Monthly Archives: September 2009

Safe Havens Come in All Guises


The Awl, which has interesting reading habits especially of the British kind, linked to this letter (scroll down to “Keep Me In!”) to an editor from a man who’s been repeatedly hospitalized for suicidal depression:

I have been in and out of NHS mental hospitals for more than forty years. The first, following a suicide attempt, was Bethlem Royal, the old Bedlam, by then moved to a huge semi-rural site near Beckenham. On arrival my first feeling was of immense relief; I was in a safe place and didn’t have to worry any more… The fact that discharge was never mentioned merely increased my feeling of safety; when after six months I felt ready to face the world again I had no idea how to arrange to be discharged and was a touch afraid that if I asked they might try to keep me in – ‘section’ me, as it’s called. So one day I just walked out. No one came after me.

It really was the best thing I’ve read this nothing-happen day. And in a weird way, it reminded me of The Yellow Wallpaper.

Which is not so unusual, I suppose. I don’t know if this holds true for men, but for the women I know at least, it’s one of those stories that have a profound effect on you:

If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency – what is one to do?
My brother is also a physician, and also of high standing, and he says the same thing.
So I take phosphates or phosphites – whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to “work” until I am well again.
Personally, I disagree with their ideas.
Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.
But what is one to do?
I did write for a while in spite of them; but it does exhaust me a good deal – having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition.
I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus – but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad.


Posted by on September 30, 2009 in Life


Twat For Twit

I’m a few days late with this story – mainly because I can’t believe it is a story. Something about Shashi Tharoor using metaphors while tweeting. Yup, it’s as stupid as it sounds.

Twitter: bringing down governments in Iran, playing havoc with the box office in America and making politicians sweat in India. 140 characters at a time.


Posted by on September 28, 2009 in News, Newsmakers, Politics, Video


Holiday for a Sunday

Some things will automatically cheer me up, no matter what. Like a movie starring Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. Bringing Up Baby leaves me in splits, The Philadelphia Story gives me the warm fuzzies, but I’m always in the mood for George Cukor’s Holiday.

A Philip Barry play re-tooled for the Depression, Holiday is the story of handsome Midas-in-the-making Johnny Case (Cary Grant) who tumbles head over heels for chance-met blonde ice-queen Julia Seton (Doris Nolan). The timing couldn’t be better for Johnny – he’s just about to strike it rich and then he’s off on that extended holiday around the world he’s been dreaming about his whole life. No work, all play, for the first time ever. What could be better than to share his good fortune with the most beautiful girl he’s ever met?

A spontaneous engagement later, he follows her back to NYC where he makes the discovery that his lady love is New York royalty and has a block-long mansion as well as eccentric family members to prove it. These include her father Edward (Henry Kolker), brother Ned (Lew Ayres) and sister Linda (Katherine Hepburn).

From the moment Johnny meets Linda, it’s clear they both march to the same drum beat. Linda is somewhat of a “madwoman in the attic” figure – her need for the warmth and affection that vanished from her world upon her mother’s death makes her the outsider in a family rigidly invested in wealth and its appearances. She literally creates a world of her own up in what used to be the nursery, where all the happy memories live, leaving the oppressive unhappiness of upper-crust living downstairs with her sister and father.

Her occasional partner in hi-jinks is her brother Ned, a gentle young man with sad eyes who spends his days soaking in alcohol. He’s the only person in the household willing to indulge Linda in her little games and plans – perhaps because she’s the only person who remembers that he was once something more than the son of the house, bending dutifully to his father’s thumb. Ned’s sadness doesn’t stem from the fact that he can no longer do what he loves the most, because he actually can; it stems from his recognition of himself as a coward, lacking the courage to stand up for his dreams in the face of adversity. He’s frequently exhorted to remember that he’s the Seton heir, but it’s clear that the prized Seton drive and will have been pretty much divvied up between the Seton girls. All he’s left with is the perspicacity that eludes his sisters.

In any other movie, the character of Julia would be written as a cipher that basically serves to underpin the awesomeness of Linda. In Holiday, Julia demands to be her own person. She wants to be a high society hostess: it is the role that she was born to play. The things that Ned ignores while wallowing in his drunken self-loathing and Linda disdains on principle with passion, are the very things that make Julia happy. Life has a certain rhythm to it and she likes it. She doesn’t see why she ought to give up her dreams and desires for ersatz ideas about life and liberty that sound like a load of rubbish to her.

Although Holiday is typically billed as the story of what happened to Johnny Case when he fell in love, the majority of the movie is a discreet clash of wills between the two sisters. Julia goes through her entire arsenal of tricks to c0nvince Johnny that her dreams are ultimately more worth the achieving than his – and the sheer beauty of it is, she does it in the guise of the perfect wife figure. Linda, on the other hand, is wild, mannish and unpredictable and isn’t really a “proper” sort of girl – but everything she does up until the climax is geared towards giving Johnny what he wants, willing to live out her dreams through him and Julia.

That kind of nuance in character is so amazingly rare, even all these years later, that it strikes me anew every time I watch Holiday. Julie the Conformist, willing to stomp all over her fiance’s dreams to get what she wants; Linda the Nonconformist, willing to live life second-hand so that the man of her dreams can have everything he wants, including her beloved little sister.

And then there’s Johnny, a working stiff, who comes up with a plan for early retirement that must have sounded outrageous in 1938. Eighty years later, Johnny Case would have been written about as a man who did something admirable with his life.

It would be easy to see Holiday as a movie that looks down upon wealth and mocks the manners of the upper crust – but it’s so much more satisfying when viewed as a film about the individual’s right to dream. Linda and Johnny each have dreams that frighten and excite them in equal amounts. Linda both longs for a life that celebrates the little things and doubts her ability to live such a thing. Johnny’s holiday is the beacon that guides his life, but a life without restriction and focus is something entirely beyond his ken. They lack the kind of conviction that Julia seems able to tap at will because they each desire something outside of their experience.

And yet they’re willing to close their eyes and make that jump. They’ll count the cost when they reach the bottom of that cliff because they hope the fall itself will be priceless. It’s all this and a ton of other things besides that makes Holiday so, so good!


Posted by on September 27, 2009 in Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video


Ethiopian First Lady Pulls No Punches


One of the more disorienting things for us as children, was to watch our parents have a humongous marital spat on this side of the front door and then, the moment that door opened, turn into these Stepford characters who were so harmoniously put together, they might as well have plastic genitalia and be called Barbie and Ken. Nor were they content to participate in this strange drama for an unknown public’s benefit by themselves: they insisted we learn how to duplicate their success too.

The first day of kindergarten, for example, I felt just as bad as all the other little children screaming their angry, frightened, red-faced heads off. But I don’t remember making a single peep all day. I just stood there in the middle of this new, terrifying world of strange, yelly toddlers with snot running down their faces and waited for the world to end without uttering a sound.

People can hardly believe it when I tell them this. “You must have cried a little?” is the usual response.

Of course I did. A lot, in fact. In private. With my ayah. A couple of weeks later when I’d finally settled in and gotten comfortable with the idea of school. It felt really good. In retrospect, I wish I’d joined the mass hysteria in kindergarten and let it all out – I might have liked school better.

So it always touches a chord when I come across someone like Azeb Mesfin – controversial and award-winning AIDS and women’s rights activist, businesswoman, Member of Parliament, knockout, mother of three and wife to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister. From the pool report of the arrivals at the G20 dinner hosted by the Obamas:

Next arrives Ethiopian President Meles Zenawi, who clearly did something in the car to anger his wife because she glares at him, Mr. Obama, Mrs. Obama, and anyone unfortunate enough to cross her line of vision.

The Obama’s both look slightly taken aback by her. Wonder what happened in the car? The Ethiopian First Couple are quickly dispatched inside.

Clearly, she doesn’t have my mother’s voice echoing in her head. :mrgreen: I’m all for this new model of political wife who lets it all out.


Posted by on September 25, 2009 in Newsmakers, Personal, Politics


You Don’t Nom This Baby

"Does it want to eat me?"

"Does it want to eat me?"

This baby noms you!

So a woman in Indonesia gave birth to a 19 lb baby. That’s 8.6 kgs to those on the metric system.

Happily, the mother had a C-section unlike this other lady from 1913 who (presumably) delivered her 19 lb infant the old fashioned way. But the New York Times says that lady was a fatty fat married to a fattier fat so… um, it didn’t matter? I don’t know what the NYT is trying to get at here – what does her weight have to do with her birthing apparatus?


Excuse me for keeping things short, but my lady parts are trying to run away.


Posted by on September 24, 2009 in Life, News, Newsmakers


At Least They Have a Sense of Humor

A very nice lady from Saavn wrote me an email after noting all the, ahem, Blue love on this blog and made the following offer:

Saavn wants to give your readers the chance to own Blue, the entire album. The first ten readers of your blog who email us at will get to download the album. The next ten can download the song “Chiggy Wiggy.”

I don’t know if they’ll withdraw the offer upon further reflection :mrgreen: but check it out. Here’s what Aspi thinks of the music.


Posted by on September 23, 2009 in Entertainment, Movies, Music, Video


Cheery Tuesday

I wrote something and it made me sad. Therefore this.

“In case of an accident, the glove compartment drops open and we all pray.”

It never gets old. If they modeled the ads for the Nano on this, it’d become a cult item in minutes.


Posted by on September 22, 2009 in Personal, Video