Monday, March 30, 2009

What are the odds?

We watched The Daily Show today for the second time in about two years, and Jon had on Nandan Nilekani, author of Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation. One of the first questions was about how all the experts think that India and China are vying to be our new overlords.

"I hope I backed the right horse," I said. After all, Hindi and its linguistic friends and relations are not easy to learn, but Chinese would be a lot harder.

Those Parental Units

So I forced my parents to leave town during the flood, and now I'm stranded with them with a blizzard on the way. So far, the dike that's pretty much pressed against their building is holding, and has been reinforced. (Although I didn't like the news report that said the Army Corps of Engineers wanted it shored up "as soon as possible.") The water is going down. If they'd stayed, they'd have undoubtedly been fine.

I was feeling pretty stupid about all this, but then I realized, the city evacuated all the residents of the building next door to theirs, in exactly as much risk, because so many of the people who lived there were "vulnerable adults," with disabilities and other issues. So that's hundreds of people the city moved for the exact same reason as I wanted my folks to get away from there. They're in their seventies; they have medication issues; neither of them can walk or move very fast; my mom suffers from anxiety under optimum circumstances. Evacuating them in an emergency wouldn't be a good scene.

They're still independent and basically mobile, though, so they're not people any agency is keeping track of. I'm keeping track of them, the old-fashioned way. Of course, they're not getting any younger, and their stubbornness about taking care of themselves isn't going to make the next decade or so any easier.

With that in mind, I should probably learn to meditate. On the other hand, my quote for the day: "The day she learned to be detached & indifferent & tranquil she would cease to be herself." - from A Suitable Boy

Friday, March 27, 2009

Is this a crisis, or isn't it?

Sorry I haven't posted. Disasters are one of those things that ought to be recollected in tranquility, unless you have that war correspondent mentality. Which, I guess, I do not. It's quite disappointing to discover that I don't have as stern of a temperament as an apocalypse might demand. Okay, maybe I'm just in the stage of early Sarah Connor, as opposed to later.

I woke up last night with someone banging on the neighbor's door. So I came out, turned on my radio, and found out there was emergency diking going on near the psych hospital, which is a short walk from my house. Slept a little while longer, and woke up to find much of the neighboring town under a voluntary evacuation, including where my nephew and his family live. Also, friends down the street were evacuated in the middle of the night. At this point, my best-case scenario is that I at least get my elderly parents, who could have left anytime and have a million places to go, to freakin' leave town, even if they're really my only vehicle out of town, if it comes to that.

The funny thing is that I'm not even in an evacuation zone: I'm in the part of town everyone is supposed to flee to. But my sisters were both in the big flood twelve years ago, so I know the sewer can back up, and fuel oil can fill people's basements. It doesn't look like there's any plan in place to rescue us.

Meanwhile, we're making coffee. My husband and I are supposed to just go to work like all is normal. If something happens, we're going to be on opposite ends of town, without a car. There's incredible congestion due to the closed roads, the sandbagging trucks, the rising river -- and there are still people out trying to get to jobs that aren't exactly essential right now. If it were up to me, I'd get my parents and our cats and we'd all have been out of town yesterday. But we kind of need our jobs.

So, near-by friends, stay safe. Far-away friends, think good thoughts of us! Burn a candle, what have you. I told someone yesterday that it'll be okay in the end, it'll just be more or less sucky. I'm trying to keep that advice in mind.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Sheer Abundance!

I'm reading this book, Hindi Film Song: Music Beyond Boundaries, by Ashok Da. Ranade, and I'm really enjoying it, in part because it's just bursting with exclamation points. It's a relatively straightforward piece of nonfiction, but it's as if the author is so enthusiastic about his subject that he just can't contain himself. (Yes, comment has been made in my household to the effect of "Hmm, why does that sound familiar?")

The chapter subtitle "The Sheer Abundance!" (referring to the insane number of Hindi film songs produced) is a good example, along with the overview "The Ambitious Big Theories!"

His factoids are amusingly told, too. He mentions the career of Ashok Kumar: how he became a big star in the pre-playback days, even though that meant he had to do his own singing. And he was apparenly not very good at it (ironic, for the big brother in whose footsteps legendary singer Kishore followed). Other writers have commented before on Kumar's overcoming this obstacle, but Ranade describes a performances thusly:

"Ashok Kumar's musicality became recognisably adequate in Kismet." (p. 120)

Now that's something to aspire to: being recognisably adequate. There are days I'd settle for that.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What's wrong with unsinkable?

Speaking of Doctor Who: I did a search online for the Unofficial Harry Sullivan Fan Club, and nothing came up. Considering there are eight million factoids out there about eight million silly things, I feel duty bound to post on this subject, just in case any of my long-lost compatriots ever check for evidence of the club's existence.

Harry Sullivan was, of course, a companion of Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor (who tended to call him things like "imbecile," but it wasn't really Harry's fault). The fan club was so old school, we used to get our information in THE MAIL. Always a treat, too. The club's leader was writing a novel about the adventures of Harry and Sarah Jane, post-Doctor, which I'd sure be curious to read today, especially now that Sarah has her own spin-off show. (I lost most of my related memorabilia in an unfortunate storage incident).

All I ever really contributed was badly-drawn cartoons of Daleks speaking Latin. Seemed like a good idea at the time...

The only place I've come across much Harry recently is in fan fiction slashing him over with Martha Jones. Inspired! After all, they're both doctors who worked for UNIT. Some of the stories have Martha time-traveling to Harry's youthful heyday, and others are set in the present, with him an older doctor I envision as something like the foxy Wedge (Denis Lawson as John Jarndyce) in Bleak House.

It occurs to me that I'm frequently either speaking gibberish about Doctor Who to the Bollywood viewers, or gibberish about Hindi films to everyone else. Thank goodness I know there's some crossover between the obsessives, or I'd feel even crazier than I do.

So if anyone out there does a search on "Unofficial Harry Sullivan Fan Club" (motto: "What's wrong with unsinkable?"), drop me a line. I still have the t-shirt!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hopefully that's the end of Bad Wolf Romance

My internet was down all afternoon, during what was hopefully the last blizzard of the season, leaving me to rely on the minimalist tv news for information. Not exactly a comfort.

We especially enjoyed the alarmist "no-travel" warnings, picturized on reporters who were out and about, standing in front of the "Road Closed" signs. One of them said the good news was that they were seeing very few cars on the road.

"And all of them are news vans," I said.

Later, my honey asked, "What did they do in the Little House on the Prairie days, when they were stranded in a blizzard and the internet was down?"

Well, they finished season 2 of Torchwood and season 4 of Doctor Who. Obviously!

Wasn't there kind of a weird theme there at the end with the Tyler family? On normal Earth, Jackie's husband Pete had been killed in an accident. In alternate-universe Earth, Pete was still alive and married to an alternate Jackie, who then got killed. When the two met, they then got married. And then, (SPOILERS, but come on, I must be the last Doctor Who fan in the universe to see these episodes), Rose ends up with a sort of Doctor clone, who has his personality and his previous memories, but in a more convenient human form. So everyone in the whole family ends up with a duplicate, alternate version of the person they originally loved.

Which strikes me as slightly creepy. Mickey was right to get away from those people!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Zombies, yaar

Zibahkhana, a.k.a. Hell's Ground (2007)

Maybe it's just me -- okay, it's almost certainly just me -- but I find it reassuring that even in Pakistan, horror movie teenagers sneak out to rock concerts, smoke a lot of pot, and say "I'll be right back" when there's something nasty lurking in the darkness.

In "Pakistan's first gore film," the road trip of five friends (or "Paanch Dost," as the trailer mournfully intones, causing me to cry "Hey, I know Urdu!") leads them into an area where the villagers are protesting against contaminated water. (And well they should, since it seems to turn them all Night of the Living Dead). Then their van runs out of gas in the turf of a character I can only describe as Leatherface in a burqua.

Cult star Rehan shows up as the eccentric owner of Deewana's Chai Stall, and denies that he's the actor who appeared in 1967's The Living Corpse (a.k.a. Dracula in Pakistan), but it provides the opportunity to re-use a few clips. (Sadly, those are his only two credits, at least on the IMDB).

As for the kids in the van, they certainly have more personality than the ones in the new Friday the 13th movie. The two girls had the most memorable roles: as Roxy, the jaded and bitchier girl, Rubya Chaudhry got the best reaction shots, and it actually seemed believable that she was friends with these people. The similar role in many horror movies makes you wonder why her character is even there, other than that the script wants different "types."

Fellow newcomer Rooshanie Ejaz also made an impression as the Final Girl, a good daughter who's never lied to her mother before, but is refreshingly able to defend her life with force and ingenuity. She also wears a religious pendant around her neck, and is embarrassed to have her cooler friends see it, just like an overtly Christian character might be about wearing a cross.

The special features include some background on filmmaker Omar Ali Khan, whose day job is running an ice cream shop decorated with horror posters and Movie Maniacs action figures. I don't know of an ice cream shop that awesome in the United States. One of the posters is for Planet Teror, which seemed especially appropriate. Because of its low budget and old-school gore effects, Hell's Ground came across as a more an authentic drive-in/grindhouse homage than Grindhouse was.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Nutshell Review

I described Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham today as "a family melodrama, in which everyone is filmed to look as yummy as possible."

And by everyone, I mean, of course, Shah Rukh.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Home of the Space Paranoids

One might think that nobody goes bowling "in this day and age," but you would be wrong. My friends, heed my advice: call ahead and reserve your lanes.

So that was my Sunday: I broke 100 (hit 108, thank you very much!), possibly an all-time bowling record, so I have nowhere to go but down. Fortunately, that's fine with me.

Then we watched Tron, which I haven't seen in years. The plot is pretty slight, but I was amused at how it predated the Terminator and Matrix movies in some of its themes (there's even a videogame called Matrix Blasters). When the little people were fighting inside the computer (and is that happening now, whilst I type? Eeee!), I kept thinking, "Do you think that's air you're breathing?"

Also, what would have been more awesome than having a cool bachelor pad above your own rocking video arcade? Too bad I didn't get to see this movie in 1982, when I would have really appreciated it.

Saturday I was home alone, after a long week, and realized that my habits have shifted. In my previous life, it was not uncommon on a lazy Saturday night home to have a few glasses of wine and dig out particular songs from CDs I hadn't listened to in a while...the behavior Bridget Jones describes as turning into "a drunk, DJ-style person."

Now, I find myself having the few glasses of wine and watching my favorite picturizations. On that note, I have decided that Shah Rukh Khan really needs to wear leather pants in all his movies. He's already kind of skinny, so leather pants make him Rock Star Skinny!