Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Resolutions UPDATE; Travel; AVATAR (the movie)


Well, here we are sailing past the first fortnight of the year and it seemed a good time to review how my resolutions are doing: not bad, but not great. The main thing is that I HAVE stopped playing Mahjongg Solitaire*. I am almost up-to-date with my diary and I've certainly been plugging away at my book projects. But I'm still traveling in short gasps, and several of them and I've been avoiding the careful-bill-stashing altogether. (*About the Solitaire, I must admit it wasn't a smooth transition: I spent the whole of the year's first week playing games at the LUMOSITY site instead! My justification was, of course, that my brain's power was being significantly boosted, as evidenced by the sharp angle at which all the scores were rising. But at the end of the week my free membership came to an end. I had to choose whether or not to crawl my way out of the swamp of moronism all the way up to Einsteinhood for the mere pittance of $5 a month. And I decided to take my chances with moronism. Since then, NO GAMES)

Thursday night, I pulled up stakes and flew to NYC on Jet Airways. It was a close call, getting to the airport on time because the Season Finale of Boston Legal was being aired and I was determined not to miss it. So instead of leaving the house at ll.30, we left at 12.00, which was the time I should have already been at the airport, checking in. I kept calling the Jet Airways Fog Delay number, hoping against hope that the flight WOULD be delayed -- in which case I could watch the season finale in peace -- but oh no, of course THAT never happens, right? Just like the watched pot that never boils, a flight is never delayed if you WANT it to be delayed. Anyway, I watched finale and arrived half an hour late at the airport and it didn't matter much at all. We boarded at the correct time only to wait an hour on the runway. Still, we DID take off (rather than be delayed for nine hours which is what routinely happens during Fog Season) and that was a relief. I had a great seat -- an aisle seat in the front of my section, excellent leg room. I give Jet Airways service high marks -- next only to Virgin Atlantic, in my experience. On Continental the hostesses behave like wardens in an asylum for retarded war criminals ("... please remain seated until we allow you to move around and oh by the way there will only be two meals served on board for the full duration of your 16-hour nonstop to Newark and if you can't shut up and watch your movies quietly, we'll sedate you and flush you down the toilet.")and on Air India, the flight crew all behave like contented tabby-cats, waddling about in their saris and dispensing greasy meals with a homespun cheeriness inappropriate to hurtling through the upper atmosphere at 500 KPH.

However in Brussels, where there was a halt and change of aircraft, our flight arrived one hour late and that, combined with the one and a half hour hold up on account of enhanced security for all flights to the US meant that I caught my onward flight with seconds to spare. AAAAARGH. I absolutely detest having to run for anything, but the prospect of missing the flight (to be stuck in Europe without a Schengen visa would certainly have qualified as junior membership in Hell) had me sprinting the last five hundred yards. It didn't help that the man behind me in the queue insisted on repeating over and over, in Hindi, "These people are all COWARDS -- cowards, cowards, cowards --" ("yeh sab darpoke hain, darpoke, darpoke") meaning, Americans in particular and all westerners in general, were foolish to be afraid of a few innocent travelers arriving from the Third World. I can't be sure that I was the last passenger to board my flight, but it seemed to me they sealed the hatch minutes after I got to my seat. PHEW. Major panic stations there.

Other than that, it's been a great trip so far. Was collected at JFK by friends, had a very pleasant evening with them and the next morning was really grateful that they dropped me all the way to the Port Authority Bus Station from Long Island -- it's a 20 minute journey by car, but about an hour and a half by commuter train and subway. Caught the 10 a.m. bus to Binghamton and my sister collected me from there, at one o'clock. And then we sailed off to see AVATAR in glowing 3D ... but before I move on to my next topic, i.e., the movie, I must mention the outstanding dinner we had at home, Sunday night : lobster-stuffed steaks with baked potato. Unbelievably tender and delicious meat, outstanding dressing on the potatoes, everything cooked to perfection. My sister is a genius cook aside from all her other accomplishments, and that's final.

What can I say? I enjoyed the movie, in spite of myself. I was convinced I would find it unbearably soft-centred and sentimental -- and even though I wouldn't howl to the moon about it or anything, I have to admit it had moments of stunning beauty; and the mushy bits were not so deadly saccharine as to drown out the good bits (I didn't like the TITANIC, for instance, because of the utterly improbable-for-that-era romance). I knew I would not be especially wowed by the scenic sights coz I've already been wowed by MYST and I was certain this would be a MYST-like environment. And it was -- but the N'avi were beautifully realized, perhaps the smoothest transition from live-action to CGI that the world has seen so far (well, in mass-distribution media, anyway). So that was fun to watch. The romance was irritating, of course, but inevitable and thank goodness, not over-emphasized. And there was always Sigourney Weaver to link back to, every time we returned to the human dimension. The story was never going to be of much consequence, so heavily larded with guilt as it was bound to be, but within its constraints (i.e., the constraints of History and Reality) it did manage a generous portion of dignity.

However, there's another piece of fiction that has been tweaking my brain -- more engaging by far than AVATAR -- and that is Paul Theroux's A DEAD HAND. It was what I read on the flight out of Delhi, with the result that my arrival in NYC was distinctly Theroux-flavoured. I really enjoyed it and plan to devote my next bulletin here to it -- aside from being too sleepy to continue this blog-item right now, I want to dedicate a whole post to the book, rather than a mere section.

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