Scarecrow Video

I’ve been a big fan and regular patron of Scarecrow Video. The New York Times has an article on the store in today’s edition.

And you can find my comment here.

But here it is again:

Can’t sing enough praises for this place. I teach film here in Seattle and some of the classes I have taught (on cult cinema, on cinemas of small nations) have been inspired by and have relied on Scarecrow’s presence. Three of my grad students just presented work in my grad seminar on the cinemas of Tajikistan, Palestine and Norway. Their brief: rely on the Scarecrow collections. 

Where else can you browse the shelves, be curious about a national cinema you have no clue about (Ghana? Mali? Mauritania? Trinidad and Tobago? Malaysia? Rwanda?), browse the actual DVD and VHS covers, stare at the cover art and decide this is a movie you want to watch? Or the lesser known works of an auteur? Or the hidden gems of a cult genre? What about shelves devoted to avant-garde and experimental film? Or to documentaries about film history? Documentaries about books? 

Scarecrow offers not an predictive algorithmic access (If you liked this…you might like this!) to the universe of films, but a tactile, spatial, visual, embodied one. It caters to the auteurist, the cultist, the cinephile, the casual viewer, alike. The pathways to the discovery of cinema, and for that sake, cultures and peoples, are driven by curiosity, cover art, staff-generated sub-genres (“Nature gone amuck!”) and…wandering agape through aisles and aisles of movies.


A generation in Japan faces a lonely death

“I remembered what a community leader had told me about the men at risk of lonely deaths. The leader, an active Buddhist with a philosophical bent, said that those men — cut off from much human contact — were ghosts and ciphers, using a Japanese word that, phonetically, meant both”.

On staring at walls…

I remember my first moment of mourning for my father’s passing. It was when I watched him struggle to cross a single raised step at the threshold of a temple as I walked behind him. His frail physical self became palpable evidence of his own inevitable and permanent absence. His body and mass spoke his not being, anymore, anywhere.

My sister tells me she saw his sparkling gray hair catch flame in the crematorium as his body was wheeled forward into the fire.

Do we carry our loved ones’ memories by incorporating their bodily habits into our own embodied comportment? We inherit more than our parents’ bodies. We absorb the weight of their existence and carry it forward with us. I often find myself lying in bed for hours and staring at a wall like my father did for so long in his life.

I learned it at the movies

Archives and Origins: the Material and Vernacular Cultures of Photography in India

Read more of my piece published in Trans Asia Photography Review


The number of doctors I have seen in the past two weeks since the health crisis that landed me in ER.

Somnifères and Idlis

It is taking far too long for me to get out of this jet lag. I forced myself to stay awake till about 10 pm and took a sleeping pill I bought at the local pharmacy, Donormyl, so I wouldn’t wake up in the middle of the night. The sleeping pill caused a new problem: it made me want to sleep all the time.

Yesterday, during the few hours when I felt awake- and hungry – I took the no. 7 to the 10th arrondisement to an area known as Little Jaffna. There I ate idlis at Saravana Bhavan and watched Tamil waiters conversing in Tamil, Indian English and (presumably French) French. Little Pondicherry, a restaurant, enticed customers to try standard Indian fare as well. One of the passages on Rue du Faubourg St-Denis contained only Indian restaurants (with a North Indian man screaming matherchod at someone else walking away) and barber shops. An elderly gentleman at Saravana Bhavan ate idlis, ordered filter coffee and swiped at his smartphone, telling the waiter in Tamil that he could now read The Hindu sitting in Paris.