April 17, 2010

Movie Review: Pathshala


The job of a movie reviewer is not an easy one. Whether he/she is interested in watching any movie or not, he/she has to go through the ritual on every Friday. There is always a deadline to contend with. And then, there is this relatively insignificant thing called money which further complicates matters. Even though nobody pays me to review movies and nobody threatens me with deadlines, sometimes I become delusional and start thinking of myself as a self proclaimed movie critic. And that makes me tie myself with a deadline and I drag myself to a movie theater, hoping that the review I write next day comes handy for the handful of people who choose to read my blog. And maybe, just maybe, someone, somewhere finds the review useful and says a thank you after reading it. That, dear friends, is the only reason I endured the torture of sitting through the entire duration of this movie. I desperately wanted to walk out of the theater, like I had done with Arindam Choudhuri’s Rok Sako To Rok Lo. But somehow, I controlled myself so that I can write this review. I may not be very good at it yet, but I am learning fast.

Attend at you own risk!

Movie: Pathshala (for the benefit of firang readers, this word loosely means a school that follows “Indian” traditions. Don’t bother learning more about it. I doubt whether the film makers themselves know more.)

Derector: Milind Ukey (Sir, I earnestly request you not to direct any more movies.Please sir! Pleeease!!)

Producer: Ahmad Khan (choreographer turned director turned producer turned…??)

Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Ayesha Takia, Nana Patekar, Saurabh Shukla (and other assorted creatures who tried to look like teachers and students and aam jaunta …but…well…)

Rating: If I must, 2/10. Don’t bother, just don’t bother! Watch it only if you want to be insulted!
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April 14, 2010

The Crazy Planet Part 2


Robert Mckee, the world famous scriptwriting guru, points out in his story seminar that, “story is not about the middle ground, it’s about life lived to the limit of human experience.” To find out this extreme limit I decided to document some extreme cases of life and people. In the second edition of this series, today, I have  seven very interesting videos, all courtesy You Tube.

Mr. Big Mouth

Fankly speaking this video is disgusting, but after watching it you can’t help wondering how can a man have such a big mouth! It looks like the mouth of a rhinoceros!
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April 12, 2010

Movie Review: The Hurt Locker


Film: The Hurt Locker

Director: Katheryne Bigelow

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty

Rating: 6.5/10, More hype, less substance
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March 23, 2010

Nachiketa’s Diary: I hate the Truth


23rd March, 2010

Dear Diary,

I have decided to document my life once again.

Did I ever tell you how I got got my name. Ok, I’ll tell you now. My father named me Nachiketa because he wanted me to be a knowledgeable man. But unlike my namesake from the Katha Upnanishad who was a great brahmachari and gave up his life in the pursuit of the ultimate truth, I am an ordinary man and I find my father’s expectation burdensome. And who cares about the truth these days anyway?  People do everything possible in their means to run away from the truth. People run away from the truth of their everyday lives by resorting to television and cinema. They run away from the truth of their physical appearance by resorting to stylish clothes and creams and cosmetics. Everything around me is just a means of running away from some form of truth. People live in illusions and love anything that helps to create those illusions. They love to hear and see what they want to hear and see. Then why should I care about the truth?

Last night I again slept with Gauri. This time she had come to my house. After humping each other for more than two hours, we became so tired that we didn’t even bother looking at each other. Lying there on my bed, looking towards the ceiling, through the mist of cigarette smoke I asked her a question.

“Gauri, do you love me?” I asked her, carefully looking as far away from her as possible.

She didn’t reply immediately. In the deathly silence of the night I could hear my heart pumping away the blood in a frenzy. I waited for her answer.

“Of course I love you, Nachi,” she finally replied and again became quiet.

Gauri always called me Nachi. When I had asked her the first time she had called me Nachi, she had said she didn’t have the patience to pronounce my full name. Besides, Nachi was a cute name. But I know she was lying. She was afraid of the truth of my name and what it implied. Nachiketa is a difficult name to have. Especially when you are expected to live it.

“Why do you love me Gauri?” I asked her the second question.

“Because you are great in bed!” she replied and gigled. “No one else eats me out like you.”

I felt relieved. I turned towards her and kissed her. I decided to eat her out once more.

Thank you Gauri! Thank you for not telling me the truth. Thank you for not telling me that my father hanged himself in our living room, the day police caught me doing drugs, or that my mother had died ten years ago, when I was fourteen. Thank you for not telling me that I have lung cancer and I don’t know how long I am going to live. Thank you for not telling me that I pay you to slleep with me and you would say whatever I want to hear. Thank you for not telling me that I am so pathetic that even a prostitute like you feels pity for me.

Thank you Gauri, for lying. I hate the truth. I hate it with all my heart.


March 13, 2010

IPL Circus: Opening Ceremony


The Eye Pee Yell is back! As a brand new season of IPL kicked off yesterday and theater, bar and nightclub owners scramble to provide the best slug fest ever, I took a few hours off to collect some of the best caricatures, both old and new, to make my own opening ceremony of IPL. The bidding of players, the glamor, the cheergirls, the celebrities and the money involved in the IPL has, in the past three years, inspired many artists to give vent to their humor through caricatures. For me personally, IPL has been entertaining not for the game itself, but for all the satire and humor surrounding it. Humor thrives on conflict and controversies, and IPL has provided them in loads. So brace yourself for a funny ride…here we go!

The money is there, the girls are there, the lights are there and so is the crowd. But where is the damn cricket??

A flavor of IPL 2009: "Yes Mr. Modi, it indeed was in the best interests of the game."

Any doubts whose team will win the next season of IPL??

Batao, Batao! Where is Chhotu's team?

Any Idea who the lead actors will be?

There's no circus like IPL circus! Unlike other circuses, no law prohibits one from displaying the rarest of species.

Finally someone can compete with the Indian IT department!

I wish Pakistani players were banned from IPL before 26/11

SRK: the pioneer in movie marketing!

"C'mon boys, Just because you play cricket doesn't mean you have to be lazy. Jump higher!"

Long live our horses..oops..i mean, Netas!

Amulya Players??

Excellent suggestion Mr. Minister!!

Sirji, bhav kiska? Khane waleka, ya khilanewale ka?

Rajasthan walon!! Kuch seekho hamare UP-Bihar bhaiyon se!

Sahi suna hai doston! Agli baar bina koshish ke haar mat manna!

Somebody please tell him that it's IPL, not EPL!

Rab ne bana di Jodi!

Yuvi Ki Kiss-mat!

" O O "

Division of Labour at it's best!

Yes, baby, you have a nice #$%! I'll make you a cheergirl!

Ok the tamasha is finally over. Wait for the closing ceremony.

Disclaimer:

I don’t claim ownership of any of the photos or caricatures above. However, I do claim ownership of the their captions. The caricatures have been taken from the blogs of various artists. Since most of the cariicatures here are by Satish Acharya, I will give him due credit. Satish is a cartoonist and has done cartooning for Mid Day. You will find the rest of his cartoons on his blog.

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March 10, 2010

The Crazy Planet: Part 1


Do we really know the world we live in or the people living in it? I am sure we all agree that the unanimous answer to this question would be NO. But what we can’t say for sure is the extent of the craziness of our planet and especially of the people living in it. So I am starting a new series on my blog, listing the craziest things in this world. The videos are sourced from Youtube, as always. If India TV can take the “freakshows” from Youtube and make it “Breaking News” on National Television, I think I won’t do much harm by starting a competitor to India TV right here on my blog. And guess what? Unlike Mr. Rajat Sharma, I don’t pretend to run a “24X7 News Channel.” In the list today is the man who looks like lizard, the man with the longest (and the ugliest) hair, the girl who produces pearls through her eyes, the man with the biggest tongue and finally the “Tree Man.”

The Lizardman

Can you imagine spending US$ 25,000 on cosmetic surgery and tattooing so that you can look like a snake, or a lizard? That’s exactly what Eric Sprague, better known as the lizard man has done. Contrary to what people say, Eric doesn’t consider himself to be an animal. He says he is an “artist” and whatever he has done, is for creating more authenticity for his freaky side shows, through which he earns his living. Eric has been featured on Animal Planet and Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Over to Eric.

World’s Longest Hair?

Numerous poems have been penned on women’s “long and lustrous” hair. They say long hair accentuates a woman’s beauty. But what if the long hair, and I mean really long, comes out of a man’s head? And more so, if the man claims not to have washed his hair for over a decade! World’s longest hair? I am not sure. That’s Guiness World Record’s department. But what I can see with my open eyes is that this is the world’s ugliest hair.  Anyone out there inspired to write a poem on this “piece of art”?

Girl’s Eyes Produce Crystals!

Ok, this is real freaky stuff! This Lebanese girl produces an average of eight small crystals through her eyes!! Thats weird. Prima facie, I don’t believe it. But there is a live demonstration of the crystals popping out! And those little pieces are sharp! See for yourself and decide.

Man with Monster Tongue and Rubber Chin

A big tongue can be a great asset, for many reasons. But this guy has a giant frying pan size tongue and a chin that he can curl up and touch his nose!! Can you believe that? You may find his tongue disgusting and may feel like throwing up, but I am sure his girlfriend/wife must be one happy woman (a tongue like that!).

The Tree Man

This is the story of the day. It is about Dede, an Indonesian fisherman. Because of some rare condition, he has warts coming out from all over his body making his hands and feet like that of a tree root. He feared he will die of this condition. Discovery made a documentary on him and he became famous. Major newspapers like The Daily Telegraph, London carried detailed stories on him to help him find a cure. Many videos are posted on Youtube about him. Finally, after an awareness campaign through the world media, Dede got cured of his disease by a surgery and he can now lead a normal life. Though not completely absent, he is much better than he was earlier. Watch Dede’s inspiring story in the six part documentary given below.

March 3, 2010

Movie Review: It’s Complicated


He says, "Oh God! It was awesome!" She says, "Oh God! I shouldn't be doing this!"

Film: It’s Complicated

Director: Nancy Meyers

Lead Cast: Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin

Rating: 6/10 – A good “rom com” but not for everyone (I mean the age here)

For a person like me, who is still on the right side of 30, it is somewhat weird to see three of his favorite actors getting old (over sixty) and talking about vaginas getting constricted without sex or actually indulging in secret sexual escapades. Apparantly, not so for the three old ladies (all in their sixties) sitting beside me. While I cringed in my seat and muffled my frequent laughters, they had a blast and made it clear that they were enjoying what they were seeing and made no efforts to muffle their laughter or comments.

That pretty much sums up what this movie is about and who it is meant for. It’s Complicated is the story of a divorcee Jane (Meryl Streep), who, during the graduation party of her son, reconnects with her ex-husband Jake (Alec Baldwin) after being divorced for the past ten years. Ten years ago, Jake had cheated on her and had left her for a much younger woman, but now regrets that he did so. And thus starts a passionate affair of an old separated couple without the knowledge of any of their kids.

She says, "You're so funny!" He says, "You're so lovely!"

Meanwhile Adam (Steve Martin), a divorcee architect gets attracted towards Jane and decides to put his two year old divorce behind, only to realize that Jane and Jake are having an affair. Jane on her part, realizes that the situation is not so sorted out as she thought earlier. In fact, it’s complicated! It would be insane to get together with a guy who had cheated her and to forget whom it took her years. But at the same time she finds no reason why she should not, specially when the guy accepts his mistake and confesses his love for her again. Is she ready to handle such a complicated situation at such an advanced stage in her life? The answer to this question is what the movies is all about.

Like any adult romantic comedy the dialogues in this one also were also saucy and crisp, but some of the jokes were simply old. A major part of the movie has been devoted to Jane coming to terms with the fact that she is old but can and should spice up her life with sex and companionship if she can. At one point she feels so guilty that she had to consult her shrink to get out of depression.

She says, "Don't look at me! My body is not the same anymore." He says, "Don't worry! It anyway doesn't matter anymore."

Meryl Streep, as always, shines in her role and looks as enchanting as she would have looked in her heydays. She recreates some of the magic of Julie and Julia (for which she also got an Oscar nomination, her sixteenth), by showing her culinary skills and using her expressive face to perfection. Alec Baldwin, for a change shows his talent in a comic role, and does a fabulous job of it. But a major disappointment is the character played by Steve Martin. Like Jim Carrey, Steve is in a league of his own and has the ability to carry an entire movie on his own shoulders. This role just didn’t allow him to be in his elements. I have absolutely loved Steve in all his films I have seen and was disappointed to see him not getting much scope to do anything.

Like I said earlier, this film is for the elderly, specially those who haven’t seen Something’s Gotta Give (also directed by Nancy Meyers). While the film is very funny, there isn’t much original here. Nancy seems to have decided to specialize in movies where veteran actors fall in and out of love like teenagers and lie on beds naked. Youngsters like me may find it gross, but the oldies just love it! This is one of those rare films though which the elderly can get nostalgic about their past relationships, their family, and most of all, their bodies.

Then why did I watch the movie in the first place? To be able to see three great actors together in one movie and to see Steve Martin work his magic. In the former I am satisfied, in the latter I am disappointed. But at the end of it all I guess I was more disappointed to see three fine actors getting old.

February 27, 2010

Movie Review: Karthik Calling Karthik


Film: Karthik Calling Karthik

Genre: Romance, thriller

Director: Vijay Lalwani

Cast: Farhaan Akhtar, Deepika Padukone, Shefali Shah, Ram Kapoor

Rating: 5/10 – A good premise handled badly

I don’t blame Vijay Lalwani for the way he made this film. It’s not really his fault. It’s just that Bollywood doesn’t have the culture of making films based on good scripts. When you are trying to make a romantic thriller (which is a bad combination in the first place), what you need most of all is a polished, tight script without any loopholes. And that is the biggest problem with this movie. But then, that’s the biggest problem with most of the Bollywood movies. The film is hatke, no doubt, considering the kind of films that are released in Bollywood every week. But an experimental concept needs to be treated well. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with KCK.

The story is about Karthik, a shy, reserved, scared guy whose life is in a mess, mostly because of himself. His boss (played by Ram Kapoor) abuses him for mistakes he never committed, his colleagues dump their work on him because doesn’t have the courage to say no, his lanlord takes him for a ride and threatens him for money and the object of his worship, Shonali Mukherjee (Deepika), knows that he existed in their office for four years only when he gets a public tongue lashing by his boss.

So used and abused by everyone, one day he snaps and decides to commit suicide. But just as he was about to pop in all the sleeping pills in his bottle, he gets a call. And that’s when everything changes. Apparantly the call is from Karthik only, in his own voice! And thus starts the reincarnation of Karthik. Guided by his caller friend, he transforms from being a wussy to a real man, in every way. A classic turnaround story, and we all love the underdog winning. The film was enjoyable till then.

Karthik with his Japanese (or Chinese?) phone. A villain phone??

But then Lalwani was reminded that this was not after all a romantic comedy but a thriller and so decided to convert the film into a thriller, and failed miserably. After this point the movie drags and keeps on dragging. Karthik discloses the secret about the caller with Shonali and all hell breaks loose.

What didn’t work

One, the character of Karthik is inconsistent. Actually there are two Karthiks: one who is crazy and reserved and shy and the other who has become the “dude” and there is no smooth or reasonable transition from one to the other. A person who has made himself smart enough to crack the best of jokes, won’t be crazy enough to tell his girlfriend that he gets a call from himself and expect her to believe him.

Two, the plot has loopholes. Since I don’t want to give out spoilers here, can’t explain this point in detail. But, trust me, at the end of the movie, you will ask yourself, so this is what it was all about?? And feel cheated. The climax sucks the most. It doesn’t surprise one at all.   It’s like too much of foreplay and no real sex in the end.

Three, the second half of the movie drags on unnecessarily. There is not enough meat in it to make it last for almost two and half hours, which it does. What could have been a classic psychotic thriller, on the lines of Fight Club (the Hollywood one), became a hotchpotch of comedy, romance and suspense, not making much of a sense in the end.

What worked

Very good acting by the lead cast. This is Farhaan’s third outing in a lead role, and it is his best. The movie seems to be tailor-made for him. But Farhaan’s acting skills can’t replace the need for a taut script. Deepika looks convincing and as gorgeous as ever. Ram Kapoor, and Shefali shah also do justice to their roles.

Cheer up Deepika! It's not your fault.

Very good dialogue. Dbutant Vijay Lalwani may not have written a good script but has done well with his dialogues. The way Karthik speaks when gets back at all those who did wrong to him is awesome. Some of the best moments in the film are the witty one liners Karthik cracks to patao Shonali.

Good cinematography and good music by Shankar Ehsaan Loy. Awesome music in uff teri ada song. But songs in the second half are unnecessary.

Bottomline

KCK is not a bad film. But it’s not good either. Pity, because it could have been great. For me script is king in a movie, and so, in spite of a lot of plus points this movie fails for me. Watch it this weekend only if your choice is limited to this and Teen Patti. Teen Patti is worse, I am told. And if your choice isn’t restricted to Bollywood, go ahead and watch Invictus or It’s Complicated.

Coming up next:

A review of It’s Complicated, an adult romantic comedy (from the writer/director of hit movies like Something’s Gotta Give, What Women Want and The Holiday) starring three veteran Hollywood actors, Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.

February 25, 2010

Movie Review: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief


6/10 - Entertaining but not gripping enough

As the Harry Potter series is coming to its conclusion with the last installment Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Hollywood seems to have found another teen, next door hero in Percy Jackson. But the question is, can Percy Jackson recreate the magic of Harry Potter? According to me, definitely not.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is the first in a series of five novel written by Rick Riordan. The movie is directed by Chris Columbus, who had previously directed Harry Potter I & II and Home Alone I & II. It is about a teenager Percy who, one fine day, finds out that he is a demi-god (his father is Poseidon, the God of ocean and his mother a mortal) and has powers to make him a brave warrior like Hercules or Achilles. He has been accused by the other Gods of having stolen the thunderbolt of Zeus. This causes an almost war like situation between Poseidon and Zeus, and the world is at stake in the war of the Gods. Unless Percy finds out the lightning thief and returns the thunderbolt to Zeus before the next full moon, the world as we know will come to and end. The rest of the movie is about how Percy and his friends find out the lightning thief and save the world from disaster.

Percy and Annabeth

From entertainment point of view, the movie is good and generally liked by school kids. But  this is just another fantasy fiction series and offers nothing original or imaginative. The whole series is based on Greek mythology and the novelty factor that was associated with Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series is missing here. The characters are not interesting enough to generate a cult following, which is so essential to make such a series hit. Some of the scenes and dialogues are just plain cliches. Even though it is the same person who has directed both the movies, the skeleton of the story, i.e. Rick Riordan’s Percy, is not as engrossing as J. K. Rowling’s Potter. Rowling’s imagination also far exceeds that of Riordan’s.

Columbus, in a recent interview, said that it’s unfair to compare Percy with Potter. But the fact of the matter is, there are a lot of similarities in the two series and one can’t help but compare. One of the key ingredients missing here (and present in loads in the Potter series) is the powerful emotional experience in the story. Unless you sympathize with the lead characters and their causes, unless you laugh and cry with them, you can’t really love them.

Percy, Annabeth and Grover

Having said that it cannot be denied that Percy Jackson is gaining some amount of popularity amongst kids. According to a recent Hindustan Times news report, “The series has spent more 125 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and has already sold more than 50,000 copies in India. The Lightning Thief has been a bestseller for weeks in leading Indian stores too.”

Mount Olumpus, as viewed from the Empire State Building!!

The actors in the movie have done justice to their roles. Like Potter series, here also there is a trio comprising two boys (Percy, played by Logan Lerman and Grover) and a girl (Annabeth). The script is tight, in fact its too fast. There is not enough buildup to the adventure. There are a few funny moments here and there.

On the whole it is an average movie and unless the next in the series Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters does something extraordinary, won’t have a huge fan following.

Coming Up Next:

Review of Karthik Calling Karthik: Will Farhan Akhtar continue his success with this one?

Watch out for it in the coming weekend.

February 23, 2010

Movie Review: Up in the Air


8.5/10 - Almost Perfect

Imagine, for a while, that you fire people from their job for a living. Imagine that you sit across the table with people from different walks of life, from different parts of the country, and different companies, breaking to them the terrible news that they have been fired from their job, just like that. And imagine that few of them go ahead and commit suicide, all because you told them that they have lost their job. And imagine actually enjoying doing this, all the year round, travelling 322 days in a year of 365 days.

This, in short, is the life of Ryan Bingham, the lead character played fabulously by George Clooney. He is the downsizing expert, who is hired to help ease the transition of long term employees to the unemployment line, across the country. In his own words, “Last year I spent 322 days on the road, which meant I spent 43 miserable days at home.” And then occasionally he sneaks out some time and gives motivational speeches on his “luggage philosophy.” Ryan is a veteran in his job, he has no friends, no girlfriend, he doesn’t even know his sister properly and doesn’t feel at home when he is at home. He and his company have a job because big corporates in America don’t have enough courage to tell their own employees that they are required no more. He has his occasional “on the road” affairs with attractive and independent women and he believes that his job is more than just telling people that they have lost their job. Its about “connecting” with them at a personal level, about being there in front of those people, sharing their misery and making it easier for them to accept the inevitable. But Ryan’s boss doesn’t share his viewpoint and decide to adopt a new system proposed by the young and ambitious Natalie Keener (played by Anna Kendrick), in which “firing” can be done through video conferencing and thereby Ryan and his colleagues will no more be required to travel all over the country.

George Clooney and Anna Kendrick

Based on a novel by Walter Kim and directed brilliantly by Jason Reitman, Up in The Air is a very stylish and intelligent comedy-drama that will force you to think as much as it will entertain you. The movie is full of clever dialogues, witty one liners and sexual inneuendos. The clever wordplay in this movie is reminiscent of the subtle comedy of the Ocean’s Eleven series, also starring Clooney. George Clooney seems to have mastered the art of subdued acting evident in most of his movies. And trust me, no other Hollywood actor would have looked more sleek and stylish in this role. Not even Brad Pitt.

His career threatened by the new proposal from Natalie, Ryan decides to take her as an apprentice on his firing tours to show her that firing people is more than just telling them that they are not required anymore and giving them a severance package. In this journey Natalie get confronted with the real world and her own fears and relationship issues.

But is the movie really just about this queer profession of Ryan? Not at all. In fact Ryan’s profession and his conflict with Natalie is just a vehicle for explaining one of the most fundamental human paradoxes: Should a man be completely independent of any kind of relationships, thereby decreasing his “burden” or should he bear the burden in return for company and emotional support. On the one hand is Ryan who is devoid of sentiments and relationships and fires people without getting emotionally troubled by their worries. On the other hand is Natalie, who believes in relations and dreams of having a perfect family and home. The beliefs of both these people are tested thoroughly in the story.

According to Ryan and his “luggage philosophy,” the more relationships we keep in our luggage, the heavier it becomes. To get acceptability from others, we start compromising on our individuality, start doing things just to please others, until the day we realize that our luggage becomes so heavy with all the emotional baggage that we can’t carry it anymore. Ryan asks: what’s the point of all these attachments anyway? His suggestion: throw away as much as you can from the luggage and your life will become simpler. But is it really that simple? Can people really live and be happy alone? There can be no right answer to this question and the film offers none. It depends on every individual and what they want from their lives. Most of us believe that these “burdens” are worth it. But then there are these oddballs like Ryan who believe otherwise.

Vera Famiga

Brilliant performances by the three lead actors in the movie, Clooney, Anna and Vera Famiga, who plays the role of very independent and liberal Alex Goran who has a “no attachment” affair with Ryan and with whom, Ryan finally gets attached to, emotionally. The sexual chemistry between Clooney and Vera is awesome throughout the movie. The screenplay is top notch and so are the dialogues. No wonder the movie has been nominated for six Oscars, including the Best Picture and Best Director categories.

If you are the sort of person who digs into intelligent, meaningful cinema, go watch this one. Otherwise, avoid it. As for me this is one of the most intelligent and meaningful comedy dramas I have ever seen and I give it a rating of 8.5 out of 10.

Oscar Nominations

Best Director – Jason Reitman

Best Motion Picture of The Year – Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman, and Jason Reitman

Best Actor in a Leading Role – George Clooney

Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Vera Famiga

Best Actress in a Supporting Role – Anna Kendrick

Best Adapted Screenplay – Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner


February 8, 2010

The Mystery of Bermuda Triangle


The Bermuda Triangle

Wikipedia introduces Bermuda Triangle like this: “The Bermuda Triangle, also known as the Devil’s Triangle, is a region in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean in which a number of aircraft and surface vessels are alleged to have mysteriously disappeared in a manner that cannot be explained by human error, piracy, equipment failure, or natural disasters. Popular culture has attributed these disappearances to the paranormal, a suspension of the laws of physics, or activity by extraterrestrial beings.” The Straits of Florida, Bermuda Islands and Puerto Rico are generally considered to be the three points of this triangle, as show in the map above. First brought to light by a 1950 Associated Press article, the phenomena, today, has become one of the most popular and mysterious urban legends.

Since 1950, numerous books and articles have been written on the subject, most of them either giving their own exaggerated explanations of the disappearances, or rubbishing the abnormality of the occurrences completely. But till today nobody has any clue as to where those ships and airplanes vanished.

I was going to write a detailed post on Bermuda Triangle explaining every aspect of it, but then I decided it makes more sense to give you an audio visual experience (courtesy YouTube). And so given below are a serious of videos (selected carefully) of a documentary film on Bermuda Triangle. This documentary is at the one end of the spectrum and claims that Bermuda Triangle is just a myth created out of exaggerations. It concludes that the number of incidents that have happened in the Bermuda Triangle is similar to the incidents that generally happen in sea. Their logic is, since the Bahamas is a busy route, the number of airplanes and ships that pass through the area is unusually high and so is the number of incidents. Well, to me this seems to be a very simplistic explanation. An eye witness account given later in this book, will show that something is definitely wrong with the Bermuda Triangle.

The video below discusses the possible explanation of the phenomenon. A couple of them, like the sea monster theory or the alien abduction theory, are, according to me completely bizarre and just a piece of imagination, but the others like the “electric for and magnetic field” theories are quite plausible.
The video below gives talks about some of the most popular disappearances and explains in detail another popular theory for cause of the Traingle: the methane gas theory.
Now that we have understood the possible and hypothetical causes of the the Bermuda Triangle, let us look at probably the most popular eye witness account of an encounter inside the Bermuda Triangle that happened on December 4, 1970, and the narrator’s interpretation of what he experienced.
This account by a Bruce Gernon Jr. a back then a real estate broker and an experienced pilot, was included in Charles Berlitz’s sequel to the first popular book on Bermuda Triangle. Over to Bruce:
My dad and I had been flying our own plane in the Bahamas since 1967, and had made at least a dozen flights to and from Andros Island. Everything seemed normal on that fateful day in December, just after 3 p.m., when my dad and I and Chuck Lafeyette, a business associate, lifted off the runway at Andros town Airport in a brand new Beechcraft Bonanza A36.
It was shortly after takeoff when I noticed an elliptical cloud directly in front of us about a mile away, hovering only about 500 feet above the ocean. It was a typical lenticular cloud, but I had never seen one that low.


Miami Flight Service reported over the VHF radio that the weather was good, so we continued. But the lenticular cloud quickly changed into a huge cumulus cloud. We were climbing at 1,000 feet per minute, and the cloud seemed to be building up at the same rate. Unexpectedly, it caught up and engulfed the Bonanza. After 10 minutes of climbing in and out of this cloud, the airplane finally broke free at 11,500 feet and the sky was clear.

How the lenticular cloud appeared from Gernon’s vantage point while flying over Andros Island. Courtesy of Bruce Gernon.

I leveled the Bonanza off and accelerated to its maximum safe cruising speed of 195 miles per hour. When I looked back at the cloud, I was astonished. It now looked like an immense squall, abnormally shaped in the form of a giant semicircle extending around us. visibility was about ten miles and the cloud continued beyond my perception, so it must have been more than 20 miles long. After a few minutes, I lost sight of it.


Soon we noticed another cloud building directly in front of us, near the Bimini Islands. It looked a great deal like the cloud that we had just left, except that its top was at least 60,000 feet high. When we came with a few miles of it, we saw that it appeared to emanate directly from the surface of the Earth.


Upon entering the cloud we witnessed an uncanny spectacle. It became dark and black, without rain, and visibility was about four or five miles. There were no lightning bolts, only extraordinarily bright white flashes that would illuminate the entire surrounding area. The deeper we penetrated, the more intense the flashes became, so we made a 135-degree turn to the left and headed due south out of the cloud.

We had been flying for 27 minutes. We thought we might be able to fly around the cloud, but after six or seven miles we saw that it continued in a near-perfect curve to the east. After two more minutes it became apparent that the cloud near Andros and the cloud near Bimini were actually opposite sides of the same ring-shaped body! The cloud must have formed just off of Andros Island and then rapidly spread outward into the shape of a doughnut with a diameter of 30 miles. This seemed impossible, but there was no other explanation. We were trapped inside a billowing prison, with no way under or over it.


Thirteen miles later, I noticed a large U-shaped opening on the west side of the doughnut cloud. I had no choice but to turn and try to exit through the opening. As we approached, we watched the top ends of the U-gap join, forming a hole. The break in the cloud now formed a perfect horizontal tunnel, one mile wide and more than 10 miles long. We could see the clear blue sky on the other side.

Contrails form while exiting the tunnel. Courtesy of Bruce Gernon


We also saw that the tunnel was rapidly shrinking. I increased the engine RPM, bringing our speed to the caution area of 230 miles per hour. When we entered the tunnel, its diameter had narrowed to only 200 feet.


I was amazed at what the shaft now looked like. It appeared to be only a mile long instead of ten-plus as I had originally estimated. Light from the afternoon sun shone through the exit hole and made the silky white walls glow. The walls were perfectly round and slowly constricting. All around the edges were small puffs of clouds of a contrasting gray, swirling counterclockwise around the airplane.


We were in the tunnel for only 20 seconds before we emerged from the other end. For about five seconds I had the strange feeling of weightlessness and an increased forward momentum. When I looked back, I gasped to see the tunnel walls collapse and form a slit that slowly rotated clockwise.

All of our electronic and magnetic navigational instruments were malfunctioning. The compass was slowly spinning even as the airplane flew straight. I contacted Miami and told them we were about 45 miles southeast of Bimini, heading east at 10,500 feet. The radar controller replied that he was unable to identify us anywhere in that area.


Something bizarre had happened. Instead of the blue sky we expected, everything was a dull, grayish white haze. Visibility seemed like more than two miles, yet we could not see the ocean, the horizon, or the sky. The air was very stable and there was no lightning or rain. I like to refer to this as an “electronic fog;” because it seemed to be what was interfering with our instruments. I had to use my imagination to feel our way west.


We were in the electronic fog for three minutes when the controller radioed that he had identified an airplane directly over Miami Beach, flying due west. I looked at my watch and saw that we had been flying for less than 34 minutes. We could not yet have reached Miami Beach— we should have been approaching the Bimini Islands. I told the controller that he must have identified another airplane and that we were approximately 90 miles southwest of Miami and still looking for Bimini.

The “electronic fog” dissipates and Miami Beach comes into view. Courtesy of Bruce Gernon

Suddenly the fog started breaking apart, in a weird sort of electronic fashion. Long horizontal lines appeared in the fog on either side of us. The lines widened into slits about four or five miles long. We saw blue sky through them. The slits continued expanding and joined together. Within eight seconds, all the slits had joined, and the gray fog had disappeared. All I could see was brilliant blue sky as my pupils adjusted to the abrupt increase in brightness. Then, I saw the barrier island of Miami Beach directly below.

After we landed at Palm Beach I realized that the flight had taken a little less than 47 minutes. I thought something must have been wrong with the airplane’s timer, yet all three of our watches showed that it was 3:48 P.M.

I had never made it from Andros to Palm Beach in less than 75 minutes, even on a direct route. Our course on this flight was quite indirect and probably covered close to 250 miles. How could the airplane travel 250 miles in 47 minutes? We taxied to customs, ending the fortuitous flight. We didn’t talk about it for a long time.


I could not logically understand what had happened during that flight, although I felt it was significant and reviewed it in my mind several times a day. In 1972 I heard about the so-called Bermuda Triangle and disappearances of boats and airplanes because of a possible time warp. It was then that I realized that time itself was the key.

The above account, and the photos, has been taken from the website of Gian J. Quasar, a renowned researcher of the Bermuda Triangle mystery and the author of a popular book on the Triangle mystery. His site is one of the most authoritative sources of the Bermuda Triangle mystery on the net. You can check out his site here.





February 6, 2010

So what if My Name is Khan??


Let me begin with a story. Once there was a Tiger. The Tiger used to unofficially control the city of Bombay (the Tiger and his cubs prefer Mumbai) sitting inside his den. Once in a while he would appear in public gatherings and sit on his royal throne to give royal upadesha. He also owned a newspaper called Samna and roared from its editorial columns once in a while. He never mixed with other lowly creatures. How could he? After all he was the Tiger. But even though the Tiger never fraternized with the lowly creatures and was always surrounded by his Mantrigan, his heart always bled for the plight of those lowly creatures. Or did it really? Never mind. The point being, the Tiger and his Praja lived happily. Of course some monkeys who didn’t support him had to be eliminated here and there. But it was ok because the Tiger was Sarkar.

But one day the Tiger realized that he was getting old and was losing his power. And so he decided to appoint a successor for himself. And that was a problem, because his own cub, who he wanted to become the successor didn’t have any tiger like qualities. He was actually a sheep. And the cub who indeed have tiger like qualities was his nephew, his brother’s cub or Junior Tiger. Torn apart by the dilemma, the Tiger became weaker and weaker, untill one day he realized that the Junior Tiger was smarter than he had thought and had decided to become a Tiger on his own. Meanwhile the Sheep became the successor after Tiger retired and found it extremely difficult to maintain his Sarkar Raj.

And so one fine day the Sheep decided to wear the mask of Tiger and fight with the Junior Tiger who was gaining popularity on his own. But then a sheep is a sheep and can’t become a Tiger even if he wears a mask. So the Sheep became desperate and started throwing tantrums just to show that he was the Tiger in the making. But how long can he fool people with his mask?

Ladies and Gentlemen, if you haven’t understood till now, this was the tale of two cousins Raj and Uddhav Thackeray and their patriarch, Balasaheb Thackeray. And this post is about the latest controversy on the Sena front. And two icons who fanned it. Lets discuss them one by one.

SRK Controversy

The first one is about Shahrukh Khan and why others have a problem if he says “My Name is Khan.” Let me be brutally frank here. It was SRK only who had started this controversy months ago when he tried to gain milage by making an issue out of non issue and claimed that he was detained at Newark Airport in US for two hours for a silly reason, his name. But is he the only only one to be detained at a US airport. Wasn’t President Kalam also frisked by the staff of an american airline? That too in New Delhi. And Kalam was the President of India? And not just Kalam after 9/11 many Indians have been subjected to strict security checks and harassment by US airport officials. But how many of them cried fowl in the Indian media? But SRK happily gave exclusive sound bytes to media folks, who otherwise have to struggle getting a word out of him. Isn’t something fishy here. I think there is.

I win I win!

Then again recently he made statements about Pakistani Cricket players, which we all know. And Uddhav Thakeray’s Shiv Sena which is on the lookout for issues (even if silly) these days to gain milage out of it, latched on to it and made it a mega issue. So the Sainiks have now decided to protest against the screening of “My Name is Khan.” Other politicians got a chance to bake their own cakes in this melee and media got a chance to take a break from cats and dogs and aliens and give some real news.

Now it all boils down to two controversies being started by SRK before the release of his movie My Name is Khan. Now you may join the media circus and claim that SRK has become a real life hero. The whole nation, cutting across party lines, and ideologies is supporting him for his “brave” stance. Bollywood which has been quiet till now, is openly supporting him now. Slaman Khan says SRK doesn’t need to apologize to anyone. Or you may question, like me, as to why SRK does his acts of bravado before the release of his films. Is this just an act of spontaneous outburst (I would be glad if it were just that. It is high time someone taught Shiv Sena a lesson) or a calculated move to gain publicity (which is what I have a problem with, because if that is the case then we are all being taken for a ride). There are no definite answers to this question. Since we don’t know the truth, we can only speculate.

Rahul Gandhi and the Marathi Manoos

Rahul Gandhi claimed in Bihar that Biharis have helped save Bombay from terrorists and that sparked another controversy, the details of which you already know. Whether Rahul Gandhi’s statements hurt the pride of Marathi Manoos (I live with three Marathi roommates  in the den of Shiv Sena and I didn’t see anyone pride being hurt) I don’t know for sure. But what it did was to give The Sheep another plank to become a Tiger. Living in a city like Bombay with a surname like Pandey has made me see things up, close and personal. And my understanding says that Shiv Sena has lost its teeth. And doesn’t deserve to roar.

So imagine my delight when I see Rahul Baba cruising through the streets of Bombay in the heartland of Shiv Sena and mixing freely with the Marathi Manoos, which Mr. Uddhav Thackeray, even though he lives in Bombay, had never done. And this was against the threat of Shiv Sena. So is this show of protest by Rahul Gandhi spontaneous? No, its well calculated. But then it should be because Rahul is a politician and it his job to create issues. What is admirable is Rahul’s decision to do what he did. He has shown Shiv Sena its right place and I love that.

The result of both these controversies?

Well, we have found two new heroes, SRK and Rahul Gandhi and everybody is chanting the mantra of nationalism and unity. So in a crooked way both these controversies have helped the cause of Indian Nationalism, and a movie called My Name is Khan.

February 5, 2010

Zeitgeist: The Movie


Myth busters have always fascinated me. And I am attracted towards anything that provides a rational explanation to seemingly “unexplainable” phenomena. One such documentary is Zeitgeist. Dictionary defines the word as “the spirit of the time; the taste and outlook characteristic of a period or generation.” And that’s exactly what this documentary showcases.

What exactly is the spirit of the time we are living in? What should we believe and what should we not believe in? Should we let people take us for a ride in the name of religion or nationalism? Should we suspend our rational intellect and follow the herd mentality? You will find the answers to all these questions and much more in this movie. I was shocked the first time I saw it. Maybe the conclusions drawn in this movie are extreme. Maybe not all of them will come true. But watch it nevertheless because it will open your mind.

What this movies shows

  1. A detailed explanation of the myth of “organized religion.” And remember organized religion is different from spirituality.
  2. The myth of 9/11
  3. The danger of a world superpower (read corporate world and media) taking over the reins of the world and the imminent dawn of a new age when the very concept of individual freedom and right won’t exist.

The issues raised in this movie are far more serious and complex than you may seem. But I’ll let you decide that. For now, go ahead and watch this multi award winning film. It is one of the most hard hitting and one of the best documentaries ever.

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February 3, 2010

Hollywood’s 10 Most Beautiful Actresses


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Yesterday while I was thinking about what to write next, I decided to have some fun instead of writing the usual serious articles. For me it’s a welcome break!

This list is about the ten most beautiful Hollywood actresses. Since this is my list, it doesn’t include actresses who are generally considered beautiful, but who I consider to be beautiful. So don’t be surprised if your choice is not here. The factors I took into consideration while deciding who should make this list and who shouldn’t are:

Looks: Well, since this is a list of beautiful women, how they look is of prime consideration. What makes up for great looks? According to me, a magnetic and cute face, great smile, a great body (not too sickly) and well endowed features (I don’t need to explain that!).

Acting: Let’s face it. We like actors or actresses based on their performances in their movies. A gorgeous actress who can’t act will not make it to either most beautiful list or best actresses list. So all the ladies in this list have good acting skills, besides being beautiful.

Movies I have seen: I have included only those actresses whom I have seen enough number of movies, the minimum cut off being 3. Actually I would have kept this number as 5 but I bent this rule a bit for Katie Holmes. She is too cute to be kept out of this list!

So go ahead and feast your eyes!

# 1: Isla Fisher


Movies seen: Definitely Maybe, Confessions of a Shopoholic, Wedding Crashers, Wedding Daze, I love Huckabees

Don’t be shocked to see her at the top! She has not won lot of awards for her acting but, according to me, she is “the most beautiful.” The prime reason being her face. Few faces have fascinated me more than hers. Its not perfect, but the the way she looks with so much intensity and innocence in her eyes, really sets her apart. Or maybe it is the effect of the character April she played in Definitely Maybe. I fell in love with the movie just because of her. And then when I saw Confessions of a Shopoholic, I was absolutely convinced that she should adorn my laptop desktop!

# 2: Anne Hatheway


Movies seen: The Princess Diaries, The Princess Diaries 2, Ella Enchanted, The devil Wears Prada, Becoming Jane, Get Smart, Hoodwinked, Passengers, Rachel Getting Married, Bride Wars

If it wasn’t for the mystery and innocence of her face, Anne Hatheway would have been number one. I have seen more than 1000 movies and no one has looked more gorgeous than Anne Hatheway in Princess Diaries movies as Mia Thermopolis. With her extra wide lips (resulting in an extra awesome smile) and big black eyes she looks fresh and stunning. She has great acting skills to top her looks. She looked saucy in The Devil Wears Prada (though the “devil” in the movie, Meryl Streep, stole the show with her performance), won a whole bunch of awards for her performance in Rachel Getting Married, and looked pristine in Becoming Jane.

# 3: Katherine Heigl


Movies seen: The Ugly Truth, 27 Dresses, Knocked Up, 100 Girls, Caffeine

She is tall, she has a great body and has one of the cutest faces ever and the roles she played in 27 dresses and The Ugly Truth were absolutely adorable. No wonder she is part of the top 3 in this list.

# 4: Drew Barrymore


Movies Seen: Never Been Kissed, 50 First Dates, Chalie’s Angels, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Music and Lyrics, The Wedding Singer, Riding in Cars with Boys

Let me confess. I had a huge crush on Drew Barrymore for more than two years and her wallpapers have been on my laptop desktop more than anyone else’s. Apart from her great looks, she has this very fascinating way of moving her lips while speaking. She is the reason why I fell in love with Hollywood’s romantic comedies. Her sugary performances in 50 First Dates, The Wedding Singer and Music and Lyrics puts Drew Barrymore on the fourth spot.

# 5: Charlize Theron


Movies Seen: The Devil’s Advocate, Mighty Zoe Young, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Sweet November, The Italian Job, Aeon Flux, Hancock, Monster

It is hard to believe that an actresses as gorgeous as Charlize Theron can look so ugly and hideous in Monster. No wonder, her tole in Monster gave her the Academy Award and is considered by many as one of the greatest performances ever in Hollywood. This South African beauty was just the oppostive of Devil in Devil’s Advocate, sweet in Sweet November and sexy in Aeon Flux. And in this list she is at # 5, one up than Catherine Zeta-Jones. Need I say more?

# 6: Catherine Zeta-Jones


Movies Seen: The Mask of Zorro, The Legend of Zorro, The Entrapment, Intelorable Cruelty, America’s Sweethearts, The Haunting, Chicago, The Terminal, Ocean’s Twelve, High Fidelity

Catherine Zeta-Jones and her looks are legendary. Many have swooned over her while watching her movies. On top of it she is a great actress. Her chemistry with Antonio Banderas in Zorro movies, or with Sean Connery in Entrapment or with George Clooney in Intolerable Cruelty is unforgettable. So is her performance in Chicago which gave her the Academy Award.

# 7 Katie Holmes


Movies Seen: Wonder Boys, Phone Booth, Batman Begins

She shot to fame by making Tom Cruise confess his love for her by screaming on The Oprah Winfrey Show. But keeping aside all the theatrics, Katie Holmes is one of the loveliest ladies in Hollywood. Pity I have not seen enough of her, otherwise she would have been much higher up in this list. She is attractive because of her homely, innocent looks. See for yourself.

# 8: Meg Ryan


Movies Seen: When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle, Kate and Leopold, French Kiss, City of Angels, Courage Under Fire, The Women, DOA

She is short, she is ungraceful, she walks in a funny manner. But then that’s the uniqueness and charm of Meg Ryan. And she more than makes up for these “defects” by her awesome acting and a pair of vintage, blue eyes. And then there are those curly locks. But she’s old now and it shows. The reason why she is in this list is because she gave Hollywood and me two of the best romantic movies ever: You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle, both with Tom Hanks (God bless Tom! But then, he’ll feature in a different list).

# 9: Penelope Cruz


Movies See: Vanilla Sky, Vicky Christina Barcelona, Sahara, Bandidas, Elegy

Her exotic Spanish looks combined with her absolutely adorable Spanish accent makes Penelope Cruz a must for any list of beautiful women. Not just her cute looks, she has more sex appeal than any other women in this list. Wonder whether she is as mercurial in real life as in her on screen roles.

# 10: Lindsay Lohan


Movies Seen: Freaky Friday, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, Herbie: Fully Loaded, Just My Luck, Mean Girls, Georgia Rule, The Holiday, Get a Clue

She is the “teen queen” of Hollywood, because of all the “chick flicks” she has done. A decent actress. But she is no more a teen (age 23, officially) and looks beautiful naturally. Whether this is just the charm of youth or whether her looks will endure, only time will tell. But for now she somehow made it to my list.

That’s the end of it. Open to comments!

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February 1, 2010

Power of the Powerless


Quite often in our lives, we feel completely helpless, completely powerless, not being able to do anything, not being able to take any decision. We feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of our problems. We feel frustrated. But during these vulnerable moments we don’t seem to realize that there are people in this world who, in spite of having bigger problems, don’t feel powerless, that there can be people who, in spite of being helpless, can wield enormous power.

This essay by Christopher De Vinck tells the story of one such person: Oliver, his own brother. Christopher de Vinck, thinking that “it might speak to people, this message of hope, this message of triumph,” submitted this essay to The Wall Street Journal which ran it on April 10, 1985. The response was spontaneous and overwhelming, people from around the country wrote in and phoned and shared their own experiences. A few years later, De Vinck published The Power of the Powerless: A Brother’s Legacy of Love in which he shares further insights on the lessons learn from Oliver, who, according to him, “was physically and mentally retarded, but not spiritually retarded.”

This essay is one of the most touching pieces of writing I have ever read. I guess it’s touching because the author has poured forth in it, all the love that he had for his brother; or because the purpose of writing this essay was not to show how good an author he is, but to show how much he and his family loved Oliver. Read it and decide for yourself.

Power of the Powerless: A Brother’s Lesson

By Christopher De Vinck


I grew up in the house where my brother was on his back in his bed for almost 33 years, in the same corner of his room, under the same window, beside the same yellow walls. Oliver was blind, mute. His legs were twisted. He didn’t have the strength to lift his head nor the intelligence to learn anything. Oliver was born with severe brain damage, which left him and his body in a permanent state of helplessness.

Today I am an English teacher, and each time I introduce my class to the play about Helen Keller, The Miracle Worker, I tell my students about Oliver. One day, during my first year teaching, I was trying to describe Oliver’s lack of response, how he’d been spoon-fed every morsel he ever ate, how he never spoke. A boy in the last row raised his hand and said, “Oh, Mr. De Vinck. You mean he was a vegetable.” I stammered for a few seconds. My family and I fed Oliver; we changed his diapers, hung his clothes and bed linens on the basement line in winter, and spread them out white and clean to dry on the lawn in the summer. I always liked to watch the grasshoppers jump on the pillowcases. We bathed Oliver, tickled his chest to make him laugh. Sometimes we left the radio on in his room. We pulled the shade down over his bed in the morning to keep the sun from burning his tender skin. We listened to him laugh as we watched television downstairs. We listened to him rock his arms up and down to make the bed squeak. We listened to him cough in the middle of the night. “Well, I guess you could call him a vegetable. But I called him Oliver, my brother. You would have loved him.”

One October day in 1946, when my mother was pregnant with Oliver, her second son, my father rose from bed, shaved, dressed and went to work. At the train station, he realized he’d forgotten something, so he returned to the house and discovered the smell of gas leaking from our coal-burning stove. My mother was unconsciousness in her bed. My oldest brother was sleeping in his crib, which was quite high off the ground so the gas didn’t affect him, My father pulled him out of the room, through the hall, where mother revived quickly, and that was that.

Six months later, April 20, 1947, Oliver was born: a healthy looking, plump, beautiful boy. Oliver seemed like any other new born. My mother and father told my brother and sisters. There was no sign that anything was amiss. But one afternoon, a few months after he was born, my mother brought Oliver to a window. She held him there in the sun, the bright good sun, and there Oliver rested in his mother’s arms and there Oliver looked and looked directly into the sunlight, which was the first moment my mother realized that Oliver was blind.

My parents, the true heroes of this story, learned with the passing months that Oliver could not hold up, his hands or crawl or walk or anything. He couldn’t hold anything in his hand, he couldn’t speak. So they brought Oliver to Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York for a full series of tests, just to see how bad his condition was. The only explanation anyone could agree on was that the gas which my mother inhaled in her sleep during that third month of her pregnancy had reached Oliver and caused the severe incurable hopeless condition before he was born. At the end of a long week of waiting, my parents returned to the hospital and met with the doctor, Dr. Samuel De Lange. When our children are in pain we try to heal them. When they are hungry, we feed them. When they are lonely we comfort them. “What can we do for our son?” my parents wanted to know. Dr. De Lange said that he wanted to make it very clear to both my mother and father that there was absolutely nothing that could be done for Oliver. He didn’t want my parents to grasp at false hope. “You could place him in an institution,” he said. “But,” my parents replied, “he is our son. We will take Oliver home, of course.” The good doctor answered, “Then take him home and love him.” And I guess that was sound medical advice.

Dr. De Lange speculated Oliver would probably not live beyond the age of seven, maybe eight. He also suggested Oliver to be taken to another neurosurgeon to confirm the diagnosis, and that is what my parents did. Yes, the second doctor repeated the first verdict. Oliver’s case was hopeless. While he scanned the forms that my parents filled out, the second doctor noted that my mother and father were born in Brussels which led him to say, “You know, during World War II, my parents were taken in and fed and protected by a Belgian family, for we are Jews. Now I guess it’s my turn to help a Belgian family.” And the doctor didn’t charge my parents for the tests or the care or the medication. I never met these two doctors, but I loved them all my life as the child loves the heroes in a fairy tale.

Oliver grew to the size of a ten-year-old. He had a big chest, a large head. His hands and feet were those of a five-year-old, however, small and soft. We’d wrap a box of baby cereal for him at Christmas and place it under the tree. We’d pat his head with a damp cloth in the middle of a July heat wave.

As a teacher I spent many hours preparing lessons, hoping I can influence my students in some small, but significant way. Each year thousands of books are printed with the hopes that the authors can move people to action. We all labor at the task of raising children or teaching them values, hoping something gets through, after all our efforts. Oliver could do none of these, he could do absolutely nothing except breathe and sleep and eat and yet, he was responsible for action, for love, for courage, for insight. For me, to have been brought up in a house where a tragedy was turned into joy explains to a great degree why I am the type of husband and father and writer and teacher that I have become.

I remember my mother saying when I was small, “Isn’t it wonderful that you can see, that you have eyes?” And once she said, “When you go to heaven I bet Oliver will run to you and embrace you, and the first thing he will say is ‘thank you’” It leaves quite an impression on a young boy. Of course it is I who must thank Oliver and my parents for defining to me the boundaries of love, which were the house and the yards and the woods where we ran and played. And all of the time Oliver laughed and slept.

I remember too my mother explaining to me that we were blessed with Oliver in ways that were not clear to her, at first. We were fortunate that Oliver’s case was so severe. The best we could do for him was feed him three times a day and bathe him and keep him warm. He didn’t need us to be in the room all day. He never knew what his condition was. So often parents are faced with a child who is severely retarded or is hyperactive, demanding or wild, who needs constant care. So many people have little choice but to place their child in an institution. Each circumstance is different. No one can judge another. But I have come to believe that we are here to tend to these lilies of the field, these twinkling stars of the sky. We should do the best we can. I asked my father one day, “How did you care for Oliver for thirty-two years?” He said, “It was not thirty-two years, I just asked myself ‘can I feed Oliver today?’ And the answer was always, ‘yes I can.’”

I remember once I was a little boy sitting down beside my brother. I was alone, beside my brother. I was alone in the house and I wanted to see if Oliver was really blind. You know, whether he was faking it. So I spread my hands over his face and shook my fingers close to his open eyes. Of course, he did not blink or move. His eyes were brown like mine, yet so different. Often it was my job to feed Oliver supper – a poached egg mixed with cereal, warm milk, sugar, a banana. “Yuck”, I often thought, “I wouldn’t eat this stuff.” But feeding Oliver throughout his life was like feeding an eight-month-old child. His head was always

propped up to a slight incline on pillows. A teaspoon of food was brought to his lips; he would open his mouth, close his mouth, and then swallow. Still today, I can hear the sound of the spoon ticking and tapping against the red bowl in the silence of his room. “Oh, Mr. De Vinck, you mean he was a vegetable.” I still remember the words of my student. But I called him Oliver, my brother.

When I was in my early twenties I met a girl, we fell in love. After a few months I brought her home for dinner and to meet my family. After the introductions, the small talk, my mother went to the kitchen to check the meal and I asked the girl, “Would you like to see Oliver?” For I had of course told her about my brother. “No”, she answered. She did not want to see him. It was as if she had slapped me in the face. Yet I just said something polite and walked to the dining room.

Soon after that I met Roe, Rosemary. A dark haired dark eyed lovely girl. She asked me the names of my brothers and sisters. She bought me a copy of The Little Prince. She loved children. I thought she was wonderful. I brought her home after a few months to meet my family. Introductions, small talk, dinner. All that happened. Then it was time to feed Oliver. I walked into the kitchen, reached for the red bowl and the egg and the cereal and milk and banana and prepared his meal. Then I remembered. I sheepishly asked Roe if she’d like to come upstairs and see Oliver. “Sure”, she said and up the stairs we went. I sat at Oliver’s bedside as Roe stood and watched over my shoulder. I gave him the first spoonful, the second… “Can I do that?” she asked, with ease and freedom and compassion. So I gave her the bowl and she fed Oliver, one spoonful at a time. The power of the powerless. Which girl would you marry? I married Roe, and I never regretted. Today Roe and I have three children.

When I was a child I was afraid of the dark and shared a room with my younger brother. Our room was separated from Oliver’s by a single wall. Five inches of wood and plaster divided us from each other during the night. We inhaled the same night air, listened to the same wind. Slowly, without our knowledge, Oliver created a certain power around us which changed all of our lives. I cannot explain Oliver’s influence fully, except to say that the powerless in the world do hold great power, and sometimes the weak do confound the mighty. Even now, five years after his death from pneumonia on March 12, 1980, Oliver still remains the most helpless human being I ever met. The weakest human being I ever met, and yet, he was the most powerful human being I ever met.


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