Ignorance Begets Ignorance

I have a firm belief – if I don’t know about the topic being discussed, I educate myself. In that regard, the saying “It is better to be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt about it” is apt.

So, when people blatantly talk about issues that they have virtually no knowledge about, or perpetuate stereotypes under the guise of “spreading information”, they do more harm than good. They do a disservice to their own intellect as well as to others.

Take the case of this one blog, for instance – “Real World by Pulkit Mohan Singla“. While I applaud the author’s initiative in tackling socially taboo issues and writing about them, it doesn’t help a single bit when the information he chooses to pass off as “facts” are, in fact, blatant generalizations and stereotypes that exist in society.

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Essay: Liberal Democracies and Political Goods

In my Comparative Politics class, we had to write a short paper on the following question based on the book Comparative Politics in Transition by John McCormick.

Do liberal democracies “deliver political goods more effectively than any other type of political systems,” as claimed by McCormick?

John McCormick, in his book Comparative Politics in Transition, defines political goods as “the commodities or services whose provision is widely considered the core responsibility and purpose of government” (2013, p 7). There are namely five types of political goods – national and personal security, political freedom, political participation, economic freedom, and infrastructure (McCormick, 2013 p 8). Liberal democracies are able to deliver political goods more effectively than any other type of political systems because “they are the most stable, the most predictable, and the most durable of all” political, social, and economic systems which gives them the clout to influence the world (McCormick, 2013 p 57).

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An Expensive Bill

The Infamous Bill

I had originally thought of posting another movie review, but this was just too good to not comment on

Stop mocking government: Congress workers target Mumbai restaurant and

Congress workers shut down Mumbai restaurant for ‘opinionated’ bill

Apparently, a form of protest applied by Aditi Pure Veg restaurant in Mumbai has attracted Youth Congress’ ire when they started printing this on their bills (checks) – “As per UPA Govt Eating money (2G, Coal, CWG Scam) is a necessity & eating food in AC restaurant is a luxury.”

This witty tag-line to their bills was added in protest of the luxury tax levied on air-conditioned restaurants by the central government. This tax has been seen by many as being unfair since it affects the restaurant owners and its customers.

To be honest, I found the tag-line to be very funny. I am a big fan of witty, dry, sarcastic humor and this falls in perfectly under that category. However, the Congress party and its Youth Wing didn’t get the humor. They lodged a complaint with Mumbai Police citing that the bill was defamatory in nature.

After seeing several screaming matches debates on news channels, I thought I’d shed some light on the real issue at hand. Media outlets have made it a “freedom of speech and expression” issue….a way to peacefully show protest against government policy; and, I think it was meant to be like that.

By that definition, doesn’t the Youth Congress’ response also fall under that category? Granted, they shouldn’t have demanded asked the restaurant owner to close shop, and should have gone to the police first, and requested to remove the statement on the bill….Okay, they did a lot of things wrong. But, then again, it isn’t the first time party karyakartas (workers) have taken matters into their own hands and gone all goonda (rowdy). After all, we are all very well-acquainted with RSS, MNS, and the Sangh Pariwar’s tactics.

That begs the question, there was no vandalism here…there was no maar-peet (violence)…and there was definitely no goondagiri involved. At best, this was a case of mob-bullying. The restaurant-owner did the smart thing to close his shop and then, later, remove the offending line from the bill. Unlike Valentine’s Day protest that often turn violent, this was almost anti-climatic. So what’s the big issue?

The opposition (BJP and its allies) were quick to capitalize on this apparent “height of intolerance” – a statement made by Narendra Modi…a man, who is perhaps the epitome of tolerance, right? #sarcasm And, of course, the BJP and its allies are also so very tolerant. #moreSarcasm

I am sure that this bill, had it happened in the US, would have just been laughed over and forgotten (or immortalized in a meme, which it probably will). A news reporter compared this to “a doctor writing some witty remark on his prescription” – a good analogy. The only way this form of protest is wrong is if there were a specific law that states what one can or cannot write on a bill; because we Indians are already so good at following laws……

Pacific Rim: A wonderful disappointment

Aliens, giant robots (mecha), end-of the world setting, and some good ole’ WWE-style slams – should be a perfect recipe for a summer blockbuster, right? Maybe, maybe not.

Pacific Rim, directed by Guillermo del Toro (of Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth fame) co-wrote this action-packed movie with Travis Beacham. However, it looks like most of the writing was done by the mecha themselves. Despite its flaws, the movie is entertaining and is aimed for the masses.

The movie opens with a grand narration by the hero – Raleigh Becket (and the names get progressively worse from here) – who gives us the mental equivalent of Pacific Rim’s prequel in 20 minutes. I might have missed something but I thought that the prologue would have made a great movie itself – Kaijus (read: Giant effin’ monsters aka Godzilla; the word is Japanese for ‘giant beast’) have invaded Earth through a trans-dimensional portal deep in the Pacific Ocean and are systematically wiping out the world’s population. In the meantime, all efforts to defend humanity are naught and it takes years before a viable solution is found – 250-foot humanoid robots or mecha called jaegers (German for ‘hunters’). This, in itself could have been a prequel to Pacific Rim. It’s like if the Wachowski brothers released ‘The Matrix: Reloaded’ before ‘The Matrix’.

I think that the character development was a little bland. There is nothing keeping the viewers tied to the actors’ fates. Even the most developed character – of that of Mako Mori – fails to deliver the kind of emotional connectivity that’ll make one care for her fate. The lead, Raleigh, is the stereotypical Caucasian hero with a ‘Top Gun’-style discipline issues. There is the stoic leader in Marshal Stacker Pentecost (gosh, these names!) who has the expression capacity of Cher. There’s also the ever-present jock/bully who hates the hero…and a dog. In short, it has all the ingredients of an alien-apocalypse movie.

Of course aliens, two heroes saving the world, the leader strapping himself into the cockpit in the last fight, nuclear warheads, last-minute escapes, and inspirational speeches have never been done before in a single movie. Oh, wait! I forgot ‘Independence Day’ came out eons ago.

Anyway the Kaijus are pretty much destroying everything that stands in their way. The first massive metal vs monster fight is within the first 30 minutes and is set within the Pacific Ocean. And it delivers.

If there is one thing that works with this movie, it is that there is no dearth of power-slams. As a WWE fan, I appreciate two behemoths tossing each other like tonka toys; and what’s better than Godzilla vs Optimus Prime?

If you’re looking for an action-packed wrestling match, with lots of destruction, and great CGFX, Man of Steel, Transformers, etc Pacific Rim is definitely for you. Despite its obvious flaws, discussed below, I liked the movie and would go with 3.5 out of 5 for it. It’s fun to watch, yet a little disappointing for hardcore fans of the genre.

3.5/5

Attention: Spoilers Below!!

Now let’s discuss the various problems/flaws I noticed in the movie. Because, after all, who does not like picking a movie apart by the seams until it makes the satisfying ripping sound.

1. Technology – For a movie based on advanced technology, with the pinnacle of weapons tech in jaegers, the mecha themselves are ridiculously under-armed. They are nothing more than giant metal monstrosities with a few missiles, a plasma cannon, and a sword. It’s not surprising then that most jaegers are destroyed by the first 30 min of the film and pilots have to mostly improvise in the fight. Really, guys?! Even Power Ranger have more weps on their robos. Hell, Inspector Gadget had more tech on him – he could even fly! And let’s not even go into Transformers or Iron Man.

2. Names – What happened to traditional names like Ryan, Kevin, Jamie, etc? With names like Yancy, Stacker, Raleigh it seems Kanye West named these characters. As for jaeger names, it seems like a pimp from a stripper-club named them – Gipsy Danger and Crimson Typhoon. Yech!

3. Ignore Laws of Physics – I mean, I can give a free ride on this one because most sci-fic movies take the laws of physics as general guidelines. However, there are some things that can’t be explained away even with a “It’s a sci-fic, alien movie, dude!”. Things like a ~200 megaton nuclear warhead going off in the Pacific Ocean and not causing any damage; a dinosaur climbing to 50,000ft in a matter of seconds; a mech dropping from the same height and surviving; the dino’s bits falling from the same height and being salvageable; and many more. The biggest affront to physics is the next point, though.

4. It’s Analog! – Oh, you know that big, 250-feet, monstrous metal robo? Yeah, the one that has holographic systems, computers that mind-link, can send/receive signals through dimensions, and can be monitored/controlled remotely can’t be effected by an EMP. Oh, and the EMP? That’s emitted by an organic creature (okay, okay, it’s an alien). Hell, Toro could have used Battlestar Gallactica’s cop-out and still remained true to its idea. But to call a jaeger analog is to call J.A.R.V.I.S an abacus.

5. It’s been done before, guys – Pacific Rim is a movie that has combined so many movies/TV shows that it isn’t even funny. Top Gun, Independence Day, Godzilla, Transformers, Battlestar Gallactica, Power Rangers, Inception are just a few that come to mind. The standard “inspirational pre-final battle speech” was so Independence Day, I groaned out-loud.

All in all, I liked the movie. It was entertaining and, if you ignored its blatant errors, works as a summer blockbuster. If you don’t ignore them, though, it is not surprising why ‘Grown Ups-2’ and ‘Despicable Me 2’ thrashed it in the Box-Office.

Served with a pinch of salt and a hint of lemon by,

Bikram

Welcome!

Hello Everyone!

This is my welcome post. I finally decided that since I have an opinion on almost everything, it’s better that I find a place to express myself. Considering that writing is pretty much the only creative outlet I have, it was a no-brainer for me to start my own blog.

I hope you will enjoy reading my posts as much as I will enjoy writing them. Feel free to comment, agree, disagree, rant, rave, discuss all you want. Comment section is open. But please, constructive criticism only.

Looking forward to this journey.

With a pinch of salt and a hint of lemon by,

Bikram