Saturday, May 07, 2011

My addiction can kick your addiction's ass

"Do you know they remove rust with that thing?", my colleague says incredulously
"So what, at least my insides will be rust-free. Rust is not a good thing you know?", was my flippant reply.

The topic under discussion was Diet Coke which my colleague couldn't believe that I even touched. An intelligent, sensible guy like me? Drinking Diet Coke? Ugh! That was the gist of his reaction.

And this same guy doesn't count 2 beers as drinking, actually he just doesn't like to count when he's drinking. I wondered what they remove with that!

The point I am trying to make is that none of us is free from addiction, though we do have our own choices and we think that those are okay while the rest of the world has gone mad.

Now that I have given up Diet Coke and all other sources of caffeine, (mostly because of my biphasic sleep) I don't understand how people can have those big glasses of strong coffee! And I have always wondered about how can  people smoke when there is a clear warning right on the pack! Even some doctors smoke! I mean, come on!

But I still eat sugar, love ice cream and oh chocolate..mmm, don't even ask me about chocolates! I don't drink alcohol at all and try not to judge the people who do drink.

The funny thing in all this is that while we all have our sinful addictions, we don't usually give them a second thought and are very quick to judge others who are also human like us.

Reminds me of an old joke,

A political leader is delivering a speech in a college and he says: " my dear students, you must resolve to stay pure and serve your country...repeat after me, you will not drink and smoke."

Students repeat: "We don't drink and smoke."

Leader: "Repeat after me, you will not gamble."

Students: "We will not gamble."

Leader: "You will not chase girls."

Student: "We will not chase girls."

Leader: "And you will give you life for your country."

One student: "Sure why not, what's left to live for anyway."

The whole point is that we need to find a balance between an addiction-riddled life and a meaningless existence. I am sure we are smart enough to figure out a way to enjoy life without ruining it completely with our weaknesses.

Think about it, having an icecream once a weak could be something you could live with but how can you tell your teenage son to not smoke when you smoke a packet a day?

There are harmless (less harmful) alternatives available for most of the common addictions these days, caffeine-free drinks, menthol cigarettes, non-alcoholic beverages...everything is there, but somehow because it's not sinful, it doesn't taste so good. I think we are tempted not by the actual product but its allure as a guilty pleasure.

Enough lecturing, let's finish with a sher:

ए शेख न कर इस तरह रिन्दों को नसीहत 
सब नेक बनेंगे तो खता कौन करेगा?

हम तेरे मिटाने से तो मिट जायेंगे लेकिन, 
फिर तेरी अदाओं पे मिटा कौन करेगा? 

शेख is teetotaller, रिंद is a kind of bad guy, addict, नसीहत of course, means advice.
The second sher has nothing to do with addiction but is one my favourite sher and belongs to the same ghazal so why not. :) 

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Random Ghazal from my favourites

एक पल में एक सदी का मज़ा हम से पूछिए  
दो दिन की ज़िंदगी का मज़ा हम से पूछिए 

भूलें है रफ़्ता रफ़्ता उन्हें मुद्दतों में हम 
क़िस्तों मे ख़ुदकुशी का मज़ा हम से पूछिए 

आगाज़-ए-आशिक़ी का मज़ा आप जानिए
अंजाम-ए-आशिक़ी का मज़ा हम से पूछिए  

वो जान ही गये कि हमें उनसे प्यार है
आँखों की मुखबरी का मज़ा हम से पूछिए 

जलते दिलों मे जलते घरों जैसा ज़व कहाँ
सरकार रौशनी का मज़ा हम से पूछिए 

हँसने का शौक हम को भी था आप कि तरह 
हँसिए मगर हँसी का मज़ा हम से पूछिए 

हम तौबा कर के मर गए कब्ल अज़ल-ए-क़ुमार
तौहीन-ए-मैकशी का मज़ा हम से पूछिए  

Ice cream is life

I planned to write this post before but AH's post reminded me to do it now.

I have told you before I love ice cream and also shared the thought that "Life is like an ice cream, enjoy it before it melts."

But why do I say that Ice cream is life, or like's why:

  • * Ice cream doesn't have a real meaning, it's not part of a breakfast, lunch or dinner, but you can still eat it when you like. Just like life, if you go seeking its meaning you could spend centuries looking for it, yet if you want to enjoy it, it's right here, in this moment.
  • * You must enjoy the ice cream as soon as you get it, you can't keep holding it hoping to eat it later, it'll melt. Just like life, if you don't live it right now, enjoy it in this moment, it'll pass you by.
  • * It is possible to gulp down the ice cream without really tasting it. Very much like life, if you are too busy to notice it, you wouldn't really enjoy life even though you pass through it.
  • * Ice cream is full of calories. And you think life isn't? Then why do people gain more weight as they age? :)
  • * Ice cream comes in many flavours. So does life. And in both, different people have a liking for the different flavours and they claim that's the best.
  • * Ice cream and life both taste more delicious when we share them with near and dear ones.
  • * If you pay attention, each bite of ice cream tastes subtly different. Do I even need to say it? So does life, each moment is different and each moment is delicious.
  • * If you eat it too quickly, ice cream gives you a headache, so does life.
  • * Ice cream is a guilty pleasure. When done right, so is life. ;-)
  • * Ice cream must be high quality for it to be enjoyable. Quality of life is equally important. 

I rest my case.

When you comment, do share what's your favourite flavour...of ice cream. 

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Movie Review - As Good As It Gets

It's supposed to be a classic but I really hate these movies where you have been watching for a while but can't make out what the hell the movie is all about. The synopsis on IMDB says "A single mother/waitress, a misanthropic author, and a gay artist form an unlikely friendship". Based on that I'd NEVER have watched it, no matter how many academy awards it won. It won a few.

But two things made me watch it. One, it was a strong recommendation from a close friend. It's not like I trust her judgement in all films, but she is honest enough to say, "That's probably a chick flick you might not like that." so I have tried couple of her recommendations and so far they were working out, but this time... Two, it has Helen Hunt in the main lead who is one of my very favourite actresses. She's so cute and so real. I love her acting!

When you are 28 minutes into the movie and it hasn't started to make sense you start to wonder if that was the right decision to watch it. So, that's where I paused. But then, I also know a secret. I will tell you the secret and then your life will never be the same! Are you ready? Here we go. In EVERY movie... about 30 minutes in...something happens...something, that changes... everything!

After letting it stay on pause for a couple of hours I decided to give it a few more minutes.

Sure enough, the 30 minute rule worked, something happened, things started moving faster. And although I still suspect that this might be a chick flick I have to say, "Wow!" The way the plot unfolds piece by little piece, that is uncanny. No wonder it won the Best Screenplay award! I am not going to talk a lot about the actual events in the story because that would spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it. I must say though, that while each event feels like it's a small, tiny piece that has no meaning, everything moves in the same direction, every little piece contributes to the overall plot.

There is humour in the story, in the beginning when the dog pees on the floor I groaned, "Oh my god! Is it one of those?" But thankfully, it's not one of those. The humour in the movie is very good, very subtle and always embedded in drama so you laugh out loud even when there's no laugh track and there's nothing to indicate that it was comedy.

So, I laughed a few times, I felt welling up a few times and I had some "Wow!" moments. All in all, I don't regret making this choice and I would watch it again in the future. Director James L. Brooks has done an amazing job in filming it like real life, so simple, so down to earth and so professional. Outstanding job!

Performances are as expected, fantastic. All 3 lead actors won Academy awards, no surprise. Jack Nicholson, of course, has done a superlative job in the role of an obsessive-compulsive, misanthropic author. Helen Hunt as a single mother, waitress, beautiful, good-hearted girl has done a great job. Greg Kinnear has done fantastically well as a gay artist.

The only problem with this movie is that it's a very successful, well-known film, and being the kind of film it is most women would have already watched it. Had that not been the case there are a few dialogues that could be extremely useful with women. But...oh well! 

Recipe: Toasty Egg Pakode

If you tell me that I should leave sharing recipes to female bloggers I am gonna call you a sexist bastard and probably push you off a cliff, so just don't do it, ok? (Just kidding, I wouldn't push anybody off a cliff. I might poke though.) If this one goes well, I might share a couple more of my recipe ideas.

Not that this is a revolutionary recipe, but it just evolved out of my breakfast of fried egg and beans and I love it so much that I thought I'd share it with the world. The world that reads my blog, that is.

Without further ado, let's get into it.

Recipe: Toasty Egg Pakode
Cuisine: Eggitarian
Prep time: 0
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves: 1

Raw materials: 2 eggs (I use the very large variety), 30 gms. butter, 2 slices of white bread, seasonings, dips etc.

1. Melt a spoonful of butter in a non-stick pan on high heat. The 30 gms. is my guess, use about the same amount of butter as you do for frying an egg. I use the smallest hob on the stove for this.
2. Once the butter melts and the bubbles subside, turn the heat to about 40%.
3. Break an egg into the pan, making sure you don't use the centre but the rim so there's space for another egg in the pan. (And throw away the shells, ok?)
4. With a spatula poke some random holes in the egg as it starts cooking and break the yolk.
5. Now, break another egg into the same pan, keeping them both on opposite side of the pan. (Think football field.)
6. Break the yolk and poke holes in this second egg also.
7. As the first egg starts to solify and looking more white than clear, fold one corner of it over to the centre. Then the other corner. This would make it look kind of like a samosa.
Tip: If the corner you fold keeps rolling back flat, just hold it in the folded position with your spatula for a few seconds and it will stick.
8. Fold the second egg also the same way.
9. While the eggs are cooking put two slices of white bread into the toaster.
10. When the eggs get solid enough to be turned over, flip them over.
11. Toast the bread slices well to the point where they are red.
12. Butter the slices.
13. Cook the eggs well flipping them as you see fit, cook them on both sides to the point where they just start to get slightly red.
14. Take the eggs out and place one each on the buttered toast slices.
15. Sprinkle salt and ground black pepper on them as they say, "according to taste".
17. I serve them (to myself) with roasted garlic and herbs dip and a little bit of ketchup. Since I ran out of that dip, I have been using Domino's garlic and herbs dip. It works ok, if not that well.

The picture on the top shows you what they should look like. I took the picture myself the other day, so you know it's not an advertising photo.

Disclaimer: The photo has been photoshopped to make them look more delicious.

I like it because it has eggs, which are a source of protein, bread which is a source of fiber, the ketchup has vitamin C, black pepper is good throat if you have cold and good for the eyes generally. Calories, there would be some considering it's got butter and eggs but not too many.

Now, if you were reading properly, you'd ask, where are the baked beans in this? Well, that's what I was trying to get rid of, to not having to eat beans every day. And I achieved that. :)

I would be very interested to know if you try this recipe and how it turns out for you, and also if you make any tweaks or adjustments. Drop me a line.

Limitless - A good formula flick

As I say in the title it's a formula flick - the old "fountain of youth" formula. In this case the fountain is a clear pill that lets you access the whole 100% of your brain instead of the 20% you do now. I think the figures they quote in the film are wrong. There are two ways you use your brains, as a storage for memories and experiences and as a processing power. An average person uses about 10% of their brain, I use 12 and super-geniuses like Albert Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci used somewhere between 15-20%.

With that basic premise the story moves quickly and interestingly through more or less predictable plot points. I mean, the guy is a failed writer. As soon as he feels the power of the pill he will try to finish the book he's been sucking at writing, right? Then once he finishes that he will turn to the stock market to make some serious money. And then, of course, he'd be in the field of business, big mergers, changing direction of the fates of big corporations, that sort of stuff. It's common sense, and also inevitable unless you want to make your film a total crime thriller.

Director Neil Burger has kept the pace of the film quite swift and used cinematography imaginatively to show the various effects of the pill. He has mixed the business thriller part of the story with crime thriller part quite fluidly. The voice-over narration by the protagonist usually helps the audience with identifying with him and that has helped here, but I think if there's one thing where the movie lacks is that the identifying factor is not all that it could have been. In my view, that's because the story moves quite fast right from the beginning and bad things start to happen to the hero and that breaks the connection that's not yet fully established. But still, it's not a bad job.

In performances, Bradley Cooper has done very well. Abbie Cornish is adorable as Lindy. She's just so gorgeous! She has performed very well in her small role. Robert De Niro of course is a great actor and he has shown that once again. Performance-wise, I love the last scene where Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro come face to face and the performance levels go sky high there.

That's my favourite part of the movie as well, the climax. It's not too long and not too short, it ends on a positive note and leaves the audience with a good feeling.

There's a lack of humour in the film. Burger has kept it fast-paced, serious action with merely an opportunity for a smile here or there. The dialogue is quite witty and incisive but it's not funny.

Some of the plot twists are unpredictable and they make the story more interesting and you find yourself nodding, thinking, "Yes, that makes sense." Those "aha!" moments are where a great script differs from a run-of-the-mill crap.

Overall, a good film, worth watching. Not only for the action but the thought-provoking factor as well. What would YOU do if you had access to 100% of your brain? I like it also because it inspires me to do more with my brain, to achieve more in my life, even without the benefit of the clear pill. 

Monday, May 02, 2011

Battle: Los Angeles - Bad remake of ID4

"Bartender, I want an action film, something with lots of guns and planes and stuff."
"One alien invasion movie coming up!"

That's how director Jonathan Liebesman seems to have come up with this film Battle: Los Angeles. I had two reasons to watch this film, one I like formula films when they are well-directed. Two, I like the actor Aaron Eckhart since his film, "Thank You For Smoking" that was quite a challenging role he played and he did it very well.

Well, the movie let me down on both counts. It's professionally directed, but not well-directed. And Aaron has a typecast role which he carries off well but there's no challenge in it.

I believe that the story of a 2 hour film should not be so simple that it can be described in one sentence and this one can be. Here's my one-sentence summary of it - "A team of US Marines is sent to extract some civilians from an LA police station after aliens invade Earth in order to colonize it to take over her resources."

There are the usual character flaws and the plot twists, nothing special there. Actually, Jonathan has made a purely formula film and he has not taken full advantage of the formula even. One important ingredient missing was the "suits". You know when they zoom in on the pentagon then cut to the big board table, with all the big players watching things on screen...the secretary of state, the defence secretary, the president, and one general who has worked with the hero in the past. That creates a totally different kind of tension than the one where bullets are flying and bombs are blasting.

This director has replaced that with the news to appraise us, and the core team, of the progress of events. This has made the film quite one-dimensional and it feels like you are watching a video game. Actually video games these days have more involved plot lines than this.

Another bet he has missed is when it is reported that the aliens are powered by our water, but he makes no use of it to thwart them. The end of the film is quite inconclusive. There is no real sense of accomplishment, no end of the war kind of situation, where you finally exhale and say, good job, lads. Just a continuation of the fight done in a very lacklustre way and it sucks.

Even a bad movie has at least a few redeeming scenes and this movie has one. When Aaron rappels down from a chopper and his team joins him even though he told them to carry on, that's a good scene. Very brief, but good. But I wouldn't watch this movie again for that.

And I was reminded throughout of how this was a remake of Independence Day, and not a good one. Hence the title.

In a couple of places, I found myself second-guessing the director. For example in one place, the heroine (such as she is) makes a joke about doing a post-mortem on an alien body but the camera handling, or more likely the editing, kills the joke. I'd have done it differently.

In one shot, I could sense the presence of the crane camera and felt like I was watching the shooting rather than an actual scene from a film. I'd blame that on soundtrack and background score.

In a couple of places the background score is not suitable, but mostly it's fine for a formula film.

Conclusion: Overall, it's a film that you can easily miss, without losing anything, but if you get roped into watching it, you'd survive. 

Lock, Stock and Hera Pheri?

Sometimes I feel like grabbing some of the Bollywood people by the collar and giving them a good beating. I am not usually a violent man, but they do try my good nature.

This latest rant is the result of just having watched "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels". I realized that I might have liked the film if I hadn't already watched it before. in Hindi, as Phir Hera Pheri. Director Neeraj Vora (who has also taken credit as Writer, ha!) has lifted the plot right out of LS&2SM shamelessly and just added slapstick comedy to make it funny. Deplorable, despicable, dreadful!

Had it not been for having watched Phir Hera Pheri I think "Lock, Stock.." is a good film, quite professionally made, though it might not be my cup of tea. I like action films, but I don't usually like British style of comedy.

More reviews later. Proper reviews, not rants. 

Biphasic sleep log - Day 100 - 30th April

It's ironic how this the 100th day of my biphasic sleep pattern wasn't really biphasic except that I slept ttwice.

Because of the whole tiredness, shoulders aching thing I decided to take an early and long nap. So I went to bed at 1430 and didn't set an alarm. So, woke up 1623 on my own. And felt very, very rested. It was amazing. Like 100%+ energy levels.

This reminded me that even on biphasic, I should do a reset once in a while when I take unlimited sleep with no alarm. Once in a while it's good, and despite the idea people get from my biphasic experiments and all this, I do love sleep. It's great! I just want better sleep and more waking time also. I guess, I am just greedy!

In the afternoon and evening I felt quite energetic, but took it easy for the shoulders. And that was fine too. But at about 2330 started feeling sleepy quite suddenly. I think it was more my schedule than any actual tiredness.

Went to bed at 0015 with alarm set for 0500, but also with the understanding that I might sleep longer. Felt asleep quite quickly. Woke up at 0500 and turned the alarm off. Then thought about the shoulders and the fact that even after I woke up I would probably just rest to let my recover from overwork. So why not use sleep for that? So, went back to sleep.

Woke up at 0716. Again, very, very rested, body felt fine including the shoulders.

And that's the 100th day done.

I am sure going to miss writing this log, but as I have said before it serves no purpose any more and the time I save maybe used in other things like a proper blog post.

I'll probably do a summary a few days later and I might add some periodic logs but not more than once a week, just to keep the experiment updated and provide data for the future generations. :)

There's one variation of polyphasic that I haven't tried yet and that's 6hours naps, each one 30 minutes. I think it's called Dymaxion pattern. I might try that soon. :D

Since I am closing this log today, I will reiterate the conclusion once for easy access.
Conclusion: Biphasic sleep pattern works like magic. It delivers on all its promises, more efficient sleeping, better quality of sleep, more energy in the waking hours, short falling asleep time, quick entry into REM, long vivid dreams, good health, good appetite, no effect on weight, abundance of creative energy, increase in productivity.
I have no intention of going back to monphasic sleep in the foreseeable future.

End of Captain's Log, Stardate 30th April 2011.

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