Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Dark Side of the Sun - Terry Pratchett



Am I glad that this is not the first Pratchett I read. He has been inspired by Isaac Asimov when he wrote this book which is a supposed Science Fiction. It was a huge let down and only served to remind me that even the best of us can make mistakes. Unless you want to read every book of his, I see no point in reading this one.
When looking at it objectively without attaching the Pratchett tag to it, it is not a bad read at all. Just that the book is a little disconnected at parts and could have been definitely better written. The plot revolves around Dom, the heir to an empire who faces multiple assassination attempts. Why it happens and how he escapes all of it to fulfill his destiny forms the crux of this book.

Eric - Terry Pratchett



This was one of the books of his i had not read in the discworld series. It was a very quick read and quite well written. Pratchett's quick wit and satire shone through the entire book. The plot follows Eric - a demonology hacker who in an attempt to get hold of a demon brings Rincewind (the most inept wizard of all times for the uninitiated) out of the depths of dungeon dimensions. His desires are simple - to live forever, to get the most beautiful girl in the world to marry him and to be the ruler of the entire world.

His desires are fulfilled but in a way he never thought possible. The book has a lot of hilarious instances especially in the scenes where he gets what he wants. I couldnt stop laughing when Helen is introduced and also when he gets to meet the creator. There is an interesting plot with the king of Hell coming in and acting crazy. A very good read that should definitely be read on a lazy sunday noon. :)

7 Secrets of Shiva - Debdutt Patnaik


This I think will be one of the books in the recent past i forced myself to complete. I think it is simply because of the fact that I can not agree with the philosophy that was discussed in so much detail in the book. The format is similar to that of Vishnu and the author talks about what each of the multiple worshipped forms of Shiva actually represent. He also touches on Ganesha and Murugan. An ok read if you do not get too involved in the book.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ra - One not a bad one




Pardon the pun in the title but if you go by how SRK portrays tams in the movie, i am like a humour queen. You would have realised how irritating his stereotypical tam was when i start critiquing my favorite actor of all times. Apart from the shallow stereotype and a lot of unexplained flashes of genius in the first 15 and the last 10 minutes, Ra one is actually an enjoyable, nice and watchable movie. It could have definitely been much more but the director is obsessed with giving SRK his screen time and refuses to venture in any other direction.


The plot is taut but the screenplay is to say the least pathetic. In the first half an hour, you see a mad Sharukh trying to get his son's love and attention. In his desperation, he decides to create a video game with an all powerful villain. He succeeds in doing so but is killed somewhere in the process by the villain who manages to get out of the video game by using the radio waves that are all around in the air. This is where the director could have given some funda as to how exactly he gets out. Maybe, he follows the philosophy of not explaining the fantastic as then things start seeming normal.


Ra-One(the character from the video game) as the villain is called is very intelligent and learns really quickly from things around him. Here there was ample room for witty dialogues and funny scenes which unfortunately never were uttered or never happened. However, all is not lost as G-One has a lot of funny dialogues and situations and you cant help but marvel at the make up that succeeds in making SRK look a great deal younger and smarter. :) He definitely does steal the show and the scenes in Mumbai with the son are quite nice. Kareena does not have much screen space but tries to do justice to the role in whatever time she does get. She has acted for a change and that is a refreshing thing. :)


You can definitely watch the movie once if not for Shahrukh then at least for the special effects and the kid who has acted quite well.

7 Secrets of Vishnu - Debdutt Patnaik


I have read two books by the author and enjoyed both. The 7 Secrets of Vishnu tries to decipher the various cultural implications of Vaishnavism and is well executed. The author explains the concepts effortlessly and his writing is quite fluid. His analogies are quite apt though he has the tendency to simplify things way too much at times. He takes us through all ten avatars of Vishnu and explains the significance of each. It makes us wonder about the multiple literal and symbolic interpretations in Indian Culture and you cant help but marvel at the amount of thought that has gone into explaining the purpose of life. He contrasts between the spiritual and material reality and tries to bring out the differences between the two and why men and women are associated with spiritual and material reality respectively.

One of my favorite secrets is that around human empathy. While human beings are capable of empathy and this helps us in evolution and in establishing a culture, we are also capable of exploitation and when we reach that phase, we lose what we have created. Though the law of the jungle of "Might is right" is not exactly correct, it does not make sense to constantly defend the defenseless for this world is stable because of the cycle of the prey and predator. By saving the small fish, you starve the big fish. How is it right to starve the big fish? As a human being, you have to be inclusive of everything and only then is real spiritual growth possible.

That was a very thought provoking interpretation which set me thinking about a lot of things in life and how by sometimes defending the weak, we make them dependent and prevent their growth. We have to draw a line somewhere. A good, different read. I am midway through Seven Secrets of Shiva and I am not enjoying it as much. 

After the Funeral - Agatha Christie


I guess i am getting lucky with Agatha Christie. I found this book at Bookworm and as usual jumped at it. 

The book is well executed and has my favorite detective Hercule Poirot. The plot revolves around a family where the eldest brother has just died. He had been sick for a long time and his death was no surprise to anyone except his youngest sister who claims that it is a murder in the funeral. She is known for her crazy dialogues so nobody pays any attention to it until she herself is murdered with a hatchet. The family solicitor calls upon Poirot to solve the crime and he does it with a great finesse. The characters are well constructed. Especially that of the younger generation. Of course, to a large extent they are stereotypes, but then arent they easier to build than the rest? I enjoyed the book and would definitely recommend it. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Of long and crazy drives

Diwali is a crazy time of the year and one thing i have always had a difficulty with is getting tickets to travel home. This time around,we decided to drive down and also brave a new route as we had to pick up my mother from another city. The drive was awesome till then and once we entered the city, it was all crowded and there were swarms of people in the road trudging with big shopping bags and happy smiles in their faces.

However the cheer was not contagious simply because we were in a car, in a road obviously meant only for walking masses - in a city whose geography we had no idea about, surrounded by people who could not direct us. It was an amazing experience in a way. I was grumpy throughout but in retrospect, I know i will NEVER forget this drive. As always, my diwali trip to Madurai was unusual for more reasons than one. :)

I am now just happy to be home and throwing random tantrums to get what I want. :)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Notes from a Small Island - Bill Bryson



A travelogue, full of wry humor and quick wit about a country I have always wanted to visit. Of course i had to pick it up and finish it fast!

Bill Bryson had written this book as a tribute to the country that he had lived in for a very long time before he went back to America in his words to give his wife a chance to shop till 10 on all days of the week. He sets out to cover the entire country (or  most of it) over a period of 3 weeks and writes in detail about the state of public transport, the weather, English humour and their solemn ways. You need not travel all the way to England to know more about the country. All you have to do is read this book and get to know more about a country that has always been something of an enigma to me.  They did after all, rule over our country until a few decades ago. 

 I loved the book. It was very well written and brought out the  multiple faces of Britain, most of which i did not even know existed. I would definitely recommend it for those who have the patience to skim through the multiple pages and read Bryson's detailed account on everything possible. :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Captain America


I had missed the movie in Bangalore thanks to the short shelf life it had in the theaters here. A very well made movie I really enjoyed. There are some unforgettable scenes in the movie and I loved watching everything. The best scene is where the professor shows the general why our man Rogers is the best person for the role. :) I was thinking as to how little most bosses know about people who work under them. In real life, the nice guys dont always get the chance but then they dont fail too miserably as well. :)

I loved Mr.America and the cute heroine. Everyone has done a good job and the director has done his homework while casting people. They fit the role. The situations are welll etched however, there are places where you feel like you are watching a cartoon. It could be because they lack depth. :)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Engeyum Eppothum

I have to admit this : Tamil cinema industry is for a change churning out good movies in the recent past. This is one of the really good ones. The whole movie is centered around a bus accident and the screenplay follows a few characters in both the buses involved in the crash. The director effortlessly brings out the role of fate and weaves a beautiful and tight net for all the viewers to enjoy. The movie, could have easily been made much more melodramatic and i admire the way the director does not let it slip into something like that. All the major actors have done a good job though i did not like the way the character of Manimegalai and Amudha had been portrayed. Frankly if i had met either of the two in real life, i would have steered clear of them.

A very good watch definitely worth the 2 hours 10 mins you will spend watching it. Even those who do not know Tamil can watch this one. :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Idiyappam!


You tube is an awesome medium to well, guess what, learn cooking! The videos are self explanatory and watching someone make a dish is so much easier to follow than a recipe. Hail Youtube! I dedicate today's awesome Idiyappam to you. The dish came out damn well and we had a very nice, healthy lunch without getting out to eat. :)

Vedi - Only Athiredi


I am no fan of action movies and since I wanted to watch a Tamil movie, I watched Vedi. It is a pure action movie with an ok comedy track. Vishal dons his usual angry young man with a secret past and Sameera Reddy, fails to fit the role of the gorgeous girl. She looks really strange and I have no idea why she looks so bad. Vivek does a decent role and his jokes are not stale (for a change). The songs are forgettable and don't deserve a mention. :) Definitely not a brilliant movie. But it can be watched once by the action lovers. :)

Gulmohar - Koramangala

Gulmohar has recently come up in Koramangala right in the place where Ping used to be. I was a little sad when Ping was shut down but I have to admit, this was a much better replacement. They have a combination and Indian and Chinese. We tried their Indian dishes and all the stuff we ordered. (which was quite a lot)

The food was yummy and the service prompt. We had reserved a table but the restaurant was empty as we had gone there for a very early (by bangalore standards) dinner.The crowd trickled in steadily and by the time we left, there were quite a lot of people.


I liked their concept of half plate for starters. We were able to enjoy a variety of starters without wasting anything. We had a different types of Rotis and a pulao with two gravies. Their mushroom gravy was a little different than the usual mushrooms and I would definitely recommend the same.All the dishes were well made and the overall experience enjoyable. The rates were moderate and did not lighten our pockets too much. 

A definite recommendation for a nice dinner. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Diggers and Wings - Bromeliad Trilogy - Terry Pratchett

I finished these two in one sitting! For the uninitiated, please read this before you go ahead.

Books 2 and 3 happen in the same time frame to different set of characters from Truckers. 

Diggers follows Grimma when she stays back in the quarry, where the nomes have found refuge after their flight from the store. You watch the nomes fight for power and try to come to terms with the change that life is throwing their way. In book2, Grimma and Masklin argue and Grimma tells Masklin about the Bromeliad frogs. The Bromeliad is a flower found in South America which has huge yellow flowers. There are frogs which lay eggs in the flower and the tadpoles which grow in it, grow up thinking that the flower represents the whole world. They give rise to generations of frogs who believe the same and dont try to think beyond that. 

When i was reading this part, i wondered yet again, if we are alone in this universe. What if the whole milky way galaxy was just the size of a doll's house and what if we are unable to detect intelligent life because it refuses to let us find it? I can only fantasize. :)

In the book, Masklin goes to hunt for their space craft and Grimma is left alone in the quarry. How she defends the nomes from their doom forms the rest of the story. An interesting read full of witty comparisons and Pratchett's trademark style of writing.

Wings follows Masklin as he tries to figure a way out with the two crazy store nomes - the Abbot and Angelo on a way to capture a space craft with the Thing's help. This is a very apt ending to the trilogy and I think i enjoyed Diggers and Wings much better than I did Truckers. I would definitely recommend these as excellent light reading and perhaps there are smart children out there who can get what the book is all about and refuse to live like the Bromeliad frogs. :)



The first three letters

Today, I was trying to do some deep philosophical thinking about life and how everything about it is so transient. I have this habit of becoming extremely philosophical at times as most of you who read my blog should know by now. And, suddenly out of the blue, three words appeared in front of me :

ACCEPT

BELIEVE

CHANGE

I felt that the first three letters of the alphabet actually denote these three words which can help us (at least a little) in leading our lives. We have to accept things that are the way they are because they are meant to be so. Things which are so far beyond our control. We have to believe in ourselves and our dreams no matter how difficult or seemingly impossible they are. And finally, we ought to change with times and with the surprises life throws at us. For change, is the only constant in an otherwise transient world. I know not if we are the most important creatures in the world. You can blame all the fantasy i read for the doubts i have. But I hope we can try to be sensible in our own little ways like this dog i was imagining a few minutes ago. 

A hungry dog sees a dog shelter with food and other dogs across the road. It wants it but it also knows that the road always has vehicles zipping by. It can :

1. Accept that the food is out of reach and life is more valuable and move away searching in a risk free zone
2. Accept that it wants the food and believe in its dreams and run across the road in a moment of hunger and in all probability die under the wheels of a passing vehicle, or stand there waiting for someone to fetch it
3. Accept that the food is out of reach, believe in its dream of a happy life and change itself to its surroundings, observe patterns and cross the road when it knows the traffic will be lean. This dog will have to give up something or the other to achieve its dreams but someday, it definitely will.

I am sure the slightly more philosophical people would have understood that the dogs behaviour is a lot like that of the human beings we know and when you think of it, each option has its pros and cons and frankly, i dont think anyone has the right to judge which is the best option.

And then, Some of you might argue that dogs are not that intelligent. But then, some of the smarter species out there might state the same about humans as well. :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Truckers - Bromeliad Trilogy - Terry Pratchett

I had read most (or all except Snuff) of the discworld series and thought i was done with Pratchett. I found the Bromeliad trilogy at the landmark sale and pounced on it. It is quite well written and funny but somehow it is stuck somewhere between a children's book and an adults novel. I am not sure where exactly it would fit in, but it definitely has the trademark Pratchett humour and sarcasm.

The plot is simple - There are a group of Nomes which have lived all their lives in a Store and firmly believe that it was created purely for the nomes by Arnold Brothers(est 1905) and the human beings were just given permission to share the space for specific times of the day. Seasons to them mean the Christmas Fayre and the price reduction sale. They are scared of Prices Slashed and worship Bargains Galore. All is well in the paradise until a group of nomes lead by Masklin land from the outside world and the thing with them reveals that the store is going to be demolished. The rest of the story follows the nomes as they come to terms with their fate and find a way to deal with it.

The book tries to marry a lot of ideas and kept reminding me about how fragile judgements based on scientific observation can also be. Pratchett has a knack of handling issues like gender equality, hunger for power, greed and of course resistance to change without sounding preachy and I just love that about him.

A good read but definitely not his best.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bama Vijayam



I love old movies.Thanks to Moserbaer, I found this one in Planet M and bought it ages ago. I finally watched it today and had a really nice time. I have watched it a lot of times before, but there is something timeless about the family in the movie (Though it is set in 1967). The plot is as simple as it can be. THere is a happy middle class family where three brothers live together with their wives and children. A movie star moves in next door and this slowly changes the personality of the women in the family and they forget everything else but impressing her. The rest of the plot follows them as they go on a roller coaster ride and live in a dream world with their false prestige. A very enjoyable watch. :)

American Gods


I have to give this to Neil Gaiman - No matter how long the book is, he somehow makes sure the reader remains interested. I got my hands on the author's preferred text and the book was longer than the usual version (or so he says in the foreword). It was one merry chase throughout the book. The plot follows Shadow an ex-con and his first job when he gets out of prison - that of helping Wednesday, a forgotten God. The ideas and the word play cause you to be hooked to the book and you begin to wonder how much of what we see is something mystical. A good read but it could have definitely been shorter. I cant write further without revealing the story so I think ill just stop here. :)

Friday, October 07, 2011

Navrathri Blues

Navrathri is over and I am feeling a little sad because of that. I never thought i was going to enjoy having a golu and inviting people home. Our house has never been more cluttered. Both of us take such pains to never dispose stuff and when we finally cleaned and clubbed things in our hall and the guest bedroom, the room was way too full and we could not enter it without being very careful about where we put our foot. My maid of course had a gala time with not having to sweep most of the hall and the guest room. :)

I did not invite too many people as most of the good friends i have out here belong to the opposite sex and are single. But it was really nice to socialize over a few dolls. :) Next year, I am going to make it bigger and better for sure. I am just hoping that for now, I sail through the packing and cleaning up happily and not complain about that. :D

Dreams

Shades of grey,black and white
I know i saw them
I just know that that's how it ought to be

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind
A memory remains - in form and thought
somehow eluding expression
simply because of the power of the emotions associated

Was it joy or terror? I cannot tell now
Sometimes,there is but a thin line
that somehow differentiates the two
Was it what i wanted?
The mind is such a strange thing
Sometimes,it does not know the consequences
The rules and the compromises associated
with hopes and desires

I know not why i search
so religiously everyday
for the missing memory i know lasts somewhere
Is it the elusive sandman
who somehow has morphed my thoughts?
Does he want not for me to find what i seek?
I wish i knew

I become a wanderer in my own mind
searching, hoping and sometimes a little scared
of what I seek.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Sandman(Graphic Novel) - Neil Gaiman

I started the first book in the series a while ago and despite the darkness, enjoyed reading it a lot. Halfway through the second book, i stopped reading as it was affecting me way too much. No, i was not running around crazy but i was seriously contemplating about life, dreams and of course what it would be like without either.

However, thanks to a crazy friend who helped me get the whole collection, i restarted reading the series and here I am seriously doubting the definition of Sanity. Neil gaiman is a magician. There is no other way to put it. The imagery, the seemingly irrelevant events, all of them are simply woven together very beautifully. I am reading book 6 now and though a part of me wants to stop and get out of this addiction, another part of me wants to see it through to the end. I think it is going to win and the struggle is in a way a pleasant one.

I am enjoying the dark and I am enjoying the dreams and I wonder if i would get a chance to steal a glimpse of the sandman. He is awesome. :)

Monday, October 03, 2011

Its Golu Time

I think I mentioned in a post last year about considering having a golu sometime for Navrathri. Believe it or not, the time happened to be this year and we created an amazing Golu thanks to my parents, my husband, sister and of course Sagnik. Recounting the story of getting the dolls for the Golu will be a post by itself so right now, let me just describe the Golu in detail.

I had 3 steps this time around with a village surrounding the Golu. On step one was the kalasam with lakshmi,saraswathi,krishna, kubera and venkatachalapathy. Step Two has the entire Dasavatharam. For the uninitiated, Dasavatharam is supposed to represent Lord Narayana's ten avatars in this world. They follow this order - Matsya, Koorma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parasurama, Rama, Balarama, Krishna and Kalki(Kalki is yet to come)

In Step 3, we have tried to depict two items. To the right is the Ravanan Durbar when Hanuman sits in front of Ravana in a seat made of his own tail and to the left is Hayagrivar, to whom we pray for Wisdom. Hayagrivar is again another form of Vishnu which he took to destroy a horse headed demon who was wrecking havoc in the civilized world.

Now, comes my personal favorite, right under step one, on the floor is the Garuda Sevai. I love the detail on this set, with the multitude of musicians, devotees and pujaris.
Now comes the village me and my better half enjoyed the most while setting up:

The farm with the cows and the ladies trying to make curd
The lake with birds and animals coming towards it as a lady walks away and two foreigners in a jacuzzi :D
 
Policeman stopping traffic on account of the Garuda sevai. :D

Music concert :
Pilayar Temple :
We had such an awesome time setting up the Golu and spending time with the people who came home. A very lovely experience which has motivated me to retain the tradition each year. :)

Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

I have been wanting to experiment with new authors for sometime now and after a lot of recommendation (from my husband who reads up a lot of blogs for new books) I decided to go for this one.

The plot is simple. In a post apocalyptic world (which stands where the current US of A is) the 13 sectors rose in revolt against the government. The revolt was a failure and sector 13 was completely destroyed. After the same, every year, the government demands for one girl and one boy from each sector and the 24 contestants have to fight each other to death.

I expected the book to be gory. But it wasnt. It was actually well written and was an OK read. The characterization though not shallow is not deep enough and you dont actually root for any character in the book. Maybe,the second and third books were supposed to give us a feeling of completion, but unfortunately, i am not too interested after book one to complete books two and three. I would recommend it as something to read when you want something like pop corn fiction that is not a romance and has some good well written scenes.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Star Dust - Neil Gaiman

I enjoyed Neverwhere a lot and decided to read more of Neil Gaimman. Hence i got Star Dust from Book Worm and finished it in one sitting. It was a very small book afterall. :)

The plot is seemingly simple but very well written. A naive young man, Thristan, in an attempt to win his lady love's heart ventures beyond his village into the Faerie. There, he realizes that the star is actually a beautiful young lady with a very sharp tongue. He tries to get her back to the village and win the hand of his lady love.

What both of them are unaware of is that there are other dangerous people searching for the star, each for reasons of their own. Whether each gets what they want or not forms the rest of a well written story. An OK read. Not as nice as Neverwhere. I am thinking of beginning American Gods next.