An Owl's 2 hoots

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

World of music - 1

When I logged into yahoo messenger to listen to Launch Cast, I was welcomed with this message. Adappavingala! I hope this would just be a temporary thing.

I have very fond memories of Launch cast. I first got introduced to internet radio in 2001 in those glorious grad school days, where I spent marathon hours doing assignments, projects, chatting (oh yea!), on-campus job searches, all the while listening to internet radio. Poor grad students cannot afford to buy CDs. Downloading MP3s was frowned upon in the computing centers at school. Our savior was Internet radio! So, it was first the radio player in, then Netscape radio, and then the my favorite - Yahoo launch cast. Raaga was the most popular source for desi music. But it's not "radio" exactly.

The beauty of radio lies in the tantalizing expectation of what would come up next. An ideal companion when one is doing other works. FM in India (I do not belong to the radio mirchi era; mine was more archaic) was a favorite past time when I was home and was not doing anything else. But I experienced it to the maximum after coming here.

You really get to discover music when you listen to radio. With all humility, I consider myself to be a pretty good music enthusiast and I attribute a large part of that to the music which I stumbled upon, actively pursued or stalked - all which had a start point from Launch Cast. Entire genres of music which have become my favorites now had to do with the "seed" sown in net radios. And the beauty lies in how broad or how deep you are willing to go to find your music.

For instance, the well known Robert Miles' "Children" can be considered as a somewhat dreamy, uplifting, ephemeral number. Once this song is rated, launch cast found Sasha's "Wavy-gravy" - a true trance classic. Then, I rate Sasha as an artist and the album (Airdrawndagger) which featured this song. Magically, the radio then plays (well, it may take a couple of days to propagate fully) Sasha and Digweed's mixed version of "The Silence - Mike Koglin" from Northern Exposure. which by itself is not an original, but a damn good number, and belongs to hard-core trance. Slowly but surely, the radio plays each song in the album and if I like them, I go buy the album. To cut a long story short, Northern exposure would remain one of my most coveted double-CDs.

Of course, not all of the listenings are based on just by chance. Sometimes I pick an artist and rate ALL his songs and albums in the launch cast website and eventually, the radio HAS to play it. Tupac, U2, Paul van Dyk, Air, Tiesto were some of the artists I actively pursue(d).

There were a lot of artists which I have rated as "uggh" so, the radio learns that too and never plays anything from that artist.

There may be other players which perform much better, but I was most comfortable with Launch cast. Given a good amount of positive and negative examples, a learning system would be able to predict/discriminate music tastes too. A very nice concept from which I hugely benefitted and am still. Even if they indeed ban Net radio, it is not the end of the world, since I already have the wind below my wings.

But I hope it won't end this way.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Public key encryption and decent paarties

One of the courses I took in grad school was Applied Cryptography. This was a filler course in the Computer Systems side but was very informative and interesting. The course instructor made a counter-intuitive statement regarding secrecy of information. He said, an ecryption algorithm whose methods are not explained, is bound to be broken more easily than one whose methods are publicly available. The mathematical difficulty in breaking a code is what is more important than a "clever" way to encode things.

To be fair, Sujatha tries to use this method (serial numbers of currency notes) in Sivaji, but the whole 2-year hype and secrecy in making the movie and finally seeing the end product (after tallying with rumors of the story lines which all matched) is like a "clever" but mathematically tractable encryptyion algorithm.

But that is just the movie critic in me speaking. I enjoyed the movie since thalaivar's movies are hard to come by and and I am a die-hard fan. Perhaps if he acts more frequently or if I stop critical analysis of movies, then I could have enjoyed it more. Now, we know both of that is impossible.

Rajni has awesome screen presence and shows why he is the king of style and survived and thrived the test of time. There are not too many 55+ year olds that I know of who is as well maintained as he is. One can watch it just for the mottai boss scenes (WOW!) and Style and Adhiradi songs. In spite of the blurry print in this theatre, K.V. Anand's camera is gold. Rahman is class in songs and BGM, although there were certainly some changes made during the re-recording. Vivek outclasses everyone (including thalaivar) in most scenes. Shriya is hot in all songs and Nayanthara was a good choice for the first song, although I personally did not like the choreography (a new meaning for pot bellies!)

The story as such is nothing new but it manages to keep us entertained in chunks. It need not be this long and there seems to be some kind of a blunt scissors which was being used in the editing room.

Once again, Sujatha over-simplifies things for the common man. The scene when someone asks "what is black money, is it so called because it is black?" was the limit of being pedantic. Of course, voice-activated passwords would have had any red-blooded Comp. sci person cringe. But overall, the dialogs were pretty sharp and enjoyable. Spoofs of Chandramukhi were a riot.

Some scenes could have been totally avoided; some could have had more emphasis. I am sure Shankar would be regretting in quite a few instances. Such is the tantalizing effects of hind-sight.

I felt that the audience were too decent for my liking, especially for a thalaivar movie. There were some token screams and chants and mad celebration, but nothing when compared to a movie theatre in Madras. I remember Baasha's autokaaran song to be inaudible when I saw it. Come on people, show some crass!

For sure, Baasha is still (and would be) thalaivar's best movie and Mudhalvan, Shankar's.

To summarize, the heart loved it, the brain picks at it.