Macchars don’t wear sweaters

Archive for July 2007

“You %^&*(), I shall bury you alive? M***** F*****, I trample on a dozen insects like you every day. You want to die a premature death eh you @#$%^&*?? DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHO I AM” – screamed Sunny in a blind rage, as he madly waved a wicket in hand, and ran in the direction of Bablu at the other end of the field.  

The verbal duel had erupted when a disagreement arose about the validity of the goal just scored, the defending side contending it was an offside.  

“You s*** of a b*****, ive seen many a like of you, issuing hollow threats. Ive heard enough from you, you #$%^&*, im going to smash your head today to a pulp today. God save you, you @#$%^&*!!!! I SHALL KILL YOUUUUUUUUUUUUU” – retorted Bablu, his scream even more blood curdling, and he murderously rushed towards Sunny, picking up a wicked looking brick mid-trot.  

Everyones blood froze, as they cowered in anticipation of a bloody meeting mid field. 

“You’re gonna die today surely @#$%^&*. Iv’e been waiting for this for long. You cheat, you do this everyday!!!” –  Sunny roared, as he drew nearer Bablu. 

“You #$%^&*(. You shall pay with your teeth for daring to cross my path. It wasn’t an offside at all, and you know it!!” Bablu shrieked. Almost a few metres from Sunny now. 

“It was clearly an offside!!!!! Rahul had moved out of the defence just before you received the pass!!” Sunny (his run reducing to a fast walk). 

“But Suresh was still at the other end of the field!” – Bablu (brick in hand not nearly so menacing). 

“Suresh was?” – Sunny 

“Yes, but if the offside is so important to you we shall concede it” – Bablu  

“No No, its ok” – Sunny. 

They meet at the center of the field and shake hands.

Advertisements

I don’t know quite when, but somewhere in the past couple of years the words “blog” and “blogging” silently tiptoed into my net consciousness. Initially it occupied only the fringes of my attention and I never spared it much thought as Chat held center stage and encompassed my cyber existence. But as time progressed its knockings at my senses became stronger and stronger as the word would pop up in all sorts of contexts – chat conversations, web sites, and even newspaper articles! Still the sound of the words “Blog” and “Blogging” evoked slightly unpleasant images for me, as the words “internet” and “cyber cafe” once had, and “computer” further down memory lane. I saw something of a cyber yuppie – jovial, well adjusted, deathly pale, bespectacled, smiley toting (a completely personal peeve) – huddled over the computer typing away frantically – someone I did not want to be. But as all changes assert themselves, the old must yield to the new, the cycle of life must go on etc., once “computer hater” turned “net junkie” became “blogger” and soon “compulsive blogger” <ear to ear grin smiley>. (I’ve learnt there is no better short hand for human emotions than chat smileys).

Having progressed well into the article, this is no point where to introduce the term blog, as the assumption was that everybody knows what it means, and indeed it would be blasphemous not to know. But for the benefit of those that us net savvy geeks consider as barbarians <suave expression glint in goggles smiley>, the term “blog” has been derived from “web log” and is simply a personal web space which acts as a journal, which can be frequently updated, allowing the user to add audio/video/text/links or a combination.

People have always liked to scribble down their thoughts, impressions, daily experiences, inner musings etc but most of these outpourings went into personal diaries and only a select few – columnists, writers, famous people – ever had an audience for thier writings. But with the advent of the internet revolution anybody who is willing to put their thoughts on public display on a blog, has the vast ocean of people on the net as a possible audience (that nobody might be interested enough to come read your blog is another story). This enormous possibility of access to a vast sea of people who are just a click away from your thoughts makes blogging a big business. Popular topical blogs like TechCrunch, Gizmodo on a variety of subjects like web technologies, politics, celebrity etc attract millions of viewers per month and generate hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in revenue. Blogging has also become an alternate PR activity for companies, politicians, celebrities, and musicians who want to keep in touch with their end audiences.

Blogging has come a long way in the last ten years. From a handful of what can be compared to modern blogs in the mid nineties, to an estimated 60 million blogs (staggering!!) today. The trickle turned into a torrent with the coming of software tools around the turn of the century which allowed lay users to create their own blogs. The writing itch seems to have become a global pandemic with an estimated doubling in the size of the blogging brigade every 6 months. This popularity of blogging has spurned a whole new breed of businesses that have been built around blogging such as blogging tools, blogging sites, blog search engines, blog statisticians, and even blogging news! Mind blogging isn’t it??…err…boggling.

So why the spate of bloggers? Why are even flamboyant cowboys, the perennial outdoor type, crowding around computers (much to the disgust of the steed) to share their inner emotions with the world? What is it that has made cowboy go geek? What does one get out of blogging? What??

Apart from the universal driving force behind all human endeavor, “to impress members of the opposite gender”, a few other reasons can be offered. Considering the number of people who blog, it turns out that most people have always had a dormant writer inside, and the prospect of writing for an audience rather than for crumbling yellowed pages of a dusty diary, shook this limelight loving inner-tolstoy out of his slumber. At the core a blogger’s impulse is the same as a writer’s impulse – a desire to share the inner world, ones perception of life, to enrich and clarify ones own thoughts in the act of writing, to unload a psychological weight (a personal favorite), and a little bit of “escribitionisim”. 

One phrase that swims around in my head (and finally an oppurtunity has presented itself to unload it) is “A blog always listens”. For those of who always had some deep insights to share (we think), but had to swallow their words because of some loudmouth friend always had a how-i-slayed-the-dragon-and-saved-the-princess tale to recount, blogs are heaven sent. A blog is where you talk for a change while others listen, and if they want to react/respond to your thoughts, they can do so in the form of polite comments to your blog post AFTER you have finished. Another thing that characterizes blog writing is a lack of structure. A blog is a book where one is writer and as well as publisher, a newspaper where one is editor, a newspaper called Me Times (or Myself Daily). Imagine the freedom!! No structures to be tied down by, no popular appetite to satiate, no toes to avoid stepping on, and no commas and full stops to pull you down from glorious literary flights! Language, grammar, literary form, structure, thoughts, expressions, emotions are one’s instruments to be orchestrated and abused at whim. One can be a cosmically self indulgent artist.

I must sheepishly admit that in the past year most of my reading comprises blogs of friends or friends of friends and so on. And I certainly don’t feel at that much of a loss, as I have been enthralled, amused, charmed, fulfilled and inspired by many of these writings on topics ranging from being pulled up a tree branch by a friend(???), an excursion with a son, amorous escapades (blush), tracking a homicidal maniac (!!!), to personal impressions on nuances and shades of life like human masks, the joy of writing, love, politics etc. Styles range from lyrical to in-your-face, eloquent to conversational, witty to lamentatious, bad to good!! Some people have really made this new literary form their own.

The Blogwagon is admitting passengers, Hop On. You don’t want to be the last kid on the block with a blog.

Breathe deep – the air has a whiff of magic. Fantastic dreams are being dreamt and realised, and the future seems to hold untold promise. The garage entrepreneur is back, and the “idea” rules again. Yes! The Internet revolution is back! What’s more, it has a new baptizement this time around – “the Web 2.0 Revolution”.

And this time, it promises to stay, rather than being mercilessly pinpricked like the dot-com bubble of 1995-2000. The heavyweights are still around – the Yahoos, The Googles, the AOLs, the MSNs, even weightier than they used to be, having ridden the tough times, having learnt to adapt, while many of their counterparts went under. And there is a whole new breed of heavyweights – MySpace, Facebook, Digg, YouTube, Flickr, Wikipedia, SecondLife, nipping at the heels of the oldtimers.

This new wave of the revolution has also brought along with it its own set of buzzwords – “user generated content”, “Syndication”, “Blogging”, “Widgets”, “Digg”, “YouTube”, “Social Media”, “Wiki”, “Social Bookmarking”. New startups are being formed by the hordes, Venture Capitalist funds are gushing in, and there are many a garage-startup-making-it-big stories making the rounds. How about Youtube.com skyrocketing from its humble beginnings in mid 2005 to its $1.5 Billion acquisition in Oct 2006 and its more than a 100 million viewers per day today. Or how about the 27 year old Kevin Rose creating Digg.com for less than $2000 in Dec 2004 to its current valuation of more than $200 Million. Or the 21 year old Englander who sold each pixel of his milliondollarhomepage.com for 1 dollar each and became a millionaire. And the audacity of him trying to do it again!! Could becoming a millionaire get easier than that!! Makes you want to don your garage entrepreneur shoes right away and plunge into the fray!

So what is Web 2.0 and how is it different from the first dotcom wave? Taking the definition of the coiner of the term “Web 2.0”, Tim O’Reilly:-

Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them.

So the first thing that characterizes Web 2.0 is the death of the desktop. New applications don’t have to be loaded to the desktop to be used; they play from the browser itself. This has been enabled by greater bandwidth speeds and new approaches to application architecture.

Another major characteristic of 2.0 sites is user involvement. Me and You are now more than passive consumers of website content but are rather dynamically involved and contribute to the content and development of a site through uploading, commenting, rating, opining. The massive success of some sites has solely been based on this “user generated content”. YouTube allows any and sundry to upload their videos for a potentially global audience. Digg allows users to rate news articles from around the net, and top rated articles appear on the home page of Digg. Millions of people visit Digg to look at the most interesting news on the internet. The information in Wikipedia is not submitted by paid professionals but site visitors who contribute information on specific subjects. The success of Yahoo Answers is based on it acting as a moderator between users who ask questions and users who answer them on subjects varying from quantum physics to “How can I access the paid of version of so and so software for free??” to tips for nannies.

Social Networking is another unique aspect of Web 2.0. The success of modern sites is not dependent on traditional advertising but spread by word of mouth or “networking effects”. You tell your friends, each of whom tells his friends, and so on till the trickle of visitors to a site turns into an overwhelming torrent. For this reason many sites or softwares have social networking features built around them which allow you to create individual profiles, create friends lists, communicate with friends, upload photos and so on. These sites cash in on a basic human need to connect. Some of the most popular sites on the net are sites solely dedicated to social networking like Orkut, Hi5, MySpace (they don’t need any introduction do they?), and there are various thematic networking sites wrapped around themes like art, dating, counseling, science etc. Even sites which are not strictly social networking sites incorporate some elements of social media to varying degrees.

Yet another characteristic of Web 2.0 is the emergence of loosely coupled systems. The trend is going away from huge highly structured systems with well integrated parts and moving towards small modules which are loosely joined and communicate with each other. This explains the emergence of “widgets”, small programs having specific functionality (such as videoplayer, calender, clock, radio, games etc) which can be added to a wide array of sites which support basic standards. RSS Syndication allows sites to draw data like videos, news, and audio from across the internet. A perfect example of a loosely coupled system is a MySpace profile which has embedded videos from YouTube, a Google Reader which supplies feeds about the latest news from Iraq, a Meebo chat widget which allows you to chat to site visitors, an iTunes widget which plays songs of your choice, a Google Map widget which specifies your exact location on the globe etc. The future of an internet system will be a loose collection of application parts, content, and data from all over the net, which can be located, used, reused, fixed, and remixed.

As you must have guessed after watching the promos, Aap ka Suroor is a suspense thriller. Great mystery and intrigue shrouds the core theme – what lies under Himesh Reshmaiya’s cap? Years of speculation and theorizing by pundits and commoners alike about “what lies beneath” – a turnip patch, a thorny bush, a grassy knoll, horns, a balding pate – are finally brought to an end. And the truth is withheld till the very end, the suspense building up to a feverish pitch and revealed in a nerve wracking finale. What is it? I shall not spoil the fun and resist the temptation of giving it away, and it is for moviegoers themselves to discover.  

And oh yes, the movie also has a sub-plot, a whodunit. The movie is set in Germany, where Himesh (or HR, as he is affectionaly refered to) is for a concert. The plot begins at the end, when a white TV reporter called Nadia, who is the daughter of brown Raj Babbar (from a white mother presumably), is found murdered. Our hero Himesh Reshmaiya is hauled into lock up mid performance and charged with the offence. The police has incriminating evidence against HR, video footage of him at the act of murdering Nadia in a fit of drunken lust, which she manages to take with a camera hoisted on her shoulder while he undertakes his murderous assult. Perhaps she might have been able to save herself had she used her hands to ward him off, rather than hoist the camera. But these papparazzi never learn. Well, that clinches it right? Evidence can’t get more obvious than that. The answer is no – not since Mission Impossible. Not since movie villians have discovered the art of donning a mask and altering thier looks, height, weight, frame, voice and sometimes gender.

The movie then goes into flashback mode, a medley of characters being introduced to us over the events of the past 15 days – Shravan, HR’s chirpy best friend; Riaa, HR’s event manager and love interest; Ria’s weeping willow father; Khurana, the hynaesque shrewd businessman; Ruby, the seductive lawer, spurned lover and salsa dancer. Take your pick – one of them did it. Naturally Himesh escapes from jail to look for the real murderer himself to clear his name before his beloved’s father marries her off to someone else. And thus the script continues on it drab course. 

Well, after being subject to the aforementioned, I have my reservations about the caption “A true love story”. But I guess Himesh takes the oppurtunity to vent his melodramatic personality which everybody has seen flashes of on “Sa Re Ga Ma Pa“. He also seeks to reveal additional shades of his personality like “Himesh kabhi muskarata kyon nahi“. The reason evidently, is not a misplaced sense of quixotic cowboyness, but the sudden death of Himesh’s dear elder brother, after which Himesh lost the will to live and subsequently rose to fame and riches. And he further rises in our approbation when were told that “himesh sharab nahi peeta“, “glamour world mein kuch log loose morals waale to hote hain lekin haath ki pachon ungliyan ek si nahi hotin” and “himesh bacchon se bahut pyaar karta hai“. Sniffle…

In the final analysis, well, there isn’t much to analyze. It’s as mindless as any commercial movie, but not more so. Himesh does well to take advantage of the myth sorrounding his persona, and indulge himself, and get richer in the process. It’s very fashionable to lambast the movie nowadays, but for me, its not any more boring and insipid that the rest. But it does make me want to renew my vow “mai hindi picture nahi dekhta“.