Saturday, March 28, 2009

The road goes ever on and on...

...And we shall follow, as much as we can.

Off, finally off in a few hours. Chotu, Motu and BM are off. Mostly following on the trailblazing footsteps of the Prof[1] and then some more. Also there's a probability of some medical tourism happening which obviously we are hoping to avoid but who knows? There might be a story in there.

Be back after Easter with lots of stories. Ta ta.

[1] You would have to go to like July 2007 and start reading from there if you are interested. Else, a pdf can be made available for a nominal fee though it might not be exactly legal.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Today's question

How long does BM think it will take her to clear immigration and get out of airport (Beijing Capital if you are interested)?

A. 30 minutes
B. 1.5 hour
C. 2.5 hours
D. 3 days
E. Forever

Hint 1: She is flying from San Francisco, so apparently the flight will be packed. I have no idea what this has got to do with anything but you might find this useful.

Hint 2: She also thinks that the airport staff at Beijing will be very inefficient.

Hint 3: She is bringing a notepad and pencil. To communicate.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More entertainment

Times at it again. This time, they have published the resignation letter of a certain Jake DeSantis, an EVP at the infamous AIG-FP. Needless to say, fodder for another seven days or so.

The best part of the letter, if you are interested, is on page 2, somewhere in the middle.

We have worked 12 long months under these contracts and now deserve to be paid as promised. None of us should be cheated of our payments any more than a plumber should be cheated after he has fixed the pipes but a careless electrician causes a fire that burns down the house.

Just exactly how deluded are these people? This chap is making me feel bad about the four seconds of sympathy I felt last week for the bunch of chaps who have been made the face of everything that's gone wrong.

Related question: Do people watch reality shows anymore? Why?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

For Space Bar

Or Chotu-Motu's Mandarin classes

I know its late and all but had to wait for special day no?

shēng rì kuài lè

PS: BM, I took some liberties with your logon to upload this. Will rectify.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Encounter with the TV man

Last night just after 8. I managed to catch the 5.52 from W Sussex so had gotten home at a decent time. The buzzer.


"Hello ma'am. I have a letter for you"

Check time again.

"Can you put it through the mailbox and I will pick it up later?"

"No, I need a signature. If not, I would have done this hours ago"

"I will be right down"

He must be a burglar. Do burglars ring the bell? Maybe. Maybe I will open the door a crack and see. What if this guy has a gun or knife or something? Enough paranoia. Go down. Open door.


"Here is your letter ma'am. It says you have not paid your TV license"

"Are you the TV license inspector? I have never met one"

"Yes, so you need to pay your license fees within..."

"But I don't have a TV"

"You don't have a TV?"


"Are you sure?"

"I think so"

"Can I come and check?"


Narrowed eyes. "Yes"

Should I say that I can't let anyone in when partner is not around? Cultural exception. This guy doesn't look like the sort who would buy it.

"Can I see your ID?"

"Sure" Man pulls out ID and hands it to me.

"You are really a TV license inspector!"

"That's what I said ma'am"

"Come on in"

He follows me up the (spiral) stairs.

"These stairs are dangerous. Do you go up and down every day?"

"Don't have a choice. But you get used to it. Here we are"

"I am going to go here and check..."

"That's the kitchen"

"Many people hide TVs in the kitchen"

"Why would I hide my non-existent TV?"

"The detector did not detect anything"

Living room next. Nothing.

"Can I go here?"


Man goes into bedroom. Kneels down and points detector device under the bed.

"Since I did not know you were coming, I wouldn't have hidden it even if I had one"

"You took your time coming down"

"Fair enough. There's a room upstairs. You might want to go up and check"

"Another spiral staircase!"

"Yeah. Sorry about that"

Man goes up and comes back in a second.

"You really don't have a TV"

"I told you that"

"People say that all the time"

"How many times have people told you the truth"

"In my five years in this job, thrice. Including you"

"Ah. That's the first time anyone associated me with being truthful!"

"When did you move here?"

"A couple of months ago"

"How long do you intend to stay here?"

"End of this year for sure"

"Do you intend to buy a TV?"


"You are really not intending to buy a TV?"

"That's correct"


"We don't watch it"

"What do you do then?"

"Why are you asking me all these questions?"

"The other two people who did not have TVs were crazy. You look like you are fine, even seem to have a proper job"

How does he know I have a proper job? Is he stalking me? He is not a TV inspector after all. No, no, chill, I am still wearing my suit.

"I am very much fine, thank you"

"We might come up again in a couple of months to check"

"You are welcome"

I let him out of the flat and close the door when I hear the sound. Man promptly fell down stairs on his way down. I open my door.

"Tell whoever is coming up next to watch out for the stairs"


In totally unrelated news, I was just chatting with the Don and he was telling me that yesterday they announced the MP candidate for Thiruvanthapuram. It's a Sonia boy - name is Shashi Tharoor. People are apparently scratching heads and wondering WTF is going on. (Hey Feanor - Looks like now is the time. Before those papers come through, go file your nomination)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Does anyone else get the feeling...

that the Times is secretly (well, not so secretly) enjoying this economic crisis? Almost every article, op-ed, editorial on the topic (esp the ones on struggling corporations) is pouring oil on the fire with barely concealed glee. Once in a while, they decide to be "fair and balanced" which turns out to be even more entertaining - as an example, see this article here. Publish a half-hearted attempt at defending AIG bonus payouts and then sit back and watch the fun. Just in case some unsuspecting soul starts to nod head, wait, the article actually provides you with a number of hints that ensures that you stay on course - for instance, the reference to the auto industry (talk about sacrosanct contracts!) or the random quotes from the exec compensation consultants. Its a riot and the Times is so thoroughly enjoying every moment of it. And writing articles about comments in their own forums.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Telly question

Hey TV-watchers,

Would very much appreciate it if anyone could let me know if there's a better newsman on TV right now. I might end up buying one to watch.


Sunday, March 08, 2009

I love Bill (sometimes) and Anthony Lane (all the time)

This morning, we start running in opposite directions and decide to meet up halfway somewhere. I follow the script but Bill loses his way (yes, in London). I get back home, shower, eat and get ready to call the cops when man saunters in with a bag full of books. Apparently, he somehow ended up in some second hand bookstore in Camden Lock and forgot all about running and me. In a blatant attempt at self-preservation, he remembers to get me a book. This.

From the Introduction (on the job across the pond):

I was also sprung free from the indignity of the picture byline - a bizarre English addiction, based on the surely unprovable theory that readers of newspapers will be more, not less, likely yo admire a piece of prose when given the chance to inspect the fate of the motheaten specimen who cobbled it together. Not so: any fragile support that I commanded among London moviegoers, for instance, was severly compromised by the fact that my column was topped by what appeared to be an unhappy reject from the Hitler Youth. All that sank beneath the waves as I shifted my allegiance to America, and to a magazine whose more diligent writers would, if stalked by a portrait photographer, take care to climb inside a passing weenie cart and wait till the peril had passed.


I knew that litigation was a popular sport in America, but it had never crossed my mind that one might be sued by imaginary characters. If I got Godzilla's name wrong, he could take me to the cleaners, and only the fact checkers could keep me in the clear. .....Needless to say, such mania for accuracy is a long way from the journalistic practice in England, where most newspapers are ideally read as a branch of experimental fiction.


What follows here, for a few hundred pages, is hardly a love letter to America; no book which pays such elaborate homage to Eveyln Waugh could in all honestly claim such a distinction. But it is no less ardently meant; think of it, instead, as one of the exit visas which Rick slips under the lid of Sam's piano, in Casablanca, away from the eyes of Captian Renault and his flunkies - just a dumb sheaf of paper, but stamped with the irrevocable permission to seek a world elsewhere. That world, to me as to Victor Laszlo, can only be America; then again, as Rick says to Ilsa on the runway, "We'll always have Paris." But that is another story.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Visa story

8.55 AM: Holborn Viaduct. We discover that we forgot to get a few photocopies. Decide to ask the security chap outside the visa service centre instead of trying to find a photocopy place by ourselves.

8.57 AM: In front of visa centre building. No queue outside. Convinced this is the wrong building. Check door number. No mistake. Go through revolving doors. No security. No X-ray machine. Totall puzzled and about to walk out when we see a sign telling us that we have come to the right place.

8.58 AM: Man at front desk is actually smiling. WTF? We can see the room beyond the desk. Its not the airless basement rooms we are used to. This one is bright, airy, and spacious. There are about 30 people in the room. We ask front desk man about photocopy places. He tells us to go inside and we should find a machine. Fair to say we are a little disoriented at this point.

8.59 AM: Yes, there is a working photocopy machine. Next to a photo booth. On the other side there are a few computers with Internet access. There were a couple of people printing stuff out. Bill gets photocopies while I go grab a comfy seat. We will probably be here forever so might as well make oneself at home types.

9.00 AM: Five counter shutters go up simulataneously. Five numbers get called one after the other. One has a different sequence - this is the passport collection queue.

9.03 AM: Bill is done with the copies. We gets all documents in order. Look around for vending machine. None. Just a water cooler. I whisper to Bill that we are going to starve. He points to Counter number 3. They are calling number 6. I look at our token number. 13. I tell Bill he can't be serious. He points to Counter 4. They are calling token 7.

9.06 AM: I tell Bill that this is the first step. After this, they would send us to the basement where there would be 100 people before us and we would be stuck there forever. He points out that the people who were done with the counter went straight out of the door. I tell him that must be the way to the basement. He looks skeptical.

9.09 AM: 13. We lug our stuff to the counter. This guy is smiling too. I slide in our applications. He asks for photos. I give him the photos followed by our passports. He flips through my application. Flips my passport (the first visa officer to flip the new passport) and within 2 second finds the page he is looking for. This is a record. Writes down a few numbers on the application. Does the same with Bill's. The he asks if we want to pick-up or do this by post. I say pick-up. He takes out a receipt, writes down a date and my phone number and hands it to me.

"You can come back on Tuesday 9..."

"I have these supporting documents"

"I don't need to see them"

"Are you sure? We have air tickets, invitation letter, bank statements, pay slips..."

He laughs. "I don't need to see them"

We say thanks.

9.12 AM: Back in the street. We take a few minutes to recover from this surreal experience before we head our respective ways.

These Chinese bloody scare me sometimes.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Ray Day

At our neighbourhood DVD place this afternoon. I went and returned DVD and paid and turned back to find Bill intently staring at a shelf. I walk slowly towards him, puzzled. He is beaming for some reason. The shelf says "Top Titles".

"What's up?"


"Why are you looking at the Top Titles shelf?"

"Dude, look"

"You have become some popular movie watcher nowadays"

"I said look"

So I looked. Mish mash. Some chick flick (tagline reads "Better than Sex and the City"), Persepolis, Atonement, The Lives of Others, The Kite Runner, and ..wait.


"I know"

"Its a mistake"

"Of course its not"

"Of course it is. I think we should let the counter people know that they have it here by mistake"

"You are evil"

"This is nothing to do with evil. I think its an honest mistake"

"Honest mistake? You mean you don't think that's a top title?"

"Not in this part of the world, it ain't"


"I really think we should let the people at the counter know"


"People might rent it by mistake"

"And end up loving it. Moreover, I don't understand why you think its not popular here"

"You can't possibly tell me that one of the top titles in this neighbourhood is Joi Baba Felunath?"

"Why can't it be? Just this Friday, I met this guy in the elevator at the tube station"


"He is like the Chief Curator at the National Gallery"

"Right. And he just started talking to you"

"I am not kidding"

"Whatever. What's him got to do with Joi Baba Felunath?

"People like him and our landlady understand art. They live in this neighbourhood. So this is a top title. There is no mistake. The odd person out who lives here is you"

"I see. Actually you know what? I wouldn't mind moving out. You should be able to take care of the rent, I am sure"

"Do you think of anything besides money? Does art mean anything to you?"

"Wrong questions. Should I move out or not?"

"Go away"


Bonus scene:

Though you probably have to be Bong or to have grown up with only DD to get the joke.

So this DVD store, its actually pretty cool. They have this whole section which has a good subset of the Artifical Eye titles. Among other directors, they do have a Ray collection so we overdosed on it a bit over the last few days. So this morning, we were watching Charulata with the subtitles turned off [1]. As we got to the song that everyone who grew up in DD times should know by heart, I suddenly realised that this was the first time I am watching this with a Bong in the room. Which meant that I could clear all my doubts.



"This is a Tagore song no?"


"Written like way back"


"But I never knew he was into China and stuff"


"And Gobi for that matter"

"Gobi? Dude, I think you have been reading too much about the silk road"

"No, no. This has got nothing to do with that. I always wondered what this song meant"

"This song? What the hell are you talking about?"

"Why does he sing about some woman from Gobi?"


"And where does Chini come in? I mean, this was Tagore. Not like he had any special affinity with China. If this was like in the 60s, one could say its all the communist comedy"

"Dude, I have no idea what you are talking about"

"Ok, pause. Now sing the song"


"Sing no?"

"Ami Chini Go Chini tomare O Gobideshini.."

"Chini, Gobideshini. What does it mean?"

Bill laughed for like ever. Then refused to explain.

PS: For the younger generation of non-Bongs who did not grow up on DD, here's the song.

[1] Part of a running bet on whether I understand Bong better or Bill Tam. I should understand Bong better considering that you just change the shs and bs from Hindi but since my Hindi is really bad, it doesn't help. Plus anyway, since we all have watched these movies, one could argue that one is not missing anything by turning subtitles off.