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.

Advertisements

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.

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.

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.