mean to say, Geithner? The guy who was in charge of the Lehman mess? What, Greenspan wasn’t available? Not that Obama’s cabinet is as bad as Bush’s, there doesn’t seem to be any manager of Arab stallions on his list of appointees (so far!). And Rahm E. certainly implied that he had the right attitude when he suggested that the recession was the right time to throw the ball long and deep. But when you consider that there is a large section of people in the world’s richest country who seem to live what can only charitably termed third world lives, and when Paulson and his cronies seem to be looting taxpayer money every which way they can, one would imagine that bringing change to Washington would, at the very least, involve not having the same old Washington hands at the helm. Eight years ago, Molly Ivins urged Americans to look at George W’s record (with which she had considerable experience) rather than his slogans (Compassionate Conservative! Reformer With Results!…). Indeed a look at his record would have told us exactly how awful his presidency was going to be. They’ve made the same mistake all over again. Obama’s record would have told us not to expect a Messiah, but rather a candidate who campaigns as one and then turns into a solid centrist, don’t-rock-the-boat leader.

During the primaries and the election, the most common criticism of Obama was that he was all words and rhetoric and had no concrete plans to speak of. While true, it was a damning criticism for a different reason than the one offered. The problem wasn’t that he had no plans, the problem was that all the soaring rhetoric essentially masked yet another product of the system representing the system. And Obama’s election is not historic because a black man was elected President, it’s historic because it shows that to get elected U.S. President it’s not important whether you’re black or white, male or female, it’s essential that you be a fully paid up member of the system and the consensus.

Posted in Foreign Policy, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »