Saturday, June 29, 2013

Coeur d'artichaut

I am preparing to fly back to India. So the past few days have been busy wherein I have to wind up a lot of work and also say good-bye to a lot of my friends. The good-bye process is never going to end for sure. I haven't seen half of my friends. But I have been spending a lot of time with my young friends at work. For my imminent departure, I was showered with gifts. Among the gifts I received, there was a can of preserved artichokes.

Now you may wonder my connection with artichokes. It started more than 10 years back when the non-decrepit cafeteria at the place I was consulting served me scampi with artichokes. It was the meticulous way in which the chef was cooking the scampi and then arranging it the plate that caught my attention. But when I started eating, it was artichoke that won my heart. Probably, it was because the artichoke was pickled and tasted sometimes sweet and sometime salt. Basically, it was unpredictable.

Anyway, I continue my love affair with artichokes. Today, I don't think twice if I see an entree with artichoke in it. Similarly, I scan the menu at the pizzeria to find a dish which has artichoke in it. A lot of my friends smile at my choice. Now, I realize they are also observant. Otherwise, the can of preserved artichokes would not have found it's way into the carefully selected gifts. 

Now that brings us to the French lesson. It was not the bratty young friends but my beautiful young friend who gave me this lesson. Coeur d'artichaut. It translates to heart of artichoke. Although I have not seen a real artichoke except the one served on a plate, I will not be able to explain to you what the heart of an artichoke looks like. For the French, it means a naive person!

Disclaimer: Just because I love artichokes, it does not mean I am naive.

Tags: French Lessons,Artichoke,Naive


Thursday, June 20, 2013

You say Pizza, He says Steak

Men can never understand woman. Though women may complain men never try to find out what a woman wants, it is difficult to figure it out. Being a man, I may be prejudiced.

A couple of days ago, I was in the company of two men. One of them is currently seeing the ex-girlfriend of the other. Don't ask me how I find myself stuck between two such men. In my defense, I just go with the flow and I end up hearing interesting conversation.

So here I am between two men. Guess what they end up discussing. The woman. I was amused by their discussion. Both of them had only good things to talk about her. But what intrigued me was the men's perception of the choice of food. While one thought she loved pizza, the other said she loved steak.

People change and their choices change. But is it possible for someone to change in a very short span of time? Or is it that men aren't able to figure out women?

Tags: Musings,Men,Woman


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

How to make crisp(i)er emails?

Some of the email communication happening at work places are a source of amusement. Sometimes people put too many sentences to communicate while others do it with few words, making us long for more explanations. Everybody wants information not only in as few words as possible but also in the vocabulary they wish. This provides fodder for anguish especially when a new team is being formed or a new manager has taken charge. There is a new learning and also "un"-learning.

Recently, a friend of mine reacted in an amusing manner at work while communicating through email. At that point in time, he was overloaded and frustrated when a manager responded to his email through an intermediary. The response was simple. "Can this be crisper?". He got the word wrong. It should have been crispier or crispy instead of crisper. But I believe you get the drift. This apparently put my friend in a really bad mood. He replied immediately. "Please ask him to fry the email to make it crisper". Even my friend got the word wrong. He was more interested in a retort than the correctness of the retort.

The communication was through the intermediary. So I don't know what the intermediary did to appease both parties. But coming back to emails, I have started to wish for a frying pan when I see really long emails in order to make the emails a bit more "crisper". The thought of frying pan also has a positive effect on me. I immediately smile which make the deciphering process a lot easier.

Tags: Musings,Email,Manager,Communication


Monday, June 10, 2013

Movie Review: Furious 6

I know it is the latest installment of The Fast and The Furious. But I am not sure what is the name of the movie. Is it Fast 6 or Furious 6? I remember seeing Furious 6 when the credits came out at the end. What is in a name? With the 5th installment Fast 5, the series had undergone a major revamp. Now, this is not only about spectacular car chases but a bunch of action heroes thrashing everything that comes in their way. On top of it, the location of action changes. The last outing was set in Brazil. This time, the location moves to Britain and then Spain.

When the movie starts, Dominic Toretto(Vin Diesel) is forced to bring back him team consisting of Brian O'Conner(Paul Walker), Roman Pearce(Tyrese Gibson), Tej Parker(Ludacris), Han Seoul-Oh(Sung Kang) and Gisele(Gal Gadot). Letty Ortiz(Michelle Rodriguez), Dominic's former girlfriend, turns up alive and is working for a former SAS agent turned mercenary Owen Shaw(Luke Evans). They have been creating trouble for Luke Hobbs(Dwayne Johnson). So Hobbs decides to turn to his previous foe who had temporarily helped in during Fast 5. As you can see, it is about family this time. Thankfully for us, the characters don't waste time to cry about the familial ties and virtues of big joint family. Instead they start to do what they are good at. Start chasing the bad guys in mean machines and engage in hand-to-hand combats.

The movie is directed by Justin Lin. This also marks the fourth collaboration for the director with respect to this series. In Fast 5, Justin Lin showed remarkable maturity in handling an action movie. The term maturity might sound silly while talking about an action movie. For an action movie, the director should be able to make us forget the silly or even non-existent plot line with stunt sequences that involves a good amount of suspension of disbelief. In this area, Justin Lin excels. In order to show the prowess of his bulky leading men, he pits them against a bulky villain. The final sequence when both of them literally join to thrash the villain is fun to watch. That is exactly what we look forward in an action movie. It is not only the men, the women also are thrashing each other! You can find Gina Carano and Michelle Rodrigeuz punching and clawing each other! There are car chases, the one on the freeway in Spain is noteworthy even though the ending of the chase makes you guffaw. The final sequence when they take down the aircraft is also a pleasure to watch. To hell with logic. We just want to watch some explosions!

I never look for performances while watching an action movie. It is not worth it. The performance matters when the genre is thriller. When you have a cast like this, there are some men who has to look menacing and the others  are there for comic relief. You get all of this. Unfortunately, the girls take a back stage because they are less in number. The Bristish actor Luke Evans is a formidable foe for the protagonists. He is able to match up to the huge star cast primarily with his performance. He is the only one standing out if you are analyzing the performances.

Go for it. You will like the stunts even though you might not always believe what is unfolding on the screen. If you think this is the end of the series, guess who turns up in a cameo just before the credits roll. Hold you breath. It is Jason Statham! Are you now looking forward to the next in the series? To be truthful, I am.

Language: English

Genre: Action

Rating: ***

For trailer, click here.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Paris Metro: A fresh perspective

When you move into a city for the first time, you observe a lot of things about the new environment. But after you have spent a considerable amount of time in the city, the observations that surprised you earlier doesn't anymore when familiarity sets in gradually. This also happens to the time when the experiences of a new visitor to the city takes you back to the beginning, bringing in a flood of nostalgia and many other emotions. Last week, it was my turn to stop and reflect on my beginning days in Paris.

My family was here for a short visit. Although I have been living in Paris for the past two and a half years, they have never visited France. Instead I have flown back to India several times. This was their first visit to France. Like all visitors to this city, they walked a lot and also used the Metro in order to travel around the city. Although we have a similar Metro in Bengaluru, presenting ticket and operating the turnstile was very entertaining for my daughter. At the same time, correcting the way she phonetically pronounced the names of the Metro station was a big challenge for me. The ch in the La Fourche was always pronounced like as in champion. Miromesnil was always pronounced with a prominent s. To top it all, it was Eiffel Tower and not Tour Eiffel.

Once inside the metro, it was different for both mother and daughter. By now, we are all used to couples openly kissing in the Metro. The first time they saw it happening, both of them reacted in different ways. My daughter had a shocked look on her face which quickly turned into an embarrassing smile. She tried to look away but did not succeed in averting the eyes for long. We had to force a conversation to distract her. My wife had looked at me with a sly questioning look. The unspoken question was if I had any idea when the couple would stop doing this in public. Of course, I had no idea. Judging by the intensity of the kiss, I doubt they will take it kindly if I interrupted to ask them the time they intend to stop kissing. Public display of affection is not new for us. For a new visitor, it is.

The other thing you observe in the Metro is everybody engaged in various activities. The majority of the Metro users are reading a book or a newspaper. Then they are people working on tablets or iPads while others are playing games or texting/messaging on their smartphones. This does not come as a surprise to me. Once inside the Metro, I am also busy blogging or tweeting. For a new visitor, these are all interesting sights which tells a lot about the city. I was also a new visitor a long time ago. I remember when I was amazed by all this in the Metro. Now I have lived here for such a long time, I have forgotten what it was like to be a newbie in this city.

Tags: Musings,Paris,Metro,Visitor


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Movie Review: Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani

An young director who writes sensitive script. An young actor who has not only great histrionic capabilities but also a handsome face. A production house which gives great emphasis on picture perfect frames. What do you expect when all these three combine together? If you say a great movie, then I will correct you. I expect only an entertainer. That is exactly what we get when all these three factors converge in the movie Yeh Jawaani Hai Dewaani. Forget the numerological play on the title. This is the same team which gave us Wake Up Sid. Although the end product is not as artistic as the first outing, this movie ends up being much ahead of the glossy trash we are subjected very often, if not every week.

Wake Up Sid was as much about breaking away as it was about growing up. This time around too, Ayan Mujerkji scripts and directs a theme which is about growing up even though we are not sure about whose growing up is he attempting to tackle until we have sailed comfortably into the movie well after the intermission. Is it about the studious Naina(Deepika Padukone) who is yearning to break the shackles of parental pressure or the adventurous Bunny(Ranbir Kapoor) who loves to push the envelope to enjoy a fast paced life. They are different as chalk and cheese. Yet the chalk is head over heels for the cheese. Is this going to work out?

It will be an insult to the director (who is also the script writer) to classify this as a love story, regular or different. It is not a love story although he falters in clearly defining the perspective to tell the story. Although the focus is on Bunny, he meanders from this perspective in the first half. With an excellent sense for melodrama and a penchant for great dialogues, Ayan Mukerji underplays the drama to achieve the opposite effect. His characters stay in our mind. Not all of the plots are necessarily happy endings as per conventional cinema wisdom but they are indeed giving hope for a happy ending. The writer in him succeeds in creating an array of supporting characters who behaves straight from life yet looks extraordinary. Ayan knows when to place a song in the movie. He places his songs with an intention to give us a boost and not to bore us to death. In this respect, the songs by Pritam helps too. Displaying a good ear for music, Ayan has worked on the background score also. Although a good attempt, it falls flat at times.

Ayan Mukerji's trump card is his leading man, Ranbir Kapoor. He is handsome. He can shake a leg. Sometimes, especially during the dance sequences, he is inspired by the same actor who inspired his grandfather. Yes, I am talking about Charlie Chaplin. Most of the time, he rises up to the script. Sometimes, even about it for instance when he walks away after the wedding torn between Naina and his future plans.  When he confronts Naina's photographer friend, the brat in him is for full display making us chuckle and sit up. This is one guy who can carry a movie. Be it Madhuri Dixit in a minuscule role or Kalki Koechlin, Aditya Roy Kapur and Deepika Padukone, he can outshine all of them.

The biggest winner in this enterprise is Dharma Productions not only in terms of money but also for quality cinema. This movie is much different from the superficial themes they have been regularly feeding us.

Go for it. This is the perfect recipe for viewing in a movie hall.

Language: Hindi

Genre: Drama

Rating: ****


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Pedra Alta, challenging us to walk away without getting high on food

Portuguese cuisine? Does it exist? That was my initial reaction when my beautiful colleague asked me if I have tried it out. My colleague is Portuguese and the adjective I used to describe her is an understatement. Is the cuisine the secret behind the adjective? That was an answer worth pursuing. Someone said a long time said. All roads lead to Rome. In Paris, it is true with respect to Portuguese cuisine. In Paris, all roads in search of Portuguese cuisine leads to Pedra Alta especially if you don't have a Portuguese connection. If you have a Portuguese connection or even a Portuguese girlfriend, you might direct people to "that little restaurant near Hotel de Ville" featuring great Portuguese food. Unfortunately, I have to rely on Facebook pictures posted by friends and also my silent friend Google.

Back to Pedra Alta, you have a lot a surprises here. I am not talking about riding the metro to reach the edge of the city in Boulougne. That is not even a surprise. It is merely an inconvenience. The surprise is "No Reservations". Yes, they don't take reservations. You show up when the restaurant opens up. You get in or get a number. If you get a number, then you wait. You are told the waiting time. But what they don't tell you is the waiting time is approximate. I got in 15 minutes after the waiting time had expired.

What do you plan to do while waiting? There are two options. You can stand in front of the restaurant and stare at the traffic passing Marcel Sembat. It is a nice place but there are no beautiful creatures walking by to admire. Remember, it is not Paris no matter what people tell you. That takes us to the next option. Get into nearest bar to quench your thirst. On prima facie, it seems a good option but bad judgement. Why? You may ask. Please be with me for a few more minutes. The mystery will unravel itself.

After you get in, things go fast. But prepare yourself for this is not going to be a quiet dining experience. The decibel levels are high. Everyone seated are talking animatedly. The waiters are running around to take orders and carry really big plates to tables. The seafood platters are really huge. It is no wonder the waiters appear exasperated. You may be irritated at the waiter's behavior at first. Before the evening is over, the irritation is replaced with sympathy. It is difficult to work in such a restaurant with a long waiting queue, the seafood smell and incessant running around with heavy load. The last activity is in fact a good substitute for gym.

What I had!
One casual glance at the menu might make you think the prices are high. But a closer look reveals most of the dishes featured are for 2 people or more. When it finally arrives, you are overpowered by the aroma. You are happy seeing the quantity. It looks like a scrumptious meal. You are going to leave the table with your desires satisfied. The statement is partially correct. You are walking into a trap. Your desires will be satisfied as the meal progresses. But you will not be able to get up with all the food you ate. In fact, you will have eaten so much food that it makes you feel dizzy. Remember I told you not to drink too much while waiting. The food is going to do the same trick on you.

To cut a long story short, I finished the dinner. I was already looking for my bed even before the arrival of infamous l'addition! The last part of my journey, from the restaurant to my bed, was the longest. Before I hit the bed, I had only one question. It was about my beautiful colleague. How does she manage to stay slim after having Portuguese food? The question troubled me for only a few hours, most of which I was sleeping senselessly as an aftereffect of the dinner. The answer was a very simple one which I had overlooked. She avoids Portuguese cuisine. That explains her figure!

Tags: Restaurants,Portuguese


Monday, June 3, 2013

Books: Inferno

Botticelli's Map of Hell inspired by Dante's Inferno
Robert Langdon is back. When he wakes up in a hospital ward with a lot of pain and disorientation, Langdon is similar to Jason Bourne. No, he is not a skilled secret agent fighting bad guys. But he has amnesia like Jason Bourne. Luckily for him and us, it is retrogade amnesia. In effect, the last thing he remembers is events from couple of days back. At that point in time, he was in Harward. But now he is Florence. What happened in the last couple of days? That is the key to the new mystery by Dan Brown.

The latest book in the Langdon series is a gripping thriller because of three things. After staging the third book in the series in Washington DC, Dan Brown brings Langdon back to Europe. Imagine the vast expanses of United State with the constricted overcrowded yet ancient places in Europe. Which would you prefer to set as a backdrop for a thriller? I choose the latter. The lack of space and the energy in the street is the best setting for a thriller. This is the first thing that works in the book.

The second thing is the two parallel searches. Langdon had earlier solved the mystery. Now he is retracing his path. There are two searches. The first search to uncover the mystery and the second is to uncover what happened earlier. Both of these parallel searches is interesting. Moreover, Dan Brown reveals just enough to keep us hooked on the book. Langdon before losing memory had more time to solve a mystery. Now, he has less than 24 hours to solve it. A lot of lives are at stake if he doesn't!

Finally, Dan Brown uses the book for initiating a dialogue. Like one of his previous books, this one also bases the search around an European artist's work. While it was Da Vinci two books back, it is Dante this time. Unlike his previous works, this is not man torn between religion and science. The dialogue initiated is man's capability to play God. To be more precise, stretching science to play God.

Dan Brown is back in form. Go for it.

Picture Courtesy:

Tags: Books,Dan Brown,Robert Langdon

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