Friday, December 26, 2008

Conservative Consumer?

Came across an interesting piece about the beleaguered American consumer today. The consumer was to be blamed partly for the worlds' ills because it was his propensity to consumer (over savings) that created the financial mess. Americans have negative savings rate and so on.

Joel Kurtzman in his post analysing home equity trends concludes that the American Consumer has been pretty sane in his decision making and payment of bills. Quite intriguing, if 48 million consumers contribute to $10 trillion in home equity and American GDP is $13 trillion how can the savings rate be described as it is?

Very very confusing. What exactly constitutes home equity?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Royal Enfield Thunderbird Twinspark

Ah now that I have gleefully completed 1000 Km just on the roads of Mumbai its time to write a review of the Thunderbird Twinspark. Review is quite an understatement, its more of a process description. More about the bike can be found here. I will put pictures of my bike later.

I ordered my Thunderbird to be delivered on 10 October 2008, originally. The Bandra showroom guy Nilesh kept asking me for the full amount (I guess a sign of the times) to start processing my order without letting me know that the delay would delay the bike. The bike costs a cool 1.07 lakh (on road) in Mumbai. This is without the the leg guards that you need to install on most bullet motorcycles. (I havent as yet tho').

Nilesh was very helpful otherwise, I do not have local proof of address in Mumbai and he helped me to get the bike registered (by providing a document from my office that attested that I work in Mumbai). Its quite interesting that in Mumbai you dont need to go the local RTO to get the bike registered. As in every other task, no one has the time. A passport copy (for age/permanent address et all) is all that I had to provide.

The Thunderbird is a unique bike in the sense that for first time in the bullet stable, they key product is a difference over their trademark gear shifts (the gear shift is the more traditional left leg) and the engine is the new twinspark engine (one goes atleast the other will work assures my mechanic).

For the first 500 km the only problems I faced was excessive vibrations of the handle and a hitch in the gear shift. Quite impressed. Maybe the Thunderbird is the bike after all. At the stroke of 500 km you are supposed to get your first servicing done. Before that my bike broke down, twice on the road. The one thing about the Thunderbird, its very difficult to push along (not minding the fact that you look like an idiot). I called in all the bullet experts I knew, no advice seemed to work.

The local mechanic Razzak came, stripped the bike naked (amazing simple to do it) and then gave up. (He left me wondering what to do, he wanted no money but for me to let him know what the problem was). Finally, I called up the bullet servicing guys, Chandrakant and Suryakant from Sharda motors. Chandrakant's mechanic stripped the bike again, couldnt figure out what was wrong and they towed the bike away. That felt bad somehow.

The spark had disappeared because of an internal circuit problem which Enfield replaced (these things are part of the 1 yr guarantee). I couldnt pick up the bike for a long time again because of my schedule, but when I finally did, I have clocked more than 500 km in city traffice. The Thunderbird is very smooth, very classy and easy on the body. A bit tricky to negotiate long traffic jams (you ride close to the footpath) but you get used to it. The real thing to get used to is the weight. Frigging heavy, given my weak upper body thats quite a balancing act. The mileage is about 38 kmph as of now. But then, the moment you release the throttle ( I am on speed restrictions you see), its exhilerating. You start gliding on the road......

Now to go out of Mumbai.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

25 th Anniversary of the Cell Phone

Caught an arbit piece of news while browsing CNET (yes, after a long time), it was the 25th anniversary of the cell phone. The steps that we have taken in this technology is mind boggling. From the clunky phone to the uber-cool iphone to possibly the ultimate touch screen net book you could ever possibly see.

I guess we in India would have to wait till we describe the 25 yr (1995 is the year that it made an appearance in India I think) happens, but where we were late we have caught up and possibly in some applications and the cost to the end user gone ahead of most of the other markets.

Should the advance in telecommunication be seen as purely economic ( critical mass production afford-ability end use) cycle or should it be seen as an advancement in science? As wireless usage through phones pick up, seamless connectivity across the world could be the key.

Security, global access should be the key drivers.

Unified telecom anyone?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Being An Indian - Pavan K Varma

Just finished reading the book, for once the content is refereshingly local, anecdotes are personal and the targetted audience is likely a mix of domestic/global. The book packs rare insight into some of the common traits that are found across this breathtaking (literally) country of ours. Pavan K Varma (an interesting essay here, a former diplomat eases through our apparent dichotomies very deftly, while still harping on the macro perspective: are we are reaching escape velocity or a precipice?

Varma's overarching themes in his book are power and stability. Power being the single most coveted possession of most Indians and the necessity of stability for establishment and maintenance of power heirarchies. Mind blowing stuff. We cannot but go revolutionary except in small pockets because we dislike disorder. Classify everything available so there is order in life while pursuing social mobility.

Karma helps us tide over the past and present with the eternal idea of hope. Our own mileau is more important than what is good collectively so as a soceity we will remain apathetic.

The idea of the books is to provide ideas that are common to India and it succeeds brilliantly in it. Possibly a lot of research has gone into some of the analysis, but I would like to have a bit of statistics (would have made it a tome but maybe online source to all reference material would have been helpful :D ).

Anyway, a heavy book I read it in bits and pieces in over 2 months. Yes, a bit loaded as of now.

New moozik - Arun Ghosh

Found a new kind of sound on the jet flight recently to hyderabad. Arun Ghosh, uses a clarinet

you can listen to some of his works here.

The piece aurora is the best piece I have heard in a long long time, awesome stuff.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Wierd notes

Among all the 'bade bade shehro mein choti choti baatein'(straight SRK, straight delhi) stuff that has been flowing around, what has really been surprising is absolutely has been the 'calm' that has been exhibited by the MNS & their ilk. You an almost hear the lament that most policemen who died in the line of fire were marathi manoos. No call for ouster. No public outrage. Surprising to say the least.

Among other things, media reactions quickly covered the lucky escapes that people had. Those were the titbit stories, infact last heard Rajdeep Sardesai was taking a survivor to court for having provided first info to Arnab, that crusader in a suit.

Lot of movies & multiplexes went empty over the last weekend and India apparently is going to the International Court of Justice to claim compensation for loss of business revenue.

The reactions to the scores of candles are mixed, the hindi media channels which are now done with their exhaustive pigeons dead count are now counting no. of flies & other such benevolent insects which got killed because of the additional candles. India is apparently going to be pulled up at the next WTO meet because of not providing patent protection to global candle makers.

A lot of people wanted to say that "the larger public anger got drowned in the cacophony of brazen political games", the only outrage was actually from bit torrent inc & myspace because all bandwidth was taken up by outraged 'groups' on facebook & orkut - so those lot of people are definitely unhappy.

And Naqvi - ? Need I say more.

Yama & Chitragupta will have few more busy days.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Understanding the crisis

Excellent link to what you need to watch out for during the current credit crisis here:

http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2008/11/credit-crisis-watch/

The question to ask is what the indicators say? Because the real economy might be different but the indicators have to show it, as in things have to get priced in.

As of now the situation is alarming.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Kashmir to Mumbai

The main difference between the hostage/gun battle situations (apart from the scale) between Kashmir & Mumbai terror operations has been the presence of the media. Apart from CNN-Iraq I don't think any counter terrorist operation has been covered in such minute detail on any media in any country.



So there have been pitched media battles between Arnab of Times Now, Rajeep of IBN and Sreenivasan/Barkha/Roy combo of NDTV. The hindi channels like India TV have carried quick comments, throwing caution to the winds and reporting anything that could be seen as san-sani-khez. The English media has been a wee bit more restrained, but since they have been the only source of information I guess people wont grudge them their extra bit of fame or TRPs.

Arnab I guess has won (you can see his enthusiasm in the attached video, yup its grotesque to call it enthusiasm but then its the media) gathering from everybody who has been watching. He is the top reality TV host among the mother of all reality shows. As seen from the phone call with the terrorist that was broadcast live (the police will need to check the veracity - and why was it telecast in the first place unless it was an express demand to keep hostages alive? ) this short war would have been very generous to the TV TRP s, but what about the sensibilities of the larger audience. They can choose to turn off you see.

What was not reported - whatever happened to the rest of the attacks on petrol pumps and taxis etc. While Nariman Point was burning, the trains the miraculous trains were back on schedule (salute to these heroes along with the fallen army/police heroes). People who were fortunate not to be caught in the violence, were surely traumatized at the choked airport (why did that happen?). The other issues were quite simply put, not chilling enough to be continuously telecast. The morality of the media has been widely debated, the debate has been closed with this round, they don't have any except to get to next "breaking news". Representative of the general society? Sure. Is it wrong? Hardly from the success of these shows (not having a choice is not a write metric, you can switch a TV off you know).

Poor army, along with the terrorists they have to deal with the barrage of the media. Brave media who will lay down their lives for our benefit. Such unbridled bravery.

The Final Solution?

Are we heading irrevocably into Hitler's Final Solution being implemented in India against minorities? There is a very strong likelihood of such an event happening.

Consider the odds: The mainstream population just hears that all minorities are not bad rhetoric, but there is bound to be a sinking feeling that invariably most attackers are from a particular community? Na rahega baas, na bajegi baasuri as the old saying goes. The majority can quickly come to a conclusion that they do not really have any other option.

I sincerely hope that we keep our humanistic spirits intact over and above any anger but I am not sure, especially when I look the state of Gujarat. Chilling. What can stop this, quick policy action for inclusive growth. People should have something to lose through the fear of persecution.

Lets keep our fingers crossed.

Terror attacks as a consequence of society?

What is so special about India, that despite repeated terrorist attacks the response of the Indian state seems 'soft' at best and apathetic at its worst? Is the Indian nation state and its heterogeneous society to blame for such a situation? I suspect the answer to that question is a resounding yes.

Even though Indian population is heterogeneous (a point harped on by hordes of commentators) it is still governed by the individual over the society principle. The world might have woken up to the 'its my life' syndrome just now, but we in India can claim to be the rightful owners of the legacy of 'individual'. We are incredibly focused on 'individual' salvation, so anything goes as long as it furthers the causes of the individual. Society be damned. Garbage - not in my house, electricity - i wont pay are just small examples of this behaviour. All the way through the educational system, I can hardly remember a focus to contribute to society. Most modern societies are clearly differentiated by the amount of time their members spend for the common good. We just don't understand that concept. To each, his own. So deep, so deceptive. So even this attack will be quickly forgotten, while the train blasts were targetted a the middle class - the rest did not care. The current attack is an attack on the elite - the rest wont care. So as they say, 'public' memory is very short. That is problem No. 1

Next in line, the standard comparison between Indian and western societies. Why does India not have a response mechanism? Counter-intuitive but the answer is to go slow. We as a nation have gone through change at such a mind boggling pace that different parts of the social fabric have been stretched in different directions. There is an urgent need to bring every one to the same page. You need leaders for that, and leaders will come. It will just take time. As we moved from a purely agrarian economy to a post-industrial information driven economy, large portion of the working class has been left behind. Industrialization was mandatory, because it would created a class of hard working blue collar workers whose children would have passed into the information stream on merit. Instead what we have is a few top class educational institutions, and vast tracts of the country still hit by partial employment (agriculture) and large scale unemployment. This problem is exacerbated by growth which has not trickled down across different streams. Very few Muslims make it to the main stream, they just don't have leaders who are willing to lead them to progress. We are a democracy which gives opportunities, but you need leaders who will lead the masses into progress (Martin Luther for example), else the democracy will not reach everybody. Muslims as a whole (who occupy 15+% of the population) surely don't occupy that much of the general workforce and hence are not included in the development. The rest of the country including the BIMARU states and the north-east have not been able to keep pace, but these states are characterised by hope at least. This can be clearly seen by the hordes of people who come to Mumbai to make a living. When you see everybody other than you growing, there is a tendency to blame someone (disagree, think of the last time you blamed someone in office?) and the majority is easy to blame. The minority could have been anyone, by here unfortunately the Muslims have been cornered into such a response. Kuch nahi to qaum hi sahi.
We need to urgently step back and think of how to provide inclusive growth. Thats problem No 2

Till we as a nation come around to facing these issues (of course my analysis here is purely touching upon a few issues and could be entirely wrong, the job is best left to sociologists) we are bound to be the victims of more terror attacks. In God we trust.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Terror in Mumbai - Open attacks

Indians will need to brace themselves for a new kind of terror. The terrorist has no face, no ideology, except for a pure burning hatred - and the open desire to kill, as many as possible.

This round of almost videogameque terror (indiscriminate shooting at public places) is the most horrific (if there could be a comparison) of the series of terrorist attacks that have happened across India over the last year. News TV reality shows has had its TRP's, everyone has condemned the attacks (including a rare show of solidarity between the Congress and the BJP), over 100 are dead including some of India's best police officers and still there are no answers.

I spent yesterday night in office. There was no option to travel home, every mode of transport was quickly covered ensuring a state of maximum panic. The city of Mumbai came to standstill today (even at 5 p.m) in the evening the roads were mostly empty. The hotels are symbols of India's business, all expats mostly stay there and I myself have attended innumerable meetings in the now infamous lobby of the Taj & the Trident. The attacks will shake people like never before, especially for foreigners who will first be aghast at the atrocity of the attacks and then over the fact that the ordeal has still not ended as I write.

Can the police be blamed? Police policy sure, but actual ground personnel? Not really. Well armed, well trained (? not sure about this) terrorists against local police who just about are doing their jobs holding a rifle in hand. No chance. NSG was brought in only in the morning, there was no crack Mumbai team after the top cops were killed. How were the top cops congregated at Cama Hospital and how did the AK 47 bullets pierce through the bullet-proof vests?

If it is true that the attackers came through the sea, what was the coast guard doing. Having been indicted in helping arms flow through for the 1993 mumbai blasts, this is other unforgivable mistake. There are a lot of questions which needs answers. Hopefully we shall see the end of this by the end of the day.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Movies - Break, multiplex ticket fares ridiculous!!

I have pretty much stopped (ok, cut down significantly is the right phrase) watching movies for the last couple of months. Movies are a general source of entertainment for me and the thrill mostly is seeing the movie in its first weekend. Good movies, bad movies (and all the rest which fall in between and are way more difficult to categorize) - but movies have been my lifeblood for a long long time now.

I used to watch a lot of them at JNTU, alone or with a group of friends. In Indore, one always had the LAN to look forward for any sort of interests in movies. At Morgan, we all shared the same love for movies (or atleast the popcorn), so we gobbled up those movies - as they came in .

But now, I have a problem, any decent release at most theatres costs 240+ on an opening weekend. Now with the weight of promotions & the economics I understand that the producers/distributors want to recover money ASAP, but I for one find the prices ridiculous. I think the producers are taking the low cost airlines route, keep increasing prices irrespective of the serivce on offer, hoping that new clientele will drop in where existing ones have dropped out.

Movie ticket prices have seen a 100% (or more ) run up in the last 2 yrs. What justifies this hike? Should the revenue patterns of muliplex es be seen as viable? At 240+ bucks, defnitely not me. I think more people will start realizing that its not worth it very soon.

What do you think?

I was on TV !!!

That's definitely a first for me. I would have loved the topic to be something that I am interested in currently, but a few minutes on live TV on "Perspectives beyond CAT" in the A-List B school series is good enough for me.

Trutec, Raghav Aggarwal is one awesome chap. He and his kid bro (Raghav is 21!!) run a education startup solution that helps s get across question papers/projects etc online. Once this is done, its only a matter of time before you start using the hosted data for a host of applications. The interesting part is that, they run India based servers and are able to sell the pay-per-use concept. These concepts were not gaining traction I thought. Clearly proves that I am possibly out of touch on this.

But yaay I came on TV.

Rajiv Gandhi International Airport - Redux

Visited Hyderabad after a long time. While the facilities at the new airport remain excellent and the structure can be on par with global airports, the transaction cost is going to screw customers significantly over the coming quarters.

First, the shuttle service has moved from 100 to 150 into the city (maybe the earlier rates were teaser rates), roads are definitely better but really 50% escalation in 6 months? The user development fee (UDF) of 375 that one pays on entry to domestic airlines will increase the transaction cost some more.

When the passenger growth was going up up & away, this was not a problem. But a cost structure of an additional 500 bucks/head might make most families to choose trains instead.

Train time: To station: 0.5 hour, hyd-mumbai: 14.5 hrs, mumbai local travel: 1 hr: Total 16 hrs

Flight (assuming someone is flying strip down airlines (for lack of better terminology): To airport :2 hrs, check in hyd check out mumbai: 3 hrs, mumbai local travel 1 hr: Total 6 hrs

So, even though there is a clear 10 hr saving, for a decent size family (4) burden could be too much. Maybe some thought needs to go from the GMR guys to ensure that the UDF is not a simple number. Else they will end up hurting more during these troubled times.

How much did the udf have to contribute to the viability of the project? Whats the experience been globally? Need to look those up.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Adios.....Ganguly

Saurav "Dada" Ganguly, say what you like about the man, but he should single handedly take credit for what Indian cricket has been for the last few years. Of course the man has his idiosyncrasies, but then this is India - every nitwit and his father have gone to self-trips in course of power mongering.

But "The Prince of Kolkata" was different, he was a break from the tradition. His batting relied on hand eye coordination and in his return tour to England after a prolonged hiatus he was spectacular, his batting would rank next only to those Azzu bhai innings against the poms. When he is on the pitch, you will be forced to focus on what he is doing. Maybe thats the difference between Azhar and Ganguly. Ganguly knew where the focus would be and made sure that he made a positive difference there.

Just look at the current stars that we have, Yuvraj, Sehwag, Zaheer, Harbhajan, Irfan, Kaif etc were all picked, groomed, defended by Ganguly. And the 'boys' delivered for their 'dada' with a bang, that fired Ganguly into doing what he does best, ungli. Ask Waugh or Flintoff how the proverbial finger feels. Meanwhile Ganguly went on scoring runs, piles of them. He dominated the famous Sachin-Saurav combo, but for having a handicap against short-pitched bowling he would have been better at tests too.

He created a huge mess in the Chappell saga, but you cannot count him out. He planned his entrance, all the way down to the pr strategy (remember the ad?) and made a spectacular (and successful to boot) entry into the Indian cricket circus. He played the elder statesman to the hilt, Dada still lights up Yuvraj and Sehwag if you ask me. And his 300+ runs in this series buried his greatest nemesis, Waugh would be proud of him.

The best known proponent of sport mind games in India, cocksure, arrogant, the prince, the god of offside, one who played favoritism, did not play the game in the right spirit, the naghma scandal... pick your memories of him, but one thing you definitely cannot say about him, that he was an unknown fighter for an uncompetitive team. Credit to Ganguly, he has changed that forever.

For me, his ability to rally the team around him and those lofted shots over the infield shall remain enduring images.

Tradition? my foot.

Circuit city closing ... not good, not good at all

Have not posted in quite sometime, but things are getting bleaker by the day. Circuit City is down,
GM share is quickly moving to zero (in fact the price target from the Barclays analyst was reported as zero in an earlier report, maybe an error) and Roubini is till shouting hoarse that things will be bad all the way into 2010 now.

Back home, the steel sector is beginning the first of the large scale job cuts/forced holidays/pay cuts, not long before it starts creeping across industries. Recruitment at campuses is down, from what I can glean from the HR junta.

IT surprisingly seems to be holding out, infact folks at CTS and TCS are talking about more projects coming through, quite counter intuitive tho'.

What to make of it: Circuit City is from what I have read is good business, but lack of availability of credit can prohibit the company form putting up new goods in stores and since electronic goods depreciate very fast, the existing inventory would get repriced and costly to hold even with a small fall in sales.

For the India story there is only one option, go full stream Keynes, no better time to put money into those infrastructure projects. Will stabilize economy and provide jobs across the sector. China has taken the lead here too and that too made a big scene about it.

Brace yourself for more. One of my analyst friends wants to remove all references to the word downturn from the dictionary, I tend to agree with her.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Holographic images from CNN rocking




A crazy crazy CNN election gimmick. But gimme some more anyday, i definitely did not know we were so advanced on this

Click for explanation

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

At a coffee bar...

You know those upmarket coffee shops, yeah yeah now there are dime a dozen and possibly are not so upmarket anymore, I am a part of that. We have watched the nation grow over the last 5 years, I myself have seen two upgrades to better styling and design. For a country that devours tea/coffee at home so religiously, its not a surprise that we took very easily to the coffee bar, but why people pay such silly prices beats me. But then I am just a piece of furniture, humans must be very intelligent.

I do come across a variety of people, some who sit on me almost as if they are embarrassed about hurting me, some sit very heavily, some sit on the edge, some make me balance on my hind legs (yeah that's how a sob broke one of my beautiful legs ). The habits are more varied, some stupid idiot always insists on violating me by sticking his gum on me (thank god for the cleaning boy) or some overworked desk eater will want to bore holes through me by rocket farting. A couple holding their hands melts me more often than not (yup, they say I am too soft), chattering college kids (of the female variety) who can chat about anything on the planet and get on your nerves, yap yap yap. Then there are the creeps who keep bending down to get a glimpse of the legs that are shown around more often than not these days (don't laugh, first when they used to bend down I thought they wanted to admire me you know, I am I not much more beautiful than the girl there?). You can easily judge most people who come here. But then I am just a piece of furniture, humans must be very intelligent.

You should listen to some of the converations - my comments in italics:

Hottest topic these days "Markets are falling man, hamara sara paisa doob gaya. Mera bhains bhag gaya, I mean the bull markets have run away" (Humans dont understand risk? Or do they only like to crib in general?)

"Those muslims man, they should be thrown out of the country" (The mistake of making comments simply because one has the security of a majority)

"
Lets remake Starwars in Hindi, we shall also add Harry met Sally --- arre nahi thats already been done, ok we will add 12 monkeys to it no no Ajay Devgan nahin baba we dont want the 13th monkey do we? We need a bit of a crying and a bit of reality too... lets combine inconvenient truth and a bit of Lorenzo s Oil. Will it be atleast slightly better than Drona?" (From what I hear, anything will be better than Drona)

"
You dont trust me, how much do you love me, baby (and other cute names), what were you talking to the that girl/guy about, what are you buying me for my birthday, when are we getting married, remove that hand now, what should i wear for the party-lets buy something-nothing is fitting-its your fault-you dont like me" (Recursive - yup among all couples)

"Sachin should retire, the board should bring back Ganguly, the left is right this time, congress is wrong, Sanjay should get married, India should blast more bombs, you should sell i mean buy i mean sell right now, that bank is collapsing, that guy is a fraud - the world is corrupt, too much poverty in India I say, we should show China its place, India should innovate more, Society should have more culture in it, filmstars shouldnt expose more, India should do no human rights violations, we need more less infrequent frequent regulations ...helpe me" ( Armchair experts)

I guess I am being to sarcastic, humans must be knowing what they are doing, after all they created me (or did matter just flow onto iitself). I am just a piece of furniture, a chair in a coffee bar. Next time you are having coffee you may be sitting on me.

Credit Squeeze - India story

The whole of last 2 weeks there have been repeated rumours of banks collapsing, restriction in trading amongst banks and now finally we hear that banks have stopped lending to each other. No indicator can really prove this because the inter bank rate would be on recorded transactions, whereas if there are no trades there is no price.

I generally believe that the Indian Banking system is sound, mostly becase of tardiness and regulation rather than anything else, but I would to know what is happening to those currency hedges sold at USD/INR at 40? Do any of the banks have an exposure on this?

Every body is sitting tight on liquidity right now and will wait for the tide to pass. Whats the best thing to do?

1) Put money into FDs, post tax 7-8% is not bad eh?
2) Buy physical gold - it cant get stolen you see
3) Go on a holiday, your money will anyway buy you more today.
4) Stay in cash as yet

Q 2 earnings, holy mother of god.. now thats coming. Consider this compared to last year;

Rupee: Down an average 10%
Interest rates: Up an average 2-5%
Commodity (over the last quarter): Up 2-5%
Wages (the wage hikes would have become effective towards end of 1 Q and continued in Q2) - 5%

Prepare for the earnings moderation ahead.

Seems like a buy signal doesnt it ? Sure does, but might as well wait for a bit of stability, you are not retiring in 2 months are you?

Fed Fails to calm the markets

How has the Fed handled the crisis?
1) Very poor
2) Pathetic
3) What were they thinking?
4) Save me from the FED

Sylvester Stallone would have done a better job, Rocky for Chairman of Fed Reserve. Should the best response would have been to wait and watch and continue the inflation targetting, which is what central banks have been doing from the Freidman era? or will the interventionist policy save the day.

I would still take a view that the Fed would have been best served by not really getting involved with any of the individual players. What they should have purely done is that guaranteed all deposits, investors can lose as much money as they want but the depositors losing money will send the economy into a tailspin. Fed was to be the bailout mechanism of the last resort, the continuing freeze in the credit markets essentially proves that the Fed has failed and that it cannot restore faith in the markets. (The Fed was held responsible even during the Great Depression).

Now the Fed will play the Keynes Quote "The markets can remain irrational longer than the rational investor can remain solvent", Fed is buying up all the assets and if that it not working, it is frightening to say the least. Of oucrse the Fed really couldnt be blamed if every stupid bank in the entire developed world bought the same stupid assets and shoved it up their (now the Feds ) ass can it?

And how much did the shorts ban contribute to financials fall yesterday?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The magic of reality shows or lack thereof

I am part of a reality household, not that there are cameras are fixed up in my house but somewhere close to it. There is some reality show or the other going on most of the time. I am not really a fan of TV shows, let alone reality shows. They are a lot many of them playing these days and as I am told, there is a huge audience for these shows. Beats me, ok, any sort of media for transmission of ideas is a reality show in one way or another. The english premier league, F1, the great comic tearjerker called the US election all of these try to involve audiences to an extraordinary extent.

But reality shows go on to the next step, that of allowing you to get into the personal domain of someone else. The question automatically pops up: If you got a chance to become invisible what would you do? Reality shows provide that voyeuristic opportunity a kind of pseudo-invisibility. You would be surprised how normal decent people can hook on to perverse reality shows. As I love to generalize, reality shows provide that mirror which unlocks the true nature of the people concerned.

The portrait of Dorain Gray?

Manchester United - AIG


The financial crisis in the US could leave an unsuspecting victim in its wake - Manchester United.

Not about the sponsorship deal that AIG has ( I have no clue about that), but the general association with the fallen (ahem US Govt owned) brand could prove disastrous to the the general image of Manchester United as the ultimate victory machine.

Far fetched, but fans don't need more than an iota of indication of why their team has lost. Its a long season, hope the management rectifies its association soon :)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Inaction

Papa, “ What does terrorism mean?” . “ It does not mean anything beta”, “Ram Ram, these news channels have no work but to pollute young minds, see what kind of images they keep showing, how much it is going to affect my beta’s thinking”. A year passed.

“Papa, does god teach people to become terrorists? Or is it a man made thing? Why are there so many gods? My teacher says that all gods are one? Is it true…… have you seen god?” “Arre beta, what sort of thing they teach you in school these days. Just immerse yourself in studies and don’t worry about such trivial things. If you stand first in class I shall buy you a cycle on Diwali and I will also take you to Vaishno Devi this time around” “Really papa?, the kid was delighted.” May God give some peace around so that my kid can study. He has to turn out as a good asset for society, all these bomb blasts can keep happening. I will not allow this to affect his studies. “My son will not be drawn into these things, he is brilliant and he will make his father proud” The blasts seemed to occur more frequently now and across the country.

There was no regular pattern and all sorts of crazed out bastards were claiming responsibility. But what exactly were they fighting for?

A siren rang out in the street. Must be some fire. My beta would be on way home, having triumphantly cleared the entrance exam into the prestigious school. Why is that medical van stopping in front of my building ? Is that crazy man on the 4th floor dead? Let me see what the score is. “Beta, what happened?, what do you mean there was a bomb blast?, where is my son? But what did he do, what did I do to deserve this? “

A voice rang out, “nothing”.

Unknown

The city does not recognize me, my life is a constant struggle against the city. I am not from here you know, but I am not an outsider either. I make this city a city, because I come here with dreams. You know what happens to cities what are not built on dreams, where thousands troop in everyday in search of a better tomorrow? They die fast or they pass into a catastrophic path of decay. I for one have never been able to decide which is better. But, common, my city is not like that. It welcomed me into its fold, took care of me when I was lost and now I am struggling constantly so as to go up the social chain. But some the city does not recognize me anymore. I can die in a bomb blast, fall from a train or be run over by one of those well-to-do kids ( no no I am not jealous of them) but my beloved city will not care. It was not always like this, somehow I get the feeling that she is angry. I have lost my bearings, I have decided to join the crowd, be one among the millions who make up the numbers of the country ( it is not so bad you know, somebody has got to do that), I have given up my dreams, I have become…. What you see me in front of you right now. And my city has never forgiven me for this. She refuses to recognize me.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The war of the liberals

How liberal are you mate? Is being liberal accepting people as they are, irrespective of whatever they do? Is the definition of being liberal a product of the society? Or is it purely an absolute, an abstraction a mirage that you constantly keep chasing. I am extremely liberal, but you step on my shoes I might not remain so liberal after all. There is always an amount of hypocrisy in what is collectively perceived as being liberal. Your nation state, your religion, your community, your family, your favorite cricketer, your favorite musician and the likes determine how much of a liberal you are. If you have no requirements of putting yourself as part of a society or a group or do not believe in anything then you cannot really be a liberal can you? At some point when opposing views come into direct conflict with those of your own your liberalism disappears.

Our media goes through this extremely funny moments of classifying people as liberals/non-liberals. And anybody who is not a liberal is an extremist you know, period. But as always Mr Sardesai raises interesting quetions:

1) Where do Muslims stand in society? They stand in the same line as every other citizen of India.

2) Why arent they part of the mainstream? I havent read any indepth analysis of why they arent - they ruled this country for a long time, are they caught in the warp of time - refusing to join the mainstream? What are the causes for communal tension - a fear of a community losing its way of life. As our lives become faster, the threat becomes a fact of life for every average human being, so that tension is a reality.

3) Are ghetto's a reality? Yes again its got nothing to do with religion, its got more to do with a feeling of social status. Simplistically, you have your club membership right, the ghetto is the replica of the same the lower rung. The comfort of one's own. Is it really good ? I dont know. But the reality seems to be that more and more people want to part of a community that is similar.

More importantly, it is power that can change things. A small time leader can hold a country to ransom, so can a small violent community. Like it or not that is the reality.

Andher Nagri it is.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The conversation

“ Its quite remarkable, we are possibly living through the most important period of human evolution”, said Satyakama taking a long swig of his whiskey.

“Sure machan, two more of such swigs and I am sure you will evolve”, Devraj countered

The two learned men were sitting amongst the products of human evolution, the uniquely late 20 th century phenomenon called the call center workers. “Look at them, they are searching for an Utopia, coming from small villages learning English and hoping that life would take them seriously somewhere”

“Ooh, that whiskey is getting to you mate, last I knew the only thing you thought about these young things was that they definitely see more sex than you have managed all your life, hehehe”

“Possibly, but where are we going mate? You see information really differentiated populations for a long time. Now we are slowly moving towards a system where individuals in their capacity would remember nothing, electronically they would have all the information that they need. Body powered computers which download information continuously; competence will purely be determined by how you process information. And the processing will be purely be a function of the social network you belong to. Information is dead, long live information”, heavy stuff from Satyakama, the seeker of truth.

“Would have to agree to a certain extent, but what you really seem to miss is the reality tv angle to all this. No I don’t mean rakhi sawant s silicon”, Devraj was grinning

“That’s a bouncer mate, wtf do you mean?”

“Quite obvious, as soon as a process is observed as happening the outcome will fail the remain the same outcome the process was hurtling towards. If for a moment I assume that what you are saying is true, we shall all not turn in Paris Hilton, in fact I believe the very opposite will happen. People will assume that computers will take over ( one of the common running fear themes already in pop culture movies) and take actions to stop this. Soros used to called it the reflective property of markets”

“Advaitins would recognize the problem of separating the observer from the observed.”

“Yeah, yeah know it all, and wipe that bloody grin of the face. Its not the whiskey. Btw, how much do you think betting is prevalent in team sports such as EPL?”

“Don’t run Satya, the truth wants to follow you too, we shall discuss EPL later, but why run from the problem of collective consciousness? It has to be a cycle, like all the women you keep falling in/out of (don’t let your imagining run now), as a certain stability is raised individuals consciousness will become important and again over the next cycle individualism will lead to collective consciousness”

“What cycle? Atlas?”, Satyakama had a smirk on his face.“ No, no Rayleigh”. Satya was too lost in his thoughts to continue further, but he couldn’t decide whether the cycle hypothesis should hold true. Seemed funny tho, people on cycles. Like Lance Armstrong. “I will find the truth someday”, Satyakama mumbled. Maybe the gods, if they exist heard.

Rock On !!!

Too late to write a review I guess. But yes, I had an interesting conversation with my boss the other day, I was asking him if he would take an option of reliving his own life.

His answer was a resounding yes. That s what got me to what the movie Rock On having missed watching it with the gang ( and the fact that I had promised Prem C that I would catch a movie). There are people who have dreams and there are the rest.

I guess most of us would be like Aditya, we will give our best shot at our dreams with a bit of compromises thrown in, but if that doesn’t go through that part of our life is wrapped in a box and put in some corner of our minds taking a part of us forever. Joe is what makes the world a beautiful place, the artist who believes in the purity of art over and above everything else. And importantly atleast in India for most of the people I know there is no overriding dream that junta have. Dreams are replaceable, (as that stupid ad says, we adjust everything even our dreams) so no one talks about a second chance. But that luxury is still not available for people who are left with no options to pursue that to be stuck in the dull life.

The movie itself was pretty good.. Full of clichés ( and as pointed out repeatedly some heart warming moments), not the greatest of actors and as always suspended from reality (ok that s always acceptable)….. but it definitely rocks. But judging from the audience s reaction ( a thundering applause), people like rock music or everybody wishes they pursued their dreams and want to escape their normal drudgery or people were appreciating the shift towards newer ideas. Your guess is good as mine, but I am a pessimist and I shall assume the second option.

Farhan Akhtar is good without being great, Prachi Desai is exceptional, dunno who Debbie was but that was original, Purab was Purab, Arjum Rampal tried. But the music is what makes the movie. The lyrics are awesome, simplistic but then we don’t really want lyrics overflowing with urdu.

Sa hi Besura – Review

Saketnath ( Pandey), Roshni ( Shah), Mohit (Mourya)

Wiritten and Directed by Makarand Deshpande

I managed to see a play after a long time, thanks to the gang as always. Sa hi besura is a brilliant attempt at portraying an artist ‘s inner feelings coupled with an anguished fathers attempts to bring his daughter back into reality.

Act 1 starts off with Saketnath warning that the play has become a part of his life and the twists and turns of the play unfortunately portray the deep anguish that he feels. He is the quintessential old guard theatre actor who believes that the role of each actor on stage is to find his ‘sa’ among the navrasas. He believes that Sa is supreme, the beginning and end of the octave and finding his/her own sa is the true purpose of artist on stage.

Saketnath had a blackout on stage and is being nursed by his daughter through arranged rehearsals. A small time thief Prakash (as good a character as ever written, the comedian , the recent trend among movies/plays almost as if we cant take too much of seriousness) who had earned his bread through selling Sa hi Besura tickets in black helps in boosting the veteran actor s ego. But it is not so easy, Saketnath does not remember what he has done, drinks copiously and thinks the modern generation should spend time finding their Sa.

Roshni, Saketnath’s daughter carries the knowledge that her father wanted the son that had died during her childbirth and remains tormented by that fact, and she believes Sa Hi Besura’s character of a son is why Saket likes the play. Along comes Mohit, the artist who is supposed to play Saket s son in the play. Mohit is a brash young actor who has coached himself in the mannerisms of famous actors. He is earnest and sincere but according to Saket his talents are hidden by his desire to mimic and his impressions of acting. Saket tries to kindle the yearning for Sa in Roshni and Mohit. (Maurya as Mohit is simply exceptional, I cant believe that I laughed so much, movies plays or otherwise).

All through the exchange, there is a constant reference to Saket s wife Suchitra, both as a reference to Roshni s behavior and the (lack of) understanding/conflict between two artists. The end is to put it mildly, simply unexpected. No spoilers here.

The brilliant part of the play is really the openness of it all, the play speaks to the audience, and there is a self referencing loop and there is enough weight for the audience to think about each of the aspects being spoken about. Art, artist, son/daughter, conflict, stability the play is as multi layered as you choose it to be.

Prithvi Theatre in itself is quite a small place and the voice carries over well. Maybe sometimes a bit too loud and maybe a bit shorter, would have made it perfect. But I am not complaining anyway.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My first short story

A look over the lush green meadows, a drop of sweat was running down his face. “Why the fuck I am I sweating?”, he thought. It was pretty cold, especially for his body, used to the bright sun for most of the year. But still he was sweating. Maybe the room was very stuffy or a secret of his was about to be let out. Now that freaked him out, not that he had many secrets to keep, but the idea of his thoughts being laid out made him feel naked and vulnerable. So, he was a bit reserved usually. That charmed the lady, as far he could remember, SP was a ladies man. They had come in all shapes and sizes, most at best a few chats but a few affairs had been long drawn out and painful. There were the best of them and the worst of them. But none could come close to the one woman who had almost ruined him… “another time to think about her”.

He switched on the T.V, the only break from his monotonic life in the US. How different than he had first thought, here he was at the center of innovation on the planet and he was lost, forlorn and lost. A boob here or there did inspire him somewhat, but that need for a goal consumed him or he wanted it to consume him.

“Why don’t things ever consume me? Maybe its because my talent is very restricted? Not possible, I wouldn’t have gotten to where I have without talent. Maybe upbringing, nah too easy to blame. Will? That funny concept of will? Will to do what is my standard counter to that. There I go round and round., need to think carefully about this”

His wife was staring at him. She was quite young and quite naturally quite restless. He had been extremely excited by the prospect of marriage and so was she, but now his old fears began to creep back. He had managed to maintain his wall around himself, but what did she think of him? What exactly did she want from him? And what should he do with her? Fucking had been good, something he looked forward too. She was good at making conversation too but beyond that what? He was really too fake for her or maybe she was too fake for him. And she had that irritating quality of wanting to know everything.

“What you thinking about? Nothing. Now, don’t lie, how can you not think about anything?”, she smiled playfully. SP stared blankly, this is where he lost track always, was the woman serious or was she kidding him. The standard trick, “ I need to make a presentation, need some ideas” “Oh that’s it?”, the wife was visibly relieved, let me show you some sites that I came across. She yapped and yapped, SP dint get most of it but smiled and congratulated at her brilliance.

“Why the fuck wasn’t I born during the war? Atleast I would gotten the chance to be a hero. Even if I hadn’t really managed to kill anybody I would have had stories to tell, maybe lots of conspiracy theories as well”, SP had a thing for war stories actually. They provided him with the chance to be the hero that he never was. The next 2 hrs was spent thinking what he would have done if he had been a war general. That was another thing that bugged him, he was pretty good at the things that he took up, he just did not take up enough things.

And he thought too much. Now thinking never killed people, but it never got anything done too. And thinking with the dick never did help anyone. Bloody hell, “why the hell I am I so hard on myself?” SP settled with a book. One with short stories, “fuck the idiots who write long novels why would anyone be bothered to read 700 pages of crap?”, he smiled to himself, “atleast I don’t waste time like that”. This book was about a guy who was reading about himself.

A drop of sweat was forming on his forehead.

Coldplay Lyrics - " God put a smile"

Where do we go nobody knows

I ve got to say I am on my way down

God give me style and give me grace

God put a smile upon my face

( the most eerie music video I have seen till date)

Where do we go to draw the line

I ve got to say I ve wasted all your time honey honey

Where do I go to fall from grace

God put a smile upon your face

Yeah

Yeah, when you work it out I am worse than you

When you work it out I wanted to

When you work out where to draw the line

Your guess is as good as mine

Where do we go nobody knows

Don’t ever say your on your way down

God gave me style and gave me grace

God put a smile upon your face

Yeah, when you work it out I am worse than you

When you work it out I wanted to

When you work out where to draw the line

Your guess is as good as mine

Your guess is as good as mine

Man can coldplay write or what? Wanted to put down the lyrics for a long time, finally got down to it. The video comes as close to spine chilling as ever can be (or my idea of spine chilling rather).

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Wimbledon: Federer Vs Nadal, redux


Federer likes his not, his greatness would be decided this sunday on SW19, with the one man who he does not possibly want to meet. Or the man he most wants to meet.

On one hand you have the raw aggression of the Nadal, the guy who has improved from a muscular kid to one of the fittest, fastest players on the circuit. And the guy can think too. When he plays you play with him, right from his stupid superstition of wiping his biceps and adjusting his undies you just feel in awe of the awesome power of the guy and now you marvel at the sense of stage that he seems to have developed. The cranked up first serves on key points, the heavier spin the strokes and the sheer determination to win every point. Pure inspiration.

On the other hand you possibly have god himself playing, just one look at the guy. 3 sets in an hour, some hard aces, some placement serves, some amazing backhand winners all as if he is straight of the Milan fashion parade, in short pure genius. God will be proud of his creation.

But but but, Nadal has done what no body else has managed to do to Federer, get under his skin and force him to dig deeper and deeper. Federer has shown he is capable of doing that at Wimbledon, but in his heart even the great Federer must be thinking, I will be stopped by somebody in my career, is this kid it? He will not give in, because he might have to consider a Borgesque decision in case of a defeat and even if he does take such a decision he would want to leave on a winning streak.

The conditions this week have been pretty windy and looks like the trend is continuing in the ladies finals, that should aid Nadal, Federer does not like being off this rhythm. Nadal's mini struggle against Scheuttler showed us that the man was fallible after all and that would have offered Federer tremendous hope. Rafa did the same with Djokovic at the french semis, allowed him to sneak up a bit and then hammered him to a pulp again.

If indeed Nadal does manage to win, it will mark one of the most remarkable sports stories of all time. Lest there be any confusion of where my feelings are, Go Rafa Go

The problem of suicide?

The problem of suicide?

We keep hearing a lot of stupid (its appalling actually) stories about suicides these days. ( All religions have condemned it but there have been suicides from as far long as people can remember). Junta seem to be killing themselves on marks, love, sports, sex, religion et all. How they have lived life and killed themselves is important but more importantly what is the motivation for the average human being.

Camus considered the problem of suicide to be the fundamental problem of philosphy and life. Difficult not to agree with him.

The normal vigous that we associate with people ( of course combined with other different states) is towards general enjoyment of life and a fullfillment of potential or the path towards a goal.

If the above are not met, you might have considered the question or have the guts to follow the outcome you are as good as dead. Fucking wierd argument? Morbid, repulsive.

We can't ask camus, he committed suicide. His mind could not grapple with infinity you see.

Can our mind do it?

V

V for vendetta, saw that movie again some time last week and you have to hand it to the wachowski brothers to ask questions.

Is anarchy a long term solution? Looking at countries like china where dissent is killed easily (literally and figuratively) the larger audience seems to buy the official hard line arguments. How do you decide when a soceity is ready for anarchy?

Should soceities head towarda anarchy at all? I think the question is when and not should. The main concern with anarchy is the physical risk that it entails and hence the pain it could cause to the public at large. Historically anarchists have tended towards anarchy, but violent anarchy need not be the only possible method. For glory or infamy sure.

Why should soceities de generate?
1) They are tired of the atocities of the ruling parties. Anarchy as a protest against authoritarian regimes.
2) Against social order: a student backed cultural revolution to fight a dogmatic soceity
3) To throw away an existing way of life. Credit based life anyone? This is the systemic riskthat any soceity has. Most of the world famous revolutions have occurred as an expansion of initial poclets of anarchy.

Is anarchy set to reign in india? Not in the near future, but in my life time yes. Well educated individuals taking up naxalism is the first mark of a need to reject soceity. We are beginning to have deep geographic and economic schism s across different parts of the country and anarchy can spread llike a virus.

What will happen as an outcome of the resultant revolution? I don't want to know

Asking for too much? A sensible BJP??

Gujarat, MP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Haryana, Karnataka, Rajasthan.... What's common to these states? All of them are suled by the BJP. With tdp likely to see some gains along with other old allies such as amma, bjp has an excellent chance of wresting power from the upa.

But being the leaderless boat bereft of ideology all the hindu nationalist party can do is riot over a piece of land in god forsaken kashmir. Understandably there is the issue of the amarnath shrine involved- but not right now, not right now. The country is anyway reeling under mind numbingly stupid policy decisions to support mindless violence. The argument against the likes of Mufti Saeed and Omar Abdullah is firm, they are just supporting violence in order to protect their vote base, to stoke a feeling of religious fanaticism (why harmony would be there in the first place is a good question, in life dont really say two guys are equal do you? A is greater than B, A is better, A's religion is better, A is a superior human being. The trick is to achieve as much harmony to keep a larger peace) that will serve their purpose in the long run. But, BJP is precisely doing the same thing by supporting the violence by its own violence. But the BJP cant really take the stand of banning religion from public life can they? They can probably try it, nowhere does Hinduism need to be a public religion.

What the party has missed out on is catching a sympathy wave by supporting the congress on the nuclear deal. Advani would have gone on in the pages of history as a strategist. The party is going to have a no bigger advantage, it might even turn out to be better actually if there are poor monsoons, now or a year from now.

The bjp had its moment in the sun, as with indian politics it has got a shot at fame once again, will the party realize this and take the opportunity or just wallow in its pettiness? Time will tell.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Why you gotta love Rafa


Imagine yourself playing a game and everything you throw at an opponent comes back to you with interest?
And each time you play him, you actually think that the guy has improved a bit more on his basic game? Ladies and gentlemen, please salute the most improved player of the last 2 yrs. Its Rafael Nadal. Its not just his clay court game or how he blew away Federer at the final or his new found confidence on the grass courts. Its just about the way he plays, he knows his strengths, which is his fierce athleticism and his never give in attitude. Now with that you have the heavy topspin, the aces that he can hit to any part of the ground the net play and an overwhelming desire to keep on improving.

The most exquisite player ? Hardly. The best player on court regards talent, hardly, but you can sure bet on him pushing himself. And that s the difference between him and that other fighter Hewitt, Hewitt got consumed by just playing on and on without really competing against himself. Nadal is humble enough (atleast now) that the game he has brought alive is in his own mind and that he has to take care of each little aspect to keep the party going.

And man does the party rock, go Nadal go, SW19 I hope it will be.

Yes you can forget the undie adjusting, the man is true spirit.

Why the Spanish victory was pathbreaking?


No its not because of that great beauty Metzelder or the genius Mertesacker. Germany were always the team that intimidated opponents, the team that played to its strengths, yeah even though it meant just putting close as a pillar and hammering him with crosses so that something goes in (if you remember, Jan Koller is the master of that particular art). Germany also had a coach who was not afraid to be the the players faces, again no offense to the beard of Metzelder and make sharp changes. Even though removing Lahm nullified an attacking option, Kuranyi cant score a goal in 472 yrs, Leow put a message to the rest of the players. You are free to play your brand of football, but keep your head in control. Aragones got a good leap on him first by playing Xavi a bit forward (this change came from just before the goal that Xavi scored against Russia) and along what that push the entire midfield up a notch. You play in the other team's half simple.

All this is fine, but this Spanish side represents youth. Youth that really dont have any baggage with them only the glory and the old man really allowed them to play eh? You would have mistaken Sergio Ramos for a frigging striker. In a tournament where pure attack was the norm, Spain showed why they are always considered dark horses (funny why you would consider them to be dark for any reason). And the Saint was in a league of his own. He is one of my favorite players of Real Madrid and he showed remarkable leadership. Calm, composed.

This is was an attacking Euro 2008, if I was a sociologist, I would have said one that shows the growing hunger of the young in trying to achieve new benchmarks for themselves, the rise of the new confident Europe, one that is comfortable in itself.

Far from it, its frigging sport, Torres showed why he is God, spain won. Period.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Sarkar Movie Review: Hellllllllllp RGV


Sarkar Raj:

Cast: Amitabh Bachan + 2, Typical RGV sidekicks

The end of an era.

I have been a fan of RGV from the time of Shiva, Kshana Kshanam (gult), Ananaga Oka Roju (golt), Satya days. I have steadily held on through the hazaar RGV factory films including James remake and the Shiva remake, hoping to see the magic rekindled somewhere. Thankfully I did give RGV ki Aag a miss, and the man himself claims to to have learnt that Aag was a disaster. If he did, Sarkar Raj is not the end product of those ruminations.

Sarkar was an Indian adaptation of Godfather. While the film largely failed at the box office, it had its moments. Sarkar as the ‘saviour’ of Maharashtra, the man beyond right/wrong itself, the justice system where the system fails. Now, Sarkar steps away and you have Shanker (AB Jr) who has the mantle of taking Maharashtra progress. Shanker adopts a power project as his pet project (based on project report!!! ROFL) and takes on all and sundry. And the end he has fallen for the power game, as just another pawn in the machinations that Sarkar himself is so good at. So much for the infallibility. ( And please “Sab kuch Niji hai”, are you kidding me? Michael Corleone?? Jesus Christ).

Absurd camera angles, too many “Govinda” s (we are not in tirupati), weird lighting and pathetic dialogues (Aishwarya mouthing “bomb kisne rakha” and what has the world come to? She is the heir apparent).

But but but, its RGV and I am allowed to criticize as much as I want, but the movie was still passable. Surely, we wont be disappointed in the next movie. Salvation shall be delivered.

Rating: 2.5/5

Dasavatharam - Movie Review


Cast: Kamalhasan, need I say more?

Whats the reason to make a magnum opus? You want to showcase the movie, the actor or the director? Would you put K S Ravikumar as a director? Kamal Hassan takes himself too seriously most of the time, K S somehow makes it work partially. At 3+ hours, the movie tends to be a bore. And dear Kamal, why not English subtitles to match the hype? You can make money mate. The premise is simple, is our life designed or do we have choice? Our story mixes the butterfly effect with having no effect, that the effect itself was engineered. Now for tam movie execution.

In 10 th century Tamland a Shaivite King throws a Vaishnavaite Deity (yes that I forgot the name of the deity is pathetic) into the sea along with the faithfully Vaishnavite priest. Cut to the present and the priest is reborn as a bio-technologist who unwittingly has created a biological weapon which goes on to get stolen and the rest of the movie is spent recovering this weapon, from US to TN (the transition is natural isn’t it?) Finally the world is saves by the Tsunami which only kills a few people instead of millions. Lo! And behold, the deity gets revealed.

Now I shall try to get the 10 avatars:

The priest (hefty one at that), the bio-technologist (oh cmon dude you just cant romance Asin get over it), GWB (this ones good, “Gentlemen, we have a problem”), assassin (ok this one is a yo-yo, old woman, Japanese samurai, old lady (witch!!!), tall pathan (or tall dressed pathan), surd singer (Avatar singh, he is cured of throat cancer due to a bullet through his throat – beat that Rajni) and of course the fave Balram Naidu. The gult trapped in TN, RAW officer. Naidu is hilarious and epitomizes why Kamal still has the cult.

How I wish Kamal had left the silicon to itself and tried all the characters with basic make up, it would have rocked. Here you have a tiring Kamal whose magical expressions are lost in layers of make up. Such a pity. Sigh.

Songs are pointless ( and as sushi says, bikini clad sherawat isn’t an assault in tam sensibilities? ) and are pathetic. Lots of the movie is not required and shut the pathan up please. K S Ravikumar it is and hence the movie does not bother you too much.

Rating 3.5/5

Aamir Movie Review: Muddled Choices


Cast: Khandelwal

Direction: Anurag Kashyap s Jr, sorry mate don’t recall the name.

Weird that I thought about it, but No Smoking and Aamir actually attack the same core principle but in totally different ways (looking/hearing the reactions I would hardly think so?), what exactly is choice? Is the decision maker important or is the decision important. Of course my friend Nirmal insists that I am just reading too much into the story. Anyway both films end in the same way, the choice itself is made redundant, what is happening while you are asleep? J

Our man Aamir is a Brit educated doc who returns to find his family kidnapped and under the instructions of a mysterious caller. He does not have any option than follow the instructions and he hurtles towards the realization that his notions of choice of leading a life actually do not exist.

The movie intersects our normal senses with Mumbai’s underbelly, that part of the city that we are agnostic towards. But then, the premise could really happen to any of us. Amazing sound track, both the background and the audio tracks, spectacular camera work and a gripping narration hold fort in this brilliant piece of execution. Why the praise? Small budget movies need to become a big circle if we are to start seeing good movies in the mainstream section.

Aamir boy could do with fewer imitations of Colin Farell and please please do spare us the clichés in such movies. If the idea of the movie is to be intelligent keep it that way throughout. Lets not delve too deep into that.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, April 14, 2008

Collective Intelligence going where?

I reiterate, individuals shall store lesser and lesser information in their own systems over a period of time. All information shall come into the 'social' sphere, intelligence being only the ability and the speed at which this information can be processed.

The construction of this social sphere is a completely differently perspective: Electronic or physical, the source of its energy, the form of information transfer from humanity to this medium, everything would be questions for which there are no answers. The only question as of now, is that is such a shift going to happen? What are the reasons

My brother contends that it is primarily consciousness, evolution being driven to an "omega point",at which the interests of all beings are aligned in a singularity. Think of it, the amount of information that we have stored in our lifetime is much lesser than what the generation before us did. The next generation seems to be storing (as in remembering the exact details) even lesser and seem to be focussed on specialized information. (Textbooks are the crude form of this example and Wikipedia possibly the most enlightened form). But, slowly but surely even without the apparent lack of decrease in mental storage capabilities we are choosing to store lesser and lesser information, almost as if there is a concerted effort to strip us of the information we hold.

(At a macro level, control of information, everything being reduced to information finally, represents 'civilization', this control is being slowly freed up, with tremendous repercussions for society. Control of information has always been a problem, history is always from the winner 's side)

What is the true nature of information itself?

And I (we) thought I (we) knew what we were going to eat!!!

Groaan!! That's how my friend,NK reacts whenever you move him from his blissful existence (yes included one headed monsters and more often than not him taking over the world with the help of machines) , but I have to do it, because for me deciding where and what to eat is the most difficult thing to do in life (or whatever I am in currently). Differential equations, stochastic calculus, philosophy, sociology I am fine with, but where to it is a question which overloads my senses... you can actually hear the circuitry cracking up...

But courtesy David A Shiang, I am forced to believe that somebody is actually interested in what I eat and that is the reason my decision takes so long. NK has achieved Nirvana already (he was born that way according to me) and agrees that I am doomed in life. The problem is this: If you look at the outcomes of decision, it is what it is, i.e. if you consider the problem in terms of the throwing dice it is pretty simple: It has been drilled into my head that unloaded dice has a 1/2 probability of getting a heads, that apparently is the wrong logic, because only the long run probability of getting a heads becomes 1/2 ( that is if you toss the coin a lot of times), but the when the coin is tossed there is but one outcome. It could not have been anything else. There goes free will into a toss.

If you were to think of future, it is but the past in some memory, so there is no other way it could have happened. So the future is deterministic, yes, yes I can totally feel you thinking its not possible. Actually, if you go down the deterministic path there is no logic, because whatever you say there is but no other way to say it.

What is the solution to this? The answer itself is a game of loaded dice.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Why building a skill will be useful for you right now

Lately, i have begun to realize that a lot of intelligent and smart people I have known over time have ceased to use their creative abilities. Surprisingly the trend seems to start a short while out of college. Most organizations, the large ones especially seem to have the ability to mask less than optimal usage of resources. Firstly most of work on some sort of documentation. Want to understand a sector? Read a report prepare model and explain using a presentation. Since a lot of firms have tried to standardize this process what we have is the systematic dumbing down of mental resources.

What has all this got to do with skill? My basic proposition is this: as we move more extensively towards information application as the primary mode of employment, the people who can physically create something will automatically end up getting a premium over others.

End of learning?

Is collective intelligence better than individual intelligence. There is no question, this is the age of the group. You learn in a group in college, work in a group in b-school, work in a team in office, share and maintain contact through collective platforms what the hell, you even party in a group. Group success or failure is determined by the need to find a common cause.

Traditional fields such as science economics or even design for that matter are under the onslaught of the need to work under groups. The basic premise being that group dynamics would ensure that the output dynamics are controlled. Fields such as science have always been collaborative, all the great scientists of a time speak to each other and share problems and solutions.

What if groups are only mode of thinking left? Outrageous not exactly-when was the last time you referred to a textbook or journal? What we regularly do is to rely (veracity is not the point of discussion ) on information that is widely available. Lot of people are putting the time for you to access that information, but the question is can the world wide web (meaning users) can ever use their collective intelligence to work on problems at the forefront- aids, sustainable development, understanding the universe et all?

Or will these problems always remain the purview of the lone warriors?

Why didn't I ask some of those questions?

Warning: Sweeping generalizations follow. Please avoid if sensitive.

I just finished reading 'The Elegant Universe' by Brian Green and its one of the best books that I have read in a long time.

Apart from the theory itself which I shall save to another post what really caught my attention was the lack of references to Indian or for that matter any Asian names. Is it that we do not really work on such cutting edge research or we don't bother ourself with such work when there are matters of feeding oneself pending or quite simply among other things we just lack the basic faculty of asking the right questions?

There are lot of Indians in the US, both as citizens and students, this somehow seems to indicate to me that our innate ability to learn is more hard wired towards rote than anything else. The answer for this could simply be our traditional method of learning or this could be ingrained as a function of economic mobility.

By economic mobility I mean that innovation/thought always tends to gravitate towards the basic instincts of survival first and then to higher pursuits later. Different parts of India are perennially under a race, some a race for social mobility and others a simple race of survival, in such a scenario can cutting edge innovation occur? Sure it does, but it would be more likely to solve problems of everyday life rather than advanced theoretical physics. No offense to either.

Of course this is a rather simplistic view to take, characterizing a population with traits of an individual. The other explanation is probably more compelling, the learning by rote allows India to produce the worlds largest pool of 'English' educated labor, but does it mean that this pool can really work on all aspects of cutting edge technology?

My own personal sense of this is a firm no, the learning style it always occurred to me never gave me too many options of asking 'Why?'. It never prevented me ( thats why there are so greats in the country, its despite their training not because of it) from asking questions but does not really encourage it.

We are good, but we may not be good everywhere.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Reliance - going fab!!!

Reliance, the petrochemical behemoth shall invest $7.55 Bn in building semiconductor fabrication (Fab) units (and from the news report I get an idea of polysilicon too).

Fab's worldwide are losing money and in India we dont exactly have the expertise (Taiwan has been doing it for almost an eternity now) . National Semi has shown what can go wrong of TSMC has always lead the pack with what can go right.

The rationale:
1) Its capital intensive, time consuming project: Reliance domain
2) Worldwide polysilicon shortage: Build spectacular capacities while there are none, again typical Reliance
3) If solar energy really becomes cheap, it could provide thousands a source of cheap electricity in India. It falls right in Dhirubhai territory, make the 'aam aadmi' dream

What could go wrong?
1) Global overcapacity
2) Silicon shortage
3) Shift in technology away from Silicon (the real challenge for both solar/semi's)
4) Environment!!

I am still skeptical about the news per se, but if its right somebody please get me a job in Reliance. I want to build this!

Attacting party workers, Desi Style!!



Any particular choices? Man would the population be impressed or what?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Shamshabad














Awesome @ first thought, but man would it be costly. (Cant we think of better names ?)

I was extremely apprehensive about reaching the airport on time but the promised half an hour shuttle service was there on time all right ( I waited to 2 buses to pass by), the call center knew exactly the kind of questions that people would ask and responded accordingly.

The logistics: Distance to any part of the city is 20 KM + and would easily take about 1 – 1.5 hours. Bad beginning I would say, for all the planning no one would have imagined that Hyderabad would get rainfall in March. Most people would want to avoid any sort of delay and hence the travel time could range any time from 2.5-3 hrs.

( My mom packed me out about 3.5 hrs before the journey – low cost aircraft airlines dump passengers right? , that gave me ample time to explore the airport. I began writing this at 9:15 PM (my flight was at 9:40), since the flight took off at 12:15 (yeah Deccan), I had more than ample time. Anyway, lets leave my travails apart. )

The architecture: It is beautiful to say the least. Very easily accessible, there was reasonable traffic today (being the end of vacation period) and despite being the first day the staff were able to manage quite well. Need to look up the architect, but the feeling of grandeur and space are clearly there. The demarcation between domestic & international is not quite clear & the information desk is one level lower than where most people would descend. The car park is huge (I did not check the parking charges, but going by rest of the costs it would be pretty steep too). The air-conditioning was excellent and the place was broadly clean (yes, first day impression).

That’s for the good part, now the ugly bit.

Costs:
1) At a prepaid taxi fare of 600-800 bucks
2) Total commute in absence of proper roads (the Secunderabad-Habsiguda-Uppal X Road – Nagole – Chandrayangutta – Airport) falls apart after Chandrayangutta even on a Sunday. I shudder how much time this route would consume on a working day. Anyway assuming a total commute time of 5 hrs from anywhere worthwhile, the new airport would ensure flying-in and flying-out from the city the same day would rarely make sense anymore. (The reason for all the property coming up around the airport). The roads will get built, should we have waited? I guess not, its impossible to drive change if its not sudden.
3) The services at the airport: No ‘free’ water that I could find. This is what is humongous, the cheapest meal that you can have is for Rs 200 (cup of rice/1 roti +dal ). Coffee inside is 100 bucks + , most of the junta were busy gorging on ice creams because that was the cheapest thing available (yes Gelato @ 50 bucks was the cheapest thing in sight). Cookies at 100 bucks each, onion rings at 120 bucks, almost as if the developers feel that along with international quality we need international prices too!!!
4) With the time/transportation cost et all the other angle to this is the user development fees that is supposed to be charged to the consumer. The idea being that since the consumer is benefiting he must pay for it. As usual, take the last penny from the people who are willing to pay syndrome. In the short run, theoretically the costs should put of some LCC passengers, but that pie is pretty large so there should not be a significant impact
5) What is more important to see is the issue of the ground handling being done (or contracted out) by the developer. Lot of thought goes into the bidding process and each revenue stream would be a reason (and possibly up-front payments from contractors could be one of them) for the IRR’s to accrue to the developers. A lot of players would be watching this with interest, the govt. possibly needs to build in some flexibility in its contracts.

Overall, a step forward. But unless the surrounding issues are quickly solved, we could once again have a case of “well begun is half done”. One thing going for this project is that its extremely difficult to migrate back to the old airport and hence the stakeholders have to hammer out each of the issues. There are no short cuts.

PS: Finally, Whats going to happen to the prime Begumpet Airport Land? And please pardon me for the poor quality of images :)