Friday, December 31, 2010
My Blackberry Is Not Working! - The One Ronnie, Preview - BBC One
Got this from TA and after a short struggle decided it would be my New Year offering to friends and visitors to this blog. It's funny AND it's got resonance for Pythonizers from the last century -- for everyone who finds the references to Blackberries and Apples funny, there will be a small tribe of those who chuckle at the echoes of John Cleese's Dead Parrot sketch.
The year just ended was a fairly wild one. My niece got married three times in quick succession (oh all right! It was three different ceremonies, in three different locations, but only one marriage) and I visited Belgium for the first time, and also Framingham, MA and also Lebanon, NH and also a number for friends and family besides.
I spent most of the year either on my way to the airport, returning from the airport, AT the airport or in the air. Or at a bus terminal. Or at a train station. Or planning to be at an airport/bus terminal/train station. I even managed to lose my passport and waist-pouch in August, but got it back three hours later, because Boston's South Station is the kind of hub where many buses run a loop that goes to Logan Airport and comes back before the buses return to their base-stations in other cities. I was just major, major LUCKY that I got it back. I think travelers should be allowed to have their passports micro-chipped and embedded in their skulls. That way, we either have our travel papers or we're dead.
But that wasn't the only hairy trip I made. This last week, returning from Madras to Delhi, I left for the airport at 2 pm and arrived at Friends Colony in Delhi at 1.30 a.m.! It was a Jet Airways flight (9W 830, Sunday 26th Dec), scheduled for 5 pm. It was even announced on time but then, at 4.30 with passengers queueing up into front of the gate, it was cancelled with no further information.
Actually, I was so sure that the flight WOULD be delayed -- because it's the Season of the Fog, and flights in and out of North India are ALWAYS disrupted -- that I was amazed when I heard it being announced. After that point I had only sympathy and admiration for the Jet Airways staff. The passengers milled around, buzzing like a swarm of angry bees, behaving like children who've been told that they can't have a second helping of ice cream. Some were just shaking their heads from side to side, saying "nonononononono" as if sheer denial was going to ensure them a seat on the flight of their choice. The ground staff were scrupulously polite, maintaining admirable sang froid while explaining very softly and patiently that the matter was simply out of their hands.
I decided to stick it out at the airport. The drive from Chetpet (where my mother lives) to the airport is arduous even without a fog and my ticket was nonrefundable. I felt I'd rather take my chances with the flight. Even though I knew the chances were very low: according to news reports 70 flights had been cancelled in the course of that day. The flight was called again, at 7.30 pm and when we boarded, there were enough empty seats that I had a spare one between me and the fellow passenger with the window. In spite of all the chaos, Jet landed safely (and with a HUGE thump!) at IGI but we had an hour's wait before a parking berth was available.
Outside, the fog was like a thick woolen blanket. The luggage carousel didn't begin spewing its contents till we'd all been waiting 45 minutes. And then there was the FOG, THE FOG, THE 'ORRIBLE FOG outside. It was one a.m. and I am always unwilling to take my chances with the prepaid cabs if it's very late at night. But the alternative was waiting till sun up.
So I stood in queue and got my receipts for a prepaid cab -- but was still feeling anxious -- and so just before going out into the wind and fog, turned to a fellow passenger -- someone I'd noticed on the flight, sitting across the aisle from me and fiddling with an interesting hand-held device which he explained to the flight staff was "not really a cellphone at all, but I'll turn it off, since I know you'll want me to" -- I turned to this fellow passenger also standing in the prepaid queue and asked if he'd like to share a cab.
Whoever he is/was and in case he happens to see this blog post -- THANK YOU. Because, even though the prepaid taxi-wallah refused to accept passengers to two separate destinations -- and anyway, he was going to Vasant Vihar while I was going to Friends Col -- just the act of accompanying me out to the cab rank was somehow steadying and life-affirming. I hadn't ever used Terminal 3 for prepaids before and it was all rather peculiar and confusing so it was just NICE to be escorted out by a friendly person, stranger though he was.
The drive back was so tense that I entirely forgot to feel any fear whatsoever. The driver & his buddy were both hunched forward and staring through the windscreen at a thick white swirl of pure white lassi -- there's no other word for it -- it was just totally impenetrable. So long as we were on the highway, there were the tail lights of other cars to follow into the creamy haze, but then we eventually had to veer off and go through an intersection ... and there was nothing WHATSOEVER to hold onto, as a visual guide. The driver was navigating by the seat of his amygdala, or whatever's the name for the most primitive/mysterious part of his brain, that permitted him to find his way across the milky nothingness and on and on and on until ... at last we were at the Outer Ring Road and the sheer volume of traffic thundering through had managed to shift the curtains vapour aside enough to show us the way.
Whew. I spent the whole trip saying "GOOD DRIVER! NICE DRIVER! THERE'S A FINE FELLOW THEN!" and other soothing remarks of this nature, to which he would give out little bashful snorts and say, "We live only to please our customers!" or some other PR-type nonsense that maybe they'd been taught to parrot to tourists during the C'wealth Games.
And so it goes, so it goes.
My final offering for this first post of 2011 is something mildly controversial that I wrote a couple of weeks ago. It was intended for publcation so if it sounds a bit a dated and also rather more formal than my typical posts here, it's because it was not intended for the Blogiverse. But it got turned down in favour of my other offering, the item on Klingons (see below). So here now is:
The WikiLeaks story reads more like a movie than a news item: Julian Assange, a cold-eyed ash-blond geek, is catapulted to fame as a cyber-Robin Hood only to be derailed by his sordid sex-life. While Liberals and Leftists the world over struggle to decide whether he's a hero or a villain it's the feminist networks that have boiled over with dissent. Is he a victim of cynical governments or a sexual deviant stupid enough to parade himself on the international political scene with female skeletons rolling out of his closets? Should he be denounced as a rapist or championed as a man whose sexuality is being used against him?
What makes this case so fascinating is that for once, it involves a man's sexual integrity rather than a woman's. Gender-parity has not yet reached the point where we can speak of outraged masculine modesty. But in this case it seems possible that a man's sexual misconduct is being used to punish him for having pulled down the panties of various Governments. That's something new. The easiest way to destroy the credibility of a woman who challenges authority is to accuse her of "loose" behavior. Men, however, are rarely charged with sexual misdemeanours when their real crimes relate to politics and international trade. Imagine, for instance, a suspected terrorist or arms dealer being arrested because he also happens to be a rapist! Not only would it mean potentially millions of men being thrown behind bars but it would also suggest that all those women who are typically silent victims of violent, sadistic men had suddenly been enabled to speak out in the way of Assange's ex-girlfriends.
What makes this case especially interesting (or atrocious) is that the accusations are not about easily-identified crimes. The accusers are not, for instance, under-age virgins savaged at gunpoint by a man riddled with AIDS. If the accounts in media reports are to be believed, both of Assange's ex-girlfriends are adults who consented to have sex with him but later withdrew that consent. Modern societies try to distinguish between types of sexual behavior in order to ensure that manipulative and oppressive practises can be treated as crimes. But the arena in the Assange case is murky. One woman claims that he pinned her beneath him using "his body weight" and proceeded to have sex with her even though she strenuously objected. The other woman says she was unconscious. Condom malfunction was also an issue. Whatever the specifics, it's obvious that Assange behaved in a seriously uncouth manner. But within the spectrum of incidents deserving the title of rape, these accusations fall within the eye-roll category. The boundaries between full consent and playful resistance, pleasure and pain are, after all, extremely porous. It is easy to wonder whether these accusers would have felt differently if Assange had varied his behavior just a bit: used romantic language, for instance. Or chosen a more expensive aftershave. Or promised a stable relationship.
Merely to ask such questions is -- I KNOW -- terribly unfair. The insinuation is that the charges are trivial. Assange may yet turn out to be a sexual predator who deserves to be locked up. But supposing the problem is that one or both women is motivated by hurt pride and unrequited love? Worse yet, supposing one or other of the governments whose secrets have been exposed by WikiLeaks is motivated by its own hurt pride and wants to get Assange behind bars by any means whatsoever?
The nature of truth and justice in any accusation of rape is muddied by the gender-biased prejudices of societies. In the Assange case, it's as if an awkward sexual encounter has suddenly blown up into an international fracas complete with red-faced ministers and black-browed generals. But whose version of truth will prevail when the end-credits roll? Only time will tell.