Monday, October 29, 2012

My Adventures in TV Land: Part III

The only thing that I enjoyed more than this was watching the Republican and Democratic conventions. For those not in the know, the conventions are 3 day events separated by a week, held by both parties and act as a platform for nominating their candidate, spreading word on their policies and to pat each other on the back while shooting down the opposition.

You had common folk adversely affected by the policies of the other party, former presidents (the Democrats had Bill Clinton and the Republicans kept George Bush away, self explanatory), the vice president candidates and wives all speaking before the presidential candidates themselves.

Just sitting back and watching what each party was saying, the audience that each party attracted and the fundamental difference in thought process on basic issues was just fantastic. This is the sort of stuff they do not teach you in text books. I must say I was blown away by the reception that Michelle Obama received and the speech that Bill Clinton made (look it up on youtube if you have the time, great speech in terms of chopping the Republicans into fine pieces) in the lead up to the speech by Barack Obama on the last day.

Bill Clinton's Arithmetic Speech

With the cooped in my hotel room lifestyle, I might not have got too many insights into the workings of St Louis but in the process I think I have learnt a bit about what makes America tick.

My Adventures in TV Land : Part II

And so there I was in a hotel room half way across the world in a city notorious for its ridiculous crime rate with no option but to park myself in my hotel room after getting back from work every day. Now I’ve always been a TV guy and settled back for what I expected to be television heaven for a guy like me. Well it wasn’t quite what I expected.

For some inexplicable reason, the TV show 2 1/2 Men has been a monster hit just about everywhere. The premise is fairly simple - take one rich jingle making alcoholic womanizer Charlie (Charlie Sheen supposedly playing himself) and a broke, down on his luck, twice divorced brother Alan and his son Jake who somehow grows dumber and slimmer as the seasons go on. Add a few assorted characters, throw in the same old woman jokes, subtract any premise of an actual story line and proceed to shoot season after season after season and then get TV channel to pick up the show. Except for the news and sports channels, every single channel aired 2 1/2 Men at some time or the other every single day. Which really gets annoying as you switch channels after watching an episode of the show only to find another episode playing on the next channel.

Now I’ve seen much much more than the average person’s dose of crime shows over the years but things went to a whole different level in St Louis. Ive been a massive fan of shows like Law & Order (especially their Special Victims Unit series), CSI (to a much lesser extent), Criminal Minds, law shows like the Practice etc. It’s difficult to explain but there is something wonderful about watching a well scripted crime show that highlights the extremes of the human mind. Well who ever said birds of a feather flock together was wrong ....

My landing in the US coincided with the start of the academic year and for some reason Law & Order:SVU was airing multiple episodes every day as part of its Back to School program. Seriously? Back in the day TV channels coincided the beginning of a new series of cartoons with the start of the Indian academic year. All said and done, I enjoyed sitting back and watching a couple of hours of L&O:SVU every evening after a long day at work.

I guess a large part of why these shows are so big in the US is because the American people seem to be inherently more trusting and hence don’t expect crimes to happen to them. We were out for a stroll and my colleague left his pram by the steps of the Gateway arch for over 45 minutes and we found it there untouched when we returned. In India one wouldn’t even dream of turning away for more than 2 minutes. Ok I think Ive said a little too much about my massive fascination for crime and have scared off most of my female audience ....

My Adventures in TV Land : Part I

The most interesting and honest insights into any city come not from the big tourist spots or the lobbies of large hotels but instead from observing the day to day life of people on the streets. Now I’m the last person to plonk myself in front of the TV in a hotel room when I’m on a business trip but after my first evening in downtown Saint Louis I realized that discretion is the better part of valour and that it was better to not get mugged, molested, stabbed or shot at and live to work another day.

A week or so ago I had blogged about how bad I was when it came to signs. I will do my best to capture what happened when I finally landed in St Louis on a weekday evening after having spent close to 40 hours on multiple fights. I stepped out of the hotel by around 7 PM to find myself a mobile connection and to get a feel of the city which boasted of the quite magnificent Gateway arch that was visible from my hotel room. What I usually do is take time to explore the surrounding blocks on day one and then from day two onwards I keep exploring a few more blocks in each direction till I am quite familiar with the area. Initially I found a few people strolling around their hotels but within a few minutes I realised that streets were deserted. And by deserted I mean straight out of a zombie movie deserted.

Gateway Arch

Every few minutes or so the eerie silence would be broken by a passing car a couple of streets away but people were nowhere to be seen. I checked if any restaurants were open but most of them were shut by 8 PM which surprised me quite a bit as I just came from Bangalore where restaurants and pubs shut down at 11:30 much to our annoyance. The only few people I did spot looked to be the sorts that could and would leave me mugged, molested, stabbed or shot at and I was planning on returning to India with all my limbs intact.

Finally I made my way back to the hotel and spoke to relatives of mine who warned me that St Louis wasn’t the safest of places in the U.S of A. A quick internet search threw up the following numbers. Gulp!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Well behaved

Spotted in the U.S of A and had me speechless!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Rude Awakenings - Part II

Now while everyone tells me that I always look to be in good shape and never seem to put on any weight, I have to admit, looks can be deceiving. There is that little pot belly that keeps popping up every few months or so which has recently led me to wipe the dust off my sneakers and after 3 weeks of careful planning, an additional 2 weeks of being delayed on account of the rains and a further one week of postponing on account of laziness, I finally started my jogging sessions in the nearby park.

By jogging sessions I mean a few rounds of walking, a mild trot, a steady walk, a fast paced walk, an attempt at a jog, a sheepish return to a fast walk (while hoping that no one noticed), a relaxed walk and finally the long walk back home before collapsing exhausted and unable to move my feet. Strangely the story was repeated every day. Now this is most unusual as all these years it has only taken me a day or two to get my body warmed up (while most people take 15 or 20 minutes but let’s not dwell on that) after which I would go jogging for a month or so and then proceed to lose so much weight that everyone would tell me I need to put on a few kilos.

Which is when I usually stop jogging and start hogging which leads to the appearance of the pot belly in a few months’ time. And so the circle continues. As much as I tried to avoid the thought, my logical mind could arrive at only one conclusion – I’m no longer 24 and time is catching up with me. On the bright side, 25 isnt too bad .... 

So while we get caught up in our day to day lives and give up on the smaller but equally important things (blogging in my case), life moves on and before you know it your ashes are being dispersed or you are six feet under the ground. No longer! For quite some time now the fan mail from loyal readers of this blog has been pouring in to the extent that the current postman has requested for an additional postman to be assigned to this route so that he doesn’t have to lug around the heavy stack of letters alone and break his back.

And while I have been meaning to blog more frequently, I just never seem to get around to it but I can deny the hordes of anxious readers no longer. This new and improved me (I hear you ask yourself, how does one improve on perfection?) is back to blogging though I will be experimenting with a different style going forward. Word of warning though – if the new blogger in me isn’t really as good as I think he is, don’t just post a comment saying “Go Back!” under each post. You will need to do something about it. Send in more letters, pick up the phone and call me, stage a protest march outside my place. I’m not that good with signs you see ….

Rude Awakenings - Part I

Signs. It could be the steaming dish that the waiter is carrying past you to the family seated at the next table just as you are about to place your order and despite knowing that behind the absolutely sinful aroma lies a combination of devastating spices that will turn your insides out in 12 hours, you still go ahead and order the same dish anyways. And then you pray. It could be that lingering look that you get from the pretty girl sitting next to you on the first day of college and before you know it, you've spent 30 years together and it’s time to send your kid to her first day of college. And while nervousness is in the air, you secretly hope that she finds Mr. Right just as your wife did.

It could be that pair of jeans that just seems to shout out 'Pick me! Pick me!' at a sale and while you don’t really need it you go ahead and buy it anyway. And then it becomes your favourite pair of jeans to the extent that you tell all your friends that you have many pairs in almost the same colour, lest they suspect that you wear the same pair of jeans over and over and over again.

The thing is, I’m not good with signs. But things have transpired recently and even someone as significantly signically challenged as me, has had to sit up and take notice. First things first, of all the things we take in life for granted, it is ironically life itself that we take for granted the most. A few days ago, my boss and I were in my car waiting for the signal to turn green at a busy junction (stationary for at least 45 seconds) when BAM! we get hit by a cab from behind. And by hit, I don’t mean nudged or bumped. Precious (yes I do call my car Precious, live with it) really got whacked by a moving cab that somehow managed to rear end my stationary car despite there being an empty lane to the right. The whiplash was severe enough to ensure I had some serious neck pain for the next couple of days and cause me to think about life as I know it. Annoyingly everyone was concerned about Precious and not one single person asked me if I was fine. I’m trying to live with it.

Unfortunately this is the second time, this has happened to me and I’m starting to get a little worried. A month or so ago, we were in a Chrysler 300C when we were rear ended by a moron who wasn’t paying attention to the road. Americans and their road habits. And people tell me biking is not safe....