Friday, October 17, 2014

1, 2, 3 Crow goes Dhoom

Don't mind Crow. Ever since he discovered Bollywood he's been dancing up a storm in hopes of a starring role in the next Dhoom movie. Yes, we've become big fans. While I'm not entirely sure why, the reason could be the ever intensifying bad news that requires those of us who wish to remain moderately optimistic to find diversion, or it could be because the movies are great. I prefer to think the latter.

The Dhoom movies are basically high-tech heist thrillers that use bits and pieces filched from the global action-movie repertoire to lend some cutting-edge flash to Bollywood’s loose-knit “cinema of attractions” format. They feature a globetrotting succession of elaborate robbery and chase sequences. Judged purely as a crime movies, they are messy, littered with unanswered questions and dangling plot threads. As entertainment their variety show atmosphere and low 'high tech' special effects are sheer joy to watch. And, true to Bollywood tradition, there is always much singing and dancing.

Dhoom 1:

In the first movie, Inspector Jai Dixit demands assistance from Ali, a petty criminal motorcycle mechanic, to help him capture a gang of thieves. Supercop Jai says he'll let him off the hook if he proves useful. Feel free to envision a pair of characters not dissimilar to Martin and Lewis.

The basic story line for this one is that the police in Mumbai have been completely baffled by a series of robberies done in broad daylight. Called in as an expert, Inspector Jai Dixit asks for a map (imagine a subway map). The inspector circles five stations in a row where the crimes occurred and announces - to everyone's total surprise - it's the sixth station that will be the next target!

While at a stake-out on a dark rainy night Jai and Ali spot a poor girl sitting in her bright yellow Lamborghini that won't start. Ignoring Inspector Dixit's remonstrances to stay in the police car, Ali goes to help. Dance ensues - including 20 guys who get out of cars parked along the street to act as backup dancers. Ali tends to fall in love with every pretty girl he meets and dreams of being a family wala.

Now how are you going to distract the cops while you pull off the big heist at a casino? The answer, of course, is a dance!

Dhoom 2

Jai and now official police officer Ali are after a dashing cat burglar - a wall-climbing, skydiving master of disguise known as 'A' (Hrithik Roshan, one of the most gifted dancers I've ever seen). This international thief who has been robbing his way across the globe in bold, daring heists is on his way to Rio and our intrepid officers are hot on his heels. What better way to catch a thief than with another thief? Enter Sunehri, a beautiful young woman who also owes her freedom to Inspector Jai Dixit.

The plot is predictable, and at times ridiculous, but the music and dancing are over the top marvelous. Despite the fact the overarching storyline is about the police chasing after a master thief, there is very little violence and (being an Indian film) no gratuitous sex scenes. Nevertheless, the sensuality expressed in the dance numbers is very powerful. These are, after all, the people who came up with the Kama Sutra in 400BC.

Dhoom 3

Action in the third movie takes place in the very exotic locale of Chicago, IL, where 20 years previously a cruel and arrogant banker closed down The Great Indian Circus, a place of magic owned and operated by young Sahir's father. Rather than lose his life's work the father chooses suicide as Sahir watches.

The scene switches to the present day with Sahir (now played by Aamir Khan) as a vengeful thief out to destroy the very bank and banker who destroyed his father's life. He does this by committing outrageous robberies, throwing all the money he can't carry to the street as he runs down the sides of tall buildings (yes) and escapes by motorcycle. Who else would be asked to solve the crimewave but our trusty policemen from Mumbai, Jai and Ali?

What can I say but it gets crazy. What else can I say but that the song and dance numbers were even more spectacular than the ones in Dhoom 2? So far all the dance numbers I've attached as links so you can watch them as you choose. When it comes to Dhoom 3 I have to post two videos. The first, called 'Malang', is the spectacular stage show presented at the mid-point of the movie, while the second is 'Dhoom Machale Dhoom', a musical pastiche of major scenes in the film. If you can stand full-screening these are well worth it.

Here we go:

and the next:

If you're looking for thought-provoking plot lines and Academy Award level acting, you'll be bitterly disappointed. However, if you're a fan of musicals from Hollywood's Golden Age (1930s to the 1950s,) then you'll love India's Bollywood version.

As Crow says, 'They should find a way to bottle Dhoom Machale so we can all enjoy it'.

update on Monday, Oct 20th

An article posted on The Atlantic that discusses the dismantling of sexism in Bollywood films is well worth a read.

Friday, October 10, 2014

other people's work #93½ +

A Canadian artist, Peter von Tiesenhausen, came up with a radical solution to the problem many landholders have when it comes to having their property invaded by oil developers. What he did was to copyright his entire square mile property in northern Alberta as a work of art. The spread von Tiesenhausen inherited from his parents, a former family farm 80 kilometres west of Grande Prairie, sits atop a natural gas hot spot known as the "deep basin." He accepts that he only owns the surface of his land. The buried treasure belongs to the provincial government. It has rights to sell the resources and make him let companies onto his property to extract them, so long as he is compensated for the disturbance.

What a great idea! Around Von Tiesenhausen's home and studio, his property is studded with artwork such as a 33-metre-long ship sculpted with willow stalks, winter ice forms, nest-like structures in trees, statuesque towers and a "lifeline" or visual autobiography composed as a white picket fence built in annual sections left to weather naturally.

His legal move vastly increased the amount of compensation he is potentially entitled to demand from any oil or pipeline company wanting access to his place, because changing his property would be copyright infringement. "Now instead of maybe $200 a year for crop losses, we'd have to be paid for maybe $600,000 or more in artistic property disturbance."

Lawsuits have been threatened several times, but no oil and gas companies have risked a winner-take-all court case that would attract public attention and start other landowners thinking. Von Tiesenhausen emphasizes his message in the language of corporations - money. Taking a page from the books of business consultants, he demands $500 an hour from companies that want to take up his time talking to him about his land. "I demand $500 an hour. They pay. It keeps the meetings really short and they don't do it nearly as often as they used to." the artist said.

If word of this gets around there may be many more farms listed as artworks.
Goodness knows, if I owned my back yard I'd do it myself.

Friday, October 3, 2014

first world problems

While I'm not sure the difficulty I had earlier in the week could be literally defined as a First World Problem*, having the tracker pad of my computer suddenly lose track of itself was both aggravating and unexpected. The little cursor was happy enough to move around the screen but couldn't be clicked to open anything. As you can imagine it didn't take long for me to realize just how reliant I've become on this machine that contains the records of everything of any importance I've done for the past decade or more (before being packed away four years ago, the old computer had a serious conversation with this one).

* First World Problems

It's understood that some problems are universal - death, disease, hunger, thirst, cold, poverty, physical pain, illness - are part of the human condition and could happen to anybody. The problems of the prosperous don't fit in this class:

"I have too much cash in my wallet and it hurts my butt when I sit."

"Can’t decide whether to stay oceanfront at an all-inclusive resort or 9 mins away with a group of friends while vacationing in Jamaica!"

"My friend doesn’t have an iPhone so I couldn’t text him from my macbook."

"I had to watch a 3D movie because I didn’t want to wait for the 2D showtime."

"My Poodle can’t get a haircut today because of the humidity outside…so annoyed with stupid global warming!"

"How can I sleep when the fountain outside my window is so loud!" 

You can probably see why I'm unsure about whether having my computer break was an FWP or not. I happen to live in a culture where personal computers are common and so, like everyone reading this, I do own one. On the other hand, it's not like I'm going to use its temporary loss as an excuse to indulge in in a hand of Misery Poker:

Someone who complains of a minor inconvenience while someone else in the background is being chased by a herd of enraged rhinos.

The Apple geniuses had the track pad replaced quickly and so I have returned with all my pictures intact. Yes, this is the most recent one of those - not quite as cool as the last, but okay.

Last winter I read Charles Dickens's 'Hard Times' again and was amazed I'd forgotten Mr. Bounderby - the original inspiration for The Four Yorkshiremen sketch. Here are John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Tim Brook-Taylor & Marty Feldman performing an early version of the one made famous by Monty Python:

Til next time. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

a little turbulence

A year or so ago I posted some pencil sketches under the titles of storyboarding this and that. What I've been up to just recently has been a process of refining and actually turning some of those ideas into watercolor paintings. The funny thing is, other than a vague concept, I don't actually have much of a story to draw from. So what I'll do is paint the pictures and see where they lead. This is one.

Other than the fact these images are kind of compelling in themselves, the main reason I've decided to work on finishing some of them now is to allow myself to get comfortable with using full spectrum color again. Paintings done just well enough to provide something entertaining to look at before a blog post have made me lazy. Besides, some practice is essential before I begin work on that real story illustration project I mentioned earlier this month.

If you're in the mood to read something both interesting and relevant to the political, financial, and social turbulence we're currently exposed to every time we get out of bed - those of us who are lucky enough to have beds and roofs to cover them, that is - I highly recommend the recent articles on Golem XIV under the title, The Next Crisis. The articles are long but his points are valid for anyone who believes, or suspects, as I do, that partisan politics are simply another method used by the rich and powerful to divide and so conquer the rest of us. His premise is as follows:

1) The Over Class must retain and consolidate their control over the global system of debt.

2) The power to regulate must be taken from nations and effectively controlled by corporations.

3) Professionalize governance. Democracy can be and must be neutered, and an effective way of doing this is to insist that amateur, elected officials MUST take the advice of professional (read corporate) advisors. Expand current law to enforce this.

4) The financial system badly needs un-encumbered ‘assets’ to feed the debt issuing system. A new way must be found to prise sovereign assets from public ownership. Such a new way is suggested.

5) In order to facilitate the political changes necessary, the public mind-set must be changed. National Treasures such as the NHS in Britain must be re-branded as evil State Monopolies. Choose your own examples.

6) Effective ways must be found to convince people that democratic rule is no longer sufficient to protect them.

7) An alternative to Democracy must be introduced and praised. 

Okay, if you've read the above (or even have bookmarked the website for later), now it's time for the uplifting and entertaining part of the post - this time a short video piece about the great benefits of re-introducing carnivores to the US. In the past couple of weeks I read again two of Jack London's most famous stories: The Call of the Wild and White Fang. Who wouldn't prefer a real wolf to the one who wears a hand made suit and a $50k watch?

I hope you've excused George Monbiot for his somewhat overly excited presentation.

Monday, September 15, 2014

post modern irony with Crow

me: Anything interesting in the mail today?

Crow: Not really.
Here's a 'You're not covering the cost of all these mailings' charity request.
You got a 'You're not attractive enough' women's magazine with an article on swimsuits that minimize all your bodily flaws.
Here are some 'You're not stylish enough or ostentatious enough' catalogs - and coincidentally, an invitation to go deeper into debt from a credit card company.
And here's a news magazine to identify the trend of the week you're missing.

me: Yikes! Why do I get the feeling that society is trying to make us discontented with everything about who we are?

Crow: I suppose if people thought about real issues and needs instead of manufactured desires, the economy would collapse and we'd have total anarchy.

me: So pitching this junk would make me some kind of terrorist, eh?

Crow: Yes, it's your patriotic duty to buy distractions from a simple life. *

* Our conversation is a slightly revised version of one between Calvin's (of Calvin and Hobbes) beleaguered parents in 1994. It ends with this:

Calvin: Hey, Mom and Dad! I just saw a bunch of products on TV that I didn't know existed, but I desperately need!

It would appear things haven't changed much, but for the fact all this arrives online too :)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

other thoughts - Alan Watts

Having recently rediscovered Alan Watts I'm wondering why he hasn't always been on my seriously Wise Person radar. The book itself is on my purchase list, but in the meanwhile I downloaded 'On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are'. Here is a story which he said was for children, but that doesn't really seem to be the case.

"There was never a time when the world began, because it goes round and round like a circle, and there is no place on a circle where it begins. Look at my watch, which tells the time; it goes round, and so the world repeats itself again and again. But just as the hour-hand of the watch goes up to twelve and down to six, so, too, there is day and night, waking and sleeping, living and dying, summer and winter. You can't have any one of these without the other, because you wouldn't be able to know what black is unless you had seen it side-by-side with white, or white unless side-by-side with black.

"In the same way, there are times when the world is, and times when it isn't, for if the world went on and on without rest for ever and ever, it would get horribly tired of itself. It comes and it goes. Now you see it; now you don't. So because it doesn't get tired of itself, it always comes back again after it disappears. It's like your breath: it goes in and out, in and out, and if you try to hold it in all the time you feel terrible. It's also like the game of hide-and-seek, because it's always fun to find new ways of hiding, and to seek for someone who doesn't always hide in the same place.

"God also likes to play hide-and-seek, but because there is nothing outside God, he has no one but himself to play with. But he gets over this difficulty by pretending that he is not himself. This is his way of hiding from himself. He pretends that he is you and I and all the people in the world, all the animals, all the plants, all the rocks, and all the stars. In this way he has strange and wonderful adventures, some of which are terrible and frightening. But these are just like bad dreams, for when he wakes up they will disappear.

"Now when God plays hide and pretends that he is you and I, he does it so well that it takes him a long time to remember where and how he hid himself. But that's the whole fun of it—just what he wanted to do. He doesn't want to find himself too quickly, for that would spoil the game. That is why it is so difficult for you and me to find out that we are God in disguise, pretending not to be himself. But when the game has gone on long enough, all of us will wake up, stop pretending, and remember that we are all one single Self—the God who is all that there is and who lives for ever and ever.

"Of course, you must remember that God isn't shaped like a person. People have skins and there is always something outside our skins. If there weren't, we wouldn't know the difference between what is inside and outside our bodies. But God has no skin and no shape because there isn't any outside to him. The inside and the outside of God are the same. And though I have been talking about God as 'he' and not 'she,' God isn't a man or a woman. I didn't say 'it' because we usually say 'it' for things that aren't alive.

"God is the Self of the world, but you can't see God for the same reason that, without a mirror, you can't see your own eyes, and you certainly can't bite your own teeth or look inside your head. Your self is that cleverly hidden because it is God hiding.

"You may ask why God sometimes hides in the form of horrible people, or pretends to be people who suffer great disease and pain. Remember, first, that he isn't really doing this to anyone but himself.
Remember, too, that in almost all the stories you enjoy there have to be bad people as well as good people, for the thrill of the tale is to find out how the good people will get the better of the bad. It's the same as when we play cards. At the beginning of the game we shuffle them all into a mess, which is like the bad things in the world, but the point of the game is to put the mess into good order, and the one who does it best is the winner. Then we shuffle the cards once more and play again, and so it goes with the world." 

What the story contains is a description of the essence of Advaita.
What do you think?

Now for something different, or maybe it's not all that different - a man and his dog dancing:

I liked that :)

ps: The painting at the top is a quick watercolor sketch from a story (written by the daughter of a friend) that I'm in the process of attempting to illustrate.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

back to storyboarding

Okay, I'll admit I've been drawing again. I still have a story, hinted at in pencil sketches I posted a year ago, that seems to become clearer the more I draw. Life certainly would be simpler if the whole of it would just appear on paper or in text. I'm a terrible writer of children's stories because I hate imagining children in danger or distress. Goodness knows there's already enough of that in the news without me adding more. The problem, though, is that stories have to engage a reader's attention and that generally means conflict of some kind or other that needs to be remedied. So I continue to work on these pictures bit by bit  while the story, such as it is, unfolds. I'm thinking to paint them one after another once the line work's all done. Then again, they're interesting enough on their own that I may just start painting them and pass on the story altogether. Time will tell.

Besides, the competition for attention has become pretty intense. It’s amazing just how much we are bombarded by the media – or perhaps allow ourselves to be bombarded is the correct way of saying it. Until something like this animation by Cesar Cepeda is placed under our noses it is easy to imagine that it isn’t too much and that we control it.

The Control from cesar cepeda on Vimeo.

Anyone for a good book?