18 days

Hi.

I meant to write, but was helpless against the relentless demands of real life. Trending today on facebook is the news that Mattel has decided to change Barbie. This is Mattel finally responding to little girls across America abandoning Barbies and taking up the pink Legos. Legos are awesome- kids love them, and their parents love them even more. My daughter gets lost in her Duplos and for that time, there is no general mayhem accompanying her. We love her Legos slightly more than she does.

So, anyways, it seems Barbie was rapidly losing marketshare not to a rival toy company, but something entirely different, a new way of looking at the world. Day before yesterday, for instance, I watched two little girls play at princesses. It involved welcoming foreign dignitaries -me- (that too with a bow and not a curtsy) and then their castle caught fire and they heroically put out the fire and saved themselves from ruin. It was evidently very exciting, and their was no tiara, no dresses and no princes involved. Can you imagine Barbie putting out fires? She will not be able to run on her ridiculous legs.81t8jtvvzul-_sl1500_ But look at Anna and Elsa in Lego’s Arendelle castle. They look competent and capable, and the dresses are super cute.

How could Barbie compete once parents and their daughters both abandoned traditional roles of women and migrated to modernity. Upper-middle class India, the one I live in now, mirrors America, and the same holds true for them. The people rich enough to buy expensive toys are increasingly- from the evidence of Mattel and Lego- abandoning dolls and the world they represented.

Yes, in India we also have films like Mastizaade. (no link, you honestly do not want to know about this movie.) We in India are changing faster, but the change is not yet visible because this is too big a country, and the average is hiding all the interesting action in the fat tails. I think we will have to wait forever for the average to reflect any social change in India. And movies pandering to the lowest common denominator will never know anything.

 

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4 days

Hey!

Should I write an year in review, do I care? Or should make resolutions I will proceed to break? Or should I continue the mandate of this blog and examine life in the context of the books I read and the movies I watch?

Okay. I will write a sort of year in review.

  1. The Kindle is one of the best things I ever owned. Yes, I love print books as much as any other book lover, but there are a few things about the Kindle which have made it my only reading source. One is that it is easy to carry. The second is the privacy it grants, one doesn’t feel like talking about every single book one reads. Third is the vast number of free books available. Fourth is the easeof reading. No strain to the eyes, or hands. Can read in all sorts of lighting conditions. This year has basically been an extended love story with Kindle.
  2. What I learned this year. Money is an excellent motivator. It does buy happiness, and a lot of other nice things. But one thing it does not buy is commitment. Many people sell their souls for money, but a bought soul is not the same thing as a soul given away for free. And because it motivates without invoking true commitment, and because the soul is free and cannot really be bought, it can be very dangerous to the buyer. Caveat emptor.
  3. Regrets. I have never regretted things. In fact, I rarely bother to look back on the past. I keep forgetting it, being a firm believer in Sherlock Holmes’theory of the brain as an attic we must keep emptying once in a while. I took the only decisions which were feasible and reasonable in the circumstances, and as always, I never noticed if they turned out to be wrong. So, no regrets.
  4. Best thnig I did last year. Learned to manage finances. Really changed my life.
  5. Looking ahead. I have time. I have time to read. Time to shop. I also have money. So, let’s see what happens.

2 days- Women in the Farseer series

Hi!

I am reading the Fool’s Quest, latest in the Farseer series of books by Robin Hobb. I have skipped about in reading it, and am currently at about 57%. But there are going to be very minor spoilers ahead. About both the book and the series. It is unlikely that these spoilers will decrease anyone’s enjoyment in the book, I at least only got interested in reading this book when a Goodreads review spoiled a big secret for me. A secret which, it turns out, is only unknown to the characters, we the readers know it almost from the page 1.

So, disclaimer done, let me talk about the book.

First of all, I am glad Molly is dead and we do not have to spend much time with her. I say much because Fitz is still mooning over her everytime he sees Nettle. I never liked Molly. I don’t think anyone ever liked Molly. It took a NYT article on assortive mating I read yesterday to make me realize why. Assortive mating is so much a part of the modern fairytale that a traditional romance, in which a “good-hearted” but stupid girl snags a intelligent and powerful man (who is incidentally a prince) is repugnant to most of us. We accept Miles Vorkosigan’s marriage to Ekaterin (this is not a spoiler. The cover picture tells us this much) because even though¬† Ekaterin is different from Miles’ other lovers, she is never boring. She might be a princess he rescues out of the clutches of a boring husband, But she quickly proves her worth by not requiring saving in a combat situation. Anyways, back to the character we are discussing. Molly is¬† boring. And Robin Hobb knows that, and thankfully keeps her out of all the later novels.

But that does not mean this book has any dearth of female characters. Unlike the first book, where we had the scheming Desire, stupid Molly and batty Patience, here there are competent, smart women are everywhere. Farseer princesses are suddenly all over the place. Farseer queens continue to be independent minded and in charge of plot movement. Even a boy turns into a girl on closer inspection. There are so many women, this book has some trouble passing the reverse Bedchel test.

This series is a great way to discuss feminism because of the way the books have been spaced about 10 years apart. The 90s books are about a boy and the men around him. Women are stock characters and do not dare to be more than that. Molly’s financial and sexual independence and candle-making are all that Hobb dares give her.

In the Fool’s trilogy we are into the social world of this millenium. The Fool (like Dumbledore) is now gay. Patience turns into a competent war-leader and Kettricken into a capable queen. The villain is a woman terrorizing a matrilineal people. Poor Fitz still lives in the world of the 90s, and so doesn’t want Nettle to become what she can be. Probably that’s why he continues to yearn after Molly and spurns the Fool.

And now we have the book written in 2015. His daughters have forced Fitz into the 21st century. He has become less whiny and I no longer want to strangle him for his self-pity. Rest I have already said in the paragraphs above.

Maybe if I went back and looked at my life in the 90s, I will hate myself as much as I hate Molly. I will hate the clothes I wore, the thoughts I dared have. The unquestioning acceptance of what was at the time seen as a profession appropriate for a woman. Maybe if I read the Golden Notebook again- and that book changed my life- I would find that Anna and her friend were unnecessarily whiny. Maybe if she had been alive, Molly too would have got the upgrade everybody else- including me- got.

So that’s what I get out of writing this post. A realization that there was more to a character I disliked that I was admitting to myself.

12 days

Hey! Happy new year!

Can I just say a few words about Odd/Even? I just do not understand the skepticism/online outrage against it. The city IS a gas chamber. Come and hangout in the metro some evening as it exits the underground portions. You feel the air choking you as the train raises itself from the ground. It affects the Lamborgini driving super-rich as well as the pavement dwelling poor. And yes, I have seen the studies which say that vehicular smoke is just 2% (or 10%, or whatever) of total pollution. That is looking at the average and pretending that it tells you anything about the peak. The construction dust etc remains throughout the day. Vehicular smoke peaks about 7-8 pm, then gradually declines. But do you care what is causing pollution at 3 am? Or 2 pm on a hot summer day? We care about air quality at 7 pm. We have to, because most of us, and most of our children, are outside in the evening.

Which also makes me suspect that the impact of Odd/Even will get drowned in poorly analysed data. Data will be tortured by all sides until it confesses, and it will say everything everyone wants it to say.