Friday, May 27, 2005


So, which will it be? As the light turns yellow, do you race through, hoping it won't turn red, saddling you with a ridiculous $150 ticket, or do you slow down, cursing your luck as the light turns red in front of your slowing vehicle?

Isn't it similar when it comes to life? You see some danger sign of something going skid to a halt to re-evaluate, or maybe you push your way through, crossing your fingers as you are flooring the accelerator, hoping for the best.

Interesting analogy, ain't it? I find it pretty relevant. Seeing people overcome seemingly unsurmountable odds, when the only thing that made the overcoming possible was some sort of foolhardy(OK - brave, but only in hindsight) belief - the running of yellow lights in the belief that the timing is right, and the leaving of red lights behind.

Small victories. Small setbacks, like the occasional ticket. The game continues. Rev your engines.

Friday, May 20, 2005

It ends. Here. Now.

Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith, the much-awaited,much-hyped third movie of the second (rather, first) trilogy of the Star Wars saga made its way to theaters today. As I trudged into a screening at the unearthly hour of 8:30 AM (hey, the tickets were free - you think I'd pay to watch a movie this early?), the excitement was palpable. A colleague had come decked out as a Jedi, and we had a light saber fight in the aisles before the movie got underway.

This is the first Star Wars movie I saw in a movie hall. Episodes IV-VI and I were all seen on DVD, which kind of explains my previous opinion about it.

Not that I've revised it completely, but I'm less underwhelmed - especially since I saw it on the full screen. The plot does hold together, and George Lucas meticulously ties up all the threads of the past and the future. The audience has a reasonable amount of fun while that happens too. The movie is grimmer than Ep. I and IV-VI but that is to be expected. Also, since the denouement is known, you see every event in that light.

The first space dogfight is fun, but the light saber battles start getting to you by the end. The sets and effects rock though, as they have in all of the movies.

Ian McDiarmid who plays Chancellor Palpatine, is in sublime form as the scheming leader who takes over as the leader (for 'security'), and his ingratiating tempting of Anakin to the Dark Side is unnerving. The rest of the cast underperform or don't have much to do, as in all SFX bonanza blockbusters. Ewan McGregor's British accent gets more pronounced than in the previous movies, and Yoda rocks - always does as he . The comely Natalie Portman as well as Hayden Christensen seem slightly (or is it very?) wooden, which is surprising considering their acting credentials. R2D2 and C3PO seem to have better chemistry than they do (part of it is the bad dialog between them).

And whats with the flowery wording? Kids are kids, not 'younglings'. Kept reminding me of the beer brewed in Pennsylvania. "He killed the younglings" - sounds like someone chugged down a few beers back on the East Coast.

Verdict: Some moments make it worth the while, even if you are not a Jedi-in-training. The end with two suns rising on Tattooine gives you a feeling of anticipation - especially since you know what is coming next - A New Hope. The detail in the dogfight at the beginning leaves you breathless, and some of the stunts they pull are fairly ingenious. The sheer variety of characters leaves you stunned too. I never quite thought (in spite of seeing 4 Star Wars movies earlier) that one could think up so many different types of alien life-forms. Memorable characters always at hand are - Yoda, the two robots R2D2 and C3PO, and even Obi-Wan Kenobi's quiet dignity make them all characters worthy of the pop culture status they have today.

So, does it end here? Or will George Lucas go back on his word to make VII,VIII and IX? I hope not. He has the visual flair to tackle different ideas, and it'd be interesting to see him try.

But my initiation into geek pop culture is complete. I actually woke up early today to go to watch a Star Wars movie. And speak like Yoda I try to.

May the Force be with you.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

A driver complains

- What's it with the big SUV and Altima/Accord/Taurus owners who park in the spots designated for "Compacts"? It's not enough that they own the roads. They have to own our parking spots as well.

Their cars barely fit in the spots, and when I am forced to park next to them in my small car, I have to open my door gingerly to ensure his* car does not get dented. Don't blame me if there's a nice scratch on your shiny passenger side door tomorrow.

- Will gas prices ever go down? I bleed through every pore daily, and regret the day I rented a place so far away that I cannot walk to work. A bike (as in bicycle) seems more and more tempting by the day. Maybe I'll buy a Segway.

- You. On the cellphone. Get off it. Nothing you are talking about is so important that you take one hand off the steering for that. Especially considering that you are right now taking an extremely sharp turn with that other hand, and are coming dangerously close to me in the facing lane. Just because it isn't legislation here doesn't mean you have to do it. You aren't the only one who is busy, you know.

* It may very well be a she. Written that way for simplicity. Also, in a software company like the one I work at, it is less probable - skewed ratios and all that.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Every day is a winding road

Lunch at a Korean place (with exactly one vegetarian dish on the menu) with a Chinese colleague. A bewildering array of side dishes in addition to the main course. Seaweed sounds icky, but it tastes pretty good. Actually, I don't know if it was seaweed, but it looked suspiciously like a more solid version of the algae you see in cess-pools in the rainy season in India. I was too preoccupied with eating to ask. (I did manage to ask for some dish on the menu with 'no meat and no seafood').

My clumsy efforts at using chopsticks were viewed with bemusement by Tao (that's his name). I was making a valiant effort nonetheless. After all, that was how I mastered eating the proper way with a knife and fork - eating uttappams and masala dosas at the local Udipi that way. Taking pity on me, he finally showed me the right way of holding the chopsticks. My finger-joints protested. They'd never quite been asked to move that way, leave alone lift morsels of food.

Unfortunately, the food wasn't all that great. I've eaten better Asian food - I am partial to Thai food, though there's this awesome Sichuanese place in Bellevue. But I did have the great satisfaction of learning the Tao of eating with chopsticks from the master - Tao himself.

Sorry. Couldn't resist that.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

How does the fact that you listen to bands who are more introspective or have songs that are kind of depressing reflect on you? Does listening to Pink Floyd and loving "Time" mean that you wasted a lifetime and relate to it, or only that you really love the writing?

It's a question that was driven home a couple of years back, when a friend (who wasn't into much western music at all) asked me if all rock songs were depressing (This was after she'd heard "Comfortably Numb")

There was a small problem with the question - I find a lot of Pink Floyd absolutely uplifting. Maybe it is just due to memories of hostel afternoons playing "Coming Back to Life" or Another Brick in the Wall" full blast. Another problem: I see songwriting for quality, and don't particularly care if it is 'happy' or 'sad' or anywhere in between. Good music helps, of course.

Of course, if there's something in the songwriting you relate to, that hits home much harder. Yes, I thought "Time" was written with me (and a few million other people maybe) in mind when Waters sang -

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking
And racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in the relative way, but you’re older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

However, irrespective of whether I relate with it or not, it is a great piece of writing.

Among contemporary artists, one songwriter whose stuff I really like is Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty. His sizzling solo number with Carlos Santana "Smooth" probably gave him way more visibility than you'd expect (and a couple of Grammys), but the group albums "Yourself or Someone Like You" and "Mad Season" are absolute rockers. ( haven't heard their third effort - "More Than You Think You Are") There is enough musical variety to hook you, and some amazing songwriting to keep you listening. One of my favorite songs, "Rest Stop" appears on Mad Season - it describes a breakup where the girlfriend throws the singer out of her car on the highway - "three miles from the rest stop".

She said - while you were sleeping
I was listening to the radio
And wondering what you're dreaming when
It came to mind that I didn't care
So I thought - hell if it's over
I had better end it quick
Or I could lose my nerve

And no, none of my girlfriends(!) ever threw me out on the road that way.

And: if you listen to Britney Spears or Jessica Simpson, it still reflects badly on you.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Monuments to Patriotism

While doing the usual tourist rounds, there are times when you are blase, and times when you are moved overwhelmingly. Depends on where you are and whom you are with. Being with a bunch of gregarious jocks making PJs every other minute means you are probably having too much fun to really pay attention. I am also wary of tourist guidebook hype, as buying into it even partially means that you may be underwhelmed. However, there are places that move you irrespective of that. Some of these moments are achingly simple - on a trip to Ground Zero (the WTC site in NYC) in the winter of 2003, I saw bouquets stuck into the chain link fencing surrounding the site. 2 1/2 years after the incident, it was a touching gesture of remembrance from some people for their loved ones.

There are other monuments that affect you with the sheer power of imagery. One of them is: The sculpture commemorating Gandhiji's Dandi March. This sculpture, located in Delhi feels alive, and is evocative of the fact that the Mahatma was able to make millions of Indians follow his path of non-violence to freedom. It is one of those things that invokes a sense of patriotism in my mind. (other things include hearing a military band playing the Indian national anthem, and watching A R Rahman's Vande Mataram video)

Photograph here

Another great monument in the US is the Vietnam War memorial. All it is , is a simple black marble wall with the names of every soldier who died in the War. The difference between this, and say, India Gate which too has the names of soldiers inscribed on it is the fact that this is accessible. You see people looking for former war buddies, parents and siblings. Tears are not uncommon, and there is a respectful silence if someone like that comes by.

However, my favorite of the War memorials in Washington DC is the Marine Corps Memorial across the Potomac in Arlington,VA. The memorial is based on the Pulitzer award winning photograph of the raising of the US flag in Iwo Jima in Japan. The sculpture itself is amazing and it is one of those that makes your heart swell with pride at the achievement of the soldiers. It is part of an important epoch in this century's history, and the sculpture sure does it justice.

There's a photograph here

Edit: Inline image links going bad on me. Added direct links to the images.