The World According to RGV ...

  • Where it cannot be said that for the want of a power plant, a government is lost.
  • Where a gangster movie evolves into a whodunit.
  • Where the final exposition takes so long, the audience is wishing another murder is in the offing, just to someone out of their misery.
  • Where people talk in slow-motion.
  • Where a glare replaces dialogue or dialogue consists of dubious aphorisms
  • Where characters either speak with hushed menace or scream their guts out.
  • Where time stands still and 2 hours seem like 4.
  • Where CatatoniShek announces that he murdered his brother and NeediWarya whines so what, my mommy died and my daddy doesnt loooove me.
  • Where NeediWarya looks mildly confused after a brutal murder.
  • Where CatatoniShek looks catatonic after a brutal murder
  • Where the dumb audience needs 600 shots of rioting in the streets to indicate a riot is in progress.
  • Where overacting is the norm.
  • Where a camera angle can never be vertical.
  • Where background music has to be burst-the-dumb-audience-eardrums loud.
  • Where an industrialist can hum in the middle of a conversation.
  • Where a death of a family member is not taken personally.
  • Where a glove carries on an entire conversation.
  • Where a criminal's first priority is to douse flaming trees when attacked
  • Where Mr. Bachchan presence does 99.999% of the work to ensure a movie's success.
  • Where he is a great filmmaker.
Needless to say, if you dont inhabit the above world, please spare yourself the torture of watching Sarkar Raj. A non-existent story, coupled with almost excruciating pacing and camerawork and average acting sinks the film. Only Mr. Bachchan manages to shine, but that was always to be expected. I would have written a complete review, but I'm afraid that all I can be is horribly snarky. Rating:

On a happier note, all of Saturday wasnt a total loss. I managed to make my fav 15 min dessert - chocolate pudding. Since all of us at home are on various diets, it got made with low-fat milk (instead of the original coconut), half the chocolate, double the cocoa and with orange rind and rum added to up the flavor loss. Wasnt as rich and chocolatey as the original, but the ramekins were polished off in a matter of minutes. With a lotta less guilt :)

The Inspector Lynley-Seargent Havers Mystery Series

At 700+ pages the latest Inspector Lynley mystery 'A Traitor to Memory' I read, packs a pounding-when-is-this-tripe-ending-headache-inducing wallop. I have another one waiting in the wings, and I'm not sure that I even want to try reading it. I started re-reading the series in April, it's taken me 3 months to get to the 13th book and while when I first read them I enjoyed the first few immensely (hence, the re-read to catch up with the next in the series), only the grim determination to finish what I've started has kept me reading the last few.

The series deals with a New Scotland Yard detective pair Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley, who is also the 8th Earl of Asherton, and his working class partner Seargent Barbara Havers. The pair are assisted from time to time by Constable Winston Nkata. Alongwith these recurring characters we are also introduced to and follow the lives of Lynley's childhood friend, St. James, his wife Deborah St. James, Lynley's wife Lady Helen, Barbara's neighbours Taymullah Azhar and his daughter Haddiyah and a few others.

George's mysteries are different from the traditional detective story in that we get to know the principals exceedingly better over the course of her few books rather than the You're-It-I'm-Done detectives of the drawing room mysteries. What kept me reading in the earlier books was the delightful working relationship between Lynley and Barb, who hates toffs with a passion only secondary to her passion for food and that George started delving into intense psychological issues in the newer books.

But, George's writing is bleak, and her characters inhabit an unnecessarily hopeless world. Lynley has (inadvertently) crippled St. James, was Deborah's lover and Helen was once in love with St. James. As if these werent enough complications, Lynley has additional burdens added to his handsome shoulders. The rest of the characters introduced are often as traumatised and all the emotional angst can become very weary reading. Perhaps what I hate the most about her writing is that she introduces characters, sometimes interesting, and at the end doesnt allow them ANY resolution.

I've also started disliking George's writing because of the raw treatment she gives Havers. Over the course of the books you find that Barb is refreshingly normal, outspoken, courageous, empathetic, loyal and can do more detecting with the tip of her little finger than the perfect Lynley. After reading 10 books in which every character describes her as 'dumpy', the 11th book sees Barb being described as 'pug-like'. I guess Ms. George turned the page over on her thesaurus there.

Anyway, the following is a list of her work. The first few are good reads if you want a decent mystery with interesting characters and some psychological drama, caveat emptor on the rest.

1. A Suitable Vengeance - Lynley, the eighth Earl of Asherton, has taken Deborah Cotton his fiancee to his home at Cornwall. Along with them are Simon St. James, Lady Helen, and a few other guests. A murder at the ancestral mansion, sees Lynley and St. James doing the investigating and has the potential to bring out a bevy of skeleton's in the Asherton closets. The mystery isnt all that well thought out, but this book establishes all the relationships between the principals.

2. A Great Deliverance - A farmer is found mudered with his daughter standing over him, holding an axe and saying 'I did'nt do it'. Scotland Yard detectives Lynley and Havers, forced into a partnership by their superior officer, take this on. Good mystery and Havers and Lynley come to certain understandings about each other.

3. Payment in Blood - A playwright is murdered in a mansion in Scotland. When Lynley, St. James and Havers arrive to investigate, they find that Lady Helen Clyde is among one of the guests. Entertaining, but long and Lynley makes an intimate acquaintance with a certain green-eyed monster.

4. Well-Schooled in Murder - Lynley and Havers are called on to investigate the murder of a child belonging to a British public school. This is a decent mystery, but the going gets plodding when the author starts to delve into Deborah and St. James' marital problems.

5. For the Sake of Elena - Lynley and Havers investigate the murder of a student at Cambridge. Academic secrets, deceptions and lies are brought to the fore in this well-written story.

6. Missing Joseph - The murder of an English vicar has Lynley and St. James investigating. This is one of the better, more traditional, mysteries in the series, if one is not distracted by Deborah's maudlin depression.

7. Playing for the Ashes - An interesting murder mystery involving Lynley and Havers investigating the death of an English cricketeer. The book is bogged down because George decides to use a first-person POV of an unsympathetic, uninteresting character. Too long.

8. In the Presence of the Enemy - The best mystery in the series, a politician's child is kidnapped and Scotland Yard is called in to investigate. We have all the principals involved in this sordid story of politics and the gritty world of London tabloids.

9. Deception on his Mind - Barb follows her neighbour Azhar and daughter Haddiyah to Essex, where a Pakistani immigrant is murdered and offers her help to the local police. Even though the solution to the crime is totally unbelievable and the characters have no resolution, I enjoyed this book the best and soon realised it was because the incestuous foursome were completely absent here and we get to know Barbara much better.

10. In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner - or as I like to call it The One In Which Lynley is Full Of Sh*t and Barbara comes Out Smelling of Roses. . The daughter of Lynley's former mentor is murdered in Derbyshire and Scotland Yard is asked to investigate. At the end of this one, Lynley adds a suit of armour to the load of emotional baggage he already carries, and seriously if I were him I would have turned Papaya-Slasher a long while ago. Long and contrived.

11. A Traitor to Memory - A mysterious hit-and-run and a murder 20 years old have the team of Lynley, Havers and Nkata on their toes. The weakest in the series, George uses the first-person trick and a dodgy timeline to (supposedly) add interest to a flimsy murder mystery. Long, Bleak and Boring. This Papaya had mush for brains at the end of this book.

12. A Place of Hiding - More Deb and St. James - I just cant take them anymore. Skipped it.

13. With No One as Witness - Lynley, Nkata and Havers investigate a serial killer in London. George proves she cannot write police procedurals and should stick to what she does best. Oh, and she proves that she actually hates her much-vaunted detective creation. At the end of this book, I imagine Lynley to have become like Voldie after he died but didnt die, forced to slither along in darkness, something far, far less than human .... Fans of the series, would do well to stop at the previous one.

14. Careless in Red - Reviewed here.

Reality Bytes!

You know when people get extremely mad about reality TV and how it dumbs down the population and so on and so forth, I'm usually up there quietly nodding along and agreeing with them. But, that's because I have a guilty pleasure - 2 in fact. No I dont watch Elimidate or any of those trashy shows (heh heh, of course the shows I dont watch can be labeled trashy) but I am totally totally hooked on to America's Next Top Model and the Next Food Network Star.

ANTM is one of those shows, I'm not sure why I watch really, maybe it's the host Tyra Banks attitude towards the girls who come on the show - she's motherly, friendly, direct, supportive and critical all at once. And models always have some good drama going on. And I love how they look so ordinary but with digital touch-ups etc the photos always come out looking gorgeous. Heck, they even touch up their bodies, reducing a stomach here, a jaw there. There's hope for me after all ...

The reasons I watch NFNS are completely different. I'm an avid foodie but hate cooking. The Food Network enables me to cook vicariously, in fact most of the times when I do turn on the TV it gets tuned to this channel. So, when NFNS came out, I thought what a great idea it was to enable the hundreds of talented cooks out there to have their own show, when they would never have the opportunity otherwise. I've been following it every season, and unfortunately the idea seems like a total bust. Out of the winners of the past 3 seasons, only one of them has had any longevity on the food channel. But, I dont like watching his show (wasnt supporting him either :( ).

So, I was pretty much about to give up on the show completely when this season they actually had an Indian girl on the show. Now, I've felt for a long time that ethnic food is so under-represented on the Food Network, I'd love to watch all kinds of ethnic cuisines, not just Indian, but Chinese, Thai, Ethiopian etc. which was why I was really rooting for Nipa from the start.

Well, she was eliminated this week. I'm not saying it wasnt the right decision, it looked to me like she was the one to go but I think the decisions and even the competition has been getting a bit unfair. The people who come here are often home cooks, not professional chefs, why waste time judging them on technique and whether they can cook with weird, unknown foods. It's almost like asking Rachel Ray to bake something from scratch in under 30 mins. For the record, if Nipa could make fish with grape jam taste good, she has to have some serious cooking chops - especially when she evidently did not have experience with seafood.

The first few seasons did test people on their camera readiness, cooking, recipes, personalities which is all fair since Food Network does want a likeable host to helm any new series but making them have a POV, or even testing technique, their food knowledge, making them prep their own food and judging them if they cannot seems very arbitrary. All these things can be learned after all. And once they have their own show they would definitely cook their own type of food. Because NFNS insists on a culinary POV, I'm not at all sure I want to watch any of the remaining contestants. I'm not talking about their personalities, it's just that none of them have a unique culinary POV, by unique I mean something that Food Network doesnt already have.

If it just came down to the personalities, I would love to see Lisa win. She's interesting to watch, is very creative and makes a lot of different food. Kelsey this week was especially impressive and if she continues to evolve, she could make for a good competitor. The rest have been falling to pieces in either one competition or the other. This season's screening is evidently faulty when in the first competition itself a stand-up comedian got an attack of nerves everytime she presented to people. So, either FN needs to take a look at their screening process or re-think their challenges to get the best out of the competitors. Because as past history shows the winners of the Next Food Network Star really havnt been all that.

The grass is always greener ..... in the neighbor's yard!

If it's not one thing it's another. After just about surviving the especially harsh winter this year, BigB and I were really looking forward to summer. Visions of backyard barbecues, cosy picnics by the lake, hiking or long walks dominated our thoughts. Unfortunately, spring/summer in the American Mid-West is dominated by the scariest weather feature of them all - tornadoes.

The first time the weather sirens rang in May saw me in full panic mode. I listened feverishly to all the radio programs about precautions when a tornado is imminent. Take shelter in the basement, they advised. Little problem here, we dont have a basement! Stay away from all windows, but the lowermost floor has windows in every room and so on and so forth. And it didnt help that the sirens rang even for thunderstorms. Every siren has me running around like the veritable headless chicken while all B does is take it as a sign that he has to retire to the lowermost floor, switch on the TV and ride it out. I wish I could be more laidback like him. I have to tune in to the weather channels and monitor the progress of the storm for all of the 5 mins it takes to move away. I know my mental image is of the twister-type clouds cutting a swathe through my backyard, after about 7-8 sirens this year I have calmed down somewhat but I know that the next siren will still leave me with my heart jumping into my throat. Anyways, it's almost the end of June, and that's when the tornadoes taper off ..... supposedly. But that's what they said about the snow and the cold this year and look how long that lasted.

When the snow melted away, it didnt prepare us for dealing with the state of things in the lovely home we've relocated to - the yard that is. Before moving, I protested till I was blue that yard work, mowing the lawn etc sucks. B who's entire history is filled with apartments or maalis had no clue. I had a summer of trying to mow an insiduous weed-infested lawn which ultimately did win the last battle. My lawn mower's blades broke and I spent an entire afternoon on my knees hacking away at wrist-sized dandelion stems with a pair of kitchen shears. No fond memories those.

We ended by B promising to do all the work. But summer has arrived, and besides mowing the lawn it's become apparent that there's a whole lot of other work to be done here, trimming the shrubs, planting flowers, pulling weeds. It's amazing how quickly those things can take over your plant beds. Again, between the two of us we have a pair of black thumbs. We've even managed to kill off every cactus that had the disadvantage to be brought into our home so clearly, gardening isnt our forte. But, finally the neighbour's pointed comments about yard work and when we would get to it saw us heading out to the garden store yesterday and returning with a fine lot of plants, flowers and soil.

B is always all good intentions and loads of enthusiasm. But, his idea is to make a couple of holes, throw the seeds in there and the fertilizer and rain gods will do all the rest. '.. pretty maids all in a row ...' isnt his style at all. So, I had to herd his enthusiasm into first de-weeding, then making little rows then planting according to color and type and all that. I must admit at the end of all that work yesterday we were both pretty pleased with ourselves.



We now have flower beds with larkspur, lavendar, orange cosmos, petunias, lilies, dianthus (is that even a name?) and some other plant seeds all sown in neat little rows. I even have visions of a vegetable patch and was already dreaming of plucking my own chillies and tomatoes from the backyard. Of course, that I forgot to actually buy any chilly seeds or tomato creepers is another story altogether. And I forgot to buy pots to plant them in. But there's always the next time. In the meanwhile, we'll see how long the enthusiasm lasts and how long we remember to water those plants.

But, when we moved here earlier this year, it was to prepare us for the experience for ultimately owning our own home. And I take all these experiences as things learned for the future. For instance, I now know that if I ever have to do the yard work myself, I will never have a willow tree in my backyard. While being the most beautiful tree around, it also requires the most work. Almost every day this thing will shed it's leaves and branches in the manner of one possessed and every weekend it's upto poor B to rake it all up and dispose of it. Why am I complaining? Just because ....

And the best lesson that I have learned is when we do buy, we'll look for a neighborhood with an association. The kind which will hire gardeners, or people to shovel the driveway and other things like that. B isnt all that convinced, he still (supposedly) loves doing the yard work but we'll see what kind of a toll the long summer takes ....

Iron M-eh!!!

Rating:

Now that I think about it, there is a reason that no one's picked up the Iron Man to adapt before - he's just not that interesting!! A billionaire weapons manufacturer who has a change of heart once he's at the receiving end of his big, bad toys and dons a tin suit. Where's the angst, where's the action, where's the story people??? With all the hype generated by this one at the BO, I did expect something a bit better than an average superhero movie, but .... average it is!


The success of this movie is no doubt due to the fact that it manages to push all the right buttons - a nod to current events by being set in Afghanistan, a TIC reference to pop culture (imagine all the MySpace junkies gushing at the mention), a forced romance, misplaced American jingoism and a hero with his heart (?) in the right place. And though you cannot fault the pacing or the special effects the resulting effort still seems like an amalgam of all the other superhero movies out there. Complete with a little brown kid instead of the obligatory white one with stars in his eyes, corny PJs, the admiring side-kick cum friend, the mysterious govt organisation and a Transformers-style face-off at the end. Oh, but with less action. I cant believe that Ang Lee got trounced for a splendidly artistically made Hulk and this movie which has even less action is current box office gold. And how about the supposed oh-so-smart dialogue here??!! Does anyone remember the scene between Paltrow and Downey Jr after their dance - 'That was weird. It was totally weird.' Errr ... yes, totally smart!

Robert Downey Jr. does as well as he can with a character forced to spend time making faces at the camera, Gwyneth Paltrow is just bearable, Jeff Bridges does a decent enough job as the Evil-Takeover-Guy and Terence Howard is totally forgettable. Unfortunately, the movie is too.

More fashion, less sex .....

Rating:

Someone got their books all messed up! SATC was never The Devil Wears Prada, but somewhere in the middle of an extended wedding gown fashion shoot in Sex and the City, the movie, you get the hideous inkling that this is where the movie is heading. The series always had fashion on the back-burner, all those Manolo's and Chanel's never intruding upon the story lines themselves. In the movie, fashion takes center stage, unfortunately, leaving a very hollow, soulless mess behind.

Given all the drama, conflict and time that went into the making of this movie, it was reasonable to expect something as wonderfully endearing as the show a lot of women love to love. SATC is anything but, endearing that is. Oh, watch it for a pleasant evening playing catch up with the girls, a whole lotta materialistic ogling (of designers and dudes) but dont expect sassy, witty and confident like the girls we knew all those years ago.

After all the relationship problems have been manufactured and resolved, the movie ends basically where the series ended. Life comes full circle, we are meant to see, but really, did it have to involve my wasting 2 and a half hours of that same life to find out? The movie has also altered the personalities of the women, making Carrie come out smelling of roses, if you can believe here it is she offering the sensible and mature advice to the rest of the girls. What a hoot!

Fans would be advised to stick with reruns of the TV show, and not attach too much importance to this candy floss of a movie ....

Things that make me go grrrr.....

I watched Jodhaa Akbar recently and quite liked it (heh heh suckered y'all with the title didnt I, of course I'm going to write about it). Ash looked gorgeous (nothing new here) and acted well too (this was surprising enough to share). HR is, of course, to the Mughal palace born. Anyways, it's been a long time since I actually watched a Bollywood Bollywood movie with all the attendant irritants that includes and this rant about some old-school Bwood film-making techniques just sorta took over.

1) I just hate how some directors introduce their characters. Here the camera flirts with mail-clad arms, forearms, chest, thighs, legs, nasal hair before finally showing Akbar. Why so coy Mr. Director? In these days of ADD, setting up a long, drawn-out sequence can work against you, I know I was intensely irritated. And this, right after I laughed myself silly over a Battle of Panipat with 5 extras and 2 elephants. Not the greatest start to your movie, what ??

2) What's with the Divine Light Syndrome (DLS/DL)? The Khwaja mere Khwaja sequence was the most beautiful sounding & visually appealing songs I have seen recently, until ruined at one stroke by a director's indulgence (and I'm not talking abt Jodhaa & co weeping their eyes out, tho come to think of it, what was that about? You're a Rajput princess, strive for some dignity girl!). The audiences are not fools, Mr. Director. I would have been prefectly ready to accept Akbar being moved by his spirituality to join the dancers, but you had to ruin the moment with your ham-handed visuals didnt you. And, the second DLS moment when Akbar is on his death bed was just pointless! What I cannot figure out is when you have included 2 instances, why not more? Why not have the DL thingie popping up everywhere in your movie? Like when Sujamal dies?? Or the one-on-one combat scene at the end?? Or, has Jodhaa stopped praying for them .... naughty woman! You know that mantra they keep hammering in script-writing schools everywhere 'Show, not tell', methinks this should be added & stressed in some Bwood directing canon, somewhere ....

3) If you are not Mr. Pradeep Sarkar please do NOT attempt a lovemaking scene. I could stand just about anything, 2 flowers nodding together, two elephants with their trunks entwined, anything except the 5 mins of torture this sequence was. Heck, you could have subtly depicted the consummation and then shown cute montages of their relationship after, I would have been so totally into that. But, dont have them cavorting around the room, floor, bed, window uselessly. In fact, at one point, I was surprised Akbar didnt run away thankful at his escape, tapping his forehead ala Obelix when Jodhaa randomly bursts into song. And just the inclusion of that pose, that pose spoiled what was a perfectly beautiful song for me. You know the one I'm talking about, hero standing, heroine standing in front leaning against him, both with heads thrown back, eyes closed, arms together, either stretched out on both sides or wrapped around the heroine. WTH ?? After 'I'm the King of the World' no doubt you feel an insane sort of validation, but take it from me, it's a stupid pose.

Whew! All right, I'm done! Glad I got all that out of my system ... now I can reflect on the pleasanter portions of the movie ....

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