bookspluslife

October 19, 2013

Book: Dubliners by James Joyce

Filed under: Books — Tags: , — krishnafromtoronto @ 1:40 am

coverThis is the collection of short stories by James Joyce and is supposed to describe vignettes of Dublin life. The stories are of very limited interest to me, even the best of those being a drag and the worst were pointless and a waste of time to read.  Give this one a miss.

The first story is called The Sisters – An old man and a young boy are improbable friends. The old man seems to be dying. Cotter advises the family of the boy that perhaps the boy should not associate with old men and with books instead of playing, like other normal boys. The man sees the corpse and meets the sisters of the man. Is there a point to this story?

The next story is called An Encounter – Joe Dillon is a Wild West Pulp reader. Acts it out with Leo, his brother. Both are boys. Teacher discovers them reading half penny novels and is upset. Jon gets depressed, goes to next town and fantasizes about climbing a ship and going away forever. Makes a friend of an old man but when the old man starts talking weird, runs back with friend back to home!

Araby – A boy is in love with a brown girl but shy to talk to her. She speaks to him one day and he promises to get her something from the fair he goes to the next day

There are pointless stories like Evelyn, about a girl pining for a man who wants to leave town, After the Rush which is a much jumbled account of a boat ride and many things besides. Makes no sense.

Two Gallants – Friends. One boasts of a girl who is in love with him. His name is Carley. Lenehan, the other, laps it all up. Carley demonstrates by picking her up and taking her to a house that is deserted. He emerges much later and meets up with Lenehan

Boarding House – Mrs Mooney was freeloaded by hubby and throws him out. Tough as nails. She runs a boarding house. Her daughter has an affair with a boarder (Mr Doran) and is found out. Mrs Mooney orders him to come talk to her about his marrying the daughter now.

A Little Cloud – Little Chandler, a married journalist, meets Ignatius Gallagher in a pub. He is an old friend, free, full of adventures and promises and he envies Ignatius until he finds him drab and empty.

Counter Point – Farrington is an oppressed lazy employee. Once he defies his boss and stuns himself. Shirking work, runs to bar and is lionized by other employees for his defiant behaviour.

Others – a party where a man sings, carves turkey and ladies sing as well.

In all, they feel like what you would hear of men in your town, not even lives, but episodes of a day or a few hours. Most have no point, and the whole thing is a bore to read.

 

Let us say 2/10

 

–       – Krishna

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Movie: Prisoners (2013)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 1:19 am

imageThis movie has its moments. It keeps your interest until the end, and has some twists and turns that may surprise some of you – maybe not all of you.   And Hugh Jackman has done a phenomenal job of portraying a father totally desperate about his missing daughter and, at the same time, excessively angry that the police are letting go the obviously crazy killer due to lack of some evidence.

 

The bull dog like detective who does not let go once he gets a bite on some case has been done before but still Jake Gyllenhaal does a credible job of portraying that character. Just a question – does the nervous tick that he does in the movie been done by him in another movie recently? I had a sense of Déjà Vu while watching but cannot swear to it.

 

Enough about my impressions; let us talk about the story. There are two families who are close friends. One family consists of Mr and Mrs Dover. The husband, Keller (played by Hugh Jackman) is a deeply religious man with a strong sense of right and wrong. The other family are the Birches. The Dovers have the Hollywood mandated two kids, Ralph the elder and Anna, the six year old. The Birches have two kids too, Eliza and Joy who is also six. Ralph and Eliza are of similar age  but older.

On a Thanksgiving day, the Dovers with their kids to the Birches for dinner and the kids go for a walk. They go early, and the kids go for a walk when they see an RV parked there, with no lights. A highly unusual sight, but then they move on. Later, the younger kids Anna and Joy go back to the Dover house to get a safety whistle that the security minded Keller always insists that his kids carry. They never return and the older children, who are watching TV in the Dover house later claim that they saw no one.

 

Keller is highly suspicious of the RV and wants the police to find it. The detective who heads the investigation, a highly committed and intelligent – another Hollywood standard – Loki promises to find. When the RV is found soon, the driver tries to flee and crashes the car. The only problem is this; the driver, Alex Jones, is mentally deficient and has the IQ of an eight year old. Which is why, when the investigators check the van fully and do not find an evidence, and when he denies ever seeing the missing children and the polygraph test are also inconclusive, Loki has to let him go. While he is leaving, he is confronted by an angry Kenneth and says, just so that he could hear ‘They were crying only when I left them’. No one else hears this and Kenneth is not believed.  Alex is being brought up by his uncle

Frustrated that the killer was clean getting away, Kenneth kidnaps him at gunpoint and decides to imprison him and interrogate the killer himself.

The story then develops into a cat and mouse game between the detective and Kenneth. When Kenneth decides to let in Franklin Birch, the father of Joy into confidence, he feels qualms about going outside the law.  When Kenneth gets no results from mild interrogation, he ups the ante in torture in frustration and the game becomes really serious.

There is a side story of a priest finding a serial killer of children confessing to him and he, unable to bear it in his conscience, decides to kill the man, a deranged man who is suspected of killing the kids by the police who keeps drawing a maze compulsively and also keeps snakes in suitcases, and a twist about who the real killer is. ,

Detective Loki is a typical movie detective, motivated, frustrated by lack of results, under pressure from his superiors to produce results. The only difference is his volatile temper, which makes him shout at his superiors and who tolerate it presumably because he is such an effective cop.

Apart from some contrived twists, the one piece of absurdity that takes the cake is this. When he finds the real killer and in a gun battle that ensues, manages to kill the real killer, he find himself injured and with a child who is dying of poison. Now, a real or even a semi sensible cop would have called for an ambulance or for airlifting of the child to immediate medical attention. But this movie cop has to insanely decide to drive her to the emergency himself, going at top speed and sometimes on the wrong side of the road. In case you did not think it was challenging enough – and don’t even get me started about the possibility of crashing this car at a critical juncture –  he cannot see because blood is pouring in front of his eyes and he is semi blind and has to wipe it off.  Now come on, even for a movie exaggeration, there has to be some limit!

The ending where Kenneth is trapped and how the detective finds him is interesting, and ties in with the story.

 

An interesting movie. Great performance by Hugh Jackman, really. But a great movie? Not really. Worth a look if you feel the need to be entertained.

 

I would say a 5/10

 

–          – Krishna

October 12, 2013

Book: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 1:20 pm

imageA classic that everyone has heard of, but how many have really read the book? If you are not into classical novels, the answer is very few.

 

It has throughout, an invented language. The language is based on Russian (or Slavic languages) but not entirely. It has mostly English words with viddy for “see”. It can be very irritating at first but you simply get used to it very soon. Let us see what the story is about.

 

Alex has three friends, Pete, Georgie and Dim. They are hooligans, enjoy terrorizing the neighbourhood and having gang wars just for fun. They are cruel, out of control and are feared even by their parents. Alex terrorizes a writer and his wife and tears up a story he is writing, called A Clockwork Orange. (Clever to name a story in a story with the title of the book itself)

 

When you viddy the slovos (words)  that the author chelloveck has written, you can’t believe your own glazzies and you wonder “Am I to figure out what this is in my gulliver all by my oddy knocky?’. Your rot drops and you grind your goobies  in frustration.

 

Did that make any sense? If you have this dictionary (viddy – see; slovo – word; chelloveck – fellow; galzzies – eyes; oddy knocky – myself; rot – mouth; goobies – teeth), then it makes sense. There is a glossary at the end of the book but it is more fun to read and guess. (I did not know it was there but by the time I found out, I had guessed most of it anyway and did not need it. But you, on the other hand, may feel more comfortable to check it out from the beginning)

 

Alex goes to a cat lady and accidentally knocks her on the head and she dies. He is arrogant and treats everyone with disdain and takes what he wants – including taking girls to his room and raping them. It is a kind of a futuristic society where the rule of the law has broken down and the police seem to be ineffective.  He insults his own cronies but they trap him with the lady and when the millicents, sorry, police come by, he is taken to jail, which turns really dire when the old lady dies.

 

Then they conceive of a medicine, which can make a person incapable of deceit, lying or cruelty. They decide that this is a better way to reform criminals and even hooligans, and that way, there is no need for jails or punishment. If you are caught for a crime, they can just ‘cure’ you and let you back in society, knowing that you will be incapable of being bad again thereby eliminating the problem of recidivism.

Alex is the gunea pig  for the  miracle medicine and made “good” but a lot of folks do not like it. He is “re-cured” and resumes a life of crime but his heart is not in it.

 

The explanation for why he loses interest in crime, though making for a satisfying ending to a book, is weak and unconvincing. I leave it to you to read it and either agree or disagree with my assessment.

 

But the book does indeed raise very interesting ethical questions. The most important one, I think, is this: If you were forced, as by medicine in this story, to choose good and are incapable of making a voluntary choice between good and evil, are you really good? Is not being a good person automatically imply choice to be good? Very interesting questions.

In essence, the story is interesting, and is well told, and the invented artificial language adds, in my view, and additional layer of enjoyment. It is not a profound book and does not move you very much, but still very readable.

 

I would give this book a 6/10

 

– –  Krishna

Movie: Gravity (2013)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 12:47 pm

imageYou have to hand it over to this movie for the visuals. I think it is very hard to make a movie in which there are only two characters throughout (George Clooney and Sandra Bullock) – and okay, the Indian accented voice of a third person. But just like Castaway, you do not even notice the passage of time. In fact, this is like a Castaway in space, where two, not one, persons are adrift.

My God, the visuals! Watch this movie in 3D if you can. The visuals take you right there, and make you feel that you are right there with them (without the need for a space suit of course).  Even the view of the earth floating in the background (too big to be the pale blue dot famously alluded to by Carl Sagan but breathtakingly beautiful because of that) is awesome.

The story is a bit farfetched in parts.  The story is about two astronauts working on the Space Stations (and therefore close to earth in space than they would be if they were travelling to the moon) caught in a shrapnel storm of debris caused by Russia destroying one (or more?) of its satellites which are past the end of their life,. This operation goes out of control when these hit and destroy other space objects, creating yet more shrapnel in a parody of a macabre billiard game of impinging balls.

I wonder if the contraption George uses to float around in space is anywhere near reality. I doubt it, but it is kind of cool. George plays the part of a wisecracking, funny, sympathetic astronaut but this movie is all about Sandra Bullock.

Wonderful scenes of her fight for survival, and the conditions of weightlessness in space and inside the spacecraft are fantastically portrayed. Even her tears at one point will not fall to “the ground” but float all over the spacecraft!

The Hollywood unreality creeps in and it is kind of both good and bad in my opinion. Good because it makes for good drama and you forget the passage of time. If those were not there, this would have felt like a documentary. Bad because the whole thing is so improbable. First, you have this premise that the debris storm hit them at almost no warning, though they knew of the destroyed satellites long ago, when it happened. (“They underestimated the time that these people had” is the lame explanation).

Second, everything goes wrong. Well, in Castaway, that is a real probability: his boat making efforts fail and he fails to attract the attention of the passing ship etc. Could happen, really. Here? Come on, with all the care taken to build space ships, one thing after the other seems to go wrong, not only with her own ship systems but also with the other Chinese space ship that she eventually reaches.  Definitely improbable. But, like I said before, makes for good drama.

The ending? With the risk of giving a spoiler, I would say that she survives. Not much of a spoiler, it is almost de rigour for Hollywood movies. But the splashdown and the subsequent issues she faces is highly ridiculous. Again, taken to extreme for the sake of drama.

Finally, it is ironic that a Russian experiment caused the shrapnel and a Chinese spaceship played a part in the rescue while in reality, it is the Chinese who blew up, a year or so ago, one of their unused satellites in space, causing fear of space debris among the scientific community.

Improbable, it may be, highly dramatized, it may be, but the visuals are stunning, the movie races along without a moment of letting up, and keeps your eyes behind the 3D glasses glued to the screen at every moment. Also, it is not good to expect realism in a movie of this nature.

It is stunning to see, and definitely worth going to. I would give it a 7/10

 

— Krishna

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