Eclipse Of Venus – 10 (One of Many)

What do I mean by the word “Good” ?

This is something not very clearly and unambiguously defined. I would in this matter contradict with the Roses of Shakespeare and declare that “A witch in your eyes could be bewitching in mine”. Something good isn’t good for everyone, since the goodness depends on how recipient looks at it.

Dictionary tells me that it means “desired, approved of, has required quality, of high standard, of benefit of advantage…” Like all dictionary entries, there are a lot of explanatory terms. You have to take some that suits the context and leave others, with ‘noted’. Instead of confusing myself using dictionary, let me try to ponder on what the word actually means to me.

  • It should be able to cater to my taste. Obviously, unless I have a sweet tooth, I am not going to love candies, or Rosogollas. If I hate masala foods, Punjabi dishes are a strict no-no for me. I like comedies, psychological studies, a bit of drama too, but I hate movies with agenda which tries to demean, by a holier than thou approach, e.g. Westerns, World War-II etc (to be honest, I don’t watch them, even if they are highly rated) so they are out of bounds for me.
  • The allure to the taste buds shouldn’t disappear after the first bite. However, that doesn’t mean that one can gorge oneself and still expect the same degree of enamor.
  • The quantity should be just right, may be a wee bit less, lest it becomes boring. I might love sweets, but I am not going to have it belly-full morning evening and night. I like comedies, but I have found those of Marx brothers, except a few one, bored me, through excess. The 2001 A space odyssey too had bored me and I couldn’t watch it through, since it went about more of showcasing the technology, in extreme slow motion, than really going ahead with the story. This glitz would have been alright, since it was a vanguard, but too much of a good thing is bad, which it proved once again to me (I am a rarity, considering the degree of accolades that had been heaped on it from one and every corner).
  • It shouldn’t be bland, of a single taste. The good sweets, or the masala curries don’t only excite various taste buds but also there will be variation within them, without compromising on their ‘goodness’. People love orange for their sweetness and the acidic ting. The Marx brothers’ movies or Space Odyssey suffered from it. Buster Keaton shorts were just the right quantity, but his longs too started getting tautological.
  • The 12 Angry Men, that I started with, had been from beginning to end a psychological study, but even in it, there were the factors that kept me riveted. It had right quantity of ingredients to keep all my various types of receptors occupied and their degree of occupation varying over time. It was like a proper meal, where you have one dish which is bitter, whereas the other might be sour, a few sweet, some are laced with chilli and so on. So, as you progress with the meal, you don’t feel bored with the taste, since there isn’t a single. The sequences of the items usually are kept in an experience proven order to ensure each dish and its taste has maximum impact.
  • Michelangelo’s frescos had different emotional ingredients that keeps the viewers riveted at different parts of the large expanse. Vinci didn’t repeat the subjects too often to make them boring. Mozart’s or Bach’s symphonies created varying emotions during the play.
  • With experience, Bollywood had mastered it. It breaks into a comedy sequence when the tears had been too heavy, or after a long-winded scene, they break into a song-dance. I would like to emphasize the past tense of ‘had’. It doesn’t have any more, now the breaking into the comedy or song and dance isn’t to break the monotony, since the whole movie, including these comedies, music and dances are déjà vu, only repacked into different bottles (i.e. bodies of the actors).
  • Not only that it should be able to entertain me, the lingering pleasant taste should remain in my mouth for quite some time. When I love a particular dish, I would be able to almost reconstruct its taste in mind, though that doesn’t mean I could in kitchen. In fact, there are many such occasions, when I, the experimental cook had prepared dishes, which later despite several attempts I couldn’t ever duplicate.
  • It should give rise to certain thoughts and emotions in me. It could be something to do with past, like in certain advertisements “It made me recall of my mother’s dishes” or may be something personal. This is also one of the aspects that makes the taste linger.
  • It should be able to at least partly modify, if not altogether, my mental frame. When I enter the theatre, I could be in deepest of blue, all gloomy and tense, but when I come out, I could be at least a bit relaxed, if not outright in a calm frame.
  • It should preferably be able to address to some of the inherent prejudices.

In “The Lady Takes A Chance”, John Wayne had an aversion to anything that isn’t steak, till Jean Harlow somehow managed to let a tiny morsel of lamb chop enter his mouth. He didn’t become an aficionado of Lamb Chops (I won’t claim that of him vis-à-vis Jean Harlow), but he at least was ready to try out new things (even though everything wasn’t nice and cozy, and in fact the dessert had choked him).

This I have found to be a very common attitude in my children too. They will refuse to try-out anything new, till they have been cajoled or most of the time forced to try (not bothering about the psychological scar that would leave on them). Obviously, their ego won’t let them accept that they liked it (though John Wayne to his/ writer’s credit did) but probably I would find the resistant less or nil in the next case (of similar item).

Undoubtedly, they and/or others would point out similar blocks in me too, for example as I had mentioned, in my aversion to Westerns. To be fair to me, it’s not that I haven’t watched them, but probably the ones that I have watched had not been able to remove my prejudice, rather strengthened it. Probably my Jean Harlow wasn’t a good cook and the lamb chop put on table was worse than horse leather. This prejudice wasn’t in younger days though, when I would love to watch the action movies, whether War, Westerns or Bond. But when the blood in veins started getting cold, from active I started becoming inactive. Then I tried to mull over the non (other than) actions, and naturally the aversion to things, where nothing other than action was there, started making home. It is like my physical state now, I loved eggs (and still love it) and would prepare different varieties of dishes – scrambled, curry… In fact, usually in the Sundays and holidays it would be quite a few eggs in the breakfast, lunch and dinners. They are easy to cook and in many ways too, and go very well with other ingredients, whether meat or vegetables. But that was till a few years back, then I have suddenly developed an egg-intolerance. Now I can’t even take a couple of spoons of the egg (well I can take and I still love the taste, but the after effect makes me miserable). In case of movies, they make me even before the spoon has left the mouth.

  • This highly entertaining food must follow certain norms too. I don’t suppose however excellent they are supposed to be in taste, I am not going to try the favorite dishes (allegedly) of the Last King of Scotland. Leave alone me, the natural foodies of these items too are not permitted to have them and they used to be invariably sentenced to death. Since in current times the capital punishment is highly frowned upon, more so in their case, they are put into jail (zoos) when they are found to be indulging in these once too often, that is, if the mob hasn’t carried out the justice already. Porn flicks have all the other ingredients, but no one would dare to declare them good, due to lack of this one.

In summary, though not too briefly, I would say that a good thing should be one which uplifts my mood through the total experience, doesn’t bore me, carries out a certain attitude/mood modifications and at the end leaves me with a feel-good feeling that lingers for quite some time. Most likely I would repeat the experience and unless I do it every day, the feel-good feeling is likely to only marginally diminish. Most of the time, if it is really good, it could affect a permanent change in my view-point about certain things. Of course, the most important factor is, that the modifications that are done in me should be in correct direction. KFC, Mac, and various others similar, do all the above. They are so tasty that I might daily frequent and still not tire of them. But are they nudging me in right way? I wonder.

But to certify something good, you have to partake in it, and to do that you should know its existence and whereabouts. How do we do it?

  • First is of course compulsion. In this method, sometimes you might not even bother of propriety or lack of it. That’s how the tigers become man-eaters. You are with certain handicap, say in a town where you don’t know anything or anybody (injured/ sick/ old tiger) and the twist in the intestines tell you that you are starved. What would you do? You don’t have a specific choice or a direction, so you would look around and see the nearest available and accessible and of course at least outwardly inviting source (for tiger, the best one is human, even if it has a gun, since it doesn’t know what Gun is) and make a dash for it. You are least bothered of the propriety. Even if you are from high-echelon, you won’t bother to go inside a roadside dhaba, after all who would recognize you there? You would look at (or most probably listen) the menu and take a call on your course (whether to try out the, legs or thighs or the head first). You might like some, though it is equally likely you won’t and desist from being a man eater. But if you continue this practice, some time or other you are bound to be compromised by coming across something that appeals to your palate. When bored in the evenings with nothing to do, don’t we surf channels (or youtube), and don’t we sometimes get across a movie or a program, which we have never heard of, but find interesting?
  • Though the above is taken as the first, but that was the last resort and is done in extremely desperate situations. before that, I will go with my pre-knowledge or belief. If I am a vegetarian, and like south Indian foods, I will look around for an Udupi restaurants, since I know that all over India, they maintain the food quality, If I don’t mind masala foods, and the call is of the flesh, I might look for a Dhaba, preferably with a few Sikhs around (to be sure that it is an authentic one). While surfing the channels, or looking at the “Now Showings” at various theaters, I would look at the casting and the director and then might make my call. It isn’t necessary I would find this one good, or to my expectation, but it has more than a fair chance of being so.
  • Another good way is to look at the newspapers/ magazines and read what the experts (critics, awards) had said about it. How many stars Michelin’s or Reputed Critics have awarded to it, and what they said of the strengths and weaknesses. The one that best suits my palate would be where I go. That might not be the one which had their top recommendations. Micheline might have given the star for pate, or the critics might (they did too) have gone over the hill for an action movie like Bahubali, which don’t suit my palate. Now a days there is another similar source, the web, where I can get all the information (even including what happened in the end), It could help me in making my choice. This could however work contra too, by taking away the novelty (unless it is all glitz and no matter movie).
  • I can also look at various websites, say IMDb, Rotten Tomato, TMDb, or even comments in streaming sites, paid/ free for movies/ programs; in general any and/or many social websites, and based on their scores and comments make my choice.
  • The best is of course when I am among my friends and I could rely on their opinion, provided they have one. Most probably, if I am not a first-day-first show person, a few of them might have watched a few of the movies/ visited restaurants and found things they liked or disliked. Since they are my friends, somewhere or other we have compatible preferences and opinions and if they really said something is good, there is more than a fair chance I too will find so, unless of course, as I said elsewhere, I am an iconoclast (frankly I think I am) or I make one of those who makes mountains out of molehills, as far as expectations are concerned.

I assumed I have covered the whole spectrum of choice making with the sequence of

  • finding a movie that I would like, rising in the order of sequence, the last one being most probable. But that is limited to the liking or entertainment part.
  • Whether it is a good movie, i.e. whether it meets all the criteria above would probably not be covered by any of these, not even the middle one (critics), which could go the nearest and then falling down on both ends like the normal curve.

The middle one (experts/critics/awards) could really have hit the bulls eye and theoretically speaking they should. But sadly, if I look at the current ‘Expert Opinions’, the Academy Awards and even the Nobels don’t seem to be unsullied, the opinions are just a tiny bit better than common person, not by as far as it should be. The factors that works on a man on street seems to be working with the same intensity on the experts too. However only the difference is that they are in public gaze, and hence can’t speak out, what they speak they are accountable for and also have talk with certain other ulterior motives, though none of them are for ‘Good’ or even ‘Art’. 

Nobels in science subject are a tad better, since fortunately, they take the impact of the discoveries and awards are given to the ones that had been done decades back. Longevity of the subject and long time impacts are already ensured by this delay in awarding the award. Other factors too do come in, all know and accept that, but still the ones that get are not entirely undeserving.

The two are not to scale (i.e. the chances of success of friends entertaining you isn’t going to be equal to the critics recommending something good, nor are the percentages of my view equally distributed among these categories). It is just to figurate the whole English and try to show the pattern.

There is another factor too. When I certify something as good or entertaining, how much of my ‘feeling good’ or ‘having been entertained’ is influenced by others’ opinions? For example, I go to watch a movie I know has won several awards at Academy, Cannes, Berlin… will my opinion be different from that what I would have formed had it been a raw, unknown and unheralded one, even in the credits department ?

I am sure that I won’t be able to completely detach myself, and I am sure if anyone says so, it would be just a claim, not with a real conviction or complete truth.

When I go to watch a Chaplin or Ray movie, I know what I am going to watch and I have already prepared my mind to be appreciative isn’t it?

Obviously, the marketeers/promoters are well aware of this, that’s why the Bollywood from times immemorial had been releasing the vinyl’s quite some time before the movies were released. The movie houses release selective portions (trailers) on Youtube or elsewhere (earlier, in my childhood, when youtube wasn’t there, it would be during intervals or in the beginning). That is to prepare the ground and put just the right manures so that a bumper harvest is ensured. The critics are not allowed to remain immune from the marketers either, and I am not talking about small time ones on some newspapers, but supposed to be most reputed critics writing their opinions for the crème-de la crème papers.

The pattern of influence would be again almost the same, only probably there would be just a bit of additional weight put on by the friends to influence me on the good-ness of an unknown movie.

When I watch a movie all these influences in their relative weights are already working up in my brain, making me biased.

It has my favorite actor/actress/ director? My friends have gone ga-ga over it? The critics had to puncture the roof of empire state building to place it? Oscars, Palm D’Or? … How dare I not like it? Alright if you insist, then I will watch it and then say so, but don’t think my opinion will change.

In such a situation, the actual merit of the movie as far as an uninfluenced-me is concerned, would be the difference between my opinion and the degree of influence, which is my personal profile (and could be negative too). This factor would be very difficult to judge.

There could be one way of judging, but that is if the audience isn’t an absolute molding clay. Will he watch it say after some time (when the hype has died down)? Would he love to have a third view? Is it worth it? If it is a really a good movie I would. I still, once in a while, put on the discs of movies like Farmer’s Daughter, Bernadette, 12 Angry Men, Godfrey, Love Letters (though it is suspense movie) and quite a few others. I don’t take them from the top of the chart. For few, the subject is not of my taste (Western/ WW – my taboo subject) and I couldn’t stand some others (2001 Space, Blazing Saddles,…). But still I can’t claim being uninfluenced, after all that’s why I shelled out quite a few dollars to get hold of these movies. Though as it looks like, unless my attitude changes significantly, they would remain half or unwatched in my rack.

This obviously now brings out a clear, at least I assume so, picture of influences. The way I am influenced by various factors, others are too. That is clearly visible in Rotten Tomato or IMDb, in the social circles, my friends as well as well as in the critics. I have seen a few ‘expert’ opinions on ‘Bahubali-2’ which is yet to be released, based on the officially released trailer. It happens everywhere, especially in the billion-dollar club ventures, which have to mop up those billions with some margin from the public. Some insignificant amount (with respect to those billions) are obviously kept aside for influencing purpose.

If it is so complicated and controversial in just finding a good movie for me, how it would be in the things which is like a kaleidoscope, which any human being is?

In trying to find our way out of this whole maze, we lose our individuality, and become and behave more or less like normal people do. rarely one would to contradict and put out an opinion against the circle that he/she moves in. Even if it is done, it would be in a meek and suggestive tone, ready to withdraw if the “Normal” people had strong opinions on it.

I” is now no more a singular pronoun, but refers to a plural, many times over. The normal persons as “I” defines are those in immediate surrounding. There may be many types of “Normal” persons, one “Normal” may be different from “Another” if it is under different area and influences. By gathering the data from these various sets of “Normal” persons, equal or proportional numbers from each, we could get the idea of the population of all the types of normal people. That’s the very basic premise of statistics. Take an apple from each basket. Since they are likely picked up by same person from same tree, they are likely to be very much similar, and from that one apple, I could grade the whole basket.

This is a dangerous territory, since here the Singular is with Singularity. When I think of something, I don’t think of it as singular “Me” but of a normal group “I” should. Similarly, when I try to interpret or judge the action of an individual, unconsciously I put him as a part of his/her normal group and then start my exercise. So the fundamental method of interpretation, putting myself in his shoe becomes putting a “Normal Person of My Group” into the shoes of a “Normal Person of his group” and that too as thought of by a “Normal Person of My Group”.

That’s what has been repeatedly done in the 12 Angry men, where, if I look at any of the jurors, say Juror #9, a well-off person, has put himself into the shoes of a Slum Boy, and that too as he considers the Slum Boys are. This exercise brings the personal prejudices too to the fore or may be foremost, since what I think of a “Normal Person of the Target Group” is completely colored by it.

In this whole exercise, there is just a bit of me as an individual (especially about personal bad experiences) but as far as others are concerned, they are just “normal” individuals, sans any individuality.

Any act carried out by an individual is the result of circumstances on his person (personality). This personality or psychological make up makes him to do certain acts when the circumstances prod, and desist from the same act, under the same circumstances, if his individuality has been immunized. By generalizing Individuals into “Normal”, we are missing out on the fundamentals.

A “Normal” person when exposed to a certain force, on certain facet of its personality, would behave in a predetermined way, and we could easily hypothesize that, if we know the circumstances and are at least reasonably well able to make the model of the personality.

The problem here is not “Can we?” but “Would We?

We have to profile the target individual as an individual as an individual. Only the outline will be as the part of his group, but the actual profile would be as unique as his fingerprint. Of course we need not probably make a complete profiling and only critical facets need to be understood somewhat accurately, the other facets we can get away with some approximations. But even that needs an effort, though not herculean, but still it is an effort that is called for. Why should I do that, when there is nothing that “I” am going to gain from it (now this “I” is individual, not normal group “I”)?

The result is that by not understanding the person, partially the circumstances (after all the circumstances are as the individuals view it) and aware of the result, we make our hypothesis and make decisions.

It becomes important when we are those in power, but still we will rarely indulge in the ‘futile’ exercise, which we can do far better through general model. There is an important reason too, why we would or should work through general model. When we are in power, what we say is watched, and we have to be careful. The decisions taken by us are interpreted by “Normal” people and might have long ranging repercussions. Probably we would try to make an example in fringe cases, as a forewarning to those.

The whole trouble here is the group thought that reigns supreme, the exact thing that I have seen is most likely to be different, variable, though a bit more predictable than the individuals that form the group. Making the matter more complex, these individual’s individuality too is somewhat modified by the group’s Normal. Unless we treat the individuals as individuals, probably we won’t do justice to their cases.

The innocent individual suffering because of it? Well that is only a single person isn’t it? Also, except we and he/she no one would ever know of the innocence. Aren’t pawns regularly sacrificed in game of chess for the larger goal, the check-mate? People would in general would most likely lap up the story (as declared by us) and confer us with high accolades for upholding the laws.

One can find many cases where this type of mismanagement of individuals have taken place, usually with tragic results (The tragic need not always be fatal, there are worse tragedies than that).

Interestingly, or I would like to say, naturally, one gender seems to have suffered a bit more than other, even when the circumstances were similar and the sentence that were read out to the Not-guilty or Semi-guilty were the same “Guilty, even if I know otherwise”