Monday, August 29, 2016

Many lives, many masters - Brian L Weiss

Didn't like it much.

A psychiatrist and his patient try hypnosis to try and track down childhood traumas which could be causing various phobias and anxiety. What they chance upon seems to open up something thats unthinkable for them - rebirth.  These are men and women brought up in a religion/culture where rebirth is not even mentioned, leave alone assumed to be the default setup.

I guess the book didn't work for me either as a interesting story, or as a revelation.

As a story,  it was super boring. I kept hoping some twist or some cool insight would come up, but nothing did. It boiled down to this - the woman had phobias about water, being in enclosed places, bla bla.. oh guess what, she was drowned in one life and buried alive in another. And a lot of random stuff happened in other lives which adds nothing to the tale. So it fails to hold interest as a story with plot etc.

As a non-fiction account of a miraculous convincing proof of rebirth, it still didn't work. Firstly I have always kind or/sort of believed in rebirth, although I have had my doubts about the nature of the soul/consiousness etc. I have also been rather skeptical about the nitty gritties of how exactly would it work, how does time work, how does nirvana work? When/ why do new souls get created? What about animals? Memory, temperament, what about those? So much of neuroscience these days opens up fascinating , tantalizing glimpse about physical changes in brain causing deep impacts on our 'self'. What about that?

The book didn't really help with any of that. It had some supposed answers from 'masters' about various planes, groups of people constantly appearing together, choices etc, but there were too many iffy things. For example the identification of location and time, very problematic. The changes in language, again not even considered.

The thing I did like was the fact that he did keep emphasizing his own doubts in the beginning, but surprisingly for a brilliant, well -educated, skeptical person, he didn't even bring up some of those doubts and questions that I have.

Do I feel he is a charlatan? I don't know, and to be honest I don't care. From my point of view as a fence sitter on the nitty grittier of rebirth, the book didn't do anything to drop me to either side.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Udta Punjab - Abhishek Chaubey

Found it mostly pedestrian.

4 stories intersect to show the drug problem in punjab. or as a whatsapp forward narrated the story.  A fellow tells his friend , 'udta punjab is about the drug problem in punjab.' Friend retorts, ' what nonsense, there is no drug problem in punjab, sab aasaani se milta hai' . 

Anyway, coming back to the movie, it left no impact, barring a few scenes. There's an arresting ,stylish beginning, and a  pretty good last half an hour ( although it breaks off from the main narrative of a sanskari documentary to move almost into fantasy zone) . What happens in the middle though? The high on drugs tommy-the-singer, the do-good-and-fight-the-system-doctor, the good-but-realistic-policeman, and the caught-in-the-middle-alia-bhatt , why does the whole thing leave no impact? I think a big part is the screenplay. I mean it all just looks like a simplistic story with caricatures, strung together with banality.

The only thing that left any impact was alia bhat, not because it was an exceptional performance, ( for that scenes from 'highway' keep intruding). But perhaps I haven't seen this very often before- all that dark foundation, the exact opposite of the fairness creams. The fight scene which ties back with that little scene you had seen earlier as you saw her traveling. This brilliance of course subsequently loses most of its sheen as you have to see everything explained in a dialogue. But perhaps that standalone spunk is so rare to see on screen, that it leaves an impact, even if its not brilliantly written or enacted.

But what exactly was there in this for the censor board to get its knickers in a twist beats me. I mean it can only be a case of chor ki daadi mein tinka if mr nihalani thought this was an indictment of his hero. If you have a little common sense, its shouldn't be that hard to see the gazillion times his hero's opponents have done their own share of deeds dark and ugly, and dozens of films would need to be censored to whitewash them.

But then these are the times we live in. Watch the censored scenes from angry indian goddesses and then travel in a dtc bus in delhi, and then laugh and laugh and laugh till your tummy hurts.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

7 secrets of shiva - Devdutt Patnaik

Haven't blogged for a while, perhaps I needed an appropriate topic to rant about to kick my laziness and lethargy and write. So here goes.

When a cat leaps up to sit on a table, how do you explain that? Well I can write a couple of deep scientific , psychological, philosophical and medical paragraphs explaining this. For eg.

1. The table exerts a natural attraction towards the cat, which stems from the fact that the table is made of a hard substance wood, and the cat is soft creature, and we know that opposites attract. ( attach photo of cat jumping with a bubble explaining how opposites attract)

2. The cat jumped at 11.29 and we know that gravity is temporarily suspended during the period from 11.28 to 11.30. So the placement of the cat underneath the table ensured that the moment gravity was suspended, the cat floated up to the table. (attach photo of floating cat with a clock in the background)

3. The table housed the keyboard, and we know that all cats( male and female) have an inbuilt tendency to shed their seed on a keyboard, over which they have no control, ( only human males can control this tendency ). Hence the cat was driven by a deep instant to jump up. (attach photo of various cats on tables with little blurbs )

4. The cat is a manifestation of prakriti or nature, while the table is a manifestation of purush or pure consciousness. The table is solid, at peace, stable while the cat is ever moving, changing, chanchal.

5. The table is a manifestation of prakriti or nature. It is static, without conscious will,  its choices are limited,  it has no favorites and it is the objective reality of nature. The cat is a manifestation of purush or pure consciousness,  since it is aware, conscious and has the subjective reality of its imagination  It can control is urges, you will find mythology littered with instances where the cat saw a table and jumped.  ( yes I contradict myself with impunity)

I can go on in this vein but unfortunately I am not deluded, or getting paid to write crap.

On the plus side, I didn't find this book a complete waste, because it did have a few paragraphs which resonated, or at least gave food for thought. But just a few paragraphs littered among self contradictory, pseudo explanation-koch-bhi kind of stories and explanations is clearly a very poor hit rate. Maybe I will try another of his books because I have heard so much about them, but I sure hope they don't all follow this self assured, simplistic pseudo explanation ( rather than discussion of various possibilities)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Monogram Murders - Sophie Hannah

ok ish.

This is a Hercule Poirot, written recently  ( not Agatha Christie who had passed away before I was even born!)

I love Agatha Christies, and Poirot is an old favorite, so I gave this one a try. Its a tad overdone, but readable. 

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory - Caitlin Daughty

Interesting read. 

Caitlin writes about her experiences while working in a funeral home, and also our general relationship ( or lack thereof!) with death. Some of it deals more specifically with funeral homes and the increasingly artificial set up around it. The way the bodies are embalmed, made up, the caskets and works. Some of it may be hard to read if you are the quesy kind, but I am pretty blasé about those, so all that just seemed disappointing, even appalling. However culturally the caskets and burials are not that relatable.  

What was more relatable, and worth pondering over, was our increasing obsession with wiping away all traces of death from our lives. Our shiny urban lives, with youth creams and ads with little kids and houses and cars. The swanky hospitals, which can, supposedly, fix everything. And every time the doctor fails to prolong some life to your arbitrary standard of what it should be, we rage about the failure of the system, of the city's lack of facilities, of the dead persons carelessness, how they refused to lead the perfect life and add years to their existence. But inspite of all our efforts, every single one of us is going to die. And before us, most probably we will have to deal with the deaths of older family members. But we won't acknowledge that. 

Makes one re-think some of the death rituals that were traditionally part of our cultures, and which at least in my youth, I too brushed off as pointless. But now I wonder. Even if some of the rituals need to evolve or change, they are still needed. This burying head in the sand approach doesn't look like a good thing. 

In terms of the writing, some of it tended to get rather dragged out, but still a lot in the book that ponder-worthy.  

Monday, March 21, 2016

Its been a while since I came upon someone really suffering due to someone else's close mindedness. When I say 'really', I discount a lot of small stuff. The friend who said or did something mean, yes that hurt but it passes. The workplace where crappy stuff routinely happens.. again its usually all in a days work. The pointless twitter/tv/fb wars. Again ephemeral. Illness and death.. hard but inevitable. 

But today a friend had to give up something because a higher up was prejudiced, and decided to prove his prejudice by any means, mostly foul. I tried to remind her and myself, that in the larger scheme of things, this too shall pass, but couldn't help thinking off and on, what makes a person act like that. 

The incident reminded me of work, and how one of the really good managers was amazingly prejudiced against a religion. I guess he truly believed that anywhere it was practiced was bound to fail. And yet, and yet, he never let that color the way he interacted professionally. He gave credit where it was due, and as his luck would have it, it was often due exactly where it must've hurt him. I often wondered at the dichotomy. 

But not everyone can do that, some I guess, need so desperately to believe their prejudices, that they will actively add obstacles to make someone else fail. Why do their brains stop working? 

Anyway, such is life. One has to get up and start hacking away again.. 

Monday, January 04, 2016

Star Wars- The force awakens

Guess its hard to write an unbiased review. I had seen the first 3 movies as a kid when I barely understood them, and didn't like them. Subsequently whenever I saw bits of them here and there, I always disliked them, not always sure why. Maybe i found the tube light swords infantile, and more akin to the fantasy genre than sic-fi. Maybe the bikini clad bound female next to a blob of gunk left a bad taste in the mouth which nothing would wash away. Maybe I discovered the voyager series and fell into the trap of star trek vs star wars.

Whatever the reason, the fact is I am prejudiced against star wars. I went to watch this quite prepared to dislike and lampoon it. I wasn't disappointed. As a stand alone movie without the baggage of a fan, I found it most contrived and forgettable.

If you are not a fan, avoid.