Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Genderically modified body parts

The word "moobs" usually makes me smile - it's a satisfactorily mean derogatory term used about men. I like it, because it brings to mind dumb bovines ("moobs" - get it?) - which is what I automatically visualise when women are insultingly called "cows" (Moo... milk... meat...).

I HATE it when men refer to women as "cows" ... as if the purpose of women's existence is to have boobs - albeit only two - produce milk and be stupidly bovine! (I especially hate it being used by women referring to other women, but that isn't particularly relevant here.) So now there's an insult for men that seems just as nasty.

Anyhow - "moobs" equating with "boobs", okay. But when I came across the word "daddaries", put forward as a more dignified, possibly even elegant, alternative to "moobs" (in the comments), my funny bone - which leads an invisible but fulfillingly stimulating figurative life somewhere inside me - was well and truly tickled. It's just so silly...

Daddaries... **giggle**

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sunday Scribblings - "Phantoms and Shadows"

Two things I've discovered:

Phantoms are invisible and powerless in daylight.
Which is why I was able to read all the horror stories I wanted in the daytime without a single worry or frisson of fear.

Shadows can seem malignant after dark - especially if you’re alone.
Which is why I've always favoured bright lights all over the house all the time... just to keep those phantoms invisible and the shadows at bay.

Friday, January 23, 2009

But do they provide free loo rolls?

I am baffled. I don’t know who first thought of a toilet theme for a restaurant, and I can’t imagine who would actually pay for the experience of dining in a simulated loo… but there must be people who do, because Taiwan apparently has a toilet-themed restaurant, where customers are actually seated on toilet bowls.

But I’m lying. Taiwan doesn’t really have one such restaurant.

It has TWO of them.

So I can only conclude that there are lots of locals and possibly tourists too, who find the experience worthwhile. Maybe it's the thrill (???) of communal dining, with everybody on the “throne”, that flushes out the closet eat-and-excrete enthusiasts - if you will forgive the imagery - from the privacy of their homes.

Too, there are other questions which rise to the surface... just how authentic an experience do the two restaurants provide? Does the room get sprayed with eau de bathroom fumes? Is the piped muzak a combination of plops and tinkles or drips, interspersed with the occasional, sudden sound, of a rush of water fading away? What about the dress code, is there one?

And so on… although I'm not sure I'd want answers to the questions.

One does hope the food isn’t crap, though.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sunday Scribblings - "Pilgrimage"

Pilgrimages are beloved of the religious. Making an arduous, physically, emotionally (and sometimes financially) demanding trip to some distant holy place seems to provide a spiritual satisfaction that can only be understood or experienced by the pilgrims themselves. To the atheist or agnostic bystander, though, this need to deliberately put oneself through hardship and discomfort would probably count as one of the world’s more baffling phenomena. Why does religion have to be so much about suffering and/or making others suffer?

Granted that nowadays pilgrimages are probably a lot safer and less taxing than in the centuries past, but there is still that element of inconvenience. If nothing else, the seething crowds of devotees, all of them hell-bent (pardon, Hell probably isn’t their goal, but you know what I mean, don’t you?) on getting the most blessings for themselves and damn the others, should be enough to put anybody off. It certainly puts ME off. I haven’t been to any hugely popular pilgrimage spots other than Tirupati (that I remember), and Tirupati was bad enough practically every single time I was coerced into going there. (I've been there a few times.)

The temple town itself is quite neat and pretty, and if you choose to walk all the way to the top, it’s quite a nice hike. It’s the temple itself that put me off – the strict regimentation (albeit necessary because of the huge numbers of pilgrims), the discourtesy exhibited by the temple officials, the display of money power (if you’re rich enough to pay for it, you get a special short-cut trip to the sanctum sanctorum without the hours of waiting), the single-minded selfishness of the devotees who all try their best to get as close to the idol as possible, disregarding the safety of the others… all that simply does not encourage any religious feelings – and I speak only for myself here.

I don’t know what pilgrimage spots for other religions are like, or religious festivals where people congregate in their hundreds of thousands. But I have seen photos/videos of the heaving millions at Mecca, and heard of hundreds dying in stampedes there; and equally, such deadly stampedes have occured during the Kumbh Mela and so on… and I can’t help wondering – can it really be worth the trouble to go to such places/events, perhaps to die horribly?

Even if I was religious, I don’t think I’d bother. God is, or should be, in the heart and mind and head, and in everyday deeds. I don’t think he/she resides in Mecca or Medina or Jerusalem - or Tirupati, for that matter. If God is indeed everywhere, then every place is holy. It is possible to be austere in your own home, if austerity is indeed essential in realising God.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Colour blindness would help

Ask me if I think that the big blow-up over Prince Charles calling his friend “Sooty” and Prince Harry calling his friend a “Paki” is a waste of time. Go on, ask!

Okay… since you ask, I will say that I think the big blow-up over Prince Charles calling his friend “Sooty” and Prince Harry calling his friend “Paki” is a waste of time.

(Well, you did ask.)

Anyhow, if the persons being given a certain nickname or addressed by a specific term were to find it offensive, THAT would be worth making a fuss about. When the people involved don’t care, when they obviously are friends, where’s the problem?

Why should everybody raise a hue and cry about what two people choose to call each other when they are on casual, friendly, comfortable terms? What if “Sooty” was actually addressing ol’ Charlie as – oh, I dunno, let’s say “Royal mongrel”? Would that be racist? Would there be a hue and cry over that?

Does racism only ever extend in one direction – from light to dark? How about from dark to darker, or would that be considered not a problem on grounds that light pigmentation is not involved. Or perhaps that would be put down to “cultural practices” from not-Western countries, and condoned or even encouraged?

One one occasion, I said to our friends that my husband should be careful on the roads on sunny days because he's so pale as to become invisible - and we all laughed about it. But when he said teasingly that only the whites of my eyes are visible at night when I wear dark clothes, their shock was almost palpable. There were a couple of uncomfortable chuckles, and the odd diplomatic "I ain't saying nothing" - and yet there had been no insult intended or assumed by either of us.

I find that sort of exaggerated "concern" far more disconcerting than overt racism (which I'm happy to say I haven't faced from any of my friends and most of my colleagues). I don't want my friends to be forever on their guard as to what might or might not offend me. If they want to poke fun at us Hindus' 33 million gods, I'm happy for them to do so - in fact, I'd rather they did. I'm not about to be all super careful about Christianity or Islam or any other religion... although I do realise the huge difference between light-hearted banter and serious disrespect.

Perhaps the tabloids should focus on the real racists – those educated “British” folk who never address “people of colour” as “paki” or any other perceivedly offensive term, yet whose every action subtly reflects their prejudices – instead of raising the dust over a pathetic story about something that happened three years back… something that was not even registered as a complaint.

Ask me if I’m tired of overdone political correctness and deliberately-raised storms over things that don’t merit a second thought.

Go on, ask me.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Epiphany in the run-up to the 40th...

After years of arrogant dismissal of the efforts by various actresses to stay beautiful, to recapture the glory of their youth, I now understand a fraction of just how desperate they must have felt/be feeling. I’m no beauty and never have been… but when I came across a photo of myself that had been taken a few years back in India, I couldn’t help thinking that I wanted to look that way again (clear skin, no wrinkles), to recapture that smug feeling that the future wasn’t going to happen to me, that I wasn’t going to look older even if I grew older.

And that’s when the epiphany happened.

If I - who had never been a beauty even in the eyes of family and friends, much less tasted international success and been the object of adulation by millions of people for years - could feel regret for the passing of the years and most of my youth, how much worse would it be for the world’s most beautiful women (and to some extent men) to be in that situation? To know that you’re no longer beautiful in the world’s eyes; to see other, younger women getting all the attention and adulation that you thought was permanent, that almost felt like your right to command; to see in the mirror (and in photos and magazines and books) your face growing older; to realise that it’s an unstoppable decline that no amount of Botox or wealth can restore…

How infinitely worse it must be for them - to have had it all, and then to lose it merely because the years have gone by. I can’t even begin to imagine, because I’ve never had it. Speaking from second-hand experience, great beauty doesn’t seem to bring great happiness... it only seems to make insecurities worse.

So, of late, when I see beautiful people struggling, sometimes ridiculously, against Time, what I feel is no longer disdain… it’s turned into pity.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

**This, by the way, is my 400th post.**

Friday, January 09, 2009

Sunday Scribblings - "Organic"

"13. Architecture. noting or pertaining to any work of architecture regarded as analogous to plant or animal forms in having a structure and a plan that fulfill perfectly the functional requirements for the building and that form in themselves an intellectually lucid, integrated whole."

Uh... what?

This gobbledegook above is one of the definitions for the word “organic” – imagine looking up a word in a dictionary and discovering that you need to look up still more words just to understand the meaning of the meaning of the original word! (Does this sound like gobbledegook as well? heh)

Anyway, that was not what I was going to write originally, but I thought I would highlight the definition just for the heck of it.

So. Not to be unduly modest about my writing, I know that I write well. Not spectacularly well, just reasonably well. I also think I'm discerning enough to know the difference between average writing and really good writing, even in my own efforts. So I’ve always found it amazing the number of people who can’t string two sentences together without half a dozen grammatical and spelling errors – and yet they’re convinced that they should be published without the benefit of editing. All of them potential Pulitzer or Nobel prize winners - in their opinion.

A few times during my career in the newspaper industry, I’ve had friends/acquaintances pass on some samples of their (or their friend’s) writing to me, asking that it be published. I should mention here that I only worked in the editorial department. As a sub-editor, I was an unknown quantity to 99.99% of the newspaper readership – unlike reporters, who were much more visible because of their occasional bylines and because they met loads of people every day as part of their job profile. I’m sure they were inundated with hundreds of requests, but the only reason I got asked was because the people doing the asking knew me personally.

It was always embarrassing when this happened, because first of all I certainly wasn’t the person who made the final decision about accepting any articles. Not that telling them this made any difference – they always said “But you can pass this on to the editor, I’m sure he will listen”. There was some truth in that, I suppose… chances of being accepted were (and probably still are) always better when someone on the inside recommended something for publication.

The first time I was asked to look over a collection of stuff written by a friend’s cousin, I didn’t know whether to be flattered or alarmed. But the friend said that he loved her writing and that she “wrote so nicely about important topics”, and I took him at his word. I should have known better, but in my defence, I was not experienced in fobbing people off then.

So I took the bundle of papers home and read through them all, increasingly in despair because there seemed to be nothing worth printing. The essays/articles were painfully bad. They were incoherent, rambling, sometimes downright nonsensical, with bad grammar and worse syntax. Here and there might be a nugget of sense or - if it was meant to be a “humour piece” – something that at least raised a smile, however fleeting. But nothing short of drastic editing would make any of them printworthy.

I couldn't bring myself to try and edit any of the “humour pieces” (believe me, they were dire), so I chose an essay which seemed the best of the lot – it was about modern Indian women’s obsession with the West, in case anyone’s interested. As hard as I tried to keep the original wording, it proved really difficult. In the end I was left with a page of writing which was maybe about 30% as per the original. I told my friend which article I’d chosen, and he said his cousin wanted to see what I’d done with it. So I sent it back with him… and waited to see what would happen.

It was an unpleasant experience because I had not known how to tell my friend (and his cousin through him) that she had written a load of rubbish and there was no way anything of hers would ever get published without a total makeover - the flaws were too inherently organic for that. Since he had read her stuff and recommended it so highly to me, I was also worried that he would take my comments as a reflection on his judgment and taste.

I needn’t have worried quite so much. He eventually he called me and said sheepishly that his cousin wanted all her articles back as she thought I didn’t know how to edit and didn’t recognise good writing. Which was ok for two reasons: One, it solved my problem because I REALLY didn’t want to take even my edited version to Master (my mentor). Two, I thought she didn’t know the first thing about writing – so we were quits there.

The next time I got a similar request, I panicked a little – it was a friend’s father who’d written a heavily pedantic and very long article on something or other. I happened to mention this to a colleague, who gave me a diplomatic way out of such situations. She said to tell him – after a diplomatic few days for “consideration” – that the article, although very interesting, was too long to go in verbatim at that point and we would hold it until it could be printed. Or would he like it back? We could give him a call when we were in a position to use the article.

That worked like a dream. After that, I always had a handy excuse if I thought something would never see the light of publication – although I modified my spiel to say “We can’t use it right now but the editor said we could hold the article in reserve – would you like the original back? We’ve made a copy. Thanks”.

Saved me a lot of hassle, that did.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Sunday Scribblings - "For richer for poorer

I’m feeling cynical (after reading about one too many acrimonious divorces and celebrity marriage meltdowns in various trashy magazines. Also, I’m not feeling very inspired and the topic hasn’t really fired my imagination. Maybe it's just mental laziness. Anyway, I can’t even begin to talk about the flow of creative juices, because it’s one trickle short of drought around here… however, here’s my really belated take, just so I can say that I averted the drought this time:

Marriage vows - What they say (and what I think they really mean)

I, [gold-digger] , take you, [my rich sucker] ,
to be my husband [only because bigamy is unlawful and therefore I can’t marry more than one rich sucker at a time],
to have and to hold [your wealth, mainly – and you if I must]
from this day forward [too bad it couldn’t have been sooner]
for better, for worse [it will be the worse for you if things don’t get better]
for richer, for poorer [YOU can get poorer; I signed on for richer, pal]
in sickness and in health [in sickness? Do I look like a nurse?]
to love, cherish, and obey [I love your lovely money, which I will cherish. As for obey - as long as what you want is what I want, all will be well]
till death us do part [it will be an unnaturally quick parting if you get poorer, sick or worse]
according to God's holy law. [riiiiiight]
In the presence of God I make this vow. [I mean every word in these parentheses]

Monday, January 05, 2009

It's only words...

I’m always impressed by – and envious of – those people who write reams of stuff every day on any and every issue, whether in actual print or on their blogs. I sit for hours (not literally), fingers poised over my keyboard in readiness for whatever thought might issue from my brain… but nope. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

It’s not that thoughts don’t cross my mind, but try as I might, they simply don’t lend themselves to being converted to blog posts. They evade blogpostdom almost as if they were sentiently, on purpose, dodging being pinned down on screen.

How I wish I could haemorrhage words in a way that made for interesting reading… or even just haemorrhage words (sense and readability can be faked once there's a loyal core readership that's addicted to reading anything) - but no, the flow is always halted by a large clot.