Monday, June 29, 2009

Number 4

ZillionBig have tagged me with magic four virus. Here I go with my list.

Four places you have lived

  1. Santa Clara: I was single when I landed here. When I packed my bags to India, I had transitioned from single to husband to expectant father.
  2. Pune: You could not live in this city without enjoying the laidback life of Punaikars. A great place for settle down and raise a family.
  3. Gurgaon: My daughter still remembers Gurrrrgaon. The climate is harsh (for a South Indian). But, the aggressive nature of NCR is infectious.
  4. Bangalore: Closer to Kerala and even closer to dear sister(a stone’s throw away), I’m loving this place. 

Four TV shows you love(d) to watch

  1. 24: Jack Bauer saves US in a regular day’s work. Although some episodes are stretched to fill in 60 minutes, I love the gadgets and Kiefer Sutherland! Most of it has to do with admiration for Donald Sutherland. 
  2. Seinfeld: A show about nothing. The jokes haunt you and makes you break out in a laugh at an inappropriate time. I still love it even though Jerry is a very bad actor.
  3. Akkarakazchakal(Malayalam): George-ettan has all the trappings of a Malayali simpleton who migrates to US. I can relate. He also has the best come-backs.
  4. Friends: They may have lost their charm by the 10th season. They have tried all the different permutations and combinations with the lead pairs. But still, somewhere in between 1st and 6th season, I fell in love with this.

Four places you have been on vacation

  1. Chicago: The architectural diversity in this town fascinated me. Armed with a Mapeasy map, we enjoyed the city to the maximum. We walked and walked and walked.
  2. New York: From NJ, we used to catch the 5pm bus into NY as I was mixing business with pleasure. We would come back at 1 am in the morning exhausted. Again we walked and walked and walked. We bought our favorite Mapeasy maps from Manhattan and we were on a roll.
  3. Agra: Seeing the Taj in moonlight was magic. The photos do not do any justice to it. We never thought we will be able to see it (because it is so far away from the south!).
  4. Manali: Almost the second honeymoon and we were running all around the place. Himachal is pretty and Manali is beautiful.

Four of your favorite food

  1. Meen curry: I like to term this as Orange fish curry. It has coconut, cocum and of course, fish.
  2. Pulussery: This is moru kolambu for Tamil and kadi for North Indians. This is the yellowish curry made from curd
  3. Pappadam: This is papad fried in oil.
  4. Choru: This is the brown rice from Kerala

Combine the above four and you have a very yummilicious combination.

Four places you would rather be

  1. Dubai: Be this a myth or a dream, the city deserves to be visited.
  2. Las Vegas: Casino hopping, drinking, having breakfast and then going to bed. The cycle starts all over again when you get up
  3. Jaisalmer: Sands, camels and tents.
  4. Maldives: The clear water and beach.

Four things you hope to do before you die

  1. Money: Yeah and loads of it for financial freedom. 
  2. Education: I would like few more degrees in order to repay my parents for not spending their money wisely during college years.
  3. Farmhouse: Built a house in the middle of lush green paddy fields. I do not want to think of the mosquitoes right now. I will cross that bridge when it comes.
  4. Backpacking: I want to carry my computer and my phone when I go for this. But I do not want to carry my work.

Four novels you wish you were reading for the first time

I can’t think of any! I actually love reading it twice. :)

Four movies you can see over and over

  1. Dilwaale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge(Hindi): This was a different love story for my generation. I can’t get enough of this movie in spite of countless viewing.
  2. Godfather trilogy(English): The Corleones are interesting characters. I have seen the trilogy back to back – first the movie and then with Francis Ford Coppola’s commentary. I still can watch this again and find something I missed altogether earlier. 
  3. Godfather(Malayalam): Jokes aplenty. Siddique-Lal at their best. It has been 18 years, the jokes still make you laugh!
  4. In Hariharnagar(Malayalam): Siddique-Lal at their second best. The sequel was a hit because of the popularity of the original.

Finally, the following are eligible for being carrier of this virus.

  1. Vaz, who has an interesting perspective about everything around us
  2. Mathew, who has a great sense of humor and a great writing style. (Frankly do not know which is greater!)
  3. Urmi, who is a one-stop resource on places to visit.
  4. Sanju, with a great blog but even greater laziness to update the blog more frequently.

 

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Movie: New York

In the present day New York, a shipment of weapons are intercepted by cops. Subsequently, Omar(Neil Nitin Mukesh) is woken up, arrested and interrogated by the FBI. The officer is in charge is a South Asian FBI agent named Roshan(Irrfan). Roshan asks Omar to recount his story after landing in US.

Omar reminisces his past in front of Roshan. In Sept 1999, Omar lands in New York University from New Delhi on a scholarship. He quickly befriends Maya(Katrina Kaif) and Sameer(John Abraham). Roshan interrupts Omar and tells him Sameer is leader of a terrorist sleeper cell. Roshan also tells him that Sameer and Maya are married now and have a son. Omar is shocked.

In his university days, Omar secretly loved Maya. Two weeks before 9/11, Maya professes her love for Sameer and Omar is heartbroken. As the planes hits the twin towers, Omar leaves the university and his friends behind. Now, after 8 years, he is confused at the events unfolding in front of him. Fearing the patriot act, Omar agrees to go undercover to find out the truth about Sameer.

With the help of Roshan, Omar meets Maya and eventually, get invited to stay in their house. Omar openly flaunts his anti-American feelings and also his pistol to smoke out Sameer. But, Sameer is agitated by Omar and asks him to leave his house. In order not to arouse Maya’s suspicion, Sameer finds an alibi for Omar’s sudden departure.

Omar is overjoyed to find out Sameer has no terrorism links. He informs Roshan about Sameer. Sameer takes Omar to the airport in his car. But the car ride is a revelation for Omar.

This is directed by Kabir Khan. This is a marked difference from his earlier movie – Kabul Express. He has shaken off the label of a documentary director and given us a watchable thriller. Yashraj films, as producers, doesn’t hesitate to give the movie good production values. Most of the movie is shot outdoors making the movie visually appealing. The editing of movie could have been a more crisper for heightening the drama.

Irrfan as the FBI agent stands out. Here, he is pitted against younger and much less experienced talent. He provides funny moments in the movie. At the end of the movie, he is neither white nor black. Is he grey? I doubt it! This is the biggest achievement for Irrfan.

Neil Nitin Mukesh scores after Irrfan. He emotes well. He is confused and conflicted about his friend, Sameer. Besides, he wants to genuinely help Sameer.

John Abraham and Katrina are okay. John’s could have been a complex character. Knowing his acting disability, the director has given him limited scope and hence he doesn’t look bad. Katrina puts in an earnest effort.

The songs in the movie are used as a prop to move the story forward. Thankfully, none of the protagonists break into a song in the middle of movie for no reason.

On the whole, watch this New York.

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ***

Picture Courtesy: Bollywood Hungama

Tags: Movies,New York,Neil Nitin Mukesh,Irrfan,Katrina Kaif,John Abraham,Kabir Khan,Thriller,Yashraj

Movie: Passenger

Satyanathan(Srinivasan) works in a firm in Kochi. Everyday he commutes by train. He has the same routine for the past twenty years and he has a set of friends who commute with him. They talk and play cards to avoid the drudgery of everyday commute.

Adv. Nandan Menon(Dileep) and Anuradha(Mamta Mohandas) are a newly married couple. Anuradha is a TV journalist with Right TV. Together, they take up various social causes and fight for them. They have been fighting a long drawn issue against Minister Thomas Chacko(Jagathy Sreekumar).

When Thomas Chacko is pushed to a corner with the ongoing agitation against him, he plans for a major tragedy. Anuradha records this using a webcam installed in the hotel room with the help of Sudheedhran(Manikuttan). Thomas figures this out and murders Sudheedhran. He implicates Nandan and Anuradha. Just before Thomas’s henchmen gets hold of her, Anuradha escapes.

Meanwhile, Satyanathan spends overtime at his office and misses his regular train. He catches the next train. But he oversleeps and misses his stop. When he wakes up, he bumps into Nandan. Nandan and Satyanathan begins a war of words and ends up as friends. After reaching Guruvayoor, the next stop, both of them disembarks and go their separate ways. But Nandan gets abducted by Thomas’s henchmen before he gets too far and Satyanathan witnesses it.

Now, Satyanathan begins a frantic search for him. In the next few hours, he undergoes extraordinary circumstances in order to find and save Nandan.

Passenger is directed by debuntante, Ranjith Shankar. In his debut, Ranjith is armed with a taut screenplay which works in his favor. Being a software professional, Ranjith uses a good doze of gadgets to move the story forward. The budget is limited as evident from ambience of several scenes. The pace dips in between. But still, Ranjith succeeds in giving a watchable thriller for the audience.

Srinivasan plays the quintessential Malayali common man in this movie. His character, Satyanathan, can neither beat up a bunch of thugs nor can fight vehemently against injustice. But, he can plead well and argue logically. Srinivasan is perfect in this role. When he embarks on the search for Nandan, we are skeptical. Before long, we end up wishing for his success because of his earnestness and truthfulness. Towards, the end of the movie, he does become a superman by saving the lives of others.

Dileep’s character is departure from his usual comedy roles. Still, there is humor when he meets up with Satyanathan for the first time. They are not the over the top jokes. But it still makes you smile. Although a small role, Dileep is good. Both the lead pairs are adequately supported by Nedumudi Venu and Jagathy Sreekumar. Mamta Mohandas is adequate.

Ranjit has a strong message for the audience. You can influence the lives of others if you try honestly. Get on the train and enjoy the ride with this passenger.

Language: Malayalam

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ***

Picture Courtesy: www.nowrunning.com

Tags: Movies,Passenger,Srinivasan,Dileep,Mamta Mohandas,Jagathy Sreekumar,Nedumudi Venu,Manikuttan,Ranjith Shankar,thriller,Malayalam

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Movie: Appaloosa

The small town of Appaloosa is terrorized by Randall Bragg(Jeremy Irons). In order to rein in Bragg, three prominent businessmen hires the services of Virgil Cole(Ed Harris), a peacekeeper. So, Virgil comes into town with his partner and friend, Everett Hitch(Viggo Mortensen). Virgil accepts to be the marshall on his terms and conditions.

As soon as he becomes the marshall, Virgil and Everett guns down three of the Bragg’s men who were creating nuisance in the local bar. After this incident, Bragg rides into the town to meet the new lawmen. But he avoids a confrontation with Virgil and Everett, sensing their courage and determination.

When the town is under the watch of Virgil and Everett, Allison “Allie” French(Renee Zellweger) comes into the town to make a living. She is  a widow. Virgil takes a liking to Allie and both gets romantically tangled. Everett senses the change in his friend. But he does not object to Virgil’s choice and silently supports him even though he suspects Allie is not perfect.

Meanwhile, Virgil and Everett comes across a ranch hand who is ready to testify against Bragg. As a result, Bragg is arrested in a surprise attack. He is sentenced to hanging. While he is transported to his new jail, two mercenaries bargain Bragg’s independence by taking Allie as hostage. Bragg is freed. This angers Virgil and he sets in search of Bragg. Everett, being a good friend, follows. The journey to find Bragg and the aftermath forms the rest of the story.

In addition to acting as one of the leads, Ed Harris has also directed the movie. The movie is adapted from a book by Robert B Parker. Ed paints his characters in a subtle manner and lets the audience decipher the emotions.

The movies rests on two performances – Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen. This is a story of loyalty and friendship. Both the friends help each other without imposing on each other. The conversation is as bland as the landscape of Appaloosa. But, the lead actors successfully conveys the message.

This is recommended watch for lovers of Western movies.

Genre: Western

Rating: ***

Picture Courtesy: Yahoo! Movies

Tags: Movies,Appaloosa,Jeremy Irons,Ed Harris,Viggo Mortensen,Renee Zellweger,Robert B Parker,Western

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Red Bag

IMG00072 I had no inkling of what is in store for me on Tuesday when I stepped out of car in front of my daughter’s school. My daughter is attending the pre-nursery classes conducted by one of the famous institutions in my part of the city. They run these classes out of the rooms rented in one of apartment complex that resembles a sprawling and endless metropolis.

I was greeted by my mother when I stepped out of the car. My mom is visiting and is staying with my sister. My sister’s home is hardly 100 meters from the school. So my mom waits patiently for her granddaughter everyday when I pull in front of the school.

“You need to get the school books, bag and uniform. We need to start the classes soon”, the class teacher reminded us when we reached the classroom. She also directed me to the office building. At the office building, I was informed to collect the school kit at 12 noon. Unable to make it to school at noon, my mom offered to collect the school kit.

By 2 pm, my mom and sister collected all the necessary material. But that was just the beginning. There were a dozen instruction associated with the school kit.

  • You have to cover the books in brown paper
  • You have stick labels on the brown paper.
  • You have to fill in the first two pages of the pink book.

I’m glad I have a girl. She has no qualms about the pink book.

We got all the necessary items by 8pm in the evening. The school bag was red in color and my daughter extremely pleased with the bag. She tried it on several times while my wife was busy covering the books with brown paper. After covering the books, we stuck labels on top of the brown paper and meticulously filled in the first 2 pages of the pink book. We also stuck picture of our daughter in the pink book wherever it was required. After the books were ready, we put these into the red bag. I sensed something wrong after putting the books in the red bag. Tired of the entire exercise, I went to bed without worrying much.

On Wednesday, my daughter was very excited on seeing the red bag. After dressing up, she put on the bag. I photographed her adorning the prized possessions. Once the photo shoot was complete, I sat down to put on my shoes. While I was busy putting on the shoes, my daughter approached me with a worried look. At that instant, I realized what was bothering me the previous night.

She complained, “My neck is paining. Can you take the bag off my shoulders?”. She couldn’t carry the weight of the books and the bag. She was overloaded!

Tags: Musings,The Red Bag,Daughter,Mom,Wife,School

Movie: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Cair Paravel, the kingdom of Telmarines, is ruled by King Miraz(Sergio Castellitto). He is the custodian of the throne for Prince Caspian(Ben Barnes) after the death of the former king, Caspian IX. The movie opens up with the birth of a baby boy to King Miraz’s wife. As soon as the baby is born, King Miraz orders Prince Caspian to be murdered. But Caspian escapes the attempt. Fleeing from his attackers, Caspian enters the old Narnia. There, he is saved by two dwarves. In the ensuing melee, Caspian blows on Queen Susan’s magic horn.

When the horn is sounded, the Pevensies – Peter(William Moseley), Susan(Anna Popplewell), Edmund(Skandar Keynes) and Lucy(Georgie Henley) – are transported from London to Narnia. They are surprised to find themselves in Narnia, thousands of years later than they left (in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe). Here they meet an assortment of interesting Narnians – a dwarf named Trumpkin(Peter Dinklage), a talking mouse warrior named Reepicheep(voice of Eddie Izzard) and several others – who help them in finding directions in the new Narnia. They are all disappointed when they do not find Aslan(voice of Liam Neeson), the lion. But, Lucy has glimpses of Aslan in the forest and also dreams about him.

Since Prince Caspian is rescued by Narnians, King Miraz builds a bridge across the river connecting Telmarines to Narnia. Once the bridge is finished, the Telmarines will cross over and attack Narnia. (High King) Peter devises a plan in which Narnians attacks the castle of King Miraz. But, this attack is not a success and many Narnians loses their life. The remaining Narnians, who escaped, soon find the Telmarines at their doorsteps. Everyone asks Lucy to find Aslan while Peter distracts the Telmarines by challenging King Miraz to a duel.

Like the previous movie, this movie is also directed by Andrew Adamson. Since this is an adaptation of a novel, there are a lot of characters. Andrew has successfully introduced these characters without creating much confusion to the viewer and not straying away from the main story. He has concentrated on the look and feel of the movie with the help of CG. The result on the screen is very visually appealing and makes us want to be a part of the adventure that is unraveling before our eyes.

If you want to the small kid who indulges on fantasy and magic, go for this and your wish will granted for 140 minutes.

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: ***

Picture Courtesy: Yahoo! Movies

Tags: Movies,The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,Sergio Castellitto,Ben Barnes,William Moseley,Anna Popplewell,Skandar Keynes,Georgie Henley,Peter Dinklage,Eddie Izzard,Liam Neeson,Andrew Adamson,Fantasy

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

“Jugaad”

It was the only thing that caught my attention when the man was talking. He had used the word jugaad. I heard this word for the first time in Gurgaon. A friend was describing a set of non-performers looking for a get-rich-quick scheme. In his words, “In this part of the world, there is a word to describe these kinds of people– jugaadu”. The Hindi speakers were nodding the head in agreement. But, I was perplexed. Seeing the look on my face, my friend explained the meaning in detail.

After the hearing the explanation in an alternating cycle of keen attention and wild distraction, I was happy. My Hindi vocabulary was richer by a word that can be used in various scenarios conveying different meanings. I soon started flaunting this new acquired word in conversations.

You should do… (wicked smile)… jugaad

Lets us do… (wink and a smile)… some jugaad

I was elated whenever I used the word. In bliss, I never bothered to check the expression on the face of the poor souls who bore the brunt of my usage. At one point, I experienced boundless joy when a team member suggested the same word while proposing a solution to get out of a sticky situation.

So, today, I was surprised when the man used the word. He came towards me when I was entering the office building. As soon as he approached me, I sensed the salesman on the verge of breaking out. I did not pay any attention to his pitch because I was busy preparing a “No” for whatever he was offering. The word “jugaad” threw me off balance. I started concentrating on his Haryanvi accented Hindi.

He drives a truck that is used to carry goods cleared by the customs. The driver’s job doesn’t pay much. So he takes some of the items off the truck and sells it on the side. That is his jugaad. He displayed a 32 GB Kingston pen drive. I could take it at a price lesser than the market price. I politely refused the offer.

When he insisted, I agreed to pass the word around. As promised, I informed one of my colleagues about the person standing at the gates. He gathered a posse and went to meet the Haryanvi jugaad guy. The posse did not find the price to be right. So they came back without buying the pen drive. As a result, my efforts towards stimulating the “local” economy was wasted. Fate played a jugaad on me

Picture Courtesy: Wikipedia, www.diytrade.com

Tags: Musings,Jugaad,Gurgaon

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Movie: The Queen

The movie depicts the seven days after the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales. After Diana meets with an accident in Paris, the Queen(Helen Mirren) is woken up from her sleep and is immediately glued in front of the TV along with her husband, Prince Philip(James Cromwell) and mother, Queen Mother(Sylvia Syms). Very soon, Diana breathes her last. Since Diana is divorced from Prince Charles(Alex Jennings) and is no longer a HRH, the Queen does not want the funeral to be treated as a royal affair. Prince Charles persuades his mother to reconsider as Diana is the mother of the future king of England.

In the meantime, Tony Blair(Michael Sheen) realizes the importance of the death to the nation and prepares to address the people with the help of his Director of Communications, Alastair Campbell(Mark Bazeley). Disappointed at the monarchy’s lack of response to Diana’s death, Tony Blair addresses the nation and the world. He terms Diana as “People’s Princess”.

In the next few days, people react negatively towards the monarchy. The Queen do not want to change 400 years of tradition while Tony Blair tries to reason with the Queen. The Queen realizes antipathy towards her.

Stephen Frears directs this movie. He has concentrated on the performances to tell the story. He inserts the real news clipping from that era in between the scenes to heighten the drama and also to transport us to that era.

Helen Mirren is excellent as the Queen who is rigid in tradition and is surprised to find the nation and the world hating her for it. Michael Sheen plays Tony Blair and also the audience very well, mouthing and expressing our thoughts as the event unfolds.

Although the movie is about dealing with a tragedy, the movie has the English sense of humor and the wit in the proceedings. So, don’t be surprised to find yourself smiling at many occasions.

Watch this Queen.

Genre: Drama

Rating:****

Picture Courtesy: Yahoo! Movies

Tags: Movies,The Queen,Helen Mirren,James Cromwell,Sylvia Syms,Michael Sheen,Mark Bazeley,Alex Jennings,Stephen Frears,Drama

Monday, June 22, 2009

“Post-It” Neighbor

On Saturday, during a party organized at my sister’s, we had gathered on the balcony for drinks. My sister lives on the ground floor. So, the balcony is very safe for us to get tipsy!

The more, the merrier. The more, the lighter. The more, the louder. That was the scene unfolding in the balcony soon. When my brother-in-law realized we were pushing the decibel levels higher, he was concerned about his neighbor. This neighbor lives on the first floor directly above their apartment. The other neighbor, who lives besides, was already among us on the balcony!

On a previous occasion, my brother-in-law saw a “Post-It” pasted on his door the “day after”. It was kept there by his neighbor upstairs and the note requested him to keep the volume down in the future. My brother-in-law visited his neighbor and apologized. The neighbor was having trouble sleeping due to a splitting head ache.  But he did not want to come down and spoil the party spirit. So, he decided to leave a “Post-It” note.

Don’t we wish for such good neighbors?

Picture Courtesy: Wikipedia

Tags: Musings,Post-It,Neighbor,Sister,Brother-In-Law

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Movie: Flyboys

During World War I, a group of Americans enlist in the flying squadron named “Lafayette Escadrille” in France to fight against the Germans. Blaine Rawlings(James Franco) leaves US after a foreclosure on his ranch. William Jensen(Philip Winchester) goes in search of adventure. Briggs Lowry(Tyler Labine) travels to France to make his dad and family proud. Eugene Skinner(Abdul Salis) signs up because he wants to repay the generosity that France has bestowed on him by giving him shelter for the past two years.

After reaching France, they are trained under Captain Thenault(Jean Reno). They undertake the first mission after training under the command of Reed Cassidy(Martin Henderson). Suffering heavy damages and losing men, the boys see the darker side of war and strength of the enemy. But they also work harder towards achieving their goals. In the meantime, Blaine also falls in love with a local lass.

The movie is directed by Tony Bill. Inspired by a true story, this do not translate into a watchable movie. Cliché ridden, this movie is yawn inducing.

Genre: War

Rating: *

Picture Courtesy: Yahoo! Movies

Tags: Movies,Flyboys,Lafayette Escadrille,James Franco,Philip Winchester,Tyler Labine,Abdul Salis,Jean Reno,Martin Henderson,Tony Bill,War

The Alchemist

Paulo Coelho’s novel traces the story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy. Santiago decides to pursue his dreams of travelling by breaking off from his family traditions. His dad, while hating Santiago’s ambitions, supports him.

While herding sheep, Santiago meets an old man, who claims to be the King of Salem. The old man tells Santiago about the treasure that awaits him at the Pyramids. So, Santiago go searching for this treasure.

Santiago crosses over to Africa at Tarifa, Tangiers after selling all his sheep. At Tarifa, he is robbed of all his money. But he finds a job in the shop of crystal merchant. The shop prospers and Santiago makes enough money to resume his journey.

When Santiago resumes the journey to Pyramids, he meets an Englishman who is in search of the Alchemist. They cross the desert through the war ridden territories to reach an oasis. Here at the oasis, Santiago’s life changed forever by two people.

The novel is written like a fable and the language is simple. Since this is a translation, the original style of writing is difficult to determine. But the emphasis here is to move the story forward. The book is riddled with morals and philosophy.  It is a good read if you are either looking for a fast read or in a mood for inner awakenings through contemplation.

Tags: Books,The Alchemist,Paulo Coelho

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Background checks

If you are from the city of Bozeman in Montana, then do not apply for a job with the city. In order to verify your background, the city asks for the user names and passwords to social networks like Facebook, MySpace etc! In a country like US, where most of the data related can be easily fetched using Social Security Number, why would anyone ask for your user names and passwords to an internet site?

The background checks became very widely used and popular after the slowdown in 2001. I encountered it for the first time when my friend took up a new job in LA with an aviation giant in 2004. After getting selected, he had to wait for couple of week more since the background checks could not be completed. The background checks were delayed because of lack of response from his college in an obscure town in rural Tamil Nadu. As a result, he had to personally call up the officials and request them to speed up matters.

The second time was in 2007 when I took up a new job. When I applied for the job, I was unaware of these background checks. By this time, I had moved to India. So, I was surprised to get an email from the HR of my previous company in the US. After telling me about the background checks, she asked me on what to say and how much to say to my prospective employer.

The third tryst with a background check was the most disturbing. I was talking to administrative official seated near the HR when the phone rang on HR’s desk. Being close to the HR, I could help eavesdrop on the conversation. I was shocked to hear the following snippet. “Yes.. Ohhh..OK.. It is about the background check for Mr XXX!… I think I remember him!!!… I think Mr XXX was thrown out by us!…”

Picture Courtesy: http://www.barterexchangenetwork.com/

Tags: Musings,Background Checks,Bozeman,Montana,Facebook,MySpace,Social Security Number,Tamil Nadu,2001,2004,2007,HR

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Auditing the Street Side Sellers

3ShopsYesterday, I was surprised when I found the three shops closed in the morning. These shops are located alongside my office and offer tea and light snacks to the employees of the various organizations on our side of the road. There is also a coconut seller with a bunch of coconuts placed on the ground and all coconut remnants on a makeshift cart catering to the thirsty passersby. He was closed too.

Suspecting a bandh or hartal(Pardon me for I haven’t yet learnt to distinguish between the both. Both are speed breakers to the normal routine of life and also major spoilsports.), On examining the surroundings further, I was even more surprised to find hotels and other stores functioning across the road. On surveying these closed shops again, I found the shopkeepers in the vicinity of their shops. They were restlessly walking past their shops.

I asked one of them about the reason for closing their shops. Then, he replied, “ A new inspector has taken charge in this area. He is coming for an inspection of the street side sellers. So, we are waiting for him to finish his inspection”. The shopkeeper seemed to be well informed. To satisfy my curiosity, I asked again, “So, how do you know about this inspection?”. With a sly smile, the shopkeeper replied, “We give mamool(bribe) to the cops. They informed us!”. I walked away shaking my head in disgust.

In the afternoon, the shopkeepers were back in business. I enquired the same shopkeeper whom I had stuck a conversation with earlier, “Did the inspector come?”. He gave me wide grin and replied, “It is over. He came. He saw. He returned”.

I’m still unclear about what the inspector was trying to find out. Was he trying to see if there were any street side sellers? If so, doesn’t he possess the bare minimum common sense to understand the logic behind these closed shops? Did he wanted to take a count of all shops so as to estimate the area’s worth (monthly mamool)?

Tags: Musings,Bangalore,Bribe,Cops,Mamool

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Confessions of a “Mafia Wars” addict

“I cannot be a hitman. I do not have fancy guns. Where can I get these?”, I said in despair. “Can you send me guns?”, I begged. After a Corleone-esque contemplating silence, Don U spoke. “I' will see to it”. The words came as a relief to me though it felt like an eternity before he responded. When I woke up the next day, I found a pile of gifts containing latest weapons and getaway vehicles. I was ecstatic and went on a killing spree.

The above interchange happened on the Facebook chat. In spite of the sms-ish messages sandwiched with different kinds of smiley, I pictured Don U sitting in the dimly lit room in a tuxedo and granting me audience on the day of his daughter’s wedding. But, in real world, Don U is younger than me and he doesn’t have a daughter. He has a three year old son! I have taken the game, Mafia Wars, too seriously.

Mafia Wars is created by Zynga and this is integrated with Facebook. Two weeks back, I got a request from my friend, Don U, for trying out the game. When I decide to try out the game, I become the member of his “Mafia”. Two days later, I got another request from Don(na) J. By this time, I was curious and accepted the request. Soon, I was blazing past the initial levels.

After the initial levels, the game became more difficult. My reserves of energy and stamina were running out. I had to wait patiently for 5 minutes before my energy and stamina were incremented by one unit. Energy enables me to do jobs like mugging, robbing a pimp while stamina helps me to fight other mafia. The dubious nature of the jobs did not deter me from trying the game and there wasn’t an iota of remorse in being a Mafia member.

After two days, I grew restless and impatient. My energy levels were increasing in a frustrating slow pace. So, I contacted Don U and Don(na) J for boosting my energy through energy packs. The energy packs can be supplied by fellow Mafia members and was free of cost. There is also provision to buy these things with the help of your credit card. Since I’m “careful with money”, I did not go for this option. My fellow Mafia members obliged and sent me energy packs at regular intervals. This worked for a while and I climbed up through another set of levels before hitting another roadblock.

Being new to the game, I had a comparatively smaller Mafia than most of the other players. The small and compact Mafia turned out to be a disadvantage. In order to fight and win with other Mafia, I needed more members. I started recruiting. I connected with all my friends. I bullied them into joining. One of my early successes was Don Jorge, husband of Don(na) J. I ended up pitching Mafia Wars to a friend in LA.

I have reached Level 16. I’m officially an addict. My skills in enlisting would put a multi-level marketing guy to shame. I’m still hiring…

Picture Courtesy: www.starpulse.com

Tags: Musings,Mafia Wars,Confessions,Addict,FaceBook,Zynga

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tetris

On a hot summer noon in 2007, I walked into the my friend’s half cabin at work. Those were the days when we were ineffectively trying to restore normalcy to a project that was spiraling out of control. Those were the days when everyone was hiring like no tomorrow and the “more-with-less” slogan had not caught up yet.

When I walked in, I found my friend slouching in front of his laptop. He was facing me and as a result, I was not able to see his screen. His eyebrows met reflecting the intensity at which he was staring at the screen. His skin on his forehead was twisted to reveal treble-chins. His fingers were tapping on the keyboard silently but fervently.

He looked up as soon as I entered for an instant. After hitting the keyboard for a few more seconds, he again looked up and mouthed something unclear. Sensing that he was sharing a secret, I replied softly in a low tone, “Pardon?!”. He raised his voice a notch and replied “Tetris”.

In the ensuing months, I also played Tetris to bring down the stress levels and Tetris helped me during those difficult times. It has been 25 years since it’s inception and it has been termed as one of the greatest time wasters. The creator of Tetris, Alexey Pajitnov, explains the story behind Tetris in an interview. As a Soviet citizen, he did not control over the game. With the disintegration of USSR, there was a confusion on the rights over Tetris. All is well that ends well. Now, he owns the rights over the game.

Tags: Musings,People,Audios,Tetris,Alexey Pajitnov

Movie: Angels and Demons

In Rome, the Vatican prepares for the Conclave of the College of Cardinals for selection of new pope. Till the new pope is elected, Father Camerlengo(Ewan McGregor) is in charge of the Vatican affairs. Meanwhile, in CERN, a container of antimatter is stolen from the laboratory after a scientist, Silvano, is murdered.

In Massachusetts, a Vatican official interrupts Robert Langdon(Tom Hanks) to inform him of the emergence of an ancient secret society named Illuminati. Illuminati has kidnapped four Preferiti(likely candidates for pope) and left an ambigram. The kidnapper also threatened to kill these Preferiti one by one in one hour intervals starting at 8 pm.

Langdon is flown into Vatican and meets the commander of the papal Swiss Guards, Commander Ritcher(Stellan Skarsgard). At Ritcher’s office, Langdon meets Vittoria Vetra(Ayelet Zurer) from CERN. Everyone watches the videotape containing the footage of missing antimatter container and the four Perferiti. They have only 4 hours to find the antimatter before Vatican is destroyed.

In order to proceed with his investigation, Langdon needs access to Vatican archives. Ritcher denies the request while Camerlengo relents. Camerlengo warns Cardinal Strauss(Armin Mueller-Stahl), who is in charge of the papal election, about the bomb and requests to vacate the Vatican Cardinal Strauss leaves to the will of the God and proceeds with the election.

With access to Vatican archives, Langdon and Vittoria races against time to find the antimatter and save the Preferiti. In a span of 5 hours, they have to solve the secrets of Illuminati, built over centuries.

Ron Howard, the director, has once again shown the command of the medium. He uses computer graphics to enhance the storytelling so that pages are translated to a simple nonstop movement of the camera. The creation of antimatter is one such scene. He has also successfully captured the crowd, the chaos and the euphoria outside the papal church. Here again, he has brilliantly used computer graphics.

In spite of his best efforts, Ron fails to capture the essence of the movie due to the liberties taken during the adaptation of the Dan Brown novel. Fans are not going to love the movie. The predecessor, The Da Vinci Code, was a faithful adaptation with movie narrative aligning with the novel narrative.

Ewan McGregor is excellent as Camerlengo. He has played his role so perfectly that the fans of the novel will see the red herring clearly in his face. Tom Hanks is a letdown. The direction along with the background music builds up the crescendo while Tom hampers the pace with his pedestrian performance. I wish he had the Da Vinci hairdo!. For Armin Mueller-Stahl, this is a cakewalk as he has already played a similar role in The Third Miracle.

The angels are no match for the demons. Wait for the DVD to see how your favorite novel failed to translate into a good movie.

Genre: Thriller

Rating: **

Tags: Movies,Angels and Demons,Ewan McGregor,Tom Hanks,Stellan Skarsgard,Ayelet Zurer,Armin Mueller-Stahl,Ron Howard,Dan Brown

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ripley’s Game

Tom Ripley is living a comfortable life in the outskirts of Paris. He lives off his earnings from the previous exploits and a huge allowance from his father-in-law. The novel opens up with a proposal put forward by one of his friends, Reeves Minot. Reeves wants to assassinate two key members of the Italian Mafia and dissuade the Italians from entering into Hamburg, Germany. Ripley is not interested in spite of the huge rewards.

Later, Ripley remembers a snooty neighbor, Jonathan Trevanny. Jonathan is the local picture framer who is struggling with a failing business and a fatal illness. So, Ripley plays a game with Jonathan. Reeves is made to approach Jonathan with the offer. Slowly, the people and circumstances are manipulated by Ripley through Reeves to get Jonathan interested in taking up the hit.

Jonathan successfully kills one Mafia member. After he gets part of the money, Reeves again approaches Jonathan for the second kill. This time, the murder weapon is crude. Jonathan is reluctant. Reeves consults Ripley again and gets Jonathan to agree. But, this time, Ripley has to interfere. After Ripley and Jonathan executes the second hit, the Italian Mafia figures out the entire plot. Now, Reeves is on the run and Ripley notices new faces in his quiet town.

Patricia Highsmith tells us the story through the eyes of Ripley and Jonathan. The story is devoid of a elaborate plots and subplots. Patricia concentrates on the simple narrative delving into the minds of Ripley and Jonathan. In Ripley, she gives us a man capable of violence in cold blood devoid of any sentiments.

This is a very interesting read.

Picture Courtesy: Wikipedia

Tags: Books,Ripley's Game,Ripley,Patricia Highsmith

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Stuck at top!

Nayana_Climbing On Sunday, I heard a distress call coming from the balcony. It was my daughter crying for help. When I rushed to balcony, I saw my daughter hanging on to the bars at the top of the window. After climbing up to the top, she was unable to climb down! I helped her down.

I love the adventurous spirit. But this is also turning out to be a pain area. I have to watch out for her all the time. When we were shopping in Brand Factory couple of weeks back, she went missing with her cousin, my niece. Finally, I found my daughter at the entrance of the mall, holding her cousin’s hand and leading her cousin outside the shop. She gave a sly smile when I called out her name and stopped midway.

On Saturday, my sister was recounting her childhood. She was an accomplished climber herself, but coming in second to one of our cousins always. The climbing spirit is intact in the family and the legacy has been handed down to GenX.

Finally, I was afraid she will hurt herself by falling down. In my childhood, I was frequently reprimanded for jumping from the terrace to the porch. It was a house built with a vast terrace and a tiled roof over the ground floor. I was confident of a safe fall from the terrace to the gravel on the porch. My guardians weren’t.

I’m sure my daughter is very confident. But I’m not…

Tags: Musings,Daughter,Niece,Sister,Childhood

Movie: Chandni Chowk To China

A remote village in China is terrorized by a sinister gangster named Hojo (Gordon Liu). An astrologer predicts the village will be saved by the reincarnation of a warrior named Liu Sheng. The villagers go searching for the reincarnated hero.

Meanwhile, in Chandni Chowk, Sidhu(Akshay Kumar), a cook, daydreams about riches. He runs after sadhus, astrologers and tarot readers much to the distress of Dada(Mithun Chakraborthy). Sidhu was abandoned at a very young age and Dada had taken care of him since then. Sidhu is mistaken as Liu Sheng by the villagers and a sadhu named Guruji (Ranvir Shorey) deliberately conceals the truth while acting as interpreter between Sidhu and the villagers. Despite warnings from Dada, Sidhu and Guruji embarks on the China trip.

At the Chinese embassy in India, Sidhu has an unpleasant experience with Sakhi(Deepika Padukone). After landing in China, Sidhu encounters Sakhi who smuggles diamonds into the country. But, unknown to Sidhu, this girl is actually Suzy, a look alike of Sakhi and she works for Hojo. Sakhi and Suzy are twin sisters. Years ago, they were separated when their dad, Inspector Chang, was attacked by Hojo. Unknown to both the sisters, Chang lost his memory but survived the fight.

When Sidhu luckily escapes and kills the henchmen sent by Hojo, Hojo sends Suzy to find out more about Sidhu. While Suzy unearths Sidhu’s secret from Guruji, Sakhi realizes Suzy is her sister in a chance encounter. Now, Hojo descends into the village to confront Sidhu. Hojo humiliates Sidhu and also kills Dada. Enraged by Dada’s murder, Sidhu tries to fight back. But Hojo easily defeats an unskilled Sidhu and throws him off the Great Wall of China. But he is saved by Chang.

Chang and Sidhu become friends. Sidhu encounters Sakhi when he tries to assassinate Hojo. Sakhi tells him about her sister. Sakhi also unites with her father, Chang. Chang now agrees to train Sidhu and prepares him for the final confrontation with Hojo.

Nikhil Advani directs this movie. Like his previous outing (Salaam-E-Ishq), he delivers a dud this time too. The pace is slow and humor is puerile. The initial part of the movie shows Sidhu as a buffoon and is overshadowed with CG. Some of the yesteryear popular songs are used to enhance the comedy quotient. Akshay and Ranvir does a funny take “Churake Dil Mera” from “Mein Khiladi Tu Anari”, providing one of best laughs in the movie. With a star like Akshay, we expect the action to begin sooner. But we have to wait for over 2 hours before Akshay starts fighting!

The story is very similar to Golden Child or Yodha(malayalam movie) where a unsuspecting person turns out to be the savior. When you have a star like Akshay, there isn’t much you can do wrong even with a lousy script (Sinngh is Kinng is an example!). But, Nikhil has touched a new high by botching this up!

Avoid this trip at all costs.

Genre: Comedy

Rating: No Rating

Picture Courtesy: Bollywood Hungama

Tags: Movies,Chandni Chowk To China,Akshay Kumar,Deepika Padukone,Mithun Chakraborthy,Gordon Liu,Ranvir Shorey,Nikhil Advani

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bing is Bliss

Bing, the Microsoft search engine, is very convenient. It previews porn! Before you get excited, please check your geographic location. If you are living in India, you will be warned about adult content. You will not be able to proceed further. But, do not get disheartened. You have a workaround!

After changing my location, I searched for a term denoting a sexual act. Under web, Bing listed the articles featuring this term. When I clicked on the Images, Bing took me to a warning page about SafeSearch settings. I tried again after switching off the SafeSearch settings. Bing(o)! I couldn’t ask for more clarity on the search term as all the images displayed were explicit. I clicked on videos and got similar results.

Then, I switched to my good old friend, Google. I was disappointed. Google turned out to be a prude. For the same term, it showed me suggestive images instead of explicit images. If I were a novice, I would have to use my brains to understand the term!

Microsoft being Microsoft, they have come out with a “workaround”! While searching on difficult words or terms, add “adlt=strict” to the end of your query to make sure the results are clean. This is case sensitive!

Bing rocks!

Picture Courtesy: http://lawnstogardens.wordpress.com/

Tags: Musings,Microsoft,Google,Bing,Porn,SafeSearch

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Movie: Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins

RJ Stevens(Martin Lawrence) is a successful self-help guru on TV. He is engaged to Bianca(Joy Bryant),  a finalist in Survivor TV show. Bianca is a dominating woman with a competitive edge. As Bianca and RJ plan their wedding, RJ is invited to the 50th wedding anniversary of his parents, Papa Jenkins(James Earl Jones) and Mamma Jenkins(Margaret Avery). Despite the insistence of his son, Jamaal, RJ does not want to go for the anniversary weekend. When he learns his cousin, Clyde(Cedric the Entertainer), is visiting his parents with Lucinda(Nicole Ari Parker), RJ is hooked. After his parent’s death in an accident, Clyde lived with the Jenkins. During the younger days, Clyde always beat RJ in everything. Clyde was the first to ask Lucinda out for the prom night which crushed RJ.

RJ finally goes to the small sleepy town in the south with Bianca and Jamaal. There, he meets his siblings, Otis(Michael Clarke Duncan) and Betty(Mo’Nique) along with his fast talking cousin, Reggie(Mike Epps). Otis had stayed back in the town after a knee injury and is now happily married, expecting a third baby. Betty, after a couple of divorces, is still living in the town. Reggie is dating a Caucasian teenager. Bianca is not impressed with his family members. When everybody settles down for lunch, Clyde and Lucinda makes an appearance. Then, the tension heats up between RJ and Clyde. As the weekend progresses, Bianca gets annoyed with Lucinda’s presence, her affection for Jamaal and her closeness to RJ.

Malcolm D Lee directs this comedy. Martin Lawrence and Cedric the Entertainer gives us a lot of funny moments with their actions and dialogues. The rest of the cast ably supports these two comedians.

You can hardly call it an excellent homecoming. At the same time, it is not bad either.

Genre: Comedy

Rating: **

Picture Courtesy: Yahoo! Movies

Tags: Movies,Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins,Martin Lawrence,Joy Bryant,James Earl Jones,Margaret Avery,Cedric the Entertainer,Nicole Ari Parker,Michael Clarke Duncan,Mo'Nique,Mike Epps,Malcolm D Lee,Comedy

Full Disclosure

During the commute to work in the morning, one of the local FM channels airs the discourse of a stock market expert in between the Hindi film songs (and the commercials and the call-ins and the call-outs). Since stocks and the markets are an enigma to me, I do not understand any of his tips. Once he is finished, the radio station winds up this short program with a standard set of lines.

As soon as the program is over, the radio station informs us that this person might/might not have interest in the stocks discussed. Every time, I hear those line, I’m bewildered. If he has interest in the stocks discussed, then this becomes an advertisement and not an expert opinion! If it is not an advertisement, the radio station should take pride in their choice of expert and defend him. Playing the undecided only confuses the audience. Hey! I will give you an expert. But I cannot vouch for him!

Elvisier published eight compilations that landed up them in trouble. Merck was one of their sponsors and the compilations favored Merck. Now, they have issued a public statement about disclosing their sponsors. Now aren’t they again confusing the audience? No matter who their sponsors are, they only have to prove their integrity!

Picture Courtesy: http://www.scribes.org

Tags: Musings,Full Disclosure,FM,Elvisier,Merck

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Movie: Dead Man

William “Bill” Blake(Johnny Depp) comes into the town named Machine after getting a job offer from John Dickinson(Robert Mitchum). Dickinson’s employee, John Scholfield(John Hurt), informs Bill that he is late for the job by one month. On hearing this, Bill insists on meeting Dickinson. But Dickinson throws Bill out without hearing him out.

Low on cash and alone in a new town, Bill runs into Thel Russell(Mili Avital) in front of a bar. Thel takes Bill to her home. At night, Charlie Dickinson(Gabriel Bryne), son of John Dickson, barges into Thel’s home. Thel and Charlie had broken up recently. In the ensuing gunfight, Thel and Charlie dies while Bill gets wounded. Bill escapes fearing retribution.

Enraged by his son’s death, John Dickinson employs three hired guns – Cole Wilson(Lance Henriksen), Conway Twill(Michael Wincott), Johnny “the Kid” Pickett(Eugene Bryd) - to hunt Bill. Not satisfied by just three hired guns, he also announces a big reward on Bill Blake.

A wounded Bill meets an Indian named Nobody(Gary Farmer). Nobody tries to remove the bullet from Bill’s body without success. Now, Nobody and Bill begins a journey into the wilderness. They meet weird trappers and greedy bounty hunters. They also part ways amicably in between, only to be reunited later.

Jim Jarmusch has directed this movie. The movie is shot in black and white. But the performances get overshadowed by the electric guitar in the background. The director also has used fade-out technique for transitions between scenes which becomes annoying towards the end. Jim Jarmusch uses a lot of symbolism which the regular movie audience will not be able to interpret.

The movie also features Billy Bob Thornton, Alfred Molina and Crispin Glover in very small roles.

If you like movies with metaphor and symbolism, then you should watch this.

Genre: Western

Rating: *

Picture Courtesy: Yahoo! Movies

Blogger Labels: Movies,Dead Man,Johnny Depp,Robert Mitchum,John Hurt,Mili Avital,Gabriel Bryne,Lance Henriksen,Michael Wincott,Eugene Bryd,Gary Farmer,Jim Jarmusch,Billy Bob Thornton,Alfred Molina,Crispin Glover,Western

Online Newspaper

Imagine if you were sitting down with your morning coffee, turning on your home computer to read your day’s newspaper. Well, it is not as far fetched as it may seem…

The is an excerpt from a new report on KRON. A 1981 report, detailing the initial attempts on providing news online, has resurfaced on YouTube. With major traditional newspapers shutting down in the near past, it is interesting to watch the origins of this new media and also the comments it generated at that time.

Tags: Videos,Online Newspaper,KRON

Friday, June 5, 2009

Mad Avenue Blues

L. McDuff has posted a funny but long video on YouTube about the media/advertising world. In this parody, he chronicles the changes to the traditional model.

Tags: Videos,Mad Avenue Blues

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Hidden Kitchen: Parantha Holic

This is the place you should go, if you love stuffed paranthas. The menu offers various choices of stuffed paranthas and also combination which is slightly cheaper than a-la-carte. This is located in one of the smaller roads that provide a shortcut from Outer Ring Road near Bellandur to Sarjapur Road. It is hard to miss as there is right off the sharp turn on this road. In case you don’t turn, you will hit the restaurant head on.


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The restaurant is small but table arrangement gives it a spacious feel. It is extremely clean. This is ideal place for a quick bite although the price is not very cheap.

Lassis aren’t great. It was very watery. Paranthas were very tasty. If you like makhan on your paranthas, they supply a small packet of Amul butter along with your meal. It does not match the taste of melting butter on the parantha!

Tags: Hidden Kitchen,Bangalore,Parantha Holic,Parantha,Lassi,Makhan
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