Month: February, 2007

Enterprising postman

uspsI was out and about one day when I got a call on my cell phone. Unrecognized number, but I pick up. “Hello? Ms. Mahesh? This is Wilson… your mailman…”

Apparently my passport had arrived in the mail, but he couldn’t leave it for me (I have to sign for it), and he was wondering if I needed it urgently. Yes, I did, so I headed home and took it from him.

That’s what I call great customer service. I have no idea how he got my cell phone, but he’s used it ever since, any time there is anything important. He’ll call me and say that there’s a large package – should he put it in the elevator instead of leaving it under the mailboxes?

Wilson is now in my phone’s address book. With such enterprising mailmen, the USPS is in safe hands!

Fandango – wasting the opportunity

I love Fandango’s core service. Buying tickets is simple, elegant and most importantly it works.

But Fandango probably realized recently that it has all this wonderful data that it could use. For example, it shows me all the films I’ve ever watched. Great — that plus Netflix would be a good encapsulation of most everything I watch.

More recently though, Fandango has discovered “community”. Why shouldn’t Fandango have ratings and reviews? It’s all the rage and everyone is doing it. No reason at all. Except they have no clue how to do it.

Recently I watched Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday. I bought the tickets on Fandango and watched the movie on February 12th. I got this email on the 13th from Fandango asking me to review the film.

Great, I thought. How prompt. Let me go review it. I click on the link and log in. This is what I get:
Error page

Hmm. Fine then, I won’t review it, but why waste my time guys? Oh, but it gets worse.

I get another email on February 15th telling me it is my “Last Chance”. I ignore it. Last chance? I wish. I get yet another email on February 17th with a different title (asking me to tell the community about myself), but with the same request to review Black Friday. Okay, I will give it one last try. Alas, I get the same message again.

Don’t you think if you send me THREE emails asking me to do something that I should be able to actually perform the action? Getting the basics right is important if you want to build community. Either fix the issue or stop emailing me. I’d have been equally fine with either option.

Fandango, please get the basics right.

eBay India and cricket

eBay IndiaeBay India have gotten into the craze around the Cricket World Cup. If you check out their Cricket Craze splash page, there is a lot going on.

But the item that is getting the most coverage is the auction of saris worn by Mandira Bedi and signed by the entire Indian cricket team. Mandira Bedi is a “color commentator” and was also the first every woman commetator (as far as I know). She’s very rah-rah and somewhat annoying, but apparently the eye-candy factor more than makes up for it… Plus she says stuff like “Dravid across my chest” (meaning Indian captain Rahul Dravid happens to have signed the sari section which happens to drape across her ample bosom). Watch the video here.

Btw, eBay.in folks – the splash page is almost static now (there are only three links – two go back to the eBay India homepage and one goes to PaisaPay). Even if the auctions aren’t live yet, at the very least, put up a marketing splash page where users can learn more and see all the World Cup related auctions. That way when all the press events drive traffic to eBay, they’ll have somewhere to go.

[Story and video hat tip: Great Bong]

This week on Tatvam

I’ve been neglecting my Tatvam blog for a little bit. But I’m back to posting there.

Here’s what’s on Tatvam:

The last post is about how the clarification of Fair Use is helping documentary filmmakers. I am very interested in how culture evolves, how technology and art are inspired, and how prevailing laws enable or choke that innovation. I read Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture when it came out and was fascinated with the history of innovation and his hypotheses on where we were headed.

Am also a huge proponent of freeing up usage laws so people can invent, innovate and change how we see things. Both my blogs use a Creative Commons license (heh – amazing that I would need that with just imaginary readers and all…). With Share Alike, you can allow people to morph your work, if they allow others the same rights to their work — that is a virtuous cycle. But even with Share Alike, you can also preserve your rights through Required Attribution and Non-Commercial use, if you so desire (and I so desire, so this license gives you all three of those elements).

Fair use and documentary films

I am very interested in how culture evolves, how technology and art are inspired, and how prevailing laws enable or choke that innovation. I read Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture when it came out and was fascinated with the history of innovation and his hypotheses on where we were headed.

I’ve been meaning to find Lessig’s blog and today, someone emailed me a link to his blog that talks about an exciting new development in the documentary film world. The Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices outlines all the ways documentary filmmakers can follow the rules on Fair use and protect themselves. Those filmmakers who are certified to have followed those guidelines be able to get insured and therefore, their films will be able to get released. Earlier, the risk of getting sued was so high that some of these films never saw the light of day.

What a great step. Setting out the rules of Fair Use, easing the process of getting clearances, reducing the risk of being sued and therefore, increasing the capability to innovate. Excellent. (Thanks for the email, Evan!)

On a similar vein, watch this informative video on Net Neutrality which will have a big impact on how we innovate, communicate and create (although the video gets a little preachy/angry towards the end).

Video via: Lessig’s blog

Clever images

An artist can do so much with an image. Some of the visuals in the video have really interesting messages…

First draft

For me, writing the first draft is the hardest thing.

I think of an idea and just twirl it in my head for a few days. I think about it any time I am free… images running through my head. I’ll hit an issue. Some issues are deal breakers – if it destroys the premise or makes the whole story seem silly, poof, the idea is banished. I’ll start the same process with another idea. I usually try to work around deal breakers if I can. It might need a dramatic shift in some of the original hypotheses/characters, but I’m not attached to them yet.

Then, I write it all down in a treatment. Usually somewhere between 3 and 7 pages of prose. At this stage, I find it useful to share. I remember for one of my treatments that I shared with my workshop, the group felt that the ending seemed odd – the character was too strong to pick the option I had picked for her. I felt part of it was not understanding the cultural mileu of India, but I could also see their point. That ending… well, I am still torn on which direction to go on that.

Once I feel I have an idea that can work and outline that seems interesting, I write. Since I’ve spent so much time thinking, the writing usually goes pretty quickly. For the first section of the screenplay anyway…

The middle section is icky. Conflict arises, conflict gets worse, all the character motivations need to be ironed out. This is where I stall. Procrastination, pontification, loathing of the script, scoffing at the idea. Every tool is used to delay addressing the prickly issues.

The resolution has probably been in my head for a while. I may have a couple of alternate endings. I try to pick the less obvious/convenient one. Once I get done, I can’t look at it any more. I need time away before I can come back to it.

How does this compare to how you write? Any suggestions?


I was talking to a film-buddy last night. He was commiserating with me on a tough day I had professionally. The conversation meandered. He talked about friends and being there for each other.

Then he talked about his second year at film school. As a gay man, he got tested for HIV and found out that he was positive. He had a very good friend female friend and she was the only one he could talk to. His dad had just been laid off and he didn’t want to tell his parents yet and add pressure to them. He fell very ill. His friend sent him an email stating that she couldn’t handle it; that she could be his “fun” friend when times are good and could hang out with him and go to dinner with him, but couldn’t handle this.

He’s a great, positive person, and a wonderful friend. And I appreciate his being there for me.

Conversations like these put life in perspective.

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