About Troy Beckman

Just a dude that likes food, sports, beer, music, and a would-be nihilist that makes fun of everything from a so-called neutral perspective.

Review: Little Mermaid’s Magical Formula Reveals Disney Delusion

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As a middle-aged American, I — like many others of my generation — have been subjected to hours, months, and ultimately many years of meticulously crafted entertainment from the Disney Company. Consciously, we view Disney as a hallmark of purity and high-quality family entertainment that espouses only the highest morals and family values. But under the surface, there is more than meets the eye.

Now, as a fatter, older, and surly grey-haired father of two girls, I am subjected to Disney movies and cartoons at an unprecedented rate. Through all of this, I also see a stark formula readily apparent in these films that I watched casually over the last 30-plus years and films that I am now forced to watch religiously. And it is quite troubling.

What is this Disney formula so ubiquitously found throughout its entire catalog? After watching “Little Mermaid” a few times over the past day or two (it’s playing on our DVD player as I type), I realize that from a father’s perspective, this plot is a direct kick-to-the nuts for dads everywhere. It is probably no better for mothers, either, though I suspect many moms grew up loving this freakin’ movie. Most of all, this formula is even worse for the little girls who watch this movie and are thereby expected to pattern their life’s path to parallel a fictional mermaid princess that exists in an absurd universe of fairy tales and magic spells.

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Spending Quality Daddy Daughter Time…Just Like ‘Commando’

Image of daddy-daughter quality time in Commando.

I have spent the past week watching over my daughter as the virtual sole caretaker. Through it all, I was aiming for greatness.

When it comes to watching over and caring for their daughters, fathers seek to create a lifelong bond with their female offspring built upon trust, protection and fond moments of truly connecting on the deepest of levels that will remain with us for the rest of our lives.

This is not easy. Perhaps this ideal is impossible and is best portrayed not in reality, but in the dreamscape of television and movies. Some fathers in the real world aim to equal fictional icons like Danny Tanner on “Full House,” those two dads from “My Two Dads,” or maybe even Steve Martin in “Father of the Bride.” I, however, shoot for the best display of fatherhood ever committed to film: Arnold Schwarzenegger’s heartwarming and awe-inspiring depiction of daddy dearest in his role as John Matrix in 1985’s “Commando.”

Most people who have seen this movie remember it fondly for its high body count and fantastic (some say cheesy, I say fantastic) one-liners dispensed from Arnold Schwarzenegger at a pace nearly as rapid as his fully automatic machine gun spits out deadly rounds at his victims-to-be. What many forget is that this story is perhaps the greatest exhibition of a father’s love for his daughter ever, fiction or reality.

While this theme ultimately centers upon merciless revenge enacted upon hundreds of people for conspiring to kidnap his daughter, Schwarzenegger truly shows what it means to be “dear old dad” in the early and oft-forgotten scenes of this cinematic masterpiece.
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Cricket Crazy in Dhaka

Image of street vendor in Dhaka before cricket match in Bangladesh.

Yes, it has been a while since I posted anything new here and nearly forgot how to write for fun until I had the fortune to attend a cricket match in Dhaka. That’s when inspiration struck.

Cricket. For people who have actually heard of it as a sport and not as a crop-killing insect or American cell phone service for the elderly, cricket rests high atop the pantheon of the most boring athletic activities known to planet earth.

In the minds of many, or at least mine, cricket welcomes comparisons to other traditionally upper-class games of privilege and snobbery like polo, croquet, or bridge. All are probably enjoyable for the participants, but for the casual spectator of sports, they all fall miserably short in satiating the appetite for witnessing the beauty of the human body falling violently to the turf during a heart-pounding two-minute drive in American football or the thrill of Game 7 in the World Series.

When I was younger, I had heard about cricket but never actually saw the game played. Referred to as a “gentleman’s game,” I knew it had English roots and therefore assumed it was basically lawn bowling with middle-aged, monocle-wearing British chaps smoking pipes and doing something with a ball. Turns out, I was mostly right. At least back then.

Now, I have come to understand that cricket, due to Great Britain’s colonial heritage, is actually a sport that fuels the dreams of kids and adults alike in India, Bangladesh, West Indies, Zimbabwe, South Africa, as well as Australia and New Zealand.

Moreover, cricket is a wildfire that has swept throughout the South Asian subcontinent and become a way of life for well over a billion people.

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Haji Biryani: A Pilgrimage to Fat and Happiness

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Biryani is an age-old dish believed to have been created in the kitchens of Mughal emperors, who demanded only the finest food throughout their empire be gathered and combined into a single dish fit for the Almighty himself. Consisting of fine-grain rice, chopped beef, chicken or goat, and cooked with refined butter and a dash of aromatic spices, the beauty of biryani lies in its simplicity–its greasy, delicious, rib-sticking simplicity.

Tucked away on a narrow, crowded byway in Old Dhaka lies a hidden gem of culinary delight called Haji Biryani. Haji Biryani is perhaps the most famous of all biryani houses in all of Dhaka and sat atop the list of my personal to-do list upon arriving to Bangladesh back in April. After many weeks of procrastination, I finally acted on visions of manifest destiny and set out on my own personal hajj to partake in the heralded mutton biryani served up by the city’s oldest such restaurant.

True to its name, traveling to Haji Biryani requires one to depart on a harrowing journey not unlike the annual Muslim hajj to the sacred center of the Islamic world in Mecca. Getting to the restaurant itself will test your faith, mettle, and force you to overcome physical torment of hunger, claustrophobic crowds and hellacious traffic jams. Could I possibly survive the gauntlet standing between me and the coveted biryani without melting down?

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Wizards with Scissors

Roadside barbershop in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo by Cookiesound.com.

Roadside barbershop in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo by Cookiesound.com.

Barbershops scare me. This is quite obvious if you look at photos of me over the past decade, or even more so if you are familiar with my grooming habits, which are practically non-existent. I have always opted for the path of the Jeff Lebowskis, Grizzly Adams, and Cousin Its of the world, who prefer to view root canals as preferable to the cutting of hair — be it on one’s head, face, armpits, or other hirsute areas on the human male body where evolution has been slow to fully eradicate.

I usually give into my senses and eventually let somebody hack away at my ever-greying locks. This is done almost entirely to save my better half the embarrassment of being wed to a modern day neanderthal. But for me, finding a satisfactory haircut equates to witnessing a glistening unicorn prance down Lollipop Lane while dispensing fresh pints of ice cold IPA from its magical horn. Not impossible, but not all too common either.

More common than a good haircut.

More common than a good haircut.

My distrust in hair cutteries goes back as far as I can remember. Growing up, it was always good ol’ Mom wielding the shears and clippers to keep her boys’ hair at acceptable length. When she wasn’t working her magic behind the chair, it was either myself or my brothers laying waste to my head in the form of closely shaved sides coupled with a jheri curl mullet in the back. This was fine as an awkward teenager, but as an overweight married man and father of one, it has become too difficult to pull off this approach. I began to pay so-called professionals to butcher my hairdo time and time again, ruing the laws of nature that inexplicably allow one’s hair to grow throughout their lifetime.

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Shob Cheye Metal

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Shob cheye metal. For those of you who are neophytes to the Bengali language (i.e., anybody who is reading this outside of Bangladesh), the headline translates roughly to “more metal than all.” Why is this, you ask? At the end of the long and winding trail that brought my family and I back to Bangladesh, I am pleased to report that heavy metal music is alive and well in the soul of Bengal.

Contrary to what English speakers of planet Earth or dogmatic adherents of monotheistic religions may believe, music is often referred to as the universal language that binds us and brings us together in unfettered harmony and happiness. Nowhere does this sentiment ring truer than among heavy metal aficionados throughout the world, where mere 64th notes, guitar squeals, and blast beats coalesce into a community of initiates who proudly raise the banner of metal music with vigor in every land.

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Your Attention Please, Here’s My Baby

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In life, there are two kinds of people: those who crave attention and those who receive attention. Then again, there are others like me who relish the freedom of drifting peacefully on the silent backwaters of life without any interruptions, minding one’s own business and left to feed our indulgences.

Then, you have a baby and boom! — the limelight doth shine ever so brightly upon the bundle of joy produced from your own loins. This, however, is not a bad thing, particularly when living in Bangladesh. In fact, it can provide the perfect diversion to maintain a low profile while appeasing the teeming masses of curious passers-by wishing to lay their eyes on a blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby for the first time in their life. Babies — the perfect fashion accessory to complement any occasion, especially in a culture that unequivocally adores infants.

As a foreigner living in Bangladesh, your personal homeostasis is blasted to smithereens the moment you step off the plane. Sometimes, this state of being can even begin when you board the final leg of your trip to Dhaka. At first, I braced myself for the usual line of interrogation from strangers on the street: “what is your name, what is your country, how do you feel in Bangladesh, can you get me visa?”

Admittedly, this rigamorale became annoying several months into our first jaunt back in 2002, so I was preparing my stoic defenses for these moments well before our return earlier this month. Turns out, I had absolutely nothing to worry about. When you have a baby in tow, you can feel safe betting every dollar and asset you own that he or she will become the center of attention in any situation, capturing the hearts and minds of people all across the country.

Meet my baby daughter Gemma — the Heir Apparent Bideshi Queen of Bangladesh.

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