Monday, November 21, 2016

Change at the zenith of success

There are many things to be learned from successful chefs. A few weeks ago, I wrote about Massimo Bottura making a new dish out of a mistake. Now I have come across Francis Mallmann. The documentary provided a good view of his home in a Patagonian island and cooking in the open in this beautiful landscape. It makes you long for this kind of life. Then the reality of daily humdrum of life hits you. Coming back to where we started, what is that make successful chefs full of wisdom? It may be a harder subject to follow. So I will restrict myself to his pearls of wisdom.

One of the advice from Francis Mallmann is actually a no-brainer. Tell the truth without fear. Don't we know this principle already? But Mallman also admits this is not an easy task. You gain the courage to speak the truth with careful consideration without malice as you age. All of us want to quicken this process. Don't we?  It is the second lesson which is far more important. Cooking is teamwork. So he has to rely on his team members a lot. But he also changes his team members frequently. The change is not because the team member is incompetent. He changes when they become successful and have established their comfort zone in the team. According to Mallmann, the relationship can only go downhill from this point. So it is better to change the person. Somebody else on the team will step up to fill the void.

How many of us are courageous to change the composition of a successful team? Most of are quick to change but only when the relationship starts to deteriorate. So the change happens when the relationship is sliding down the slope and when it is at its zenith. I have witnessed resistance to modifying the composition of the winning team.  On the other hand, I have also seen cases where the change was inevitable to salvage the team albeit late. But I have not noticed people shaking hands and parting when the going was good. This act requires a lot of courage. Although this sounds like a wise advice, will we be able to break the shackles of our bad habits to adopt it?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Books: The Rosie Project

In his own words, Graeme Simsion was an IT consultant. Since he is also the author of this book, Graeme has switched profession. Since I also belong to the same field, I was naturally curious to know how interesting the book is and how fortunate is Graeme's switch. For the first book, he creates Don Tillman, a genetics professor in Melbourne. He has never been able to find a partner and hence wants to use science to identify the perfect match for him. So Tillman builds an elaborate questionnaire which will help him eliminate the time wasters. As you can see, the premise is absurd and captivating on account of its absurdity.

The books rest on several key things which are familiar to us. Sometimes what we seek is closer to us than we think it is. Opposites attract. Those are many of the things which will come into our mind as we read the book. But these are just revelations. What makes us laugh all through the book is the simplicity of Tillman's thinking. He is a nice person who doesn't understand sarcasm and is very inept at social behavior. So when Graeme describes Tillman's scientific approach to matters of the heart, it accentuates the impracticability and hence provides excellent fodder for a comedy. Tillman starts with the Wife Project but it soon get diverted into the Rosie Project.

There are talks on making this book into a movie. If you believe the various tidbits on the net, Graeme intended this as a screenplay. He decided on the novel to gain popularity. If you examine, most of the plot twists are cinematic, but we overlook this factor because Tillman's reactions to these twists are explained by the author. However, if this is a movie, how will an actor translate the workings of a mind into acting? As a book, it is enthralling. But as a movie, it is a risky business. If you are looking for a light-hearted read, pick this one up.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The rise and fall of a laddu

Women. An enigma wrapped in a riddle. Or is it the other way? Before you start accusing me of becoming a poet, I didn't say it. I am paraphrasing a friend. Why is he coming out with such revelations? It started with an innocent SMS which had far deeper connotations.

Are you there?

That is how it started. My friend's heart skipped a beat when this message arrived out of nowhere from a friend. What was weirder was the sender of the message, a member of fairer sex, had drifted into his thoughts a few days before. They were talking to each other almost every day and then suddenly everything had gone cold. So the sudden message caught him off guard.

I saw someone who reminded me of you.

Another message followed immediately. This time, my friend reminisced into every minute detail of her. He could envisage her smile and all those little things that made him crazy about her. He was excited because this seems to be the beginning of a new beginning.

Remembered laddu?

He replied, no longer being able to contain himself. She had always called him a laddu. He never asked her why. He has never been called a food item by anyone. So when she first called her laddu, he quickly succumbed and let his imaginations run wild.

Yes yes. He is short and round like you. Laddu...

My friend concluded the story. Women! They raise you all the way up and drop you like a hot potato. In this case, like a hot laddu.

Photo Courtesy: Lyrical Lemongrass

Saturday, November 5, 2016

What should we share?

In the recent interview with NPR, Charlie Brooker the writer of the show "Black Mirror" articulates an interesting hypothesis. According to him, we are not black and white. We possess different characteristics. We exhibit these character traits based on the situations and the people involved in the case. Social media are making us a monochromatic organism. I have oversimplified the concept. Charlie Brooker has eloquently put forward this reasoning in his own words

Social media has made it as - you know, and the internet and technology in general has sharpened all of those things. I guess they've always been there, that performative nature of life has always been there that you sort of perform, you know, to everyone to an extent, don't you? You sort of perform your personality, I guess, to everyone on some level. It's just that I think it's more - well, my little theory is that we've got - that - I remember - my theory is that we've got - that we used to have several personalities, and now we're encouraged to have one online. So - but by which I mean I remember once having a having a birthday party - or was it a book launch? - something - anyway, a party. 
And people from different aspects of my life showed up. So there were work colleagues who showed up and there were people I'd known since, like, college who showed up and there were people I'd only just met who showed up. And I behaved differently with all of these people in the real world. But once they were all together in one space and they were all mingled in in one group, if I walked over to them, I suddenly didn't know how to speak, do you know what I mean? Because, like, with some of them I'd be - I tried to be all intellectual and erudite and with others I'd just swear and curse and be an idiot. And suddenly, when they're all in one space, I don't know who I am. 
And I kind of feel like the one sort of thing is that online you're encouraged to perform one personality for everyone. And I wonder if that's one of the things that's feeding into the kind of polarization that seems to be going on is that you're - I think that lends itself to groupthink in some way or some kind of lack of authenticity. I wonder if we're better - better equipped to deal with having slightly different

When you think deeper, aren't we wary about what we post on the social media? Sometimes we loosen up and then we end up in trouble. Consider the case of my friend who has been assigned a project which takes him to different countries in what is considered widely as an unexplored yet blessed continent. He works there for two weeks and travels back to his base. So what do you do on the weekend sandwiched between the two weeks? He explores the area. As a result, there are a lot of pictures which finds his way into the social networking sites. Very soon, a comment popped up on his stream. The author jokingly queried if he was having too much fun and too little work. In a closed room, this comment would have evoked a chuckle. Instead, the situation turned tense before it was defused.

Who is to be blamed in this case? The person who posts the pictures or the person who commented? It poses a conundrum. If you ask me, I don't have the answer. But I am all in for posting pictures. Life is too short to see all the places. When someone posts a picture, two things are happening. The first is we are happy to know that they are alive and kicking. The second we get to experience these beautiful sights with our eyes and become part of their happiness.

You may remember the old adage. Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half sorrow. But in some cases, sharing doubles the pain. Take another instance. A good friend of mine went suddenly silent on the social media. As he was very active on social media before his disappearance, the absence was very conspicuous. When I reached him, the reason for the abstinence was due to a job search. The recruiters were checking the social media for more information on the prospective employees. As a result, he wanted to go off the radar.

Photo Courtesy: Chris Jone

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Movie Review: 7 anos

When an entire movie is set in a constricted space, then the fate hangs on two things. It needs to have great performances or a shockingly evolving theme. If the above two criteria are met, then you have a sure winner at hand. If you look at one of the famous movie namely 12 angry men, it ticks both these boxes. So it remains a classic. There have been many attempts to reproduce the underlying themes ever since. If you look in the near past, then you will find Locke and also Buried which share this similar premise. The Spanish movie 7 años directed by Roger Gual one such film. The film succeeds in holding our attention although the ending is abrupt akin to a great party halted suddenly.

Vero(Juana Acosta), Marcel(Alex Brendemühl), Luis(Paco León), and Carlos(Juan Pablo Raba) are unable to come to a decision related their joint venture. As a result, the responsibility of mediation falls on the shoulders of José(Manuel Morón), an outsider. The general belief is that there is a solution as long as we communicate openly and work towards a resolution. However, are these four people able to arrive at a decision which is agreeable to all parties? We keep asking this question from the start and are eager to know the result. There is an animal lurking in all of us. We realize this aspect as the movie progresses. The discussions start off amicably before everyone loses their decorum and starts attacking each other. At this point, we are shocked by the behavior of various parties. When push comes to shove, there are no scruples.

Roger Gual progressively builds tension in us by tight shots and close-ups combined with performances. He makes us see the best and worst sides of individuals thereby forcing us to question our principles. Although a drama, this movie can also be classified as a thriller. It is an interesting watch.

Language: Spanish

Genre: Drama

Rating: ****

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Books: All the light we cannot see

It has been over seventy years since the World War II has ended. Numerous writers have devoted a lot of literary ink on this topic. So how does a novel set in this ear appeal to you? I approached it with skepticism. There were some interesting points in the beaten to death theme. The story unfolds in the walled city of Saint-Malo, a picturesque location but an unlikely setting for a novel. The main protagonists are a blind French girl and a German boy. On the outset, it looks like a love story combined with the coming of age. I was right about the latter part. Was I right about the former part, find out for yourself.

Marie-Laure grows in Paris. She loses her eyesight due to cataracts and depends on replicas made by her locksmith dad to move around the city. When the war breaks out, the father and daughter move to Saint-Malo where the girl's great-uncle lives. Werner is an orphan in the town of Zollverein in Germany. His interest in radio devices takes him to special training camps and all over Europe before Werner descends into the city of Saint-Malo. How are these two people linked?

Anthony Doerr has already the won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for this book. In this novel, Anthony Doerr explores the tragedy of conflict and war. It is in aspect the author can find the similarity to the chaotic world of today. The protagonists are victims of chances. They are children, and their belief system is developing. They are thrust into the world of conflict aiding the opposite sides. The author uses the Allied bombing of the walled city to segregate two clear timelines, lives before and after the war. During the initial part of the book, the author flips back and forth between the past of the characters and what happens in Saint-Malo during the fateful day. This technique keeps us on edge. The post-war section makes us melancholic.

At 545 pages in the Kindle edition, the number of pages is more than that of a regular book. Keep this fact in mind when picking up the book. This book details human emotions. So it is more of a book for which you have to devote time to savor it.

Photo Courtesy: Amazon

Friday, October 28, 2016

Movie Review: The Riot Club

Appearances are deceptive. When I saw the poster of this movie a year back, the tail suits worn by the lead actors, unknown faces for me,  gave an impression of a period drama. Although there were posters splashed across the city, the design did not generate any curiosity. Hence it is one of those British films which gets overshadowed by what the cousin across the Atlantic ocean has to offer. There are two things that you need to know before you even rent or stream this movie. This film is an adaptation of the play "Posh" by Laura Wade. The second is the Bullingdon Club, an exclusive unofficial all-male student dining club based in Oxford. The Riot Club is a fictionalized version of the Bullingdon Club.

The Riot Club was formed after the death of Lord Riot, a hedonist. There are ten members, selected by invitation from the existing members. The story opens up in the present time where Alistair(Sam Claflin) and Miles (Max Irons) joins Oxford. Both of them have diametrically opposite personalities, and they are inducted into the Riot Club. During the annual party of the club in a nearby country pub, things get out of control. When we come together as a group, our morals and principles become diluted. The popular belief is a group acts better than an individual. However, we have often seen the opposite. The film explores this theme as the annual party of the Riot Club shows how a group can get corrupted without any remorse. The members of the Riot Club are wealthy and belongs to the upper class. The class divide and the contempt of the less privileged are the other themes explored in the movie. Sometimes it is also dangerous to sit on the sidelines and not make your point. Miles learns it too late.

The movie has to depend on performances and not on expensive CGI. The director Lone Scherfig uses the authentic location. You cannot miss Oxford in the film. She has shot inside the colleges and also on some of the easily recognizable areas in Oxford. Even the country pub is an authentic location. Of the performance, Sam Claflin stands out because he is the bad boy of the group. After seeing him playing a cute boy in many movies, it is refreshing to see him as a manipulator. He starts as an insecure student and goes on to become a wicked man. Although the transformation is abrupt, the performance is distinctly clear.

The Riot Club honors hedonism. So you cannot watch it with the kids. However, as adults, this is a must watch because the movie is questioning us. It might be the beast in some and the weaknesses in the rest of us.

Language: English

Genre: Drama

Rating: ****
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