Saturday, July 28, 2007

Miss Potter

I am not entirely sure how I ended up watching the movie Miss Potter. The DVD cover had a photo of Renee Zellweger’s and Ewan McGregor in a lip lock. Did Zellweger snag a typecast role of a Bridget Jones like character? The blurb about the movie on the back of the DVD case screamed sappy romantic comedy as well. So my expectation for this movie was set to the likes of “the holiday” and “the family stone”. I was pleasantly surprise to find that the movie was so much more than a silly romantic comedy. Even with the directorial attempts to mellow down Miss Potter’s story she comes across as the fierce firebrand feminist that she must’ve been. After I watched the movie I realized that categorizing this movie as a silly romantic comedy was an evil marketing ploy.

Miss Potter is a movie based on the true story of an extraordinary woman called Beatrix Potter who struggled against the societal constrains of being a woman in a time (early 1900s) when women were compelled to become housewives. In her quest to become a published writer and artist she fought tooth and nail to become a financially self-sufficient woman. She reminded me of J. K. Rowling, not merely for the common denominator of Potter but for their struggle (as women) to become published writers and their amazing success as writers of children’s books. Isn’t it disgraceful that after all the struggle women have gone through to be able to make it in a man’s world, even today, Joanne had to publish her books under the name J.K. Rowling to conceal her identity as a woman, in an effort to appeal to the male readers? Maybe a similar reasoning went into the marketing strategy of Miss Potter. Who would want to watch a movie about a woman protagonist who struggled to be accepted as a scientist, writer and artist? The audience would much rather prefer Miss Potter to be a love story. The movie makers took a lot of liberties in the storytelling and as a result compromised on Potter’s achievements. Potter had printed and sold some of her stories on her own but in the movie all the props for publishing are given to the male lead that Potter falls in love with. I guess they didn’t want the guy to look like the side-kick and wanted him to have a substantial role in Potter’s success as a writer. The movie makers entirely ignored many of Potter’s accomplishments so that she does not overshadow the other (male) characters. There was not even a mention of her scientific achievements.

I am a little miffed at all the historical inaccuracies of the movie but at the same time I was glad that this movie introduced me to this wonderful woman. I wish I had read all the stories about Peter rabbit and Jemima Puddle Duck when I was little. But like they say, ‘better late than never’. So I bought her entire published collection and although the stories are for little kids I must admit that I enjoyed reading some of those stories even now. You have to read the Jemima Puddle duck story if you haven’t already.

So here is remembering Miss Potter who was an extraordinary woman and still wins the hearts of people with her amusing stories. Happy Birthday to you Miss Potter ! I wish I could be half as accomplished as you were.

[ This review is also posted at ]

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Chapter 9: The elephant man

Vyasa is waiting at D’rakshas, the local bar, chewing on some Juicy Root gum. Earlier in the day, he got a pigeon mail from Ganapati.

Running errands for mom. Will be a little late.


Vyasa is a little nervous as this is his first time in the bar. He straightens up and shifts his weight in the seat as he sees a beautiful woman approach him. She looks a little familiar and Vyasa jogs his memory to no avail. He wonders if she was in one of the Play Apsara center folds.

Waitress (non-chalantly): “Welcome to D’rakshas. My name is Laupadi.”
Vyasa: “My name is Vyasa. It is an honor to meet you.”
Laupadi: “That’s nice…what do you want to drink.”
Vyasa: “I will have a glass of soma, but I insist that I will pay.”
Laupadi (chuckles): “You are funny.”

A familiar voice interjects.

Ganapati: “No he is not. He is just weird. I will have a glass of soma on the rocks please.”
Laupadi: “Sorry, we are all out of rocks.”
Ganapati: “Alright, just soma then.”
Laupadi: “Okay. I will be back soon.”

Laupadi walks away from the table. Ganapati pulls up a chair.

Vyasa: “Ugh! Do you have to ruin everything? I was just getting acquainted with the kind lady”

Vyasa dreamily checks out Laupadi heading towards the bar. Ganapati snaps his fingers in Vyasa’s face.

Ganapati: “Oye, snap out of it. The kind lady happens to be a man.”
Vyasa (in a hushed whisper): “No!”
Ganapati: “Trust me, I have a nose for these things.”
Vyasa: “My God G…really? But that is impossible. No man can have that body….that body…did you even look at her? I don’t believe you.”
Ganapati: “Heard of tantric sex change?”
Vyasa: “What? You don’t believe in those quack witch doctors do you? This is ridiculous. You can’t change your gender. It is ludicrous. Okay quiet here she comes.”

Laupadi approaches them and places the drinks on the table. Vyasa has an abnormal grin on his face while Ganapati looks bored. Vyasa stares at Laupadi with narrow eyes.

Laupadi (talks to Ganapati): “You are right, he is weird.”

Laupadi briskly walks back to the bar.

Vyasa: “You are right her face looks weird, like it is artificial…it almost does not look human.”

Ganapati menacingly stares at Vyasa.

Vyasa: “Ahem! This soma is great. Did you try it?”
Ganapati: “Alright let’s just get it out. I know I am a little different looking. I see how people look at me when I enter a room. I am like the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about.”
Vyasa: “What? Don’t be silly. You are one of the most normal people I’ve met.”
Ganapati: “I have a trunk for a nose.”

Ganapati wriggles his trunk in the air inspecting it with his eyes squinting.

Vyasa: “Oh come on…it is hardly noticeable.”
Ganapati: “You are saying that there is nothing odd about my face?”
Vyasa: “Its…its…its um.”
Ganapati: “Listen, I know what I look like and I am not ashamed of it.”

Ganapati gulps down the drink and signals Laupadi from across the room to refill his glass. Laupadi comes by the table and refills the glass. Ganapati asks Laupadi to leave the pitcher at the table and continues gulping the drink furiously.

Ganapati: “You are a nice person Vyasa…no you are not nice…you are great. But you know who is an ass? My dad.”
Vyasa: “You don’t mean that G. Believe me, everybody has issues with their parents but every parent loves their child.”
Ganapati: “Not my father he doesn’t. You want to know why I look like this?”
Vyasa: “Alright I admit it. I am a little curious to know how you ended up with a…”
Ganapati: “Elephant’s head?”
Vyasa: “Yeah”
Ganapati: “Well I was a normal human baby when I was born. But my dad didn’t even know he had a son. He was away on one of his rock gigs.”
Vyasa: “Wow! Is your dad a rock star? Is it someone I know?”
Ganapati: “He wears a leopard skirt and carries a snake around his neck. Need I say more?"
Vyasa: “Your dad is the drummer for the Himalayan Howlers! I love them…Shivar me timbers is one of my favorite songs.”
Ganapati (a little annoyed): “As I was saying…”
Vyasa (sensing Ganapati’s tone): “Sorry, go on.”
Ganapati: “Well…he is such an attention whore. Did you see his latest look? He has dread locks with a water sprinkler as an accessory. Ever heard of less is more dad?”
Vyasa: “So he is a little extravagant with his wardrobe. I’m sure he loves you even though he may not show it as well. Different people have different ways of expressing their feelings. It would kill my dad to pat my back or say something nice.”
Ganapati: “Has your Dad ever chopped off your head?”

Vyasa gasps and looks aghast. Ganapati chugs down the remaining drink to empty the pitcher.

Vyasa: “What? Your dad did that to you? Why?”
Ganapati: “Because he is a lunatic murderer.”
Vyasa: “That is horrible.”
Ganapati: “Yeah he is the dad of the year.”
Vyasa: “So is that how?”
Ganapati: “Yeah pretty much. He comes home after a long tour one day. Mom was in the shower and she had specifically asked me to not let anyone in the house. I had never seen Dad so when he returned I treated him like a perfect stranger. He reeked of alcohol and didn’t make any sense when he talked. So I didn’t let him into the house. Before I knew what was happening he chopped off my head.”

Vyasa listens to Ganapati with an expression of disbelief.

Ganapati: “Mom threw a fit when she saw what he had done and told dad that I was his son. She cried uncontrollably and demanded I be brought to life. I wish she would’ve done it herself instead of asking my drunken dad. He took me somewhere in the forest and realized that he had carried the body but had forgotten the head. It was too late to get my head because the head wasn’t kept on ice. So he decided to find an alternative. He found a baby elephant around where we were and chopped off its head.”
Vyasa: “He killed a baby elephant? This is beyond horrible.”
Ganapati: “And then he superglues the elephants head onto my body. Voila!”
Vyasa: “Wow! I mean I thought I was the ultimate gruesome fiction writer but even I couldn’t have made up something so awful. G you need a butt load of therapy.”
Ganapati: “Tell me about it.”
Vyasa: “How could your mom stick with him? She should’ve gotten a divorce.”
Ganapati: “She wanted to but my dad is a very powerful man. He has a cult following and he is worshipped like a God. Dad threatened mom. He told her that nobody would believe a woman’s word over a man’s word and that he could easily prove that I wasn’t his son. There was no facial resemblance after all.”
Vyasa: “Oh no.”
Ganapati: “So now you know.”
Vyasa: “There are corrective surgery options available nowadays you know?”
Ganapati: “Why would you say that? Why would I want a corrective surgery?”
Vyasa: “I thought you … never mind.”

Laupadi comes by the table and clears the glasses.

Laupadi: “The bar is closed now. I will leave the bill here. Thanks.”

Vyasa and Ganapati sip the remains of the drink and place gold coins on the table.

Vyasa: “Are you coming by my cottage over the weekend?”
Ganapati: “Hic!”
Vyasa: “Great. How are you going to get home? I will hail you a chariot.”
Ganapati: “Don’t worry I can ride. I came here on my mouse.”
Vyasa: “You rode a mouse? Okay! I am taking you home.”

Vyasa struggles to support Ganapati’s weight but his knees buckle.

Laupadi: “Need a hand?”

Vyasa grins sheepishly. Laupadi gives Ganapati a boost and gets him off the chair effortlessly.

Vyasa: “Wow! You are pretty…”

Vyasa luckily finishes the sentence in his mind – ‘strong for a woman’.

Laupadi (smiles): “Why thanks sweety.”

Laupadi and Vyasa move steadily towards the chariot stand and get Ganapati into the chariot. Vyasa thanks Laupadi and hands her a generous tip. Laupadi smiles and heads back to the bar. The chariot rolls on towards Ganapati’s mansion while Ganapati blissfully snores with drool coming out of his mouth. Vyasa leans back and rests his head as the chariot rolls on into the dark forest.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Simpsons, how dare you?

As a promotion for the upcoming movie, the Simpsons guys have changed twelve 7-elevens into Kwik-E-Marts. The Kwik-E-Mart products include Buzz coca-cola, Krusty-O’s cereal and Bart’s favorite comic called Radioactive man. But the most anticipated product, Duff beer did not make it to the shelves. The reason being (you are not going to believe this) the movie is PG 13. You would think that people would be outraged by this promotional move but there have been no protests so far. The Simpsons controversy is about Apu.

In Simpsons TV show, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon or Apu, is an Asian Indian immigrant who owns the Kwik-E-Mart and sells overpriced merchandise to Americans who complain about the prices but buy the stuff anyway. The Springfield residents are often shown to be verbally abusive to Apu and sometimes even trash the store. Despite the ridicule from customers (to avoid losing business?) Apu never fails to say the customary, “thank you, come again”. Naturally, as a part of the real life Kwik-E-Mart theme you are given the same greeting by Indians dressed like Apu. This has offended some Indians who say “no thank you” to this irksome campaign.

Being America’s news leader, CNN quickly picked up this story and asked hard hitting questions like, “Considering the profits, is stereotyping people as a part of a promotional campaign really offensive?” One responsible angry Indian voiced his protest on CNN by expressing his disgust at being represented as Apu. The protestor stated that the promotion would have never dared to cast an Ahmed in the same role and concluded that it is downright racism. Due to time constrains most part of the interview did not make it on air. Nevertheless CNN thwarted the possibility of racist propaganda by featuring cheerful Indian staff playing the role of Apu in the real life Kwik-E-Mart. This was followed by a happy Kwik-e-mart (Indian) owner who said that his business has been booming since he did the Simpsons makeover to the store and is more than happy to say “thank you, come again and again” if it meant more business. Thus, CNN established from this incisive coverage that the Indians are in fact not offended and are more than happy to cash in on the profits that this promotion is bringing in.

But is this campaign really racist? The answer is no according to some (liberal know-nothings who have nothing better to do than watch such distasteful TV shows) people. The Simpsons supporters say that there is no insinuation of one race/ethnicity being superior to another on Simpsons and that the show has always mocked racial stereotypes on TV without a racist agenda. But the outraged protestors insist that the racist motivations are transparent and evident from their movie promotion.

The protestors urge Indians to be seriously offended and if possible take a day off from work in protest. Join in the fervor. The protestors have come up with a (not so catchy) motto, “equal mockery of all races every time a racial stereotype joke is cracked or no racial stereotype mocking jokes at all”. Some protestors have demanded Simpsons promotions to be extended to Italian restaurants and as a part of the promotion, ask the waiters to dress like Fat Toni and his mafia gang and threaten customers who do not pay a handsome tip.

The Simpsons movie

Simpsons movie is coming out on July 27, 2007 and I can hardly wait. The previews look hilarious. I have already picked out my favorite lines from the the one where Homer frantically looks through the bible and throws it aside disappointed and says, "This book doesn't have any answers". (Har har!)

Even though the movie comes out next week ya don't have to twiddle yer fingers. If ya ever wondered how ya would look like as a Simpsons character ya can head over to this site and find out.

Here be mine:

Friday, July 13, 2007

Potter plot challenge

BBC has announced a writing contest for all the Harry Potter fans. The challenge is to write the Harry Potter story so far (Books 1-6) in 100 words or less. The winning story will be published on BBC before the Deathly Hallows is released. So are you up for it?

Go here for more details of the contest.


On Drunken Master's idea of collaborative effort how about 6 of us get together and each person writes a 16 word summary on one of the 6 Potter books. Any takers?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Transformers and Potter review


I felt like the story for Transformers was a well conceived idea that was aborted before it was carried to full term. The movie was a one trick pony and without the transforming there was nothing more to it. The dialogues were pitiful and the story line was predictable.

As usual the good guys came from a poorly funded lab and so had the older technology and the villains had great funding and so had all the cutting edge gizmo. The adapting morphing gibberish speaking robot on the evil side was especially cool. But in the end good conquers evil with all the set backs. Oops, sorry I gave away the ending without a plot spoiler warning. But seriously, if you didn’t know the ending before watching this movie you got to be from another planet.

Every action movie has to dabble into philosophy…the philosophy usually being science is evil. But in this one it was, humans are sadistic war mongering bastards and deserve to die but even monsters deserve a second chance except if the monsters happen to be robots that are more advanced than the transformer robots.

Then of course there is the love angle…well okay being a teenage centric movie it was more of ‘coming of age’ sexual tension. Watching the sweat covered tight abs of a (teenage) girl glistening in the sun, made me feel like a cradle robbing pervert…even though I am a non-lesbo and non-man.

Overall the movie sucked like an average Hollywood flick. So go watch it for special effects but expect nothing more.

Harry Potter and the order of phoenix:

Never compare a movie with a book (it was based on) because the book will always outdo the movie. How can any film-maker meet the expectations of a reader’s fantabulous mind imagery? The book is not limited by length, time, budget or special effects. David Yates, the director of HP 5 did a decent job considering that he was faced with the additional challenge of directing the HP movie based on the longest book (so far) of the HP series.

The special effects (as with most movies nowadays) were very well done…especially the final battle scenes. It was a good editorial decision to not drag a movie for more than 2.5 hours but the editing took its toll on the movie by making it incoherent in many parts. I can’t imagine how the people who have not read the book could keep up with the movie plot. Yet there were scenes that could’ve been vastly improvised. Especially in scenes like the one where you know who (and by you know who I don’t mean he who shall not be named) is struck by the avada kedavra curse and falls in the arch and Lupin holds onto Harry who is now squirming and screaming noooooooo…in super slow motion. Ugh!

The actress who played Dolores Umbridge was very successful in bringing out the viciousness of the character, all with a smile on her face. Luna “Loony” Lovegood was also perfect for the role. The only cast member I didn’t like was the guy who played (the new) Dumbledore. Even his walk is too hasty and unsophisticated for Dumbledore. Sheesh!

Anyhow, I was left pondering about the plot. Why wasn’t McGonagall at the ministry of magic in the final battle? In Book 5, why doesn’t Harry consort with McGonagall in Dumbledore’s absence as Dumbledore has already advised him to do that when he isn’t around or accessible? I want to end this post with a final comment which is really a general objection for all the stories with human transformation themes. Hulksters are you listening? You got to figure out what happens to the clothes during transformations. With JKR’s stories it is with Sirius, Lupin and Wormtail. When they become animals they shed their clothes but when they transform back they are never naked. Ok fine it is magic!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

300 manages to offend Iranians

The only good thing about the video is that someone in Iran decided to rap about it instead of bombing the nearest American embassy. Now if only this catches on in the middle east.

This video was made in protest of the movie 300.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Spooktacular movies

One of the perks of being an atheist is that you don’t get spooked out by horror movies. Without the thrill of a good spook you are left with a predictable plot and special effects that rarely (if ever) are adequate enough to make the movie worth watching.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I watched (most of) ‘the skeleton key’ last night and actually liked it. Although I must admit that I watched the first and last 20 minutes of the movie (and I still dare critique the movie haha!), the unexpected twist in the end makes me predict that the movie may be worth the torture (anyone watched the entire movie?). I give this movie a “worth a watch” thumbs up.

Now the other horror movie that I watched had a mediocre plot and shabby dialogues. I only watched it to see Tony Shalhoub suffer through it. Poor guy must have accepted the role to pay his bills. I decided to watch the movie hoping that it would be hilarious to watch Tony Shalhoub scream and run around in panic (which it totally was). ‘Thir13en ghosts’ delivered a predictable plot, but an unexpected bonus was the CGI effects and creative movie sets. Kudos to the special effects guys for the make-up of the ghosts and the crazy maze they built. I give this movie a “worth a watch if it is playing on TV and you have nothing better to do” thumbs up.

Spooktacular worth watch suggestions welcome.

Monday, July 02, 2007

A trip to the zooooooo

Went to the zoo over the weekend because it is a great place to hone photography skills. I sure don't have the patience to sit in the wild for hours only for some no show. As usual the primate cell was the saddest one. But the other animals didn't look all that sad. In fact they seemed to do better than most humans I know. They don't have to sit in cubicles day after day only to be able to afford a certain life style. These buggers have it made. Sure they don't get to prance around in the jungle but the last I heard, the jungle is not the easiest place to live in.

In the zoo on the other hand there are no predators to worry about, no bills to pay and no hours to bill. It is a paid vacation. These free loaders get a fully loaded unit (no chance of temperature controlled dwellings in the jungle) and a full health coverage (including dental). The creators of the animated movie Madagascar got it right after all. Talking about animated features, you got to watch Ratatouille. Pixar has redeemed itself in my eyes after the Cars fiasco.

Anyway, getting back to the zoo, here are some photos of the party animals (and one particularly interesting plant):

The snoozer

Tug of war

The "Oh my" plant ;)

Get a room

Respect my authoritay!!

The failed bombings in Glasgow and London have made the headlines for a couple of days now. Security is beefed up which means there will be endless lines at the airports and the airport security will have the green signal to anything from strip searches to anal probing. The security measures strangely resemble the panic of a chicken with its head cut off.

How do you find method in madness? If you think about it, almost anything can be used as a weapon. The target is the entire population of USA and UK. The borders are porous. The zealots are too many. To add to this explosive atmosphere there are foolish pranksters who get a kick out of creating panic in an edgy and nervous crowd. For instance, just after the UK bomb news appeared on the news some fellow went to a local airport in US and declared that he intends to blow up an entire city and that he was armed with explosives. The cops blocked the area and after hours of negotiations (or whatever it is that they do) the culprit was caught only to discover that he was making empty threats.

What resulted out of the incident was another new safety measure. The cops declared that they were going to do random searches of vehicles arriving at the airport. This meant that in addition to your inability to carry scissors or a bottle of drinking water on board, being subjected to random strip searches and wire tapping of your phone, the cops can now search your vehicle without a search warrant. Anything or anyone that is ‘suspicious looking’ is a fair game. What’s next? House searches without any warrants? This is like the Gestapo looking for Jews in Nazi Germany. Just like the terrorists, according to the new safety measures, the government is answerable only to God. (Dick Cheney is way ahead of the game).

If you are making plans for air travel and you are an Asian male with a goatee, shave it off today or you might find yourself on the next flight to Guantanamo Bay. In fact carry a copy of the bible and wear a big cross around the neck and paste some support the (US) troops, Jesus rocks and other Christian/patriotic logos on your suitcase. Even better carry a pair of red white and blue underwear…er…or may be not. Most importantly don’t forget to look unsuspicious.

Airport SecurityArtist Gary McCoy, Cagle Cartoons. Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.