Damn Right I Got The Blues

I found "Sita Sings The Blues" mentioned in Roger Ebert's blog, and it does indeed look as delightful as he says:

I put on the DVD and start watching. I am enchanted. I am swept away. I am smiling from one end of the film to the other. It is astonishingly original. It brings together four entirely separate elements and combines them into a great whimsical chord. You might think my attention would flag while watching An animated version of the epic Indian tale of Ramayana set to the 1920's jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw. Quite the opposite. It quickens.

The web site for the film is a thing of beauty as well. I hope I get to see this film some time somewhere - apparently it has been playing at film festivals around the world, and has received lots and lots of awards (the web site overflows with laurels), but it has not found a distributor. Roger Ebert has invited "Sita" to his Urbana film festival in April 2009, so I have hope that it'll have other showings as well.

PS on December 28: Film maker Nina Paley shares her distribution plan. You can help too!

Love and Marriage, Love and Marriage, Go Together Like A Horse And Carriage

From Tom Ackerman, via The Daily Dish:

Yesterday I called a woman’s spouse her boyfriend.

She says, correcting me, “He’s my husband,”
“Oh,” I say, “I no longer recognize marriage.”

The impact is obvious. I tried it on a man who has been in a relationship for years,

“How’s your longtime companion, Jill?”
“She’s my wife!”
“Yeah, well, my beliefs don’t recognize marriage.”

Fun. And instant, eyebrow-raising recognition. Suddenly the majority gets to feel what the minority feels. In a moment they feel what it’s like to have their relationship downgraded, and to have a much taken-for-granted right called into question because of another’s beliefs.

Talk About Fear, Hate, Envy, Jealousy

News through UPI: Muslim clerics endorse anti-terror fatwa.

HYDERABAD, India, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- About 6,000 Muslim clerics from around India approved a fatwa against terrorism Saturday at a conference in Hyderabad.

Maulana Qari Mohammad Usman Mansoorpuri, president of the Jamaiat-Ulama-i-Hind, called terrorism the most serious problem facing Islam, The Hindu reported. He blamed Islamic radicals for their actions and the news media for failing to distinguish between the radicals and the majority of Muslims.

"We have no love for offenders whichever religion they might belong to," he said. "Our concern is that innocents should not be targeted and the career of educated youth not ruined. The government should ensure transparency in investigation."

India has the world's second-largest Muslim population after Indonesia, although Hindus outnumber Muslims. The meeting was also expected to address issues like national integration.

"Islam rejects all kinds of unjust violence, breach of peace, bloodshed, murder and plunder and does not allow it in any form. Cooperation should be done for the cause of good but not for committing sin or oppression," the fatwa written at the Darul Uloom Deoband, India's foremost Islamic seminary.

I think it's about time we realize that fanatical, radical hatred is a perversion of religion, and separate the two.

[found this on Roger Ebert's Journal]

Life Is Bigger, It's Bigger Than You

"I think that the real religion is about the understanding that if we can only still our egos for a few seconds, we might have a chance of experiencing something that is divine in nature. But in order to do that, we have to slice away at our egos and try to get them down to a manageable size, and then still work some practiced light meditation. So real religion is about reducing our egos, whereas all the churches are interested in is egotistical activities, like getting as many members and raising as much money and becoming as important and high-profile and influential as possible. All of which are egotistical attitudes. So how can you have an egotistical organization trying to teach a non-egotistical ideal? It makes no sense, unless you regard religion as crowd control. What I think most organized religion—simply crowd control."

John Cleese in an interview with The A.V. Club.

One Of God's Better People

The Dalai Lama turns 70 today.

Happy birthday, Your Holiness.

PS: So I am using a photo of the Dalai Lama for my chat buddy icon today, and of course I get the best conversations out of it. Let me quote my two favorite Dalai Lama-related things.

1. The inimitable Carl Spackler: So I jump ship in Hong Kong and make my way over to Tibet, and I get on as a looper at a course over in the Himalayas. A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I’m a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald… striking. So, I’m on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one – big hitter, the Lama – long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga… gunga, gunga-galunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, “Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.” And he says, “Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.” So I got that goin’ for me ... ... ... which is nice.

2. The Dalai Lama says to the hot dog vendor: "Make me one with everything."
The vendor hands the Dalai Lama a hot dog; the Dalai Lama hands over a twenty-dollar bill and waits patiently for a minute, then he asks: "What about my change?" To which the hot dog vendor replies: "Change must come from within."

Candlelight Dinner

So I promised to tell you about last night's dinner: it was my first time ever to attend a seder. I was raised Lutheran-Protestant in Germany, and even though I have some Jewish ancestors, I am not at all familiar with Jewish holidays, customs and traditions. Fortunately, at a seder, the children are encouraged to ask questions - why do we have this special meal, what's passover, why were the Israelites slaves in Egypt, how did they get back to the Holy Land, why do we leave the door open for the prophet Elijah, and what does he have to do with the whole thing anyway - and so I took on the child's role (and I was genuinely curious), and the other ladies present were happy to share their knowledge.

It was a lovely evening. I met several delightful people, we ate wonderful food, I got to participate in a holiday tradition that I'd known nothing about, and we ended up in a lively discussion about the differences and similarities between the three big monotheistic religions (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) that all spring from the same source.

And I walked the five blocks home under a big silver full moon, lots of stars, and a clear cool spring breeze.

Okay, one correction - I didn't go there knowing nothing at all about it. Of course I searched the Internet for some information, and found this really helpful site: And during the evening, it turned out I knew more than I had thought, because I remembered most of the story of the exodus from the Bible; I just hadn't been familiar with the customs surrounding passover, the holiday that commemorates it.

Thanks again for inviting me, Miriam!

Oh, I Want To Be In That Number

I'm sorry I neglected to wish all my Irish friends - especially Enda - a Happy St. Patrick's Day yesterday. I'll make it up to you with another saint today. He's Italian though ... I hope that's okay by you.

Here is
The Prayer of Saint Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

And here is an audio file of Sri Eknath Easwaran, my spiritual teacher, reading this prayer.

Give Up Speeding For Lent

I did my almost daily routine yesterday, stopping at Peet's Coffee for a cup of coffee, an Odwalla juice, a pastry, and the perusal of the daily papers. This entry in the Mr. Roadshow column in the San Jose Mercury News caught my eye:

"I write to Roadshow to offer a challenge to the driving public: Give up speeding for Lent. You don't have to be Catholic to try it. Just go the posted speed limit. I have done this now for several years and could write a long essay on how my driving habits have changed, as well as my disposition. It has made me a safer and calmer driver in all respects, and other people are better off for my sacrifice."

I like it. Wanna try it? I think I will. (I'm not Catholic either.)

[When is Lent? Starts this coming Wednesday - Ash Wednesday - and lasts 40 days, until Easter.]