Non Resident Alien

This is a chronicle of my tragi-comic life as a foreigner in the United States. My official status when I started school in 2004, was that of a Non-Resident-Alien and that's where the title of the blog is from. My status has changed to Resident Alien since then. My personal experiences are a unique roller coaster mundane everyday experiences for locals, but unique from the eyes of a foreigner. I started this blog to share some of my experiences beginning my third year living in this country.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

No Country for Old Men

Indeed a cast of Old men and a story twisted and bizzare bordering on wierd and the silver screen splattered with blood. If you can ignore the blood and concentrate on the greater philosophical meaning of the story you may get somewhere. I tried real hard to get to the heart of the story, and I think I am missing something here. I do not know if the movie is a nostalgic story of a bunch of old men and how life has turned out for them and how the world has gone fast past them and they are left wondering what hit them!! There it is. As I write this I guess I get a small handle on the movie. Its a good plot, and has not a dull moment. Javier Bardem as Anton (in the picture) did full justice to his character and had me transfixed in a perverse sort of way. He is the villain, if indeed there is a villain in this movie, and fits the role to a T. It is a movie worthy of the Coen brothers. Excellent cast. I loved Woody Harrelson in this movie. I have always liked him, and in this movie his character is great. Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones were ok. I am not sure I understand why Tommy Lee Jones has so many accolades for this movie. It is certainly a different kind of role for him as an older man. I see him in a different characterization, but Javier steals the show. The story is set in rural Texas and the Southern drawl is musical throughout the movie which has very little in the name of soundtrack. Its a great movie if you can stand the bloodiness.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lola Rennt

Thats Run Lola Run in English. 80 minutes of non stop action. I remember when this movie was released in India, almost a decade back. The name was too seedy for me to go see it. Now, after reading several reviews, I rented it and it blew my mind! I got the hang of the story after the first 20 minutes. It is one heck of a movie. It has a disco 80s feel to it. I loved the cinematography and the use of images in this movie. There is a lot left unsaid at the end of the movie, but that's the best part, you can conjecture all you want and make up your own little stories. It is fantastical and has a kind of O Henriesque twist to it in my opinion. Although the number of characters in the movie is not a lot, you will realize after the first 30 minutes that the lives of everyone is tangled in this web. See it to experience it!

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Two great movies!

For the first time this semester I could relax in my apartment, and I ended up watching two beautiful movies: Carol's Journey and In America. Coincidentally both are stories told predominantly from the eyes of 10-12 year old girls. Spoiler warning!!

Carol's Journey (El Viaje de Carol):

This is a poignant tale of a lil girl facing terrible tragedies at her age. It is somewhat of a coming of age story. It is also a story of war and the sadness it brings to her life. The movie is in Spanish, but the subtitles work wonderfully. You cannot help yourself from wanting to reach out and comfort this lil soul, and will soon find out that she is brave and she is the one that's comforting you. The emotions are very subtle and the whole story is handled so differently from American and Indian movies. I have always admired European movies. They are beautiful in the way they handle everyday emotions and great tragedies. A big thumbs up to this movie!

In America

This is based on a true story of an Irish family that comes to America, the land of dreams. None of the actors are names I recognize. The screenplay is by the director and his two daughters whose true story forms the basis of this movie. You do not know if you want to laugh at the comical situation or cry for this poor family. One thing I took away from this movie is that hardships in life need not mean you fall-apart. As long as you have your family and a sense of humour you can ride through any storm. The tenacity of this family of four in the face of daunting challenges is something to be admired. The two little girls are outstanding in their performance and Ariel's (the younger of the two) fiestiness is contagious. In an interview the director says that he did steal the airconditioner, walked on a busy street with it and carried it up the flight of stairs. Its real life drama on the silver screen. You cannot take your eyes off for even a minute. A must watch!!

Both these movies remind me again about how differently emotions are handled in movies made out of the US. The narrative is different, it is more realistic and people are not rushing off to see a shrink the minute something goes wrong in their lives. Neither are they full of blame or self pity and bitterness. They take life as it comes to them and accept that sadness is a part of life, its natural and no one, especially not the parents, is to blame for the troubled hearts of young people. My guess is that it also tracks real life beliefs in these regions. People are easier going outside of America and that is just a cultural thing I think. Evrything in America is blown out of proportions including reel life. But for now the memory of Christie is etched in my mind just as she wants it to be.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Fitting end to semester

Friday 6pm my semester ended. I completed my term papers and take home exam well ahead of schedule and turned it in after multiple proof reading and have been partying since then. Friday evening it was Prof.Wagner's party and it was such a blast. I have been unable to go to his end semester parties the past couple of years and it was so much fun to go this time. The intellectual snobs (the ones who think they know best of all and make fun of everyone else not in their elite league.. you know the type) as expected kept to themselves. The rest of us had a ton of fun with each other. I particularly loved all the stories from Prof.Wagner's youth. His wife Barbara is also an amazing person. She had so may more stories to tell us. They have done the end of semester student party for about 35 years now. Half way through the party was when it hit me that I was done for the semester and it was such a relief.
This morning my boss Laura had a pancake breakfast for us. No better way to get into a student's heart than free food. Laura and Danny are very generous and this year we also had baby Kaitlyn who is such an adorable young 'un serving up the love. I love my job, all my bosses and my colleagues. So, its sunday evening! I haven't got a lot of sleep but it has been great to have the semester end. Now, all I need to do is gear up for my field exams and pass them.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

First Snow this season

Its the first snow this season in Virginia. It was terribly cold outside when I left at 7 this morning, and it hasn't stopped snowing since. Its become colder and wetter, but the one nice thing was that my evening class was cancelled which gave me time to team up with a couple of classmates and finish my take-home exam. Need to get my snow boots out so my feet can stay warm and dry and so I can walk on icy snowy slush and not slip. I cannot afford to slip and either fall or twist my body in any way. Its going to be a delicate walk winter. In addition, I cannot carry my bag-lady persona anymore cause of the wetness outside. All that apart, it was nice to see the leafless tree outside my window coated in a soft white powder this morning. Here's Brian's experience and here's what Ali thinks of the snow.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Academic frustrations

This past three months I have been struggling to finish a paper. I am down to the last stages of completion (at least that's what I think), and have hit a major rut which I am unable to steer out of. The closer I get to completion the more silly my research idea seems, and the less sure I am about it. Is it simply because I have worked on this idea for so long that I am tired of it? I have been putting in 8 hour days just on this paper in addition to my other academic commitments and its frustrating to not be able to finish it. I was pretty confident a couple of months ago that I would have it all done by end November. November has come and gone and my paper remains in its unfinished state. I do not have any excuse. I have been successful in compartmentalizing my brain to not think about my other frustrations when I start working on my paper. Even so, its extremely frustrating to spend more than 6 months on something and have no finished product. There is no better judge of productivity for an advanced graduate student than a finished and well written paper. In my case, I have failed to produce even one paper after 3.5 years of graduate school. I do not wish to compare myself with others and their performance or lack of it. I have failed to achieve my own goals in a timely fashion and am rather disappointed in myself right now.

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