Sunday, November 29, 2015

Review: Beau Geste

My Family and Other Animals (Corfu Trilogy, #1) by Gerald Durrell
Early Education a la Gerald Durrel
I had a rather unfettered childhood thanks to my psychiatrist father. School I found most repulsive and so I hardly attended. The empty field, near our small bungalow, in Bangalore, provided all the education I desired and a gentle elder sibling nudged books my way, when I began to read.
The Secret Seven (The Secret Seven, #1) by Enid Blyton
But, while Enid Blyton corrupted my naive years with her adventure stories, I was more strongly drawn to dictionaries.

The transition to H. Martin, P.C. Wren’s High School English Grammar and Composition was, thus, fairly natural.

High School English Grammar and Composition by H. MartinOur edition was elegantly hard bound and it was a pleasure to dip into the sample essays and passages by great writers. Scrolling through a PDF version now, I find nothing of the sort. Perhaps our antique edition had gems that later improvements lack.

Nevertheless, it was but natural for me to get all excited when I found a novel by P.C.Wren in a local library. 

The more so since we’d but recently seen the film.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Review: Yogasanas and Sadhana by Dr. Satya Pal Grover

Yogasanas and Sadhana
Train journeys in India can be quite long, given the country's dimensions. Combine that with a chronic tendency for delay and you find yourself in need of various forms of timepass

An Indian railway platform provides a variety of timepass options: food and beverage carts and hawkers, little shops selling miscellaneous items (inflatable pillows, playing cards, board games, toys, etc.) and one or several book stalls.

In fact, there was a recent article on the man who launched these. 

Early this year, we had to spend a lot of time at the Pune railway station, as our train was quite delayed. I spotted a book stall and struggled to select a reasonably priced book which might be interesting and worth my while.
I settled on Yogasanas and Sadhana and I find that I do not regret my choice at all. As a matter of fact, I tend to dip into it ever now and again for some brilliant tips on routines for a good life.

There are a lot of good and not so good books on Yoga out there. However, a great many are mainly good as coffee table décor while books by the likes of B.K.S. Iyengar may not be everyone's cup of tea. They're a bit too hard to follow for people like me and would better suit one with a more advanced interest in the subject.

Far too many Yoga books are by people of European origin. And these are mostly too costly, too glossy and, worse, just too much of nothing, half the time.

Yogasanas and Sadhana turns out to be quite handy with lots of useful tips on health, meditation and other things. An index would have been nice as, for lack of such a thing, I've dog eared the book all over.

Each chapter closes with a short piece in Sanskrit and its translation.

Flipping through, as I sit here, I discovered that the first chapter, which I'd skipped, assuming it was just a basic write-up on anatomy and physiology, also contains information on chakras and their relationships with the body as well as telling us which asana is good for a particular organ or system. Page 12, which precedes the chapter, has a table listing ailments and the corresponding asanas.

Chapter 2 discusses 6 types of yogic purification practices and their advantages. Some cautions are also provided. Though I've heard of the benefits of some of these from many of my acquaintances, I'm still a bit hesitant to try them out, as they sound quite extreme. I might try the Trataka Kriya one of these days.

But, then, I had a rather sheltered upbringing, sheltered from the mainstream Hindu Indian ways. In that sense, I find Indians take to yoga far more naturally than seems to be the case elsewhere, where many a caution has to be laid on thick and, despite which, the practice of yoga is known to cause this or that injury or something of the sort. Thus, this book might just be specifically for an Indian readership. And that, perversely, makes it exactly what the outsider should look carefully into in order to boast a more complete knowledge of the subject.

In the third chapter, Ashtang Yoga is explained. I wonder if Madonna did any of this! These eight pages cover a whole philosophy of life.

Chapter five explains the rules and techniques of the yogasanas. I have dog eared the page about Dhvani, a kind of Om meditation.

The Yogasanas themselves are dealt with in Chapter 6. While the illustrations are not only very basic but also not so attractive, the instructions are extensive and thorough.

I've dog-eared page 104 which provides an exercise made up of three kinds of laughter and the benefits. I've already started practising this one, often. Find below that section from the book:

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The Little Prince

When I was a little girl, my father gave me the book. For some reason I did not read it. Or read it half-heartedly. It was only later, when I met my husband and raised my son that I discovered the power and beauty of this little book.

I won't tell you the story in too much detail for most of you must surely have already read it. A pilot is forced to land in the middle of the desert and meets what seems to be a little boy.

The little boy is, at first, a little annoying but his tales soon engross the pilot and us.

The little person is from an asteroid and was forced to leave his home where he could watch several sunsets in one day because a rose he cared for was tormenting him. One might take that as a way of expressing the pains of love. Or why not just enjoy it as a charming little nothing.

There are many other things of far greater worth in this book and some of those, for me, are the characters the Little Prince meets as he travels through space.

In Chapter 4, the pilot, who has a great many things to say about grown-ups (more accurately "The big people"), has the following to say

On making his discovery, the astronomer had presented it to the International Astronomical Congress, in a great demonstration. But he was in Turkish costume, and so nobody would believe what he said.

Grown-ups are like that . . .
Fortunately, however, for the reputation of Asteroid B-612, a Turkish dictator made a law that his subjects, under pain of death, should change to European costume. So in 1920 the astronomer gave his demonstration all over again, dressed with impressive style and elegance. And this time everybody accepted his report.

If I have told you these details about the asteroid, and made a note of its number for you, it is on account of the grown-ups and their ways. When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you,
"What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?"
 Instead, they demand: 

"How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?" 

Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.
If you were to say to the grown-ups:
"I saw a beautiful house made of rosy brick, with geraniums in the windows and doves on the roof,"
 they would not be able to get any idea of that house at all. You would have to say to them: 
"I saw a house that cost $20,000." 
Then they would exclaim: 
"Oh, what a pretty house that is!"
Well, I have to confess that a great many people are, sadly, exactly like that and that is, perhaps, why I find people who do not seem to want to read this book.

A lady told me her children did not want to read this book. Perhaps our children have also become grown-ups. A tragedy, indeed!

The character in Chapter 10 is my favourite. He is a King.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Unbearable Lightness of Ernest & Celestine

     What kid wouldn’t enjoy an animated film? Yet, somewhere along the way, I lost touch with them. I was kind of hesitant when I watched Ernest and Celestine. 

     Would I get bored? Have these things lost their magic for me?

     I don’t remember when I saw my first cartoon film. Mary Poppins had some animation going on and I adored that movie. 

     My actual memories of cartoon and animated films begin in my mid twenties when I saw The Jungle Book with my husband when we were dating.

    The real pleasure began as my son entered the cartoon years and we both waded through huge amounts of Tom and Jerry and Daffy Duck and the romantic skunk among to name but a few out of innumerable other Disney offerings.

    In my mid-fifties now, my tastes in cinema seem to have undergone a sea change. In many ways I'm joyfully treading down the garden path to a second childhood.

    And then, along the way, I began to access the Alliance Francaise resources in a couple of the cities where we moved to, when my husband changed jobs. French animation is a whole new story!

     It is also with the French that I came to realise that the graphic novel for the adult exists.

     Nothing in the world of English comics and cartoon films prepared me for what the French offered! It was at once shocking, irreverent and exquisite. An explosion of the mind and senses.

     Ernest & Celestine will be an excellent way to enter the enchanted realm of French animated cinema. 

The Tale In a world where mice live underground, albeit in a world as charming as that of the hobbits, where a mouse’s greatest ambition must always be to scale the heights of a profession as dentist, where bears live above the ground and despise mice, fate throws together a certain defiant little mouse and a lazy and disreputable bear.

    While I was still trapped in Hollywood animation, we used to ooh and aah at the skill and realism of the animations -how almost real they have become! While it is true that art almost perfectly imitating life can often inspire awe, artistic representation fulfils many functions and the art of faithfully imitating the so-called real can rob it of its diverse and rich mechanisms and goals. 

    Ernest & Celestine is not simply all about the story. Your mouth will fall open, your eyes will pop out of your head at the sheer zen experience of the craft. 
There is one outstanding sequence with music and brush strokes - playful and exquisitely enchanting. 

Animating Ernest & Celestine from The Creators Project on Vimeo.

Based on the lovely children's books by Gabrielle Vincent, with a screenplay by noted novelist Daniel Pennac ("Cabot-Caboche"), this lively and larcenous tale is softened by its watercolor pastiche and minimalist animation. A magically understated mash-up, "Ernest & Celestine" has a comforting storybook effect and proves a refreshing departure in an age of high-tech, hyperkinetic animation set to soaring pop ballads, as entertaining as they can be. 
All over the world, throughout the ages, human beings have tussled with the Us and Them. What culture is without a story of love doomed because the lovers belonged to warring clans or something of the sort? 
"Ernest and Celestine" is the coziest movie you'll likely see all year. Every frame is suffused with a fireplace kind of warmth that, for me at least, cast an immediate spell that didn't let up. ... it's the overall integrity of the movie, directed by Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar, and Benjamin Rattar, adapting Belgian children's books by Gabrielle Vincent, that's key to its charm for children of all ages 
     Do beg for, buy or borrow the DVD to find out and to enjoy a most exquisite piece of animated cinema. 
   The story will hold you spellbound as it moves above and below ground, weaving its gentle wizardry over your blasé heart.