All’s Just Right At Ikea Heights

I just discovered this gem of a show that helped market a store that needs no marketing (so much so that they want nothing to do with it). I’m talking about Ikea Heights.

This little masterpiece is what every young filmmaker needs to watch at the start of their career. The YouTube web-series is the brainchild of Paul Bartunek and David Seger. The premise of the show while enthralling and funny is the least of the reasons I sat through it. Surely Randall Park helped the cause, but I stuck around for the filming techniques. THEY WENT FULL RAMBO!

The production illegally filmed inside Ikea stores without their knowledge. Now, this was eight years ago and the security I hope has beefed up since then. But thank heavens it was laxed for this low budgeted jewel.

The show is a mix up of essential filmmaking techniques you will have learnt at film school, but all credit to the cast and crew who pulled through until the end. As a result, we have seven episodes of pure genius. The filmmakers drew inspiration from Mike McCafferty‘s show called Store Trek. It’s a parody on you guessed it, Star Trek, shot in this guerrilla style at a Fry’s Electronics Store. Guerrilla Filmmaking is self-explanatory like the word itself. With whatever limited production means available at hand, a driven crew ambushes a public location without shooting permits. Ed Wood was a pioneer of this branch. I personally think of it to share similar rules to Dogme 95 given that one cannot particularly control lighting and well, cameras do tend to be hand held.

Coming back to Ikea Heights, the show is filled with clichés: crime, suspense, adultery, family reunions, junkie cops, prostitution, you name it. It also has cheesy 90s style opening credits which pay homage to The Wonder Years and updates us when important characters have died.

We get an Ikea Heights origins story where they satirize the Pilgrims and the umm Swedish Puritans. If I can call it that. The Princess Bride also gets a nod with the grandfatherly narrative. How can we forget the was-it-all-a-day-dream storyline? And a Zombie musical!

From an impromptu Reddit AMA, we get to learn about the filming hurdles that the production faced and how the Ikea staff actually loved the show. If this five-odd minutes serial drama does intrigue you and you’d like to learn more about it, we’re blessed with a very professionally shot mini-documentary. Much like the Swedish sentiment of lagom, the Ikea Heights is just right for a Saturday viewing with friends.

Now, if you remember a random guy hitting on you at Ikea, it just might have been a pre-famous Randall Park.

Doom And Gloom And Mushroom Clouds

When The Wind Blows is a whimsical little movie that leaves the largest impression in the viewers’ mind. The film is based on Raymond Briggs’ graphic novel of the same name. I hadn’t heard about this animation until recently when Jon Richardson tweeted a gif of the elderly protagonist in an embrace. When the curious cat in me inquired about the origin of the gif, some kind tweeter implored me to watch it and I’m glad I did.

Firstly, the retired protagonists took me back to Muriel from Courage The Cowardly Dog. Hilda’s comforting voice had the similar maternal quality Muriel’s voice had. I have a strong feeling it might have had a role in inspiring the latter.

The animation begins with a lull setting the pace for the mood of the film. We are comforted between the caring Bloggs (pun intended) and their rural cottage. The viewers are confronted with the impending doom from the very start of the film when James narrates the news the papers in the public library carry. We are told about the cold war between nations and Russia’s emergence as a nuclear super power.

Despite the grimness of the situation the viewers can’t help but root for the couple who try their best to make a bomb shelter for when the Russkies attack. We are invested in knowing more about the requirements listed on the government-issued survival pamphlets which Jim blindly follows. He’s a patriotic old chap who has entrusted all his faith in his nation and government. We journey through reveries of the couple’s romanticized notion of war they had experienced as little’uns. And are as invested in Hilda’s cushions as we’re for Jim’s protractor. As a viewer, you can’t help but scream at Jim for not considering the cupboard under the stairs and later on the cellar!

I went into the film without reading up on it on IMDb but I knew the music was closer to home when I heard it. Roger Waters keeps up his name in composing the apocalyptic soundtrack, similar to our feelings when we listen to any of his Pink Floyd creations especially Dark Side Of The Moon. His composition for Hilda’s trance is very similar to his Brain Damage written for Syd Barrett. Hilda literally is the lunatic on the grass in her backyard with her free spirited almost hallucinatory dream. When the Wind Blows also gets its theme song from David Bowie which plays at the beginning morphing from live action to animation.

The bombs do drop and the Bloggs are thrust into the situation we hoped they wouldn’t have to face. We see the deteriorating health of the two bulbous figures to something with hollow cheeks, skin rashes, headaches and vomit. The entire fourth act is filled with unavoidable languor. With all means of communication cut, they can’t ring their son nor walk to the neighbours due to the rural nature of their now, dilapidated cottage. The viewer is as helpless as Hilda and Jim and this lack of news and phone connectivity adds another fear in the head of a helpless spectator like me. Can we even survive without media and communication?

When The Wind Blows ends in paper bags and not in the carrying a doggy bag home from the restaurant kind of way. I haven’t watched any other of the anti-war propaganda films of the 1980s but would highly recommend this if you like even the Ellie and Carl montage in Up! I also recommend watching Jambareeqi’s review on YouTube.

Raymond Briggs‘ controversial graphic novel turned animated feature surely is a must watch for the current generation of young adults. The movie is definitely not aimed at children and I wouldn’t want an impressionable child to watch either this or Coraline.  But with the current nature of world politics, I might be forced to reconsider. This film took me back to the time I visited a Soviet Bunker in Moscow. Let’s hope we don’t have to go through something like this ever.

 

 

 

Would You Call Out Racism If You Saw It?

I’m a brown girl in the desert. A land built mostly by my countrymen back in the 60s. They were brought here by dhows and shipslabouring all day in the hot climate. All this to earn a living to be able to send money back home to their families. These men still continue to work here transforming a barren desert into a modern metropolitan oasis. They toil here day and night and get breaks when the mercury levels rise. Like most expats, my father too sought haven in this wonderland and worked here all his life. He didn’t have to use his brawn but none the less is as much a part of furthering this civilization like any other brown person in this land across the sea.

As far as the political situation in the world currently, it’s not going anywhere with two imbeciles waiting to rock-paper-scissor their nuclear codes. Nor is it getting any better with the rising xenophobia or racism. The war is Syria is causing mass life losses and damage to property along with bringing about the issue of diaspora in this day and age. The war is creating another generation of refugees who have lesser cultural identity than you and I.

But here we are the populace unaffected by it all. We’re the millennials who I’d like to believe are more welcoming of people and accepting of who they are. But even this desert oasis isn’t much different than the white hoodwinked KKK. English is my native tongue. All my ancestors speak English. One of them even knew Wallace Stevens a friend. So but naturally when I see job listings for Native English Speakers, I feel privileged and apply with the backing of my two educational degrees. Yet then, most of the times it goes unnoticed.  Why so? It’s because the listing wanted to be less direct and wants me to read between the lines. The poster doesn’t want to be like the others recruiters and write ‘Western Educated’. In short, they want a pretty white face to sit across the desk than a brown one.

Yesterday a reputed twilebrity in the region known for naming and shaming BS, tweeted something of similar nature. Long story short, a job recruiter seeking a consultant send him a private message on Linkedin asking him to delete the post he shared as he was getting hounded by brown folk and only sought British/Western recruiters. Now when the delicate subject of colour and POC are involved and if you have the hint of milky skin, I’d best suggest you be a casual spectator in the back row. But a vivacious white lady decided to chime in. She went onto insinuate brown people were dull and ofttimes fail to read what is posted. She tried to say how they waste her time hounding her with messages and emails.

Allow me to dissect what she had to say (bold) with my brown thought process (italic).

“Perhaps his frustration was not a racist one at all, but has to do with cultural behaviour online?”

When did we start separating race from culture? Or are you saying you’re an ethnocentric xenophobe?

“If I put an ad anywhere online, for anything, ranging from selling a sofa to looking for an apartment to hiring, I get INSANE responses. From the subcontinent region.”

So you want to sell your old furniture to everyone but people from the subcontinent?

“They’re always the same: people who didn’t read the ad who then HOUND me with messages and mails.”

So you classify all brown people based on few interactions with people on a classified site like Dubizzle?

“You know exactly what I’m saying & you’ve experienced the behaviour I’m talking about. 🙂 Where it comes from, we’re not qualified to say”

– Then why touch the subject you’re not qualified to discuss it?

– YOUR comment tried to trivialize the issue by changing it entirely.
In short, this lady, who also happens to be the deputy editor to one of the region’s woman centric magazines took it upon herself to whitesplain something to us brownies. She also took the liberty to change the entire issue from one racist man on LinkedIn to generalizing all subcontinental people to be dim and stupid. She insinuated their online “irritating” behaviour comes from certain cultural issues. Play tell what? The sweet lady conveniently separates race from culture going on to justify with her list of coloured ex-boyfriends and how their mothers were unaccepting of HERHow can anyone hate a ray of sunshine? She also called their mothers racist for not accepting her.
I’ll not deny that’s not racist, but for an immigrant parent in California, to not accept their first generation American son, to date outside their race, is one thing and a modern-educated white woman, to fly across the Atlantic, all the way to the sandpit, and talk down to brown people, while culturally bash them is another. Simply dating outside your race does not make you less racist, Hun.
In the end, this woman tried to end her losing battle with an offer to direct message for further discussion. No one took her up on this offer. So like every privileged person there is, she DM’d a friend of mine blaming it on the first day of her period.
Now, ‘period brain’ is something I’ve vaguely heard of. But never heard of period induced racism. Let’s not just make up silly excuses. Capiche?

 

Remember, Dust Thou Art

I’m not cold to death. I wasn’t sheltered away from it as a child.

I’ve done my rounds attending funerals. The first memory I have of it is of my Grand Uncle. I remember I was a toddler in arms. My Nan’s brother lived in the apartment just two floors above her. He had Alzheimers or Dementia. He was awfully fond of my brother and I. The next was my Father’s elderly brother-in-law. I called him Peter Papa. He passed away a day before his daughter was to be wed. Then was the other brother-in-law, Clarence Papa. The grandfatherly titles were bestowed out of respect for their ages since my father was the kid-brother to his siblings, born almost 20 years their junior. I guess family planning or contraceptives weren’t all that a fad for people born in the early 1900s. Of Clarence Papa,

Of Clarence Papa, I have more vivid memories. He suffered from Lung Cancer. A smoker, I hear. He was in the hospital for a while. When I close my eyes and think of it, I see deep green leaves to match my kindergarten uniform pin stripes. The hospital had a garden in front with deep foliage. The tall Ashoka trees towered me and my niece (or first cousin once removed, if I may). We were in the same grade. My parents would take me to the hospital right after our pre-school left at 4’o clock. We’d play there in the evenings while the adult folk were upstairs by his death bed. Maybe with a priest preparing him for his last sacrament, anointing of the sick. I remember my mother mentioning how he was fearful. Often times he’d describe a figure who’d resemble the Grimm Reaper. I don’t know what to make of this anecdote.

Ever since, I’ve always gone to funerals. My father being the kid-brother, I got to see a lot of demises. But I won’t say I am desensitized. Au contraire, I’m hyper-sensitive to the issue. I may not have been this way as a child, but I moulded into a mindful teen and later, adult.

How can people be heartless to death? I never thought people can just turn a blind eye to someone being buried six feet under or crumbling into ashes on a pyre. Every time I hear an ambulance wailing away, I say a little prayer, “Dear Lord, be with them. Let them reach the hospital in time”.

Till today, I can’t forgive my childhood ex-best friend for not attending my Nana’s funeral. Her condolence wasn’t even something you could call compassionate. I was with my aunt visiting her maiden home and ex-bestie happened to be walking her boyfriend’s dog back to his house:

“Hey, I heard your nana died. Sorry for your loss.”

Thanks a lot, bosom buddy who was in-and-out of my grandparent’s house growing up. I was at both your Grandparent’s funeral while you took the time to walk your boyfriend’s dog. I know being Catholic we must forgive those who trespass against us; Don’t harbour hatred et al. I don’t hate her. I’m just disappointed. I expect a lot from friends. Reap as you sow, but I soo did not deserve that.

Two days ago, my phone illuminated. I saw the name and thought, “At last, a response!” As I scrolled through other messages on my notification centre, my eyes vaguely processed something and they teared up. I screamed. My dearest friend had passed away. It wasn’t her on the other side of the text message but her sister who conveyed the message of my friend’s passing away.

I screamed.

My best friend was suffering from cancer but gave me hope of recovery in two months. She also swore me against telling our friends about her condition.

I spent all of that night trying to communicate with my friends about her demise. Mindful of it being the weekend and people’s plans.

One particular erratic one who can be a reckless driver. The one who’s married and only has the weekend with her husband.

And then there’s me going through tissues and watery eyes.

How am I supposed to do this? What is protocol when informing people about the demise of a loved one?

I went through the core group one-by-one. And finally got to the only mass communicative way I knew, Facebook.

I keyed in words getting the message across and hit post. I spent all night texting away with people who cared for her. People I’ve only met once. Bonding over someone very close to our hearts. Cursing fate for taking away such a young person and more so, our best friend. I’m sure none of us had a dry pillow case that ungodly Friday night.

I woke up the next morning to a phone call from a university mate two years my junior. Then another close ex-work friend, and another and another. I’ve never used my phone that much ever. It’s times like this that filters out the compassionate from the ones who just scrolled past her photo cum pseudo-obituary without a bother or second glance. A university professor who taught her, merely shared the post on our alumni Facebook Group without so much so as even a ‘Rest in peace’ or ‘RIP’. Does my friend not deserve a eulogy?

Compassion is for the strong I suppose.

Thinking Out Loud

One of my #blessed moments was being able to stand outside the Crystal Ballroom at the Biltmore, Los Angeles. Besides it playing venue to the Acamedy Awards in the past, this grandiose room has added meaning to a romantic.

Now, I’m not the most musically inclined person to walk this earth, even going to the extent of calling myself a tone-deaf musician. But I took to listening to Ed Sheeran when a friend pestered me to listen to him. She had the chance of watching him live at his maiden concert in Dubai back in 2015. Like a hipster, all the while kept complaining how she discovered his music WAY before everyone else.

Ever since then I fell in love with this ginger with a soul. What I learned about Sheeran is that apart from his angelic voice, he actually composes his music and lyrics. Coming from a literary background, I give away my heart to poets and writers, a dime a dozen, just like the case with Ed.

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Coming back to his association with Biltmore, like every generation has their ‘first dance’ wedding number, Ed Sheeran has gifted us Millennials ‘Thinking Out Loud’. This lyrical piece is something out of a modern day fairytale. It has two lovers lost in the moment worshipping each other through song and dance, just them in the magical spotlight. The surreal moment is laced with words to awaken even the heartless beast you know. And if you don’t believe me, just send a link across to someone who fits the description. 😉