Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Plan All Along...

What if Osama's plan all along was to only strike once, but to destroy the US long term politically and socially from within. Certainly that is exactly what is happening. We have destroyed the relationships with many of our former allies, we have created far more enemies, we have showed ourselves as a nation to no longer be a victim, but a perpetrator, and we have spent so much money on doing all this and waging war that our own social framework and our own citizens are also suffering (in addition to the hundreds of thousands of citizens of other nations). We have stripped our own citizens of rights, and have a god-like veiw of entitlement. No one needs to bomb us anymore, we are now doing the bombing and the killing and all in the name of what?? At what point do the costs outweigh the benefits, which are in question in and of themselves. Prime goal: kill people associated with the Taliban and Osama...but it seems like no one has really explained the framework or formula for deciding how much is too much! I think most people in America (myself included) would rather have spared all the lives lost post 9/11 and have kept the 81 billion (or whatever that number is now) and put that back into our own economy in a much more socially beneficial way, rather than only to large building companies and oil companies.

The US bombing of a small village outside of Islamabad in the tribal community of Bajaur, is a prime example of how Osama (if he did have such a plan or thought) was successful in getting the US to do his dirty work for him. It is reported that the CIA is behind the bombing, but I haven't read anywhere that it is conclusive. The US military has denied the attack. However, apart from that, the view is that the US is behind it and that is the important part...for now. At least 18 people were killed in the bombing today, which only adds to the thousands of Iraqis killed by US troops, many of which were not combattants but civilians.

Thank you to Reidski for calling my attention to the bombing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Memoirs of What??

I wish I hadn't gone. I wish I hadn't seen the movie, but I did. I went to see Memoirs of a Geisha, the film. Unlike some other readers I know, I read the novel the week before I saw the film. This had an unexpected result: I noticed every single difference in the film.

To begin with the positive attributes: the film from an aesthetic point of view was beautiful. Certainly many images would make good screen savers and wallpapers. I did think that the camera angles throughout the film and the lighting were not quite as flawless. The costumes were also breathtaking, and certainly gave the impression that someone had done their research. The textures of each kimono worn seemed to demonstrate the level of each geisha or maid or other character. I did appreciate this.

So to get to the dirt. As I am sure many of you already know, most of the actors and actresses in this movie are not Japanese, but Chinese. This main explain why the movie was not filmed in Japanese with subtitles. The film would have really benefitted if it was in Japanese, though it would not have fixed everything. At least the characters would been speaking English with Chinese accents and trying to pronounce Japanese words from time to time, which comes across as nothing but absurd. Perhaps Sony Pictures rather has famous actors that look Japanese than casting Japanese actors who are less well known but in my opinion, could add immensely to the film. In fact, I think this film would have been better (aside from the language issue) with less well known actors. After seeing the same actors again and again, the viewer sees less and less of the characters these actors are portraying and more of the actor's film history. I didn't find any of the performances by any of the actors to be very good, just average.

The novel, was written from the point of view of Sayuri. The film, on the other hand, isn't really from any particular character's point of view. Many of the funny and interesting observations of Sayuri in the novel, are completely lost in the film. This flaw, though seemingly minute, really minimizes the intimacy with Sayuri and therefore strips away a lot of the charm that I found in the novel.

In addition, so much of the history of geisha, of WWII, and of the story itself are completely lost in this film. The relationships in the film are watered down and stripped of all the complexity Golden took so much care to create. That was the most dissappointing thing for me.

If you haven't read the book, go and read it.
If you haven't seen the film yet...wait till it comes out on video. Don't waste your $$ on the $8-10 movie tickets, unless cinematography interests you enough to waste that money.

If you agree or disagree please leave a comment. I enjoy reading all types of feed back from readers.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Memoirs of a Geisha

I just finished reading Memoirs of a Geisha and I am soon going to watch the film. There are many things about this story that I find interesting and worth discussing. FIrst, I would like to applaud the writing of Arthur Golden. Secondly, I would like to discuss the impact of this book upon me as a reader. After I see the film I will review it in a later post.

The Writing of the Novel:

It was an absolute pleasure to read this book. The writing is creative and original. Many of the sayings in this book, I assume are common sayings in Japan. These sayings are a large part of the reason that I enjoyed the writing of the book. The story, too is wonderful because it reads as it if is a true story. Golden has definitely put in a great deal of effort and time in shaping his story and it shows. The novel also includes many historical tidbits. It is less clear who of the figures in the story are real and if any of the story was taken from real relationships between real geisha. This would be interesting to know and read more about. Having started and finished the book during a time when advertisements for the movie were popular, I had expectations of the direction of the story that simply were unfounded and therefore not met. What do I mean? Well, in the ad campaign for the movie, one is drawn to believe that a love story is at the heart of the story. This is not really true. The book focuses very little attention on the love story between Sayuri and the Chairman. In fact, of any of the relationships throughout the book including Sayuri and Mameha, Sayuri and Hatsumomo, Sayuri and Nobu, and Sayuri and Pumpkin, we know the least about the relationship between the Chairman and Sayuri once it has really begun as a romance. This is perhaps the only thing that I felt Golden really gave up on. His attentions to detail throughout the book on the life of a geisha do not follow with the relationship between Sayuri and the Chairman. In many ways I could see the story ending simply with the first intimate discussion between the Chairman and Sayuri but instead Golden lures the reader in a little more only to give a very choppy and rushed ending. This last section of the book (perhaps the last 30 pages or so) should almost have been left out completely because it didn't add anything to the story. The only way it could have added something is if it was extended and written with the same attention and care as the rest of the novel.
If I had to rate this book, I would give it an A (Not an A + simply because of the ending).

The Impact of This Novel Upon Me

As a woman, this novel was much more to me than an excellent novel. Throughout the book, I paid a good deal of attention to the etiquette of the geisha, trying myself to improve my own manners and etiquette. Although I would never wish the life of a geisha upon any woman, there are many aspects of the art of geisha that I have to appreciate (only when they are separated from all the negative aspects of it all). One example is how the geisha used their voices, movements, and eyes to have an impact on men. They were not strippers, they didn't perform sexual acts in front of other men. The relationships they had with men were private and there was some shred of respect for the women. There is one moment in the film where Sayuri is told how the way she pours sake can mean so many things. Foremost she was told how to show the under-side of her forearm to accentuate the feminine delicacy of her arm. This really struck me and I won't ever forget it. Recently, mainly while reading this book, I have been thinking about how the female form has lost something when it is openly displayed and often in a crude way, to others. I am speaking of the women and girls who wear clothes that are so revealing they leave nothing to the imagination. I often wish that the "mystery of the female form" the essence of it was kept more private because perhaps then it would be valued in a different way. I am not saying that all porn or nude art work etc should be stopped. There are certainly ways to display the body which are not crude but quite beautiful. However, I find that pornography can really de-value the female form by making it too accessible, too exposed. Although in the past, women were too covered by clothing and the ability to wear what one wants is in fact a huge privilege, I find that we have lost something in this change. The lines and forms of the female body are not "displayed" like art work the way the geisha are really pieces of art work, they are exposed and sold in a cheap and really tasteless way. I am sure many people will disagree with me on this, but oh well. I really just hope that there are some men that still appreciate when women maintain a mystery, to be unveiled when intimacy begins. I am not talking of prudeness or virginity or any of that crap. I am simply talking of allowing others to visually consume you in a nice five course meal instead of buffet style where everything is layed out on the table at once so as to not allow any one piece of food to stand out and be valued, consumed, and enjoyed by itself.

All of this babbling is how the book impacted me and I am sure that all of my views here may be personal but hopefully interesting to some of you.

Soon I will see the film and offer my comments on it.