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Monthly Archives: April 2008

The World is Full of Meanies

Priya Venkatesan Hays (Dartmouth ’90, MS in Genetics, PhD in Literature) has an impressive resume. Well, so what? you ask. So do a lot of other people. Ah, but she has more interesting ideas! For example, her book Molecular Biology in Narrative Form was a “groundbreaking, interdisciplinary study that shows a connection between molecular biology and French narrative theory” according to its publishers.

Unfortunately for Priya Venkatesan Hays, nobody cares.

No one seems to have read her first book – or cared enough to have written a review of it on Amazon, take your pick – and something tells me her second book, A Postmodernist in the Laboratory is headed for the same fate. Although I’d guess that answers the question posed by the Modernist Studies Conference in Tulsa as to whether a modern science has ever existed. I wonder what conclusions the panel arrived at regarding the other questions:

How have arguments for the social constructedness of scientific fact affected visions of a modernist science? Does the scientific method inherently engender the modern subject as free beings? Papers that deal specifically with the issue of whether modern science has been deconstructed in terms of actual scientific practice [were] especially welcome.

But I digress. You see, not only is the world made up of philistines who don’t care to explore science through French narrative theory, it is also populated with a whole bunch of meanies. Like those students she taught at Dartmouth (an Ivy League school she attended herself) who thought her ideas were crap and superiors who thought she was a big diva because she kept complaining about her students’ snotty attitude. Not to mention evaluators with bad manners who interrupted her while she was speaking and then left the classroom without excusing themselves or expressing any thanks.

The bastards! Coz you know they only did that because she was Indian.

Wait, what?

Hey, I told you she has interesting ideas. That’s right, they only did it because she was Indian. Dartmouth hates Indians. It’s out in the open now, folks. We know what’s going on. You’ll give us admission as students and then hire us back as teachers but you won’t take us seriously! Especially if we complain about your bad manners and your comments to other people in our hearing. Look at this heartrending example of what happened when she stood up to Dr. Christopher H. Lowrey, an Associate Professor at the medical school:

One complaint, during Venkatesan’s two-year tenure as a DHMC Research Associate, regards the alleged behavior of Dr. Lowrey. Specifically an instance during which a research lab was preparing for a conference, and Venkatesan alleges that Lowrey commented to a research tech that, “your beauty will attract people to your poster.” Venkatesan claims that she informed Lowrey of the inappropriateness of the comments and that the next day Lowrey invited her to his office to discuss the matter. At this meeting Venkatesan recounts a livid Lowrey saying comments like, “you wreck havoc wherever you go” and “you think the world revolves around you” and slamming files into a garbage can. This series of events was among what Venkatesan calls “many many many incidences” of violative and inappropriate behavior.

She “thinks world revolves around” her? Quelle blague! I think the fact that she sued her students for employment discrimination and is currently pursuing litigation to see whether she even has a claim definitively proves that she doesn’t give a thought to herself. Also, Dr. Lowry apparently lives in the 19th century. I hope he wears a pince nez and pantaloons and smokes a pipe coz I really need to see a doctor like that.

Maybe she should just go back to Pasadena and teach. At least some of them like her there. Even if she doesn’t answer her emails and expects them to… you know, work for their grades.

I’m just worried that we’ll eventually find out that this was some kind of postmodernist lab experiment and we’ve all been suckered into playing along. Don’t take my dreams away from me, Priya Venkatesan. I’m Indian too.

 
8 Comments

Posted by on April 30, 2008 in Life, Newsmakers

 

Prince Charles & Multi-Culti Friends

We are family
I got all my sisters with me
We are family
Get up everybody and sing

Living life is fun and we’ve just begun
To get our share of the world’s delights
High hopes we have for the future
And our goal’s in sight
No we don’t get depressed
Here’s what we call our golden rule
Have faith in you and the things you do
You won’t go wrong, oh no
This is our family Jewel, yeah!

“Oh, wait – I need to get a beard to join you guys? Dash it, I knew there was a catch! Sorry, but my wife can’t stand beards. The last one I had got all the sympathy and she got called a horse faced homewrecker so she’s not too keen on them.”

[via CDAN]

 
4 Comments

Posted by on April 29, 2008 in Life

 

Bones: TV’s #1 Romance

So is anybody excited that Bones is back from its strike-induced hiatus? Other than me, I mean. Sorry, too much excitement kills my grammar. How excited am I? Well, if they made little Temperance “Bones” Brennan and Seeley Booth dolls, I’d make them sit around and play kissing games all day. I’d throw them tea parties and weddings. Awwww!

Okay, so … no, I’d never do any of that because that would be, you know, insane but I have come to the conclusion that the Bones-Booth ship is *the* ship for the foreseeable future. Let me tell you why this is not merely another symptom of my creeping insanity:

When Bones premiered three years ago, there was already a glut of cop dramas on TV. Even the forensics angle faced tough competition from the CSI franchise so enthusiasm ran a little low (at least in me) even if it was hailed as the best of the new crop that year. After all, The Wire was in its heyday then and no matter how studiously the industry ignored it, anybody who’d ever seen it knew it was the best cop drama on TV period so all this pretender to the crown business was just that: pretension.

Further complicating matters is David Boreanaz as a devout Catholic FBI agent without a vampire in sight. Not that this really mattered to me because I wasn’t an Angel freak when I was young (for that matter I wasn’t a huge Buffy fan either – I did that weird thing I do with Lost now: catch every other season coz I can’t be bothered to catch up in between), so my response to the cast was lukewarm at best.

This meant that I really had no interest in the Bones-Booth ship. Sure, I liked both of them (Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel) but this was back when Grey’s Anatomy was my number one ship-fix. Remember those halcyon days when Derek wasn’t an asshole, Meredith wasn’t suicidal, Cristina had a spine, Izzie wasn’t sleeping with George, Miranda had found a way to stay married unlike all the dopey people surrounding her, Addison wasn’t being sucky on the suckier Private Practice and Burke hadn’t run away? Yeah, back when we had a show rather than a mess. Give up that Mer-Der for this? Never!

Added to the mix were two things that have bothered me about this show from day one.

First off, the cases. They’re ludicrously simple. Maybe they sound really complicated and strange when they’re thinking them up in the writer’s room and perhaps the actual forensic work has multiple levels to it, but I really don’t like it when I can immediately spot whodunnit two minutes after being introduced to them. And even in the rare case where I turn out to be wrong (I think it happened… once?), the whole thing is less of a shock and more of an “Oh, yeah.”

The second thing that really bugs me is that goddamned hologram thingy. The “Angelator”, hyuk hyuk. Everytime they show it, I want to find the moron who thought it up and stab them in the eye. Okay, maybe not stab them in the eye. But I’d give them a few vicious pokes. I bet some of the effects people on this show worked on Alias. The Angelator is so Alias!

Okay, I feel better. Moving on…

Cut to three years later. The Wire is off the air while CSI and L&O cackle their way through yet more seasons. What sort of a world do we live in where David Caruso and his shades have more lasting power than McNulty & Co.? Not that Caruso and his shades don’t have a space in this world – it’s the one real contribution CSI has made to pop culture.

In the meantime, I had a chance to catch on Kathy Reichs (the real life forensic anthropologist upon whose life and work the series is based) and a lot of things became clear. For example, those loopy cases and the Angelator are both reactions to Reichs’ writing.

Those who’ve read the novels know that Reichs’ Dr. Temperance Brennan bears very little resemblance to the one portrayed by Deschanel on the show. But the differences go beyond things like life history and age: the Temperance of the books is a gritty, emotionally battered woman who’s pretty much the anti-thesis of Bones whose emotional scars are of a completely different kind. And the books themselves, though rather well written and better researched (after all, Reichs is a forensic anthropologist so she must know what she’s talking about), suffer from the same disease that Elmore Leonard‘s books suffer from: they make better films (or TV as the case might be) than books. For different reasons, mind you, but it’s the same problem.

I could see Reichs’ book being faithfully adapted by HBO but Fox? Not so much. Yup, it’s that different.

So it makes sense to me that its the relationships on this show that work so wel because they’re the only part of the show where the writers have total control over the characters. The rest of the time, it’s like they’re making everybody go through all this cop stuff with blood and bones and decomposed bodies and serial killers and all that – but the one part they came up with by themselves, they absolutely nail to the wall.

Am I convincing you yet? Well, you should think about it. Because there’s really nothing out there to ship now except maybe for Huddy. I love the Huddy. But I don’t know what it would do to House if he and Cuddy actually began a relationship. On the one hand, I’d really like to see the two of them together (Huddy babies! EEEEE!) but I’d hate it if it suddenly gave him a personality transplant and let’s face it, that’s the only way anyone could tolerate House, most especially Cuddy. I mean, when even Cameron says she’s over you (even if she’s lying just a teensy bit), it’s a sign. A neon, blinking sign. Sigh. I love him so much.

Of course now that I’m all gung-ho about this show, I bet Fox is about to cancel it. Not for nothing was Hugh Laurie so tentative about moving his family to the States even after everybody fell in love with House. Speaking of which, it’s kind of fitting that Bones airs right before House – you can watch Bones for the ship and House for everything else.

PS – Are people seriously considering Zack for Gormagon? My money’s on Bankroft.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on April 28, 2008 in Entertainment, Review, Television, Video

 

The Games Stupid People Play

I see the great Cricket by Karan Johar extravaganza has been drawing boatloads of criticism. You know… the Indian Premier League? I suppose it should rightfully be called the Cricket All Stars for the BCCI Hates Subhash Chandra Movement or the This Money is All Mine Beeyotch Cricket Club or something of similar, especially because KJo’s involvement in the whole thing seems limited to him being best friends with two of the team owners (maybe three? Vijay Mallya? No? Hmm, yeah, KJo would never let a friend of his go out in public with that kind of bling around his neck).

But come on! Cheerleaders (from the Washington Redskins squad – obviously Mallya’s contribution to the great game of cricket) and a team called *snicker* Knight Riders? It practically screams the KJo brand of “cool”. I’m surprised The Hoff isn’t singing the league anthem. Which should totally be Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham. Actually, The Hoff singing Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham? That I would watch. Hell, that I’d pay money for!

And money is what lies at the center of this whole thing, isn’t it? Who’s making what and why and wherefore and when and by what means and how and where does it all go and why does it make the little girls cry? It’s all just a matter of time before all this horrible money business ruins cricket forever and crushes everybody’s spirits until mankind’s faith in all sport will be destroyed forever, amen. Coz a fat paycheck and a pink neon outfit (oh wait, that’s the ICL huh?) are obviously worse than betting and fixing as demonstrated by… um, the English soccer clubs? Practically every American sport? Huh.

To be fair, a lot of people are cribbing for noble reasons – the Twenty20 phenomenon is apparently going to ruin cricket in some way that I don’t understand and, frankly, don’t care to understand because… well, it’s cricket and we have no love lost between us. I know! I’m a terrible person and there’s a special corner of hell reserved just for me. I just hope it doesn’t come equipped with a plasma screen playing cricket 24/7.

It might be the lamest money making exercise in the history of world sport, but it’s obviously bringing a great deal of joy to a great many people. Maybe that’s not you and maybe these are not people whom you consider to be “true” fans of the sport but let’s face it – your approval isn’t necessary.

Besides, if you are going to make tons of money through the cynical manipulation of people, then you might as well do it by making people happy, you know what I mean? It’s not like any of these people are dealing drugs or blowing people up.

Which is why I’m struck by this petition to “make cricket watchable again“. There’s been so much ink spilled on how the IPL is really this great big cattle market where players are bought and sold (wait until the trading starts. Ooh, great hairy fistfuls of fur will fly!) that I’m surprised by how little anyone’s really talked about what’s at stake here except in the most general of terms: Indian eyes.

Those eleventy gazillion dollars that everyone’s spending and taking? It’s all based on the fact that Indians will watch those games. Probably other people too but let’s talk Indians here coz I don’t know if they’re watching this in Australia or England or wherehaveyou. But I do know my mom and dad are watching it (and my dad never watches television) and my mom cusses out the TV something fierce when she talks about those ads that cut into her cricket time. I thought she was exaggerating (I’ve seen invasive ads in India before, how bad could it be?) but Raja Sen’s article makes me think otherwise:

ESPN-Star started the trend of using every single break between overs to push in a commercial or two, and we soon got used to that. Ten Sports and Sony worked the envelope even more aggressively, and began to routinely cut off commentators mid-sentence. And now this, where advertisements are repeated with such nauseating constancy they make you want to shoot an otherwise adorable pug, or attack any hair-dye buyer with a pair of shears. And we’re not even going to the horrible production values the channel is flaunting for the best cricketing circus ever.

Of the million and one controversies that have dogged the IPL since it was conceived in the angry halls of the BCCI, this is perhaps the one issue that struck a chord with me. Not because of my mom’s interrupted viewing pleasure, but because it’s A) disrespectful, B) stupid and C) par for the course.

It’s disrespectful and stupid because if you’re planning to make mega bucks off millions of people then the last thing you want to do is not put their wants first and center. How long do you think it’s going to take some enterprising Indian to figure out that Tivo would make a killing in India given this sorry state of affairs and then where will you all be? (Hey, you, I thought of that idea first! I demand a cut!) So, instead, why wouldn’t you just do what every other sports broadcaster in the world does – give the fans what they want to watch and control the ad time. In fact, seeing as how you’ve already borrowed cheerleaders from American football, why don’t you borrow a few more of their ideas and stage something like the Superbowl ads? Maybe you could make more money off it! (Hey, you, I thought of that idea first! I demand a cut!)

And it’s par for the course because Indian TV works without any rhyme or reason. Shows come on air, go off, come back, go on interminably, even Idols get recycled – as and when they like, however they like it. I’ve been trying to make sense of it for years now but I have no clue what’s going on or why people stand for it.

PS – all those people moaning about the death blow those cheerleaders dealt Indian culture with their shapely tushies? Here’s a little video for you, approprately titled Naughty Naughty, starring the son of a Congress chief minister and the daughter of two (count ’em two!) BJP MPs and national icons. Chockfull of Indian culture, they are.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on April 25, 2008 in Entertainment, Life, Newsmakers, Television, Video

 

Riddle-me-Ree, Who Can She Be?

Greetings wonderful MTBs!!!
and good work to all of you!
For having solved the riddle before
I give you all this clue.

The letter ” G “

Write it down, add it on…
And let’s move on to the next little song

Signed up on the house-a-spouse program,
The lady’s the answer to this epigram.
Blogging with a husband on a blog with style
She’s got the look that’ll make your hunt worthwhile.

Solve it and you get your lead
Misguess, and you lose your speed
Solve it slow but solve it now
And before you go, take a little bow

Go to ‘Comments’ and leave me a clue
Tell me which blog you are off to.
Good luck! Good luck! Be on your way.
You have your work, cut out for the day!

PS to the regular crowd: Normal programming will resume tomorrow. Duh.

 
20 Comments

Posted by on April 24, 2008 in Personal

 

Belated Concern

So… polygamists. In Texas. With 416 children. You didn’t expect a media blackout, did you? Coz you’re sure as hell not getting one.

It’s a story that’s got everything – women, children, religion, sex, law, science, sex offenders, you name it. There’s even a story on polygamist fashion – rooted in the 19th century, did you know? So exciting! Get me one of those pioneer dresses and the unibrow please!

In fact the media, on the whole, has been incredibly understanding of these women. And while I’d normally be cheering them on for not going for the easy soundbyte like always, I have to say I wonder what the hell is going on. Is everybody really feeling the pain of these women or is everybody too scared they’ll be viewed as attacking religion if they point out that these women and their children share a deeply dysfunctional relationship?

Would Fox and CNN be this understanding if a Hindu couple were arrested for selling their daughter into prostitution and explained it away by saying that they were trying to revive the devadasi tradition? Would they present this story in the same way if it had been a bunch of Middle Easterners practicing polygamy and child marriage in the name of Allah?

Compassion is a good thing. Empathy is even better. And I really do believe that there is nothing that cannot be understood or sympathized with. Serial killers, child molesters, cannibals, rapists, torturers… none of these people are “inhuman” or acting “unimaginably”. They might be vile, but the simple fact that they did do the things that they did, means that their actions were neither inhuman nor unimaginable. And this is doubly true of religious fundamentalists who are, after all, simply taking what most of us practice to its extreme point.

I’m sure some of these women joined voluntarily, but I expect still others were brainwashed or beaten into submission. Some of them probably even grew up in the system and genuinely think it really is alright for children to marry men old enough to be their grandfathers and live sequestered from the outside world because that’s what God would want them to do. It’s like those women in Saudi Arabia who think it’s only right that they have fewer rights because they live on holy land and must be an example to others.

Plus, this is probably the only world that they know. And their children are perhaps the one connection that makes them feel safe and valued.

But watching the cameras from Larry King Live take a tour through the compound last week was rather surreal.

I don’t doubt the pain in that woman’s voice was real when she said she wanted her children back. But as she moved through the facility and pointed out where the children were supposed to be, I couldn’t help but be glad that they weren’t there. I hate the thought of those kids in foster care or a state facility, especially when they some from such a different background – but they’d have to be placed in the dregs of the system for their lives to be any worse than inside that compound.

For one thing, unlike the people in there, in the outside world everyone knows that children and adults are not supposed to have sex. There are nasty names and horrible punishments for things like that – if not everywhere in the world, then definitely in the United States.

Also, saying things like “This nation is so prejudiced against us” is perhaps a tad idiotic when that very nation’s law is the only thing you have going for you right now. More to the point – it’s the only thing your kids have going for them right now.

Any way you look at it, those kids are not going to have an easy life of it. So forgive me, unibrow lady, if I reserve my sympathy for them.

 
9 Comments

Posted by on April 22, 2008 in Life, Newsmakers

 

When You Need a Song to Recover

My mother has this less than delightful habit of waking me up first thing in the morning with a piece of really terrible news. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the next room or halfway around the world – she’ll always find a way to tell me something truly horrible. In the past six months she’s told me about suicides, rapes, murder, child abandonment, incurable disease and famine in great detail, generally when I’m trying to make my brain function with the aid of some caffeine. Of course, once I’ve talked to her, caffeine’s quite useless: liquor is what I need. If you ever hear that I’ve entered rehab, believe me when I blame my problems on everybody else.

I suspect a more heartless or less imaginative child would have told her off by now but since she’s always perturbed when relaying the bad news and goes off in a much more cheery mood once she’s finished ruining my day (and sometimes my week), I don’t have the heart to tell her to stop it. I’m just glad she hasn’t yet started to discuss the daily obituaries with me. No, that cheerful job belongs to my dad, who enjoys it just as much as she does.

Digression: actually, I think obituary reading is kind of great – not the death part of it, so much, but the fact that you actually know so many people that that carefully posed photograph in the newspaper isn’t somebody else’s tragedy but one in which you too are involved. Birth, marriage and death, after all, are the three times in your life that you really feel a part of a community. It’s just too bad that when it comes to you personally, two of those times you’re insensible of it and when you’re getting married, you’re so stressed you wish you were insensible of it.

Getting back to my mother and her macabre obsessions, she’ll occasionally relate the gory gossip to my aunt before she weighs me down with it. I prefer this because my aunt always has a refreshingly acerbic reaction to these stories that make me feel better about them. And ever since she fought off a second bout of cancer, she’s only gotten more no-nonsense. The downside to this is that when she does get emotional, she gets really teary eyed so you have to really pick and choose what stories you’re going to share with her. You probably already know this but it bears repeating: cancer is a filthy disease and its cure is about as bad as it is.

So Ma’s latest effort to unburden herself involved a series of really silly teenagers who were killing themselves like lemmings all over our hometown. Gone to the beach lately? Look what washed up on the shore – it’s Romeo and Juliet! Is your kid’s bedroom door locked? Break it down coz Romeo and Juliet are lying dead on his bed.

Ma told Auntie about these young morons before she laid it on me, to which Auntie said: “Suicide? Suicide?! Suicide is too good for them! They should be flogged, the skin should be stripped from their flesh before they’re boiled in oil! Idiots! Fools! If only I could have put my hands on them!”

Rather violent, yes. But totally awesome.

However, what do I do when my auntie isn’t around to threaten torture to those who transgress and make me feel better? Well, a few golden oldies will do the trick. For example:

5. O jogi jab se tu aaya

4. Beqarar karke hamein – from one of my all time favorite movies, Bees Saal Baad. And if anybody so much as mentions that Mithun ghost flick, there will be blood. Also, how weird is it to watch Hemant Kumar’s voice emerge from Biswajeet’s face?

3. Arre yaar meri, tum bhi ho gazab – I used to be obsessed with this song. Mainly because I couldn’t figure out what he meant by “Ahamanokaha”. In my defense, I was a very little girl.

2. Main sitaron ka tarana

1. Pyar hua, ikraar hua – I can’t remember a time when I haven’t known or loved this song. I still catch my breath when they sing, “chand na chamkega kabhi“.

 
13 Comments

Posted by on April 21, 2008 in Entertainment, Life, Movies, Music, Personal, Video