Saturday, January 28, 2006


Whisper of the heart

My first impression of Japanese animation was of futuristic robots, monsters and dragons. I can’t recollect how I adopted this point of view (Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon perhaps?). I had some glimpses in the anime world through Animatrix and Kill Bill and was very impressed by the animation there but somehow I did not dig any further into the world of Japanese animation. I am ever so grateful to TCM (Turner classic movies) for taking off my blindfold and introducing me to the world of anime. I feel like an explorer who has embarked on a new and exciting journey to a distant world.

Jaded by the land of Disney where I get an assurance of happy endings, anime came as a breath of fresh air. There was no commitment made to happy endings (Grave of fireflies, Princess Mononoke) and sometimes a villain was absent altogether (My neighbor Totoro, Whisper of the heart and Only yesterday). To me this was a much-needed jolt of reality in the world of animation plagued with sickly sweet fairy tales. Moreover anime had dark characters that were not just crazed deviants or purely evil (Princess Mononoke). They had their own aspirations and motivations that drove them to act the way they did.
Miyazaki: "The concept of portraying evil and then destroying it - I know this is considered mainstream, but I think it is rotten. This idea that whenever something evil happens someone particular can be blamed and punished for it, in life and in politics is hopeless."

I have to say that there were a number of things that I did not expect from anime.
1) The diversity in target audience. There was anime that appealed to every age group and demographic. Castles and magical creatures for the little ones, romance for teenagers, science fiction for the nerds and even erotica (hentai) for the pervy ones.
2) I did not expect animation to delve into intense topics as in ‘The grave of the fireflies’, which is a harrowing story of two kids, who are orphaned and victims of war.
3) I never ever expected to get so emotionally tangled with animated characters. I thought that with animation, the disconnect with reality (as in void of real actors) would always keep me aware of the fictitious nature of the medium and that would keep me from having any sort of emotional attachment. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
4) I loved the hand painted animation that these movies stuck with instead of the computer generated sleek images.
5) I was very pleasantly surprised to see such headstrong female protagonists in Miyazaki’s movies since the movies were made in the 80s.
When asked about women in lead role Miyazaki said: “That would be far too complicated and lengthy an answer to state here, so I'll just suffice by saying that it's because I love women very much (laughs).”
6) I also did not expect that I would prefer the subtitled version to the dubbed version of anime. The dubbing by Disney seems to take away the Japanese appeal from the movie. It was surprising how Disney-like Princess Mononoke felt in the dubbed version. I have decided to stick with the subtitled versions if I have the option.

So far I have watched five anime movies. Yes I know I have a lot of catching up to do.

Only Yesterday:
Loved the character detailing and the rich landscapes in the movie. There is a scene in this movie where this little girl is throwing a tantrum, as her family is ready to leave to go to a restaurant. Unintentionally the girl steps out of the house without wearing shoes (but she is wearing socks and is fully clothed). Her father gets very upset about her stepping out of the house and slaps the little girl!
I didn’t know what to make of it. I started wondering what the cultural implications of revealing ones feet were in Japan (especially if you were a woman). I realise that the Japanese have a fetish for small feet but the extreme outburst of the father in this movie makes me wonder why is it considered inappropriate to reveal your (mind you not legs) feet?

Whisper of the heart:
I felt like I was experiencing the city life in Tokyo in person while I watched this movie. The work ethic that comes across in this movie was also very striking and that’s something I have associated with the Japanese culture through whatever little I have seen or read about Japan. This movie has a very romantic premise. With Japanese romantic movies I also noticed that you could cut the sexual tension with a knife (just like in X-files with Mulder and Scully). The movies then typically end with the couple bowing to each other acknowledging their relationship. All I have to say is ... just make out already! But seriously, why the extreme censorship in the physical intimacy when the graphic violence is so over the top?

My neighbor Totoro:
Again the character detailing of the two sisters is simply brilliant. It’s a happy fun movie appealing to all ages and I loved that. The movie does not reveal certain aspects of the story. For instance, throughout the movie the kids are told that their mom is in the hospital because she has a cold. The audience does not find out what disease the mother is suffering from. To me that was very profound. In life, all your questions about the world may not be answered.

Princess Mononoke:
I have to say this movie did not grab my attention as all the other movies did. This movie is probably more appealing to the younger audience (not to say that I am old :p) But then again the violence was so graphic, how could it be a movie for kids? If it is targeted towards kids, I wonder whether the Japanese history has something to do with it. Has their past prompted them to accept violence as a part of life?

Grave of fireflies:
This movie grabbed my heart and wrenched it till I cried. I read somewhere that this movie was played in Japanese theaters back to back with ‘My neighbor Totoro’. I wish I could’ve done that. Without Totoro to cheer me up I was engulfed in a depressive cloud last night. (Note to self: will not subject self to harrowing movies without a neutralizing dose of Totoro like movies at disposal).

I could not resist digging around for more gems of anime. So I did some research and came up with a list of movies that I want to watch:

Kiki’s delivery service
Spirited Away
Ocean waves
Chie the brat
Cowboy Bebop The movie
The dimension traveler
Like the clouds, like the wind
Tokyo Godfather
Ghost in the shell
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust
Vampire Hunter
Gauche the cellist
The cat returns
Perfect blue
Millennium actress
The aurora
Howl’s moving castle
My neighbors the Yamadas
Eternal Family
Dead Leaves

If you are an anime virgin, I hope that I have made enough ruckus to make you check out some anime. On the other hand if you have been there done that got the t-shirt then do recommend other must watch anime movies and/or I would love to hear your take on any of the movies that I have listed on my ‘to watch’ list.
Arigato gozaimas :)

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Totoro, Mei and Satsuki

I am currently fascinated by Hayao Miyazaki's movies. Here is a short and sweet introduction to one of his movies.

Movie title: Tonari no Totoro (1988) or My neighbor Totoro

Rated: A for adorable animated adventure

Story: Adventures of two sisters, Mei and Satsuki with the a playful forest spirit called Totoro who rides in a Catbus. I was captivated by the imagination and animation of the movie.


{Will blog about Mimi wo sumaseba (Whisper of the heart) when I find some time. Miyazaki wrote the screenplay for this movie.}

Friday, January 13, 2006

The march of the penguins

Readers approach the blog site in the hopes of finding Chaper 7. Instead of Chapter 7, they find Crys standing besides the Madagascar penguins smiling and waving.
Reader (R 1): About time for Chapter 7…what the?
Readers do not look even slightly amused.
Madagascar penguin (MP): Just smile and wave…smile and wave.
Crys (grinning sheepishly): He he.
R 1: Where is G. Bappa? Why are you here with the penguins? You better have a good excuse for not posting Chapter 7.
C: I do. I mean I don’t. It’s not an excuse!
R 1: What is it Crys? You do or you don’t?
R 2: Yeah. What’s going on here? The last time I visited this site, instead of Chapter 7 you came up with a sarcastic WHO blog, which by the way seemed like an over reaction to a couple of harmless comments disliking your blog.
C: Oh no…that wasn’t directed towards those comments.
MP: R 2, looks like you haven’t heard about Blindspotview uncle and his crew who went ape shit over this series under the influence of sanctimonitis. The health advisory had to take some action. Follow the links in the WHO blog to read about efforts of other volunteers fighting sanctimonitis.
R 1: Lets not digress again. We are talking about Chapter 7… alright Crys, out with it.
C: Well…I had my committee meeting this week and I have some good news and some bad news.
R 3: This better not be one of your Kaiko insurance jokes.
C: Very funny. Anyhoo, the good news is that I will be graduating by the end of this summer. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I will finally get my PhD and be a doctor…. Dr. Blur …(sigh).
R 4: PhD? You won’t be a real doctor then.
C (aggravated): Not a real doctor did you say?
R 2: There there Crys, don’t listen to them. But seriously, was that the good news?
C: Hey!
R 1: Stop it you guys. I say kudos Crys and good job. You will be a great doctor.
C: Gee thanks R 1.
R 1: You are very welcome dear. Now where is Chapter 7?
C: Hmph! Oh alright, that’s the bad news. I haven’t started working on it. I just have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Uh….why are you all looking at me like that. Are you alright? That vein in your head is really popping out now.
MP: Just smile and wave now.
C: I don’t think it’s going to work.
MP (slaps Crys): Don’t give me excuses give me results.
C: What did you do that for?
C gives MP threatening looks and starts rubbing her sore cheeks.
R 4: So now that you are done with your meeting, should we expect to see the next chapter already?
C: With my dissertation writing and research I can’t be certain. Stay tuned is all I can say. You will surely bear with me while I get my degree right. Hey where are you guys going?
Readers smile and wave.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

WHO health advisory

Hello friends. Today we are going to learn about sanctimonitis.

What is sanctimonitis?
Sanctimonitis is a terrible disease afflicting people all over the world. The sufferers of sanctimonitis hallucinate about threats to their cultural well being through infringement of their sacred moral ideals that they themselves arbitrarily define or make up. As a result they try to enforce their myopic ideas of socially acceptable behaviour on everyone around them.

Is sanctimonitis very common?
The official WHO count is not out yet but this disease is found more commonly than you think.

Is sanctimonitis contagious?
Your susceptibility is directly proportional to your body's gullibility index. People who display resistance to fallacious arguments have been shown to be immune to sanctimonitis.

How do you spot a person suffering from sanctimonitis?
You could not spot one until they open their mouth to talk because most of the time they look and behave just like all of us.

Can you catch sanctimonitis before it worsens?
Sanctimonitis if not treated can lead to a full-blown case of fanatic fever. And believe me there is no fun in fanatic. Common symptoms of sanctimonitis include frequent irrational outbursts on innocent bystanders, constant sermons on 'sacred' ideals followed by patronising or abusive recourses to better mankind.

Do we have rehab centers for sanctimonitis sufferers?
Gaurav Sabnis and Great Bong have generously volunteered some time to fight sanctimonitis. Gaurav in his post dissects a severe case of a sanctimonitis sufferer and Great Bong reveals how sanctimonitis has corrupted our society. Thanks both of you for the very excellent posts.

Is there a vaccine that could prevent sanctimonitis?
Scientists are working on this problem but so far there is no vaccine available.

What can I do to help?
Follow the triple A program:
1) Awareness. You could spread awareness about this disease.
2) Acceptance. Encourage sanctimonitis sufferers to accept their disease.
3) Avoidance. Avoid entertaining psycophantic rants doled out by sanctimonitis sufferers. If encouraged, sanctimonitis may worsen.

I dream of a sanctimonitis free world.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Chapter 6: Forest hump

Kunti was a 16-year-old young and restless celebrity socialite. She was always the talk of the town. Her sizzling looks and lavish lifestyle kept her in the public eye. Her foster parents had initiated her into this opulent lifestyle through the frequent banquets that they hosted. With all the parties they hosted they also had frequent houseguests. One of the houseguests was a businessman called Durvasa. He was an enterprising businessman and had come up with the very first dating service at the time. Pleased by the hospitality he received at the stay he left Kunti a little gift.

Durvasa: “I am leaving you with a free trial offer voucher on my new dating service enterprise. Send in the voucher and you will be able to use the service free of charge.”
Kunti: “Aren’t dating services for losers?”
Durvasa: “Trust me, this is the next big thing.”

Kunti’s curiosity got the better of her that evening and she started eyeing the card.
"Tired of wandering around by the river? Want to make some hot new friends? Just send us a pigeon to Sikh of Jack Inhoff and we promise to deliver. Remember, if you don’t get it, you don’t get it."
Kunti decided to try the service and send the pigeon. Before she knew it a dreamy eyed stranger showed up at her door.

Suraj: “Hi, I am Suraj from the dating service.”
Kunti: “Habbahabba…er…I mean …you guys are fast.”
And just like that Kunti was expecting the unexpected.
Mom: "You are expecting? Kunti, how could you be so irresponsible? Who's the father?"
Kunti: "Please don't be upset ma. His name is was it Surya?"
Mom: "Aaargh! Now listen to me young lady. There better not be any sex tapes floating around or you will be in big trouble."
Dad: "Calm down honey, I am sure it was the guys fault. Why would our sweet pumpkin do something like this?"
Kunti makes a puppy face and Dad hugs Kunti.

Mom: "Okay this time it has gone too far. Kunti needs to learn to take responsibility for her actions. It's not just about Kunti anymore...we have to think about the baby's future. We need to get Kunti married."
Kunti: "But Maaa, I am not ready to get married yet."
Mom: "When I need your opinion, I will give it to you."
Kunti: " something."
Mom shoots a 'don't even think about it ' look.
Dad: "Sorry sweetie, I think your mother is right."
Mom: "Alright, tell me everything that happened."

Kunti narrates the story as her parents listen intently with occasional outbursts of 'I am going to kill that S.O.B.' by Dad. After some thought Mom comes up with a plan. The following night Kunti is secretly escorted out of the kingdom. Under the cover of the dark, Kunti makes her way to Durvasa's house.

Kunti: "Hello Durvasa uncle. I am pleased to announce that I am preggo and you will be taking care of all the delivery expenses as promised."
Durvasa (astounded): "As promised?"
Kunti brings attention to Durvasa's business card logo 'we promise to deliver'.
Durvasa: "My publicist is going to pay for this. That moron."

After nine months, Kunti was in the delivery room yelling in pain that she would never ever do it again. Six hours later she was the mother of a beautiful baby boy. Durvasa promptly pulled out of further financial responsibilities. Kunti was now eager to go home and get back to her parties but with the little baby and no money of her own to pay the bills, she realized she had a tough choice to make: parties or being a single mom. She quickly put up her child for adoption. The adoption agency informed her that the child was adopted by a childless couple in the chariot business and that the baby was named Karna. Relieved, Kunti returned home, eagerly looking forward to the high life.

(Ganapati: I object to such character assassination of women.
Vyasa: Overruled

Mom: "There there little one. Everything will be okay."
Kunti: "Ma, I don't know what I would do without you."
Mom: "Don't worry Kunti, I have it all figured out. We have to get you a reconstructive surgery, get you back to the gym and lose all the pounds you have packed and then my dear you will be married off and live happily ever after."
Kunti: "But mom I don't want to get married. And I don't want to go to the gym."
Dad: "Dear lets not be hasty. Lets give her some time."
Mom: "I've had it with both of you. My word is final. Now let me schedule the surgery."
Dad: "What did my poor pumpkin ever do to deserve this?"
Kunti: "Can you not call me pumpkin? I gave birth to a child last week."
Dad: "Alright sugarplum, I won't call you pumpkin."

Soon it was time to get Kunti married off. On the day of the Swayamwara there was a line of suitors waiting for Kunti's verdict. Kunti noted Pandu’s presence at the Swayamwara. He was the King of Hastinapur as his elder brother Dhritarashtra was blind.

(Ganapati: That is a complete exploitation of Dhritarashtra’s disability.
Vyasa: If you really want to know what’s exploitation try going to grad school.

Kunti’s attraction to fair skin made Pandu the clear winner in her eyes. She felt a sense of fulfillment to be so close to her happily ever after. Little did Kunti know that Murphy's law was going to strike with a vengeance. Kunti and Pandu were childless for more than a year now and Pandu kept blaming Kunti for the impotency. Tired of the finger pointing she suggested that he marry another woman to solve this problem.

(Ganapati: So is there some sort of a hereditary impotency problem going on in this dynasty?
Vyasa: What's hereditary?
Ganapati: Never mind.

Pandu promptly married Madri and went on a honeymoon with her to the hottest honeymoon resort in a secluded jungle. Pandu wanted to impress Madri so he decided to take her along on a hunting trip. To his delight five minutes into the hunt he spotted two deer behind the bushes just ten paces away from them. Pandu latched his arrow onto the target and shot the arrow that swiftly pierced his target. A loud yowl arose from the bush, "Whoever shot this arrow is dead meat!"
Pandu: "A talking deer?"

A man and a woman dressed like deer appeared from behind the bushes.
Madri: "It's just some honeymooners role playing."
Pandu: "Role playing?"
Madri: "Yeah it’s the latest thing to spice it up when things get a little boring."
The deerman looked very angry with an arrow sticking out of his butt.
Deerman: "What the hell do you think you were doing you moron?"
Pandu: "Who are you calling a moron? You were the one taking a forest hump in that ridiculous costume. How was I to know?"
Deerwoman (whispers in Deerman's ears): "He looks like one of those rich snobs who think they can get away with anything with money."

Pandu decides to go for a settlement with the Deerman.
Pandu: "You know what? It was an honest mistake.Let me take care of your medical bills and we call it even. How about that?"
Deerwoman: "See...he is trying to get away by throwing some money at us."
Deerman: "Curse you albinoman! You will die of performance anxiety."
Then the deerman and deerwoman left in a fit of anger.
Pandu and Madri tried to forget the incident and go on with their honeymoon. Pandu being superstitious did not want to take the risk of dying by performance anxiety. Just like his uncle Bhishma, he took a vow of celibacy.

Satyavati: “I am beginning to worry. Pandu is the King. His wives need to bear children”.
Bhishma: “You are talking to the man who has been there, never done it and got the robe. He won’t last a week with the vow.”
Satyavati: “If you say so.”
Months passed by and Hastinapur was still left with no heirs.
(Ganapati: Wait a minute…what about Dhritarashtra?
Vyasa: Gripping story isn’t it?
Ganapati: Yeah the suspense of Dhritarashtra’s fertility status is killing me.
Vyasa: Are you always this sarcastic?
Ganapati: As a matter of fact I am never sarcastic. I am guessing it is a side effect of having a constant pain in the trunk.
Vyasa rolls his eyes.)

Dhritarashtra decides to approach Bhishma and plead for a bride.
Dhritarashtra: “Bhishma uncle, if there is anyone in the world who can help me get a wife…its you. I hadn’t realized it until I heard about an article in Hastinapur Times that ranked you as the best matchmaker in the history of Hastinapur.”
Bhishma: “Oh the irony. Always the best man never the groom. Did I top the hottest bachelor list as well?”
Dhritarashtra (cracking up): “I always loved your sense of humour. Oh…you were serious.”
Bhishma: “Alright…I will see what I can do.”
Sure enough Bhishma hooked up Dhritarashtra with his friend Shakuni’s sister Gandhari.
Bhishma: “Go me!”
Gandhari: “As a devoted wife, I don’t wish to enjoy the beautiful visions around me if my husband is incapable of sight. From now on I will wear a blindfold and volunteer myself to blindness.”

(Ganapati: What? That’s ridiculous. What’s next? Hop around on one foot if the husband was a cripple?
Vyasa: Whoever said that all the characters in the story are the brightest people on the planet?
Ganapati: Oh alright.)

Pandu was still adamant about the celibacy vow and Hastinapur was still in need of an heir. Satyavati and Bhishma called for a family gathering with Ambika, Ambalika, Pandu and his wives to figure out a way to propagate the family name.
Bhishma: "Let's get this over with as quickly and painlessly as we can."
Satyavati: "Vyasa is always available."
Ambika and Ambalika wildly gesture against the idea behind Satyavati's back.

(Vyasa:"Hey! I didn't ask you to write that."
Ganapati:"Oh alright I will scratch it out."
Ganapati pretends to scratch the sentence off the script.)
Bhishma: "Alright. That was easy."
Kunti: "Wait! I have heard of this dating service. Maybe we could give it a shot."
Madri: "Isn't dating service for losers?"
Kunti: "Why would you say such a horrible thing? Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find someone nowadays?"
Madri: "Alright alright. Why are you being so touchy?"
Bhishma: "Well, what do you think Pandu?"
Pandu: "Does it really matter?"
Satyavati: "Let's not have an emotional breakdown now Pandu. Kunti, can you pass on the details of the dating service to me?"
Bhishma looks at Satyavati suspiciously.
Satyavati: "What? Its not for me."
Kunti: "Don't worry. I will take care of it."
Kunti immediately sends a pigeon to Durvasa.

Durvasa: "Aha! Payback time. Let the fleecing begin." Durvasa decided to overcharge heavily. He got them hooked on a sham 'buy one get two half off' deal.
Madri: “I’m pregnant.”
Kunti: “Join the club.”
Gandhari: “I’m pregnant too.”
Dhritarashtra: “I rock”
Pandu: ‘Sulk’
Madri gave birth to twins named Nakula and Sahadeva, the sons of Ashwini twins. Kunti on the other hand went crazy with the deals and ended up having three sons, Yudhishtira the son of Yama, Bhima the son of Pavan and Arjuna the son of Indra.

(Ganapati: This is getting to be quite a sex fest. Isn't this a little too much sex for a book that you intend to sell as mythology?
Vyasa: It's in my publishing contract. They said sex sells so I better add lots of it.
Ganapati: Ah! No arguing that.)

Gandhari had the longest pregnancy in the history of Hastinapur. It lasted for 2 years during which Gandhari got increasingly frustrated. At the end of the pregnancy she gave birth to a ball of flesh.

(Ganapati: “Here is a question for you. Since you explained earlier that Pandu’s skin color and Dhritarashtra’s disability was related to the mother's facial expression during conception, how do you explain Gandhari’s delivery situation.”
Vyasa: Artistic liberties.)

Satyavati invited Vyasa to figure out a solution for this unnatural delivery. Vyasa divided the mass of flesh into 101 parts and put them in jars filled with butter. After two years, 100 boys (Kauravas) and one girl arose from the jars. Duryodhan was the first child to be born from the jar followed by Dushyasan.

(Ganapati: Followed by Kaurava 3, Kaurava 4…Kauarava 100.
Vyasa shakes his head.)

Dushala was the only girl to be born.
Gandhari: “Thank god for the nannies.”
Meanwhile, Pandu's patience grew thin with the celibate lifestyle. He finally decided to screw the vow in an intimate moment with Madri. Some say Pandu died of a heart attack, others say it was performance anxiety.
And just like that, Dhritarashtra became the first blind King of Hastinapur.

(To be continued...)