As a solitude loving introvert I get totally distressed whenever there is an unexpected ring on the door or on the telephone….I totally Hate someone springs such surprises on me…I like to have company only once in a while & that too with an adequate advance notice n all this if I happen to like the person calling on me…most of the times I’m just too engrossed in my own work (even if that happens to be just pottering around the home/listening to music/watching some movie/just plain old thinking)…every knock on the door rudely jolts me away from the calm sanctuary of my inner world…I just don’t understand why other people are hell bent on ‘hanging out together’ or ‘meeting up over a cup of coffee’ all the times..why should I hang out with others n listen to their mindless rambling when I can hang in with myself & just think about the things that matter to me??…this terror of unknown visitors is very well captured in the song ‘Who Can It Be Now?’ by an Australian Band, ‘Men at Work’
“Who Can It Be Now?”
Who can it be knocking at my door?
Go away, don’t come ’round here no more
Can’t you see that it’s late at night?
I’m very tired and I’m not feeling right
All I wish is to be alone
Stay away, don’t you invade my home
Best off if you hang outside
Don’t come in, I’ll only run and hide
Who can it be now?
Who can it be now?
Who can it be now?
Who can it be now?
Who can it be knocking at my door?
Make no sound, tip-toe across the floor
If he hears, he’ll knock all day
I’ll be trapped and here I’ll have to stay
I’ve done no harm, I keep to myself
There’s nothing wrong with my state of mental health
I like it here with my childhood friend
Here they come, those feelings again
Who can it be now?
Who can it be now?
Who can it be now?
Who can it be now?
These are a few of my favorite things: #10 (The Art of Disappearing by Noami Shihab Nye & People are Boring By George Carlin)
Lunchbox is a movie that is being praised from all the corners, hailed by by both moviegoers n critics. The tagline of the movie is ‘Can you fall in love with someone you’ve not met?’ …a bond is developed between a lonely housewife, Ila dealing with apathetic n philandering husband & an about to retire Govt. official , Sajan Fernandes who is equally lonely n desolate,living a solitary life after his wife’s death.
Ila is trying to spice up her floundering marriage by following the old cliche of winning a man’s heart through his stomach. Her game plan is to send sumptuous tiffin box lunches to her husband’s office n thus make him take interest in her! Unfortunately the tiffin box lands up in wrong place n she ends up working her way through the heart of Sajan Fernandes instead of her husband. Notes are exchanged between Ila n Sajan.
The movie didn’t work for me ‘cos I found the characters unidimensional, bland, boring & plain stupid. Sajan gives Ila the hackneyed advice of rekindling romance in her marriage by producing another child! Sajan, writes to her that he has been offered a vertical burial plot – “I’ve spent my life standing in trains and buses,” he says, “now I will have to stand even when I’m dead.” The irony of his advice is totally lost on him. Vertical grave is due to population explosion but still he advises her to produce more children!!
& then he tells her about his experience of being touched ‘down there’ by a grandmotherly toothless lady on a bus! If an old man wrote to me about such sleazy things instead of falling for him, I would be totally creeped out.The exchanges between the two are colorless n vapid n totally illogical. Now, Ila wanted to spice up the marriage by sending special lunch box but apparently she continues to serve bland dinners which the family eats with total disinterest!! & if she were really interested in saving her marriage, she would take steps to have the tiffin delivered to her husband instead of to a random stranger. + I have serious issues with the ‘bored housewife syndrome’. Why are women staying at home be supposed to get bored all the times? There are lots of things she can do to keep her life n herself interesting,instead of complaining about the boredom. n once boredom sets in her life, it gives negative vibes to all around her. Who needs a bored, complaining hag around all the times? Is it her always bored attitude that led her husband to stray in the first place? As the movie proceeds, she devices another mad-hatter scheme to ‘find happiness’..by moving to Bhutan!! ‘cos in that country everyone is happy…as if one can become magically happy by changing places…there is a wise proverb,’wherever you go, there you are.’ Newsflash: Unhappy people will remain unhappy even in Bhutan…n maybe Bhutanese are happy ‘cos they are not trying some silly schemes to escape from reality n by finding happiness in simple things, right where they are.
The movie does have some good moments, especially the idea of a friendly neighborhood aunty for Ila who is present only in voice is interesting, but overall the movie n it’s characters did not strike a chord with me. It is just regular hindi masala film minus the song n dance. The tagline of the movie should have been ‘Can boring/stupid people fall in love?’ Sure they can but we don’t want to watch their boring love story.
These are a few of my favorite things: #43(Boris Yellnikoff from the Movie ‘Whatever Works’ by Woody Allen)
Sometimes my favorite thing is not a thing but a person,a fictitious person who lives only in a book/movie but is real to me nonetheless…somebody interesting,off-the-wall character with whom I can identify n admire. Howard Roark from ‘The Fountainhead’ by Ayn Rand is one such my all time favorite person. Recently I met another eccentric movie-character ‘Boris Yellnikoff’ from ‘Whatever Works’ by Woody Allen. Boris, who was once upon a time a Professor of Physics specializing in string theory n who now teaches chess to children has is quirky, witty, philosophical, pessimistic & has a cavalier attitude about human beings:
~All great ideas. These are all great ideas, but they all suffer from one fatal flaw. Which is they’re all based on the fallacious notion that people are fundamentally decent. Give them a chance to do right and they’ll take it. They’re not stupid, selfish, greedy, cowardly, short-sighted worms. All I’m saying is that people make life so much worse than it has to be and, believe me, it’s a nightmare without their help.But on the whole, I’m sorry to say we are a failed species.
~The human race. They’ve had to install automatic toilets in public restrooms, because people can’t be entrusted to flush a toilet.
& He has very interesting theories about life:
~There’s an old joke – um… two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ‘em says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.” Well, that’s essentially how I feel about life – full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly.
~Everybody’s happy to talk, full of misinformation. Morality, science, religion, politics,sports, love. Your portfolio, your children, health. Christ. lf I have to eat nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day to live,I don’t want to live. I hate goddamn fruits and vegetables.And your omega-3’s and the treadmill and the cardiogram and the mammogram and the pelvic sonogram and, oh, my God, the colonoscopy! And with it all, the day still comes when they put you in a box and it’s on to the next generation of idiots who’ll also tell you all about life and define for you what’s appropriate.
He Doesn’t think twice before insulting anybody, whether it be his chess protege/their parents/his girlfriend…wow that’s so charming n endearing😀
~Look, you’re a sweet kid. Stupid beyond all comprehension, but you’ll never survive here. You got nothing going for you. Zero, zilch. Ya know, you may be beauty queen material in the deep south, but this is the big time. Here you’re a three. A five maybe after you bathe.
~Boris Yellnikoff : I mean it. I’m a profound and sensitive soul with an enormous grasp of the human condition. It was inevitable you would eventually grow tired of being so grossly overmatched. Greatness isn’t easy to live with, even by someone of normal intelligence.
Melodie Celestine : You’re upset. I don’t expect you to understand. How could you?Boris Yellnikoff : Believe me, if I can understand quantum mechanics, I can certainly comprehend the thought process of a sub-mental baton twirler.
& his ultimate philosophy in life is :
So, basically I liked Boris Yellnioff (Larry David) and his way of thinking n saying the truth without any sugar-coating whatsoever so much that I din’t really care about the story line or the plot.For me it was the guy who ruled!
“Most people think life sucks, and then you die. Not me. I beg to differ. I think life sucks, then you get cancer, then your dog dies, your wife leaves you, the cancer goes into remission, you get a new dog, you get remarried, you owe ten million dollars in medical bills but you work hard for thirty five years and you pay it back and then one day you have a massive stroke, your whole right side is paralyzed, you have to limp along the streets and speak out of the left side of your mouth and drool but you go into rehabilitation and regain the power to walk and the power to talk and then one day you step off a curb at Sixty-seventh Street, and BANG you get hit by a city bus and then you die. Maybe”
― Denis Leary
In ‘A Serious Man’ we meet Larry Gopnik( Michael Stuhlbarg), a physics professor whose life starts resembling the situation described in the above quote. His complacent & normal world starts falling apart from all directions. His wife of so many years has a fling (with a guy named Sy Ableman) & unreasonably expects Larry to move out of his own home while she files for a divorce,his son is a music buff n a pot addict, his daughter has started stealing money from his wallet for an expensive nose job, his sick, somewhat mentally retard brother has moved in with him, his neighbor is encroaching on his property, one of his students is trying to bribe him to give the student passing grades n someone is sending anonymous derogatory letters to the college committee while Larry is being considered for a tenure at the university. In short everything that can go wrong is going wrong in Larry’s life. As the movie proceeds he starts facing serious financial problems as he has to engage various lawyers to deal with divorce n neighbor etc. n then in a hilarious turn of events his wife’s suitor dies n wife expects Larry to pay for his funeral. Larry just can’t understand why all this is happening to him especially when, “I didn’t do anything”. This assertion is very heart breaking but starts to acquire comical proportions when he forgets to do anything to get his tenure, he doesn’t do anything, he doesn’t even publish research papers that are so crucial in academia. In trying to make sense of his troubles he tries to meet three rabbis but their advice proves to be superfluous, irrelevant, unhelpful n even laughable. So our guy Larry’s life is growing more n more pathetic n confusing but this may be just the beginning of trouble! Things do start to get a little better for Larry but only to get worse. There is some calmness before the real storm hits him hard. He finally succumbs to the lure of money offered by bribe n no sooner than he changes the student grade from F to C he receives a call from his Doctor who wants to discuss Larry’s X-Ray Report which is apparently too grave to be discussed on phone. n in another shot his son gets caught in a tornado. So there is no happy ending here. Welcome to reality.
The underlying question in the story of Larry n in all our life stories is why do bad things happen to good people?(This movie is a modern retelling of ‘The Book of Job‘) n when bad things happen how are we supposed to feel n react. Larry’s situation is appropriately highlighted by the Jefferson Airplane Song: When the truth turns out to be lies n all the joy within you dies, don’t you want somebody to love; Schrodinger’s cat n Heizenberg’s Uncertainity Principle.
The Uncertainty Principle.
It proves we can’t ever really know…
what’s going on.
So it shouldn’t bother you. Not being able to figure anything out. Although you will be responsible for this on the mid-term.
Visioneers is a satire on Modern Life where everyone is chasing happiness but no one is happy. It follows the life n times of George Washington Winsterhammerman(Zach Galifianakis) who works in a huge corporation known as Jeffers.
Workers everywhere are exploding because of stress. George is trying to make sense of all this as he desperately tries to keep himself from exploding. But signs of stress in his life are palpable & growing, they just can’t be ignored anymore.Now ain’t this the fate of average cubicle rat everywhere? Work that gives one nothing but stress & emptiness, yet everyone just keeps going somehow. People know that their jobs are mind numbing n stressful but they try to address this very superficially. No one digs deep to find the root cause of stress.
A loudspeaker at the office keeps announcing the minutes of productivity left till the weekend.
The corporation and its leader, Mr. Jeffers, claim success is achieved by its strict philosophy of mindless productivity. Jeffers teaches that productivity equals happiness, and the business logo (a middle finger) is the standard greeting in society.
Now this is really telling! Are humans just productive machines??I see most of wage slaves around me cursing mondays n waiting for fridays. They just bide their working week somehow n yet they can’t give up on their mind numbing jobs ‘cos they got stuff to buy. People are addicted to spending. They must have the latest costly gadgets n gizmos, branded clothing, glitzy, fancy cars, lavish homes, exotic holidays. & to finance all these needless aspirations they sell their time n soul monday to friday…can’t leave the job, gotta keep up with joneses.
The answer is really easy. If one can live simply & frugally, then one can save enough n get off the bandwagon n enjoy really living the life, a life not with any of the shiny glitzy toys but filled with joys of simple things like a hot cup of tea drunk leisurely, the joy of Art, movies, books n music, walks n house hold chores. No more mad rush. But instead of choosing the Joyful less traveled road people keep exploding n wondering why…n looking for solutions in all wrong places.
Talking of trying to find happiness in wrong places brings us to George’s wife (Judy Greer) who is always watching some Oprah-esque (yup, I coined this word,yayyyyy) TV shows about happiness & buying the latest Happiness Bestsellers. This is tragically hilarious. This is what is going around us everywhere. People are trying to seek happiness through shortcuts like ‘The Secret’ which promises to be a mantra for gaining all that we desire, whether we deserve them or not, whether we work hard for them or not. Just visualize it, give orders to Universe & receive it…achieving dreams are as simple as that. But there is just one little problem. It doesn’t really work it that way in real life. Here take a look:
These happiness shortcuts don’t work either for the happiness show hostess nor for the wife n sure enough they simply don’t work for anyone. In a hilarious scene the hostess, finally realizing the futility of her own mantras shoots herself n dies. The wife leaves George. Fortunately, finally George is able to get a grip of his situation n finds a solution to his problems. I won’t reveal how. The Audience have a strong reaction to the movie. You either love it or don’t get it at all. It’s like some people are so much trapped in their corporate existence that they can”t see the trappings of their success n the reality of their own miserable existence. Visioneers has made quite a wave at film festivals:
Directed by: Jared Drake
Written by: Brandon Drake
Starring: Zach Galifianakis, Judy Greer, Fay Masterson, James LeGros
- Keeping Up With the Joneses: Is Status Worth Credit Problems? (lexingtonlaw.com)
Opening Scene n lines: “Why do i want to kill myself? I don’t know. I wouldn’t kill myself for the same reasons as other suicidal people. Money problems…broken heart…hopelessness…no, not me. Many books say “death is relaxing.”did you know that? No need to follow the latest trends, no need to keep pace with the rest of the world. It’ll be like taking a nap before waking up refreshed and ready to begin your next life. That’s what they say; “this is bliss.”
This is the story of Japanese guy Kenji, working in Thailand, who is always thinking about suicide & trying to commit suicide, though half heartedly ‘cos he never quite succeeds. One thing or another distracts him at the last moment n then the mood is gone!!
He loves reading books. His home is almost a library. He is introverted & super organized.
His brother works for a Don(mafioso) in Japan. Bro sleeps with Boss’ daughter n Boss now wants him killed. Brother flees n comes to Kenji’s Apartment. At that very moment Kenji was preparing to hang himself. As he is about to tighten the noose, the doorbell rings & the brother Arrives!! The Don sends a hit man to kill the bro. Hitman kills the bro n Kenji Shoots the hitman.Now this is a bit strange n paradoxical. If Kenji really wants to die he would have let the hitman kill himself too.
By some twists & turns in fate he meets a girl Noi, who has recently lost her sister in an accident & holds herself partly responsible for it. Kenji moves in with Noi (‘cos two corpses are now lying in his home)n a beautiful friendship is formed. They are eventually romantically involved. Noi has to soon move to Japan. Noi’s Apartment is as as messy as Kenji’s is organized.
The story is extremely gripping.Both Kenji n Noi are interesting, eccentric n likable. Though it with dark material it is extremely humorous. The humor is subtle n situational. 3 comedy scenes stand out for me. One, when the bell starts ringing as Kenji is about to kill himself.Two, Kenji starts reading a Japanese book in the bus, another Japanese man starts to talk to Kenji seeing the book. Kenji is in no mood to talk n he gets down the bus, suddenly just to avoid the man. Three when Kenji’s brother’s boss is at the Airport, he is coming to Thailand to shoot Kenji to revenge his hit man’s death at the hands of Kenji n this conversation transpires between the Don n check in girl:
Japanese/Thai Movie: Last Life In The Universe,
Director: Pen-ek Ratanaruang,
Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Sinitta Boonyasak,
Director of Photography: Christopher Doyle
These are a few of my favorite things: #39(Walden on Wheels : On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom by Ken Ilgunas)
This book takes us on an inspiring journey as we get to know how the author Ken Ilgunas frees himself from a massive educational loan by following the simplicity n frugality model of Thoreau’s Walden.
I was drawn to the book for 3 main reasons. First, I found Ilgunas’ desire to live super frugally in order to pay his loans Very refreshing. This is totally opposite of what I see the kids doing in India(majority though definitely not all). Parents here finance the most expensive education of kids, even taking loans in their own names. & after that if these kids don’t get a high paying job which they feel they deserve, they won’t pick up some small jobs to support themselves + they never dream of cutting down their royal extravagant lifestyle. They must have all the luxuries: expensive gym memberships, expensive food items. Even after draining their parents financially, they behave irresponsibly, can’t be bothered to switch of lights n fans even when not in use (electricity bills be damned, after all parent will be paying for that too in any case), they can’t even pick up after themselves or do things around home (they need to have their personal servants). The standards of living of these shameless, self entitled youth is very high. Ken Ilgunas is indeed the role model this generation needs.
Second I’ve always admired Thoreau’s experiments in solitude, simplicity & frugality.
Third I find the calm, quite life full of simplicity, solitude & grace which the author led far more desirable & charming than the grotesque life of the Filthy Rich n Famous
Here is an excerpt from the book:
My experiment began in the spring semester of 2009 when I enrolled in the graduate liberal studies department. Months before, I had just finished paying off $32,000 in undergraduate student loans — no easy feat for an English major.
To pay off my debt, I’d found jobs that provided free room and board. I moved to Coldfoot, Alaska — 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 250 from the nearest store — where I worked as a lodge cleaner, a tour guide and a cook. Later, I worked on a trail crew in Mississippi in an AmeriCorps program. Between jobs I hitchhiked more than 7,000 miles to avoid paying airfare. When I couldn’t find work, I moved in with friends. My clothes came from donation bins, I had friends cut my hair, and I’d pick up odd jobs when I could. Nearly every dime I made went into my loans.
I hated my debt more than anything. I dragged it with me wherever I went. While I was still leading an exciting, adventurous life, I knew I could never truly be free until my debt was gone.
I finally got out of the red when I landed a well-paying job with the Park Service as a backcountry ranger. Finally, after two and a half years of work, my debt was gone. I had four grand in the bank that was mine. All mine. It was the first time I had actual money that hadn’t been borrowed or given to me since I was a 13-year-old paperboy.
The more money I had borrowed, I came to realize, the more freedom I had surrendered. Yet, I still considered my education — as costly as it was — to be priceless. So now, motivated to go back to school yet determined not to go back into debt, I had to think outside the box. Or, as Henry David Thoreau might suggest, inside one.
In “Walden,” Thoreau mentioned a 6 foot-by-3 foot box he had seen by the railroad in which laborers locked up their tools at night. A man could live comfortably in one of these boxes, he thought. Nor would he have to borrow money and surrender freedom to afford a “larger and more luxurious box.”
And so: I decided to buy a van. Though I had never lived in one, I knew I had the personality for it. I had a penchant for rugged living, a sixth sense for cheapness, and an unequaled tolerance for squalor.
My first order of business upon moving to Duke was to find my “Walden on Wheels.” After a two-hour bus ride into the North Carolinian countryside, I caught sight of the ’94 Ford Econoline that I had found advertised on Craigslist. Googly-eyed, I sauntered up to it and lovingly trailed fingertips over dents and chipped paint. The classy cabernet sauvignon veneer at the top slowly, sensuously faded downward into lustrous black. I got behind the wheel and revved up the fuel-funneling beast. There was a grumble, a cough, then a smooth and steady mechanical growl. It was big, it was beautiful, and — best of all — it was $1,500.
I bought it immediately. So began what I’d call “radical living.”
My “radical living” experiment convinced me that the things plunging students further into debt — the iPhones, designer clothes, and even “needs” like heat and air conditioning, for instance — were by no means “necessary.” And I found it easier to “do without” than I ever thought it would be. Easier by far than the jobs I’d been forced to take in order to pay off my loans.
Living in a van was my grand social experiment. I wanted to see if I could — in an age of rampant consumerism and fiscal irresponsibility — afford the unaffordable: an education.
I pledged that I wouldn’t take out loans. Nor would I accept money from anybody, especially my mother, who, appalled by my experiment, offered to rent me an apartment each time I called home. My heat would be a sleeping bag; my air conditioning, an open window. I’d shower at the gym, eat the bare minimum and find a job to pay tuition. And — for fear of being caught — I wouldn’t tell anybody.
Living on the cheap wasn’t merely a way to save money and stave off debt; I wanted to live adventurously. I wanted to test my limits. I wanted to find the line between my wants and my needs. I wanted, as Thoreau put it, “to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life … to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”
Not only is his story of adventure very gripping n absorbing, but the book is peppered with little gems of wisdom like these:
“Reading sixteenth-century French poetry, suffering through Kant, and studying the finer points of the Jay Treaty may seem to be, on first appearance, completely, utterly, irrefutably pointless, yet somehow in studying, discussing, and writing about these ‘pointless’ subjects, the liberal arts have the capacity to turn on a certain part of the brain that makes us ask ourselves questions like:
Who am I? What’s worth fighting for? Who’s lying to us? What’s my purpose? What’s the point of it all?
Perhaps many students would rather not be irritated with these questions, yet being compelled to grapple with them, it seems, can make us far less likely to be among those who’ll conform, remain complacent, or seek jobs with morally ambiguous employers” (p. 243).
“Discomforts are only discomforting when they’re an unexpected inconvenience, an unusual annoyance, an unplanned-for irritant. Discomforts are only discomforting when we aren’t used to them. But when we deal with the same discomforts every day, they become expected and part of the routine, and we are no longer afflicted with them the way we were…Give your body the chance to harden, your blood to thicken, and your skin to toughen, and you’ll find that the human body carries with it a weightless wardrobe. When we’re hardy in mind and body, we can select from an array of outfits to comfortably bear most any climate”
This book would be of huge interest not only for students, but for anyone seeking simple, spartan, frugal n calm way of living. We need more young guys like Ken Ilgunas n we need more inspirational tales like this.
- Walden on Wheels (sort of review) (ellenannelarson.wordpress.com)
- Walden on Wheels (intrepiddebt.wordpress.com)
- Walden on Wheels and back to the grind… or not? (ellenannelarson.wordpress.com)
- Blogging Walden: Economy (writingsenses.wordpress.com)
- Walden Pond (deliberatelivinginboston.wordpress.com)
- Walden II (philippmasur.wordpress.com)
- How I Paid Off My Loans: 3 Crazy-but-True Stories (thedailymuse.com)
- Book recommendation: Walden on Wheels (fiscallyfitchica.com)
- Walden on Wheels: terrific book (backwoodshome.com)
- WALDON ON WHEELS by Ken Ilgunas – Criticism (muymue.wordpress.com)
Queen of Versailles is a peek into the (sad & pathetic) lives of (filthy) Rich n Famous. We always try to speculate whether money buys happiness or not. We philosophize & wonder about it. We reason n we argue. There is no definitive answer to this quest. Everyone has their own hypothesis n conclusions. Now this Award winning Documentary by Lauren Greenfield gives us an excellent lens to see things with our own eyes. n then decide!! It’s a commentary on the emptiness of consumerism driven life & failure of the American Dream.
The Queen of Versailles” began as a documentary about a time-share billionaire, his ditzy wife, and their grotesque quest to build the largest house in the United States of America. It ended as perhaps the single best film on the Great Recession.”
The Siegels have a plan to build a 90,000 square feet home, bigger than the White house n modeled on the Palace of Versailles, ‘cos their life can no longer fit into the 26,000 square feet home!! Now just look at what all it will have when finished:
When completed it will have:
30 bathrooms, each with a full-sized jacuzzi tub
10 kitchens and a sushi bar
2-3 Theater sized Entertainment Centres
3 swimming pools
20 car garage
10 Kitchens!! Are you fucking kidding me? I mean what do you need 10 kitchens for?? Reminds me of one of my favorite stories, ‘The Billionaires‘ by Maxim Gorky in which he wonders what do billionaires do with all the wealth..Do have stomachs twice/thrice the size of normal people? or do they have more mouths?? or maybe more teeth!
Now about the Siegels:
David Siegel is the founder n owner of Westgate, the pioneer n biggest player in Timeshare holiday industry. He is 74 something. He married Jackie, a beauty pageant winner n 30 years his junior when he was 60. Together they have 8 children!!!. Jackie has a fondness for shopping n she shops things by truckloads (or rather limousine loads) when the stuff is already overflowing in their huge mansion. There are too many children, too many (neglected) pets,too many nannies n housekeeping help n too much clutter, n too little appreciation for anything, n no Savings. Obviously they fly in their Private jets n when the recession hit their fortunes, the ‘poor’ folks had to fly commercial…one of the son asks, ‘What are all these people doing in our plane?’ !!
David says everyone wants to be rich,if they are not rich, they want to feel rich n if they don’t want to feel rich, they are dead!!!
But is he himself happy with all this wealth and opulence?? The Answer comes from the horses mouth. David openly admits to the camera that nothing makes him happy any more. Asked if he draws strength from his marriage, he flatly replies, “No.” Finally , some sense starts to prevail when it becomes clear to him that recession has actually hit them too. Then he is like a normal middle class person getting worried about electricity bills, Housing staff is cut down drastically, but regardless the X’mas shopping n party are celebrated with fanfare.
As a person who actually enjoys frugality n living beneath the mean,I really don’t understand a lifestyle filled with so much extravagance n wastage. Period. Even if I had billions n trillions I would really want to stay the way we live now. The big mansions don’t even excite me. I dream of shifting into smaller n smaller homes n finally ending up in tiny house (1100 square feet). Tiny houses n simple lifestyle with low footprint is what excites me. I am not even interested in how their life fell apart during recession…I don’t like that extravagant n wasteful lifestyle even if had continued being so without hiccups. That kind of lifestyle is empty n hideous. I’m simply not interested in too much money, ‘cos all it gets you is a super ugly gold throne. I’m happy lounging in my easy chair, reading books n daydreaming.
- Queen of Versailles Jackie Siegel wants a reality show: bad idea (realityblurred.com)
- The Queen of Versailles (goodeveningclarice23.wordpress.com)
- Queen of Versailles – Movie Review (simplyjosephine.net)
- The 11 Best Movies Of 2012 (buzzfeed.com)
Though Oscar Wilde is more famous for his witty one liners which are abundantly present in ‘Picture of Dorian Gray’,what makes this work memorable for me is the exploration of the inner psyche of the eponymous protagonist.
Basil Hallward, an artist, paints a very beautiful portrait of his friend Dorain Gray.
Gray himself develops a narcissistic kind of appreciation for his own portrait & thinks:
& his wishes do indeed come true. So it follows that whatever vile thoughts he thinks & deeds he does his face remains innocent & stays as handsome as ever.He becomes too hedonistic & stops caring for the feelings of others. He starts ignoring the effect of his actions on people close to him. When his fiancee Sybil Vane commits suicide because Dorian decided to dump her for a frivolous reason, he remains nonchalant. Then he goes n murders his friend, Basil n also Sybil’s brother James. The painting becomes uglier n uglier with each misdemeanor.
Now this is really interesting a human face is indeed a mirror of the inner self of the person. Beauty or ugliness is not just physical features but also reflects the person’s inner life & the quality of thoughts. (Sin is a thing that writes itself across a man’s face. It cannot be concealed.)
Sadly this fact is not at all accounted by our beauty n youth obsessed society. Many people act like Dorian Gray(“Youth is the only thing worth having. When I find that I am growing old, I shall kill myself.” “I know, now, that when one loses one’s good looks, whatever they may be, one loses everything.”~Dorian Gray) n make huge efforts (even resorting to painful n expensive surgeries) to remain ever youthful. But, alas their inner emptiness is reflected in their face despite impeccable features.
To continue with the plot of the story, finally inner demons begins to catch up with Dorian n one day he himself is disgusted by the ugliness of his portrait & decides to destroy it. As he stabs his painting, Dorian becomes ugly n old n dies n the portrait returns to it’s initial beauty & splendor. The message is quite clear: As Ayn Rand once said, ‘One can evade reality, but one can never evade the consequences of evading reality.
P.S. : It is widely regarded that Dorian became irresponsibly hedonistic n degraded under the influence of his friend Lord Henry Wotton. I’ve totally ignored that aspect because I believe in ultimate responsibility of an individual for his own thoughts & action. One cannot blame others. One should be mature & wise to understand what advice to follow & what to ignore.
Okay, now having dealt with the story n it’s nuances,let’s sample the signature Oscar Wilde Witticism, which peppers the book throughout especially through Lord Wotton:
“Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.”
“Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world’s original sin. If the cave-man had known how to laugh, History would have been different.”
“we always misunderstood ourselves, and rarely understood others”.
“Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.”
“Some things are more precious because they don’t last long.”
“Always! That is a dreadful word. It makes me shudder when I hear it. Women are so fond of using it. They spoil every romance by trying to make it last for ever.”
“It is perfectly monstrous,’ he said, at last, ‘the way people go about nowadays saying things against one behind one’s back that are absolutely and entirely true.”
“It is only shallow people who require years to get rid of an emotion. A man who is master of himself can end a sorrow as easily as he can invent a pleasure. I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”
He thought for a moment. “Can you remember any great error that you committed in your early days, Duchess?” he asked, looking at her across the table.
“A great many, I fear,” she cried.
“Then commit them over again,” he said, gravely. “To get back one’s youth one has merely to repeat one’s follies.”
“A delightful theory!” she exclaimed. ” I must put it into practice.”
Mary & Max is the story of beautiful & endearing (pen)friendship between two misfit, lonely souls. Though Mary & Max may be misfits from the typical point of view of society I found both of them endlessly fascinating & engaging, especially Max who certainly has very profound insights about life.
Mary Daisy Dinkle is an eight year old girl living in Australia. She has ‘eyes the color of muddle pond n birthmark the color of poo’. She lives with an alcoholic n kleptomaniac mother, who bakes with sherry, listens to cricket commentary & who doesn’t hesitate to tell Mary that she is an ‘accident’. Mary’s father works in a tea factory attaching strings to tea bags & has a passion for taxidermy & no time for Mary. Mary adored her grand poppy Ralph who told her children are found in beer glasses. On a whim Mary decides to write a letter to Max (whose name she chooses at random from a telephone directory), an American & asks him if children are found in cola cans in America!!
Max Jerry Horowitz is 44 years old, obese, has Asperger’s syndrome & doesn’t understand people.
(Humans were endlessly illogical.
Why did they throw out food when there were children starving in India?
Why did they clear the rain forests when they needed the oxygen?
And why did they create bus timetables when they never ran on time?
He agreed with his favorite physicist that there are only two things infinite:the universe and man’s stupidity).
Max lives with his Fish named Henry, a parakeet called Mr Biscuit, a cat called Hal (short for halitosis, ‘cos it suffers from bad breath) & imaginary friend Mr Ravioli who is fond of reading self help books n smoking cigars!! This is how interesting n quirky Max is!!
Mary & Max find somebody who can understand them, in each other. A special bond develops as letters, pictures & gifts fly back n forth between Australia & America. They share their innermost feelings n details of their everyday life n people around them. I found the letters very endearing, heart touching, & full of profound observations about life.
(Mary’s first letter to Max:
Dear Mr M Horowitz,
my name is Mary Daisy Dinkle and I am 8 years old, 3 months and 9 days.My favourite colour is brown and my favourite food is sweetened condensed milk followed closely by chocolate. I have a rooster called Ethel that looks like this.
He doesn’t lay eggs but will one day.My mother likes smoking,cricket and sherry
and my father likes playing in his shed with dead birds.
Where do babies come from in America?
Do they come from cola cans?
they are found in beer glasses.
Here is a drawing of me.(Inserts picture)
I can’t draw ears proper
but I’m good at teeth.
It would be great if you could write back
and be my friend.
Yours “sincerealy”, Mary Daisy Dinkle.)
Dear Mary Daisy Dinkle,
thank you for the letter, which I opened and read at 9.1 7pm after my Overeaters Anonymous class. I am trying to lose weight because my psychiatrist,Dr Bernard Hazelhof,says a healthy body equals a healthy mind.
He says my mind is not that healthy.
Your drawing is an interesting visual portrayal of yourself.
I have never met anyone from Australia.
Firstly, I will answer your question.
Unfortunately, in America, babies are not found in cola cans.
I asked my mother when I was four and she said they came from eggs
laid by rabbis.
If you aren’t Jewish,
they’re laid by Catholic nuns.
If you’re an atheist,
they’re laid by dirty, lonely prostitutes.
So this is where babies come from
I share my home with a fish,
some snails, whom I have named
after famous scientists…
..a parakeet called Mr Biscuit
and, finally, a cat called Hal.
“Hal” is an abbreviation for halitosis,
from which he suffers.
He followed me home after a gang of children
shot his eye out with a beebee gun.
Do you have a pet kangaroo?
When I was born, my father
left my mother and me on a kibbutz.
She shot herself with my uncle’s gun when I was six.
Do you like chocolate hotdogs?
I invented the recipe for them
and can send it to you.
When I was young, I invented
an invisible friend called Mr Ravioli.
My psychiatrist says
I don’t need him anymore
so he just sits in the corner and reads.
Last week I picked up 128 cigarette butts.
People are always littering in New York.
I do not understand why people break laws.
Butts are bad because they wash out to sea
and fish smoke them and become nicotine dependent.
I am just joking because, of course,
it is impossible for a cigarette
to remain lit underwater.
Also, fish do not have pockets
to keep cigarette lighters in.
I am 44 years old
and have 8 tracksuits
the same colour and size.
I weigh 352 lb…
..and am as tall as a 6-foot tree.
I enjoy entering the lottery
and have chosen the same numbers
for 9 years.
I have had many different jobs
during my life.
My first job was collecting
subway tokens in the subway.
My second job was at Yiddel’s
Gourmet Kosher Supplies
where I worked at the machine that made
pre-packaged noodle kugels.
I was born Jewish
and used to believe in God
but I’ve since read many books
that have proven God
is just a figment of my imagination.
People like to believe in God because
it answers complicated questions
Iike where did the universe come from,
do worms go to heaven…
do worms go to heaven…
..and why do old ladies have blue hair?
Even though I’m an atheist,
I still wear my yarmulke
as it keeps my brain warm.
My third job was for a company
that printed logos on novelty items.
I worked at the frisbee printing machine.
A frisbee is a circular plastic disc
that people throw at each other.
It is like a boomerang
but it does not come back.
My fourth job was when
I was called up for jury duty.
I didn’t get paid much
but got free cookies and coffee.
Jurors are outstanding members
of the community
who haven’t murdered anybody.
I made it to the short list
for a trial where a man
killed all his friends
at his own surprise birthday party.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get selected
because they found out
I’d been a mental patient at one point.
Have you ever been hang gliding?
My fifth job was as a garbage collector.
I got to clean up after litterbugs
and didn’t have to talk to anybody.
One time the police took me in
but let me go when they decided
I wasn’t a threat to anybody
The sixth job I had
was for the United States Army
in the stationery supply department.
Because I am good with numbers
I had to work out how many
ballpoint pens the Army needed.
One day they did a security check
and asked whether I was a member
of any radical groups.
I told them I was a member of
the New York Science Fiction Fan Club.
They said this didn’t count
but dismissed me anyway.
Fortunately, I did not remember
to tell them I was once a communist.
Have you ever been a communist?
Have you ever been attacked by a crow
or similar large bird?
When I was 9, a crow attacked me
on my way to school.
I had to have three stitches
and in spring I now wear a helmet
with eyes I have painted on.
People laugh at me
when I wear my helmet.
I’m not sure why.
People often confuse me
but I try not to let them worry me.
New York is a very busy
and noisy place.
I would prefer to live
somewhere much quieter
Iike the moon.
I don’t like crowds, bright lights,
sudden noises or strong smells.
New York has all these
especially the smells.
I often wear nose and ear plugs
when I go outside.
It helps keep me calm.
I find humans interesting but I have
trouble understanding them.
I think, however,
I will understand and trust you.
You appear very happy and I think
you would smell like a shrimp
as I know Australia
has a lot of shrimps.
Can you speed-read?
I have taught myself to read
two pages at once
one eyeball per page.
I have to go now
even though I have not told you
about my 7th job,
in a condom factory.
Write back soon.
Your American friend,
Max Jerry Horowitz.)
The claymation is extraordinarily beautiful. This is animation movie for grown ups. The soundtrack is also excellent & so is the rendition of song ‘Que Sera Sera’. A movie worth watching n re-watching.
Once Upon a Time Was I, Verônica is a Brazilian movie by writer-director Marcelo Gomes that tells the story about a woman who lives in a Brazilian city with her sick elderly father Jose, whom she adores to the point that she doesn’t really want comit to any guy n thus leave her father (Father: Are you thinking about Gustav? Veronika: No, I am thinking how happy I am to be at home with you). Veronica(Hermila Guedes) is undergoing a crucial time in her life, a period full of doubts: about her professional choice, her most intimate bonding and her ability to cope with the adult life that lies ahead. Once Upon a Time was I, Veronica is a fairy-tale in reverse. There are no fairy godmothers, no weddings, no dreams. It is a story that reveals itself through adventures, misfortunes, desires and songs.
Veronica works in the psych department of a public hospital, and spends most of her days listening to accounts of her of her patients’ mental problems. Her encounters with the patients are very interesting, they come to her with complex psychological problems, A boy suffering from Catatonic Schizophrenia doesn’t respond to anything around, he’s almost like a living mummy,another lady suffers from inexplicable lethargy, despite having fairly good things in life she just can’t get herself out of bed. Veronica feels she is not really able to help her patients but apparently she is very popular with them.
But Veronica’s trickiest patient is herself: she conducts daily sessions in which she examines her motives and neuroses, speaking into a dictaphone. (I, patient Veronica, uncertain about life like everyone else. I, patient Veronica, scared about future like everybody else. I, patient Veronica, in a crisis. I patient Veronica, not knowing what to do with the sense of loss invading my soul).Veronica is a believably complex and intelligent protagonist, facing up to and articulating universal insecurities in a world of increasingly challenging turbulence. Veronica is undergoing an existential crisis or to put it a little mildly, Quarter Life Crisis. At times she tries to escape the angst by indulging in excessive sex, partying n such but the inner turmoil doesn’t fade. Escape or avoidance is never the solution, only facing it squarely is. Veronica finally realizes through intense introspection that she’s “sick of suffering” and “trying to dream more about life.”
The movie proceeds at a laconic pace, no action taking place. I really liked the scene when Veronica & Gustavo meet to break up after Veronica indulges in sex with a random stranger at the Carnival. They don’t fight, they don’t shout, they don’t get overly emotional. The imminent breakup is conveyed through silence, both of them sitting n looking in different directions.
I had to love the movie ‘cos I love all movies/books/songs/even paintings which give us a sneak peak into the character’s mind. & surely Veronica has a very rich inner life. Lot more goes on inside her head as faces her external n internal demons. My interest was piqued by the title of the movie n the protagonist’s name ‘cos ‘Veronika Decides to Die’ by Paulo Coelho also happens to be among my favorite books. Both Veronikas haven’t disappointed me n gave me fertile ground to grow my own thoughts.
The Film has been showcased at & received accolades at several Film Festivals.
Pondering over the imponderables like the meaning of life, Karma, etc is one of my favorite things. As is the nature of such enquiry I get no definite answers but these exercises help me shape my personal ethics n value system.
Karma is the basic law of cause & effect: As we sow, so we reap. Intuitively we all know that Karma seems to be a basic law operating all our actions but at times I wonder, is it so really? n if it indeed does, then how exactly? The thing about karma is that it is sometimes hard to discern it’s effect because Karma weaves a complicated Web. It’s not a simple case like we get wet in the rain n we catch flu the next day.
Right here, Right Now, a short film by Anand Gandhi (Who is currently making huge waves with his Magnum Opus, ‘The Ship of Theseus’) explores this complex web of Karma rather brilliantly. A good story can convey obscure ideas more powerfully than anything else. An ounce of story is worth tons of theory.
A young man in his haste to go some place takes two actions – he screams at his mother for making him late, and he lovingly appreciates his brother’s painting. By doing so, he strikes off two cycles – one of frustration and sorrow and the other of love and joy. His mother vents out her anger on her maidservant. His brother gifts the painting to his girl friend. Thus begins the cycles of sorrow and joy, forming a Domino stairway, leading to an unknown doorway. After shaking hands with 15 other characters and traveling through 17 locations, in just two shots, both the cycles meet at the end in an attempt to give a logical understanding to the seemingly absurd human life. It’s a humorous look at the bizarreness of the cosmic accident, otherwise known as life.
- Ship of Theseus (The Film): A Philosophical Exploration (ritusthoughtcatcher.wordpress.com)
- Review of 2013 Film ‘The Ship of Theseus’, a ‘Hinglish’ Film Directed by Anand Gandhi; Starring Aida Al-Khashef Neeraj Kabi and Sohum Shah (sashankkini.wordpress.com)
- Ship of Theseus: The Most Original Indian Indie Film (madaboutmoviez.com)
- ‘Ship Of Theseus’ simplifies the complex ideas: Anand Gandhi (ibnlive.in.com)
- Ship of Theseus: This one is too Special (cinemaunchained.wordpress.com)
- Karma – Cause and effect (chaitanyaiimc.wordpress.com)
- Ship Of Theseus (bumblebee31.wordpress.com)
- Is the Ship a Trojan horse? (thehindu.com)
Ship of Theseus:
After a long long time there comes a movie which is intellectually stimulating & which stays with you beyond the 2.5 hrs in the movie theatre. It makes you think and think and think……… ‘Ship of Theseus’ by Anand Gandhi belongs to this rare category.
The intrigue of this movie starts with the title itself, ‘Ship of Theseus’ also called ‘Theseus Paradox’.
The paradox engages in the idea of identity: “If parts of an object are replaced with similar parts, does it remain the same?” (In ancient times, there was a ship, called the “Theseus” after its famous former owner. As the years wore on, the Theseus started getting weak and creaky. The old boards were removed, put into a warehouse, and replaced with new ones. Then, the masts started tottering, and soon they, too, were warehoused and replaced. And in this way, after fifty years, this ship now has all new boards, masts, and everything. The question then arises: Is the ship in the harbor, now called S2, the same ship as the ship that was in the harbor, fifty years ago (called S1, for convenience)? In other words, is S2really the “Theseus”?~ Wikipedia). A simplified way to express the same thought is ‘George Washington’s Hammer’: A guy is admiring a hammer at an antique shop, he is informed by the dealer that it belongs to George Washington, so the guy says it’s in a pretty good condition considering it’s rather old age to which the dealer says sincerely, why should it not be considering he had replaced it’s head twice n it’s handle thrice.😀
The film also refers to ethical issues brought out by applying the Theseus paradox to human beings, “All the cells in a person’s body regenerate entirely in seven years. An individual goes through a shift psychologically, ideologically and physically. Is it still the same person?”
Main theme is the theme of identity…or what makes Me, Me? What makes You, You? What makes Us, Us?? If some of our organs are replaced we are still the same person. That means we are something more than the sum total of our body parts..who are we then? Are we our thoughts? But even the thoughts theory is not satisfactory ‘cos as I look back on my life most of my thoughts n behavior patterns have changed totally. I have transitioned from a shy teenager to a confident Professional to a laid-back oops a hard working😉 housewife and yet I am the same person that I used to be!! Even my passions have changed completely. Earlier I was a bookworm, then I became a travel enthusiast & a fashionista, now I’m more into cooking n yoga etc..yet I remain the same person! This thought is mind boggling to me at this moment. This argument builds a strong case for the existence of a Soul. Despite the changes in physiology n psyche it is the soul that provides continuum to a living object as a single identity. (Ask yourself this one. I was born John Doe.<Insert your own name in place of John Doe> The cells and organs in our body die off and become entirely new cells every 7-10 years. In essence, I become an entirely new person every decade. At age 80, am I still John Doe? Am I still that tiny infant? Some would argue no, but following my line of prior reason, we are ourselves for our entire life, because of emotional memory.)
Several other themes like Atheism, Ethics, Compassion, Vegetarianism, limits of human goodness, Death, Soul, Reincarnation etc. are explored.
The movie comprises of 3 stories which are beautifully weaved together as the movie approaches its end. The first story is the story of a blind photographer n how her Art changes as she regains her vision. Is she a different person with eyes than what she was before?(“A frog once asked a centipede how is it able to walk on a hundred feet, so gracefully synchronized while the frog finds it difficult to manage even two. The centipede took a moment to analyze its own walk and was baffled. So as it tried to walk further its feet got entangled and it tripped.” – Aliya in Ship of Theseus)
The second story is about Maitreya (Neeraj Kabi) ,an Urbane, suave, good-natured, rational, compassionate, atheist monk!, as he faces the dilemma of choosing between his ethics (compassion towards all living beings n not just human being) and his very life. The Philosophy of the Monk is Brilliantly captured in the Song ‘Naham Janami’ . This is the Quintessential Atheist Anthem. By large Atheists are a misunderstood lot. We are accused of behaving as we please in the absence of fear of God. But Atheist Ethics are stronger than blind faith ‘cos we take responsibility for all our actions and our firm belief in ‘cause & effect’. This part has some very Cerebral & witty conversation between Maitreya & a young Lawyer Charvak . Charvak asks Maitreya a question which I too have pondered for many years. How does one reconcile the paradox of existence of soul and reincarnation without the existence of God?? Buddha too propounded that there is no God but asserted about Reincarnation. Maitreya initially held Buddha’s view on the matter but later as he grew physically n emotionally exhausted he admits that he doesn’t know anything definite about the existence of soul. (Charvak:”you say you’re an atheist and at the same time you believe in the concept of soul, which I think is rather convenient. I don’t think karmic causality is a reason enough for anybody to behave ethically. You know, that there is retribution of any kind in this life or any other. It’s like a weak man’s hope for some kind of cosmic revenge.”)
(Charvak:”We invent God, soul… heaven, afterlife…even life-imitating technology, all sorts of transcendence to cope with the idea of an absolute end. And then, we die for an idea that promises us some sort of immortality.”)
(Charvak:– “Exactly. See, it’s pretty clear how inconsequential our actions are in the larger scheme of things.”
Maitreya- “Main is baat se sehmat nahi hoon. Hamaare har kaam ka prabhav karaakash mein rehte har parmanu par padta hai. Agar yeh baat sach nahi, toh phir sab nirarthak hai. What is the sense of existence then? The hedonism and nihilism of your namesake, Charvaka?”)
(Maitreya- “You see, in his world, it’s not all humanity that’s equal, it’s all existence that’s equal.”)
The third story is of Navin (Sohum Shah, also the co producer of the movie), a stockbroker, who has his kidney transplanted. He apparently loves only money & is shown doing his business even when critically ill ,as opposed to the so called finer things like music, literature et al which his Granny(Ajji) would like him to explore & appreciate. But as the narrative progresses he shows great empathy n compassion for a poor bricklayer whose kidney has been stolen.
(Navin-‘Kuch ho nahi paaya’
Ajji-‘Jitna kuch hua, kyunki tumne kuch kiya. Itna hi hota hai’)
Everything about this movie is immaculate and Superlative. The Script, Direction, Acting, Cinematography, Subtle Humor, The Underlying Philosophy, and The Very title of the Movie.
Also read about my other all time favorite movies:
- VOTE and DEMAND “Ship Of Theseus” in your city (moifightclub.wordpress.com)