Thursday, January 27, 2005

Battle Royale of Literary Excellence

Well, if this is not the most exciting thing to happen in the book world for a long time, then i don't know what is. The Morning News, that literati inflected e-publication that is "black and white and read all over", has announced a Tournament of Books. This is not just another literary prize or Survivor style last book standing kind of thing (see Canada Reads). No, this harnesses the latent sports fan in all of us - it is an "NCAA-style Battle Royale of literary excellence". They have set up pairs of books in an all out, no holds barred competition against each other. They even give you a handy link to down load the sports tree, or whatever you call it, the chart like thing that plots competitors against one another.

And may i suggest we make things a little bit more interesting, perhaps with a book pool a la football pool fame. If you are interested let me know. I am willing to throw $10 into the competition. The first throw down is Feb 7, so let me know before then who your picks are.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Google Sva-ha

Just when you thought it couldn't get any better than Google Scholar, it does with Google Sanskrit. Creatively translating internet as antarajalam, Google Sanskrit is cute, but is it useful? I guess that remains to be seen, but if it eliminates some of the transliteration confusion when looking up Indic material, then i am all for it.

Via Ryan I came across Sauvage Noble's very cool Google linguistic face lifts.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

So the worm turns....

Today i finally went and got my worm composter thanks to the inspiration of the Hippy Chick and Mary Quite Contrary. This is something that all apartment dwellers should have. It is like a composter only takes up much less room and uses worms to eat your garbage. Using one could reduce your waste by 30%!!I got mine through Vancouver's city farmer on Maple st. For just $25 you get $100 worth of stuff, including Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof, the Wormwoman herself, a bunch of red wiggler worms, bedding and the worm condo. But if you are not in Vancouver, i know alot of other municipalities offer the same sort of deal. It's your tax dollars at work, so take advantage! Or if you want to build one yourself, go here.

Right now my worm bin is set up in the kitchen due to the unseasonably cold weather in Vancouver right now. But most years you can leave your worm bin outside all year long in Vancouver. I am very excited about it and excited for the nice fertile soil i should have by April!!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Books on line

*snaps* to once again to Amardeep for this great find!! For some reason University of California Press has put 400 books on line for free. A quick perusal of the list reveal that i already own an awful lot of University of California Press books, and some of my favorites are now available for anyone and everyone to read.

First and most importantly, a book that probably changed the course of my life (drum roll please!) The Life of A Text: Performing the Ramacaritmanas of Tulsidas by Philip Lutgendorf. I read this book as an undergrad and it was made me decide to go to grad school, and study Ramlila for my PhD. Not only is it a brilliant book, Lutgendorf is a wonderful writer. In this book, he truly captures the importance of the Manas as an oral entity, not as a text per se. In order to understand me, what i do or why i do it, this is the book you have to read.

Another book that i came across a little later in my academic career, let's say around 1998, is Joseph Alter's The Wrestler's Body. If i had been a man and actually allowed into the many wrestling akharas of Banaras, i would have incorporated them into my research, maybe looking at the ritual use of Hanuman in akharas or something. But as a woman... Like Lutgendorf's book, The Wrestler's Body is extremely readable. It tells a good story, and for that reason i have modeled parts of my diss on it.

Other good reads include Friends, Brothers, Informants: fieldwork Memoirs of Banaras by Nita Kumar. Thank god i read this book before embarking on my own fieldwork in Banaras. It was extremely comforting to know that a person born and raised in India found Banaras as foreign as i did. It gives a great introduction to the city and to doing field work in India in general.

The Kite Runner

Whew, The Kite Runner is quite the novel. Stunningly beautiful and deeply disturbing. It is difficult to say whether or not i would recommend it to people. I know i would recommend it to some, but not everyone. It is a very heavy story, set in Kabul, about friendship and betrayal and the life long consequences of that betrayal.

At about page 113, as i was sobbing, i seriously considered whether or not i could go on reading the story unless i knew there was going to be some sort of redemption in the end. But i kept reading and i am glad i did. Khaled Housenni has draw such wonderful characters that when they fall, you fall as well. There is some triumph in the end, but given the situation of Afghanistan and what the people there have lived through in the past few decades, it is difficult to see this triumph as enough. So you leave the novel both a little heart warmed and troubled. And maybe that is a good thing. There are no quick fixes in life and to end the novel any other way would be to give it a Hollywood ending. Which makes me a little worried since IMDb indicates that the Kite Runner will be made into a movie. Made well the movie could be breath taking. But it must be made well.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Fair is foul...

Macbeth seems to be a popular movie theme of late. Not that i am complaining, it is one of those universally intriguing stories. Recently,Macbeth became the first sami (nordic language) language feature length film. And it sounds amazing. Filmed entirely at the Icehotel in northern Sweden, this version of Macbeth promises to be visually stunning. Though i guess since i am reliant on english subtitles, the fact that it was filmed in sami instead of some other language, like Swedish, will be lost on me.

And in the same vein, Bollywood produced its own Macbeth, um er, I mean Maqbool. Though i have not yet seen it, it is on my list of Bollywood must sees. It is set in the bombay underworld and since my current love affair with Bombay is still going strong, maybe i will venture up to the Punjabi market this weekend to see if i can get it...

Monday, January 10, 2005

IndiBlog Awards

That's Indi as in Indian, not Indie. And that's Indian as in from India not First Nations, aboriginal etc....

So it's true, some of my favorite blogs have been nominated for IndiBloggies, the subcontenental version of the Bloggies, the cyber version of the Grammies ....

Amardeep, hands down my favorite blogger, has been nominated in a number of categories. And Sepia Mutiny definately deserves a nod for their group blog. So go ahead and check them out. And then vote for them.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

De-lovely

I finally saw the movie De-lovely, about Cole Prter's life. I really enjoyed it, though is seems that in general it recieved very mixed reviews by the crtitics. The story itself was framed in an interesting manner - a theatre production in which the director was the arch angel Gabriel, leading Cole through his life. A bit like the ghost of Christmas past, but i liked it. Particulrly comments like you can't begin or end a musical with a ballad. And the music, well i am a fan of both musicals n=in gneral and Cole Porter in particular, so of course you are going to get two thumbs up from me. There were something like 30 songs. Many of these were sung by modern day pop sensations like Robbie Williams, Elvis Costello and two home grown favs - Alanis Morrisette and Diana Krall. From what i understand this did not always go down well with audiences: the younger generation wanted to hear their idols the way they are used to hearing them and purists didn't like some of the new arrangements. I admit that i didn't like all the arrangements, but often they were arranged in such a way as to fit with the mood of a scene, and to this end they were rather successful.

On the down side, i found the movie to be about 15 minutes too long,l but i find that about most movies. Oh yeah, and before i forget, the acting was wonderful, especially by Kevin Klein and Ashley Judd.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Dumbing it down for America?

Over at Sepia Mutiny Manish has noted the disparity between the international film trailer for Bride and Prejudice and the American one. As a videsi with a bit of subcontental mania, i prefer the international trailer, though i have to agree that the American poster is more appealing. To read what Manish has to say, go here.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Chaos reigns in Raincity

One of the things i love about Vancouver is that it very rarely gets cold enough to snow here. Today it snowed. One day of snow every once in a while isn't so bad, but most Vancouverites loose their heads in snow. All driving skills seem to fly out the window and even public transportation seems to run at almost a standstill. All for a mere 5 cm of snow which fell over the course of about 7 hours. Any other city in Canada could have handled this without blinking, but not us. i actually had to consult the internet to see if the university would be open. It was.

The unfortunate thing is, i have become a Vancouverite myself. I can barely function with this much snow, not to mention the just below zero temperatures. I have some photocopying to do, but i can't help but think that it could wait until later in the week when the snow has melted. Would hate to get lost in a minor snow flurry between here and the photocopy shop three blocks away.

And i have lost my ability to walk in ice and snow. Today i was commenting on all the fashionistas slipping and sliding around in their pointy toed, high heeled boots, explaining to my friend from Ed that people like us, from snowy areas, know enough about winter to wear practical footwear, like hiking boots, in the snow, when i slipped and fell. Eight years ago when i was fresh off the plane from Toronto that never would have happened.

On the plus side, however, i was glad to hear that some local high school students were handing out blankets and coats to homeless people in Vancouver. As Canadians we have given so much to Tsunami victims that sometimes i worry that the homeless and hungry in our backyards were going to suffer. So now that you have made your (sizable) donation to the Red Cross or oxfam, give the change in your pocket to the guy you see near your bus stop every morning.

The Gods Must Be Crazy

What is this world coming to? A mistake has clearly been made. i have been put on the roster for the Intramural Hockey All Stars game. This is clearly related to fact that i am theRock Dogs' top scorer - also a horrific mistake! I barely even ever touch the puck, let alone score a goal. But i guess i may as well bask in the glory while i can...

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

murmurings under ground

Attention Vancouverites, Torontonians and Montrealers - there is a new way for you to experience your city's local history. Murmurs is a way for you to connect with the oral history of regular people in your city via a cell phone. At various locations in your city a green ear on a telephone pole will provide you with a phone number to call that will provide you with the history of that location. But the really special part about this is that it gives the history of the experiences of regular people, like you and me, not the big wigs who think they are the ones making history all of the time. A truly democratizing process. Of course, this democratization of history is curtailed a little bit by the fact that you need a phone....

At the moment this pilot project is limited in scope. In Montreal the recordings are in French and located mostly along Boulevard Saint Laurent. In Vancouver the focus in on Chinatown, who's history i have always found fascinating. And in Toronto, where the project originated, there are a number of sites both in the Annex, along Bloor st and in the Kensington Market area. I am counting on the Ant and Scarbie to tell me about this project in Toronto. And I can't wait to borrow someone phone and check it out in Vancouver.

On small acts of kindness

About 12 years ago, on a train from Delhi to Calcutta, a young Indian man cared for a sick Canadian traveler. He didn't have to, he may not of wanted to, but knew that it was the right thing to do. Upon arriving in Calcutta the young man loaded the sick tourist into a taxi and gave him his contact information in case the illness persisted. The traveler recovered and the two became friends. All because of one small act of kindness.

Twelve years later the Indian man, now a married father, immigrates to Canada. He knows no one except for the sick Canadian traveler with whom he has kept in touch. Though the Canadian traveler lives in a small, remote town, he has called some of his friends in the city. They rent a moving van, collect old furniture, pots and pans, bedding and help the Indian family set up their new apartment in a foreign land. With tears in his eyes the Indian man hugs these strangers, his new friends. All because of one small act of kindness 12 years earlier on a train heading eastwards.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Claire's Head

Well, the new year has come and gone and that means it is time for my vacation to end. That's right, any day now i am going to get back to work on the dreaded diss. But before i could reasonably move on the these bigger and better things, i had to finish up some Christmas reading. Just moments ago i put down CanLit chick Catherine Bush's latest novel, Claire's Head. Like her previous novel, THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, Claire's Head also delves into the psychological. Set largely in Toronto and New York, but taking us to a number of other interesting locales, Clair's Head chronicles the journey (both inner and outer) of Claire, a migraine sufferer, as she searches for her missing sister Rachel, also a migraine sufferer. It is hardly surprising then that pain is a central theme of the novel, though it is not only about the pain brought on by a migraine. The novel also looks at the struggle to try to live a normal life in the shadow of ever looming pain. I found the novel quite captivating; there is enough journeying to move the story forward instead of getting bogged down. It is also fascinating to get a brief look at all sorts of different kinds of alternative therapies for chronic pain. Bush also skillfully works in a complex relationship between Claire and her two very different sisters. It all works together quite seamlessly.