Thursday, May 31, 2012

Is sharing tricky?

Sharing the apartment when you are single and unattached is a tricky business. My friend says so. I live in Paris far away from the comforts of my own home. I share the apartment with another friend. Frankly, I never found it to be tricky. Occasionally, it helps to drive the boredom away. The friend with whom I share the apartment is so nice that he even knocks before he opens the door to our temporary residence. I understand this is sort of a warning. But this is completely out of context in my case. Anyway this post is not about me but about my friend who thinks sharing an apartment is a tricky business.

So why does he think so? My sharing-averse friend is in the same boat. He also shares an apartment with friend of his. A few questions later, the whole story unfolds. The time is yesterday evening. My friend is back from work at 8 pm. He doesn't knock. He opens the door. The aroma of freshly prepared food hits him. He is hungry now. He walks into the living room. He sees his friend with a beautiful girl. He assesses the situation. They seemed to have been engaged in an interesting discussion. But they are silent now after seeing him. His friend smiles sheepishly and say "Hello". The girl is a bit edgy. My friend freezes for a second. He says "Hello". He mumbles. "I wanted to keep my bag. I'm going out for dinner". He is out of the apartment in no time.

When I found my friend, he had finished his dinner. During the time elapsed, his blood alcohol content also jumped a few notches up. He invited me for more drinks. I didn't have to worry about the bill as my friend was going to present it to his friend. According to him, his friend has to taught a lesson for the communication fiasco, lack of planning and what not! 

Now for the big question, if such bills are going to be paid by the roommate, is sharing apartment really a tricky business?

Tags: Musings,Friend,Sharing

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Books: The Art of Travel

Most of us love to travel to an unseen location for our vacation. Why do we travel? Everyone has their own reasons. Some of us travel for getting away from a static images of everyday life. Some of us travel to find out more about a location which was highly recommended by articles, books or friends. But traveling is no joke. There are several hurdles you have to cross before boarding to your means of transportation. After we have crossed the hurdles, do we really enjoy our destination? Do we learn something new from there?

In this book, Alain de Botton tries to address several issues facing a modern day traveler. His aim is to encourage everyone to travel and also to appreciate the beauty or surprises in store for each one of us in our respective destinations. In order to accomplish this, he divides the book into section dealing with the planning of a trip, the actual trip and also the return from the trip. In each of the well defined chapters, he uses two narratives - one narrative forms the travels of the author and the other forms the travel experiences of famous figures in history. The famous figures are either authors or poets who have excelled in many fields. With the narrative, the author familiarized the pains of a modern day man in terms of travels and compares it with two time lines - present (the author's) and the past(the experiences of the famous figures).

The book is an eye opener. If you love to travel, chances are you are already doing what the author has suggested. But you still can read this book. There is always room for improvement. If you don't like travel or if you feel you do not enjoy the destinations, then this is a must read for you. It is non-fiction but still is very entertaining and thought provoking. The language is so poetic that you will be immersed in the book in no time.

Tags: Books,Alain de Botton,Travel

Movie Review: Men In Black 3

Don't we all love to travel to the past, correct our mistakes and also see what our close are doing at that point of time? Well, that forms the basis of the latest instalment of Men In Black. In this movie, Agent J (Will Smith) travels to the past to prevent the annihilation of the world by a set of aliens and also rescue his friend/partner Agent K(Tommy Lee Jones) from death. When he reaches the past, he has a lot of things to accomplish in a short time by teaming by with an younger Agent K(Josh Brolin).

Barry Sonnenfeld is also at helm of the movie as the director just like the previous two. I never liked the series for the grotesque aliens and the abundance of slime on-screen. Add lack of an interesting plot to the recipe. This time around, the movie is watchable primarily because the script though predictable takes the viewers from one event to the next without boring them too much. Also, the odd couple, the fast talking Will Smith and nearly expressionless Josh Brolin, keeps the proceedings interesting.

Barring these plus points, there isn't much to write about. So if you are at the movies to kill time and is undecided, you can opt for this one. Otherwise, wait for it on DVD.

Language: English

Genre: Action

Rating: **

Photos: I'm free

I came across this painting while in 19th arrondissement. To give you a background, you will find such art in many places in Paris. Some of them are the works of famous street artists. At least, the street artists are well known in Paris if not worldwide.

This was painted on a wall. This section of wall seemed to be dedicated to Africa. My interpretation is simple. It is about slavery. The beautiful girl is braking the chain in order to set herself free.

Tags: Photos

Monday, May 28, 2012

Photos: Parisians on a sunny weekend

I'm glad the sun has come out of hiding and rains have disappeared for the past few days. It is time to rejoice. But our reactions to weather is strange. I have been complaining about the cold. Now it is the heat that I can't stand. I guess it is the human nature. We can never be satisfied with anything.

While walking through the 12 arrondissement, I found a lot of people making the most of the sunny weather. I was with a group of expatriates and I don't even remember the name of the park now.

Tags: Photos

Photos: Louis Vuitton

I was at Champs Élysées yesterday just before the sunset. The plan was to capture Arc de Triomphe during the blue hour. I waited a while for the right color to spread the sky. That is when I realized I would have walk to the other side of the victory monument in order to capture the image in my mind. The walk would eventually draw a blank. The blue would have passed and the sky would be dark.

But they was the Louis Vuitton shop right in front of me. There was also a crescent on the sky. I decided to click this picture instead.

Tags: Photos

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Photos: Moulin Rouge

Parisians were blessed with great weather yesterday. I'm glad the summer is here. Or is it spring? Anyway, I think it is too late for spring to arrive. The summer poses an unique challenge to the photographers. Either they have to get up earlier or wait longer than usual for sunrise and sunset pictures. I like blue sky especially the one taken during the blue hour. As I have not been doing these type of photos for a while, I decided to dedicate the evening for it. I chose Moulin Rouge as the subject. The abundance of "rouge" set against a blue sky provides a good contrast.

It was very crowded in front of Moulin Rouge. Both tourists and locals had descended upon this place. As I waited for the right time (read it as the right color of the sky), I watched the crowd posing in various poses, some funny some not-so-funny, with Moulin Rouge as the background. I had to click multiple times because either an object or a human inevitably got into the frame and ruined the picture. You can see one of the result which is presentable.

Tags: Photos

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Photos: A peeping Marie

This picture was taken during the Fair trade parade in Paris. Once you have been in Paris for long, most of the parades may seem the same. It is the same performers over and over again. It was also a time when my creative energy was hitting the bottom levels. Even though I shot a few pictures, I didn't like any of them when I examined it inside the comfort of my home.

This one was different from the ones I had previously shot. She was holding a big banner and only a part of her face was visible. It gives the illusion of a person looking over a fence. Hence the caption of peeping Marie. In addition, the subject is only visible in a third of the full frame.

Tags: Photos

Friday, May 25, 2012

I like rowdy girls

2 friends. 2 dinners. 2 cuisines. 2 goody bags. That is 2-2-2-2s of the past week. My friends have been inviting me over for dinners, providing great food and also allowing me to take it back in goody bags. Life does hold surprises. At the same time, it is also true that some disgruntled souls (lesser mortals who haven't had this good fortune in the recent past) have been calling me a Cossette ala Les Miserables. This means the French think I cry a lot. It is the easiest way to explain the nickname!

Last night was the last of the 2-2-2-2s in a malayali home with my friend, his wife and his son. Most of the entertainment was provided by the 8 year old. The interactions made me long for the comforts of my home. It made me also realize bringing up boys and girls are different. At the dinner table with 3 boys(please note I'm not talking about the biological age but the state of the mind here), the conversation soon turned to girls. The 8 year old had the most to contribute to the subject.

According to the 8 year old, his mom always shows him the goody-good girls. By goody-good, he must have meant good-mannered. Those are the girls who his mother notices and also nudge her son towards. Yes, I agree she is a super-cool mom! No two thoughts about it. But what does our 8 year old like? "I like rowdy girls". 

What constitutes rowdy? I leave it up to you. But one thing for sure, bad girls rule!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Books: Man walks into a Pub

A man walks into a bar. Isn't it how most of the jokes starts? This book, whose title seemed to inspired from opening line of a joke, written by Pete Brown is not a book of jokes. Even so, it shares a link with a book of jokes. There is a lot of humor in it. That is not surprising as Pete is a Brit. Do you remember what they say about the Brit and their sense of humor. In this book, Pete, with a more than moderate sprinkling of humor, tells you the history of the pub. The effect is you will never walk into another pub without unconsciously thinking about what Pete has written.

Like I mentioned before, Pete is a Brit. As a result, the story of the pub is told with respect to Britain. There are a few occasions when he crosses over the channel and also the ocean to many other parts of the world. But that is a short digression. He returns back to the island very quickly. With a language that is easy to understand at the same time brisk to read, Pete traces the history of pub when it was brewed and served in the brewer's home. The advertisement was limited to makeshift signs found outside the house. He also tells us the struggle of pub owners through the ages. The tied house system leaves the pub owner at the mercy of the big breweries. The government levies taxes. The temperance movement blames the pub owner for the evils of the society. As you can see, it is not easy to be a pub owner. The pub is also responsible for creation of new brews. Unfortunately, when consolidation and integration of pubs and brewers has resulted in the loss of some of the ancient brews.

There are many interesting facts about the pubs in this book. This book is for you if you love beer or if you would like to know more about the place where you would love to hang out with your friends. As it is written in a way to distract you from the real life worries, this book is good to read at any time of the year.

Tags: Books,Pete Brown,Pub,Beer

French Fries

Recently, a friend had an interesting take on French Fries. There is no such thing called French fries. How many shops have you seen in Paris offering French Fries? This is not even part of their cuisine. The fries are originally from Belgium. It was popularized as French fries by the Americans. As you know, the Americans are bad in geography and didn't even know there was a country named Belgium. Also a part of the Belgium used French as the medium of communication. So, they assumed it was France and named it French fries.

I was not able to substantiate the claims on this subject. If you look up on wikipedia, the frites or fries was incorporated into French cuisine by the time the term was coined. But the take is amusing for two reasons - stereotype and fact. The stereotype is regarding Americans. What is the popular belief about them? They do not know about the world stage. So they can easily get things mixed up. The fact is about the two parts of Belgium. In one part, they speak French and the other part Dutch. There is more history and struggles associated with Belgium that I can provide in a few sentences.

But what do you think? Do you find the take amusing? Or is it true?

Tags: Musings,French Fries,Belgium,Americans

Monday, May 21, 2012

Movie Review: The Cold Light of Day

A young man arrives in Spain in order to spend a week of vacation with his family and soon thrown into an unfamiliar world of spies & espionage when his family is held hostage. Henry Cavill acts as the reluctant young man Will Shaw while Bruce Willis acts the Will's father, the primary reason for the predicament faced by Will. The movie is directed by Mabrouk El Mechri.

Mabrouk's movie is laudable for his efforts in portraying a normal man caught in a unfamiliar settings without going over the board. Clearly, Will is not suitable for the world of intrigue. He uses his instinct, common sense and stamina to dodge his persecutors. This is the good point of the movie. On the flip side, there are very few thrills and uninspired photography. The photography neither captures the beautiful setting not enhances the thrills.

Always on the run, Henry Cavill do not have to emote a lot. The veterans, Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver, are wasted. Bruce Willis has a miniscule role as Will's father and Sigourney Weaver has a poorly written role as the colleague of Will's father. Sigourney is choosing predictable roles of late where you know the shade of the character as soon as she appears on the screen.

This is a watchable movie but on the big screen. Wait for the DVD and save it as a distraction between your normal kind of movies.

The movie is released as "Sans Issue" in France.

Language: English

Genre: Thriller

Rating: **

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Photos: Suspended in air

If you have been to Sacre Coeur in Paris on a sunny day, the chances are you have seen this person who does a lot of tricks with football. His name is Iya Traore. Is he a celebrity? I am not sure. But he has a website, a Facebook fan page and scores of video on YouTube. A friend told me about him during winter. Ever since I have been waiting for the sun to come out in order to shoot Iya in action. As luck would have it, I was at Sacre Coeur on a warm and sunny date. You can see the result below.

Tags: Photos

Friday, May 18, 2012

Movie Review: Contraband

A former criminal, who now leads a quiet family life, is forced to go back to his previous life in order to ensure the safety of his family. This is the story summarized in one sentence. This is a theme we have seen umpteen times before. What can be a differentiating factor in such a scenarios? The answer is simple; thrills and twists. If the movie cannot provide enough thrills and twists, it falls flat. That is the reason why "Contraband" falls flat too.

Contraband directed by Baltasar Kormákur is a Hollywood adaptation of his Icelandic movie. I have not seen the original. But as a avid movie buff, it is easy to figure out the problem. The problem appears in the adaptation with too many characters with too many ulterior motives which results in uneven pace, ultimately making it a very boring enterprise. Add an uninspired casting to the list of issues. You have a total disaster in hand. The movie shows a bit of promise in the middle when the main protagonist is trying to close the deal in Panama City where nothing goes as per plan. As a result, everyone has to think on the feet. But with a lackluster editing, the entire sequence does not translate into a rush of adrenaline.

Mark Wahlberg as Chris Farraday is neither makes the viewer sympathize with his predicament nor get them hooked on to the events. Even the righteous attitude of "will not transport drugs but will transport fake currency" is absurd. There is no right or wrong. He is wrong all the way. Kate Beckinsale plays the wife of Chris. In her role, she has to lend support to her spouse while being unhappy with the situation. There isn't anything to do in this role. The biggest disappointments are in the form of Ben Foster, Giovanni Ribisi and Diego Luno. Ben and Giovanni are being typecast while Diego has a very silly role. The only member in the cast who entertains is J. K. Simmons as the captain of the ship on which Chris is transporting contraband items.

Stay away from this one.

Language: English

Genre: Thriller

Rating: *

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It is ok!

Yesterday, I had the best Kulfi in Paris at Gandhiji. Of course, it is the best I had so far. My all-time favorite is Rasmalai. But, damn it. There are no Indian restaurants in Paris which features Rasmalai. There is a little sweet shop near Gare du Nord named Bhai Bhai which serves you Rasamalai. I wasn't impressed with their offerings. Anyways, here I am after eating the delicious Kulfi and my British friend has only one thing to say, "It is ok!".

Well how can one say "ok" after taking a bite of the most delicious Kulfi in the whole town. That is what the differentiates British. Isn't it? They are not easily impressed. They have an austerity plan as far as praise is concerned. The evening turned out to informative too. Do you know what OK means? It is derived from a military term - Zero(0) Killed.

Now Zero killed is ok is kulfi. Oh come on! The Kulfi... Forget it. I need to get back to work!

Tags: Musings,Paris,British,Kulfi

Monday, May 14, 2012

Movie Review: Margin Call

You might have heard people shouting "greed" following the financial meltdown that precipitated in 2007. In this movie, the director J C Chandor explores this topic by showing us what might have happened during the initial days when everything plunged into the abyss. He weaves drama by drawing heavy inspiration from headlines and real-life scenarios and does a commendable job at the end.

The movie details what transpires in less than two days in a fictional investment bank just before everything went south. The movie starts with a round of layoff happening in the firm. When a junior analyst is inspired by an warning by a laid-off employee, he burns the midnight oil and cracks a puzzle that has been worrying the latter. The puzzle, when solved, reveals an ugly picture. This is where all superiors get involved to manage the situation. How they do it is again another revelation of what greed can accomplish.

The success of the movie is due to many factors. As with any drama, there is conflict. The conflict snowballs through different levels in the organization across age groups. What comes out of every performer are the raw emotions of the people trapped in comfort and success which makes this movie worthwhile to watch. The financial world is difficult to understand. The director makes it very easy to understand for everyone by cleverly placing characters in the movie which demands simpler explanation. As a result, the viewer is not lost in the proceedings. In the visuals, NY skyline plays an important role. The skyline is in the background and seen through the glass windows. But it is beautifully shot to heighten the tension unfolding in the foreground.

It is a director's movie. The director has able support from seasoned players like Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore and Stanley Tucci. The relatively new Zachary Quinto also puts in a good performance.

Go for it.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: ****

Books: The Dogs of Riga

When two dead bodies land on the Swedish coast on a life raft , Kurt Wallander is assigned this case. Very soon, international agencies are involved as the raft boats belongs to Latvia. A Lativian police official visits Sweden to help Wallander. The turn of events also takes Wallander to Latvia where he has to struggle with the existing social and political conditions in addition to limited language skills. In all senses, he is a fish out of water!

This is the second book in the Wallander series from Henning Mankell. The time frame is around 1 year from where the first book started placing the events in the early years of 1990s. The setting is not limited to Sweden. Here the setting is the rapidly disintegrating USSR and turmoil in the satellite nations namely the Baltic states. In this book, neither the narrative style nor the pace of events have changed. Setting it against a world in transition, Mankell once again details the process behind an inquisitive mind to unravel mystery. Through the eyes of Wallander, we discover the conspiracy and the plight of the people.

If you are interested in a realistic mystery where the protagonist slowly and carefully unravels the puzzle, pick this one up. This is for you.

The other titles in this series are
Faceless Killers

Tags: Books,Henning Mankell,Kurt Wallander

Books: Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris

Aptly named "Parisians", Graham Robb gives the reader a collection of essays where the protagonists are some of the prominent historical figures who has lived in the city of light. Many of them have influenced the lifestyle of the current residents in many ways which is now taken for granted. Based on the documented history and diary articles, Graham pieces an episode page from their lives using his imagination. By doing so, Graham makes the reader travel through time and let them see the city in a different perspective.

Graham is in love with Paris. This is evident from his writing. But what will amaze you, if you live in this city, is the historical significance of many of the streets you might have strolled by. You will not be able to take that leisurely stroll through these streets again without even once thinking about these incidents chronicled in the book.

This is a must read if you live in Paris. There is so much to learn about Paris from this book.

Tags: Books,Graham Robb,Paris

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Movie Review: Dark Shadows

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp collaborate once again to tell us the story of man who is freed 200 years later, after being cursed to become a vampire. On reaching his manor in Maine after being freed, the vampire Barnabas Collins(Johnny Depp) finds his manor in ruins and family business in shambles. Now, Barnabas has not only to restore the past glory and wealth but also to unite the dysfunctional family now headed by the matriach Elizabeth(Michelle Pfeiffer). If this is not enough, he has his reincarnated version of his former lover and also the witch Angelique Bouchard(Eva Green), who in the first place is the real reason for the current plight of the Collins family, to deal with.

Based on a popular TV series, the movie has an interesting premise. Tim Burton, who has a flair for weird visuals, also is the right person to adapt to this big screen. But as a whole, the movie does not succeed to hold your attention. The best part of the movie is what Tim Burton has always been good at - makeup and visuals which blends CGI effectively. The underlying theme is revenge, regaining love and also the importance of family. Barnabas has a lot to do when he is freed from captivity. Instead of accomplishing these, Barnabas seems to be wasting time meandering from one interest to another which become tedious to watch. The movie is set in 1972 to give a retro look and also invoke laughter at the expense of the various characters - Barnabas is 200 years old than the rest and the rest of the characters is 40 years older than viewer. But this attempt is too feeble to tickle our funny bone. Another drawback of the movie is the viewer reminded to the previous collaboration of Burton and Depp. The makeup and the settings are very similar to some of the previous movies that you end up wondering if you are seeing something new or a rehash of the previous ones.

The performances have nothing to write about. Johnny Depp tries to be different. Eva Green has the ability to make James Bond search for the truth with determination (in the latest trilogy). But as a witch, she fails. Michelle Pfeiffer is the one who is perfectly cast. Since we don't see her often these days on the screen, the cards are in her favour. Christopher Lee has nothing to offer in an insignificant short role.

Skip it!

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: *

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sore losers

I didn't realize I had more of Sarkozy supporters among my friend. The supporters say the financial crisis in France was cushioned because of Sarkozy while the detractors says there is nothing special done by him in order to contain it other than holding the title! If I intend to follow, a lot of serious and intense arguments along with counter-arguments emerge. I don't intend to go down that route. Instead I would like the bring up the subject of sore losers.

What are we taught from the childhood? Sportsman spirit. Participate, welcome the results and move on. All this is happening among my friends and also the French voters. Actually, some of them have taken the last phase of the sportsman spirit too seriously. They are really moving on; moving on as in packing all their belongings and emigrating to a different country. All this because of the high taxation widely believed to imposed soon by the new government that will be formed by Hollande.

Talking about sore losers, here is the most ridiculous statement I overheard. "I wish for a coup d'état". Of course, the speaker was hoping for Sarkozy's second term! Losing hope on the democratic process and failure to comprehend the meaning of freedom are the two top reasons for me to classify this as a ridiculous statement!

Tags: Musings,Losers,Sarkozy,Hollande

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I can help the economy boom...

I do not know what to do. Should I be angry? Should I ignore? The truth is SNCF is really bugging me. The route I take to work has a train scheduled every 10 minutes. In reality, this never happens. I end up seeing the train with no platform assigned and scheduled to 10 or more minutes earlier on the overhead display board. Even if I board a train, it stops services in a station in the middle of the route. Here all the passengers disembark and wait for the next train from the original departure station. How weird can it get?

Now that the elections are over in France, I have a simple yardstick to measure the effectiveness of the new government. I don't want them to perform miracles on the economy. Please make SNCF operate efficiently. Help me reach my work on time. If I get to work on time, I work with less stress. Less stress will translate to more output. The more output means money being made somewhere in the unseen complex world. The economy should revive by itself. Is it that simple?

If you are agitated by me oversimplifying a complex phenomenon, it is time to check my profile. Is "economist" listed anywhere in the profile? No! Then what is the reason for your agitation? Have a good day.

Tags: Musings,SNCF,Economy,Elections,France,2012

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Photos: The woman in the background

Every one was enjoying duo performing near Sacre Coeur - one with a guitar and providing the vocals while the other providing the background music without any musical instruments. I noticed the woman in the background because of striking red color from the scarf around her neck and the matching lipstick. It is difficult to know what she is doing because her eyes are covered by sunglasses and the face is covered by her hands. 

What do you think she is doing? Crying or Sneezing?

Tags: Photos

Photos: Lone bicycle

This is a picture taken at Parc de Sceaux. What attracted to me to this was the red helmet. You can also see the cherry blossom trees in the background.

Tags: Photos

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

How did France announce the results so quickly?

It was over quickly! That is how I summed up the election day in France. The polls closed at 8 pm and Sarkozy speech conceding defeat was over by 8:30 pm. Around the time the polls were being closed, I was on my way to join a group of expatriates meeting up in a pub to watch the post-polling process as a group. On my way, I noticed a group of people in a street that was cordoned off. On reaching there, I found a giant TV screen where Sarkozy was addressing his supporters.

As only a few minutes had passed after the polls had closed, I wondered what this speech was about. I assumed the speech to be urging his followers to exercise restraint in the following hours. Actually I got it partially right. It was about exercising restraint and also conceding defeat. There were a few people in tears and most of the faces were grim. When I walked into pub after watching the crowd and their reactions, my friend told me the results were out. Hollande has won.

What amazes me is how fast the results were out for the second round of the French elections of 2012. The polls had hardly closed and the winner emerges. How do they do it? Something which further surprises me was the final voting tally was announced around noon the next day. Why would anyone accept defeat even before the final votes have been counted? Isn't it strange? What is the possible explanation for all this?

Tags: Musings,Elections,France,2012

Monday, May 7, 2012

Why is the bridge so important while kissing?

Super Moon. If you are a star gazer, you pretty much know what this is. I am a photographer and not a star gazer. So, I take this to be a good photo opportunity. The big question is where in Paris would I get a beautiful composition of the Super Moon. I decided on the popular bridge Pont des Arts. If you check this on Google Maps, you will have to zoom in to actually see the bridge on the maps. 

Paris, once again, played truant on Sunday. The sky was overcast. As a result, the moon was not visible, even one and a half hours after sunset. There was a brief moment in which the lower edge of the moon was visible through the clouds. But it was not long enough to take a good picture.

With a lot of time to kill in the cold night on the bridge, there is one phenomenon I noticed. There were a lot of lovers on the bridge embraced in a passionate kiss ignorant about the surroundings. I do not have anything against kissing. It is a good mechanism to indicate passion or affection. While it is passion which is under scanner, why do people choose a bridge to kiss each other? Why is the bridge so important?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Books: Faceless Killers

In the outskirts of a Swedish town which is predominantly inhabited by retired people, an old couple is brutally murdered. Kurt Wallander is the detective in charge of solving the mystery. The murder soon is going to accelerate the racial prejudices of the society. Kurt has other things on his mind too, recent separation, increasing distant daughter and a difficult aging father. While struggling on the personal front, Kurt have to solve the murder and apprehend the criminals.

The novel written by Henning Mankell is about a murder. It is not set on a grand canvas. The underlying theme does have a greater significance. But it is for the reader to interpret the grand canvas. That is why the book, which details the investigative procedures and also the brilliant mind, stays in the mind of the reader long after he/she has put down the book after reading the last page. Some of the issues dealt with in the book is relevant to any part of the world while some is specific to Sweden. The good thing is the issues discussed are not alien to most of us.

The book in English is a translation of Mankell's work in Swedish. So, I cannot say a lot about the language. But the essence of the book is preserved. So the investigation, though crude as it is set in 1990s, is interesting. Pick it up if you are interested in mysteries and can also handle slow or real-time pace.

Tags: Books,Henning Mankell,Kurt Wallander

Friday, May 4, 2012

Culture in a drink

Culture comes into play when you are even involved a simple task like downing a few pegs with the company of friends. Look into the eyes and also don't cross the glass while raising yours for a toast. Those are the few that I know. But there is always an opportunity to learn new ones.

Normally you don't place your glass back on the table after raising it for a toast. You take a sip and enjoy it spreading into your body before gently placing your glass back. Apparently, it is not so in some cultures. After the toast, you place it on the table first after which you pick it up to actually drink!

That was an interesting lesson. But there was one more learning from the evening. What do you do first when you pick up a bottle of wine to fill your glass? If you are like me, then you look around and ask the others if they need a refill. But in some cultures, it is rude to pour drink for another person!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Photos: No way forward, Paris style

Paris has narrow streets. There are cars parked on both sides of the streets. That leaves very minimal space to maneuver your vehicle. While I was strolling the 13th arrondissement, I came across this sight. As you can see from the picture, the bus was turning right, from a narrow street into another narrow street. A Parisian had parked his car so close to the intersection of the two roads. As a result, the bus was stuck with no way to move forward. There was nothing much they could do. You can see the driver in the white shirt hoping for the car owner to return. The others are the passengers in the bus. Very soon, the bus driver got back into his driving seat and started honking. What happened next is not known to me as I left the scene as soon as the honking started!

Tags: Photos

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Muguet de Bois

Pronounced "moogay de bua", it translates to the lily of the valley. I am not sure why the "bois" in this case is not the woods but the valley. Anyways, the wood is the meaning you get if you use Google Translate or Reverso. After looking up the meaning, it is very clear whenever I see the word Bois on the map of Ile-de-France. Now I also know why Robinhood is Robin de Bois over here!

Let's get back to where we started. It is a French custom to present Muguet de Bois to a dear one when the spring arrives. It is supposed to bring good luck. Well, it is a tiny lily flanked by two or three green leaves wrapped in plastic. At least that is what I received on Friday. If you are wondering who my dear one is, I have to tell you it was the same question on my mind when a beautiful lady handed over the flower to me. Who is she? How does she know me? Believe me, it was big boost to the male ego. In this city of love, my dearest ones are all those who work in the public transport system namely RATP and SNCF. It was the SNCF employee giving out the lily of the valley to all the passengers.

Do you remember me talking about lilies bring luck? In my case, the lily did not bring luck. My trains were all delayed because of a mishap and I had to take an alternate route to work.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Photos: What is hanging over your head?

It is shoes that hang over your head when you walk over this street in the 13th arrondissement in Paris; shoes hanging from a rope tied over a street. As you can see from the picture, they are hung at the level of third floor of the building. But why would someone do that? I have no clue. Do you? There should be a simple reason behind this!

Tags: Photos

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 India License.