Dedicated to classics and hits.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Book/Museum/Movie Review: Rig Veda; Getty Villa Malibu & Year One

Reviewed here

Rig Veda
Wendy Doniger, editor
Penguin Press

The Getty Villa Malibu
17985 Pacific Coast Hwy
Malibu, CA 90265
(310) 440-7300

Year One
Starring Jack Black & Michael Cera

Rig Veda

The Rig Veda is interesting from at least two perspectives: First, it's the foundational text for "Hinduism" (not to mention Buddhism.) Second, it's the source of information about the culture and life of the Indo European/Aryan people. These people had a culture whose descendants spread to the Indian Subcontient, Greece, Rome, Scandanavia, France, Spain etc. When you are talking about how "civilisation" evolved you're basically talking about this Indo European language/culture group and how they came up from the plains of central asia (more or less.)

So for me, the second perspective was more engaging then the first, but there is no doubt that while this book is about as fun to read as the bible or the Odyssey (sorry classics fans!) it is as important as both those books, and the edition that Penguin put out is all of 300 pages, so it makes sense to at least think about cracking it.

The editor, Wendy Doniger, is no stuffy Orientalist. This book review is basically an excuse for me to write another mash note to Doniger, a professor of Sanskrit at Unviersity of Chicago. She drives certain Hindus nuts with her unearthing and recontextualitizing of some materials (specifically as they relate to women and sex) but I find her work to be comprehsible to anyone with a college degree and therefore very useful. You don't have to believe everything she says is true, she's arguing positions.

The text itself is organized thematically "Hymns to the Sun God," "Hymns to the Dawn," "Women." The historical title for the Rig Veda is something like "The 108 Hymns of the Rig Veda" and is somewhat analgous to the "book of psalms" in the Bible. That 108 number was more a reflection of Hindu numerology then any actually reference to a specific canon, and thus Doniger and Penguin Press have dispensed with that fake organizing mechanism.

Although I certainly didn't really get into every nook and cranny, I found enough here to spur me to read more books from this tradition- next up is the Doniger edited "Laws of Manu."

The Getty Villa Malibu

Getty Villa Malibu CA

First of all, the Getty Villa Malibu is exactly what you think it is- fucking amazing. It's the Getty. Villa. in Malibu. Well, I think Pacific Palisades to be exact but who's counting? Adimission is free, but you should call ahead (although if you show up and look respectable the first guard probably has passes- don't be a dick to him!

Getty Villa in Malibu California (2)

Second of all, I want to say that I've been to these European style villa/museums.

Here's one from Sevilla, it's called the Hospital de Venerables Sacerdotes in Sevilla:


So I understand that the Getty Villa is an imitiation- but it's incredible. It's as well executed as it can possibly be for being on a site that combines a greek style ampitheatre with an entrance to an Italian style villa museum- um ok.

Harp Player detail

Ok this is the Harp Player, and I don't want to bore everyone with the Indo European blah blah, but it's important to recognize that the Greek wing of the Indo European family- the Doric people in theory- they ran into a culture that was already pretty heavy- they made this awesome sculpture circa 3000 BC. Now that means they actually predate Indo European entry to southern europe. This culture is called Cycladic and probably my favorite single moment in the museum was watching a Japanese business man operate a display where succeeding buttons illustrated the spread of various mediterannean civilisations: beginning with Cycladic.

4-3. Two Figures of women

But the thing to take away here is that the evolution of Greek Indo European culture took place in the context of an already developing middle east with a totally separate tradition. You can think of the classical greeks (and they latins, and the etruscans) as being early variations on the Goths who raided the Roman Empire.

It's important to realize how Greek civilisation, in particular, blended Indo European traditions with the traditions of the Middle Eastern cultures which preceded it. Aphrodite, for example, is a very Middle Eastern goddess figure that shows up nowhere in the other Indo European dervied cultures. Of course, Judaism was a religion that derived from Middle Eastern tradition, not "indo european" and, according to Niezche (he was really controversial on this subject, as was Hitler) so was Christianity.

It all goes to say that the Getty Malibu is a great place to check out, and if you live in West LA and don't go you are a sucker.

Year One

This movie bombed and got terrible reviews but people are wrong and in time this will be what they call a "comedy classic." I think the problem is that it combined Judd Apatow style stoner comedy w/ some pretty high minded cultural/religious humor where it just kind of exists in he fabric of the film but doesn't generate the strong laughs. The old people there for the Mel Brooks style religious humor don't like the stoner comedy bigs, and the stoners don't get the biblical/cultural stuff- Director Harold Ramis really fucked himself there, but it's one of those movies that people will be talking about after it comes out on dvd and more people see it.

I'm not what you would call a "Jack Black enthusiast" but I appreciate his good performances- he was awesome in Tropic Thunder and really good in Be Kind Rewind. Same thing with Michael Cera- no thanks on Nick n Nora's Infinite IPod or whatever but yes on Arrested Development and Superbad. As a comedy team, I liked them both. Jack Black is just the ultimate ham and Michael Certa is the thoughtful counter point. Cera handles the awkward counter-punch timing perfected by Larry David (and Cera in Arrested Devleopment) onto the big screen with apolomb. I imagine that it would be difficult to pull that off on a scene said in the ancient middle east, but it's there, and I was laughing.


Antiquity: it's interesting.

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