Tuesday, April 1, 2014
This is going to be a fast one. I am stuck in the office with no work and am waiting for my room-mate to get out of the shower before I head home. That can happen anytime and I will go on typing right up till the moment I get the ping, at which I will post whatever I have. It has been a rigorous ride so far, leaving college is more about a change in self than geography. I am thankful, because financial independence is a humbling yet rewarding experience. Working long hours, something I never did before has gone from being a habit to an addiction. Its telling however that despite the 8-12 hours in office I find more time for my hobbies now than I did when I had all the time in the world. Ennui is the enemy. Pinged. Leaving!
Saturday, June 8, 2013
Its a slow day at the office today, so I figure I might as well make an entry here. In fact, there is a certain article that I have been planning in my head for a while. A full and comprehensive review of all the TV shows that I have seen till date, and a person with an average CGPA who stays at NITR for 4 years, does end up seeing a lot of them. But a little thought over the matter made me realize how stupid the idea was, not to mention, pretentious. I definitely cannot claim to have watched every TV show that exists in DC-verse, nor can I claim to have a fully unprejudiced view of each. Watching a TV Show is like a love affair, and a person does form his list of favorites. Again, there is a huge number of shows that I just saw the pilot of, or abandoned midway for one reason or the other. But I do want to write this article. So to effect a compromise, I will drop the whole notion of a "full and comprehensive review" and instead write what can be loosely described as a very egotist referral for all the shows I have ever looked at. Here goes-
- How I Met Your Mother
It makes sense for me to start with this, because it is the first show that I saw, even before I came to NITR, back in the days when it was still considered by a large majority of the population as an out-and-out hilarious show. It is true that it lost out on a lot of steam in the 3 to 4 years after Season 3, but it has its core fan base of die-hard loyalists, present company included, who have kept the show going strong. And now, with Season 8, these HIMYM-fans' faith has been rewarded amply. For the rookie, the overall theme of the SitCom can be summarized as the story of five young friends- the mushy and strongly committed Lily and Marshall, the beautiful and ambitious Robin, the womanizing and 'legendary' Barney, and the hopelessly romantic Ted, revolving around the latter's search for his one true love, and his eventual redemption, as narrated by him to his kids in the year 2030; the story of how he met their mother. What sets HIMYM apart from other SitComs is that it is, as its writers put it, a "comedy with heart". There are plenty of touching and romantic moments amidst the laughs and it is even a tear-jerker at times. And then there is the case of its fast-paced writing with its flash-backs and flash-backs within flash-backs and the slow and meticulous development of every single one of the major characters. With HIMYM all set to come back for its last season this September, it is time for Carter and Craig to take a bow.
24 started off strong for me, with its fresh concept of one hour in the show being one hour in the characters' lives; a season consisting of 24 episodes making one season the story of one single day in the plot. But as soon as the novelty wears off, you start seeing the ridiculousness and impracticality this entails: don't they eat, sleep, shit, atleast piss? It has super-cop Jack Bauer killing bad guys who have deep conspiracies and plans to kill the President. My interest had waned by the time of the 5th episode of the 1st season and when Jack kills the would-be assassin and immediately another assassin is sent in, I stopped watching it altogether.
I guess this list is turning out to be arranged in the chronology in which I saw the shows. Might as well be the case, as it helps me organize my thoughts better. So the third TV show I saw, and I remember it was the summer after first year that I came across this gem, was Prison Break. A thriller with tight scripts, marvelous acting, and a wonderful plot that never strays too far from its basic premise, this show skirts the line between a crime show and a political drama. The story revolves around Micheal Scofield, the prodigal civil engineer who concocts an elaborate plan to break his brother out of a maximum security prison where he is on death row. The first step of his plan is of course robbing a bank, armed, and getting arrested himself. Prison Break has plenty of fantastic moments and keeps the audience's attention for all the four seasons with its speed and Scofield's brilliance. It is one of the shows where its hard to find too many flaws, and although the impression it leaves is not indelible, it is definitely a worthy investment of one's time.
This is probably the show that started the string of high-budget TV dramas that have so dominated the last decade. Originally conceived by none other than J.J. Abrahms himself, its the story of a group of people marooned on a remote island in the middle of the Pacific following a plane crash. As the plot progresses, it is revealed that not only is the island full of mysteries and powers, the seemingly random collection of survivors are, in fact, not random at all. Full credits to the show for keeping its audience entirely intrigued about almost every aspect of the plot, and for developing rich backstories for every character there is. I saw it the only way it can be seen, in a full 2 week-marathon, and cannot imagine how people could possibly wait full weeks and seasons for the next episode. The cliffhangers are beautiful and a person watching it will spend the larger part of the time at the edge of his seat. Originally conceived to be a 3-season show, its huge revenue generation had the network push the producers to extend it for another 3 seasons. And that is where the show 'lost' it. Introducing needless complexities and pushing the storyline into utterly irrelevant and fantastic elements, it ended on a low, not being able to resolve most of the major plotlines and intrigues that it itself had raised. The series finale episode was such a colossal clusterfuck that it was an insult to intelligence everywhere.
This was the first SitCom I saw after HIMYM, and as such my standards were pretty low going in. Not to imply that this was not an entertaining show. To the contrary, TAAHM is one of the better comedies of the last decade with its cleverly titled name, and its basic premise that could only spell trouble. Two brothers, one a stinking-rich man named Charlie who has made his fortune composing jingles and lives a life of booze and babes, more like a practical version of Barney Stinson, and the other, Alan, who is a middle-class Chiropractor with a son and an idyllic suburban life. The plot starts when Alan's wife divorces him and takes away everything to leave him and his son Jake going on to live in Charlie's Malibu beach house. The interactions and adjustment pains for all the three concerned is a riot, and is the backbone of the story. But what really drove the story for me was Charlie Sheen, and his impeccable acting as Charlie Harper, a character so resembling his own self. So needless to say, I stopped watching the show when he left and was replaced by Ashton Kutcher.
In the pantheon of SitCom greats, FRIENDS probably sits on top of the pyramid. With its massive 10-seasons run, it pretty much ended up dominating and defining the later half of the 90's and the first half of the new decade. Its success was unprecedented and made the actors playing the six major characters household names across the globe. The very essence of the story was its lack of a definite plot. The show just depicts ten years in the lives of six friends, their daily trials and triumphs, love affairs and heartbreaks, all packed with probably the best jokes ever written for primetime TV. Its laugh-a-minute scripts coupled with superb performances by its legendary cast surely makes FRIENDS a show that will resonate through the ages.
Its true you always end up very unimpressed with whatever SitCom you see after watching FRIENDS, quite simply because, nothing can be as funny as FRIENDS. And it is the one you see immediately after FRIENDS that you end up particularly disliking. For me that was TBBT. I know people rave about it, and I agree it can induce proper geekgasms, but fresh after watching FRIENDS, all the jokes seemes 'Meh!' to me, and the truth is I could watch it only because the winter vacations were on and I did not have anything else on my lappy. The story revolves around 4 super-intelligent nerds who suddenly have a beautiful bimbo move in next door, and the awkwardness that ensues. The show has its funny moments, but the gags do get repetitive after a while, and the level of jargon gets too damn high at times. I didn't watch it after the 2nd season.
- The Big Bang Theory
To Be Continued
Thursday, May 30, 2013
Its been close to a year now since I wrote here last, and while a lot of that can be chalked down to lethargy, and career pursuits, the major reason is of course that I found the means to get more people to read my stuff by "legitimizing" it. If you think that is a curious choice of words, I would explain myself by saying that it probably all boils down to my interview at Hero Motocorp. My CV listed, at the fag end of it, nothing more than a filler, among my hobbies, sandwiched between guitaring and reading, this word: blogging. And that one word had me chalked down as a socially inept, nocturnal, "underworld" nerd. That is the stigma that we bloggers live under I suppose. But then I could further suppose that that is what we have invited upon our sorry selves; we children of a lesser god, of unread articles, and untimely posts.
Earlier tonight I took some childhood buddies for a drink, a celebration, now that two of us are on the cusps of major transformations in our lives. As fate would have it, it turns out we had to wait till our last evening together to discover that one good bar in the town, now when we have no idea when the three of us would ever raise our glasses together again, while we spent about 6 vacations hunting for good watering-holes, settling for the theka at Naraaj and the outcrop of rock overlooking the barrage. While that place had its own perks, the wind in your hair, the economy of the outing, there are certain times when a decent bar is where you want to be. It does speak about the nature of the town when its bars don't even have a ladies' room. At that moment I felt nothing but the deepest sympathies for the good people over at NLUO Rourkela- 1. Cuttack- 0.
One thing that I was losing out on and have regained in the past 5 months has been my reading. I only sat for two interviews in 8th semester- XLRI and ZS A, having already gotten placed last August. And both of them were experiences of the highest order, much more enriching than my trials and tribulations of the Autumn. Of course part of why I view these two so fondly in particular could very well be the positive or positivish nature of their outcomes, but hell, I'm human and I am allowed to favoritize. So what I am trying to say is this last semester has been particularly ameliorating. I started off a tabloid in our college, completed my thesis, got my dream job and yes, caught up on a lot of reading. The last one was helped by a sudden windfall in the form of a huge accumulation of cash in my insti book account. So there I was at the book fair with 3000 INR and nothing but novels to buy. The only books I had read in the entire last year were The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs and Midnight's Children. So I decided to pick up where I had left off. There comes a stage when you start appreciating novels in terms of their literary and intellectual worth, where plots and characters become tools, a secondary concern.
Now Rourkela has a pathetic book scene. There are absolutely no good book stores, so I haunted the one where I had placed my order everyday, lapping up whichever good book came to its shelves. I started off January with The Chemistry of Tears, a tale of two people stuck in two different centuries. Their only connection being the journals of one of the protagonists being read by another. It was very reminiscent of the Luisa Rey-Robert Frobisher connection from Cloud Atlas and has, if the text is indeed independent of the author, a touch of surrealism in the pages. Or maybe its me who feels that ways because most of the time I was reading it, I was in a half-stupor either in my room or in the class. Next thing I picked up was this journalistic epic- India After Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha. Its a 1000-page masterpiece detailing the entire modern history of India, and although I only read it on the side, and it took me close to 3 months to be done with it, it has to be one of the most erudite works ever done. Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years Of Solitude was one of the finest pieces of literature I have ever come across and its easy to see why Salman Rushdie speaks so highly of it, although truth be told, its a slow read. God of Small Things had me melancholic for an entire week, but did show me the beauty of pain and suffering. The Shiva Trilogy by Amish started off strong but ended limping, and Coelho has gotten on my nerves. Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger was very different kind of book from what I had been reading for some time, but was thoroughly enjoyable. Then there was this book of stories by Franz Kafka which I borrowed from my friend, although I could read just Metamorphosis, The Great Wall of China and Investigations of a Dog before he took it back. Kafka is a genius, my friend is a dick.
Monday, August 27, 2012
Who, or what, is a hero? How do we define heroism? We give out medals, adore them, even take them on as our role models, but do we pause and ask what exactly is it that we are adoring. Is it the person? If so then what kind of person would we typecast as a hero? For that matter, is there any such thing as a ‘typical hero’? Is there any checklist, physical or mental, that has to be crossed off before a person qualifies as a hero? The most common quality that we usually attribute to a ‘hero’ is bravery. Soldiers dying on the battlefield, people protesting a repressive regime, they are all heroes, that is the burden that society has bestowed them with. But is that all? Many young infantrymen displayed exceptional bravery while fighting for Nazi Germany. Tales of their heroisms, and courage resound even today, but while we unflinchingly use the word ‘heroism’, not one would ever accord them the status of ‘Heroes’. Brad Pitt pretty much summed up how we remember them 60 years later, when he called them “the foot-soldiers of a Jew-hating mass-murdering maniac”. So do we take it that to be a hero, you not only have to be brave, you also have to fight for the right side? And it’s the winner who writes the history books, so what does that tell us? What if the Nazis had gone on to win the war? Say they went ahead and conquered all of Europe and Africa, and say Hitler died the very next day. And to the helm came a ruler who not only established full human rights, and peace, he did that across his global empire. Would there have been a Balkans, or a Desert Storm? Africa for one would have been definitely better off, pretty much anything is better off compared to how they have spent the last half-century. So in this Utopia, would we remember the American and British troops who stormed Normandy as heroes? Or the foot-soldiers of a corrupt and violent way of life? Memory is short-lived. Alexander of Macedonia, indisputably a hero. Tell that to the villages that smoldered in his wake. Genghis Khan, revered as a god in Mongolia even today, how would the people he raped and killed in his wild rampage feel if they heard that?
But bravery in the battlefield is only one of many kinds. Courage comes in many forms and so do heroes. M.K. Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., random Egyptian on the streets a year back, brave people who went up against a whole system. What they lacked in skills they made up in moral strength, going up defenseless against a powerful foe who only needed to say the word and they would have been dead the next instance. Humans, a species as obsessed with worship, as with optimism, thus fused the two together, valor with moral strength, fighting skills with incorruptible good intentions to create the concept of God, or their modern day pop culture counterparts, comic book superheroes. Who as child did not believe, or at least wish, that Superman or Phantom were real? What really is the difference between a college student who studies nothing and goes to the temple before the exams, firmly believing, or hoping, that ‘God will save him’, and the 3 yr-old who jumps from his balcony with full faith that Superman will catch him before he hits the ground?
But till gods and superheroes come back again (or out of disguise, we know you are there!), ordinary mortals will have to do. And thus the whole weight is for the chosen few to carry. A soldier wins the Param Vir Chakra, and the country goes gaga about him. How did he not feel scared, they ask. How would it be to run straight into machine gun fire, without feeling the slightest tinge of fear, they wonder. A recurring theme in every war hero's testimony is that they never ever felt like heroes. They would call the people they served with heroes, but never themselves. They would say they felt fear stronger than anything else they had ever felt. They would say every action they did, was for their own survival and for the man next to them, that thoughts about country and strategies and armies were not even in their minds. But we choose to ignore that. In our movies they cry out the country’s name before dying, keep the national flag in their pockets. Because they are our mules. Theirs is to carry this burden that they have earned. Because a hero is more than a person. A hero is a belief. A belief that our world can be saved. A belief that our world is worth saving.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
I once read an article in the newspaper that rued that the previous decade, the 00’s, had nothing of significance to contribute to the world of music; that the best way to remember the ten years would be to forget it. That was back in 2007, and Coldplay had only recently come out with Viva La Vida, which was being hailed worldwide as their coming-of-age album. The article went on to argue that bands like Coldplay had all but become a rarity, and despite that, there was no one band which had risen above the others and given the decade a musical identity. The author argued that with three years left to go, there seemed to be no one on the horizon to take up that mantle. According to him, the music industry had hit rock-bottom. If only I could read his thoughts now.
“You tell me that its evolution, well, you know…..”
|Led Zeppelin live|
“Talk and song from tongues of lilting grace, whose sounds caress my ear…..”
|The Beatles at their famous Rooftop Concert|
But the 60’s were not just about The Beatles. While the Fab Four did break down most walls and bring artistic legitimacy to Rock n Roll, there were pioneers aplenty in that decade. The greatest poet-cum-singer to have ever lived, Bob Dylan, did his best work in that decade and made the leap from Folk to Rock n Roll. Throaty-voiced and Jack Daniels-drinking Janis Joplin redefined the concept of a female rocker while, bands like The Who and The Rolling Stones pulled music inexorably towards a more heavy sound. This was the decade of Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix, two members of the hallowed yet heartbreaking 27’s Club. The one band which, in the annals of music, is considered worthy to hold a torch to The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, had its seed sown in this decade with the formation of The Yardbirds, the band which also has the distinction of launching the careers of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. Pink Floyd, the original and true masters of psychedelia, got together, while bands like The Animals and The Byrds kept making chart-toppers from time to time.
“To be a rock and not to roll…..”
The 70’s would go on to see many other greats take center-stage. It would be the decade of Led Zeppelin and Queen, of Pink Floyd and AC/DC, and of Ted Nugent and Steven Tyler. Paul McCartney would play to packed stadiums with his post-Beatles band, Wings, while John Lennon would become Saint John, the perfect archetype to young and hungry rock n rollers everywhere. Eric Clapton would come into his own, while Bob Dylan would lose his way. People like David Bowie and KISS would shock and challenge the limits of audience acceptance. Out of the wilderness would rise a band named Black Sabbath which would singlehandedly invent Metal, later to be perfected by Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth.
|Kurt Cobain goes into a solo at the Roxy, Aug 15 1991|
“The times they are a-changing …..”
|AC/DC's Angus breaks into his antics|
“It’s a long way to the top, if you wanna rock n roll.”
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
A few hours to go before I start out for Rourkela, and it seems I have become quite the procrastinator, since its only now that I have sat down to write the ‘Summer Entry’ for my blog, many of which had been planned originally. And while I know, dear reader, that such behaviour is inexcusable, I have my defences, this being a pretty good vacation, one in which if not anything else, I was kept busy. There isn’t much to write about, partly because all my creativity is being drained away by White (yes, that is the name I have decided to stick since that was the name that Windows autosaved it under, and its as good as any other) and partly because, I am reluctant, nay scared, to speculate about the future. Very different from the mental state that I had around this time a year back, or the year before. And I am not exactly languishing in agony or melancholy either, so that takes away my other favourite muse. So dear friend, instead of cancelling this article, the thought of which has already visited my mind more times than I would care to admit, lets, I say, dwell on the past. ‘Cause it is not only in your most tender years that your mind has the ability to block out, or cover up, the painful memories, preserving just the pleasant ones, for moments like these.
I, thus, withdraw into my cocoon, my shell. The shadows are done creeping around, I let them jump up and engulf me. The ceiling grows distant, the walls draw closer. I let it, I let them, because its only when the night is blackest, do we see the stars, and it is stars I have promised you.
But nothing bright leaps up at me, no white shimmering spot steadily rising in intensity, till it grandly announces its arrival on the scene. No. It is just dust and ash, and clouds, and rain. I strain my eyes, for a cold now grips me, the fear that I, having promised you and led you along for so long, might have to shame-facedly turn you back, that in a moment as monumental as the final few hours at home, I haven’t been able to produce anything worth anyone’s while. But, what is it I see? This can’t be! Yes it is! But I had seen that cloud once already, I can swear it wasn’t there. But, see for yourself, it is there! Have I then, in my search for something grand, overlooked this tiny little star? This dwarf quietly throbbing away in the shelter of the brown mist? Have I betrayed the all-too human flaw of expecting every beginning to be a collage of grandeur and megalomania?
No, as I can see now, and must tell you, the first tiny star, the first memory that entered my mind, is nothing but a brown brew in a red paper cup, in front of a red booth. The whole place seemed so alien back then, the first lab ever of my B.Tech career, the cup of coffee taken to ward off sleep, something I had much read that it happened so. ‘Engineering Drawing’, the two words had filled my mind up with neatly drawn pictures of buildings, on large charts of paper, shaded to perfection, with complicated drawing devices strewn across my work-table. I remember thinking of all that and also the abrupt feeling of disappointment and betrayal I felt seeing just a small room crammed with dozens of computers, all shamelessly displaying the words “AUTOCAD Student Version” on their screens.
But I must move on, three more stars have started gleaming in the velvet firmament already, begging to be inspected too. There I am saying goodbye to a weeping mother as they go away and then proceeding to the swimming pool where I meet the first friends I make in this college, and there I am in the cool February night uttering into my phone words that I had never meant till that moment, and there that’s me again, standing in awe as men dressed in black do windmills with their guitar, and their long hairs, while my ears are assaulted by the huge speaker next to me.
Now the space around me grows thinner, light pervades the surroundings; they are now popping up everywhere I look. A massive explosion of life, and brightness. They flow into my mind like a river breaking a dam. I am tossed a tennis ball which I refuse to take, as it gets closer, it turns into a balled-up fist. I brace myself for receiving the ball, when the lights go out, and I am missing a locket around my neck. There is my senior, who pours into my glass the first drops of what would forever increase its presence in my life, and there is me repaying his debt to my juniors a year later. I see bright yellow lights, not unlike these stars, blinding me, and I am disappointed at the roar, or the absence thereof. But it doesn’t matter ‘cause they have been preceded by laser-lit skies and moonlit stairways, by dances and by buses. And by aimless wanderings, eyes averted even in darkness. There are friendly invitations and more balled-up fists. There are drops of sweat on radiating keyboards. There are blank screens with pulsating dots, and inquisitions scribbling hasty D’s. Peers accept while patrons reject. Amber finds a voice, while winter learns to scream. Cold breezes caress backs, yet sweat accompanies shivers. The warm woody smell of trust fills my nostrils as grey concrete rushes past at hundred. Sparkling yellow drowns me from the insides while its bubbles rise all the way to my head. I see myself black marker in hand greeting the first rays of a red sun by scribbling on my room’s walls while a maths book lies open on my bed. It rains and an umbrella is borrowed, skins wet and heads ache. It rains words, the mist obscures the crowds. And obscures it still.