Saturday, March 31, 2007

Norwegian Wood

Midori rested an arm on the bar and looked at me. “There was something like that in a Jim Morrison song, I’m pretty sure.”

“People are strange when you’re a stranger.”

“Peace,” said Midori.

“Peace,” I said.

These lines aren’t really an encapsulation or a sample of what you can expect from this novel. However, the very first time I read about this novel, I read these lines in the review and they’ve stayed with me since then.

The blurbs describe it as a story of love, loss and sexuality in adolescence. In that sense all of us should find something to identify with in this novel.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


There is a special satisfaction I imagine deriving from being defeated by forces too big for me. Life is a constant struggle for as long as we keep battling forces that can be overcome with enough effort and resolve. But when you are brought down to your knees and kept there by a giant invisible hand that is simply impossible to throw off, you can finally give up. I keep imagining being beaten by Fate so roundly that I can then guiltlessly give up the Sisyphian struggle I go through all day, all week, all year. Every time I face a problem that looks as though it might just be too big for me, I come across a new one that makes the first one pale in comparison. But the day I allow myself to finally, absolutely give up on life, the future will cease to matter. What people think of me will not matter, because I will have ground my ego to dust. Whether people love me or not will not matter because any betrayal will only make me surer that life was indeed worth giving up on. I will then have the license to be mean to people who take the trouble of caring for me. I will be able to shamelessly plead for pity from everyone. I will be able to cut anyone in mid-sentence and tell them I couldn’t care less for them but I want them to listen to me for hours. I’ll do exactly as I please. I’ll be liberated from political correctness. Not only will I not have to be politically correct and pretend I view men, women, gays, blacks, browns, mongoloids, sardars, ugly people, beautiful people, rich people, poor people, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, people of different castes, dark people, fair people, women with facial hair and women without, foreigners, south Indians, people with the right accents, people with regional accents, people with fake accents, people who mispronounce words and people who correct my pronunciation, people who stand up during the Indian anthem and people who think saluting the flag and standing at attention for 52 seconds means they can cheat on taxes because they love their country, people who don’t even pretend they love their country, people who read, people who don’t, people who get their kicks from spending money and people who get theirs from technology, people who have no standards when it comes to people they befriend, people who have closed their minds to entire genres of music, films, books, people who have strong convictions, people who support reservations, introverts, extroverts, ambiverts, perverts, slimy people, holier-than-thou people, rightists, leftists, centrists, hawks and doves, abstract artists and people who write absurd plays and people who draw people who look like people, meek people, doormats, assertive people, people who never admit they have insecurities too, people who enjoy reading other people’s on their blogs, people who reveal theirs on their blogs, people who understand double entendres and graphic novels, people who watch the same music videos again and again, people who enjoy remixes, smokers, drinkers, vegetarians, beef-eaters, conservative people, liberal people, bohemian people, libertarians, Pakistan bashers, people who understand people don’t always mean what they say, people who always mean what they say, people who complete my sentences and people who never can, etc equally, I’ll also be free to shout out loud that I am a bigot and a racist even when I’m not because it’s so much easier to exist with hard lines delineating black and white etched in your life than with shadow lines that shift with time. I’ll be free to be a hypocrite, to love and hate at the same time.

True freedom is perhaps the freedom to be unreasonable.

I was going to make a strong pitch for 300 but it's been getting some pretty negative reviews too. I think everyone who's read and even mildly enjoyed the graphic novel by Frank Miller has watched the film already. If you haven't yet, drop everything and stand outside Priya or whatever your local equivalent is for as long as it takes to get a ticket and then watch it. Also practise your whistling because you'll want to wolf-whistle all the time. If you haven't been exposed to this kind of filmmaking, through Sin City, or even this kind of Art at all, through other graphic novels by Frank Miller & Co. that mostly consist of beautiful visuals, sex-violence-machismo stories in which characters (mostly men) speak almost exclusively in punchlines, then you may not like it. If you get turned off by violence, you will certainly not like it.
But if you like your movie to be a grand spectacle, and enjoy men on screen being ubermanly (even women say things like "only Spartan women give birth to real men", so you should get the idea), are attracted to depictions of honour, uncompromising valour and doomed last stands, go for it. Do not expect a history lesson, it's a testosterone fest. This movie should get you by the balls for you to love it.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I'll become your fan if... could help me with one or more of the following things regarding orkut:
1. Is there any way to be notified if you acquire a new fan, or if you lose an existing fan? Shouldn't orkut etiquette dictate that you at least scrap whoever it is you've become fanatical about, so they know?
2. Is there any way to see the list of fans for someone else on orkut?
3. How is the order of one's list of fans determined? I've added so many new fans but my first page hasn't changed for years.
4. Is there any way to search one's list of fans for a particular friend?
5. What is the correct way to search for friends on orkut, especially if they've changed their names to 'nicks' (don't do that, please)?
6. Is there any way to adjust time on orkut to IST?
7. Is there any way to get to a scrap that a particular scrap's been sent as a reply to? This is especially relevant when communicating with someone whose scrapbook advances several pages in a day.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

On Amelie, mostly

I didn't like Amelie. I don't know anyone else who didn't. I'll try to explain why I didn't.
Firstly, the movie is very, very heavy on narration. Now, apart from the obvious difficulty of watching a movie that you have to understand through subtitles, it somehow becomes worse when the (first half of the) movie is mostly visuals with a voiceover. There was so much of voiceover that I often missed enjoying the visuals themselves and almost felt like I was reading the script at some points.
Secondly, I believe films that make heavy use of narration as a device to take the story forward are somehow taking an easy way out. Films, like plays, are not meant to have narrations. There are characters in the films that should be used such that the story moves forward through them. The best example I can think of is the play Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. This is a play that has (I think) no narration at all and is yet profoundly moving. Contrast this with another celebrated play I read in a course a year ago called Antigone by Jean Anouilh. This play gave maximum speaking time to its narrator. While Death... and Antigone were both heavy on dialogues, the former had short dialogues that never lasted for more than a couple of minutes and the latter had the narrator speaking for ten minutes or more. I realize Art cannot be tied down by laying down strict formats but I also think allowing characters long soliloquies makes it much easier for the playwright than if he/she involved many characters in taking the plot forward. I think this is somewhat analogous to a filmmaker who choreographs a beautiful song and dance in his film as visual spectacle versus one who uses the song to take the story forward (and no, not by conveniently making the hero a stage performer).
I like Amelie's OST though, especially the one song I keep listening to (La valse d'Amelie). I find it slightly sad and touching in a poignant sort of way, although most people find it happy music. But then most people also like the film.
My third reason for not having liked the film is that I just find Audrey Tatou's permanently wide-eyed look stupid and I feel diabetic because of all the sweetness in her chracter. I like sweet movies too (Love, Actually - although a woman, and a filmmaker no less, claims it is misogynistic) but there was something that irritated me about this one.
Please read The Kite Runner if you haven't already. After a long, long time, I found a book I totally loved from my heart without getting mixed up in how well regarded it was and a book I finished in half a day because I could genuinely not put it down. This is a book that is, for once, as touching as its blurbs promise. It squeezed tears from my eyes at least a couple of times.

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