188.8.131.52.17 (Mayan Long Count)
Another Gregorian calendar year is fading fast...it's almost time for the winter solstice. I haven't been doing much the past few weeks--mainly just digging through the Soulseek treasure trove and capturing the binary coded music onto shiny plastic & foil discs, while also reading The Dalkey Archive by Flann O'Brien. Oh yeah, we've also been heading into town and facing the throngs to do a bit of dreaded X-Mas shopping.
While in town last weekend, we caught a showing of the new Wes Anderson flick, The Darjeeling Limited. I suspect that mosbunall of the reviews have the tone of this one from MSNBC, though I haven't read any--not even The Oxford Times review. I also suspect the Anderson-haters have had their knives sharpened ever since The Life Aquatic was released a couple of years ago. I'll agree that Wes seems to have lost a bit of his magical charm that made Rushmore and Bottle Rocket such treats--but I'll take his weakest efforts over most of the Hollywood action/romance crap any day.
I dunno--I kinda liked it..and yeah, the cinematography does seem to out-shine the characters and plot--but it's nice to see Anderson and Jason Schwartzmann working together again. Owen Wilson does his usual schtick, which is O.K. by me. Adrien Brody appears as the odd one out, but he holds down his end alright. Angelica Huston, another Anderson regular, shows up and even Bill Murray has a bit part. The story concerns three brothers on a train journey across India. Wilson's character, who's recovering from a horrific motorcycle accident (which may have been planned), has invited his two brothers along on a 'spiritual journey'. They are all naturally suspicious of each other and haven't seen each other since their father's funeral the previous year. Each has his own obsession or character trait to wrangle with as well. They bicker endlessly and gulp down cheap Indian medication. Schwartzmann's character takes up with one of the waitresses on the train (Amara Karan)--on the rebound from his ex-girlfriend (played by Natalie Portman--"Part 1", a short film shown before the main feature, was about their awkward reunion in a Paris hotel). They visit temples and bazaars, but the spiritual journey isn't doing them much good.
The film suddenly pivots when the brothers attempt to rescue three Indian boys who get swept into a powerful river current. One of the boys is killed and the Americans accompany the surviving boys to their village and subsequently to the funeral, which brings up memories of the day of their father's ceremony. After that, Wilson's character reveals the true reason for summoning them to India--to reunite with their estranged mother (Huston) who's living in a Christian monestary near to the Himalayas. She reluctantly meets them, but instead of the family bonding that Wilson's character had expected--she flees from them in the night. They make their way back to the airport, changed by the experience. As they are about to board the plane--they run back to the train, dropping their custom matching luggage on the way (I know, a bit heavy-handed with the symbolism there). Anderson also chucks in his usual impeccable soundtrack, though I will admit to getting a bit tired of Peter Sarstedt's Where Do You Go, My Lovely?, the third time it appeared. The Satyajit Ray soundtrack music (possibly played by Ravi Shankar) was a brilliant choice and definitely lends some authenticity to the film. If you're convinced Anderson is far too precious and fey to waste your money on, you'll find evidence to support your argument in "The Darjeeling Limited"--but for anyone else--it's probably at least worth a rental.
It's been a banner couple of weeks for tolerance in the patriarchal religions. First, news broke in the UK that the Catholic League in the U.S. are protesting the release of Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass film, saying it "promotes atheism"--or rather, it's a 'stealth campaign' for Pullman's books, which they claim promote atheism. I could be wrong--but it occurs to me that the early X-tians led a 'stealth campaign' in Rome to promote their religion. I guess it's different when the Catholic Church is the big boy on the block. Not to mention that the C.L. seem to be targeting children's books and films now--it's not enough to make a scapegoat of Marilyn Manson or Monty Python or Martin Scorsese. Pullman has defended himself quite ably, calling the C.L.'s leaders 'nitwits' and saying that he was dismayed that they are 'loose in the world'. I hear you, Phil, but unfortunately, we're still on the Planet Of The Apes.
If that weren't enough evidence for you--a British teacher working in Sudan was ordered to serve 15 days in prison for naming a teddy bear 'Muhammed'. I understand that those calling for a punishment were possibly a minority of Sudan's Muslim community--but they seemed to be a very vocal minority to me. Eventually, she was pardoned by Sudan's president and was allowed to return to the UK. Still, it goes to show me that I'd rather be living in an X-tian democracy than in an Islamic theocracy. Gillian Gibbons has stated that she enjoyed working in Sudan and that mostly everyone she met was friendly and supportive..it's too bad that some religious fanatics have to overshadow that goodwill.
I finally succumbed and bought an iPod. Not one of the new slim-line jobs that cost £90-£100, mind. A bloke at work won a new Nano in a raffle. They way the results were posted, it appeared that he had won two--but it turned out that one of the "iPods" was an mp3-player, not the Apple brand. Before I knew that the second one wasn't an iPod, I had put in an offer to buy one of them, if he was going to sell it fairly cheap. He told me about the mix-up, but then offered to sell me his old Mini for £40. It sounded like a fair offer to me, so I handed over the cash. He threw in a brand new pair of headphones and a charger/USB cable as well. I've downloaded the iTunes link-up and I'm ready to rock--only I haven't actually loaded anything onto it yet. Pixie will have a "tunes-to-run-to" folder and an indie-rock one. I'll have a progressive folder (natch!) and a groovy psychedelic tunes folder. An ambient setlist for going to sleep by would be a good thing as well, as currently I've been using Pixie's portable disc player which makes quite a bit of noise in a silent room. I'm sure I'll think of more selections as I go along.
Ah well, off to figure that contraption out. I'll try and post at least once before the holly-days--possibly one of those 'year-end wrap-up' doodles. See you then.