Friday, May 23, 2003

sweet ol' bammy and some tasty sandwiches

Corporate needs led to a trip to Birmingham, AL yesterday. The weather wasn't great for a trip like this. The dark clouds in the grey sky had decided to rid themselves of their burden, and we were driving through sheets of rain. Quite depressing. On the plus side, I was in a great seat in a great van, and I was adept at falling asleep on demand in moving vehicles. Took a snooze. Woke up close to the border. The rain had stopped and the craven sun took a peek. The clouds persisted, but they had turned white in shame.

Nothing much to report landscape-wise. The irony of having taken Home From Nowhere as trip-reading material was evident: chain store logos and signs popping up from the clusters of industrial/residential progress, homogeneous highway borders (If I took a series of photographs of the way we drove, without any signs and landmarks, you would have absolutely no idea where we were!), ... the works. The drive took about 2 and a half hours (any reduction in speed was initially a result of the rain and later the very stringent speed limits enforced in AL [people say it gets worse in VA]).

The lingering memory I'll have of the whole trip would be the visit to the army canteen. Just as is the case back home, army canteen prices are lower (and in the US, more reasonable). The food was simple, and I had a pair of chicken sandwiches to start with. These were made from triangle cuts of white bread, and reminded me of the green chutney sandwiches abundant back home: Simple, tasty, filling, and cheap. The only aberration (if I may use such a strong word) was the overabundance of mandatory content information {the high level of detail didn't turn me off in this case, since my hunger conquered all other emotions]. The accompanying drink was some chocolate Yoo-Hoo, which is commercially packaged chocolate milk (to be precise, dairy whey and non-fat milk!), but still quite tasty. The funny part of the can was the little line in red that said "99% caffeine free" (In case you are wondering -- like I was -- about the source of the caffeine, it's the cocoa). A pair of "combination" sandwiches (a combo of corn and pieces of ham) sans the information about constituents (that's more like it!) tail-ended the lunch break.

This was the first time I was on an army installation in the US, and the closest parallel I had to the architecture was the AFMC in Pune. Uniform corridors as a source of confusion. Signs and more signs. Flags. Bulletin boards. Uniformity. Perfect for Stanley Kubrick movies (like Full Metal Jacket, needless to say).

I should take this opportunity, to complete that post about Full Metal Jacket. The film had interesting vignettes that were clever and served well as commentary about the war in Vietnam. My bias against Kubrick didn't help much, though. For the most part, the film just seemed very distant, and I remained unaffected (except for the first episode in the film and the Mickey Mouse moment at the end). Kubrick seems to leave the burden of interpretation of meaning to the audience, but doesn't provide any hooks at all. Most directors, through their technique, aid your understanding of the film, with cues scattered throughout the film. In Kubrick's case, and especially this movie, I wasn't sure what to make of the film: documentary detachment? OR multi-layered commentary?

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