Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tangled webs of Southern ways

"In the story of the Thurmonds and the Sharptons is the story of the shame and the glory of America."
That's the most sensible thing I think I've ever heard Al Sharpton say. For one reason or another, he volunteered to have is genealogy researched by some folks at Ancestry.com for an article. His comment was made in response to finding out that his great-grandfather was owned by Strom Thurmond's family. Um, wow.

For those of you unaware, our friend Strom was an ardent segregationist back during the 40's and 50's when white Southerners were still Democrats and black people were still Republicans. When said Thurman died four years ago at 100-years-old, the daughter of his former housekeeper--having kept with the fine Southern tradition of keeping secrets--finally revealed that Strom was in fact her father. Did I mention that her mother was black?! [I think that was the biggest WTH of 2003. The girl was 16 when she gave birth. Strom was 22.]

So as the story goes, Sharpton's great-grandad, his wife and children, were owned by a rich Edgefield County (SC) slave owner. He gave them to his son who had married one Julia Ann Thurmond, Strom Thurmond's first cousin twice removed. [Why yes, there is a chart!]

I've always found genealogy and the like extremely fascinating but it's all the more interesting to see how recently blatant inhumane behavior was passed off as both normal and necessary here in our own country. For all America's posturing as human rights watchdogs and defenders of democracy, there is still tremendous resistance to facing the past, acknowledging that like The Holocaust, it did really happen--brutality against Americans was enacted by other Americans, socially justified and legally sanctioned. How can anyone not find that frightening?

It is frightening not just because the darkness of human nature observes no bounds, but because continued failure to acknowledge its existence permits its proliferation. Complacency is complicity.

So here's to "the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners." Keep it real y'all.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Koffee with Priyanka!

Not only is Priyanka Chopra ridiculously gorgeous but she seems like a lot of fun! I don't know when this episode of Koffee with Karan aired but it was a great watch.

First of all, we all know that Karan is a rumor-monger. Did he really have to pull out that clip of Kareena saying that she's not really friends with Priyanka? That was kinda dirty. Funny, but dirty.

Priyanka seemed really cool and very nice--like the one of the popular girls that would actually be secure enough to hang out with pseudo-nerds like myself. Hrithik on the other hand seemed to be in quite a mood. Honestly, he answers questions like my ex--never really quite answering because he's too scared insecure to commit or and he's lying. Perhaps, therein lies my deep attraction...

Here's part one of five:



Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999)

It seems so strange yet timely to have watched this film recently. Seeing Salman in Salaam-e-Ishq last week certainly confirms his title of "Uncle Chest" while reiterating what in the world his appeal was to begin with. Furthermore, seeing him and Aish together in Hum Dil Chuke Sanam reminds me of those bygone days before Abhiwarya became a reality.

So yeah, about the movie...
FIRST OF ALL, let me just say I did not get to see the last 5 minutes or so because the dvd refused to play! Oye ve! I'm guessing Nandini (Aishwarya) went back to her longsuffering husband (Ajay) because that would be the right thing to do. [I mean, how can you leave a guy who is totally and completely committed to helping you find the love of your life despite the fact that you're married to him? I mean what kind of heifer could walk away without a backward glance?]

I liked the movie. It got a bit more interesting as time went along. Watching Aish trying to resist falling in love with her husband was a clever story twist. As usual, her character is mostly reactionary--kind of like watching a tennis ball get bounced back and forth while it cries about how much it hurts...

Anyhoo, watching Aish dance is always a treat. She looks amazing during the classical piece when Ajay first sees her (Nimbooda?). There's some really nice camera work mixed throughout. The opening sequence is like a stream of still photos in motion. I also liked the music. It's nice and kind of challenging in places like the song where Aish tries to kill herself--very Devdasish.

(I guess that makes sense considering it was the director's very next film...) This is definitely one for the collection.

Monday, February 19, 2007

I've been busy...

I think this is the first time since my blog fast I've let a whole week go by without posting!

My brain has been in a bit of an overload since January 1. First quarter is always the busiest time of year in my department. We have an annual report to produce in addition to two quarterly publications and monthly communication to our sites.

In addition, I volunteered to assist the marketing coordinator for Barefoot Republic camp, a really amazing non-profit dedicated to providing a Christ-centered summer camp experience for Jr. High and High School kids from all walks of life--different ethnicities, social class, jocks, artists, skaters, believers and non-believers. The kids whose families can pay do, and the others get assistance or attend for free. I'm not aware of any other camp that makes such an effort to get athletes and artsy types in the same space. I love what they do so I jumped on board.

On top of that, I was invited to set up a writing workshop for about 18 teens at a local Boys & Girls Club in the 'hood. [Translation: I'm trying to teach writing to a bunch of kids who can't write, half of whom are not interested in writing, especially afterschool when they'd much rather be texting on their cell phones.] Working with teens is always an interesting challenge. I really do like a challenge so I accepted.

As for my personal writing, a friend and I are almost done with the script for our next short film. It's not exactly earth shattering but it will give us some nice visual material to work with since we'll have more than 48 hours to pull it together! Unfortunately, I didn't have anything worthy of getting me on the first season of Steven Spielberg's On the Lot but best believe next year, I shall be prepared...

Besides all that, winter is on in full force and I keep trying to squeeze in a few days of snowboarding in between weekend weddings and random social obligations only to be faced with friends who bail at the last minute. Arrgghh! Snowshoe Mountain anyone? I'm planning a trip for March 3-4 because I'm determined to board in real snow this winter!

At any rate, that means my blogging has unintentionally fallen to the wayside. At present, I've neglected sharing my thoughts on Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, [finally watched it!], Salaam-e-Ishq or Indian, not to mention a couple of old Cosby-Poitier films I picked up: Piece of the Action and Uptown Saturday Night. I also saw Daddy's Little Girls at the theater today. So many films. So little time!

This, in addition to all the minor details floating about the back of my mind have given me a bit of writer's block. This virtually pointless post is my way of chipping away at the block.
The next post should be better. ;)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Mr. & Mrs. Iyer (2002)

One of the first things I thought after watching this film besides, "How wonderfully sweet," was that I can name four female Indian directors (Nair, Metha, Chadha, Sen) and which of their films I've enjoyed but I'd be hard pressed to do the same for female American directors white, black or otherwise! [Off the top of my head, the only one I can think of is Debbie Allen. That's because she directed one of my favorite Disney musicals.]

At any rate, I really liked the feel of this film. It's mostly quiet with punctuated bursts of intensity speckled throughout. I like that all the characters are very natural, that the intersection of languages, cultures and religious beliefs didn't seem trite and forcefully manipulated and I love that the baby in this movie was SO cute that besides wanting to kidnap him, I'm quite sure even GAP babies bow at his glance.

One of the interesting things about women writers is that our stories are more likely to be character driven rather than plot-point parades. Mr. and Mrs. Iyer is a great example of that--in the midst of a constant threat of terror, the more compelling story is not that of a police officer who stakes out a terrorist lair and takes down the bad guys, it's that of a woman dependant on a man who is emotionally obligated to her safety despite the tension of their clearly differing worldviews. I know, not exactly James Bond but it's the stuff of life!

I also appreciated the rare exploration of bonding under duress and the function of growing familiarity between two people of the opposite sex. There's a part of me that wants to write an unnecessarily detailed psychological character analysis but suffice it to say that I can't think of a more realistic portrayal of the role "fascination of difference" plays in attraction.

I had been meaning to watch this one for quite some time. I'm quite glad I did.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Black History

February is Black History month here in the US. (The symbolism of the shortest month of the Roman calendar is hard to ignore but I don't complain because Native Americans get nothing but a hard time...)

If I were on top of my game, I would have done an inspirational post like last year. So much for that. Instead, I'll borrow someone else's writing. (Courtesy of Dad's News Service. Seriously, he should start his own blog...)

To think of America in 2007, it is impossible not to consider the contributions of African Americans -- many of whom have laid the foundation for American culture, democracy, freedom and equality...

So what does it mean that a country so flawed in its founding nonetheless produces such an accomplished population of African Americans?

...African Americans, like all Americans who work hard, who have talent, ambition and desire, and who possess the complex of values that make up the "Protestant Ethic," can make the most of the American Dream.

Quite naturally, given that the column is coauthored by Cornell West, the piece veers a bit into social policy. But the most interesting part for me was mention of The Jamestown Project, "a diverse action-oriented think tank of new leaders who reach across boundaries and generations to make democracy real." Judging by their website, sounds like they're doing some cool stuff.

On a less serious note, it's weird knowing that I grew up 20 minutes from Jamestown, the first American settlement, have been there on numerous field trips and still can't figure out why that Pocahontas cartoon looked like it did...

Love in Nashville

There's nothing like John Abraham on the big screen...

Salaam-e-Ishq is coming to Nashville this Sunday! I'm pretty amped. It's been a few months since I've gotten to see a Bollywood flick at the theater.

As I understand it, some people have been saying the film is a knockoff of Love Actually. Ok, ok, the director admited it--but since I've never seen the original, I'll have nothing to compare John Abraham's perfomance with. That can only help matters...

3 p.m., Sunday, February 11 @ the Belcourt

Things Unspoken

Filmiholic tagged me several days ago to do a post on my top five secrets despite knowing how identity parnoid I am!

Generally, anything I consider secret is that way for a darn good reason so I prefer to think of the following as choice trivia. Anyhoo, here's the best I could come up with:

  1. In 4th grade I wore oversized bifocals with rose-tinted lenses. (Behold, the 80's!)
  2. In middle school I had a secret crush on all of NKOTB. (Sadly, my closet boy band fetish now extends to C-pop and K-pop.)
  3. In high school, I had a crush on my 1st cousin. (1 - I have a large family. 2 - We didn't grow up together. 3 - All my cousins are fine!)
  4. My first love was an internet relationship. (Yes, he's fat now.)
  5. I once said, "I hate you" to God. (He's good enough not to bring it up so I usually don't either.)
If I told you any more I'd have to kill you. ;)

[In case you're wondering, that photo has nothing to do with anything but it's funny...]

Saturday, February 03, 2007

On being "articulate"

By now you've probably heard that Joe "can't go into a 7-11...unless you have a slight Indian accent" Biden described Presidential candidate Barack Obama as:

...the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.
If I'm totally honest, there's a shallow part of me who wants to agree. At least in the sense that Al Sharpton could use some fashion advice and Jesse Jackson really isn't very good looking. In this context, I found the word "clean" to imply "so fresh and so clean" as opposed to a regular habit of showering. One can only hope that "bright" wasn't meant to implicate the intellectual prowess of previous black candidates. Either way, I'll let that one go as a freebie.

I wasn't going to post on the comment in part because Joe Biden seems like just the sort of dufus I wouldn't mind having as a friend, but mostly because it wasn't so much offensive as annoying. I couldn't quite lay my finger on it until I read Eugene Robinson's most recent column (courtesy of my father the aggregate news service). He's so good at saying what I can't quite find the words to express. He gets to the bottom of the matter--the use of "articulate."

I realize the word is intended as a compliment, but it's being used to connote a lot more than the ability to express one's thoughts clearly. It's being used to say more, even, than "here's a black person who speaks standard English without a trace of Ebonics."

The word articulate is being used to encompass not just speech but a whole range of cultural cues -- dress, bearing, education, golf handicap. It's being used to describe a black person around whom white people can be comfortable, a black person who not only speaks white America's language but is fluent in its body language as well.

And the word is often pronounced with an air of surprise, as if it's an improbable and wondrous thing that a black person has somehow cracked the code...

Articulate is really a shorthand way of describing a black person who isn't too black -- or, rather, who comports with white America's notion of how a black person should come across.

Whatever the intention, expressing one's astonishment that such individuals exist is no compliment. Just come out and say it: Gee, he doesn't sound black at all.

To bring it back to "t-hype land," when I used to work at a Panera here in Nashvegas, an Arabic-looking guy with an accent told me that I "speak very well." *blink*blink* I gave my typical response, "I'm not from here." [It is only fair to note that my own prejudices about the speech of everyone south of the Mason-Dixon are quite evident in my reply.] I believe he added something about not being able to understand other (black?) people. I'm not sure what because I blanked out into "please Lord don't let this conversation go so far that I'll have to put this guy in check" mode. It didn't. Social order was restored after a few hollow pleasantries.

Yes, friends it's true. Like, Barack, Condi, Colin and Carlton, I too have "cracked the code." I don't think, look or sound like a dirty south rapper because, well, I'm not one. I'm so hardcore I know it's hard for some people to believe on first meeting, but it's true. And yes--my hair is real.