Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Travelling with an infant

“Can you take her along with you?”, quizzed my sister on hearing my travel plans to Ernakulam. She added, “You can leave her with mom. Her school has closed for vacation.” The “her” in the conversation is my niece who turned three a couple of months back.

I panicked! My niece is way past the age of diapers. Travelling by bus is all the more difficult since there are no rest areas en route. Most of the buses have scheduled stops on the way in front of restaurants for eating or cleaning up. But I wouldn’t use one of their toilets. How could I subjugate my niece to such hell?

I panicked again! My wife is away with her parents. She is more adept at handling my niece. Last time, when my niece slept over at our place, she skillfully built up an imaginary big butterfly. My niece slept peacefully anticipating an encounter with the big butterfly in the morning and she stopped asking for her parents.

Life is all about new experiences. So, I decided to try it out. I called up the travel agent and booked one more ticket adjacent to my seat. The bus was scheduled at 9 pm on Friday. I reached my sister’s home at 7:30 pm. After having dinner, we put diapers on my niece. Much to our surprise, she did not resist. All along, my sister repeatedly advised my niece to listen to her uncle.

After boarding the bus, my niece opened a box full of chocos and munched on them. Her mom waved her goodbye from outside the bus. My niece calmly kept on munching chocos while her mom went back. I heaved a sigh of relief when she let her mom walk away without any fuzz.

When the bus started moving, the box of chocos were almost empty and she was peering out of windows. After finishing the chocos and drinking water from her bottle, she kept gazing outside. In twenty minutes, she was tired and wanted to rest closer to me. I lifted the divider between us and let her rest on my lap. She fell asleep and soon, I followed the same course.

In the morning, she woke up without any tantrums. We walked out the bus, collected our luggage and hailed an auto rickshaw. She patiently waited while I loaded the luggage. We reached mom’s place in 10 minutes and I handed over my niece to my mom.

On retrospective, the trip was uneventful. There were not restroom breaks and my niece was in the best of behavior. But, whenever you travel in India, lack of rest areas is a major concern causing panic attacks.

Earlier, when Reliance was operating their gas station, they had A1 Plaza adjacent to their gas stations. A1 Plaza provided food, clean rest areas and entertainment lounge. I have also found a rest area operated by BP or HP(very confusing for me!) on NH 47 near Salem. This one had a playing area for children too. I had to drag my daughter off the swing.

If there are good rest areas, it will be convenient for us while travelling by car. If the interstate buses stop at good rest areas, it will be convenient for the passengers and terrified uncles like me.

 

Monday, March 30, 2009

Movie: Sagar Alias Jacky Reloaded

“Sagar Alias Jacky” says Mohanlal to Ambika and walks out of the elevator in “Irupathaam Noottandu”. Mohanlal plays Sagar alias Jacky and Ambika plays a reporter working for an English weekly

“Sagar Alias Jacky” says Mohanlal to Bhavana in this new age version, walks down the staircase and in midway, fling his jacket over his shoulder. Mohanlal plays the same gangster Sagar alias Jacky while Bhavana plays Arti Menon who is a TV journalist with CMM.

When Sagar Alias Jacky got a facelift with Reloaded, a lot of things have changed. Sagar does not wear simple shirts (with buttons about to burst) anymore. He wears designer shirts, jeans and jackets covering up the expanding girth and oozing coolth. His operations are no longer restricted to Kerala. He has moved to Dubai. He no longer travels in a Maruti 800. He charters a jet to fly to India and always travels on road in an Hummer. He can use a rifle like Jason Bourne and also be a Chow Yun-Fat in a two handed pistol fight. As a result of all these changes, we get a very pleasurable viewing.

Manu(Manoj K. Jayan), who is CM’s son-in-law, is kidnapped. His wife, Indu (Shobana) gets a phone call asking for ransom. While the CM wants to help, his son Hari (Ganesh) refrains the police from interfering. As a result, Indu picks up the phone and dials for Sagar.

Meanwhile, Sagar alias Jacky,(Mohanlal) is intercepting the rivals of Naina(Telugu actor Suman) near Abudhabi-Dubai border. He is dressed up as the Dubai police and snatches the diamonds. He transports the diamonds using a pet eagle while he travels by road after a dress change. He meets up with Sniper Sheikh(Hindi actor Mukul Dev), a friend of Naina, after retrieving the diamonds from the eagle and a friend(Anthony Perumbavoor playing a cameo). But, Sagar is double-crossed by Naina and so, he give fake diamonds to Sniper Sheikh.

After this incident, Sagar alias Jacky(SAJ) goes to Kerala. He gathers up his boys and ends up in Goa searching for Manu. Manu is held captive by Rosario brothers(Tamil actor Sampath and Hindi actor Sherveer Vakkil). Manu is leading a double life and owes money to the Rosarios as gambling debt. SAJ saves Manu from the clutches of younger Rosario brother(Sherveer Vakkil) but leaves behind one of his men, Azhar, to bring back Manu’s car.

Manu is reunited with the family. But Azhar does not come back. Now, SAJ goes back to Goa to ensure “No man left behind” and gets back Azhar. This time, he has rubbed the older Rosario(Sampath) the wrong way. The villains enlists Manu and with Manu’s help, tries to attack SAJ. SAJ is victorious in the confrontation.

Manu has a change of heart and decides to part ways with the Rosarios. Rosarios kill Manu with the help of Sniper Sheikh. SAJ is blamed for the murder. But there aren’t enough evidence to link the murder charges to SAJ. Finally, SAJ cleans up the villains avenging Manu’s death.

On a parallel track, there is a TV reporter, Arti Menon(Bhavana), who secretly loves SAJ.

Amal Neerad has made an interesting movie. Amal has set the movie in Kochi, Goa, Leh and Dubai. He has also helmed the camera thereby making this movie a stylishly shot thriller. Here, the technology(flash cuts and slow motions) enhances the visual appeal.

SN Swami, the creator of SAJ, has reworked on the script. He has retained the famous dialogues in “Irupathaam Noottandu”. He has written the new story rhyming with the story of the predecessor.

Yesteryear’s background music by Shyam has been remixed by Gopi Sundhar.

The biggest weakness of this move is it’s climax. If you can forgive SN Swami and Amal Neerad for the climax, this is a great thriller. Go watch it. Accept the cinematic liberties taken and forgive the plot holes.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Movie: Lakeview Terrace

Abel Turner(Samuel L Jackson) is living with his son and daughter in Lakeview Terrace, an housing community in LA. The neighborhood is quiet and Abel, being a cop, watches over the community. He is a strict disciplinarian with his kids and has been bringing up them alone after the loss of his wife in an accident.

Chris(Patrick Wilson) and Lisa(Kerry Washington) moves into Lakeview Terrace and becomes Abel’s neighbor. As they set up their new home, tensions start building up between Abel and Chris. Abel dislikes the interracial couple and the open display of affection. He also dislikes his kids getting friendly with the new neighbors. At one point, Abel’s anger and contempt makes him to cross the lines.

Neil LaBute directs this thriller. He sets the tone of the movie gradually and keep the viewers engrossed. He builds the drama by making Abel react to the environment created by his new neighbors. You see a disciplinarian Abel Turner in the initial part of the movie. Slowly, the mask is taken off and the inner demons come out.

Samuel L Jackson is apt as Abel Turner. Without going overboard, he is able to portray a prejudiced person. The movie rests on his shoulders.

Watch it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Movie: Pineapple Express

Dale(Seth Rogen) is a process server, who makes a living by serving subpoenas. He loves to smoke weed and aspires to be a talk show host on radio. Saul(James Franco) is Dale’s drug supplier.

After obtaining a new variant of weed named Pineapple Express, Dale goes to serve subpoena to Ted(Gary Cole), a drug kingpin. There, he witnesses a murder by committed by Ted and Officer Carol(Rosie Perez). He throws away the roach and escapes. Ted figures out the supplier from the roach and sends out his hitmen after Dale and Saul. Now, Dale and Saul starts running away from Ted.

What promises to an excellent chase movie on paper does not translate into one on screen. Probably, it was because I was not high on Pineapple Express to enjoy the movie! The movie moves at a snail’s pace.

James Franco, in the role of drug dealer, surprises us. This is a departure from his usual roles as a handsome boy. Seth Rogen is okay. Overall, the movie is worth a miss.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Movie: Sweeney Todd

This is a musical. Since the makers have not highlighted this in the trailer, you might be surprised.

Benjamin Barkin(Johnny Depp) returns to London after many years. He was a successful barber in London and had a family comprising of a beautiful wife and a toddler girl. But a vile Judge Turpin(Alan Rickman) imprisons Benjamin on false charges in order to satisfy his lust for Benjamin’s wife. Now, Benjamin Barkin is returning to London as Sweeney Todd to find his family.

Todd visits his old house. Mrs Nellie Lovett(Helena Bonham Carter) is running a pie shop underneath his old house. Nellie tells Todd about what happened to his family. After being raped by Turpin, Todd’s wife committed suicide. Judge Turpin adopted Todd’s daughter after this incident.

Now, Todd plots Turpin’s murder. He is almost successful but Turpin escapes the first attempt. Angered by Turpin’s escape and persuaded by Nellie’s, Todd starts murdering innocent people. Nellie processes and makes meat pies out of the dead bodies.

Finally, Todd manages to extract his revenge on Turpin. But the story ends in a tragedy.

Tim Burton, master of weird, has directed the movie. Characteristic to his style of filmmaking, this movie is shot with a dark tone. He is successful in giving us some chills in several gory scenes. Some of the gory scenes have been censored on the DVD. This brings in a loss of continuity while watching the movie and a disappointment for the Indian viewer.

Johnny Depp is excellent with his quirky acting and singing. He brings in the high and low notes beautifully with his voice, face and body. Helena Bonham Carter is good as evil Nellie.

If you despise blood on the screen, this is not for you. The movie will not go down well with your dinner.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Srirangapatnam

Srirangapatnam is the former capital of Tipu Sultan. After visiting Melkote, we left for Srirangapatnam, which was around 35 kms away. The roads were in good condition and we reached within an hour.

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Our first stop was Dariya Daulat Bagh. This was Tipu’s Summer Palace and is situated in the middle of well maintained garden. Inside the palace, the walls are painted with depictions of various wars of Hyder Ali (Tipu’s father) and Tipu Sultan. Inside the museum, there are pictures of famous personalities and forts during the Tipu era. There is a life sized picture of Prince Tipu too.

After seeing the Summer Palace, we were all hungry. We found a resort, Amblee Holiday Resort overlooking the waters of Cauveri. The resort houses turkeys and ducks for the amusement of the visitors. We had a great lunch right by the Cauveri river.

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After lunch, we left for Sangama. Sangama marks the point where two branches of Cauvery unites. They have a Siva linga placed in the river to mark the place of union. You can touch this Siva linga by going in a round boat. The locals charge Rs 100 for a ride and a round boat can carry 5 people. Make sure you bargain with them as it is a very short ride lasting couple of minutes.

We visited Gumbaz after Sangama. This is Tipu’s mausoleum. Like the Summer Palace, the mausoleum lies in the middle of a well maintained garden. After Gumbaz, we visited the Obelisk, marking the spot where Tipu’s body was found and identified after storming of Srirangapatnam by the British. Before bidding goodbye to the former capital city, we spent some time by the Wellesley bridge.

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How to get there?

  1. Take Mysore Road (SH17) to Srirangapatnam via Maddur and Mandya.

What to do there?

  1. Jama Masjid
  2. Sri Ranganathaswamy temple
  3. Captain Bailey’s Dungeon
  4. The Oblelisk
  5. Dariya Daulat Baug
  6. Gumbaz
  7. Sangama
  8. Dodda Ghosai Ghat

What to wear?

It is hot out there mostly. I advice you to wear shorts. Try layered clothing in case you visit during the rains or winter.

Melkote

On Sunday at 6:12 am, I woke up from deep slumber. I was supposed to meet my friends at 6 am at Bommanahalli. We had booked an Innova the previous day and my friends were waiting for me to arrive. I scrambled, got ready and reached Bommanahalli at 7 pm.

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After the customary photo session to kick off the journey, we started off. Being Sunday, the traffic was light in the morning. We had a stopover at Maddur for a filling gas. We had a short tea break. From Maddur, we had a non stop journey till Melkote.

Melkote boasts of a group of small hills. A Vishnu temple is located at the heart of Melkote. We visited the temple and sat outside the temple in the mandap. A couple of friends played “Who can touch the roof” game in the mandap. We captured that on camera.

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Very close to the temple, there is an artificial pond named Kalyani. The pond is built by digging deep into the earth and is rectangular in size. They have built steps all around the pond in stones. The water was green in color indicating algae. There are mandaps built at the top of the steps.

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We left for Srirangapatnam from there.

How to get there?

  1. Take Mysore Road (SH 17) towards Mysore.
  2. Take a right after Mandya (There are signposts indicating the direction towards Melkote).

What to do there?

  1. Cheluvanarayana Swami temple
  2. Kalyani

What to wear?

It is hot out there mostly. I advice you to wear shorts. Try layered clothing in case you visit during the rains or winter.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Movie: Flashbacks of a Fool

Joe Scott(Daniel Craig) is a fading star. He was famous and successful. But now, he is faltering because of his lifestyle. After losing out on a major deal, he reminisces his past.

Following a tragedy and consumed by guilt, Joe ran away from home to become an actor. He left behind his family, his best friend and his first crush.

Now, he goes back to his village to meet his first crush. She had married his best friend and her husband has passed away now.

The movie is very slow and has a dark tone. There are no twists and turns. The music in the movie becomes very annoying at times. Daniel Craig is good and shows us he can do something beyond Bond.

The movie has love making scenes. So, view with discretion if kids are around.

As the movie is predictable and holds no surprises, watch it if you want to calm your nerves with a drink and a movie.

Restaurant: Chandni Chowk

Chandni Chowk has a roof thatched from dried coconut leaves and a floor made by laying loose metal that is used for construction. The roof gives it a look of a hut and the metal makes it hard to walk on the restaurant floor. But, they serve excellent food.

Chandni Chowk is located in Koramangala just a stone’s throwaway from the famous Sony World junction. It has ample parking space.

The kebabs are excellent here. Unlike many places in Bangalore which boasts of kebabs and serve it after deep frying in oil, Chandni Chowk offers authentic kebabs grilled in tandoor. I ordered Butter Nan. The nan was dripping  makhan. It was delicious and brought back memories of Gurgaon.


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Friday, March 20, 2009

Pen drives and Security

In one of my earlier projects, we were working on two networks – one was the network of my company and the other was the network of the my client. The client’s network was very restricted as we were connecting through a link and their security policy was very restrictive. We spent major part of the day working on the client’s network. This fueled our frustration as we were not able to download free software to aid development activities or access Google from their network.

In order to overcome this hurdle, some of my colleagues used pen drives to transfer data. Although we admonished the perpetrators, it was very difficult to track these activities. Moreover, as they were a lot of young people on board, some of them either didn’t realize the importance of not doing so or were forced to take a short cut due to the mounting pressure from the stringent deadlines.

Last week, I was listening to Richard Clarke’s interview on internet and the lack of security. In his interview, he talks about the security breach in Pentagon. Pentagon has two sets of networks – classified and unclassified. People were downloading programs from unclassified network into their thumb drives and uploading these into the classified network. The Russians, after figuring this out, came out with a virus that looked for these internet addresses in the unclassified network and then the computers on the unclassified network with thumb drives. The virus was downloaded onto the thumb drive on these computers. The virus then was then propagated to the classified network when somebody was transferring files.

There is no point in having two networks unless there is a discipline inbuilt in the users. Richard Clarke emphasizes on the discipline.

In order to avoid further mishaps like this, Pentagon went around with cement and blocked all thumb drives on the computers. Though cementing technique may seem harsh, this was an efficient way to prevent further damages!

Security protocols are implemented so that our sensitive information is not leaked to the customer. What is sensitive information? Anything and everything is sensitive. The world is full of brainy people. They can easily backtrack and find out more information from the seemingly non-vital information.

So the next time, you are cutting corners, think twice. It is always hard to do the right thing.

Movie: Mamma Mia!

Mamma Mia! is movie adapted from a successful Broadway show. The movie (and the show) use the songs from ABBA, the Swedish pop music group.

The movie opens up with Sophie confessing to her friends about reading her mom’s diary. Her mom, Donna(Meryl Streep), has written her encounters with three men – Sam(Pierce Brosnan), Harry(Stellan Skarsgard) and Bill(Colin Firth). Any of these three men could be Sophie’s father. So, Sophie invites all three men to her wedding. The idea is simple. She will know who is her father when she see all three and her father will give her away.

All three arrive for the wedding. Sophie is confused. Sophie hides them away from Donna. What happens next forms the story.

The movie is very entertaining. Being a musical, there is a wafer-thin plot. The song and dance sequences are a delight to watch. All the main characters have lent their voices for the songs.

Meryl Streep has performed well and stands out. Whether it is her hysteria about her high maintenance hotel or performing as Donna’s Dynamos, she breathes life and energy into Donna. She is looking beautiful as ever although (I think) in real life, she is older than at least two of  the three leading men.

The men have very little to do. After seeing him in Bond avatar, Pierce Brosnan in a singing avatar was difficult to digest. There was something missing in his singing too.

This movie is recommended.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A night of revelry

Last Saturday, I invited a group of friends home for drinks. I was conferred the status of “Single But Do Not Mingle” on preceding Monday. “Single” due to my spouse’s visit to her parents and “Do not Mingle” due to the commitment ring. Fortune smiled on me as my brother-in-law and his friend were also conferred the same title for a brief period of 3 days. The girls were supremely confident about our lack of finesse in mingling. They know better. Amen!

To celebrate, we gathered at my apartment. I was able to gather 7 friends and these friends fell under three different categories.

  1. Youngsters: These are young Turks. They are brimming with energy and wants to do everything possible in life. Below 25 years of age.
  2. Middle Aged: These are young but not Turks. They have seen much in life and at the same time, are willing to experiment more. Lies in the range between 25 years and 30 years.
  3. Super Seniors: Above 30 yrs of age. I and a friend constituted this group. (Stop counting! I am indeed above 30. Let’s keep it simple and uncomplicated!)

As the night wore on, we realized the supplies of liquor were dwindling. As a result, we made a second trip to the liquor store for replenishing the stock. The conversation grew louder as the supplies dipped in levels.

We ordered food. Although I wasn’t drunk, I gave them the wrong apartment number. Luckily, the delivery boy was able to find the apartment from the noise levels.

After the dinner, the enthusiasm levels dipped. The youngsters ended up on both sides of the couch giving the nice bed and mattress the boot. The middle aged found a comfortable resting place on the bed and mattresses.

We woke up the next day with terrible hang over. Slowly, good byes were exchanged and friends left one by one. The maid cleaned up the place, removed the bottles and the leftovers.

Having a diverse group also brought out some interesting observations.

  • While the youngsters gulped down their drinks, the middle aged and super seniors sipped their drinks.
  • To the boredom of youngsters, the middle aged and super seniors started discussing politics and history after getting high.
  • Middle Aged shot down the technical solutions from the youngsters.
  • Youngsters displayed the knowledge of cars and bikes openly to the silence of other groups.
  • Super Seniors talked seldom

As we age, our tastes differs. Sitting here, I’m glad I can empathize with each slice of life. Not because I have been there and done that, but because I had the similar zest for life in those stages.

Movie: The Brave One

Erica Bain(played by Jodie Foster)  is a radio show host working out of NY. On an evening stroll, she and her boyfriend is assaulted. Erica survives while her boyfriend dies. It takes a while for Erica to piece together her sanity. After the incident, she is afraid of the city. In order to walk on the streets, she gets a gun illegally. In a shoot out in a local store, Erica uses her gun to escape from the robber. She kills the robber. Although shaken, she recovers quickly.She begins walking the nights and cleaning up bad elements.

Meanwhile, Detective Mercer(played by Terence Howard) is in charge of all the murders committed by Erica Bain. He is also big fan of Erica as he loves her radio show. Mercer gets friendly with Erica and slowly figures out the killer. He is torn between friendship and duty. Finally, Mercer helps Erica to complete her revenge. He concocts a story so as to clear Erica.

Jodie Foster and Terence Howard have done similar roles in the past. They have given a decent performance in this movie. NY is shown in a darker tone setting the mood for the movie. This is an ideal watch on a weekday.

Erica Bain conveys the transformation after a life-altering incident in a conversation with Detective Mercer. Mercer ask Erica about how she managed to come back after the incident. Erica looks at Mercer and slowly replies that she did not come back. She became a different person.

You are right, Erica. We become a different person when we are shaken up.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Movie: Made of Honor

Patrick Dempsey and Michelle Monaghan become best friends after an accidental meeting. Now, they have been friends for 10 years. Patrick Dempsey is a compulsive womanizer with eccentric rules. Michelle Monaghan is his secret keeper while harboring feelings for Patrick Dempsey.

On a trip to Scotland, Michelle gets engaged to a Scotsman. She comes back to NY and requests Patrick to be her maid of honor. Realizing the potential for breaking up the marriage from within, Patrick agrees. Somewhere in between all the basketball games and playing weird games in quilts, Patrick and Michelle unites.

The movie starts off on an interesting note. 20 minutes into the movie, it runs out of steam. This is made of boredom. Not even the Scottish landscapes can save this movie.

Hospitals, Revenues, …

A recent conversation with my uncle turned towards the topic of hospitals and doctors. He was recuperating after a angioplasty. Following the operation, he started bleeding. The doctors stopped the bleeding in time. The vein, that had been cut for angioplasty, was reopened while he was resting after the surgery. This may be due to sudden movements.

“The bed was full of blood. I imagined going directly to first floor. But now, I’m shuttling between the third and the second floor”, my uncle recounts the experience and chuckles. In the hospital, morgue is in the first floor whereas the operating theater and his room are on the second and third floor respectively. I couldn’t help laughing. Why lose an opportunity to crack a joke and why lose an opportunity to appreciate the joke?

A week before my uncle underwent angioplasty, an angiogram was conducted on him. After the angiogram, he had a slight pain in the area where they used the medical equipment. While doctor was doing the final checkup before discharging, my uncle remarked about it. As a result, he underwent additional examinations.

“A pain that costs me Rs 1000!”, says my uncle. “Others in the hospital, who underwent angiogram, experienced the same pain. The pain diminishes as the day progresses. They kept quiet. I opened my mouth and I’m Rs 1000 lighter”, he continues.

I’m not a doctor or a healthcare professional. I go to an hospital, when I’m in need, hoping they know what to do. But how do I know if they are lying? Even I have a hunch about the lies, will I take a risk with the life of a dear one?

Revenue generation has become a major criteria in our life. In order to sustain, we need the revenues to come in. How do the hospitals generate the revenues? Try the recurring revenue model on the patients. We suck you in deeper with more examinations!

Movie: Kung-Fu Panda

Since this is an animated movie, it has voices of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, and Seth Rogen. The movie lives up to the famous and successful names and provides good entertainment.

Shifu, an old master, has been training  Tigress, Monkey, Mantis, Viper and Crane (The Famous Five) for a number of years. Shifu wants one of them to become the Dragon Warrior. By a quirk of fate, Po (the panda), who is the noodle guy for generations, is chosen to as Dragon Warrior.

Tai Lung escapes the prison and threatens the peace in the valley. He is a former disciple of Shifu. He was imprisoned after a violent attempt to become the Dragon Warrior.

Shifu and his famous five despise Po. Shifu, after initial hesitation, trains Po to become the Dragon Warrior. Po fights Tai Lung to emerge victorious. The famous five along with the people in valley honors Po.

The movie has amazing fight scenes especially Tai Lung’s escape from prison and “the Famous five”- “Tai Lung” encounter on the rope bridge. The great actors and the funny actors makes this a good watch.

Finally, there are two good lessons from the movie. Shifu, after finding Panda’s craving for food while under duress, finds an innovative way to train him. Shifu teaches us how to be a good mentor. The second lesson is the secret of the Dragon Scroll.

Enjoy the movie.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Data and Connected Data

At my workplace, I have asked and been asked for providing raw data for analysis. It is easier to derive information out of the raw data. Often this is a time consuming process for the people involved.

There are times when the raw data has to be collected before any level of information can be derived from them. This is a time consuming process. During this hazy period, we rely on our perception which is not always correct.

Tim Berners-Lee talks about history of the browser and calls for making raw data available over the net. He sees data sharing as the future. He also explains the three rules for data sharing.

  1. The URL should point to data.
  2. Anyone accessing the URL should get data back.
  3. Relationships in the data should point to other URLs with data.

Car-o-Bar

I was invited to a Car-O-Bar late in the night yesterday. Having acquired a temporary single status, I’m suddenly a target for all these friendly invitations. I was watching a movie on DVD when I got a call from my neighbor inviting me to the Car-O-Bar.

A Maruti Esteem in the parking garage was the “Car” and a bottle of rum with Coke was the “Bar” which made up this Car-O-Bar. Although I did not drink, I met up with my neighbors for a chit-chat in the Car-O-Bar.

I’m comfortable in having a drink perched around a table. I dislike drinking in constricted space unless I’m already wasted. Moreover, the car stinks after the party.

Car-O-Bar is a viable option in the recession. I encountered this phenomenon in Delhi for the first time where the locals favor drinking in the car.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Movie: Knocked Up

Seth Rogen and Katherine Hiegl play the oddball couple in this comedy. After a one night stand, Katherine Hiegl gets Knocked Up. Then, the movie deals with their life in the following weeks till childbirth.

Seth Rogen is a slacker while Katherine Hiegl is a successful executive. They are not your typical couple and this actually fuels a lot of laughs. Paul Rudd, playing Katherine Hiegl’s brother-in-law is funny. In his characteristic style, Paul Rudd performs hilarious sequences with a straight face and without going overboard.

The parents of the protagonists also evoke laughter. Seth’s dad wants to keep the child while Katherine’s mom is against it. To add to the drama, Katherine’s sister disapproves of Seth.

The derivatives of the four letter word are sprinkled liberally in the movie. But, I didn’t feel the dialogues to be vulgar at any point in the movie.

The movie focuses on the relationship between two diametrically opposite personalities. It is a long movie (tipping over 2 hours). But this is a perfect watch during the weekend.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Nonconsent and Shame

At 7:30 pm yesterday, I was engaged in a conversation with my friend outside my office. We were standing below the short slope connecting my office to the service road.

In the middle of the engaging conversation, my friend exclaimed, “Oh shoot! What did that guy do?”. I was facing away from the service road. So, I turned around towards my friend’s line of vision to find two young girls waiting for an autorickshaw. I was puzzled. Then, my friend explained.

The girls were waiting in the service road. Two guys on a motorbike came near them and grabbed at one of them. The guys, on the bike, moved away as if nothing has happened. This was all over in 5 seconds.

Although it was dark, the road was well lit. It is not a deserted area too. They were standing in front of an office building.

It was a mean and shameful act!

As a city grows, so does the population of miscreants. Does this mean the girls aren’t safe in Bangalore anymore? Don’t we have even a tiny bit of decency in us anymore?

As for the ladies, I advice you to learn self defense. Find out a self defense class (for defending against eve teasers) near your house or office and enroll in one. It is worthwhile. One karate chop and these guys would have fallen off the bike!

Following this incident, we went up to the girls and waited till they got on to a bus. The girls were grateful and we felt better. A day has gone by since the incident. But, I’m still haunted by the look of shame and helplessness in her eyes. Is this best we can do?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Movie: Slumdog Millionaire

The movie is an average fare. Having read the novel, I was disappointed at the liberties taken while adapting this to screen and also at the lack of clarity on how the Jamal was able to answer certain questions. There are a few changes from the novel while adapting it to the screen.

  • Ram Mohamed Thomas is replaced by Jamal Malik. There goes the “John Jaani Janardhan” touch from the book. Simon (Beaufoy) does not understand the importance of secularism in Indian movies, thereby losing out on an opportunity to pay homage to Naseeb.
  • The lucky coin of Ram Mohamed Thomas is gone! It does not affect the movie. But this was a reference to one of the greatest action movie coming out of Indian film industry (Sholay).
  • Jamal has a brother, Salim Malik, more successful than him and with lesser morals. This provides additional drama. Salim’s frustration at his love struck brother reminds one of Parinda.
  • Latika, Jamal’s love interest, have a more meatier and a different role from the novel.

As the movie progresses, the questions are asked and then Jamal goes down his memory lane. This technique is good as long as there is a clear indication on how Jamal came to know about the answer for the audience. You finish the movie and ponder about how Jamal would have answered the question. I wished Danny Boyle had not left it open-ended. There are movies where I like this aspect. But, this is definitely not one of them.

But, there are some good points to the movie

  • Luck plays an important role in the guise of audience poll and on the final answer when Jamal is elated after talking to Latika.
  • Jamal’s love story raises a toast to the hugely successful formulaic love stories seen in the Indian mainstream cinema. As the credit rolls out, Jamal and Latika shakes a leg to “Jai Ho”.
  • While Jamal and Salim runs away from the cops through the congested lanes of Dharavi, the camera pans out with breaks to revealing an aerial view of the slums. Even the chase was excellent.
  • Irrfan Khan and Saurabh Shukla playing the cops. Although their part is a miniscule one, I loved them.

Anil Kapoor is wasted as a conniving game show host. This is a complex role as he is angry inside while displays warmth outside. This did not come out very well.

I also wish they had casted the characters, Maman and Punnoose, correctly. Ideally, these two should be two sleazy Malayalis.

The movie is touted as the Indian “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. We share a common thread with the Chinese. Like them, we also dislike our “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hidden Kitchen: Sue’s Food Plaza

The place boasts of Caribbean cuisine. While researching on the net, I found a lot of negative reviews on “burrp”. Nevertheless, I decided to try it out.

Shri Krishna Temple Road, where this is located,  is difficult to locate unless you have already checked it out on the map. On my way to the restaurant, I struggled to find the location.

As there were 5 and a half of us, we tried out 5 different dishes – Sue’s special beef steak, Sue’s jeera pork, Sue’s special jamaican jerk chicken, Juicy Trinidad stew beef and Sue’s special chicken steak. We also tried their Cocorico drink.

Cocorico drink is non-alcoholic and has a coconut flavor. Most of the main courses are served with an helping of rice and a salad. The salad is slightly sweet with a pineapple flavor.

Most of us liked Sue’s jeera pork. I tried the Juicy Trinidad stew beef. It was very juicy. Although I loved it, I was not able to finish it. We packed it.

I recommend you to try out the restaurant. It is different. The cost is slightly on the higher side. This is ideal place to give your spouse a much deserved break.


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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Vijay and Me

“Mallya is great”, says my friend while getting high by gulping down the beer. We are sitting inside one of those dimly lit bars in Manipal in the early-90s.

“Huh?”, I responds as a result of the ignorance, cultivated over the past 20 years, about the real world.

“VIJAY MALLYA!… BEER!… UB!…”, my friend continues with adequate pauses for me to figure out the connection. I’m still in the dazed state refusing to wake up from my deep slumber.

My friend raises the beer bottle shows me the inscription and logo of United Breweries. Then after a dramatic pause, he says slowly in a condescending tone “Vijay Mallya owns UB”.

Two significant events happened at that very moment. My friend’s loud and clear message about doing something about my ignorance. A new friendship between Vijay and me.

The next few semesters that followed in Manipal strengthened our friendship. Vijay was on a mission to introduce variants of his beer under different brands. Each new variant was more potent than the predecessor. As I progressed in college, I also progressively adopted the latest variants.

During this time, I chanced upon Vijay’s photograph in one of the English magazines. He was standing in front of his vintage car. The magazine also reported his penchant for racing and horses. In my mind, Vijay instantly climbed up the charts thereby creating a hockey stick chart.

When I started working in 1996, I switched to hard liquor. But it was hard to dissociate with Vijay because of his thirst for more (creations and acquisitions). Vijay and the UB logo followed me during those years too.

During my brief stint in Bern during the later half of 1997, the locals introduced me to the flagship product of UB, Kingfisher. They showed me the longneck version in green and proudly proclaimed about the bottling in England. Vijay was always with me.

In 1998, I saw him on the TV. He loved the movie “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai”. He watched it in NY with his kids thereby showing me a world beyond the Atlantic ocean. This time, I followed him to the US.

We never interacted in US between 1999 and 2005. I was busy and acquired tastes in areas where Vijay never ventured into nor acquired. But, our paths crossed. I saw a photo of his on the net. He was holding Tipu’s sword with a saffron shawl around his neck. He was donning a politician’s cap. I came to know about his dream to start an airline through common friends. Vijay woke up after the dream and started executing the dream. He finally launched an airline.

In 2006, I was back in India. By this time, Vijay has flooded the market with longnecks (the one I loved in Bern). We renewed our friendship. The choices I made for leisure always had a UB logo in it. It was hard to escape Vijay.

When I felt rich, I used Kingfisher airlines and used Air Deccan on other occasions. In 2007, Vijay acquired Air Deccan to strengthen our friendship after playing dilly-dally while press went into a frenzy about “will acquire”, “acquiring” and “acquired”.

Now, Vijay has again hit the headlines. Vijay has brought Gandhi memorabilia for for $ 1.8 million in an auction. Vijay bid on his own. 

I am also surprised why everyone is upset with a liquor baron getting the Gandhi memorabilia! Why do the press term him liquor baron? He is the king of good times. Finally, he is going to present this to the Indian government as he soon as he gets the delivery.

Sadly, I also came to know Vijay can’t bring Tipu memorabilia into India fearing the taxes that will be levied by the Indian government. I wish I could help him. But for the damn recession…

Bannerghatta National Park

This turned out to a ideal picnic idea for Sunday. So, the planning started on Friday. After pitching in the idea to friends and family, I was able to enlist 6 people including me (4 adults and 2 kids).

Although we planned to start at 7 am in the morning, the late night party on Saturday and subsequent hangover made us start at 9:30 am. After a sumptuous breakfast at Cafe Terra, we started for the park at 11 am.

Getting there was easy. We took Hosur Road and cut across to Bannerghatta road using Mysore Road. It was a hot Sunday and they have ample parking lots there.

The office was 5 minutes away from the parking lot. Reaching there, we found many packages available. We opted for the Grand Safari and the zoo.

Grand Safari takes you into the jungle on a KSTDC minibus. The buses are green in color and have grills outside the windows in order to prevent tourists from reaching out. They have provided small opening which you can use to shoot a picture of the animals.

The jungle is divided into three levels for the purpose of safari. The first level features various kinds of deers while the second level have bears. Tigers and lions inhabit the third level In order to get into the second and third level, you have to go through electrified enclosure guarded by two gates. They open the gate at one side to let you in while the other remains closed. Once you are in the enclosure, they close the first gate and open the second gate to let you inside the jungle. This builds up excitement factor. They have dug trenches between second and third level.

We spotted deer, bears, tigers and a lion. A bear was walking on the road and the driver parked the bus close to the bear. At another occasion, we saw 4 bears lying under a tree and taking an early afternoon nap. There were white tigers and normal ones taking a mud bath. I was able to capture that moment on my camera. We spotted a lion. But the lion was so far away and we had to strain to catch a glimpse.

There are concrete cages built for the tigers and lions. Judging by what I saw, the safety factor for the park officials are low. The bus drivers are very familiar with route and also where to find these animals. They stop at all major sighting areas so that the tourists can take photographs.

The tour lasted an hour. After the tour, we went into the zoo. There were parrots (parakeets), ducks, storks, crocodiles, langur, elephants, zebra and panther. All of us stayed away from snakes section.

On the way back, we took the Bannerghatta Road. We reached back in Bangalore by 5 pm after having a good time in the park.

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How to get there?

  1. Hosur Road towards south, Exit to Mysore Road towards west, Exit to Bannerghatta Road towards south
  2. Bannerghatta Road towards south
  3. KSRTC bus. Route 365. (Cheap and Plenty)

What to do?

  1. Safari (different kinds)
  2. Zoo
  3. Elephant joy ride

What to wear?

It is hot out there mostly. I advice you to wear shorts. Try layered clothing in case you visit during the rains or winter.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Hidden Kitchen: Cafe Terra

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This was recommended by my brother-in-law. This is located in Koramangala on 80 ft road right next Little Home restaurant. The cafe features English breakfasts with toast, scrambled eggs and sausages. They come along with baked beans which turned out to be very sweet because of the tomato sauce. They also feature other varieties of omelets and a Belgian breakfast with waffles. The restaurant has a collection of comics for us to read while feasting on their food. They have Tintin, Mad and other assorted comics. This is a perfect place to hang out if you do not have anything else to do.

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 I went into restaurant at 10 am in the morning. It was almost empty. But the crowd started coming in by 10:30 am. There was a couple near me who was out on an breakfast date.

The cafe also features Thai and Tibetan dishes.

 Cafe Terra is on the first floor above the dry cleaners, Band box.


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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Banking Crisis, explained

I don’t intend to go on a sermon here. I was listening to the radio program on Chicago Public Radio and I felt this is an useful resource to understand the jargon and why there is a banking crisis.

Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson explains the banking crisis using simple languages that can be easily understood by a common man. Their show is modeled on the lines of a radio drama where they start explaining how the banks work. They teach us about a balance sheet, asset and liabilities. Then, they turn to topics like toxic assets, mark to market, insolvency, TARP and nationalization of banks.

I panicked while listening to the program. So, I advice you not to listen to this in a bad mood. Being informative, this is highly recommended

Go to the program by clicking here.

Movie: Dostana

Two young men, strapped for cash and desperate for an accommodation, pretends to be gay in order to rent two rooms in an apartment. They share the apartment with a pretty young thing. All three have a beautiful friendship going between them till the cupid strikes. The two young men fall in love with the pretty young thing and begins a one-upmanship to woo the girl. But, the girl falls for her boss. Now, the two young men conspire against the girl’s boss.

When Dostana was released in Nov 2008, the media went into an overdrive  on homosexuality and gays. The name “Dostana” was borrowed from a previous blockbuster of the same name starring Amitabh Bachchan, Shatrughnan Sinha and Zeenat Aman. According to many, the relationship between the main protagonists in this movie was bordering on homosexuality. It is a surprise to me as I always thought it as a good masala(action, drama and sentiments) movie!

The premise of the new movie is interesting. Halfway through the synopsis, you have labeled it as a laugh riot. The posters oozed sex quotient as it displayed a lot of Priyanka Chopra’s body and John Abraham’s butt. Abhishek Bachchan played a spoilsport by covering himself up. If the clothes were not enough to cover him up, he had a shawl wrapped around his neck.

When you have seen with the movie, you see a little bit of John’s butt and a lot of butt-gazing of Priyanka. Abhishek and John (and the camera man) do not waste an opportunity to stare and ogle at Priyanka’s butt in the movie. Unfortunately, this is one of the best things about the movie. For the first time in a mainstream Hindi movie, the protagonists are brave enough to look where it matters (for them) and make jokes. The rest of the movie is a mix and match of various episodes of successful television series Friends and scenes from I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry.

There is a reference to Gabbar Singh( of Sholay) being gay. That was funny.

Abhishek and Priyanka surprises us in parts with attempts to act convincingly. On some occasions, Abhishek shows there is an actor hidden in him somewhere. On other occasions, he is a plain bore. John is a very consistent actor. From his debut movie, he has been proving he can’t act. He has once again proves; it isn’t in him.

Kirron Kher and Boman Irani are superb. Kirron Kher acts as Abhishek’s mom. She can’t accept the fact “maa ka laadla bigad gaya” and she conveys it comically. Boman Irani is Priyanka’s boss who desperately tries to hit on Abhishek. Although his scenes with Abhishek are not funny, there are a few other occasions where he makes us laugh.

The movie is set in Miami and has good production values as they have combined good locations and technology to give a glossy look for the movie. The movie has used a lot of blue screens and inserted the background. So, when you see Abhishek, John and Priyanka on the balcony of their apartment overlooking Miami skylines and beaches, they are infact standing in front of blue screens!

The protagonists have $ 2000 to shell out for an apartment. With that kind of money, is it hard to get a shared accommodation? I thought NY was really expensive. But even there, it was easy to get a shared accommodation with that kind of money. Well, I was an expatriate once.  But Karan Johar (the producer of this movie) & Co has been making movies for the NRI crowd even before I became an expatriate. So, he must know about rents and accommodation better than me!

As for the movie, I have a message to all those who are in or out of the closet. This movie doesn’t empathize with you. It is a farce!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Two Brave Men

Last week, I was shaken by events involving two men. Both of these men had common things among them.

  • I deeply respect both of them.
  • They have influenced and changed the course of my life.
  • They both suffered heart attacks last week.

It was ironic since when one of them suffered an heart attack, I was frantically trying to reach the other for advice. So, you can imagine my helplessness during the crisis.

The first gentleman was my dad’s friend. While in bed after dinner, he sensed something wrong. Being a doctor, he was able to identify this to be an heart attack. He immediately dressed, drove to the hospital and got admitted himself. While recounting the experience later, he admitted on taking a calculated risk.

The second gentleman is my uncle. He was on his way to home when he experienced a chest pain. He sat down in a nearby park and called me. After I reached the spot, he slowly walked into the car and wanted to go home to lay down. I took him to the nearby hospital where my suspicion was confirmed after he underwent an ECG. He was immediately moved to critical care unit.

Both of them are safe now and are undergoing treatment.

After musing over last week’s events, my advice is

  1. Don’t take calculated risks. Even if you do it, please inform it to someone.
  2. If you do experience chest pain, please have it checked by a doctor.
  3. If you have a lasting chest pain, please call someone immediately and ask them to take you to the hospital(It is unfortunate we do not have 911 to dial).
  4. When someone calls, please listen to the person carefully. A major part of communication is non-vocal.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Movie: Red Chillies

Great! The movie was released in Kerala a week back. This is Lalettan’s treat for Valentine’s day. It is directed by Shaji Kailas! But the promos were slick with Lalettan looking great sporting a stubble.

The initial scenes show events happening in Kochi and Singapore. The location, date and time are flashed on the scene. An application form is submitted in Kochi corporation while an hired gun lands in Singapore for killing OMR. After numerous jump cuts interspersed with freezes, Lalettan is introduced as OMR.

A convoy of cars! Wow! Merc! Of course, this is going to be Lalettan’s car. OK. A jump cut for Merc’s(oops… OMR’s) arrival. But why is the Merc freezing in the middle? Whatever! Time to whistle. There comes Lalettan.

OMR picks up the hired assassin from a tattoo parlor and dispatches him back to Kochi in one piece and breathing. The person ordering the hit remains shrouded in mystery.

Does he know the identity of the villain?

Back in Kochi, OMR runs a FM channel(ton kanikkinu fun! 94.3!). FM channel is run by 9 young girls dubbed as Red Chillies.

Aaah.. the name makes sense now! But are there 9 girls?  I’m not able to count. These girls are already getting on my nerves. No wonder OMR stays away from these girls and uses phone to communicate.

A veteran politician rallies against OMR as he believes OMR to be part of the land mafia. OMR is keeping a watch on the politician.

OMR is listening to the speech on his cellphone (using bluetooth device), rendered by the politician in Kerala, while driving in his Merc and tapping on the computer. Technology! Global Village!

OMR is going to choose one of the Red Chillies to run his new FM channel in Singapore on Jan 1st. He asks them to enjoy the new year party. While going to the new year’s party, the girls violates traffic rules and ignores the police officers.

Another song. Yawn. They are not showing a lot of Lalettan.

The next morning, a young man is found dead in the house where Red Chillies stay. The veteran politician is run over by a vehicle along with a group of people who were staging a protest. The cops arrives in the house of Red Chillies and then they move to the murder site of the old politician. The veteran politician’s son is an high ranking police official. Now, the investigators are also taking it personally since someone has murdered their colleague’s father. Red Chillies are the suspects.

Siddique, Ganesh, Vijayakumar and Biju Menon. Siddique is very effective while others are okay.

A cat and mouse game follows. OMR lead the girls from one place to another keeping them away from the cops. Their cell phones are being tracked by the cops. OMR provides a satellite phone to the girls.

Why does the satellite phone look like a Panasonic cordless phone? Till now, Lalettan is shown only for a brief period of time. Shaji is going to drag this drama till interval and then Lalettan will fly down to Kochi to solve all this.

One of the Red Chillies get lost midway. The girls reach an “Agraharam”. The house wherein the girls are captured belongs to APJ Abdul Kalam’s former friend!

The cops are just behind the girls. There is a rotten apple… errrrr rotten red chilly… on board! Why the reference to APJ Adbul Kalam. A friend of the former president harboring fugitives! How pathetic can it get?

OMR calls up the commissioner and announces his plans itinerary (flight number, seat number and seat location).

Interval.

In Kochi international airport, the cops are not able to find OMR. OMR lands and is whisked away in a Merc but not before he has taunted the commissioner.

Thank God! Now, it is going to interesting. At least, I can watch Lalettan.

While the police frantically searches for OMR, he starts the investigation in his Merc by questioning people associated with Red Chillies and the veteran politician. The cops know OMR will come for bail application of Red Chillies. So they are waiting in the court premises and adamant not to let OMR see the Chillies. But the cops cannot stop OMR as he is a lawyer too!

I have lost it completely! How many things can a person do? I would like to have OMR in my team. He seems to the perfect team member who is multi-talented or multi-skilled. All my worries will be over in a day! After all, he is solving the entire case sitting in a Merc. I should advice this movie to my friends and colleagues as an inspirational one!

After more twists and turns, the missing red chilly is found and the real culprit is confronted.

Lalettan has put in a spirited performance. But Shaji had gone ahead with an half baked script. He has substituted style for substance. He has tried using the latest techniques in the film making. But, while watching the movie, these techniques are used not to move the story forward but to cover up the hollowness of the script.

As I walked out of the hall, I uttered OMR’s favorite catchphrase. Ramaaaa…

 

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Q & A

I’m glad! Q & A is back on the book shelf. If you were worried about the non-availability of the book like me, then you have a reason to rejoice. Q & A is available in two avatars

I chose the former avatar.

I was hooked on to the book a couple of months back; as soon as I used the “Search Inside” option from the Amazon website and found the table of contents. The chapters were titled as prize money a contestant earn as he advances in the quiz show. The secret was out at that moment. The contestant is going to qualify for the last round and he may win the prize money too!

This is genius! You move forward with the quiz show and reveal a little bit about the protagonist through each level. Now, how is the author going forward with the story telling? How can he tell the life of the protagonist in a linear way and also tie it to the questions asked in the quiz show?

After putting down the book, I’m glad the story of the protagonist is told in a non-linear fashion. The narration massaged my grey cells as I was trying to place different periods in the protagonist’s life in order.

Although the premise of the story is brilliant, the same cannot be said about the book as a whole! The narration is okay. The red herrings are clearly visible for an experienced reader. So you amusingly wait for the events to unfold and the suspense revealed.

Finally, the author wove the climax inspired by Hindi movies (retribution and lost & found). This aspect is a let down about the novel. This is the second author who has been inspired by tried and tested formulas of Hindi movies (first being Chetan Bhagat in One night at the call center).

The book is an interesting read. But, the movie is adapted from the novel and not the exact replica. Now, I’m waiting for the DVD of Slumdog Millionaire!

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