Friday, June 30, 2006


Apparently Roger Ebert got as big a kick out of Subhash Gai's 1999 hit, Taal, as I did, although he didn't have the benefit of subtitles. He likens Bollywood musicals to those of Doris Day... although I have to say, I've never seen a Doris Day musical.

Of course, I didn't have the benefit of Ebert's review when I walked into Reel Video. I chose it by the DVD cover. There's dancers on the cover. That's a good sign. A.R. Rahman's name is on the cover, that's a good sign (he's the gold standard for Bollywood songs). On the back, Alga Yagnik's name. She's the lead female vocalist. This could be a good sign, except I always get her mixed up with Asha Bhosle. Also, I look for cases from Eros International, which sticks to blockbusters and crowd pleasers. I don't want to accidentally bring home an art film.

For pure spectacle, I'm sorry to say, that Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Mohabbatein spoiled me. They're much more clip-worthy, and their internal milieus are more consistent.

The story in Taal is great musical love story fun: City boy (son of a multinational's CEO) meets peasant girl who teaches yoga. Girl follows boy to Mumbai, family quarrel separates them. She gets discovered as pop star by Mumbai's hottest DJ/orchestra conductor/producer/rapper and wins MTV International star of the year award.

But the effort to distinguish the two worlds of the country and the city are pretty jarring: the countryside scenes are nice, filmed on location, but apparently all the pop stars in Mumbai in 1999 were dressing like it's 1982, in spandex and leg warmers. If you don't want to sit through a three hour long subtitled musical, YouTube gives you the highlights. Here's "Taal se Taal," with Aishwarya Rai dancing to the country version and Anil Kapoor rapping the
Western remix.

Only clip that wouldn't invoke total guffaws from an audience unfamiliar with the genre might be the song "Ishq Bina," essentially the love theme from Taal. It's the requisite pre-wedding party song (I swear, there's a wedding party in all of these movies) and again, YouTube's got the clip, sans subtitles, of course.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Video: Hans Rosling at TED

Public health professor Hans Rosling uses wicked cool data visualizations to show how the developing world is not what it once was.

And explains why Swedish undergraduate students scored lower than chimpanzees on a global public health quiz.

Part of a collection of videos recently posted from the 2006 TED conference.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Dino, Orson, and Jack: a Little Sondheim

"Everybody Ought to Have a Maid"

(via YouTube)
I was looking for Orson Welles' frozen peas commercial, when I came across this clip, presumably from the Dean Martin show.
Dean Martin, Jack Gilford and Orson Welles doing a number from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. (Surprisingly, Gilford, who did the show and the movie, is reading his lines off cue cards).

The number is a lighthearted showstopper in the play. This version is kinda creepy.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

SF CITYSCAPE: Democracy Inaction

A reflection on when "the community" might not mean "the community", in particular as it relates to urban planning.
But then last night, we were watching The Daily Show when Jon Stewart made this comment, one we found relevant to the matter at hand: Extremists get their way, he said, "because moderates have shit to do."

Meet Ayun Halliday

Ayun Halliday, NU alum, actor, zinester ("The East Village Inky"), author.
Her new book is Dirty Sugar Cookies, a self-mocking memoir of her culinary upbringing. She's visiting 30 blogs in 30 days to promote it.

I asked her about the connections between her theatre background and food. Results at my LiveJournal.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Try to avoid bringing dogs to meetings.

As a freelancer, I often find myself being included on the distribution list of many inter-office memos, while not actually ever having to pay much attention to what they say or having to worry about taking any action. These are excerpts from a particularly surreal one from my current client on the subject of bringing pets to work.


As you know, we currently allow employees to bring pets (dogs or cats) to the workplace. To ensure that the workplace remains a comfortable environment for everyone-including those who may be allergic to pets or uncomfortable around pets--- we are implementing the following guidelines:

[[some boneheadedly obvious guidelines such as "make sure your pet is housebroken" appear here in the original]]

To the extent possible, Dogs should stay with their owner or caregiver at all times in their office/cubicle. If the caregiver needs to attend a meeting, an alternative caregiver should be appointed to take care of any needs while the primary caregiver is away.

Try to avoid bringing dogs to meetings.

[[Note that they only ask that you TRY not to bring your dog to meetings. Perhaps you could explain to him that he might be bored, that he won't be able to read the slides, or simply sneak into the meeting before he sees you. "Look, snausages!"]]

Dogs/cats should be kept away from people with allergies.

Walk your dog outside the building and courtyard areas several times a day, and please clean up afterwards.

Bring a supply of toys or treats to keep your dog from getting bored or disruptive. Please avoid squeaky toys.

You are responsible for cleaning up after your dog inside and outside of the building. If your dog has an accident inside the building, please also notify Facilities, since additional clean-up may be necessary.

Any incident of aggressive behavior by a dog is unacceptable and the dog will not be allowed back at work.

Loud or repetitive barking is not acceptable and must be stopped right away. Dogs who bark excessively will not be allowed back at work.

Eating, or even sniffing, an employee's food by a pet is not acceptable.

Please be aware that pets also may make some feel uncomfortable. Therefore, please use common sense and common courtesy and respect the views of others at all times.

Based on business needs or the needs/comforts of other department members, a manager may, at their discretion, add more restrictions or limitations to these guidelines, applying to his or her department specifically. This may include restricting pets from the department.

Seeger Sessions in Concert

Bruce and his Pete Seeger tribute at Madison Square Garden. Today's NYT.

The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins

MIT professor and pop media culture fan Henry Jenkins blogs about media convergence, participatory culture, collective intelligence, and Robot Chicken.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hand over the phone and no one gets hurt

Case study: ignoring the problem may be your worst strategy. Except hiding behind your mom. That might be even worse than worst.

From Wednesday's NYT.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Um.... what?

Also available as a DVD from Rhino.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Al Agonistes

Communicating scientific information to a broad public is incredibly difficult. Especially if you can't separate the good guys from the bad guys. Or if the bad guys might be us. I'm hoping to get a little inspiration from this film when I write my next EPA press release.

Also: I cried through the scenes of Bush-Gore recount.

Also: Apple plays an uncredited starring role.

Friday, June 09, 2006

New Trends in Home Staging

When the smell of cookies baking and a half dozen well-placed throw pillows just aren't enough to make it seem like home.

A company is now hiring fake families to inhabit properties during open houses.
"Model homes are wonderful and give you an idea about the potential a house has, but what's really missing is the soul," said Jim Garfield, of Roddan Paolucci Roddan, the property public relations firm behind the concept. "It's a theatrical, interactive, experiential show that allows visitors to see a home's heart."
Like Past Present, the actors must improvise their interactions with potential homebuyers, pre-armed with knowledge about the features of the house or its appliances.

I only wish we'd thought of it first.

Federal Judge Orders Rock-Paper-Scissors

Thursday, June 08, 2006

YouTube: "Indian Beatles"

via Boing Boing

From 1965, a two minute clip from Jaanwar, featuring four musicians in Beatles suits, singing a Hindi cover/rip off of "I Want to Hold Your Hand."

The comments note the title in Hindi is "Tumse Hai Dil Ko," but most other references to this cover song (on sites that cover either the Beatles, cover songs, or that track Indian film music plagiarism) call it "Dekho ab to."

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Happy Birthday David Sedaris

Commencement Speeches from Cal

Excerpts from speeches made by geographers, writers, journalists, psychologists, and activists.

My favorite is actually from a Stanford professor, David Kennedy, addressing the Department of History graduates:

I know college has seemed hard — all those papers, tedious lectures, course assistants speaking an incomprehensible language, exams, labs, problem sets. But three things have made it easy: freedom, forgiveness, and indulgence. All three are about to disappear from your lives forever.

The "5-Second Rule"

Researchers at the University of Illinois weigh in on whether you can eat food that's been dropped on the floor..
Food Science Professor Peter Blaschek said, "I think all bets are off when you're talking about something like carpeting. That's an entirely different story and we haven't done that study yet.

Monday, June 05, 2006

A grudging acceptance

I take a breath and acknowledge, dear Reader, that I don't really like Stephen Colbert. Just.... find him tiresome and not .... really... worthwhile. Yes, even more so after the White House correspondants dinner. Whew. I'm clean now. But I find him less annoying having read his commencement address at Knox College:

So, say “yes.” In fact, say “yes” as often as you can. When I was starting out in Chicago, doing improvisational theatre with Second City and other places, there was really only one rule I was taught about improv. That was, “yes-and.” In this case, “yes-and” is a verb. To “yes-and.” I yes-and, you yes-and, he, she or it yes-ands. And yes-anding means that when you go onstage to improvise a scene with no script, you have no idea what’s going to happen, maybe with someone you’ve never met before. To build a scene, you have to accept. To build anything onstage, you have to accept what the other improviser initiates on stage. They say you’re doctors—you’re doctors. And then, you add to that: We’re doctors and we’re trapped in an ice cave. That’s the “-and.” And then hopefully they “yes-and” you back. You have to keep your eyes open when you do this. You have to be aware of what the other performer is offering you, so that you can agree and add to it. And through these agreements, you can improvise a scene or a one-act play. And because, by following each other’s lead, neither of you are really in control. It’s more of a mutual discovery than a solo adventure. What happens in a scene is often as much a surprise to you as it is to the audience.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Art of Science II

Revisiting an online exhibition I posted last year. Pictured: Hairpin Vortex.