June 29, 2005

Grey Skies

It is a lovely semi-bright grey outside. Depending on how you want to see it, glass half empty or glass half full, you can either be over the moon about it or sulk about how depressing it is. Nevertheless, the temperature has come down considerably and it has had a similar effect on the presence of sweat on humans including myself and everyone else. Now, that is some relief. But far away from the thoughts of heat, my mind is tripping, jumping through imaginary hoops and running wild like a drunk monkey, crashing into walls of thoughts that I can't predict and then running away again in another random direction, screaming out loud "catch me if you can."

I should be finalising the handing over documents, backing up important data on CDs and cleaning up my machine to convert it from the heavily customised creature it is to something that the average person can use. But I don't feel like any of it, nor do I really feel like playing some Half Life 2. There is this song playing in my head, which I can't seem to find in my extra loing playlist and that is very irritating. In fact, if I could help it I would rather not speak at all to anyone all of today. I don't know which side of the bed I woke up from today, but it seems to be one of those days when I am painfully stubborn, obstinate and a total pain to deal with. So very ugh and so very unbearable.

For now there is just oodles of dreamy vocal trance playing over my headphones, quite loudly into my head, from Andain's Beautiful Things (Gabriel & Dresden's Unplugged Mix), Motorcycle's (surprise, it is Gabriel & Dresden again!) As The Rush Comes, Iio's Rapture (Armin Van Burren Remix) and a plethora of St Germain tracks. I should be alone, on the road, driving to this music. I should not be in this office, dealing with the mundane, nibbling at bits of copy that is being sent my way and trying to figure out the best way to kill time till when it is time to leave for home. I just want it to rain and sit slouched behind a huge French window and just dream away....

June 28, 2005

Naked

You, my dear blogger, now stand totally naked, but for what you wrote, in my RSS aggregator.

June 24, 2005

Parineeta

The fact that the four of us ended up laughing our guts out during the most serious parts of the movie should give you an indication about how awful Parineeta was. For all the shining reviews that he has received, Vidhu Vinod Chopra has not come not more than a handful of inches from his 1942: A Love Story days and that too can be attributed to the better production quality more than anything else. I am being told that the book is much better than the movie, but as a rule a motion picture should stand out on its own than make the original work an excuse for its own pathetic existence.

At its best the film is a good wannabe effort and at its worst it ends up being a rib tickler when it tries its best to be serious. Sanjay Dutt looked unbearably bad and half the time I was expecting him to go "Circuit, kutch kar na!" I am still at a loss for trying to understand what exactly was Dia Mirza trying to do in the little time she did get to grace the screen and for heaven's sake, why in the world did we need so many songs? The exceptions were Saif Ali Khan and Vidya Balan who were outstanding in their performances, but even they shared no on-screen chemistry, which would have made it a bit more bearable.

The lasting image from the movie are the last five minutes where a very agitated Saif is trying to break down the wall separating him and his love -- first with a spade, then with a crowbar and finally with something that looked like a marble mini fountain -- going hammer and tongs at the wall (no, product placement on that one as far as I could remember) while everyone minus his father stands screaming at him to break it all down, in a surreal 'swing away' like moment from another weird-yet-much-loved-movie Signs. Pathetic, but very funny.

SafeNews

GreatNews, my current favourite RSS reader from CurioStudio, has a minor niggle, which leads to yet another niggle. This is a guide to fixing both of them.

GreatNews embeds Internet Explorer within itself to display the stories you want to click and read. Not only are the page load times slower for some weird reason this way, it also leaves you open to numerous attacks due the holes in IE. Besides, the cool crowd use Firefox these days and we are like uber cool.

This can of course be fixed by making Firefox your default browser and checking the 'Open RSS links in default browser' option in GreatNews.

That leads to problem number two, the default behaviour for Firefox is to open the link in 'the most recent tab/window,' which can be a pain, if you, like me, run through your list of feeds clicking away the entries you want to keep open for later reading.

To fix that issue change the 'Tabbed Browsing' preferences in the 'Advanced' options settings for Firefox to 'a new tab in the most recent window' and we are all ready to go.

Life is still not perfect though. GreatNews is not consistent with its behaviour of opening the links in the default browser. It will still open the odd link within itself and every time I click on a link, the window focus is given away to the application which opens it.

Not quite the end of the world, but irritating niggles all the same.

June 23, 2005

End of Whatever!

After almost two years of trying my best to move to the mountain, yesterday, I finally took up the offer that came my way and by this time tomorrow, provided all goes according to plan, I should have put in my papers and once the required (un)necessary explanations are given, I can hopefully get close to what I really want to do in life -- to do the start up thing again. After all, if the mountain were to move him, Mohammed would have quite an existential problem on his hands and it was getting quite close to that.

Even though I have had my little triumphs here, I have performed nowhere close to what I could have done and everything, good or bad, has to end at some point. I don't believe in bitching anonymously about the organisation that I am working for and even after I leave it, I don't think I'd be doing any of that. It has its huge share of problems, I did give it a good shot and I also had given a fair degree of warning in advance that I was looking to move on. But I have learnt a lot in the past two years and I don't think huge places are really my cup of tea.

The new profile is an out-and-out start up scenario. We have to find and hire all the right people and set everything, from the basic HTML page to the level of integration we are aiming for, up from scratch. It should be a refreshing change, after two years of fighting established processes, procedures and mindless bureaucratic hurdles, to write your own rules and get things going. After a prolonged period of near-constant inactivity, it is time once again for the action to start. It is time to oil the rusty cogs and get them squeaking first and then make them run like hell.

While we were in the process of thrashing out our vision yesterday, I was kind of amazed at how almost no one, even the REALLY senior television star who was there, had not much of a clue about the state of the industry. While I did say a lot, in my usual fashion, there was nothing groundbreaking or revolutionary that I said, it was stuff that I thought was common knowledge. Stuff like how media, especially the big newspapers, are nothing but enablers of a desirable lifestyle and how they are no longer providers of news or information. Strange!

We talked about the raging rag wars in Mumbai -- DNA, HT, ToI, TMM and everything else under the journalistic sun. I was once again taken aback, though, when almost everyone said out in unison that it is the content that is going to win people over for DNA. Really, how different can you do content these days? 80% of space is covered by wire copy, there is only so much packaging can do and really, with ToI establishing mainstream journalism as various combinations of skin, soft news and advertorials, does there exist space to stand apart and sell a lot too? I don't think so.

Eventually, if you have to beat the ToI behemoth, you will have to beat them at their own game by becoming the number of vehicle for advertisers in India. It won't matter to most if you push the plight of rural Bihar as a page one anchor. It would matter to a few, but that few will only get you into The Indian Express territory, where you have such low print runs that you can comfortably release your late city edition even at three in the morning or even scrap the page one, make another one that late in the game and still not have your readers not know of the delay.

Ultimately, it will be about the buzz, hype and the muscle that DNA is willing to push ToI with. It will be about the degree of 'should have it' factor that they can attach with the product which will get them the readers. 80+ pages is something nobody reads these days. The battle will be fought at the level of the vendor, who will be the ultimate arbiter of who gets the top spot on his display window. ToI has nothing to fear from the content that DNA is going to push. What it has to fear is that its rate of growth is slowing and it can only go down from here.

June 21, 2005

Musick

From Pitchfork's review on Billy Corgan's new album: The Future Embrace

Even the single "Walking Shade", however hookless and octave-bass trendy as electro-fuck (think the Killers, then thank mixing boy Alan Moulder), still sounds enough like New Order at times that, hey, things are gonna be fine-- one less Out Hud song on the radio.

For a time, Smashing Pumpkins were tops; in my neighborhood alone, dressing up for Halloween as the Asian Guy From Smashing Pumpkins was a politically acceptable if not publicly applauded costume choice.

It is weird how music labelling and genres have gone totally potty these days. Techno is more rock than techno, rock itself sounds more like drippy drooly teen pop and electronica, which is often blamed for everything from not being able to think beyond the regular 4/4 beats to lack of imagination and innovation bordering on the levels of some mass psychosis, is turning out exciting and interesting sounds more than any other genre.

Gportal

Google takes yet another insignificant turn towards aping commonly observed portal-like behaviour and switches from gmail.google.com to mail.google.com, messing up the Gmail Notifier extension in the process. And, no, thank you, I don't want to install the official Gmail notifier.

Update: Yay! Doron has updated the extension. Update it from here [via Hendrik and thanks to Cyberesque].

Heat

If it gets any more hotter here I would pop and explode like a mustard seed reacting rather violently to its introduction into a pool of overheated oil -- coconut, groundnut or otherwise.

June 17, 2005

Lights

After all, I know it is in the glare of the strobe light where I feel most at home, where I can stare at it endlessly, wondering what it is all about, not knowing who is looking at me or even who else is there; it is happiness for me, it is belonging, it is where I am nobody and everybody I've ever wanted to be at the same time. It is where you do not know me, it is where you cannot understand me, it is where I look away into the expression that has nothing to say to me, away from the empty expressions that look at me from the other side.

It is where your world is bifurcated from mine by the simple thread of the realms of possibility; it is where every moment lived is a waking dream, it is where those alive are set apart from the living dead who know not the pleasures of the world unknown, held back by the norms and rigours of the world known. It is where your hand reaches out into the deep dark abyss, never to be held, never to be caressed, never to be rescued. It is your greatest pleasure, which is your greatest pain in not having someone to share it with.

June 10, 2005

GreatNews

I am so totally bowled over by Greatnews. No .Net needed, no messing around with the JVMs, and even when it is going at full speed with 354 subscriptions, it still does not eat up more than 33 MB of my RAM. Build 306 supports both Conditional Gets and Zlib compression, it has a rocking style in 'Newspaper' that I totally adore and full text search (yes, you read that right!) with SQLite. And yes, it scores the feeds based on my visits. Not quite what I wanted, but mind blowing all the same.

Normally, my morning reading takes up an average of two hours, depending on how busy the start to the day is; with GreatNews it has sharply dipped to less than an hour and that is some bump in productivity. Moreover, the 'Label' feature makes it so much more easier to collect entries for later reading, which helps a lot if you would want to blog about it later. I just love the UI and the layout and since when did the Chinese start writing English this well?

The cons are that it won't be available for free forever and I have been having major problems with Bloglines which end up showing me entires from some blogs which are like a year old, so I am not using the very much screamed for Bloglines integration feature. And the worst of the lot is the fact the embedded browser is IE and the work around involves setting the application to use the default browser. Not the smoothest of options when it comes to reading summary only feeds. But I can live with that.

Meanwhile, today's announcement from Infoworld, that they are going to publish full text feeds with ads in them represented my 'doh-why-did-I-not-think-of-that?' moment for me. The RSS feeds I have gotten implemented where I work now and at my former employer's have pretty much gone nowhere after the initial rush and the idea of making money out of full text feeds did not get any traction. Maybe I should give this idea a spin and concentrate on just taking this platform to the next level.

June 07, 2005

Reality

Sometimes I do wonder if I am getting more in touch with my real not-so-nice, not-so-good, not-so-likeable self. Or if I am just spiraling out of control? Only time will tell. Book your tickets, ladies and gentlemen, the ride has only begun!

June 06, 2005

Extraordinary

It is no secret that I have been harping here forever about my quest for extraordinariness. What, probably, is a secret is that often when I complain thus, it is mostly aimed at myself. Something on the lines of me getting out of myself and standing in a corner, pointing at my former abode, screaming "You are so pathetically ordinary!" It is just a reflection of my pet fear, already pretty uncomfortably and repetitively familiar to those who know me closely enough, that I will end up like one of the so many people I know in the industry, washed out and ineffective at 30, having married out of fear than choice, with nothing to look forward to in life than the regular tryst with the bottle and a major ailment that you had picked up along the way. All I hear is a voice that constantly harps "You need to do better!"

No, it is not like I was a model to be emulated in school, or college for that matter. I was never one to be riding atop waves of academic or extra curricular glory. Heck, I could never balance a chemical equation in school (still can't, even to save my life), nor could I figure out most of math or physics. It was not that I was totally dumb, I could be interested in the most weirdest of things and get caught up in taking stands just for the heck of it (like refusing to learn math because the evaluation scheme, which according to me, was not a measure of your grasp of the concept), but nothing brilliant or great was expected out of me. I was one of those guys who could do a bit, if they wished to, but never did anyway. So, I have no clue from where did I happen to grab hold of this overbearing expectation to do more.

All this would have been justified if I had a lot to back up this sudden upsurge in expectations. But, for all practical purposes, I am still pretty much the 'not-to-be-emulated' character. I can break things down logically to a great degree, but there is no real brilliance; I can copy it, I can fake it well. But there is not much by means of originality or being a path breaker in me. Even on a personal level I have more flaws than positives and of late it has been an uphill struggle, trying to work around these negatives. Of course, all this leads a huge gaping void between what can be done and what you want to get done. Thus there is this constant need to push the envelope, further and harder, in the hope that at least by the law of averages you should be able to do some of the stuff on that list.

Well, I'm keeping my Ferrari

Never judge a book by its cover, they say, but how about giving it the boot after the first 30 pages? Robin Sharma's The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari can be best described as Walmart spirituality for those deprived souls who battle constantly with shopping fatigue as if it were a life-threatening disease. For the others, there are always the more conventional means of getting to be at peace with one's self, you know the sorts that does not involve climbing Himalayan valleys and living in cottages made of roses. What in good lord's name was the man thinking when he wrote that?

June 02, 2005

Pretence

One of the not-so-amusing changes that has happened to me over the past year or so is that I have become increasingly arrogant towards others and to make it even worse I don't feel anything bad about it. In fact, it has grown into something of a defense mechanism whereby I don't have to let anyone into my system way too prematurely, only to regret it later. In reality, as a person, I am quite friendly, approachable and even quite gullible, though it might look like I am either terribly bored or disgusted enough to bite your head off, when you meet me for the first time. Honest!

Have you ever wondered why we make such a huge effort to try to appear nice, approachable and friendly, while the real person might just be the opposite of all that? Why do we have to pretend at all, in any case, to anyone at all? Why do we have to drift any further from what we feel? Why do we have all these layers of pretence between us and everyone else in the world. Are we that desperate, even at the cost of spending an entire lifetime being a fake, lying to ourselves, to belong to something or anything at all that comes our way? Are we that scared of it, while we already are quite a bit alone in our lives?

Talking about pretences, an interesting side effect of my not-quite-unofficial-anymore end of proceedings of my relationship is the kind of advice that I have been getting. Most of it has been to take up the plum job offer and move to Mumbai; some have advocated getting married to the next available female entity (so that I don't give the impression of avoiding the marriage route because of the earlier mentioned end of proceedings); but the most interesting of the lot has been to tell my parents to find someone whom I will marry two years later, while I get to have have all the fun I want to before that.

Strangely, nobody wants to give you enough credit for having other priorities in life other than getting hitched. I mean, what is it about being hitched that makes it sound like a panacea to the problems that all single adults face? It is bad enough that I see couples who knowingly walked into it having trouble keeping it all together. Now they want perpetually confused, distracted and easily bored psychological disasters like me to take another person's life, and maybe a couple of new ones too, as a hobby for the next couple of years and introduce them to an already chaotic planet, which is a horrible handful as it is.

There has to be more to life than procreation for the amusement of family and relations and of course, the one we cannot miss, getting to fuck for free (pardon the French, but that is what it precisely is for at least most of the men I know) and getting a car or a house (or even both, should things go well) that should get you into committing to something serious and long term as a marriage. I am not asking the rest of the world to follow in my footsteps. If you are well and prepared for such a step in life, do go ahead, but just let the others be. Of course, I did nothing better than to nod my head to all of that and pretended to agree wholeheartedly. Can you too smell the warm, tinglish hypocrisy in that?

The main reason why I am not making any of the above choices, or any other for that matter, is because I want to get in a nice reality check and figure out where do I stand now. With the eventfully routine and boring lives that we live these days, I have not had the chance to actually sit down and figure out how I am actually holding up. Something I know for sure is that I won't take the beaten path. I might be bored, I might be disillusioned, but I can't walk that 500 meter wide road that every Tom, Dick and Harry take every day.

For all practical purposes, I know and I have finally come to terms with the fact that I am a weirdo. I will snipe, sulk and snap at you because I feel like it. You know, it really is not my thing in life to make it easier for anyone.