Blog Redesign

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Finally.

I had been meaning to go “three-column” to better utilize screen space for quite some time now and my new look, which I was originally supposed to unleash to the unsuspecting world on my blog birthday (August 20) but which like Mazhar Khan’s “Gang” (it took 10 years to make and was released after Mazhar Khan died) kept getting “delayed” , is now flying full mast. A word (or two) of thanks to Vulturo and Megha who have helped me at various stages of the re-design process.

Apologies to those who visited the blog when it was down for a brief period today and also to those who saw it at a time when the comments font became excessively small due to a CSS error. In my defense, it was a cold day.

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Laga Chunari Mein Daag—the Review

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Laga Chunari Mein Daag or “My dress got stained” is not about Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton and that white stained dress which almost brought down the American presidency. No indeed it is not. So what is it then? Well I would characterize Pradeep Sarkar’s latest offering as nothing but the cinematic equivalent of taking that brown-with-age banana that has been sitting on the top of the fridge for ages, cutting it up, putting some fancy ice cream on top and serving it to your mother-in-law while saying with a glittering smile “Look ma, this is a special dish I made just for you.”

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Potato Highly Defective (PhD)

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Having been a PhD student not so long ago, I remember spending countless nights wringing in anguish worrying about rejected papers, research plans, the shrinking job market in academia as well as research labs in the US for pure computer science researchers , the dreaded “our research interests do not align with yours” letters of rejection and ruing how the specialization of my PhD had woefully restricted the positions I could apply for. At the same time that I tossed and turned in agony, Masters students from the same department were juggling multiple overtly generous offers from the big hotshots for “product development” type jobs. However, I did not let that get to me in any way and instead told myself and my similarly anguished fellow-PhD-candidates in the way of consolation: “Well they will never be able to define their own work. And most importantly they will never be able to put a PhD after their names”.

Yes I firmly believe that when these fat-cat Masters speed by on their Lexuses wearing non-Walmart clothing, thinking of the health of their stock options, and look at me on the street kicking the bumper of my worn-down 94 Honda as I try to get it to start, they feel a sensation of emptiness in the pit of their stomachs, awash with the realization that, paraphrasing from Deewar, “iske paas maa hain”.

Or in other words, a PhD and a level of academic independence.

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The Magic of Maddox Square

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It’s Durga Pujo (and no I will not spell it as “puja”). And that means being struck, once again, by what I referred to last year as the realization of how far away from home I am both in terms of time and space. Of course any walk down the path of Pujo reminiscence for someone growing up in South Calcutta in the mid-90s would be incomplete without a homage to THE Pujo destination—a place where the ethereal beauty of the Goddess in clay and the ephemeral iridescence of the angels of flesh and bone who flitted around Her, the sound of the dhak and the musical cadence of laughter , the smell of perfume and oil-dipped “telebhaja” (pakoras) all combined to cast a synaesthetic, magical spell on all those present—-especially if you were early 20s, male and single.

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No Spin Zone

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If India is looking for the next great spinner, they should look no further than the good folks at Cricinfo whose adeptness in putting a spin on things would make even Murali blush.

Sample this:

With Dravid struggling for runs, and he’s hardly been at the crease enough to judge what kind of form he is in, the selectors have a tough decision on their hands. In different circumstances, with the series decided one way or the other by the time game six came around, Dravid would have been rested. But now, with only 44 runs from five matches, there’s hardly a case to rest him, and dropping him in the first series after he stepped down as captain would be cruel to someone who has served the team’s cause exceedingly well in both forms of the game for several years now.

One could say that “Dravid stuggling for runs” and “he’s hardly been at the crease enough to judge what kind of form he is in” kind of contradict each other as struggling for runs is generally what defines poor form. One could also point out that Dravid’s hardly being at the crease (because of zeros and sometimes a little more) is exactly what attests to his current batting form. One could also chuckle wryly to oneself at the assertion that dropping/resting someone “in the first series after he has stepped down from the captaincy is a cruel act” especially since it comes from a body of writers who lauded Chappell’s “current performance is king” mindset and wanted Indians to have an “Aussie” no-sentiments attitude in dropping big names. One could also chuckle again (for effect) if one remembers that it was the same author who, most “uncruelly” said on October 14,2005 that through Ganguly’s stubborn refusal to let go during a poor run of form, he has brought the ensuing public humiliation on himself.

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The Grinch Who Stole Durga Puja

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Well at least we now know how the Grinch looks like. (Picture of J K Rowling: Daily Mail, UK)

In a move as curmudgeonly and dark as anything Lord Voldemort could have dreamed up, Penguin India (henceforth to be referred to as “the publishing house-who-must-not-be-named”) has sued, for an obscene amount, a community Durga Pujo for creating a “Hogwarts”-themed pandal and for using images of Harry Potter without “permission” which I believe stands for “did not cross palms with silver”.

Copyright and intellectual property violation is no laughing matter and while it is undeniable that an overwhelming majority of the Bollywood fraternity (producers and music directors) deserve to be sued through their asses for IP violations , the fact that an army of corporate legal suits would go after a religious festival organizer whose use of the copyrighted images/concepts ( and that too for just five days) is not motivated by the desire to profit off them (they are not charging people money to enter the premises nor are they selling Potter merchandize nor are they claiming the characters as their own creations) is in equal measures mean-spirited and idiotic.

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A GameBoy Remembers

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If I have been remiss in blogging for a few days, it is because I have recently become the proud owner of an XboX 360 Elite system (a Pujo gift for someone I love the most: myself) ! And unless the dreaded ring of death casts its malevolent shadow over my unit (Microsoft seems to have a severe quality problem with the Xbox 360s), kindly excuse me as I marvel at the jaw dropping textures, lighting effects and overall bleeding-edge graphics that seem to burst out through my beloved 46 inch HDTV.

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Lau Lau Lau

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The annual Durex survey on sexual habits of people all over the world came out a few weeks ago. And once again it is “Chak De India” or should we say “F**ck de India”.

Urban Indians have one of the most exciting sex life in the world and are also the most open lovers in the world when it comes to talking to partners about sex, says a new global survey.

Almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of Indians surveyed are comfortable with telling their partners what they like in bed way above the global average of 58 per cent and the UK with just 49 per cent, says the Durex ‘Sexual Wellbeing Global Survey’.

Some people may find that surprising for a culture as supposedly sexually repressed as ours but not me. Indian couples are not at all shy in expressing what they want (and do not) in bed—after all if the “Noo Never…..mujhe kya tum waisi tarah ki ladki samajhti ho [Do you think I am that kind of a girl] and “Please not today, I have a headache” and “No no that’s not the place” aren’t expressions of honest , forthright and emphatic pillow talk then I wonder what is.

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Plato And A Platypus Walk Into a Bar—A Book Review

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One of the benefits of being a blogger, besides the swarms of groupies throwing themselves at me as I drive my luxurious Honda Civic 94, is the privilege of receiving, once in a blue moon, a free book to review. Which is how “Plato and A Platypus Walk Into a Bar:  Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes”, a humorous journey through the history of philosophy, alighted on my reading desk.

Philosophy is a subject that most of us have an almost total ignorance of, even those like me who put a Doctor of Philosphy after their names. The main reason for this almost pervasive lack of interest is that the discipline of philosophy, as a whole, is often considered to be a dying subject, of no relevance to the modern world—an exclusive prerogative of stuffy, ancient academics and unshaven “intellectuals” at coffee shops. In other words, people who have no life because they spent their lives contemplating the meaning of life.

While it is beyond doubt that a passing knowledge of philosophy isn’t as much of a resume addition as a knowledge of let’s say .NET, it is also true that for people who want to construct arguments, understand opposing points of view, deconstruct the implicit assumptions we make in our speech and are as intrigued by the question “Are Pamela Anderson’s breasts real?” as they are by questions like: “What does it mean for something to be real?”, “What characteristics define Pamela Anderson?” or alternatively “If we take away her breasts, is Pamela Anderson Pamela Anderson?”, a little brush with philosophy may be a rather fulfilling experience.

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