Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Last of Iraqis - a thought-provoking blog

Today I came across this blog which completely caught my attention. All the while our media here kept portraying that we have won the Iraq war, and that all the civilians are happy about the fact that we are there and much more. After reading this blog all my views have changed. I haven't yet finished reading the whole blog, but the first two posts were good enough for me to know that we all are being made fools here believing what the media wants us to believe in.

The Iraqi blogger, Mohammed, a 25 year old dentist, is right in the middle of everything and constantly updating his Blog. He describes the fights, how the U.S. army is responding and what the local people think. Plus he's connecting all the latest happenings in a way you won't hear from either CNN or Faux News! His only wish being to make a difference or even share his grief with the whole world and give them an idea about what's happening here from the point of view of a civilian living in the war zone not from the politicians nor people who gets their benefits from the conditions.

Believe me, its an amazing read. More insightful than anything you will find on the TV news.

Mohammed, please stay safe and may God bless you for having the courage to report the truth.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New Image Preview Extension for Firefox

Craigslist and Mozilla Firefox for me are two of the most wonderful things that happened in the internet world. One made buying and selling a lot simpler and quicker, while the other took browsing to a whole new level from the ancient stone age Internet Explorer.

Two cool things about Firefox are the various themes you can customize it with and the sea of extensions/add ons it supports. Today I came across this Image Preview Extension for Firefox that will allow you to see a thumbnail of the Craigslist images without clicking on each ad. You won't believe how useful its going to be for someone like me who constantly visits the site for something or the other. With this add on the search is going to be much faster as the images are there right in the search results screen. Also with the new update of this extension they've added Added image hover effect, meaning a larger image will show in the top right of the screen on mouseover. Pretty cool !!!

Thanks Mac for creating this amazing tool..

Friday, March 21, 2008

Aamir finally gets the Gajini look

Supercool look...Now this means from now on the movie's most crucial scenes are going to be shot...oh man...can't wait to watch the first promo...

On a sidenote, one thing I really admire about Aamir, and I'm sure many do, is that he's one of the very few actors who gives himself to the movie, gets into the character and does full justice to the script. The other actor being Kamal Hassan. Way to go Aamir..

Thursday, March 20, 2008

300: What really happened at Thermopylae ? - Part 1

300 was one of the controversial movies of year 2007. This movie was technically brilliant, terrific graphics, spell-bounding action scenes and my favorite movie of all times. This movie portrayed the saga of Spartan King Leonidas and his 300 body guards who fought to death against the invading Persians at Thermopylae or the Hot Gates. Lot of people had taken serious offense to this movie. This movie was banned in Iran. Some believed the movie had political intentions. Some complaints against this movie were: Portraying Persians in bad light, Glorifying Spartans and inaccuracies in history to name a few.

My friend Sridhar was very obsessed with this movie which motivated him to do some indepth research to know what really happened at Thermopylae. This post is a conglomeration of his observation and thoughts -

I've read the original book "Gates of Fire", the comic by Frank Miller, History channel episodes, and multiple websites. I've been fascinated every bit by the movie and the actual happenings. I want to share my thoughts...

Darius, the persian king was defeated 10 years prior to Thermopylae by a smaller Greek force around 490 B.C. So his son Xerxes marches one of the largest armies (numbers close to a million) assembled in 480 B.C to conquer Greece. It was during the festival of Karnea which is supposedly sacred. King Leonidas of Sparta is chosen as the commander in chief of a army 5000 (or 7000, I am not sure) men strong (300 Spartans, 500 from Tegea, 500 from Mantinea, 700 Thespians, 1000 hop lites from Phokis and Lokris, and 2000 from Mycenae, Orchomenos, Arkadia, Corinth, and Phlius). ["Gates of Fire"]. This unit was drafted in to buy some valuable time to Athens to mobilize the army for the bigger battle. The 300 Spartans were an all-sire unit. They had a son to continue their lineage.

The mountain pass of Thermopylae was chosen for two reasons: The terrain geographic, and the Persian navy was countered effectively at Artemesium by a Greek officer Themistocles. The mountain pass was supposed to be very narrow. It probably had enough width for two chariots to traverse at the same time. The Spartans rebuilt the phocian wall which would effectively mean facing the Persian ranks in the narrow pass where numbers would mean nothing. Spartans were known for their valor and accompanied sense of humor. Dienekes, a spartan officer says one of the most famous laconic statements "We will have our battle in the shade" when a persian emissary warns about the Persian archers. Dienekes was considered one of the bravest Spartans.

The Concluding parts of the war can be found in these links - Part2 Part3

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A fine Actor Raghuvaran passes away

December 11, 1948 - March 19, 2008

I can't believe this. Two of the finest personalities in Tamil movie industry passed away this year. Earlier it was writer Sujatha and now actor Raghuvaran. Needless to mention this is a great loss to the entertainment industry. He might not have had great performances in recent times, but the talented versatile actor had given some outstanding performances in memorable movies such as Anjali, Shiva, Basha, Kadhalan, Mughavari and Mudhalvan.

Just last month "The Hindu" newspaper published an article on him "An enigma called Raghuvaran".

I feel extremely sad when I read the article now. hmmm...Nature's destiny can never be refused.

May his soul RIP !!!

Here's one of his brilliant performances, from the movie Anjali -

U me aur Hum music review

I should have heard the soundtrack of UMH ( U Me aur Hum ) a long time ago, but I just couldn't come out of the self created cobweb comprised of Jodha Akbar songs. Everytime I listen to Jashn e bahara, it still carries the same freshness as it did the first time. And when I hear ARR crooning Khwaja ji I feel like......wait a minute. Isnt this supposed to be a review on UMH ?? damn !!

Three things caught my attention to go for this album. First was this being Ajay's first directorial venture, next being Vishal Bharadwaj , and the third and the most important reason, the darling of millions, Kajol.

Many might disagree with me on this, but I thought No Smoking was a very unique and creative album by Vishal B. One of the very few albums in Bollywood which carried the dark and gloomy atmosphere with it. My respect for Vishal B increased two fold after that album which made me expect more from U me aur hum, even though the subject was a typical love story with issues.

The album kick starts with a peppy and energetic Jee Le. The Spanish touch adds to the fun element. Even in the vocals department the song excels thanks to the apt drunken voice of Adnan and the sweet innocent voice of Shreya. I love the start of the song, which was superbly used in the movie's first promo. Although I have one complaint on the way one line is sung by Adnan...he sings " Jinko jinko bhi, milna hai likha... Ishq mil-ha-yegaa" instead of singing Ishq milwayegaa. I don't know if that was intentional or an excuse for his style of singing. Nevertheless a great number by Vishal B, and a potential chartbuster.

The next song is what makes this album a worthy addition to your music collection. An extremely sweet-sounding, mellifluous, dulcet and euphonious title track. It has the power to even make people who are not in love, fall in love. Beautifully sung by Shreya Ghosal, its gotta be a song very close to heart for Vishal B and so it is for me. The last I remember hearing such a song from him was in the cute comedy movie Chupke Se where he gave the two gems "Kehte Kehte" and "Koi to ho". The prelude to the song with english lyrics perfectly sets the romantic mood and I can already imagine this being shot while Ajay and Kajol are on the cruise and the sun has just set, the sky is painted with yellow and orange colors...The best song of the album.

Exit Shreya and Enter Sunidhi for the next track Saiyaan. Although the lyrics by Munna Dhiman are a bit cheesy and idiotic, I think they'll make more sense in the movie and sound much better, thanks to Kajol. Its an interesting song which starts off in a Jazzy fashion and goes into a catchy song with a slight Punjabi flavor added to it, and then a mix of electric guitar and tabla thrown in. All for a situational number...Pretty cool ha ! Compared to the first two songs, this one's an OK number ( but not bad ) which would appeal more on big screen.

Adnan returns for yet another situation number Phatte. Any Punjabi song is bound to become a hit and also will lighten up the screen. And Ajay knows it very well and hence has incorporated a punjabi song as a theme to display husband-wife duel. Vishal tried to stay away from cliched sounds and rhythms which one has heard time and again in punjabi folk songs, but I guess he too surrendered to the stereotype. Passable song which once again needs a video to elevate itself.

Ohhh no Adnan yet it just me or did anyone else also get tired of listening to Adnan again and again. For some reason I feel Vishal must have composed this song during or after composing for No Smoking. It has some shades of the song Jab Bhi Ciggaret. And wait a minute didn't I hear Sunidhi singing the first line Dil Dhakda hai ?? I don't see her name in the credits though..hmmm...wonder why. Anyways this is a nice steady rhythmic song, kinda off beat or in other words Vishalesque. Lyrics wise I like this song as its a bit funny and witty. One full day I was just mumbling "Joh dil dhakda hai...toh kuch lafda hai" line again and again till my close ones got mad. Finally its an enjoyable song, don't know if it'll stay on forever in minds, but is certainly the third best song of the album.

And the album ends on a very high note with a casual guitar and piano led intro to U Me aur hum rendered by Vishal himself. In some areas he sounds very amateurish, but I think his unique innocent voice really makes this song special and it sounds very easy on ears. The marriage of Munna's poetry and Vishal's music is truly made in heaven sorta. Its quite ironical that to me this is the most brilliant song of the whole album, even though it has minimal instruments and relatively an unprofessional singer. I guess its the sound of real instruments. On the whole a very very very romantic number which sends in a gush of feelings for any lover when he/she listens to it. Now I just want to sleep listening to this song.

Vishal B as we all know always tries to give an off-beat and unconventional album, and he's respected by many for that. And he succeeds in maintaining that stand in U Me aur Hum. Ajay Devgan's job is 33% complete as he's got some classy music for his first directorial venture. The rest is upto him and the acting which also I guess will succeed. So it'll all come down to his direction and how he'll make the movie look nowhere similar to (hopefully) Chalte Chalte or Saathiya. One somehow misses Gulzar saab in this album. Despite the 2 situational tracks U me aur hum is a very likeable album, thanks to the memorable title track ( both versions ), Jee Le and the humorous Dil Dhakda hai. Great going Vishal...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Mera Bharat Mahan Copy Cat

We already know of the million billion gazillion Indian programs, movies, music so on and so forth copied from Hollywood and all over the world. The popular programs being Kaun Banega CrorePati, Indian Idol and another one which is a copy of Dancing with the stars. I don't know of others, but I get most of the info from my mom. Whenever she tells me about a new program airing in some channel I feel like...I know this show...wait a minute its the same show I see in ABC channel..hmmm...And all those times I feel so horrible. I wonder if we completely ran out of ideas or did we seriously stop thinking of new ideas and resort to the easy way of just Indianizing a show which is already a huge hit in the West. The problem lies in the fact that not many in India know about the original shows here and the producers take advantage of that fact.

Anyways moving on, now Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hai? adds to the growing list of copies. You don't have to think too hard to find out which program is this a copy of, as its name is a literal translation of the US/Canada hit Are you smarter than a Fifth Grader ? And when in west, everyone other than big movie stars host or be part of the hit shows, we here always try to get big stars to pull more viewers. Bottom line - We already know the show will be a hit, now why not make more money by making SRK or BIG B or some other star the host ? I'm sure there are equally talented people in India waiting for their big breaks.

Believe me, this has nothing to do with SRK. Infact I love to see SRK on screen and he rocked big time with his crude humor in Filmfare awards. My anger is against all those producers who watch the original versions and decide to make an Indian version of it.

Americans envy our culture, tradition, and history. We all should be proud of having that. But when we look at everything else, it feels like a mere rip off of things happening in other parts of the world, and that disheartens me and forces me to think Mera Bharat Mahan Copy Cat. Its just sad man !!! We need some original stuff guyzzz

Thursday, March 13, 2008

AR Rahman's KM Music Conservatory

Whatever AR Rahman does, we either admire or get inspired. Check out the video where ARR and few other music professionals talk about his "once a dream, now a reality" KM Music Conservatory.

Rediff published some additional information in their article Now, you can learn music from A R Rahman

Thank you Rahman for this great initiative. I'm sure every single aspiring musician will be delighted with this news. I just wished this had come 10 yrs ago when I was deciding whether to take up Engineering or Medicine :(

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Congratulations Team India for the Historic Victory


Sunday, March 2, 2008

How to Keep America Competitive

I came across this brilliant article by Bill Gates in Washington post website, where he stresses upon why H1B visas and Green card program need to be reformed.

Click here for the full article - Bill Gates - How to keep America Competetive

I hope somebody reads this to Mr. President and makes him understand the importance of foreign students in the US and their ongoing struggle with Visas.

Love the way Bill Gates signs off the article -
"During the past 30 years, U.S. innovation has been the catalyst for the digital information revolution. If the United States is to remain a global economic leader, we must foster an environment that enables a new generation to dream up innovations, regardless of where they were born. Talent in this country is not the problem -- the issue is political will."