Saturday, May 2, 2020

Never Ever Have I - Netflix

Mindy Kaling is a Genius. Now I had given up on Netflix originals and vowed never to go back to Netflix. But all the hype about Never Have I Ever's Bollywood dance episode got me hooked. I planned to watch only that episode (Ep 4) - which I loved and watched all of them. This is right there with Aziz Ansari's Master of None and Sanjeev Bhaskar & team.


When the narrator introduces himself, after few minutes of narration, it was an absolute thrill . And then his cameo later. I was amazed how MK could go for it. John McEnroe was a big deal for Indians in 90's. I didn't expect Americans of 2020 to know who he is ! Ace indeed.

It was a nice change to see South-Indian family. Fast talking mom & dad, with smatterings of kanna (dear) and threats of smacking. Thali & Vad-ungila on the mother Nalini, in her regular American fashion outfits. Masala Dosa for dinner. Half-sari for Devi. Behaviour-wise too, loads of desi behavior were in full flow, without any inhibition of some imaginary judgement. Kamala and her track of cousin studying at relatives house for studies, going through the dread of upcoming arrange marriage boy-seeing routine. And loved the sarees in Ep 4 - they were all latest fashion & lot of South-Indian silks. This is in contrast to a lot of kitschy out-of-fashion sarees used in TV shows with any India reference.


I hurried to the Ep 4 for the Bollywood dance sequence. But stayed till the end, just to soak in the Ganesh puja socializing. Pandit Raj (Ep 4) was a great representation of Hindu priest, after a long time (or ever) on any TV. In his very first lines he shows he is erudite in his Sanskrit, and funny too. Soon we see, he is insightful and mindful of the main family's pain. And then that ESP knack he has with Kamala.

Endearing Periyappa (Ep 9), constantly talking about home security. Even asking the new guy, "Do you always carry the phone in your front pocket ? Do you not want to have children ?" New refreshing spin on older person asking uncomfortable things, without filter.

The main theme of 3 high school friends, 2 main boys and other shenanigans are engaging and peppered with funny dialogues and narrations. And it is these new characters that have kept all 10 episodes interesting.

Links:

  1. How Mindy Kaling’s new Netflix series offers ‘a sense of community’
  2. A Famous Tennis Star Is the Narrator of 'Never Have I Ever'
  3. John McEnroe Learned About Thirst Traps Because of Never Have I Ever
  4. I'm a first-gen Indian-Filipino: I related to Mindy Kaling's 'Never Have I Ever' so much it made me sob
  5. In Never Have I Ever, the Real Love Story Is Between a Mother and Daughter
  6. How Mindy Kaling brought the Hindu tradition of Ganesh Puja to American TV
  7. Joya Kazi On Her Experience In Mindy Kaling’s ‘Never Have I Ever’
  8. The Bollywood dance scene in 'Never Have I Ever' is a Hollywood milestone
  9. Netflix's 'Never Have I Ever': How Mindy Kaling made the teen show she always wanted
  10. 6 ways 'Never Have I Ever' busts Asian stereotypes
  11. ‘Never Have I Ever’ Is Its Best Teen Comedy To Date



Thursday, April 30, 2020

Stay At Home America Diary

A lot has happened in March & April, I felt I should document the sequence of events we went through these 2 months in a post. Would be a great time-capsule to look back at, when things have improved. This pandemic induced stay-at-homes & shelter-in -place are unprecedented days, in peace-time. It's not like World Wars 1 & 2. Yet it's like them. And since this ties the entire world together, its like a WW3 where world fights an invisible enemy, really really invisible killer - COVID-19. But I will write my experience in Minnesota, USA, where I lived.

For someone with no foresight, things looked casual in March as well. Pandemic had not been declared & the contagious disease was happening in far east. I would scoff during office gossip, "Nah this is over-reaction. Things can never change." By 10-Mar, MN had 3-5 cases, mostly people who had traveled & were back home last month. That week, all of us got 2 days of work from home (WFH) for a trail basis.

On 12-Mar-2020 Thurs evening, I went with my kids to Sams Club, to pick up the eye-glasses we had ordered. The car traffic were snaking back to 3-4 roads, and parking lot looked full like never before. Once inside, I only went to pickup glasses,but spent most of the time staring at the crowd inside. They were all well-behaved and safely distanced like MN people usually are. But their carts were full and some were lugging 2 carts. The more I looked at them, the more contagious it got to me. I got into the mix with my kids and join the hoarders. Picked a cart & went hunting for milk & other staple supplies. Had heard the rumor about TP hoarding and here never even found where they are stocked. No rice. Looking at others carts, they were stocking up cereal & other canned foods. So I did the same. Once I was out, the fever did not recede. So I went to Walmart, Indians store & Cub Foods as well. To buy the stuff I usually buy. My poor kids, who tagged along. Ran into my acquaintances who were doing the same. The more we talked, the more fervor it brought. Throughout I was messaging in our US Family WhatsApp group, so the shopping madness spread there as well. After 4-5 hours of shopping, things calmed down when we went home. I still did not have TP, but I did not care about it. We have bidet-spray-guns !

I went again in the weekend. TP & meat Racks were really empty. I had only only seen internet pictures till then.
 

My husband came back on Friday from Tennessee, where he was for the week on work. For the first time, I physically restrained kids from hugging him right away. Had to explain on high-pitch, that he needed to discard his clothes and take a full clean shower.

Friday school turned out to be the last time this school year.  Governor announced stay-at-home order. Schools announced closure on Monday & office allowed us WFH. Schools were closed for 2 weeks. Each day we envisioned how we would travel for the Spring break, with all precautions. By the end of it, the flights were cancelled & refund issued. We even talked through about driving. Now its amazing thinking how optimist we were.

In these 2 weeks, schools formulated the e-learning plan and rolled it out. Next week was a regular Spring break week. And 5-Apr onward all 4 of us were rolling into remote work & learning mode. School picked one day and arranged for parents to pickup school books, iPads & supplies; all arranged with proper social distancing. I share these memes, not as disrespect to teachers. But just to show how hard they are trying and how much we parents are lacking. The 2nd one actually happened to me. I let my kids do their school work on their iPads, while I was buried under my responsibilities (office, cooking, etc). And then in the forth week, my little ones teacher pestered us for a meeting with all 3 of us. After few hits & misses, we had a zoom meeting, where she walked us to through the weekly syllabus, where it is shared and where R can submit his work. And turns out, he had not submitted anything all 3 weeks ! Big revelation. So the next week I stuck with the kid to finish his backlog from 3 weeks and the current week. It is hard ! Makes me appreciate all teachers hard work, in case I loose track of it frequently. With all respect, hats off to the teachers & all of the school workers.


Community pitched in as time went by. Social media is blessing to know & learn. For all its negativeness, it's a great tool to know, be inspired to actually do something we can.
So many individuals I knew were making cloth-masks and donating.
Hindu Society MNIAM & Fit n Fab FB group stitched masks and donated other PPE to medical community in MN and did food donation drives.
Many families are posting Heart cutouts on their windows. I have seen in the neighborhood too. It is cheering. I was waiting for warmer weather to take the Diwali lights out. Now I am leaving them there for lighting on dark nights. Seriously, some times it get so deary, these things matter.

Adam Truman                                                                                      Kara Hobli

When the weather turned warm in April, everyone was outside. Really everyone. All the day long, we would see people running, jogging & walking at all times of the day. Dog-walkers just had to get out. I would go to the nearest trail and it was teaming with families, every single time. It was like eve people who had never walked outside before in their life, even they were out there. This meme has never been truer.

Another noticeable change in the neighborhood - everyone buying new outdoor sports equipment. Many installed Play-area stuff for toddler & young kids, since most public ones were closed. Tweens & teens were rolling out in rollerblades & bikes. Perfect to get-together as well as maintain distance. Many pitched badminton nets on their driveways, while many played tennis across the road between opposite house. No hack for swim-pools yet.

Then on warm days there are driveway parties. People get-together on driveway, standing or sitting 2 feet apart. Birthdays are celebrated with large signs or placards on the grass and guest dropping off with gifts & wishes. Most drive-by parades made news. People are still figuring out how to celebrate Graduation ceremonies & parties this summer - it being a crucial milestone for students here.

The weeks that followed were a blur of WhatsApp calls with family & friends. Office meetings / conference calls. Kids school assignments, zoom meetings & homework. Cooking thousand snacks & a day. And forwarding memes about all this. I logged the new normal in my previous post.

Sleep schedule went for a toss. As long we turned up for the earliest call, it was ok to roll out of bed at anytime. All alarms were permanently deleted. Not hearing those alarm-tunes, first thing in the mornings, was a great feeling. But being grungy from over-sleeping was not.

We cooked like it was a festival. Well we couldn't party with friends, so we might as well cook for our-self. And we snacked, like we had never learnt that clean eating meant being away from junk.

Grocery shopping meant stocking the freezer with ice-cream boxes - as many as we could. And no restrictions on kids. AT the peak, they were eating maybe 3-4 ice-creams a day.

Hedge Humor
This constant eating combined with grocery-store dread - has this emotion ever happened before ? The places which my stress-relievers, where I felt most welcome, my quiet-spots - Cub Foods, India Bazar, Target, Hyvees, Lunds & Bylerys. Uff, the agony of having to stay away from them !
Once we went through the first round of snack supplies, we had to go there again, didn't we? And we did. But the emotions were so different. That dis-trust of any other human closeby. That dread of them thinking the same of me. Not being able to show my smile to the regular workers & cashier - smile being behind the mask.

Once this was normalized, grocery shopping became as expedition. Get the demand list from everyone, and triple-check right before leaving home. Armed with mask & gloves. Being still cold, I could wear my long-winter-jacket without shame. When in the store, it was an exercise in precision in in & out. Refer to paper notes, not phone (to prevent exposure to phone); straight to the aisle, pick item needed, bill & out. Once home, throw every single garment, mask & gloves in the washer & jump into shower. Leave the bags (lingering virus) to dry out (except ice-cream & milk). Stocking the fridge came a while later; versus the old efficient self, who first put things where they belonged.

Bad side of humanity did raise its face in America, because covidiots exist everywhere.
Toilet Paper hoarders were a real thing. Major head-palm.
Violent protest marches to reopen shops, were the slogans were worded to show irreverence to the magnitude of the contagions power and promote conspiracy of democratic governors to destroy the economy.
Only part I would agree about the need of support for small business and creative solutions for them to continue to be open. Wanting to open hair-dressers and cruises is such a brat-ish demand. But workers in those industry need support in other ways.

As someone said, being part of major historical event is not as cool as it sounded. It's better in history books. But its not like war and world is so much better place in 2020.
We don't know what the future will hold ? How human interactions will change ? We can only do our current duty for now.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Lockdown India Diary 2020


A lot has happened in March & April, I felt its would documenting it in a post. Would be a great time-capsule to look back at, when things have improved. These are unprecedented days, in peace-time. Its not like Indo Pak wars or like the 1975 emergency. Yet its like them. And since this ties the entire world together, its like a WW3 where world fights an invisible enemy, really really invisible, but killer.

All of extended family and friends live in India. Along with USA, we have been monitoring the changes in India. Wiki page for India response is well updated.

Pandemic COVID-19 spread was known in Jan & Feb. And things looked still relaxed in first half of Mar. Second half is when serious steps could be seen in airport screenings & traveler quarantines.

On 19-Mar-2020, Prime Minister Modi addressed the nation in details, and gently asked for self-isolation & stay-at-home, a voluntary Janta Curfew on Sun 22-Mar. While everyone stayed home that Sunday and made noise from their balcony to cheer the COVID warriors, which was great. But there were bunch of videos of how coviodiots thought 5pm was when they were set free and communed for feasting and outings enmasse.

Hence very soon, came the lockdown annoucement by Prime Minister Modi. Here is the annoucement video and experience the chilly pauses from 7:10 minute onwards. I heard it on VBS radio app and I really felt like this meme. This meme makes use of the dread from demonitization announcement. You have to give it to Modi for making imapcts !
 "Sampoorn desh mein, sampoorn lockdown hone wala hai." Even though we were already in Stay-at-home in MN, this announcement was for an entire big country like India. That is a big deal.

My family & friends had been in their home town much before the announcements. My cousin in IT in Bangalore, worked from home in our native Udupi. And my nephew studying in Pune reached home Bhilai while travel was on. My aunt & uncle were holidaying in Bangalore and were stuck there. Everyone had stocked on their food & medicines.

The negative optics fallout of this announcements were the pictures of people thronging in front of medical stores till late night. And in a few days large hordes of migrants labors showed up on highways. On the long walk to back to their home villages, since railways and flight have been closed. With backpacks of their belongings and holding hands with kids. Definitely this happened because solution for these two areas were not addressed in the announcement. Eventually good stories came out where migrant quarantines in schools painted & repaired the schools and dug wells, for the good of the school kids, while also acquired some education.

But in the days that followed, there were program announcements one by one, addressing different areas. Shops are allowed to be open for 3-4 hours in the morning half. By 27-Apr plans for methodical travel of stuck migrants, students & tourists was announced.
Farming & harvest season are being considered and various plans being rolled out everyday.

Artwork by my 8th-grade Jaiaditya Nikkumbh
Numbers wise India seems to be in well control, for a country of this population-size. I could only hear of support of social-distancing and staying home. Any spike due to any super-spreader was pooh-poohed. Lot of cultural upheavels in these few weeks. But thankfully no mischief could'n't spiral it out of control. Its a matter of self-survival right now, no matter which side you belonged to.

Many creative solutions came up. India sent out hydroxychloroquine to many countries. It was rumored BCG vaccines were responsible for immunity. Indian post provided mobile ATM service. While Indian railways provided their stalled train coaches as quarantine facility at short notice. Tatas provided their 5-star hotels as quarantine stay for doctors after their duty ended.

Indian Government leverage their Doordarshan archives so well, its a winner move. They re-telecast Ramanand Sagar's Ramayana and B R Chopra's Mahabharat. Along with them came Byomkesh Bakshi, Shaktiman and many other 90s. 90s nostalgia came full circle. This is definitely great tool to keep the people indoors happy and stay there. Ramayana & Mahabharatha are known for deserted streets during their original telecast. And they were brought back for the same reasons. AIR news share program reports & do fact checks to refute fakes news circulating in WhatsApp & social media’s.

There have been so many memes addressing the slow adoption of this new way of life. Husband-wife kids stuck in home 24/7, like the country & world was a Big Boss playing everywhere. Work from home meme. Missing the socialising part. Its too much to document here. But its everywhere, talking about everything in life.

So many COVID Warriors to salute. So many feel good videos honoring the sanitation staff of a the street. Hospital health-workers, doctors, nurses, technicians, .... Cricketers who got back to their police duty jobs. Beauty queens back as Doctors.

Mumbai mayor was back at her old job of nurse. Indian First Lady sewing masks.
Indian First Lady sewing masks


Police who did their duty of keeping people indoors, so many with a hard-hand and many with humor & with creativity.
Numerous organizations did charitable food donations to needy folks. Film celebrities were cited as useless people on whom the nations wastes their love & energy & money. Until some of them lead some charitable drives and donating from their own pockets to PM-CARES Fund.

For feel-good actions, Indians clapped & made noise in their unique way (thali-clanging, shank, dhol etc) on 22-Mar-2020. It's great to see a montage video of such actions from across world. 9-April 9pm was the night to light diya outside the house and to send a prayer. Since this is a non-disruptive actions, Indian from outside India did it in their timezone. Here is my #9pm9minute.

Lockdown has been extended multiple times and till 17-May. But it has been with more & more relaxations for different sectors - red, green & orange zones. Flights and railway are still closed. As someones said, being part of major historical event is not as cool as it sounded. Its better in history books. But its not like war and world is so much better place in 2020.

Monday, April 20, 2020

New Normal of 2020 Spring

Whoever said it was right. Being part of major historical event is not as cool as it sounded. It's more fun to read about it later. March and April of Year 2020 is a global pandemic event. It's jaw-dropping that a single thing has affected every single country. And government of everyone of them, are doing the exact same thing, with varied reactions from their people. Unexpected countries are behaving like leaders and are in control. Special mention to the commendable leaderships of India Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Minnesota Governor Tim Waltz.

With lockdowns, stay-at-home, shelter-in-place and social distancing in place, there is work-from-home and e-learning is enforced everywhere. The first few weeks of March were wait & watch. There was still disbelief and expectation of going "back-to-normal" "next week". This means a lot of new normals are coming up. While it might be cringy at first, we are all embracing it slowly, as we can hug in real life.

Its the new normal to have background noise in work audio conference call. It took a while, but now it's reassuring that it's not odd. Decade ago, I had got an admonishment from my boss, because our dog was barking in background while I spoke. That was at 10pm IST call and dog was set free outside. Nothing I could do about it. And today we had a conf call of about 15 people, and each spoke about their bird whistling & dog playing with a toy & dog snoring, while someones baby squealed. Its just fine. No apologies needed.

Wait till the 2 min mark in video

Other day, while running with kids, I saw a father-daughter-dog were walking towards us, so I slide off the sidewalk to the grass & road. And they had done the same at the same time. Both of us laughed awkwardly & called out, "Its the new normal" :) Its also representative of Minnesota nice (the good type). This has been the case since March beginning. Most folks are working from home & schools were off for 3 weeks in our district. It also meant that a lot of folks were walking & running outside on streets & trails. But the unique part was they all always maintained distance from each other. Real social distancing when outside. This way we wouldn't loose the privilege being outside in this beautiful spring weather.

Schools have switched to e-learning after 3 weeks of vacation. Then other private classes followed the suit and suddenly Zoom was the hot new app to use. Everyone took a few weeks to ramp up, but most of the technology was in place to facilitate it. Dance classes, tutions, virtual get-together and Birthday parties.

Social distance is in place. But celebrations continue. Birthday parades in front of the house, by well-wishers honking their cars & carrying placards.

TV is the newly discovered blessing - the magical tool that will keep everyone indoor. And Content is not just the king, but emperor. OTTs are giving free trials. DD is showing all the 90s shows again, to cash in on the 90s Nostalgia for truly altruistic purpose. Big scale. I want talk abou this in detai, maybe a different post.

Like TV a lot of old things are being considered in this new normal. Like Hydroxycloroquene, washing hands when coming from outside, staying home, cooking more. So its wise words, that this is our opportunity to consider what is the "normal" we want to get back to ?  A few forums are using this piggyback climate change issues with this huge global change. Global economy is impacted, because people across the globe are doing only what they absolutely need. But side-effect is that air is cleaners, and animals are free-er to roam those spaces which are otherwise occupied by humans.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Amazon Originals Recommendations

I have to blame web series for increase in my use of profanities. My kids are keeping me in line, else it would be readily gushing out of my mouth. Its as if the web series have opened the flood-gates. But seriously, online streaming platforms are behaving like this, cause they are free of censorship. They could tone it down a bit without affecting their creativity, can't they ?

Other thing, all web series creators could do - is structure episodes so we have some mental breathing room. Seriously binging on 10-20 hours is unhealthy in every way. There is just no justification.

Amazon Originals are way, way better than Netflix ones.
I don't know how their production or their influence works ? But Netflix brings down the interest level, way down. Contrast is most visible in 'Designated Survivor'. When the cable network made Season 1 & 2, it was interesting. When Netflix took over Season 3, the shift was immediately noticeable. They had setup & most of the cast from the original, and they decided to make it openly single-sided monologue delivery of political ideologies. There was just no balance. Every character & their stories were a checklist to be ticked. About other Netflix original movies & shows, they are a drag - like Umbrella Academy. Only one I liked (and because of their cast & how they delivered) is Chopsticks.

Contrast that to Amazon Originals - oh they are diverse & original, while maintaining interest throughout the show or movie. There is no midway-lag or deliberate agenda driven intentions. They know they are here for entertainment & entertain they do.

Hunters

I watch HUNTERS on Prime.
I open OPERATION PAPERCLIP on Wikipedia.
I pick a random name from thousands of key recruits - Ernst R Echert.
Boom  !🤯 He was a distinguished chemistry professor in UofM & died of old age in St Paul !
Way too close to home.

The show is Watchable, no doubt. Travis is eerie & fills with dread. Hunters team is good.  Backstories are fine. Star Al Pacino is pretty much being the old man he is. (Because I did not watch his youth age films, I doubt know enough to appreciate).

Camp scenes are extremely disturbing & filmed like a psychopathic-serial-killer snippets on Criminal Minds. Am on Ep 7 & just want to be done with it. Doesn’t feel like a waste of 10 hours, but 10 hours lost nevertheless, which could have been used better. Should not have started it. I restarted Ep 7 and things r going downhill (for the characters). Very reminiscent of Family Man. Amazon's touch I guess.

Show has unique points, and I was constantly looking for the checklist to tick. It was so, but wasn't so either. Late 70s setup, but things were moving fast, even without internet or computer searches. Parts of the episodes are dedicated to moralizing on the Operation Paperclip, arguing philosophical questions on both side of Hunters. They also managed to incorporate a modern-day health villain as biological weapon.

In Episode 9, they show a view of the discussion behind Operation Paperclip decision. And the argument ends in a very convincing fashion. It makes the presence & future of those people in USA acceptable; that maybe they managed to escape the brainwashing or allegiance to evil. Otherwise, the reveal of the Operation in earlier episode, put a veil of suspicion on those people from 1940s & even their descendants; that maybe they are the reason for spread of xenophobia/hatred in the South.

End of Wernher von Braun made me question, that if they have taken liberty with villains, what is to say they haven't taken other liberties in portrayal ? And last I read, the Holocaust museums were worried about the same.

This topic is highly disturbing. There is lot of material (movies, TV shows, books) on this history. Turning it into a big-scale revenge fantasy itself is a big risk, of it going either side.

Family Man

Now that was a clutter-breaker among Hindi Amazon Originals. Made by my fav director-duo.
The 11 minute sequence on Episode 5 was hila-dene-wala.

Jestination

I like the format of Vir Das pairing up with 2 other/local comedians, different ones in every episode. And filming it in a different city every time. The drone shots bring out the unseen beauty of familiar cities. I don't know if they extra colored the frames ? Or if they photo shopped the roads. But India looks beautiful from these eyes.

Mysore episode was the best. Loved everything about it. Even ending with the Mysore joke was perfect. Actually, for some reason I feel I might have heard it before. But the episode was laid out well to arrive at that joke.

Ladakh episode jokes were horrible. If it weren't for such a beautiful place and surrounding people and their commentary, I would have thrashed this episode completely. Indian comedian who looked like American (Mushran) was good. But the American comedian who looked like Indian was the worst. I cant believe how he is in comedy. Just peppering every sentence with a f & a s, 4 times over, doesn't make it funny.

Standup Comedians should take up the challenge of delivering a round with no f&s uttered. They have long-stretched the supposed 'FoE' to utter profanities and its impact on 'creativity-growth' bit for way too long. Now there is no creativity, only profanities.

Marvelous Mrs Maisel

Perfectly marvelous one. Watch it to know why it's so popular soon as every new season is released.
I don't like the sixties and I don't like that breathless speech-deliveries. But the parts which spill out of these cracks, which shine through, they have enough to charm - 60s music, clothes, luminous makeup, interesting main cast and large ensemble cast. Good to see Monk back on TV.
Coming to the standup comedy, that is the high point of every episode. Things ravel or unravel through the episode and then it's a joy to see how it all works into her standup routine of the day.



Thursday, January 30, 2020

Securian Winter Run 2020 - Half Marathon - Race recap

My fav Winter race Securian Winter Run - Half Marathon was on 22-Jan 2019 Sat this year.

That thing on bottom-right pic is an Ice Sculpture.

Temps were between 20F+, no sun, no wind, no snow. Supposedly great conditions, but I prefer the one from last year. There was slight alley wind in the downtown streets. But Shepherd road was perfect even with no-winds. This race has the best start location, with the spacious Securian building & skyway as warming location for practically everyone.

My run gear was not-so-perfect. With my neck gaitor & bulky gloves, I was overdressed. Rest were fine.
  1. Columbia thermal jacket + 2 tech shirts 
  2. Run cap & headband to cover ears
  3. C9 thick Neck Gaitor - This weighed my neck after an hour. Totally not needed for 20F+ race.
  4. Compression pants + wind-cheater-type outer layer pant
  5. Ski socks in my regular running shoes. My toes never got cold.
  6. Gloves. Large loose ones with hand-warmer - Totally not needed for 20F+ race

My finish time was a 3:10+ hours. I am officially the last finisher I think. They haven't published the results yet. I would blame the extra time on the last 3 miles, that I had to run on the slushy sidewalk. And in this patch I got nose-bleed, my first time for any race. I had been blowing my nose on my handkerchief all along, that must have weaken my nose in this dry winter. Organizers were about to dismantle the arch & time recorder when I reached the end. I think I will hang my boots on Winter Half Marathon. I know I said it so last year too. But, this time I am serious.

Race swag was a cool full sleeve hoodie shirt and neat mug.

If you are looking for more specific info on the facilities provided by this event, then please refer to my older posts. They have more details.

My Securian Winter Races - 2014 2015 2016 2019 | 2020 |

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2010s - The Influential Decade

In 2008, there was a painting contest in my office for "Vision 2020". Going off-tangent I painted- My Daugther's room in 2020. I am tickled thinking of it, as we are stand at the door of 2020.

But looking backward, I find these notable things of this decade. These are remarkable, changed human lives, made real impact. They might have seemed chaotic while it happened. Nevertheless they have been the most influential.


Plastic bans - Plastic bag ban has picked up across the globe. When some of the hipster sites talked about Plastic straw & its impact, I was skeptical, having seen the wide & wasteful use of plastic cutlery, single use plates & glasses, bags & paper napkins. Only when I saw my kids & their friends refusing straws, I felt hopeful. I visited US in 2002 and my very first experience was a super-mart grocery shopping. The number of flimsy plastic bags for my few items was shocking. Being new & first timer in US, I thought it was the norm. India was still using designer jute grocery bags, which changed slowly. In the past few years, I have seen most shoppers in USA carrying shopping bags, and even reusable mesh bags for vegetables. Only a formal plastic bag ban in India around 2017, got it back to using shopping bags & mesh bags for veggies. Impact on the outdoor cleanliness is visibly noticeable.

In the fashion world, the unique thing that picked up in 2010s is the High-low fashion. Tops with short hemline in the front, but flowing long till the floor in the back. This wonky design would have been a comic abberation before, but it took off in this decade. Soon everything was high-low - dresses, tunics, kurta, what-not. Other assymtric designs are an offshoot of high-low. In 2019, they have started talking of sustainability - of repeating clothes worn on multiple occasions, of reusing clothes. That's a good trend which hopefully picks up in the next decade.

Home cooking picked up big time in US, I think in 2010s. Driven by all the cooking shows (Masterchef Australia being the baap, Tarla Dalal & Sanjeev Kapoor in India) and health consciousness. Before that, I clearly remember the pride with which everyone said "Oh I don't know to cook at all,", "I only know to boil water" or "I burn water too". USA eateries as such, have perfected the franchisees systems, packaging & preservation of cooked foods.
* Beginning with food bloggers, now there was an explosion of recipes, on every magazine sites and eventually dedicated food sites. MSM picked it up from blogger popularity and created dedicated food sections which included well produced recipes articles & videos. I am particularly fond of the short videos where everything moves in fast forward. Who needs to spend 30 minutes through a video when 5 minutes will do. All we need to know are the ingredients & sequences.
* I would credit these sites for using & propagating indigenous grains again like Ragi, Jowar, Bajra. These had been driven to the limited use, thanks to spread of wheat during 1960s Green Revolution.
* The other key thing is localization of ingredients. Previous decades gourmet cooking meant, exotic ingredients sourced from other countries. Or baking - which is a standard list of flour, eggs & butter in every single dish. Now healthier cooking meant, dishes had all kinds of veggies, poultry & seafood.
* Though home-cooking trend must be in reverse in India. Previous generation (ladies) took pride in cooking up the most complicated as well as daily fare. But in this decade, thanks to long working hours, huge variety of eatery's & take outs and available cooks, home cooking is at a low than eating outside or outside food.

Food Sustainability makes an entrance in food & cooking area as well - which means
* source locally grown & seasonal veggies & other ingredients;
* source extra food from establishments (restaurants, weddings, events) and divert it to food banks or the needy, directly & efficiently.
* retail of imperfect looking veggies & fruits, in grocery stores
* promote buyers to use reusable grocery bags & mesh-bags for produce.

For a space sci-fi enthusiast, I got Interstellar & Martian (book & movie). But the brilliant real-life excitement was the first-time Black-hole picture. Wow ! I consider this the height of photography lifecycle - considering the distance and complexity.


Self-driving cars are not just in sci-fi but became very popular in real-life. It was not some high-price prototype. Many people were actually buying & using them and making those car companies richer. Tesla being the grand-daddy of all. But I also saw hands-free driving on Volvo & such.

GPS was an arbitrary white-paper I had written in 90s. In 2010s, it progressed from a default gadget for cars/vehicles to a default app in smartphones (Apple Maps & Google Maps, Waze). Today I wouldn't go for a walk or run in unknown route without a GPS to guide my return.


Now an inconsequential thing, phone which is in our palm all the time, was not the case in the beginning of the decade. IPhone driven smartphone device improvements and resulting apps being created for those devices, is responsible for people with there noses in the left hand (holding the phone). And subsequent entry of phone in multiple (rather all) areas of life. It has influenced people in loads of ways.

Kodak stopped the film roll production in the beginning of the decade, because Digital cameras had taken over the world. But once the smartphone camera spread, it was literal picture explosion. There were more pictures taken every minute than in previous decades put together. Everything has been clicked. If storage is a concern, then lot of cloud solutions are in place. My concern is how would humans manage these pictures ? - coming from my challenges managing personal family photo collections. My personal choice will be to go back to Digital cameras.

Smartphones in hand has also meant a death of home phones. Home phones had a graph of being the most wait-listed item, rotatory dial, punch numbers, see-through case, cordless and VoIP phones. Now they are getting discontinued not soon enough. Since nearly all members of the house have a cellphone, home phones are just an unnecessary expense.

In the previous decade, Streaming or digital platform for movies & shows were there with Smart TVs and laptops. But the viewership boomed in 2010 with smartphone. No person or schedule or conversation is devoid of streaming. Same goes for gaming industry.

Along with smartphone spread social media usage - almost like wildfire.
* This was the golden age for conspiracy theorists. Everyone wants to voice their opinion. A written down opinion has more impact & is forever than a verbal statement.
* Social media opened mouths but divided souls. Biggest example is the divisive & polarizing opinions about Politics & everything else. Most highlighted during 2016 USA elections and 2014 India elections.
* Mental health & hand wrists of all have been impacted at varying degree. FOMO, depression, time-wastage are well-known side-effects.
* It gave birth to a whole new job profiles (Youtubers, Influencers).
* On a positive note, it is generating work for a set of artists, in different area, everywhere. Every kind of artist had a platform to showcase their work.
* Creativity has gone bonkers with click-baity headlines, because clicks translate to revenue.
* Hashtags # might seem like a trivial thing, but they have brought attention to issues and mobilized crowd supports in times of need (like floods, other natural disasters).
* Memes are new way to communicate and to document our times.
* While education is great, falling into a Wiki rabbit-hole, is just a time-waste. All the info may not be useful at all.


While Artificial Intelligence (AI) was an imaginative sci-fi concept in the entire 20th century, it came alive this decade. It reached common parlance thanks to Facebook, but turns out all of technology industry has been developing it all along. In social talks, news op-eds & dystopian TV shows, it is being talked negatively. I am just glad, none of the dystopian AI Robots nightmare have come true yet :) It's only negativity is access to personal behavior of all and that knowledge being used by corporations, to market or advertise their products to a precise target audience.

Internet boom became a way of life in this digital decade. Its actual reach to most of humanity and its wide variety of use in every single aspect of life happened this decade. So much so, its impossible to imagine life without internet (of all kinds 3-5G or Wifi). This decades generation doesn't know a life without internet. Even if we give up social aspect of internet, there is also e-governance and nobody can stay cut-off from government. It would be like giving up electricity.

For a peripheral cricket watcher, I was pushed even further outside. IPL completely took over along with other non-stop touring. Which meant there are way too many matches to keep track and too many players to know.

I remember as a child, there would be lot of PSA looking for volunteers to record books on tapes for blind schools. Now Audio Books are mainstream. Its for the busy professionals who are on the road and have less time to be tied down to a physical book yet want to dredge through them all for knowledge. There are numerous commercial apps to play them and free ones from library. I feel Podcasts & music boom must have been the catalysts for audible books. I truly hope the benefits reach the blind folks too.

A chunk of movies this decade were Sequels & Franchise movies. Hindi Film Music was progressively marked by Recreations. Jhankar Beats & Remixes gave way to Recreations.
Both of these were driven by collective 90s nostalgia, which peaked in this decade. Speaking of 90s, the music cassette has vanished. It was downhill last decade, thanks to DVDs. But this decade its truly gone, due to music streaming & all. All that remains, is it as pop art motif.



This decade was truly the future that was predicted throughout all sci-fi literature in the past centuries. As we stand on the edge, at the start of new decade, I can't decide what new to expect. Vision 2050 could be a good brain exercise to pursue.

Wish you all a very Happy & Prosperous New Year !

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Running Report for 2019

Running:

Personally it was a chequered year and hence I did not track my miles.
I ran outside a lot, so my Garmin has those miles. I also ran on treadmill in the colder months, just did not track them.

Races:


I signed up for the races I liked and did not take pressure to signup more. Instead spent more weekends running long outside.
As such I could not beat 3 hour for any Half this year, but each race was a joy.

Temp
Name
Date
Distance
Time
10F, no sun, no wind, slight snow
26-Jan-19
10Mile
3:04
Pleasant
Music in Plymouth 5K Fun Run/Walk
29-May-19
5K
36 min
35F Cloudy No-Windy
11-May-19
Half-Mara
3:03:08
78+ F
3-Aug-19
Half-Mara
3:15:33

As I end this year, I don't have any specific goals for 2020.

Wish you all a very Happy & Prosperous New Year !

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Books of 2019

Continuing my book reading this year, in an effort to stay away from or getting sucked into phone. When I sat down to make this list, it did not seem like a lot of books. It's so tough as an adult to finish reading books. I must have let go of them mid-way like Aru Shah, which my kid is very excited about. And some comfort books like Famous Fives.

Meanwhile here are some interesting ones which were a first time read.

The Milk Lady of Bangalore by Shoba Narayan

LiveMint is a great magazine which I read a lot after the end of Google reader and before Facebook. It had some great movie reviews and many columnists, one of which is Shoba Narayan. She had an interesting column of her adventures with her cow-lady-buddy & her cows. For some reason I remembered it and wanted to know where it went. Some google-sleuthing showed up this book & was found a copy too.
Equally exciting, even though this was structure in book form, with chapters addressing different topics surrounding cows. But the common thread of Shoba & Sarala and their hunt to buy a cow.

For accompanied reading, here look at cute cow pics: https://www.boredpanda.com/cute-cows-are-dogs/

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith 



Got hold of a delightful book. Now after a long time, I have a series to go through.
Set completely in Botswana and populated by the local population led by a local heroine, its fun to read through each of the incidents in the book.
Author portrays a sweet picture of a laid-back Africa, of the diversity within the continent's different countries. Of how the misrepresentation of Africa pricks their people.
The detection cases keep use curious and only the long-running case keeps the feeling of dread alive.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel: Maria Semple



This book popped up in some recommendation list and I read it even when I knew nothing about it or the author. Actually before this book I was reading "The Woman in the Window" by A J Finn, which was oh sooo boring, which would not finish even when I skipped pages. Ah. This book was also in the same recom list, so you can imagine my trepedition.

But Bernadette was structured well. The story plot unfolded interestingly every chapter. The heroine herself was very intriguing and narrator did it well. Overwell very well laid out thriller.

Then one fine day, the movie poster popped up in my feed. I was shocked as I had no clue that movie is being made. Was actually glad it was made. Movie had good performances by all including the kid. The movie stayed true to the book except changing 2 major plot points (disappointed) & omitting one major plot (glad coz it felt unnecessary even in the book).

Gulp by Mary Roach

By my new favorite non-fiction science writer. I read 'Packing for Mars' last year and followed up with Gulp. Again a trusted copy for entertainment with bedazzlement.

I was almost on Chapter 11 & beginning to feel disappointed that if there was no chapter on gas or wind, it will be a downer. But instead I was rewarded with 2 chapters.
Her specific footnotes on peoples names & finding connections, are the funniest. Like using Brown for a running joke (wow its a pun here too).
The book finally ends on a chapter on how everything explained is actually to make lives better.
I wish publishers would invest more so writers could induce humor in textbooks. Reading would be most enjoyable.

I started Grunt and for some external reason could not finish. That would be in my next-to-read list.

Crazy Rich Asian
China Rich Girlfriend
Rich People Problems
- by Kevin Kwan

 

But the most delicious read of the year would have been this trilogy. I can't wait to find something similar to this or the author writing another episode of this series.
In the trilogy, CRA is a gem. CRG is a bit of a drudgery. And then again RPP is interesting & perfect end to the series. There is a lot to learn from this series. Its not just to make the reader feel inadequate, but also offers a view on how to become affluent. Ofcourse its not easy or straightforward.

Have been hearing of #40in2020 resolve. But that would amount to 3.3 books a month. Maybe #20in2020 that will help up my reading in 2020.

Older Reading lists: 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 |

Sunday, December 1, 2019

2019 Movies Roundup

Some theater movies, but largely streaming movies this year.
Its going to get crazy soon, what with so many streaming services. There is only so much anyone with life can watch. And pay for multiple of them ! Uff what a dilemma.


KANNADA 

I am bugged by the new age cinema makers thinking that film ending with death is the only way to go. Everything is good, unique, engaging in the movies, till the very end where they include a twist (usually unanswered death) and leave the audience (or only me) with a sword in the heart or a bitter taste in the mouth. Ex: Gantumoote, Kahi. Makes me regret spending my past 2-3 hours glued to the screen. That is not realist or brilliant cinema. If that's the definition, then somebody please reeducate. If that is kind what you want to make, then look & learn from Tithi & Kirik Party.

Kavaludaari - was notable. It had an interesting start and needed patience to finish the second. That patience was rewarded with a satisfying ending to the villain and a give-a-way of connections of sort.

MALAYALAM

Soubin Shahir & Fahad Fasil turn out to be the flavor of 2019 Malayali movies.
There is one thing to be said about Malayalam movies. You cant except or predict how it will turn out. If you linger the first half, you might easily to brush them away as art movies or going nowhere. But noooo, you have to stay on & then you would be rewarded. 

Bangalore Days - Its rightly called the entry movie for Malayalam movie. Though this is not my first M movie, I enjoyed it as an overall experience. It's same genre as DCH with 3 cousins being the protagonists. But it weaved each one's story with many others and made it a worthwhile watching experience. Multiple cities and multiple languages - Kannada, Tamil, Hindi.

Njan Prakashan - The film has disparate sub-sections with only connections being the hero. That kind of switch is not something we are familiar with in Hindi or English movies. There it would feel like under-budget improperly planned movie. But it was tied well, thanks to the charisma of Fahad Fasil.

Ambili - fairly simple road-movie and good on visuals. First half features a green-Kerala and next half is road trip to Kashmir, with adventures along the way.

Sudani from Nigeria - Introduction to the world of local football in Kerala where players are from Africa. Film-maker had given unique stories to each of the lead characters & the sidekick gangs.

Kumbalangi nights - Very leisurely pacing for a movie that deals with viciously painful family dynamics. Everything was going well till the pyscho-horror turnaround in the climax. I had to forward that part.

BENGALI

No new store of Bengali movies on Amazon Prime as they are on HotStar or HoiKoi &  I haven't subscribed to them.

Shonar Pahar - pretty decent movie where the actors are the key reason to watch - Tanuja, the boy, Parambrata & Jishu. Every interaction is interesting.

Kadambari - Kongana & Parambratta are familiar faces. Great window into a large joint family of olden times. How it's like entering a corporate setup, with its cliques and forming your own place. Showed how the affluent with multiple real-estate lived. And how a familiar figure of India Independence movement had a private family life.

TELUGU

Dear Comrade - Watched it for dear ole Vijay Devarakonda. Rashmika was a surprise realist looking. I didn't know she was so much shorter & real beauty looking. Its amazing if the filmmakers gaze changes, so many taken-for-granted things look different. Her cricket scenes were good. Vijay D angry fight sequences mattered & were absorbing.

Gang Leader - Very interesting premise, not something found usually. Being suspenseful & about bank robbery, it keeps us engaged while it unfolds. Some bits in the end would be considered illogical or illegal, but it can be discounted.


HINDI

Bharat - We went to theater as a family outing for Bharat & later watched repeat on Prime. The grand scale of story kept everyone engaged. Lovely songs. Great ensemble cast & child actors. Wish there was more of Chiang and was not edited out. Poigant moments - Md Ali constantly saying Mere ladke udhar hai; and no one caring cause hurry to move out.  Impulsive halting unsure speeches and esp the one ending with National Anthem Jana Gana Mana.

Zero - Fantastic movie. Every single act or sequence of events, every character decisions were interesting, different from expected movies. Dialogues were un-imaginable. Then the songs were lavish. Setting went from small-town to Mumbai to America and then space.
I don't know what to say for it failing at BO. Even I watched it on Netflix.
All the fan-club driven internet chatter ne barbaad kiya filmon ko. Or can only blame SRK-KK-AS trinity with "Jab Tak" line has some kind of jinx. Always khilli udane-wale are the noisiest. Then awesone bolen wale chup ko jate hai. Effect shows in ticket sales. Very bad trend.

Uri - It had the war video-game vibe about it in the trailer itself and the movie delivered.

Total Dhamaal - truely fantastic mad-cap comedy after a long time. My fav bits were Madhuri-Anil ones.

Notebook - such beautiful locations and plot moves just as serenely. Adorable debutantes both. They included many known stories of Kashmir in small snippets, with elaborate explanations.

Gully Boy - really catchy & original music with equally engaging characters and their complex stories. About music, it was an education on rap music in Indian setting.

Other notables:
Super 30
Manikarnika
Luka Chuppi
Badla
Photograph
SOTY2
Dream Girl