The Great Experiment

Yesterday my crowning achievement was watching most of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (finally). So I’ve made an executive decision: after a month of sticking quite faithfully to my write-every-day experiment, I’ve decided to write only when something does in fact happen.

My hope is that the habit of writing has taken hold and that I’ll be – shall we say – moved to write when the occasion arises.

By the way, HP6pt1? A jerkily taken movie with rather bad lines that don’t do the actors justice.

Although Radcliffe finally does start acting in this one.

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Rediscovering The Doctor

In The Impossible Planet, the Doctor and Rose find themselves trapped in a base sitting on a planet that is somehow, mysteriously, not falling into a black hole just light-minutes away. The crew then suddenly gets infected by some kind of mind-control emanating from a thing calling itself Abbadon. It’s one of my favorite episodes because the Doctor has to admit that he doesn’t know what kind of creature causes this energy surge, even after he confronts it face-to-face. At one point he says something like, “I thought nothing could come before the universe… but really that’s just my rule. And we hate anything violating our rules don’t we? Our beliefs?”

The idea of the monstrous, something that knows way more than it should, and that the idea can spread faster and more fatally than the beast, that’s interesting. The Doctor’s doubt is fascinating. And the idea of the impossible planet itself, that makes for great sci-fi.

I miss that Doctor Who.

I just saw the trailer for the Twelfth Doctor, and it seemed… interesting. Complex. Dark. Tantalizing. And Jenna Coleman seems like she actually gets a chance to, I don’t know, act.

The thing is, though, I haven’t been excited for anything to do with the Doctor for a while. The last few episodes were less than stellar. And I couldn’t even put my finger quite on it, because the elements could be exciting: the impossible girl, Clara, the Doctor growing old, the detectives of Victorian London. But it’s as though Moffat and company were less interested in the continuity and legacy of the Doctor, and more interested in rewriting history. How shiny could they make the doctor? How non-Weeping Angels could they make the Weeping Angels?

But the Doctor is less about the final mystery of his name or the fields of Pelennor. That’s not the point. At least, not to me. The point is his actual name. The question we should be asking is the one the Doctor asks in this show: “Am I a good man?”

There are a lot of questions sci-fi has the ability to ask, and one of the most important is “Should we do this just because we can?” The Doctor is a character with a lot of power, and he’s always struggled with the question of whether he should be using it.

Moffat and Co. could stand to ask themselves the same question every now and then.

Real, Imaginary Worlds

Damn Anthony Bourdain and his stupid travel food show. No, thank you, I do not want to yearningly glance at the screen while he eats exotic food (some of it even meatless!). I am also opposed to gawping in disbelief because the places he goes to are stunningly beautiful outrageously interesting. And I definitely don’t want to be consumed with the jealousy that rises in me while he makes friends with the coolest locals and the most knowledgeable cooks and the kind of people who inspire you to do everything better.

All of this will still not stop me from finishing the Tokyo episode right now.

Weekend, Whew

The sole reason I haven’t posted at all is because I had such a packed weekend that I fell asleep blearily before I had the time or energy to post. Do I sound a little smug? Maybe I sound a little smug. 

Friday Night

I was invited to a company picnic type thing with a couple of my friends. I was promised a ferris wheel ride and go-karts. Sadly, neither happened: every crevice was jammed with small children, people eating food, and free t-shirts that were not my size, making it difficult to navigate around and wait in lines. It was a little claustrophobic, I won’t deny it. 

Still, I had fun walking around critiquing the food and the band with my friends, who were so young “their parents came to pick them up”. 

Saturday Afternoon 

I found myself in roughly the last place I expected to be: recipient of an extra ticket to, of all things, an arcade expo. Video games aren’t really my thing so I didn’t expect to be entertained, but boy, was I entertained. For the first time I played Pac-Man, Mario, and a couple of space games. It’s funny but you can’t help appreciating the art and effort that went into these things. The tactile nature of the games makes it even more fun. 

Saturday evening

Potluck dinner! Telestrations! X-Men 2! 

Telestrations is a hilarious game that is like the telephone game where the original phrase is warped after you whisper-pass it down a line — except with pictures and guessing. So, somehow, “under the table” became “Jack in the Box burger flipper”. Some of those drawings worked way too well. And some of them were not quite PG-13. 

Telestrations could be quite accurately renamed Naturalistic Abs Workout Through Uncontrollable Laughter. 

Sunday morning: showdown with Comcast

The night before our World Cup watch party, we realized that our set top box had a few issues: 

  1. It wasn’t powering on 
  2. It didn’t have HD capability 
  3. We only have one input which needed to be split between cable and internet, and we didn’t have a splitter

We trekked over to the Comcast service center on Sunday morning, and managed to actually resolve this in a reasonable manner, for five extra bucks a month. Apparently when you show up and speak to them in person they’re a little less likely to treat you horrendously. 

Sunday afternoon: World Cup Final

I think this afternoon will be memorable not just for the fact that the team I was supporting won the Cup, but for the sheer amount of food we consumed. When I say that there were bagels, jalapeño poppers,  cream cheese and crackers, a chicken thingy in hot sauce, and chips and salsa, I’m giving you more of an introduction to what was available. 

Anyway, the company was great and the (international) football was excellent so I was happy.  

Sunday evening: Papon live!

This was not so much Papon live! as Papon comes on stage 1.5 hours late because the organizers are assholes who not only held a pre-show with dances without informing the audience but almost forced us to pledge donations on their Facebook page and then presented every single co-sponsor with bouquets on-stage, before going straight to intermission… all without a single appearance from the East India Company. 

Papon and his band, however, made up for all of that. And then some. 

I have a list of his songs here but the memorable ones are easy to note: Dinae DinaeTokari, and Mast Qalandar all come to mind. The bihu dance songs, traditional Assamese music, were all excellent. I also want to note that I nearly fell out of my chair when Papon announced that Naina Laagey, one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite artistes (Midival Punditz) was his creation. Basically the aural equivalent of a brownie sundae. 

At the end of the concert, Papon had practically every Assamese person in the front of the auditorium, dancing, while he and his fantastic band members played variations on bihu music. The man is a born performer. I didn’t think it would be possible but I like his music even more now that I’ve seen him live. 

And then we all drove home and I collapsed into bed like a tired, happy person. 

The End!

“Brazil’s Next Sponsor Is 7-Up”

It’s always more fun when you’re not rooting for any particular team.

I would’ve bet pretty much all the money in my bank that today’s game would go into penalties and that whoever won would’ve won by a miracle or lucky happenstance. Guess I still had a few dollars left for coffee at the end of today.

  After goal number five by Germany my colleague, who’d lived a few blocks from the stadium while in Brazil, just gave up and went back to work. “I can’t watch this,” he said, sadly wearing his Brazil cap from the last World Cup. The thing was just a massacre. It did, however, spawn some memes. Which just goes to show you that some of the best humor is drawn from tragedy.

And my personal favorite:

By the way, I want to state for the record that I have the World’s #1 Roommate. While I was sprawled on a chair writing this post, she vacuumed my room too, while doing the living room.

Normal is Nothing and Nowhere

It’s sad that I had an outline for this post all figured out yesterday, but fell asleep before I actually finished this. 

I remember listening to Welcome to Night Vale and not … really being into it. This was surprising because it had all the hallmarks of things that I liked: sci-fi, weirdness, magical realism of a sort, someone with a wonderfully smooth voice reading kind of a meta commentary.

But I found that the more I read about Night Vale, the more enraged I became. What kind of society was this, that took its children away and had an evil, shadowy council and, worst of all, treated this as something that was normal behavior?

Then I thought about things that I consider normal. Small things, like eating toast and eggs for breakfast, or being able to walk to work, or wearing jeans on a daily basis. If I was, say, a middle-class woman living in India and working in a bank I might eat idly for breakfast on a regular basis, wear salwars pretty frequently, haggle with an auto rickshaw man for ten minutes before navigating traffic to work. And those are just the experiences I know of, or that I’m familiar with*.

What would normal feel like, living as a refugee in a camp? Having to walk through a metal detector every time you went to school? Being so rich you could employ a battalion of people to do your groceries and laundry? Shunning electricity and modern technology and using horse-drawn carriages? Working in a job that is so secret you can’t bring any of it home, or mention it? Or being denied the privilege of driving, and having your male relatives escort you everywhere?

Some of these experiences, of course, are starkly negative. But the people living them tend to normalize them, to adapt themselves to their situations. I think we’re fairly malleable that way. And then there are those normal situations that I don’t pretend to understand — like the fact that “normal”, at least in terms of numbers in India, is living on less than US $2 a day. That’s a negative scenario, certainly. But we’ve all been conditioned into accepting that as a certain form of reality, when in fact the poverty levels should be anything but “normal”.

I’m not really sure, still, what I feel about Night Vale‘s version of normality. Also, I need to remind myself every now and then that, you know, none of it is real.

I suppose my point is: normal is something we decide, and it’s so far from being a “standard” that it’s mind-boggling how culturally de-sensitized we can be to other people’s normals. You don’t have to be okay with refugee-camp normal, or approve of being-insanely-rich-normal, but you do have to agree to see it from that point of view if you’re going to work with it.

Speaking of other people’s normals, here’s a funny story to leave you with after all this depressing talk. A friend of mine, in middle school, had a teacher tell the class about other cultures and experiences, including that of using your hands to eat instead of any utensils.

And one bright spark blurted out, “Well then, how do they eat cereal for breakfast?!”

 

*I am not familiar with haggling with auto rickshaw men. In fact, the thought terrifies me.