Sunday, September 21, 2008

The rest of my day was tabby love

And dusting. That's the strangest thing I've ever said on this blog.

Watching Little Shop of Horrors at the community theater today, I realized that poor hapless Seymour is basically much like Dexter, justifying murder because the victims are villains. Only poor Seymour is tormented by his conscience; not much help if you're still going to kill people...

Also, this morning I watched Hema Malini's directorial debut (Dil Aashna Hai). Oh, how I wish I could say it was good, but alas, it is not. Even the dancing. However, in the climax, three of the heroines are kidnapped by hired thugs, and an incredible tag team made up of Dimple, Jeetendra, Shah Rukh, and Mithun show up to rescue them. That is how every action movie should end! Especially if anybody like Bruce Willis figured in the earlier sections.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Unanswered questions in "Khiladi"

Apart from how this launched anything, much less Akshay Kumar's successful career, and about fifteen non-sequels with the word "Khiladi" in the title...

For its first hour, at least, 1992's Khiladi is a low-budget teen comedy about some goofy guys who play pranks, the kind for whom romance becomes a pretext for some Tootsie action. I began to lose hope that it was ever going to morph into some kind of thriller/action picture, but at least Akshay's Raj is pretty cute, and obviously athletic in his fight and dance scenes. Eventually, however, a friend is murdered in the course of one of their ploys, and it starts to lean a little in that direction, although it's far, far from seeming like an entry in "an Indian version of James Bond" series, as someone called it on the IMDB.

Many questions are raised, including these:

What's with all the Hitler mustaches in Indian films? Or are they actually supposed to be Charlie Chaplin mustaches?

Why does a song seem to have the same tune as "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"?

Why is there an enormous Samantha Fox poster on the wall in the girls' hostel?

What is third-act blackmailer Julie wearing? It looks like a leopard-print diaper over a leotard. Not what I'd pair with an elaborate feathered hat.

Why did Akshay's Raj check out Rosemary Rogers' Love Play, of all books, from the public library? (Here's the breathless blurb: "They have money, power and arrogance--and the world is theirs. Beautiful and unspoiled, Sara Coleville knows she can play their game. Now her fine-bred defiance and brazen masquerades have excited Marco Marcantoni--enflaming the hot-blooded duke's most shameles passions and wildest desires. He vows he will have her, in secrecy and seclusion--to use until all his needs are satisfied. But Sara's innocence is deceptive. And it is she who must ultimately prevail in this world where wealth makes love easy...and passion makes it dangerous.")

When Raj and his love interest are rolling on the floor, and a cobra inexplicably pops up in the foreground, is this a case of sometimes a snake is only a snake?

At least, finally, sidekick Boney's obsession with his nasal inhaler, which suddenly appeared about an hour in, became integral to throwing suspicion on him and Raj. That was starting to drive me crazy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


So, I finally broke down and bought an Urdu/Hindi/English dictionary, even though the idea of my learning any kind of Arabic script is utterly ridiculous. One nice side effect: the Devanagari looks much easier next to it, because I'm used to it. I mentioned that the Arabic letters were just so squiggly, I couldn't wrap my mind around. My honey looked at a Hindi word next to an Urdu one and said, "Ah, because that isn't squiggly at all."

"But the Urdu is squigglier," I said.

Apparently, I can rate the difficulty of a language on a spectrum of squiggliness.

Seriously, though (or semi- so), there are a few things this makes me think about languages. First of all, it's obvious that the Roman alphabet (as well as the rune alphabet) was designed to be carved into things, stone or wood. And some alphabets were made to be written with brushes. Were there flukes of materials-access that led the written languages to evolve in the different ways?

It would be easy to speculate that a more rigid alphabet leads to more rigid thinking. When you carve something out, it's like: that's it! That's the way it is! Because it wouldn't be easy to amend. See how easy it is to come up with theories? Kinda scary).

But I don't believe that language is destiny, because we can always choose to expand our thinking.

My other thought is how, growing up with a language like English, it seems almost self-evident that the language and the alphabet are interconnected. Then we learn that the same alphabet can be used for different languages, and different languages can have different alphabets. But still, the idea that a spoken language can be expressed in completely different alphabets (either of which would be the normal, natural one to its native users) really highlights the arbitrary nature of it all.

Of course, the fact that we can communicate at all is kind of mind-blowing. When going from one language to another, people are at least aware of the difficulty in communicating. When we all speak the same language, people often assume an understanding that may not actually be there, for many reasons. Now that one's a real theory, but not to any particular end...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Falling asleep during "Wolfen"

When I grogged to bed after the closing credits, I thought, "I'll bet I have weird dreams." And I did, but oddly, not about wolves or their ilk, but finally, an honest-to-god dream about a full-on zombie outbreak here in my Obscure Midwestern Town. It included a visit to Subway, fellow flee-ers and I needed sustenance, and it was open, although the people in line were slightly less picky than usual about their toppings.

Also, someone had hung a sheet in their window and written "Soylent Green" on it, which amused me even as we drove down the residential streets and saw zombies munching on the slow-moving elderly.

Anyway, Wolfen was a wee bit slow-moving in the beginning, but I don't think that's why I fell asleep. I fell asleep the other day during a disco movie I was enjoying immensely (although I'll tell ya, Kumar Gaurav is no Mithun). Certainly Wolfen's themes are still quite relevant, almost thirty years later: the government agency sees terrorism everywhere, because doing so justifies its existence and its budget; gentrification drives the poor out of the places they were driven into in the first to, and the rich are oblivious to the damage they're doing to others.

Whenever I see Albert Finney, I can't help thinking, there was once a time when he was young and good-looking. It just seems so unfathomable. Of course, in his case, the window was pretty small, so let that be a cautionary tale to all you youngsters about the hard living. I was pondering that when Edward James Olmos -- yes, Adama himself -- appeared, so young and skinny I hardly recognized him.

I doubt that any ancient wolf spirits could hide too long in our downtown; they're too big, and it's too small. But if any similar beings are going to stalk the construction site that's put a big barren hole next to my place of my work, I hope they leave my customers alone. Well, and me. I'd have left their old haunts standing. Being impractical is good for the soul.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The throes of romance (part 2?)

I'm midway through a movie called Blackmail. I got the tip from Memsaab, who said "it may be the most romantic Hindi movie ever." (

Whoa! Those are serious words! When I mentioned this testimonial to my cohort, SpyGirl, and told her the title, I went, "I know! I know!" Then I added, "It's about industrial espionage in the solar power industry. I know!"

I mean, who could make these subjects romantic? Well, Bollywood can. All I want is for Dharmendra and Rakhee to have their wedding night, and then spend the rest of the movie singing to each other, frolicking in the garden, and being generally cute. I am actually growing angry at the plot that is keeping them apart. With a couple this adorable, a storyline is actually optional...and I really, really can't believe I'm saying that.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Sect of the Week

Well, okay, I don't have the attention span to have a regular feature, but for today, let's pretend that I do, and give a warm welcome to the Yezidis!

If the Wikipedia knows what it's talking about, the opening of The Exorcist was filmed in Sinjar, a Yezidi village in Iraq. And who, we might ask, are the Yezidis? Of course, I was duty-bound to click on the link, and subsequently plunk some new books on my Wish List. They seem to use "Yezidi" and "Yazidi" interchangeably, but believe me, I understand the problems of going back and forth from non-Roman alphabets.

The whole section on "Religious Beliefs" is worth reading. First off, the fact that their primary supernatural connection is with a "Peacock Angel," when there's an embossed peacock on the puja plate I bought not long ago. Coincidence? (Well, probably).

"The Yazidi story regarding Tawuse Melek's (the Peacock guy's) rise to favor with God is almost identical to the story of the jinn Iblis in Islam, except that Yazidis revere Tawuse Melek for refusing to submit to Adam, while Muslims believe that Iblis' refusal to submit caused him to fall out of Grace with God, and to later become Satan himself."

Basically, their story goes that God had first ordered his angel not to submit to anyone. So later, when he ordered Tawuse Melek to bow to Adam, it was really a test. The point (besides acknowledging an arbitrariness in the Almighty that's certainly reminiscent of various Old Testament stories) seems to be that God gave him the will to choose, and it was correct for him to use it.

Because the Muslim version, Iblis, "fell" and became Shaytaan over the incident, they apparently think of the Yazidis as devil-worshipers. (Most of us know the name Iblis, of couse, because of the Patrick Macnee character on the old Battlestar Galactica).

Anyway, the "Yazidis believe that good and evil both exist in the mind and spirit of human beings. It depends on the humans, themselves, as to which they choose. In this process, their devotion to Tawuse Melek is essential, since it was he who was given the same choice between good and evil by God."

Good call on the good and evil, guys!

(PS, my friends at Sacred Texts have Isya Joseph's book on the Yezidiz online: