Apr 032014

While, hell hath no fury as a woman spurned, research shows men to be more spiteful

researchers determined that men were generally more spiteful than women and young adults more spiteful than older ones, and that spitefulness generally cohabited with traits like callousness, Machiavellianism and poor self-esteem — but not with agreeableness, conscientiousness or a tendency to feel guilt.

Mar 302014

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And here are some of my top stories/story arcs featuring the Bat

Batman Year 1 - Frank Miller – a no brainer really. It took Batman out of the daylight and placed him firmly back into the night.


Written by Frank Miller and illustrated by David Mazzucchelli – the comic series is set in an almost dystopian world. It is into this world that Bruce Wayne returns, from his travels, to start his mission against crime. The treatment – both in terms of writing and in terms of illustrations and inking is Noir. It is almost as though Phillip Marlowe stepped out of Chandler’s world into the DC universe.

gordon 1The story is told from two points of view – Bruce Wayne in his battle against crime as a vigilante – later to become Batman, and Jim Gordon as he tries to impose order in the city of Gotham – against all odds. The relentless voice over – both Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon –  the world with no heroes, a world with shades of grey – tending to black not white, where the somewhat heroes compromise with their values to achieve their goals – it is amazing the dimensions Miller and Mazzuccheli achieved in print.The scene where Gordon waits for the corrupt cop,  Flass and then proceeds to take the law into his own hands to send out a message – that he can cross the line to keep his family safe – is quite poignant. Surprisingly, the year one animated adaptation made recently, is stripped of all these nuances. 


The comic is as much about Jim  Gordon’s year one as it is Batman’s year one. And as both men learn to cope with Gotham, crime and the cops – most of whom are bent beyond belief – they build a relationship that is as much of mutual convenience as it is of mutual respect. Christopher’s Nolan Batman Trilogy – especially Batman Begins –  borrows a lot from the story line as well as the characterization – of not just Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon, but the city of Gotham – warts and all. In fact, the scene where the Batman breaks through the glass roof to throw down the gauntlet – so as to speak – is right from the comic book.

The story telling is tight- the entire story is 4 30 page comics, the art outstanding – the coloring especially giving that sense of a world without light, a world that holds more shadows than brightness, and that brings out the moral ambiguity of the city. It is a world of thugs, pimps and whores – where the rich are rich because they are bent, and in turn the buy off everyone to keep quiet.

If you are a comic fan, this is a must buy for your collection. Avoid the video. 


bat god

Grant Morrison had a great run on Batman in JLA – his Batman was less angst filled, less driven by survivor’s guilt and more driven by
the fact that he was better than most (especially those with super powers) and therefore it was his duty to keep the world safe from idiots (especially those with super powers). This version of batman seems to be having more fun while being batman than other versions of him. Bat God rather than Batman. The Batman in this version is so brilliant, so ahead of the curve, that he can – and he does – take on God like entities and win.  Do check out the entire run


gothicBefore Grant Morrison wrote about BatGod, he had Batman encounter the Devil. Possibly the scariest, spookiest, scariest  comic book that i have ever read (no I don’t read horror) – and didnt’ know what this was about when i got it. Gothic - lives up to its name in more ways than one. The story is about a deal with the Devil from ages ago, the man who makes the deal with the devil, and the Batman. There is one particular scene when the young Bruce Wayne confronts the villain “whisper”, in the teacher’s study. Enough to keep you awake at night.

Once again, exceedingly tight story telling and a sense of menace that is pervasive. Do not read this on a dark and stormy night when you are alone at home.

nmlOne of my all time favorite arcs was No Mans Land – that ran across the best part of a year across all the Bat titles. At the core of the series was a Gotham condemned by the US Government, and the people who are left behind. Bruce Wayne, leaves Gotham in light of the US Government decision, and the city is left to a beleaguered militia (there is no police force anymore) and various criminals who slug it out. In this scenario, someone picks up the bat symbol and begins bringing back hope to the people of Gotham. Some fantastic writing by different authors – some beautiful scenes and an ending that will stay with you for ever. like Year One, this is as much Gordon’s story as it is Batman’s. This is a must read series.

There are a whole bunch of others that are brilliant -

  • The Man who Laughs by Ed Brubacker and The Killing Joke by Alan Moore  both look at the Batman’s (very complex) relationship with the Joker.
  • The Loeb and Sale Trilogy – Long Haloween, Dark Victory and Haunted Knight- explore the facet of Batman that is often ignored – that of the Detective. These three, like year one, are firmly in the noir space. The stories also explore the Batman’s growing attraction to Catwoman, and Bruce Waynes fascination with Selina Kyle.

I have been hearing great things about Scott Snyder’s run on Batman, but i simply haven’t had the time over the last two years to read (let alone read comics) – one of the things i hope to make time for in the year(s) to come. Maybe stuff i can read post retirement..  :D

Incidentally, i was introduced to the character of Batman by my maternal grandmother – when i was sub 10. she would tell me stories with batman as hero (authored by her) and which had a very desi context. This was before i ever read a comic or saw a batman film. :D



Mar 202014

My column in today’s DNA

It is election season and, therefore, it must be the time for rhetoric, more rhetoric and even more rhetoric. Each party and its supporters are trying to pitch themselves to us, the voters, and each trying to get us to vote for them. While political leaders and party workers are traversing the length and breadth of India, trying to woo the masses in the blistering heat, their more privileged keyboard warriors are using their fingers to good effect, drumming up support on social media. And, it is social media, especially Twitter, with its concentration of journalists, editors, film stars, politicians, would-be politicians, policy makers, industrialists, media magnates, bankrupt tycoons, cricketers and the rest, that makes for the most entertainment. Because there is nothing as funny as serious, sanctimonious rhetoric in 140 characters, especially when you sneak some time to yourself to look at the phone on a tough working day. It is the sheer chutzpah in the pronouncements, the dauntless confidence with which people mouth inanities, the gumption with which inaccuracies and factual errors are put forward as ‘truth’ and the sheer pizzazz of the entire thing that makes you wonder if Twitter has taken its place in the sun as the provider of multiple streams of live commentary for what promises to be the greatest show on earth — the Indian elections. If only one could charge entertainment tax on the proceedings, the current account deficit would probably be wiped out.
So what are they fighting for? Politicians and political parties are fighting for power. They — especially the BJP and Congress — would prefer absolute power — 272 seats all to themselves, without their allies spoiling their party. Will they get it is anyone’s guess, but that doesn’t prevent them from projecting the confidence of being able to make that figure. But, to keep their options open, you do occasionally hear murmurs of a ‘larger NDA’ or “UPA III”.
While it is easy to figure what the politicians want, the role of their supporters on social media is slightly more complex. Their aim seems to be less about converting neutrals or voters who have not made up their mind into votes, and more on keeping the faithful gathered and motivated in the days leading up to the elections. It is a vital role that they play — the social media warriors — in terms of fact-checking, repudiating, muddying the waters, creating a ‘what if’ scenario in the mind of the public. While BJP supporters had the lead in the utilisation of social media for rallying and attacking, more recently the Congress and the AAP have joined in. As a result social media, in general, and Twitter, in particular, have become a battleground of ideas, allegations, innuendos and camaraderie. In my mind, the role of the partisans on social media is interesting because of the space that they occupy between the media and the party. They take corridor-level gossip from the party and drawing room chatter and blast them into a somewhat public space dominated by the traditional media, and when traditional media picks up this gossip, it gets carried back into social media for further conversations. Recently in a media conference, a point was made about mainstream media watching its audience (us), monitoring them via social media posts on shows and news, and using this instant feedback and chatter to fine tune content offerings But, a far more interesting phenomenon that we are observing in these elections is that a part of this audience, realising that it is being watched, are indulging in a sort of behaviour that feeds content to the media only to promote the former’s agenda. For a media professional, it’s a fairly fascinating phenomenon.

The other thing very clear in these elections is this: The mask of media neutrality has finally fallen off and is being left for dead. Journalists do not even pretend to have a lack of bias. When leading anchors don the political mantle, and prominent journalists push the agendas of political parties without joining them, then you cannot help but wonder, how much of the content that they put out is biased and how long ago did this begin? This is not about voting preferences. You can still vote for who you believe in and try and be balanced in content. It is about pushing political agendas in the name of journalism. In an ideal world the bias should impact ratings. But, as recent studies in the United States show, it is the ratings of those seemingly unbiased platforms that are falling when compared to those who take partisan views. Research also reveals that audiences are more and more looking for views that dovetail with their own. They don’t want the bland neutrality of Doordarshan. They much prefer the fire and brimstone of the evening news anchor who demands answers on behalf of the nation.

Way back in 1964, Barry Goldwater, the American Republican Party candidate for President, in a speech declared: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”. It seems that our media — mainstream and social — have taken this speech to heart. Except that liberty and justice are no longer absolutes but relative to whom they support. For example, outrage on suggested curbs of freedom of speech is not universal but defended by party supporters and opposed by detractors.

We are in for fun ride where truth is falsity, and falsity is truth. So who do we, the people, trust? The answer, surprisingly, is each other. According to a recent Zee Media Taleem Poll on the state of the nation, while 54% said that they relied on electronic media for their views and opinions, 30% still rely on friends and peer groups for ‘truth’. In a world where truth becomes an elusive commodity, it is little surprise that we are getting back to a more traditional way of making up our mind: our own personal social networks.

Mar 092014

And, my column last week for the DNA – on the UPA retrospective 

Ever been to a theatre to watch a film that on paper sounded fabulous — great director, good casting, top-of-the-line banner, great promos? But when you get inside the theatre the film simply won’t get over.
Every moment drags; every dialogue in the film has the monotony of something you have heard before, and no matter what you do, you cannot escape from the highly intrusive soundtrack. Worst of all, you cannot get out of the movie hall.  Most of us have at least watched one such film, trapped inside the theatre for, what seems like, days, unable to get out, unable to move our eyes from the screen while asking the question “what  on earth were they thinking about, when they put this together”. And, when the end credits start rolling, you clap out of the sheer relief that the film is over, and you can get into the bright lights and fresh air outside, and scrub all memory of the movie from your subconscious. Think Ram Gopal Verma ki Aag or Kites. Know the feeling? It is pretty much the way that most felt while watching the last two years of UPA II — it just dragged on, and on, and on.

As the credits roll, this column takes a look at some of the characters and scenes from UPA II:

A for Anthony: The Minister for Defence. A man who confused inaction with integrity and took the old adage ‘if you don’t get out of bed and get on the road, you won’t get run over’ seriously. Unfortunately, that is no guarantee for the ceiling falling on your bed.

B for Bills: The trouble with leaving most of your key bills to the last minute of a five-year Parliament is that nothing is thought through, the sense of dissonance is high and like a bad film, certain elements are put in just to give a sense of faux completion.

C for CWG: The Commonwealth Games that really marked the begging of the end.

D for DMK: The key ally then, fence sitter now and the hands behind the 2G scam.

E for Elections: #Elections2014 and the UPA hoping for a sequel, ie. UPA III. But when a film is such a box office dud, will you really buy a ticket for the sequel?

F for Food Security: Nobody, with a conscience, will disagree with the concept of Food Security — the principle that no individual should go hungry, but as with all concepts, the devil is in the implementation. And, implementation in this particular case is fraught with internal opposition.

G is for Gandhi: The name that ruled the Congress for the best part of the last 45 years. And, it seems that the aura is finally waning, though Sonia Gandhi still has some of that aura. But for all his earnestness, it does not seem that Rahul Gandhi has that aura — the aura of wanting to handle power.

H is for High Command: See Gandhi above. All organisations need hierarchies, and a chain of command. But, if all power is concentrated in one set of hands , then currying favour rather than competence becomes the order of the day, leading to poor decision-making

I for Indian National Congress: The grand old party. It seriously needs to introspect and reinvent itself for the new millennium.

J for Janata: That is us, the people. The voters. Just get this over with seems to be the general sentiment all around.

K for Kaajneeti: That is on hoardings across the country, with voters looking at each other and asking “what is that”?

L for Leadership: Conspicuous by its absence through the five years, especially towards the end.

M for Mani Shankar Iyer: The architect of the Chai pe Charcha campaign. Enough said. M is also for Manmohan Singh, who didn’t say enough.

N for Narendra Modi: If politicians  in the Congress spent as much time in talking about what they did right, as they did about why Modi is wrong, they may have fared better in both  perception and the ballot box.

O for Ordinance: When bills aren’t passed, the route is ordinance. But, in Parliamentary democracy, bills are meant to be debated, deliberated on and passed. It is a good job that the last few bills were not passed via an ordinance, because…

…P for Pranab Mukherjee: He put his foot down and said ‘no’. A leading character in UPA I and in the first part of UPA II, his political skills would be sorely missed, even if his economic skills were not.
Q for Questions: That the people had, for which there were no answers. In fact, part of the UPA’s problem was the fact that it rarely spoke to the people or the press, and when it did it was either so stage-managed or so full of wordplay that it alienated.

R for Robert Vadra: The son-in-law. The man who could get away with everything, or so it seemed.

S for Sheila Dikshit: The Empress of Delhi, who is now the Governor of Kerala after losing her seat to Arvind Kejriwal.

T for Telangana: The disaster of the last five years. While smaller states are not a bad idea, pandering is.

U for UPA II: Coming to an end in a few months from now

V for Voter: That is us. Are you even registered?

W for Win: Winning seat by seat, state by state, to take the nation. From all accounts that is a tough one.

X for X: Marks the spot where we vote, and UPA II hopes that it is for their constituents.

Y for Gen Y: The first and second-time voter who cares less for the ‘isms’ of yesterday and more for how good their tomorrow will be.

Z for Zero Loss: Made famous by Kapil Sibal when confronted with allegations of misallocation of spectrum. If only humility was in action instead of hubris, this government may not have ended up in this state of being generally disliked.