Friday, November 24, 2006

Such a Long Journey

That would teach me to not down an entire can of coffee at 11:00 p.m.! Went to bed at 3:00 a.m. woke up at 7:00 a.m., and with neither the energy nor the inclination to join the great capitalist orgy of Black Friday, have been pottering about the apartment ever since.

I think I am still in my charged dissertation writing mode, because till about 3 days ago, I was downing two large cups of coffee a day, the second usually sometime after midnight. I guess I'm still fairly disbelieving of the fact that I might have actually pulled off the impossible, that is, finished a not too rambling, mediocre but readable draft of my dissertation for submission. Probably my subconscious still thinks I need the coffee - focus, stay alert, and type, type and type some more.

Despite all the coffee, there were daily moments when my aching fingers and tired mind would conjure "what if" scenarios of life beyond a PhD. What if I quit and move to Sumatra? What if I become an illegally employed babysitter who reads books all days and occasionally admonishes the brats under her care? What if I buy my own farm and grow tomatoes all my life? Ok, you get the picture, my fantasies were really getting the better of me.

And so I started giving my mind daily pep talks, trying to dupe it into stretching itself almost beyond capacity. At this point, I've perfected the pep talk, so that at the first hint of a PhD student complaining about his/her PhD and threatening to quit, I can bring out the appropriate mix of guilt trip, dangling financial carrots, and explaining how the academic process is far less intimidating than it seems.

The last two days of writing the draft and finally submitting it were so mentally charged that I really needed a process to step down from my highly wound up state. I decided a visit to the LACMA to make use of my spanking new membership card was in order, but the bugger museum is apparently shut on Wednesdays. Argh! And to think I braved pre-Thanksgiving traffic to go there (yeah I totally blame them, and not the fact that idiot me didn't check their website for timings).

I did get some very peaceful moments though, through a marvellous sushi lunch and a relaxing cup of herbal tea at a Korean tea house. Urmi, we have to go to this lovely gem of a restaurant when you visit, which should be soon, so you manage a meal before the trendy sushi-gulping set invades this place.

The place is utterly unassuming on the outside, adjoining the nth Starbucks franchise, and set against a standard stripmall. The inside though is minimalistic, refined and unobstrusive. When I entered, the charming waitress mentioned with concern that the place was a traditional sushi restaurant - "I'm so sorry, we don't serve any California rolls". They've probably had one too many customer demanding avocado and cucumber rolled in with their tuna.

No, I'm fine with traditional sushi I said, and sat at the bar, the only other customers being a couple who seemed to be regulars. I had a light meal, but ate a few things I hadn't had before, including ankimo (monkfish liver) and uni (sea urchin). The horror with which sea urchin is mentioned by even some veteran sushi eaters, you'd think it was a terribly eccentric acquired taste. Frankly, the stuff was delicious, and no more odd than a prosaic bowl of daal for a first time taster of Indian food.

With the caveat that this fact has no bearing on my assessment of the meal, sushi chef was absolutely gorgeous. I mean, this is a man who can pull in the dining crowd on the strength of his looks alone (lots of single women dine alone or with their girlfriends), his sushi doesn't need to be as excellent as it actually is. But word on the street (well, actually, Chowhound boards, which is where I first heard about the place) is that he's married and the place is named after his daughter.

Later while drinking my citron tea at the Korean teahouse, I browsed through a coffee table book with Van Gogh's paintings. I was reminded once more how alternately fascinated and disturbed I was by his Crows over a Cornfield. I first saw it in a book about 8-9 years ago, and was immediately struck by the breadth of the canvas, the genius of the brush strokes evident even in a silly print reproduction.

I also learnt that Akira Kurosawa had based an entire section in his film Dreams on his impressions of the painting. I can understand Kurosawa's fascination with the work. If I have any special impetus to visit Amsterdam, it is to able to see the original "Crows over a Cornfield" at the Van Gogh Museum there.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and the only time in the year that I willingly and knowingly consume turkey. After a late lunch at a professor's house, I, the boyfriend unit, Em and another friend Zizi went off to see Casino Royale. As a great lover of commercial Hindi films, for me the Bond series are the closest thing in Hollywood to the kickass stand-off scenes and larger than life characters in Hindi cinema of the 1970s. And this Bond movie had plenty of thrills for me.

First off, count me among the sceptic-turned-converts to Daniel Craig's incredible charisma and raw sensuality. The very first extended action sequence (supposedly in Madagascar, but actually filmed in the Bahamas), was one of the exhilarating action sequences I've seen in any film. The narrative is thin and mediocre, but that's kind of true of most Bond films. The film more than makes up for it by filling frame after frame with Craig, and more Craig, gritty Craig, steely Craig, cynical Craig, ironical Craig.

And then there are the locations! While watching the film, we were mesmerized by the breathtaking visuals of scenes supposedly set in Montenegro, and I decided there and then that Montenegro was to be among my future destinations. However, when the final credits rolled in, Montenegro was nowhere to be found, and instead, the name of Lake Como cropped up. It was then that Zizi, who's Italian, realized that the so-called Montenegro scenes had actually been filmed at this gorgeous lake in northern Italy.

It's amazing, just when I thought I knew all about Italy's best attractions, comes a place that I had never heard about before. Just when I thought the country couldn't be more beautiful, I see a place whose beauty is surreal and truly exceptional. Some of Casino Royale's action takes place in Venice as well, but as Zizi said, the scenes pack in every single Venice cliche, including gondolas, gondoliers in striped shirts, and the Piazza San Marco and its pigeons.

Em booed at the end because he felt that they made the movie mushy in parts, which I agree was quite unnecessary. I mean for heaven's sake, all the chick-flicks in the world can cater to the mush and tears crowd, the women in the audience should be happy with Daniel Craig's eyes and abs alone. No need to make him say sappy stuff.


Anonymous Abi said...

Congratulations on your thesis. Does it mean the defence is just a couple of weeks away? [It typically takes several months here in India]. Good luck!

5:44 AM  
Anonymous Abi said...

Oh, I forgot to mention Bhupinder Singh's post about Kurosawa's Dreams.

5:53 AM  
Blogger Urmea said...

Ooooooh! Yes - you posted!
Did you ever go to the Van Gogh travelling exhibition - it didn't have the painting you mention but oh my - such an amazing collection of paintings...
I am trying to organize an LA trip - soon lets hope! I am actually missing the blasted city hehe...

11:41 AM  
Blogger Szerelem said...

Yay!! does this mean regular posts now?? I liked Casino Royale...even though it was too long and sappy...and Daniel Craig...mmm...he's not good looking per se but he has a ruggedness that suits Bond. He looks like he's had his nose broken a couple of times no?
And Como!!I'm visiting in December...and also Venice. So the whole time I was watching the movie I kept thinking "i'll be there in December!...and there..and there..and there!!' heee...ok, will shut up.

10:33 PM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Abi thank you, the congratulations are only half deserved at this point. Congratulate me again by the first week of Feb. And thanks for the link to Bhupinder's post.

Urmi, yay, good times again! No, never saw the exhibition darn it! Please, please come, blasted city awaits the opportunity to stuff you silly with sushi and dimsum.

Szerelem, yes such are the plans. He does look like he has a broken nose, and it looks so much better on him than on bland vanilla Owen Wilson.

You are going to Venice and Lake Como? My jealousy-meter is on the verge of being shattered! Such lucky, lucky people. Ah, you go to such beautiful places and get to hear Italian for days.

7:23 PM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

welcome, welcome back. they make good coffee in sumatra, you know. but the food is downright awful in borneo. make your own sashimi.

enjoy the period between revisions :-)

5:19 AM  
Blogger Vijayeta said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:55 AM  
Blogger Vijayeta said...

I'm still stuck on the 'sexy Sushi chef!' Those three words in this particular combination and context carry such a WORLD OF MEANING. Do u get what i'm saying or am i rambling? :P
And i'm a Daniel Craig convert too. I even admit he looks HOT now with or without well-cut tuxedos. Doesn't he? And don't you think the latest Don came closest to being a desi Bond flick :P
The Kurosawa film's actually quite cool. You must watch it, but i think the idea of a trip to Amsterdam after your thesis is done is more appaling :)

3:57 AM  
Anonymous Sanity Starved said...

Visited LA. Was very impressed. The bars and the talent in live music and arts are unbelievable! Saw Magritte at the LACMA. The installation is beautiful. Don't know if you saw it, but the view from the entrance itself is worth the fee. The audio tour was also very very nice, unlike most of the other crappy ones. They got Brosnan to do it, and the information was just right so that you didn't mind not having your references and prompt enough to let you enjoy the paintings.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Anil P said...

Crows over the cornfield would have made Dali proud. It's as surreal as it can get.

Imagine the dark shapes coming in where the gold lies, almost a marauder feel to it.

12:33 PM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

Tabula, thanks for the tip. I've heard pretty good things about the food of the Sumatran Minangkabau though.

Vijayeta, I think I do :). And such a rare breed I tell ya. This one's a keeper, I think I've found my regular sushi haunt. Amsterdam is on my must see list. But there's also so much more on it.

Pidus, I can't believe this! You came to LA and didn't look me up? Sacrilege I say. Anyway, I'm really glad you liked what you saw. Have been planning to go to LACMA for a while now, but did catch up with some very cool exhibits at the MOCA and Getty.

Anil, ok I'll go right ahead and say it. I'm very, very underwhelmed by Dali. So a Dali comparison doesn't really strike the right cord with me. But I can see what you are saying. Yes, it is indeed very surreal, the choice of colours, the brushstrokes, the composition, oh it just mesmerizes.

11:50 AM  
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6:33 AM  

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