Monday, March 31, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
- Despite the title and the fact that they are frequently alluded to, the actual Midnight's Children (the 1001 magical children born at midnight on the same day India was granted independence) play a small role in the novel. They aren't even introduced until the end of Book One. Instead, the book is about one man, Saleem Sinai, and his very interesting life.
- Overall, Midnight's Children was sort of a history lesson for me. I've always thought that high school should offer one modern history class, starting with the present and moving in reverse. Every year, we were inundated with information about explorers, pilgrims, the Revolutionary War, the founding fathers, and whatnot, but never got around to covering major world events after World War I. The end result is that I am shocked when I learn facts like this one: The partition of India into India and Pakistan led to the largest migration in human history. More than 5 million Hindus and Sikhs moved from present-day Pakistan into present-day India, and more than 6 million Muslims moved in the other direction. A large number of people (more than a million by some estimates) died in the accompanying violence.
- Rushdie really is a brilliant writer. I liked how Padma served as both a character and an audience, and I also enjoyed how certain themes reappear frequently (mecurochrome, for example), sort of like an inside joke shared with the reader. One of my favorite sections of the book is when Saleem and his companions get lost in the jungle...the descriptions are breathtaking.
- Characters I liked: Saleem's mom and grandfather. Uncle Hanif and Aunt Pia. Picture Singh, snake charmer known as The Most Charming Man In The World
- Characters I disliked: Reverend Mother, Saleem's father.
- Most fascinating character: The Widow is often alluded to as a powerful villain, but readers don't learn of her identity until Book Three. She is Indira Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India. Intrigued, I looked her up and was surprised to see the white and the black parts of her hair, exactly as described by Rushdie. No relation to Mahatma, she was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister. A controversial figure, she served as Prime Minister of India from 1966 to 1977 and for a fourth term from 1980 until her she was shot to death by her own security guards in 1984. Rushdie obviously despises her, and part of the book occurs during the Emergency, a two year period in the mid 70s in which Indira Gandhi ruled by decree, suspending all elections and civil liberties. It was during this time period that, as a method of population control, forced sterilization was implemented in poor neighborhoods. I was curious about Indira Gandhi and asked and asked an Indian coworker about her. His response was something like this: "She was an amazing, amazing woman! I met her twice. So strong, so elegant, and the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Her family members are still major players in Indian politics. She was great. Oh, except when she sort of turned into a dictator, that was a terrible time of fear in India. And she was criticized for how she handled problems in Punjab- that is why she was assassinated."
- Phrase I hope to never read again: Nose goo. I was happy when Saleem finally had the sinus operation, because I was so sick of Rushdie mentioning snot and drippy noses on almost ever single page. Saleem's nose runs, we get it, OK!
- Oh, in addition to Indira, Rushdie also has no love for Pakistan. He makes the "Land of the Pure" seem like a land of idiots.
- One theme of the book that I didn't enjoy was Saleem's obsession with his sister. He is supposedly in love with her (well, since he was switched at birth, she isn't technically a blood relative), but that storyline rang false with me. It just seemed sort of hollow and I didn't really buy it, maybe in part because the transformation of the Brass Monkey into Jamila Singer also struck me as a little unbelievable.
- A nitpick: Supposedly, the Midnight's Children born closest to the stroke of midnight received the most powerful magical gifts. However, Saleem and his nemesis Shiva are the two born at the stroke of midnight and therefore the most powerful. But their gifts, a telepathic olfactory system and a set of impressive knees, struck me as far less significant than some of the others' powers, time travel, flight, invisibility, etc. ..
- I did enjoy the ending, especially how Saleem gets reunited with Mary Pereira, but I won't go into too much detail in case any of you are still reading.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Hello, naked Thundercats!
I disagree with their take on the Smurfs- the "GNAP" episode where they all turn dark purple and crazy was definitely way freakier than them singing some poor villain to death.
The two things that scared the crap out of me as a child didn't take place in cartoons. The first was the entire movie The Neverending Story. First, there was the slow and heartbreaking horse quicksand (mudsand?) death scene. But for me, an avid reader, the premise alone was enough to induce terror. Young boy starts reading a book...and gets sucked into it, with no obvious way to escape back to his normal life! I think I avoided books for a good six months after seeing this movie. Probably not the intended effect.
The second big fright? In the movie version of A Christmas Carol (based on the Charles Dickens novel....not to be confused with A Christmas Story), the Ghost Of Christmas Future appears as a shadowy figure in a black robe. After showing Ebenezer Scrooge his depressing future, the ghost leads him to a cemetery and points at a gravestone... and at that moment, in a scene of unparalleled horror, the ghost's skeleton arm pops out from underneath the robe . I don't know which version of the movie this was, but I remember watching the annual broadcast with my family, the whole time awaiting yet dreading the moment when the bone arm appears.
One member of my family did suffer from fear of cartoon drama...back in 1986, my mom took my sisters and me to see An American Tale, but we didn't last long at the theater. We left soon after the movie began because my sister Eri, who was six at the time, began sobbing inconsolably during the storm at sea scene when Fievel gets washed overboard during and separated from his family.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Monday, March 24, 2008
Friday, March 21, 2008
In other news, I am currently 16 for 16 in my NCAA bracket and in first place in all of my pools. I'm sure it won't last, so I need to enjoy it while I can.
In related news (because I watched basketball last night instead of reading), I still am about 50 pages away from the end of Midnight's Children, so if you're participating in book club, don't expect the big wrap-up post until Sunday.
Happy Friday, everyone! Oh, wait, it's Good Friday, which is one of the more somber Christian holidays. In that case, have a good Good Friday. Unfortunately, it is not a holiday celebrated by my pagan scientific overlords, so I'll be in the lab all day.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Where do I even begin? She's completely nuts. She wears multicolored pantsuits. She makes audacious demands. She represents herself in court. She poured a glass of water on the head of her ex-husband's lawyer. Everyone hates her. And she has a fake leg.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Gulabi means pink, and refers to the electric shade of the uniform worn by the 500-plus members, who hail from Banda's arid villages. The women have become folk heroes, winning public support for a series of Robin Hood-style operations. Their most daring exploit was to hijack trucks laden with food meant for the poor that was being taken to be sold for profit at the market by corrupt officials.
The targets of the Gulabi Gang's vigilantism are corrupt officials and violent husbands. The gang has stopped child marriages, forced police officers to register cases of domestic violence - by slapping them - and got roads built by dragging the official responsible from his desk on to the dust track in question.
Friday, March 14, 2008
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
1. Easy access to scientific items for Halloween costume purposes. Need a syringe? Lab coat? I'll hook you up.
2. Leftover food from seminars. Occasionally, meetings are held in which food is served. It's pretty much standard policy that any leftover food is immediately snagged by a grad student, tech, or post doc and then transported to the lunchroom for the enjoyment of many. When it comes to scavenging abilities, Scientists > Vultures.
3. If I am wearing nail polish and chip it, I don't need to worry about finding nail polish remover, because hello lab acetone!
4. You can wear the same jeans two days in a row and no one cares. Not that I do this.
5. The view is quite nice.
There's a notch in the roof of the building across the street, and I like how the Prudential and 111 Boylston line up inside it. For the past couple of weeks, a crane has been hanging out there as well. Speaking of the Pru, did anyone else notice that the top of it was lit up in blue last week? Does anyone know why? It's back to normal, this week, thank goodness. The blue reminded me too much of the State Street building, which I think looks evil, but not nearly as menacing as Chicago's Sears Tower.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Saturday, March 08, 2008
I somehow avoided the typing class that was offered during middle and high school and developed my own admittedly less efficient method of typing. The index fingers do most of the work, thumbs hit the space bar, and the middle fingers help out on occasion. As for the ring fingers and pinkies, they choose not to participate.
via Kristy, who types much faster than I.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
At first, my idea was to make post every week or so, and people could comment on the latest section of the book that we all read. Here are the posts from Week 1 and Week 2.
However, although I enjoy the book, it is far more challenging and a much slower read than I anticipated. I've been running behind schedule and haven't been posting much in fear of spoiling the plot for those who are even further behind.
So, here's the new goal: We have until Friday, March 21 (two weeks from today) to finish the entire novel, and then, I'll do some sort of wrap-up post and the diligent participants of DCoE book club can all jump in on the comments.
*Years ago, I was waitressing at a Ground Round in Framingham, and I watched as the bartender attempted to clear a virtually empty glass from the bar. The patron to whom the drink belonged grabbed the bartender's arm and said "Whoa, little buddy, it's wounded, but it ain't dead." He took the glass, downed the remaining few drops, and handed the now completely empty glass back to the bartender. It was spectacular.
Monday, March 03, 2008
Sunday, March 02, 2008
Saturday- Woke up feeling less than stellar, and then embarked on a wedding venue hunt with Eri, Ryan, my sister Kerry, and my dad. We piled into a minivan and drove through the suburbs, and despite the fact that we were running late, got lost, and more than half the members of the party were hungover, we managed to get through the day without too many unpleasant incidents. I somehow managed to eat ham at every meal of the day: a ham and cheese croissant for breakfast, a ham sandwich for lunch, and a ham dinner at my parents’ house. In FramingHAM.
Sunday- I caught the matinee showing of Be Kind, Rewind- a goofy movie starring Jack Black and Mos Def. The premise is both simple and fairly ridiculous- when the entire catalogue of VHS tapes at the video store where Mos Def works gets accidentally erased, he and Jack Black start filming their own versions to replace the inventory. Their remake of Ghostbusters becomes a neighborhood hit, and soon customers are lining up to request new editions of their favorite films. Although the movie has some very funny scenes, it's not a Nacho Libre type comedy. Be Kind, Rewind is the newest film from director Michel Gondry, who made Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but of all his movies, his documentary Dave Chapelle's Block Party bears the most similarity to his newest release. Despite the comedic antics of Jack Black and Mos Def, it's a movie about a community and the people who live in it. The only critique I have is that it paints an unrealistically rosy picture of an poor neighborhood, but that might be the point- Be Kind, Rewind isn't trying to be Boyz in the Hood, it's aiming to demonstrate how art (cinema, in particular) can touch lives and bring people together.