Monday, August 16, 2010

Inception. Simplified: Vish Dhamija




     Like all sci-fis, to begin with, you need to accept that it's possible to steal information from Johnny when he is asleep and dreaming. If you accept dream-burglary, you only need to push the boundary a little to agree it's possible to seed a new idea into Johnny's mind, while he dreams. If you are, now, on the same plane and convinced it is possible, I can begin explaining Inception.


Rules of the game: 
If you die in a dream, you wake up.
If you die in a dream within a dream, (II layer of dreaming, mind you) you can be left in a limbo for a lifetime.

     Leonardo Dicaprio is tasked, by the baddie, to plant a wicked Inception in Johnny's mind. To ensure the implant happens correctly, and deep enough, the team (LD's team) decides to sedate Johnny and take him to the second layer of dreaming. According to the plan, Johnny is tranquilised on a 10 hour flight from Paris to LA (in dream arithmetic, 10 seconds = 1 hour and, somehow, 10 hour flight = 1 week, but please don't ask me why or how?)
     As luck would have it (or to lengthen the movie/story), Johnny is versed with dream-invasions and his auto-defence kicks in, which in the movie is depicted as security personnel shooting bullets at the speed of Concorde. One of these, freely raining, bullets hits Johnny, hence, before he dies, and to prevent him from getting into a limbo, the team decides to take him to the III layer of dream (hold your breath  it's a dream, within a dream, within a dream) and succeed in seeding the villainous idea.
     If that's not enough, and it hasn't got your head spinning by now, Leonardo Dicaprio (who is accompanying Johnny in the III layer of dream) decides to go in layer IV (dream, within a dream.........within a dream) to settle an age old agony/dream.
     Statistics in US reveal that the movie has attracted repetitive viewing by audience, as a lot of viewers went into a limbo.
     Why am I not surprised?

Recommendation: Watch at your own risk. You might have to watch it second time :-)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sugar and Spice - Vish Dhamija

It's not sugar. And, it's not spice. 
     I call them sugar n' spice because the only flavours my tastebuds can discern remind me of how basic I am. My sense of gustation can, still, only recognise elementary tastes - sweet, bitter, sour, salty and spicy.



     Macallan "Fine Oak" 10 year old (Speyside) is the one I am talking about  here - smooth  and complex. (it matures in Spanish Oak casks seasoned with sherry and American Oak casks seasoned with bourbon, amongst others) The aroma has hints of fruits, honey and vanilla, though my nose finds vanilla overpowering the other two, but that could be a personal thing. In any case, either or all of, these three fragrances conjure up memories of everything sweet. Hence, I call this one sugar.
     Talisker 10 year old (Only single malt from Isle of Skye) is my spice. It tastes of sea-salt and has a peppery finish, which I love. Take a bite of strong blue cheese with a sip of this whisky and let the flavours mix in your mouth. Don't complain if you cannot stop after one.
     Like all single malts, all you need is a good glass to enjoy it. No water. No rocks. No soda. No mixer.
     A word of caution: please enjoy responsibly, :-)

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

JFK


There's a conspiracy theory about everything - the Titanic never sank, Neil Armstrong never landed on the moon, Elvis Presley faked his own death, Michael Jackson isn't dead, Shakespeare was someone else - and someone put it aptly: "There is no conspiracy. It's good journalism."  
JFK (released 1991) sheds light on one of United States' most enduring mysteries, the assassination of President John F Kennedy in 1963. Three years later, District Attorney Jim Garrison  - played by Kevin Costner - finds too many coincidences, inaccuracies and conflicts in the investigation report (26 volumes) by Warren Commission. Interrogating several witnesses to the assassination, he and his team establish, beyond doubt, that Lee Harvey Oswald couldn't possibly have carried out the task single-handedly. Further investigation reveals that although all documents report three shots were fired, witnesses had heard up to six shots...
In the 1969 trial of Clay Shaw (one of the accused), Garrison provides more evidence that there were six shots fired and not as reported and that the single bullet could not have assassinated JFK and another person in the car. His theory is based on the fact that CIA got the president murdered and covered it up. Though Garrison lost the case, the end credits state that in 1979, someone (I have forgotten the name) testified under oath that Clay Shaw had been, once, a part-time agent of the CIA.
Whether you believe in the theory or not, it is an amazing movie. One of those movies, which - despite knowing the outcome - you end up biting the best part of your nails. A must watch (189 minutes)

*****

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Queen of Crime: Agatha Christie by Vish Dhamija


This bank holiday weekend in the English Riviera reminded me - as if I ever forgot - of Agatha Christie. Born in 1890 in Torquay (Devon) and, except for a few years, lived there for most of her life and wrote 80 crime novels, 19 plays, 6 romances (as Mary Westmacott), two books of poems, one of reminiscences and one autobiography. 
Amongst others, she created two of the most famous characters in crime fiction - Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple - that live on, even to this day.  According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the  "Queen of Crime" is the best selling author of any kind (along with William Shakespeare) and her work has been translated in over 100 languages. As an ardent reader of "whodunit" mysteries, I admit I am a fan and also marvel at her brilliance. 
        Having known some authors personally, I am aware that it takes more or less a year to finish a manuscript. Then it, obviously, needs editing, polishing, re-editing et al., before it is in any shape or form to be sent to an agent or publisher. Hence, even if you are not a fan of hers, or not impressed with her style of writing, you have to acknowledge her sheer genius to have come up with so many plots, and then put them on paper brilliantly. Good enough for 4 billion people to buy them, besides all the adaptations for films, television, theatre and comics. All this with no computers to work on, back in the day.
        In September this year, there is the annual Agatha Christie Festival in Torquay (English Riviera) and it promises to be the best so far, as it coincides with her 120th birth anniversary.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Valkyrie/Walk├╝re [2008]

     A group of senior German officers and some politicians conspired to assassinate Hitler and topple the Nazi regime. They recruited Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg [Tom Cruise] as the architect of the plan.
     Operation Valkyrie was an arrangement for Reserve Forces taking control of Berlin as soon as Fuhrer Hitler is assassinated. Col. Stauffenberg plants the bomb as planned and it blasts. Albeit Hitler survives, the message of his assignation is communicated though the telephone lines aren't clear, leading to a three hours delay in invoking the Valkyrie. A combination of bad luck, uncoordinated sequence of moves, delay and human errors fail to take control of Berlin.
     Amazing, how a well directed movie can make you bite your nails - even after 65 years – and anticipate an alternative ending, even when you know the outcome.
A must watch film. *****

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Gems in My Neighbourhood: Vish Dhamija


Yes gems, if you like books [and art]


The Bookshop on the Heath sells second-hand, used, out-of-print and rare books, but that's not all. You can find posters, prints, postcards, magazines, old maps, art, et al. in the store. A visit to the shop takes you down memory lane of a bygone era when Sean Connery was Bond, James Bond. Even in these days of the Internet, Amazon and Kindle, I strongly recommend every book lover to walk down Tranquil Vale in Blackheath and browse through this rustic store. The shop is owned and run by a couple, who are eager to help and extremely knowledgeable, without being intrusive. Yesterday's paperback bestsellers are at [almost] throwaway prices, but if you looking for some rare posters or literary work, it is not cheap anywhere.

Halcyon Books primarily sells books. It's a much larger store - or at least that's the impression I got - with an enthusiastic staff that are passionate about books and not a bunch of jury-rigged teenagers. If you have a particular book or author in mind that you don't find in the store, they're happy to track it down for you if they can. Most of the books are priced to beat any recession. I have [twice] walked out with five [yes 5] paperbacks for a tenner. You can buy from them on Amazon, but if you ask me - don't bother. It's quite an experience being in the store.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Portugal Holiday [Aug 29 - Sep 4, 2009] - Vish Dhamija

Everything that could go wrong, did. The morning alarm didn't ring; we missed the train to the airport; forgot the navigator we had borrowed from a friend; dis-remembered to pack swimsuits and totally missed carrying the paper-part [why do we have one?] of the UK Driving Licence, without which Hertz had clearly stated that they wouldn't give us the car.
Still, it was a vacation like all vacations should be - an eclectic mix of a culturally rich, city experience and a few days at a seaside resort for relaxation. Lisbon is a beautiful city - cobbled, winding footpaths take you up and down after every few steps. The historic trams still adorn the city [and they work] and we took one up to the Castle, which provided fantastic views across the city and the Atlantic. There are abundant local cafes serving great coffee, cakes, snacks and sandwiches and have, thankfully, halted the onslaught of Starbucks. An evening and dinner in Bairro Alto is a must - the cafes and restaurant provide seating on the pavement turning it into a make-shift, albeit great alfresco dining feel. If you like Paella, do try ordering Arroz De Marisco - it's a Portuguese equivalent. Only better. There are ample bars and discs in the area, if you want to hang around after dinner.
The Jeronimos Monastry - resting place of Vasco da Gama - near Lisbon harbour, is a great place to visit and it's free entry on Sundays.
Mercifully, the Hertz staff was more interested in upgrading our car than ask us for the paper-part of the Driving Licence. With navigator left behind, we printed the directions and the drive down to Algarve was simple. The resort - Vale do Lobo - was far too posh for us: the palm trees, villas, golf courses, spa, tennis courts and whatnot. The resort had eleven restaurants, live band by the ocean, bars and a free circuit bus to take you around after you've had a few drinks [which is handy]. The only drawback in a posh place catering to tourists is - you get served Tobasco when you ask for piri-piri
Thanks to our friends - Helena, who's Portuguese and Donald, traveling to Portugal at the same time, we got to go to an exceptionally local small village at the edge of Algarve: Odecexie. The place wasn't overcrowded with foreign tourists and was absolutely breathtaking. The village-centre served local food, which was great.
We scouted Lisbon's streets again on return.
The cab from hotel to the airport was €8.60. Back in London, we tubed all the way from Heathrow to North Greenwich and took a cab for the shortest distance possible - £12.80. Uggrhh!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

DNA of fiction: Vish Dhamija

One of my friends recently saw - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and we got chatting. She had the same argument I had initially - if Benjamin was born as an octogenarian infant, then he shouldn't have become a tot [physically] as he aged backwards.
Would that have made the story any more plausible? Maybe yes. Maybe not.
It's common belief that fact begets fiction. And although the belief is correct, I regard it as only half the truth.
Let me give you an analogy: Take fact as a highly promiscuous mother of fiction. Now wouldn't it be smart-alec to assume that every child she bears would grow up to resemble her? Let's complexify the problem further - would you still predict the same outcome if you're completely ignorant about the father? If the gene pool of the father is, even remotely, as rich and strong as JK Rowling's, then wouldn't it be ridiculous to expect the child [fiction] to take more than a tchotchke from the poor mother? On the other hand, if the gene pool of the father - like John Grisham - is fairly similar to the mother's, you can expect the child to closely resemble the mother [fact] - a tighter, predictable fiction, where everything fits the legal framework.
How implausible or unpredictable can fiction get - depends on the author; how implausible or farfetched should it get, does not have an answer. I guess, that is artistic licence all creative folks have.
People who do not appreciate promiscuity should read biographies and history, though I admit some of the biographies I've read are more whimsical than fiction. As for history - that isn't devoid of fantasies either.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Who the f*@k is Alice?

I might have vehemently denied it at all times in the past [I still do and forever will], but if truth be told I have some [a little] mutated gene of OCD. I prefer [read as written: prefer] my shirts in a certain order in the wardrobe - hung with hangers facing a particular side; the tracks in my iPod have to [have to, have to, have to] be in a cut & dried arrangement; the contacts in my iPhone are stored by first-names. No exceptions preferred [read as written: preferred; I didn't say unacceptable].
But the motif of this blog isn't about my preferences [sic]; it's not about me either; it's about the contacts in my iPhone.
The other day, I couldn't find a phone number of a friend in my contacts and was very annoyed [with self]. How could I not have a number I wanted while I had so many numbers I didn't need any more? I set myself a task to organise my contacts/iPhonebook at the earliest opportunity.
Today was the day - I sat with the Old Monk for iPhone spring cleaning, but got stuck at "A" itself...when I saw one of the contacts - 'Who the f*@k was Alice Johnson?*'
My mind took a while to find its way through the labyrinth - she was the business analyst when I was working on project X; what a fantastic time we had; what fun and learning...wonder where she would be now and if she ever thought about me? Will we ever meet again? I thought about giving her a call but stopped halfway after dialling - what if her phone number had changed [it's been five years]. And even if it hadn't, what would I say after I say hello? There wouldn't be much to talk [shy as I am] about. Why subject her and myself through a miserable [How's you x 17 times, with nothing else to say] conversation? I smiled and disconnected [Please note - she made me smile]. Nah - I couldn't delete her - we had such a good time.
I scrolled down and got stuck on another one [A. K.*]. I jogged my memory to ferret him out and it was a case of repeating decimal - the guy worked for me in Benetton and we had some great time together - again I didn't know where he was; the possibility [not probability] of his telephone number being the one listed in my diary [after 12 years] was contrary to any reason. I smiled as his name took me more than a decade back. I couldn't delete him...!
And then it dawned - your contact book isn't just that - it is a diary [full] of memories - memories that have been latent for some time; times you've enjoyed and forgotten not because they aren't worth remembering or cherishing today, but there's so much else going on in your life that the past inadvertently takes a back seat [it's like an old movie you've seen years ago - a month back, accidentally, while switching channels I saw Erich Segal's Love Story being screened and I didn't (read: couldn't) move for the next 90 minutes].
No, I could not erase those unuseful numbers from my contacts. It didn't matter if I won't need them anymore. I know I wouldn't call some of the people in my contacts ever - but I cannot erase them. I cannot black out the good [or bad] memories associated with those names.
Try your phonebook...it will make you smile. Or, maybe I am a sentimental fool.
*Names changed.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Have you seen my new black car?

'But surely, that's white...' you say.
'Really?' I ask.
'Of course. Are you colour blind?'
'Oh - didn't you know white is the new black, my friend?'

For generations, people never wanted to drive a white car. Why? Because it was meant for the not so well-to-do folks - remember the white van man?

'So why now?' you ask.
'Have you heard of ostentatious austerity?'
'What's that?'
'In times as grim as these, when economies are in recession, people like to be seen as parsimonious...'
'No way.'
'Believe me. Even Rolls Royce is launching a smaller [cheaper] version.'