Saturday, May 23, 2020

Unlikely Formative Influences?

Does the media we watch, or even the books we read, contribute to forming our attitudes, or is it mostly passing entertainment that makes no meaningful mark? This basic question comes up in different contexts, and can lead to endless speculation, but I just realized I have an oddball story about American TV.

I used to watch Eight is Enough, a largely forgotten piece of pop cultural ephemera starring Dick Van Patten as the father of eight kids, which ran from 1977-1981, although I'd guess I only watched the first few seasons. Star Wars fans may remember it as the show on which Mark Hamill originally played the oldest son. I also read the memoir it was based on, because I've always been like this, so I knew that in real life, the parents were a D.C. power couple and the kids were friends with the younger Kennedys. None of that was on the show.

I have largely forgotten the details, except, you know, the kids were always getting into problems. However, this morning there was a passing mention on the news of a school ROTC program, and it occurred to me that I have never heard mention of ROTC without thinking of a specific episode of Eight is Enough. The political daughter, Mary, is protesting the reopening of an ROTC program after the end of the Vietnam War (a return to normalcy, if you will), and she bumps into someone she knows, who's now in the military. Their parents are old friends, and because he's played by good-looking young Dorian Harewood (before his big break-out role in Roots: The Next Generations), sparks start to fly.

When they begin dating, she finds out that her dad -- a big post-hippie liberal -- is uncomfortable with her dating a black man. I'm sure that if I re-watched this episode, it would be cringey, a subpar TV dramedy version of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? But what I remember is Mary calling her dad on his liberal bullshit. He believed he was all for equality, but not really. He was literally the guy with black friends, who thought he didn't have any prejudices, but he obviously does, just hidden. Not only the hypocrisy of this common situation, but the absurdity of it, was very obvious to me, and I've always remembered it.

I'm sure I always had a certain frame of mind that made me receptive to seeing things in a certain light, but still. This episode aired in November 1977, and the mere fact that it addressed the issue of liberal racism introduced me to the fact that this was a thing to deal with. Sometimes just acknowledging that something exists can be helpful for people to whom concepts are new!

For a deeper look at this subject, I recommend the Martin Luther King, Jr. collection Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? Way more than I can Eight is Enough, but to each their own.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Dhund That To Me One More Time

Like so many bad horror films I've watched over the years, 2003's Dhund: The Fog (original review here) has improved with time. Not that it's necessarily any better, as such, but it was a lot better on the second viewing.

Some of this may be because, when I first saw Dhund in 2007, I had a limited frame of reference for Hindi films. My first encounter had been via the comic stylings of Salman Khan and Govinda, so I probably should have been more charitable to its stretches of so-called comedy. The best word for the early section of lighthearted romance is still "interminable," but now I'm more accustomed to the Bollywood rhythm of slow-paced, non-narrative shenanigans that suddenly take a drastic turn in tone and/or genre.

Certainly the film's logical problems are still noticeable. Like why a heroine who was willing to get some guys arrested for putting her picture in a fashion magazine wouldn't even TELL anyone that a creepy dude has literally threatened her life, broken into her family home, and killed her dog. It seems like she'd be right on top of that. And, unfortunately, the so-called motive for the murder spree is more nonsensical the more you think about it. But the charms I noticed the first time around, like the dramatic musical chord when the villain tosses his hair,and the crazy tub o' blood, are now ones I'm almost as fond of as that redeeming scene in Ruby when the guy gets a cup full of blood out of a pop machine.

Speaking of redeeming, there's really only one word to explain why we watched this again: IRRFAN!

Yes, this is the movie that introduced me to Irrfan Khan.

After this, I next tracked down a movie called The Killer, reviewed here. Yes, it's basically a rip-off of Collateral, but if you can get past the lack of subtitles, you can check out a scene on YouTube that shows off how much better a premise is with Irrfan in a role. It wasn't long before he became my favorite actor: not in Bollywood films, but period.

Now, Irrfan was NOT attractive in Dhund (although if you've seen Maqbool, wowza!), and his part is a pretty one-dimensional villain, but he immediately caught my eye. As he became more famous, appearing in a slew of high-profile American films and working with the likes of Wes Anderson, Danny Boyle, and Ron Howard, my best Bollywood friend has often asked me, "How did you KNOW?"

All I can say is that my years of B-movie watching have helped me develop a spider-sense -- speaking of high-profile American films in which Irrfan was wasted: he was totally set up for more in The Amazing Spider-Man, but then was barely on screen. In Dhund, however silly the story gets, he's super-intense, full of charismatic conviction. And although they ugly him up as much as possible, there's still a handsome framework peeking out underneath.

This is from Jurassic World, in which he also didn't get nearly enough screen time, but totally ruled the movie when he did.

NOTE: I've had a draft of this post revisiting Dhund: The Fog sitting around, and this morning, I woke to the news about Irrfan's death on April 29, 2020. I don't have a summary of anything, but that seems appropriate for this moment in time. Love to all. #irrfanforever

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The Bellydabbler, Part I

Now that I'm working from home and have extra time due to the lack of commute, but also am not getting out of the house and getting my regular (not much) amount of exercise, I decided to bust out my collection of bellydance DVDs.

I am no expert, believe me, although I'm not an absolute beginner either. I'm not sure how any of these DVDs would work if you're brand-new, since at least I don't need to have shimmies or hip drops explained to me anymore, and I'm familiar with other of the terminology (like "releve" when you go up on your toes), but I'm listing what I've done so far.

After almost two weeks, I've found I'm already more confident about picking and choosing, and mixing up DVDs, although I haven't gone through all of them yet.

One of the most important things is listening to my body, knowing when to quit, and when something is too advanced or strenuous for me. If I need to cut it short, I do, and then do some stretching. I'm trying to alternate areas of the body that I'm working on, although it's sort of haphazard. In general, a more strenuous day leads to a more gentle day. Also, I obviously skipped some days, although I've been consistently doing light stretches.

Day 1. From The Belly Dance Shimmy Workout, with Sarah Skinner: Chapters 1-3. That got a little strenuous, but felt good! I'll get back to that.

Day 2. I could tell from the day before that my arms need some work, so I did some light weight lifting with my smallest weights. I have a routine I got from an old Jane Fonda workout video back in the day, which is pretty basic. She said to do weights only every other day, so that's what I've always believed! Then I did the Circles and Loops sections from Luscious: The Bellydance Workout for Beginners (with Neon).

Day 3. The Organic Movement section from Belly Dance: Opulent Motion, the Artistry of Slow Moves with Sarah Skinner.

Day 6.  Arm weights and a longer period of stretches, based on things I remember from classes.

Day 7. From Sacred Bellydance (Temple of Jehan): Stretching and Breathing from Disc 1, plus Hips, into some Walks, from Disc 2.

Day 8. Arm weights, then the Tune-Up section of Temple Goddess Workout with Revital Carrol. I did some of the Cool Down as well, but it was a little too much yoga for me.

Day 10. Arm weights, stretching.

Day 11. I did Hips and Chest through Chapter 9 in Shaabi Dance - Technique & Combinations for Belly Dance (with Shahrzad). Then I went on a long walk, and between the two things, I definitely overdid it! I strained a muscle in my shin, of all places.

Day 12. Put off the arm weights until tomorrow! Went back to Sacred Bellydance for the Warmup, Stretching and Breathing again, and Foot Stretches. Also did some Arm segments from Rachel Brice's Bellydance Arms & Posture.

I will try to keep notating my routine, and maybe I'll come up with some helpful suggestions in the end, for my fellow dabblers!