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To top of this day's posts Thursday, August 10, 2006

Dead Like Me, that is. Very cool feel-good black comedy. It's "black" only because it's about so called grim reapers, who quite literally live among us. They are the dead living, as opposed to the zombies that scare us as the living dead. They are dead, but retain most of their corporeal constraints � one happily missing constraint is hangovers after a night of heavy drinking — and their work is to "reap" the souls of the dead, though not for any apparent purpose.

So, they need money, food, a home, etc.; and they fall in love and are heartbroken when it's not reciprocated. They are, in other words, dead but not departed. They remain connected to the lives they left behind.

Not a bad thing to wake up to on your DVR, sipping your morning chai. I'd call it Existential Heaven.

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10:21:32 AM  To top of this post
To top of this day's posts Monday, February 13, 2006

Rather than quietly delete all the chain emails I get from some relatives, I occasionally read them, out of respect for the people who send them. They're windows into the world I fled from, but still carry in my heart.

This particular chain email told the story of a man going to the masjid (mosque) for the fajr namaaz (pre-dawn prayer). He leaves home after performing wudoo (ablution), and, on his way, trips in the dark and falls. His clothes get dirty, so he returns home to clean up and change. He performs the wudoo once again before heading for the masjid. On his way, he falls a second time, and repeats what he did the first time. On his third attempt he finds a man holding a lamp, who says that, after seeing the man fall twice, he wanted to help him get to the masjid safely. Upon reaching the masjid, the man with the lamp refuses to go in. When the man asks why not after helping him get there, the man with the lamp explains that he is Satan, and that he had been causing the man to fall, but the first time he fell and returned home to cleanse himself, and headed for the masjid again, God forgave all his sins, which is what Satan wanted to thwart. The second time God forgave all the sins of everyone in the man's household. If the man had fallen a third time, then Satan was afraid that God might forgive the sins of the entire village, so he decided to help him get to the masjid.

The moral, the email claimed, was that one must not let Satan succeed by putting off the good that one intends to achieve, in the face of hardship. Struggling through the hardship could lead one to a reward of value.

My reading is a little different. It's that one does not need to go to the masjid in order to defeat Satan. And, if one easily makes it to the masjid, then chances are that one has accepted help from Satan. We know that Satan is cunning and does not give up, so it's foolish to believe that Satan has been defeated simply because he's helping you get to the masjid. It's more likely that he has changed his tactic. In other words, reaching the masjid is neither necessary, nor sufficient, for defeating Satan. He can only be defeated by one's actions in the world.

Hmmm...sounds a lot like karma, as described in the following quote attributed to Sai Baba of Shirdi, who is said to have been born of Hindu parents, and adopted and raised by Muslim:

Any instant solution would go against the fundamental quality of nature itself as well as the Karmic law of cause and effect. Most people live in the material world of their desires and egos which is governed by the law. They reap the fruits of their actions. This brings about their evolution or devolution. If the Avatar intervenes to instantly solve their problems, it would stop all action, development, even evolution. This solution can be ruled out because it totally negates the natural laws.

If saying such stuff doesn't make me an "infidel," then I must rely on not believing in the literality of a singular, anthropomorphic God, whose sole messenger is Mohammed. However, I also have no reason to make it to the masjid, so have no need for Satan to help me get there. I do tend to leave my shoe laces untied, though, and often trip and fall, and get dirty. The primary ingredient of the soap I use to wash up is Islam. It's not a brand I consciously choose; I've never used anything else, and have never wanted to switch. I used to be allergic to it, but that has slowly subsided since I got out of the confines of the world of my birth.

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5:59:57 PM  To top of this post
To top of this day's posts Sunday, January 01, 2006

A lot happened this year, apparently, but I know that a lot didn't happen this year. I guess that's the case with every year. Well, it ain't this year anymore, it's already next year, and I have an apartment full of hot men, asleep, who seem less bothered about my mess than I. One of them just knocked on my door to see why I was still awake.

The evening began with a nice albariño, and moved on to mojitos and tsunami cocktails, riding a sumptuous feast of fish and chicken curries, and chhole, and sambhar, and baked duck, and pork with sauerkraut, fueled with basmati rice and Italian and French breads.

We watched the episodes of Boondocks that I had taped, and laughed. I declared that Mr. McGruder deserved a Presidential Medal of Honor.

Chocolates and cookies also graced our palates off and on, and some folks left to seek the comfort of their own beds, but only after being entertained by the humor that the libations released from the rigors of our intellects.

A digit changed, but life remains the same. What more could I ask for, while I try like hell to be more like myself?

6:02:16 AM  To top of this post
To top of this day's posts Tuesday, December 20, 2005

* TMAGC = The Movie About Gay Cowboys

Was I glad to have the good folks on TV tell me what I'd really be seeing before I went to see this movie! Without their investigative journalism, how would I know that its actual title was Brokeback Mountain, The Movie About Gay Cowboys? Calling it just Brokeback Mountain in the credits and the posters was of course a marketing ploy to draw in unsuspecting moviegoers wanting to see a sweeping, picturesque love story from the American West, where rugged sons of the frontier, like the Marlboro Man, once freely roamed. However, to be fair, even though they weren't regular cowboys, they smoked many a manly cigarette throughout the movie, so the advertising wasn't entirely false.

Come to think of it, the movie was a sweeping, picturesque love story from the American West. But, the cowboys weren't exactly roaming free. They worked for this guy, see, who put all sorts of rules on where they could go, and what they could do, and he decided whether and how much they'd get paid. As I said, they were not regular cowboys, no real sons of the frontier. So, anyways, well, there's now all this hype about this big Hollywood romantic epic. Not that I like these chick-flicks, but, if you gotta see one of those, there's no reason to pick one that's also tragic, now, is there?

You know what, though? I can't explain it, but the tragedy in this movie makes sense somehow. Maybe because it's not about regular cowboys. Hmmm...that Annie Proulx sure wrote a compelling story:

It is a story about two inarticulate, confused Wyoming ranch kids in 1963 who have left home and who find themselves in a personal sexual situation they did not expect, understand nor can manage. The only work they find is herding sheep for a summer ­ some cowboys! Yet both are beguiled by the cowboy myth, as are most people who live in the state, and Ennis tries to be one but never gets beyond ranch hand work; Jack settles on rodeo as an expression of the Western ideal. It more or less works for him until he becomes a tractor salesman. Their relationship endures for 20 years, never resolved, never faced up to, always haunted by fear and confusion.

I'll never think of cowboys in the same way again -- maybe I will, but that's beside the point. Ang Lee has indeed made "a great American love story" that deserves a place among the best Hollywood romances. You can take my word for it, because my senses had to labor to accomodate this movie, just like they usually do when in the midst of a Hollywood movie experience. It's duly impeccable and heartfelt, with superlative performances...speaking of which, it was Heath Ledger's excellent performance that sustained my senses through the two-plus hours of not-so-unearned emotion.

What can I say? This genre doesn't do much for me, but the movie stayed with me despite that. Honestly, I'm not sure if I wanted to run out of the theater because it was predictably depressing or depressingly predictable. So there you have it. This movie ain't bad, but I'm not sure I liked it.

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7:52:21 PM  To top of this post
To top of this day's posts Sunday, December 11, 2005

He awoke to a dream. The day stretched before him, pristine, and pregnant with unrealized potential. This alliterative prospect made him smile, as he gazed at the gap in the window blind, where a piece of a slat had broken off. Sunlight streaked through the gap, landing on the duvet enclosed down comforter, where it would have lit his penis if it weren't for the Winter lingering into early Spring.

The coffee machine clicked on, and soon he heard it percolate. He felt fortunate to be living in a time when gadgets could anticipate the needs they needed to fill. After stretching quietly under the comforter, arms and feet slowly creeping out, so as not to perturb the morning of possibility, he slipped out from under the comforter, expertly assumed a position orthogonal to his previous plane of being, at the same time deftly locating and slipping on yesterday's boxer briefs, which he had discarded in his sleep.

In the kitchen, the perfect cup of coffee was waiting for him in the domed coffee bay -- half full, precisely creamed and sugared, and at the temperature that would keep it in the tongue burning range that he liked for the duration of the sipping. The dome opened upon his approach. A tray emerged from a slot in the base, it presented a spoon. This was the latest interface innovation that finally seemed to be stemming the decline of the intangible quality (IQ) factor of the world's qualities of life, which he still liked to call by their old-fashioned name, "gadgets." He stirred the coffee with the spoon, and watched the cloud of cream rise up and dissolve into the black of the coffee, forming a steaming, rich, milky brown. Having stirred it himself, his coffee now had the human touch of imperfection, and this IQ was worth every pretty penny he paid for it.

He carried the coffee to the living room, where he had pulled up all the window blinds the previous night, in preparation for today. He wanted the light to come right in. Sitting down on the world's most comfortable couch, he activated his quality hub to connect to the world. A holographic portal appeared before him, as he took his first sip of the high IQ coffee, a fitting start for his first day of nurturing all that constituted his neglected promise. His eyes welled up as he peered into the portal. This was it. Everything everyone had put forth to make their mark in the world was within the reach of his senses.

Behind him, outside the windows, the sun moved and shone on him. He did not notice. Soon the coffee ran out, and more was made. He found himself bewildered in a world created by others. There were qualities of all stripes everywhere, with values leveraged by all kinds of stalwarts, in all manners of groundbreaking creativity. Eventually the sun gave up, and left. The replicated daylight that came on didn't single him out to shine on. Although weary, and dejected, from his first day of world skimming, he would not let himself avert his bleary senses from the portal.

The sun returned the next morning, but this time, when its light landed on the comforter, he wasn't under it. The coffee bay had learned not to offer the spoon, since he never used it after the first couple of times; he had ceased to discern the IQ factor. When the sun moved, it found him on the couch, exactly where it had left him the previous day. It shone on him again, in vain.

10:19:30 PM  To top of this post
To top of this day's posts Tuesday, December 06, 2005

His eyes lied. Their gaze from the rust-stained, cracked mirror cast a shadow on the face they inhabited. It was a face that had long lost its identity to an unkempt beard. His blank stare into the mirror was drawn into the flickering, but warm, glow emanating from those eyes. This is how it would always start. Mesmerized by that trembling glow, he'd allow his empty stare to get pulled in, and illuminated. Soon he'd be hooked on the glow, all his desperate defenses subverted by its warmth, which he'd end up sustaining with his being, or so he remembered. The memory bordered on the fantastic, and was fuzzy on how he ended up back on the outside, again staring at his eyes.

He wasn't going to fall for it again. This time his stare would not give in, he would not let it. He knew that the glow behind those eyes came not from a candle, but a chimera, for no lit candle could endure a lifetime. So, he locked his stare defiantly on the eyes, which looked back without resolve or suspicion. Fearing being tricked, he fortified his stare. His jaw clenched, as did his fists. Still, the eyes didn't alter their gaze, but he wasn't going to take any chances, he was going to stare those eyes down this time.

The next thing he knew, he was squeezing shaving cream on to his palm. His face was no longer in a shadow. He caught a glimpse of his eyes, as he spread the shaving cream over his beard. He saw in them his hands cradling a burning candle.

10:20:03 PM  To top of this post
To top of this day's posts Monday, December 05, 2005

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