Showing posts with label Review-ery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Review-ery. Show all posts

Sunday, November 27, 2022

reading weekend

I'd saved a couple of books for the long weekend and they were amazing. I'd actually preordered Preeta Samarasan's Tale of the Dreamer's Son-- I was that excited for it. But I saved it to be my reward for after NWSA and Thanksgiving were accomplished. 

At 492 pages Tale of the Dreamer's Son didn't feel long enough, I wanted to keep reading it. I fell in love with P.S.'s first book Evening is the Whole Day, met her at a conference years ago, and then we became friends on "the socials." She thinks Nu is an amazing artist and that Scout and Huck are treasures (all true) and I've loved her quirky and irreverent takes on parenting, her parents, classical music, the odd short story or essay, dead celebrity heartthrobs (Kafka! Chopin!) etc. This book--which has been a long time coming--is nothing like any of that... it's twisted and suspenseful... political gothic. I was sad when it ended.

My other read was Brian Doyle's One Long River of Song, which continuously broke me in so many beautiful ways. It was a book club pick--definitely not something I'd have picked for myself. And kids, that is why I should be in more book clubs.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Keeping up with the Klansmen

Nu and the puppies stayed home, but the other half of of the family, went to various showings of Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman. It is a thing of beauty from the way the title is spelled to the tongue-in-cheek super troll move of having Topher Grace play David Duke.

At went with his old H.S. newspaper editor/boss/prom date in the afternoon, and Big A and I headed out later in the day where I had a brief moment of "if someone was going to shoot up a movie theater this weekend, this would be a the one." I did have to take a 15-minute break in the bathroom because it's tough to watch the banality of racism up-close and uninterrupted, but the end was sweetly satisfying.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sex and Stones (on Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone)

Abraham Verghese is a huge talent. He's saved and improved the lives of more people than I've ever even met, probably. And he knows more (about medicine, certainly, but also most other stuff) than I do. The new book--first novel--is an intense, politically questioning, resonant, transnational saga. The emotional yearning and sexual tension in the novel is immense. I loved it.

And I hated this:

In every account of sex, the women seem to sacrifice themselves. In both encounters that the plot revolves around, I wasn't sure if I were reading about coerced sex/rape: one woman has had a clitoridectomy and seems startled by the experience; another woman gives in to the fondling of a man she idolizes because he is in a drunken panic. Both women are younger and less privileged in a variety of ways including social position, education, and race. Unlike many other literary authors, Verghese is not averse to writing about sex (at length, even). So why then is the sex never playful and honest? Never HAPPY? Why is sex repeatedly the ultimate sacrifice a woman can ever make.

What is this shit?

Verghese's novel begins with twin brothers in the womb and ends with the an endorsement of a father-son connection. Whichever way you look at it, that's male centered (for the bros). Which would explain why all (all!) the women in the novel occupy subservient positions as mother figures (who sacrifice lives--literally by dying in childbirth or by neglecting their health and careers) or as sexual objects (those who share sex freely are typed as servient sex workers or literal servants; alternatively they are the sullied/undeserving siren who betrays).

Can it get worse?

Yes. Wait till the women die--in honest-to-goodness childbirth or of consumption. Some punitively patriarchal novelist could have written this... in the 19th century. I won't think about the acrobatic coincidences and biblical / spiritual / numerological rationalizing that occurs in the book--Verghese's writing can compensate for most of that. If there had just been one female character I could identify with or even one (one!!) female colleague who wasn't subject to elaborate sexualization and with whom the male characters had a respectful relationship, I'd have bought the book.

With more than just my money.


Thursday, March 01, 2012

Indie Earworms

I canNOT stop listening to this on repeat.

A Facebook friend identified the ragas in Bombay Bicycle Club's "Shuffle" as a mix of Kalyani/Mohanam (Carnatic) and Yaman/Bhoopali (Hindustani), if you're into Indian classical music.

And yes, it sounds a lot like Matt and Kim's "Daylight."


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Big A and I watched the Louis C.K. show after the kids went to bed. We're long time fans of LCK back from when he used to write for Chris Rock, had his show on HBO etc. So I was kind of taken aback to hear LCK say his self-marketed website show had gone so well that he had a million dollars all at once for the first time.

Me: I feel bad that LCK didn't have a million all this time.

Big A(outraged): Do you feel bad that we've never either?

(Not so much--I don't expect us to, and I guess I think people on TV are automatically wealthy. That plus he's made so many people laugh--that's worth some good karma in my book.)


Sunday, July 03, 2011


Loved it. And the shout out to Dayton was the highlight of our quiet midwestern phase of life.

We've been putting off seeing it because of the Lupus-suspicion related anguish and Big A's even weirder hours. And as we walked into the movie theater, Li'l A said--I look at that poster for Super 8 and  I have no idea what it's going to be about.

I should have taken that opportunity to give my mom a heads up, because she told me later that she kept counting and recounting the kids and kept coming up with just six, so how were they the Super 8? She was thinking of the kids clubs we used to read when I was a kid--like Secret Seven and Famous Five :).


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Early Birds, not Love Birds

We're on our way to the opera, but we're listening to hip-hop non stop. Wiz Khalifa is bragging about how his checks look like phone numbers.

Big A: Kinda like you, Puppy--except your checks be looking like just the area codes.
Oooh, burn :)!

The Daughter of the Regiment was the dopiest thing I've seen. Dopey--not dope.

We ditched our passes during intermission to go try out a new tapas bar and get some Thai food. And we were home by 6:45. P.M. That won't make sense until I say our opera tickets are always for the Sunday matinee. One day we'll be seniors and we'll already be champions of the early-bird specials.


Sunday, April 03, 2011

Everyone Speaks

Took Li'l A to a showing of The People Speak a documentary/reading/performance based on Howard Zinn's work at The Little Art Theater.

Extreme celebrity kilowattage: Morgan Freeman, Bob Dylan, Matt Damon, Bruce Springsteen, Sean Penn, Run DMC, Don Cheadle and lots of etc., etc.

Li'l A's independent projects this year have centered on the every day life of people in different times and climes and he's been asking questions about how society and government work, so this was a perfect afternoon with him.

It made me want to go on a protest march immediately--and there are plenty of opportunities for that--what with Ohio's Heartbeat Bill and Senate Bill 5.

But also, it made me want to see my dad immediately, because I suddenly realized that Frederick Douglass looks like my dad, from the nose, eyes, chin, up to the serious horizontal furrow between his brows.


Sunday, March 06, 2011

Quiet complaint

We went to see Li'l A's school production of "The Bollywood Jungle Book" today. I really wasn't going to say anything about "Bollywood" or "Jungle Book." Hey, elementary school. The kids just want to have fun. Li'l A didn't get color cast as Mowgli, so that was good and he was the most bored Bollywood dancer I've ever seen :). Then for a grand finale, they decided to dance to "Jai Ho" (from Slumdog Millionaire). Yes.

I like both those stories, I like both those movies, I sing those songs to my kids all the time. But really? A group of educators didn't see anything problematic about sandwiching the pablum of their essentialist Indian experience between the bookends of Kipling and Boyle? There really is no fucking post in postcolonial.

I leaned the back of my head into Big A and muttered a restrained "Eff you" to the ceiling.
The rest of the day--as Li'l A likes to say-- was awesome sauce. First was birthday brunch with family and friends (and so many flowers!) where I ended up on the floor with the kids climbing all over and around me, and then my awesome MIL threw a dinner party and baked me the bestest birthday cake :).

Thursday, March 03, 2011

She was there

Today started off fairly normally and then I ended up at dinner with Jennifer Finney Boylan.

Back up: I should say that meeting her wasn't entirely unexpected--I have after all planned to take my class along to hear her talk for, lo, all of two months. Jenny is amazing. She is the author of She's not There Anymore and the forthcoming Stuck in the Middle With You (her schtick--she says, self-deprecatingly ignoring her writing skills and her jaw-dropping experiences --is naming her books after bad pop music).

Trans experience is something that students frequently don't understand; a concept that becomes, and stays, intellectual--and so something that you just get or just can't wrap your head around. My admiration for Boylan has been mostly on a gut level--mostly for her courage and her sense of comedic timing, so I was so happy to see these translated into a great *show*. Jenny worked the audience: making them laugh with her, at her, making jokes about them, getting them to care about her, getting them to extend that interest and affection to all trans people, to all people. It was breathtakingly, heart-achingly beautiful.

She is so articulate about growing up as male and female also, parenting as father--and now--mother, that my question had to be about the way her parenting would differ if she were parenting daughters instead of sons. She knelt beside me in the audience as I put my question out (smirking, "this is just between us") and gave my question way more attention and honesty than it deserved.

So, when I was invited as a last-minute addition to the dinner table, I couldn't wait to accept. My students were all starry-eyed at the end of the talk; I can't wait to debrief with them on Tuesday.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Wait, Wait--don't tell me

So i finally watched Waitress--Adrienne Shelley's posthumously released film about a pregnant, pie-baking waitress. I saw the previews when i was at the cinema to watch The Namesake and wanted to see it but never got around to it because no one would see it with me. I watched it by myself last night; it was free on HBO.

Like Juno--that other movie that seems to have been built around a prosthetic belly--i liked Waitress for the most part, and Keri Russell is radiant, while the guy who played her husband is suitably smarmy and disgusting. But there were too many out of character slips in the screenplay. The protagonist, for instance sneaks in hiply, ironic repartee that seems more in tune with her hip, ironic creator rather than herself. And though i'm a sucker for they-just-can't-help-themselves type passionate encounters, the disaffection and deceit engendered by *two* adulterous spouses seems rather heavy-handed.

And i won't tell you the end in case you've waited to see this film too. But i have to record my disaffection for two overly neat resolutions, such as (don't click if you'd rather not know) this and this, which tie the dangly ends of the film into a big, stylized bow.

Stay tuned. At this rate, i should have a Slumdog review in 2011.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

"This is not a food baby, alright?"

Just to say that we finally watched Juno. After all the hype and the Oscars and the buzz and the Fox Searchlight release. And it was good. And giggly.

I won’t give anything away. Can‘t. There are no surprises--nothing happens at the end that hasn’t already been established right at the beginning. Nothing happens that you don’t think is the absolute best thing that could happen given the circumstances. But by the end of the movie you’ve let yourself debate so many options and viabilities that you’re damp from tears and the effort of choice. Choice is tough. Not just reproductive choice--any choice at all…

The female actors--best choices. Ellen Page is preternaturally gamine and self-assured despite the prosthetic pregnancy. And I enjoyed watching yuppie dunderheads jockeying for her approval--not just in the way dunderheads always seem to be courting the approval of those younger (= hipper) than themselves, but because it allowed Jennifer Garner‘s interpretation of “sterility” to scale additional semantic and existential planes.

After the non surprising end, Big A and I surprisingly discussed a topic we rarely discuss: Abortions. We partially disagree about nuance, although i have the feeling Big A is increasingly drifting towards me. From as far back as he can remember, Big A has been pro-choice. Or at least that’s what his google-able student profile on Medical Students for Choice indicates. From as far as I can remember, while I’ve assumed a woman’s right to an abortion, I’ve also always disagreed with the PSAs and billboards in India, where I grew up, promoting it as a method of family planning.

This is where I get to sound reactionary and backward--there is something miraculous about conception, about pregnancy, something utterly, incredibly, phenomenal about new life. I know that as a feminist and a liberal, ideology prompts me to say, “clump of cells” or “the fetus,” or "the embryo" instead of the more emotionally loaded word “the baby.” But you do know that whatever you call it, and however inconvenient, it is the enigmatic start of life and will soon recognizably become a baby, right? A baby. And then a person and then a whole new world of limitless possibility. And while I would never, ever wish for a de-legalization of abortion or third-party sanction or biblical-style punishment pregnancies, I do wish for aggressively promoted, infallible, inexpensive birth control systems. I’m going to do exactly as my mother did and assure my (putative) daughters that should they get pregnant by accident, I will arrange and accompany them to an abortion. But I would want them to be conscious that it is a solemn decision, not a rite of passage.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

In Defense of Sex and the Twitty

Saw a movie about four splendid women, shared their sense of sisterhood, their adventures, their struggles with adulthood. Peeked into their shopping, their acquisition of property, mates, and a place in the world. It wasn’t called Sex and the City, it was called Little Women.


This morning:
Me (mock embarrassed): OK, you can’t tell anyone this. Promise you won’t! I’m going to go see the The Sex and the City movie. If you tell anyone I’ll… I’ll

Big A (mock exasperated): Relax, Pups. I won’t tell any one. You think I want anyone to know that you went to see it?


About the movie:
What happened to the original writers? What happened to the two-puns-a-minute rule? How did those women get so old so fast? Remember all the trite but really useful terminolgy that SATC used to churn out? ## The only thing close to that nifty shorthand in the movie was “emotional cutter.”

After the movie:
It reminded me of that that lonely first year in the US when I watched a couple of episodes alone, of those homesick years in Oxford when I had to book the common-room at college to watch the show with J and S and W on Channel Four.

It reminded me that pre-SATC I’d never really had girlfriends. My sister was my best gal pal and the rest of my friends were guys. SATC made being girlfriends seem fun and important. (Not girlfriend—that part I seemed to have a natural prolific knack for—the part about having female friends.)

And it was a nod to my time in New York City. A city in which I had the Chrysler Building dissected for me by SP, in which I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and back in the snow on my first real date with Big A, in which a self-assured sisterhood gives you a secret-handshake smile when you pull off a witty outfit. A city that comes close to being like India without being in India.

What I resent:
All the unnecessary noise about SATC’s product placements, its materialistic triteness, its lack of an intellectual component, its caricatured commodified milieu, and its narrative deficiencies. It’s not like you're pointing out anything new. Anything we don't already know. Yes, its excess mocks our imminent recession—and perhaps that’s exactly what is so fun about it. It is a female world—an empty, unlikely, twitty, unrealistic world, yes—but if women want to watch it, let ‘em. It’s their minds, their wallets, their time. It’s not as if the summer’s cache of multi-million-dollar dick flicks are intellectually intense, eschew product placement, or yield narrative gold. So stop preaching and prescribing propah female behavior and cultural taste. A world where cosmopolitans are contemptible but “a martini; shaken not stirred” is an epicurean touchstone just doesn’t make sense. Equal opportunity mind-farting twittiness, yo! Seriously, come on now.


## Eg. Modelizers: men who only date models


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Painted Veil, Atonement

Back when I was twelve, Maugham’s The Painted Veil seemed to me to be the most romantic thing ever. Or the most romantic thing I had ever read. Same thing. Yes, I had already read Wuthering Heights, so clearly my top choice was somewhat cynical.

But I guess that even at that age and even in a family such as mine, the specter of “choosing” a marriage partner “guided” by family pressures was a possible destiny. And so, the romance of two strangers voyaging inwards, discovering themselves, and truly loving appealed to me for its positivist prospects.

I saw the movie last night. By myself. Which isn’t strange at all; the strange part is that I go to the movies by myself all the time but can’t watch them at home by myself--I fall asleep or get bored. Same thing, I guess.

But I watched this by myself at home. And yes, some of the intensity was bodice-ripping (she lets her wrap slide off her shoulders, he takes two purposeful steps to reach her side, they kiss like the antidote is hidden at the back of their throats and only their tongues can scope and reach it. Gross.). Yup, like I said, highly satisfactory. Although the older, wiser me did think that most of their squabbles were like PSAs on how not to communicate with your partner. But I stayed awake till the end. (May be because Edward Norton was in it. And someone told me that they once played pool with him.) (Look, I never claimed this post was going to make sense.)

Emboldened by my initial success, I thought I’d watch Atonement tonight. Why two movies in as many days? Because I have an article due on Friday is why. So anyway, I ordered Atonement because it was another book I greatly loved. And I fell asleep.


Friday, March 07, 2008

(Action replay) Hipsters re-jump the couch

There’s yet another proclamation of the death of the hipster in the current issue of The New Yorker. Hari Kunzru’s story, “Raj, Bohemian” is so unempathetic and superficial that it’s so ironic, so meta… Man! You know?

There’s a veritable parade of transplants, trust-fund babies, and all the minimalist, alt, indie, eclectic creeds. It doesn’t help that all of this list has rapidly become assimilated by the mainstream and, actually, is already so infiltrated by it, that it’s positively putrid with ennui. [Can you tell I’ve been reading Zizek again?]

There is, obv, no Kunzru hate for hipsters. But his disdain [zing] actually cuts more. That may be somewhat deserved by the post-hipster, perennially unhappy sellout Misshapen species. But what about the fuzzy, farm-share ascetics and Etsy aesthetic types we actually know? I thought it was a good read but a flawed story. Or vice versa. May be *you* can tell.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

For the Love of Mike

As a precocious high-schooler, I used to review Madras (now Chennai) theater for the now defunct (what did you expect, they hired me as a stringer) Sunday Mail. Which meant that in every production i reviewed, i was treated to Michael Muthu in various roles for two years straight--and that as a result of such constant exposure, my friends and I developed a collective low-grade crush on him.

One morning, sitting in on a rehearsal with MM and his girlfriend, whose name I’ve conveniently forgotten, he asked me if I had seen Scarface because it was his favorite ‘film’.

I’ve never been able to watch more than two scenes from Scarface,* not even for the love of Mike. But my mom was watching Al Pacino in And Justice for All last night, and it occurred to me that (a) It was precisely the kind of role that Ol’ Mike loved to perform (b) He really, kinda, maybe looked like Al Pacino.

That Narcissist :)!

* I think mostly because of the OTT nouveau mob home decor.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Pan’s Labyrinth

“It is only a word, only a word,” says the mother in Pan’s Labyrinth urging her daughter to call her new stepfather “father.”

But of course, nothing is merely a word. Not the word “father” And especially not when Vidal, the stepfather in question, can be patriarchal but is never fatherly. Words have to fit.

Although many things are, admittedly, beyond words… sumptuously Gothic fairytales, say--or intensely re-created histories of fascism. Pan’s Labyrinth manages juggles both brilliantly, and frighteningly. With unforgettable visuals. With inimitable words. With terrifying simplicity. And unreality. Who’s to say that a fascist tyrant pulping a peasant’s face with a heavy glass bottle is less fantastic--or, indeed, more gruesome--than a mantis that changes into an (ugly) fairy?

There is nothing simple in Pan’s Labyrinth. Even the beautifully pure and vulnerable face of its protagonist, Ofelia, verges on pubescence; is clued to a forthcoming awareness of imminently sexual fauns; is limned with a presciently adolescent disobedience and distrust of authority. And everything is serious. In fact--and this is extraordinarily atypical of an experience I count enjoyable--there wasn’t *one* humorous moment in it. Which is perhaps why despite the duality of the resolution, I reacted, with horror and dissatisfaction, purely to the ending that seemed more authentic to reality, and discounted the other.

Pan’s Labyrinth interweaves images and texts from a variety of childhood images and texts--The legend of the cunning Pan and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and C.S. Lewis; Ofelia’s strangely Alice in Wonderland-ish headband, pinafore and frock, and her Princess and the Goblin ensembles of nightgown and robe. The cumulativeness of this collective familiarity has the effect of nostalgically speaking to our personal childhoods. And so the loss of the child, prophetically named Ofelia (Ophelia), hurts. It recalls our loss of individual childhood, of security we once enjoyed within the fabric of family and certainty, of our inadequacy in the face of inexorable events controlled by mammoth historical fates. Or inscrutable fauns.


Friday, January 26, 2007

After _Rabbit-Proof Fence_

Occasionally, I’ll watch serious cinema with Li’l A. Our favorites so far have been the Iranian director Majid Majidi‘s delightful Children of Heaven and Danny Boyle‘s somewhat murky Millions.

We started Rabbit-Proof Fence this evening with the caveat that we might have to turn it off if it got too heavy. But it didn't, and anyway Li'l A really got into RPF, which is about three aboriginal children who are separated from their families by the Australian government and trek the 1500 miles back to their home by themselves.

Cousin S wonders if it’s okay to let a little kid watch “real” i.e. non Disneyfied films. And I say yes, because I hope that empathizing with those frequently considered “Other”--
(a) may make him a kinder person
(b) stave off any Gautama Buddha drama later.
(c) Okay, whatever--I didn’t really want to watch it all by myself.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Children of Men (I think they mean Human Children)

I wasn’t sure I’d like the movie. I know I didn’t approve of the title--Children of *Men*??

Also, pre-viewing, I disliked that the trailer seemed to endorse the barely-under-the-radar preoccupation with fertility that seems to be everywhere these days. I know that my upcoming, bigheaded comment is exactly the kind of thing that’ll return to bite me in the ass someday when I really really really want to have my own biological kids and it turns out I can‘t--but I’ve always felt it wrong to go so crazy about expensive fertility treatment in an already tired and overpopulated world when there are orphaned and abandoned children everywhere in need of love.

Alright. Alighting off soapbox.

The movie is a very dystopic vision of our near future in 2027, where Britain is the last outpost of Western power and there has been a global failure of fertility--according to the movie, specifically female fertility--resulting in no children at all since circa 2009.

Britain stagnates on two levels because not only are there no children, but immigrants, the other way that a nation state aggregates citizens, are unwelcome--i.e. they are caged and deported or tortured and executed. There’s too much sordid hatred, guns, bombs, futility, despair, crumbling buildings and broken lives to really do any enjoying at this movie, but it does encourage thought and taking stock.

And bad dreams.

And sporadically, grim moments of nervous humor. You simply have to laugh when a young woman in a barn reveals the miracle of her coming baby and the first words the other character utters are “Jesus Christ!” Imprecation rather than an explanation, but still. Although, ultimately, Jesus Christ might be the key to the movie--not in a Christian sense, but in tapping into the way that his birth or anyone’s birth alludes to the vast and mysterious miracle of life and our choices about and within it.

The ending is supposedly uplifting, but I didn’t appreciate it. I was otherwise engaged in speculating about how awful it would be if I were caged and tortured and deported. In fact, I went on and on about this even after Big A valiantly promised to come save me, spring me, etc., and only really stopped when his eyes acquired a misty film. Whether that was from strongly imagined sadness at my loss or distress at my utter and exceptional idiocy--We. Will. Never. Know.


reading between the flowers

I think teenager Cass makes a terrific point in  The Bee Sting  when she is irritated with the ubiquitous nature themes in poetry:  “You go ...