Category Archives: review

Snoqualmie Blues

Summit at Snoqualmie sucks. There are a lot of people who think so for different reasons. Mostly these are people who know their way down the slopes and complain that the runs are too short or that there are too many people on them (those pesky little kids on skis… I actually think they’re cute). That may be true but the convenience of being able to drive to Snoqualmie within an hour definitely compensates for that. And they have a few decent runs which can be challenging. Guess what I’m saying is that I’m not really at a skill level to complain about that.

What I do want to whine about is how badly managed the rental area is. And how they pulled a cheap little trick on me and robbed me of $33.33. Not to mention how obtuse some of the people who work there can be, but I guess that’s not really an issue unique to Snoqualmie.

I went there one Saturday in Dec 2007 and bought a Ez 1-2-3 package that give you 3 days of lessons, rentals and lift tickets… awesome deal but I guess that’s how they compete in the market. As luck would have, they lost power (apparently that happens to them often) and after walking up the little green slope a couple of times, I decided to wind up for the day. No hard feelings, first time that season, a hiccup before the Snoqualmie machine starts up I thought… whatever. I asked and they said that yes, they would give me credit for an extra day as a part of the package.

I go back there 2 more times, wait for more than an hour at the rental line each time, which could be much faster with a little reorganization of their space, even if they don’t add any additional employees there. But anyway, I get rentals and lift tickets and have fun on the slopes.

Then I go there the 4th time (counting the one time there was no power) and the lady at the counter, after spending 15 minutes looking at the computer, tells me that I don’t have any more turns left in my Ez 1-2-3 package. I tell them about the whole power outage credit I was suppose to get and she tells me that the computer says that I already got the credit and hence have exhausted the package. I tell her that I have come there only 2 times besides the time they had no power and point to my friend who was in the exact same situation as me and had just gotten his rentals and lift tickets. She says she recognizes me and my friend and believes me but the computer tells her otherwise. I say OK, maybe there has been a glitch or data entry error, can she not override it and give me my last day of the package.

I mean how big of a deal is it for her to do this when she herself believes that things are okay, even if she didn’t, just the fact that I was there, sincerely arguing my case, should have made her think. Yeah I could’ve been a fool who drove all the way to Snoqualmie to stand in line for an hour and a half to get a free rental but what are the chances? Think woman… think.

Anyways, that’s where the obtuseness kicks in… all she does is tell me 3 or 4 times that the computer tells her that I have exhausted all days on the package. Each time she tells me that I tell her that I have understood what the problem is but that does not stop her from repeating herself just once more… god I pity her boyfriend or husband.

Note that this was after a particularly long wait in the lines there. I was dying to get on the slopes and the rental area was clogged with people, and disorganized as usual. I wanted to speak to the manager and she said I would have to go downstairs (to another messy disorganized area in a line with 20 people ahead of me) to speak to her. I went anyway. Tried to get up to the front to explain that I had already been in a line for an hour and half, but all the manager said was that I would have to get in line. I understand their need to have everyone follow the rules but that’s what separates the smart people who get work done from the drones who get everyone in line indiscriminately.

My friends were on the slopes and I wasn’t going to waste any more time so I went ahead and bought a $180 season’s pass that has rental and lift tickets included, kinda gave in to the mis-management at Snoqualmie. I feel bad about that but they are close to Seattle and easy to get to… really that is the only reason I would go there.

If I had a choice I wouldn’t, so if you have one, don’t…

ISAFF Seattle 2007 Closes

After 5 days of great movies and a great effort by a lot of people, ISAFF Seattle 2007 came to a close on 7th Oct (also happened to be my birthday). Hats off to all the people who worked hard to make this possible. I got to watch a few movies and enjoyed them a lot. You can see my reviews of a few of the ealier movies here.

The last movie was “10 Questions for the Dalai Lama”… here’s what I thought about it.

10 Questions for the Dalai Lama, Rick Ray (5/5)

The festival directors had definitely kept the best for the last. The show closed with this great eye-opener, and was followed by a long Q & A session with the director of the movie, Rick Ray, and a pretty interesting (and a little funny too) and passionate group of people. It was great to have the director  of the movie right there.

First, about the movie. According to Rick, the movie’s inspiration started with him being approached with a chance to get an audience with the Dalai Lama. He was offcourse delighted by that and thus started the journey. The movie explores his preparation for the meeting and spends a lot of time providing the context and history of Tibet starting from the the Dalai Lama before the current one. It was very interesting to learn about his childhood and how he was selected to be the next Dalai Lama. The real eye opener for me was the role of China in Tibet. The extent of the oppression and blatant disregard for human rights and sovereignty of Tibet was a surprise for me. I knew that Tibet has, for a very long time, been occupied by the Chinese who have caused the Dalai Lama and thousands (maybe millions) to be displaced from their homeland. I didn’t know that this goes back to the 1950s. And that over a million people have been killed during this period. Think about it, a million people killed for defending their rights to a free and respectful life in their own country.

Essentially the Dalai Lama runs a government in exile from Dharamsala, in the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. So there was a lot of footage and information about the Chinese occupation of Tibet which was very informative and disconcerting. However, that is not what the movie is about. It is really an introduction to the Dalai Lama. A closeup of his, about habits, his personality and what he stands for. Let me tell you, he is a very funny guy. He is modern and in step with technology and current social norms. He is also very practical and candid. He will cut through the bullshit that is the life of most of today’s political leaders and get to the point. Rick captured this really well in this movie.

Finally the movie gets to the point where Rick meets the Dalai Lama and asks him 10 questions. There is no lightning , no divine intervention, no prophetic voice thundering down from the heavens. Just a simple monk giving practical and genuine answers to the complicated questions that are posed to him. Ironically, the movie, through its description of how great and important the Lama is, succeeded in making him more personable to me.

At one part of the movie, Rick talks about how rich “Brahmin’s” dont have smiles on their face where as poor people, where ever he encounters them, do. So those poor people they are happier. As someone else pointed out in the Q & A session, not all Brahmin’s are rich. Yes I think they have benefitted from exploitation of socially lower classes over thousands of the years but that is a separate discussion and for Rick to assert that is an over simplification. Also the movie did not at all get into the Chinese side of the story. I dont think they have much of a case here but it would have been fair to touch upon that.

Anyways, the movie was followed by a long Q & A session… there were questions about a lot of things like

“Does Dalai Lama feel any regret about involving the CIA in the struggle against the Chinese?”

 “What does the average person in China think about the occupation?”

“How does China reconcile the fact that they are a communist country and they have installed their own Panchen Lama after denying the authority of the Dalia Lama to do that?” – btw, you can read more about this here.

 And here is Dalai Lama’s website…

ISAFF Seattle – Sunday (10/07) Afternoon

Wow…. Sunday, 2:00PM movies were an excellent example of why I love to watch independent theater. 3 of the 4 short movies/documentaries shown today were excellent. The 4th was nice too.

 The theater was almost full, as usual and there was a short introduction by Sahar Zaheer and Farhad Tyabji (I think). One thing I have noticed at this festival was that there are a bunch of people come by themselves, unlike a regular movie where people usually come in groups. Maybe because the content of the movies is more important than the fun of going to the movies with friends.

The theme for the afternoon short movies was “Global Shorts: Love, Dreams and Despair” and the movies tackled issues related to these emotions and South Asians living from all over from Australia to Maldives.

 These were the movies and my ratings:

  • Arranging Love, Sheila Jayadev – 4/5
  • This was an interesting topic and the director and editors did justice to it. It followed 3 second generation Australian Indians (two girls and one guy) as they figured out love, relations, sexuality and their lives. It was hilarious at times, especially when the guy, Sunil busts out something in his imitation Indian accent. I thought the movie was great at capturing the feeling of people who grow up in a country different from their parents. Or even someone like me who has been here for only a part of their lives but has changed in certain ways which put one in contradiction or at odds with the norms back in our home countries. Somehow I think this is so much more easier to see in the Indian diaspora, maybe because they are so many of us, and many of us are so articulate. The folks in this movie certainly were (articulate), and so were their parents and relatives who were a part of the documentary.

    It was kinda cool when one of the girl’s mother says she cannot understand dating because she believes that one can give their body, heart and soul completely and truly only once. She also said that she thought that the word “love” was overused in the western culture. I don’t disagree with her but I wish it was used more in India. I wish love was expressed more openly, whether it be between two lovers or between parents and children. It does make a difference in how open and expressive we turn out as individuals.

    In conclusion, I think the movie handled the issue very well and was pretty funny. Definitely recommend watching it.

  • The MisEducation of Pakistan, Syed Ali Nasir – 4/5
  • What could be a more boring topic… primary education in the remote areas of Pakistan. However this documentary got a huge applause from the audience. It was well made and aggressive. The movie confronted the issue by actually going to various schools all over Pakistan, in remote rural areas (and some parts of Pakistan are indeed very remote), meeting with teachers, students, officials and politicians in the area. And there was interesting footage of teachers and politicians lying boldly on camera and then their lies being exposed. According to the movie, primary education in Pakistan is in a horrific state and is one of the lowest in Asia and even those children coming to school and getting a supposed education do not meet even the minimum bar expected at their levels. Corruption is rampant in every aspect from building construction to teacher attendance.

     We need more movies like this that tackle social issues in an bold way and expose problems in a way that cannot be ignored.

  • The Morning Fog, Aminta Goyel – 3/5
  • This was a nice movie about a girl from a rich family growing up in Bombay who is kind of detached from the artificial high society life she is growing up in and is attracted to nature and writing. The story wasnt really complete in itself but as with most short movies,  the content was in the details. It looked very professionally produced.

    I thought the key phrase in the movie was “We dont expose ourselves to everyone, only to a chose few”… and this movie is how that plays out. Very interesting but a little abrupt. The actress, Ira Dubey who plays Koko, the lead in the movie did a good job and is very cute. Also this is going to be the writer/director, Aminta Goyel’s graduate thesis project. Good luck to her.

  • Himalayan Dreams, Ali Rasheed – 5/5
  • This was a fantastic short documentary. One of my top two movies from the festival. It was a documentary about contrasts. A man living in Male, Maldives, a tropical, warm and densly populated place dreams of going to the Himalayas where there are wide open spaces, high altitudes and freezing cold tempreatures. He does go and this is a chronical of his travel.

    What made this movie so good was the personality of the main character, Muha. He was the most likable and down to earth guy you will come accross. Yet he has this incredible bigness about him. The film totally captured this and his extraordinary journey as he went from sea level to one of the highest points in the world.

    In the movie, he touches on the practical aspects such as the preparation and training he underwent, the bouts of altitude sickness and the logistics of his travel. He also talks about his feelings as he encountered people and landscapes on the way and how the journey affected him.

    It’s a great film and I highly recommend it.

     To all the people making ISAFF happen… thanks and keep it up. Again here is the official site of ISAFF and here is Tasveer’s website

    ISAFF Seattle 2007 Opens

    Just got back from seeing the opening ceremony for ISAFF (Independent South Asian Film Festival), an event organized by a local non-profit, Tasveer, which promotes independent South Asian cinema. This is the 4th year they have put together this film festival and I want to congratulate them for this achievement. Great work guys, keep it up.

    At the core of Tasveer are Farah and Rita who co-founded Tasveer in 2002. It’s not an ordinary achievement to break out of the rut of our lives and put so much effort and dedication into creating such a great outlet for creativity and independent thought. With main stream media being so controlled and busy ignoring real news we really could use more such individuals and events. 

    About the opening ceremony, here is the schedule. It was a short documentary called “Voices of Kutch” about a group of radio reporters that want to bring the power of radio to the people living in villages in Kutch, Gujrat. Reminded me about a program I heard on NPR a few months ago about how local community supported radio became powerful in America a few decades ago when people realized that they could air their thoughts and choices and break the grip of corporations on the programming. It seems to me like that whole revolution missed India altogether. We went from not having any voice to being bombarded with images and sounds controlled by either the Government or by companies. Still not providing a voice to local people and local issues. Only now with the internet is that happening. But at the same time, for a country of a billion people, I don’t think India has that much presence on the internet… I’m talking about blogs, forums, content generated by you and me. Just look at youtube for example. Anyways I diverge… the documentary was interesting and left me with a positive feeling because poor ordinary people are happy and enthusiastic when they are given hope and dreams.

    After that it was mostly the Salman Ahmad show. He was the guitarist and co-founder of Junoon, which was a fantastic band. They combined rock music with tabla and Sufi lyrics and amazing amazing vocals by Ali Azmat. To me Ali’s vocals and the Sufi touch were the best part of Junoon. Before I give my opinion about that part of the show, here is what happened. First there was a video of one of Salman Ahmad’s songs that he sang with Shubha Mudgal (featured Nandita Das – she is hot). Then there was a short documentary called “It’s My Country Too – Being Muslim-American” featuring Salman Ahmad. Finally he came out and performed a few songs including Sayonee. Then there was a Q & A session for which I did not stay.

    So I thought that the whole Salman Ahmad show was less than spectacular. He is not a singer and did not do a great job at it during his performance. The bar for a performer at his level is pretty high and I did not think he lived up to it in a couple of the songs performed. The acoustics of the place were not great and the local tabla player William Gilchrist who was on stage with him did not give good support at all. I think it was a great opportunity to blast out some mean fusion material and they missed it.

    Don’t want to sound too negative but I have one more rant about the show… the transitions between speakers and programming requires to be a little more smooth and professional. I will leave it at that and list the things I loved about tonight:

    Loved that all the people running the festival are great, enthusiastic and dedicated. It shows. Loved the documentary “Voices of Kutch”. Loved the instrumental that Salman Ahmad did in the middle of his set. Loved the fact that there were representatives of many organizations like KBCS and ACLU speaking on stage.

     Thanks guys for doing this. 

    GDR – East Germany

    I saw a great movie last night; “The Lives of Others” http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_lives_of_others/. It is a very well made movie with great acting and very powerful screenplay. It also got me thinking about how little I knew about GDR (German Democratic Republic) or East GErmany as it is better known. So I read the Wiki entry for East Germany http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Germany

    Check out the movie and the Wiki entry… highly recommend it.