Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sherlock Jr (1924)

With a deadpan expression and quick fire antics, Buster Keaton makes the already short 44 minutes of Sherlock Jr go by in a flash. He works at a theater but is studying to become a detective. The girl he is interested in is also being wooed by a cad. The bad guy foists a burglary on Buster and has him kicked out of the girl's house. A depressed Buster goes back to work at the theater and falls asleep on his projector. He finds himself dreaming and in his dream melds into the screen of the movie being shown. The movie within the movie has all the people in his life transposed with him onto the screen. Hilarity ensues including a scene where he gets pulled over by a cop for speeding - for running too fast on the road. It had me in splits. The other brilliant sequence is one in which the background continuously changes behind Buster after he literally steps into the movie. There are a few dialog slides but the actors' expressions and body language convey volumes. A great way to spend 44 minutes

The close-up frames that show detail, the switching of shots between the protagonists and the somewhat exaggerated facial expressions make sure that nothing the director wanted to communicate is ever lost. Silent movies are lessons in communication.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Someone blogged about it first and someone else started a wiki that lists some obsolete skills. You know the stuff that you used to do but no longer need to because either the technology has changed or the times have changed. That set me thinking. What about all the skills that you haven't had a chance to practice as much as you did before. Not just skills, but also habits that you unfortunately shed because, well, you are now grown up.

I was blessed with a unique knack for losing things when i was in school. Pencils, especially the DMK friendly red and black ones made by Messrs. Nataraj & Co, were my favorite to buy and to misplace. They would go from the stationery store to a black hole under my bench, stopping briefly for a sojourn in my pencil box and a dalliance with the sharpener. Rulers (yes Camel or was it Camlin, ones with a ridge in the middle), would wait at the bottom of the same pencil box till the pencils got sucked by the black holes and would then make a break for it, never to measure line segments again. My only hope is that the critters inhabiting the netherworld below benches got an education through my generous donations. These days the keyboard has replaced the pencil and has proven a lot more difficult to lose beneath my desk. I tried requesting a new one on that premise, but was turned down.

At various stages in my life, one person or another has exploited the long limbs that came free with me at birth. To the disdain of several high rise shelves, I was always around to rescue bottles and jars from their lofty clasp. The only problem with that was the cumbersome nature of said limbs. They would get in my way often and I fell victim to their long reach. Literally. After tripping on objects that were measurably meters away, I would often come back home with an injury and a slightly lower count of antigens A and Rh+. The protective cushion of my cubicle walls and a zealous avoidance of anything but spectating of sports has meant that my stockpile of differently shaped bandages circa 2003 is intact as are all my antigens (touch wood).

I thought I'd grown enough over the past year to kick this writing habit but then I joined twitter this past month. I was sucked right back in - 140 characters or less at a time.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Also where amazing happens

The map they hand you when entering giant log gates of the West entrance does have a scale legend on one corner, but it gives no indication of the amazing journey you are about to embark on. Like frantic ants in a candy store, we stopped at every possible visual cue that seemed to indicate a treat. First it was a few elks lazing on a riverside. After shooting them to the extension of our zoom lenses, we were back on the road, only to slow down to a crawl behind a few cars. Before we could wonder why everyone had stopped, a trio of bison strolled (rumbled?) across the road, one right in front of our car. For someone who has never seen bison before, they can best be described as cows that, when not grazing, hit the gym. These bulked up jockeys of the bovine world were quite content to graze and walk slowly among cars, while occasionally scaring us off with a snort. Driving on, tracts of mysterious, smoke emitting grounds lured us in for a quick walk. 45 minutes later we realized this was not going to be quick at all and all we were looking at was boiling water - a breathtaking sapphire pool of boiling water through which,with a little imagination, one could peer into the netherworld. Between the smoking earth, the resting elks and bison outside our car window, Yellowstone, with its splendors, had begun to seep in to our memories within the first few hours. It will take me a bit more time to dig up more metaphors and adjectives to write about the subsequent hours of that trip. Do hang on.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jai Ho

So I spent parts of the weekend plagiarizing Shepard Fairey's Obama poster and making it fit the occasion better. No words this week. Only an image and great pride at sharing a hometown with A R Rahman.

Note: The image is from a google image search. I have no idea who took it but if you did, let me know so I can credit you properly. The original,iconic poster is by Shepard Fairey. The steps I got from this post (Thanks, Rick, whoever you may be) : GimpTalk. It's easy if you have Gimp and Inkscape (both are free!!).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ports Illustrated

My wife and I fly quite a bit. So airports play a somewhat important role in our lives. Here's a disconnected paean/rant about two of them. (Current, satisfied?)

MAA was where I first set foot on a flight - the one that would take me out of India for a while. Obviously it trumps any airport. If you haven't heard or are not human, returning home is the best feeling ever. You are in for a surprise as you get out of the plane at MAA though. Water molecules that were relaxing in their subdermal, cellular residences, rush out to greet the parched atmosphere with a frenzy. The water carriers (us) are pleasantly surprised/highly annoyed when we find we have taken a shower without asking for one. Quickly finding yourself standing next to similarly sweaty/glowing co-passengers, cooped in a bus taking its time around the tarmac, doesn't help your extra sensitive olfactory nerves. Inside the airport, you find that MAA has learnt from it's western counterparts and is now charging Rs.35 for a tiny cup of coffee and Rs.40 for 12 pieces of chiclets. You will need to sell aircraft that you do not own to buy a samosa and some ketchup. The paper plates are free.

You need to be wary of any airport that has terminals 1,2,3 and 5 but not 4. I liken ORD to the mofussil bus stands in Chennai. The only thing missing are the hawkers and handkerchiefs on seats. operate on ORD Standard Time, a timezone that always extends beyond your flights ETA. Instead of conductors yelling 'Mayaram, Mayaram' or some other destination and banging on the sides of buses, there are irate gate attendants. Go on a Friday evening and you can find them yelling for people to give up their seats in exchange for a later flight or a hotel room and a round trip ticket. I wonder if someone can stay at the airport indefinitely by just paying for one ticket and then giving it up repeatedly for more tickets. Anyway terminal 3 really has the best choice for food. When buying a sub causes a credit check to be triggered, wouldn't you rather have a choice? Can someone really explain what is there in the food at airports that makes them so exorbitant? Gold dust??

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Finger chips and pics

I am not one to speculate on Intelligent Design. I just have a hard time believing an intelligent designer who failed to recognize how the human mind may evolve manifest. Let us randomly, and without ulterior blogging motives, take an aspect of life - photography. If the omniscient intelligence had foreseen how much we will want to capture day to day life visually, shouldn't it have factored in a USB port or two into our fingers. For a force that gave us a nearly infinite memory, the USB port could have been slipped on in the time it took to design that completely useless appendix. Instead of a vermiform vestigial structure, that may or may not cause extreme pain, we would have a way to just plug ourselves to a 46" HDTV and show off some pics from that recent trip to Disneyland. Of course, you will need built-in censoring software. But that should take no more time than it takes a pair of cherubim to change a light bulb.

As it is, I don't have a USB port or two. My memories are captured on a finitely limited memory card and stored on apparently unlimited storage that I purchase for $25 a year. I occasionally (read always) harass family and friends into looking at my experiments with light and have written about it before. There is still a long way to go but, over the past year or so, I have had some help improving. The better of my halves is a really good photographer and we've had quite a bit of fun shooting together. It only makes sense that when I run out of words for a post, I supplant it with what our viewfinders found. Coincidentally, I just exhausted my vocabulary. She is on the left, my half on the right.

The better half My half

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Suddenly, you realize that this song is mind blowing. You wanted to use a complex simile to compare the steady vocals and slightly audible violin strains to something in nature, but you can't. The song has infected areas in your brain responsible for similes and hearing is the sole sense you are aware of. The song rises in a crescendo, letting a wonderful orchestration take center stage before the vocals return and then it slowly recedes to a ripple. Dil gira kahin par daf'atan.

The lyrics are supposed to be good. I'll pay attention to them after I've had my fill of the music. The Delhi-6 soundtrack sounds like Rahman grew his long hair back and just let loose on the recording floor. If this is how the rest of '09 will roll out musically, it is going to be a happy new year for his fans.

p.s Daf'atan, I found, is Urdu for at once, instantaneously, suddenly.