Thursday, December 25, 2008

Adventure 34

Short Movie Reviews (vol 2)

More short movie reviews. The number next to each title is my rating on a scale of 10, while the number in parentheses is the IMDB rating

Ong Bak (Thai with subtitles):8.0 (7.2)
Ting Manopeaw (Tony Jaa) has been adopted by the temple priest's wife in a backward Thai village which is protected by a sacred Buddha Statue (Ong Bak). The village is devastated by famine when an art smuggler from Bangkok steals its head. Ting must now recover the head from an evil mafia lord in Bangkok, and leaves a trail of destruction in the sleazy pubs and fight clubs of Bangkok using the ancient art of Muay Thai. Watch it for the amazing stunts and fight sequences performed by Tony Jaa, though most Telugu movies have better storylines.

Kung Fu Panda: 9.8 (7.8)
Jack Black is a fat and lazy panda obsessed with Kung Fu. Much to the dismay of the Fabulous Five warriors (Tigress, Viper, Mantis, Monkey and Crane), he is chosen by Master Oogway, the wisest of turtles to receive the ancient Dragon Scroll and take on Tai Lung, the dreaded Snow Leopard. It's upto Master Sheefoo (a red panda - played brilliantly by Dustin Hoffman), the greatest Kung Fu teacher in China to turn this fat slob into the ultimate Dragon Warrior before its too late. Probably the best martial arts movie made till date, it manages to be thrilling, funny and philosophical at the same time. Black and Hoffman effortlessly sideline the voices of Angelina Jolie (Tigress) and Jackie Chan (Monkey).

A Wednesday (Hindi): 7.5 (8.7)
Naseeruddin Shah toys with the Mumbai police for an entire day, by threatening bomb blasts if four top terrorists are not released in this thriller. Though well-made, the plot has too many loopholes to be a really good movie (this is not an action movie or comedy where the plot may be overlooked). Cannot be described more without giving away the ending. Worth a watch anyway.

Hero (Ying Xiong - dubbed from Chinese): 8.0 (8.0)
Jet Li is an unnamed warrior in ancient China whose aim is to kill the ruthless king who has killed thousands in his mission to unite China. After two failed attempts on his life, the king resides in an huge hall where nobody is allowed to approach him within a hundred paces. However, since Jet Li is supposed two of his deadliest foes, he allows him within ten paces. What follows is the unravelling of a complex web of deceit, complete with complex Chinese philosophy (relationships between calligraphy, music and swordsmanship). Watch it for the brilliant cinematography, special effects and breathtaking sword fights between Jet Li, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung and Ziyi Zheng. The brooding background score adds to the foreboding as the shrewd king foils off his deadliest foe yet, and proceeds to unite China.

No Country For Old Men: 8.5 (8.3)
A small-time criminal (Josh Brolin) finds a stack of cash in the desert after a shootout between rival drug dealers goes horrlibly wrong. A psychopathic hitman (Javier Bardem) strangles the policeman who has arrested him and embarks on a bloody quest to recover that money. He uses a peculiar weapon called "captive bolt pistol" to wreak havoc on locks and skulls in a spine-chilling chase that hurtles to its inevitable climax. Directed by the Coen brothers, this one is almost as brilliant as Fargo, another of their films about the perfect crime gone wrong.

Miss Congeniality: 5.5 (6.1)
Sandra Bullock is an FBI agent and tomboy. She must go undercover as a contestant in the Miss America pageant as there is a threat to bomb the function. The graceless girl must transform into a svelte model, and this transformation is certainly not painless!

The Dark Knight: 8.0 (9.0)
The Joker (Heath Ledger) is a brilliant psychopath holding Gotham City to seige. Can Batman stop him? Ledger steals the show with a brilliant performance, but the rest of the movie is about average, and aimed at Batman afficionados rather than the common movie goer

Bombaiyer Bombete (Bengali - The Buccaneer of Bombay): 6.0 (7.2)
Sandip Ray is another Rohan Gavaskar. Born to a legendary father (Satyajit Ray), he seems to have inherited none of the talent. This Feluda story probably was the best suited for a film adaption, but Ray makes a total hash of it, and even manages to unintentionally make all characters seem gay. Even the music seems to be rehashed from Sonar Kella, his father's masterpiece.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Adventure 33

The world is full of suckers... (vol 2)
...who live in office and cook there
...who sell products using human tragedies
...who give "radical" solutions like "dudes...lets...like...stop paying taxes...and like..."
...who want Ratan Tata to be Prime Minister
...who want Ratan Tata to be Chief Minister
...who want Ratan Tata to be President
...who want Ratan Tata to be Defence Minister
...who want Ratan Tata to be Home Minister
...who twitter about social reform
...who blog about social reform
...who blab about social reform
...who think war is glorious
... who live on Facebook
...who use SMS lingo
...who vote in reality shows
...who participate in reality shows
...who watch reality shows
...who forward SMSs about Raj Thackeray during emergencies thinking they are being witty

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Adventure 32

Creative Genius
This guy should be doing publicity for Louis Vuitton...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Adventure 31

Short Movie Reviews

Here are some movies I decided to rate on a scale of 10. The figures in parentheses are IMDB ratings as of now.

Death to Smoochy: 8.5 (6.2)
Infinitely enjoyable, this hilarious and bawdy expose of the seamy side of the kiddy TV industry and the charity mafia has not a single dull moment. Brilliant performances by Robin Williams (Rainbow Randolph - busted by the FBI for accepting cash in return for casting a parent's kid on his show) and Edward Norton (Smoochy the Rhino - a squeaky clean replacement for Randolph and a pain in the ass for the Parade of Hope - the toughest of all the charities) and the Irish Mafia .

The Way of the Dragon (Meng Long Guo Jiang - dubbed from Chinese): 8.5 (6.9)
Bruce Lee must rescue Nora Miao's Chinese restaurant in Rome from the Italian Mafia, whose guns are no match for Chinese darts and Jeet Kune Do. Watch it for the climax where Bruce Lee struggles to overpower Chuck Norris Iimported from America to deal with Lee) at the Coliseum in the greatest martial arts duel ever captured on film.

Danny the Dog: 7.0 (7.1)
Jet Li has been raised like a dog whose owner unleashes him on his detractors with devastating effects. Can a blind Morgan Freeman show him a new life?

Tom Yum Goong (Thai with subtitles): 6.5 (6.9)
To save his elephant that has been smuggled from Chiang Mai to Sydney, Tony Jaa must unleash the power of the ancient martial arts of Muay Thai and Muay Boran on unsuspecting Aussie goons, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighters, South African Capoeira experts, WWE wrestlers, and diabolical Thai immigrants in Sydney.

Fargo: 9.5 (8.3)
Greedy car salesman schemes to rob his father-in-law by geting his wife kidnapped by dangerous hoodlums The plot goes horribly wrong and a 7-month pregnant lady cop must unravel some mysteries to stop the series of killings in a chilling Minnesota winter.

The Forbidden Kingdom: 7.0 (7.0)
A Bruce Lee fan somewhere in a rough American neighborhood is roughed up by hooligans before he is transported to an ancient Chinese village. With the help of the village drunkard, poet and Kung Fu champion (Jackie Chan), he must return a magic staff to the Monkey King (Jet Li - who initially appears as some sort of Shaolin Monk ) , who had been decieved by an evil magician centuries ago.

The Godfather II: 8.5 (9.0)
A long-winded sequel to The Godfather. Features Robert DeNiro brilliantly portraying a young Vito Corleone (he speaks only in Italian) and an over-the-top portrayal of his youngest son Michael by Al Pacino.

The Big Boss (Tang Shan Da Xiong - dubbed from Chinese): 7.5 (6.5)
Bruce Lee goes to Thailand to work in an ice factory whose owners clandestinely manufacture narcotics. They try to bribe him and kill his cousins before he overpowers them with the power of Jeet Kune Do. Poor dubbing ruins a lot of the charm, but has brilliant fight scenes.

Romeo Must Die: 5.0 (6.0)
Jet Li beaks out of a Hong Kong prison and escapes to America, where he causes mayhem using the ancient martial art of Wushu. The best scene is where he pwns a whole bunch of huge thugs in a game of American football.

Yeopijeogin Geunyeo (My Sassy Girl - Korean with subtitles): 8.0 (8.1)
Crazy girl make life hell for naive boy - and then they fall in love. She makes him do lots of crazy stuff. Along with Oldboy, this makes me crave for more Korean movies.

More ratings when I feel like it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Adventure 30

More Fun With Google Analytics

Here is an interesting visitor profile to this site (I was able to get full details because there was only one visitor on that day) .

Date: 30 April 2008
Country: USA
State: Virginia
City: Arlington
Network Location: The Pentagon
Referring Site: Google.com
Search Keyword: "Microsoft Office 2007 sucks"

Uncle Sam agrees with me!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Adventure 29


Free Knowledge = Better Science

I am not battle-weary professor. Neither am sore after having my work rejected by multiple journals (not yet at least). I am a humble graduate student trying to prepare my first manuscript. In the process, I have discovered the pitfalls of multiple journals and their editorial policies; each with its own formatting guidelines, way of presenting ideas, kind of work expected, etc. While hunting for literature, I was faced with journals that my institution hasn't subscribed to; an article could cost upto USD 75! Thats when the ideas below occurred to me.

I believe that knowledge should be freely shared. Hence, I am against the practice of scientific journals charging exorbitant subscription fees to allow readers to access their online material. A better option would be to charge the authors themselves enough publication fees to sustain the cost of maintaining these knowledge databases. Most serious research projects are heavily funded, and there may be institutional memberships to get research published rather than access literature. Apart from allowing researchers with institutional affiliations to work from locations outside their organization, this would breed a lot of independent startups and amateur researchers who, without the need to buy expensive subscriptions, would be encouraged to contribute to scientific development, not unlike the 'hackers', who spurred great developments in computers over the last three decades. Furthermore, it would automatically put pressure on academics to publish, if at least to justify their institution's publication membership, which would be at a premium to subsidize under-funded organizations.

With the onset of the internet, I also believe that the practice of having separate journals for separate disciplines (sometimes a large number of journals of varying importance for various areas) should be rubbished. With the abolishing of journals and their impact factors, a research article will have no crutches to stand on apart from its own academic merit. Nobody will cite an atrocious article written by some heavy-weight of yesteryear with enough clout to bulldoze a peer-review process just because it appears in Journal X with impact factor 32.1 ortrash a perfectly good piece of analysis just because it appeared in Journal Y with impact factor 1.1. All articles should use the same formatting macro, and this editor could be freely available on the web (this is not some wild flight of fancy - check out the beautiful pages of Wikipedia) reducing the dependence on expensive and proprietary word processors (read MS Word), as well as the inconsistency of various LaTeX packages (I suggest the development of a markup language that incorporates both Wiki and LaTeX markups, as well as a few online toolbars for thosedisinclined to use markups - especially biologists, arts and business researchers). Apart from easy database searches (each article could have various tags, like most blogs nowadays do), this would weed out plagiarism and duplicate submissions and also facilitate a uniform format that everyone could follow. It would also allow such a database to be self-funding, with google-like text ads running alongside searches (a boon for project recruiters seeking expertise in specific domains, suppliers of scientific equipment and publishers).

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Adventure 28

The World is Full of Suckers...

...who have made F1 the richest sport.
...who have made golf the second richest sport.
...who click on AdWords links.
...who comment on YouTube.
...who use Internet Explorer.
...who buy fairness creams.
...who participate in Indian Idol.
...who participate in MTV Roadies.
...who participate in Item Bomb.
...who participate in Nach Baliye.
...who believe "long equations = advanced math".
...who listen to Backstreet Boys.
...who listen to Megadeth.
...who listen to Amit Sana.
...who send SMS votes for Lead India.
...who send SMS votes for Indian Idol.
...who send SMS votes for Nach Baliye.
...who use del.icio.us.
...who frequent McDonalds.
...who wear Iron Maiden t-shirts.
...who wear Pink Floyd t-shirts.
...who wear Manchester United t-shirts.
...who wear Chelsea t-shirts.
...who wear Arsenal t-shirts.
...who wear Britney Spears t-shirts.
...who love Kentucky Fried Chicken.
...who use Shelfari.
...who love Microsoft Office 2007.
...who use MSN Messenger.
...who use LiveJournal.
...who pay real money for virtual Facebook gifts.
...who write posts like this.
...who read posts like this.

Amen.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Adventure 27

Search Strings

Here are the top ten search strings that led to my page (information courtesy the Google Analytics script in this page). Though my blog has hardly a few regular readers, Google does throw it up among the top results for a few search strings. Here are the top ten, with some explanation for those who might be unfamiliar with these subjects. If you are smart enough (or you attend quizzes of the "connect, put fundaes , stage 2" variety), you will find a clear pattern linking most of these searches. Do tell me if you find that out. (The numbers in parentheses indicate the number of searches in the last 12 months).

  1. Harathi Reddy (31) - Bangalorea-based supermodel. Erstwhile queen of Bangalore Times' page 3. Currently appears to be either shunning the limelight or on sabbatical to Delhi Times or Hyderabad Times. Overwhelming search volume proves that the public is dying to see her more often in Bangalore Times.
  2. Pavithra Halakatti (28)- Bangalore-based socialite. Reigning queen of Bangalore Times' page 3. A party isn't a party without her. Equally at ease in a chiffon saree or an Aki Nirula gown. Close second to Harathi Reddy in the number of searches.
  3. Carun Carumbaiah (8)- Bangalore-based supermodel. Was hot on the scene when Harathi Redy was at her prime. Was her favourite arm candy. A distant third to Pavithra Halakatti in the number of searches.
  4. Pashmeena Barker (8) - Stunning wife of DJ Rohit Barker. Bangalore-based socialite and supermodel and page 3 regular.
  5. Rubi Chakravarti (7)- Bangalore-based comedienne, party hostess and page 3 regular. Shot into fame for hosting the Times Food Guide awards recently, where she had the audience and later the readers of Bangalore Times in splits with her outrageous one-liners.
  6. Rani Jeyraj (5)- Bangalore-based supermodel and former Miss India World. Now trying her hand at making films. Like Aamir Khan, her sporadic page 3 appearances always elicit rave reviews from fans.
  7. Jai Prakash Nath Publications JPNP (4)- Famous IITJEE book publishers. Have immortalized the likes of M.L. Khanna & J.N. Sharma (Mathematics), O.P. Agarwal (Chemistry) and Gupta & Gupta (Physics). Have repeatedly vanquished pretenders like Tata McGraw-Hill to occupy the pole position in IITJEE study material. Pioneered the use of holograms to protect their wildly popular tomes from piracy.
  8. Priscilla Corner (4)- Singer, diva, supermodel, socialite, star-mum. Mother of supermodel Sarah Corner. Wife of top jockey Robin Corner. Bangalore-based socialite, among the first few regulars of Bangalore Times, way back in the mid 90s.
  9. Raghu Mukherjee (4)- Bangalore-based supermodel. Former Mr. India.
  10. "Harathi Reddy" (3)- Yes, the same Bangalore-based lady who appears at no. 1! Dissatisfied with the results of a plain search, some obsessed stalker refined his/her (ego?) search with an exact match, again proving the lady's popularity.
I sometimes wonder about the demographics of the population whose searches lead them here. Do the seekers of JPNP truths also fantasise about Harathi Reddy? Is Pavithra Halakatti the latest muse of all the IIT wannabes? Is Rubi Chakravarti the next Rauf Lala? Wish Google Analytics could answer some of these questions as well...

Note: The original search strings are all in lower case. The author has introduce caps wherever deemed appropriate, to improve readability.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Adventure 26

Microsoft Office 2007 Sucks

Why do people rave about the exciting new Microsoft Office 2007? Because they are morons! Office 2007 is singularly the shittiest suite of software I have seen. Hold it - before you laugh me off as some linux geek - I am not. I still use MS Office 2003 and prior versions (whose features I have grown used to ). And I haven't figured out how to use either vi or emacs!

So whats so shitty about Office 2007?

  • Microsoft has shown scant respect for users who got accustomed with their old suite. This new one has too many buttons all over the place. Its one hell of a pain in the ass trying to find the print button, or for that matter any formatting button in the applications.
  • Excel 2007 sucks harder than the average DPS student. Its so shitty that I feel like banging the monitor every time I see a graph plotted by it. The default graphs are just plain ugly. Its hard to format graphs. The axis tickmarks and their labels are horrid. The list goes on and on and on...
  • Word 2007 blows like the answer in the wind. One would have expected those geniuses at Microsoft to introduce a simple form of equation numbering atleast now! Also, what about some pdf generating feature (even the shittier OpenOffice Writer has that feature!).
  • Forget about PowerPoint. I convert my presentations to pdf format anyway. Who wants to risk having all the fonts distorted and pictures skewed due to compatibility issues!
  • I don't use Outlook. I used to use Thunderbird a long time ago, but nowadays I am content checking mail on the web.
  • Is Internet Explorer a part of the Office suite? I couldn't care less... been ages since I last saw it; just use it to recharge my cellphone online, since my bank is probably run by some Pagalguy members, who attended MBA classes wearing red blazers and purple ties, who have never heard of Firefox, and probably never will.
I hope Microsoft buys Yahoo! That way both those shitty companies will end up screwing up each other's happiness. Now is the time for all of you out there to see the light and migrate to Gmail or AOL. Keep your yahoo accounts to subscribe to those newsletters which you wouldn't open unless you are your company's system administrator. Yahoomail is anyway slower than Indian Postal Services many a time. And before you accuse me of being some Google freak as well, I exhort you to never log onto Orkut again - unless they disable the mass scrapping feature and allow unfettered access into each and every photo album and scrapbook. Till then, go to Facebook, where you can spank each other, throw sheep, become a biting zombie or just buy virtual handcuffs and Teddy Bears. However, if you are in IISc, just be content browsing scientific literature, because India's premier research organisation, breeding ground for future Nobel laureates, Turing awardees, Fields medalists and Bhatnagar awardees, just cannot muster enough bandwidth for you any longer! Amen...

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Adventure 25

Black Hole

Black Hole beckons. Few have escaped its clutches. People have left it, but keep coming back. Some intend to leave, but keep inventing new reasons to stay back. Outsiders look at Black Hole with a mixture of amusement and derision. Some of its inmates have have made its flashy but dusty interiors their home, hearth, workplace, private space, party room, larder and kitchen. Others hate it. Its a place of contradictions - a place that has seen legends and hopeless truants and people who have despaired over the futility of their endeavours here. Most of Black Hole's neighbours prefer to keep a safe distance from it.

Black Hole. Black Hole. Black Hole. Shines from far. Beware.