Saturday, August 31, 2013

Year One: The Movie

Warning: This movie is outrageously anti-gay and anti-Biblical, at the same time.
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What If someone puts a couple of twenty-first century nerds in the Neolithic Age, how would it all turn out to be? The answer is Year One. It is a movie about two Stone Age men, Zed (Jack Black), who is a hunter, and Oh (Michael Cera), who is a gatherer. The story is set in close proximity with the post-paradise life of the chosen ones.

Zed and Oh are exiled from their tribe and in their quest to find another tribe, they meet Cain and Abel. From this moment onwards, the story takes place through some of the major Biblical events and portrays some of its powerful characters with a different approach.

Humour is the main tool Year One has utilized to deal with the Biblical tales. Imagine Christopher Mintz-Plasse (the nerd in Superbad, and Rolemodels) as Isaac, the son of Abraham. What else can you expect other than hilarious riots of laughter. Although in Year One, Christopher’s role is not so predominant, he still leaves his mark and there is no question of his talent. Some Christians as well as Jews might as well take offence with the way the movie portrays circumcision and related events. Abraham chases down Isaac with a butcher’s knife in his hand to circumcise his son.  

Eventually, Zed and Oh reaches Sodom, the twin city that was cursed by God. Sodomy is ridiculed and is proclaimed as unthinkable. Of course, in a religious ethics, it is. However, in terms of the thoughts proclaimed by the gay rights activists, I do not think this part would be acceptable. Religion too, is mocked and ridiculed. This is how Year One becomes anti-gay and anti-Biblical, at the same time.
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Oops! Did I mention? Zed had eaten the forbidden fruit, in the beginning. This is the reason why he was outcast from his tribe. But then, he burnt someone’s hut too. It’s a big problem when your destiny is to be the ‘Chosen One’, and all you can think about is living like a non-existent in your village.

Year One is a comedy directed by Harold Ramis, and produced by Judd Apatow. Released in 2009, this movie does follow much of the same comic elements one might find in Role Models and Superbad. Unlike these two movies mentioned, the two women characters Maya (June Diane Raphael) and Eema (Juno Temple) in Year One do not add much spice to the story.

After eating the forbidden fruit, Zed realizes that something is imminent. He does not know what, yet. He will see, and so do you. 

This is Saturday Flick. Go HERE for more.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Pea for English

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On 29 August 2013, I crossed a milestone in my teaching career. I planted a pea plant in the English class, literally. The idea behind this method that might seem an exaggeration is that the growth of the pea plant mirrors, somewhat closely, the steps involved in second-language acquisition. Preparing the soil [identifying the proper aptitude for language learning], Planting the seed [equipping the language learner with the basic laws of the second language], watering [reading on a daily basis, materials written in the language that is being learnt].

It was a challenging experience, just to set up the garden pot with a layer of rock at the bottom, then some soil, then some smooth sand, and then a mix of soil and cow dung. In order to give all the students in the class, a feel of how holding soil in one’s hand would be like, and prepare the space for planting the seed, I asked each one to take a fistful of soil and spread it in the pot.

Once, this task was done, I inferred some information about the attitudes of the students. Some of them were extremely careless about how they put the soil in the pot. They just threw the soil inside, and did not attempt to spread the soil and sand carefully. Some others, on the other hand, took the soil and spread it neatly inside the pot.
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Once everything was fixed, the principal was invited. She came in and inaugurated “Pea for English”, English coaching class. “As you sow, so shall you reap.” She mentioned in the conclusion of her address.

You might ask me why I chose to plant a Kerala pea-plant inside the classroom. Well, firstly, I always wanted to plant something in a classroom. Thankfully, it turned out to be a pea plant. Secondly, planting a seed is an archetype. Jungian archetypes are sure to connect among human minds, even if words spoken aloud, or written do not make sense. The unconscious self will pick up the sense in the teaching process, through its association with fertility and agriculture. This will enable language learning smoother, deeper, and effective. 
I am planning to take English language teaching to a new level, with the “Pea for English” classes. I may need some additional confidence and support, occasionally. So, please be there.   

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Good Times will be back

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It is often easy to say that we are stuck in the sea of negative energy. Having confined amidst hard times, one is often unable to perform his best in the commitments to the self as well as to others. However, in the post-relativity-theory world we should be extremely careful talking about good and bad. The evil upper hand the theory of relativity provided some of us is this imposing confusion.

Is it actually a bad time for all of us? Or is it just our way of looking at things?

If we are faltering in our commitments and personal goals, and hide behind the comforting reasons of it being a bad time for good things to happen, then we are making the most of it, no matter if it is good times or bad. We have to look at our reality, (talking about the physical reality here) with a perspective less tainted by parochial subjectivism. When we replace “I”, “me”, and “you” with “we” and “us” the resulting picture of the world is where we need to look for good times or bad times.

It is evident that one cannot subtract his or her subjectivity entirely from one’s personality. What is needed is an assimilation of the self into the totality of the picture. That is why “we” or “us”, in which the individual is part of the collective totality and the analysis would at least be neither too objective to be unimpressive nor too subjective to be limited.

In the analysis, I considered myself part of the large world and studied the bias of the times. I find it being a bad time, for us all. Yes, we are living through bad times, period. I am not imposing this idea or being indignant.
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In India, currency is crumbling down. They are banning some food items*, because it is too costly, and distributing booze, instead, for it is suited for making people bear the burden. The world is expecting a war from all the corners. Chemical weapons sear the skins and bodies of infants and small kids. Men and women suffer the worst heartaches and find no consolation from anywhere. Most of them, obviously have forgotten how to pray. God, for most of the university wits, is a matter of academic metaphor or naïve sentimentality.

The list goes on. Tell me if there is something the other way round, in this upside down world of morons. I am not distrustful of the power of Patience; I am just reminding you the power of anger and the challenge of the chaos. When the world outside us is chaotic, our minds become chaotic. The good thing about chaos is that it is the candle bearer of creation. So let’s hope, good times will be back.    

Post Blog:

*From 29 August 2013, onwards chicken products will not be available in Kerala, because of the price hike by the government.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Culture Blog

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The Indian Commentator—it’s been five years, now. Often I do an introspective article on writing or the purpose of blogging. Once, again, I am at a juncture, where I had to write introspectively, reading and reporting my inner self’s states. I feel that otherwise, I would not be able to survive the atrocious influences I live with. By atrocious influences, I mean, those ideas and people that believe success is to conform oneself to their way of looking at the world. These people ask me to be this or that, and entirely ignore my real self.

Yesterday, on 26 August 2013, I was thinking about page views on my blog. Whatever I was expecting, wasn’t shown at the counter. I felt depressed and lonely. It was a peculiar feeling that was close very much to the loneliness one suffers when left alone, bereft of all relatives and friend. Ah! I cannot explain. That very day, I had a busy class schedule and came back home tired and exhausted, much similar to this day, when I write this post. Yesterday I felt tired enough to quit publishing the article meant for the day. It felt unimaginably tiring. Today, after realizing what should have been done, instead of what should have been expected, I feel no pain and no exhaustion in writing this piece.

I made the previous post on Sunday, 25 August 2013, at 10.03 PM; forty-eight hours have been long enough for me to understand how important this blog is for me. I hope Google never stops providing me this opportunity, and kindly continue providing my blog to all the respective feeders and pages. Yesterday, I thought that I would not make regular posts from then onwards, as the page views hadn’t risen considerably as “I had expected”. It still was and is a very large chunk, which would have been thrilled me as a rookie five years back. Now, however, my preferences changed, apparently, and high expectations became a regular business. Right now, after forty-eight hours from the previous post, I feel, I am no longer alive, without the interaction with my regular readers.

Of course, after five years, it becomes a habit.

Yesterday, at my college, a student of mine came to me and said every one of her friends ignored her. She took serious issue, as she felt that others are avoiding her presence. As a teacher and their guide, I shared my advice with her. “Why is your friendship so mean?” I asked her. She looked at me flabbergasted, and said, “Sir, it is them…”
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“You didn’t get me,” I explained. “If you are expecting something in return for your friendship, such as care, concern, a biriyani, or money, then I would say that friendship is mean.” She shook her head in understanding and went back to class.   

It took me still a long time to understand the actual sense of my own words. I was expecting something (here page views) in return to the posts I share free with my readers. I had thought TIC was free for all. Never did I realize that it was not at all free for me. I was bound within the confines of the principle of expectations. Meanwhile, I was also gave myself up in front of the principles of success defined by others, for their benefits.    

This realization struck me once I moved closer to the edge of the urge to write. The inevitable had to happen. I must communicate with my readers, and share a part of my soul with them, no matter what. I decided. And so I am here, once again.

Post Postum: I published my book review of A Degree in Death, on Sunday. Normally, I take a day’s off from my blog on Sundays. So consider this; instead of a Sunday, I took it on Monday.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Degree in Death: A Book Review

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A boy is dead in his college hostel. Everyone in the college, from hostel warden to Lecturers hates him, due to his rowdy nature. Who might have killed him? He was found hanging on a noose. Is it a suicide and murder is too farfetched an idea?

Ruby Gupta’s novel A Degree in Death is set in Mussoorie, a beautiful hill station in the north-west of India. The events in the story unfold at the campus of MIST (The Modern Institute of Science and Technology), an apt name for any grand institution to harmonize itself with the misty landscape of Mussoorie. MIST is situated in the sleepy small town of Dehradun, in Mussoorie.
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A boy is murdered at the college hostel and A Degree in Death is about the events that follow this murder. A parallel investigation takes place under the head of the research department, Professor Shantanu, an intelligent teacher, and an avid researcher.

Ruby Gupta is Professor and Head, Humanities, at a renowned institute. She is the author of the popular novel Maya as well as a critique on Khushwant Singh’s fiction. Ruby Gupta’s academic experience is clearly reflected in A Degree in Death. Most of the characters, including the protagonists belong to the college campus, which is typical of any other college campus in the country.

Ruby Gupta’s treatment of the events inside the college campus becomes a hilarious reflection of the situation of higher education sector in India. A Degree in Death can be called a an academic thriller, however, more than the thriller element, what lured me into the book was the language and narrative style of the author.

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The language of A Degree in Death is lucid and objective. The objectivity in the narrative style keeps the reader disengaged from all the characters. A Degree in Death also keeps the flavor of ‘academic English’. An occasional word or phrase would pop-up, and it will take you into one of those classrooms you had been as a graduate scholar, like nicknames for teachers for example. However, the uniqueness of A Degree in Death is in presenting the events and people in front of the reader like in a movie screen.

A series of murders occur after the first death of the boy, and this rattles the peace and complacency of the institution. The investigation police conducted is not mentioned in the novel at all. Instead, Professor Shantanu’s efforts to solve the crime take the dais. A few students help him in this. Demise befalls them too.

What makes A Degree in Death different from a regular murder mystery is its scathing criticism of the academic world. The novel points towards the ridiculously self-important academic system and the bright students who are pitted against this reality of make-belief education. The result from this paradox is resentment that breads its own offspring through warped mass imaginations and spreading of social misconduct. The imaginary college and its academic circumstances are a mirror reflection to the educational blunders we see in modern India. A Degree in Death has its forefinger pointed at this reality, and thus the work of art comes to terms with being a social criticism.
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The murder mystery paves the background for this social introspection that is satirical and at the same time in conjecture with the needs of the novel in order to play the comic relief for the grim events that would unfold at the passing of time. However, if someone points a finger at the integrity of the story, it may not be baseless. Detective stories, crime novels, and thrillers often rely on well-planned and foolproof plots. They are the backbone and blueprint of building up a tightly winded and successful thriller. The ‘plot’ is the major ingredient of any page-turner. In A Degree in Death, on one or two occasions, the plot reveals its vulnerability. However, the author’s ingenious ability to take the tale through surprising twists and revelations safes the novel from harm.    

If you are a fan of the ‘Indian English’ genre, then A Degree in Death is the next book you should try. Ruby Gupta’s language is original and unpretentious. The objective style of storytelling seems to be a style she is working on to develop. In that case, I wish her all success.

A Degree in Death is published by Alchemy Publishers, in 2012, and is moderately priced.

Post Postum: A surprising Indo-China-Tibet issue is raised in the novel, at first seemingly unrelated, although only to confer to the ongoing chain of events, later. 

About Anu Lal:

Anu Lal is the author of Wall of Colors and Other Stories. He lives in Kerala, South India. He blogs at The Indian Commentator 
You can catch up with him in Facebook too.