Archive for ‘wtf’

September 19, 2011

Totally serious non-frivolous blog-usage


Apparently there is now a play titled Ganesh vs the Third Reich, premiering later this month. Unsurprisingly Rajan Zed is outraged. All this is irrelevant, except to link you to this Hindustan Times article about it, in the comments of which may be found this gem (copied here because some people are claiming it’s disappeared from the newspaper’s site):

DILIP 48 minutes ago
Well it is a well documneted historical fact that doctrine of the Third Reich, did steal prsitine divine inspiration from the vedas, Ramayna and Mahabharata. The space technology, misslies and the atomic weapon concept was pilfered staright out of Mahabharat and other vedas.Hitler converted to vegetarian having convinced himself of its virtues and scientific benefits after reading the vedas.Intellectual Germans did drive many inspirations and ideas that enable at one stage in the 20th Century, the Greatest military and economic power, in this context we must assess the attributes, virtues and strength of hinduism and very advanced knowledge based science and technology. WE must not get distracted by some stupid namby pambies, of lefty fanatic persusaion trying to push their grotesque agenda.
March 28, 2011

Shatnerquake and Left of Cool

A couple of weeks ago I started writing a new column. Left of Cool will appear in The Sunday Guardian every Sunday. Aadisht Khanna and I (on alternating weekends) will be talking about books that are mildly odd or completely bizarre or just generally obscure and wonderful. This week (most serendipitously the week of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy’s 80th birthdays) I chose to focus on Jeff Burk’s Shatnerquake.

The review in the paper can be found here; an edited version is below.

William Shatner fascinates me. Even now, after decades of seeing him in other things and knowing just how far he is from one’s mental picture of what a dashing, heroic space captain ought to look like, it is possible to watch one of the original series episodes of Star Trek and have a crush on Captain Kirk. It makes no sense.

The internet is fond of a certain game. It is called “Who would win in a fight?” Popcultural figures are pitted against each other in imaginary duels, as people conversant with these figures and their skillsets work out what possible strategies and advantages they could possibly deploy against each other. Superman vs Batman? Alien vs Predator? Chacha Chaudhary vs Godzilla? Who would win in a fight between a William Shatner character and another William Shatner character?

Jeff Burk goes a step further in his book Shatnerquake. The question Burk asks is this: who would win in a fight between all the characters Shatner has ever played and Shatner himself?

The story, if you can call it that, is as follows. William Shatner is at a convention for William Shatner fans. Unfortunately, so are a group of Campbellians, fans of Bruce Campbell (who has also had an odd acting career, though not quite as much of one as Shatner). These Campbellians, having infiltrated the convention, set off a “fiction bomb” which brings all the characters Shatner has ever played into this reality, where they cause chaos and destruction.

The result is both less stupid and more awesome (depending on how you the reader feel about very silly books about cultural icons) than it sounds. Every other line is a reference to something or the other that is Shatner related, and it would take a serious connoisseur to unpack the full extent of the book’s allusiveness. As a mere dilettante myself, I suspect I only picked up the most obvious references. So you have Captain Kirk killing innocent fans dressed as Klingons and sexually harassing other innocent fans dressed as Orion slave girls, T.J. Hooker yelling at people, and bewildered bystanders witnessing spoken word performances. When he speaks, Shatner keeps making the random pauses that we know him for. There is a man in a red shirt whose name (it is Stephen) Kirk refuses to know. The plot of Shatnerquake itself might be a reference to the actor’s appearance in a skit on Saturday Night Live, in which he insulted a convention-ful of Star Trek fans. The book even has a two-dimensional animated Shatner, invisible when he turns sideways. And somehow (and I cannot give Burk enough credit for this) it is actually readable.

Perhaps Shatnerquake could not work if it were about almost any other celebrity figure. But as Burk himself points out in a letter to Shatner at the beginning of the book (it ends with the postscript “please don’t sue me”), one is never quite sure whether the actor is acting, when he is parodying himself, when he is serious. Shatner has had quite a bit of success spoofing James T. Kirk, but it’s more than that; as Burk says, “[His] entire life has become an elaborate work of performance art”. The actor has been blurring the lines between actor and character for so long now that it makes perfect sense that they should be completely obscured in this manner; there simply isn’t a Shatner-persona we can take as more ‘real’ than any of the parts he has played. From this perspective the book ties in perfectly with the larger piece of art that is Shatner’s own life.

The first page of the book carries a list of the author’s other works, among them Shatnerquest and Shatnerpocalypse. I suspect that neither of these books exists, but so strange is this actor’s career that I would not be surprised if they did. Or even if he had written them himself.

July 12, 2010

Charming Gentlemen

(Contains spoilers for multiple books)

One of the great moral dilemmas I struggle with is my love of Georgette Heyer’s Devil’s Cub*. However much I adore it, I’ve never been able to ignore some of the sinister opinions in the text.

Vidal is an attractive young marquis who must flee to France after a drunken duel in which he may or may not have killed his opponent. He decides to take with him a beautiful young woman who he has been attempting to seduce. Unfortunately, her older sister decides to come instead in order to protect the younger sister’s reputation. Vidal is furious when he finds out he’s been tricked, and attempts to rape her. She defends herself by shooting him in the arm; he realises that she must be a nice girl if she’s willing to defend her honour like this; a couple of hundred pages later they are in love and able to marry with parental approval. Meanwhile, the mother and sister of our heroine (whose biggest crime is to be crass and lower middle-class) are never redeemed.

Another Heyer book, The Convenient Marriage, has a charismatic aristocrat try to take revenge on an old acquaintance by kidnapping and raping his wife. The wife in question manages to knock him out with a poker and run away before rape occurs. Later, her husband fights him (with swords), wins, and the two men become friends again. The whole attempted-rape-of-wife thing is forgotten, and one imagines the man will be a valued dinner guest in the couple’s household for years to come. One person who will not be invited to dinner is the husband’s former mistress, who aided the would-be rapist in some of his (earlier, less rapey) plans. That bitch.

Moral: pretty much anything an attractive man does is excusable in some way. Forgive and forget, eh?

Devil’s Cub was published in 1932, and The Convenient Marriage in 1934. Heyer’s politics were not progressive (her anti-semitism in a few places is pretty jarring). And I’m not a historian, so I don’t really know how socially acceptable rape was in the late 1700s or the 1930s.

I’ve spoken before of my desire to finish Stephanie Laurens’ books so that there won’t be any more of them for me to read (this is a perfectly logical reason to do such a thing). Yesterday I read The Promise in a Kiss, a prequel to her Cynster books. It was published in (I think) 2002.
This book features an Evil Guardian who manipulates our heroine into attempted theft by threatening to rape her little sister. Things are sorted out, the hero is heroic, and…it turns out the man wasn’t planning to rape the child after all. The threat (and the whole plot, including the theft) was for the lulz, because what else is there to do for fun when you’re a bored aristocrat?

Sebastian humphed. He looked down on his old foe, knew the wound he’d delivered would cause serious discomfort for weeks. Counseled himself that that, together with all that would come, was fair payment for all Helena had suffered—that he couldn’t, no matter what he wished, exact further physical retribution. “You and your games—I gave them up years ago. Why do you still play them?”

Fabien opened his eyes, looked up, then shrugged—grimaced again. “Ennui, I suppose. What else is there to do?”

And it’s so sad that the Evil Guardian Ennui-afflicted Charming Gentleman has no children! And he’s not an actual rapist. And he ends up being a close friend of the hero and heroine, and they’re genuinely sad when he moves to America. So…that’s alright then, I guess? The real villain of this book is the hero’s sister-in-law: she’s pushy, presumptuous, and will later in the series be blamed for her son’s murderousness and general sociopathy.

I suppose it’s progress – in seventy years there’s been a shift from actual rapists being condoned to people who only threaten rape as a manipulative tool being condoned. Clearly the Laurens book is a massive victory for feminism.

*My life is hard.

March 29, 2010

Cognitive Dissonance

(Click for the whole comic – Hark! A Vagrant is genius)

It seems someone has discovered a fragment of a manuscript by Claire Clairmont – Mary Shelley’s stepsister who had an affair with Byron and possibly one with P.B Shelley as well. In the manuscript, she calls them both “monsters”, and depicts them as pretty amoral where relationships were concerned (see linked article for quotes). Byron sounds particularly vile by her account.

I am rather irrationally a Byron fangirl. I think he’s underrated as a poet, had by far the most interesting life of the Romantics, and as ineffectual as he may have been in the event, I’ve always liked that he would have gone to war for Greece (did the Greeks welcome his help though? I’ve never seen evidence either way). Plus he was nice looking.

But I’ve never been under any delusions about his private life. Nothing I’ve ever read about him has even appeared to hint that he was anything other than an asshole to his women (I know less about any romantic relationships with men). Likewise Shelley, who I’m not as fond of, has always been presented to me as rather a tool, though occasionally a stupendous poet.

So I’m a little baffled at that Observer column I’ve linked to above. What “moral reputation” does this demolish? Why do the commentators on the piece seem so genuinely surprised? Have I been living in a parallel universe all these years where everyone knows these things? [I recently read an article by a book reviewer who expressed surprise that Tolkien and Lewis had been friends. This did remind me that what I consider "common knowledge" is frequently only common in certain circles. But surely Byron and Shelley are pretty mainstream?]

I’m also fascinated by how invested Dalya Alberge and all the people she quotes seem to be in discrediting Clairmont – both article and comments have “bitches, man” all over them. Alberge describes Clairmont as “an embittered old woman” (“embittered” is hardly surprising, and I suspect “old” is standing in here for undesirable). Professor Kelvin Everest and Sir Michael Holroyd both hurriedly remind you-the-reader that Claire threw herself at Byron. I’m not sure whether we’re expected to read this as meaning that she asked for it, or that she was desperate and therefore ought to be grateful to him for his attentions to her.

But my favourite thing about that article so far is this comment from someone who wants to remind us that Byron was really, really hot, omg and remained hot even after he was dead. Also, political correctness! is destroying the reputation! of really hot poets!
And that’s terrible.

March 8, 2010

In which the Chief Justice asks us not to judge

The Chief Justice of India, K.G Balakrishnan, has been quoted in a number of papers today warning people against being “overtly paternalistic” with regard to a rape victim’s personal autonomy…when it comes to her choosing to marry her rapist.

A couple of things:

One, he’s absolutely right about respecting the victim’s decisions. People do what they can to cope, and it’s not always the most progressive or universally useful action. One sees a lot of this when complete outsiders hint that someone is not doing her duty by reporting a rape, whatever it will cost her.

Two, and this is where I say but. But does Justice Balakrishnan live in a different world from me? (Answer: yes). Because while I’m sure there are plenty of people disapproving of and passing judgment upon rape victims who choose to marry their rapists, should such women exist, I’m aware of many, many more stories where it hasn’t been a choice. Rape victims in this country are still treated with a great deal of disapproval for bringing the rape up in the first place, and not choosing to take this easy way of ending the scandal quietly is likely to bring upon them even more pressure. The choice between marrying one’s rapist and being cut off from all of ones support systems is meaningless, and I see no reason to “respect” such a choice or the people who forced it.

Three, would the number of victims marrying rapists be lessened if said rapists were found guilty by the courts and put in jail? I suspect it would.

(Oh and here is some further weirdness from the Supreme Court. Via Nanopolitan)

February 6, 2010

Contains Language

Seen in a restaurant in Pune.
January 24, 2010

Girls are important

This story is amusing


(Click for embiggerance)

Notice that all the important people in this particular advertisement are men.I realise that the government have issued lots of public-service ads in the past highlighting the idea that women are actually worthwhile, contributing members of society and that we might want to keep them around… but this? The girl child is important because she may some day give birth to boy children who are what really matters. Never forget that that is what we’re here for.

January 11, 2010

Irene goes to school

A few of you know (and some have possibly guessed, considering the frequency with which they appear on this blog) that my masters thesis had something to do with school stories. I read quite a lot of the things, particularly the girls’ school ones, for various reasons ranging from mockery to genuine respect.

It’s something of a cliche (and one that is not appreciated by many fans of the genre) that girls’ school stories tend to be rather homoerotic. – Angela Brazil did not help things by calling a major character Lesbia. But I really enjoy that element of women looking at women that you see throughout the genre – I’ve long held that Antonia Forest is the writer who first taught me to look at women.

I was unprepared for this scene from L.T Meade’s A Modern Tomboy, though. I can’t find an exact date, but it’s somewhere before 1914.

Nothing could exceed Rosamund’s amazement, and a scream almost rose to her lips, when she entered and saw, curled up snugly in Jane’s bed, no less a person than Irene Ashleigh. Irene’s exceedingly bright face peeped up above the clothes. She gave a low, impish laugh, and then said slowly:

“Don’t scream. Keep your nerve. I climbed up by the wistaria. I have been in bed for the last hour, expecting you. I happened to be hiding just below the window, clinging on for bare life to the wistaria and the thick ivy, and I heard the conversation between you and Mrs. Merriman, so I knew that you would have your room to yourself, and decided that I would share it with you. Now lock the door, for I have a great deal to say.”

“But we are not allowed to lock our doors,” said Rosamund.

“You will lock it to-night, because I order you to,” said Irene.

“I shall do nothing of the sort. It is my room, and I will do exactly as I like.”

Irene sat up in bed. Nothing could be more picturesque than her general appearance. She was in the red frock that she usually wore; her wild hair curled in elf-locks all over her head; her eyes, bright as stars, shone in the middle of her little elfin face; her charming lips pouted just for a moment. Then she said in a clear tone, “What if I get up and strike you right across the face? Will you lock the door in preference to that?”

“I will not lock the door.”

Like a flash, Irene was out of bed and had struck Rosamund a resounding blow on her cheek. Rosamund felt the blow tingling, but she stood firm.

“Will you lock the door now?”


“What if I give you a blow on the other cheek?”

“Here it is for your majesty,” said Rosamund, turning her other cheek to the foe.

Irene burst into a laugh.

“What a creature you are! But you know we are in danger. I have such a lot to say to you, and any one may nab us. Won’t you lock the door just to please me? I won’t slap you any more. I am sorry I hurt your dear cheek. I came because I could not help myself, and because I could not live without you any longer. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and no sign of you, and I just hungered for you. I am pining for you through all the days and all the nights, through every hour, in the midst of every meal; not speaking about you, for that is not my way, but just hungering and hungering, and yet you say you will not lock the door.”

“No, Irene; and you ought not to be here. What is to be done?”

Poor Rosamund had never felt more bewildered in her life. She had given her word of honor; and her word of honor was, to her, worthy of respect. She had never yet broken it. Should she break it now? Irene looked at her for a few minutes in wonder. The two girls were standing in the centre of the room, for, of course, Irene was fully dressed. Compared to Rosamund, she was a small girl, for Rosamund was tall and exceedingly well developed for her age. Irene was a couple of years younger, but she was as lithe as steel. Her little fingers could crush and destroy if they pleased. Her thin arms were muscular to a remarkable degree for so young a girl. She had not a scrap of superfluous flesh on her body. At this moment she looked more spirit than girl; and if Rosamund could have got herself to believe that there were such creatures as changelings, she might almost have given credence to Irene’s own story of herself.

…Before Rosamund could utter a word, Irene had sprung upon her, seized her round the waist, and compelled Rosamund to seat herself upon the side of the bed, which she herself had been occupying a few minutes ago.

“Now, darling,” she said, “you are not going to get away from me, and I believe in your heart you don’t want to.”

Poor Rosamund! a great wave of longing to help this queer child swept over her heart; but there was her word of honor. She was a passionate, head-strong, naughty girl; but she could not give that up. Besides, she could not do anything with Irene in the future if she did not conquer her now.

…”As a matter of fact,” said Rosamund, “I like you very much.”

“There, then, I am satisfied,” exclaimed Irene, and she flung her thin arms round Rosamund’s neck, squeezed herself up close to her, and kissed her again and again.

“Ah!” she said, “I knew that all my life I was waiting for somebody; and that somebody was you, just you, so big, so brave, so—so different from all the others. I should not be the horrid thing I am if the others had not been afraid of me. I got worse and worse, and at last I could not control myself any longer. I did things that perhaps I ought not to have done; but if you give me up I don’t know what will happen—I don’t know where things will end. Are you going to give me up?”

“I will tell you now exactly what has happened, Irene, and will leave it to you to judge how you ought to act for my sake at the present moment. You say you love me——”

“I suppose that is what I feel,” said Irene. “It is a queer sort of sensation, and I have never had it before. It seems to make my heart lighter, and when I think of you I seem to get a sense of rest and pleasure. When you are away from me I feel savage with every one else; but when you are near I think the best of others. And I think it is just possible that if I saw much of you I’d be a sort of a good girl—not a very good one, but a sort of a good girl, particularly if you’d manage mother and manage the servants, and tell them not to be such geese as to be afraid of me. For, of course, you know, I can’t help being a changeling.”

“Now, Irene, you must listen to me. I ought to be in bed and asleep. People will hear us talking, and I won’t allow the door to be locked, whether you like it or not, because it is against the rules.”

“Gracious!” said Irene, “couldn’t we both get out of the window, and climb down by the wistaria and the ivy, and reach the ground, and go and hide in the plantation? We could spend the night there, locked in each other’s arms, so happy—oh, so happy! By the way, I saw a little summer-house—we could spend the night in the summer-house, couldn’t we? Couldn’t we?”

January 6, 2010

Classics: could use some editing

I was skimming through The Time Machine and this happened:

(click to embiggen)

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.