Monday, November 10, 2008

Kal Ho Naa Ho

Kal Ho Naa Ho poster

Watched Kal Ho Naa Ho this weekend; we were looking forward to a Bollywood film that didn't end with an explosion or a bloodbath (yeah, I'm lookin' at you, Dil Se...), and this definitely fit the bill. And quite nice to see Preiti Zinta and Shahrukh Khan again, without the terrorism, bombings, and rapes of Dil Se.... Kal Ho Naa Ho (Tomorrow May Never Come) starts out as what seems like it will shape up to be a comedy/romance - possibly a bit too broad on the comedy front at that - the opening bits fly with puns, slapstick, and sight gags. It introduces our heroine who is a bit of a mouse with few romantic prospects; it seems clear that once Shahrukh Khan starts singing and dancing, her heart will awaken and romance awaits. However, one should never underestimate the twists that can occur in the 3 hours and 8 minutes of a Bollywood film, soon a twist presents itself, and once again you think you know right where the movie is going. Til it zigs again. Ultimately quite satisfying while circumventing the expectations and tropes inherent in the romantic comedy department. As in most Bollywood films, there is happy and sad, tragedy and comedy, romance and despair, but the balance in this one is tipped toward the light and the happy, and I found it quite delightful. Unlike most Bollywood films, this one is set in New York, and features more English than most. Performances are good - Khan's facial acting is unparalleled, and Preiti holds her own nicely in a role that seems a bit overwritten. However, the real standout is Saif Ali Khan, who brings a certain naturalism to all of this stylish fluff, and grounds the emotions of the film beautifully. Highly recommended.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

"Reality Has A Liberal Bias"

This is a post by a guy I know online - reprinted with his permission, but with identifying info removed. I like it very much; I thought you might, too.

Well we had our usual Halloween spectacular on the block, with an election year twist. We had [redacted] and [redacted], Democratic Senate and House candidates respectively, show up. Our neighborhood does a full tilt cooperative Halloween blowout, organized by our local State Rep, [redacted], who lives for Halloween. He gives out both candy and books to kids, has scary story readings from his front porch every hour on the hour, and, this year, got some funding from the neighborhood association to buy extra candy and distribute it to everyone in the neighborhood, since a typical house here ends up giving out a hundred bucks plus worth of candy every year.

So, with him being a politician, and with mobs of kids and families having fun, we attracted more politicians. The knot of people in suits, and press with the video cameras, stood out among the assorted costumed kids, and they were going door to door, meeting with people, etc. There was also a parade of sorts down the street, with a firetruck and a truck towing a flatbed with a big Obama/Biden sign done by a local artist I know. It was a very cool billboard design, actually. It has a sort of early 60s JFK-ish graphic design. And there were the get out the vote people, of course.

So, fun for all, but also a very weird collision of Halloween and politics. Not a Republican to be seen, but that's typical for this neighborhood. We've got two of them on the block, I think, and this year both of them are going for Obama, even the asshole cop who lives next door.

Actually, he's finally become not an asshole. When he first moved here he had a chip on his shoulder like you wouldn't believe, and routinely bullied people. I successfully neutered him, though, through a combination of talking to his superiors and organizing the neighborhood against some of his behaviour, and after that he actually started to come around as a decent enough guy.

I think this neighborhood actually makes liberals out of people. We get conservatives moving in here from time to time, but after a few years they turn into liberals. I think it's the fact that we've got rich people, poor people, black people, brown people, white people, old people, young people, single people, married people, gay people, straight people, and just plain all sorts of people living in a neighborhood that was designed on late 19th century/early 20th century planning, so that there are small yards, closely spaced houses, no garages, and you can comfortably talk to your neighbors or people passing by from your front porch, and almost all houses have big front porches. The result is that everyone gets to know each other, and so we band together for parties and holidays, and we help each other out with changing tires or jumpstarting cars, or shoveling snow, or raking leaves, and we're 90%+ liberals to begin with. The few conservatives who venture here slowly become assimilated because suddenly different sorts of people aren't so strange, and the idea of pulling together as community seems normal instead of weird, and before they even realize it, they're one of us.

Reality does have a liberal bias, and when architecture and urban planning conspires to place people more firmly into the reality of the people around them, and not buried somewhere behind a large lawn, a courtyard wall, in the "media room" in the center of the house, plugged in to Fox News, suddenly they realize they've been a liberal all along, and that the values that they thought they supported as Republicans, values such as community, family, prosperity, and security, are actually really Democratic values. The only difference is that we mean these things for everyone, and we realize that we must accomplish them together, or not at all. Prosperity for some and poverty for others is not prosperity when you have a connection to a mixed community, and, whether you realize it or not, you do have such a connection. Security doesn't mean walls and fences and weapons, it means good neighbors who keep in touch with each other and watch out for each other, and it doesn't matter what race, class, or religion those neighbors are, all that matters is that you help each other out because you're in it together. Community isn't a self-selected group of white evangelicals in a mega-church, or a self-selected group of the well-to-do in a gated community, it's whoever happens to be around at that moment and whoever lives next door. Families aren't just a working father, a stay at home moms, and 2.4 kids in the suburbs, it might be the retired widower next door whose grown son lives with him, along with the son's girlfriend and her child from a former marriage, or a lesbian couple and their kids, or whatever. Families take all shapes, and all lives are equally valid and human.

When you deal with the full spectrum of humanity, and you find that we all really want the same things, suddenly the Republican politics of division and fear start to sound insane.

So, a notice for Republicans out there from us weird liberals: you will be assimilated, and you'll actually really enjoy it. We like everyone. Y'all are invited, regardless of ideological differences. We throw great parties and we're fun to be around. Once you get to know us your psychological armor will fall off and you'll feel ten years younger and fifty pounds lighter. A sense of community that covers all kinds of people is the gateway drug to liberalism, so go on, try it. You'll like it. Trust me.