Friday, December 31, 2010

Last update on resolutions - Books

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Books - the one hobby that has been with me ever since my first grade! My secret wish growing up was to get a job where all I had to do was to read novels day in and day out (sigh! how far I've come since then!) This resolution was to read books that hit the New York bestsellers list and other books suggested by friends. The reason for this resolution was that I was running out of favorite authors and books. After all, there are only so many Michael Crichton books and Sujatha books in this world.

The book journey has been really good and I've added a few authors to my favorites list (Nicholas Sparks! Steig Larsson! James Patterson!). Also, I tried various books like Push and Dear John and The Shack (I would read them but not if I had had other choices) that I usually wouldn't choose. Goodreads helped me track the books I've read and has been great at finding other similar books. Generally, I like most of the books I read - simply because they let me imagine how things are and how things can be. So, its hard to classify as like and don't like in books. Here are some best ones I read this year (this list is by no means comprehensive, I'm just listing those that I remember after a long time - for more books that I tried this year, check my previous posts under resolution/books tag or my Goodreads page(link on the side)):
1) The Complete Persepolis - really good book - I can't wait to try other graphic books in different genres.
2) Princess: A true story of life behind the veil in Saudi Arabia - one of the best books I've read to date!
3) Twilight books - I finished the series this year - though I loved the first of the series, its been interesting to see how the entire series played out! But there are so many spinoffs of vampires and fairies and nymphs and other worldly characters that I just don't want to read any more of these stories. One series was good but they've beaten this topic to death.
4) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - the best of the trilogy - you connect to the characters and their quirkiness. The books become darker as they go and I ended up not really liking the last one.
5) Stephanie Plum novels - this series is light reading and had me reading all the ones that came out. It is funny and looks like Nancy Drew novels for adults :D
6) Under the Dome - one of the most original ideas for a novel - Stephen King rocks!
7) The Help - one of the books that required some serious reading and it was worth it all.

There were a few novels like The Shack that, though written well, were not to my liking. I don't think I'll read them unless I have so much time that I'm pushed to reading them. Also, this year I've started reading more blogs and online article sites. So the amount of stuff I read this year is really good (yeah, yeah! I'm patting myself on the back ;)). All this wouldn't be possible without the wonderful library system in Neverland. I've gotten almost all books from the library (though it IS some work to reserve them regularly, finish them on time and return back for more books - sometimes I've run fines when I couldn't finish books on time). I've also bought a few books at Half Price books (a godsend for older books) and Barnes & Noble (the best place for newer ones). I considered buying a kindle or a nook but decided against it for various reasons. Now, with my library going e-books route, I'm getting tempted to revisit that decision. However, nothing is as satisfying as the feel of paper and the smell of books when you read them (yeah, I'm old school in that issue).

Though I'm not going to continue this resolution in 2011, I'm sure going to keep at reading books off the bestsellers list. The only difference would be that I wouldn't be pushing myself to do it. Even though it was fun doing it, it did take some discipline to read the boring and tedious books instead of reading just what catches my fancy at the time. One thing I've noticed: things I'd have read diligently a few years back (the long and boring ones especially), I now find myself impatient when reading them and wishing I could finish them faster. The average attention span has gone down and the authors have to work harder to keep the reader's attention to the subject. This is especially true for novels with long descriptions of things and places. I've lost the ability to lose myself in George Orwell's descriptions or Ayn Rand's long monologues (Francisco's speech in Atlas Shrugged or John Galt's speech in the end). This is similar to losing a comfortable position with an old friend - you may be discovering new things about your friend but yearn for the older days together. 

This seems mainly due to the large amount of options we have at any given time. When I read something, my brain does know that there are other options that can give instant gratification (Facebook refresh issues anyone?) and cannot get into the serious reading mode(strangely, I can still read the work related stuff and papers without loss of concentration - it does require effort though). When I checked with other friends about it, they reported similar things. So, I'm going to scale back my reading a bit, try to space things and see if I can recapture that ability to read long passages. But no pressures!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Last update on resolutions - Movies

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Finally, we are looking at the last few weeks two days of 2010. This year has gone past so fast that I'm left wondering whatever happened to the 365 days in it. All things said and done, I had a lot of fun filling (or trying to complete) the two resolutions that I had for this year: watch more movies and read books in the New York Bestsellers list every week. 

Firstly, movies. Ummm! What can I say about them. At the beginning of this year, I was a green horn in movies, mostly due to the fact that I used to watch a grand total of five or ten movies a year (combining all the languages I knew). For that movie to hit my horizon and make me watch it, there had to be fate's play in it. It had to be hugely popular, I had to be free to watch it, there had to be friends to watch it (my watching a movie alone was a rare event before this year, or rather last August) AND there had to be someone to constantly egg me to watch it. All this combined was as regular as the meteor showers happening on a night with clear skies and visible to the naked eye! (which is next to never). Now, I can identify the major directors (I knew only Speilberg and Cameron before) and the actors (the number has gone up from a measly 5 to about 10-15 now - atleast I can say, actor X from movie Y is the guy on movie Z as well). 

I found out I just can't stand slow movies and movies with subtle plots (500 days of Summer, anyone?). Add to that list, crass movies and gory ones (Saw series - though brilliant in story, I couldn't watch even one without gagging) and movies with crappy endings (the latest to join that list is Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey). And, I do like urban action movies but really can't get the wild west action (unless there is a fast story to it). Science fiction (Inception!!) and anything to do with animation (I've even watched Princess and the Frog :D) and romance (how about the Proposal?) and comedy and kids' movies (Up!!) are totally fine with me. I can also watch movies with stories I've not seen before ( ranging from Animal House to American History X) even though they might not fit into any genre said above. But there have been movies like The Notebook which I've hated mainly because its slow even though it falls under romance genre. 

I've received a lot of help in finishing this resolution: my friends around me and my roommates watch a lot of movies, discuss about them and take time to appreciate movies. This is vastly different from how it was before last year. My friends took care of English, Tamil and Telugu movies while my roommates took care of Hindi and Telugu. I got to watch a lot of bakwaas Hindi movies (before this year, I wouldn't have imagined sitting through movies like All the best and Golmaal but now I've watched them all) but there were some good ones as well (Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, 3 idiots, Wake up Sid). Even though I watch a lot of movies with friends and roommates, I do catch up with some movies on my own too. Angadi Theru was a good one I discovered that way.

A caveat: Even though I've watched a LARGE number of movies, I'd have skipped some parts of it (I've lost the ability to sit through songs and fights in a movie and have even searched for a forward button in theatres) and not seen some parts of it (scary chases (I've closed my eyes when the Tree was being attacked in Avatar and during the climax in Transformers) and brutal killings (Rakth Charitra, ugh! I was hovering on the forward button... but Surya acted well in it)). Some of my friends opine that only watching a movie completely counts as watching it. But I think that as long as I can follow the movie and not watch the boring/slow parts, songs, fights, etc. it can still be considered. Two reasons for this: one, I'm not a film critic to watch the complete movie and then criticize it. I watch it for fun and if I don't like something, I can totally skip it. IMDB has been great in helping me keep track of the large number of movies. My IMDB ratings are for my tracking - just to say how likely I am to watch it again in future. And two, if the movie cannot hold my attention to keep me engrossed enough to not skip it, then I can skip it. Movies like Endiran and Inception and Up! have me watching them without so much as thinking about skipping even a small scene in them. So, to each his own in deciding to figure out resolutions.

However, this resolution took a lot of time since I had to carve out time from other stuff to watch movies (since watching movies was not in my list before). Most weekends saw me trying to complete that week's quota of movies. Some days, I had to give up something else to watch movies - just for the sake of watching it. I'm going to take a step backward in 2011 and not force myself to watch all the movies that release (I already started doing it in December for some of the tamil movies - they were that crappy). Instead, I'm going to stick to genres and popular movies/directors/actors I like and see how it goes. So, this resolution achieved what it was intended for - give me a crash course on movies in general and help me identify what movies I like. Here's my list of top 10 favorites in 2010. Let me know how it rates against your favorites of 2010.In all, it was a fun ride and helped me sift through all the good, the bad and the ugly out there in movies and figure out what genres and directors (and sometimes even actors) I liked and more importantly, what I did not. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Manmadan Ambu!

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Not a review post but I'm hitting the top fifteen things that are on my mind about the movie (this is what happens when you see a late night show and are all hyped up to go and sleep):

1) Loved the witty one-liners. Yosichu ezhuthi irukaanga. Adhuvum Sangeetha character sema supera dialogue solranga. 

2) The first half of the movie was slow (not the unbearable slowness of No country for Old Men but still slow enough for a Kamal movie) but second half seekiram poiduchu. First halfla makkal phonela pesiyae konnutaanga. 

3) The movie could be cut short by atleast half an hour and it would be crispier and more effective.

4) The song with reverse shot was too good. Kozhapaama, supera thandhu irukaanga. I wonder how they matched Kamal's forward lip sync with the reverse shot.

5) The entire movie is taken outside India (except for a few scenes). But location supera choose pannama sothapitaanga. I wonder if normal people would appreciate the Pantheon. Padathula Madhavan characterkae adhellam avlo puriyala (seriously can a hot shot businessman be this much of a kinatru thavalai? bad characterisation). Idhula enga irundhu normal makkalku puriyarathu? 

6) Thank God there were no aruvai duets between Kamal and Trisha or Madhavan and Trisha... I was totally bracing myself for one.

7) Kavidhai solrenu comedy pannitaanga... avanga sonna rendu poemum sema weight subject. Can't expect the common man to understand the whole meaning of it in the fast pace that they say it. Avangalum slowaa solla try panni irukaanga... but adhu work out aagala.

8) Minus the kavidhai scene, I really didn't understand how Trisha and Kamal started loving each other. Acquaintances ivlo seekiram lovers nu aanathu lightaa comedyaa irundhadhu.

9) Ambujaakshi - interesting and different name. But sadly Trishaku acting ku chance romba kammiya kuduthutaanga. Sangeetha had more chances to act than Trisha, which she had used really well. She's got some great talent. Another person who got wasted was Usha. Avanga character semaya start panni, villi rangeku ethi apdiyae lite pannitaanga.

10) The kutti payyan and ponnu were good. Extra kelvi kettu kozhaparathula andha payyan nallave panni irukaan. But en kannadi rendu perukkum?

11) Restroom scene vakaama, Kamalku padamae panna theriyaathu pola iruku. Worsht guy!

12) Sadly, the entire cast is looking OLD. Madhavan looks bad bad and bad, Kamal has too much muscle ( but avar ageku he looks good), Sangeetha is trying to look great (and does manage it most of the time) but age does show, Trisha looks jaded. Ramesh Arvind and Urvashi kekave vendaam. When I first saw Urvashi, naan apdiyae shock aayiten! MMKR la vandha andha cute girlaa idhunu.

13) The Mallu couple were plain irritating after the first time. Avangala vida, they could've added a proper comedian like Santhanam for the effect.

14) The last thirty minutes (?) of the movie was a laugh riot. A mindless laugh riot, but a laugh riot nonetheless.    

15) They crowded the second half too much and stretched the first half thin with no story. A better break would have been right after Trisha knows about the accident from Kamal. It would have given more substance to the first half and more explanation of their love in the second half.

The last thirty minutes laugh riot, the witty one liners and of course, Surya on screen, are the main reasons for paisa vasool for this movie! Yosichu paatha, this movie has so many things in common with Sathi Leelavathi, Thenali, Panchathanthiram, etc. But sadly the quality has been going down as the years go by. Makkalku idhuve pothumnu nenaichutaanga pola! 

Verdict - a one time watch movie; can watch certain scenes again for the dialogues.
Rating - 6!! (imdbla indha padathukku entryae illanga!!)
Manmadhan Ambu - good enough, but not excellent!

PS: Surya on screen was one of the best scenes in this movie, even though he did a cameo! ;-)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

சும்மா சொல்றேன் சிதம்பரம் - 2

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மக்கள் ஏன்பா facebookல பிறந்த நாள் போட மாட்டேன்கறாங்க?
அப்புறம் ஏன் wish பண்ணலன்னு feel பண்றாங்க?
ஒன்னுமே புரியல உலகத்துல!

Monday, December 20, 2010

சும்மா சொல்றேன் சிதம்பரம் - 1

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சீசரின் மனைவியாய் இருக்க ஒரு தகுதி வேண்டுமெனில் சீசராய் இருக்கவும் ஒரு தகுதி வேண்டும்.

PS: அப்போபோ எதாவது தத்துவம் தோணுது/படிக்கறேன்/பாக்கறேன்... அத சொல்லி மக்களை படுத்தலாம்னு ஒரு நியூ ஐடியா. அதான் இப்பிடி எல்லாம்... ஹி ஹி. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A day with Akaash!

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PS: I found an old blog draft with Akaash and thought I'll complete the draft today.
Akaash is a cute little boy who is 4 "becoming 5" who makes life and all the small things in it interesting! And he is Akaash and not Akash or Aakash (the spelling I use most of the time and get corrected! By him, nonetheless!!).He is my land lady's son and is always up to something. Our story starts two years back.....

Two years back:
It's been a while since I've lived day in and day out with young kids (not counting the few days I catch with my nieces). So, imagine my surprise when the teeny tiny son of my land lady comes in marching and wants to play sponge bob with him. I had no idea what sponge bob was and was wondering how I'd play it (effects of too much protection from kids commercialism - read toys). Then, during that golden summer, I spent a good amount of time with him - playing sponge bob, picking tomatoes, trying to scare the old kitty in the neighbor's house and so on. I didn't get to spend much weekends with him but the weekday evenings were fun times for us. A good way to relax after a day in office (yeah, planning trips and other recreations was sure hectic!!)

A year back:
I moved Neverland to S and my first thought was to stay there again. And I got to do it, six months later. Now, Akaash was older and had moved onto Thomas the Train and Power Rangers and Dora (yeah! Guys do watch Dora too). On most days, work ensured that I went back home only after he had slept and weekends were spent traveling. So I didn't get to spend my last December holidays in Neverland.

This year - Summer:
January to summer was spent planting the yard (not that we'd do much since my landlady hired someone to do most of the work and we just planted some of saplings and plants for fun - tomatoes and tulips are my favorite) and partying and evening trips to the lakes. Akaash graduated from playing with real toys to playing with the Wii. Since it was his last summer before he started school (and we feeling sorry for him for starting the institution of school - you don't get holidays forever after!!), icecream trips and play dates abounded. Throw in a few bday parties and the summer with him was nice!!

This year - Fall and Winter:
Thanks to Akaash and M (the Kinect boss), my game playing skills grew rapidly and I got reintroduced to Super Mario, Ninja Turtles and car races and introduced to bowling, baseball, etc. The entire Fall season was spent either playing at home or at M's place. Akaash's latest obsession was Buzz Light year and others in Toy Story. The cold season is letting us devise new indoor games and recreation stuff. For my part, I made sure he reads atleast three books a day and he is my staunchest supporter for the library! :) The stories about his school and his friends and his teachers and classes and homework is a new tale that I look forward to every day. The countdown for Halloween and the drama around it was exciting followed by similar ones for Diwali and Thanksgiving. Now, he's all eager about Christmas and we've put on light decorations of Santa, reindeer and candy canes.  

In Retrospection:
College was the kind of fun where we go and experience something new all the time. Most of my activities now are still similar to college life (read movies and trips and hangouts with friends). But this past year, it's been a different kind of experience to see someone (especially a young kid) get excited for all the small things like lighting diyas for Diwali, lights for Christmas, baking cakes and cookies, the first tomato of the season, etc. He has something to marvel and be excited about everyday. Though he has his own temper tantrums (you should see him trying not to eat food (unless there is chicken nuggets or milk involved) and when his dad comes to pick him up for the weekend), he is my youngest pal in Neverland and makes life a lot more interesting. I'm all set to have fun for the rest of the journey and can't wait to see how it would turn out. Making the change to live a life different than what most of my friends and I (in the past) was accustomed to has brought on its own challenges and experiences. And Akaash was one of them. And I'm glad to have decided to take this one on! :)
Now, if you excuse me, I've to go and win the MarioKart and reach the castle! :P

Thursday, December 16, 2010

After death, now what?

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This idea popped up in one of the random conversations that happen over a day. 
"What happens after death?"
Now, now, I'm not going to get into ghosts and spirits and souls and stuff. Lets get more mundane. What do people do to the body after death? And what do you want to be done to yours? My host wanted his body cremated in Varanasi and strewn in streets there since he loved India so much. His wife wanted to be buried just outside their house overlooking the hills. Her reason was that she can have the same view forever that she enjoyed every day while drinking tea. 

Frankly, both creep me out. I don't want to be thrown as ashes in a place where no one knows me and I know no one, even if I loved that place. I love Kodaikanal and some of my happiest memories are there. But I know no one there and no one knows me. However much I love those places, I don't want my ashes on Coaker's walk or at the Devil's kitchen or Berijam Lake. And, I don't want to be buried anywhere because it would be damn uncomfortable to let the body be. Hollywood movies have greatly contributed to my imagination of what happens to the body after it is buried. The maggots feast on them, the worms hit the body and so on and so forth. Ugh! No way am I subjecting mine to that state. 

Guess, that leaves only cremation. The old style of "from ashes to ashes and from dust to dust". However, you have no physical way to remember someone. Once they go to ashes and dust, that is it. Pictures and memories fade and there is nothing tangible. If someone wants to grieve and express it, then there is no way it can be done. I remember my granny's death some five years ago. That was the first death I've seen in close family and was in denial for almost a year. I think having a place where I can go and think about her (some place other than home) would have helped me come to terms with it quicker. The 12 day grieving process that Indian customs have is sometimes not enough since the mind is in shock. Now, that one of my grand dads is dead and I haven't even grieved properly, I'm not sure how things would be if I went back home and saw his chair, house and everything related to him. His house where I went for holidays and special occasions would never be the same. I can't imagine him not being around chasing us for all the pranks that we did.

So, I'm torn between the choices. Maybe be cremated and have the ashes buried in some place nice? Yeah! That seems like the best option. But what if seeing it, my loved ones grieve more? Uh! Then its the worst option. Guess I'll stick to cremation, nice and simple. And have my ashes thrown into Kaveri! 
What do you want to do after death?