astronaut20farmerCreating titles is an art by itself. Ask the guys who created this quirky, feel good movie called ‘The Astronaut Farmer’. Two years back, I came across a review for this movie that had just been released. Curiosity was definitely a factor in making me google the name and find out more about it. First impression – the movie is about an astronaut who now lives his life as a farmer. Spot on. More to come later.

The power of a title can be the biggest advertisement for a product, feature or service. Case in point – FCUK. This British based fashion chain puts the ‘jumble word’ effect from our daily papers to brilliant use here. While implying a little mentioned act (at least publicly), it also combines the British craze for football (FC) and continues the passiofcukn of cool Britannia (UK). Well, now that was my immediate reaction to the buzz that this brand generated. I got most of my analysis right till I got to the name origin part. FC actually stood for French Connection. No other explanation for this except that FCUK was exploited in the jumbled sense to the full. Samples – t-shirts sold with “fcuk fashion”, “fcuk this”, “hot as fcuk”, “mile high fcuk”, “too busy to fcuk” etc. I am sure you got the picture… oops the tag.

Fashion brands are tops when it comes to names. From names of the creators themselves (Armani, Jimmy Choo’s, and the latest sensation Jason Wu who got to design Michelle Obama’s inaugural presidential ball dress) to names that just plain stick out (GAP, Banana Republic, Osh Kosh Bigosh, they still make those) there’s a naming factory out there ready to christen the next Benjamin Button who starts off with bell bottoms before trooping out with half pants.

Cars too are not spared from the quirky title mix. You had Ford Edsel (The only Edsel I knew till 10th standard was a classmate), Tata Sumo, Tata Mobile (now do you remember this vehicle), Dolphin (which would have had Greenpeace sucking on its exhaust pipe if they ever new it existed) and half a dozen oddball vehicles with equally pun-intended names.

So now – back to the ‘Astronaut Farmer’. If this title did not raise eyebrows, then I don’t think your beautician/stylist/plastic surgeon could ever do the same for you. Astronaut and farmer are two words so far apart in imagery and vision that connecting them would be nightmare even for the Sandman. But the movie did do that and how. Billy Bob Thornton plays a former trainee astronaut who just missed out on getting into the space programme and now spent his days looking after his family farm along with his family. He wants to realise his mission to space and sets off on doing it on his own.

Simple premise explained from the title onwards, this movie had its title directing every action in it. Watch it to understand what I mean. Astronaut Farmer is a phrase that comes to mind in virtually every scene you see in this movie. I would question the independent picture tag attached to this movie, what with a lot of cameos and heavy special effects, but I would still recommend this quirky, feel good movie to someone who had a trying day at office and who needs to unwind.

P.S. The Polish Brothers who directed and produced this film have a reputation for independent, quirky pictures. Any feedback on this team’s other movies are most welcome. Hey btw, have you noticed the rise of sibling teams in Hollywood – Wachowski Brothers, Pang Brothers, Coen Brothers, Farelly Brothers, Warner Brothers

Summing up Slumdog

Watched Slumdog Millionaire last night.

slumdog-millionaire-poster-fullMy verdict

Overall verdict – Decent film, definitely not Oscar worthy.

Muddy Chaddi’s

I am not going to dignify the ‘pink chaddi’ campaign by replying to it…

I am not going to dignify the ‘pink chaddi’ campaign by replying to it…

I am not going to dignify the ‘pink chaddi’ campaign by replying to it…

WTF, here goes

Serial killer, Umesh Reddy would have had a field day this Valentine’s week collecting all the chaddi’s he could and soaking them in some kid’s Camlin acrylic paints. (For those in the dark about Umesh Reddy, this guy was perhaps Bangalore’s first serial killer who had a fetish for stealing women’s undergarments).

The first time I heard about the pink chaddi campaign was when I received an invite on my facebook account to join this group. Various thoughts went through my mind, one of them related to the fact that the singer Pink had finally got a surname. Going through the details and the blog of this campaign, I had a hunch that this was another one of those smart ass ad gimmicks by Rupa underwear, VIP undies, Dhoom Dhaam undergarments… you get the picture. Some ad guru must be patting his back on the ‘brilliant’ idea he had generated to boost Chimpu Chaddis.

But heck no, this is as real a campaign as can be. You even have collection centres to collect this piece of ladies garment and mail it to Muthalik and his merry men in Hubli. In return Nalli’s, Co-optex, Deepam Silks are all going to be sold out, what with Muthalik sending back sarees in return. This is one textile stimulus package that even Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram wouldn’t have dreamt of for the beleaguered industry.

Couldn't help borrowing this (Courtesy Plain Jane http://plainjane4u.blogspot.com/)

Now where was I… yes, the chaddi’s. What is going to happen to these pieces of cloth? Is the Alternative Law Forum (who are collecting these items) going to have some alternative dressing contest?

I am going to have some new found respect for this Chaddi campaign group if they go ahead and auction the chaddis and use that money to prevent slum kids from becoming unnecessary millionaires. But that’s not gonna happen, I hear the union child and women welfare minister has endorsed this campaign. If that is so, then the minister is only demeaning women further by flinging their undergarments at men. It’s a prettier sight watching middle-aged women flinging their undies at Kenny Rogers than this.

Christy Bharath sums up the mood. You got my vote pal.

Rise in camcorder sales… guess why

It’s the week leading up to Feb 14 and there is a rush at the local Sony showroom. Weird, I say. In these times of recession I don’t see any discount offers on this premium brand nor do I see any heart-shaped TVs on sale. Still…


I pop in out of curiosity hoping that Sony is going to have a distress sale on its Playstations. I jostle in through a crowd of fork wielding individuals. They are all dressed in a colour very close to red (saffron or orange I think). I guess this is a new way of celebrating a pre-Valentines bash. I got to get myself one of those colours. These guys seemed pretty nice and confident, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to be a part of this club.

The orange guys (as I will call them henceforth) are checking out various cameras. Are they getting ready to shoot the next episode of ‘Mysooru Mallige’? A thrill goes down my spine. I check out a camera next to one of the orangies. He is fumbling with the viewfinder and I help him use it. He mutters thanks and then asks me if I can teach him to shoot the video. Sure, I say.

The orangy buys the camcorder and along with the rest of the group moves to the nearest park to test the camcorder. I was wrong all along, these are nature lovers. They buy me a packet of aloo bondas on the way. Man, these guys are real sweethearts. Nearly everyone in the group has a camcorder. I guess they have some major shooting schedule.

They want to test running shots and rapid shots while handling the zoom function. For a trial run they make the smallest guy in the group sit down next to a lazing cow in the park. The guys then hide behind a bush, far away from the scene, and film the couple sitting at the other end. I help them use the viewfinder and zoom in to the cow chewing cud. The orangies are excited. They make the small guy sit at various angles and in various positions along with the cow, till they are sure they have a hang of the entire long-distance camera handling process.

What they needed next is a running shot of the two mammals. This is what I call the ‘Blair Witch Project’ shot. You jump out of the bush and run towards the couple while keeping the camera focused on them all the time. There is a lot of rapid camera movement involved, but I help them reduce this by making them clasp the camcorder with their ‘lungi’ to avoid the camera slipping from their grasp. So far so good. They get the complete shot and zoom in on the couple. The cow moos and gets up to chase them away.

The leader of the group clasps me by the shoulders and thanks me for teaching them to shoot on their camcorders. Why don’t you join us for the Feb 14 shoot, he asks me. I am excited as hell and I immediately acquiesce to his request. It’s going to be a busy weekend. I will be filming across the city non-stop. Watch out for me, they say I may be on TV too.

P.S. Someone just sent me this report to help me understand what’s going on.

The fountain of youth

Remember that song you heard when you were a kid and hummed and tried to sing to that tune? Remember the name of the song and the group? ehhhhh…. Well that’s what happened to me as I tried recalling a song that I heard nearly 25 years back while sitting in the living room of my home in the middle of a hospital campus in Ketu, a small village in Nigeria.

Being an only child then and it being a small village with not many children my age, I was a TV addict who came back home and switched on the TV before turning to my homework. I watched my first James Bond movies here (I was ordered by my Nigerian nanny – Veronica mama, bless her, to close my eyes for all those strategic scenes ). I got my first taste of the raw power of Incredible Hulk here (One scene that stands out in my mind is Lou Ferrigno going green squishing a car like an orange in a mixer. I was shit scared of the Hulk). And then there was the weekly music countdown.


A lot of those tunes still play in my head, but I never got to know the actual lyrics, nor the name of the group or song. I loved one particular song and used to keep singing some nonsensical lines before it faded somewhere deep down in my past. The song had this group of kids singing in front of the Big Ben with double decker buses moving around in the background. There was a small kid in the midst of this group who rapped. That was all I remembered. A year later India beckoned, and everything was forgotten.

Circa 2004, a chance encounter with the idiot box brought back a flood of memories and nostalgic trip to that song I loved as a kid. The live action Scooby Doo movie was playing on TV. I was a huge fan of the cartoon series and even though I didn’t expect much from this version, I watched it on TV out of sheer boredom. 15 minutes into the movie, you have Shaggy and Scooby sitting in their Mystery Machine smoking god knows what when that song begins playing. The song from 20 years back plays just as it was then. That’s it, that’s the song and now all I gotta do is find out the group and the songs name and download it. The lyrics of the song went somewhat like this ‘Pass the kutchie…?’ I dunno.

I got online immediately and checked out the track listing on IMDB. There it was, my song –
‘Pass the Dutchie’ by Musical Youth.

pass_the_dutchie_single What the hell’s a dutchie? Referred Wikipedia and this is what I got,
The song was a cover version of the song “Pass the Kouchie” by The Mighty Diamonds, written by Leroy Sibbles and Jackie Mittoo. The song was changed from “Kouchie,” a slang term for a cannabis smoking pipe, to “Dutchie” due to the age of the artists and their target audience. A “Dutchie” was slang for a dutch oven, a type of cooking pot used by poor Jamaicans to prepare stews and rice. The term “dutchie” would, ironically, later be appropriated as part of cannabis slang to refer to marijuana rolled in a cigar paper, specifically “Dutch Masters” cigars, hence the name “dutchie”.

I downloaded the song and went back to watching Scooby Doo, more as a gesture of thanks for connecting me to that song. I wonder if my parents knew what the Dutchie actually meant ‘cause I used to nonsensically sing this song all the time as a kid. The song still warms me up to that time when all I had was music and movies for company. The reggae song is a lively piece that is plain fun and rhythm. Who would have thought Scooby and co’s Mystery Machinmusical-youth2e would be the harbingers of a reggae work concentrated around a piece of wood used to smoke something illegal. Definitely not me. Ha, so much for Thatcher and Reagan’s anti-drug campaign in the ‘80s. Surrogate advertising sure would have taken something from this.

As for me I am slowly reliving certain tracks that made me move my goblinish feet as a kid. Sort of like a CSI episode on a cold case from the ‘80s.

The world’s most f***ing awesome rant

For those of you who missed out on Christian Bale’s four-letter infused tirade against his cameraman on the sets of Terminator: Salvation, boy you did miss quite a bit. We first heard of Bale’s infamous bouts of anger prior to ‘The Dark Night’ premiere when he was said to have physically assaulted his mom and sis. And now you have some set guy record a classic tirade that would fittingly belong in a Samuel L. Jackson flick.

patrickbatemanIn defence of Bale, as a method actor he was entitled to go ballistic against the camera guy who walked across his action sequence not once, but twice, while he was in the middle of an intense monologue. The recording also showed the helplessness of McG (that’s the films director) to control his staff or even his star. It was obvious who called the shots in this next instalment of the Terminator franchise. Going by McGs past I guess he would feel more in control directing a ‘Girls Gone Wild’ sequence.

There’s more to this. No sooner was this recording leaked when you had half a dozen jobless underground dudes create remixes of the complete audio track with pumped up beats and other jazz. ‘Underground’ would literally mean the sewers in this case. Hilarious none the less.

I guess the next time I see a celebrity I am gonna piss him/her off so bad (I will be even worse than the stalker in Blades of Glory), get the recording and contact my local DJ (in this case our office sys admin who has access and plays whatever songs, whenever he wants). Sound Forge, YouTube and Google will do the rest.

Highway high!

supertrooperI laughed after a long time… really laughed. What else would you do if you watched a bunch of highway patrolmen going about their work pulling over speeding motorists and getting a kick out of using ‘inventive’ methods while approaching their quarry. Sample this – highway patrolman undertakes a challenge of using ‘meaow’ in every sentence he speaks while quizzing a speeding motorist. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Movie in question – Super Troopers.

Super Troopers follows a bunch of bored Vermont highway patrolmen who compete with the local police to write the most number of speeding tickets. Faced with the prospect of being shut down by the governor (Wonder Woman Lynda Carter in a cameo) due to budget cuts, the highwaymen are looking for that one big case that can make or break their force. Their wish is granted in the form of a murder off the highway that may be drug-related due to the large amount of hashish found at the scene and branded with a monkey logo from an Afghani cartoon.

The gags are numerous and the cast is hilarious. Believe it or not, you have an American reared Tam-Brahm leading the cast and directing this flick. Jay Chandrasekhar plays Arcot Ramathorn (Ram/Thorny), the senior officer in the unit and there is this running gag involving his ethnicity. Another gag going about is when he teams up with the obnoxious Rodney Farva who intends on calling their team ‘RamRod’. I have a new found respect for Brian Cox for taking the role of the Highway Patrol chief. He who portrayed Hannibal Lecter and William Stryker is hilarious in a Dan Ackroydish kind of way as he tries to get his team to toe his line and avoid having the station shut down.


Getting back to the Afghani monkey logo angle on the contraband, you have the patrolmen playing detective by watching Arabic reruns of the Afghani cartoon (Johnny Chimpo to be precise) to search for ‘clues’ as to the origins and suspects of this nefarious venture.

This movie is no police academy. The gags are far funnier than that series and the lines are wittier. The script is by the team who call themselves Broken Lizard (Jay Chandrasekhar and half of the cast). The team beats Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen and co. pants down and pistol whips police academy. I read on their wikipedia entry that there is a prequel to be made on the super troopers. Here’s to the Broken Lizards – looking forward to more tales from you guys.

Microsoft User Experience Community

I had been for a user experience talk at the Microsoft campus in Domlur on Saturday. Microsoft has been promoting user experience practices in India and this talk was an initiative to have a common group of professionals share ideas on online user experience.

This programme is driven by Supreet Singh, a user experience evangelist for Microsoft. My boss was also delivering a talk at this gathering and had invited us over. The session started with the CEO from Apparatus Media Labs, who gave us a presentation on the work executed by his company with special focus on their social networking projects. There were some interesting ideas in the presentation such as a social networking platform where various residential communities could register and share details on their neighbourhood. For example, mention on your community that you will be flying back home on such and such a day. If someone else from the neighbourhood is coming down on the same day, these two persons (who may not know each other) could connect and share a cab back from the airport, thus saving expense and fuel. Small things such as this and other household requirements, especially searching for domestic help in the area, could be cracked using this platform.

One good thing was that there was no talk of web 2.0. I have heard this term dragged through virtually every online seminar and talk and after studying the various facets of this term I truly believe that this term does not need to exist. As Tim Berners Lee explained in his views on Web 2.0, there is no such thing as web 2.0 and this was just a term used to showcase the people to people connection on the web. But that was always the intention of the internet. Ever since its inception, the World Wide Web has been a platform where anyone can improve the online positioning and functioning. You cannot straightjacket the web with terms based on new functions and applications. Innovation is an inherent part of the World Wide Web. Period. A lot of the guys I have heard talking about web 2.0 just didn’t make sense and only succeeded going around in circles. I don’t think anyone yet knows what exactly web 2.0 means.

The presentation by my boss was more from a design perspective with emphasis on the synergy between design and technology. Online work using various media (PPT, portals, virals) was also discussed. Overall a truly interesting evening and looking forward to more seminars like this.