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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.

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Elementary

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Delly Belly review

August 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Guest post by Aparna

[Trigger warning for rape culture, violence, misogyny, classism, fat hatred.]

So there’s this Bollywood movie, “Delhi Belly”, which is fast becoming a phenomenon all over India. It’s also playing in limited theaters in the US, where also it’s very popular: on a recent weekday, we couldn’t get tickets to two different shows at a Manhattan theater.

But, eventually, we scheduled a baby sitter and everything, and went to the AMC right in the middle of Times Square to see the movie. It was supposed to be a ‘bold’ movie, one made for the ‘youth of India’, supposedly an ‘original, edgy, hilarious’ movie, a movie that’s collecting fabulous reviews and even better revenues (maybe, pushing thirty, I’m no longer the youth of India or of anywhere else, because ‘original, edgy and hilarious’ doesn’t really seem to mean what it used to).

So anyway, the movie is about three men, one or two in committed relationships, all three miserable in their lives. They’re caught up in a typical undercover-transaction-gone-wrong situation, of which there are twenty movies made every year (so it’s very original, yes), and end up getting a shit-load (hahahahaha! Oh wait, I didn’t explain the part of the movie’s toilet humor. But it’s c-o-m-i-n-g!!) of stolen money, and they end up doing the right thing anyway with said stolen money. Along the way, the lead hero finds the woman of his dreams, and they blow through six frames a second of the most generous definition of humor that can exist.

And this is just one of about, oh, seven Hangover-inspired Bollywood movies (or virtual remakes) releasing this year. True Fact. For some reason, that pinnacle of Hollywood comedy seems to have really inspired Indian filmmakers. It must be those awesome characters in The Hangover – you know the ones – man about to be married to a hot but controlling girlfriend gets into a crazy situation that tests his manhood and he realizes and escapes the girl’s clutches just in time, moving on to a far better, hotter, more compliant prospect; man in a bad job blows off his boss and asserts control; man objectifying every woman around is just a poor Galifianakis who can hardly be blamed for his normal maleness, because he can’t get any, poor guy.

Part of what worries me about the reception of this film is it’s not about whether or not some persons found the movie funny; it is about the unanimity of opinion in the editorials and the review columns, the unquestioning acceptance that this is ‘edgy’ humor, that this is “modern” and what India’s Youth wants. Toilet jokes? It says something about our nation, but not exactly what you think it says. And even someone brought up on British sitcoms knows the toilet humor plays out in the first hour, then you need something else to keep it funny.

Not to worry, for with the main course of toilet humor, we also have rape jokes, fat jokes, lesbians-are-just-women-who-haven’t-found-the-right-man (oh, yes, they did go there. Yes. The movie’s very edgy and modern, you see!), slut-shaming, gender essentialism, any-guy-in-a-committed-and-respectful-relationship-is-a-sucker, and other such wonderful sources of Genuine HumorTM.

Since this is a ‘heist gone wrong’ genre movie, the stolen money (diamonds hidden in a Matryoshka doll. And this wasn’t a parody) ends up with the typical deserving-but-clueless character. And who is this poor, lucky sap? None other than a man who cheats on his wife (but of course, only because she is fat and because she ‘henpecks’ him). I mean, what else is the poor guy going to do — NOT go to a sex-worker? Oh, and even there he ends up with someone who incidentally is equally fat as his wife, hahaha, the poor guy is so incurably sweet even the whores take advantage of him. Of course, if he only could’ve stood up (HA!!) for himself he could’ve gotten a better deal — a thin, pretty woman for his cash. But it’s all good, because he ends up with all the thirty stolen diamonds, because he’s such a good guy and this is a feel-good movie.

The humor (for that is what I take issue with; the triteness of the story and the predictability of the plot is to be expected from a mainstream Hindi Bollywood movie, really — like any other mainstream movie) rides squarely on the backs of women and the poor. It’s so fucking edgy to joke about rape, so original and funny when a pervert operating as a photojournalist — one of the three leads, no less — takes advantage of his occupation to surreptitiously take pictures of an interviewee’s body as free porn ‘for himself’. This totally doesn’t actually happen every day.

A woman screaming and panting in mortal fear for her life is played for the cruelest laughs, especially because the camera helps you focus on nothing but her heaving, sweaty bosom. Oh, a whimpering woman! Being toyed with! How hilarious!

But no, seriously. My message to Aamir Khan & Kiran Rao, both of whom also helped create the lovely, Academy-award nominated Lagaan (nominated ten years ago for Best Foreign Film): You can do SO much better. You’ve actually worked together to create funny, heart-warming, touching movies that don’t insult the audience, that don’t demand I leave my brains and logic behind to have fun or to be part of a ‘modern’ movie.

For instance, not only is it illogical, it is also NOT hilarious when a spurned boyfriend— another one of the leads — fantasizes about beating/humiliating his ex-girlfriend or hopes that the girl is abused and ill-treated by her family, and it’s played for audience laughs, especially when it is abundantly clear that said girl is going through an arranged marriage under pressure from the same family. And most hilarious of all (by which I mean embarrassingly out of touch) is that the main lead feels victimized and manipulated by being offered dowry. Oh, the shame of it, poor lad, being offered a free car and a free apartment by his fiancee’s parents! And he can’t say no! The villains here are the evil parents, of course, not the poor guy who’s just being generous by accepting the gifts! For that situation to be played for laughs in a country and a context where there are still hundreds of women dying dowry deaths EVERY DAY seems not just like ignorance to privilege but like willful, deliberate cruelty.

Even the random sidewalk characters, in this case an old white (presumably American) couple visiting India for their wedding anniversary, bring in their own share of sexist stereotypes — the old man clearly being a henpecked, sex starved, but lovable old creep. Awwwwwww.

The lead, a young upcoming actor called Imran Khan, plays a man so beaten down by society, so unable to stand up (joke, joke!) for himself that he actually performs oral sex on his girlfriend. Poor sap. And still the ungrateful woman complains and complains about his facial hair, his one concession to manhood; doesn’t she know how good she’s got it? So he’s such a loser, right, but by the end of the movie he’s turned into a Real ManTM, and kisses his new girl like he owns her, and punches a rival in the face! In the face! Yay! He’s so DUDEly now! And this is very, very modern, of course. Very unlike all those boring old Hindi movies where they had a macho hero punching rivals and kissing women. But this is different. Somehow.

It’s sad, because, off-screen, Imran Khan seems like a really nice person, the rare Bollywood actor who seems to respect the women in his life and has a strong personal core separate from the glamorous world of his occupation, and seems to have had a very normal, not especially privileged childhood. He’s seen his parents’ marriage break-up, and that points to a grounded family that’s dealt with issues in a realistic way, unlike Imran’s contemporaries (one of whose parents have felt compelled to stick together and are now hailed as one of India’s most romantic couples, despite very public instances of domestic abuse and battering against his mother by his father). It’s sad that such a guy like Imran feels he needs to be an assholey dude and a misogynist to make it in the Hindi film industry.

But yes, that’s what you get when a whole industry looks to The Hangover for inspiration, and the entire world is willing to pretend that age-old oppressions exploited for laughs is “cutting edge”.

Cross-posted at Shakesville (shakespearessister.blogspot.com)

Categories: Uncategorized

Hello world!

May 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

Categories: Uncategorized

Repayment crisis

April 13, 2009 Leave a comment

The IOUs are coming in, but seems like Barry can't manage the repayments:

 
Mr Obama was reportedly seeking to reward John F Kennedy's daughter, who publicly gave her support to his election bid. She had been poised to replace Hillary Clinton as New York senator, but dropped out amid criticism that she lacked enough experience for the job….

Ms Kennedy, 53, has said that she supports abortion. Raymond Flynn, a former US ambassador to the Vatican, said earlier this week that Ms Kennedy would be a poor choice.

"It's imperative, it's essential that the person who represents us to the Holy See be a person who has pro-life values. I hope the President doesn't make that mistake," he told the Boston Herald. "She said she was pro-choice. I don't assume she's going to change that, which is problematic."

The White House refused to comment.

I can't think of a better way that Caroline Kennedy and her ilk – women who do not support women – meet the consequences of their actions. "Hillary Clinton is polarizing", indeed.
 
On the other hand, funny how one of Obama's few repayment-appointments that went through smoothly was the appointment of anti-women's rights douchebag Tim Kaine as DNC Chair.

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