Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thursday Musings..

Because Sometimes They Say It Better Than Me.

I have previously commented at the sad state of American media and the endless focus on celebrity shenanigans or news of the trivial, while a bloody war rages on draining this country of resources and lives.
The nation appears to be blithely marching on busy shopping and paying more attention to American Idol than the decisions of officials which will affect generations both present and the next.
Nothing like perspective from a Marine’ father. From the subscription only section of the NYTimes,
this article jumped out at me.


A Marine’s Father Asks That We Recall What Truly Matters
By
PETER
APPLEBOME

ROCKAWAY, N.J.
A few years back, when he worked part time
for a limousine company in Parsippany, George Somjen was the driver on a day
when Gene Simmons of the rock group Kiss went to visit his mother. She offered
Mr. Somjen whitefish for lunch, and he got to see her basement filled with Kiss
memorabilia.
So it was perfectly natural for Mr. Somjen to write to Mr.
Simmons last week, after watching an episode of Mr. Simmons’s reality show,
“Family Jewels,” in which he visited Camp Pendleton and a veterans’
hospital.
In the letter, Mr. Somjen mentioned his son in Iraq, the agony of
being the father of a marine serving overseas, and the daunting conditions
soldiers face there.
“In that show, you cried when speaking with a veteran,”
Mr. Somjen wrote. “We cry every day.” He noted a litany of the absurd and the
ephemeral in the news — the
Anna
Nicole Smith
drama, Roger
Clemens
’s salary, Paris Hilton. He went on. “I beg you, implore you to use
your fame, power and presence to help our military. I will do whatever I can to
help but can never reach the multitude that you can.”
He has written to
others: a local columnist, the cable news commentator Nancy Grace. After reading
a column about Edwin L. Eaton, the city manager of Long Beach, on Long Island,
who lowered the town’s flags to half-staff as a reminder that the war goes on
amid the gaudy celebrity cavalcade of American life, he wrote to me.
Memorial
Day, the day we stop, more or less, to remember the war dead, is over. The real
news moves on — just ask Lindsay Lohan, back this week at the top of the
celebrity dysfunction charts. But like Mr. Eaton, Mr. Somjen wasn’t ready to
move on. What kind of country are we, he wanted to know, captivated by this
endless cavalcade of trash news in the midst of horrific carnage overseas? How
do you balance the endless coverage of people famous for being famous and the
relative invisibility of the people who fight the war?
….
He pulled out a
clip. It was about
Britney
Spears
. “Recently I was sent to this very humbling place called rehab,” she
was quoted as saying. “I truly hit rock bottom.” Mr. Somjen rolled his eyes.
“You know what, Britney? Iraq’s a humbling place.
What does he want? He wants
to know why military personnel pay for their own uniforms and haircuts and other
essentials. Why parents who can afford it have to send boxes and boxes of food
and supplies overseas.

Mr. Somjen… don’t be holding your breath. Nothing is gonna change, the democrats are ineffectual and can’t stand up against a President who has a less than 30% approval. Americans except the ones doing the fighting aren’t making any sacrifices, just passing on the bill to their kids.

Yes its a rant, I just felt like one.

Melamine From The US In Feed

While the Chinese were rightly blamed for their lax standards when Melamine ended up in pet food in the US made from wheat flour imported from China. Apparently we have some issues too and this one was revealed only because a distributor worried about what was in its feed binders after the reports from China got theirs tested. From the NYTimes link

Melamine From U.S. Put in Feed
By ANDREW MARTIN
Ever since pet food
contaminated with an industrial chemical was traced to shipments of wheat flour
from China, American officials have concentrated on cracking down on
imports.
It turns out the problem was closer to home, too.
Yesterday,
federal officials announced that a manufacturing plant in
Ohio
was using the same banned substance, melamine, to make binding agents that ended
up in feed for farmed fish, shrimp and livestock.
The problem surfaced after
a distributor, concerned about what was in its feed binders after the reports
from China, sent the product to a private laboratory for testing.
The
melamine was used by
Tembec
BTLSR, a Canadian forest products company with a small chemical plant in Toledo,
to make binding agents that keep pellets of animal feed together, said Dr. David
Acheson, assistant commissioner for food protection at the
Food
and Drug Administration
.
Melamine is not permitted in food or pet food
products. In the last few months, pet food contaminated with melamine, all
traced back to China, sickened or killed thousands of pets in the United
States.
Dr. Acheson said the levels of melamine and melamine-related
compounds in Tembec’s products were far lower than that found in wheat flour
from China that ended up killing the pets. Consequently, the authorities said
that they thought the contamination did not appear to pose a risk to human
health.


We All Need To Smile Too..

"At a press conference somebody finally stood up to Bush: a bird shit on him. Here's what is wrong with this man: he looked at it, and then wiped it off with his bare hand. And this is the guy who doubts that he descended from an ape." - Bill Maher

"Experts said this is going to be a very busy hurricane season. To which FEMA said, 'Not for us.'" - Jay Leno

"The [Iraq funding] bill contains a plan to establish 18 benchmarks. It's sort of like punishing your child by saying, 'If you don't get your grades up, you are grounded---unless, of course, you would like to go out. And by the way, you are grading yourself. And I keep the pot in the silverware drawer." - Jon Stewart

Monday, May 28, 2007

Not A Review Of “Away From Her

Release Date: May 4th, 2007

Director and Screenplay: Sarah Polley

Starring: Julie Christie, Olympia Dukakis, Gordon Pinsent, Wendy Crewson, Michael Murphy, Kristen Thomson, Alberta Watson

I think I came across this movie first while reading a New York Times article about upcoming movies. It was not just the theme of the movie, but also who was behind it that caught my attention. The movie is directed by the Canadian actress Sarah Polley, who I first saw in Atom Egoyan’s critically acclaimed “The Sweet Hereafter” and I was amazed at her abilities as an actor. She is not yet 29 and this is her maiden directorial feature film and it is a very impressive debut indeed. I saw this movie this past weekend at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute cinema and I have to say the movie stayed with me for a long time after I had left the theater.

The story is based on Alice Munro’s short story The Bear Came Over the Mountain, which appeared in the New Yorker. Sarah found out about the story while returning from a film shoot in Iceland. In her interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air Sarah talks about the making of this movie. You can take a listen here.

The story in a nutshell..

If any of you have read about this movie, you may sometimes hear something akin to the term.. “sad” or “emotionally wrenching” thrown at it. It is certainly that but to think about the movie in simply those terms almost reduces it to one of those made for TV movie specials that are dealing with a debilitating disease. Not to knock any of those movies, but there are those and then there is “Away from her”.

It is a very intimate look at a couple Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona (Julie Christie) in a long loving marriage that often seems calm through most of its 44 years. I use the term often seem calm for there are hints, at events from the past and the references to those are restrained, hinting at things being unlike a fairy tale.

The movie deals with the effects on both the protagonists when Fiona’s memory and her notion of herself as a person slowly starts to slip away after she is afflicted with Alzheimer’s. The two main characters are ably assisted by Michael Murphy in the role of a mostly mute fellow Alzheimer’s patient(Aubrey) that Fiona’s character bonds with and the amazing Olympia Dukakis who plays his wife Marian.

Alzheimer’s is a rare disease in the sense that it slowly takes away the people it afflicts, right in front of the eyes of their loved ones. Can you imagine entire lives being slowly but steadily erased lives that include entire chronicles of one’s family and friends? This is not an easy task for a director to handle and Sarah Polley does it very skillfully assisted by some very fine measured performances.

To me this was a movie about love, and how the nature of love changes if at all especially after decades have gone by. What if there are tribulations from the past under the surface, yet there are bonds as well, and how do they endure under pressures that would cause most of us to crumble if not fall apart. The movie examines love and its limitations and the notion of loyalty and how it gets redefined. It does so in a poignant, candid, intelligent and a heart breaking manner. The movie makes us think and it stays with us and there lies its success (in my opinion).

This film has some lovely background music and beautiful, snowy desolate locations from Southern Ontario (very picture postcard like and beautiful) where the cottage that Grant and Fiona live in is located.

I loved the literary references (W. H. Auden’s Letters from Iceland, Michael Ondaatje’s The Cinnamon Peeler) in the movie, and the fact both of them loved books.

We see small signs of Fiona’s gradual slipping away from the opening moments when while doing dishes, Fiona puts the washed pan in to the freezer, to moments of amazing lucidity, when during a walk through the Brant conservation area, she chances upon some skunk lillies and can recall details about them that make us and Grant wonder about her state.

I thought Gordon Pinsent's performance as Grant was restrained and understatedly brilliant. He is 77 and does not look that age at all. The gorgeous Julie Christie at 66 looks achingly beautiful and delivers a marvelous performance that is a mix of hope, fear, fragility and a sense of humor and I hope is remembered come award time. Olympia Dukakis’s Marian is a great portrayal of a spouse who has given up on the notion that there could be happiness or romance for her but yet she and Grant manage to find each other to form a relationship. The nature of this like some other things are left for us to interpret. If this was the filmmakers intent I like it, for rarely are things in life white and black.

The scenes between Grant and Marian as they go from their initial frostiness to their shared intimacy as their respective spouses fade away due to the disease are touching to watch. It is against this backdrop that we see the increasing affections between Fiona and Marian’s husband Aubrey at the nursing home which show the insularity of their world as their ties to their loved ones slip away.

Going back to Grant’s performance, there are scenes that absolutely blow you away. It is sort of hinted that Grant has been less than perfect as a husband and you watch him struggle as he tries to be the husband he has not been. Is his attempt at trying to bring Aubrey back to the nursing home to help Fiona deal with her depression that results from their separation (possibly as Marian cannot afford to keep him there anymore) or a truly selfless love knowing that it will not be returned?

The scene where Grant returns to the nursing home after Fiona is first admitted after a mandatory 30 day separation is emotional to watch, as he brings her flowers and she seems to have forgotten who he is. The transformation in him is conveyed very well by his eyes and his body language and not much has to be said by the actor.

The line from Fiona “Must all seem strange to you, but you’ll be surprised how soon you will get used to it” at the end of that encounter and other things in the movie made me wonder if she was having revenge on Grant for his indiscretion? I liked how there was ambiguity around this whole issue as well as the ending of the movie when Grant and Fiona hug each other, to me it almost seemed like she was back albeit briefly but she was back to who she was. It made me wonder about what had happened up to that point, and their lies the heart of this story, that there are no easy answers in this situation, this reality that is the world of those affected by this disease is just inescapable.

While reading up some more related material for this post, I came across this quote from the director Sarah Polley that I leave you with..

“we care much more about the first year or two of a relationship than we do about what happens as life happens — how people then find each other and how their love is expressed" as they grow older.”

This for me is easily this year's best film so far.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Word

As per Mona, the Friday word is "Trip". I took the easy way out and posted some more pics from my Denmark/Sweden trip in a slide show below. As you can tell, I love trains.
I may have time to do a poem later, am not sure though. Enjoy your weekend folks!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Random Notes...

Remember the controversy over the Richard Gere- Shilpa Shetty hug?
Across the border from India religious nuts of a different flavor got all riled up over a hug by the Pakistani Tourism minister after a charity parachute jump. She hugged her instructor. link

The Pakistani Tourism Minister resigned yesterday after hardline Islamic clerics accused her of obscenity for hugging her instructor after a charity parachute jump.
Nilofer Bakhtiar was photographed in brightly coloured jumpsuit and hugging her instructor after a tandem jump to raise money for child victims of the earthquake that struck Pakistan in October 2005.
The images provoked the wrath of clerics in Islamabad, who accused Ms Bakhtiar of posing in an obscene manner and violating the Islamic moral norms.

A religious court set up by the clerics at a radical mosque in Islamabad issued a fatwa, or religious edict, against Ms Bakhtiar when the photographs appeared in local newspapers last month. They urged the Government to punish her and dismiss her from the Cabinet. Ms Bakhtiar failed to win the support of Cabinet colleagues and the Government appeared to cave in to the demands of the militants.


Delaware Chooses Wind Power..

This was the title of Tommywonk's post and his was the blog I turned to when I read about it originally in the Delaware drinking liberally invite. Tommy if you are reading this space, I tip my hat at you for being so proactive on this issue (unlike me, I am not as informed about our local politics as I would like to be). This is good news although construction won't begin for 2 years, it is a good start though.

This reminded me of the time a year ago when I was picked to participate in a poll by the University of Delaware to gauge my opinion as a citizen of Delaware about an offshore wind farm. Needless to say I was strongly in favor of one.

From the link to the News Journal article...

DOVER -- Environmentalists exchanged high-fives on Tuesday after four Delaware agencies ordered Delmarva Power to negotiate to buy power from a proposed offshore wind farm -- the first in the United States.
Negotiations begin Thursday between Delmarva and Bluewater Wind to see if they can strike a long-term agreement to harness the wind over the Atlantic Ocean for Delmarva's standard offer service customers.

Delmarva also will negotiate with NRG Energy and Conectiv Energy to buy backup electricity, to pitch in on peak demand days, from a proposed natural gas-fired power plant in Sussex County. The agencies, gathering for a Public Service Commission meeting Tuesday, suggested NRG's Indian River site in Millsboro.


Bluewater says its wind farm would provide pollution-free, stably priced electricity for decades. The parties will consider placing scores of wind turbines, perhaps as many as 200, 7.2 miles off Bethany Beach or 12.5 miles off Rehoboth Beach. The turbines would be 406 feet tall, with the top 150 feet being the thin, spinning blades.
It would be the first wind farm built off the coast of this country.
I wish we would go this route faster, but it is nice to see this happening in our state.



Lotusreads asked me in the comments of the last post, if I had bought anything from the confectioner's place. Indeed we did. A Japanese style tea pot that we really liked. So Lotus, that is what we got, and we hope to use that teapot this weekend to make that amazing tea. :)



Yet Another Picture From Denmark..
We visited our friend Marie's office in Copenhagen and as we were leaving I happened to look down this passageway, and I liked what I saw. I now wish I had gone a few more floors and that might have made for a better picture. I liked the clean, bare, blue/gray lines and the design of the chairs and their bright lovely orange color and the way they are arranged. I dig Danish design!





Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Trip To Malmo, Sweden..

This trip came about as a result of our host Thomas's suggestion that going to Malmo would not be a bad idea, since trains from Copenhagen to Malmo across the Oresund strait run every 20 mins, and the train ride is only 30-40 mins long. Thomas is familiar with Malmo has he used to work in Sweden and commuted regularly there.




So we took the train, one can drive too and I wish we had, because this bridge is an engineering marvel and is the longest combined road/rail bridge in Europe. I attached a pic from wikipedia and a link too. The bridge is exactly how it looks from the air, I was able to see it as we flew in to Copenhagen.







I think driving on the road lets one see it better, from the train it is hard to get a sense of the sheer engineering marvel that this brdige is as you can gauge from the one pic (bridge) that I included.









Malmo is a nice small town that used to be part of Denmark for a long time, before it went back to Sweden. It is no longer as prominent as it used to be before but now population is more middle class. The train we caught goes all the way in to Goteborg in Sweden, and you can catch trains to get to other parts of Sweden from Malmo as well.



The canal that runs across the train station in Malmo, was a rather cold and blustery day.












Malmo has 2-3 plazas with nice buildings and restaurants, small shops. It is surely felt touristy at least the parts that we walked around. A lot of Danes actually work in Copenhagen and live in Malmo as houses are much cheaper and the train commute is such a breeze. The big plaza has some nice looking hotels, buildings and statues, as you can tell I was too lazy to write down more about those statues/sculptures.






The smaller and prettier of the town squares.












The hand made confectioner shop. It had a most amazing collection of teas from all over the world, many more than the types of sweets/chocolates they had for sale.



















Initially thought centiliter and gram was some sort of a scientific equipment shop, it was a restaurant, thought that was a rather interesting name for an eating place.Did not have time to check it out though.














This little shoe/curios shop was in the small square in Malmo, I just liked the colors on this one, esp the shoes and the stand.














I loved this group again did not look for info about it :-/














We did find an Indian restaurant on the small plaza, where we grabbed a decent lunch. Not a whole lot to rave about but the tandoor chicken was fantastic.



















*A* does not want me posting pictures of her on the blog, but this one passes. On the train to Malmo.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Hiatus Shmiatus..

The issues that bedevil me continue to do so, but I might as well blog eh?
I want to firstly thank all of you for all your kind words, they are much appreciated!
For the Friday word go to Mona's, I may do something around it maybe over the weekend.


My reason to visit Denmark.. I was craving Tibetan food!!! ;-)
Just kidding, except for one day my general pattern for this short trip was
Day 1. Homebound.
Day 2. Homebound till almost noon, train to city centre, walked aimlessly away from city centre.
Day 3. Homebound till almost noon, train to city centre, walked aimlessly within city centre.
Day 4. *A* and I hopped on the train to Malmo, Sweden walked around some more. This time she made sure I wasn’t wandering around and that there was a method to what looked like my madness.

And you guys wonder why I am not posting anything about my trip? I had fun trust me, this being our second visit to Denmark and to the truly wonderful city of Copenhagen. Just not sure that it’s everyone’s definition of fun though.


Back to the Tibetan food, on Day 2 as I wandered the streets around the Nyhavn (New Harbor) neighborhood, I encountered this sign on the sidewalk pointing to a restaurant offering Tibetan cuisine on one of the many smaller streets around Nyhavn. Seeing the sign brought back memories of the Tibetan restaurant “Tibetan Kitchen” which was a block from where we lived in NYC near the NYU medical center. That was more than a decade ago and I figured why not check it out. The place is called “Himalaya” and turns out it offered Tibetan and Nepali food. The sign on the sidewalk was of it’s avatar from five months ago when they were purely Tibetan. I think it was around 4 pm in the afternoon, and as I walked into the place I heard Bollywood music blaring over the sound system as opposed to say calming Tibetan chants.
Bollywood it is so eevil I tell ya.. eevil ;-)


I also saw this Tibetan costume on what appeared to be a mannequin and when I first set my eyes upon it I almost did a double take, the place was as you can see rather dimly lit and my first response was..whoa! That is one dressed up serving staff!.

The only server in the place said they were still 15 mins away from opening, so I could sit there or come back. I thought I would walk around some more (I had probably walked 3-4 miles already up to that point).

I was most likely their first customer of the evening. Same person who I spoke to before showed me to my table and got me the menu. And I could not figure much out from it as it was in Danish, so he finally finds me an old tattered menu in English. And so we started talking, I asked him about where he was from. His name it turns out was “Ram” which is almost like “Jim” or “Jimbo” is in our neck of the woods here. He was from Nepal, and the dishes I ordered were his recommendations. He was from Nepal and after we talked a bit in English, he asked me if I can speak Hindi. I can and we did converse in Hindi and I was kind of shocked at how stilted my Hindi sounded.


Tired from my walk, I ordered some Tibetan tea as I needed a bit of a “pick me up”. Tibetan tea is almost like desi chai except for the fact that they add a touch of salt and ghee. It was interesting, not sure it would appeal to all palates at all. But I did appreciate the hint of creaminess from the ghee and its own different aroma and flavor which came through rather well.

I started off with appetizers, I had momos. These were lightly stuffed dumplings wrapped in a decorative dough served with chilli and green salad. They are also Tibet's national dish as per the description I saw and can be served steamed or fried. They was really quite nice esp the spiciness of the dip which was a lot stronger than the subtle bite of the fillings which were relatively mild. I had one each with chicken, beef and vegetable fillings.

I had the Lhasa Sosha as my entrée which is basically beef marinated in honey, soy and a dry sherry. It was served with green peppers, tomato, and some caramelized onions and fresh herbs.


I loved this, the beef was tender, well marinated and the sesame seeds on it went well with the flavors of the soy and honey. I had a hard time trying to discern the sherry though, I thought the soy might have over powered it. The onions, tomato and peppers were just perfect and juicy and not at all dry. I thought it was a very well done dish. I am not sure how truly authentic this cuisine is but it tasted good to me. I passed on the dessert as I was sort of stuffed.

Probably was a good idea. Some folks have told me how they would find it hard to like nap on a train in a foreign land especially when they are new to it, and are nto familiar with things. But guess what happens to me? I hop on to one of these trains that you see int he picture below, find myself a seat and promptly doze off and miss my stop Emdrup, and end up going to the next station.

I had to get off and then head back to our friends Marie n Thomas's place. By that time Marie n *A* were back from their conference and wondering where the heck I was and when I told them why I was late over the phone, I am sure they were amused.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The hiatus continues.. and what if it does not end?

I have been back from the Denmark trip and managed to pop in to Sweden as well. But work and not work has been keeping me busy and I have found it hard to visit as many blogs as I would normally like to. But over the coming days I hope to catch up with folks via their blogs.

I have posts written up that I can’t seem to want to publish, including those of my trip to Denmark/Sweden where I don’t believe I did anything particularly touristy or anything remotely interesting.

So the hiatus continues with a possibility that it may not be over. I guess it is no longer a hiatus if it is not over at some point is it?

I don’t expect any of you who watch this space to have to suffer thru this.

And I have nothing except for this bit from a book that I am currently reading. It appears to be from the works of a poet called Mir, which is about all I know about this person.

One day I walked into the shops of the glass-blowers
And asked: O makers of the cup, have you perhaps a glass
Shaped like a heart?
They laughed and said: You wander in vain.
O Mir, each cup you see round or oval, every glass
Was once a heart that we melted on the fire and blew
Into a cup.
That’s all you see here, there is no glass.


I guess there is more than one interpretation of this poem.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Delayed Friday Word And Am Off To Denmark

As per Mona the Friday word was belly, my delayed contribution below. I should be back late next week. Thank you for stopping by.
The poem may offend some sensibilities..

Belly…

You laugh that husky laugh of yours

Head back against the pillows hair splayed out under you

My arms on either side of you supporting myself

Our bodies sans clothes barely touch

Your arms around my neck, caressing my hair with your fingers

Our lips hover close a piece of chocolate spiced with orange held between yours

Your lips part soft and supple, covered with the melting confiture

As I take it from yours and our lips meet

A blend of saliva and chocolat.. sweet and sensual

The fast liquefying confectionery in my mouth

Teasingly you whisper.. there is more than one place to eat this off

Is it so..I ask my left eyebrow raised questioningly

I drag my lips and tongue down your chin

Along the hollow of your neck and between your heaving breasts

Their nipples rising up

Down your tummy to the contours of your belly button

Where my candy covered lips create a hazel colored swirl

As you moan in pleasure

And sighs of delight..

My tongue flicks the now molten bonbon around my mouth

Warm and gooey guided by my lips in a straight line

Down your mound where it covers the silky curls

In twists of rich brown love

Till they find your yoni lips

Silky smooth and satiny pink

Now melding with the chocolate

And warm lips and a tongue

That splits them thrusting within

And moving along

Covering your clit with a mélange

Of sweet sugar, bitter chocolate and the

Ambrosia of your love and mine

Sweet sighs and animal sounds escape your lips

As your body arches up supported by my hands under you

Lips sip and tongue whips for more

Legs wrapped around shoulders

A frenzy of passion that knows no bounds

Explodes blowing my senses

With the sweetness of your womanhood in full bloom

As a tear rolls down my cheek on to your yoni...