Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Boring awards ceremonies

British comedians are simply brilliant. They simply are. The British have a very rich tradition when it comes to comedy, especially stand up. From the inimitable and charming Ronnie Corbett to the brutally insensitive, but hilarious, Jimmy Carr, the people in the Isles have it all. However somehow, British comedy hasn't really crossed over to the US with much success. Popular British TV shows have somehow failed miserably to capture the attention of the Americans. Top Gear being the biggest example. The most popular automobile show on the planet, which is outstandingly hilarious throughout, has somehow not been popular in the US and the producers had to come up with a whole new show just for the American viewers.

Quite surprising then that someone like Ricky Gervais has managed to leave the entire television audience, not just in the US, but across the globe, screaming for more. There was a time when awards ceremonies were all about being politically correct and gently steering away from controversies. In came Ricky, and changed the course of things. No longer was anything, and I mean anything, considered holy. The snobs in Hollywood got a taste of the political incorrectness to the point where it actually resulted in an increase of TV ratings. The Golden Globes overnight became the Ricky Gervais show. And his repeated appearances as the host only consolidated that.

Anyone remember the Academy Awards? Yeah, apparently it's the biggest awards show on the planet. Did I just hear you say 'lame'? Well, I couldnt agree with you more! Over the years, the Oscars have turned out to be nothing more than disappointing. As for me, I do look forward to the Oscars, but only to check the winners' and nominees' list. And I believe I have spoken for a lot of people. I realise that it's preposterous (well, to some at least) to let Ricky host the Academy Awards, but seriously, after the drop in ratings, it doesn't seem such a bad idea after all.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

India to have it's first proper Digital Music Store in Flyte

India has been a silent bystander in the digital era. 

Apple, which neglected India for a very long time, finally launched the iPhone at ridiculous prices, clearly sending out a message that Indian customers didn't matter to them and that the launch was a mere act of paying lip service to the cries of potential users across the country. Such was the sloppiness of the iPhone launch, that the much hyped iTunes Music Store, considered to be an important part of the Apple experience was completely blacked out for Indian users. Why users in this country continue to patronise a company so brutally careless and callous about the user experience (there being no official Apple Stores in this country, being another example of the indifference of Apple towards Indian customers) is beyond me.

Apple however is not the only offender when it comes to neglecting users. Amazon, one of the largest online retailers, is definitely not the holy cow. However since none of Amazon's services are officially available in India and there being no local Amazon India store ( is a laughable attempt at creating an online marketplace, my own experience with has been an absolute nightmare), one can forgive them for not caring about Indian customers.

What this means is that Indians, are currently having no all inclusive online music store in the country. Not one, zero, zilch, naught!

Of course, one might argue about the presence of one, about which I have my own reservations ( sells 128kbps MP3 files for Re. 1/song. Which year is this? 2001?). In short, after desperately trying to buy digital music, my experience has been horrendous. No wonder then,  that Indians, even the ones who can afford to pay for music and more importantly who want to pay for music, are forced to resort to blatant piracy.

Flipkart which has obviously done quite a lot (well, if there is a online market revolution in India happening at present, Flipkart can take the entire credit for it) in terms of making online purchases extremely smooth, is all set to launch Flyte, it's own digital music store. One can only hope that Flipkart addresses the issues Indian users have complained about regarding the current batch of (laughable) music stores such as

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Thoughts on 1984

It's difficult to summarise one's thoughts about a book like 1984. It has influenced generations and has been interpreted by each differently. There have been scores of novels and movies (and even video games, remember Half Life?) which have drawn inspiration directly or indirectly from it.

At the outset, it must be said that this dystopian novel is a fantastic read. Even when you ignore the philosophy of it all, simply as a novel this is pretty amazing. Of course, once one delves deeper, there is a thoroughly intriguing and might I add, highly thought provoking, take on modern societies and power regimes and where they're headed. One may not agree with every conclusion the author comes up with but few can dispute the relevance of the book even to this day (the picture of the North Korean defector with a copy of 1984 in the streets of South Korea, "Nothing to Envy" by Barbara Demick, immediately comes to mind). Rulers, regimes and governments have since time immemorial been ruthless against the proletariat. And what's extremely uncomfortable and perplexing is the fact that even to this day, around the world, the exploitation of the poorest of the poor is continuing. Somehow we are still stuck with the medieval notions of the higher, middle and lower classes, in one form or the other. And therefore, much to my personal dismay, Orwell's books, especially Animal Farm and 1984 continue to be relevant rather than simply being important works of literature.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The passing of the torch

To be honest, I've always been fascinated by North Korea. It's a country most of the world knows little about and it's powered by a ruthless hardline communist regime, unmatched in its control over its people. The death of Kim Jong-il was the ultimate wake up call for me. Here is a country, from my own continent of which I know absolutely nothing about.

The next thing I did was pick up one of those 'highly recommended' books on the country by Barbara Demick. The book is called Nothing to Envy and is pretty much regarded as the beginner's guide to North Korea. Never being a fan of non fiction, I was a bit sceptical initially. After all being fed on a steady diet of GRRM, Stephen King and their likes has its flaws. But Nothing to Envy turned out to be a page turner. It fails to fall in trap of being preachy and impersonal and comes up with something interesting.
Barbara Demick is a correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and her work over the years has led her to exotic places across the planet, most significantly, to North Korea. A country so secluded, even its population is a matter of guessing by the outside world. It's millions of citizens being constantly fed a steady diet of idealistic hard line communist propaganda, and the philosophy of 'Jucche' (loosely translated it means self-reliance) is quite astonishingly divided into a privileged class (read people who have sworn allegiance to the Worker's Party) and the impoverished. A class discrimination, as Demick says, only second to the one which was prevailing in India back in the day. Quite surprising, if course, since economic discrimination is the last thing you'd expect from a communist regime in full control of a country's political and economic landscape.

Unlike a commonly held perception, not everything Kim is associated with is evil. Kim Il-sung, the late Dear Marshall and the Eternal President, has a definite group of loyal 'authentic' followers. After the Japanese invasion of North Korea, it was he who instilled a sense of self pride and of course the philosophy of Jucche in the minds and hearts of North Koreans. Revered he was and probably still is by many North Koreans for taking socialism to whole new levels. In fact, so successful was the regime under him that in 1970, it was the North which was the prosperous of the two Koreas. Of course, after that, things went downhill. His death was followed by the rise of his son Kim Jong-il to the corridors of power and control. He assumed titles which registered him as quite frankly, the last word in North Korea. And then state sponsored propaganda was taken to a whole new level by that man they call 'Dear Leader'. So severe was the suppression of and crackdown on dissenters that even during the devastating famine of the late 90s (of which very little is known) no protesting voice was heard.
His passing away led to speculations all over the world regarding the stability and viability of the regime. Ending all those speculations, Kim jong-il's youngest son, Kim jong-un has assumed the role of the supreme leader of the country. Backed by the military and opportunistic party workers, his future seems pretty secure, at least for the time being.

Whether the onslaught of propaganda will finally force the people of North Korea into revolting against the state machinery may be a matter of speculation but we're heading into turbulent times as the last dictator of a nuclear weapons armed communist regime tries to re-emphasize its grip on its hunger stricken, grief ridden and frustrated populace.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hello World!

Nope. I can't write a single line of programing code to save my life! Okay maybe to save my life I would but the end result would be completely bug ridden. Much like Android. Oops!

The year's coming to an end isn't it? I guess that means it's time to look back and contemplate. That's something we Bengalis do very well by the way, contemplate. Compared to actually getting things done.

So what we're the highs for me this year? Hmm...okay so I didn't get high, so maybe that's a high. Other than that, I experimented a lot with photography only to realise that I knew shit about it. Another realisation? You don't need a f*ckin DSLR to take decent photos. By the way, I am indeed in the lookout for a cheap DLSR (don't smirk, I saw you) but when I indeed find one to fit my tiny fingers, I promise to stay away from the gravest error. Shooting in auto mode. Here's a tip; when done with shooting always revert to the auto mode, that way you're ready to take photos in difficult situations. See, I have picked up a few things over the years!

Random change of topic. I have seen fatal attraction towards Serious Sam. Okay fine not fatal. I doubt if I'll ever find Sam trying to stab me in the bathroom.

That was weird...

Books. Novels rather. I'm well in my way to end up reading fifty novels this year. Yeah that's an achievement. For a casual reader. And no I haven't yet read Pride and Prejudice. Neither have I read any of the Twilight books.

Random change of topic. I actually thought Kristen Stewart was the daughter of Jon Stewart! Yes, the comedy central guy. He's awesome by the way. Anyway, to my utter surprise I found out yesterday that Kristen's dad is John Stewart! Arggh the crucial H.

As for the contemplating scheme of things, I'm contemplating writing about it the next time around.

There, the Bengali in me has spoken.