Sunday, December 17, 2006

One more paper. Just one more. I desperately want this semester to end. I am so over coursework, really, I am. I just don't need this kind of practice anymore. That sounds arrogant, as if I think I'm oh-so-much-better than everyone around me (all of whom need this kind of practice, of course), but seriously, how many years of coursework does any one person need? Let's year at USC. Transfer to UOregon, two years to finish the M.A. Two more years for a second M.A. On to IU, one year of coursework. On to UIUC, 1.5 years of coursework (minus a couple of days). Are you doing the math? Throw a 2 year A.A.S. in there, too, since I did that between IU and UIUC. And don't forget, I already did the four years of undergrad for the first B.A., then added 1.6666666 more years on for a second B.A. Still doing the math? 1+2+2+1+2+1.5+4+1.6666=over the fifteen year mark of higher education. Shouldn't I have a Ph.D. by now, just by default? I mean, seriously. Just....seriously.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Tonight, for the first time in thirty-nine years (or eighteen, if you want to date it from the point I reached the age of majority), I purchased alcohol at the gas station. Is this a bad thing? I suppose other people do it all the time, but I don't usually buy alcohol to begin with, so this gives me pause. Maybe I should do this more? Maybe I should never do this again? Maybe I should actually drink it, instead of just putting it in the refrigerator? Maybe I shouldn't drink it until I have someone to share it with? (And, yes, I know that's not a grammatical sentence, but "with whom to share it" sounds stupid when you're thinking about drinking.)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Well. I find it odd that I am relieved that someone is still making at least a half-hearted attempt to keep track of asg-xers. Some day I will do a websearch on asg-x and find no trace of our history, and even knowing that I did a lot toward erasing my part of our history, it will still make me sad.

ETA: Shortly after I wrote this, Leslie Harpold passed away. I'd link to something about her, but she was involved in so much, that I can't decide which one site to select. A google search on her name would probably represent her more fairly. Follow that, and you can see all of her projects, and all the ways she helped people. This is the huge difference between Leslie and me: if you start with her name, it will lead you to so many asg-xers (and to so many other good people, too, I'm sure); if you start with my name, however, it will only lead back to me, because I eventually turn away from everything and everyone. I wish I was more like her, and I wish I had had it in me to tell her that before it was too late.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

On the other hand, it is the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and I AM NOT CRYING. Does anyone remember me at this time last year? What a bloody, sobbing, stupid mess I was. Crying in the therapist's office, my god. And I've already made it farther in this Ph.D. program than I did in my last one (okay, only twelve weeks farther, but still).

While looking for the link to place above, I read the entry directly below it. Does anyone remember what the hell book I'm talking about in that post? Because I sure can't, and I'd really like to know what I was trying to say in that secret message. ETA: Never mind, I remember.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

How much would I regret it if I just blew off my last semester of course work? I mean, yes, of course, I would go to class, but what would it hurt to register for classes in which I have no emotional investment? Do I have to actually CARE about my work? I wonder if I could find a dissertation topic that didn't matter to the world (or to me) at all, but was still palatable enough to my dissertation committee that they would approve of it. It just seems that it would be a lot easier to get through this process if I didn't care about the outcome of any given conversation, or if the matter under debate was something meaningless both socially and politically.

I don't think this is an unobtainable position, it seems like a lot of people around me don't connect their work to the world around them. They focus on one little slice of the historical archive with little regard to how that sliver is related to any greater issue. Or, at least, they regard the connection only insofar as they have to do a literature review--they would see no political motivation behind their work, and, of course, where I would argue that their "value neutral" position is, in fact, a political position, they don't consider that to be at all the case.

Because, really, despite the scholarship modelled for me by someone who (in her own words) revels in the challenge, I fail to see how someone like me can sustain this kind of politically and socially engaged work. While many people would characterize me as one of those women with "strong personalities," I think what they don't realize is that my assertiveness and determined inflexibility is actually a way of combatting an inherent fragility. I don't bend, I break. I either withstand the challenge completely, or I shatter into a million pieces. In this, I think one of my professors was correct in her assessment that I am not the "middle of the road" person that I sometimes claim to be. I find I am not able to give just a little ground, I give up the entire piece of property, then wonder where I'm supposed to live afterwards.

Friday, October 06, 2006


9:30-11:00 Seminar, Plantation Landscapes
2:00-3:00 Lecture, Arch 210 (T.A.)
3:00-4:00 Lecture, Heritage Management
4:00-5:00 Third-year Hindi

Supposedly free. Not.

9:30-11:00 Seminar, Plantation Landscapes
1:00-3:00 Seminar, Britain in the Global 18th C.
3:00-4:00 Lecture, Heritage Management
4:00-5:00 Third-year Hindi

11:00 Third-year Hindi tutorial
3:00 Teaching meeting

11:00 Teach (Arch 210 discussion)
1:00 Teach (Arch 210 discussion)
3:00-4:00 Lecture, Heritage Management
4:00-5:00 Third-year Hindi

This semester's research assignments:

Historiographical essay/annotated bibliography, topic: Celestial Cartography and Imperialism

Historiographical essay/annotated bibliography, topic: Contemporary consumption/tourism of plantation landscapes in the American South

Seminar paper, topic: Something or other to do with the history of the Archaeological Survey of India (yes, I'm taking suggestions)

Research paper, topic: Jawahar Kala Kendra, written in (broken) Hindi

State of the semester:

Tired, but hanging in there. Still trying to maintain my "Indiana every other weekend" routine, but I have a feeling it's about to fall apart. Last time I drove home, it was dark, rainy, foggy, and the roadways were covered with frogs. The last 25 minutes of the three-hour drive were all me trying not to cry. Getting up many hours early to make it back for a 9:30 class on Monday a.m. is not working for me, either.

Pulled a dissertation committee together, mostly in an attempt to make me focus on my site more and my golf game less. Still, I'm pretty happy with my committee, surprised by the people who said, yes, they would be on my committee, and wondering if I just set myself up for failure. If I could add someone to my committee, it would be someone from the History and Philsophy of Science, or from SSK, but where do I find those people? I don't know. Committee chair likes the site, but has few suggestions on where to go from here. Starting to feel ill about the whole thing.

Trying to come up with a plan to read for exams. Outside minor field (Heritage Management) feels the best right now. Major field is so broad (Architecture of Northern India, 1700-1947) that it contributes to that "starting to feel ill" state. Worrying about the dissertation proposal seems stupid when I won't even pass my major field or methodological exams.

H.C. Look at the time. Gotta quit whining and get some Zzzzs.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I will eventually get around to filling in my movie reviews. Really.

Everything seems to be moving very quickly now. I barely remember India, although in a definitely strange coincidence, in looking on the web for the e-mail address of a professor whom I needed to e-mail, I discovered said professor stayed in the same house I did when she was in Jaipur. Yes, we're in generally the same field (she "does" the history of mathematics and India), but still, the odds are not good we'd end up in the same place, or even that I would need to e-mail her at some point.

Anyway. School is, of course, eating up my life. I'm not completely happy with having to go back to the life of a commuter, especially when I wasn't home at all during the summer. This is one of those things that comes under heading "the things I sacrificed for my Ph.D." when I'm writing my memoirs some day. Classes sort of even out. One seems good, one seems bad. The third one hasn't met yet, so it could be the deciding factor in how my semester is going to go. Hindi is incredibly intense, but I'm trying to just disassociate from myself when I'm in the classroom.

Fun things--over the past few weeks I managed to see all six of our friends, some of them for more than a few minutes. It will probably be Christmas before I see any of them again. I managed to pick up the phone and call one other friend I seem to fall out touch with often despite my continual pledges not to do so. Also, we made a new friend, unless she was secretly desperate to escape our company. If that's the case, it would seem she's a fairly good actress. At any rate, she has to suffer our company at least one more time, otherwise she won't get her DVDs back. And with whom else well she discuss real, live India?

In other amazing news, I have both high-speed internet access *and* cable TV at home. When has this ever happened in my life? Never. At home, yes, we have basic cable, but we use the free dial-up through the university. Last year here in Illinois, I had neither internet access nor television of any kind. However, last Friday while I was out corrupt^H^H^H^Hteaching my new crop of students, Catherine managed to get both digital cable and internet installed in the new apartment for roughly half the price it would cost had I stayed in Chambana. Rantoul is nice. I'm just saying.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I need to start a new movie post because I'm tired of digging back to January to add to the original movie post. We had to watch a movie every week, and although some of them were repeat views for me, a few were new. Saw a few movies at Raj Mandir, EP, Golcha, Can't remember. I'll add my comments sometime when I'm trying to avoid studying.

Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.
Mirch Masala

Omkara--Hope your Bhojpuri is strong because you'll need it for this movie. SAK puts in a really strong performance. Actually, all performances were good (even Vivek Oberoi's, if you can believe that), and the majority were great. Kareena Kapoor once again fails to impress, but she was adequate. She got good reviews, so maybe it's just a flaw in me that I can't appreciate her dramatic work. Konkona Sensharma, on the other hand, was awesome. Great soundtrack, solid interpretation of Othello. I just read the play last March, but I read The Tempest simultaneously, so I found myself confusing them. Looking forward to seeing this with subtitles.

Mr. and Mrs. Iyer--For awhile, I thought this would be added to my "really good movie I'm never going to watch" list (right behind Hey Ram) because I can't seem to sit through movies on communal violence. Not even for Konkona Sensharma. I did miss quite a bit of the movie, moving back and forth between the living room and the office when I thought something unpleasant was about to happen. Catherine assures me the violence was all off screen, but that doesn't necessarily make it more palatable for me. Anyway, Beth was at one point wondering what she would say if someone came onto a bus and demanded her to identify her religion. I'm not sure how I'd answer that question (aside from saying what I always say, "I have no religion, and doubt I ever will,"), but I do know what I hope I would have said in the exact same situation as depicted in the movie. If someone boarded my bus and I understood that they were specifically looking for Muslims (or Hindus or whomever) to kill them, and they picked out the elderly Muslim couple in front of me to kill, hopefully I would have the courage to stand up and say, "Even I am a Muslim." Because, damn, if I had to sit in a bus and know that I did absolutely nothing to stop the execution of two innocent people, I would kill myself afterward, anyway. I could not live with that knowledge, so I might as well go down fighting.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Home again. An incredibly long flight, sandwiched between two short flights. All uneventful, I'm happy to report, and thank goodness I flew home on the 9th and not the 10th, or I'd probably still be in the airport in Chicago.

In case you're wondering how to be treated well in the airports of Jaipur and Delhi: tuck your ticket inside a copy of Prem Chand (in Hindi), and set it on the counter while the desk agent is doing the paper work. People will notice, and people will be happy. The same works at security. Have the book in your hand, and send it through the scanner separately. It may be missing at the other end because the security officers will have picked it up to look at it and show it to each other. Answer the security questions in Hindi, and you will be golden.

So, arrived home Wednesday, spent Thursday and Friday in Illinois moving to a new apartment. Everythign went remarkably smoothly, especially considering that I was all but comatose with exhaustion. And I was driving a car while sleeping, so think about that the next time you're on the road and be very frightened of the drivers around you. Anyway, new address, boxes moved to the new apartment, furniture to be delivered next week, utitilies turned on, renter's insurance purchased, mailbox re-keyed, everything seems to be working out. I'm again not looking forward to living in two cities simultaneously, but it could be worse, I could be commuting between here and India on a weekly basis.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

In just a few hours, I will start the incredibly long journey home. I'm not sure if I mean that literally, in that it will take a lot of time, or metaphorically, in that it will take a major psychological adjustment to slip back into life in the U.S. Both, I guess.

The program ended on something of a low note for me. The last week of classes and testing were depressing, demoralizing, devastating, all those de- words in English apply to the situation. What was already a bad situation was made worse on Friday when one of the teachers said something to me that just confirmed that my summer was a failure. I had to go up to the roof of the Institute and sit and cry for awhile before I could sit down with my classmates for the final lunch. Only yesterday did I realize that the whole thing was probably a misunderstanding--the teacher answered the question I asked, not the question beneath the question. Well, that makes sense to me, anyway, and I'm sorry I didn't see that last Friday.

Andyji, too, took the testing pretty hard, so we two went to Agra on Sunday to try and jolt ourselves out of our depressed states. Andyji bounces back much more quickly than I do, of course, so he was really okay before the train even left the Jaipur station, but I took awhile longer. It didn't help that two different people in Agra told me my Hindi was bad. Anyway, the Tajmahal is everything you might hope it would be. I'm not sure I even complained about the $17 admission fee once I'd parted with it. I'd even pay $20 if they'd consider lighting the Tajmahal at night. We had an awesome, unobstructed view from the rooftop of our hotel, but once darkness fell, that was kind of it. Still, sitting on the rooftop drinking Mirinda at sunset was a fantastic experience. Some neighbors were flying kites (we were so schooled, Andyji), and when it got dark, bats much bigger than breadboxes began flying overhead. The call to prayers came at sunset, and even I had to take a moment to gather my emotions.

I was kind of hoping my shoes would get stolen when we were wandering about the Tajmahal complex barefoot, because that would have been a good story: "My shoes got stolen at the Tajmahal! I had to walk back to the hotel with no shoes!" but that didn't happen. I did, however, get thoroughly and firmly groped during the security search. There's no way you need to squeeze my breasts that hard to find out if I'm carrying explosives. I'm just saying.

Andyji stayed on in Agra, planning to take a public bus to Mathura and then Delhi. I took the train back to Jaipur alone. At first I was a little nervous about it, and indeed, 15 seconds into the train station, a man made an inappropriate gesture toward me. I very nearly clocked him, but at the last second turned my fist into one of those "wtf?" twisty-hand gestures that are hard to stop once you start them, and sneered "Kya hua? Aap kaun hain?" He just stared, which made me wish even more that I'd just slugged him. Anyway, I spent some time in the ladies' waiting room, then caught my train 2 hours late. It was a little confusing because the # and name of the train changed, but luckily I am capable of asking for the Jaipur jaanewalla train. This old guy in the seat next to me basically watched out for me, and he understood everything I tried to say, which was reassuring.

Once back in Jaipur, I got the best rickshaw price I've ever gotten, I couldn't even in good conscience try to bargain it down. When I said so, the tout said, "Yes, madam, I know you are a local, that is why I said pachchis (25) and not pachas (50)." And when I got in the rickshaw and told the driver where I wanted to go, he turned around and said (in English), "Oh, you are a local." And later in the day, a rickshaw driver actually gave me a free ride for a couple of blocks. I expected him to try and get R20 out of me, but he said no, he just wanted to make sure I left Jaipur with a good experience. Coming back here from Agra felt like coming home, and that was nice.

I'm so ready to go to my real home, though. I wish I could fold a few people up and take them with me in my pocket, but otherwise, I need to go back to where I understand the rules better and am in charge of my own life. I'll be back, but not until I've had time to regather my self-esteem and energy.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

So, the whole "blogging the trip to India" thing didn't work out very well. It isn't that I don't have time to blog, and it isn't that I can't afford the R10/hour fee for internet access. It's that I just don't have anything to say. Some of the silence is due to the fact that every day life is just that...every day and pedestrian. I get up at 7:00, shower, study for 30 minutes, have breakfast at 8:00, walk to the Institute with Andy and Andrew at 8:45, spend the next five hours learning Hindi through various means and media, then go home, bathe (because by then I seriously need it, even if the water in the bath bucket is dirty), try to get out of eating dinner, study, sleep. There's a lot of variety in the afternoon, but not so much that I feel like writing about it.

Yesterday, for instance, I stayed in the Institute until 5:00 p.m. reading my book, after which I went to a coffee shop at Gaurav Tower and read some more. Took an autorickshaw home, and who's to say the driver wasn't intoxicated? Not me. The day before, Andy and I wandered around the marble-cutting area of the old city, watching men work on life-size sculptures of Krishna and Ram. We watched two different groups of women make bangles. Some kids threw rocks at us. Some kids asked us for money. I bought a marble turtle that reminded me of Saidji ("Yeh aapka face hey!").

I guess I could have written something about my trip to Himachal Pradesh. A group of us went up to Shimla for mid-term break. The nicest thing about Shimla (except, of course, for the cool, wet weather), was the shower. This is the first shower I have had since arriving in Jaipur. That is a big deal, given how much we sweat here. I also liked Shimla because no one hassled me. When people are complaining about how Indian men behave on the streets? Don't roll your eyes, because it's all true, except probably worse.

We went to Pushkar for "Hindi Camp." I followed Walterji and one of our teachers, Upmaji, around a lot, and tried to figure out what they were saying. Unfortunately, they were speaking Hindi, so that was a total loss. Not much connecting with my teachers. In class, they are the kindest, most patient "koi bat nahin" kind of people. Outside of class, I grope for things to say that a) I can say in Hindi and b) don't make me sound like a kindergarten student. This is always a failure.

The biggest challenge here has been living with a host family--or host person, since there is only one woman who owns our house. I feel constantly watched and monitored, because that's how it works here. Unfortunately, being just short of 39 years old, I am used to making my own decisions. I am becoming a master at deception, inventing friends with whom to eat at the drop of a hat, just so I can leave the house without hassle. There is no real privacy, and after awhile, that wears on you. Also, the upper classes of India eat a lot of food. People are constantly trying to shove food down my throat, and there is no protocol for refusing, you are always supposed to accept. I am often faced with the choice of being openly and confrontationally rude, or eating more and throwing up at the table. This is the big challenge for me. So, I guess the message there is that if I come back to do research, I need my own apartment.

I also need a scooter, washing machine and iron, but that is something to be covered in another post, another time.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

How many weeks? I've lost track. I think only four tomorrow, but I never have any good idea about the date here. I'm out of the loop with news, too. I try to read the paper every morning, but I usually just end up looking at the pictures because the words are too hard. Sometimes someone brings in an English newspaper, but the only American news comes from the entertainment world. So, we know about Ashley (sp?) Simpson, but not about George Bush.

Yesterday, I ended the day feeling like classes were going pretty well. Today, I am really depressed and tired of the whole endeavor. Can I drop out of school? No. I just have to climb the wall, I guess, instead of beating my head over it.

Maybe it's just that I've seen too many movies this week. Tuesday we went to see Krrish!, the second half of which I liked. Overall, I'm afraid that Krrish! once again proved my argument that all films are better when they include Preity Zinta. Last night, we went to see Superman Returns, dubbed in Hindi. Junk. It's interesting how all the American students were saying, "Oh, Krrish! what a stupid movie, who believes anyone could do that?" yet somehow managed to accept that Superman can stop an airplane from crashing into a baseball field. Stupid. Superman Returns definitely needed more songs and dancing.

On a slightly but not completely related note, I'd just like to point out that Beth and I are definitely not existing in the same India. Not that I'm complaining, but I could use a little time in that luxury hotel right now. Well, not really. I like what I've got. A cold Limca, though, I could do with that.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Three weeks, celebrated last night by Andrew, Priya and I at Mocha, where we watched Argentina play Brazil in the World Cup.

Right now I'm suffering from what can only be heat exhaustion. I know I've got a good sunburn going on, despite a head covering and sunblock. I am generally all about our field trips, but I have to say that running around the old city in 100 degree weather is not the smartest idea anyone has ever had. Still, we finally got to the City Palace and the Hawa Mahal today. I am planning a return trip to the Hawa Mahal after monsoon season arrives to take pictures of the jantar mantar.

Today we had a great thali dinner at Surya Mahal--the bean dal was great. I have to say the food has been really good. I complain about it all the time because it's simply too much to eat and there is no (polite) way to refuse more, but it's really quite good. I wouldn't say no to a good pizza or pasta situation, but so far, I've manage to cope with all the vegetables except bitter melon. Mango season is supposed to end in something like 8 days, and then hopefully we will move on to another fruit.

I'm making progress in Hindi (slowly slowly--that's a Hindi construction for you to contemplate), and doing quite a bit out on my own. I've had a couple of unfortunate encounters with rickshaw drivers (I kind of thought one was going to end up with people pulling out sticks and beating on me), but overall am doing pretty good with them. It's good to be somewhat independent, even if my host person doesn't encourage it. We got a really good rickshaw price back from Gaurav Tower last night, which means we're all making progress in our cultural assimilation. I'll never fall for that "As you wish, Madam," line, let me tell you.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

So, yes, I'm in India. Internet access can be pretty sketchy, but I finally found an I-way internet cafe that seems to be okay (4 hours for 50 rupees, that's roughly 4 hours for a dollar). Of course, they could be siphoning off my passwords, but I'll never know until something bad happens.

I've been in India for a little over two weeks now, and I feel as if I've lived a thousand lifetimes. I have a greater admiration for travel writers now--how do you possibly sum up a place like this in words? I could write about the dead dog I saw on my way to the Institute today, but that would not tell you how charming the stray dogs can really be when they dig their homes in the ever-present piles of sand. Today, a little boy simultaneously emptied his bowels on the sidewalk and yelled out "Hello!" to me. What to make of such efficient multi-tasking?

We are all anxiously awaiting the monsoon. I've been through 2 pre-monsoon storms and they were pretty impressive. Wading home after the torrential rains made me very glad for all of my immunizations. I am so investing in Dettol stock when I get home.

My Hindi is improving, but I'm still absolutely non-functional and illiterate, which demonstrates how bad my Hindi was to begin with. Jaipur deals in tourism, though, so there is a lot of English spoken, enough that when I mess up the numbers for 50 and 25 I can revert to English to re-bargain the price of an autorickshaw. I have mixed feelings about taking a cycle rickshaw. On one hand, they are much better for the pollution problem. On the other, what human should have to drag a rickshaw behind them? On the other, if they weren't pedaling rickshaws, wouldn't they be out of the only job they're ever going to get? It's hard to say.

Two weeks down, six and a half to go.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Well, I'm packed, well in advance of my departure date. Packing really wasn't on my schedule until tomorrow a.m., but I figured...why not get it over with? I don't have any wise words about packing for India--all I can say is that I'm not taking much in the way of clothes. I'm trying to decide if I need to bring my tennis shoes. Indiamike says no, and Indiamike has become my god, so...two fewer things to pack. I've got a lot of awkwardly shaped things (small toys for the host family, for instance) that just don't work well in a backpack, but I guess if they get crushed, that's life. My carry on is suspiciously light, making me wonder what I'm forgetting. I guess I have 40 hours or so to figure it out. I actually feel like I've overpacked, but it's hard to know what's superfluous when you've never visited a country before.

Since I'm packed, that means I'm free to spend the two nights watching Bollywood movies, right? I've still got Parineeta and Dil Ne Jise Apna Kahaa. I am way hoping I get to see Krrish! in Jaipur, even though I expect the movie to be horrible.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I guess I should catch up with my life. Mostly I've just been lounging around the house, alternating between a "JFC, I'm going to India!" panic and a "God, I'm bored" malaise. This morning was lost to the university bureaucracy as I tried to straighten out billing/insurance issues. Going to India w/out insurance? Probably not a good idea, and I don't intend to test that hypothesis.

Also a problem: my airline tickets arrived yesterday, and instead of returning right after my program ends, I'm in India for several additional days. Free vacation, sounds good, you might think. The problem is, my return flight lands me in Indianapolis just 3.5 hours before my lease in C-U expires. How do I get all of my stuff in a truck, moved to Rantoul, and get my old apartment cleaned by 2:30 August 9? This is a problem, and I haven't figured out what I'm going to do. We spent last weekend renting the new apartment, and I thought I had everything under control, but now I don't, so I'm not sure what is going to happen here.

Other than that, I'm just trying to chill ("Love, love is to chill."). We spent Friday at the Speedway, which was TOTALLY AWESOME. It is difficult to describe what a car looks like going 220 miles an hour. So fast your eyes can't track it. I thought stock cars were speedy little things--wrong. There was a lot to take away from the whole Carb Day experience, but I think what I really learned was that spotters aren't the safety net I once thought they were. Paul Dana's death makes a lot more sense now. I don't care what the spotters are saying, and how much evasive action you take--at those speeds, well...yeah. Too fast. But so cool. And thanks to Mr. Dana for the push to ethanol. I can enjoy the sport much more now.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

So, I've finished all my jabs for India (Hep A booster, polio booster), and am halfway through my typhoid regimen, which is making me sick every other day. I start the anti-malarial meds the day before I leave. You'd think no one had ever traveled to India and lived to tell about it the way the travel clinic goes on about all the paths to death in South Asia ($500 for a preventative series of rabies shots? No thanks.). Part of me wanted to JUST SAY NO to the polio booster just because I was irritated at the doom-and-gloom tone of the nurse, but I'd probably be the one person to catch polio in Jaipur this year if I went through with that plan.

I have tons of stuff to do before I leave on June 8. Most importantly, I need to write a paper proposal and re-work said paper in case it gets accepted (the paper is due the week I get back if accepted. It's already written, but needs at least one more re-write). But I find myself endlessly distracted by this whole India thing. I visit Indiamike obsessively. I try not to visit Beth obsessively, but it seems possible that she is exactly as distracted as I am, and therefore good company. I've read the Ramayana. I've read travel advice from Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, and Footprints. I have watched every Hindi film within reach, and some. I even joined up at a local video store last weekend because neither the local libraries nor Netflix can keep up with my Bollywood demands. (As a side note, Netflix is starting to really, really suck. They are so not earning their money, and if they keep up this super slow service, I'm leaving).

I was trying to figure out how Beth managed to spend $600 to prepare for her trip to India. So far, I've spent about $70, and $25 of that was on clothes. I guess she's probably buying more clothes than I am since I will have a clothing stipend to spend on arrival. Also, I realized today that my $70 doesn't include the $200 or so I've spent at the stupid travel clinic. Nor does it include the $90 I spent on the visa ($60 for the visa, $30 for postage). I have to buy a few gifts for my host family (hard to buy when you have never met any of them), and I need to buy a notebook and pens/pencils for class. And some water purifying tabs (once I decide what kind I really want to use for two months). Other than that, I'm good. [ETA: I just spent $30 on water purifying tabs, so I'm quickly catching up to Beth. I don't really like the taste of purified water, but it's a lot more convenient--not to mention environmentally friendly--to purify water instead of chasing after bottled water every day. Also, a shout out to Grayson, whose last name I don't know, and about whom I had more or less forgotten until I re-read one of my old travel journals this weekend. Grayson, who had the room across from ours in the Dvorets Molodezhi in Leningrad (1988), taught me two important things: 1) never pack more than you're willing to carry; and 2) always take Kool-Aid for a break from that purified water taste.]

I am more or less following Travelling Tim's packing advice, leaving out a few things that seem specific to rambling. I have a mosquito net, but I'm not going to take it. Since I'm staying in one place for two months, I'll just have one made to fit whatever bed I'll be sleeping in after I get there. It doesn't have to be lightweight because I won't be carrying it around. Most of the things on his list I already have, though, purchased long ago either for our Thames Path ramble, our trip to Costa Rica, or one of our annual camping trips. In fact, I'm still re-using (for at least the sixth time) the gallon freezer bags we used for waterproofing on the Thames Path. Today I even tossed two things on the "take to India" pile that first traveled with me to the Soviet Union in 1988. Is that good or bad?

My last task is to put together my own guide book. Printing is free for Catherine at the university library, so we're going to print everything I might need, and bind it together with some stuff I've photocopied. I've made a six-page photo album of "life at home" to include, so my host family will have some idea what I've been up to over here. I've also copied a lot of pages out of books to bind into a research volume on the jantar mantar. Hindi text books will be purchased in Jaipur. I can't think of anything I've forgotten, but that is probably because...well...I've forgotten it.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Today a professor made me cry, but in a good way (finally!). Just six posts (but fifteen weeks) ago I was suggesting that I was woefully under-prepared for a seminar. This indeed turned out to be true, not just angst-ridden speculation on my part. I tanked the midterm essay, and while I can certainly point to things like travel and funerals that contributed to my overall sense of intellectual malaise at that point of the semester, that would really just be me trying to save face. I tanked, no real explanation needed. However, the professor let me re-write the essay, and I promised I would do better in the future. That mid-term was a one-time aberration, I promise! I did rewrite the essay, and she seemed genuinely pleased that on my second attempt, I did not sound like quite as big an idiot as I did on my first attempt.

Today I stuck my head in the door of said professor's door as I was passing by, and she said that although she hasn't graded my final paper, she was very pleased. The words "fantastic" and "beautifully written" were used, as was the phrase "you fulfilled your promise and more." So, good for me, I say. That might be the only time in my entire graduate career I hear that, so I'm writing it down for everybody to see.

Friday, May 05, 2006

I swear to god I saw a girl running laps in the Engineering Library this morning.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Well, the sign outside the conference hotel in Savannah heavily suggested that we would be seeing some alligators. Or, at least, that if we did see some alligators, we should not feed them. The trip was a failure in that we didn't see even a single alligator.

Just so everyone knows: driving on the interstate across Georgia in a rainstorm is a BAD IDEA. You remember the night the lights went out in Georgia? Well, apparently they stayed out, because it's the darkest damn state I've ever seen. I mean, the astronomer in me hates light pollution, right? But my god, would it kill you all to put a street light or two near the off-ramps? I think your road-side commerce numbers would take a dramatic leap upward if you did. I'm just saying that I'm not getting off the interstate during a rainstorm in the black of night if I can't see what might be waiting for me. Just saying.

We did eventually pull off into the great dark night and get Catherine some boiled peanuts.

The conference was fine, and I learned a thing or two. It was fun having Jim around even though we only attended one session together (and he was late and then left early). Catherine apparently had a good time learning the history of Savannah. That's another thing--you want to know how to tell when you're over-interpreting your town for tourists? When you feel compelled to put up a sign telling everyone where Oglethorpe pitched his tent, that's when. In case you're all wondering where that might be, the sign/bench is in front of Hyatt Regency Hotel on Bay Street (see the Oglethorpe Bench Monument here). I'm serious. I have been trying to think of a more intensely interpreted location, and I just can't think of one. Possibly Gettysburg, but a) you need all the signage you can get to understand troop movement at Gettysburg and b) I still think Savannah has more.

On the way home, we stopped at Chick/Chatt (although we only saw the Chick part of that relationship). I think this is our first Western Theater battlefield, and I liked it enough that I'm writing my heritage paper (due Friday!) on it. Well, Chickamauga and the nearby lost battlefield of Franklin, Tennessee. We couldn't quite force ourselves into the tourist hell of Lookout Mountain (SEE RUBY FALLS), but plan to do it before we leave the Midwest.

There's probably other stuff I could write about if I tried a little harder. Churchill's Pub serves a good beer (says Catherine), as does Moon River Brewing Company (acoustics aren't great at Moon River, but it's your chance to eat in a building that a) is directly adjacent to a demolition site and b) once lost its roof to Hurricane David. I ate two pralines in two days. Over-priced, but good. The shipping traffic on the river is awesome. There was a dead body found in a nearby hotel. Catherine met a nice guy named Mr. Duncan who has a map shop with his wife (conveniently named V & J Duncan Antique Maps, Prints & Books). She bought me two maps of India (one from 1906 and one from 1860) and an 1858 restrike of an engraving depicting a Holi festival. We found out that Nashville, TN is only a 5-hour drive from Bloomington. We found out that Savannah is more like a 15-hour drive from Bloomington (Mapquest lies).

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Yesterday, the Hindu Student Council celebrated Holi. I discovered that it is a very nice way to pay back students who have exasperated me all semester. Unfortunately, not all of them attended, so I had to make do with focusing my super soaker on those who did show up, maybe they'll pass my message onto the rest. It was fun, and for some reason, out of all the people the reporter talked to, he chose to take a quote from the old, atheist white lady about the celebration for the article in the student newspaper (that is, me).

What I really discovered yesterday was that just because the doctor said, "It would be good for your knee if you try to move it around and use it," she did not mean "Run around Illini Grove with a group of people half your age." I think I mentioned to the three people who care that my knee was not broken, but it might as well have been, I think. The doctor was filling my ears with frightening speculations about "wiring the knee cap together" before I proved to her it wasn't broken by having negative X-rays. I figured it wasn't broken, and therefore put off going to the doctor for two weeks after I hurt myself, but it was in kind of a between stage with pain so I thought I should get it checked. It hurt less than my arm did the last time I broke it, but more than my arm did the last time I didn't break it. (That last sentence probably makes sense to no one but me.) Anyway, it isn't so much painful right now as just weird. I can press on my knee and feel the liquid trying to escape the pressure of my fingers. It makes me sick to my stomach, but it doesn't hurt.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Today, as I was driving up in Rantoul, I saw a billboard for McDonald's that said "Free Coffee Monkeys" and I thought, wow, gotta get me some of them. Then I realized it said "Free Coffee Mondays" and wasn't nearly so excited. I have no idea what a Coffee Monkey might be, but the moment someone invents one, I'm going to buy it. Maybe it can sit next to our Touchdown Monkey. Or, I guess, our Extrapoint Monkey, because we couldn't afford the Touchdown Monkey.

The real point of this post is this: how does fast food work? I haven't had fast food since...oh...some time in 2004, and this may be why I'm confused. Today I needed some quick caffeine (yeah, yeah, I know I should be finishing that project that drives my need for caffeine instead of writing this, but still), so I decided to get a Diet Coke at McDonald's. So, here's me sitting at the drive through, thinking this: "Do I need to sleep tonight at some point? Yes, so I should just get a small. *Do* I need to sleep tonight? Can I stay up all night and finish this? No, I need to sleep tonight. Maybe get a medium so I can stay up until 2 or 3 a.m."

OrderBox: Welcome to McDonald's, can I take your order?
Me: Can I have a Large Diet Coke? [Notice I screw up my own order.]
OrderBox: That will be 75 cents at the first window.
Me: [Look at OrderBox screen where it says "ExtraLarge Diet Coke 0.75" and think WTF? I ordered a Large, which should have cost $1.50. Drive to first window, wondering why I didn't say Medium.]
Me: Did you say 75 cents?
OrderBoy: You wanted a Large, right? I just gave you an ExtraLarge for half the price.
Me: Am I supposed to understand that?
OrderBoy: I just do what I'm told. I don't understand it, either.

What possible benefit can they can reap from spontaneously upgrading my order for 1/2 the price? If I'd ordered a small for 75 cents, would I have still gotten an ExtraLarge?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Okay, kidlings, this seems like news worthy of an update (although the observant among you have noticed that there is recurrent activity just two posts down):

Yesterday I got word that not only am I going to India for the summer, I'm going to India *for free*. I found out over spring break that I was accepted into the AIIS Summer Language Program (I'm thinking that my exam was so horrible that they thought, "Oh, bhagvan, we must send this girl to India so quickly because she needs more help than we can give her here!"), but I was trying not to think about it because I really couldn't afford to go. Yesterday, they let me know that I got a Critical Languages Scholarship (possibly proving that the U.S. State Department is good for something?) that covers all my expenses for the summer, including airfare (running around $1500 right now).

We now return you to your regularly scheduled silence.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Well, that didn't take long. Last semester, my crisis in confidence didn't happen until Week 13. This semester, it's happening in Week 2. Does that mean next time it will happen three weeks before the session even starts?

How do I get out of this class? I told myself after last week's seminar that I should just hold on, it will get better, but that's not happening. I don't understand even half of what's being said by my classmates, and I understand even less of what the professor's saying. I thought I was reasonably well-prepared to take the course, but god, was I ever wrong. I spent most of today's class trying not to throw up. I feel like I have an ulcer, and it's only going to get worse since I'm supposed to present next week's readings and run the seminar. How can I run a seminar when I don't even understand what's going on around me?

I wish I would get hit by a car.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Dil Chahte Hai--good production values, and good sound quality. Live sound really makes a difference. It gets a little muddy at times, but sounds much more natural than most dubbing jobs. Falls into the Bollywood musical genre, but if you cut the singing and dancing, the movie would still hang together. I can completely relate to the "college friends negotiating life in the real world together and apart" theme. All three story arcs are strong, and when I re-watch this movie, I tend to watch them one at a time. Continuity between the chapters it good. I liked all the songs enough to eventually buy the soundtrack. And wow, that dress that Shalini (Preity Zinta) wears to the opera is beautiful. My favorite character (besides Sid) is Mahesh Uncle (Shalini's uncle). I think he was very funny after the movie, bouncing back and forth between agreeing with Akash and agreeing with Shalini. And near the end of that story arc, there is a big dramatic scene in which Shalini's (adopted) father is saying, "You must pay us back, Shalini! And this is how you must do it!" The father makes his dramatic announcement, everyone is stunned and (happily) crying, and in the background, Uncle Mahesh is making this "Well, whaddaya know!" face. Was that scripted? It was very funny. This is the movie to show your American friends if you want them to like Bollywood. After they are all relaxed by this one, you can hit them over the head with something more melodramatic (and dubbed).

Kal Ho Naa Ho--also good to get your American friends hooked. Shahrukh Khan, so good with the tears and Mama loyalty. It has its cheesy moments (like, where the hell did that American flag come from outside Naina's house? And why is Naina living in such a nice house if they can't even afford to keep the business running? One wonders.) and definitely has some problematic stereotypes. The Gujarati jokes were lame. On the other hand, the remark about vegetarians? Funny because it's so true. I don't know, Shahrukh and Saif Ali make such cute boys together, so I think the maid should relax. And really, how does a beautiful woman become unattractive just by putting on glasses? To make Preity Zinta unattractive, you couldn't just take away her make-up artists, hairstylists and wardrobe crew. You'd have to take away her soap, shampoo, hair brush and detergent. Maybe after life on the streets for a couple of months without a shower, you could consider her unattractive. There are a lot of things to love about this movie, only some of which the producers intended. I love the use of the color orange in the first song, the way its picked up from Aman's pants and deployed in different costumes. It's also the base of the moving graffiti sign at the end of the song. I love that Rohit falls in love and turns into a complete metrosexual. How many guys do you know that think, "I love Naina! Now I will get a manicure!" I love the engagement party clothes. I love the title song. I love that someone has to stand off camera and make it look like two daisies are having sex during "Kuch to hua hai." I love it that the subtitles tell us that "Chicken is just one dollar" when Naina and Shiv are arguing at the breakfast table. I also love it that they later let us know that Naina is "a nice little boy." I love it that no one seems to know that a Baptist choir could not sing "Amen!" at a Catholic church. I love it that while Naina and Jennifer(ben) are getting all emotional and crying all over each other, Aman is standing behind them doing a Starbucks commercial. I love it that Naina turns to her mom and very clearly tells her that she loves her during the engagement dance. I love it that Preity Zinta completely blows one of the "chay din laRki in" scenes by reacting to SRK's voice when she shouldn't have been able to hear it over the headset. There are many things to love, and they outweigh the list of things I could type about things to hate (namely, why does Jennifer Kapoor [damn, is it Kapur?] not know enough to run her own damn business? Is she an idiot?).

Ek Hasina Thi--I swear to god, 1/2 of India got shot in the head during this movie. And I think Saif Ali Khan is following me around and I am tired of seeing him. No Bollywood dancing or singing, just a lot of bloodshed. Definitely not my kind of movie, too violent, but I was so taken by Urmila Matondkar that I couldn't stop watching. Great performance. The plotline at the beginning was forced (is anyone that naive?), and also, I don't like seeing people's bones broken. Oh, and also, Urmila Matondkar reminds me a little bit of Cher, only she handles a gun better. There was a spot at the end of the movie where she took my breath away with one flick of the wrist. Very nice.

The Hero: Love Story of a Spy
--Blah. You know it's bad when I don't even want to wait through the first part of the movie to see Preity Zinta. I read a review early on that said that every time her character left the screen, the energy died, and that was so true. The India v. Pakistan theme was really horrible, and after 10 seconds, I was done. Also, the dubbing was horrible, especially right at the beginning. And the hero's disguises looked like they'd been put together by a third grader. I stopped watching after the first guy got shot through the head. After Ek Hasina Thi, I wasn't going to sit through any more blood spatters. It took me two more tries to force myself through the movie. It was fantastic that they made Preity Zinta carry a lamb around on her back for 1/4 of the movie. What was she thinking when she read the script: "How sweet! The weight of living animal on my back in an uncomfortable basket for hours on end! Oh, fab, it gets to sit on my ribcage while I'm daydreaming!" I hope she got paid a lot to do this movie. The little kid in the road at the beginning of the first song was cute.

Hum Tum--Ah, cute. You have to hand it to Saif Ali Khan. He's way over-exposed, but he still manages to entertain. He's good at the cute but utterly self-absorbed roles, and I thought the "It's my Tom Cruise haircut. Tom Cruise! You know, Tom Cruise! It's fashion!" bit was funny. Rani Mukherjee graduates from being Priya or Puja to Rhea, it must have been a thrill for her to be called by a new name. Still, she's beautiful, and hey, I'd like to slap Saif, too. Not a demanding movie, and I never really felt Rhea's pain, but hey, no one got shot, so that's fine with me.

Aarzoo--I swear, I'm not after Saif at all. He just shows up everywhere. This movie was kind of typical Bollywood--someone gets shot right away, there's lots of fighting, the guy is a total jerk but the woman still loves him, there's some singing, the other guy loves the girl so much he stands back so the jerk can have her, and then there's more shooting. Amrish Puri was the industrialist father. How in god's name does he find the time to be in so many movies? Anyway, I give this movie a pass even though I think Reema Lagoo is pretty.

Kya Kehna--Although technically flawed (the sound isn't great, the subtitles disappear at inconvenient times, the hero goes through seven haircuts in seven days), this might be one of my favorite Bollywood movies. Everyone should have such a family, I say. Also, everyone should have such a vehicle to launch their acting careers. Who gets the starring role in their first (although second released) movie? The first song didn't grab me, but the title song was pretty. I know Rahul is an absolute cad, and I didn't even buy his repentance scence, but really, could you resist Priya? Probably not. I liked Preity a lot more before she got so damned polished (before her teeth were capped, eh?) What I actually liked about this movie was its undercurrent of emotional truth. When I was that age, several of my classmates found themselves unwed and pregnant. What I wish now is that I had been a better friend. This movie gives me a stab of guilt, and I guess I like that.

Kabhi Kushi, Kahbie Gham
--Don't ask me about the spelling on that, I can't explain it. I admit, I watched this just because I think Jaya Bachchan/Badhuri is hot. Yeah, Preity, you're fine and all that, but you're way too young for me. I wish I could see Dr. Mukhta but I can't find a copy. I wish I could say I liked this movie, but I can't. How did the Big B's character end up being all noble in the end, as if he wasn't the one that made Shahrukh Khan leave the family? One funny thing. Last Friday, we played "Win, Lose or Draw" in Hindi class (because apparently that's what they do in college these days) and one kid got up and drew a guy w/huge biceps. The entire class called out una voce "Hrithik Roshan! Hrithik Roshan!" Let's face it, his biceps are a little overwhelming. Turns out the kid was trying to draw Shahrukh Khan. He obviously needs drawing lessons.

Koi...Mil I don't even know what to say about this. E.T. meets Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Musical. All I can think to say is, this is such a cute movie that I'm also embarrassed to admit I enjoyed it. Hrithik Roshan is so cute (and *not* Saif Ali Khan for a change). The little kid gang is cute. Preity Zinta is cute (although not without some unfortunate costuming), and for once, is not required to cry. Well, this movie is all over the place, plot-wise, and totally unbelievable and crazy, but the spaceship was awesome when they came flying up the valley. I think it was this movie that made me realize how good Preity Zinta is as an actress. She can hold an entire conversation without ever speaking a word. You have to watch her over several films to see it, but that woman really has some acting skills. That kind of made up for the fact that this is one long commercial. Obviously, Coke poured a hell of a lot of money into this budget, as did Nescafe. Off the top of my head, I can also remember Emami Naturally Fair popping up more than once, Sansui, Avon Cycle, Lays potato chips, Hero Honda (which sponsored the stupidest part of the movie), and ... who am I missing? I'll let you know next I see this. Oh, yeah, the "hill station" scenery is pretty awesome. Most of those beautiful outdoor scenes were filmed at Yoho National Park in British Columbia (thus the boat with the word "Goodsirs" on it, named after the mountain.)

Bride and Prejudice
--Not really a Bollywood movie, I know, but we just watched it so I'm adding it. Honestly, I'm not really feeling the Jane Austen love, I'm tired of watching all the makes and remakes. At least this was different, although a bit disorienting since it was in English. Could they have picked a more wooden actor to play the American? (No.) The consensus in my Hindi class is that Aishwarya Rai is beautiful and generally a good actress, but not when she's acting in English.

Woh Tera Naam Tha--When this first came out, the reviews all complained about it being "old-fashioned." So true. The only thing I can really say is that Gaurav Chanana has beautiful eyes. The title song was pretty. The ending was unpleasant on many levels. Rajat Bedi got to reprise his bad guy role of Raj Saxena from Koi...Mil Gaya. I was really put off by the scene of Reshma on her knees in front of Badru, drinking from the spout of water he's pouring out of his leather bag. It doesn't improve when Akthar steps in to help. It really doesn't improve with the decision to dub in her ecstatic whimpers.

Saathiya--Holy cow. There you are, enjoying a nice romance, and wham! From that "wham" moment on, I disliked the movie. What an implausible ending (even for Bollywood). Aditya was annoying as hell, and I was constantly hoping Suhani would just leave him. Such a big baby. And honestly, I know Vivek Oberoi is supposed to be all hot and everything, but he seems really wooden to me. Rani can make me pay attention. Vivek? No. I though the appearance of SRK and Tabu near the end was disconcerting, too. I never quite understood what was being said--did Yeshwant turn down the opportunity (apparently available to all corrupt policeman) to get his wife out of trouble, or not? For a minute there, I thought we were going to spin off into an entirely new "While You Were Sleeping" storyline. Anyway, I liked this enough to buy the soundtrack. I kept saying, "God, doesn't this music remind you of the Dil Se?" only to find out that A.R. Rahman was behind the music in both movies. Two points for my ear.

Mohabbatein--"Love Stories." Whoever failed to cast Amitabh Bachchan as a wizard in the Harry Potter movies really made a mistake. He is so ready for that role. This was one of two movies we watched last weekend that reminded me of exactly why I loved him when I was young. Most of this movie is forgettable (notably, the three school-boy romances, the Dead Poet's Society remake), but I thought the Big B was fantastic. Well, right up until the last scene, but isn't that the way it always is? The last scene of any movie from India seems to be an afterthought and a throwaway. Anyway, the real chemistry in this movie was between Amitabh Bachchan's charcter, Prinicipal Narayan Shankar, and Shahrukh Khan's character, Raj Aryan. I liked SRK in this role because his energy was muted. Even though his trousers were ill-fitted, he looked good in the preppy role. What I wouldn't give to see SRK and Amitabh Bachchan do Shakespeare. That would be.totally.awesome. I imagine Shiv Shena/BJP hated this film w/its Valentine's Day romance. Aishwarya Rai's role was allegedly supporting, but she made a good contribution to the film overall. The role of Vikram was apparently cast by someone looking for effective steroid abuse rather than effective acting skills.

Veer-Zaara--A very sweet film. It felt very nostalgic and full of longing. The music played a big role in creating that atmosphere, I think. The beginning of the film was contrived, but I forgave the script that flaw once the story started to take off. And the helicopter scene gave Preity Zinta a chance to shout over her bag (she shouts well). Overall, I don't think it was a challenge for SRK or Preity, although it was nice to see SRK get to look unglamorous for awhile. I thought the scene in which Veer throws nuts in Zaara's mouth while simultaneously pulling them across the river in a handcar was very funny. The best parts of the movie involved Veer's parents, and once again, I was reminded that I love Amitabh Bachchan. Catherine didn't even recognize him: "Is couldn't be...he's laughing!" And it's true, he's always cast as stern, oppressive figure these days. I loved Bauji and Maati. The Lodi song was the best in the movie. Rani Mukherjee had a tough role, trying to look serious and sympathetic and challenged and determined and frustrated and compassionate simultaneously. She had some good tears near the end. The end had a couple of flaws that I won't spell out, but mostly it was nice. Garry watched this with us, and all three of us tried to predict the ending, but we all three at least partially missed the mark. Pakistan came out looking not so bad in the end, which was a nice change from the India good-Pakistan bad rhetoric that dominates these days. I only had time to watch this once, but I would definitely watch it again, if only to see SRK pelt Preity Zinta with nuts.

Dil Se--Wow. Amazing movie. Catherine and I are still arguing over it. I know it wasn't a box-office hit (if you made a list of ten things every successful Bollywood film should have, this movie would have missed at least nine of them) but I disagree with those who think this isn't a good movie. For one, the cinematography was amazing. There's one scene between Amar and "Meghna" that takes place in a dark hallway with a door in the background opening and closing the entire time--how many tries did it take to shoot that scene? And the picturizations were also fantastic. None of the music really pushed the plot forward and, in fact, the movie would have been a lot tighter without them. On the other hand, that last song with Amar and Preety on the water? Beautiful. Dancing on the train top? Dangerous. But Fantastic. One of the lovely things about this movie is SRK, of course. I didn't even like Amar, but couldn't help admiring SRK's skill the entire time I watching. This movie is ostensibly about terrorism, but if you ask me, it's really about obsession. Amar's obsession, specifically. I thought Preety offered him a shot at redemption, and he refused to take it. He could have chosen to do so many other things than the thing he actually did, and I can't help but be disappointed by him in the end. This movie is a good example of how selfish Bollywood love can be. Amar really believes his love is the most important thing--everything outside it doesn't exist for him. I didn't really have trouble understanding "Meghna's" motivation, but Amar? Needs to rethink the concept of love. Preity Zinta does a good job in this role. This is one of her early movies, so she hasn't yet been polished to within an inch of her life. I wonder how much henna Bollywood hairstylists go through in a year. Zohra Sehgal had her small "I'm the grandmother" role. I love that woman.

Na Tum Jaano Na Hum--proof positive that without a strong lead female, a movie sucks. Hrithik Roshan and Saif Ali Khan just couldn't rescue this one. The pacing was sluggish, most of the music just died in the speakers, and the dubbing was sloppy. I really tried to like it, but just didn't.

Lakshya--Okay, I'm coming back to edit this. I've done some reading about the Kargil conflict, and done some thinking, and I've decided the film gets a more positive review than I originally gave it. There were some really nice touches from "real life," like the shepherd, and now that I know more about high-altitude fighting, it seems more realistic. I still hate Indo-Pak war movies, but after watching this three times, I've grown to appreciate it. The cinematography was great in places (no rock climbing for me) and Hrithik Roshan is a fantabulous dancer--no bones in his arms, that boy. I think the really big flaw in this movie is its lack of complexity. Did anyone have any trouble seeing where the movie was going to end up? No? Me, neither, and it wasn't just because we know how the conflict was resolved in real life. No one character was very deep. Preity Zinta did a good job with a poorly sketched character. Hrithik Roshan did an even better job with a very one-dimensional character. A *very* one-dimensional character. At the end, I realized I didn't care if he lived or died (although we'd hate to make Romila cry). Catherine took an instant liking to one of the secondary characters and spent the rest of the movie worrying about him. I felt more for the secondary characters than for the Hrithik Roshan character. See? I saw the movie three times and I still can't remember his name! Three of the five songs were very good ("Main eisa kyon hoon" [new wave straight-jacket song], "Agar main kahoon" [the second song where he plays Romi's arm like a guitar and then later does a Steve Martin imitation, look for it], and "Kandhon se milte hain kandhe" [the Army driving song]). Love the short hair on Preity, hate the long curly hair.

Lagaan--Great production values, *horrible* Hindi. I don't like to re-watch this movie because everytime one of those damn Brits says something in Hindi I cringe and vow never to speak another word of it. Because you know I sound JUST LIKE THAT. This is a good Aamir Khan role, not nearly as annoying as he was in DCH. Some of the villagers were very entertaining, especially the big guy who reminded me of Hagrid. A little bit of an anachronism going on there with Bhuvan's championing of the dalit, but I guess they needed to invent the googly somehow. Biggest googly ever. Hated Elizabeth's character--"I'm falling in love with you!" but then again, you're supposed to hate the British. I heard once that Preity Zinta turned down the role of Gauri, which is just as well. I can't see it as a role she could sink her teeth into, it was just sort of standard. I loved the village landscape (the cricket scenes could have been shot near my hometown) and I loved the soundtrack. Bonus points if you know which movies lifted songs from Lagaan.

Salaam Namaste--We waited forever to get this from Netflix. Was it worth the wait? Only if you want to see a beefy Saif spend two hours in his underwear (I know, there are a lot of women who want to see exactly that). Overall, I think Preity turns in a good performance as usual, and Saif turned in an adequate performance. My favorite scene of his did not involve his underwear. It was when he was yelling "Hambar! Hambarrrrrrrrrrrrr!" into his phone. Mostly, this was the movie that Kya Kehna! would have been had Priya's family not chased her down at the train station. I don't know, would you trust Nick to grow up and be a real husband and father? At least no one hit him in the stomach and said, "Be a man!" like usually happens. Anyway, this movie was edgy for Bollywood but really nothing so new. But, I'm all for anything with Preity in it, so I can't say anything too negative. It wasn't a waste of my 2.5 hours.

Swades--You know, I'm not sure if it was just my mood while I was watching this, or the company that I was in when I watched it (that would be my father-in-law, saying "I guess that guy will never win an Academy Award, will he?" everytime SRK said something), but I didn't really get into this movie. That's incredibly odd, since I love all things astronautic, but maybe that was the problem. Was that opening news conference supposed to make sense? I liked this movie in that it tried to cover real issues in India. I never really felt India's pain, though. I loved the old woman who kept saying, "Electricity! Electricity!" I liked the supporting characters. I loved the idea of driving a caravan through a village. But I just didn't really like the movie. Maybe it was because they expected me to believe that no one in the village had ever looked up at the stars before SRK came to town (please). I was a little disappointed by the music. Usually I really enjoy A.R. Rahman's music (Dil Se, Saathiya) but this movie only had one song that stuck with me afterward. Good production values (that means "good sound quality."). My partner disagrees with me, she liked it more, so maybe I should watch it again. And now I'm coming back to edit this to say that the soundtrack has quite grown on me, so I guess I can go back to liking A.R. Rahman.

Black--Can I touch Rani Mukherji's feet? Just to watch her not be elegant and untouchable was worth the price of admission (well, the price of the Netflix subscription). I know a lot of people complained about this movie, saying it was "just" The Miracle Worker, but come on...since when are revivals a bad thing? That's like saying, "You know, we did Hamlet once back in the 50s, so I don't think anyone should ever perform it again." Anyway, although some of the plotline was fairly close to the original story, there were definite variations (nice job with them, too, Mr. Bachchan). I can't think of single superfluous character (you know, no Johny Lever to lighten things up). Everyone introduced had a purpose in the plot. Ayesha should have gotten a "best female actress" award along with Rani, I think. Catherine started crying four, five times during this one, a sign that the emotions played true. I liked the score and give the cinematography generally high marks. Some of the scenery seemed flat, but maybe that was for the best, it didn't compete with the actors. Truly a wonderful viewing experience.

Rang De Basanti--Okay, we've been watching this in class, so it's probably not fair to even have an opinion about it. Watching a Bollywood movie in 25 minute chunks, once a week, makes it almost impossible to keep track of what is going on. But I have an opinion, anyway. What I'd like to say about this movie is that I like the intention behind it, but I didn't so much like the movie. Partly I think I was just underwhelmed by Aamir Khan, or maybe his character. He just seemed a bit flat, or at least the rest of the cast seemed to have a lot more life in them. But mostly what bugged me was the "outsider shows them the meaning of life" trope. I hate it when someone from the outside comes into a community and shows them how to live (or in this case...well, you finish that thought). I mean, why, all the sudden were these boys so passionate about India? What started everything in motion? That stupid British Sue's movie, that's what. It's similar to what bothered me about Swadesh, it's like you have to be an NRI or a foreigner to see India "the way it really is." Imperialist viewpoint, if you ask me. I actually liked the idea behind the movie, showing the psychological growth of these young men, turning them into people who cared about their environment and hoped for change, but I was kind of put off by the nationalist discourse. Also, I disliked the way they "became" their movie characters, as if they wouldn't have had any access to the emotions they needed to embrace vigilante justice if they hadn't had Sue's script to feed them earlier. I don't know, I didn't hate the movie, and I really can appreciate it as a serious attempt at political commentary, but it left me lukewarm about the whole thing. And the ending was just annoying.

Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon--This movie explained a lot of things about the kids in my Hindi class. No wonder they're so freaking unable to sit still for five minutes, they're watching movies like this. I felt like the producers were trying to induce a seizure in the viewer. Well, until Abhishek Bachchan hit the screen, and then I thought they were offering a cure for insomnia. Actually, this movie was super cute, and probably a huge hit with the pre-teen set, which surely was its intended audience. Hrithik Roshan's character was a nutcase, and Abhishek Bachchan's character was boring. Kareena was all over the map. I should say, I usually do not like Kareena, but her character made me laugh harder than I have ever laughed at a Hindi film. When she opened the door (when Prem1 first arrives at the family home) and did her eye-blink thing, I almost fell off the couch laughing. I'm not sure why I thought it was so funny, but Catherine also started crying she was laughing so much, so it wasn't just me. I think Catherine liked the movie better than I did, but I did sit and watch the entire thing, so it couldn't have been totally bad (like a couple of others I haven't finished). I am probably one of the two people in the world who likes Johnny Lever, he's so cuddly, so I tend to be pleased when he pops into a movie. The animation was crazy, although not as crazy as tying a dead parrot to your handlebars when you go to a bike ride (I'm looking at you, Prem1). Also, even if college = high school in India, I don't believe Bollywood college bears any resemblence to any college ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD. Two other things: 1) there's a scene right at the end, in which Abhishek's character is sitting on the floor, doing a finger painting. Maybe it was the red shirt, but he looked just like his father, until he looked up and broke the illusion. Catherine says he's better looking than his father was at that age, I think that is heresy; 2) the always and ever fabulous Reema Lagoo shows up after the intermission. I would have married Abhishek's character just to have her for the most beautiful mother-in-law in the world.

Kaho Naa Pyar Hai--Not actually Hrithik Roshan's first movie, but the one who made him "just like Elvis." Fifteen seconds into the movie, Catherine turned to me and said, "Well, of course, he became a star, how could he not after that opening?" to which I answered, "Yeah, if they had any sense, they'd stop this movie now, because it can only go downhill from here." And right at that moment, coolio Rohit started doing the stupidest air guitar routine I've ever seen and proved my point. He recovered his coolness, though, because it was only a dream. I avoided this movie because I wasn't sure about Amisha Patel, she reminded me of Kareena, and I can only take so much of that. But I ended up liking her character. When they realized they were castaways, her character didn't freak out like they always make girls do in the movies. Instead, she was completely happy about being stranded on a deserted island. On the other hand, she didn't at any time try to find fresh water. But I guess she knew craft services would be feeding them at some point. Anyway, what I really got from this movie is that I so prefer Hrithik WITH HIS SHIRT ON. What is this Bollywood obsession with his rather creepy physique? Also, I really don't like hero-type Hrithik. I don't know if he just plays the hero badly (doesn't bode well for Krrish! does it?), or if he is being told to play it badly. I think Hrithik has a talent for playing the dork or the average guy, but once he hits that transformation to hero-type, I can turn off the movie. Possibly the best part of the movie was his interview in the special features section. He at least seems normal (or knows how to act like he's normal) there.

Shakespeare Wallah--Merchant-Ivory's second India film. This is an awesome slice of imperialist nostalgia, filmed when India hadn't even been independent for 20 years. It ends up making India look sort of degenerate (have to ship the young white woman home to protect her, those bad Indians lose their love of British culture) but I think that's exactly what the British were feeling in the 1960s. I didn't really enjoy the film the first time through, I forgot that nothing happens in a Merchant-Ivory production. Then I watched the interviews with Merchant, Ivory, and Felicity Kendal and decided the film was fantastic. Also included on the DVD was Merchant's 1960 documentary "Delhi Way." Nothing happened in it, either, but it was still interesting to see what he was thinking about 46 years ago.

Dil Hai Tumhaara--Nice, light and fluffy. Any movie that offers me three hours of non-stop Preity is good by me. There must be a Preity saturation point, but I haven't reached it yet, even though I feel as if I've memorized the mannerisms that reappear in picturization after picturization (the "I'm cute" eye blink, for instance, or the "I find myself absolutely stunned by your proximity" gaze). Still, there was a scene in this movie that reminded me all over again that she really can act. When she transitioned from sobs to laughter in the space of three seconds, I realized that I completely bought her sad act because I said outloud "How can anyone go from that sad to that happy just like that? She must have been acting!" Well, no kidding. Catherine rediscovered her attraction to Jimmy Shergill in this movie (previously seen in Mohabbatein). He is far down the list from SRK and SAK, but he's on her list. Can I just say, that is the ugliest damn puppet I've ever seen? Maybe if they'd stop running to New Zealand to film their picturizations they could afford to put more money into their puppets. I have a soft spot for the "baldies" in the movie, they were kind of charming in their own inept-attempt-at-humor way. Also, could Rekha be more intense? I'm serious, if her character had whipped out an axe and started chasing Shalu around the house, I wouldn't have been surprised, she was that creepy.

Deewani Huye Pagal--Catherine's response: "At least it was supposed to be a fake parrot this time." That tells you a lot about how blah this movie was to us. The best part was the introduction/segues by Vivek Oberoi. Catherine discovered Sunil Shetty (he's a little above Vivek Oberoi on her list, but somewhere below Hrithik). This film reminded me a little bit of Hera Pheri, mabye because of Akshay Kumar, maybe because of the fast talking. Again, as one of the two Johnny Lever fans in the world, I liked it that he had a slightly larger role than he usually gets in movies. I must say, that I wasn't a huge fan of There's Something About Mary, to which this movie is usually compared, but I thought this one was somewhat fun. I'm not sure why people are so down on Bollywood for being derivative, or copying storylines from Hollywood. Do you people ever watch Hollywood movies? There are only four or five storylines in the industry, they just copy each other. At least they add music when they take it to India.

Bumbai--Holy @#*$&! I guess this movie knocks Dil Se out of its first place position in the "Best Bollywood Movie I've Ever Seen" competition. Really, it was quite stunning. Dil Se made me sick to my stomach for a full 24 hours. Bumbai will hurt my stomach a lot and I loved those smiles the twins wore when they found each other in the empty house. The ending, as we all know ten years later, was way too optimistic, but I guess you can't blame them for trying. The only jarring note was the item number--it just didn't fit the narrative the way the rest of the picturizations did. But as a stand alone song, I liked it (when A. R. Rahman is on his game, he produces the most wonderful music). Mani Ratnam just writes nice screen plays and apparently gives good direction, he turns out great products. The other nice thing about this movie was its lack of English. Unlike some of the newer productions, it had only three English words that we caught (journalist and T-shirt were two of them, can't remember the third). That may have been because the movie was done in Tamil and then dubbed into Hindi, or it could be that Mani Ratnam is just a better writer and doesn't need to fall back on loan words in every other sentence. This isn't a movie like Kal Ho Naa Ho; you can't keep watching it over and over or it will just kill you, but it is definitely the best movie I've seen in a long time.

The Mystic Masseur--The first 2/3s of this Merchant-Ivory production were quite good. The end (after the pandit joins the political world) were just empty and boring. I haven't read the original Naipaul story, so I'm not sure if the imbalance was introduced in the writing of the screenplay or what. But the first 2/3s make the movie worth watching, especially if you're interested in the Hindu diaspora. Great characters, quite witty. Also, any movie with Zohra Sehgal in it is quite fine by me. I love that woman.

Mission Kashmir--Well, after reading the description of how this movie was made in Maximum City, I sure didn't expect much out of this one. Also, I've avoided Sanjay Dutt...well...I'll let everyone else figure out why. However, it really had some fine moments, few of them involving Hrithik Roshan, unfortunately. Again, it's difficult to tell if he really can't pull off the hero/terrorist role, or he's been given bad direction. Whichever it is, the movie turns into a cartoon whenever his character is on screen. I know SRK was originally slated for the role, but I can't see that he would have peformed any better. He's also a cartoonish strong man. Sanjay Dutt, on the other hand, did an amazing job, as did Master Moshin. Puru Rajkumar was exactly as sinister as he should have been. Sonali Kulkarni was also quite nice. Preity was her usually solid self, but her role wasn't much. (As an aside, this is the first movie I've seen her use a full-on South Asian Head Wobble. I've seen one or two highly abbreviated SAHWs out of her, but this was the best one ever.) The soundtrack was so nice, and really cruel in its own way (I'm talking to you, "Maaf Karo"). This is the third movie I've seen that required a young Hrithik, and this one was the best--you can't tell me that kid in K3G grew up to be Hrithik. Master Moshin still didn't resemble Hrithik too much, but at least he had the right complexion. This is the second movie I've seen that required a young Preity, and both had great little girls to fill the role. This one had Preity's attitude and her teeth (before she had them straightened). There are some definite plot flaws, but after reading Maximum City, I understand why. Also, although the last scene of the movie is pure Bollywood, it bears thinking about what the movie could have been without it--much better, much more ambiguous, without that last scene.

Chori Chori Chupke Chupke--Huh. This is the first Bollywood movie I've seen that lifted a Hollywood script scene for scene (Pretty Woman). Unfortunately, the stealing didn't really contribute anything to plot of the movie, although my wife did enjoy watching Preity Zinta interpretation of Julia Roberts' interpretation of a prostitute. Seriously, a movie about a surrogate mother in India has so much potential, but the "screenwriters" screwed the entire thing up. I think the cast should have felt really ripped off, having to work with that material. I'm not a huge Salman Khan fan, but at least his character really loved his creepily cheerful wife. The most (perhaps only) beautiful thing about this movie was the PZ South Asain head wobble. She seriously looked like a bobble-head doll, her head was was wobbling 24/7 in this one, a thing of beauty. Trust me.

Asoka--Decent movie, especially given that no one seemed to have a script in hand when they started producing the damn thing. Everyone knows I'm not a Kareena fan which is, quite frankly, puzzling. She has exactly the kind of body I wish I had, but I just don't find her alluring. She would make a great warrior if they dressed her properly, though. I don't think most people go to war with bare midriffs, but that's just my own speculation. Amazingly, even though this is an epic, Johnny Lever still shows up. The music is really nice even if not exactly suited to the movie (good to watch afterward, but really quite superfluous to the plot). Master Sooraj Balaji was a little cutie during the entire tale. SRK did a better job than I thought he would, although it was hard to get past his "I am SRK" look. Catherine really liked this movie. I went to bed about 30 minutes from the finish but she stayed up and watched the end even though it was already hours past her bedtime. I finished it the next day. We both agree that it would have been a better movie if they had moved to his point of enlightenment a little more quickly so they could share at least part of his Buddhist life with us.

Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke--Meh. Not much to say about this movie, other than it was pretty stupid. Oh, and also I find Ajay Devgan not at all attractive or interesting. What did Neha/Sakshi see in Vicky or Rohit? Nothing going on upstairs, I think. Also, the "bad guys" were stupid and laughable, as was the evil aunt. And what was that whole thing about speaking in rhyme? Crazy people, I tell you. I liked the bhang song, but it really just seemed like an interruption to the story. And honestly, how did they get from the Bangalore Turf Club to Manali in, like, two seconds? Do they think I don't know my India geography? Anyway, if I had slept through this movie, that would have been okay, despite Madhuri Dixit's beauty and Preity Zinta's smile.

Baghban--God, what a horrible movie. If I typed for 30 minutes, I still wouldn't be able to cover everything I didn't like about it. It's easier to say what I did like: Mr. Bachchan's singing, and the man-wife relationship as played by Mr. Bachchan and Hema Malini. There's nothing else good to say about the movie. I'm listening to the soundtrack, and it's quite nice, too bad it was attached to such a rotten bit of cinema. Heinous children, saintly parents (yet still incapable of offering forgiveness), implausible plots, blaming the girl for the male's bad sexual behavior, all of it makes it a bad movie. And seriously, what was up with the Salman Khan character? First, do you think his parents would really forget to tell him that they were moving out of the family home? Get real. What is the likelihood of the parents stumbling into a Ford dealership in Vijaynagar w/out knowing that it was owned by their son? Get real. And would he really sleep at the foot of their bed? Get real. And his speech at the end completely creeped me out--he sounded as if he was auditioning for a speaking role in "Night of the Living Dead." If that guy started sleeping in my bedroom, I'd make sure I had a wooden stake and silver bullet on the nightstand.

Dil Ne Jise Apna Kahaa--And speaking of creepy...I know this was supposed to be a love story, but my god, sleeping with the woman who ended up with your former's wife heart? That's disgusting. Wouldn't you look at the scar on her chest and think, "Hmm...she's alive because my wife died in a car accident last year." Too weird. I'm just not a Salman Khan fan, although he was better in this movie than in any other I've seen him in, mainly because he was only half-dressed most of the time. His upper body is much nicer than Hrithik Roshan's. Still, those short shorts and bold print shirts? Gotta go. Everybody did an adequate job, but I thought the character played Bhoomika Chawla was a bit blah. I will say Preity had a brilliant acting moment when she got to die mid-breath. Those "I'm dead" eyes were seriously disturbing.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Kind of an odd weekend. Sophia said she didn't have any homework this week, so after I got over my feelings of disgust and envy, I made good on my promise to teach her how to skate. We went to the rink on both Saturday and Sunday (three days in a row at the rink for me, as I went to the UIUC-NDU hockey game Friday night). On one hand, it was a nice time and gave my confidence a boost. It's good to know there is ONE THING on this planet that I do better than most of the adult population. And Sophia really seemed to enjoy learning, so that made it more fun as well. On the other hand, socializing is horribly stressful for me, I hate the process of negotiating new friendships. I made the mistake of actually being honest once, only to be met with a blank stare and a "That's ridiculous, I don't understand that at all" reply. I remembered why I don't go out with other people as often as I could. I'm basically alone much of the time, and though I do get lonely, overall it seems less painful to be by myself than to have to explain myself to other people.

Friday, January 20, 2006

I should just set up a file of stock phrases that I can cut and paste into this journal. "Today I went to school and it was rainy." "Today I went to school and it was cold." "Today I went to school and it was frustrating." "Today I went to school and broke a bone." Those kinds of things.

Really, my hand isn't broken, just sprained, proving my assertion that if you have to ask "is it broken?" it's not. You know when a bone is broken. There's no guesswork involved.

One week down, fourteen more to go. Trying to fight the panicky "too many classes!" feeling. Trying to fight the "why the fuck can't the Linguistics Department get its act together and design a *real* Hindi program?" feeling. Trying to fight the "god, I'm the only one in this room who doesn't understand!" feeling. Trying to fight the "my body hates me and I hate my body" feeling.

On the plus side, I heard someone refer to me this week as "[her] Ph.D. student." This is the first time anyone has ever taken ownership of me, so that seems like a good thing. Also, the same person recommended me as a blind peer reviewer for a journal she co-edits. And also on the (possibly) plus side, another professor recognized me, remembered my name, and didn't seem obviously disappointed to find me in her seminar this semester. I don't understand more than half of what she says, but hopefully by the end of the year...

There are too many quotation marks on this page. Really.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Just in case I come back to this in five years and wonder what the hell that last post was about: all the slicing and dicing took place on the shoulder blade this time, not the collar bone, so most of what I wrote last week was one big lie.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

And in other news, tomorrow I go in for another shoulder operation, a second "distal clavicle excision." Looking on the bright side, I'm having arthropscopic rather than open surgery this time, and the surgeon should only be taking of a centimeter or so of bone. And no ligament detachment/relocation, so that's all to the good. On the other hand, bone is bone, so I'm not looking forward to it because, basically, I'm a wuss. This is all pretty unexpected (I found out on December 19th, *after* I planned my work schedule for the semester break), so I'm trying to cram in a bunch of work, mostly unsuccessfully. I've only crossed two things off my to do list today:

Post Office
Sahara Mart
Catherine's birthday present
Book review
Finish bibliography
Finish Christmas cards
Disassemble drums
Catherine's birthday cake
Grocery store
Dinner w/Erika and Henry

Obviously, many people are not going to get Christmas cards after all this (last) year. The rough draft of the book review is almost done. Four of these tasks can't be accomplished until after 5 p.m., if you can call dining out a task, that is. And don't think I haven't considered telling my advisor, "You know, I did work on the bibliography, but there was this bit of unscheduled shoulder surgery, and you know...I just couldn't get it done," accompanied by a look of "I'm so ashamed, really, and it will never happen again." But I'm not that much of a player, so I guess I'd better get to work.
Are my professors nuts? I avoided taking one class this semester because the students last semester told me the course packet alone cost $313 (no one had added up the price of the textbooks, they probably couldn't bear the pain). I've only looked up two of my classes, but so far I'm looking at $707.90 for books. If they add a course packet to that...I might throw up. I'm not even in engineering! All I can say is there had better be a healthy collection of books on reserve, although having met one professor...I'd say that's probably a wish that will go unfulfilled. Doesn't seem the type to get that done. I don't have the nerve to look up my landscape class--I have a feeling that the price of those books may kill me.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Wow. My first present of the New Year was an incredibly kind e-mail from an old high school friend. But then I looked at the date and time it was sent, and had to conclude that he was probably drunk when he sent it. Still, even if it was thoroughly soaked with alcohol, and even if he probably doesn't remember that he wrote it, it was very nice to read.
I doubt that I'm the only one who gave a New Year's toast that sounded more like a plea and less like a celebration: Please, please, please let 2006 be better than 2005. Not that last year was all bad, but there were more than a few moments when I thought Father Time was doing his best to kick me in the teeth.

In the interest of getting this year started on a more positive note than the last one ended (couldn't let New Year's Eve just slip by, could you FT, without one last right-left combination?), we went for a walk at Green's Bluff this morning. Very pretty, nice views, not for anyone suffering from vertigo or fear of heights. As we passed the last farm before the parking area, four dogs ran out and started chasing our car, following us to the trailhead. You know me, afraid of dogs, but I eventually opened my door to the biggest one and he jumped all over me, wagging his tail. A large yellow-red sort of dog, accompanied by an old beagle, a puppy beagle, and a black pomeranian. I think the Nature Preserve rules state that you're supposed to only have dogs in the area if they're leashed, but since they weren't our dogs...what were we supposed to do? The small dogs were really funny, anyway, and the large dog was the smart one, and since they didn't eat us, I liked having them with us. Didn't much like smelling like dog afterward, and I wouldn't want to have to take care of them all the time, but for an hour, I guess dogs are okay.

Did a little work in the afternoon, then sat in my chair and finished Catherine's Christmas present. I only made one present this year (a significant decline in workshop production), and that was an afghan for Catherine. Obviously, I didn't finish it on time, but it's done now. I think that's my last afghan, I'm not really good with the yarn. We re-watched Fire while I was working. Why was this movie in English? Probably so people like me can crochet while watching it. One of these days we'll see the rest of the trilogy.

I did make one resolution this year. It's long and drawn out, but to paraphrase, it is to "be nicer to myself." One day down, 364 more to go. We'll see how this works out.