Category Archives: aesthetica



The Big Fight

I feel like September's adaptation is shaping up to become a biiiiiig fight.  And maybe not one I can win!  Look at these "gotchas" that might interfere with my own adaptation:

  • unexpectedly (I just found out), I'm moving to a new apartment on or about September 1st
  • I have an irritatingly slow-to-heal sports injury I've been dealing with for a while, which I knew about and figured wouldn't be a big deal, but the recent intense acupuncture treatments (which are really working, yay) totally wipe me out.  After the last one I slept 7 hours on a day when I'd had two naps!
  • September might be my only chance to go freediving this year, so I was hoping to plan a weekend trip involving lots of gear and deep water…but that would be um, mid-adaptation…
  • ALSO, SEE: MOVING right when the whole thing's supposed to be starting!  The apartment is nice, but I'll have roommates, and their flexibility and tolerance for my being up / noisy is still an unknown.

So yeah, big fight.  Not that there's ever a perfect time, and nothing about this is really a deal-breaker yet; just a bit daunting.  Nonetheless, no sense dwelling on it; intstead, I figured it warranted discussion of one of my favorite movies of all time.

It's from 1980, though I probably didn't see it for the first time when I was two.  (Who knows, though.)  My dad had Enter the Dragon and used to put it on all the time, but I, at whatever very young age I was, couldn't really get behind the screechy guy who was funny without really being funny (this is how Bruce Lee looks when you're single-digit years old), so one day he put on something else.  The (VHS) case it was in said The Big Fight, though everywhere I've seen it since it's been called The Big Brawl or Battle Creek Brawl.  It was not, let's say, a commercial success.

It's very silly, very dated, and has many flaws.  But for all that, it may be the perfect kungfu movie.  Partly becuase it's silly enough to not let you take it seriously, but (unlike other gems like Kung Fu Panda or Shaolin Soccer) not silly enough to be only secondarily about kungfu.  The plot is classic, but well-paced; and the characters are stereotypical, but really well-executed.  And it's got everything you might want:

  • young Jackie Chan in sweater-vests and jaunty hats
  • inventive, no-special-effects fight-scenes with tons of humor, crazy props, and who-sat-down-and-thought-this-up stunts (including one of the first, I think, of Jackie Chan's "accidental fight" scenes)
  • the rollerskate race from hell:  makes underwater hockey look like a tame sport!
  • hilarious stereotypes, but not too many of them
  • awkward cultural and sexism stuff, but not too much of it
  • excellent old-school catchy whistled tune
  • a badass traditional Chinese uncle / Sifu / trainer who mercilessly beats his student into shape, like Mr. Myogi but cooler (trust me)
  • a surprising amount of sex — PG-rated, but a lot of getting laid goes on in this movie, and it's handled with fun and humor and hell-yeah without ever being squicky (or even really romantic, since "the girl" in this movie is the main character's established girlfriend, so they're like, obviously doing it and loving it whenever they can, but not "falling in love," which I find refreshing).  

In short, if you haven't seen this movie I've been watching for a score of years and still dig, go do it!  (At the moment, you can even watch it on YouTube. :D)

And if you think you can help with my own Big Fight in September, stepping up would be welcome!  I've barely started and already I feel behind.  :-\  …But that's another challenge I guess; August for me is going to be CRAZY, and I've just given up even trying to worry about my sleep then, figuring I'll focus on improving my diet (which has kind of sucked lately) and healing my foot, alongside the usual.

Have a great weekend everybody!


Guest Post: The Fruit Politic

Hey all!  A friend of mine wrote this for me, and I thought it was all the best kinds of educational and beautiful, and so I asked him if I could share it with you all.  Thank you, Aatish!


If there's one thing, and I think there might be just exactly one thing, that Indians love more than cricket, it's mangoes. High mango season in Mumbai is a frenzy of unabashed gluttony, covetousness and joy. Chausa, Hapus, Dasheri, Kesri, Malika…each varietal has extremely specific uses (dasheris are best in milkshakes, kesri makes the better ice cream though and the juice of the chausa mixes well with a sweetened ball of opium). As a culture we have come up with more ways to eat mangoes than we have sex positions in the Kama Sutra.

During the season people you haven't seen in a year will drop by your place just to taste how good your product is and how it stacks up to their stuff at home. The unspoken rule is that any offer of tea has to be accompanied by the offer of mango. Small talk happens – who's been busted for what corruption scandal? ("How sad and he was from such a good family"), have you seen the latest Sharuk Khan movie? ("My god, such things the youngsters are wearing these days!"), the price of vegetables ("I swear, how is one to keep the house going?") and then eventually, soft and sly just so's it might slip your guard, "So, bhai, where did you get these mangoes?" That's when you shrug modestly, click your tongue and say, "Oh, you know, the market. So hard to find the good stuff these days. We were hunting for hours."

No self-respecting Mumbai-ker buys their mangoes at the market. And you don't buy a mango, you buy a peti, a fragrant bundle of straw stuffed with exactly 48 of the gold-green fruit and crammed into a wooden crate that's just the right size to hoist onto your shoulder. This you pick up from your mango dealer. Ours is a man named Ram Bhai, which in India is the moral equivalent of being named, "Mr. Smith." He carries a pager tucked into a bright orange turban and drives a Land Rover with tinted windows and souped-up speakers that are constantly blaring Bollywood hits from the 80s. He smiles frequently and chews enough beetle nut to stone a whale, which gives him teeth the color of an abattoir's gutter. He used to manage one of the big plantations in Ratnagiri and since his replacement was (by total coincidence, of course) a second cousin once removed on his mother's side, he gets (for a modest share of his profits) the choicest picks from the best trees. Those mangoes, they never get within 20 kilometers of a market.

I remember that at school, during these short precious months before the monsoons hit, the deepest pity was reserved for the kids that showed up to lunch without a sliced mango. It was considered an act of charity, and thus, of course of power and plenty, to give one of these poor souls the ghutli, the giant central seed from your mango around which clung a meager corona of mango flesh, so that they could suck on it. The rest of us carried on a bellowing mango arbitrage over lunch that would warm the cockles of the hardest bitten commodities trader. The Hapus was the most prized, a half-slice of one of those babies could cost your your entire Chausa or two-thirds of a Kesri. The market was brutal. You could trade on futures for slices today ("But I'm telling you na? My uncle always brings an entire peti when he comes to visit and he'll surely come this weekend") but if you got called and could not deliver, you were out of the market for the rest of the season. Unthinkable.

My favorite varietal, back then and still, is the Chausa. It is a mango that is massively undervalued unless you know the secret to eating one. Its name means 'succulent' and its got a skin like alligator hide and flesh so fibrous that cutting it is like sawing through rubber. The way you eat one correctly is to start by slamming it roughly against a wall. Then, with your hand pressed firmly against it, you roll it back and forth, back and forth, for about a minute. Once you feel the skin heat up and give, you pull it to your mouth, press your lips to it and nip, hard with your incisors. And then it breaks – the pulped inside of the fruit pours out the gash as you suck on it. The juice that fills your mouth and throat, trickling down your chin, is dark saffron, rich and sweet. On a blisteringly hot Mumbai afternoon you can pull a cold one of these out of the fridge and drink it down like a beer. It is messy and delicious and glorious, all of the ways in which a mango should best be.


Realizing how big a tree is

One of my favorite perception shifts in this life comes from suddenly realizing how big a tree is.

You're walking along, idly thinking or just perceptively assuming that you're passing these giant sticks with branches and big umbrella-tops with leaves, and sure, they're pleasant but they stay still and just hang there providing shade and cool breathable air and most of the time, you don't give them a thought.

Then something happens — You approach a ravine-edge, or some other spot where the tree's roots are exposed.  Or your brain just catches your eyes and your perceptive awareness up to reality, for no reason (it happens!).  And then you see it.

You see — no, you feel, you really realize – that that umbrella thing is in fact twice as big as you thought it was; that fully half its body is deep underground, and that you are walking through the middle of it.

It's not a cute umbrella of truffula harmlessness, that tree.  It's half-subterranean, half light-loving; and its body curves around just so that you, and everything else, can walk and sit and pass right through the center of it.  It is a massive hugger of the world; a giant of a living thing that's utterly friendly to being walked on, climbed through, and hung out in.  You think you're standing under it, but you're passing through it, standing on it, being held by it.

It creeped the heck out of me at first, to be honest.  But I've since come to love the sensation of re-realizing that, of brushing my fingers on a trunk and imagining that I can feel it all spreading out beneath and above me.

Daoists thought that trees were holy because they were always exposed to the elements.  Their entire being was shaped by never once hiding from the wind, the rain, the cosmic radiation.  They had reality so nailed.

Whenever I realize how big they are, and how I'm in the middle of one, I get a sense of awe and of cosmic radiation, too.  I'm such a frail, tiny thing next to this sturdy half-buried behemoth; and yet here I stand, rains of radiation pouring on my head too, and for the moment, we're both surviving it together.


Dare you: Got a mnemonic that beats ASS COP NEED?

Mnemonics are supposed to be freaky and strange, ok?  They stick better that way!

I can now type "Americae Sive Quartae Orbis Partis Nova Et Exactissima Descriptio" without having to look it up, and as it's the name of one of my favorite things, that's an awesome win!

The fact that I remember it by thinking of its acronym, A.S.Q.O.P.N.E.E.D, as the phrase ASS COP NEED! uttered by a little stick-figure running away from, well, something (::cough::), is both incidental and unimportant awesome.

Got any crazy mnemonics?  I'd love to hear them!


Now in Color

So, I've been gently, slowly, trying to learn to take pictures that don't suck.

They probably still suck.

BUT, if you're interested, you can see all of them (and possibly their progression towards nonsuckage!) on Instagram — username chill_marie.  I'll warn you, what's up there now is mostly about brewing beer; but I'm sure it'll get better.



P.S.  Dear lords and ladies, if you're good at photography, please feel encouraged to mercilessly critique me, send me newbie-slap informational links, anything.  It'll be appreciated!


Reminds me of taiji

Oh my god why isn't there more art like this?? I love this.  

The scrolling is just so…peaceful to me.  

Yes, yes, I have That History, of tinkering for hours and watching make scroll its deliciousness and feeling that rush of pseudopower, of moving through a dimension in which I'm barely an avatar.  But I think it stands as an awesome artistic element even without that — it just says so much, with so little, it reminds me of taiji.

Thoughts on rewatching “The Karate Kid” (as a martial artist)

  • I'd forgotten, or never appreciated, how stone cold awesome Daniel-san's mom is.  She's supportive, doesn't stop trying to communicate, and doesn't freak out over things like going to a party or dating.  She also apologizes when she's wrong, and doesn't apologize for wanting to hug or kiss her son in front of people.
  • And speaking of hugging, I seriously want to hug whoever's responsible for Mr. Myogi's teaching style.  SO dead-on.  He also does Chinese massage pretty authentically, though the clapping-the-hands-together bit is a Hollywood affect (understandable though; you can't see it when a healer heats their hands IRL), and he would have almost certainly "fixed" Daniel-san's leg with accupuncture (which, they don't say he *didn't* I guess, but he certainly didn't have any gear with him to do so).  Though it's funny that before the experiences I've had with Chinese medicine, I thought the "Mr. Myogi fixes it and now he can sorta walk on it again right away!" thing was silly — but it's actually quite accurate.  Especially for muscular and soft-tissue injuries and overtraining, those needles are *magic* in the short-term.
  • Years ago when I rewatched this, it was for the fighting — because I have some experience with Shorin Ryu and crane-style kungfu, which is what Daniel-san is learning (yup, only the bad guys in the Karate Kid are actually using karate).  This time the teaching styles and the characters are both more interesting – maybe because those aren't the styles I'm actively studying anymore?
  • Although from any perspective, that crane-kick climax is still *amazing*.
  • The music, on the other hand…uuuuhhhh, nothing from the 80s really held up well, did it?
  • Kids and bullies, high-school boys and girls, and parents and old martial artists are all portrayed nigh perfectly here as their archetypes:  Simplified in the way movies do best, in service of a story, with real emotions and fake details; but the end result is that if you know the emotions, you can follow along flawlessly.   Though I'm sorry to say that BAD martial-arts teachers, while never as cartoonish in my experience as the dreaded Cobra Kai teacher, also get their souls writ large and clearly in this film.  I don't think I really have to say this, but…If any teacher reminds you of that guy, even for a split second, RUN.
  • When I was a small child I had this weird dream that I grew old and woke up and looked in the mirror and I was Mr. Myogi.  …::looks nervously over shoulder::…