Thursday, December 22, 2005

Who, me?

Real conversation on a busy road, after X has taken the jasmine string off her hair and flung it on the grass verge. X and Y are both waiting for a bus.

Y: Er, why did you fling your flowers on the grass like that?
X: What’s it to you? It’s only flowers.
Y: Yes. But if I know anything, it’s that you would have thrown garbage too, just like you threw the flowers.
X: So? How does it matter?
Y: Doesn’t filth bother you? Especially when you are the one creating it?
X: No.
Here, X spits theatrically. (Y wants to throttle her and do some other things to her, but alas, bound by the rules that will send her to prison if she does those things, refrains. She instead has to turn her attention to the approaching bus, which will make off without her if she doesn’t look sharp and board the thing, along with the 3,123 other prospective passengers.)
India Shining?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Crook's Tour

Anthony Bourdain can be spotted every Tueday from 8.30 to 10pm on the Travel and Living Channel on his two shows, A Cook's Tour and No Reservations.
The reason I've renamed one of the shows is simply because Bourdain is quite the picture of a crook. Most often he has a cigarette hanging from his lips while he roams the world in search of exotic foods and authentic recipes. Altogether, he seems to have fashioned himself as a sort of film-noir, super-urbanized uber-cool-dude (best characterized in his Paris espisode). He actually also comes across as a cynical wise-pants New Yorker, but redeems himself by his rather well-developed ability to laugh at himself.
So last night he was in Iceland. The show had several highlights, like our man being stuck in a blizzard, or his classic statement that should go down as one of the most withering instances of self-assessment ever: "I'm an American TV host, and I'm made of alcohol and cigarette smoke." This revelation came about whilst he was being thrashed at arm-wrestling by some hardy Icelandic types in an Icelandic gym, his reedy frame looking even reedier next to the sheer bulk and mass of his hosts. All in good humor, though.
Then he goes to an Icelandic party where he puts the following into his mouth: chunks of shark meat that have been allowed to rot underground for six months after having been marinated in lye. Then he says," the Worst Meal Ever." This from the man who will eat anything.The ookier, the better: sheep heads on a plate make him go mmmmm. So I can imagine what that shark tasted like.
What makes him watchable is this quintessential adventurer quality, his passion for food and of course, that New York cynicism.
Tony, if you're reading this, you agree, right? Now let's talk about that presenter position you have open for your new show...
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White Oleander

Just finished reading "White Oleander" by Janet Fitch. This book boasts some fabulous opening lines, and the writing just drew me in like magic. It's a story narrated by a young girl over a six-year period in her life, the crucial years between twelve and eighteen, which she spends in a series of foster homes. The story is woven around the relationship between Astrid and her mother Ingrid, a gifted but temperamental poet who is sent to prison.
While the writing is luminous and dreamy, what seems to be lacking is stronger characterization. What does Astrid feel toward the other kids in the foster homes? When does her relationship with her mother take on new hues? Astrid's life is almost reduced to a series of episodes in foster homes, each more heartbreaking than the last. Still, the book doesn't come off as depressing, but you end up not fully knowing any character.
Ingrid, though, is hauntingly etched. From her stauesque Nordic looks to her acid-dipped tongue, her natural inclination towards beauty and intellect, she remains just beyond the realm of your comprehension, but that is the way of this character. After all, you would remember someone who says things like, "love- that semantic rat's nest."
The book has some truly great lines. "...her aquamarine eyes pale behind her tanned face, like a crime in a lit room behind curtains." "I have been cut free, I move among centuries."
Sometimes, with writing like this, the story itself becomes less important than the way it is told, the words. "White Oleander" is a book I'm glad to own- there are many sections you can go back to and read over again.
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