Can Someone With Bollywood Knowledge Please Tell Me WTF’s Going On Here?

I miss Nami and Janhavi. They used to drag me to their houses to watch Bollywood films. I’d sit there watching people in very colorful costumes swirl around, and I’d listen to some very energetic songs, and be thoroughly mystified as to what was happening and why my friends were laughing their asses off. But then they’d pause the video and explain. For a few minutes, at least, I’d be able to vaguely follow the action, until it all got away from me again and I was left sitting like an ignorant lump until next they paused to enlighten me. One thing was for sure: anything I ever wanted or needed to know about Bollywood movies, I only needed to ask them.

But we’ve lost touch. And I haven’t many friends now who are in to Bollywood. And I haven’t been able to catch my friend R, who is a fan, outside of work for a while. So this video has thoroughly flummoxed me.

I know this must be several scenes from a film, but I haven’t the foggiest which film. I know there was a battle, and that was obviously Kali collecting blood in a bowl (hi, Kali! You’ll always be one of my favorite goddesses). I think the young dude looking on like a derp might be Krishna. And I know whoever the big brute at the end is got subjected to a mighty lecture before being finished off by the main goddess there. Outside of that, I can’t puzzle it out. I don’t know what events led to this, or what the lecture was about, or who everybody was. I have no idea if the song at all matches the clip. And I’m not sure why I’m intrigued, but I am.

So if any of you are Bollywood fans and can step in to take up Nami and Janhavi’s movie-’splaining role, I’d love that very much. Also, you could, if you like, educate me as to your favorite films. Especially really good musicals.

Thank you, my darlings!

 

Goddess going after a god with a trident. I don't know who she is, but I bloody love her style.

Goddess going after a god with a trident. I don’t know who she is, but I bloody love her style.

The Truth About Guys and Gals

Last night was completely fucked up in all the best ways. Well, most of them. And it’s led to semi-deep thoughts.

Mind you, I hadn’t had enough sleep. I’d had a shitty day at work, following the shittiest four-day weekend I’ve had in forever, and just that afternoon our call center director had asked me how things were, which led to me saying “not good” and then doing too much sniveling on the way home from lunch to feel capable of stopping by the gas station for a lighter. So this is the context.

One of my most cherished friends, one of the very first I ever met upon the intertoobz and who has been a presence in my life for a surprisingly long time, was up visiting from Oregon. He wanted to hang out. Hadn’t seen each other for ages, had we? And so, instead of heading straight home for bed, I picked him up in Lynnwood after work. We’d just do some pie, jibber-jabber for an hour or so, and then home for me.

Pie happened. Jibber-jabbering took place. And somehow led to us comparing notes on chick flicks we’d seen and liked. Not that this was something we’d necessarily confess in public (hence me hiding his identity, and not telling you about some of the other awesome stuff we discussed. He can out himself if he wishes). He gave me shit for not liking Love, Actually as much as everybody else on the planet. I couldn’t believe he’d never seen Bridget Jones’s Diary. And there was a moment of regret when I discovered I’d deleted Anything But Love from my DVR to make room for all the Doctor Who and science programs, without having checked to see if this was a film that could be easily obtained via Amazon Instant Video. Whoops.

This discussion should not have happened. He is a manly man. I am a chick-flick disdaining woman. But he’s got lady friends who loves them some chick flicks, and is secure enough in his masculinity to watch such films with them and appreciate the well-written ones. And I’ve got a Muse who sometimes decides that sexual frustration is conducive to the writing process. Hence, we know our chick flicks.

Having been denied our Anything But Love experience, we turned to a chick flick I’d actually been astonished by. It was one of those freebies from On Demand I’d watched during the chick flick marathon, and I’d watched it mostly because I couldn’t believe anyone had made a movie about such a ridiculous premise. 27 Dresses? Really? The title alone is horrid. And then it’s about a woman who’s been in a bunch of weddings and kept all of the bridesmaid dresses. Puh-leeze.

But it turned out to be funny and clever and touching. Surprisingly good. So I bought it, and we watched it last night.

What interested me most was how who in the story we identified with. My friend, who is one of those white knight types, identified with Jane, the perpetual bridesmaid. She, like him, is one of those people who goes around perpetually sacrificing her own happiness and time for other people. The reliable one everybody takes for granted. Too nice for her own good. Believes that one day, forever-after will be hers. And a bit on the hopeless romantic side.

I, OTOH, identify with Kevin. Stuck in a job he hates by way of getting to where he wants to go. Cynical about love and marriage and all that rot. Perpetual bachelor. Decency and kindness often swamped by the definite not-nice traits. Encourages friends and sometimes random strangers to stop being unfailingly nice and be bad every once in a while, for their own health and happiness. Did I mention the cynical about relationships and even more so about weddings bit?

And I realized, once again, the truth.

The truth is that these roles we think are filled by men and women are actually filled by people. Guys can be mushy-gushy I-believe-in-love sorts. Women can be the love-is-for-fools type. I’ve known hetero men who are far more in to fashion than I am. I’ve been the one saying, “Fuck talking” while a significant other thinks We Need to Communicate More. Except for those of us who feel trapped by society’s gender roles, who are terrified to put a toe over the line into the territory supposedly reserved for the other gender alone, most of us inhabit pieces of the whole genderscape. We’re a mishmash of all sorts of different traits. We pick and choose what works for us, what really is us, regardless of whether it’s supposed to be for a boy or girl.

And we should. Men and women both should feel completely comfortable poaching on one another’s territory. Those boundaries are all artificial anyway.

The boys who played dress-up with me and my girlfriends when we were kids were no less boys than the ones who preferred toy soldiers. And the girls who liked to go jump bikes and play Cops and Robbers weren’t any less girls than the ones who set up elaborate Barbie houses. As we get older, that Us vs. Them shit should fade away. We should be able to identify with who and what we want without worrying if the pinks and blues are “properly” sorted.

I’m Kevin, he’s Jane. We both like chick flicks, and Firefly. And we’re completely comfortable with all that. In the end, it’s not male or female, it’s simply human.

Didn’t Miss a Thing – Aside from Pure Fucking Bullshit

Last week, my friends at work invited me to go see Transformers when it opened. I’m a purist, so I said no. I’m not having my delightful childhood memories of a damned fine cartoon ruined by live-action malarkey.

Turns out it’s a bloody good thing I didn’t go, because I would’ve spent most of my time fuming. My friends tell me there was plenty of not-so-veiled racism. And then there’s this:

A reader emailed me the other day to let me know about the political subtexts of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, a big-budget action flick released last week. Reader P.C. told me the movie mentioned President Obama in a less than flattering light.

I haven’t seen it, but Matt Yglesias also saw the movie, and noticed its “searing indictment” of the administration.

[O]ne critical turn in the storyline comes when a heroic Major in the United States Army (or possibly Air Force) decides to disobey orders and mutiny against a civilian operative specifically sent by POTUS to take command of the operation. But what’s more, this is no rogue special forces officer, he’s clearly supported in his action by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who elects to turn a blind eye, and leave President Obama (who’s named specifically) in the dark as he cowers in fear in an underground bunker. Obama, you see, has ordered American forces to attempt to appease the Deceptecon threat by halting all collaboration with the Autobots, and agreeing to turn Sam Witwicky over to the forces of evil. By defying Obama and staging what amounts to a coup, the military saves the day.

[snip]

Maybe Michael Bay could stick to explosions and steer clear of political messages? (If we’re lucky, he might also stay away from cameras, the movie industry, scripts, actors….)

If only we were so lucky. Hollywood’s output would improve a thousand-fold if a Transformer prop were to fall over and end Bay’s career. There should be a law against no-talent hacks politicizing movies inspired by iconic childrens’ cartoons.

At least we know whose side he would’ve been on in the cartoon series. It begins with Decepti- and ends in Con.

Oceans of Inspiration

Every writer has something that opens every floodgate and releases images and words in torrents. A song, a drink, an exercise, a person.

For me, it’s movies.

Certain movies become anthems. They scour me down to essentials: I become an instrument, nothing more than the story that’s unfolding inside me, spilling from my fingers faster than I can type. They strip everything else away. Food, sleep, other people all lose their importance. The movie drives the story, and the story becomes the entirety of my world.

I’m almost afraid to tell you which movies have done this. Just remember that no matter how the critics panned it, no matter how many folks thought it was the most ridiculous bit of Hollywood schlock ever to hit the big screen, it somehow tickled the Muse. And when the Muse gets tickled, all choice I have gets definistrated.

(That’s thrown right out the bloody window, for you non-sesquipadaleans in the audience.)

One of those movies was MI:2. Seriously. Yes, even with Tom fucking Cruise. Remember, it was right before he went completely batshit insane. I lost count of how many times I saw it in the theater. It came out right as I was halfway through Trinity, the only novel I’ve ever actually finished, and something about it just screamed Adrian Sykes, the anti-hero star. For weeks, I had a specific routine: I’d see MI:2 every couple of days, and I wrote. That movie, coupled with the Highlander episodes starring Methos, drove the story to completion. Highlander, I can at least explain: Adrian comes from the same part of England as Peter Wingfield, the actor who plays Methos, so there was the accent to consider. There was also the fact that I first heard Adrian speaking to me because of Highlander. But I still to this day don’t know exactly what it was about MI:2 that released the flood. Adrian’s nothing like Ethan Hunt, and the book is really nothing like a Mission: Impossible story. But there we were, and what else could I do but what the Muse demanded?

(And yes, in case you’re wondering by now: inspiration is an awful lot like insanity. Thanks for asking.)

Lord of the Rings should be a no-brainer. And yes, I saw it more than MI:2. But not as many times as the group of high school kids in their elf costumes. That trilogy is something I try to watch at least once a year, because it gets me into epic storytelling mode. It knocked the breath from my body when I first saw it. It was precisely what I wanted to accomplish: the myth, the meaning, the sweep and scope, the rich detail…. So I don’t have elves, Hobbits, wizards, or any of that sort o’ thing. What I’ve got is worlds as beautiful, stories that dive as deep into the huge questions of good, evil and fellowship. Those movies taught me something important: slow down. The story can move along just fine even if you’re travelling down a few scenic routes rather than flying along the freeway. And fantasy worlds need to be so complete.

Batman Begins is my theme movie for the book I’m preparing to write now. I think you’ll understand when you meet the main character, which you should soon, because I plan to have it complete by the end of next year. Christian Bale’s Batman is absolutely him. Although no, he doesn’t dress up in costumes and fight supervillains. It’s the darkness they share.

Dark Knight is going to take me in a whole new direction.

You see, movies spark ideas. And what this movie has shown me is exactly how much work I’ve got cut out for me, making my Big Bad truly terrifying. It’s gotten me to thinking about adversaries you can’t fathom, desperation on unimaginable scales, evil you just can’t overcome. I’ve been struggling with that for years. I’ve read books on evil, and all of it falls so short of what I know that evil would be. Satan? A buffoon, a rank amateur, compared to my main evil guy. Think of every terror you’ve ever had, every bad guy who left you shitting yourself in terror, and magnify that by a trillion. Somehow, that’s how Sha’daal has to come across – and yet, seductively elegant, understated, nothing at all what you’d expect. The dichotomy between world-destroying acts and a soft-spoken being drives me absolutely nuts. But I think Dark Knight will allow me to achieve the proper mood with him and the destruction he leaves in his wake.

(And no, he’ll be absolutely nothing like the Joker. I’m not that obvious. Look, people who read Trinity didn’t even realize the inspiration had been provided by MI:2. And I’m getting rid of the stupid Highlander in-jokes that crept in when I do the re-write.)

What Dark Knight does for me is helps me to feel what my characters are going through as their entire world comes toppling down around them. And I needed to feel that. I caught a glimmer of it in the Battlestar Galactica miniseries, when the Cylons destroy the colonies: but this is so much darker. It makes the destruction of the colonies look like a bad day at Disneyland.

If I can make Dark Knight look like a really bad day at Disneyland, I’ll have accomplished what I set out to do. And then it’s off to intensive therapy for me: a few months of Pirates of the Caribbean, coupled with massive amounts of rum, should bring me back from the utter darkness again.

Until the next time we have to slide beneath the waves…

Dark Knight

So dark.

This is one of those movies that will scour your soul. And yet leave you feeling oddly energized…

Nothing much to say except they got it exactly right. Heath Ledger’s Joker blew me completely away, left me scrambling for a little toehold on a cliff face of insanity. Bravura performance. This film is a legacy.

Salud, Heath. Salud.

300

NP pointed out this evening that I’ve reached post 300. I’ve been so busy it almost escaped my notice. That would have been tragic, because I would’ve missed my chance to pay tribute to one of the best graphic novels and best films of all time.

I wouldn’t have had an excuse to paste enormous pictures of nearly naked men with dead-sexy abs all over my blog.

But that’s just a gimmick. Obvious. Of course I’d post something about 300 on my 300th post. Stands to reason, dunnit?

But I can’t rest an entire post on geeky hormone-driven paens to comic books and comic book films, no matter how good. This blog isn’t about that. It’s about politics, religion, science, and stuff. And don’t forget the stuff. What to do, what to do…

Paul from Cafe Philos comes to the rescue with a post that incorporates a little bit o’ everything. He caught a politial gaffe I missed! It has politics (McCain), religion (beer), science (beer), and stuff (beer controversy!).

Seriously. It’s even on CNN:

John McCain issued a promise Tuesday that may cause a bit of unrest with a broad swath of voters:

He’ll veto every single beer?
In a slip of the tongue while railing against excessive earmarks at the National Small Business Summit in Washington, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee inadvertently pledged to veto the popular alcoholic beverage.

We can’t let this one pass, my darlings. If George W. Bush was voted into office on the stength of being the kind of guy you could picture yourself having a beer with, what do you think it’ll do for McCain’s chances if blue-collar voters find out that the man’s not only an addlepated fuckwit, but a sworn enemy of beer? This could be our moment. This could decide the very future of America. We must spread the word:

“McCain vows to veto beer!”

It doesn’t matter if he simply misspoke. The Republicons beat Dems bloody with their every slip o’ the tongue – we shall pay them the same courtesy. Every beer-drinking Average Joe, every homebrewer, every frat boy and down-to-earth girl, needs to hear what their choices are in this election: beer-hating old coot, or beer-loving American. We shall spread the truthiness of this gaffe from sea to shining sea.

Paul has created a graphic we can use to create signs, shirts, steins, and buttons:

No. He will not. He shall not. He is the clear choice for this November. Remember what those 300 brave Spartans would have given their lives for:

Honor the 300. Fight against this beer-vetoing madman! Elect Obama, and let the beer flow like amber waves of grain!

“Letting Go of God” – A Ramble About An Excellent Film

I’ve only just come back from seeing Julia Sweeney’s film “Letting Go of God.” It’s one of those rare non-fiction films that’s going to make itself a happy home on my DVD rack. The woman is side-splittingly funny, and she’s a godsend to the godless. If it swings by your town, I highly recommend it – unless you’re a Christian who wants to hold on to your faith.

This is the film version of her monologue of the same title. It’s filmed as a stand-up, basically: she’s on stage with a set, there’s an audience, and aside from a few entertaining tricks with the lighting, it’s no different from what you’d see on Comedy Central – except for the subject matter. For those of you who, like myself, just crawled out from under a rock this morning and had no effing clue what this was all about, I’ll do my best to give you a decent recap.

Julia’s one of those rare few who invited the Mormon missionaries in when they came a-knocking. What they shared regarding their faith was so bizarre that it led her to question her own. And yes, hearing the Mormon church history boiled down into a few wickedly-funny lines by a comedienne certainly brings out the ridiculous nature of the whole thing. Angels lead a couple of Israelites to America? In 600 BC, no less. And said Israelites breed like bunnies, one side is good and the other evil, evil triumphs (and becomes the Native American tribes – xenophobic much?), the lone survivor of the good tribe buries golden tablets written in Egyptian hieroglyphics in a New York back yard, which are found thousands of years later by Joseph Smith, who gets high to read them… yeah. What the fuck ever. That mythology deserved the sound spanking it got at Julia’s hands.

At least now I have a weapon the next time the missionaries come calling: Sure, I’ll want to hear their message – if they watch the first ten minutes of Julia’s film with me.

(Heh. Yes, I am evil, why do you ask?)

Julia relates how this incident led her to question her Catholic faith, which led her to attempt to understand it better and answer the question, “Do I believe God loves me with all his heart?” This inspires her to read the Bible. Cover-to-cover. Which…. well, let’s just say the results aren’t pretty. Anyone who has two rational cells to rub together and actually thinks about what they read is going to have a hard time holding on to faith after reading that mess of genocide, rape, slavery, and smiting. Oh, and Jesus annihilating a menopausal fig tree.

Jesus really wanted a fig that day. Damned tree.

She shares Bible stories I’d never even heard of: one in particular is a man who promises to make a burnt offering of the first person he sees upon returning home. That person is his daughter. He burns her alive, and God is pleased. Story after story is related that is like this, and she isn’t gentle with what Jesus said about abandoning family either. The question is raised, and it’s an important one: where do Christian morals come from, when the bulk of the Bible is filled with questionable morality or outright evil? She dug up old memories for me – I remember reading the New Testament many years ago, and realizing the same thing. All that emphasis on marriage and family is in complete opposition to what Christ taught. Seriously. There are verses where he urges people to abandon their families. If this sort of shit came out in an atheist’s book, it would be condemned. Somehow, because it’s in the Bible, it goes through a magic lens that turns it into something pure and good.

That lens stopped working for Julia.

When Christianity proved too contradictory and ridiculous, she launched a search for God in Eastern religions, nature, and various and sundry other places. Where she ended up was atheism. It’s a familiar journey to many who have deconverted – it’s hard to just let go of God without looking for the bastard in plenty of other places first. I found myself treading a familiar path, thinking, “Oh, hey – never realized that was you up ahead of me there, Julia! No wonder you look so familiar.” Only I didn’t have the money or the inclination to go as far as she did – all over Asia and on to the Galapagos, finding nothing but fuckwittery all the way.

Until she encountered Darwin. And those islands that led him to the theory of evolution.

I found that fascinating. You see, I hadn’t needed Darwin or evolution to become an atheist myself, and I don’t know of all that many people who can point to Darwin as the catalyst for their atheism. I’m sure there are plenty of folks out there in the world like Julia, for whom Darwin’s wonderful little book was the final nail in religion’s coffin. But I hadn’t met them. And she said something about it that I found utterly riveting.

It wasn’t just the fact of evolution. Is was that this book was so easy to read and understand, not at all like she’d expected science to be. It wasn’t an impenetrable mystery. She didn’t have to be an expert to get it. And she sure as fuck didn’t have to pull the mental contortionist routine with it – everything in Darwin’s Origin of Species follows a neat, logical path, without glaring contradictions. That, from how she described the reading of it, is what impacted her most. Science wasn’t something only a chosen few could access. Science didn’t deal in absolutes. Science, she said at one point, deals far better with uncertainty than Christianity does, and that was a revelation to her.

There is a hysterically funny moment when she’s talking about dating an Intelligent Design believer, who tells her the eye is far to complex for evolution to have created – it must have been designed. So she read up on the evolution of the eye, and discovered the truth: evolution can, too, create something that complex in increments.

She faces tough questions head-on, and admits that yes, in some places, the atheist’s worldview is less rosy. You have to face death without the comfort of an afterlife. You have to face awful happenings without the comfort of thinking they’re happening for a reason. Now, that last is true for her – not for me. I tend to look at the lousy goings-on in my life through the filter of “It’s happening to me because this shit happens to everyone, and I’m not that fucking special. I can let it kill me or make me stronger. Hmmm, no afterlife – I’ll take the “make me stronger” option, thankees.” But I suppose what she means is a sort of meta-reason, a Divine Purpose, and if that’s the case, then yes, that comfort isn’t there. But wasn’t it always a cold comfort anyway? I feel much better about the lousy bullshit in my life knowing it just happens rather than it happened because God has hisself a Plan for me.

And she makes a huge case for an atheist’s morality being stronger than a Christian’s.

There’s an evolutionary basis for cooperation, altruism, and prohibitions against murder. She lays the case out in a few simple sentences: we have moral rules about not doing bad things because we’re social animals who evolved that way, and codified what evolution had already proved. Social animals that deal well with each other reproduce more successfully. That simple. So morality isn’t something strictly limited to the religious. But beyond that, there’s the fact that we’re forced to act.

God isn’t going to save the world. We have to.

God isn’t going to comfort this distressed person. It’s up to us.

The absence of God forces us to take responsibility, to do something rather than nothing (and praying is nothing – there are few things more useless than prayer, although people like to believe it gets something accomplished). Letting go of God forces us to grow up.

She doesn’t ever state this directly, but the end of the movie talks about her daughter reaching for magical explanations when Julia’s trying to explai
n things like death in rational, material terms. And that struck me: religion is never growing up. What her daughter invented to make herself feel better about things she didn’t understand sounded exactly like the answers most human religions invent.

We as a species have never seemed to mature past the age of four.

And that’s dangerous.

Much food for thought in this movie, to be sure. But it’s not heavy fare. It’s too damned funny to weigh on you. No blog post, especially not one written at three a.m. after a long day’s drinking, is going to do her justice. When you get the chance, see the film. Even if she causes you to let go of God, you’ll likely be very glad you did.