Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Maiden in Monterrey

The preparation was on for the whole week - day started, continued and terminated with Maiden tracks. We were counting days and finally it was 22nd day of the second month of the holy year 2008 - The D-Day. We filled our think tanks with barrels of beer and headed to Arena Monterrey, we were among 20000 metal devotees waiting for the immortal, legendary and the best heavy metal band to ever tread this holy earth - IRON MAIDEN!!! They were stopping by in Monterrey, which was a part of their Somewhere back in time - World tour 2008.

We heard pathetic girly cries sounding "Let me see your arms in the air Monterrey", which I didn't take much time to identify. The same babe who received countless middle fingers in Bangalore last year - Lauren Harris. But thankfully by the time we got settled in our seats she was done with her performance and I was glad about that. The lights were switched on, more devotees were pouring in, the beer sellers were getting restless taking orders. Beer was served in mugs with Eddie prints on it, a perfect souvenir for the fans. Crowd was getting restless shouting "Maiden Maiden Ooooo Oooooo Oooooo" and it was almost 9, Gods were supposed to start at 8:30. Arena looked like a black coloured ocean. There were Sodom, Metallica, Sepultura, Nirvana, Pink Floyd and other great bands on the uniform of the devotees.

At about 5 to 9, the lights went dark and we were screaming our throats out. Out the blues we started seeing the Ed Force on the screen, the welcoming of the Gods by the devotees in airport which was immediately followed by B55s flying high with Churchill motivating the English to defend their island and within no time the riffs had started and we knew it all...Aces high was being bestowed upon us by the Gods themselves. The stage was illuminated, guitarists were seamlessly riffing while Bruce, dressed in army cargo, in his manly voice started "There goes the siren that warns of the air raid..." and we went completely insane with 20000 devil horns in the air and singing along.

2 Minutes to Midnight, started almost without any pause and the whole Arena thundered during the chorus - 2 minutes to midnight The hands that threaten doom 2 minutes to midnight To kill the unborn in the womb. Revelations followed next, with a mind blowing intro riff.

Since we were located on the side of stage, we had a partial view of the backstage. We could see Bruce wiping his sweat off, every now and then. But this time, he was there for a different purpose, we saw him wearing the red attire - we knew what was up next. As Revelations got over, the Anthem, which every Iron Maiden fan wouldn't mind dying after listening, started and Bruce was waving the mighty English flag all over the stage. It received the loudest sing along response among all other songs. Bruce has this rare capability of hypnotising his fans, thereby gaining complete control over them, enslave them. Yeah!!! We were enslaved by the Bruce and his teammates. And this is especially true when they belt out the anthems - The Trooper, Fear of the Dark, Hallowed be thy Name, Number of the Beast, Run to Hills, Can I Play with Madness.

The Trooper was followed by one of my all time favorite tracks, Wasted Years, the track which could be rechristened "Mind blowing leads". Two more classic tracks followed - Run to Hills and Number of the Beast, which was well echoed by the crowd. Then came the most awaited and the longest track ever recorded by Iron Maiden, the epic, thanks to Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. He opened the track with "The moral of the story is, what not to do if a bird shits on you...The Rrrrrrrriiiimmmmmmmeeee of the Ancient Mariner!!!". Not many knew this song verbatim, only the chorus resounded loud. This was followed by a song from their 6th album album Somewhere in Time, Heaven can wait. Two more anthems were belted out - Fear of the Dark and Can I Play with Madness. Fear of the Dark is a spell binding classic which has been played in almost every concert of Iron Maiden. It's a song where the crowd not only sang along, but also filled in the instrumental part..."Ooooooo Ooooooo Oooooo" thingy which is so typical of Maiden concerts. Bruce was so active on stage during Fear of the Dark, that the best gymnast would envy his agility.

Then followed the song about the Egyptian pharaoh, Powerslave. Bruce wore a mask made of long feathers and the stage containing Eye of the Horus and other Egyptian hieroglyphs came into life with this song. The backdrop of Eddie faced Sphinx took us back to the in time, like a deja-vu, to Egypt. Title track Iron Maiden followed next, half way through the song, Eddie hailed from a dark curtain. It was magnificent, it was red, it was tall, it was armoured, it was mind blowing. It traversed the stage making gestures at crowd. Janick Gers kept kicking and provoking Eddie, at the same time effortlessly swinging his guitars and playing it too.

The stage went dark, we could see band members returning back stage in the faint light, crowd was screaming rhythmically, everybody knew there was an encore still pending. It was less than 5 minutes when Bruce came back and introduced the band members. Adrian Smith was ready with an acoustic guitar and I knew what song was coming up next. Bruce introduced Adrian in the end and whispered 7 in the end with microphone under his T-shirt. "7 deadly sins, 7 ways to win, 7 holy paths to hell..." began Moonchild. The Clairvoyant followed next without any pause.

I knew encore consisted only of 3 songs and the last one had to be a showstopper, a chef-d'œuvre which would end the great concert. Every maiden fan knows that it can't get any better than ending the show with Hallowed be thy Name. The intro piece of music itself was enough to get us high, add to that Bruce's paradigmatic "Screaaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmm forrrr me Monterrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyyyyy" and our throats were ripped apart. Like all good things come to an end, so did this. Nicko threw his wrist bands and drum sticks to the audience and the band was off. Bruce didn't talk much in this concert, no English jokes, no curses to Sharon Osbourne. He just promised that Iron Maiden is gonna return to Mexico, which was a welcomed with a loud ovation. The show was over and the Gods had gone, we were blessed. Up the Irons!!!

Other concert reviews:
Show of the Beast - Iron Maiden in my hometown Bangalore
Heaven and Hell - Black Sabbath in Monterrey

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Pueblo Jame

On the road deviating towards to Matahuala from Monterrey-Saltillo highway lies many villages hidden behind the gigantic chains of mountains. Jame is one of them, to reach, one should take exit to Los Lirios on Matahuala highway. Located in the valley of Sierra Madre chain of mountains, this village is picturesque and less known to outside world. It costs about 20 liters of gasoline and 60 pesos toll to reach this precious village, made up of apple farms and warm hearted people. Before I complete the introduction, I would want to say thanks to Alex and Hector for suggesting and helping me find the route on map.

As said earlier this village is veiled by the mountains all around and naturally it's an apt place for hikers, mountain bikers, ATV drivers, mountain climbers and photographers. Without much thinking, we started walking towards the tallest visible mountain, we don't even know it's name. We crossed through a couple of farm houses, farms of onions and apples, few ranches before we started the actual hike. It was not so dense forest, the hike was a bit steep and the route was difficult for it had too many thorny cactus. As we proceeded, we realized that we were not going in the right direction for there was no trekking pass which we could see. We kept climbing for more than an hour but we just couldn't make it to the top. It was almost 2:30 in the noon, we were hungry and we had not carried much food except for few energy bars, we decided to retreat. It took much less time to descend and by the time we reached the town the light was golden yellow colour, just perfect for photography. We stopped at a couple of places for photographing the village church, the village landscape from an elevated point during return. And here are the photographs, click on each of them for enlarged view.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Bosses in trouble

After the sorry incident of Prathiba Murthy in Bangalore and three years of nagging in the court, Som Mittal's case has again come into lime-light after supreme court refused to interfere with the complaint. Now that this has happened, it's high time that CEO's of other companies learn a lesson. Here are few tips from me to all the CEOs, which, if followed, could possible prevent them being in soup.
  • Zero female company: Fire all 'female' workers in your company, replace them with men. No women, no cry!!! But then the flip side would be the lack of motivation among the male counterpart, formation of clandestine gay communities within the office or too many search results with keywords of Britney Spears, Noelia or Mallika Sherawat.
  • Keep them countable: Have not more than 3-5 of them in the company and you personally hitch-hike them home after work. Your wife wouldn't be too happy with you doing this, but nevertheless, your 'female' employees will be safe.
  • Tomb raider way: Equip all your 'female' employees with mobile phones, which could be transmogrified into a sten-gun at a press of a button to scare those horny cab-drivers away.
  • Car pool: Ask the poor men to do a car pool with the 'female' employees. But not many of them may have car and the bigger problem is if those men have carnal appetite. You not only lose the 'female' employees, you'll then have to bail out the men. Special precaution is to be exercised if this method is employed.
  • Hiring castrated cab-drivers: But this isn't a very pragmatic solution for nobody on earth would want to be castrated for driving cabs (PETA doesn't want stray dogs of Bangalore to be castrated, talking about people is sadistic)
  • Hiring lady cab drivers: This one sounds more reasonable than the previous one. But logistics had to be worked out - Is she gonna drive only the 'female' employees? Is it gonna be combined transport for both men and women, in which case the driver will be jeopardized and you'll have a new allegation: CEO should be responsible for controlling the libido of the 'male' employees.
  • Expensive proposition: Provide housing to all the 'female' employees in close proximity to office, so that she don't have to take a cab at all. This would obviously be very heavy on your pockets though.
  • Try moving out of Karnataka: Atleast then you wouldn't be bound by "Shops and Establishments Act"of the state.
  • Intra-company matrimonial: Encourage the single men in your office to marry the 'female' employee and also provide them with financial options for buying a car. Though it sounds very cruel on the part of single men, atleast they won't be victimized by cab drivers and you can save your head.
  • Root cause analysis: Think about this for a second, you're rich, you've got babe, you've got a good sex life. What about the cab driver? You guys opened IT companies in Bangalore making lives of the middle and lower class miserable. Pay him more so that he can atleast get a paid sex so that you're 'female' employees are spared.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lunar Eclipse in Monterrey

Photographs of the moon being covered by the umbral shadow of earth. More details here: Lunar Eclipse

Date: 20th February 2008
Location: Vistahermosa, Monterrey, Mexico
Equipment: Canon 70-200/4L mounted on EOS20D

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

China needs English experts, badly!!!

I found these two articles on the Sanya tourism websites. They've changed the historical Silk road to Sild road and the grammar kicks some serious asses.

2007 New Sild Road Model Contest

2007 New Silk Road Model final Contest will be staged on September 15. At the same period, it will be held the first “Beauty ·Sanya”Fashion Festival which is organized by Sanya tourism Industry Development Broard and New Silk Road Model Agencies . During the event there are formed by professional fashion show, the first Beauty Ecomomic Forum and 2007 New Sild Road Model Conntest Aworded Party.
This contest is one of the largest event which the most female athletes nominated since the the first contest,and the first launched on the net work division has become the focus of the public concern. This year's finals sets up "Sanya fashion" series of activities. For "beautiful Economic Forum"will be held September 14, 15, the models generally think that this Forum will have great significance for develop of the model industry.

57rh Miss World

In 2007 on the night of June 15th 18:00:00, Miss world's organization signs the cooperation agreement with Sanya 's government and hold a news conference, Misll World'sorganization chairman Madam morly with Sanya vice- mayor LIu BO QING signs agreement together, declared the 57th Miss world total finals will be hold in Sanya on December 1st in 2007.
Since 2003, the 53rd Miss World finals held in Sanya, China, this beautiful international coastal tourism city has been held the finals three times,as 54th ,55th . The far-reaching truly beauty effects make Sanya tend towards the world truely .The Tropical Paradise city own “Grand house of Miss World.The final’s theme is "Beautiful Sanya, ignition the Olympic ." the Miss World final activities will couple tightly with the arranging activities of Olympic torch relay .Sanya will plan to take the Miss World as "beautiful Sanya envoy" to form the "Global Olympic cities " mission to Almaty, St. Petersburg, London, Helsinki, Macau and Beijing, Qingdao, Chengdu and other cities inside and outside .

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Vivek Mathew, An Artistic Lensman

As I was rambling around the photostands at Bangalore Photography Festival, among many people my eyes fell on a spectacled person, thin and geeky looking. I thought he was one of the photophiles like me who had exhibited his works and didn't really pay much attention to him initially. Being an art lover, I felt that the photos of Vivek Mathew under the pro category had a peculiar piquancy. I personally liked the rooster in front of the blue wooden panels, a simple yet aesthetic photograph. I was pleasantly surprised to later realize that the bespectacled simple person I had noticed was none other than the creator of rooster photograph which I liked so much - Vivek Mathew.

A true Bangalorean by heart, Vivek says "Photography has always been a passion for me since childhood. It is something about a image which you capture that lasts forever for example a holiday, a birthday party, a wedding etc. You can never get some of these moments back but you can have a look at them only through images." Genius are either born or made, Vivek belongs to the former set of people. His dream of being photographer was conceived when he was a child, he used to like seeing photographs during his childhood days which helped him greatly in his photography career. Because photography is not just learnt by clicking, but a great deal of of learning happens by SEEing other's photographs.

When asked about inspirations, along with the great Steve McCurry, he says he is greatly inspired by Jay Maisel, Raghu Rai, Paul Liebhardt and the Brook's institute alumni Pallon Daruwala. Like other photographers, his favourite photograph is the unforgettable shot of Sharbat Gula, the Afghan girl by Steve. (For the initiated, here is the link to the story: The Afghan Girl).

Photographs are made in the mind of the photographer and not in his camera is a popular saying among photophiles. In case of Vivek this statement is verbatim true for he is an art photographer. Art photography is way too different from conventional portrait or landscape photography because art photography is not one of those "what you see is what you capture" kinds. Art photography needs a special insight, that of an artist, which not everyone possess. When asked why he prefers art photography, while many others mint money choosing commercial photography, he says "Art photography is something which comes from person inside you and the way u see life and the things around u. Its a thought process which comes from an artist(photographer) and no one else. It's what you enjoy making pictures & having no one to tell you what to do as compared to commercial photography where you have a client/art director telling you what type of image he or she wants. I chose art photography because it brings out the best of me. It's something I enjoy shooting." For those who are keen to know Vivek's gear, with due respect to the opening statement of this paragraph, he shoots with Nikon 200D with 17-35mm and 80-200mm lenses without any flash or filters.

Vivek is an alumni of the famous "Light and Life Academy" located in precious mountainous city of Ooty in the state of Tamil Nadu. Talking about the academy he says that one gets an enormous exposure working with biggies in the photography field like Pallon Daruwala, Paul Liebhardt, Jonathan Kingston & Rudy Loupias. It's the inspiration, the courage, the will power,the strong mind, pushing yourself to the limit are the qualities that one should posses for being a successful photographer says Vivek, which sounds obviously true.

Design Today and Times Journal of Photography have published Vivek's works. His recent exhibition titled "Waterborne", a theme based on water has brought him into lime light with wide media coverage. He has also used his skills for social cause by working with traffic police in Bangalore against "Drink and Drive". He says, "Photography as a social cause is very important. It is important to use these images as a communication to tell the whole world about a certain cause and bring awareness of the things around. Some of these images are used to get funds from people abroad. I have also done some work for a NGO who educates poor street kids in Bangalore. It helped the organisation to show case these pictures to the world." Kudos to you Vivek.

Talking of future, Vivek has dreams of shooting for National Geographic. He has an ambition of taking good photographs which would speak out loud to the whole world, which would convey a 1000 words and which would be remembered forever. His suggestion to aspiring photographers is as simple as him, "Just keep shooting and enjoy it".

The striking part of Vivek's photographs is sheer simplicity. If you look at the images above, you can notice that it's not an impossible photograph to click for an ordinary photographer, but it's not possible for most of them to see an art or compose a photograph there. Simple and artistic are the two adjectives which would describe most of his photographs. Don't forget to check out his official website which contains more of his artwork.

And just in case you're wondering how this artist looks like, here he is:

P.S. Copyrights of all photographs in this article are owned by Vivek Mathew. Please do not copy or use photographs without photographer's consent.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

World Press Photo Contest 2007 - Winners

The Goddesses of Weather

Nothing to do with Greek mythology but more to do with Mexican meteorology. Ladies play an important role in all walks of life, here in Mexico and weather report is not exception. Every morning at 8, like birds waiting for spring after winter, we await for weather report on info7 channel to see the hot Briana Garza (my personal favorite), dressed skimpily, reading out weather. I swear she kindles fire in every men even on the coldest day. A glimpse of morning life: watch Briana Garza reading weather report, check the weather on the internet, have breakfast, get to office.
Here is a website that's dedicated to all these Goddesses of weather:

Virtual Barbershop

It's an old one, but I'm sure for many it would be quite new. Wear your headphones, press the play button and chill. For the interested few, find the details here as to how it's recorded

India Pakistan Bhai-Bhai

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Somewhere Back In Time - World Tour 2008, Setlist

01. Intro - Churchill's Speech
02. Aces High
03. 2 Minutes to Midnight
04. Revelations
05. The Trooper
06. Wasted Years
07. The Number of the Beast
08. Run to the Hills
09. Rime of the Ancient Mariner
10. Powerslave
11. Heaven Can Wait
12. Can I Play With Madness?
13. Fear of the Dark
14. Iron Maiden
15. Moonchild
16. The Clairvoyant
17. Hallowed Be Thy Name

Monday, February 11, 2008

A dedication to Jaliscan Ladies

Mexican ladies need know introduction to the world, they're indeed the prettiest in the world. Like in everything else, there can always be best among best. The ladies from the state of Jalisco are considered to be the prettiest in the lot and here are few of the photographs dedicated to them. Feel free to click on each of them for larger versions.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Carnaval Autlán 2008

Don't expect bikini clad ladies shaking their hips to samba music on the streets after reading the word "Carnival", it happens in Brazil and the one I went to was Mexican kinds. Autlán, a town in the state of Jalisco, was my destination for the long weekend and it was not for the usual hiking, adventure or photography but for a carnival - Carnaval Autlán 2008. It was an impulsive decision of going along with few friends, which was worthy in all sense. Before I say more about the carnival, let me summarize the carnival with 3Ds - Dance, Dames and Drinking.

Located about 150Km south-west from Guadalajara, the capital of Jalisco, Autlán claims the fame of giving birth to, one of my favourite guitarists, Carlos Santana. The drive from Guadalajara takes unusually long time due to single lane roads, traffic and curves. Autlán has the most pleasing weather all year round and is just an hour and a half away from Barra de Navidad, the nearest beach. The town is surrounded by mountains and has umpteen farms of blue agaves, which is the main ingredient of "One shot-two shot- three shot-FLOOR" tequila, the national drink of Mexico. I had heard that women from Jalisco are the prettiest in Mexico, but during this trip the statement was proved QED.

Autlán carnival is held for 10 days before it gets terminated on Ash Wednesday and hence it can start as early as 25th January or as late as 1st March. The specialties of the carnival include rodeo and bull fighting, Banda music and dance and crowning of the beauty queen of Autlán. The sounds of Banda starts hitting the air waves near the town center as early as 10 in the morning, replacing the idle chatter of the crowd. Bands carrying brass trumpets and trombones, gigantic sousaphones, alto horns and drums crowd the street Callejon del Vicio, making everybody move their pelvises to the banda tunes. By evening, without any caste-creed-sex bar, the street is herded by people to the brim. It takes eternally long to pass the street just 200 meters long. There are beverage vendors on one side serving gallons of beer, whiskey, tequila and all the imaginable cocktails out of it, not a single person on street is empty handed. Even the dancer would have his beer while dancing. The bands are umpteen in number and you can get them to play a song for you, while you can hook up with a senorita for a round of dance. As I was passing through the crowd trying to reach the other end of road, I saw two ladies holding jars fitted with spray guns and inviting everybody for a shot. I couldn't hold myself from trying it, as I went and opened my mouth wide open a strong jet of tequila hit my throat and filled my mouth in no time. They don't stop until you close your mouth. As they say, free booze tastes better, it did taste a lot nice and I parted my lips once again for another shot, thanked them and went ahead.

I had a rare privilege to witness the delirious Rodeo (bull riding) show. The auriferous arena contained hatted horsemen making their horses dance rhythmically to the banda music. The frenzy crowd was cheering for the vaquero who was getting ready to ride the bull which was being aroused and chevied within the pen. As the gates were pulled open, the bull with all it's machismo and might started jumping chaotically and crazily trying to throw the vaquero down. It danced and sprang and leapt all over the arena until the vaquero was down on ground and running for his life. Then the horsemen threw their knots to control the bull and finally a man with a spear would poke the bull until it withdrew into passage outside arena. The more time the vaquero holds on to the bull, the better he is. Tequila and beer were profusely served for the audience. After a gap of 2 hours there was bull fight, but we couldn't watch it for time and cost reasons.

A less violent and more aesthetic event that pulled an enormous crowd was the crowning of La Reina, the queen of Autlán. The stage was well set with elevated grand thrones for the crowned ones, bottom lit ramp, lavish flower vases and colourful lights. The crowd was restlessly waiting for the event to start, after few glitches in the microphone the event kick-started with few live songs by an unknown artist, followed by ramp walk of the beauty queen contestants and finally crowning the La Reina.

The carnival also had many well known artists/musicians performing live, but we didn't have time for that. This is the first ever carnival of my life which would give sweet memoirs years down the line and I highly recommend this event, for not many Mexicans are aware of this carnival.