Saturday, May 19, 2012

To the JOHNs of the world

Many centuries ago a great poet and playwright, William Shakespeare wrote the epic lines – 

“What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet”
I think what Shakespeare wanted to clarify that the names of thing or people don’t matter much as much their qualities do. Clearly nobody had referred to him as “Bill” Shakespeare. Bill…hmm, that would taken away the nobility, the gravitas out of that name, maybe…

But some names are such that by the sound they exude power, passion, success, an aura of superiority. And more often than not, such a name might be used for fictional characters in popular arts (movies, dramas, stories, novels) and their real life holders are equally intriguing personalities.

So while we are here, why not pick up one name which has clearly been the ‘favored’ name amongst all names – JOHN.

JOHN, the sound itself is…”Hell Yeah, Step the F*** out of my way or I’m gonna mow you down!!!”

"John is a masculine given name in the English language. The name is derived from the Latin Ioannes, Iohannes, which is in turn a form of the Greek Ἰωάννης, Iōánnēs. This Greek name is a form of the Hebrew name יוֹחָנָן, anan, which means "Graced by Yahweh""

So here, I present my favorite 10 JOHNs.

10.  John Rambo

Aah…this is what inspired me to take up the word JOHN in the first place. Blood, Guts, Insanity, Sorrow rolled into one character and played by the iconic Sylvester Stallone…John Rambo is the pinnacle of being the average ‘no-nonsense-bad-ass’ guy. Everything about Rambo reeks of steely determination and strength whether it’s the mountain hide-n-seek with Sheriff Teasle (Rambo: First Blood), or the punishment he endures at the hand of Lt. Col. Podovsky (Rambo II) or the game of buzkashi with the Afghans (Rambo III) or the mad intensity with which he dispatches Major Pa Tee Tint (Rambo IV) to hell…John Rambo is what every guy wants to be deep within…unchained, unleashed and totally freaked-out maniac.
Picture  -

 9. John Gotti (October 27, 1940 – June 10, 2002)

First up, I don't condone crime and I certainly believe crime doesn't pay..even in the case of John 'Teflon Don" Gotti. He became the head of USA's most powerful crime family - The Gambinos, in 1985 at the age of 45 by killing the then boss Paul Costellano. Some achievement that was. He was given the nickname "The Teflon Don" after three high-profile trials in the 1980s resulted in his acquittal (i.e. the charges didn't "stick"). Being the true gentleman that he was, he always offered FBI agents coffee before being whisked away for interrogations or for trials. But he was every bit as hard, coldblooded, calculative, tough and unforgiving as you'd expect a mafia don to be. (He got his neighbor killed by throwing him in an acid drum). For the first time, a mafia don's real life was in full public view and he was what a Don Vito Corleone would have been in real life. 

P.S. Personal opinion, but I think Eric Roberts' character Salvatore Maroni (The Dark Knight) was inspired from the original don.

                                                                 Eric Roberts

John Gotti

For more reading - John Gotti

8. John D Rockefeller (July 8, 1839 – May 23, 1937)

An oil industrialist, an investor, and a philanthropist, John D Rockefeller was one of the pioneers of the greatest modern day empires. An empire which didn’t rely on weapons to stretch its boundaries rather used economics and capitalism to do the same. Just like the sun never set on the British Empire, Standard was the first and by far the largest MNC the world had ever seen. Eventually it was broken up by the US Supreme Court on grounds of monopolist tactics but the spin offs itself grew to be huge companies in their own right – Conoco, ExxonMobil, Chevron…each of them are giants in their own right.
The man may well have been the richest man in the history of humankind (in 1937, his personal wealth was $1.4 billion against the total US GDP of $94 billion!) but he’ll always be known for his philanthropic trusts and contributions toward setting up colleges, universities and research grants.

For more reading - John D Rockefeller 

 7. John Cena

You Can’t See ME!!! Weighing at 251 pounds, from Tampa, FL…John Cena!
Mix up a baby-face with a rapper’s ‘I-don’t-give-a-damn’ attitude, add tons of fan followership, spruce it up with a solid built and theatrics in the ring…you get this all round entertainer. WWE has never been this interesting until John Cena, a man who thinks of himself as a soldier and a people’s poster-boy came along.

6. John Doe

The ambiguous, the unknown, the one person whom no one will look out for. Even if he’s dead, no body will search for him, there’ll be no wreaths on his grave just an unmarked grave…at the most a name on the tomb stone – John Doe.

The names "John Doe" for males and "Jane Doe" or "Jane Roe" for females are used as placeholder names for a party whose true identity is unknown or must be withheld in a legal action, case, or discussion. The names are also used to refer to a corpse or hospital patient whose identity is unknown. - John Doe

Frank Capra directed a movie “Meet John Doe” which was later copied in Hindi movies as “Mai Azad Hoon” starring Amitabh Bacchan. The concept was the same – a letter from an anonymous person turns into a political revolution and since the John Doe never existed (it was a hoax letter), an unknown person is brought in to embody the idea of a John Doe.
P.S. Mai Azaad Hoon was marred by super hammy acting by Amitabh Bacchan but had an awesome song – “itne bazu itne sir, gin le dushman dhyaan se….haarega tu har baazi, jab khele hum jee jaan se”

He's just a nameless face, forgotten, alone, left to die/rot somewhere in the shadows...maybe he had a story to tell, maybe he had a family, but for all we'll ever know...he was just John Doe.

5. John E List (September 17, 1925 – March 21, 2008)

A big 19 room 3-storey bungalow, a pretty wife, 3 school-going bright young kids, and a mother. Life must have been great for an account in New Jersey in the winter of 1971 (the house was the most expensive house in the locality at that time)

But under the surface, things were not right – John Emil List had lost his job, he owed $11,000 on his home loan, his wife was suffering from syphilis (contracted from her ex-husband), the eldest daughter was smoking and the mother was not keeping well (she was 85)

So there were two solutions, either go for state welfare program (which would hurt the ego) or kill the family and send their souls to heaven.

 The List family in happier times

John List's mother, Alma, was murdered in the attic. She had been closed into a storage hall off the kitchen, and a dishtowel was placed on her face. Her body had been oddly positioned on her back, knees spread and her calves under her, as if she had fallen to her knees and then gone over backwards. The police lifted the towel and saw an expression of horror on her face. She had been shot above the left eye.

The wife, Helen had been shot in the left side of the head in the kitchen and dragged by the feet down the hall to the ballroom.

Patty, the daughter lay on her left side. She was wearing a coat, as if she had just come in from outside. She too had been shot in the head and then dragged to where she lay. Youngest son, Fred was on his stomach, also wearing a jacket. There was a pool of blood under his head. Brother and sister appeared to be merely asleep.

The middle child, John Jr. was another matter. His winter jacket was unzipped, showing that he had come in the house and then tried to struggle. He had been shot repeatedly, in the chest and face, an attack more savage than the others had suffered. In total 10 bullets were removed from his body.

It was Westfield, New Jersey's first murder in eight years, and it was a slaughter.

The FBI lost the trail and case went into cold case files, never to be solved. But 28 years later, with the help of America’s Most Wanted TV program…on June 1, 1989 the FBI got a mysterious tip and finally John E. List was caught after changing his name to Bob Clark, remarrying and living a comfortable life in Virginia.

Case Closed.

For further reading - John E List

4. John McClane

With little or no regard for rules, sarcastic wit and loads of problems with the ‘bad guys’, this is one police-man you wouldn’t want to me mess with.

He has all the needed ingredients for making the perfect bad-ass cop – , foul-mouthed, wisecracking, almost always suspended or being reprimanded at the job, a wife who is seeking separation, children who don’t listen to him, a never say die attitude and on top of that megalomaniac villains who just don’t to take him seriously…and kabooom! He goes into overdrive.

Even at death’s door, the man has the guts to spew out quality witty rejoinders to villains. Sample this,

Villain Hans Gruber (Die Hard) describes him as "just another American... who thinks he's John Wayne,". McClane replies that he "was always partial to Roy Rogers.”

When Villain Thomas Gabriel (Die Hard 4) asks him where is Mai (his side-kick), this is what McClane replies (in true McClane spirit) – “Mai? Oh, yeah. Little Asian chick, likes to kick people? I don't think she's gonna be talkin' to anybody for a really long time. Last time I saw her she was at the bottom of a elevator shaft with an SUV rammed up her a**.”

So if you are a bad guy, stay away from John McClane, else...well...he'll simply shout "Yippee-Ki-Yay-Motherf****r!" 

 Once a bad-ass....always a bad-ass

3. John F Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963)

"Let every nation know... that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty."

"Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country"

"For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed."

On a chilly January morning of 1961, John Fitzgerald Kennedy became the youngest president of USA. And his short term of little less than 3 yrs in office (Jan 20, 1961 – Nov 22, 1963) saw some of the most notable events in the course of world history - Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the building of the Berlin Wall, the Space Race, the African American Civil Rights Movement, and early stages of the Vietnam War.

He was a true hero at heart, serving as a boat commander in the WW2 in the Pacific Theater; he conducted many rescue operations and earned a Navy and Marine Corps Medal for bravery. He was never the one to surrender to the enemy but understood that everyone’s decision can’t be the same and everyone must be given a fair chance. An example from WW2 when he attack boat was rammed by a Japanese destroyer ship Amagiri, he asked the remaining crew of his boat -

“A lot of you men have families and some of you have children. What do you want to do? Fight or Surrender? I have nothing to lose.”

Like any other humans he too had his failings, he was known to have had a number of affairs more notably with Marylin Monroe (She sang “Happy B’Day Mr. President” at the White House)and Marlene Dietrich.

In the end if there was one US president who has still managed to capture people’s interest is JFK, as he was called. His death was also a major controversy at that time, and with that the days of open-convertible rallies came to an end.

2.  John Woo

Chow Yun Fat. Gun Kata. Heroic Bloodshed. Mexican Stand-off. Stranglehold. Face/Off. Mission Impossible 2. Sounds impressive, eh?

What Alfred Hitchcock did to the thriller genre, Spielberg and Cameron did to Sci-fi, this unknown movie director from Hong Kong did to action genre. Never before had we seen an almost lyrical, fluid motion in action sequences, with slow-mo and bullet time capture. But this guy knew how to make even the most standard ‘one-man-against-ten’ gun battles look glamorous. For him, nothing was a more glorious way to die and kill than a Mexican stand-off.

He introduced the world to Chow Yun Fat (A Better Tomorrow), (Info for my action loving friends, the same movie was copied by Sanjay F Gupta to create Baba and Nawab’s legendary friendship in Aatish (1994)). He continued making action movies, each of them a landmark in itself – Hard Boiled, The Killer and then he went to Hollywood…rest is history. Hard Target (Van Damme), Face/Off (Travolta/Cage), MI2 (Tom Cruise) and Paycheck (Ben Affleck).

His style of gun-kata, slo-mo and bullet-time has been used in multiple movies and video games(Equilibrium, Matrix Trilogy, Max Payne (both game and movie)).

You don’t mess with John Woo, else a lot of bullets will come and hit you in slo-motion :)

1. Dear John

It’s a known fact in the primarily English-speaking word, that if a letter from a wife or a girlfriend to a guy opens with the words “Dear John”, it may very well be the last letter from that person. Dear John letters are the symbols of break-ups and have been around from the time of World War 2 when a lot of men on active duty received letters every week letting them know that the woman of their dream has found some one else, some one better.

 Why me? What did I do wrong?

A "Dear John letter" is a letter written to a husband or boyfriend by his wife or girlfriend to inform him their relationship is over, usually because the author has found another lover. Dear John Letters are often written out of an inability or unwillingness to inform the person face to face. The reverse situation, in which someone writes to his wife or girlfriend to break off the relationship, is referred to as a "Dear Jane letter.” – Dear John

Now John might be ‘deserving’ for this, maybe he cheated on his girlfriend/wife, maybe he was in a job which entailed travel, maybe he was serving in the armed forces…but the least a woman could do was to offer him the dignity of a break-up in person and not by a letter (that’s been replaced by the email, SMS, FB messages, tweets and what not). 

After seeing the picture below, I realized I'm badly missing my dog. :(

 I'm your best friend and will never leave you

Actually, I lost my train of thought as to what did I want to write about this Dear John, never mind. I’ll that sometimes later when I remember.