Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Pretty Young Thing is Late Again

Do you have late comers at work? By late comers, I mean who are usually off by an hour from the normally accepted time. The kind of people who silently come in, discreetly sit down and then get up to greet everyone. I am glad about this French custom of greeting everyone with a handshake in case it is between males and kiss on the cheek or a handshake when it is between opposite sexes or two females. Everybody knows when someone is late.

The Pretty Young Thing(PYT) is a notorious late comer especially in a team where the majority show up well before 9:30 am. I don't mind--not because for the reasons you might being thinking. She is not only pretty but also efficient, assertive and results oriented. For all the good traits, I can overlook the late appearances.

The PYT also tries to be apologetic about her late appearances by stating the reasons. The need to be apologetic arises from neither the reporting structure at work nor my frantic phone calls and SMSes to remind her about morning meetings. The need arises because I am older than her by many years. To massage my ego, I am forgetting the term "father figure".

Today, PYT had a unique reason to be late. It is the time difference problem. As a result, she reported very late to work. No, we have not turned our clocks for daylight savings. Instead, it had to do with what she did during the weekend. She went to Morocco to visit her family. She came back and didn't switch the cellphone back to Paris time. So she arrived to work at Moroccan time. That is fine with me. She is leaving work today at Moroccan time too.

Footnote: I request the reader not to find loopholes in her narrative. Sometimes, it is better to play along.

Tags: Musings,Pretty Young Thing,Late



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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Movie Review: Die Hard 5: A Good Day to Die Hard

John McClane(Bruce Willis) finds out his son Jack McClane(Jai Courtney) is arrested in Russia. Jack has agreed to testify against a political prisoner and former billionaire Yuri Komarov(Sebastian Koch). So John lands up in Russia just in time for the trial. As soon as he reaches the courthouse, explosions rock the place initiating chaos all around him. In the midst of chaos, he finds Jack escaping with Yuri. Like always, John doesn't like to sit idle when trouble appears.

John Moore tells another episode in John McClane's life. The story unfolds in Russia. This time around, John is worried about his son Jack and not doing enough as a parent. It is also personal for John and hence the plot is reminiscent of the first in the series where his wife was trapped in the high rise. But that is where the similarity ends. There was a time John McClane used to be an ordinary cop in extraordinary circumstances who comes out victorious by either stubbornness or perseverance, depending on how you look at it. Those were the good old times. Now not only the circumstances are extraordinary but also John McClane is extraordinary. The simple fact takes the fun out of the series.

Like the immediate predecessor in the series, this one too offers a lot of unbelievable action pieces accomplished using CG. In order to show John is human, he bleeds. Except for the bleeding, nothing else happens to the man. He steps out of vehicles which has toppled multiple times without any broken bones. Both father and son jumps off a high rise, breaks the construction scaffolding, skids down multiple floors, destroys everything in their path and lands safely in a garbage bin. No, there are no broken bones here too. Talk about suspension of disbelief. This is taking it too far. The first chase sequence and the ensuing destruction is very hard to digest. Sometimes, you feel like watching an animation movie. Some of the stunts are well coordinated. But too much of anything is too bad. I am not even going to talk about the emotional bonding between father and son. At this point you have lost all the hope in the movie, even bad acting cannot make you guffaw.

The series is doing good in one way, the newer ones are hitting a new low than the previous ones. To summarize, it is a good day to die hard for the makers but it is a good day to die for the audience. Stay away from this. The sound of explosions and colliding cars can drive you mad if the bad acting doesn't do the trick.

Language: English 

Genre: Action

Rating: *

For trailer, click here.

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Photos: Mane that suits the body suit

The suit and the mask screams tiger to me. It is the color of the hair that caught my attention. It went well with the suit. In fact, the person standing behind wanted to come to the foreground. I asked him not to in a polite manner. So he decided to go to the background and pose. It was a blessing in disguise. Now there is an added drama to the picture. This was taken during the Chinese New Year Parade in Paris.


Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/photokkaran

Tags: Photos

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Books: The Power of Habit

You might have heard people advising you to adopt good habits and get rid of bad habits. You might have read countless self-help books which details how you can create new habits. In this book, the author Charles Duhigg tells the reader about what a habit is and how this knowledge has changed individuals, organizations and society. 

At the core, a habit can be broken down into three phases - cue, response and reward. This is the cycle of a habit. Many recent scientific studies have established this fact. Once you breaks down your habit into these three phases, you can change your habit easily. This is what Charles Duhigg tells the reader.

The interesting thing about the book is the scientific studies related to the different phases in the habit cycle is told briskly and clearly in the beginning chapters itself. Once this cycle is established, Charles Duhigg chronicles many real life experiences as evidences of changing a habit by creating a new habit. The real life experiences of marketing Febreze, civil rights movements in USA etc are used to highlight the importance of habit.

All of us struggle in changing bad habits and embracing good habits. This book serves as a good inspiration for all of us to understand and learn how to go about it. This is recommended to everyone. The real life experiences and the simplicity of narration will keep you engrossed in the book.

Tags: Books,Charles Duhigg,Habit




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Friday, February 22, 2013

Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook

Two misfits comes together to find peace and happiness. This forms the basis of the movie directed by David O Russell. David O Russell adapts a novel by Matthew Quick to tell the story on screen. Patrizio Jr(Bradley Cooper) is taken to his parent's house from a psychiatric care, by his mother(Jacki Weaver). Patrizio Jr shares a lot of characteristics with dad Patrizio Sr(Robert de Niro) especially the bad temper. Once Pat Jr is back at his home, he plans to getting back with his former wife Nikki. But there is a slight problem. Nikki already has a restraining order on Pat. When Pat meets Tiffany(Jennifer Lawrence) a young widow, both their worlds collide for better. But they do not realize it at first.

Like in his previous movie Fighter, David O Russell focuses on relationships. The situation of Pat and Tiffany is funny. Pat has bipolar disorder while Tiffany is a sex addict. Is there anything common between them except the neuroses? How do they come to tolerate each other despite the wrong things they say to each other? All these are comedic scenes. Yet David O Russell films it in such a way that we sympathize with the characters even when we are laughing at the dialogues and their reactions. Thanks to the director at the helm, the movie doesn't end up being one-dimensional.

The performances by Bradley Cooper as Pat Jr and Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany contributes significantly towards the movie. Bradley Cooper has a different role. He is known for his appearances in comedy movies. He has to shake all the preconceived notions about him and deliver a convincing performance. In short, he has a thin line to walk and he does the balancing act very well. Jennifer Lawrence has an interesting role but not a difficult one. It is her interaction with Pat Jr and the way she convinces Pat Sr which makes us notice her. Robert de Niro as Pat Sr has a role which he has played many times. Yet, he makes a difference towards the climax. At this point, we know why he was chosen for playing the role. Chris Tucker in a very short role invokes a laughter without boring us.

It is an emotional movie, recommended for a quiet evening.

Language: English 

Genre: Drama 

Rating: ****

For trailer, click here.

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Photos: Homage to Jackie Chan movies

This is my homage to countless Jackie Chan movie I have seen though the picture is slightly different from the movies. In the movies, you see an array of villains doing acrobatic feats and finally forming a neat formation to give trouble to Jackie Chan. The closing position of these beautiful woman reminded me of the same. So I decided to take the shot from the ground level. 


Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/photokkaran

Tags: Photos

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Photos: Ready for the parade

I came across these two boys dressed up for the parade. The boys were looking in the Chinese costumes. There were many photographers trying to take a picture of these boys. It was very difficult to get a picture with other photographers accidentally coming into the frame spoiling the final outcome. After a few tries, I managed to take a picture.


Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/photokkaran

Tags: Photos

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Books: Dongri to Dubai

If you analyze the list of movies made a few years back, it definitely shows our fascination for the Mumbai underworld. Here is a book chronicling the underworld in Mumbai over a period of 60 years. It tells us how the underworld grew in power, spawned all the news makers we are familiar with, their rise and in some cases, their fall too. This is written by the crime journalist S Hussain Zaidi.

Hussain Zaidi's book starts in the pre-independence era to the present day. The flip side of the book is the lack of structure. There are many stories but there is no smooth transition from one chapter to another. But the stories are so fascinating that we overlook the lack of structure. The majority of the book is devoted to Dawood Ibrahim.

If you are not a news junkie and wants to know more about Mumbai underworld, then this is a good book to pick up. This is a book primarily for an Indian reader and will not make much sense to others.

Tags: Books,Hussain Zaidi,Dawood Ibrahim



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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Photos: Fire cracker rickshaw

When I clicked the picture, I had no idea what this was. It looked like the rickshaws found in the streets in India. Of course, our local rickshaw is a basic one when compared to this contraption. During the parade, I realized what it was. Firecrackers were loaded on to this rickshaw. A person rides it and another person walks besides it. The person walking, picks up the firecrackers and lights it. It was a nice sight.

The photo was taken when the rickshaw was parked in front of Hotel de Ville. A kid was playing with it.



Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/photokkaran

Tags: Photos

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Photos: Hotel de Ville on the day of Chinese New Year Parade

It is the year of the serpent according to the Chinese calendar. During the Chinese New Year, there is a big parade in the China Town. I was surprised to find a parade in the heart of Paris for this event. The main parade is a week away in the Chinatown. This one was a smaller parade originating from the city hall ore Hotel de Ville. On the day of the parade, there were red lanterns hoisted in front of the city hall.


Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/photokkaran

Tags: Photos

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Books: Born to Run

Christopher McDougall writes about his experiences during the search for super-athletes. The super-athlete in question is not a scientifically altered/enhanced human being. But these are normal human beings who are a  part of the tribe named Tarahumara. The Tarahumaras has not contact with outside world and prefers to live in the Mexican Copper Canyons. They take a long time to induct an outsider into their inner circle. It is because of their past experiences with the external world.

In order to find out more about this tribe and learn as much as possible about the joys of running, Christopher goes on searching for a man who has lives among the Tarahumara tribe despite being a Westerner. When you hear the backdrop of the story, there is a chance you would label it as a boring book which extols the virtues of running with a lot of related scientific discoveries. If you have one of those people, then you are right except about one thing. This is not a boring book.

The narrative style used by Christopher is the key in making this book an enjoyable read. During his search, Christopher discovers a lot of interesting characters in the course of his journey. Instead of telling his story as a linear narrative, Christopher leaps up ahead in his story in the middle of the narrative. This makes the whole story move months and weeks ahead when the book breaks into a new chapter. But before long, he catches up on the story he left behind in the previous chapter. The uncertainty of where we are heading makes the experience enjoyable and intriguing at the same time.

The book not only tells the importance of the story but also the will power of people who are featured in the book. Luckily for the reader, Christopher doesn't preach us. Instead, he lets the reader find the lessons on his own. When I picked up the book, I had no idea if these characters were real. After reading the book, I went looking for these characters on the internet and was amazed to find more about them.

If you have never tried out this genre, I strongly advice you to read this book. For sports fans, this is a must read.

Tags: Books,Tarahumara,Christopher McDougall



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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine Rush

A early morning call from a married woman, but not married for me.

A frantic search for flower in the areas outside the Peripherique in Paris.

A red rose presented by me to a man.

All of this happening in a span of 3 hours. Isn't that quite a lot to accomplish? If you are thinking I lead an exciting double life, let me assure the truth is uglier than fiction. There is no double life, extramarital affairs and sexuality switch. I'm still an ordinary person who gets occasionally pushed into doing extraordinary things like most of us. One thing for sure. Since I thought the day would turn out to be an ordinary day, the events reaffirmed the fact I'm bad at predicting future.

The married woman is my friend's wife. My friend is in the same boat as me, living in Paris while the family is in India. So she requested me to get a red rose for him. There are a few amazing things which happened immediately after the request was made. I lost the ability to say "No". So I agreed. I also lost the ability to see the logical flaw in the request. The man is supposed to initiate this ritual, the whole shebang of flowers and bouquets, for a woman and not the other way. I lost the ability to think about the future. I am going to present this red rose to a man in a room full of people. Isn't that giving out the wrong signal to everyone in the room?

Cross the bridge when it comes. The favorite idiom to embrace when there is no plan. The whole endeavor was going to end up in a disaster. I was sure of this fact. But the whole endeavor was doomed before it started. Do you know there is not a single flower shop along the route I take to work? There is a RER station near my work but not a flower shop in it. Don't people buy flowers on their way back from work? I had to go all the way to La Defense to find a red rose. Not a flower shop in this romantic city? Isn't that odd? During this ordeal, I was more worried about the meeting at 9:30 am where the absentees are highlighted on the minutes of the meeting probably to induce guilt. Yes, I work with interesting people.

Once I found the location, I was worried about transporting it. All the roses had a big stem. It wouldn't fit in my bag. So I asked the lady at the shop to cut the stem small. I also think I did something right. Holding the red rose waiting for the lady to attend to me, I was awarded a lot of smiles from beautiful women. Of course, it was the rose and all those smiles reassured me of my choice.

All is well that ends well. I made it in time for the meeting. I gave it to the man in front of a room full of people. My sexuality is safe, questioned but not suspected anymore. To tell you the truth, it ended nearly well. The focus shifted to my friend and his wife. Everybody is in awe of their love and reserve to overcome hurdles. I was overshadowed by the cute love story. There was neither any pat on my back nor invites for drinks. I'm the guy who made it all happen. At least, buy me a drink. Be friends with me. I'm cool...


Tags: Musings,Valentines,Red Rose



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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mint tea, seductive beyond all resistance

I am not sure where the mint tea originated. For me, it is a Moroccan thing because I had it for the first time in a Moroccan restaurant in Paris. So, I like to think mint tea as Moroccan. I may be wrong.  But that is the way I am. India may feature mint tea but I am not a lover of mint. So I have never had it in India. My aversion to mint is one of the reasons why my mother used to take special care to avoid mint in the dishes served to me. All the others were served the minty version except me. How did she accomplish that? I leave it to the efficiency associated with mothers, a science better unexplained but thoroughly enjoyed wondering about it.

Coming back to the mint tea, the waiter at the Moroccan restaurant suggested it to me. My dislike for mint made me refuse the offer politely. I am eternally grateful to the waiter for what happened next. He insisted it is a must-have after dinner. He also added the tea was free. I am an easy guy to be persuaded as long as it involves food. Soon, I relented. What followed was dramatic. He brought a glass and a copper jug to the table. He placed the glass on the table, poured tea from the jug, raised the jug even above his tall frame while pouring and brought the jug down as he finished pouring. Yes, the gesture reminded me of the tea shops back in India. I waited for the hot drops to splash on my face and I desperately wanted it to happen as if the splash will magically transport me miles away to my homeland. That never happened.

I took a sip when the waiter left. The steam rising out of the cup didn't prevent me for I can handle hot tea in any form. On the first sip, sugar and the mint, enhancing the effect of sugar, spread through my taste buds. And I fell in love.

Footnote: If you are in Paris and want to try mint tea, visit the restaurant adjacent to the mosque near Jussieu Metro. You can sit in the courtyard and have endless cups of mint teas. It is not free but it is definitely cheap. If you want the exact address, check the address in the picture.



Tags: Musings,Mint,Tea



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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Movie Review: Kadal

Two lovers are caught between the battle of ideologies, the good and the bad. The lovers are Thomas(Gautham Karthik), an orphan early in his childhood after his mother's death who is never accepted by his dad and Beatrice(Thulasi) who is a nurse working in a convent. The battle of ideologies is between Father Sam(Arvind Swamy) and Bergmans(Arjun). Incidentally, both were studying for priesthood but beliefs and events drove them apart.

When Mani Ratnam tells the love story from the viewpoint of Thomas, it results in picture perfect frames thanks to the photography by Rajiv Menon with interesting sequences. Unfortunately, the movie fails as a whole because of the lack of seamless transition or integration between the conflict of the elders and the love story. Because of this, the parallel tracks are sometimes  tiring as there is no real closure or suspense when the narrative changes to the other track. Like with all Mani Ratnam movies, the photography, the sets and the music (by AR Rahman) plays a major role in this one too. The beach, the fishing village and the church is where most of the movie is told. All the three reminds you of paintings. The scenes where Thomas learns the tricks of fishing is shot in such a way so as to take the breath out of you. The background score makes the conflict edgier.

Of the performances, it is Arvind Swamy as Father Sam who stands out. He has to play different phases, one where he finds peace in religion, the one he converts the local community with patience and finally of not losing the faith even when he is attacked from all fronts with no support. Arvind Swamy underplays all the phases sometimes with only knowing smiles deflecting the criticism, sometimes with confusion inline with the character and sometimes with anger. Gautham Karthik is good although the role isn't difficult. He excels in scenes where anger and frustration of Thomas comes to the forefront. Thulasi as Beatrice has the most difficult role. She is oblivious of her surroundings and has to show her childlike enthusiasm. She does not have a lengthier role. If she had a lengthy role, her act would have fallen flat. Arjun disappoints as Bergmans. It is a one-dimensional character oozing evil. Unfortunately, he is not able to rise above the script to impress.

This movie will be remembered only for the performances, the photography and the music. The movie tries to follow the middle path as a piece of art and an entertainer which turns out to be the biggest flaw. If you are a Mani Ratnam fan, there is no way I can stop you from seeing this movie. For the others, wait for the DVD.

Language: Tamil 

Genre: Drama 

Rating: **


Tags: Movies,mani+ratnam,Arvind Swamy,Arjun,Gautham Karthik,Thulasi,Rajiv Menon,AR Rahman,Drama

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Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Pretty Young Thing and hair!

A pretty young thing adds diversity to the team. This is what some of my learned friends say. The proponents of this theory also believe this phenomenon favors productivity. This is all backed up with anecdotes and no hard facts. So I can't endorse this theory. But one thing for sure, a pretty young thing definitely make men behave like boys. At least, that is what I have been noticing through the corner of the eyes all around me. When you have decades on your age-meter, events like these make you smile.

On Friday, the pretty young thing had a different problem to tackle. Her access card was ready. Since she has crying out loud about the inconvenience of not having an access card, I was surprised why she hasn't collected the card yet.

Me: Why haven't you collected the access card?

Pretty Young Thing (PYT): Don't worry. I will do it on Monday.

Me: *puzzled*

PYT: Today is not a good day.

Me: *still puzzled*

PYT: They take a photo for the access card. My hair doesn't look today. I don't want a photo taken today!

Tags: Musings,Pretty Young Thing,PYT



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Termination of a worker

There is no pink slip in France. There is job security and also leisure, in fact a lot of leisure. It comes as no surprise as France is dubbed as socialist. These are a few benefits of socialism. The employed is safe to a greater extent than other countries of the similar stature. This formed the crux of the conversation that I was participating on the way back from work in RER a week back. Yet I was astonished by recent developments.

Just before the official working day ended on Thursday, 5:30 pm to be precise, an acquaintance was shown the door. Apparently, the acquaintance doesn't have to show up at the work the next day. This incident caused uneasiness among the acquaintance's coworkers. Of course, This is no way to treat anyone. Even when you are showing the door, you give at least a couple of week's notice. The acquaintance I am talking about is an externe in the local lingo. To elaborate, an externe is an external consultant, somebody who is hired for special services. An externe is not an employee; just a hired help for a definite duration of time. But still, there is an etiquette to be followed.

Unfortunately, the externe in question was two degrees away from the final working place. When I say two degrees, the externe belonged to a company which offered the services of the externe to another company who has signed the deal with the final working place. So in front of the final company who has hired the externe believing the externe belongs to Company A in fact belonged to Company B. Now, Company A and B has clashed and hence the services of externe is withheld by the Company B.

Who is the villain here? Currently, the working place is looking like they had done something wrong even though they had no idea about the deal between Company A and Company B. They couldn't have anticipated a fallout between Company A and Company B.



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