Conan The Barbarian (2011 Version)

With the release of Conan The Barbarian in 1982 Arnold Schwarzenegger made a name for himself and started his way into becoming a household name, cultural icon & achieving worldwide superstardom. For most of us who have not read the comics, Arnold’s performances in that movie & it’s 1984 sequel Conan The Destroyer served as the primer, the blueprint and be all & end all as far the legend of Conan was concerned. However as I have recently come to know, those movies aren’t true to the origins of the character.

Conan The Barbarian 2011 version is more true to the comics. Treat this as an another rendition of the character of Conan. Staring Jason Momoa in the titular role, alongside Rachel Nichols, Rose McGowan, Stephen Lang, Ron Perlman, and Bob Sapp with Marcus Nispel  directing.  As the movie starts we learn of a mask created a group of Acheron sorcerers from the skulls of dead kings and sacrificed their pure blood daughters to the dark gods in order to give the mask the power to subjugate the entire world. After many wars, the sorcerers were killed by the Barbarians and the mask broken into pieces, each kept by different tribal chiefs.

Born on the battlefield, as his mother is fatally injured in battle, Conan is raised by his father Corin, the chief of a Barbarian tribe. Even as a child Conan shows his potential, growing up to become a skilled, but violent warrior. We see in the movie a competition during which the boys of the village are attacked and they run but Conan kills off each of the attackers and still wins the competition. However his father is not happy with the boy’s violent tendencies and feels that he has much more to learn. His chances will run out however when the forces of Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang), who wants to revive his dead wife, attack the village to get the remaining piece from Corin. Zyn located Corin’s piece and destroys the village with only one survivor – Conan.

20 years later Conan is part of a small pirate gang, but he still seeks revenge. He comes to learn from a thief about Lucias, one of Zym”s men, and who is a jailor. Conan allows himself to be taken to prison along with the thief and confronts Lucius, who is forced to reveal that Zym is planning to sacrifice the pure blood descendant of the sorcerers of Acheron in order to unleash the mask’s power. Conan makes Lucius swallow the key to the prison and leaves him to be torn apart by the prisoners. The thief thanks Conan and asks him to call on him if he ever needs help. Zym and his sorceress daughter Marique (Rose McGowan) attack a monastery where they believe the pure blood live and kill off all of the girls & the people guarding them. Only Tamara (Rachel Nichols) escapes in a carriage, with Zym’s men hot on her trails but she is rescued by Conan. He captures Remo, one of Zym’s men, and after interrogating him catapults him back to the camp.

Next we are treated to a fantastic fight scene in which Marique conjures up and warriors to fight the two and then poisons Conan with a poison-laced boomerang sword. Tamara helps Conan escape by jumping into the pirate ship, where Conan recovers. The boat is attacked by Zym’s men, and, although they kill several of Conan’s men, they are defeated. At night Tamara & Conan have sex and he tells her to return to the ship which will take her to a safe place but she is captured by Zym’s soldiers and take to their castle where she is to be sacrified as part of the ritual to bring the sorceress queen back to life. Conan enlists the thief’s help to enter the castle, battling monsters who guard the castle and kill both Marique and Zym, saving Tamara’s life. He takes her back to her birthplace, promising to meet her again. He then returns to his old village and tells his father that he had avenged his death and recovered the sword Zym stole from him, honoring his memory.

Brutal, bloody, violent, some bare bosoms, funny in places, with good action sequences and special effects wherever needed, I liked this film a lot. It has pleased me a lot more than most sword & sorcery movies of the recent times. I’m at a loss as to why this film bombed at the box office, only making about half of what the film cost. I just don’t understand what some of the other films had that this one doesn’t. Personally I like this movie a lot. 8 out of 10!

RIP : Christopher Hitchens

Influential writer, cultural critic & popular atheist Christopher Hitchens died yesterday due to complications of cancer of the esophagus. He was 62.

Over the years, Hitchens’ caustic attention was directed at a broad range of subjects, including Henry Kissinger, Prince Charles, Bob Hope, Michael Moore, the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa. His career spanning 4 decades has seen him be a columnist and literary critic at The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, Slate, World Affairs, The Nation, Free Inquiry, and became a media fellow at the Hoover Institution in September 2008. Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in the spring of 2010, just after the publication of his memoir, Hitch-22, and began chemotherapy soon after.

A well known debater, his confrontational style made him a huge set of admirers and some detractors as well. Identified as a champion of the “New Atheism” movement, Hitchens describes himself as an antitheist and a believer in the philosophical values of the Enlightenment. Hitchens says that a person “could be an atheist and wish that belief in god were correct,” but that “an antitheist, a term I’m trying to get into circulation, is someone who is relieved that there’s no evidence for such an assertion.”[14] He argues that the concept of god or a supreme being is a totalitarian belief that destroys individual freedom, and that free expression and scientific discovery should replace religion as a means of teaching ethics and defining human civilization. He wrote at length on atheism and the nature of religion in his 2007 book God Is Not Great.

Though Hitchens retained his British citizenship, he became a United States citizen on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial on 13 April 2007, his 58th birthday. Asteroid 57901 is named after him. He has 2 children from his first marriage to Eleni Meleagrou. In 1989 Hitchens left Meleagrou for Carol Blue, an American writer.They have one daughter.

Christopher Eric Hitchens (April 13th, 1949 – December 15th, 2011)

Music From Atlantic Records

Back in 1987-88 I started getting big time into music and music bands as I got into rock music. As my family settled back in India after living for many years in Kuwait, I spent a lot of time with my cousins. I had a small selection of audio cassettes that I had bought from Kuwait and my sister had a larger collection. While at one of my cousin’s house I would listen to whatever they had playing on the stereo – which were selections of the Beatles, Deep Purple, CCR, Dire Straits & Scorpions. Where did they get all these tapes from? 15-20 songs of each band on 90 minute Thompson & TDK cassettes, the kind you get blank and can record on. From Atlantic Records was the answer!

Atlantic Records, locally called Kakkande Kada (Muslim man’s store), was this store located in Mattancherry, very close to my mom’s ancestral house, and they also had a small place in the city near the North Railways station which was short lived. They would record music albums for you on these blank tapes that they also sold at the store. The original tapes were usually imports from places like Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong & the Gulf – unofficial “greatest hits” releases of popular bands. For example a band like the Scorpions; you’d get two versions of their greatest hits – their singles and some other songs to fit 90 minutes. It might be pirated stuff but it was a great way for a lot of us to discover the bands from the West. Ofcourse they also had proper albums as well which they would record for you and the best part was that the recordings were always of excellent quality. They also had selections of rock and or pop hits from the 70s, 80s & early 90s.

Still greater was that you could pick & choose different songs by different artists from different albums in their list and create a mixed-tape of your favourite songs. My cousins & I would spend hours deliberating which songs we wanted at the shop. 1988-97 we spent our summers & other holidays together in our grandmother’s house and the evenings were always about the music, the tapes from Atlantic records were often along with the normal proper albums that we’d buy from record stores. Because of them I discovered bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica and countless others. Since those days I’ve bought the proper cds of the bands that I enjoy cause cassettes died out.

Sometime in the early 1999 they expanded to selling cds & cassettes along with recording the stuff for you. Our visits to the store decreased as they started to focus more on Hindi, Malayalam & Tamil music. I stopped going to my grandmother’s house in Mattancherry back in late 1999 due to my cousins & I having a falling out with an aunt & her family who lives in that house now. Last I heard sometime in 2002 or so Atlantic Records went out of business and someone else bought the store, demolished & remodeled it along with the space next door and it’s some other kind of store now. I saw the place the last time I went to that area, for my grandmother’s funeral back in 2008.  I don’t listen to the tapes anymore as all music I listen to are on mp3s from the cds I buy but I’ll always remember the years of enjoyment I and my cousins got from them.

When I Started Using the Internet

I first started going online, quite infrequently when I was 21 back in 1997. Oh it was in the infancy stage in India back then and the net connections were all dialup and slower than an arthritic old turtle. I was marketing modems on a part time basis for a month or two and hence needed to know about getting online and the company that was selling the modems showed it to me.

For the next year whenever possible I would try and go to an internet cafe but it was so bloody expensive back then – Rs.200 for an hour. In 1998 it became Rs.100 an hour and I would go twice a week for a couple of hours each time and browse to my heart’s content. I discovered online chatting via MiRC and was hooked. In 1999-2000 I would manage a small internet cafe and by then it was a daily usage for me. Once I left that cafe it became a weekly 2 or 3 time affair once again until, especially during my 8 month work stint in Calicut city. By then the rates had dropped significantly t0 30 bucks or so and I would sit in a cafe for hours on end especially during the weekends.

However it wouldn’t be until 2006 September that I bought a new computer, my old pc having died out on me back in 2003, and then I took a broadband connection – the same as the one I have now – at home. Since then I sold my pc and bought my current laptop and my internet speeds have increased as my plans have changed and I pretty much spend all of my free time online.

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Pain, Spray, Coffee + Sandwich

It’s been so long since I went out to have a little me time. Things haven’t so good for me from October and financially things haven’t been the same. Hence no going out, no drinking and no dinners out. It’s been dull and boring but I have stuck by my situation and stayed in most days. Ofcourse going to the corner stores & grocery stores from some necessities have been going on but that’s it. But not this evening; this evening I needed to go out for atleast an hour and give myself a break. No matter if it was a simple evening out  but I just needed to get away.

So yeah I went out this evening to Marine drive, took some money out of the ATM and went to Coffee Beanz and ordered a nice thick choco crunch cold coffee and a grilled tuna melt sandwich. Hmmm I had almost forgotten how good a grilled tuna sandwich tastes. That hit the spot as did the cold coffee. I stayed there for a bit enjoying the cold cafe with their airconditioning cranked all the way up. I sipped my coffee and ate my sandwich and enjoyed the sights that I could see from the glass doors. I left soon after to buy some medicines and then hailed an auto to get back to my home. I stopped by the corner store to buy batteries for my wireless mouse, some cutlets for the folks, a bulb and shampoo for myself.

All was not quite and nice though. On my way over while I was walking along the pavement, someone swung the door of a car parked next to hit quite rashly and in an effort to move away quickly, moved to my left – and banged my left arm & shoulder against a post! It hurt a bit but I thought it was going to be ok. However once I came back home and took my shirt off and my arm hurt! It wasn’t swelling or anything but did hurt, although not too bad. There’s a muscle sprain pain reliever called Violini and I sprayed it liberally over my arm and shoulder and boy does it sting & burn! That means it’s working right?

Yogi Bear

So…did somebody ask for an above average bear? I loved the Yogi Bear cartoons as a kid which featured Yogi and his friend Boo Boo stealing picnic baskets from happy campers at the Jellystone national park. Even as I grew out of that kid phase, these cartoons appealed to my sense of humour. But having never watched any Yogi Bear stuff for over 10 years, I’d almost forgotten about the loveable big bear and his antics until 2010 when I came to know that they were making a movie based on him.

Yogi Bear the movie stars Tom Cavanaugh as Ranger Smith, Anna Faris & TJ Miller with the voice of veteran actor Dan Akroyd & (ugh) Justin Timbersucks aka Justin Timberland as Yogi Bear & Boo Boo respectively. I almost didn’t watch this movie because that former boyband bullcrap Justin is the voice as Boo Boo. Well, the good thing is I do not have to see that imbecile on the screen! Anyway the storyline is predictable and silly and corny but it still works for the big screen and I like it.

So as we have Yogi inventing new ways of trying to nab “pic-a-nik” baskets from unsuspecting families that come to the park for camping. Boo Boo tries to be the voice of reason. Ranger Smith has to prevent the bears from stealing the baskets with the help of his subordinate, the ambitious Ranger Jones.  Meanwhile, Mayor Brown realizes that his city is facing bankruptcy due to profligate spending on his part. If he lets the park be shut down and let it go as a logging site, he will rake in lots of cash to fund his election campaign for state governor. In order to save the park Rangers Smith & Jones  and a documentary-shooter named Rachel Johnson (Anna Faris) put their heads together.

Smith comes up with a Centennial fest to encourage seasonal passes for campers and thereby make more money. However in order to sabotage it, the Mayor  plays on Ranger Jones’ desire to be head ranger and promises him the position if the funds are not raised. Yogi has promised Ranger Smith to be on his best behaviour and stay out of site while the celebration is going on but Jones convinces him to go ahead with making the fest more exciting. Yogi tries to please the crowd with a water skiing act, which initially seems to please the crowd but goes awry when he accidentally sets his cape on fire. Chaos strikes as the fireworks Smith set up are knocked over and ignited prematurely, launching them into the assembled audience who flee in a panic. Jellystone is shut down, Smith is reassigned to a small enclave in the city, he abandons all hopes of dating Rachel and the bears are miserable & sorry.

Smith, Rachel, Yogi, and Boo Boo plan to stop the sale of Jellystone. They learn that Boo Boo’s pet turtle is a rare and endangered species, which means that the Park cannot be destroyed with the turtle there. Jones regrets his decision to betray Smith when he realizes the mayor’s true intentions. They record the Mayor speaking about his  that he is willing to gain more power to shut down the park in order to become governor and his confession is played out for the public & press to see on a big screen display. With his plans foiled, Jellystone Park is opened up again and Ranger Smith is reinstated and runs the park with  Jones who still works there, giving out papers about how Jellystone has a rare type of turtle. Rachel & Smith are together as a couple at last and Yogi & Boo Boo are back to stealing picnic baskets.

A must watch for fans of the old cartoons and for new people to discover the fun of Yogi. However, it is a silly & predictable bubble gum of a movie. It’s for the nostalgic kids in you. 7 outta 10!

Babylon 5 : Signs & Portents (Season 1)

So as season 1 starts, one year has passed since the events of the pilot movie. Commander Jeffery Sinclair is in charge of the station and has a new first officer, Lt. Commander Susan Ivanova, a Russian whose pilot brother was killed during the Earth-Minbari war. She also has a deep distaste for telepathics & the organization Psi Corps, because her mother was one and she was subjected to cruel tests by them and later committed suicide. Talia Winters from Psi Corps is assigned to Babylon 5 to serve as its second resident commercial telepath. (as Lyta Alexander has been assigned elsewhere. Michael Garibaldi is in charge of Security on the station.

Much of the story revolves around Sinclair’s gradual discovery that it was his capture by the Minbari at the Battle of the Line which ended the war against Earth. Upon capturing Sinclair, the Minbari came to believe that Valen, a great Minbari leader and hero of the last Minbari-Shadow war, had been reincarnated as the Commander. Concluding that others of their species had been, and were continuing to be reborn as humans, and in obedience to the edict that Minbari do not kill one another, lest they harm the soul, they stopped the war just as Earth’s final defenses were on the verge of collapse.

During the season Narn ambassador G’Kar & his Centauri counterpart Londo Molari are usually at loggerheads and the season opener has the Narn attack a Centauri colony. Strange aliens like the Soul Hunters ( an immortal race who can sense death and supposedly steal someone’s soul) and a Dilgar named Jha’dur aka Deathwalker (played by the delightful Sarah Douglas) come and go instigating trouble. Catheine Sakai (the lovely Julia Nickson), Sinclar’s old flame is also is a recurring character and the two rekindle their affair as she makes regular visits to Babylon 5 on business. The station has to deal with Psi Corps agent Bester (played by Star Trek‘s Walter Koenig) who are out to apprehend a rogue telepath with exceptional powers & who takes refuge on Babylon 5.

Ivanova has to deal with her father’s death and also her resentment of all telepaths before she becomes friends with Talia. Towards the end of the season Londo is helped by a mysterious man named Morden whose associates, the Shadows caused the death of 10,000 Narns and makes Londo a hero to his own people. The Shadows are a super advanced alien race that comes out of cloaked vessels to attack & brutally kill the Narns. Meanwhile there is a plot to kill Earth President Luis Santiago which happens and the VP is sworn in as his replacement. Delenn undergoes a metamorphosis and her fate in unknown at the end of season 1 as she remains wrapped in a cocoon and her assistant Lennier will not let anyone or anything disturb her. Garibaldi’s aide has attempted to kill him to keep the assassination plot secret and Michael is in medical bay being cared for by Dr. Stephen Franklin. What will happen in season 2?

A Stone’s Throw Away

Ok, who came up with this term “just a stone’s throw away” ? Saying this term is to mean nearby or a short distance, ie. the beer store is just a stone’s throw away from here. But isn’t that misleading? Can everyone throw a stone at the exact same distance?

I can throw a stone much further than some people and a lot less than a lot of people. If I sit and throw a stone it won’t go much far. If I stand and throw it will go much further. If I wind up and throw or if I run from a distance and throw – the fucking stone will go much further! So the term isn’t very good is it? What if you are about to throw the stone and you get a cramp – chances are that you’ll just drop the stone a feet in front of you! Does the store now come to near your feet?

What if one of those shot-put athletes throws the stone? Have you seen the size of those guys & gals? Wait – have you seen the size of the stone that they throw? If they threw a tiny stone or a pebble, it might go into orbit! So is the store now in orbit around the earth? And how can I get there without a spaceship? This is getting to be an expensive trip to the beer store!

What about the size of the stone? I found a tiny stone and threw it- I couldn’t even see where it went. Then I threw a pebble and then a bigger stone. The distance kept decreasing as the size of the stone I kept throwing kept increasing. Different distances. But no one said that the stone has to be of a particular size!

In conclusion, don’t tell me that something is a stone’s throw away. Maybe I don’t want to throw a stone. Maybe I want to toss it. Unless it is Sharon Stone or Emma Stone!

American Soldier – Queensryche

Queensryche have long been one of my fav bands, ever since I heard Silent Lucidity back in 1991-92. They started out as more of a metal band but after a couple of albums they moved a lot more into the prog-metal band category. Most of their albums are based on a central theme and this one, their 10th, is a perfect example – American Soldier was released in 2009 and is a concept album that evolves around the lives and experiences of those who serve or have served in the United States armed forces.

Singer Geoff Tate spent a few years interviewing veterans from all conflicts America has been involved in from World War II to the Iraq War, including his own father and collecting their stories in order to help him write the album.  Starting of with a command “ON YOUR FEET” Sliver is the first track on the album. Not one of their better songs, it comes off like a cross of Limp Bizkit & a number of nu-metal bands during the chorus. I had an image of a drill sargent berating his troops while the song was playing along. The next song, Unafraid, is straight from the horses’s mouths, so to speak. The song uses dialogue from the soldiers’ interviews for the verses and Geoff Tate for the choruses. Thematically it is a great idea but does nothing as a song, although I see where the band is going with it. Slow paced & mixing clean & grittier guitar riffs, Hundred Mile Stare is more like it. The song also sounds like some of their older more popular material.

At 30,000 FT is about that feeling of being alone while in a fighter plane during a mission to attack the enemy. The pilot does not see or hear the people screaming in agony, bleeding & broken or running to escape. Reminding us of the atmospheric songs on 1994’s Promised Land, A Dead Man’s Words features seductive middle-eastern riffs and scales play in the background while Tate layers his vocals and even throws in a saxophone solo. Musically this is one solid song. The Killer is thoughts that a soldier struggles with in a war. If you have found yourself in the middle of a battlefield with people dying or dead left, right & center and you are trying to just make it out – welcome to Middle Of Hell. The song sounds like more of an out of the body experience or one in which the person is too stunned to do anything else. If I Were King is a pleading to have his fellow soldier back alive and praying for a miracle. Survivor’s guilt or just missing your comrade, it’s something all soldiers go through.

Man Down! is more of the same, focusing on survivor’s guilt and the horrors of remembering how some of your fellow soldiers were killed during an attack. Remember Me is a dying soldier’s last words before the life runs out. Home Again is about the other end of the spectrum, the family that struggles when the father/husband/son/brother is away in a dangerous place and is away for months & years. Tate sings this song with his then 10 year old daughter; the song  focuses on a father returning home to his family after having been gone an extended period. This theme reflects both the life of Tate as a touring musician and the life of one who serves in the military. This song belongs in the list of best ballads from the rock world. We end the album with The Voice is also about a soldier during his dying moments.

While certainly not in the class of Empire, Promised Land & Operation Mindcrime, the album does have it’s moments. I had hoped that they would have done things a bit different for some songs. The band hasn’t been the same without the talents of former guitarist/lyricist Chris DeGarmo and it shows once again. Still musically Queensryche is a force to reckon with. Michael Wilton did most of the guitars in the album, with some help from former member Kelly Gray, who engineered the album. New guitarist Parker Lundgren joined the band after the album was released. Here is the video for If I Were King.

Cooking In My Teens – Nostalgia Unbound

I know I have mentioned this previously but not blogged about the whole thing – back when I was a teenager, somewhere between the ages of 15-17 if I remember correctly, my cousin Manoj and I made some pizzas for the rest of our cousins. Yes we two teens actually cooked a few pizzas for the rest of the bunch.

What we had were pizza bread base that we used to get here in India at some supermarkets, more like khuboos, not too thick and about the size of a small pizza base. The other ingredients were grated cheese that we also got from the menu, tomato ketchup from a bottle (since we didn’t have any real tomato paste), chopped up tomatoes & onions, mushrooms that his mom gave us, green peppers and some kind of shredded meat which his mom had already cooked (I’m not so sure about this). Ok, now “cooked” is a big stretch of the imagination! It was more like Manoj & I spread the tomato sauce on the bread base, sprinkled the cheese that we shredded and then placed all the toppings that we had chopped up along with the meat. And we’d heat it in the microwave oven.

They were a great hit and our cousins hungrily & gratefully ate up all the pizzas. I think each person had atleast 2 and some possibly 3 each. The mushrooms were delicious and so were the rest of the pizzas. Unfortunately – we ran out of the stuff by the time everyone else had eaten and the two of us didn’t get any and we were starving. So we ended up with just the bread bases and eggs that we cooked and ate them up. Still it was a fun experience that I remember so fondly from my teenage years.

Cloverfield

Directed by JJ Abrams Cloverfield came out in 2008 and is a first hand account, a style of movie that has become quite popular in recent years, about a monster attack in Manhattan. The film follows a group of young New Yorkers attending a going-away party on the night that a gigantic monster attacks the city. The events are shot on a handheld camera that one of the friends was using to film the party, although we also get to see some events from just before the party and even a few days before that. The movie stars Michael Stah-David, Mike Vogel, Jessica Lucas, Odette Justman, TJ Miller & Lizzy Caplan.

The film is promoted as having been found by the American military in some rubble after the attack of the monsters happens, giving off the impression as actually having happened. This is typical of a lot of movies shot on handycams or other hand-held devices. Anyways, at the party an apparent earthquake strikes the city and the party attendees rush to the check the news on the tv, which initially reports an oil tanker exploding. As another explosion in the sky shakes the group, they rush out onto the streets to join several people. Something huge comes flung from afar and as it crashes onto the street, they see that it is the head of the statue of Liberty,  damaged by what looks like giant claw marks.

A giant monstrous creature is running amok on the streets, destroying giant skyscrapers, vehicles and whoever comes into it’s path. The military is already dispatched and fighting the creature but seemingly losing the battle. The group of friends must make their way across the Brooklyn bridge along with the rest of the people but one of them is killed when the tail of the creature lashes out onto the bridge. The guy from whom the going away party was being held, tries to contact his friend with whom he had a falling out after they had sex. She is trapped and injured in her apartment building which has partially been destroyed. The remaining friends make their way over and retrieve her. Another friend is killed after she gets attacked and infected by one of the parasitical creatures, which are the size of big dogs, that fall from the larger one.

The remaining 4 meet up with groups of military soldiers who are evacuating people in helicopters. One of them presumable escapes and survives while the other three are taking off when the creature is being bombed. In a huge puff of smoke the creature suddenly jumps up and attacks the chopper which crashes killing everyone but the 3 friends. As they try to run for it, making their way to central Park, the friend who has been filming the events of the night is killed by the creature, which bites him in half. The lead pair take the camera and run under an arch for shelter as air raid sirens blare and the bombarding starts, presumably killing the creature. The two leave a last testimony on the camera as the bridge above them crumbles with debris falling on them killing them and covering the camera, from where we assume that the military found it along with their dead bodies.The film then cuts to the footage of Rob and Beth’s Coney Island date on April 27. In the distance, unnoticed by Rob and Beth, a large object falls into the ocean.

What did I think of this movie? It certainly is one of the better big budget movies that have come out in the last few years. Good job with focus away from the creature, although a lot of movie lovers have adopted the creature, nicknamed Clover, as a symbol of adoration! It is clearly a young one, so just imagine the size of it’s parents, afraid in the strange world it finds itself in and is probably scrambling for shelter when it crashes into buildings and does all that destruction. Perhaps looking for it’s mother, it then kills the humans in it’s path as we attack it with missiles, guns & bombs. The creature’s design is unique and cool looking. You will find this to be quite similar in theme to JJ Abrams’s Super 8, one of the latest movies that combines scifi & action in a similar manner. Shot well & cast well – with the sexy Jessica Lucas & Odette Yustman also providing eye-candy – but don’t you think that the latter is such a whiny character? She’s like that in the another movie I have seen her in, whiny & crying – ugh! 8 outta 10!

RIP Mario Miranda

Mario de Miranda, Goa’s & India’s premier cartoonist passed away this morning. He was 85 years old. Awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2002, and Padma Shri in 1988, two of India’s biggest civilian honours, Miranda has been a regular with The Times of India and other newspapers in Mumbai, including The Economic Times, though he got his popularity with his works published in The Illustrated Weekly of India. In a 1999 “slide show” on the work of Mario Miranda, the site says: “Nobody is better equipped to capture vignettes of Goan life than Mario Miranda.”

Goa-based editor Manohar Shetty has praised the prominent cartoonist for “his eye for detail, his skills as a draughts-man, and the total absence of malice.” Miranda’s big break came in 1974, when, at the invitation of the United States Information Services, he travelled to America, which enabled him to promote his art and interact with other cartoonists in the United States and also got a chance to work with Charles M. Schulz, the creator of Peanuts) and met Herblock, the editorial cartoonist of the Washington Post. He has held solo exhibitions in over 22 countries, including the United States, Japan, Brazil, Australia, Singapore, France, Yugoslavia, and Portugal. Miranda’s cartoons grace the walls of one of South Mumbai’s most famous hotspots, Cafe Mondegar, in Colaba.

Outside of cartooning he also did paintings & has published several books, including Laugh it Off, Goa with Love, and Germany in Wintertime.

Mario Miranda (or Mario de Miranda) (1926- 11 Dec 2011)

Mademoiselle Lounge Singer

Singing in many languages and wowing audiences & patrons at the Polo Lounge (Hyatt Regency, New Delhi) Monia Lamarche has been in India from September. She has a contract with the Hyatt. Having performed in more than 800 shows, worked on over 40 film and TV sets, and participated on over 300 fashion shows, this pop-jazz & top 40 hits chanteuse is a hit with audiences wherever she sings. Monia is a University graduate from UQAM with a Bachelor degree in Political Sciences and International Relations (classes completed in Canada, USA, and Germany) & she also graduated from ProMédia (Montreal) in Presenting for Radio and Television.

Monia started to sing in Canada, while she was studying. She has then performed in Canada, Egypt, Singapore, Morocco, Maldives, and currently in India. She sings in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese & Italian and is accompanied by a pianist & bassist. Not only that; she is one hot lady.

Being Erica – Quick Series Overview

I can’t believe that the series is almost over and I haven’t done a single blog post about it. Today will see the final episode, the series finale and only 49th episode of Being Erica a CBC produced Canadian drama-comedy series with a little element of time travel. The protagonist of the show, Erica Strange (Erin Karplunk) is this sweet & lovely Jewish woman of 32 who is single & well educated but has not been able to hold a steady job. Constantly under-achieving, she ends up getting desperate and seeks out help from a mysterious therapist Dr. Tom (Michael Riley), who has one condition to helping her – she must make a list of regrets that she has had throughout her life, regrets which she feels has led her to having an unfulfilled life. Unknown to her, Dr. Tom belongs to a small, secret group of therapists who are able to send their patients back in time to whichever point of life they want to go to. These therapists are able to fold time & space and help patients by facing the regrets face on. They can’t change too much of the past but they can learn a lot from them and so small changes which helps the patients to move on.

Erica is able to interact with people & places and get to redo her regret, and everyone from that time see her as the Erica of that point in time. For example, when she goes back to her school days, everyone sees her as a high school teen. Additional players in the series are Erica’s best friend Ethan, Judith & Jenny. Throughout the 4 seasons, Erica has relationships with Ryan, Ethan, Kai Booker & Adam who she ends up with at the end. Erica takes a job in a publishing company and although her relationship with her boss Julianne is initially antagonistic, they become close later and Erica is promoted to junior editor. However both Julianne and Erica get fired when Brent, another employee, double crosses them and this leads to the two of them starting a new publishing company called 50/50 Press.


Erica’s biggest regret is the death of her brother Leo, who died in a barn fire at their family cottage when he went in to smoke weed and the place caught fire. She goes back in time to stop that from happening and initially succeeds to the fury of Dr. Tom. He tells her that you cannot stop a death because it has consequences and she had to agree to undo it when he shows her the consequences of an altered timeline. Erica sessions also include her in going back to her see about her parents decision to divorce, her sister’s wrong choice for a husband and their consequent divorce. She also goes to see situations with her family, her friends, work and stuff. Most important is for her to learn from each situation and understand why people do certain things and make her closer with the people she loves.

Erica’s love life is often the point of discussion and is complicated by a fellow patient, Kai, who falls for her. Kai is from the future, working on a regret and is smitten by Erica, who is the love of his life. We also get to see Dr. Tom’s life – a failed engagement, a failed marriage, a daughter who he lost to drugs and the street, a suicide attempt which led him to his own therapy before he became a therapist himself. Towards the end, he rekindles his relationship with the woman  he was engaged to earlier in his life and pushed away due  to his work. He finally decides to start his life afresh with her, as all his patients have neared the end of their therapy including Erica, and the condition is that he is to sever all ties with his patients, including Erica. This is the sad ending in an otherwise happy turn of events in the finale that is to air tomorrow.

I will miss this show, which some have called Sex & The City meets Back To The Future. It’s a cool, sexy and fun show.

What’s Worse: A Noisy Or Messy Roommate?

Well I’m messy although yes I do clean up once in a while and are by no means a complete slop. It’s not like you will find animals raised in my room or mold & stuff growing around. It’s more like my room is messy, I have books and stuff lying on my bed and until I put dirty clothes for washing, they tend to lie in a pile on my floor. And dusty; some of my stuff tends to get very dusty unless I use it frequently. Nothing like that girl who Ross dates for a bit who is extremely messy, played by Rebecca Romijn.

So now back to our topic – is it tougher living with someone who is messy or someone who is noisy? Too bad I can’t have a mix of them where they aren’t too messy and not too loud either. But think about it someone who is too noisy might not be too bad unless they are some kind of religious nut who reads from some book totally ignoring the privacy of others. I lived in this lodge, Kallai Everrest Lodge, in Calicut for 1 month and one of my floormates woke up everyone around 5 am every single day by his loud chanting from the gita. The rest of us hated the sonofabitch and one morning I had to restrain myself from going to his room, grabbing the fucker by the collar, taking that book and shoving it up his arsehole!

So noisy is worse? What about messy? What is there’s shit stains on the wall and urine sprayed outside the bathroom cause he/she just could’t hold it in. I remember going to a room where the guys had a sheet with vomit on it folded and tucked under the bed! Gross and they had lots of cigarette ashes all over the floor. I became sick not long after I go there.

I really can’t say. Can’t I get someone who is cleaner and less noisier than me?

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The Last Time I Saw Someone From High School

It’s been a while since I met anyone from my school days. I haven’t been able to keep in touch with any of my friends (School ended at grade 10, age 15 and then college for 2 years of predegree as was the format at that time) since I turned 23. From age 17 till 23 I met a few of my friends on a semi-regular basis as some of them lived near me and it was easier to hang out with them. I would go to one of their houses or they would come to mine and we’d go for a movie or get some lunch or beer during the evenings. I think I last met one of my friends Binju at the wedding of a mutual non-school friend we both in 1999. Another friend, Renjish, lived quite near to my old house in Thrikkakara and we met quite often until 2003-04.

Couple of times I have had my old school mates join the same company that I worked for. In 2005 I was quite surprised to see Jesna, sitting in as a call center agent in my old office while I was a trainer in one of their other centers. I happened to come over to the main office for a meeting when I saw her and was pleasantly surprised. Jesna was a girl I would often run to in & around Marin drive for a few years after we completed 5 years of being in the same school of our school. Also in 2008 just when i got promoted, another of my school friends (I just can’t remember her name right now) joined at the entry level after spending the past 6 years raising her twins. Unfortunately she found the ever changing shift timings tough to handle, especially since she had a young family and quit in a month’s time.

Through Facebook I have been in touch with a few friends from school and while that is great, it is nothing compared to meeting them in real life. Most of them are married and have kids right now, some of them are abroad and some of them look very different from what I remember, going by pictures, and some of them have barely aged except for looking like older versions of their 15 year old selves. I just feel that we should be able to find the time and space to meet up sometime since a lot of us live in the same city.

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