Wednesday, December 03, 2003

ने मजसी ने परत मातृभुमीला
सागरा प्राण तळमळला । सागरा ।।

भूमातोच्या चरणतला तूज धूता । मी िनत्य पािहला होता ।
मज वदलासी अन्य देशी चल जाऊ । सृष्टीची िववीधता पाहू ।
तई जननी ह्रुद् िवरहशंकीतही झाले । पिर तुवा वचन ितज िदधले ।
मार्गस्थ स्वयी मीच पृष्ठी वाहीन । त्विरत या परत आिणन ।

िवश्वसलो या तव वचनी मी ।
जगद्नुभव योगे बनुनी मी ।
तव अिधक शक्त उद्धरणी मी ।
येईन त्वरे कथून सोडीले तुजला । सागरा ।।

- िव.दा.सावरकर

Monday, December 01, 2003

my-unicode-musings dept.

Trying out unicode with blogger -- gee, I hope this works!

अंशुमान कानेटकर

If you were able to read my name in Devanagri script, I've succeeded.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

where's-johnny dept.

Just last week, I saw Once Upon a Time in Mexico -- the quixotic new Robert Rodriguez film -- whups 'flick', as rodriguez would himself like us to call it. On the web, this movie has elicited a mixed bag of reactions, the dude who reluctantly tagged along with me disliked it vehemently. I found it thoroughly delectable; of course, though I was disappointed with the meatless sandwich that was Salma Hayek's role.

Well, not really. Maybe Rodriguez isn't intimidated by his characters. He can hack, cut, edit his way among them with the same ruthless efficiency with which his hero, 'El', dispatches the bad guys with his exploding guitar. But you can't wish away the entertainment value of Johnny Depp's dapper, chilly CIA agent asking his Mexican informer: "Are you a Mexi-can or a Mexi-can't?". Or gorging himself on slow-roasted pork. Or his prosthetic arm. And of course, his version of the famous American cellular add, moving into the frame, cell in hand, and asking, "Can you here me now? good!".

brain-fart dept.

That's what someone just called my blog. But yesss, my precious, we shall not care about opinions, we shall have our say.

To keep the vapid friday nights from eating away at whatever's left of my ragged mind, I hauled myself and a friend over to Century 25 theatres in San Jose. The dude graciously offered to skip dinner for the movie -- and hasn't made me forget it since. Century 25 is an old run-down (I mean, by my standards) cinema house in downtown San Jose. It features what must be the most bizarre architecture I have ever seen, the roof is dome shaped, and the screen we went to was right-oriented, so people sitting on the left end were basically screwed. Boy, was it some sadistic architect's wet-dream.
The film: Lost in Translation.
A very visual movie, with sparse dialog. About a middle aged film star forging an unusual bond with a young, alienated American girl in Tokyo.
Tedious at times, but with some beautiful shots of the explosion of colour that is the Tokyo skyline. I think the attempt was to bring out nuances in the
characterizations using subtle visual cues. But most of the film is so static that it gets on your nerves at times. Bill Murray was effective though, very effectively cast -- the man with wisecracks dumped in a city where no one understands him.

Sunday, August 31, 2003

lest-i-forget dept. offers excellent insights into present-day corporate philosophy.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

matrix-metrics dept.

Well, you could argue that the appearance of the Matrix movies (and all the related merchandise, games, books, anime) is a watershed in the history of human consciousness. Before the matrix, skeptical thinking about the human condition (are we real? do we exist? what is existence? And is that real?) was restricted only to an elite number of gifted individuals. Individuals who could alienate themselves from their environment and speculate about these problems.

It is really impossible to appreciate the loneliness and heartache of the first human being who stared at the moon and said, "Is that real, or is it a construct devised to delude me?". Just think what estrangement and alienation this thought imposes on that human being. He can no longer trust any consciousness but his own. He has burned his bridges. And only the darkness of doubt surrounds him.

No wonder, then, that our first instinct, as we rose slowly through the haze of consciousness, was to create a higher order of intelligence above us, and entrust the answers and their consequences to Him.

And why is the Matrix a momentous occasion?

For the first time, in the history of humanity, its most basic problem (no, not food, not sex, not power) -- existence -- has been given centerstage. And it has been communicated in a language and a medium that is accessible to the wide majority of human beings.

The solitude and fear that went with skepticism has been destroyed.

I know I can't trust what I see, but I see so much that tries to explain this haziness, that it does not scare me away from thinking about it.

Just stating the obvious, but sometimes, the obvious needs to be explicitly stated.

No wonder the Matrix was banned in Egypt; it is dangerous, seditious, disruptive.

I can think of only one previous work of literature that provided such a lucid and accessible explanation for a really, really hard problem. It was called the Bible.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

borrowed-words dept.

I remember rather little of my life and what I do remember is of small consequence. Most of the thoughts I now recall as having been interesting to me owe their significance to the time when they occured. If any do not, they have no doubt been expressed much better by someone else. A writer's biography is in his twists of language. I remember, for instance, that when I was ten or twelve it occured to me that Marx's dictum that "existence conditions consciousness" was true only for as long as it takes consciousness to acquire the art of estrangement; thereafter, consciousness is on its own and can both condition and ignore existence. At that age, this was hardly a discovery--but one hardly worth recording, and surely it had been better stated by others.

-- Joseph Brodsky (extract from "Less Than One: Selected Essays")

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

reflections dept.

What is a justifiable price for knowledge?
I find myself obsessed with this problem. It is my profession -- this trade in knowledge (well, at least euphemistically). At times, it is also the projection of knowledge, when it does not exist (anyone ever tried their hand at marketing?). It is the creation of it, and the dissemination of it. And of course, it is also the constant acquisition of it. A process that is permanent and unceasing, and one that does not allow any rest.
And I often wonder, what cost I and others around me should be willing to pay in this knowledge bazaar.
The currency is, umm, well, very eclectic. More often than, not, it is a barter. One needs give up valuable belongings to earn the right to stay in the trade.
And these can be anything. From the simply obvious -- money and effort, to subtle intangibles like principles, love, faith and sometimes, life.
And I often wonder.
Would I ever step out of this trade, if I were allowed to...To enjoy what I already possess and have accumulated. Would I ever trade ignorance and worldly defeat, for the joy of being oblivious to the trade, where I sell myself out, constantly, every minute?
I don't know.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

self-flagellation dept.

I envy my parents.
Not for their resigned manner or their unquestioned beliefs but for their experiences.
Unfortunately for me, they have made the world a better place for me to live in. They have taken away my divine right to experience pain, hardship, betrayal, corruption and all those other indian virtues of the last three decades that so dominated their lives.
I envy them for their misery, and for their struggle to unshackle themselves from the chains that bound them.
I live in a world gone insanely benign. My generation has so much time on their hands that the only problem they have is the most pathetic one - existential. No one I know, not even the most amazing crack scientist can live their life without exacting a heavy human toll. We go through life with apathy, flitting in and out of relationships, with metal jangling in our pockets, and boredom lighting our eyes. We are sexy in our indifference and sensual in our disinterestedness.
We simply are, without meaning, without purpose and without direction.
Pitiful, Accursed, us.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

jai-mardhekarki dept.

In the water-drum, drown the hapless mice
Necks broken, and by no strangler's hands
Lip falls on lip, and without a struggle,
Their still heads , lifeless, hang

Their's, a pitiful lot -- survival in a hole
and death in a drum, with a hiccup
and the day spills down over their eyes
and washes their impotent genitals

Life is an obligation, here
And death -- an obligation too.

The gift of despondency:
A poison sight; glaring through glass eyes
Even the beeswax mildewed on their lips
Is cheap bakelite, bakelite

And again, they meet, lip touches lip
the drowning mice, bathing in the dip

-- Bal Sitaram Mardhekar

(with my sincere apologies to the deceased)

Monday, June 23, 2003

stone-cold dept.

A very interesting experience. One of my relatives recently called me stone-headed, but in a very elegant and sophisticated manner. I was visiting him (only reluctantly) with some of my other cousins, and I did not utter a word during their conversation. So while showing me out, this guy points to what looks like a tree stump and says, "And here's something of special interest to you...". So I guess its petrified wood, and to my unbounded amusement, I realise what he's implying.
back-again dept.

As with all other things, suddenly I feel myself losing the urge to continue with this thing. Being creative is so hard, there's a dull ache in my brain everytime I end up creating something. And even then, its only an amalgamation of things that I've seen before, mixed up so that it isn't very obvious.

Friday, April 11, 2003

dying-is-easy-comedy-is-hard dept.

OK, I think I've got a hang of things now...need to think of a better template for the site. Also need to think of unified themes. Note the title scheme, shamelessly lifted from MAD Magazine (with a thousand apologies to Alfred E.Neumann). Will think up more as time goes on, and I'll try to keep it funny.
I wonder what kind of people write a blog. The kind that want to turn the insides of their brains over for display? Never knew I was a closet exhibitionist (hmmm...there's a new oxymoron).
Well, i've been doing the rounds of blogs at, and here are some other blogger virtues I have detected:

  • Extraordinary self-conceit

  • No responsibilities

  • No accountability

  • Loads of time, and no idea of how to spend it

Oh God...this can mean only one thing...Help, I'm turning into a woman!!!
white-trash dept.

Not many people know this, but the first real blogger was a certain Mr.Bernard Trink of the Bangkok Post newspaper, Thailand. Here he runs a weekly column called Nite Owl which can still be found in the Real Time section of the Bangkok Post website, which recounts his night-time prowls in Bangkok's infamous Pat Pong district. The articles were totally bent, off the rocker, and ended with his trademark line "...BUT, I DON'T GIVE A HOOT!!!". Another famous tag line was "...this is of course a case of TIT (This Is Thailand)...".
Not many people know this either, but I spent some part of my budding adult life in the Land of Smiles, interned in its capital with my parents for company.
Hmmm...W0lf Howl...I wonder if there was a subconscious connection there...
Well, I checked out some of Trink's recent columns today, purely out of nostalgia, and somehow the humour seemed forced and jaded. This happened to me with Saturday Night Live, the American Comedy show, too, and I don't know why. Trink seems ever the gentle old grandfather these days. In one of the February columns, he even had a line asking couples to enjoy Valentine's day. Anyway, some people don't seem to like his *real* style, and here are some of the kind words about Trink posted by readers on the Bangkok Post online forum:

It's about time you ditched Trink and Nite Owl. The guy's past it, he's still living in the era of the Vietnam War, and his attitude to women is highly offensive. (No, I'm not a woman). If people want to find out where to obtain @#!%&* in Bangkok and Pattaya they know where to turn: that pimp Trink.


To which someone replied:

Leaving aside for a second that his articles are turgid and boring, is it appropriate for a newspaper widely regarded as being the best in South East Asia to carry regular updates on where to go whoreing? Just a thought!


And a loyal Trink fan exploded with this reaction:

so far the most comprohensive information on whats going on in the nitery-entertainment area.
pimp? missed the jokes? if you don't like his stuff don't read it, guess trink doesn't write this to offend you and all the other puritans around.....
he has a piont, many others don't.
ever looked into the bangkok-metro-magazine?
lucky we got a relatively free press and people with the guts to express themselves-either some like it or not.
hope the controversial stuff from whomsoever it might be will be with us for long.
i dont like the sterile, the unisono its colorless.




Thursday, April 10, 2003

my-turn-to-pick-on-ash dept.

This just in...Aishwarya Rai selected to sit on the Cannes Film Festival jury. She follows in the illustrious(?) footsteps of other busty babes (Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve) who slept through their method acting classes. Don't get me wrong here -- she's gorgeous and she's a great dancer. But seriously, the gal's no Meryl Streep.
I'd rather she spent her time constructively back home, shooting some rain-soaked jhatka number.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

russian-is-arabic-to-me dept.

Some days ago, I came across this little book called Ivan the terrible by Sergei Eisenstein. Yes, the same Eisenstein of Battleship Potemkin and Alexander Nevsky fame. Widely held to be amongst the foremost innovators of world cinema, known for his meticulous cinematic choreography.

It was a film script. Actually I had encountered the book before as a child. It was in my grandfather's closet, and I had thumbed through it, and the stark, B&W stills of wide-eyed, grotesquely dressed Russians somehow fascinated me. This time, I actually fished it out, and started reading it.

Well, the film is a trilogy, of which only the first two parts were filmed, and Eisenstein died just after canning a few minutes of footage of the third. I still haven't finished reading the script, but it was the introductory text that really gripped me. Eisenstein was quite a remarkable man. What was remarkable about him, was that he was a great film director, never compromised on his artistic integrity, all during the very height of the Stalin Era. It was a miracle that he managed to stay out of the labour camps. I have found multiple sources alluding to his miraculous escape. But he probably died too early to really catch Stalin's evil eye.

Anyway, the whole film (especially the second part), is basically an allegory for Stalin and his regime. Originally meant to bolster the cult of personality that Stalin was building around himself, the film allowed Eisenstein to grab the oppurtunity to make a statement about absolute power, and the tyranny it can engender. The first part was, for him, a dry run to tackle the technical and cinematic aspects of telling this story. But the second part contained pretty much the gist what he really intended to speak through the medium of this trilogy.

So to get back to the story, Ivan the terrible (the Russian is Grozny, more accurately translated as 'the formidable'), declared himself sovereign Tsar of all Russia, first to do so for about a couple of hundred years. He was the first Russian emporer to maintain a permanent, central standing army, which he called the Oprichnina. He mostly destroyed/debilitated the power of feudal Russian lords called the Boyars, and unified Russia for the first time in history under a strong central monarchy. Then with his 100,000 strong army, he subdued the western khanates that controlled the trade routes into Russia, and broke through to the Black Sea establishing direct trade relations with Europe. This set in motion a gradual 'Europeanisation' of Russian society, which was furthered by Peter and Catherine the Greats.

Not surprisingly, the third part ends with a glorious scene on the beach, with Ivan at the head of his troops, where the closing dialogues read "We have reached the sea, and here we shall stay!". This scene, of course was never shot - Eisenstein died through filming the third part, and none of his colleagues could bring themselves to take his masterpiece-in-the-making to its logical conclusion (most probably into a forced labour camp in the Siberian wilderness ;-)). Apparently, Eisenstein, and the actor who played Ivan in both films had an interview with Stalin, actually to discuss 'corrections' to the second part, where he made some 'fascinating' and 'constructive' suggestions, but he apparently enjoyed the idea for the closing of part III.

But the whole story of the making of the film set me thinking. There are striking parallels between Ivan & Stalin and other tyrants in history. Muhammad Bin Tughlaq is one, Napoleon another, Hitler(?), Tito, Castro, maybe Indira and Sanjay Gandhi and of course, Saddam Hussein. Especially Saddam, what with the war against him now virtually won, and his regime in complete shambles. Somehow, the 'modern' history of most great nations can be traced to one tyrant, one survivor, who cleaned out all opposition to his/her rule with complete ruthlessness, and unified fragmented feudal domains into a nation. Elizabeth I of England comes to mind.

It is no wonder that Saddam considers himself to be the 'Ultimate Survivor' (this was the impression that Dan Rather of CBS got when he interviewed him just before war broke out). He modernised Iraq, managed to create a secular government, which of course he imposed on Iraq with an Iron Fist. He built roads, universities and factories. Iraq is one of the few Arab nations to manufacture much of its own munitions. Women enjoyed complete freedom to work or otherwise express their aspirations in Iraqi society. Yes, he waged that meaningless war against Iran, but if you think about it, nothing really unifies a disparate populace like war. Do I see Indians in the audience nodding their heads in silent agreement?

So is Operation 'Iraqi Freedom' cheating Iraqi history out of its great tyrant, its Ivan Grozny? Where will the push come from now? Where will the attitudinal and institutional changes that need to precede, nay which create the ability to self-govern come about from now?

Here's my prediction for the future of Iraq. Lets see how well it holds up against the relentless turn of the wheel of time (I am trying to be eloquent here).

Saddam is killed or kills himself. Iraq becomes a playground for American conglomerates. The replacement administration is pretty similar to the regime that preceded it, with new faces at the top, but the same old guys running it at the bottom. A repressive, single party (well at least in practice) regime that favors American companies, and which could also have a marked Islamic bent. In other words, another Pakistan, only with more $$. And the ordinary Iraqi dissolves back into the shadows, into his shops, into his bazaars to lead the same life that he led before his freedom was so graciously returned to him by G.I.Joe.

Monday, April 07, 2003

did-i-really-have-to-say-this dept.
Just trying this blogger thing out. Seems like a good idea. Everyone has the right of expression, maybe I have been underutilizing mine. So here goes nothing...