Category: Casual Anthropology

Soon Comedians will Rule the World… (if they don’t already)

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   GordonBrown-TerryJones

Already, I have trouble taking Britain's Prime Minister seriously because he looks so much like a member of Monty Python. Luckily, I'm not British, but if *I* notice it, surely they do too!

And aside from all the comedy that Sarah Palin provides on her own, she carries the last name of another fine Monty Python member, Michael Palin.  So I think we should just elect the entire cast of Monty Python to rule the world. And maybe Tina Fey can marry Michael Palin and we'd have all that Sarah brings to the table and much more! 

Michael-TIna-Sarah-Palin

  

 

 

 

Photo pseudo-credits:

Gordon Brown:  http://www.smh.com.au/ffximage/2007/06/28/gordonbrown_narrowweb__300x425,0.jpg,

Terry Jones:  http://www.cinema24.ch/images/casts/jones_terry.jpg,

Michael Palin: http://www.londontown.com/lycos/assets/Michael_Palin.jpg,

Tina Fey and Sarah Palin: http://images.huffingtonpost.com/gen/38319/thumbs/s-TINA-FEY-SARAH-PALIN-large.jpg

 

 

 

Buddhist Priests vs. Judas Priest

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One of the recipients of my messages of madness during the siege, birthday boy Mike Schaefer, reminded me that I had said something about the above comparison. 

Probably something like:

"I guess Buddhist Priests blaring chants through my house at 3 am are still better than Judas Priest at this volume…"

See? As the prophet Eric Idle of Monty Python once said,

"Always look on the bright side of life" (insert whistling here)

Monks Amok: Malayna Under Siege…by Buddhist Monks?

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Until very recently, the site of Buddhist monks and the occasional sound of chanting in the distance was only a reminder of the magic of Sri Lanka.  Here’s proof – a photo I took in May of ’06 with a caption that tells the tale (you can click on it to enlarge it):

 

Monks1

One day we came upon an unexpected and unexplained parade of monks of all sizes, ages, sexes and backgrounds.  It's one of the magical, odd things that occur here.

For more photos of this strange occurence: http://www.malaynadawn.com/May06/page2.html

 

See?  I’m a fan of the monks and Buddhism in general.  But it seems that too much of even a good thing can turn ugly.

How ugly?

I was reminded of the FBI’s strategy at Waco–trying to get people under siege to come running out by blaring loud, annoying music at them for long periods of time.  Yes, it was almost that ugly.

The loud, invasive sound assault began at about 5:30pm and lasted TWELVE HOURS, not stopping until 5:30AM.  There are a few things in common, see?

 

“The FBI brought in loudspeakers, and through the speakers came the high decibel sounds of laughter, birds squawking, sirens, rabbits being slaughtered, rock music, Tibetan chants, and recordings of "negotiation" sessions held between the Branch Davidians and the FBI (Justice Report, pgs.. 69, 73, 79).” http://www.public-action.com/SkyWriter/WacoMuseum/war/page/w_p.html

 

I’m sure you’re thinking to yourselves, “but it’s drums and flutes and Buddhist chants, wasn’t it all just blissful Zen? A chance for deep meditation?”

 

Nuh-uh.

 

For one thing, I must admit I’ve never really enjoyed the traditional music of my people. The drums’ rhythms feel random to me. And I’ve been known to be a musical girl. I was even a music major in college for a year or so after being awarded a music scholarship, but my not-so-highly trained ear can’t identify any pattern.

 

And the flutes are closer to a cross between a recorder and a bagpipe. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but I heard a lot of that irritating squeak that makes one cringe when listening to a beginner on a reed instrument. So basically, it sounds like a bunch of impish street urchins have stolen some drums and flutes and are gleefully making a racket to torture all the straights.

 

The innocent beginnings of the siege

I knew something was up when I noticed first thing in the morning that a Buddhist Flag had been strung to hang across the road just in front of our house. It wasn’t tied to anything on our property, so I had no complaint there, and there is a Buddhist temple nearby that often has events in the ‘hood, so I didn’t think much more of it. 

 

Monks2

I know that it is customary here for people to celebrate the death anniversary of a loved one with something called a Dana (proper info can be found here) .  From what I’ve seen at other neighbor’s houses, it involves the arrival of Buddhist priests announced by drumming and flute playing, and then a series of chants followed by a meal offered for the monks, family and neighbors called an almsgiving.

 

In my experience, it’s never lasted more than a few hours, when it ends as the monks leave with the same pomp and ceremony.  Or maybe they’re priests. I don’t know how to tell the difference.

 

I still don’t believe that’s what last night was about, because I noticed around 5:30 or so that the house was covered with for want of a more descriptive term–Christmas lights. White ones that blinked in varying patterns and colorful ones that remained lit continuously.

 

And then the dance music started. True, it was kind of old-fashioned Sri Lankan and Indian music that I imagine was seen in films in the 60’s and 70’s, but it was festive and upbeat. So I began to think that my cook was wrong when she said it was a death anniversary. Aren’t those more somber? Or were they just really pleased that the person was gone?

 

Timeline of Insanity

 

5:30pm – Retro South-Asian Dance Hits played over a sound system.

 

7-ish – Somewhere between 7 and 8 the drums and flutes began.  My cook’s 10-year-old daughter ran to the window to see what was happening (she’s visiting from their village during a school break).  I asked if there were any elephants, cuz if there weren’t, I wasn’t going to bother looking.  No elephants. Poo.  (Speaking of poo, it’s probably a good thing there were no elephants, since the event was basically in front of our house…coulda been messy, not to mention highly odiferous.)

 

At 10:30, while hiding out in the computer room on the opposite side of my house, I told my friend, who lives about 5 miles away, that I thought she could hear the chanting if she stepped outside. It was that loud. When I told her I was hoping they’d quit by 11pm, I was merely being tolerant.

 

11pm– When I left voicemail messages for several people in the U.S. over the next hour, I was laughing in disbelief. But I couldn’t get anyone on the line to share the madness with me, so I called my husband in London. He was shocked about the noise level, but was also under the impression that they’d stop soon. He thought it might have been a house blessing ceremony for the guy who has returned from overseas to finish the eyesore of brick and cement that for the last few years has been attracting stray dogs, mosquitoes and people who have no place to put their trash. That guy is troublesome anyway. One more thing to add to the list when I tell my hubby to go beat him up.

My growing madness

 

At 2AM, I considered my options. I couldn’t call the police because they don’t know of such a thing as noise pollution. Besides, if I complained, I would be setting us up for future complaints every time we watch loud movies with explosions and gunfights until 2AM on a weeknight because of my pilot hubby’s weird flight schedule. Plus it’s a religious thing, and they’re monks. We’ve had louder non-religious parties that lasted that long, and no one has said a word to us. And maybe it would be worse if it were rude partiers and rock music. Maybe just the human voice alone isn’t so bad….

  

At 3AM, when I was sure they were finished, I shut down the computer, turned out the lights, and went downstairs to get a drink of water. That’s when the drums started up again.

 

I had thoughts of setting off the bottle rockets stored in the spare room.

 

I went to the bedroom, which seemed to be directly in front of one of the two speakers, and I called my friend Rhonda in Maryland. She, finally, could confirm how loud it was. She wanted to know who those two men were in the bedroom with me and why they were so loud.  One sounded like a cross between Barry White and Abe Vigoda—low but throaty. The other was more of a tenor and sounded more nasal. They tossed it back and forth with occasional explosions of drums and flute. A very strange version of the dueling banjos.

3:35AM – All I could think was regardless of what they were blessing, couldn’t all of their good intentions be undone from the amount of hatred that I and surely everyone within a 5 mile radius were beaming at them? Why couldn’t they chant WITHOUT the sound system? Seriously.

 

At 4AM – I set aside the book I was reading (but having trouble concentrating upon) and turned off my bedside lamp. I was sure they were finally done. As I slipped into the blissful silence of sleep, they started again.

 

Too tired to turn on the light again, I just lay there drifting from disturbed waking dreams to conscious and back again. This went on until…

 

5:30AM –  I breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed into sleep.

 

The Day After

 

11am I woke up feeling guilty about sleeping so late on a weekday, even though it was with good reason. I went downstairs to see how the rest of the household was doing.

 

Selliah, our houseman whose room is even closer to the event, was suffering from red eyes and a headache. Our cook, Parmeswary, and her daughter, Sagilah, had the benefit of being at the back of the house with a loud fan, so they seemed to have fared better.

 

We all laughed, AND THEN THE DRUMS STARTED AGAIN!!!!! ARE THEY SERIOUS?!?!?!? And then I went insane.

 

Luckily, it was short, and the rest of the day was silent, as the entire neighborhood caught up on sleep. I can’t tell if I’m recovered yet, because I don’t think the insane know that they are insane. That’s why they’re insane, right?

 

Yet still, insane or not, I remain a fan of the Buddhist monks and Buddhism in general. I'm just sayin' let's look into the need for all-night chants over massive sound systems, shall we?

 

Dancing With the Universe! Celebrate life!

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You thought “Dancing with the Stars” was fun–this video has simultaneoulsy made me laugh, cry and restored my faith in humanity! 


If you haven’t already gotten my e-mail, or responded to my Facebook posts, here’s my review:


“Inspiring, Joyous Silliness!  A MUST SEE!


How could a guy doing a silly dance bring me to tears? When he invited others, all around the world to join him, and put it to music with words from a Tagore poem. It is beautiful in its simplicity and light-heartedness….”


The images alone are heartwarming, but then this post from Minnesota fills in any blanks. 


The song playing in the background is sung in another language, but somehow the meaning comes through:


Stream of Life
by Rabindranath Tagore

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth
in numberless blades of grass
and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth
and of death, in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life.
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.

This response to the same Minnesota Post article helped explain why it made me cry (and some of my friends!)


(1)


There is a book by historian Barbara Ehrenreich called “Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy” that may explain, at least in part, why we are so moved by this video.


We’re hardwired, deep in our reptilian brain, so respond positively to collective dancing. It helps us understand why grown men ( and women) weep when they see Matt’s work.


For more info on Matt and his escapades, or to see the video if YouTube or the Minnesota Post are acting up, go to www.wherethehellismatt.com.  


Many thanks to my friend Jayantha (in Melbourne, Australia) for sending me this link!

More Photos From Sri Lanka

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AmanwellaResortThis is the beautiful Amanwella Resort in Tangalle. We visited in April as we explored the South East of the island.


Click on the photo to enlarge it and then just stare at it to relax. Ahhhhh.


MoonlitClouds

A bright full moon is still visible behind the clouds, and can still create silhouettes of palm trees.


 


Tangalle-bound


The rocky coast at Dikwella.


Bouganvilla


Bouganvilla resting on the windshield – taken from inside the car.


NotAShowroom2

By some odd coincidence, all the guests at this boutique hotel had Nissan X-Trails (ours is the silver one) except one…”One of these things is not like the other.”


RegattaKo


A small bay near Unawatuna…we thought about renting a boat, but it looked a little stormy.


SalonDilhara


One of these things is not like the other!


I don’t think they know the one at the right is a man, man.


He’s got pretty hair though!


Plus they spelled “Bridals” as if they cater to horses…


OurLegacy


This is where people in the know go! 😉  C’mon! It’s a palace!

 Sailing2gether1


Look at us go!  Capt. KP is in the red, I’m in brown.


On Bolgoda Lake in Moratuwa.

Sailing2gether2


Another shot of us sailing…(takes me awayyyyy….and gets a Christopher Cross song stuck in my head….)

UnderConstruction


I liked the different shades of blue on this building under construction. The guy imitating the Beatles is behaving unusually. Most people just wander into traffic wherever they want to.

MyBustJune08


Hey that’s me!  I got my hair done and had to capture it before the humidity got to it, or I put it up in a ponytail or bun, ruining it.


Flowers1


Our houseman/gardener brings me flowers. God bless him!

 June2008 013


This is the King Coconut tree in our garden. If we don’t cut them down, they will bomb us!

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This struck me as such a very Sri Lankan scene — the orange King Coconuts in front of the antique chest. 


Foyer-KingCoconuts-Doggy2

Puppy!  Aney….


Snake-1


Visiting a cousin, I heard his dogs barking. This was why — just a really long snake. Apparently the dogs had wrestled with it before.

Snake-3


Clever, huh? He found a way to take the stairs without arms and legs!


I was safely on the balcony above, by the way. And am quite glad that this is not my neighborhood! But it is in the middle of the city.


How’s that for a big ending?

The Freedom to Travel the World

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AmericanFlagSunrise


Photo from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinsworld/382281375/


 


One of the freedoms we Americans forget about is our freedom to travel just about anywhere in the world. All we need is our American passport and a ticket, and we’re off. 


 


In contrast, much of the world has to get permission every time they want to enter another country. Here’s what my husband, a Sri Lankan passport holder, has to do just to TRANSIT for ONE NIGHT in Japan, though he’s gotten the same visa twice a year for the past 3 years (by the way– pretty much every embassy has the same procedure). And remember, this is the “easy” process, since he’s already been given the visa before.


 

  • Get a letter from his company stating that he is indeed employed and does have vacation time coming to him, along with his company ID. (So they know he’ll come back from their country and won’t migrate illegally.)

 

  • In addition to the form, he needs to attach a letter asking for one day processing, because as an airline pilot, he kinda needs his passport every day and can’t let them have it for a week.

 

  • He has to bring his tickets and confirmation from a hotel to prove to them exactly what he’ll be doing and when. The magic of this is that if they refuse the visa, the tickets have to be cancelled and may not be refundable.

 

  • His current and previous passports.

 

  • Stand in line in front of the Japanese embassy from 7am, because they only let a certain number of people in each day at 9am, and they don’t care if you only have one day off to take care of this (or if you’ve traveled from out of town, as many do). If you don’t get in, you’ll have to come another day.

 

  • When his number is called, he presents all of his documents to a Sri Lankan who has been employed to keep out the riff-raff and is on a major power trip. (Because these people are so evil, they are hidden behind reflective glass so no one recognizes them and takes out their aggressions on them after they get off work).

 

  • This person ignores all the evidence and demands paperwork that he doesn’t have with him and that are not asked for in any documentation from their embassy—a faxed confirmation from the hotel, a copy of his work schedule, his bank details, his birth certificate.

 

  • Then he has to argue with them, reason with them, and demand that they look at the stuff he’s brought that proves he’s done this many times before and they have always given it to him.

 

  • Then they usually say okay, come back in one week and he has to argue with them to pick it up later in the day or the next day.

 


For many people who are not airline captains and have not done this before, they need to show proof of all of their assets to prove they’ll come back. A divorced friend was a concern to the US embassy because they feared he had no reason to return and would lose himself in the underground. (Read “The Inheritance of Loss” by Kiran Desai to get a sense of what the underground life is like. It’s not very appealing.)





And all I have to do is arrive in Japan and show my U.S. passport. That’s freedom!


God bless America!


Why I’m better suited for writing and radio…

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It really took way too much work to get these videos from the video camera to the You Tube. It required days of input from the finest minds in my household and even then, it came out a rather poor quality BUT it's something

Let me know what you think – really. Go to http://www.youtube.com/MalaynaTravels for the entire trilogy thus far. I can pretty much guarantee you'll all enjoy a laugh at my expense!

 

Multicultural Wedding Ceremony

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NExJohnChris

I caught a re-run of Northern Exposure as I ate my Sri Lankan rice and curry lunch the other day, and fell in love once again with whoever it was who wrote the lines for Chris.

Played by John Corbett, Chris was the local philosopher, DJ and mail-order minister and I wanted to be like him. Well, I can maybe claim 2 of the 3, since I like to philosophize on comparitive beliefs and I've married a handful of couples.

This wedding ceremony was so cool, I had to track it down online to share. I'd be happy to perform this ceremony for anybody, if you're interested. Here it is:

Marriage, it's a hard term to define. Especially for me–I've ducked it like root canal. Still there's no denying the fact that marriage ranks right up there with birth and death as one of the three biggies  in the human safari. It's the only one though that we'll celebrate with a conscious awareness. Very few of your remember your arrivaland even fewer will attend your own funeral.

You pick a society, any society, Zuni, Nudembo, Pennsylvania Dutch. What's the one thing they all have in common? Marriage. It's like a cultural hand-rail. It links folks to the past and guides them to the future. That's not all though. Marriage is the union of disparate elements. Male and female. Yin and Yang. Proton and Electron. What are we talking about here? Nothing less than the very tension that binds the universe. You see, when we look at marriage, people, we're looking at creation itself.

"I am the sky," says the Hindu bridegroom to the bride. "You are the earth. We are sky and earth united. You are my husband. You are my wife. My feet shall run because of you. My feet shall dance because of you. My heart shall beat because of you. My eyes shall see because of you. My mind shall think because of you and I shall love because of you. Now are you guys cool with that? Then kiss.

Credit and thanks go to the following:

The "Our Wedding" episode of Northern Exposure - Episode 3.22, Original Air Date(1): May 11, 1992 • Production Number: 77524
Written by(
1): Diane Frolov and Andrew SchneiderDirected by(1): Nick Marck

Diane and Andrew, you are my new best friends. Though many of my closest friends are fictional, it's good to remember and acknowledge the real people behind them.

Part of that is known as the Eskimo Love Song, should you care to reference it.

My guess is that my new best friends are fans of Joseph Campbell, as I am. Oh how I love the Joseph Campbell!

Has living in Sri Lanka changed my voice?

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This video is from a Bollywood film and is a fairly good indication of the nasal trend in women's voices here in South Asia. Aishwariya Rai stars in this film with her (now) husband Abishek Bachchan and his father, the Sean Connery of Bollywood, Amitabh Bachchan, and boy does she shake her Aish! (Usually pronounced "ash".) Am I impressing you with my knowledge of Bollywood stars?

Two good friends in L.A. have told me twice over the last two visits that I sound nasal, and I'm beginning to think it is the Asian influence. I know I certainly adjust my accent, enunciating things I normally wouldn't, just to be understood, but I didn't think I was going nasal…or native. Who knows? It's a working theory.

In the meantime, enjoy a little Bollywood, if your ears can stand it. It took me a while to get used to the difference in vocal styling, but my Scottish friend Cecilia and my Korean friend Eunice were so into Bollywood, I could no longer resist. They both prefer Shahrukh Khan, but his voice is much lower and wouldn't prove my point! Maybe next time.