Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sluts, bitches and whores…is it just me or are they everywhere?

Exhibit A:
“She aint nothing a girl you've ever seen before,
nothing you can compare to your neighborhood whore
I'm trying to find the words to describe this girl without being disrespectful
Damn! you's a sexy bitch, a sexy bitch
Damn! you's a sexy bitch…”
– Sexy Bitch by David Guetta

Akon does not want to be disrespectful, but he is ok with calling her a ‘bitch’. And suddenly calling a woman a Bitch becomes acceptable. It is a respectable term. Look around you, words like Slut, Bitch, Ho (as a stand in for Whore) abound in all the songs that are becoming hits. Google ‘superman that ho’ from Soulja Boy’s ‘Crank That’ and you will see.

Exhibit B:
There’s a television commercial doing the rounds nowadays. A women in a bus is getting eve teased by a creepy looking man, there is physical contact bordering on molestation. She looks bothered but not unduly, as the voice over tells her that it’s nothing that can’t be forgotten or set right with a nice hot shower. Victim of harassment? Eve teased? Buy Racold water heaters.

A while ago, there were hoardings all over the place for a range of office watches for women that proudly declared ‘From 9 to 5, you can stare at my brains’. Titan Watches – If a woman is wearing them, you can stare at her bosom, but only after 5pm mind you.

What I am getting at here is based on the basic premise that the words we use – and their connotations and denotations – our language, shapes our thoughts, influences our actions and shapes our reality. A whore is a woman who sleeps with a man for money. A slut is a promiscuous or a disreputable woman of loose morals. A bitch used to be a female dog. Not tell me if you would want your sisters, wife, girlfriend to be referred to as such. Ladies? Are you ok with being called a ho, a slut? Just because you are a girl. And these are terms that – if we don’t stop now – will become synonyms for girl. Am I being extreme here? (or as they say ‘old fashioned fuddy duddy’?) Perhaps, but I was brought up in a home where I was taught that such words are not just disrespectful but demeaning. I was taught by my teachers to respect women and these extreme terms are to be used only when required and only in extreme cases, if at all. Not as terms of endearment or as a compliment to girls.

What I am also getting at is that our seemingly innocuous, commonplace portrayals of women are shaping a society where women are being shown as someone who is ok with things like eve teasing. It is this slippery slope that leads to people saying ridiculous things like ‘she was dressed provocatively’ or as I read in an article where a policemen said, ‘she had gone to a party with boys and was drinking, so she had it coming’. Now people who think like this are weak minded morons and stupid dickheads, yes. But these are exactly the kind of people we are surrounded by is it not? Do they not outnumber by their sheer numerical strength? The solution is not the ridiculously absurd ‘girls should not go out at night’ or ‘girls should dress properly’. Heck, girls should be allowed to go wherever they please, dressed in whatever they are comfortable with. It’s the people who need to be told it’s perfectly ok if girls do that, and that it’s none of their business. But what about that person given to eve teasing who’s been shown – many times, on television, loudly – that the woman looks quite fine with it. You may counter this by saying, ‘shouldn’t girls be allowed to listen to whatever they want, just like they have the freedom to wear whatever they like?’. Not quite, the difference being that when you listen to, enjoy and share a song that denigrates women, you are in fact condoning and/or encouraging and endorsing the objectification of women. Extreme example, it’s tantamount to sharing a rape video and heartily endorsing it. But when women wear a dress, all they are saying is ‘I like this dress and I am comfortable in it’. And it’s not just about women I talk here, even the men. Who either come up with such stupid commercials or make such songs. After a while, watching women dance to and sing-along to Crank That stopped being funny and I’ve made it a point to tell women around me when it plays if they are ok with it, and they’ve all said no and deleted it from their playlists.

I contend that it’s not just the rapists who are treating women as sex objects. It’s our songs, our advertising, our films too that portray them as such. And each of us who enjoys and shares these songs encourages such objectification. We who buy these brands endorse such lines of thinking are equally culpable. Yes, it’s the artists right to express himself in whatever way he feels like, but that doesn’t mean we have to endorse it. It has to stop sometime, somewhere. A line needs to be drawn. Voices need to be raised. People need to be told. But sadly we live in an era where if someone gets into the lyrics of the song instead of just grooving to its catchy hooks and tells people is called a wet blanket, a bore, one who thinks too much. But I think, correct me if I am wrong, such small things, each in isolation, build up – in kind, and in degree and in number – to a mindset that subconsciously objectifies women, is ok with the degradation in their treatment and borders on condoning or explaining heinous acts. Quick to politically correct outrage, but just as quick to forget.

It is one thing to ensure that there swift and harsh punishment for rapists. That matters hugely. I wholeheartedly recommend castration. But we also need to look at things that are at first glance inconsequential, but lie at the root of such issues. We need to treat the symptoms and not just the disease. Companies and advertising agencies that condone things like eve teasing and/or objectify women need to be taken to task just as harshly. Songs that demean women should never be played on radio, in public and should be boycotted by listeners. It is equally important that in our daily lives, our conversations and words, we take corrective measures before our children are born into an age where my daughter’s friends call her a ho in public. I pray that I would have brought up right enough for her slap the guy who calls her that….and walk out of the club should the DJ play songs about bitches and whores.

Perhaps all of what I have written is more applicable in an urban set up, not in places where Khap Panchayats blame chowmein for rapes. But look at the statistics, it’s the urban metros and large cities where rapes are just as common. And even one single rape is a tragedy, not a statistic. And as someone who lives in a city that I think currently ranks second in terms of reported rapes, these are my thoughts.

PS: If you didn’t wince when you read the first part of this post’s title or didn’t feel even a little offended, ask yourself ‘why’. If you were, then good. All is not lost yet eh.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A wonderful 'magical' read...

The last time I read a non-china mieville book that won as many awards as Jo Walton’s Among Others was Paolo Bacigalupi’s Wind-up Girl which ended its course winning more awards than Among Others’ current tally. That’s probably as much as you can speak about the two in the same breath – as Among Others was (imho) as much a pleasure to read as Wind-up Girl was underwhelming.

And not just because Am
ong Others is an ode to classic SF (and fandom) and the love of books, as it a fabulous bildungsroman (I am a sucker for those). The first person epistolary narrative style just adds to the charm of this book. Now, is this narrator – a 16 year old girl who's just lost her twin, sees fairies, does magic, creates a karass all her own, and is running away from her evil (witch) mother – an unreliable narrator or not? Could go both ways depending on who is reading. When I first heard about the book it was posited as an anti-thesis to Harry Potter because the protagonist was a girl who knew magic and went to a regular, non-magic boarding school. But Among Others turned out to be so much more.

Magic is what you make of it; the closest the ‘magic’ in this book comes to is perhaps the ‘magic’ in Bridge to Terabithia. So in that sense, it is only ‘science fiction’ if you want it to be, and ‘fantasy’ if you say so.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Sherlock Vs. Holmes

Did we need another ‘contemporary’ riff on Sherlock Holmes? Maybe yes (always!). Perhaps not. But looks like America surely did. Or rather, American network television did. If only to set it in NYC. What am I referring to? Elementary, my dear reader. Elementary – The new TV series from CBS.

Of course, Sherlock Holmes in a contemporary setting is nothing new. Or call it a pastiche if you will. And I’m not that much of a purist Sherlockian to not enjoy say, The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes, or even a Sherlock Holmes Vs. Dracula. But those are the one that defer to the canonical Holmes as created by AC Doyle. Like BBC’s Sherlock for instance. But not Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, which was quite the fun movie(s) but the fact that two lead characters were called Holmes and Watson were just incidental. They could’ve been called Tom & Jerry and it would matter not a whit to the movie (or rather the franchise).
Coming to Elementary. Call it a case of bad timing but the comparison was bound to happen. With Sherlock. Who’s suave, cold, impersonal, impatient. Complemented well by a Watson we find oh-so-familiar. Written well. Enough and more nods to Doyle’s canon. Change the names of the two lead characters to Tom & Jerry and it would still be great Sherlockiana with all its clever details. No, not just great Shelockiana, but a very enjoyable television series with great acting, good plotting, writing and setting. It has all the influences of many new-ish British TV series, but Sherlock is beyond a shadow of doubt, Holmes. Now that’s how you bring Sherlock Holmes into the 21st century, post-twitter era. And yes, he lives at 221B Baker Street.

And what do we have with Elementary? A recovering drug addict with father issues and looked after by Papa’s money. Who has thrust upon him (not literally, not yet), a sober companion arranged for by Papa to ensure bad son doesn’t stray again. A companion called Joan Watson. No, that’s not a spelling mistake. Watson is a woman. And a masterstroke. Unfortunately this hasn’t gone much further than that, because it’s played by Lucy Liu with all of her repertoire of two-and-a-half expressions, with her half-pursed-lips-and-furrowed-eyebrows look being one of them. One can only wonder at all the opportunities that will be lost in making Watson a woman, if the pilot is anything to go by. And considering this is American primetime television, which has the uncanny ability to ruin a good thing with its ability to turn anything into practically a soap opera, this has all the hallmarks of going down that road. Case in point, House MD, Big Bang Theory, in recent times. One could be forgiven for thinking that the only reason they made Watson a woman was to have a will-leave-you-begging-for-more season finale where Holmes and Watson kiss.

Elementary feels and flows more like CSI or even like Monk for that matter. Again, change the names of the two main characters to Tom & Jerry, and it would still not change things much. No, that fleeting, forcible inserted reference to Holmes as an apiarist doesn’t count. Nah.

The very fact that I can't think of anything complementary or given my biases, contemptuous to write about Holmes in Elementary just tells me how generic a character he is. Typical, cookie-cutter new york detective types. The only remark I could make here is how fabulously unremarkable the character is.

That said, will I stop watching Elementary? No. I am a sucker for crime and detective yarns. I guess I will watch it till it officially turns into a soap opera or Lucy Liu’s irritating expressions get too much to take. But I’ve heard there’s a Seven Percent Solution for that too. And Sherlock Season 3 couldn’t come too soon!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Killing two birds with one book

Remember the first Ice Age movie? It was an animated movie, so naturally it was billed as ‘entertaining fare for children’. And enjoy they did, going by my nephews and nieces or children of friends. But you know who enjoyed the film more? The people who used to be children till a decade or more ago, and some who are children still, albeit with beards, moustaches, wives and credit card debts. So while Ice Age was great fun for the child in us – and I don’t mean this in the sense of being pregnant – it was great pun for the adults that we supposedly are. Adults in terms of having read enough, gone through life, watched enough movies than the average bear cub. The puns (taekwon-dodo!) , the contextual insinuations, the absurdness of dodos preparing for the ice age with just three melons (melons, as in the fruit, you dutty bugger). See what I mean. It takes an adult to get that joke. You can’t expect a 10-14 year old to get all of that. But that’s not to say they didn’t enjoy Ice Age. That’s where we ‘adults’ have an advantage – we used to be children once.

The same is the case with certain books. Conveniently billed ‘Young Adult’ fiction. But like not all books – in my highly subjective opinion - can be truly enjoyed by adults as well (and this coming from me, who still reads Three Investigators still). So assuming you’re looking for a fun read that takes you back to the ‘good fun’ days of adventurous adolescence, but one that also offers the ‘adult’ in you a second layer of fun and added reading pleasure (and if you wish, one that you can deconstruct, look at it from a societal perspective, etc. etc.), here’s a short random list from theBekku, of ‘young adult' books.
All of these books fall under the same category as say, The Hobbit, which was primarily for children but can be enjoyed by adults (unlike LOTR which was the opposite). And yes, Ice Age. This list is by no means exhaustive, by any measure. These are just the book’s I like enough personally to recommend. If there are any I’ve missed, or you think I should read, do a good turn and let me know in the comments section. And because fantasy, adventure, a sense of newness, discovery and wonder is according to me one of the chief emotions of young adult-hood, this list tilts more towards fantasy and plausible alternative worlds and situations rather than books like say, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.

Now, you’re either the kind of person who will take my word for it (for reasons known best to you) or the kind who will still Google the title/author and look it up on wikipedia/ amazon/ good reads. Thusly, this list is not accompanied by any descriptions or gushing praise, all I can say is that if you’re a reader you won’t regret the time you spend within these books. Get ready for subterranean cities, other worlds and other mothers, competitions, rumbling mobile metropolises, magic and fun.

China Mieville – Un Lun Dun
Ursula LeGuin – The Earthsea quartet (• A Wizard Of Earthsea • The Tombs of Atuan • The Farthest Shore • Tehanu)
Philip Pullman – His Dark Materials trilogy (• The Golden Compass • The Subtle Knife • The Amber Spyglass)
Neil Gaiman – Coraline
Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book
Philip Reeve – The Mortal Engines quartet (• Mortal Engines • Predator's Gold • Infernal Devices • A Darkling Plain
Jeanne DuPrau – Book of Ember quartet (• City of Ember • The People of Sparks • The Prophet of Yonwood • The Diamond of Darkhold)
Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games trilogy (• The Hunger Games • Catching Fire • Mockingjay)
Norton Juster – The Phantom Tollbooth

There you go. Will add more in a while or a bit, whichever is earlier.
And here’s how you kill two birds with one book.
Gift your son/daughter/nephew/niece any of the above (or all), and introduce them to new worlds of wonder and come across as a great father/father/uncle/aunt and when the brats are done with it, quietly borrow and read it. Or the other way ‘round. Also recommended for adults who want to buy it solely for themselves, for the children they are ;)

Friday, July 27, 2012

A reply – and a thank you note – of sorts

Many many moons ago, a die-hard motor-head and F1 encyclopedia who happens to be a friend of mine (yeah Ajit, you only man, and thanks for the quote) mailed across a great quote that I’ve never quite forgotten. Looking it up took me to an olde episode of BBC’s Top Gear, in which Jeremy Clarkson test drove – I don’t quite remember, think it was – an Aston Martin. But the point is this. After a fabulous drive and gushing praise, he mentioned a couple of small minor details that people said could be improved upon, and to such people who complain because they want to, Clarkson said, in a way only Clarkson can, “Complaining about this car is like getting into bed with a supermodel and complaining she has slightly irregular pubes.”

How’s that for a reply to the people who would go nitpicking for the sake of it, about The Dark Knight Rises, things like ‘why are the cars marked GPD when it should be GCPD as was established in a scene in the previous movie?’ I could’ve at least given marks for this kind of an observation if the city in question was say, Kuala Lumpur and they’d marked the cars KPD, not KLPD.

Then, on to certain plot points in the movie which a friend of mine who goes by the handle Finnegan’s Wake fabulously called the ‘Manmohan Desai elements’. Things like ‘how Batman could prance around after being lame for almost 40 minutes of the movie?' (errr...perhaps that metal frame thingy on his leg?) and ‘how could a quack fix wayne when he had disfigured Bane while trying to treat him’ (no he didn't. the guy who fixed him was someone else. the quack who disfigured bane was the guy who suddenly starts speaking propah English after mumbling around in some strange language). Oh wait, there’s another Manmohan Desai element (I love that term!).

If that explanation wouldn’t suffice those for whom there is no pleasing, then I offer you the recourse of what Coleridge termed ‘suspension of disbelief’. And the burden is on the viewer, not the creator. If you can suspend your disbelief enough to believe that is perfectly plausible for a grown man, who is also a billionaire by the way, to run around in a suit wearing eye shadow with out of the world gadgetry (and in the comics world, friends with an alien boy scout who flies around wearing his red undies outside his blue tights), then why is it so impossible for you to believe that such things too can happen. ‘Clean Slate’ can fit into a thumb drive. Why let it come in the way of ‘the larger enjoyment’ of the film? Remember it’s a movie, not a balance sheet.

If you want everything to be perfectly explained and everything slotted just right, with no facts out of place, then I suggest you go check out the CERN ppt on the Higgs Boson after the big find. Plus, it’s in Comic Sans.

The other big complaint is the supposed lack of humour. While I can counter that by saying there was just enough humour to get by, like the rooftop sequence where Catwoman does a Batman on Batman. Remember Batman is supposed to be this fatalist, brooding dude. And the whole tone of the movie is dark and somber. It’s TDKR, what were you expecting, an Adam Sandler movie with Marx Brothers dialogues? And less humour or no humour compared to what? Perhaps putting nipples on the batsuit would’ve helped, yes?

That said, do I have no complaints against the movie? I do. I wish Nolan had given more screen time to Catwoman. In tights. Not Selina Kyle. Catwoman. But then, Nolan’s only human. Don’t expect him to get everything perfect. Did I hear someone say fan service? Yep. So is asking for Bane to be given more screen time too and a fitting ‘death’. But remember what Clarkson said about sleeping with the supermodel?

Now that all that is taken care of. Let’s move on to the Trilogy proper. Because many tend to forget that TDKR is but the final part of a Trilogy. As Satyajit Chetri aka Beatzo has nailed it, “For the first time in the history of this 73-year old character, we have a complete story, with beginning, middle and end.” If its comics and beatzo speaks, question it not. And that statement above – which I completely agree with – is more objective than you would care to admit.

Oh wait. Speaking of comics, there’s enough people out there who would revel in showing off their Bat-knowledge – and thusly seem cooler somehow – by suggesting things like ‘they should’ve let Talia live because she’s pregnant with Damian!’. Damian who? Aw c’mon dude. You don’t know? (gets into let-me-out-fanboy-you mode with fake humility mask) In the comics, Bruce Wayne and Talia al’ Ghul have a kid called Damian Wayne who then becomes the 5th Robin. What…5th Robin? Ya man…blah blah Jason Todd blah blah Drake blah blah Stephanie Brown blah blah Red Hood blah blah. And so on. Dude, stop it.

Nolan’s mined the best parts from the comics, most notably the tone and motivations and characters and delivered a nice self-contained trilogy. Everything that needs to be there is there. It’s not comics. It’s Nolan-verse. And it’s just as valid as Timm-verse or DC-continuity. If there’s no venom pumping into Bane’s veins, it just isn’t. And if some white haired dude in some Pit replaces Lady Shiva, so it shall be in Nolan-verse. Every medium has its own pace, it’s own possibilities and limitations. Be thankful for what you got, and the awesomeness that was the experience across the Trilogy and quit comparing it to the comics, and to Arkham Asylum the game, and……how in TDKR Catwoman should’ve gotten more screen time in tights (oh wait, that’s me.) So if you want to want a nice conversation about possibilities and batman comics, that’s cool, but if you’re just out to prove how many Batman-related Wikipedia pages you’ve mugged up and throw trivia around without a context, you can please stuff it down Jean Paul’s valley.

So there you have it. TDKR, a fitting finale to a fabulous trilogy. A trilogy which has set the standard for comic book adaptations. A trilogy that humanised the ‘superhero’. A trilogy that transcended the comic-book-movie genre. A trilogy that gave us Heath Leger’s Joker, a killer bat mobile, Hans Zimmer’s scores, Anne Hathway in leather, a great supporting cast, great dialogues, great action, Anne Hathway in leather, and above all a nice cohesive and a sooper movie experience, three times over, not counting the umpteen repeat viewings. I know I am not even scratching the surface about all the things that were superfantabulous about the Trilogy, like the new bat-logo, but then, I’m sure you know them already and I’d have to take a day off to type out the whole list.

So in closing.
Thank you Christopher Nolan.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Bekku picks 10 off the bekku

For no particular reason, here are 10 posts out of 247. handpicked picked with careful randomness. In no particular order….

Yeh Pink Floyd saala hai kaun?
In which The Bekku shines some light on Pink Floyd. You might like reading about him.

About Time
A story shorter than a short story. The Bekku’s first attempt at writing one about his favourite theme.

The Curious Case of the Missing Indian Jasoos
Where is an Indian detective when you need one?

It ws a dark and stormy night....
The most ‘literate’ post or rather experiment on the bekku. Probably because none of the words were mine.

We all need a Love Day
The secret history of Feb 14th revealed!

patriotism vs. Patriotism
Spot the difference.

Everything you wanted to know about Kolaveri but didn’t know who to ask!
The post is exactly what the title says. Has aged better than the song though.

The Revenge of the Natives
In which a way is indicated as to how you can master ye queen’s English at the cost of comprehension.

Fork off!! – DOs and DON’Ts when eating from a banana leaf
As a comment put it, this just proved The Bekku does not suffer from Ananany, which is the inability to stop spelling banana.

A sexy post
In which fellatio is referred to.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Then as of now

Winter had set in. I had already been slumming it out, been on the road for almost a month. Me, myself and a backpack. From delhi to haridwar, kedar to badri, hemkund sahib and everything on the way including Gorakhpur, the armpit of India. Gurudwara, telephone booth, 50-rupee rooms, railway platform, sleeping bag, when night came, anything was shelter enough. Trains, innumerable buses, shared taxis and a truck ride later found me walking across the border into Nepal en route to Tibet. It would still be another 20 days before I would eventually head back home. For now though, the bus that would take me to Kathmandu beckoned. As the bus left Sanauli, I realised I was the only non-Nepali in a crowded bus. And would be for the next 8-odd hours as the shuddery old bus wound its way through the picturesque mountainous roads. For the first time in all those days, I felt a sense of alone-ness. Not lonely, but alone. Perhaps it was this song that did. The driver played it a couple of hours into the journey. At that time I did not know what the words meant. I still don’t. No, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. To me, at that point it captured that ineffable sense of ‘being away’. Of wanting to be with someone, but not just anyone. A sense of glorious desolation. Alone, but not lonely. Today, three years on…when I listen to this song, which I am as I write this, I am instantly transported back to those days, those roads, that bus filled with smiling happy people. I know this journey is but one of many that I need to make to get to wherever my heart takes me. I still have places to go, places to see. As I did then.