Sunday, December 11, 2011

THE RELIGIOUS DIVIDE

Throughout history, each paradigm of development has left us with a gulf between the haves and have-nots. Today, we see an India which downloads torrents and plays Angry Birds on their smartphones like there's no tomorrow, and another whose local bank branch runs manually. This is the digital divide.

Similarly, it's easy to extrapolate backwards and see how Messr. Gutenberg might have created a class of readers and another bunch who couldn't afford a papyrus. Go back a few more years, and there might have been one class of cavemen who didn't know jack about clubs while the rest, no doubt, met around their local bar, The Brown Mastadon, talking about the latest advancements in club technology and how the aerodynamics and contours of the new MammothBasher 9000 were so much better.

Anyhow...

Following a couple of surgeries after an accident in mid July, I've been shuttled off to Bahrain to spend time recuperating at the nice apartment my parents stay in. Usually, of course, that's not too bad a thing. Who doesn't like spending time with his parents, having some maa ka khana rather than the oi teri maa ki that Mumbai roadsides are likely to feed you? And that too in a luxurious quiet place with no mosquitoes, faltering ceilings and generally space to move around (my mom, staying in my Mumbai room said that she felt like a stranded passenger sleeping on a railway platform)?

Sadly, all this comes at a teeny price. My parents are religious. Oh, not the normal sort of 'religious'. You know when they say 'Jonty Rhodes religiously practices his fielding' and 'Neils Bohr religiously studied Physics'? THAT sort of 'religious' religious.

Of course, most of my childhood was spent in subservience - never a good thing if you're a kid who just wants to be left alone to his own amusements. Hence followed a series of things my parents thought I should be indoctrinated in - the best of which was a weekly prayer class which pretty much ruined the only morning on which most kids would get some sleep. Car radio stations were shunned for hours and hours of drones and monotonic renditions of bhajans filled my daily sojourn to and from school. Vacations were things I used to dread, because that invariably meant 'temple-seeing-trip-in-Kerala-accompanied-by-meeting-hordes-of-strange-people-who-bitch-about-each-other'. Birthdays, those things of presents and cakes and friends, unfortunately fell during vacation months and instead of Black Forest I got a vadyaar and a fire.

But heck, I made peace with all this. I loved my parents and was willing to take all this in my stride, because, hey, what did I know?

Then of course, I discovered the world. And rebellion began. When I say 'rebellion', I don't mean actively protesting against meaningless pujas with picket signs and telling my extended family what a waste of time and money all this was, but just a dip in the subservience (a term you will encounter a couple of paragraphs up). So while the annual pilgrimage was being mooted, I went from my its-my-fate silence to its-still-my-fate-but-heck 'Mehhh'.

Woohoo! I had rebelled!

Anyway, there is this large gulf between me and my parents, easily the most religious people I know - I call this the religious divide. They of the annual Sabarimala planners, I of the giver of a rodent's posterior. They of the early morning japam, I of the Google Reader.

It's fun sometimes imagining scenarios like the ones below, if the tables were turned a little.


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Remember that extra commandment that George Carlin had? That wonly.

Ah well, what's life without a little disagreement, right?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A QUESTION OF FAITH

When I seemed to be recovering properly from my accident, my mother assured me that it was because of the will of the man upstairs and various petitions issued on my behalf by well-wishers.

Now that the complication actually arose and the bone broke and I had to go in for surgery again, I tried to question the efficacy of the petitions.

As usual, I was rubbished with a fair amount of irrationale.

I might as well try to hold a discussion on the finer points of prog-metal with them.

Ah, religion. One thing that separates our generation from the previous one more than anything else.

PS: No offence meant to anyone, no outrage please, etc etc and all that.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

MY TOP 20 METALLICA SONGS

(This post was originall published on Sify here)


Ah, Metallica. So many things come to mind. Underground thrash pioneers with their first three albums (Kill ‘em All, Ride The Lightning, Master of Puppets). Then their iconic bassist Cliff Burton died tragically and a much darker, some would say bloated … And Justice For All surfaced with very average production. They distinctly took a commercial turn with The Black Album, and explored a softer, almost country side with Load and Reload. A hiatus and frontman James Hetfield’s rehab later came St. Anger – the most derided of the lot (one critic referred to drummer Lars Ulrich as a three-year old pounding steel pots with a spoon). And just when the world thought age had caught up and Metallica were just a memory, came the explosive Death Magnetic.

There probably hasn’t been a more debated band in history. Everyone’s top 10 is different. Their audiences hate each other – at one end there are the ‘pure’ metalheads who swear by the first three albums, who firmly look down upon fans of their lighter stuff, and pretend that albums 5 to 8 never happened. There are liberalists who say the radical departure in style in Load and Reload just add to their variety. Some say they’re lyrical geniuses, some say they’re just about the riffs. Fans of ‘more evolved’ bands say they’re just overrated and don’t deserve the attention.

Whichever side of the fence you stand on, you can’t argue that Metallica have been one of the most influential bands around. Even though their studio work might have deviated from their roots, they kept the flame of heavy metal burning through the commercial pop-infested era of the 90s and 2000s.
Also, since their albums are so different from each other – Metallica are probably the last band in this era of the downloaded MP3 – for whom the concept of individual albums makes sense. One classifies himself as being a Kill ‘Em All fan or a Reload fan.

After close to three decades, Metallica finally come to India. Fans have been dreaming about this moment for years. Everyone has something to look forward to. As a small tribute from a fan who won’t be able to go for either show (alas, an accident means that spending 7 hours with 50,000 headbangers is not the most therapeutic of activities), here are a collection of my top 20 Metallica songs.


20. St. Anger: Despite being their most hated album universally, St. Anger is probably Metallica’s thematically strongest album since AJFA. The hatred, depression and anger all pumps out through all the songs, none more so than the title track itself. And for a brief moment, as Hetfield pumps out that ‘So much in anger with you’ line repeatedly, while Ulrich bangs on those ‘tinpots’ – you get a sense of the message that the band tries to convey. It was possibly not the prettiest way to get the message across, but it definitely was effective. Explore the rest of the album if you have the patience, but this is the standout track.

19. That Was Just Your Life: There are some songs that deserve a place in a list for their sheer placement. Musically, they might not be great, but the sheer impact they create makes up for it. When Deep Purple’s classic Mark 2 lineup reunited for 1984’s Perfect Strangers, the opener, Knockin’ On Your Back Door sounded better than it actually was, because it was the celebration of the best permutation of the band getting back. Similarly, for close to 20 years, ‘early’ Metallica fans had lost all hope, seeing their once underground kings get softer, older and slower. But when that heartbeat kicks in the first few seconds, just like it did on Dark Side Of The Moon, you knew something was going to give. Kirk’s frantic soloing was back. Hetfield’s rhytm never sounded more aggressive. Begone, the era of commercialization! For good ol’ Metallica were back once again, and this track not just stamped it, but steamrolled it.

18. The Call Of Ktulu: The first of Metallica’s great instrumentals (I’m not counting Anasthesia –possibly the most overrated piece of basswork ever). It was also partly written by original guitarist Dave Mustaine (who of course, went on to form Megadeth). This track shows a quartet experimenting with progressive thrash and doing so very successfully.

17. All Nightmare Long: The impact that the first song on Death Magnetic (#19 in this list) has barely left you, before a sinister arpeggio comes in leading to what is possibly Hetfield’s fastest riffing in a decade. Ulrich’s snare comes in and complements it perfectly; not sounding like the jarring clang it was in St. Anger. Metallica successfully marry their thrash roots with the hummabilty their 90s songs acquired. It’s clear that this band is well and truly back.

16. The Unforgiven: I’m not going to hide the fact that I’m a huge fan of the Unforgiven trilogy, and I’d love to see them perform it back-to-back-to-back. This sounds like a perfect fit for a thrash metal band going commercial – the name sounds dark enough. An easy tempo, and stunningly, a heavy verse and light chorus. Metallica have been accused of many things, including selling out, but you can never blame them for lack of innovation.

15. Until It Sleeps: I like Load and Reload. If for no other reason, they showcase James Hetfield’s vocal range. So, in a way, his most un-metal albums were an important factor in establishing of one of metal’s best vocalists. On many other tracks, his ‘yeaaaaah!’ comes off as a little forced – like Fuel, but here, it seems very natural. Hammett, of whom I’ve never been too much of a fan – plays one of those rare, sweet knows-when-to-exit solos.

14. Mama Said: If someone had said in 1986 that Metallica was capable of writing a sentimental song that was capable of eliciting tears by means other than smoke choke, he’d have been written off as crazy. Stunningly, that’s what they manage to do here. A touching tribute to his mother, James pulls this off in true metal ballad style. Metallica weren’t getting softer, they were just exploring.

13. Fixxxer: One of their most underrated tracks, this is probably Metallica’s best attempt at sludge metal. The opening lines are “Dolls of voodoo all stuck with pins, One for each of us and our sins”. I’d like someone to say that Reload is still a soft album. The ending is pure metal bliss.

12. I Disappear: The oft-forgotten track, since it’s not on the ‘Metallica discography 320kbps all albums’ torrent, since it’s on the Mission Impossible 2 soundtrack. This is not their most intelligent song (I’m pain, I’m hope, I’m suffer?). But it would top the list of songs I’d want to yell at the top of my voice when zooming down a highway with a friend. Honestly, I’d love to see them do this live and see the crowd singing along.

11. The Unforgiven III: Yeah, yeah, this is my favourite off Death Magnetic. I can’t think of too many Metallica songs using a piano, this one does it quite nicely. It’s fantastic how all three Unforgiven tracks sound different, yet still revolve it around the same chord pattern. This is definitely the most complex of the three – lyrically and musically. The orchestral sounds add a different dimension altogether. And a Hammett solo that I really like, I think I caught a little Eastern scale at 5:49.

10. Enter Sandman: Or How-to-take-thrash-mainstream 101. Everything about this song has ‘success’ written all over it. Slick production and arrangement, a sinister riff, huge drum coming in, anthemic verses, and of all things, a child’s prayer! Not since Sweet Child O’ Mine a couple of years back, has mainstream rock been so gripped.

09. One: The song that won them many fans, but lost a few who were convinced their making a video was a sign of selling out. Pity, really, because this is one of their best progressive tracks. Anti-war theme, superb solo, and the most effective four-note-arrpegio in Metallica history. Even though Ulrich’s bass sounds heavily processed, this is a fantastic track. I love the shift in ‘mood’ at 1:31.

08. King Nothing: Their most underrated track. Their angriest track. King Nothing is the type of track that makes you want to just scream along. And I love it how Newsted just drives the whole song, and there’s that little almost Burtonesque atmosphere created during the chorus.

07. Nothing Else Matters: Sure, it’s the one that all the posers know. It’s the one that all guitar n00bs know to play because you just have to play those four strings without fretting. Once you’ve cut through the derision, what remains is a gorgeous love song. Superb intro, heartfelt lyrics, lovely arrangement (well done, Bob Rock!), and that solo by Hetfield. During concerts, even the most angsty will pull out their lighters for this one. Forget the haters, love this song for what it is.

06.  Orion: It’s sad that Anasthesia is commonly regarded as Cliff Burton’s showcase. My personal opinion about that aside, this is what should be considered his masterpiece. Largely written by him, bass solos (check out 1:42 – that’s not a guitar, folks) and a lovely interlude. This is Metallica at the heights of their musicmanship. If Kirk had stuck to the type of soloing he does here instead of  over-reliance on that annoying wah pedal, he’d be much higher held in esteem.

05. The Unforgiven II: The same intro as its predecessor, before kicking you in the gut to take you on a melodious minor-chord riff giving way to a lovely finger-picking riff. You can see both avatars - the 40-year old post-rehab Hetfield and the young 20-year old adrenalized punk in this track. Extremely high on hummability (which is why guys like me, who can play only 5 chords, can get away by playing this). Add to this, wordplay (“Are you unforgiven too?”) that J.W. Lennon would have been proud of.

04. The Four Horsemen: Their first great track – a signature thrash song, with progressive elements like slowed down tempos, a theme which could be interpreted as the four members of the band themselves. When you start off on that Metallica discography, you start with Hit The Lights, which is plain noise. You just want to get it over with to come on to the real track on the album. Headbangers’ paradise.

03. Master Of Puppets: I’d never heard a note of metal when my two friends dragged me off to a show where a cover band from Trivandrum, Rage (the drummer now plays for Avial) played three Metallica songs, one being MoP. I was floored. When ‘greatest metal songs’ and ‘most influential songs ever’ are discussed, MoP doesn’t enter the discussion much, in much the same vein that Don Bradman is never discussed while talking about greatest batsmen – it’s just a foregone conclusion. Metallica’s most orgasm-inducing moment is the melody interlude at half the devilish number, 3:33. I thought the lyrics made no sense till I realized they were about drugs. Woah!

02. Fade To Black: Where Metallica differentiated themselves from others riding the thrash wave, was their ability to write songs like this, and not shying away from it. Everything about this song is great – the intro (a friend once said if you don’t close your eyes during that moment, you’re not a true rock fan), the theme, the solo. And of course, for all those parents worried about devil’s music, Metallica’s received a lot of letters from kids who decided not to take the extreme step of suicide after hearing this. That should keep them on the right side of the Association for a while.

01. Welcome Home (Sanitarium): Musically similar to FTB (arrpegio intro with solo, gets steadily heavier, fantastic solo). Even if you don’t read much into lyrics, you can’t help but being taken away by what James sings here. Another song that Burton excels in, and the heavy reverb on the clean guitars adds such a murky, sinister atmosphere. My guess is, if they play this at Bangalore, there will be quite a few hoarse throats and sprained necks the next morning.

No Metallica list is ever complete without arguments, bashings and disagreements. So go right ahead!

Friday, September 16, 2011

A CLOSED LETTER TO RAHUL DRAVID

Hello, Rahul.

You know, I'd love to start off by saying that I had many memories of you, proceed to analyse your cricketing technique and proclaim you as the greatest cricketer that India has ever produced and all that countless paeans you're no doubt receiving now - but I can't. I really can't.

You see, I missed much of India's glorious decade because I didn't have access to television for most part. So I really cannot stake claim to watching your brilliance in Adelaide, Rawalpindi, South Africa or the West Indies.

Big deal, you say. Everyone follows sport on the internet today. Why, even Tendulkar's double century was savoured over Cricinfo commentary by most of the nation. So was Sehwag's brutal assault on Sri Lanka at the Brabourne. Or most of the IPL, for that matter.

No, no. Saying that I've become a fan of you by following your exploits through Cricinfo's ball-by-ball commentary would be an insult to you. Mind you, it's alright if we do it for other cricketers, and there would be absolutely no disrespect meant. Michael Hussey's incredible 6-6-4-6 against Pakistan to win the T20 WC semifinal was thrilling as read through text. I devoured Kevin O'Brien's outstanding assault on England in the F50 (er) WC group stages through Twitter updates since I was in a train. I visualised the shots. I could picture Hussey smashing the crap out of Pakistan. Or Sehwag mutilating Murali. I didn't need visual aid for that, oh no.

But to say I've become a fan of Rahul Sharad Dravid by following text updates on some cricket website would be like going up to Wolfgang Mozart with a piece of parchment and a quill and saying, "Big fan, mate. I've heard all your symphonies in 96 kbps MP3". I remember earlier this year, I did catch an innings of yours. In South Africa. Noone else in the room could understand what I was doing, watching Test cricket (they were all the kool kyds who watch ManUtdRokzzz and F1, you see). With every defence shot, I'd ooh and aah. THIS was what I was missing out on. This was pure cricket.

And it was all so very unfair, Rahul. Which kid wants to do that? When I play the official IPL Android app, I want to smash every ball for 6. I'm not very well-acquainted with the gully cricket scene in Delhi, but I'm supposing not too many people want to 'construct' an innings in the 5 overs they're allowed before they have to run back home to finish the 10th chapter of Bhargava's 5th standard primer for IIT aspirants (Geometry).

One memory, Rahul - that I do have, was on a day on which I had what you might say, selective fever. When you and VVS ended Day 3, I knew something was up. I ensured I drank plenty of iced water that evening so I could give myself some semblance of a cold the next morning to skip school.

Yes, there were the glorious shots from VVS. It's my favourite Test innings of all time, but that's not what I remember. What I do remember is you getting to your century. You had that look on your face. Pointing to the press box, and I'm sure it was only your dignity that stopped you from giving the esteemed occupants a middle finger (or it could have been your gloves). I saw that look. Woah, I saw that look. That was the same look that I wanted to give my detractors. When my teacher back in Bahrain unfairly embarrassed me in a parent-teacher meeting in 1999, I swore I'd get back at him. I topped the fucking class and came third in the country (granted, it was a country that had the population of the entire of Chakala, but still). I so wanted to go back to him and say, "Take that!". That was the look you had, man. Whadafighter.

Criticism towards you has been as effective as a record label asking Dream Theater to adopt a more radio-friendly style.


I'm not a real fan, Rahul - I'm a mere piggybacker. It's fashionable to call yourself a Rahul Dravid fan. While 'junta' acquiesce to their baner instincts by luving the IPL, the educated, The Hindu-reading populace prefer to quote the numbers '180, 233, 270, 148' as if they were a holy chant. How many of them would actually sit through a RSD innings? I know I wouldn't. I'm just a piggybacker, like I said.

The purpose of writing this closed letter, Rahul, is to say - thank you for surviving despite people like me. Indian cricket The game of cricket has been richer for it.

==

Monday, September 12, 2011

MY TOP 20 YARDBIRDS SONGS

The Yardbirds, as many biographies over the internet have said, are known to the casual rock fan for starting the careers of three of rock's most important British guitarists - Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. Beck, in particular, experimented with fuzz, feedback and distortion more than anyone else. As was said in the first episode of The Seven Ages of Rock : "The Yardbirds showed how ... The electric guitar could be sexy." That, and vocalist Keith Relf's fantastic delivery. Too bad he electrocuted himself while playing guitar at his home at a young age.

But apart from this, the Yardbirds also were pivotal in bringing blues-based rock to the forefront, and were a major influence on a hell lot of bands, not just because of the guitaring pyrotechnics. Jimi Hendrix, then relatively unknown and playing in the underground black circuits in America, idolized both Beck and Clapton (the former - due to his work in the Yardbirds).

As a band, they started out with a lot of covers of blues standards, had a few songs that were songwritten by others, and surprisingly, had only one album with fully original material. They kept swinging between genres - and - unlike the Beatles, who did it with directional finesse - seemed confused most of the time. Clapton left after their early blues-covers-days since he didn't want to move away from the blues roots. Some of their albums - Roger the Engineer, in particular - are a weird mashup of psychedelia and blues-pop.

The Yardbirds of course, are arguably more important for disbanding in 1968 - which forced Jimmy Page, the only surviving member - to put together Led Zeppelin, and we don't need to go too much there now. The Yardbirds of course, reunited much, much later - in 1992 with surviving members Chris Dreja and Jim McCarty. In 2003, 35 years after their last album, the new-look Yardbirds released Birdland - a collection of new songs and old material. Scandalous as this might sound to purists, I consider this the best of their albums. It has the best sound of all, it sounds structured, the new songs are very well written and not just filler. There are a host of guest guitarists on the album - Slash, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Brian May and a cameo from Jeff Beck himself.

The Yardbirds have some of the most hummable tunes from the 60s. Here's my list of top 20 songs you should check out. Ironically, for a band most associated with blues rock, it's their deviations from the genre I like the best. Videos, as always, are provided.

20. Farewell: A cute like piano-based song to start things off. Gotta love the backing vox here. At just 1:30, one of the shortest songs you'll ever hear.

19. The Train Kept A Rollin': The classic blues cover that everyone and their guitarist would cover. The Yardbirds made it popular, though, culminating in a spectacular performance featuring Metallica, Jeff Beck, Ronnie Wood, Joe Perry, Jimmy Page, and Jason Newsted & Flea on bass. And that train sound right at the beginning - that's Jeff Beck. Eddie van Halen, eat your heart out!

18. Shapes Of Things: The band considered this as one of their finest moments. It's apparently about the Vietnam War. The solo section, albeit short, looks quite progressive for its time.

17. Boom Boom: Nothing much to explain here, just a nice fun song. Featuring Clapton on lead.

16. Still I'm Sad: Probably the most experimentation this so-called blues-rock band has ever done. With their Gregorian chants that reek of 'In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle'. As serious as this song is, I can't help but picture animated animals on screen.

15. Good morning little schoolgirl: Let's get back to some good ol' blues. One thing the Yardbirds had in their early songs was a lot of harmonica. And Keith Relf shows us. Also a neat little Clapton solo.

14. Goodnight Sweet Josephine: One of the two songs where the Yardbirds sound like they're right out of Pink Floyd's first album (the other being Little Soldier Boy - it's almost like Syd Barrett himself sang that song!). This one is so irresistibly upbeat and happy.

13. White Summer: Wait, didn't I hear that opening note on some Led Zeppelin acoustic song? Of course you did. This is a solo acoustic performance by Page, and it's easy to extrapolate this song to Black Mountain Side and Bron-Yr-Aur. In fact, he frequently played an electric-guitar combination of White Summer and the former at Zeppelin shows (like this). I'm not sure if Viram Jasani, who played tabla on BMS, plays it for this song as well.

12. A Certain Girl: Another one from the early days. I've never seen so many parentheses in a song's lyrics.

11. Evil Hearted You: Another one of those 'dark' songs. Composed by 10cc's Graham Gouldman, who also provided some of their other big hits (#1 and 3 on this list, to be exact)

10. My Blind Life: Like I said, I think Birdland is a fantastic album, and I have three songs from it in my top 10. The sound, while still rooted in Yardbirdism, is quite different. New vocalist John Idan does an admirable job taking off from where Relf left off. Jeff Beck plays guest guitar on the studio version of this track.

09. Paff Bumm: An absolutely silly song ("Paff Bumm - that's the sound of love" - hyuk!). But the rhythm is so upbeat and sticky-in-head that you can't help but smile and sing along.

08. Mister You're A Better Man Than I: This song was written by Mike Hugg (Manfred Mann's drummer), and is given quite a searing performance by Keith Relf, and has one of the best verse-to-chorus changes in their catalog.

07. Over, Under, Sideways, Down: Ah, the song that everyone knows. That riff is either revolutionary or annoying, depending on your point of view. In the Birdland version, Slash plays guitar on this song, which is about the decadence of the 60s and generally having a good time.

06. Crying Out For Love: One from Birdland, again. A much more mature, well-produced song, you'll notice. Gypie Mayo, the guitarist, comes up with two very, very neat solos here.

Ooh, top 5 now.

05. Dream Within a Dream: Musically, the best of the new material off Birdland. With a superb riff, lovely vox, and a solo that beck would have been proud of, this song is ultimate proof that bands CAN bring out new material 35 years after disbanding. The riff will be stuck in your head faster than you can say Inception.

04. Smokestack Lightning: First song, first ever live performance. "Let's have a big hand for The Yardbirds, please... And Smokestack Lightning". There are many versions, but I like this version (The Early Recordings, Londong '63) the best. At 6:51, it's immensely satisfying, showcases Clapton's early guitar and Relf's harmonica prowesses. This is of course, a cover of the classic song by Howlin' Wolf.

03. For Your Love: Described by AllMusic as quasi-progressive (well, that tempo change at 01:30 is quite interesting). Written by Gouldman and modified by then bassist Paul Samwell-Smith, the song features a dominating harspichord and quite 'pleading' vocals by Relf that just seem to work. Great track. Oh, and here's Led Zeppelin ruining (or improving, depending again on your point of view) the song.

02. Happenings Ten Years Ago: Described as the first psychedelic song. Also, the only song on which Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck play together. Strangely weird. The video linked - well, I don't know what to make of it. It features Jeff Beck flipping out over a malfunctioning amp and destroying his guitar. But it's clearly not this song they're playing (either that or Relf had laryngitis and didn't know it).

01. Heart Full Of Soul: What a song! Incredibly addictive. Lots of versions available on YouTube. But the best version I have heard of this song is not by them, but Rush, who had this stunning version on their EP, Feedback. And it's a sheer joy to watch this live version of theirs, with the crowd singing along. This was also composed by Gouldman, and there was initially a Sitar version (which was rightfully rejected by Beck because it didn't sound too right). Apparently, this song is supposed to be Eastern sounding (er, really?) and is said to have influenced a Messr. Harrison into using a Sitar on a song we all know and love.

There we go. They definitely left their mark, the 'birds, and I think are extremely underrated. I mean, they were a band that had Beck, Clapton and Page! Admittedly, they weren't at the heights of their powers during their Yardbirds stints, but it's obvious their days in the band were vital to help them polish their technique. Like Arbit on Twitter said: (They) made very little music, but part of a great rock genealogy.

=

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

THAT ONE WAS DOOMED TO FAIL

As a result of the ruddy accident, quite a few things have changed in the household (a house, incidentally, which I haven't held since the accident, as I'm recuperating in a non-non-vegetarian premises at the nonce).

Firstly, of course, there was the minor matter of drilling a few screws into my femur to generally keep my thigh from detaching itself from the parent body. The please-do-not-try-this-at-home nature of the aforementioned activity caused a slight dent to the pater's bank balance, which was, till crash, funding the renovation of a home in the quaint and intolerably boring Kochi suburb of Tripunithura. Those who have to line up outside the single bathroom will now have my femur to curse.

Secondly, two prized gadgets have been lost. My portable media player, the Cowon S9, was purloined on the spot, while my HTC Desire Z in all it's QWERTY-flipout glory suffered from a rude shock from which it never really recovered, hence facilitating the need to procure a new one.

Of course, the fact that I'd been intelligent enough to carry the phone on a trek - a very rainy trek, I might add - would have had something to do with the overall atrophy of the circuits. But blaming it on the crash is more satisfying.

But you know what they say about gadgets. Sometimes it's doomed. You get this looming feeling that no matter how much you love it, no matter how much you had to take advance from your credit card to pay for it because you misjudged when your company bonus is going to arrive paid for it, no matter how proud you were of it - you somehow feel that your phone is like Harry Potter just after the pensieve scene in HP7. Doomed to be snuffed. You dread the end, the finish.

Just one week after purchasing the thing, I went from this 40% to this 19%. That's right. 'Splush' is not a sound you want to hear when you have a brand new 25,000-rupee phone in the toilet. Anyhow, displaying a  head of unusual coolness that would have done Hrishikesh Kanitkar proud, I tried every online solution - including dunking the phone in silica gel and then, rice. Later, I just took it to a shady repair shop which nonchalantly fixed it in half an hour for 350 bucks.

And since I effected its purchase on credit card, I paid for my phone's first repair before I paid for the phone itself. Surely, that's a sign of imminent doom.

Not to mention, it had a permanent 'water stain' on the screen (how cool, said the Harry Potter fan in me). And also, thanks to its aqueous sojourn, the warranty was as rendered as null and void as a CAT form with incomplete information filled in.

Every week, without fail, it displayed extreme lemming-like tendencies by succumbing to gravity twice. I counted. I should have known the end was near.

The end came with a touch screen that started behaving erratically (the first one to make a 'dementia' joke gets it on the hooter), and a phone repair person took care of the rest. I'd like to think of it as gadget euthanasia.

Anyhow, a Samsung Galaxy I9000 has been ordered, and should be here shortly. I'll know whether this one is for life or as doomed to fail as it's predecessor, depending on how badly I get my arse whooped on Wordfeud.

Random link of the day: Angry Anna! :D


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

DEAR BUGGERS WITH A CAMERA

It's exhilarating when you get a camera, isn't it?

"Now I can join the likes of by posting kickarsefull photos on Facebook and getting Likes by hot lady friend of friend of friend who came with me for the trip." and "Now I can haz low light low ISO low f-stop pwnage too!" are thoughts not alien to those who have just spent some of their hard-earned kachingas on a new image-capturer-and-recorder.

Little did the gentleman in the 1980s (who had a look at his skyrocketing film development costs and while pondering over them, fell over a set of floppy disks only to have a total Eureka! moment) forsee the internet explosion, which allows anyone (and their uncle, and their uncle thereon) to upload personal digital photos. The easy accessibility of a camera and online storage proved to be a potent combination.

A topic that she has already briefly touched upon.

You see, SLRs were supposed to be for the creme-de-la-filme - only the best of photographers should have them. But digital photography changed all that. Now every bugger (like me) who has a spare 30,000 bucks can buy one. And, usually when too much technology is brought into the hands of an audience which might be financially equipped but not skilfully so - it leads to a certain amount of disparity. Imagine if the Indian cricket team started deciding teams by a first-come-first-serve method (might not be a bad idea right now, come to think of it, actually).

Anyhow, it is because of this that it's typically with a sense of dread that one opens a link that a friend has sent you, of his/her vacation. You feel guilty that you didn't read said friend's last blogpost when you were coerced to gently using Google Talk before you managed to hit the 'appear invisible' option, so you decide to press play on the pornographic TED talk video that you were engrossed in, and click the Picasa link.

Horrors.

The first five lines (line segments, technically) consist entirely of leaves. And trees. And a cluster of trees. Here is the enthusiastic globetrotter in his now-I-am-going-to-take-the-kickarseest-set-of-photos-ever phase, and proceeds to click everything in sight. Most people fall into fatigue after half an hour, but not your friends.

Then there are various poses of himself. In particular, a set of him in various poses of posing for the same pose, if you know what I mean.

Every touristy thing (monument, famous tree, building, painted Harley, ex-cricketer) is shot from all possible angles, and, much in the hope that Google will come out with a 3D modeling extension for Picasa one day, leave them all on the album.

And holy rebeccablackamoley, this is just page 1 of 3. Groan.

So, enthusiastic photo uploader, here are a few pleas, on behalf of the entire online community:

1. Noone has time to sift through 300 photos of a place he or she doesn't give a rat's ass about. If someone is really interested in what monuments in Jaipur look like, chances are, a search will be conducted. Cut ze crap. Be ultra-critical of your photos and put in only absolute winners in your mind. I know my own work is a poor barometer, but when I go for a concert, I usually take around 600 photos, and only around 20 make it to Facebook.

2. An entire vacation (or concert) on one Picasa page would be nice. Even the staunchest of friends are unlikely to click on  every photo. They'll sift through the lot, click about ten that really catch their fancy, drop in a few comments and proceed on with the TED talk video. We don't live in an age where people are going to comment on the bokeh and depth-of-field of each pic. Do not unleash unto thy audience what you wouldn't like unleashed unto thyself.

3. Label. Please, please, please. Imagine you've taken an incredibulobulous snap of that ancient statue of a Mughal emperor in Nashik but haven't bothered to label it. As the Local Tea Party is wont to say, what you think your friends are so jobless so they will do Google image mapping for each and every photo of yours?? Labeling is a good habit, and will help you cut down on needless photofat as well (Check out Mahesh's photos of his recent England trip - captions bring to life the personal experience).

4. Get out of automatic mode, yo!

You have a powerful weapon in your hands. Using it moderately and carefully are likely to give you the best results.

I'm talking about your camera, of course. Hyuk.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

MY TRYST WITH HINDI

Much is made of my weakness of the national language by my friends circle. Indeed, (and excuse the attempted Wodehousean) the cry goes around the city, "Chuck cannot speak well the language of Bollywood" and "His otherwise spotless CV misses a vital language".

Alright, so my Hindi is bad. In the words of George Carlin - I don't give a shit.

(Now, my South Indian friends, is the point that we all rally together)

Remember that joke about how Karunanidhi reacted when someone said Hindi is the national language because it was spoken by maximum people in the country? He said that by that logic, the crow should be made the national bird.

(All South Indian friends, rapturous applause and pro-DMK slogans now)

Also, all my North Indian friends ask me "But yaaaaaar how can u b Indian and not hv seen Sholay yet yaaar!". I ask them back whether they have seen Kalyanaraman for a similar test of patriotism and they shrug with a facial expression reeking of the Carter Roadesque "What-everrrrrrrrr!". In the words of the wise Local Tea Party - why this discrimination, please? (That 'rrrrr' by the way, is the closest non-Southies will ever get to getting the 'zh' sound - you know, Kozhikode - right).

Ok, no more potential communal stuff (I don't want CoD to be the cause of a pogrom (I also wrote this line just so I could use the word 'pogrom' (You gotta admit, this multiple bracket shit is cool))).

Anyhow. I was a little boy, minding my own business, doing stuff that Mallu boys in the Gulf do like reading comics and topping classes, and suddenly, without warning, along came Hindi. CBSE Hindi.

(All South Indian friends, shudder and shiver at this point as if PC Thomas has decided to be your permanent roommate)

Oh, it was quite innocuous at first, the blighter. A mild annoyance in the otherwise uncomplicated world of addition and tenses. And before you knew it, just before you fully got to savour the joy of owning your first Hero fountain pen in 5th standard, you realise that the bloody subject is actually quite a headache.

(All riot-friendly friends - please note - Hindi the subject and not Hindi the language. Yeah, you still haven't seen Kalyanaraman, so pipe down)

As the years pass by and you realise that various parts of your body can do fun stuff, Hindi becomes a nightmare. A downright fucking nightmare.

Let me tell you my story.

When I was in 6th, 7th and 8th standards - I used to spend 4 hours a day studying Hindi. The use of the term 'study' here is an insult to what scientists and researchers the world over have been doing, though - I was mugging up the bloody thing. I spade up, by rote, chapters and chapters. Never was Hindi 'taught'. How to say stuff. How to have a conversation. How to fucking understand a movie. It was question-answer all through. When I look back, I think it a total miracle that I managed to survive those years of torture - by-hearting line after line without understanding a single fucking thing.

Everything about the stupid subject was bad. It had more periods than any other subject (yes, yes, I know you're begging to make that joke - say it to yourself). It had the most vicious of teachers. It had more textbooks than ANY other subject (pray, why couldn't we've had Michael Crichton as extra reading in English?). Spending 4 hours a day on it, but still the lowest marks. It brought down my entire average.

I was not a genocidal sort, but I do remember the frustration of a simple kid taken out in many ways.

For one - My Hindi books would always be put in my school bag in a polythene. It was untouchable. It was not allowed to sully the sacred Mathematics and Science books. On occasion where a polythene was not available, the Hindi book would form the 'base' of the bag and the rest of the books would 'stand' on top of it.

After each year, Mom used to give away my textbooks to someone. I never allowed her to give away the Hindi books, because I'd be tearing them up into little itty-bitty pieces. Once me and a few friends were even contemplating a mass-burning (of the books, not of selves).

I also remember seeing a public service ad on hand sanitation. So everytime I finished using my Hindi books, I used to wipe my hands. An inferior quality pen was even used to write on the notebooks, because high-quality Uniball and Pilots couldn't bothered to be wasted.

(Calms down)

As you can imagine - I hated the goddamn subject from the bottom of my heart.

(Fellow South Indians - similar stories, please share in comments)

You know how after 25 years in prison, the sight of the open world comes as a whole new paradise to you? That was how I felt when I passed into the 9th standard, and dumped Hindi for good (I passed my last exam by the skin of my teeth).

Me and my friends celebrated the day of our last ever Hindi exam as 'Independence Day'. I am not making this up. We all had one extra packet of Corn Chips to treat ourselves.

I took French. My average shot up again, and I was in the top 5 in class again. It felt so very 5th standard. I wasn't exceptionally bright, but the lack of that fuck-all subject probably just spurred me on.

Boy, how I hated it.

Okay, there is no point to this post. No language-education-in-CBSE-should-be-reformed. No as-revenge-all-Punjabis-must-be-made-to-learn-Classical-Tamil. No but-now-I-have-changed-having-learnt-practical-Hindi-by-trying-to-talk-with-auto-drivers-and-food-delivery-places-in-Mumbai-and-see-the-shortsightedness-of-my-youth. Nah, none of that.

And to prove so, I will end this post with something totally random.

It's.





Wednesday, August 03, 2011

THE ACCIDENT AND THE AFTERMATH

There has been a lack of blogging over the last month. Apologies (or you're welcome, depending on which side of the fence you stand on) for the same.

Many of you might know what happened. Myself, Punvati, Apurv, Rajat, Mahesh and Harshal had just scaled Maharashtra's tallest peak, Kalsubai, and met with an accident later in the day. I wanted to initially write a dark, morose post about the same, but came to my senses soon enough. For those of you who don't know what happened, here's a rough outline:

1. Apurv (driver), Punvati (passenger), self (backseat) in former's i10, somewhere near Kalyan, along the highway.
2. One of the rear tires decided it had enough of life and decided to explode, in all it's vulcanized glory.
3. Tire burst (Ref: Point 2) caused the car (Ref : Point 1) to lose control. Not the best thing to happen when your vehicle is travelling at close to 70 kmph, and we rammed into a stationary truck.
4. Much chaos, blood, screaming and pain ensued, but thankfully I managed to keep my senses (I surprise myself at times) and managed to call the other car, while managing some rather helpful locals get us out of the wreck.
5. We were sent off to the nearest hospital, which happened to be in Bhiwandi. It wasn't the best place to go to, but the idea was to get to A hospital, which would atleast check us up.
6. Punvati got shifted to Kokilaben Dirubhai Ambani Hospital, Versova; Apurv got stitched up and went to Pune; and myself - I went to Fortis in Mulund where one of the best ortho docs in India put screws in my leg and patched me up, before discharging me to my uncle's place in Chembur. The Mid-Day report is here.

Needless to say, Point 3 was the scariest 3 seconds of my life. It was scary as fuck. The relief that I had when I realised both fellow passengers were alive, if not totally in their senses, was as huge as the relief when Hrishikesh Kanitkar hit that four (okay, I have a few skewed priorities).

Needless to say, thank you all for writing in, messaging, tweeting and calling wishing us a quick recovery.

Anyway - let us move away from all this morbidity, which has no place on this blog (except in the comments section, sadly).

Since then, things have been spiffy. I do nothing but read all day and watch a few movies at times. I used to be addicted to Wordfeud on Android, but that was taken care of when my touchscreen conked and went for repair. I've been on a Harry Potter kick, and now on a Wodehouse one.

Also, my parents are down here. This provides certain, er, troubles. Me, a hosteler-cum-renter for the last 9 years, am suddenly faced with immobility. I love my parents, but I prefer not to remain in the room when the conversation veers towards changing my musical tastes from Iron Maiden to the Hanuman Chalisa. Also, I am looking at the prospect of being vegetarian till around October, a task which, as Bertie Wooster is wont to say, would try the soul. If any of you can smuggle in a McSpicy for me, I will genuflect in gratitude eventually, when I am eventually able to perform that act.

Also, the trouble with being a non-compliant Tambrahm is, er, well, just that. I think Appa was more horrified by the lack of a poonal on my torso than the fact that my femur was broken and out of its socket. The immobility has, like I pointed out, some positive side effects, one of them being the fact that my participation in this year's avani avittom has been reduced to sitting in bed and reciting the gayatri japam 1008 times before changing the thread.

Also, sadly, the folks still refuse to believe goods can be costlier than they were in 1981, so the prices of some of the things I own, especially audio products, have been severely devalued before declaration. Appa reeled when I told him my Pumas cost me 2500, and they were pretty much the cheapest things in the store. This, and I hope to own the Sennheiser HD800s someday. Sigh...

Yes, that's pretty much it. I've also made mental notes for what a typical Tambrahm visit consists of. Previously, of course, I'd scurry off from the room after compliments about my recent academic achievements were made, and the dangerous topic of my Carnatic vocal classes were being touched on. Now, though, I have no means of jettisoning myself from such a situation, save pop the Kindle on and read while pretending not to listen to why Murali Mama is a bad person. But more on  that later.

Have a good August, you lot!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

THANKS, ARCHIE

Everyone has that life-changing moment, which, no matter how insignificant, will define their personality and outlook for the next few years, perhaps even their entire lives. Thousands of kids picked up a guitar seeing Slash rip out that solo on Sweet Child O' Mine, tens of thousands of shirtless kids fashioned bats out of everything from wood to plastic bottles after watching Sachin Tendulkar make mincemeat out of Michael Kasprowicz, and perhaps hundreds had turned to diligence after watching their successful dad work on Excel and come home with a promotion (not as sexy, but the great Indian middle class reality sinks in at some point).

This moment usually happens during one's impressionable youth. You're still malleable and can be a grouch one day, a cool funny dude the next day, a serious I-want-to-be-class-topper the next day, and so on. We've all done it - the multiple personality disorder afforded by an age of singular digits is among the most pivotal forms of self-exploration.

It was in my confused youth, that I came across a comics magazine from a friend. I had always been a fan of animation - cartoons, drawings and stuff, but this was a first for me, an entire book with just comics. And in colour too. Woah. He lent me the book when I was home, sick. This happened around the 4th standard, I reckon. That was my first Archie.

What followed changed my life a little. Not only did my drawing style itself get altered (and if you look at some of the sorry garbage I put out on some of the sites, you'll see a bit of resemblance to the Archie cartoonists' style of drawing), but my outlook on life.

Just like how we wannabes on Twitter use #youprefer, #yog and machaan to appear cool and with the 'in' bunch, in those days, Archie provided us the alternate vocabulary to be elevated to the strata of cool. While my other childhood obsession, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ingrained 'dude' into my lexicon for life, the escapades of the perpetual 17-year-old teens from Riverdale contributed to my repertoire of slang ("Wassup, man?"), repartees ("Yeah, right!") and sounds ("Wham!").

It's not just the unique lexicon that stands as parallels between Twitter and Archie, of course. Both had a bunch of early adopters which would automatically be deemed cool by those who didn't get it. Both had inside jokes and a language of their own (I've used #youprefer in real life way too many times for comfort) and both gave you a high when not understood by friends or family not in the know. You'd be cool or a freak, and most of the times, in that order.

For instance:
"Oh, nee andha comics vaikaraya? BANG! BANG! HEEYA! WANNNH!", being exaggerated statements from uncles.

The cultness of Archie built up, also because it was fairly expensive. Back in the days, in Bahrain, a Double Digest would cost the equivalent of 250 rupees, which was a fair deal for a middle-class family. Finally, like many others of my generation, an Archie comic became the prize for excellence in examinations. Trips to India were awaited with bated breath not for the perpetual rain or the annoying poojas, but for trips to Paico Book Stores, where I would stock up on Blytons, Tinkles and - of course - Archies, a collection of 10 which would be finished at a sitting. They would be re-read, of course. Despite knowing what exactly the plot was going to be, the re-reading of an Archie gave us a sense of satisfaction, like the existing memory we had of the story had been reinforced (the same reason why we feel incredibly satisfied when we hear a good cover version of a song we love). And the re-read would be savoured. It was like taking the best points of sipping fine whisky and bovine rumination. Only it was with comics.

Archie, Jughead, Reggie and Dilton taught us how to react in certain situations. When we could afford to be funny. When it was best to just shut your mouth. When it was good to polite to someone. What to do to be popular. I have attempted exercise routines at various points in life, the first was when I was around 14 - I had an Archie story where he and Reggie were doing exercises in the gym (only to be usurped by Jug at the end of it all, of course). I diligently woke up for about 2 weeks and did all those exercises.

I also learnt about things that neither a boring childhood in Bahrain or the wise people at NCERT could have taught me - shopping malls, fashion, girlfriends, credit cards, holidays, music - and a little bit of life itself. The concepts of cellphones and the internet were first introduced to me through these comics. Who couldn't claim, at some point of time, to have been influenced by the antics of this mad bunch? Who couldn't claim to have wanted a tee-shirt with an alphabet on it, whatever it meant?

Today, the person who I am (or try to be) owes a large part to Archibald Fred Andrews and his friends. The cynicism of Reggie, the irreverence of Jughead, the aptitude of Dilton, the cartooning skills of Chuck (yes, I know), perhaps somewhere we even wanted to have the body of Moose. And walk around starting every sentence with 'D-uh!'

I haven't read too many Archies in the recent past, but whenever I do try to read them, I somehow see a sense of them trying a little too hard to adapt to modern audiences. The fact that they've managed to keep their comics clean is a fantastic effort, in this day and age.

It's fantastic to see Archie still lives and thrives. Many times I've downloaded entire torrents, more out of tribute than knowing that I'll end up reading them. But like the cool people today say, "What is there?".

Thursday, June 09, 2011

VENKATESH PRASAD DENIES ROLE IN BABA RAMDEV'S MEDIUM FAST

Baba Ramdev's recent decision to fast for a limited amount of time everyday has caused a considerable amount of reaction across the country. Depending on one's affiliation, the move was 'idiotic', 'convenient', 'comical', 'efficient manhour management of available resources inorder to achieve objectives with maximum efficiency and paradigm changing' or just plain funny.

One unfortunate victim of the whole thing (apart from the Government of India itself) has been former Indian pace-bowler B. Venkatesh K. Prasad. It all started quite innocuously as, when various South Indian jokers on Twitter went overboard as usual, called the Baba's move a 'semi-fast', a 'moral fast' and, in natural progression, a 'medium-fast'. With the top-of-mind recall that Prasad has in this area, he was automatically linked to the, er, medium fast by the Twitterati.

"Hahaha. It fits so well, doesn't it? Baba Ramdev didn't even complete a fast. Hence it was a medium fast. And who has better expertise in that than Venkatesh Prasad?", quipped a Twitter user called Mahesh before hiding himself in the corner. "A fast is supposed to intimidate and cause bellies to quiver when it starts. However, if executed with half-heartedness, then it just becomes comical and not too many people take you seriously. Just like what happened with both of these parties here, no?", opined a character who simply called himself S.

This punning didn't stop with the general Twitterati. A famed butter brand, known for spoofing everything around us, created an ad which showed Prasad and the Baba talking through an old-school string-and-cup phone setup, and they called it 'Medium of communication'. In a rare attempt at humour, the mathematics division at Brilliant Tutorials in Chennai released a comic where Baba Ramdev said "I am mean!", Venkatesh Prasad said, "I am median!".

The comparision has obviously left a lot of Prasad fans infuriated. "This whole thing is not ok.", tweeted out a gent called T. Ray, bringing the famous Bengali passion to the fore. "Have people forgotten about how Aamir Sohail's offstump got uprooted? Or the time when he decimated Pakistan in the World Cup and at Chennai?", outraged a Prasad fan from Bangalore.

Baba Ramdev himself is quite nonplussed by all the jokes floating around. "Don't tell anyone - but all this is a sly social media campaign for myself - see how many times I've been able to get myself to trend over the last month. Haha, top-of-mind Baba recall! Now in a couple of months, noone will remember all this, but the name will stick, and my businesses will flourish! Huzzah!", said the man. If our sources are to be believed, the marketing department at IIM Ahmedabad are keen on getting him to lecture their students.

The bowler himself is not amused by the humour floating around at his expense. Last heard, he is attempting to file a case against the Twitter users who started this trend. He is in the process of identification of a middleman for this purpose.

Friday, May 20, 2011

WHAT WE'LL MISS OUT ON

(Warning: High Twitter-based stuff in post ahead)

Pity, really, that the world is going kafut. By this time tomorrow, we'll all be little carbon-based powder. If we're lucky. Times like these - and by times, I mean periods of imminent extended separation (last day of college, cosmic separation, parting of strangers in a bar after spilling out life secrets) - cause us to reflect. Like never having told that cute girl you had a crush on her. Or wondering whether, like the guy in the Naukri ad, you can hydrate your boss' garments. It also provides a moment of sadness and eternal mystery. Did she really want to discuss the advantages of using Lithium Aluminium Hydride as a insulator in high-temperature abrasive industry, or did she just want to have sex? Is Stonehenge real? What does the S on Jughead's tee-shirt stand for?

Like all cool folks these days, and by cool folks I mean people on Twitter, we too will feel all of these emotions. Here are the biggest Twagedies of them all.

1. We'll never know the real identities of @cgawker, @jhunjhunwala, @eyepeeyell and @raytida.

2. We'll never get to read Dork 2, 3 and 5. Book 4, I hear from a credible source, is terrible and will be condemned to hell, so I can catch it there.

3. We'll never get to actually see @nayakgirin getting married. Or for that matter, celebrate his real birthday.

4. We'll never get to hear @nayakgirin talk in real life. The only people who have heard @nayakgirin talk so far are : The professor who took his viva in engineering, Vodafone customer care executive Rajeshwar and @cornerd, aided by bionic hearing, who claims to have heard him squeak 'Otha!' while watching the World Cup final when Tweetdeck crashed.

5. @siddev18 will never get a hug in real life from @gulpanag. On a related note, the world will also end with @anantha giving a middle finger to the former, saying "Bwahaha, I beat you!"

6. Wildlife photographer S.U. Saravanakumar will never make an appearance on Bosey again. This is a true S.U.S. situation.

7. We'll never get to see @SahilRiz spoof Tusshar Kapur's planned magnum opus of 2014, Balma - Ek zati khujli ki kahani

8. We'll never know what 'livetimefe' means. My guess is something to do with iron.

9. We'll miss out on @diogeneb epically cracking a way to anagram "AAAAA". And still make it funny.

10. We'll miss out when @notytony finally manages to make a pun on 'Gradwolf' which hasn't already been done before.

11. We'll miss out on Twitter breathing a collective sigh of relief when @chuck_gopal finally gets a Sennheiser HD800 and shuts the fuck up.

12. Poor @dharmeshG will miss out on his dream of going to Los Angeles and... Oh wait.

13. @mokkai_mak won't be around to see the fruition of #DateforMAK (Machan - it was long-term strategy... Don't go by initial bomb)

14. We won't be around to see @Ashvala do a clean sweep of the Nobel Prize, Man Booker Prize, All Academy Awards (from best director to best maintained set), all of Guitar Magazine's awards, ICC's cricket awards (he won everything including lifetime achievement award and best newcomer award in the same year - he overtook Bradman's career aggregate in just two games. Yes.)

15. @udupendra would not have found a Gothic classic punk-poprock metal electronica emo band from Papua New Guinea.

16. I hear from credible sources that the term 'onejubb' was going to be included in the Oxford English dictionary from next year. Alas... Otha just missed.

17. We'll never know @pranavbackliwal's real age (Look at his actual pic. Mild 12-year-old-making-debut-for-Pakistan feel)

And, the biggest tragedy of them all,

18. We won't be around to see #Dhruv, #YoungerSon, #Olssen, #Boo and #SidNanda (and #Self for that matter) have Twitter accounts.

Happy apocalypse, everyone!

PS: Thank yous to Photoshop expert extrordinaire and Beeyand-ruh West gurrl @sayaneeh for coming up with the name of the shady movie in Point 7. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

THE BEAUTY OF RAWNESS

It's a debate I'd been trying to argue with myself about. Raw or refined? Which of these do we prefer? Which is to say - which do we say we prefer, and which do we actually prefer?

Come on, it's not like you haven't been victim to it.

Sure, you like Test cricket. Who wants to appear cool on Twitter in their right mind doesn't? Talking about Rahul Dravid's 148 is the 'in'-thing in this age of slam-bam-thank-you-DLF cricket, it's all the rage to talk about Laxmanian beauty and Waughesque elegance. Equal contest between bat and ball is where it's all at. No?

Why, then, are you willing that unknown batsman to score a six off every delivery? Why do you want Manbeast to race to a century off 25 deliveries? Are you telling me that when you see the score in an ODI being 100/0 off 8 overs, you do NOT have visions and heck, even dreams, of the batting team scoring 500? And when the opener gets out for 86 off 32 deliveries, you feel a sense of Awwwwfuck!-edness, even though  externally you'll proclaim that you're happy normalcy has been restored?

Like George Carlin said, "Get outta here". You love sin as much as anyone. You may say you're on a diet, eating sprouts and drinking grapefruit juice, and saying to the world you're happy about it. Balls. You fantasize about Snickers and fried chicken (not KFC, that's just crap) all the time.

Rawness. It's there in all of us.

It was something I thought I lost after coming to Mumbai, attending gigs in hep places like Blue Frog. Here, you had to portray the image of being knowledgeable. You felt almost shameful sneaking in before 9 PM and not ordering anything, standing around reading articles on your phone, while bills of five digits were being racked up around you, and you knew for a fact that the waiters were sneering at you behind your backs. Band comes on. Polite headbobbing. A few \m/ signs if things were really kickass. Mild jumping. But heck, the place is nice and air-conditioned. It didn't feel like you'd just been through a draining concert. Also, you score style points if you have a huge camera. The bigger the better. Camera that is.

And then, something like B69 happens. To be precise, a Zero gig happens at B69. On a Saturday.
If you were expecting comfort, I'm sorry.

After goodness knows how long, I could feel sweat even though I wasn't really moving too much. Suddenly, having a Nikon D5000 meant nothing. Because you could hardly see the band anyway (flat surface) and hence, you couldn't show off your gear either. Not that anyone really gave a damn. Because they were jumping around and screaming.

It'd been 4 years since I'd done something like that. Ever since I was just too protective of expensive phones, cameras and various other paraphernalia on my person to actually enjoy myself.

Zero came on. The usual set of tracks followed. I could spot the usual bunch of madmen, who were all gearing up. Something had to give.  It was itching, really. The lead up to PSP 12", their most famous track, was agonizing. Like you could feel Sachin just winding up to thrash Kasprowicz out of the park.

Bassline kicks in.
I knew it was time. I'd probably never get this chance again.

Warren plays the arrpegio.
I threw my gear to the side where friends would take care of it, kept the glasses safely in my pocket.

"If I had the time to stay here all night".
I navigated my way through the barricade. Got right in, as it were. High-fived a couple of people who I knew were usual participants in such events.

"If I had my way... Then I wouldn't hear you say..."
I was holding onto people who I didn't know. They didn't care. We were all one.

"Ah, ah, ah, aaah!"
This is it. This is it. Get ready.

"Standingbystandingbystandingby...."
FUCK! This is madness! Jumping up and down like I've never done! Screaming the two words that make up the entire chorus. Ramming into people. Throwing an absolute stranger into someone else because he asked me to.

2.5 minutes later, it was over. I was hoarse. I was sweating. Hands on the shoulders of fellow Zeroheads. No idea who they were. Didn't matter.

Took me a while to recover, it did.

That was raw. It was beautiful. There's something about gigs like this.

Monday, April 18, 2011

ROCKBAND INTERVIEWS

So I wrote a small post outlining my favourite Deep Purple songs yesterday. I didn't expect too many people to read it, as it was more of a personal compilation. Perhaps some peeps who were interested in rock music, yeah, maybe.

However, what I got was something else totally. 79 comments on Facebook - most to do nothing with the post itlsef, but outlining various 'interview' situations for rock musicians around the world. What started it of course, was my good friend and PaGaLGuY's ed-in-chief Apurv - who said what a Deep Purple guitarist application interview would be like. This seemed like a good enough meme for some short-term hilarity, and myself, Milcom and Failgunner happily contributed. Some more contributions by MSNarain and a few others later, we saw a goldmine. I didn't know whether the meme had enough potential to warrant a Tumblr like this one, so I'm testing it out on the blog first, and let's see where it goes from there.

Without further ado - Rockband Interviews.

Deep Purple:

DP Member: Do you know the blues scale?
Prospective: Yes.
DPM: Do you have a distortion pedal?
P: Yes.
DPM: Have you any ambition left in life?
P: No.
DPM: Great. So when does your ex-band notice period end?



==


Iron Maiden:


IM member: How many chords do you know?
Prospective: Three... A, G and F.
IM member: The actual chords?
Prospective: I can play only the power chords
IM member: That's good. You're sure you know absolutely no other chords, right?
Prospective: Yessur.
IM member: Excellent. When can you start?


==


For GnR (any post other than vocalist)

GnR member: Do you know the name of this band?
Prospective: Uhm... Yes
GnR member: Do you know any of our songs?
Prospective: Er, yes *plays first two notes of SCoM*
GnR member: Perfect! How long do you think an album should take to get recorded in?
Prospective: Atleast 15 years. Gotta take your time with these things.
GnR member: You're hired!



==


For U2 guitarist post : 
Bono (puts away charity file) : do you know how to play more than 2 notes on the guitar?
Slash : yes .3
Bono : NEXT.
Edge : I will give you Lita if you pick me.
Bono : i like the name but no
The Edge : I can play 1 note only if i use a stupid tool on the guitar.
Bono : YOU'RE IN!!! Now sign over your mortgage to Charity.



==


For GreenDay lead guitar (snigger) post:
GD member: Can you play a note on the guitar?
Prospective: Yes
GD member: Can you play it 8 times in a row?
Prospective: Yes
GD member: When can you start? By the way, you have to bring your own mascara.



==


For any new project in the Indian rock scene
Band member: What's your name?
Prospective: Siddharth Coutto.
Band member: You're hired!



==


For Megadeth : 

DM : can you play better than Kirk Hammett?
Prospective 1 : no man, he is the best and i love his wah.
DM : *slaps him* get out!
Prospective 2 : Sure. EVERYONE CAN
DM : :D
DM : what guitars and amps do you play?
P2 : I use..
DM : IT DOESNT MATTER WHAT YOU USE. You have to use the same ones i do or you are not hired
P2 : sigh. Ok I will stop using my ENGL tube amps and Jackson custom guitars for...Dean and Marshall :|



==


Modern-day Pink Floyd interview:
DG: Why haven't you touched my feet yet?
P: Lower your gaze sir, my surgically planted wooden third arm too is touching your feet.
DG: Good. Get the lyrics from my wife



==


For ZZ Top:
Band member: Do you have either facial hair or a name with elements of it?
Prospective: Sure... My name is Harry Moustache and...
Band member: HIRED!



==


For Metallica's crew post:

Lars : Hi. have you ever downloaded a song off the internet illegaly?
Prospective : Uhh... everyone has.
Lars : Light the beacons!
(beacons are lit)
Lars: My lawyers will be in touch.



==


Dream Theater:
Band member: Are you a level 893489 Trinity college examination holder in any instrument?
Candidate: Uh... No :(
Band member: Can you sing?
Candidate: A bit, but I've been accused by the rest of my band for dragging them down.
Band member: Sign here, please.



==


Blind guardian interview. Circa release date of The children of Hurin.

HK : who is your favourite author?
P1 : J K Rowling! :D Gay4 HP.
HK : *sets fire to p1*
P2 : Tolkien.
HK : Don't lie. Name your favourite book by him
P2 : the children of hurin.
HK : DEI
P2 : Why did you misspell die?
HK : I bet your favourite metallica song is nothing else matters.
P2 : Yes! how did you know.
HK : oh so you are basically every music fan in India?
P2 : *walks away*



==


Coldplay Interview : 

CM : Do you know A minor?
P1 : No but i hear all your fans are minors.
CM : DEI.
P2 : Yes it is the only scale right?
CM : You're Hired.



==


Backstreet Boys backstage:
BSB1: Look what I got, guys! A guitar!
Rest of BSB: You're fired.



==


Eric Clapton backing band interview:

EC: Have you learned any new musical skill in the last 20 years?
P: Nope.
EC: Hired!



==


Dragonforce :

Herman Li : So can you play 3192830912381 notes a second?
P1 : Hey didn't you deliver chinese takeout to me last night?
Herman LI : *gets sword out and slices P1 in half*
P2 : Hey i think there's enough racism here so i can play 1 note per second but when i speed it up like you do i can play 12039812093812093812839109382.
HL *slices p2 as well*
P3 : is this the Noodle making class?
HL : harakiri.



==


Rebecca Black:
RB: Can you write songs about the dilemma faced between choosing the front seat or the back seat of a car?
Candidate: Yes.
RB: Can you auto-tune?
Candidate: Yes.
RB: you're hired.



==


Lamb of God:
Randy: Can you make profound, meaningful lyrics and never make it seem so on stage?
P: I guess so.
R: Here, eat this.
P: *swallows, flinches*.. RRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHOOOOOAAAAAAAHHHHH *pukes all over the floor*
R: Pick him up and give him his lines.



==


AC/DC :

ACDC : do you still have your school uniform?
Candidate : no. why would i still have that?
ACDC : GET OUT!
Candidate 2 : I found this in my closet but i can't play guitar barring rehashed old acdc songs.
ACDC : hired!



==


Boyzone:
RK: We really like your voice and think you'll fit in perfectly well with us.
Candidate: Why, thank you! I look forward to being part of this group.
RK: I think we're good here. Do you have any questions?
Candidate: Why, yes, actually. What do you guys think of making original music?
RK: GETOUTOFHEREANDNEVERSHOWYOURFACEAGAIN



==


Harris Jayaraj:

HJ: Can you play the C minor scale?
P: Um.. yes but I'm not very sure about others..
HJ. Perfect! Hired.



==


Savage Garden:
DH: When do you think Greatest Hits albums should be released?
Candidate: Atleast once every two studio albums. No point letting the hits get stale, no?
DH: Perfect! Welcome aboard! Our induction programme includes a trip to the moon and back.



==


The Beatles : 
Candidate : before you ask me anything , let me tell you a joke.
Beatles : ok
C : knock knock
Beatles : who is there?
C : Ringo's most complex drum pattern.
Beatles : DEI!



==


Spinal Tap:
ST member: Are you prone to accidents
Drummer: Yes.
ST member: You're hired!



==


Opeth :

Mikael Akerfeldt : Are you a sexy beast like me?
C1 : Yes.
MA : You are fired
MA : Are you a sexy beast?
C2 : No.
MA : Have you been in a band longer than 3 years?
C2 : No
MA : You are hired
....
3 years later,
MA : C2, you're fired.



==


Linkin Park:
Chester: Do you know Photoshop?
Candidate: Why yes, I can also play the gui...
Chester: SHADDAP! YOU'RE HIRED!



==


Fort Minor :

MS : so what can you bring to our group? you look a little old.
Candidate : Ohh i came for the minors. isn't this the fort of minors?
MS : You pervert! this is my band's name.The minors are all pissed off with Mikhail's coldplay comment. you can find them there.
Candidate : yes! come to the precious.



==


Krish Ashok: 
Do you think TR is kvlt?
Yes.
Do you think TR is Awesome?
Yes.
Do you worship TR?
Yes.
You're hired!



==


Zero:


WM: Okay, let's test your GK. When is Christmas?
Candidate: Uhm... December.
WM: *sigh* Thanks. Next.



==


Blackstratblues:


WM : So you want to play in my live band?
P1 : yes.
WM : whichsongs do you want to play?
P1 : Bombay Rain!
WM : Did Mikhail send you here?
P1 : no sir. who is that?
WM : ok will let you know.
P2 : Hey man when are you releasing your albums on vinyl?
WM : Why has mikhail brainwashed all the candidates?



==


Oasis lead vocalist spot:
Noel Gallagher: First of all, do you have ANY Gallagher genes?
Candidate: Uhm no. I'm American.
NG: Thank goodness. Now, pronounce: S-H-I-N-E
Candidate: shine
NG: Again. Slowly.
Candidate: sheeeeeeeyiiiiine
NG: You're in! Don't bother getting your songwriting books along, I'll take care of that.



==


Zero groupie interview:


SC: So you know all our songs, albums, history, read all our articles on NH7, everything.
Candidate: Yessir.
SC: I think we're good to go. Tell me, what song would you like us to play more often?
Candidate: Cry.
SC/WM/RT/BT: Darn you Deepak, we told you you couldn't apply for this job. Get OUT!



==


Michael Angelo Batio:
MAB: So what sort of music do you like to play?
Candidate: I'm into slow-tempo, almost elevator-type music. Nothing faster than say 50 BPM.
MAB: You're just bloody lucky that my sarcasm isn't as good as my guitaring.



==


Don Ross:
DR: Oh wait, I don't need anybody else.

(PS: The dude is awesome)



==


Tenacious D
Jack Black: Do you have "Ious D" tattooed on your butt cheek?
Candidate: What?
JB: you're rejected.



==


Metallica bassist interview
LU: Are you Cliff Burton reincarnated?
Candidate: Er, no...
LU: Gah! Then atleast can you channel his spirit?
Candidate: Err.... Not really.
LU: YOULOUSYMOTHERFUCKERCANYOUATLEASTPLAYLIKECLIFFBURTON?!!!!!!!
Candidate: Noone can play like Cliff Burton, sir.
LU: Hired.



==


Led Zeppelin: 
Q: Have you heard of Jake Holmes?
A: Who?
Q: You are hired



==


The Who: 

Q: Do you want to join me and Bonham? we are trying to cut Peter Frampton's hair.
A: Ermmm... No?
Q: You are a pussy. Here. Catch this dynamite.



==


Phew :D


I'm guessing there are going to be a few contributions in the comments (I can hope, no?) I'll put those up on another post. Or... Perhaps even do a Tumblr if there are that many :)