Christopher Nolan is becoming one of my all-time favorite directors. Just check out this teaser trailer for his new movie Inception:
Monday, December 28, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The web site First Showing is reporting that actors Leonardo di Caprio and Tobey MaGuire are involved in a project to remake film noir classic The Third Man. Alex Billington, who reported the story, concludes: “It's a true noir classic that really can't be topped.”
Hard to disagree with this assessment. Leonardo di Caprio and Tobey MaGuire are good actors, but none of them have the presence, diction, or talent of Orson Welles, a giant among giants (see Citizen Kane, if you already haven’t done so).
What is it with certain Hollywood types who can’t leave something perfect like The Third Man well enough lone, but must submit to their massive egos, thinking that they can do better, or their new “interpretation” would be more relevant. It’s simply bullshit built on vanity and money.
I personally hope the project never comes to pass.
And for those who haven’t seen The Third Man, here’s the trailer:
If you are intrigued, I highly recommend watching the DVD from Criterion, which is filled with extras only a ciniphile would love. The Third Man is a film film, I would be very disappointed if you did not enjoy it it.
Friday, October 23, 2009
This is only my second reading update for the year. Back in the day, I use to write this feature monthly, now it is more intermittent. For some reason or another, I’m reading less than I use to, which is kind of strange given the fact that I’m currently unemployed and have more free time then I know what to do with. Perhaps I’m becoming senile with age, or getting more distracted. I don’t know. Nevertheless, the following books I have started and plan to complete by the end of the year:
- House of Cards by William D. Cohan
- The Great Gamble by Gregory Feifer
- The Seekers by Daniel J. Boorstin
- Every Man a Speculator by Steve Fraser
- The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
- Magical Chorus by Solomon Volkov
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Rius. Marx for Beginners. New York: Pantheon, 2003. 160pp.
Many people know about Karl Marx and what he stood for, but how many people, including his many admirers and critics, actually understood the man and his revolutionary ideas? In my opinion, not many, including those who unabashedly call themselves “Marxists.’ Not surprisingly, Marx’s ideas are impenetrable by even the most intelligent of people. Very few understand Marx, and even fewer who successfully translated his thinking to the general public: reading and comprehending Marx is simply beyond the ability of mere mortals. Marx’s ideas are a knotty mess of philosophy and economics, written in the turgid, confusing prose that is the hallmark of many intellectuals. So a book like Marx for Beginners is a welcome antidote, as it explains Marx in the simplest way possible—through cartoons.
The book is illustrated and written by Rius, a pseudonym used by famed Mexican cartoonist and left-wing political activist Eduardo del Rio. The book is only 160 pages or so, but Rius encapsulates Marx’s ideas in a tight, unsparing format, not wasting time on ephemeral matters but focusing on main ideas that made Marx an icon of the left. Rius gives us a biography of Marx, his influences, explains the philosophical underpinnings of Marx’s ideas, and Marx’s blueprint how the proletariat (the “working” class) can seize power. Naturally, Marx was no lover of democracy, which, for him, was a bourgeoisie concept.
Though this edition was published in 2003, the book was originally published in 1975. This explains the many references to Chile and snide attacks on the United States. Obviously, the author was bitter about the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile and American imperialism in South America in general. Never mind that Allende was planning to turn Chile into another Cuba. But that’s a debate for another day.
Marx for Beginners is not intended to be a comprehensive, or even an exhaustive, look at Marx. That is just not possible. This book is a primer, of sorts, a kind of jumping off point. Because to understand the man there is no going around reading the man's various works. A bit of a warning: reading Marx is only for the heartiest of souls and not for the faint of heart. And I'm not writing this review as a supporter of Marx. Hardly. But you cannot deny the man's influence on history; and to understand the world today you have to understand Marx.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
As everyone well knows, I’ve blogged very little om the past few years. Mostly, I’ve just lost all interest, contributed by the fact that my writing was increasingly becoming repetitive—hence boring. I know I have this blog, but I’ve written only 400 posts in nearly three years; when in my hey day I use to write over 500 posts a year.
I have also noticed that the quality of my writing has deteriorated exponentially. Just read posts from my old blogs (here and here). I swear I didn’t write any of it, but I did. What the hell happened?
Monday, September 28, 2009
Why the Cleveland Browns will suck this year (they are already off to a 0-and-3 start!): the players hate head coach Eric Mangini. Why? For crap like this:
First there were the reports of Browns coach Eric Mangini requiring a mandatory bus trip to work for free at his football camp. There were the rumors that Mangini slapped a curfew on players attending "voluntary" offseason workouts. And there was the talk that Mangini screwed Josh Cribbs out of an agreed-to contract renegotiation.Mangini has practiced poor leadership here. Players have already filed grievances against him. There is no reason to treat professional football players like children. A $1,701 fine over a $3 bottle of water? Come on!
Now Yahoo!'s Michael Silver is reporting that the Browns fined a player $1,701 for drinking a $3 bottle of water out of the hotel minibar during a road trip without paying for it at the front desk upon leaving.
And it doesn’t help that he doesn’t name his quarterback until the last minute.
A coach is like a general. If soldiers cease to listen or respect him, he is useless and must be replaced by someone who inspires confidence. Obviously, Mangini has lost the confidence and respect of his players. It’s time for him to go.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) has updated its e-mail interface:
It has a cleaner, less cluttered look; and fewer ads. Yahoo has also decided to add a new application window containing many of its applications just a click away. All in all, I really like it.
For those who don’t already know, JK has joined the cabal of do-gooders over at National Interest, hence his blog has a new address:
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
It is hard to believe that eight years have passed since the attacks of 9/11. Like many anniversaries, it is a good time to take stock of what happened, what is happening, and what will happen.
I am dismayed by the fact that 9/11 has quickly become ancient history for many people, especially the pundits, bloggers and the rest of the commentariat. Many are complaining about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The war in Iraq, whatever its outcome, is a boondogle and never should have been undertaken. There was no al-Qaeda or weapons of mass destruction; so whatever its supporters say, it was a strategic failure. There is no arguing this point.
On the other hand, the war in Afghanistan is a "just" war, which has been treated like a neglected step-child, especially by the Bush Administration and their misguided "War on Terrorism". Underfunded and undermanned, the war in Afghanistan has been floundering for awhile now. The Taliban, it seems, is getting stronger by the day. Osama bin Laden has yet to be found. And our chief ally in the region, Pakistan, has been wishy-washy at best.
The time has come to rethink this war and the war on terrorism.
We can quibble over how to go about it, but leaving Afghanistan is not an option. We need to fight smarter. After all, the price of peace is eternal vigilance.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Walter Kirn's delightful Up In the Air - about a "downsizing" expert (he fires people for a living) and his quest to be the ultimate frequent flier - is coming to the silver screen, starring George Clooney. Here's the trailer:
I'm so looking forward to this film.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Was perusing TVGuide.com to see if there was anything worth watching tonight, but found absolutely nothing that interested me.
I need to watch something! Reading at night is not an option for me (I prefer to read in the morning), and I have no hobbies to speak of. And listening to music for the sake of listening to music is not my bag. I need visual stimulation, and television is the only effective delivery system.
Then I realized I have video-on-demand through my cable company. So I’ve decided to watch a couple episodes of No Reservations I somehow managed to miss. So the night is not a total loss at all. Thank you, Anthony Bourdain and video on-demand
Monday, August 31, 2009
Want to know why the Minnesota Vikings have put up with Brett Favre’s passive-aggressive behavior?
It’s quite simple, really. Think of Favre as a really, really hot-looking girl who not only has issues – both physical and mental – but has the maturity of a petulant teenager. It’s funny what some guys will put with if the girl solely if she is hot.
This is the Minnesota Viking/Brett Favre relationship in a nutshell.
Friday, August 28, 2009
College football season is a mere few days off from kick-off, and both the AP and USA Today polls have been released:
No real surprises if you ask me, but things never turn out the what these pre-season polls predict. In 2008, for example, Georgia was ranked number one in both polls, only to quickly falter as the season progress. This can be chocked up to the fact that Georgia plays in the powerhouse SEC, where every game is a toss up.
Enough of this chitchat. Let’s play some football.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Who hasn’t dreamed about killing fascists at least once in their life? I know I have. I want to massacre the bastards by the truckloads, moral and legal constraints be damned. But thanks to Quentin Tarantino’s new revenge fantasy flick, Inglourious Basterds, I can vicariously live the experience without getting my hands dirty or suffer moral qualms.
The movie is about a fictitious squad of Jewish-American servicemen whose sole purpose is to slip behind enemy lines in occupied France in order to kill (and sometimes torture) as many Nazis as possible. Body count is important here. Led by a Tennessee hillbilly named Lt. Aldo Raines, played by Brad Pitt, they rampage through the French countryside, ambushing German soldiers, scalping them like Apaches. No prisoners are ever taken, but a token survivor is always left behind as a living monument, with a swastika carved into their forehead, to scare the shit out of the Germans. And believe me, the Germans are scared shitless, including the Fuhrer himself.
Quentin Tarantino being Quentin Tarantino, naturally, this movie does not work as a conventional narrative, but in the patented Tarantino style of going forwards and backwards. His movies often read like novels, and Inglourious Basterds is no exception.
But in addition to the novel-like elements, Tarantino has added another storyline that complements, but does not compete, with the first. The movie opens up on a French farm, with a farmer cutting wood. He is met a by a charming German SS officer named Col. Hans Larda, who is called the “Jew Hunter” for his single-mindedness to rid France of all Jews. Col. Larda is played with such evil joy by Christoph Waltz; he alone is worth the price of admission. You want to like him but are reminded that his is a Nazi, and a ruthless one at that. Col. Larda suspects the farmer of hiding Jews. With wit and the interrogation skills of an experienced detective, Col. Larda manages to squeezes the truth out of the farmer. No violence is used in the process, but the Jews, on the other hand, their fates were sealed by a hail of bullets.
There was a lone survivor of the massacre, a young girl named Shosanna Dreyfuss, played by French actress Melani Laurent, who manages to escape to Paris, where she ends up running a movie theatre playing nothing but Nazi films. All the while, Shosanna nurses a grudge that eventually develops into full-blown homicidal rage: the targets of which, of course, are Nazis, a theatre full of them, in fact.
The film is derivative like many of Tarantino’s films and include his trademarks: long dialogue scenes about philosophical issues and meditations about German films of the 1920s, unconventional camera angles, and his trademark penchant for violence. It should be said, however, that Tarantino-style violence is not the cartoonish violence that are is found in bonehead Steven Seagal and Chuck Norris films. On the contrary, it is never gratuitous. One of the more interesting aspects of the film is that more than half the movie is in both French and German. For moments, I thought I was watching a foreign film. Surprisingly, it did not detract from the enjoyment of the film at all.
But why did Quentin Tarantino decide to make a film about a Jewish revenge fantasy in the first place? It this article published in Atlantic magazine, he explains why:
“Holocaust movies always have Jews as victims,” he said, plainly exasperated by Hollywood’s lack of imagination. “We’ve seen that story before. I want to see something different. Let’s see Germans that are scared of Jews. Let’s not have everything build up to a big misery, let’s actually take the fun of action-movie cinema and apply it to this situation.”I feel the same way any book I read or any movie I see on the Holocaust, Jews are always depicted as defenseless victims. They never fight back, accepting their fate because it is God’s will, for punishment of sins, real or perceived. It is so maddening. This is one of the reasons why I admire Israel, at least it fights back whenever it is attacked.
It is true that most—some might even say all—films about the Holocaust focus on the persecution of Jews. The Holocaust was very bad for Jews; this is an immovable fact of history. But Tarantino isn’t wrong to suggest that the cinematic depiction of anti-Semitic persecution can become wearying over time, particularly for Semites.
The problem, I suppose, is both a philosophical and religious one, so I will leave it there.. Nevertheless, Inglourious Basterds is a welcome addition to both World War II and Holocaust genres, if only for its cathartic effects. The thirst for revenge must be slaked once in awhile, in my opinion, even if it is only on the silver screen.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan was briefly held (for two hours or so) at Newark International Airport by the Department of Homeland Security. It seems Khan's name matched a name on some terrorist watch list, but after ascertaining Shah Rukh Khan's identity - with the help of the Indian government - he was promptly released
Of course Shah Rukh Khan was upset by his mistreatment, especially given the fact that he is an oft visitor to the United States. And the entire country of India is upset, as well, as if the nation's character was impugned in the process. Naturally, the Indian press is having a field day with countless articles and editorials blasting the United States for what is perceived to be a racist and bigoted slight.
It's hard not to notice an air of arrogance by Shah Rukh Khan and his supporters. It's the type of attitude celebrities are known to take whenever they don't get their way.
"DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM!" This is a common refrain used by celebrities the world over, and Shah Rukh Khan is no exception.
Personally, I think Shah Rukh Khan was more upset that he was not recognized by immigration officers as the legitimate superstar that he is.
In defense of the immigration officers, they did their duty safeguarding American security: they discovered a problem, investigated it, found out there was nothing there, and promptly released the Indian actor. Khan was held for two hours. He wasn't thrown in some hole, renditioned to Cuba, and tortured by the CIA. But according the India press, he might as well have.
I hope this incident doesn't become an ugly diplomatic row between India and the United States, simply for the reason that it's a petty issue.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Jermaine Jackson said the following after hearing of his famous - and more talented - brother's untimely death:
"I Wish It Was Me."If it makes Jermaine Jackson feel better, I wish it was him too. And Tito. And, most definitely, LaToya. But not Janet.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Nothing new to report from my end. Of late, I’m on an extended hiatus. Not doing much blogging as you can see – not one post for May, in fact! I’m reduced to updating my Facebook status and an occasional post on Twitter. I have stopped reading blogs altogether; but I am reading a lot, reverting to printed materials. You can say I’ve gone old school.
But I’ve made an exception for the latest issue of Pragati, the history issue, which was edited by JK Nair. It is very good, and I highly recommend it.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
One of the funnier episodes of The Family Guy I have seen in awhile. Stewie essentially builds a transporter and kidnaps the the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation so he can spend the day with them. The voices are those of the original cast.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Since I have offered very little, of late, I figure I at least provide a reading update - my only refuge from my chronic writer's block. As is my habit, I am reading five books at the same time. This time I took a picture of the books and posted it below; an idea I stole off another blog.
Apologies for the poor picture quality, I was using a camera phone.
It's an interesting grab-bag of books:
- Every Man A Speculator – a fascinating cultural history of Wall Street. Instead of concentrating on larger than life players like other histories, this book focuses on Wall Street and every day people.
- The Seekers – Daniel J. Boorstin’s three-volume survey of Western civilization and culture ends with a look at those philosophers, artists, writers and other cultural iconoclasts who search for the ideas. In Boorstin’s opinion, it’s not about destination but the journey there. Sounds familiar.
- The Foreign Correspondent – Alan Furst is one of my favorite thriller writers. Like all his novels, this one takes place in pre-World War II Europe. His characters are not Americans or English, but French, Polish, Bulgarian, Dutch, and, in this book, Italian. The book is both vivid and engrossing.
- The Great Gamble – As America’s involvement in Afghanistan continues to grow, they should take the lessons of the past very seriously. This book surveys the Soviet invasion, occupation, and retreat from Afghanistan, a country that has trapped more than one imperial power.
- The House of Cards – A riveting account of the collapse of Bear, Stearns, who disappeared from Wall Street literally overnight. Bear, Stearns, like all stuffy Wall Street firms, suffered from hubris, when they arrogantly believed they would survive the sub-prime mortgage implosion.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
No doubt the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in the Pakistani city of Lahore is an act of pure terrorism, but questions remain: who and why?
Everybody, including the entire desi blogosphere, will be bandying their own pet theories; and, naturally, I have a few of my own. The pro-Pakistani bloggers will blame the attacks on a known enemy of Pakistan. This is code for India (and its intelligence agency RAW), of course. The pro-India bloggers, on the other hand, will blame Pakistani-based jihadis and their supporters (primarily the ISI).
Most people are in a fog of information regarding these matters. And we bloggers are no exception given that we get most of our information from second-hand or third-hand sources, which is hardly ideal to get at the truth. So we filter these new sources through our biases, prejudices, stereotypes, etc.
Honestly, will anyone know the truth behind this attack?
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
It is end of February and I only have seven posts to show for it. The reason is that I have a lot on my mind lately: no job, no health insurance, dwindling savings, deteriorating health are just one of many of my troubles.
You figure with all this free time I would have something to write about; something to say. But I have nothing, not even a brain fart. I use to read dozens of newspapers, magazines and blogs a day to find something to write about, but these days I rarely visit any of them. As a result, I am getting more stupid and more ignorant by the day. I cannot hold any argument as I do not have command of all the facts.
I'm definitely in a funk of some kind, but I don't know when I'll get out of it. Hopefully it will be soon.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
I use to be an avid reader of Dawn, one of South Asia's premier newspapers. It seems they have rolled out a complete redesign of their web site.
To be honest: I don't like it. Though aesthetically pleasing, and gentle to the eye, it is a net loss, in my opinion. What was gained by good locks was lost in functionality. For example, if you want to access the newspaper's editorial, op-ed and letter pages, you have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the web page - below the fold, so to speak, cleverly hidden in a gray box with opaque letter. A poor design decision.
I say bring back the old version of the web site. Sure it was an eye sore but at least everything was easy to find.
Monday, February 2, 2009
Enjoyed watching the Super Bowl this year; the Cardinals kept it close but lost it in the end. Anyway, the second great thing about the Super Bowl are the ads, and most of them were stupid or dull as dirt, except for this one:
Alec Baldwin can't fail in my eyes.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Interesting letter published in Dawn that I would like to share:
THIS is apropos of the report saying that almost six years of fighting in the Darfur region of Sudan has killed 200,000.Nobody in Pakistan talks about it because both victims and perpetrators are one in the same: in this case, Muslims. Same goes for Pakistan, where Muslims wantonly kill other Muslims except that is much more noticeable to the average Pakistani because it hits so close to home.
This is very shocking, indeed. The Muslims have been killing Muslims in Darfur since 2003. It is strange that nobody in Pakistan talks about it. The religious parties don’t speak out against this death and destruction.
I would greatly appreciate if anyone could explain the reasons for this intriguing silence.
What happens in Darfur is too far away for anyone in Pakistan to care-- out of sight, out of mind. In my mind, racism also plays a factor: African Muslims are considered inferior by other Muslims. Nevertheless, the plight of Palestinians is quite popular among Pakistanis because it hits all the right buttons: Jews, imperialism, Crusades, Americans, etc. Yet the body count is much higher in Darfur than in Palestine, but Israelis are treated as genocidal, and not the Sudanese government.
It's this double-standard that has trapped Muslim countries in their rhetoric about injustice by the Israelis.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Another two families have vacated their condos in my building, both for economic reasons: one could not afford to stay; and the other could afford to leave - by buying a house at a bargain basement price.
For those lucky enough to have a secure job, and a healthy bank balance, are in prime position to buy real estate, especially a primary residence. Still, the building is starting to feel empty.
Friday, January 2, 2009
V.S. Naipaul. An Area of Darkness: A Discovery of India. New York: Vintage, 2002. 290pp.
V.S. Naipaul is at same a good writer and a bad one. His book, An Area of Darkness: A Discovery of India, Naipaul’s travelogue about his first trip to India during the early 1960’s. His travel writing is superb, but as often the case, he has the tendency to ramble, especially when he decides to take the reader into his brilliant brain and observe his thought process at close quarters. It makes for difficult reading, at times, but it is well worth it by the end.
Like many members of the Indian Diaspora, his image of India was shaped by the perception he had while a child growing up in Trinidad. Naipaul’s grandfather immigrated to Trinidad as an indentured laborer. Naipaul’s memories of India were shaped by his grandfather’s memories. So when he finally arrived in India to see what the fuss was about. And like many Indians who return “home,” he was thoroughly disappointed by what he saw: the poverty, the corruption, the decays, a civilization that was listless and fading into irrelevance. He tries to make sense of it all, often asking the question why?
Though Naipaul makes many points, two in particular stand out.
In one of the chapters, Naipaul recounts his experience with a Sikh gentleman while on a train journey to South India. To Naipaul this Sikh gentleman (like many people Naipaul talks about in his book, they often go nameless) is striking, both for his features and his temperament. This Sikh gentleman, though educated and worldly (and, not to mention, a bit of an English twit), is also a racist and a bigot, and doesn’t mind telling Naipaul, whom he mistakes for a kindred spirit. This Sikh gentleman hates South Indians. He thinks they are the reason why India has wretchedly failed after achieving its independence. He calls them “blackies” and other assorted names too offensive to name here. The Sikh, you see, is of Aryan stock, hence a martial race, a people born to thrive if it weren’t for the weak Dravidian race of South India. Naipaul is not really shocked by what he hears because he knows India is ribboned with race, ethnic, caste, religious, economic animosities that permeates every strata of society. The Sikh gentleman was a mere example of it.
Secondly, Naipaul asks why Indians are so passive. He comes to this conclusion when China and India are fighting a border skirmish. Naipaul is in Kolkata (then Calcutta and according to Naipaul, the most English of Indian cities), keenly observing the city’s mood. Already there is talk among resident s of a likely occupation of the city by the Chinese, and how to deal with their new leaders; never mind the fact that the Chinese were nowhere close to the city – in fact, they were hundreds of miles away. And this attitude persists even while trainloads of Indian soldiers make their way to the border.. Preparations for defense were half-hearted, at best, the army too ill-equipped and ill-trained to mount a credible defense, the lack of seriousness from the people to the government. The ethos of peace and nonviolence was too deep to overcome. To Naipaul it is no wonder why India is such a conquered nation.
Reading Naipaul one wonders if the man simply hates India? Many Indian critics have made this charge. At first reading, Naipaul does seem to display some sort of a mean streak. At closer reading, however, this mean streak emerges more as disappointment than visceral hatred. After all, Naipaul, a Trinidadian and a British citizen, is still an Indian, albeit an unwilling on.
I can relate to Naipaul’s experience to some extent. I immigrated to the United States in 1976 when I was three; I returned for my first visit to India (and Bangladesh) in 1982 at the age of nine. Though Naipaul had the luxury of returning as an adult and make sense of it all; I, even as a child, could tell what a huge disappointment India was to me.
I returned to the city of my birth, Kolkata. The first thing I noticed was the stench. The ride into the city was not equally reassuring. The heat, the impenetrable crowds, the ramshackle buildings, walls desecrated with political slogans, but it was all the widespread poverty on display that really shocked me. I’ve seen pan handlers in the United States, but in India I was accosted by beggars at every turn. They somehow sensed that I was from overseas and ripe for the picking. Experiencing load shedding, where there is no electricity for hours on end, was a revelation. How can you run out electricity? I was perplexed beyond comprehension And only able to watch one government-owned channel for three hours a night was a visible reminder of what communism must have been like for those poor souls trapped behind the Iron Curtain (yes, I was quite politically aware for a nine-year-old).
Though my opinion of India has improved over the years I still find India to be a disappointment. And like Naipaul, I believe that India has yet to achieve its potential.