Jack The Ripper

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When History Channel on cable TV announced that the film Jack the Ripper would be screened in the weekend that passed I recalled reading long back an article on the film in Deccan herald. The author had said that the film was a masterpiece worth seeing many times. I didn't want to miss the movie and I watched it. The author had got it right. The film is indeed a masterpiece. The movie is based on the true events that occurred in London in the year 1888.Wikipedia quotes -"Jack the Ripper is an alias given to an unidentified serial killer (or killers) active in the largely impoverished Whitechapel area and adjacent districts of London, England in the latter half of 1888"

Everything was done to perfection in the movie. The story telling and the background score were excellent. What impressed me most was the performance by each actor in the movie, particularly Sir Michael Caine in the role of Detective Inspector Frederick Abberline. Each had done their best. There certainly would be repeat telecast of the movie. Do watch it. To quote from the article mentioned earlier -for the subtleties and complexities in movie are truly worth savoring.

Nodi Swamy Navirode Heege!

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What an irony! In the month in which Karnataka should be celebrating it’s Rajyosthava it is under President’s rule. It is a shameful political drama that Karnataka is witnessing presently. Amidst all the noise a particular message from the political class is clear - nodi swamy navirode heege!

Nothing But Gimmickry

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If you think that the hype and hoopla seen with the release of the Bollywood movies Om Shanti Om and Saawariya is nothing but gimmickry, read this article that appeared in Deccan Herald. The reason is apparent as to why pretty decent movies like Iyarkai, which has the same story line as that of Saawariya, go largely unnoticed but Saawariya receives more attention than what it deserves. The hype makes you believe that you need to watch the movies else you will be the odd person in the crowd.

Azhagiya Thamizh Magan

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Vijay plays a dual role in a movie, which is devoid of a strong storyline.All other characters, is inconsequential. A R Rahman's score passes through your ears. I think, we cannot expect any more breath taking music from A R Rahman; at least as far as his contribution to Tamil cinema is concerned. Rajni in his later part of career started making movies, which were powered by his presence alone, Vijay tries it quiet too early. Give the movie a miss. Watch it when it is on TV. But wait, do yourself a favour - give that a miss as well.

BMTC

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Bangalore's public bus transport facility maintained by the BMTC ought to be the best in the country. Its service and quality of the buses that ply have improved by many fold over the years. This I can assert because BMTC buses have been my companion over the last 10 years or so. And Chennai's Pallavan transport should be among the worst.

Ramanujan - The Man Who Knew Infinity

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Roberts Kanigel's "The Man Who Knew Infinity" was an interesting read. The book is about Srinivasa Ramanujan’s incredible life and his Mathematics. The author details the life of the math genius in an accessible manner even for a reader who is remote to the kind of work Ramanujan excelled. The author succeeds in this because he does not dwell into the esoteric areas of Mathematics in which Ramanujan excelled but just makes a succinct reference to his works wherever necessary.

The story begins with an account of Ramanujan’s birthplace, Kumbakonam and his school education. Ramanujan faltered in all subjects but Mathematics. He stood apart from the rest in the way he worked out his favorite subject. After initial struggle in getting spotted as a boy with bundle of talent he does come to be recognized as a person with real mathematical skills. The significant recognition does not come from India but from England. Failing to find anyone in India who would properly understand him, he is advised to write to Cambridge and other places of repute. He writes to couple of distinguished Mathematicians in England for assistance only to be disappointed. But fate has it that he also writes to G. H Hardy. And Hardy responded with a keen interest in Ramanujan’s works. That was enough to spread the name of Ramanujan across the educated circle in South India. Hardy’s endorsement helps Ramanujan in getting rewarded with a scholarship. This enabled him to do his Mathematics at will not needing to care about his daily mores of his personal life, which had become a concern having been wedded at a young age. Hardy invites him to Cambridge and after initial apprehensions Ramanujan crosses seas against his caste traditions.

The author dedicates a chapter on Hardy, which gives a very good insight to the stuff that he is made of. The author does well in bringing out his love of Mathematics, penchant for Cricket, his atheism and much more. Then begins the engrossing passage of the book, Ramanujan’s life in Cambridge. Ramanujan finds in Hardy much-needed companion. Their ‘friendship’ and the work together would become a stuff of legend later. Though Hardy helped Ramanujan in finding his true self by enabling him to do his Mathematics, he failed to be friend at personal social level. The seven years that Ramanujan spends in Cambridge wrecks havoc to Ramanujan’s personal life. He remains totally unaware of most of the happenings back home. The straining of relationship between his mother and wife and many such painful events occur in India These and his staunch vegetarianism has him afflicted with Tuberculosis. But the work he does in Cambridge earns him a Fellow of Royal Society [FRS].

He returns to India as a FRS only to be pulled into the struggle of social life. His mathematical contribution remains at a minimal. Unable to cope up with pressures of life and unyielding health problems he passes away at a young age of thirty-two. The passage of his life towards the end makes for a sad reading. One can only wonder what could have been if only Ramanujan was healthy and lived for many more years.

I appreciate the author’s skill in writing the biography of one of enigmatic figures of India in a lucid manner. A very good read and I highly recommend it.

Bug Fixes

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Fixing a bug in an application, which uses a third party stack is always challenging especially if it isn't obvious at outset where the problem lies. Recently I was up against two such issues in the application that I code. The fascinating thing is that both required a single line change of code but almost twenty man-days to find out which line to change! The multithreaded client application uses the OpenSSL stack to secure the communication with the server. One issue was significant memory leak and the other a crash. Both issues did not give direct pointers to the buggy code.

Valgrind is a very good tool for debugging memory leak issues. It reported 3k bytes of leak for every connection that was made to the server. The mailing list gave hints to the solution. After about ten days of analysis and help from top-notch developer in team it turned that I was using an OpenSSL API incorrectly. The fix turned out to be calling a different method than what I was using.

The application crash problem was tougher. It couldn't make it to the targeted release of the product. The crash was occurring when the application was heavily stressed. The mailing list was of not much help. After days of investigation it turned out that the bug was in the OpenSSL code. The OpenSSL method of getting thread IDs was failing in the Linux kernel 2.6. The implementation returned the same ID for every thread. As such the stack was to be changed to fix the issue. And even this time the fix is just a change in one line of the code. Here too I should be thanking my friend who helped me in having the issue fixed and the product released. It helps in having a high quality developer in the team as very good friend of yours!

Crazy Ho Gaya!

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I watched Dhoom-2 on TV. It is one hell of a hilarious movie. The movie is dud but never mind it is fun. ‘Serious’ moments are outright comical and comedy is bland. I forgive Sivaji.

Math Atheist!

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Sivaji

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Sivaji saw an unprecedented pre release media attention. And the movie fails to deliver in a manner, which would justify the hype. A bad screenplay fails the movie big-time. The movie is devoid of common sense even at microscopic level and is surprising given the fact that Sujatha has penned the dialogues. Rajinikanth might satisfy his die-hard fans to some extent with his screen presence, but if one was expecting another Baasha, it’s a big letdown. The comedy for most part is naïve and at times crass. The conflict between the hero and villain isn’t presented effectively. Money has been spent lavishly on songs, which are mediocre, by ARR standards.

The biggest flaw is the way the story has been told. Events seem disconnected. One scene does not lead to the other. It appears like the director/writer was content if he succeeds to feed the larger than life image of Rajinikanth. Apart from Vivek none else get much time on screen. Even the anti hero character is denied its fair share. The movie I feel has necessary flaws to have become another disaster like Baba for Rajinikanth. But thanks to the marketing that was done during the course of the filmmaking and prior to its release the movie has survived. It has been declared a hit.

Pet Peeves...

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The more I listen to the FM radio stations, the greater my distaste for them becomes. Even after I had vented my frustration in one of my earlier post, I am not at peace. I find myself arguing with those who listen to FM radio regularly.

What have the 24 /7 news channels become these days? They would give entertainment channels run for their money. These channels when watched do nothing but add noise to my understanding of what’s happening around me. There are many channels but too little to offer worth while. I would be better off with just my daily newspaper.

All shows in which you are given advice as to how to improve your life by means of numerology, gemology, tarot reading and such nonsense. These kinds of shows hog the air time of most of the Tamil channels. There is one show in which a crackpot called Satyamurthy claims that he has cures for AIDS and tumors. Wonder why there has not been any PIL filed against the flourish of pseudoscience in society? May be I should.

The Tamil film music scene. Is there one song which has come in recent time which would stand the test of time? Which has moved you? Which had you in rapture? Sadly none and gems of IR and ARR loaded in my iPod have not been replaced for quite a long time.

I cannot stand theBangalore traffic. It’s getting worse.

Editorials and Humour

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The Editorials written in the New Scientist magazine never fail to impress me. When commenting on science that has wider social implications like global warming, its opinions are always honest. One should read magazines like New Scientist to form an opinion on matters like science and religion, impact of science on society at large and so on. And Feedback is another column which I enjoy reading in this science and technology magazine of repute.

Now some humour from Feedback:

Computer rage

FROM the department of computer rage: Peter Brennan was working with the latest version of Adobe's Dreamweaver. When he tried to use the "recent files" list to open a file not available on his network, a box popped up saying, "No error occurred". The only other thing on the box was a button saying "OK". He pressed it and the box disappeared, but the file he wanted didn't open. He tried to open the file again and the same thing happened. Whereupon he took out a gun and shot his computer.

No, he didn't - but we wouldn't blame him if he had.

Cheeni Kum

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Ilayaraja has recreated three of his classics for Cheeni Kum. Its amazing how the songs sound contemporary even after a decade or so and not like a remixed version. Orchestration has his signature. Though the songs are good I wish the interludes in the originals were retained. May be it wouldn't have suited given the Bollywood's style of music. It is to be seen how this album is received by Bollywood.

Adieu Brain Lara.

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I am not an avid cricket fan who watches the repeat telecast of a cricket match. But there is an exception. I would watch any day the masterful innings of Brain Lara. His stroke play is akin to a musical symphony. According to me there is no batsmen as stylish as Brain Lara. Thanks Brain for all those wonder ful stroke play of yours.

Collective Magic of IR, SPB and S Janaki

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There is something unique and special in many of the songs that Ilayaraja composed in the eighties. It carries with them the inimitable trademark of his that even if you hear it for the first you can identify those as Ilayaraja’s compositions. One such song is in Kannada, which I heard in radio recently. I was left wondering how did I ever miss such a vintage Ilayaraja song. I soon found the song here. Do listen to the song which has the mesmerising magic of Ilayaraja, SPB and S Janaki.

Examination Days

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Its examination time and I get to see while commuting in the bus students discussing about the exam that they have written and about the subject that they will write next. Seeing them reminds me of my days in college and in particular the examination days. Of all days the examination days are quite special. The days would be joyful if everything goes right else gloomy if one does poorly in the exams.

There are two types of discussion that will happen on the exam day. One is the discussion that we friends would discuss before entering the examination hall. One later, when we step out of the hall. On the day of the exam we would gather in the canteen and many of us will be in serious discussion with each other. Every one would have some part of the syllabus not yet prepared but would be hoping to get whatever info in the last minute from one who has prepared it well. A set of previous question papers would come in handy to at least to pass the exam if not to score more. While some would be quietly immersed in their books, some would be pestering others to let know them how to solve particular problems. Couple of them would play the role of jesters disturbing some and entertaining some.

When the bell rings to indicate that we should enter the exam halls, our bags would be packed and all the needed accessories like pen, calculator and the hall ticket would be pocketed. We would enter the hall and quietly occupy the seat marked with our register number. Answer sheet would be handed over and with another ring the question paper. While some would start writing immediately and some spend few minutes and start writing quite a few would keep staring the question paper for well over thirty minutes. Clear indications that the candidates think questions have come out of prescribed syllables. When the supervisor tells that the time remaining is only thirty minutes its time for us to scribble what ever comes to mind. What we write from this point on would not be illegible even to our own eyes!

When we step out of the hall, we would start evaluating our performance. Faces of all kinds, some smiling, some gloomy, and some emotion less, all could be seen at the college gate. We would assign marks to each question and see how much we might score. We would continue discussing about it when we are traveling back home in the bus. Some would rue their fate and some would be ecstatic oblivious to the fact that others are watching. Examination days are truly special.

Sivaji

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Certain tracks of Rajnikanth’s Sivaji is now available. After the first listen, my opinion is that the album falls flat with all the high expectations over it. It does not reflect A. R Rehman. The A. R Rehman that I know is not seen in the audio tracks of Sivaji. As per the audio listing here, there are three songs and theme music. One of the duets has Udit Narayan as the play back singer. Udit Narayan for Rajni and I cannot imagine how the visuals with the audio is turning out to be! If one should go by the stills that have been doing the rounds it’s going to be awful. There is a theory that Rehman’s album should be heard over many times to appreciate his work with which I do agree. But with Sivaji the theory is not going to work out. Hope that atleast the movie is as much entertaining as was Baasha.

Comment

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The following is Harry's comment to my post "FM Radio" in which I was critical of radio jockey's talks and the kind of programs that get aired. Harry makes a hard hitting statement.

You hit the nail on the head! You took the words out of my mouth!

"Commercial needs" doesn't, in any case, imply the stupid SMS and telephone line chatter I heard not only in Bangalore but also at Dubai, there with Malayalam stations. It is evident that someone suddenly 'discovered' this old and tired-out phenomenon discarded from 50s, 60s, and 70s North American radio (just as India has done with cell phones) and decided to ape it. As usual, with sad results - thanks to satellite television which is the reason Indians try to out-do the whites and carry imitation to comical exaggerated extremes! Having lived in the US and Canada for 39 years, with a degree in radio and tv broadcasting, and having listened to smooth, polished super-stations where the announcers make anywhere from $100,000 to $20 million (that is correct) or more a year, I believe I am qualified to separate the men from the boys in radio! These FM stations I heard in India and Dubai are amateurish, to say the least.
Many stations are going to automated programming in the U.S. and Canada, getting rid of the irritating motor-mouths. Who needs them? Listeners want more entertainment in the form of music, as can be seen from channel-hopping in North America. Take it to another extreme, and you have Indian AM radio. But, that is another story!

If these Indian and Dubai stations would only listen...:( The possibilities are endless for AM and FM in this part of the World, if only they knew what they are missing!

Harry , thanks much. You made my day.

World Cup

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The world cup is turning out to be an interesting one. Who would have thought that the Pakistan would be the first team to be knocked out of the tournament or that the Indians would be pushed to the wall and the prospect of them making into second round a 50-50 chance? Herschelle Gibbs hits six sixes in an over and Ricky Ponting isn’t surprised for he thinks the ground was very, very small (which does not surprise me. If I remember right, when Lara scored 400 test runs in an innings Ponting didn’t have words to praise the effort). Bob Woolmer unfortunately dies. It’s all happening and for now I am looking forward to the India-Sri lanka game. I believe that match would go down to the wire and would be worth sacrificing one’s sleep in watching the Cricket.

If India should lose the match against Sri Lanka they would be out of tournament and who would be more upset than the Indian cricket fan? The Indian media which have been churning out programs that would make one believe that the world cup is what India needs most and nothing else. Nonsense is what, at least I find in those programs. One such stupid show is where a tarot card reader is invited in the studio to discuss the prospects of team and players. What I prefer is to just watch the game, draw my own judgments and predictions. I would not waste time in watching any thing else than the game itself.

World Cup Resolutions

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Nirmal Shekar writes about resolutions worth considering with regards to the forthcoming Cricket World Cup. Read all the resolutions here. All his points are very much valid. I liked the following much:

Let us resolve that we will not elevate — apeing the tacky TV tripe peddled by sportscasters — the latest match-winning century by an Indian batsman into `the greatest ODI hundred ever made.' Even a cursory knowledge of history will be enough to realise that there were, indeed, a few in the past who could do a bit with the bat in World Cups. Ever heard of Viv Richards?

Let us resolve that we will never again say that Team India carries the hopes of a billion people and the prayers of that many are with Rahul Dravid's men. The truth — if anybody still cares for it in this age of ephemera, an age of boosterism and saturation coverage of popular sport in the media — is that a vast majority of that billion has rather more mundane everyday concerns. Their hopes and dreams are not hooked to the fortunes of the men in blue.

Let us resolve that we will not glorify the triumph as the `greatest achievement in the history of Indian sport' should Dravid's men come back with the World Cup. It might not even be the greatest achievement in the history of Indian cricket. Twenty four years ago, on a lovely English summer day, a bunch of one-day cricket minnows from this land beat one of the greatest sides ever to take the field in a World Cup final — Clive Lloyd's 1983 West Indians.

Let us resolve to revel in the glory of every great performance in this World Cup irrespective of the nationality of the performer. Let us not be prisoners of our passions and become sorry losers. It never did matter to me that Shane Warne wasn't Indian; nor did it matter to me that Pete Sampras and Roger Federer were unlikely to get goose-bumps when the Jana, Gana, Mana is sung. Tendulkar apart, these are the men who have given me the greatest sports-watching pleasure in recent times.

Baasha

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This is the scene which I like the most in the movie Baasha where Rajni says ‘Oole Po’. No other actor, I think could have done justice to that scene. I would also say that Baasha is also one of the finest entertainers. Nowadays watching films like Pokiri, Sivakasi and the like I am very much critical of actors like Vijay and Ajith. The reason is that they try to imitate Rajni. One gets a sense of déjà vu .I am not a huge fan of Rajni but I vouch for the fact there can be only one who can do movies like Baasha and make it entertain: that is Rajnikant. It is high time that the present breeds of actors realize that and choose scripts that are suitable to them.

Pokkiri

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With nothing much to do in Chicago, I decided to watch Pokiri which is available in Internet. Thanks to a 24 hours high speed Internet connection at an affordable price in my hotel room the video streaming was good.

As for the movie, only hard core Vijay fans can enjoy it. I felt the movie had a hopelessly written screenplay. I couldn’t, even after watching the complete movie, understand what the movie was about. It is an outright Vijay movie with other characters having absolutely zero significance. Comedy track with Vadivelu was naïve. But there is one scene seeing which one would laugh out loud, watching Vijay in a police costume. Yes, Vijay is an IPS officer, a fact which comes to light at the last moment in the plot. Vijay should not even remotely think of donning police officer character in his movies. Less said the better about Manisharma’s musical score for the movie. I am not sure if Pokiri is a hit but Prabhu Deva should be more sensible and be more creative as he would be in his choreography, if he wishes to become a film maker of appreciable quality.

Chicago's Winter

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The winter in Chicago is so harsh that after two weeks of stay here I haven’t had the opportunity to do any sightseeing but to stay in my hotel room or in office. Even to my office that is just a stone’s throw away, I have to take a cab. With just couple of more weeks left for my stay in Chicago and the whether not relenting I am afraid I might not see anything worthwhile. The trip to Hong Kong was better, lot better.

Chicago!

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Here are some interesting quotes on the American city Chicago:

I miss everything about Chicago, except January and February.

- - - Gary Cole

Chicago is the product of modern capitalism, and, like other great commercial centers, is unfit for human habitation.
- - - Eugene Debs, 1908

I think that's how Chicago got started. A bunch of people in New York said, "Gee, I'm enjoying the crime and the poverty, but it just isn't cold enough. Let's go west."
- - - Richard Jeni

Satan (impatiently) to Newcomer: The trouble with you Chicago people is, that you think you are the best people down here; whereas you are merely the most numerous.

- - - Mark Twain "Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar," 1897

Here is the difference between Dante, Milton, and me. They wrote about hell and never saw the place. I wrote about Chicago after looking the town over for years and years.
- - - Carl Sandburg, in Harry Golden, Carl Sandburg, 1961

Now why would I be writing quotes on the Chicago? Well I am now in Chicago fighting out the toughest whether that I have ever seen!

While most of the quotes that I have mentioned here render a negative impression on the city (the quotes are pretty old as well), I would blog about what I feel about the city in my future posts.

Raj Kumar – One of India’s Finest Singers

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The late Kannada cinema icon Raj Kumar is widely known outside of Karnataka as the film personality who had grown to a stature such as to represent the Kannada culture. But what is not known is that he was an extremely talented singer. Its surprises me often that whenever someone discusses about Raj Kumar, his singing talent is hardly mentioned. In my opinion Raj Kumar excelled more in his singing than his acting. And I would certainly consider him to be one amongst the finest singers of Indian cinema.

Some of the memorable songs sung by Raj Kumar:

· Sadha Kannali …

· Hosa Baalina…

· Ide Raagadalli…

· Jeeva Hoovaagidhe…

· Nina nana Manavu…

· Haalu Jenu…(excellent rendition by the thespian in this song)

· Beladingalagi Baa…

· Anuraga Yennaithu Manaseke …

If there is one reason that I still at times tune into FM stations notwithstanding my dislike of them is just because to listen to Raj Kumar’s mellifluous voice.

Unreal Reality Shows

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I have always maintained that the reality shows on television channels are not worth spending my time on. Whenever I come across such shows, particularly the ‘Big Boss’ kind that is on Indian television now, I feel that they insult my intelligence. And my views are strengthened more with the recent noise over the British television show the ‘Celebrity Big Brother’. I would switch over to watch Cartoon Network or switch off my TV rather than watching these stupid shows and the meaningless discussions about them on news channels.