Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Stereotypes Or Just Plain Fun?

To those of you not familiar with it, you must have seen the movie poster below? It's from a recent Eddie Murphy flick "Norbit".
Norbit is a typical Eddie Murphy comedy, with the actor playing several roles. He plays the docile orphan, Norbit. He is also Rasputia, Norbit's obese and domineering wife. He is the elderly, racist Chinese man who runs the orphanage as well.
As frequent movie goers, me and *A* have been consistently confronted with the poster for this movie at our local multi-flick place the past couple of weeks. Neither of us have been comfortable looking at it. Not because its an obese woman in a negligee, but because the character happens to be black.



We wondered about the stereotyping there. Yes, we need to be able to laugh at ourselves, but at what point do we go from doing that to indulging in a typical racial stereotype?
I did wonder about it though, what do African-American women think about this? I figure they ain't pleased. I did get my answer not once but twice. Here are a couple of links (1, 2) to pieces on NPR, that represent the view of black women, and they are not pleased.
From one of the links.
One side of the debate over the plus-size heroines casts them as sisters of the bold and brassy women played by Monique and Queen Latifah. The other sees them as being closer to the "mammy" stereotype that once prevailed in American popular culture.

Also being considered is how the images affect real-live black women who are overweight.

But I also think there are these two amazing women, who serve as strong positive role models. I am proud of what they have achieved through all the difficulties they have faced and overcome, and in my eyes they are simply adorable and beautiful.


Queen Latifah


Jennifer Hudson.

I guess there is no bigger message here, other than to say that there are a lot of good positive role models out there, norbit not withstanding. And no I am not trying to be PC or anything.

Funny.. You folks wanna try and caption this?

link

Monday, February 26, 2007

Monday Fluff....

Women doing pole dancing as empowerment? Link



KINNELON, N.J. — Johnna Cottam was showing a group of her girlfriends how to do a move called the Fireman. As music by Shakira played, she strode up to grab the portable pole in the living room of her well-appointed lakefront home here, wrapped her right leg around it, swung wide with her left, and spun. When she reached the bottom, Ms. Cottam, in a pink “Got Pole?” tank top and black workout pants, tossed her hair back, mudflap-girl style.
“Kick it right out of the ballpark, just kick it,” she encouraged her five friends and neighbors.
Pole dancing, once exclusively the province of exotic dancers, has flared up as a much-hyped Hollywood exercise craze, and has seeped into the collective unconscious through shows like “The Sopranos” and “Desperate Housewives.” A variant called motorized pole dancing, which occurs in stretch limos, has raised eyebrows as far away as Britain, where some female university students pole-danced as a fund-raiser for testicular cancer. And mini-poles have even been spotted as dance props at over-the-top bat mitzvah parties in suburban precincts.
Over the top alright!
“I want the women to feel strong within themselves,” explained Ms. Cottam, 29, who teaches pole dancing at a local gym as well as at home parties. Noting that some middle-aged suburban women lose themselves and their sense of sexuality as they are consumed by the responsibilities of motherhood, she added: “When you come to my class you are beautiful, you are. I want to show them that strength inside, and unleash that sexual kitten.”
I really don’t have a whole lot to comment about here, other than to say that I am an observer of the zeitgeist of this particular strata of society. It does not bother me that some women might think this empowers them, and if it helps them get their love lives more spiced up more power to them.
I do wonder about the need to appear so overtly sexualized, but whatever works I guess.

Wonder If It Is Time To Attack Germany..
Found here..
German Float
Sunday, 25 February 2007

A float depicting U.S. President George W. Bush being spanked by the Statue Of Liberty passes by during the Rose Monday carnival parade in Mainz, western Germany, on Monday, Feb. 19, 2007. Thousands of spectators attended the traditional street carnival parade in the state of Rhineland-Palatinates's capital.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

One Of The Reasons I love Reading...

(Pic from the NYTimes peice Lynsey Addario, Corbis)
There is simply no way, I can know everything, even if I wanted to. But one of the reasons I love reading is because it makes me think, and I always learn something. While reading the NYTimes Sunday magazine came across this little piece by Carla Power about the role of women in teaching the Koran and transmitting hadith (deeds and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) and even making Islamic law as jurists.

You know I had no clue about this. I am not religious at all, but I would like to understand what religions are about. Especially for those of us out in the the US with it's crappy TV/cable news, one often has to make a bit of an effort to seek information out. I guess it adds to the process and the fun of discovery. The article is here, and parts of it are reproduced below. I think given the general poor representation that Islam gets, and the problems they themselves have in not acknowledging and nurturing the more eclectic parts of that religion,I think articles like this help.
Sure Islam has problems, but the change has to come from within via civil debate, outsiders cannot force it upon them. So I learnt something new today..which is why I use whatever free time I can manage to read, it also makes my long commute much more bearable.

So what Mohammad Akram Nadwi the scholar this article talks about gives me hope that the dark forces that threaten to take over the religion will be beaten back. Excerpts from the piece below.

For Muslims and non-Muslims alike, the stock image of an Islamic scholar is a gray-bearded man. Women tend to be seen as the subjects of Islamic law rather than its shapers.
...
Recent findings by a scholar at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies in Britain, however, may help lower those barriers and challenge prevalent notions of women’s roles within Islamic society. Mohammad Akram Nadwi, a 43-year-old Sunni alim, or religious scholar, has rediscovered a long-lost tradition of Muslim women teaching the Koran, transmitting hadith (deeds and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) and even making Islamic law as jurists.
...
The dictionary’s diverse entries include a 10th-century Baghdad-born jurist who traveled through Syria and Egypt, teaching other women; a female scholar — or muhaddithat — in 12th-century Egypt whose male students marveled at her mastery of a “camel load” of texts; and a 15th-century woman who taught hadith at the Prophet’s grave in Medina, one of the most important spots in Islam. One seventh-century Medina woman who reached the academic rank of jurist issued key fatwas on hajj rituals and commerce; another female jurist living in medieval Aleppo not only issued fatwas but also advised her far more famous husband on how to issue his.
...
It’s after the 16th century that citations of women scholars dwindle. Some historians venture that this is because Islamic education grew more formal, excluding women as it became increasingly oriented toward establishing careers in the courts and mosques. (Strangely enough, Akram found that this kind of exclusion also helped women become better scholars. Because they didn’t hold official posts, they had little reason to invent or embellish prophetic traditions.)
....
Neverthless, Akram says he hopes that uncovering past hadith scholars could help reform present-day Islamic culture. Many Muslims see historical precedents — particularly when they date back to the golden age of Muhammad — as blueprints for sound modern societies and look to scholars to evaluate and interpret those precedents. Muslim feminists like the Moroccan writer Fatima Mernissi and Kecia Ali, a professor at Boston University, have cast fresh light on women’s roles in Islamic law and history, but their worldview — and their audiences — are largely Western or Westernized. Akram is a working alim, lecturing in mosques and universities and dispensing fatwas on issues like inheritance and divorce. “Here you’ve got a guy who’s coming from the tradition, who knows the stuff and who’s able to give us that level of detail which is missing in the self-proclaimed progressive Muslim writers,” says James Piscatori, a professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford University
....
When Akram lectures, he dryly notes, women are more excited by this history than men. To persuade reluctant Muslims to educate their girls, Akram employs a potent debating strategy: he compares the status quo to the age of al jahiliya, the Arabic term for the barbaric state of pre-Islamic Arabia. (Osama Bin Laden and Sayyid Qutb, the godfather of modern Islamic extremism, have employed the comparison to very different effect.) Barring Muslim women from education and religious authority, Akram argues, is akin to the pre-Islamic custom of burying girls alive. “I tell people, ‘God has given girls qualities and potential,’ ” he says. “If they aren’t allowed to develop them, if they aren’t provided with opportunities to study and learn, it’s basically a live burial.”

When I spoke with him, Akram invoked a favorite poem, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” Thomas Gray’s 18th-century lament for dead English farmers. “Gray said that villagers could have been like Milton,” if only they’d had the chance, Akram observes. “Muslim women are in the same situation. There could have been so many Miltons.”

Sorry, if this is a rushed post, but am trying to get things done before the snow comes down, incl getting out for a quick run. Hope some of you had the patience to read thru it or read the original piece (which is not too long).

Later folks!

Friday, February 23, 2007

This Place Is A Year Old Today...

Never thought I would last this long!



Grab a flute and join in!
No I won't link to my first crappy post, you can go look for it in the archives if you are so keen. ;)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Screw You CNN... Navel Gazing Central

This Ain't News You Know?
Even the good lord must have given up on our stupid media!



Navel Gazing..

You folks must have noticed the lack of posts here past couple of days, and the fact that I have been scarce at your good blogs.

I owe you folks an explanation. I have been a bit busy of late and in the scheme of the things the blog has had to take a backseat.

Aditi, thanks for asking. Yep I am ok.

This space..

It don’t have a fixed idea about how this little space of mine was going to be or is gonna be. So other than the political rants it sort of has been all over the place. Some of you have mentioned you like it when I talk about personal stuff.

But I do at times struggle to talk about some of that. I am not given to public introspection, trust me if you saw how I do it, you would be asking to jump ship in no time.

Or as *A* and others have called it “What’s with the navel gazing?”

There also is not a whole lot of personal daily mundane stuff I can write about. Here is how a typical day goes for me..

I get up at an unearthly hour, make and eat breakfast, drive to the train, hop on the train, I read or snooze (if I drive in all the way..I try to avoid reading and snoozing while I drive).

At work… I work with a bunch of great professional folks. There is not much of office politics and if there was any, this is not a forum for it.

My return commute is the same. I do listen to a lot of public radio/bbc. I get home and depending on things may cook on some days, but I invariably hit the weights 3-5 times a week. As the days get longer I will probably starting running a bit as well, rather than try to use a stationary bike. I have too much of stuff in my head at times and the activity helps..sort of.

I may then post and/or read blogs and the news, dinner and then the cycle continues. How many variations of this are possible?

Oh I don’t sleep a whole lot, and while I may not always be able to write well as soon as I wake up (see this post, written at about 4:30 am) my brain is already full of things.

And before I forget, I may not get to any of your blogs today either, will catch up on Friday and the weekend. I have to take a business trip today. I will be out of the door soon, a quick flight, a day long meeting and another quick flight home. I am gonna be running on the treadmill a bit faster today.

I may not be able to do the Friday word this week, so if any of you folks are up to it, check Mona’s place.

Have a great day folks, and this was another edition of “what the heck is he talking about?” or something.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Tuesday (I got Nothing)

Cool VolksWagen Ad (link... maybe not safe for work)
Click on the image to read the line at the bottom.



How Do You Market Viagra If You Can't Have Sexual Content Due To Religious Or Cultural Restraints? Viagra Handbrake (link... maybe not safe for work)

You get around that by ads like these..
If you click on the image below, the text is interesting to read as well.



Lastly Dear Leader At Work.. (link)
Speaking of George Bush, with whom Sharon developed a very close relationship, Uri Dan recalls that Sharon's delicacy made him reluctant to repeat what the president had told him when they discussed Osama bin Laden. Finally he relented. And here is what the leader of the Western world, valiant warrior in the battle of cultures, promised to do to bin Laden if he caught him: "I will screw him in the ass!"
You know thats a very weird thing to wanna do to public enemy number 1 !!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Not A Movie Review ”Breach

I managed to see the Billy Ray directed “Breach” this weekend. It stars the always amazing Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe, Laura Linney and others.

A bit of a background on the movie.. It is based on the case of the FBI counter intelligence agent Victor Hanssen who passed on state secrets to the Soviets in return for cash and diamonds over a 15 year period (There is a lot more information about Victor Hanssen here at wikipedia). He was caught party due to the efforts of a young FBI agent, Eric O’Neill a young FBI agent assigned to watch Hanssen while working as his aide. He was instrumental in figuring out that Hanssen was using a PDA to store information and he was able to recover the PDA briefly and download the contents which were then decoded. This gave the FBI the evidence it needed to put him away.

If you are looking for a spy thriller this is your movie, what it is not is an action flick. In fact a lot of the most interesting parts of the movie happen inside a windowless office or inside an FBI building. It is a simple yet dangerous game between a sharp but inexperienced FBI agent Eric O’Neal (Ryan Phillippe) and the malevolent, arrogant and creepy FBI spy Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper).

This movie is based on a true story and it pretty much appears to stick with real events as they happened. It might have helped me watch the movie, that I knew about Robert Hanssen, but I found out I did not really know all that much till I heard an excellent interview on NPR’s fresh air with Terry Gross, where she had both Eric O’Neill and the director Billy Ray on. If you have time and want to take a listen it is here.

Personally I absolutely loved the movie, and although some audience responses were like “It was a bit slow”, I have to say I found the interplay between the two principal characters absolutely fascinating, the earnest O’Neill and the flawed, greedy, duplicitous Hanssen.

It was also interesting to see how Hanssen tries to put O’Neill in place verbally by calling him a clerk and using other derogatory terms. There are a couple of scenes of them walking thru these long fluorescent lit corridors. Hanssen walks with O’Neill to his left, but as he walks he leaves O’Neill uncomfortably close to the wall, causing him to bump against things in the corridor. There are a number of scenes where there are such cues that tell the audience of this dynamic between the two of them. Maybe it was because of things like this that I did not find the movie slow. Perhaps I was playing more attention than usual.

Since a lot of the movie happens indoors between two people you would think it would be hard to create tension, but it is palpable between the two. We can it take it’s toll especially on O’Neill and his wife, as Hanssen injects himself in to their domestic life as well. The other thing I liked was the realism in the depiction of the FBI offices, none of that high tech gadgetry that comprises some of Hollywood’s depiction of the FBI. The FBI indeed was a laggard when it came to Information technology compared to it’s brethren in the intelligence business.

Chris Cooper is an amazing actor and I absolutely love watching him. He brings Hanssen to life and I could feel how well in to the character Cooper transformed himself. Cooper does an amazing job of bringing forth the creepiness of the man as he looks at O’Neals wife (Juliana played by Caroline Dhavernas) when he invites them to go for mass, his sexual deviancy (videotapes of him making love to his wife Bonnie (Kathleen Quinlan) end up with a friend, he also posted on the internet chat rooms explicit details about their sex life).

Ryan Phillippe was also good as Eric O’Neill, but clearly this is Cooper’s show. Laura Linney is great in her small role as the agent on the force tasked with catching Hanssen. She has a couple of great lines in the movie too.

What I also find very riveting here was, here is Hanssen a member of the religious right, Opus Dei, covers himself in the American flag, and is insidious in his sexual and political opinions and is also selling the country to its enemies. Something I did not know was that his wife Bonnie (equally deeply religious) found out about his selling secrets and sent him to confession instead.

To me this also says a lot about the frailty of human nature and how easy it is to let your ego (along with perceived slights to it) supercede every thing that religion teaches a person.

It is early days as they say but I would certainly put this movie on my top ten list for the year 2007.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Friday Word And Other Scattered Thoughts..
The friday word as per
Mona is “heart”.

All I could come up with that for this week is..
Heartbreak..
Thank you dear leader for feeding more of our brave men and women to the meatgrinder that is Iraq.




You Don't Need No friggin Rights!
The battle to roll back the right of a woman to choose will always rage on. From the fine state of Tennessee ..
link

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Legislation introduced in Tennessee would require death
certificates for aborted fetuses, which likely would create public records
identifying women who have abortions.
Rep. Stacey Campfield, a Republican,
said his bill would provide a way to track how many abortions are performed. He
predicted it would pass in the Republican-controlled Senate but would have a
hard time making it through the Democratic House.
"All these people who say
they are pro-life _ at least we would see how many lives are being ended out
there by abortions," said Campfield.

Oh it is probably illegal..

Keri Adams, vice president of Planned Parenthood in Tennessee, on Wednesday
called the proposal an attempt to terrorize frightened and vulnerable women who
are seeking abortion.
"We certainly hope the Tennessee Legislature doesn't
invest too much energy in this bill," she said. "We think it's clearly a
violation of privacy, and potentially illegal concerning HIPAA regulations."

A Hotel Room I Can Stay In... link here


photo taken from palm land tours
Location: Kerala, India
Rates: US$240/night per room
Features: Located in the western ghats in South India (more than 3500 ft above sea level) and about 87 feet from the ground are some of the most unique tree houses in the world. The bedroom, bathroom and surrounding balcony with a banyan tree as host provides a 360 degree view of the misty rainforest atop hills. Meals are created from products from the self-contained organic garden and room service is via pulley lift!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot...

If things are going swimmingly well and we are making progress in Iraq as our empty headed leader likes to tell us, then why in the world are we having to receive 7000 Iraqi refugees? link
The Bush administration hopes to resettle about 7,000 Iraqi refugees to the United States this year, the State Department said Wednesday. "We have a responsibility to respond to the immediate needs of Iraqis who have fled violence and persecution," said U.S. Undersecretary Paula Dobriansky. The U.N. high commissioner for refugees estimates up to 2 million Iraqis have fled since the war began.
Immediate needs of Iraqis? lol that is just so precious.. Immediate needs like regular electricity, security, no long lines at the gas station? Nyah..lets just resettle 7000 and beat our chests , we are the most compassionate nation in the world. No we are we really are.. Now pass me that Koolaid!
Go team!!!

I liked this rolling stone ad..


Picture removed (02/28/2007)


Some of you folks are gonna hate me for these.. link

I was caring for a woman and asked, "So how's your breakfast this morning?" "It's very good, except for the Kentucky Jelly. I can't seem to get used to the taste" the patient replied. I then asked to see the jelly and the woman produced a foil packet labeled "KY Jelly." Submitted by Dr. Leonard Kransdorf, Detroit, MI

As a new, young MD doing his residency in OB, I was quite embarrassed when performing female pelvic exams. To cover my embarrassment I had unconsciously formed a habit of whistling softly. The middle-aged lady upon whom I was performing this exam suddenly burst out laughing and further embarrassing me. I looked up from my work and sheepishly said, "I'm sorry. Was I tickling you?" She replied, "No doctor, but the song you were whistling was, "I wish I was an Oscar Meyer Wiener". Dr. Wouldn't submit his name

I haven't been to some of your blogs lately, but will be around. I was at home but it took me a while to get rid of the 2-3 inches of frozen stuff including ice that was coating our driveway, steps, walkway and the cars. You know what, I will gladly shovel snow but ice..Oy! Lets see how this back holds up.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine’s Day.

Not sure what I add to the discussion about this day. It has been so over hyped and over marketed. All I gotta say is I love the women in my life.. they enrich my life by being a part of it, in more ways than they know. They are loved ones, friends, blog readers and colleagues.

I love you all, and that’s about all there is to say.

Happy Valentine's day

Outside it is freezing rain, sleet and ice.. conditions that mean I am staying home!

Thats all I got for now..


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Shout Out To The Dixie Chicks, What do I look like?

Yay for the chicks!

To those of you that remember, in the days of hysteria that were the run up to the Iraq misadventure, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks had the temerity to criticize that empty head who is our leader. For that the Dixie chicks were pilloried, threatened, their music taken off the airwaves (controlled by corporate media). They were called unpatriotic and worse, their music CDs were trampled upon in public events joined in by frenzied mobs. link

To me those days were scarily reminiscent of the orgy following the release of “Satanic Verses”, when effigies of Salman Rushdie were burnt as were copies of the book. The book was banned in a number of countries, including India.

I remember a former colleague of mine, asking me if I would like to step out of the office with him to join in a “Dixie Chicks” hate fest organized by the local radio station. I told him, the Chicks have a right to their opinion and he did not have to buy their music, but whats with the hate I asked him. He made some comment about liberals and how we were gonna be wrong about Iraq.

These magnificent women went on to win 5 Grammy’s including To me this is a vindication of the power of their music and for those who have embraced them as artists and for their right to say what they want. I am very happy for them.

Who Do I Look Like To You…

I had just walked in to Penn station, Baltimore one day and was checking the electronic train arrival board for my train, when this guys walked over to me. He was wearing one of those thick glasses, was in jeans and a jacket.

Guy… “Hi”.

Me.. “Hey there!”

Guy… “You know you look like that guys from that movie”

Me.. “Oh ya.. which one” ( I smile partly cuz I am tickled.. I don’t look like anyone who could be in a movie)

Guy…”The thing is I can’t recall which movie it was.”

Me…”Not the one where the kid sees all dead people right?” (Sixth Sense)

Guy.. “No”

Me.. “Cuz you know I ain’t a ghost ya know?“

Guy… laughs and walks away.

Joe Sixpack is often on my train in the mornings and afternoons. He works for Amtrak and is like your average blue collar guy. He is a nice guy, but sort of has rough edges. It took us like 6 months to strike up a conversation (whatever that says about me I have no clue).

I usually sit in the café car as there is always room and I can bury myself in whatever I am reading. That day there were no free seats when Joe walks by and asks if he can sit next to me. I am like sure, I was reading Lawrence Wright’s The looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

Joe.. “Hi.. we have never formally met although we are on the train. I am Joe!”

Me.. “Hi..Nice meeting you. I am Jay (I shorten my name when I get a feeling ppl might have trouble remembering ‘Sanjay’”.. I have my smile on).

He asks me what I am reading and I show him the book.

Joe.. “So are you a member of Al Qaeda?”

Me.. (I am biting off a snarky response about ignoramuses) “What do you think?”

Joe..”I am only kidding!”

Me.. “I hope you were, cuz I was not very amused!”

Joe..”I was really kidding, I like to kid around”

Apparently he does kid around over time I have seen him interact with others.

Another time..

Joe..”You know you look like Ray Lewis”

Me…Laughing ”No way.”

Joe... “Well a bit..esp when you smile, and of course you are smaller”

Me.. “Yes I am.. I ain’t a professional football player.”



Ray Lewis (pic above) is the middle line backer for the Baltimore Ravens, that is what he looks like. My picture is in the profile. I am not sure what he saw, maybe a slight resemblance when I have a broad smile on. I asked *A* and some co-workers, they said.. Nyah, you don't look like him. Oh and Ray Lewis probably has another 90 lbs on me and is a lot taller too.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Monday Musings

I got nothin...

Some Nice Anti-War Posters.. Link here





Ewww... link

"SHEBOYGAN, Wis. -- A truck driver distracted by his digital music player tipped his semitrailer on Interstate 43 in Sheboygan County, spilling about 40 tons of cow intestines.

"Parts of the interstate were closed for about two hours on Thursday while authorities took care of the mess of beef by-products, including intestines and bones.

"Sheriff's officials said that the 25-year-old driver told them the semitrailer veered off the road as he adjusted his MP3 player. He was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

"The tractor-trailer, which is owned by Birchwood Transport of Kenosha, had to be towed from the scene."

Overheard In New York link

But Are You Willing to Ignore Months and Months of Reliable Intelligence?

Teen: I'm gonna run for sturgeon general one day.
Father: A sturgeon is a fish. It's Surgeon General, and you can't run for it, the president appoints you.
Teen: Then I'll make him appoint me.
Father: You also have to be a doctor, and in the military... And we know you're not smart enough to be a doctor.
Teen: [Puzzled, offended.]
Father: You could run for Secretary of Defense, though, and you don't really have to be that smart to do that.
Teen, excitedly: Cool, I like guns!

--A train

Overheard by: Sean




Friday, February 09, 2007

Our Discourse And Friday Word..

Our Discourse..

Looking at CNNs web page you might think we had something major happen. Apparently it did, former playmate, reality star, married to an Octogenarian (not for the money.. really.. I mean really) Anna Nicole Smith passed away. I am saddened by her passing away, but disturbed and outraged by the non stop media play this story is getting.
There of my colleagues at work are aslot talking about this. Oy!
Even a show I like “Countdown With Keith Olberman” on MSNBC did a story.

Fed up I switched to comedy central to catch a rerun of Jon Stewart skewering the media coverage of the astronaut love triangle. It left me shaking my head at what has become of our media. The best comeback by Jon, I thought was below. It is not verbatim but very close to what got said…

Jon showed a clip of some TV airhead said the astronaut who wore a diaper on her 900 + mile drive was a testament to NASA ingenuity (Link to the story here).

Jon Stewart had one of those great expressions he has when he delivers the punch line…
“My one year old can also crawl around in diapers… ”
Heh!

Friday Word "Hair"

As per Mona it is hair, my brain was in shutdown mode last night and has not quite woken up. Ya want proof? It’s in the pudding…below.

Hair..

My head on her shoulders
I looked up her at her kind face
Framed by her brown hair
Shimmering strands in the soft light
Fragrant as the morning dew
She touched my brow
Her touch ..feathery..ethereal
I closed my eyes
To feel a forest of silk
Closing in around me
Incubus vanishing
An aria of love
Whispering its sweet harmony
Rocking me to sleep.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Childhood Memories... (long post alert!)

In the comments for the last post Lucia mentioned she loved it when I talked about my childhood. And there lies the genesis of this post. As I sat on the train on my back home yesterday evening, I tried to think about what were the immediate memories that came to me. I was a bit surprised at what came out, but then I am never sure about what my mind is gonna spew out. I guess on some level, I should be concerned that this is what came forth first and not some happy, sappy memories. I did not have a sad childhood or any thing. I had very loving parents, who did their best to set me along the right path in life. I don't how to explain this..

Tell your kids..Don't ever try this.

I was probably 5-7 years old then. I was in craft class and did not do very well on an assignment. Like is usually the case I had to get my dad to sign off on the grade which was crappy at best. I was mortified of showing those grades to my dad. I was doing well in everything else but this. But if you were like me then, and you were told there was just no option but getting good grades, you would be scared too. So what does this boy genius do?

I found one of the earlier assignments that my dad had signed off on and very carefully proceeded to cut out that signature of his (which for me meant sticking my tongue out from the side of my mouth as I cut with the scissors.. meant I was so focused on that task). You know where this is going right? I took that piece of paper with his signature on it and stuck it on the assignment that I had a bad grade in. I must have been mighty proud of my handiwork, for I took it in the next day and had the chutzpah to show it to my arts teacher. Oh boy, did she blow her top?

My parents were summoned to school and informed about my act of "forgery". They were both understandably upset at what I had done, and it also reflected poorly upon them. After we got home, my dad took out one of his leather belts and proceeded to whip me on my legs with it. I do not recall if my mom tried to stop this or not. Boy that whipping was painful I have memories of crying as it was meted out to me. I remember the skin having cut, but more distinctly I recall my mom applying (merbromine , Mercurochrome a mercurial compound applied topically as an antiseptic) the red color of that doing nothing to disguise the ugly welts.

I recall having to go to school, the next day wearing those marks of shame. I am not gonna go in to the merits/demerits of corporal punishment here (I don't believe in it). I just know I screwed up, what I can't answer is why physical force of this nature was used, wonder why they did not try to just verbally chide me. We know what something like this would have landed my father in, if it had happened in the US. The only other time I was hit was when he slapped me over a small misunderstanding, in public, that actually stayed with more and hurt me more. I wonder if the foundation of our rocky relationship was laid on that day. I won't talk about why he he slapped me here.

He is a kind loving man, but not always with polished edges. He had a much harder childhood and life than I had, and when I look back I owe a debt of gratitude to him, for where I am at in life would not have happened without him and mom. I have made my peace with him and am at peace with myself about it.

Do any of you recall ever trying a stunt like what I did?

Being Touched..

This is probably a bit dark. I am not sure it means anything other than at that age I just did not understand it. My recollection of it however is crystal clear. We lived in staff housing for employees of the Indian Railroad (railways) as they call them. I recall going down on the street to hangout with my playmates. It was a quite afternoon, not too many people about.

There was this family that lived a few doors down, they had 3 sons, all I knew was they did not have a clean, well kept house. One of the 3 sons, I think the oldest was walking towards me on the street. As he came abreast of me he reached out and grabbed my crotch. It happened so fast I barely had a chance to react, I did pull away though. That was it, the guy went on his way, and I was completely incapable of understanding what happened. All I knew was that it did not seem right. For whatever reason I never mentioned this to anyone incl my folks, but it stayed with me. I made sure I avoided that guy, we moved from there a few years later. I was too young to comprehend it but not enough for it to fade in to the recesses of my mind.

There was another episode on a train a few years later, when I had just finished high school. You know those commuter trains in Bombay? They get crowded like tins of sardine. Some perv decided it was a good idea to rub him self against me. He was aroused by it too, it was so friggin obvious!!! I was horrified and tried to move away, but he moved along with me in the mass of humanity in that coach.

I had to do something, too scared to say anything, I moved towards the doors of the compartment. The trains there don’t have doors that shut, so as the train started to move out of the Vikhroli station (I remember the station name, how could I not) and started to gather a little speed. I got off, I did not see the guy get off, but as I left the station out on to the street I kept looking back, trying to make sure I was not followed.

I took a long walk around the streets near the station, part of me already starting to distance myself from what happened (self survival..I guess?) , and the other parts filled with revulsion, anger, fear and loathing at myself and the perpetrator for what had just happened to me. This also brought forth memories of the earlier incident and I wondered what made me a magnet for something like this. I am not sure if there was higher power at work here or just my street smarts that saved me, but either of those episodes could have gotten uglier. They stay with me as a reminder of the evil that lurks in the mind of men.

Now that I thoroughly depressed ya’ll.

Dreaming Of Chocolate..

As a kid in my time, sweets were strictly rationed. First of all we never saw the dazzling variety of candy back then in India that we see in the US. I think that was probably good, for I do tend to have a sweet tooth (I went thru a 5 lb jar of gummi bears in 2 weeks single handedly a few yrs back). But my obsession with staying in shape and an ability to control my portion size have saved me, that and not wanting to make my dentist richer than he already is ..no sire!

Back on track.. We hardly ever got candy on week days at home. Only when mom went out and took me and sis along, did we get candy to eat and usually was the hardboiled type. So one day we discovered “Gems” candy made by Cadburys. They are like M & Ms and to this kid, it was the closest that came to being in heaven after I ate one. The way each colored gems melted in my mouth was bliss. Like a lot of kids, I would also lick each one and then stick my tongue out to see the color on it, in front of a mirror or ask another kid to tell me how it looked.

But mom would never give me more than one or two of those. And I had a dream about this, where I was begging her for a gem, and she was like “No sweetie your teeth are gonna rot with too much sugar!”

But she gave in to my entreaties, and out popped a single gems in to the palm of my outstretched hand. As it touched it I closed my hand over it. That was when I woke up, and my hand was closed, I opened it half expecting there to be a gems candy there. Needless to say I was disappointed.

So there you go folks, some good some not so good..my childhood memories. At least now I won’t take some of them with me to the grave.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Faith

No I am not getting all serious or going bananas yet. To those of you who don’t know me, I have a bit of a restless disposition and have always been that way. This does not always manifest itself physically in an obvious way but in my head I have what I sometimes call a cacophony of thoughts going on. I do manage to focus on the things in life that I need to get done in order to lead a productive, fulfilling life. But sometimes you know I gotta let it fly.

This is not at all new, just that I have not always chosen to talk about it. What changed? I won’t go in to all of that. But maybe as a friend said, putting these thoughts down might in a way help get all my ducks lined up in a row. Except that my ducks (a metaphor for my thoughts and whatever that goes on in my head) don’t quite line up in a neat line.

No.. I do not hear voices in my head (keep that straight jacket away will ya?) in case you are wondering. I am currently reading an excellent memoir “Iran Awakening” about the Iranian Nobel prize winner Shirin Ebadi. The principal character has a moment of spiritual epiphany and I wondered why I never experienced something as remarkable or something more prosaic (as befits me). Well if god is speaking to all of us why did he pass me by? It’s not like I wasn’t saying to the god or goddess “I am here..please oh please show me the way “

Clearly I am not among those exalted souls he/she stopped by to save or something…
My parents (bless them both), did a splendid job of trying to make sure I knew all about god and our religion (Hindu by birth.. and not quite sure what I am by choice ..agnostic, atheist, Zen types depending upon where I am at), and concepts of right and wrong.

As a child I remember going to temples. The most exciting part of it was running around on the cool tiled floors and trying to jump up and ring those bells. We don’t wear footwear in temples, but I have no idea why I remember the cool floors. I also don’t recall feeling much, perhaps that is the case with most ppl, but this feeling pretty much continued well in to my teens and adulthood. I did visit temples, churches, Gurudawaras and dargahs which are Sufi shrines built that revere religious figures.

Yes Virginia, Islam has a mystical component! As a religion it is much more layered and nuanced than what some of the idiots in our media give it credit for.

Sorry to digress.. but, I have never felt anything inside and that coupled with my background in the sciences, inherent nature to question things, my skepticism and the desire to not fall under the influence of organized religion contribute in no small measure about how I feel.

Honestly, I can’t answer if I truly have faith in some sort of a god or goddess that sort of has strings they pull that in an incredibly complex cosmic machine. And if we dance to that tune, does that mean we never make any choices and everything in our life is preordained? There are days I suspend this thought and perhaps that is in deference to the benevolent souls that are my parents. I am truly incapable of this on a day in and a day out basis.

The randomness with which events occur around the world and the cruelty with which loved ones get taken away well before their time just deepen my skepticism about their being a higher power. Explain to me what god lets children be raped and abused by some men who claim to speak in his name?

Why are the people of faith quick to blame skeptics and atheists of being the most horrendous ppl to roam the earth, corrupting this place with their temerity to question faith and god? Whilst they wage war in god's name ?

Perhaps there is truth in deism which wikipedia defines as “The belief, based solely on reason, in a God who created the universe and then abandoned it, assuming no control over life, exerting no influence on natural phenomena, and giving no supernatural revelation.. ”

Maybe he saw us pillaging the only home we have and left us to our own devices, which given the way we are at, seems slip sliding on its way to some kind of a dark future with no beginning or end.

But hey we still can shop and watch American Idol or the American Idiot (you know who) eh?

No I am not depressed that’s just me. I will always be this way I guess, it is not like I am not at peace, or don’t have calm. I don’t think the Deepak Chopra brand new agey crap (old eastern spirituality in a new wine bottle) would ever be for me. Sweet oblivion comes to me in the form of sleep.

Don’t get me wrong, I truly respect whatever god you believe in or don’t, but I wonder if any of you ask those questions of yourselves. If you do then what about the fact that you have to take some things purely on faith based on the words in a book or those of a holy man, and little else with no empirical evidence whatsoever? How do you ask your children or yourselves to believe in something that you cannot prove the existence of? Just pure faith?

You don’t have to agree with me you know, toss a few barbs my way, call me a heretic if you like, flame me, tell me I have a special place in perdition, but I would love to know what you all think. Or laugh at me as I know at least one blogger did, cos I was pompously voicing my political opinions. Whatever dude!

And how do I ever resolve any of this.. I don’t, I come up with balderdash like this from the delirious recesses of my mind. Perhaps there is no answer and I will just go about things forever wondering.

Or as someone said to me.. go forth in your life not hurting anyone and giving yourself to those you love and for things that you care for, and don't expect anything in return.
Is that in some religious book?
I try to live by that simple principle whatever you want to call it, and I know you folks probably do too.
Later..


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I got nothin...

Practical Jokes for the Office
Try this at your own risk. ;) link

The Lift
This one works best when you are a male. When you are in a crowded lift (elevator) with a female friend, turn to her, and in a hushed but urgent tone say, "Well, if it's not MY baby, then whose is it?"
It makes for a very awkward ride for the others, while your friend turns red and tries to stifle her laughter.
Disclaimer: To get the best result, this trick can really only be played successfully once.

The Plug
This one is so simple it cracks me up.
Pull the keyboard plug out of the PC. Not all the way. Just enough so it looks like it's plugged in but isn't. Sit back, wait and watch for the calls to Tech. Support.

The Desk
This one is really tricky, but if you do it just right, it's work a thousand laughs, and probably a smack upside your head.
Find a companion you think will handle a joke.
Grab one of their desk drawers.
Turn the drawer upside down and get all of the stuff back into the drawer.
Shove and stuff as much as is required.
When they next pull open the drawer, it will dump the entire contents of the drawer on the floor.

Overheard in New York link
... Alamo. You Know, Texans. Bang, Bang!

Chick: Where are you from?
Male employee: Mexico. Where are you from?
Chick: Iran.
Male employee: Where?
Chick, simulating gunfire: Iran. You know, terrorists. Bang, bang!
Male employee: Oh. Yeah.

--Chipotle, E 8th St

Because That's Just a Sexual Thing

Woman #1: He's kinda funky. He doesn't bathe a lot.
Woman #2: Really?
Woman #1: Yeah, he's an artist. Like, he wears lederhosen... Maybe that's a bad example.

--New Pasteur Restaurant

Overheard by: Shawn

But My Underwear Is Solid Gold

White guy with dreads: Think about this -- taking a shit is the one thing in which all people of all races, sexes and religions are truly equal.
Hippie girl: Not exactly. Some people shit on solid gold toilet bowls while others shit in a bucket.
Little boy at next table, standing on booth seat: I shit in my pants! Hahaha!

--Wo Hop, 15 Mott St

Overheard by: Big Larry

Monday, February 05, 2007

Not A Movie Review, Workouts.. Sans Clothes

Letters From Iwo Jima

The Clint Eastwood Directed “Letters From Iwo Jima” is on a lot of top ten movie lists. We finally got to see this movie on Saturday. It is every bit as good as the critics said it was. The other reason I was keen on seeing this movie was that a blogger who I sometimes read said she did not want to watch this movie. To quote her..

“I know in my last movie post I mentioned I was planning on seeing Clint Eastwood's two WWII films from this year. But the more I think about it, I'm not sure I want to see a movie about Japanese soldiers. After all, these are the people who brought you the Rape of Nanking, sexual slavery of Korean women, and the Bataan Death March. I nominate the Japanese military as a finalist in the category of Worst Perpetrator of War Crimes in the Modern Age”

Most people would not deny that the Japanese military did commit some pretty gruesome war crimes that cannot be justified. I still think she is wrong in how she is characterizing this. I don’t think the possibility can be ignored that one might be caught in circumstances or a conflict, due to forces that they can never even imagine to even begin to influence. Besides, this movie is not at all an attempt to airbrush the atrocities that were committed by the Japanese military it is about one battle in a long brutal war.

A bit about the movie..

I absolutely loved this movie and it stayed with me even for a while after. I think this movie was in a sense a unique experiment. Here is an American director who is taking you to a place which has not been done in a manner like this. While “Flags Of Our Fathers” portrayed the conflict from the American side, “letters” does so from the Japanese perspective. If you want to learn more about this battle here is a wikipedia link. So as an American you go to see this movie and might find yourself rooting for some of these soldiers to not shoot or be shot at and get out alive. Certainly not all soldiers in this movie are deserving of this sentiment.

I think movie succeeds because it manages to bridge the cross cultural gap almost single handedly via the vision of Clint Eastwood. The idea for this movie did not really come about until the process of making of “Flags Of Our Fathers”. I heard this great interview by Terry Gross on Fresh Air, where Clint Eastwood talks about the making of this movie.

He was fascinated by Kuribayashi Tadamichi as his American peers considered him a clever man. He asked for some material about him from Japan, and there was not a whole lot. The only published material he was able to get was a book that had the letters sent from Kuribayashi to his children back in Japan when he was working as an envoy in the US and Canada before the war. I find it interesting how the genesis of the second movie lies in the first and lets is not forget the cross cultural connections here either.

The other thing about this movie is that it is in Japanese, I liked that they did not try to make it in the English language. Watching movies with subtitles can be an issue for some movie goers I do not think this is one of them.

The movie is shot is color, but the color has almost be de-saturated to use a term that I have heard used with this movie. I think that almost ends up giving this movie a documentary like feel.

For me this movie was very moving to watch. There is a scene where a group of Japanese soldiers commit suicide in the caves by blowing themselves up with grenades. This is terrifying to watch and at the same time heart rending because there is one soldier who does not want to die, the conflicting emotions on his face are obvious as he is about proceeds to kill himself, pictures of his family in his hands.

Ken Watanabe I thought did a great job playing general Kuribayashi. The one soldier you will want to see survive is Saigo(on the newsweek cover) played by Kazunari Ninomiya. The scene with his pregnant wife as he gets ready to head to battle is touching.

If I had to just say how this movie is in a few words, I would say this is not your conventional war movie, it has a raw power about it and yet there is nuance, humanity and tenderness in some of these characters. The movie is a cinematic tour de force and one that is not easy to forget as you leave the theater.

UPDATE: RC's blog tells me that this great movie came 15th in the box office take for this weekend. Oy! What are people watching? The Messengers, Because I Said So, and Epic Movie?*shakes head*

What were you thinking, I was gonna talk about my naked workouts eh? ;) kidding..

Naked Workouts (Link)

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- Self-conscious about what you wear while working out? A Dutch gym plans to introduce "Naked Sunday" for people who like to huff and puff in the buff.

Patrick de Man, owner of Fitworld gym in the town of Heteren, said he got the idea in part from two of his customers who are avid nudists.

"I heard that some other gyms are offering courses on 'pole-dancing' as a sport, so I thought: Why not bring something new to the market?" de Man said.

He said the response had been overwhelming _ positive and negative.

The 70,000-member Dutch Federation of Naturists was curious to see if Fitworld's plan would work, spokesman Bernd Huiser said.

"We recently conducted a large survey among our members, and most prefer to exercise with their clothes on," he said. "The most popular activities (for nudists) are things you do outdoors, like walking on the beach, or swimming in a lake, or maybe gardening."

De Man said the first question Fitworld customers were asking was whether it would be sanitary.

Nude exercisers would be required to put towels down on weight machines and to use disposable seat covers while riding bikes. All machines would be cleaned and disinfected afterward. "We clean them every day anyway," he said.

Ah the Dutch.. much more cool about these things than us Americans.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Friday Word.. "Color"

As per Mona that is the Friday word, to be used in your post in anyway you see fit. This post has 3 parts. Two of them have a dark edge, if you were hoping to get warm and fuzzy this Friday, scroll down to the third part. I just peeked at her post and I am like wow, I am interpreting this so differently.

Color(s) Of My Country And Those That Fell In A War That Rages On...



3000 + and counting

Color Of Pain..

He raised the glass to his lips once again

Imbibing the bitter spirit, feeling its warmth spread within

As his hand tightened around the glass

The knuckles white

It seemed harder to take the edge off

His hand tightened further… as his thoughts drifted

What color would someone use he wondered to paint

..A planet being raped slowly but steadily

..A country going mad and seeming to lose its soul

..Letters and “I love you” going unanswered

..The ineffectuality of someone unable to stop the abuse of a sibling

..Of the scars left behind, wounds that never healed

..Of a loved one who you could never tell how much he meant for them

..Made his life more full by just being there

..Altruism of his parents

..Their increasing frailness a reminder of the inexorable march of time

..The struggle to say what he felt and that nothing had changed yet so much had

...That giving it all was all he had left, he did not know another way

..The desolation he felt when he tried to believe in a higher being

He heard the crack of the glass before he felt the pain in the palm of his hand.

He looked down thru eyes fast welling with tears

The shards of glass changing as he tried to blink away the tears

The rivulets of blood starting to run down his hand

He did not move

As the color of his pain ebbed from him and he closed his eyes.

Color Of Love (This is all over the place!)

I painted her as I saw her in my mind. The brush strokes came easy as did the colors that made her seem lifelike.

She was tilting her head to her right a bit, as she always did when she was about to say something interesting, funny, profound or profane.

The way the nostrils of her lovely nose flared slightly, and the beginning of a smile made her mouth curl upwards in a cute sort of way. I loved how her dark brown hair fell to one side, with a few strands astray.

There was also the dimple on her left cheek.

Her eyes were bluish grey and they seem to reflect her witticism, her intellect and the confidence of someone sure of herself.

To me they changed color ..at times ..they took on the light brown warmth like her unquestioning love.

She looked at me with the same honest open look, it broke my heart every time I failed

At times they seemed to darken with passion and a sensuality that was full of things unsaid and promises of things to come.

She had a white bathrobe on, that had slipped off her shoulders ..revealing in the mirror behind her a lovely neck and a elegant, curvy back.

Her skin seemed flawless except for a mole on the right side of her neck.

I was lost in her and what she embodied when I felt someone next to me.

“Who is she” .. she said, as she slipped her hand in mine.

“She is a composite”, I said as I turned to her, “of all the women in my life who I know, or think I know, or am getting to know. They are the ones I adore and love and the ones that make me tick.”

“Ah..ha painted in the color of love?” she said as turned to face me.

“Something like that:..yes”

I smiled at her, and drew her to me, she rested her face against my shoulder in that all to familiar manner. And as she looked up she nuzzled the side of my face with her nose and wrinkled it as she felt the bristles.

I kissed the tip of her nose, and then closed my eyes as our foreheads touched our arms still around each other.

I could feel our breaths mingle, it all felt so unhurried.. I had forgotten what that felt like so close to me. It was sometimes lost in the mundaneness of life. There was so much of her that I could feel in that quiet moment, making me aware yet again why she is the love of my life.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Thursday Musings.
From Newsweek..
I Have Had My Differences With Members of the Press. But it's Nothing That Burying them Under Tons of Earth Won't Solve.. link

Contributed by Holly Bailey - Posted: January 30, 2007 2:10:10 PM
Does President Bush have it in for the press corps? Touring a Caterpillar factory in Peoria, Ill., the Commander in Chief got behind the wheel of a giant tractor and played chicken with a few wayward reporters. Wearing a pair of stylish safety glasses--at least more stylish than most safety glasses--Bush got a mini-tour of the factory before delivering remarks on the economy. "I would suggest moving back," Bush said as he climbed into the cab of a massive D-10 tractor. "I'm about to crank this sucker up." As the engine roared to life, White House staffers tried to steer the press corps to safety, but when the tractor lurched forward, they too were forced to scramble for safety."Get out of the way!" a news photographer yelled. "I think he might run us over!" said another. White House aides tried to herd the reporters the right way without getting run over themselves. Even the Secret Service got involved, as one agent began yelling at reporters to get clear of the tractor. Watching the chaos below, Bush looked out the tractor's window and laughed, steering the massive machine into the spot where most of the press corps had been positioned. The episode lasted about a minute, and Bush was still laughing when he pulled to a stop. He gave reporters a thumbs-up. "If you've never driven a D-10, it's the coolest experience," Bush said afterward. Yeah, almost as much fun as seeing your life flash before your eyes.
You know I am no fan of dear leader but is what he did dangerous? I don't know, me thinks he is done more damage to our country. Oh well..

This Has Had To Have Been Scary For The Boys link

Three young boys grew breast tissue after exposure to lotions and shampoos containing lavender or tea tree oil, researchers say.

It is not uncommon for boys to develop breast tissue during puberty or just after, but the boys affected by the plant oils were aged four, seven and 10.

The natural oils may be “gender-bending” chemicals mimicking effects of the female hormone, oestrogen, the findings suggest. The boys were otherwise normal, and lost the breast tissue within months of discontinuing use of the products.

When The World Drives Me Nuts.. I Might Be Here

Meditating!



Ads Like This One Below Leave Me Shaking My Head. From here (some ads may not be work safe)
I have never seen this ad before..



Cool Ads If you Love Books. From here (some ads may not be work safe)

BookPlus: A book will never let you down (Click on the image to get a better look)