Trois Couleurs: Rouge

A wonderful French movie from 1994 directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski touches upon the subject of loneliness, old age, friendship and one of the few film that has 100% ratings on both metacritic and rotten tomatoes.  It revolves around a retired judge whose experiences of life has made him cynical, although he is insightful and anecdotal. Enters Valentin, a young woman who is a runway model, in the judge’s life and the movie goes into a different realm. Their friendship blossoms and they share a unique bond. When we get experience of life, the joys, the sorrows we start viewing the world with a focused eye and with some predefined rules set in our minds but it can always be fruitful to come in contact with those who are viewing the world with a different perspective.

The movie is worth watching for how relatable the concept is and for the acting of Valentin. There have been many movies that explore the friendships with major age gap such as Harold and Maude, Bhuvan Shome ( A master piece ), Leon the professional, Cinema Paradiso, Thelma and Louise, Ikiru, Mrs. Palfrey at the clairmont etc and one realizes how the two people grow in the process.

A memorable dialog from the movie:

Valentin : I love him. If only I could help.

Judge: You can. Be.

Valentin: What do you mean?

Judge: That’s all, be.

 

Men are from Mars and Women from Venus – False

Being from analytics world, I enjoy keeping myself abreast with the problems that can be solved with data. Psychology is one such field that finds its roots in mathematical techniques employed to make predictions and test the foundations of assertions propounded by the society or the hypotheses of social experiments. Designing the experiments is of utmost importance and should be done meticulously as the outcome of the experiments makes the prediction for the entire population based on the sample selected.

Last week I skimmed through a book called Experiments with people by Abelson, Frey, and Gregg and I enjoyed reading the premise and the conclusion of various social studies conducted in the 20th century. One of the study was by Matthew Ansfield and the conclusion was if you want to sleep and someone is playing loud music then the rational thing to fall asleep early is try to keep yourself awake. I will definitely try this one when my juvenile delinquent neighbor will have a late night party. Another experiment conducted by Solomon Asch in 1955 dealt with the idea that how people change their behavior to conform to the groups. A group that knows the right thing to do ends up making more mistakes if there are agents present in the group who want to take the wrong steps. The desire to be liked is a dangerous one and as French sociologist Gabriel de Tarde said “Social man is a somnambulist”.

There was one very interesting experiment conducted in 1990 that caught my attention. It was called “Ackmians Are From Mars, Orinthians Are From Venus: Gender Stereotypes as Role Rationalizations”. Curt Hoffman and Nancy Hurst tried to show that gender stereotypes can arise as a direct result of two groups taking on different social roles ( jobs, household care etc), even when the members of those groups share similar traits. The chapter started with an image of a man and a woman both with stethoscope around the neck and a question in subscript, doctor and nurse or nurse and a doctor? Very keen and interesting question it was. Alice Eagly had studied in 1987 that the underlying differences between a woman and a man are typically small. They become magnified, however, because men and women tend to take on or be assigned to different social roles. The researchers claimed that the differences between men and women are too small for people to detect them. In the society, agentic roles that require assertiveness and independence are attributed to men while communal roles of nurturing, social care are attributed to women. This role assumption has given rise to gender stereotype despite there being a trivial difference between a man and a woman. When it comes to assuming an agentic or a communal role, each gender can perform it with utmost perfection given a chance.

Why do such stereotypes exist? In short – they are explanatory conveniences that allow people to justify the social status quo. Researchers exposed the participants to fictitious species from a planet and they named the two members of the species – Ackmians and Orinthian. They were told that the members of the two groups were either child raisers or workers involved in high tech business etc. The result from the experiment – Ackmians or Orinthians were considered agentic if most of them had a job such as business, high tech etc, or relatively communal if most of them were child raisers, even though no group personality differences existed to corroborate such biased impressions. Not only gender but racial stereotypes also have no roots but they are there and segregating and hollowing the society for ages. There were many extensions of this research and it turns out that gender stereotypes were unaffected by ethnicity. In a study by Niemann and others in 1994, women irrespective of African, American, Asian, Latin American descent were found to be gentle, pleasant, and friendly by the participants while men were taken as tough, alpha creatures.

The book “Men are from mars and women from venus – by John Gray (1992)” amplifies these differences to preposterous proportions. It obsesses with gender differences. Had Phyllis Schalfly read it, she must have been overjoyed for she found another follower of her conservative thought process. Let’s take height as an example, on an average men are taller than women but there are many women who are taller than men. Do we go on and make the unwarranted conclusion that all women are short while all men are tall? No, we don’t. Then why is there a black and white stance when it comes to jobs in the market? The recent incidents at Uber show how sexist the workplace can be. Susan J Fowler’s blog will tell you how a typical male chauvinist, sexist work culture might operate. The number of CEOs in the job industry is highly skewed towards males; people say that CEO is a high risk job that requires certain skills females don’t possess while the truth might lie in the fact that women have been assuming the communal roles for too long and that’s why they are not taken as assertive and strong.

This is a classic case of the logical fallacy – post hoc ergo propter hoc ( after this therefore because of this) and it is high time that we abolish such hypocritical stance and build an unbiased society.

Chandidas and Rami

Ghazals are one of  the purest form of expression I have experienced in my life till now. The metaphor clad meters chalk out the palpable  feelings of lovers howsoever hyperbolic and exorbitant they may seem. They are all so foolishly romantic that they seem incredible and prodigious.

In one of the ghazals of Ameer Minai performed by one of the artist, he recounted the tale of Chandidas and Rami. Chandidas was a poet famous in the medieval period and his poems are many times used to draw parallels between human and divine love. Then, Chandidas was a priestly class while Rami was a washerwoman and the love between them was not only frowned upon but impossible in the era of division and class. They took their love as sacred as the love between Radha and Krishna; Chandidas refused to forgo his love for Rami and also his priestly duties in the temple much to the despair of his family. Many legends say that he was arrested by the queen and later whipped to death but no one knows the true story.

Why the story of Chandidas and Rami holds significance? Much of later Bengali literature, art, and societal thought found its foundation in the legend. The urge to show the face of society and the characters involved without any exogenous and dramatic variables became an integral part of the art. The spirit of defiance and being recalcitrant in the time of social disapproval might have carved the room for breadth in the thought process.

THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU

When I decided to watch this movie I thought it would be a dark comedy like In Bruges or Clerks but after watching, it came out much more than what I had expected. It is one of those few films that let the events unfold by themselves without any human or dramatic intervention. It falls in the genre of the movies that lives in the moment, witnesses the reality as it is untouched by any exogenous factors, concludes nothing, and shows people living their lives from one second to the other.

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The name of the character Dante Remus Lazarescu seems a satire, Dante Alighieri wrote The Divine Comedy, Remus, the twin brother of Romulus, was one of the founder of Rome, and Lazaraus was brought back to life on the fourth day after his death by Jesus.

The Romanian (Remus connection) movie deals with the overworked medical staff who are shown as human beings, not as saints. They also stress out, smoke, use cell phones, refuse treatment to patients etc. After circling (circles of hell in Dante’s treatise) through three hospitals, the fourth hospital (Lazarus was brought back on fourth day) accommodates the patient eventually and the ambulance driver along with the nurse, Mrs. Mioara could take a sigh of relief. The viewer is left wondering whether Mr. Lazarescu lived. The role of Mrs. Mioara played by Luminita Gheorghiu is something we can relate to from our experience. She represents the element of sincerity and humanness in us. Despite the high handed behavior of doctors with advanced ‘degrees’, she maintains her composure and makes sure that the job she has undertaken is seen through. I kept on wondering where have I seen her before and the words ‘pose and job’ kept striking me till I could trace it back to Child’s pose – another wonderful performance  from the actress as a wealthy matriarch in post Ceausescu Romania.

Yi Yi

Movies as life are a mix of happy and sad emotions, they are so concurrent to life that we fidget with the possibility of them coming true. They have the power to transform a mind, implant or steal an idea from you, and stay and with you like an organism. After meandering on Netflix like a milling crowd in Times sq., I promised myself  that this weekend I will watch a meaningful movie. I was going through articles from Harvard Film Archive (HFA) and it’s when I stumbled upon Edward Yang’s work. East Asian cinema has given us gems of directors such as Kurosawa, Takeshi Kitano, Hou Hsiao-Hsien and their work is unparalleled. The line of thought is authentic and relatable. HFA ‘s article can be found here : http://hcl.harvard.edu/hfa/films/2008septoct/yang.html 

Surprisingly enough New York Times published an article on Friday on the best 25 movies of this century so far and it did included Edward Yang’s work which I would consider a magnum opus. It’s as grand as Tolstoy’s war and peace and as real as the pathos of Kazuo Ishiguro – The remains of the day. If one thinks about the movie then there is nothing really special about it. It’s a movie that has all stages of life in it played by different characters, the movie starts with a wedding and concludes with a demise; it’s a movie about how different people handle the situations differently- from Yang Yang, the budding photographer to his father NJ, whose honesty doesn’t finds a place in a world driven by profit. The restless search and struggle for something meaningful, the creativity driven by and despite frustration is something one can relate to. It’s a very human movie; it takes time, experience, internal struggle, and external manifestations for characters to realize that they are human. The setup of the movie is in Taipei, one of the big cities in the world and it takes an artist’s perspective to put inanimate objects and concepts as artists and characters. The cities, though founded on the traditional values, offer global views but lack the humanness and one has to wade through them, weed out a lot to reach one’s destination. Yang Yang who likes to take photograph of back of people’s head is embodiment of a marvelous concept that we don’t see the entire truth, only half of the truth at one time. One memorable dialogue from the movie is between Yang Yang and his father in which Yang Yang says “I can’t see what you see and you can’t see what you see, so how can I know what you see?” For solving this paradox, Yang Yang starts taking photos of back of people’s heads so people will know what they can’t see, a concept though lucid but difficult to assimilate with.

Yi-Yi translates to one and two, and may be Edward Yang wanted to say “as simple as one and two”

Sonder is a word that means “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own”. The movie justifies the existence of the word.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0244316/

 

Monotone

Monochromatic photographs and movies are graceful and attractive but life if lived in only two colors won’t be an exciting one. The daily drudgery, repetitiveness, and monotony can bog anyone down. That’s why we take to avenues of entertainment, to movies that let us live lives that are not ours, listen to music and start believing in the world. Emily Dickinson, the great poetess said

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The riddles we can guess

We speedily despise-

Not anything is stale so long

As yesterday’s surprise!

A walk past the historic lanes

Last month I visited Chicago – my old home. The gold coast neighborhood, the barnes and noble on State street, oak street beach, treasure island on Clark, the big bowl (now closed) – where I always ended up whenever I wanted to eat out, Ra sushi ( whose veg tempura tasted like sea food), the yogurt land and myriad number of spots invoked many memories. I enjoyed a coffee in the Starbucks lounge, where I spent countless evenings, listened to multi ethnic music, and made acquaintance with the baristas who knew what two drinks I order. The $7 movies in AMC on Michigan st. were something to look forward to. The limonata of eatley, miller’s pub on wabash, the two lions in front of Art Institute of Chicago, the numerous rides in L, my meditation classes with Andrew in Montrose, origami meeting in Garfield park, and the biting wind of Chicago in winters stir up many pictures in my brain. It was my last week in Chicago and I was strolling around downtown and my neighborhood in the rainy night and was taking photos; It started pouring down so I decided to go into this McCormick and Schmick on Rush St. Only one old woman was in the bar and I sat couple of high chair next to her, after a while we started talking and she learned my plans to move out of the city to NYC. She scolded me for roaming around in Chicago at night alone as it’s not the safest city. I told her that I do it all the time, it’s no big deal. We spoke for couple of hours before parting our ways. I wonder how and where she is now.

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I, for sure, miss the view and the enormous red and orange sunsets from my window facing west.

 

San Francisco To Plant Pure Nation

I spent last month in traveling, both for official work and for leisure. A trip to San Francisco is always inviting and I grabbed it with both hands when my mind finally decided to utilize the memorial day weekend at last minute and I booked a hotel and flight to the golden state. I didn’t have any agenda per say, I decided to roam around the familiar neighborhoods of Mission, Richmond, Tenderloin, Japantown, Russian hill, Nob hill, South of market and so on. After savoring the wonderful view I had  from the balcony of my room, I decided to go out and roam around.

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My first stop was Bartlett Hall to check on a friend who wasn’t there that evening and then starting roaming around the streets. After few hours I was wondering what I am going to do in the city formerly knows as Yerba Buena for three days and the first thing that struck my mind apart from my holy visits to fisherman’s wharf int he morning was the vintage book stores. There are some wonderful book stores in the downtown area but the one that I adore are Kayo books on Post st. ( one has to take appointment), Green apple on Clement street between 6th and 7th avenue ( massive used books store, a must visit for bibliophiles ) – I would compare Green apple with the Book Cellar on 79th st. & York av. in Manhattan, my former home, although Book Cellar is much smaller; and the Books Inc. on Van Ness and Turk. I had ample amount of time and I decided to leaf through every possible book I could and enjoy my coffee, isn’t it a dream?

I already am a vegetarian, to be specific lacto vegetarian but then too I observed some gain in fat in past few months thanks to the whole milk and yogurt and my travel to the parts of USA where the word vegetarian invokes curious glances along with derisive mumbles. I don’t venture into the self help and cooking sections in general, not that I have akin to George Carlin’s aversion to self help but I have a different take. Let’s not digress here; So, I took a stroll into the cooking section this time and leafed through many vegan and vegetarian cooking books. They ranged from basic such as putting together an edible salad to much advanced one such as eggplant tagine with roasted freekah, what caught my eye was the various combinations that were put together and the emphasis on calorie count, reduction of sugar, salt, and oil in food. I enjoyed them thoroughly and enthused, eventually ended up buying two of them.

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Plant pure nation is more aggressive on no usage of oil along with veganism while vegan one is just true to its name. I brought them home and being motivated made a trip to grocery store where I purchased different types of grains such as freekah, mixed quinoa, bulgar wheat, oats along with other vegetables. My fridge hasn’t been so well equipped before but the results? They have been abysmal. When I cook, I am meticulous of the recipe, the heat, ingredients, the steps I have to take, and I don’t think twice to improvise. I started putting these recipes together such as mushroom pâté, or over baked potato chips but they didn’t turn out fine at all. It feels like I don’t know how to cook at all; even today I burnt my 4th batch of potato chips ( baked in oven without oil, not fried ). I used to think I can’t do wrong with chutneys but after today’s results I am wondering were previous ones all fluke or what? Pâté’s quantity is so massive that I need to invite people over few times to finish it over and in those invitations I would have to shove it down their throats.

I need a success soon sans which these books will start biting the dust like so many other books I have bought in the past are biting and stamping the concept of tsundoku in my life.

The Impulse

Sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night, I feel that I can almost reach out and touch the littleness of my being. In those moments I ask myself what is the meaning of being alive, what it means to breathe, to touch, and to see? In those moments I believe that there is a greater purpose for everyone on his planet. It sometimes reminds me of my time to Zion last year. Out there the modern world turns to begin hazy. The rulebook of the society with money, religion, and human identity starts to become irrelevant. For once in your life you embrace the happiness of not knowing what lies ahead and you realize that all those notions from the world belong to the shelves and you are you and life is right there, right in the open in front of your eyes. So, pack your bags and hit the road. You might not come back with the answers but you may come back with the questions that would lead you to self discovery. Our time on this planet is limited for us but the quest of our brain is not.

While you can, make the leap!