Sunday, April 21, 2013


Sebastopol is a charming small town in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco. On one of its streets, Florence Avenue, there is an interesting display of "junk art" on the front yard of many homes. All these pieces are made by artist Patrick Amiot and are made from scraps and junks.

Florence Avenue.

Most of the "junk art" is very creative.

As a Barcelona fan, I was very happy to see this, who would have thought of finding a "junk art" piece related to FC Barcelona on a small town in USA!

This is for Oakland A's fans.

This is just cool.

A music festival in the downtown.

It's springtime, so the golden poppy - California state flowers are everywhere.

 Another random flower.

I am not going to let go of a photo opportunity!

Completely unrelated, but from a nearby area. I have not seen a rosemary plant of this size, over 6 feet tall and 20 feet wide. This will feed many Italian restaurants for many weeks!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Jurassic Park 3D

Movie Review : Jurassic Park
Director : Steven Spielberg
Genre : SciFi / Adventure
Starring : Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Laura Dern
Released : Original released in 1993, 3D version released in 2013
My Rating : 8 out of 10

Jurassic Park is a milestone in the history of cinema. Most would remember it for the unbelievable special effects and rightly so. It took us into a fantasy-land that seemed completely real. There was nothing like it before.

Many would remember it for the action scenes. Alan and Alexis avoiding the falling jeep by grabbing another cable on the cliff, or Alan and Tim being chased by the same falling jeep in a tree.

Of course, most would also remember the smarter scenes. T-Rex appearing in the side view mirror, or the falling banner “When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth” at the end of the fight between the T-Rex and velociraptors. 

In addition to all that, I remember it for two more things. First, I think this movie wrote the textbook on how to make even the quieter scenes unforgettable. Let’s start the list with the helicopter landing in front of a majestic waterfall. And who doesn’t remember the ripples in the glass of water ? Such a build up of tension befits the sheer awesomeness of the T-Rex scenes that follow. Even the scene where the gates to the park open at the beginning of the ride, sent a chill down my spine because of that creepy font and the signature music. That’s the second thing I remember the movie for. The music. Another feather in the crowded cap of the legendary John Williams.

Enough adulations. It’s an endless list, and everyone already knows it. The real question is, how is the 3D version, and is it worth spending the money ? My answer is a resounding yes.

I must add a disclaimer. I am not a big fan of 3D movies. I find most of the special effects cheesy, and sometimes the experience is a bit disorienting to me. I also have a very unfavorable view of re-releasing older movies with some touch up, just to squeeze more money out of a dead franchise.

I think the Jurassic Park experience is certainly enhanced with the 3D technology. It’s not perfect, I noticed some artifacts in some scenes, and some blurriness at the edges in some scenes. That’s a minor complaint. Most scenes felt even more real. The darker scenes do not lose details, in fact I think the details were crisper in most scenes.

It’s amazing how fresh and contemporary the movie still feels. Technology has drastically changed in 20 years. But this is Spielberg, so the movie may rely on technology, but excels at technique - which never feels jaded.

I was delighted when the audience burst into spontaneous applause at the end of the movie. The element of surprise was never there, as most had watched the movie. It’s a proof that  the awesomeness is still intact. I was even more pleasantly surprised when there was another round of clapping as the titles rolled and John Williams name came up. It felt wonderful. So this time, instead of the movie trailer, I am embedding a clip of his performance of the theme song from Jurassic Park. Listen to it and get the same goose bumps, without any visual aid.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Banknotes Of Bhutan

It gives me great pleasure and pride to say that my classmate - Anil Bohora - from my undergraduate days at COEP (College Of Engineering Pune) is a Guinness World Record holder for largest collection of banknotes.

I always have great admiration for people who pursue their hobbies and interests, in addition to their day job. But to reach the level of world record is simply amazing. He has collected over ten thousand different banknotes from all over the world. Yes, you read that right, more than ten thousand. You can get a glimpse of this large collection in his book “Banknotes of Bhutan”.

Bhutan is a small independent country in the Himalayan mountains. It’s very likely that many people haven’t heard much of this country. I knew almost nothing. So the book introduces the reader to history, culture and many other aspects of Bhutan.

But why Bhutan ? Because Anil is fascinated by that country. After reading the book, I can see why, at least as far as the architecture of the monasteries and palaces is concerned. These impressive, highly symmetric buildings are constructed on beautiful locations that seem like an impossible choice. These structures and many other symbols occur frequently on the different notes from Bhutan. Anil has given explanations of all of the symbols.

In addition to the symbols, most notes also feature a royalty. A small biography of each important royalty has been included for the reader.

This book is almost like an encyclopedia of notes from Bhutan. Every single imaginable detail has been painstakingly tabulated along with beautiful photos of all the notes. Just see one example.

This book is definitely a labor of love. It’s printed on high quality paper and is a pleasure to the eyes. If you are interested, please contact Anil directly by email.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Sometime the words of a song leave an impact on our minds like no other. The musically gifted amongst us remember the minute details related to the composition. For most of us, what remains in our memories are the words - if not exact words then it’s the meaning that stays with us forever.

This is one of such songs for me. I remember watching this movie on TV while growing up. It was perhaps the first philosophical song that I heard, and I was so impressed by the message, that even now, I seek comfort in it once in a while.

It is a very good movie by one of the greatest Marathi directors, Raja Paranjape. He often acted in his own movies, and here the song is picturised on him. Music and singing is by another giant, and incomparable Sudhir Phadke. The audio quality is not great in the following video, but his voice still sounds very nice and soothing.

The best part of the song is of course the words. I have always been amazed by the ability of poets like GaDiMa or Sahir to strike the balance between profoundness and accessibility. It is evident here. It’s simple, but not crass. Philosophical but not abstruse. Even a child can understand it, and an adult can appreciate it.
एक धागा सुखाचा, शंभर धागे दुःखाचे,
जरतारी हे वस्त्र माणसा, तुझिया आयुष्याचे
My favourite stanza is the last. I also like the subtle touch added by Babuji when he sings the words “नसती दोन”.
ह्या वस्त्राते विणतो कोण,
एक सारखी नसती दोन,
कुणा न दिसले, त्रिखंडात ह्या, हात विणकऱ्याचे
Enjoy ...

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