Thursday, June 21, 2018

How to Go Bald in Style


A Requiem for Receding Hairlines

Today is my friend’s birthday (a very close comrade) and if I could buy him the perfect gift, I would gift him a magic potion for his MPB problem or simply ‘Male Pattern Baldness’.

My buddy started balding at the syrupy age of sixteen. In the sunshine years of his life, when we all stood before our mirrors, affectionately examining our emerging whiskers, he stood there anxiously fingering his barren temples. Like most mere mortals, his initial reaction to this impending disaster was one of immense and soul-stirring self-pity. For a time, he spent sleepless nights pondering over the whys and wherefores of his unlucky destiny, wondering why it had to be him and his poor pate alone.

Being however, a man of enormous resilience and coaxed by my inspirational hair-raising sermons, he decided that it was valor in the mind to take arms against a sea of troubles that to suffer the slings and arrows of an outrageous tragedy. He stood up to fights the menace of baldness that the flesh is heir… hair… too.

He purchased herbal hair oils, ayurvedic hair creams, and imported hair vitalizers and massaged them into his scalp each morning and night, outwards from the crown and not inwards from the forehead, as the label erringly advised - with a religious fervor that must have impressed even the man Upstairs. Come to think of it. I wonder if He ever had to face such a ‘hair-loss' situation!!!

The results were not exactly gratifying but he didn’t give up. After all, the number of hair strands in the bathroom following each bath had registered an remarkable decline of four and a half percent in a month. Besides, he could always try the other herbal brand I’d seen at the chemist's shop, the one with the glossy cover or the green concoction in the shapely bottle or… or… It took him one year and ten thousand rupees to realize the grave truth about hair oils and hair creams - they make you poor, they give you pimples but as a rule, they never give you hair.

A friend suggested seeing a celebrated trichologist at Bangkok, who had found a connection between sex and hair-loss and had become world famous reviving hairlines of the rich and famous but my friend having already spent a huge fortune vetoed this. One of his relatives recommended a hair-growing pilgrimage to a temple in Srilanka known for fulfilling all bodily needs while an Astrologer suggested getting the bald patches licked by a cow – apparently, a foolproof method for generating new hair but this suggestion too had to be discarded for want of an understanding and obliging cow!

During these days of unsuccessful experimentation, he had also honed up his skills of improvisation – he had developed strategic haircut patterns to camouflage the bald spots and give the barren thatch a ‘fuller’ appearance and if the situation demanded, he also wore a wig.

I shall be unfair if I do pause at this point of the chronicle to pay respects to his venerable 50 something barber who being bald himself understood the gravity of the situation. A word of advice to all balding brethren on the choice of a barber – the balder, the better. The barber who has all the hair on his head intact views a thinning plumage solely as a lucrative financial prospect. The bald barber, on the other hand, having himself been a victim to the vagaries of his disappointing genes beholds his customer with an air of compassion and views the task ahead of him as a philanthropic deed and not a materialistic undertaking. Well, barber or not - slowly but surely, he resigned himself to the terrible fact that his baldness had come to stay.

For those among you who find yourselves in the same boat, here are a few time-tested techniques to reduce the psychological trauma that accompanies this common but deeply affecting malady;

• Stop Worrying. Stress causes hair loss.

• Grow a beard. It detracts attention away from your head.

• Utilize remaining hair to cover maximum area of your bare scalp. Caution - while doing this, always stay away from ceiling fans.

• Stop being ashamed of your baldhead. Accept gracefully, the fact that your hairline and neckline are working towards a merger. Consider your prematurely bald head a distinguishing feature of your personality – after all, not everyone is lucky enough to have one.

• To counter acid remarks about your empty dome, have a few humorous answers handy. Try saying a bald head is like heaven – there is no dy(e)ing, Or say God created few perfect heads, the rest he covered with hair. Make sure they appear spontaneous. For best results, rehearse before a mirror.

• And when a women makes references to your bald head, put on your deadliest “bedroom-eyes” sexy look and say, “you know, bald men are different!” For all you know, she might want to verify the veracity of your declaration!

Happy Balding!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Ravenous (1999)


You are what you eat! Revisiting the underrated cannibal cult classic


Plagued by controversy during the production with original Macedonian art house director Milcho Manchevski (Before the Rain/1994) walking out due to studio differences with Laura Ziskin, this hugely underrated gruesome satire starring Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle was to be then directed by Raja Gosnell who at that time only had Home Alone 3 to his credit. Ziskin's choice however, was outright rejected by the stellar cast and on Carlyle's insistence, his close friend a largely unknown British film maker Antonia Bird was eventually called in to helm Ravenous. And what a fantastic choice she was! 

A bewildering cannibalistic western that blends colonial American history with pockets of black humor and naked satire; it's one of those genre-defying strange films that make you unsure of whether to laugh or cringe, so you frequently end up doing both. Surprisingly, Ravenous largely received mixed reviews when it released and performed dismally at the US box office just scraping around $2 million against a reported budget of $12 million, but over the years, this weird little horror gem has now achieved a cult following and is getting the rightful attention it actually deserves.

Set amidst the bloody Mexican-American War (1846 – 1848), the mesmerizing screenplay by Ted Griffin (Ocean 11) melds the supernatural Native American myth of the Wendigo whose appetite for human flesh is insatiable and is the source of its strength with real historical references like the Donner Party - Alferd Packer cannibalism to create an alluringly savage satire on American capitalism, colonialism, over-consumption and greed. Like the Wendigo, this is a 'on your face' bloody take on the voracious locust-like history of the America's brutal past. 

Staying true to this grim motive, the main character, Second Lieutenant John Boyd (Guy Pearce), is shown as a coward who is sent to an outpost manned by a handful of soldiers during the Mexican-American war. When a ragged man F.W. Colqhoun (Robert Carlyle) stumbles in from the cold and reveals that his fellow travelers resorted to cannibalism when they became snowbound, the commanding officer (Jeffrey Jones) decides to go on a rescue mission. 

The story that follows seems almost predictable, but never stops when you expect it to, with characters popping in and out at the most inopportune times for Boyd and the most unexpected times for us. And that's where lies its magnetic (and grisly) dark charm. 

Guy Pearce is sublime as the weak but upright Boyd; he has surprisingly few lines of dialogue, but his character is intriguing and complex. Carlyle is menacingly superb while Jones and David Arquette provide adequate support. The costumes and makeup are top notch; the mood of the film palpably dense throughout and the bleak landscape shot in Mexico and Slovakia, with its dirty snow and patches of dirt, contributes to the sense of deep isolation and dread that Boyd feels when no one believes his tales of the Wendigo. There is, of course, plenty of foreboding suspense and a lot of blood and gore but its all done with great panache.

Part of the feel good credit undoubtedly goes to the haunting music that permeates throughout the movie. The evocative score, a splendid collaboration between Damon Albarn, the lead singer of  Brit pop band - Blur and Michael Nyman (Piano) elevates Ravenous to an entirely different level adding a surreal omnipresent tone to all the macabre happenings Boyd (and us) have to witness. Nonetheless, it is still appropriately weird, stunning on its own but not at all what you might expect the music of cannibalism and violent death to sound like.

Ravenous is a fantastic example of splendid movie making but horrendous movie marketing. A Hollywood paradox that's sadly yet to be fixed. Until then, see Ravenous again like I did, its still a refreshing watch and the music is a big plus. And for those of you who haven't seen it yet, the time is now especially if you like delicious blood soaked horror! Bon Appetit!  




Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Dating Advice for the Women of the World


Dating shouldn't be a guessing game. Saying a simple Yes or No is all that matters!

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. So please, please, ladies when you get asked out, talk in a straight line. Say what you mean in twenty-five words or less. It's best for everybody involved. Chaos theorists say that the more moving parts in a system, the more difficult it is to predict outcomes. So sex is like math. Keep it simple.

I've been told some astonishing lies and disinformation for no reason at all.  I accept "No thank yous," with good grace, but being made to feel like Alice talking to the Caterpillar infuriates me.

For example, a common approach in my circles is to encounter a woman at a place or function, like a club, play, beach, or bar. Maybe this is the first time you've met her, maybe not. You make friends with her at the function and, when the curtain falls or last call is announced, you say, "Would you like to go for coffee? Drinks? Dinner? Ice cream?"  The idea is that you will take her off to a more intimate setting, just the two of you, where you can showcase your wit and sensuality to each other and see if this is going to develop.

Answers I DO NOT GET include, "No thank you," "I already have a boyfriend," "I'm not looking for a relationship, but thanks," "I'm a lesbian," "You hideous freak, I would rather roll naked in maggots." All these answers share the common elements of clarity and sincerity. There is little room for misunderstanding with any of these answers. If I got any of these answers, I'd walk away a little disappointed but feeling that I'd gotten a square deal.

Answers I DO GET include, "Sure! I'll just go tell my friends!" - delivered with a friendly smile. Then she disappears into the crowd and never returns.  "Oh, I have to drive my two friends home. Where are you going to be afterwards?"

I reply, "I was going to go home... but, I'll tell you what, I'll give you my number and once you get your friends home you can call me and we'll figure something out."

She never calls.

My friend told me a story where a woman accepted his dinner invitation, named a date and time, gave him directions to her house, took his phone number, gave hers. When he arrived at the address at the arranged time, the house was dark and the driveway was empty.

What's wrong with "No thanks."?

If you don't want to go on the date, just say "No."  Okay, maybe you don't want to be that blunt; you want to spare his feelings. So, you could say, "Gee, I just don't have the time."  Trust me, it's like a bullet through the back of the head.  Lights out.  Didn't hurt.  It's the best thing under the circumstances.

But saying, "Sure, just give me a call!"  And, then dodging his messages, is like sealing a bulkhead on a submarine. He gets to spend two days coming to the realization that he's a big fucking idiot for ever thinking that you were telling the truth. And furthermore, once a guy gets poked in the eye two or four times with this particular stick, it tends to make him edgy and untrusting, and some poor woman down the line who did show up for dinner and drinks is going to be saying, "Why don't you ever tell me what you're feeling?"  So, think of that future woman, at least.

Some men, of course, can't take a straight "No" for an answer, and will keep pestering you about it, turning up in your favorite bars or at your work and repeating themselves, figuring blindly that you said "No" the first five times but the sixth time you're going to crack. My advice, pepper spray that guy, then kick him in the nuts - he'll probably figure it out after that.

And by the way, if you want to go on the date, just say, "Yes! Thursday, seven o'clock?" Don't play hard to get, because anti-stalking laws prohibit us from pursuing that. And any man who thinks you're a slut for agreeing to what he just proposed is a small-minded boob. Discard him immediately. 

So this is universal masculinity (embodied by my humble pen) reaching out to you, the women of the world, with a plea to talk in a straight line, and please teach your friends and  daughters to do the same. The suffering and misunderstandings and accidental charges for criminal stalking or sexual harassment that will be saved in future generations will be immeasurable. No to mention, what a great stride this would be for ongoing diplomatic negotiations between the sexes.

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