Monday, March 30, 2015

Serial Watcher

I am one of those who will proudly proclaim that I don't waste time watching TV...then mutter under my breath that I download things to watch instead. There are just so many shows and so little time to watch them all. Here are the ones I have been hooked to in the last few years - some of them I have binge-watched for weeks to catch up on all the episodes (not recommended).

Sherlock - Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in this clever show will have you hooked, then crying in agony when you have to wait for two years for three episodes. It is funny, insightful, and clever. Some of the cleverness you miss till you read it on the fan blogs.

Downton Abbey - Watch it for Maggie Smith's dialogues...it makes watching this soap opera worthwhile. If she quits, I don't think it would be fun anymore.
UPDATE: They just screened the finale and it was very satisfying to watch.

The Wire - It is funny when you least expect it and the story line is gripping. It is a very near-real portrayal of the drug scene and the acting doesn't feel like acting. No wonder one of the actors got congratulated on being drug-free on another movie set because no one believed someone could act so well! Very clever to have a different musician work on the same theme song every season.

Firefly - Nathan Fillian's best work, full of funny one-liners and entertaining escapades. Damn you for cancelling the show.

Modern Family - This is a guilty pleasure. It is hilarious and well made.

Scandal - It gets annoying to follow the on-again off-again relationship of Olivia Pope but the episodes are action-packed and the politics is fun to follow. A few of the episodes touch on real events and a lot of times it is difficult to say if the wild scenario was completely fictional or not.

The Newsroom - Just three seasons long but apart from tackling coverage ethics on important world events and personal stories, it has some great dialogue - idealistic, but good to watch.

Merlin - Historically inaccurate but an entertaining look at King Arthur as a young man. For your Medieval romance fix without all the gore.

Doctor Who - The longest running sci-fi show. This I watch for pure entertainment. It doesn't always have to make sense, but somewhere down the line you get the picture.

Broadchurch - The fifth British show on the list. It starts off as a murder mystery but encompasses the lives of the whole small town. It is not action-packed with something happening in every scene (like the American shows), but it slows down the pace and keeps up the suspense to bring you to the edge of your seat by the end of the episode. You can't help but watch both seasons at one go.

UPDATE:
Breaking Bad - I binged watched the entire series in a span of ten days and it was addictive and immersive. Brilliantly written script that leaves you wondering if you're morally compromised for wishing that the bad guy wins.

Some of the older series that I had no choice but to watch on TV while growing up still bring back fond memories.

Cheers
Full House
Fraiser
Fresh Prince of Bel Air
Gilmore Girls
Friends

There are some on my list that I still have to watch...I'm just waiting to get a few clear days so I can do that undisturbed!

Luther
Homeland
Black Mirror

Friday, February 20, 2015

Painted Wicker Basket

We've had this wicker laundry basket for 7 years now and it has served us well. The cracks are starting to show but we're not ready to give up on it yet. I painted it recently so that I can still get a little more milage out of it.

Because of the cracks in the wood, the spray paint couldn't give me a smooth finish. Also, the paint tends to drip over the rounded wooden segments so I had to make sure that the inside and outside colours match up.

I first cleaned it and let it dry for a full day. Then I first spray painted the inside in grey. I gave it an hour between each coat.

For the outside, I tried using masking tape to separate the colours, but because of the gap between the segments, colours tended to flow. So I just stuck to spraying from 4 inches away which gave me good enough control to not go (too much) over the line.

I've used white, metallic grey (on the inside and edges), and gold (which looks much like the original colour), and it is back in service.


Friday, January 9, 2015

Reading Challenge - 2014

This year I reduced the number of books for the challenge because I felt a bit rushed last year and I knew that I was going to have a busier 2014. I managed to complete the challenge well in time so that I could go on my break without feeling the pressure to read - that's no way to enjoy a book.

Here are some of the books from this year that I think deserve a mention - for better or for worse.

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Rachna has completed her goal of reading 75 books in 2014!
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Non-fiction

  • Zealot by Reza Aslan: It gave a good historical background into Jesus life and how he became a man of legendary status. Although it was a very interesting read, I felt I missed out on a lot of references because I am not familiar with the Bible stories. 
  • The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk by Sudha Murty: It's a nice collection of stories based on her actual experiences, but if written with more feeling rather than 'I went here and this happened' dry fact-telling, it would make a wonderful book to read to young kids
  • The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz: What really got to me was how she saw the sweater she had donated being used by a kid half way across the world. It feels great to know that whatever little you have done has made a difference, no matter how small, somewhere. It has many great examples of her work in Africa and how blind charity is not the way forward.
  • The 6th Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert: This one really brought home how dangerous it is on the ecology to bring one species of plant or wildlife into a region that doesn't have a natural defense system to check it's growth. It makes you wonder what part of our current natural environment will not survive the next generation. We might be telling our grandkids about this amazing wild animal that used to exist when we were their age.
  • The Monuments Men by Robert Edsel: Of course I got here because of the movie. It brings an interesting point - with so many people dying in the war, what was the point of more men sacrificing their lives for a few paintings - but preserving art and architecture isn't just something nice to look at. It is part of our culture and our heritage. By destroying them, you erase a big part of the history of the people. 
  • E Squared by Pam Grout: I do believe that you get what you attract in your life by thinking about it. However, to just say to someone that this happens, go try it, without telling them how to manifest it makes it quite useless. This book though takes you through baby steps to reach to the level you want, and most of the things the book asks you to attract, I could manifest in reality. A good book for those who were baffled by the secrets that The Secret didn't reveal.
  • War of the Whales by Jashua Horwitz: This one was heart-breaking. In the name of defense and security, navies get away with careless and harmful behaviour towards marine life. Yes, security is important, but with all the technology available to us there are ways to achieve it without harming the ocean life, or at least ensuring minimal casualties. The book documents the work of activists trying to fight the money and power to save certain marine life from extinction.
Fiction

  • Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh: I had seen the movie based on the book over 10 years ago and was moved by it. I don't know why it took me so long to read the book. It is a story filled with many emotions and brings the reality of war and hatred to the forefront.
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: I have realised that very few novels over 700 pages are worth the effort because a lot of pages are wasted in useless descriptions and going off on tangents. This book thankfully was not one of those. It is a slow read but it somehow draws you in with it's outward simplicity.
  • Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky: The story introduces us to many characters on both sides of the war, but more interesting than the story is the reality of the author's life. She was a Jew thrown out of Russia who found a home in France only to be sent to die at the internment camps. It is heart-breaking to read the letters her desperate husband wrote to anyone he could for information about his wife's whereabouts, only to himself be taken to the camp some weeks later. Their kids were raised by an aunt, and the manuscript for this novel was found years later by their daughter. 


Fantasy

  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card: I found it very sexist. It is one thing to omit women from a story, but to specify their absence because they are not as capable as men is just not acceptable, especially in a fantasy world where spaceships and whatnots are completely believable.
  • The Giver (4 books) by Lois Lowry: The series of books follows different characters and how they eventually meet. Many storylines are not completely closed so you are left to wonder about what happens to the people you just left behind. But you learn to look forward into the lives of who moved on. It is a dystopian world like many other books that have become popular now, but the story progression is unique.
  • Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin: At first I thought the pages of descriptions of New York seemed romantic, but then they just went on and on and on. I read through those, and the flying horse, and the mysterious ship, and the leap in time hoping something would come of it. Nothing did. One of those books that are over 700 pages long and completely pointless. 
  • Perdido Street Station by China Mieville: Another book that's over 700 pages long and completely pointless. I can't even!
  • Mistborn Series by Brandon Sanderson: I read the first 3 books in the series and found it a good read with a girl as the hero no less. It has an interesting premise and is well delivered. But after the 3 books, I felt I had all the closure I needed and didn't feel compelled to read on the series. I also tried Sanderson's first book from his Stormlight Archives Series and didn't find it engrossing enough to pick up book 2.
  • The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss: After a long time a fantasy story has been so engrossing. There are some slow moments in book 2, but overall, you can't wait to find out more about the history of the narrator. Eagerly waiting for the final book of the trilogy that's supposed to release in 2015.


Biographies

  • Then They Came for Me by Maziar Bahari: He was imprisoned because he reported on the injustices in his country. The book documents his days as a prisoner and gives a peek into the volatility of the situation in Iran.
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand: Just when you think the worst is over, something even worse happens. A story of how strong the instinct for survival is in all living things. No matter how bad it gets, you push to live even though it might be easier to let go.
  • 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup: When you read or hear about stories of slavery and racism, it is difficult to imagine that it wasn't really that long ago that it happened, and in some places are still happening (albeit in a more subtle way). This is the story of one man sold into slavery and the treatment of slaves that was standard practice at the time in America. A dark time in the history of the world.
  • Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh: This started as a fun story of silly things the author has lived through, but progressed into much more than that. She takes us through how it is to be clinically depressed and why exactly the supposedly helpful advice others offer them are completely useless.  

Romance

  • Jane Austen novels: It is beautiful to read and re-read these novels, because even at a time when there were many more restrictions placed on women's behaviour and actions in society, Austen's heroines stand out as independent and trying their best to be as much as they can while following the binds of society. They might be love stories, but show so much more of society and strong women if you look closer. 
  • P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern
  • If I Stay by Gayle Forman
  • Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
  • Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
All these 4 novels come under the same category for me: A girl is good only if she is a virgin and no matter how independent she might seem to be, she is not complete without a super macho male in her life who has slept around with many women but is looking for someone 'pure' and 'innocent'. Said male then becomes what the girl's life will revolve around from now on. I have read Mills & Boons novels that have stronger women roles than these!


Mystery/Suspense

  • Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
  • The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
  • The Devotion of Suspect X & Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino
  • Before I go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
All these are highly recommended reads for those who enjoy mystery and detective work. They will keep you on the edge of your seats and you won't be able to sleep till you've reached the end.


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