Realm Of Randomness

July 8, 2009

Thanks for the memories : Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

Filed under: General — Randomizer @ 4:20 am
Now and Forever

Now and Forever

It’s been a while since my last post. I pretty much took off without a trace and without really a conscious decision to stop blogging. My apologies to those who have been checking in to see if anything’s been happening at the Realm. I knew that if I wrote a ‘this-is-my-last-entry’ post, that would really have been the end to blogging, so I just left things hanging. It’s been an interesting year since my last post, and though I do not know if I’ll be continuing with new posts regularly, I do know that events like the death of a legend like Michael Jackson cannot go by without an entry in what can now only be described as my online diary ( considering I must have lost most of my readers over the year! ) .

It’s July 7th, 2009 and I watched the memorial service online after getting back from work today. Needless to say, it was truly heart breaking watching the family and especially his children go through this. There are only two types of people in the world today – MJ fans who are really taking this personally, and non-fans who are wondering why this is such a big deal. Considering the title of my post, it’s obvious which of those categories I lie in. Over the last few days since hearing the news first on Jun 25th, I’ve been trying to piece together why exactly this is a big deal to me and the millions of other fans around the world. While I don’t have answers for the rest, I can surely speak for myself.

So what was Michael Jackson to me? Here’s a taste of it.

Michael Jackson was being 7 and singing ‘anna-manna-bokkay’ not knowing the true lyrics ‘Annie are you okay?’ from Smooth Criminal. He was being 10 and watching Moonwalker over and over again, wishing I could turn into a car or a robot too, or dance the way he did. He was singing with my brother in the backseat of our Toyota Corolla in Saudi, each of us having a photocopy of the page of lyrics that came along with the ‘Dangerous’ cassette. He was begging my cousin abroad for a tape of his tour when I returned to India and couldn’t find any new videos or music of his. He was the subject of so many of my drawings and paintings that I think I can sketch him without reference to this day. He was that day in ’95 when we paid 180 Rs to get the two cassette HIStory album. He is the distinct feeling of sadness about something I can’t pinpoint that I feel listening to Stranger in Moscow. He was being urged by the class to sing a song on the last day of school in 9th grade and being terrified of doing it since I never did it before, until I remembered the lyrics to  ‘Keep the faith’, my long favourite song. I did keep the faith, and went on to join the music band in 10th grade, and haven’t stopped playing since. He was the thrill of coming home after school one day to see a new video,  ‘You rock my world’ playing on MTV after years of absence from the music scene. He was the warm feeling inside I got thinking of my then crush while listening to one of his most beautiful songs, ‘Speechless’.

Michael Jackson has never been just about the music. He’s always been about the memories. He was alive and kicking when I was born in 1982, and was breathing and making music till two weeks ago. In his death, us fans don’t see the death of a person or even a legend. We feel we’ve lost a part of our own selves, and it is something truly hard to explain.

It’s tragic that the memories stop here, and that all we have is the music he has already made and that there will never be a new album to look forward to, or a new video of his to watch. We won’t see him redeeming himself and getting back to his glory days in the concerts that were to come as early as this month in London.

For one last day though, the world is united again in MJ. When I see fans on TV crying in Hong Kong and London and New York and the Philippines, I am glad that I know how they feel. It’s up to us to carry on his legacy, and tell the next generation what it was like living in the same world and growing up with the greatest entertainer of all time.

Goodbye, Michael Jackson. Thanks for the memories.

June 26, 2008

Once you go Indie …

Filed under: Movie,Review — Randomizer @ 2:10 am

Hollywood just doesn’t cut it anymore. Ever since watching Pan’s Labyrinth last year, I’ve been feeling the urge to watch more and more foreign films and independent movies. I’ve watched tons of them already, so many of which I’ve absolutely loved, and an equally good number of them that were flat out boring. So here are some good movies to watch, when you’re done with the Hulks and the Batmen( Batmans?) from this Summer… movies that are real, no graphics, no fancy effects, just stories of people and things that happen around them… movies dealing with simple things, complicated people and mostly fantastic acting… movies that perhaps need wine rather than popcorn, that are more for a Sunday afternoon than a Saturday night… movies that give you something to think about instead of an escape from it!

Before introducing the countdown, I just had to say – Avoid watching trailers at all costs, or reading the back of DVDs … these things spoil a good half of the movie, and in some extreme cases possibly even the entire movie itself! Also, Indie flicks don’t guarantee you a happy ending all the time, so if you’re one of those who goes by the ‘I have enough problems in my life already’ philosophy, this list is best left unread!

So here goes..

(10) Martin (Hache): This is a Spanish movie, based in Argentina and Spain. The dialogue is quite witty and the acting is pretty great.

(9) Water: Our very own Indian movie (which we banned and so later had to be entered as a Canadian film!) directed by Deepa Mehta is the story of a young widow in Varanasi. No matter how much we desis cringe at the exoticization of India in western media, there are stories that still need to be told, and this is one of them.

(8) The Diving bell and the Butterfly: Winner of tons of awards this year, this French movie is essentially a story of survival. It’s pretty motivational and you feel grateful for so many things once you’re done watching it. I read the story of this man in Reader’s Digest maybe a decade ago. This was the film adaptation of that true story.

(7) After the Wedding: Nominated for the Oscars for best foreign film but lost out to the ‘Lives of others’, which I will be talking about shortly. This was a Danish film, quite a Bollywood-ish story with all the twists and turns, but nevertheless quite entertaining.

(6) Bella: A sweet Spanish story revolving around two people, set in New York. It’s a nice watch, emotional at times, and very good acting.

(5) Half Nelson: The story of a teacher and one of his students, both with their own problems and pasts, and how they deal with their presents and futures.

(4) The Visitor: One of the few movies that has crossed the 90% barrier on Rotten Tomatoes (which is what I use for Movie ratings), it was the first movie that I cared to actually watch in a movie theater rather than use the DVD player at home. This is the story of a Professor in the US and his experience with an unexpected ‘visitor’… it’s in English, and is a pretty nice movie to watch.

(3) City of God: Wow, this movie was crazy. It’s raw Brazil, with the gangs, the poverty, the drugs and the crime. A must watch foreign film.

(2) The lives of others: Jeez, what a fantastic movie. This was the Oscar winner for the 2007 Best Foreign film award. I highly recommend this one. It’s a German film, set in East Germany, 1984. I’m not giving away anything more.

(1) Nobody Knows: It’s been 5 days since I watched this movie and I just can’t stop thinking about it. This movie is intense and long, so if you are the type who needs actions scenes more than subtleties, this isn’t for you… though I would still strongly suggest trying it out just to see. Set in Tokyo, this Japanese movie is about the lives of 4 children … and that is again all I am willing to give away. The direction is amazing, the scenes are fantastic, and the movie just grips you from start to finish. The actor who played the eldest of the kids won the Best Actor at Cannes in 2004… an award he definitely deserved.

… well, there you go. If you have any suggestions for good Indie or Foreign films, please do add them in the comments! Happy watching!

June 1, 2008

The Blind Watchmaker

Filed under: Book,Evolution,Intelligent Design,Review,Science — Randomizer @ 3:55 pm

Yeah, I know it’s been a while since I last posted. Call it a combination of longer hours at work and more things to do when I come back home, but this year has so far been a lot more ‘outdoorsy’ than any of the past three and I’m quite happy about that. Unfortunately, my reading time has been drastically shortened, and so it’s no wonder that completing ‘The Blind Watchmaker’ took me close to 3 months, when it should have been more like 2 weeks!

I loved this book by Richard Dawkins and wished I had read the whole thing in a stretch, because by the time I reached the last chapter, I had close to forgotten what happened in the first. I totally recommend this book, and do hope that once you start, you read at least a chapter a day to maintain the flow.

Dawkins has come to be more of the ‘face of Atheism’ these days, and that is quite sad because that is really not his forte. Evolutionary biology is his area of expertise and Atheism is just a mere consequence of the realities he came to accept being so convinced about this theory and what it actually means. This book, in many ways helped me celebrate the completion of one year since coming to terms with life and the universe and it has made me a lot more confident about this topic.

What surprised me most while reading the book was that the author not only has decades worth of knowledge about biology, but is also very well versed in computer programming and mathematics. He frequently uses these to help make his point, and as a programmer, it was pretty great to see things explained your way.

The book talks about a lot of things:

  • What exactly evolution is, and isn’t
  • How our organs appear to be ‘designed’, but why they aren’t
  • The technicalities – DNA/RNA, genes, traits
  • Does evolution occur gradually or in spurts ?
  • Debunking alternate theories

You might be wondering – what’s with the weird title of the book? I did too. It is actually a reference to the Watchmaker argument that says that if you are walking on a beach one day and stumble upon a watch in the sand, would you assume that the watch ‘just happened’ or that someone ‘designed’ it and left it there? Obviously, you assume the latter – and if you do, can’t we also say that living things (which are FAR more complicated than mere watches) were also ‘designed’ or ‘created’ the same way by God / Creator / Intelligent Designer?

Read the book to find out!

April 17, 2008

Stuff Indian People Like

Filed under: Humour,Internet,Review — Randomizer @ 12:50 am

For the uninformed readers for whom this title doesn’t ring a bell (and that would probably mean all of you who have a life besides the internet), let me educate you on the latest web phenomenon. A certain site called ‘Stuff White People Like‘ (SWPL) created on Jan 18th, 2008 and updated regularly since then, has achieved instant success with millions of hits per week and tons of publicity both in the online and the real world. The author has even gone on to receive a lucrative book deal from Random House, for a book by the same name.

Simply put, the site is a humorous and satirical view of a stereotypical liberal white person, and lists everything – ranging from caring about the environment, to coffee – that these ‘white people’ like. To get you started, here are some of the funnier posts I’ve read:

Stuff White People Like

There are many other funny posts, but I liked the Indie music and Apologies posts a lot :) …

Stuff Desi (Indian) People Like

Obviously, the next question for all of us desis is, is there a desi knock-off of the ‘SWPL’ site yet? Apparently, the #1 thing desis like to do is to make desi knock-offs of the original site, because I have come across at least 8 knock-offs already ! The following four are merely sites worth mentioning, and I’ve left out many other sites that have simply acquired a similar domain name and done nothing since then – ( Now there’s your typical desi, out to make a quick buck by holding on to a hot domain name! )

Anyway, in decreasing order of posts/readers( and hence, popularity) , we have

Once again, to get you started, here are some of the posts I liked, mainly from the top two sites above:

While I am not sure which of these sites will eventually win as the ‘established Indian version of SWPL’, its certainly good that many people are attempting it and eventually, the one with the best quality will win, not just the best domain name. I’m sure the eventual winner will be quite a fun site to read every once in a while.

Good luck to them, and may the best knock-off win !

April 15, 2008

Let sleeping dogs (and movies) lie

Filed under: Humour,Movie,Rant — Randomizer @ 3:16 am

I have this habit of reminiscing too much. I often think about how it was, growing up in the 80′s and the early 90′s and love thinking about all those shows and movies that defined those wonderful years of my childhood. To name just a handful, I was crazy about the Knight rider, the Ninja turtles, the Terminator, Home Alone, Back to the Future, Perfect strangers and countless other movies and shows that to this day, bring back fond memories every time I hear some tune from their respective soundtracks.

Well, ever since YouTube and online video hit the scene, and I mean really became a part of everyday life, I have been constantly tempted to re-visit some of these old shows. Not just movies or shows that I watched and enjoyed, but even those that I missed that I wish I hadn’t when growing up.

Take the Star Wars trilogy for instance, and I mean the original trilogy(4,5 and 6 in the series). I watched it when I was way too young to understand or remember it, and so I lost out on the Star Wars phenomenon… which, for kids of the 80′s is a cardinal sin. At 25, after watching more than a 100 pop-culture references to scenes from the trilogy and failing to understand them, I finally decided to sit down and watch them. And that’s where I am taking you with this post …

Let sleeping movies lie.

There is really *no* way you can put yourself in the shoes of someone who is living in the 70′s, and honestly enjoy all that the movie has to offer. This is 2008, and there is no way you can turn back time. You are not only used to some serious out-of-the-world computer graphics, but even without your knowledge, you have come to expect so much quality from the direction, cinematography and editing. Things just aren’t the same. That which you call a ‘cliche’ today, was at some point perhaps the best line in a movie !

The first of the trilogy was seriously hard to get through, but the next two were thankfully better. Had it not been such a legendary trilogy, I would have gladly abandoned the series after the first one. I should have learned my lesson after watching an episode each of the Ninja turtles and Perfect strangers, both of which I found much less exciting than I remembered them to be, but no – I forgave and forgot. Finally, a week or so ago I picked up this movie, ‘The Running man’, which I must have watched in ’89 or ’90 as a little kid, that I had really found exciting and had always wondered about since I’d forgotten most of the story. It starred Arnold Schwarzenegger in a futuristic action packed reality show…. and boy, right from the opening scene I just couldn’t wait for the movie to get over! It was one of the most horrible movies I’ve ever seen – the cheesiest of dialogues, the most cliche-ridden characters ever, and a story so predictable that anyone who watched it would consider pursuing fortune-telling as a career. It was that bad.

That was the last straw. No more sci-fi movies of the past. Missed ’2001: a space odyssey’? Well, too bad. Missed the original Star Trek series that *everyone* swears by? Too bad, I missed that too. Don’t know head or tail about the characters in the ‘Wizard of Oz’? So be it. I choose ignorance over a waste of 2 hours.

And I will definitely choose the gradual waning of my fond memories over the complete erasure of their beauty. These movies shone at some point in time, and unlike books or even songs, they have an ‘expiry date’ whether you wish to believe it or not. Feel lucky that you tasted it while it was good, but don’t ever eat a ten year old apple.

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