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Review: “Lion” – the film. The real India? 7/10

Saroo, a tiny boy, arrives confused, in Calcutta.  He does not speak Bengali and has no family or friends or idea where he is.

Lion is his story.

The “Lion” trailer is packed with spoilers.  Avoid!

I watched Lion on a wise person’s recommendation recently on a plane to Chennai.  I thought the first half, featuring the stunning Sunny Pawar as Saroo, was riveting – especially if, like me, you hadn’t seen the trailer and the plot developments came as a complete surprise.  The second part, which featured amongst others Nicole Kidman, struck me as OK but relatively routine and schmalzy in parts, especially the dodgy finale. (more…)

Happiness and small victories

When was the last time you punched the air and said “yesssssssssss!”?

If you want to understand me a bit, read on.

Air-punching is the stuff of small victories.  You disagree?  Please leave a comment below.  I would argue that with big victories (child born; illness overcome) you feel a powerful inner glow and no air-punching goes on.  But I digress.  My recent small victory involved the mileometer (an English word, the spell-check tells me – more usually odometer in the US and probably more appropriate here also as I actually choose to measure my cycling progress in small, rapidly-mounting kilometres rather than large, hard-to-accumulate miles, a fascinating subject in itself) on my bicycle.

I bought this bike on 16 July 1998 in Bonn, along with three other bicycles which have since perished.  One was out-grown.  Two were destroyed when a car I was in skidded on snowy tires in my garage in Kyiv and crushed the bikes, which were leaning against the wall and thus in the wrong place at the wrong time.  My own bike was leaning against a different wall and escaped.

The bike on the Rhine tow-path – before I uglified it with yellow tape for Berlin – Photo Robert Pimm

In Bonn, I cycled 14 km each day to and from work, mostly on a tow-path along the Rhine, (more…)

Reviews: India: 10/10. Shantaram 3/10

I know.  You can’t really review a whole country.

Railway station in Chennai – all photos Robert Pimm

Especially not India: more than 13 times the size of the UK, massively diverse, and packed with history.

But I wanted to write for two reasons.   (more…)

Things are getting worse, right? Wrong. Here’s why.

‘I saw this terrible news today.’  My friend, a sensible person, is distressed.  ‘A terrorist group is breeding babies to be brought up as fresh soldiers for their cause.  How can we resist such fanaticism?’

‘Don’t worry,’ I say.  ‘It’s probably a mix of propaganda and sensationalism.’

I’ve written before about how the Internet is filled with misleading nonsense (“a vortex of vacuity; a crisis of kaka; a whirlwind of piss-poor polarisation”) in one of my most popular blogs: The Internet.  7 reasons why it will destroy civilisation.

Lesotho: one of the most beautiful countries on earth has the lowest life expectancy – Photo RP

I’ve also written about the elegant Tuchman’s Law (hit the link for the full article), which says: “The fact of being reported multiplies the apparent extent of any deplorable development by five- to tenfold (more…)

The Third Man: location photos

When I knew I would be moving to Vienna, but before this was widely known, I changed the heading on my Twitter account to a new image.

My intention was to hint, to those who knew either Vienna, me or both, that I was on the move.

The picture is an image from my all-time favourite film, set in post-war Vienna, The Third Man.  To avoid spoilers I shall not say what it depicts, but merely to look at it gives me shivers of recollection.

Vienna is rich with Third Man locations, many redolent with history.  You can even do a tour of the sewers, where key action (more…)

Review: Vienna cafes: which are best? (Part 2)

Since I published my review of Vienna cafes a couple of weeks ago it has become one of my most popular posts.  It has also harvested more comments than nearly anything else I have written.

So, as promised, I have expanded it.  Instead of reviewing three cafes, I now review six.  Additions include the Kleines Cafe; Cafe Landtmann; and, considerably less famous than either, the Ungar Grill.

Nice presentation at the Cafe Central in 2006 – Photo Robert Pimm

You can read the revised and expanded version at the link above, or here.

I’ve been particularly pleased to receive several comments recommending particular cafes as wonderful or terrible examples of what makes Vienna cafes special.  More comments, or suggestions, welcome!

More reviews, including the Cafe Museum, Cafe Sperl, and Cafe Bräunerhof, coming up soon – in some cases these are new to me and I will need to visit them first.

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Review: Vienna cafes: which are best?

Viennese customer (standing up, exasperated, after 20 minutes of trying to get the bill) ‘Excuse me, Mr Waiter; I’d like to pay, please.’

Head Waiter (chatting to other waiters on the other side of the room) ‘If you’re in such a hurry, you should have stayed at home.’

This is a true story from Vienna, 1986 – I was there.  If my host that day (then working in the Town Hall) is reading this, do get in touch.

The entrance to the Cafe Hawelka – photo Robert Pimm

How good are Viennese cafes?  Is it even fair for me to assess them, as a foreigner who has lived only three and a half years in the city, all but the last six months back in the 1980s?

Most Viennese cafes are excellent.  I like the fact that (more…)

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