Tuesday, October 31, 2006

the poetries of love

I got rhymin' on my mind. Today I stumbled across a song from the Tamil film Kaadal Desam - I think in the late '90s they were all Kaadal something or other - that was called 'Oh, Maria.'

O Maria, O Maria, O Maria o Maria,
Fruit cherry-ah, nee vareeyah,
Emailil love letter thareeyah?
Kadalliku, fishing net
Kaadalikku Internet
Desam vittu desam visai
(?) kaadhal valai!

Requiring little translation, but for those challenged by the imagination: one asks Maria the fruit cherry if she will come along/send along a love letter via email? Because fishing nets are for the sea, and the Internet is for affection, and so from one end of the world to the other the nets of love are ravelled. What a conceit - ambitious and clever! It's like something a Metaphysical poet might have written as an undergraduate on purple hearts. A dissolute teenage John Donne having taken leave of his habitual sense of irony and complication and brittle intensity (the gem of the lot, Szerelem). Okay, it's actually ridiculous. But I love that people can think up stuff like this and get A R Rahman to set tunes to these words.

Anyway, for best results I include the text of my personal Donne favourite. It's not a love poem, except in the way Donne manages to sexx up everything, including death and religion. If you sometimes wonder why people ever think of religion as anything beyond an obligation of the social contract, Donne really sort of validates the spirit of the sacred sentiment, giving fresh depth and meaning - and beauty, I daresay - to the individual yearning for the unknown.

Batter my heart, three person'd God; for You
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit You, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue,
Yet dearly I love You, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to You, imprison me, for I
Except You enthral me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except You ravish me.

Now with hi-quality, lite-w8 mp3 snippets recorded at lunch by me someone totally unknown, because GTalk voicemails rule. Click for Sendspace files. Mariahahaha.

And Batter My Heart, curiously and unerotically breathless.

current musix: okkervil river - the velocity of saul at the time of his conversion

Friday, October 27, 2006

project objectify: making zlats out of sportsmen since 2006

eta: *MOPES*

How screwed up is it to make a Project Objectify post about a player for a team you will never admit you don't hate don't care for scant hours before he goes up against a team you love in one of Europe's biggest derbies? Pretty screwed up, right? But this is the thing about Zlatan Ibrahimović. He makes screwed up enormously successful. And graceful. And creepy. And hilarious. And scary, did I forget to mention scary?

"There's only one Zlatan."
"Are you sure?""
"Yeah, I am. You know Zlatan?"
"I know Zlatan. Sometimes I think he has a twin; his behaviour is so different today than it was last Wednesday."
"How you know Zlatan? This is only the fourth time you meet him."

(And third-person self-reference was never the same. Except when bloggers did it, in which case it remained annoying as ever.)

How can the same brain that has objectified the dignified Paolo Maldini have a corner in its sick dark winding alleyways for Zlatan? Perhaps it has to do with the fact that Maldini is a lone breed. Italy is full of mean, ambitious footballers stuffed with talent and tactical abilities. Zlatan has provoked, challenged, and broken brains with the best of them. He's been described as "half-gangster, half-ballerina." He's gone on record about someone on an opposing team to say, "What he can do with a football, I can do with an orange."

He's fun. And he's playing across from Hernán Crespo these days. And Milan's defence is not what it used to be back in the day. Of course, back in the day Zlatan made Alessandro Nesta's nose bleed or something.

Friday, October 20, 2006

carpe diwali

I wasn't planning on a celebration until I woke up ten minutes before I was due to leave home this morning, picked out my most shapeless clothes, missed meetings and was generally pointless and underproductive. I thought I was having a bad day. Then I remembered that I spent last Diwali in hospital with a needle jammed into my hand, looking out of my window at the coloured lights in the buildings across, unable to so much as walk outside.

And I thought, damn it all. I need some reassurance. I'm going to be ritualistic if it kills me. So I'm off early today to buy diyas and flowers and a salwar and kurtas. Flatmate #2 and I will at least attempt to fill the kitchen with something other than strategically-placed fungal growths and unused crockery.

Happy Diwali! Seize the day. Especially if you're away from family and unsure, like me, if you're going to be able to carry on the tradition with any success at making it mean something. Smell the til oil in the burning lamps and cultivate the glow. Light is a good thing to celebrate.

the police await don in eleven countries. i catch him before the premiere.

Something in my genetic make-up has predisposed me to love the crack. I can think of no other reason why I didn’t hate Don.

Spoilerrific wonderment at the above follows.

This is the thing: evil Don, conniving cops, Don being pulled out of the evil overlord race by conniving cops, replacement Don turning up, plans for world domination are set in motion by way of mysterious upper hands – but whose? Also throw in a dead dancer, a revenge-seeking sister, and a wronged young man. Go wild.

Watching it in the fifth row from a gigantic Imax screen did not help ease the experience of utter disorientation: the dialogue was off in places, the script was loose and the action often edited in bizarre cop-out ways. The acting was – well, let’s just say bizarre covers it. Allow me to further destroy anyone’s hopes of a likeable Kareena Kapoor when I say that the best thing about her role was that it was mercifully short, and bundled out of the way in the first quarter of the film.

I had great hopes for this story. Anyone who thinks the old doppelganger trope is unfashionable is inadequately prepared for life and art – it is a super cool trope. I know a lot of us Bollywood-fed types hurt at the stupidity of the identical-twins, lost-in-the-Kumbh-Mela aspect of it, but double identities are as hip as they come. I was very enthusiastic about driving myself crazy wondering which guy it really is, and if there is actually only one guy, and imagining the endless possibilities of cross-double-cross. I had such great hopes, as a matter of fact, that I enjoyed myself thoroughly in spite of all the bad stuff.

I thought Farhan Akhtar had some good ideas. He takes the single major dual identity theme in the old Don and unravels it to spread out over every aspect of the film. No one is who they seem to be. Everyone has a hidden agenda and secrets of their own. There’s no particular suspense involved for the audience in this. All the characters soliloquise or monologize enough, in that eccentric seventies way, to lay out their cards on the table as soon as their characters are established. We know Kamini and Roma and DaSilva and Jasjit’s motives and secrets before we know them. We should settle down to enjoy how these things dawn (heh.) on the other characters, and be unprepared for what we are about to learn at the end of the film, which is meant to shock the audience. About fifty percent of the people I went with guessed the big secret halfway through the film, of course, regardless of whether they had seen the first Don or not. It’s no major riddle.

What it did require was a more deft touch. There are some lame, rudderless sequences. Mostly it’s all a hefty mass of uncoolness. Uncoolness is death for a film like this. The set-piece at the beginning will make you cringe. There’s a bit with a parachute that will make you cry – if you have the guts to look at the screen when it’s happening. Kareena Kapoor proves herself equal to the best in the Kapoor tradition of the why-god-why school of performance.

As I was saying, I enjoyed it. What can I do? It was so brazen in its desire to let everything hang out. It was totally on the bad drugs, but it owned up to it freely. The art direction’s sassy reflection of the old style was delightful. And I love how Boman Irani veers between method and madness to play his role: sometimes he’s all invested and serious about it, and sometimes he’s just sitting on his character’s shoulder and making it do mad stuff. I was less excited about Shah Rukh Khan. I think this is the first in a long while that I’ve seen him perform at least part of a role free from the illusion that being awesome and being Shah Rukh Khan are one and the same thing. He loses the tics and the irritating speech habits for at least some of the scenes. And his song sequences are the best I’ve seen in ages – his energy and absorption hearken back to why India made him its blue-eyed boy in the first place. It’s too bad that this film settles, once and for all, the question of where he stands with respect to Amitabh Bachchan. He just doesn’t. Watching him work at anything – the studied menace, the dancing, the bumbling act – and casting your mind back to the unblemished charisma of seventies Bachchan is like having candle-flame meet sunlight. I’m not a Bachchan sentimentalist, and I don’t think I’m wrong about this. The past and present Dons challenge and contrast their personae much more clearly than the Chopra-Johar duds that threw them together ever did.

Phew. Before I’m done, a word about Arjun Rampal. I don't hold much truck with the idea of models being actors, because they aren't, but he behooves me make an exception. His studly being is a pleasure to behold on film.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Is America really doing this? Or do I wander lonely as a cloud in a fever dream?

[link via the estimable Pandagon]

"It is the shining light of freedom I espy."
"No srsly, wtf is this shit?"

(I apologise. I have to take recourse in teh_frivolitee as a defence mechanism.)

Friday, October 13, 2006

friday top ten

Oh good, Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel Prize. It makes me happy. Are they including immunity from undeserved trials along with the citation and the moolah for the prizes this year, I wonder?

Anyway, unsurprisingly, I got memed again, this time by the gracious Szerelem - great reference, wot? - to list the top ten songs on my iTunes. I've switched to Winamp lately out of a perverse desire to cleanse my soul, but the song, as the great wizard Robert Plant would say, remains the same. Here goes.

1. Ay Ay - Tarkan. Ooof. This man reminds me of how heterosexual I am. It's funny because he doesn't really fall into my 'type,' but over time I have discovered that my 'type' includes neurotic, waifish, unwashed, plain nuts, and outright retrosexual, so I give up aiming for consistency. I love this song. It's smoky hawt, very lazily bump-and-grindy, a far cry from his notorious Kiss Kiss number, 'Simarik,' which also - shut up - I love.

2. Uma Casa Portugesa - Amália Rodriguez. Isheeta is my enabler. I don't know anyone who holds a candle to my fellow DLG-er for sheer good taste. She's been supplying me with Portuguese folk lately, and the last thing I did before I dropped off to sleep last night was listen to Amália Rodriguez. I hate displaying my ignorance of the song's genre or language by talking about its feel, but the mood is incredible. Hold on to something while I borrow an image from nature: it's like standing under a tree on a sunny morning, with shafts of light dappling the shadows. Amalia is rightly called a queen among her own. Her voice is sweet like honey, and strong as steel wire. (Overwrought fanfic about elves, here I come.)

3. Marlene On The Wall - Suzanne Vega. Spare and catchy American female indie-folk-pop. I love this sort of thing, right from Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell to the more self-conscious work of Beth Orton and Suzanne. Her 'changing, changing, changing,' at the end of the song makes me smile every time.

4. Raga Bhatiyar (khayal in madhyalaya teentaal) - Pandit Jasraj. Inadequate resources to describe this: look at this blog for some attempt at description. I'm a big old soppy Jasraj fan, ever since his morning concert four years ago in the Xavier's quadrangle when I was stumbling about in a sari looking for my friends and he threw six million tantrums and ended up making everyone weep with joy and dance in the aisles like Woodstock hippies as he sang 'Govind Damodar Madhaveti' to the lightening skies. My kaajal was everywhere (the sari, thanks to Kate, stayed on).

5. Defend Her, Heav'n, Theodora! - Artiste unknown. Possibly Handel's most famous aria, from the oratorio - you'll never guess - Theodora. Defend her heav'n/let angels spread/their viewless tents around her bed. A soaring, swelling lullaby, perfect for stormy nights and unspoken doubts. I'm afraid I have no idea who sang this version - it is not, sadly, the sublime Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson - but it's very passable.

6. Suffragette City - David Bowie. Punk and glam have been working their unsubtle magicks upon me. A Bowie classic, I forgot about this song for a goodly while until I happened to stumble (NO SRSLY TRIPPED AND FELL ON THE REMOTE) upon an episode of 'Rockstar:Supernova' on the telly and found the big sassy blonde in a suit rocking the hell out of it. I like to drop-kick annoying people to this song. I cannot account for my affection of the phrase "Wham, bam, thank you ma'am" when Davie B sings it.

7. City Hall - Vienna Teng. Not a maker of my favourite sort of girl-music - sorry, but if I want emo I'll take the eyeliner-wearing boys, you know? - but this particular song is just delightful. It's about the Valentine's Day weekend in 2004 when San Francisco defied constitutional law to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Bittersweet and just a little bit cheesy, but infinitely hummable and full of hope. Outside they're handing out doughnuts and pizza pies/for the folks in pairs/in the folding chairs/my baby's looking so damn pretty with those anxious eyes/rain-speckled hair, and my ring to wear ....

8. Jaded - Aerosmith. I listened to this song on a friend's system the other day and went, 'why, god, why?' And then I listened to it three hundred times on repeat, saying, "oh my god, oh my god, I REMEMBER THIS SONG." It's so bad it's ridiculous. My subconscious has been telling me for years to give up the pretense and embrace my secret love of Steven Tyler. I should really get down to it some day.

9. I Wear My Sexyback At Night (cheekyboy edit) - Justin Timberlake v/s Corey Hart. Courtesy of the ever-reliable Aurgasm. It's so funny to hear people you're accustomed to thinking of wimpy pre-teens singing songs about shackles and whips. Still, one of the comfortable things about dance pop is that it renders your common standards and perceptions of music, things about voices and words and tunes and ideas, quite superfluous. I haven't actually heard the original of either of these songs, nor yet seen the videos, but I trust this version improves them muchly. It's dead sexy.

10. Suddenly I See - KT Tunstall. KT's first album has already taken her past indieness into the stratosphere of pop-snob popularity - you know this happens when you listen to an obscure artist you love and right next week start hearing their songs on soundtracks to television shows, animated movies, or, as in the case of this song, inanimated movies - it's the opening track to The Devil Wears Prada. Simply delightful. Every time I play this song I think about girls in whose admiration my heart wearies - Lindsey and Flatmate #1, for example. She fills up every corner like she's born in black and white - how affectionate! How funny!

bonus track(s): The Abbey Road suite. Sometimes, all it takes to change the world is ten minutes of pop music.

I tag thee all. Take up thy illegal mp3s and walk.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

five things i owe to feminism

1. The belief that 'perfect' and 'good' are two different things, and that letting the first get in the way of the second is disastrous. The immediate thought that occurred to me when I began this post was, 'wow, how tough, I wonder if I can counter-meme something easier, like "five things that feminism hasn't changed for or about me",' because I'm crazy. I'm not a perfect feminist. I'm dealing with it. This is good. It allows one to value what one has and set realistic goals for what needs to be done. It is not the "hedonistic, hypocritical" activity that the laff-a-minute 'Save Indian Family' lot think it is.

2. My relationship with my mother. My mother and feminism are compelling guiding forces in my life, and, as fate will have this, are both strikingly similar and annoyingly contradictory at various times. And in spite of being on opposing sides of a number of debates, including ones about marriage, infants and skin bleaches ('they just take off the grit!'), with her, I've learnt to value not where she's coming from, but her, and her choices. They say that the patriarchy's greatest crime is to have made daughters hate their mothers. I am very glad to have escaped this. My mum's really great.

3. Disrespect. Politicising pig-headedness is just going to end up putting the patriarchy in trouble, innit? Oh, the pleasures of formal enjoyment of art and gratuitous and casual flirtation, for T S Eliot qua T S Eliot! You have been wrested from my bosom. Here is a veil of mourning, that I am not going to wear for you.

4. Resource management. Feminism has taught me that you can kill two men with a single bullet by shooting it into the air and cutting it with a swiss knife in such a way that the two separate bits are deflected mid-air with a special flick of the wrist to embed themselves in the villains' chests.

5. Respect for the gaps in every story.

... wait, the bullet trick was actually Rajnikanth. D'oh! Sorry. (What? He saves women from rape an' stuff, yo. He cares.)

As a bonus favour of feminism, how about: the right to eat the same food at the same time at the same table as my male relatives? Or: the actual right to receive property from my mother and pass it along to future female children? Political franchise, advanced education, freedom to see men as more than oppressors or liberators and all that bad binary shit?

The right to relationships that exist beyond the bounds of blood, money and sex?

To be capable of taking all this for granted?

I was tagged by Aishwarya. In my turn I call upon Isheeta, Kate/Bob, Szerelem, Uma and Vivek. Anyone else interested, please consider this a personal shoutout, even if you're incapable of taking things seriously, or a dude, or both.


Maybe I should do a 'five things feminism has taken no part of for me' thing next.

Monday, October 09, 2006

seeing you come of age

The Roswithan weltanschauung has undergone the disturbing influences of pain, rage and disorientation over the past fortnight in alarming simultaneity. However, the muscle strain in my back turned out to be just that and not a symptom of the onset of multiple sclerosis, contrary to my paranoid imaginings. The state of the world has simmered back down to causing mere disgust and frustration, and I'm quite over the whirlwind business trips and general promotion-induced haplessness of the past. So I arrive in this birthday week, first to offer congratulations on the superannuation of Aishwarya, who turned 21 yesterday, and then to the keeper of my soul and best friend, Flatmate #1, with whom early readers of this blog may have a vague acquaintance. Cronehood is here! Soon you will be doomed to unsteady teeth, hobbling, a disinterest in celebrating alienation, and proposals of arranged marriage. Death has crept one step closer to you both. Seize the day.

Apart from the prospect of chocolate cake not much else mitigates today's circumstances. John Lennon, had he lived, would have turned sixty-six today. An early, violent and tragic murder enshrined John in the hearts and minds of two successive generations as the symbol of several things. He is the idealistic man-child whose aversion to violence, at least in his songs, became a sort of fearful prophecy of his own end. He is the irresistible, irreverent Smart One, the troubled teenager, the passionate swain, the Jesus-surrogate, the alternative to politics and war, all things good and innocent. Years after he was shot in Central Park the debate about gun control rages in the United States. The idealised brand of millionaire-hippieism that has become uniquely associated with the Lennon-Ono brand is best praised for not making anything worse. A Lennon solo exists in an airtight, nostalgic space, quite unlike the fluid, mind-altering products of his songwriting years with Paul McCartney.

Paul's always been my favourite Beatle. He was the marketable face, but that never changes the fact that he was as important to the setup as John: he was the artisan, the backbone, the lightbringer*. The conflict is present in the McCartney half of the partnership, between irony and seriousness, but it generally takes a backseat for the vivid, cruel Lennoness, except for the very early and very late Beatles records - on Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, for example, the John-voice overlays so much of the feel that an actually hilarious little jog like the infamous When I'm Sixty-Four seems to be for serious, in comparison. Still, Paul is a straw-victim in the fake war of ideologies that (fakely) bifurcates the world of the Beatles. He'd hold his own in an arm-wrestling competition between the two of them if he had to. John knew this when he said that no one would ever come out of a pub whistling 'I Am The Walrus,' as the might with 'Yesterday.' (I actually think it's the reverse for a lot of people.) He just exists on a different plane, of symphonies and ditties and virtues and sins, as the modern classic of dance-rock has it. He doesn't write tragedies.

Today I wondered if a living, aging John Lennon might have taken on the world's problems, walking down the streets of New York believing he was Bono (who, in spite of everything, is the closest thing to the replacement-Jesus of rock music today). I doubt sabbath economics would have been his thing, or fair trade, or AIDS relief. It's difficult to come down to brass tacks from the billboard-high of 'War Is Over.' The world might have grown into that sort of absolute, final expectation, though. I don't know how much of a chance there is that it might have led people to demand that sort of accountability, because they had a loud, bizarre, absolutist colossus of a mouthpiece. It's so naive - the paths we've taken in the last twenty-five years have all but shattered the dream of the possession-free, agnostic world of Imagine. Nowhere but in music have borders ceased to exist.

Some dream to have while it lasted, I guess.

Out on the ocean,
Sailing away;
I can hardly wait,
To see you to come of age-
But I guess we'll both
Just have to be patient,
'cause it's a long way to go,
and it's a hard road to hoe,
Yes it's a long way to go,

but in the meantime

Before you cross the street
Take my hand
Life is what happens to you
While you're busy making other plans.

current musix: john lennon - beautiful boy (darling boy)


*Oh Harrison fans, but me no buts.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

bubble much?

Oftimes the fact that I live most of my life in the Internet and in my head makes me forget stuff. This seems to be the only way I can explain how I discovered this thing I will talk of only today. Do you know how many countries in Asia have anti-discriminatory laws protecting their LGBT populations? That is to ask, how many Asian countries do not actively or otherwise participate in the oppression of sexual minorities?


South Korea, Japan and Israel. The world's biggest continent. Three small countries.