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Friday, June 17, 2011

Jhumpa Lahiri

This morning, i woke up and cleared my mailbox. It has been more than week since the last time. Out came new yorker. Back in my apartment, while flipping pages on my sofa, there is the name - Jhumpa Lahiri. The article is titles - Trading Stories and is under the Reflections section of the magazine. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/06/13/110613fa_fact_lahiri

I start reading the article, and suddenly it all comes back. In terms of literary style and i am no expert in judging it by any means, the style is very simple - an easy to read fiction, the same style of JK Rowling. But, if words from Rowling create the fantasy world, words from Jhumpa is simply like listening to classical music. They are the notes, so soothing to listen, so calming, creating the sense of longing, taking the mind to a place from where it does not want to return. Like Ruskin Bond, Like Gulzaar. It is so good if some one can write about one's own life as a poetry. A poem that is told with such honesty that it would seem to be fiction yet it doesn't seem so.

If Uncle TOm's Cabin is the book to read about that time and slavery, if Grapes of Wrath is the book to read about that time and era, Jhumpa Lahiri's collection of stories is the place to go to understand the dilemma of an immigrant family and the inner struggles witnessed by children who are born here. And in this essay of Trading Stories, Jhumpa reflects on how she got into writing and how her background influenced her stories and if truth be told, this story is no different from Jhumpa's fiction stories and it is her magical ability that she can equate both fiction and non fiction in the same style.

So, Jhumpa, Thank you. For sharing this story.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Yellowstone national park

A great trip. Took a flight to Seattle, then drove to yellowstone from there. 15 hrs drive one way. Lots of fun. Hot springs, Geysers, Snow falls, waterfalls, bears bison, morning glory, camping, tenting, cooking, and lots of driving. This trip also marks the trip with max photos taken. I have uploaded 100 of them. Please see the album (it has some commentary with it). Yellowstone is a beautiful place. May end is not the best time to visit. Summer (july- aug) is better, but i got to see my first real snowfall. It is very cold but not that cold either. Camoping was ok, thanks to my new sleeping bag which was able to hold the temperature very easily, i slept very cozily. But we camped only one night.
Also got a speeding ticket while driving, what can i say at 6 am in the morning, sleep deprived with friends sleeping next to you, driving in a construction zone, do not, yes do not overtake a cop. Got my ticket near Spokane, WA.

A song of ice and fire

Series: A song of ice and fire.
Books read so far : Game of Thrones, Clash of Kings and Storm of Swords
Author: George R R Martin.

3 novels, average 900 pages each. I have finished them in 5 weeks. This is the what is called addiction.

A song of ice and fire is a fantasy series set in medieval time frame where there are kings, kingdoms and battle. It is a fantasy series because there is magic but it is very less and as series moves forward, it is coming back. There is a lot of death in the series, lot of killing etc. It is very dark. A song of ice and fire is told by a list of Point of view characters, we get to see what is happening and how the POV character is thinking as events unfold. And George RR Martin has shown that he can write on and on about Westeros (seven kingdoms) and we will not get bored with it because he has that skill in writing. He can take any character in the series and make him a POV character and it will become a unique story in itself. There are lot of reviews out there of the series, here are some points that i have found to be interesting to me -

1. Common points - (a) Excellent character building, the POV characters are fleshed out in great detail and they are very complex as well. (b) No white or black, these are people, they are good and bad at the same time. They do deeds to survive and these deeds are evil for others. People are shades of grey, you sympathize with them and at the same time you sympathize with their enemy as well. You win in both cases and loose at the same time. And good person die the same way a bad person die. This as everyone has noticed on the web, is the biggest fun in reading the series.

2. Sexuality takes a whole new different meaning in this series, women are shown as elements of subjugation at lower level and yet there are women as queens leading the story. There is a free mention of whores, cutting manhoods :) and sex/rape is mentioned everywhere, yet it is the way of their lives, it is not extreme as we come to know it in our day to day lives. Women talk about it in the same way as men and the world is way different than we know. It is very raw but i think GRRM is very clever that it does not end in titillation and is handled in a very mature manner.

3. Story is moving. GRRM's frame is very big and he keeps on painting. There is a bigger story that while he is telling it, there are lots of short stories. what is interesting is that each short story is deftly crafted, with lots of juice and is delivered in a manner that each one of them feels complete to read in itself. So, not only the bigger story is a fun to read, the shorter stories make the journey very smooth.

4. Play of words. In HP series as well, the story was moving. But what GRRM adds is the play of words which was totally not present in HP, this i think he draws from Tolkein. One clear reference is the notion of singers who write songs about wars and events. This is very Tolkeinish. But there are other word plays such as play between dogs and wolves, giant of a lannister for Imp. The symbolic reference in word play is very interesting.

5. Tyrion. Tyrion is my fav character in the series. His lines are full of wit and humor and when GRRM writes his thoughts, ooh, they are just a delight to read. He is a just and righteous person working in a camp that is doing wrong things. Yet he is tied by blood to work with them. His POV stories are eagerly awaited.

6. I have forgotten Tolkein's writing, all i remember is that it was a joy to read him. But GRRM definitely feels like Tolkein in the scope of his vision.

While HP was great with kids and young adults, i think for adults it has to be GRRM that should be the way. I am going to start 4th - feast of crows tonight. The 5th one comes on July 12 after 5 years. There are to be a total of 7, i do not know by when it will finish.

Life in Apr 25 - June 12 : part 2

Yes, there is one more part. Primarily because i forgot to add things in the previous one. Yes, this one was more.

Trip to walmart store. The .com employees are given a chance to to a store tour where we get to see how a store actually operates, what different items are, how pricing is updated etc etc. An informative visit, we went to Mtn view store. The interesting part was the culture of the company, the walmart cheer, how they greet their managers, overall atmosphere. A very different experience, i did not liked all the things that i saw. But public negativity is not an option in the digital world :) But overall, thankful for the experience.

Watched a play - Wedding album. Directed by Lillete Dubey, written by Girish Karnad. It was an ok play, could have been a lot better. It has all the elements to be a monsoon-wedding level but in the end, it fails to tie all things together.

Bought a groupon for massage. Went for it last week and what a painful experience. I think (i am not sure as it was my first time), i got a deep tissue massage, but what it felt like somebody was punching me strongly with elbows. God, i hope its not that awful all the time.



Partially read books -
Myth of rational markets. Idea that markets are irrational, it goes on to a big rhetoric bashing against financial research people who assume that markets are rational. Got too boring after 100 pages.
Value investing for Dummies- With a new zeal to start investing, i decided to learn about a few terms. Got too boring after few scans.
The gay science : By Fredric Nietzsche. Too abstract and broad. Should give another attempt some time later.


Not so great at work front, not much done. But things are now moving in full flow, lots of stuff to be done.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Life in Apr 25 - June 12

Wow, i can't believe that i missed the life in series of May. No, it is not that i have not been late in updating this series in past, but so much happened in May and once i was almost thinking of updating life in series when it was just3 weeks past. Anyways, welcome to the current installment of life in series. A very eventful time period in my life.

Went to audium - Sound Sculptured space http://www.audium.org/. The idea is that sound also has a spatial dimension, one that we often ignore. At Audium, a specially crafted room is set (in a spiral setting) with speakers surrounded. Dusing the show, there is total darkness so that one can concentrate only on the sound. Then, the sound comes, sometimes from here, sometimes from there. Overall creating a sound journey through time and space. Unfortunately, i could not achieve that feeling, i went to Audium on a friday night after work and was too exhausted to concentrate. Moreover, the sound were natural sounds instead of music. I didn't enjoy as much i had expected, but overall, a good experiment.


Volunteered at Spruce elementary - As part of wmart now, i volunteered for Junior Achievement program at Spruce Elementary. The idea is to spend a day with kids and teach them about something. Two people are assigned to each class, i was given grade 1 and our task was to teach kids about families, jobs, difference between needs and wants, how families help each other. There was a packet filled with activities for kids (and instructions for us). Activities included putting things over a map, coloring , drawing a need/want object, stickers, and more. My co-teacher for the day was another wmart employee and she was amazing. We took turns in teaching, whenever she was teaching, the whole class was quite and attentive, whenever my turn came, they were noisy, all over the place :). It was an awesome experience to see how schools function here. Things that striked me was that there is a great paucity of funds to these schools, they were struggling to afford markers, which was quite sad. Other thing to note was how well the teaching practices have evolved, there is a gesture to bring silence to the room. No yelling, no loud voices, a small gesture by teacher and everyone is silent with eyes on teacher. And also, how active you have to be to manage these kids, seeing them all the time, giving attention to every kid. It is an amazing job to pull it through.
From Mixed bag.



I bought a new tv. I thought about buying one on a friday and then went and bought it on Saturday. Impulsive buying, the power. Initially i just wanted it to be a a moderately prices, may be second hand tv. But when i went to frys, seeing the models there, i just wanted a bigger one. There was a deal on frys on this one and i just bought it. The link is this.




Yellowstone trip - should go to a different blog post.

A song of ice and fire. Book three done. Should go to a different blog post.

Cooking experiments: Egg weekend. Megan gave me eggs from their home bred chicken. I also had eggs from before. So together, i celebrated an egg weekend.
First, there was spinach, mushroom, cheese, omlette



Then, egg curry with peanuts


And finally, the experiment to do, one of the best snacks on this planet - The Egg PUFF


But the egg puff was a disaster. The coating was bad, or may be i just didn't knew how to use it. But a very eggy weekend.


Finished my stuffed egg in knitting. Since then knitting has been on hold.

Board gaming still goes on every wednesday evening, missed some weekends.


Movies:
Last month's camera club screening was Project Nim - a documentary on a chimp called Nim who was taken by researchers in Columbia University to make him grow in human surroundings. It is made by James Marsh, the man who made Man on the wire. It is only due to the magic in James that this topic can be made into a movie and presented in this way. On its own, i would never have seen this movie, but loved watching it as part of camera cinema club. One of the animal lover who helped Nim a lot was present after the screening, a nice conversation followed. I would recommend you to watch it just because it is so different, but it is not that fun to watch it.

Masala movies - Fast five with Ankur and Varun Krish. X Mel first class. Hanna with Amrinder. Green hornet as a test 3D movie on my tv (horrible movie). A wednesday again.
And now since i have a tv, i am enjoying watching already watched movies again. I don't know why but i am.

Also watched Too big to fail on HBO. Loved it. A great documentary, very very well made on the role of govt to pass the financial bail out, chiefly focussing on Hank Paulson. Highly recommended for people who love documentaries.

Dancer in the dark. Rented from netflix after hearing the awesome song - "I've seen it all" It is a total director's movie. We see what he wants us to see. A very bold cinema experiment and as all Lars films, a difficult to watch movie.

Watching videos daily on JerrySeinfeld.com. everyday he releases 3 clips from his previous recordings, a delight same as Calvin and Hobbes for every morning.

Went for hiking to Mt. Diablo with a meetup group. Small hike of 8 miles. Enjoyed the change of scenery. Need to go again, it is a big mountain.