Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Butterfly Effect

“Change one thing, change everything” was the catch line of the intriguing movie titled The Butterfly Effect. Can the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas? If you believe the movie, it can. Change one little thing in the past, and it can cause cataclysmic changes in the present.

Moving away from the space-time continuum to more naturalistic flights of fancy, the Butterfly Effect is the meteorological idea that the flapping of a butterfly's wing will create a disturbance that, in the chaotic motion of the atmosphere, will become amplified eventually to change the large scale atmospheric motion, so that the long term behavior becomes impossible to forecast.
The Butterfly Effect, or the more technically accurate term "sensitive dependence on initial conditions", is the essence of the chaos theory. The term first came up in Lorenz’s 1963 paper to the New York Academy of Sciences. Lorenz remarked that if the chaos theory were correct, “…one flap of a seagull's wings would be enough to alter the course of the weather forever.”

Over the course of the next year, the seagull had been transformed to the more romantic and aesthetic butterfly, but that’s a different story altogether…

Saturday, September 03, 2005

My Two Cents...

Being the only child of my parents, I had been to loneliness born. So I made books my friends, and reading my passion. Not that there was too much choice —there was no cable TV, video games, or computers with Internet connections when I was a child.

Having gained a glimpse of the wide world through the wonder of the written word, I tried to snatch from it as much as I could. And snatching was what I did best. Not for me the weakness of asking or the cowardice of stealing.

Whether it was fancy foods or pretty girlfriends, I always had to have the best. Defeating virtual enemies in PC games and real friends in chess, Monopoly or cards – these are a few of my favourite things.

For someone so seemingly in tune with the fast life, my poems are surprisingly nihilistic, furious, and obscure. Maybe my sad little songs are always about the perfect world that seems just beyond the pale.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Mother of all Music Videos

Rock music didn't start with them, nor end with them. Though their music was often dismissed as sugary sweet nothings, they sold more records than anybody else. And if you want to know, 40 years later, just what was so special about "Beatlemania", you got to watch the musical romp that goes by the name of A Hard Day's Night.

For all those who suffered through Glitter, Crossroads, Spice or any other of the modern atrocities, this movie is an object lesson in how to make a movie solely for purposes of exploitation, and yet come up with pure genius - one of the smoothest, freshest, funniest films ever. It seems better than it ought to be simply because the lads prove themselves charmingly disarming. Looking and behaving like four errant boys, the four disparate individuals that made up the amorphous group slip nimbly through a script that seems entirely improvised, yet entirely brilliant.

When it opened in late 1964, the Beatles were already a publicity phenomenon, but not yet cultural icons. A Hard Day's Night is smart, irreverent, and doesn't take itself seriously. And it is charged with the personalities of the Beatles. The boys may have had a clone look - matching hair and clothes - but the individuality of their dialogue left one in no doubt which one was John, Paul, George, or Ringo.

The movie is filled with the exhilaration of four geniuses who knew how to have fun while creating pure magic. If I were to pick my three magical moments of the film, the first would be the opening sequence, which shows the Beatles mobbed at a station as they try to board a train. The energy level is just incredible: we can feel the hysteria of the fans and the excitement of the Beatles, and the title song plays in the background. Second is when the boys run like children in an open field, while the magic of Can't Buy Me Love celebrates the notion of doing your own thing.

And finally we have the magic of the concert footage as the Beatles sing She Loves You. As the Beatles perform, they are clearly having a lot of fun. And the fans are all delirious. Some girls scream without pause, some jump up and down, and one tearful young blonde, beside herself with ecstasy, cries out "George!''. All creating a frenzy so passionate that it still, after all these years, has the power to excite. After more than four decades, it has not aged and is not dated: it stands outside its time, its genre and even rock.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Machines Strike Back

Why does one eat? To live? To satisfy the taste buds? Or simply to maintain the balance of nature, i.e. retain the input-output balance of the digestive system? As Newton would have loved to put it, what goes in has to come out. In one form or the other. Simple corollary to the rule of gravity, since everything has to find its own level of competence or incompetence. Or incontinence, for that matter.

Coming back to slightly less scatological levels of incoherence, why does the LPG cylinder just have to run empty the day you have unwisely decided to invite people for dinner? That too, when the food is half-cooked, and you no longer have the option of putting it back in the freezer and going out to pick up something from the nearby dhaba? Kismet. Karma. Call it whatever you want.

The fact remains that household appliances can immediately sense whatever you are planning to do, and choose to utilise that very moment in order to assert their importance in your lives. Like the stupid cylinder. Or the bathroom geyser, which conks out whenever you have to get out of the house at unearthly hours of the morning, and need to, like any self-respecting human being, at least wash your face and brush your teeth before going out in public.

Call me schizoid if you feel like, but I insist that vehicles, electronic goods and essentials are all sentient creatures. Capable of acute hearing, and sadistic conspiracy. Don't believe me? Just wait while I tell the tale.Last week, I received a call from an ex-colleague, telling me to come over to the last workplace, and pick up a cheque for leave encashment. The amount? Rs 1700.

I knew I should not have taken the call in front of my TV. The damn thing decided to conk off the very next evening as I came back with the cheque. The problem? A transistor. The solution? Get a new one. The cost? Rs. 1710. There goes the idiot's unexpected windfall, sniggered the idiot box.

Yesterday, my old classmate rang me up to tell me that he could finally return the two thousand bucks he had borrowed from me nine months back. In fact, I had forgotten all about that. Very good, I said, but just to be on the safe side, I went out-of-doors while discussing the whens and wheres of sending the money back.

O how the almighty laughs at the frantic antics of men and mice. I forgot that my bike was parked out-of-doors too. The old pal came over to my place in the morning to return the money. Gloating over the fact that I would now be able to get that cool cardigan I had been eyeing, I was all set to start off for work. When I realised that the damn vehicle just would not start. I took it to the unfriendly neighbourhood mechanic to check it out. The problem? The fuel injector, or some Gobble de Gook like that. The cost of repairs? Rs. 1980.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Greatest Genius of All Times?

Sigmund Freud called him the man "who awoke too early in the darkness, while the others were all still asleep". The beginning of the 16th century is the single most significant period of art. It was the time of Michelangelo, Raphael, Holbein, Titan, Correggio and many other famous painters. And yet, the names of all these Renaissance masters pale in front of someone who was not only a superb artist, but also an astronomer, a sculptor, a geologist, a mathematician, a botanist, an animal behaviourist, a musician, an inventor, an engineer, an architect. And probably the greatest visionary of all times.

Clocks, cranes, diving gear, water floats, flying machines, land vehicles, printing press, parachute, robot, lifting jack, water pumps, canals, drills, water craft, bicycle...the list of things sketched by Leonardo Da Vinci several centuries before they were invented by others goes on and on. This guy was actually the man who saw tomorrow. One can never explain the existence of genius, one can but enjoy.

Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code is what brought on this salute to the greatest genius the world has ever known. Nice read by the way, the Catholic church's protests notwithstanding. Aesthetics has nothing to do with either logic or ethics...

Monday, July 25, 2005

Dirty Rags

The sole reason for a fresher's existence is to provide dedicated service to seniors. And to be the general butt of awfully irritating pranks. The sole reason for a senior's existence is to make life miserable for the freshers. If both the freshers and seniors accept this basic truth of human existence, they can lead a happy and mutually beneficial life.

Heads I win, tails you lose: Tell a fresher to wake you up at a specific time, say 5 a.m. When the innocent fresher comes to wake you up, tell him: "Bugger off... it's too early, wake me up after about 10 mins." Ten minutes later, when the poor soul wakes you up again, tell him to give you another call 10 minutes later. Continue this torturous process till it is nearly 7 a.m. Then rise, and give the fresher hell for waking you up so late!

Candle In The Wind: Pointing towards the bulb, and ask an innocent what it is. He'll reply "A bulb, sir." Then interrupt him angrily and declare: "It's a candle. What is it?" This time he's bound to reply that it is a candle. Then tell him: "If it is a candle, then climb up and put it off by blowing at it."

Flying High: When it has been raining cats and dogs the whole day, call a fresher in the dead of the night and ask him to give an accurate weather report in the best dead-jackal style of the guys on Whose Line is it Anyway. When he tells you that it is raining very hard, tell him that he is lying and insist it is a pleasant windy day. Then ask him to give the weather report again. This time, the terrified soul will say: "It's a nice windy day, folks."Then you say: "If it's such a pleasant windy day, go and enjoy yourself with a kite." And then watch the fun as the innocent tries hard in the middle of a soggy hostel field!

Clean Mouth: Tell two freshers to start abusing each other at the top of their voices. When they start, egg them on, telling them their efforts pale in comparisons to your favourite Bruce Willis character. And when the two have reached the incestous level of abuse, tell them that you are ashamed of being associated with such foul-mouthed vermin. And then make them clean their mouths with shaving cream to depollute themselves!

Fair And Lovely: Call a fresher to your room, and pointing to the shoe polish, ask him what it is. When he replies that it is shoe polish, insist that it is Fair And Lovely cream. Obviously he'll agree with your assertion that it is the fairness cream. Then tell him that you are concerned about his complexion, and offer free use of your "Fair And Lovely". And then sit on his head to make him unable to resist your "generosity"!!

Stinky Pete: This is the really stinking one: get a fresher to wash your stinking undies and socks. But do it delicately. Send a message to the innocent that you want him in your room. When he reaches your room, say that you had never called him, but since he had come, he might as well save himself the mental tension of having come so far, all to no avail, and wash your clothes!

Lap Dance: (Corollary to the previous one): After the poor innocent has finished cleaning your soiled linen, tell him to relax because he had worked so tirelessly. Make him relax under the fan. And then when he has loosened up a bit, look upwards at the fan, and then remark that the loft is too untidy. While he works himself into contortions trying to struggle upwards, tell him not to do such un-elegant dance movements. And then order him to perform a cabaret instead.

All the above are guaranteed to win you lifelong enmity from the grateful juniors. And to be repeated by them on the new innocents next year. As they say: "The king is dead, long live the king."

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Nightmares Of The Dream Job

Why does a perfectly sane and happy teenager grow up into a prematurely senile 25 year old? Is it because human life is so tiring? Or more accurately, professional human life? Does a normal day in the office leave one so enervated, that you don't have the energy to do anything sensible with your life? Like sleeping more than three hours at night?

When I say life tires you out, I do not, repeat do not, refer to the inescapable tragedy of human existence: the fact that the world is a tiresome stage, and that we must all play the parts of ignoble buffoons. What I do refer to is the tiredness of body, not of spirit. You know, the kind that infects every member of the human workforce, per se. Thanks to cranky bosses, nitwit colleagues and moronic subordinates. And most of all, the loooooooooong work hours.

The dotcom world has brought in its wake higher salaries, bigger ulcers and longer work hours. Not because there is more to do, but because there are too many distractions. And no, single-track minds, I am not talking about pretty young colleagues. I am referring to the master of all distractions, the ubiquitous web. The typical workday (as opposed to working day!) starts off with the mother of all duties: the inbox.

By the time one has finished checking all the official and unofficial e-mails, read all the non-jokes, sob stories and meaningless newsletters that form 95% of the incoming mail, it is generally one hour too far gone. And then, of course, one has certain moral obligations, like forwarding all of B's jokes to C and D, and then forwarding all the weepy stories sent by C to B and D, and then forwarding all the chain letters of D to F, G, H, I, J, K, Y, and ZZZZZZZ. After all, if one is responsible for breaking a thousand-year-old chain of letters, one is liable to fall into a manhole or have a Newtonian brick fall onto one's head, as so many chain letters direly predict.

By the time these moral obligations are met, one is too dazed to begin working. One has to go off for a coffee break to clear the mental cobwebs. Once the coffee has taken effect, one is mentally aware again. Aware enough to know that he is feeling hungry, and that its only 15 minutes to lunch break. Too less a time to finish any single task, and hence no point beginning anything.

After stuffing one's face for one hour at lunchtime, the next hour of course goes in recovering from the brutally stupefying assault on one's brain cells. What follows after that is the most terrifying hour of the day: the meeting hour, when everyone in the team tries their darnedest best to justify their places in the team.

When the zombied self has recovered from the terrors of the meeting hour, it's time to hit the panic button. The whole day's work, and only an hour left to do it. And hence the need for the long furious hours, well into the night. And the bleary eyes the next morning, when the brain cells can start working only after it is refreshed by silly jokes in the mail. And so the cruel cycle of life goes on.

Aah... what sublime expressions of frustration! That too at the tender age of 25! Sigh...such a long time ago...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Brotherhood of the Traveling Underpants

Now that we have a movie called The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, I guess it's now our holy duty to prepare for the following sequels:
  • Snow White And Her Seven Pants (animation)
  • Gone With The Pants (epic)
  • Only Angels Have Pants (fantasy)
  • How Green Were My Pants (drama)
  • Rebel Without a Pant (action - all puns intended)
  • Who's Afraid of Virginia's Pants? (intense drama with Oscar-winning performances)
  • Hannah and Her Sisters's Pants (comedy)
  • Who Framed Roger's Pants? (mystery)
  • The Silence of the Pants (horror)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Saw the movie over the weekend, and can safely assert that it's got nothing to do with either the old Hitchcock movie or the TV series. In fact, I'd be able to safely say that it's got nothing to do with anything! To build up the title characters as super-competent assassins and then have them spend the next hour shooting at lots of faceless characters is nothing sort of criminal. That too when you have such a dream cast.

Speaking of which, poor Brad gets his ass whipped rather badly by Jolie. For all those who think the man's gorgeous and has screen presence, Troy and this movie are enough evidence to the contrary. If Troy showed that Eric Bana has more screen presence in his beard than Pitt has in his whole body (including his skirted, shaved legs!), Jolie shows what gorgeous charismatic screen presence really is.

If only the director had stuck to a domestic comedy or a straight action movie...oh, by the way, Vaughn is funny, when he doesn't have a Stiller to overshadow him.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Thank You, Harry Potter

Only a month to go for the publication of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and I'm busy re-reading the earlier 5 books in the series. What's so special about these kiddy books, several of my "grown-up" friends ask. My only reply is "read them if you want to know". Several millions of words have already been written about Rowling's bestsellers, so I'm not going to add any pathetic mini-review to that. Let me talk instead about what we used to read when we were kids.

Enid Blyton used to be staple fare. The Famous Five series, the Secret Seven series, the Find-Outers, the Faraway Tree books, the Circus trilogy...all great stuff for the under-10 age group. The 3 Investigators and the Hardy Boys (Nancy Drew for the girls) were for the 8-13 tweens, with the first named by far the best. Alistair MacLean and Agatha Christie were the natural successors during the teen years.

But by the time we were in our college years, we realized that kids just did not read any more. PC gaming and cable TV were much better company for our younger siblings. And then came the phenomenon called Harry Potter. This is just to thank you J.K. Rowling...a thousand Hosannas to you and your imagination...

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Schizophrenia Rules

I never liked Jim Carrey much: but that was before I saw his Me, Myself and Irene, and could immediately relate to his split-personality life. You ask me "why"? I'll tell you. Try my lifestyle for a week, and you'll know. If six days and seven nights of arnie-itis doesn't kill you, I'll take my hats off to you. My shoes and sweaty socks too, if you want.

It all started on that fateful day, six months back, when my mom, giving me her weekly "You're a grown boy sonny, and you need to start thinking about your future" lecture. The f-word here was 'finance'. "Your dad is going to retire very soon, you know, and we can't afford to support you forever". Blah blah, and so on.

That decided it. That night, as I wiped off the three thousand, seven hundred and ninety-second teardrop from my eye, I made a vow to myself that enough was enough: I would become a man at last. After all, I was fast approaching 23, and it's surely high time I stopped being a boy, and joined the ranks of the men.

I had to stand on my own two feet financially. How long could I go on expecting my poor parents to sponsor my vices? And so, at the tender young age of 22, I had to cut my financial teeth. Get a job, and learn to manage academics and career at the same time. This required learning time management. And resource duplication. Apart from the fact that all these management terms sound double-Dutch to me, the plain and simple fact is that it required a whole sea-change in attitude.

After all, wasn't I the person who had made a virtue of idleness? The guy who planned to make a career out of marrying the only daughter of a multimillionaire? The guy whose simple creed in life was "having a poor father is bad luck, having a poor father-in-law is stupidity"? And here I digress again. But hasn't that been the story of my life? After all, isn't work a digression from the high pursuits of hedonistic vegetation?

I wrote this when I was in my first job...zillions of years ago...