Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Cold and Wet New Year


Glitter Text Generator


Wish you a Happy and Brand New 2015 ! That's one good thing about getting a new year, you get to start again. On a clean slate. From Square one. Again.

Here in Bangalore , its cold and rainy down here, just the way I like it. Since January 1 is a holiday for most companies here, the roads were empty ,so it was a nice drive down a wet empty roads for me.


I was just going through today morning's news on the web, from India. This was what I got.



This New Year has already started with death and destruction. Kind of ruins hope for me.

I sincerely hope this ill fate does not stay the whole year.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

There's something about Christmas


Aaah…the cool breeze, falling temperatures, steady coffee, and in my case, a running nose and sore throat: all signs that the current month is December. I like the weather cool, but its not the same the other way round. And December is probably my favourite month of the year. I used to go to a Christian missionary school, so we used to celebrate each and every Christian holiday on the calendar, specially Christmas. Initially I used to hate the festivities , being a Hindu myself, I could not relate to many traditions Christians followed. But I gradually realized that Christmas is not just about the Prayers and Churches and the fasting, the endless Bible reading. The spirit of Christmas was about caring , and sharing, and some enjoying a few comforts of life with near and dear ones. Nowhere can this spirit be better seen , than in Charles Dickens' legacy novel: A Christmas Carol.

Funny, this play has a special place in all of my Christmas holidays, I have read, watched or at least thought of this little story every Christmas. Every annual day, a portion of this story, or its entirety would be chosen for a play. The most popular section is without a doubt the part were the second ghost, the Ghost of Christmas present, shows Uncle Scrooge the Christmas dinner at the Cratchit house. Bob Cratchit, his employee, is very poor, draws an even poorer salary from Scrooge, but has a large family to feed. The Cratchit family comprises of him, his wife, three daughters, three sons, the youngest of which , Tiny Tim, is crippled. The Cratchits live a measerly life, and Christmas is probably the only time of the year they indulge, and this is the time the Ghost and Scrooge decides to visit them.

Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought a goose the rarest of all birds; a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course — and in truth it was something very like it in that house. Mrs Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigour; Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving knife, prepared to plunge it in the breast; but when she did, and when the long expected gush of stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight arose all round the board and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried Hurrah! -

There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of bone upon the dish), they hadn’t ate it all particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows! But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs Cratchit left the room alone — too nervous to bear witness — to take the pudding up and bring it in.

Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should break in turning out! Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the back-yard, and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose — and supposition at which the two young Cratchits became livid! All sorts of horrors were supposed.

Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that! That was the pudding! In half a minute Mrs Cratchit entered — flushed by smiling proudly — with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.

Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs Cratchit said that now the weight was off her mind, she would confess she had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.

At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted, and considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table, and a shovel-full of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a one; and at Bob Cratchit’s elbow stood the family display of glass. Two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.

These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaming looks, while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then Bob proposed:

‘A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!’ Which all the family re-echoed.

‘God bless us every one!’ said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

The scene described is so vivid ! You can actually the whole family sitting down together for dinner together, helping each other, passing around small utensils, and slurping up every last morsel, with a cosy fire going in the fireplace nearby. The whole family shares what little they can afford, and makes sure everyone is properly fed and cared for. What more does one want ?




Friday, December 12, 2014

Nedry, Jurassic Park and Software Systems


So I am watching my favourite english movie again, Jurassic Park. The scene in the control centre starts playing, where Hammond has a minor altercation with Dennis Nedry, a programmer and the designer of the park's  computer systems. Early on, Hammond tells Grant and Sattler at the trailor the he can tell instantly about people, its his gift. Yet , he fails to see the villainy in Nedry, who is the person who kickstarts the sequence of events leading to the destruction of the park that night. The tropical storm alone would not have caused any damage to the Island, it is Nedry's power outage which causes things to fall apart. And since bad guys need to die, Nedry is eaten up later by the Dilophosaurus.



Over the years, Nedry's character, the shaving can, and his didnt-say-the-magic-word has gained cult status. But he is still on the antagonist side of the story. He demanded more money, Hammond did not oblige, even when he would spare no expense anywhere else. He decided to steal, and paid for his mistakes. But in the book, there is a little more backstory to this guy. Due to the secrecy of the Jurassic Park project, Hammond cannot trust too many people, or word of what they are attempting will get out. So he employs a small team of experts for the project, and decides he needs even more less people to run the Island. The answer - heavy automation. A fully automated park which can be maintained by a 3 or 4 people from a control center. And he decides upon Nedry's small company to design the system, else he could have given the job to any big software development company out there.

But again, due to the heavy secrecy of the Island, Nedry cannot be told what the park is all about. So he is given abstract requirements revealing only very minor details, and never sees the big picture of things. Things like, reserve storage for huge field values, design door security systems.. Hammond attempts to keep him in the dark. When finally the systems are brought up, they don't work cohesively , and in many cases, the systems need to be enlarged, because Hammond's team had underestimated the size of the dinosaurs. Its a similiar story with Robert Muldoon, the cages and tranquilizer guns  he is given proves smaller, and he demands for bigger machines and gas powered jeeps for any emergency. But for Nedry, well, he is asked to redo the systems to new specifications, but Hammond demands Nedry does this job under the original contract, and refuses to pay him. He even calls up some of Nedry's other customer and tells them  Nedry is unreliable and untrustworthy. Nedry's small company faces losses redoing everything, he has a team of programmers working from Cambridge, and paying them and for other systems leaves him in a financial crisis. Seeing that he can not make any profit from this project, he is , in a way, forced to look outside for another way to make money.


Dodgson, the corporate espionager from a rival genetics company and who knows about the Park, contacts Nedry and offers him the way out. He convinces him to steal live embryos from the park, and he will paid in millions of dollars. It can be seen in the book that Nedry is hesistant, Dodgson has to meet him many times to convince him to jump ship. And Nedry too is not comfortable dealing with Dodgson, so he sets up one more meeting just to record their conversation to cover his back. His plan was to steal and handover the embryos, and be back at his workstation in 15 minutes, nobody notices, and he leave would leave the scene once all the programming is complete. His plan would very well have worked, the only thing which came in the way was the storm. So you see , in the book, the reason for his devious nature is explained.

As a software engineer myself, (thought not self-employed) I can relate to this nice guy. Yep, he's a nice guy. I have faced his problem myselfs. When we in the business software consulting world start on a new project, we make an attempt to properly understand our clients operations. Instead of being given use cases and requirements up-front, we insist we see the existing system and how the company operates, the end to end business and transactions. This way, we will be able to better propose changes in the system, without breaking anything, but still improving. Most of our customers already have some sort of in-house built software, but they realize that needs to be upgraded or replaced with a better system. And whenever we are not explained the end to end flow, the solutions we design miss out things here and there. The resultant system works, but not as expected. The UI needs improvement. The integrations fail frequently. The performance dips.  In such cases, we are abruptly asked to redo it , but within the same time frame. We can't have more time, or money to redo this. This leads to many hours of overtime for us, often leading to all nighters and weekend work too, all unbilled of course. The best systems I have designed was when we had a very good knowledge of what our customer's business does.

Hey, but at least, we did not steal any embryos !

So you see, Dennis Nedry was a nice guy, who did what he did because he wanted to save his company, and lacked previous espionage experiences.



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Re-discovering Fountain Pens


The past some months have been very hectic, work at office keeps piling up, and its a similar story at home. Trust me, being married is like working on a second job, it just can't be neglected. As a part of some late-year house cleaning, I was re-arranging things at home when I opened some old shelves, and found a Parker fountain pen. It is a red bodied Vector with a piston for drawing ink, and was gifted to me by my father when he returned from Gulf two decades ago. Somewhere circa 1997~99. Made in UK, it says. And with it I got drawn once again to my fun filled school days.


A simple google turned up endless blog posts of nostalgia, kids who grew up in the 90s had a special place of the fountain pens, lovingly called the ink pen (ironical, every pen has ink, fountain or not ). I could see bloggers typing on and on about those days when you had to load your fountain pen with ink, the same way today people charge their phones before heading out to school or office. Writing instruments have gone down a one way street, and smart pens and voice-to-text converters are in use today. But I long for the days men were men and carried their own fountain pens proudly in their shirt pockets.

So here is how we progressed in school: from the kindergarten days (LKG,UKG) to about 4th grad (or 4th standard), we Indian students were equipped with the trusty pencil and sharpener (which we used to call the cutter). Then about 5th grade, we were trusted to start using pens. The cheapest pens in the market were the disposable ball-point pens, the most popular I think was the stick-eazy pen, which could be bought for 2 rupees back then.

But schools used to insist that a good student no-only required good grades, but also a good handwriting to go with it. A legible handwriting in the cursive style was the hallmark of the Oxford academia, they used to say.  And the best way one could achieve that was to write using a fountain pen, in plain white 'unruled' notebooks. The challenge was to write on plain paper in straight lines , which none of us could do except some of the girls in class. Most often , our writing would go obliquely across the page which we attempted to compensate in the next line, and fail again. We needed practice. So we were encouraged to buy good ink pens and practise writing with them in plain sheets. This opened up an arsenal of sorts, because unlike ball point pens, which were identical and everyone had the same ones, fountain pens were distinctive and different. You could either buy a cheap unheard of Indian company like Bismi, Camel, Camlin..or you could go all in and buy the coveted Cadillac of fountain pens : Hero, Parker & Sheffer.

The chinese brand Hero was specially coveted, because it was extremely light weight to use and even easier to refill ink, and had  a longer mileage. Plus spare parts were easily available and interchangeable from other pens of the same company, and the nib was , well. smooooth. It gave the smoothest writing on paper, and the ink dried instantly without smudges. It was very common for us students to carry our pens in the shirt pockets of our white uniforms, but we would also forget to remove it when we ran for the bus, causing the ink to spill onto our shirts. Apart from the regular stuff taught in school, we also learned Pen-engineering, removing and changing of the nibs, bending and forking the nibs to "correct" the ink flow, and experimenting with different brands of inks. Often our inks would run out during our class, so we would switch to the reserve ballpoint pen, and even un-luckier ones would find the ink in the ballpens have dried up. Then we would start borrowing inks from neighbours, by transferring ink from theirs to our pens ! We would carry a piece of cotton for these emergencies in our pencil boxes, yes they were still called pencil boxes, even when they did not have any pencils, and a small piece of chalk, which instantly absorbed any ink spilled in the box or on our clothes. The Parker fountain pens had a beauty of their own, small, simple design, and just heavy enough to stand out, but ink flow was heavier, and would smudge our writing in the cheap school provided answer sheets. And the ink would run out an hour after lunch break. The Hero pens on the other hand, with their friction caps and hooded nibs were better engineered (we thought) and wrote longer, in sleek lines.

The good days didn't last though. During our 10th standard board exams  we found that the  government provided answer sheets were of even lower quality, and thus played safe with the ballpoint pens. Somewhere around this time, the Gel-pen entered the Indian market, you could have the convenience of the ball point and the output of the fountain pen. You could leave in in your pocket when you ran, and it wouldn't spill ! Amazing ! By highschool  , we were all converts and adopted the ballpoints for all our scribbling. Life had turned fast, there was no spare time to waste on refilling inks every night, and our handwriting was either improved or in  a complete mess. The teacher didn't care, there were no marks for beauty on the test paper. The new weapon of choice ?, the Cello Gripper:

The last fountain pen I used was a maroon colored Hero , with a funny looking unhooded nib, which I used in first year of Engineering college. It was broken when it fell from my pocket and broke cleanly in half, where the suction mechanism met the nib. After that it was all ball point pens for me, and after entering the computer programming profession, the only time I used pens was to jot down a phone number or to fill in application forms.

Well, this Parker has come back my way, and I am trying to find reasons to start using it during work. The ball pen was designed for quick brisk writing, they say. The fountain pen is for more relaxed , laid back and flowing writing. Has to. It needs special care and time of its own, something the modern office worker has very little of.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Observations On Jurassic World

There’s great irony hidden in Jurassic Park’s (1993) success. As audiences watched Doctor Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) rile fiercely against the idea of the commercial use of dinosaurs to make a quick buck without truly understanding the technology used to bring them back to life, the very film itself became one of the biggest, financially most successful movies of the nineties, only to be dethroned by James Cameron’sTitanic (1997). Which, irony strikes again, was up against The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) in the visual effects category at the Academy Awards. Titanic won, but Jurassic Park's sequel boasted some effects which rivaled with its predecessor’s.

Granted, not all of the CGI effects of the first (and second) film hold up as well as they did twenty-two years ago. Which is no surprise: in 1993, this had never been done before, and the artists involved did the formerly presumed impossible - they gave us life-like dinosaurs hunting and stalking their human prey in jungles and industrial kitchens. They took an enormous risk showing off the Brachiosaurus in harsh sunlight. And they succeeded on all these fronts.

But it no longer is 1993. It’s 2015. There’s no shame in admitting other, newer films offer better visual effects. This does not mean it lessens the experience of viewing Jurassic Park and you can’t still be amazed by what you are shown; in fact, all effects-filled films made from 1993 on are built on the solid foundations Jurassic Park laid out. People still refer to it as a landmark in cinematic and visual-effects history. Which it is. The power of the original film does not just lie in its visual effects; it’s the combination of technologies, clever story-telling, a tight script and the addressing of current issues all packaged in a remarkable film, making viewing Jurassic Park the extraordinary experience it is.

But audiences have a yearning for more, they feel not just a desire to revisit familiar grounds: they want to be thrilled and won over by new, exciting ideas, larger-than-life situations and the best visuals the business has to offer. Escapism at its finest.

Now, just four months away, a whole new adventure awaits us. This time, the fourth installment in the popular Jurassic Park franchise will take us back to the island of the original film and present us with a new theme-park named Jurassic World. And, odd cameo aside, an entirely new cast will give act-de-presence to, once again, fight off dinosaurs.  

This sequel to the original trilogy is much anticipated; for fourteen years the project had been on and off irregularly. Different rejected scripts surfaced, one of the oddest telling the tale of dinosaurs being bred in a Swiss castle where they were trained in combating drug-cartels. The idea caused consternation amongst fans, most of which were glad this concept never saw the light of day.

Then, one glorious day, Universal announced the fourth film would hit production. In association withLegendary, dinosaurs would once again roam the silver screens, and, again, live in a theme-park which was to be opened on Isla Nublar.

Commentary amongst the fan community was abundant: an outcry of fans who claimed a new park would never be successful because the original characters, including Grant (Sam Neill) and Malcolm, would protest the park publicly, and major problems would arise should the gates open for the public: to top it off, the United Nations (briefly mentioned in 2001’s Jurassic Park III) wouldn’t even allow for the islands to be explored or just set foot on ever again in the first place.

But we soon learned writer Derek Connolly and director Colin Trevorrow found a clever way around this: in their expansion of Jurassic Park’s already rich universe, the park has been open for ten years, apparently without incident, suffering slowly but gradually declining visitor numbers.

This didn’t exactly shut up the nay-saying crowd. In fact, they were most displeased when learning there would be a new guy on the block. And this time, unlike Spinosaurus in the third film, it isn’t just anotherbigger-than-T-rex predator; it is to be a fictional creature, created out of the DNA of several different animals, combining the best of each of their abilities.

I, too, had my reservations about this idea. A fictional creature, while there are so many real, wonderful dinosaurs to choose from! A wealth lies hidden in the fossil record still, magnificent creatures begging to be brought to life again on the big screen!

But the more we learned about this new Jurassic World and the proposed reason for the creation of Indominus rex, the more I came to appreciate the concept. As images leaked (first of Lego figures, then merchandise, then the Hasbro toy version), my initial concern dissipated. This new creature will not simply be a freak; it looks like an animal that could have been a real dinosaur.

Another much heard complaint involves the connection between the original film and Jurassic World; many fear this film will be a remake in disguise, given it takes place on Isla Nublar (the island on whichJurassic Park was built), it will be another dinosaur park and, as we know from the two trailers released, dinosaurs will escape once again and cause havoc, mayhem and death amongst those residing on the island.

There’s no denying options are fairly limited when you set a story on an island inhabited by dinosaurs.  There are only so many ways in which a dinosaur can chase people on screen, while keeping it family-friendly at the same time.

However, it hardly seems to be a remake. In fact, it appears to be straying as far from the original film’s premise as possible. While we no doubt will see chaos, as we did in the first three films, the setting is distinctly different. This is not a zoo that has just opened. It’s not about people inspecting a place they’d no idea existed before arriving. This is a park up and running for years, doing business and having built a brand-name people all over the globe instantly recognize.    

Looking at the original franchise, what seems to come closest to this new scenario is the third act of The Lost World: Jurassic Park in which the T-rex escapes a wrecked cargo ship and terrorizes unsuspecting people on the streets of San Diego. Even so, with two failed attempts in the original trilogy, the idea of a successful, operational park has not been explored up until now in the Jurassic Park franchise.

And, contradicting as it may seem, while people complain this film seems to try copying the original, they,we, seem to have a desire for that rush of nostalgia too. We want this film to be good; we, as long-time fans, have waited for it for over fourteen years. We feel we deserve a good film, one that lives up to all our hopes and dreams and (impossible?) expectations and at the same time will take us right back to 1993, when Jurassic Park amazed and captivated audiences around the world.

The problem is: people appear to expect and want a whole lot from Jurassic World, which it might not live up to. That (false) nostalgia we are all hoping for could be there, because we will return to Isla Nublar. For what reason they’ve chosen the original island, after ignoring it in the two sequels, as a setting for the new park remains to be seen for now. But it does have people excited for a chance of seeing the ruins of the old park (we have an indication some construction was left up - to what extent is yet unknown). 

And we’ve already seen some homage in the two Jurassic World trailers released, including the iconic shot of a helicopter flying towards the island and a scene with a herd of Gallimimus running across a field. We know there will be a Tyrannosaurus, and she will once again be a star. There will be Velociraptors much like the original creatures (though with different color patterns), and we might be offered a bit more intellectual substance than the third film gave us.

But this will be a new film, a separate entity. It could be the start of a fresh franchise, expanding on the original trilogy and acknowledging and respecting the source material. However, if we will enter the theatre expecting to feel the exact same way we did in 1993 (or the moment you first saw the originalJurassic Park and were mesmerized by it), we might fool ourselves greatly. This new film is not just being made for the original fans. It’s made for everyone, and it will target a whole new, young and different audience.

We should not forget these are indeed different times. In this day and age, big, effects-heavy blockbusters hit cinemas week after week, and run for a limited time, as they are quickly replaced by the next big-name franchise vehicle. In 1993, Jurassic Park literally was the biggest film out there and held this title for months on end; everyone had either seen it or heard about it. It was impossible to escape the ongoing bombardment of merchandise and promotion. People stood in line to purchase tickets, and many returned multiple times to see the film on the big screen again and relive the wonder of seeing life-like dinosaurs.

Now, Jurassic World faces challenges the original film did not. Competition’s stiff. My hope is young boys and girls will be as captivated with this film as I was with the original. Marketing is in full swing already, with viral videos, a viral website, the film’s official website, images of the toys and merchandise popping up rapidly everywhere. Come June 2015, few people will not have heard of Jurassic World. Will this do the trick? Time will tell.

Speaking of marketing and merchandise; there’s the uproar over the new Hasbro toys too: ugly, generic, don’t fit with the original lines. I can’t deny I’m disappointed with this new toy line, especially when you take in consideration the fact that Hasbro had shown great potential during 2013 with the release of two entirely new sculpts. The Allosaurus and Pachyrhinosaurus enthralled collectors. These were high-quality toys that held the promise of much more! But the two remaining figures, Carnotaurus and Stegosaurus, were cancelled and the line was discontinued. 

The new Jurassic World toys indeed seem to miss that incredible detail and the spark of magic the original Jurassic Park (and The Lost World: Jurassic Park) toys and collector cards held; one of the new Velociraptors is even missing the iconic sickle-claws!

But these toys are not (just) made for the die-hard fans and collectors: they are targeted at a much younger audience. Most of us who are in our late twenties, early thirties have seen the original film in cinemas and were no doubt aware of that dino-sized marketing campaign which supported the film; we were lucky to have experienced it consciously. 1993 was dinosaur-heaven, with an unprecedented renewed interest not just for these animals, but paleontology, biology, research and even filmmaking and story telling. 

For me, it defined my childhood, and I can’t help but feel snippets of that very excitement and wonder whenever I see clips of the original film, hear its soundtrack, see a toy, a book or just the logo associated with it.

The sequels never brought this particular feeling back to me. They’re different - in a good way, they hold their own well enough. But they miss that bit of enchantment, that moment you first gaze up to observe the Brachiosaurus, the arrival at the Visitor Center, entering the laboratory to witness the hatching of a baby Velociraptor, an up-close encounter with a sick Triceratops so life-like it makes you choke up. None of the sequels contained such iconic scenes. Is it fair to expect Jurassic World will? Have we not raised the bar way too high for ourselves, and by doing so, don’t we run the risk of leaving the theatre utterly disappointed when that spark, that magical touch, the imagery which defined our childhood, turns out to be absent and replaced with new experiences somewhat alien to us now we are older and, possibly, a bit more cynical?

Will Jurassic World be as good as Jurassic Park? With a little luck, I dare say, “yes, it could be.” But it no doubt shall be different. All we can do for now is enjoy the ride and count down until June 2015!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Get your InGen pass !


Jurassic World is very much in progress. They have recently started their factious site


It turns out Masrani buys out InGen, and then continues the dino-dna game.


Get your own InGen id pass at:


Go to the bottom of the page and enter some info in the fields there. Clicking on Submit will take you to next page where you can upload your photo and generate a InGen id pass!


Along with this message.



Congratulations, and welcome to the Masrani Corporation!

Thank you for choosing to join one of the world’s fastest growing families. Given your set of skills, we are pleased to offer you employment as an Intern Genetic Biologist at International Genetic Technologies in San Diego, CA.

Your immediate supervisor is Dr. Henry Wu, Lead Genetic Scientist.

At Masrani we have a philosophy that combines vision with innovation to create success. We will ensure that these skills are presented to you in your orientation, and they will help to guide you through your journey at Masrani.

On your right, you will find an ID badge for you to complete for security purposes. Simply upload a photo of yourself using the upload tool below and you will see your ID card in full fruition.

We look forward to welcoming you as a new employee at InGen's state of the art laboratory facility. In the meanwhile, please continue to check back at for all the latest news, videos, and images.


Simon Masrani

Chief Executive Officer, Masrani

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Interstellar - Science and Fiction


Spoiler : (Biggest shocker for me:) Matt Damon’s character scientist/explorer Prof Mann is a negative role in the movie. It is his treachery which kick-starts the  third act of the movie. I didn’t see that coming, never expected Damon's 'small' role to have such a huge impact.

I watched this movie yesterday evening with my wife at a theatre in Bangalore, and I enjoyed it, though not thoroughly. I have been following this movie eagerly, ever since it was announced in 2009. When I heard the screenplay had been leaked, I scrounged the interweb for a copy, and read through. This version was before the Nolan's where involved, and I put this up on my blog so I could share the link with some like minded close friends. In a way , I am glad a big bulk of the original had been removed, the  whole part of the Chinese station, and two blackholes instead of one in the movie…but even the final trimmed version had excess baggage. Too much to explain in even 3 hours running time.

Enough has been said of the science of Interstellar, with experts and novices on both sides debating if the story holds credibility. I have no new thoughts on the matter, as physic and math were not my stronger subjects anyway. Nolan never made movies which where easy to understand, each one of his movies required careful rewinding and rewatching in order to fully grasp, except maybe for 2002's Insomnia. His movies are drenched with science fiction , gadgets and hero-improvising-at-the-last-moment, they are definitely not for the commoner. But here, I felt the movie was stretched too much, over space and time. Interstellar is not a movie about space travel, it is a movie about time travel. And relativity. And the director's vision that love is a fifth (or is it sixth?) dimension ,which can span across space and time. It is a beautiful work of art, and sound. I am sure the second and third acts were shot completely in a green screen, except the icy planet scene, which was shot at Svínafellsjökull glacier.

So here is the story: Prof Brand Senior wants to save the human species. He asks Cooper to take his daughter Amelia Brand and team on a  space mission to find another planet which can sustain life, so that humanity can populate it and continue. The assumption is that he can find a way to transport millions of humans over space-time to the new planet , after travelling back and forth through a wormhole. This he calls plan  A. And like any brilliant scientist, he has a plan B too. Plan B: In the highly unlikely event that the explorers cannot travel back via the blackhole, they drop a population bomb. They are to carry millions of fertilized eggs with them, which they will incubate..and reproduce via surrogates…and grown on the new planet, so that some part of the human species will live and flourish, but not the existing population alive on earth. Exactly how these eggs will be used is not fully explained, it was not in the original script either. But this ridiculous plan is just a failsafe, he assures them, by the time the mission returns, he would have solved the grand equation and found a way to travel both ways easily.

On his deathbed, he reveals to Murphy Cooper, that there never was a plan A. It would never have worked. The only way for humanity to continue was to populate the new planet with the fertilized eggs. There was no return journey possible. But he greatly under-estimated his pilot Cooper, and his fatherly affection to his children, and his gut determination to get back home. Cooper finds a way to survive the long journey, sends a message home to his daughter, thereby providing Murphy with the quantum data to solve Brand's equation completely, and by the time Cooper is found by earthlings again, his age by earth time is 120 years. What felt like days and hours for him in space time was decades back home. He meets his daughter on her deathbed, and then leaves on a final adventure to find Amelia Brand, who has by this time found an earth-like planet capable of sustaining humanity and life.

Review: Interstellar is not Nolan's best work. It lacks cohesiveness, and the polish seen with his previous works. The movie starts slow, too much time is spent on earth, establishing his family background and current condition on earth. I guess that part was to emphasize that his son Tom was not academically inclined, while his daughter Murphy is brilliant and tom-boyish (tom-boyish means , like Tom, right?). But again, too much time there, by the time the mission is launched and the first spectacle is put-up, (travel through the wormhole), we are nearing the halfway mark. During the launch process, the craft never contacts NASA ! So now we have a trained NASA pilot and some scientists in the spacecraft, but instead of sticking to scientific jargon, as one expects them, they revert to casual everyday talking in layman's terms. Romilly explains to Cooper how a wormhole works using a paper and pencil trick we first saw in the 1997 movie Event Horizon, which is not required because Cooper is a engineering wizard and a bookworm(remember his library back home ? and the original copy of a textbook which Murphy's school no longer follows?). All the scenes in outer space have no sound, accurate , because sound cannot travel in space. But by blanking out the sound it felt disconnected from the rest of the movie which had loud organs and synthesizer music. When they land on the first planet, which is too close to a blackhole, we see daylight there. But surely, it can't have daylight, because the planet is in orbit around a blackhole, and light cannot escape from a blackhole, right ? The gravity levels on the planet where one hour on the surface equals seven years elsewhere would crush all human life. The astronauts would also be squished and “spaghettified” by their proximity to a black hole.The robots TARS and CASE are robots, but they speak with undeniable sarcasm like humans. And even in an ultramodern spacejet, Cooper decides to fly manually to save fuel, even with all the computing power available to him. Surely the computer could have calculated the most fuel efficient path to the planet ? When Cooper and Amelia get back to Endurance, Romilly is there and has waited 23 years for them to return. How can a human wait 23 years locked up in a zero gravity environment, alone ? With no other human to talk to ? And the same question to Mann, alone on this frozen planet, locked up for decades. Anyway, Manns' first reaction on being awakened and seeing another human face was priceless, few actors could have pulled it off. Edmund's planet had better data, but they go to Mann's planet, because he was still transmitting. They just found out the Miller was still transmitting only because of the gravity distortion due to the blackhole, but Miller is already dead. Caution anyone ?

But what got to me most was the ending, the closure, or lack of. The part where Cooper falls into the blackhole into a tesseract, which connects to their library back home, and how Cooper communicates via gravity….it is the most stunning set pieces in Interstellar, with reality-bending visuals reminiscent of Inception. But it's also a ridiculously contrived cop-out twist, illogical, incoherent and profoundly unscientific. I know that the original script didn't have any of this gibberish. There, Cooper loads the quantum data onto a probe and sends the probe back to earth, which is the probe Cooper and family find at the start. That was so much more better. There was a question of matter travelling back, but at least there was nothing supernatural about it.


My best part in the movie would be after the explosion on Endurance, when Cooper tries to dock his ranger onto the Endurance. The graphics, sound was all perfect, and had us audience tightly hugging our seats and holding our breath. Of course we knew Cooper would dock the ship, but the build-up to it was spectacular.



Point of Interest: The probe Cooper finds at the start of the movie is from India ! It was supposedly from Delhi Mission Control. Clearly India has made giant leaps as a space superpower, but by the time they do it, the planet is dying !


Tailpiece: I am going back to my favourite space travel movie: Apollo 13. Again, the movie was ahead of its time, but it was simple and concise. And long shelf life too. I have already watched it some 50-something times. And time to revisit.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Costuming The Blacklist - Tyranny Of Style



The Blacklist, the new crime drama that pairs one of the FBI’s most wanted criminals with a rookie special agent to solve high-profile cases, has been one of the runaway hits of the Fall. This unique show has been keeping audience coming back week after week for a strong core of complex characters with fascinating stories that run up against a slew of domestic and international terrorists. The woman at the helm of dressing this remarkable range of characters is costume designer Christine Bean. I recently had the opportunity to ask her about her work on The Blacklist.

The Blacklist, Costume Designer Christine Bean

Tyranny of Style: Can you give us a brief description of your background in costume design?

Christine Bean: "I moved to LA to study Fashion Design at The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.  While working on my degree I had a series of internships in both fashion and film. It became clear to me that, like many people who move to Los Angeles, I was being drawn into the world of show business. After I graduated from FIDM I spent some time designing and assisting on low budget and student films, which led me to Western Costume where I learned a tremendous amount about period clothing and earned my union status. Following Western I worked in just about every role in the costume department. From set costumer to shopper I worked in LA for 10 years before moving to NYC, where I have been for the past 3 years. Through the years I costume designed several indie movies and assistant designed on big budget projects like The Dark Knight Rises and most recently Smash for NBC." 

T/S: The costumes for the Pilot of Blacklist were designed by Amy Westcott, can you speak a little to how you became involved with the show?

CB: "While finishing Season 2 of Smash I got a call from Amy Westcott regarding the pilot for The Blacklist. She was looking for an assistant designer and I came recommended from costume friends of hers. I was a huge fan of Amy's work and had wanted to work with her in LA but our paths had never crossed. I was thrilled to be able to have an opportunity to work with her in NYC. Amy and I had a seamless work style and a similar aesthetic, so although we had never worked together before, it felt very natural.

With Pilots, I think most designers think of taking them on as they would a feature film. There is no guarantee that the pilot will be picked up, so they often will have projects already lined up after the pilot and may not be available if it goes to series.  However, even if not available to do the series, their work has defined and established the characters. If the studio and network are happy with the look, then it will be the responsibility of the designer of the series to keep the continuity of the pilot while continuing with the development and evolution of the characters. Deservedly for all involved in creating the pilot of The Blacklist, it was picked up for 13 episodes after the pilot tested extremely well. When we got word that the pilot was picked up, Amy Westcott reached out to the producers and recommended that they hire me to design the series. 

Because I had been on the pilot, going onto the series felt like picking up where we had left off. I was able to secure much of the same crew that we had on the pilot as well, so it was a very easy transition for the actors, producers and crew."  

The Blacklist, Costume Designer Christine Bean

T/S: How much of the look of the costumes for the show were established by Westcott on the Pilot and at what point did the designs feel like yours?

CB: "Going into the series with a full cast and already having had the experience of working closely with them, I was really fortunate to be able to hit the ground running. One of the things from the pilot that I knew would be a priority was having Reddington's wardrobe custom made. The pilot was so fast that there wasn't enough turnaround time. The moment I got the call that I was hired, I starting choosing fabrics for shirts and suits. So while the 2nd episode opens with Reddington wearing his pilot wardrobe, by the first commercial he changes into a custom 3-piece suit, handmade shirt and a custom hat. That, with the addition of 4 series-regular cast members that had not been established in the pilot, it felt very much mine." 

T/S: Can you tell us a little bit about the difference between filming in NYC versus LA?

CB: "While the show is set to take place in Washington D.C., we film in NYC. Having worked in LA the majority of my career, I am still constantly adjusting to the logistical differences of the two. One thing is I miss the tremendous resources available in LA as far as costume rentals. Being able to access MPCC, Western, CRC and Sony is such a huge time and money saver. We have done episodes to have taken place in Montreal, Shanghai, Berlin, Texas, Miami, etc. so we are constantly looking for specific uniforms as well as general stock to really sell the location. It takes a lot more legwork in NYC to make this happen."

T/S: The character of Reddington, an incredibly wealthy criminal, is always so well dressed with coordinating overcoats, hats and accessories. Can you speak a little to the inspiration and references for his character, sourcing the appropriate pieces, and working with James Spader to develop this character?

CB: "It was important for both James and I to have Reddington be incredibly well dressed but still practical. Even though his wardrobe is extremely high-end, there is a utility-based concept behind each piece. His shoes are Italian with a beautiful pebble grain leather, but they also have a practical rubber sole. His Loro Piana outerwear, while from the finest cashmere and wool, is also wind and water repellent, with many pockets and a removable hood. He has suiting appropriate for various climates depending on where the episode may take him. We make sure that there is an underlying color palate so that pieces can be mixed and matched and repeated.  I am also careful to choose colors that make Reddington stand out from the FBI agents. He should not look like one of them. Often times pieces of his wardrobe are integrated into the storyline, such as in "Wujing" you see Red buying fedoras that he will later wear, and then in "Frederick Barnes" you see him being measured at a tailor shop, which is the real tailor used to custom make all of Reddington suits. 

Reddington Costume Research Board, Including Fabric Swatches, The Blacklist, Costume Designer Christine Bean

Finished look from research board above, The Blacklist, Costume Designer Christine Bean

When starting the design process of a Reddington suit, I usually start at Beckenstein's Fabrics in New York's garment district. I also source fabric from the Holland & Sherry showroom. Once I decide on a fabric I pick the specifications for the suit, for example if the lapel should be peak or notch, style of pockets, vest and pant details. We work with Martin Greenfield Tailor in Brooklyn to make all of Reddington's suits, vests and pants. The shoes, ties and socks we purchase from Paul Stuart, Zegna and Saks. The outerwear has been from the Loro Piana boutique in Manhattan, and the hats from JJ Hat Center or if a custom hat is required we use Worth & Worth."

The Blacklist, Costume Designer Christine Bean

T/S: Elizabeth Keen, the rookie Special Agent thrust into the center of these high profile cases exhibits such a wonderful range of strength and vulnerability. Can you speak a little to the inspiration and reference for her character, visually capturing her duality, sourcing garments, and working with Megan Boone to develop this character?

CB: "In creating Elizabeth Keen, we wanted to highlight the fact that she is balancing two lives, one is an ever increasingly high profile and dangerous career, and the other is being a wife and possibly a mother. While at work, her wardrobe represents the armor that Liz puts on to become Special Agent Keen- dark tailored suits, jewel tone blouses, and very little jewelry aside from her wedding rings. Keen is seeking respect from her fellow agents as well as Reddington. Additionally she needs to be able to run and wear a gun holster, so a tailored pant suit with low-heeled boots are her go-to uniform. At home and with Tom is where you see the side of Liz that is softer and more feminine. She is able to let her guard down and be more romantic, wear florals, lace, pastels, things that she couldn't wear to the FBI and be taken seriously. 

Elizabeth Keen Costume Research Board (left side- home, right side - work) The Blacklist, Costume Designer Christine Bean

The Blacklist, Costume Designer Christine Bean

For sourcing Liz wardrobe, her FBI looks are often Theory, Tahari, Reiss and Helmut Lang. Her casual and home looks come from Anthropologie, Zara, Rag & Bone, Rebecca Taylor and local/specialty shops such as Norbu and Bird in Williamsburg for interesting jewelry and accessories."

The Blacklist, Costume Designer Christine Bean

T/S: You dress such a huge range of extras and guest stars including everything from crowd scenes in both domestic and international locations, visiting dignitaries and international terrorists. How do you approach such variety in each episode, shifting gears, finding authentic global research, sourcing appropriate garments, and executing this large task?

CB: "Luckily I have an amazing team! An average week we will be filming one episode, prepping another, there will be a still photo shoot for crime scene photos, countless fittings, insert unit and often a tandem crew to overlap an episode, not to mention the concept, production and costume meetings that take place. Since I cannot be in all of these places at once, there would be no way to accomplish it all without a top-notch crew.  It requires that I put a lot of trust in each person in the department. For example, the last episode had a scene taking place in Germany, and it was decided that we needed 10 costumed beer maidens to work the next morning. I gave my assistants research and within an hour they had found a woman in Manhattan who came to our office with a suitcase full of authentic Bavarian dirndls.

The Blacklist, Costume Designer Christine Bean

Another time we were doing an episode taking place in Shanghai and I noticed that many of the female street vendors in Shanghai wore arm covers to protect their skin from the sun. I was unable to find them on-line or in stores, so overhearing the dilemma our tailor cut up some old hazmat suits and re-purposed them as disposable sleeves for the background.  It is small details like these that add to the production value of the show. Each person in my department is creative and resourceful, which keeps us one step ahead of the demands of The Blacklist." 

The Blacklist, Costume Designer Christine Bean

A special thanks to Christine for taking the time to talk with us about costuming The Blacklist. Check out The Blacklist, and Christine's incredible work Mondays on NBC 10/9c.

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Google Atari



Feeling Bored ? All you have is google ?

Open Google

Search for "Atari Breakout"

Click on Images, for Image search


Monday, October 27, 2014

Who Was Edmund Thomas Clint ?


Edmund Thomas Clint was the only son of M.T. Joseph and Chinnamma Joseph, a couple who hailed from Kochi, Kerala. His life was cut short to just 2522 days due to his prolonged illness and suffering due to kidney malfunction from the age of two. But despite all those sufferings he completed 25,000 pictures which were indeed breathstaking!

Clint used every medium: chalk, crayons, oil paints, and water colours to create drawings and paintings that depicted the world as he saw it. His collection stunned art admirers and critics who were astounded by his maturity and convinced of his artistic genius.

Clint passed away a month short of his seventh birthday leaving behind a treasure trove of art work. He had the unique ability to understand how people felt, and drew inspiration from these powerful emotions. Despite his young age, Clint created art that depicted intense themes like death, solitude, and love. In addition to being an artist, Clint was also a voracious reader. He was drawn to the drama of epics like the Mahabharata and Ramayana and was keen on listening to adventure stories like Robinson Crusoe. His mind grasped every detail described in these stories and then expressed them as a colorful canvas.

Clint's father was an ardent fan of the Hollywood actor, Clint Eastwood, and gave his son the actor's name. After Clint passed away, Sivakumar, renowned documentary film maker from India, made a documentary on the young artist's life and work. The film was shown at international film festivals and Clint Eastwood saw the documentary in Brazil. The actor was so touched by the story of Clint that he sent a message of condolence to Clint's parents and expressed sorrow at the child's untimely demise.



Thursday, September 18, 2014

HMT Watches To Shut Down


If you’ve been to Bangalore’s Lal Bagh gardens, chances are you’ve probably seen the iconic 7-metre wide Floral Clock set that sits in the lawns just as you enter the main gate:

Pic - indiamike

Pic – indiamike

That clock was made by HMT Watches, a government owned subsidiary of the Hindustan Machine Tools company, that is now being shut down after more than 5 decades of its existence.

If the name sounds familiar, it should—HMT Watches were market leaders in watch manufacturing and sales, being the first to introduce a multitude of models and different kinds of watches into India. One model, called ‘Kanchan’ was even known as the ‘dowry watch’, simply because entire weddings would be put on hold until the watch was made a part of the marriage agreement.

Pic - icultist | Flickr

Pic – icultist | Flickr

Our grandfathers would sport HMTs, not because it was a status symbol, but because it was a home-grown piece of manufacturing that actually worked and stood the test of time, much like the Hindustan Ambassador, which was also recently killed.

Started in collaboration with Japan’s Citizen Watches in 1961, HMT Watches were once the epitome of precision manufacturing and production. The following video, that was made in the 1970s, documents their rise to fame and the way they handled their production:

From clock towers to temple clocks, to the HMT Bhavan on Bellary Road in Bangalore, HMT Watches were literally everywhere:

The HMT clock at Chamundeshwari Temple, near Mysore Pic - Ryan | Flickr

The HMT clock at Chamundeshwari Temple, near Mysore
Pic – Ryan | Flickr

However, HMT’s dominance was slowly encroached upon by newer companies with newer technology in the 1980s, and even capital infusion into the company couldn’t turn the odds back to their favour. They constantly reported ever-growing losses, that last of which came in 2012-13, which saw the company incurlosses of Rs. 242.47 crores.

The shutting down of HMT Watches isn’t about the loss of just another company. It’s about the death of an iconic symbol in Indian history, the final breath of a once-great entity that people related to; the death of the “time keepers to the nation”.

1. HMT Watches were the first company to introduce Quartz watches into the Indian watch market. Yet, HMT is still one of the only remaining watch makers to regularly use mechanical components in their watches.

2. They were also the first to introduce Braille watches.

3. Indian movie star Sunny Deol still wears an HMT Watch, even though he has to wind it up every day.

4. The last HMT store is in Delhi’s Connaught Place.

5. HMT’s first watches were released by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.



Watch-lovers in India are in despair, now that it is clear that the iconic Indian watch brand, HMT, will soon be shutting down. Set up in 1961, HMT is a state-owned manufacturer that collaborated with Japan’s Citizen Watches to produce a range of watches that Indians were proud to sport. But the company, headquartered in Bangalore, has been making losses since 2000. This week, the government decided to shut HMT Watches and HMT Chinar Watches down on the recommendation of the Board for Reconstruction of Public Sector Enterprises.

A HMT watch was an integral part of the unofficial uniform of Indian office-goers through the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Even today collectors of HMT timepieces swear by the brand’s retro appeal, its reliability and its undeniably Indian flavour.

When online retailer Flipkart started selling HMT watches, the more popular models were sold out within minutes of listing it on the website, say watch collectors. HMT Watches started its own online sales in mid-August and many believed that this was a sign that the company was turning around. Its advertising slogan, "Timekeepers to the Nation", was certainly apt.

Prashant Pandey, a resident of Bangalore and HMT aficionado, has collected more than 500 pieces in just a few years. “I saw my grandfather wear a HMT watch,” he said. “My wife’s grandfather had a Pilot, which he passed on to me. There’s a lot of emotional attachment to these watches. I am shattered. This is a legacy coming to an end.”

This 1977 video from the Films Division explains the making of that legacy.

And here are some iconic designs of HMT Watches.


Among the first watches to be made by HMT, the Janata was a favourite of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. This winding watch was plain, affordable and had more than 25 variants. Janata watches have been known to tick on for more than 40 years.


The Pilot, along with Jawan, Sainik and Rakshak, were synonymous with the military. Though these were not specialised military watches, they were supplied to the Indian Army, Air Force and Navy, which were HMT’s biggest customers. The Pilot is a favourite of watch collectors.


The quintessential dress watch, the Sona was a winding watch and the thinnest model made by HMT. It is known for its high-quality gold plating.


This automatic model was also known as the "dowry watch". Pandey recounts stories he has heard of people lining up outside HMT showrooms as early as 5 am with letters from various political leaders recommending that a Kanchan watch be given to the bearer of the letter. “If there was no Kanchan watch then the marriage would not happen,” said Pandey.


The Astra was the first HMT watch with a digital chronograph, a stopwatch combined with the display. Buyers were willing to pay a lot more than company price to get their hands on it.

Old HMT watches are still in high demand among collectors. Pandey runs a blog to help HMT watch seekers avoid getting fleeced in the online market and says he gets a large number of requests for help to find Pilot watches. The key to the HMT watch, Pandey says, is that it looks like “a new antique”.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sony Ericsson T630



Sony have finally released the replacement for the T610 in Europe, coming out with the rather snazzy looking T630, available in a translucent frosted silver case in Europe and a semi-translucent black case in the United States.

It's a definite improvement over the T610 model in two important areas. Firstly, the screen is much better, having been borrowed from the Sony Ericsson Z600 model - consumer feedback on the T610's screen was pretty poor, so this will be a definite improvement. The second area is the inbuilt digital camera, which can now support an output of 640x480 pixels - although it appears that this is done in software and the camera is still a 352x288 pixel device.

Overall, the enhancements are pretty minor, but they do overcome most of the T610's shortcomings. However, probably the key selling point is the T630's looks - the packaging is very reminiscent of the fashionable Apple iPod look and it's quite likely that this will be the main sales driver for this phone.

The phone comes with the usual things like Java, GPRS, games, predictive text and polyphonic ringtones, so no surprises there.

What is interesting is the timing of the phone's release. The T630 was launched in Asia in late November 2003, but in Europe Sony Ericsson were still pushing sales of the T610 and keeping the T630 very much under their hat - announcing the T630 would probably have killed sales of the T610 altogether. This is bad news for customers who have just bought a T610 for Christmas, on the back of Sony Ericsson's extensive TV and press campaign.

Initial launch in Europe is on the T-Mobile network. The phone is free on many pay monthly tariffs.

Sony Ericsson T630
Sony Ericsson T630 Camera
Sony Ericsson T630 Joystick

Monday, September 15, 2014

Gertie the Dinosaur


Gertie the Dinosaur was released in 1914 by Windsor McCay. It was the first film to use some animation techniques such as keyframes and tracing paper, and was the first film to feature a dinosaur.

100 years later and we have come a long way in animation technology as well as scientific knowledge of dinosaurs. Hollywood has featured dinosaurs in popular science fiction movies, and BBC has published many documentary-style films about prehistoric life. In December 2013, BBC released a reboot of their popular Walking with Dinosaurs documentary with a new 3D film.

Happy centennial, Gertie!




Winsor McCay had made two animated films before "Gertie". The first, "Little Nemo"(using characters from his popular newspaper strip), debuted in 1911. "Little Nemo" used four thousand animation drawings. McCay then hand-colored the 35mm frames to achieve a very striking effect. The film was used in his vaudeville act. There is no storyline to "Little Nemo"; it is more of an experiment in movement. The animation is quite precise and the effect very dreamlike.

"Little Nemo" was well received, and McCay began work on his second film, "The Story Of A Mosquito". The film took one year to complete. "The Story of a Mosquito" tells a comic story of a mosquito's encounter with a drunken man. The film also made a big hit, but theatre patrons suspected that McCay was performing some sort of trick with wires. Motion pictures were quite new, and movie audiences were quite naive and still getting accustomed to the idea. The idea of a drawing coming to life was almost unheard of.

McCay decided to animate a Dinosaur to prove that his drawings were moving. The notion of bringing a dinosaur "to life" was astonishing. Thus, in 1913 McCay began to animate "Gertie The Dinosaur".

McCay enlisted the help of a young neighbor, John A. Fitzsimmons. Fitzsimmons traced the backgrounds onto rice paper, and McCay did all the drawings of Gertie. Ten thousand drawings were inked on rice paper and then mounted on cardboard for registration. By mounting them on cardboard, McCay was able to flip the drawings through a primitive machine to check his work.

Without guidance, or anything but his own experience to rely on, McCay produced an astonishing piece of animation that holds up even to today's standards. McCay painstakingly animated details such as particles of dirt falling, and water dripping. He gave Gertie personality and emotions. We see her eating, drinking, playing, and even crying.

In February of 1914, "Gertie the Dinosaur" debuted in Chicago as part of McCay's vaudeville act.

McCay, brandishing a whip, would appear onstage to the right of a movie screen. He would first speak to the audience, explaining how animated films were made, photographed, and projected. He would then introduce Gertie as "the only Dinosaur in captivity". At the crack of the whip, the film would start.

At first, Gertie shyly pokes her head out from behind some rocks in the distance. She is hidden, and the audience has no indication of her height and girth.

McCay encourages Gertie and cracks the whip several more times. Finally, Gertie hops out from behind the rocks, and lumbers towards the audience. On her way to the foreground, Gertie picks up a rock and swallows it whole. As she reaches the foreground, she casually, bites off most of a tree and eats it.

McCay cracks his whip, and commands Gertie to bow to the audience, and to raise her foot. At one point Gertie gets angry and snaps at McCay. The animation here is tremendous as Gertie lunges forward towards McCay. McCay scolds Gertie, and she begins to cry.

McCay appeases Gertie by offering her an apple. In a wonderful example of interaction with Gertie, McCay appears to toss an apple towards Gertie. The apple appears on the screen, and Gertie catches it in her mouth.

As the act proceeds, Gertie continues to be distracted from obeying McCay. A sea monster momentarily appears in the lake, a four-winged lizard flies across the background. At one point a Wooly Mammoth, "Jumbo" walks across the screen in front of Gertie. She picks him up by the tail and hurls him into the lake. While Gertie dances in triumph, Jumbo squirts her with water. She retaliates by picking up a rock and throwing it at him.

Gertie becomes thirsty from all of her activities, and decides to take a drink from the lake. She drinks the lake dry.

In the films finale, McCay himself walks onto the screen and becomes part of the animation. He cracks his whip, and Gertie obediently places him on her back. Together they walk off camera.

The act was an instant sensation, and Gertie became one of the first cartoon "stars". Although no film exists of McCay performing the act, in September of 1914 a film with a live-action prologue and epilogue was produced. In the film McCay makes a bet with friends that he can bring a Dinosaur to life. McCay's stage dialogue with Gertie was replaced with inter-titles, and the film still kept much of its charm.

A film with a "star" and a storyline, "Gertie the Dinosaur" became a landmark in the history of animation.

Of the ten thousand drawings used to make the film, only about four hundred are known to exist.

McCay went on to create several more animated films, and made one of the first to use Cels rather than paper. "Gertie" still stands as his masterpiece, and the most influential animated film of all time.