Lauren at Feministe links to a very interesting interview with Bahraini feminist Ghada Jamshir. Take a look.

The Happy Feminist writes about the phenomenon of pity for highly successful single women.

(So I’m posting on New Year morning at 4 o’clock. Sue me.)
Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 2:25 PM
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Here is ‘The Ultimate Showdown’. Click on ‘Watch This Movie’ and turn up the sound. (via The Designer Monologues)

If you like the South Park Bidi Uncle character in my sidebar, you can make your very own here.

For something hilarious, there’s always Overheard in New York.

And the new Desi Blogosphere discovery – Crystal Blur’s take on the Mahabharata.

Or visit the rather nicely done Tristram Shandy movie website. (It is a Winterbottom movie. I rub my hands in anticipation.)

And lastly, Jabberwock’s post on interesting comments.

Now for extra fun, tell yourself and your friends a couple of Uranus jokes, or, if you’re pressed (or drunk/hungover), knock-knock jokes.

And by the way, y’all have a very happy new year, ye hear?
Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 8:56 AM
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I promised Aishwarya I’d contribute something to ‘The Museum of Fragile Things’ by the end of the year (actually, I didn’t say that, but doesn’t this sound more decisive than ‘soon, soon’?), and so I have.

So go, my darlings. Read my review of Bella Bathurst’s Special. Expect me to be an intermittent contributor there.
Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 9:31 AM
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I saw three mongooses in our parking lot this morning. At first, seeing just a tail, I thought it might be a cat, but the shape was a bit too streamlined, and then all three mongooses came out in the open and slinked away in perfect file.

I like mongooses. I like the way they look, and I especially like the way they bare their teeth at possible threats. It is a casual, and therefore powerful, gesture, because unlike the full-body display of, say, a cat, this says, ‘I am so capable that I don’t need to go for showy postures.’ Of course, it might say something else to actual attackers. I wouldn’t know.

I used to have a mongoose as a pet when I was about four years old. It is, in fact, one of only two memories I still have of living in Belgaum. My friend, his sister and I used to spend hours with our little pet, and take it food and stuff. Until our parents found out. The scolding I got from my mother was much lighter than it could have been, because, as she reiterated today when I mentioned the three surprise visitors to her, mongooses are supposed to be good luck. I don’t know exactly why.

I had another pet when I was twelve, this one also with a friend. We had been walking to the store to get some candy, and we found a chick sparrow on the ground, slightly wounded. We took it home and tended to it. We didn’t return it because my friend said that other sparrows would have torn it to shreds, because it had been touched by humans. (Can anybody confirm if this is actually true?) We named it Nancy because (duh!) sparrows are female, and anyway, if it had turned out to be a male, we could have called it Nancy Boy (*wink wink*). My friend and I had joint custody of the sparrow, and he was present at all feeding-times, because he had experience with rearing birds. Then that summer, I went to Mumbai, leaving her in this chap’s care, and I came back to find that his cousin had accidentally squeezed her, and she had died after a couple of days. The resulting mild depression put me off pets for at least about six months.

These are the only two pets I have had, because my family (especially my mother) is generally against having animals in the house, although my parents do allow one particular pair of birds to nest in our garden every few months.

My favourite possible pets run in various directions. I have wanted to have dogs, cats, snakes, monkeys and squirrels at different points of time. I still wouldn’t mind most of those, except that while I still like snakes, I have gone off snakes as pets, because they don’t develop attachment for their caretakers. I watched King Kong this afternoon, so I am not very keen on gorillas either.

All the others are basically solid.
Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 9:57 AM
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In South Foulness, on the Nazareth Road, they give thanks for the day when the Beatified Mostyn Gorbals pissed down the Foulness vat-grown Messiah’s throat to save his life when his heart caught fire. December 25th is Drink-My-Urine Day in South Foulness. Which is why no one goes there.

The denizens of South Foulness now recognize each of their neighbor’s urine by its distinctive tang and pressure.

My name is Spider Jerusalem. And I fucking hate Christmas.

– Warren Ellis, Transmetropolitan
‘Edgy Winter’, a Christmas Special

On that cheery note, have a Very Merry Christmas.

PS: I like Christmas. But this is more fun than a normal message, isn’t it?
Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 9:57 AM
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Here’s a bit of Christmas cheer.

President-for-Life Sheelzebub has announced the First Annual Anti-Feminist Conference. (via The Countess.)

Here are some of the seminars that are available:

Virgin or Whore? A Lady Against Feminism and a Men's Rights Advocate square off in a rousing debate to figure out if feminists are all slutty sex machines or all hate men and sex.

Feminist fashions--the telltale signs you are looking at a feminist through dress "codes." Come and learn about the various "uniforms" feminists wear. From the blue-gray of the collective farm of Marxist days, to the long hippie dresses and skirts of the granola set, to the ultra-lowrider jeans and leather halter top of the sluts in the movement, see what feminists today are wearing. Feminists are evil because the always show some skin. Except when they don't, and that's evil too!

The Countess adds her own interesting suggestions for seminars.
Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 11:31 AM
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My basic intention when I sat down to write this post was the generic ‘I Hate You All’ post that single people (especially geeky males) might tend to write at the end of the year. But then I realised I don’t like stereotypes, and anyway, I don’t actually hate you all, although I do harbour a vaguely patronising attitude towards some of you.

A friend gave me the soundtrack to all three Lord of the Rings movies a few days ago, so currently I am labouring under illusions of grandiloquence and immense nobility. So I will do the only sensible thing and be silly – be very silly.

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This particular observation has been made individually as well as collectively by approximately half the population of earth, but it stands repeating. I haven’t seen it elsewhere on the blogosphere, and I don’t wish our descendants from the future, who might not be familiar with it, to forget this particular gem because their ancestors thought it was too obvious to write down.

People get incredibly randy in the winter months (December-February). The major proof – the number of people who have their birthdays in September and October (subtract nine months and so on). In India, we see that marriage is a reflex reaction to randiness, and the number of marriages also goes up, as I can personally testify.

Do feel free to worship me for my brilliance.

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Vague resolutions for the New Year:

1) I promise to drive safe.

2) I promise not to bang my head on my desk too loudly. (The neighbours will be happier.)

3) I promise to convert at least one of my friends to regular deodorant use.

Bidi Uncle’s Advice Column for the New Year:

1) Dogs probably feel the need to commit suicide just like us humans. So make sure that you run over at least one dog every week. Dogs love cars. Let’s make their ends more fun.

2) Convert at least one of your friends to regular deodorant use. (If this fails, proceed to 4.)

3) Be clever.

4) Convince at least one person to go live in the mountains.

5) Try to do one intelligently silly thing every week.

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If you, like me, hate people writing about ‘sullen mouths’, ‘petulant shoulders’, ‘sad windows’ and other such incompetent transferred epithets, do read these two pseudo-fan fictions by Gail Simone. Gail Simone is an excellent comic writer, and she used to write a column about the comic book industry called ‘You’ll All Be Sorry’. If you like the two I pointed out, and have some knowledge of comics, do take the trouble to read the others. They are worth it.

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In a nod to traditional blog tradition (I think typing similar words twice is very funny – did I mention that right now I’m practicing my drinking for New Year’s?), I will post some profound lyrics that I very much like. This is the first such doohicky on my blog, and probably the last as well.

Important note: While reading this, imagine I am looking right in your eyes and saying, “I mean it.”

Sit on my face, and tell me that you love me.
I’ll sit on your face and tell you I love you, too.
I love to hear you oralize
When I’m between your thighs.
You blow me away.

Sit on my face and let my lips embrace you.
I’ll sit on your face and then I’ll love you truly.
Life can be fine if we both 69,
If we sit on our faces in all sorts of places and play
Till we’re blown away.

Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 9:23 AM
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With special thanks to Aishwarya.

Writers can be extremely lazy people.

When a writer creates a protagonist, s/he wants to make it a sympathetic one (if it’s supposed to be a good person). And for that, you need a lot – backstory, relationships, dramatic tension, and perhaps romance. But, as I said, writers can be very lazy, and the easiest way for a writer to introduce all these elements to a character is this one word – trauma. Make the character a tragic figure, and the whole audience is on your side. And I hate that.

As a reader, I want the writer to have taken effort in writing the story, and the already-tragic figure makes me feel cheated. The kid who has lost one or both parents, the only survivor in a major accident, the abused character, the geeky kid who is made fun of – all these are legitimate characters, but when you start seeing them everywhere – when they make the overwhelming majority – you realise that the writers are throwing these around easily, without focus or concentration.

Consider this character: its parents are alive, it has enough good friends, it has a loving partner it loves back, it is popular, relaxed and happy with what it has. The first reaction of any reader to this person is jealousy, and I think that a writer should, once in a while, take the challenge of making us love this character and side with it. (I am talking about drama, of course. Comedy – especially situation comedy – has enough happy characters, although the tragic ones are still more interesting.)

But getting right down to it, my complaint is not against the character who goes through tragedy, but the one who goes through tragedy which has little to do with the story.

One of the most depressing examples of this for me was Lin’s tragedy in Perdido Street Station, mainly because she was more-or-less the only character I liked in there. But the tragedy is such that I can’t bring myself to hold a grudge against Miéville, although I don’t know exactly why. (Aishwarya’s answer: ‘Because he’s Miéville and is thuggishly hot.’ I kinda agree.)

The most irritating example of this that I have come across in recent times is in the book American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Now first I will say that I love Gaiman’s books, and think that Coraline is one of the best stories I have read (not to mention some of his Sandman stories). But coming back to American Gods: The protagonist is a guy called Shadow. He is an out-and-out good guy, but he is a closed person, and somewhat unsympathetic by nature (which is kinda necessary to the story). And we need to like him fast. Cue tragedies. He is in jail right now (Tragedy 1). He has a loving wife outside (a couple of sex scenes apparently enough to demonstrate their emotional bonding) whom he misses (Tragedy 2). But on the day he is to be released, he learns of his wife’s death (Tragedy 3, which also frees him to go cross-country taking part in the story). And then, after he comes out, he learns that his wife had been cheating on him (Big Heart-Stopping Tragedy 4).

And it works. We are on Shadow’s side from beginning to end, but I felt cheated, because I was giving few reasons to actually like him as a person other than the vague notion that ‘he is a good guy’.

This tactic was most unashamedly used in the tv series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is among the two-three modern tv shows that I liked. All the major characters (most of all Buffy herself) go through partners (and other tragedies) at an almost alarming rate. The only person free from this is Rupert Giles, but he’s British, which is reason enough to pity him. Joss Whedon, the creator of the series, himself said that happy characters are not interesting characters, and he displays this conviction amply throughout the series. But he compensates this by making us like the characters for other reasons too, and anyway, one should realise that this series was shown one hour per week (two hours for some episodes), and to do this without thinning out the pace requires some dependence on clichés.

But there is one major difference between the two that makes me accept the tragedy in Buffy – the tragedy is almost always an integral part of the story. It is what drives the story. It does not say to me, “Okay, this character is sad, like it, and then we’ll get along with other, more important, things.”

There are definitely justifications for traditional tragic figures. When one works within a set structure, one has to conform to some guidelines. But why should this happen almost every time? I feel that for every three characters that fall back on tragedy, there should be one character that challenges the writer.

I accept such characters in one particular situation – a short story in which you have to sympathise with the character. Here, I accept this (albeit grudgingly), because I read short stories for story, and I don’t want the writer wasting unnecessary time driving us around.

In final analysis, the fact is that a tragic character is always more interesting than a happy one. But it is possible to make us side with the character without resorting to needless tragedy. We like our friends because they are good people, and not because they have tragic pasts. So why not, once in a while, invent characters we like for the same reason?
Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 10:37 AM
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Today I woke up at 9 a.m., which is way too early for me. I sat down in front of the computer at 11:30, and could think of absolutely nothing to write, mainly because I am not used to thinking this early in the day. I read my archives and found that, apart from rare occasions such as this one, I had never really justified the former name of my blog (‘Post-Teenage Non-Angst as an Artform’, if you’re reading this way in the future and I have removed all reference to it), so I might as well do so today.*

[ * That’s tosh. The real reason is that my broadband connection has been kaput for the last couple of days, so my hours of happy occupation have been heavily cut down, thereby forcing me to turn to a different mode of entertainment. ]

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When I look back at my life as it was at age 12-15, the one word that rises above all others to define that period (apart from maybe ‘sex’) is ‘gloom’. Self-imposed gloom, of course. And the reason it was imposed was that at this particular age, one thinks gloom is glamorous and sexy. It makes sense. The brooding mystique looms very high in life at that age. The ‘nobody understands me’ and the evergreen ‘nobody loves me, everybody hates me’ emotions are at their peak, and one tends to think that whole world is centred around one, and that others just don’t seem to understand that. And my proclamation is illustrated by the millions of blogs out there by people of that age.

When I was 12 years old, I wanted to be a hitman when I grew up. Murder was the coolest thing ever, and I wanted in on it. The more gruesome, the better. I was at an age where I would have taken Sin City seriously, and that’s only the start of it. I honestly believe that if anyone was able to peek into the mind of an early teenager, they would be utterly revolted. It isn’t as if teens necessarily mean bad, they just seem to be going about everything the wrong way. But I must say that this is an incomplete way of thinking (which is why I used the word ‘seem’), because while teenagers may think about creepy stuff, they don’t usually do it, and they largely end up alright. But the sheer conviction a teenager emanates in its attitude towards anything is frightening.

Still, today, when I am disinclined to believe in anything too strongly (probably just a temporary state of affairs), I have a sneaking admiration for the teenager I used to be, if only because he believed in things with much more abandon.

----------------

A few days ago, while checking out the archives of DesiPundit, I found a link to a very interesting post (I have linked it, but it’s no use, since the page, along with the blog, seems to have disappeared since then). The blogger took a poll amongst her friends to see if any of them had had an imaginary friend when they were little. And when I realised that I identified with not just one, but at least six or seven different answers, I decided I had to take a visit to the loony bin. So I came here.

I had a couple of imaginary friends when I was a kid. (“Was?” a friend asked after reading this.) But since I did not have any soft toys (my parents were distinctly of the ‘different toys for girls and boys’ school of thought), my imaginary friends were He-Man action figures and G. I. Joes. To make things even better for my fertile imagination, these figures have an iron endoskeleton, and a friend of mine had a nifty set of magnets, so we would use them to make the figures fight with each other without us having to touch them – it was just like the real thing. For a long time, ever since I heard the concept of film directors, I was under the honest delusion that film actors were all G. I. Joe action figures, which the directors played with. You don’t need to point out the fallacy here, but back then I could think of no possible reason why actual people might want to be bossed around by someone – I knew what that was like, and it was not nice.

But more than having imaginary friends or action figures, it was being an action figure that had the biggest appeal to me. From standard 3 to standard 6, my greatest pastime during school lectures was to become the neighbourhood super-powered vigilante. The name of my alter ego, for some very strong reason that escapes me now, was Jebediah. At the slightest warning from my super-hearing, I would crash through the window of my classroom, turn into the magnificent Jebediah (who looked like Spiderman with Superman’s cape – those two being the only superheroes I knew) and go around saving the world (which, back then, consisted solely of my locality, my school, and the road connecting the two), and generally having a good time. So you realise that the glassy stare I invariably, almost reflexively, assume whenever I am in a classroom is not a new innovation.

Apart from action figures, R/C cars were something I liked a lot. Not having one myself, I imagined one. And this little truck, which I also mentioned here, was my faithful companion through many a boring bus-trip on which I was forbidden to read, being expressly warned that ‘it would hurt my eyes’.

I have always talked to myself. For a time around the age 9-10, I vaguely wondered if it meant I was a loony, but then I figured I didn’t really care. One reason for that was very simple – I usually understood me (remember I was at an age where I thought no one else did). The other reason was that I hated language – as a subject, I mean. You might wonder how this is related, but when, at the age of 11 or so, I discovered that English was interesting, and so was writing, my conversations with myself dropped drastically. Even today, I talk to myself much less often when I am actively working on a piece of fiction.

But the daydreams have changed a lot over the years, and so has my attitude towards them. Now, when I talk to myself, it is to discuss a story idea, and not to argue if shapeshifting would be a better superpower (for me) than invisibility. When I daydream, it is no longer to make myself different and fantastic, it is to create someone of that kind. Also, these days, when I notice people looking at me when I am talking to myself, I actually stop. I don’t know if all this means that my imagination is now limited, or that I simply use it in saner ways. Whatever it is, it feels like something of a loss.
Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 9:41 AM
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... Automated Customer Service.

Here’s my experience with the ACS of an absurdly large and famous multinational company after they discontinued service due late payment of dues. I pay the bill, and call them.

ACS: To have service reconnected, press 1. For operator assistance, press 2.
I press 1.
ACS: To have service reconnected, press 1. For operator assistance, press 2.
I press 1.
ACS: To have service reconnected, press 1. For operator assistance, press 2.
I astutely press 2 this time.
ACS: The option you selected is not valid, please try again. (Hangs up.)

I try this a few times more, from two different telephones. Does not work. So I go to there and ask the polite little executive there about what happened. He says, “You pressed the wrong button. You are supposed to press 221 when they first ask you.”

“Er ... why, exactly?” I ask.

He grins stupidly at me.

Another, not so absurdly large but almost as famous, Indian company played a different game with me.

I pressed the button for operator assistance, and they forwarded the call, but no operator was available, so I was asked to punch in my phone number, and I would be called within the hour.

I wasn’t. Two days later, I called there again, and met with the exact same response. I punched in my number again. It’s been three days since then, and still no effing dough for me.

Maggots.

PS: Sorry for highly late posting – my broadband connection was kaput for the last three days, and now I am highly worried, because I have around 250 bloglines subscriptions, and now my unread posts are looming in the higher 2000s. And my plans to create a new and improved (and much more international) blogroll from my subscriptions have received a setback. Sometime next week for sure, though.

Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 1:19 PM
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Fucking bizarre!
Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 9:50 AM
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I have not been posting for a while. I was run out of town by a mob, and had to come back under cover of night. Therefore, this post is being posted in a hurry.

Nobody tagged me for this, but it seems interesting. All this is off the top of my head, of course.

Seven Things I Plan to (i.e., Want to) Do:

1) Post on the blog more often, for obvious reasons.

2) Complete my fucking book. I have been writing it (or rather, sitting on it) for almost a year now, and it never seems to go beyond 40 pages, because whenever I add something, I delete something I’d written before. For those interested, a very, very, very early version of the first chapter is available here.

3) Get out of the house more. I don’t want to turn into a misanthropic loner (although some might say I already am one). And people have their uses.

4) Stop procrastinating. Although I doubt this is even possible.

5) Write more. In general. Did you know that I wrote all of 500 words of fiction in the last week? And I deleted 100 of those, and another 200 are under review.

6) Travel. This is probably the most important one after 2 and 5 (and 7, of course)

7) Watch an orgy. Seriously.

Seven Things I Can’t Do:

1) Watch tv beyond one commercial break.

2) Finish stuff I plan. (I only get it done about 30% of the time.)

3) (Currently) Not sing a Nick Cave song loudly about a zillion times a day.

4) Have any semblance of tact.

5) Select my own clothes. Well, that is.

6) Finish studying before an exam.

7) Go to college willingly.

Seven Things I Often Say:

1) “What the fuck?”

2) “LATER!” (In three-foot high letters with frills around.)

3) “Idiot.”

4) “Fookin beezaar!”

5) “Stuff and nonsense.”

6) “Inchusting ...”

7) “Eh?”

And since I have been doing this illegally, so to speak, I will be nice and not spread it around. In fact, I expressly forbid all of you from answering this tag on your blog.
Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 12:12 PM
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