Artificially Imposing Modern Morality on Medieval Worlds (or something similarly lofty sounding)

I have to admit one thing I really dislike about the Game of Thrones TV adaptation is the forced imposition of 21st Century morality on this medieval world.

A perfect example is the wedding of Tyrion and Sansa. Correct me if I’m wrong, avid readers, but nowhere in the books does any man have a problem sleeping with a girl because she is too young. Any girl is considered fair game for marriage and subsequent consummation once she goes through her first period. This is made clear by a detailed Imagescene in the book where Sansa experiences her first period, is horrified at the thought of being wedded and bedded to Joffrey, and nearly burns her bed sheets trying to dispose of the evidence. 

In the books, Tyrion does not refuse to consummate his marriage because he is some sensitive 21st Century man unwilling to force himself on an unwilling young girl, but because he is a good man and pities Sansa’s predicament. 

In the show, Tyrion asks Sansa how old she is to underscore the potential horror that is about to happen. He then refuses to sleep with her because she is just a child. This rings false for the universe and always irritated me.

Additional instances of this problem occur at Edmure Tully’s wedding, where Tulisa (a non-book character) remarks upon the strange bedding custom in Westerosi weddings. To clarify, near the end of the wedding ceremony, guests “help” the bride and groom get to their room, all the while stripping them (an dhaving a bit of a grope, I imagine). The nekkid bride and groom are then shut in their room and expected to copulate.

Tulisa’s background indicates that she would find the Westerosi custom strange, but it seems ridiculous for Robb (and subsequently Catelyn) to agree that it is a silly custom. In no culture will you find people native to that culture viewing it as a non-native and finding it silly. Catelyn later remarks to Roose Bolton that Eddard Stark did not allow the bedding ceremony on their wedding, implying that Ned would have to break someone’s face on his wedding day if the ceremony occurred.

This rings terribly untrue because:

a. Despite not being brought up to lead House Stark, Ned is dedicated to the job and is a good Warden of the North and a paternal symbol for his bannermen and their people. To refuse to participate in a common custom, no matter how personally distasteful, is against Ned’s sense of duty.

b. Ned Stark anything but hot tempered and impulsive. Were Catelyn speaking of her original betrothed (his older brother Brandon Stark), this would make much more sense and probably even be likely.

I can understand the need to make Tyrion seem sympathetic to the audience by forcing modern morality on him. Most audiences probably nodded approvingly or cheered quietly for his refusal to bed a child. However, if you are afraid to offend your audience, you are not as edgy and revolutionary a show as you think.

Now that I’ve got that rant out of my system, I’ll move on to other things.

Raanjhanaa Review (Spoilers)

Raanjhanaa is appropriately named after Ranjha, the male lead in the well known Punjabi tale of doomed romance. The story follows a young Hindu boy in Banaras named Kundan and his lifelong passion for Zoya, the daughter of a local Muslim businessman.

Themes such as religious differences make an appearance straight off the bat, since the opening sequence depicts young Kundan dressed up as Arjun, asking the locals for a charitable donation for a religious festival. He is not put off his task until he unknowingly wanders into a Muslim home to ask for a donation and happens to see young Zoya during the ritual prayer for Muslims (namaaz) in another room. In my opinion, however, the religious
themes are a red herring. Not to say that there aren’t still hurdles when two people of differing religions fall in love, but the idea that the religion is the true hurdle in this story is constantly undercut by Kundan (very seriously) offering to convert to Islam for the sake of his love, an offer that Zoya never takes seriously because of the true hurdle in the lovers’ path: class. The fact that Zoya later on knowingly falls in love with a Hindu boy at university and tries to pass him off as a Muslim to her parents also severely undercuts the idea that this story is about religion.Raanjhanaafilmposter

The real conflict in this movie is something that is not talked about much in the Indo-Pak part of the world but is carved into every inhabitant’s mind: thou shalt not mix classes.

Anyone from that part of the world, upon viewing the trailer, will likely at least be thinking that the girl is completely out of the boy’s league, although it seems cruel to articulate it. Happily, the movie focuses on this difference for at least the first half (happily because I think this is a major problem in our part of the world and does not get the kind of attention in art that it should). Our protagonist has some very clear indicators of the class he belongs to:

a. He is darker skinned, while the female lead is lighter skinned. In this part of the world, fair is beautiful and darker skin is mocked and ridiculed.

b. He is not well educated. Zoya refuses to take his affections seriously and engages in a girlhood flirtation with him only because she believes he is truly romantically harmless. After all, he should already know what she knows: they may be neighbors, but they are miles apart in terms of class and education.The movie uses spoken English as an indicator of education and class. As the movie progresses, Zoya uses her superior command of English as a weapon, brandishing it to intimidate, impress or simply put another in their place. As a contrast, Kundan has little knowledge about English, as is illustrated by his responding to Zoya’s “Forget me!” with “You forget me, muah!” and then later discovering what the phrase means and despairing. Zoya’s preferred suitor is a leader of men, as she explains to Kundan later, but we see in their encounters that he is not rustic or “illiterate” and is able to communicate with both the lower classes and her “class” via a battle of wits in English.Zoya drives the point home at many points in the movie when she refers to Kundan (to his face and behind his back) as illiterate to shoot down the idea of a serious romance or relationship between herself and Kundan. In one instance she further elaborates on the perceived difference between them by pointing out that he is just an errand boy at her house, little more than a servant. Kundan, however, refuses to be cowed by ideas of class or his own social station. He is kind of his little corner of Banaras, well-liked in his social circle and the son of a well-respected priest. In his mind, this makes him an excellent prospect for any woman, especially Zoya. The idea of class is especially ironic in this relationship, given that Zoya’s preferred suitor, Akram/Jasjeet runs a political party based on the platform of equality for all citizens. A party which, in the latter half of the movie Zoya attempts to lead but one that Kundan naturally becomes the ultimate leader and figurehead for. After all, Kundan is the idea of a classless India personified: a man who believes he is as good as any other person and better than most.Now, to the actors. Dhanush is well known in South Indian cinema but this is his initial foray into Bollywood and Hindi language movies. He extended his Hindi specifically in preparation for this role and it does show. Despite some subtle problems with his Hindi delivery, Dhanush is at his best (and most charismatic) when expressing emotions using his body or his face, with absolutely no words needed. The man carries the movie through sheer charisma, doling out pure joy, dismay, anger, petulance, despair, hurt and disgust as required.

Soman Kapoor delivers a skilled performance as the equally mercurial but more selfish Zoya. Zoya is fundamentally an unlikable character as she knowingly toys with Kundan’s feelings, uses and discards him at the drop of a hat and all petulantly blames her parents for educating her to have a mind of her own and then asking her to marry random “nice Muslim boys”.

The music in this movie is gorgeous. A. R. Rahman delivers a score for the leads to fall in love to and the reprises appear at just the right places in the movie to deliver appropriate emotional punches. My personal favorites include “Tum Tak” and the title track.

The first half of the movie is exactly what I expected when I saw the trailer: a romantic comedy with a charming lead duo with some pitfalls on their way to living happily every after. The second half feels like a completely different movie, taking a slightly ungraceful tangent into politics and the wider issues at play in the world. The colorful and charismatic characters are reduced to muted glaring and tearful regret in shadowy corners. While I enjoyed the diversion from the expected love story, it could have been handled better to create a better overall movie.

A few odd things during the movie (particularly the end) jerked me back out of the world and were generally the cause of unintentional hilarity. Oddly, most of these were related to medical treatments. In one instance, Kundan slits his wrists and the next scene shows a bag of blood feeding the needed blood into his body via (oddly enough) the very same slit wrist. Clearly the medical practitioners in this hospital are not ones to waste manpower when a convenient hole is already available. Another instance is a tense operating room scene where the surgeon extracts and plops down a bullet shell rather than the slug, which elicited a laugh for me. Another odd occurrence is that scrubbed in doctors and nurses operate on a man in a sterilized operating theater as friends of the patient randomly wander in (in bloody and dirty clothes and without so much as a hand washing) to hold his hand and have a heart to heart with the unconscious man. Perhaps this can be explained by a lack of a consultant for the medicine related scenes? It seems a shame to detract from the seriousness of the scene with mistakes like this, especially when most of your viewership probably watches CSI, House, and the like as a staple part of their TV diet.

Overall, I would recommend the movie based on the blatant discussion about the class system in this part of the world and some genuinely funny moments with a lovely soundtrack.

Rating: 7.5/10

First Forays into Dog Ownership

I’ve ever only owned cats. Self-sufficient, indoor only, self-cleaning and independent cats. Dog people would tell me what I was missing out on and all I heard was “slobbering, needy, loud, overexcited dog that needs walks every day”. It would be fair to say I was pretty smug about having the better kind of pet: low maintenance, non-slobber, and pretty affectionate in small doses. Perfect for a busy, working lifestyle.

And then I got a puppy because it might be fun to have a slobbering, overexcited pet sometimes. To my credit, I initially wanted to adopt an adult dog to skip the initial training, accidents and behavior modification training. Apparently not too many grown dogs are happy to live with three cats, so it seemed a puppy was the right choice instead.

These are my step by step findings as I go through 

Step 0: Just Pick One

The first question: which breed? Since hub has owned a large black Labrador most of his life, Labradors seemed like a safe choice. The black Labrador died not too long ago, so black was out. Chocolate is cute but apparently not as common as yellow Labradors  so yellow it is. We visited the intended litter and picked out one of the male puppies after administering what we thought were the standard tests: responses to visual and auditory stimulation. All signs are good, and puppy is healthy, a bit rotund and likes to lick people. So far so good.

Step 1: Go the Fuck to Sleep

First few days at new home, puppy is super cute, runs in a floppy way and has a bladder the size of a thimble. All three of our current cats required no coddling when brought home. More of a “dude, that’s your toilet, this is where the food’s at and that’s your water dish. make yourself at home.”

Image

With a new (single) puppy, the first thing you will need to deal with is the constant whining the second he/she is left alone. The hardest part about this is that you need to teach the new puppy that whining or barking is not desirable behavior and therefore nobody can respond to the whining until he/she stops. The result is a couple (if you’re lucky) or many (if you’re unlucky) nights of little to no sleep. If this little nugget of fun wasn’t enough, puppies also need very regular food and water and can only manage to hold it in their wee bladders for about 15 minutes or so. If you follow most puppy training guidelines and crate your dog (probably in your bedroom), learn to quickly distinguish between whining for attention and whining for a toilet run. Mind you puppies don’t have much control over their bladder till they are approximately three months old, so you need to sprint for the appropriate potty place with puppy in tow before he decides he can’t hold it any more. Enjoy!

Protip: Take several suitably adorable pictures [as above] of your puppy to remind yourself why you’re putting up with sleep deprivation and cleaning up accidents that happen far to frequently to really be accidents. 

More in a later post.

 

Configure the scroll wheel functionality for a Logitech Marble mouse on Fedora 17

I recently purchased a Logitech Trackman Marble mouse and was attempting to replicate the usual mouse scroll wheel functionality. Surely a giant track wheel such as this was born to scroll! As a result of some quick google searches and some experimentation, the following directions configure the Logitech Trackman Marble mouse on Fedora 17 (possibly also 16, but this is untested):

1. As root, create a file called 50-marblemouse.conf in /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/

2. Copy and paste the following configuration for your Logitech Trackman Marble mouse into the 50-marblemouse.conf file:

Section “InputClass”
Identifier “Marble Mouse”
MatchProduct “Logitech USB Trackball”
MatchIsPointer “on”
MatchDevicePath “/dev/input/event*”
Driver “evdev”
Option “ButtonMapping” “1 8 3 4 5 6 7 2 9”
Option “EmulateWheel” “true”
Option “EmulateWheelButton” “8”
Option “ZAxisMapping” “4 5”
Option “XAxisMapping” “6 7”
Option “Emulate3Buttons” “false”
EndSection

3. Reboot.

4. Profit!

I’m not sure how useful this information is but for the small set of people who use both a recent version of Fedora and this particular mouse, I hope this helps.

Gym Tales – Part Deux

Longtime readers of this blog (who am I kidding here?) may remember my previous attempts to join a gym and commence a healthier lifestyle. The result of the experiment was that when exercising solo, my motivation leaves a great deal to be desired.

Fast forward several years and I find myself in the uncomfortable position of being able to join a gym very close to my workplace once again. Unfortunately, that gym happens to be Fitness First, for which I have heard unflattering things, mainly pertaining to their reluctance to let you go after you decide you no longer want to continue with them. That aside (and because they happen to be across the street from work), I’ll give them a try for a month and see what the results are like.

They asked us today, during the discussion about the fitness program to use, how we would rate ourselves in terms of fitness currently, on a scale of one to ten. I can honestly answer that my current rating would be two or three, but I have willingness to get in shape again, and that is what counts.

More gym based tales to follow. Hopefully I won’t regret this.

Quoting, Paraphrasing and Summarizing

Quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing are methods used to include ideas from external sources in your own work. Despite their differences, all three methods require careful referencing to the original material. To determine the strategy that best suits your purpose, consider the following questions:

  1. Is it important to retain the original author’s writing style and language along with their ideas? If so, quote the original text.
  2. Is it important to retain the supporting information for each idea used? If so, paraphrase the original text.
  3. After discarding the supplementary information, is it important to rephrase the ideas into language that is better suited to your own audience? If so, summarize the original text.

Note that all three questions are fundamentally about the audience; specifically, whether the audience for the original work differs from your intended audience.

To quote an excerpt, retain the presented ideas in the exact language and style of the original work. This method is most useful when the language and style employed remains relevant and clear for your intended audience.

To paraphrase an excerpt, rephrase the language and ideas of the original text in their entirety. This method assumes that both the ideas and supplementary information originally provided are essential to gain a complete understanding of the subject matter. It is also assumed that the style and language are not suitable for the new audience and must therefore be altered.

To summarize an excerpt, rephrase the primary ideas of the original text and discard supplementary information. This method assumes that the primary ideas (when rephrased) offer as complete an understanding of the subject matter as is desired. As a general rule, summaries are a third of the length of the original text.

Both paraphrasing and summarizing rephrase ideas to better serve a new audience, but differ in one important aspect: summarizing prioritizes conciseness over clarity, while paraphrasing prioritizes clarity over conciseness.

The following examples clarify the use of all three methods:

Quotation:

“You’ve heard of animals chewing off a leg to escape a trap? There’s an animal kind of trick. A human would remain in the trap, endure the pain, feigning death that he might kill the trapper and remove a threat to his kind.” – Herbert, Frank (1965). Dune. ISBN 0-441-17271-7.

Paraphrasing:

In Dune, Frank Herbert differentiates humans and animals by comparing how each would react to being caught in a trap. He states that if caught in a trap, an animal is limited to the immediate view of the situation and preserves its own individual safety. The animal’s thought patterns are limited to the present situation, from which it seeks liberation. It therefore sacrifices the trapped limb to escape, without concern for future survival prospects with a missing limb.

Conversely, a human disregards individual concerns and focuses on the hunter as a threat to its species as a whole. This implies a concern for the preservation of the species over the individual as well a thought process that formulates future projections based on past experiences and the current situation. Based on this, a human endures the pain of a trapped limb and waits for the hunter in order to kill a predator that is a threat to its species.

Summarizing:

In the science fiction classic Dune, Frank Herbert differentiates a human and animal mind by their reaction to a threat. He theorizes that an animal mind’s highest priority is its own survival rather than the survival of its species. In contrast, a human prioritizes the survival of its species above its individual survival.

From PK to AU – A Survival Guide Part 1

Who are you?

O Hai, Greener Pastures!

For this post to be relevant, or even interesting to you, you should be someone who has lived in Pakistan all your life and are now considering, as many are, moving to greener pastures, this blog post is for you.

That is unless, of course, your idea of greener pastures is the no longer AAA rated United States or somewhere in Europe. To be fair, you may intend to migrate to Nigeria, for all I know, or the easier to adjust to United Arab Emirates or (arguably) your spiritual home, Saudi Arabia. Returning to the point, this blog post is of little use to you if you are planning/trying to migrate anywhere but Australia.

Who the heck am I?

When writing, one is told time and again to write what they know. In my case, for the past year or so, what I knew consisted mostly of things that are different “here” i.e. In Brisbane and Sydney, Australia, as opposed to how things used to be for the quarter of a century I lived “there”, i.e. Karachi, Pakistan. I moved to Australia with my husband around May 2010. A year has gone by and some of the shininess and has faded and I’ve learned some things that I’d like to share with my fellow wannabe-migrants.

Don’t sue (or worse, flame) me, yo.

Let me also provide a standard disclaimer before I begin that it is quite possible that you may find your own experiences to be quite different from mine. You may sit in Perth or Melbourne and be able to unequivocally state that none of what this silly woman is on about was relevant to yourself. This is fair enough, given that we leave room for local differences.

Why did I bother to write this?

Sydney at night

As a precursor to the information presented here, since moving here, I’ve lost count of the number of friends back home who have asked me one or more questions about the following, after asking about how hard it is to get in? For that information, refer to another of my posts that deals with the options available to move here.

The reason I write this particular post was that I have, over the last year or so, repeatedly had to formulate and convey the information I will put into this series of posts to people and I figured that I may as well write about it in one place. Why discriminate against people who don’t know someone here who can tell them these things to give them a bit of a head start into life in Australia.

Admittedly, knowing these things a year or so ago would have made my life and transition a bit easier, so that is as good a reason for me as any to put it down here.

Buy or Rent?

Rent? Pfft!

To begin with, let’s say you’re all set to come here, possibly to look for work and need a place to stay. One of the most basic differences you will find is the rental culture. Unless you’re someone in their thirties or have/are planning to have children, chances are you will be renting a home rather than buying one. That being said, it is a well known (and oft-repeated) fact that its a buyers market for houses in Australia just now, so if you can afford the upwards of 300,000 dollars required to purchase a house, go for it.

From my experience, when you’ve converted all your PKR savings to AUD, the resultant number is significantly diminished and slighty alarming! I believe that it’s safe to assume that no matter how much of a buyers market it is, when you first arrive here, unless your name is Bhutto-Zardari, you’re renting. This is not a necessarily a bad thing.

What you need to know about renting property in Australia.

The best and worst thing about renting a property is that you don’t own it. This is good because if you lived in one place for a period of time and grow to detest it with a passion usually reserved for Rebecca Black songs (click on that link, its hilarious!) and fanboys, you can simply move to another place and never have to see the place again. This is bad because the lack of ownership means that you are on a very short leash in terms of what you are allowed to do with the property.

When life gives you bat poo...

Depending on the terms outlined by your landlord you will most likely not be allowed to have pets, loud parties (neighbors operate as judge and jury regarding the loudness of your parties), hammer nails into walls to hang your stuff or put up shelves, install air conditioners or dishwashers, have friends over to live with you for an extended visit, sublet the place without permission, make structural changes, etc.

To supply an example that hits close to home, we have a tree in our property’s yard that serves as a nightclub for bats. Every night, they’ll silently gather, do the bat mating ritual or sit in a circle and smoke pot or whatever it is that bats do for fun and in the morning, I’ll be left with a small mountain of bat poo. I’m not allowed to get rid of the tree without permission from the owners of the property and I’m forced to clean the stuff and toss it every few days. It strikes me that this could serve as a metaphor for my life of some sort, but I’m too grossed out by the implied metaphoric connection between my life and bat poo to follow this up.

There’s always a middleman.

Acting as arbiters in this exciting new relationship in your life are the estate agents, the people who serve as firewalls between yourself, the troublesome tenant and the owners, who really don’t want to be directly bothered with the rubbish you get unto and your pleas for maintenance.

In my experience, estate agents belong to either one end or the other of the niceness spectrum. They will be either extremely accommodating, sympathetic, cooperative and understanding, or they will be the estate agent from hell: late to return your calls, holding you responsible for wear and tear to extract repair costs out of you and insisting on judging not just condition of the house on the quarterly inspection, but also your life (“tsk, tsk.”, “what?”, “oh, nothing at all, dear. “).

A nice agent can make life in a not so perfect house feel like a good trade-off while an evil agent can easily make your dream house feel like a test of patience and, to stumble head-first into a cliche, a nightmare.

How long am I stuck here, again?

The shortest lease period allowed is six month. Yes, you can get out of your contract before your lease expires, but based on the amount of hassle and expense you’ll likely end up with by the time you manage to move into your new place, you may well wonder if it was worth it.

To get an idea about this ordeal, let’s say that for any one of a myriad of reasons (found a much more appealing new place, hate your flatmate, hate the neighbors, moving into a need place with significant other, etc.) you want to exit your ongoing lease. Once you’re certain you want out, you’ll approach your agent and give the bad (or good, as the case may be) news. The crux of the ensuing discussion will be to locate a worthy candidate to take over your lease. The catch is that until one is found, you’re stuck paying the lease as usual, even if you don’t actually live there anymore.

In addition to paying rent for two places, you also have to take care of the moving costs (Around AUD 200 for a moving service) and apply for electricity, internet, a phone line, etc. for your new place.

If you thought the concept of paying rent twice when you don’t even live in one of he place you’re paying for was punishing, wait till you have to pitch the place you are vacating to friends, relatives, strangers in elevators, anyone really, who might mention a passing interest in moving. Aside from this, you’ll also likely have to show people around your property, most of whom will likely not be interested enough to apply. This can potentially go on for a month or two if you’re terminally unlucky.

In summation, weighting the mental and monetary cost of finding a suitable candidate to take over your lease, showing strangers your living areas and facing judgement (“tsk, tsk”, “WHAT!?”, “Oh, nothing.”) may lead to serious reconsideration and/or abandonment of the idea of breaking your lease.

Fresh off the metaphorical boat.

When I first arrived in Brisbane, I was coming in from Pakistan and needed a place to crash. Since I didn’t know anyone in Brisbane, I was forced to either opt for a motel (AU$ 50-100 per day if you’re into a decent motel room with some semblance of comfort, and more for a hotel) or opt for one of the few shared living facilities that allowed booking without actually seeing you first. We picked the latter, a seemingly charming little student accommodation called UniResort in Brisbane’s Upper Mount Gravatt area.

In theory, the idea of living with students sounds like fun. I like to think that a temporary madness took over our thought processes wherein we fancied ourselves as more the early twenty-somethings we used to be, and not enough of the married, nearly thirty-somethings we actually are. Less of the “Par-TAY!” and more “Get off my lawn, you darn kids!”.

Your Shared Uni Accommodation Living space

Suffice it to say, three months into our six month lease and the idea of paying AUD 235 a week for more or less one room and bathroom with paper-thin walls and a messy common room shared by three other people had completely lost is appeal. I believe I had to either blog about it or release my tentative hold on sanity and indulge in leaving absurd messes and making a ridiculous amount of noise every weeknight.

To be fair, at the time, we had little other choice: either paying through the nose while looking for a more permanent residence, or Uniresort. If you have the chance to, I would highly recommend crashing with an acquaintance who can barely stand you to avoid this horrible choice with no win.

Links:

Gumtree is the Australian equivalent of Craigslist. Given enough time, you can find anything there, from people looking for someone to move in with them to used furniture.

Real Estate is your go-to website to locate a place to rent or buy.

Google it?

I came across and interesting tweet today, which I promptly retweeted:

Google before you tweet is the new think before you speak.

Further thought on this later in the day forced me to conclude that the dazzling simplicity of this tweet is due to its use of certain words as interchangeable, or rather as natural “new age” replacements for the classics. In this case, the substitution of Google as a verb for “think” and Tweet as a verb in place of speak.

It seems a natural path to go along in an age where google may as well be god in that it knows everything:

If I can operate Google, I can find anything. And with wireless, it means I will be able to find anything, anywhere, anytime. Which is why I say that Google, combined with Wi-Fi, is a little bit like God. God is wireless, God is everywhere and God sees and knows everything. Throughout history, people connected to God without wires. Now, for many questions in the world, you ask Google, and increasingly, you can do it without wires, too.
Alan Cohen, V.P. of Airespace
To refer to the central repository of knowledge is the natural instinct of an appendage to make sense of what it has sensed. This is the rule by which our bodies naturally operate, i.e. the hand touches liquid, reports the sensation to the brain, which classifies this sensation as that of touching a liquid. To identify the liquid, the eyes observe the color and general appearance and potentially our nose smells it and our taste buds taste it to provide meta-data and further classify the liquid. All this data travels from our various body parts to the brain, our central repository for information. Without it, we are but sensory equipment with no way to process or make sense of the information.

Taking this one step further to apply to the current discussion, does this meant that we are. by extension, becoming the appendages attached to the brain that is Google? I wish to purchase a motorcycle and visit a store to see what is on offer. Noting a model name and number, I turn to my interconnected “brain”, Google to help me identify it and sort through its accumulated “experiences” via customer reviews, professional reviews, comparisons, and so on to help me determine whether or not to purchase the item. It does not matter that I do not personally know the people who have provided these other “experiences” for my “brain”, Google’s database. The hand does not have the capacity to “recognize” the eyes, yet they provide individual feedback and the brain sorts through the data to come to a logical conclusion. Therefore, while my customer review or opinion about a product, experience, idea, etc. might be as foreign as the eye to a hand, it is also completely valid input for the overall “brain”, Google, just as my own brain would collect data indiscriminately from both my eye and hand and sort them to form a classification larger than the individual units of information provided earlier.

In such a scenario, my own localized brain becomes a node in a very large network of nodes, all with one searchable interface. What, then, of things in my brain that are not yet Google searchable, you may ask? I may then point you towards a vast array of applications and websites on the internet, each acting as a silo for a certain type of data about you. What did you divulge today? Your favorite colors, your bank information, your personal conversations and chats, your relationships on a social networking website, what you have been watching, where you visited? Slowly but surely, a vast chunk of my thoughts, locations, memories, relationships, personality even are being “uploaded” to the remote brain that is the internet, interfaces and searchable by Google.

Returning to the primary point, it seems reasonable now to expect an exchange of the term “think” and the verb “Google” since it simply means we refer to our remote server for information from a much wider range of nodes than our mere five senses.

Anime Roundup: The Big Three

So in this long overdue anime roundup post, I’ll start off with what I consider the Big Three series, simply due to their long episode lists and long standing popularity. Chances are, if you’re an anime fan, you’ve seen or at least heard of all of these, or at some time been subject to an impassioned proposition to watch them.

BLEACH

Welcome to the first of the “Big Three”, as I like to call them. Most anime fans have at least heard of Bleach, if not ardently in possession of a burning desire to watch every new episode that comes out. The premise is simple enough and not exactly hard to swallow for anyone familiar with standard Hollywood fare: Ichigo, our carrot-topped protagonist is a loner, and he has a bit of a savior complex. See that expression he’s got in the picture, that “I’m complicated but angry” frown? Yeah, that’s pretty much what his face will look like throughout the series, so get used to it. Little does he suspect, but as with all epic tales, his life will soon be turned upside down, mostly because of the hot little number behind him: Rukia. Rukia is a Death God, a non human with special powers that allow her to see and combat evil spirits that did not go peacefully into the light (surprising how many that happens to, maybe clearer directions to the light are required?).

Ichigo, through a chain of extraordinary events, “borrows” Rukia’s Death God powers and gets a big sword of his own (pictured above) to fight them bad spirits with, and a badass black kimono to do it in, also pictured above. Now Rukia is injured and recuperating in the human world as Ichigo battles her share of evil demons but there is a twist: the other Death Gods will not like a mere human, albeit with a huge sword, having said powers. Did I mention Ichigo has a huge sword? Because we are hit on the head with the “Ichigo’s equipment is really effing huge” metaphor for the first many episodes. Size is not everything, folks, but clearly there is some penis envy at work here because the size of your sword indicated the power within.

So the action really begins when Ichigo is spanked and told to know his place as a human and Rukia is dragged off back to the Death God world for punishment, and Ichigo, being Ichigo, must go rescue her and show off his huge penis, er sword, in another realm. The fights that I saw were decent, the storyline was engaging, at least in the main arc, in the fillers, I completely lost interest, as in the case with another of our Big Three series, Naruto, where fillers begin to border on the ludicrous.

So, to be honest I only got through the first of the major arcs for this anime, and that too the second time around due to the incessant hyping of every Bleach fan I come into contact with and is also in possession of the strangest name for an anime of this type that I can think of. Maybe fans who have gotten into more episodes can explain the connection between any sort of “bleach” and the storyline, but it’s beyond me.

What makes it one of the “Big Three”?

Bleach’s sheer length (it hasn’t ended yet, 302 episodes and counting, according to this Wikipedia article). It’s also one of the more famous series you’ll come across, and a good conversation started with any anime fan, since most would have at least heard of it. Why should you watch it? Because tons of people have and enjoyed it, although my personal taste prevented me from venturing further than the end of the Soul Society arc. Will Ichigo be a frowning and broody hero as he rescues multiple people from certain death? Yes. Will he seem to magically acquire powers that seem above and beyond that of people with normal sized swords for no apparent reason? Yes. Will you enjoy watching it all unfold? Probably, yes.

Personal rating

Story: 8/10

Action: 8/10

Animation: 7/10

NARUTO

Time to meet the second of our Big Three. Meet Naruto, the one in bright orange in the middle there. Guess what he does for a living (put aside the fact that he’s supposed to be around eleven years old here)? Given the brightly colored outfit, he must be in a circus or used as live bait for colorblind animals, surely? Nope, he’s a ninja. Yes, let it sink in for a second that a ninja, master of ninjitsu and stealth, is dressed in a bright orange jumper.

Aside from the fashion statement, the story goes thus: Naruto is an orphan who is mostly ignored and often despised in his home village of Konoha, for some odd reason. Parents give him venomous sidelong glances and kids pick up their derisory attitude from their parents and Naruto’s own clownish ineptitude in ninja school. Naruto, however, is no brooding hero, he’s a cheerful and loud kid who insists that one day he will become a ninja and a Hokage, the most powerful ninja in Konoha and the leader of the community and gain acknowledgement in the eyes of the community that mysteriously detests a kid that grew up with no parents. In the early episodes, we discover that sealed inside Naruto is a nine tailed demon fox (the number of tails indicate the strength of the demon) that attacked his village when he was born and the previous Hokage, a beloved figure who died young, gave his life to seal the fox in a newborn child and save the village. The current Hokage forbids anyone to tell him why everyone hates him and also forbid mentioning the demon fox inside the boy, although it would have been a better idea to forbid kids growing up with no adult guardian altogether, but I digress.

So, our colorblind friend makes it to ninja school (how cool would it have been to get to go to ninja school?) and is teamed up with the dark haired and super broody sole survivor of a genius clan, Sasuke and the annoying pink haired cheerleader type love interest, Sakura. Naruto likes Sakura, who of course, likes unsociable broody men named Sasuke-kuuuuuun. The trio come together under the genius copy ninja (you’ll find a lot of early bloomers and geniuses in the ninja world, clearly killing makes children in this village blossom), Kakashi.

So, enough with the storyline, the series itself is quite interesting and emotional for a few arcs, then you come across the filler episodes, and boy are they bad! I cite examples from this show to tell people just how bad fillers can possibly be. In one instance, Naruto uses his hard earned new uber-cool technique to slice ramen on a mission to feed hungry soldiers. In another, he very ostensibly tails a courier ninja (what next, Chef Ninjas, Janitor Ninjas and Librarian Ninjas?) to prevent spoilers reaching their destination? Yes, W-T-F.

What makes it one of the Big Three?

The Naruto series itself is about 220 episodes, with it’s follow up, set two years after the end of the first series, while it’s successor series (Naruto Shippudden) has 196 to date and shows no signs of ending. This series, due to its exporting to the west, is one of the anime series that is very widely known even in English speaking countries. The idea of ninjas and a ninja academy and a boy containing almost unlimited power within without knowing it has its charms, but this thoroughly wore off for me around the end of the Chuunin exam arc. Out of the three main characters, Sasuke is a whiny little brooder and Sakura is a high pitched cheerleader for every obnoxious thing he does, while Naruto remains the blustery immature brat at age 14 that he was at age 11. Admittedly, this was beginning to wear me down, till the Chuunin Exam arc, where many other ninjas are introduced (admittedly some quite interesting ones).

Sasuke cannot stop obsession over his past and the wiping out of his clan, save him, Sakura can’t get over her crush on him even when she’s well into her teens, after he abandons the village, turns rogue and attacks his old comrades when he sees them after years of learning dark ninjitsu, and Naruto finally becomes aware of his inner (literal) demon and starts channeling its power, while obsessed with a one track mission to save the whiny brat, Sasuke, save the world. Are the ninja battles fun? Definitely, most so where we initially see Naruto being extremely resourceful and planning his attack (this does not last long and is very erratic, giving the impression of someone who sometimes shows the skill and IQ of a 6 year old, and at some odd moments, that of a seasoned 20 year old). If you skip all the fillers, you may continue on to watch Shippudden as well and enjoy that too.

Personal Rating

Story: 8.5/10

Action: 9/10

Animation: 7.5/10

ONE PIECE

Look at that face. See the pure, unadulterated joy? The empty headed smile of a man who knows he’s on a wanted poster and hunted by the world government and every bounty hunter in the world, and does not give a rat’s ass. Yes, welcome to Monkey D. Luffy’s world. Luffy is a boy who ate a Devil’s Fruit, a magical fruit that gives one magical powers, except it’s a bit of a gamble because you could get a really cool power (Flame ON!) or a really stupid one (Nost Fancy, i.e. being able to generate and toss exploding boogers from your nose). Luffy’s random power is that he becomes a rubberman, with powers like Mr. Fantastic, only he uses them much more imaginatively, by becoming a balloon, a canopy to harmlessly reflect cannonballs back at origin, stretching arms and legs for maximum force when they crash down on an enemy’s skull, rapid fire rubber punches, stretching out an arm to catapult the rest of his body towards a destination).

The sheer recklessness of Luffy seems a bit jarring at first, and one could mistake the kid for a moron. After all, along with the rubberman ability, the Devils Fruit makes him a hammer (someone who cannot possibly swim or float in water and would immediately drown in the sea), and he wants to be a pirate and spend his life on the one thing that could kill him in seconds. At first, his simple minded declarations of being the man who will become the next Pirate King, the most powerful and rich pirate in the world, after discovering a legendary treasure, One Piece, seems ridiculous. His future crewmates, with interesting talents and powers of their own, think so as well. Slowly, as are we, they are won over by his heart, his unwillingness to see innocents bear their problems alone, and his sheer power and force of will.

If ever you were a kid dreaming of being on a pirate ship with your best mates and sailing through uncharted waters and reaching a new island with new problems that you can help solve and pick up new friends along the way, this series is pure wish fulfillment for you. Luffy and his ever expanding crew (who I have not added in the picture at all to preserve the surprise) are a unique bunch, with powers ranging from being a swordsman who wants to be the best swordsman on earth, to a cowardly liar who wants to explore the world and justify his lies. It’s a crew and series that, if you give it a chance, you will grow to love for its powerfully emotional themes of friendship, loyalty and determination. Luffy is nothing but an embodiment of an uncompromising mix of those traits.

Look at that face, look at that grin. Watch this series now and you will find yourself with the same grin as you watch the crew struggle and triumph over insurmountable odds and visit wondrous places such as the island on the clouds. If I sound biased, it’s because I am and One Piece is one of my favorite shows ever.

What makes it one of the Big Three?

Well, really it’s nowhere near as popular as Naruto or Bleach, but its episode list is in the four hundreds as well and people are still wrapped up tightly in the storyline. To know why, brave through the distinctive and jarring style initially and press on, you may just find a series you will love for a lifetime.

Personal Rating

Story: 9/10

Action: 8/10

Animation: 8/10