|Media from Asia and Oceana 2015
||[Jan. 7th, 2016|09:01 pm]
Once when my best friend from high school and I were bored over the summer, we made up lessons for each other. One of the things we taught ourselves about was Australia. It seemed all very alien to me. Southern hemisphere, so much desert, aborigines. But now I think my Anglophilia may extend to Australia.
* "Muriel's Wedding" (1994) (recommended by Tam) - loser gal steals money to follow her estranged friends on vacation. There she meets an old classmate who becomes a good friend. Character development ensues--after a whole movie of ickiness. She really wants to get married (because it will prove she's the sort who can attract a man, plus she gets to wear the cool dress), and ends up in a green card marriage but events show her that she needs to start telling the truth, paying her dad back, and living with her (new) best friend. Some good parts (including Abba lip-syncing) but it's hard to like most of the characters until the end, and one of the likeable ones commits suicide.
* "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries" - reminiscent of “Murdock Mysteries” but set in Melbourne, Australia in 1927. Miss Fisher is shocking, but like the detective she works with, I come to know her better. Love so many of the characters. Um, we've watched every single episode. Twice. Highly recommended.
I already talked about what got me into reading about Bhutan. And I do now feel sated. However, I don't strongly recommend any one of the things I found, though I did like the first book I read. I needed all of these to get a big enough view.
I did read somewhere that the architecture of the University of Texas at El Paso is a copy of that of Bhutan, and looking at pictures, I can see a resemblance.
* Grange, Kevin. Beneath Blossom Rain: Discovering Bhutan on the Toughest Trek in the World (2011) - American takes month-long hike through mountain passes looking for answers in his life. He's kind of a whiner but does explain a few interesting things about Bhutan like Gross National Happiness, yak herding, and morning butter tea. Sort of like Ginger Rogers doing everything Fred Astair did backwards, there were people who moved all the supplies faster than the hikers to be set up with food for lunch and dinner.
* Das, Britta. Buttertea at Sunrise: A Year in the Bhutan Himalaya (2006) (set in 1999) - About a physical therapist in Bhutan. Sadly, I don't really like her. It seems like she doesn't try to learn much and isn't good at asking questions. It seems like if her patients can't do what she wants, there are never any other alternatives. This book was set in Mongar, in Eastern Bhutan. You get a closer look at the poverty and the medicine in a Basic Health Unit. And a hint about social life--people invite you for tea (butter tea with crispy rice), you say no twice before saying yes, make sure your feet aren't pointing to anyone or anything important, and pass shrines on your right. She had a picture of Chorten Kora, copied from a bigger Chorten in Nepal, but not an exact replica because (acc. to Lonely Planet), the carved radish it was made from had dried up and changed shape a bit.
* Imaeda, Yoshiro. Enchanted by Bhutan (2008) - Japanese student of Buddhism describes the reign of the fourth king when he got to hang in Bhutan. He says chili is a vegetable, not a spice. The head librarian hired the people who most needed the job, not those who were competent and efficient, who could get a job anywhere. They used to work only about five hours a day and talk mostly about family and neighbors; now that they work 7-8 hours a day, they talk mostly about work. Fun to read about Bhutan from a Japanese perspective.
* Napoli, Lisa [Jane]. Radio Shangri-La: What I Learned in the Happiest Kingdom on Earth (2010) - a gal goes to Bhutan to help their new radio station; she not only witnesses Bhutan's fall from happiness, but helps with it. The goal to change slowly is not working--myths that the overdeveloped world is better is hurtling them to their doom. (That’s my impression, not her message.)
* Choden, Kunzang. Dawa: The Story of a Stray Dog in Bhutan (2006) - This is my favorite book about Bhutan. The runt of the litter is the only one who survives when everyone else eats the poison meat up before he can get to it. But he's a good singer and we learn about past lives, dog politics, and spirituality. Pretty good; excellently accessible introduction to Bhutan.
* Choden, Kunzang. Tales in Colour and Other Stories (2009) - Short stories set in Bhutan, each about an important decision or something else unusual about someone's life like the grown woman who decides to go to night school without asking her parents, the dwarf who everyone makes fun of most of her life, and the drunken lady who's just like that. There is a lot of jealousy. Some people treat weirdos well, but some don't.
* Phuntsho, Ngawang. Then I Saw Her Face (2012) - more short stories from Bhutan. Again, it's tragic how much time people spend coveting other people's stuff and wanting other people to covet theirs. Still a few differences appear from other poor cultures--different naming, ease of marriage and divorce, walking around chotens and other religious practices. The free health care often isn't effective and is a long walk away.
* Choden, Kunzang. The Circle of Karma: A Novel (2005) (Bhutan) - About a gal in Bhutan with bad luck in love (first husband ran away from his wife to be with her, then after she lost their baby, ran away from her to be with her sister; second husband was basically just using her, then ran away to a younger woman and treated her much better). But she travelled a lot (to the big city, then to other cities in India and Nepal) and had several kinds of jobs (gardening, weaving, road building, alcohol brewing, nun) and usually could make friends wherever she was. It was okay (though full of rape).
"Travelers and Magicians" (2004) - (Dzongkha with English subtitles), directed by Khyentse Noru, a lama) - Two stories. A guy wants to go to America where you can do anything--and make lots of money. He finally gets his chance but misses the bus and has to hitchhike. So this is a slow part of the movie. One guy who joins up with him helps pass the time by telling the story of another guy who wants to go far away from his boring town, but things don't end well for him. Meanwhile the first man falls for a gal who joins their party, stops smoking, and probably won't go to America after all. This movie showed me that I am pronouncing Bhutan correctly (Boo-TAHN). Finally got to see a gho--basically a double-sided bathrobe, but you always wear the patterned side on the outside and the solid inside. There was also a crazy-decorated bus and a vehicle that looked like a glorified lawnmower with a trailer.
I also read parts of the Lonely Planet guide in conjunction with relevant parts of the above books, which was fun.
At the end of all this, I realized I still didn't know how there could be refugees from here. I think it's the people who came from Tibet and aren't really welcome. Bleh, too depressing.
* Brackman, Lisa. Rock Paper Tiger: a Novel (2010) - set mostly in modern China (a bit in Iraq)--I often don't understand what's going on, as with many spy thrillers, though this is just a regular thriller. It becomes clear that interesting things have happened in the past, but they won't tell us. Until the present gets really interesting. Grr. The main character sure drinks a lot and I don't really like her at first, but there's character development. Gal still healing from war injury and divorce request finds friend in trouble. Now the Chinese and Americans are after her and they can always find her. Addresses the question of who to trust--I didn't want to trust any of them--but in a way that's not black and white! One bad guy was only testing her. Another bad guy got to stop being bad once he got the information he needed. A lot of good information on China (especially Beijing) (plus a little about Iraq).
* Brackmann, Lisa. Hour of the Rat (2013) - sequel to Rock, Paper, Tiger. I enjoyed this one more for some reason even though I still didn't know what was going on, there are still rich people who help her for unknown reasons, and she keeps figuring out the wise thing to do and then not doing it. Unlike the first book, this one clearly needs a sequel--and one is in fact coming out soon (Dragon Day). This one is about GMOs and how creepy the GMO companies are. And making a difference, even if it's only a small one. Many fun parts.
* "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" - hilarious heartwarmer about a hotel in India for outsourcing old people. Shows the color (and hints at the aromas) of life in India. I really liked this movie and now own it. I also recommended it to my mom, who also liked it. The beginning tries to give you a quick intro to all the characters--if you can't remember it all, it's okay; the rest of the movie is still good. There's also a sequel, but I can't remember if I've seen it.
* "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" (2011) - documentary of guy who supposedly makes best sushi in the world. He says the key is to choose a job you love and then always improve yourself. He was a bully as a kid and might still be one. Definitely a workaholic. He was kicked out of the house at 9 or 7; he let his kids go to high school and only kicked his youngest out when he felt he was ready to open his own restaurant. Beautiful, but still makes me want to be more vegetarian.
* "This is Law" aka "Out of Justice" (2001) - Action movie. Turns out it gets bad reviews. (One guy who really hates it loves "My Wife Is a Gangster" with the same actress.) So, I learned that South Korea is not a third-world country. I liked the phrase "Everybody, go do your own jobs." Mostly it was too confusing--first there were lots of rapes and murders. Then we figure out that because a lot of the perpetrators are getting off scot-free, somebody is killing them.
* Rathbone, Julian. With My Knives I Know I'm Good (1969) (see Turkey for main description) - I learned that Lebanon has some of the best Roman ruins in the world.
* [I Didn't write down the name of the article] 2015 - Lebenon is recovering from its civil war and has not had a president in over a year. Although its population is only 4 million, it has accepted 2 million Syrians. Most Lebanese learn English in school, but Syrians do not.
So Lebanon is now a Middle Eastern country that I am looking forward to learning more about.
* Kay, Mara. Masha (1968) - children’s book about a Russian girl who goes to an overnight school in Russia after her father died in war. She is so devastated to leave home that she doesn't appreciate the trip at all. Her mother dies right before she's going to visit. Her nurse goes crazy she she leaves, then dies after her mother dies. Magical happy ending.
Robin is fascinated by Thailand, partly because he likes the food. I, on the other hand, find that Thai restaurants are the one place where I can't find anything that I like. However, students I met in the Business School who were from Thailand were super fun.
* Burdett, John. Bangkok 8 (2003) - Yowsa. Definitely a look at (the seemy side) of an alien culture. We see police graft, prostitution, smuggling, extreme tourism, religion, traffic, spicy food, sex change, jade. Totally unexpected ending as well. I still love my rational world and spending time trying to protect myself. But it does introduce you to the idea of accepting some things that you could change as well as things you can't. I read this book twice and plan to own it.
* Burdett, John. Bangkok Tattoo (2005) (sequel to Bangkok 8) - Ugh, starts out gruesome, then the main character spends the whole book haranguing his farang readers. I actually did not like him in this book and have no interest in continuing the series. Still, there were a couple of really good passages, mostly hitting us farang on the head. Westerners worship money, which is not satisfying. The US wants war so they can easily get away with abuses. It seems like Buddhism is about how to live with things how they are and not even feel pressure to fix things--plus you don't worry about death because it's just another phase.
* Rathbone, Julian. With My Knives I Know I'm Good (1969) (recommended by Robin) - Russian dance troop member from Azerbaijan with roots in Turkey gets a chance to defect, but all is not what it appears. "Really it would be more difficult to employ you were you not Russian: you would be under contracts, and contracts are less easily changed than nationalities." It's hard to figure out who's telling the truth and what they really want at first. Lots of foreshadowing since he tells the whole story from the perspective of someone who has already lived through the whole thing. I immediately read it again to be able to figure out what was really happening. I also learned that Syria even in the 1960s was depressing.