Category Archive for 'TV, Movies, and Music – Reviews'

Commentary on Deepa Mehta’s Water

Friday, July 21st, 2006

MM,

Unlike most people who have already seen Deepa Mehta’s Water, I had different motivations for watching it. My primary reason was one of cultural and historical interest as well as exposing myself to a different spiritual background.

Note: This commentary is primarily for those who have seen the movie. If you have not seen the movie, please be aware that a considerable amount of the plot is given as well as dialogue and some scene descriptions.

Water has been grabbed onto by feminists as a movie with a veiled cry for “help” from Hindu widows; however, the messages to be found in the movie are much more philosophical and spiritual. The movie shows the complexity of a society in the beginning of political and social changes. The setting is India in 1938 around the time when Ghandi held much influence. Changes are brought about by the influx of Western societal ideals as provided to East Indians by the British Empire. Western ideals, however, have both a positive and negative impact on the Hindu beliefs already firmly held in India.

Along with a complex social and political background, the story centers around three widows – all of different ages. One is a child, Chuyia, who is roughly eight or nine years old. The second is a young woman, Kalyani, who is around her tweens, probably not meant to be older than twenty-five. The third is an older women, Shakuntala, probably meant to be in her fourties or early fifties.

The movie starts off with Chuyia becoming a widow after her husband dies from an illness. Her father comes into the scene and wakes her. He asks her if she remembers being married. Chuyia replies “No.” Her father tells her that her husband has died and that she is now a widow. Chuyia asks her father how long she must be a widow. Next, Chuyia is brought to an ashram where other widows live together. Before being allowed in, she runs inside, looks around quickly and runs back out to her father. She begs him to take her back home. Her father looks at her sadly and says that this is her home now. Chuyia then asks where her mother is if this is her home. Someone comes to the doorway and drags Chuyia inside while she screams that she wants to leave. Her father resignedly watches his young daughter newly widowed being dragged away by a stranger.

Here is where we meet the other two main characters. First, we meet Shakuntala, who becomes a mother figure to Chuyia. Next, we meet Kalyani, a beautiful young woman, who takes to Chuyia like an older sister.

At first, Chuyia believes that her mother will come and take her home. As time passes and she settles into a daily routine at the ashram, Chuyia realizes that her mother isn’t coming for her and that this is her home now. Even that thought though does not destroy Chuyia’s spirit. She’s a feisty child and strong-willed.

Shakuntala is just as strong-willed, but more disciplined. She spends time with a Priest, learns from him, and develops a spiritual strength, resilience, and determination. He tells her to never lose faith. She never does. It is Shakuntala who helps Chuyia in the end. The movie ends with a seeming hint that maybe Shakuntala’s help does not just end with Chuyia. Shakuntala seems to realize now that she has power to do something to change the fates of those around her. There is hope where there is faith because through faith there is strength, resilience, and determination.

It is Kalyani’s story though that the audience seems to remember most, although it is Chuyia who is the central figure. Kalyani, while out with Chuyia, one day meets a newly educated lawyer, Narayan, who happens to be a follower of Ghandi’s teachings. They are, of course, instantly attracted to each other. Narayan knows that Kalyani is a widow, but doesn’t care. He asks for her address so he could escort her home. Kalyani and Chuyia tell him and walk away.

With the introduction of Narayan, the movie gives us a glimpse of the differences in social classes in India in 1938. India retained a caste system that is based on myth. Narayan is a gentry and is for all practical purposes better off than Kalyani is as a widow. Kalyani is occasionally prostituted out by the lady who runs the ashram. Narayan promises to marry Kalyani, even though traditionalists believe a widow should never re-marry. Later, Shakuntala (and the audience finds out) that a law has just been recently passed allowing a widow to re-marry. Why has it not been mentioned before? Simply because humans tend to “ignore the laws that don’t benefit us”.

Throughout the first part of the movie, some scenes displaying beliefs about widows are shown. It is considered bad luck for a widow’s shadow to touch a bride. It is considered contamination for someone other than a widow to be touched by a widow. It is also considered a sin for a man to desire a widow. These beliefs are mitigated by the influx of Western societal ideals with some positive and some negative effects. It is Western societal ideals, the so-called “liberal thinking”, that has eased some men’s consciences about keeping a mistress or using a widow as a prostitute. This is portrayed in a scene between Narayan and his father.

Narayan’s father: “Brahmins can sleep with whomever they want, and the women they sleep with are blessed.”
Narayan: “Do you know Lord Ram told his brother, never to honor those Brahmins, who interpret the Holy Texts for their own benefit?”

Social and political changes that are occuring in 1938 India are discussed between Narayan and Kalyani at one of their first meetings alone.

Kalyani: “Are you gentry?”
Narayan: “Would it matter if I was?”
Kalyani: “Yes.”
Narayan: “I just finished my law exams. When did you become a widow?”
Kalyani: “I don’t remember. Maybe when I was nine.”
Narayan: “Was your husband good to you?”
Kalyani: “I never met him. Anyone else in your house?”
Narayan: “My mother, my father, Sadhuramji. No, I’m not married.”
Kalyani: “Good God! Why not?”
Narayan: “My father says, childhood is a time for play, not for marriage.”
Kalyani: “And your mother?”
Narayan: “If she had her way, I’d have a daughter as old as Chuyia.”
Kalyani: “Your mother’s right. That’s how things are.”
Narayan: “That’s how things were. Times are changing. All the old traditions are dying out.”
Kalyani: “All of them? But what is good should not die out.”
Narayan: “And who will decide what is good and what is not?”

This one scene has much to say about the movie. Things are changing in their society, but who is to decide what is good and what is not? Western societal beliefs are not necessarily better than Narayan’s and Kalyani’s Hindu ones. One must use personal judgment in deciding what is good out of the two. Things are never black and white.

A deep spirituality is portrayed by not only Shakuntala, but also by Narayan. The following dialogue gives us his perspective.

Narayan: “It’s from Kalida’s poem, ‘Meghdoot’.”
Kalyani: “I can’t read. Shakuntala Didi read your letter.”
Narayan: “Do you know what ‘Meghdoot’ is?”
Kalyani shakes her head “no”
Narayan: “In Sanskrit, megh means a raincloud, and doot, a messenger. The poem is about the pain of separation between two lovers.”
Kalyani: “Continue.”
Narayan: “The lover tells the cloud, it resembles Lord Vishnu in Krishna’s guise, gleaming with peacock feathers.”
Kalyani: “And the cloud heard him? How is that possible?”
Narayan: “If we believe that a statue of God can hear us, why not a cloud?”

One of the most beautiful and spiritually moving scenes in the film is the vigil the widows hold for their eldest who is dying. This is a beautiful woman called Patiraji, whom they all call “Auntie”. They take Auntie outside at her request. Auntie dies without any valuables to pay for her cremation, but Kalyani donates her savings for her cremation so that Auntie will have her proper last rites. Auntie does not die unhappily though. Throughout the movie, Auntie wishes for “yellow ladoos”, a sweet treat eaten at Hindu weddings. In a previous scene, Chuyia, after having begged for money, decides to buy a ladoo. She returns the the ashram, wakes up Auntie, and leaves her the yellow ladoo. Auntie eats the ladoo cherishing it with absolute happiness expressed in her face. Interestingly, Auntie dies later after having eaten the yellow ladoo. It seems it was the one thing she wanted before dying, and now that her wish was granted through the willfulness of a little child, she could let go and pass on.

The issue of choice comes up in the movie. Choices exist for these women even if they cannot see all of them. In many ways, this is what makes the movie sad. There is choice, but the women don’t see it and can’t seem to pull themselves out of their seeming fate. They have just accepted (even this is a choice!) what they are told is their destiny, without question, with little realization of the changes in the world outside their ashram. Ghandi in this movie is an avatar of positive change. Somewhat not surprisingly, it is Shakuntala who discovers this and that there are choices to be made, and this moves her to action. The changes that are occuring in her society now provide her with opportunities to change the fate of those around her – and she takes them. It is through Shakuntala that there is hope and choice.

The movie is beautifully filmed. The setting is almost idyllic. Some people may be appalled at the way the widows live, but this stems from a Western idealistic bias. (People in many Oriental countries sleep on rice mats on the floor, but that doesn’t mean they are impoverished. They just lead a much simpler life.) In North American society, we send our elderly to nursing homes because it is more convenient and less time-consuming than trying to take care of an elderly parent ourselves. Is this treatment of people we think of as no longer having any purpose for society really any better? In filming the everyday lives of the widows, Mehta has managed to portray a simple beauty that is difficult to find in Western society.

It is unfortunate that some people have seized upon just the political issue in the movie ignoring Mehta’s other messages in the movie. Many people seem to forget that the movie is a fictional drama, that is, the movie is specially created to evoke an emotional response. Adding the following blurb…

“There are over 34 million widows in India according to the 2001 Census. Many continue to live in conditions of social, economic and cultural deprivation as prescribed 2000 years ago by the Sacred Texts of Manu.”

…at the end of the movie further flames the burning feeling of injustice and inequality many feminists feel after watching this movie. However, note the small tiny detail in the blurb only gives the vague quantifier “many” instead of an actual figure of how many widows still live in ashrams. Also realize that it is not the Sacred Texts that should be blamed, but the interpretation of the texts. It is unfortunate too that these same people don’t take the time to question, research, and find out what really is the situation of Hindu widows. Had they done so, they would learn that the practices depicted in this movie, taking place in 1938 nearly 70 years ago, are practiced primarily in small towns and villages. The practice is virtually outdated in major cities in India. (This was confirmed through a personal Hindu friend of Nathan’s who recently returned to North America from a visit to India.) That’s not to say there are no widows living in ashrams – they would have been placed there years ago and stayed there until now – but there aren’t many new widows being forced to live in ashrams. What has to be said that isn’t being said is that the practice is fading out probably along with the practice of child brides given to older men, which is the real issue why there are so many widows to begin with.

What isn’t explained in the movie is how the Hindu religious practices developed. Before the practice was banned, fundamentalist Hindus used to practice “sati”. This was a religious practice named after the goddess Sati. The religious practice involved immolating the widow. The idea was that if the widow immolated herself on the husband’s funeral pyre, they both would receive rewards in the afterlife. Some time later, the British made the practice illegal (even if the widow was willing to immolate herself, basically a self-sacrifice). After sati was made illegal, fundamentalist Hindus began practicing what they now call “cold sati”, yes, the enforced widowhood that is depicted in Water. Apparently, they couldn’t figure out what to do with the widows because their scriptures didn’t make it clear what to do aside from the practice of sati.

There have been changes over the past 70 years regarding Hindu widows. Widows are allowed to re-marry and real examples exist as shown in this message post. The widows do inherit their deceased husband’s money and property. They lose it if they re-marry since they would share in the property of the next husband. (This I find particularly interesting because it prevents the “Black Widow” syndrome where some women keep re-marrying old, rich men just so they can inherit the money and property.) Since widows would lose property if they re-marry, some may well choose not to. Hindu women do have specific rights. The problem is that not all Hindu women are educated, and even if they are, they don’t take advantage of their rights. Also, people still believe what is written in their scriptures, but efforts to educate their society is currently taking place.

It is unfortunate that this movie is banned in India for the messages in this movie need to be heard by the same society that is depicted in the film. The country needs to be encouraged to talk about the issues there – this will allow real healing for the country as a whole to begin. The movie is not intended to point fingers at people, but rather to open intelligent discussion about many different issues that India and Hindus face. Of course, it is not easy for any country to look at its past mistakes – would you like your most shameful moment be depicted for the whole world to see? The movie may not only affect fundamentalist sensitivities, but also those remaining widows who grew up like those depicted in the movie. The movie is sure to bring up painful memories for these women, who may have finally gained some freedom and moved on.

Water and the issue of Hindu widows has become sensationalized by an primarily emotional audience who have yet to put the movie into a larger perspective. Yes, there is an inequality being presented here, but there is also inequality and injustice all over the world. (Visit Amnesty International.) There are women being abused in every country of the world. There are other people besides women being mistreated in many parts of the world. Someone somewhere is suffering (I’m reminded of the documentary Scared Sacred). Who’s to say if one group’s suffering is greater than another’s? If one really believes in equality, one should show compassion just as equally. Don’t get fixated on the small picture. The real issue here is about human dignity – not just women’s, but every single human being. As humans we need to treat each other better – regardless of race, gender, culture, spirituality or religion, age, social group, disability (politically correct to call it “differently abled”), or intelligence.

BB,
Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

Additional information:

Women in Hinduism (Wikipedia article)
Women in White: India’s Widows
Widows Unite to Throw Off Loneliness
Plight of Hindu Widows
Widows’ Rights and their Implementation
SC Ruling on Adoption by Hindu Widows

“The Wicker Man Returns”?! This is blasphemy, simply blasphemous!

Thursday, June 29th, 2006

Could they miss the point of the original movie any more than turning the idea of the the wicker man into some sort of boogey man?

Nicholas Cage has decided to star in the remake of The Wicker Man (originally done in 1973) being directed by Neil La Bute. The movie is expected to be released in September 2006.

Like the original script, the cop (Sergeant Howie in the original and Edward Malus in the remake) is lead to SummerIsle (spelt differently than the original, and located in the U.S. instead of the British Isles as in the original) where he finds it bizarre that no one seems to remember the girl he was sent to find. That is probably as close to the original script the remake will get. (I’ll find out if this is true after the movie is released on DVD. As I don’t intend to watch this in the theatres, I will probably just watch the DVD version, and then make a comparison to the original.)

According to one review, a major difference in the remake is that Malus is not a virgin. This was apparently changed because the director did not think people would believe any grown man is a virgin in this day and age. This is a big clue that the director obviously did not understand the original movie to begin with. The original movie, although labeled as a horror flick, was an intellectual treat. Apparently, the original movie was too intellectual for director Neil La Bute. The original character was a virgin because the sacrifice had to be a virgin in accordance with ancient pagan rites as depicted in the movie. When sacrificing to the gods, the sacrifice had to be as pure and as innocent as possible. (Of course, in modern times, the idea of sacrifice is slightly different. A sacrifice would be something of high value to the person making a sacrifice. For example, someone might paint a beautiful picture and then burn it, or someone might shave their head, or someone might give up their favourite food for a time.) This whole idea of the virgin sacrifice was a key point in the original movie. In fact, if the virgin cop had decided to sleep with the local temptress (portrayed by Britt Ekland), he would have been an impure sacrifice; and therefore, his life would have been spared. The people of Summerisle would have had to find another sacrifice. This, of course, plays out very well in the original movie as the audience watches a humourous depiction of a man struggling hard to hold onto his virtue as a pious Christian. Changing the cop to a non-virgin in the remake leaves the audience with a pretty uninteresting character to watch. This also leaves the remake to rely mostly on the typical Hollywood spook effects in order to keep the audience captivated. (Though, of course, if you’re like me and get bored of the typical Hollywood spook effects, this will not captivate you.)

Another difference in the remake is the removal of the religious conflict – that is, the pagan versus the Christian. The original movie was obviously a commentary on these two religious practices, which when taken to both their extremes are completely polar opposites to each other. The original movie portrays both extremes very well. You have the pious Christian who’s still a virgin. Then you have the nature-loving pagans who accept sex for what it is and who also accept that their god demands a hefty sacrifice every so often. According to director Neil La Bute, the pagans have been slightly changed in the remake. The pagans are a little more “Dionysian” in nature, that is, they are a little more rowdy and probably amoral (whereas the ones in the original movie thought they were doing the “right” thing to satisfy their deities). As for the cop, he’s an upstanding police officer who just wants to do the “right thing”. (I have no idea if he’s supposed to be Christian or not in the movie.) As with the removal of the sexual tension, these changes leave the movie to rely once again on Hollywood spook effects to captivate the audience. This now brings me back to my first comment and probaby most important comment.

The wicker man is not a boogey man figure. The wicker man was originally burned as an effigy in pagan practices and was usually done for Beltane, a festival for spring, celebrating the return of earth’s fertility and abundance. The wicker man is a tall wooden structure made in the shape of a man using flexible wood such as willow. It was rumoured that live animals and sometimes humans were locked inside the wicker man to be burned along with the effigy (just as was depicted in the original version of The Wicker Man). This idea has little evidence aside from the one account from Julius Caesar regarding Druidic practices. Although not true in reality, the live sacrifice did make the ending in the original movie quite interesting. The remake of the movie differs completely in regard to what the wicker man is. From the trailer for the remake we hear someone say, “The Wicker Man returns”, and then Nicholas Cage’s character asking, “Who is the Wicker Man?” – as if the wicker man really is a manifested boogey man. To bring this point home, Neil La Bute has stated that he is considering re-naming his remake Wicker Man with no “the”, implying a title like Candyman. (I remember not being able to look into my bathroom mirror for about a month after watching that movie, but that was when I was much younger and less desensitized about horror films.)

Unfortunately for Neil La Bute, many thought the original was “completed so well” that it did not need a remake, especially not this one. Considering all things so far, it seems this remake has nothing new to offer except your typical Hollywood spook effects. I suppose even the wonderfully sensual “Willow’s Song” will be gone from the remake, since there’s no virgin for the local temptress to… well, tempt.

Review by Cassandrah, your local pagan

Additional links:

Wikipedia article on The Wicker Man (1973 film)
www.cagebypage.com movie news
IMDB entry on the remake
Remake trailer

“Media Vita in Morte Sumus…”

Tuesday, April 4th, 2006

MM,

Occasionally when I’m writing, I like to listen to some meditative music. Tonight… er, last night since it’s morning now, I was listening to Anuna. Anuna is the famous Irish choir that performs medieval and contemporary chants and songs. One of my favourite chants from them is Media Vita (pronounced “mey-dee-ah vee-tah”).

Media Vita is originally a Latin hymn said to be written by Notker Balbulus (c.840 – c.912). It later came to be used as part of the funeral rites of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. (See Wikipedia article on sequence (poetry).) The full Latin text of Media Vita is given below followed by the English translation.

Media vita in morte suumus
Quem quaerimus ad iutorem nihi site domine
Qui pro peccatis nostris

Chorus:
Sancte Deus, sancte fortis
Sancte misericor salvator
Amare morti ne tradas nos

In te speraverunt patres nostris
Speraverunt et liberasti eos

(Chorus 2x)

Media vita in morte sumus

In the midst of life we are in death
What helper do we seek except you, O Lord
You who for our sins

Chorus:
Holy God, holy and powerful
Oh holy compassionate savior
Do not give us over to the harshness of death

In you, our fathers placed their hopes
They placed their hopes and you freed them

(Chorus 2x)

In the midst of life we are in death

When I listen to this chant performed by Anuna, I can feel the power of it. Perhaps it is because the song is in Latin, and I have always found Latin to be a particularly beautiful languange. Perhaps it is because Anuna performs this chant excellently. Or perhaps there is some meaning in this chant that I find resonates with me. It is strange, but even as a pagan, I find this chant beautiful. Even realizing that it is originally written as a Christian hymn doesn’t faze me. Perhaps it is because this chant was written ages ago back when Christianity was closer to its original pagan elements. Listening to this chant, I get a sense of some of the pagan gods, most notably Jupiter (Zeus in Greek myth). Jupiter was the father god of Roman mythology, just as Zeus was the father god of Greek mythology. Perhaps Jupiter decided to hang around, even though people where intent on displacing him with a nameless, formless, transcendent god. Jupiter’s glory and power is reflected wonderfully in this song, even if the original writer may not have intended this.

Whether you are pagan or Christian or a person of any other faith, this is an amazing song as it reflects much about our relationship to god(s). I recommend giving it a listen sometime.

Media vita in morte sumus
In the midst of life we are in death

Blessings,
Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

P.S. For those who know their Irish myth, yes, I have noticed that an Irish choir singing this may inadvertently attract the attention of Morrigan, fiercesome goddess of war and death. 😉

What I Listen to… a list of music artists

Tuesday, February 14th, 2006

MM,

I know a few people are wondering what an urban pagan such as myself would choose to listen to these days. Well, first of all, I don’t listen to the radio much and I find most of my music via internet now. Nathan is constantly searching for new music artists and occasionally I hear something I like and just add it to my playlist.

Here is a quick run-down of some artists I listen to these days in alphabetical order:

A Perfect Circle

Nathan got me listening to this band, though at first I couldn’t listen to them because the album he had was a little depressing and I needed to listen to something more uplifting or peaceful. However, when the mood is right, I listen to them. What makes this band stand out is their bass guitar. Without it, the songs wouldn’t be the same. Yes, the music is a little sad and depressing, but at the same time there’s a feeling of hope – just that little glimmer. I’m amazed at the expression of emotion in the music. I really like the song “Blue” from them.

Aeone

A lovely vocalist. She has been compared to Loreena McKennitt. I like “Umbra Nihili”.

Anuna

What can be said about Anuna that hasn’t been said? In case you don’t know who Anuna is, it’s the famous Irish choir. They do some amazing chants and some contemporary pieces. Great stuff.

Arcadia

Would you believe I still listen to this? I had the album on vinyl when I was a kid and I had to have this on mp3. The singer is sexy Simon LeBon – enough said.

Balligomingo

This is nice and relaxing in an smooth tempo. Good vocals. Trance type music that’s a little bit pop. Female vocalist.

Celtic Cross

This music is similar to Dagda. Trance type music with a Celtic theme. Not bad, smooth like Balligomingo.

Conjure One.

This band is related to Balligomingo. Pretty much the same comments as Balligomingo, except not so much pop.

Claire Voyant

Good vocals. Good sound. Some interesting mixes. Their song “Mirror” is my current favourite from them. Close friends with Hungry Lucy. Note the name of the band – clairvoyant. Get it? Female vocalist.

Dagda

Apparently, some people don’t like Dagda comparing the artist to Enigma. Yes, what they are doing is similar, however, the theme is different. Enigma is more East Indian inspired while Dagda is strictly Celtic. Duh… that’s why the artist is named Dagda. Some amazon reviewers are just clueless. I like Dagda’s Underworld album and their newer one, Celtic Trance.

Duran Duran

Yes, I still listen to them. Actually, more like rediscovering them, since I missed out on much of their albums after the breakup of the original lineup. Lucky me, though, the original members got back together and I got to see their concert here last April. See my review on this blog about the concert. Anyway, can’t convince people to like them if they don’t already, so not going to try. I like the band frankly because they are strange guys and their fascination with sci-fi carries through into their music.

Entheogenic

This group is a little bit psychedelic, which I don’t normally go for. However, they are fairly smooth and I can actually fall asleep with this on, even though it’s not slow music. It’s quite relaxing.

Enya

Who has not heard Enya? Her Celtic album is one of the best.

Evanescence

Okay, Amy Lee is not that hot and she is not that good of a singer, so guys get over it already. Evanescence is for the teen goth wannabes. Victoria Lloyd of Claire Voyant, Christa Belle of Hungry Lucy, and Sharon den Adel of Within Temptation are way better goth singers. So why do I listen to Evanescence? Well, the music is good. Composition is great. Amy Lee is a good composer and pianist. I just think the band needs to get a different singer while Amy Lee concentrates on composing and playing the piano and not torturing our ears with her horrendous live performance attempts at singing her complicated vocals.

Faith and the Muse

An interesting goth/pagan band. They have a nice style and do some really good drums – I mean the African, tribal kind of drumming, not the two sticks kind. “Willow’s Song” is particularly good. Some may recall that song from The Wicker Man. Faith and the Muse does a good cover of it, though I’d like to get the original song too. Female vocalist.

Hungry Lucy

I’ve done a review of this band previously on here. Great lyrics and good trip hop music. Not many pagan bands do trip hop. “To Kill a King” is a great song and so is “In the Circle”. Lots of good songs by them actually. Just read my review. Female vocalist.

Ian Van Dahl

Okay, not a pagan-oriented band, but I love my dance music and miss the days when I used to go dancing every weekend. Ian Van Dahl is great trance/dance. The music is uplifting and good for those days when you need to lift your spirits (i.e., those cold winter days when you don’t feel like doing anything.) Female vocalist.

Inkubus Sukkubus

A pagan artist I like primarily because they do some good Wiccan chants. Check out “Aradia” on their Wild album.

Jack Off Jill

Good vocalist. A good pagan band. They have a song called “Witch Hunt”. Though I like “Strawberry Gashes” and “Star No Star” better. They also do a cover of the popular Cure “Love Song”. Female vocalist.

Kidney Thieves

For some reason, the singer’s voice reminds me of Britney Spears IF Ms. Spears could actually do goth punk rock (which I highly doubt). But this should not deter you from liking Kidney Thieves. This band is on my current listening list and I haven’t paid attention to their entirely, so I don’t have any favourites by them.

Lacuna Coil

This band is on my “to listen” list. So far I like them, but don’t have any favourite songs yet.

Linkin Park

Would you believe this band has the same producers as Duran Duran? Somehow it doesn’t surprise me, though the two bands sound different. I love voice of the Linkin Park singer. It’s nice, mellow, and smooth. Amazing how he goes from mellow and smooth to screaming in rage. Some very good songs by them, though I first heard “My December” and it reminded me so much of some songs from high school that I had to check out the band to see what else they had. “Crawling” and “Numb” are two of my favourites from them.

Loreena McKennitt

Who cannot like Loreena McKennitt? She has a wonderful voice and great control of her vocals and she’s canadian! Would you believe she researches topics for her songs? Like when she wrote “Mummer’s Dance”, she was travelling and researching the cultural background for it. “Mummer’s Dance” is definitely a favourite of mine, so is “Mystic’s Dream” from the TV movie Mists of Avalon.

Mists of Avalon

Loved the movie and loved the soundtrack. Naturally, I had to get the soundtrack. Excellent composition. When I listen to it, I can almost see the movie in my head. “Mystic’s Dream” is on the soundtrack. The vocalist on the soundtrack is Aeone (see above).

New Order

I still listen to New Order on occasion. What can I say about them that hasn’t been said over the past 20 plus years? The music was innovative at the time and still sounds good.

Receiving End of Sirens

This band has been compared to “My Chemical Romance” though I haven’t heard “My Chemical Romance” yet. They are more popular than Receiving End of Sirens right now. Receiving End of Sirens has a strangely good grasp of varying their styles in a song. Frankly, you’ll just have to listen to them to understand what I mean. The strange thing is that their songs will unexplicably sink into your brain and you won’t be able to forget about them.

Rhea’s Obsession

This artist has a strange goth and trance feel when I listen to them. Some good songs like “Mortal Ground”.

Switchblade Symphony

This band is on my “to listen” list. I’ve listened to them a bit so far and they are quite good, though I don’t have a favourite right now.

Tapping the Vein

Another goth band. Beautiful lyrics and vocals. Check out “Butterfly” – “What am I? I wish I was butterfly. I’d fly and fly until it was my time to die. It’s creeping in again. I know what I really am. No more pretty purple peaceful butterfly.” Then listen to “Hurricane”. Female vocalist.

The Cure

I had this on cassette and listening to all this goth music lately reminded me of the Cure, especially the cover from Jack Off Jill. From the Cure, one of my favourites is “Pictures of You”.

The Gathering

On my “to listen” list. I like them so far.

Theatre of Tragedy

Liv Kristine was the singer for this band. She is now a solo artist and has another band. Some of Theatre of Tragedy’s stuff is really good though and it’s worth checking out sometime. “A Distance There Is” sometimes plays in my head when I wake up and I have to listen to the song. It’s a good piano piece. They also have a song called “Cassandra” and I actually like it. Great lyrics and excellent vocals.

Tori Amos

Tori Amos is a good artist, an original. She was able to take the tragedy in her life and use it to become stronger through her creativity. I was first introduced to her by a friend who sent me the song “One Thousand Oceans”. It so far is my favourite by her, though I haven’t heard all of her stuff yet. Her new album is decent, but it tends to be a mood thing for me. I can only take too much of it. It’s almost too mellow for me.

Within Temptation

This is an excellent goth band. Theatre of Tragedy and Within Temptation seem similar to me. I like a few songs from this band very much – “Angels”, “Memories”, “Our Farewell”, “Never Ending Story”, “In Perfect Harmony” and “Julian”.

Okay, that is my short list of what I listen to these days. I have meditation stuff and some other Wiccan/new age type music that’s pretty decent, but I’ll cover that next time. For now, this list should keep some of you people busy.

BB,
Cassandrah
Your local webmistress and music fan
Brigid’s Flame

Girl Power! – Survivor Finale Review

Tuesday, December 20th, 2005

Yes, I know this review is overdue, but I was just too busy the week of the final episode. Here are some of my thoughts on the season finale.

Way to go, Danni and Stephenie (but next time don’t eat the sacrificial chicken)!

First, let me say I was surprised by Danni’s final vote. I really thought Danni would have taken Rafe, but he decided to “release” her from her promise to him. Was that really what he wanted and did he really think she’d still take him to final two? Or was he just being a martyr and making it easier for Stephenie to get to the final two? He genuinely looked upset for Stephenie that she was crying for not winning the final immunity. I’d like to think that he just had a good heart. Danni however decided that she wanted to take Stephenie to final two as Stephenie never gave up in the final immunity challenge. She hang on until gravity took over and she just collapsed to the ground. Anyone watching that can see why Danni picked Stephenie to go to final two. It was the epitome of how competively strong Stephenie is. (As a sidenote, I’d like to comment that it almost looked like that last challenge was a little easier for Danni and her long legs.)

Now, let’s just say that I’m pleased to see two strong players make it to final two and not just two strong players, but two strong female players. Not to say that some of the guys sitting on the jury didn’t play well, I think it’s obvious they just got blind-sided (as the case with Jaime and Judd) or just didn’t have the odds to win (as with Gary or Bobby Jon). Getting back to the final two, both girls struggled to make it to there. Stephenie as she said to Bobby Jon “had a target on her back” since day one just like him. Danni had to fight to survive the merge as she had the numbers against her (6 to 4), but yet she survived the guys of her dwindling tribe to make it to final two. Also, I’d like to point out that both girls were good sports, even when sometimes the game didn’t go their way.

And the winner is… Danni. Good job, Danni. Though I’m not surprised by the final votes. Although Stephenie played a good game, she already knew she would lose votes by blindsiding so many on the jury. Then again, is there really any way to vote people off and onto the jury without them getting upset at you, especially if you were one of the two controlling the game? It’s pretty hard as is evidenced by the past Survivor seasons. Overall, I’d have to say this was one of the better played Survivor seasons I’ve watched so far. (I’ve missed a few seasons.) My other favourite seasons were the Outback (season 2) and Africa (season 3) because of the few good players. I wonder if the next season will be half as well played.

Cassandrah
Your local webmistress
Brigid’s Flame

Surprise, Surprise! Cindy Voted Out on Tonight’s Survivor

Thursday, December 8th, 2005

Just minutes after posting my Survivor predictions, Cindy was voted out of the tribe. Was this simply because she won a car and was a good competitor? Jeff did say winning the car was probably a curse as in ten seasons of Survivor, the one winning the car never won the million dollars.

Okay, so Cindy is out now. The final four are Stephenie, Rafe, Lydia, and Danni. Danni is a threat to Stephenie, Lydia isn’t, but is it really Stephenie pulling the strings? I think it just looks that way. Rafe is making the decisions here and has been for awhile. Stephenie is smart to go along with him and not outwardly oppose him. Chances are likely Lydia is next to go since Rafe seems to like Danni so much (but will Lydia the underdog hang in somehow?). Final three is looking more like Stephenie, Rafe, and Danni. Rafe still is a shoe-in for final two in that case. Danni, if she wins immunity, will no doubt take Rafe to final two since he’s helped her stay alive since the merge. I hope Stephenie makes it to final two. Yes, I’m still rooting for my girl, despite how she’s been portrayed this season due to some sneaky cut and editing from the show producers. Okay, that’s my final predictions for the finale. No doubt Sunday night will be a surprise.

Cassandrah
Your local webmistress
Brigid’s Flame

My Survivor Finale Predictions

Thursday, December 8th, 2005

This season of Survivor is almost over. It’s down to the final five and after tonight’s episode only the three-hour finale is left. After giving it some thought and thinking about what has gone down this season, here’s my prediction for final three – Stephenie, Rafe, and Cindy. Lydia and Danni will be voted out next in some order. For the final two, I’d have to say Rafe is a shoe-in. Sad to say, I doubt Stephenie will win the million dollars, but surprises have been known to happen (such as Gary finding the hidden immunity idol and Danni winning immunity just when she needed it).

This is what I think will happen when it comes down to final three. There will be the one final immunity challenge to get to final two as always. If Rafe wins and goes final two, I’m not sure who he’ll pick to go with him though. If he picks Cindy, it might be toss up at the final tribal council vote. If he picks Stephenie, I think Rafe has a better chance of winning considering the four guys sitting on the jury right now are a little annoyed with Stephenie. If either Stephenie or Cindy win the final immunity, I think Rafe will likely go to final two with either of them. Either way, the final episode will be interesting.

Now, I just watched Stephenie win immunity tonight, so she’s definitely in final four. I’m happy for her. For someone who thought she might just get voted out first this season, she’s now guaranteed final four. Way to go, Stephenie. Good job on the immunity challenge.

Previous Survivor blog entry

Cassandrah
Your local webmistress
Brigid’s Flame

Survivor and Hockey are back

Saturday, October 15th, 2005

Okay, I swore I wasn’t going to watch anymore Survivor (instead I was hankering for some hockey action). Aside from the challenges, there really isn’t anything that interesting about a bunch of strangers stranded together. If anything, I found most Survivor players to be a little… well, I guess flakey is too harsh a word, but I’m lacking the right word.

Out of curiosity though, I decided to watch the first episode of this season’s Survivor in Guatemala. Of course, they decided to pull a twist in the very first episode in classic Survivor fashion with a little bit of the unexpected. The unexpected, in case you hadn’t heard yet, was the return of Stephenie LaGrossa and Bobby Jon Drinkard to the game of Survivor (yes, the last two Survivors of the demolished Ulong tribe on Survivor Palau). Stephenie was the only survivor of her tribe defeating Bobby Jon in an individual challenge, but couldn’t break through tight alliances in the merged tribe to make it to final two with Tom Westman. Now she’s back for another attempt to win a million bucks. (Please see my review of last season’s Survivor.) So far, she’s doing better this time trying to hold her team together and hoping they don’t get demolished like last time. As for me, I’m hoping the best for her (not that I don’t like Bobby Jon who’s on the opposing tribe as her). Up to now, no one’s thinking of voting her off and she’s managed to get rid of some of her female competition (who frankly weren’t doing much in challenges anyway), so we’ll see if she really has control of the game. Still a long way to a merge. I can’t wait to see what happens. Go, Stephenie, go! You have my vote for the million bucks (since I can’t vote for myself anyway).

Did I mention hockey? Hm… I suppose I did. Yes, it has been a long time since I’ve watched hockey. I did watch the double gold win for Canada in the olympics and since then have missed watching the great game of hockey like I did when I was younger. It was disappointing to find out last year that the NHL season was postponed and eventually cancelled (first time to happen in a professional sport). In some way though, it makes the anticipation this season greater. So yay! Hockey’s back!! Go, Leafs, Go!

Cassandrah
Your local webmistress and Leafs fan
Brigid’s Flame

Hollywood’s (Non-)Depiction of Asian-Male/Non-Asian Female Relationships

Friday, September 23rd, 2005

MM,

After the world premiere of Jackie Chan’s new movie, Sen-Hua (The Myth)(see previous post for a review), Chan’s dissatisfaction with Hollywood was brought to media attention again in the post-Gala interview. (Jackie Chan article)

As Chan has stated before, Hollywood is not ready to take him seriously. His biggest complaint is that he’s tired of doing to same old roles. Every script Hollywood sends him is “the killer from China, the killer from Hong Kong.” Chan states that he wants to do drama and fantasy and that he’s a serious actor. “Jackie is not action star. Jackie is the actor who can fight. He’s not the fighter who can act.” I see his point, does Hollywood think every Asian male is just some killer or super street fighter? In addition, Jackie Chan is well aware that an action star’s career only lasts awhile. As he is now in his early 50s, Chan is concerned with his well-being and being able to act 20 years down the road from now. As a fan of Chan’s sense of on-screen humour, I have to agree with him. He needs to cut down on the stunts (at least cut out the extremely dangerous ones), so that years later we can still enjoy his charismatic personality on the big screen.

Aside from Chan’s personal safety concerns, what is really going on with Hollywood and how do they deal with Asian male actors? One part of the problem is that Hollywood is not quite ready to depict romantic and sexual relationships between Asian males with non-Asian females much less have an Asian male play opposite a non-Asian female. In many ways, Hollywood still has its biases.

I spent some time trying to think of an Asian male playing opposite a non-Asian female. So far, the most prominent movie to come to mind is Anna and the King which starred Chow Yun-Fat and Jodie Foster. However, since the basic premise of the story IS the romance between an Asian male (he’s the King of Siam) and a Caucasian female (she was his children’s very English teacher), I wouldn’t really count this. Hollywood had no choice but to find an Asian male actor (Chow Yun-Fat was definitely a good choice as he definitely had the charm and charisma the role needed). In addition, because the movie was a romantic period piece, it was easy enough to not show the sexual relationship (if any) between the two main characters much less a kiss. Chow Yun-Fat also starred in Replacement Killers opposite Miro Sorvino, but their romance is only alluded to and Chow’s character is cool and detached enough that the characters don’t even share a good-bye kiss. (See http://www.geocities.com/amwfonline/media.htm.)

Jet Li too has had his chance at the Asian male/non-Asian female relationship on-screen. (See http://forums.yellowworld.org/showthread.php?t=4933.) In Romeo Must Die, he starred opposite Aaliyah (yes, the singer) (see http://www.aamovement.net/art_culture/filmreviews/romeomustdie.html for a review of the movie as I have not seen it) and in Kiss of the Dragon, he played opposite Bridget Fonda. As with the Chow Yun-Fat movie’s above, the romance between Fonda’s and Li’s characters was only alluded to and although in the end they were seen together (plus her daughter), the audience was left to wonder if they stayed together and had a relationship. Again, there was no kiss.

Jackie Chan’s on-screen “romances” with non-Asian females has been much the same as Jet Li’s. In The Tuxedo, an attraction to Jennifer Love Hewitt’s character is implied, but nothing was ever made of it. (Though you get the impression from watching the bloopers that Ms. Hewitt might have been slightly interested in Mr. Chan.) Though a little less prominent, if I recall correctly, Chan’s character in Shanghai Noon attracts the attention of a Native American, however, he’s not interested as his character is supposedly interested in the Asian female, a Chinese princess played by Lucy Liu. It’s not that Jackie Chan hasn’t ever done romantic roles. His movie Gorgeous is the most notable. However, of course, the love interest was an Asian female.

One can’t argue that there aren’t any willing non-Asian females either. Mallika Sherawat, who stars in Sen-Hua (The Myth) with Jackie Chan, appeared at the Film Festival and said that she was disappointed that she didn’t get to kiss Chan in the movie. In her mind, starring in a Jackie Chan film is the same as starring in a James Bond flick.

Hollywood’s reluctance to depict these kinds of inter-racial relationships has caused a stir in the past with Media Action Network for Asian Americans, an organization that monitors media depictions of Asian Americans. According to this article http://www.alternet.org/wiretap/16300, the reluctance to depict the Asian male/non-Asian female relationships could simply be a reflection of societal trends. It is so far more likely to have an Asian female dating a non-Asian male. However this doesn’t mean that the Asian male/non-Asian female relationships don’t exist or should be ignored completely. The biggest problem this bias produces is not giving Asian males a chance to act in diverse roles in Hollywood, it’s like Jackie Chan has stated, it’s always “the killer from China, the killer from Hong Kong” or as pointed out in the WireTap article above, it’s some geek or nerd role.

Am I the only one to notice this trend in Hollywood? No. Read “The Yellow Menace in American Popular Film: 1991 through 1995” by Jeffrey B. Ho for an idea of how Asian males have been depicted in Hollywood cinema to 1995. I think it’s clear Hollywood still has a long way to go.

With all this going on in Hollywood, no wonder Jackie Chan went back to China – at least there’s a chance he’ll get more interesting roles and his career will last a longer time.

BB,
Cassandrah
Your local webmistress
Brigid’s Flame