Thursday, August 31, 2006

No Man's Land

Spent my last weekend at a friend's place, watching No Man's Land, a Bosnian movie about the war that broke out there in 1993. It's the movie that beat Lagaan to the Oscars - deservedly so.

The plot revolves around two enemy soldiers (one Bosnian, and one Serb) who find themselves stuck in a trench, exchanging bullets, cigarettes, and heated self-righteous arguments, while being shelled by both sides. The two soldiers play a game of cat and mouse, winning the upper hand on old political debates while playing Capture the Gun.

Things heat up when an a presumably dead Bosnian soldier wakes up to find a landmine planted underneath, which brings some well meaning foot soldiers from UNPROFOR to the scene. It's a breach of protocol, but the French sergeant uses a British journalist's clout to get a German bomb defusal specialist in the scene.

The movie revels in absurdism that evolves out of the multicultural and bureaucratic milieu, and weaves it into a climax that works out as an allegory to the war itself. You have two former neighbours fighting each other to death, a bunch of well meaning but uncoordinated Europeans standing helplessly on the sidelines, a time bomb that's ticking away, with a limited attention span being the only defence mechanism to the unfolding tragedy.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Lord Rama on the Raglan Scale

  1. The hero's mother is a royal virgin : YES
  2. His father is a king and: YES
  3. often a near relative of the mother, but : ?
  4. the circumstances of his conception are unusual, and: YES
  5. he is also reputed to be the son of a god : YES
  6. at birth an attempt is made, usually by his father or maternal grandfather, to kill him, but NO
  7. He is spirited away, and: NO
  8. Reared by foster-parents in a far country: NO
  9. We are told nothing of his childhood, but: NO
  10. On reaching manhood he returns or goes to his future kingdom. :YES
  11. After a victory over the king and or giant, dragon, or wild beast: YES
  12. He marries a princess, often the daughter of his predecessor and: YES
  13. becomes king: NO
  14. For a time he reigns uneventfully and: NO
  15. Prescribes laws but: YES
  16. later loses favor with the gods and or his people and :YES
  17. Is driven from from the throne and the city after which:YES
  18. He meets with a mysterious death: ?
  19. often at the top of a hill.: NO
  20. his children, if any, do not succeed him. : NO
  21. his body is not buried, but nevertheless : YES
  22. he has one or more holy sepulchres. : NO
I did a google search on this, didn't find any pages, so I figured i'd put my Doordarshan GK to use. The results: A very poor 10/22 for Rama. Not too bad. But not as high as Christ or Prophet Mohammed.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Herzog's Grizzly Man and Aguirre: Wrath of God

All great artists have their own unique shtick, a singular vision that can be seen in all their works. It's like a journo's beat; H.S.T's was the death of the American dream. For Werner Herzog, from what I've seen of him, it's deconstructing the deluded, people who were teetering on the edge and then keeled over.

In Grizzly Man, with considerable sensitivity and pragmatism, he documents the story of Timothy Treadwell, a gonzo wildlife documentaratian cum activist who is in love with his subject: Alaskan Grizzly bears. He spends 12 years living in close proximity with them, appointing himself as the sole protector and caretaker of these bears. On his 13'th year of filming, he is eaten by them.

Herzog salvages 100 hours of primo footage from this man's life, where his delusions really come out in the open. Treadwell's life is examined; from intimate cam confessionals, his childlike conversations with foxes and bears, his life as a failed actor and a former substance abuser, his failure to connect with complexity of the real world, or understand the brutality of the wild. It's a picture of how man finds meaning, however contrived, in an uncaring universe.

In Aguirre, Wrath of God, a small party of Spanish Conquistadors head down the Amazon River in search of El Dorado, a fabled city of gold. As the search gets bogged down by weather, so does the size of the party, until a mutinous Aguirre leads a small group into a disastrous foray down the river. The movie is slow, surreal, and wild, some of the shots are really out there I'd hate to describe it and spoiler it for you folks. Watch it if you havent.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Land of the Blind - a review

A biting modern day political satire, heavily inspired by real life, Land of the Blind is a fable that borrows heavily from 20'th century despots.

It's steals from the best -- a bit of Animal farm, mixed with Khomeni, Turkmenbashi, Pol Pot, and Kim Jong il. If you know who these people are, and how hilarious their cruelties can be, then you'll definitely feel clever for watching this movie.

Land of the Blind is a fictional account of the life and times of Everycountry, ruled by the iron hand of Maximilian, and succeeded by president-for-life Maximillian II, who has a penchant for directing b-movies.

Ralph Fiennes plays Joe, a prison guard who develops a deep kinship with playwright Thorne (Sutherland), a revolutionary poet who quotes verses on the prison walls using his own feces. There's a power struggle, a coup, betrayal, and a first-person account of the sordid tale, hilarious at some points, a greek tragedy at the end.

The cinematic style reminds me a bit of Brazil, the scriptwriting of Brass Eye, topped up with surreal scenes and a liberal dose of black humour. Subitles may help.

It's funny because it's true, Land of the Blind revisits and modernises the old stories, and manages to stay fresh.

P.S. Rottentomatoes gives it a shitty rating, I really don't understand why this movie was so ruthlessly assasinated. Yes, the plot is inspired, but it was still enjoyable to watch.

The Che Guevera Effect

When it comes to heroes, no political figure has been deified as much as Che Guevera, atleast in the last century. This photo has become synonymous with youth, revolutionary ideals, socialism, and hipsters trying to be ironic.

The beret with the star, a ragged face with a month old beard, this pic had a lot to do with the cult of personality that revolved around him, a meme whose effect can be seen even now. You can see it in documentaries about Argentina's economic meltdown, and worker led factions that usurped corporate ownership and turned them into cooperatives. (You call it stealing? We call it expropriation) Hell yeah.

Latin America has always had a bit of fire in their belly, sanctified by the ghost of Che, his grim, smug mug looking someplace up high, challenging you to share his vision. Or perhaps, it's arrogance that stems from vanity; the relative ease with which the Spanish colon-ised the native population there.

In any case, all firebrand revolutionaries who talk about the power of the people and quote poetry are like the pigs in Animal Farm, and it's not long before high minded ideals give way to use of low brow force. As long as there's a government, it doesn't matter if it's communist, socialist, capitalist, or dictatorial; as long as there's power concentrated in the hands of a few, there will be injustice. A government cannot exist without the threat of, or the use of force.

With good PR, any form of ownage is possible.

Some heroes don't translate too well. Myths have to be borne out of the soil, which is why rock will never be as popular in India, Qawalli will never be popular in the south, or Carnatic music in the north; the twain shall never meet. It's the same reason why Che Guevera will never be revered in India; simply because of geography1. Point is, Communism failed in India because its PR machinery never got a chance at capturing the people's consciousness. Perhaps that's a side benefit of being a country so divided on religion, ethnicity, and subcastes. Nepotism takes precendence over ideology.

But there's one guy that the commies missed out on. Veerappan. He's the closest thing we have to Che Guevera. The spoke Tamil, so it doesn't matter what he said or believed in, because most of India wouldn't understand. You could have four maoist poets planting heart rending quotations for him on Wikipedia. Some say he was a sandalwood smuggler, but that can be used to fuel his Robinhood complex. Throw in a bit of Thoreau, and a few Thiruvalluvar quotes, and you would have had a serious rumble in the jungle..

1. Marxism was spurred on by a sacred text called The Communist Manifesto, is therefore exempt from the trappings of geography, in the same way that religion is.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Penn and Teller are turning skepticism into entertainment. Their network TV series Bullshit! is a brilliant idea for a TV show, just have two guys rant and bust some of the stupidest cults centred around faith, the paranormal, or advertising. It's like Mythbusters meets George Carlin.

One of my favourite episodes is Holier than Thou, in which they effectively argue that Mother Teresa was a sadistic and cruel figure whose intention was not to help or heal the poor and the sick, but to use suffering as a means of bringing them closer to Christ.
Money donated to Missionaries of Charity never went on building hospitals but on nunneries. Dr. Aroup Chatterjee has spent a lot of his time trying to salvage the reputation of his city - Calcutta, which Mother Teresa used as a base to collect donations from all around the world, which were then remitted to party HQ in Rome. I got reading and found this free e-book. Too long probably, so read this open letter to her by the author. Missionaries of Charity is not about charity, it's about money.

Even more awesome are the attacks on Gandhi, where they bring his aura points a few notches down. A Maha aatma? Definitely not. Apparently during his time in South Africa he published a few articles where his view of the Africans was quite racist and bigoted. But they all were, back in the day. But they really don't have much meat on Gandhi, except for his approval of enemas, and how he used to carry an enema kit around with him..

And last but not the least, they attack the Dalai Lama, whose Hallmark cards style of compassion is supposed to be the answer to all your problems. If he really was all about love and peace, what was he doing receiving funds from the CIA for training guerilla operatives?

I'm currently checking out some of their other episodes, theres plenty to watch on google video. Should keep me busy on this holiday.


A list of P&T episodes

Friday, August 18, 2006

Drive-by Clickin..

1/4th of all the world's cranes are in Dubai. I read that in the paper a while ago. It seems like a ridiculous claim, but you can't look at any part of Dubai's skyline without seeing a few tower cranes jutting out. There's always some kind of construction activity going on.

I thought it would be a great idea to go and take photos of the Palm Jumeirah from the inside, since I live so close to it.

It's a Friday morning, 10:30 AM in Bur Dubai. These men in blue work at 40 degree heat, for less than about $250 a month. Yes it's exploitation, but the real exploitation starts at home, in India.

We're on our way, snaking through Satwa..

On the right, you can see Dubai Drydocks, on the left, the Dubai flagpole, which is really tall.

That's Mc Donalds, in Arabic..

Villas to the Left, villas to the right. That's Jumeirah for ya..

One more Mc Donalds, not too far from the last one!

Man with small penis compensates by driving Nissan Armada. Dubai has a lot of 4x4's. Hummers are growing annoyingly common too. Some egos wouldn't fit in small cars.

The Jumeirah Beach hotel.

The Burj. Can you see the Star Trekkish helipad?

Dubai Marinah, another rising cluster of Really Tall Buildings.

I found this board which pointed to the Palm Construction Entrance, so I took a turn to get some better shots.

This bridge connects to the Palm Island Jumeirah.

We're driving on reclaimed land.

It was a friday, but a lot of people were still working.. the energy of the place was quite intense. The deadline of completion is quite harsh, and everyone is working at breakneck pace.

That's the Dubai Marina from the Palm Island.

My Indian brethren wait for their bus home in the afternoon. I am refused entry beyond this point, since I have no official reason to be here. :( Oh well. I was probably pushing my luck by going in this far.

It's time to head back, through Sheikh Zayed road.

That's an Indoor ski dome.

You can find it in the Mall of the Emirates. which is Really Huge.

Dubai Business Bay, being built..

The skyline to the left.. is a Billboard.

The Burj. Rising at the rate of 1 floor a week.

These cluster of buildings are all but completed. feels awesome to drive through them. The traffic sucks in the evenings though.

And well, that's pretty much it. I get tired of uploading pics.

Dubai in Pictures

I've been living in Dubai for almost 3 years now, and it's amazing to see the pace at which a new megacity is being built. I thought It'd be nice to share some pics.

Burj Dubai


Emirates Towers

View from Emirates towers.

That's the Burj. It's going to be the world's tallest tower. Current height: 60 floors.

Next up. Pictoral Drive through Dubai's Palm Jumeirah.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Invasive Species

The Age of Sail brought about a kind of globalisation that the world hadn't seen before.The balance of power could very well have swayed the way of China, had they not gone insular. This decision to forfeit the waters of the world left the competitive playground in the hands of Europe, who evolved their technology in intergroup tournaments and surpassed every other civilisation at the time.
The passing of the Middle Ages had taken a heavy toll on Europe, which had fallen prey to some of the most disastrous plagues and communicable diseases. But they emerged stronger, and more resilient, for those that survived embodied genes that could resist diseases that wiped out the last generation.

And so, equipped with a juggernaut of Guns, Germs, Steel and Christ, a highly divisive Europe carved out the western hemisphere between themselves.

But let's stop thinking of history in terms of victory and conquest. Man is a social animal, who orchestrates and domesticates an ecosystem around him. Goats, rats, pigs, chickens, animals you wouldn't consider predatory, with regards to their normal food chain. So when these men first stepped on lands that hadn't been inhabited for millions of years by any kind of mammalian life, a Zerg Rush of epic propotions ensued.

When the British took over India, they introduced Penicillin and vaccines, tyres and petrol, steam engines and sewers, radios and newspapers, and bogus titles for subjugated kings like The Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire. They overwrote many aspects of life and culture, the effects of which are still felt today. Their temperament was similar to the Lantana, a cute little flower plant which many parts of India’s forests, destroying its biodiversity.

Which is perhaps why I laugh with glee when a fellow goon's stoner buddy tossed Kudzu seeds all over his town. Kudzu is an incredibly fast growing unstoppable vine plant that can grow at the rate of a feet a day, and dig in 6 feet into the soil.

From the wiki: "Kudzu is sometimes referred to as "the plant that ate the South", a reference to how kudzu's explosive growth has been most prolific in the southeastern United States due to nearly ideal growing conditions."

If you guys think that shit is bad, visit any Pacific island that was heavily bombed in WW2. Once the US liberated those islands, they realized that they had often bombed them so extensively that they had killed a good chunk of the vegetation, creating an erosion problem that threatened to destroy the rest. As a stop-gap measure to save the plant life on the islands, the Army found the fastest growing weeds and shrubs and whatnot from all over, and carpet-bombed the islands with seeds from them.

Hiking in the Marianas is effectively like trekking through massive weed gardens. With the exception of a handful of tree species, it's effectively a blanket of kudzu across everything (the "everything" being primarily other weeds and weed-like shrubs).

Thursday, August 03, 2006

How I survived a spyware attack, and lived to talk about it.

The Shame, oh the Shame. As an uber k3wl l337 hacker boi, what market analysts would classify as "Power User"; admitting that I'd been hit by spyware is not only embarassing, its a stinging slap on my face, a pockmark on my family's lineage, the rape of my tribesmen and the desecration of my gods... or something..

I fix PCs. I build PCs. I build PCs for friends and relatives. I give them tips on using P2P software. I am a walking distro. My friends are distros. I have (120 + 120 + 250 + 80 gigs of storage.) Needless to say, I think my e-penis is huge. So when I saw this,

it was like having a rash on it.

Oh by the way. That isn't an antivirus product I am using. That is the fuckin spyware in the first place.

I got it when I went to a cracks site for an app that I REALLLY needed. I normally don't trust these sites, but my boss told me it was legit, so I beleived him. And then I got propah fucked. The trojan infected the fuck out of my notebook and slowed it down to extreme frustration mode, where every action, click, or keystroke would take a few seconds. In the background, the trojan was making busy babies, buring itself in the registry, and 'colonising' my machine.

Now I had two choices:

Fight the good fight, and use all the antispyware/antimalware I could to unfuck it.

I tried:
Windwows Defender

None of them worked. This trojan was very kvlt.

I managed to kill some of the operations using Spybot in Safe mode which provided me temporary respite, but it still mocked me, with messages like this.

How fucked is that! You sell antispyware by making spyware that fucks up the PC, and then you link the user to your site promising him a fix when he clicks the bubble. Nice pyramid scheme there, fuckass.

Think about it. A guy actually spent a lot of time working on this, rewriting the trojan, plugging it on a site, just so he could sell his shitty antispyware.

After googling the poorly written copy in the bubble, I found out what it was:

I used Security Task Manager to kill these processes.


And Hijackthis in Safe mode to banish them from my PC.

But that was just temporary. it came back again!

But there are a few people fighting the good fight. God bless em. It took me some time to brute force it outta my system. My PC was finally unfucked after 3 days of firefighting.

And now I am sorted.