The Archives

Two Drawings: Serj Tankian and Jessica Alba

Sunday · 25 May 08 · 09:34 PM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: Art

I did two drawings last weekend, which I've added to the Gallery now.

Serj Tankian "Elect the Dead" and Jessica Alba "The Eye" — by Karthik Abhiram

These are the drawings I did —

  • Serj Tankian — Elect the Dead: Serj Tankian is the lead vocalist of the band System of a Down.  Recently he released a solo album called Elect the Dead, and I really liked all the songs on the album.  So, I did this drawing.
  • Jessica Alba — The Eye: The Eye 2008 is a remake of a Chinese horror movie.  I haven't seen the original, but I did see the 2005 Bollywood remake (our guys got to it first!) Naina.  This new version stars Jessica Alba as a musician blind since the age of 5, who receives a corneal transplant — and starts seeing ghostly visions.  It's a nice movie and the drawing is based on the movie poster.

I forgot to mention last time — May 15 was my birthday.  Thanks for all the wishes and gifts.

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Illustration Friday: Wide

Wednesday · 21 May 08 · 03:16 AM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: Art

It's been quite a while since the last time — but a couple of days back, I did a drawing based on the recent Illustration Friday topic.

Illustration Friday

Last Friday's topic was "Wide", and I have a slightly unique take on it.  Below is the drawing I came up with, and following that, is an explanation.

Illustration Friday "Wide" — Kill Bill: Vol. 1 — by Karthik Abhiram

The image you are seeing above is a drawing of a screenshot from the movie Kill Bill: Vol 1, with Uma Thurman.  This is from the "House of Blue Leaves" showdown scene where she fights the gang known as the Crazy 88.  There's a part where she pulls the eyeball out of one of the villains!  The screenshot was referenced from this page (by the way, that website,, is an excellent one that compares various versions of movies on DVD, such as "unrated" versions, "director's cuts", etc.).  The drawing was done with ballpoint pen (very quickly) and I later coloured it in Photoshop.

All this is fine, but how is it related to the topic of "Wide"?  The picture, you see, is essentially an excuse for me to talk about widescreen and aspect ratio (the ratio of the width to the height of an image).  Most movies nowadays are shot in a wide aspect ratio, 1.85:1 or 2.35:1.  In comparison, a normal TV display is 1.33:1 (almost a square).  Hence, if you want to show a widescreen movie on a regular display, the following options are available —

  • Letterboxing: This is where you get black bars on the top and bottom of the image.  The complete frame is visible, but is smaller and less clear because the bars eat up usable space.
  • Pan and Scan: Parts of the image on the left and right are chopped off so that the entire available image area is utilised, but you may not see everything the director wanted you to see.
  • Anamorphic Widescreen: On DVDs nowadays, a compromise is looked at.  The image is squished so that a "taller" image is stored, which is stretched out depending on the type of display available.

There are other techniques too but the above are the common ones.  Kill Bill was shot in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and hence, if you are watching a "fullscreen" or "Pan and Scan" version on TV, you may not be able to see the complete frame.  In the shot above, for example, if the eyeball is to be shown, you will not be able to see Uma Thurman's face in full.  My drawing above is close to an aspect ratio of 2:1, but you get the idea.

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New Drawings and a tip for scanning oil pastel work

Monday · 12 May 08 · 03:11 AM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: Art

Not one, but three new drawings of mine have been added to the Gallery!

Rhona Mitra in Doomsday, Banlieue 13, Pusher Trilogy — Art by Karthik Abhiram

  • Doomsday — Done with oil pastels, featuring Rhona Mitra from the movie Doomsday, which I am waiting to watch.
  • Banlieue 13 — Done with pencils, ballpoint pen and oil pastels, this one is based on the French action movie.
  • Pusher Trilogy — Done with pencil and ballpoint pen, this one is based on the Danish Pusher crime movies, written and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn.

Recently, I've done quite a few pieces with oil pastels.  The first of these was this drawing based on Aliens vs Predator: Requiem.  Now after I finished that, I was unsure of how to scan it, because I didn't want the pastel stuff sticking to the bed of the scanner.  So I asked Varun to photograph it.  That worked out fine, but the problem is that you won't be able to get a high-resolution image.  The solution is to use a transparent plastic sheet.  I dug out these transparent sheets which were bought several years ago, for use with OHPs (Overhead Projectors)!  I placed that on the bed of the scanner, the drawing on top of that, and was able to scan at 400dpi, like my other drawings.

Haute Tension — Drawing by Karthik Abhiram

I will leave you with another image I did a couple of weeks back.  This is the killer (Le Tueur) from the French horror movie Haute Tension (High Tension).

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Recent Movies Watched [including Speed Racer, Iron Man]

Monday · 12 May 08 · 02:56 AM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: Movies

Thought I'd give a quick rundown of the movies I've watched recently.

Movies seen recently — Speed Racer, Iron Man, The Signal, No Country for Old Men and more...

  • Speed Racer — Watched this movie today at Prasad's Multiplex.  A live-action re-imagining of the 1960s anime from the Wachowski Brothers.  Varun used to watch the show on Cartoon Network many years ago, but I never really watched it.  Anyway the current movie is colourful and dazzling, with great visual effects, however I think it will mostly appeal to kids only.  Automobile racing is the only thing Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) knows how to do, and when Royalton Inc offers to partner with Racer Motors to finance his racing, he gets a glimpse of how evil corporates fix races.  Determined to bring down corrupt businessmen, he must compete in a high-stakes race along with the mysterious Racer X.  John Goodman plays Pops, Speed's father — but all through, I was imagining what it would have been like to have Goodman's character from The Big Lebowski, Walter Sobchak, in this movie.  At a tense moment in the end, he'd have told Speed "Nothing is fucked, Speed".  When some incompetent ninjas attack Speed and family, he'd have said "Those fucking amateurs".  But then the movie would certainly not have been very kid-friendly!  Anyway, Speed Racer was fun and worth watching in the theatre to get the benefit of the visuals.  7/10.
  • Iron Man — This one was also seen at Prasad's Multiplex last week.  Billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is captured in Afghanistan and forced to create a weapon for some arms dealers.  However he secretly builds a crude armoured suit which he uses to escape.  After his return to the US, he perfects his designs and becomes the superhero Iron Man.  This was an incredibly entertaining movie with great visual effects, and I loved Ramin Djawadi's music score too.  It has a great cast (including none other than "The Dude" from The Big Lebowski, Jeff Bridges) and some breathtaking action sequences.  There's a scene in this movie after the entire end credits, and to my surprise, they actually showed it in the theatre.  9/10.
  • The Signal — A mysterious "signal" is broadcast over all television, radio, phone and cellular networks and turns people into violent killers.  This is the setting for the movie, which is split into three interconnected segments.  Mya (Anessa Ramsey) and Ben (Justin Welborn) are lovers who want to escape Terminus City, and are pursued by Lewis (A J Bowen), Mya's deranged husband.  This is a very well-written and acted movie, a thoughtful science fiction-horror film.  Apparently, directors David Bruckner, Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry worked on their segments independent of each other!  8/10.
  • No Country for Old Men — The year's Best Picture Oscar Winner.  Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) comes across two million dollars in cash at the scene of a drug deal gone bad, and takes the money with him.  Of course, as the movie's tagline says, there are no clean getaways — and he is relentlessly pursued by the psychotic Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem).  There is considerably less dialogue in the movie — a lot is communicated through the direction and editing.  A tense thriller from the Coen Brothers.  Great stuff.  8/10.
  • The Big Lebowski — I've seen this movie many times before, but after watching No Country for Old Men I rewatched it.  Jeff Bridges plays Jeff Lebowski a.k.a. The Dude, a lazy slacker in Los Angeles.  In the Coen Brothers' warped world, there exists another Jeff Lebowski (the Big Lebowski of the title) who is a millionaire, and whose wife owes money to one Jackie Treehorn.  Thus begins a great crime movie involving mistaken identity, kidnapping and bowling!  John Goodman plays The Dude's friend, Walter Sobchak, a high-strung Vietnam veteran.  This extraordinary movie has an amazing screenplay and is extremely funny.  10/10.
  • Untraceable — A cyber-thriller with Diane Lane as an FBI security specialist trying to track down a mysterious criminal, who traps victims and puts them in Saw-type torture devices — and then broadcasts a feed live over the net.  The more the people who log on to, the faster the victims die.  The premise sounds interesting, but the movie as a whole falls flat.  The dialogue sounded completely artificial and made me cringe at times.  5/10.
  • Outpost — A group of soldiers arrive at an abandoned WWII bunker and discover that they may not be alone.  An okay horror movie that is quite atmospheric and well-shot, but ultimately unremarkable.  It just wasn't scary, and spent way too much time in build-up without much payoff.  6/10.
  • Inside (À l'intérieur) — A French horror film.  A pregnant woman (Alysson Paradis) is all alone at her house on Christmas Eve, and it is the night before her delivery.  That is when a mysterious woman (Beatrice Dalle) shows up at her house and threatens her.  It appears that the strange woman is psychotic and wants the baby for some reason.  The movie is one of the bloodiest and most violent ones I've seen — it will blow you away.  Very well done, if you can stomach this sort of thing!  Written and directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo.  I watched the unrated version.  8/10.

That ought to do it for now!  I have a bunch of other stuff to watch (I got a few Telugu DVDs too, recently!) and I will write about those movies once I see them.

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My new laptop

Sunday · 11 May 08 · 09:28 PM IST | Posted by Karthik | Category: General

I got a new laptop last Saturday!  This is a HP Pavilion dv2701TX Special Edition Entertainment Notebook PC.

HP Pavilion dv2701TX Special Edition Entertainment Notebook PC — My new laptop, bought 3-May-08

I had been planning to buy a new laptop for a while, since my older one was giving problems.  (By the way, on 24-Apr the new version of Ubuntu Linux, 8.04 LTS, codenamed Hardy Heron, was released.  I downloaded that and installed it on my old machine, and was very happy with it.)  The new computer cost about Rs 45,000 (which is far less than the amount I paid for my old computer two and a half years ago!).  It has an Intel Core 2 Duo 1.67 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM (which I am planning to upgrade later), and a 160 GB HDD.  I love the build quality of this computer, it feels sturdy and the design is very nice.  In fact, I took feedback from my friend Maheshwaran (who runs My Mind Leaks) on this — and he told me that his HP laptop was "used as a pillow while travelling" and had "fallen off a study table", and was still working fine.  Personally I think the 14.1 inch widescreen is the perfect size for a laptop, and that's what I went for.  I love the bright screen on this computer.  Besides all that, the computer has a very aesthetic design (seen in the picture above, which is swiped from the HP website).  In general, no complaints about the computer so far.

The computer comes with Windows Vista Home Premium, and this is what I am using now.  I've read horror stories about Vista (a guy being told that it would take him 130 years to write a CD, very funny YouTube video about programs being incompatible with Vista), but I've had no major problems.  Only minor annoyances.  Here are a few of them below —

  • Hogging Space — Vista seems to be consuming a lot of disk space.  I installed a few of the common applications I use and about 10 GB or more were eaten up.  As far as I know this is Vista trying to set "restore points", so logically it should stop with this unless I install more stuff (which I am not going to).  But I don't know how much more space it will eat up.
  • User Account Control (UAC) — This is supposedly a feature of Vista that enforces security, but to me it's more of an annoyance — I am repeatedly told that something is an "unidentified executable" and asked whether I want to run it or not.  Dude!  If I didn't want to run it, I wouldn't have double-clicked the icon in the first place!  Give me a break!  I understand that this is supposed to prevent newbie users from running harmful programs, but I doubt how much it actually helps.
  • Media Player Classic and UACMedia Player Classic is a nice little open-source media player that I use.  I downloaded the program and wanted to place it in C:\Program Files like all other programs.  So I go to the relevant folder and then create a new folder, when I am greeted with a prompt that says that I need to give permission to continue!  Then there's one more UAC prompt that comes up.  Keep in mind, that so far I've got a folder called New Folder, so renaming it takes two more prompts!  There really ought to be some kind of Administrator login for Vista.  When I was using Fedora, I was always using the system as the root user.  Linux informs you that this could be potentially dangerous when you log on — but keeps quiet after that.
  • Doom Builder and UACDoom Builder is the editor I use to make my Doom levels.  This is a great program that works perfectly fine in Windows XP.  Who knew that it would give problems with Vista?  First time I ran it, I got an error saying that I needed msvbvm50.dll which I downloaded and placed in the relevant folder.  Even then, when I ran the program, I got an error that said "Error 75: Path/File Access Error".  A quick search led to a Doomworld Forums post which gave the solution — you have to set the builder.exe executable to run in Compatibility Mode with Windows XP and also set it to "Run as Administrator".  The catch is that UAC kicks in EVERY single time you run the program, and asks you for confirmation on whether you want to run it or not!  While one might say that one extra click isn't much of an annoyance, I question why it is required in the first place.  You'd think something related to Doom would run well with something related to UAC (UAC being Union Aerospace Corporation, the fictional company in Doom)!  However, on second thought, I guess Vista's UAC, like its namesake in the game, is an evil entity!
  • The Blue Screen of Death — It seems that no matter how many years pass, the BSOD won't leave Windows.  Three times so far I've "woken up" my computer only to find that it had restarted.  In a very friendly way, the computer tells me that "Problem Event Name" as "BlueScreen"!  You'd think they were actually proud of this!

Of course on the positive side the OS looks very nice and the "Aero" interface is glossy and pretty.  Let me try this out for sometime, and then I will see if I can set up a dual-boot option on my computer (Vista plus Ubuntu Hardy Heron).  My only worry is that they didn't give a Vista DVD with the computer, so if something goes wrong, I won't have a way to reinstall the operating system (which I paid for, mind you!).  I have the Windows XP CD that came with my older computer though, so let me see how things go.

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The Author

Karthik Abhiram

27-year old Taurean (birthday 15-May-82), Assistant Manager - HR at Tata Consultancy Services Ltd in Hyderabad, India.  Previously, did Post Graduate Diploma in Management from T A Pai Management Institute (2003-05) and before that, Computer Science Engineering from Sree Nidhi Institute of Science and Technology (1999-2003).

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