Archive for ‘rampant capitalism’

April 14, 2010


(Every post should start with a Kate Beaton comic)

Reading H.G Wells’ The First Men in the Moon I found myself preoccupied with the number of things about it that reminded me (mostly superficially) of later works. For example, in my head the Selenites look very much like the Bones, even though Wells tells us their bodies are insectoid.

They also look a lot like the underground dwelling gnome creatures from the land of Bism in C.S Lewis’ The Silver Chair. Lewis was worryingly present during my reading of this book (he has been far too present on this blog recently) – his Out of the Silent Planet is strongly influenced by The First Men in the Moon. Except that Lewis’ scientist is a rather scary imperialist and his religious man of letters is lovely and fits right in. Wells is a little more interesting with regard to his two major characters.

[Spoiler warning, but this thing has been out for more than a century]
The story: an out of work banker ruralises and considers becoming a playwright. He meets a scientist who lives in the area and is working on inventing a material that resists gravity. Alive to the commercial possibilities the banker (Bedford) gets involved. When Cavor, the scientist, invents the material, they travel to the moon where they lose their spaceship and anger some natives (by killing them). They also consume some magic mushrooms. Bedford finds the spaceship, loses Cavor, and flees to Earth taking with him lots of moon gold. Due to a Victorian equivalent of Balloon Boy the ship is lost (so is the child) and Bedford cannot return. Luckily he still has all that gold.
However, a scientist then begins to pick up radio signals from the moon which are from Cavor updating us on his life, the Selenites, and what he has learnt about them. Eventually he comes to a realisation that everything he has told them about Earth and war and colonialism (and the fact that he’s the only one who knows how to make Cavorite, the anti-gravity substance) means that they would be wise to kill him. So they do, and that is the end.

The science is off, as Verne would complain, but that is clearly not the point. Because this is a fascinating portrayal of men from Earth encountering new land. When he first realises the possibility of space exploration, Bedford is ecstatic.

My imagination was picking itself up again. “After all,” I said, “there’s something in these things. There’s travel–”

An extraordinary possibility came rushing into my mind. Suddenly I saw, as in a vision, the whole solar system threaded with Cavorite liners and spheres deluxe. “Rights of pre-emption,” came floating into my head–planetary rights of pre-emption. I recalled the old Spanish monopoly in American gold. It wasn’t as though it was just this planet or that–it was all of them. I stared at Cavor’s rubicund face, and suddenly my imagination was leaping and dancing. I stood up, I walked
up and down; my tongue was unloosened.

“I’m beginning to take it in,” I said; “I’m beginning to take it in.” The transition from doubt to enthusiasm seemed to take scarcely any time at all. “But this is tremendous!” I cried. “This is Imperial! I haven’t been dreaming of this sort of thing.”

Once the chill of my opposition was removed, his own pent-up excitement had play. He too got up and paced. He too gesticulated and shouted. We behaved like men inspired. We were men inspired.

The Moon, it seems, has plenty of gold. Bedford is ecstatic.

Cavor is not treated particularly well either. He doesn’t form a nice, unworldly contrast to Bedford and his grabby hands – he is callous (that the men who he employs in his research all die because of the cavorite is something he ignores), he never really shows much excitement at anything but science. When he receives his chance to be the narrator in the final chapters of the book, he comes across as quite as unpleasant as his companion. Bedford may think that writing a play needs only a couple of weeks, and he may think killing aliens and stealing their stuff is decent human behaviour – he’s worldly, but he’s also of this world, and human. He has probably read Shakespeare. He’s too much of a philistine to bring any reading matter on his trip, but then he reads the cheap magazines he picks up at the last minute to remind himself that people exist. He’s the one who can communicate – I don’t think it’s an accident that Cavor’s narrative, when it comes, is broken and full of static, or that it breaks down mid-sentence into the nonsense word “uless” that probably means “useless”.

And Bedford has genuine moments of enthusiasm and seeing (or I could be reading too much into this – he’s the narrator for most of the novel, so if Wells wanted to draw attention to something exciting he had few other options). But you have bits like this as a result:

I turned about, and behold! along the upper edge of a rock to the eastward a similar fringe in a scarcely less forward condition swayed and bent, dark against the blinding glare of the sun. And beyond this fringe was the silhouette of a plant mass, branching clumsily like a cactus, and swelling
visibly, swelling like a bladder that fills with air.

Then to the westward also I discovered that another such distended form was rising over the scrub. But here the light fell upon its sleek sides, and I could see that its colour was a vivid orange hue. It rose as one watched it; if one looked away from it for a minute and then back, its outline had changed; it thrust out blunt congested branches until in a little time it rose a coralline shape of many feet in height. Compared with such a growth the terrestrial puff-ball, which will sometimes swell a
foot in diameter in a single night, would be a hopeless laggard. But then the puff-ball grows against a gravitational pull six times that of the moon. Beyond, out of gullies and flats that had been hidden from us, but not from the quickening sun, over reefs and banks of shining rock, a bristling beard of spiky and fleshy vegetation was straining into view, hurrying tumultuously to take advantage of the brief day in which it must flower and fruit and seed again and die. It was like a miracle, that growth. So, one must imagine, the trees and plants arose at the Creation and covered the desolation of the new-made earth.

Imagine it! Imagine that dawn! The resurrection of the frozen air, the stirring and quickening of the soil, and then this silent uprising of vegetation, this unearthly ascent of fleshiness and spikes. Conceive it all lit by a blaze that would make the intensest sunlight of earth seem watery and weak. And still around this stirring jungle, wherever there was shadow, lingered banks of bluish snow. And to have the picture of our impression complete, you must bear in mind that we saw it all through a thick bent glass, distorting it as things are distorted by a lens, acute only in the centre of the picture, and very bright there, and towards the edges magnified and unreal.

January 2, 2010

We’re not entirely sure what he does

I have nothing as awesome as an inflatable giraffe on a hammock to share with you this year, but I do think this particular toy (which I’ve been hoping to find again and buy, ever since I took this picture) has its own appeal.

November 4, 2009



No, I have no comment to make on these products. Except that they appear not to be for sale at the moment, which almost makes me think there might be a god.

(Via Bookshelves of Doom)

July 9, 2008

*Insert pun playing on multiple meanings of "fair" here*

I tried to buy moisturiser last week.
My local chemist shop is part of a large chain, has a good selection of cosmetics, and has one of those schemes where you rack up points over time and eventually have enough to win you a free tube of toothpaste. Buying moisturiser there wouldn’t be too difficult, you’d think.

There was an entire wall of creams of various sorts. This was good. Except that practically every product there promised to “prevent darkening” (to be fair, some of them were sunscreens) and lighten my skin. It was phrased in various ways – “light”, “fair” “fair and glowing”*, and so on.

As I’ve mentioned in comments elsewhere, I like dark skin on myself. I think it suits me. And while I think sunscreen is a good and useful thing despite preferring myself with a tan, I’d rather not be made any fairer. But I don’t generally rant about the obsession with fairness in this country. (I suspect this is because I’m light skinned enough myself not to get any grief for it. It’s not a flattering thought).

But honestly. Even Vaseline has started marketing something called “healthy white”. The only product that seemed to say nothing about my skin tone was some thousand rupee stuff by Vichy. Since I wasn’t going to spend that much, I caved and simply bought the cream that seemed least likely to work.

*”glowing” never seems to come separate from “fair”, for some reason.

May 6, 2008

The Socks of Fortitude

Aadisht posted many months ago about the discrimination faced by adult fans of superheroes in the underwear drawer department. Careful research has shown us that this is true of socks as well. While a small female person can walk/be carried into a shop and find herself swamped in adorable Powerpuff Girls ankle socks, an adult female (and presumably an adult male) does not have this option. It seems they simply do not exist.

It is ridiculous. All over the internet I see anguished posts by mommybloggers who wish to protect their children from ugly rampant capitalism by not buying them clothing with corporatised cartoon characters on them. Whereas those of us who are fully immersed in it and wish to advertise this (such as, for example, Powerpuff Girls fans in their 20s with size eight feet) are not given the opportunity to do so.

The clothing industry, I conclude, is made of Fail.

April 27, 2008

Interesting things to do with hair

I really like what the woman in this ad (the pilot) has done with her hair. The PL, tragically, disagrees. Still, I’d quite like to do it myself. But what exactly is it? It’s up, so a bun of some sort…and plaits are involved. I am confused. Instruct me.

April 25, 2008

Americans, Zebras and What I Learned From Sweet Valley High

I was going to write a flippant (hopefully funny) post about the IPL’s imported cheerleaders, and about cheerleading in general. But I’ve read far too many Funny Posts (and articles) about them now, and pretty much everyone who wrote one has come off sounding like an asshat.

U. Roy illustrates this in a Hindustan Times column about how cheerleaders should expect lewd remarks from crowds because of what they do (of course, he’s not “going down that dodgy route of ‘If you wear a mini-skirt in a dark alley expect the worst’ logic. He’s said he isn’t, so obviously he isn’t), how if the lewd remarks were in English the cheerleaders would feel complimented, and how amazing it is that a woman from Uzbekistan has actually been able to communicate her discomfort with said remarks.


As a youngling, one of my first moments-of-great-realization was had while reading Sweet Valley High # 70, Ms. Quarterback. In which Claire, who aspires to be on the football team, offers her opinion of cheerleading (unasked) to a cheerleader.

The disdain on Claire’s face was obvious. “Don’t you think being a cheerleader
is just a little bit sexist?” she blurted out. “After all, it’s just a bunch of
girls prancing around in cute little costumes….I think you’d do yourselves and
everyone else a lot more good if you played a sport instead of jumping around
and screaming.”

As awful as it is to base ones politics on bad teenage literature, this actually brought a lot of things together for me. I’ve always been a sports fan, and while this has meant occasionally being patronized by males who kindly attempted to educate me about sports (since I couldn’t possibly be as informed as them), it’s also meant that I’ve been taken more seriously for being interested in Important, Serious things. You know, sweaty men chasing a ball. Not frivolous things. Why does Claire wish the cheerleaders to play sports? Is it because sports will give them a better workout and be good for their health? I doubt this. My cultural references for what cheerleaders do are limited, but I’ve always had the impression fitness and decent gymnastic skills were a part of it. No, sports is serious business because it’s associated with boys. Regular readers of this blog know how I feel about this, and it’s why Project:Objectify exists. Men’s sports need to be taken less seriously and knocked off that pedestal, and I say this as someone who cries at great moments in sport.

(It amuses me that men’s sports tend to have far more frivolous, spectator-friendly add ons than women’s sports, simply because there are more spectators. Women’s sport is thus closer to pure sport than men’s.)

But. Cheerleaders are basically supposed to up the enthusiasm of the crowd, yes? Why on earth do we need them then? This is India and cricket – our problem isn’t a lack of crowd interest, it’s an excess of it. If any sport needed cheerleaders it was our national football league. A couple of years ago they obtained a troupe of Shiamak Davar trained cheerleaders called the ZeBras. Sadly, even the addition of scantily clad women couldn’t raise interest in the league, and the ZeBras don’t even merit a mention in the numerous articles about this new! American! feature in Indian sports.

And as a connoisseur of all that is Shiny in sport, and a caster of stern glances upon the patriarchy, all I can really do is demand glittery-thonged male cheerleaders for women’s cricket. It’s the least we can do.

(People who watch televised US sports, answer this because I don’t know – when cheerleaders are televised are there usually this many up-skirt/crotch shots? They’re all I seem to be seeing on a lot of the sports and news channels.)

April 24, 2008

Some words

I’ve been vegetating since I came home. I have a couple of posts lined up (one of them Sporadic Blogger keeps nagging me about) but am nowhere close to actually writing them.

So until I can return to SRS BLOGGER mode, here are some pictures from Calcutta. As is probably obvious, I like taking pictures of things with words on them. I miss Calcutta. It never failed to entertain.

April 9, 2008

I cannot title this without resorting to bad punnage

In beauty parlours/salons across the country, one can obtain things called Gold and Pearl facials. With the Gold Facial, the stuff put on your face apparently contains tiny particles of gold. The Pearl Facial, of course, has tiny bits of pearl. I’ve never been able to understand this, myself. I cannot see what possible difference bits of gold could make to your complexion. But anyway.

Via Ryan (who is excellent), pretty much the ultimate in useless (and tasteless) consumer products. The Gold Pill. A capsule dipped in gold and filled with gold leaf. Why? It increases your self worth and…makes your crap all sparkly.

(The P.L suggests that this be made a mandatory part of dogs’ diets. He feels that this measure would lead to Malabar hill becoming a clean and generally paradisal place. I suspect shocking regionalism lies behind this comment.)

On a related note (sparkly poo, not regionalism) I found this video on the site some months ago. A greater body of sparkly poo related work needs to be developed. I’m holding out for pink, myself.

March 2, 2008

The Difficult Lives of Corporate Spouses

As the flatmate and I partook of late night biscuits, we discussed the (undoubtedly competitive) chocolate biscuit industry and its advertising. A certain biscuit company has an advertisement supposedly set in Italy in which a sadly unintelligent baker’s boy (named, inexplicably, after an Italian city) is taught how to bake cookies by a young woman who comes to him late at night and proceeds to initiate him into the ways of adulthood.

What worried us at first was that the woman seems to give away the recipe in the process. Surely that is a bad idea, we fretted. Neither of us has any experience with running a business, but we’re both sure that giving out a secret as vital as your biscuit recipe to all and sundry is a pretty basic mistake.

Till we realized that this was not the entire recipe. Flour, butter and chocolate in unspecified quantities do not a good biscuit make. Obviously between the adding of the chocolate and the baking some secret ingredient had been added that was supposed to raise these biscuits above all others. In the context of the advert, this can only have been what are scientifically known as sex juices.

Which led, unavoidably, to the question of where they were getting this steady supply of said juices that allowed them to continue making these biscuits. We can only assume that company employees are given those little plastic sample collection cups to take home with them.

For biscuits, no sacrifice is too great.