Monthly Archives: September 2013

Pop Culture and Man World

I’m a tumblr person. For those who don’t know what that means, I could surpass this week’s quota for quoting (hehe. Clever.) Louis Armstrong and say “If you have to ask, you’ll never know.” Instead, I will try and explain, because that is just how I roll. Yo.

Tumblr primarily consists of nerdy obsession. Let me clarify – by nerdy obsession I mean a singular and unimpeached devotion towards certain subjects, people, things, shows, books, whatever floats your bong. So this includes sites devoted to pictures of people engaged in passionate coitus (though with tumblr these pictures have a tendency to be more graphic, HD, well lit, well shot and unprecedentedly enjoyable) to gifs of one-liners from the Ian McKellan show Vicious to gifs of people having sex to links and diagrams about science and feminism. You can like anything, you can explain your dislike for anything in an articulate manner, and practically anything goes. The only rule is that your face should automatically crumple up and your genitalia should tense up every time Benedict Cumberbatch appears on your dash, no matter what your gender or sexual orientation. And Benedict Cumberbatch will appear on your dash every two to three posts. I’m pretty sure there’s a clause against Benedict Cumberbatch bashing in the tumblr terms of agreement.

And tumblr has sort of helped me diagnose a certain… thing I have. I haven’t considered myself an introvert since I came out as a fully functional person in 10th grade. I’m not shy or rude or dismissive of people I meet. I suspect that despite my very deep and hidden discomfort in social groups I’m not familiar with, I often either leave no impression or leave a good one. However, as people get to know me more, it becomes pretty clear that I’m not entirely… nice.

I can socialize with people well enough, for a few hours. After that, I feel the need to scratch my face, wash it, chew my tongue incessantly and finally make up an excuse to leave. According to tumblr, this is a symptom of being an introvert. This, when combined with my … lack of feelings can be a bit troublesome, not really for other people, but for me.

For instance, I am often confounded and intensely uncomfortable when people seem to behave in irrational and weirdly emotional ways. Especially if they behave like that over people they just met. I don’t understand how people in my new college are able to have secrets and fights and intense discussions. How can they possibly fight over stupid things with people they just met a few month ago? The only people I fight with, or have painful discussions with, or sexually charged intense conversations with, are those I have known for at least a year. So I am confounded. Which is alright – that brings me to about Abed level of confusion.

However, when this confoundedness interacts with the previously mentioned need to be rid of human company after a few solid hours of getting-to-know-you camaraderie, it inevitable results in Evil Abed, and Sherlock.

Evil Abed in Action

Sherlock Holmes was and still remains a huge part of who I have come to accept myself as. I had read every single piece of Sherlock Homes literature before I was 14. To put it in real cheesy terms, it opened up a world to me. See, I had by that time learnt to disregard feelings unless they were productive or at the least not unproductive. If feelings got in the way of anything else in my life, including my peace of mind, I didn’t pay attention to them. This is a not oft spoken of fact about human affection – if you don’t water it, it eventually withers and dies, especially if the feelings are regarding someone who’s not a big part of your life. If they are a big part of your life, the feelings can hang around in the background, maybe even manifest itself at times, but eventually die out as well. Human feelings are beautiful but fickle. They are the opposite of cacti.

When I read Sherlock at thirteen, you can imagine my… exhilaration at knowing that there were others like me. That there are people who are stable and functional and able to have lives and friends and love without going bonkers about every crush, every emotion and every single thing that has no value in practical terms. I’m not saying I have never been a teenage girl, or never over-reacted to anything, even past eighteen. I have. But only when it seemed lie there was a logical reason for doing so.

The first time I perceived proper friendship for unemotional people was with Sherlock and Watson. I remember the Adventure of the Three Garridebs for this. Watson got shot in it and the Sherlock Holmes did this.

‘You’re not hurt, Watson? For god’s sake tell me you’re not hurt!’

It was worth a wound— it was with many wounds— to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation… His face set like flint as he glared at our prisoner, who was sitting up with a dazed face.

‘By the Lord it is well for you. If you had killed Watson, you would not have got out of this room alive.’

While a lot of people love this sort of stuff on television because it’s amusing and interesting to see a character behave out of character (which is understandable – it is amusing), I find it beautiful because I always think of it as very much in character. I like knowing that there are others like me, who don’t like telling people about our feelings till it matters. That it’s possible to be intimate with someone at times without losing our whole personality. I would hate to be addressed as “sensitive” or “hyper-emotional” or “a changed, more open person” just because I nearly cried once in the metro when an old friend returned my long and rambling letter with his own long and rambling letter. Ok fine, that was today. But the point is, I didn’t suddenly become less myself just because I felt something and admitted it. I refuse to be less badass just because I may in the future, fall completely head over heels in love with someone.

And I love geekdom and tumblr for this – that I can get excited about minute details in stories and movies and it would be accepted and appreciated. However, I have also noticed that geekdom doesn’t seem to be very comfortable with girls, even if we have the same neuroses and social problems and confusions as your favorite characters. And this is where we segues uncomfortably into Deep Space Fandom Feminism (you’ll get the joke or you won’t, shitheads) area.

I have started to get the feeling that guys spend way too much time with each other. I remember a term we used for groups of people who seemed to become their worst selves the more time they spent with each other – toxic groups.

I have nothing against men having sleepovers and talking about sports and touching each others muscles, drinking their ales, plundering tropic isles or whatever they do when they’re alone with each other. I do however have a problem with men who get so used to hanging out with just men that they forget that the world of women is not a separate one. That sometimes, women exist inside the little cocoon world you created for yourself, and not in another dimension which you can travel to via portal every time you need a mother’s hug or a vagina to do things with.

One of my friends had a theory once that men who live together with other men at a young age tend to be misogynistic at some level. And that especially in boy’s hostels, the rhetoric about women, including individual women they are acquainted with, is often restricted to a sexual sphere with very few exceptions. This means that there is automatically a struggle between what you think of as the rest of your life, and your life when it comes to girlfriends, friends who are girls, etc.

Consequently, as per rhetoric, Spock being friends (or more) with Kirk (who by the way is as emotionally expressive and demanding and utterly disregarding of regulations and logic as any stereotypical woman) is beautiful and amazing and a testament to human-vulcan attachment; while Spock being in love with Uhura, a woman (who on the other hand is actually very emotionally reticent, and is openly demonstrative on very few occasions, and only when it’s something that matters), is termed as improbable, unbelievable and entirely out of character. How is it that male friendship is somehow seen as the norm that is beautiful, while a healthy relationship involving a woman is somehow less believable for the current generation of nerds? And don’t even get me started on the slash fiction between the two. I have nothing against a widespread acceptance of homosexuality, but not to the exclusion of women.

One of the reasons I seriously loved A Scandal in Belgravia in Sherlock was for this reason. Yes, I really think they could have developed Adler’s character a lot more. And yes, that whole Sherlocked bit seemed way too cheesy (not because she was a woman, but because she was a person), but at no point is there a diminishing of the dynamics between her and Sherlock just because she is a woman. What I find particularly interesting and beautiful is that while Sherlock remains the eternal asexual in many ways (though there are of course doubts about that), his regard for her, as well as his willingness to go out of his way to help her is in no way diminished because she’s a woman and a possible love interest. He does the same things for her as he would do for John. Arguably, not enough time is given to her personality in order for the dynamic between the two to grow on us the way Sherlock and John’s has, but unfortunately the show is about Sherlock and Watson. Every other character cannot really be given as much time as those two (same goes for Mycroft and Lestrade).

But here’s the problem, for every Sherlock and Sheldon and Spock making their tentative steps into the social world, which for them is not divided into that of men and women; there are a bunch of friends and TV shows and video games and everyday language and rhetoric that excludes women from the presence of men categorically and purposely. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if and when Sherlock and Spock and any number of geeky, smart, iconic characters seem to have an intense romantic connection or even a primary friendship with a female character, it is seen as betrayal, not by the characters, but by the writers – how could the writers “sell out” and have our awesome male character who is happy without any annoying nagging girlfriend suddenly feel attached to a girl? I would in fact further argue that this is largely based on a misplaced, and rather ignorant sense of victimization about the way the world and women treats them.

I’m tempted to say it’s probably also got something to do with anger – Spock or Sherlock or Sheldon or The Doctor was supposed to be my single bro friends. How did he get a girl? Well, honey, he got a girl because he wasn’t a dick to her and he acted like she was a person and not just something to come back to at the end of a day.

There is nothing I hate more than when people (I say people because both men and women do this) try to equate every slight problem that a guy has to go through to the systemic and ingrained prejudice, harassment and violence that women go through. It is inevitably a way to nip any mildly feminist thought at the bud. “Yes, I may be following you around and harassing you online and at work, but you don’t have to be such a bitch to me and friendzone me. You’re probably doing it cause you’re superficial and don’t think I’m handsome and you don’t understand true love.”

This was actually addressed in a movie which I have no particular feelings for – The Social Network.

Social Network 1

Social Network 2

Social Network 3

Social Network 4

Social Network 5

You know what sucks? I have seen so many tumblr posts where they just post the one gif with his face crumpling at the words “because you’re a nerd”, as though the people who are posting don’t want to even consider what the scene was actually saying – you don’t get to act like an arrogant prick, whether you’re a jock or a nerd or a porn star, and get to keep the girl. You can’t blame someone for leaving you when you’ve been a dick, and when you don’t treat the other person with kindness and consideration.

And so, even with all the signs (Ted, Scrubs, Star Trek, The Big Bang Theory, New Girl, Sherlock, any number of other shows and movies) pointing in the right direction – hey, if you can just get up the guts to consider women as an equal part of not just society, but the world you inhabit, whether that’s geek world, pop culture world, corporate world or Disney world, you could have a more productive and romantically and sexually fulfilling life, and you’ll probably be less frustrated – geeky guys will complain about all the girls (read “whores” and “sluts”) in pop culture who distract from the awesomeness of male bonding.

Because the world of women, as mentioned previously is ventured into only for the sake of motherly comfort, emotional diarrhea that one would never admit to one’s male friends, and sex. There seems to be very little room for arguments about the relationship without accusations of “too sensitive” or “hyper-emotional” or “overly attached”, and there is no room for talking about anything that is the sacrosanct area of “man talk” – sports, pop culture (this is where the fake geek girl meme really gets to me), and quite awfully, politics and social situations.

It sucks because the geek guys were the ones I sort of rested my faith in mankind on…. since most other guys were very obviously dicks to begin with.

There are exceptions though – some guys in college, Wil Wheaton, the vlogbrothers, Charlie McDonnell probably….

Oh well.

Oh and embarrassing secret cause I took too long to finish writing this – I sort of really teared up in the metro yesterday because I reconnected with a friend over facebook. I found out in the metro because I have a 21st century phone now, which has email services. But yeah, I was all teary and shit. This is the downside to 21st century communication I guess.

– Billy

P.S. – I wanted to give you guys this, in honor of my finding it on the interwebs

It's Leonard Nimoy!! As a handsome human person who smiles and dances with his mouth near a woman's ear!! Gah!!
It’s Leonard Nimoy!! As a handsome human person who smiles and dances with his mouth near a woman’s ear!! Gah!!
Advertisements

Star Trek over Ship of Theseus. Sue me.

I’ve been putting in some extra work at college. This involves not being aware of certain assignments, and paying abysmal attention to others; while reading essays and watching documentaries on Nietzche, Camus and Sartre. Especially since I wrote that bit about Seinfeld and Louis C.K. I’ve been reading up on existentialism and absurdism. However, as can be seen from the title, I will not be talking about them. I will instead be talking about Star Trek and Woody Allen and other stuff like that. As the perceptive and intelligent denizens of the internet that you are, its still about philosophy and sex and love.

Interestingly, philo is derived from phile which means love (as in anglophile, bibliophile, pedophile, cinephile, only two of which define me) and sophy means knowledge, as anyone with a good memory of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code will tell you. The point being, philosophers are lovers. *Cue Porn Music* (Except Nietzche – he probably died a half virgin.

It would be ... fascinating to see this guy go down on someone's vagina. Or penis.
It would be … fascinating to see this guy go down on someone’s vagina. Or penis.

Someone correct me if I’m wrong. Seriously.) So falling in love even though you’re a smart person shouldn’t be that hard, right? Well, here goes.

I recently watched Ship of Theseus and liked it immensely. The first story is… not my cup of tea, though the cinematography is beautiful. It was too mundane yet melodramatic a context in which to explore the theme of what constitutes personhood. It gave me a sense of tiresome déjà vu. However, the rest of it was thoroughly stimulating. I had hoped that by making a philosophical movie they wouldn’t ignore what I consider to be a very important aspect of philosophy, and perhaps especially so of existentialism, in a manner of speaking – the importance of human connection and dependability; and they were good with that, for the most part.

But here’s my problem – I don’t like it when art is made solely for those who will understand it. I don’t like it when philosophy is… philosophized only for those who understand and care about it, especially in art. I’m not saying everyone who’s not me is a plebeian, I’m saying my mother fell asleep while watching it, and a lot of my friends got irritated and left.

I on the other hand, went to the Kiran Nadar museum (The Zones of Contact exhibition) recently and I felt a lot like my mother and my friends did in the movie. The arts students kept telling me that it was fine if I didn’t understand something, and it only mattered if I felt anything when I saw a piece and all that rot. But here’s the thing – some people take modern art appreciation courses, read up a lot about the artists, and clearly understood and felt more things than I did.And these are the people who are likely to feel encouraged to go to other museums with modern art installations. Call me a romantic but the reason I like movies more than any other art is because if it talks down to anyone, it’s usually talking down to everyone.

In a far more satisfying experience, I watched the 2009 Star Trek recently. And then I watched Into Darkness, because Spock Kirk Uhura Benedict Cumberbatch, followed closely by a re-watching of The Original Series.

I watched the Original Series for the first time a year or two ago. I had heard that Star Trek is more philosophical and complicated that Star Wars, and had prepared myself for getting bored beyond the deaths of relatives I never knew existed. I had forgotten that philosophy comes in many forms, and especially forgotten that it also came in the form of campy yet entertaining sci-fi. Did watching the original Doctor Who teach me nothing? Philosophy in Star Trek consisted of in your face evaluation of the human condition, set in a future that somehow did not have personal computers. And not in the shitty way that “human condition” makes it sound. My favorite part is Spock, everywhere. Because I think I have given enough proof of my unwillingness to consider feelings (whether mine or other’s) unless they result in something productive and useful; and especially if they result in something stupid and wasteful.

Fandom is a curious thing, and I’m not talking about run of the mill fans of actors or movies. Saying you’re a fan, an actual true to Satan fan, of something or someone doesn’t mean you form closed groups of people who are also fans and illogically and irrationally defend every single thing that the actor or the film or the franchise does. In the context of shows and movies, it doesn’t mean getting angry if someone doesn’t like it.

What it means is that you pay minute attention to detail while watching, your enthusiasm for it is entirely unmitigated, you catalogue practically everything you know about it (mentally or literally), and analyze the good and the bad, giving due consideration to every articulated opinion. And despite acknowledged failings, you still love the thing. Because you know every detail of it and the pile of good things in it is greater than the pile of bad things (watch Vincent and The Doctor to get that reference, n00bs), you will explain every single position, everything you like and dislike, and still come out being in love.

For instance, I have read every single one of the Sherlock Holmes stories, know practically every single opinion that characters in the series have of Sherlock, know every single way in which Holmes was pulling something out of his cultural stereotype bucket when he gave his deductions, and while I may not have watched every single TV series or movie based on the stories, I have watched a lot of them and I love Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman despite the fact that the latter makes me feel really old (because he was once a cute guy on a cute show that I watched once as a kid).

Did such a perfect love ever exist outside of the realm of the imaginary?

There are many themes and areas of human existence and the human condition that philosophy looks at, and I usually don’t give two shits. What I feel is a great disservice in any philosophical reading, is in not paying much importance to the presence and the importance of other individuals – the other person, the role model, the acquaintance, the people one doesn’t like, the friend.There may be some things that human beings undertake in utter solitude and some other things we do while participating in orgies, but by and large, we conduct it trying to impress and screw over each other in the most beautiful of defecatious ways. I made a new word.

So if philosophy is trying to understand the human condition, and is at all concerned with the human condition, isn’t conversation and lying and crying and fucking and kissing and holding hands and keeping a space between where your hand ends its wave trajectory and where someone else’s penis may happen to begin, all incredibly part of the business of knowing oneself? So how is that less meaningful? The most insight I have ever gotten into myself and other people is by watching Woody Allen movies, Ingmar Bergman’s comedies (do they qualify as comedies? I find them funny, but the things I find funny are often not funny or acceptable) and hearing Louis C.K. speak. Not all of them are hopeful or happy or based entirely on fart jokes, but they are all mostly about human interactions.

If I want, I can read up on what existentialism says about interconnectivity, or about surrealism, and get a deeper understanding of Stranger than Fiction or Amelie; but its equally possible for me to not read up on anything, enjoy the film and get some perspective on life because of it. In fact, I may feel like I want to know more because it was entertaining and beautiful to watch, and read up on it afterwards just for funsies.That is what art should be – just talking, comprehensibly. Like Before Sunrise. You don’t need to know anything in order to watch that movie. But you may still come out feeling like something awesome just happened to your life.

This, as opposed to feel as though I should read and know more so that it becomes entertaining and beautiful to watch. I don’t buy the nonsense of art for art’s sake. If it was for art’s sake, you’re ignoring the fact that everyone else is looking at it after you put it up on a wall precisely so everyone else may look at it. If it was art for art’s sake, you should have burnt up your work, you should have pissed off every person you met who may have helped or understood based on random crap, much like Poe. But nobody wants to be Poe. If you really wanted to be Poe, nobody would know you existed, as opposed to a thousand people in the intellectual world.

Just face it – your life is based more on other people no matter how much you want it to be completely yours. And your pearls of wisdom are going to be nuggets of crap that doesn’t matter to most of the people around you unless you explain yourself in a manner that makes a busy person want to take time out to listen. Anurag Kashyap – He’s good at that. So is Aamir Khan to a certain extent.

So I guess what I’m saying is, and this is the embarrassing confession in lieu of missing last week’s post – I keep trying to stop reading erotic Fanfiction, but it’s a lost cause. And not only do I read it, I write it. And may I add, from the reviews I have received, if ever I want a career in writing for Penthouse or Playboy (do they have an erotic literature section?) or Ellora’s Cave or something, it wouldn’t be a problem. At all.

That’s all, folks.

– Billy

P.S. – this is my phone wallpaper right now.

I don't give a dingleberry is this is photoshopped.
I don’t give a dingleberry if this is photoshopped.