Monday, January 30, 2012

TV Review: Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking (2004)


Rupert Everett as Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and The Case of the Silk Stocking
Rupert Everett as Sherlock Holmes  

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking is a very good adaptation starring Rupert Everett as Sherlock Holmes and Ian Hart as Dr Watson.

As the movie opens, we meet a much drugged Sherlock languishing in what looks to be an opium den.  Soon he meets up with Dr Watson, who implores him to return to London to take up the case of a murdered young woman.

Holmes soon finds himself on the trail of a Jack Ripper-like serial killer with a foot fetish and who preys not on the destitutes and prostitutes, but on the rich and mighty. As is his wont, Inspector Lestrade (Neil Dudgeon) finds himself clueless, even as Holmes works out the case to a successful conclusion.

Rupert Everett is quite a revelation as Sherlock Holmes. At 6’4”, Everett is one of the tallest actors ever to portray Holmes. In addition to having the necessary physicality, Everett’s Holmes has the same cold & analytical mind, sharp wit and the laidback and masterly deportment that have made Holmes such an enduring character.

Everett's Holmes is pretty close to the canonical Holmes and I would have loved if he had continued his work further. It is quite unfortunate that Everett's turn as Sherlock Holmes is so criminally under appreciated.


Ian Hart as Dr John Watson in Sherlock Holmes and The Case of the Silk Stocking
Ian Hart as Dr Watson

Ian Hart makes a superb Watson. He is not the bumbling Watson as portrayed famously by Nigel Bruce. His Watson is the competent ally and long suffering friend, Holmesians and Sherlockians all over the world have come to know and love.

Neil Dudgeon plays Lestrade who remains dim as ever. Jonathan Hyde gives a delightful performance as George Pentney, the put-upon husband of the imperious Mary Pentney (Eleanor David).

I cannot reveal any detail about the actor(s) playing the serial killer(s), in order to avoid spoiling the fun.

The costumes and sets add to the atmosphere and keep the viewers entrenched in the mystery unfolding onscreen. The direction by Simon Cellan Jones is solid. Special mention must be made of the background score by Adrian Johnston, especially during the scenes in which Holmes makes his observations and deductions.

Rupert Everett as Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and The Case of the Silk Stocking
Rupert Everett as Sherlock Holmes

Highly recommended to fans of Sherlock Holmes.

Click here to read all my posts about Sherlock Holmes.



Click on the link above to buy Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking


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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How to Improve Your Vocabulary

As the world becomes a Global village, a strong command in English can be a great asset. Irrespective of whether we are using English in spoken or written form, strong vocabulary is the main weapon in one’s arsenal to compose and convey his/her thoughts in an easy-to-understand style. In addition, studies indicate that people with an impressive vocabulary enjoy greater respect among their peers.

How to Improve Your Vocabulary


I am sharing some tips with the readers to increase their vocabulary.
  • One of the most common and effective ways to improve vocabulary is to use the all-present Dictionary. Make the Dictionary your friend and spend some time every day to learn at least 3 new words. In addition to learning the meaning of the word(s), readers should try to understand the correct context(s) in which these words are used. It is also recommended that the reader use the words in their everyday conversations, as I am a firm believer in the adage: “Practice makes Perfect”.
  • Use only an English-English dictionary. Avoid a dictionary that gives the meanings in a language (probably the reader’s mother-tongue) other than English. While it might help in the short term, the reader unwittingly starts thinking in his/her mother-tongue and this invariably will hinder the reader from developing fluency in English.
  • Vocabulary Builder at Number2.com is an excellent resource to build one’s vocabulary. Users are provided with a word and 4 choices. Before you write off this as another one of umpteen websites that has a bunch of multiple choice questions, here is the clincher. When we click the wrong answer, Number2 provides the meaning for that as well. Readers can keep going through as many words as possible, the only limitation being their time and interest. Registration is free.
  • Dictionary.com is another excellent online resource that I find highly useful when I am browsing online and need to quickly look up a word. The site also provides a free ‘Word of the Day’ service that the readers can sign up for with a valid email id.
  • Start reading books. This is the single most effective way to improve vocabulary. I would not recommend that the reader start reading Shakespearean works right away. The reason being, they might contain outdated words and the reader will be stuck up with words not in circulation right now. I recommend books by John Grisham and Thomas Hadley Chase, as these authors use words that are used in everyday conversations.
  • Read Word Power Made Easy by Norman Lewis.  It is an extremely effective book that teaches the reader how to use the correct words in the appropriate context. I learnt quite a bit from this book and thoroughly enjoyed the process.
Click on the link below to buy the book:


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Monday, January 23, 2012

Reticulated Python



Reticulated Python image poster
Reticulated Python can grow up to 20 feet in length


Kingdom : Animalia
Phylum : Chordata
Class : Reptilia
Order : Squamata
Family: Pythonidae
Genus: Python
Diet: Birds and mammals including domestic animals
Habitat: Can live near streams, rivers, lakes, on the grounds, in the trees and even in cities

Reticulated Python coiled poster image
Reticulated Pythons have complex color patterns

Reticulated Python is the world's longest snake and longest reptile. It is thin and not too heavy. Reticulated Pythons can be found in Southeast Asian countries. They are also called Java Rock Pythons and Regal Pythons. Their lifespan in the wild is up to 20 years and in captivity can live for more than 20 years. A large female can lay over 100 eggs at once. 

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Pictures were taken at Columbus Zoo, Ohio. 

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Save the Mountain Gorillas – Part II



A Mountain Gorilla Mother with her baby
A Mother Gorilla with her baby

Please click here to read the first part of this blog series.

Mountain Gorillas face a variety of threats in their day-to-day lives. When two mountain gorilla groups cross paths, there is a chance for confrontations as Silverbacks try to acquire females from the other group. The same happens when an adult Silverback tries to overthrow the reigning Silverback to take over his group. But, in most of the instances, gorillas indulge in chest-beating and bluff charges, at which point, the confrontation is called off. Gorillas are very gentle by nature, quite contrary to movies like ‘King Kong’ and always try to avoid violent confrontation as much as possible.

Gorillas also face danger from leopards, which often prey on them.

But the Mountain Gorillas face their biggest danger from Man himself.
  • Poaching – Gorillas often fall victim to traps, intended NOT for them but other animals like pigs. In addition, baby gorillas are sought by poachers for the illegal pet trade and this leads to the entire Gorilla family getting massacred. 
  • Civil Wars – The Civil Wars have led to mines being placed in the forests, leading to heavy fatalities among the Mountain Gorillas
  •  Loss of Habitat – Right next to the forests frequented by Gorillas, there are human settlements. As humans take up more and more land for cultivation and other purposes, this leads to habitat loss and gorillas end up raiding the crops for food, leading to retaliation and further gorilla deaths.
  •  Close contact with human beings – Gorillas are highly susceptible to human diseases. This means that in addition to the poachers, gorillas are at a very high risk even from volunteers and conservationists, who are dedicated to protecting the lives of Gorillas.
Senkwekwe's family of Mountain Gorillas was massacred by poachers in 2007
Senkwekwe's family of Mountain Gorillas was massacred by poachers in 2007

To counter these challenges, many organizations and individuals are putting in their best efforts to save this magnificent species. Despite increased patrolling against the poachers and regularly removing the snares/traps, expanding the national park areas to prevent habitat loss and educating school children about the importance and need to save the Gorillas, the current situation looks very grim.


A Silverback Mountain Gorilla ponders his grim future
A Silverback Gorilla ponders his grim future

Today, only 786 Mountain Gorillas survive in the wild.


ACT NOW. For more on how YOU can help save Mountain Gorillas, please visit the following sites:




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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Save the Mountain Gorillas - Part I


A Baby Mountain Gorilla
A Baby Mountain Gorilla
Mountain Gorillas have captivated humans all over the world. Gorillas share more than 95% of our DNA and are one of our closest relatives.

Today, only 786 Mountain Gorillas survive in the wild.

My aim in this series of blog posts is to make people aware of the dire situation of this critically endangered species.

Introduction 
  • The scientific name of Mountain Gorilla is Gorilla beringei beringei, in honor of Captain von Beringe, who discovered the species in 1902.

Physical Characteristics
  •  Mountain Gorillas have the thickest fur among all the gorillas, as part of their adaptation to the severe cold climates high up in the altitudes.
  •  Gorillas are identified by their nose prints, similar to how each human being has a unique fingerprint.
  • Adult Male Gorillas are called Silverbacks, as silver-colored hair develops on their back as they age.
  • Silverbacks can weigh around 400 pounds and are twice the size of females.
A Silverback Mountain Gorilla
A Silverback Gorilla
Family and Social Lives
  • Gorillas live in big groups, led by the dominant Silverback.
  • Silverbacks are very protective of their family and will make the ultimate sacrifice (if needed) to defend their group. They are supported by other silverbacks and blackbacks (sexually immature male gorillas) in defending the group.
  • Gorillas are shy, gentle and highly intelligent. They live emotionally rich lives and form complex social bonds. Scientists have also discovered that Gorillas laugh when tickled.
  • Male Gorillas usually leave their natal group on reaching sexual maturity, to form their own groups. They do this by acquiring females from their other groups.
  • Female Gorillas leave their natal group once they reach sexual maturity to avoid inbreeding.
  • The gestation period for a female gorilla is approximately 9 months, very similar to humans.
  • Mother Gorillas take care of their newborns for up to 5 years.
  • Baby Gorillas are extremely playful and curious, similar to human babies.
  • Silverbacks form very close bonds with the young members of their group and spend lot of time with them.
  • Grooming is an important part in the lives of Gorillas and helps form close relationships.
  • Gorillas sleep in nests built on trees.
Gorillas are social animals living in families
Gorillas are social animals

Food
  • Led by the dominant Silverback, Gorillas spend a considerable time foraging for food.
  • Gorillas mainly feed on plant leaves, shoots and stems.
  • They get most of their water from their food itself.
Please click here to read the next blog post, where I discuss the challenges and the threats they face today.

Mountain Gorillas need our active support. For more on how YOU can help save Mountain Gorillas, please visit the following sites:

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Polar Bears


Polar Bears Aurora and Anana Columbus Zoo
Anana & Aurora play-fighting with each other

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Taken at Columbus Zoo, Ohio

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Monday, January 16, 2012

TV Review: Sherlock


Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in BBC 'Sherlock'
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in BBC 'Sherlock'
The BBC series Sherlock is a contemporary take on Arthur Conan Doyle's stories and novels set in the Victorian era. Benedict Cumberbatch has an amazing screen presence and makes a great Holmes for the 21st century. I find his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes to be quite faithful to the Canon.

Benedict has the right physicality to play the legendary detective. His rich baritone is the icing on the cake. This is one of the best casting choices in a long time and full credits to Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss.


Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in BBC 'Sherlock'
Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes 
Conan Doyle had created Dr Watson as a competent and loyal ally of Holmes. The BBC adaptation hits a home run on this count as Martin Freeman is a pitch-perfect Watson. Freeman embodies both humanity and humility, two qualities that Holmes more than often seems to be totally lacking in. He won the BAFTA TV award for Best Supporting Actor for his work and he truly deserved it.

Martin Freeman as Dr John Watson in BBC 'Sherlock'
Martin Freeman as Dr Watson
The character of Molly Hooper is not part of the Sherlock Holmes canon and has been created especially for this series. Loo Brealey is a nice addition to the stellar cast and makes Molly the adorable girl-next-door whom many of us have come across in our lives.

Loo Brealey as Molly Hooper in BBC Sherlock
Loo Brealey as Molly Hooper with Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC 'Sherlock'

The series has had 2 seasons so far, with each season consisting of 3 90-minute long episodes.

The first episode “A Study in Pink” is based on A Study in Scarlet, the novel that introduced Sherlock Holmes. This is easily the best episode of the season. Click here to read the full review of the episode. Click here to check out the amazing number of Canonical references in this episode.

The second episode, “The Blind Banker” had Sherlock locking horns with an international gang bent on smuggling antiques. This episode is relatively less interesting compared to the first episode. Click here to read the full review of the episode.

The final episode, “The Great Game” introduced us to Jim Moriarty, the modern day version of Professor Moriarty. There are a lot of nods to the original stories and the final scenes between Moriarty and Sherlock were great. Click here and here to check out the amazing number of Canonical references in this episode.

Click on the link below to buy your copy of Season 1:


In keeping with the modern times, there are some conspicuous departures from the original stories:
  •  Holmes and Watson maintain their own blogs.
  •  Holmes texts Watson instead of sending telegraphs.
  •  Holmes uses nicotine patches instead of needles.
  • Three-pipe problem is now a three-patch problem.
These changes remind us that we are watching a revisionist, albeit an entertaining take on Holmes. Particularly appealing is the way Holmes’s patented system of making observations have been picturized. Using onscreen text and numbers literally to show Holmes’s train of thoughts and deductions, the series makers have successfully introduced Sherlock Holmes to a whole new generation. The series won the 2011 BAFTA TV award for Best Drama Series. Steven Moffat was awarded the 2012 BAFTA Television Special Award for his contribution to television.

Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, co-creators of BBC 'Sherlock'
Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, co-creators of  'Sherlock'

The second season opened with “A Scandal in Belgravia”. We meet a very modernized version of Irene Adler as she tries to outwit Sherlock. Mycroft and Moriarty too have some significant roles in this episode. Click here to read the full review of the episode.




This was followed by “The Hounds of Baskerville”, the dramatization of arguably the most famous novel featuring Sherlock Holmes. Most of the supporting characters have been changed. The episode is my favorite in the second season and has Sherlock do some actual sleuthing to solve a mystery. Click here to read the full review of the episode.


The season ended with “The Reichenbach Fall”, based on The Final Problem. The writers have done some of their best work here. Unfortunately, Andrew Scott goes so way over the top as Moriarty that he seems more like a caricature of a criminal mastermind rather than being one. Click here to read the full review of the episode.

Click here to read all my posts about BBC Sherlock.


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Canonical Nods in "The Empty Hearse"
Canonical Nods in "The Empty Hearse"
Canonical Nods in "The Sign of Three"
Canonical Nods in "The Sign of Three"