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December 26, 2007

Some Movie Posters

What better way to say Happy Holidays than some cool movie poster designs (by way of Flickr and friends)? I'll try to avoid the more obvious ones (i.e. no Jaws, Clockwork Orange, The Shining etc).

First, Get Carter, the British version that is, not the Stallone atrocity:


Manhattan comes next:

The German version of Breakfast at Tiffany's follows. Just love the color scheme:

Choose Trainspotting, a lesson in how to make an arresting poster just out of words:

Continuing with the rebellion theme, here's Big B in Deewar . There are better Bollywood posters than this but this one is pretty representative of the '70s:

Finally, going back to the 1930s, here's the poster for Bringing up Baby, one of the all-time great screwball comedies:

That's it for now. Next time, I'll limit myself to posters from more recent times.

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- December 26, 2007 5:49 PM // Film

December 14, 2007

Rabi-babu and China

Here I was trying to read up on modern Chinese history and I stumbled on this snippet. File this in the I-had-no-idea category - from The Columbia Guide To Modern Chinese History comes this:

The New Culture Movement

...
The milieu of intellectual quest was stimulated during these years by lecture tours of foreigners of various intellectual persuasion ... The visit of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore of India, in 1924 touched off a heated debate over Tagore's message extolling Asian cultures and warning about the importation of too much Western civilization ...

The man got around, didn't he?

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- December 14, 2007 9:31 PM // Bangla

December 10, 2007

Rajesh Is Like Steve

A headnod to Scrubs, consistently one of the funniest and most integrated shows on TV. Scrubs may not feature desis or other Asians in the meatiest roles, but it never condescends to any race, not the colored ones anyway. Engaged as I was in a quest to name my son, I found the following exchange particularly hilarious. This is from Season 6, episode 3 ("My Coffee"):

Scrubs Season 6

[JD and Turk have just finished a game of basketball]

JD: Man we got smoked. That's what you get for playing a bunch of Gs from the hood.

Turk: Those guys are Indian.

JD: So Rajesh isn't one of those cool black homie names like Anfernee?

Turk: No, Rajesh is like Steve in India

JD: Oh.

Turk: Yeah.

Scrubs Season 6

[Later in the scene]

Vijay: Could you guys look at my shoulder? I tweaked it pretty good

JD: Come on Vijay, first you dunk on me and yell "who's your bitch!" and now you want free medical advice. How did I not know these guys were Indian?

[Vijay holds out some money]

Vijay: I'll give you 20 bucks!

JD: I am sorry my friend, that's just unethical.

[Vijay turns to Turk who takes the money]

Turk: Done and done!

Free medical advice indeed. Ha ha!

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- December 10, 2007 11:47 PM // Diaspora , TV

December 9, 2007

As The World Turns

When we first came out with Bollywood and Globalization a couple of years ago, it was tough going to get any real interest on the web. Shari's advisors at SFSU really liked it, we knew it made for a great addition to her portfolio and it was a great conversation piece. However, connecting with like minded people proved to be really difficult. It was like spitting into the Grand Canyon. Fast forward three years and much has changed. India's increasing global presence has led to much more awareness and interest in Bollywood and by extension, anything related to it. We are fairly sure this is one of the reasons we've found Devi Brown much easier to promote thus far, knock on wood!

None of this should take away from Andrew Leonard's excellent Salon blog How The World Works. Over the past two years, Andrew has assiduously tracked various global trends including the subprime loan mess, the quest for renewable energy, the Indian diaspora and Bollywood's increasing global footprint. It is his evident fascination with the latter that convinced me to gather up the gumption to drop him a line. I primarily wanted to talk about "Devi Brown" but I also included a link to Bollywood and Globalization.

As luck would have it, a) he dug both and b) I happened to write to him on the eve of the two year anniversary of his blog. In his words:

But one of the glories of blogging is that information flows in multiple directions. I'm not just sitting here finding out stuff -- it's also out there finding me.

Yesterday's Obama posting encouraged Soam and Shari Acharya, a San Francisco-based duo of multimedia producers, to introduce themselves to me by e-mail. They wanted to let me know about their film short "Devi Brown," which they described as a trailer for a "nonexistent film" that answers the question of "what happens when blaxploitation meets Bollywood."

Anyone who has been reading this blog for the last two years will know that such questions smack right into the sweet spot of my preoccupations, along with the politics of microfinance, carbon offsets, home-brewed biodiesel, and collateralized debt obligations. But it gets better, because the e-mail also linked to Shari Acharya's nifty online multimedia presentation "Bollywood and Globalization" -- an interactive distillation of her San Francisco State University industrial arts master's thesis. In her thesis, Acharya explores how the opening up of India's economy to global trade in the 1990s both challenged, and ultimately revitalized, Bollywood.

I can't wait to see "Devi Brown." I also have a rapidly expanding list of must-see Indian movies. I feel ... better informed.

Thanks a lot for the vote of confidence and for making us part of your two year anniversary celebration, Andrew!

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- December 9, 2007 12:20 AM // Bollywood , Devi Brown

December 4, 2007

"It's A Boy" Playlist

Stuff I've been playing to my 2 week old. Fuhgetabout Baby Einstein, this is the way to get him started on the good ish!

  • New Life - Depeche Mode. What else but one of the earliest songs by the venerable synth group? My own indoctrination into the joys of synth pop. It seems so long ago.
  • Kinna Sona - Bally Sagoo/Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Long story but I once had occasion to chat with Bally's manager somewhere in Philadelphia. He went by the name of Mambo. We were talking about Bally's work and this is the one he picked as his most played. "When I go home, I pick up my newborn and play this song," he said. Now, I understand.
  • Aerodynamik - Kraftwerk. No story here. Great beat to change diapers to. Plus get him started early on the masters.
  • Garden of Earthly Delights - XTC.
    "Kid,
    Stay and snip your cord off,
    Talk and let your mind loose,
    Cant all think like chekov,
    But youll be o.k."
  • I Got A Name - Jim Croce. I used this song as inspiration on our quest to find a name for the kid. Lovely, lilting stuff.
  • It's A Boy (Remix) - Slick Rick. 'nuff said although he did cover his ear a tad when I played it to him. He'll learn, eventually.
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- December 4, 2007 9:48 PM // Music , Virj

December 3, 2007

Introducing Our Son

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Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

So, here he is. But before I introduce you to him, I wanted to tell you about our first challenge of parenthood - finding a name for our son. Here, I am reminded of Alex Haley's Roots. After his son is born, Omoro faces a challenge:

By ancient custom, for the next seven days, there was but a single task with which Omoro would seriously occupy himself: the selection of a name for his firstborn son. It would have to be a name rich with history and with promise, for the people of his tribe - the Mandinkas - believed that a child would develop seven of the characteristics of whomever or whatever he was named for.

Okay, it's not like we locked ourself up in a room for seven days and refused to emerge until we'd come up with some earthshaking moniker for our kid. But it would have been nice had we the luxury of doing so. A name is serious business - this is something the fellow is saddled with for life. Unless he changes it himself or goes into show business or something - but even then, there is the realization, often painfully acquired in grade school, that the name you were given is a lemon. What parent would want his kids to go through that gauntlet? School is cruel enough as it is! Consequently, in the nine months prior, whatever leisure time we had was spent poring over books of names, Bengali dictionaries and the web, in search of a moniker. Our criteria was as follows:

  1. Has to be short, snappy and sweet.
  2. Has to mean something, preferably in Sanskrit i.e. no nonsensical terms
  3. Can't have side-effects in English. No offense to Dixits or Dikshits, but I am not going anywhere near there if I can help it.
  4. Has to be somewhat unique

Choosing a unique name in a country of a billion people is hard. Forget Rama, Bhima, Shyama and Jadu, the law of probability dictates that whatever you come up with something remotely unusual, it's been taken. A friend asked recently:

What's the Bengali tradition for middle names? Gujaratis give father's first name as a middle name (even women have to take their husband's first name!). Talk about a patriarchical society.

I really couldn't think of any Bengali naming traditions per se other than the preference for fancy names. Remember I was telling you about my futile search? In many cases, the interesting twists or variations on names were taken by Chatterjees/Banerjees etc. Good for them! But it didn't make our task easier.

In desperation, we considered an approach that seems to be common in the US - creative misspelling. Consider Andruw instead Andrew or Jhonny instead of Johnny. Taken in the desi context, how about Deepakk or Rraja? Okay, I am kidding. But it did seem attractive for all of 3 milliseconds! Our friends, Devora and Manish, took note of our state and even included a "Name The Baby Contest" in Shari's baby shower festivities. Notable entries included:

  • Rishesh
  • McSoam
  • Ghanashyam

Good for laughts, yes, although the first one was pretty good. However, this did spark our thinking and three days before he was born, we finally settled on a name. Shari had liked Vir (hero/warrior) for a while and it and its variation, Veer, had seemed relatively uncommon. Still, I thought a variation on the sound itself could yield something interesting. My contribution was a single letter: "j". "Virj" is Sanskrit for the quality of bravery and strength. The sound itself seems to resonate. And web searches show it to be relatively rare. Now, if everyone would only pronounce it properly :-)

So, there you have it. Hopefully, this is something our son will keep. We can but hope. I'll conclude with some lyrics from Jim Croce from his song, "I got a name":

Like the pine trees lining the winding road,

I've got a name, I've got a name
Like the singing bird and the croaking toad,
I've got a name, I've got a name

And I carry it with me like my daddy did
But I'm living the dream that he kept hid.

Moving me down the highway, rolling me down the highway
Moving ahead so life won't pass me by.


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- December 3, 2007 12:46 PM // Bangla , Diaspora , Virj