Archives for July 2007

India’s obsession with film stars

Today’s news in India is dominated by Sanjay Dutt’s six year sentence to prison, due to his role in the Mumbai bomb blasts some years back.

Every TV channel you turn to has a snippet of this topic, along with interviews of people on the street. And of course the ubiquitous ticker format of people’s opinions.

And I do not understand something here. The protracted legal process, even for a high profile case like this, has been through its motions and arrived at this sentence. The fact of Sanjay’s role in the Mumbai blasts has not been disputed, to the contrary it has been proved beyond doubt. Hundreds of lives were lost, many hundred millions lost to the economy and people want to show pity and even condemn the legal process??

I just do not understand the logic of my fellow citizens. Perhaps their sense of forgiveness is more than mine but I would ask them to put themselves in the position of those who lost their near and dear ones on that day and then rethink their reactions. One young man in an interview said Sanjay should have been given 2-3years and that the judge was being unduly harsh! Was not the anguished cries of those wounded in the blasts harsh? How many orphans and widows and maimed beings did this blast contribute to the already fractured country? And we want to repay this with sympathy and understanding?

I have always believed this, one can know a lot about a country and its people by seeing whom it idolizes. India, it seems, is not only economically poor but also lacks in its value system. For all the talk of culture and hearkening to a past glory, we are a nation of weaklings, weak in spirit and unable to see the truth as it is. Our sight is blinded by colors that have no substance. We take the mirage to be the true thing. How else do you explain attribution of all virtues seen on a theatre screen to the person who acts the character?

This obsession with film stars is the bane of this country. Especially the southern part of the country where film stars routinely become chief ministers. Is our self-esteem so low that we need this gaudy mime to hold our attention? Is this the country that yielded its soul to likes of Swami Vivekananda, Adi Shankara, Kabir et al., ?

Sometimes I find all this so disheartening, but yet refuse to give up hope…foolish me!

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State Machine of the Self

Man is an enigma.

For all his assured poise in regard to the external world, his position when it comes to questions on himself is shaky at best. Am not talking about the fundamental questions of existence, this is something more immediate, the who we are now, how we came to be thus and what control, if at all, do we have on what we become.

I have been thinking about certain traits of myself, not undesirable in themselves, but the absence of which would be highly desirable. I questioned myself in a series of introspective sessions thus, ‘where does this start?’. I did not use any rational technique to do this. I used the free-association way of letting the mind loose, but set the goal up-front, to see what raw data it brought up. What an experience! And I know for sure I have barely scratched the surface here.

The details of what came up are not relevant, at least to this post, but what I found amazing was this – we seem to be a very complex state-machine, fed by an enormous number of signals that determine what subsequent states we attain. Capable of multiple parallel fuzzy states of activation, we seem a massive soft machine of infinite complexity and possibility.

Every gesture has the timeless past for its ancestors. This immense legacy endows to every act the sanctity of a ritual. But this history is a burden too – It shackles our future to the past, which in some cases we would rather not have gone through. Living in the mire has endowed us with some of its characteristics.

Numerous questions come up in the light of this thought – By how much do hereditary factors control our initial state? What impact does the environment have on the signals that influence our transitions? Is our initial state only determined by hereditary factors, or is there a yet deeper past of the individual, one that goes beyond this specific manifestation of his soul? Is every state of being open to attainment from any given state? Is eternal damnation a reality?

I have no answers to any of these. Of course I could parrot the thoughts and opinions from my religious or spiritual system but that is not the option I would take. Now is not the time for talk. Knowledge does not reveal its true riches unless paid for by experience. Every release will have to be earned. The Infinite Maker, it seems, is an exacting accountant.

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Video Card with HDMI?

I intend to setup a media server at home. I can’t buy the Alienware baby, primarily because I can’t afford it and, even if I could, I have to lug it back to Bangalore, India!

Am looking at buying the biggest components(Video Card, hard drive and possibly motherboard) from NY and taking it back home.

My need is primarily to watch HD movies. The plasma can do 1080p, so I need the video card to be able to pump that resolution and I need HDMI output. I have not fed any true HD source to the plasma so far, very eager to see how it will be.

I have looked at a few sites(Anandtech, CNET, Amazon etc) but could not find anything definitive around what would be a good option.

Do please pass your suggestions, either by comment or by mail to cr dot mahesh at gmail dot com.

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Proof that I can never do painting for a living

My painting, courtesy of Mr.Picassohead

Am so pleased… 🙂

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Boston Free Shakespeare Festival

Just came back from a dress rehearsal of The Midsummer Night’s Dream as part of the Free Shakespeare festival at the Boston Commons.

The stage is kept a little ahead of where the car is. A charming little stage, topped with green grass and some balloons. The balloons seem to be props for trees. Since it was a dress rehearsal, the action was interrupted often. But the actual festival starts in a couple of days and I intend to attend it.

The actors were quite spirited and it was such a pleasure to hear Shakespeare, rather than the bastardized version of English that is the norm nowadays.

And forgot to add, that little structure at the bottom of the picture above somehow reminded me of the Ephor’s temple, picture below, that Leonidas visits in the 300 movie.

300_temple2

Of course, I peeped into that structure, could not find the Oracle girl, picture below…

300

Now, if only someone stages any of Sophocles‘ plays….you know why am a lost cause, don’t you?!

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Harry Potter, The Quest for Meaning

I doubt if anything would have escaped the hoopla around Harry Potter. My participation in this whole exercise has been one from the periphery.

I should be last handful of people on this planet who has neither read the books nor watched any of the movies, at least not fully. This is not because I am one of those who are chronically unable to imagine or enjoy a fantasy. To the contrary I love LOTR. Read the books a couple of times and seen the movie more than two dozen times and still it holds me in thrall. I have almost shed a tear when I saw what the ring had done to Frodo in the scouring of the Shire.

But I have been wondering what could be behind the Harry phenomena? Of course there is the inherit merit in the story, in the characters and the motivations that drive their actions. But a simple story cannot have such a wide reaching influence, across cultures, languages, regions, age groups etc. Harry must be both the wet-dream and nightmare of every marketing person, he makes the notion of a demographic vanish with his magic wand. There are no hard boundaries anymore.

Harry seems to have found the secret word to touch the basics in all of us and hence we fall under his spell. Like a modern day Pied Piper, Harry with his struggle against evil, lures us with his vulnerability and power, an enchanting music that we may not resist, follow its promise of something bigger than what we have today.

I have a hypothesis on what makes Harry tick. The Age we live in, at least the modernized connected world, is one of reason. There is nothing that escapes the clutches of reason. Everything is explained, everything is seen, everything dissected. In explaining and knowing the world around us, and everything in it, we seem to have killed the very mystery of living. There is no joy in living anymore. And we seek our rushes in jumping off cliffs, off planes, in ridiculous stunts, in visceral reality shows. We live in a dead world, populated with a hundred different machines, each prepared to come to life under the impress of our fingertips but nothing more.

This absence of meaning, as enforced by the environment we live in, forces us to discover or invent meaning of our own in whatever chooses our fancy.

And it is this context that makes a simple orphan boy, with a lightning scar on his forehead, such an alluring source of meaning and endearment.

Harry is about powers that cannot be explained, about conflicts that are larger than the provincial concerns of self, about a past that cannot be altered, about odds stacked against us, about providential aid in times of despair and about discovering self through choice and action. And these concerns are universals that transcend the particulars of any given culture. These are the basics upon which life is built upon.

These, if you observe, are the same factors that would have influenced the state of the earliest man. The same factors that force man to act in accordance to the laws of his environment. But the modern solution has been to seal ourselves in more and more isolated compartments of ego and labels that explain nothing.

Harry, if I may dare to say, re-introduces the mystery of living to an Age that has killed the intangible joy of living in the quest to control and explain everything. To an age that knows no ritual, no symbolic high act, no hard morals, no yardstick to measure goodness and success, Harry is a little benchmark by which they may assess their own lives and acts.

In performing this role, Harry joins more than a handful of master literary characters. Hamlet, Frodo, Oedipus, Odysseus, Karna and now a little Harry. High lives that have defined how subsequent generations interpret and make sense of this unstoppable machinery called Life.

Mind or Heart

What is it within a individual that creates music, the mind or heart? I have been listening to the soundtrack of the Fountain again, covered in an earlier post, and what an experience!

How does one translate emotion into a musical note?! This cannot be skill! Perhaps training can add structure and discipline to the endeavor but in principle I think this must be an activity that transcends the mind.

I used to write poetry quite some time ago and distinctly remember the time when the best lines came out. They were like utterances rather than something one deliberately thought about and wrote. This has to be a branch of alchemy, the ability to take mere thought and emotion and transmute it into music!

To all the musicians out there, of every genre , of every time past and time yet to come, of every culture and nomination…a big thank you…

And most of all my gratitude goes out to Him/Her who makes all this possible.

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Copernicus and the French millionaire show

You got to see it to believe it….the french audience respond to a question on what revolves around the earth. Found this via GorillaMask. I don’t usually subscribe to racial or regional jokes but damn this ones funny…:-)

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I was Hiltoned!

Denizens of the net, today I add to the vast corpus of English vocabulary a word of my own, a humble offering to the language that has given me so much.

Hiltnoed – adjective; 1) Made to suffer from stupidity of others 2) Endure consequences of arbitrary environmental factors, often capricious, over which one has no control. 3) Moments when you know, even, you could have designed the system better than the Maker, aka God.

Now let me explain the characteristics of the crucible in which this word was lovingly cast.

I was in NY for the last week and had to visit Boston. I was traveling on business and informed the front desk, of the Hilton, that I would like to pay by traveler’s cheques. Now, when I say informed, I really did inform…thrice. Just so that they would not charge my personal credit card I had done the booking with. Why thrice? Well, you know how it is, the world does not always speak the same dialect of English, that glorious glue between the most disparate societies, and of course not with the same accent. And they nodded, in complete comprehension- perhaps like the Buddha, who would nod in sage understanding, if you ever spoke to Him about grief and suffering. Always the vacuous, but polite, ‘Yes sir’. Like a modern day genie that would not dare disobey even your inane wishes.

And yes, it happened. They took my cheques and charged my card too. To their credit, pun intended, the amount was to be charged back to my card, or at least that is what they told me. Now I check into this hotel in Boston and give my card. Lo and behold, transaction denied.

Perhaps its just a time thing, I will have to check with the hotel and figure out when the charge back would happen etc but annoys me is this..inner stupidity clothed with external gloss.

I did resist the temptation to pun on the word Hilton- every time I went in, and out, in, and out, or when I entered via the front entrance or the back..oh so many possibilities to indulge in some verbal foreplay that menkind are so fond of.

But I resisted, cheap temptations were not for me, I would not budge from my moral pedestal. But hell, this incident drove me nuts!

So from now my fellow men and women you have be forewarned. The word is “Hiltoned”, remember it when you are a victim of stupidity, and in remembering me who has suffered before you, you shall derive strength to endure it. Now go forth and spread the word, let it be a war-cry on your lips to every manifestation of stupidity everywhere..”Hiltoned!”

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Remarkable foresight

While browsing about 69 tech blogs that don’t suck, I landed on this post by David Geller. May be I am late to this but got to say that was a very prescient description of what’s out there from the Microsoft stable!

Highly recommended read. Most of it might be fairly obvious, as it always is in hindsight, but note that the post was written in 2005. And here we are in 2007, with Silverlight, XML based UI, compiled etc etc..its all there..

Now to wait for Microsoft to officially get this baby running on the Linux platform.

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