Sugar! Tolstoi! KRK Sir!

June 21, 2015

A couple of weeks ago, I read this Hindustan Times oped by Manu Joseph. I call it an oped merely because it appeared on the Opinion page. It would be far more appropriate to call it a masterful piece of trolling of anybody who enjoys sweets:

Sugar operates in the same way as evil because it is. It is an allure that hides deep inside culture, and in the notions of love, celebration, freedom, sharing and being endearingly flawed. And in our fundamental right to mediocrity. The only time human beings question the virtues of perfection and excellence is when you take sugar away from them.

There are multitudes within that paragraph. The correlation of sugar and evil; which is hyperbolic by itself but so understated in the context it appears in. The contemptuous scorn for “being endearingly flawed”, which I too find annoying when I find that particular self-projection infecting my Twitter timeline. The rage at love, celebration, and freedom all being hijacked by bad dietary habits. And that is just one paragraph. The rest of the oped pours the same scorn on Aditya Chopra movies’ suspension of logic, fruit juices, the moral panic over Maggi, and… pretty much everything else, actually.

What explains all this scorn and rage? And why is Manu Joseph angry at everything? Why are so many of his opeds what the good old days of blogging used to call puke fests? After giving the matter much thought on my commute (which runs from South Delhi to Sonepat so I had lots of time to give it thought), I was rewarded with an insight. The insight was this:

Manu Joseph and Aakar Patel are the Safe-For-Work versions of Kamaal R Khan (hereinafter referred to as KRK sir).

The rest of this post is full of bad language. Kindly proceed accordingly.

Read the rest of this entry »

Real Estate and Travel Fetishes

May 16, 2015

A long time ago, somebody on Twitter shared an article (possibly on medium) about how, instead of looking forward to your next vacation and a life full of travel, you should make your career and life so fulfilling that you never wonder where your next vacation is going to be. Unfortunately, I forgot to bookmark it, and can no longer find the link, but I am certainly one of those people whom the article was chiding. Sadly, despite all my cool product development projects at work, I still get more excited by the prospect of travel.

In my defence, it is easier to share the excitement of travel with friends, family, and loved ones, than it is to share the excitement of developing a flame-retardant conveyor belt.

But, looking at my Facebook news feed, I certainly get the feeling that the scolding in that missing article had a point. There are so many people who seem to give off the impression that all that their life is missing is a vacation to somewhere cool and undiscovered.

That’s Facebook. And then there’s advertising on FM radio in Delhi.

Delhi radio is chock full of advertisements about buying apartments (and also commercial real estate sometimes). And the vast majority of these advertisements feature emotionally maudlin husbands or wives or children crying (or as Jagadguru used to say, crying up and down) about how miserable their lives are, and how the new real estate development can magically solve all this misery.

I find the radio advertisements far more awful than my Facebook feed, though that could be because of two sorts of bias:

  1. Cringing at what my friends say on Facebook would be awkward because they are my friends
  2. I share the hankering after travel but don’t see the point of buying real estate, to the extent that I roll my eyes at people who do (especially in India). This is probably the result of reading all those internet pop science articles about how experiences make us happier than things. (For an enjoyable pop science book that takes it a step further, I recommend Geoffrey Miller’s Spent, of which I really ought to write more in another post.)

But even with this bias and the previous excuse, I have to admit that both the hankering after travel and the hankering to own real estate are a sort of cargo cult which imbue either vacations or houses with magical powers. To wit:

  • All my problems will be solved if only I have a 3 BHK in which everyone in my family has a room to themselves and covered parking!


  • I will achieve remarkable insights and self-knowledge if only I travel to all the spots on this list of 25 places to see before I die!

Although I know many remarkable people who are free from either of these fetishes, the people I know personally who do suffer from this all seem to fall in Category 2 rather than Category 1, with minor exceptions like my bua (who does not so much believe that all her problems will be solved by buying real estate, as that everyone’s problems will be solved by buying real estate, and indeed that the source of marital discord is in living in rented accomodation). I know very few people who overlap, which leads me to suspect that these are mutually exclusive (perhaps because of that experiences versus things dichotomy).

This acquired relevance a while ago, when Gradwolf and I were discussing this article about online dating for rich people, and he was wondering what the entry qualifications were for such a thing. It was then, that I had a flash of insight and realised that to join these gated singles’ networks, the deciding factor was not how much you earn, but how much you spend and on what.

That is, if you are the sort of rich person who gets excited about buying a 3 BHK flat in Greater NOIDA (West), Floh and A World Alike will probably regretfully decline to let you in. But if you are the sort of rich person who travels to vineyards in Tuscany (or at least Nashik) and posts pictures of it on Facebook, they will probably welcome you with arms wide open.

This is potentially the source of the next class civil war between the different types of rich people.

Languages and Optionality

April 2, 2012

Last week, I completed the Goethe Institut’s A1 German course. (My new year’s resolution is to complete the B1 course this year. Registration for A2 is in a couple of weeks, and the course itself starts in May.)

I had enrolled in the A1 course last year for a number of reasons, including:

  • I enjoy languages
  • Our company has German partners and customers, and it’s useful to know their language
  • I had been diagnosed with anxiety disorder due to extreme social isolation (what else do you expect when you live in Kanchipuram?), and something that would give me social contact every weekend would help
  • and most importantly, everything sounds more badass in German. (Even Disney movies. Exhibit A.)

The A1 course was huge fun. I had stars in my eyes when, towards the end of the course we did the past participle of words. Quick explanation: it’s a shortcut that prevents you from having to learn the past tenses of verbs. Instead of saying “I made”, or “you made”, or “they made”, you say “I have made”, “You have made”, and so on. This doesn’t seem that impressive in English, because the past tense for I, you, he, and they are all “made”, but it’s a significant advantage in German where they’re different but the participle stays the same throughout.

It was also very easy for me. I think this was because of a combination of two things: first, the Goethe Institut has an incredibly structured teaching methodology where you learn both by swotting grammar and vocabulary, and by actual conversation and immersion. Since they’ve been teaching German as a foreign language for years now, they’ve presumably settled on the best schedule to expose a new learner to either grammar or actual conversation or text reading. It worked for me, anyway.

The other thing that made the course easy was that I had spent five years (Class 6 to Class 10) learning Sanskrit in a CBSE school.

Now, back in the 1990s, studying Sanskrit in a CBSE school was anything but an appropriate mix of immersion and grammar. (I don’t know if it’s changed since then.) From Class 6 to Class 8, you did only grammar. It wasn’t until you came to Class 9 that you started reading short stories – up until then, you would read a sentence at a time at best. (This was when you weren’t rote-learning verb conjugations and noun declensions.)

I won’t comment on how useful this was as a method of teaching Sanskrit – I hardly remember any Sanskrit now, but that could easily be because I never stayed in touch with it after the board exams, and not necessarily because it’s a mad pedagogical method. But it was incredibly useful as a way to make me familiar with the rules of language in general.

Remember how I said that in German the verb form changes with person? Let’s stick to the present tense of make for now, and compare English and German.

  • First Person Singular: I make / Ich mache
  • First Person Plural: We make / Wir machen
  • Second Person Singular: You make / Du machst (informal) and Sie machen (formal)
  • Second Person Plural: You make / Ihr macht (informal) and Sie machen (formal)
  • Third Person Singular: He Makes / Er macht
  • Third Person Plural: They make / sie machen
That’s two forms (make and makes) in English, and four forms (mache, machen, machst, macht) in German. If you’re coming from English, it can drive you mad. But if you’ve spent three years mugging up conjugations in Sanskrit (where, just to make things fun, there’s a dual along with the singular and plural – though there’s no difference between formal you and informal you) you already know what a conjugation is, and all you have to do is remember the conjugations. You’ve already climbed the first hurdle of knowing what  a conjugation is.

Incidentally, a month or so ago, a friend who knew I was studying German forwarded me Mark Twain’s epic rant about the language. Twain complains bitterly that German has four cases for declension. He would have gone mad with Sanskrit, which has seven; or with Finnish which apparently has fourteen. Incidentally, he reserves particular ire for the dative case – and he has my sympathies. The dative case is maddening – it seems to be the case where all the special exceptions to the other three cases end up.

But this illustrates my point – that if you’ve been through Sanskrit grammar and managed that, grammar in German is both familiar and trivial. I suspect this may be true for any language in the Indo-European family. So if your learning style is okay with three years of learning grammar by rote, doing Sanskrit the way we did it back in our day (and, for all I know, is the way kids these days are still doing it), you can then learn any other Indo-European language in the future very quickly. Maybe even any other language, though I will have no experience in this until my Tamil lessons kick off later this year. The value of Sanskrit, then, is not in the language itself, but that it opens up options to learn other languages.

Time now for a quick segue.

A week or so ago, this blogpost about how the Millennial generation is obsessed with picking options that open up other options was being tweeted all over my timeline (though I think I saw it via Suze and Ravi first):

…strange anxieties are getting in the way of these ambitions – none more prominently than something called FOMO. It is the “fear of missing out,” and it has been written about by others (including in an article about SXSW last year) as a phenomenon caused by social media.

More and more, particularly among those who have yet to make those big life decisions (whom to marry, what kind of job to commit to, where to live), FOMO and FOBO – the “fear of better options” – are causing these young leaders to stand still rather than act.

Those with the most options in this generation have a tendency to choose the option that keeps the most options open. Wrap your head around that for a second. It’s one of the reasons that management consulting has become so popular among today’s young elites.

(CNN: Global Public Square)

I empathise with that “fear of better options” a little, but I’m also wary about generalising to an entire generation (even if generations are by definition where generalisations apply). Not to mention that the Millennial generation of the USA is not going to match the similar generational cohort in other countries. Though I have to admit, globalisation means that (rich) American Millennials are probably more similar to (rich) people from the same generation in other countries than at any point before. Earlier in history, the similarity would have been in destitution…

But now that Priya Parker has come up with this very interesting concept of optionality, it ties in to the first part of my blogpost: Sanskrit, as I said, is brilliant at opening up other options. But (and of course there’s a but)…

If there is this hankering for optionality, at what point does it actually develop?

I ask this because when I did Sanskrit, there was no choice – from Class 6 to Class 8, you had to do Sanskrit as the third language at my school. Then I came to Class X or XI, and suddenly our school introduced an option for the middle school kids: they could do French or German instead of Sanskrit. Suddenly there were mass desertions – Sanskrit fell down to one or two sections (if that many.)

Now admittedly most people might not have made the connection between learning Sanskrit now and learning French or German much quicker later on. But even if someone had gone around madly pitching Sanskrit as the best language if you wanted to keep your options open to a bunch of middle school kids: would they really have listened?

The obsession with optionality requires a sense of the future. And perhaps I’m doing them a disservice, and the younger generation has that sense of the future – but honestly, I don’t see an eleven year old giving up French now to study Sanskrit so that he (or she) can study both French and German in the future.  I don’t think that’s about impatience, or inability to think ahead: if you’re eleven years old, thinking of a future three years away (or even further) is a quarter of a lifetime.

(UpdateAishwarya pointed out over chat that not only would they not have listened, but this would only have been true for the kids who learned like me and for whom grammar works in the same way. Yes, this would have only worked if you had some magic way of identifying such kids and pitching to them, and I thought my earlier caveat about German being easier if this method of pedagogy worked for you made that implicit, but I should have made it explicit instead. That was sloppy writing on my part.)

Proportionally, that’s like asking a twenty-something to make plans for when he’s thirty five – but then, twenty-somethings do do that – anyone entering a long-gestation career like law or medicine is doing that, and so is somebody who’s setting up a retirement fund.

So at some point between being kids and late-teenagers, we gain a sense of the future. Sometimes this future orientation is thrust upon us (as it would be for most Indian kids who’re pushed kicking and screaming into a predetermined engineering+MBA career). Sometimes, we’re born with it and start off early. And sometimes, we become obsessed with it and end up like the Millennials that Priya Parker describes.

And now seguing back to the paralysis brought about by the hunt for options…

To be honest – I’ve been there. The thing that’s helped the most is to keep reminding myself that some things are best done now when I have the youthfulness to do them well. Really, this is balancing out options with a bucket list or checklist where ticking off items gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling. It still doesn’t work as well as I’d like it to – but it’s a start.

How to Read Interesting Links on Twitter on Kindle Later

February 12, 2012

I tweeted earlier this morning about automatically sending interesting links I find on twitter to my Kindle. Since two people (@saffrontrail and @_a_muse) asked me how this was done, and it won’t fit in tweets, here’s a blogpost that explains the process. Hopefully it’ll benefit other people also.

First here’s what you need:

  1. A Twitter account
  2. A registered Kindle
  3. An account
  4. An account

Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Create an instapaper account.
    1. Once this is done and you’re logged in, go to Instaper’s Kindle settings page
    2. You’ll see an email address which is something like Save this for Step 2.
    3. You’ll have to fill in your Kindle’s email address. At this point, you’ll have to run Step 2 in parallel.
  2. Set up your Kindle to receive email. To do this:
    1. Login to Amazon. Find the link that says Manage Your Kindle and head there.
    2. Click on ‘Personal Document Settings’ in the sidebar.
    3. You’ll now see your Kindle’s email id. Take this back to the instapaper Kindle settings page, and fill it in.
    4. Also, in the ‘Approved Personal Document Email List’, click on ‘Add a new approved e-mail address’. Now, fill in that email id.
    5. Proceed to Step 3
  3. Now, come back to your instapaper Kindle settings page. Make sure that the ‘Send my Unread articles to my Kindle automatically’ box is checked, and tweak the sending settings to your preferences, depending on how much you read and how often you send new articles to your instapaper queue.

All right! So at the end of Step 3, any new article you add to your instapaper reading list will automatically go to your Kindle. But right now, you’ll still have to open every article before you can send it to instapaper. The next step is the nice part – you can add interesting links you find on twitter to instapaper without opening them. Here’s that process:

  1. Create an account.
  2. Now, go to this link, which is an ifttt recipe which scans your new favourited tweets, and if it finds links in them, sends them to instapaper.
  3. You’ll now have to authorise ifttt to link to both your twitter and instapaper account. This does mean entering your passwords for both these services. Don’t panic – the password is not going to ifttt, only to twitter/ instapaper to allow them to authorise ifttt.
  4. Create the task. Don’t worry about the text box fields that ifttt shows you – you can leave them empty.
All right. The automation is now done. So now, the next time you’re logged into twitter, and you see a tweet with a link that looks interesting, all you have to do is favourite (star) that tweet. The next time you sync your Kindle, you’ll get it in your instapaper delivery.

Note: Maybe you’d rather use Pocket or Readability instead of Instapaper. You can, and the principle is the same, but I’ve never bothered to set it up myself. You’ll have to use an ifftt recipe that links Twitter and Readability or Twitter and Pocket. Linking Readability to Kindle is easy, here’s the page to do it. Pocket, unfortunately, doesn’t send directly to Kindle, and you’ll have to use the third party en2Kindle website, adding yet another step. But if that works for you because you love Pocket, great.

Frightfully Well Carried Out

July 30, 2011

This morning, I read the Caravan magazine cover story on the organisational restructuring Rahul Gandhi is carrying out at the Youth Congress. It is very good and you should read it too. What I found particularly interesting was this bit:

The “transformation effort” kicked off in earnest in May 2008, with a workshop conducted by Jayaram for 40 young Congress leaders. It was this seminar and a series of subsequent meetings—about “what the organisation should stand for, its goals and its ideals”, in Jayaram’s words—that set the course for the overhaul of the IYC. What Rahul and the other young Congresspeople envisioned was an open, democratic, clean, technologically advanced party. “We wanted to produce good politicians who are like professionals,” one participant in the meetings told me.

All this is well and good, but openness, democracy, and cleanliness are hardly goals in themselves. Organisational structure and processes are means to an end.

To make things clearer, let me draw an analogy to the corporate world. A company’s goals could be to create great products, to give its customers a cheap deal, or prosaically, to maximise shareholder value. Similarly a political party might want to create a welfare state, or to increase economic freedom, or prosaically, to get into power. These are all valid goals. A company which said that its goal was to have really great internal processes, but mentioned nothing about its products or customers is probably not going to do very well at the market.

The Caravan story does allude to this:

After suggesting that the “professionalisation” of politics, with its recruitment strategies drawn from the world of business management, had produced politicians wary of taking a stand on anything controversial, Mehta drew a contrast with the 1970s. “There was a massive wave of young people into politics,” he said, “but they had clear political identities at a young age. You knew what Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad stood for in 1974. I don’t know what Rahul Gandhi stands for.”

By a happy coincidence, I discovered a bit of Yes, Prime Minister dialogue this evening that sums up this whole issue of really fantastic organisational processes for the sake of really fantastic organisational processes:

Sir Humphrey: My job is to carry out government policy.

Jim Hacker: Even if you think it is wrong?

Sir Humphrey: Well, almost all government policy is wrong, but…frightfully well carried out.

This is actually better than the Youth Congress. At least Sir Humphrey could comment on government policy. With the Youth Congress, we don’t even know what the policies are.

History Repeats Itself

April 23, 2010

The first time as labour, the second time as capital.

This is interesting. Back in the 19th century, when Southern Pacific and Central Pacific were building transcontinental railroads in the USA, they used Chinese labourers when they hit California. Here’s a very Web 1.0 page on the subject. Precis-ing it madly, the interesting bits are:

  • When Charles Crocker of the Central Pacific was asked how small and weak Chinamen would be up to the heavy physical labour of building railroads, he said “They built the Great Wall, didn’t they?”
  • Irish labourers were paid thirty dollars a month each and given free accommodation. The Chinese got a  dollar extra but no acco.
  • The railroad companies were excited about using Chinese labour because they did not practice slavery or peonage, but had a labour agency system. The Age of Gold, a book I read a few years ago, mentioned that the railroad owners were largely northerners and antislavery; and also that the question of granting statehood to California helped trigger the US Civil War.

The Wikipedia page on Chinese American History (badly needs cleanup) points out that things weren’t quite as rosy as that:

  • The labourers usually couldn’t afford passage to America and booked their ticket against future wages. Their wages were then withheld until the ticket was paid for. And you thought TDS was bad.
  • White labourers responded with fury and racism at this competition, and the Yellow Peril meme was born.

Eventually, the Chinese labourers also started working in fisheries and agriculture, and established a massive Chinatown in San Francisco.

Cut to today. China is now offering investment and technical expertise to build California’s high-speed rail line.

That New York Times article in the link has a full circle narrative, and saying that China is now bringing technology and money instead of labour; but given the way the Chinese operate, they’ll probably bring in the labour as well. (Alas, no citations to offer here except private emails about what’s going on at Mundra port and my own observation about the Huawei office in Mumbai)

The really interesting part is on Page 2 of the article:

China’s mostly state-controlled banks had few losses during the global financial crisis and are awash with cash now because of tight regulation and a fast-growing economy. The Chinese government is also becoming disenchanted with bonds and looking to diversify its $2.4 trillion in foreign reserves by investing in areas like natural resources and overseas rail projects.

“They’ve got a lot of capital, and they’re willing to provide a lot of capital” for a California high-speed rail system, Mr. Crane said.

I have a conspiracy theory that infrastructure is only the beginning, but more on that in a separate post.

Tribhanga Here, There and Everywhere

August 27, 2009

So about two years ago I had linked to the blog of a guy called Anil Menon, where I had got a whole bunch of fundaes which I used to make questions for my KQA quiz. This year, I found out that Anil Menon is actually a sci-fi writer. Here is an interview of Anil Menon by Vandana Singh.

I found the blog because I had been searching for more information on the Tribhanga pose, which it provided in great detail. If you didn’t read that post when I first linked to it in 2007, read it now. It’s brilliant.

The tribhanga is a pose in which the body twists or flexes thrice – on the leg, the waist, and the upper body. Because this pose comes more naturally to women than men, Chola sculptors used it in their statues of Parvati to emphasise her feminity, something I learnt in V Ramachandran’s Rieth lecture on the neurological basis for art appreciation. I found the Reith lecture (and then decided to set a question on the funda) in a link from Ravages, who had been photographing the Chola bronzes. I can’t find the original photos he had posted then, but here’s one he posted more recently: 


And here is a photo of a lady in Raffles City mall who is checking her iPhone while standing in tribhanga:

Her face is obscured, so there are fortunately no privacy issues. It’s also a happy coincidence that I got this snap – I was practicing manual focus on the awesome 50 mm f/1.8 lens while waiting for a friend to join me at lunch, and didn’t notice that I had got this tribhanga snap until I came home and transferred my pics.

Incidentally, the Wii Fit – in sharp contrast to Anil Menon – insists that the tribhanga is a terrible thing and that standing in this pose is the road to ruined posture, upper body weakness, and spinal injury. In a shocking display of Nipponese hypocrisy, the animations for the yoga and stength exercises show the trainers standing with their bodies flexed before the routine actually starts.

Ambikapathi and Amaravathy

May 29, 2009

In a comment to my previous post, Manojar informs me about Ambikapathi and Amaravathy, Chozha Nadu’s very own doomed in louw couple. The story is elaborated in detail elsewhere on the Internets. It turns out that:

The King sentences Ambikapathi to death. But Amaravthi intervenes, claiming equal responsibility for whatever may have been the crime that Ambikapathi is said to have committed. In the ensuing argument, the King condemns Ambikapathi as sham poet who could write only verses that cater to man’s baser instincts. Ambikapathi is outraged at this slur on his poetic capabilities. The upshot is that if Ambikapathi could sing 100 devotional songs in succession, the King promises him Amaravathi’s hand in marriage. If he failed in this challenge, he would be executed forthwith. Amaravathi visits Ambikapathi in prison that night and urges caution. Ambikapathi laughs away her fears, assuring her that he is wholly confident of his own capabilities. A relieved Amaravathi says that she would be counting the songs, and would appear before him at the end of the ordeal.

The court assembles next day at the vasantha madapam, and in the august presence of the King, ministers and scholars, Ambikapathi commences his soiree with a short invocation to Saraswathi, the Goddess of learning. Amaravathi mistakenly counts this as one of the hundred songs, and so at the end of the 99th song, she appears happily in front of Ambikapathi to signal his victory. Overjoyed at sighting his beloved, and thinking that he has completed the hundred songs, Ambikapathi bursts into a verse in praise of Amaravathi’s appearance. Rising with grim satisfaction, Ottakoothar points out that only 99 devotional songs had been sung, and hence Ambikapathi has lost the challenge. Kamban’s anguish-filled plea for clemency falls on deaf ears, as the King orders the death sentence to be carried out. Ambikapathi is put to death, and the grief-stricken Amaravathi too falls dead… their souls unite in heaven.

This is remarkable. Normally it is only a problem when the guy comes early.

Update: On reflection, I realise that actually Ambikapathi did ejaculate (with joy) prematurely.

More Sinister Ducks

May 29, 2009

The most excellent PeeGeeKay sent me the link to youtube videos of Garfunkel and Oates. Including this one about sex with ducks:


We already know that ducks are sinister fascists. They also break the law, and rape and pillage. And new evidence has emerged that they acted as Stalinist enforcers. Indeed, it was a shared loathing for these scum from the pond that brought me and the darling girlfriend together.

Garfunkel and Oates have also pointed out that pregnant women are smug:


In some cases the smugness lasts well beyond the pregnancy, and thus we have the Mad Momma.

Teen Movies

May 11, 2009

Last week, I discovered the awesome Penny and Aggie webcomic (via). The archives only had 840 strips back then, so reading them all didn’t take too long. This is a good thing, because Penny and Aggie is one of the few webcomics where I’ve dropped everything to go and read the whole thing from the beginning. It has American high school teenagers, rich dollops of teen angst, pop culture references that aren’t overdone, and pretty good drawing.

Anyway, in the course of reading the archives I realised that there are hardly any successful teen movies these days. Starting from when I was in Class 9 or 10 to the time I was in third year of college, Hollywood cranked out teen movies almost endlessly. They spawned franchises and created superstars. You couldn’t go six weeks without seeing a new movie with scatological jokes and awkward sex and romance in the US Top 10. But these days, nothing. Even the teen movies that show on HBO and Star Movies these days are all from the 90s or early 2000s. Stuff like The Princess Diaries and 10 Things I Hate About You.

The simplest explanation for this is that as I’ve stopped watching movies and stopped being a teenager I no longer notice teen movies. But I notice and appreciate teen webcomics and old teen movies. And besides, what good is a simple explanation for a blogpost?

Sure, you can cite the High School Musical movies, but they are not teen movies despite being about teenagers. This is because they have no sex or references to bodily fluids. The High School Musicals are movies about teenagers for preteens. Similarly Juno is a movie about teenagers for adults.

Not only that, but if you look at parody or spoof as a measure of success – Not Another Teen Movie came out in 2001. Since then there’s been Date Movie, Epic Movie, Disaster Movie and three Scary Movies, but no more teen movie spoofs. Clearly, on the Weird Al Standard of Arrival, teen movies have departed. 

Here, then, are three explanations for the Dark Age of the Teen Movie.

  1. The Generational Cohort Theory: I would probably never have thought of this theory if I hadn’t started reading Penelope Trunk, and as a consequence, reading anti-baby-boomer blogs. But anyhow. According to this theory:
    • The traditional audience for teen movies now consists of post-Gen Y kids who prefer to get their entertainment from YouTube and MySpace instead of movies.
    • American kids these days go to college and then go to graduate school and then move back with their parents to discover themselves (you can really tell I’ve been reading too much Penelope Trunk now). Therefore adulthood starts later and later in life. So all coming of age movies have to be set in first jobs instead of high school. You can actually see this in Questionable Content, though that’s a webcomic, not a movie.
  2. The Seeds of Its Own Destruction Theory: According to this theory, teen movie producers all thought Lindsay Lohan was the Next Best Thing and staked their hopes on her and inflated her salary to astronomical levels. The genre as a whole became dependent on Lindsay Lohan. Then, when she burnt out and had to stop doing movies, she dragged the whole teen movie industry down with her. Like Lehman Brothers, Lindsay Lohan became so big that her failure spread systemic risk to the entire industry. It’s horrifying.
  3. The George W. Bush is Evil Theory: This theory basically pins the blame on the Bush tax cuts for the rich and the stimulus checks. When Americans got their enormous tax refunds or stimulus checks, they went out and bought new means of entertainment like iPods, Nintendo Wiis, Tivos, and HDTVs. Faced with this, the teen movie languished and died. So it’s all Dubya’s fault. But now Obama’s tax cuts for 95% of Americans, which provide a slow trickle of funds instead of one time windfalls will change the situation. With 20 extra dollars a month and a recession on, Americans will spend money not on expensive durable goods but on one-time luxuries like teen movies. And a thousand poop jokes shall bloom!