AAP & Kejriwal

January 22, 2014 Leave a comment
No number of anti-corruption drives can make up for the physical assault, intimidation, forced medical testing, public humiliation and racist, sexist profiling of four women. Creating, even successfully  implementing populist policies can not be currency for implementing populist violence and prejudice.

And honesty/integrity/’chori to nahin kiya’ can’t really be justification for their current actions. Four women, foreigners, already dealing with India’s horrible attitude to women compounded a hundred times by the fact that they look different, already dealing with India’s horrible racism to people of darker skin compounded by the fact that they were women living alone, suddenly find themselves being pulled out of home by the state’s Law Minister, an arguable powerful man, aided by what can only be described as a self-appointed posse of moral police consisting of random men off the streets (considering the actual police refused to do anything without a warrant).

They’re forced to give urine samples and undergo random drug testing – why? Because some neighbors assumed they were prostitutes. Well, my neighbors assumed I was a prostitute, when I took one “too many” day trips in Mumbai working with an MNC and reached home after sunset. I was questioned point-blank by the Uncleji in charge of ‘family values’ and told “yeh sab jo aap kar rahe ho woh yahan, is colony mein nahin chalega”. I asked him, still politely, just what he thought I was doing, to which he said “mera muh mat khulvao… Which decent girl would live by herself, routinely come home to an empty apartment..”, and other stuff on those lines. So forgive me if I have zero sympathy for India’s all-pervasive neighborhood moral watch.

And assume, for a minute, that these women *were* sex workers. Does that make their state-sponsored (rather, mob-sponsored, since this was all unofficial and illegal) violation any less wrong?

The only way the dear Law Minister can be absolutely sure that these women were prostitutes, at least, did prostitution once, is if he himself was a client. And clients are – or should be – just as criminal as the women themselves.

The reason this whole thing is a reflection of AAP and not just of standard Delhi racism/sexism/disregard for personal privacy etc is that Arvind Kejriwal doubled down and supported his very wrong minister. Him asking why the women (I’m paraphrasing), if innocent, refused to give blood samples without a warrant is a ridiculous argument – either he’s actually stupid – which he’s not – or the CM of India’s capital is ignorant of basic precepts that our Constitution is based on, or he’s playing politics because he assumes he’ll have public support even when his demands are wrong.

I’m not “expecting too much, too soon” from the AAP or the new Delhi government. I don’t care if they do nothing except read old files for the first few weeks – even for a few months. I’m *not* okay with them trampling over individual rights – of the women in question, prostitutes or not – and even the rights of the cops to due process. And I’m surely not okay with them doing all this in the name of protecting women. I trust – or trusted – their intentions so far, and will be okay with plenty of missteps – the flip side of freshness/youth/hope etc is inexperience. The problem with the current fracas is that their *intentions* now seem tainted, and that is not okay. We expect better *intentions* from the AAP; even if we’re okay with shoddy execution.

To the warrant/Delhi police jurisdiction question – the CM of Delhi has never had command over Delhi Police. Whether that is a sensible chain of command  or not, going outside the system with a dharna is not how you effect basic organization structure change. This philosophy of going nuclear, of agitation outside the system, worked and was popular for the Jan Lokpal Bill agitations because (a) there was and is an actual crisis of corruption in India, and broad public awareness and agreement regarding this crisis and (b) there were legitimate, sincere attempts to follow due process to create a Lokpall Bill for close to *forty years* by hundreds of people and groups, all thwarted arrogantly by various state and Central ruling parties and people.

Categories: Uncategorized


January 20, 2014 Leave a comment

Despite my absolute, great love for all things Sherlock Holmes (he was one of my Obsessions – around when I was 12), I seem to love all adaptations and (re-?)interpretations, or at least, I’m able to give them a fair chance. Like the Jamyang Norbu fanfic (was horrible), or the more recent Sherlock and Elementary.

Unlike most people I know, and most people “like me”, i.e. people who like reading a book more than watching a TV show, purists who love the eccentricities of Sherlock Holmes and don’t agree with the modern American media’s compulsive need to humanize and make vulnerable all their favorite heroes and villains,  I *don’t* like Sherlock. Shocking, yes. I’ve only watched the first season, started the second, but S2, E1, ten minutes in, I dozed off with sheer boredom. The combination of being too close to the source material and an insufferable and not-so-brilliant Holmes with a really silly Watson isn’t all that fun. The troubles with it are legion – after finally watching that stupid Scandal in Belgravia I have to declare the makers are horrible misogynists that I wouldn’t want to spend five minutes with in real life. And worse, they’re uncreative and unimaginative, with the sense of humor of five year olds. Every character & situation they draw is straight out of central casting (homely, terrified, clean-freak, nagging housekeeper; bumbling detective with wife troubles; a woman with power is basically using her sexuality to get said power because of course she can’t just be smart and quick; lesbians like power over men; a smart women is “clever” while a smart man is “brilliant”; a woman, to be sexy, has to be naked while a man has to be “brainy”, when a man gets naked he’s demonstrating his power – but he doesn’t REALLY get naked, you can barely see his calf on TV, etc etc.). I’m not drawn to Virgin Boy Wonders, and Benedict Cumberbatch is basically a Mark Zuckerberg in Scotland Yard.  So, ugh.

Elementary, on the other hand. Tons of difficulties here too, of course – the dialogs and writing really s.p.e.l.l.s out everything, idiot-proofs it. So often I can see the solution within the first ten minutes. It’s sometimes for an average viewer with no idea of who Sherlock Holmes is. They indiscriminately copy-paste dialogs & concepts from the source without testing to see if they fit (e.g. “the brain is an attic”, and then they show Holmes watching seven different random shows at one time and in the P/NP episode, remembering what’s being said days later. Or the one about how “[Irene Adler] to me eclipsed and predominated the whole of her gender” – that’s a misogynistic, reductionist, over-generalized view of womanhood, completely not what this Holmes is like).

But. I LOVE it. I, obviously, love the gender swapping of key characters (oh, Natalie Dormer. I love you, and I love the characters you play, almost as much as Holmes does!). I love the casting of so many African American characters done unremarkable-y. I love the all-pervasive feminism (or maybe just an absence of all-pervasive sexism), even about tiny things – they have plenty of women witnesses, women criminals, and with a wide range of motives, not just “thwarted love”. And I love Lucy Liu. She’s far, far better than I’d expected her to be. And mostly, I love Jonny Lee Miller. He’s not Holmes, of course, but he’s just fabulous as a misanthropic, vulnerable, socially awkward, entitled, Aspergers-ish, smart & self-aware person, working as a great modern day consulting detective.

And yeah, I love the tip of the hat to Kushiel’s Dart. The whole Holmes vs Adler dynamic: how helpless he is because of his love, how he realizes that self-annihilation is his only way to escape her, how she claims to value him because he’s “precious, a piece of art”, etc., how she decides to spare him and only him in the middle of all the carnage she engineers because she’s actually in love with him, and after step 1 when she is caught (and escapes, and then caught again) and is in a luxurious prison, step 2 is about the kidnapping of her child and how Holmes helps find her child. Robert Doherty and/or Peter Blake are fans of Jacqueline Carey too, like I am!

Categories: Uncategorized

Dear Rape Culture

December 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Dear Rape Culture: This is not “pleasure” and that scene was not “sexy”!

Anyone else skeevied out by the whole narrative of how Nick, Kalinda’s abusive (ex-?)husband in The Good Wife was trying to “pleasure” her in the ice-cream scene (see here for an example of this narrative)?

He wasn’t trying anything of the sort, people. He was raping her, assaulting her anus and hoping to get a reaction out of her. There was no consent and no expectation of her pleasure – it was just another way for him to demonstrate control over her (like he did with the eggs/omelet demand.

It’s just disturbing – and yet another example of how pervasive rape culture is – that the viewers of such an excellent show are blind to just how rape-y and abusive the scene was. It wasn’t even consensual BDSM, just plain old abuse.

Ew. I can’t wait for this guy to die or disappear from the show.

Right to Whimsy

September 30, 2012 Leave a comment

The Gangnam style phenomenon (I only just got around to watching the video; it’s just insanely slow-loading for my ADHD-riddled brain!) is cool and funny and everything, but two things are just popping out at me. First, that it’s so Indian in so many ways. I could just change the race of the characters and have myself a contemporary Indian Bollywood/Tam-movie/Gult-movie “item-number” style video – the music, the beats, the expressions of the main character, the various other characters that come in, the flashy clothes, and yes, the transformed “loser” guy at the center of it all who represents the viewers fantasies. It just hit me yet again on watching this that the typical low-rent Indian male ishtyle, a melange of proud crassness, in-your-face political incorrectness and so-uncool-I’m-cool-now attitude – the Sallu-bhai phenomenon – that its consumers thinks is pure, distilled desiness is a copied, mass-manufactured, imported product, as cynical and plastic as the styles it mocks.

Second, the non-linear narrative of the Gangnam style video reminded me of my own childhood. We’d grown up in an India which was poor, and economic poverty, the long decades of collective self-loathing and cultural insularity and the aftermath of political monopoly somehow engendered the creation of the worst kind of unimaginative art, e.g. in 1980’s Bollywood. We were in our pre-teens when the first ‘music videos’ came out – the idea of a video of a stand-alone song, not part of a movie or a larger story just blew our minds. “What is the *point* of an album of just songs that aren’t classical or ghazal music?” we asked ourselves, quietly, lest someone know how un-with-it we were. And the videos mostly confirmed to Bollywood-style fantasy stories, but some, with their non-linear narrative and “no story”, pushed the boundaries of what we’d thought were the only way to sell music – with over-the-top personal angst or illicit romance (the only kind) or overt family melodrama. The lead singer would walk/dance by backgrounded by psychedelic, ever-changing things (not the usual 20 background dancers) in a 70s-throwback, random characters would walk in and out, snidely indicating some story that was never fully explained, and sometimes subtly a story or a “deeper meaning” would be hinted at but never fulfilled. It was just pure whimsy in a narrative disguise, and recognizing and accepting this whimsy took a leap of confidence in oneself. It required a sense of luxury, of wanton waste, of deliberate decadence that we’d never grown up with and never internalized.

Maybe it’s the whole low-rent-ness of the main character’s expressions and body language, but for some reason the Gangnam style video brought back those feelings of wistfulness, that sense of watching someone burn dollar bills (i.e. rupee notes) without needing a Purpose, and that realization that it was totally out of reach for me to even understand how anyone could get away with such whimsy without someone asking them to “finish everything on your plate first”.

Categories: Bollywood, culture

The Rivered Earth

January 14, 2012 Leave a comment

The sad thing about my reading a great book about music or poetry is that although I love reading it I can never fully understand it, and therefore never fully appreciate it, and so no matter how much I like or hate it I can neither trust my judgement of it nor fully articulate my half-formed opinions about it.

This was my problem with Vikram Seth’s An Equal Music and is also my problem with his new book, The Rivered Earth. It’s about his collaboration with a composer and a violinist, the first part being memories and interviews, which I understood enough of to laugh/nod at the right places, the second part being the text that was set to music. I *liked* a lot of the latter; can’t honestly say I loved it or that it was particularly memorable or awe-inspiring, but then again, what do I know. I missed Seth’s usual puns and word play – there was such little of that in there. It’s a pity that I read something by such a great writer and look for gimmicks as handrails to his words, but in this case I should totally blame Seth. He’s conditioned his readers to *look* for, as he puts it, puerile puns and ciphers, acrostics and double/triple entredres.

I love his stories about his house. The fact that his house has history and character gives his work more heft – I think knowing his personal choices has given his work that extra shine, at least in my eyes. Where you live is such an incredibly effective way to communicate to the world the kind of person you are, more subtle, more powerful than the clothes you wear and somehow taken so much more seriously by ‘very important people’.

I wonder if I could do it – live in the house of, say, Virginia Woolf? Or maybe in her room. That would be such a delicious irony. But of course, it would force me to confront the madness in my head head-on – and it’s so much nicer to just have that on the fringes of my regular life, forming the fjords of my human-interactions. I like living in my very stable mainland.

Still, going back to the book, I found a lot of the themes pedestrian and the interpretations predictable (a collaboration across time and with influences from different parts of the world is called ‘Confluences’!! It’s as bad as when they named the theater group at our business school ‘Expressions’). The poetry was too often way, way literal even for me, the lover of all things direct. So much so that there was no fun in any of it. This is no Golden Gate.

But you know – the problem is likely with me. Indian classical music has a very different aesthetic from Western music. What is ‘kewl’ and admirable here is very different from what works there. And all my hours spent absorbing dhrupads isn’t going to get me anywhere with understanding this or Philip Glass’s Satyagraha. Too bad, because there’s only so much I can glean from a cursory reading of my favorite author’s quickly jotted-off interpretations.

So yes, if you know anything about music, you should totally read this. And maybe explain it to me.

Categories: culture, literature, music, rw Tags:

Bad Apple

November 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Okay, fine, Steve Jobs was a great man. Or something. And he was also often an asshole. But the eulogy by his sister published in the NYT is just so, so completely cringe-inducingly embarrassing. It’s perfectly normal for family, especially family that didn’t get a chance to live as a ‘normal’ family, to over-compensate at important times like at births/weddings/deaths, but to publish it in a newspaper is just – setting yourself up for some serious criticism. When the public mood shifts (and it already has moved from mass shock and universal grief to eye-rolling at the shock and grief), you’re either going to end up as the over-maudlin sister or the opportunistic sibling.

And I find it silly especially because I’ve never been an Apple fanboi. Their products don’t “just work” for me the way Google’s do. The interfaces are not intuitive to my mind. My eyes are not bothered by clutter but stimulated by it, so I find their products uninspiring-ly simple. And I don’t want the machine itself to “get out of the way” – the machine is part of the fun! I *like* tinkering with the innards, and like how Windows PCs are the equivalent of an industrial loft with the exposed heating pipes and vents, but Apple products are the stark beauty of an empty, freshly painted room. I’m a New Yorker, really – I like exposed brick and pipes and industrial things. The empty room evokes nothing more than a sanitarium or a lunatic asylum to me, or at best, a suburban house expecting some crappy Rooms-to-Go furniture. On the other hand, I *do* want things to work in intuitive ways and for me not to have to re-learn everything or create workarounds for presumably basic tasks. I want to be able, therefore, to connect an iDevice to a computer and transfer stuff both *from* and *to* the iDevice without having to download third-party and illegal software.

For instance, iCloud and iOS5. Given that cloud computing has been around at least from 1996 when Hotmail was first launched, and really took off at least 13 years ago with Yahoo Briefcase and Gmail and Google docs, etc., Apple had absolutely no excuse waiting until 2011 to release their version – that is simply not what an ‘innovative’ company is supposed to do. And oh, Apple definitely NEVER had an excuse for needing everyone buying their phone to have a computer. Let me repeat that, because the absurdity of this situation hasn’t really got the coverage it deserves: in order to use your “smart” iPhone, you need to ‘sync’ it with a computer! The first time you open the shiny new box and unwrap your shiny new iPhone, you won’t be able to use it for at least an hour (or longer) while you download iTunes onto your computer and then make oh, about 200 selections and key in your credit card details to create an Apple ID, etc. and set up your phone. If enough noise had been made about this, surely we’d’ve had muggers waiting outside homes that had little white boxes delivered to them, because you can’t even call 911 before you create an Apple ID.

And now that they’ve launched iCloud a century after everyone else and to some mega fanfare, it still doesn’t work half as seamlessly as it should. I updated my iPhone4 to iOS5 recently (by tethering it – and myself – to my computer for 2 hours and restarting my laptop twice during that time). Out of no where, iOS5 created an encrypted backup file of my phone’s contents with a password. Some random password. So I couldn’t use my phone and its existing settings. I tried all possible password options, wondering if the software picked one that came right out of Mr. Jobs’ (or is it Saint Jobs yet?) innovative ass: my Apple ID password, my phone lock screen password, my iTunes password, my computer’s password (it’s a Macbook. I am totally masochistic, of course, why do you ask?), my Gmail password, my Seamlessweb password (just because I use that so often) and my Amazon password (just because – well, isn’t the new Kindle Fire supposed to beat the pants off the iPad?). Nothing worked. And it wasn’t just this one instance. When I updated P’s phone, an iPhone 4, using his work laptop and the iTunes on that PC, it was the exact same issue, even though I had created an encrypted backup of his phone and saved the password *before* downloading iOS5. This time, the software wouldn’t just create its own password in the absence of one – it overwrote my created password and denied us access to our perfectly-functional phones. Both times, we’ve had to restore our phones and thereby destroying all the app architecture (app folders, which app is one which screen, etc.) and the settings and the screens and the contact files, etc. And using up precious hours of my life.

And the new iCloud? I couldn’t figure out how to sync Google contacts onto my phone and/or to iCloud. So I looked it up, and apparently there’s this incredibly complicated, back-ass-wards workaround which makes sense because the creators of iCloud (Apple) basically want everyone to start everything from scratch and make it as hard as possible to re-use and re-purpose their systems. So now I have contacts from my Macbook on my phone: and these are crappy contacts, really – the Macbook contact system basically clubs together all ’email-only’ contacts which don’t have a name or phone number into arbirtary sets of three. It sticks weird email addresses together like misfits at a party with bad seating planning, like a plumber I once emailed, with my ex-ex-boss, with P, in one contact. And the only way to set this right is to add a name to the contact of EVERY person I’ve ever emailed, or to go into these 300-odd ‘contacts’ and delete two of the three email addresses. Ugh. It’s as painful as it sounds. Why couldn’t these guys just offer the exact same option as before, to just sync Gmail contacts along with the email and calendar? Or if the whole confusion was in creating two sync sources, why not just make the address-book a super-set, like it was earlier, and you could see either ‘all my contacts’ or ‘all gmail contacts’ or ‘all exchange contacts’? WHAT is so complicated about giving that option? Or is it just not pretty enough?

It’s like earlier, when I wanted to get the latest version of a software I was using, I was told it’s no longer available on CD. It’s only available as a download on the Mac App Store. Alrighty, I said, fine, I’ll download it. But whoa there. To get anything from the Mac app store, you can’t just go to the Apple website and click a ‘download here’ button. No – you need to download an ‘app store’ client. Okay, fine. I set out to do so, but I couldn’t. You see, I needed Mac OS Lion for even downloading the ‘app store’ client, it wasn’t supported on my 18-month old Mac OS X. Basically, I needed to overhaul my entire operating system to get a piece of software I wanted. Even if I wanted it that badly (I didn’t) that I was ready to overhaul my operating system (which, given past experience, will take 1 day to backup my data and 5 days to download and de-bug the software and re-learn all the settings and re-customize it for my needs, so is in effect a week-long project during which I will not have use of my laptop, which is unthinkable)…..where was I? Oh, yes: even if I was ready to upturn my life and install Lion, I couldn’t. Why? Because Lion is also download-only. From the Mac app store. Hahahahahaha.

Of course, there is a workaround. I could go to an ebay reseller, or to a small, unnoticed section on the Apple website, and buy a CD for Mac OS Snow Leopard. That OS was launched a year before Lion (I think). I could only install Lion if I already had Snow Leopard (my 18-month old Operating System was not just past its generation, it was a Grandparent already. Look how time flies!) This is because Lion is built on the skeleton of Snow Leopard, not Mac OS X. The equivalent in simple language would be if you wanted to upgrade from a Toyota Camry to a Lexus, and the dealer told you you would first need to trade in your Camry for a Prius, learn everything about the Prius, transfer your stuff there, drive it round for a bit, get used to it for a week, *then* trade in your Prius for a Lexus, also, btw, taking the finacial hit of buying BOTH the Prius *and* the Lexus.

So, yeah. Steve Jobs may have been – and was – a brilliant guy. And I’m the first person to decry products made by committee or by market research. But even brilliance needs an editor, and brilliant products need to be put through a logic testing phase or through market qualification. Not to have great sales – no, I think Apple’s numbers speak for themselves – but to avoid user frustration. And to avoid me having to spend energy on long blog rants.















If Steve Jobs were a woman…

October 7, 2011 Leave a comment

…he’d be treated as a CEOILF.

…there’d be incessant carping about his sense of fashion (rather, the lack thereof).

…he could either be hard-working and unlikable, or incompetent and likable. Pick one.

…the over-pricing of his products would be evidence of his narcissism and be seen as a personal failing, not as evidence of his good/bad business sense.

…TV commentators would complain about his boring presentations, and wonder if he was *pimping* out his products a bit too vulgarly.

…late night comics would make jokes about raping his kids. Only the girls, of course.

…people would say ‘why doesn’t he just GO AWAY already?!’ while simultaneously clicking on every news link about him.

…people would make videos about punching him in the face, strangling him, and sexually assaulting him. In humor, of course.

…people would complain for years about how he was selfish in not having kids.

…people would be horrified that there were rumors of a kid he didn’t acknowledge.

…people would complain about how selfish he was in having kids and not staying home and taking care of them himself.

…people would complain about how selfish he was that he stayed home and took care of his kids for a few years, thereby *abandoning his company*.

…battle-lines would be drawn around his parenting choices – whether he chose to breastfeed or not would indicate how good a parent he was.

…his falling out with John Sculley, Gates and others would be seen as evidence of his b*tchiness, and he would NEVER get past it.

…sleazy pseudo-journalists would camp outside his house and write tell-all books about his family.

…sleazy journalists would say *good lord, isn’t it horrifying* about the brown and black (wo)men he slept with in India and elsewhere.

…his ideas would always be ignored. Even when they were good.

…his ideas, if un-ignorably fabulous, would be appropriated sans acknowledgement.

…his product names would be treated as evidence of narcissism rather than personalization (iDevice)

…there would always be deep insinuations about how much influence, exactly, Laurene (who? his spouse!) had on his work and the firm.

..he would never, ever, EVER be seen as a visionary. No matter what he did or said.