Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Surviving In The Wild

Discovery Channel's program Man Vs Wild is a useful collection of such survival skills which just might get you through in case you are ever stranded in a remote and seemingly uninhabitable wilderness like the Zambian bush in Africa or remote Siberia. What are the chances of that happening, you ask? Very less. Of course in 1972 some passengers of the Uruguayan Air Flight 571 had to face a somewhat similar battle when their plane crashed in the Andes, and they lived in the wild for over two months.

This particular production's survivor, his name is Bear Grylls, displays and describes various unpleasant acts like how to find and eat protein-rich larvae, how to catch and cook a frog, how to barbecue leftover carcass, among others. There is a lot of useful information too - for example how to decide which rock is worth climbing if you ever need to get out of a canyon which has a good chance of flash floods, how to decide where to stand if you suddenly come across a pack of wild African elephants and how to filter muddy stream water using wood charcoal to make it drinkable.

Here is a link to Discovery's Man Vs Wild fan site.

Here is the link to the Wikipedia story of Uruguayan Flight 571. In order to spice up your interest just a bit - the wiki article also mentions that some of the survivors resorted to cannibalism in order to save themselves. And that is the definition of a Human Being - social, yet so very animal.

On a related note there is an interesting story of the young man, only 20 something years old, who left his home, survived in the wild and ultimately met his death in the Alaskan wild. Sean Penn's film, Into The Wild, is based upon that story. I did not get a chance to see the film but I did hear Pearl Jam's OST on it; for me Hard Sun was the most notable track.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

What Makes A Good Fighter?

Hiroshi Inagaki's "Samurai III - Duel At Ganryu Island" is a 1956 Japanese film, the last part in the samurai trilogy based upon the famous seventeenth century japanese warrior Musashi Miyamoto. If summarized in a sentence, the film is a quest to decipher the answer to the ultimate question - 'What makes a good fighter?'.

The film develops the characters to give us a very balanced answer to this question. A true samurai is not the one who is the best at fencing, neither is he the one who has killed the most people, or won most fights. The film's hypotheses is that the true measure of a fighter is in the discipline displayed by her. Musashi Miyamoto is already a highly respected samurai, perhaps the best in Japan. He has, however, neither grown proud of his accomplishments, nor has given up his warrior instincts and discipline. He has simply attained a state of mind in which he believes that he neither has to display his skills to earn more respect nor has to shed innocent blood to awe people. He is sharp but at the same time very humble - the hallmarks of a true samurai at the pinnacle of his form.

In contrast, the challenger to Miyamoto's legacy is a young, brash samurai called Kojiro Sasaki, whose very existence is defined by the promise of a duel with Miyamoto. Sasaki is also shown to be ruthless in the pursuit of his goal (he kills four innocent samurai of one clan to draw Miyamoto's attention). Many times during the course of the film Sasaki displays the spirit of a true warrior. One example is the scene in which he visits the house of a competitor he crippled in a duel and apologizes for the pain he caused. On the whole Sasaki symbolizes the promise of a greater warrior but at the same time fails to deliver on the promise. His dream, of being the greatest fencer in Japan, has overtaken his judgement and discipline. He is also hurt because lady Akemi, whom he likes, chooses Miyamoto over him. Thus suffering from a double blow, Sasaki feels his only redemption lies in a duel-to-death with Miyamoto.

My Moment Of Zen - In the duel at the very end, Miyamoto approaches Ganryu island from the sea, while Sasaki waits inland. The duel takes place at the very edge of the ocean, with the sun setting behind Miyamoto's back. Besides the great cinematography, the scene is also symbolic of the broader struggle. Miyamoto, in life as in the duel, is constantly in chaotic waters (and the sun is setting on his reign), yet he has the better warrior spirit of the two samurai along with an unmatchable mastery of the game.

Samurai III Duel At Ganryu Island