October 19, 2007
I finally got around to watching Ten Canoes, the 2006 Australian film shot with Aboriginal actors speaking Ganalbingu (with a English voice-over narrating part of it). It is filmed in Arnhem Land, where it depicts pre-contact Aboriginal society. It involves a goose-hunting trip through the swamps during which a younger brother covetous of his elder brother's youngest wife is told an ancient and tragic story about faithfulness and loyalty in a similar situation. Many of the scenes of the film are recreations of 1930s photos by anthropologist Donald Thomson, one of which - ten men poling canoes through a swamp - was the inspiration for film. I'm not too sure where the tale comes from, although director seems to imply, in response to the white-guy-makes-films-about-Aboriginal-culture criticisms in some interviews, that the actors created or retold it.
It is a charming and beautifully shot film and I enjoyed it very much. It seemed reasonable enough as a fictional depiction of a hunter-gatherer/foraging way of life, and the story is dramatic and engaging.
Some scholarly blog posts from earlier in the year when most people watched it are here:
It is reminiscent of Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, another indigenous language film with a similar theme.
It is available on Netflix.
October 15, 2007
Radio Black Hole
Surrounded as we are by cement and steel, we get the worst radio reception ever in the apartment. Even with a tv rabbit ears plugged into the stereo, the best NPR option is very static-y. We overslept this morning because our clock radio gave us nothing. We switched to one of the "sounds of nature" settings. I'm hoping that our Time Warner cable will give us radio stations, but I suspect that that formerly free little perk is gone with the winds of corporate greed. Maybe not. I'll dig a coax splitter out of storage and try it tomorrow. We don't even get the Claremont Colleges station, for crying out loud, and the tower is maybe 500 yards away. Maybe we can get them to hide an antenna or a booster or something in the rooftop garden!
The Los Angeles Times hasn't figured out how to find us yet; the paper is still going to the Brighton Park apartment every morning, despite two calls to circulation. I think the call center must be in Bangalore, so my detailed descriptions aren't helping very much!
Almost every student we talk to asks us how we're handling life in the dorm and particularly the noise. I think things may get louder as students in our first-year complex relax more and start breaking in the space. Right now, with the last bits of construction still happening all around and the fresh and uninviting landscaping, habits haven't really been forged yet. We hear people on the stairs outside our living room quite well and also the occasional conversation right in front of our door. We can almost always hear people out and about, but so far it's not bothered us. Last Friday there was a very loud dance party just across the sidewalk, and we didn't sleep (or even try) until it was over, but it stopped right on schedule or even a bit before (1 a.m. quiet hours on weekends).
The only real annoyance so far was this evening, when I was out after dinner kicking a ball around with Oliver and a green bottle rocket came whistling right over our heads from a Mead Hall dorm room across the street and exploded against the elevator shaft in the corner of North and East Sanborn. It could easily have a) hit someone, b) gone right into someone's room and then (a), c) ignited the mulch which is everywhere, d) landed on the roof and smoldered a while, or e) gone over the building and burned down the Outback and probably the beloved Grove House as well.
Other than that little blip of mind-boggling immaturity, we've had a great time. Oliver gets two or three baby-sitting propositions an hour while he's outside.
There was a Horned Grebe in the pool all day today, diving forlornly for non-existent fish. He was gone at dark.
October 2, 2007
Only in America?
I can't stop laughing long enough to draw any scholarly conclusions from this North Carolina tale, the gist of which is that a man stored his amputated leg inside a barbecue smoker which he then lost when he got behind on his storage locker payments. The buyer, who turned the leg over to police who then gave it to a funeral home, wants it back as his lawful property because he wants to charge people to see it during Halloween season. The leg's original "owner" (?!?!) says it should be returned to him because he wants to be buried a whole man. It would be more interesting if he could make an argument about the inalienability of body parts, but it looks like the fight will be carried out in the domain of property rights.
A BBC report on the case, remarkably straight-faced, is here.