Thursday, June 30, 2011

Books: Gone Baby Gone



When Lionel McCready and his wife Beatrice approaches Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro in order to find their missing niece, the two private detectives are skeptical about the value they can bring to the table. After all, the entire police department along with the locals – both citizens and media – are leaving no stones unturned to find the barely five year old girl who went missing from her bed inside her home. But Angela is moved by a persistent aunt and the two private eyes embark on the quest. But their search for truth uncovers the dark side of the neighborhood.

Dennis Lehane is the author of this book which is the fourth in Kenzie-Gennaro series. The story is set in Boston like his earlier books and the victim belongs to the lower strata of the society. Like his earlier works, the starting premise is simple. But it gets complicated as the story progresses. The novel stands out on two accounts. The first questions the responsibility of parents and touches upon what makes them good or bad. The second is confusion of the main protagonist on the definition of “what is right?”. The second aspect comes out during the ending pages of the book touching the reader emotionally.

If you are looking for a thriller, this is recommended. But be ready to be shocked.

Tags: Books,Dennis Lehane,Patrick Kenzie,Angela Gennaro

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Movie Review: Shaitan



Amy(Kalki Koechlin) aka Amirta Jayshankar recently moved to Mumbai from LA along with her dad and step-mom. Her biological mom was mentally ill and Amy is often haunted by her childhood memories of her mom’s illness till date. While attending a party with her parents in Mumbai, Amy meets KC(Gulshan Devaiya), son of a wealthy socialite. KC gives her a joint to smoke. When they get high and comfortable with each other, KC invites Amy to his residence for a Holi party.

During the Holi party, Amy meets Zubin(Neil Bhoopalam), Dash aka Dushyant Sahu(Shiv Pandit) and Tanya(Kirti Kulhari). Zubin is an intelligent kid hailing from a wealthy Parsi family. Dash works as a waiter in a local restaurant and makes extra money by supplying drugs. Tanya is a model who is controlled by her sister. All five of them bond and become thick friends soon. They party like there is no tomorrow.

Often, they are roaming the city in KC’s Hummer after getting high on drugs. On one fateful night, all five of them get playful inside the car after their usual dosages of drugs, food and excitement. As a result, KC is distracted while driving. All of a sudden, the Hummer collides with a scooter; killing the two persons. All five panic and flee the scene of crime. But their mistake catches up in the form of a suspended Inspector named Arvind(Rajeev Khandelwal) bringing out the evil inside each of them.

Bejoy Nambiar debuts with this drama which is entertaining, thrilling and funny. Shaitan is unquestionably a director’s movie. At the same time, this movie is a risky launch pad for a debutant. Even with odds going against him, Bejoy proves his capabilities and comfort factor with the medium. With co-producer like Anurag Kashyap, there is very little that can go wrong. The movies stands out for various reasons; the first being the script. Co-scripted by Bejoy Nambiar, it is based on the simple premise of reality being the best comedy. The real life incidents and real life dialogues will have you in splits; unintentional from the actor’s perspective and intentional from the director’s perspective. The cinematography by Madhie provides some spectacular shots especially the slow motion shots; be it the fight sequence, Amy’s fall into the swimming pool, Hummer sequences, accident etc. The background music by Ranjit Barot has been used innovatively – both sound and the place – to enhance the viewing experience. The songs are fresh in sound and rendering. Luckily, the songs do not hinder the pace of the narrative.

The cast is young and there are a handful of veterans in the movie. But it is difficult to differentiate between the young cast and the veteran ones. All the performances are good.

This is a must watch for all serious movie lovers. For the rest, the movie is gripping. But, there are many scenes which are not suitable for a family audience. So discretion is recommended.

Language: Hindi

Genre: Drama

Rating: ****

Picture Courtesy: Bollywood Hungama

Tags: Movies,Kalki Koechlin,Rajeev Khandelwal,Drama

Sunday, June 26, 2011

What about "Thank You"?



One among the many changes noted by my wife after we moved back to India was my reluctance in expressing gratitude. According to her, I used to thank a person after they have answered my query; after asking for directions, at the grocery store etc. So when my French friends recounted their experiences of Mumbai-Pune travel and raised questions based on their observation, it reminded me of my wife's futile attempts in reforming me.

My French friends arrived in Mumbai, stayed overnight in a nearby hotel and then hired a cab for their travel to Pune. Their travel to Pune was uneventful except for the numerous digital pictures shot in a short span of 3 hours. When they reached the outskirts of Pune, the driver stopped to ask the directions to the hotel as he was unsure of the exact location. What happened there was astonishing for them!

The cab driver pulled over and rolled down the window. He then produced a sound that almost resembled like how cattle is summoned by their masters. After finding the directions from the passerby who came close to the car, the driver nonchalantly rolled up the windows and moved on. He didn't even bother to say a "Thank you".

The way in which the cab driver called out to the passerby is belittling the latter. But I do not attribute this as a frequently seen phenomenon. But the absence of "Thank you"! You can find this anywhere in India. Why can’t we say “Thank you”? If that is too westernized, a smile and a nod will do. Buy why don't we do it?

Tags: Musings,Thank you

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Merde! Gros Bisous



Merde. Pronounced murd and rhyming with curd, this French word means shit. Like another popular four letter word in English, this word also can be used in several contexts as a chameleonic response. The same is the case with French too. What surprised me was the usage of this word to wish good luck.

My French friend's wife performed on stage on Tuesday. As my friend is in Pune with me, he sent a SMS to his wife wishing luck and his love. Merde. Gros Bisous. I didn't catch the way the second part of the message is pronounced as the restaurant was crowded. There were other distractions like the anticipation of the poison to relax our overworked brains and a jet-lagged body. How I heard was "gross bisoo" which translates a big kiss. This is a way of wishing luck. Remember, this is an intimate exchange between spouses. So, while wishing your friend good luck, you can give the big kiss a skip.

In the hurry, the SMS was sent to my friend’s boss. Luckily, his boss was aware about his wife’s performance and deduced the mix-up while sending SMS.

Tags: French Lessons,Merde,Shit,Kiss

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Movie Review: The Debt



In 1997, Rachel Singer(Helen Mirren) attends a promotional event of her daughter’s newly released book. Her daughter’s book chronicles the capture and killing of Nazi war criminal Vogel(Jesper Christensen) in East Berlin by three Mossad agents – Rachel Singer, David(Ciaran Hinds) and Stefan(Tom Wilkinson) – during 1966. When Vogel tries to escape, Rachel shoots him despite being wounded severely. After their return to Israel, the trio are venerated as state heroes.

Now, years later, Rachel is disturbed by the past. Her marriage to Stefan ended up in a divorce. Fortunately, she has given up drinking recently. David travels around the world for years and is back in Israel after many years. But he commits suicide one day by jumping in front of a truck. Stephan and Rachel meets to discuss David. After their conversation, Rachel leaves for an undisclosed destination.

During her journey, she reminisces the past where an young Rachel(Jessica Chastain) arrives at a safe house in East Berlin during the height of Cold War to team up with David(Sam Worthington) and Stefan(Marton Csokas). The rest of the story tells us what is the secret between the three protagonists and why they cannot find peace in their lives.

John Madden directs this interesting drama. The movie stands out because the director chooses to treat this movie as a drama and not a thriller. By treating this as a drama, the director brings out the emotional turmoil of the three protagonists which helps the viewer connect with them while raising suspense factor. The older protagonists are played by veteran actors. Hence it is a challenge to find the suitable actors playing the younger roles. The director succeeds here too. There is clever camerawork with extreme close ups during the scenes where Vogel is kept captive which brings out the various emotions of the actors.

Helen Mirren and Sam Worthington stands out in the cast. Helen Mirren’s Rachel is a state hero trying to forget her dark past and act normal. The character’s struggle is clearly evident from Helen’s performance. She is helpless mostly but also can be ruthless. Sam’s David is the idealist. He wants to the right thing. When he can’t do the right thing, he is crippled emotionally. By now, Sam has successfully portrayed characters torn between emotions. But still, he delivers an endearing performance.

This is recommended for people interested in serious cinema.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: ***

Tags: Movies,Helen Mirren,Sam Worthington,Jessica Chastain,Tom Wilkinson,John Madden,Drama

A little girl with interesting answers



There was an Indian family comprising of dad, mom and a daughter aged six in my tour group traveling to Cote d'Azur. The little girl was chirpy and was asking for McDonalds by the third day. As luck would have it, there was one in Cannes.

When I asked why she likes McDonalds, her answers were eye-openers. "I like McDonalds", she answered immediately. This is a vague answer. At the same time, I was not prepared for what followed this cryptic reply. "I don't go to McDonalds everyday. Only once a week. Moreover, I eat a lot of green vegetables every day."

Although I didn't intend to lecture on junk food, I was impressed by her answers. She had effectively checkmated anyone who was going to hammer the importance of healthy food into her. She anticipated the next question and responded. How many of us could do this?

The best part of our interaction happened when we bid goodbye to each other. "Did you enjoy the trip?", I asked. "Yes", pat came the answer and her face lit up with a beautiful smile. "Which place did you like the most?", I persisted. She innocently replied, "Hotel".

Tags: Parenthood,McDonalds

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Movie Review: Kung Fu Panda 2




A few years back, Lord Shen(Gary Oldman) the heir to the Gongmen City in China masters the power to manipulate fireworks. According to a soothsayer(Michelle Yeoh), Lord Shen will be decimated by a warrior in black and white. Enraged after hearing the prophecy, Lord Shen embarks on a mission to decimate the panda population. When his parents comes to know about the atrocities committed by Lord Shen, they are ashamed and banish him from Gongmen City. During his exile, Lord Shen prepares a destructive weapon using metals.

At present, Po(Jack Black) - the Dragon Warrior - is training under Master Shifu(Dustin Hoffman) in the Valley of Peace. Now, the Furious Five - Tigress(Angelina Jolie), Monkey(Jackie Chan), Mantis(Seth Rogen), Viper(Lucy Liu) and Crane(David Cross) - are Po's best friends. As part of the next stage in the training, Master Shifu tells Po to master inner peace. When the valley of peace is looted by Lord Shen's henchmen who are in search for metals, Po and the Furious Five intervenes to save the villagers. During the fight with the evil wolves, Po remembers an incident from childhood on seeing a symbol on the armor worn by one of the wolves.

After this incident, Po visits his father Mr Ping to learn more about himself. Ping admits that Po was adopted. Po was found by Ping in a radish crate. When Po is worried about his origin, Master Shifu receives a message from Gongmen City. Lord Shen has captured the city and is on a mission to eradicate Kung Fu. Now, a troubled Po has to rescue Kung Fu along with the Furious Five, learn about his origin and also comes to terms with himself.

Jennifer Yuh Nelson directs this highly entertaining and worthy sequel to Kung Fu Panda. There are more characters(identifiable voices) this time around. The movie keeps you engrossed with spectacular visuals and also throw thrilling punches every few minutes. The success of the movie lies in making the viewer looking forward to the final showdown despite the viewer knowing exactly what Panda will do to save Kung Fu. The movie also has morals and lessons hidden inside the story. The background score plays an important role in the movie.

The movie is a Jack Black show. Jack's Po flounders all along making him vulnerable yet dear. The rest of the cast provide adequate support for Jack Black. The voice modulation of Gary Oldman is praiseworthy.

Must see with the kids in 3D.

Language: English

Genre: Action

Rating: ****

Tags: Movies,Jack Black,Angelina Jolie,Jackie Chan,Seth Rogen,Dustin Hoffman,Gary Oldman,Michelle Yeoh,Jennifer Yuh Nelson,Action

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cannes



For a movie admirer like me, Cannes is known for only one thing - Cannes Film Festival. The entry roads to Cannes, marking the periphery of the city, exudes none of the grandeur we see on TV and photos. In fact, it reminded me of one of the crowded streets of Bengaluru; sans the crowd. But initial wariness wore out as soon as we hit the center of the city.

Cannes city is divided into two sections - the new and the old. The new city consists of the harbor, casinos, hotels and the convention center for the film festival. There is a promenade. A road runs alongside the promenade. Facing the promenade and on the other side of the road are shops for heavy-duty brands. You could find most of the famous brands here. If that is not enough, there is another road running parallel to these lines of shops where you will find the rest of the heavy-duty brands. The hotels boasts of celebrity clientele.

The old city is dedicated to the villas and the government buildings. One of the small roads curves and straightens to lead to a spot offering a panoramic view of Cannes. The road is very narrow but unbelievably calm and serene. You could walk in these streets and lose track of time. The view on top is excellent.

After 3 days in Cote d'Azur, I have seen many coastal towns and enjoyed the sunny weather. That might be the reason why Cannes did not sweep of my feet except for the film festival and celebrity related buildings.




























Tags: Travel,Cannes,Film Festival

Monaco



In half an hour, a little train - very similar to the ones found in recreational parks - will take you through the length and breadth of the country, showing you the landmarks and giving you a concise history. That, my friends, is Monaco. It is also the second smallest country of the world; first being Vatican. Though Monaco is not blessed with space, it is blessed with the nearness to the sea. The entire country looks like it is built on top of rocky cliffs. Tourist buses and cruise ships brings in the visitors by hoards.

Rich blue sea and pleasant climate might be some of the reasons for the influx of tourists. The other attraction are Monte Carlo casino and F1 racing circuit. Monte Carlo casino is a subdued affair when compared to the flashy strip in Las Vegas. You will not see James Bond in an Ashton-Martin over here. But you will see a bunch of costly cars on the streets. F1 is an yearly affair. The racetrack is made in 6 weeks (and dismantled in 3 weeks). The racetrack is built very close to harbor for yachts. Walking through this area makes you wonder how F1 racetrack can be built in such a narrow space with high safety measures.

How the country is built forms the most amazing factor for me. As soon as the bus entered Monaco, I noticed high-rises. There was construction in progress at some places giving birth to more high-rises among high-rises. As I mentioned earlier, there is not much space to built buildings. So they have to build high-rises. But their land is made up of rocky cliffs. Both the above factors contribute to engineering challenges. The end result is something you have not seen before. Imagine a Brazilian favela. Instead of the optical illusion of small building stacked upon another, it is rich high-rises stacked upon another. Combined with rich blue sea, it is a breathtaking visual. Whatever the country has to offer pales before this.

L'Eglise Ste Devote is the church dedicated to the patron saint of Monaco. It rests on a quiet corner of the bay marked as the port. It is a small church with a bridge over it for passing traffic. The bridge is so close to the crucifix on top of the church. For a country like this, imagine bringing the zoning rules; no bars within certain feet etc.

The palace is a subdued phenomenon when you compare with the excesses of Europe; at least from the outside. There was construction work in progress when I visited. What struck me was the relaxed security around this area.

The cathedral in the area contains the remains of Princess Grace Kelly. In case you are wondering, she is the favorite blonde of Alfred Hitchcock and acted in some of his very successful movies until she decided to quit acting to become the princess.

That is a country in a nutshell.



















Travel,Monaco,High-rises

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Nice, Eze village, Perfumerie Galimard




In order to enjoy the beauty of a place, it is important have a good vantage point. I realized it on the way to Eze village! The bus climbed up the winding roads to the top of the hills giving me a breathtaking view of Nice. The water is still blue; thank you sunlight and the season. There are boats and yachts on water giving me a sense of loss. I couldn't go for the cruise!

The first stop was at Perfumerie Galimard. The place serves as a center to explain the various processes of perfume making ending up with the display of their products. The perfume factory is located in Grasse and this is a good outlet. Anyone going to Monaco has tonpass through this village. The founder's name is also Galimard and the factory is in operation since the early 1700s. There was a huge inaccurate map of the world in the shop showing the locations where ingredients of their perfume originates from. India supplies two of their ingredients.

As luck would have it, there was an English speaking guide. She explained the two methods of making perfumes. One is similar to making alcohol. Heat it in one pan and collect the vapors at the other end. The second is more complex. The flowers are embedded in wax to absorb the scent. The wax then goes through a complex process to extract the essence of the scent. The wax is subsequently used for various purposes like scented candles, bathing soap etc.

Although they have a wide variety of products, the emphasis was only on 6 items - 4 for women and 2 for men. Out of the women's perfumes, there was one dedicated for Princess Grace Kelly. This perfume is created from white flowers as the princess loved white flowers. It is in fact an apt dedication; the smell reminds of her smile and the ethereal beauty. Out of the men's perfume, more emphasis was given on the one selected by Leonardo DiCaprio on his visit to the perfumerie. You can't blame them as it is a powerful endorsement. Yes, the ladies gasped and the men smirked on hearing this. Also, the men quietly bought it later!

The hill facing the perfumerie has a church in the middle level and a garden on the upper level. It is a short and steep walk up. There are shops on both your sides in the narrow lanes leading to the church and the garden. While the church is free for visitors, the garden has entry fees is 5 Euros. But you get an excellent view of the coast and mountains standing in the garden.


























Tags: Travel,Eze,Perfumerie

Nice




Everyone here is laid-back! That was my first thought. But then, I was here on the weekend; long weekend. Everyone is comfortably dressed which translates to lesser clothes. I even saw a man waiting for a bus with a towel around his shoulders!

Nice has an excellent promenade. I wouldn't say beach because you are in the water in 10 steps! Then, where is the beach? But there is something unique about this strip of land that comes between the promenade and the water. It is filled with pebbles and not sand. It is like this from Nice to Cannes. Pebbles are from Mother Earth according to a local and not filled by man. I'm not sure if the local was taking me for a ride!

Back to the promenade, this is manmade and known as Promenade Des Anglais. Yes, promenade of the English. The English flocked to Nice to escape their lousy weather. When they noticed the rise of beggars in the area, they decided to create jobs for these jobless and downtrodden! That is how the promenade was born! It is more than 5 km in length hugging the coastline!

The promenade also features 4 storied rectangular buildings facing the sea. These buildings are brightly colored. Balconies with iron railings can be seen in all these buildings. If you have been to Pondicherry, you will get an eerily similar feeling.

Towards the Port of Nice end of the promenade, there is a monument dedicated to the wars fought by the French - WWI, WWII, Indochine etc! The monument is constructed on the side of rocky cliff, covering the length of the cliff.

Half a kilometer from the Monument Aux Morts and parallel to the promenade, there is a street which is full of restaurants with seating both inside, outside and even in the middle of the street. They feature cuisines from all around the world. Mussels and shrimps, inline with the closeness to the sea, were on the menu. Some of these restaurants had various fishes displayed on ice.

There are day cruises! If you plan to take one of them, please make sure you are at the port before 8:30 am. All the cruises leave at 9 am. There are all day long water-sports along the promenade.

By the way, Nice is pronounced "niece". The sea is blue. The weather and the sunlight plays a prominent part in the color. It can turn green and dark during other seasons.
















Tags: Travel,Nice,Blue,Pebbles,Promenade

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saint-Tropez



Brigitte Bardot! That is how they would try to introduce you to this place! She was discovered here. But if you are like me, you would not still make the connection! The French cinema has popularized this place. Still no connection? This is part of Cote d’Azur aka French Riviera. You remember the yachts, non-existent clothing and the French from the gossip magazines and the movies? This town has a history as a strategic port once and also played an important role in the Allied landing in WWII.

If you have been to a beach town before, you will still be surprised when you reach here. It is primarily because the smell of money! You can see yachts, of all sizes, lined up here. Facing the sea, you will find a lot of cafes, restaurants and artists selling their pictures. These places are good to cater to your hunger and fatigue. It is breezy but you will not be able to enjoy the sea because of parking spaces, for both boats and land vehicles, obstructing the view.

You can walk along the coast and find vantage points to admire the water along with numerous boats launched on this water. The walk will also lead you to the original buildings with garish yet pleasing colors! You can also walk through the streets leading into the town and find quiet streets lined with houses.

The road leading to Saint-Tropez reminded me of the 17 mile drive in Monterrey Bay! But unlike Monterrey, the roads were lined with luxury resorts.



























Tags: Travel,Saint-Tropez

Friday, June 10, 2011

Woes of a Parisian restaurateur



Anyone with a dream to become a restaurateur should have been part of the conversation I had with the owner of one of the successful South Indian restaurants in Paris. The primary woe of this industry is same as any other industry. There is shortage of adequately skilled resources. Then, there is absenteeism and attrition.

There were a lot of other interesting things to learn. These restaurants have to adhere to many processes and protocols in order to adhere to the safety and health standards issued by the French authorities. For instance, the meat cannot be stored for more than 3 days. The temperature at which the meat has to be recorded at periodic intervals and this should be readily available for the inspection.

An audit or what is popularly known as “raid” in Indian parlance is unnerving. Before an audit, the French authorities contact all your suppliers. They create an exhaustive list of all purchases. From you, they will get a price for selling an unit along with the cost associated with processing the unit. So, for a kilo of chicken, you give the buying price, selling price and processing cost. During the audit, they trace the purchases to the sales to the money in the bank. Now, god help if they is anything missing anywhere!

You may ask why. If there is money missing, the owner or one of the partners can admit the fraud. They move on with the audit. But in a few days, the person who owned up the fraud will have another audit to face. This time, it is his personal finances that gets audited.

Another intriguing factor is common to all businesses. Let us say your business is suffering from a loss and you plan to shut down. It is not easy to shut down because you need the approval of the authorities to do so. Before the authorities provides the necessary approval, they will run your business for a predefined period of time to ascertain if your business is really making a loss!

Picture Courtesy: http://www.phoodie.info

Tags: Musings,Business,Restaurateur,French,Paris

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sycophancy or Reverence?



A couple of days, I witnessed a reportee and his boss at lunch. The reportee made the same choices as his boss. The boss is a strict vegetarian while the reportee is no longer a vegeterian. I know this because I have ventured out in the city with the reportee searching for food together wherein he tasted a plate of mutton reluctantly and ended up loving it.

As the boss is a strict vegetarian ended up opting for couscous and boiled green beans. Yes, I know it does not even come close to a palatable combination. But the boss had no other choice. The reportee also went for it disregarding the saucy chicken dish.

In all fairness to the actors involved, I could only see reverence in the eyes of the reportee. It was not sycophancy.

Have you witnessed similar instances in your work life?

Tags: Musings,Boss,Reportee

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Shitty documents



A very long weekend has gone by. The new work week has begun with internal reviews of multiple documents. Facing the customer and hence always at the risk of getting burnt, the reviews of my colleagues have been meticulous. The cultural diversity, linguistic issues and geographical separation are also slowly taking a toll on them. Of the documents received, some of them are good and requires little rework. Some of them are really bad! After reviewing such a bad document, an exasperated colleague approached me.

Colleague: This is bad.

Me: *nods sympathetically*

Colleague: Anyways we are not going to submit these documents if they are not in a good shape. Let them take time, forget the deadlines and produce something which is good. That, none of us lose time and the reviews are effective.

Me: *still nodding sympathetically*

Colleague: *confused by my silence* It is an internal review? Is that why they send us shitty documents?

Me: *smiles*

Colleague: *shocked* Is this what they were sending to the customer before we came in?!

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

Tags: Musings,Internal Review

Saturday, June 4, 2011

What do you know about raising a kid?



At a dinner with fellow expatriates, I was seated next to a beautiful woman from San Francisco. I moved out of the bay area in 2006, but the bay area has not moved out of my life. Everywhere, I meet people from the bay area. If you think this is exaggeration, imagine my astonishment on finding a waiter who has moved to Paris from the bay area.

Normally, I end up giving recommendations on the best Indian restaurants whenever I meet fellow expatriates from a different country. In return, I ask their recommendations for the best places to eat their kind of food. But in this case, I was thrown off-track by her recommendations. She pointed out the best places to have Indian food and also Indian sweets. A brief Q & A later, I learnt she had spent one and a half years in India and hence the knowledge of what is best.

Since we are both married, our conversation turned to family soon.

She: Do you have kids?

Me: Yes, a daughter. 5 years old.

She: A monster?

Me: No no no. She is a very good kid. *Sensing it is my turn* So, do you have kids?

She: *without hesitation* I have a cat. *raises her eyebrow*

Me: You plan to keep it when you have a baby? I hear a lot of people give away their pets when they have kids.

She: Well, I’m not sure if I want to have a kid.

Me: *encouraging* It is exciting to raise a child.

She: *with a raised eyebrow and a big smile* What do you know? Your wife is taking care of the kid and you are miles away! 

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

Tags: Parenthood,Kid

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Books: Kitchen Confidential



Anthony Bourdain writes the behind-the-scenes account of a chef’s life based on his experiences. In a book which is divided into parts styled as a dinner course, Anthony explains to the reader how he was fascinated by food, how he decided to become a chef and the hardships he had to go through in attaining this goal. This book is not a autobiography. Instead it is a peek into the kitchen and also the mind of a chef. Anthony, without using a well defined structure, takes us through a whirlwind tour of the kitchen, the various actors, tools. In the process, he also shares insider secrets.

The narrative surprises you by catching you unaware where it is leading to. The book initially explains interestingly through how Anthony fell in love with food. Then suddenly he jumps into what a foodie should eat or not eat on certain days of the week bringing into light the practices of many restaurants. He also gives tips on how to stock a kitchen in an economical way. Then he jumps into the quirkiness of the people manning the kitchen and their lingo. He then makes the reader peek into the mind of a chef during one of the busy days using first person narrative.

It is a little bit of everything or everything in bit size. The chapters will jolt you; not because of the content but the way the direction changes without a warning. But at the end of the book, you will have a good insight into the industry where stress levels are high, supply chain management is crucial and attrition a curse.

If you are interested in knowing more about chefs and kitchens, this is for you. If you are looking for recipes, this is not the book. So, put this down immediately

Tags: Books,Anthony Bourdain,Chef

Movie Review: X-Men: First Class



During World War II in 1944, Scientist Sebastian Shaw(Kevin Bacon) notices a teenager named Erik Lensherr who can attract metals in one of the Polish concentration camps. In order to fully exploit Erik’s abilities which is driven by rage, Sebastian kills Erik’s mother in front of him. At the same time in New York, an young Charles Xavier finds a hungry Raven in his kitchen. Charles uses his telepathic powers to read Raven’s mind. Raven is a shapeshifter struggling to fit in. Charles invites Raven to live in his house. At present in 1962, Erik(Michael Fassbender) is on a mission to kill Sebastian. His search leads him to a banker in Switzerland to Argentina to Miami. While Erik is busy tracing the whereabouts of Sebastian, Charles(James McAvoy) is doing a thesis on mutation. He uses his telepathic powers to impress the college girls while hanging out with Raven(Jennifer Lawrence). Raven is still extremely conscious about her looks.

1962 is a tumultuous year. America and Russia are on a path towards nuclear confrontation. A CIA agent Moira MacTaggart(Rose Bryne) sees an younger-looking Sebastian at a club in Las Vegas along with an US Army Colonel. She also witnesses the superhuman powers of Emma Frost(January Jones) and Azazel(Jason Flemyng). Unable to explain the events she just witnessed, Moira tracks down Charles who is an expert in mutation. Moira convinces the bosses the existence of the specially gifted people referred as mutants. CIA decides to track down Sebastian with the help of Charles. Soon, Erik and Charles are bound for Miami in search of Sebastian. Although Sebastian escapes from Erik and also the government forces, Charles and Erik meets for the first time. A bond is formed between the two. They search for people like them in order to stop Sebastian. Their search leads to Dr Hank McCoy, Angel Salvadore, Armando Munoz, Sean Cassidy and Alex Summers. They become the first class of X-men.

Matthew Vaughn directs this action movie inspired by the characters created by Marvel comics. He explores the beginnings of the X-men by tracing the path of two men – Erik and Charles. Setting the premise against the fear and distrust created by the nuclear crisis of 1962, he tells a story of uniquely gifted people looking for acceptance. The lives of Erik and Charles follow a parallel path in the beginning. Then, they meet, bond and work together. At the end, their lives are separated because of their conflicting ideologies on the means to the ends. Matthew’s success lies in finding the best fits for these two roles and also showing a raw side to these characters. Erik is consumed by rage while Charles is at times a boy. Matthew effortlessly moves between multiple locations and multitude of characters without confusing the viewer. The training scenes deserves a special mention. How the various characters learn to focus and maximize their skills are a delight to watch. Additional drama is provided by the conflict experienced by Hank and Raven on their discomfort with their looks. Matthew fails in VFX and production values. The movie looks cheap at many places.

Michael Fassbender as Erik Lensherr is a scene stealer. Michael’s Erik is consumed by rage at the atrocities committed during the war years. Though he has compassion towards similarly gifted people known as mutants, he is essentially a cynic. He learns to control his rage at the end. Michael successfully shows the pent up anger and the abundant energy with his body language. James McAvoy as Charles leaves an impression. James’s Charles is not yet the wheelchair bound wise man. But you can see the glimpses of him in the performance. James also brings out the wisdom, patience and also frustrations of a man trying to keep him kin together effectively on the screen. Michael and James displays an excellent chemistry during the playful exchanges during the training sessions and the philosophy exchanges. One of the scenes to watch out for is when Charles helps Erik find a pleasant memory from the darkest corners of Erik’s mind. Both of them are in tears at the end of this exercise. Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Romijn appear as cameos paying homage to their respective characters in the earlier trilogy.

This will never match the magic of the X-men movies directed by Bryan Singer. At the same time, this one is not a disappointment. If you have nothing else to do, this is a good option.

Language: English

Genre: Action

Rating: ***

Tags: Movies,James McAvoy,Michael Fassbender,Kevin Bacon,Rose Bryne,Matthew Vaughn,Action

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Eyetalian connection


- Never refer to a Corsican as an Italian. This learning comes directly from a friend who has a Corsican girlfriend.

- Tunisians are well versed in Italian. The reason is strange. There are two TV channels in the country and one of them is in Italian. So, they grow up listening and watching Italian shows.

Tags: Musings,Italian

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