Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sleep, read, veg out, repeat...

The internship ended last week, just in time for Labor Day. I learned a hell of a lot about elections this summer, and think I will return to school next week a better-prepared student of public policy. I doorbelled for candidates for the first time ever, examined past election results at the precinct level, and met a lot of great people trying to change politics.

But vacay is, of course, an all-powerful force that makes lazy pumpkins out of even the most overly stimulated graduate student. =)

Ms. Tungsten lent me Courtesans: Money, Sex and Power in the Nineteenth Century. The story of five English courtesans in the late 18th and 19th centuries, the book traces the various experiences of women who became prostitutes. The point of the book is that, in a time when "respectable" women had no legal rights and few educational or vocational opportunities, courtesans actually had more freedom than even some of the most privileged women. The price of independence and business acumen, working within society's sexual double standards, was virtual invisibility in "polite" circles.

Hickman did a good job of selecting women who entered the business for different reasons: one had a mutually open marriage that eventually led to a string of wealthy patrons, another was raped and too ashamed to return home, another was tossed out on the streets by a guardian and had no choice but to join a brothel. Similarly, their last days were equally varied: one died in poverty chased by creditors, another married her longtime aristocratic lover, others slowly faded into comfortable retirement. Surprisingly, many wrote memoirs later in life, or had biographies written by acquaintances.

Though I appreciate the fact that Hickman illuminated parts of the past that I, for one, didn't get in two semesters of Women's History, their stories were sort of the same. Between becoming a prostitute and rising to the status of courtesan, and then eventually dying, the five women really just went through a succession of lovers/clients, and the roll call got a little repetitive.

What I found more fascinating than the five mini-biographies were Hickman's background asides on the history of condoms; the evolution of the crinoline; the descriptions of jewelry; the slow passage of bills in Parliament that gave women the rights to divorce, own property, and inherit ... Within the context of how powerless women were, the book made a very loud statement about the price of cultural subversion. But after a while I didn't really care how many lords each had slept with, and how much all the diamonds they received in payment were worth.

Ms. Tungsten and I returned to our Hrithik Roshan roots with Mission Kashmir, in which the hottest man ever to have lived plays a terrorist separatist. To be fair, the film is actually a kum bah yah tale of hope and peace and how cycles of violence only hurt everyone. Hrithik plays an orphan of violence who wants revenge for his family's death and so joins a separatist cell.

The plotline is barely believable. There is also the creepy factor -- the policeman who murders Hrithik's entire family tries to adopt Hrithik to ease his wife's pain and to replace his own murdered son. The rest of the movie is a cat-and-mouse game as Hrithik wants to kill his adoptive father to avenge his own family, and the policeman hunts his adoptive son because he's, well, a terrorist. The whole cycle of violence thing being rather crucial, there were only two possible outcomes: either the cycle continues and some main character dies, or the cycle ends and some main character still dies to atone for the past... (Turns out, I guessed incorrectly which character would be sacrificed for the larger message of peace. Oh well.) At any rate, the ending was the stuff of dreams -- literally, it was complete with the dream-sequence-as-metaphor-for-a-happy-afterlife.

But then, we weren't really watching it for the deep plot... ;-P

By contrast, I See You, Bollywood's version of the Reese Witherspoon film Just Like Heaven, was hilarious.

Arjun Rampal, the creepo from Om Shanti Om (which we also watched again, just for the hell of it), was great as a TV personality "haunted" by the spirit of a coma patient that no one else can see. Of course, she's a hot coma patient whose job is to just look pretty the entire movie and to show Arjun how to stop being an arrogant, womanizing prick. I haven't seen Just Like Heaven, but its wikipedia summary looks like the same as I See You. (But I'm guessing Just Like Heaven didn't have the random Hindi-speaking London bobby. It was a kind of funny.)

One of the coolest things about the movie: cameos by Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan!

Vacation rocks. Especially since the last week at work was really hectic.

Now it's nap time again...

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