Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Puerto Vallarta Part 1 (I need a better title)

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (disclaimer: I didn't take this picture; blogger won't let me upload my pictures at this moment.)

I don't travel the way most people travel when they think of traveling. I'm pretty much a backpacker, wandering around foreign places, staying at cheap youth hostels, meeting people at random points and sharing a bit of conversation and friendliness with someone you'll probably never see again. In talking to others, I realized that what I like most about traveling is the chance to learn about people. Others chose to travel to explore nature, mountains, and scenery. More often, most people like to go to warm sunny places where they can sit by a beach / pool and relax.

I like doing all of those things too, but to me, there's something magical about wandering a foreign city, whether it be Amsterdam or Bangkok, and seeing new things, and learning about people and different ways of doing or thinking. For me, it breaks me out of my shell, and makes me think about how little the disturbances and bumps in my life really mean nothing in the big picture. That sounds nihilistic I know, but it's not; it forces me to reconnect and think about the more important things, which in the end, sometimes are the little things; sharing a meal with people you don't know anything about and whose language you don't speak, and yet you still end up communicating anyway; getting on the wrong bus, which takes you to a place that you didn't mean to go, and yet, seems to have dropped you off at exactly where you needed to be. For me, traveling is a way to reconnect with myself, while learning about the wider greater world that we live in.

In general, I've tended to lean against vacations like all-inclusive resorts or cruises. They seemed mockingly insular and excessive, not to mention expensive. Maybe it's a remnant of the fact that I grew up in a resort town, but I found resort mills that locked you away from local color and culture just not my taste. (Jamaica Kincaid has an excellent book, "A Small Place" that talks about these themes and the varying points of view between a Western tourist visiting the tourist island of Antigua and a local native). Furthermore, resort mills in places like the Caribbean often do little to contribute to the local economy and people as the profits tend to go towards foreign-owned entities. They lock tourists away in a tiny little protected enclave, highlighting the economic, cultural and at times, racial disparity between the haves and the have-nots (and if there is anything I believe in fervently, it's the idea that real learning and communication takes place between people of disparate backgrounds). Moreover, the waste produced by these resort mills and drawing in tourists often accelerate the destruction of the very landscape that makes the place such an appealing getaway (just think about the amount of sunscreen that is probably washed onto delicate coral reefs every year in these islands, and about the amount of water it takes to sustain lush gold courses and water parks).

Of course I say this quite hypocritically as I've enjoyed the beaches of the Bahamas, and stayed at one of those mega-hotels. But we made an effort to put money into the local economy by eating at local restaurants and going with an independent tour company staffed by locals who practiced environmentally friendly practices. (And I have to say, the Valerie's fish fry on the beach served once a week out of an old abandoned schoolbus was one of the best meals I ever had; a great illustration of Rule #1 of Eating: When in a new place, always try what the locals are famous for making, even if you think you don't like it; often people unfamiliar with how to properly cook certain things will screw it up (the same reason why you don't look for New York bagels on the West Coast of the U.S.). In the islands of the Caribbean, that was fish; I hated fish, but damn if that wasn't the tastiest barracuda and shark I had ever had; fresh-caught that very day).

Recently, my sigo (significant other) and I went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and stayed at this massive resort complex, the Grand Mayan. Now, normally there is no way that we would have been able to afford a trip to a place like the Grand Mayan, but it was a wedding gift from the in-laws. And I have to say, that I really enjoyed myself, which causes me to rethink certain stereotypes and ideas I've held.

To be continued...

Can't we get some Brits to announce Cup games?

Remember how I complained about American announcers of the World Cup games? Apparently, I'm not the only one who doesn't understand Spanish and switches over to Univision.

The Sins of American Sportscasting

Thursday, June 22, 2006

African Identity and the World Cup

My friend Heather commented on the World Cup post:

I write from Senegal, a country that does not have a team in the world cup. Since the world cup has began, no work has been done in the garden during game hours. We slave in the morning, and my boss sits by a tv the rest of the day. If I bike more than two minutes in any direction I am sure to see at least three tvs set up outside fully surrounded by men and boys. They cheer for Brazil or for whichever team has the most black players. Out in the villages where they don't have electricity, generators are being run into the ground to power the games. Between games, the sandy roads are congested with clumps of aspiring world cup players practicing their moves. I wonder what life will be like here after the games.

I commented back:

That's interesting. They must be going crazy for the Ghana team then? Are they rooting more for African teams or for teams with black players? I suppose it speaks to either presence of a greater Pan-African awareness or a possibly Western-shaped racial solidarity. Kwame Anthony Appiah, the Ghanian philosopher I was telling you about (no idea if he's related to the captain of the Ghana World Cup team, Stephen Appiah) has argued that the idea of "Africans" being defined as "black" is essentially a Western invention, which, if true, seems to have transplanted itself to African villages.

Also, I wonder what Africans of European descent think: do they too root for African teams out of a sense of pan-Africanism? Which in itself can be called a Western-influenced invention. I couldn't ever imagine Koreans rooting for the Japanese team out of a sense of "pan-Asian-ness" or Argentines rooting for the Brazil team out of "pan-Latin-Americaness."

I just wanted to add that the idea of "blackness" as an African identity, according to Appiah is that it is essentially a transplanted notion from New World blacks who found community defined by race in societies dominated by paler skin peoples who lumped all dark-skinned peoples from Africa in the category of Africans. Africa is an immemsely large continent with a plethora of peoples and cultures. Prior to whites defining African as "black," Africans saw themselves as Herero, Asanti, or by their clan.

Kickin' some Cup Comments

Grrr. What frustrates me to no end is that American TV doesn't replay World Cup games. Because it's being played in Germany, it gets televised according to German time, which over here on the East Coast is in the middle of the day. I really wanted to see the Ghana vs. U.S. game, which is playing as we speak and I'm stuck at work. But noooooo, ESPN doesn't replay any games of the largest sporting event in the world in the evening. Meanwhile, they have reruns of the World's Strongest Man competition which I must have channel surfed across at least a dozen times in the past 6 months.

You'd think that the Spanish channel might replay them, but no. Actually, I have to say that I prefer watching the games on the Spanish channel because I hate the American commentators. They sound so arrogant and bored. Even though I don't speak a word of Spanish, I prefer the Spanish commentators because they're actually really excited and in to the game and it shows.

I just googled the halftime scores: Ghana 2, U.S. 1. Today's game decides who makes it out of Group E to the next round. I'm rooting for Ghana; it's the country's first time in the World Cup. I always like the underdogs, and a victory in the World Cup today would mean so much more to the people of Ghana then the U.S.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

World Cup

Paraguay vs. Trinidad & Tobago

It closes the shops. Closes the schools. Closes a city. Stops a war. Fuels a nation. Breaks borders. Builds a hero. Crushes a dream. Answers a prayer. And changes everything.

-ESPN World Cup Tagline

While I was in Mexico, my husband and I were World Cup watchers. I'm not a big sports fan, but wow, these Cup games are really fantastic! My favorite so far has been the Ghana upset over the Czech Republic; now that was a great game.

For Americans who have no idea what the heck I'm talking about:

While it's cheesy, it fits. The game means that much to the world. But for simplicity's sake, focus on 'Closes a city,' 'Stops a war' and 'Fuels a nation.'

Cities will come to a full halt in 31 of 32 contending countries. Many from the 197 unfortunate countries who didn't qualify will also shut down.

In a recent column for The Chicago Tribune, Tom Hundley compared this phenomenon to religion. With two billion believers, Hundley wrote, Christianity is the second religion in the world, behind soccer.

"It may be an exaggeration to call soccer a religion, but it is obviously more than a game," he stated. "The quest for the World Cup, soccer's grail, can humiliate the powerful and make the wretched and ragged of the Earth feel like world-beaters."

In cities scattered across six continents, bars and pubs will be full. Federation Internationale de Football Association or FIFA, estimated 28.8 billion viewers during the 2002 World Cup. Quick reminder: There are only 6.6 billion people in the world. 64 games will be played with an average television audience around 320 million per game. The Super Bowl draws a third of that.

The impact of the World Cup is powerful. It can put an end to a lot of hatred in the world. Well, maybe not an end, but at least a temporary truce. Africa has five countries competing in Germany. Tunisia is the only veteran of the bunch, making its third appearance. Angola, Ghana, Togo and the Ivory Coast are all making their World Cup debuts. Possibly the most interesting of this group is the Ivory Coast, which has been torn apart by coups, rebellions and ethnic conflicts since 1999. When the Elephants qualified in October 2005, the head of the Ivory Coast Football Federation pleaded with President Laurent Gbagbo to restart peace talks. Elections are scheduled for October of this year.

Another example of soccer's peacemaking qualities occurred in 1915 during World War I (before the World Cup started). On Christmas Eve near a small French village, a British mortar battalion sat in trenches 100 meters from German lines. Observing the brief cease-fire, the two sides exchanged carols, shouted friendly teasing and finally met, swapping cigarettes.

"Somehow a ball was produced," Bertie Felstead, the last known member of the British battalion recalled a few years ago. "I remember scrambling around in the snow. There could have been 50 on each side. No one was keeping score."

In 1967, 48-hour cease-fire came to the Nigerian Civil War. The reason? So, the Brazilian forward Pele, considered the best player ever, could show off his skills in an exhibition match.

Read the whole article here.

There's also another interesting socio-political analysis of the World Cup here via Amitava Kumar. Not only has:

"No country has ever won a World Cup while committing genocide or gearing up to commit genocide," but, "No country has won the World Cup without having a substantial industrial base."

William Gallas (France) vs. Cho Jae Jin (Korea)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

New York Urban Etiquette, or "yes we have manners!"

New York Magazine has got a great tongue-in-cheek article, "The Urban Etiquette Handbook." For writers researching NYC, this is totally invaluable as it highlights numerous features of NY daily living that I'm, sure, most people in other parts of the country don't need to consider.

Some highlights:

New Rules for Getting Along.

How do you politely determine the level of commitment of a gay couple?
One approach, of course, is to do it the same way you would for a straight couple: Ask how long they’ve been together; determine where Party A lives and, later in the conversation, ask Party B if he lives in Chelsea/Park Slope/Hell’s Kitchen, too; ask one of them if he has a dog and listen to see whether the other speaks about it with a tone of ownership. Cohabitation isn’t necessarily a sign of commitment, though: Many gay men have open relationships, so the only surefire way to know the level of commitment is to offer to go home with one of them.


When does an e-mail exchange end?

At the office, acknowledging receipt of requested work or information is entirely appropriate and necessary, but acknowledging receipt of receipt-acknowledgment is superfluous.

City Living

How do you walk into your apartment building behind a woman while letting her know you’re not a mugger/rapist?
First, know what you’re dealing with: She fears getting into the elevator with you, she fears your walking up the stairs on her tail, and she fears appearing like she’s rattled by either. The gentlemanly thing to do, then, is to make a concerted effort to avoid all of the above. In an elevator building, find a reason to hang back and let the doors close on her alone. In a walk-up building, however, fiddling at your mailbox will just force her to adopt a more panicked pace. Consider answering a pretend cell-phone call: “Hi, Mom!”

When is it okay to ask a stranger about something in the newspaper he’s holding on the train?
Paper-snooping is acceptable in only two situations: (1) if it’s a news story of sufficient importance that the next people you see outside the train will be talking about it, or (2) if it’s sports news with commiseration potential. (“Traded who for hot-dog-concession equipment? Fuckin’ Isiah.”) Even in the random event you see an article mentioning your own name, you probably shouldn’t say anything: Either it’s in a flattering light and you’d be boastfully massaging your own ego, or it’s in a non-flattering light and the person reading the paper probably doesn’t want to know that he’s just met the Park Avenue Pervert.

Breaching Subway Decorum
When it’s okay to annoy strangers on a train.

Crime: Plucking eyebrows, curling eyelashes, flossing teeth (!), or clipping fingernails (!!) on the subway.
Rudeness Factor: 8
Why It’s Inappropriate: Because a civilized society is measured by the delineations between its public-transit vehicles and its bathrooms.
When It’s Appropriate: If it’s your absolute last chance to freshen up before a job interview, funeral, or proposal of marriage.


How little money can you give to your child’s private school?

Swallow your fury, mentally berate the social-climbing slimeballs who make New York such a dishonesty-filled place to live, give a bare minimum of $300 at annual-fund time, and consider it part of tuition. But no matter what you do or don’t give, the school is never allowed to hold it against your kid.


When it’s a “conversation” in the sense of “The New School Presents a Conversation With Harold Bloom” and you’re there. Otherwise, never. This remains one of society’s most frequent breaches of basic human decency. Seriously, what is wrong with those people?!?

Yes! If you’re leading a nighttime raid in Tikrit. Otherwise, Hummers have returned to their rightful place as a semi-obnoxious, semi-absurd rarity. Accepting a ride is different: In New York, being a passenger in any vehicle, matter how gauche or fuel-inefficient, is a rare treat.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Interpretations of Culture and Globalization part 3

In contrast, there seemed to be less of a global awareness in Kenya possibly because Kenya was in the earlier stages of a shift towards a larger identity. European colonial administrators left many local authorities and their jurisdictions intact, prolonging the local sense of identity, thereby dampening the development of a greater common identity.

Indeed, as mentioned earlier, the very concept of nationality, which is often tied up with culture, is an essential part of modernity and the modern human identity. Today, nationality is an essential component of the modern human identity. It is difficult to even consider anyone not having nationality, which for some people, may be as difficult to picture as someone not having a culture. Yet that is exactly what Benedict Anderson, in Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism did. In Imagined Communities, Anderson found that the very concept of a nation, and the corresponding nationality and nationalism, is a relatively modern idea. Anderson found “nation” to be an “imagined political community” that is both “inherently limited and sovereign.”

According to Anderson, nation-states and nationalism are cultural artifacts which came about through the intermingling of two historical forces, the religious community and the dynastic realm. With the rise of print capitalism and colonial rule, nationalism became “‘modular,’ capable of being transplanted, with varying degrees of self-consciousness, to a great variety of social terrains, to merge and be merged with a correspondingly wide variety of political and ideological constellations.”

Just as nationalist identies are a modern conception, so is the idea of “Africa” and “Africans.” In Kwame Anthony Appiah’s In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture, Appiah discusses the idea, origins and implications of Pan-Africanism. The idea of Africa as a singular cultural entity comes not from Africans in Africa, he argues, but rather from the African diaspora. In In My Father’s House, Appiah defined racialism as the idea that there are inheritable characteristics, including certain moral qualities, that allow classification in such a way that each race has traits and tendencies that is unshared by any other race. Furthermore, there are also differences between extrinsic and intrinsic racists. extrinsic racists believe that each race has their own specific moral qualities. Intrinsic racists believe that different races have different moral statuses that are dependent upon the moral status of other races. Ideas of race and its supposedly intrinsic/inherited qualities, both physical and moral, lent to a further association of race with an overly broad sense of “African” culture.

Such thinking is representative of a continuing tendency of Westerners to generalize from the experience and situations of New World blacks and to see race as a common identifier. In the New World,“ what bound those African-American and Afro-Caribbean Pan Africanists together was the partially African ancestry they shared.” Because they were identified by ancestry, the concept of racial solidarity was developed and delineated by black and white. This understanding of race was further reinforced by prominent Africans such as Nkrumah who studied at historically black educational institutions in the United States.

In the New World, race determined identity, an idea that was transferred on to the continent of Africa, despite its wildly varying peoples and terrains. While race may contribute to the shaping of a particular cultural identity and perceptions within certain societies, race does not by itself create a common culture. Again, what creates culture is a multiplicity of influences including the environment, gender, religion, etc.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Where in the world have I been?

create your own visited country map

Wow. It's crazy how large Russia is isn't it? I've been to Moscow and Magnitogorsk (a city that straddles the Ural Mountains which divide Europe and Asia) and according to this map, I've visited like half the world. Funny how human-created boundaries can distort perceptions.

Sorry I haven't been updating this as much recently. Blogger's been being really annoying lately.

Anyways, I'm off to add Mexico to this list. I'll be back in a week!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A Year of Reading: Books of 2006

I read alot, even when I'm not in school. I thought it'd be interesting to keep track of what I'm reading this year in order to be able to look back and see how I what I've read may have shaped my writing. I got the inspiration from Sara Nelson's So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading, an ode to readers and books. She decided to keep track of a year's worth of reading to see how what she reads influences her life and vice versa.

The most recent books are listed on top of each list.

Books I'm reading now:
    Leslie Downer, Women of the Pleasure Quarters: The Secret History of the Geisha

Books I've read:

  • Julie Lepore, The Name of War: King Phillip's War and the Making of American Identity
  • James Merrell, Into the Woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier
  • -Alan Grant, DC Heroes: Last Sons (I have to add a minus to this because it was so terrible.)
  • Jennifer Cruisie, Welcome to Temptation
  • Jennifer Cruisie, Fast Women
  • Lizabeth Cohen, A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in PostWar America
  • Michael McGerr, A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, 1870-1920
  • *Alisa Kwitney, Sex as a Second Language

  • *Naomi Novik, The Black Powder War

  • *Naomi Novik, Throne of Jade

  • *Paul Coelho, The Alchemist

  • *Naomi Novik, Her Majesty's Dragon

  • *Susan Quilliam, Body Language

  • *Charles DeLint, Widdershins

  • *Jacqueline Carey, Kushiel's Scion

  • *Karen Armstrong, A Short History of Myth

  • Marjorie M. Liu, Tiger Eye
  • Gena Showalter, Animal Instincts
  • Emma Holly, All U Can Eat
  • Suzanne Brockmann, The Admiral's Bride
  • *James Scott Bell, Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure
  • Jennifer Worick, Joe Borgenicht, and Larry Jost, The Action Heroine's Handbook
  • Gloria Kempton, Write Great Fiction: Dialogue
  • Linnea Sinclair, Finders Keepers
  • Lucie Aubrac, Outwitting the Gestapo
  • Augusten Burroughs, Dry
  • *Lauren Willig, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (good beach book; I always loved The Scarlet Pimpernel and this is a funny chick lit-ish kind of take on that whole mythos)
  • Annie Hwang, The People's Republic of Desire (those interested in consumer, sex and pop culture in modern China should check this out; the first bits of the book are entertaining, but it's kind of jumpy, like a collection of blog entries.
  • *Elizabeth Vaughn, Warprize
  • *Kwame Anthony Appiah, In My Father's House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture
  • Gena Showalter, Heart of the Dragon
  • T.C. McCaskie, Asante Identities
  • *Kwame Anthony Appiah, Cosmopolitanism
  • Belinda Bozzoli, Theatres of Struggle and the End of Apartheid
  • D. Fairchild Ruggles, ed., Women, Patronage, and Self-Representation in Islamic Societies
  • Nancy Kress, Write Great Fiction: Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint
  • *Suzanne Brockmann, Breaking Point
  • Norah Vincent, Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back
  • H.G. Pope, Jr., K. Phillips, R. Olivardia, The Adonis Complex: The Secret Crisis of Male Body Obsession
  • Anne Bishop, Sebastian
  • Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale
  • John Iliffe, Africans: The History of a Continent
  • *John Williams, Classroom in Conflict
  • Dawn Cook, The Decoy Princess
  • Raymond Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
  • Phillip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
  • *H.G. Wells, War of the Worlds (listened to Audio CD)
  • Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections of the Origin and Spread of Nationalism
  • David Northrup, Africa's Discovery of Europe 1450-1850
  • Samuel Fussell, Muscle, Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder
  • Catherine Asaro, The Final Key
  • *Brandon Sanderson, Elantris (such a good book; I actually emailed the author to tell him what a good book it was)
  • *Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
  • *Elizabeth Kostova, The Historian (yes it's a vampire novel, but very well done)

Books I've re-read:

  • *Carrie Asai, Samurai Girl: Book of the Sword (taking notes about pacing and plotting)
  • *Jacqueline Carey, Kushiel's Dart (to take notes to learn about pacing and plotting)
  • *Robin McKinley, The Hero and the Crown (This was one of the few books I read when I was younger that made me realize that girls in fantasy didn't always have to be beautiful wimpy princesses. I love this book; I'm still trying to convince my husband that Aerin is a great name for a kid :)
  • *Stephen King, On Writing
  • *Orson Scott Card, Characters & Viewpoint
  • *Chanrithy Him, When Broken Glass Floats: A memoir of growing up under the Khmer Rouge

Books I've tried to read, but have put down for now, hoping to return to when I have more time:

  • Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique
  • Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
  • Strunk & White, Elements of Style (illustrated edition)
  • Randy Kennedy, Subwayland: Adventures in the World Beneath New York
  • Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

  • Mark Helprin, A Winter's Tale

    (* means highly recommended)

    Look for this post to be continually updated!
    last updated September 12, 2006

  • Tuesday, June 06, 2006

    Crashing into Race

    It's the sense of touch. In any real city, you walk, you know? You brush past people, people bump into you. In L.A., nobody touches you. We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something....

    I finally got a chance to watch this movie last night and I have to say that it was really excellent, and fully deserving of its Academy Award for Best Picture. The movie is about a group of people, all of different races, classes and backgrounds, who don't know each other but whose lives are intertwined by random chance and coincidences.

    I thought this movie did an excellent job of having multi-faceted characters, in terms of race, showing it's complexity. I think too often, people who are not people of color automatically assume that race / racism /racist means the KKK and its violent predecessors. (And it is really stunning at how far we've come as a society, in terms of dealing with race; though I firmly believe we still have a ways to go, which is a subject for another post). In this movie, there isn't anyone who you can tag as completely racist, or non-racist, completely good, or bad, that therein, is where its brilliance lies. My favorite character in the movie was played by Matt Dillon, who captured his role of the racist cop perfectly. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I think it shows exactly why race is such a difficult thing, especially in terms of organizations like the police that are frequently accused of harboring racists.

    As a writer, I think this movie is a great aide to learn how to craft multi-dimensional characters. And although there were some that complained about the shifting perspectives, and found this movie to be lacking characterization, it did exactly what it was trying to do; it was a story that showed how race is intertwined in our society.

    Unfortunately, I have the feeling that people who most need to watch this, will not; the people who hear the word "race" and think it doesn't apply to them because they consider themselves not to be racist, which I think most people of Caucasian background in America, assume of themselves. But at the same time, we need to realize and raise the question of, if race is not a problem, why are so many minorities absolutely convinced, that white people and American society is racist? And not just convinced, but KNOW, like they know the sky is blue, that white people are racist and conspiring to keep colored people down? Yes, this may sound bizarre to "whites" (and I really hate using that term), and easily dismissable, but you can't just dismiss these very real and concrete feelings that influence their social, economic, cultural and political choices, that will in some way, impact you and your society.

    I'm not saying that the concept of "white racist America" is true; I'm just saying that this commonly held belief has to be acknowledged and confronted, just as much as people of color need to realize that most ordinary "white" Americans, are not racist. When you start screaming that they are, they're more likely to become defensive, shut down and ignore your ravings and any future discussion about race because they don't want to be called racists. (As a side note, I think that black Congresswoman who claimed racist sexual harassment by a Capitol cop did more damage to race relations recently then any recent incident of police harassment).

    Ok, in conclusion, Crash is a great movie. Go see it.

    Monday, June 05, 2006

    Bride and Prejudice

    I finally got a copy of Bride and Prejudice, a British movie that tells the story Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" from the point of a middle-class family in India. I absolutely loved this movie. The song and dance numbers were fantastic, full of wonderful rhythm, color and song (think recent Broadway musical movies like Chicago, only better). I really enjoyed this movie, which was such a refreshing take from the American movie scene.

    But as I was watching this film, I kept wondering, would real Bollywood lovers enjoy this film as much? Different cultures have different concepts of what makes a great movie and storyline; I've watched some foreign films like Children of Heaven and Fast Runner, with plotlines and endings that I just didn't get. Similarly, I have a feeling that this is movie was "Bollywood Lite" for westerners, which made me think about how I laugh at Chinese take-out in America and deride it as poorer derivative of Chinese food that my family eats at home. (Though I must confess I have a soft spot for American Chinese vegetable lo mein). True Bollywood lovers may scoff at this movie, but as a Bollywood viewer virgin, I have to admit that my unsophisticated self with American sensibilities was very entertained. This is a fantastic foreign film for people not used to watching foreign films (and hey Ashanti does a GREAT hip hop dance number in here).

    The important thing to remember is that movies like this, which are filtered for Western sensibilities, do not necessarily present what culture or an art is most commonly perceived as. As long as you don't take this movie to represent all Bollywood films, or all of Indian society (or American or British society for that matter), and enjoy it for what it is, films like this are great. In fact, I'm going to try and get my hands on some more Bollywood films. Next on my list are I have found it and Straight from the heart and I 'd love to hear more recommendations