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Posts tagged ‘art’

The Tempest – Singapore Act

Kudos to Sam Mendes & the traveling cast of The Bridge Project.

Singapore is one of the 7 cities to be stricken by The Tempest. If you are or were ever into Shakespeare, watch it! Watch it for creative, insightful direction by Sam Mendes (of the American Beauty fame). Watch it for a mind-blowing performance by Ron Cephas Jones as Caliban. Watch it for Prospero’s ardor, Miranda’s innocence, Ariel’s fragility, Trinculo’s humor, Gonzalo’s frailness. Watch it for the love of theatre.

In exploring the Shakespearean themes of betrayal, love, power, wisdom, sacrifice, forgiveness & magic, The Bridge Project team did every bit of justice (and more) to the written version of the play. The actors breathe life into the characters with oodles of imagination & emotions, backed by stunning sets, and an apt selection of sounds & music.

“These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air,
And, like the baseless fabric of vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with sleep.”

Read a complete review of The Tempest. To see or not to see is not a question :)

Pen, paper & poetry

Poetry can truly transcend time and geography, and make you believe in the equivalent of a fairy tale for adults; a kind of serene, beautiful existence where words can smell, touch, smile and cry.

The Street: Octavio Paz

A long and silent street.
I walk in blackness and I stumble and fall
and rise, and I walk blind, my feet
stepping on silent stones and dry leaves.
Someone behind me also stepping on stones, leaves:

if I slow down, he slows:
if I run, he runs. I turn: nobody.

Everything dark and doorless.
Turning and turning among these corners
which lead forever to the street
where I pursue a man who stumbles
and rises and says when he sees me: nobody

[Original: La calle]

Mad Girl’s Love Song: Sylvia Plath

"I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)
The stars go waltzing out in blue and red, And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you'd return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)
The Saddest Poem: Pablo Neruda
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example,'The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.'

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me sometimes, and I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is shattered and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight searches for her as though to go to her.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another's. She will be another's. Like my kisses before.
Her voide. Her bright body. Her inifinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my sould is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.
[Original: La Poesia]

Advertising bites, 2009

Creativity can never be drained out of advertising. I don’t know if sales will increase post these ads, but smiles definitely will.

An incredible Incredible India TV commercial by Nirvana films.

A wonderfully executed TV commercial by TATA Communications for its foreign markets (hence not featured on Indian TV).

A glocalized Intel ad for an Indian audience.

An Amul billboard I spotted in Bombay, targeting the 90% reservation proposal for SSC students by the Maharashra government. Never doubt the power of the freedom of speech in a democracy!

Amul billboard ad

What are your favorites this year?


As adults, we often train ourselves to think in ways that favor us. Instead of rotating thoughts, ideas and opinions through 360 degrees, we fix them at an angle and refuse to twist them. Gradually, everything starts to enter a region of grey, and we reach a point where it’s hard to seperate good from bad, right from wrong, and black from white. 

I guess my point is that as we make our transitions into adulthood,  it is important to open up to perspectives. We are often ingrained with opinions about people and ideologies, and it can never hurt to switch shoes and re-evaluate them.

I didn’t mean this to be a motivational post, I promise. All I wanted to get across is that the world is full of perspectives, and if only we loosen up, we’ll start to enjoy the 360 degree view.

Here’s a video on perspectives, courtesy a friend.

If you aren’t wowed yet, watch it again. The words, when read forward paint a picture of negativity. The same words, when read in reverse, do just the opposite. It’s a brilliant, applaudable piece!

PS: I am joining the NaPloBoMo (National Blog Posting Month) network on Ning for the month of April. The theme this month is Growing Up, so (hopefully) there’ll be a lot more reflections to read here :)

Post Secret

For years now, I have been following the Post Secret blog, started by Frank Warren in 2005. An ingenious idea, the blog is a collection of real secrets mailed anonymously by real people. Whoever you are, whatever it is that you are hiding, Post Secret ensures that you are not alone. The world is stranger than we think, and somewhere in it, we all find a place to belong. 

One of my favorite songs, Dirty Little Secret, by The All American Rejects, is based on Post Secret:

Teacher Man

Frank McCourt has given a new dimension to teaching in this non-fictional account. He writes about teaching and learning and teaching to learn and learning to teach.

McCourt’s journey is rooted in Ireland, from where he seeks to rise in the minds and hearts of the students in New York’s public schools, through his unconventional, inspiring approach to teaching. As he explores his own identity, he accepts that teachers don’t have all the answers, and that is only human. His creative writing class reads and sings cooking recipes, his English class discusses Little Bo Peep!

Even when we don’t relate to the Irish life or the NY adolescents, we end up becoming a part of the Teacher Man phenomenon. The racy, decryptable writing makes you belong in McCourt’s classes. His humble, inquisitive approach to teaching makes you want to learn, as though it comes from choice and not force.

Great teaching, great writing and very inspirational. If you’re a student, it will give you a new perspective on learning. If you’re a teacher, you’ll want to follow in McCourt’s footsteps. If you’re neither, you’ll want to become either one. Go read it, while I try to get my hands on Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis.

RIP Frank McCourt aka Teacher Man [20th July, 09].

Advertising archives from India

Indian advertisements have a nostalgic, patriotic charm about them. Here’s my collection of some timeless Indian TV commercials:

The Airtel ‘Express Yourself’ Campaign, always a classic.

A brilliantly funny, witty, creative Camlin ad.

A really, really old one from Cadbury, something special :)

…..Can’t say anything about the next one…

A recent ultra-creative ultra-funny one by Happydent.

Another Airtel classic.

Of course, the list will be incomplete without this HA-HA funny one by Orbit White :D

What’s in your Indian-TV-commercials’ memorabilia?

The 3 best graduation speeches

Words can be ‘weapons’ of mass inspiration, especially when the right ones are found at the right moments, moments which tend to define the rest of our lives. The following three graduation speeches inspire me most as I prepare to undertake the journey that lies ahead.

One. Steve Jobs, the creator of Apple, to the Class of 2005 at Stanford.

Two. Chetan Bhagat, an IIT grad and the author of Five Point Someone, at Symbiosis (India) Convocation 2008.

Good Morning everyone and thank you for giving me this chance to speak to you. This day is about you. You, who have come to this college, leaving the comfort of your homes (or in some cases discomfort), to become something in your life. I am sure you are excited. There are few days in human life when one is truly elated. The first day in college is one of them. When you were getting ready today, you felt a tingling in your stomach. What would the auditorium be like, what would the teachers be like, who are my new classmates – there is so much to be curious about. I call this excitement, the spark within you that makes you feel truly alive today. Today I am going to talk about keeping the spark shining. Or to put it another way, how to be happy most, if not all the time.

Read more

The Arabic Language

Arabic has long fascinated culture-seekers and artists from the west. The language is reminiscent of an ancient setting, and has a crude, poetic aura about it.

Despite all the unconventional stuff I fancy myself doing, I never thought I’d be learning Arabic someday! It’s an absolutely brilliant language, though the non-artist in me can barely do justice to the creative strokes of the Arabic alphabet. I learnt my first few today (alif, baa, wow…), together with some introductory greetings (sobah-ul-khair, masaa-un-nuur) so often heard and ignored in hindi movies.

Here are some interesting facts about the Arabic lingo:

  • Arabic is written and read from right to left. In fact, books and newspapers are binded on the right, unlike conventional reading material. Check out the front cover of my Arabic textbook and notice the right-binding.

  • All letters are connected when writing in Arabic. Unlike English, this does not vary by handwriting. For example, in print like this, the English letters are all disjointed. In Arabic, even in print, these letters are connected. There are a few exceptions, those that are not connected to other letters; my instructor calls these ‘selfish characters!’

  • Arabic characters / letters have different shapes, depending on where they occur in a word (beginning, middle or end). 
  • The Arabic script has 2 distinct layers of writing. The layer below comprises the consonants, and is topped by a layer of vowels. This layer of vowels, however, can be seen only in elementary textbooks and religious scriptures (Quran). It is eliminated in daily Arabic reading. Apparently, with continuous practice, people can easily identify words, even without the vowels (there are only 3 vowels in the Arabic language). It sort of holds true for English too I guess. I’m sure you’ve read one of those emails with words missing vowels and found them easy to decipher.
  • Like Hindi & Spanish, every object is either male or female in Arabic. 
  • Every letter in Arabic has the right to pronunciation. There are no silent letters.
  • Arabic closely relates to Sanskrit and Urdu, and has a whole bunch of Hindi-like words. It also loans vocabulary and sounds to Spanish, Malay, Turkish, Indonesian, Bengali and Hindi.

That’s about what I’ve gathered so far. One day into the lessons and I’m in love with the language already!

Game theory lessons in life

In yesterday’s class of game theory, I learnt one of life’s most important lessons, proven mathematically. It is a generalization of the Shooting Game to life and business, and I’ll try to keep it as non-technical as possible. 

If you’re not already familiar with the term, game theory is a subset of economics that assesses the behavior of people in situations where the result (outcome) of their actions (strategies) is influenced by the actions of other people (players). The most widely known example of a game is the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

The Shooting Game is a zero sum game, implying that co-ordination is never possible. When one player wins, the other always loses. The game takes place as follows:

Each player has a pistol loaded with only one bullet. They stand 10 steps apart and walk towards each other, at the same pace, one step at a time. After each step, they can choose to fire their one bullet at the other player. The probability of an accurate shot increases with each step, as the players get closer to the other player. After k steps, it is k/5. So the probability of hitting increases from 0.2 to 1 over 5 steps.

The payoffs: 1 if you kill the other guy and you stay alive; -1 if you get killed and the other guy stays alive. 0 if both are killed simultaneously.”

The shooting game is solved backward, from step 5, evaluating the dominant strategies of the players at each step, using the payoff matrix at each step. Without getting into a detailed game theory solution, here’s what the players must do, given the above. (On some level, it’s kind of intuitive too.)

Equilibrium outcome: Actual play of the game will result in both players shooting at step 3.

The full equilibrium strategy for either player: Do not shoot on steps 1 and 2, no matter what.  At any step, if the other player has shot and missed while you have yet to shoot, then wait until step 5 to shoot (complete accuracy). If you arrive at step 3 (or later) and the other player has not yet shot, then shoot at once.”

The idea is, you must be as accurate as possible, yet still have the chance to take a shot (not die). The game can be generalized to business competition, like the launch of a new product.

The more realistic version though, is one in which the skill sets of the 2 players differ. Let’s say the probability of an accurate shot varies with each player. For one, it is k/5, and for the other, square root of k/5. The latter being the weaker player, must always shoot first, reason being, it’s his best option and he has nothing to lose.


When skills differ among players, notice that the origin is where the gap in skills is the narrowest. Therefore, it makes most sense for the weaker player to shoot right at the start of the game.

The same can be applied to weaker players in real life – weaker in terms of assets, with less at stake in terms of reputation, responsibilities, opportunity costs and the worst case scenarios. For instance if you are right at the bottom, at work or in a race, your best strategy is to take risks and try to change things drastically. In the worst case, you’ll fail and stay at the bottom, losing nothing. In the best case, you’ll rise! If, on the other hand, you’re already leading or are very near the top, it makes sense for you to continue with things that have proven to work and avoid risks, because if you try and fail, you will slip all the way to the bottom. Best case, you’ll remain where you already are!

The game was in execution in the last season of the Amazing Race too. The challenge was to find a clue on one of 7 islands. The second team which was right behind the first, followed the first. It was a logical decision, they had everything to lose, being almost at the top. One of the other teams though, consisting of a couple of soccer moms, was far behind. At the bottom already, with not much at stake, they decided to take the off-beat path to an island different from the one taken by the first too. Best case, they’d win. Worst case, they’d stay at the same position. Game theory at its best. And guess what, they won indeed, and managed to stick around longer in the amazing race!

Lesson for life: Take risks now, challenge conventions now, experiment now. The older you become, the more responsibilities you take on, the more you have at stake to risk. If you want to do something different, if you want to try something new, the time is now. Go for it!


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