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.