Sunday, December 16, 2007

Encounters at the End of the world

I saw rather disappointing Rescue Dawn a few weeks ago - I watched it only because it was directed by Herzog, but it was a betrayal of his temperament and style.

Man vs Nature is the prevailing theme in Grizzly Man, Aguirre, and Fitzcarraldo, but Rescue Dawn despite treading the same lines was so uncharacteristic of Herzog that you have to chalk it up as a commercial cop-out, like when Roberto Rodriguez made Spy Kids. With Encounters at the End of the World, he is back in form, back to the top of the list of my favorite people. Rarely do movies make me feel warm and fuzzy all over long after the movie's been watched.

The core of Herzog's philosophies haven't changed - Nature is still the enemy, man is still doomed, but at the southern most tip of the planet, you meet folks with the most redeeming of qualities - the hunger to be free and explore.

In his travels to Antarctica, Werner Herzog forewarns his sponsors - The National Science Foundation - that this won't be a movie about cute fluffy penguins - rather, his interests lay the other bipeds now settled in the continent - humans. The big question being, why is it that some humans have an irrational urge to travel and explore? What kinks drive them to subject themselves in high risk and pain, at the harshest climates, to the top of the world, or the south pole?

He meets the craziest freaks in and around McMurdo, a volcanic island at the edge of Antarctica. He interviews free spirits and compulsive adventurers, some of whom also happen to be Ph.D.'s, scientists, and researchers. You meet a climatologist who studies the gradual decay of icebergs, huge swathes of frozen water breaking loose and heading north. You meet a reclusive wildlife expert who has been studying penguins for twenty years. And you get to hear an unbelievable psychedelic orchestra of seals.

Herzog's interviews with the philosopher cum forklift driver, the underwater diver who discovers three new species in one trip, the mutant fingered native-Indian mechanic of royal blood, and the banker turned truck driver are highly inspirational. Each character has a unique story to tell, an interesting perspective to share.

I saw this movie at the Dubai Film Festival, so it might be a while before it is out on DVD, but if you get to watch this movie on the big screen, please do. Herzog's dry, accented narrative is hilarious, bordering on the absurd, and on many occasions the camera stays pinned on a character, long after he has nothing to say, silences rendered stark in the pin-drop silence of Antarctica.

Oh, and by the way, Herzog also destroys all illusions of monogamous love purported in March of the Penguins by asking a bunch of questions to the real penguin expert. Guess what, there are whores among penguins, some of them are gay, some of them are just crazy.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Shocking Exposé of Editorial Nazism in Gulf News

When it comes to state repression, UAE's leading newspaper ironically Gulf News is right out there on the front line, cheering with pom-poms. What kind of an editorial team would lay down a poll like this?

If caught violating traffic rules, culprits should:
a) Pay a fine
b)Do community service
c)Spend two weeks in jail
d) All of the above

How about comedy option e?
e) Deported after being jailed for 4 years

I'd love to see how many votes option e) would get. As a smoker, I found this article particularly offensive: What kind of a killjoy do you have to be to say such a thing?

I hope the authorities will fully implement the ban as it will benefit not only the public but also the environment.

benefit the environment
. Yes! Banning public smoking will save the whales and prevent global warming and ecological deforestation of rainforests.

The Dubai government has taken the right decision. We want a permanent ban on smoking in the UAE.
Abu Dhabi,UAE

Yes! Ban smoking permanently. For everyone. Everywhere. Forever. Problem solved.

The ban is good news. It should also be extended to bus stops, film theatres and beaches.

It should also be extended to roads, cars, office premises, car parks, open air concerts, toilets, homes, and be inclusive of all places with or without air-conditioning.

I thought I'd leave a comment that contrasted the tone here, just to balance the debate:
"This is a very good move by the authorities as it brings the citizens of Dubai one step closer to immortality. Smokers are an obnoxious and evil bunch and a threat to civilization, I suggest we put dunce hats with "I am stupid" on all smokers who smoke in public places.

I also approve of all societies that curb freedoms of its citizens as much as possible, because my only real joy in life is to see other people miserable. "

But the evil controlling psychotic nazi dogmatic judgemental herd animal editorial team at Gulf News have not published it yet.

For more ideas on how to make life suck, read the Exile Guide to State Repression.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Lulu Center - up-selling to the downtrodden

After taking heed to what Adam Curtis had to say here, I decided to step out and take a few shots of this eyesore of an ad-campaign that I'm subjected to every day.

Much has been said about the plight of the labour class in Dubai - they're the slaves of globalization, victims of the petrodollar warfare sodomized by corruption and drought at home, and an anarcho-capitalist marketplace that ironically, is still a better option than the former.

Enough about them. Save your pity for the poor agency that had to work on the Lulu account. It is truly the lowest of the low. I like to picture the top agencies of Dubai, working overtime, overnight, ash-tray full, bidding for the lavish Lulu account. Oh the passion that would've gone into that account pitch.

For those not in the know, Lulu is the poor man's shopping mall. Lulu Center in Karama is surrounded by low-income Asian expatriates, who live in crumbling apartment blocks built 20 years ago, most of them squeezed 5-6 in a room. Their average shopper would walk half a mile to save 50 fils.

It is no mystery as to why Lulu has chosen to wallpaper their windows with royalty-free photos: They're cheap. Their whole business model is about being cheaper than the rest. Like other supermarket giants, they sell Lulu branded water, coffee, rice, detergent, and various consumables about 50p less than the cheapest branded item. That much is enough for most people. They don't need George Clooney to endorse Lulu Coffee.

But instead of cheap ads for people who don't really need to be sold on the virtues of Lulu Detergent, the ads forces its viewers to confront the horrific truth of their existence: that changing the address doesn't change one's situation. Beneath the surface, it's just the same shit in a new package.

The images of multiculturalism mock them in their face, exposed for the bald lies that they are, when juxtaposed with a ghettoized landscape that is overwhelmingly brown, and sometimes yellow.

It's the most tragic form of up-selling. An overwhelmingly white-tinted stock photo collection that is in itself a result of commoditization, used to lend credence to a supermarket giant selling generics.

You can't read the text here, it says: Lulu Rice - The Rice for Rice Lovers. Mmmhmm.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Interesting Adam Curtis Interview

Adam Curtis makes the best documentaries: I've seen the following, and learnt a lot from his history lessons. If you've got bandwidth, you owe it to yourself to watch the following:

Century of the Self
Power of Nightmares
The Trap
Pandora's Box
The Mayfair Set

Andrew Orlowski, ardent wikipedia critic recently interviewed Adam, discussing how the internet has changed media, the loss of confidence among the media elite, .

Adam is very unforgiving of bloggers:

"First of all, the people who do blogging, for example, are self-selecting. Quite frankly it's quite clear that what bloggers are is bullies. The internet has removed a lot of constraints on them. You know what they're like: they're deeply emotional, they're bullies, and they often don't get out enough. And they are parasitic upon already existing sources of information - they do little research of their own."

And critical of the TV elite:

"It started with the Berlin Wall. None of those guys predicted the Berlin Wall would come down. Ever since then it's been quite clear that most mainstream news journalism has absolutely no idea about what's really going on. It reports the "factlets" really well, but when it tries to join up the dots, it often leads you into a strange either fantasy world, or simplified world."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

And now a message from your corporate sponsor

There's plenty of ball-talk at Tedtalk; I'd rather have my molars drilled with a rusty nail and a hammer than listen to Bono yammer about Africa.

But there's some cool stuff there. Soothing powerpoint presentations about humanity's steady progress towards better health, lowered birth rates, longer life, and higher earnings. Watch it before your bedtime.

Larry Brilliant puts up a rather weak case for optimism, (100 million displaced Bangladeshis crossing the border thanks to global warming) I actually feel more pessimistic after watching this.

My favourite presentation is from Kurzweil, whose trend analysis shows how exponential technological growth brings man and machine closer together. Watch that one! I insist. On the company dime if you have to. For one, you'll give better power point presentations after watching it.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Google reader recommends that I read this blog

I love using Google reader - it's the only RSS feed reader that I've actually used on a semi-permanent basis. But what is this? A new feature?! my dayz with myself is the Top Recommendation according to the smarty pants google. Did google buy xanga and port it to blogger?

I still lie pushed down in my seat , while maroon5 in my ears croons that she will be loved (Nice floating song .Chahiye to bol de. I hate piracy , starting tommorow)
And as I lie in my seat , watching people stand on each other's feet , I wonder , jaldi kya hai yaar ? This plane blows up in three minutes ?

Why does this blog have 117 subscribers? To a banal post like this:

Now I am as confident as a Shane Warne bowling to Sonu Nigam when I say that around 4 people on this planet would be interested in knowing about the person I am , assuming my family would be interested in that . But I guess thinking about oneself once in a while clears up things , and then why should only celebrities get to talk about themselves and their favorite colors and favorite dishes ? ( Tanushree Dutta says her favorite is Rajma Chawal . I am learning to cook rajma chawal now . Things I do for Tanu.).

Ashutosh said...

U r really awesome. Very witty and very interesting.

Who are these people?!