Friday, December 18, 2009

Movie Review: Avatar

Avatar apparently took James Cameron over a decade and half to execute... simply because he first needed a worthy camera in which to shoot it. So he got down to building the camera first.

I can understand. The results are there to feel. Yes, not just see. But feel. And feel in 3D.

When humans invade Pandora, a distant planet/moon to plunder it for its riches, the plan is to win the trust of the local humanoid population by cloning the 10 feet tall blue colored Pandorans and infiltrating their society, "driving" the clones by mapping and binding their minds to their human counterparts. But when the plan to win their trust and resettle them from the riches in the ground seem to fail, the humans get the heavy armour in.

Will the "aliens" be beaten back?

I do not want to say much about Avatar. Simply because I cannot do justice to it, no matter how I try and explain. The crystal clear renditions of an amazing artist's rich and vivid imaginations, the grandiose scenery nailed down to the smallest details, the depths, the sounds, the beauty of it all, and most importantly, the sheer realism and believability, you got to experience it to believe it.

The only minor irritant - wearing the 3D goggles on top of your own specs can be inconvenient :( And in swine flu days, also a little scary - although, having the pleasure of watching the special paid preview show meant we probably got brand new ones.

Here's a piece of advice. Do not watch Avatar in 2D. Experience the real thing.

First One Dayer

India scored 414/7
India won by 3 runs :)

Says it all, I guess?

Movie Review: Kill Bill Vol 2

After a very disappointing Part 1, it took me 3-4 days to feel motivated to go watch Part 2, and hey, was it worth it! This is the Tarantino I loved in Inglorious... the same drama, the palpable tension, the silence... and of course, the brutal violence.

Overall, for me, Kill Bill starts good, then gets eminently forgettable in Part 2 of Part 1, then really picks up energy, and climaxes in Part 3 of Part 2 :)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Movie Review: Kill Bill

I saw Kill Bill (Vol 1) as part of my promise to myself to see each of Tarantino's movies... must say, I came back pretty disappointed. While Inglourious Basterds was a masterpiece of subtle drama and unspoken tensions, Kill Bill is the other extreme - mindless, senseless violence represented by dismembered limbs and heads, and blood gushing forth like a ruptured high pressure pipeline. Even if you set aside the improbabality of it all - one woman fighter with a sword against dozens of armed, trained men, the story line, the screenplay and the script did not appeal to me.

I actually fell asleep somewhere between kill number 76 and 92.

And even more unfortunately for me, I got Kill Bill Vol 1, and only later did I realise that I needed to get Vol 2 at the same time! :( Vol 1 is incomplete without Vol 2. No, it wasn't obvious to me!

Book Review: Super Freakonomics

If you liked the earlier Freakonomics, you will love this one. The authors come back with a bang, with a book sequel that's even more exciting, and so much more relevant in today's world.

Crammed with interesting examples, very insightful analyses and some thought-provoking questions, the book will keep you engrossed as it tackles issues like prostitution and global warming, and why we need to look at simple answers to some tough questions facing us today.

And, of course, it's all economics... as simple as common sense. Written as it is in simple every day language, it's hard not to get the point!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Movie Review: Rocket Singh

Rocket Singh has a story with a moral - business is all about the people, and when you love and respect people, the numbers will come by themselves.

In spite of the unusual storyline and the slightly long running time, Ranbir holds your attention with a fantastic portrayal of the quintessential young Sardar, and a very controlled and impressive performance. Ranbir's boss and manager also put in fantastic performances, Gauhar Khan is good as the receptionist, and Shazahn Padamsee makes a very striking debut, looking absolutely cute and sexy, eye candy.

The music is nothing to write home about, the promo song coming on TV not being a part of the movie. Or was there something I can't recollect? Well, you get the point...

Oh, and yes, for me, the opening title sequence is just superb... do not miss that!

A good movie, though not really weekend entertainment... might be good enough just catching it on DVD.

Movie Review: New Moon

The Twilight saga continues in New Moon, with vampires and werewolves, more of the beautiful Kristen Stewart, and some amazing cinematography and special effects.

When Bella's vampire boyfriend decides she isn't safe with his blood-thirsty family and walks out of her life, Bella finds friendship, and some much-missed warmth (vampires are cold, remember?) in her American-Indian six-pack friend Jake, who, incidently, is also a werewolf. But while he loves her and wants to protect her from the vampires for the rest of his life, her heart still aches for Edward. And while she loves and needs Jake as her best friend, she's ready to give up everything to be back in the arms of her beloved vampire.

The movie has some amazing special effects, and thrilling action, especially some of the fight sequences between the werewolves, but compared to Twilight, the sequel comes across a little slow, and the second half seems to drag a wee bit. Of course, not that you complain, when the movie pretty much has Kristen in every frame!

Not a see-twice affair, but something you should try not to miss.

HP Photosmart C4788

Got a wireless color printer scanner copier from HP today, and had it up and running on my home wireless network in around 15 mins. Absolutely amazing, how these machines and software are built nowadays to literally install and configure themselves at the touch of a button. Very, very cool!

The printer itself is pretty sexy, and very good for home applications with a pretty decent color scanner/copier, memory card support and computer-less operation.

At around 7500 (with a 1500 cash back), I think it's a pretty good deal.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Movie Review: Inglourious Basterds

If ever I saw a 10/10 movie, this must be it.

Quentin Tarantino is a master of drama and action, and this movie is a masterpiece. I haven't seen any Tarantino movie earlier (The Kill Bills, for example!), but now I want to go back and catch every movie, documentary and MMS he ever created!

Set in the 1940s in Nazi-occupied France, the movie tracks the life of a young Jewish girl Shosanna (the very smart and beautiful Mélanie Laurent), who escapes the bloody murder of her family by the Nazi "Jew Hunter" Colonel Hans Landa, and four years later in Paris, plans her revenge. Also in the Nazi hunt are the "Basterds", a group of Jewish-American guerilla soldiers led by the ruthless Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), whose mission is to kill a hundred Nazis each, in the most blood curling manners, so to strike fear in the heart of every Nazi. And in a thrilling climax, their paths will cross, changing the history of Europe.

Not for the faint hearted, this is a movie that will grip you through every thrilling second, where your heart pounds, not because of gross visuals, but because of the drama evoked by terrifying silence, and calm. Where the final bullet is really a welcome end to the tension.

The movie has some absolutely stunning screenplay - the opening sequence in the French countryside and the confrontation at the tavern are two of the very best.

Brad is wonderful. Christoph Waltz, as Col Hans Landa, will almost make you believe in the conviction of the Nazis! And I can't get over the amazing poise, strength, resolve and pain on Shosanna's face in every scene she's in.

Check it out, buy the DVD, and cherish it for life. This is one movie you cannot afford to miss.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Vote Please ------>>

I really need you to take this --->> vote!

I want to know where you come from....


Making Choices

Here's a simple game I would like you to play... and if you can please leave your responses as comments, it will be awesome. If you do not want your response to be published for some reason, that's OK too... just let me know.

The game is this: I give you a random partner to play the game with. Then, I give you five hundred rupees. You need to offer part of this money to your partner. The partner can choose to accept or reject your offer. If he/she rejects your offer, you both lose all the money. If he/she accepts your offer, you both get to keep the money.

The question is: how much money will you offer your partner?

Let me know!

Environmental Hazard!

Many decades back, cities like New York and London was growing exponentially but needed a means to improve communication and efficiently and quickly transport people and goods from point A to point B. The solution they found quickly became popular, but also created serious problems that threatened to overrun cities - street jams, fatal accidents, noise, toxic emissions affecting health and environment, and even food shortages and price increases as more and more food crops were replaced by "biofuels".

Guess what this problem "invention" was?

Not, it was not an automobile, it was the horse! Horse drawn carriages were extremely difficult to handle on roads, and caused more fatal accidents as a factor of the city's population than automobiles today. The dung was so all-pervasive, that certain "dung storage areas" had dung piled up to sixty feet high, and lined city roads like banks of snow. In the rains, the dung mixed with water and ran down every street and into people's basements, and emitted methane, a deadly gas that contributes most significantly to global warming. And of course, not to mention the million of flies, rodents and other insects it provided a wonderful breeding ground for!

Finally, the cities had enough, and adopted a wonderful new invention that was even more efficient, clean, environment-friendly and safe. You got it right this time - the automobile!

Solutions of today are problems of tomorrow...

(Based on a chapter in Super Freakonomics)

A Childhood Dream Fulfilled: India is No.1

It's official. India is No.1 in Test Cricket.

The day began with Sri Lanka needing another 59 runs to avoid an innings defeat on the last day of the test, with 4 wickets in hand. Sangakkara was on an unbeaten century, and had raised some fleeting hopes of a Lankan fightback.

But before this lazy Indian had dragged himself out of his bed and switched on the TV, Sanga had departed, and by the time I was through with my morning tea, it was all over.

With Murali Vijay barely missing a century, Sehwag's 293, Dhoni's unbeaten century, and strong contributions from Dravid and Sachin, India's 700 plus score was always going to be more than enough on a wicket that was expected to turn on the fourth day. Interestingly though, in the Lankan second innings, it was Zaheer with a 5 wicket haul who came to the party, using his bouncers sparingly but very effectively, and proving he had not lost any of his venom after his brief stint out of the team for fitness reasons.

With a batting lineup that can boast of someone of Dhoni's calibre coming in at no 7, deadly pace bowlers like Zaheer, Sreesanth, Irfan and Ishant, and Harbhajan and Pragyan Ozha keeping alive the spin tradition, this is truly a world No 1 side. A lot of credit also goes to Gary Kirsten, who took over the reins from a terrible John Buchanan 18 months back, and promised to get us here, through a focussed "process". Robin and Venkatesh Prasad as the fielding and bowling coach, also did a great job.

The process really began way back in Aug 2008, which was the last time this team has lost a Test match. Before that, it was a close affair in Australia where India would have levelled the series 1-1, if not for Steve Bucknor.

India had started the upward trend under Saurav, but then John and Dravid plunged the team into chaos, ending with Dravid's abrupt resignation. After Kumble took over briefly, things looked better again, and the mantle finally came to Gary and Mahi. From then on, it's been forward all the way.

In the last 2 years, India has beaten Pakistan (1-0), Australia (2-0), England (1-0), New Zealand (1-0) and Sri Lanka (2-0), held South Africa (1-1) and narrowly lost to Australia in Australia (0-2). We only lost to Australia (as I said, courtesy Steve Bucknor) and Sri Lanka in Lanka (1-2) during this period.

Mahi has been a worthy captain, winning 7 of his first 10 tests and losing none.

Congrats, Mahi, Gary and this wonderful Indian team. You have made us very proud, yet again!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Amazing Feeling... see a full-fledged documentary on a customer you work for!

Watching a story on Coke, it's history and future. And it feels great.

Coke now has "custom proportion" vending machines that allow you to tweak the tastes, and then transfer that data online to Coke, Atlanta (how come we never saw that data there?) giving a huge mountain of data about who is drinking what, with what concentration of ingredients, and so on...

Also, did you know Coke has recently bought stake in Zico, a company that sells "packaged coconut water"? :)

PS: It also pointed out how Pepsi has bought two of its major bottlers recently, giving it something Coke never has had - complete control end to end from bottling to the store. With projected savings or almost a billion dollars per year for Pepsi from these new synergies, analysts say Coke will have to change the way it works, to match Pepsi.

Book Review: What's Next?

What's Next is a collection of essays by some of the world's best young scientists and thinkers today, addressing issues ranging from global warming, to viruses to the way our brains learn and think. When I bought the book though, I expected a lot more focus on technology and science - nanotechnology, for example. Disappointingly for me, most of the focus is on the mind, the brain, morals, ideas, thinking and imagination. Not exactly exciting...

The VW Beetle

The long-awaited Beetle is finally here. A beautiful car, immortalized by Herbie and his antics, it was also very common in Goa and always stood out for their bright colors and unique shape.

The New Beetle is equally beautiful.

And I had this thought in my mind to buy one... as a second family car. Until I saw the price.

No, it's not 4-5 lakhs, it's 20.5 lakhs!

Outrageous, crazy.

Totally crazy!

Power of Persistence

Been thinking a lot these days about Pune's traffic problems, and one thing that never ceases to impress me is how the sustained campaign from Pune Mirror and other newspapers focussing on stopping before the zebra lines at traffic signals have delivered results. When I first came to Pune, people didn't even stop at signals. That changed over time, but it was common to see vehicles inching ahead, making it impossible for pedestrians to cross, and often coming in the way of cross traffic.

That has significantly reduced, and the difference is there for everyone to see!

Mirror has now taken up the issue of helmets, but it's approach has been to point out the consequences. I am not sure too many people relate to that, unless you have seen a loved one suffer.

Wonder why the traffic police do not take up the issue. After all, the MV Act already makes helmets compulsory. We just need to implement it. It would save a lot more lives than seat belts do in bumper to bumper city traffic.

Galaxy Grill

Today we visited Galaxy Grill, the rooftop Greek restaurant at Seasons Apartment Hotel in Aundh.

When you step off the elevator, you are greeted by a calm blue swimming pool, looking so inviting in the soft lighting, and a great view of Baner's shimmering lights on the left. A pretty lady in Greek costume welcomes you, while busy looking waiters wearing Greek caps and sashes dart around. Soft Greek music sets up the mood beautifully as you settle into the seat. 8/10 for mood, lighting and ambience.

But the food is a very big disappointment.

We started with the mocktails - both were very disappointing, very ordinary. Nothing more than a mixture of different liquids, with no rhyme or reason. 2/10.

For starters, we ordered deep fried squid, which was the only dish we liked - but given that it was just fresh squid and some batter, there wasn't much wrong the chef could do with it, I guess! Oh, and yes, I don't dare compare it to the squids at Ritz in Panaji! 6/10. The "exotic vegetable" stuff muchrooms were watery, and the vegetable mix did nothing to add to the taste. 3/10.

The chicken, lemon and egg soup came highly recommended by the restaurant, and was passable, if you could ignore the smell of egg. 4/10.

In the main course, the chargrilled kingfish slice was over an inch thick (the chef probably tried to make up for the lack of girth by increasing the thickness of the slice!), and again, absolutely nothing special there. 4/10. But the pasta took the cake! I can make better pasta on my worst day for my worst enemies with my eyes blindfolded. Fussili with tasteless tomato sauce and a couple of pieces of olives. 1/10. No, make that 0/10.

We didn't dare try the desserts.

We came back hungry, utterly disappointed, and poorer by 1850.

3/10 for taste, originality, serving size and 1/10 for value for money and overall experience. However, if you want to impress your girl friend and get some quality time, this might just work! In any case, you won't taste the food much... :)

ps: The Cinnamon Spice restaurant is a little better, but again not recommended for its very limited choice. On the contrary, I highly recommend the weekend buffet spread at Flavours for variety, taste, and definitely huge value for money! (Both at Seasons)

Thursday, December 03, 2009

India Online

Spent a few mins today paying my bills, and then realised how far India has come in terms of being "online"...

My Tata Sky connection, my Tata Indicom modem, my YOU Telecom modem, my Idea mobile connection - all paid from the respective websites using Netbanking, where I simply choose how much I pay, choose my bank, get transferred to my bank portal, confirm the transaction, and I am done.

Needed to subscribe Chandamama for Sanam, and yes, I simply paid online.

I pay for food, grocery, shopping, pretty much everything I need using my credit card, and pay my credit card bills online.

I got a Tata AIG insurance policy for my home, and yes, I paid by creating a NetSafe online Visa card from my HDFC account, and then used it on a voice-enabled system to pay the premium!

My electricity and BSNL bills also get paid automatically for me. Online.

LIC premiums too! So too HDFC and ICICI insurance premiums.

My salary is credited online.

When do I need a cheque...? Cash... let me think!

Sehwag Pulverizes Sri Lanka

When day 2 of the third test began, Sri Lanka were pretty comfortably placed with around 350 runs on the board and 2 wickets in hand.

By the end of the day, India had piled on 443/1, with the unstoppable Sehwag 16 runs away from a world record 3rd triple century, having hit 284 not out, in 239 balls, with 40 fours and 7 sixes :)

On the way, he already broke a few more records - the most double-centuries by an Indian, the second-highest scorer of 250-plus scores, the fastest 250 in history (breaking his own record) and the most runs by an Indian in a day (breaking his own record)

Here's a snippet from
Even a bad back couldn't slow him down. Virender Sehwag batted like the nearby Arabian Sea in high tide - and when Sri Lanka tried to plug one hole, he rushed in through the other.

And while Sehwag was demolishing the Lankans at one end, Murali Vijay played a beautiful, controlled innings at the other, with some exquisite shots, coming close to his own century before being dismissed and replaced by the rock-solid Dravid.

If India can pull off this vistory, and with the pitch starting to turn, this is a very big possibility... we can proudly claim rightful ownership of the #1 spot that is going to come our way!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Key to Flying... knowing how to throw yourself at the ground, and miss.

Book Review: Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Book 2 of the Hitchhiker series, and the fun continues. After dinner at the Restaurant, a few minutes before the Universe ends in a grand spectacle, our friends steal a "black hole" limousine ship, manage to escape just in time before the ship crashes into the surface of a sun, and get teleported back in time to another ship destined for a soft crash landing on a planet, along with its "cargo" of a few million dumb Golgafrinchans... and guess what that planet turns out to be? You guessed it right, our very own planet Earth, two million years before it got demolished by the Vogans! :)

Now you know where your ancestors came from: not the monkeys, but the Golgafrinchans!