Saturday, December 25, 2010

Publication in ken*again

Read my story "Damaged Goods" in the latest issue of the literary magazine ken*again: http://kenagain.freeservers.com/PROSE.HTML#saha

Monday, December 20, 2010

Film Review: Black Swan



  







Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan strikes you as a well narrated tragic masterpiece where the protagonist's flaw in character is her child-like innocence. The drama narrates the strange vicissitudes of the life of a young ballerina as she sheds the raiment of mollitude and adorns the evil prowess of a femme-fatale. In a broader sense, it is a story of art consuming the artist.

The dream like movement of the plot is well threaded with the wonderful choreography, and Natalie Portman comes out as a sensational queen of both drama and dance. She is perfect; her face a pool of emotions, each sentiment is penciled into her features with deft mastery.

For years the pious Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) has served her term in a New York ballet company mastering her techniques and generally polishing her act, but what she lacks is the acting prowess. The company having suffered an alteration of fate, the director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to rejuvenate the under the weather corporation by recasting the classical Swan Lake. He selects the naïve Nina to play the role of the protagonist, even though he is unsure of her prospects in the portrayal of the black swan, the double of the pious white swan, and this is where the conflict strikes. A clattering windmill of admonitions, cheering ups and even sexual stimulations could not fully unveil darkness in the angelic diva. What Leroy doesn’t realize is that Nina is too unpretentious to don the dark attire without hurting herself in the process. She is gullible, she is scared. Under the authority of her overbearing mother Erica (Barbara Hershey), Nina is a child of subservience lacking heavily in the power to assert herself. But her journey to the realm of darkness begins with the advent of her competitor Lily (Mila Kunis), a sexually deviant female exuding the aura of darkness in every breath. She is a natural "black swan," and Thomas Leroy casts her as Nina's alter in the drama. Feeling thwarted and wronged Nina peels off her suave exterior and displays the characteristics of the dark, primeval self.

The thrilling suspense of the movie grips you from the beginning. The atmosphere of darkness, the cerebral horror, Nina's doppelganger, all predict a grim finale for the narrative. The disturbing scenes of graphic injuries send chills down your spine and you are left with the cardiac organ getting crazy inside your rib-cage.

Black Swan is a perfectly written gothic novel where each scene is chronologically threaded with the next. Despite the marked ambiguity of certain events, Black Swan comes out as a drama that doesn’t require a high gray-matter content to decipher. Of late, several Hollywood pieces (Inception, for example) have used the decipher-it-yourself technique in their works leaving a sizeable portion of audience vying for the correct interpretation of the cinematic riddle, and thereby making them focus their attention on the mathematical calculation rather than on deriving pure pleasure from the motion picture. But appreciation of art is not a forced process; it is natural and spontaneous. Black Swan deftly balances this artistic truth with perfect harmony, and the resultant magnum opus therefore comes out flawless and un-blemished. The subtle movements in the plot, the astounding visual effects and the incommensurable depth in the story leave the audience spell-bound. Never for a moment the plot seems thin or dragged out, never does the director lose his focus. In fact, the entire effort shows so much perfection that I, like many of my co-viewers, sat appreciating the work even after the final credits have rolled.

A review of Black Swan would be incomplete without a paragraph of homage to its protagonist. Natalie Portman has surpassed herself in the role of Nina. She is beyond perfect. She is a cross between an arch-angelic superwoman and a half-baked adult with no sexual experience. Her transmogrification strikes us as the wrath of hell. I still feel the goosebumps on my skin when I recall the miniate-eyes of the black swan. Portman's academic background as a pupil of psychiatry has undoubtedly helped her drink in the tricky role to perfection. She has come a long way from the brat in the Closer; she seems more matured. Her final words go through you like a pair of sharp knives inflicted on an already wounded surface. "That was perfect," she says as volumes of unspoken emotion fill her eyes, and then she empties her lungs; an artist sacrificed at the altar of art.


The supporting cast in the movie balances the spectacular lead performance. Mina Kunis is exquisite as Lily. She too seemed matured and out of the cocoon of Jackie (Kunis's character in "That 70's show"). She is a woman of great attraction, not the starry eyed teenager in love with unicorns. Barbara Hershey as Nina's imperious parent seems more like the wicked witch holding the pretty princess captive rather than a mother-cum-career-coach of her ballerina daughter. Winona Ryder as Beth also deserves a round of applause. Despite appearing in only a handful of scenes, her presence is vital in the drama.


The chiaroscuro like cinematography is breathtaking, and so are the editing and sound effects. The director Darren Aronofsky plies with the audience's expectation and unfolds before their eyes a drama of a lifetime. This epic tale of innocence killed at the hand of its vicious replicate is one of the best cinematographic renderings in 2010. After Christopher Nolan's Inception, Black Swan comes out as the second biggest hit of the year.

 


My Rating: ********** Ten out of ten. 

 

P.S. CNN i-Report of the review: http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-531014

       IMDB link of the review: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0947798/usercomments-126

 

 

 


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snowy Nashville:-)



Let it snow!




Friday, December 10, 2010

Nerd Alert!


 Even if you are not nerdy you should act and/or look like one. This is the universal truth that dawned upon me this Friday afternoon as I sit entering mundane quotidian data in my journal. Today is a nice day for journal writing—cold weather, a chance of flurries, and a spouse busy with his work. Nothing can open you up like the above mentioned conditions, and if you are lucky enough to have all the ingredients together you leg the world and head for your notebook. For some moments I dabbled with ideas. I looked back with forced-pleasantry at the hinterland in my mind and tried to catch those fast-fish like images and memories that are now there and now vanished. I have, however, finally chanced upon something that I have been meaning to write about for sometime.

Today I remember that one day not so long ago when I realized that I should drown my cute and trendy wardrobe and procure a bunch of nerdy costumes and accessories: an over-large T-shirt with dirty patches, a pair of loose fitting trousers, a beaded neck-wear, and a geeky-eye wear; this last item being a must if you want to resemble something that is even remotely nerdish. I will tell you why I had this apparently outlandish idea. It so happened that a month back Vanderbilt University had several distinguished authors come over and enlighten the numerous writing enthusiasts, English literature aficionados and sleepy undergrads about their writing experience. The series of lectures being unrestricted and free to all, I was there to exfoliate my writing skills.

The series of public readings kicked-off with the appearance of Edward Hirsh, a name I am sure that is familiar to you all; and in case, you haven’t heard of this rhymester—although he seldom uses rhyme in his poetry, just google him.  The reading was scheduled to start at seven in the evening, and there I was with notebook in hand before the soon-to-be-opened entrance fifteen minutes prior to the start of the literary show. Initially I had thought to present self in complete formal raiment; however, later I decided to opt for something more regular— a pair of jeans and an evening top, red in color and snazzy to a degree. Imagine my consternation when as soon as I shimmered in and saw a group of listeners already seated dressed in baggy outfits, their hair undone and wild, their eyes covered by dim and thick glasses—a group of uggles, as you would undoubtedly think my first reaction was, but no, far from that, they were writers, real-life fiction-smiths dressed in a way writers should. I felt intimidated. For a moment I stood staring at them, wondering if I had walked into some other room; I asked a girl with geeky glasses who appeared to have just had recovered from a serious attack of depression, if that was the room the eminent writer would alight. The girl replied in an affirmative and scanning me asked whether I was there for the lecture. I replied nervously. At first I felt she couldn’t digest the news, may be she thought I was an anachronism— and I don’t blame her having just thought the same after drinking in somber-eyed spectacles seated in the room— but then she became almost cordial and told me that the writer would be there in a jiffy and directed me to a seat.

 The room was just another university room: large, white walled, a writing board hung up on the wall behind the teacher’s desk, etc. Having overcome the idea of turning about and leaving the damned place, I seated myself in one of the student chairs and began cursing my husband at whose insistence I had agreed to listen to the blasted lecture. I sat there wondering when the next hour would be over and I would get back home and partake of the wonderful dinner that I had prepared. The thought of food always cheers me, and I felt a little bucked up. I noticed at the moment that the rest of the listening-flock were blowing in, chunnering, giggling undergrads in pairs, and a sea of more nerds. I felt anxious. One of them, a girl wearing a hippy outfit and bogo shoes, seated beside me with a giant notebook and asked me if I were a writer. This is the one question that I dread. In lighter company I would have given her a ripe answer and said that I was a writer, one who is still mastering the art or words to that effect. But now I felt the life gasoline frizz inside me. A wave of diffidence broke in my heart and the vision of nerdy folks chunnering serious stuff clouded my conscience to such an overwhelming level that I denied my profession and replied in the negative.  The girl seemed displeased. I asked her if she had read anything by the poet, to which she exposed a set of fine teeth and showed me a few loose printout sheets. I realized she was a rookie. Relieved, I complemented her on her choice of earrings; she was touched. She complemented me back. “You have beautiful hair.” I smiled. Girls love complements.

A few moments later the writer blew in. He was a grandpa-faced individual with a genial manner and unish to me, nevertheless, they were good and I enjoyed listening to them. I noticed some of the students pushing their pens speedily and writing down every word the writer was uttering. I wanted to use my blank notebook, too. I took out my pen and began crafting words, things that I understood from the poems, basic things that passed my limited admiration. The girl beside me was busy with her scaly thighs; she scratched them absentmindedly and showed no interested to the dreamy poetic lines or to my sidelong glances.  Her notebook sat in her lap, face up and her Pentel Wow! rolled in the page-divider.

After half an hour I had started liking the session and almost managed to turn my fears into serious purpose by trying to think deep. I felt like yawning.  After another half an hour, the session was over and the public clapped their hands. The writer humbly stood at his designated spot soaking in the adulation and giving the audience a glad eye. He dedicated five more minutes of his precious time to answer the questions that we might have. I had hoped a query deluge, but when I saw most of the geeky blighters surrounding me pretending not to listen to the last sentence the poet had spoken and still writing busily God knows what in their ledgers, I felt reassured. Kind of funny it was to observe that the nerds complete from top to bottom in nerdy attire had no question to pose to an academic who was standing with an expectant face on the podium. I realized that may be I was wrong in feeling so much intimidated by their looks. May be most of them were ordinary writers like me engaged in the process of strengthening their skills. Eventually some people rose and posed some questions to the writer, but I didn’t hear most of them. I was experiencing a moment of epiphany. I felt that in this generally flavicomous group I may be a minority in appearance, but I do stand in the same level. I was a writer.


That night when I got home I thought about the experience, turning the whole evening over and over in my mind. I had always found it difficult to walk into a group and tell people that I am a writer. I still question myself if I am indeed one; I am unsure, I am humble. But then it occurred to me that the best way to alter situations of poorly handled career details would be to dress like a nerd. Adorn the geeky outfit and half of the job is done. People will look at you and “feel” the aura of prescience exuding from your bod and would stop short of posing the career query. Judging by the intelligence level of humdrum people I come across in my daily life, I have come to the conclusion that vainglorious boasting is the right way. In case you cannot sell yourself to the world and pretend to be it all, you will end up being a loner. And this is where a nerdy-outfit solves all your problems. Don them, love them, and see the wow glances you get. In a day you can feel, or at least pose, as a space-scientist, a jack of all trades without even trying to be one. It’s all in the dress, a complete package of confidence far more emboldening than a thorough knowledge of a beloved subject. I have been giving this idea of dressing like a literature-nerd a lot of thought. And, to be honest, if in a year I see myself in the same stratosphere, I am going to don such outrageous pieces of clothing. My finer fashion sense may scorn and rebuke my attempt, but it is time Jeeves take a back seat and let Wooster wear his purple socks, if you know what I mean. 

Have a wonderful weekend.

Toodeloo!!


Friday, November 5, 2010

President Obama's Asia Trip


India prepares for the big trip
"What happens when the first citizen from the country of 9/11 visits the country of 26/11 (terrorist attack in Mumbai on Nov. 26, 2008)that too during Diwali?" Asks Anandabazaar Patrika, one of India's oldest and trustiest newspapers, in its report of President Obama's impending visit to India. It provided the answer, too: "The city having lost much of its natural luster seems withdrawn. Naturally, since the last two years, the month of November is the time to get back to terror, bewilderment and lack of security. But now it seems that the same things are demonstrated to us more severely!"

Needless to say that many Indians, just like Americans here, are looking at this high-profile trip with intimidation. And the top-notch security measures that are being taken to ensure the safety of the first family are to Indians something that fairytales are made on. Never have they seen such rigorous a net of security in their country, and never have they imagined that the Brobdingnagian American touch could come straight out of its Hollywood package and poke their six-penny average lives directly. To a typical Indian America is a seven star hotel complete with luxury suites and dreamy comfort, and seeing that luxury first-hand inspires awe and fear in them. And when one is awed you cannot blame him for mangling a bit with the facts. It so happened that a certain "unnamed source" in India has added a couple of extra zeroes to the cost of the presidential trip, and that is where the problem started creating a tsunami of controversy and further staining the already stained reputation of the President. The cost of the Asia trip is reported at being an astounding 200 million dollars per daya sum so big that the Obama critics have lost their sleep over it. They are pointing to the ailing American economy and how it could recuperate from the sum the President would be wasting in this trip. However, I think the Obama critics will find their lost peace if they simply replace the USD in the 200 million with the Indian currency code INR. Two hundred million Indian rupees is equivalent to approximately 4.5 million US dollars, and that is the average cost of a presidential trip abroad according to this Anderson Cooper report: http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/11/05/obama.asia.cost/index.html?hpt=C1 A Bill Clinton visit to six countries in Africa in 1998 cost up to $42.8 million. His trip to Chile and China came in with price-tags of $10.5 million and $18.8 million respectively. So, judging by these available facts we can safely deduce that the Obama visit would cost somewhere around $50 million. Of course, with India having always been a soft target for the terrorists in the past, the onus of securing every corner of the country to ensure the President and his family's safety cannot be overlooked. But even then, the mind-boggling $200 million a day does sound rather out of proportion. I wonder if all this was the upshot of some slight misunderstanding: a result of a seemingly un-factual statement amplified erroneously by media that is too peeped by the hotness of the report to even fact-check the statement. Hence, I completely agree with Anderson Cooper when he says that there are many ways to criticize our President, and the comically inflated and clearly over-the-top Asia-trip bill is not one of them.

P.S. Picture from the web.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Two prodigal souls



You were there when life unfolded its petals for the first time
To steal the first light from the dawn of my youth
We lost a step and it was fun
Two prodigal souls united during one weary journey.
And then like all songs come to an end
Ours came to a stop too
But we remembered the misplaced notes
And played it again and again; never getting over it.
Suddenly life has become so complicated now,
And in it our song is lost, gone and buried under rotten earth
Worn down by the piles of experience
But our prodigal souls brandish unabashed tenderness
Between the reality of it all our fakes reek with freshness.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Girls who make passes do wear glasses"--the God AKA Tina Fey!

As the spirit of Diwali gets ready to soft-touch your heart, why not celebrate the new year with a gift of Tina Fey's 2011 swimsuit calender. For a sneak preview check out :

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tea Party Conservatism: Boy it's creepy!




It is a scary world out there with Right-Wing Conservatives using all it takes to get one "Square Deal" which in their case involves certain wise, yet clichéd, goals: taking fiscal responsibility, promoting free market policies, having a constitutionally restricted government. As the Midterm election season head to a closeout sale, we see more and more of the Right-Wing ranting projected in the big screen of politics. Having grabbed the undivided attention of worn-out and disheartened voters that are tired of the incumbent government's administrative policies, the Tea Party Conservatives have left no stones unturned in promoting their seemingly idiosyncratic albeit highly attractive plan of "Taking Back" the government and rebuilding the nation based on conservative terms.

Demanding a revolutionary face-off with the Democrats, the Tea Party gang have time-traveled the whole nation peppering crowds with fantasy-filled Utopic vision of perfection in near future. They have managed to evolve a common narrative that places the average Joe under the protagonist spotlight. Undoubtedly, such a new-kind of revolutionary fervor has given exasperated Americans a ground to share their common worries uniting a fairly sizeable chunk of average Americans under one blue umbrella of fantasy fiction.

The Rino (Republican in Name Only) hunting conservatives have managed to create a scary polarization not only in their own party, but also around the nation. Through several intimidating campaign ads such as "Repent or perish"  the Tea Party conformists are sending a clear signal to the people that change in coming and it ain't a joy-ride. The conservative moralizing and the insanity, the upraising of mindless Islamophobia together with the amplification of non-existing problems have given an active section of the Tea Partiers the radical look. The selfish tendencies of such speakers as Glenn Beck and Rick Santelli are deepening the already evident schism in the nation.  Think of thyself and not thy neighbor is what I hear when I read Rick Santelli's remark: “How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills?” 

Having laid a preliminary spadework of the inner workings of the Tea Party system, let us now talk a bit about the points of action the revolutionary Tea Party compatriots have put forward. They have blamed the present government for its failures and have projected a pinhole vision of change that may look unique, but lacks serious structure. They seem to know the basic things that need to change in the government, but do they have any solid point-to-point mapping of how to put ideas into action? They seem to have all the emotions and ranting, but do they have facts? Most of the Tea Party principles and their big idea of a big change sound as romantic and as fantastic as Obama's grand oratory -- good to listen to, but seriously lacking in solid content. I wonder then how the two are different, the ideology of the resurrection of the country, that is. In many cases, both sound a lot similar, just that they are marketed by different companies. And talking about marketing strategy, I wonder if it isn’t a mark of hypocrisy on the part of Glenn Beck -- the Tea Party ideologue-- who on one hand writes a book called "Broke" and is apparently worried about restoring the "treasure" of the country, while on the other goes ahead and promotes as outrageous a company as "Food Insurance" that demands a mind-boggling $ 9,599.99 for a kit of emergency food that might come in handy if the world is attacked by aliens!

Glenn Beck's book: Broke: The Plan To Restore Our Trust, Truth And Treasure

With the rise of 18th century conservatism in American politics, America's longtime exposé as a land providing fair opportunities for the growth and development of talents is losing much of his flair. America seems to be losing track of its founding principles in this mindless conservatism and caterwauling that we are seeing around us.

As a non-American staying in this country, I have often considered America and its citizens as paragons of progressive ideas; as people who have the ability to think out of the box. But the daunting marginalization, the rise of racism and anti-gay invective that I see around me is making me feel that with every passing day this once glorious nation is turning to a slugabed that gives more importance to the trivial fetishes of a purblind section of the society. Tell me what facts back an outrageous a threat as "terror babies" or Tea Party patriot Sharron Angle's unprecedented claims in her ""The Wave" ad? Has America been reduced to such an unthinking puppet that it will digest anything and everything that a group of pseudo-intellectuals would throw at her?

To tell you the truth, a great number of average Americans are actually getting tired of these  hard-core conservatives; may be that is why they are turning to comic-heroes like Colbert or Jon Stewart for their daily dose of news headlines. Indeed, it is better to have your news delivered with a topping of humor than a peppering of un-factual, idiotic claims from people who believe they would take back the country from wrong hands, yet they themselves are part of a keyhole culture that plays only with the cards of fear mongering and discrimination.
   Funny Men Speak: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert in their Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on the Washington Mall 

In conclusion, we can say that radicalization and fear-mongering can never beget good results. The Tea Party conservatives may have embarked on their goal of re-vamping America with a fair notion, but they have soiled their founding principles with so much dirt and grime that they seriously need to have a thorough appraisal of their ideologies before they go ahead any longer. 


P.S. Those of you who want to check out the blog on CNN i-Report, please go to: http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-512070

Fall Shines on Monday: A beautiful poem by Cindy Gregg



Monday

by Cindy Gregg




On this first day of November
it is cold as a cave,
the sky the color
of neutral third parties.
I am cutting carrots
for the chicken soup.
Knife against carrot
again and again
sends a plop of pennies
into the pan.
These cents,
when held to the gray light,
hold no noble president,
only stills
of some kaleidoscope
caught being pensive...
and beautiful,
in the eye of this beholder,
who did not expect
this moment of marvel
while making an early supper
for the hungry children.

"Monday" by Cindy Gregg, from Suddenly Autumn. © Wordplay Press, 2010.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Get Haunted





Turning to jack-o-lanterns or to old raconteurs to miniate your Halloween is so passé; nowadays, it is all about the personal experience of feeling the first-hand-tickle of the paranormal world. Put on your plangent outfits and grab a handful of the thoroughly churned paranormal delicacies, like "Ghost Adventures," "Ghost Hunters" and many more, haunting the showtimes day and night. Switch on your television any time of the day, and you are sure to have the hell scared out of you. With the whole TRP world ready with first hand confirmation that the heretofore unknown, and, dare I say, unimportant, world of the dead is just a click away, you have no other option but to let your pavid hearts take the shock. Teeth into a few episodes of these paranormal soaps, and you will be convinced that death is not a simple finale anymore. Hang in there, baby, there is much more to come!

Now, touching the business of discovering ghosts and serving them up in a platter may seem to some folks as lusorious amusement; but it isn't that easy, I tell you. Ask Zak Bagans, the host of "Ghost Adventures," and this DJ-turned-ghost-hunter will tell you how difficult the process of rousing the dead is. They run around with their EVPs and EMF detectors and such sophisticated gadgets to catch that one snippet that might hit the skeptics squarely in the nose and end one and for all the argument for whether there is indeed life after death. Fully conversant with the life-style of the dead, Bagans and his gang have had such astounding experiences as being possessed by spirits and encountering half-cooked apparitions.  But isn’t being so close to the spirits stuck between the stages of afterlife dangerous? You bet it is, and that is why they do it; and that's why we watch them do it deriving voyeuristic fearful pleasure from their deadly encounters with the otherworld.

And how do the spirits feel about this infringement of their privacy? I wonder if they are thrilled by the newly earned stardom these paranormal shows have given them. Right now, from what we see in the television, they do not mind much this intrusion of the reality television into their nebulous lives. Perhaps they are as deluded as us; or are confused not knowing what to expect or deduce from these endless questionnaire sessions with the relentless paranormal investigators. May be, just like us, they experience short-lived distractions from these shows. Who knows?





Trick or treat ? -- Wish you a Happy Halloween!!

I just finished carving my first pumpkin. Initially, it took me a few hard stabs to get into the core; but then I did it. I guess the pent up energy and hibernating calories finally found one happy outlet. And here it is--drum roll, please--my happy--ee--lantern:


Wish you all a very Happy Halloween!!


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Visiting the Mountain of the Moon in pen and paper, etc.


Bibhutibhusan Bandopadhyay and his Hemingway-styled narrative "Chander Pahar"-- a story that won him innumerable accolades from readers of all ages--is a complete life-enriching experience. It is a book in whose chapters you relieve history once written, probably in the medium glow of an evening lantern, by one of the greatest writers of all time. I never so much could find proper words to appreciate the story, and how I feel after every time I finish reading it. So, to taste this fascinating narrative down to the bones, I have decided to start translating it.  An official translation of the book does exist in the market; yet, it is more my personal initiative to pay this wonderful author my humble homage. I cannot tell you how amazing it felt when I found myself searching for the right words, losing myself in the labyrinth of plain Bengali colloquialisms, and ultimately, hitting on the right phrase and settling a puzzling sentence. I have never considered myself as a translator; but now I see that translating texts is as much fun as drooling over them. Since it all amounts to the same thing--writing for fun. As open-minded as I am today, I can tell you without the slightest doubt in my mind that I am unsuitable for the world. I dwell in my own secluded nook--which is currently the cemented floor of my patio--and fill page after page with absent minded eccentric thoughts. Yet, there is so much fun in the whole process that now I can say that I am ready to give up a prospective career just for the fun of writing. I haven't discovered the joys of writing in this crazy, open-hearted way before; and now, suddenly, I feel a door has opened up and I could see myself drawn out of the clichéd imago of life that we are all born to be either homemakers or semi-formal career ladies. Well, I frankly do not care how stupid people think I am becoming with every passing day because I have started living a part of my dream in my own daily life. Nowadays, I do nothing but wake up every morning and pen down the morning ramblings, then indulge in a jorum of mountain-high knowledge by reading some of my favorite authors, and then, after lunch, I get back to my own stories, as stupid as they are, I try to polish and edit them, after that, around evening, I finish my daily work and head with bull-eyed attention to the television set. Frankly, there is nothing extraordinary in the procession of events in my day, but I somehow feel life should be this way--natural and unsharpened. 

. Fall is in the air and the drying leaves and emaciating trees with almost-barren branches have become the pivotal point of my interest. I am thinking of grabbing a fair-sized pumpkin sometime this week and taking a thousand pictures of the tree just outside our apartment drooping under the weight of abundant yellow leaves.

 Everything looks so magical this time of the year. 

Anyways, so much for today; let the void prevail and let the ticking clock fill my life with the sweetest rhythm of the day:-)

Chao.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Movie Review: You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

                                                  


Woody Allen's new movie "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" provides a much-needed respite to culture shocked movie goers trying their best to acclimate to the ever-changing social troposphere. In Woody's movie our over-strained nerves taste the smooth wine like richness of retrograded filmology where we enjoy the subtle background music and nod our heads to the character developments in the plot and say, "There, there…I believe you've got it." If you feel that films should be — vintage, old-timey, and pleasant, this icebox of shifting morals is sure to be your joy ride. What amazes me is that this cinema being so different from the snazzy "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" or the plump-plotted "Match Point" portrays Woody's creative abilities in the same no-nonsense level. Stripped off of much of the flamboyance and glamour of the last Woody Allen blockbuster, the new movie shows a side of Woody we haven’t much appreciated in the past—a calmer Woody with calmer judgment and nerves.

The story, which is no space-age unique, thrives in skillful character sketching brought to life by the amazing artistry of the pivotal actors cast in this creation. The narrative begins with Helena (Gemma Jones), a lovelorn heroine recently separated from her husband, Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) an old-youth who leaves her and marries a promiscuous deity turned stay-at-home pleasure packet, Charmaine (Lucy Punch), goes to a fortune-teller to know the possibilities of her future. Helena is an over-strained lump of emotion that thrives on self-blaming and has once tried to end it all. The clairvoyance of the prognostic, however, sees a roseate future for Helena along with a fair chance of meeting an interesting stranger. Meanwhile, Helena's daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) has her own battles to fight. Stuck in a frustrated marital bond with a slugabed writer of a husband, Sally feels incarcerated in her cluttered apartment, neck-deep in books and her husband's failed raconteuring attempts, and flirts with her art-gallery owner boss Greg (Antonio Banderas). Sally's husband, Roy (Josh Brolin), a cabby and an ex-medical student, sees himself more as a writer than a man of the world. Although after his one finished piece of art—a novel that has been his sole name-work till now, he has failed considerably in his attempts to weave up a story, he is hopeful with his latest fictional creation. He feels divinely linked with his muse — an esoteric creature in red, a lady who is the sum-total of all the perfection in humankind — now more than ever. This woman, a musical goddess called Dia (Frieda Pinto), gives Roy all the hope of a bright future and Roy caves in by divorcing his wife and deciding to marry her. Sally, on the other hand, sees her love life stuck in a dead zone when she discovers her suave superior having an affair with her friend. The story is stretched and the characters and sent to their extremes: Alfie finds out that a fallen woman is too hard to pet; Helena fights for love with a deceased competitor; Roy's new novel is rejected and he steals the lifework of his friend who has had an accident and is now in coma; Sully wants to start a new life but finds the renaissance a tad too hard on the pocket. As the plot reaches its crescendo, we see the ultimate truth of existence coming to life: despite our best efforts, all our life's establishments do not always bear fruit.

Close your critical eyes and dig in for the drama is my advice to you if you decide to head to the theater to scoop up this woody dish. Certain obviousness and loose ends might hit you in the face, yet you digest it all and try to get to the core. At certain points the plot appears too deliberate for even the charming Gemma Jones to pull it through. But love it or loathe it, it is the weary pointlessness of the whole creation that strikes an unusual chord in the illusion-inflicted flicker.

Like several of Woody Allen classics and failed attempts, we find in "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" the common Woody ingredients: a frustrated writer looking for a big break, ample promiscuity, loose morals, and a twist ending. In fact, this movie, like the others, has the same pale-eyed cynical outlook on life, although blanketed for easy swallowing. The exquisite playfulness of the theme gives the movie an unusual vim; however, you can't help feeling somewhat disappointed with the whole effort. Woody has masterfully strewn the bits, added variation, piquant moments, yet the overall dish is not as grand as you had expected it to be; especially after the rather Brobdingnagian success of his last effort. You feel the stellar cast is thoroughly wasted in this blunt drama. The movie seems such an anachronism in the 3D-flick enriched market, and that explains why our theater didn’t even have its name posted among the featured movies of the week. I cannot say if it is Helena's unshakable faith or the sheer emptiness and mortality envisaged in the scheme that got me through with it, but in the end I did come out of the theater feeling victorious gloating, once more, over Uncle Woody's comic appraisal of human life.








Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Short Story in “A Rainbow Feast: New Asian Short Stories" published by Marhsall Cavendish



My short story "The Gambler" has recently been published in the wonderful anthology "A Rainbow Feast: New Asian Short Stories" edited by Mohammad Quayum. The book is a cornucopia of amazing short fiction written by literary artists from all over the world. It has been a great honor for me to see my work featured among the works of such great fiction writers. To buy the book please go to: http://www.marshallcavendish.com/marshallcavendish/genref/A-Rainbow-Feast-_B24174_Singapore.aspx


Here are some of the pictures of this zaftig fictional treat:



















Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ahoy, Daily Grind! -- How to get started after a hiatus


Picture Courtesy: http://sitemaker.umich.edu/argument/files/writing.jpg


I don't know why, but I just cannot stop writing about writing. This may sound significantly inane, especially if you belong to that puritanical orthographic club, yet for a writer whose words are like her babies that have been ignored for a hebdomad, returning to writing and writing about writing are the only things on her mind.To be a writer is to be something super or below humanity; you deserve no holidays, no breaks whatsoever from your persevering schedule, and you if take one without the prior approval of your left and right brains, you are going to end up in a soup, as I have:-(  Not to worry though, returning from a brief hiatus to your normal free-flowing mode is easier than portrayed by several heavyweight fiction specialists. You simply need to scratch the "fun" fixture from your diurnal routine. Cease to be a habitue of the fun and entertainment land, and you will begin to see imagination roll up more vividly. Most people think that writers tend to be secluded animals, I believe a certain amount of seclusion does have some advantage. You need not be a pariah, but not one word worth writing will pop up if you continuously allow yourself a heavy dose of party life. On the other hand, experiences always count, so a once in a while glass of wine is better than being a teetotaler. What I am saying is that too much of fun is bad if you seriously want to become a writer. Having just had the worst two days of post-party-syndrome, it took me 60 pages of free-writing to get back to crafting one readable sentence. And this I blame entirely on my week-long hiatus. I treasure my word weaving capacity which, if the day is good, creates some really good paragraphs; however in the past two days all I have written was plain old smack. I am not in a position to give writing advice, since I dwell on an inchoate stage myself, yet I feel that if you, like me, have decided to take advantage of the iota of imagination you have, get to work as soon as possible. Don't waste your days drooling over your friends' happy Facebook lives, or the good old shilly-shallying, get to your cheapest notebook and write. Of course, most of the pages I write are junk, and I toss them into the trash box without a shudder, yet, I generally finish 3 seventy-sheet exercise books in a month writing my morning thoughts for one whole hour. "Now, what should I write?" You ask. Anything that comes to your mind; do not edit, just write. This process of writing without editing is called "free-writing" and this, I tell you, is one full-proof process that will yield fabulous results if done overtime. Remember writing is a painful process that, just like your own self, matures with age and continuous hard work. If you sit at your desk for one day, get a good piece and deduce that you are a born writer, then, my friend, you have not tasted blood yet. What you feel, the pride, that is, will melt into thin air once you get to the core. And to get to the core you need to do two things: Write everyday and read everyday. The brain needs materials to work with, and it is your duty to give it its fodder. Read the best works of the genre you are interested in and then think about what you have read as soon as you finish reading. A daily routine always helps when you are processing your new-found data. Give yourself ample time in the morning to read, and then a good one or two hours in the afternoon to write. Here, getting back to free-writing, the best tip is to write in the morning when you have just seen the daylight peep into your room. The trick is to rub your eyes, get your writing book and pen and jam across the page anything that spontaneously comes out. Do it for one whole hour, and then get to your usual businesses. If you cannot manage good-morrow-writing, write in the afternoon instead. Remember you need to persevere for years before you get one good work; however, writing everyday is like practice-playing and will lead you to goal sooner than you think.

Well, enough writing consultation for you today; it is time I get back to polishing my own skills. Have a wonderful day and happy writing.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Media Overdose

 

                                                                            

             How much is too much?                               

Talk about modern irrealism, and we have a thousand lashing tales at hand. From liberal to conservative from Main Street to back alley, media nowadays lives on slander. Turn on the idiot box and you will see muscle-bound faces, iracund and gory, filled with political theosophists turning their heads into the ever-changing political array of events. From Obama to heretofore non existent political diva, Christine O'Donnell, every political and apolitical character is subject to the omnipotent media. Gone are the days of tasting a news as it is, devoid of the spice and pepper, we now have "views" mixed with actual news to such an inextricable level that it becomes impossible, if not implausible altogether, to make up our own minds regarding one social or political issue without being deliberately thrown in the herd of for-or-against people. We can not stand being apathetic to something as trivial as Bristol Palin's dance performance; we got to have views about everything. And for that sole purpose of view formation we have our 24/7 news channels featuring political analysts who with their nerd-glasses and sardonic tongue provide wondrous hypotyposis of whatz up with the world and how America and the rest of the world will drown even before the apocalypse. To tell you the truth, I am tired of the charade. It is not any longer a question of blue or red, good or bad, decision or indecision; it is a question of deliberate demagogy. Our political stars are our new-age heroes--all powerful with muscular authority, ready to save us with more words and less action, inserting fear into our minds and proving comic or tragic solutions that might make no sense to us, yet we accept them with raving applaud. From Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck to Stephen Colbert and his compatriot, Jon Stewart, they are all busy slashing one another, denouncing each others' views to such a level that things are getting out of hand. These days it is difficult to possess a steady view of political character.  We now have good-days and bad-days; some days our political orators would talk good about a person, some days they would talk dirty to boost us the ratings of their abstemious shows. It's all a game, give and take, slander and libel. Who can we trust, the liberal or the conservative? What's the difference? They are the two colors of one chameleon; their ideas may differ, yet they belong to the same species--brain-washing media. They are the new stand up performers whose honeysuckle verbiage makes our dinnertime more exciting and exhilarating. And we feel, more than ever, that we are active part of this media. In a sense we are, Tweeting and discussing news, and adding more and more weight to the internet junk box. We talk and talk about a bit of news until it is eclipsed by juicy Nuevo happenings. Then we forget the old bit of tale and get on with the new one, giving it our undivided attention. History is defunct to us, we live for the day.



With the overactive social media ruling our lives, feelings and emotions of a person have taken a back seat. Sometimes I feel we are all part of one reality show or the other. How many of you portray your true nature in the pixellete world? Only a fraction, I guess. We try to deform reality, make bad jealously good. The other side of a pixellete island must and must be greener. We add taglines making our, kind-of-good, average lives look deliciously decadent. The same is true for the media we keep; they make pea-sized news-bits seem Brobdingnagian in look and importance. And that, my friend, leads us to giving more importance than needed to things like your friend's Facebook status or a Chinese winning a Nobel Peace prize. I see less hoo-hah about USA bagging the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and more about China grabbing the Peace award. Frankly, people, we got to get over our imago of this oriental land.


But no talk about the nuances of new media is finished without the recent Rick Sanchez drama that made CNN fire the proprietor of the Las Fotos del Dia (I thought that segment was the best part of his show). Adios Amigo, said CNN to Rick when he called Jon Stewart "a bigot," and the news world thriving under the scepter of the "Jewish" people. "Offensive," you are correct; but what made Rick take the front seat in the slandering contest? It was Jon Stewart's comic relief. I love Stewart; I remember laughing my guts out to certain Sanchez jokes myself. But now I feel that it is too much we are indulging in. People are being ruined; people are getting betrayed, harassed, accused of bigotry without legitimate proof, all for what: our unquenchable thirst for vile comedy. Here I should add that comedy can thrive without despicable, low-grade references to respectable people of the community. But is it possible for us to get back to clean comedy and clean sitcoms after having tasted the forbidden fruit of wicked media slandering? That is the question I cannot answer.

I don’t think that the talk about the legitimate effect of new-media will ever end. It is one un-ending debate where both parties have their say. But unless we come to a singular deduction, we may never call ourselves wise intellectuals of the day. The media tantrum has degraded our morality to an all time low. I wonder if we can re-boost our systems and get back to clean media where no body is hurt or degraded for no apparent reason. Right now, I hope we do get back to square one and think things over before devouring another bit of our ever-popular pulp-media.

 P.S. Pictures from the internet.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Burn them up!!

Really hate something? Go ahead and burn it up, ladies. If Terry Jones, yeah that pastor who looks like Hulk Hogan’s sibling, could think of burning Korans, we can get ready and burn the rest of the world. So gear up,  ladies and make a list of things  you hate, and by hate I don’t mean moderately hateful stuff, like your kitchen sink, perhaps, or the jeans you could never get into, I mean real hate, like mouth-burning, eye-rolling kind of hate. Still don’t get it. Let me elucidate, I have a lot of time at hand today. And, by the way, Terry Jones has serious spelling issues, it is not nice when Anderson Cooper catches you for misspelling masquerade as ‘mascarade, ‘ and Muslim doesn’t have a big fat ‘O’ in it. OMG, you may say, but it’s too late, pastor. However, it is good that you have called off your Koran burning plan; nobody likes to see their holy book burn to ashes, that's just depressing. Now, I know I am digressing from my main point which was to burn like hell all the stuff you and I hate, by the way, that, obviously, doesn’t include living people. But there is another way to burn the dear living souls you just can’t stand. I remember watching one episode of the talk show hosted by Tyra Banks, and cutting aside the drama, she suggested something really cool that might save you from a trip to hell for burning somebody. She suggested you collect a number of soda cans, or beer cans, whichever you prefer, but it has to be a can and it has to be kickable, so you collect the cans and using your Sharpie write across their faces names of people you really hate, one can at a time, one name at a time depending on the hating ratio, meaning the person who you hate the most is awarded the first can. So, you might have to drink a couple of more sodas this weekend, but what the hell, like anyone cares!  Now after you finish scribbling the name think about her/him really hard, think all the bad things the person said about you, how she hurt you, etc. And think till you are ready and fired up, then put on your high heels and stomp on the can. Caveat numero uno: make sure you are home alone if you don’t want to be considered fit for a little trip to the sanitarium. After you have finished stomping the poor can and the metal has flattened considerably, you throw it in the bin and say adios, amigo or amiga depending on the person’s gender. Once you are done with it, it is guaranteed you will feel as light as snow, and you don't want to pull that person’s hair when you see her in person either.  Try this at home and then light a bonfire to celebrate your freedom. And in it throw in the stuff that really need to burn: pieces that have been inquinating your household and giving you too much stress, they could be anything from those damn old dresses you wish you hadn't bought to the journals where you wrote about your paramours of the past; burn them up, honey. Call your friends and host a burning soirée. I bet you will have a lot of fun. The fire-booth confession party, you will ponder in the later years, was the best thing you ever did. And God, wish Terry Jones could burn something with us. Of course he can -- his head!

Let us end this Saturday noon blabbermouth discussion with some fiery music. Enjoy this latest Sugarland fiesta I am currently hooked on. Have a fun weekend, and happy burning.


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Monday, August 30, 2010

Reading Daniel Orozco's 'Orientation'

Reading one of my favourite short stories. Orozco's fantastic short fiction has been acknowledged as one of the greatest short stories of our time.  I hope you enjoy the story as much as I enjoyed reading it myself.


Part 1




Part 2