Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Word.. "Melt"

Mona assigned Maggie to come up with the Friday word and Maggie did a fine job coming up with it and then followed it up with some lovely poetry. Check out Mona's cool post too.

Me on the other hand ...

Melt…


The first hug a little tentative
Yet the longing so palpable
In our bodies, minds and hearts..
The look in her eyes
Questioning….unsure
Eyes that seemed to say.. take it slow honey
This is so new to us..
As I gathered her in my arms
I felt myself going
Defenses crumbling
A feeling of abandon
Tinged with restraint
Of being suffused with the bliss
Of being with a loved one
I could feel myself melting in her arms
Touching her face
Tucking a strand of hair behind her ear
Melting in to those eyes
That held mine
Of feathery light yet deep kisses
Of caresses filled with longings
That dare not be formed in to words
All my love poured in to each touch
Of skin over skin
Of lips over lips
Of tongues leaving sensual trails
On each others bodies
That stayed with us long after, a part of us forever
Our lives imprinted irrevocably with the stamp of the other.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Thursday Nothingness..

I got nothing..

From the folks at Moronland

19 Ways to maintain your insanity

1. At Lunch Time, Sit In Your Parked Car With Sunglasses on and Point A Hair Dryer At Passing Cars. See If They Slow Down.

2. Page Yourself Over The Intercom. Don't Disguise Your Voice.

3. Every Time Someone Asks You To Do Something, Ask If They Want Fries with that.

4. Put Your Garbage Can On Your Desk And Label It "In."

5. Put Decaf In The Coffee Maker For 3 Weeks. Once Everyone Has Gotten Over Their Caffeine Addictions, Switch To Espresso.

6. In The Memo Field Of All Your Checks, Write "For Sexual Favors"

7. Finish All Your Sentences With "In Accordance With The Prophecy."

8. Don't Use Any Punctuation

9. As Often As Possible, Skip Rather Than Walk.

10. Ask People What Sex They Are. Laugh Hysterically After They Answer.

11. Specify That Your Drive-through Order Is "To Go."

12. Sing Along At The Opera.

13. Go To A Poetry Recital And Ask Why The Poems Don't Rhyme

14. Put Mosquito Netting Around Your Work Area And Play Tropical Sounds All Day.

15. Five Days In Advance, Tell Your Friends You Can't Attend Their Party because You're Not In The Mood.

16. Have Your Co-workers Address You By Your Wrestling Name "Rock Hard".

17. When The Money Comes Out The ATM, Scream "I Won! I Won!"

18. When Leaving The Zoo, Start Running Towards The Parking Lot,Yelling "Run For Your Lives, They're Loose!!"

19. Tell Your Children Over Dinner. "Due To The Economy, We Are Going To Have To Let One Of You Go."

Cool Papa John Pizza Ad.
(Click on the image if you cannot read the text, it seems to be a real pizza!)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wednesday Silliness...

Speak Like Yoda Will I..And Get Thru Will Spam e-mail

We have a pretty decent spam filter at work, I normally don't get any spam in the e-mail, so I was a bit surprised at this one. I looked at it and then realized, it is yoda speak (A typical example of Yoda's speech pattern is from Return of the Jedi: "When 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not." ) in the body of the e-mail. The force! It defeated the spam filters. Take a look at the body of the e-mail. It had me chuckling :)

By skyway usa setup, outlook, express. Notice customers, who another dialup.

You how to microsofts send and receive email.

Use with this guide will. Back should listed available main. Show you how, to microsofts send and.

Follow the below continue open microsoft once is? Hit next screen type address be sure, include space! As, being pop seen example.

Make connect new home.

Next screen type address be sure include space?

Usa setup outlook express for use with this!

Ready begin icon located at top make connect.

Page more regarding, issue ask aka, username.

Please follow the below continue open microsoft once is.

Follow, the below continue open.

Copyright, inc all rights reserved.

Locator order, copy copyright inc all rights reserved. Once is click on.

Error page more regarding. Server addresses verify youve.

Sending emails visit our smtp relay.

At top make connect new home why. Properly failure keep from able.

Use with, this guide will show.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Jesus Camp.. Not A Review..



This is a documentary that we have wanted to watch for a year. There was a chance to do just that last Spring which is when we first heard of it. The tiny town of Newark, DE was hosting it’s second annual film festival at the local movie house. We did see the amazing documentary about the New York Times crossword puzzle contest here. While we were talking to the festival organizer about how the festival, she told us about “Jesus Camp”, and told us a bit about the documentary. She recommended it highly and she said as the daughter of a minister she could understand the rather dark underbelly of religion. We finally saw it over the weekend.

A bit about the documentary..

Jesus Camp

Rated PG-13

85 mins

RELEASE DATES
Theatrical: Sep 15, 2006
Video: Jan 23, 2007

RELEASE COMPANY
Magnolia Pictures

A growing number of Evangelical Christians believe there is a revival underway in America whereby Christian youth must take up the leadership of the conservative Christian movement.

JESUS CAMP, directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (The Boys of Baraka), follows Levi, Rachael, Tory and a number of other young children to Pastor Becky Fischer's Kids on Fire summer camp in Devil's Lake, North Dakota, where kids as young as 6 years-old are taught to become dedicated Christian soldiers in God's army. The film follows these children at camp as they hone their prophetic gifts and are schooled in how to take back America for Christ. The film is a first-ever look into an intense training ground that recruits born-again Christian children to become an active part of America's political future. -- © Loki Films

Observations…

I have to say I was chilled to the bone after seeing this documentary, and it is a wake up call to those of us who think that what some on the evangelical right do does not affect us. The mere apathy of a lot of citizens in my country who do not vote or follow politics always amazes me.

The directors follow mostly three evangelical Christian kids (Levi, Rachael and Tory) from Lee's Summit, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City as they get ready to visit the “Kids On Fire School of Ministry” near Devil’s Lake in North Dakota. The camp is run by Becky Fisher and her ministry that calls itself “Kids in ministry international”. As the film moves to North Dakota, we learn a bit more about the lives of these kids. They are all devout Christians and to hear them talk about their version of Christianity and how it should shape this country is pretty scary. They are like a lot of the other kids at the camp, home schooled and learn about the creationist view about how humanity, life on earth and the universe were created.

Becky Fisher reminded me of the dogmatic people that can often be found in any religion around the world. That she does not advocate violence does not necessarily make her better than those that do. I think she does something far more insidious, and that is indoctrination (call it brain washing if you will) of mere children. It reminded me of those madarssas or religious schools out in other parts of the world, which as often criticized by folks here (often rightly so). They however forget that often in regions with grinding poverty where the government has abdicated its role, religious schools like these with free board and food must seem tempting to some.

Not to digress here but one of the reasons Becky uses to justify the existence of the summer camp and her indoctrination is that out in the middle east, kids are being trained as suicide bombers.

So we are doing this?

This is merely a way to create an army of evangelical Christian children if you will, that will be then work their way up through society, aided by the network of some evangelical churches, organizations, think tanks and radio talk shows that will help “insert” them in to positions of power in the legislative as well a the judicial branch. What better way to go about accomplishing the task? This film documents in detail where this process begins.

It is alarming to watch Levi talk about how his generation will be key to the return of Jesus or of Rachael talk with the righteousness of a true believer as she passes out literature to people she meets on the street or in the mall. There is this scene where this blonde woman in a mall/store and receives this literature from her and her expression of bemusement says it all.

There are several scenes that stay with you.

This one made me shake my head. Becky prays over the PC so that the powerpoint presentation does not crash and that there is no power failure. This is attributed to the devil, wanting to disrupt things. Nice eh?

Becky says she want the kids to be radically laying down their lives for the gospel as they are over in Pakistan, Isreal, Plaestine and all those other other places.. she says “excuse me but we have the truth!”

She says “Let’s talk this week about how the devil tries to destroy our lives, by tempting us with sin…”

Levi says “I got saved when I was five”

At one point there is a presentation when a cut out of “dear leader” GW Bush, is brought in to the summer camp. And there is this disturbing scene where all the adults and the kids pray over (not pray to) the cut out of dubya. This was around the time of the nomination of Samuel Alito to our supreme court, and you watch as the speaker has the kids crying out and reaching a crescendo of chants of “Righteous Judges”.

Becky makes a statement when she is challenged by Mike Papantonio (an attorney and a radio talk-show host for Air America Radio's Ring of Fire and one of the few saner voices in this film), she essentially says that our system of democracy is going to destroy itself since we have to give everyone equal freedoms!!!!

It is also bizarre to see the kids as they go in to a trance and speak in tongues.

I had to laugh when Levi goes to the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to hear its renowned pastor, Ted Haggard. As some of you may recall Haggard became embroiled in a high-profile scandal involving homosexual prostitution and methamphetamine use.

I think the documentary succeeds since it manages to capture the emotions, the earnestness and the certainty of true believers. It was a visceral experience to watch, and although there are times I laughed aloud at the absurdity of some of the things I saw, I realized what we are up against. I did not think the documentary is biased as a few have surmised. And by no means are the folks in this feature representative of the many evangelical Christians or Christians by and large who practice their faith without feeling the need that the laws of their faith should form the foundation to run America on. Nonetheless it tells us what a vocal, proactive minority will try to achieve if the majority of us choose to remain silent.

The documentary reaffirmed for me the need to be aware and stay involved in following the state of affairs of this nation. It also tells me why I need to vote in every election and push back wherever I can against the forces of intolerance and those that want to take this country away from being a nation of laws to one that would be governed by “Christian” laws.

I recommend watching this film, it is an eye opener to parts of America that you kind of know are out there but some of us don’t encounter in our daily lives.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Are You On The Edge Of Your Seat People?
Biting your nails? The screenshot is of CNN's web page from about 10:30 AM this morning. The state of our mainstream news media makes me want to pound my head on the desk!
Somebody just shoot me please!!!


Update
Guess I ain't the only one who thinks that the American mainstream media has issues. From a piece on the Huffington post



Quote from the link above..

Interesting. This week, Time's cover story is an essay arguing
in favor of teaching the Bible in schools
, which can be boiled down to this:
"Of course the Bible should be taught in schools. Duh. It's religion that
shouldn't be." On the cover of its international edition is a story that is less
easily boiled down: "The Truth About Talibanistan," about the resurgence of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan (and also, Pakistan), and how it's "the next battleground of the war on terrorism." The story is in the U.S. edition of the magazine but not on the American cover, presumably because Rick Stengel & co. think the Bible will do better newsstand (even though it is a singularly unattractive
cover).

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday Word..

It is "STEP" as Mona, says...
Please feel free to use it in your blog post tomorrow, in whatever fashionable shoe style you choose…story, poem, photo, drunk narrative, 12-step program of your very own design…. You may use it as a noun, verb, adjective…
That 12 step program sounds might appealing to me. I got nothing as of now.. except for the stuff below..

Step Into Nothingness

He did not want to feel a thing

The weight of being a caring, loving human

Too much to bear.. sapping him slowly but surely

The desire to love and be loved, to hold and be held

To be the object of and the end of someone’s desire

A longing unfulfilled... is what sent him wandering the streets

No cures to crush his demons did he seek

To unleash the beast in him upon himself he did

To tear him apart to shreds

Flesh and bone torn asunder

Needle sliding gently

Into veins black with blood

Thumb pushing down on the plunger

Praying for deliverance

Step into nothingness

The voices in his head cried

As a void closed in

Fuck Ya!.. He whispered

A dying smile on his lips

Reflecting the finality of it all.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Dessert...Prunes In Red Wine

With spring upon us and with longer hours of daylight I feel the return of my desire to cook on the fly and on a whim. Not that I don’t cook otherwise, but it is routine every day stuff and on some days I prefer to be a sous-chef, as *A* is the better cook and blazing fast too.

Me on the other hand, I tend to cook more slowly, need to have a glass of wine to sip as I cook, listen to the news on the radio and have a comfortable pace. So I had some time yesterday and tried my hand at a dessert that I read about in the NY Times here. The recipe with modifications is below, as are quick pictures and probably don’t do justice to how well this dish turned out. No credit to me, the recipe is the trick. A related article in the times talks about how this dessert is more a European thing and not American, well it is now ;-)

Often on a dessert table in a bistro or trattoria in Europe there will be a big
bowl of plump prunes poached in wine. It’s a dessert I love, but one that is
rarely offered in the United States. Except at my house

The dessert was delicious, *A* approved of it. I think it will taste better today as it will have chilled well and the prunes will have had more time to soak in that lovely blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, peppercorn and orange. Coupled with cream this was a delightful change as a dessert.

On the stove...



Rushed picture.. sorry, I might have a better one tonight in a wine goblet and all.



Another picture..



Time: 30 minutes plus cooling
2 cups dry red wine, preferably from Navarre. (I used a Chianti any other dry wine would do too. I used about 3/4 of the wine, the rest was consumed during cooking) ;-)
2 3-inch strips orange peel
10 black peppercorns
6 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole allspice ( I did not have all spice so I used a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg instead)
1/4 cup sugar
1 pound prunes with pits, or 12 ounces pitted prunes. (I used pitted prunes, and like Florence said in the article, the prunes feel more fleshy and nuttier)
2 tablespoons triple sec
Softly whipped heavy cream or crème fraîche, optional, for serving. (I used light whipped cream).

1. Combine wine, orange peel, peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon sticks and allspice in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Stir in sugar. Simmer 10 minutes. Add prunes, simmer 10 minutes more. Remove from heat. Stir in triple sec.

2. Transfer to a bowl, cover and set aside up to 3 hours before serving, turning prunes in wine syrup from time to time. Strain, reserving syrup in a bowl. Return prunes to syrup and discard spices. Serve at once, with a dollop of cream if desired, or refrigerate until ready to serve.
Yield: 4 servings.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Not A Movie Review

Another weekend another movie? Why not, especially if it is a great movie like Volver (English translation.. return). We were back at the lovely Bryn Mawr Film Institute to watch this movie. While I went on my own last week to watch Venus, *A* wanted to watch Volver and so the two of us managed to make it to this one. *A* also liked the theater and she is a fan of good cinema so I guess we will be making more trips to Bryn Mawr.

One of the added charms of a community movie house like BMFI are small moments like the one when the president of the institute came to the show to thank all the patrons and announce a one day movie fest. For a small place like Bryn Mawr it seems fairly active in terms of offering great cinema and I am excited at the prospect of going back.

A bit about Volver..
Rated R
Length : 2 hrs 1 min
On DVD 04-03-2007

Credits

Pedro Almodovar Director
Esther Garcia Producer
Agustin Almodovar Executive Producer
Jose Luis Alcaine Director of Photography
Alberto Iglesias Composer

Cast
Penelope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Lola Dueñas, Blanca Portillo, Chus Lampreave, Cobo Yohana, Antonio de la torre, Carlos Blanco, Maria Isabel Diaz, Neus Sanz

This is only the third of Pedro Almodovar’s movies that I have seen so far and I am already a fan. I hope to slowly over time see his earlier movies as well. As I watched this movie, I was able to spot the signature Almodovar flourishes, an excellent use of colors (the movie felt very warm and rich), layered narrative, humor and of course the complex characters who often are women. He does celebrate women and family in a lot of his movies. If you are looking for a male character (a well characterized one) you won’t find one in this movie. The men are literally disposable in this movie and this movie is a celebration of the resilience of women.

The storyline.. (based on the link here, with my own notes added)

Raimunda (Penelope Cruz) plays a young hard working, attractive mother. She has a daughter in mid-adolescence and a husband who is unemployed and so she juggles several jobs. Raimunda is strong woman, but she also comes across as someone with a very fragile emotional core. You can sense there is something deeper within her that is not being revealed.

Her older sister Sole (Lola Dueñas) is an antithesis of her, she makes her living running an unlicensed beauty salon from home. Her husband has left her.

Paula is their aunt. She lives in a village in La Mancha where the whole family was born. The regions of La Manch is known for fierce East winds that are rumored to make the residents more prone to insanity. The raging winds are also responsible for devastating fires that have caused the death of the parents of Raimunda and Sole.

Sole calls Raimunda to tell her that Agustina (a neighbour in the village played by Blanca Portillo) has phoned to tell her that their Aunt Paula has died. Raimunda loves her aunt, but she can’t go to the funeral because moments before getting the call from her sister, when she had just come back from one of her jobs, she had found her husband dead in the kitchen, with a knife stuck in his chest. Her daughter confesses that she killed him because he had got drunk and kept making sexual advances to her. All that Raimunda can think of is to protect her daughter and going to the funeral becomes out of question.

Sole is stuck with going on her own to the funeral. It is here that she hears rumors that her mother (who died in a fire with her father) has came back from the other world to look after Aunt Paula in her final years. The assumption here is that she is naturally a ghost. When Sole returns after parking her car, she hears noises from the trunk. We hear a voice from the trunk that calls itself Sole’s mother. She is naturally terrified, but finally opens it and the ghost of the mother (Carmen Maura) comes out of the trunk. Sole takes her in and lets her help out in the hair salon. The pretense here is that she is Russian woman that Sole took pity on and took her in. She helps out with the clients pretending she does not understand Spanish.

Neither Sole nor Raimunda can tell each other the secret they each harbor. Raimunda just says Paco (her husband) has left her. All she wants to do is get rid of the body which is temporarily stashed in the freezer of the restaurant which belongs to a neighbor who is out of town and that she has temporarily taken over. There are several situations that arise out of this that are funny, tense, melodramatic and at times very emotional. The way the two sisters wriggle out of these situations is a testament to the characters will and resilience.

Things to come to a head, when Raimunda comes face to face with her mother’s "ghost" and with the terrible secret that she is harboring.

I realized how apt the title “Volver” (return) is. The movie is about returning. It is about returning from the beyond. The tone for this gets set at the start of the movie which opens with the east wind blowing and with women cleaning the graves of their loved ones who have moved on. They may have moved on but their presence rules the lives of those left behind. It is also about returning to help undo wrongs that were done, or for atoning for mistakes of the past. It also shows how strong family ties can be despite the chasms that sometimes open between loved ones. The movie also explores themes about family and ties that bind friends and community.

Almodovar’s love of color and detail is very obvious in this movie. It is visually delightful to watch. His women characters are all beautifully drawn and they are very human and flawed and are remarkable in their strength, will to survive and overcome odds.

I have seen movies before with Penelope Cruz, and was not very impressed with her as an actress. She was nominated for an Oscar for this role and I can see why. She does a marvelous job as Raimunda and I have a lot of respect for her now as an actress. She is simply amazing. All the casting was excellent especially Carmen Maura as the mother.

I would recommend this movie very strongly. This movie is funny, touching, simple and yet complex and at times emotional. The 2 hours spent watching this film are worth every minute.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday Word "Dance" And A Childhood Memory

Friday Word

As per Mona the word this week is "Dance". So here goes..

Do weathervanes tell you the direction of an ill wind?
Are her footsteps the prelude to a dance of death?
Hair aflame, eyes insensate
She reaches for me
Dance with me she whispers
As she takes my hand
Powerless to resist
I feel my lifeblood ebbing from me
A cold chill seeps thru my being
I fall away from myself
Soul abandoned
Chains undone
Her laugh a requiem for me
Am barely a pause in a collective conscious
A wail lost in the wind
Archaic, dated and defunct
Done, ruined and gone.

Memories That Pop Out Of Nowhere

Usually memories that are buried deep come forth when there are associations such as food, smell, color or sound. But this one is a childhood memory that just popped in to my head while I was walking to my desk at work. In Bombay, in this neighborhood called Dadar, there is this traffic circle (no longer a circle I guess with flyovers over that place). On the corner next to Chandu’s sweet shop used to be this lovely little bakery/eatery run by Parsis. The name of the place was Farmer Brothers.

They used to have these amazing cakes that were called mawa cakes (about the size of a small muffin). They used to have the most amazing golden brown crust. Biting in to one felt like I was in epicurean heaven! It was rich, delightful and scrumptious.

My dad used to work for the Indian railroads and the train station at Dadar used to be one of the main stops for long distance trains. Whenever he was done with his trip on those on the way back sometimes, he would stop by Farmer brothers and pick up a few cakes for us. We would wait expectantly for dad to show up and look for the little white paper bag. I even remember the bag, which had a picture of a hen and two eggs next to it. Me and sis coined a term for the cake. We used the Marathi term for a hen “komdi”, so this cake was a komdi cake.

I had a particular way of eating one too. I would unwrap the paper that was around it with crumbs of cake sticking to it. Before I even touched the cake I would lick the paper free of any cake crumbs left on it.

We hardly ever ate out as kids so this was sort of a rare but welcome treat. When we moved from near Central Bombay to the Northern part and then did not have much of a chance to sample the cakes again.

That was not the last of the place for me though. It used to be a haunt for me and *A* after we were done for the day to have a cup of tea, snack and talk for a while.

Sadly Farmer brothers, the store as we knew it is now long gone. It got reincarnated as a Chinese place, run by the same folks. I am not sure what has happened to it now. Do any of you people from Bombay know? When I visit I hardly have time to get out. Bombay repels and draws me in at the same time, and I always have mixed feelings about the place, maybe next time I visit I will try to get out a bit more and soak in the city.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

This Is America..Dreams And An Update

No This Ain’t A Part Of Bombed Out Iraq.. This Is America



When I take the train on my commute in to Baltimore what you see in the picture above is what I see. Everyday this serves as a reminder to me about our mistaken priorities as a nation. While we squander lives and money in a war against a nation that never attacked us, we have entire neighborhoods like the ones you see in this picture being overrun by drugs, guns and other vices and just abandoned.

Credit for the picture goes to Scott on whose blog I found this and other pictures. His post deals with slightly different issues (the poor state of our infrastructure, especially railroads). Any of you interested should visit his blog to see how truly devastating what we see everyday is. I am not numb to this, but a lot of us live in neighborhoods where you can live a lifetime without being aware that there is another America out there.
How in the world do we justify this while we call ourselves the greatest nation on earth?

Falling Down..

Some evenings when I am tired I get in to what I call a pre sleep sleep. It usually know that this will happen because the patterns are so darn similar every time. Here is what happens. I fall in to this light sleep and I start to dream. I am usually on a sidewalk about to step on to a street, or am going down a flight of stairs, or on a bridge, or in a high place like a mountain overlooking a steep valley.

And you can probably guess what happens next. I step off and fall. I then wake up with a start as if someone just hit me with a jolt of electricity. *A* noticed it once too.

I normally don’t think about this at all, but it happened on the train yesterday when I left work. I almost always power nap on the train for about 20 -30 mins. This time I had a dream that I stepped off a sidewalk and fell and like always woke up with a slight start. I wondered if the lady sitting next to me realized what had happened? Oh, I did sleep again, but this time someone else woke me up.

I have no clue what all this means, if any of you want to take a shot at interpreting this, go ahead.
Just for the record I don’t have any particular reason to worry about falling down nor do I have a fear of heights.

Update: Some of you take part in the Friday word. As per Mona the word this week is "Dance".

Monday, March 12, 2007

Not A Review..

One of the things I have lamented about (if not publicly), has been how harder it was for me to go watch indie and offbeat cinema in Delaware. We have a fairly decent multiplex about 20 mins drive away. But it shows a lot of movies I would not watch. Of course I have been thoroughly spoilt having lived in New Haven, Connecticut.

The city had at one time two movie houses that’s showed independent and not quite mainstream cinema. The York Square cinema, as rundown as it was, showed great movies. Sadly it has shut down now. But closer to downtown the Criterion cinemas has opened, just about the time we left town. It has newer facilities, but what I loved was you could buy a glass of wine in the lobby and then take it with you to the movie.

Back to Wilmington, we do have an art house cinema here, the theatre N. I have not been there yet. So that remains to be explored. With time and other constraints, we have sort of missed out on several good movies like volver, which we really wanted to watch.

What is the big deal right? I mean the movies do come out on DVD and we can watch them later no? True. However, I have always found something very alluring about the whole communal experience of going to watch a movie in a cinema house. I feel particularly strongly about being able to go and watch good alternative cinema, and maybe I am also looking for assurance that there are other people out there who enjoy these movies.

So this weekend, I was bitten by the movie bug. I wanted to see “Venus”. The only place running this movie was the Bryn Mawr Film Institute, over in the town of Bryn Mawr in Pennsylvania. I also was not sure what movie house it was running at. All I had was an address (I was in a rush and forgot to note the name of the place showing it). So I drive by this little building that called itself “Bryn Mawr Film Institute”. I have never been to this town, so was pleasantly surprised to find that it is home to both Villanova and the Bryn Mawr College.

The town reminded me of New Haven, Connecticut where we lived for almost a decade and I have a soft corner for college towns. There is an interesting story to this place as well. From their website..
“Bryn Mawr Film Institute (BMFI) is a non-profit community theater founded in 2002 by the region’s academic, business, and civic leaders. The Mission of BMFI is to strengthen our community by providing the opportunity for diverse segments to meet, learn, share ideas, and develop talents and understanding through the catalyst of film.”

The theater re-opened to the public on March 12, 2005 with Sir Ben Kingsley cutting the “ribbon” of 35mm film.
Sir Ben spoke eloquently of cinema as a “tribal mechanism by which we communicate profound aspects of humanity,”
I loved this cinema house and I feel like I discovered a small gem in our backyard, I plan to be back to catch movies here , what with the weather warming up and all, it should be fun.

On to the movie..Venus

I had read probably a review or two about this movie and based on that, knew that it should be something worth watching. I was not disappointed. There are plenty of reviews here, and this is not a review just my opinion about the film and how it connected with me. Plot summary below..
Screen legend Peter O'Toole stars in this moving story of an elderly actor and his somewhat questionable relationship with a teenage girl. Maurice (O'Toole) and his friend Ian (Leslie Phillips) are two classy curmudgeons whiling away their hours in coffee shops and at the theater, but their routine is thrown for a loop when Ian's niece's daughter Jessie (Jodie Whittaker) is sent from the country to act as his nurse. Jessie shows up on the scene sullen and pouty, immediately drinking all the liquor in the house and slouching her way from room to room. But Maurice befriends her, taking her to museums and getting her a gig as an art model, and along the way he openly expresses the lust she has awakened in him.

I loved this movie. It is a very touching and candid look at growing old and the toll that it takes on you in more ways than one. It is a frank examination of the reawakening of desire in a man who is almost in the doorway of death and how he feels alive once again.

Venus, has an excellent, excellent cast, and even Vanessa Redgrave in her small role as Maurice’s wife is just amazing. Maurice’s friend Ian (Leslie Phillips) is an admirable foil to Peter O’Toole’s Maurice. Jessie (Jodie Whittaker) also held her own against a giant such as O’Toole.
But this is O’Toole’s movie all the way. It is a very poignant performance by a truly great actor, if ever there was a high note to go out on this is it. One look at his eyes and you know that without saying a word he can convey so much more to the audience. I was reminded of this several times during the movie.

A number of scenes struck with me, especially the one where Maurice gets up along in his apartment next to the railroad tracks. As he looks out of the window while sitting on the bed, the sun falling on his face, his eyes say it all (the first time he even slaps himself in the face to get himself moving), the desolation and the loneliness.
There is a scene where Maurice waits by the river from the afternoon thru the evening for Jessie to show up for lunch. I thought that scene said a lot too although there are no close-ups of O’Toole.

There are some great lines in the movie too (typical wry English humor), I can’t recall them all now (sure sign I am getting there eh?). There are also a couple of moving scenes between Maurice and Ian and one with Maurice and his wife.

The evolution of the relationship between Jessie and Maurice is also beautifully handled by the director Roger Michell with the help of a screenplay by Hanif Kureish (some of you may be familiar with his earlier work esp “My beautiful laundrette”). The initial disdain and ignorance of that Jessie had for Maurice, gives way to a grudging respect and on to something akin to caring or dare I call it love in some form.

This is where the movie really works, because the inherent nature of a relationship such as this makes it nuanced, layered and complicated to explore and perhaps troubling in some way. To bring it alive on screen is perhaps even more hard, but it works here. The first time Maurice and Jessie go out, she passes out drunk in cab, her face on his chest. Maurice touches her face and that is an awkward moment, and as things change Jessie lets him kiss her bare shoulders and the moment while complex or even uncomfortable in some ways was also tender.

It also offered me a look at something I will have to face in a couple of decades and was a sobering reminder about the process of aging and increasing frailness. The reminder of what is coming stares at you in so many ways big and small. I have an opinion about how I would face life if I ever made it that far and found that I could no longer go on, on my own, but this is not the forum for it. The movie also brought home to me how my parents must be coping being on their own. I can only begin to imagine that.

This movie is worth your while, it only runs an hour and 35 minutes but it packs an emotional, gut wrenching punch. An authentic look at the sunset years of life and the nature of desire and it’s ability to take us to places high and low, that manifest themselves both in physical and mental ways, that can often surprise us.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday Stuff And Word "Tea"

After having socked you folks with some heavy posts, it is I guess it is time for something light.

Funny Billboards/Ads.. link

Barebecue Grill Drain Outdoor



Bus Poster for Duracell


Rain-Sensitive Billboard for Mascara



When it rains, mascara -- but apparently not Max Factor's -- runs. Simple. Similar to the famous "Pray for Rain" billboard for Playboy.
-- core 77

Friday Word Is "Tea"

Mona picked Gary to come up with the Friday poetry word. He picked "Tea". To find out why, please read his post here.
So in the spirit of the Friday word...

Tea…

My fingers caressed the mug

Tea..hot and steaming

Hint of ginger and cardamom

Elemental yet subliminal

She reached out

Her fingers cold at first touch..

In a sensual caress

Strokes of a paintbrush

Colors unnamed

She was my pulse and my heartbeat

Fingers interlinked.. exploring ways to touch the mug

To share in the warmth

To be a part of me

Eyes met across the table

Do eyes that say “I love you” have a color?

Leaning towards each other

Faces close

Breaths mingling

Eyes closed

A slow intake of breath

Inhaling each other and vapors

From the drink of life

Lips whisper.. barely touching

Words of love, lust and longing

Of comfort and joy and simple pleasures

Oh the peace of being with a loved one!

And a friend

At home.. at last.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Religious Belief An Evolutionary Perspective



Darwin's God (By ROBIN MARANTZ HENIG) is the title of the article on the cover of the New York Times magazine published on March 4th 2007.

If any of you have the patience or the desire to read the piece, it takes about 30-45 mins to read it. This is not quite a review, I just loved it so much and thought I would share it with you, and try to capture the essence of the arguments in my post.

What I loved about this article was how the author talks about the evolution of religious belief and of those that study it using what the author called a “Darwinian approach” . i.e. Could religious belief have served an evolutionary purpose? To those of you curious about the origins of physical, cultural, and the social customs and belief systems of humanity this may be a fun read.

To quote from the piece
“what evolutionary problems might have been solved by religious belief. Religion seemed to use up physical and mental resources without an obvious benefit for survival. Why, he wondered, was religion so pervasive, when it was something that seemed so costly from an evolutionary point of view?”
The debate as it rages within the scientific community has a few disagreements (surprise..surprise!) with the common thread being that “religious belief is an outgrowth of brain architecture that evolved during early human history”. The two main schools of thought to explain this happen to fall in to a) belief being adaptive or a b) byproduct of the evolutionary processes.

A good example of these two schools of thought, are seen in the traits found in blood cells. As the article says “Darwinians who study physical evolution distinguish between traits that are themselves adaptive, like having blood cells that can transport oxygen, and traits that are byproducts of adaptations, like the redness of blood. There is no survival advantage to blood’s being red instead of turquoise; it is just a byproduct of the trait that is adaptive, having blood that contains hemoglobin.”

The Byproductionists

A very interesting analogy to explain religious belief evolving as a byproduct of evolution is a spandrel. A spandrel is an architectural term for the V shaped space that is formed when 2 arches align, the space is there, it serves no real purpose just that it has formed as a byproduct of arches aligning. So if religious belief is a spandrel, what is it a byproduct of? Could be some of the things below?

Humans faced hardships during early life and that favored the development of cognitive tools such as agent detection (organisms that can cause you harm), causal reasoning (causal narrative for natural events) and theory of mind (other folks have their own belief, desire and intentions). The article provides examples of how these tools make it easy to have belief in the supernatural such as it being easy to believe that for a contemporary woman that her cancer treatment worked despite 10:1 odds to be either a reward for a prayer, a miracle rather than a lucky roll of the dice.

The other interesting example for theory of mind that I found attractive was that, once you posit the existence of minds then it is a short jump from there to suppose that the mind and the body can be decoupled, thus explaining that despite the dead, decaying physical body, one finds it easier to believe in the existence of the soul that can feel and then in the existence of a transcendent god.

The Adaptationists

Scott Atran an anthropologist, who is often quoted in the Sunday magazine uses the term folkpsychology for things such as the theory of mind, intentional stance and social cognition. We then learn about its obvious advantages from an adaptive point of view. Early humans used this to rapidly distinguish between good guys and bad guys. But if the byproduct theory folks are right and these beliefs are of little use in finding food and procreating, why do they persist? They could, as the article says because evolution always produces something that works for the purpose it was designed for and then there is no control for however it may be used for another purpose.

Other interesting arguments include assertions like humans being hardwired for belief, somewhat like we are for language and that the language we learn depends on the cultural environment we grow up in as do the environments that dictate ones religious beliefs

Adaptationists talk about how religion can offer solace to the bereaved and comfort to the scared, while the spandrelists counter saying that the existence of comforting beliefs does not offer and adaptive advantage.

Belief in an afterlife is easier as one of the ways we make sense of other people is by trying to be in their shoes, but tying to comprehend something as radical as “not being there” or not existing is akin to running in to a “cognitive wall”. This made it easier to believe that there is an afterlife as it is hard to simulate the nonexistence of loved ones.

Adaptationists also bring out an argument which sort of makes some logical sense in that religion may have offered advantages at the individual level (feel better, more focused on the future, obedience, morality) and at the group level (cohesive, sharing resources and preparing for war).

The article quotes several heavy hitters such as Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, Scott Atran, Daniel Dennet, Sam Harris and a few others.

In closing, I have no answers about where I fall on this issue, but purely from an anthropological perspective, this article educated, informed, stimulated and made me think. For me therein lies its success. I loved the last 2 paragraphs from the article which are quoted below, as you might have guessed the first one appealed to me a lot.
What can be made of atheists, then? If the evolutionary view of religion is true, they have to work hard at being atheists, to resist slipping into intrinsic habits of mind that make it easier to believe than not to believe. Atran says he faces an emotional and intellectual struggle to live without God in a nonatheist world, and he suspects that is where his little superstitions come from, his passing thought about crossing his fingers during turbulence or knocking on wood just in case. It is like an atavistic theism erupting when his guard is down. The comforts and consolations of belief are alluring even to him, he says, and probably will become more so as he gets closer to the end of his life. He fights it because he is a scientist and holds the values of rationalism higher than the values of spiritualism.
This internal push and pull between the spiritual and the rational reflects what used to be called the “God of the gaps” view of religion. The presumption was that as science was able to answer more questions about the natural world, God would be invoked to answer fewer, and religion would eventually recede. Research about the evolution of religion suggests otherwise. No matter how much science can explain, it seems, the real gap that God fills is an emptiness that our big-brained mental architecture interprets as a yearning for the supernatural. The drive to satisfy that yearning, according to both adaptationists and byproduct theorists, might be an inevitable and eternal part of what Atran calls the tragedy of human cognition.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Monday Mumblings..

If we aren’t confronting our own mortality, some of us are at an age where we confront it as it approaches some of our loved ones, usually aging parents. I speak for myself here. My parents are in their 80s. Dad (88 now) has usually (touchwood) been in good health but the body starts to give out at some point as age and time go about their inevitable take down.

Mum is the one with assorted health issues incl non-insulin dependent diabetes, high blood pressure and a weak heart. That and she get stressed out easily. Combine that will all the meds she has to take and their side effects. Her kidneys are not great, she has bad knees, and does not get out much out of the house these days.

I am the only son, they do have domestic help, but things still need to get done around the house. I have a sis who lives close by and she has her own life too but despite that she helps out.

It’s a routine phone call that I make every Sunday to check on my parents. This also happens to be one that holds some trepidation for me. Sometimes merely hearing a change of tone will tell me if one of them is not feeling well.

My dad despite all his rough edges and non demonstrative nature always helps out in the house. Ever since mum realized that with her failing health she can’t but rely on dad, they don’t disagree with each other as much. Otherwise to me they always seemed to be at loggerheads, locked in a battle that neither of them wanted to back out of.

So I was a bit surprised when my normally reserved dad said to me.. “Son, I feel tired these days. It’s hard when you live to be this old and your body gives out. It’s probably better to not live this long”.

It must be hard for him, to care for himself and mum. Me being this far away does not help either. All I could say was hang in there dad. But to me they were just words I said. The emotions that slice thru me after calls like these are a mix of guilt, sadness, frustration, anger at my self for leaving the land of my birth in search for a better life and leaving them behind. I usually manage to push them away by going out running or working out or doing something else to take my mind off things.

But this one just sort of broke my heart. My sis has told me to be ready to come down on short notice. I mean what does that even mean? Am I supposed to keep this thought at the back of my mind and go about life? Maybe I should.

Either way not being religious puts a bit of a different twist on this for me. Perhaps religion also partly evolved over time to help us deal with mortality better, our own and that of our loved ones. That does not work for me (religion does not make it any easy for me to deal with death). I thought about this and the inherently skeptical nature I have about things that can’t be explained empirically. My opinions on how I would like to go when and if I make it to that age might ruffle some feathers so am gonna keep it for another day.

And sometimes some of these thoughts come to me at the strangest of places. While catching my breath at the weight bench, I recalled this kid who lived in our apartment complex when I was no more than 10 – 12. Shekhar was the son of very religious parents and about my age. They were South Indian and would always have ash/sandalwood on their foreheads. Their home was adorned with pictures and idols that belong to the pantheon of Hindu gods and goddesses. I went to his place one day and he noticed me looking at a picture of one of the many Hindu deities. He said to me that picture is special. I asked him why? He said, the picture spontaneously generates vermilion, and it’s the work of god. To this day I recall sounding cynical about it, it must have shown, as he said, you have to believe in god no? I said yes.

Maybe the seeds of my views were laid way back then and there is no larger point to this post, just another ramble about things.

I am not quite sure how I will deal with things with my folks. I dread visiting India these days. The last visit was for a death (A’s brother). A is not inclined to visit anymore and my next trips may well be on my own. I have no friends left behind. People I know seem like strangers or maybe I have become a stranger to them. I visit the land of my birth with a feeling of disquiet in me. I don’t feel like I belong in anyone place anymore. When I visit I seem to withdraw within myself, almost as if I am afraid to feel. What is it that I feel or I am afraid of? Feelings that my roots are not deep enough or that they have already been ripped out? Or are they so deep that I don’t want to deal with reminders of where I came from.
There are good things that the homogenized life in America does for me, but there are aspects to it that are less pleasant but worthy of analysis at some point. Shopping and watching escapist TV does not work for me, in case you wondered.

Yes I do sound muddled I guess, but as Socrates once said “An unexamined life is not worth living”.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Friday Word

As per Mona, the friday word is "Hide". I apparently have trouble doing that from this place, despite my last post about being away. Yes I am away in some ways and not in others.

Words…words…
Flowing in a torrent
Fingers dancing in a manic rhythm
Crystals formed from distillates of memories
Jagged edges penetrating consciousness
Mangled.. tangled into knots of hell
Words that wanted to hide
As he tried to form them
They no longer wanted to feel what he felt
That would be his lonesome burden to bear
From this day on there would be words no more
Leaving behind a silent cacophony…

Thursday, March 01, 2007

On The Road




Folks I am out of town for a few days . I hope to be back blogwise sometime next week. I don't really know. I want to thank you all for still caring enough to read the stuff here that passes for a blog. I will visit your blogs at somepoint soon.

Stay safe.