Saturday, April 27, 2013

"Because I Can't!..."

Film: Contact
Year: 1997
Based on the novel 'Contact' by Carl Sagan (1985)

Worth watching a fajillion times because of a brilliant story & screenplay and multitudes of layered meanings that criss-cross science, religion, the tug-of-war between pure scientific enquiry & beaurocratic douchebaggery, the virtues of patience & integrity in the pursuit of truth, daddy issues and the tussle between reason & faith (which may not be an 'either-or' debate at all).

And kickass radioastronomy that includes nerdgasmic scenes from radiotelescopes like Arecibo and the VLA.

Plus cool SETI stuff and brilliantly imagined ET-tech eg: a transportation pod with cool features like doors that become seamless as soon as they shut and...well...the ability to travel through wormholes in the universe at relativistic speeds.

Plus, a strong female character (that could've just as easily been written male), carved to perfection by Carl Sagan, who does cool shit like climb into alien-pods that are likely to kill her - all in the interest of satisfying her scientific curiousity & furthering human knowledge - while her impossibly gorgeous man-friend waits on the sidelines for her to return from her adventures. Full feminist marks.

Plus the hot, hot, HOT Matthew McConaughey, who argues for spiritual faith, while mastering the intricacies of Special Relativity, while managing to look convincingly in love with the biggest girl-geek Hollywood has ever created.

But mostly, it's worth watching because of the most epic movie finale in the history of all films ever made by humans. (What do you mean I haven't seen 'all films ever'? What're you, my mother?):

(Pssst: There are Indian astrophysicists like Jodie Foster's character from Contact, who have dedicated their research lives to the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence. I wonder what their backstory is...)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Parting Shot

Perhaps the most striking thing about the Justice JS Verma Committee's report is that it reminds us we're not helpless in tackling the complex mess that is gender justice in India today.
This report reminds us how effective democratic intitutions like the judiciary, parliament & government-run agencies can be if their functionaries have the will.
When I think about this report, this remarkable parting shot of Justice J.S. Verma, the words 'helpless' or 'defeatist' do not figure even once.
That's saying a lot for a female citizen of India who has witnessed the widespread apathy & disdain for women & children's issues in the past few months. 

On the same day that Justice JS Verma passed away, Delhi Police's commissioner Neeraj Kumar gave a press conference that was a masterclass in defensiveness, showing a complete inability for self-reflection. Watching this leader of the national capital's police force throw up his hands, refuse to take responsibility for a total breakdown within his ranks and belligerently defend his professional failures, has been extremely depressing. This man, whose position gives him such incredible power to effect change claims helplessness & defeat. This man whose job it is to protect citizens is consumed only with protecting himself.

Even as deep sadness descends on the news of Justice Verma's passing, it's important to remember what his leadership has resulted in: A report that addresses a bulk of the excuses that people like Neeraj Kumar make. It does the legwork (even if you disagree, it gives you the framework to debate within) and the tedious brainwork that most of us may not have the time, energy, skill or inclination to do. 
The next time a heinous crime happens on our watch, (and it's happening over and over again as I type), we shouldn't need to guess where our 'moral responsibility' lies. We have a powerful guide to point us in the right direction. It's a great place to start.


Must read: Legacy of change through justice by Karuna Nundy