Thursday, October 30, 2008

Barack Obama

5 days to go to US general election and i have to post about Barack Obama.

I do not have a right to vote and so does many of my Indian friends in US but over the past 12-15 months we have followed US elections, observed it from a distance and felt it. And without a doubt, the reason for our sustained interest has been Barack Obama.
Before i reason it out for myself, here is a thing shared by my roommate Aninda:

"Watching Barack Obama, I feel like i should be able to vote. I have never voted in India, but just seeing this man, i want to vote"

Why i like Barack Obama:
1. He is an exceptional orator. His speeches inspire many including me. His speeches connect with me, addresses the main points and he delivers them brilliantly.
2. He openly says that he is not going to be a perfect president. He is going to be a good president. He looks calm, and even if he does not have an answer, he is ready to work with people who know the correct answer.
3. His health policy. Economic crisis is new and transient (hopefully!). But health care has been a concern since ages and still is. His view has been correct since beginning.
4. His foreign policies - willingness to sit with third world countries, correct attitude towards Pakistan (namely to ask questions and demand answers), ending the war etc.

The charm about Obama is he is dynamic, energetic and willing to adjust to new things. His use of technology is excellent. I have no experience in past US political campaigns but still his campaign so far looks decent. It has not been a perfect one but considering the things that has happened, i think it has been good.

One thing that Obama understands that if you point one finger, there are many fingers that point back at you. He has criticized McCain but mostly on policy issues. He has not given one single negative word against Sarah Palin (when asked about Palin, he brilliantly answered - let the public decide). He has not used race at all in his speeches (which gave Larry Willmore from Daily show to present two exceptional pieces). Moreover, he use a very effective website, and his use of technology has been amazing (all credit to his team).

Lastly, during his campaign, there have been his speeches acting as milestones. Genesis happened at 2004 Democratic National Convention, then his "Yes we can speech" after winning New Hanpshire primary, then the one given after Jeremiah Wright controversy, and then after clinching the democratic nomination at the convention . And today, an hr earlier, there was the 30 minute obama infomercial on tv across 7 channels (video not available at the moment). Each one has been special and inspiring.

Things that i don't like:
1. I think one blot that will remain on Obama would be his decision to take public financing after pledging that he will not do so. I do not know the exact reason but still something is unexplained.
2. Giving tax benefits to middle class, first it was a million, then 500K, then it became 250K and today 200K. He still does not explains how he will prioritize between thousand promises that he has made.

Before i end, some words about his opponent:
McCain should be respected for not bringing Wright in final elections. He should be respected as a U.S. soldier, as an experienced man, as a man with good fundamentals till 2004 election. But his performance during this election has not been good at all. Bringing Bill Ayers,, suspending campaign over economic crisis, calling him a socialist, giving 5000$ for health care were all very bad moves. But the worst would be his VP choice.

And that brings up to Sarah Palin. One thing that Sarah Palin did was to energize an old, dull republican campaign, but the question will always be - at what cost? Frankly, i thank Palin and McCain for his choice for giving me some of the best comedy shows in recent past. Tina Fey's imitation had been spot on, she nailed Palin over and over again. But all credit should go to Palin alone, as her interview were so damn hilarious that my jaws dropped out. Foreign experience because you can see Russia from home will go in annals of history as the best joke of 2K8. Palin has not only degraded the republican campaign but her attacks on Obama made her reach new lows. Bottom line - she is not ready/capable.

So, with 5 days to go, i do not know who will win. No points in guessing to whom i am backing. But the important point is that whatever the result is, it matters to me, to us and to many. I am no longer saying - i do not care. I care and i want to care, because it matters.

Finally, a big thanks to Jon Stewart for giving good shows over the past 10 months. You really rock!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Diwali post

1:20 am 26 Oct, 2008 when officially there is diwali in India as well as USA.

After wishing diwali to everyone, its time to contemplate. As we grew older we realized that bursting crackers is dumb and we stopped. As we grew further older, we realized that the theory to celebrate Ram's homecoming to Ayodhya after that battle doesn't impress us that much. So we stopped celebrating that as well. And as we grew older, we realized that we are no longer those small roudy children who can not keep our houses clean. So, today our house is also neat and tidy (Disclaimer: Neatness is relative and as per my mom's scale i am always below par). And we were always lazy to light light candles or deep, unless forced by parents

So now the question is : How do we celebrate diwali? With no need to clean house, no belief in Ram's coming back to ayodhya, no bursting crackers, and no incentive to decorate house, how to still enjoy the spirit of diwali?

For me, what makes diwali special is just that childhood nostalgia when i used to do all those things and a feeling of been there done that. I make some sweet (kheer this time) and share it with some friends. Then either i watch a movie, or maro thass with friends which i do any other day. How to make diwali special?

How to ensure that diwali carries a special meaning as it has done throughout my childhood? Something to look forward, something to cherish, something unique, something worth rememberable.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

V for vendetta

V for Vendetta is a movie which i can watch over and over again, back to back and still not get tired. Made by James McTeigue, his debut film and written by Wachoski brothers (matrix fame), this movie is a cult!
It takes two concepts which are immortal and fuses them so well that it never gets boring. The first concept is the Orwellian philosophy that we are living in a world with little or no freedom, controlled by a dictatorial govt and people lying about the govt. The second concept is Revenge (Vendetta) and the movie pays tribute to Count of Monte Cristo in this respect.

I read Count of Monte Cristo this summer, and loved it. Revenge has a style and both Count and V justify it. Another thing that makes V excel is its use of music. It uses Beethoven from time to time and in the final shot takes 1812 overture from Taichosky(spelling may be wrong). The final shot which is the culmination of revenge with 1812 overture at its background score makes my day everytime i see it.

The Guy Fawkes mask is again brilliant. Hugo Weaving plays V and he is such a versatile actor. And the beautiful Natalie Portman plays Evey. Recently TNT started showing it on my local tv and everytime i was near it, gone were my 2 hrs :)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

ऐ यार मेरे

ऐ यार मेरे, ओखा तू ओखा मैं |
कि करिये, ना तू माने ना मैं ||
क्या मज़ा इसमें , तू उधर मैं इधर |
एक दूजे को समझाते हुए ज़िन्दगी गई गुजर ||
समय सिखाता है, हम सुनते नहीं |
किसे कोसे अब जब बैठे वहीँ के वहीँ ||
काश ऐसा होता काश वैसा होता |
कम से कम मैं आखें गीली किए बिना सोता ||
तू न बदले और मैं भी नहीं चुस्त |
शायद इसिलिये हमारी दोस्ती अभी तक है दुरुस्त ||
ऐ यार मेरे, ओखा तू ओखा मैं |
कि करिये, ना तू माने ना मैं ||

The lost era of lines

It has been on my mind over some time and somehow today just seems perfect to write about it.
The lost era of lines in hindi movies.
Remember the 70s-80s era of movies with its lines that were there on everyone's lips. Like "mere paas maa hai", "yeh haath humko dede thakur", "kitne aadmi the", "don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin namumkin hai" etc. Sholay has innumerable lines that were given cult status. Even in 90s this trend followed with the classic Sunny Deol line: "Jab yeh dhai kilo ka haath kisi pe padta hai toh aadmi uthta nahin, uth jaata hai".

But with the coming of Karan Johar era and its followers, we dont see any movie whose lines stand out and make an impact. Dil Chahta Hai came with few one-liners but none made it through. The only one that i can remember is from Jhankaar Beats - "Chance pe dance kar".

However, in hollywood, the trend still continues. Previously we had classic lines from Godfather, and other Al Pacino classics like Dog day afternoon and Scarface - "I always tell truth, even when i am lying". And even recently, Spiderman came up with the line "With great power comes great responsibility", and reccently Dark Knight gave "Why so serious?", the trend still continues.

So, now the question is - Who makes a line go down in history books as classic? Is it the writers or the audience?

In Hindi, this trend is also observed in advertisements. Everyone growing up in my era remembers those Pepsi ads - "Mera number kab aayega?" , or "Nothing official about it". Recently coke came up with "Thanda matlab cocacola" which hung in people's lips for some time but soon lost its gleam. But recently, i do not know of any ad that is creating that level of impact.

I want those lines back. I want that trend back.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Life in Sep 14 - Oct 16 2008

So life? what is now? what have you done for the past one month?

Life: I have been busy. insanely busy. But some good things have happened.

Like what?

Life: Well, there was a trilogy movie festival celebrated in one week where i watched last 3 years Oscar winners for foreign language films.

There were three interviews that were screwed up. One because i got tired, one went well but i dont know and the best one was when i went to interview with 1 hr sleep and then slept during the interview.

My parents celebrated their 25 anniversary on 15 oct, 2008. I hope they celebrated well without me. I ate cake on their behalf . (The cake was excellent!, so i am assuming they also had good time).

Somewhere in between the cake and those movies was Advance operating system and its heavy course load and its midnight assignments. It has reinstated my faith that systems is a big pain. There will be a rant on that later.

I went to watch Dusshera at Vedic temple in Atlanta. It was good to see Ravan burning after so many years. Childhood nostalgia dropped by, but then it went quickly as it came. Until next year sire!

oh! and there were also some american political debates, the SNL spoofs, the economic meltdown and all that happened in a span of 2 weeks.

And finally, today i am writing this post from Hilton Bellevue hotel Seattle. Thanks to MicroSoft for giving me such luxurious opportunity again. Truely, interviewing with microsoft is like a vacaction except for the interview day. palkon pe bichaa ke rakhte hain apne candidates ko. If microsoft is ever hit by this economy, all they have to do to cut down expenditure is to stop recruiting.

And i also met Aman today after a gap of 2 years. Its very interesting what aman's first lines were: "tere ko yaad hain isse pehle hum kahan mile the?" me: "in a metro". It is interesting because that was exactly the same thought going in my mind as well :)

And for those who are tracking the score, i am accepting bets for whether it is going to be 2-2 or 3-1. If you do not which game it is, ask gurshi. Bets start at 10$ and if you win you will get twice back.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sophie Scholl - Die letzten Tage

"Die Sonne scheint noch"—"The sun still shines"
Those were the partial last words of Sophie Scholl before she was executed. Her actual last line was

"How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause. Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go. But what does my death matter, if through us thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?"

15 mins ago, i finished watching the movie - Sophie Scholl - Die letzten Tage.
It is based on the true story of Sophie Scholl who tried to raise her opinion again Nazis in Germany. It took only 6 days for her to get captured and be executed. In terms of cinema, the movie is very good, (Oscar nom 2005), but in terms of the life of Sophie Scholl, it was way better.

Researching more about her on wiki, i came across her last words (copied above). She and her brother were executed only because they were distributing flyers. Their moment's name was White rose and they were truely one of the non-violence oriented moments.

A strong spirit, a tender heart
Now we go, but it is a start
Afraid not, the sun still shines
Take your hand and draw its lines.

जागे हैं

जागे हैं देर तक
हमें कुछ देर सोने दो
थोडी सी रात और है
सुबह तो होने दो
आधे अधूरे ख्वाब जो पूरे ना हो सके
इक बार फिर से नींद में वो ख्वाब बोने दो
एक ख्वाब टूट जाने का एहसास ही तो है
थोडी सी रात और सेहर पास ही तो है

Written by Gulzaar sahab.
Consider for a moment that i come and ask you to take this poem and make a song out of it, aka add music to this poem. And in my wildest imagination, i can not come up with what A.R. Rahman came up with. And there is no point in even thinking which is better the poem or the song. In the you tube video, Gulzaar sahab recites this poem and the way he recites it, aha! And when you listen to Rahman's song, it seems that it is totally a different song altogether.

Jaage Hain - Guru

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sarod concert

Yesterday, I attended Sarod concert by Pt. Tejendra Majumdar with Anubrata Chaterjee on Table. The concert was organized by Arohi with Sur student organizations. Artist details are taken from and are pasted below because the linked page will change when next concert comes.

The concert overall was good, brilliant in patches and not-so-good in some patches. [Disclaimer: i do not know the technicalities of classical music but i have a good capacity to concentrate, to listen, to follow music and finally to observe my reactions as i am doing above. All reviews are based on my observations on how i felt during the concert. This is no way related to artists' expertise or his abilities both as an artist and as a performer.]

Now that the disclaimer is over, the concert began with a beautiful rendition of Raag Kedar with atleast 30 minute alaap and it was beautiful. It was lovely to hear a 30 minute alaap after such a long time. I was sitting in front of the speaker and every note, every tiny vibration was audible. It was pure ecstasy. Raag kedar was followed by Raag Durga in which table was also there. This composition started off nicely but suddenly, he started playing his sarod like an electrical guitar. It reminded me so much of VishwaMohan Bhatt playing Mohan veena. It was just like that: get as loud as you can, get as fast as you can and people will clap. Somehow, as a performer, i think artists are concerned about their audience so much that they are willing to make a show for them. Then, we had a 15 min break and after the break, Panditji said that he is going to start with a mini Alaap of a raga (whose name i can not remember) followed by 2 compositions.

This alaap again was beautiful and sweet. Less intense than the first alaap but it still had its calmness and a feeling of happiness with it. The first composition that followed carried forward the happiness and then it moved to painting a picture of "ched" (tease). As if someone is teasing someone, playing with someone, like Krishna playing with gopiyan and teasing radha, like Calvin playing with Hobbes by taunting each other, that feeling was conveyed in music. You couldnt sit there without getting that feeling, everyone was smiling. It was music that was teasing us and we were enjoying every second of it. I remembered Pt. Uma Shankar Mishra doing this in NSIT (nostalgia comes in). The second composition was again some electric guitar rock. I think he was trying to tell the audience that you can play both rock and classical on this instrument.

But overall it was a good performance. Sitting close to those speakers and getting those vibrations, eyes closed, head banging, smile all over my face, bliss!

Artist description:
Tejendra Narayan Majumdar is one of the greatest sarod virtuosos in the world, known for the beauty of his tone and his incredible agility. Sarod, a fretless string instrument, is known for both its subtlety and power in expressing the moods of Indian music.

After training with his father and grandfather, he trained rigorously for eighteen years with Pandit Bahadar Khan and continues his training today under one of the great musicians of the 20th century, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan.

Majumdar has received numerous awards, including the President's gold medal, first place All India Radio competition, and the Pandit D.V. Paluskar award. He has also composed music for film and ballet and has toured extensively throughout Asia, Europe and the Americas.

Anubrata Chatterjee is the son and disciple of Pandit Anindo Chatterjee, who is considered by connoisseurs as one of the greatest tabla players of all time. From his father, he has developed astonishing speed and clarity in his playing. Tabla is one of the most exciting instruments in the world, capable of producing a wide variety of percussive sounds that are combined to create a singing accompaniment. It is a centuries-old improvised tradition that is one of the world's most sophisticated musical systems.

Anubrata has toured extensively both as a soloist and accompanist, including with artists such Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. He has been granted many awards and honors including the President's Gold Medal and the Pandit Nikhil Ghosh Memorial Award.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

October is here!

wow! Hurray! October of 2008 is here and i am happy for October!
So what is happening?

A lot of things, where to begin, lets see.
I am following American elections and there is more masala in this election than all David Dhawan movies put together. But the true beauty of election has been following it on the Daily shows - Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and to some extent David Letterman. 24x7 news channels will show/say/describe anything and everything and they all (and i am not joking here) are trying to be the AAJ Tak of American Television or even worse. Jon Stewart's satire on these shows comes as a perfect comedy for people like me (and there are many like me). Colbert in his typical anti style sometimes goes over the line but overall he is also good. But Stewart and his f***ing best political news team is really awesome to watch.
Colbert starts every episode with a arbit line and some of my fav are:
"Are those your brains on the floor, or did I just blow your mind?"

The Truth shall set you free! Unless you killed somebody. In which case, tell the cops they were breathing when you left the room. This Is the Colbert Report!

In case of fire, remain in your seats till im out of the building. This Is the Colbert Report!

So, in this month of October, i, Arvind Batra, will come up with try to come up with such idiotic lines. I had couple in my mind but when it comes to writing, i can not remember. But here are some:

If only i can remember what i thought then i can think to remember
what i thought

If history has taught us anything, then it is that it will repeat itself and teach us again. So we can let this lecture pass this time.

If after laughter comes tears then cut onions instead of laughing.

A mathematician can be a ruler if only if he is wooden and breaks on bending.