Past and future

21 01 2017

2016-highlights

2017-motto

 





2015 reading

1 03 2016

2015 was a rewarding year for me in many ways. As far as my reading is concerned, my preferences definitely got matured. I moved away from my comfort zone and picked up a greater number of non-fiction and audio books last year. Their proportion is still very small  but I have observed a  decreased, albeit slight, fondness of fiction and increased penchant for different types of non-fiction. Or maybe I became better at picking up appealing non-fiction. Consequently I also became pickier when it came to regular fiction. Most fiction I read last year was for book clubs. I’m sure this pattern evolves further in 2016.

Despite an eventful year, both personally and professionally, I managed to read 57 books in 2015, 2 of them re-reads (No Country for Old Men, which I have enjoyed thoroughly this time, and Animal Farm). I almost read nothing in Telugu, my native tongue, until the end of the year, when I was desperate enough to grab some random free e-books, which I read to my heart’s content. 😉

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Without much further ado, let me list the winners here 😛

Best Fiction – Goldfinch by Donna Tart  It’s a masterpiece. Enjoyed and got immersed in each one its 700 and odd pages. Do I need to say anything else?

Best Non-Fiction – Wild by Cheryl Strayed Wild is inspirational. I admire Cheryl for her courage; for pulling herself up from the abyss and coming out of it as a renewed person. In many ways, the hike was life altering.

Best Short Stories – There Once Lived a Mother Who Loved Her Children, Until They Moved Back In By Lyudmila Petrushevskaya

Best Thriller – I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes (Special mention) Oh my god! It’s the best page turner I’ve read in so many years. I still feel the adrenaline rush.

Best Book Club Selection – The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch (Special category) This needs a special mention. It’s a book I would never have picked up myself. It’s young adult book written from the perspective of a 13 year old boy who loves ocean and its creatures. It’s so refreshing and strangely magical.

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Though I had grand plans for visualizations that I usually include in
this yearly post, I honestly couldn’t find time to learn a new skill and experiment. I go the easy route this time and use Power BI, one of the newest tools in the market. Excuse me for not being creative with the analysis though.

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The year started off well with An Uncommon Reader, a subtle humor from UK. It depicts, in a very funny way, what if Queen Elizabeth at the age of 70 discovers the pleasures of reading and becomes an avid reader. Kazuo Ishiguro’s (my favorite author) The Buried Giant surprised me. It’s a fantasy novel.Fantasy isn’t usually my type. But when it comes to Ishiguro, it doesn’t matter what genre it is. Reading Ishiguro is pure, unadulterated pleasure any day. Amen.

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I discovered Lyudmila Petrushevskaya accidentally. In the local library. Her short stories are honest and dark. I found the  bestseller “The Girl on the Train” creepy. It’s genius. I both loved and hated it. I tried two chick-lit (not so) new releases – Landline and The Husband’s Secret. I can’t say I enjoyed them much, despite their popularity. They are definitely good, but just not for me. I liked the former better than the latter though.

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One book I found amusing and enlightening is “How to Travel the World for Free” by Michael Wigge. It indulged my day dreams :P. I learned good stuff from it. ;). I wish I could write about each and every book I read and loved last year, but I’m feeling lazy now. 😛  You can breathe a sigh of relief. I’m signing off. 🙂

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2014 in review

31 12 2014

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,900 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.





2012 review of the blog

31 12 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 16,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.





2011 in review

1 01 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,700 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

My remarks: Not a great year of blogging for me. Did poorer than last year. I definitely could have written more often. Also, I wince every time I notice “2 States” as the most popular post or “Chetan Bhagat”, “Anusha Bhagat” as the most popular search terms that lead to my blog, year after year. A big sigh!





Urumi

25 08 2011

Been to this historical fantasy movie last weekend. Liked it very much. It was so picturesque and beautiful. Of course, what else can we expect from the acclaimed cinematographer cum filmmaker Santosh Sivan?

This is the story of a little known hero from Kerala (Chirakkal Kelu Nayanar  – Prithvi Raj)whose mission is to kill Vasco De Gama, who did atrocious things to its citizens and had been a threat to its wealth and future. The way Santosh drew analogies between the history and the present was good. At the time of watching the movie, I thought it depicted the history accurately but a superficial search on Net revealed that much of it is fiction.

The narration in the first half, especially the first 45 minutes or so, had been so fast, as the director tried to acquaint the historic backdrop and significance of the story/events to come, that the audience were really kept on toes. But the pace dropped down alarmingly to match that of snail’s in the second half and it’s only the chemistry between Genelia and Prithvi , which attempted to hold the audience’s attention at that point – with marginal success.

The performances were good. Prithvi was awesome – elegant and macho. He is such a looker. I was practically drooling over him. Nitya, Prabhu Deva and Arya did well. Arakkal Ayesha is a very remarkable character and Genelia was adequate in it.

The backdrop chosen by Santosh Sivan was so novel and fresh that the movie acquired a unique appeal.

By the way, to those who are wondering what Urumi means – it’s a long sword made of flexible steel. It’s the hero’s weapon in the movie. Innovative, isn’t it?





Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

12 08 2011

Finally I got to watch the mega and much awaited movie of the year so far – Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. It took us more than a few weekends to finally manage to make it to the movie.

Well, I liked it. It’s definitely new age, with sophistication in every bit of it – taking, story, characters, dialogues and the like. I admit that it’s slow but I feel inspite of that, it manages to exude a charm and make an impact. The slow narrative had in itself been a plus point for me, which enabled me to enjoy the whole experience in a leisurely way without being subjected to a whirlwind of emotions like in many other movies.

The spectacular and scenic Spain besides the beautiful Katrina (a few words about Kathrina here – She has improved a lot compared to her earlier films and I can see the truth in Bollywood’s comments that she works really hard. I feel that she is the most striking lady in the Bollywood second only to Aish. In fact I feel that in some ways, Kathrina is even better. While Aish always seems to me like a pretty doll, Kathrina has her sweet smile and her foreign genes in her favor which gives her an appeal much greater than that of Aish.) and hot Hrithik more than ensure one’s unwavering attention. Even though not all can really relate to the ultra-modern and cosmopolitan protagonists – living in London with means enough to take an expensive vacation trip and with an adventurous streak in them -, I feel that the image they portray has been very becoming these days and it’s something which can appeal to the fancies of many. Still, it can be said that it’s yet another NRI movie (movie made with NRIs as the main target audience).

Despite the rave reviews, I wasn’t very excited for the movie before. The sandy brown hues of the scenes from the trailer reminded me somehow of the dreadful Kites which, instantly curbed any kind of enthusiasm I might feel about ZNMD. I know it’s an absurd reaction but still there it was. So, the movie had been a kind of pleasant surprise for me and I took it all in greedily.

The songs didn’t really register with me.

My take on the comment that “ZNMD is the DCH of this decade” – I can’t really say anything about it as my memory of DCH has faded except that we loved it then and watched it countless times. I doubt ZNMD emulates that kind of reaction with any comparable intensity. Or is it just the fact that I’m a decade older now that’s responsible  for this judgment? 🙂





100% Love

19 05 2011

Just watched 100% Love. It was good. It’s full of ego wars between the lead characters. Couldn’t help swaying emotionally all through the film. Both the hero and heroine couldn’t express their feelings in a better way. No great opportunities to savor the chemistry between them. I felt tensed through out the movie.

I especially liked the first half. Their determination and hardwork to be the first ranker is very inspiring. I hope it helps me in my prep. 🙂

The whole point of the movie seemed to break the ego of the hero. The heroine accomplishes all her challenges as the hero fails to keep up his. It seemed like a heoine-oriented movie (on a lighter note). I admit that hero is a bit too arrogant about his intelligence and accomplishments. But still felt bad to see him lose to the heroine all the time. While the heroine claims that she is in love with the hero right from the beginning, she seemed more interested in a ego battle with him and in enjoying his physical intimacy than anything else. While she claims that she loves him so much that she proposed to another guy for him, I feel that there could have been better ways to prove/display her love. There is no evidence that her feelings are beyond infatuation but her own conscience. The director might have felt good to have kept the audience in the semi-dark till the end, but I feel that it reflected badly on the characters.

On the whole, the movie is good.





Teen Maar

27 04 2011

Teen Maar is a decent attempt at remaking a Bollywood flick. But there surely are certain glitches. The biggest drawback, in my opinion, is that it failed to recreate the magic of the original Love Aaj Kal.

I personally feel that the kind of hip-hop, modern, metro lifestyle shown in the movie hasn’t really gotten itself infiltrated  into the Telugu society. While it was easy to watch Deepika and Saif do all sorts of things, I can’t say the same about their counterparts in Teen Maar. Both Michael (hero) and Meera (heroine) are so unconventional with respect to Tollywood that I feel there had been a certain mental block to accept them right away.

I am still baffled by the inconsistency between my own reactions to the two versions. The reason might be that by Bollywood standards, the lead characters aren’t atypical at all. Surely, I loved Love Aaj Kal and was awed by the characters. I enjoyed myself a lot. I don’t remember contemplating on the virtues or otherwise of the characters at that time, as I’m doing now in the case of Teen Maar. I don’t say that Teen Maar has been a complete shocker for me but I felt that it somehow seemed unreal, close to fantasy.

At some point in the movie, Michael wonders before Paresh Rawal/Sirji (any idea why Pavan choses to address him as “Sirji” instead of just “Sir” or something else? [Updated much later: “Sir Ji is a colloquial word used in North India. It is ascribed to a person who is enterprising, resourceful, seminal, approachable, respected and above all a Realist. ” Source: E-PAO. So it was just my ignorance. 😛 ]) on the relevancy of the marriage in current times. According to him, marriage is just a fad which appears to be out of fashion these days.

This monologue struck me as odd and absurd. Nothing can be farther from truth than his statement. Marriage is still very much relevant, at least in my society.  Attitudes like these were what gave the characters the fictitious touch and made everything seem far-fetching.

Coming to the other drawback which spoiled the show was the first half hour (I missed the credits and hence anything that came before them). The chemistry between Pavan and Trisha wasn’t established well and the scenes looked like something badly put together in a hurry. (I’m not sure, but I might be talking about Editing too). The whole episode until their breakup was so pale and bland. The sizzling chemistry and the comfort levels between Saif and Deepika couldn’t be replicated for Pavan and Trisha. What a let down!

However, the movie on the whole gets better in the second-half. I noticed that Trisha’s character has been changed minutely in that she seemed reluctant towards the break-up and the director projected as if the whole thing happened only because of Michael’s confusion. I don’t know whether I can trust my memory, but I remember that Deepika too was keen on the break-up and in fact it was she who blurts out the words. If I’m right in my observation, I can only attribute this discrepancy to the distinct Tollywood touch.

I really liked the performances of the lead characters. Trisha looked very pretty and stylish. She carried herself very well. Pavan Kalyan was too good. As Arjun Palvai, he was mind-blowing. I liked the whole flashback episode. I liked it better than that of Love Aaj Kal’s. Kirti looked well as Vasumathi though I must admit that she wasn’t any special. I didn’t like her close-up shots.

The background music was lovely, especially during the flashback. I liked only two songs – Aley Baley (which has been inspired by LAK’s Chor Baazari) and the love song that comes in the flashback (I forgot the lyrics).

While the whole episode of the street fight, rescuing the girl and throwing curse words at the boss by the hero seemed a bit absurd to me, I (as a devout follower of Telugu movies) would rather ignore the illogicality of it all and prefer to just grasp the underlying message the director is trying to convey out of it. Consequently, I’m not so appalled by the failure of the NYPD to appear at the crime scene in time (as some of my friends living in US reacted). Things like this are happening since time immemorial in Telugu cinema. Aren’t they?

The movie is undoubtedly a visual feast and what it’s missing is just the “oooh” factor, which LAK successfully managed to generate. The strongest plus point is Pavan Kalyan. It’s his show all through the movie. On a side note, I certainly think that Teen Maar is a lot better than Pavan’s previous hit Jalsa.





My Sony Reader

22 07 2010

It’s been a month since I got my Sony Reader PRS-600BC. Initially I wanted to go for Amazon Kindle but its price tag put me off. I had to do a lot of research online, comparing features and reading reviews, before I chose Sony.

I faced some difficulty trying to decide which one suits me the best and I perceived the lack of proper advice/recommendation as a source of frustration. There were more than a few options available in the market with attractive offerings but it seemed that the ideal gadget that would fit my needs was only a dream at that time.

A lot of work, thinking, and time went into buying this one. I would like to present here the outline of the process I underwent and the criteria I used to come to the final decision so that anyone out there in the same shoes as I was would find it useful.

As I told you before, Kindle was my first choice. It might be because I thought, for some reason which might be true or not, that it’s the most popular one and the first choice of many others. But I was not keen on spending around $330 (Kindle Global – $260 + Cover – $35 +Tax) for something I guessed I wouldn’t use too much.

It’s just my bad luck that Amazon has reduced its price to $189 after I bought my Sony Reader. 😦 Looks like everyone has reduced their prices since I bought my e-reader.

Later when Barnes & Nobel’s Nook came out, I looked at it too and was attracted to its color panel, expandable memory and more supported formats. But the price was on par with Kindle and also there had been no global version of it at that time (I’m not sure whether there is one even now). I wanted to have something that works not just in USA and so, Nook didn’t really give a strong competition to Kindle.

Before I discuss the other products I’ve considered, let me first put down what I was really looking for in an electronic reader:

  • Inexpensive
  • Support for epub, pdf, word, txt formats
  • Ease of use
  • Ability to add notes
  • Dictionary look-up

Of course, an electronic reader offers more than just enabling people to read books. There are loads of nice-to-have features out there but the ones that I don’t really care about include:

  • Wi-Fii/3G
  • Text to Speech
  • MP3 Player

Wi-Fi/3G feature didn’t actually attract me because I don’t travel much and have no issues with connecting the Reader to my laptop to buy/transfer books. And I’m the person who always prefers reading to listening to her books.  About music – well, I can’t multi-task. 🙂

Based on the above criteria, I plunged forward and managed to keep aside Kindle for a moment while I considered other options.

On the lower end were a couple of products – Sony eReader Pocket Edition PRS-300 ($150- on sale price) and the not yet arrived Kobo ($150).

Sony Pocket Edition instantly put me off by its smaller screen size (5”) compared to 6” of all others. Also it can hold only 350 books max at a time. The product seemed very inflexible, with bare functionality.

I then looked into the features of Borders’ Kobo. The display of book cover looked definitely cool but it’s not a core feature and I can’t really choose it just for that petty nice-to-have. Reviews were confusing and the fact that the product won’t be available in the market for another ten days made me disregard it.

I searched for and read reviews for all the above mentioned products. I was dumbfounded by what I found. I was more confused after reading all that stuff than before. The thing is there were both good and bad reviews for each of them.

I was surprised to find Sony Touch Edition at the number one position in the Top 5 list by PC World. I must say, that article clearly changed my perception and for the first time I seriously considered Sony. Also, Sony Touch Edition was available for $200 at that time (sale price), which was fine for me.

And then I looked into a few reviews of Sony and comparisons of it with Kindle and others. The things I liked about Sony were:

  • Robust metallic frame (in contrast to plastic ones for others)
  • Speed
  • Support for formats I want
  • Ease of use of the software
  • Expandable memory (For Touch Edition)
  • Touch Screen (Touch Edition)

I almost shouted  “yahoo!” in joy at finding my ideal electronic Reader. But my excitement was short-lived. The loudest criticism I read about Sony’s Touch Edition was the blinding “glare”. I was really concerned about this negative remark, in an otherwise perfect product. At that point, I was desperately looking for even a feeble affirmation that the glare isn’t that bad but there was none.

I even went to a local Borders store and looked at both the Pocket Edition and Touch Edition. Sure, there was glare for the Touch Edition but I actually fell in love with the Touch Screen – the ability to turn the pages with the flick of a finger, to look up the dictionary by taping on a word. It also seemed that making notes and annotations is a lot easier on the touch screen.

So, finally I decided to put up with the glare in order to enjoy all the goodies. I placed the order and secretly hoped and prayed that the glare wouldn’t bother me too much.

I’ve read three books on it so far and I must say I’m enjoying it a lot. It is exactly what it promised. I got that much-hated glare along with its superior features. The glare does bother (but it’s not unmanageable). I haven’t yet really used all the features, satisfied at this point by just opening a book and turning the pages. Looking forward to leverage the touch screen in the coming days…

I always thought that I would prefer a print book to an electronic book on any day but with my cute eReader in my hands now, I’m not so sure about it. 🙂