Monday, June 4, 2012

Twilight, vampires, fairies and more.


Twilight, the movie:

She is different. No one understands her. She digs a pale dude with weird hair who is not human. She then falls for a country guy who is also not human. Now she does not want to be a human anymore. (Let’s face it, who does?) Told you, she’s different.

Isn't she adorable?
So, she is in love with a vampire (could happen to anybody). And then she discovers she has feelings for a werewolf too (or whatever the heck he is/ it is). Now that seems a bit farfetched, just a tad.

I saw the first movie (we all make mistakes), then sometime after saw the second (another mistake) and somehow finished the third (I’ve made multiple mistakes). But I never made an attempt at reading one of the books or watching the fourth part (yes, I know when to stop).

The idea behind this particular chick lit  is simply insane, not awesomely-insane, hell no, it is cheesy, corny insane. Like Nicholas Sparks insane. Look at her, her friends and her peers. Getting into a college or scoring decent grades or looking up the word ‘career’ in a dictionary is in nobody’s priority. No, more important is to figure out whether to sleep with a vampire or a werewolf.

“Oh, pick the werewolf” “Umm...but he is werewolf, he must be hairy” “Wouldn’t the vampire suck all your blood?” “Oh, but I am pale already, no one would notice.”

There is only one chick in this picture. Look closely. 
There, the above two sentences led to four (five?) movies and cost thousands of trees their lives. And when one gives the argument of other ‘facets’ that exist in the story..namely emotional conflicts, newbies, a vampire church (told you I saw the third part), I present my counterview with a fictional anecdote:

 Mother: “How did you get the candy?”
Child: “I bought it”
Mother : “Who gave you the money”
Child:  “Umm...the fairy”
Mother : “Don’t bullsh.....tell me the truth ”
Child:  “I was craving for a candy when things got dizzy. And then, all of a sudden a fairy came and took me with her on a white unicorn with golden wings and then we flew over the rainbows to the c....”
Mother (panicking) : “Stop right there, we need to go see a doctor. And you are not listening to all those Pink Floyd songs, are you?”

Yes, this!
As it turned out the kid actually wasn’t into psychedelics. He was just being creative. He simply invented one tale over the other, to justify and build upon his original fairy story. And I think that pretty much sums up the making of twilight, along with people’s obsession with sequels these days.

I have invested time to list all Twilight-like things to help poor souls like you and me. These things should be avoided at all costs. To name a few- All books written by Nicholas Sparks, all movies based upon books written by Nicholas Sparks, all movies starring Nicholas Cage, Coldplay, Justin Bieber (benefit of doubt till he hits puberty? I don’t think so!). There are more, many more.
(I'd love to hear you raise your voice against the small sample of my list I've just shown. And I am not apologizing for numerous parenthesis and for any loss of continuity.) 

I have a few questions though, I hope twilight enthusiasts can shed some light and sparkle the answers:
  •  If they don’t age, are super powerful, can scare the bejesus out of most adults by simply showing their skin in the sun or their teeth, why don’t they attack America and consequently, rule the world? Or better yet, aid America into attacking other countries and, again, rule the world?
  •  Are twilight vampires susceptible to garlic and silver, like the ones from the movie Blade and others. Or are they a different race altogether? This particularly worries me. If true, we’ll never see them at Indian restaurants.
  •  Do they have delicacies too? Chinese, Indian, AB-,  anamneses, lukem...okay I need to stop.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Education for All? That's not enough!


“Sarva Shiksha Abhyan (SSA) is Government of India's flagship programme for achievement of Universalization of Elementary Education (UEE) in a time bound ...” (Source: ssa.nic.in)

SSA is primarily aimed for the kids belonging from poor and under privileged backgrounds. There is a similar state funded program in the US called KIPP and this too is intended for kids from poor and under privileged backgrounds.

Apart from the kind of kids these schools target there is hardly anything common between them. Look at the names again.

Sarva Shiksha Abhyan literally translates to- The Education for All Movement.
KIPP is an acronym for- Knowledge Is Power Program.

Note the difference in intentions. One is concerned about numbers, other is concerned about knowledge.
Our efforts are concentrated at opening maximum schools and admitting maximum students. And in a country like India, that makes sense.
But are we concerned about quality, at all? About methodology for teaching?

KIPP schools are considered among the best public schools in the US. At KIPP, students are taught Maths, science, social studies and language. As well as problem solving, structured thinking, communication skills and music. The students are made to work hard, throughout the year, almost without any summer vacation (more on that later).

We all are aware about the state of government funded schools in India. Many of you must have seen it first hand, others must have read about it. But that entire situation is just one of the problems.
One of the other reasons of failure, or ineffectiveness, of the state funded schools is  their intention. A school for the penniless. Our current system makes schools for the poor, makes the content suitable for kids belonging to such families. This results in making those kids incompetent against the ones in private schools.
What should they do instead is make schools of  excellence- accessible even to the poor. Make the content superior and have best teachers to teach them. Make the students to work hard, provide them with incentives to work harder. We need to build schools that can provide quality education to the maximum.

Doing that on as massive scale as India’s, would be a daunting task. It would be a risk, with disastrous outcomes should it fail. Here again we can learn something from KIPP, we can start this as a pilot program, open only a few schools in the beginning. Improvise, update and expand them with time.

I want to talk more about on KIPP, but I'm more concerned about our education system. What our present education is doing- producing what I call employees (which some point out, are not even employable) . Instead it needs to produce more employers, original thinkers, innovators. The education structure has hardly changed in decades. Most of the entrance exams consider school reports and performances irrelevant. There are not enough incentives for the students to work hard and excel at schools.
We need a mix of both- people who are employable as well people who can think and create. As many scholars and concerned people have been saying- Our entire education system needs an overhaul. But I think, and most would agree, we should work on the grass root level first. And government schools would probably be the best place to start with. Not just the quantity of people we educate, but the quality should matter too. It should matter more. Bringing in Akash would not help anyone. Students would watch the lectures on their tablets, only if those lectures are worth watching live, only when there are incentives to watch those lectures at all.

For curious minds:

Click here to read about the state of our education.




Or, read Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Titanic: A Cynical review


Disclaimer: 

I’m not going to mock the movie, the scale on which the movie was made, the effort and the final result are really appreciable. I’m just going to write about few loving characters in the movie.

A word of caution: If you are reading this and you were a part of the movie, may be the guy who foolishly jumped off the ship only to hit the propellers before sinking in ice cold water, you might get offended.

Rose Dawson: 
The very old lady in the beginning, the lady who threw the diamond into the ocean
I sympathise with the character played by Bill Paxton, the deep ocean treasure hunter. I don’t remember his name. He was the guy who flew Rose Dawson from her shithole house in a helicopter to the ship, gave her accommodation in spite of her copious and creepy luggage, listened to the loooong story of her exploits during her youth, as if he gave a shit. That guy bet his entire career for that diamond, had several thousands, if not millions, invested on the project. So many had their hopes and lives tied to that diamond. But Rose shows up, feeds on their hospitality, wastes their time and throws the pearl into the ocean. I’ll say that again in a more succinct way: It was a dick move to throw that big ass pearl into the sea. Why Rose, why? Why did you do it?

Poor Bill Paxton's character, he deserved that diamond. I’m sure he would have heartily traded that sketch in exchange for the diamond . Rose was not even going live much longer anyway, she could have given the diamond as a gift to her granddaughter. Or could have auctioned the diamond and start a scholarship to help poor chaps like Jack. Why not utilize it for those who were still alive. Doing that would have been a lot wiser than throwing the diamond into the sea to pay tribute to a nobody who froze to death, along with 1500 others, just because he was among the only few who had ever seen her naked.  

Jack Dawson:
The male protagonist. Duh? Dicaprio!
How could one not love the penniless yet adorable and sharp-witted Jack. He didn’t have a job, didn’t get a lot of schooling, didn’t even have a home. He just wandered from here to nowhere in search of bread, and okay, artistic inspiration (air quotes end). And that made him so irresistible to the prudish Victorian chic Rose. In other words, he was living a cool life, blissfully ignorant to the real world. Oh, and he loved to draw portraits of naked ladies.

He cheated for the ticket, yes cheated. Granted, he also died a hellish death later because nature is so fair, but he robbed someone else of the pleasure of sailing in Titanic. Who knows, story would have been different if Jack didn’t sail at all. Maybe that other guy wouldn’t have saved Rose from jumping into the sea. And they wouldn’t have started an affair and fondled at the deck only to distract the crew members. Maybe the crew members would have spotted the iceberg ahead in time and avoided the collision. Maybe the titanic wouldn’t have sank. Maybe, only if he had not cheated.

Do you remember how jack and his mate bypassed inspection to get into Titanic in time . All the third class passengers were practically doomed anyway. They would have died soon of diseases and infections after landing. Consider this, a young guy who travels around in the 1900s, no money, no education, no vaccination, in other words- A Hobo. How could he not have bugs on him. He stayed in Paris for some time. He apparently ‘met’ a Parisian hooker and was kind enough to draw her a picture. Tell me how that dude could not have had gonorrhoea. And bugs and leeches. O Jack, being American does not provide you immunity against everything.

There is more, but you’ll have to wait for it. If you want to read that other part sooner, you'll need a time machine. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Family First



There is one thing you should know about me. I have an uncritical, child like love for Indian cricket. Whenever some gentleman speaks against Indian cricket, Indian cricketers, the game of cricket, or Sachin Tendulkar, I get very offended and take it rather personally. So, you can imagine how much I adore Greg Chappell.


I liked you man. You ruined it.

And regarding his recent statements, which I deem were only a part of publicity campaign for his new book that I shall not name, I seriously considered catching a flight to Australia and well, until I read him say something that goes like this: Indians do not take decisions on their own, it’s not in their culture. 

I was impressed. This man is brilliant, well at least when he is not talking about cricket.

I asked around, and surprisingly many people agree. Here’s the journey of a typical Indian kid into adulthood and beyond. Yes, I'm talking about most of you:
(Now you'll feel cheated, as this article is not about cricket.)


It starts with what school you should go. Granted, parents would know better in some cases, but shouldn’t they treat your vote better than irrelevant. What kind of kids you should hang out with, what clothes you should or should not wear, they decide everything. Which stream you should pick in your Higher secondary (PCM), what should you do for graduation (Engineering) which stream should you chose in college (the one your dad/ uncle took), what should you do after college, what type of company should you work for, what you should do, what you should not do (drugs, alcohol, business, love marriage).
Hell, they even decide the person you should marry. Pundits, stars and planets also have a say here, but not YOU.  



Apparently, it’s in your palms, but not in your hands.

The point is that there is always a someone who would make decisions for you. Most of the time, it is a family member- one of the parents, an elder brother, an uncle etc and pundits and zillions of Gods otherwise. We all brave that nihilistic It’s-all-written sentiment almost every day.

But as they say, every cloud has a silver lining, and this is no exception. In fact we are highly familiar with another aspect of Family first phenomenon called nepotism. The kids today often confuse this term with Indian culture.

How many young actors can you name who do not belong to some Bollywood family. And how about politicians and their sons and nephews. How about one of the oldest parties in the nation and their pipedream of having that 42 year old youth ambassador as the next Prime Minister. Emperor’s son becomes an emperor. Beggar’s son remains a beggar. That was India 1500 years ago. And so it is  today.

I am not advocating whether it is right or wrong. What I am trying to tell you is this is prevalent, whether you like it or not. It affects our lives to a great extent. Okay, allow me to correct myself, I am saying this is wrong and has to be changed.

My advice is that we should start with ourselves. Take responsibility, make decisions, bite the bullet. Let’s not vote for people just because they share their DNA with some politician. Avoid movies of actors that are produced by their actor daddies, they are pathetic anyway.

I'll leave you with wisdom from an LSD-fuelled band [citation needed] :

“Don’t be told what you want, don’t be told what you need” 
(God save the Queen, Sex pistols)
----------------------------------------------------

ps 1:  If you follow Sex Pistol’s advice, you’ll be contradicting yourself. A Paradox?
ps 2:  Come to think of it, maybe the title is not appropriate. Perhaps ‘Be a Man’ or 'Take the charge' or some other clich├ęd one would go better. Let me ask around and see if they have a better one in mind.




Friday, November 18, 2011

Doctor A and B dilemma


So, I happen to have a theory. A theory that can be life changing. Okay, not life changing, but it can be helpful for day to day applications. No, not every day applications, but it wouldn’t hurt you to use it once in a while. It will make you think, wonder and write me a thank you note.

Assumptions:
You need a doctor.
You need to decide on only one doctor.
All concerned doctors are more or less equally skilled.
You are not grossed by oxymorons.

Theory:
Suppose you go to a doctor’s clinic for the first time. You are out waiting, you see a guy (or a girl/lady/chick, whatever suits you) and  you get in the following question & answer session with him/her.  

Q: “Is this doctor any good?”
A: “Oh yes, absolutely, he is the best.”
Q: “Medicines work? Side effects?”
A: ” No, no side effects. He gives the best medicines”
Q: “Really?”
A:  ”Yes, I am telling you, he is the best in town.”

You can do this yourself. Pick a random doctor, practicing in a random town. Now, go to his clinic, pick a random custome..sorry patient, and ask him/her these questions. And the answer, oh yes, you guessed it right that I guessed it right,—is similar to what I predicted.  Repeat the experiment. Hell yeah, I’m right again.
Now, read the title again, Doctor A and B. I have chosen it that way so that I’ll be able to put forward and explain my theory to you.
Let us say you go to a Doctor, Doctor A. You indulge in aforementioned Q&A. Assuming I’m right about the Q&A, which I totally am, there is actually only a little help you can get from that person.

Because you are asking to the wrong guy. At the wrong place.

He might not, not by his own fault, be telling you the truth. Consider this, why would a patient return to a doctor. Because either a. he is showing signs of progress or b. he is not showing progress but still has faith on the doctor. So, almost all the patients you meet in a clinic should have a positive view for the doctor.
This  includes all the people who visit that doctor, whether or not  they are present there.
That is the reason why family doctors are always good and why certain band that your friend follows is, according to that friend, awesome. This would imply not only for doctors and bands, but also for musicians, hairdressers, astrologers*, clothing brands and all the dumbass sitcoms that your room mates are crazy about.
Or in one word,

BIAS

Yes, BIAS. The key to universe, the truth behind everything. You cannot expect an impartial judgment from a biased person. (Duh..?)
Yet, we all fall for it.

Now let’s take the case of Doctor B. You are at Doctor A’s, and the fellow patient you were chatting with is still there. Ask him about Doctor B.

Q: “I heard about Doctor B. Have you ever been to him?”
A: “He is an A-hole, a douche bag”
Q: “But his medicines work, don’t they?”
A: ”No, he is a fraud, a douche bag”
Q: “Really?”
A:  ”Yea, he’s a Douche bag.”

Assuming that guy ever did go to Doctor B, that’s the kind of feedback you are going to get (plus/minus profanity). He switched to Doctor A, only because he, to say the least, was unsatisfied with Doctor B.  Now replace A and B in this article, you’ll still get the same result.

So which doctor to chose:
I don’t know, flip a coin?
(Now some of the following wisdom is derived from the book Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell ) Well, you can decide by the way doctors treat their patients, I mean whether they are friendly or rough or cruel or sadistic. Because these are something like relatively absolute qualities. It was observed that doctors who behaved nice, were less likely to get sued compared to those who behaved otherwise. So if you want to be satisfied and feel good from your doctor’s service, no matter how much he robs you, go with the friendlier one.

The Bottom line:
Long post, huh? To end, let me tell you the inspiration behind this article. I heard someone in my family say “Jisse bhi pucho, yahi kehta hai, yeh Doctor bahut acche hain ”, and that statement triggered..whatever, was needed to write this post. I’m sure you too must have heard some version of this tale sometime. Actually, the objective behind this post was to highlight a common logical fallacy, that generally goes unnoticed. So, the gist:

Don’t judge a Doctor by his patients review, or a musician by his fans review, or a college by its student’s rev…… ok, never mind the last one.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The No.One superhero--- Ra.One

Throw in little bit of Batman, little bit of Ironman,  little bit of Spiderman, add some bollywood bling and an item number (obviously) and BHAM! you’ll get Ra.One.


Thanks to Mr SRK, we now have another Indian superhero. (Krrish and Drona being the other two 'superheroes').

Fine, so what if he has used a bunch of western superheroes as inspiration, so what if the names are little cheesy, so what if one of its sequences is similar to that of The Transformers, I still think our Indian Superhero might end up being superior to Western Superheroes. Here is why:


·        First of all, he is Indian. I’m sure he’ll have supernatural talent to sing and dance and do both the stuff at the same time.

·        Western superheroes are either super-rich chick magnets or lonely and awkward losers (initially, of course). But our Indian Superhero would be a simple and honest family guy next door.

·        Another  inferiority of western Superheroes is that they need to cover their heads. It serves dual purpose-- it protects their identities from junta and their skulls from getting smashed, while performing all the acts of superheroism. Whereas our Indian superhero is too charming to wear any of those silly masks.

and he has a cool hair style too! Suck that up Tony Stark.

·       The way he is tossing up cars without even touching them reminds me of dudes and dudettes from Harry Potter, using Wingardium Leviosa spells. Our Superhero needs no wand.

·        One would say, which Superheroes would cover themselves with tacky and flashy things? The answer is –all of them. But our Indian superhero has gone over an extra mile, has put some fancy LEDs, reflectors, neon, glow-in-the-dark materials to his dress.


I’ve never been a fan of Superhero movies anyway (exception-- Watchmen). But people, this is bollywood. Remember ‘special effects’ in the movie Krrish? Half of them were employed only to color the romance between two actors swinging, dancing and doing crazy stuff around trees. That makes me skeptic.

Maybe it is too early to speculate, and maybe, I’m wrong.

(UNLIKELY)
_____________________________________________

ps: There is another superhero in the movie, the omnipotent-omnipresent-omniscient, the one and only-- Rajnikant.



Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why people do what they do


If you google the title of this post, you'll find links to several pages providing answers with psychological explanations. But that's not what I want to talk about. Often we come across people who work all day and all night, thriving for one dear thing. I ask to myself, what drives these people?. Is it fame, money, power or dominance, the attention from the opposite or[and] same sex, that governs the statics and dynamics of their world. ( The last one especially about little, vague things going around)
If you read about successful people, especially the unbiased versions, or even better, the crtical versions, you'll notice that the things that drove them were not always fancy, perfect-world qualities like high values, quest for knowledge or ambition. Not even money. But sillier things like insecurity, jealousy and approval-seeking habits. For example, some people say, that in his early days, Steve Jobs always had this chip on his shoulder, he always felt this need to prove his might, to prove his abilities, to prove his superiority. Where did this quality led him to? Apple Inc., today it's America's most valuable company dealing in technology.
And we all know about Mark Zuckerberg. We all have seen the movie. What drove him? Rejection from his girlfriend. Unacceptance from the social group. (No surprise, Facebook essentially thrives on acceptance from people and social groups.)
There are more examples, especially on the darker side. Criminals, murderers and anti-social personalities are the extreme examples. But I'll not get into those.
My point is, sometimes when such a quality exists inside an individual in excess, it may boost the individual's creativity beyond any imagined level. It may help them unleash their full potential, which in some cases may remain unparalled. Whether it is harnessed constructively or destructively, that's a whole different issue.