Sunday, November 30, 2008

panoramas and aspect ratios

when the horror begins to finally end after dozens of false alarms, the sky responds by growing overcast. yesterday on the way to pune it was silver and blue with sunlight pouring in through the cracks in the clouds. this time around the recession had turned the billboards adverting real estate into phone numbers. 

today morning on the avon terrace the sun rose grey and dreary, slowly revealing a murky skyline getting more and more dramatic with every new building. i tried aspect rations on the camera

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

terror tv

and as it still goes on the silence in the house is rare. the television has been on almost continuously from 10 o’clock last night with the high pitched voices of excited reporters filling airtime by repeating the same three observations over and over again, in their eyes a perpetual bewilderment and exhaustion as they stand outside the hotels making their cameramen follow the contours of the buildings one window at a time hoping for some new developments- or hoping, like all of us are, for it to end. in sudden sharp bursts the emptiness of activity is broken by shots and gunfire and we imagine red carpeted corridors with the fragments of the departing bodies of dark shadowy figures.

we feel under siege. the randomness of the violence makes us prisoners in our homes. on the streets phantom cars drive with possible gunmen wreaking havoc but the streets in the evening seemed normal on the surface. yet it seemed like something was not quite right. the conversations in the corner markets were not as effusive, the lights seemed slightly more dim. the ‘spirit’ is exhumed again to make us all feel better- or we wait for its demise so we can prove that anything can die.

in between the shots of the distraught reporters on location experts like prahlad kakkar sit in the studio and wonder about the irresponsibility of the police because of an image he saw where the ats chief according to him wore his armour ‘casually’. if i was frustrated by the befuddled shivraj patil in new delhi making statements i was positively pissed with those vultures advani and jasvant singh who are hanging around the oberoi to feed on the media frenzy there on the eve of the elections. how can i forget that phtograph? running wild and scared at vt wearing a t-shirt and jeans, he could be one of my students, except for that mad look in his eyes and the gun in his hand. 20 years old and so removed from everyday life that he is willing to give up his life while taking so many for the sake of an abstract ideology.

its been a horrific month that does not seem to end.  i find coincidences that make me shiver. it was only yesterday that i bought and started to read thoman pynchon’s ‘gravity’s rainbow’ in which the war is not over in london as unpredictable and random violence is unleashed when mysterious bombs can drop down anywhere in the city. the air is thick with the possibilities of anything. i am going to stop reading the book. i am tired. this needs to stop. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

strange dream # 991

in my dream last night i came to the edge of a shore where a dust road disappeared into mangroves. the whole road was flooded with brown slimy water and it suddenly dropped away as i swam across to find out what happens on the other side. there i found the hulking white mass of the oberoi mall that rose above me. i could not swim to the other side though and i pulled out my camera to document this rare view of the building from the other side- thinking ‘i should blog this’

i turned back afterwards and found the same slimy road leading into a cloud of dust. as i walked the brown slime lapped against my feet for a long time, the dark green mangroves on both sides.

random street shots

the ground beneath her feet . proof . charlie's angels

i think i can take only one salman rushdie novel in a year. not that ‘the ground beneath her feet’ was a bad read- its just that his overwhelming outpouring of words and ideas seemed tired and formulaic to me- especially when he name checks famous rock events as the story of the vina apsara and ormus cama led rock back chugs along. and ‘proof’ that ewenyth paltrow film whose moral of the story is that beautiful people have brains too was just too slight a premise with too profound a tone. it looked and felt ridiculous. if it has to be silly the ‘charlie’s angel’ film was much more fun. the brief to the director from the marketing men - hot chicks kicking butt are cool.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

indexing the world in the age of media

‘content management’ i think was the catalyst of this particular meandering thought. content as the glut of information that exists around us on the internet, on television, in newspapers- all of them claiming authenticity. management as the act of organizing it into legible patterns- an architecture for content. indexes of words that represent the presence of tangible objects.

but these objects are not really experienced. all that is experienced is their simulation in the form of that one image, icon, word that we mutually agree represents it. if behind that image the object did not exist at all it would make no difference to us- for it is the image of it that matters. the distance between the tangible object and its representation and consumption is enormous and consumed through trading in language; or do i mean mythologies? and if all mediation between us is through us speech – i.e. a language of collectively agreed upon mythologies- can anything new ever be possible?

too convoluted? let me see if i can clarify. it has been frustrating for me to watch the growing validation of work that merely repeats itself ad nauseum about mutually agreed upon ‘issues’ (the usual suspects- you know which they are)  and does so in ways that are repetitive and predictable. these issues seem to be the stock in trade for individuals who represent certain generic types- the third world woman, the butch lesbian, the camp gay man- and they work that they create seems imprisoned within this persona- this persona being a necessary tool to be legible in a field where all transactions are increasingly only between words- one word talking to another. if it can’t be spoken- it can’t be sold- and sold not only in the market but also by research organizations in funding proposals. is it a corollary therefore that you can only research what is already understood?

and what happens when this work cannot be grasped purely through language- when between the experience and that description there are so many slippages that language breaks down; or the words are so difficult that the patience of the reader is tested; or the preset ideas of what is expected are challenged

in short - to be heard in a world where the experience of physical space has been replaced with its representation- we have to become sound bites. easy to understand and saying what the reporter wants us (depending on who we appear to be) to say- or we get left behind on the editing table. J

Monday, November 17, 2008

solving the rural / urban debate through architecture

ashram and mall in distance

at a jury today all the way in new bombay. architecture corners itself. if its rural it must be an ashram… and if its urban.. naturally- a mall! hmm...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

photo post -random city shots

flavors of china at the oberoi mall- high ceiling mirror doubling the room, a black ceiling ad red drapes. expensive food. not very good. 
bandra flyover
devil on a bike
my dad is an atm (???)

borivili station signage - which is hindi and which is marathi? 

photo post- hospital / home

photo post: two rivers- the mithi / the oshiwara river

photo post: the way back from pune (last saturday)


the big gay thing is, of course, the big joke in the whole of the first half, complete with effeminate stereotypes and misunderstandings, but most of them were actually funny- and actually quite sweet in parts. when gay the film was complete camp- and lots of fun-it sucked when they got the straight love quadrangle in and gave into boring clich├ęs. there was nowhere for the film to go when they had to straighten the macho men out so that no taint of homoeroticism could taint their heteroness. the men were surrounded by hto women in nothing clothes and leered at them lecherously to underline their maleness. but john abraham was the main eye candy- i assume for men and women- and that was a first. and so was the first male male lead couple kiss. abhishek bachchan redeemed himself again after he became the king of boring since his shaadi and priyanka chopra stayed herself. the music was great though- especially ‘jaane kyun’, ‘maa da laadla’ and ‘maula mere’ with amanat – my favourite from last years ‘sa re ga ma pa’ singing lead.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

and it goes on

how can i help not seeing omens around when after seeing four accidents in four days yesterday my mother was in one on the pune expressway. the car rammed into a pole on the highway somewhere near panvel when my uncle who was driving the car fell asleep at the wheel (another strange coincidence?) although my mother has a hairline fracture on the shoulder, and her face (on the left side) and chest have been badly bruised, it could have been so much worse. she is to be in the hospital for two more days before she can get home. luckily, my aunt and my uncle both had seat belts on and received only a few superficial injuries. 

Friday, November 07, 2008

quantum of solace

the loyalties of the new bond are not with the state anymore. how can they be when in the post-bush era the spies are seen as merely aiding and abetting the larger imperialist ambitions of the west to all . nor are the enemies the russians after the wall collapsed or the chinese after they became one of the biggest markets. instead it has to be big bad business- everyone’s favorite villain- as it scours the earth for natural resources it can lay claim to and sell – in this case water. wasn’t there a jackie chan film with the same idea last year? the new bond film is nowhere as good as the last. a revenge drama for a traitorous lover is his motivation along with avenging the attempt on the life of m. this reduction of bond to the human has its price. with the ian fleming novels milked dry is the fate of james bond now to be just another hollywood action hero? the action sequences are overcut to a point where they all end up as montages of flashing limbs and gunshots. but a bond film is a bond film and always entertaining. i was expecting more, though, from what ‘casino royale’ promised. 

Thursday, November 06, 2008

there will be blood . the years

took a day off from college today, saw a film and read a book. i loved “there will be blood” with the long drawn out scenes of silences and the overwrought apocalyptic scenes where humiliation and revenge on other human beings and god are sought. the desert landscape was brutal and beautiful and the story about a maverick oilman harvesting fields for black gold in california took its time to be told. thankfully. daniel day lewis was fantastic.

virginia woolf’s “the years” covers pretty much the same years that the film was set in except that here the landscape is the city of london with interiors of curtained parlours with pictures on the walls of little girls. characters from a family sit and watch the years go by with memories that drift in and out of internal monologues connecting brothers to sisters to lovers to servants to daughters… all the ‘what if’s and ‘so then’s and ‘why cant he’s and ‘can i’s..

meanwhile there is a mongrel in the white house and having lived near dc for two years the incongruity of it reminds me of the vietnam war memorial in washington dc. the black granite scar slices into the green mall and violently marks the overwhelmingly white classicism around. 

Sunday, November 02, 2008

the past two weeks

bhaubeez at c22/2

diwali at c8

anniversary dinner / lunch party


tanay at home

if i had the language to write like salman rushdie i would tie this all together in a fever dream of words and images. i awoke from my late morning nap with his house on malabar hill of the ‘moors last sigh’ completely inhabited with ghosts of my own. the climbed the walls, found their way into the garden and even crashed from the balcony into the sea. 

i dream the books i read as i read them. in these dreams i make parallel and intertwine the life within and without. in both of last weeks american dream gone sour novels; joyce carol oates’ ‘we were the mulvaneys’ and philip roth’s ‘american pastoral’; i was alternately the bystander watching young women being eaten away by beauty and guilt- and sometimes i was them cornered in a place i don’t want to be and violently struggling to break free. 

was that the reason for my violent outburst the other day at dinner? i shocked myself by the suddenness and the violence pf my temper. my parents are so used to me being the well-behaved boy in family dinners that they worried about my health and for decency’s sake asked me to apologize for losing my temper. i refused only because i don’t believe there was any reason for me to. i was not going to apologize for having an opinion on gujarat’s ‘progress’ in the modi years. 

in self confessedly liberal families you are allowed your own space for freedom as long as it does not rattle the cage built on politeness and good behavior. meanwhile there have been other dinners and parties that have been so much easier and relaxed. to state a most obvious fact - friends are so much easier than family.