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Movie Review : Invictus  

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I just finished watching Invictus and I have to say that it was brilliant. Yet another Clint Eastwood classic. It's a sport film about a team that actually made a difference to the lives of millions of people and a divided nation that desperately needed a symbol of unity after centuries of hatred fueled by apartheid. 

The movie is set in post-apartheid South Africa when Nelson Mandela has just taken over as the President of the bitterly divided nation. After 27 years in prison, he struggles tirelessly to unite a nation that is split bitterly along the lines of race. The blacks hate everything that is white and that stands for apartheid and race distinction. The whites, on the other hand, are fearful and distrustful of everything that the new black leadership represents. 

In his attempt to unite the country under a single cause, Mandela turns to François Pienaar, the captain of the South African rugby team, The Springboks. The movie is based on the book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation. 

There are several scenes in the movie that are thought provoking. One of the first scenes of the Black-White discord is when the newly founded presidential bodyguard consists of Black ANC activists and White Afrikaner Corps policemen. They share the responsibility of keeping one of the world's foremost statesmen alive while getting over their long-held prejudices for each other. There is also a rugby match between the Springboks and England which has all white South Africans cheering for the Boks and all the black South Africans cheering for the opposition. In their view, the Boks stand for white supremacy (considering the team had only one black player, Chester Williams.) 

Mandela, in his reconciliation program and amidst rebuilding a nation, decides that this team and the upcoming 1995 Rugby World Cup would be the source of inspiration that the newly formed Republic needs. He asks the young South African captain to provide this inspiration in the form of a victory in the World Cup. There is nothing better to heal a nation's scars than the common element of sport. It must be said that when this request was made, the Boks were seeded 9th and were the clear underdogs with nary a victory to their name. 

Whilst this movie is a stirring tale of a nation coming together, it is also a sports movie. And what does every sports movie have? An underdog team rising against all odds to beat the champions. And the challenge is herculean to the young François Pienaar. He recognizes that the World Cup actually represents salvation for the racially volatile nation and that the team were the bringers of this redemption. To top off this mammoth expectation, the Boks are asked to conduct rugby training camps in the poorer areas of the nation for young black children. 

One very powerful scene was when Mandela tells François about this poem that he used to read when he was a prisoner on Robben Island. This was something that gave him strength when he felt like he was spent. The poem is called Invictus. 

It is this poem that François reads on a visit to Mandela's cell and realizes that here was a man who spent 27 years in prison and then came out willing to forgive and forget for the betterment of his country. 

The Boks go ahead to beat all the odds and face off with the most successful rugby team in the world, the New Zealand All Blacks in the 1995 World Cup final. 

Well, watch the movie. Watch it and be blown away by a larger than life performance by Morgan Freeman and a very real performance by Matt Damon. 

Damn, I love Clint Eastwood. I hope he keeps making movies till he has to go to that great Studio in the Sky. 

Lost Season 6  

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Season 6 of Lost is back and I can't wait. :) I'm watching it now as we speak and I'm on Episode 5. So, here's what happened so far just as a quick recap.

As you can see from the pretty awesome poster here, it's the last season and there are a lot of faces here from the previous seasons. Some are dead, some are not but let's face it, being dead has never kept a character off screen in this show. The one thing the final season promises is a lot of answers. And I can't bleeding wait. :) So, what was I saying? Oh, yes. A recap.

So, as you know the Flight crashed, blah blah blah. (If you don't know this, you're not a Lost fan and this will all be gibberish anyways). So, in Season 5, we saw some pretty far out things happening. A few characters (Saeed, Jack, Kate, Sun, Hurley and Aaron) finally got OFF the island and spent three years off it. A few characters (Sawyer, Jin, Juliet, Miles, Daniel and Charlotte) were left on the island and kept jumping through time (as a result of the wheel being turned in the season finale of Season 4) and finally, after Locke locked the wheel in place, they were all stuck in 1977 or something. As you  might remember, Charlotte dies from the effects of time travelling leaving Faraday a very, very sad man. :( But Sawyer and the rest of the troupe join the Dharma initiative and decide to make a life for themselves in 1977 making the best of their situation. 

In the real world, present day, three years have passed and Locke (having been thrown three years into the future after setting the wheel right) tries hunting down the Oceanic Six in an attempt to bring them back to the Island. Ben "helps" Locke by first having him go around and talk to them and once they refuse Locke, Ben kills him. This prompts the Six (minus Aaron) to get back ANOTHER plane to head back to the Island. This is an Ajira flight that's headed over where the island might appear (as told to them by Eloise Hawking, Faraday's mother and one-time leader of the Others). They get on the flight and sure enough, it crashes. But the Six are all thrown back to 1977 where they are found by Jin and Sawyer. In an attempt to save their lives, Sawyer passes them off as new Dharma recruits. 

Of course, things go haywire and people start dying as these guys rush to make sure that the future never comes to pass. How, I'll get to in a second. 

In the present, Locke's body was on the plane heading to the Island. But once the rest of the Ajira survivors start collecting, there he is, well and good. And of course, this is bad news for Ben Linus. But Locke wakes up and as the leader of the Others, he starts making them walk towards Jacob, all the while whispering in Ben's ear that he must kill Jacob. 

Oh, before we get to this, at the very beginning of the season, you see two people. Jacob and a dude in black sitting on the Island in the 1500s (I think) and they're discussing why Jacob keeps drawing people to the Island. Now, that makes Jacob close on 500 years old. And there's no indication that he's not older. So, Jacob and dude in black keep arguing and the guy in black, we'll call him Nemesis, says that whatever it takes, he'll find a loophole and kill Jacob. To which Jacob replies that he's sure he will.

Anywho, back to 1977, where Faraday finds Jack and tells him that if he's able to explode a Hydrogen bomb where one particular Dharma station is about to be built, he negates this huge pocket of Electromagnetic energy, thus nullifying the existence of the station and the plane crash in the future. Faraday is then killed by his mother in the past before he can complete it. Jack, in the belief that this will actually work, follows through on the plan and gets the bomb (after a lot of gunfighting) to the hole where the energy is discovered. And as they're about to blow the bomb and hence, reset the future, the EM energy starts drawing everything inside and almost kills Juliet. The bomb never detonates. 

In the present, Locke takes all his followers to Jacob and him and Ben enter Jacob's sanctuary. Here, some other Ajira survivors (Jacob's people) find the real Locke's body and bring it to Richard and the rest. So, "Locke" and Ben enter to talk to Jacob and here it is revealed that "Locke" is actually Nemesis and he tells Jacob that he has found the loophole and makes Ben kill him. 

At the same time, in 1977, Juliet is lying at the bottom of the pit and she sees the unexploded bomb. She desperately hammers away at it until the last scene of the season is the bomb exploding.

So, now, here we are. Here are some of the questions that are at the top of my head:

1. Who the frack is Jacob and what's the deal with the Island?
2. Who is Nemesis and why does he need to kill Jacob?
3. What is up with jesus dead people showing up ALL THE FREAKING TIME.
4. What's the deal with the Island?
5. What is that crazy black smoke monster thing?
6. Who are the Others and why are they so weird and why can't they answer simple questions without making it seem like they've been asked to figure out Schrodinger's Cat.
7. What's the deal with the island?
8. How is time travel possible?
9. Why do dead people... 

Okay, I'll stop. You get the picture. 

But honestly, I do love this show. This is one show that has carefully crafted only questions for the better part of it's 5 year run and has kept us on tenter hooks for the entire while. The last season is supposed to answer all the questions. It's exceptionally well written and yes, the plot has more loops than a Celtic promise band but that's what makes this show so great. I can't figure out anything and it's driving me nuts. 

Am I sad that this will be the last season? Sure. Can I wait any longer to find out what the hell is up with that Island? No. I want answers... NOW. 

So, like I said, I'm already on Episode 5 of Season 6 and I must say, it's kickass! Stick around for updates. :) To leave you with something though, here's the trailer for a brilliant Season 6. Enjoy!

Carlton Towers  

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There was a fire today in my office building. You must’ve seen it on the news. It was Carlton Towers in Bangalore. Most people know it as the TGIF building on Old Airport Road. The top few floors caught fire and a few people panicked and they jumped from the top floors of the building and fell to their deaths. Some others died in the hospital due to smoke inhalation. The toll is now at 9 and I hope to God it stays there.

I’m fine. I wasn’t even at work. I had decided to stay and work from home and thought I’d pop into the office during the afternoon. For whatever reason, I’d decided to stay at home and continue working and was only made aware of the fire by a colleague who called me to tell me that all our people had gotten out safely from the building. We’re on the first floor and the fire was, at that time, contained in the higher floors of the building.

I got on the phone and immediately checked to see if anyone was hurt. Luckily, no one was. There were a few scared people because I believe they’d witnessed a few jumpers. I then called home to tell them I was okay. I then turned on the news and watched as the drama unfolded. People trapped in the top floors were breaking glass to be able to breathe. The fire engines that had gotten there couldn’t reach past the 4th floor as their ladders wouldn’t go higher. People were shimmying down ropes from the 7th floor. It was the scariest thing I had witnessed in a while. They finally rescued everyone and admitted around 60 people to the hospital.

I have a few bones to pick with what happened today besides the needless loss of life.

What enraged me completely was that the news channels, News9 and Headlines Today were showing video clips from some amateur cameras of people slipping, falling and jumping out of windows. And they had these clips on repeat. It was atrocious. I’ve never seen anything else with such clear disregard for human decency or courtesy. Imagine the state of the people sitting at home, scared shitless that their loved ones might be there, there’s no way to get in touch with them and they see pictures (no matter how blurry) of people falling to their deaths. There’s no information being conveyed here that people would lose in translation if it was uttered. “People have been seen jumping from windows.” It’s pretty clear and explanatory. Videos of the same are completely unnecessary. I picked up the phone and tried to call them to give them a piece of my mind and stayed on the phone for 15 minutes trying to get through but gave up after I got the busy signal for the hundredth time.

Also, the roads were jammed for miles in every direction with traffic that was blocking fire engines and ambulances. That, I can understand. It happens. But there were also 500 onlookers standing and gawking at the spectacle. There were a few good Samaritans who were helping ferry the people into waiting cars and such to take these people to the Hospital. But a large number of them were standing like fucking idiots watching. I’m sure a moron would have realized that they were in the way. But no. The stupid thing about the idiot mob/crowd is they’re a bunch of bumbling fools who have the IQ of a dodo. What the hell are they staring at? Is it entertainment? Do they want their 10 seconds when the News cameras pan the area? It’s pretty simple logic, if you’re not helping, get the hell out of the way and let the rescuers do their fucking job. Idiots.

One of my colleagues told me that while she was running down the fire escape to get out of the building, the fire escape was locked. There was also clutter in the stairwells that impeded the firemen when they were trying to enter the building. What kind of a bastard locks a fire escape? And this isn’t the first place I’ve seen it. Hundreds of buildings all over this country have emergency exits that are locked and sealed. This is kind of like having the antidote for a deadly disease but keeping it in a lockbox and forgetting the key. They’re arresting the maintenance personnel and so they should. It’s their negligence that didn’t give people the chance to escape. They should be made to face the families of all those killed. The state of emergency response and procedures in this country is deplorable. Even if there ever was a terrorist attack, more people would die from inefficiencies and stupidity than from bullets or bombs.

Anyways, I’m sorry for the families of all those who lost their lives today. It really makes you wonder. You wake up in the morning thinking its just another day at work and you never come home. Reminds you of how fragile life actually is. I was never in any danger today because I wasn’t even in the same zip code. But it could’ve been me just as easily as it was the people who died. I’m not scared or angry for me. Just at the completely needless loss of life.

Book Review : Bridge of Rama - Ashok K. Banker  

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Bridge of Rama is about the coming of age of Hanuman. The little vanar warrior from Armies of Hanuman has been entrusted with enlisting to Rama's aid, the biggest vanar fighting force in history. An army that will raze Lanka to the ground and rid the world of rakshahas forever. 

Rama and Lakshman wait at the southern tip of the continent waiting for this force to appear. They face the ocean and the 100 miles to the Lankan landmass seems like an unsurpassable distance. The vanars, as a race, are afraid of the ocean and Lakshman is less than confident about the fighting skills of this undisciplined "army" in the face of the most formidable and ruthless warriors on prithvilok. And then, Hanuman arrives. 

No one recognizes Hanuman. He, in no way, resembles the scrawny little vanar who met Rama at Janasthana in the previous book. Through a secret transformation, yet to be revealed, he is as tall as a man, powerfully muscled and the paragon of strength. And he brings with him, a janaya-sena, a generation army. It is army that consists of every vanar, man, woman and youngling, capable of fighting. Every vanar in existence is pressed into service with only one objective in mind, the liberation of Sita. And in addition, he has a surprise, a massive army of rkssas or bears, one of the most powerful creatures in the animal kingdom. 

Simultaneously, we also follow how Sita's coping in Lanka as a prisoner. Ravana's trying his best to seduce Sita by being an understanding and almost sympathetic captor. Mandhodhari, on the other hand, has a different view of Sita and sees her as a seductress who's got evil designs to be the next Lankan queen. 

The vanar-rksaa army begins trying to build the bridge of Rama from the southern tip of the Indian continent to Lanka. This is a hugely challenging task as hundreds of animals push massive boulders in an attempt to make the passageway. However, during one such move, a boulder comes loose and starts tumbling towards Rama. Hanuman, seeing this, manifests a power whereby he expands himself to triple his size and saves Rama. He says he doesn't know how he did but that it was by thinking of Rama that he could. At this point, Jambavan, the king of the bears reveals that Hanuman is no ordinary vanar. He is the child of Vayu, the wind god and the apsara, Anjani. He is, in essence, a demi-god, and it was his devotion for Rama that awakened his power. 

That night, as the army sleeps, Rama is visited by the spirit of Dasaratha, who tells him that if Rama did not save Sita the same night, she would perish and the bridge and the army would be for naught. Rama then asks Hanuman to fly to Lanka to bring back his bride. 

Hanuman, using his newfound power, grows himself to a hundred times his size and leaps over to Lanka to rescue Sita. 

The rest of the book details Hanuman's encounted with Sita and Ravana and the havoc he wreaks on behalf of Rama. His decimation of Rakshasha legions and his threat to bring an army back that would reduce Lanka to rubble. 

I'm almost done with the set. I'm on Book 6 now, The King of Ayodhya. :)

By the way, one curious little side-note to this post. I was looking up Rama's Bridge on Google and I came across this. 

These are aerial and satellite images of Adam's Bridge or Rama's Bridge that "is a chain of limestone shoals, between the islands of Rameswaram, off the southeastern coast of Tamil Nadu, India, and Mannar, near northwestern Sri Lanka. Geological evidence indicates that this bridge is a former land connection between India and Sri Lanka."

It was reportedly passable on foot till the 15th century at which time, storms deepened the channel. Which kinda makes you think, doesn't it? :)

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