Sunday, May 27, 2007

Überviews #29: The Invisible

4/10: Sad. And I don't mean it in a nice way.

Make money or make sense

I hear what Amit Vermaji is saying about what Amitji is being made to say when he says this. But more often than not a writer has to compromise on what he would ideally like to say to be able to say anything at all. (Something I'm sure an independent like Vermaji is well aware of.) Considering I come from the same industry, I know were Balki is coming from. Make no mistake, the writing in Cheeni Kum is far from great. But by Indian standards, it is a superior film. Ah, Indian standards. Different matter. Different post.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Überviews #28: The Godfather III

8/10: Watch it, again, for the unforgettable climax to the climax.

Javed Miandad

Amit Verma in yet another hat-tip to the debonair, dashing Vir Sanghvi and his thoughts suggests that if you want to really insult a badly-behaved townie the worst thing you can call him is a 'villager'. That is so sad. Why give the poor villagers a bad name? In my experience, villagers are a far more compassionate, civilised and generous class than most townies I have come across. Instead, I propose we try and shame the noveau riche by calling them 'Javed Miandad'. Ouch!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Überviews #27: Cheeni Kum

7/10: Sweet. Especially, the Direction.


Cricket used to be fun

Blaster from the past

Überviews #26: Don't move

5/10: All five points in this film go for cinematography, colour and camera angles. Don't bother with the rest of the film, which isn't about much more than fucking around.

Überviews #25: 8 Mile

8/10: Agreed, an '8' might be a bit too much for a film about (and with) a guy like Eminem who's so hard to like, but the intensity of the film is what got me. Which is also what I like so much about Eminem. Ah well, okay so I also have a thing for Brittanny Murphy. But that's besides the point. Reeeeally!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Überviews #24: The Godfather II

8/10: Like making love to a great woman. Slowly.

Überviews #23: The Breed

5/10: The best thing about the movie was that the people next to me screamed some hundred times during the course of it.

Dollah hu Akbar

Welcome to Dubai.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Hair cut

Scientists found a way to grow new hair. Method: "The researchers made relatively large wounds on the backs of adult mice, and found that if a wound reached a certain size new hairs formed at its center, with the skin undergoing changes mimicking stages of embryonic hair-follicle development." Theory: The wounds activate dormant embryonic mechanisms that reprogram skin stem cells to make hair follicles. The good news: We can cure baldness! The bad news: ... through head wounds.

It's a funny old game

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Life of Brian

'Neil Harvey, standing at leg slip, with his legs wide apart, waiting for a tickle.' Thus spake Brian Johnston.

The Daily Twitter Digested

From the very engaging and very simple, therefore engaging, The Daily Twitter Digest maintained by A. M. Griffin of Alabama. "The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude" ∞ Aldous Huxley.

Lemony snippet

The coolest Lemon since the VW Beetle, this is one of the exhibits at the Lemon Festival in Menton, Cote D'Azur and was created out of nothing else but Lemons. Via the always refreshing Sepia Mutiny.

What Shit!

Hot Shit. Cool shit. Some shit. Any shit. Just shit. Shit, shit. Toscani's shit.

Plug unplugged

Seth Stevenson, advertising deconstructer for Slate commenting on Oliviero Toscani being honoured by the Clio Committee, doesn't think making ads for a living should qualify anyone to be a 'hero'. (Unless that person devotes his spare time to rescuing kittens from trees.) Shoot! Isn't a life devoted to making people feel, no matter what, a heroic endevour? In today's world, eliciting any feelings from the zombies we're surrounded by ought to count for something quite significant. Then again, it's very likely that advertising is what makes us zombies. (Tee, hee. Nice try, yours truly.)

Forms before function

These days the term "al-Qaida" refers to a loosely knit global network, rather than a centralized organization. Thus spake Daniel Engber, one of the funniest explainers I have never met, in his memo on the amount of red tape it takes to enlist with an al-Qaida.


If we humans are so good at seeing the big picture, let's see it. In the big picture, whether the computer beats us isn't important. Either way, it's a human triumph. More.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Headline goes here

The underestimated and underappreciated science, that's what is Advertising. I just saw a campaign for Aquify Eyecare Lotion and it said something so insightful, i.e., Your Eyes Are Your Face. So the next time you tell someone she has a beautiful eyes, you might want to add the bit about the face. Or, maybe I'm just glad I have great eyes, and a horrible face. Or, maybe it's just my teeth. Your Eyes Are Your Face? What crap! You know what, that's something else the underestimated science teaches you: to be flexible. Very.

Burmese chops

Hair thieves in Yangon, Myanmar, are giving women unwanted trims. They sneak up behind long-haired ladies on a busy street or commuter bus and snip off a chunk of hair to later be sold as extensions. What I find even more befuddling is how the person being given this unwanted cut can be oblivious to it.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Überviews #22: Metro

6/10: All thanks to good performances by Irrfan Khan and Konkana Sen, this is a film that ends up feeling a lot better than it actually is.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Colbert on demand

A user-run community dedicated to serving the people who worship the man with the bestest lips in the world. What more can you ask for?

Überviews #21: The Godfather I

8/10: I was watching this film for the third time. All I can say is, the less said about it the better. Watch it. Even if you've already seen it.

Überviews #20: Turistas

4/10: Watch it for the bikinis, the underwater photography and only, only, only if you have nothing else to watch.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Hallmark holidays

A pithy, apt term for Days like Valentine's, Father's, Mother's and the myriad other marketing ideas that the Hallmark's of the world come up with to sell merchandise. Idea courtesy, Emily Bazelon, writer for Also from the same story on how to dole out praise: Tell a human being how smart he is, and the only way he'll go is down. Tell him how determined and hard working he is, and he'll keep working at it.

Colonial hangover

Agreed, most Indians are casteist in their outlook, but doesn't something like this. only end up perpetrating the caste problem? The more people refer to caste, the less are the chances of it going away. The BBC should be ashamed of itself. And so should we. Makes you wonder how much like the British are we? We are.

Oral sex is not safe sex

A study indicates that oral sex with one to five partners in a lifetime doubles your risk of throat cancer, and oral sex with six or more partners triples your risk. To get the same risk elevation through vaginal sex, you'd need many more partners. Transmission vehicle: HPV. Other risk factors: infrequent use of condoms, poor dentition, infrequent toothbrushing, and heavy tobacco use. Boys, let's hope the women haven't got wind of this.

Anyone for Rugby?

Rugby for wimps

Bowled. Over.

The most famous Ws in the world, after WWW.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Überviews #19: The Ex

5/10: A waste of half my time.

The upside of foetal screening

There's been some and more debate on whether parents-to-be should be allowed to screen the foetus for signs of down-syndrome and other life-damaging handicaps. Why shouldn't they be allowed to? Is it wrong for parents to want to do what it takes to lead a simpler life? Isn't this screening somewhat similar to going through a company's prospectus before investing in it? It is. So, is it wrong? I'm not so sure it is.

Considering the highly judgemental world we live in, it might be more, not less, compassionate on our part to screen the to-be-handicapped and save them the trouble of enduring life among a people so driven by the pursuit of nothing less than the perfect - ask the people who've had to suffer discrimination because they were born with, or without, something that's considered valuable, and they'll tell you what they've had to go through. Ask me.

Multiple Personality Ordered

One of my friends was telling me that she thinks she might be suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder. So here's what I advised her: Don't look at it as a disorder, but as a guilty pleasure. We all have multiple personalities. Okay? Maybe. Yes. Good.

Überviews #18: Sarkar

7/10: The Godfather for young, Indian wannabe film-makers gives us his tribute to The Godfather.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Überviews #17: Hannibal

6/10: More Anthony Hopkins, but not quite as filling as Silence of the Lambs, which had less Anthony Hopkins. What was interesting though, is watching this film reminded me of my trip to Sri Lanka many moons ago; the first time I saw Las Vegas style female servers walking the aisles of a movie hall selling merchandise. Hmm...quite a trip that.

Überviews #16: Red Dragon

5/10: Drags on.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

A few more words on words

In the words of another wordsmith: The Word Detective is written by Evan Morris and appears in finer newspapers in the U.S., Mexico and Japan. And, now, here.


I love that word. And it illustrates the way I get to a lot of things in life. For instance, I was googling someone's name and I chanced upon this site about favourite words, which that someone had contributed a word to. My favourite word is Words; because it contains all the words I play favourites with. Enough words.

Monday, May 7, 2007

How to rape someone? Virtually.

Here's an interesting discussion on what the whole experience feels like. Come to think, it's probably a lot like being physically raped. Virtually.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Sunday, May 6, 2007

A short Short History of Nearly Everything

By Bill Bryson. Courtesy listeningtowords dotcom courtesy mentalfloss dotcom. For those who didn't and won't read the book, listen to it. Very shortly.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Good riddance

A peerless essay on Why Not the Worst? By JOE QUEENAN

Last year, I stumbled upon a remarkable book called “The Talisman of Troy.” Written by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, “The Talisman of Troy” chronicled the adventures of Diomedes, a second-tier hero in the “Iliad,” after the fall of Troy. Bristling with sentences like “Anchialus shuddered: in that boy was the awesome power of the son of Peleus, but not a crumb of his father’s piety, nor his hospitable manners,” the novel advanced the theory that Helen of Troy had not really been abducted by Paris, son of Priam, but had deliberately gone to Asia Minor in order to get her hands on a sacred totem — the talisman of Troy — that would enable women to rule the world. The book is thus one of life’s unalloyed pleasures: an uncompromisingly stupid novel in a world filled with stupid novels that do make compromises. And, by virtue of its faux Hellenic inanity and all-purpose Delphic hootiness, it is also a powerful weapon in the hands of those of us who work night and day to resist the tyranny of the good.

Most of us are familiar with people who make a fetish out of quality: They read only good books, they see only good movies, they listen only to good music, they discuss politics only with good people, and they’re not shy about letting you know it. They think this makes them smarter and better than everybody else, but it doesn’t. It makes them mean and overly judgmental and miserly, as if taking 15 minutes to flip through “The Da Vinci Code” is a crime so monstrous, an offense in such flagrant violation of the sacred laws of intellectual time-management, that they will be cast out into the darkness by the Keepers of the Cultural Flame. In these people’s view, any time spent reading a bad book can never be recovered. They also act as if the rest of humanity is watching their time sheets.

Such prissy attitudes are neurotic and self-defeating. Bad books are an essential part of life, as entertaining and indispensable as bad clothing (ironic polyester shirts), bad music (John Tesh at Red Rocks, Phil Collins anywhere), bad trends (metrosexuality, not using toilet paper for a year in order to “help” the environment) and bad politicians (take your pick). I started reading extremely bad books as a boy, when my beloved but slightly unhinged Uncle Jerry lent me the classic Reds-under-the-beds screed “None Dare Call It Treason,” and have been reading them ever since.

Indeed, one of the reasons I became a book reviewer is because it gives me the opportunity to read a steady stream of hopelessly awful books under the pretense of work. One of my first assignments was Wess Roberts’s peerlessly idiotic “Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun.” I can well remember my breathless reaction when I was handed this assignment by my editor: “Let me get this straight; I’m going to get to read sentences like ‘Being a leader of the Huns is often a lonely job’ and you’re going to pay me for it?” To be perfectly honest, “Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun” was so bad I would have read it for free.

Those who read only good books cannot understand such a mentality. “Why would you read Kim Harrison’s vampire bounty hunter classic “The Good, the Bad and the Undead” when you could read ‘The Savage Detectives’ by Roberto Bolaño?” they ask. The answer is: I would not rather read “The Good, the Bad and the Undead” by Kim Harrison than “The Savage Detectives” by Roberto Bolaño. But I would rather read “The Good, the Bad and the Undead” by Kim Harrison than one more novel about an enigmatic woman in a famous painting or one more book where the main character suffers from Asperger’s syndrome or Tourette’s and just annoys everybody for 350 pages. Anyway, I already read “The Savage Detectives” and need a night off.

Bad books have an important place in our lives, because they keep the brain active. We spend so much time wondering what incredibly dumb thing the author will say a few pages down the road. One caveat: As with bad movies, a book that is merely bad but not exquisitely bad is a waste of time, while a genuinely terrible book is a sheer delight. This is what made the late, great Mickey Spillane so memorable: he never tried to write poor man’s Raymond Chandler books like Robert Parker; he wrote pure trash. I feel the same way about those “Loins of Telemachus” or “Cuirass of the Myrmidons” books that retell famous stories from the point of view of a marginal character. The dumber, the merrier.

Let me stress that I am not making a case for camp. “Camp” is an intellectually duplicitous posture derived from the idea that something indisputably bad can be transmuted into something good by virtue of the reader’s knowing, “ironic” perspective. At no point do I ever lose sight of the fact that bad books are truly bad. But it is their very badness that reminds us of the good books of which they are pallid copies. “The Bridges of Madison County” is a corn-shucker’s “Madame Bovary,” “The Talisman of Troy” is the “Odyssey” without Odysseus. Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen’s “1945,” a reimagining of the 20th century if the Nazis had won the war in Europe, is a Bizarro World precursor of Philip Roth’s “Plot Against America,” in which the great novelist imagines what America would be like if Charles Lindbergh had become president in 1940. Sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you don’t.

Bad books fall into three broad categories: the stupid, the meta-stupid and the immoral. Each has its own inimitable charms. Stupid books range from anything with the word “rapture” in the title to investment guides linking the yield curve with the teachings of Nostradamus. Meta-stupid books try to explain how to hold better meetings or motivate slackers by imitating the doomed but well-organized Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. Immoral books include titles like O. J. Simpson’s “I Want to Tell You: My Response to Your Letters, Your Messages, Your Questions,” in which Simpson, imprisoned at the time, said this of his wife, who perished under mysterious circumstances that still leave the experts baffled: “Like every person, Nicole had her faults. She blamed other people for her problems when she was unhappy. But the way she treated our kids when they were born, that made up for all the rest of it.”

I am certainly not suggesting that all bad books are as boundlessly entertaining as these. Despite being one of the worst books ever written, “Atlas Shrugged” is no fun at all, and the uninterrupted stream of lifeless prose that flows from Jimmy Carter’s pen is even less entertaining than his presidency. This is because famous people tend to write bad books in a predictable, tastefully bad style, or to have run-of-the-mill bad books written for them by bad ghostwriters, whereas amateurs go for the brass ring. Jimmy Carter couldn’t write a book as bad as O. J. Simpson’s if he tried.

One of the main reasons we bad-book lovers go out of our way to make our sentiments known is because it is a way of resisting the hegemony of good taste. If slaves to quality had their way, there would be no thrillers by Marilyn Quayle (“Embrace the Serpent”), no children’s books by Madonna (“Lotsa de Casha”), no autobiographies by Geraldo Rivera (“Exposing Myself”). If goodness fetishists were in control of the publishing industry, nothing more hair-raising than Bill Bradley’s last book of homilies would ever make it into print. That’s right, no books by Shaq, no memoirs by Rue McClanahan, no collections of ruminations and aperçus by Dinesh D’Souza. Sound like a world you’d want to live in?

With customary insight, Garrison Keillor once wrote: “A good newspaper is never quite good enough, but a lousy newspaper is a joy forever.” I agree. Some people would identify a passion for bad books as a guilty pleasure, but I prefer to think of it as a pleasure I do not feel guilty about, even though I probably should. Bad movies, bad hairdos, bad relationships and bad Supreme Court rulings merely make me chuckle. Bad books make me laugh. And if they ever stop writing books with lines like “Being a leader of the Huns is often a lonely job,” I want to stop breathing on the spot.

Joe Queenan is author of “Queenan Country: A Reluctant Anglophile’s Pilgrimage to the Mother Country.”


Take. Today is Free Comic Book Day.

Women v/s Indian Men's Soccer Team

Heads up!

The 13 stages in a writer's life

Lost Youth. The Wanderjahr. The Great Idea. Sitzfleisch. Troubles. Procrastination. Competition. Agony. Breakthrough. Voice. Controversy. Fame. Influence. (Extracted from Janet Browne's observations on the life of Charles Darwin.)

Überviews #15: No Man's Land

7.5/10: I was really sleepy when I started watching the film. It woke me up; the ending.


The sentence in which Darwin, with infinite tact and reluctance, spells out the one point in his argument he knew would shock his readers most: "that man with all his noble qualities … still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin."

Friday, May 4, 2007

Überviews #14: Spider-man 3

6/10: How good is a film if it's a must see, once? That good. Or bad? That said, this installment does raise some interesting possibilities for the next one. Watch it if you'd like to speculate on what's going to happen to MJ in part 4. And yes, there will be a part 4; and I predict it will be less about special effects. Unlike this one. (Or so I hope.)

Words in pictures

A great hangout for photo esaays and image workers.

Bright past. Dark Post.

Why are the creators of Superheroes reinventing the Supergoods with a dark side? The Dark Knight returned as Batman with another side. Spider-man 3 has a dark side that is, fleetingly, touched upon. Superman Returns might well be back with a dark side. Put simply, Frank Miller rules. Is it a subliminal sign that we are preparing for dystopia? I don't think we are, but if we aren't careful we might will it upon us.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Überviews #13: King Kong (Peter Jackson)

7/10: Massive. Jurassic. Disney. Spielberg. Computer. Love. Sad. No more. More.

The Drosophila of cognitive science

Come again? Go.

Smart feeling

Kinda like a kids' magazine for grown-ups. Why so? Because a good kids' magazine is supposed to be instructive and fun; something you don't find in magazines nowadays. Nor grown-ups. That apart, how great a name is Mental Floss? It is.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Überviews #12: Broken Flowers

6.5/10: The extra half point is for the ending.

Wii told you, told you, so.

In the weeks following its launch in November, the Wii console blew away Sony's PS3, thanks in part to Sony's failure to deliver enough new consoles to the all-important U.S. market. Nintendo had sold 1.1 million units of the Wii in the U.S. by late January vs. 687,000 PS3s during roughly the same period. "Nintendo Wii won the launch phase," noted Standard & Poor's equity analyst Clyde Montevirgen at the time. (S&P, like BusinessWeek, is a unit of The McGraw Hill Cos. Well you know what, we knew this was going to happen. And happen.