Throwback Earth Day Special

A version of this article first appeared  two years ago here, on Citizen Matters. But this is the more fun version I had written. Inclusive of fun Google quiz throwback.

Earth Day is a reminder to see how the environment is coping, but it is also about seeing yourself as part of the environment. Try the Google quiz to see what animal you are and then catch up on Earth Day if you don’t have friends who’ve told you all about it yet.

Earth Day started off around 1970, with the UN, and separately as a grassroots effort in the United States to bring environmental concerns into the limelight. The initial work of John McConnell and Senator Gaylord Nelson has reached a very active international level with growing eco-consciousness around the globe.

Earth Day comes once a year, but is one day to be conscious of our impact on our planet enough? Here are some small ways to reduce the negative impact we have, with our household tasks, our carbon footprint and the like. These are things each of us can do in all spheres of our lives to help nature chill out.

Transport:

  • Turn off your vehicle at traffic signals
  • Take the bus, train, a shared car or metro twice a week, not your car or an auto.
  • Carpool with friends and colleagues in the area.
  • Ensure your vehicle’s emission is below the legal limit
  • If you don’t have to go very far, ditch your vehicle and walk or cycle
  • Refuel at cooler times of the day-morning or night  

At work:

  • Box it, no foil: try to pack your meal without excess wrapping and disposables.
  • Ask the management to upgrade to water fixtures which are more efficient.
  • Instead of hitting print, use emails or pendrives to share documents.
  • If waste is segregated, recycling becomes easy for all the waste paper!
  • Ensure lights and appliances are turned off when everyone leaves for the night.
  • Plan work events carefully to prevent wastage of food.
  • Help institute a system of purchasing recycled/ recyclable furniture and other materials.
  • Get eco-friendly cleaning materials for the office.

Food:

  • Eat less meat. There are a lot of debates around this, and here’s one.
  • The amount of energy and resources going into the food you eat should be a consideration when you buy a food product, so try to keep tabs on your regular purchases.  
  • Don’t waste food, so order carefully at restaurants, and heat-up leftovers to save food

Waste:

  • Try out vermicomposting or regular composting if it is feasible in your building. It can be done on a balcony or garden!
  • Start segregating your waste, it can help you keep track of your consumption and make collection easier.
  • Apart from not littering yourself,  remind other people to put trash in dustbins.
  • Reuse/Repurpose: Give away old clothes to someone who needs them, or get creative and reuse them as rags for cleaning and dusting, as bags, or whatever else you can think of.
  • Make sure to take e-waste to recycling centres .
  • Reduce the number of things you buy and refuse to buy items that are overly packaged or for single use.
  • Unsubscribe from magazines you don’t read, and collect pamphlets, etc. for recycling rather than the dust-bin option

Energy:

  • Use a ceiling fan, or even a table fan rather than air conditioning.
  • Unplug all appliances when they are not in use, some still consume power if they are off, but left plugged into the socket.
  • If it’s a hot day, forget the water heater for your shower/ bath.
  • When you leave the house, make sure everything is turned off, except the refrigerator. If you are going on vacation, defrost the fridge and turn that off too!

Shopping:

  • Bring your own bag! Either get a good cloth grocery bag, or reuse plastic packets.
  • If you pay by card, and ditch the slips after, ask the cashier to not give you a slip at all.
  • Eat local and seasonal food, try not to buy for imported products or fruits.
  • Try to stop buying bottled water, carry your own bottle with filtered water, and take your own tumbler  to work, avoiding paper cups.
  • Read labels to avoid buying products with harmful chemicals.

Water:

  • Don’t let a tap drip, fix it ASAP, or for a temporary measure,  collect the water and use it later.
  • Turn the tap off while brushing your teeth, it is wasteful to leave it running.
  • Create a system, either while building your home, or with a bucket/ bowl for your used kitchen water (grey water) to be used to water your plants.
  • If you love showers, but feel guilty about the water use, get yourself a low flow shower head with high pressure to keep the waterfall feel without using as much water.

It’s been a while

Over the past few months, I haven’t been writing the way I want to. All I’ve been writing are research papers, exam papers, and articles here and there. I think I wrote a couple of short stories and a poem or something.

What I can remember are the moments I took to update my WhatsApp status. They aren’t particularly eloquent, but they capture the moments I typed them out in. They feel like writing. Not the painstaking writing that captivates readers. Only a brief hint of a life. They reveal a little something about me. That is why I am using them to craft a story. Mostly my story, but I think it’ll mirror what some people feel in the last few months of school, college, and other things we feel we need to get away from.

_____________________________________

nerd smiling emoticon

She smiled as she wrote. The words appeared on the screen nearly as quickly as she thought of them. The feeling she got after the last word was typed was one of accomplishment. She had finished. She had made it through her final research paper after three years of typing and retyping and editing and proof-reading. It was one of the last things to do on her way to freedom.

A lot of lasts

She knew it was true. Others seemed to be getting more nostalgic by the minute. She couldn’t wait to be done with it all. She was quite literally counting down the days. But there were moments when she thought, “I’m going to miss this.” or, “I wonder when I’ll see them again.”

Back to the same old

As excited as she was for the end, there were a few more hurdles to clear before she could go on to the next stage of her life. And it was the same old thing, another set of tests to measure something undefinable. She was back to waiting, waiting for it to be over.

Done

The classes were over. Just weeks remained of what had begun to feel more and more like a life sentence. Every other minute, she was tumbling from joyous heights to depressed awareness of what remained to be overcome.

The frequency with which she felt compelled to share her state grew.

Just a few hours more.

2 weeks and a bunch of hours

                                                 angry face

Words seemed to be failing her at times. The exams had never felt so awful. She knew it barely mattered. But she felt awful on the days when she had to drag herself to that place. Sometimes she felt unable to deal with it on top of the other worries weighing on her.

flat mouth face

It felt like the days she hated lasted too long. She stared at nothing and everything. She sent messages to her friends. She was able to relax when she focused on something totally unrelated. Those moments were precious.

Counting down the hours

She could see the end of a three year journey which had been interesting. She was more than ready to leave interesting behind.

Vacation!!!!!!!!!!

She was there. Where she wanted to be. Needed to be. The other worries had more room to float about her head. She was looking toward the future. And that was partially dependent on the exams. The results took their own sweet time.

Finally!!!!!!!!

 

 

 

What happens when an ass gets ahead of the rest of the body

Have you ever wondered what is wrong with people? Why they have to blow things totally out of proportion? Or why they choose to say things that make barely any sense? And how social media (yes, I get it’s funny I’m using a blog to say all this) facilitates this kind of idiocy because it is easy to go on the offensive. Read below to get an idea of what I’m talking about if you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid it (so far).

There she sat, totally innocent of anything except being a night owl. Playing some game (I swear it wasn’t solitaire), when all of a sudden a strange request pops up. She has never encountered such a message before. It tells her there is someone with a message for her. She reads the message and is mildly perturbed at who this person was, disturbing her at 1am. She had seen his name before, but did not know him. It read (some information withheld for obvious reasons):

“Hello,

It has come to my notice that you have used some of my photos for an XXXXXXXX article on the XXXXX play. I’d be happy if the creator of the photo is also mentioned (although the copyright belongs to the XXXXXXXXX). As a journalism student, you must follow and practice fundamental and good journalism ethics. This is very upsetting.

Thank you.”

I replied immediately, in spite of the fact that he clearly has some big ideas and little actual experience with journalism.

“Hi, I wasn’t the one who uploaded the piece, and I’m sorry that the image credits weren’t given. Will fix it ASAP.”

I also checked the website to be sure. Here’s what I added to that message:

“It is copyrighted to you though.”

Let me be clear at this point, that I meant that the alternative text which appears in case the image doesn’t load is what shows his copyright, with the All Rights Reserved, etc. It was not visible to the public unless they couldn’t load the image for some reason. As he is very clearly aware, we are journalism STUDENTS and occasionally some mistakes are made. I made the required edit. I made the edit as soon as it was brought to my attention. I admitted to the error, fixed it, and tried to get on with my life.

In spite of my sincere attempt to handle the situation like an adult and a professional person, I got this gem as a reward:

“As the author of the content, you should ensure it is not published incomplete. Whether it’s Reuters, NYT, Guardian, even Times, everyone mentions the photographer. This happened even with the XXXXX photos, where nothing was even mentioned.”

This particular XXXXX refers to a fest my department at college hosts every year. It is not in any way related to the piece he cried about. I had to make this evident to him, since apparently, that distinction is not obvious to some people.

“Please address those issues to someone in the XXXXXX Dep. I can only fix what is my responsibility.”

His reply was just as condescending as the earlier ones, “I am aware. But make it a habit in future, cool?” If you’re aware, why bring it up with me? He had to cap it off with the “habit in future” helpful hint. Please insert choice word describing this person. I replied with a brush-off “Yes yes”. And naive little me thought that would be the end of it. Though I did forward the messages to one of my professors, since he had complained about the department’s lack of respect for him, or whatever it was he was trying to say. Which was really not a fair or sensible thing for him to say, since,

A) He only got to take the photographs of that play because the department got permission for photographs to be taken.

B) The XXXXX fest my department hosts uploads hundreds of photos in various albums during and after the fest. And we have all seen the albums are titled with the additional statement under it: “Photo or creds XXXXXX”. If he wants each photo to have his name, he should sit and look through each and every one of the hundreds we use and comment “This is mine!” Doesn’t have enough time to do it? Well, neither does anyone else.

 

Now, whilst I was being a normal person, guess what he did. He started making a thinly veiled attack on me. He claimed later this wasn’t directed at me (keep reading), but he made the comment with a link to my piece on the play, on a completely separate website. I only saw this when I was in college, and friends of mine who also happen to be his on Facebook showed me. It didn’t really bother me (much) at the time, because I’ve done stupid things while upset, and then tried to make amends. This was his holier-than-thou post: “I really enjoy when someone adds words and context to my photographs. However, little do I get to know about such events as we never believe in crediting the photographer.  This culture is practised extensively by majority of people. Well, grow a pair”.

I’m not sure if this last part was directed at me. If it was, here’s what I’d say in a perfectly beautiful and articulate world, which I think this post could exist in: “Why would I do that, I like my body as a woman, and also, how would that make me supposedly braver (if that’s your faulty logic)? It doesn’t seem to have done you any good.” I mean, hiding behind a screen in the middle of the night and taking pot-shots. Why not come to the department and take up this cultural issue in a sensible discussion in the place you seem to think is the hub of all evil toward people who take their profession seriously.

Then, a day later, a professor familiar with the situation responded to this guy’s post. My professor tried to clear up the confusion and burst this guy’s self-righteous little bubble. I laughed, I read the comments off a friend’s phone, and got through my day quite happily. I thought I had moved on from this small tangle he seems to be intentionally trying to make into a ball of wool that cannot be unraveled. I got home and saw this, “So the credits were added now and I am supposed to believe they were always there?”

Reining in my sailor side, I replied, “Please do not involve me in your battles with the XXXXXXXX Dep. As I told you earlier, the images were copyrighted to you in the alternative text which appears (it is visible to the admins of the website). No one was trying to deny you took the pictures. If it is such a big problem for you, do what any sensible photographer does and put a watermark on it.”

Does that seem the least bit rude or angry? Apparently it does if you are hoping for such a reaction. He replied in a long and rather pointless way about the department and the fest, and the website on which my piece appeared (my explanatory comments),

“Such rage. Much misinterpretations. I have always been associated with the XXXXXX (my)department and worked for XXXXXX(the fest) purely out of the love of the XXXXX(my) department. It is however interesting to see that a simple thing like not mentioning the photographer (which isn’t visible to public) took such a turn of thought by one few comments by XXXXX sir. I made a general remark not at the XXXXXX(the website where the piece was published) but blogs and publishing sites in general. Since it’s the XXXX(website run by students of the department), he took a blunt jab at me. I never meant it out of arrogance but simply because I like knowing where my photos are used along stories. I am sorry if this still doesn’t make sense to you. Damage done is damage done, on my part.

PS. I intentionally do not use a watermark for any of the photos with the department as these are high resolution files, and putting a watermark makes it little difficult, if say needed to crop. I give the same amount of attention to the work here as my real clients. *takes a step back*”

“Damage done is damage done on my part,” I don’t know what he meant. Was he trying to weasel an apology in without actually saying it? Or is he saying he is the injured party? Let me be as clear as he has been, Je ne sais pas.

I didn’t reply, so naturally he felt obliged to force me to ask him to stop harassing me “Also, arrogance and cheap remarks is easy and looks fun. Making witty and twisted insults instead of understanding my point is upsetting and just not my thing.”

You’ve heard it all, including the things I didn’t choose to publicise on Facebook. He’s clearly referring to the things my professor said. So why refer to me? Because he seems to think I am an easy target. Politeness apparently didn’t work. Maybe asking for what I wanted directly was the only option.

“Seriously, leave me alone. I fixed what I had to.

Go take up any other issue with people in the XXXX dep.”

And I typed one more thing, “The situation with the XXXX piece was the only one you get to talk to me about. I fixed it.” While I was typing this and hit send, I saw his brilliant reply to my earlier comment, “You fucked up. Stop being a coward about it. Own up.”

And this is the point where the cursing angel inside me had to be suppressed by the decency devil. I merely said “I already did you little piece of shit”.

To which he could only say, “Insults. Lovely.”

Yes, I happen to think it is beautiful when people use a good curse. I am not narrow-minded like that. I had enough. “If you message me again I will definitely report you.”

 

(I had already blocked him briefly, but had to unblock him in order to see the comments my professor and he had exchanged regarding this whole thing, into which I was dragged for no apparent reason. And apparently Facebook has some rule about waiting 48 hours before you can re-block someone.)

His response to my genuine warning about reporting him: “Mature people.”

Well, I like to think so. It took a lot to make me use “little piece of shit”. You’ve been hurling mud with little accuracy and the mistaken idea that it’s actually mud for more than a day.

The ultimate line to shut him up, if I do say so myself, “And using fucked up is so polite.”

Sometime after this messaging ended, he deleted his post about the play, which linked to my article. Seriously, thanks man, I didn’t want his kind of publicity.

And that is hopefully the end of this saga, at least as far as it involves me.

 

 

Sequelling All The Way Home

A girl sits at her computer, face serious as she opens a new tab and googles meg cabot. The link to the website loads, and suddenly it is there, the Save the Date for the wedding of Susannah Simon and Dr. Hector “Jesse” de Silva, as well as the announcement about the wedding of HRH Mia Thermopolis to Michael Moscovitz.

When I read a book and grow up with the protagonist, and live her life for a chapter or two hundred, I want a conclusion to that process. Yes, the book itself had some kind of ending, perfect or otherwise, and it will do for a while, but what about after the eighth time you read it? You NEED another story to answer the infinite questions you have about their lives.

That’s where my jumping-up and down reaction to the news of The Royal Wedding-The Princess Diaries XI came from. When I visited Meg Cabot’s website as I sometimes do to check up on any new releases from my favourite author, I was rewarded with the best news ever. Not only was The Royal Wedding coming out this June, the seventh book in the Mediator series-Remembrance is being published in February 2016!

I had no idea how I would wait for it to be released for three long months. I just knew that once it was out, I would have to read it absolutely as soon as possible. The revival year, that’s what I think of 2015 as, the year Meg Cabot did this, Harper Lee released Go Set a Watchman, Jurassic World came out, and a bunch of other long-awaited sequels made their appearance.

Trying to look at a Pinterest board about The Royal Wedding, the sign-up form kept popping up annoyingly, every time I refreshed the page, I had a moment’s peace before that awful red thing popped right back up. I gave in, and got myself an account, something I’ve avoided ever since that became a social media option.

In all my excitement, I went on a fan girl expedition through the Mia Thermopolis blog, the Pinterest board, and made myself overly excited and unable to wait to read the book. As fun as all these franchise-y things were, I really just wanted the book. Once I got it, I couldn’t stop reading.  It gave me a sense of homecoming, immersing myself in Mia’s particular brand of neurotic and lovable recording of her life.

Two girls immersed in a conversation, eagerly discussing the book one just finished borrowing and reading. Slightly embarrassing conversations, they didn’t really want people they didn’t like to overhear. These were spread over years as one book after the other was released. They never discussed To Kill a Mockingbird, it was the domain of another set of her friends, a few years later. They had equally detailed discussions and analyses, but sometimes they had to agree to disagree.

How could a bunch of diary entries get millions of fans from preteens to adults so incredibly excited? If you’ve read even one of the books in the series, you would know why. All the reviews mention the new fans, but everyone knows, it’s the original fans that matter, “Original fans of the series, now adults themselves, will be thrilled with this (The Royal Wedding),” said Booklist. I don’t think anything has ever been truer in a book review.  When Publishers Weekly said, “Readers who first discovered Cabot’s Princess books as teens will enjoy seeing Mia and Michael all grown up, ….. Since this is being billed as the final book in the series, one hopes that Cabot will reconsider and write more of Mia and Michael’s story . . .” all I could think was Yes, please please please. I want more!

That was the thought at the back of my mind as page after page passed by. I wanted to finish the book, but I really didn’t. I dreaded the end, though I knew it would be just what I wanted for Mia. I knew that Jean Louise wouldn’t get such a happy ending. I was reading Go Set a Watchman at the same time, I had to. There was no way I could have read Lee without something to balance my confusion and irritation. Go Set a Watchman is not a funny book, it made me stand on my head (not literally). Mia I knew perfectly and identified with more than I probably should, considering how downright crazy she sometimes is. Jean Louise on the other hand is like some other species, but I love her too.

Reading the little extra things included in the diary, like Mia’s shopping list, or text messages; those are usually the most fun parts of the book. It’s endlessly entertaining to see her try to control everything, fail, but then have everything turn out wonderfully. It also does that thing, the thing that everyone claims people want to know about celebrities, “They’re just like us!” If you’ve seen any entertainment which is about entertainment, be it a TV show or even if you just look at a magazine, half the articles are about emphasising how normal they are, while the other half is about showing how much cooler their lives are.

Go Set a Watchman is the much awaited continuation of the story of Jean Louise Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. It has that uniquely vague title to keep the reader guessing. I assumed it had something to do with Atticus, who is old and carries his famous pocket-watch and wears a wristwatch as well.  I was on the right track, what with my lack of knowledge of biblical text. It is something Jean Louise hears in her church when she returns home and has her world shattered.

The train going by, that chug-chug sound playing as she read; she was transported to her teens again. All the times she read TKMB, it was a struggle to find meaning, a battle with the author to win. She had to understand. In the present, it was so clearly Lee’s writing, but writing not with the voice of a child, but a woman! As the landscape becomes increasingly familiar to Jean Louise, I settled back into my chair and the 20th century world of “the South”.

When I saw the link to the first chapter of Go Set a Watchman, all those conflicted feelings from when I read TKMB came back, but the prospect of an adult Scout Jean Louise Finch was amazing. I read the chapter immediately, and died a little inside when the casual mention of Jem’s death pops out of nowhere. It seemed almost like a plot device to explain why Hank and Atticus are so close, it hurt. As I read the book, it felt less like a blow to my solar plexus, and more of a why’d-she-do-it kind of irritation.

The book is constantly returning to the past, bursting with the exploits of Scout and Co.  While she has grown-up, there is still that girl who challenges her world, but loves it (old Maycomb) running throughout the narrative. Her struggle for a large part of the book is deciding whether or not marrying Hank will allow her to be happy. It is at the same time a story of the changed and unchanged Maycomb, as Jean Louise reacts to the things that upset, confuse, anger or please her.

It seems like the usual returning to home, how everything has changed! narrative, until Jean Louise visits the courthouse and has her entire faith in her father (and Hank) totally destroyed. That’s where the book started to be unbelievably confusing for me. Each page left me with an unsettled feeling, like I was with Jean Louise, trying to comfort her after she feels this utter horror. Her entire world is formed around Atticus’ views and when their views diverged, it broke her.

I was puzzled, why was Atticus doing this? He wasn’t nearly as great as a lot of people who’ve read the book seem to think. We were sitting in Lit class, the five of us and our teacher. She asks us, you know that part where Atticus drives Calpurnia in the car? Yes, we do. Well, why does Cal have to sit in the back? We were stumped for a second, and then, we knew, Atticus, for all his equality-of-man-before-law speak, was just as inherently racist as the rest of his town. That was when Jem became a better symbol for justice than his father for me. Yes, he was a bit of a bully, and he had some of his own blind spots, but he was a child.

Jean Louise tells us of Jem’s life in snippets, right up until he dropped dead because of his weak heart at 28. He was popular, on the football team in high school, he was going to join his father’s business, and then, just like that, he was gone. I still cannot reconcile myself to this. I cannot forgive Lee for Calpurnia turning away from Scout. Jean Louise feeling rejection, that I felt with her; it made me just as upset.  It is not easy to forgive people who don’t exist in your world, even if the protagonist does. You don’t have to see their faces and feel their contrition.

How do you forgive a fictional character, how do you the forgive the author who created too much heartache? Can you just throw a glass tumbler full of scotch into the fireplace and be done with it? Not having tried this method, I have no personal feedback about its cathartic properties, but it doesn’t seem to have worked for the (many) television characters I’ve seen doing it, so I suppose it’s safe to say don’t try this at home, it’ll just exasperate whoever has to clean it up.

Forgiving the authors is harder than you might think. It is their book, but it is also mine! I choose to appreciate Roland Barthes at this moment, the author’s identity is really insignificant, and whatever the interpretation prescribed by them, it is not how I choose to read it. You have the ending you want, the explanations you want, the perfect scapegoat all lined up, and then they go and do that. How dare they?

In another literature class, a friend was talking about Lee’s new book. She introduced the topic for the benefit of everyone else, she paused. Then she said something that made things click in my mind, you could almost see the flash bulb going off above my head in the dark AV Room where we sat. Harper Lee wrote Go Set a Watchman before To Kill A Mockingbird, my eyes widened in the stereotypical surprise reaction, but I was feigning nothing. Genuinely shocked though I was, that revelation made it easier for me to forgive Lee for some of the pain and confusion she caused me.

The inconsistencies in the novels, and such huge ones, they disappeared. It didn’t matter anymore, the constant over-analyses I endured courtesy of the OCD part of my mind suddenly ceased. I had been wondering (almost daily I am ashamed to admit) about the infamous case that Atticus didn’t win in TKMB, how the heck was it that he won it in Go Set a Watchman?  This became far less relevant than it had been just a minute before. It was time to move on, to get on with my life. I had to do what Scout did, grow up.

I felt the joy in Mia’s life, but I also felt the loss of myself and re-centering that Jean Louise does. The book ended, and I felt more irritated and confused than anything else, the perfect tribute to how I felt years ago when I first read Lee’s TKMB.

Choices

“Left or right, my lady?” Ignore the words which make you think of the British aristocracy and colonialism and all that jazz. It is a profound moment in a film all about choices, the ones we think we are making, but which are so often not choices at all.

In a sequel, certain expectations have to be met about certain characters, but what I like about Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) is that there is very little expected in terms of whom she should end up with. She is seen as on the hunt for a wealthy man in the first film, but seems to be living her life on her terms. She doesn’t have the confusing relationship Evelyn Greenslade does with Douglas Ainslie, nor does she worry constantly about death or being alone or other things. She just has to choose between a couple of men, and the moment where she decides she doesn’t really want either is epic. (With the help and advice of her trusty taxi driver of course.)

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel promised to be fun, but in the way of many sequels, it cannot be quite as fun. Though filled with the antics of Sonny once again, and centered around his wedding to Sunaina, the focus is on the residents of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  One storyline, that of Norman Cousins, is essentially devoted to being funny, as he tries to protect Carol from an auto driver that might have misunderstood him and now be attempting to finish her off. Spotting an auto with a scorpion on the back might seem easy in Jaipur, but catching up to it is the hard part.

Charming as the first film, it is filled with moments where the characters do sweet or silly things which are extraordinary for people their age (as they keep mentioning themselves) but still believable. Becoming a tour guide is one way to earn a little cash as long as the assistant feeding lines to you isn’t a child who can be distracted by games. Douglas had to learn that the hard way. Luckily, by the end of the film, he has Evelyn to support him with her successful career as a buyer for a fabric business.

Sonny holds the residents in his heart, and it is especially clear in his relationship with Muriel Donnelly. Riding dramatically through empty streets is usually saved for romantic relationships, but we see him anxiously looking for his mentor right after he got married. With fear of the worst possible thing–her death on his mind, and ours, it is a relief to hear her characteristically crabby but affectionate words as she tells him to go back to the party, these words ease our minds.

But we know all is not well. It is reinforced in her brief conversation with the honcho who invested in the Marigold chain and is obvious from the classic juxtaposition of energetic dancing at the reception and her writing a letter with utmost concentration. “Let go. that’s when the fun starts. Because there’s no present like the time,” she quotes Sonny back.

Why do people write so seriously in letters, why can’t they be full of smiley faces and jokes? That probably contributes a lot more to the death of letters than the internet. And I’m back from my little digression.

“I spent forty years of my life scrubbing floors and the last few months of my life as co-manager of a hotel half way around the world. You have no idea now, what you will become.” It all comes down to choices, even if you don’t think you have one. She chose to go the Most Exotic Marigold Hotel as a cheap place to recuperate. Who knew the curmudgeon would end up helping to run it?

Not another Spy movie

I laughed. I laughed a lot. I cringed and then I laughed. I laughed because it was funny, and then there were the times I laughed because of years of conditioning that have taught me that all fat jokes are hilarious.

I like Melissa McCarthy, right from when I saw her as accident-prone Sookie on Gilmore Girls. Spy was a far better film to watch than another of McCarthy’s films,  Identity Thief. Not just because Rose Byrne was in it with her “bird arms”, at one point trying to push a gun across the floor to Susan Cooper AKA Penny Morgan, AKA Amber Valentine AKA whatever.

I like the paradigm of an inept but surprisingly awesome agent saving the day, I mean we all loved Johnny English, didn’t we? But Susan Cooper is not lucky the way Johnny English was. She is instead extremely ingenious, and has some scary-good combat skills, which we get to see in a video of one of her training exercises. “I wanted to put it up on YouTube”, says her boss, deadpan Elaine Crocker who threatens another agent if he dares to call her “Betty Crocker”.  That was one of the moments where the movie was funny without insisting on doing it at the expense of Susan.

In pursuit of someone who tried to shoot them, Cooper naturally got on a scooter, and immediately regretted it, “Who puts a roof on a scooter? What are you, the Pope?!” It made me pause the film to really get all my laughter out. The film offers plenty of these zingers, but sadly also insists on poking fun at Cooper’s clothes through other characters, mainly the villain Rayna. The upside to this is that we see how ridiculous it is to make fun of her clothes when either she has no choice about it, or because she is just dressing how other people expect her to (crazy cupcake necklace with a toggle system, seriously Agent Bradley Fine??? That’s your idea of a gift to someone you owe your life?). The many sides to Susan Cooper are probably better represented than a lot of women usually get in movies, from her sarcasm to intelligence to scary meanness to sweetness and fainting/vomiting at the sight of some gory things.

It was a chance to laugh, and a great one at that. It will probably be funny and entertaining for at least a few repeat viewings, which can’t be said for a lot of movies. Even though I objected to parts of it, I can’t deny the appeal of a comedy spy movie like it. Without films like it, our lives would be a lot more serious. Who wants that?