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.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Suspicion (1941)

Suspicion is a rather alarming title for a rather light flick from the master of suspense. I'm guessing it was conjured by RKO Pictures' marketeers to capitalize on Hitchcock's record of thrillers. A fast talking Cary Grant, mesmerizes Joan Fontaine and despite protests from her father, she goes on to marry Cary. Cary plays Johnnie Aysgarth as a flippant trickster who repeatedly causes Tina McLaidlaw (Joan Fontaine) to doubt his intentions. Then he reels her back in with an act that indicates that he has changed. Tina vacillates between trust and distrust till she finally dispels her suspicion.

The book from which the screenplay was adapted, was apparently much darker and ends with the Johnnie character killing Tina. The DVD also had an alternate ending fashioned by Hitchcock that showed this. The movie would have been much better had it ended that way. This is yet another case of the studio meddling with the director's true intentions. Despite being unaware of this while watching the movie, I never thought Cary Grant looked menacing enough. He plays Johnnie with much levity and lacks the smarminess that can convince us of his darker intentions. Coming out only a year after Rebecca, Joan Fontaine is asked to play a mature woman compared to the subservient nameless girl and does well. IMDB says that this was hers was the only Oscar winning performance that Hitchcock directed.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

If Changeling is Angelina's vehicle to the awards, Benjamin Button's frail and withered form is the horse on which Brad is betting. Eric Roth takes F.Scott Fitzgerald's short story and attempts to make it into a fable. In the process he also extends it to a length that is just beyond the reach of one's patience. Button is born with an old man's body, a part that Pitt plays wonderfully. He then proceeds to grow younger, really slowly. Among all the weird characters that accept Button's affliction without flinching, his dad who finds him a freak is the only normal one. If you experience a heavy Forrest Gump undercurrent, do not fret. Eric Roth also adapted the screenplay for that movie and has adopted a similar narrative style with Button even sounding like one of Gump's Southern cousins. But for someone born as a grandpa, his fairy-tale lacked the magic. Like the screenplay, it relies on gimmicks and has no real story. The only thing I was curious about was when it would all end.