Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, November 5, 2009




The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya
14 Episodes (S1), 13+

By Kokoro-chan

“If something happened to make everyday life more interesting…that could be quite wonderful.” -Ryoko Asakura, Ep 4

Boredom can be lethal sometimes.
What exactly happens, when the time comes for one to finally feel how insignificant his/her existence is on this planet? When the horrible realisation of being 'merely a drop in the ocean' triggers deep-set melancholy, and life simply doesn't seem worth a dime anymore? While most people would shy away from the agitation and think, “I wish all of it would end”, one girl thought, “I wish all of it would end…and rebuild itself from scratch so that I won't be bored anymore.” And THAT, believe it or not, unravelled a whole new story- absurdly epic in all proportions and a delightfully bizarre one of its kind. After all, “We live in a world where truth becomes fiction” (first opening). Don't we?

Enter Haruhi's World:
Haruhi: “I have no interest in ordinary humans. If there are any aliens, time travellers, sliders or espers here, come join me. That is all!”
Kyon: “....Are we supposed to laugh?....”
-Haruhi's self-introductory speech to the class, Ep 1

All judgment and debates regarding mental soundness aside please make way for the 'ultra'-goddess of multitasking, the mistress of peculiarities, the 'eccentric among eccentrics' her highness Suzumiya Haruhi -sama (drumroll)! Some call her 'the centre of a huge time-quake', 'an unexplainable explosion of data', 'the key to auto-evolution' or simply 'an evil feudal lord'. But diverse nomenclature ignored, Haruhi Suzumiya is the girl who one day simply got dead bored with the stupid world around her and decided she wanted the company of exciting, supernatural creatures who'll make her bland life more interesting…and it happened. Just like that.

Quite frankly, if you start watching this series searching for logics and facts inside its brilliantly executed episodes, you are bound to feel like a complete idiot after a short while. As the story progresses you will be introduced to the tight-lipped Yuki Nagato, who is an alien, the cute Mikuru Asahina, who is a time-traveller, the handsome-but-weird Itsuki Koizumi, who is an esper and Kyon, who is essentially the 'hero' (this series could as well have been 'The Exasperation of Kyon') who never seems to have the right facial expression. Then screen-shaking sci-fi action scenes will follow, complete with the 'monsters-of-melancholy-who-destroy', gigantic virtual crickets that feed on cybernetic data and a near-Armageddon situation where Haruhi almost destroys the entire world in her dreams…

Need I say any more?
The point here is, beneath its eccentric cover, TMSH is actually a play of seemingly childish experimental hints toward some of our persistent and serious emotional longings. As one watches Haruhi's beloved SOS Brigade storming in to 'save the world by overloading it with fun' through outrageous roles ranging from a baseball team to a pro-rock band, a part of the viewer can't help but exclaim in delight, “I wish I could do that!”…And become astonished to find another small part of him/her whisper back, “Why not right now?” Supernatural might as well exist as long as there are still people who so desperately wish for it to! It's just the magic of Haruhi's insanity; it fills you up with super-charged energy and hope: that all is not lost even when the mundane wheels of routine-life threaten to leave no room for fun and laughter. Because of course, if all else fails, one can always try out 'The Ultimate Loser's Punishment: Haruhi-style'-

“Ten laps around the ground in the nude while screaming at the top of your lungs: GREEN MARTIANS ARE CHASING ME! No complaining allowed!!” (Ep 13)

Rest assured, for Haruhi-sama's methods are unquestionable. Literally (wink)!
(P.S. Season 2 is currently on going. The entire episode chronology is a bit confusing, though. The following link may help:



By Shehtaz Huq

It was a ball that started rolling the day Hugh Heffner bought fifty acres of prime real estate on the Hollywood Hills and decided to plop his Playboy mansion down in the midst of its rolling greenery. Okay, perhaps not entirely true, but relationships that rock the cradle have stood the test of time. Think of sixteenth-century King Henry VIII and his fifth wife, nineteen-year-old Catherine Howard … yes, moving on.

Not as terrible as an ulcerous old man coupling with a blooming rose of maidenhood is a mushy movie. Or, at least, a movie where nothing terrible happens, no one dies, worlds aren't blown to smithereens, and gigantic cockroach-like aliens decide to hover menacingly over Johannesburg (that review, alas, must wait for another day). This time we're talking The Proposal, starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. A summer blockbuster, that ought to tickle your funny bone while you're lamenting your pitiable lack of Halloween candy.

The premise of the movie is nothing complicated. Margaret Tate (Bullock) is a pushy, dominating woman in her mid-forties, the less-than-chilled-out editor-in-chief of a publishing house, and a pain to put up if there ever was one. Her hapless assistant, Andrew Paxton (Reynolds) purses his thirty-something lips and does the bidding of his cell phone-snapping, wry-commenting boss, whose only purpose in life seems to be to wring all the joy out of his own. Until the day an agent from the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS, in layman's terms) shows up to cart Margaret back to her homeland of Canada, thanks to her expired visa. Margaret, with no intention of going back to the land of maple syrup, corners Andrew into agreeing to marry her in lieu of a promotion. And then they're off to Seward, Alaska, to meet Andrew's family before their shotgun non-wedding.

It is a comedy of errors, where uptight Margaret is thrown right in the mix with Andrew's family of a grudging father, doting mother, slightly insane grandmother, and the blond ex-girlfriend whose martyred face is a regular sight. Over the course of the weekend, the not-quite-couple couple is subjected to a series of pre-wedding schemes. Dress rehearsals, boat rides, encounters with particularly yappy dogs, even the odd Hispanic exotic dancer…and, lest we forget, the INS agent trailing by. While Margaret and Andrew try to keep up the charade, the always doubtful Mr. Paxton starts digging into their dubious past, and instances of eavesdropping on Margaret's behalf reveals to her a side to her assistant that she never gave a pickle about namely, his human side.

Because it is a romantic comedy, it is only natural that there is some romance in the air. Nothing to be alarmed about, though; the romance is blissfully understated. The comedy, too, is nothing cringe-inducing. There are some memorable instances of slapstick ('Why are you NAKED?' from the promos, anyone?), and Bullock and Reynolds are hardly inept with their comic timing. The wizened Grandma Paxton, with her less-than-politically correct comments, is also a character to quake shoulders over. Case in point: the invocation of spirits in the family thicket, dancing around in a circle while somewhere behind the trees an open-mouthed Andrew watches his grandmother and his pseudo-fiancé make a complete fool out of themselves. It's a scene that might just leave a chuckle on your tongue long after the butter from the popcorn has melted away.

Bullock and Reynolds are a pairing that is refreshing to revel in. Obvious age difference aside, or perhaps because of, the banter between the two leads doesn't lapse into clichéd exchanges of snippy one-liners. They keep things fresh, which, in light of recent forays into entertainment, is something of a godsend. So, if there's ever a hundred and thirty-odd minutes to kill, and you're in the mood for a romantic comedy/summer blockbuster that doesn't involve people dying, killing each other, or gigantic spaceships hovering over Johannesburg, then get thee over to the nearest Fahim's and buy the DVD. It's nothing regrettable.




The Divine Punishment

By Ahsan Sajid

The third full-length album by avant-garde performer Diamanda Galás, and the first instalment of her "Masque of the Red Death Trilogy" inspired by the writing of one Edgar Allan Poe is about the AIDS epidemic, and titled The Divine Punishment. In this the first instalment, she focuses on interpretations of Old Testament scripture. But a little more must be said about Diamanda Galás before diving headfirst into The Divine Punishment.

Known for her expert piano as well as her distinctive, operatic voice, which has a three and a half octave range, Galás, an American Greek, has been described as "capable of the most unnerving vocal terror". In the end of the day, her music is hit or miss with every listener, you may love it, or you may hate it. Speaking personally, the music is torture rather than pleasure, but it's magical enough still to draw one to it, to seduce one to suffer it all. And that suffering is amazing. Galás often shrieks, howls, and speaks in tongues. Her works largely concentrate on the topics of suffering, despair, condemnation, injustice and loss of dignity.

An eerie dark hypnotic album, The Divine Punishment was released on vinyl in 1986. It had been described as sounding like a mass, an evil mass at that, intoned by the Devil himself and his high priestess Galás, interspersed with the shrieks of the damned.

The Divine Punishment is ritualistically dark and ambient, with beautifully schizophrenic vocals dripping with blasphemy and insane mutterings. Deliciously evil like Snow White's poisoned apple. Some songs are as long as 19 minutes and 'critics' complain that this gets boring and tired; the sound is basic and atmospheric, but the amazing range, beauty, and maniacal ferocity of the vocals keep this from ever becoming boring. But then again, that is purely subjective and as mentioned before, The Divine Punishment is a record you either love or hate, there is no middle-way.

If one must split hairs and find something to complain about in The Divine Punishment, it would be about the bare bones music that accompanies Galás- repetitive beats and long drones with a kind of distant, hollow feel pervade the album with only occasional departures into more interesting instrumentation. However, as one of her first albums, this may be expected; her later albums are watertight.

However, for one just about to get into Galás, and one who is unfamiliar with her work, there isn't a better starting point than The Divine Punishment. Think of it as fundamentally honest, and not scary. And the album will make a lot more sense to you. Her theatrical presentation is a part of her message as well, and should be kept in mind by listeners. Brace yourself, if you are about to blast this off your stereo. Diamanda's music demands it be played very loud.


home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

© 2009 The Daily Star