Friday, December 19, 2008
First up was the double-city Open by Skimpy, MAadman and Baada (who disclaimed all responsibility for the questions). It was held in Mumbai too. Le Kwonchesqie and I teamed up last minute with Doc and Prashanth whom we met at the venue, after deciding at the last moment to go. We qualified. We were on top (yes, on top!) till the half-way point, when the LVC happened, during which round we got our ass royally kicked - negatives for a (hugely) wrong guess followed by a failure to answer it at all till the end. It was quite a workable one, and huge regret happened. We put fight during the rest of the quiz, but were way behind to catch up. Fun it was, though.
The first round of the Solus Rex finals (previously) suddenly was only about Children's Literature from 1850 to now. Appu swept the rounds, with Tups, Udups and me only barely scrapping among ourselves for the crumbs. I ended up at the bottom. There's the second round of that this Sunday, which includes 'Nobel Laureates in Science' (supertoUGH!) - and more, perhaps.
Wish me luck.
Friday, December 05, 2008
Well, not just any comic strip, but the superawesome xkcd - the ubergod of geek webcomics.
This strip was posted on xkcd.
And mighty Google used the idea.
End of story. Comic strips 1 - Terrorists 0. Yes, I know - I took too long to post it. But hey, better late...
Monday, December 01, 2008
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
The Solus Rex Semi-finals by Arul Mani and Kiran Vijaykumar.
I had qualified for this Semi finals, by the skin of my teeth. In fact I had done so badly that I hadn't bothered to even check the results till Dhammo told me about it. Anyhoo, I put some last minute fight by putting "autobiographies" (the topic) as a search string in Amazon and took a quick look at the names of the books. I doubt it helped. But I won (yay!) - with a little help from Ochintya who threw away some points carelessly, my way. I threw some away too, to Baada. Like Basil d'Oliviera and all.
I have to put fight for Nobel Laureates in the Sciences and Children's Literature from 1850. I wish it was atleast 20th century Children's Literature - the 'from 1850' just blows it so wide open. I have absolutely no enthu to read up - but will do so, perhaps, towards the end, once the dates are announced. I just hope I'm not travelling then.
The History of Ideas Quiz by Arul Mani and Cherian Alexander.
Kwonchie and I teamed for this - and we didn't do too well. Actually, if you consider that we were both half asleep, we did pretty well. I think the sleepiness had to do with the combination of really long questions, a really heavy lunch at Kodial, and the general lack of ventilation in the Seva Sadan hall.
I might not even answer those questions if they came again.
The Ganesh-Nayak Memorial Open by Dibyendu Das and Vinay Das.
As is the norm nowadays, Kwonchie and I split for this. I went with Mihir, Khadiya and Leslie. We did alright in the prelims, I thought. But we narrowly missed out on qualification - on a technicality if you ask me - the Blue Jay one, if anyone's curious. Evidently, the state bird of Karnataka is not the Blue Jay, but the Indian Roller - though it's often wrongly labeled the Blue Jay. Aware of such confusion, we wrote both answers, but Blue Jay first.
Anyhow, that's a sad miss, because I usually like the Das Brothers' quizzes - it's more "accessible" as Kwonch is wont to say.
But that was that. Till the next such weekend.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
The Belgian Centre for Comic Books. Which has to be the grooviest museum in the world. Ever. Even if you don't like comics. Though I can't think of why you wouldn't like comics. I suggest going to a brain doctor, if you don't. But not this one. He probably would make YOU a comic-character after chopping off random bits of your brain. But hey, get it fixed, ok?
The Belgian Centre for Comic Strip Art, hence called The Museum, is the grooviest musuem in the world. Ever. No, I won't stop saying that. I walked for what seemed like light years before I found it, but I did, in the end. I'm not going to try to give directions - just ask the lovely lady at the tourist center, and don't try to look down her chest, however tempting it might be. That's just rude.
To be honest, I have nothing coherent to say about The Museum. I entered. Forked out a bunch of Euros. And then ran around like a chicken without a head. Like an excited monkey with two heads. I flitted from exhibit to exhibit trying to take everything in at once. I went crazy. I think that tall Germanic couple even took a picture of the psycho Indian tourist. I hope they don't post it.
But let me try, anyway.
There are three floors. The ground floor has the store and the eating place. Everything in the store is so expensive. And so desirable. Then there's the floor with the snarky lady at the counter, and the introduction to how comics are made. This floor also has the gallery of original art. Nice.
Then there's the main floor, with the Tintin section, and smaller sections for a whole bunch of other series like the Smurfs, Lucky Luke, Bob de Moor, Gaston Legaffe, and a lot of Francophone stuff I was only barely aware of. I reminded myself to get back to French class. It's worth it. Really. And I'm not talking about skills needed to order a waffles with chocholate ice cream. You can do that by pointing.
There's another floor, on top of the main floor, which is like a third of a floor, which has displays of MORE comic series. Corto Maltese, Milo Manara, the duck-dude, a really small Asterix section, and so on.
I ran around madly from section to section. Tried to make the most of my few hours. I couldn't, obviously. So I took some pictures. A larger collection of the photographs are here.
That's that. More adventures and photographs coming up.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I didn't have a plan, like I usually do. Since the entire trip got underway in a very short period, I didn't have time to make a plan. I barely managed to figure out two things - where to leave my suitcase while I explored the city, and how to get into the city within a sensible budget.
In case you want to know, there are lockers on the 2nd floor (the bus floor) at the airport, and there is a train into the city. Both of which aren't hard to find, and a reasonable number of people in Brussels speak fluent English, so it's easy.
Once in the city, I have to admit that I was lost. I loitered around aimlessly - I couldn't figure out where the Grand Place exactly was, even though I walked around it twice. And it was too early in the day to find enough people to ask. I felt stupid. I felt like an idiot for not having a plan. In my daze, I had a hard time locating a tourist office too. The clock kept ticking, since I had a connection to catch, in a few hours only.
At the same time, I was generally awe-stricken at being in Europe and being surrounded with so much general beauty. Every building looked like a piece of art, and there were ancient sculptures and stuff everywhere. It was my first day in Europe - I wasn't mentally prepared.
I finally located a tourist office. Which felt nothing like any tourist office I'd been to. I felt like I was intruding into a silent exhibition hall, and would be shooed away in a moment for making footstep sounds and disturbing the peace. But I went up to the desk and asked for a map. The friendly lady gave me one, and answered all my questions.
- Is Herge's house is too far way to visit?
- Yes sir, it is. It's some way off. Why don't you go the museum instead.
- Uh... I'm not really in a museum sort of mood.
- Oh, but it's a comic book museum
- A what??? Are you pulling my leg
- *Smile*. Take the yellow tram that'll pull up on the station opposite, and ask for the Bande-Desinee Musee
- Oh wow. Thanks.
So I decided to walk, since that would ensure that I got to take in some more of Brussels as I went along. I didn't intend finishing at the Museum in a hurry anyway. Might as well finish the touristy nonsense first.
There's not much to report. I did find the Grand Place. I also, only by sheer chance, found the Pissing Boy, Manniken Piss. Cow had told me not bother. I could see why. It's such a disappointment, that statue. I did have me a waffles and chocolate ice cream too. A check on all the things I had to do. I also found this lovely statue of Van Gogh, with the backdrop of a Tintin panel, one of the 30 comic walls you might find in Brussels.
Next: The Museum of Comic Art.
Friday, October 17, 2008
I don't think I have the words to describe this. It's my video of the week surely, and a contender for video of the year. Watch.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
But the good part is that there are lot of pictures, and tales coming up, even though it was a business trip, and I had limited time off.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
There were three quizzes a couple of weekends back, spread across the expanses of 14th and 15th crosses in Malleswaram. It was my first quizzing Sunday in quite a while.
The first two were solo quizzes, a format I'm not fond of. The prelims for the Solus Rex, the KQA take on the Mastermind style of quizzing was up first. The questions were pretty good (you can check them out here). I did badly, it being early in the morning, and there being an annoyingly tight time limit on it.
The next one was better, but I didn't make the finals. It was the Lone Wolf, and it was as mad as usual Udupendra quizzes. We did lunch at Kodial (which I hope to write about later), a delightful, but vegetarian South Canara food joint near Sampige Road. Lunch was more fun than the Lone Wolf, though Udupendra will take credit for both.
The last quiz of the day was Persiflage, Arul's annual inflicting of pain, under the guise of a Lit Quiz. There was a college quiz in between, before this, but I'll skip that since we were stuffing our 'one vegetarian meals' down our faces then. When Arul told me in the morning that he hadn't made the questions for the book quiz yet, I thought he was joking. He wasn't. 6 questions into the finals, he gave up on the slides and whipped out his diary and let loose. I'd say he ruined WALTO's afternoon more than anyone else's. And I'm not saying that because I was cameo-ing for MQ.
Yes, I cameo-ed for MQ. We won (yay!). Majority of the credit goes to Cherian's inspired form - he took down most of Arul's pre-1950 questions without breaking a sweat. The rest of us took care of the more recent questions, which were few and far between. I wonder if and when he'll post the questions from that. Watch this space.
And I pocketed the hefty book-coupon.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I was looking for a box set, or even a individual DVDs of the auteur's work. Partly because I wanted to see the films I've liked, and to catch up on the few I've missed out watching. And partly because I wanted to introduce the spouse to his stuff. She'd never seen any.
Across a good number of large format stores across Chennai and Bangalore, I couldn't find a single half-decent box-set of DVDs. There are only four films I saw on the DVD format, including one three-DVD boxset which had Ghaire Baire, Agantuk and Ganoshotru (which is not really anywhere near his good movies). None of the Apu, Goopy-Bagha or Feluda movies on DVD. Or even classics like Jalsaghar, Charulata or Teen Kanya. A few of them were available on VCD, though.
I find this extremely annoying. The only way I can buy a good quality DVD version of (only some of) his movies is on Amazon, in the US or UK, by paying top dollar (or pound). I wonder why they haven't been released on DVDs (individual or sets) in his own land? It's not as if there is a small market - I'm sure they will sell steadily and continously. Moser Baer has a pretty good set of a large of number of Hitchcock releases on remastered DVD - why don't they do Ray? If rights are a barrier, why doesn't his estate or the owner of the rights do something? After all, these have been remastered and released abroad.
There's also the possibility that these are widely available in the country, except not in Chennai or Bangalore - hard to believe, but possible. The next time I'm in Kolkata...
And I'm yet to bitch about the fact that the Agantuk DVD doesn't even play on the computer. As for the picture quality - it's worse than illegal handheld camera videos of theatrical releases.
Monday, September 22, 2008
As advertised earlier, Jaideep Verma's debut commercial film hit the theatres last Friday. We went and watched it.
Unbiased opinion: It's a reasonably good film. A bunch of well executed characters, and good attention to detail. A bit longer than I'd have liked it though (it seemed to drag a bit after the interval). Perhaps some of the actors seemed to overdo their bit. But overall, a very watchable film as well as something a modern Indian urban dweller can relate to. With a couple of messages somewhere in there too.
Jaideep wrote me saying it has been doing badly so far. I'm hoping the concept of multiplexes will keep the film running for some time, because I'm sure it'll pick up steam, once word gets around.
Watch it if you can. Spread the word if you like it.
Friday, September 19, 2008
This Friday, 19th of September, will see a small Hindi film being released called Hulla.
It took 7 years for the film to come to the screen after the first draft of its script in 2001. The film has no stars, dance floors, guns, gangsters, molls, sex scenes… not even a romantic angle. It is an everyday film about middle-class everyday people.
But it has a wit and humour that hopes to compensate for everything.
If you plan on seeing it, the filmmakers specifically request you to see it by the first weekend (20th, 21st September). Otherwise, it could just be that word-of-mouth does not get a chance to build up and the film is off theatres by the next weekend.
Hulla was screened at the Osian's Cine Fan film festival (Delhi) in July. The two screenings led to several mentions in the media; short excerpts are reproduced below.
"A well-crafted and marvelously acted movie, Hulla is both entertaining and disturbing."
- The Times of India
"…clever, engaging satire."
"…feels tingling-ly true-to-life."
- The Hindu Business Line
"Shorn of Bollywood embellishments…"
"A new-age middle-of-the-road delight…"
This online review on a well-known film website is the very first (and till date, only) solo review it has had.
This is the film's recently constructed official Big Pictures website. www.hulla.bigflix.com
And this is the unofficial, politically incorrect blog that has been maintained for 18 months now. The real flavour and story behind the film is here www.silenceonthefloor.com
Please forward this to whoever you think may be interested.
Thanks for your time.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Here are some of the pictures - some of them are from my April trip, while the others are from the August one.
"Please Do Not Stay" is far and away my favourite. This welcoming sign is at an Olympic experience center.
If anyone can explain this one to me, I'd be grateful. It's at the check-out counter in a hotel, on the stand with the feedback forms.
It's rare to see English signs, I just clicked them when I could. The "Be Careful" sign is the most common - I'm going to do a post on only these signs the next time I visit.
And of course, if you go to English language classes, you're going to get your hands tied to a white man's. What fun.
Of course, sometimes they automate it.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Yes, I'm still procrastinating with the travel photographs. I admit it, ok?
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Saturday, September 06, 2008
1. Dave Barry on his Beijing Cab Ride.
2. Pictures of Beijing Fast Food.
Both via the same website, Marginal Revolution. How much lazier can I get?
Friday, September 05, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
The tour bus got stuck in some pretty nasty traffic and we reached an hour late - which was a pity, since I'd have to leave a couple of hours earlier to make my flight anyway. So I only got around an hour or so of it.
Which was fun enough.
The best part of this trip was I got to see sports I would normally skip on the television set itself, leave alone actually watching one. But you learn something everyday. And today was that fencing is fun to watch.
It's a pretty aggressive sport, and it's no wonder they put something at the business end of the epees - I wouldn't be surprised if someone gets stabbed at one of these.
I happened to see three Chinese participants in the hour I was there, which is a special experience, since the crowd goes apeshit screaming, cheering, and generally making a ruckus.
Next: The lonely Indian fan.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
It was one of the two events that I had tickets for. The tickets looked like this:
I was pretty impressed with this camera that would move on the rails next to the run-up for the vault. It could move real fast.
The rounds they had in the event were the rings...
...the pommel horse...
...the horizontal bar...
and the parallel bars and the floor exercises. Most of the men on the floor exercise sucked big time. I don't know if it's because they were out of practice, or if 'floor' isn't really a mens event.
To be honest, I'd have not voluntarily watched it, but after watching it, I'll admit it's an impressive spectator sport. Especially the vault. I saw four teams participating, along with a bunch of individuals (from Australia, Puerto Rico(!), Venezuela..). The four teams were Korea, Belarus, Romania and Germany. I think only Korea and Romania qualified for the next round. The Romanians had this dude called Dragulescu, who seemed to be their big hero - he did good with the vault and the parallel bars, but not too good with the rest. He barely qualified for the next round.
Next up: Men's Fencing.
Friday, August 15, 2008
One of the reasons was that a lot of the food was at a do, or a buffet, instead of me staring at a pictures of food on a Chinese menu and trying to guess what might be the best thing for me to have.
1. The Golden Jaguar Buffet
The craziest experience, the buffet at the Golden Jaguar, where I spent my Beijing Olympics opening night.
Here's a couple of videos that I took, before they stopped me. The two videos just deal with the starters section, and then the next couple of sections. From a larger perspective, it barely covers a tenth of the buffet.
I found this video on youtube as well, which is a little more comprehensive. Crazy frikkin buffet, is all I have to say. I had to sit down and gather my thoughts before I could pick what to eat.
2. Gui Jie (Ghost) Street
The best place to grab authentic Beijing food at the odd hours, this is a street packed with eateries on both sides for some distance. I went with a group of people, and had the hot pot. The pic there shows the two hot-pot sauces - and the spicy one was SPICY.
It was a fun place at midnight, and the waitress explained how their busiest hour really starts at 2 or 3. The odd hours gives it the name Ghost Street.
3. Kung Fu
Not really a mind blowing food experience or anything, but I found this McDonald's inspired Chinese chain to be amusing. It's a nice quick place - not gourmet, but functional. I love the logo - I'd buy a t-shirt with that logo on it.
This is the Kung Fu outlet at one end of Beijing Road in Guangzhou.
Monday, August 11, 2008
The airport was fun. I wish I could say that about the Air China flight.
A significant portion of the Cayman Islands Olympic team was on my flight! Here are both of them, picking up cash for the cab ride into the city. Unfortunately, I'm not able to get their names.
For some reason, the Czech team was missing. I saw around four people at DIFFERENT places in the arrival area, looking for these guys.
Beijing Airport is grand and all. It's some way out of the city - I'm told these days, that it's a norm for all large cities.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
I didn't actually get to visit the Olympic stadium till the afternoon of the day after the opening. We had tickets for Artistic Gymnastics. Fortunately, I had sufficient company today - folks from market-research agencies, and my host himself.
In the meanwhile, I got myself interviewed by a European ESPN team. They asked some generic questions, and then asked me if "..I felt safe in Beijing..." - I said, I presumed so, since I see the police pretty much everywhere.
We spent some part of the "free time", (as on our super-organised-schedule), walking around the olympic complex. As luck would have it, I'd just visited the Sydney Olympic Complex a couple of months back, and had a benchmark. The verdict essentially is - it's frikkin grand. Between the sheer size of the complex, the Water Cube and the Bird's Nest, it's quite breathtaking. I don't think the photographs do it justice.
The Water Cube is my favourite of the lot - and it's a pity I didn't get to enter it (I'm not really complaining, mind you - I've been lucky enough to even see it in person). In the evening, while I was leaving, they were doing some cool colour-changing stuff with the exterior.
The Bird's Nest is impressive too, up close. Even in Beijing's grey evening sky, you could see the Olympic flame. Again, I'd loved to see a sport inside.
The Olympic complex has something called 'the Sunken Garden', where the MacDonald's and the subway station is. It's a level below the rest of the complex, which is much cooler, with water sprays and water bodies all over the place, in style of ancient Chinese gardens, I think.
Keep it locked - more posts and pictures on it's way.