An Owl's 2 hoots

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Life's small mysteries

Today morning (just before I woke up), my brother called me from India. I was at that point where I wish I could sleep for 15 more minutes, but had to get up since the alarm would ring in 2 minutes.

Amazing thing was, even though I was not awake, I was able to answer each of his questions completely (although groggily), but I could not recall what I spoke or how long I spoke when I was fully awake.

To think about it now, I remember I was rattling away the names of the hurricanes of this year, when I would be leaving for work, distance from my place to Tampa, Florida and also said that my blog would be up today or so!.

Seems to me, that the human brain has some kind of data streaming mode. Something which would be used only during situations when the retention capacity is less and the processing units are transitioning from idle to wake state!.

But funnily, this does not seem to apply to dreams. I cannot recall any dream event from last night, and seems that one has 3-4 dreams per night!. It would be nice if we are able to "store" our dreams and replay it!.

Maybe, in the near future...*yawn*...Zzzzzz.


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Instant Karma

Instant Karma may mean a cause-and-effect phenomenon (like regular karma), except that the fruits of the deeds would be realized much earlier. (Incidentally, Instant Karma is also the title of John Lennon's (Beatles fame) single.)

I had my share of instant karma yesterday.

Work at my office would be fairly divided throughout the day, but the pre-lunch session (cricket maadhiri!) was exceptionally busy and tormenting. Added to that, I was ravenously hungry all morning and was just waiting for the clock to strike 1 PM.

On reaching Tacobell, I prepared to order the usual (the order-taker knew my usual anyway) and opted to eat-in, rather than take-out. Before me, there were 2 persons (American-teenagers). Both these guys were talking (typical valley-girl accent) in their respective cell phones and simultaneously deciding what to eat. They were ordering each item with several conditions - "like, no X, no Y, like, more of Z, less of, oh wait, cancel that.. what's that?.. dude!, like, the gordita is awesome...". I was cursing them mentally, thinking - "so typical of them". Finally, after 10 minutes, they decided to complete their ordering and I ordered mine.

First-in-first-out method is followed (usually) in these eateries. So, the teenagers' order comes out first - a huuge quantity. But there was no sign of them collecting it. Where were they?. They were yakking away in the cornermost corner table of the restaurant. I was already losing it. The food disperser was calling out their number, but they were just ignoring it. Here I am, with my stomach rumbling with hunger, and my order gets delayed due to the traffic jam in front of me. I was thinking: "God!, why are they like this?" - to put it lightly.

Finally, they came to pick it up. I gave them my best Glenn McGrath scowl at them. I then proceeded to take my tray of food. I was so hungry and irritated at that time, that I started walking out the door with the tray!!. I did not even realize it until I reached my car. Picture my embarrassment when I tried to put the tray on the passenger seat!.

Beet-red faced, I walked back to the restaurant, tray (with food) in hand. To add insult to injury, the teenagers shifted their sitting to a table just in front of the door. They understood my situation when I entered, and man, how they laughed!.

I think, I beat my previous record in speed-eating that day.

Instant karma!.


Saturday, August 20, 2005


Nowadays, I am not checking the change I recieve from stores or shops. Maybe it is due to the "balance display" in the cash-register and also since the employee states the balance explicitly, or my implicit(!!) trust that the change must be correct. Of course, this does not apply if I pay by card.

So this is my normal course of action: I pay for the items I buy, get the change and put the change in my car change-compartment or any other such "reservoir". Then if I need to use the vending machine, I fish out change from these "reservoirs".

Some weeks back, I was taking change out as usual, and I saw that I had, not one, but 3 Canadian Quarters (25 cents) instead of the US quarters!. The vending machine was refusing to take the coin in. Now I don't know if those three were given to me as change in one transaction or I had got them on separate occasions (the shame of it!). But it was definitely due to my negligence.

This was not the case in India. Right from the change which I was getting from the bus conductor, I was going through them diligently. Maybe I am taking technology for granted.

Oh, in case you were wondering what happened to the Canadian coins, I "(un)wittingly" passed it on at a Tacobell restaurant!.


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Graphics/Special effects in Tamil movies

Special effects are to be used in movies to enhance the visual experience. To be more specific, graphics are being used as a replacement of an original scheme (e.g., sinking of the titanic, volcanic eruptions, etc.), bringing fantasies/anachronistic events to life (e.g., dinosaurs) or can be used in an entirely "unique" area (also known as tamil cinema).

With the limited tamil cinema knowledge I possess, special effects can be very nicely split into two eras - Pre-Shankar and Post-Shankar.

I do not remember a lot of movies using special effects in the pre-Shankar era - maybe a few jaganmohini type movies, popularly known as "Vittalacharya" movies. I have not seen much of that genre, so I am incapable of commenting on them. Apart from this type of movies, there were scores of other movies which depicted "feshal" effects by brilliantly pasting disjoint scenes - like a forest scene, where MGR fights a lion: The lion's footage would be an age-old African savannah shot. Of course, the close-up would have a big furry lion doll trying to paw MGR. Crocodiles, tigers, snakes have also graced the silver screen without their knowledge. Of course, one cannot blame the movie makers; they had limited technology and money, and who cares if a snake is getting a pay-check.

Post-Shankar, however is a completely different story. The main reasons were that producers were willing to spend more money and technology was picking up. With the advent of high-tech companies, software professionals started to wet their hands in this field. It required both creativity and implementation skills - not an easy combination. The graphic designers were fresh and willing to experiment (and not to mention that the director had NO IDEA of what specifications to give and what to expect). In this learning curve, a main aspect, however was forgotten/ignored. Why use special effects for a particular scene?. Rather, it started something like this: a programmer or his group had probably implemented a new module and the TEAM LEAD convinced his manager to use this somehow, somewhere in the movie. Who knows?. If that particular graphic module was selected, he may be sent to "ON-SITE".

Actually, this ploy worked pretty well. We, the audience had no idea what to expect, so if there was anything compooter-generated, jaws dropped. Shankar adopted this technique of using the producers' money in a proper fashion ("it's worth it, Kunjumon sir"). The problem started when graphics were used by every other director and for any and every scenario. What started as a "haiii, sooper maa" became "aiya, dho da".

From what I have scene (sorry, seen) on the screen, the following list has scenes/movies which mis-used graphics, and thereby incurred the audience's (hee hee, naanthaan) displeasure:

Asattu graphics or unwanted graphics in no particular order:

1. Anniyan: This movie had a 27 crore rupee budget. I can think of atleast 5 cuts in the editing room which could have saved the producer a couple of crores. Some of the achhu-bicchhu graphics are -
  • the scene in which bits of information fly through the fibre-optic cables and enters a database of cached web sites. COME ON!. Give me a break!.
  • the entire website (in the movie), complete with the yerumai maadu.
  • ala matrix style stunts. It was cute the first time in Matrix. But even the subsequent (2 and 3) were dragging.
2. Boys: A costly attempt by Shankar, but too bad for him. Thulluvatho Ilamai was so much better and was released before Boys.
  • what the hell is that "dabara" song - the one which ends up with a coke can. It was so irritating to watch it.
  • the multiple camera angles was ok for once or twice. But an entire song like that?. Shankar infact "perfected" the multiple thingy in Anniyan, where Sada's fall from the stairs(?) is taken in a vertical multiple angle shot. #$$#*&#&#!!!
3. Mudhalvan: I like this movie a lot - but for a few special effects.
  • paramapadha paambus - such a pathetic looking sequence. The scene is complete with Manisha Koirala closing one of the snakes's head (Vadivelu, I think) with a pot!.
4. Baba: Thalaivar's debacle. The lesser said about this movie, the better. Nevertheless -
  • kite scene - can you believe it?. An entire 6 minutes wasted. I wish he had wished for some other wish.
5. Monisha en Monalisa (!!): I did not watch this movie, but unfortunately I happened to see one of the songs from this movie - sung and danced by Simbu (before he officially started acting as a hero). I think the song was a lift-off from Ricky Martin's Worldcup football song.
  • A Tyrannosaurus Rex dancing on a rotating CD!!. This image has been immortalized in my memory!.
6. All of the Ammann movie series: Sample - An elephant in a dress plays cricket. What can I say?

7. Kadhalar dhinam: A movie which I love to hate. Cheesy dialogs, lyrics, scenes.. you name it.
  • Overkilling the dancing baby, people typing on a keyboard randomly - for the first time, I was ashamed of being associated with Computer Science.
  • All those chat graphics. I am not even sure if today's chat software has roses swirling when someone types ROJA. Talk about AI!.
  • Roja Roja song - Oh my god!. Sonali Bendre is flying in a bed of roses, and Kunaal is urugifying for her. Need I add that Unnikrishnan's voice was at its effeminate best.
8. Indian: Not much complaining here. One of my all time favorites. Except for a few scenes -
  • Race track fight - poor quality graphics. Even the front-most frontbencher would have groaned looking at it.
Sometimes Graphics and special effects have been implemented nicely, with good results:


1. Jeans: I think this movie revolutionized dual-roles. Indian did have some good scenes with the Indian thaatha and the other Kamal, but this one was miles ahead. The skeleton dance was a new addition and was actually enjoyable.

2. Kadhalan: The headless-dance in the "Muquabla" song was widely enjoyed. Intro graphics in "Ennavale" was also nice.

3. Indian: A good tribute to MJ's Thriller video (and Dangerous) through "Maya Machindra" song.

4. Chandramukhi: Towards the end of the movie, the scenes depicting Jyothika's past were pretty welll done.

5. Kurudhi Punal: The last scene (Kamal) was well taken. I am not sure if it was CG or just "ropes", but the end-result was good.

6. Anbey Sivam: Very subtle graphics in the Umbrella fight (Kamal's flashback). Neatly done.

It seems like Shankar has both revolutionized graphics and also mis-used them. But do we need them at all?. For instance, Manirathnam (exception: Anjali's star wars song), Bala and Selvaraghavan are able to give such strong themed movies without any antics. It could also be because these three guys do not spend a lot of money for their movies. Mani has never shot a scene outside India!. Maybe I am speaking too soon!. Who knows?. Selvaraghavan's future movie (Savaanah vil senthilnaathan) may feature Danush as a psycho safari ranger, and we may see the lion-pawing scene again!.


Saturday, August 13, 2005

To get one or not to get one; that is the question!

Hair today! Posted by Picasa

A haircut, that is!.

If you are thinking - "what is there to think about?. It is so simple", hold on. It is not so simple if you are a certain me:

1. In the US, you need to tip the barber - say a couple of dollars. On an average, the base charge would be around $12.
2. The only suitable day I can get a hair cut is a saturday.
3. Any cash in my wallet would be spent in a snap - on lunch, groceries, etc., before Friday.
4. Same is the case with cash-back recieved from departmental stores. Poof!. they are gone.
5. The least denomination an ATM can spit out is $20.
6. I won't drive to the ATM just for the sake of getting cash out. There is a barber shop within walking distance from my place.
7. Even in the rare case of having a crisp $20 bill in my wallet, I cannot use it - since there would be some awkward moments when the barber attempts to retrieve the change and I would be forced to say "keep the change". And no, they don't accept credit cards.

So that is my dilemma. Already the talk of my office is my hair!. Some like it, while some ask - "are'nt you satisfied with your height?".

I almost made an attempt to go today, but sat down in front of my laptop to blog about this. Shame on you, computer!. You made me miss my haircut this week too!.

Oh well, maybe next saturday!.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Hell No! Posted by Picasa

I will not be intimidated by the number of hours you work.
I will not be struck by awe and wonder watching you work on multiple projects.
I will never talk about work outside of work, let alone bring work to home.
I would not feel proud if I don't take time off or vacation.
I am proud to say that "I have hobbies other than my job".
I am proud not to be a workaholic.


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Aan = paavam

I happened to see (~10th time) one of my all-time favorite movies - Aanpaavam. This was Pandiarajan's directorial (and acting) debut.

I would probably say that this movie, along with Baghyaraj's "Andha 7 naatkal", "Indru poi naalai vaa" and Kamal's "MMKR" have the tautest screenplays I have ever seen in Tamil movies. The Maestro was at its peak (circa 1985) when this movie was released. AMAZING background music!. Also, this movie had several situation-type comedic scenes - "Muttudhaa? - Muttidichu" being one of them.

For several years(!), I had this nagging question - why did he name the film as "Aanpaavam". I think I found it out only the last time I saw the movie.

A small backgrounder of the characters:

1. Pandian and Pandiarajan are the sons of V.K.Ramasaamy.
2. VKR starts a theatre (touring talkies) in the village and becomes even more important by doing so.
3. P & P are useless fellows.
4. VKR arranges marriage for Pandian (the elder one).
5. Kolangudi Karupaayee is P& P's grandmother.

Pandian to KK: paati.. ponnu karuppa sevappa nu kezhunga..

KK to VKR: yenda raamasami.. ponnu karuppu thola, sevappu thola?

VKR to everyone in general: puli tholu!...kazhuda, kattunaa katta vendiyadhu dhaane?

Pandian to VKR: yemppa?..ponnu yenakku pudikka venaama?

VKR: ponnukku unna pudichaa podhaadhu?


Voila! and so true!!. Poor guy(s). It doesn't matter if the guy likes the girl or not. Adhanaala dhaan "aan paavam" nu title.

Cha!, life is not fair at all.


Monday, August 01, 2005

Gazelles and Lions

Gazelle & Lion Posted by Picasa

Currently, I am reading "The World is Flat" by Thomas L. Friedman. This is a non-fiction book where the author explains global economy, out-sourcing, off-shoring etc., in a very simple way so that even guys like me who have no knowledge in economics can understand.

In one of the chapters (Ten things which flattened the world), the author talks about offshoring. He mentions an old African saying/song in the text:

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.
It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.
Every morning a lion wakes up.
It knows that it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.
It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle.
When the sun comes up, you better start running.

This is so true!. Gone are the days where one can be content with the knowledge he/she has accumulated till that point. Right now, the world is in such a state that, if I think I am not meant to do some things as part of my job, there is another guy (better qualified than me, who knows?) who is willing to take it up. Whether global economy has flattened the playing field or not, it has become an ideal ego-buster.

Just wanted to share this with all of you this new week.

Update: It just so happened that I used a sketch of a gazelle and a real photo of a lion for this post. Now when I look at them, it is as if the lion is chasing an imaginary gazelle and the paper gazelle is running from a real lion!. But hopefully that should not dilute the fact!.