Monday, December 16, 2013

My Bollywood Crush

"Interesting" is relative, so screw it: I'm writing that Bollywood post after all. Strap on your sitar and take a journey with me into the colorful world of Indian cinema. My name is Eva Aurora, and I'll be your tour guide.

For the last few years, I have developed a bit of an addiction to Indian movies. I've always liked good movies and how they can sweep you away into an alternate reality for a couple hours, laughing or weeping with the characters on the screen. Yes, books are better, but sometimes your brain just hurts. That's when movies really shine.

The thing about Bollywood movies is that they are...well...epic. For one thing, they are very long; often they last more than two-and-a-half hours. They also tell a very thorough story, which is what I find frequently lacking in Hollywood films. There are conflicts with no easy solutions, and you don't always get a happy ending--although you often do, as well, even if the happy ending comes at a price. There are humorous movies, sensitive movies, and action thrillers. And, of course, there are love stories. Plenty of love stories. I'm a sucker for character-driven plots--whether in books or movies--and Bollywood feeds my addiction quite nicely.

If I were to have a celebrity crush, it would be Aamir Khan, actor, producer, and director. I've never seen one of his movies that I didn't really like. He chooses stuff that has substance, that grabs your heart and refuses to let go until the story is fully explored.

However, to start your Bollywood journey, I suggest something from my second favorite actor, Shahrukh Khan (not related to Aamir as far as I know).

Shahrukh Khan does a lot of romantic comedies, Bollywood-style. That means you get conflict and obstacles preventing two star-crossed lovers from being together along with plenty of music video inserts and dancing. And the boy can dance! His 1995 classic hit Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge is a good starting point for your Bollywood adventure. It's silly and fun in places but also deep enough to be taken seriously. Shahrukh as a plucky, hopeful romantic male lead is always a good choice, and he's not afraid to do slapstick comedy here and there. One of Shahrukh's more current romance movies (2012) is Jab Tak Hai Jaan. If nothing else, his soulful acting and very attractive graying stubble will keep you hooked as his character deals with the bleak aftermath of a severe promise made to God. Shahrukh also does action. Don, which tells the tale of a naive blue-collar worker sent to imitate a nasty gang boss, is a bit violent, but it will glue you to your seat until the very end. You won't be disappointed by the turns this movie takes. Plus, if you like the first movie, there's a sequel, Don 2.

But Aamir Khan, ah, Aamir...He has a deep soul. The movies he chooses to do always strike me to the heart. Unfortunately, one of my absolute favorites of his, Lagaan, is suddenly only available on Netflix DVD services, where it was, until recently, available on Instant Watch. I think that is also true of the one where he plays an art teacher who helps a struggling boy overcome undiagnosed dyslexia. I can't remember the name of that one because it's long and I don't speak Hindi, but if you ever come across it, watch it. You won't be sorry. Other great Aamir Khan movies are the thriller/romance Fanaa, which is complicated and gripping; the detective mystery Talaash; and Dil Chahta Hai, a story of three childhood friends who are forced to grow up.

Just for fun, Aamir Khan has a nephew named Imran Khan, who makes some cute romantic movies.

If you've read this far, it's time to order some curry takeout and fire up your Netflix account. Try something new and exotic! The world is a diverse place.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Thank You

Yesterday, I wrote a long and exceedingly uninteresting post about my favorite Bollywood actors and which Bollywood movies I particularly like. I even included pictures. Then I scrapped the entire thing until I actually have something interesting to say.

Until I have something interesting to say, I am not allowing myself to post anything. Today, however, I have a special thank-you to make. In the past week, we received an anonymous gift that was completely unexpected but very much appreciated. I don't know who sent it, but we are very touched by the generosity and the effort it took on someone's part to make this gift happen. Thank you. May God bless you and yours as you have blessed us.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

What Makes a Hero?

The other day I was sorting through boxes of my things we finally removed from my parents' house and found a picture of me and my first boyfriend. I was surprised, as I thought I only had one picture of us. Now I have two. I'm not making a statement about my former boyfriend here (he was a good guy and I wish him well wherever he is today), but I am making a comment about the fact that not having taken a lot of pictures is pretty much the norm for my life. I just want you to know that at least I'm consistent in one thing.

And don't expect pics in this blog post, either, which is going to be somewhat controversial.

I was thinking about what makes a hero and why we choose to nearly worship some people. That line of thought was triggered by Nelson Mandela's death this week, and as I read the tributes to him from many of my Facebook friends, I was struck by how we can attribute to simple humans so many amazing and nearly godlike qualities of goodness.

The truth is that Nelson Mandela was an avowed Communist terrorist before he was jailed, and he was ready to come out of jail and strike with terror once again until he realized the world had changed in his favor. His 1960s group, the ANC, was one of several groups seeking change in South Africa--and rightly so! But the MK, of which Mandela was an enthusiastic member, and which was the guerrilla force of the Communist-based African National Congress (ANC), was the most ruthless of all the groups seeking change, and they had no compunction about taking the lives of as many of their fellow countrymen, black or white, as was necessary. They killed dozens of men and women (and wounded many more), including black leaders who refused to acquiesce to the ANC's particular brand of change. They would tie the offending black leader to a post, hang a tire around his neck, fill the tire with gasoline, and then light it on fire. It was called "necklacing," and Mandela's wife, Winnie, was right there, involved in the action. These are not the actions of peaceful, peace-loving men and women.

Mandela was offered release from jail in 1985 (he was jailed in 1963 after a raid of an MK farm, where he was posing as a farmhand) if he repudiated terrorism. He refused. He was finally released in 1990, much to his surprise, and he vowed to continue the fight MK had started 30 years before. Except now the government was ready to change, and suddenly Mandela was a hero. He even managed to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 and get lauded by Queen Elizabeth in 1996 for being a hero.

So did he do good in his life? Probably. Did he do nasty things as well? Absolutely. Are all heroes a mixture of good and bad? There is no question about it.

I'm not saying we shouldn't honor and respect people for the good choices they make. Indeed, Christlike behavior should always be vaunted as the ideal, as there will never be peace in this world until we all, collectively, submit ourselves to the will of our Heavenly Father, who would teach us to love one another. But I am always suspicious when one particular person or other is raised on the pedestal, who to popular sentiment and the applauding fans has no faults, and who seems to have been born from another, better universe.

So the question is this: is it necessary to remember the evil and darkness in a person while honoring the good? Is it harmless to gloss over acts of terrorism and murder in order to believe in something good, in something better than the ordinary stew of humanity? Is it bad to worship a hero who is not perfect?

I guess the answer depends on each person's personal definition of "worship." I cannot worship or even greatly admire Nelson Mandela. He is complicit to many murders and much pain. By his own mouth, he vowed to be complicit in future murders if it was necessary to forward his cause. I cannot honor those who feel that murder is an acceptable political statement. I do honor peace, love, and voluntary unity between people.

I believe it is dangerous to forget the true nature of our human heroes, to re-write history in order to satisfy our love of a happy ending and a prince riding grandly on his noble steed into the beautiful sunset. We must endure the pain of accepting a hero's faults and sins as a reminder that none of us is without blemish and that all of us desperately need the atonement of Jesus Christ. I expect many things will be named after Mandela--streets and buildings and parks and newborn children--and hopefully the thing that will be remembered and respected is the good (whether imaginary or real) that he did. Hopefully, the world will be a better place even if the story of a hero is based on a deliberate erasing of his horrible actions in the past, a fairytale. I think most people genuinely do want to be good and to lighten the burden of all humanity in some small way.

The only person I worship who ever lived on this earth is Jesus Christ. He is beyond reproach. He is perfect. I can set him as my example and never be disappointed. I pray that I can use the atonement to erase my own sins and flaws while I continuously try to be better and more loving. I do love and respect ordinary humans in this world who try to do good, and I also accept that none of us is without flaws. But my only real hero is my Savior.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Bit of Unrighteous Bragging about Husband

Husband told me a story yesterday that I had to share.

The 8th and 9th grade choir came to his elementary school to perform. He recognized several kids from his classes in years past, and he also managed to dredge up their names from his excellent memory. After the concert, he went up and said hello to his former students.

When he called them by name, one of them started yelling excitedly, "He remembers my name! He remembers my name!" This attracted the attention of one of her friends, who came over. The friend hadn't gone to Husband's school, but when she was introduced, she exclaimed, "YOU'RE Mr. Aurora? You're a legend!"

We ran into one of his former students and the student's siblings at the store the other day (which is odd because he works in an entirely different school district and there isn't a lot of reason for those kids to come out here). They were all excited and waving, but as a kid is who runs into his teacher out of the context of the classroom and school hallways, they were also suddenly shy and a little bit confused. I remember being really thrown when I realized that my teacher didn't live at the school and probably had a family.

Husband has implemented the free reading experience in his classroom by working out an extra visit to the library for his class each week. He also asked the librarian if instead of reading a picture book to the kids, she would present a short "commercial" about a book she likes during the first weekly visit. During the second visit, the kids would simply be allowed to sit and read or select books for later. He was pleased because the librarian's recommendation was so well done that one of the students immediately checked out the book she had highlighted. They will also be allowed to do "commercials" for each other about books they have read and enjoyed.

As discouraged as he gets with not bringing home a lot of money, I try to remind Husband that he is making a huge impact on his students' lives. Obviously, they remember him with fondness and have even talked about him to their friends. My elementary school teachers in Idaho were highly instrumental in helping me develop a deep and abiding love of learning, and I will remember them forever. Husband's goal is also to help his students have a desire to continue learning throughout their lives. I'm very proud of him. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Just a Day in the Life

Today at church, Sian was sitting next to me when a man leaned forward from the row behind us and said to her, "Has anyone told you that you look just like the girl in Hunger Games?" Actually, she gets told that a lot. It was even worse before she cut her hair. I don't think there's anything wrong with being compared to Jennifer Lawrence, but Sian does get tired of it. Boo hoo.

After church, I instructed everyone to keep their Sunday clothes on because Husband had signed us up for Tithing Settlement in the afternoon. In the meantime, we tidied up a bit, as the main floor was still in some disarray after our holiday get-together and a sleepover that Joseph had with a friend. After Tithing Settlement (which is when you declare whether or not you are a full tithe payer and receive a statement of your tithes and offerings for personal and tax purposes), we came back home and knelt in family prayer for one of my nieces, who is struggling right now.

Husband and I drove Sian back to school today after an early dinner. It was so nice to have her here for Thanksgiving, and she got to spend some quality time with some of her best friends from the neighborhood. The next time we see her will be for Christmas break, after which she will be living at home again. She has decided to serve an LDS mission, so she will be taking a leave of absence from college and then working to pay for the mission while waiting to turn 19. I find myself getting a little worried about where she will end up serving. Will she be safe? How far away will she be? What adventures will she have? Did my parents wonder the same things when my brother and I were sending in our papers way back in 1992?

On the way to her school, we tried to help her with an upcoming Linguistics assignment. She and her team have to develop a new language, and one of Sian's contributions is to create a history for the fantasy civilization they have dreamed up. This is Husband's particular strength, as he spends a lot of time world-building for the novels he writes. We spent over an hour determining how the first people arrived on an imaginary volcanic island, what their societal structure is, and what events triggered changes in their language.

After we'd dropped Sian off at her dorm, Husband and I turned around and began the lengthy drive home. For a while, we talked about Sian's book idea, which is so good that Husband has wished she would tell him she isn't interested in writing it and let him have it. We also talked about a book Husband just read that is written by a woman who believes that independent reading is the key to helping children love to learn and has her elementary students read 40 books a year. Her students love it because they get to choose their own books, recommend books to classmates, and they don't have to write tedious book reports or analyses after reading. Husband really likes that idea, but wondered how to implement something like that, given that he has to move his classroom every nine weeks or so and cannot, therefore, maintain a large in-class library. Later in the drive, I spent a lot of time daydreaming about a house I've designed in my head, finessing the details and figuring out how to make it work on either a flat piece of land or a steeply sloped lot.

When we got home, Sophia had completed her dishes duty, and the kitchen was sparkling. The kids have put up the Christmas tree and hung some lights on the bush out front. Very festive.

Just a day in the life.

As a side note, Husband told me that he allows his students to play chess after they have finished their work. They love to play chess, and I think it's a great game for stretching your mind and developing strategic thinking skills. He did have to break up a chess gambling ring, however, that was instituted by an entrepreneurial girl in his class. You have to admire her ingenuity, even if it's completely inappropriate.