Friday, June 18, 2010

Ever wonder about small wonder?

Between the world cup frenzy and the basketball madness, a clipping of Small Wonder, that incredible 80s TV show hit me like a refreshing umbrella drink on a blazing afternoon.

My dad was a TV Hitler when I was a kid but I always found a way to distract him and watch Small Wonder. Little Vicki, with her robotic voice and her superhuman strength and speed was my role model. She was everything I aspired to be at the time: cute, intelligent and strong enough to punch all those annoying boys in school when they asked private questions and poked fun. I also harbored a secret crush on Jamie, her elder bro with salon hair, for the longest time and for that reason detested Harriet, their neighbor's nosey little girl who just couldn't leave Jamie alone and get on with her life. I mean, how hard is it to get a clue? Later when I'd stumbled upon an elder cousin's extremely drool worthy backless dress, I no longer cared to be like Vicki. Poor thing had an access panel in her back for crying out loud.

Then one day I had an epiphany. If all of my family members came with a 'Vicki mode' option, how amazing would my life be? Yes it'd make me Dr. Evil in theory but it's not like I would ever exercise it in an unethical manner. For instance, if my little one went berserk and performed third degree on me, all I'd need to do is switch her into the Vicki mode and instantly I would have a cooing, cuddly kid who could reverse the process of my desirable living room turning into an ocean of spiky toys, eat all her fruits and veggies, thank me in all the three languages I've taught her and leave my bed alone. If les husband became insensitive and started on with his unrealistic expectations, again, that magic Vicki mode and bam he would be making me bubble baths, massaging my neck instead of poking it with his fingers, working on making my kitchen pristine and of course, planning that trip to Italy.

I'm going to work on making that dream a reality even if I have to use Voodoo.

Travel woes, a decade after travel

As the disco lights-pounding music-numb mind phase retracts paving the way for its moon light-star gazing-thinking hard counterpart, I've realized that I'm often standing at the same cross roads in life with the same sights one too many years later: same faces, same events, and same places. The only thing different is the vantage point. And may I say thank god for more than few reasons. One, because the world is infinite so coming across familiar things makes one feel comfortable about covering a good portion of the infinitum. And two, because almost always, the familiarity factor is pretty vague and I end up seeing it with a fresh perspective. It kicks in those little life lessons. Makes one feel wiser, regardless of the reality.

It's been exactly a decade since I went to France. It was my first big trip as a grown up girl where the onus of everything from figuring out how to pull off broken French in public places without losing all my dignity to figuring out metro timings and routes so I don't make it to the palace of Versailles after it closes for the day would be on me. Both those things happened by the way. And a lot more how-could-that-happen-to-me incidents. This is why I never write travel journals. It'd be filled with one disaster after another in classic Murphy style.

Lately it seems like the online universe has been conspiring to overwrite memories I've gathered by going on these trips with memories that I gather by vicariously going on vacations to the same spots through other people... TV shows that feature single female travelers, friends, colleagues, colleague's friends, friend's colleagues and other random people on Facebook. Everyone who I share up to six degrees of separation with, is going to France. And it doesn't take much for existing feelings mostly of joy, pleasure and satisfaction to be overwritten by those of self loathing (for not doing enough research), wuss-ness (for not being adventurous enough) and, what the heck, I'll be honest, a little bit of envy (for not optimizing the opportunities) as much as others and I'm just left stoically watching... sometimes with jaw dropping disbelief.

Apply this to every trip I've taken and imagine the multiplier effect. It can't be good for my heart health. Someone has a better rear shot of the Louvre, someone found better Chinese food in Cannes than I could have ever imagined and someone else could indulge in cruising the romantic streets of Monte Carlo without an unacceptable out-of-season downpour.

Jokes apart, in the end, I guess life is like that. If everyone’s life experiences were the same, memoirs wouldn’t be a book category and tips would just mean money. One day I’ll be able to turn around my screwed up head and be grateful for the several opportunities I get to visit cool places although most of them might be virtually.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Shucks, my phone is smarter than me!

This appeared in the South Asian Times today.

Did you ever think you would use the words 'retina display' and 'calling girlfriend’ in one line? Or for that matter 'gyroscope' and ‘kick ass score’? Pardon my ignorance but I thought gyroscopes were used by OBGYNs for finding dreadful bacteria in dreadful spots and no one except eye doctors should be liberally using terms like retina. Ok forget that for a second. How about a 5 MP camera in the phone with backside illuminated sensor for ambient lighting? I just signed up for an advanced photography class and I feel cheated that geeks all over silicon valley and later all over the country will now know what kind of lighting is used in the pictures they sloppily take through their phones.

Yesterday I virtually checked myself into the one of the most hyped technology events, WWDC’s (World Wide Developers Conference) key note speech made by Steve Jobs. I work in tech but conferences aren't my thing. I usually feel misplaced, disinterested, famished, chilled, homesick, non-receptive... anything but excited at conferences. Yesterday was a different story despite my not being there in person. Or perhaps it was because of that. In any event, witnessing change is a great feeling. And witnessing massive change brings about a high that not many things can.

These new generation phones, whether it's Droid Incredible by HTC that runs Google's Android Software or HTC EVP 4G, the first US phone to access faster 4G networks or Apple's iPhone4 that can make video calls, all offer features that 3 years back might have seemed like science fiction: reading books, video conferencing, streaming movies, capturing videos in high definition, refined photography and video games with sensors on extremely high resolution screens… things only Charlie’s Angels and James Bond could do simultaneously while making someone’s gums bleed. The future is here. Which means we need a new future. What will it hold, I wonder.

It isn't just these in-built features that make smart phones a life essential. It's the apps that can do just about anything short of serving you breakfast in bed. In addition to the standard apps for online banking, Amazon, Ebay, Zillow (oops guilty as charged), etc., there are a variety of uber cool ones. Like Shakespeare which lets you view and read all Shakespeare plays and sonnets with a push of a button. Who knew you could take Othello along wherever you went? Like Tuner which, believe it or not, helps you tune your guitar. What? How? Like BarCheck for the smart shopper. While shopping, you can enter the numbers on an item’s bar code to get review and prices from Amazon, Google and Yahoo. Like Aurora Feint which is probably on of the most entertaining and addicting games complete with full audio soundtrack, visual illustrations and characters. Like iphodmeter for the fitness freaks. It helps you track how many calories your workout is burning and sends you all your stats by email. Like HearPlanet app that will be your new talking tour guide which can make traveling to a new place easier than ever. Who need a husband on vacation when you can have a talking tour guide? ;) Oh and the most intriguing app... Farmville! How could I forget that one! Farmville (did you know it had a whopping 70 million user base?) is now available on the new iPhone and it syncs with your Facebook farms. Please tell me you see the irony. It’s never been more obvious. We're making technological advances at a remarkable pace so ultimately we could farm with smart phones ;)

Meanwhile, I need to put myself on a 5-year get-smart plan to avoid the Kasparov vs. Deep Blue supercomputer situation.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sex and the city, back with a bang?

This appeared in The SA Times on Saturday.

Having finally seen it (not until 36 hours after release though) I cannot wait to spill the beans. But before I go on a tell-tale spree, I feel compelled to apologize to Karan Johar. I heard him say this recently "Everyone is now a critic!! Where is the audience?" Hey Karan, trust me, I ain't no critic... just a girl who got carried away, excuse the pun, into the movie. And on a separate note, I also feel compelled to confess, going by the reports about girls dressing up to see the movie, I did do a little something something (just a tad more than what I do for other movies) to not appear a complete outcast in the theatre.

The movie had all the ingredients of a rip roaring chick flick... indefatigable fun, heart stomping fashion, exciting adventures, sexcapades, bursting emotions and confessions. At the core of those masked ingredients were challenges of marriage, motherhood, work and menopause. The magic formula was quite in place except I don't think the magic switch quite worked. The movie started off with the transition of our leading ladies from 80s look with garish fashion they had going to the ultra chic, sophisticated and mature look. That was my cue that the bold imaginative creations from Carrie's previous wardrobe would just make a peek-a-boo appearance, if any. The movie also started off with Stanford and Antony's deliriously white wedding. It was just a big white blur despite its over-the-top set up that couldn't even pass off as surreal. As the plot shifted to Carrie's married life, she gave us a taste of the urban nagging wife who was obsessed with the eternal fear of her and Big turning into a boring old couple. And so came criticisms of everything from regular take outs to flat screens in the bedroom. What else is new with that girl! Other girls weren't far behind. Charlotte was quietly dealing with the immense challenges of handling two kids, Miranda with her corporate job and an annoying boss and Samantha, her same irreverent self, with age. Speaking of age, excuse me for being superficial, but they all looked... umm lets just say weathered despite the amount of work (i can only imagine) they must have gotten done.

Enter a sheikh from Abu Dhabi (Morocco) who offers Samantha plus baggage err girlfriends a free trip in first class on some opulent airline with private booths, a hotel suite with private dusky butlers and sparkling white cars. With exotic locales like the desert to the spice market and exotic characters like religious Arab men to the fashion savvy women in burkha, it has a lot of unexpected elements. Also unexpected and frankly quite refreshing was the new wardrobe for the ladies with rich, middle eastern colors, bold hues and flowy patterns on everything from spangles, tassles, harem pants and gauzy headscarves. Oh and unless I was dreaming, I think I saw stilettos on the girls while they were riding a camel. Yes in the sand dunes. Brilliant ain't it.

A few interesting twists and wrong turns later, our girls arrive back safely but not without their share of secrets and/or confessions. I wasn't in splits through the movie... perhaps a few good laughs here and there but it was gripping nonetheless.

To wrap it up, there wasn't much sex and there wasn't much city. But Carrie's outfits throughout the movie were elegant... Halston, Chanel, and Christian Louboutin... I looked sooo green at the end of it. And so were Miranda's. But this review is almost entirely ineffectual because good or bad, you have got to see it. How can you not. It's your only chance to say good bye to our favorite ladies. They won't be (I'm really hoping for their sake, they won't be) back.