Friday, December 30, 2011

Photos: View from Pont Neuf, Paris

I reached Pont Neuf before the sunset. Despite trying several angles and several locations, I was not happy with the end result. The sky wore blue in a few minutes. Even then, I wasn't happy with what was being recorded in the camera.

I packed up all my gear when it became dark. At this point of time, another photographer friend arrived who immediately went on a shooting spree. At the same time, he persuaded me to have another go at it. As a result, I set up the camera again. I'm glad I did.

Pont Neuf is the oldest standing bridge across river Seine in Paris.

Tags: Photos

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tell me a color starting with...

Name a color starting with an alphabet. That was the game I played with my daughter over phone. In fact, she suggested the game. I was skeptical about the game as I possess limited knowledge in this area.

Daughter: Tell me a color starting with B.

Me: Black

Daughter: Okay. Now tell me a color starting with G.

Me: Green.

Daughter: *not very happy with my answer* Tell me another one.

Me: *thinking hard* Grey

Daughter: Okay. Now, it is your turn to ask me.

Me: *thinking hard to find an alphabet which will be easy for my daughter* hmmm. Starting with P.

Daughter: Purple

Me: *surprised the answer is not "pink" and then remembers it is her favorite color* Good. Now, starting with R.

Daughter: Red

Me: Good. Now, it is your turn.

Daughter: hmmmmm. Tell me a color starting with N

Me: *panics after being unable to recall any color* hmmmmmmm

Daughter: *waiting for the color*

Me: *checks the internet quickly but finds only colors she will never identify* hmmmmmm

Daughter: *still waiting*

Me: *admits defeat* I don't know any color starting with N. You tell me.

Daughter: *giggles* The color is Nona. There is no color starting with N. I fooled you!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pappettan raises questions about makeup

If you are wondering who Pappettan is, click on this link and find out.

I am traveling with Pappettan on the Metro. The train is crowded. We are all standing as there is no place to sit. The crowd thickens after each stop. We are all breathing into each other's face. All of a sudden the woman, standing close to Pappettan, takes out her makeup kit and goes on to apply makeup on her face. Pappettan is curious.

Pappettan: Going somewhere?

Woman: *surprised*

Pappettan: *smiles and repeats the questions* Going somewhere?

Woman: *shakes her head* No

Pappettan: *smiles* Really?

Woman: I'm going home.

Pappettan: If you are going home, then why do you need makeup?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Photos: Notre Dame de Paris

Tour Eiffel. That is all I could think on the flight to Paris. But after reaching here, I have been to Notre Dame many times more than the Tour Eiffel. I still have not figured out why I like this place. I loved the Victor Hugo classic "The Hunchback of Notre Dame". But that shouldn't translate to me visiting this place over and over. Is this place easily accessible from my place? I don't think so. I take two trains to get here!

On one bank is the famous book store named "Shakespeare & Co". I love books. But after the first visit, I had my fill. Shakespeare & Co is a vintage shop. I'm more of Barnes & Noble or Borders guy. I love book stores. But it should have plenty of space and a lot of air. Forget the plush chairs. I will sit on the carpeted floors. In summary, this book store is also not what attracts to me to this area!

Anyways, I decide to shoot Notre Dame from the canal sidewalks. There are many tourist boats that pass by this area every 10 minutes. An interval of 10 minutes is good enough to get the desired picture. You can see the final result below.

Tags: Photos

Movie Review: A Dangerous Method

In 1901, Sabina Speilrein(Keira Knightley) is admitted into a Swiss medical institution after being judged mentally insane. There, she is put under the supervision of Carl Jung(Michael Fassbender). At this phase of his career, Jung is interested in findings of Sigmund Freud(Viggo Mortensen). At the same time, Jung is unhappy about how his career is shaping up. But all this changes due to Sabina, Freud and an unexpected catalyst in the form of Otto Gross(Vincent Cassel).

Directed by David Cronenberg, this movie focuses on the life of Carl Jung from the start of the 20th century to a few years before the beginning of First World War. The movie tries to capture the relationship between Jung, Freud and Sabina. Sabina forms the link between the two. For a viewer who has not read Freud or Jung (like me), the movie becomes a tale of man experiencing challenges on both personal and professional fronts. On personal front, the man is caught between the a beautiful wife and a mistress, never letting go of both. On the professional side, he is at loggerheads with his mentor. But is the man brilliant? This question is never answered in the movie. As a result, the movie is extremely slow with characters with no depth and flashes of brilliant acting.

Out of the performances, Viggo Mortensen stands out as Freud, mainly because of the way he delivers his lines and mannerisms. Keira Knightly as Sabina shows promise in the beginning and that is it. Michael Fassbender plays the victim here and he reacts as Jung to all the actors around him. He reacts well. But then, there is nothing more to this role. Vincent Cassel makes us laugh in a small role.

Sans the violence associated with the usual David Cronenberg movie, this one lacks the usual excitement. If you are too lazy to check out on the net for the friendship and the rivalry between Jung and Freud, then this is a good learning board. Otherwise, skip it.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: **

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Are they taking a dirty picture on Christmas day?

This has been a strange Christmas for me. This is the Christmas without a lot of friends. To be exact, this the only Christmas where I had only one friend with me to celebrate. We ended up having a non-meat-eating non-alcoholic dinner on Christmas Eve(yesterday). As a result, we got up early on Christmas Day(today) and went to Hotel Invalides, Paris to take pictures of sunrise.

Hotel Invalides has a huge open space covered in greenery on one side. On this side, the building of Air France flanks the open space. Past the open space, the bridge known as Pont Alexandre III connects two strips of land separated by River Siene. On a good day with moderate traffic in the morning, this area provides an opportunity for taking good pictures. If you are in the Champs Elysees side, then you can stand near where the bridge starts and click facing Hotel Invalides to create magic on your photographs.
View of Hotel Invalides from Champs Elysees
Pont Alexandre III has other interesting features. There are four pillars with golden sculptures on the top on all four corners. In addition to this, there are many intricate sculptures on all sides of the bridge.

After the pictures were taken, we hung around for some more time. We shot some action photography where my friend gladly played the model. It was a first for me.

That was when the strangest thing happened. A car stops in the middle of the bridge. A couple gets out. The man starts taking the pictures of the woman. The woman started shedding clothes. That is when we realized it was a nude photo shoot. It is indeed a strange way to celebrate Christmas!

PS: No, I didn't ask Santa for this! And forget it, don't email me. I don't have any more pictures!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Photos: Empty street, Paris

Empty street, Paris

Tags: Photos

Friday, December 23, 2011

Books: The Art of Racing in the Rain

Garth Stein tells the story of Denny Swift through the eyes of his best friend Enzo. Enzo silently watches, provide support and on rare occasions even offer advice for Denny while the latter becomes an established car racer, meets the woman of his dreams, fathers a child and copes with the loss of his dear wife. Denny befriends Enzo when he is just two weeks old and their friendship lasts for over a decade. If you are wondering why, Enzo is a dog who is aspiring to born as a human in the next birth.

Garth successfully hooks us within the first few pages of the book with unusual perspective used for narration. He tells the story from Enzo's perspective. Essentially, this is a story of male bonding. What happens when one of the friends is mute and as intelligent as you or may be more intelligent than you. Your friend understands you very well but has to languish in frustration as he cannot communicate his thoughts effectively. Despite these handicaps, Enzo tries. This is where the book also turns into a story of loyalty, faithfulness and perseverance. Enzo is also an avid car racing enthusiast. This makes him compare life with car racing. Garth blends life's challenges to racing challenges. It is an interesting analogy even if you don't know anything about racing. This is where the book also is a story of endurance, patience and strong will which inspires & motivates you.

Pick up the book. You will find it hard to put it down.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Photos: Concorde, Paris

Concorde, Paris with the wheel

Tags: Photos

Impossible n'est pas Francais

This should be the easiest to figure out. Don't you remember Napolean? Don't you remember his famous quote about the word "impossible". If you do, that is what I am talking about. There are many variations of it. What I remember is "The word impossible is not in my dictionary". There is another version of the same quote saying "Impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fools". I like the first version. It is non-threatening but inspiring and motivating at the same time.

The French version of this famous quote is "Impossible n'est pas Francais" which translates to "Impossible is not French". When I told my friends the version I learnt in school, they liked my version better; may be for all the reasons I mentioned earlier. The topic of the day was famous French politicians and my friends think Charles de Gaulle is the one. Whatever little I know about him is after visiting the de Gaulle section at the Musee de l'Armee. If I had not read the Frederick Forsyth novel "The Day of the Jackal", I wouldn't even have known of a French President named de Gaulle!

So, who do you think is famous? Napolean, Charles de Gaulle or Sarkozy?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Movie Review: Hysteria

Dr Mortimer Granville(Hugh Dancy) tries to educate his peers and employers about the importance of germ theory in the Victorian era. As a result, Granville keeps getting fired from many of the institutions reluctant to change or adopt revolutionary ideas. After unsuccessfully knocking at many doors, Granville comes across Dr Robert Darlymple(Jonathan Pryce) who runs a successful clinic for treating female hysteria. As he is getting older and also has a huge clientele, Darlymple takes up Granville as an apprentice. The two daughters of Darlymple - progressively thinking Charlotte(Maggie Gyllenhaal) and obedient Emily(Felicity Jones) - and the nature of his new job changes the life of Granville.The nature of his new job makes Granville and his friend Lord Edmunde St John-Smythe(Rupert Everett) to invent a mechanical device to treat female hysteria. The mechanical device is the vibrator!

Directed by Tanya Wexler, the trailer of the movie was good enough to evoke laughter and hook the interest of the audience. Luckily for us, Tanya follows this up by making a movie which entertains us just like the trailers. The highlights of the movie is the lack of nudity despite the theme, nuanced (yes, I mean it) by the actresses usually the ones playing the supporting role and straight-faced reaction by the men. To top it all, there is brilliant word play by the actors resulting in double entendres which doesn't sound vulgar despite walking on thin ice. This is to be expected as this is British movie. The cast and crew are mostly British. On the flip side, the movie tries to integrate too many plot lines through the character of Charlotte which brings in feminism and romance. This dilutes the impact of the movie. Fortunately, not to a great extent. Performance wise, it is Jonathan Pryce and the supporting actors/actresses that leaves an impact.

This is recommended. But leave the kids behind.

Language: English

Genre: Comedy

Rating: ***

Movie Review: New Year's Eve

From the morning of 31st December 2011 to the early hours of 1st January 2012, this movie traces the lives of many people in the New York City - a vice-president(Hilary Swank) in charge of the ball drop, a meek middle-aged secretary(Michelle Pfeiffer) trying to fulfill her new year resolutions with the help of a young deliveryman(Zac Efron), a teenager(Abigail Breslin) who wants to spend the evening with her friends and boyfriends but has an over-protective mom(Sarah Jessica Parker) to deal with, a lovelorn slacker(Ashton Kutcher) who finds a match(Lea Michele) in an unlikely place, a musician(Jon Bon Jovi) who is desperately trying to win back his ex-girlfriend(Katherine Heigl), a nurse(Halle Berry) who babysits a lonely dying man(Robert De Niro), two pregnant couples(Seth Meyers-Jessica Biel and Til Schweiger-Sarah Paulson) competing to give birth in the early hours of 2012 to win prize money offered by the hospital, a businessman(Josh Duhamel) rushing to make an important speech.

As you can see, Garry Marshall tries to fit in as many stories into his movie. In addition an impressive cast to play the major roles, he also a host of other famous personalities playing small roles in many of the segments in this movie. Predictably, none of these actors or stars get sufficient screen space. As a result, he promptly fails in delivering an engaging movie and succeeds only in generating the wow factor in his ability to signup these stars. To compound these problems, the director chooses a cliched set of stories, which we have been forced to see as a full length movie, into a 10-15 minute segment. Too many cliches one after the other is also bad. The only story worth watching is the one involving Michelle Pfeiffer and Zac Effron when the latter tries to fulfill all of former's new year resolutions in a day without leaving the New York City. The two actor amusing you are Sarah Jessica Parker as the over protective mom with one-liners & slapstick (for lack of a better word) and Ashton Kutcher for a minute when he shows the sensitive side behind the hate-spewing slacker. Then, there is Halle Berry,  changing from the plain blue colored dress of a nurse to a stunning evening dress. You don't see her changing. She goes into the changing room as a nurse, closes the doors and comes out as a girl ready to party. Believe it not, it is one of the highlights of the movie.

With few moments impressing you in this seemingly long movie, it is better to skip this one. There is nothing in this movie other than the long list of stars.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: *

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Variable pay" woes

Most of our salaries are divided into two components - the first being the fixed and the second being variable. I came to this term when I moved back to India in 2006. In layman's terms, the variable pay is a bonus payable at the end of each quarter based on your performance and the organization's performance. To make matters more complicated, your performance and the organization's performance might be subdivided into other components. 

The variable pay, depending how the good quarter was, can touch 100%. If it is a bad quarter, forget about getting paid in full! When a bad quarter happens, it always results in a lot of angry people. The primary reason are the recruiters who sold you the deal. The recruiter, while closing the deal, will make you think you are getting the fixed and the variable as it is.

When the payout is less than 100%, people behave differently. I have had my young friends blowing their tops in front of me when the payout is less than 100%. In such cases, I do what I can. I listen to them. But how does the older friends react? The following is an excerpt from a conversation I overheard! They were working for the same boss.

Older Friend 1: I got only 67% of my variable pay.

Older Friend 2: I got around 76%.

Older Friend 1: *outrage* How is that possible?

Older Friend 2: *with a matter-of-fact and an irritating tone* Obviously, I qualified on more indicators than you. *after a pause* But do you know.... our boss got 85%.

Older Friend 1: *shocked* How?

Older Friend 2: He contained attrition.

Older Friend 1: *takes some time to figure this one out* What!!!!

Older Friend 2: *smiles*

Older Friend 1: So, people reporting to us were leaving right and left. But people reporting to him were not?

Older Friend 2: *smiles in a reassuring way to indicate Older Friend 1 is on the right track*

Older Friend 1: *haltingly* People reporting to him are us... that means you and me....

Older Friend 2: *smiling ear to ear now*

Older Friend 1: Well, if our variable payout is not less than his, he is going to have trouble with his attrition criteria in the next quarter. *ends with a evil laugh*

Photos: Arc de Triomphe, Paris

Arc de Triomphe, Paris at night

Tags: Photos

Monday, December 19, 2011

Photos: Concorde, Paris

Concorde, Paris

Tags: Photos

Photos: Galeries Lafayette, Paris

Galeries Lafayette, Paris, lighted up during blue hour

Tags: Photos

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Getting in is easy, Getting out is not!

Have you ever talked to your way into trouble or confrontation? If you have, were you able to untangle yourself from it? I always end up in trouble or confrontation with my not so thoughtful words. I always do. On rare occasions, I am able to extricate myself before much harm is done with a whole lot of luck. Sometimes, it ends up badly. Now I know for sure. I'm only good at getting into trouble but not getting out of it. Unfortunate but true. Since I have felt the pain and frustration surrounding the inability to extract myself from such situations, I also admire people who can do this with ease. Last Sunday, I witnessed this in first person. 

My friend, who is blessed with quick wit and funny comebacks, was the protagonist. Both of us were in an Irish pub when my friend started talking to a lady. The lady had moved to Paris from California. I always run into Californians in Paris. But there is another overlooked fact which this lady pointed out to me. Reverse is also true. There are a lot of French nationals who move to California. The lady quoted a number of French nationals residing in California. The number seemed too high for me! Moreover, I do not remember finding a French citizen during my stay in California. But then, the relation between France and California is not the focus of this post.

Back to the main story, my friend talks to this lady from California. The conversation soon turn into flirting. To put off my friend, the lady throws in the "boyfriend" card. Her boyfriend is supposed to be there to pick her up. My friend remains unfazed with this revelation. He continues to flirt. Soon, the lady becomes uncomfortable. All of a sudden, my friend gently touches her elbow and tells her that he is messing with her. The situation is defused. The lady relaxes. And my friend continues to flirt with her.

I was observing the exchange the entire time. Most of the time, I was trying to suppress my smile when I saw my friend zeroing in strongly on her. Whenever the lady tried pushing him out using words, he came back stronger and even harder. At one point, I thought my friend had crossed the line and would have to eat his words. I don't know what happened. Is it the touch or the words that made it right? Some people, I say, have the gift!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pappettan meets a Guru-ji

If you are wondering who Pappettan is, click on this link and find out.

Pappettan goes for a party in Zurich, Switzerland. There, he meets a fellow Indian. The fellow Indian takes Pappettan to a Guru-ji (Guru + -ji). who is also attending the party. Guru-ji acts like a wise man, speaks softly and exchanges pleasantries with Pappettan. Pappettan, like a gentleman that he is, answers politely. All of a sudden, Guru-ji takes a piece of paper, writes down something on it, folds the paper and gives it to Pappettan. Pappettan is intrigued by this. But he accepts the piece of paper.

Guru-ji: Tell me the name of a flower

Pappettan: *confused, looks eagerly at Guruji for an explanation*

Guru-ji: *silently waits for an answer*

Pappettan: *thinks hard and then* Lotus

Guru-ji: *disappointed, shakes his head* Tell me the name of a garden flower.

Pappettan: *thinks harder, unable to think of anything and then* Rose...

Guru-ji: *smiles* Now, look at the piece of paper

Pappettan unfolds the piece of paper and finds "Rose" scribbled on it. Then, Pappettan suppresses a smile and acts impressed.

Fellow Indian: *intervenes* Now, give dakshina for Guru-ji

Pappettan: * reaches the pocket to take one Swiss Franc but keeps up the pretense*  How much is the dakshina?

Fellow Indian: Hundred and One.

Pappettan: *suppresses laughter and then* Please accept one Swiss Franc. I don't have the hundred.

Fellow Indian happily accepts the dakshina for the Guru-ji.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Books: The Last Lecture

Randy Pausch writes this book along with Jeffrey Zaslow as a follow-up to his "The Last Lecture" at Carnegie-Mellon University. "The Last Lecture" series, although renamed by the time Randy was the speaker, is where professors are given an opportunity to speak on a subject as if this is the last lecture before the speaker's death. In Randy's case, it was aptly called his last lecture. Randy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and had a very little time left to live.

The book resonates the theme of Randy's last lecture. How can you achieve your dreams? He provides himself as an example and demonstrates how he overcame the various brick walls encountered in his life. His perseverance is also attributed to the humble upbringing by his parents and the influence of his mentors. In fact, the book and the lecture is also a way to overcome the final brick wall in his life. Being in the book form, Randy is able to dedicate more words and anecdotes about his close family than a lecture of 1 hour duration.

How can a man on a death sentence inspire us to dream and to achieve the dream? It may sound impossible. But that is what Randy achieves with this book. It takes courage to accept the inevitable and do the possible best for the remainder of his short life. I believe people react in the best optimized manner when faced with constraints. Randy demonstrates it. Faced with the biggest constraint in his life, he has come out with this book (and the lecture) for inspiring people to overcome constraints.

After reading the book, you end up asking yourself many questions. What would you do if you had only limited time to live? Are you going to give up too soon whenever you find a brick wall?

This is different from the usual inspirational books. You must read this.

Time Lapse Video of La Defense

Finally, I was able to make a time lapse video from photographs. Once you have a set of photographs, it is easy to make a video by stitching together these using Windows Movie Maker. You select the photos, set the duration for which these photos have to be displayed and also the transition time between the videos. Once you have the desired outcome, you save it as a video. But the hard part is the set of photographs!

The set of photographs have to be shot from the same angle. For this, you need a tripod. Carrying the tripod around can be a tedious task especially if you are using an overcrowded public transport system. You might look like a John Rambo with the quiver when you sling the tripod bag over your shoulders. But I doubt if the fellow passengers would treat with awe whenever the public transit vehicle makes sudden stops or wide turns resulting in the quiver poking .

The next part is to click pictures at predetermined intervals. There are fancy controllers designed for this purpose if you are in the mood to blow a small fortune.Otherwise, there is always the old fashioned way. Keep clicking by looking at the seconds needle of your watch. If you are doing this on a very cold and windy day, you better carry a pair of gloves.

The venue was La Défense, Paris. I had a tripod which was setup in Grande Arche facing Arc de Triomphe. I chose the old fashioned way to take pictures. I didn't have gloves. It was a very cold and windy day, by my standards. After clicking around 40 pictures, my hands were turning white. So, I stopped. You can see the final outcome below.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Stretchable time!

Indian Standard Time(IST) become Indian Stretchable Time(IST). Isn't that a joke done many times over? Never be there on time. The appointed hour stretches to take a new hour! My favorite instance of this is when my friend standing at the door, with one leg outside the apartment while the other inside,  engaged in a talk about nothing. Then he suddenly reminds me that he is late as usual by one hour and he needs to starts now to make it for the rendezvous!

I have been on the receiving end of the IST last Sunday. I was waiting at La Défense for two of my friends to show up. The plan was to visit the Marche de Noël, click pictures and enjoy the hot wine & sausages. Unfortunately, I am the first to arrive at the venue. They turn up late as usual. While waiting for them, I realized I was under-dressed for the occasion. So I had to go all the way back to my apartment, change into warmer clothes and come back. My apartment is more than 45 minutes away from La Défense. When I arrived back, my friends have not even turned up! They turn up 4 hours later than the planned time.

The learning experience, other than wearing warm clothes on an extremely cold day, was how people tell you about the delays. The first one fished around for words and admitted he was about to start. This was a good 2 hours later than the initial planned time for meeting. The other friend was very communicative if overlook the fact he went incommunicado for 3.5 hours! Then, he kept sending SMS-es about his current position by typing in  the Metro stations. When I noticed an unusually long interval of time between his two consecutive SMS-es while passing between two adjacent Metro stations, I asked him if there was any problem with the Metro lines. The prompt reply was "Sorry, till now I was bluffing. The last SMS was only one truly reflecting my current position."

Tags: Musings,Time

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

You have to come for my funeral

You have to come for my funeral. When my friend put forward the strange request, the first thought that came into my mind was simple. Why are even talking about death on a Saturday evening? We are old but not that old. Moreover, it is not as if my friend is suffering from a terminal illness.

What felt strange was my nodding affirmatively to his strange request on reflex. I even forgot my golden rule. Never make any promises. That is it. It is not about making promises that you can keep. Never make any promises. If you do not make any promises, there is no uncertainty about keeping it.

In a few seconds, I gathered courage to tell him about the golden rule. He changed the assertive tone of the statement and rephrased the sentence thereby giving me flexibility and freeing me of any responsibility. I thought he deserved an explanation about the golden rule. So, I tried explaining him. He told me not to. An explanation was not needed.

I'm glad. I can articulate the reason easily. But I hate to explain every one of my action. With friends like these, you don't have!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A good boy has the BEST day of his life

If you are a girl, there is nothing in this post for you. On second thoughts, wait! There is something for you when I am done with this. So, be an observer for now. If you are a boy, this is for you depending on what you are; namely a good boy or bad boy. If you are a good boy and don't plan to change your virtue-quotient, there is nothing for you here! My advice is to continue being so. Now, if you are a bad boy, there are a lot of things for you here. Like they say, all of us are born good before we make the decision to cross over to the dark side. I am not going to ponder about what made you cross over. Instead I'm going to tell you a little tale; a little tale about 2 bad boys and 1 good boy.

On Saturday evening, the good boy volunteers to cook chicken curry and aaloo mutter for the group. The bad boys are happy since they don't have to cook. This is when the good boy gets a call. The good boy is moving into a new apartment and as the landlord will be away, this is the only night where the keys can be handed over. The good boy leaves the party. The bad boys cooks food and consumes two bottles of port wine. They get so wasted that one of them end up sitting on the kitchen floor hugging the garbage bin. The other bad boy promptly takes a picture of this historic moment and sends to the third bad boy who couldn't take part in the festivities. Soon, they go to sleep. If this sounds like fun, then let's check what is happening to the good boy.

The good boy locates the landlord with great difficulty and gets the keys. The landlord is attending a birthday party and requests the good boy to join the party. The good boy reluctantly agrees. The landlord departs the party early, leaving the good boy with 5 girls. The good boy, like a gentleman, humors the girls in his own characteristic style. When the time arrives to say good-bye, the birthday girl tells him thank you. Then she tells him she wants to say thank you in a special way. The special way turns out to be very special indeed. The birthday girl does a strip-tease act for him while the other 4 girls encourages the teaser and the teased. When the striptease is over, the girls still wants his company. They take him to a nightclub. This nightclub also turns to be special; a lesbian nightclub.

The bouncers do not let a guy inside the nightclub. But the girls are determined. They cajole the bouncer and the power of their collective persuasive power opens the doors of the lesbian nightclub for the good boy. He is the only man in that room with 300 odd women. At this point, you may ask "But what is the point? It is a lesbian nightclub!". My response,  "Two things". The first is simple. Woman and Woman = 2 women! The second is slightly more complex. You need to get off this page briefly and learn the meaning of the term "bisexual". They party through the night into the early morning hours. Then the girls take him back to their place.

The bad boys wake up in the morning with a hangover. They make coffee. The good guy has not returned. The morning turns into afternoon. A tired good boy returns home. He tells the bad boys "You guys should have come with me. I had the BEST day of my life". Being good, he is neither divulging more information nor willing to define BEST.

That sums up the tale of 2 bad boys and 1 good boy. Since you have been reading this with a lot of patience, I have a question for you. "Do you still want to a bad boy?". In case the answer is yes, go back to the beginning, read the post again. As for you girls, I haven't forgotten you. A word of advice for you. Keep encouraging the good boys. There are very few of them. Act before they are extinct!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Why did you leave Bengaluru?

Daughter: When are you coming to India?

Me: February

Daughter: Why can't you work from Bengaluru?

Me: The office is here. So, I have to be here.

Daughter: Why did you leave Bengaluru?

Me: *searches for an answer, contemplates different topics but not too sure if she can understand any of it*

Daughter: *helps* I know!

Me: *surprised*

Daughter: Your office was giving a lot of homework. That is why you went to Paris!

Movie Review: Black Gold

Two warring tribes, fighting over a piece of land, signs a pact of peace. For everlasting peace, Emir Nesib(Antonio Banderas) takes the two sons of his rival Sultan Amar(Mark Strong) as hostages. The children will grow up as Nesib's sons and both men will not lay any claim on this piece of land. 15 years later in the 1930s, the youngest son Auda(Tahar Rahim) has grown up reading Koran & other books into a wise peace-loving man when Nesib finds black gold hidden inside the land he had forsaken. Soon, this catapults Nesib and Amar into the path of conflict where Auda will come off age reluctantly.

Jean-Jacques Arnaud directs this movie adaptation of a novel by Hans Ruesch. Using the backdrop of oil or black gold, the movie focuses on conflict between two different ideologies followed by two strong-willed men - Nesib and Amar. Nesib is sly and wants to have the best for his people while Amar is old fashioned. Nesib is ready to bend the rules to achieve his goal while Amar does not easily compromise. Nesib believes in buying everything with money while Amar belives nothing bought with money lasts. Auda, brought up in Nesib's household while listening to Amar's advices through letters, is the bridge between these two people. Auda will not be able to make these men friends but he is the future of two kingdoms. It is always interesting to watch the clash between two ideologies with an innocent trapped between it. This provides enough scope for drama. By adding in love, western greed, interpretation of koranic verses etc to the concoction, Jean-Jacques entertains the audience with this movie. The movie is set in the desert and the visuals are enthralling. The dialogues in a poetic style is noteworthy. The music by James Horner helps the movie. While Jean-Jacques scores in portraying the life of the warriors in desert successfully, he fails in the action scenes. This is where he loses an opportunity to elevate this movie into a classic. It is during the battles where Auda, who is perceived as weak, shows his brilliance as a general. Because of the badly executed action scenes, this does not come out well. This is left to imagination of the audience.

Mark Strong delivers a powerful yet restrained performance as Amar. Amar doesn't open up to anyone but observes closely. How he contains himself after meeting his son after 15 years, how he teaches Auda the values of life and how he molds his son into a warrior are what makes this movie captivating. Antonio Banderas as a sly and cunning Nesib is good. But his performance reminds us of his past movies. Tahar Rahim as Auda has to portray the innocent man in the major part of the movie and the wise & war-hardened man during the end of the movie. Tahar succeeds in fulfilling the first need but does not succeed in the second.

Overall, this movie is recommended. If you decide to go for this movie, be aware that is slightly longer than the usual Hollywood movies.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: ***

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Nobody sees the big picture!

Nobody sees the big picture! Everyone is contend with those parts they are interested. What conclusion can you draw by only analyzing a tiny portion of the whole?

Yesterday during lunch hour, three of my colleagues were discussing a woman who passed by them. As soon as she was out of earshot, the three voluntarily shared their assessment to compare notes. The three of them liked three different things about her. The commonality between their views; it was all about the anatomy.

Was there a conclusion? No! I am still waiting for them to tell me if the woman was hot or not!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Pappettan talks about 5 senses

If you are wondering who Pappettan is, click on this link and find out.

If you have taken your non-Indian friends to an Indian restaurant, you have been in this situation already. Everything is hunky-dory till the menu arrives; at times even after ordering the food. But somewhere between entering the restaurant and eating the aromatic delicious food, this question pops up. "Do I eat with my hands?". Frankly, I hate to be asked this question because I do not have a good answer. What do you tell your friends?

This is where Pappettan is unique. Like all of us, he is in a restaurant when somebody asks this question. He looks at the person who asked the question and replies earnestly, "We prepare our food with a lot of care. As you know, we use a lot of spices". At this point, Pappettan pauses. Everyone is looking at him eagerly. He continues, "Spices are to be experienced with all 5 senses.". There is another pause after which he concludes, "Touch is one of the five senses".

Five minutes after this conversation, everyone around the table is eating using their hands.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Books: Scratch Beginnings

Can you restart your life with the bare minimum? This is the question for which Adam Shepard tries to find an answer. Adam leaves his home town Rayleigh with $25 in his pocket, a gym bag and the clothes he is wearing. He moves to Charleston, South Carolina and lives in a shelter home. His objective is simple. After one year, he should be living in a furnished apartment, own a car that works and has $2500 in his saving account.

Adam Shepard writes about his experiences during this period in this book. He reaches his goal. But what he learns in this journey is interesting at many levels. Adam understands the importance of savings. So, he looks for alternatives which meets the requirements with compromises and avoid splurging. At one point, he even looks at his mother's constant pestering about turning off the lights for what it really means. Control the operating expenses. He also realizes the importance of budgeting.

At the same time, he also wonders why the other residents of the shelter home do not realize the importance of these skills. The shelter homes have counselors who emphasize on these points. Then, why? This is where you start to wonder about Adam's educational background. Adam and also his parents are educated. For an educated person with his background, it is easy to be motivated and also be set in the path. But what about the people who end up in shelter homes? There are no teachers. There are only experiences! 

Nevertheless, Adam chronicling the events gives the reader confidence, enlightenment and also hope. Things can get better if you decide to do something about it.

This is an interesting read.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Are you in a "live-in" relationship?

Are you in a "live-in" relationship? Recently, my young friend was asked this question. It was asked by none other than his dad. My young friend reacted promptly to this question. He fell off the chair!

While my young friend is still analyzing how his father arrived at this ridiculous conclusion, I know the reason. He has only himself to blame. Check his Facebook account. Why does he have more girls than guys as friends? Why does he comment whenever a girl post something even if it is silly? I will pardon him for the above two sins. After all, he is a guy. The third sin is unforgivable. He should never have done it in the first place. He has known his father's intentions for a long time. Then, why did he accept his dad's friend request on Facebook?

After a tiring Skype session with his dad on girls and relationship, my young friend did the right thing. He removed his dad from his friend list on Facebook.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

She will call me!

"Why do you worry? She knows my number. If she is lost, she will give me a call". Sounds logical! The purpose of the rapidly mutating invention of Alexander Graham Bell is to bridge distances. My friend making this statement, while sitting in a restaurant with one leg over other and sipping whisky casually, was a flesh and blood evidence of the idiom "cool as cucumber". Except the "she" was his 8 year old daughter!

When my friend came to Bengaluru with his family, we(his family and my family) decided to go to a "garden restaurant" near Agara lake. His 8 year old was lost in the crowd with 4 grown-ups, my 3-year-old and his few-months-old. As a  result, she was cruising the restaurant, stopping at each table, listening to the topic of conversation briefly and quickly moving on. I was uncomfortable whenever she was out of sight. So, I kept shifting in my chair to get her latest coordinates. Now, you know the context and you also know how my friend asked me to relax.

My immediate reaction to his statement may sound silly to you but was of great importance to me. How can a 8-year-old remember a mobile number? How does she learn the sequence of numbers? For an adult, it is easier to break up the number making it easy to recall. As the first few digits tell you about the network operator and the location, this is very easy for an adult. But for a kid? The funniest moment came later the next day when my friend explained this philosophy to another friend's wife. Not only did he repeatedly hammer in about this being a normal thing to do but also he advised on writing the phone number on a piece of paper and keeping it in the kid's pocket. My friend was didn't notice the shock and bewilderment on her face!

I forgot about all these for a long time. After my daughter turned 4, her grandfather taught her my cellphone number. I still do not know how he managed to do it. But after she learnt my cellphone number, I would receive calls at the most inopportune moments. I learnt a different lesson during these calls. You might let your spouse's call go to the voice-mail but not your daughter's! I pick up these calls even if it is to say "I'm busy and I will call you back in a few minutes!". Now, I have been in Paris for an year now. She still remembers my old cellphone number. During first two months after my move to Paris, she kept calling my old cellphone number. After getting the subscriber-switched-off message several times, she complained about it to me!

The kids can learn phone numbers. In my case, my daughter is an example. But will I let her out of my sight because of this? No way!

Monday, November 28, 2011

KCA Malayalee Sangamam 2011 in Paris

For an evening that began with a cautious welcome note, it turned out to be spectacular. When the speaker welcomed the guest, he reminded everyone the informal setting of the event. So, he advised everyone to be at home and also to forgive if the events do not match up to professional standards. In his words, it is our kids who are organizing shows. Two hours into the program, I was happy to be there, listening to people speaking in my language and a night of music & dance. Is there any Indian program without music & dance?

The event was honoring the coming holidays - Xmas, New Year etc. When you are an expatriate, you celebrate holidays on different dates. If you analyze, it makes perfect sense. Everyone has plans for the holidays and it is not feasible to have a social gathering on the real holiday. I had to leave early. So, I missed the wine and food. In case you are an expatriate like me, you can check out the KCA website. Usually, they organize an event every few months. It is a good opportunity if you miss Kerala while in Paris.

Friday, November 25, 2011

When in Paris, carry an umbrella with you

Overconfidence is not good! Has anyone advised you so? I have been advised so many time. I don't know why! I look so far away from confident (on the negative side) to advise me about overconfidence. It doesn't matter. Like all advices I have ignored this one too. But advices are like past. It has a way of sneaking upon you when you least expect it to. And that is what happened to me in Paris a couple of weeks back! The strangest advice, after finalization of all paper works for my travel to Paris, was to carry an umbrella. I suppressed my smirks and asked why. It rains very often in Paris.

I spent a major part of my life in Kerala where you get so wet in monsoons that you don't need to take a shower! During childhood, the rule of thumb was not to wear a rain coat while riding the bicycle to school. When I became an adult, the edicts changed. Don't wear a rain coat while riding a motorcycle to work! Later when I moved to California, I neither took an umbrella when I moved nor did I buy one after reaching there! I have been to Pier 39 when it drizzled! The raindrops on your face while watching the famous bridges on both sides of you is a magical experience. Moreover, how often/far do you have to walk in US of A? Every place is accessible by car and you can also buy a car easily. As you can see, the umbrella does not come into the picture at all.

By the time I moved to Paris, I was overconfident about my abilities to survive in the rain. You don't need a car inside the city. The Metro stations are usually a few feet away. There is always a taxi station nearby all the major centers. If all this does not work out, it can't be as bad as the monsoons in Kerala. All your best laid plans can go awry. I was stuck in Paris when it was raining. The Metro had closed down as it was past 2 am. There were no taxi stations nearby. To make matters worse, none of the taxis passing by would stop. You can't blame them. How will they stop when they already have a passenger? I was prepared to get wet in the rain. There was one thing I did not take into consideration. The rain here is cold. It is so cold that it penetrates through your clothes into your skin like a spear. With each droplets, you relive this sensation again.

Remember this. If you are coming to Paris, please carry an umbrella. If you are too lazy to carry an umbrella and encounter a similar situation, send an SMS to "TAXI"(8294) with your postal code and time of pickup. Of course, you need to talk in French when they call you back!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Crêperie de Josselin: Butter everywhere

There is usually a long queue outside this restaurant in Paris, on Rue du Montparnasse very close Metro Edgar Quinet. It was a fast moving queue in my case. Within 10 minutes, I was seated inside. On entering the restaurant, the first thing you notice is the smell of frying butter. This smell also orients you on what to expect from this restaurant. The next thing you notice is the size of the restaurant. It is small. It also looks frozen in time if you ignore the attire worn by the patrons.

The pictures hanging on the wall and the china displayed on the racks resting on the wall gives you the theme of the restaurant. The theme Bretagne is omnipresent in this restaurant. The menu offers you a variety of crêpes and galettes. If you are wondering what these are, think dosa, though made of different constituent. To differentiate between crêpes and galettes in a simple way, think of the former as sweet and the latter as salted.

The restaurant menu displays items in 3 different languages - French, English and Japanese. Why Japanese? It may be because of abundance of Japanese visitors in this area! The crêpes and galettes are made thicker than what is available elsewhere. Do you still remember the smell of fried butter I was talking about earlier? One look at your dish, you know where it all ended up in. Liquid butter shines from your dish.

I was not in the mood eat excessively. So, I ordered pancake with bananas flambeed in rum. This serves me well. The dish is almost like a dessert and there is alcohol in it too. I eat lightly and keep a safe distance from  binge drinking. The pancake was over as soon as it arrived. Then, I took a a bite of galette with smoked salmon from my friend. I ordered for one more item, this time a galette with a difficult-to-pronounce sausage. I might have weak-willed regarding the food that night but was strong-willed regarding the no-alcohol policy.

If you are in the area, I recommend you to try this out. The queue might be long. So, carry your umbrella or a thick jacket depending on the climatic conditions.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pappettan whistles

If you are wondering who Pappettan is, click on this link and find out.

I was standing outside a restaurant on Rue Didot with Pappettan talking about things we love to talk about; namely nothing. It was a cold dark night. During our conversation, we observed two women walking towards us. When they were about to cross us, Pappettan whistled. It was a loud whistle; a whistle that goes from lower note to higher note gradually while alternating between lower & upper notes playfully as it climbs high.

I was shocked and offended at the same time. I did not expect him to whistle and hence the shock. I was offended because he had pulled the hood of the jacket over his head to cover his face while my face was exposed. Strangely, I was also impressed because I do not know how to whistle. I tried to learn this art in the past. All attempts ended up the same way, in failure. Even art of learning is also a skill, which I lacked.

So, The girls ignored us and passed by. When they were out of earshot, the following is what happened.

Me: *raises eyebrows*

Pappettan: *shrugs*

Me: *still with raised eyebrows, waiting for an explanation*

Pappettan: I did the right thing.

Me: *eyebrows hurting but still raises it higher*

Pappettan: Look at those girls. Imagine how much time they would have spent before the mirror. We should appreciate their efforts... the least we can do. Exactly what I did right now.

There is no argument against this line of reasoning. I do agree. Beauty has to be appreciated. We all know it by now. Also, any efforts undertaken to enhance beauty also has to be appreciated!

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