Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Cheeposoft Values - 4

Aardvark – VP, Software development
Brain Storming session at XYZ –Cheeposoft

Continued from last time…

Eric: I am getting a little confused about these corporate values… they don’t sound like anything I’ve read before.

Aardvark: It is all very simple. All of you guys are plain lazy. You don’t read the fine print.

Gwen: You mean there is a fine print?

Aardvark: Of course! There is always a fine print. For everything. You’ll never become a successful manager until you learn to read the fine print.

Flashes on a powerpoint slide.

Aardvark: Here! I’ll show you the Cheeposoft Corporate Values, as you have never seen them before. Everything in uniform font size. Only VP’s and board members get to see this slide.

  1. The customer is king…until the contract is signed

  2. The customer is always right. But he never reads the manual.

  3. We encourage open feedback. As long as it is positive.

  4. All employees are equal, but managers are more equal than others

  5. We reward exceptional performance. With salary.

  6. We encourage diversity in the workplace. As long as everybody looks the same.

  7. We create an exciting, challenging work environment. You are challenged to work harder or your boss will get very excited.

  8. We believe that if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. That is why we give bananas.

© Poltu

Greaseballs and hard rock

“Rock in the Jungle” they labeled it. The annual day of the Hotel Management dept at the Administrative Management College. Food Fest + four of the hottest rock acts around, all for a measly 30 bucks. It seemed foolish not to go, so I went.

After an interminable drive down the choking, ugly Banerghatta road, there was a little clearing with some trees….the forest. Then the hallowed portals of AMC. Braving a long line of belligerent looking management students all wanting to see my ticket, finally made it inside to the rather grand AMC building which looks a bit like St. Peters cathedral. Huge circular ground in front, with a small stage and miniscule speakers. Doesn’t look adequate for such a huge ground. Sinking feeling.

The show was to start at 4. Finally started at 6. Interminable, boring speeches by the VC, reactor, Head of Dept…about topics of little or no interest to outsiders…went on and on…Chairs set a kilometer away from the stage. The entire view blocked by the sound crew in between. Sound is pathetic. Fairly awful comparing. Typical tacky, ham-handed and slightly self-conscious management of student-organized fests. The whole thing is starting to look like a frost. It had sounded an unbelievable bargain at 30 bucks. It is getting more unbelievable by the second.

I was trying to get a sweet dreamgirl I’m getting terribly fond of to come with me. She didn’t. Drove all the way feeling depressed about it. Feeling relieved about it now. Dreamgirls can be scathing, when frosted.

Finally, at 7, the bands start tuning up. The sound crew from Unwind Centre (where I go for guitar lessons) does some magic. Suddenly the puny system starts delivering a very respectable sound.

The first band fires. Haven, the national runners up for this years Campus Rock Idols, and the south zone winners. Features Hemant on lead, who is also my guitar instructor at Unwind Center. Enthusiastic clapping from me. They play grunge covers – Perl Jam, Creed and the like. Suddenly, the place comes alive. Everyone deserts the chairs and surges towards the stage. Sound system rocks. So does the band. The evening doesn’t look like a washout anymore.

Haven does a very competent job. I can believe that they won Campus Rock Idol. They are the college band of St Josephs of Bangalore. Hemant is quiet and self-effacing on stage, and lets his guitar speak for itself. But their singer and bassist make up for it with a lot of showmanship. Cute, rocking babe on their keyboard. Can hardly hear her, above the loud, fuzzy bass and drums, but she looks cute and lively, and makes up in visual impact.

Try the food counter…coming-out party for the final year hotel management students. The Biryani is greasy and awful. If these chaps are training to be cooks in 5 star hotels, my only guess is they plan on receiving lots of on-the-job training. There is even a dinky little French restaurant with five tables, smartly dressed waitresses, and a preset 11-course menu with stuff like coq-au-vin. Sounds like a bargain at 100 bucks. Looking at their level of culinary expertise, decide to give it a miss.

Next band up…Blood Covenant from Chennai. Hard, uncompromising death metal. Being a regular sufferer of half-baked death metal groups at our very own Sunday Jam, I feel a nameless dread. But theses chaps are really good. The drums in particular sound like an artillery battery having fun after getting drunk on regiment day. After two songs, I revise my opinion. It sounds like three drunken artillery batteries having fun in unison. Fat fellow with a sense of humor is having a blast growling incomprehensible vocals. Hate the genre, but must admit- this time it is fun.

Try the black forest pastry and caramel custard. Not bad. Revise my opinion of the students’ culinary skills. The pastry in particular is better than anything I’ve tasted outside of a 5-star joint. Covered in oodles of real chocolate shavings without being stingy, and lots of fresh cream.

Some kind of strange fashion show on stage. Some very sexy young female students and some very self conscious male students strutting their stuff. Never understood the concept of fashion shows at college do’s. I mean – the point of fashion shows is for professional fashion designers to showcase their awful designs. These kids just dig out their best clothes, and strut about on stage. Anyway, cute babes. No harm in getting some eye candy. A lot of very lecherous greaseballs seem to think so too. Lewd comments and leering all around. Suddenly realize the place has a fair sprinkling of what we used to call ‘Cheappads’ back in my hometown in Rajasthan. Greaseball is the nearest English equivalent. Basically – slightly callow, unpolished rural types who hang around in groups leering at girls and passing cheap comment in Hindi, but would probably faint if one of them came and talked to them. Cheappads at a rock concert. Ugh. I thought I had left that breed behind, when I moved to Bangalore. These must be the northies who flock to Bangalore colleges every year. Those girls must have nerves of steel to strut around in sexy clothes in front of a crowd of cheappads. Thankfully, the Cheappads seem to be in a minority. Most of the guys seem to be hard-core rockers.

Next up…my favorite Bangalore act – Ministry of Blues. Philip Hayden tries cracking some jokes in fairly pathetic Hindi. Fall flat. Launch into Voodoo Chile. Philip as usual does an amazing replica of Hendrix riffs. But sound is still set for death metal – you can only hear the bass and drums, the lead is lost. Try to get Ram in the sound crew to adjust the sound setting. He fiddles around a bit. Only a slight improvement. MOB plays Hendrix, Deep Purple, Doors…all lost due to the improper sound balance.

Next up is a fusion band that sings in Hindi. – Swarathma. Me, I avoid all such bands. Go home, feeling depressed at the MOB fiasco.

More bad news at the parking lot. Somebody has vandalized by beautiful T-bird. Bent the speed indicator and cut its cable. One of the Cheappads, I suppose. Why would anyone want to do that? What do they get from it? Cheappad mentality defies logic.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Cheeposoft Values - 3

Aardvark – VP, Software development
Brain Storming session at XYZ –Cheeposoft ....continued from last week.

Eric: Now that we are on the subject of Corporate Values…how about Value No. 2 “All Cheeposofties are equal”?

Aardvark: how about it?

Eric: I mean, are we all really equal? Do you get the same salary as I do?

Aardvark: Management is a great responsibility, Eric. With great responsibility comes great salary.

Eric: As far as I can see, you get paid to waste everybody’s time in silly, endless, fatuous meetings that where you stand and mouth boring inanities about corporate values and ‘management expectations’ and guiding principles, while the rest of us are tearing our hair and worrying about our deadlines.

Aardvark: I think we really need a little on-on-one, Eric.

Gwen: I think Eric has a point, Mr. Aardvark. Is the management living up to the corporate values?

Arrdvark: I think this only proves that none of you have really read the corporate values. Pull out your doggy tags. Now. Read it aloud with me “All Cheeposofties are equal”

All: “All Cheeposofties are equal”

Arrdvark: “…but VP’s and directors are more equal than others…”

Eric: What!!!

Gwen: When did that line get there?

Pustule: And the CEO, I suppose….

Aardvark: (reverently) Yes, Pustule…the CEO is the most equal of us all.

© Poltu

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Cheeposoft Values - 2

Aardvark – VP, Software development
Brain Storming session at XYZ –Cheeposoft...continued...

Aardvark: I had called you all here to brainstorm on ways of reducing our alarming attrition rate. I have got nothing except fatuous suggestions like improving working conditions and increasing pay. Frankly, I expected nothing better from a bunch of nincompoops, that is why I came prepared with my own ideas.

Cyborg: You are right, sir! Management knows best!

Aardvark: That’s true. That is why we are managers. Now this is my proposal: We all know and love our glorious Cheeposoft Values. We carry it on the back of our doggy tags. It is on all the walls and screensavers. We sing it in the morning at assembly. I propose to add a new value. “Cheeposoft is an Awesome Place To Work!”. APTW is the official acronym.

Eric: APTW? Doesn’t that mean ‘Awful Place To Work?’

Aardvark: I heard that, Eric. I think it is time to have an out of turn performance appraisal.

Pustule: Oh God! Does that mean we have to carry new APTW doggy tags? I am already feeling like a pet poodle with all the doggy tags around my neck.

Aardvark: I think we need to appraise your performance as well, Pustule.

Gwen: If I understand you correctly, Mr. Aardvark, if you add APTW to the list of Corporate Values, it will actually make this place a better place to work?

Aardvark: But you don’t understand…we will soon be handing out shiny new APTW doggy tags. There will be APTW posters all over the place. The coffee dispenser will sing the APTW tune when you get a cup. When we meet on the corridors, we will give each other high-five’s and shout “APTW”. Otherwise we will be sacked. We will put APTW in all our PowerPoint slides….

Eric: Oh-me-God!

Gwen: I repeat…and you think this will make it a better place to work?

Eric: It sounds like a scenario from hell.

Pustule: I am already getting whiplash marks on my neck from the doggy tags we already have to wear.

Aardvark: Well, if it doesn’t make you feel better, it means you are not upholding the Corporate Values. It means you are not a model corporate citizen. It will reflect in your annual performance appraisal.

Eric: And the repercussion will be…what?

Aardvark: You will be fired of course!

Eric: Umm…and add to the 10 people a month who are already leaving?

Continued on Wednesday….
© Poltu

The Cheeposoft Values - 1

Aardvark – VP, Software development
Brain Storming session at XYZ –Cheeposoft

Aardvark: Friends, Cheepos, Human resources, we are all here today to address a grave issue….
Eric: You mean our lousy pay?

Pustule: The rat droppings in the canteen food?

Gwen: The fact that we have to attend inane, pointless meetings throughout the day?

Aardvark: No, something much more serious… our attrition rate. We have 10 people leaving a month…very soon we will none left – just the CEO and the VP’s. I have called this brain storming session to get sensible and practical suggestions for reducing attrition.

Eric: Maybe you could improve working conditions?

Aardvark: Sensible suggestions, Eric

Pustule: How about some decent food in the canteen, for a change?

Aardvark: If you don’t like the canteen food, get it from home.

Pustule: But…I’m here 23 hours a day….

Aardvark: Try dieting. Dieting is good for you.

Gwen: How about doing something about the back to back meetings? I am at the point where the only time I get for coding is while walking between meeting rooms.

Aardvark: Walk slower.

Gwen: I have tried that. It doesn’t help. I believe we are at the meeting inflection point. We are at a point where cumulative meeting times are about to exceed the number of hours in the day. Either we have to cut down meetings, or slow down the rotation of the earth to have 25 hour days.

Aardvark: I like the second suggestion. Maybe the melting of the polar ice caps will achieve that automatically?

Eric: Our salaries are 50% behind other companies. Most of my friends get two or three times my salary. Maybe you could cut the ridiculous pay that the VP’s and CEO get, and increase ours a bit?

Aardvark: Maybe we need a little talk about your performance appraisal?

Eric: Frankly, I am still here out of sheer inertia. I really don’t see why I should stay here for a lousy pay and put up with an insensitive management.

Aardvark: Well, if you don’t like it here, you know what you can do, don’t you?

Eric: Leave?

Aardvark: Precisely!

Eric: Like those other 10 persons a month?

To be continued ….Aardvark presents 'The Cheeposoft Values'
© Poltu

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Elegy of a Bong in pain

Yesterday our French class was rocked by anguished wails in Bengali emanating from the floor. Since it is difficult to concentrate on French pronouns when a Bong gent is apparently being murdered in the basement to the accompaniment of rock guitars and a symphonic orchestra, the teacher went down to investigate.

Apparently a rock group from Bengal called Mohiner Ghoraguli was practicing in the basement of Alliance Française for their show on Saturday.

Nothing to be done: they were there at the invitation of the director. Back to the pronouns.

“Ouch! What was that?” said the teacher, slipping into English when a particularly gruesome note was struck.

“That,” I said portentously, as the only Bengali in the class, “was the sound of a Bong in pain.”

“It is indeed very painful…for the listeners.”

“Yes. Let this be a lesson to you. Never hurt a Bong. He is liable to hire a 21 piece orchestra and sing about it.”

After the class, I went down to the basement to investigate. The basement was bursting with Bongs wielding sundry musical instruments. As I suspected, there was a 21 piece symphonic orchestra and diverse rock musicians with guitar, bass and drums. Instructions were being yelled back and forth in Bong, and musicians were being harried. And music was being made. It was all very exciting sight, and very ‘Bong’, so I stayed on.

Actually, from up close, they didn’t sound half as bad. In fact, without the intervening layers of concrete, they were pretty good. The supremo seemed to me an interesting methuselahan figure in flowing white beard dyed fluorescent magenta and a dinky multicolor beret. After pack-up was announced, I corralled the man for an interview.
He seemed a bit depressed that I represented an obscure rock journal, but he relented eventually.

Methuselah’s real name was Ranjan Ghoshal. He was one of the original members of Mohiner Ghoraguli – touted as the first rock band in India. MG was started in Calcutta in 1975 by Gautam Chattopadhya, at a time when rock bands were unheard of in India. There were seven original members, playing a diverse range of instruments: guitar, drums, bass, double bass, cello, viola, and others. They aimed at an unusual sound, based on melody with influences from Bengali folk music. Their songs were exclusively in Bengali, and the lyrics strove to a new level of realism till then unknown in literary circles in Calcutta – talking about the dreams and anxieties of ordinary middle-class Calcutta youth, in ordinary street patios.
The name of the band, which means ‘Mohini’s Horses’, came from a phrase in a poem by the Bengali poet Jibananda Das. It was also used in the title of their first album: ‘Shombhigno pakhi kool au mohinir ghoraguli’. They released two more albums ‘AUB – Anjana Udanto Bostu’ which is basically Bengali for UFO, and ‘Drisghoman’.

They got to play as the only Indian band in the 1980 Jazz Fest at St Pauls Cathedral in Calcutta, but otherwise didn’t have much success – India wasn’t ready for them yet, and they disbanded in 82-83 to pursue their individual careers.

There was a revived interest in them in 1989-90, when indi-pop burst on the scene, and Gautam Chattopadhya released some of their old, unpublished music, and they started experimenting with music again. Unfortunately, Gautam passed away last year, leaving a vacuum.

The current show is a tribute to Gautam by the remaining original members of MG. They have been joined by a large team of young musicians, most of them students of Abharam Majumdar, one of the original members. They will be performing most of the old MG songs, and some new numbers, but most of the musicians will be new, and the singers will all be new.

Some of the important songs that they will perform are : ‘Hai Bhalobhasha’ (Oh Love!), Runaway, and ‘Shono Shodhajon’ .

They describe their music as a musical movement, and experimentation in melodic music ranging over rock, jazz, ethnic and folk music.

From what I heard, there should be a treat in store for Bangaloreans.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Schizo Project - 3

Eric - King amongst Coders (self appointed)
Cyril Borg (Cyborg) – Frenzied project manager
GSM Disintegrators Inc - Glutinous Sucking Monster, customer from hell
Aardvark – VP, Software development
The Harbinger of Death- the feared Hotline to GSMDI

Scene1- It is midnight. XYZ-Cheeposoft offices are silent, dark and deserted. But a faint light glows in Aardvark’s cabin. Three dim figures are seen in the light.
(Continued from Sunday…The Glutinous Sucking Monster has XYZ-Cheeposoft in a death grip, and is slowly sucking out the life blood. Can Eric stop them?)

Cyborg : Isn’t there any way we can stop the Glutinous Sucking Monster?

Aardvark : We have been asking ourselves this question for the last 29 years

Cyborg : Is it hopeless, then? Will we all be enslaved by the Glutinous Sucking Monster until we die?

Eric : You can’t escape even in death. I am told they bring back dead programmers to life using Ouija boards and neuro-cybernetics. Then they put them back to work for the Schizo project. The basement is full of zombies. That is why it is always locked, and you need special security access to go there.

Aardvark is silent and stone faced.

Cyborg : (gulping) You mean, our souls are doomed?

Aardvark : There is a way…if we can just somehow make a Schizo release so fast, that technology does not progress in the meantime, and get them to sign the project closure before it advances again….

Cyborg : I don’t know…that sounds kind of impossible.

Aardvark : Maybe we have achieved it with this release?

Cyborg and Aardvark look at Eric hopefully.

Cyborg : Have we?

Aardvark : Will 1.199997b be the historic final release?

Eric : (confidently) It will!

Aardvark : You mean because of your programmers instincts? I wish we had something more to bank on than the tingling in your carpel tunnels.

Eric : There is something more….

Aardvark : Yes?

Eric : I packed a Geek Grip T-shirt for their project manager with the Schizo release CD

Cyborg : Genius!!

Aardvark : My dear boy, if you pull this off, I’ll make you the VP of Software Quality.

Eric : Is that a threat or a promise?

The Harbinger of Death: ka-trinnnnngggg!!!

Cyborg : Oh God!!

Aardvark : You take it. I have a heart condition.

Eric : Hello?

Listens for some time. Puts the phone down and buries his face in his hands. Blubbers softly.

Aardvark : Good Lord! What happened?

Cyborg : Tell us, Eric!!

Eric : They are rejecting the release
…..they want us to add the toasters to the database.

Aardvark : Oh My God!!!

Eric : And the T-shirt….

Cyborg : Yes…?

Eric : It was one size too small….

© Poltu

String Sick at Sunday Jam

This is an article that I have written for the new online music mag - Diamonds. It should come out in the inaugural edition in March-April (hopefully). Of course, that will be an edited and heavily slashed version. This is the complete, unedited draft.

Sunday Jam is Bangalore’s big monthly youth event. It is a free rock concert organized by a music school called Guruskool, and kindly sponsored by Levi’s who get to put large red logos all over the place. Held on the first Sunday of every month, it goes on for about six hours, and has gigs by some new bands, some more established bands, and one featured artist – generally a visiting group from some other city or abroad, or one of the big Bangalore groups.

This is the place where Bangalore’s best and brightest cut their musical teeth – Nearly all of Bangalore’s more established groups have played their first gig at Sunday Jam, or it’s older avatars. The venue keeps shifting – SJ keeps getting kicked out of venues for ‘causing a nuisance’, as they say in India.

This month, it was at a rather romantic location – the open air auditorium of the Sankara Arts Foundation on the outskirts of Bangalore. With acres of lawns, gnarled old trees, Japanese ponds and pagodas, cobbled walkways and mysterious terracotta artworks, it was an unusual location for a rock show, but what the heck – death metal rockers have a heart too. Somewhere.

I arrived two hours early to enjoy the sylvan surroundings and catch up on my French homework. My French teacher at the Alliance models her behavior on Ozzy Osborn if you don’t do the devoir. Grown men have been known to cry. First, I checked out the killing floor – the show was to take place in a Greek-style open air amphitheater. At the back of the estate, there was a bowl shaped depression with raw concrete steps cut into three sides, and the stage on the fourth, made up of rough hewn blocks of granite. The depression was surrounded by trees and bushes, and overall, it made a pretty sight in the cool winter afternoon sun. Technicians were busy testing the rather impressive sound system. Levi’s clearly does not stint on financial support. Otherwise, the place was bare.

I found me a shady tree with a granite bench underneath, and started wrestling with the en and y pronouns, under the watchful eyes of a slightly scary piece of terracotta modern art which represented, as far as I could tell, a disemboweled elephant in heat. My reverie was disturbed by a gaggle of alarmingly pretty Naga babes, from the North East of India, chattering away in a language called Nagameses, which is vaguely similar to my own mother tongue, Bengali.

My antenna crackled to full-alert. Babes at the Sunday Jam! Now, you do get the odd rocking babe at SJ, but it is largely a guy thing, with babes preferring the execrable indi-pop shows. The focus of this beauteous bevy seemed to be a rather morose, languid, long-haired youth toting a guitar. I burned with jealousy. I have been looking disconsolately for a girl for the past year. Here was a chap whose main problem in life seemed to be: how to get rid of them.

He was shooing them off- ‘I have manly guy things to do’, he seemed to be saying, ‘like tuning my guitar’. Then he stumbled towards me.

“Mind if I share your bench?” he asked sadly.

“Doesn’t belong to me” said I, courteously. Mentally, I rubbed my hand in glee. This is where I get intros to those babes.

“Hi, I’m Zoheb” says the youth.

“You playing today?” I ask.

“Yes, I’m with a band called String Sick.”

“Played here before?”

“No, this is our first Sunday Jam.” Shy smile “Actually, this is our first gig.”

Bright idea, the kind that wins Pulitzer prizes: why don’t I interview these chaps: my first article as a rock journo for the first edition of a new rock mag…. why not cover the ecstasy and the angst of a band doing its first gig?
Evil scheming mind: ‘And maybe I’ll get an intro those babes’.

“I’m a rock journalist,” sez I, with a profound Pulitzer prize winning expression “with a rag called Diamond. Mind if I interview you?”

Zoheb brightens visibly. ‘Fame, here I come!’ a little bird whispers in his head. Poor fish, doesn’t know I am an unknown hack from an unknown mag.

“Sure, I’ll round up the other guys! Don’t want them to think I’m hogging the limelight.”

We ran into the other two who made up String Sick by a kind of miniature version of a Greek ruined temple. Neat backdrop for a group photo. Click.

The ‘others’ were Wasim – an earnest, energetic young man with ‘I’m gonna change the world’ look about him, and Rakesh – taciturn and phlegmatic ‘No one bothers about drummers, anyway’.

Wasim was clearly the boss, from his body language, but he earnestly claimed this was a group of equals. All decisions by the board with memos signed in triplicate.

Pad whipped out. Pencil duly chewed.

This was the personnel lineup of String Sick:

Zoheb: Lead
Wasim: Bass + vocals
Rakesh: Drums

Beginning of String Sick:

Wasim: I consider myself a singer songwriter. I was working on songs that expressed my anguish at the injustices that I see around me. I was playing solo with an acoustic guitar. I came across Zoheb and we decided to form a band. We were looking for a drummer and found Rakesh on Orkut.

Zoheb: I was gigging in Assam with some local bands, at school and college. Then I got into an Engineering College in Bangalore, and moved here. I came across Wasim, we are in the same college. We had similar musical interests…

Rakesh: All of us met through a thread in one of the blog sites, and the lead guitarist (Zoheb) found me and we found our musical interests pretty much on the same grounds, not to mention at that point it was just desperation to start a band ASAP and get on stage and kick some ass.

Wasim: The early days were complicated. They still are. We were looking for another guitarist who had gigging space. The drums are especially a problem, we couldn’t fit them into either of our rooms, and neighbors complain. We found a guy, but it didn’t work out. We found another one, and gigged at his place for a while, but he quit, started his own band. He even tried to steal our drummer! Finally, I took up bass to support the group, and we have decided to stick to the three piece format. We moved Rakesh’s drums to my flat. Now there isn’t any place to move, but we manage to gig there. We keep the practice session to decent hours to avoid annoying the neighbors.

When did you start?

Zoheb: I guess you could say we started officially as a band in August 06. We have been jamming regularly since Oct 06

The String Sick sound:

Wasim: We were very clear right at the beginning that we did not want to go the death metal way, which is what most new Bangalore bands start with. We want to do something different, something more socially relevant. So no fuzz, distortion and growling about death and mayhem from us! We play Hard Rock with a touch of Punk, with clear melodic lines and meaningful lyrics.

Rakesh: We thought that the whole of Bangalore and other parts of India are into Heavy Metal, so the only way we would get noticed was to play something different, which was hard rock/punk, against the shitty acts of government and how f***ed-up our system is, etc. We wanted our music to have a rebellious sound and send a clear message to people.

Tell me about your songs…

Zoheb: I’m from Assam. It is beautiful, like the rest of North East, but there is a great deal of frustration there at the lack of development, heavy handed behavior of security forces, all the false encounters….we feel the central government does not care about us. On the other hand, there is the fear of ULFA terrorists. There is a feeling of isolation from the rest of the country. My song ‘Freedom’ is my attempt to put a voice to these issues. I want to liberate people…
-What do you want to liberate them from? From their eardrums?
Ha-Ha. From tyranny of any sort…whatever the source.

Rakesh: I’m into plain old-fashioned rock with a lot of melody, without distortion. I am working on a couple of own comps …simply about life, coz there is a lot to write about especially betrayal, infidelity, friends, traveling…

Wasim: I want to make a difference with my songs. I do believe that rock can be used to change the world. The Punk movement of the late 70’s really excites me for this reason…groups like The Clash were doing something really important, back then. They were exposing the hypocrisies and inequalities in society. I am haunted by their song London Calling. It raises issues that are even more relevant today…the lyrics were about a nuclear winter, but with minor changes it might as well apply to global warming…

Meltdown expected, the wheat is growing thinEngines stop running, but I have no fear'
Cause London is drowning and I live by the river

When I hear Neil Young’s ‘Keep on rocking in the free world’, it gives me the goose bumps when I hear things like
I see a girl in the night
with a baby in her hands
Under an old street light
near a garbage can
Now she put her kid away, she's gone to get a hit
She hates her life, and what she's done with it
That's one more kid, that'll never go to school
Never get to fall in love, never get to be cool

Btw., we are playing that song, tonight.

I try to do something similar with my song ‘I’m a little punk’, but in an Indian context…it refers to all the scams and the political corruption.
i've got my canvas on,
i've got my guitar on,

ready to burn,
and im set and done
but im a little punk,
a poor little punk

i've got five bucks on me,
i read a million dollar scam,
bomb's hittin the ground,
its the sound of the underground

Something that affected me deeply was hearing that a friend had died. We hadn’t spoken in years…I always though I’d call him up, but I never got around to it. Then I heard he had died. Death looks so meaningless, sometimes. I don’t want to die a meaningless death. I want to make a difference, before I die. My song ‘God, I refuse to die’ is about this.

with so much happenin here,
you sit there still and you stare.
oh god wont you lend me a hand,
will all this come to an end?

god i refuse to die,
I'll stay for the children who cry
god i refuse to die
god i refuse to die,
hunger is claiming lives.
hey god....i.....refuse to die,
hear my prayer tonight.

Are you playing any of your songs tonight?

Wasim: Only ‘I’m a little Punk’. The others are all acoustic, so it won’t fit this gig. They’ll boo us of the stage if we play acoustic. Other than that, we’ll play some covers of Perl Jam and The Ramones. No one talks of The Ramones any more, but I feel they were a really important group.

Influences? Instruments? What do you do, other than music?

Zoheb: I am in 3rd year in Engineering college, I have been playing the guitar since 3 years. My influences are big groups of the 80’s…Van Halen, the Glam Rock movement…My guitar is an Ibanez G170.

Wasim: My influences are Punk, Blues. I have been playing the guitar since 3 years. I use a GBA bass. I am in final year Engineering. I suppose I’ll get a job of some sort, soon.

Rakesh: I 've been drumming for the past 2 years now. My musical influences.. 70s rock bands like Grateful dead, Grand Funk Rail Road…My favorite drummers are Keith Moon (The Who), Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), and Lars Ulrich (Metallica).
Right now, I have a DB Chinese kit, which is pretty decent for its price. As we go along, I will be picking up a Pearl kit, which is on my wish list. My best gift this year was from my sis who gave me a Yamaha guitar for my birthday.


Wasim: Hey! Thanks to Zoheb, we are the only band with groupies. Do you see any other band with groupies?

Rakesh: But he won’t introduce us to any of them…

Zoheb: Those girls are my sister and her friends (disbelieving looks). I’ll introduce you, if you want.

All: WHEN ?????

Zoheb: Soon….

Interview over. Time to register for the jam. The organizers are still setting things up. The other bands are lolling about on the other side the amphitheater, on its grassy rim under the shade of a tree. Cigarettes dangling, guitars slung about like machine guns.

“Bunch of posers!” sneers Wasim “We are here to make serious music, not pose.”

“Should we join them?”

“Join the posers? No way!”

“There does seem to be a nice shade there…”

We are getting envious looks. The only group with groupies.

The organizers hand out registration forms. First time bands will be given slots at random. Those who get the last slots may not get to play at all, today. The concert always overshoots the planned time.

The band is nervous. Will we get a chance to play today?

The slots are announced. String Sick is the second band up. Great!!

People are still milling about on the stage. Last minute sound checks by a drummer and a guitarist – A bit more on the bass monitor please…. Before we realize it, the show has already started. The first band, Neolithic Silence launches into what they describe as 'Melodic Heavy Metal'. This is their second time at Sunday Jam. It’s a relatively new group. It’s their fifth gig. They play some heavy metal covers and an original piece.

The boys are tense, waiting for their turn. String Sick is announced. They are still rooted to the spot, in the stands. ‘Go!’ we urge. The groupies, I and a couple of other friends of the band. They come to life, and scramble towards the stage with their guitars.

No elaborate sound checks and fine tuning the monitors, like the more ‘experienced’ groups. The boys just plug in and launch straight into their instrumental sound check piece, ‘Distortion Blues’.

Wasim takes the mike.

“Sorry to disappoint metal freaks, but we play hard rock, with a touch of Punk.”

Derisive laughter from a bunch of smart alecks at the back.

String Sick launch into ‘Keep on rockin’ in the free world’ – the Pearl Jam version of the Neil Young song.
Wasim’s voice is initially a bit weak, but it gets stronger. It’s the first time he is singing with a mic. He is clearly uncomfortable. Rakesh keeps a steady rhythm, without getting into pyrotechnics. Zoheb plays a very competent lead.

Desultory clapping. They haven’t been booed off the stage yet! The boys are getting more confident. They launch into The Ramones ‘Poison Heart’. It sounds refreshing in a Death Metal concert. The clapping is more enthusiastic this time.

“We’ll now play our own comp. - I’m a little Punk”

It goes off without incident, and the boys close with the Dead Moon song ‘Its Ok’ - again, the Pearl Jam version.

Very respectable clapping. Relieved, the boys scramble off the stage with their guitars, and a tall thin guy with a guitar takes the stage. Sheshank is going to play solo. Sheshank is clearly a talented guitarist. He lays down a blistering lead over a recorded track.

Wasim, meanwhile, has called a debriefing meeting at the back of the stand. I am invited to join and critique their performance.

There were some weaknesses, but for a first gig, it was pretty impressive. Actually, by the average standard of Sunday Jam gigs, it was really excellent. The choice of songs was unusual, and the sound clear and confident. Rakesh’s drumming could have done with some more showmanship, but that will come with time. Zoheb was good. Wasim’s voice was a bit nasal, and he seemed uncomfortable playing bass and singing simultaneously.

“I’ve never sung with a mic before!” protests Wasim.

“Maybe you can experiment with holding the bass a bit higher up, so that you can sing into the mic more comfortably?”

Anyway the singing wasn’t that bad. Any day better than the horrible growls and roars of the death metallers.

“I couldn’t hear anything on my monitor” complained Zoheb “I was playing blind.”

“You should have complained during the sound check. That’s what it’s meant for.”

But overall a great first gig. Back slapping and hugs all around. We go back and join the groupies. Zoheb still hasn’t introduced any of us to them.

Sheshank was followed by another first time band. Nice funky sound. Led Zep without the vocals. Followed by another two death metal groups: Pharos and Afterlife.

The featured artist of the day takes the stage: Nemanja Rebic from Serbia. He is a Jazz / Classical / Rock guitarist studying Indian classical music in Bangalore. He plays Macedonian and gypsy folk tunes on an ovation acoustic. Pleasant change from the unremitting heavy metal. A group of headbangers mutter resentfully.

I try talking to the pretty young thing sitting next to me. She looks at me as if I’ve crawled out from under a rock. The groupies seem to have no interest in anyone except Zoheb. What do they see in this guy? Maybe I should try the long-haired, poetic look as well.

Back to Heavy Metal. Theorize, Spellbound, Heavywork and the one man band follow one another in quick succession. Lyrics that sound like the wooshing roar of a steam engine rushing into a tunnel. Guitars that sound like a roadway accident between a truck carrying bedsprings and a zoo-van packed with Siamese wildcats.

Zoheb’s girls decide they have had enough and leave for the day. Suddenly the place seems drab, without them. There seems to be no point in sticking around. I leave too.

© Poltu

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Schizo Project - 2

Eric - King amongst Coders (self appointed)
Cyril Borg (Cyborg) – Frenzied project manager
GSM Disintegrators Inc - Glutinous Sucking Monster, customer from hell
Aardvark – VP, Software development
Ed Slimeball- Marketing guy

Scene1- It is midnight. XYZ-Cheeposoft offices are silent, dark and deserted. But a faint light glows in Aardvark’s cabin. Three dim figures are seen in the light.
(Continued from yesterday…Aardvark has just made the frightening revelation about the incubus in the Schizo contract, thirty years ago)

Eric : The incubus in the Schizo contract!

Cyborg : (whispers) we have heard of it, of course……but no one ever says anything. They clam up and walk away if you ask questions.

Aardvark : It was one line…one itty-bitty line in a 300 page contract. It was all Slimeball’s fault.

Cyborg :You mean our VP of marketing?

Aardvark : Yes…he was a junior marketing executive then. He was our sales rep for the Glutinous Sucking Monster. Our lawyers warned him, but he left that line in.

Cyborg : What was that line?

Aardvark looks heavenwards and intones sonorously

Aardvark : ‘We guarantee that the system will use the latest cutting edge technology and have the most advanced features’.

Eric and Cyborg gasp in disbelief.

Aardvark : Guarantee, mind you…. Guarantee! Slimeball insisted computing technology had reached its zenith with the ENIAC.

Cyborg : And the technology…..

Aardvark : Yes… she moves doesn’t she? Like a juggernaut. From ENIAC, we moved to IBM Main frames, then to VAX and COBOL, then to Unix boxes, then to client server systems and C++. All this was free of cost, mind you. Whenever we asked them to close the project, they pointed to the incubus, and threatened to take us to court. By version 1.114776 we moved it to a web based system using J2EE.

Eric : And since I joined the project, I have been moving it to SOA and Choreography.

Aardvark : And the features…there is always a more advance feature. It started with images…they wanted pictures of the staff in the database…This was in the early 70’s, when this was not a joke. We made pictures using naughts and crosses. Then they wanted links to the SAP payroll system, their ECG records…a few years ago they wanted GSM tracking of their employees…a wireless mobile interface…

Eric : For the last release they wanted to add all the coffee machines to the database, and program them using SMS messages from anywhere in the planet.

Cyborg : Isn’t there any way we can stop them?

To be continued on Wednesday….can the Glutinous Sucking Monster be stopped?
© Poltu

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Schizo Project - 1

Eric - King amongst Coders (self appointed)
Cyril Borg (Cyborg) – Frenzied project manager
GSM Disintegrators Inc - Glutinous Sucking Monster, customer from hell
Aardvark – VP, Software development
Ed Slimeball- Marketing guy

Scene1- It is midnight. XYZ-Cheeposoft offices are silent, dark and deserted. But a faint light glows in Aardvark’s cabin. Three dim figures are seen in the light.

Cyborg : Release 1.199997b of the Schizo project blasted into space, Captain!

Eric : Woooosh! Finally we are free from the Glutinous Sucking Monster.

Aardvark : (Nervously) Do you think they will accept it this time?

Cyborg : Absolutely, Mr. Aardvark. We have fixed their very last change request.

Aardvark : That is what they said the last 199997 times

Eric : This time it’s different

Aardvark : What makes it different, this time?

Eric : My coder’s instinct.

Aardvark : What’s that?

Eric : It’s a kind of tingling in the carpel tunnels.

Aardvark : I do hope so… this project is thirty years behind schedule and four hundred times over budget. Of course, the budget doesn’t bother the customer now -they stopped paying us two decade ago.

Cyborg : How did we ever get sucked into this, Mr. Aardvark?

Aardvark : Ah…I was a bright carefree young computer scientist then…..The Glutinous Sucking Monster had bought a spanking new ENIAC, which filled a complete warehouse. We won a contract to write a dinky little personnel records manager – to organize their staff phone numbers and addresses. We launched the Schizo project. We were busy celebrating with champagne. We were so happy. We were so innocent then…..

Aardvark’s voice trails off. He stares into space. Eric and Cyborg sit tensely on the edge of their seats.

Eric : Yes…..?

Aardvark : It was the last time many of us smiled. Because a few days later, we discovered ….it….

Cyborg and Eric : …….???

Aardvarks face becomes ashen. His voice drops to a barely audible whisper.

Aardvark : The contract … it had the evil incantation….the incubus ….

To be continued tomorrow…The Incubus.

© Poltu

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Office Romance at XYZ-Cheeposoft -3

Eric - King amongst Coders (self appointed)
Gwendolyn - C++ Queen (also self appointed)

Gwen is Eric’s Consort-Designate. In his fervid imagination. Gwen has other ideas.
Scene 3: Post Deep Purple rock concert. Dropping Gwen home.

Gwen : That was a fun evening!

Eric : Yes it was, especially when we used your palm pilot to hack into Jon Lord’s keyboard.

Gwen : And we made it play ‘Stormbringer’ when the rest of the band was playing ‘Sweet child in time’

Eric : I think they are going to have a stormy post-gig meeting today

Gwen : Wanna come up for a coffee and see my new PC?

Eric : Cool! What is it?

Gwen : Columbian Washed Arabica

Eric : I mean the PC.

Gwen : It’s a Core2 Quad at 2 Ghz with 10 GB RAM running Vista Premium

Eric : That’s nothing. I have baby at home with eight UltraSparc IV processors and 20 GB RAM running Solaris 10.

Gwen : Oh yes? Well my other computer is a Grid Supercomputer with 20 Linux Boxes on a fiber network

Eric : What do you want something like that for?

Gwen : I am simulating the mating behavior of seagulls using a Genetic Algorithm

Eric : That’s nothing. I am simulating an entire planet on my Ultra Sparc using the Ant Hill Algorithm

Gwen : I didn’t tell you about my next project. I’m planning to the use the can-o-worms algorithm to simulate the convoluted working of your brain

Eric : No need to get personal

Gwen : Well, Goodnight!

Eric : What about that coffee?

Gwen : What do you thing this place is? Starbucks? Grab a cup at the diaper shop around the corner.

Eric : I see…OK, I’ll get along…

Gwen : Good!

Eric : Aren’t you forgetting something?

Gwen : What?

Eric : You know…

Gwen : Don’t tell me you’re expecting a Good Night kiss, after acting like a pig.

Eric : No, aren’t you giving my Geek-Speak T-Shirt back?

Gwen : Good Night!!

Door slams in Erics' face.

© Poltu

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Office Romance at XYZ-Cheeposoft -2

Eric - King amongst Coders (self appointed)
Gwendolyn - C++ Queen (also self appointed)

Gwen is Eric’s Consort-Designate. In his fervid imagination. Gwen has other ideas.
Scene 2: Deep Purple rock concert. Eric has finally managed to get a date with Gwen.

Eric : Say Gwen, that Geek-Speak T-shirt I gave you…

Gwen : I’m wearing it

Eric : But… I though I gave you one identical to mine

Gwen : They are identical…look…same logo “My code rocks… yours sucks".

Eric : Yes, but yours seems to have these two pointy things on the chest.

Gwen : (Kindly) you haven’t been out with a woman a long time, have you Eric?

Eric : I suppose so…what with the Schizo project being constantly in release mode for the last three years, and all…I suppose I haven’t gotten around to it.

Gwen : Hmm…I think you need to educate yourself on women, Eric.

Eric : I do?

Gwen : Yes. Come, I’ll educate you. Do you now what these pointy things are?

Eric : No.

Gwen : Put your head down…like this. Now turn your face

Loud slapping noise.

Eric : Ouch!!! What was that?

Gwen : That, dear Eric, was education.

Long pause. Eric holds his cheek. They listen to another song. At the next break.

Eric : Err…Gwen…those pointy things…

Gwen : (menacingly) Yes?

Eric : Do you think they will go after a wash? I mean, when you give it back…

Gwen : I think your education isn’t complete

Eric : No!!! I’m fully educated!

Gwen : No you aren’t. You’re not getting back this T-shirt.

© Poltu

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Office Romance at XYZ-Cheeposoft -1

Eric - King amongst Coders (self appointed)
Gwendolyn - C++ Queen (also self appointed)
Pustule - Malapert Knave (junior programmer)

Gwen is Eric’s Consort-Designate. In his fervid imagination. Gwen has other ideas.
Scene 1: Shared 4-seater cubicle. Gwen is busy at her console. Eric is acting busy at his, sweating, fingering his collar. Pustule is playing video games at his. The test web server is empty-cycling lazily in its corner.

Eric: Say Gwen, about that Deep Purple rock concert on Sunday…

Gwen: What about it?

Eric: I mean, how about it?

Gwen: What, if anything, do you mean?

Eric: I mean …you know…

Gwen: No I don’t. Your sentence had an object, but it lacked an action verb and a definable subject. You really need to take that communication training module

Pustule: I took it last month. It’s really good

Eric: Shut up Pustule! I mean, would you like to go to the concert?

Gwen: Are you asking me out on a date?

Eric: I mean…sort of

Gwen: I don’t date JScript hacks

Pustule: Tee-hee-hee

Eric: Stuff it, Pustule. Hey! You can’t label me a script jockey just because my current project is a web app. My last project was C++.

Gwen: I’ve seen your C++ code. It looks like pages of JScript rammed into a class.

Eric: Hey, that’s not fair! That was a Bluetooth driver for a 16 bit embedded controller. I just had 256K RAM!

Gwen: That’s no excuse.

Eric: OK…why don’t you teach me embedded OOAD? You can do it at the concert. I’ll carry along my copy of GOF.

Gwen: What! You expect me to read out GOF to the tune of ‘Smoke on the water’?

Eric: It could make it less boring…

Gwen: Look, I’ll come with you to the Deep Purple concert on two conditions….

Eric: OK…

Gwen: First…leave your GOF at home

Eric: OK!

Gwen: And second…..

Gwen directs a passionate look at Eric. Eric’s heart skips a beat.

Eric: Yes…?

Gwen: Tell me….where do you get those funky Geek-Speak T-shirts?

Eric: I’ll do even better… I’ll get you one!

Gwen: One that’s washed?

Pustule: Those things don’t need a wash. They have to be boiled in baking soda.

Eric: Shut up, Pustule! I’ll get you a brand new one.

Pustule: Hey! Can I come along too?
© Poltu

Friday, February 02, 2007

Australian Art Orchestra - A Jazz concert to remember!

The Australian Art Orchestra performed at Alliance Française last night, as a part of their new Indian tour. This is an Australian jazz group based in Melbourne, which consists of 18 members led by director Paul Grabowsky – all highly talented individuals in their own right who take turns to compose. This tour had only four members of the group – Adrian Sherriff on trombone and Japanese flute ( shakuhachi), Alister Spence on piano and keyboards, Peter Foreman (if I heard the name right) on Drums, and Niko Schauble (I think) on guitar.

The started with an Indian Classical influenced piece – ‘Sacred cows tail’. Apparently based on the story in nata shastra about the gradually reducing cows tail. It was sort of reminiscent of Maha Vishnu Orchestra, but with the added dimension of a trombone.

That was followed by a piece composed by Adrian for the Japanese flute shakuhachi, called Pentacle. It was apparently based on the Japanese five note scale. It was haunting and beautiful, and distinctly influenced by Japanese folk music.

There followed a number of avant garde pieces, with the musicians playing their instruments in every way except they way they were meant to be played – plucking the guitar above the bridge and slapping on the strings, directly tapping the pianos wires, playing the drums with the feet on the drums and simultaneously hitting with palm and stick. All very interesting and spectacular, with weird sounds. Not quiet to my taste music wise, but fun to watch. An interesting piece was one called ‘Henry’ composed by the drummer, which was written for his wife’s pet chicken called Henry, who died of shock after being scared by a cat!

I particularly liked a piece by the keyboardist ‘On the hoop’, which was Jamaican influenced, and made the piano sound like a Jamaican steel drum, with the other instruments bolstering the basic rhythm set by the piano.

Thankfully, they ended with two “normal” pieces: Another beautiful piece composed by Adrian for the Japanese flute, which started with a tillana in the Hindustani classical music style, very expertly rendered by Adrian which had the audience roaring their approval.

They ended with a beautiful version of Vande Materam in Raag Desh, which featured some brilliant guitar work which made the guitar sound like a sitar, and a very sweet Vande Materam melody on the trombone.

All in all, an amazing, mind boggling evening of music. If four of these guys can set the stage on fire like this, I think the entire 18 person ensemble playing together would be a fearsome sight!

AAO has a very nice web site

Actually, I am confused about two of the musicians names, because the names that I noted down during the concert for the drummer and the guitarist dont seem to be mentioned in the website. If anyone can provide corrections, I would be happy to correct this post.