Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Edge of Heaven



Life is all about coincidences isn’t it? About paths that cross or almost don’t, separated by mere whiskers of chance or often cross too late. There are ample hints of that and then some in the German born Turkish director Fatih Akin’s feature “The Edge of Heaven”. Coincidences are a valuable tool in the hands of a director, in one less accomplished they risk being trite but not so in this movie. Here an exploration of cross cultural bonds including the sameness that binds us and the differences that set us apart is done in a manner that is human, appealing, will bowl you over and yet it is done with almost an air of distance. I do not use word detachment, there isn’t any in this wonderful human drama that encompasses two nations Turkey and Germany which have many ties. Juxtaposed against the way Turkey had been rebuffed for its entry to the EU and Germany’s discomfort with its own Turkish minority this movie will feel very relevant to our times and likely stand it’s test too.

I liked that Akin does not come out for one versus the other it is likely born of his presence in dual worlds and cultures an experience a lot of us could use.

In a nutshell this film to quote the NYTime’s A.O. Scott is about..

There are six principal characters in “The Edge of Heaven”: two mothers, two daughters, a father and a son, all arranged in more or less symmetrical pairs. In the course of this extraordinary film by the German writer-director Fatih Akin (which won the best screenplay award in Cannes last year) children are lost, lost parents are never found, and generational and geographical distances grow wider.

I loved the camera work, it has done a great job of recording the myriad human emotions on the actors and also set up the moody feel that pervades this movie. I loved how it began with the camera panning across the dusty path of ground, a gas station that a car has pulled up at. Heck I thought it could be some place in Texas. But it was Turkey with the character Nejat (Baki Davrak) on his way to meet his father (as we later find out). There is a conversation here where the store attendant upon being asked by Nejat about the Turkish music playing, is told it is a local singer who “died young ..just like you”. The look that passes across Nejat’s face is it one of fear? Nejat who teaches German lit at a university in Germany is well portrayed as a guy who seems at ease in this world of two cultures. And perhaps the only time I saw a look of real joy on his face was when he walks in to a German bookstore in Istanbul. The rest of the movie we sense a wariness and a weariness to him.

The second scene is in Bremen, Germany where an older man Ali (Tuncel Kurtiz) is walking the streets in a flat cap sizing up the prostitutes along this street with its brightly painted houses. He picks Yeter (Nursel Kose) a Turkish woman working as a prostitute and after a couple of visits offers her a deal to pay her the same amount that she makes, his condition being she stay and sleep only with him. Yeter has little choice accosted as she is on the bus by a pair of Turkish men for bringing dishonor to Islam. Nejat meets Yeter at his dad Ali’s place. She has a daughter back in Turkey that she supports but has told her she works in a shoe store. Yeter meets an untimely death.. a sad accidental event at the hands of Ali, something that the viewer is forewarned with a caption at the start of that chapter of the movie.

While one might argue that letting the user know about this before hand would take away from the dramatic effect of the event, but it does not and this technique is used once again to great effect as yet another life is lost aimlessly at the hand of a child holding a weapon.

Shades of the movie babel? I was reminded of that after that scene but there is also the chronologically disordered way events unfold in the movie, some may find it confusing but I thought it served a very good purpose, it kept you thinking about what was happening.

The move shifts to Istanbul where Nejat has come with the aim of locating Yeter’s daughter, who her relatives have lost track of. Turns out Yeter’s daughter, Ayten played to great effect by Nurgul Yesilcay with her delicate looks yet an angry, forceful undercurrent has fled to Germany to escape arrest by Turkish authorities for her involvement with a radical group. Penniless and with no place to go she meets Lotte (Patrycia Ziolkowska) who is trying to find meaning in her life. She takes Ayten in to her home watched over by Susanne (Hanna Schygulla) and Ayten and Lotte become lovers. Ayten applies for asylum is denied and she is deported back to Turkey. Lotte much to the concern of her mother follows in an attempt to help Ayten. Lotte stays with Nejat as a tenant after putting up a sign at his bookstore (right above the spot with Yeter’s picture. Nejat has no recent picture of Ayten in his quest to find her and so uses her mother Yeter’s photo). The irony of this and other moments is conveyed well as being one of lost chances and near misses.

In a tragic episode Lotte dies led down the path by Ayten who sees her in prison and asks her to help retrieve something for her friends. Her grief stricken mother Suzanne arrives in Istanbul and gets in touch with Nejat with whom Lotte had boarded. They are in a way kindred souls, Suzanne is dealing with the loss of a child while Nejat bears the burden of the unsuccessful quest for Yeter’s daughter and that his father was responsible for Yeter’ death. There is this telling scene as he and Suzanne sit for dinner at an Istanbul restaurant of sumptuous Turskish dishes, and they toast.. to death. And the camera draws away to reveal the normal background noise of dinner conversations. Had they made their peace?

As Nejat goes to the seaside village where his father now estranged and deported from Germany has retired. Susanne seeks out Ayten in prison who seems pulverized by the news that she is indirectly responsible for Lotte’s death. The scenes of the grieving mother and her daughter’s girlfriend behind prison glass as Ayten tries to communicate in her broken English, the only word she seems to be able to say is sorry and ask for forgiveness which Susanne does. On release from prison Ayten returns to the book store that Nejat has left in the care of Susanne. And as they leave the store we see them pass the bulletin board without the sign with the picture of Yeter, which Nejat has removed in frustration before he last left the store.

The movie did not tie up any loose ends and I think that was ok. Life is hardly that simple. The movie did a splendid job of exploring the maps of human relationships, between father and sons, mothers and daughters and the forces that draw us close or force us apart.

Akin’s directorial skills were very obvious in some of the scenes I mentioned above, but there were many more. The scene of coffins being loaded off and on planes… Yeter’s journey back home and Lotte’s too.

There is also the scene where Ayten’s accomplices are captured and they shout out their names as the police drag them away, and the neighbors watching applaud. What are they applauding the police or the revolutionaries?

The landscapes of Turkey are well captured including the energy of Istanbul and the musical score I really loved.

I am glad I got to watch this movie, I recently also finished watching “Head-On” and can hardly wait to watch his documentary on the music scene in Istanbul.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Most Narcissitic Post!
To those of you following this blog, you know I tore an ACL in my right knee two years ago, spent a couple of months in physical therapy found that surgery was not needed and started running again.
I have been running for close to 15 years now, nothing long distance just the usual 2-3 miles 3 times a week or more or less weather permitting.
I always wondered if I could run longer regularly, but I did not try nor did I really have anything to tell me how much I was actually running, till I started using the "iMapMyRun" app on the iPhone that uses it's built in GOS functionality to tell you exactly how much I run.
This app lets me load myresults to the mapmyrun.com website where I can enter my height, weight and it tells me how many calories I burned and lets me do all the wonderful things with numers and stats. It also has routes from other runners in case I want to try out what they do.
And this app finally helped me find out if I could run farther, not sure why I needed that to know I could run longer. I suppose I liked being able to look at the app while running, it showed me distance run, time, current and average pace. And I can take screenshots!
So slowly I started increasing my distance run, thanks to the shorter hours of daylight I am only running on weekends (I cannot use a bike at home.. don't ask. I am too restless!). The Saturday is usually a shorter quicker 4 mile run and the Sunday is usually longer. So today I managed to run my longest distance yet... 7 miles! Here is a screen shot of that run.

Some of you might laugh for this is not a fast pace at all, but it is not bad for a guy who just turned 46!
I am hoping to slowly be able to up the distance, I went up from 4 to 5 to 6 and to 7 miles today.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

India's Anti-Greenspan or How India Avoided a Financial Collapse In It's Banking Sector

Woke up this morning and reluctantly (all the bad news) turned to the business section of the NYTimes, and was intrigued by this piece....
Talking Business: How India Avoided a Crisis By JOE NOCERA.
As the financial crisis and the real estate bubble here imploded I wondered how India was doing for it has been growing by leaps and bounds lately. Did they avoid this? How did they?
This article does provide some insights on this. India has been rightly critiqued for it's excessive regulatory policies (and rightly so at times) but this does appear to be a good example of perhaps what Alan Greenspan should have been doing.

Snippets from the article below...
“What has taken a number of us by surprise is the lack of adequate supervision and regulation,” Rana Kapoor was saying the other day. “This was despite the fact that Enron had happened and you passed Sarbanes-Oxley. We don’t understand it. Maybe it’s because we sit in a more controlled economy but ....” He smiled sweetly as his voice trailed off, as if to take the sting off his comments. But they stung nonetheless.
Yes because enough fools believed that the free market can correct or regulate itself. An unregulated free market was to make all of us rich!

Yet two years ago, the Indian real estate market — commercial and residential alike — was every bit as frothy as the American market. High-rises were being slapped up on spec. Housing developments were sprouting up everywhere. And there was plenty of money flowing into India, mainly from private equity and hedge funds, to fuel the commercial real estate bubble in particular. Goldman Sachs, Carlyle, Blackstone, Citibank — they were all here, throwing money at developers. So why did the Indian banks stay on the sidelines and avoid most of the pain that has been suffered by the big American banks?

Part of the reason is cultural. Indians are simply not as comfortable with credit as Americans. “A lot of Indians, when you push them, will say that if you spend more than you earn you will get in trouble,” an Indian consultant told me. “Americans spent more than they earned.”
So why did the Indian banking system not fail?
But there was also another factor, perhaps the most important of all. India had a bank regulator who was the anti-Greenspan.
Heh!
“He basically believed that if bankers were given the opportunity to sin, they would sin,” said one banker who asked not to be named because, well, there’s not much percentage in getting on the wrong side of the Reserve Bank of India. For all the bankers’ talk about their higher lending standards, the truth is that Mr. Reddy made them even more stringent during the bubble.
.....
Unlike Alan Greenspan, who didn’t believe it was his job to even point out bubbles, much less try to deflate them, Mr. Reddy saw his job as making sure Indian banks did not get too caught up in the bubble mentality. About two years ago, he started sensing that real estate, in particular, had entered bubble territory. One of the first moves he made was to ban the use of bank loans for the purchase of raw land, which was skyrocketing. Only when the developer was about to commence building could the bank get involved — and then only to make construction loans. (Guess who wound up financing the land purchases? United States private equity and hedge funds, of course!)

Then, as securitizations and derivatives gained increasing prominence in the world’s financial system, the Reserve Bank of India sharply curtailed their use in the country. When Mr. Reddy saw American banks setting up off-balance-sheet vehicles to hide debt, he essentially banned them in India. As a result, banks in India wound up holding onto the loans they made to customers. On the one hand, this meant they made fewer loans than their American counterparts because they couldn’t sell off the loans to Wall Street in securitizations. On the other hand, it meant they still had the incentive — as American banks did not — to see those loans paid back.
Did the bankers in India like it? No of course not!

Did India’s bankers stand up to applaud Mr. Reddy as he was making these moves? Of course not. They were naturally furious, just as American bankers would have been if Mr. Greenspan had been more active. Their regulator was holding them back, constraining their growth! Mr. Parekh told me that while he had been saying for some time that Indian real estate was in bubble territory, he was still unhappy with the rules imposed by Mr. Reddy. “We were critical of the central bank,” he said. “We thought these were harsh measures.”

“For a while we were wondering if we were missing out on something,” said Ms. Kochhar of Icici. Banks in the United States seemed to have come up with some magical new formula for making money: make loans that required no down payment and little in the way of verification — and post instant, short-term, profits.
And do we have something to learn from the Indian example?

As the credit crisis has spread these past months, no Indian bank has come close to failing the way so many United States and European financial institutions have. None have required the kind of emergency injections of capital that Western banks have needed. None have had the huge write-downs that were par for the course in the West. As the bubble has burst, which lenders have taken the hit? Why, the private equity and hedge fund lenders who had been so eager to finance land development. Us, in others words, rather than them. Why is that not a surprise?

When I asked Mr. Kapoor for his take on what had happened in the United States, he replied: “We recognize it as a problem of plenty. It was perpetuated by greedy bankers, whether investment bankers or commercial bankers. The greed to make money is the impression it has made here. Anytime they wanted a loan, people just dipped into their home A.T.M. It was like money was on call.”

So it was. And our regulators, unlike theirs, just stood by and let it happen. The next time we’re moving into bubble territory, perhaps we can take a page from Mr. Reddy’s book — sometimes it’s better to apply the brakes too early than too late. Or, as was the case with Mr. Greenspan, not at all.
Yes our regulators let it happen and the door was opened starting with the Clinton era and continued thru the Bush years (no surprise there). And American tax payers are left holding the bag.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Note (For the very few that still watch this space). Work is very busy, coupled with a lot of blogs being blocked at work and other professional pursuits, time to blog has truly become a premium. I miss reading the blogs I used to frequent, I will still try to read when I can, but this blog will now likely be more of a chronicle of things that strike my fancy or intrigue me or a place to vent. Talking about which... The Palin Rallies Seem To Have A Much Higher Preponderance Of Teh Stupid! From an oped by Gail Collins in the NYT link.

One woman at a Sarah Palin rally told The Times’s Robbie Brown that she was terrified that Obama was “going to push a socialist agenda” but that she was sure “Saxby Chambliss can stop him.” Now Chambliss has been a senator for six years, and his greatest achievement was getting ranked the 33rd best golfer in Washington by Golf Digest. It is highly unlikely that he could stop the president from doing anything beyond making a putt
Heh!

The Worst President Ever

No easy street for Bush once he's out of office

The process of relinquishing the most powerful job in the world isn't an easy one. Besides overseeing the construction of a presidential library and writing his memoirs, President Bush must also grapple with salvaging a legacy mired in the lowest presidential approval ratings in history.
Says the headline on CNNs web site. After the damage he inflicted upon this country I am not exactly worried that he has no easy street. Just go away already and spare us! If he cares about his legacy he can work with the Democrats and President elect Obama to get something meaningful done before he leaves office, even if it is not things he likes and is truly helpful for the country. That would do something for his "legacy", but knowing his track record, I am not holding my breath! And it is not just about him!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Viagra.. A Performance Enhancer ?.. No Not The Kind You Are Thinking Of!
By way of the NYT, New Suspect in Sports Doping Is, No Joke, Viagra

SCRANTON, Pa. — When George Downey and other lacrosse players at Marywood University volunteered to take Viagra for a study, he received a snickering nickname from his high school coach. His parents jokingly told their friends. Inquiring minds sent messages to his Facebook page.
They’re making fun of me,” Mr. Downey, 19, said good-naturedly. “Deep down, I think they’re looking for tips.”
Except that the Marywood study does not involve the bedroom, but the playing field. It is being financed by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which is investigating whether the diamond-shaped blue pills create an unfair competitive advantage in dilating an athlete’s blood vessels and unduly increasing oxygen-carrying capacity. If so, the agency could ban the drug.
I have to admit, I did not think of the possible use of Viagra to enhance the performance of athletes, given that it dilates the blood vessels and may increase the oxygen - carrying capacity of the blood.
There are interesting points in the article about how Viagra may offer an advantage not at sea level but at an altitude, it brings to mind the Tour de France.
Either ways should be interesting.. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Couch Potatoes Rejoice!!!!

By way of the gadget blog Engadget comes news that soon US TiVo users will be able to order pizzas from Domino's without moving from the comfort of their couch. link














ALVISO, CA & ANN ARBOR, MI
November 17, 2008 — TV has never tasted this good. That’s because TiVo Inc. (NASDAQ: TIVO), the creator of and a leader in television services for digital video recorders (DVRs), and Domino's Pizza, Inc. (NYSE: DPZ), the recognized world leader in pizza delivery, have teamed up to give broadband connected TiVo subscribers the ability to order pizza for delivery or pick-up, and track delivery timing, right from their TV sets using the TiVo® service. It’s a service that cooks up the perfect pizza purchasing recipe.
And if while watching your film on the home theater system and munching on Pizza ain't enough and you need the chair rumbling effects to feel your film then you can get the ButtKicker . Again by way of Engadget.


The new ButtKicker Kit is a complete, consumer-friendly, do-it-yourself product for home theater and gaming that quickly and easily transforms any type of furniture to become part of an affordable "4-D" theater, allowing viewers to literally feel sound… including movie soundtracks, concert quality audio and video game explosions, bumps and thumps. As more and more families satisfy their entertainment needs in their own homes, the ButtKicker Kit will provide an exciting tactile addition to basic setups and for home theaters already equipped with HDTV flat screens, surround sound, an Xbox and a Blu-ray player. It's not expensive, but it is a first class performance upgrade.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I Say It With Pride...

President Barack Hussein Obama!

I am glad to have voted for this man and been a part of history. This is a story that could only happen in America!

Right now I just want to enjoy this moment!
The First Results Are In..A Sign Of Things To Come?

I hope so! By way of DailyKos

From tiny Dixville Notch, New Hampshire.. link
The town, home to around 75 residents, has opened its polls shortly after midnight each Election Day since 1960, drawing national media attention for being the first place in the country to make its presidential preferences known.
The results "My Friends" ;)
2008

Obama: 15
McCain: 6

2004:

Bush 19
Kerry 7

2000:

Bush 21
Gore 5

1996:

Dole 18
Clinton 8

1992:

Bush 15
Perot 8
Clinton 2

1988:

Bush 34
Dukakis 3

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Pool
Rated: Not Rated

Runtime: 1 hr 35 mins

Genre: Dramas

Theatrical Release: Sep 5, 2008 Limited

Starring: Nana Patekar, Venkatesh Chavan, Jhangir Badshah, Ayesha Mohan

Starring: Nana Patekar, Venkatesh Chavan, Jhangir Badshah, Ayesha Mohan

Director: Chris Smith

I happened to catch this movie at the local art house cinema (TheaterN). This is a beautifully crafted, contemplative, drama about have and have-nots told in a quiet understated manner that resonates with the viewer. The story behind this movie is almost as interesting as the move itself. The director Chris Smith, made it after reading a short story about an Iowa graduate student who becomes obsessed with a local swimming pool. Prior to that Smith had been to India, where he met a hotel boy Raju, who despite his long, hard hours had the most wonderful disposition. Reading that short story Smith decided to port the short story to India. It is a self-financed movie, shot mostly with actors off the street. The hand held camera gives this movie a documentary like feel and captures local color and flavor in a way that Wes Anderson’s “Darjeeling Limited” did not, and trust me on that, having lived more than a couple of decades in India, I can tell when a movie captures the local ambience in an authentic fashion.

“The Pool” is about Venkatesh (Venkatesh Chavan) a room boy at a hotel in Panjim, Goa. A transplant in to the city, from the neighboring state of Karnataka, he earns his keep by doing multiple jobs at a hotel, mostly cleaning and room service. One of his routines is to perch himself up atop a tree near a hilltop bungalow, one that overlooks a swimming pool on that property. It is a shimmering, calm oasis in a world that Venkatesh can only aspire too but not have. The pool represents not just class and affluence but also something else. It will become a place that ties all the characters together, some bonds formed from the presence, while others from a past shrouded in sadness and tragedy.

Venkatesh has a buddy, a younger Jahangir (Jhangir Badshah), an orphan who is also illiterate and who like him works, but at a restaurant. Together on the side they have a business, selling plastic bags for shoppers in the street markets around town. Venkatesh has a strong desire to swim in that pool, and he slowly works up the courage to approach the owner of the house with the pool played by the Bollywood star Nana Patekar. A quiet, brooding father often seen sitting silently by the pool or gardening barely conversing with his teenage daughter played by Ayesha Mohan. She actually detests him. There is a back story here.. a family estrangement, a broken heart and something sad from their past. Venkatesh is hired by the father to work in the garden and the slow bond that develops between the two as they work in the garden together is worth watching. There are no big lines here just two people conversing. Nana Patekar as the stoic father is remarkable as is the chatty Venkatesh as he talks about his life and family back home and his desire to get to a better life by going to school although he is eighteen.

The development of the friendship between Venkatesh and Ayesha and Jhangir is also well handled. The girl recovering from a broken heart is in to young adult novels is initially indifferent to the two, but things change slowly despite the gulf between their statuses.

Ayesha and her dad’s stay at the bungalow is short and as the time for them to depart comes close, the father has taken a liking to Venkatesh and offers him a chance to go with him to Bombay where he will get to go to school and also work for him. Venkatesh has a tough choice to make, move farther away from home, leave behind Jahangir to whom he is like a older brother and friend for a chance at a better life. And what is the secret behind the pool which sits there unused, does Venkatesh get to use it?

You have to see the movie for this and the unexpected twist at the end.

Other things I loved about the movie..

Some great long takes, some wonderful crumbling Portuguese architecture, lush green Goa. I also loved the sounds of the street, simple things like the sound of a street sweepers broom, a busy market and shots from every day life. The scenes of Venkatesh and the father gardening are also well done and for me were a pleasure to watch including the simple act of cutting down coconuts from a tree and then breaking them open to drink the coconut water from the fruit. A act of pleasure which I can attest to having done it myself ages back, as is throwing stones at mangoes hanging from a tree to bring them down to eat, something the 3 kids in the movie indulge in as well.

There may be one critique about this movie, that despite dealing with issues of poverty and class it does so without any conflict, in the sense that there are no bad people in this movie. There is no outrage here but that may be an issue for those who do not know Indian society and how the various contradictions there exist side by side.

This is a warm, unhurried movie, and it at its heart it is also a story about giving and the joys of giving, that are revealed in layers as the movie progresses from one who has a lot in life and someone who has nothing.

If you are interested in the story behind this movie here is the podcast of an interview with the director Chris Smith. The movie also has a great website with a trailer and pictures and a lot more. The movie also won the special jury price at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

It is Banned Books Week! (Banned Books Week began on Sept. 27 and runs through Saturday, Oct. 4)


A hat tip to Cassandra_M at Delaware Liberal. I had almost forgotten that this week is Banned Books Week. From the ALA's (American Library Association) web site..
"Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year. Observed since 1982, this annual ALA event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. This year, 2008, marks BBW's 27th anniversary (September 27 through October 4). "
My love of reading and books stems from my parents, folks who hardly completed high school in India. But they knew that education and knowledge would be of help to a better life. So they encouraged me to read. We were not well off so there were hardly any books at home, but during the summer vacations our school would lend us books from it's library to read for the summer. In addition my parents also let me borrow books from a local circulating library. None of this was great shakes as literature, but it was enough to trigger my imagination of worlds and places beyond my immediate environs.
And there a love of reading was born. Time does not permit me to read as much, but I still manage.

Oh and I read the newspaper everyday since I can remember going back to my childhood and I continue to do so. That is fucking more than what that empty suit Sarah Palin can say!
Oh and did you know she asked the library how she could go about banning books while she was mayor of Wasilla? link

Back to books..
Here is a list from the ALA of the top most challenged books from 2000 - 2005.
I think this piece by Carolyn Kellogg at the L.A. Times book blog says it well.

This weekend, L.A. Times books editor David L. Ulin urged us to think about Banned Books Week as more than just a celebration of challenged books that we like. "What happens when our ideals require us to defend a piece of writing that is reprehensible, that stands against everything we stand for?" he asks, continuing:

It's easy to condemn those who would remove "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" from a library, but what about "The Turner Diaries" or "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion"? Or for that matter, "Tintin in the Congo," which Little, Brown dropped from its "Tintin" reissue series last fall after controversy arose about the book's racist overtones?

These are not just academic questions; they are the heart of the matter, regardless of where you stand on the ideological divide. How do we defend one book without defending all? Such a notion can't help but make us uneasy, but then, that's one of the most essential things books can do.

If you've made your peace with defending dangerous or even heinous speech, and if you were dubbed "a brave champion of liberty" after acing the Guardian's quiz, another front remains. For the second year in a row, the American Library Assn. is celebrating Banned Books Week in Second Life — the freedom to read needs defending, it seems, in our virtual worlds too.

As The Biden - Palin Debate Draws Closer..

Most of you are aware of the wonderful moose in the headlights moments that the GOP nominee for VP, Governor Sarah Palin has been having. Now, it is hard for me to believe that the GOP has found someone less smart than Shrub. But they did it!
Watch the interview and weep for America, for if elected, this woman will be a heartbeat away from the Presidency! To quote DelawareDem at Delaware Liberal, she makes Bush look like a founding member of Mensa!


Can you remember what newspapers and magazines you read to stay informed and learn about the world?

Well Ms. Palin cannot. Watch below.. make sure you have something soft to protect your head before you hit it against the desk out of sheer frustration.

Transcript via ThinkProgress:

COURIC: And when it comes to establishing your world view, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this — to stay informed and to understand the world?

PALIN: I’ve read most of them again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media —

COURIC: But what ones specifically? I’m curious.

PALIN: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years.

COURIC: Can you name any of them?

PALIN: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news.

Heh! She reads a vast variety of sources to get her news, cannot name them.
And you know what is more shocking? She is a journalism major!!!!!!!!!!!!
So is it a surprise that she could not name any major supreme court cases other than Roe v Wade! link

To me clearly Palin is completely out of her depth and for all purposes is ill prepared for the office she is running for, no wonder she has been hidden from the press while she gets "educated". But a part of me wonders if there is a component here, where the expectations are being set so low for the VP debate on Thursday, that if she does anything better than these interviews the idiot pundits will start calling it a victory!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Brandywine Tasting....
For almost an year I have been part of a local wine tasting club "Brandywine Tasting". The way this works is..
  • Every month members of this club get together at the house of a person/s who volunteer to host. No one does not have to cook, food can be catered or purchased.
  • Another member/s volunteers to research and present a wine.
  • All the members contribute an amount towards the expense of purchasing the wine that is being presented and the food that goes along with the wine.
This wine tasting club for me has been an extremely fun, educational experience. While I am known to drink wine regularly, I could not claim to know much about wines. Being a part of the tasting club has awakened or I should say made me more aware of my palate. It has introduced me to a wonderful group of people, and helped me sample and appreciate wines from many different parts of the world (Spain, Italy, India, Chile, France, US). And it is not like it is just wine, we have had beer and Scotch tastings as well.

The tasting club has been a success in other ways too. The inaugural tasting was covered by the community newspaper. The president of the club has been interviewed on local radio and we will be featured in the next issue of Delaware Today magazine. Not bad eh?
In addition word of the club has helped us get an occasional free wine tasting. And thanks are due to Canio and Christy for doing most of the legwork to keep this club going!
I have been to almost 8 tastings so far, I am not sure why I never blogged about any of them.
Oh well so here goes...

The last tasting I went to was organized by Rob (Thanks man, I know you read this space, and you did a great job making it all happen!) and was hosted at Deerfield Wines in Newark, Delaware. This was a first for us to have a tasting hosted at a wine shop. And not just any wine shop, this was easily amongst the nicest looking wine shops that I have been too. I think if you see the attached slide show on this post you might agree. Dean the manager, was a gracious and wonderful host and the food was Tapas catered by Ole Tapas Lounge. And our wine tasting always have excellent food and this was no exception. The collection of cheeses, meats and other appetizers was a huge hit!

But the highlight of the evening was the wine. The wines featured were from Chile, specifically from the Tamaya winery. And there was to be a surprise guest! When we arrived we found out that the surprise guest was none other that Juan Pablo Martin the vintner for Tamaya wines!!! He was in the region and altered his schedule just so that he could come and do the wine presentation for us!

What followed was a very educative evening about the wines that Tamaya winery featured, as well as an excellent presentation of how the microclimates of the Limari valley and the highlands in Northern Chile are conducive to wine making. There were 5 wines presented but the ones that really stood out for me were..

Sauvignon Blanc 2006 - Clean and light. Very easy on the palate, extreemly refreshing with acidity that struck just the right balance.

Pink Goat (Rose De Syrah) A lovely pink in color. Probably the best Rose that I have tasted so far. Very smooth on the palate.

Carmenere - 2006 - The Carmenere grape while not native to Chile is now mostly found there, and it has a very interesting history that we found out that evening. From wikipedia..

The Carménère grape has known origins in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France[11] and was also widely planted in the Graves until the vines were struck with oidium.[12] It is almost impossible to find Carménère wines in France today, as a Phylloxera plague in 1867 nearly destroyed all the vineyards of Europe, afflicting the Carménère grapevines in particular such that for many years the grape was presumed extinct.

Far from being extinct, in recent years the Carménère grape has been discovered to be thriving in several areas outside of France. In Chile, growers almost inadvertently preserved the grape variety during the last 150 years, due largely to its similarity to Merlot.
Thanks to Chile's minimal rainfall during the growing season and the protection of the country's natural boundaries, growers produced healthier crops of Carménère and there was no spread of phylloxera.

A similar situation occurred in Italy when, in 1990, the Ca' del Bosco Winery acquired what they thought was Cabernet Franc vines from a French nursery. The growers noticed that the grapes were different from the traditional Cabernet Franc both in color and taste. They also noticed that the vines ripened earlier than Cabernet Franc would have.
This was clearly the highlight of the evening. This wine turned out to be a pleasant surprise, wine had a deep red color, a wonderful aroma of spices and berries. More importantly the tannins were easy on the tastebuds and it was just a wonderful medium bodied wine that everyone loved. I am sure Carmenere's fascinating story had something to do with it, too but for me the wine itself did the trick.

In return for hosting the tasting, we were expected to buy at least a bottle of wine from the store. And it was not a surprise that pretty much everyone bought the wines that were presented that evening. Actually the Carmere sold out!! I think the store must have sold at least a 1000$ worth of wine after the presentation.

If you want to know more about Tamaya wines, here is a link.

All in all an excellent evening and time well spent I thought. There is a slide show of the evening for those of you interested, there is also a caption on each picture. Hover over the slide show to see each one and click on the little note icon on the menu at the bottom to turn on the captions for each slide, also have buttons to control the slide show.


Made with Slideshow Embed Tool

For those of you unable to view the slide show....

Juan Pablo Martin, the wine maker for Tamaya wines, Chile.


Excellent Tapas, catered by Deerfield wines from Ole' Tapas Lounge, Newark, DE. The Prosciutto and dips were yum!


Excellent Tapas, catered by Deerfield wines from Ole' Tapas Lounge, Newark, DE. -2


Some of the Tamaya wines we tasted for the evening.


Tamaya Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah - Reserve


The refreshing Sauvignon Blanc and the pleasant Rose de Syrah


Dude's having a blast!


A most excellent presentation!


Juan Pablo Martin (J P Martin) the winemaker of Tamaya wines flew down from Chile and changed his schedule so he could do a presentation for the club


Wines signed by the wine maker!


Folks completely taken by the presentation!


Wine, food, great company make for excellent conversations!


All eyes and ears!


Canio..that is a great pic man!


The food is always good at our wine tastings!


Alex Rivera, local expert in Chilean wines


Can I have some more of that please?

I would like to thank Canio for letting me use some of the pictures he took for this post. And if any of you local folks want to be a part of the Brandywine Tasting Club, send an e-mail to :
brandywinetasting at live.com. Also check out our website at http://www.brandywinetasting.com/ We always welcome new members.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Rasa Sayang.. "To Feel Love"
This is likely one of the posts that means little to anyone outside of Wilmington, Delaware. So if any of you cared enough to read and comment, I thank you for that.

Rasa Sayang.. "To Feel Love" That is the literal translation of the words. This also is the name of the Malaysian Restaurant that we stumbled upon. Located at the independence mall in Wilmington which is not really like a classic mall, but just a shopping center with a parking lot in the middle, enclosed by shops on three sides.

The original intent that day was to pick up some Indian food at the Nirvana Restaurant there. It is a generic Indian restaurant, good for a decent meal once in a while. Although their Bengali fish curry is truly good!

So as I drove in to the mall,I noticed "Rasa Sayang" a new restaurant that had just opened recently. I have had Malaysian food before in New York and Connecticut, so I kind of missed it after moving to Delaware. My impression of our state is that it is a bit provincial, but as recent experiences have suggested, there are good restaurants and one just needs to look harder I guess.




So we walked in it was not crowded as a lot of people have not heard about it being new and all. I loved the decor of the place, lots of room too!

I had a wonderful pomegranate martini, and I would try this one again!

This is their cocktail menu.



Started off with familiar appetizers "Roti Canai" (a type of flatbread found in Malaysia. It is identical to the Singaporean roti prata and a close descendant of Kerala porotta.) and "Roti Tellur" somewhat similar to Roti Canai. They are both influenced by the migration of Indians from Southern India to Malaysia.
The best part of both those dishes was the excellent dipping sauce a curry with chicken and coconut in it, that is very identical to what mom makes.



The entree was "Mee Goreng" (made with thin yellow noodles fried with onion, fried tofu, chili, vegetables, tomatoes and egg ). This dish had shrimp in it, and was easily the best part of the meal. It was spicy, tasty and truly a delight for the senses.













The other entree was "Chicken Sizzlers" Malaysian style, that was not as good as I expected. I wish they had used more spices in this one. It was rather bland.


For dessert I had "Mango Pudding". Suffice to say I won't be trying this again! But I loved the restaurant and will surely visit again to try the many dishes on there that were not familiar. Also it helps that it is a mere 10 minute drive away.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Oy Teh Stoopid It Kills Me!!!!!!!!!

It is the silly season in politics! By way of Atrios from John Cole.

Sarah Palin:

Pressed about what insights into recent Russian actions she gained by living in Alaska, Palin answered: “They’re our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.”
Krista, in the comments :
And when I look out my window I can see the moon. Doesn’t make me a fucking astronaut now, does it?
Well Krista yes, but only if you are the GOP nominee for office! IOKIYAR (It is ok if you are a republican)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Friday Word Of The Day "Gas"

There used to be a bit of a tradition here of doing something related (usually a poem) to the Friday blog word. This started with Mona's blog. So when I hit a phase where I could not blog, it sort of fell away. Not sure I can return to that again, but I will for this past Friday's word which was "Gas". I thought trying to do a poem around that word with it's scatalogical implications was too much for my meager poetry skills so I decided to do two different things. One is my alternative mode of getting to work which is not "Gas" based as in the prehistoric goo that runs our automobiles. Pic is of the train stop near my workplace.



And "Volatile" Is My Humble Nod To The Friday Word "Gas" as in something Gaseous.. Volatile. I will leave you my readers to interpret what I am talking about. :) Not that it might make any sense at all.

Volatile..

Would she always be so?
Free and volatile
A thing of beauty
Of an infinite expansion
That enveloped him
Too cosmic to comprehend
Yet leaving him begging for more

He would reach out
To touch her ethereal beauty
Asking for more than she could give
He could only gather
Bits and pieces
Just enough..
Just enough

To take one more hit ..
One more whiff of that
Which was so ephemeral
For an oblivion in her universe
Lighting him up yet again
In a fire that consumed him
Finally turning him to ashes
Scattering him to the
Howling winds of his desolation
Her name whispered across the great divide.

Monday, September 08, 2008

End Of Summer Garden Blogging

This was the first summer we tried some vegetable gardening. Having never done this before started small, a little patch in the backyard. Nothing big. Planted Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Squash, Cubanelle Peppers, Chili Peppers and Egg Plant.

Everything went smoothly, except for the fact that stuff was planted close.. a bit too close, so that the tomato vines never allowed the eggplant to quite take off. The squash got infected by some bug. But the rest turned out fine. Part of the wonderful little bounty below.



There are still some tomatoes on the the vine.


I am really looking forward to the Chili Peppers though, these will make for some fine home made Indian pickle!



I know, could have done a lot better I guess. But I am looking forward to next year, we have a lot of room for vegetable gardening and I kinda love it.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Now That My Friends Is A Smack Down I Can Believe In!!!!!!!!

California Senator Barbara Boxer, opens a can of whoopass on John McSame or McBush (take your pick), in response to that speech *yawn* by him at the RNC convention this week. By way of Daily Kos link

Last night at the Republican National Convention, John McCain used the word "fight" more than 40 times in his speech.

In the 16 years that we have served together in the Senate, I have seen John McCain fight.

I have seen him fight against raising the federal minimum wage 14 times.

I have seen him fight against making sure that women earn equal pay for equal work.

I have seen him fight against a women's right to choose so consistently that he received a zero percent vote rating from pro-choice organizations.

I have seen him fight against helping families gain access to birth control.

I have seen him fight against Social Security, even going so far as to call its current funding system "an absolute disgrace."

And I saw him fight against the new GI Bill of Rights until it became politically untenable for him to do so.

John McCain voted with President Bush 95 percent of the time in 2007 and 100 percent of the time in 2008 -- that's no maverick.

We do have two real fighters for change in this election -- their names are Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

You go Senator Boxer!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Random Thoughts

Random Thoughts
- Thought I would test blogging via e-mail on the iPhone. Not sure how
pretty it will look.
- Is it just me or is Nicholas Cage in yet another forgettable movie?
Bangkok Dangerous? Only seems dangerous to those of us willing to
plunk money down to see him!
- I am maxed out with the Matrix trilogy! I saw all of them on my 14
hour nonstop flight to India.
- Those nonstop flights are cool. Will take it over the stopover in
Europe anyday.

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, August 30, 2008

This just cracked me up!

Credit unknown, copied shamelessly from Hoffmania



Typical GOP logic, given the dearth of ideas, do they really think that just cuz McCain has a woman on the ticket (who is anti-abortion and has ethical issues) that women will vote for him?
That is pretty patronizing, but not a surprise coming from a party mostly dominated by white men who want the right to tell women what they can do with their bodies.

The above picture seems apt considering that McCain who is 72, is 23 years older than the state of Alaska(Sarah Pallin comes from there. It became a state in 1959).

Friday, August 22, 2008

For my mum and dad...

I never thought I would post while on a visit to India. The nature of this visit (to see my folks & other family, but more the former) has given me a lot of time to reflect.
It has been hard to see my parents, they are older and more frail since I last saw them. I owe being in a better place in life to their support and their sacrifice, for which I am eternally in their debt.
There have been other regrets and disappointments, much too personal to mention here.
In a sense visiting here has been coming back to my roots, but not in a cultural sense. As important as culture is it pales in comparison to some of the more simple things that make us who we are.. our relationships with our loved ones.
I have not strayed far from my folks place this time. I can see in my mom's eyes the desire to have me spend as much time at home as possible. She hinted as much when she voiced her sadness at me not having lunch at home one day or me saying no to them wanting to make me my favorite fish curry.
I have had my disagreements with my folks before , but not anymore. It must be hard for them to be on their own with their only son so far away. I am just being around them now. Dealing with a gamut of emotions.
Exploring the city of my birth will have to wait, as will experiencing the wonderful diversity of the cuisine here.
This absent son does not want to stray far this time around. Although mum can barely stand and I can no longer sample her cooking as she is too weak to cook she will in her own inimitable style instruct the woman who comes and cooks for them to ensure that the fish curry is just right.
I have had my issues with my dad, but I have made my peace with him a long time ago. He looks after mum and the house now. I can see why he told me a few weeks back that he does not have as much strength and energy as he used to.
They are not perfect, but they are remarkable people in their own right. They have each taught me some wonderful things about love, sacrifice, hard work and about being altruistic and having a big heart.
When I leave I will do so with a heavy heart, and the hope that I can come visit them again soon.
The photograph you see is taken from where they often sit by the window of their home. It is also where I see them first when they wait for me as I arrive from the airport. It also is where I will turn and look back when I leave and there will be a tear in my eye.
Thank you Aai and Baba for being you and for everything that is right in my life.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Return To Blogging?

I am not sure, things are just too busy. Oh well. Very unsettled weather here around Wilmington this Sunday morning. Lots of thunder and lightning, some hail and rain. But the worst seems to be to the South of us.
A picture of the hail from the phone camera (ya it is not the best but whatever..)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Looking Presidential

By way of Ben Smith from Politico, the picture below says it all. I will let the sign on the golf cart say it all for McSame. ;).


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Random Shots...

Snoop Dogg In A Bollywood Video? Cool Eh? Fo' Shizzle Mah Nizzle
Found this interesting tidbit, by way of the blog "icravebollywood.com". I don't particularly crave Bollywood (the Indian version of its not always illustrious counterpart here). But this got me curious so I checked out the music video, and I kinda liked it. :)
Snoop as a Sardar? :)



Video below

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Saturday Musings...

My musings have almost died down, partly a function of blogs being blocked at work, long work days and too much going on.

So inspiration strikes this Saturday morning and out comes the stuff below...

  • I want to start blogging and read at least a few blogs everyday. Lets see how that goes. I will get around the blog blocked thingy once I get me a new iphone. ;-) Not to mention be taking the train a lot more with lot of time to read what folks have to say and ofcourse read books.
Talking about reading.. started reading
  • Oil on the Brain: Adventures from the Pump to the Pipeline by Lisa Margonelli
  • Just finished the first chapter, this is a good read and seems so relevant these days with high gas prices and all. What you did not see it coming? Some people did. I am looking at 200$ a barrel at some point. Been reading the posts of Jerome a Paris for a while now on Daily Kos for a while now. He has been talking about this for a couple of years now and scary part is it is coming out to be true. He works in the energy banking sector knows what he is talking about. That link explains it way better than I could here. To those who think prices will come down .. two words "ain't happening"!
  • One of the neighbors across the street has a bumper sticker on her SUV "Nobama". Heh! Guess they ain't fans of Obama. Saw a "McCain" bumper sticker too on the SUV and the other mini-van. Guess they finally got fed up of seeing the Obama placard in our window and the sticker on the car. Sadly the neighbors are outnumbered two houses on either side of us got Obama gear on their cars. ;-)
And Rob, if you are reading this.. good time to be voting democratic you know? :)

Nice Ad (No it is not an ad for a face lift) :-)
By way of advert-eyes
















To quote Zed the author of the blog where I found this ad...

By showing some bad results from people that had plastic surgeries, they are telling us that only the creators of a product know how to fix it properly. Maybe meaning god in these examples (I don't think it means the parents) ;-) The copy reads exactly: "If it's not fixed by the one who made it, it probably won't work. Nobody knows better your Chevrolet than its creators."
Client: Chevrolet
Agency: McCann Erickson, Buenos Aires
Creative Director: Papon Ricciarelli / Chavo Demilio
Copywriter: Rodrigo Polignano
Art Director: Mariano Legname

Sunday, June 08, 2008

No Reason Post..

When I watched the trailer for the Mike Myer's movie "The Love Guru", I was cracking up. I found it hilarious.



I don't always like Bill Maher, but I will watch "Religulous"


Those McCain supporters sure look energized!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Little India restaurant: Chicken Sutra

Yes.. I kid you not! What you see below is an ad by McCann Erickson for an Indian restaurant in Geneva. By way of Scaryideas.com and copyranter



I don't know about you, but seeing an ad with headless chickens making out does not get either my digestive or any other juices flowing!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Gas Prices?

The image below by way of this post by Meteor Blades (hat tip to A. Siegel for the graphic) at Daily Kos says it all. Some people going to desperate lengths for gas...

As gas prices soar, thieves grow more brazen.

...police in Denver are investigating a rash of of incidents in which thieves drill small holes into gas tanks and siphon off the fuel. "This is clearly not the way it’s been done in the past, by taking a hose and putting it in a gas tank," police Detective John White said.

Damn!

WTF indeed, as someone pointed out oil was about $33 before this stupid war in Iraq began it is past $133 now. The war has cost at least a Trillion dollars (direct and indirect costs) and I guess the folks who said the war would be paid for with Iraqi oil money are awfully fucking quiet now.