Thursday, January 17, 2019

Raid — Sometimes the Hero is a Taxman

The taxman cometh. And he is a righteous man. Which we already knew because he's Ajay Devgn. Hide all your undeclared gold. Because his supreme honesty will not stop until he uncovers all the taxes due to Mother India.

An honest IRS officer and his team raid a powerful politician suspected of evading taxation on an epic scale. This gripping story is based on actual events during 1981.

It's hard to image a tax raid being riveting but this had plenty of tension and one mystery which had us wondering right up to the end. Devgn is intense yet charming as the tax inspector who has been transferred 49 times in his career because he won't bow down to pressure. I also really liked Saurabh Shukla playing the politician on the take. His charisma made him the villain you loved even while despising his actions.

One thing about this sort of movie is that, even if not strictly adhering to facts, it gives me insight into India's history and culture which I'd not normally have.

Only four songs and no dances. Hey, this is a serious and modern movie!

Mr. Lee Wing

Mr. Lee Wing, via Traces of Texas
This is via Traces of Texas which, as far as I am aware, is only on Facebook. For those not on Facebook, here's the story that goes with this wonderful photo.
Circa 1900, Mr. Lee Wing, owner of a Chinese laundry in El Paso. The story of the Chinese in El Paso is not generally known: I will relate it in further detail in a subsequent post. Suffice to say that quite a few Chinese laborers were brought in to build the railroads, particularly in south Texas. When the job was completed, many of them remained in El Paso which, to this day, has a vibrant Chinese community. In fact, if you go to the Concordia cemetery in El Paso, there is a large, walled off, separate section for folks of Chinese descent ----- the only such section that I am aware of in any cemetery in Texas.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Goat Versus Tree

Goat Versus Tree
I don't want to make it sound as if everything I do is influenced by Bollywood, but sometimes I just can't avoid the fact that it's intruding on my personal life more than you'd expect from a source of entertainment.

Watching Jagga Jasoos, our heroes went on an African road trip seeking clues to a missing person and wound up sitting under a tree full of goats. Which was crazy. Had to be wrong. Right?

Nope, there is such a thing as the tree goats of Morocco. They love the fruit of a certain tree and their dung is later harvested and processed to get out the tree's kernels after they've handily digested the outer covering. You can read more here.

People call me a feminist whenever ...

People call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or prostitute.
Rebecca West
We've all had this experience, right? It can be a chance to explain where you diverge from a handy label, especially if you are Catholic.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Racinet Polychromev

Via BiblyOdyssey
BibliOdyssey tells us:
"Adapted from historical items dating back to antiquity, such as jewelry, tiles, stained glass, illuminated manuscripts, textiles, and ceramics, these ornamental designs [from 'Racinet's 'L'Ornement Polychrome'] encompass a wide range of cultural aesthetics including classic Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Etruscan motifs, Asian and middle-Eastern patterns, as well as European designs from medieval times through the 19th century."
There are more of them at the link for you to enjoy.

Evangelization and Culture

From my quote journal.
You can't evangelize a culture you hate.
Cardinal George
Ain't that the truth? Bishop Robert Barron quoted this and we know that is also his philosophy, even moreso since Cardinal George was a big influence on putting Barron on the path that got him to where he is now.

Julie sees ghosts, Scott is saint for a day

Julie sees ghosts that constantly tell her where the bad books are. Scott was a saint, but only for most of the day last Thursday. Good Story 198: The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Our Bollywood Year by Tom Davis

Tom posted this on Facebook as a 2018 year-end summary of our unexpected interest in Bollywood  movies (and all other Indian movies). If you don't belong to Facebook (and there are people who don't) then you can't read it. As he was putting together the piece, we really enjoyed reminiscing about the path that got us to this point. So I'm sharing it here as part of our family chronicles for 2018.
We watch a lot of movies. I post each movie to Facebook after we watch. (That is pretty much all I post on Facebook) Some are old, some new, most at home and occasionally at the theater.

But this year took a strange turn. Of the 94 movies we watched in 2018, 43 were from India.

At the end of 2017 I was on a Skype call with a client (I will call him Srinath because that is his name) in India (Hyderabad) and while waiting for a third person to arrive we began talking about movies. Srinath asked if I had seen any Indian movies, I answered yes. Julie and I had seen Lagaan which is often recommended as a very accessible Indian movie.

Srinath was impressed and asked if I had seen Slumdog Millionaire. Of course, although I did not consider it Indian Cinema - being directed by Danny Boyle and having no song sequences. It was about India, but even then I knew what made a movie Indian. Srinath asked about a few similar movies - he finally said I needed to watch Baahubali. A two-part epic fantasy about a long ago kingdom and two princes vying to be king - one evil, one good. That was December 30, 2017. We loved it.

We did not watch any Indian movies until Sridevi’s untimely death was in the news in June. So we watched her comeback film English Vinglish. We loved it.

India produces almost 2,000 movies a year so it is difficult to choose one. Rose found a list of the Top 100 Bollywood films by Timeout London. (So their viewpoint included western sensibilities) She chose movies from after 2000 which gave us a long list of movies to watch.

So every week we were watching one or two Indian movies a week. We started learning who the big stars were and what directors to rely on. We learned what a masala movie is and began to expect at least 6 songs with dancing per movie and nothing shorter that 2 and half hours run time. (3 hours is typical)

A few months in I kept thinking I would “snap out of it”, but as we grew more comfortable these movies were getting better.

Most of the movies have been fairly light, but we have seen great action movies, intense dramas and even science fiction (of a sort). Some movies can have a lower production quality than we expect from Hollywood, but the stories and action usually compensate.

In November we went to see a first run movie in the theater - Thugs of Hindostan - which was released worldwide on the same day. We loved it. (Indians apparently did not love it.)

We also learned a lot about India. In order to understand context we had Wikipedia on the iPad ready to explain locations, situations and religions that are part of Indian culture. Just ask me about the war of Bangladesh independence - that was the movie Raazi.

Finally, we learned that Bollywood is just one part of the Indian movie industry - about 43% by box office. Bollywood is the Hindi language movie center. Tollywood is the Telugu language center (Hyderabad) and Kollywood is the Tamil language center (Chennai). These two represent 36% of the industry, and there are movie production centers all over India for other languages.

Whatever it is called it is now big part of our regular movie watching.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Bollywood: The Films! The Songs! The Stars!

Bollywood: The Films! The Songs! The Stars! 
A visual tour of the glamour and color of Indian cinema in the only comprehensive illustrated guide to the world of Bollywood movies.

Mumbai's charming movies, with glittering costumes and epic song-and-dance productions, have captured hearts all over the world since the early 1900s. Bollywood features film stills, plot timelines, star and producer profiles, plus historical insights, lesser-known facts, and behind-the-scenes gossip on such iconic movies as Mother India, Mughal-e-Azam, Sholay, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, and Bajirao Mastani.
Yes, we knew this would happen at some point, right? I found a book on Bollywood! The cover alone tells us that they understand a big part of the appeal — those colors are glittery, shiny, and sparkly. I don't know how I came across it but was thrilled to see the library had a copy, which I instantly ordered.

This is fun for dipping into, especially considering our family's current obsession with Indian films. It was a wonderful surprise to discover how many of the most recent "great movies" we'd seen and how many of the stars we knew. Rose has been pulling a lot of our viewing choices from a Time Out Best 100 Bollywood and Hindi Movies list, supplemented with top grossing, well reviewed films from after that list's date. She has done a great job, evidently.

We're enjoying all the background materials and finding new movies to put on our list from this book.  In fact, it has been in high demand, with one person putting it down only to have another snatch it up for their own reading. So, naturally, I bought one for our own home library! A necessary household resource, you know.

The Dark Meat of the Angel

Not that she is not enjoying the holiday [Spring Break] — as it is sometimes called. She really likes to see three helpings of mashed potato, thick slices of steak, and mountains of toasted angel cake with chocolate sauce systematically stoked into young furnaces. There was chocolate angel cake once: an innovation, a departure from tradition. Mrs. Appleyard had a read a rule in the paper. Even she is not proof against all human frailty.

It was Sally who summed it up politely.

"Thank you," she said. "I don't think I care for any more of the dark meat of the angel."
Louise Andrews Kent, Mrs. Appleyard's Year
This is such a charming and gently humorous book. I recently reread it as my pre-lights-out book. It was perfect for powering down before sleep.

Excellent Hunter

Excellent Hunter, Remo Savisaar

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. The Baptism of Christ. 1844-45
Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Baptism of Our Lord. This brings to an end the season of Christmas. The Church recalls Our Lord's second manifestation or epiphany which occurred on the occasion of His baptism in the Jordan. Jesus descended into the River to sanctify its waters and to give them the power to beget sons of God. The event takes on the importance of a second creation in which the entire Trinity intervenes.
Read more about this feast day at Catholic Culture.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Adoration of the Magi (Gentile da Fabriano)

Gentile da Fabriano, Adoration of the Magi, 1423 (Uffizi Gallery, Florence)
Click on the link to go to the original and then click again on the photo to enlarge it. You can see a fascinating amount of detail. And in this painting, detail matters!

I was just made aware of this magnificent piece by my friend Patsy. It is just the sort of thing I love, with tons of details and other small related paintings to enrich the story and our inspiration.

Flooded with details, the painting boasts of a rich narrative as well. Notice the attendants behind Mary as they curiously examine the first gift. Or in the right foreground, observe the royal dog that looks precariously up at the horse who is about to carelessly step onto him. Indeed intriguing are the gold anklet spurs of the third king being taken off by a squire as the Magus prepares to approach the Christ Child.
Be sure to go to the Aletia article for lots more good insight into this work.

I also found an article from Khan Academy looking at this work, and the many details, from a different angle. It too is well worth reading.

In the middle predella panel, the new family flees to Egypt against a landscape bathed in the blazing midday sun – a raised golden orb amid a blue sky showering the nearest hillsides in gold. ...

Gentile used real gold to achieve many of these subtle lighting effects, demonstrating his ability to combine intricate manipulation of precious materials with an interest in naturalism. Perfecting a technique that would be copied by many other artists, he layered gold leaf underneath layers of paint to lend brightly lit surfaces an added glow—an effect that would be more readily apparent in candlelight. This means precious metals are woven underneath the surface, on the surface, and protruding from the surface, like a tapestry made of paint and gold.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Listen Up — Daily Poem

The Daily Poem offers one essential poem each weekday morning. From Shakespeare and John Donne to Robert Frost and E..E Cummings, The Daily Poem curates a broad and generous audio anthology of the best poetry ever written, read aloud by David Kern. Some light commentary is included and the poems are read twice.
I really enjoy this podcast which says something since I often struggle with liking poetry. David Kern's commentary has gotten more in-depth as the show has gone on, but without making the episodes longer which I appreciate. Each episode is between 4 and 10 minutes.

Listen to episodes here or subscribe.

Return of the Holy Family from Egypt

Giovanni Baglione, Return of the Holy Family from Egypt

Christmas with Charles Dickens - again!

From my quote journal. What better way to end up our Christmas season than with a quote from Dickens?
I have always thought of Christmas time as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely.
Charles Dickens