November 30, 2007

"Love in the Time of Cholera" - An Entertainer, but one Lacking Heart.

Quite the disappointment for those who have read Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novel of the same name. However, the movie by itself was pretty entertaining though it did not fulfill screenwriter Newell's goal of 'adapting a beloved novel into a story that will work well on the big screen."

I went into the movie hall to experience the magical realism of a Marquez creation but alas what wrapped me instead was the languorous charm of a sensual tale of unrequited love. The picturesque 19th century Colombia becomes an ideal setting for the audience to lose focus and get involved with the array of characters, most of who are caricatures and did not need any deciphering. Once I had set aside my expectation of the film, I enjoyed it a lot more. Once in a while we do like to see sentimental love stories that tug at our heart strings. Here was one such movie that made me feel for both the lover who was a loser, as also for the husband who lacked the lure to be a lover. The femme fatal that aroused such longings, both lecherous and loving, is an implausible heroine whose actions defy causality, and thus it is no surprise that she considers it her prerogative to be fickle in matters of the heart. Given this delectable cast of actors and a master director at the helm I could not but enjoy the 12o+ minutes of sheer sentimentality and sexuality without cause.

Mr. Marquez's novel told a story of an obsessive and heartbreaking love that defied the finiteness of life. It magically suspended the readers disbelief so that he willingly and empathetically joined the protagonist in sitting out his entire life waiting for his love to return to him. Newell's adaptation, though entertaining and visually captivating did not carry its audience the way the novel did; it was a far cry from Marquez's heartrending masterpiece.

November 12, 2007

The Pain Behind a Grain

A cut, an abrasion,
a wound, an infection;
sure sources of pain, but
a hurt that goes away-
mere temporal discomforts.

Alas, they're not all the same
The pain behind the grain
appears like it's here to stay.

Can it go away?
Not if public apathy stays.
Those pangs of hunger,
bleeding ulcers create.
Those horrifying statistics
do humanity decimate.

Click the link to clear your conscience.
Perhaps word power may make the difference.

November 08, 2007

"Genghis Khan and the Makings of the Modern World" by Jack Weatherford

Jack Weatherford's Gengis Khan and the Making of the Modern World changed my perspective on Gengis Khan, a historical figure I had thus far recognized only as a barbarian, a plunderer, and a rapist.

Weatherford's novel belongs in the genre of revisionist history, a genre I'm not widely read in, yet one that I've always been wary of. Revisionists often look at events in a modern day perspective, in the light of which historical events get misrepresented and take on meanings that might never have been! However, that is ammunition for another post. Weatherford's book was first published in 2004, and though it piqued my curiosity, I put off reading it primarily because it was revisionist in nature. Nevertheless, I followed the media reports on it which were very complimentary and stated that Weatherford's research in and about Mongolia prior to writing this book, had been very comprehensive despite the challenging conditions under which it was done. The novel reflects that undeterred effort of the author in unravelling and tracing the history of an unusual leader coming out of Asia, and who until recently had been relegated to the back benches of world history. Genghis Khan was a leader no less than an Alexander, yet historians of the time never admitted to that. Weatherford's book challenges that stand; Gengis Khan, through this book gets his due as a remarkably modern leader, a visionary who paved the way for globalization by intoducing "paper money, primacy of the state over the church, freedom of religion, diplomatic immunity, and international law", all of which was done by a man who lead his people on horseback and at a time when the rest of world was in a state of political infancy.

The book presents an engaging almost alluring picture of the Khan who "did not feel that he had been as successful in peace as he had been in war". He thrived on war and mastered the art of statesmanship; yet, he failed as a father since he "had not built a working relationship among his own sons nor trained them to replace him." However, Weatherford's revisionism may have been at the cost of historical accuracy at some points in the book. For instance, the use of gunpowder for the invasion of Baghdad is a fact that could be challenged in that there is no proof to document that. Weatherford, set out to research Mongolia, and perhaps the charisma of Genghis Khan mesmerized him to such an extent that he couldn't but help romanticize the icon that was Chinggis Khan. Needless to say, the readers will thank Weatherford for that since it makes for a riveting read. Even Jawaharlal Nehru, one of the greatest statesman the world has produced, was 'fascinated' by Genghis Khan who was "without doubt, the greatest military genius and leader in History" and "Alexander and Ceasar seem petty before him".

I was drawn to this book because growing up I had read stories about Genghis Khan, outside of my history book, most of which made me hate him. That lead me to wonder what would lure a reader to this book; especially someone who had had limited or no exposure to the exploits of Genghis Khan? Well, the book seems to have done remarkably well, and I would attribute that to the story like quality of this book. It is history spun as a yarn, and it's told in a way that has the reader wanting to turn that next page to find out what happened to Gengis's wife who was kidnapped, or then to his son of doubtful lineage who decided to speak up against him in the 'Khuriltai'. Weatherford has masterfully colored the history of a voiceless people, the Mongolians, who despite their rough terrains and simple lifestyles, have inherited a rich heritage, which not having proved gainful for them, has certainly put the rest of the world on a fast track toward globalization.

November 01, 2007

The Latino Lure

I wrote this poem a couple of years ago, but this time it is posted as a tribute to a people that I have come to respect and love:

Perhaps El Salvadorean...
Honduran, Cuban, maybe Dominican?
A striker, a pitcher, a mid fielder, a goalie
Those are my goals ever so truly.
Ronaldo and Sosa are my heroes eternal.
Baseball and soccer, none other that's certain.
Bachata, Merengue, Salsa, and Punta
Anything 'll do as long as its fiesta.
Mira! Snazzy wheels blaring Spanish tunes!
Pronto, those lovely Latinas do croon.
Seldom we shop at a Stop & Shop,
Bodegas are the more likely stops.
Enrolled in college, one course at a time;
graduating in
four years; now that'd be a crime.
Skimpy tank tops on hour glass figures
Low slung jeans that couldn't possibly go lower.
Streaked and dyed; a brunnette turns blonde.
Blue grey or green, colored lenses as add ons.
A teeny meeny stiletto with pretty white toes
Catches attention, as clip-clop it goes.
Oscar De La Renta or Dolce Gabbana
Fragrance that'd carry from here to Havana.
Bodies so lithe with a grace so natural
Easy on the eye could do damage collateral.
Charmingly laid back, yet with an air to please
Fashionably dressed, carry their crease with ease.
The ever so endearing kiss on the cheek;
if you had it your way, their lips you'd seek.
Latino hearts in NJ are the warmest I'm told
If ever you find one, there's your pot of gold!