Month: February 2016

Yes, I like adaptations

And now for something completely different… Poetry adapted into movies. “How,” you ask, “does a poem have anywhere close to enough content for a movie?” Well, you haven’t been reading the right poetry. We’re talking narrative and imagery, not daffodils and brooks.

The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock is just bleak enough to be romantic without the sweet aftertaste. A Yale student Yulin Kuang has adapted it to a short YouTube clip. I like the poem, most of it, but the video seemed lackluster and too literal. But it’s worth a shot- being an English-as-a-second-language learner in school meant that I never really was exposed to any poetry more recent than the nineteenth century. It was nice to find that yes, there is poetry that is edgy and dark.

Aaaand now for our feature presentation. The Song of Lunch, featuring Alan Rickman. This is no joke. The talented Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson play middle aged ex-lovers in this BBC short based on a poem of the same name. I hadn’t heard of the poem before, but had a sneaking suspicion than Alan Rickman (may he rest in peace) would make a narrator to rival Morgan Freeman. In the wave of RIP Snape mania, I managed to find an undoubtedly illegal print on YouTube, and watched it immediately (thus procrastinating my homework for 50 minutes- instant gratification is my vice).

The first segment is hilarious- Rickman sneaks out of his office at lunchtime, with no intention of returning for several hours. Any cubicle-dweller will relate to the rush of adrenaline that comes when you take the first couple of steps out of the building without being spotted.

The story gets serious afterwards, though. Rickman has a date with an old flame, who ran away with a more successful man. He is clearly not over her, and tries to drown the initial nostalgia and disappointment in several glasses of red wine. Which does not end well.

Once again, I was surprised that poetry could be so, well, contemporary. This short reminded me of cynical indie movies with unpopular-geek protagonists, despite being a regretful poem about unrequited love. Rickman’s badass-ery might have had something to do with it.

Watch this. 4.5/5

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Fun factoids

This is my review of Think Like A Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, the duo behind the Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics books.

This genre is best described as pop-armchair-economics. As someone who is an admirer of all things science and a champion of the scientific method, I can’t honestly recommend these books without coming off as a huge hypocrite.  They provide insufficient facts and flaky logic at times. But to be quite honest, these books are what introduced me to economics in its pure form- the science and art of making conclusions from data.

Like Freakonomics, the book is made up of bite-sized anecdotes that are perfect for reading on the go. The first story is about how thinking out of the box allowed a young man break world records in competitive eating (!). Another interesting one was the need for feedback loops and experimentation in advertising, and how simple observation can take the place of large-scale, potentially costly trials.

They also talk about ‘tricking’ people into saving more by gamifying the process- people were more likely to put money regularly into a lottery than save for retirement.

What I didn’t like was the occasional self indulgence. One story was about how the Freakonomics guys helped the US government catch some terrorists. While it was a clever move, it seems extremely risky and probably something that shouldn’t be in the public eye. They also talk about the concept of opportunity costs by describing their own personal success.

The book is overall a letdown, I expected much more from these two! It manages to be reasonably entertaining and a quick read, though. 3/5

Miscellany

2015 was disappointing, reading-wise. I didn’t reach my paltry target of 30 books, and more upsetting, didn’t read as many good books as I would have liked. The downside of only reading light novels. Anyway, be prepared for more random non-literary posts; it’s either that or reviewing technical papers.

  1. RIP Alan Rickman. Currently, no fewer than 5 of my WhatsApp contacts have “Always” as their status message- this frustrates me so much. I’ve heard that the greatest achievement of an actor is to be mistaken for a character they’ve played, but come on, he has done better than Harry Potter for sure… Hasn’t he? I reviewed Sense and Sensibility a while ago, and he was certainly good there. And if you’re looking for something offbeat, check out the insanity called Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
  2. Guts by Chuck Palahniuk. I dare you to read it without feeling queasy- I finished this short story a couple of hours ago and am dreading the thought of lunch. It’s a short story revolving around masturbation that ironically was published in the Playboy magazine. It’s awkward and gross and may just go over the line unless you have a stomach of steel- try it here.
  3. South Indian cinema today. I finally got around to watching Bangalore Days and Premam, two recent Malayalam movies that have done much to shatter the pretentious artsy image of Mollywood (?!). While they’re very modern and amazingly well-made, they have a few ridiculous plot twists that remind you that this is a south Indian entertainer.  On the other hand, the Tamil movie O Kadhal Kanmani is a brilliant film that deserves your time, even if you must use subtitles. Its portrayal of two couples- one young and modern, one old and even more modern- is sweet without being unrealistic or annoying. Plus A R Rahman’s music, need I say more?