Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Search War is ON!

So after redesigning the Microsoft Live (I have to accept that they made a nice idea of those pictures), Microsoft is trying to beat the God of Search Engines with Bing. Bing from the promotional video seems to be a more advanced version of the Google Suggest and a few other google features already existent. But given the desperation levels of Microsoft to better Google, you can be sure that they have something up their sleeve - which leads us to the next question - What is Google going to do? Its not by luck alone that they are the most successful Internet based company in the last 20 odd years. And remember that they contributed their company name as a verb to the english language.

Sabaash! Seriyaana poatti!!

Another take, albeit by a much more professional person.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ayan - A Review

I was seeing a tamizh movie in a theater in Chennai after what seems to be ages. So the review might be slightly biased positively towards the movie.

1. Story
Typical Masala fare. But nowadays, tamizh movie directors package their masala quite well with technology that you do not realize what you are being fed. My parents tell me that when I was young they used to feed me when I was gazing at advertisements on TV, as I was very picky about food. Similarly, what was started by Vishnu Varadan (Billa) and Shankar (Sivaji) is now being followed by Anand in Ayan. There are intro songs, some personal reference dialaaks ("Namakku eppovum Jo thaaan!") and some well choreographed fights and a stupid heroine who looks good.

2. Cast
Surya all the way - If the same movie was made by Ajith or Vijay, it would have sunk without a trace as people will clamour for change from them. Surya, who is now on the rise to the superstar status, tries his hand and since he is relatively new to this genre of films compared to A or V, makkal don't seem to mind. Surya seems to have gained weight after his 6 pack look for Varanam Aayiram. His hairdos, costumes and coolness factor makes you realize why every guy who you meet on the streets of Chennai is a 'fan' of Surya. The female population has already seemingly willed their sothu to Surya and cannot get over the fact that he is already married to Jothika. He is now a complete package - Has the looks, seems to have picked up the basics of tamizh padam dancing and is quite good in comic timing and Tammanna Bhatia is good looking in stills but looks like a Vellai Eli in the movie. As is the marabu in tamizh padams, she is shown as a desperate to fall in love, stupid and sometimes annoying girl who goes to college (but rarely you see her studying/going to college) who dances quite well in the songs. Nandu Sindu Fame Jagan is the main comedy track. Though he manages to raise a few laughs, he mainly relies on double meaning jokes to make his stuff work. The villain was more a comical one than anything. Prabhu has seemingly settled to play support to heroes. He carries on his good work from Billa in this movie too, playing his part with quiet efficiency. He somehow was in the same boat as Rishi Kappor in Dilli - 6 (a good role in an average movie. I know I do great flattery to Dilli - 6 by calling it average. It should be called crappy). Renuka of KB Teleserial fame is quite jarring with her kural and chennai tamizh.

3. Direction/Screenplay
The director has managed to take a very normal tamizh pada story and managed to keep you away from looking at your watch/cell phone for time for 3 hours, which is a great feat given the kind of movies I have been seeing in tamizh recently. I think, a major portion of this credit should also go to Surya who has literally appeared in each frame of the movie and done everything from comedy, fight, romaans and the usual hero stuff without appearing tacky.

4. Music/BGM.
BGM was pure comedy for the scenes with the bad guy. The songs though are quite catchy. I didn't like them when I listened to them when the audio released. But seeing the movie, made me a big fan of 3 songs (below). Harris Jayaraj has managed to elevate and seperate himself from the pack of music directors in tamizh - I can say that A.R. Rahman apart, no other music director has been so consistent in giving popular music.

Oyaayiyae Yaa - TamilBeat.Com

Nenje Nenje - TamilBeat.Com

Vizhi Moodi - TamilBeat.Com

Overall Opinion:

One time watch. Watch it for Surya.

The India Trip

In my limited knowledge of desi-history in US, I guess I had the most impromptu trip to India - I booked tickets 3 days before I had to leave, I had no check in luggage on my trip to India and I spent close to 2 hours to shop for my trip.

1. Lufthansa has improved by leaps and bounds. I always liked their no-nonsense approach to flying - they never miss baggage, they don't get delayed and are quite the epitome of the German efficiency. The only crib I had with them - the Haider Ali-kaalaththu planes have been discarded for newer ones with personal entertainment systems. A cool addition. The food is, as usual, quite good. But the major fun was while I was on my Frankfurt to Chennai leg, I had a desoid (tam) guy who by his looks was a typical onsite software engineer from the W/I/T/C/H companies - he was blatantly and pathetically trying to flirt with the Indian stewardess - I tried to drown myself in sleep (which was how I managed the 26 hour journey) but that frickking guy kept passing 'clever' and 'funny' remarks that I asked for a seat change - thankfully ended up with an empty row of seats where I kattai neetified and slept. :)

2. This might sound cliched - But I had a major reverse culture shock in India. Makkal were hip, had money to scatter on the roads and I was seeing BMW 7-Series car with scratches and bent fenders! The prices of clothes, books, auto fares and groceries have doubled/tripled from my 2007 experience. Sometimes I felt that if I worked in India at the same level as I'm right now, I might be called a poor guy. Makkal were flaunting 25k cell phones just like that and the respect for money (especially for the poor old Rs. 100 note) was floundering.

3. Inox Theater in Chennai is a rip-off. The theater has an odd smell of sweat and butter popcorn. The sound system was the only saving grace. Coke cans cost in 60s and pop corn packs cost close to 100 upwards. And all this for a Wednesday 12.00 noon show. I saw that Friday evening shows costing 360 per head for the latest releases!

4. Spencer's Plaza has passed its days of splendor and opulence. Its now a mere shadow of its former self. Landmark is the only place which will not test your perspiration limits. I do not know if it is me, but I think Landmark has kind of given up on their Nungambakkam High Road store in terms of improving looks and space. The Landmark stores in Spencer and City Center were much better maintained and spacious.

5. Interesting observation at Landmark: Maximum 'youth' crowd were seen around the magazine section, leafing through the Maxim kinda mags seeing Bommai :P

6. Besant Nagar beach has become 'galeej' much like Marina. But it presents a stark picture of contrast - you have on one side, places like Barista with its youth crowd, varuthufying kadalai over a cup of some version of coffee while on the other side of the road you have the typical thalai ku mele duppata 'couples' doing romaans! PDA (Public Display of Affection) in Chennai has reached new levels from my last trip. I saw a couple in CCD (location not important) almost fornicating inside the premises over a cup of coffee.Now I know why they have couch style seating in those places and some (convenient?) dark corners.

7. The dressing sense of youth crowd in Chennai still beats my limited common sense/rational-ness. While I was profusely sweating with just a normal t-shirt on, I saw makkal wearing one t-shirt and another shirt on top in such a way that the t-shirt made up for the sleeves and torso while the shirt was more like a jacket kinds. I sweated a few liters more just by looking at those makkal. But curiously enough, makkal have still not given up on the crotch-lock trousers. The trousers that male makkal wear might make female population in US envious. The good thing to note was that stupid wearing your trousers half way down the legs (which I believe was a direct influence of hip hop videos) seems to have passed.

8. The Chennai Super Kings Jersey at the Reebok Showrooms costs Rs. 700 and Rs. 1999! The difference between the two priced shirts seems to be that the one priced higher has the letters 'D', 'O', 'N', 'H' and 'I' printed not necessarily in that order and Number 7 on it. I think I should be getting the job who is doing that spray painting of the number and letters. If 6 letters are worth 1300, then I think I have a good business plan to buy my dream Ferrari.

9. CNN-IBN is now exactly Indian version of CNN. Paisa peraadha vishayangal are given out as news. Amrita Arora having a fab bod after marriage is discussed at 8am on the news. Some other maida maavu indee shaniyan actor comes to talk about his designer line and all that crap.

10. Chennai airport now has international power outlets and free Wi-Fi. Lufthansa had a rare slip up on my return trip and I ended up spending 3 quality  hours at Chennai between 12.00am and 4.45am and the internet helped me catch up on emails and do all the internet-y activities.

11. Courtesy, Jaya TV, Enge Brahmnan is now a big phenomenon in Chennai. I heard Cho Ramasamy now comes on TV and blatantly claims Brahminical Superiority. While I do not exactly support this kinda 'jaadhi' pracharam, I feel that the amount of shit that tam brahms go through from the Kazhaga Kanmanigal, this is an expected and late-arrival of a retaliation. Gone are the days of Tam Brahm! Thank You Ma'm logic.

P.S: Met up with Nirmal, who gave me more insights into the changes described above. He seems to have a balanced head and I do not think 4 years of working life has changed him one bit from the nice guy I knew in SVCE.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Current Project

Seems quite a mushy song - But I confess, I like it. The guitar can be played by just plucking the strings - the song is quite easy to sing.

Tampa-vil oru Mazhai Kaalam

The tropical weather is here. 90 degree heat at 1pm - Rain like there's no tomorrow at 5pm. Frogs and other reptilian cohabitants of the 'woods' where I live close to duly note  your presence, make sure you notice their presence, and more importantly, size! [Picture taken at 4pm EST]

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sweden, Anyone?

If someone has been to Sweden and back, please let me know the insider information on actual visa processing times and general travel arrangements that you made from the US. I already got the lowdown from the official Swedish consulate in Washington DC website.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Change is life

5th May, 2009: Tuesday: Decide on going to India
Wednesday - Friday - Make arrangements for paying visa fees.
Sat - Sun: Wait for the payment to get activated
11th May, 2009: Monday: Book visa apptmnt and flight tickets
15 th May, 2009: Friday: Leave to India.

I don't think I have even travelled officially at this short a notice.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Vodafone Zoozoo Ads - A collection

There have been a few ad campaigns in India which have been quite good - their conceptualization, execution being on par with any of those ads from around the world. On those lines, here's one more:

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Dhoni - A quick perspective

P. Roebuck is known to tend towards hyperboles - especially towards mass hero cricketers. So take this with a pinch of salt - forget the adjectives, but he does have a few facts nailed straight on.

Link :
Dhoni has been himself. His approach lies midway between Warne and Kumble. Like the Aussie, he shows faith in his players, is able to think and act on his feet, and does not panic or concern himself with appearances. Like the mighty Indian he is a warrior, unyielding, prepared to hurl himself into the fray. Plain and simple, Dhoni is able to focus his entire character on winning the contest, a task he goes about in a notably unemotional way.
While not exactly a sphinx, he does not give much away, does not react when things go awry, does not glare at blundering fieldsmen or reel at the sight of a long-hop. Instead he seems able immediately to think about the next ball. He is a constant and remarkable man, able to allocate his time and energies so that the field does not drain him, for upon departing he can switch straight into another world. Captaincy will not break him. Dhoni has exceptional clarity of thought. Knowing its leader, his team responds with equal determination, and afterwards relaxation.

Nrusimha Jayanthi

May 7th marks Nrushimha Jayanthi this year. I can still remember the Saturdays when I made the trip to the Yoga Nrusimhar temple in Velachery. Quite a quaint little temple and the bhattacharyar there was quite proficient too, taking time to tell you the Sthala Puranam. The only other place where I was impressed with the bhattacharyar was at the Varadharaja Perumal Swamy temple in Kanchi (its a different matter that he gave me some chakkarapongal and paanagam arbitrarily - the only apparent reason I can see being that I was a brihmacharin and he was looking for punniyam).

The posture of Sri Yoga Nrusimha in this temple is west-facing with four hands and sitting, which is quite rare. The Goddess is Amirthabalavalli. The Utsavar is Bhakthavatsala Perumal, flanked by Sridevi and Bhoodevi on His either sides.The'Sri Veda Narayana Perumal' in Manimandapam west faced with Prayoga Chakra. The only other places where I know Vishnu with the Prayoga Chakra are Chettipunyam, Thiruvoraiyur and the Veetru-irundha Raaman at Nemili.

If you are a believer and are in madras, do visit:

1. Hindu Article
2. Temple Tour

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A Veggie Food Trip in the US

Heavily Inspired by Hawkeye .

Hawkeye in the above mentioned post did a literal favorite list for almost every tambrahm. Since most of the items I wanted to cover was already done, I thought of listing all the veggie food that you get in US restaurants.

Chipotle: The Burrito Bowl with the Fajita veggies option - Can be had in the normal burrito version but ends up difficult to manage to eat and gets messy. But taste and cost-effective. The combo should typically be Rice, Black beans, grilled veggies, mild salsa, sour cream, corn, cheese, guacamole and lettuce. You can add another type of salsa depending on your hot and spice preferences. This is almost too heavy for anybody to have it at one go - so its always a better idea to have it made as a to-go option. The taste is simply unexplainable in words.

Tijuana Flats - The Black Bean Flautas with all veggies and queso and sour cream-guacamole sides. Make this on a wheat shell, if you really care about the calories. The other dish that would appeal to the sapaaturaaman/raami in you would be the Spinach and Artichoke or Black Bean-Veggie Quesadilla. The best thing about TF is the Smack My Ass and Call Me Sally Sauce Bar - There are four levels - Sissy Sauce, Middle Weight, Tear Jerker and the Death Wish. Even though I have high tolerance to kaaram/hot-spice levels, personally their death wish is quite harsh on your taste buds. But quite a few in the middle weight and tear jerker might make you remember your avakkaai urugaai days back home.

P.F. Chang's Bistro: Quite a pricey option but quite tasty. Amongst asian cuisine restaurants, I find that these guys have the best appetizer - CHANG’S VEGETARIAN LETTUCE WRAPS. It comes with a few leaves of Lettuce and fried shredded tofu and some other stuff which I think is vegetarian (as the  menu promises us) and I can tell you that you will most probably ask for a appetizer refill. The Stir Fried Eggplant and Buddha's Feast are the entrĂ©es that will make you feel like a well fed python.

Olive Garden - The Eggplant Parmesan and the Five Cheese Ziti are almost the de facto choice of veggie junta. Between these two I always end up buying the Eggplant dish, throw away the Spaghetti and substitute from the 5 Cheese Ziti (which by itself is too heavy for me). But this mandates that: 1. You either go with someone with whom you are comfortable to share food dishes (echchai and all that aacharamaana stuff) or be filthy rich enough to get 2 dishes and waste some portion of it.And having spoken about OG, it would be unfair to miss the salad bowl that you get. In fact, if only OG cuts out oh-we-are-a-classy-restaurant-and-so-you've-got-to-wait-15 mins-to-get-seated attitude, I think the best lunch deal in US is the Salad-Soup combo available here.

CheeseCake Factory: Again, a pricey option, but its a veggie lovers heaven in terms of variety. Almost every pasta can be ordered without meat and more often than not, the waiter suggests an alternate vegetable that almost always is spot on. And the less said about the deserts, the better (I mean this as a compliment). Anybody who is trying to lose weight stay away from this place. The cheesecakes are so rich and tasty that you won't notice that they almost choke you with their creaminess and cloyingly sweet taste.

Maggiano's Little Italy: The USP of this place is that they make the dishes from the scratch for your order. So as long as you have a knack of substituting the correct vegetable for meat, you will end up with quite a good dish. But the Eggplant Parmesan with the provolone cheese makes the eggplant parmesan at IG pale in comparison. But on the flip side, this restaurant has a 'iruttu' decor which sometimes will jar you if you are a person who prefers bright settings. And the Tiramisu - the best tiramisu you can have outside of Italy, is perhaps here. You don't get a nasty whiff of rum at the end and the texture is just divine.

Taco Bell: Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes, Crunchwrap Supreme, 7-Layer Burrito and bean Baja Chalupa. This is something I picked up when I was a student and I still give in to the temptation once in a while. Obviously not healthy to you (might be for your wallet). But it is like the road side pani puri that you get back in India - the taste overwhelms logical (hygenic) reasons.

ColdStone Creamery: If you love ice-creams, you should have been to this place at least once. Amazing texture and God Save You if you have the 'Gotta Have It' size. You can feel the fat calories adding up around your waistline before you find the last scoop of the custom made ice creams. Their ice creams are really sinfully delightful.

German Cuisine - I do not know of any national chain German restaurant - but I don't think you get the cream of potato soup, called Kartoffelsuppe any richer than in a German restaurant. And depending on how good an eater you are, you might want to try the Spaetzle (noodle-like dish) and the potato pancakes. I personally would not recommend the Sauerkraut - but have seen some veggies love that too.

Chili's: The sizzling fajitas - substitute chicken with veggies - but warn the waiter makkal not to include too many veggies. For those not really intent on doing work, you can have quesadilla version. The Texas Cheese fries are amazing, possibly, the best fries in the US. And the molten chocolate cake (Dark or White) is again, up there amongst the best deserts in the land.

I think I have covered most of my favorites. Have left obviously on your face options such as Subway, Greek cuisine etc as they are common and don't score really high on the taste charts. (This comes from someone who eats a subway sandwich almost once in 5-6 days)