Saturday, 24 October 2009

Phineas and Ferb

Got to thank Sammu for this one. She was raving about this show and made me watch it. And she was right. Its an amazingly fun little concoction.

The show is about a blended family. Two brothers and a sister and what they do on their summer vacation. Or what the boys do each day of their summer vacation. The sister tries to bust them to their parents, but always fails because their pet platypus is a secret agent locked in a daily battle with an evil scientists – and the disruption of the evil scientist’s scheme always ends up destroying all evidence of the fantastic things that brothers build in the course of that day.

And those things include – a roller coaster, an elevator to the moon, an animation studio, an aquarium complete with dolphins and killer whales, a submarine, a ski resort (in midsummer), a monster truck racetrack and others.

There’s a formal structure. The show begins with Phineas apropos of some conversation saying “Ferb, I know what we’re going to do today”. Then there’s a montage – lamp-shaded by Ferb in “Voyage to the bottom of Buford” and the amazing construction is complete. Oh, and just before the montage, someone, usually Phineas, says “Where’s Perry”. Perry is in his secret lair – receiving his instructions from Major Monogram. “Stop Doofenshmirz” who’s been buying all the available zinc or tin foil or bratwurst to build his “Ballgown-inator” or his “Sandwichsuiteliminator” or “LaundromatEliminator”. Then theres a song, Perry being captured by Doofenshmirz, Candace ringing up their mom to bust the boys, Perry escaping and destroying Doofenshmirz’s …inator, which also destroys whatever the boys are working on. When Candace drags her long suffering mother into the backyard there’s nothing there.

Straighforward, but amazingly nice. And you cant get the songs out of your head.

I burst into “SIMP – Squirrels in my pants” last week in the middle of the office – and was well into the second verse when I realized all other noise had stopped and there were eighty four people staring at me with stunned expressions on their faces…


Saturday, 26 September 2009

Old Ads

Came across a very nice set of 70s ads from guidespot.com which got me searching for more old ads on the intertubes.
There’s adclassix – which has several vintage ads – broken down by category – celebrity endorsements, railway, cosmetics, cars, fashion, tobacco, beer and spirits etc.
Ed Murrow advertising coffee



and GBS advertising sleep [Beds/Springs/Mattresses]
There are some decent blog sites as well. Theres Found in Mom's Basement which is probably the best of the lot.
I found a couple at home. They’re from the 70s. This one is truly weird.

The copy goes
“Can you brew bathtub gin?”
“Can you light his fire swiveling to a calypso beat while slugging champagne from a bottle and wearing nothing but one Edwardian rose behind your ear?”
and the truly spectacular
“Do you have to have your carrot juiced every morning?”
and “Be the first on the block with an ocelot”.
Next up ... truly horrible sock and underwear ads, as well as one from Colliers magazine advertising the return of Sherlock Holmes

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Greyhawk, Gygax etc

After the hype and the hoopla on the 40th anniversary of Woodstock in August, one thing went unmentioned. Woodstock week was when Gygax met Arneson for the first time.

So in belated memoriam for the guys who gave us Greyhawk, the village of Hommlett and the Temple of Elemental Evil and the Tomb of Horrors and thereon to Pool of Radiance, Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights and Planescape:Torment, Gord’s Greyhawk.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Attitudes

Last month there was this huge thread that started off with a reference to Vedanta Desikar. It went on to a discussion on the supremacy of the Vedas and how Hinduism was threatened because of the Muslims and the Christian missionaries and how Sonia was the instrument of the Church and other drivel.

The argument was strange. There was one person expressing these views – totally fundamentalist views – I quote

All weaklings advocate tolerance because that's the easiest thing to do, including governments. It takes courage to act positively which is positively lacking in all of us. Just sit back and relax when there is a problem and say that you have tried all negotiations and live with the problem for ever and say you are silly tolerant over the ages. And still audaciously claim that's the best thing to do. What a shame we put ourselves to

The rest of the group – a substantial number – were trying to convince the author of these words that he was wrong. There were those who agreed with him, though their agreement was slightly wishy-washy. There were those who were trying to goad him on from the other side.

In the end, after several people expressed their opinions in several hundred words, and there was pretty much unanimous agreement that the the provocator was a pitiable piece of work – which was of course tempered by a sneaking suspicion that the entire group was being had and the whole thread was an opportunity for the members to have a monstrous intellectual circle jerk

After the arguments died down, the author raised the plight of an old school master suffering from a degenerative nerve disease and basically got things going – getting contributions, visiting him, getting info on the state of his finances etc and setting up something like a fund to take care of the old man in his time of need.

The funny thing – the master’s name is Prakash William Shantakumar.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Fallout 3

Has taken my life over. It’s an quarterly thing, I think for me to go nuts over some game that totally sucks my life away.

Looking back over the catalogue of obsessions – Mass Effect, Gears of War 2, Bioshock, Fable 2, Conan, Ninja Gaiden 2 and Oblivion, its naturally an RPG dominated list – with Conan, NG2 and GoW2 being the odd ones out. But the action games took up a lot less time than the RPGs.

As with most Bethesda games, Fallout’s  game universe dominates. The open ended nature of the game, the maps and locations and the camera angles are strongly reminiscent of Oblivion. The Game universe – the Capital Wasteland overshadows  the quests and the NPCs. You can go where you want and do pretty much anything.

And thats whats been happening to me. There are 300 plus locations on the main map. Several of these provide random respawn encounters. The quests – while not really original, are suitably epic. The DLC has amazing weaponry. So its around 120 hours sunk in in the last two weeks. Just one more location. Just one more quest. Just one more time with the sneak and the sniper rifle to watch the bloody slow motion sequence of an enemy’s head exploding.

Closed until further notice. I have to complete my bobblehead collection

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Back in town

Back in Madras after a fabulous holiday. Its hot and grimy and dull. The noise of cars and bikes and buses is loud and continuous. Its funny how quickly you get used to the silence, or the sound of wind and rushing water. My lips are healing – which is probably the only nice thing I can say about my return.

I should post some of the notes I took in my exercise book in Leh, but that means some transcribing. Does everyone go through a holiday recovery phase?

One thing I found out – fountain pens survive air journeys, but do not survive high altitudes. My Waterman Carene  lived up to its name in an eruption of blue ink and was abandoned in J & K along with three pairs of sunglasses.

So now I’m back to “work”.  Murali suggested the Andamans for the next trip – complete with glass bottomed boats and scuba diving. Think that would make a good winter stop – because I’m pretty sure I’m hitting Leh again in the summer – doing things better this time around.

One of the things that turned out better than expected were the photographs, given my complete absence of skill with the camera. The one I bought for the trip, the Olympus SP-565UZ did all the heavy lifting, even if it was just a slightly sophisticated version of the point and click variety. And you don’t have to know what half the specs mean. AND it was made in Vietnam.

Of course, the first thing I heard on my last day back was that MJ was dead and the next was that Farrah F had gone with him – and I was all “Leave town for a couple of weeks and see what happens…”

Friday, 19 June 2009

Nubra Valley

Was spectacular. The ride from Leh - via Khardungla Pass brown, wind blown well tarred road giving way to snowbound tracks after about an hour of driving. Shale and limestone. Huge mountain faces marred by snowmelt tear tracks.Drove from hamlet to village and back again, akon's "I wanna fug you" and the vengaboyz? playing infinite loop in the background.Names - Khalsar/Sumun/Hundur/Diskit/Pullu - North and South.The presence of the army everywhere - "This worlds highest motorable road built by the Madras Engineers".The inevitable speed warnings. "If you are married, divorce speed", "Slow Drive Long Life", the hip "Go gently on my curves", the non sequitorous " Know AIDS, No AIDS" and the zen like "Traffic Jam, Yellow Tape, Grieving Family"A section in the menu of the amazing Jamshed Guest house in Hundur - "Snakes". Hot springs and hidden lakes.

And the mountains.

Camel rides - Bactrian camels, not the pilani kind. You sit between humps. Theyr better behaved though. Monasteries - hanging on to mountain walls for dear life. Young monks at a school with a spectacular view singing "Jana Gana Mana". Yaks grazing on riverbeds. Donkeys and beavers (I think).

Coming back to Leh this afternoon was a comedown.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Acclimatization

Well. Here I am in Ladakh. Flew in this morning.The plane was quite full - plenty of firangs, army family types and Delhi rich brat types. - it was cold and windy with a suspicion of a drizzle. The skies were grey. The ground was grey brown and the mountains ringing the view were a grim brown grey.
We went to the ITBF guest house and I met my first Lobsang. The room was small, there was no running water, but the beds were clean .and the chairs comfortable.
Since everyone I talked to about Leh talked about a day of rest before beginning your labours, we crawled into our razais and slept till two. We were woken by a enthu Ladakhi who said we would miss lunch.
Lunch was simple and really good. Took a walk down the main market road afterwards. Half the road is given up to parked jeep/wagon type vehicles. The road is lined with shops selling "100% pashmina shawls" for Rs. 100, genuine tribal handicrafts, antique shops with taglines like "Where your dreams come true", shops called "La caverne di Ali Baba" and "Alladin's cave", eateries called "Pizza de Hutt" and "Garden Restaurant - lonely planet recommended" , Punjabi Dhabas that promise breakfast, lunch and denar, Tibetan market stalls selling croc offs and shops promising trips to Zanskar and Tso Morari.
The roads are full - backpacking firangs, imperious looking army women , Lehi schoolboys in sweaters and ties, teenagers wearing Green Day t-shirts, pretty Ladakhi girls giggling.
Walked around for about a couple of hours looking at the bullet motorbikes on hire, mountain bikes in shop windows, books on the Himalayan kingdoms displayed with pride in dingy bookshop windows.
Then I chickened out and decided to return to the guest house for further acclimatization - especially since the night before was spent in Delhi airports terminal 1 D.
Tomorrow we go to Nubla valley. I wonder if I should buy a notebook.
It would probably make more sense - considering that the internet connection in the shop I'm in has just died.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Facebook quizzes etc

Look at the ones that available. Which equation are you? What cult film character? Which celebrity are you? Which alcoholic beverage? Which X-Man? Which DC Character? How well do you know this person
I did a quick search on "are you" on facebook. Number of results - facebook gave up after 500.

So why isn't there a "What would your name be if Sarah Palin was your mother?" quiz yet? Or is there an F/B quiz on that that I haven't been able to find?

[Mine was Muzzle Mammoth]


Unexpected Delights:

Finding the full first Shadow Novel online.
It strikes me that we are not browsers of the web, we are prospectors.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Taken

Dull day at work - so got hold of a bunch of films and watched them in sequence - Like the continuous shows in the old Blue Diamond theatre. 
One of the movies was Taken - starring Liam Neeson as an ex-CIA agent whose daughter is kidnapped ona trip to Paris.  Two things struck me about the movie. One was - it played like an RPG - The kidnapping is the opening cutscene- the chartering of flights and finding the kidnap location could be done through dialog options - then the discovery of the cell phone - the usage of the memory chip to identify the spotter at the airport - rolling dice with an intellingence modifier or use the spot and search skills. Then a fight. Then some more detective role playing. Then another fight with multiple enemies - more detectiving followed by fighting - culminating with a two step boss fight - with the big bad's bodyguard as the real bossfight followed by shooting the villain.
The other thing was - how many cliches could they pile into two hours? You had evil Muslims (Albanians) kidnapping virginal American girls for the flesh trade - sending their catch to an evil Frenchman (1920s pulp authors  -  would have used evil Jews - but hey - this is Hollywood. Jews can never never be bad guys here) who auctions these girls off to more evil Muslims (Middle Eastern this time). It seems to be an updation of a number of Edgar Wallace short stories - updated with the torture that is so dear to the American nowadays.
The funny thing is, at some level, it works. It works because of Neeson - because he is so appealingly ruthless - shooting people in the back, killing without speechifying - most of the time - if you removed the question "Where is she" from the script, you would probably cut out 80% of his dialogue.
Oh - and theres a third thing you take away from the movie. In a kidnapped daughter scenario, torture works, and is deeply satisfying.

Other Items

I read it, I don't believe it. Or the more things change, the more they remain the same 
Got me something I wanted for a long long time - a Conway Stewart fountain pen. This pen.
Note to self: Stop using hyphens

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Reunions

I despise reunions. Maybe its because I'm from a couple of reasonably reputable institutions which churn out  entrepreneurs and serial CEOs and I'm something that stayed stuck at the bottom of the barrel. So when Venky put a senti on me and extracted a promise that I would attend - a promise I made just to stop him talking - second,  third and fourth thoughts started crowding in almost immediately.
I went, mainly because I hadn't seen Boxer or LuxTina for a long time. It was scheduled to start at 7:00 pm and I went there promptly at half past - and I had my ear bitten for 500 rupees. Got chucked out of the bar because it was for residents and couples only that night. 
By the time my first drink arrived in the coffee shop, I was thinking of the most painful way I would want Venky killed. 
In the end, it wasn't too bad. Jeyamani was assigned to the function - innovatively called "Notalgia" and he made sure that my glass was never empty. Saw Lux - who played his "cloud cloud baby" record and improvised a very serviceable "Joka rap" - and Tina, Bhasker and a couple of others. Apart from a bunch of high enthu kids, there were a bunch of older guys - most of whom were happy to reminisce about intoxicants indulged in - and sing out of tune "Ye shaam mastani" loudly.
Left basking in the glow of several drinks and the feeling of a painful duty performed, but will I go next year?
No frikkin way.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

The Mystery of Cigars of the Pharaoh and others

Was rereading Cigars of the Pharaoh this morning on the white throne. (Comics make the best loo activity, along with crosswords). Theres a panel where this arab chieftain says that he's a huge Tintin fan and has read his adventures. Theres a flunky of his who shown holding a copy of a book. Looking at the cover - its pretty obvious that the book is Destination Moon. But then - sequentially, Destination Moon takes place way after "Cigars".  No biggie? Destination Moon must have been written before "Cigars of the Pharaoh"  - and hence the ref. That doesnt quite ring true - because its unlikely that Herge would make such a mistake when it is clear that this is a mystery where the Thompsons make their first appearance . And so it proves. Cigars was written in 1932. Destination Moon was written in 1950. So was Herge a wormhole traveller? Did he know that Tintin was going to the Moon way back in 1932? Or was it something that the publishers screwed up when publishing the English translation of the album version? That doesnt work either as Herge himself did all the recolouring and reworking of all the album versions, atleast until the 1970s. So does the fact that the album version of Cigars of the Pharaoh was published in 1955 and the album version of Destination Moon in 1950 have anything to do with it? That it was a conscious decision to capitalize on the success of the Moon titles?
 Or was it just a blooper? Maybe. But like the crumpet, these explanations are "Ingenious. Quite ingenious. But a little far fetched. No, I prefer to think the whole thing, as I say, has something to do with the fourth dimension. I am convinced that that is the true explanation, if our minds can only grasp it"

Others
  • This is another edition of "What's the point".
  • Given the talk about blacks and crime, doesnt the number of blacks in the US Marshals' most wanted  look a bit odd?
  • Reading Kipling on America. Theres a bit near the end on American journalism - in the chapter on America's Defenceless Coasts where a journo says "There is no domestic privacy in America. If there was, what the deuce would the papers do?". Kipling is outraged by the story the journalist tells him - and tells him "It makes me regard your interesting nation with the same shuddering curiosity that I should bestow on a Pappan cannibal chewing the scalp off his mother’s skull. Does that convey any idea to your mind? It makes me regard the whole pack of you as heathens—real heathens—not the sort you send missions to—creatures of another flesh and blood. You ought to have been shot, not dead, but through the stomach, for your share in the scandalous business, and the thing you call your newspaper ought to have been sacked by the mob, and the managing proprietor hanged."
    I wonder how he would react now, to the octomoms and Real Housewives and Jon and Kate and all the rest - not just in America, but all around the world. I wonder how he would feel if he saw the "Deccan Chronicle" or the Times of India for that matter... 

Friday, 29 May 2009

Initialize()

There are millions of blogs out there. Some very good with established communities. Some are part of larger organizations - newspapers, magazines etc. Many of them are maintained by people whose main or secondary profession is writing. And then there are blogs maintained by people who use it like facebook - posting links, telling others what they are doing and posting frikking pet photos.
And then there are blogs like this one. With one or two entries, created in an initial rush of enthusiasm that dissipates within a couple of days. If I am lucky, this may make it beyond that - and maybe even become "precious" and "self-consciously clever" to quote a guy who knows about these things
The thing is - the excuse of self expression covers a multitude of sins. It kind of pre-supposes that your self has something to express - and that that something is of interest to others, more than any of the many other things one emits.
I took a look at some of the most popular Indian blogs.  Atleast the first result of a Google search on the term "Best Blogs". Naturally there are blogs on a number of themes - CEO blogs, probably ghostwritten, tech blogs on programming and gadgetry, hobby blogs - photography, travel, music and dance and blogs by authors.
One thing about them. Their keepers are consistent. A minimum of three to four entries a week seems to override other factors like content and style. Thats not to say some of them aren't very good. They are.  Some of them have been very good - but have degenerated to a bunch of tweets.
So whats a guy with limited writing skills, an uninteresting life, all the activity of a couch potato watching Cartoon Network and a soul destroying job for which he has complete contempt to do?
Pollute the net further with more navel lint and toe jam.