Books: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Namita Gokhale and The Big Lebowski

Reading books has become something of a luxury in these modern times. I managed to snatch some time during the year to read a few books. Here are a few that I enjoyed reading and are mentioned in no particular order. Not all the books were published in 2017.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 84, is the second woman to be appointed to the US Supreme Court. My Own Words is the first book by Ginsburg that was put together with Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. William.

This is a fascinating book that takes you through Ginsburg’s childhood and how she became a lawyer and the role her husband played in helping with her career. She overcame many adversities during the course of her life and learnt how to deal with them.

The book has a selection of her writings and speeches like  interpreting the  constitution and women’s rights. Ginsburg offers us a look into the daily routine at the Supreme Court and how they work.  I enjoyed reading this book and realized that there is no substitution for determination and hard work.

 

Namita Gokhale’s Things To Leave Behind made for an absorbing read. It is not often that you can read a book about the forgotten Himalayan state of Uttarakhand and its rich and complex social and economic history. Set in the 19thc Gokhale’s fiction highlights the fascinating interaction between the local Kumaoni people, the British and the Christian missionaries.

Gokhale has tirelessly chronicled stories about Uttarakhand in her various books, and in Things To Leave Behind she once again brings to light the fascinating history and people of this forgotten state of India.

I read this book twice to fill the gaps in my knowledge of Uttarakhand, the home state of my parents. Like many before them they left Kumaon in search of better economic opportunities and all I knew about the state is through their stories and anecdotes. Kumonis love to tell stories and Gokhale certainly knows how to tell an absorbing one. She is a born story teller.

Ethan and Joel Coen’s (Coen brothers) The Big Lebowski did ok at the box office when it released in 1998. It went on to become a cult film that has spawned a dedicated fan base, festival and a religion of sorts. I got hooked to this quirky film when I heard Sam Elliot utter these lines at the start of the film.

I only mention it ’cause some- times there’s a man… I won’t say a hero, ’cause what’s a hero? But sometimes there’s a man… and I’m talkin’ about the Dude here … sometimes there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place, he fits right in there. And that’s the Dude, in Los Angeles.

The film has some far out memorable characters and dialog and I was always curious to find out how the Coen brothers concocted this yarn about this White Russian drinking dude, who is unfailing polite and lazy. I stumbled across I’m A Lebowski, You’re A Lebowski at my local library quite by accident. The book is studded with all sorts of trivia about the characters in the film and has interviews with all the actors. I wish they had an interview with the elusive Coen brothers, which would have been just far out.

If you are a fan of Coen brothers and The Big Lebowski then this book is right up your alley.

 

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VIDEO: FILMMAKER JAMES GRAY ON “THE LOST CITY OF Z”

We caught up with filmmaker James Gray to talk about his new film The Lost City of Z. Gray was in San Francisco to attend the 60th San Francisco International Film Festival. We spoke to Gray about why Brad Pitt sent him the novel and how he got attached to the project and what did he learn from making the film.

The Lost City of Z is based on David Grann’s best-selling novel by the same name. Gray wrote, directed and co-produced the film that was largely shot in Columbia, South America.  This is a true story about an early 20th British explorer Lt. Colonel Percy Fawcett, who was convinced there was a lost civilization in the Amazon. Finding that lost city became Fawett’s magificient obsession and over a course of 20 odd years he made multiple trips to South America in search of the city. He was convinced he had found the remnants of an ancient civilization, but he had a hard time convincing others of his finding.

The film stars Charlie Hunnam, Sienna Miller, Robert Pattinson and Tom Holland among others.

The Lost City of Z  releases in the San Francisco March 10, 2017.

  • Title: THE LOST CITY OF Z
  • Running Time: 150 minutes
  • Status: Releases April 21, 2017
  • Country:USA
  • GENRE: DRAMA

This interview aired on TV in the US. Here is a list of TV stations in the US that broadcast our show. You can subscribe to our  YouTube channel and podcast where every week we feature new interviews.

 

VIDEO: FLORE DE ANIS BY CASCADE DE FLORES

Flor de Anís is a song composed by Jorge Licego by Cascada de Flores, a San Francisco Bay area ensemble.  Liceaga sings the music and is accompanied by Arwen Lawrence (vocalist, dancer), Kyla Danysh (violinist, vocalist), and Saul Sierra-Alonso (bass).

You can watch the entire performance and an interview with Lawrence here. The show was aired on TV in the USA.

You can subscribe to our podcast and  YouTube channel, where every week we feature new interviews. And here is a list of TV stations in the US that broadcast our show.

 

VIDEO: ALAM KHAN ON USTAD ALI AKBAR KHAN, THE LEGACY OF MAIHAR GHARANA & HIP-HOP

Alam Khan is a musician, composer and educator. He plays the sarode.  We spoke with Khan about his father Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, the legacy of Maihar gharana and his love for both Hindustani or North Indian classical music and hip-hop.

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan was one of the most famous sarode player and Khan is carrying on the legacy of his father’s music and Maihar gharana that traces its roots to Tansen, the court musician in the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar.  Members of Maihar gharana include Allauddin Khan, Ali Akbar Khan, Annapurna Devi, Ravi Shankar, Nikhil Banerjee and others.

Ustad Ali Akbar Khan founded a music school in San Francisco Bay area in 1967 and his music influenced quite a few iconic musicians like The Grateful Dead and others. Khan teaches at the school just like his father did. The school celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2017.

Khan shares how growing up in Marin county he listened to both Hindustani music and mainstream American music like Crosby, Still and Nash, Jim Hendrix and hip-hop. He learnt to play the guitar from Jai Uttal as a teenager. Khan dabbled with playing the sarode as a 7-year old and then returned to it as a 12-year-old and spent many years learning to play the sarode from his father.

Besides Hindustani music Khan is a also a big fan of hip-hop music and recently released an album called Grand Tapestry with Elijh on vocals, Saler Nader on tabla and Alam Khan on sarode.

What did Ustad Ali Akbar Khan have to say about hip-hop and rap music. “Too much talking and not enough music,” was his answer as his son shares in the interview. Rap music is “loop-based and about words,” adds Khan. It sounds like Khan has found a way to embrace both Hindustani and hip-hop music in a happy way.

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BINGE WATCHED BROWN NATION ON NETFLIX

You know how Netflix makes recommendations for you? That is how I discovered Brown Nation. At first I overlooked their suggestion since I had no clue what Brown Nation was all about.And then I succumbed out of sheer curiosity and was hooked. Part of the reason for being hooked is the way the series captured the desi elements in an authentic way complete with a sprinkling of Punjabi, Gujarati, Malayalam and Tamil. Oh! And there is a fair amount of Bollywood reference that should appeal to your desi heart.

The series may remind some of you of NBC’s TV show Outsourced, which essentially had an American cast and was about an American’s company’s back office in India. Brown Nation differs from Outsourced in a couple of ways: the cast is a mix of Indian and American actors and the series is about the existential crisis of an American IT company in America. And, the other thing that is different about Brown Nation is that it has a distinct East Coast perspective and I say this after having lived on both sides of the coast.

I ended up binge watching the 10 part series of Brown Nation about an Indian American business family in New York. Hasmukh (Rajeev Varma) owns a small IT consulting company and his wife Dimple (Shehnaz Treasury), who is is working hard to get a break as an actor. Calling Hasmukh an entrepreneur is a bit of a stretch since his company barely makes any revenue and yet he has a small retinue of workers, who try to keep themselves busy. The show essentially is about your everyday life in America told through the lives of Hasmukh and his wife and their pet doggie Bobby.

The people who shine in Brown Nation are Shehnaz Treasury, Remy Munasifi and Omi Vaidya. And kudos to the creators of Brown Nation Abi Varghese, George Kannat and Matt Grubb.

I guess there will be a second season of Brown Nation. Wonder how that will pan out since Hasmukh’s little IT company is at an inflection point. Will his company pivot? We will have to wait to find out.

VIDEO: JAZZ IMPROVISATION OF BAGS’ GROOVE BY DR. AARON LINGTON & CHRIS MOTTER

Dr. Aaron Lington and Chris Motter play their version of Bags’ Groove, a well-known jazz tune by Milt Jackson. Dr. Lington shares how they have funkified their version and explains how they improvised this well-known jazz number.

Dr. Lington is an educator, composer and arranger, who teaches at San Jose State University. Motter is a musician and guitarist, who got his master’s in music from San Jose State.

This interview was sponsored by Zoho Corp.

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LEONARD COHEN’S VISITS TO INDIA AND BUDDHISM

Singer-songwriter and novelist Leonard Cohen died in his sleep in Los Angeles on November 7, 2016. He was 82 years old.

Cohen’s “dry, monotone voice…provided a rarefied alternative to more accessible troubadours, employing meticulous language to plumb the vagaries of the human condition,” writes Joseph Cerna of Los Angeles Times. And, Cerna is absolutely right. When you first listen to Cohen’s songs it is that dry, monotone voice that strikes you. And, you wonder what is this fuss all about? What is so special about Cohen’s music? But, when you start listening to the words you realize why so many people are drawn to his music. He had a way with words is a pedestrian way of describing Cohen’s great facility with words.

He was “high priest of pathos.” and “The Godfather of Gloom,” writes Nick Paton Walsh in a 2001 article in The Guardian. Pathos and gloom were familiar friends for Cohen. He sought different ways to find depression that included visits to India and becoming a Buddhist monk for a few years.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise then that Cohen made multiple trips to India to find answers. We get a hint of Cohen’s visits to Bombay via  Ratnesh Mathur‘s post. Cohen spent time in Bombay visiting with Ramesh Balsekar, a Vedanta teacher. Soutik Biswas of the BBC writes about Cohen’s visits to India and how it changed him.

He turned to Buddhism and became a Zen Monk for a few years. Pico Iyer has a nuanced piece in Utne Reader on how he spent a few days with Cohen at the Zen Monastery outside of Los Angeles.

Often described as enigmatic Cohen leaves behind a rich legacy of songs, poems and writings.

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VIDEO: DAMIEN CHAZELLE’S LA LA LAND

Damien Chazelle’s beautifully crafted film La La Land hits theatres in December 2016. I saw the film a couple of months ago and instantly fell in love with it. The film pays homage to dreamers, Los Angeles, Hollywood musicals and to French filmmaker Jacques Demy.

We have an interview coming up with Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz, who composed the music for La La Land.

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3rdi’s 14th ANNUAL SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL SOUTH ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL

3rdi 3rd i’s San Francisco International South Asian Films Festival is back this  year in two locations: San Francisco and Cupertino in Silicon Valley. The San Francisco leg of the festival is a 4 day event that runs from November 10th-13th, 2016. And the Silicon Valley leg of the festival in Cupertino is a one day event on November 19th 2016 and is packed with 5 interesting and eclectic films.

The opening night film in San Francisco is Neeraj Ghaywan’s Masaan followed by a clutch of engrossing and captivating films.

Sami Khan’s Khoya

The twin spotlights of this year’s festival are: Voices From The Diaspora and Voices of Women.

Voices From The Diaspora features films on how people exist between cultures and negotiate their cultural identities and histories. Sami Khan’s Khoya (Lost), Naeem Mohaiemen’s United Red Army and Amit Gupta’s One Crazy Thing are some of the films featured in this category.

Amit Gupta’s One Crazy Thing

Voices of Women has an interesting line-up of films with Leena Yadav’s Parched as the center piece. Other films include Shilpa Ranade’s The World Of Goopi and Bagha, Mehreen Jabbar’s Lala Beguam and Nandita Das & Divya Jagdale’s Between The Lines.

Shilpa Ranade’s The World of Goopi and Bagha:

Mehreen Jabbar’s Lala Begum:

The one film that caught my attention is Korla, which is about Korla Pandit a television pioneer and the Godfather of exotica music  Local San Francisco Bay area filmmakers John Turner and Eric Christiensen are the folks behind Korla and the film is showing both in San Francisco and Cupertino.

John Turner & Eric Christiensen’s Korla:

For information on tickets and film schedule check out 3rdi’s website.

If you are curious on how 3rdi Film Festival started and the folks that run the show then these two interviews might interest you. The first is with Ivan Jaigirdar and the second is with Anuj Vaidya. Both interviews were screened on local San Francisco Bay area TV stations.

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VIDEO: JONATHAN AIBEL & GLENN BERGER ON WRITING & TROLLS

We sat down with Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger to talk about how they wrote the screenplay for Trolls. Happiness is the central theme of this 3D animated film. How did they write the screenplay and create a universe for trolls?  Tune in to find out.

A long time ago in a far away city where the Charles river flowed Aibel and Berger worked as management consultants. While they made some moolah they realized they were not cut out to be consultants. Their gut instincts proved to be true. One fine morning Providence intervened in their life when one of them spotted a TV script lying on a colleague’s table. That script was their stairway to discovering a whole new life in the world of entertainment.The rest is history as they say. The duo packed their bags and went west to Los Angeles and started writing scripts for TV and eventually films.

Aibel and Berger wrote the script for the Kung Fu Panda trilogy and many other films. Their films have raked in a couple of billion dollars in revenue. They are Unicorns to use that term from Silicon Valley.

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