The Internet Personified: Nobody puts Baby in the corner
Dear fellow apex predators,
Last week, I realised that K had NEVER watched You've Got Mail. I haven't seen a lot of movies myself, movies are Not My Thing, plus you know, golden age of television etc etc, and there are all these BOOKS I could be reading when I'm not watching TV and movies don't satisfy me the same way, but I am TRYING. You can't be a fully formed human being without engaging with the arts. The most accessible are books, music and film. Art is great, we have a lot of art hanging in our apartment, and I like to visit museums, and dance is really REALLY not that exciting for me (I like watching ballet sometimes, but is that because it's part of the I Go To The Ballet narrative? Meenakshi put on her pink coat and went to the ballet, you know? Or because I actually like ballet? I don't know.) I usually have music playing all day. I love music. But film seems like it would be easier to get behind, especially as a way to engage with India, which I like to do from time to time, even though I live here, because context. I have books that do that, but a person can only read so many new "literary" novels coming out of India before she throws them at the wall out of frustration because some of them are SO PRECIOUS and soooo PAINT BY NUMBERS, you're like, "Oh my god, just get on with the bloody thing. TELL ME THE FUCKING STORY!" Film is better in this regard. Since I don't have high standards for movies (I'll watch anything entertaining) I'm happy to watch most things if forced to, unless they have guns or violence, or are shot mostly in the dark.
But K takes great pleasure out of knowing All The Movies, and having watched All The Movies, so it is a rare and unexpected pleasure when I get to introduce him to one of my favourite films and not vice versa. You've Got Mail is, as you know, the story of two email friends, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, who are also--PLOT TWIST--rivals in the bookstore business. Meg Ryan runs her mother's old children's bookstore, a charming and unrealistic piece of real estate in the middle of New York, that somehow, despite being a kid's bookshop is always full and manages to employ three full-time employees. Tom Hanks is the son of Fox & Sons, a megastore modeling itself on Borders (RIP) that has a coffee shop, plenty of space for lounging and reading and most importantly--DISCOUNTS. There's a bit where Tom Hanks comes into Meg Ryan's shop and he's buying a few books for his aunt and his brother (his grandfather and father have some cringey age inappropriate relationships) and the total comes up to $80 or something and he's all shocked, which is actually a pretty accurate representation of how people feel when they go to bookstores these days and realise there aren't those hefty Amazon discounts.
K dismissed the movie as mostly an AOL ad, but then he doesn't like romantic movies about as much as I don't like guns and violence, so I suppose that is fair. However, what I noticed this time was how creepy it was that Tom Hanks knew about halfway through the movie that Meg Ryan is his email penpal and then he proceeds to gaslight her for the rest of the film about her mystery man. Like, setting her up for disappointment etc. And then in the end, he appears, with this smug expression on his face and there's a second where Meg Ryan looks slightly... disappointed? Like, she's a woman who had a CHOICE up until then--Tom Hanks, her bitter business rival who she was sort of becoming friends with, or this kind internet friend who was always nice to her and on her side. And suddenly to realise it's both the same person?
On the other hand, the pay off with these rom coms is waiting for that one killer line at the end. "You want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible." "You complete me" etc etc. I just waited for that one bit in the end, where he wipes away her tears and goes, "Don't cry... Shopgirl" and she says, "I wanted it to be you, I wanted it to be you so badly." S-W-O-O-N.
(I realise I have now spoilered the entire movie for you, but should you feel like watching for the first (or zillionth) time, it's on Prime.)
(If your mystery internet lover turns out to be that one friend of yours who is excessively interested in your internet lover, run, don't walk, away from them.)
(You realise You've Got Mail is the last time people looked normal in the movies? Meg Ryan is adorable, don't get me wrong, but she's accessible adorable. Tom Hanks is quite the average Joe type. Nowadays there's all cut profiles and buff bodies and the kind of beauty you only read about in fairy tales.)
This week in movies that do not feature the dynamic Hanks and Ryan duo: Went to watch Alpha at IMAX. It's quite a gorgeous movie--a caveman gets separated from his tribe and befriends a wolf who he tames. I mean, I give it a 50% rating off the bat already for featuring PUPPY and then another 30% - 40% for the actual movie, so a pretty high rating there. You should go see it before it leaves, it's quite, quite charming. (Plus I just learned my debit card has an offer where you get buy one get one free movie tickets, so that is an excellent reason to go watch more movies.)
This week in gin and tonic part I: Was passing a Modern Bazaar, so I bought a couple of bottles of the much vaunted Svami tonic water, which is made in India and fancier than Schweppes. Eh, it's overpriced in my opinion--Rs 80 for a 200 ml bottle, I don't think I'm at the "spend so much money on my mixers" level of wealth just yet. Plus while it was nice enough, I think if you're just looking for a less sweet tonic you can do what I do and mix your tonic with soda, same effect, less pricey. If Svami starts making more affordable tonic, I can go up to Rs 50, I will totally switch because it's also nice to support local businesses.
This week in gin and tonic part II: Went to Fig & Maple in GKII for drinks last weekend, and their gin is a work of art. Lots of infusions, so we tried six (in total, not each). I'm very inspired to do my own infusions now, it's as simple as popping a fruit/herb into a jar with the booze. Since there's not great gin to be had here, I'm going to use vodka I think. Lemongrass vodka? Earl Grey vodka? Chilli vodka? YUM. Let's do this!
This week in living alone: K has been out of town for a little while, and long time readers will remember we had a break in last year around this time, again when he was out of town. Since then I have been FREAKED about staying home alone, which I realised was ridiculous. I've lived alone for years, I love our apartment, how can I be scared of it? The cats are noisy little fuckers and make mysterious rattling and thumping noises at night, and also the acoustics of this house mean someone walking around downstairs or next door feels like they're right in the other room. Two days of living in fear, and by day three, I was finally settling into my space again. Fuck those burglars, right? This is my house and they're not going to steal that away from me. Last night I cuddled into bed, ignored my own brain, and had a lovely night's sleep.
By the way, did you know the inventor of the home security system was a woman? So not surprised.
This week in stuff I loved on the internet:
Fiction pick! Your Second Wife.
I discovered my gift for impersonating dead wives quite by accident. It was the year after college, and I was planning on attending architecture school. I wanted to build skyscrapers. Then my best friend’s wife died of a brain aneurysm, and he did not leave his bed for a month. I was working part-time for a theater makeup artist, and I brought in a photo of my best friend’s dead wife and asked for her help. Three hours later, I turned up at his front door in a frosted blonde wig and tinted contacts and a prosthetic chin. I had even broken into his garage and gotten some of her clothes out of storage: a linen dress, strappy sandals, and a black cross-body purse.
God, I love these Jhumpa Lahiri style "I immigrated from Calcutta to the USA" stories.
The consulate smelled like America in my childish imagination. The air conditioned halls, the modern plastic and metal furniture, a water cooler from which I eagerly poured myself some water even though I was not thirsty. I breathed in the scent of wealth in there. It felt like newness on my skin. Everything was hushed, ordered, brightly lit. Not like my own loud, bustling city. Even the local Indian staff seemed to behave as if they were actually living in America.
The author's father spent thirty years in prison and now he's out and doesn't know what a cellphone can do.
I stayed in Indiana for a week. My dad and I went shopping for new clothes for him. Stores were a lot for him. He didn’t understand why everyone walked around looking down at their phones. He couldn’t fathom what could be happening on the phone that kept them so entranced. I tried to explain that there were often other people to talk to or look at on phones. Sometimes those people were far away, or people they didn’t even know. There were mostly no long-distance fees; there were photos and videos — basically the whole world could be on these screens. He thought about that for a minute and said, “But there are people all around right here. A lot of people we don’t know. Why not just look at them?” I didn’t have an answer to that. I thought about taking my phone out of my bag and showing him, but I also didn’t want to bring my Phone World into Our World. We were shopping together for the first time, shooting the shit for the first time, and despite all my usual inclinations, I had no desire to rush to document it. I didn’t want to share it with anyone else.
No surprise: male authors are far more likely to recommend books by men. (SIGH.)
On Saturday, Groff tweeted out a link to George Pelecanos' "By the Book" segment, in which the author mentions three books by men and none by women, saying, "This one goes out to all the men who contacted me to say that my interview (in these these same pages) was bitterly unfair because I said out that men don't read women: Here you go, sweet gents." Little Fires Everywhere author Celeste Ng replied to Groff the next day, asking, "Has anyone done a count of By The Book and how many of the men cite NO women at all? Anecdotally I think the count would be really high."
This is a sweet set of stories (I'm linking to part two) but TW: dead dog.
How creepy it is when people talk of “completing” their families, as though a family is a construction project or a vocational course, a finite thing, a theoretical ideal. How moronic and hubristic I find that attitude. It’s like the ugliest kind of nationalism, on a microcosmic scale. And yet. And yet. Sally gave us something new to love, and in so doing gave our family a new dimension, this whole new love to share between us. I felt a weird, delicious sense of… completeness. I was past having babies, but Sal was my sweet darling beloved lil’ boo. We were in love with her and in love with each other and in love with the way she loved us back and generally high off our own abundance of love and good fortune. There was this warmth in my chest. We redrew our goofy family crest to include her. We sang ridiculous songs to and with and about her. We spoke to her in a silly dialect. Dare I say it? We were happy.
And speaking of dogs (and Alpha) here's an interview with a man who claims he was raised by wolves.
The fact that I might find it implausible didn’t seem to worry him; it was the one moment when he showed absolutely no concern for my reaction. There was no blushing, no adolescent timidity or raucous, incoherent humour. Indeed, if there was one thing Rodríguez seemed to know for sure – no matter what other people thought – it was that he had lived a better and happier life in the wild. The complexity of his interactions with humans would later grate against the remembered simplicity of his dealings with the animals. “When a person talks, they might say one thing but mean another. Animals don’t do that,” Rodríguez told me.
So many children missing in India.
In the video, at 2.25 p.m. that day, Kabir enters the frame; he is walking back from tuitions in Delhi’s Nizamuddin colony — as he has done for two years — carrying a big red-and-black schoolbag on his back. His gait is jaunty but he seems to be in no particular hurry; at one point he appears to mock-bowl with his left hand, at another he stops to pick up something from the pavement, maybe a coin or a pebble. He doesn’t exit the frame, he gets obscured by a row of Ashoka trees, then the video ends. “Can you see him standing behind the tree?” Malik asks, pointing to a corner of the phone screen where a portion of his black trousers is just about visible through the foliage. “ Maybe he is waiting for someone, or talking to someone. He is a friendly child, he spoke to everyone in the area,” she says, the possibilities clearly confounding her.
And finally, comedies whose quotes have stood the test of time. (In some cases, please stop.)
I totally paused.
A full-on Monet
The list could go on and on, but these are some of the standouts that Alicia Silverstone’s Cher had on rotation. Writer-director Amy Heckerling has said she created a dictionary for the movie, drawing inspiration from the gay community, Yiddish and swing-era slang, among other places.
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Where am I? The Internet Personified! A mostly weekly collection of things I did/thought/read/saw that week.
Who are you? Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, writer of internet words (and other things) author of six books (support me by buying a book!) and general city-potter-er.
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