An Evening of Sufi Rock

I had the amazing opportunity yesterday to not only be around my wonderful family to celebrate my Grandmother’s 80th Birthday, witness the posthumous launch of my Grandfather Praxy Fernandes’ book “Of Vanities and Profanities” as well as take another shot at some gig photography – something I haven’t tried my hand at in a while.

It was an amazing night of music with performances by Agam, well-known Indian fusion band which had a celebrated involvement in the second season of Coke Studio at MTV. The band performed with wonderful Sufi siren Zila Khan, daughter of the legendary sitar maestro Ustad Vilayat Khan. The combination of Agam’s dual sound with Zila’s beautiful melodies was simply masterful and I think I managed to get some decent shots out of it.

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(Un)familiar

What is this place most unfamiliar?
These four walls within which I find myself
Why does it bring back memories
Of a life belonging to someone else?

Is that where I would sit
And think of what once was
Is that where I once laid my head
And stole moments with lovers long-lost

Are those my books lying scattered
In the corner on the floor?
Are those my painful memories
Locked in the trunk by the door?

Why does my heart resist
To let in what loudly knocks?
Why does it build these walls?
Why does it place these locks?

Why does this land feel so alien?
It feels no longer mine
I thought home would be home for always
Home where the sun always shined

Is this madness or ennui?
Am I stolen from my past?
Or has the being so far changed
That what was long gone is gone at last

I feel uneasy in this shell
Of the man that was left behind
It no longer fits that well
It constricts and it binds

What is this face most familiar?
In the mirror at me it stares
I remember those eyes
I remember those wares

This is a man I knew long ago
In these walls he did reside
His memories still linger here
In the shadows he still hides

When I left long ago
It seems some bridges were burned
What is this place most familiar?
And can I ever return?

Movie Review – Man of Steel

*** WARNING: CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS ***

There’s always pressure on a reboot to perform, especially when its a second attempt, so I was genuinely happy to see the brilliant job done with the new Man of Steel after the 2006 attempt (Superman Returns) failed to live up to the hype.

Right off the bat one has to notice that unlike Superman movies of the past, this one takes a lot less for granted. There is an extensive look at the back story, as opposed to the normal 5 minutes of a spaceship in a barn, a blanket with an ‘S’ on it and then Brando’s “Kal-El, you are my son”. We really get to go into the death of Krypton and the reason for Kal-El’s presence on earth. There is also a significant amount of time given to character development, albeit through the generally hackney tool of flashbacks (though they were blended quite well here). It shows you glimpses into his childhood – dealing with the responsibility of having superpowers and deciding to hide them because the world was not ready for him.

But Supes wasn’t the only one. I was also quite pleased with the treatment of Zod, our main antagonist. Unlike the prior incarnation, where he was simply a egomaniacal baddie, this new vision saw him as a driven soldier, bred and created for the sole purpose of ensuring Krypton’s survival, even at the cost of the human race – which puts him at odds with Kal-El who comes to the decision that “Krypton had its chance”. At the same time though, you can see that this is not a decision made lightly, and his hand is forced by the opposing forces of the surviving Kryptonians and the human armies, neither willing to share, as Jor-El envisioned. The friend that I watched the movie with was rather disappointed with the choice of Zod for the villain, but I beg to differ. I think for the story that they were trying to tell – Superman’s origin and reconciliation of his two identities and final acceptance of Earth as his true home – Zod was the obvious choice.

But character development doesn’t mean they skimped on the action – not at all! The fight scenes are rather brilliant. And thankfully they are quite watchable, as opposed to the Transformers/Iron Man trend of everything moving so fast you can barely tell what’s happening. It’s always cool to see super-beings go up against each other and Zod second in command, Faora-Ul was particularly bad-ass! I wonder though if the next movie will address the issue of collateral damage – its something superhero movies don’t usually touch on – who pays when a fight Superman levels half of Metropolis

Shout out to the brilliant casting for this flic. Russell Crowe kind of stole the show most of the time with his wise yet bad-ass Jor-El. While no one could ever really replace Brando in his iconic portrayal, Crowe has definitely reset the bar high. Similar props for Henry Cavill. Christopher Reeves, the real life Superman, has been a role that no one has been able to touch in decades so its a real testament to Cavill that he absolutely nails it! He’s broody, yet good-old-american boy, with a little angst and turmoil thrown in – perfect Superman recipe. And lets not forget Michael Shannon, the man who done an impeccable job in the role of Zod – I actually felt for the guy – that’s saying something for a super-villain!

While I thought this movie was quite awesome, I will point out that there are some things that purists will probably take issue with.

  • Lois Lane’s hair – While strictly speaking she’s still a brunette (I think – the 3D glasses made the screen really dark!) she doesn’t have the classic jet black, but rather Amy Adams’ almost redhead locks.
  • Perry White, Editor-in-chief of The Daily Planet isn’t white – The role went to Laurence Fishburne, who I think, for the 5 seconds of screen time that he had, did a great job.
  • No Jimmy Olsen?!
  • Jonathan Kent dies! (Rather dramatically too might I add) – In teaching his son yet another lesson, Jonathan Kent sacrifices himself to protect his son’s identity, knowing that the world has not ready for his powers, or perhaps it was his son that was not ready? Disappointing – I really like Kevin Costner
  • The suit – Now in our classic Superman its mama Kent that makes him the suit, using the blanket he was wrapped in as a child (thus the ‘S’/Kryptonian symbol for the house of El) – But here it’s presented to him by Jor-El (more correctly a computer program emulating him) as some form of battle-suit?
  • No spit-curl – Oh but how will Clark Kent’s brilliant disguise work now?

Personally, I don’t think any of these changes affects the movie at all. But you know how we Geeks are, we fill find a reason to complain ; p

All in all, while I’m not going to get in line right away to watch it a second time like I did for Dark Knight, I definitely think its merits a second watch. And a word of advice – watch in 2D if you can – there’s nothing in this movie that makes it a must watch in 3D so enjoy a cheaper ticket and more comfortable watch instead.

EASTER EGG – Let’s see if you can spot this one – during one of the fight scenes Superman gets thrown into a sign at a construction site that says “160 DAYS SINCE LAST ACCIDENT” (or something like that)  and the 1 and 6 get knocked off as he collides with it so that, for a fraction of a second, the sign says 0 days instead – I only barely caught this one. My friend did not, which is why he was wondering why I started chuckling in the middle of a fight scene.

Spanish Escape

I just had the most wonderful long weekend in beautiful Madrid – What a great last hurrah before I fly back home to India in 2 days!

The pretence of the actual trip was to attend a one day conference on Intellectual Property organised by the Universidad Autonoma Madrid and Queen Mary University of London, which was great because it meant most of my fellow IP-ers were there in Madrid with me. We went to represent QM and have discussions around the challenges to Intellectual Property in the European Union – we got 3 days full of good food, wine and beautiful architecture in the bargain.

Despite the fact that it’s not a particularly big city, Madrid really does have a lot to see and do! I dare say that even with 2-3 days full of walking around (and lots of clicking with my D80) I still left with many things I missed out on. Well I suppose one should always leave oneself with an excuse to come back : )

My favourite part, hands down, was the first day when we took a super long walk through and around Parque de el Retiro, particularly because that was the one day where we got uninterrupted sun. The beautiful weather just made walking around the beautiful green surroundings all the more wonderful. By the end of the day, though my feet were worn and my legs heavy, my soul was rejuvenated and my heart light. The pace of life in Madrid seems so much more relaxed and spirited than London. If you visit I recommend you definitely go by the Palacio de Cristal (Crystal Palace) – the name is a bit deceptive (it’s basically looks a large solarium) – but the surroundings are beautiful. There is large pond out front with a tall fountain, many critters and crawlers to look out for and even a small grotto some of you couples may want to sneak into ; ) and you can end your tour of the park with a visit to the Rose Garden, which has dozens of different species of roses (as well as other flowers I believe) and sit awhile just taking in the exquisite aromas. We also stumbled into the Palacio de Valazquez which is used by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia to host exhibitions. During our visit they were hosting  an exhibition of conceptual art by Cildo Meireles. I must say, I really did not get most of his work. Though some pieces did have intriguing designs and thought-provoking themes, most seemed rather mundane or banal, but therein lies the beauty of art I suppose – let each see in it what he will.

For dinner on the second day we made out way to the Taberna les Lucio in the area known as La Latina. This definitely seems to one of the better areas to come to find a nice place to eat or have a night out. It was unbelievably packed and we had to wait some 35 minutes by the bar before we managed a place, but it was totally worth it. The food was light yet very rich and fulfilling and when we split the bill it wasn’t nearly as dear as I feared. I can see why Sean Connery, Sigourney Weaver and Bruce Springsteen all came to eat here.

Another place you absolutely must see while you’re there is Plaza Mayor. It is a magnificent late square framed internally by cafes where you can sit in the sun and enjoy some refreshing sangria and tapas. I recommend Cafeteria Christina – the staff was super friendly and he sangria was amazing! Or if you prefer you can pop nearby to the Market de San Miguel where there are dozens of food stalls that serve authentic local cuisine as well ones where you can pick up some ham or cheese for the road. It’s quite tight considering how popular it is and there isn’t really space to sit, so I recommend a quick bite and walk through rather than an extended chill session.

Finally, if you’re an art lover you should definitely pop down to the Museu Nacional de Prado. It is located near the Banco de Espana (Bank of Spain) and is one of the largest museums in Europe. And indeed it is massive! We roamed the halls for a full two hours and I we barely covered the rooms dedicated to some 2-3 artists! There are discounted entries for students under the age if 25, but if you feel like you don’t want to spend too much time in there anyway you can go for free from 6-8 pm. Like I mentioned, I am not super into art, and I am definitely not educated in the field, so I let my friends lead the way throughout. The artists they seemed to be particularly drawn to, and who the Museum seemed to have dedicated several rooms to was Francisco Goya. He definitely was quite diverse, but I think I was drawn to his “Black Paintings” the most. This series of works had some very dark and evocative themes – each painting seemed to portray feelings of dread, fear and rage. I’m not sure what happened in his life to summon this phase of his contribution to the art world, but it definitely led to some powerful images being put to canvas.

The one other artist I suggest you check out if you’re there is El Greco though my friend found his works to be lacking diversity, I found them to be quite inspiring, in fact when I walked into the room and saw the first piece I actually said “WOW” out loud. The work was titled “The Adoration of the Shephards” and indeed was aptly titled. His use if vivid colors within a pool of darkness built a beautiful contrast and there seemed to be almost a divine light from the baby Jesus in the middle of the painting, I genuinely thought at first that it was a result of the museum’s lighting!

All in all I am quite sad to have left Madrid so soon – there was so much to do and it is far less expensive than many other European cities. I could have quite easily stayed another few days, but sadly real life was calling. Some of my friend have commented that Barcelona is nicer – a question I look forward to settling for myself later his year when I take my 3 week trip around Europe with my best friend, till then let it be my favourite city in Spain : )

Sunny Sunday Stroll

What better way to spend a beautiful day like today than walking around London basking in the sun! So that’s what my friend and I decided to do. We began our journey at the Soho Flea Market where we briefly enjoyed a performance by duo Lilygreen and Maguire (who were quite wonderful) before getting some tasty milkshakes at Ed’s Diner. From there we meandered about Trafalgar Square, walked up to Buckingham Palace (which is a lot smaller than I remember!) and then walked through beautiful Green Park. I managed to get some nice shots so I thought I’d share them before I lie down for a nice lazy sunday siesta : )

Pour One Out

The events of that evening have been often spoken about in hushed tones and whispers. No one knows what really happened mind you. Well, almost no one. Those who swear that they were there, that they saw it with their own eyes, are, I am afraid to say, liars and gossips.

At 12 PM on Sunday the 1st of September Lord Lindsey Lionel Pritchett IV received a letter. Now the most curious thing about this letter was not that it bore no return address, nor that none of the 4 guards at the front gate saw anyone come or go who could have dropped it off, nor even that it consisted merely of 11 words. The strangest thing about it was that it was supposedly written by a man who had been dead near a year. Suffice to say that Lord Pritchett was not amused, for he at once recognized the hand that was meant to have written these eleven words, “The bar good friend. The seventh at seven. Please do come.” and he did not appreciate the prank. Despite his abhorrently long name and his lofty title, Pritchett was a “proper gentleman” only when he had to be, and there were very few individuals who were privy to his true light-hearted nature. But despite his love for a good joke, there were some things he did not take lightly.

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The Sunday Poll – Who’s Your No. 1 Doctor?

There have been many men who have played the immortal role of The Doctor – the Eleven beloved faces who have played the role in the two series and the lesser known who played the Gallifrrayen in his non-canon appearances. But every Whovian has one image that stands above the rest – Though he is man who has had many faces, who is the real Doctor to you?

And if you can’t decide on one, vote as many times as you like – After all, the show got two different series, surely you should get more than one vote ; )