Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thought of the day - 27th Sept 2007

"In the end, what we regret most are the chances we never took."
- Frasier

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Thought of the day - 25th Sept 2007

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself,
but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.
- Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
Roman Emperor, A.D . 161-180 (121 AD - 180 AD)

Monday, September 24, 2007

We are all myrtyrs

जब दर्द नहीं था सीने में,
तब ख़ाक मज़ा था जीने में,
अब के शायद हम भी रोयें,
सावन के महीने में.

[Jab Dard nahin tha seene meiN,
Tab khaak maza tha jeene meiN,
Ab ke shaayad ham bhi royeiN,
Saawan ke maheene meiN. ]

Literally translated it means:
When there was no pain in the heart,
There was no fun in living,
Maybe this year I will also cry,
In the month of rain.

Yes, yes, rain is not a month, I know, but that's how the song is worded. Actually the word "Saawan" is the name of a lunar month and it coincides with July-August, bringing rain. Unlike western culture, rain is considered a romantic and welcome thing in Indian culture. So, rain reminds one of his/her mate and that in some situations brings sorrow. But this poet is actually looking forward to that seasonbecause now there is pain in his heart. Makes sense? No!

Even though, like a normal person, I have been in and out of love for like a million times, childhood crushes, teenage crushes, love affairs et. al. (I wonder if it can be called a love-affair if the girl doesn't know that you have a pair of binoculars trained on her window?), yet, there was a period in my life when I had none of these. Listening to a sad song on the radio, I realized that even the most recent romantic loss was not so recent that I could think of it with any sorrow. To my surprise, I found myself missing that feeling of missing someone. Not having someone to miss was also an emptyness just as much as not having someone to love. Idiotic, right?

Well, not really, otherwise old Bill wouldn't have said, "It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all!"

Pain and sorrow are as much part of our build-up as happiness. To tell you the truth most people feel safer and more secure in sorrow than in happiness. How many people do you know who are always happy and never complain about anything in their life? I don't know any. Including myself.

Of course, there is always something to complain about. Most of the pain or problems are real but some are imaginary also. But we really don't want to do away with all problems. What we want most, even more than solutions, is for the world (meaning our friends and loved ones and any strangers we meet) to recognize these problems and admire our strength and courage to continue living under such hardships.

Hari Shankar Parsai has written a short story about two very close friends, who share a room, and one night start talking about their horrible lives, they are really in bad shape, and struggling through life with each other's support. But when they start comparing misfortunes, it ends up in a bad fight. According to each one, he only has his sorrow, nothing else left in his life and the other one is trying to take that away from him.

I have done that myself, not written a short story but comparing of misfortunes and troubles. I have stopped doing that now, at least consciously.

But that positive thinking apart, there are things in life that make you sad. Real problems, real losses that can't be helped. Think about it, a dark room, and you, alone with your thoughts, thinking about that one thing that made you sad, perhaps shedding a well-deserved, I can't say that all sorrow is bad. It is what makes us human!

That's just my opinion and I ain't no enlightened soul. What do you think? Maybe I am talking through my hat?

Thought of the day - 24th Sept 2007

"Imagination is more important than knowledge."
- Albert Einstein

Friday, September 21, 2007

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Book Review - Starman Jones

Ok, I admit it, I am addicted to Heinlein's writing. He is the only one who can get me to read regularly no matter how many other things I am busy in. I tried to kick this addiction, did not buy or read any Heinlein books in August, but then I did not read much of anything else either. I started having withdrawal symptoms and even thought about re-reading the Heinlein books I already have. Finally, I gave in.

So I have recently finished Starman Jones and after you finish a great book you miss it, and talking about it is one way to deal with that.

To be honest, the title of the book sounded very boring to me, I bought it only because it's a Heinlein book. Still, the title is completely apt, the story revolves around a boy who, in the course of the story, becomes a man (get your mind out of the gutter!) and a star.

Like an expert storyteller RAH (Robert A. Heinlein, spelling his name is not very typing-friendly), plays with the details, hiding some, describing some. He doesn't mention the actual age of this boy anywhere, other than that he is a minor. So, oldest would be 17. The time is in the future when intersteller travel has been invented and there are spaceships that can travel to other universes. Again, enough technical details are provided to make the story plausible, without going into too much intricate, and boring, details.

There are guilds for all glamorous, profitable professions, where you have to be either born into the profession or enter by nomination by a member. Such is the case for astrogators. Our hero, Max Jones, had an uncle who was an astrogator and he himself is fascinated by it. His mother marries a man whom Max dislikes intensely, and they don't get along at all. So, like a teenager with more emotions and less planning, he leaves home in the middle of the night, to go to Earthport.

On the way, he meets a stranger Sam, who becomes his friend and stays in the role throughout. He is a character who is older, and very different from Max.

The story goes through many predictable and unpredictable twists, some of them are very unlikely but again, Heinlein's screenplay always sticks to common sense and makes the unlikely possible, plausible and almost inevitable. Max progresses up through the ranks as the story goes on and like a good book, the further it goes, the more interesting it becomes.

Of course, I can't say what happens in the end, but I do want to say that Heinlein has a knack for the perfect climax. Well, most of the time. This one is also perfect. Heinlein creates a good mix of dreams and reality in his climax which makes it both fantastic and yet believable.

Heinlein also has a very sound grip on human psychology including the mindset of kids. The way he describes or rather portrays the frustration of a teen who is faced by an adult that he cannot overrule, knowing you are right and not be able to shove it in the face of an adult, it reminds me of very real feelings from my own teenage.

There is a romantic angle in the story and again Heinlein keeps it real without making it dull like an art film.

The bonus in Heinlein's books is that you just don't read a story, you evaluate morals, you think about soceity, everything is connected to you and your world and that's what make it hard to put down his books or forget about them after you have finished them.

In Starman Jones, Heinlein has expertly brought up the issue of rules and customs. It is not always possible or human to stick by all rules, and yet, if you start breaking rules where do you stop? Through the hero's struggle Heinlein makes his standpoint clear.

A very readable book, not very thick, but very un-put-down-able!

Thought of the day - 20th Sept 2007

The fragrance has to leave the flower in order to please the fragrance not the thorn.
- Sunil Goswami

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Thought of the day - 19th Sept 2007

"Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more;
Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be yours"
- Swedish Proverb

Movie Review - Partner

My review of the latest movie I watched called Partner.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Thought of the day - 18th Sept 2007

"Losing doesn't eat at me the way it used to. I just get ready for the next play, the next game, the next season."
 - Troy Aikman

Monday, September 17, 2007

Thought of the day - 17th Sept 2007

Every dream is a delusion until you prove it with your own sweat and blood!
- Sunil Goswami

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Thought of the day - 12th Sept 2007

"Wisdom without kindness and knowledge without sobriety are useless."
- The Fire from within, Carlos Castaneda

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Who will cry when you die?

मुट्ठियों में ख़ाक लेकर दोस्त आये वक़्त-ए-दफ्न,
ज़ीन्दगी भर की मुहब्बत का सीला देने लगे.

[Mut_thiyoN meiN khaak lekar dost aaye waqt-e-dafn,
zindagi bhar ki muhabbat ka sila dene lage. ]

Let me see how well I can translate it.

At the time of burial my friends came up with dirt in their fists,
and started to pay me back for a lifetime of love.

Sad and cynical though it may sound but that is the reality. This is all that is left at the end - a handful of people with a handful of dirt.

In India, and I think this is common in other countries too, there are two major events in a person's life when his friends, relatives and acquaintances gather around him - wedding and funeral. Having made no plans for marriage, that leaves one for me. (Hey, hey, I said I have no plans! I might get married, I might not. But I am not planning for either. Jeez! You sound like my mother!). Well, so anyway, the whole issue of who will cry when I die. Not who will come to my funeral but who will feel sad, how many people will shed a tear for the departure of one Sunil Goswami?

Why do I care?

There is a saying in Hindi - "Aap mare jag parlay", when you are dead the world has eneded! As far as I am concerned the caring is not for the actual moment when I die and people hear of it, but for now, I need to count that number now and see what value, if any, I am adding to the world. How many lives have I changed? How many smiles would not be there without me? How many moments I have made easier for others? Those questions need to be answered now! And the answer to those questions will lead to the answer to the main question.

I have always had delusions of grandeur (every dream is a delusion until you prove it with your own sweat and blood), and if you ask me, I'd like the newsreaders to cry when they announce my death. Oh yes, it'll be a big enough news item to feature in the international news!

So, as I was saying, this one seemingly frivolous and idle question can prove to be a good barometer to measure the "success" of your life.

But that's just my take on it, what do you think?

Thought of the day - 11th Sept 2007

 "Impossible is a word humans use too often."
--- Seven of Nine in StarTrek Voyager

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Movie Review - Transformers

Another one of my watch-the-first-part-before-watching-the-sequel efforts.

The movie - seems to be a bit of a stretch to call it a movie it's more like a comic book on celluloid. And when you have said that, you have said everything. There is no maturity in the treatment of the topic. The invasion of aliens has been done to death in many forms and if skillfully done there is potential to make about 100 more movies on this topic, good movies I mean. This one hangs together with gum and rubber bands.

The hero character is kind of weird, they want him to be an innocent guy, but he's too slick for that even though he looks like a doofus. He talks more like a used-car salesman than a teenage student. There are big gaping holes in the logic, all through the movie.

When you make a science fiction movie, you show technology that has not been invented yet. Since it's not been invented you can't explain how it works, because so far, it doesn't. Those areas are supposed to be missing in such a movie and that's understandable. But, on the whole, a broad, general understanding of the main technology is provided and everything else is kept on a consistent level with that theory. Otherwise it's just a truckload of hooey, black-magic and woodoo. Well, that's what we have here. I don't expect logic and common sense from all movies, definitely not from Bollywood movies, but in science movies I expect to see logic.

All the usual sci-fi movie stereotypes are there - the nervous genius nobody person, the omniscient hacker, the hate-able bureaucrat, the underdog our hero, the innocent unknowing parents, the government authority figures, mention of the US president, and lots of computers, all are present. And none manage to impress.

Dialog is ok in some places and completely loses touch in most places. The lines are good, and delivered well, but somehow you get the impression of having wandered on to a movie set. Until you can create that semblance of reality in the viewer's mind, you can't inspire awe at the strange and extraordinary happenings.

Being a comic book screenplay the end is not hard to guess. When you have something as powerful as a cube that creates universes as the object of hunt, you kind of guess, that it's going to be destroyed in the end. And when you learn there's sacrifice involved in destroying it, then you are 101% sure that it's going to be destroyed.

Oh, just to quote a logic flaw to show what I mean - the hero is running clutching the all powerful cube to his chest, he stumbles, falls, the cube touches the road, enormous energy flows out, through the road to other things, cell-towers shake, building sway, electronic equipment goes wild, people are shaken up. But when the guy is carrying it in his arms, with no insulation or anything, NOTHING happens to him, no positive effect, no negative effect. Just no effect. What the hell!

Considering the screenplay and direction it's overly long and tedious. The few attempts at comedy are pathetic. Romance fails to grip. Action sequences have been ruined by the technology-oriented camera work where you are not supposed to guess what the hell is going on, or who is winning. Full of sci-fi movie cliches and quite predictable flow.

Conclusion: If you are over 12, don't watch it. I had acquired both Transformers 1 and 2, but after watching 1, I am not wasting time on 2. I might re-run the Back to The Future trilogy instead!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Movie Review - My Super Ex-girlfriend

Well, there's nothing in the movie that is not already described in the title. The movie is a complete bust.

Man meets supergirl (g-girl in this story) and then they break-up and she makes his life hell. What part of this do you not get from the title?

I knew it but still decided to watch it expecting a light, amusing if not entertaining, romantic comedy. Nope, not so. The movie is a long and arduous series of cliches. I am not a fan of Uma Thurman but even if I were this movie wouldn't do anything for me, she's been projected in a very boring image even in her G-girl avatar. There are no characters that earn your respect in the whole movie. Dialogs are seriously lame.

In a movie of this kind the suspense of how it'll end usually keeps you watching. Not in this one, you can see it coming miles away. After 15 minutes even a child of 10 years can tell you what the end will be. And that is the point, 15 minutes in, when I'd have left had I been watching it in the theater. Even on DVD it was a waste of time. There are a couple of twists but very minor and not enough to keep the viewer happy.

Actors have done their part well considering the overall pathetic quality of screenplay and direction. I doubt if Ivan Reitman will be using this movie as a boost for any of this future projects. The story, screenplay and direction is not enough to keep a 5-year old entertained. I watched it in many pieces, just to see it through so I can throw away the disk afterwards. At times I played it in the background while I worked on something else, so pathetically it lacks in appeal.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents' worth. You should leave a comment if you liked it. I am curious to see if anyone liked it at all. The only other person I have talked to so far walked out at about 20 minutes in. So do let me know what you thought of it.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Thought of the day - 7th Sept 2007

"There is a great difference between worry and concern. A worried person sees a problem, and a concerned person solves a problem."
    - Harold Stephens

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Movie review - Bourne Ultimatum

Usually from a sequel viewers expect the same kind of movie as the preceding ones and based on that Bourne Ultimatum will not disappoint the fans. The movie has been made very well and directed skillfully keeping alive the momentum from the last 2 movies.

I had not seen any of the first ones (Bourne Identity & Bourne Supremacy) so I first watched those before watching this. I was right. The continuity is maintained in terms of characters and plot line. Action, of course, is the backbone of this series and it's been provided in abundance. The exotic locations, fast moving story line, chases, fights, gunfire the whole gamut of action is present throughout the movie.

There is one thing that I hate in the new technology action movies, the use of camera angles. As an admirer of unarmed, close-range combat skills I like to watch the fight and not the weird camera angles like some kid with slithering pants is holding the camera where one shot is straight and the next goes towards the roof as the kid uses his other hand to pull up his pants. Skillful use of camera and expert editing is all part of the movie-making technique but when the director/editor start trying to show off their skill by obscuring the place of action from the frame, that's too much for me. I want to see what's going on, where did the karate chop land, not watch the hero's knee while I hear the sound of the chop. This movie suffers from that problem throughout. There are quite a few close-range hand-to-hand fights but all ruined by this kind of handling.

I think the end should have had one more scene but if I talk about what I'd have liked to see that'd give away the ending and that's a crime. In fact, I can't talk more about the movie without talking about the plot, so I'll conclude here.

On the whole a good, watchable movie for the fans of actions movies.

What I AM reading

At the moment, I am reading this famous book by Robert Monroe called "Journeys Out of the Body". How is it?

1. Fascinating.!
2. Terrifying!

Yes, I know the two emotions don't really go hand in hand but that is because of the topic that he has written on. Being brought up in the open-minded Hindu culture (open minded not as in more tolerant than other religions but in the fact that Hindu mythology accepts the free movement of spirit independent of the body, before and after death, unlike some other religions that proclaim a kind of "safe storage" period after death), I am more readily willing (redundant on purpose) to accept Monroe's experiences at face value.

The topic itself is fascinating and terrifying, and Monroe's candid, matter-of-fact kind of reporting keeps both the emotions intact without losing anything in translation.

I am still reading it, as I am fascinated by the unexplored powers of the mind and some day I might gather enough courage to try it myself. Then I will write about my own experiences.

Thought of the day - 6th Sept 2007

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
    - Winston Churchill

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Thought of the day - 5th Sept 2007

There is in the worst of fortune the best of chances for a happy change.
    - Euripides

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Thought of the day - 4th Sept 2007

Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.
- Albert Einstein

Monday, September 03, 2007

Funny lessons

Some funny lessons to start the Monday off properly -

Thought of the day - 3rd Sept 2007

Extraordinary people survive under the most terrible circumstances
and they become more extraordinary because of it.
- Robertson Davies.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Advertising point of view

I watch a lot of ads and as everything else I think about them also, so you may see some more posts about ads in here.

When I watch some ads I wonder if the ad agencies think of the general public as a bunch of dumb idiots. And then I wonder if they are right. Case in point, 2 cases actually, 2 car ads.

Kia cee'd: This young man rings the doorbell, a girl comes out, they are awkward about hugging or kissing, can't decide, so I'd guess they have been dating for some time but not yet in the girlfriend-boyfriend stage. They get in the car, she says, "Nice car". He drives to some place, stops the car and proposes to the girl, right there, without a ring, just some stuff about "buy a house, get a dog..", and she says yes. They don't know each other well enough to hug without awkwardness and it's the first time she's sitting in his car (if had just bought it, the conversation would go differently), but he proposes and she accepts. Then they get out of the car and you see that he has parked away from the building, in pouring rain, in the middle of a grassy lawn, where there are no other cars around. With all that space he parked in a place where the car will get wet and they will have a puddle in their shoes just walking through all that grass to the building. Voice over talks about quality commitment and 7 years warranty.

My question: Do only dumb people buy Kia cee'd or it makes them so dumb just by driving it and traveling in it?

Toyota Yaris: They have a series of ads all on the same theme, one person doesn't treat the car with respect and the owner of the car gets even with them. Ad 1 - A girl is flying her boyfriend's remote control plane and then purposefully smashes it to the ground pretending to lose control. Following the gleam of devious victory in her eyes the flashback shows a scene when this guy was helping her carry stuff from the car and since both his hands were full he kicked the car door shut with his foot. The girl saw it and resolved to take revenge. Ad 2 - Two buddies crossing a muddy patch on rope and this one guy cuts the rope when the other is just above the mud, causing him to splash in the mud. Flashback shows that guy 2 had put his foot on guy 1's car's dashboard as guy 1 was driving. Voice over says, "Toyota Yaris, treat it with respect!"

My take: The people who disrespected the car did it in carelessness and negligence (or necessity, how do you close a car door when your hands are full of grocery?), but the owners of the car acted with devious craftiness, premeditation and deliberate revengeful intentions. Again, it maybe that only mean people would buy this car or they get this mean streak after they buy the car.

Every car has a character and it attracts people of that character to buy and/or it influences the character of the owner by association. I know this from my own experience with motorcycles and observing different cars and their owners in India (where the car models are not so numerous as to lose track), you can confirm this simply by asking any man who has owned multiple models of cars over time.

So, my question is - are we as dumb as the advertisers seem to think we are?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

What I am NOT reading!

I watch this comedy show quite regularly - Two and a Half Men. Two brothers who live in the same house, one of them has a son (the half man is the son). I one of the episodes, this young boy has a book report to do on a classic novel - "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding. This is the first time I had heard of this book. In Indian schools we don't do book reports, reading books is for losers. (Or at least you'd think so judging by the percentage that reads anything other than textbooks.)

Anyhow, the father is explaining to the son how this classic tells a tale of some children stranded on a desert island where they start their own society and one of them becomes the leader. Having recently finished Heinlein's "Tunnel in the sky" on exactly the same theme, and having really loved it, I decided to read this one.

What a load of crap! I mean it's a classic, sure! But what a horribly boring way to tell a story. Since my main motivation to buy this book was Heinlein's "Tunnel in the sky" I could not help but compare this with that and it loses very badly. While Heinlein's story grabs you by the collar and drags you deep into the plot, this one drags on like the funeral service of a remote relative where nothing seems to happen and time just stands still. No sense of identification, no leadership qualities in the leader, logical flaws in the psychology, too much detail where not required, too few details of the things that would interest the readers...

Well, finally I decided to follow this great quote -

"Never read a book through merely because you have begun it. ~ John Witherspoon (1723 - 1794)"

So, I closed the book and left it shut. I think if somebody decided to pay the postage I might just send it to them - UK only. But after the fantastic build up that I just gave it will anybody risk it? LOL.

Anyway, people write for different reasons and people read for different reasons - I have read a lot of different types of books and my only demand from a book is that it has to be interesting. I am willing to read anything as long as it's interesting and enriching. Funnily enough, the enriching part takes care of itself. Even if you read nothing but thriller novels, you still learn a lot, more than you expected and more than you can ever measure. Books are great!

I want to conclude with a quote from my favorite author - Robert A. Heinlein

"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards."
~ Robert Heinlein

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