Thursday, August 30, 2007

Get a random Wikipedia Article every time you start your browser

I love to spend time reading Wikipedia articles. Whenever I hear something new, I either put it in Google search box, or Wikipedia search. Or sometimes I would just use the random Wiki article link to jump around.

If you are a avid Wikier like me, and would like to get a random Wiki article when you start your browser, here is a trick...

Point your browser startup page to Now whenever you start your browser window, a new Wiki article will be ready for you :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Who killed Adnan?

Adnan, a teenager was kidnapped by three other teens and later strangulated to death recently. The news made it quit big on print, tv and web.

Adnan was son of a well-to-do businessman, staying in one of the high profile suburbs of Mumbai, India. His three friends (whom he met on decided to kidnap him and make some quick money. Though they had not planned to kill, they actually killed him in panic when the kidnap news spread in media. Cops arrested the trio and they confessed following that.

In the busy world, this may seem like just another "case closed" for all. People would scrap Adnan's profile for a while, media will chew the news, parents will perform rituals, police will proceed with legal trial and slowly the news will be history.

Even though the accused have been arrested and confessions have been recorded...I am trying to see if the real killer has been arrested....after all, who really killed Andan?

The three "friends"?
Ofcourse yes!
These kids are nothing but a small sample of our lost youth population. Lack of proper education, lack of human motives, lack of morals, lack of real Idols to follow is generating more young criminals everyday than anything else. We need to have serious efforts to tackle this. And this can only happen if the society is ready for the change and be a part of it than sit complaining.
I fail to understand why the debate again comes up since the kidnappers used to contact Adnan. If it had not been orkut, it could be something else. It could be a simple email. Would the people ask the Internet to be shut down/banned if that happens? People need to be aware of the new technology and how it can be (mis)used. A local political party earlier ransacked a cyber cafe to protest against There was another news claiming some technical members are planning to write software to block orkut communities in Cafes so that specific communities can be blocked. I pity their technical expertise. Orkut does provide the facility to report abuse and if enough people do that, orkut closes the profile/community down. Can the political parties involve their members do the same instead of breaking things around?

Media is one of the communication medium where morality and ethics play important role.
Unfortunately, media has now become a business which is fought like war. There has been a mushroom growth in news channels in India recently. Zee News, NDTV, AajTak, IBM7, CNBC-TV18, CNN-IBN, Headlines Today, Tej, Star News, Sahara News are just some of the prominent ones. There is a cut-throat competition between all of these to give the "exclusive coverage" and to be the first to obtain the "breaking news". Gone are the days when news was "covered", now the channels can do absurd things to "make news"! And once there is a bit, it would be looped continuously on-air (with big "EXCLUSIVE" and "BREAKING NEWS" tag) whole day, or till there is another news to cash on. All the ethics and Morales are kept aside in view of profit and TRP.
Selective Journalism too, is playing huge role in the business . A star wedding makes it to TV and media and everything from the ceremony is covered, be it the wedding attire, place, astroprofiles of couple - everything is discussed. Innocent people are spending years in overcrowded jails, but only when a star is jailed, the case gets attention. Poor women in country are harassed, assaulted and abused in many ways, yet a news is made only when a high profile officer is made target by another officer.
Adnan's news was no exception and it was promptly covered by Media. And soon the news was everywhere, thanks to news readers continuously crying aloud about the missing guy. Could have the murder been avoided if the news had not made it public?
Maybe Yes! If Police could investigate the case quietly, they could zero-in on the trio on time, given the fact that trio confessed of not planning to kill him and they were amateur kidnappers. The undue attention attracted by media caused panic amongst the kidnappers and they murdered him out of fear.

Police and Law?
Police actually did quiet a good job in this case. They managed to investigate the case and track down the kidnappers. Too bad they couldn't catch them before the murder took place. But was this because the case was lodged by a wealthy businessman and media attention was involved in the case?
Maybe Yes! Not all are bad, but Cops here are notorious for being active on high profile cases only. If you are not a businessman/ star/govt official/politician or son/daughter of one, try going to cops for a reason and then you will experience the fun. I remember when my cellphone was stolen and I interacted with cops. And there was a news in media after some days when a filmstar son forgot his cellphone in the city cab. The cops went out of their way, without an FIR and whole area was combed to find out the missing cellphone!
Do the people today think twice before committing a planned act of crime? Are they deterred in any way by fear of law and order? India is comparatively better country than many other with respect to law. But still a lot of efforts are required before Police change their role from "maintaining crime records" to "actively preventing people from committing crime and Justice system be made quick enough to punish ad-hoc criminals.

Parents and society?
Kidnappers said that they kidnapped him for money. But why in the first place they felt money is so much important. Where are the morale police who protest against movies and valentines days only?
Adnan left home in his own car, and was killed in the same. Being son of businessman, he had a rich lifestyle. I am not trying to portray him as a villain or spoilt brat but he represents a class of teenagers who have easy money at hand to spend for luxury. Their day spending can easily run a poor man's house for a week or more. The parents stay usually busy in their business and the need for looking after the child mentally, socially is hardly felt. The parental duties are considered done if they are able to provide money when asked.
Following the incident, Adnan's father said - "I’d give all my money". Why sir? Is money everything? If you had kept enough checks on his friends/hobbies, spent time trying to know him more, do you think you could have seen this day?
Adnan's parents are not the only parents involved. It applies equally to parents of the kidnappers. They are definitely not happy since the death sentence looms over their sons. Maybe they are poor, yet they could have spent time teaching their sons the importance of being a good and educated human being in this world. Money comes naturally isn't it?

So called forums who take onus of fixing Indian culture by banning western cloths/movies/books etc, fail to understand that the society needs an inside change - a change in its mentality and cultural beliefs. Its not a one day job. It will need a phenomenal change in people's mindset and this might take a generation or two to happen.

We at least can start with ourselves and try what we can. No need to start another forum or protest on road. A simple pledge to groom a kid well can do wonders.

I wish Adnan's soul rest in peace.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Happy Birthday India!

My country turns 60 today. After a long fight by uncountable freedom fighters, the country became independent on 15th August 1948.

60! That's a lot of a life for a human, isn't it? For a country its not a small span either.

Where do we stand now? Are we really independent? Like a 60 year old person, who has been through difficult times, Have the 60 years made any wiser?

India is independent, but the people are not. There is a long way to go for the people. Ignorance still rules their mind. Corruption is doing its best to slow down the growth. People and their desires have taken over their own happiness. Democracy is the foundation for the success we have so far achieved but now politics has become a profit career.

Tomorrow when I would wake up, every TV channel will have dedicated Independent Day special program. Most will air special commercial promos showing inocent children singing song and holding tri-color. Newspapers will cover special articles and editorials. Every traffic signal will will see homeless kids selling miniature flags. Some would utilise the public holiday to take a break from routine and enjoy the day at a travel destination near city. But next day, everything will be different, rather will be back to routine after the hangover is over.

Today we have worldwide recognition as a growing economy. Indians are everywhere. They are being employed in the developed nations. Indian entrepreneurs are thinking big and are part of "whose' who" of the world. Life is comparatively peaceful. We have most of the new technology available. Our currency is getting better. Kids can go to school, men and women can walk road without fear in most part of the country.

Its like a glass of water, half empty or half full, the way we look at it. The generation that actually participated in the freedom fight, is slowly going behind the curtain of time. But the spirit of independence and recognition of efforts behind that is not yet dead.

The country is not a 60 year veteran. Its a teenager. We are still growing up. And hence its worth celebrating the day, with the hope that the kid will be a nice and fine as it turns into an experienced wise man. Its worth wishing that we would be truly independent, soon.

Happy Birthday India!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Gene Deitch on his experiences working on "Tom and Jerry"

In 1960, MGM decided to produce new Tom and Jerry shorts, and had producer William L. Snyder arrange with Czech-based animation director Gene Deitch and his studio, Rembrandt Films, to make the films overseas in Prague, Czechoslovakia. The Deitch/Snyder team turned out 13 shorts, many of which have a surrealistic quality.

Since the Deitch/Snyder team had seen only a handful of the original Tom and Jerry shorts, the resulting films were considered unusual, and in many ways- bizarre. The characters' gestures were often performed at high speed, frequently causing heavy motion blur. As a result, the animation of the characters looked choppy and sickly. The soundtracks featured sparse music, spacey sound effects, dialogue that was mumbled rather than spoken, and heavy use of reverb.

These shorts are the only Tom and Jerry cartoons not to carry the "Made In Hollywood, U.S.A." phrase at the end. Due to Deitch's studio being behind the Iron Curtain, the production studio's location is omitted entirely.

Following is the article by Gene Deitch on his experiences working on "Tom and Jerry", taken from

Joe Vogel was the head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1961, when our Prague-produced "Munro." won us the Oscar. MGM had belatedly realized that they had made a big booboo when they fired Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, and closed down their animation unit. Vogel began casting about to find a possible way to continue their prime cartoon property, Tom & Jerry. Snyder stepped quickly into the breach, brandishing our Oscar statuette, and assured Vogel that we were the very ones to do it - not having the faintest idea whether or not we could. Willy-nilly, we became the very first to attempt continuing these characters!

Personally, as a UPA man, I had always cited Tom & Jerry cartoons as the primary bad example of senseless violence - humor based on pain - attack and revenge - to say nothing of the tasteless use of a headless black woman stereotype house servant. Then there was the Prague animation studio itself, with its diametrically opposed school of storybook animation, always tastefully designed and restrained.

Even if the spirit was willing to give it an honest try, the fact remained that these communist-era, isolated animators had never in their lives seen even one Tom & Jerry cartoon! I had seen more than a few, and in spite of my ideological distance, I did appreciate the perfect craftsmanship, the expressive animation, with its exquisite timing, the endless gag inventiveness, and the characters' incredible damage survival.

I felt that I understood the idiom enough to adapt to its basics, but how in the world was I going to get it across to the capable but totally T&J-innocent group of Prague animators?

Adding to these obvious hurdles was the time and budget restrictions we were presented with. Whereas Bill & Joe and mostly the same four or five animators, had been doing T&J for about twenty years at that time - surely knowing the characters better than their own children - and whereas they had been producing the cartoons for over $40,000 each, (I think making about six of them per year), we were contracted to produce 12 in a year, from a standing start, with a peanuts studio budget of only $10,000 a piece!

It was clear to me that the undertaking was basically impossible, and I knew that my colleagues in the animation industry would be unforgiving in their appraisal of our results. Yet there were overriding personal and financial considerations that made it imperative that I take on this guillotine project. Readers of my book, "For The Love Of Prague," will know that in 1961, receiving an Oscar, and having production offers such as this as a result, was the key to my being able to stay in Prague long enough to sort out my personal life, and be able to marry Zdenka. So Tom & Jerry were actually battling each other to save me! So I had to suppress my preconceptions, rise to the challenge, and do my very best to adapt to the idea that mayhem can be fun.

The first step was for my new colleagues to see some examples. MGM sent me exactly four 35mm Tom & Jerry prints, plus the most recent model sheets, and a few stacks of actual pencil animation, the original drawings on paper. We all studied the material over and over, running the films in projection and on the studio's editing tables. We watched for the little timing tricks, the "takes," the basic attitudes and facial expressions. We practiced drawing the characters in their typical poses.

I knew that story would be the vital ingredient, so I called on my old colleagues, Larz Bourne, Eli Bauer, Tod Dockstader, and even some T&J veteran gagmen for storyboards. I also did some, and I reworked those that came in. I was the only one present who could draw American style cartoon characters and their facial expressions, so I personally drew all the layouts and key poses. (So there, I am taking the blame for those vital elements! But it was a struggle to get the non-violent Czech animators to hold to them.)

But even though our Tom & Jerrys were never good enough for the animation history mavens, Joe Vogel and his MGM team were well-satisfied with our results. They were only nervous about the communist Czechoslovak connection. We were able to use the classic MGM roaring lion logo to head up our T&Js, but the originals always had the line, "Made in Hollywood, USA" on the end titles. Obviously, we could not put, "Made in communist Czechoslovakia" on our titles! We were not even allowed to credit any Czechs with their true names. To belatedly set the record straight, here are some examples:

"A. Booresh" was actually: Antonín Bure_, animator
"Victor Little" was actually: Václav Lídl, composer
"S. Newman" was actually: Zdenka Najmanová, production mgr.
"M. Clicker" was actually: Milan Klikar, my premier animator
"V. Marsh" was actually: Věra Mare_ová, animator
"Dennis Smith" was actually: Zdenek Smetana, animator

Before we had even finished our first 12 cartoons, Joe Vogel, who had seemed to me to be the very symbol of the powerful movie studio tycoon, was booted out of MGM. Thus we lost our T&J patron. The new bosses wanted the production closer to home. So just as we felt we were beginning to get the hang of T&J, we were not allowed to develop further, as had the original Hanna and Barbera crew. Just look at the first 12 Tom & Jerry films they did, and tell me they were hilarious classics!

I am confident that whatever failings our 12 Tom & Jerry cartoons had, they were very close to the H&B originals in appearance. The great master, Chuck Jones, the next to try continuing Tom & Jerry, went his own merry-melody way with the character models, and I don't think they survive as examples of the series, nor were necessarily funnier than some of ours. The later attempts by others went back toward the same models we followed, although dressing the cat and mouse in trendy duds, and taming them way down to the point of palship.

Today, our T&Js are mixed right in with the earlier Hanna-Barbera's on the Cartoon Network, and I am confident that few viewers find them that much out of synch with the originals, whereas Chuck's are easily spotted as odd. Chuck himself wrote me that he simply remade the characters as his own.

And hey, they sure did work for me. Our T&J tenure was wholly supported by the then head honcho of MGM, Joe Vogel. When he was ousted, so were we. But the project had served its purpose for me. Along with the following Popeye and Krazy Kat series for King Features TV, it kept me in Prague long enough to marry Zdenka, and assured us of enough work to keep me busy here quite possibly forever!

A wonderful sidelight to my Tom & Jerry films occurred in the year 2000, when I was told that an 11 year old American boy named Pietro Shakarian actually put up a web page honoring my T&Js, pronouncing the "best of all."

Well, I have to take that as a great compliment, knowing full well that my T&Js are not really up to the standards of the originals, though better than the Chuck Jones later versions. But still it tickles me that beyond the animation history pundits, there are the actual people who see the films, and at least this person, this kid as part of the target audience, has his own positive assessment. If his page is still up when you read this, take a look:

I drew all of the key poses and layouts for our 12 Tom & Jerry films. This is one of them, from "High Steaks."

Interesting Terms

Iron Curtain

The "Iron Curtain" was the boundary which symbolically, ideologically, and physically divided Europe into two separate areas from the end of World War II until the end of the Cold War, roughly 1945 to 1991. The first recorded use of the term was in 1920 by Ethel Snowden in her book 'Through Bolshevik Russia'. German politician Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk was the first to refer to an "Iron Curtain" coming down across Europe after World War II, although he borrowed the expression from Joseph Goebbels.[1] The term was not widely used until March 5, 1946, when it was popularised by Winston Churchill in his 'Sinews of Peace' address.

Fourth Wall

The fourth wall is the imaginary invisible wall at the front of the stage in a proscenium theater, through which the audience sees the action in the world of the play. The concept is generally presumed to have originated in nineteenth century theatre with the advent of theatrical realism. Critic Vincent Canby described it in 1987 as "that invisible scrim that forever separates the audience from the stage."