Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Martyrs (2008)

A Must See Awesome Euro Horror Flick

Disappointed with Hollywood's recent dose of silly horror, then watch this superlative French frightmare that defies all standards of cinematic Horror. With movies like High Tension and Inside, European horror or rather specifically French Horror cinema has been pushing the boundaries for some time now but Martyrs is a step away from the ordinary, actually several degrees beyond. In fact, Martyrs rewrites what constitutes genuine Horror.

Well, I could write pages and pages on the deeper connections it implies and rationally explain the intentionally ambiguous plot but then, I would be spoiling your fun and the numerous hidden surprises this movie beholds. Keep in mind though, this movie is unrelentlessly violent, gory, hurting you at its extreme so be prepared. Nonetheless, take my advice and watch it from start to finish in one go. Even if you don't end up liking it like the countless fans on IMDB, you'll still thank me for the advice, its a must see.

Note: View online through the StageVu weblink below or use a download manager like Orbit to download the movie and watch it later at your convenience. DIVX Online Web Player needs to be installed in your PC if you want to see the movie online. Eng Subtitles hardcoded. Enjoy!

Free Streaming/Download VeeHD or StageVu Video weblinks

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Bye Bye Valentine

9 Clever Ideas to Dump Your Girlfriend!

That electric chemistry that used to prompt armloads of chocolates & red roses and sweet nothings over candlelit dinners has evaporated from your current relationship. These days you buy wilted flowers when her hints for floral tributes become too trying and dinner is a cheap KFC take-away. You can’t take it anymore so time to bail out, buddy, before she draws blood.

These 9 ideas might not win appreciation but, hey, why care about it? You'll be free-even if you're forced to move to another town to enjoy and flaunt your born again Single status.

1. Mr. Family Guy
Wear through the knees of your trousers imploring her to make an honest man of you and she'll be forced to do some serious thinking. At this point she will metamorphose into her mother, adding up your future prospects on her inbuilt computer, and you're bound to fall short of the mark. You're male, after all.

Dump Rate: Pretty good. Just make sure she's not one of the sentimental throwbacks to before the female revolution whose only mission in life is to find the perfect idiot to look after her and pay the bills while she raises 2,3 offsprings and lies about in fluffy, bunny-eared slippers comparing notes with the next-door neighbour about what heels they're hitched to.

How you'll appear: Old-fashioned but well-intentioned.

2. Separate Vacations
Announce suddenly that you need breathing space and you've booked yourself a one week break in a sun-kissed pleasure spot at Thailand. Before you go, leave glossy brochures of gorgeous, scantily-clad or possibly nude sunbathers lying around in obvious places that you intend to visit, ditto articles on sex tourism clipped from magazines that she could see. Arrange for someone to mail you a series of postcards reading "I miss you, Darling", “Thanks for the unforgettable sexperience" and "When are you coming back?" and signed with cryptic initials or, better still, a red lipstick kiss. Do the kiss yourself if you have to - it's in a noble cause.

Dump Rate: First-class. The resulting suspicion will allow you to take the high moral ground - ("What! Me? How could you even think about me like this?") and you’ll get to enjoy a holiday in sunny climes. Who knows, if your luck holds, you might not even have to fake those postcards.

How you'll appear: Not great. In fact you'll look like the calculating SOB you really are.

3. Shared Vacations
As a separation strategy, this one's near perfection. What could be easier - or more fun? Spend your time lasciviously ogling at all the female flesh on display - except hers. Gulp as much alcohol as you can, carp at everything about the culture and practices of the locals and don't wash or shave for the entire duration of the holiday.

Dump Rate: Excellent. Fights about which sightseeing trips to go on and your drunken lechery should lead to an irreconcilable split in double-quick time. Just make sure you keep your own passport and air ticket - there's nothing quite as venomous as a woman scorned and you don't want to be celebrating singledom in a foreign jail, fending off advances from hairy-chested fellow inmates.

How you'll appear: A right stinker, in more ways than one. Then again, there won't be much to distinguish you from all the other drunken, loutish holidaymakers.

4. The New Age Guru
There's just one thing more horrible than a sinner - a saint so hire a hermit and start a "Om Shanti” club for fellow would-be New Agers. Speak in an identical, muffled monotone and smile all the time. No self-respecting woman wants a guy with a permanent halo around his head, so try: marking up your talks with "hari om" and "hare krishna" and carry a rosary always. Stare into her eyes as though you are Tom Hanks and you have found the Holy Grail. Wear batik-print saffron shirts and sarongs with no footwear and swear off all earthly pleasures - that means no ciggies, no booze, no sex and no meat - but almonds, oats and fruits, old man. You're about to become celibate and discover 100 unspeakable things to do with lentils and tofu. Repeat the mantra "It's all for a higher cause".

Dump Rate: Great. No woman with shaved armpits and an ounce of ambition will put up with a sweaty, sexless, lentil-guzzling moron with no personality for longer than it takes her to ring for a taxi.

How you'll appear: Nauseating. Try "crazy" "outsider," "oddball" oh, and "disliked". You're going to lose more than just your girlfriend you've outgrown with this tactic. Perhaps you could apply for a job packing apples in Bhutan.

5. The Dirty Slob
This is another fun one. Just do lots more of all the anti-social things she's tried in vain to cure you of - get drunk, pick up fights and throw up on people's shoes, pick your nose in public and belch and pass wind thunderously. Oh, and stop using your antidandruff "Head & Shoulders" shampoo.

Dump Rate: Explosive. No one, not even a Man can put up with this for long.

How you'll appear: Pretty much like the average male, but you might have difficulty finding another girlfriend when word gets out about your muesli-flake dandruff problem.

6. The SMS Dump
Forget long and tortuous severance by telephone. Just sms her a concisely worded electronic memo. Try: "You're history" or "Don't call me and I won't call you. PS: please return the engagement ring by courier, I might need it."

Dump Rate: Couldn't be better. You’ll avoid tedious verbal harangues and bodily harm (yours), and freedom is just a send button away. The ring might prove a bit tricky, but then you've got to be philosophical and offset it against the gold watch she gave you for your birthday besides all the money you'll save on takeaways, chocolates and flowers.

How you'll appear: Pretty darned bad. Downright cowardly, in fact but who's complaining?

7. A Friend In Deed
This one's a bit tricky to set up, but it pays dividends. First, you need a good buddy-maybe the one who's resented the fact that she keeps you away from cricket matches and booze-ups with the boys. Get him to plant seeds of doubt in her mind about your fidelity. A couple of lipstick marks on your collar would be handy, so nick her lipstick again. It'll be the last time you’ll have to endure the torture, promise.

Dump Rate: Er. Average. She might defend you reputation tooth and claw, or, worse still, run off with your buddy. You'd really miss him.

How you'll appear: A fool if she chooses the latter option. On the upside, maybe his ex-girlfriend, one with the triple D assets, will offer them to you to cry on.

8. Vanishing Act
Leave. Disappear. That's it. Pack your bag and your DVD collection when she's at work and vamoose without trace, leaving a scummy ring around the bathtub, a bit of used toothpaste on the washbasin and if you care, “Sorry, forget me, its over” on a Post-it note.

Dump Rate: Watertight. Let's just hope she notices you've left.

How you’ll appear: You won't. You've vanished, you see!

9. Get Caught Red-Handed
Buy a jumbo pack of vibrating and flavored condoms and leave them in the pockets of your jeans, the room cabinet, the car's cubby hole, as bookmarks in the erotic thriller you're reading. Stay out all night and phone with a really weak excuse, preferably from inside a porn theatre so that she can hear the ums and moans. Start claiming exhaustion when she wants you to do it. And smell of a popular women’s perfume other than the one she uses.

Dump Rate: 100-percent. And you get to have lots of dirty fun while you're waiting to get caught.

How you'll appear: Bad. But lots of women like a bad boy, and most of your mates will speculate that there must have been something wrong with her if you had to look elsewhere.

This Blogpost has been Selected For Blog Adda's 'Tangy Tuesdays'.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Evolution of Online

It was once a universal truth that online advertising plays poor relative to the creative nobility of the advertising & marketing agency world. In creative terms, online is considered perhaps less a poor cousin and more dwarfish stepbrother with one eye blind, hearing impaired and a speech impediment. For this reason, the Internet was once viewed solely as a place for direct response campaigns, and certainly not to be trusted with building a brand or driving awareness.

But the ugly duckling is slowly becoming the swan as it moves out of its infancy, and starts having cool haircuts and trying to find a girlfriend. With this, the online creative scene is finally embracing the power, vigour and sexual allure that relative youth can bring, while its daddy reaches for the vitamin pill and looses all sense of rhythm. But what’s behind this blossoming of online? Now that it’s come of age, what is the proper pursuit for a medium that for so long could but crawl, dribble and manage a few simple words like “click here”?

It all comes down to people. The people doing it, the people paying for it and the people consuming it. The people doing it are better.

There was a time when online ads were largely produced by designers who, despite being good designers, were not ‘creatives’ schooled in conceptual thinking. “Knocking out” a few banners as an afterthought, based on whatever design concept they’d used in the header of a client’s website lead to ads devoid of an idea and unable to communicate a proposition to an audience. As creatives replace designers in digital agencies, this problem fades.

The slow down in the advertising market as a whole has benefited digital agencies. Good planners, account people and creatives have begun to consider online as a career option - with the industry growing, a future online looks more secure than in traditional agency roles. The more good people, the better the level of work, which in turn attracts bright graduates to the industry. It’s still the case that most creatives looking for their first job favour big ad agencies, but the reality of life in a traditional shop is often frustrating for creative free spirits. Top accounts being bagged by senior teams and internal competition gives rise to a viper pit atmosphere. Within the online space, there’s room for bright young teams to work on edgy ideas for major brands from the off – and with the relatively fast turnaround on digital projects, they aren’t stuck servicing the same account day in day out. All this makes for a creative vitality producing better and better ideas on the Internet.

The people buying it understand and appreciate it
Agencies can’t take all the credit. The increasingly savvy marketing manager is embracing online as never before and there is something of a “viral” effect taking place as web-literate decision-makers move jobs, helping grow online budgets in companies that once overlooked digital entirely. And with the legendary measurability of online including SEO and SEM, the talented marketer has the tools to persuade boards to release cash.

But it’s always been measurable. What’s changed is that strong brand building creative ideas capable of motivating customers are offering brands the ability to gain unprecedented consumer insights. It’s no exaggeration to say this is transforming the way brands market themselves - FMCG companies now have tangible relationships with the customer unmediated by the big multiples. This is nothing short of revolutionary and is slowly beginning to release the kind of budgets that provide scope for bigger ideas.

The people buying it have the money for it
Marketplace factors that have threatened traditional agencies are benefiting the upstarts. Audience fragmentation on TV, longer working hours and the break down of traditional demographic groups all benefit a highly targeted medium like the net. So while budgets have gone down in the last one year, the proportion of spend online has gone up 50% year on year since 2004. Meanwhile, increasingly brand literate consumers are demanding new things from their communications.

The people consuming it are responding positively
With broadband users accounting for many home Internet connections, an assured good experience means that consumers are spending more time online in greater and greater numbers. The internet now accounts for approximately 10% of all media and news consumption3 and within certain demographics, the Internet is almost the only place to guarantee a satisfactory ROI – the average 21-34 year old spends over 28 hours a month on the web. The more time consumers spend online, and the more money they have with them, the more online as a branding medium becomes relevant. As we know from the offline world, it’s a great deal easier to inspire loyalty and sell premium priced products to consumers who engage with the brand.

From passive to interactive real-time communication
Online excels at engagement - interrupting someone with a 60 second TV ad, does not compare to the possible “time with brand” achievable online. The best online campaigns can capture attention by interruption with a 10-20 second ad and keep that attention with entertaining and informative content on a brand site. The end point of this chain of engagement could be a data-capture opportunity or a purchase, but the motivating factor for the customer is entertainment and information. If the creative standards are high enough en route, the customer may spend up to 15 minutes with your brand before going back to what they were doing.

Using time efficiently with brand
With an entertaining brand experience a good digital agency can keep a consumer engaged. But the key to understanding the potential for brands online lies in what a business can do with that opportunity. Until the Internet arrived, brand communication, driven by TV ads was characterised by the passive consumer receiving messages. It was a one-way process and the advertiser had little genuine insight into response. In order to combine brand experience with consumer insight, DM was brought into the mix. The draw back with Direct marketing is that high creative standards tend to be prohibitively costly for all but the highest ticket purchases (cars, etc). Now that the Internet can deliver on the creative impact and audience reach necessary for brand advertising, its unique strength comes into play. The web combines the reach of TV with the targeting and consumer insight of traditional DM.

In order to benefit from this powerful combination, businesses must embrace a communications process that recognises the importance of a seamless, entertaining journey from ad to transaction. It’s not sufficient to rely on highly creative advertising that simply sells “off the page”. Effective digital strategies require a combination of creative ads with engaging websites, insightful information architecture and business processes geared up to receive and understand the information customers are prepared to give as they interact. Done correctly, joined up branding becomes a virtuous circle where valuable consumer insights are gathered at each part of the customer journey and are fed back into the creative process to develop a more and more engaging brand experience.

The future & beyond
Those businesses that embrace the power of the Internet as a branding medium now will make considerable gains in the future. Higher speed broadband (2MB speeds and upwards will be the norm) will enable companies to deliver richer content and in so doing they will be able to harness consumer interaction more easily. As web use becomes ever more convenient, consumers will continue to spend more time online and will look for brand propositions that deliver entertainment, service and convenience. Brands that understand the importance of a consistent two-way relationship and have the crucial business processes in place, will benefit from a trading environment that brings them as close to their customers as a medieval merchant once was.

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Terminator 4 - Salvation (2009)

Perhaps, the Worst Terminator Movie!

Caution - Spoliers ahead! I really don’t go the movies these days, it’s mostly the "downloaded avi file to DVD to the DVD player" route and if the format is not supported, on the PC or the laptop. The only exceptions being compulsory family matinee outings, big budget blockbusters or those that I really wish to see in the theatre – ‘Terminator 4’ being on my "to see in theatre" watch list from the time it was officially announced.

What a sheer disappointment. After the farce that was ‘Indiana Jones 4’, I had not belittled my expectations, hoping T4 would at least be an entertaining special-effect laden actioner, as it was guaranteed to be at its minimum. When the last few reels of the comparatively better ‘Terminator 3’ roll on, you are promised a grim & dark set-up for the future with numerous scenarios on how the series would continue - how the machines would take over the planet, how the world would end, how humans would fight back and so on. The ending was indeed ripe with ideas for creating the perfect script for the perfect Terminator series revival.

Instead, McG takes an entirely unnecessary road - forcing us to swallow a wafer-thin illogical story, a Madmax style post-nuclear war wasteland setting, dreadfully minimal action except one good sequence, bad special effects and worst of all, NO real Terminator for company. Besides, the weak screenplay offers no character development and no atmosphere, even the music is so lousy. Christian Bale as John Connor seems lost as the prophetic leader while Sam Worthington gets more attention and surprisingly more screen time than Bale. Michael Ironside and Helena Bonham Carter play useless cameos just like the many other cardboard characters that just come and go without an effective role or purpose.

The main action pieces were at its best kinetic but not memorable, unworthy of a Terminator label. The rest seemed so fake and ridiculous, especially the long drawn escape of Worthington from the resistance, the final man vs. machine fight and the smooth as silk rescue from the Skynet base which looks no more than an unguarded iron smelting factory; the worst highlight being the fight with a cartoonish CGI Arnold that completely insults our intelligence and love for the Terminator movies. When the movie ends with the “the battle is won but the war rages on” cliché, you are not only disillusioned and distressed, you are angry.

Maybe, the series will live on but I hope and pray, the next time, they bring James Cameron and Schwarzenegger back and let McG stick to chasing Charlie’s Angels.

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Happy When It Rains

Talking about the weather represents everything that is most unexciting about being on Urbanite. But it is for some reason; recently I have found myself doing it. A distant great, great grandfather of mine used to top barometers for the British Raj during colonial India. In 25 years, I have never tapped one and didn't intend to start anytime, but during my recent trip to good old Delhi, I got into an autorickshaw and did the chatty equivalent. 

Usually, bound in an auto, I sit in dour silence keeping my resolute and liberal (and not so good) opinions to myself. The other day, however (which incidentally was unusually hot as is common in Delhi), I found myself developing a strange rapport of completely unneeded meteorological detail with the autorickshaw driver - who apparently, was a full-time farmer and part-time driver with a lot to lose if the monsoon rains were going to be late (and he was ranting they were.)

Excluding my enviro-conscious slant and my campaigner role at Green Coalition Network, I really shouldn’t care whether if it would rain or not. I don't run a laundry, I don’t farm nor do I make money frying eggs on the pavement. There is no worldly reason why I should be concerned if whether it will rain or shine but I discussed it all with my auto man as if I were about to accompany Sir Edmund Percival Hillary to Mount Everest.

I told him it all started with the Asian Tsunami. Or may be it started with Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the Ozone black hole, the Chernobyl and the Exxon Valdez disasters or maybe it was my Grandma complaining about her sun dried pickles. Anyway, before that the weather just happened. Although only boring scientific people talked about it, it rained on all of us. Angelina Jolie got as wet as your mother-in-law but when the tsunami came and devastated Asia, things changed (for good in one way). 

Yet for many, the forecast is now just about whether there’ll be the T20 Cricket match tomorrow or if they would be able to board that early morning flight to New York. For some though, if it rains a great deal or when they hear of an approaching storm, such events signal the ‘End of the World’ and that there would possibly be no tomorrow, tomorrow. So, when the weather dame comes on the telly at primetime news, she isn't such reading the weather, she's Lady Nostradamus dishing out our post-apocalypse survival rates. These days, especially in the US and Europe, the TV weather presenter is a celebrity and the weather gets talked and twittered about more than Nicholas Sarkozy and his sizzling wife - Carla Bruni.

In the good old days, use of climate terms like “trough of depression” was about as scientifically technical as we got. But now, we talk about “Global Warming”, “Ozone Layer” and other weather terms as if we are all first class graduates from the International Climate Academy. We all seem to assertively strut with expert knowledge about the environment although most of us know as much as about it as the former US President – George Bush who loathed the environmental movement and did his part helping his Wall Street corporate cronies by propagating the Global Warming “Global Hoax” myth.

Nonetheless, one of the big culprits in this unstable weather scenario is held to be the Aerosol (or technically, CFCs - Chlorofluorocarbons). Until, a dandy scientist figured out their eco-wrecking, ozone-depleting power, we had wreaked so much damage keeping our rooms AC-cool in the 60s and our bodies scent-fresh in the 70s and 80s, that we had not only created perfect conditions for achieving the ideal tan on a beach but had also created a big hole in the Ozone layer - letting in unadulterated, vitriolic sunshine of our bright star play havoc with our climate.

And its not just spray cans or CFC based fridges of the past, there is a verified connection between eating meat and a deeper body tan (and consequently a bigger Ozone hole and a hotter Planet). Every meat based product you eat, lets say, every beef steak you eat pushes the demand for more meat and thus, the number of cows for human consumption. The more cows there are, the more methane they release. In fact, it’s estimated that on an average, a cow releases enough methane everyday to fill over 400 one litre bottles. Methane is one of the gases that destroy the ozone which in turn increases the amount of sunshine or rather Sun’s harmful heat. So, when you tuck into your ‘medium rare’ beef steak or a double-decker Beef burger, a cow somewhere on this planet backfires more methane, the ozone layer further depletes and a pensioner gets sunstroke in sweltering hot Delhi.

Of course, the weather being only slightly pre-Armageddon in its behaviour means it’s pretty complicated to forecast anything. No doubt, inspite of their celebrity status, the handsomely paid weather folks on TV or at the meteorological office never get the weather right. We can’t complain though, the global climate these days seems to be as fickle as the mood swings of a hormonally volatile pregnant woman. One minute it’s all sober and dull and the next day, it all thunder and storm.

Anyway, half an hour later, as our rickety auto made through to my destination, it suddenly started raining – first a stutter, then a drizzle and then, all out waterworks, accompanied by enough thunder and lightning. It was a welcome relief from the scorching heat and it felt so coincidentally nice. My new found driver-farmer friend seemed more than pleased, he felt relieved. He gave me a big smile, the rains temporarily comforting his drought worries. I returned his smile, got down unmindful of my clothes and laptop getting wet, paid the fare and let the rain fall over me. Like the school children on the street who were relishing the showers, I suddenly felt carefree and happy. The Rain Gods should have been smiling too, they had made us both happy.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Fun in the Workplace

It's called Fun but is it Motivation or Brainwashing?

There is a perturbing resurgence towards 'fun' in the workplace - something we saw in the 1990s and only accidentally before then. It came from America but it's spreading again like a flesh-eating bug. Any management type I meet these days seem to have just come back from a weekend ‘fun workshop’ at either a beach resort, golf club or a hill station.

The ‘fun’ secret, apparently, is to work like a slave but you are not supposed to know that, you are supposed to 'discover' it by “trial and error” with lots of (shudder) teamwork. So whereas I; for instance, might say ‘Listen you morons, this is the way to do it', the serious contender for higher management would say, "Hey everyone, what Ross just said has given me an idea. Why don't we try it.?"Anyway, every good urban parent is now sending their children on these fun workshops, because they feel it is clearly, an essential career skill.

But these new employers are making things darn difficult. Fast-food chains especially, those with absurd names take would-be Waiters and Managers to such training workshops to test their "fun" potential. Fun apparently consists of doing improvisations, making board games out of food cartons and answering nightmare questions such "You are Moses. Come up with 10 new commandments", (Commandment One: Thou shall not work for such restaurants or any other employer with a silly name.). And then there is this big supposedly eco-conscious company who make natural cosmetics, believe in "compassionate capitalism" and have something called a "Joy Club" led by a "Grand Messiah of Joy" whose job is to ensure that all employees dress up as Animals on Animal Rights day. For God’s sake, is this fun.

Recently, a letter sent to the staff of a leading international courier company by their executive director that was leaked, read as follows: "Really, folks, no big deal but Fridays in all our offices, from now on, are casual dress days - meaning, if you wish to dress down that day, you just go right ahead and do that. You may wish to wear more formal clothes on a Friday if you have a meeting or lunch with a client, vendor or whatever - but that's for you to decide.... As for me, I'll enjoy not having to wear a tie that last day of the working week”. What this actually means of course is "wear a tie from Mondays to Thursdays, you idiots or you're out".

This seems a perfectly reasonable demand for an employer to make, though probably unwelcome. But by couching it in "Really, folks, no big deal" lingo it manages to add several degrees of insult- first, the insult that employees will be too thick to understand, and second, the outrageous insult that they might be flattered to be addressed as "folks".

Make no mistake: management ideas of "fun" are nothing more than brainwashing, a creepy attempt to control employee attitudes by eliminating the negative - not letting you realize you are getting paid peanuts, not letting you feel the dull sameness of your office. But being negative, of course, is what makes - work enjoyable - complaining about one's bosses, mimicking their inane walks or accents, circulating their dafter emails, spying on their sex lives (if any) and generally maintaining the proud tradition of office politics, bitching and selfishness which is a great asset of any office. Reinforcing artificial “fun” is no substitute at all.
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