February 26, 2006

Parenthetically speaking

One is an ardent advocate of increasing the ambit of bracket-usage. One illustrates the advantages offered by this age-old precedence-clarification device.

Remember the Mary Poppins joke that goes

Bert : I know a man with a wooden leg named Smith.
Uncle Albert : What’s the name of his other leg?

A brief examination of the joke reveals the ambiguity that is being exploited here. We do not know if Bert is referring to a man with a wooden leg or to a wooden leg named Smith. This could probably be expressed succinctly in an axiom of the “subordinate clauses may not be interrupted by nonessential appositives” kind, but one slept through grammar classes at school. And through most other classes too, but that is irrelevant here.

Folks would point out that changing “man with a wooden leg” to “wooden-legged man” avoids the confusion. And they would be subjected to a withering look from the One*, because that sort of thing just wouldn’t work if you were talking about a chap with, say, a polka-dot bandanna.

But observe what happens when we use the new, lunula-enhanced version of the language:

Bert : I know a (man with a wooden leg) named Smith.
Uncle Albert : Er .. okay.

See? Problem solved. And it’s extensible too ..

Bert : I know a (man who wears a polka-dot bandanna and a cool Emraan Hashmi-style bomber jacket) named Smith.
Uncle Albert : Umm .. okay.

One agrees this might be a little inconvenient during a conversation (I know a open bracket man with a wooden leg close bracket …) but the speaker could make air-brackets with his hands, much like the air-quotes that seem to be rather popular these days amongst the hep set. And look how scientific it is. No misunderstandings. Much time saved, much money saved.

It seems one has come up with a patently patentable idea and destroyed a perfectly good joke. It’s nice to be productive for a change.

* Which is almost as alarming as one’s normal expression, one assures you.

February 20, 2006

Hopin', sesame

One was informed recently that the password one had been using to access a certain intranet was due to expire. In accordance with recently-implemented policy, the new password was required to

1) Be at least eight characters long.
2) Be different from the previous twelve passwords.
3) Contain at least three of the following : a) uppercase letters, b) lowercase letters, c) numbers, d) non-alphanumeric characters.

One wishes to protest. One finds these rules overly draconian, clearly intended to terrorize all but the most doughty of intellects. No telling how low these system administrator types can stoop – next they’ll be asking for palindromes, or original pangrams, or perfect villanelles. And one Draws the Line at being made to waste precious (and limited) brainpower on such matters, given that one’s passwords thus far have consisted of one’s name followed, to confound even the most devious of hackers, by the surname.

The fact that password-choosing is well on its way to becoming an exercise in creative writing would not bother one so much if it had not been for the need to remember passwords. Yes. One has realised that a password actually needs to be retained in the ol’ memory for extended periods of time, failing which many hassles ensue. Such insight has not, however, prevented such hassles from ensuing, and ensuing repeatedly, in the course of this brief but eventful existence.*

See, one usually keys in the username with a flourish .. and then, pfft (zppk? grrch?). Everything goes blank.

At this point one proceeds to follow a complicated but well-established procedure that involves delving deep into the nooks and crannies of this tangled mind, negotiating one’s way through a lifetime of cerebral (and not-so-cerebral) detritus in the hope of finding that elusive thingybob. This, despite the immense mental effort involved, does not usually give useful results, and one is left with no choice but to look for the system administrator. Who is invariably on holiday.

We need voice authentication. Iris recognition. DNA fingerprinting. Anything but passwords.

* One cannot, at this point, remember what one had for lunch yesterday (or even whether one had lunch yesterday) so asking one to remember a random string like MeghnaNaidu123 is, you would agree, a bit much. Especially when it needs to be changed to MeghnaNaidu124 in a couple of months.

February 16, 2006

Worse libre

Thought of writing
A poem today.
A modern sort of poem, you know.
Free verse, they call it.
You write it
just like you would write prose
Except you can be
even less coherent.
Then you break your lines
Arbitrarily, like
Add a few
important words
Let’s see .. dreams, yes, dreams
Teardrops and infinity, maybe
And, of course, love.
(Couldn’t leave that one out, could we.)
And you’re not to worry
About rhythm or
Different is avant-garde, after all.
And then, especially if you’re Asian
You talk about home
If you mix up your languages, better still
More exotic, you see.
Critical acclaim is assured.

There. Hey,
this is easy.
Let’s try
Abstract art next.

February 09, 2006

On data, or the lack thereof

Blogger, it seems, has been acting up lately. Comments have gone missing. Posts have gone missing. And, for a few hours a couple of days ago, one’s entire blog went missing.

“This document contains no data”, a little alert-box would cheerfully inform the millions (and millions) who undoubtedly tried to access this glorious webpage that morning (or afternoon, or evening, or whatever). One was, of course, amongst said multitudes. And one was Quite Dismayed, if truth be told. No data? No information, perhaps, but no data? A quarter of a million characters one has typed out, yes, a quarter of a million, over tens of thousands of lines, and it says no data?

Tragic it is, truly tragic. Reams and reams of pristine prose (and the occasional poem too, let us not forget) at the mercy of a fickle service provider. Ah, the sheer injustice of it all. That too after all the care one takes of this site. One checks on it every day, one tweaks the template regularly, one has even memorized the URL. One goes so far as to feel a paternal affection for it at times. And Blogger has the gall, the Gall, to chheenofy it from the One.

One seriously considered moving to one’s own domain, but that apparently requires a) money and b) technological knowledge, neither of which one can claim to possess in significant quantity.

Such is life.

February 02, 2006

Charming, tiptop, beautiful beautiful ..

Some may remember how the rapid growth of satellite television in India in the early nineties resulted in the proliferation of numerous nondescript channels dedicated to repeatedly broadcasting, of all things, film trailers.

The general lack of things to do in those days meant that one let oneself be subjected, at that impressionable age, to a continuous medley of aforesaid trailers. Trailers which were, naturally, full of phillum-songs. The effects, not surprisingly, linger to this very day. When one encounters blogposts that recall old advertisement-jingles and reminiscences like this one by heh heh, a few carefully-suppressed memories barge their way out of the subconscious and beg for an audience.

So let us discuss one particularly compelling phillum-song memory today, if only to achieve a sort of catharsis. For, as the Planthrin Borgess said, disturbing memories should not be bottled up within – they must be confronted.*

‘Tis the heady summer of ‘95. The young One is spending a vacation at the grandparental home, which happens to be located near a drive-in theatre. ‘Tis eleven o’clock at night, and the young One, having watched enough WWF for the day, prepares to curl up with a few Mandrake comics. Suddenly, he hears faint but bloodcurdling wails emanating from the aforementioned theatre. He listens, scared but fascinated.

A man’s voice, declaiming with much vigour:

We want girl, beautiful beautiful,
Charming, tiptop, beautiful, beautiful ..

And then a shrill, doubtless feminine retort:

We want boy, handsome handsome,
Dashing He-Man, Superman, Phantom ..

The young One covers his ears. He plugs them with cotton wool. He shuts the window. He burrows into the pillow. But nothing seems to help. He can still hear it. He considers drowning out the sound by playing something louder, but people are sleeping. He is in a most woeful predicament. He can do nothing but wait for it to finish.

And every night, at a few minutes past eleven, the young One is subjected to the aforementioned lyrics. By the end of the week, these lines are indelibly etched into his tender psyche. The young One is scarred for life.

The years pass. The young One becomes a Big Boy. He leaves the comforts of the beloved Desh and journeys to strange lands, meeting new people, seeing new sights, thinking new thoughts. But wherever he may go, every once in a while, when he least expects it, the lines return to haunt him. “Charming, tiptop, beautiful beautiful .. Dashing He-Man, Superman, Phantom ..”

And that, gentle reader, is the end of that particular phillum-song memory. One hopes that catharsis has been achieved. If the song does not haunt one any more, if the nightmares do not recur, one shall be thankful. ‘Nuff said.

* One does not have the faintest idea who the Planthrin Borgess might be, but then neither do you.

Update :

It seems people do not believe that such a song has ever been sung in Bollywood. While one is suitably outraged at the implication that this blog takes liberties with the truth (perish the thought!), one shall now go about the delicate business of Clearing One’s Good Name.

The lines in the post are from a song entitled Saawan Ka Mahina, Shaadi Bina Mushkil Hai Jeena. Phillum Hulchul. One cannot find the song on the web, unfortunately, but the reader might recall another song from the same film (a marginally better one) that went Pehli Dafaa Is Dil Mein Bhi Hulchul Si Hone Lagi.

So there.

Update the second :

S. (May She Blog For Ever) has given us this link. The gentle reader shall click on it and play the song in question.