Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ruminations about my dreams

I'm at that point in my life where I am between full-time education and full-time employment and during this period of limbo, I have been getting an inordinate amount of sleep. Nowadays, my sleeping schedule is completely out of whack, with one day melding into another with little regard to sunrises and sunsets, weekdays or weekends. 

I have also been dreaming regularly - something that I have not done in many years. My dreams are neither inexplicable or fantastical but instead prosaic and dull. I dream of mundane matters, of little or no consequence: I see scenes where I am meeting old friends and sense the awkwardness contingent to it, with its familiarity, uneasiness and feelings of inadequacy about an unfulfilled youth; close-up shots of my mouth in pain, only to awaken to remember the niggling pain of my wisdom teeth; family portraits where a son and his parents watch TV which depict both contentment and a void at the center of every individual framed. And it goes on and on. 

I don't try to find meanings in these dreams just as I don't try to find meaning in my palms or in the residue at the bottom of my teacup. After waking from my 12 hour sleeping marathons I drowsily think about whether there is any difference in substance between my ephemeral self, greeting friends in London or eating at home in Dhaka, and my corporeal self, sleeping soundly in my single room in a student dormitory in Birmingham. If a human is defined by their action, then does my very in-action mean that I am void of definition? What difference is there between my inactive, unobtrusive sleeping self and my (relatively active) unobtrusive dreams?

On one of those days, when I was feeling sluggish and lethargic, reluctant to even leave my room, I thought about the Voyager II as it leaves this solar system and wondered whether at that distance, billions of miles away, there was any difference between the inhabitants of this pin-prick Earth and the dreams they see. Our substance, our corporeality - the fact that we are here on this planet - are relative to our permanence (and the permanence of our actions) but under any considerable measure of time, our permanence dwindles to nothing and our substance takes on the quality of dreams. After death, are we different than any of our dreams?  

"With relief, with humiliation, with terror, he understood that he too was a mere appearance, dreamt by another." (Jean Luis Borges, Circular Ruins)

"I dream that I am here
of these imprisonments charged,
and I dreamed that in another state
happier I saw mself
What is life? A frenzy.
What is life? An illusion,
A shadow, a fiction,
And the greatest profit is small;
For all of life is a dream,
And dreams, and nothing but dreams"

(Pedro Calderon de la Barca, Life is a Dream)

Sorry for my early morning solipsistic driveling


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer Movies

Given my current 'servitude' at Alexandra House, I thought I would start making inroads into my 'must watch' films list. Some of the films below are from that list and others simply follow my friends' recommendations:

1. Finally came around to watching Glengarry Glen Ross, that is primarily famous for Alec Baldwin's epic cameo speech. When I was learning how to write plays at University, we had to study this script, so I was glad to finally see the movie. Al Pacino is great, as you would expect, but I think Jack Lemmon as Shelley Levene really steals the limelight with his slobbering, hand-rubbing desperation. Would really recommend it to anyone remotely interested in the real estate business and/or wants to see a star studded cast.

2. I watched Gulaal recently, following the recommendation of one of my West Bengali friends, and I wasn't disappointed. Besides the acting and the depiction of Rajputana politics, I loved the character of Prithvi Bana portrayed by Piyush Mishra. He acts as the supposedly half-witted brother of Dukey Bana, the leader of the subversive Rajputana movement, but in reality he has the most perceptive and memorable lines; often delivered as lyrics in thinly-veiled political songs. In effect, he had a great resemblance to the 'Fool' in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Along with Baburao Ganpatrao Apte, I think he's one of my Indian film characters!  

3. Another Al Pacino flick - The Devil's Advocate. The film starred Keanu Reeves pre-Matrix and it was Charlize Theron's first 'big film', so Al Pacino as the Devil is the biggest draw. It's possibly one of Pacino's less remarkable roles but nonetheless he has a memorable diatribe against 'God' towards the end of the film. I also loved his line about vanity being his favorite sin. Beyond the acting, the film left me with very mixed emotions. The film depicts the corruption of wealth and power in an intriguing way that builds throughout the film and thankfully, the Devil is not horned and fanged but I found the deeper theme concerning evil vs. free will to be superficial. In fact, I was slightly alarmed by the ultra-conservatism of the movie as it depicted most women as temptresses luring men to their doom, men as power-seekers and anyone with wealth as innately evil. It even went so far as to imply that lawyers should choose not to defend their clients if they are seemingly guilty (thus depriving them of the right to fair trial!). 

4. Moving to a slightly older era, I watched North by Northwest by Alfred Hitchcock yesterday. It's supposed to be a precursor to the first 'spy thriller' and according to Ian Fleming, it was the dashing looks and charm of Cary Grant that inspired the creation of his novels' main protagonist, James Bond. I suppose as a movie from 1959, the cinematography was impressive and the sexual tension between Eva Marie Saint and Cary Grant was risque but in the modern context, it is not particularly memorable. I watched it only a day ago but unlike the fantastic 'Kind Hearts and Coronets', I can't remember a single line of dialogue! 

Next up, a Touch of Evil (1958) by one of my favorite directors, Orson Welles and Lost Horizon (1937), as recommended to me by an English friend. 


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Summer Days

I'm reading quite a few things at the moment. I'm reading Polemics by Alain Badiou, which is basically a collection of his articles on a variety of issues from parliamentary democracy to islamic head scarves to the wars in iraq and serbia. (I dip in and out of that one.) I've also started reading Beyond a Boundary by CLR James which is supposed to be the greatest book ever written on any sport and is a very appropriate read given the current series between England and the West Indies. Oh and finally got around to Midnight's Children. It was good (of course) but I thought some of the metaphors and allegorical imagery was too on-the-nose.

I've also read the following articles by Zizek:

A review of Václav Havel: A Political Tragedy in Six Acts by John Keane (


With regard to the latter, I don't entirely agree with his assertion that "democratic mechanisms are part of a bourgeois-state apparatus that is designed to ensure the undisturbed functioning of capitalist reproduction." I think this overly simplifies the role of the legal system as a democratic mechanism i.e. that it merely protects commercial interests. This is, of course, not always the case.