Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
There aren’t any secrets. You get out what you put in. Work hard, add value, and don’t rest on your laurels. Note what’s happening in the news, and in life. Always evolve; adapt to your environment. Embrace trial-and-error and a spirit of lethal generosity. Take risks. Be surprising. Be awesome.
Thrilling as it is to be an early adopter and kick the tires of new technology, it would be a lot easier on your sanity to come back in a few years and see how everything has shaken out. With new social media startups popping up fast and furious around the world, it may be a good idea to hold on to that first born for just a little longer.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
When we covet a brand, we covet the feeling that that we hope that brand will produce as a result. Most people believe that brands are the promise of an experience. I believe that brands are a projection of our hopes and dreams and fantasies about who we are and what we want people to believe.Later in the interview she talks about how some brands have stayed on with her because those products marked some rite of passage in her life. While I am not able to relate to brands are a projection of our hopes and dreams and fantasies about who we are and what we want people to believe, I can understand this.
How can you view your hopes, dreams and fantasies through a Prada bag or a Burberry coat if thousands of others use the exact same vehicles to project theirs. It would be the hopes, dreams and fantasises of the masses that you would be acting out not yours. It would mean then that you have none of your own. Surely, that must not be how the brand fanatics of the world want to be perceived by the rest of us whose aspirations don't require a designer label to be expressed.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
This year things are rather subdued. Lots of homes have no lights at all. A wreath on the door is about all they have for the holidays. Maybe it is a sign of the times - the parking lot at work was pretty full the week of Christmas and those at work acted like it was business as usual. This is a lot different from what I have seen in the past. Attendance starts to thin in the second half of December and by the week of Christmas almost no one is around. The few stragglers that do come in are elsewhere in their minds.
J has not asked for a Christmas tree this year either. Thanks to some ethnic diversity in her class lately, she has figured out that everyone does not celebrate Christmas and therefore does not have to have a tree in their home. The presents, cookies and candies are definitely very desirable and she would not mind them at all. Christmas has turned secular and in the process more accessible to her and I am glad for it.
Before she returns to school after winter-break and all the kids compare notes on who got what for Christmas, I wanted to leave J with some food for thought so she can cope with not having a laundry list of stuff she can talk about. I told her the story of The Gift of the Magi one night at bedtime - what better way to reinforce the theme of love and sacrifice without which the act of giving and receiving gifts is entirely meaningless. I hope it will stand J in good stead.
Friday, December 26, 2008
While our modern lives may have complicated a mother's routine some, it has also afforded many simplifications to it. As a result, she may not be multitasking any more than her forbears going back thousands of years. With that, I am a little skeptical about all the gloom and doom around the fate of multitaskers - there need to be some qualifications to preface this outlook.
When the goal of multitasking (as is often the case in workplaces) is to make up for poor planning and non-existent management, then stress is inevitable. The problem therefore is not with multitasking itself but with everything that it is trying to compensate for. The mother working through her domestic chores as she takes care of her young children, has a plan for the day which will need to adapt based on what emergencies the kids perpetrate on her any given day. She also has a clear endgame - complete chores and tuck kids in for the night.
The same is not true for the office worker who is given constantly conflicting directions by her management, is expected to deliver without having the authority to make any decisions, pitch in for non-performing co-workers - the list is endless. Needless to say she cannot plan that tasks she will need to multiplex and there is never a clear finish line - both plan and goal are moving targets. When she is expected to solve such fundamental problems by being an adept multitasker nothing good can come out of it either for her or for the organization.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Sirio Maccioni, the founder of Le Cirque struggles to protect his own vision of the restaurant when they close in 2004 to re-open two years later. His three sons have ideas that will make the new establishment much more competitive and attract younger clientele. Their father can the biggest asset for Le Cirque and impediment to changes they would like to bring.
The friction between generations, the lack of common purpose and direction causes much aggravation for staff and management alike. The results make their way in subtle ways to a customer's table. The question ultimately is whether there is a classic definition of gourmet that can stand the test of time, if a formula for success from the past be transferred verbatim to a new generation.
Le Cirque's story is that of the classic struggle of a once successful business trying to reinvent itself to remain relevant in a changing world full of younger, more diverse customers without losing its unique value proposition.
Premieres Monday, December 29 at 8pm. Here is a trailer for the movie.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
“For most of human history, people have lived in small tribes where everything they did was known by everyone they knew,” Dr. Malone said. “In some sense we’re becoming a global village. Privacy may turn out to have become an anomaly.”
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
"I think the human race is very archaic. They need labels - which is very, very sad. When Chuck came into our life, the intimacy that we had spiritually...made us three of the most unique people."
The story could be about love in many forms - a human being's capacity to love animals filially, an animal's near-human ability to reciprocate human affection, and the acceptance and indeed celebration of bi-sexual and extra-marital love. It could also be a parable that exemplifies the old adage of leave good enough alone. Each wild cat that was introduced into their entertainment act was about taking the risk a notch higher, giving the audience an even more visceral thrill. The end comes with two of the three dying at the pinnacle of their career and ironically the instrument is what made that height of success possible.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
The examples he cited were a mother disciplining her child in a harsh tone or a genuinely caring teacher doing so with a student. In both cases, the actions would appear outwardly violent without actually being so. The motivation stems from love, concern and a desire to do good for the person towards whom the apparent violence is directed. According to His Holiness that disqualifies the act from being one of violence. On the contrary he says the use of guile, charm or bribery to serve some questionable ulterior motive while appearing peaceful outwardly is in truth an act of violence even when there are no outward signs of it.
Hearing these words, helped me understand why I never experienced peace and tranquility when I was married though we never once had an argument. There was this simmering undercurrent of unspoken words, unexpressed emotions that ran through our home which made it impossible to feel at peace there. Yet there was never any outward sign of disquiet - it was easy to get lulled into a false sense of well-being, it was easier still to give others the impression that we were a very happy couple. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Now, that J and I are on are own, every morning on a school-day is fraught with tension, bustle and commotion. I am running around like a tornado trying to get J out on time to catch the school bus. My child has many endearing qualities but the ability to comprehend the passage of time is not one is she is blessed with.
So I am hurrying her up with her shower, finishing breakfast, putting on her clothes and doing her hair even as I try to pack a lunch and snack that will meet with her approval on that particular day. There is much anxiety, shouting and sometimes even tears to get through this ordeal. The day begins with the absolute absence of peace. I used to wonder how it is then that my home feels so tranquil - even after starting on such a melodramatic note each day. I believe that I have my answer now.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
“If you look at drama in Shakespeare’s day, or the novel in the last century, or the movie today, it suggests that an art enters its golden age when it is addressed to and energized by the general audiences of its time.”
Such apparently has not been the case with poetry the efforts of Poetry In Motion et al notwithstanding. It seems to me that poetry is more easily accessible, widely dispersed and democratized than ever. I am not sure if I am convinced that there is a lack of poetry being addressed to and energized by the general audiences of its time.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Back in India domestic help resort to missed calls to communicate with their employers. It could be to notify them of a delayed arrival or absence. To know more details, the employer would need to call back at no cost to the domestic help - incoming calls on cell phones are free in India.
In other situations, the number of missed calls, or the number of rings before hanging up could be a pre-defined code between the caller and the callee - no one ends up paying anything and yet a message is fully communicated. This is another example of necessity spurring creativity if not outright invention.
As for the cell phone operators, they will just need some out-of-the-box thinking marketing geniuses to come with a way to monetize the huge missed call opportunity just like unused airtime has been turned to currency.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
The problem is that while most of us know that the idea of a perfect relationship is unrealistic, some of us are still more influenced by media portrayals than we realise
Dr Bjarne Holmes
Heriot Watt University
Extending the same half-baked logic it can be argued that Disney animation movies render kids unfit for the real world which are clearly no replication of the land of fantasy and fairytale. If a child can parse magic from reality and be none the worse for it, should normal adults be given equal credit.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Comedy is one of my favorite genres and I know good Hindi. With that combination, I should have figured out the deal about AAA but unfortunately it did not register with me. Maybe I lack the requisite knowledge and interest in Bollywood trivia it takes to "get" AAA. Now, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron was a movie to remember not so much for the sheer heights of absurdity that it reached but for the finesse with which it was done.
Like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, AAA attempts satire as well but misses out almost completely on subtlety unless you count the numerous self references to Bollywood cliches and characters. Without any real substance or original storyline, that tactic grows old pretty soon and there is not much to look forward to.
Past half-time, watching AAA is like drinking a can of soda many hours after the fizz has died. The characters have repeated themselves several times over by then. You are left with the two Khans gyrating through their two-dimensional characters, the leading ladies vying with each other at being the most doltish while the villains hang around like random fillers with borrowed lines and ideas. Though everyone in the movie delivers some really funny lines and you do get a few laughs out of it, AAA is no Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
And became as lonely as a sheperd
and as overburdened by vast distances,
and summoned and stirred as from far away,
and slowly, like a long new thread,
introduced into that picture-sequence
where now having to go on bewilders us.
Monday, December 15, 2008
For the first time today, I was able to get a cake out of the oven that looked and tasted like one. I could not help making some minor tweaks to the ingredients - instead of cinnamon, I used the same quantity of allspice, clove and nutmeg powders mixed together. The walnuts were replaced by chopped almonds and pecans. Since there were five ripe apples in the mix and a whole bunch of sugar, I added a little kosher salt to dampen the cloying sweetness.
J was very pleased with herself for taking me through the steps and getting a decent looking and tasting cake for her efforts. The moral of the day's baking story is to start simple with the humblest of ingredients and very modest ambitions, get a good and willing helper to keep you on track. Finally, send a prayer up to heaven for good luck as you set your cake to bake.
If you suffer from a compulsion to improvise, limit yourself to modifying some of the supporting ingredients and not the main ones . I believe a combination of all that led to success with the apple cake made from scratch at that. When you think about it, this how-to is not that different from what it takes to achieve success in any challenging endeavor in life.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
..it is going to be even harder for science fiction writers to predict the technological developments which will transform our lives. Science fiction, claim the doomsayers, is dead - or, if not dead, in terminal decline.
Sci-fi is not my thing and I have read precious little of it - The Time Machine, The Left Hand of Darkness and Yargo are the only three I can remember having enjoyed. I heard about Repo ! on NPR recently and thought idea of organ repossession in the event of failing to pay the installments was particularly poignant these days. Yet, most of the punditry were dead wrong about the financial meltdown that is unfolding around us today, even a year ago - they just did not see it coming. Why then is it such a bad thing that sci-fi did not see the transistor coming and all the changes it brought in its wake ?
If the unthinkable did happen and homes can get repossessed why not organs. Only in sci-fi can your transplanted kidney go they way of your foreclosed home but there is no reason to believe fact will not catch up or even get ahead of fiction. It is much like Ursula K Le Guin's response to the question posed by Marcus Chown's article :
The distinction between science fiction and realism was never as clear as the genre snobs wanted it to be. I rejoice to think that both terms are already largely historical; they are moulds from which literature is breaking free, as it always does, to find new forms.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
There will be an iPhone app bust. The current prices simply aren’t sustainable. Either developers will crash out of the market when they discover they can’t make a living off their current prices, or the gold rush developers will lose interest and leave when they realize they can’t make a quick buck off the store. The developers left standing will be the ones who set reasonable prices for their applications.Knowing nothing about the marketplace or the potential pool of iApp customers, I am wondering if there may not be a spot for an officially appointed or better yet, a self-styled evaluator and cat-herder of iApps who could cause the most promising apps to bubble up to the top. This would separate signal from noise well enough for the best of breed apps to make it even at $0.99 a pop.
I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is. I currently have an iPhone app in development, and when it comes out, I will price it $9.99 or higher.
Either that or a wsiwyg app builder that allows the most technology challenged among iPhone users to turn out their own apps - there has got to be money made from creating such an editor. Short of those options, it would be hard for the Little Timmys of the world to retire on the proceeds from their iApps.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Some advised me to start hoarding what I could in whatever space I have in my apartment, others suggested that I ask my folks in India to visit with as many bags of rice as their baggage limit would allow. Yet others went on to say, our rice-eating days were numbered and we should prepare to change our dietary habits to survive in the post-rice world. It seems as if the only difference between the regular guy and the experts is chutzpah.
Monday, December 08, 2008
One fact about India is that you can take almost anything you hear about the country from the prime minister and turn it upside down and then you will have the truth about that thing.
- all these ideas, half formed and half digested and half correct, mix up with other half cooked ideas in your head, and I guess these half-formed ideas bugger one another and make more half-formed ideas, and this is what you act and live with
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Saturday, December 06, 2008
There effectively is no "mass media" any more so, where before we disagreed because we saw the same news and interpreted it differently, now we disagree because we're seeing completely different freaking news. When we can't even agree on the basic facts, the differences become irreconcilable. That constant feeling of being at bitter odds with the rest of the world brings with it a tension that just builds and builds.
In the pre-internet days, I remember having read the same article in a print magazine or newspaper that many of my friends and acquaintances had as well. We did have the same version of facts at our disposal to argue over. So while we might disagree on all counts over the issue at hand, we atleast agreed on what the issue was. Even that agreement is no longer possible with so many voices in the fray and as a result we are that much more solitary.
Friday, December 05, 2008
Then sometimes, I might walk into a store and hear a popular number from the 80s or 90s playing; making me share a smile with a stranger who like me is thinking how it the song does not fit with the here and now, or maybe we both have some pleasant even if different memories associated with that music.
While I have noticed there is something different about mall and elevator music, I did not know that there was music specially composed for such places.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Thanks to poor planning and a busy day at work, I was not able to make it to the store to pick up something - so I had nothing to give them. Within minutes of my reaching there with the kids, two other couples dropped by with surprise cakes, cards and flowers for H's parents. It made for a happy, almost festive atmosphere. Since H and her parents were supposed to go out to dinner, I had made haste to drop her off as soon as I could. However, with unexpected company those plans changed to ordering food so we could all have dinner together. It was much too late for me to stay, so I excused myself (and with great difficulty I might add).
The whole sequence of events that evening left me feeling unusually stressed. I wondered about how socially inept I had managed to look around friends and strangers, about how your personal circumstances can never be an excuse for how you present yourself publicly. H's parents are really nice people and will in no way be offended that I neglected to bring them a "gift" on their anniversary. They might have even been taken aback if I had shown up with one.
The rules of engagement are well established for one married couple wishing another on the wedding anniversary, for singles of a certain vintage it might be a little more nuanced. When you have been married before and are single now, it seems immensely hard to strike the right note - the genuineness of your happiness for someone else's thriving marriage is somewhat inherently suspect and so it is essential to have a light touch. Yet you may not be so "light" that you appear aloof or even flippant. The occasion must be treated with the gravitas it deserves without turning so serious that you appear downcast contemplating your own marital situation (read the lack of one). It was hard for me to decide on a gift that conveyed the warmth of my feelings toward H's parents and stood exactly midway between formal and effusive.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Sitting alone in the living room in front of the television, Mrs. Hoogestraat says she worries it will be years before her husband realizes that he's traded his real life for a pixilated fantasy existence, one that doesn't include her.
"Basically, the other person is widowed," she says. "This other life is so wonderful; it's better than real life. Nobody gets fat, nobody gets gray. The person that's left can't compete with that."
Monday, December 01, 2008
Reading this list of books that inspired some well-known graphic designers made me think about my own reactions to reading some in the list that I have. The list is an unusual one to begin with - very few of the best known or most frequently listed books feature in it. But what I find even more interesting is the reaction of these very creative people to these books. It would be worth working through this list just to see if reading might stimulate creativity where none existed before.