Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wisdom for the New Year

If there is light in the soul
There will be beauty in the person.
If there is beauty in the person
There will be harmony in the house.
If there is harmony in the house
There will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation
There will be peace in the world.
Chinese Proverb

Weekly words of wisdom from Lama Surya Das

If you control the tongue, you have controlled all the senses.

-- Sri Swami Sivananda

Meditation Is Essential to Life

To understand this whole problem of influence, the influence of experience, the influence of knowledge, of inward and outward motives - to find out what is true and what is false and to see the truth in the so-called false - all that requires tremendous insight, a deep inward comprehension of things as they are, does it not? This whole process is, surely, the way of meditation. Meditation is essential in life, in our everyday existence, as beauty is essential. The perception of beauty, the sensitivity to things, to the ugly as well as to the beautiful, is essential - to see a beautiful tree, a lovely sky of an evening, to see the vast horizon where the clouds are gathering as the sun is setting. All this is necessary, the perception of beauty and the understanding of the way of meditation, because all that is life, as is also your going to the office, the quarrels, miseries, the perpetual strain, anxiety, the deep fears, love, and starvation. Now the understanding of this total process of existence - the influences, the sorrows, the daily strain, the authoritative outlook, the political actions, and so on - all this is life, and the process of understanding it all, and freeing the mind, is meditation. If one really comprehends this life then there is always a meditative process, always a process of contemplation - but not about something. To be aware of this whole process of existence, to observe it, to dispassionately enter into it, and to be free of it, is meditation.

The Book of Life - December 31

Happy 2009!

here to find out about Tulika Books.

“When the sky changed from dark to light, the people’s minds seemed to go from light to dark...(Kabir) knew they would come back once they grew weary and needed to listen to the promise of a new way of life in his songs.”

- Kabir the Weaver Poet

The fabric of stories

Nina Sabnani made an audio visual presentation on the making of Mukand and Riaz – the animated film and the book – at a conference called Mantles of Myth: The Narrative in Indian Textiles, organised by Siyahi in Jaipur from 13th to 15th December.

Nina is an animator, artist and author and has published several books with Tulika. The pictures in Mukand and Riaz use the art of women’s appliqué work, common to Sindh in Pakistan and Gujarat in India, to tell the story of two friends against the background of the partition of India, based on memories of her father.
Working with craftswomen to visually tell a story, Nina not only contemporised a traditional form inventively, she made the process participatory in the truest sense. The story became their very own with many litle facets of their lives woven in. Nina's presentation brought in a vibrant and fresh perspective to the discussions by textile experts, art historians, designers and writers on the challenges of preserving and nurturing textile traditions.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Secret of the Grain

This is one of the best films I have seen this year. It is set in France and based on the lives of Tunisian immigrants. The role of the different women in the movie was explored very well, from the divorced wife of Slimane, to his daughters, granddaughter, second wife and her daughter. I liked the idea of using food as a setting, it always takes on so many connotations and power relations can be explored on the dinning table. The belly dance scene at the end is spectacular!

Slimane Beiji, the sad, still center of “The Secret of the Grain,” Abdellatif Kechiche’s bustling and brilliant new film, might be described as an accidental patriarch. A stubborn, taciturn immigrant from Tunisia, Slimane (Habib Boufares) has spent 35 years working in the shipyards of Sète, a rough little French port city on the Mediterranean coast.

The other members of his large, cantankerous family — his former wife, Souad (Bouraouïa Marzouk), and their assorted children and grandchildren — live mostly in a battered high-rise housing project. Slimane, meanwhile, keeps a modest room in the blue-collar hotel run by his lover, Latifa (Hatika Karaoui), and her 20-year-old daughter, Rym (the amazing Hafsia Herzi), on whom he dotes as if she were his own.

The chief token of his benevolence is the fish Slimane collects from his fisherman buddies and dutifully delivers on his motorbike to the important women in his life: Souad; his older daughter, Karima (Faridah Benkhetache); and Latifa. Their freezers are overflowing with the mullet that is, in Tunisian tradition, served with couscous, the grain of this film’s title. (In France, where the movie won four César awards earlier this year, the secret is omitted, and the film is known simply as “La Graine et le Mulet.”) When Souad cooks up a batch to feed various kids, friends and in-laws, she puts aside a serving for Slimane, who eats it in the spartan quarters he shares with a semimetaphorical caged bird.

Mr. Kechiche started out as an actor and has established himself, after directing three features (“La Faute à Voltaire” and “L’Esquive” before this one), as one of the most vital and interesting filmmakers working in France today. In “The Secret of the Grain” he immerses us in the hectic, tender, sometimes painful details of work and domesticity. The camera bobs and fidgets in crowded rooms full of noisy people, so that your senses are flooded with the warmth and stickiness of Slimane and Souad’s family circle. The scenes, though they feel improvised, at times almost accidentally recorded, have a syncopated authenticity for which the sturdy old word realism seems inadequate.

Not many directors would linger so long, for example, over a toilet-training-related battle of wills between a mother and her 2-year-old, and then pause later to observe a discussion of the same subject among a group of adults at a party. But when Mr. Kechiche does just that, you may wonder why so few have bothered before. After all, the messy particulars of child rearing preoccupy every family in every culture and provide an inexhaustible vein of humor, anxiety and contention.

And the richness of “The Secret of the Grain” — the secret, as it were, of its deep and complex flavor — lies in the close, tireless, enthusiastic attention it pays to the most mundane daily tasks, especially those involving food.

The depth of Mr. Kechiche’s humanism and his subtle insights into the political dimensions of ordinary experience link his film to the great works of late-period Neo-Realism, even if his anarchic methods have more in common with those of a post-’60s skeptical realist like Mike Leigh than with the old Italian masters. “The Secret of the Grain” is in some ways the descendant of a movie like “Rocco and His Brothers,” Luchino Visconti’s long, gloriously novelistic 1960 melodrama about a family of migrants that travels from southern Italy to work in the factories of the north.

In the background of “The Secret of the Grain” is a similar migration that began in the 1960s, when men and women like Slimane and Souad left the newly liberated North African French colonies to seek their fortunes in metropolitan France, a country they regarded as both benefactor and oppressor. In the decades since, France has reluctantly claimed them and their children as citizens, even as it has stigmatized and marginalized them, and this mutual ambivalence is the implicit subject of this movie and its unstated context. (Mr. Kechiche was born in Tunis in 1960.)

But as he did in “L’Esquive,” in which the exalted idiom of Classical French literature collided and commingled with the polyglot vernacular of the modern French suburbs, Mr. Kechiche declines to dole out obvious, easily assimilated lessons.

Life is just too complicated, too unpredictable, too hard and too fascinating. Even as Slimane’s story is one of frustration and unfulfilled ambition — after his hours at the shipyard are cut back, he pursues the quixotic dream of converting an abandoned boat into a dockside couscous restaurant — “The Secret of the Grain” bursts with exuberance and irrepressible sensuality. This is mostly thanks to the women in the movie, who through charm, guile and sheer force of will turn the austere fable of their melancholy paterfamilias into a party. It is not that they are naturally carefree but rather that their cares are so tightly woven into their lives that the only practical alternative to despair is an unruly, militant joy.

Karima, Souad and Rym are at once Slimane’s foils — their bodies are as curvy as his is gaunt, while their frank, abundant talk serves as counterpoint to his decorous silence — and the pillars on which he leans for support. They protect his dignity by declining to point out just how much he depends on them, and allowing him to believe that the opposite is true.

The pathos of Slimane’s story (as well as the accomplishment of Mr. Boufares’s performance) arises partly from the understanding that this man, so committed to the idea of his own strength and resilience, is in the end so fragile.

To put it in slightly different terms, you could say that Slimane’s tragedy is that, having worked so hard for so long, he is left with so little. The couscous restaurant represents his last stand, his grand gesture of protest against a hard fate, and its opening night, teetering on the tightrope between triumph and calamity, is Mr. Kechiche’s tour de force.

An entire family chronicle, along with four decades of French social and economic history, is recapitulated as a lavish, hectic dinner, complete with music and belly dancing. It will leave you stunned and sated, having savored an intimate and sumptuous epic of elation and defeat, jealousy and tenderness, life and death, grain and fish.

Written and directed by Abdellatif Kechiche; director of photography, Lubomir Bakchev; edited by Ghalya Lacroix and Camille Toubkis; produced by Claude Berri; released by IFC Films. At the IFC Center, 323 Avenue of the Americas, at Third Street, Greenwich Village. In French and Arabic, with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 31 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Habib Boufares (Slimane), Hafsia Herzi (Rym), Faridah Benkhetache (Karima), Abdelhamid Aktouche (Hamid), Bouraouïa Marzouk (Souad), Hatika Karaoui (Latifa) and Alice Houri (Julia).

Madness in Gaza

Freddy Deknatel writes about Israel's unwarranted attack on civilians in Gaza, already killing over 300.

Children's bodies are being covered with cardboard boxes in Gaza -- the hospitals have run out of sheets -- as Washington and London urge Israel to use restraint and avoid civilian casualties.

Palestinians on the West Bank are organizing in protest, but this was Israel's plan all along. Less than two weeks ago some 50 Israeli policemen injured each-other in "gloves-off" training that a spokesman described as "a huge police training exercise to prepare for riot control and to deal with different scenarios."

Israel is trying to decapitate Hamas in Gaza, to use an favorite expression of military spokesmen and a docile American media, and the bodies are piling up. What is the limit? As it stands, over 200 Palestinians are dead. One Israeli died today from a rudimentary rocket fired from the Gaza, the supposed impetus for all this.

When the "operations" subside -- after how many days? -- what will have changed? More Palestinians will have died because Israeli "security" is sacrosanct in the current international system but Arab lives are not. But it goes beyond American-made bombs and jets and stonewalling in the Security Council. Blame falls also on the supportive Arab regimes in America's orbit -- perhaps Egypt most of all -- as Gaza is blockaded, bombed, blockaded, and bombed again, this time among the worst in its history.

Tzipi Lizni was just in Cairo, smiling with Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit after she told reporters "enough is enough." The meeting, at Egypt's invitation, was described by the BBC "as the first of several diplomatic steps Israel must take before launching military action." Apparently it was the only step, at least publicly.

Meanwhile, commentators and politicians will justify the killing in Gaza because Israel needs "moderates," legitimate negotiating partners, anyone but Hamas -- which will ignore, as always, how you manufacture opponents to your state.

To quote the Ma'an News Agency:

Twelve year old Ayaman is screaming at his father who tries to prevent him from seeing the bodies of his uncle and brother, torn to pieces under sheets. "I'm not afraid to see them," he screamed. In a rage as his father holds tight, Ayman catches the hand of a resistance fighter; "shell and kill them as they did to us," he says.
Israel's leader sit at a podium and say "We are not fighting against the people of Gaza" as they ready a probable ground invasion.

Reading some Mahmoud Darwish in between news reports only seems appropriate. He writes about air strikes at the outset of Memory for Forgetfulness: August, Beirut, 1982, his meditation on the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the destruction of Beirut.

"The hysteria of the jets is rising. The sky has gone crazy. Utterly wild. This dawn is a warning that today will be the last day of creation. Where are they going to strike next? Where are they not going to strike? Is the area around the airport big enough to absorb all these shells, capable of murdering the sea itself?"
thanks to Amitava for the link

I miss you and love you soo much...

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Rockefeller Center

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at a ball

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Green and Purples

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Henri Bendel

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black, white and red

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Bergdorg Goodman

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playing chess

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Jewellery on a staircase

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Paper Flowers

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Bird reading

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Birds nests on heads bergdorf goodman

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Middle School chronicles

Middle School is a dress rehersal for life