Friday, August 26, 2011

I don't understand why people love to bash up big corporations while happily consuming their products or working for them.

Take Coca Cola for instance - it's probably one of the most abused companies in the world. It's considered "cool" to be anti-Coca Cola because it's this mammoth company that sells harmful stuff to people. But that doesn't stop people from consuming Coke or any other carbonated beverages.

Or Nike. They were once accused of serious human rights violations as most of their merchandise was manufactured in sweat shops in developing countries. But that didn't stop people from buying their products.

So why don't we stop and take a reality check? The truth is these companies are just doing business, and if we have an ethical problem with the nature of their business or what they're doing we should have the courage to boycott their products. Whenever someone bashes Coke I want to ask them if they can assure me they haven't bought a single can/bottle of Coke since they started feeling the way they do about the company - not even on the hottest, sultriest of days. If they can assure me that's the case I will respect their opinion (I still don't agree with it because I don't think it's right to blame companies for the stupidity of consumers, but I respect it). But you can't go around bashing companies and consuming their products at the same time because it's convenient for you.

I come across people who trash the corporate sector all the time. Truth is that the same corporate sector pays our salaries. The standard of living we enjoy, the things we can buy, the places we can travel to are all thanks to the corporate sector. You needn't be in love with it but you need to realize why you're able to afford your lifestyle. Are you willing to give it all up and live a much less privileged existence? No? Then shut up.

The other thing I don't understand - and I expect to get a lot of flak for it - is our attitude towards cigarette companies. I don't smoke, never wanted to. Cigarette fumes make me cough and I wish people I love and care for didn't smoke either. Yet I think the way cigarette manufacturers are discriminated against is very unfair.

They are a legal business, then why are they not allowed to advertise like other legal businesses? First their right to communicate with their consumers was taken away from them, then they were forced to put ghastly pictures of people with mouth and tongue cancer on their packs (that hasn't dissuaded smokers from buying cigarettes but that's another story). And now the only means of communication remaining with them - the pack - is being taken away from them in Australia (there may soon be a legislation forcing tobacco companies to plain package their cigarettes).

I read a report on one of the companies planning to sue the Australian government for discrimination if the legislation is indeed passed, and rightly so. If the government truly believes cigarette companies are diabolical, then they should be banned. But they never will be because the tobacco industry yields the highest amount of taxes for the government among all industrues. You can't give a company the same status as other companies and then discriminate against them. Yes, these companies are selling products that can kill people but they're selling these products because people want to buy them. Like with everything else, I believe there is supply because their is demand. The onus is on the consumer to know what's good for them and what's not.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What was the last cool thing you did?

This weekend I did one of the coolest things I've ever done - I did a flashmob!!

For those who don't know a flashmob is a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an act for a brief time (usually a dance), then disperse. Trust me when I say it's one of the most awesome things you can ever do.

I did it along with people from my company as a way of introducing ourselves to one of our clients. Quite an original idea, I must say. This is how it works: people are hanging around at a public place doing their thing, then all of a sudden you hear music. One person randomly breaks into a dance, then a few others join in, while people around are gobsmacked and have no idea what's going on! Then the remaining people join at short intervals until everyone who's part of the mob has joined in. And when it's over, people disperse in all directions like nothing happened. Oh, it's awesome!!!

Cars honked at us, people shouted out to us, passers by stopped and started filming. The Daily Telegraph even tweeted about it.

We danced to 'Can you feel it (MJ), 'Just Dance' (Lady Gaga), 'Fireworks' (Katy Perry) and 'Dynamite' (Taio Cruz). My favorite part was being able to do some of Michael Jackson's signature moves, such as the "Thriller walk" and the pelvic thrusts. Unfortunately, the crotch grab was dropped at the last minute in favour of the pelvic thrust given we were doing it for a client, but 30 women doing MJ's "crotch grab" in the middle of a street would've been pretty awesome I think.

We had so much fun practising at Hyde Park before the final act. The English Junior Football Team was playing nearby and about 20 of them came over and danced with us. And when we started doing the "Thriller" walk, they went "Oh, is this from thrilla?" Gorgeous!

All I'm trying to say is, flashmobs are a fabulous way to spend a Saturday morning. I'm so going to do it again. We're planning to do a Janet Jackson flashmob on the day she performs in Sydney, and am already looking for some MJ tribute flashmobs happening in Sydney that I can be a part of.

Since my video hasn't been uploaded yet, I'll leave you guys with a couple of really cool flashmobs I've found on YouTube:

Have fun.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

It's funny...Australia was never on my list of dream travel destinations (I've always been obsessed with Europe). It was a country/continent I thought I'd visit when I was done to my heart's content with Europe. But now that I'm living here, I'm coming to realize how blessed Australia is with natural beauty. And I've only just seen Sydney!

Sydney has a beautiful harbour - the water is a dark shade of blue and when sunlight falls on it, it glitters like little jewels. The dark blue water is dotted with little white sail's the prettiest and most calming sight ever!

The Sydney Harbour Bridge stretches across the water majestically. It connects North Sydney and the northern suburbs to the Sydney CBD, which is also referred to as the City. Beside the Harbour Bridge sits an example of path-breaking architecture - the Sydney Opera House. Honestly, I was a little underwhelmed by it the first time I saw it. It's one of the most hyped monuments in the world, and is a symbol of Australia, and when you see it for the first time it doesn't all come together for you. Then I went back to it, went closer and realized what a feat Jorn Utzon had pulled off when he designed and oversaw the construction of the Opera House.

There are many neighbourhoods in Sydney, such as Kirribilli and Milsons Point, that offer stunning views of the Sydney harbour along with the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. I lived at Milsons Point for a month but never made the trek (though it was hardly a trek). Plan to get down there one of these days.

Last weekend I went to Bondi beach. The water is a light aquamarine and so clear, you can see the bottom of the sea bed. I'm too lazy to describe it further in words so I'll leave you with a few pictures.

We did the walk from Bondi to Bronte beach, which goes through rocks that have been eroded into beautiful patterns by salt-laden air.

I'm already scouting places to visit in Australia over my long weekends :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

And I Say to Myself, What a Wonderful World!

One of my favourite things to do on Saturday and Sunday mornings is to tune into news from across the globe, in the respective languages of those countries (including our very own Hindi news by NDTV India :)

Call me someone who doesn't have a life - and honestly, I'd rather not to have a life on weekend mornings - but these news shows keep me more engaged than any other program on Australian television, with the exception of MC Aus of course.

The languages range from French to Italian to Greek to Portugese to Spanish to Dutch to Turkish to Arabic to Russian to Estonian to Bulgarian. I don't understand any of it, except French a little bit. But I like to have it playing in the background while I potter about the house. My favourite part comes after the new programs are over. It's called 'What a World' - they play western classical music and show random live shots of cities across the world. Both famous cities and obscure little towns. Cities steeped in history that have me dying to visit them, and places I may never get a chance to visit because they generally don't fall on a tourist's radar. I can watch the program for hours. Unfortunately, it lasts only ten minutes :(

It's amazing how much Aussie TV sucks otherwise. The reality shows are crap, and the soaps and sitcoms are years behind even Star World India!! Now that takes quite a bit of doing.
Oh, there IS another show I like though. It's a morning show called 'Sunrise' and is an amalgamation of all sorts of things - news, entertainment, sports, updates on financial markets, gossip, other general stuff and chit chat. It's a feel good show with plenty of jokes and laughter. And the chemistry between the presenters is palpable. Mel is this really feminine, emotional, caring woman and Kochi (pronounced kau-shi) is this goofy guy who cracks really silly but endearing jokes and is even funnier when he's trying to be serious and give financial advice! And Australia loves the two.

There are some things about Australians that baffle as well as intrigue me. For instance, I don't understand why they would let food inflation go out the roof but won't import fruits and vegetables from other countries. They are so paranoid about agricultural diseases coming into Australia that they'd rather bananas cost $14 a dozen (I'm sorry I can't get over the price of bananas in this country!) and the market be out of chillies and tomatoes, which to me is ridiculous.

I am yet to see another people who are as proud of everything grown and made within their country as Australians are. Every Australian brand, whether they are into food or clothing or furniture or telecom, emphasizes on it's 100% Australian heritage in all its communication. I used to wonder why this was the case and I think I may have finally understood their psychology.

Australia is so far away from everyone else and to be honest, the world never cared much about them either. Inspite of that, they have managed to develop to the same level as any other country in Europe or America. Their isolation from the rest of the world and limited population hasn't stopped them from being self-sufficient, and that may be the reason the Aussies are so proud of themselves.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

And we thought riots happened in Mumbai and Calcutta only!

What's happening in London is so unnecessary and mindless. It may have started as a protest against the killing of an individual but has now blown up into what can be called "recreational rioting". People with nothing better to do with their time are pouring on to the streets, destroying buildings and setting fire to anything they can put their eyes on.

The scariest part is that most rioters are young enough to be in high school - one of the boys arrested was 11 years old!! What are their parents doing? Why are they letting their kids run mad around the streets of London looting and plundering? Can't they keep their kids at home???

Another thing that shocked me was that the rioters are using Twitter, Facebook and BBM to alert each other about their whereabouts and discuss new areas to target. This is unprecedented - looks like someone was paying attention to the revolution in Egypt. Isn't it ironic - the same social media that helped a country overthrow it's tyrannical dictator is helping ignorant people in another country ruin one of the most historic cities in the world. It's saddening to say the least.

I can imagine what the London police might be facing - it's like their worst nightmare come true. I think they should arrest as many rioters as they can and bring them to trial - if these kids are old enough to commit crimes, they're certainly old enough to face punishment. I hope things calm down soon.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Masterchef Australia Season 3

BIG FAT SPOILER ALERT: Masterchef Australia Season 3 is about to culminate soon (sob sob). It's finals week already! But they start airing it in India tomorrow, so those of you who are really into MC Aus, like me, and don't want to ruin the suspense please stop reading right now.

I love Masterchef Australia. I guess I can't say it enough. I've done quite a few posts on it already, and I try my best not to miss an episode.

I don't like to cook but there are a number of reasons I love the show. One, I've realized that looking at food on television comforts and de-stresses me. I love the vibrant colours of the dishes being cooked, I can imagine the flavours and the aroma, and that has a very calming effect on me.

Second, MC Aus is probably the best reality show I've watched in terms of its spirit. It's all about constructive feedback, not about criticizing and demotivating people or sensationalism. Of course it has a fair bit of drama but none of it irritates. The judges genuinely try to mentor the contestants - they aren't just sitting on high horses and passing judgement on the efforts of amateur home cooks who are aspiring to become chefs. They want the contestants to learn and realize what they're capable of.

On an aside, my favorite is Gary. Who's yours?

Third, the format is really engaging. It keeps you hooked. The challenges this season are much more difficult than the previous two seasons and that made me realize just how good the contestants this year are. My all-time favourite was Marion from Season 2 - she was so amazingly talented. She was supposed to work on a series of Asian sauces and marinades after Masterchef, and I kept hoping that her line of products would make their way to grocery stores in India that stock imported products. And now that I'm here I see her on TV, I see her sauces and meals on supermarket shelves. The other day I saw Jimmy's products at Coles, with his smiling face - which I know quite a few of my friends are a fan of - on the packaging! It made me so happy to see real-life people who were on a TV show and who I adored doing well for themselves.

Coming back to this year's Masterchef, there has been such a variety in the challenges. There are a few challenges that I really enjoyed and remember off the top of my head.

There was a team relay challenge where the first member of each team had 25 minutes in the kitchen with the recipes for 6 dishes. The recipes were then taken away, and the person had only 60 seconds to bring the next team member up to speed on what had to be cooked, what was already done and still needed to be done, and the next member then had 20 minutes cooking time before he/she had to brief the next member on the processes and hand the kitchen over to them. No prompting allowed, so if you didn't brief the person well enough the first time around, you would have to silently watch them making disastrous mistakes and send the entire team into elimination. Once the challenge was over, the contestants were surprised to learn that the recipes belonged to Nigella, who would be judging them!

There was another episode where the contestants had to make burger, fries and a milkshake. Except the challenge was set by the mind blowing Heston Blumenthal, which meant that the contestants had to prepare their own bun, cheese, tomato ketchup, fries and an incredibly complex burger patty. The other two episodes I really enjoyed took place in NYC. In one of them, each contestant was sent to a different part of NYC - such as Harlem which is predominantly African-American and Bronx which is a tough Italian neighbourhood - to spend a day there and create a dish that was inspired by that neighbourhood. The person who created the worst dish would spend the rest of the week in lock down (inside their NYC hotel) and would emerge only at the end of the week for an elimination challenge. This episode gave me my first favourite of the season - Billy. He was sent to the Bronx, which is supposed to be a hot bed of Italian mafia in the US, and he represented that in the way he plated up his dish - he spattered red sauce very artistically all over his plate to represent blood!

The other NYC episode I really enjoyed was when the judges appeared to the contestants on the electronic displays at Times Square and told them that they would be cooking for a dinner party for chefs. The contestants were broken off into pairs. Each team had to find a clue directing them to a restaurant where the head chef would show them how to cook the recipe, and then cook it themselves. This challenge involved running across NYC and had to be completed in a very short time frame.

This season of MC has had its share of controversies as well. One of the contestants was thrown out of the competition b/c he sneaked in a smartphone into the house while the others had no means of communicating with the outside world and/or looking up recipes. Then there were allegations that the contestants are allowed to plate up their dishes even after their time is up, so the dishes can look good on camera. And then there's this online hate wave going on against one of the contestants, Dani, who has made it to the top 4 but I would have to agree with people who say she doesn't belong there.

Most people don't like her b/c they find her very annoying - she's loud and in-your-face and doesn't have the talent to make up for it. She makes the stupidest of mistakes, is the most inconsistent of all contestants - she is brilliant on some days but such days are few and far between, and mostly she has bad days when she cries to gain sympathy from the judges. Unfortunately, she's the only contestant in MC Aus to have won 2 immunity pins. One of them was won genuinely cooking off against a professional chef while the other was a joke - she beat the winner of 'Celebrity Masterchef'. She used that immunity pin to get to the top 4, and that turned people off her even more b/c other more talented people had to go home.

I can't wait to get my friends' reactions once MC Aus starts in India. It's a good'll enjoy it. And don't forget to tell me who your favourite contestant is. Only, I'll know their fate before you do! :D