Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What Does True Detective Mean to You?

While we wait for the next season of True Detective starring Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden as they spend eight episodes revealing details about the surveillance state, we realized that we needed to do something with our time. So we thought what better way to spend the time waiting for True Detective than to talk about True Detective. So we asked various news organizations, editors of respected publications, noted columnists, popular intellectuals, eminent bollywood personalities and Shobhaa De to tell us what they thought of the eponymous season of the greatest show on television.

We began by asking the dean on Indian columnists, Dr. Jug Suriya, to share his valued opinion with us. We found him living in a large refrigerator carton behind the old Times of India building at the appropriately named Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, muttering inaudible gibberish to himself. He was kind enough to give us a ten page summary of his thoughts about the show. We had to edit out the vivid descriptions of bestiality and a long anti-women rant to be able to publish one coherent paragraph:

One day, as I was sitting on the only throne we peasants are allowed to use, I had a bright idea. Influenced by a popular American television serial, I decided to make a detective show of my own. Called Bee Detective, it would feature the two Bs of my life, Bunny and the ghost of our pet, Brindle. I refer him as a pet, but he was more than that. He was . . . everything. But he died because Bunny couldn’t be bothered to feed him. Having a life threatening sickness is no excuse! Now, I realize that a column in a national newspaper isn’t the best place for passive misogyny and aggressive complaints about your significant other, but since I’ve been doing it for more than three decades, why stop now? Anyway, Bee Detective is a show in which a clever tramp and the ghost of a saintly dog who lived a full life and is still remembered by a certain someone whose heart he broke by dying but came back because the love that dare not speak its name is stronger than the cosmos (suck it Neil deGrasse Tyson), solve various mysteries. Actually, just one mystery. They try to find out what really turned the dog into a ghost. In the season finale it is revealed that the dog was killed because of the harlot’s negligence, and she is arrested and put in jail where she belongs, while the ghost and the tart’s husband walk off into the sunlight, living happily ever after. Check your local listings for time and availability.

Errr, okay then, Jug. Thank you, I think? Moving on!

Now, one couldn’t compile such a list and ignore India’s foremost chronicler of popular culture, Jai Arjun Singh. Since we didn’t have a contact for him or knew where he lived, we just said the name of his favourite movie three times and voila, a few seconds later he appeared outside our office! So we asked him to write us a small note sharing his insights about this gorgeous bite of television:

There are many ways for an artist to deal with the underlying darkness in all our lives. Some creators of art like to beat us in the head with the unseemly underbelly of human nature. Some like to be subtle and use a little humour, like a long scene in which two hapless men drag a dead corpse through the city, being chased by the bad guys, while hijinks ensues. One could even choose the route that True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto has chosen. Slowly revealing a small part of the story. Letting the onion unravel itself. If you’ve read any of his short stories or his novel, they carry the same dark, haunting themes as True Detective. In fact, in a coincidence that some might say feels like something that might happen in an episode of True Detective, the show reminds me of a little known 1980’s hindi movie starring Farooq Sheikh and Amol Palekar. Coincidently, both play detectives in the movie too. Talk about your odd pair! Directed by Vijay Anand, the movie was never released because it was considered too dark for Indian audiences! But I got a chance to see it in 2006 while I was working on a different project. Remind me to tell you the funny story attached to how I got to see the movie! Anyway, in the movie, Shiekh is the married family man forced to partner up with loose canon Palekar. Deepti Naval plays the victim, and her character is killed off in the first scene, a very unusual event for an Indian movie. However, after the supposed interval her twin sister shows up, and there is another strange twist to the end. You should catch the movie before it is lost to the vagaries of time.

Thanks for that, Jai! We can always count on you!

We also asked our good friends at the Caravan to send us something enchanting that would take our breath away! They were gracious enough to oblige, even though they were busy working on their ten thousand word cover story about the gentrification of a small neighbourhood in Kanpur. Since the passage was written in their patented house style, they didn’t feel the need to award anyone the byline for this piece. 

On a cold South Louisiana morning in 1995, Sheriff Tate wasn’t a happy man. He had barely had a wink of sleep last night, thanks to the lovely ladies of the bunny ranch. As any good Christian in Louisiana will tell you, a man who hasn’t had his sleep is waiting to possessed by the devil. The devil. That’s who was on his mind when he reached the scene of the strange event that had been called in earlier. As soon as he reached there, he told his men to back off. This thing, whatever it was, was above his paygrade. He’d need to call in a couple of those fancy boys at the CID.Or a priest at least. Looking at the thing surrounded by those strange objects, he said a prayer. That calmed him a little. Maybe, he thought, he’d even go to church this week.

He regretted calling the big guns in the minute he saw who they had sent. He had a bad feeling about this.

A really bad feeling.

Thanks, guys! Ain’t no party like a Caravan party because no one working at the Caravan ever gets to go home!

How could we ignore popular columnist and Strepsils spokesperson, Swapan Dasgupta? He usually doesn’t speak to small publications like ours, but we sent him a bust of Churchill and he was impressed enough to send us back his notes on True Detective:

These days it’s quite hard to find anything enjoyable to view on the old idiot box. Usually, I just entertain myself by visitng my home library and picking up one of the masters. My favourite is, of course, Dickens. Nothing warms the heart more in the freezing Delhi winter than sipping quality port whilst reading about some strong leaders who were principled enough to refuse greedy orphans extra grub. Stop asking for handouts, tubby. If only Oliver Twist had been able to get his hands on the works of Edmund Burke! He would understand that his creator wrote him into existence so as to subtly hint at the opportunities provided by the free market in Victorian England, and a lesson in how instead of letting government waste all that money in running orphanages, they should just leave these kind of ventures to private philanthropists. Anyway, I digress. What is clear from my limited viewing of True Detective is that neither of the protagonists have been to a college in the league of my alma mater, St. Stephens in Delhi. As I was telling my manservant Gungadin the other day, Mani and I used to solve such mysteries every week while we were in college. Sure, there weren't any murders for us to solve. But we had things just as grisly! I remember we had gone to Shimla once on a college field trip to stay in a sprawling ancient bungalow so that we could see where the wonderful perpetuators of the Raj went to escape from the claustrophobic presence of our non-Anglophile ancestors. So Mani and I set out at two a.m., to find a bottle of Sherry. Also, the whole town was closed but we roamed around the town singing old British war songs. Have the supposedly manly men of True Detective done something dangerous like that? We could’ve been abducted and held for ransom! Or worse, exposed to some ghastly waste of good air who didn’t even know or admire the House of Windsor. Long live the Queen! As they say in merry old Blighty, Tally ho!

Okay, then. Thank you for that, Mr. Dasgupta. Right ho!

This exercise would be incomplete without asking our self appointed media watchdog website, newslaundry, to send in a small contribution. Apparently, Ms. Trehan was still busy signing out of her latest facebook Q & A session and Abhinandan Sekri was occupied talking to his image in the mirror and laughing at his own they probably had one of their minions write and send this in:

There was a huge problem with True Detective that no one seem to have noticed. What was Ms.Lange doing with the Yellow King anyway? I haven’t watched beyond one and a half episodes because the misogyny of the show really made my stomach curl. Why was she a prostitute? Why didn’t she get a real job? Why did she let people treat her this way? What sort of bubblegum feminist lets people get away with having sex with her? Real feminists have ugly hairdos and never even think about sex because they can’t stand the sight of men. Wait, why are you putting me in a straightjacket and dragging me away. Don’t taze me, bro.

Alrighty, then. That was . . . well, a bunch of words stitched together to appear as if it is coherent? Anyway . . .

We also asked famed director and Emraan Hashmi enthusiast Mahesh Bhatt for his thoughts on what we assume has become everyone’s favourite show:

The meandering melancholy of the first episode of True Detective draws you in. The plains of Southern Louisiana are ripe for making anyone feel such existential angst, let alone a character like Detective Rust Cohle, who can barely keep up with his facade of sanity.  The mumbled dialogue adds to the whole experience instead of being a turn off. True Detective also doesn’t shy away from adult scenes, a thing I’ve tried to incorporate in some of my movies with various degrees of success. Sure, some people question my aesthetic, and refer to it as ‘soft porn’ and ‘voyeuristic,’ but I ask you, isn’t all art voyeuristic? Don’t we all carry that little voice inside ourselves? The one which wants us to bear witness to the intimate details of someone else’s life? Doesn’t the oversharing eagerness of the modern world make us all voyeuristic? I just put on screen what everyone wants to see. You need me to show you the unvarnished truth. You can call me names to make yourself feel better, but you know deep inside of you that I’m just the living embodiment of human need. Don’t you ever forget that.

Rrrrright. Thank you, Mahesh! Thank you for the magnificent monologue!

We also asked self-proclaimed culture critic and the loudest voice in every South Bombay party, Shobhaa De to share her opinion with us. Why did we do that? Well, because we probably hate ourselves and like to see us suffer, slowly dying a little everyday, because what else is there to do in this world. Anyway, ladies and gentlemen, Shobhaa De:

Bakwaas! That’s the first word that came into my mind when I watched the pilot episode of True Detective. These hollywood wallahs have so much to learn from the hindi movie industry. I couldn’t even try to watch another episode. Not even if someone paid me to. Maybe the creators of True Detective should learn from the creators of Dabang. Now that’s a movie (or two!) So much masala. So much entertainment. So much paisa wasool. I like my entertainment like I like my columns, without any trace of intelligence. Hey HBO, if I wanted to entertain myself by listening to some fool go on about the purposelessness of life, I’d have been a regular at Shekhar Kapur’s weekly brunch. Also, what was with all the nudity and objectification of women? Hollywood wallahs need to learn that women can be sexy with their clothes on too! I’d pick a Munni gyrating suggestively to lewd music than a naked hooker any day! Now please excuse me I’m late for a soiree at Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi’s house.

Thank you, Mrs. De. You keep doing you!

Now, as we were about to wrap this up and send it to print, an envelope was delivered to our offices by an old man in khaki shorts. He warned us that we need to run the following as it is or we would pay for our sins. When we opened the envelope, we were surprised to receive a note from the people at NitiCentral, even though we had never asked them for a contribution or even told them that we were seeking one. Even we’re not that into self-hatred. But we do want to live. So here is an unsigned contribution from NitiCentral:

HBO is every left-libber’s favourite network. They mostly like it because of the sex and the nudity and the violence, even though left-libbers claim to abhor all those things. They’re hypocrites, basically. Look at this True Detective shit they’re talking about these days. I haven’t seen an episode, but from what I gather it’s about two NGO workers needlessly harassing the king of the yellow people. Apparently, even though the Supreme Court and the SIT have given the yellow king a clean chit, the two NGO fame-seekers want to frame him for murder. Classic left-liberal conspiracy mongering. The needless insult to kind, god fearing people hasn’t gone unnoticed. If these liberals believe in their atheism so strongly, why do they feel the need to defend it from religious critics? Tells you everything, really.

So, whew, we’ve finally come to the end of our journey. If you’re still reading, then you’re much braver than we previously thought.

Now, what did you think of True Detective? Please send your thoughts and opinions to feedback at hbo dot com. Tell them we sent you.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Dummies Guide to Hosting an International Sporting Event in your Third-World Banana Republic

Hello there! Are you an “emerging economy” supposedly poised on verge of world domination? Do your leaders promise you that global recognition of your superiority over other peoples is just around the corner? That pretty soon everyone else will notice that they had no past or any culture and drop their way of life which has been evolving in their countries for literally millions of years and subscribe to yours? Was your economy going great guns and suddenly petered out like it was Chinese knock-off of a popular phone? Is paying a bribe as regular an activity in your life as say, eating? Does a strangely popular political party in your country have a carefully worded and/or openly expressed animosity about an ethnic and/or sexual minority?  Are you currently in the process of electing and/or have elected someone whose leadership style can be politely interpreted as “strong?” Do you think the money your country will spend on hosting a useless international meet of healthy grown-ups competing with each other for a gold medal that you can’t even sell in the open market to prove some point is better spent on solving more pressing domestic problems? Are you afraid of answering any of the above questions honestly because doing that might invite persecution and/or physical intimidation tacitly sanctioned by the state?

If your answer to all the above questions is yes, then, read on!

(Note: If you’re an average citizen of such a state and you spend all your days just getting around the government apparatus, then please note that you are better off not reading any of this. Ignorance is bliss, remember! What we have to say is really of no use to you, anyway! This guide is basically for powerful political leaders, oligarchs, billionaires, and/or someone with an entrepreneurial spirit and a willingness to monetize their connections in the government. If you still want to read it, then don’t blame us for the large men knocking on your door right now. Go ahead, they just want to talk to you. Don’t be afraid. All this will still be here if you get to. . . I mean when you come back! Now go, don’t keep them waiting.Seriously.)

Hey, powerful people! Nice of you to join us! Now, ask yourself the question, do you like money? Do you want to increase your power and/or sphere of influence? Are you finally ready to become the sort of person your country’s government apparatus caters too? Does the oppressive regime in your country want to seek international legitimacy?

Then, boy, do we have a guide for you!

Now that we’ve got all the pleasantries out of the way, let’s get down to business.

Firstly, I hope you’re not one of the people who think of corruption as a bad thing. Don’t buy into leftist propaganda! Those people have no idea what they’re talking about. One man’s corruption is another man’s motivation! Look, everyone needs motivation, right? Some people need their palm greased. Some people need their peckers swollen. And some people need a boot on their back. Find out what’s the right fit for you!

Listen, if you thought the people in your country were corrupt, they got nothing on members of international sporting bodies. Corrupt officials are attracted to sporting bodies like pesky western journalists are attracted to sectarian conflicts. So we begin by determining which sporting event you want to host in your country. Be careful in making your choice. If you want to start small, you should look at associations like ITF or the IAF. They’re loyalty can be purchased for a small amount of money. However, they don’t have much potential for you to make something on the side. These events don’t hold much cache because even third grade tin-pot dictatorships with terrible human rights record are able to host them. And they don’t really attract much media attention. They’re okay for mid-level oppressive regimes who have managed to keep the public numbers of their murdered dissidents into the hundreds.

If you’re not that oppressive but just want your citizens to feel patriotic pride while you make lots of money, you can go for something like the CWG or the Asian Games. They’re not that difficult to get and by hosting them you can pretend that your banana republic has finally “arrived,” whatever that means.

However, if you’re a big oppressive regime with a history of tyranny, violence, oppression, genocide, no freedom of speech etc., you need to think big. You should set your sights on something like the FIFA world cup or one of the Olympics. Not only do they attract lots of attention, they’re big money-spinners. And there is almost no barrier of entry. Hey, they even allowed Hitler to host one of them, so you’re pretty much pre-approved.

After you’ve decided which sporting event you’d like to host, turn your attention to their local body. You can either become the head of that body yourself, or better yet, appoint a dispensable sycophant whom you can throw under the bus if someone “falsely” dares to accuse you of benefiting from hosting the said event.

After your sycophants “election,” put him in-charge of finding countries sympathetic to your bid. Sure, not all of them will be convinced. You might need to cajole some countries to support you. Find pliable member-countries and dangle some carrots in front of them. You might even need to give some of them money upfront. Don’t hesitate! Think of it as an investment in your future.

Once you have enough support behind you, send a couple of more “senior officials” in an non-official capacity for a “friendly chat” with members of the sport’s governing body. Nothing to see here, just a couple of average joes talking about how much hypothetical money would have to change hands for a hypothetical country to host a hypothetical international sporting event, hypothetically. Once you “attain” their loyalty, the heads of these organizations are more loyal than your own mother! You can make them do anything you want! Like pretending you don’t have a terrible human rights record or doing PR for your oppressive regime. You can even make them agree to using a city famous for it’s beach resorts that has never seen a speck of snow in thousands of years as the host of the winter olympics!

Once those people are taken care off, it’s time to buy some good PR in the international press. Get some international lifestyle magazine to cover your glamarous first lady (if you have one) or get one of those useless contrarian magazines to write a long piece about how the fact that the government in your country is oppressive and corrupt is a western myth and that limited freedom is actually good for your people. The next step is to put a friendly face on your regime! If you’re the sort of person whose image is used by superstitious people to ward of evil, use one of your trusted, harvard educated, ironic humour spewing lieutenants to do your dirty work for you. Get them to appear on some comedian hosted talk show on either side of the Atlantic so that he can charm all the “cool kids.” Nothing will get you more street cred ‘on the internet’ than getting Jon Stewart to say nice things about you.

Now that you’ve got good “buzz,” it’s time to go public with your bid. Sure, you’ll face some opposition. However, it’s not really hard to drown out the noise made by strongly worded op-eds and do-gooder protests if you have enough momentum. As long as you keep greasing the right palms, no will will really care about any of that.

The real fun comes in after you win the bid. Make sure every contract you hand out gives you a cut of the profits. From building stadiums to procuring toilet paper, there is nothing that won’t make you richer. All you have to do is pay a high markup price for everything. Make sure your own people put in the highest bids. You funnel the government's money into their bank accounts, they’ll funnel a percentage of that into yours. Hey, if taxpayers didn’t want you to siphon off their hard earned money, they wouldn’t have paid any taxes.

Now, some of the consequences of this will be that not everything will be of proper quality. No worries, you got to compromise somewhere! So bridges might collapse, the living quarters might remain unfinished, and some choosy people might complain about insects in their food, but hey, that’s a good thing! All this drama keeps the international press busy and they will focus on the crumbling infrastructure instead of your human rights abuses. It’s what asshole consultants call “a win-win.”

If you’re still reading this, then you’re all set to host your own international sporting event. However, please remember that this guide has been provided to you with the explicit understanding that a percentage of the profits will be given to the writer as a, you know, token of your “appreciation,” if you know what’s good for you. 

(The writer of this piece is a popular third world dictator whose hobbies include oppressing people, invading neighbouring countries and shirtless horseback riding.)