Book review: The girl with the dragon tattoo

It is not often that I review books; if I reviewed every book I read, I would probably be too busy reading and writing every waking moment of my day. That said, the fact that I wanted to take time to speak about swede, Stieg Larsson’s, longtime bestseller speaks volumes about the book.

This review may contain mild spoilers, but nothing to irreversibly dent your reading suspense, so you should find it safe to go on.

First of all, (off the top of my head) I must say that I found the title rather misleading. This book is about a lot of things — including Lisbeth Salander, Mr Larsson’s masterful creation of a goth hacker dwelling in the tech underworld, confused and careless about everything in her life — but Salander, the titular girl with the dragon tattoo, is no bigger a player in it than any other.

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iPad Air

I seem to have grown a closeness with all gadgets Air. After recently buying a MacBook Air, I gifted myself an iPad Air for my birthday recently.

silver iPad air
The silver iPad Air

The iPad Air is a beautiful device and I picked the white bezel (my first white device) based on my usage: I read more, and the walls in my house are white. Jokes apart, reading with a white bezel, in spite of the black vertical strip outlining the screen (which bothers some people), is simply a much better experience than a black screen.

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Blookist — not just another blogging platform

Visit Blookist and the most inspiring part of their website is in an obscure place — the address bar. “You don’t need an excuse to be creative”, it reads. Still in beta, Blookist is a new kind of publishing platform. That was how its co-founder and CEO, Adrian Zuzic, described it to me when he got in touch recently, asking if I would be interested in reviewing their startup.

Blookist is the content-appreciative publishing platform we had all been waiting for.

At first, I was confessedly disinterested: was this just another Obtvse, another Svbtle, or another Ghost? At a time when blogging platforms seem to be cropping up at every nook and cranny, why did I have to pay any attention to Blookist? Was this another ambitious platform started with enthusiasm that would lose direction halfway through?

As I looked around, however, it was hard for me not to realise this was not a blogging platform; it was something more, something unique, and, most importantly, something promising. I signed up for free immediately and over the next couple of days began to explore this further. It had caught my attention. Continue reading

Origami: trailer

Origami is a short film about two persons who have never met, between whom a bond grows as they begin exchanging a series of origami figures.

With each passing day, they both have something to look forward to: a dying man seems to get a lease of life, and a healthy young one realises life is not as mundane as he thought it was.

The trailer for the film is now out.

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“Civilisation” — Nature diaries, part 4

Nature diaries is an ongoing collection of five short films, often not spanning more than three minutes in length, which explore select ideas in a raw and organic, yet subtle, manner. These are shot entirely handheld and in natural light, with no setup whatsoever.

This means I need to be prepared when something is happening, not after the fact; and this often leads to some funny situations: since I enjoy photographing everything, people start to think I do this because I am excited by it, and they are right. But they fail to realise why I am excited by it: it is not that I have never seen that thing before (I probably have) but because every time I look at it, I see it as a new work of art.

I photograph roads. Sometimes I spend several minutes rooted to one spot trying to capture the graininess of a road or the wave white lines running along it in an artistic manner. This is construed as my awe with roads because I have not seen such roads before.

On the one hand this is outrageous and, if anything, shows the other person’s complete lack of knowledge of globalisation; but, to me, this proves to be very entertaining. This was what I experienced when I set out to film for the fourth part of the Nature diaries collection, titled “Civilisation”.

And that was understandable. Why would anybody pick up their camera and film a random street? The obvious conclusion drawn was something like, “he hasn’t seen such streets where he comes from”. (Guess what, even if I come from Tristan de Cunha, I still have internet access these days.) But what most failed to see was the composition(ally?), photographically, geometrically rich few seconds or simply a fascinating synchronisation in things.

But that is not all I hoped to capture here. Smaller things come into the picture: juxtaposing cycles with motor vehicles, chronicling the darker, graffiti-ridden side of an otherwise beautiful city, organisation, people in the very middle of their everyday lives, always looking for something interesting to do or say, the hustle, the calm, the shady, the sunny, the dreamy, the extraordinary and the same old white picket fences everybody still craves.

Here is the final result:

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(P.S. When I started off with the nature diaries, I only had ideas for four parts which means I am open to any topic you can pick for the fifth and final installment. Do take a look at the entire collection as of now to get a better idea as to the kind of topics we explore through Nature diaries.)

Film review: “Lake Tahoe”

One of Fernando Eimbcke’s earlier feature films, Lake Tahoe, almost disappeared from mainstream cinema alongside some better known films that came out that same year on the international stage (The Dark Knight, Iron Man, Quantum of Solace, Indiana Jones: the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull).

That is something very unfortunate, because Lake Tahoe, at the very least, is a stark contrast to all these big budget commercial works in that it is truly a work of art.

Despite what many might argue is an excruciatingly slow, somewhat motionless film, I believe that that is exactly where Lake Tahoe’s strength lies. Right from the very first, lengthy, action-free still that opens the film, Mr Eimbcke’s intention is pretty loud and clear.

Screenshot courtesy of Slant magazine

As I can recall off-hand while I pen this review, the entire film is shot more like a series of carefully thought, beautifully composed photographs with a single moving subject right up to the point where the camera starts rolling in a dolly alongside Diego Cataño’s disturbed teen on his way to a mechanic’s.

The film literally begins with a bang. Juan has hit his car onto a light pole. And for every passing moment then on, we give ourselves to Mr Eimbcke’s patient story-telling. One mechanic shop to another; one person to another.

EVERY FRAME ACTS LIKE A PLAYGROUND LETTING [EIMBCKE'S] ACTORS BECOME PAWNS IN THE DIRECTOR’S INVESTIGATION OF LIFE.

Back home, our protagonist, Juan’s, mother is depressed, having locked herself in the bathroom. Joaquin, Juan’s younger brother, in his tent, is perhaps most oblivious to their father’s passing if his scrapbook right at the end is no indication.

Every incident in this story of life itself is designed to teach Juan something about his on-going attempt to face his father’s death. At first he refuses, tries to get away, but that is not an option, and he learns that very gently, almost as if only Mr Eimbcke’s wide shots could.

The film starts by feeling more like a series of photographs interspersed with long black screens during which the viewer is left to visualise the film the way they want to, supported only by a continuing audio. Every frame acts like a playground letting his actors become pawns in the director’s investigation of life. This is truly something that has to be seen.

But the film, just like life, is also made up of small things: Hector Herrera’s talented portrayal of Don Heber letting go of his dog, Sica; or, in better times, Heber and Sica sharing a bowl of cereal in synchronisation; Lucia’s missing the concert; David’s Bruce Lee obsession; and the fridge, which, seemingly like everything else in Juan’s life, is broken.

Screenshot courtesy of Bryan Schutmaat

Lake Tahoe is not a film to be missed. Between Baz Luhrman’s heavily CGI-dependent The Great Gatsby which decided to take its own path away from the book, and Martin Scorsese’s brilliant The Wolf of Wallstreet, Lake Tahoe definitely leans towards Wolf…’s organic tone making it a match to these much newer films for any connoisseur. As for Gatsby itself, now that we mention it, nobody who has actually read the book can be satisfied with the film that looked like Mr Luhrman’s own creation.

The only thing nagging me was the film’s title. Lake Tahoe — or water itself, for that matter — has little to do with this film, so where does the title fit in except for that obscure reference to a Lake Tahoe bumper sticker Juan’s aunt had sent them and that his father hated. I suppose some things are truly rhetoric devices even in films.

To formally sum it all up: Tahoe is a moving, captivating film that only demands you give a lot more of your time to it than you would expect. It deserves a good 4/5 because, at times, it left me wanting an ever so slightly inconspicuous camera presence in the hall.

Sometimes, you realise a camera is there, other times, you are pulled into a vortex of uncanny, yet appealing, film making, like when Mr Eimbcke makes you watch Juan sitting still in a car and turns off his camera when the traffic lights turn green, or when he does that again every time somebody closes the car door.

This is one of those films you end up loving or hating with a passion. I, for one, loved it.

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“The Beatles still sell for €5,99″ and other tales of everlastingness

I noticed on my visit to the music shop today that a new batch of low-price The Beetles CDs had arrived. Now I already own all of The Beatles, so I really had no reason to pick up the disc set to inspect it, but I did and one thing stood out: a €5,99 price tag; which is roughly $8 or £5 or ₹500 I suppose.

It is fascinating how a rock band that was active for ten years sells, nearly forty years later, for the same price as Beiber’s enhanced My World disc on Amazon.

Without meaning disrespect to anybody, I think that this shows just how popular The Beetles had become by the time they broke-up. In contradistinction, it is an issue of concern that every music group’s gospel — performing every single one of the Beeth’s excruciatingly hard-to-perform symphonies — sells far cheaper than the mediocre music made today solely for cash. Perhaps that is because everybody does it; but should repetition of a classic make it any less of a classic?

Speaking of Beethoven, I recently answered myself a question that had been bothering me: what on earth does Beethoven mean? As it turns out, Beeth is beetroot (yes), and hof is farm. So that gentleman we all so admire is Ludwig from Beetroot Farm.

But are classics really held far less worthy, or does everything modern generally take precedence when it comes to setting prices, or are our tastes as a society changing, or should there exist a very different kind of motivation to last, as former US Labour Secretary, Lynn Martin, put it:

No matter what your religion, you should try to become a government program, for then you will have everlasting life.

Even more interesting is that most of what we listen to today may be heavily modified; whether it is really done that way or not, nobody can deny that we have enough technology today to make person X sound a million times better than he really is, especially if that Mr X agrees to hand over the producers a greater percentage of profits than the better-sounding-poorly-sharing and more deserving artiste, Y.

I have, bookmarked, this 1919 photograph of Cxechoslovakian violinist and composer, Jan Kubelik, from sometime back. It really is a reminder that we came from a time when state-of-the-art music refinement was done using cones taped to reduce reverberation.

Jan Kubelik (R) with Bruno Seidler-Winkler at the Piano.
Photo courtesy Flickr/painting in light

Today, refinement has come from meaning getting musicians’ unadulterated sound to helping them by making it sound better. It has become Photoshop for audio.

A counter argument I can suggest myself is that the term classics is too loosely defined. Our renaissance classics were modern works during the renaissance. While desperate efforts were being made to save the then-classics, what was really being celebrated — being the centre of attention — during the renaissance was the day’s absolute modern attempts at art.

It then does not seem far fetched to say that Beiber may become a classic singer around the 2050s or later. And we are only paranoid in saying the classics are on a decline. Or that they are in any way comparable to today’s approach to art and society — both of which have inherently changed a lot between the 16th and 21st centuries.

But even such an argument does little to explain why The Beetle’s low-price disc should sell for close to €6.

 Cover image: Flickr/erin