Wednesday, November 30, 2011

is this working?

I find I am frustrated with this blog.  Since it is not anonymous, the amount of self-censorship I feel I need to do is enormous.  Even the story I recently told about my dad trying to shut my uncle out of the luncheon with the cousins seemed a little dicey.  There's some huge stuff going on involving my family that I can't get into at all.  Although it's extremely unlikely that my husband would ever read this blog (he doesn't really like to read, and most of his online activity involves music), I don't feel I can talk about my marriage.  Can't talk about sex.  Can't really talk much about work; I don't have anything bad to say about this job, but there are some annoying people here and there.  Can't get too specific about money.  I can only write a fraction of what I (still) have to say about V.  And on and on.

Before this, I had a blog on Xanga which was 100% anonymous -- in fact, I think it was closed except to other Xanga members -- and I was able to fly with anything that was on my mind, although I did change the names.  I had a small but devoted readership and they left a lot of comments.  But I couldn't share it with anyone who knew me.

I don't know what kind of in-between there might be.  I do subscribe to the wisdom that you shouldn't post anything that you wouldn't want even one person to read, but maybe I'm being overly careful.  I don't believe my entire name appears anywhere in here, but there's enough personal information that at least one person was able to identify me (though to be fair, she did have an inside track: she used to be married to my husband).  I don't worry that much about being read and identified by my actual family members, co-workers/bosses, or friends/ex-friends, but I am concerned that people who know them will read something and mention it.  I even had this problem to some extent with the anonymous blog, concerning V. -- many actual details about him would have made him immediately recognizable to anyone who knew him or even knew of him, and as I recall, I put him in a different line of work.

I feel less engaged with this blog, maybe because it seems somewhat superficial compared to the old one.  It seems to me that my entries are either too dull or too light.  Does anyone really want to read about my welfare benefits or my peculiar MST3K and Bollywood obsessions?  I hope the various YouTube clips are at least enjoyable.

The best solution I can think of would be a second, anonymous blog, although the idea of writing two blogs seems like a lot to take on.  I did email Xanga to retrieve my username and password, since it's been a very long time since I've been there.  I'd at least like to reread some of the old blog, and maybe start writing there again (in addition to here), or possibly start a new second blog.  I think it would make me feel a little more comfortable with keeping this one focused on entertainment and media.  Even though I realize I'm a little embarrassed to be so focused on movies and TV and music, the truth is that I'm a big consumer of those things, and I actually know a pretty fair amount about them.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Back to Bollywood-business-as-usual.

Almost everyone to whom I mention my recent interest in Indian movies has made a comment of some sort characterizing them as charming/entertaining-but-lightweight.  Fun and silly.  These must be people who have only seen a film or two, or only a few clips, or maybe nothing at all.  And maybe Bollywood is best-known for its light entertainments, the brightly colored costumes and the singing and dancing.

But as a whole, is Indian cinema any sillier than American cinema?  Think about all of the silly and downright stupid American movies: the unbearable romantic comedies, the cheesy horror movies, the smutty, the obvious, the violent.  TV movies, disease-of-the-week movies, everything that goes straight to video, the endless dreadful sequels.  America makes a lot of movies that are not only silly, they're awful.

Most Indian movies, of course, have many faces.  A three-hour movie will have drama, romance, crime, singing, beautiful scenery...they don't call them "masala" (spice mix) for nothing.  Maybe people consider the singing silly; there are certainly American musical movies, but they generally provide some "excuse" for the singing: the characters are musicians, the characters go into a nightclub, etc.  It's not like, let's say, the first musical number in Bbuddah Hoga Tera Baap, where the old gangster shows the young gangsters that he's a cool guy and an "original" by singing and dancing.

Now, I haven't yet seen a ton of Indian movies, but I know I've seen some serious ones, some without singing, and some "masala" films dealing with serious themes.  One of the latter is Veer-Zaara, a romance between a Pakistani Muslim woman and an Indian Sikh man. 

By far the best non-singing movie I've seen is Sarkar, which is a "tribute" to The Godfather.  (Some Indian filmmakers actually remake movies, and others bill their movies as tributes to a movie from which they lift heavily.)  I thought this movie was astonishing.  There was plenty borrowed from The Godfather, altered to be a little simpler and more Indian, but what was truly astonishing was the look of the film.  Everything was framed and lit very particularly and carefully, and there was something in the photography (probably some mix of film stock and exposure -- I'm not too knowledgeable about those things) that was very crisp and contrast-y.  It wasn't an American look, and it didn't look remotely like anything else I'd seen in Indian film.  I'm hoping to see more Indian films with that kind of originality.

In the meantime, I'd love to see some American eyes open a bit more.

And to utterly change the mood, here's a very silly picture:

Monday, November 28, 2011

much too much

I managed to overload myself on all things Bollywood by around Saturday afternoon.  Didn't touch any of it since then, although the songs are repeating in my head, which is OK.  I'm such an obsessive type, and even if the obsession isn't a harmful one, it's still an obsession.

I felt sick on Saturday night and all day yesterday: queasy, as if there were a rock right under my diaphragm.  And I was cranky as hell this morning -- mainly at Barry, who although he is doing the lion's share of the housework, doesn't seem to be looking for a job very hard, and has not taken care of some of the household projects he promised -- ranging from putting in a new towel rack to going through old clothes in the bedroom to prying a cap off a perfume bottle for me.  I suspect he is napping a lot.  In the meantime, I get up and go to work every day, just so we can more or less break even.  I'm starting to think I need a way to calm myself down more:  meditation, yoga, exercise.

Thanksgiving was mostly not too bad, although my father pulled a few weird tricks out of his hat.  For instance, my dad gave Barry and me each an envelope for our birthdays.  Each had a $20 Metrocard, plus $1.10 to make up the last fare (if you buy a $20 card, you get a $1.40 "bonus" which is less than a full fare).  This is what Barry got from my dad for his 60th birthday.  My folks are in no way poor people -- they are about to go on a Caribbean cruise for ten days.  They are just wildly cheap when it comes to their kids.

Then Dad did another weird thing, usually reserved for my brother and me.  He has always excluded us from anything like vacations, any contact with their friends, or family get-togethers and weddings of our Florida relatives.  They never told us about any of these things until the very last minute; Dad actually told some of the Florida relatives not to invite us to weddings (his justification was that we couldn't afford to go, and might feel obligated to send a wedding gift we could not afford).  My feeling was always that he was afraid we would ask to be included at his expense -- although this doesn't explain keeping us from their friends.  When Barry and I offered to invite some of his friends to our wedding, he turned us down, and he wasn't even paying!

Anyway, he did something similar to his brother, my uncle Howard.  Dad and Howard have a mess of first cousins, mostly in Florida, and they haven't all gotten together since a "cousins' cruise" 25 years ago.  So when Dad announced that they were leaving for a cruise for Florida next weekend, he also said that they were leaving a day early to have a luncheon with all of the cousins in Florida.  This was the first my uncle heard about it -- and he has plenty of money to pay his way.  He started trying to figure out how to get there, since he was leaving for Mexico the next day.  He said he had plenty of airline points to fly down there, and then could either get a flight back to Jersey that night, or fly directly to Mexico and meet Tina there.  Dad said, "Oh no, what if you miss your flight?"  It became really clear that Dad had purposely excluded Howard from this get-together, and was discouraging him from going once he had found out about it.  This one I can't figure out at all, since there's absolutely no bad blood there and no chance that Howard would ask Dad for a dime.

My brother was not there, as he is not on good terms with either Dad or Howard, but I had to tell him about this.  It was a real head-scratcher for both of us.  I felt terrible for my uncle.  I'm almost used to this shit by now, but I'm not sure Howard's ever come up against it.

I mostly refrain from going on about family stuff here, bu my family can be very weird.

And P.S. -- Howard gave Barry and me each $150 for our birthdays, which he does every year.  At our wedding, someone said to me -- it was either V. or his wife -- that my dad should have been my uncle, and my uncle should have been my dad.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Jeffrey Eugenides, of late.  I read his latest, The Marriage Plot, and liked it so much that I went right into Middlesex (almost finished with that one).  I read The Virgin Suicides some time back, which I liked, but these last two were really impressive.  On deck are the new Stephen King book and the Steve Jobs bio, although there's always a chance that something else will jump the line.  Love my Kindle.

pag ghungroo bandh Meera naachi thi

Which means, more or less, "Meera danced all night with her anklets tinkling."  This seems to be something of a traditional song, which got a peppy arrangement (not to mention being sung by the great Kishore Kumar) for the 1982 Amitabh Bachchan vehicle, Namak Halaal

I've watched the beginning of this movie.  AB is something of a country bumpkin whose grandfather sends him to the city to get a job, meet a nice girl, etc.  A cousin, or friend of a friend or such, takes him under his wing, and one night, brings him to a nightclub.  Bumpkin AB is oohing and aahing over the place, but looks like something of a joke:  he's wearing his country Sunday best, which is a traditional outfit topped with a pink turban.  Most of the city guys are wearing Western suits.  The nightclub singer is too drunk to sing, so AB steps up.

This song was performed on Indian Idol (yes, really), by a front-runner named Swaroop.  Although Swaroop wore a turban on the several segments I watched, this pink one is most likely a tribute to AB in the film.  He has a lovely voice and did quite well:

But where I first noticed this song was in a greatest-hits medley in the most recent AB film, Bbuddah Hoga Tera Baap.  The title translates somewhere along the lines of "Your Father's an Old Man!". in the sense that the speaker has been called an old man and feels he is too young to be called that.  Which is a running joke in the movie:  various people in the movie call Vijuu "Bhuddah" (kind of equal to "old-timer"), which always pisses him off.

Vijuu is a retired hit man, living in Paris, who is called back to India to do one last job.  About 20 minutes into the movie, he goes into his old bar and takes a seat.  The current crop of gangsters takes exception to this, and Vijuu explains, rather poetically (the Hindi seems to rhyme), that he and Mumbai grew up together, they laughed, they sang, and now all of the youngsters are trying to copy his style."  He asks the gangsters, "Wanna see?" and they say, yes.  Vijuu whistles for the beautiful girls to be sent in, and launches into a dance and medley of AB's greatest hits -- this time, sung by AB and JrB (Abishek, who does the rap parts).  "Pag ghungroo" is one of them.

I had to do a little digging here, since I was aware that these were some of AB's old songs; I had to figure out/look up the song names first, and then try to find the earlier versions.  The ones I like best are "Pag Ghungroo" and "Kaike Paan Banaraswala."  The latter is from the 1978 version of Don (which was remade in 2004, I think, with Shah Rukh Khan in the lead role.)  As far as I can make out/remember (I saw the newer version of Don maybe a year ago, and am waiting for a subtitled copy of the original), AB plays two role:  Don, the gangster, and yet another bumpkin who is an exact double for Don.  As best I can figure it, the bumpkin gets drunk, someone offers him some betel leaf, the betel leaf peps him right up, and he sings a song about it:

So here's the medley from Bbuddah Hoga Tera Baap.  This movie opened this past July, so AB was maybe 68 when he filmed it, and you can see he doesn't have quite what he had five years earlier as far as dancing.  The clothing is awful, of course, and he looks a little heavier around the middle.  But the medley is really fabulous, and he's doing his own singing.  "Kaike Paan Banaraswala" is the first song, and "Pag Ghungroo" is maybe halfway through.

I guess I have learned quite a bit about Indian film in these past 3-4 weeks.  Of course, I started with Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, and then branched out with the actors from that film (mostly AB and Shah Rukh Khan).  I've also become familiar with some of the women stars:  Preity Zinta, Rani Mukarjee, Kareena Kapoor, and Kajol.  I love watching Kajol dance because she has a lovely smile and is the best I've seen so far when it comes to the traditional hand/neck/shoulder moves.  I've also been impressed by a couple of the other popular male stars, like Salman Khan (no relation) and Sonu Sood.  I watch a lot of clips on YouTube, although many of them, unfortunately, don't have English subtitles.  I've been searching out Indian movies with English subtitles, which is a little harder with the older movies.  Had to order the old Don and Yaarana from eBay. 

Netflix has Yaarana, and I started watching it, but the subtitles were about three lines after the line they translated, which made it fairly confusing and impossible.  Which really bothered me, since it was clear that the plot was crazily convoluted and that AB actually plays a guy who becomes a popular singer, so there's lots of singing and dancing.  The movie's from 1981, so it's young handsome AB rather than old handsome AB.  Handsome forever, that guy.

I did finally figure out where that photo came from, the one of older AB dressed like Carlos Santana, with long hair and a hat and all kinds of southwestern (US) jewelry.  It's a special appearance he did as a singer and dancer under the opening titles of Abishek's film Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, which doesn't seem to have done well and I can't say I love the song.  But here it is:

I realize I've already posted the "Go Meera Go" remix from Bhudda Hoga Tera Baap, but it's worth rewatching, especially after seeing some of the source material.  AB still does throw off some sparks.

Friday, November 18, 2011

birthday season

Welcome to birthday season.  There have always been a lot of people in my life with November and near-November birthdays, and of course I'm one.  Robin is one too, and so is my uncle Howard.  And my aunt Marion.  There are other people who have been in and out of my life who also have those birthdays, which is why the borders of the season are a little wavy.  There are some former boyfriends, an old girlfriend I'm not in close touch with, and, actually, V. as well.  V. was always fun to birthday shop for.  He wasn't that into birthdays but he loved presents.

But this was a big year for Barry:  he turned 60.  The big surprise that I was too paranoid to post about here was that I arranged a surprise jam session.  He plays drums, if I haven't mentioned that lately -- he was in two bands when I met him.  Now he doesn't play in a band but has started to go to a couple of blues jam sessions.  It took me about a year to go to one with him.  He was meeting a lot of people I knew from my blues days some years back, and I got to see them, and I got to meet some people he had met.  I've written about this.  I got a fifteen minute crush on a guy at one of those jams -- I'm sure I mentioned it.

Anyway -- I had an idea this summer to rent a few hours of studio space and get a bunch of his musician friends to come and then have him go there and be surprised.  I floated the idea past a couple of his friends during the summer and they loved it.  Then I had to investigate the whole business of renting a studio and what it cost and how big and what comes with the rental (amps? keyboards?).  And I touched base with more guys, and more or less decided on the date, and so on.  I realized that I would have to tell him to bring drumsticks, so it wouldn't be a surprise that he'd be playing, and he knows the block where a bunch of studios are (30th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenue), but he wouldn't know who would be there. 

Some people couldn't make it, but he ended up with exactly enough:  Felix Cabrera (vocals and harp), Evan Wagner (bass), Chuck Hancock (tenor sax and vocals), and Arthur Neilson (guitar).  Felix is Barry's bestie; Barry used to play with Evan in a couple of Brooklyn bands; and Chuck is one of my old pals who Barry also met at the jams.  These are all people who have some other income source.  Arthur is kind of a notch up; he's the guitar player for Shemekia Copeland, who's pretty much the top female contemporary blues artist at this moment.  He's also in the house band for the Monday night jam.  I'm personally in touch with some of these people through Facebook, but Arthur isn't on and he and I have only met once.  I had to have Felix ask him for me, and was absolutely stunned that he said yes.  Barry was also somewhat stunned that Arthur came, because they don't know each other very well.  The deal with Arthur is that he's one of the nicest guys ever, and we got lucky that he wasn't gigging or on tour.  It was a very big deal.

All of these guys are first-rate, make no mistake; there are a lot of amazing musicians out there who have day jobs.  Felix is woefully underemployed.  Chuck works, and has toured internationally, but I'm not certain if he works regularly with any one band.  Evan has a day job and is still young enough to have the energy to play with a band.  (When I met Barry, he played with two bands and had a day job.)

Barry, when he played with two bands.  This was taken at one of his gigs in late 1997, very soon after we started seeing each other.  Were we not adorable?

Anyway, the surprise jam was a rousing success.  They had the studio for three hours, then Evan took Barry out for a bite to eat.

Friday night, which was Barry's actual birthday, I couldn't get off early to do anything about cooking (had to take minutes at a Board meeting until 4:00).  So we ordered in, although I did buy a dozen tiny, two-bite cupcakes from a placed called Baked by Melissa.  They were a big hit.  Saturday was the jam, and Sunday evening Elise (and her sibs Evette and Marty) took us out for dinner.  Marty's wife Laurie was also there, Evette's husband Freddie was not, niece Lindsey was nephew Ross and girlfriend Margaret were not.  The Taub/Singer/Levy clan is pretty hard to get together.  We went to a nice dairy (kosher) place (I had a salad nicoise with fresh grilled tuna, a big fave of mine).

The only thing bad all weekend was at the very end:  we came home after dinner, and most of our neighbors were in the first floor hallway.  No one had seen our front-apartment neighbor Johnny for a couple of days, and he wasn't answering his phone or door.  He had some health problems and seemed a little more wobbly of late, and as we feared it turned out he was dead in his apartment.  Johnny was kind of the mayor of our building, which is a big deal in a six-apartment building.  He helped the landlord (let Con Ed into the basement, washed the hallways, kept an eye on the trash & recycling), and all of us (took packages for people, distributed the overflow from the landlord's backyard garden).  He was just a nice, kind, sweet guy, and we were all really broken up.

I am extra broken-up that his funeral is tomorrow afternoon...the same tomorrow afternoon when my (Providence, RI-dwelling) brother and sister-in-law and nephew will be in New York and available.  I haven't seen them in two years.  We have all been too poor to travel back and forth, and my brother is pretty much not speaking to my dad, so he doesn't come for it's been two years.  I feel terrible that I can't go to John's memorial, but anyone who knows me -- and now you all know too -- knows that I love my brother to pieces.  We have at times been almost smotheringly close.  There was a time when we both worked at NYU Law, across the street from each other, and averaged one lunch and two two-hour phonecalls a week, just crazy.  We've had friction here and there.  Part of it may be that for a really major seven-year chunk of our young lives, it was just the two of us and our mother living together, and she's gone.  He's just one click closer than anyone else I'm related to.

So, I'm stupidly excited about seeing my brother -- and this is even without taking into account my eight-year-old nephew Walter, who is kind of a junior Danny.  Very smart and very friendly and very adorable.  (Pictured: tiny baby Walter, and 2010 Walter.)  (Note my 2002 slobby dressing and grooming.  Oddly enough, I am just now wearing the exact same tee shirt.  But I'm knocking around the house, not out in public.) (This is also one of my favorite pictures of Barry.  He looks very handsome and very sweet.)

I also love my sister-in-law Jane, who is a very good mother and as smart and funny as most of our family seems to be.  Is.  Jane is also the one who was brave enough to take the last name Zogott, which made me feel a little better about kicking it to the curb two years later, when I married Barry.  There are actually only six or seven Zogotts at present in the US, all related to me; Howard's first wife, Tina, uses "Zogott-Onsted", so she's the #7.  I use it as my middle name, so people can find me who knew me as Zogott, but for all intents and purposes, I'm a Levy.

And by the way, this is my birthday weekend -- in fact, today is my birthday.  I got a lot of cards and a lot of Facebook messages and flowers and a potted orchid and a fancy lunch out and a fun dinner in.  Barry gave me a much-needed and much-wanted gift:  a new everyday watch.  The last one he gave me pretty much gave out recently, after 13 years.  That's a pretty good run for an everyday watch.  And he really nailed the style:  dial, numerals, about the size of a nickel, black leather band...and Indiglo!  I like a very simple, neutral, classic, hard-working, old-school watch, and I got me a new Timex.  (Indiglo, BTW, is when you press the stem and the face lights up with an excellent blue light.  I know other watches light up but Timex Indiglo rules it.)  I LOVE my watch. 

I do indeed have other watches.  One I would call "dressier," but it's vintage and tends to need pricey repairs once a year, so it hasn't been in rotation for a while.  The others I have are on the silly side, and some need batteries and one needs a strap.  Some of those are promotional, linked to movies, gifted to me by John Jorge when he worked at MCI/Universal.  One is Badz-Maru.  (You can Google that one yourself, if you're not a Sanrio maven.)

I've found myself a few Bollywood co-fans.  Marty Taub is one.  And also a recent Facebook friend, someone I was involved with many years ago when it was wildly age-inappropriate.  (Can't really talk about all that, but he's still very funny and a smart smart guy.)  And not only that, I have a new Facebook friend who is a Bollywood fan -- and he lives in Mumbai!  He must have seen me on an Amitabh Bachchan fan page, and sent a friend request.  So it's really my first interaction with a Bollywood film fan who not only lives in India, he lives in Mumbai, which is...well, Bollywood. 

(For those of you who don't have the Bollywood religion, the Indian film industry is centered in Mumbai, which used to be called Bombay -- which is how the Indian film industry came to be called "Bollywood."  See?)    I'm really a beginner with Indian film, very enthusiastic, but still inexperienced.  I'm somewhat limited by not knowing Hindi, along with often finding that my ill*gally d*wnloaded movies don't have subtitles.  I may actually have to break down and buy some DVDs (used on eBay). 

I did finally nail a copy of Bbhuddah...Hoga Terra Baap (I think I spelled that right) with subtitles; I believe it's Amitabh's most recent film, certainly his most recent starring role, from this past summer.  I've watched some, but I have to admit I've had trouble getting past the first big song/dance scene, which I've probably watched six times already.  It's a pisser.  Oh, wait a minute...

Not exactly up to what he did in Kabhi Alveda Naa Kehna in 2006, but the music is great and he is way cool.  Though I've noticed that in everything I've seen him in, with the exception of Kabhi Alveda Naa Kehna, he is dressed horrendously.  Be it the 70s or the 00's, he is wearing absolutely godawful crap. 

Anyway, he's the coolest, we all know that.  And his newest grandchild was born two days ago (here's another November birthday).  He has two from his not-acting not-famous daughter, but the new granddaughter is from famous-actor-son Abishek and his famous-actress-and-world-famous-beauty daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, so the media there is insane over it, and this baby girl will most likely be blindingly attractive, whether or not she chooses to be an actress (it tends to be a family business over there). (You can look up pictures of them too, I've done enough tonight.)

I'm not writing as often as I should, because I don't have the time, or am not making it.  I don't have nearly enough personal time during the workweek -- or, like money, not enough so that I can be careless with it.  If I decide to spend two hours watching Bollywood videos on YouTube, that's two hours that I'm not writing.  AB blogs every day, bless his heart, and tweets as well, but I'm no good at brevity.  I need some wide-open time and space to write. 

And since I can't keep anything in order at all at this point, I did also have a birthday-eve dinner with Robin yesterday.  We ate Indian food (and -- new tradition -- Starbucks after).  She gave me three of what I like to call "hair toys":  two velvet headbands and a French hairclip.  There used to be a store in Soho that sold French goods, and over the years, she gave me four hairclips from there.  They're pretty much my favorites.  Then the store closed.  But unknown to me, she found another store in the city that carries the same make of hairclips, and so I now have five of the amazing hairclips!

Since I wore short hair for the majority of my life (see above photo), hair toys are still a pretty big deal for me.  (Please ignore the horrible scrunchy in the other above photo.)  Well, I find that in general I'm a bit of an accessory slut since I started actually dressing myself decently.  I think I somehow crossed over at some point from not wanting to be seen or noticed to wanting to be seen and noticed, connected to a whole change of  dress and hair and wearing makeup.  Not to be too jargony, I think I started to own who I am and what I look like, and I turned out to be more attractive than I thought.  Yay for me!  But I can't quite figure how or why it happened.  Life: mysterious.

Monday, November 7, 2011

earworm and bookworm

I have certainly chammak challo'ed by way to an earworm.  Mostly I'm not that interested in listening to "filmi" music without the movie; it's usually the combination that grabs me.  (Oddly enough, it's the absolute opposite of the way I feel about American music -- I rarely watch music videos.)  But Chammak Challo stands on its own wonderfully, although the video is fantastic.

Someone on YouTube informed me that George Baker's "Little Green Bag" is a bag of marijuana.  Duh on me.

My "Amazon Associates" widget is now not working at all, here or home.  (I suppose I need to uninstall or reinstall it, but I have a lot of trouble doing anything with Blogger except writing.)  But I wanted to mention a truly amazing book Ive been reading:  Secret Historian: The life and times of Samuel Steward, professor, tattoo artist, and sexual renegade by Justin Spring.  I was initially intrigued by the title, since I'd never heard of Samuel Steward.  But it wasn't that I was somehow out of the loop -- Steward is something of a forgotten character, painstakingly researched and brought to life by the author.  He was a fascinating personality:  a closeted gay man who taught English literature and wrote poetry and scholarly books, met and became friendly with some of the great literary personalities of the 30s and 40s, kept meticulous records of his sexual contacts (many of which ended up in the Kinsey archives), and had quite a talent for drawing and painting.  After age 40, he took an abrupt turn, became a tattoo artist (this grew out of his taste for rough trade, particularly sailors), and eventually gave up university teaching to tattoo full-time.  He became the house tattoo artist for the Hell's Angels in the late 60s and early 70s.  After 15 years, he gave up tattooing, and became one of the early writers of openly published gay porn.  I've almost finished the book, and it's absolutely fascinating.  The author's quite a hero for discovering and putting together this amazing story.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

next earworm, I predict

This song and video come from a brand-new Bollywood movie called Ra.One, which opened at something like $34 million world-wide on October 26.  As well it should:  it's about videogames and has a lot of special effects and action sequences, flying the star around on a, the star is Shah Rukh Khan.  Bingo.  I thought the movie was a little stupid, and the blue contact lenses on SRK absolutely criminal, but this song is totally awesome:

"Chammak challo" translates into something in the neighborhood of "sexy babe," as far as I can tell.

Today's lesson in Bollywood films:  Bollywood actors rarely do their own singing.  This is not a secret in any way.  The actual singers, called "playback singers," get prominent billing in the film, and are stars in their own right.  Needless to say, most playback singers are Indian.  But I'm proud to say that "Chammak Challo" is sung by an American:

I have a feeling that Akon's had this song out for a while, but I only first heard it in the movie.  Mad respect for Akon.  He's great on this.

Needless to say, I seem to be getting more and more hooked on Indian films, and I am particularly fascinated by Amitabh Bachchan.  I found out a few days ago that he writes a really amazing blog.  And I believe I can finally pronounce his name properly, after a week or so of feeling like an ugly Westerner:  it's Ah-MEE-tahb Ba-SHAN.  But most Indians just refer to him as Amitabh, or Amitji, and call it a day.

I rewatched Slumdog Millionaire tonight.  I'd seen it a couple of days ago, but hadn't remembered until a friend reminded me yesterday that Amitabh had been the movie star whose autograph Jamal sought as a small boy. 

Don't you just love YouTube?  I just went there, right in the middle of writing this, and found a trailer that had the entire Amitabh scene.   

Life imitates film:  recently, on KBC (the actual Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?), a guy who earns around $120 a month won the top prize of 5 crore ("crore" is ten million rupees, if I've got that right, and I suppose 5 crore is somewhere around a million dollars).  And the current host of KBC is -- you guessed it, Amitji.  So I hunted it down on YouTube.  Call me crazy, but I watched the whole thing, almost 15 minutes (this was the time of the last question), which was about 85% in Hindi (or do we say Punjab?), and was riveted.  You can basically follow what's going on.  And if you're with me on this, Amitji's charisma just pops off the screen, as does a really warm personality.  I have no doubt that he really is that nice.  If you wanna be a hardcore Amitabh Bachchan fan, here's that clip:

I took a peek at my blog traffic before, and apparently one person from India came to visit.  Hi!

Doubt I'll ever actually learn the language, but I'm starting to learn some things about the culture and the history of India.  Watching Slumdog Millionaire again, I picked up on some things that I hadn't noticed before I started watching Indian films; for instance, I was very much aware of which characters were Hindi, which were Muslim, and noticed some Sikhs on a train.  Another thing about Bollywood films:  there are a lot of trains in them.  A lot of train station scenes.  Even in Kabhi Alveda Naa Kehna, which is set in New York, there are no subways or busses, but plenty of railroad scenes.  (They kind of vaguely indicate that the characters work or spend time in Manhattan, but live in Connecticut, so folks keep turning up in Grand Central Station.)  And I like it -- there's something romantic about trains.

I'm going to pretend I'm going to sleep now, but I may actually watch a couple more videos.