June 23, 2010

'Rajneeti' is about us

So, let’s not get smug about how politicians are ‘of course’ all dirty like depicted in the movie.

That’s what I liked about the movie.

It’s really an allegorical/metaphorical story about the human condition and in a narrow way, about us as Indians.

The movie depicts the high-stakes game of politics and how it brings out the worst in the characters caught in it.

It wonderfully melds some themes from the Mahabharata even … that ageless epic that contains characters with all sorts of human qualities, both good and bad.

The movie doesn’t indulge in hyperbole like the usual Bollywood movie … no over-acting.

Scenes of loss as well as levity are depicted and then the story movies swiftly on without dwelling on it for an eternity.

A movie that has a real story and a busy one.

A generational shift is depicted.

So many strong characters are depicted whose lives are all inextricably intertwined.

So many deaths take place … all, in attempts to grab power.

But, here’s the central question.

Are we any better?

Should we all watch the movie and feel smug at how much better we all are compared to these murderous politicians?

I do not think so.

I think we all behave pretty ruthlessly in our own lives. Our actions tend to be comparably brutal.

Let me explain.

We obviously do not all murder other people.

But then we are never faced with situations in our lives where the stakes are as high as shown in this movie.

We probably cheat other people to acquire more money — or, we WOULD cheat others IF we had the chance.

So also, if we had the opportunity to acquire so much power by killing someone, I think we would not hesitate to do so when we know that our actions will have NO consequences.

So, as a movie, Rajneeti has it all.

A strong storyline, wonderful cinematic portrayal, many significant characters, no improbable twists or turns in the storyline.

What more does a movie need to have?

Well, it does NOT have an uplifting message for sure.

But then, it does not seek to provide a balm.

It merely seeks to hold a mirror to the human condition and it succeeds remarkably.

Let the Oscar statuettes rain on Prakash Jha!

June 19, 2010

What's I.B.M.'s Watson

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/magazine/20Computer-t.html?th&emc=th

I.B.M.'s scientists are taking the next steps in expanding the limits of how machines understand human language.

It's interesting that it takes a supercomputer to come close to the language abilities of a human brain.

But computer science is getting there and getting close and soon enough processing power and memory will be cheap enough to develop a real alternative to the human brain that will take over many of the mundane activities that humans now have to perform whether they like to or not.

Well, this will certainly make some humans unemployed but basically the long range trend is that the bar is being steadily raised higher for the human species in general.

So, in future, all humans will probably need to be specialists in something ... may be post-graduates or even PhDs.

Luckily, that future will hopefully dawn after I am gone so that I don't have to acquire a PhD to make a living! Lucky me!

June 10, 2010

A Rich Dead Man ... and his kids get lucky

Thanks to some weird Congressional legislation, rick folks who die in 2010 won't owe any estate tax to the government.

The estate tax has been allowed to 'lapse' for one year.

So, here's an interesting story about the 'fall out':

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/09/business/09estate.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

The estate tax has always been there since a long time ... and it will be back next year to 'haunt' the children of rich dead people ...

In Congressional testimony, Warren Buffet strongly supported the estate tax. But there were other cry baby millionaires there who were cribbing about how it was 'unfair' and 'complicated.'

Even the senators were pretty sympathetic to this 'cause' ...

It was quite interesting to see the U.S. Congress galvanized to action by the 'pains' being suffered by about 5,000 or 15,000 dead millionaires ...

There are millions of officially poor people in the United States whose suffering normally stays under the radar.

Well, perhaps a familiar tale all over the world ... in all democracies ... some folks are just more equal than others.

dasatinib and nilotinib better than imatinib?

Well, two new studies have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine and were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology 2010 Annual Meeting.

Here's the story from Medscape:

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/723159?sssdmh=dm1.621178&src=nldne&uac=122954PX

These studies should lead to some vigorous debate in the clinical oncologists' community about how to treat CML (chronic myelogenous leukemia).

Gleevec (imatinib) remains a first-of-its-kind medicine. These new successors work on the same principle as imatinib. However, they seem to extend these principles and therefore are more effective.

It remains to be seen if the regulatory bodies will recommend these new kids on the block as first-line therapy for CML. Although, dasatinib and nilotinib have been around now for a few years.

June 09, 2010

Whitman and Fiorina

Both the 'power' ladies win their respective primaries. The main battle lies ahead of course in November.

But, voters seem 'ready' for change ... which would seem to favor Carly but not Meg.

Exit the Terminator ... Enter ... who?

And Carly Fiorina, senator from California??? Sounds a bit odd as of now.

Something to Cheer About!!!

Well, India is quickly becoming a 'pioneer' in the field of separation of conjoined twins ... so, it would seem with two successes in quick succession.

First, there was the successful separation at Batra Hospital in New Delhi if memory serves me correctly and now this case of separation of Nigerian twins at Dr. Shetty's Narayan Hridayalaya.

Well, definitely some cause for MAJOR cheer!

The flip side of course is the fact that India 'leads' the world in the number of fatalities in road accidents. Quite understandably and something which is going to remain true for the foreseeable future.

June 08, 2010

Expensive lunches (with Buffet) and Flying (off the shelf) A380s

Well, the 'asking' price for an exlusive lunch with the Oracle of Omaha is shooting up ... through an online auction.

Apparently, in previous years, folks have paid more than one million dollars and even more than two million dollars for the privilege. It's all for a good cause ... the Glide Foundation of San Francisco gets the money. I believe some of their work is shown in the movie The Pursuit of Happyness ...

And A380s are flying off the shelf! Airbus has a 'surprise' new order of 20 more of the superjumbos from Emirates!

Good news! Airbus deserves for having shown such courage and perseverence after the costly delays that the project has gone through.

Way to go Airbus!

Reflections on a false God

Well, that itself sort of 'implies' there is a 'true' one ... which is horse manure ... or, elephant manure ... or rat manure ... or whatever.

That raises a 'fond' thought in my mind: if God as believers like to call 'Him' visited my residence, I would feed him the 'choicest' elephant manure or 'cow dung' ... why? Well, why not? I am sure, since 'He' created all those manure-producing creatures, 'He' would not mind what comes out of the backside of those creations ...

Anyway, the point of this essay is different.

I had a few more thoughts about the white robed charlatan ... also known as a spiritual guru to the 'rich' ... of course, the point to be remembered is that the so-called 'rich' people of India are miserably poor by Western standards.

Anyway, I have submitted the article to MSN but I am not sure if they will publish it since I have used some 'forthright' language. Here, let me put my thoughts here as well ...


There is a little story with a moral in my mother tongue which goes like this ...

'Who's is inside the temple.'

'No, I didn't eat the banana.'

Well, the moral is this: when you are a thief, the culprit, you tend to panic naturally.

I am sure all of us can attest to this following situation. Whether we drive a bike or a car, there must have occurred once a situation where we lacked one of the requisite papers ... may be, the pollution certificate was out of date or something of that nature. And if we happen to see a police barricade ahead of us, we obviously panic MORE than necessary ... and thereby tend to implicate ourselves.

I myself, if I happen to have all the necessary papers on me just sort of saunter by the check post and the police almost never bothers to stop me ... as I almost brush past them at 20 kmph. And if I am stopped as I once was, I simply stop and comment that yeah, it's good to be stopped once in a while, etc. and proceed to bring my papers out of my pocket very slowly and the police get bored soon enough and ask me not to bother and to move on.

Well, this long story finely illustrates many of the relevant aspects of Ravi Shankar's shooting incident gone awry.

While the police initially suspected that the firing might have been a result of rivalry between followers of the bearded baba, the multiple Sri guy jumped the gun and branded the police's theory as a 'white lie.'

Why the need for overreacting so blatantly and accusing the police of falsehoods?

Clearly, Mr. Sri has some form of the foot-in-the-mouth disease. But that is usually the domain of politicians.

I think like politicians tend to have many, many skeletons in their cupboards, Sri Ravi also has a cupboard brimming over with clattering bones.

Thus, the obvious and profuse sweating fearing that the dead may yet come back to life with a lot of noise.

It's so common place and so boringly repetitive ... incidents of swamis in various nefarious activities ... sexual and otherwise.

I imagine a panicked Mr. Shankar holding an 'emergency' session of his 'closest' associates ... I remember the scene from Enemy of the State where Jon Voigt asks his chamchas to find out who the hell this attorney was and that he was not going to let this guy be the last episode of his life. I remember how livid Mr. Voigt's character was. Fantastic acting!

And similarly, I imagine Ravi saying to his assembled bozos: I am not going to let this little episode be the last chapter of my life.

He must have spent a few sleepless nights imagining all of his house of cards tumbling down and he himself having to spend his time being a guest of the Government of India ... 'rot in the hell of an Indian prison' as Ram Jethmalani said with respect to Kasab.

Think of Ramalinga Raju.

I had a 'famous' baba who was a relation of mine. My father's contemporary. My father was livid at all his money-grabbing shenanigans. You know how the yogi met his end???

He was HACKED to death by miscreants ... what a death, I keep on thinking, what a way to die! Dying in pieces ...

One More Pie in the Sky?

There is talk of India having the world's tallest building ... AGAIN!!!

Well, this time it's the Lodha Group which plans to build a 117-storey residential tower in Mumbai.

Should these plans be taken any more seriously than the other umpteen plans declared previously but which have never come to fruition?

Well, I am an incorrigible optimist. So, my heart tells me that this time something might come out of it.

Though the news reports mention nothing at all about whether the developers have got all the required governmental clearances, I imagine they have.

The only thing which makes this somewhat of a make believe is the fact that there are hardly any 50-storey tall buildings in India — residential or otherwise.

So, talk of building a tower more than 100-storeys high obviously seems a bit like a pie in the sky project.

And oh, if you interested in buying a home in this signature tower, it will cost a mere 7.5 crores to 50 crores.

That's cheap, did you say?

Wonderful Doris Lessing

We have a treasure-house of literature, going back to the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans. It is all there, this wealth of literature, to be discovered again and again by whoever is lucky enough to come upon it. A treasure. Suppose it did not exist. How impoverished, how empty we would be.

We own a legacy of languages, poems, histories, and it is not one that will ever be exhausted. It is there, always.

We have a bequest of stories, tales from the old storytellers, some of whose names we know, but some not. The storytellers go back and back, to a clearing in the forest where a great fire burns, and the old shamans dance and sing, for our heritage of stories began in fire, magic, the spirit world. And that is where it is held, today.

Ask any modern storyteller and they will say there is always a moment when they are touched with fire, with what we like to call inspiration, and this goes back and back to the beginning of our race, to the great winds that shaped us and our world.

The storyteller is deep inside every one of us. The story-maker is always with us. Let us suppose our world is ravaged by war, by the horrors that we all of us easily imagine. Let us suppose floods wash through our cities, the seas rise. But the storyteller will be there, for it is our imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us -for good and for ill. It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed. It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the myth-maker, that is our phoenix, that represents us at our best, and at our most creative.

That poor girl trudging through the dust, dreaming of an education for her children, do we think that we are better than she is - we, stuffed full of food, our cupboards full of clothes, stifling in our superfluities?

I think it is that girl, and the women who were talking about books and an education when they had not eaten for three days, that may yet define us.

June 06, 2010

Oh Ravi!!!

The guy is involved now in a shootout incident.

Jesus Christ!!!

How many skeletons does Ravi have in the closet? I think more than one hundred. I was counting.

How crazy is the guy! The police says that perhaps the shot was not fired at him and he says, 'Oh no, the police is telling white lies!'

And of course he invites the shooter to his ashram to gain some 'wisdom.'

Of course, it's all to do with money. The guy is practically swimming in money. In India, you can perpetrate all sorts of frauds in the name of God.

And India is awash with these charlatan Godmen who are ever willing to take advantage of the gullibility of the Indians.

Cow Milk!!! And humans ...

It struck me that we drink milk of a different species!

And why should that be healthy for us humans???

Cow milk is designed to be of help to cows — baby cows!

And we think nothing of using it. Then, also consider this. Cows are genetically altered to be very fat so that they are good sources of beef apart from producing a lot of milk.

So, won't such cows have something in their genes which would be transfer ed to us when we drink the milk? Something that is likely to make us fat? Is that why Americans are so fat?

I mean, has anyone ever tried this simple experiment. Let's compare the milk of a 'fat' cow versus the milk of a 'normal' cow ... as are found on the streets of India, for example.

We can 'expose' two sets of people to the milk from these two different varieties of cows: one group to milk from 'fat' cows and the other to milk from 'thin' cows.

Then, after a certain period of time and consistent use, we can check to see if the different milk makes any difference with all other factors remaining same.

Well, a bit of a tough experiment — needs to be done double blind and all that.

June 03, 2010

The Inevitable

It might sound cruel or fatalistic to say that air crashes are inevitable ... but then risk lurks at the crossroads where complex technology interacts with the human mind.

The Mangalore air crash has sort of come and gone. India is this BIG country that absorbs so many happenings. Air crashes, train crashes, bus crashes, folks going to some marriage ceremony getting electrocuted, IED explosions by Maoists, train derailments caused by 'rogue' Maoists, cars falling into BIG holes in the middle of roads, some old, unfortunate men falling into 'manholes' and hurting themselves/dying, kids falling into bore-holes ... and perhaps even dying, parents forcing their daughters to 'abort' their seven-month-old fetuses ...

Oh, 'abort' has an aviation-ring to it ... so, let's get back to aviation. The A380 is now in service. I don't know how many permutations and combinations of simulated 'dangers' the plane has been put through. Is it 'unsinkable' ... like the Titanic? Certainly not.

The Concorde flew flawlessly ... albeit somewhat unprofitably ... for 30 years before some sharp metal objects on a runway led to a burst tyre and a fire and a plane crash and the end of that story.

Will the A380 ever crash? May be, once in 30 years. And that might happen in India since Indians are good at taking 'short cuts' and will do that inevitably with some 'maintenance' stuff or something ...

But, an A380 crash in India with may be not a full plane would only provide a good 'case study' and would not cause too much of an uproar in the wider world of aviation.

Truth be told, I am looking forward to Kingfisher bringing the plane to India and I would then hitch a ride on it ... crash or no crash.

India@90 storeys?

A major builder talks about building 90-storey high apartments in Mumbai. I am skeptical. I recall more than once talk about building the 'tallest building in the world' in India.

But, with 'money' being as plentiful now in India as water in the oceans, all sorts of fanciful ideas might after all come to fruition. Mr. Lodha might well make a profit on his 'investment' of 4,000 crores or whatever on his four precious acres of land in Mumbai.

Mr. Mallaya, as you will recall, has decided to raze his 'ancestral' place in B'lore and raise an appropriately 'tall' skyscraper in its place ... and he will occupy the penthouse apartment himself. How nice!

Some may say I am a dreamer, but I am not the only one ... did anyone say?

South Africa and India

Well, the South African Prez. is visiting India and I was thinking about the 'huge' contrast.

India and Indian politicians and Indian 'mores.'

Indians like to 'shun' all talk related to 'sex' ... it's all hush-hush ... like staling money, or something. Though, I think, most Indians have a corrupt mindset and would not mind making money on the sly if they had an option.

Mr. Zuma belongs to the other extreme. He lets it all hang out as it were. An openly 'polygamous' man ... which of course makes him a somewhat awkward 'role model' in the AIDS war.

Well, to each his own. Sachin Tendulkar is great. But, so is Tiger Woods. And also Magic Johnson of the thousand ladies fame.

June 01, 2010

Kites: Movie Review

Five stars to the movie's creators for not dumbing down the story or dialogues. It seems to be a de jure requirement for moviemakers to assume the audience to be bozos.

A wonderful medley of Hindi, English, and Spanish. What daring!!!

Contrast: I recall a scene in a movie where a lady was wondering about the nose interfering with the act of kissing. What horseshit!

Kites has no story of course. Well, really?

Well, the hero asks the heroine if she loves the guy she is marrying? And she replies 'I love his money.' That's real life!

We get to visit some exotic locales too. No bombastic, oversimplied lectures about changing the world.

All in all, a good movie. And it does not drag for three hours. I certainly enjoyed it. Perhaps because I got the ticket for free.

Supercomputing race continues and other stories ...

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/01/science/01compute.html?hpw

China is trying to be the 'leader' of the supercomputing bandwagon. Well, that's good as that will spur the usual suspects.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/01/science/01angi.html?ref=science

The daunting complexity of cells ...

Amazing Birds ...

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/01/science/01conv.html?src=me&ref=homepage

I read this interesting conversation with a neuroscientist. And I was led to this remarkable YouTube video:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7IZmRnAo6s

So, enjoy!
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