Thursday, May 30, 2013

Man and his mountain

I'd driven to Nandi hills a few weekends ago and was spell bound by the drive as well as the scenic views. As I was discussing with those that had coming along, we realised all of us have a very soft spot for the mountains and hills. It's not just those where the temperature is lower its also the others which are equally attractive. What makes us fall for the tall rocks? I really don't think the answer is going to be simple. Early man built temples, the next ones tried climbing, the later generations built stations and the current fuel hungry one just drives and feels the power and pulse of the precious generations in a place as close to and as far away from reality as possible.
I want to explore the relationship a lot more in detail. I love the mountain, I loved the sky and was enthralled by the new horizons. :)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Espresso Tales - Alexander McCall Smith

In my McCall Smith spree i decided to experiment with Scotland street series and i found it engaging but not excellent.

The plot centers around the residents of 44, Scotland street and their interconnected lives. You have a boy genius, a confused young art lover, an old anthropologist, a complacent and self centered banker and their interesting every day lives. I loved Bertie (the boy genius) and i found his situations real. Luckily for me, i have been reading books that have interesting real world parallels and have by virtue of that enjoyed the experience a lot. The pushy mother and the unresponsive father were a little too extreme in places in their stereotype but that is what books are sometimes about.

Bruce was another character that interested me. Not because i gave two hoots about him but because he was too irritating to ignore. His complacency was extreme and annoying and for want of a better word - real. The smaller characters like the winking dog, the coffee shop lady and of course Ramsey with his memoirs are quirky and lovable in their own way.

A decent read but yeah not an awesome one. I loved the twists and the interconnectedness of the characters best.

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency - Douglas Adams

He is awesome. The he in question is of course the man i fell madly in love with when i read H2G2. He is at it again - not a masterpiece like the former but this comes close (almost). I had read the second book - The long dark tea time of the soul and had until recently not found this one in any of the shops i frequent. I feel today that maybe i waited too long.The book is a brilliant, engaging and entertaining read.

The plot is a little confusing in the beginning and you wonder what is common between a cranky professor who can do magic tricks, a computer genius who works for a really rich genius and dates his cello playing sister, a creature which believes the whole world is pink and the titular character who makes his appearance more than halfway into the book. The way they all come together and save the world is a very different experience to read. Add to this his way of making references to Coleridge and my reading up Kublai Khan to make sure i understood - that is what i would call as being close to a readers heaven.

The characters are all eccentric and engaging. The eccentric business man leaving his thoughts on a answering machine, the love-hate relationship between the genius and the cello playing girl friend and of course the much scorned son who has lost his publishing firm and is always in the way of one thing or another - they are in their own way way too normal. I loved Dirk Gently a little more than the second book in this one possibly because he had a lot of funny dialogues.

I am definitely going to re-read this book very soon as it was a very different experience and unless one can go through it, one cannot appreciate it even a wee bit. A strange book but nonetheless one of the best i have read.

The 2 1/2 Pillars of Wisdom - Alexander McCall Smith

Frankly, the title made me pick the book up. I was really curious to see what it was about and since i found McCall smith an ok writer, i bought this book.

The plot centers around a professor - of Philology no less and chronicles a part of his long life. Professor Doctor Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld - his name is a mouthful, so for the purposes of this review, let me call him Igelfeld. There are three interesting stories or novellas as part of this collection - Portuguese irregular verbs, the finer points of sausage dogs and the villa of reduced circumstances.

Igelfeld was wildly entertaining as he was too boring and normal to be anything else. His constant competition with his two colleagues, his attempt at falling in love, his confidence about his position, his obstinate stand on not teaching students and of course his addiction to his work - Portuguese irregular verbs was all a little too real for me and i could draw a lot of real world parallels who are maybe not so cranky but are weird in their own way.

The book was pretty well written but i would give it 3 on 5 stars simply because the last one was a little too long for my liking. Igelfeld's adventures get a little too out of hand for me if you are going to make him an expert on sausage dogs, operate on a friends dog accidentally and make him the president borne of a revolution in a country. Maybe i have let out a little of the plot but this book  like a lot more is one which you read to enjoy the experience of reading and not one which is going to keep you sitting on the edge of your seat where you keep wondering what is going to happen next. A good read on a dull day but not his best.

M is for Magic - Neil Gaiman

I have a very soft corner for Neil Gaiman, largely because of Morpheus's spell. I knew this was a YA book and i still wanted to read it as i did enjoy the graveyard book and Coraline to a certain extent. This collection was for the most part mind blowingly awesome and i was a little irritated to see a story from the Graveyard book crop up here but otherwise it was a decent read. I have been having a really crazy month and hence reading these short stories, losing myself in their charm and getting back to work without being too worried about missing the main thread was a blessing in disguise.

I loved How to sell the Ponti Bridge and was a little disgusted/surprised by the Epicurean club. I had read the story of the Cat (The Price) and the witch in other books and like Gaiman says in his introduction, stories read in the right age, never do leave you so i remembered them all too well.

I still cannot believe that this is a book for Young adults as it was a little too mature for that audience. Maybe, children and young adults are far more accepting than i give them credit for and exposed to a lot more gore than i think they are.  

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Responsible commitments

Ownership, Responsibility, Commitment - call it whatever - the term suits the particular day and time and place but the theme remains the same. We are all responsible for something or the other. Every body alive has the responsibility to sustain the body that gives the thought and soul a form. Everyone has or tries to form bonds with other human beings. Bonds to which we have to inherently commit - even if not to a person but to the thought of forming a bond ( psychopaths excluded). Everyone has some task to perform even if it is breathing. Something for which we have to take an ownership. I am not sure if many of you would agree with me but through the few sentences I have written in this post till now I was just trying to ascertain as to how none of us can escape from these big words and how we exhibit this through some small but very important actions.

Now that I have tried to establish that, let me get down to what I do best - rant. When every body knows these themes, why do they not inculcate it in their everyday activities? Oh yeah, here I go again answering the question I myself posed - because they don't give a damn. I see my maid not bothering to lock the back door she opens, I see a watchman not asking a random stranger who the hell he is, I see a cop not doing anything about a guy jumping a red signal, I see people every damn day not acknowledging their responsibilities let alone attempting to execute them. I am not perfect and I don't say this in a self righteous tone where I want to show I am super human but attempt to show I am human but I say this in a simple real tone- 'I make mistakes' but I always try when I know the mistake (of course!) to take responsibility for it. There are times I refuse to acknowledge it and somehow the instances where I take up the moral responsibility and the instances where individuals seem to ignore that completely are just not matching up.

When faced with a dilemma, I often want to go ahead and do the task myself but I am not here to save the world. So how do I go about this? How do I retain my sanity while not losing it? The 'it' in case being my temper or my patience or my happiness. How do I balance it when I have to interact with those who are irresponsible and don't care about things which matter? Or am I being too righteous by dictating what should matter in the first place? Am I causing imbalance where there is balance by expecting responsibility or am I attempting to create a balance by expecting it? Do I have the right to expect it or am I expecting it because that's what the norms say I should expect?

I really don't know and I really am thinking about this for some more time. If I want freedom then with that freedom comes the basic right that everyone has to choose what they want to do and that since there would be conflict, there would be a law and that law by virtue of its existence would curb the freedom. Whether its the freedom of a select few or of the multitude, it does curb it with the hope of sustaining the created life and the harmony in the society. Should I be comparing the responsibility with a law for controlling a freedom to achieve a great good or should I be comparing it with a ban for preventing the freedom for selfish means? When I get down to it selfishness works for the self while selflessness works for those around. Also, freedom in an ideal world is where like minded people strive to create harmony where the laws are not even needed because the ethics are more than enough. Am I expecting the ethical ideal which can become the social norm? I know not.

Thoughts from a safe house on a rainy night

In my recent book reviewing frenzy, I haven't written general gyan in a while. Bangalore had amazing showers today and I loved listening to it for the few minutes I had. The days have been pretty hot and I had been looking forward to the rain often while buying something nice to drink in the afternoons. I felt so peaceful until I realised that the clothes I had put out to dry were still up there in the terrace and i couldn't take them. It's all dripping wet. In a few seconds the peace disappeared and here I was upset that the much longed for rain wet the clothes that would dry anyway and got water into a room (whose source I am yet to ascertain). I was anxious and my inner watchman was surprised - again. Getting what I wanted was not making me happy - again.

How do you continue to remain in a state of contentment? Is it by giving up your attachments as a few books recommend? Then, how can I call something contentment if I don't know anything else? It is called changelessness. Is changelessness then the best state? Uniform predictable weather with no sudden downpours, uniform traffic flow with no dead animals or accidents, uniform work load with no sudden dead lines, uniform conversations with no emotional drama, uniform relationships with no expectations. Is that what I should aspire for? The longer I think the more I realise that unless things remain static, the things you want cannot give you happiness for long periods of time and unless things remain predictable, you cannot effectively plan. I can aspire to reach from state a to state b and state a and b should not change. Only my movement should happen. But then, isn't my movement itself causing a change to both the states? Assuming someone else wanted a or if a disappears or that b was a state created to accommodate me, i can be happy and say that this static and predictable universe is what I strive for. Where I continue to experience change. Hilarious.

And here is the catch - things can never remain static and nothing is predictable. So what's going to happen to my pursuit of happiness? Is it always going to be a pursuit? I remember writing about it a while ago and I wonder how this recurring theme in my life is going to converge or how my internal watchman is going to come to a conclusion and when. Progress cannot happen unless we keep moving and unless we are pushed out of our comfort zones we seldom move. So is all this change in aid of progress? What is the progress for then? What does it achieve? Evolution couldn't have happened without discomfort but at the end of the day, what's the point of evolution? It produced you, me, the geniuses who make blogging possible of course but when the world ends a few hundred years later, would anything have mattered? When I breathe my last a few decades later would all these questions have got answers? Why the mad rush? Are we just responding to the urge of our selfish genes?

I love life and so would every live human being or insect or animal. Every damn thing would have a sub conscious affection for the very thing causing us to have those feelings. So maybe the whole point of all this is the pointlessness of it in the long run to the universe and the importance of it in the short run to the tiny population which is observing the particular life, action, or whatever you choose to call it. Maybe

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Iron man 3 - he does it : again

He is smart, has oodles of charisma, is rich, has awesome toys that can fly around with him and oh yes, he can single handedly outwit powerful enemies and save the world - again. Of course I am talking about iron man in the most recent edition iron man 3.

The plot is not water tight but the screen play keeps a attention deficient viewer engaged. Downey jr just sweeps any body off their feet with his awesome charisma, so much more obvious in this movie as he spends most of the time outside his faulty suits. The special effects are amazing and the music and background score mind blowing. I watched the credits roll as the music kept playing in the background and I got to watch the last scene with a special guest. I am still in a high when I think of the movie and I guess I'll watch it again for all the reasons above.

The villains are scary but ridiculously funny. The selfishness and misplaced love for one self and the loved ones around is a recurring theme in some movies that I miss having mindless villains like the joker. It's ridiculous to compare Guy Pearce with Heath ledger but seriously I was hoping for more crazy. I see the world around me and I keep confirming there are more crazies around than anything else. I want to see them beaten in these fantastic movies - at least. Pepper pots finally gets to kick in an otherwise forgettable role. She ain't no black widow but her presence does light up the screen a bit. The precocious kid trying to help the iron man, the hot (literally) villains and the flashy cars worked well for the movie.

The mandarin and the head of security were wasted. Even the newly branded iron patriot was, but not to a very great extent so I shall let him be the almost non existent side kick as usual.
All said and done, its a Downey jr movie through and through. Watch it and fall for the iron man - with or without his suit.