Discovering Tom Rosenthal through Morse Code

Inspector Endeavour Morse is an unlikely promoter for singer Tom Rosenthal. It all began with a trailer on ITV that showcased Endeavour, the new series on the Inspector Morse books by Colin Dexter. I have read a couple of books from the Inspector Morse series and while interesting they didn’t captivate me the way Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle or G.K. Chesterton did. However the series, Inspector Morse, that ran in the late ’80s and throughout the ’90s was driven by good solid British acting and a tight storyline that was suspenseful and dramatic. Endeavour-Tom-Rosenthal

Endeavour brought back memories of the old series and with its ’60s setting it looks real mean and dark. There is accuracy to detail down to the ’60s stockings, from what I saw on the trailer. It features Inspector Morse in his younger days as he works himself up the Carshall-Newton PD ladder. I have only seen the trailer but it holds a lot of promise and interestingly came with a haunting soundtrack that led me to Tom Rosenthal.

A bit of Googling and I come across this body of work that is beautiful in a folksy kind of way. While I couldnt find the exact trailer that held this song, I came across the direct works of Tom Rosenthal and information on this unique singer who prefers playing it low. His simple ballads are rendered with minimal instruments and the piano work on “It’s OK” is goosebump -worthy. The earthiness of these ballads belie the dreamy feeling that sweeps over. If there was a case to crack, the mystery of Tom Rosenthal’s low profile would surely be it. And one more thing, he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. Come on!

 

Games Mutual Funds Play

March and April are critical months when it comes to personal funds. You either get a high out of wiggling out of any taxing situation or you then get into a funk when you realise that you have to then go and declare your next set of investments for the year ahead. Any way it goes, these permutations and combinations do raise hackles and at times do call for a swig of fresh lime sodas that soothe parched throats (lime ‘n’ soda’s my poison).

Now while sorting out my financials, I decided to also reassess my mutual fund investments made nearly a decade back. I am averse to taking risks and I can safely say that the four mutual funds in which I invested were some crazy train stuff that I felt I could handle then. So far following are the results.

Franklin Templeton Tax Shield (Dividend) – This was a well thought out investment considering it was my first. In 2007 I needed two things. One, save on tax by making an investment and two, make an investment that would in turn give me returns. With these sole criteria I began pouring over newsletters, business pages and asking CAs and bank officers in the family for tips on how to manage my funds. Through popular choice and with a strong recommendation from Karnataka Bank I took up the Franklin Templeton Tax Shield (Dividend) fund. This mutual fund came with pedigree – a good track record that saw everyone who invested swear by this fund. Seven years later, this has turned out to be the star performer among all my mutual funds. Besides the initial tax advantage, this fund has been giving me consistent dividends that have reasonably tidied over the principal amount. It is indeed a star performer and though the dividends have reduced in amount over the last few years it still works out in the long run.

SBI Magnum Tax Advantage Fund – The fund started off badly. Again, dividend related and while providing the initial tax shelter, this fund sputtered out a few dividends and then there was silence. However a slight upturn resulted in this fund climbing out of the doldrums. At one point in time I saw my principal amount reduced to half. In this scenario, the fund has made quite a recovery and I decided to encash it with a negligible profit on this.

SBI Magnum Tax Gain Scheme – Now this was one star fund that went bust. At one point in time SBI Magnum Tax Gain Scheme was the darling of investors. The great Indian middle class embraced this fund like never before. I did too and the first few years were super rosy. I managed to get my initial highest dividends from this product and boy did it make me a happy man. And then came the 2009 slump. Dividends did keep coming even though the initial investment shrunk to nearly half. And while the fund has picked up slowly, the funny part is dividends keep coming unlike the Tax Advantage fund scenario where the product performed well but no dividends were paid out. For now I have decided to keep this fund with a view that it may reach its high of 2005-07 soon. With elections almost done and the next lot ready to set claim I am looking forward to a climb in the numbers.

Fidelity India Growth Fund (now called L&T India Large Cap Fund) – This investment was pure rush. With dividends coming in, I used that amount to make a risky but high return investment in Fidelity India Growth Fund. Not only that, I opted for the Growth model in this fund, meaning I would not get any dividends till I closed the fund at a possibly successful level. Expecting it to grow, I saw the fund tank. Not completely, but almost. And then the fund was bought over by L&T and with the rechristening there have been some positive improvements. Being a risky investment, I have always been there without any expectations, but there was just that tiny hope that I could have a goldmine on my hands. I have decided to keep this fund too considering the electoral and global market dynamics. It will always be a risk and with its good performance of late I expect this fund to claw its way to a profitable venture for me. It’s working hard for now with a healthy net asset value (NAV).

It’s been entertaining studying the markets and playing around with the investments. The initial playfulness has given way to careful scrutiny as I wait and watch what happens over the three mutual funds that I retain. Quoting Jim Morrison, “I think the highest and lowest points are the important ones. Anything else is just…in between. I want the freedom to try everything.”

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Watching one of your all time favourite books transformed into a spectacular adventure that mirrors almost every word gives you a real kick and a half. ‘The Hobbit‘ is a book that reads like a live adventure and is so engrossing that the reader is made to be a part of the band of hunters seeking their goal. I felt every bit of the adventure in this novel and when Peter Jackson announced that this one small book would be transformed into three movies, I knew his attention to detail would be impeccable. I watched the first part ‘The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey‘ in December 2012 and I found it a bit too slow. It dragged on a bit too much and lacked the punch that the novel held. Maybe Peter Jackson’s attention to details was a bit too much here, I thought.the desolation of smaug - the hobbit

Come April 2014 and I get my hands on a fine HD quality print of the second part in the series ‘The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug‘. And I forgive Peter Jackson for all his trespasses in his past movies ’cause the second part really took off and made my day. It’s not about the action, but the environment and mood that the director creates. It’s so full of classic adventure, yet you do not feel tired of it. It’s fun, it’s suspenseful and above all it’s entertaining. While darker and sombre in its mood, ‘Desolation of Smaug’ is a wonderful tribute to the creative landscape of Peter Jackson and the beauty of the New Zealand wilderness where this has been shot. The cast is up to speed with the vision of the novel and bring to life J.R.R. Tolkien‘s journey from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain.Smaug

Never a dull moment, the epic adventure ends abruptly with the viewer asking for more. I definitely can’t wait to watch the final version of this trilogy. One of the highlights of this movie was Smaug. In line with the title, Benedict Cumberbatch does away with his Sherlockian finery and through the wonders of motion capture, gets into the guise of the dragon. It’s cold, it’s hammy, but it’s wonderful watching the tete-a-tete with the thief Bilbo Baggins. And it’s Sherlock vs. Watson here, if you know what I mean.

Action weekend

It was an action fest at home what with four back-to-back movies thumping out heavy soundtracks with bullets, missiles and men whizzing around air, land and water, oh and there was a lady kicking ass too.

G.I. Joe Retaliation

G.I. Joe Retaliation
G.I. Joe Retaliation

Guns, guns and more guns and then there was The Rock (Dwayne Johnson). You can’t deny the fact that this guy has incredible screen presence and is the action star of our generation. Brute force and calculated risks are his forte as he takes on Cobra Commander in this much improved version of the film franchise. While Part 1 was disappointing, specially the Cobra Commander sequence with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I kind of like Part 2. There were quite  few extravagant fight sequences but that was all that kept the movie going with its wafer thin plot. I didn’t mind this. A good fun ride with thespian Bruce Willis making a guest appearance and some very fine villains. This was a sort of a reboot fo the franchise with the old guard wiped out in the opening sequence. Lets see what more the new GI’s have on offer in the future. One thing – it’s gonna work only with Roadblock (The Rock).

Man of Steel

Man of Steel
Man of Steel

The only Superman movie not to have his name in the title, “Man of Steel” has Christopher Nolan‘s stamp as a producer and Zak Snyder‘s dark and brooding over-the-top atmosphere. The movie started off with a bit of a yawn, I nodded off in between, but caught up with some heavy duty fighting as General Zod began wringing earths defences like a rag doll. This movie has it’s moments and I am with the producers and writer’s on this one as they removed the campyness that I so despise in superhero movies. Overall, a good nod to this genre of movies.

World War Z

World War Z
World War Z

Brad Pitt fights zombies. That would have been the one line brief to the makers of this movie. The movie builds up with a standard hero-with-family-tries-to-save-world premise and somewhere in the middle when you have Brad Pitt’s UN investigator begin his search for a vaccine, then you have a fast paced narrative with interesting set-pieces. I now know why Israel builds its great barrier wall with Palestine. It’s to keep out the zombies. This scene where the zombies try to infiltrate Jerusalem was the most cinematically entertaining part of the movie. Otherwise I would relegate this one to standard action fare. Has it’s moments but a fair view.

Kick Ass 2

Kick Ass 2
Kick Ass 2

This movie didn’t need Jim Carrey’s poor sense of judgment and holier than thou attitude to denounce itself. There are some movies that do not need a sequel, where the sequel only waters down the character. This is one such. All the good work done with the first movie somehow comes undone here and looks over the top. I loved the first installment, this one just doesn’t work as it tries hard to be a continuation. Over-the-top can look good, as it did in the first installment, but here it just falls flat and seems contrived.

So there’s it an action weekend that threw up quite it’s share of entertainment.

 

Bide your time with the Phobidden

I love south east Asian food. Though I have never been that side of the world, the stories and tales from the South Seas do have an imaginative clout. Swayed by the aromas through visits to the Aroy in J.P. Nagar and the Thai restaurant on Brigade Road (that apparently is modelled on Thai street food that Thai visitors say is authentic) I did not hesitate when good friend and foodie of the century Sandesh Shenoy suggested we try the Phobidden Fruit.

Vietnamese Chicken Curry
Vietnamese Chicken Curry

The ASEAN nations serve their own unique blend of spices that really stimulate your gastric juices. Phobidden Fruit, located in Indiranagar’s famous 12th main food street is a quaint Vietnamese restaurant with a relaxed outlook. The muggy, tropical-like weather added to the ambience as we climbed the short spiral staircase to the terrace. The service takes its time, but the starters and the main course were worth the wait.

Pho at Phobidden Fruit
Pho

From chicken spring rolls sauteed in delicious spicy sauce to a beef fry dish (I don’t recall the names but the pics should give you an idea of how delicious the food was), the starters were the right ingredients to set the table on fire for the afternoon. A bit on the spicier side but with a tinge of sweetness either brought on by burnt jaggery or lemon grass, the Vietnamese dishes tweak your taste buds to ask for more. And with the main course of Vietnamese chicken curry (chicken dipped in a spicy and sweet curry with coconut milk and a bit of grated coconut, and with a slice of yam and steamed rice and vegetables to accompany the curry) I dug into the food with the relish it deserved. It never disappointed. Sandesh, on the other hand, had the signature Vietnamese dish of Pho (a soup based dish with noodles and chicken and vegetables). However this dish was slightly bland compared to the rest of the course we had that afternoon.

Getting lucky with the Vietnamese Chicken curry gave me the palate to try the dessert on hand. We had Che, a coconut milk based beverage/ice cream that was so so. I didn’t think much of the desserts.  Overall, it was a cherished lunch – extremely satisfying, laid back atmosphere and the company to go with it. And I would go and order the Vietnamese chicken curry all over again. It was the highlight of my meal.

A season for the right reasons

In this time of hectic campaigning and election fury, there is a soft, sane and stern voice of a gentleman whom I greatly admire. While I have read his political commentary over the years, I confess I have not touched his literature yet. However his Dr. U. R. Ananthamurthythoughts in the articles he has written and the interviews he has given have created a fan in me.

I came across Dr. U. R. Ananthamurthy‘s write-up in the Caravan Magazine – a magazine that establishes itself as the antithesis of today’s journalism. I believe Dr. URA’s message is an important reminder to the electorate of what we are getting into in the name of blind character-driven jingoism. Following is the article. It’s simple and straightforward, but very clear.

http://www.caravanmagazine.in/vantage/why-i-endorse-congress