Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Landmark Open Chennai 2007

The Chennai leg of the Landmark 2007 was conducted by Dr. Naveen Jayakumar at the Music Academy on 15Aug07. The turnout was huge and the auditorium was jam-packed, to witness the landmark quizzing event of the year. Please also check the following links for other reports:

The prelims on the first listen, I mean while writing the answers, seemed to be pretty decent. But in retrospect, only the first 30 questions or so seem to pass muster. Hindsight is 30/40! :-) There was an unnatural bias towards Harry Potter in the set of Qs (3+ out of 40; am complaining even though we got all of them), many were arbitrarily worded (avarahonam) or dead giveaways (one Q was even a repeat from the Odyssey event) and hence non-competitive; it was all in all an uneven spread. The cut-off was way too high, 30+/40, I have reason to believe, and would have been OK only if the quality/standard was uniform throughout.

Personal. Participated as the Borobodur Orangutans - Sreeram, Prasanth & me. DNQ. Usual story! :-( Managed to predict quite a few questions in the prelims and still did not qualify! Also ended up with a bout of Chennai-belly... Was a bad outing, all round.

The final round was not so great either. Not much substance (nothing to note!) and hence I left early. Usually I stay till the end, if only because I have traveled all the way to participate. The questions were rather stale, many seemed to have been left-overs from the 2006 quizzing season! Most of the current-affairs questions were based on early, mid 2006 stuff.

There was a high level of arbitness felt in some of the Qs (possibly because of the staleness factor) mentioned above. One of the teams even resorted to answering "Michael Jackson" based answers for all Qs that came to them - just because of a monstrously horrendous and banal connection question. And the answer to one of the questions which captured everyone's imagination, dendronautics was answered incorrectly and still given points. The team had answered something to the effect of "tree climbing" when the answer was morel like "study of vegetation according to height"!

The questions in the quizzer of the year round also was of non-uniform standard. Some of the participants had it real easy while some had it real tough. Of course, luck is a factor and also, this is a subjective opinion, but this was the general impression left behind.

In my opinion, it was a disappointing show, a let-down compared to the Odyssey Open in January 2007 held at the same venue.

QED from Chennai, the crowd-favourites won again, as other reports tell me. Some fun team names as well, "Cheque De", "Eternal Moonshine Of The Spotless Behind", "Munnabhai and the Jacky Sparrows" etc

The organizers could have made (and should in future make) better use of the computer during the registration stages in order to minimize the chaos that prevailed just before the prelims. Online registration/seating reservations for outstation teams would have been really cool.

Trivia Bytes
(prelims, thanx to prasanth for jogging my memory)
01. Wolf in Norse mythology. Harry Potter - Fenrir (cracked with Norse not HP cue!)
02. Movie clip --> Harry Potter and Dolores Umbridge
03. Visual Of - The Deathly Hallows
04. Kalashnikov most famous model - 1947
05. Philippines national flower - Jasmine
06. Avarohanam -> Avatar (abstrusely worded)
07. Origin of rivers - Manasarovar
08. Dalai Lama Nobel Prize - Gandhi
09. Only Non-Indian Bharat Ratnas - Nelson Mandela, Khan Abdul Gafar Khan
10. 1991 book - Generation X
11. Etymology. Asterix cue . - Font
12. Only bulletproofable car in India - Ambassador
13. Countries with Square flags - Vatican, Switzerland
14. Visual. Pale Blue Dot.
15. Predicted by Mendeleev - Technetium
16. Ekta Kapoor. Non 'K' film - Shootout at Lokhanwala
17. Question that has to be answered in Parliament - Starred question (This was a nice one)
18. Rearview mirror (Odyssey repeat)
19. Magnetic North Pole, GPS (Have disagreement about this one)
20. Named after son of Vayu - Maruti
21. Student body with certification -
22. AR Rahman song used for - Taj promotion (Predicted Q!)
23. Visual of stained glass in study - Venn diagram (another beauty)
24. Robinson Crusoe Island (Has become a chestnut!)
25. Types of webs

(Please check the other links for a better version of the questions)

The Poemism Crisis

It is sad that poems do not attract as much attention as they used to. No, I do not mean to say that poets are a dying breed. Far from it. In fact, there has been a boom in `poem-production over the years. But increased supply does not imply increased demand, `economic’ally speaking.

The core of the problem is that every Tom (includes me!), Dick and Harry wants to churn out feel-good, heart-warming verse. Sadly the stuff that comes out is often nothing short of bone-chilling! Verse. Sorry. Worse, they insist that the world celebrate their works and acknowledge them as the Tom Keats, Dick Shelleys and the Harry Brownings of the present. The PLIMs (PLIM,in case you don’t know, stands for Poet Laureate In Making) are men whose enthusiasm can be dampened by nothing whatsoever. I bet a googol dollars that even on the eve of Doomsday, a PLIM somewhere will be penning the deliverance song to be sung on the Big Day so that his work be heard in heaven.

Writing poems is not a hobby. It is a passion. I caught the `poemism’ virus last year, or was it the other way around? I became a PLIM anyhow. The thought of being a poet, acknowledged by one and all exhilarated me. I imagined my anthology being published and its contents being incorporated in syllabi the world over. I even introduced similes, metaphors and aphorisms into my poems so that the erudite student could ponder over their contextual validity and so that the examiner could spring many a surprise on unwary students.

As the poemism virus tightened its grip over me, things became worse. All I thought was poems, all I talked was poems, but I could not write any! The situation now became “Poems, poems everywhere but not a verse to ink.” To think that I was a well of poetry and I had no bucket!

One great advantage of being a PLIM is that one never has to learn grammar. Those whose hearts have been wrenched by Wren and Martin will realize that this is true bliss. The true poet spurns grammar in the same way as an Alsatian looks at a poodle. For the PLIM, marks of punctuation are but avoidable irritants. But when in doubt, he puts an exclamation mark! - and if doubt persists, can a question mark be far behind?

The true PLIM never smiles. He goes around with a permanent frown. The sorrows of the world sit heavily on him. When his mind is not churning ideas, it is polishing words. He can never afford to relax because springs of inspiration swell up in his soul. You never know when you strike gold. The PLIM’s command over the language is so great that he considers the dictionary a mere inconvenience. He creates new words at will, for do not new ideas require new words? Using old words is definitely old fashion. The PLIM does not want to be understood In fact, he can never understand his own self. He only wants respect. And every night and morn, he consigns every critic to the seventh circle of hell, the latest block there, constructed especially for this abominable species.

For the PLIM, the postbox is the sign of hope and the postman, the sign of despair. His wonderful creations are sent with great hope to myriad editors and just when he hopes, at last some bright editor has dis`cover’ed his true genius, in comes the postman and throws in bundles of discarded hope. But the PLIM, like King Bruce of yore knows no despair and sets to work yet again. Once a PLIM, always a PLIM!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

TBOWM - 200707

"We are in The Business Of Watching Movies." - Shimjith Ambali

20070715 Ordinary People
Superb. Oscar-winning (Best Picture, Best Direction) effort from Robert Redford. The movie is about a young boy who has difficulties overcoming the loss of his brother in a boating accident. A familiar theme but explored to great depth are the boy's relationships with his father, mother and his shrink.

20070714 Heaven Can Wait
A delightful comedy from Warren Beatty who gets a second chance at life after being wrongly killed. Beatty who is a footballer chooses to go back in the body of a millionaire. Though it is a familiar theme, some memorable scenes such as when the millionaire's wife is caught cheating redhanded. By a strange coincidence, my second movie for the day also had two

20070714 Bee Season
Though the bee in the title alludes to the spelling-bee competition, this Richard Gere starrer is more about the things people do to connect with God. Control-freak and deeply religious Gere's family's attempts to interpret and apply the Kabbalistic concept of "tikkun olam" or "repairing the world, reuniting its shards." The movie has not one but two directors - both engaging in tikkun olam themselves! Attempts to alleviate the gloom and repetitiveness with psychedelic renderings of words spelling themselves out!

20070711 The Birdcage
Robin Williams runs a gay/crossdresser nightclub (The Bird Cage) and his son falls in love with the daughter of a senator. Scenes of slapstick comedy unfold as the household attempts to cover up their true selves when the Senator comes visiting to inspect the suitability of his daughter's suitor!

20070710 Honeymoon In Vegas
Nicolas Cage falls for the crafts of a wily gambler and ends up losing his fiancee to his conqueror for the weekend. But is he gonna be losing her forever as well? Can the seemingly omnipotent millionaire trick the maiden out of Cage's hands?

20070709 Cool Hand Luke
Paul Newman plays the unflappable Luke, indefatigable and irrepressible in his quest for freedom and to be himself. in this prison flick. Memorable scenes include the egg-eating challenge, the explanation of the rules of the prison and Luke's escape'ades. Also features the famous(for me) quote "What we've got here is failure to communicate" in the song Civil War by Guns'n'Roses.

20070708 Tootsie
Watchable cross-dressing comedy. Dustin Hoffman is an out of work actor who finally lands a role when he cross-dresses and auditions for a role in a sitcom. Tootsie becomes a rage and Hoffman struggles to maintain his regular life. A useful side-effect is that he gets closer to one of her/his costars, but complications arise when the costar's father proposes to Tootsie!

20070707 The Bridges Of Madison County
Clint Eastwood, an ageing Nat Geo photographer, and Meryl Streep, a bored housewife have a brief affair while Streep's family was away for the weekend and Eastwood shows up to shoot photos of the Bridges of Madison County. The story is told as Streep's grown-up children shamefully reading about their now-dead mother's romantic liaison with the ace photographer.

20070707 Catch 22
An adaptation of Joseph Heller's classic is pretty much different from the book. Perhaps director Mike Nichols' intention was just to capture the horrors of war, the essence of the book, rather than reproduce it scene-by-scene. All in all, I felt it was darker and was less funny than it should have been. Does not do justice to the book.

20070707 Intersection
Richard Gere faces a midlife crisis, he is at the intersection or the crossroads of life. Does he stick with his wife or go with his newfound lover. The movie takes us along with Gere on a drive through the countryside and tells us the story through a series of flashbacks and incidents that help him make up his mind. Surprise, surprise it was somewhat artsy too.

20070618 Walk The Line
Johnny Cash biopic, Joaqim Phoenix puts in a decent performance as the country crooner. Primarily about Cash's involvement with his co-writer and other family problems (dad, wife).

20070618 Mayavi
Mammootty plays an ex-con who has the power/secret ability to bash up the bad guys, but only while it's dark and he is out of sight! Plot follows familiar lines, village-girl charmed, buddies turn foe - but definitely worth a watch.

20070618 Big B
Slick action flick from Mammootty. A Malayalam movie in true (well, almost) Hollywood style! The story is not much to write home about and there are no "unexpected" twists in the tale. Good, refreshing style though!

20070617 The Quick And The Dead
Sharon Stone and Russell Crowe sizzle in this Western-style, multi-starrer revenge-flick. Gene Hackman is the sherriff holding a shootout challenge to eliminate all possible challengers to his office. A young Leonardo DiCaprio too features among others. Expected a tedium of shootouts but different threads are woven in rather well.

20070617 Chota Mumbai
Mohanlal stars in this laugh-a-minute, feel-good movie. Was a pleasant surprise as I had gone to watch the movie expecting a blood-and-gore, goonda movie.

20070616 The Parallax View
A dark and paranoid thriller about the assassinations and conspiracy theories surrounding them, in the 1970s. It's a satire - there being a Parallax Corporation which is in the business of assassinating senators. A bit ahead of its time, the style followed by director Alan Pakula requires intense concentration to follow. Warren Beatty is the confused hero. I felt the footage in the Parallax test, the psychiatric test the recruit assassins have to take could have been more significant and poignant.

20070616 Boys Don't Cry
The true story of Brandon Teena (Teena Brandon), a transsexual in love with a girl. However things turn awry when her friends discover the truth, that Brandon is not who he claims to be. Hilary Swank plays the boy-girl to perfection.

20070616 The Sting
Paul Newman and Robert Redford play con-men planning to pull off the biggest job of their careers. A bit predictable but interestingly laid out as chapters! Robert Redford reckoned this was his best role ever, I read somewhere. Couldn't help but wonder how much the younger Redford resembles Brad Pitt (should be the other way around!). I think Viggo Mortensen resembles Michael Douglas too.

20070615 Blood Diamond
A pseudo "true-story" style movie, with more than its fair share of propaganda and gossip! The sheer amount of coincidences involving Solomon Vandi take the sheen out of it. Superb performances from the lead trio (DiCaprio, Connelly and Djimon Hounsou) however keeps the movie afloat, as do the fantastic scenery. The movie could have done with either a disclaimer or a true story notice - to lend it a bit of authenticity!

20070615 The Out Of Towners
Enjoyable comedy about how things go wrong for Jack Lemmon and wife when they make a trip to NY. There's non-landing flights, missed baggage, mugging, kidnapping and much more! Everything goes wrong! Was later remade, starring Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn.

20070611 Any Given Sunday
Al Pacino plays the coach of a "loser" football team in this Oliver Stone film. Cameron Diaz features as the new owner of the team and Jamie Foxx plays the star quarterback. The confrontational scenes between coach and don't-wannabe-protege are, well, tiredly inspirational!

20070611 Marathon Man
What would you do when your whole world turns upside down and the people who you thought you knew aren't who you thought they were? Dustin Hoffman, as a cute wannabe-Marathoner student, faces up to the tough guys. The "Is it safe?" torture scene is memorable. The athlete shown in the recurring clip is Abebe Bikila.

20070607 Pirates Of The Caribbean 3: At World's End
I thought this was a bit too long and detail-ridden. And everybody comes back from the dead! Dozed off towards the end, which my friends told was the best part of the movie. Anyways, I thought it was better than the second part.

20070605 American Gigolo
Richard Gere plays the titular role, a gigolo framed in a murder-case. Pretty decent stuff.

20070601 The Milagro Beanfield War
Surreal film from Robert Redford which tells the story of a town which is facing a water-crisis because of a big real-estate project. The hero decides to face up to the biggies and rebels by taking water for cultivating his beanfield. Becomes the talk of the town - featuring popular, legal and even divine interventions. Charming at times, overdone at others.