Thursday, July 31, 2008

Big old bunch of girly

Two nights of high quality, emotionally wrought Shah Rukh Khan weepiness. And the madness continues...

Tuesday it was Mohabbatein (2000). A young teacher inspires his students to live and, especially, to love, in rebellion against their school's harsh headmaster. There are various obvious problems with the plot, but it has one of the best pre-intermission confrontations ever. Shah Rukh gets all in Amitabh's face, even pointing his finger at him, and giving an intense, dramatic speech of the "I swear, I will bring you DOWN" variety. Except what he's saying is that he's going to fill the school with so much love and sunshine that the old guy won't be able to stand it. It's like: I curse you with happiness! Take that!

Really, it's not the singing and dancing. It's the themes that seem so different from most American movies; and I like these themes. This struck me again at the end of Mohabbatein. Now, we've just watched three and a half hours of music and assorted romances. Then it turns out that the major concern of the movie, the absolute crux of the drama, is the reconciliation between the guy with the tragic lost love in his past and her father, the person who tore them apart. And the climax is when the two men embrace in forgiveness and respect.

I was getting all misty-eyed and thinking, WTF? I mean, there are American movies about literal father/son relationships, and how they grow from estrangement to understanding. But "find the person who wronged you most, and make their world a better place" would be a crazy premise for a major motion picture in these parts. (Unless there were something explicitly "inspirational," in the sense of religious or Hallmark Hall of Fame, about it, and that's a whole different genre).

Then it was Veer-Zaara (2004) on Wednesday. I actually had to stop watching a little bit after the intermission, because I was already getting so weepified that I needed a break. There was the scene when they poured Bebe's ashes into the river; when Preity inspired Amitabh to build a girls' school; when Rani stood up to the prison guard and pointed out that Shah Rukh's ID was Allah's most holy number, so he should be treated with respect...

If I was getting all choke-throated about that stuff, you can imagine how the lovers parting at the station ("There's a man across the border who would give his life for you") affected me. When my honey got home, I threw myself at him and announced how grateful I am that there are no larger forces in the world wrenching us apart.

Now I'm at the point where Preity is preparing to dutifully marry the other man, but she's haunted by the thought of Shah Rukh. I don't know how much more I can take. There'd better be a happy ending, or I'm going to be a wreck.

Fortunately, our set of Spaced DVDs came in the mail the other day, so I can divide up the drama with some nerd humor and hopefully get me back to normal.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Jim Gordon Show

The Haunted Vinyl family finally made it to the new Dark Knight movie yesterday, and yes, it's everything everyone says it is. It's dark; it's great; it's long (although it didn't feel too long, which is the main thing, and it's still short compared to a Bollywood movie); I wouldn't bring any little kids, etc. But I'm here to sing some more specific praises.

Back when I was a combo sci fi nerd/punk rock kid, watching Sid and Nancy at the Fargo Theater, I wouldn't have dreamed that the same actor who seemed born to play a Sid Vicious as real as the real thing would years later seem born to play the ultimate, perfect Commissioner Gordon. That would seem to defy probability. And yet, there's Gary Oldman, frankly looking hotter as a fairly ordinary middle-aged cop than he did in a whole career of playing psychos...and Dracula! A role that's traditionally got "sexy" built in.

Even more twistily, my husband commented that if they'd made a Dark Knight-style Batman movie twenty years ago, Oldman would have been perfect for the kind of Joker portrayed so well by Heath Ledger. Absolutely true. But I think I appreciate his talent more in the important part of the normal human being who can hold his own against both Batman and all the crazy masked villains. As in comics like The Killing Joke, Gordon is the character who sees the darkness and chaos of the world, and he resists despair. As he says in this movie, he does the best he can with what he has. Even though it doesn't always work out, that's my kind of hero.

So now, my dream for the Batman universe is a police procedural TV show about the adventures of Oldman's Jim Gordon. He can go to departmental meetings, fill out paperwork, have lunch with his wife...even solve a murder occasionally. I'm not picky.

And in your crazy factoid of the day: the EastEnders character Big Mo is played by Oldman's older sister. Sometimes the IMDB makes my head hurt!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I watches the Watchmen

I'd been resisting watching the new Watchmen trailer online, because I'd read in national magazines that the trailer was attached to The Dark Knight. It's not like me to resist temptation that way, and what do I get for going against my spoilery/eat dessert first impulses? Friends who saw the new Batman movie in the theater here have reported no Watchmen-age.


Fine! To YouTube I go, and, whoa. I've been trying not to get my hopes up, but this trailer is awesome: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4blSrZvPhU. Then I did a little clicking around on the related videos, and found an earlier fan-made teasure trailer that features Rorschach and the doomsday clock, which made me go "Squeee!" even louder.


Watching that got me to thinking about the plot, how Watchmen in general, and the ending in particular, is so much darker than most Hollywood productions get to be in this day and age. (We're going to Dark Knight today, though, so I may have updated opinions). So I looked up a few things about the ending online, speculation about whether the ending would be changed, and to my surprise, I discovered there isn't a lot of consensus out there about how the graphic novel itself ends.


In all these years, it has honestly never occurred to me that anyone could read the ending as ambiguous. In my mind, it's always been very clear.

MAJOR SPOILERS!!: throughout the book, each chapter includes a full-page drawing of the doomsday clock, at so many minutes to midnight. In its alternative present, the Cold War is close to a boiling point, and much of the primary mystery involves an attempt to save the world from nuclear brinksmanship, and midnight represents the moment when...

In each issue, the clock is a minute closer to midnight. Eventually, the plot unravels; the major climax occurs; we follow the aftermath on the characters; and the storyline as such ends with the cranks at the conspiracy theory newspaper reaching for the journal, mailed to them by crazy Rorschach, which includes his part of the comic's narration.


This is described thusly in the Wikipedia, for one: "The ending of Watchmen is ambiguous about the long-term success of Veidt's plan to lead the world to utopia...The final line of the story is that of the editor's superior, indifferent as to which piece from the crank file is selected. He tells his subordinate - who has been established as not particularly bright - "I leave it entirely in your hands." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watchmen)

I've read a lot of random people, some of whom seem very smart, who think the book ends with the apocalypse averted, albeit with a possibility that the truth will eventually come out and ruin the newfound peace.

But the last page show the clock striking midnight, with the clock face covered in blood, and that just doesn't strike me as terribly open-ended. After all, it's a comic, and the visual image too me is as important, maybe more so, than the end of the storyline per se. Or maybe I just have too much of an apocalyptic temperament...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

My favorite typo

During a discussion of tantric magicians by Sohaila Kapur in Witchcraft in Western India: "Most of these self-styled gurus were freuds, bent upon exploiting the people's gullibility." (p. 55)

That one speaks for itself.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

This Be the Verse, not that

Took a break from computer upgrades at work (oy vey, in its literal meaning: "oh, the pain!") and flipped through the latest People magazine. I've already forgotten who was on the cover. Oh, yeah, the Joliespawn.

Anyway, there was a review of a new book called Requiem, Mass.: A Novel, and they chose to headline it in bold letters with "They Mess You Up, Your Mum and Dad." This is almost exactly the opening line from Philip Larkin's most famous poem, but, uh, "mess" isn't the verb.
Here's the poem, on the first online site I came up with:

http://www.artofeurope.com/larkin/lar2.htm

Why do they even bother? As I told one of my long-suffering co-workers, I am offended by their sanitizing.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bad Music Hex

I ended up watching some high school summer basketball yesterday, and between games, one of the teams blasted some tunes. Among them, nothing else but the Mellenhead's "I was born in a small town" song that I was just ranting about yesterday. Apparently, I hexed myself just by talking about it.

Attending a sporting event also gave me a chance to compare something with "I just watched this Bollywood movie about girls' field hockey..." Then I thought, wow, if I'd heard that sentence come out of my mouth a year ago -- especially the part about the girls' field hockey, yikes! I'd never have believed it. But one's priorities change. Now one my rules of thumb is: if it's got Shah Rukh Khan, I'll watch it.

Since these games aren't part of the season, just summer training games, the level of sportsmanship was much higher. It was the least hostile play I've seen in these high school girls' games, with only a few fouls on any side. I could actually watch them play without getting angry about teenage girls hitting the floor hard and the refs ignoring it. Even better: without the screaming parents on all sides. It was even interesting watching a game that didn't involve "my" team. Thus accidentally validating all the crazy things I believe about artificially induced competition.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

They ask me "How far into Memphis, son, and where's the nearest beer?"

Went to see Steve Earle in concert last night (with my folks, odd as that is, but who had a great time). There are a few of his old classics that people went crazy when they heard the first notes, and when that happened at the opening of "Someday," I kind of chuckled. If ever there was a town where people are going to relate unduly to that song, I thought, it's a town like this. But then I realized, where can you go where they wouldn't? I'll bet New York and L.A. are just as full of people who identify; maybe even more.

For the uninitiated, this is the best song I've ever heard about small town life. It made me think of Steve at first as the anti-Mellenkamp, because I couldn't abide all that "I can breathe in a small town" BS. The crowd-pleasing chorus goes "Someday I'm finally gonna let go/Cause I know there's a better way/And I wanna know what's over that rainbow/I'm gonna get out of here someday."

When the narrator kid, working at a filling station, talks to people pulling off the highway and realizes "they don't even know that there's a town around here," it always reminds me of my first trip on the Greyhound. I'd lived all my defining years in one place. And when sleepy other passengers asked where they were, the answer didn't mean a thing to them.

The other part of the song that obviously resonates with people is one line. He did the concert thing where he stopped and turned to the audience to have them yell out the line because they're just going to: "I'm gonna put 'er on the interstate and never look back."

Now, that's a true American sentiment.

In retrospect, it's ironic that I only got as far this Obscure Midwestern Town, which seems to me the kind of place that the natives should feel all "Someday" about, almost as much as my town did. (Technically, I went further, but this is where I landed).

But what you learn when you get out is that getting out is a state of mind. You can get over "that" rainbow, a specific barrier, but not over "the" rainbow, to somewhere the skies are always blue. The same problems exist everywhere, just with different manifestations and proportions. Sometimes people escape the place where they didn't fit, where they felt trapped, and then didn't find anything better. Sometimes that can break their spirits, and the newspapers are full of their (at least seemingly) meaningless tragedies.

When I look at my life, though, I think I got out enough to have satisfied me, if I could have looked through time and seen how I'd end up. The particular limitations that I was kicking against, I've pretty much escaped. Getting out was about proving that I could choose who I was, how I was going to live, what I was going to value. I had to see for myself that there was more to life, and there was. There is. Luckily for me, my "more" hasn't been a Flashdance story where I needed to "make it big" to feel like I made it.

So I guess my parents did something right in letting my follow my own muse in life. Which is probably why they're Steve Earle fans.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Today's travesty: warning, rant within

When I sign out of my Hotmail, it throws me into the MSN home page, and sometimes I glance at the headlines, much the way one looks through magazines in a waiting room. You know, they're there.

Today's travesty is on "The Things That Make Us Happy." I'm always vaguely curious about what so-called experts think they know about me, so I succumbed to the temptation to wastmy time. The first clue was when they said basically that being good-looking makes people happy, but not in and of itself. And in some circumstances, money can make people happy, but not necessarily.

This is like "cold reading" fortune-telling, where the reader tells you there's someone important in your life: a man, or maybe it's a woman. And that you're a confident person, but sometimes you're insecure. Everything is hedged, but in a way that doesn't draw attention to itself, so they're basically saying nothing, but it makes people go, hey, yeah, that's me!

I guess that's to be expected, but then, they tackle education:

"In the 1950s, book learning brought happiness, but a college education no longer lifts well-being on its own. Education opens the door to a better career, but it also fosters higher expectations that may be disappointed." (http://health.msn.com/health-topics/mental-health/slideshow.aspx?cp-documentid=100210274&imageindex=4)

I'm no expert, not even a fake one on a web site (sorry if anybody out there thought otherwise - ha!) But the idea that education, book learning, is supposed to have some one-to-one correlation with financial success (which I guess is what they mean by "better career," although I've seen plenty of evidence that "good careers" don't make people happy) is the sort of modern-life idea that fosters unhappiness.

Here's an example of the mass media contributing to the idea that things only have value as far as they have a practical use, a dollar or status value attached. Instead of things being valuable for what they are, and having intrinsic worth, which a good education does. (By which I mean one that causes a person to learn, and think for themselves).

Actually, even the fact that people talk about education instead of knowledge... urgh. Having curiosity about the world, wanting to know about things beyond one's own little village existence (sorry, still under the influence of that Village Gods book), trying to understand things and develop one's logical reasoning, can only be good things. I don't give a shit what they do for my career.

Oops, I just inadvertently summed up my entire life.

But just to hammer home the message, later on they add: "Smarts have only a weak effect on happiness; being brainy may decrease satisfaction by raising your expectations and making you more aware of your shortcomings."

They couldn't be more open about this. "Don't learn! Don't read! Don't think! It'll only raise your expectations, and you'll be disappointed!"

WTF? And BTW, these were all the reasons trumpeted in the 17th century/18th century England for why women and the lower classes shouldn't be educated. They thought they were bettering themselves, but the upper classes (who already had those opportunities) just thought it would make the lower classes more frustrated with their supposedly inevitable lots in life.

And going back to check something, I see this article was actually brought to MSN (probably via corporate synergy) from Psychology Today. So educated people, who want you to read their magazines, are getting paid to tell us not to bother with education.

Maybe if people read or think, they'll realize the worthlessness of articles like this. Read, people! Get an education! Think! Put these condescending losers out of a job!

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Horror of the Void

Couldn't sound much more like a Doctor Who episode title, could it? They're notorious, especially in the earlier seasons, for the formula of "The (Blank) of (Blank)." And both "horror" and "void" would totally fit. I'm surprised they haven't used it (although there was an adventure in the Colin Baker days called "Terror of the Vervoids").

But no, this is a phrase I come across in religious contexts. First, I believe, in that marvelous little book of photos of Mexican churches, Divine Excess: The Mexican Ultra-Baroque. Mmm, mmm, mmm. One of my "all-time faves" on my LibraryThing account. Then yesterday, it was mentioned as a reason why Sufi calligraphers had an interest in the Egyptian hieroglyphics, because their aesthetic was similarly informed by "the horror of the void." (In Egyptology: The Missing Millennium, by Okasha El Daly).

A quick online search of the phrase brings up the decorative arts of Morocco, and the monuments of Angkor (I checked out a documentary from the library about the latter, and I should watch it, but I kind of lost interest when I discovered it was narrated by Sharon Stone. Yes, I'm that shallow!)

And then of course there's Aristotle's Physics, and medieval writers elaborating on the concept of how "nature abhors a vacuum." Even though the words "abhor" and "horror" obviously have a commonality, I don't think of them in similar terms. The connotation has always been to me more like nature disdaining a vacuum...and there I go with the personification again.

But this is all relative. A crazy over-abundance might be motivated by a sort of existential fear, a la "horror of the void," but mightn't it also be motivated by -- for want of a better word -- love, for the physical creation? That is, why leave spaces empty, when there's all sorts of extra cool stuff you could throw in there?

Especially since a lot of the real "ultra-baroque," crammed-to-the-brim art comes out of desert environments, where people face the idea of the void all the time. When they have the chance to beautify, maybe they just go all out.

Of course, I probably just think this way because my own house is stuffed full of stuff: I'm a maximalist. But until I see some hard evidence that Mexican architects and Muslim craftspeople are actually motivated by "horror," I can't accept that judgment on face value.

The phrase is still delightfully Whovian, and also rather Lovecraftian, though...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pages from This Shpadoinkle Island Earth

Last weekend, the Haunted Vinyl family attended a big science fiction convention, where I inadvertently watched one of the best triple features EVER.

First up: Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (1996) -- basically an episode of the TV series, but without commercial interruption, and a bigger budget for the skits (featuring 1955's This Island Earth).

Second: Winnipeg auteur Guy Maddin's Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary (2002) -- a lush collaboration with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet company, featuring bizarre, dream-like imagery and silent-movie intertitles.

Thirdly: Cannibal!: The Musical (also 1996, obviously an interesting year) -- a crude, amateurish, but very funny tale of real-life cannibalism in the American West, an early effort by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

If you don't know the concept behind the Mpls-based phenomenon MST3K (as we all know it), well...frankly, I can't understand how that would even be possible. But here goes: a guy in space and his robots watch B movies, and make jokes about them. Basically like every nerd since the beginning of time, only these ones are actually funny. Many of their shows are available on DVD (and will be re-released by a new company, Shout! Factory, starting this fall). If I had to pick an all-time favorite, it would be the first collection of "Shorts" which includes four classic "mental hygiene" films (The Home Economics Story, Body Care and Grooming, Cheating, and A Date With Your Family).

Check out A Date With Your Family at http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=1494009584. If this doesn't make you laugh, then MST3K just isn't for you.


Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary seemed to try the patience of the young girls sitting next to me in the theater. They kept asking each other what was going on, and, looking exasperated, threw up their hands to mime "I have no idea." I wanted to tell them, "Dudes, it's a surrealistic ballet. It's not going to get any clearer than this."

Of course, the irony of that is that, apart from The Saddest Music in the World, this is the most linear of Maddin's films that I've seen. They're all full of kooky faux-antique visuals and off-the-wall elements, but the stories tend to meander, so while they're intellectually interesting, the films themselves tend to drag. (I'd add that 1992's Careful might be the best depiction of Northern, Scandinavian stoicism ever, were it not for the fatigue factor that sets in. Its opening prologue, ten or fifteen minutes establishing how its world is fraught with danger, is non-stop, straight-faced hilarity. But when the plot kicks in, it starts to seem just weird for weirdness' sake). With a pre-established narrative, though, that's not such a problem.

The ballet premiered in 1998 (its principal original cast all reprise their roles in the film) and you can read the reviews of the production, including one from famous Dracula scholar Elizabeth Miller, here: http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~emiller/ballet98.html.

For the first half or so, this adaptation tells Lucy's story: a girl who's full of joie de vivre, naughtily wanting to marry all three of her suitors, even as she is being secretly tormented by life-sucking visits from the undead. Tara Birtwhistle, a dancer making her film debut, is excellent in the role, as is Zhang Wei-Qiang as the seductive Dracula. When the focus shifts over to her friends Mina Murray and Jonathan Harker, the movie skims over the famous Transylvania section of the book with a bunch of quick scenes and flashing intertitles ("Babies for breakfast!" and "Flesh-pots!" being two of my favorites).

And then there's Cannibal! For once, the exclamation point it theirs. The original title was Alferd Packer: The Musical, but lore has it that the distribution company thought nobody outside of Colorado would know who Alferd Packer was. They were probably right.

I've always thought that the Donner Party is the quintessential American story. It's a tragedy that starts with good intentions. The people involved have a naive optimism, a can-do spirit, but they don't know what they're doing, or appreciate the difficulty of what they're getting into. Then there's someone who sells their services by claiming a little more knowledge than they actually have (early resume-padding). Happens all the time. But in this case, these common happenstances lead to the most horrific consequences imaginable.

Cannibal! tells a similar story, and one of the strangest things about it is that it seems to depict the historical facts fairly accurately. At least to the point that it reflects what the real-life Packer claimed happened, and is certainly plausible enough. Looking for gold, a group of miners trek to the Colorado Territory. Beset with bad luck, and eventually ignoring the advice of an Indian tribe to stay put with them for the winter, the men get lost, freeze, and starve, with consequences you can probably guess from the title.

Quick warning: the movie opens with a very gory scene of a crazy-eyed Packer attacking his comrades, which is later revealed as the narrative told by the prosecuting attorney at his trial. There's some relatively graphic stuff later on, too, but the beginning as as over the top as it gets (almost like they were getting it out of the way).

Despite the ludicrous nature of much of the film (the trappers who behave like a street gang, with "Trappers" written on the backs of their jackets, just to pick something at random), the film does have a serious side that's true to its storyline. When it's a nice day, and your heart's as full as a baked potato, it's sometimes good to appreciate that, and not to "want a little more," as the "That's All I'm Askin' For" song puts it. Fortune is all relative. At one point, "We're tired of being sick/We're sick of being poor." But once survival is really on the line, that hard-knock life doesn't seem so bad ("Forget our piece of pie/We just don't wanna die.")

These elements of the story are counteracted by Parker/Stone humor, much of it admittedly juvenile, but some of it pleasantly absurdist. My favorite line was the cheerful "Watch out for that bear trap!" I'm also very fond of the old-timer who shows up and announces "You're doomed! Doomed! Doomed!" He's even credited as "Crazy Old Ralph" on the official website, if not on the IMDB. (Crazy Ralph is, of course, the similar harbinger of doom in the first two Friday the 13th movies).

The songs do for the Oklahoma! style of hokey musical what the Team America: World Police songs do for the conventions of movie soundtracks, and in both cases, that's a good thing. Especially good are "It's a Shpadoinkle Day!" (which is sincerely cheerful) and "Let's Build a Snowman" (which is morbidly so). the Sadly, the soundtrack doesn't seem to have been released, even as a South Park-related curiosity, but the tunes are available at http://www.cannibalthemusical.net/songs.shtml.

Among other historical accounts of Packer's life online, there's a slew of material from the Colorado State Archives at http://www.colorado.gov/dpa/doit/archives/packer.html. My fellow Minnesota natives will notice that he served in the Civil War, with a Minnesota infantry unit. He signed up in Winona, according to http://www.concours.org/rtd-color.html. Freaky.

Friday, July 11, 2008

It's probably just fanwank

This is going to be one of those posts that are incomprehensible to anyone who isn't versed in the ways of the new Doctor Who, plus Torchwood, and there's just nothing that can be done about that.

I've always noticed a difference in the way Captain Jack is portrayed on Doctor Who versus the spinoff show, and last night, mid-episode, a perfectly sound explanation for it popped into my head.

When he first appeared on Doctor Who, sexiness was pretty much Jack's defining characteristic. Then when he came back on his own show, he was much more in the serious, broody genre hero mode. Unless I'm totally forgetting something (which is quite possible at this hour), I think he's the only person on the show who hasn't gotten laid so far, and that just seems WRONG.

Then, when he guest-starred back on Doctor Who's third season, even with a more serious side in evidence, we still got to see more of the old Jack again, and almost immediately (for example, the exchange that went something like, Jack flirtatiously asking "Can't I even say hello?" and the Doctor saying "NO!")

The seeming change in his personality actually seems plausible, though. On Torchwood, among ordinary human beings (albeit smart ones, who've all had alien encounters), Jack is unusually long-lived, and has had experiences that are beyond their understanding. He's been to outer space, he's lived in all sorts of time periods and knows all kinds of things that others do not (plus, of course, he can't die), which gives him a burden, and also isolates him to an extent.

But from a perspective that includes the Doctor, all these things that are so unusual on present-day Earth are no big deal. Next to the Doctor's enormous life span and huge range of knowledge, Jack's just an ordinary guy.

Also, among normal 21st-century folks at Torchwood, he has responsibility. The buck stops with Captain Jack. As soon as anybody's in the periphery of the Doctor, well, the buck's always going to stop with the Doctor, no question about it.

So once Jack's around the Doctor, it frees him up to be his lighter, frothier, flirtier self again. Which is actually the Captain Jack I tend to prefer. Does that make me shallow?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Petty, primitive, weird

I picked up one of those facsimile reprints of The Village Gods of South India, and discovered it's a little too faithful to the original. Not remastered, shall we say. On some of the pages, the ink is patchily pre-faded; readable, but an irritant.

I also quickly learned that the Right Reverend Henry Whitehead isn't so obective and open-minded as the Catholic priest who wrote that book on Santal tribal religion, because while his information seems fairly sound, his adjectives aren't exactly unbiased. Thus we get "repulsive features," "grotesque figures," "gloomy and weird rites" (a personal favorite), and, it almost goes without saying, "primitive," "primitive," and "primitive."

One of my favorite lines so far is "The general attitude of the villager toward his village god is 'Let sleeping dogs lie' " (p. 46), which seems like a fairly sensible strategy in many respects. The one that most seems to miss the point is that the religion deals with "petty local deities concerned with the affairs of a petty local community" (p. 35).

As a Christian, he seems offended at the lack of devotion among the villagers. They're not loving and praising God in the abstract, but have a practical relationship. (Of course, most of the sources I've read name South India as the origin of the Bhakti movement, so there ya go).

In the first place: like there aren't Christians praying for what's in their own interest, lacking interest in larger theological questions and slacking off in sheer disinterested devotion. In the second, how are the life and death concerns of everyday existence really "petty"? Whitehead describes the village Gods being propitiated in times of epidemics (which had to be faced without access to our modern medicine). They're involved in all the agricultural issues, which would be absolutely vital to the community.

The village Gods are fascinating to me in part because of the way they strip religious belief down to an essential. (I'm definitely trying to avoid any hint of "noble savage," because frankly, I don't think any of these people were so primitive, or certainly unsophisticated. As far as I can know without having seen for myself). There are whole swathes of contemporary life which are still as interested only in their practical, local concerns, which is probably just human nature....

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A bottomless abyss of entertainment

I'm strolling around, looking for Doctor Who blogs in the same caliber of witty, loving irreverence that I've found in several Bollywood bloggers, but there are a million sites, and no clear way to narrow them down besides clicking on links (and, so far, finding discussion of the same BBC press releases).

Also, looking for spoilers, I went to Television Without Pity, a site I didn't intend to abandon for going corporate, except that after the take-over, it wasn't any fun anymore....anyway, I discovered that they dropped Doctor Who after series 2, which isn't all bad, since the guy writing the recaps was intolerably pompous.

Just got back from a sci-fi convention, and at one of the panels, someone said that Doctor Who fans are in a special category because they've been so spoiled: "Here are people who've been angry for years because their show only lasted 26 seasons. How can you cancel it? It was just getting good!" With the new show, that's 30 seasons of TV, not counting the spin-offs and an innumerable amount of iffily-canonical supporting material. Now that my interest has been re-energized (regenerated?), when will I find the time?

Especially since the DVD companies that release my other obsession advertise with phrases like "Over 1500 classic films!" -- most of them 3 hours long. Everything I find to be interested in becomes a full-time job of study. Like, if it's masterable, what fun would that be?

(Also went to a "Bollywood Sci-Fi" panel, in which someone in the audience actually asked about the Michael Jackson "Thriller" knock-off, and which movie that was from, giving me the chance to jump up and down and talk about Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki. Life is good).

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Lost in the Supermarket, without the Clash

I was at the Express Counter at the grocery store yesterday with my parents, waiting while some hapless customer counted out stacks of pennies, trying to find a pack of cigarettes he could still afford in this day and age. I looked at the items I had sitting on the counter, and suddenly felt like I was in a woman's magazine quiz on "What the contents of your shopping cart say about YOU."

My purchases: a travel-sized tube of toothpaste. A bag of Olde Englishe Salt and Vinegar potato chips. A glass candle with an illustration of Our Lady de San Juan de Los Lagos (attentive readers will remember her as the Virgin On My Porch; I've never seen a votive of hers in town before, so I'm taking that as a very good omen). And a pair of Maxell headphones.

Sadly, I'm pretty sure that anyone judging me based on these items would be pretty accurate in their assessment.