Friday, December 30, 2011

Simpoo Sir

Its amazing what good concepts and 2-D line animation can do. I am thinking The Simpsons, South Park, Family Guy et al. They are the most telling social satires told in the most entertaining ways. Even Simon’s Cat by Simon Tofield is simple daily tunes of a lazy cat.

Some time in 2000 I think, Channel V in India came up with Simpoo Sir aka SS Sodhi series into their programming. It was mostly used as a filler .

Simpoo Sir, the Maths teacher who also had a thing for music and grooming popstars. Loving and idiosyncratic – that’s Simpoo Sir for you. Rustic and a very Chandigarh twang to his English and Hindi . So yes becomes yuzz, joke becomes zoke, Pankaj becomes Pankuzz or better still ask the Pankuzz.

Here’s the link to Channel V’s Simpoo Youtube channel . They should never have stopped making these.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The year that was

The rundown of the year gone by . The year that was. A look back at 2011. A-Z of the year. Starting alphabetically with Arab Spring ,Beatification of Pope John Paul II and so on.

Arab Spring. The revolutionary rumblings started in Tunisia and gradually to a substantial part of the Arab world which witnessed pro-democracy led rebellions. The unrest turned to protests in Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Libya and Bahrain. The youth in these countries revolted against oppressive autocratic regimes. Libya’s tyrannical Muammar Gaddaffi ended up dead and Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak had to quit office. The social media played a big role in the opinions being voiced but still the etching image remains of the self immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi.

Beatification of Pope John Paul II led him one step closer to being conferred sainthood. The five year wait before the beatification process begins was waived off for Pope John Paul II, who was the Pope for 27 years until his death in 2005.

Cricket World Cup in the subcontinent and termed ‘the cup that matters’ was won by co-hosts India after an excruciatingly long wait of 28 years that sent the nation into mass delirium and gave a generation of Indians to brag ‘ I was alive when we became world champs’. Read the illustrated short story of the ICC World Cup 2011 here.

Djoker as Novak Djokovic is fondly called,wound up an unbelievable run of 41-0 until he was beaten by Roger Federer at the Roland Garros semis. His unending reserves of energy, outstanding court coverage and willingness to go for broke on every other point fetched him 5 ATP titles and 3 Grand Slams – Australian Open, Wimbeldon and the US Open. His temerity at match points got a reaction by a not so amused Federer ‘You don’t play the kind of shots he played when facing match point. It’s ridiculous.’

Euro Crisis shows no sign of ebbing as the currency that came to effect at the turn of the millennium is facing unprecedented odds with economies of Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain staying on a wing and a prayer. Only Germany remains a stoic performer and with England distancing itself from the Euro, things are looking as bleak as a foggy winter sky.

Flying empty is an apt term for the plagued air carriers Air–India. Not only has India’s national carriers fortunes become progressively worse, its joined by the Kingfisher which shut down its LCC wing Kingfisher Red. And it’s an open secret that other airlines are also in the red and deep in crisis. The government is against a bailout and against FDI in aviations as well. From being the sunshine sector 5 years back, aviation is experiencing turbulent air.

Google + entered the social networking space. In 3 weeks Google + amassed a user base of more than 10 million people. With exciting features like circles and hangouts Google + drew immediate response from rival Facebook with their timeline launch. Google also rolled back failed products like Google Buzz while introducing new layouts to YouTube, Gmail and Blogger.

Higgs Boson particle remains the holy grail of modern science. The year long experiments at the CERN’s Large Hardon Collider (LHC) at the Franco-Swiss border has indicated that the scientists may have spotted hints of the Higgs Boson. It’s possibly been found. Its presence will confirm the Standard theory by filling its one gaping hole and if not, then we have yet not fully understood how the sub-atomic particles make up the universe.

Icon Steve Jobs dies. The creative force behind Apple died of pancreatic cancer shortly after resigning as CEO of Apple earlier in the year. His involvement in creating products i-pods, i–tunes, mac pros, i-phone, i-pad and the Pixar Animation studio has revolutionised the entertainment industry and effects millions of lives everyday . Worldwide tributes poured in for the man who made black turtleneck and denim cool.

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami on March 11 was of catastrophic scale and one of the 5 most powerful earthquakes in recorded history. The 9.0 scale has a domino effect of the tsunami that wrecked havoc at the nuclear power plants and escalated the disaster with radiation leaks at the Fukushima I Nuclear power plants.

Over 15,000 lives were lost due to the natural disaster. High intensity earthquakes measuring 7.1 in Van in Turkey, 6.3 in Christchurch in New Zealand and 6.9 in Sikkim in India also caused heavy damage to property and human lives in 2011.

Kolaveri Di became a viral sensation. Essentially a video of the studio recording of a Tanglish (Tamil +English) song with an immensely hummable tune and catchy lyrics which ran with subtitles, Kolaveri Di has been imbibed into the popular culture of India in a record quick time. The why of it is undecipherable and it should never be over-analysed for the song was written and composed in 20 minutes flat. The catchiest tune since Macarena, the sheer tomfoolery of the song is visible on the face of Dhanush as he records the song barely containing his infectious laughter.

Lokpal movement (ombudsman) in India gained momentum under the leadership of social worker Anna Hazare which literally brought the Central government to its knees. The anti-corruption movement led by this 74 year old man exposed the policy paralysis of the government that is increasingly showing signs of a rudderless ship and one which has long lost its moral right to govern.

Més que un club .Barcelona won the treble in Spain during 2010-11, before winning the Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup already this season. They are looking favourites to retain their title in Europe and Spain. Barça’s style is fluid and beautiful as football is meant to be. And for the first time in their history they are wearing a sponsor’s name on their kits – that of Qatar Foundation.

News of the World, Britain’s leading tabloid which is known for its exposés, was formally shut down on July 7 amidst surfacing of allegations of corruption and phone hacking scandal. The Rupert Murdoch owned tabloid went out of circulation after 168 years of publishing on July 10 with the frontpage headline ‘ Thank you and goodbye’

Osama bin Laden was shot dead by the Navy Seal 6 team in Abottabad, Pakistan on May 1. The alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on USA had been the most wanted man in the world since then and had eluded the allies for close to a decade before being killed in a firefight. He was given a sea burial. US President Barack Obama hailed this as the US’ most significant achievement against the Al- Qaeda .

Population of the world breached 7 billion in late October. It’s the quickest jump of a billion people into the world populace .The world had crossed 6 billion only in 1999. The largest city by population is Tokyo with 35 million and Asia is home to 4.5 billion of the 7 billion people in the world.

Quaint isolated blockade. Tucked away in far–east of India, Manipur saw a 121 day blockade of the National highways, NH 39 and NH 53 by warring tribes fighting over carving a new district. The state government was helpless and the Centre didn’t even find it an important issue to be dealt with .As essential supplies ran short, black marketeering become rampant and petrol was being sold at Rs.200 and LPG cylinder around Rs.2000. It is this kind of apathy that seeds the discontent towards the government of India. Meanwhile Irom Sharmila continues to fast.

Royal Wedding generated frenzied media coverage and an extended Easter holiday season in England. Duke of Cambridge Prince Williams married Kate Middleton on April 29 in a widely televised event.

South Sudan became an independent nation on July 9 as a result of the 2005 peace deal that ended Africa’ longest running civil war. The South Sudanese overwhelmingly voted to secede from Sudan in a January 2011 referendum. South Sudan has vast oil reserves as natural resource.

Terrorism still was a huge part of our daily lives. Mumbai, Moscow, Norway and many more. All are susceptible.On January 24 ,a suicide bomber blew himself at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport killing 35 and injuring 130 others . Frequent target Mumbai was attacked yet again in 3 co-ordinated bomb blasts at Opera House, Zaveri bazaar and Dadar in 10 minutes on July 13.

US troops withdrew from Iraq on Dec.15 after more than 8 years of the Gulf war that had cost close to 4,500 soldiers and thousands of Iraqis their lives. The war launched in March 2003 with the precedence to oust Saddam Hussein now seems so long ago. The cost of war is in billions notwithstanding the blood of innocents caught in the desert. Iraq is still grappling with uncertainty of its future.

Vettel became the youngest Formula 1 double world champion breaking Fernando Alonso’s record set at Renault during 2005-06. Sebestian Vettel also notched up the world record of maximum pole positions in a season with 15 poles, eclipsing Nigel Masell’s 14 enroute to a commanding 11 race wins in the season in his super quick Red Bull Renault car. Vettel won in Australia, Malaysia, Turkey, Spain, Monaco, Valencia, Belgium, Italy, Singapore, South Korea and India and dominated a grid that included 4 former World Champions. Annus mirabilis for the young German.

Winning . This buzzword will only make sense if you know Charlie Sheen. Haven’t you noticed a lot of #winning tweets this year ?

Young singers were having a great year whether they good or not. Some being Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, Rebecca Black, Rihanna, Adele, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga. Take your pick .

Zuccotti Park - Occupy Wall Street protests. The Wall Street protests started out with the slogan – We are the 99 %. They protested against economic inequality, greed, undue influence of corporations, corruption and unemployment. A range of such movements in countries all over the world resulted in the protesterbeing named the person of the year by Time.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Coolest person this year

The coolest person this year according to TIME magazine is – Ryan Gosling. Such has been his popularity that there were protests by his fans outside People Magazine’s New York headquarters when they had snubbed Gosling and tagged Bradley Cooper as the sexiest man alive. Incidentally both are working on a film out next year -The Place Beyond the Pines. But Gosling is cool enough not to even bother about the title. And his dreamy charm is an instant female magnet which is undoubtedly the reason why he has been turned into an internet meme by fawning legion of fans.

The meme ‘Hey Girl’ spawns from the blog F__ Yeah, Ryan Gosling on Tumblr.There are scores of handsome Gosling snapshots with messages written with the Hey Girl theme. Another one being Ryan or a Puppy ? also on Tumblr. Sample some down here.

Gosling meanwhile is unassuming about it and is busy pleasing viewers with his stellar year at the movies. Closely followed by last year’s terrific Blue Valentine, he has his chiselled frame for display in Crazy Stupid Love, he is calculative and competitively amoral in The Ides of March and downright unpredictable in that scorpion jacket in Drive. Watch his charm over here in his appearance at Conan before the release of Drive and his why he thinks Disney has an undercover cat army – all in good humour .

The best line on him is a fake quote by Orson Welles from F____k Yeah, Ryan Gosling ;

The most awesomest, raddest, coolest dude since me - Orson Welles

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Another Earth

Another Earth is the story of a young girl named Rhoda (Brit Marling) who had a promising career as an astrophysicist cut short because she kills a pregnant woman and her son in a terrible car-accident. Hence, instead of spending her next four years in MIT where she had got an admission, she is holed up in a prison sentenced for DUI.

By the film’s name, it would seem it is a sci-fi film. So where’s the science fiction part in all this? That would be the discovery of Earth Two. Director Mike Cahill has used simple electronic mediums like TV and radio to break events of sci-fi significance. The discovery of an exact duplicate of the earth is heard on an FM channel by Rhoda and intelligent life on it is shown in a beautiful scene when a US scientist finds herself talking to herself.

This immediately brings questions, as to whether there is another you on Earth Two ? Is the other earth the same as ours, with a version of you and me existing? Is your life being mirrored there? Have the choices that you have made in life congruent with your version on Earth Two? What would you do if you meet yourself?

The Earth Two, while physically being impossible is however used in the film as a metaphor - of that of a shot at redemption, a do over, another chance. The sci-fi part is but a window dressing for Rhoda who wants to redeem herself for what she did. She applies for being on the crew to a voyage to Earth Two, in a contest with poignant essay. It says,

When early explorers first set out across the west to cross the Atlantic, most people thought that the world was flat. Most people thought if you sailed far enough west, you would drop off the plane into nothing. These vessels sailing out into the unknown, they weren’t carrying noble men, or artists, aristocrats, merchants. They were crewed by people living on the edge of their life. Mad men, orphans, ex-convicts..outcasts like myself. As a felon, i am an unlikely candidate for most things, but perhaps not for this. Perhaps i am the most likely.”

With that sort of a reason, we know that she is bound to win, and that excites the possibility of a whole new, albeit same world.

But meanwhile, she builds an interaction with the man whose family she killed in accident- a college music professor and composer. That relationship is not overwrought with self-pity. She just falls short of letting her know who she is, as she sees him still struggling to get back his life on tracks again. So she lies her way into his life.

Another Earth has no elaborate CGI, being an indie sci-fi but it is a great piece of drama. That said, the another earth is always present in the backdrop, either as a blue dot or as the life sustaining water body in the sky; ever wonderous , increasingly teasing in its lure. The Earth Two shots have a minimalistic beauty about them. Mike Cahill is the cinematographer as well apart from being the co-writer with lead actress Brit Marling who radiates intelligence in her performance apart from being exceptionally photogenic and emotive as the troubled Rhoda Williams.

Another Earth refuses to play by the rules of the genre as it is seen towards the abrupt end of the film. It throws upon us delicious questions and interesting ideas to think about. Watch it , for there are memorable moments that stay with you and for the ending that will surely spark some debate.

Another Earth got a standing ovation and won the Alfred P.Sloan Prize at its Sundance Festival premier earlier this year and is out now on DVD. Hear the soundtrack 'First time I saw Jupiter' below

Written by – Mike Cahill , Brit Marling

Music – Fall on your sword, #Musical saw scene by Scott Munson

Runtime - 92 minutes

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Days of December

Are you getting into Holiday spirits?
December is full of holidays and eventful memorial days - all month through .
December- the Friday of the months.

December 1 World AIDS Day

December 2 National Day of United Arab Emirates

December 3 World Conservation Day UNO

December 4 Navy Day India

December 5 Sinterklaas Netherlands

December 6 Islamic New year

December 7 Pearl Harbor Day US

December 8 Day of the Mary Immaculate Conception

December 10 Human Rights Day, Nobel Prize announcement

December 11 UNICEF Day

December 12 Day of Virgin of Guadalupe , Mexico

December 13 St.Lucy's Day

December 14 World Energy Day

December 15 Bill of Rights day US

December 16 Day of Reconciliation, South Africa

December 17 Wright Brothers Day

December 18 New Jersey Day , New Jersey

December 19 Liberation Day, Goa

December 20 Hanukkah (only this year)

December 21 First day of winter

December 22 Winter Solstice

December 23 Festivus

December 24 Christmas eve

December 25 Christmas

December 26 Boxing Day

December 27 The third day of Christmas

December 28 Proclamation Day, Australia

December 31 New Year’s eve