Tuesday, July 31, 2007

for ingmar

MrBaliHai beat me to the punch: I immediately thought of the 1968 Bergman parody De Düve: The Dove when I heard of Bergman’s passing away yesterday. I googled around and looked on YouTube, but obviously didn't try hard enough. Others have unearthed the movie for me. Special bonus material includes SCTV’s Whispers of the Wolf (varry scary, kids).


Sunday, July 29, 2007

movie musings

More movie musings thanks to Professor Corey’s Honor Society (Part 2).

  1. Monica Bellucci or Maria Grazia Cucinotta?

    Maria Grazia Cucinotta, but just for her small part in The Sopranos as the foreign nursing student.

  2. What movie can take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?

    I just saw one: The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1966). Today was pretty nothing, and this movie raised my spirits. It was shot in Mendocino just north, and Bodega Bay just west, of where I grew up. The Russian sailors simply speak Russian without subtitles. Alan Arkin is great. It also has Eva Sarie Saint, Brian Keith, Carl Reiner, and Jonathon Winters.

  3. Conversely, what movie can destroy a day’s worth of good humor just by catching a glimpse of it while channel surfing?

    In short Stop! Or My Mother Will Shoot (1992). I saw this because I had to; I reviewed it. I still remember another TV critic laughing out loud at it in a theatre full of film critics. I still feel the bile rising just thinking about it. It also had some scenes shot in Sonoma County.

  4. Favorite John Boorman movie.

    Zardoz (1974). It doesn't matter that it’s flawed. It has Sean Connery in a red dhoti and Charlotte Rampling in little. The special effects are cheesy, the story forced, but, yet, it has something that many films today lack: it holds your attention.

  5. Warren Oates or Bruce Dern?

    Bruce Dern, but just because of the strangeness of Castle Keep (1969), Silent Running (1972), and for his daughter Laura Dern (1967).

  6. Your favorite aspect ratio.

    The right one for the picture. But, seriously, I’ve always had a soft spot for TechnoScope.

  7. Before he died in 1984, Francois Truffaut once said: The film of tomorrow will resemble the person who made it. Is there any evidence that Truffaut was right? Is it Truffaut’s tomorrow yet?

    But, only for fifteen minutes.

  8. Favorite Werner Herzog movie.

    Aguirre der Zorn Gottes (1972). Still my favorite after all these years. Kinski and the jungle. But, Auch Zwerge haben klein angefangen (1970) comes a close second.

  9. Favorite movie featuring a rampaging, oversized or otherwise mutated beast, or beasts.

    20 Million Miles to Earth (1957): Ray Harryhausen and William Hopper.

  10. Sandra Bernhard or Sarah Silverman?

    Sandra Bernhard. No doubt about it. Nope. Sarah doesn’t even come close, yet?

  11. Your favorite, or most despised, movie cliché.

    The red LED time display on any bomb in any action movie.

  12. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom—yes or no?

    No, no, no. This may very well be the worst bit of stink that Spielberg has foisting on his adoring public. Just rancid and wretched. And, they loved it.



I was given a bloggers reflections award (a blog-tagging meme making the rounds) by Rethabile Masilo, my good blogging buddy over at Poéfrika. While I appreciate the kind words he had to say about this blog and its blogger, I don’t want to tag anybody else. (The chain stops here.) But, I’d also like to share with my readers five blogs from my blogroll which have caused me to stop, ponder, and mull.

  • Filmbrain.

    I like film, both theory and praxis. Filmbrain writes about film in an informative, witty, and intelligent way. He runs a weekly quiz with snapshots from DVDs where his readership is invited to identify the movie.

  • Languagehat.

    Steve’s blog was one of the first ones I found in the blogosphere. He writes about all aspects of language and literature. He studied historical linguistics, but works as an editor. Some day I hope he will publish his ruminations in the dead-tree format of a book.

  • Language Log.

    This is a collective blog started by Mark Liberman and contributed to by a plethora of linguists. Whether it’s snowclones, eggcorns, or mondegreens, you’re bound to find it here first. The posts of Professor Pullum, as he battles the angry grammar mavens of the world, are priceless.

  • Ron Silliman.

    Ron is a working poet, who has studied poetry academically and in the trenches. His entries are long and exquisite. Read them.

  • wood s lot.

    This blog is one of the best of the literary and artistic news clipping services available. Worth ten thousand badly written articles in some newspaper’s arts section or sound bites on some dreary radio or television station.

What these blogs all have in common is a passionate well-written-ness that refutes what various media pundits have to say about the blogosphere.

litterae catenatae

You know, I am of two minds about this whole blog-meme-tagging thing. On the one hand, I like to be constrained in my writing, but, on the other, it seems a bit like unsolicited email or faxes.So, I’ve been toying with using these memes, whether tagged (as in this) or not (as in this or that), and then not playing by their rules of further tagging somebody else.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

right ahead

I have been enjoying The Comics Curmudgeon and what he has to say about our daily dose of the world’s unfunniest comic strips, especially Gil Thorp. During my all-too-short, though year-long, stint as a film critic on a local college radio station, I learned that the easiest reviews to write were for the best and the worst movies. Unfortunately, the bulging bell curve contains mostly mediocre ones, and those are near impossible to write about. So, I appreciate that the Comics Curmudgeon has Pluggers, Family Circle, and Archie and Jughead to write about. I was not really familiar with Coach Gil and his boys, but a quick Wikipedia session took care of that. The biggest bit of factoid which I gleaned from the article was that Jerry Jenkins, co-author of the infamous Left Behind series of books, had written the strip, sometimes with his son, Chad, from 1996 (when Jack Berrill, the original author died) to 2004.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

gravity begins at the end of a rainbow

I have been devouring Dennis Cozzalio’s film blog, Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule since discovering it a few days back. He has a three-part questionnaire that other film bloggers were asked to fill out, and I stopped reading it soon after starting, because I wanted to take part in Professor Corey’s Honor Society (Part 1), too.

  1. What movie did you have to see multiple times before deciding whether you liked or disliked it?


  2. Inaugural entry into the Academy of the Overrated?

    Quentin Tarrantino and his whole œuvre. I think that what’s good about some of his earlier films is due to the collaboration between him and Roger Avary. That or what he borrowed from other filmmakers.

  3. Favorite sly or not-so-sly reference to another film or bit of pop culture within another film.

    Homer as Leland from Citizen Kane (1941) fanning his shredded program from Salammbô in A Streetcar Named Marge (1992, episode 8F18).

  4. Favorite Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger movie.

    I’ve always enjoyed The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943).

  5. Your favorite Oscar moment.

    Sacheen Littlefeather declining Marlon Brando’s oscar for The Godfather on 27 March 1973. I later found out I had seen her a while before on Bob Wilkins’ Creature Features on KTVU channel 2 in the San Francisco Bay Area. She wasn’t playing a Native American activist that night, but a Vampyra clone.

  6. Hugo Weaving or Guy Pearce?

    Tough call. They’re were both great in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert (1994). One might as well ask Memento (2000) or The Matrix (1999)? Elrond or Ed Exley? Let’s call it a tie.

  7. Movie that you feel gave you the greatest insight into a world/culture/person/place/event that you had no understanding of before seeing it.

    Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964). Up until seeing this last Xmas, I thought that Martians were grumpy and pushy.

  8. Favorite Samuel Fuller movie.

    Of the few I’ve seen, I liked The Big Red One (1980) best. Der Krieg ist Vorbei. I was disappointed with Shock Corridor (1963).


Thursday, July 26, 2007

black and white and blue all over

All the following words ultimately go back to PIE *bhel- ‘bright, shine, gleam, glitter; white’ English black, blank (French blanc ‘white’), blanch, blanket, bleach, blue (> *bhlē-wo-), flame, and flagrant; Old English blǣco ‘paleness, leprosy’, Latin flāvus ‘yellow, yellow-red, blond, red, golden’ (> *bhl̥ə-wo-). See IEW bhel- 118ff., bheleg- ‘shining’ 124, & bhleu-k- ‘burning’ 159. That’s quite a semantic spread there.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

time and being and nothingness

I just ran across Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule’s film quiz (aka Mr. Shoop’s Surfin’ Summer School Midterm) via an entry (no longer there sic gloria Interretis transit) over on Bad for the Glass.

  1. Favorite quote from a filmmaker.

    To be or not to be. That’s not really a question. Jean-Luc Godard.

  2. A good movie from a bad director.

    A Star Is Burns (1995) by Señor Spielbergo. Although his non-union Mexican counterpart is actually not as bad as Mr Spielberg or his movies. (And, yes, I know that Señor Spielbergo is a fictional character in an animated sitcom.)

  3. Favorite Laurence Olivier performance.

    Dr Christian Szell in The Marathon Man (1976). He was also good in Last Action Hero as Hamlet.

  4. Describe a famous location from a movie that you have visited. (Bodega Bay, California, where the action in The Birds took place, for example.) Was it anything like the way it was in the film? Why or why not?

    I spent a pleasant afternoon under a bridge in the Los Angeles River culvert discussing Repo Man (1984) with Dean Lent. We also dropped by the Bradbury Building from Blade Runner (1982), but it was closed. Both of these locations were a lot like they were in their respective movies.

  5. Carlo Ponti or Dino De Laurentiis (Producer)?

    Ponti. If only because he produced Le Mépris, and Godard is said to have punched him in the face over the dubbing.

  6. Best movie about baseball.

    That’s a tough one, because I don’t much care for baseball. I’d have to say Damn Yankees (1958). Those outfielders sure could dance.

  7. Favorite Barbara Stanwyck performance.

    Sugarpuss O’Shea in Ball of Fire (1941).

  8. Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Dazed and Confused?

    Dazed and Confused (1993). It seemed closer to my experience in high school in the ’70s.

  9. What was the last movie you saw, and why? (We’ve used this one before, but your answer is presumably always going to be different, so ...)

    Diva (1981). Because it appeared in the mail; I got the DVD from Netflix. It was nice to see it again in widescreen and transfered from a decent print.

  10. Whether or not you have actually procreated or not, is there a movie you can think of that seriously affected the way you think about having kids of your own?

    Lumière’s L’Arroseur arrosé (1895) or Vigo’s Zéro de conduite: jeunes diables au collège (1933). I was going to say Man Getting Hit By Football (1995) by Hans Moleman or its subsequent remake with George C. Scott in the titular rôle, but I decided one pretend movie per film quiz.

  11. Favorite Katharine Hepburn performance.

    Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter (1968).

  12. A bad movie from a good director.

    Star 80 (1983) from Bob Fosse.

  13. Salò: The 120 Days of Sodom—yes or no?

    Yes. What is there not to like? Pasolini (his last film) and de Sade (wrote it while in the Bastille) together at last.

  14. Ben Hecht or Billy Wilder (Screenwriter)?

    Wilder, if only just slightly because he was also a director.

  15. Name the film festival you’d most want to attend, or your favorite festival that you actually have attended.

    I’d like to attend La Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica di Venezia.

  16. Head or 200 Motels?

    The Blackadder episode Head. No, but seriously. The Monkees or Frank Zappa. I’ve seen both and liked them both.

  17. Favorite cameo appearance. (This question was inspired by Daniel Johnson at Film Babble.)

    Jean Eustache as a kind man with a bandage in a Parisian bar in Der Amerikanische Freund. Runners-up in the same film, Nick Ray (as a dead painter making a living) and Sam Fuller (as a mafia porn producer).

  18. Favorite Rosalind Russell performance.

    As Mame in Auntie Mame (1958).

  19. What movie, either currently available on DVD or not, has never received the splashy collector’s edition treatment you think it deserves? What would such an edition include?

    The Great Gabbo (1929, with screenplay by Ben Hecht, (can I change my answer above?). There is a DVD out there, but the famous multicolor sequences are in balck and white. It would have to include commentary by Stroheim and Hecht being channeled from beyond the grave. Also, a making of featurette would be nice. Anybody but Spielberg could direct it. If all that is not possible, the Simpsons episode Krusty Gets Kancelled could be bundled with it.

  20. Name a performance that everyone needs to be reminded of, for whatever reason.

    George Hamilton or Sophia Coppola in The Godfather, Part III (1990). Take your pick.

  21. Louis B. Mayer or Harry Cohn (Studio Head)?

    Barney Balaban at Paramount. For what he did to Max Flesicher. And for being Bob’s uncle.

  22. Favorite John Wayne performance.

    The Centurion at the foot of the cross (or Longinus) in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965).

  23. Naked Lunch or Barton Fink?

    Is this the Head or 200 Motels question with different movies? Both are flawed great movies. I’d suggest two substitutions: have John Mahoney play Bill Lee and Ian Holm play Mayhew.

  24. Your Ray Harryhausen movie of choice.

    Valley of Gwangi (1969). It’s Jurassic Park without the CGI or the Spielberg.

  25. Is there a movie you can think of that you feel like the world would be better off without, one that should have never been made?

    E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) or Hook (1991).

  26. Favorite Dub Taylor performance.

    As Rev. Wainscoat in The Wild Bunch (1969).

  27. If you had the choice of seeing three final movies, to go with your three last meals, before shuffling off this mortal coil, what would they be?

    Cammell and Roeg’s Performance (1970), Fosse’s All That Jazz (1979), and Guest’s The Big Picture (1989).

  28. And what movie theater would you choose to see them in?

    The Alhambra in San Francisco, California.

  29. Your proposed entry in the Atheist Film Festival.

    Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ (2004). If atheists had not existed before that movie, they would have to after it.

  30. What advice on day-to-day living have you learned from the movies?

    Make ’em laugh!

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

caron, wrapped in mystery

bubul, over on bulbulovo, has an hilarious entry on how his family name, which is of Hungarian origin, gets mangled by the bureaucratic and the clueless. (My favorite was a French reading of an escaped XML entity of capital Č as Č on a written form copied from some email or online form.) This bittersweet anecdote brought to mind the how and why behind Unicode calling č a Latin small letter c with caron, rather than c háček (which is what I learned in my intro phonology class).

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bloggarum thesaurus

According to this blog entry over on The Guardian, the Oxford University Press is conducting a study on the vocabulary of the blogosphere. Ipse dixit John Moore. Who? He’s a guest journalist for The Guardian who used to be a drummer for the band The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Next time you convey your velocipede along Walton Street in Oxford, spare a thought for the poor souls suffering behind its elegant facades. I am not referring to the mortal coil shufflers at the John Radcliffe, but to the researchers at the Oxford University Press, charged with the life-sapping task of monitoring the use of English in weblogs.

Secundum Moore, the OUP has determined that the top fifteen words used in the blogosphere are: “blogger, blog, stupid, me, myself, my, oh, yeah, ok, post, stuff, lovely, update, nice, shit.” Quite a list. I sat, and I pondered. I googled around for some news story on the OUP and its study. I found something on The Chronicle (by Jennifer Howard) which linked to a Telegraph article (by Mark Sanderson). The same old kernel of a story (except for a quaint em-dash in medias dirty word because—no doubt—of the The Telegraph’s style guide) but no links to an OUP press release. Then, I surfed on over to MySpace, and I took the first entry on Moore’s blog there, and then I ran the text through a word count program. Here’s Moore’s top fifteen words: “the, to, I, and, of, a, was, he, it, in, my, his, with, that, shop”. The first thing I noticed was that the little function words like the and and weren’t there, but then I was absent, though me, myself, and my weren’t. I realized that the boys chez OUP probably know a thing or two about counting words and what constitutes one, too: lemmatization and all that.

[Via Taccuino di traduzione.]

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

golden yellow

Goofy’s entry on the etymology of mildew (originally it meant honeydew, as in the secretions of aphids) got me to thinking about the three different PIE roots that give us the reflexes of honey in modern IE languages: *melit- ‘honey’, *médhu- ‘honey; mead’, and *kenǝkó ‘honey yellow, golden yellow’ (IEW 723f., 707, & 564f.). For some reason, the word for honey got replaced in the Germanic languages (save for Gothic miliþ) with a color word. The same sort of thing happened for the word for bear: Germanic has replaced the word for bear with one for brown, while Latin keeps ursus, Greek αρκτος (arktos), and Welsh arth from PIE *r̥k̑þos (875) while Slavic is satisfied with medved, literally ‘honey-eater’.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007


One day in Srirangam, Sandhya took me on a tour of the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. She used to live with an aunt in the complex. It is the largest (functioning) Hindu temple in the world, covering 156 acres. This was the only Vaishnavite temple we visited, because Krishnan’s family is Shaivite. Walking along, I noticed this small shrine festooned with a bunch of padlocks.


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Monday, July 16, 2007

playing rummy

Got pinged early this morning by Rajesh (the fellow on the left of the picture). He’d uploaded the photos he took with his cellphone on our Ooty trip. This is one of the last ones he took. We’re on our way back to Chennai, playing a card game before retiring to our slab-like bunks in the AC sleeper wagon. Krishnan took the picture from the top bunk, and Vignesh is on my left towards the bottom of the picture. A little dark and shaky but it captures the mood as we head back for the humid heat of Madras from the cool air of the hill station, Udhagai, and the surrounding tea plantations.

3 card-playing dudes

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

web two oh twiddles, lit crit yearns

Qualis artifex pereo. Short, sweet, and to the point:

With the rise of the web, writing has met its photography. By that I mean, writing has encountered a situation similar to what happened to painting upon the invention of photography, a technology so much better at doing what the art form had been trying to do, that in order to survive, the field had to alter its course radically. If photography was striving for sharp focus, painting was forced to go soft, hence Impressionism. Faced with an unprecedented amount of digital available text, writing needs to redefine itself in order to adapt to the new environment of textual abundance.

[Kenneth Goldsmith Writing Crisis V.1.0; via Ron Silliman’s mini-posting.]

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

nach dem fall

Wittgenstein once famously wrote: Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist. (The world is everything that is the case.) English case is ultimately from Latin casus, literally ‘fallen’, is a form of the third conjugation verb cado (cadere, cecidi, casus), IEW 516 *k̑ad- ‘to fall’, Old Irish casar ‘hail, lightning’ (*k̑ad-tarā), pl. Welsh cesair ‘large hailstones’, Cornish keser, Breton kazerc’h ‘hail’. It is also the calque (or loan translation) chosen by Roman grammarians for the Greek grammatical term ptōsis ‘case’.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

8 factoids about this bloggista

I've been blog-meme-tagged by Goofy of Bradshaw of the Future.

There are rules:

  1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
  2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
  3. People who are tagged need to write in their own blog about their eight things and include these rules in the post.
  4. At the end of your post, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
  5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

These are my eight factoids:

  1. Once upon a time, I lived in Denio, Nevada, and attended a two-room primary school there: the first through third grades were in the original one-room school house and fourth through eighth grades were across the road in the post office building.
  2. All the male students in first through third grades in said one-room school house, except for me, had the same surname and where all siblings or cousins.
  3. Denio is on the border between eastern Oregon and north-western Nevada. We students played in Oregon but studied in Nevada.
  4. My best friend Quinn was named after the Quinn River which ran through his family’s ranch.
  5. We had an abandoned gold mine on Alder Creek ranch, which is where I lived during my time in Denio.
  6. While playing with a friend, who was not Quinn, I discovered a box of dynamite above the walk-in freezer in our ranch compound. My first instinct was to exclaim cool and grab one of the sticks. My second instinct was to leave the attic area quickly and quietly and tell my father and uncles what I had found. We were both seven years old at the time, and we chose the latter course of action. The box of dynamite was quite old.
  7. We had an old air-raid siren to call the forty or so ranch hands in to lunch and dinner. My grandmother did all the cooking for them, and they lived in a bunkhouse on the property. I learned how to play poker from them.
  8. I have never been to Burning Man.

Okay, here’s the multilevel marketing scammy part of the blog entry. You play with bloggers, you run the risk of being meme-tagged. I must now choose eight blogging buddies to inflict:

  1. All I Know
  2. Balashon
  3. Blogging from Berkeley
  4. Drax Blog
  5. Eye of the Goof
  6. Gramarye
  7. The Mad Latinist
  8. Erling Wold

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Monday, July 9, 2007

class divisions during wartime

I was folding in some old favorite blogs into the blogroll in the right column, when I came across a link to an article on Jonas Söderström’s blog. The following paragraph really caught my eye:

A month ago, the military banned MySpace but not Facebook. This was a very interesting move because the division in the military reflects the division in high schools. Soldiers are on MySpace; officers are on Facebook. Facebook is extremely popular in the military, but it's not the SNS of choice for 18-year old soldiers, a group that is primarily from poorer, less educated communities. They are using MySpace. The officers, many of whom have already received college training, are using Facebook. The military ban appears to replicate the class divisions that exist throughout the military. I can't help but wonder if the reason for this goes beyond the purported concerns that those in the military are leaking information or spending too much time online or soaking up too much bandwidth with their MySpace usage.

[danah boyd. 06/24/07. “Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace”; see also her blog entry on apophenia; via Blind Höna entry]

When I first heard about the MySpace and YouTube bans the military had put in place, I wondered if they would be stationing MPs in front of Internet cafes like they used to do at bars. In the 17th century, it was coffeehouses in Europe that were considered dangerous. I guess any places, virtual or real, where folks congregate these days are danger zones.

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Saturday, July 7, 2007

dancing and singing houses

Thanks to a contemplative entry over on Pullquote, I developed a hankering for some old timey cartoons of the Fleischer variety. You know the ones where houses breathe and sing and dance, and dad’s head turns into a Victrola. Pop culture in the service of surrealism. Well, thanks to the public domain and the good folks over at Internet Archive, I was able to watch the three Betty Boop cartoons that features Cab Calloway and his orchestra.

What is immediately apparent is that the same live Calloway footage, shown at the beginning of Minnie the Moocher, is reused in each rotoscoped dance sequence in all three of these cartoons: first as a walrus (I thought Paul was), second as Koko the Clown transformed by the evil stepmother, and finally as the old man in the mountain. It is interesting to compare Roland “Doc” Crandall’s strange and scary animation with that of the Disney Studio’s rather tame Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs four years later. Betty Boop was just another casualty of the Production Code.

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

denner and bromige

David Bromige—a poet, a friend, and emeritus English professor at Sonoma State University—and Richard Donner are giving a reading at Moe’s Bookstore in Berkeley on July 23rd. I took two wonderful and intense poetry classes from David back in the early ’80s. Amongst other things, he introduced me to OULIPO (and here) and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E (both the poetry and the magazine).

[via Ron Silliman’s blog]

[Addendum: I was just googling ’round the web, looking for some of David’s poetry, when I came across a nice site with a bunch of recordings of him reading. I found this one representative.]



Pretty much everywhere I went in Tamil Nadu, I’d see these abstract, symmetrical patterns in rice flour (called kolam in Tamil) on the floor near thresholds of one sort or another. In the picture below, Vidya, the sister of the bride Gayatri, created a new one in the stair well between her family’s apartment and the one Krishnan and I were staying in. (Ganapati, Gayatri and Vidya’s father, had rented a spare apartment for all the relatives coming in from out of town for the wedding.) A kolam doesn’t last very long, but they are a beautiful bit of folk art. They are called rangoli in North India.


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