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Spring has finally arrived and I have taken upon myself to civilize a few Americans by teaching them the gentlemanly game of cricket.

The first two days as expected have been a complete disaster not in the least because of the wet weather but Americans consider anything given in their hand as weapons of mass destruction and continue to wield the cricket bat as one. They kept hitting in the air despite my Gandhian plea to stop this violence and keep the ball on the ground.

After miraculously missing the parked but trembling cars in the parking lot, Mr. Beefy(ex softball player) smacked a ball high up in the air which went and landed straight on the roof of the patrolling security guard's car. I thought that was it, game busted before it even started. A remorseless Mr. Beefy stood chewing an imaginary gum happy with his exploits and I hoped, ready to face the music. The guard got out of the car and walked purposefully towards us with a look of menace that only the great Viv Richards could afford to give to bowlers in his time.
'Give me the bat,' he said in a tone which left no scope for protest. I was already resigned to the fact that my bat was going to get confiscated just like it used to happen at school. Beefy promptly handed the bat over to the guard who walked with it towards our makeshift stumps.
'Who is the best bowler among you, give it your best shot,' he ordered
'Huh,' I said
'What's the matter kid, haven't got any balls?' he mocked
'Most certainly," I said as I jumped with elation

Turns out the security guard was Guyanese who informed us that the after his mother, the only love of his life was cricket. So there it was, I have put in motion some way to knock some sense in the American heads as to what is called a sport.

BANG!! Shit, as I write this, Mr. Security Guard has compromised the security by whacking the streetlight which has stopped functioning. Hope the fun continues, follow the post labels for more events.
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The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
*ing Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman
Director : Frank Darabont

“They send you here for life, and that's exactly what they take….. the part that counts, anyway.”

This famous dialogue forms the basis of this prison drama showing the lives of convicts especially two of them Andy(Tim Robbins) and Red(Morgan Freeman).

Andy is a wealthy banker sentenced to the Shawshank jail for life on charges of murdering his wife and her lover. On arrival, he remains quiet and doesn’t interact much with other inmates. But one day while tarring the roof, thorugh a good deed he wins the friendship and respect of fellow prisoners. I won’t give away anything else as you have to see for yourself the different characters and their thoughts, motives and actions.

The movie is set in the 1940s and spans twenty years in the lives of the main characters. Since this movie is more character based, one feels that the story does veer off at certain points in the narrative but that is just part of the appeal. With long panned shots of the prison from top the director creates an atmospheric impact where the tall and massive walls and turrets of the penitentiary play their own part in creating a claustrophobic environment. The background music as with most Hollywood movies is captivating and draws and moves us into the lives of these men. The dialogues are some of the most quotable in Hollywood film history.

Coming to performances, Tim Robbins is excellent as the wrongly victimized banker. I don’t even know the other cast but all from the prison warden to the old “institutionalized” prisoner perform remarkably. And then there is the narrator in all this, Morgan Freeman who is simply mind blowing as Andy’s best friend and the man who is “known to locate a few things from time to time. ”

In 1994 this movie received a lukewarm response and also lost out to Forrest Gump in the Oscar race. However this movie is recommended for every DVD collection. It has become my all time favorite. Watch it because it is a poignant, poetic, aesthetic, and moving portrayal of human emotions like hope, survival and above all redemption. Don’t miss it. I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes.

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies”
“Get busy living, or get busy dying.”
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Casablanca(1942)
*ing Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains
Director : Michael Curtiz

Voted as the greatest American romance by AFI, I decided to watch this film only because I had never seen a Humphrey Bogart film before. And I am also not a big fan of movies made before the 1950s.

Casablanca is set ….well in Casablanca, a French Protectorate where people escaping from wartime Europe have to seek refuge before they can board the plane to America. The largest source of entertainment in town is Ric’s café, an establishment run by one Richard Blaine, a cynical lone wolf, played by Humphrey Bogart. Things just drift until one day, Ric’s old flame Ilsa(Ingrid Bergman) turns up at the café with a lover and things start to move from there.

There are two kinds of love stories, one which get cheesy and too mushy with dialogues and then there is Casablanca with just the right amount of emotion capturing the subtle nuances of romantic affection. Even its sub plots and other characters are so good that you really start feeling that you are living in this Moroccan coastal town.

This movie has some of the most razor sharp dialogues, I have ever heard along with the movie I am going to review next and ofcourse Guy Ritchie and Tarantino movies. Coming to performances, Humphrey Bogart really packs a punch ironically with a laidback style of dialogue delivery. Ingrid Bergman looks stunning and performs admirably. Out of the supporting cast, Claude Rains just stands tall over everyone else with a charismatic depiction of the amiable French captain Renault.

Once again, technically for a 1942 film even though it is B&W, the music and photography is slick. Winner of three academy awards for Best Picture, Best writing and Best Director, Casablanca touches on many themes like greed, selfishness, love and redemption. In a nutshell Casablanca remains a real classic which should be watched by everyone.
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This is the first part of three movie reviews I am going to put up and they concern 3 absolute classics

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
*ing Peter o'Toole, Alec Guinness, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn
Director : David Lean

I had heard of this movie for a long time and even asked my dad on a couple of occasions if he had seen it. But he had said it was a boring movie and he did not like it so much. But the movie buff that I am, I did not take his word and luckily spotted a discounted DVD of this film at Best Buy.

What I saw was an absolute spectacle. This movie, directed by that great British director, David Lean is breathtaking in scale and scope ranging from its wide angle cinematography to its enchanting background music. Technically, the film is just plain fantastic for 1962. Coming to the story, it talks about the life of Lt. T.E. Lawrence a real-life lieutenant assigned to Arabia to assist a Prince and evaluate the Arab’s chances to revolt against the Turks. But instead of assessing, he takes matters into his own hands, and organizes an Arab army to fight against their oppressors. Slowly he unites all warring factions and illiterate Arab tribes into one potent fighting force. It talks about his conflicted loyalties between his motherland and being the leader of the Arabs.

In short the movie is an autobiographical account from T.E Lawrence’s writings. It runs over 3 hours and as with most autobiographical movies, things move slow, certain scenes play on the viewer’s patience and make the proceedings boring. But there is enough brilliance in the scenes to not let take your eyes off from it. Peter O’Toole in his first major role does an okayish job. I wished they had selected a much more powerful actor but O’Toole it seems, looked remarkably similar to the real Lawrence. Supporting cast includes Alec Guinness, Omar Sharif and Anthony Quinn out of which Quinn is just amazing as Auda Abu Tayi, the leader of the tribe.

The mesmerizing locales capturing the harsh landscape of the Middle East, the stupendous music, the fantastic script are all reason enough to watch this classic. But top of all is the character study of an enigmatic personality whose only message was that with unity even the stiffest challenges can be overcome.

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‘Por qué estás tan enojado? Por qué estás de mal humor?’ asks Jose a man who runs a pizza shop on 45th Street NY. His question is addressed to a man with an apron and holding a mop ‘Qué decir? Se trata de la recession.’ The bespectacled man replies with an air of resignation   

If you are wondering what is happening then the translation goes like this. Jose asks the man, a sweeper and a cleaner, what’s with the bad mood and the man answers, what to say, it is the recession.   The recession, the recession, the recession, does everyone have to blame everything on the economic crisis? I mean have people stopped littering on the street to affect this guy? Going by the trash on the streets of Manhattan, I would have to say these people would stay in business perennially.   

Wealth may or may not grow, mergers may or may not happen, bridges and railways may or may not be built but what will grow is ….hair. Yes gentlemen and oh yes ladies too, I have come up with a foolproof method in these torrid times. Open a barber shop. Only hair possesses this uncanny knack of increasing in length on head, face and all other parts you won’t expect and would also raise an occasional objection as to why it is there? 

I will state this doesn’t work for me though. It is nature’s darned subterfuge with the male evolution that the protein filament on our head refuses to rise after an age.  From the time I have come to the US, my hair have been falling like leaves in the autumn season but unlike the trees who bloom during spring, mine are like the rain in Cherrapunji, it just keeps on falling. And I don’t know where to point a finger …..recession perhaps? 

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Last week we had a meeting about plant updates about our largest plant at Welcome, NC. It included talking about all those terms we had heard in school days, quality control, six sigma etc. Then the boss moved on to machines speaking about the latest ones they plan to acquire or had already done so. Once again we went through the usual but one particular one caught my attention, which uptil then, had been unblinkingly focused on the large tray of donuts, bagels and muffins that the sweet cafeteria lady had wheeled in.

My boss was worried about increasing capacity and efficiency on the floor, I was more concerned about my colleagues decreasing capacity on the tray. That’s when he mentioned robotic welder. Now, anyone who has done engineering school in the disciplines of metallurgy and similar fields, would know how difficult it is to get a tidy weld the first time. I had tried my hand at both welding and soldering electronic components to printed circuit boards. The end result looked like somebody had thrusted a spanner in MF Hussain’s hand and had told him to fix his car assuming it was Madhuri Dixit. Needless to say the circuit board had fat blobs of metal all over the place. The lab technician ran after me with his high voltage stun gun(wonder why he keeps that) threatening to solder me to the wall to which I replied that I had a high melting temperature so was not good soldering material.

What I am getting at, can you imagine the amount of precision these monstrous things called robotic welders would require. I would go wow, just look at how far technology has reached. We can be assured of more consistent welds, higher speeds and productivity and obviously that leads to lower costs. But then what about “us”? Sure you need a CNC operator but…..

‘One robotic welder will replace four welders’ the Boss said, even as from the corner of my eye I saw Mr. Kenny replacing the pastry on the tray with an empty space. Are we really making ourselves redundant that one morning we wake up and see that there is no reason for us to get out of bed except to grab food ? Hmmm…