Category Archives: Social Commentary

Happiness in time of COVID-19

I have always been fascinated of enigma called virus. It’s the only entity which can not only keep leash to most evolved but at the same time environmentally arrogant species of this earth but also bring it down to its most ancient form of living; survival. Virus can not only grind the so called humankind’s ego of supreme ruler to mother nature with one swift slap to smithereens but at the same time make them whizzing and choking without an iota of leeway. Virus is the most profound paradox of all time, amalgamation of two most philosophical extremities, life and death. It is classified as living and dead or not both. For me, it’s more complicated than quantum. It’s still the mystery how single-minded nature of virus to make copies of itself  has brought down the apex species of all in terms of intelligence, us humans. Is virus the nature’s answer to our brutal stubborn existentialism ?

Amidst havoc of novel Corona virus and COVID-19 where whole world got self-arrested at home and other isolation wards, initiation of the blog seems more somber and depressing. When everything seems to plummeting down to darkness of uncertainty, let me shine few sparks of navigational light that if not completely root out the pandemic, at least give chance of waiting it out while following social distancing and self-isolation.

Gamer’s paradise

When whole world is suffering from social distancing, gamer community for sure is delighted with opportunity given to spend more time at their gaming machines. It’s time to clear out that back-log. And being gamer myself, I know every gamer has back-log.

Non-gamer have best excuse to get into the best way of entertaining social-distancing medium called gaming. If it’s too much for solo runs, try co-ops and online arena. Its ripe time for soothers and simulators like Stardew valley, The sims, Democracy, Farming simulator, Truck simulator or anything which fancy you. Do not try anything as depressing as plague Inc. or other end of the world scenario games.

Gaming is not confided to only digital. Take out your board-games. Become the true dungeon master again. Teach the D&D rules to grandpa and grandma (or vice versa). Gather your party and have some family board-gaming fun.

Clear out the wardrobe

This basically more applicable to women but I don’t want to sound like a generalization fool and hence men can also indulge into it if they want to. Try to sort out which apparel is old enough to replace. Make good note of it. Once crisis is over, you want to run right away to nearby mall to replenish the stock. Try out each apparel. You’ll surprise yourself with findings of some old stowed away “negligee”.

Exercise

No, gym is shut-off, hence the privilege of body. Time to take this excuse and have nice food to exercise your mouth and salivating glands. You can retain your conscience and indulge in that nice home-made chocolate cake also.

Bake/cook/lie down

Eating and sleeping is the most basic requirement of body. It’s ancestral DNA had lost its effect with advancements of daily grinding work to earn and with evolution of capitalism. With economical system down with no other option left but to wait out COVID-19, this is best time to revert back to primal instinct. Don’t rush out for special baking ingredients. Try to utilize available resources. Learn new recipe and give it a try. There is ample time for repairing the botch-up.

Read, Read and Read

Readers are another community other than gamer who are delighted to clear all their reading shelves classified as backlog. Or give another go at one of the classics that their reading mind were always pushing them to do since they read them first time.

Pick up new hobby

You know you always wanted to start that hobby which was buried within farthest corners of your mind since childhood. This is the best time to revert back to old hobbies in new manner or just start something fresh. Dust off the canvas and make room for easel. Open the physical or digital diary and start giving the shape to story you always wanted to tell. Read articles around the world that don’t have Corona at it’s centerpiece. Learn something new such as Golden ratio in nature or Neutrino identification projects around

Contemplate and coffee

Brew yourself the best black coffee, get your most comfortable recliner outside (with isolation in practice) and while warming sip of the coffee bring Yogic calmness to your mind, gazing at the stars, try to find answer of the universe or question your life. Best time to contemplate on life and best way to make it bigger and better the next time you are on daily routine.

Same old, Same old

Anywhere in the world where any race or religion or cast fanatic takes violent supremacist step with gun and population start talking about psychological impact of interactive media such as gaming on children and young adults as if that is their fundamental right to get closure on such violent anarchy. Its old story; even ancient one when we thought of inception of shooter computer games. Let’s instead of political arguments, de-construct the whole scenario and focus the subject in different light. I would try to address “why” of the blame game and might in process raise more ominous view ( this post is in response to recent tragic violent shooting in new Zealand mosque in response to which one educated intellectual friend of me has pointed finger towards currently most popular battle arena game PUBG as victim in jocular fashion. It came as shock to me how people are perceiving games; even in jokes.)

Why computer games or movies or any other popular media.

“Because it’s there” – this famous quote from world famous Everest climber George Mallory can also work as an answer to our dilemma. It’s easy to blame popular media. And our minds are happy to blame abstract “cause” which can act as righteous step to all of the wrongs. Human minds are bad at comprehending chaos, especially of a scale of gun attack in public places. It represents chaos in otherwise “stable” system. Hence there is need to find settlement to ease the terror or fear. And popular media is readily available for that. Shooter games themselves act as shooting target with bulls eye.

Games are not conditioning environment

All the popular media comes with their governing restrictions either in name of issued age restriction certificates or as moral values when we consider impact of them over minors. Doesn’t matter if such restrictions are carried out strictly or not; games, movies, books etc. should be conceived as the mind influencing environment rather then mind conditioning. They don’t have power to brainwash. If shooting games could have such power then lot of people including me were, by this time, could have been brandishing guns in both hands and having our poor lives “blasted” out of proportion. But looks like after so much digital gun toting, I came out decent and even violence-averting in nature. And the same can be said for those whom I knew as long time dedicated computer gamers.

Child’s malleable mind is far better in fantasizing; no matter what. Given right catalyst, it can be molded with care into something superior. But what we are talking about is not product of any such exposure. Empathy is part of natural behavior expressed from eons old evolved genes. What we are seeing as violent retribution is part of heavily subdued brain with either life altering trauma or tight conditioning or brainwashing.

And when we are talking about conditioning, most frightful conditioning parents expose their child to is religion which not even have any governing body to issue any age restrictions. It is more potent and effective than any violent game nowadays. See any of those ancient religion tomes and scriptures and try to glean the direct or indirect form of violence present (towards non-believer or evil); you will be amazed by ferocity and content.

Why shooting is fun in games

The fact is, gamers worldwide are not actually enjoying the killing spree in games. They enjoy the “feel” of it. That is, games have already established virtual context and world which is in sync with killing “bad guys”. It’s already been established as safe environment. Players enjoy the tactical decision making or super power fantasy or reflexes or mastering challenges; which is far away then actual real world shootings. Evolution has already instilled aversion towards real blood or carnage. Even given the right context, players feel guilty over killing NPCs ( player with no role or context in games. In short, innocent) even in computer games. So any argument pointing towards computer games playing key role in introducing real world apathetic behavior is utterly hogwash.

What’s the ratio

How many gamers worldwide actually converted to homicidal maniac ? Or how many deranged killers are actually gamers ? I bet even though we come up with exact statistics, numbers are quite high if we asked the same question with some other general attributes such as how many killers have dogs or how many go to religious places or how many are single or ……

Is it that having dogs or no-dogs is killing factor ?? Absolutely foolish, right !! Then why games have such attention. Games get the disadvantage of being “special” apart from other common variables. Games are highly visible. They are unique. And have high attention grabbing visibility. And playing games is still not the norm, hence has to face scrutinized stare of the society over such incidents.

It’s time we need to reign our basic instincts and think rationally before generalizing.

Kiss of a Spectre

So it happened that country with renown visiting places called Ajanta-Ellora and Elephanta caves which were lauded as UN heritage sites; along with Khajuraho Temple, adorned with utmost beautiful depiction of human intimacy and nudity (male/female both) could well be considered as absolutely vulgar by Indian conservative government control bodies such as CBFC. This is just a small example. There is much more places and legacy in Indian culture; say “Kamasutra”, could also well be outright banned if these control body keeps doing the things which they are laughably known for.

SPECTRE-007-Bond-006
License to “proceed”

Why such rage and cry; you may ask. Recently, on the eve of release of the bond movie “Spectre” in India, Central Board of Film Certification, in short CBFC has decided that Bond is smooching too “long” (and without paying any respect to “Indian culture”) on screen. And hence, censored the scenes from movie along with few more “culture-spoiling” cuts. These brought along the painful memory of such incident which I already cried against few years back at release (actually not released) of movie “The Girl with Dragon Tattoo” (Again Daniel Craig, I think there is some debt to pay to Indian government by my all-time favorite Bond).

With already sarcastic and humorous backlash started by intellectual Indian Internet community with hashtag #sanskarijamesbond, there lies a very stark reality that nothing is moving in terms of Indian conservatism and hypocrisy. There must be controlled over such foolish decisions. There must be well-structured model in place against which such bodies has to measure their actions and not do the things on their own whims.

Though movies like “Spectre” has commercial aspect, movie can very well be still considered as art form. Artist must have all the freedom to express it as he/she deems fit. Such governing body must assure that they dole out appropriate rating system so as spectators have their expectations in place while going out for such movies. There is no point in giving a movie “Adult” rating and at the same time cutting out explicit contents (Actually funny thing is I am not sure if passionate and long kiss could be classified as explicit. I need to watch movie, unrated. Of course). Cuts must only be in place if contents have tendency to spark large scale unrest and turmoil due to particular sets of offenses.

Other foolish example:Every time I go for movie here in India, myself and other poor spectators like me are continuously bombarded with “No Smoking” campaigns. I can understand at start but every time one of the character on the screen is about to smoke, these so called control freaks use their “sixth-sense” and flash large “smoking kills” warning all over the place on screen (My mind turned this into little play: as soon as warning flashes on screen, I tried to guess which of the character is “cause” for such torture if there are multiple of them. And sometimes it’s hard to know who actually smoked which caused this warning as some faded out “back-in-the-farthest-corner-of-bar” character might have thought of smoking on screen and these foreteller having “superhuman power” knew and flash the warning before anything happen).

I am pretty much sure now that Smoking is that tenth circle which Dante forgot to mention.

Giving a funny bone a bit rest and considering consequences on serious note, India is nowadays becoming country of bans, censor, denial, protest, rules, laws, prevention and lot more. Necessity is there for rules and laws in formative way and in curing the justice system to reduce “beastly” rape mentalities, but not in such foolish, ridiculous and outright suppressive way. At one point, India churning out most sleazy and vulgar movies with item songs and all, while kisses of Bond not getting away; this itself shows farcical process and sarcastic slap to poor Indian spectators.

Closing with satirical incident: I was hanging out with myself one night in Swiss pub, probably first time such late in evening. Part of my feeble, shackled and conditioned “Indian” brain has blurted out the concern to beautiful bartender: “At what time this closes?”

“9, Sir”

“So early??!!”

“9 in the morning, Sir.” She replied with tender smile.

I still asked the same question here in India whenever I went to pubs and bars on weekends even though I know that it’s going to close at midnight or little after that. But here I earned the “responsible and respected customer” look. Same question. So opposite effects. Welcome to India.

 

Savour: Don’t rush…

Bleak_house

I would like to start with the incident which acted as fertilizer with enough nutrients to sprout the idea of such blog-post.

First of all, I fall in to that rare human species who defined by their avid reading habits. Why rare? As of now, I am able to meet people who read but to meet those individual who read in abundance and to read like “worm-hole”; scrunching everything which comes in the way and nothing escapes once fall within Schwarzschild radius, is rarity. Though reading is the habit which gradually grows with passing time, I have encountered something missing with fresh readers and initiates who are keen to start but restrained by some invisible mental force. So this post is for distributing the key to unlock metal restraints and get going in the wonderful world of books. But before that….

The Incident: so one fine evening one of my family’s acquaints came to visit us and I was taking out books which were on TBR list from long time. I was planning to take up something massive since I finished out with LOTR. I choose Bleak House from Charles Dickens to take the flame from LOTR, intended for marathon reading which would span over months. I can count myself as fast reader but still speed-run is not my cup of tea. Also usually, I chose to have at least 2 books in reading parallel; sometimes more. More than achievement, I would contribute such behavior to compulsion (Yes, you are allowed to say OCD).

So this person who was not much into reading had chance to observe the tome whose covers were elegantly flashing “Bleak House” in large Gothic black font (A lovely new edition which never looked as old classics generally looked). He took the book in one hand and surprised that there are species in this world who read such 700-page behemoth (may be surprised that you need to have proper forehand and biceps exercise to handle its weight during reading). And he raised the probable question which had acted as spark to ignite this blog.

“How could you able to read it? When will you complete? I can never do that in my lifetime.”

Let’s not consider the not-so-happening later events and tackle the question head on.

I believe that reading and in some other sense all other such luxurious habits have one common trait. Don’t rush them. They meant to be tackled with slow pace. Exactly like savoring the exquisite and rare wine which could never be mistreated with “rushed on” approach. Books, especially the large ones tend to be savored “sip-by-sip” chapter or few pages a day than think about finishing them. It’s this thought of “to complete something”, itself makes one put off the idea of getting into start and much worse persevere.

If the book is going to be good (or in other sense, you are good enough fitting reader for the book) than you don’t want book to end, vis-à-vis if you are not into much than however short the book is, you can only trudge and complain later. Don’t you think this same rule apply to lot other aspects of the life and sometimes the life itself ?

Now that I realized this write-up is getting into paradoxical state where I am divulging reading habits for not-so-avid-reader in “reading format” (If they are not reader why they bother to read your blog, Villpower. Rather they should right away start with some book). So I assume all those who going to read this are themselves avid readers which will bring the importance of the whole blog down to nil. So just take the humorous take-away and savor your reading.

Celebrate Feminism

First point: This is not a review. As now everyone knows that movie is absolute awesomeness on its own. It is grand opera or should I say waltzing of vehicular mayhem and breath stealing action sequences. Already internet is exploding with very positive reviews and hence there is no need for one more.

I am here to discuss second more profound but less concentrated aspect of the movie; underlying message, clues and wonderfully distributed social message in the name of post-apocalyptic brutality. There may be possibilities of minor spoilers. And anyhow if you are reading this blog before watching the most fun-filled summer blockbuster than first thing is to get yourself booked for conveniently timed show and save yourself from embarrassment for the lifetime.

There is a split over movie likings which was assumed as Mad Max series was definitely not meant for all. But I believe that even in this split where people criticizing with less involvement of Mad Max (brilliantly portrayed by Tom Hardy), movie has won the battle. George Miller, that veteran old experienced mind who had invented Mad Max could not make such mistake of prioritizing down the main character. Nope. He had played brilliantly with audience and have them use the dirty looking-glass he is going to offer to observe the world which he always wanted them to look at. Movie was never meant for Max. It was just beautiful, grand and opulent celebration of feminism. Not in the traditional way, tipping towards extremism but in rightful way of gender equality and some more.

Let me clear the debris from the path. How many post-apocalyptic media has given rightful position to female? Very few in my knowledge. So when Charlize Theron had such brilliant character, carrying the whole movie on her shoulders, it was the irony and the slap for those expectant who wants to see all men spectacle. For true fans, Mad Max movie was defined by world building and characterization. They least bother with otherwise. In such case Fury Road is a triumph. Miller played with audiences’ idea of portrayal of sexism’ in movies, especially men dominant movies and turned it upside down with brilliant stroke as making Max playing supporting hand to Furiosa played by Charlize Theron.

We can see the underlying social commentary of men-dominating world getting destroyed by female characters once they choose to fight back. You can feel the agony of feminist community in the name of “Breeders”. Pain emanating from such “Breeders” in escaping to distant green land. And then those small but significant visual cues such as snapping out of slave chains, old grandma passing on their legacies, mixed race of “Breeders” to represent larger demographic spread and lot more.

Movie has brilliantly conveyed the idea that however crumbled society is, women are absolute necessity to survive as all things precious possible only by them. Whether it’s advancement of generation through “Breeders” or most valuable “Mother’s milk” in terms of Mad Max world. Also there is node towards upbringing of them through unity and compassion toward each other and not from some savior belonging to male community. All along, it was story of Furiosa who led and took initiative to change the course, bunch of scared girls finding courage to fight back and party of grandma’s using their rare wisdom to noble cause. Of course there will be helping like Mad Max but he was moot spectator to rise of new dominion. More than that Max is wiser. Knew where his place is and how he should act. As part of male community do we also have same courage?

PS: Consider the climax scene where Furiosa was raising higher as prominent leader by War-boys children on platform when she gratuitously eyeing Max who was about to get lost in mass of other people. He is commoner meant to do unexpected. This is true definition of heroism.

PPS: One more allegorical signature move of Miller’s cynicism is where Max decides to take on bullet farmer leader on his own with rising audience expectation for one more action sequence. Cut to the next scene he was returning after completing his task with no on-screen action. Why would Miller betray the audience with such sequence when he already shown how spectacular action this movie can have? My interpretation: one more allegorical node to audience that movie is not about men’s expectations. Max is not important here. His actions are in background with all the action is centered around lead female character Imperator Furiosa.

madmax1

Are we progressing backwards?

Our mind are conditioned in such a manner that “Progress” word becomes synonymous to something positive and appreciable. We’ll take it as positive improvement over something without considering any context or background. A little wordplay of the blog title is nothing but to emphasize the fact that there may be different angle or context to everything which we completely missed out due to our closed perspective and hence take it as offense or against nature. Why so much ranting on simple wordplay, you may ask.

dragon-age-inquisition

Here’s the reason: EA has pulled out the release of its super massive, highly anticipated (by Gamers like me), finale to the Dragon Age universe, final chapter of the trilogy; Dragon Age: Inquisition from India. Reason being presence of gay character and potential story arc where main protagonist can have homosexual relationships. Self-realized reason by EA is not want to be on the other side of future lawsuit because of these portrayals.

Before dissecting EA’s clear conscience, I would really like to make note here in general logical terms regarding to social conventions prevailing in India. From dubious censor rules to ever degenerating public mindset, India is nowhere progressing in terms of acceptance of individuality or expression of art. In fact considering the ancient “Kamasutra” legacy of India, we are progressing backwards (and hence the title). I would like to see social setup where same-sex partners don’t draw a single glance (forget about scornful looks) and be treated as routine or usual. Education won’t work here as I have seen educated people with extreme prejudices and closed minds. This is something else, this is to understand that there may be some other context/perspective from where we never try to analyze the notions. A view beyond our pre-configured, conditioned mind.

Talking about another view, I also need to tackle other side of this rejection also. Not everything wrong with India here it seems. If you rifle through bit of Google search pages and bit of deduction, you realized EA also thinking something else and may be all this “Gay” affair is nothing but safety switch. Already EA has released previous to installments of Dragon Age along with super hit Mass Effect series where you can pursue same-sex romances. Also I am surprised to see positive involvement from India in Gay Pride parade this year. Even I am pretty much sure that not a single Gamer who wants to romp through new Dragon age RPG really care about homo-sexuality (Even they will be happy that Games getting serious on depiction of such sensitive issues nowadays). Even Rockstar is regularly releasing GTA titles in India containing nudity and all. Problem here with EA is the popularity and demand with deep RPGs. I read that EA along with Bathesda (Whose absolutely brilliant Fallout 3 and New Vegas never released in India due to two-headed cow called “Brahmins”) ship only very limited copies to India when it comes to RPG. Potential market is very low here. And considering the fact that EA, Ubisoft, Bathesda, Rockstar are big names now in gaming giants they don’t want to take risk by releasing “law-suite prone” title whose sales are not promising enough to justify the risk of release. They are happy to leave marginal profit rather than spending more money on lawsuit.

This social commentary mixed economic “play” article has two improvement on concluding side. Indian mentality has to claw out to that unreachable edge of garbage dike, at the bottom of which it has managed to settle down after these many years (and still sinking in). At the same time, Gaming needs to be considered as art covering broader age-span which can have serious adult content not appropriate for children (and hence no to be indulged by children, same as Movie and other media). We cannot punish the media just because negligence of audience causing them to hurt their own sensibilities.

PS: EA has stopped all kind of distribution for Dragon Age: Inquisition i.e. physical as well as digital also in India. So either you can import via other country (buy from Amazon US-UK) or try some other digital distribution sites. You know the drill. (I will most probably import).