What would RTH do?

That is the question.

If I were in a highschool yearbook, they would vote me most likely to die of a lynch mob. That does not prevent me from opening my mouth and serving a warm hearty cup of STFU to people who deserve it. My dark scathing humor will leave no matter of existence untouched. My innocence will touch your soul.

Welcome to a warped world turned inside out and upside down. All sorts of discretion advised.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Christmas Spirit

I spent some time yesterday afternoon perusing through the Christmas cards from family. It brought a smile to my face. People updating us on our lives, adorable pictures of cousins decked out in holiday gear, lovely family portraits and Christmas decorations adorning their homes. I make note of the relatives I need to visit. I sigh over how quickly have grown. I smile at the grandmas cuddling their grandchildren. This truly is such a lovely season. I'm not one for traditions, but the the holiday traditions ignite the warmth in my heart. They make me feel warm, fuzzy and happy.

As I sit on the couch, I look at the empty spot in the corner and lament the absence of our Christmas tree this year. I was too lazy to put it up this year. More honestly, it was a silent protest from within. My sister and I put up the tree every year. Since she moved in with her fiancĂ©e, she is no longer there to do it with me. So I simply did not have the motivation to do it. Next year, I promise myself, I will surely setup the tree. Our Christmas tree makes me happy. I like the process of wrestling with the boxes and finally hoisting up the tree. I like spending time, lips pursed, brows furrowed in concentration, carefully hanging ornaments most aesthetically. I like running the tinsel up the stairs and tantalizing my cats with bits of it. I like sitting on the couch sipping on hot cocoa and aimlessly gazing at our tree, a serene smile on our face. I like slipping Christmas presents under the tree for my family. The traditions regress me to a child and I believe in Santa Claus again. 

We may not have a tree up this year, but we do have our Christmas lights. Our most garishly colored, obsessively uncoordinated lights. I think we have one of every color and kind. Somehow this haphazard mess of multicolored mismatched lights works on our house. It looks stunningly distinct in the dark. We put up our lights for Diwali actually, but keep them all the way through winter. It is one of my dad's obsessions. Normally he would have the reindeer, Santa and other Christmas decorations up as well. I think with my sister moving out, even he has lost some of his holiday enthusiasm. But for what my father didn't do, our neighbors made up. They have this enormous inflatable Santa on their porch and their windows are full of Christmas clings.

The funny thing is we aren't Christians. We are Hindus. Christmas traditions aren't the traditions we were born or raised with. The trees, the decorations, the greetings, the gifts, the holiday goodies are all adopted traditions. Traditions that we somehow embraced and made ours through the passage of time. A decade or more ago, we wouldn't adopt the traditions of other cultures or religions. There used to be a hard line between us and them. But over time we have assimilated into our transplanted world. Making their traditions a part of our lives.

Some people say we should not celebrate religious holidays that are not our own. But I disagree. We celebrate Christmas, just like it was any other holiday. I don't know if you can call it Christmas. Call it what you will, but we celebrate it. Some people are offended that people don't understand the significance of the birth of Christ or the meaning of Christmas. But I disagree. Amidst the chaotic commercialized holiday season defined by wanton consumerism -  our warm fuzzy holiday feelings, our time together as a family, the bonding with loved ones near and far, the feeling of gratitude and joy restore the meaning to the holidays. Our celebration is not a secularization or bastardization of the holiday, but an embracing of the true spirit of gratitude, generosity, love and family.

Back home we would celebrate the likes of Diwali, Holi, Ganeshotsav. Far away from home here, we are cut off from what we know. Christmas is our alternative. I shouldn't say alternative, just something in a different time in a different way that captures a similar essence. This is how the world comes together by finding common ground and sharing cultures and traditions with each other.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Macho Feminist

A lot of Indians on social media have been focused on the 'Delhi Gang Rape', and rightly so. It has been one of the most shocking and gruesome rapes in India in recent times. We Indians have been  punched in the guts and made aware of the appalling attitudes towards women in our country. I could write more about the issue, but it would be redundant.Moreover, others have spoken more eloquently on the issue.

What I want to write about is a broader greater subject that touches the heart of women in society. I want to dwell upon feminism. More precisely, I want to view feminism and feminist heroes against the backdrop of one of the best postmodern feminist literature: Stieg Larsson's Millennium series. Earlier this summer I watched the original Swedish films and just recently completed reading the trilogy. It is by far one of the best crime thriller novels I have read in a long time. What impresses me most is that along with a richly layered and complex plot line, Stieg Larsson creates richly layered and complex characters. They are gray, they are flawed, they don't fall within the conventional definitions of 'normal' but yet they are more normal and endearing than most literary characters. And of course the highlight of the series is its strong central theme of feminism.

Rape, prostitution, incest, sexual abuse, domestic violence, discrimination; the series deals with a multitude of graphic and serious issues surrounding women. It sheds light on the fact that even modern western society has a long way to go in terms of respect for women. It kindles the discussion on neo-feminist philosophies and values.

For some reason feminism has degenerated into a word with negative connotations, an insult, a dirty epithet, a derogatory slur. Feminists have been demeaned with colorful terms like feminazis. Feminism invokes images of super aggressive bra-burning women. Feminists are stereotyped as man hating lesbians and bull dykes. Women and men both tend to shy away from being labeled feminist. After all women don't want to be stereotyped as dykes and men don't want to be viewed as pussy whipped.

What Stieg Larsson does in his Millennium series is shake the feminist stereotypes for both men and women. After all feminism has nothing to do with hating men or being an aggressive lesbian. Feminism is the very simple notion of equality between genders. Mutual respect and consideration between men and women. It is an admirable notion that somehow has been distorted in the passage of time.

Of course Larsson's greatest feminist creation is the character of Lisbeth Salander. The bisexual hacker, with her tattoos, piercings and devil may care attitude has already become one of the most iconic female heroes in literature. Despite her radically different characterization, Lisbeth Salander ranks with the likes of Elizabeth Bennet as strong literary female leads. But there has been a lot written about Lisbeth Salander. Her character is so iconic that blogs, book reviews, movie reviews are filled with praise and analysis of her character. A lot has been discussed about her as a role model for the modern woman and a representation of neo-feminist values.

The people, I want to discuss are the men in the Millennium series. Amidst the men there are several antagonists and protagonists to the stories. But it is the male protagonists who are worth noting. These men subscribe to strong feminist values. They stand by Lisbeth Salander and other women throughout the series. At the same time they are strong masculine men, who display many manly characteristics and traits. They reflect that supporting and respecting women does not make a man weaker or any less, but actually elevates his status as a man. I call these men "Macho feminists" or as Erika Berger's character taunts them sometimes "Macho Cowboys".

In 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' we have Henrik Vanger, a high profile industrialist and billionaire. Unlike the rest of his family, Henrik isn't besotted by the wealth and power of the Vanger estate. Nor does he harbor any white supremacist sentiments like some other members of the family. Rather he is a patriarch who scorns the opulence, power trip and supremacist views of his family. His character revolves around his love for his niece Harriet Vanger. One of his qualities is how he perceives Harriet as equal to all the men of the Vanger clan. Highlighted by the fact that he puts Harriet in charge of his corporation after she is found. Henrik Vanger reflects the corporate feminist who knows that women are capable of being leaders and running large corporations.

Then in 'The Girl who Played with Fire' we have Dag Svensson, who along with his girlfriend is a catalyst for the events that unfold in the next two books. He is a young and upcoming journalist. His girlfriend is a student whose PhD. thesis is on sex trafficking in Sweden. Dag is so impacted by her findings that he takes on the task of digging the dirt on the industry. Even though his forte is not investigative or crime journalism, he fully immerses himself in doing an expose of the sex trafficking industry. He is passionate about the rights and freedom of prostitutes, risking his life for it. Dag reflects the importance of men taking a stand and fighting for the rights of women.

Amidst the cops and investigators in the final two books, we have two factions. The first group are the misogynists who seem to look down on women, or want to assert dominance. Like Niklas Hedstrom who loathes Salander for rejecting his advances and is constantly seeking ways to seek venegance or Hans Faste who has an obsessive hatred against lesbian and sensationalizes the investigation by labeling Lisbeth Salander as a lesbian satanist. But then you have a whole slew of men like Sonny Bohman and Johann Fraklund who despite disliking Salander for being weird and anti-social remain objective and fair minded. Or the likes of Jerker Holmberg or Curt Andersson who may not be chest thumping feminists but have a serious objection to the stereotyping and loathing displayed by Hans Faste. The most important of this group is Jan Bublanski, the chief investigator who is cool headed and practical. He is a well respected and legendary police officer, but has no airs about his superiority or views that the force is a man's realm. He shows utmost faith and respect for Sonja Modig the woman on his squad and stands behind her no matter what. He doesn't see male-female, but quality investigation and shoddy investigation.

These men reflect the importance of objectivity and intelligence in the law. One need not be a feminist or pro-women's rights. One need not even like or sympathize with the people involved. What is more important is the sense of fairness, a refusal to fall pray to archaic stereotypes and assumptions in society. Had these men fallen pray to Faste's assumptions on women and lesbians, they would have never uncovered the truth. It is of utmost importance that every justice and social system rise above prejudices and have objectivity at its core.

Anders Jonasson is just a doctor. He is the surgeon who performs the brain surgery that saves Salander's life. The rest of the world sees her as a criminal fugitive, but he sees her as his patient and protects her accordingly. As a medical professional he relies on his own judgment and expertise. As one committed to saving his patient's life he doesn't bend to authority but makes his own ethical decisions on how is her friend. He refuses to be swayed by the much more famous and senior Dr. Teleborian, because he does not acknowledge the diagnosis. Dr. Jonasson represents the importance of professional integrity. To often doctors and many others are swayed by those in power, those more senior or social tides. But professional integrity can go a long way in ensuring fairness and justice.

Lisbeth's aging guardian Holger Palmgren displays this very professional integrity as her guardian. He views Lisbeth as an individual of her own merit and not through the tainted lenses of her troubled past. He does not see her as weak, dependent and mentally troubled but wants her to be a strong individual, self sustaining girl. Most salient about Holger is his calm reaction to Lisbeth's sexual titillation and naked exposure to him. He doesn't succumb to lust, nor does he shun her as a slut and oversexed woman - but actually understands why she acts in away. It takes a lot of integrity for men to look beyond a woman's titillation and sexuality and see her as a person to be respected.

Paulo Roberto is a popular professional Swedish kickboxer. Prior to that he has dabbled in kick-boxing, Taekwondo and was even a street fighter. He also features as a character in 'The Girl who Played with Fire'. He plays Lisbeth Salander's friend and boxing coach. Like all men, he never took the skinny Lisbeth seriously when she wanted to train as a boxer. Like any man, he laughed and teased her over her delusions. But unlike most men, he learned to respect her spirit, stubbornness and determination. Unlike most men he recognized that she compensated her lack of strength with speed and agility. He is through and through a total macho cowboy. Even a cocky bastard as Lisbeth fondly views him as. But he is one of the most pivotal feminists. A lot of men are get pretty caught up in the fact that men are genuinely stronger than women. They find the woman's need to display physical strength as foolish and scoff at it. As a professional boxer who respects his much weaker female student and admires her, he breaks that stereotype. Women may not be as strong or skilled, but their spirit and other abilities merit consideration.

Dragan Armansky is an interesting character whose role is significantly chopped in the movies. He is Lisbeth Salander's employer. What makes Armansky interesting is his background. He is a married Muslim man. Despite not being religious he has a conservative upbringing. To make matters complicated for him he also develops a sexual attraction and affection for Lisbeth, often contemplating if he could make a move on her. But he manages to restrain himself and keeps their relationship professional and platonic. He doesn't late religious or conservative views cloud his judgment, but recognizes the skills and talents of Salander. He views her as not just an employee, but a friend. He is always ready to help her in the time of need. What Armansky illustrates is that just because a man feels attraction to a woman, he need not always act on it or carry on an affair. He can choose to keep a relationship professional and friendly.

The most important male character is Mikael Blomkvist. Blomkvist is a womanizer of sorts. He is a successful journalist who is intelligent, witty and charming. He has a personality endearing to women and he beds many women, including Salander. He enjoys being a player and enjoys sleeping with women. He often looks forward to his sexual encounters. But there is a big difference between Blomkvist and your stereotypical player. For a lot of men, enjoying sex with multiple women means treating them as sexual objects and embarking on a journey of lies, deceit and cheating. Blomkvist does not subscribe to that school of thought. He is very honest and open about his relationships. He does not make excuses simply to bed women. He doesn't just treat them as sex objects, but respects their professions, their lives, their abilities and tries to know them. He considers each and every one of them as friends. He also shows utmost respect for their personal face. Blomkvist is a character who can change perceptions both women and men have about sexually active/promiscuous men. He also sets the example that enjoying multiple sex partners need not lead to objectifying, controlling, lying and cheating.

Another aspect admirable about Blomkvist is his comfort in his masculinity. He is straight as an arrow and totally into women, but that doesn't make him uncomfortable around gay people. He respects and is comfortable with Christer Malm the art director of his magazine. Lisbeth Salander's relationships with women don't bother or threaten him. He is not even bothered by Figuorela, a woman who is significantly more muscular and stronger than him and courts her just like any other woman. He is well aware of his strengths and weaknesses, and has no qualms reporting to Erika Berger. He acknowledges that Erika is more capable and responsible to be Millennium's editor in chief. He breaks all the stereotypes that men always ought to be in charge, stronger and higher ranking than women. He breaks the stereotypes that macho men don't hang out with gay people or chase women who like other women as well.

Of course there are other interesting male characters like Christer Malm, Gerger Beckman and Edklinth Fraklund. I could discuss the dynamics at SMP and analyze a lot more, but these few characters and plot lines cover the gist. I think the macho feminists are an integral an important part of society. Whether it is rape, prostitution or any of the other crimes women are subjected to, I feel that society is more important than laws. Laws are the cure and fixes to problems. While societal shifts in the attitudes towards women and shedding archaic stereotypes is the prevention to the problem. Macho feminists can revive feminism to its true meaning and assure safety, respect and equality of women in society.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


I am not a collection of words. I am not mere pixels on screen. I am not a string of binary signals. I am not a fictional character who does not exist. I am a real person. A human being in flesh and blood. I am alive and I think and feel. I am as real as any other human being. I'm as real as your family, your friends, your coworkers. I maybe as insignificant as a random person in line at the grocery store, but I am significantly human to deserve acknowledgment and courtesy.

You may think that a screen name and a virtual reality alters existence. You may assume that anonymity comes with infinite freedom. You may cease being human and take liberties in your fantasies. You may justify your deviances from common human courtesy and civility with the excuse of virtual reality. But playing Harry Potter does not cause Daniel Radcliffe to cease to exist. Everyone is still a person. You either respect that personhood within yourself and others, or you become a sociopath, a psychopath, a deranged deviant.

No man is an island. Whether you like it or not, whether you will it or not, as members of society we are all bound to each other by a web of expectations and obligations. There is no mode of existence, no excuse, way out to cease being a human and escape our role in society. A person is always a person, an you shall treat them as a person. You cannot wiggle or weasel your way to escape your expectations and obligations. You either meet them or you fail them, but you cannot deny them.

You may treat me like a collection of words. You may view me as pixels on the screen. You may assume me to be a string of binary signals. You may want me to be a fictional character who does not exist. You may view the virtual world as an alternate existence. You may make yourself an island and escape. You may marginalize me and trivialize me and strip me into an entity devoid of expectations and obligations.

But I shall always be as real as you. I refuse to trivialize or marginalize our thoughts and feelings. I will always sanctify our existence, our humanity and our personhood. As humans through our interactions we will always have expectations and obligations of each other. I will always treat them as real and sacred. I will always strive to fulfill them. I will always do my best to live and feel as a real human who loves, who hates, who laughs, who cries and experience every pain and pleasure of humanity. I will never make myself into an entity.

 You may runaway as long as you wish, but you will never run away from who you are - a human being. You will never get rid of your expectations and obligations. You will only be a failure, who failed to meet them. You will be a failure, who failed to be a person. But who you are, is your choice. Maybe you are indeed but an entity. A collection of words, pixels on screen, a string of binary signals, a fictional character who does not exist.

You have a choice.

Choose wisely.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Hypocritical Pacifist

 He was only 25 years old. Barely a year older than my little sister. He could have had a whole life ahead of him. He was just a baby faced kid. And he was executed by hanging on 21st November 2012. Such was the brief short life of Ajmal Kasab. However, I feel no regret or remorse over his death. He had it coming. Many people celebrated his death. I empathize with their emotions. To be perfectly honest, there was a sense of gladness.

To the stranger, this might sound extremely hypocritical coming from a pacifist. Especially one who tends to lean against capital punishment. Many might deem me to be a flip flop of sorts. Indeed capital punishment is one of those conundrums that puts pacifists like me in quite a moral quandary.

Pacifism stems from humanitarian beliefs in the sanctity of human life. On one hand even the most hardened criminal is still a human being. Humanitarianism deems that justice also be compassionate and cause no harm. On the other hand some of the most hardened criminals have no value for human life. They are often cold blooded sociopaths devoid of any sense of morality or human emotion. They pose a risk to the safety and well being of society in general. So you see the difficulty of processing death sentence from a humanitarian perspective? A purely utilitarian or a purely right to life perspective makes the decision easy in a black or white yes or no matter. But it is the darned humanitarianism that makes such choices so circumstantial.

There are other practical reasons why I oppose the death sentence as well. Across the world several people were convicted for rape and/or murder, but later found innocent after DNA evidence was discovered years later. In many parts of the world the odds are still stacked against minorities of all sorts. Investigators are biased against them, popular media does not paint an objective picture, and juries have stereotypes in mind. Many cannot afford good defense that could acquit them. Every year hundreds of innocent people do get convicted due to biases and circumstantial evidence. In light of these scenarios. I find it better to sustain life rather than face the burden of sentencing a potentially innocent person to death.

Finally the act of taking a life causes irreparable psychological damage. Soldiers suffer post traumatic stress disorders on account of horrors of war. People in innocent no fault car accidents that took a life suffer nightmares over causing death. The human psyche is not designed to take human life. No matter how wretched the person killed, human psychology is designed to feel remorse and guilt. The death sentence not only condemns a criminal to death, but condemns the executioner to bear the remorse and guilt of society.  

On the flip side there is only so much our criminal justice system can handle. Prisons have limited room. The legal system has a limited number of staff to serve as correctional officers and wardens. There are also limited resources of psychologists and sociologists who can help rehabilitate criminals. Most importantly the criminal justice system is expensive. It takes a humongous amount of investment to have prisons and hire staff. Even more investment is needed to feed, clothe and care for the prisoners. A lot more investment is needed to educate, train and rehabilitate criminals into becoming members of society again. That is why even if not desirable the criminal justice system has to make difficult choices. Society does not want to invest in people who have minimal hope.  

That is why I am not explicitly against capital punishment but lean against it. I believe society would be much better off if we rehabilitated and trained criminals to become contributing members of society. Capital punishment should be the last recourse. Only in clear cut cases like Timothy McVeigh or Ajmal Kasab does it seem appropriate.

While I have explained my stance on capital punishment, the question still remains how one can empathize with celebrating death. One take on a similar conundrum a long time ago was in This Post. Personally, I don't condone such celebrations. I would encourage people to take time and solemnly reflect upon what happened. One cannot help to feel relief or joy in death, it is an impulsive emotion we cannot control. It is a completely different thing to celebrate death. If I found myself celebrating death in such a brazen manner, I probably would never be able to live with myself.

There was a time I would have condemned people for doing so. I would have painted them as heartless, soulless and pure evil to have such blatant disregard for life and celebrating death. But I see things differently now. Different people have different ways of gaining closure. This was a national tragedy that affected many lives. It was India's 09/11. The event was a catalyst that changed the world for many people. Four years of delayed action on part of the government, VIP treatment of the terrorist had caused many people to lose hope in the system. So the execution finally came as relief to many people. Celebrating was their way of gaining closure. Moving on from the event. Spare them a few moments to express their emotions.

That being said I strongly support and favor the perspective of Aashis Chaudhary. He lost his sister and brother in law in the terror attacks. He could have easily celebrated. In fact his celebration would have been acceptable given his loss. But he refused to celebrate. He had things in perspective.

He said "Why should I rejoice Kasab's death? I will rejoice when little innocent children will stop being taught to kill in the name of God and religion. Ignorance gave different faces to God, who in my view is one. Hence, religion too is one and that religion is humanity. Kasab was not taught that. I sympathise with Kasab. He also was once a small innocent baby, like my son. But unfortunately born around wrong people and wrong teachings. I'm sure as a little baby, Kasab didn't plan his outcome. He was brainwashed, driven to kill in the name of God. He didn't know he was wrong. I will not teach my children to rejoice anyone's death - be it Kasab. They will learn to be non-vindictive, non-fanatical and will love all. I'm not saying that I defend the consequence he faced. I just feel that rejoicing, or feeling completion doesn't make sense. There's more to it.In these four years of awaiting and looking upon Kasab's sentence, I can bet lakhs of new Kasab's were born. Problem lies there. Rejoice when that stops"

I don't just empathize with his view. I highly respect and admire such courage and conviction. It is a rare human quality to be able to reflect, put things in perspective and focus on the real problem. One  thing I really hope for in life is that should I ever be put in a difficult place of losing loved ones, that I should not fall prey to vengeance and vindication, I want to preserve my innocence and humanitarianism.

Kasab was merely 21 when he carried out those murders. An age when I myself was still finding my place in the world. His death made him a martyr, and there are many more innocent children with guns in hands and blood lust in their minds. Moreover, his death didn't undo or repair any damage that was done. The world did not become safer or better upon his execution.

Terrorism is a cancer upon society. Perhaps we saved society but cutting of one cancerous growth. But if we have to keep cutting every part that succumbs to this cancer - eventually we wont be left with any society at all. It is high time we focused on the cure, rather than callously hacking of bits and pieces of society.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I'm ecstatic he is dead

Yes, I said it, I expressed my joy over the death of Bal Thackeray. What I really do mourn is that it was not slow and painful. What I really do mourn is that his life was celebrated and his loss lamented. What I really do mourn is that throngs of loving followers gave him an honorable state farewell. I cannot think of a human less deserving of such love and honor.

My loathing for him stems at a tender young age. While all around people adored and respected him, my heart learned to hate him. It is quite surprising how much darkness even a young child's heart can gather. I was born and raised in Bombay, a city I will forever be in love with. The true beauty of Bombay is its hodge podge melting pot. Cultures, languages, religions from all over India come in here and melt into a different culture of its own. Bombay is that city where old Victorian legacy of the Raj seamlessly melds with the distinctly traditional Indian heritage.

Bal Thackeray was everything that Bombay is not. He wanted Bombay to be distinctly Maharashtrian, Hindu Maharashtrian. He wanted to erase the multicultural influences from all around. He wanted to subdue the other languages and religions. He wanted to erase the legacy of the Raj. He wanted to rebuild a Bombay or rather rebuild a Mumbai and the entire state of Maharashtra for the sons of the soils - native Hindu Maharashtrians.

Although historically from Goa, my family has been in Bombay for eons. We are counted amidst the ethnic Hindu Maharashtrians, a typical Marathi Brahmin 'kar' family. Bal Thackeray is supposed to have been our champion. I should have loved him and been grateful. I should have been thankful for him trying to preserve my culture, protecting our rights to the land, its bounty and its jobs. I should have been part of the throngs of followers. But it is something I could never do. To me he was this terrifying monster, a Godzilla of sorts hell bent on destroying the city I loved. A monster of terrible nightmares and frightful futures.

I'm usually a pacifist. I rarely dislike people, let alone loathe them. No matter how hurt or upset I am, I have a hard time wishing ill of people, let alone death. I'm one of those children who had a lively imagination of rainbows and ponies and all sorts of pleasant thoughts. But if there has been anything violent, twisted or demented in my childhood is that I have fantasized of Bal Thackeray's death several times.

Living in the United States has given me a lot more perspective. I'm much more tempered and thoughtful now. I'm no longer a foolish child loathing a terrible monster and dreaming of slaying it. I've grown up and developed a moral core that human beings should have. I have a sense of ethics, compassion and humanity. And it is this moral fiber within me that prevents me from mourning his death.

As an immigrant I have been very fortunate not to face racism or discrimination. The path to citizenship was easy, and I've assimilated as an American citizen. However, the hateful rhetoric against immigrants and minorities hurts and cuts to the core. It hurts when right wing tea party extremists spew their venom. It hurts when you are considered and outside intrusion in a country you have sworn allegiance to. It hurts when they say our people are destroying the culture and values of America. It hurts when they accuse us of stealing jobs and livelihood. It hurts when you are blamed for everything that is wrong in a country you love so much. That is why immigrant and minority rights is something near and dear to me. These values of liberty, equality and justice for all human beings is at the very core of my being. And you cannot stand for immigrant and minority rights in one country, and mourn the loss of an oppressor of immigrants and minorities in another.

The brutal truth is that there is no difference between the ideals of 'Marathi Manoos' 'Hindutva' and the ideals of white supremacists like Neo Nazis and the KKK. Extreme right wing white Christians are anti-immigration and minority. They want to erase the multicultural influences and create a white Christian America. Bal Thackeray's desire to create a Maharashtra for the Hindu Marathi people is no different. When people back home celebrate him as a hero of our people, I cannot help but hang my head in shame and remorse.

I realize that I may come across as a heartless soulless beast to some people, but it is against my moral fabric to have any sort of sadness over Bal Thackeray's death. I understand the whole sentiment of respecting the dead and resting in peace, but there are certain exceptions. I cannot bring myself to compromise with the ethics, morals and ideals that define me. And while it may come across as rude and unsympathetic to be glad someone is dead, please try to see it from the eyes of the victims, the immigrants and minorities. To expect sympathy in this case is viler and crueler, it is like asking black people to sympathize with the KKK or for homosexuals to sympathize with the Westboro Baptist church. Sometimes hating and loathing is the ethical thing to do.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Online Opinion Poll

I'm not sure how many people read this blog. I usually just use it as a venting station, a word vomit, a place to pour my thoughts into. That is why I've never been as concerned about feedback. However, in this case I am actually hoping for comments. I'm trying to gather opinions.

So recently a bunch of friends and me online were being quite juvenile and silly. I don't know how it came up. Something to do with Big Boss India's live feed. For some reason 'morning wood' came up in the waking up footage. It became the goal to find model Niketan Madhok's morning wood. Just some immature fun. Then in one of the footage someone saw it. Me being the juvenile delinquent that I am took some screen caps. That apparently got me in trouble. According to some people with higher moral standings, my screen caps are sexually explicit. I feel like Larry Flynt, and I didn't even attempt to do what Larry Flynt did. I feel like I went to create a LOLCat but got accused of producing porn instead.

Below are the two screen caps I posted. I'm curious to know how many find it sexually explicit and how many find it to be just something silly and juvenile, and of course why.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Confessions of an Obama Fan Girl

I'm an unabashed Obama fan girl. When it comes to our President, I'm like a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert. He is a charismatic speaker who has that kind of hold on me. No matter how much I try to be rational, middle of the road reasonable, the truth is that deep down inside my mind has already been made in favor of Obama. I'm his cheerleader, jumping up and down trying to get the crowds pumped up for him. I fall in place amidst the bleeding heart liberals who have their heart set on hope and change. I'm one of them. Embraced into the crowd.

But I have some confessions to make. Deep dark confessions that might tear me away from my crowd. Closet beliefs that no liberal worth their salt ought to have. They are not that secret really, I'm quite vocal about them. However, these confessions all together, might make people wonder - Am I really a liberal or a traitor planted within.

Here goes nothing

I wanted Detroit to go go bankrupt. The auto industry bail out to me was the poorest economical decision Obama ever made. Sure it saved thousands of job. The American auto industry is back on track. It is a robust, innovative and growing industry. But for how long? This is not the first time the American auto industry has needed help. The history of the American auto industry is full of lethargy, missteps, complacency and overall inefficiently run business. Yes, we do have some iconic industry pioneers and revolutionaries. We have had our highs. But the industry has always needed help to compete with nimbler foreign manufacturers, especially Asian manufacturers like Toyota and Honda who have so much more hunger, passion & competitiveness.  The only way we can compete with that is to let the auto industry as we know it die its long due death and get reborn. We keep making short term fixes, that will need to be repaired again in the future.

The finance industry bailout was absolutely necessary. It is true the rogues on Wall Street were the giant iceberg that sunk our Titanic economy into the cold rough seas. It is due to the finance industry rogues that we perished. And even today they continue their vice like grip on us milking the last drop of blood out of ordinary citizens. But we needed the bailout. They were the backbone of our economy. It would have been a disaster if all our banks and major financial institutions had become insolvent. The idea of giving money directly to the people is a noble one, and in an ideal world that is how we would fix things with people at the grassroots. But this is not an ideal world and the finance industry needed that injection of cash to hold up the spine.

We need to outsource a lot more. American labor is just too darn expensive. Economies of scale cannot exist in the United States, at least not in the manufacturing industry. People should focus on their strengths, not weaknesses. Our Achilles heel is manufacturing. High labor costs make it a foolish endeavor. There is a whole world out there with low cost economic labor that can churn out products faster and better at fraction of the cost. Our strength is innovation, creativity, breakthrough technology the next Flying shuttle, the next Spinning Jenny, the next Steam Engine, the Next Super computer, the next iPod, the next tablet PC, the next Google, the next Twitter, the next YouTube. Can we stop wasting time on the past?

Free trade is a beautiful thing. Demand and Supply are elegant economic models. I don't understand why people find free trade to be so cruel and unfair. It is a very logical and reasonable model. The market negotiates freely, people put their wants and needs and demands on the table, all these elements interact fluidly setting prices, creating trade and transactions. The only real problem is when people cheat or game the system. Sometimes irrational human behavior leads to imbalances like monopolies and oligopolies both amidst sellers and consumers. The role of the government is not to change the game, but find and punish the cheaters. The government is also there to smooth out the inconsistencies of irrational behavior and keeping us back on track when we sway away from the elegant model. Social justice then complements this model, not antagonistically replace it.

The war in Afghanistan and Iraq is the greatest disaster in the history of US military endeavors. It breaks my heart that despite Vietnam, we have not learned any lessons. Withdrawing troops from Iraq and Afghanistan is a bad idea. What we are doing is going to someones house, throwing a house party, tearing the place apart, then leaving the mess for the homeowners to clean up. I want to bring our soldiers home. I don't want anyone to die on either side. I wish we could all just get along. But this is our mess that we walked into. We have responsibility and accountability to make sure we clean every last bit of it before we can finally walk away.

People don't like Big Brother. I believe US has a moral obligation to be a Big Brother. As a nation with more wealth and stability, we owe it to share it with those who are not as fortunate. As a progressive democratic nation where freedom means something, we owe it to the oppressed to discover their freedom. Unfortunately, what the United States has done is become a big bully. We are the obnoxious meddling relative who is just bossing other people around telling them what to do. What we really need to be is a big brother or sister who is there to help a younger sibling in need. We need to be that sibling who is the delicate blend of parental sternness and a friends love and recklessness. We need to be that big brother and sister our younger siblings can truly trust and respect. We do need to be a better nation than we can be.

While I am an ardent supporter of gay rights and believe that homosexuals deserve more respect and acceptance in society. Gay marriage is not a big issue. At least not as big as it is made out to be. There are many more important things to argue about than gay marriage.And even if we make it important what good is a marriage if you t have a society which does not you hold hands and kiss when you want to. Our efforts should be focused on how can we change society. How can we help people shed their fear of the unknown and embrace differences. After all, once we actually accept each other, marriage and all other rights will come along.

And this is the final and biggest zinger. Some people will consider me a heartless soulless beast for it. I actually believe in some aspects of Social Darwinism. Lets face the truth, All men are not created equal. We are all different, very different unique and special with our own strengths, weaknesses, desires, motivations, abilities, inabilities, likes, dislikes, priorities. Each of us has a whole psyche and experience that makes us uniquely us. How can we be equal? Now I'm no racist saying one race is more superior. I'm not going to justify cock and bull theories that promote eugenics and fascism.

Darwin had a point. Nature is adversarial. In nature, species are always in conflict with their environment. It is the strongest and fittest of the species that adapt and evolve to survive the ever dynamic ecosystem. In that sense, Society is adversarial. In our society, we humans tend to be in conflict with each other. In a social environment, the strongest and fittest of the species adapt and evolve to survive the ever changing social systems. This by no means states that any human is superior to others in anyway. This is about survival, not superiority. In nature adaptation is varied and diverse. We humans cannot dream of doing things that other species can. Some can survive the harshest freezing snowstorms or the driest hottest deserts. Some can even survive a nuclear holocaust. Some have razor sharp hearing, some can see in the dark, some can smell the faintest trail, some can hear a leaf rustle miles away. Adaptation in society is also varied. Some humans cannot dream of doing things other humans can. Some are math geniuses, some paint breathtaking landscapes, others tell captivating stories with words, some have the brute strength to move mountains, some have infinite patience, some have the most dogged perseverance. We all adapt and survive in our own environments. We all perish and fail in unsuitable environments.

Someday, I hope to reclaim social Darwinism to be an honest and compassionate subject. Take it away from the Nazis, the Fascists, the Racists and use it to better explain the complex beings we are as humans.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


You can't hide from yourself
The more bury your truths, the more startling revelations you make
You can't run from yourself
The further you get away from you, the closer you get to yourself
You can't escape yourself
The freer you find yourself, the deeper you fall into entrapment
You can't lie to yourself
Every web you spin to deceive, the more the truth unravels
You can't understand yourself
The more you get what you want, the more lost is what you need
You can't know yourself
The minute you answer all questions, the answers pose new questions
You can't love yourself
The more you learn to care, the more you loathe yourself
You can't hate yourself
The more harm you cause, the more you love yourself
All you can hope is be yourself
And hope that you and yourself, find the way at the crossroads

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Battle Royale for White People

That is what I called the Hunger Games when I saw the movie. It is not that I did not like the movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was thrilling, exciting full of intense action, drama and emotion. Everything that makes a great blockbuster. However, the storyline appeared too trite and repetitive. Such a theme has been done before in Battle Royale. In fact the Japanese thriller Battle Royale was a lot more gruesome and gut wrenching. In comparison, the Hunger Games seems mild, childish and innocent. But that could not be far from the truth. The Hunger games is just setting the stage for later events in Catching Fire and Mockingjay. And the events that unfold are far from being mild, childish or innocent. Prepare for the real battle to begin.

Firstly, I do owe an apology to Suzanne Collins for assuming the Hunger Games is merely a Battle Royale for white people. There are certain similarities, yes. Both are government programs to control the populations and prevent uprisings. Both are brutal, sadistic and pit children against children killing each other in an arena. That is where the similarity ends. While Battle Royale is treated as a military experiment, administered and observed solely by the military and government the Hunger Games is a spectacle with a cruel and publicized history. Panem is a country where the rich and wealthy in the Capitol led by President Snow rule over twelve districts. The Hunger Games are a punishment for a rebellion decades ago. Two children (tributes) from each district will be reaped for the games. The games are to symbolize the strength and sustainability of Panem. The tributes are paraded in the capitol and garner a fan following. The games, a huge event for the capitol is broadcast all over the nation. The victor goes on a lavish victory tour, ensuring that the pain and humiliation of the games is imprinted year round. Despite its lack of blood and gore, what makes the Hunger games even more sadistic than Battle Royale is that the Hunger Games are like American Idol for Panem. People cheering, laughing, screeching and clapping their hands gleefully over children killing each other. It is not portrayed as fiction, but real innocent live taking is normal and entertaining.

The series gets darker and bleaker as it progresses. As you read on you realize that this is no longer a children's book but a much darker tale of apocalyptic times and dystopian futures. The themes and motifs in Hunger Games are far darker than what you might find in Harry Potter. It is not the classic battle of good vs. evil. Things are a lot more gray in Hunger games. It is not clear who is good or evil, as we can see in Katniss difficulty in trying to figure out who her real enemies are. Is it the tributes in the Hunger Games who want to kill her? Is it the capitol who makes them play these games? Or is she in something much more sinister than she could ever imagine?

She has a hard time figuring her allies as well. Firstly there is her complex love triangle between Peeta and Gale. Katniss' choices are far more difficult than the whimpering haplessness of Bella Swann. Unlike Bella, Katniss is strong willed, determined, stubbornly independent, with several walls guarding her heart. She cannot decide if she loves her hunting companion and best friend Gale who knows her heart and mind unlike any other, or does she love Peeta whose gentle soul has carried her through the trauma of the games. She also struggles figuring out which one of her allies can she really rely on. Can she trust the ever drunk Haymitch? Are rebel allies really on her side. 

Harry Potter may have dealt with death, teenage angst and social issues like racism, discrimination and class warfare. Hunger Games touches upon all that and more. In Hunger games we come across corruption and political manipulation. We see games leaders play to sustain their power. There is also slavery, torture and abuse. Not just physical torture, but psychological torture that breaks down a human being at their very core. There is also prostitution. Not just any prostitution, but child prostitution of bare teenagers. There is also substance abuse. Not just Haymitch's alcoholism, but entire populations hooked on morphine like medication to escape reality. It may not be gory in detail, but the emotional weight of the books is not intended for little kids, this is far more mature content. I would not call it an adult novel, it is still very much young teen, but teenage literature has matured many shades.

Finally we have the question of District 13. Who are they really and what are their motives? They caused the last rebellion and then disappeared striking a deal with the capitol, leaving the other districts to fend for themselves. They claim their low profile and obscurity was due to lack of resources. Now that Katniss has lit a fire, they are ready to organize and lead the rebellion. But is freedom for the citizens of Panem what they really want? District 13 and President Coin give us pause to reflect the stark choices we face as humans. Do we really choose between good and evil, or are we wedged between two painful outcomes and choose what hurts the least.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

From Theology to Business

And everything in between: A random cross section of a restless mind that traveling across multiple tangents.

God is Great

Like Santa Claus, Peter Pan, Green Eggs and Ham and the wondrous fantasies in Enid Blyton books. 

I've always believed in God, but somehow never did. I was a strange child and an even stranger adult.As a child I had an uncanny understanding that Santa Claus was not real. I knew very well that it was my grandma or mom who hid a gift under my pillow. I sometimes caught them while pretending to sleep. It never shattered my world. In fact I took delight in the fact that the simple and mundane can be made so thrilling and exciting. Even though fairies, dwarfs, elves and goblins were all make believe they opened the windows of opportunity. There is no reason why our lives have to be ordinary. All we need is a little imagination to make our lives wonderful. And I had to believe with all my heart that it was true. If I ceased believing, then no one would give me hidden gifts or make my life extraordinary.

That was my childlike view of God as well. A wondrous concept that made ordinary lives extraordinary. Someone that offered miracles and solutions to all of lives problems. I believed in God with all my heart and soul. I enjoyed going to temples. I was very particular about ringing the bells, putting the cash in the box, bowing, praying and carefully following every instruction my grandmother gave. I believed in God, just like I did in Santa Claus and all the characters in my books. I had to. Not believing meant making my life mundane again.

That is why I still believe. Not just in God, but every fantasy fiction novel I read. Atheism is out of the question. Why believe in such child like fantasies? Why not I say. My dreams and imagination don't exist outside reality. I am real, my mind is real and so is everything within it. They are as real as anything else in life. They just in the world of our imaginations rather than the world of our sensory perceptions. To be honest, I cannot imagine the boring, serious lives of people who can't take simple joys in the magic in the world.

Experiments with Atheism

Nothing makes any fucking sense in this world.  

I was the why child. Curious, inquisitive, probing and demanding, I could never listen or accept anything. Whether it was at home, at school or anything in life, I had a million questions that demanded answers. My parents simply could not say - Go to bed, Do your homework, eat your vegetables, have a bath, go to school and expect me to follow. Threats and bribes had no effect. All I needed was a simple why. If there was a good reason, I would do it. If not, I wouldn't.

So why do we have temples and idols? Why do we have religious rituals? Why do we waste milk and fruit in rituals, when people are hungry? Why do we put money in the box, when people have no money? Why were some of my friends not welcome in the temple? Why did it matter how I dressed or played with boys? Why are all these people who believe in God such bitches and assholes?

There were never any satisfactory answers. I was convinced that God was a vile and terrible idea. At least fairies were kind and compassionate. All the characters I worshiped were heroic and virtues. God didn't seem to have these virtues. It seemed like a meaningless pursuit for vile people to gain selfish ends. I decided I did not believe in God anymore. I was an atheist. In the grand scheme of things of life as I understood it, God made no fucking sense.

Born Again

I attained nirvana at the age of five, and I have been searching for myself ever since. 

The reason I started believing again is quite hilarious.If not hilarious, it is probably quite blasphemous for most theists. And it was not at the age of five, more like twelve actually. The story goes like this. here was a club hockey game that I really wanted to go to. Our school was going to take the school boys and girls team to BHA in order to watch the match. All my friends were going. After the game we would probably chill on Marine drive, eat and watch the sunset before going home. Unfortunately, there was one problem with the plan. I had a summer computer class that clashed with the game. There was no way my parents were going to let me skip a class they were paying for so I could watch a game with friends. I was super pissed and mentally cussed out all of existence in the foulest language. Even as an atheist I derived some twisted pleasure blaming everything on God and showering the choicest abuses on God.

Then something unexpected happened. On a bright summer day when there were no storms the power went out unexpectedly for inexplicable reasons. It was not even a Friday when power could go off in the afternoon. Computer class was canceled and I was free to see the game.

Something even stranger happened to me. It must have been my hyperactive twelve year old imagination. As I walked towards class, I felt a strange connection to the universe. It was as if the universe was communicating with me. I was out on the streets and felt a surge within me that the power would go and class would be canceled. When I found out that it was indeed true, I was an instant believer. Coincidence, Luck, Random Probability. There are many rational things that could have happened. But once you feel that connection surge, you can't ignore it.

I feel that connection with the universe so many times. When I'm delighting in a taste of chocolate, when I am in a heated argument, when I lounge lazily on the couch. My life is almost one large quest of finding all these things that recreate the connection and surges. It is fun and exciting. It is unlike any experience religions or spiritual gurus will give you. It gives me the freedom to be really bad or really good as I search for myself through these life experiences. Strangely, there nothing that supercharges the connection more than sin and abusive arguments with God. Who knows, perhaps it is actually the devil I'm dealing with, but it feels so positively good, innocent and honest.

Conversion & Diversion

I want to be a Catalyst like the Jesus dude. 

Actually, I wanted to become a Catholic. Catalyst is just an inside joke. But if you think about it Jesus Christ was indeed a catalyst of sorts and created a chain reaction of many things. Anyway, I went to Catholic school. The Biblical teachings really spoke to me. I liked Jesus Christ and what he stood for. The parables, the stories, all that they drilled into us in "moral science" really made an impression on me. I wanted to be a part of this faith and belief system. I wanted to follow Jesus Christ.

There was one problem though. My parents were good debaters and I could not win. They never refused me or turned be down. Of course I could if I could explain why. They asked so many questions and probed so much, I could never respond to them all. And as a why child, it made no sense for me to embark on something when I could not fully answer all the whys. They also asked a lot about my own religion Hinduism, and why Christianity was better. I discovered that I really did not know much about Hinduism. How could I decide I should become a Catalyst if I don't even know what it means to be a B.E.S.T Brahmin. (It is actually GSB Gowd Saraswat Brahmin, but again an inside joke).

It was then I embarked on my journey into theology. I tried to learn not just about Hinduism, but pretty much every diversion (religion) out there.

All Roads lead to Greece

And Ares the God of War is the coolest, awesomest, greatest and sexiest God ever. All hail and bow to Ares. I shalt worship Ares forever.

Jesus was not a very popular God, back in ancient Greece. I don't think they knew much about Rama and Krishna either. But they had Gods like Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, Apollo, Hera, Aphrodite, Artemis, Athena etc. The Romans had Venus, Janus, Vesta, Ceres etc. The Norse had Thor, Iduna, Thrymm, Loki etc. The Egyptians had Horus, Anubis, Bastet etc.

Did you know that witches really exist and they are not just in fairy tales? There are covens around the world of men and women who practice Wiccan. Did you know that black magic is terribly exaggerated? There are religions like Voodoo, Shamanism and a slew of misunderstood nature based, tribal and polytheistic religions. Did you know that Confucianism is a religion but has nothing to do with God and faith? That some religions are about code of conduct, politics, ethics, social structures and ways of life. Did you know there are atheist religions? Hinduism has an atheistic school of thought and many eastern philosophies are considered atheistic. Did you know that Hinduism has no specific doctrine on theism? Hindu Gods and Goddesses and the multitudes of avatars are metaphors and manifestations of a singularity.

Religion is not divine. Nor is God. They are both parts of the story of man. They have their own history and it is a fascinating one. History itself is a fascinating subject. It is very difficult to study isolated aspects of history like God and religion, without the context. It is like watching one scene in an epic trilogy and hoping to grasp everything. Sometimes there are so many concurrent story lines, so many threads that intertwine with each other that it is practically impossible to follow one thread easily.

I became a super history dork. I read about ancient civilizations and the societies that early man formed. I learned about trade routes, migrations and the exchange of goods and ideas. I followed the rise and fall of Empires, of Kings and Queens who stamped their mark on the world. I saw a heartbreaking history of war, bloodshed, plague and death, but also a heartwarming history of love, peace, resilience and hope. I tried to see what patterns the tapestry of human history forms. Who we are, what we believe, the Gods we worship, the faiths we subscribe to are mere threads in this intricate pattern. To pull one aside and study it individually is such a travesty, the beauty is only within the patterns.

I wanted to become a Minister

Like my idol Rev. Eric Camden, I would have loved to study theology and become a pastor at a community church. Then people would follow me.

There was just one glitch. I'm a Hindu. I don't think the church is open to that idea yet. I might have had better luck if I was a gay pedophile (j/k). And no this was not a childlike fantasy. I was probably 19-20 when I started thinking this was a swell idea. As a young person, 7th Heaven was a show I really enjoyed. It definitely is unlike a lot of things I typically watch. It is a family oriented Christian show that has a preachy aspect to it. But something about the show appealed to me. I admired Eric Camden and his open heart. The show dealt with so many issues like teenage pregnancy, premarital sex, alcoholism, addiction, racism etc. It was not judgmental. Eric and Annie Camden dealt with these issues with a lot of understanding. Doesn't the whole world need a shoulder to cry on and an accepting heart for guidance. How nice would it be to become a minister and serve people this way. After all so many people turn to church for shoulders and hearts.

The reason for my idealistic thinking is I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the rigid divisions of religion. After all when I look back through history we are all a product of time and social evolution. Our cultures and beliefs are different but share so many common threads. It also is the business school mentality that creeps in. You hire good employees and make them Wal-Mart/Target/K-Mart employees. It is all interchangeable. One retail, many retail outlets. One God, many faith outlets. Why not focus on good employees?

My Mama Said

"I can't be saved!I seriously should tattoo that on my forehead."

I said that, not my Mama.

Sometimes dealing with religious people sends me in an angry tailspin. Truly! They often test my patience and send me over the edge. I'm the why child. Religion is bound to send me over the edge. I don't like practices like conversion and public preaching. I'm pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-sexual freedom, pro-separation of church and state that my views directly conflict with most religious views. Beliefs like the Rapture, Apocalypse sound absurd. Worst of all, I don't like being saved. I'm not a lost, hapless puppy dog. I'm a conscious rational adult with my own free will. I'm open to advice and religious discussion, but I don't like it when people try to save me.

One day after a discussion with a preacher ( father of a coworker and friend), I huffed home screaming the lines. My mom gave me the sternest death glare and said "I hope you were polite." No matter what I feel, ridiculing and insulting other people is out of the question. Even accidentally hurting or offending someone is a crime the way I was raised. I'm glad my mom raised us that way. I can't imagine being one of those people who are so fixated on their own views that they can't think of others.

Aways Balanced

Or so I hope, and definitely strive to be. 

 One of the moments in life when I was proud of myself was when a random stranger sent me a message on Facebook to thank me. It was after Joanne Kloppenburg's loss in the race for Supreme Court justice. Emotions were high. Our state was divided. Scott Walker had torn us apart. I myself was extremely heated and fired up. I'm a bleeding heart liberal and I hated Scott Walker. Facebook was full of battles between conservative and liberal groups. Many conservatives stormed the "Scott Walker is a Douche Bag" page to defend him. The administrators kept blocking them.

We were having an argument over the recount. One conservative guy was vehemently pro Scott Walker, but he was polite and reasonable. Yet all the liberals pounced on him labeling him "hater". I made a reply post politely explaining why I disagreed with his views. The next morning I had a message from him. He said he was booted from the group for his views, but wanted to thank me. He said I was reasonable and made good points, and he agreed with some of them.

That is the kind of person I want to be. I don't like discounting people who are different or disagree. Even as a bleeding heart liberal, I try to be open to debate with conservatives. Even as a barbaric heathen, I hope to openly discuss religion with followers. It is the only way to bridge gaps. This conservative guy disagreed with liberals. He simply could not see eye to eye with our views. They appeared foolish to him. Despite that, I made an impact on him through my polite response. He could agree to some of it. Maybe we could have discussed it further and come to some sort of consensus. I honestly think the reason why Scott Walker survived the recall election is because liberals banned conservatives from their groups as 'haters' instead of trying to interact and engage in debate.

I'm a human with many vices and virtues, but an overall good person who tries to be good. I see all people the same way. Just humans trying to be good people like me. People like me who make mistakes, do foolish things, say hurtful things and stir up a lot of shit on occasion. These same people who also fix things, do the right things, delight people and make things better on occasion. I always like giving people the benefit of the doubt and doing my best.

The Church of Business

"I'd rather spend my life studying history, theology, and philosophy. But I didn't want to be a teacher or researcher. I had to do something to feed my belly."

Business school is really misunderstood. People think MBA and think of evil Wall Street Corporate types. They think of the greedy and power hungry. That is not what business is about, at least not what good business is about. Business is a vast and expansive field of study. I went into it for marketing. I love communications and building relationships, and what is marketing if not that. Although lumped together with sales, they are as different as chalk and cheese. Marketing is the most human side of business. Engineers, accountants, sales people, operations and all other departments business often hate us for that. We are the creative people who walk to the beat of our drum. It is not about selling something or making a profit. In marketing we study demographics, psychographics and all sorts of features about people. We try to identify segments in populations and figure out what they want. We try to figure what their needs are and how we can meet it. When we go international culture, perceptions and society play an even bigger role. It is the perfect field for dorks like me. In that colorful tapestry of human history we take present day snapshots. We see markets rich and vibrant with so many colorful threads of diverse people and culture. We strive to understand them, cater to their needs and build long term relations.

Business as a whole itself is also not about the bottom line. Business is more of an organizational model. What we learn is not just for J.P Morgan Chase or Citibank. It is for World Wildlife Fund, for the Humane Society, for Red Cross, for Tom's Shoes, for mom and pop store on the corner, for the city parks division, for the community church, for a local soccer club, for a college fraternity, for a family, for an individual and for life.

In our organizational model we figure out what our goal and mission is - make money, heal the world, have fun, all of the above. What values we subscribe to - who we are and what we stand for. How shall we do it, whom will we serve and whom will we help. We form a strategy, a business plan based on it. From there all the cogs come together and start turning - finance, human resources, marketing, operations, sales - all to meet that goal.

Isn't life exactly like that. Figure out what we want to do, what our values are, how we plan to go about it. Set a strategy to achieve our goals and dreams. Then all the cogs come together and start turning paycheck, friends and family, organizing our day, selling our ideas - all to actualize who we are. Thats why business strangely is just like the fabric of human history and the fabric of life in general.

My Secret Wish

"I want to go Pride Fest and pick a fight with the Christian Protesters"

There were none the last time I went, being Wisconsin and all, and I was genuinely heartbroken. I felt as if my entire weekend went to waste. All I was wanted was to be a rabble-rouser and get into a fight with homophobic Christians. I'm really not that balanced as I'd like people to believe. I'm a disrespectful, blaspheming heathen. I like to pick on religion, faith, culture, beliefs and all the idiosyncrasies that is mankind and have fun at the expense of it.

I fantasize of finding a someone pure, religious and virginal and then using my charm, my nice gal balance, and my why child wit to turn them into a sinful heathen just like me. Won't that be something.

When I'm feeling particularly evil, I scheme of adopting three kids and raising them Muslim, Christian and Jewish. And I shall make bacon for breakfast and give it to my Christian child and deprive the Muslim and Jewish kid from bacon. I'll adopt a Hindu one for good measure and deprive the child of sizzling steaks and juicy burgers that the other kids will have. Well if God screws over and deprives children all over the world from something or the other, what is wrong with me in recreating my own miniature version of God's world. What is so wrong in that? I'll have to adopt an atheist as well for some intense sibling rivalry. I wonder which one should be the gay kid.

I also want to own property, like a nice house to rent. Not for income just for kicks. I'll rent it to really politically opinionated folks. Then during election season I will screw with them. If they put democratic signs, I'll remove them and put republican ones and vice versa. If they don't put any signs, I'll put random ones of my own. Democratic one day, Republican another, both the third, Team Edward the fourth, Team Jacob the fifth and vote for Volturi on election day.

"Hell is just as good as any place on earth, and I plan on going there someday, along with everyone else"

Saturday, September 8, 2012

My Best Music Videos

Nothing beats starting a lazy weekend by watching a string of music videos on YouTube. They say 'Video killed the Radio' star. Although radio is still alive and kicking, actually doing very well in peachy keen health; there is something about video. Video just adds another level to a song. It tells a story, provides visuals, creates metaphors and symbolism. Some songs are just that much better with their videos. Some videos are so good that they make bad songs enjoyable.

These are some of the music videos I enjoy watching. Some are brilliant artistic masterpieces, some are great pieces of storytelling, some are mind-blowing creative, while some are just fun.

Taty - Ja Soshla S Uma

Love him or hate him, Ivan Shapovalov is a genius. He did not merely produce music. He created an icon, a movement, a compelling story that would become Russia's biggest export to the world. He created the band Taty. In my opinion his marketing genius and innovation should be ranked alongside the ranks of Steve Jobs. His other musical projects may have failed, but this one completely hit the bulls eye. As a Taty fan, I'm partial to their work. But I don't think anyone can deny Ivan's ability to push the envelope, generate shock value and make a point.

Take the first music video he directed 'Ja Soshla S Uma'. Before Katy Perry "Kissed a Girl" there was "Ja Soshla S Uma" way back in 1999. It is one of the best and most controversial music videos of its times. There was the titillation with two teenage girls in Catholic school girl uniforms, making out in the rain. There were the moments of erotic with the flashes of underwear and wet nipples. At the same time there was so much more. It captured teenage angst and frustration of being in love and desiring what everyone else is against. The best art of the music video is the symbolism. The color scheme is bleak and bluish green tinged rather than the usual colorful music videos. It shows the teenage girls behind bars as onlookers gaze at them in disappointment, judging, condemning, punishing. The two girls are hopelessly trapped in society's cage. But at the end of the video in a great twist, it is the girls who walk around a corner free, while the rest of the onlookers are still trapped behind the fence. A brilliant piece of symbolism on who is really free. It is those of us who judge others putting them in boxes with labels whose minds are confined.

Basement Jaxx - Take me Back to Your House

If this list proves anything about my taste in music, it should say that I'm a sucker for anything Russian. There is just something really appealing about this gruff, weatherbeaten and rustic culture. Their music, their dance, their folklore, their culture, their philosophy, their literature everything about Russia is intriguing. Even while watching Harry Potter, my heart skips a beat for the tough Durmstrang boys and their aggressive masculine Cossack ways. If you like street dancing and break dancing then you ought to know the Cossacks were the original street dancers. Their dance moves are truly rad and brilliant.

Take me Back to Your House captures a small snapshot of Russian culture in a humorous way. Nothing is better on a cold winter eve than sitting at the village bar with a roaring hearth and plenty of vodka. Note the subtle humor in the video like the number of coats at the coat check, the deadpan expression of the faces, the lack of interest in the girl, Stalin in the tank,  the dancing bears, the lack of reaction to everything. Also watch the use of color between the bar and dancing sequences. All Brilliant! Best of all is the folk dancing. The primary reason I love this video is the dancing, I really wish I could dance like that. Russian squat dancing is indeed the best dance forms in my opinion.

Rammstein - Du Hast

Many people are surprised to find out that I enjoy Rammstein and that Du Hast is one of my all time favorite songs. I can't call myself a die hard or even huge fan, but truth be told, I really enjoy Rammstein and totally dig Till's coarse vocals.They have some incredible songs and I love cranking up some Rammstein when I drive. And their concerts are over the top and outrageous, they stop at nothing to entertain

Du Hast though is undoubtedly the best. Firstly, I love the ironic vocals and the play on words and German marriage vows. For example the use of the homphones Hast (have) and Hasst (hate). Then you have the German marriage vows "Do you want, until death separates you, to be faithful to her for all time?" followed by Nein (No) instead of Yes. Kind of how I feel about marriage. The video nicely complements the song. It is dark and grim, and has the ambiance of a gangster flick. A refreshing break from bubblegum pop and romance. Again the video avoids full color and is shot in Eastman, recreating that grim feeling. The video depicts a romance gone bad and the concept of bros before hos. My favorite is the end where everything is blown up and the men simply walk as if nothing has happened.

Katy Perry - Last Friday Night

I enjoy Katy Perry and I am not ashamed to admit it. Heck I am no music connoisseur at all. I'm just a dumb mindless sucker for kitsch and bubblegum pop. Katy Perry is in my mind the current reigning queen of bubblegum pop. She has an uncanny knack of churning out one hit single after another. Every Katy Perry song is a classic earworm that gets stuck there forever. Like her personality and music, her music videos tend to be frothy, colorful and fun.

And amidst all her hits "Last Friday Night" is my favorite. I like the fact that Katy created an alter ego Kathy Beth Terry for this video. She had some great YouTube promotions for the song as well. I was so enamored by the song and the promos that I hoped that they would create a movie or short film starring Kathy Beth Terry. The video is homage to the eighties teenage rebel and party movies and is a minefield for cameos and references. Thats what makes it fun. Spotting Darren Criss, Kevin McHale, Hanson & Kenny G. It is awesome sauce that Cory Feldman and Debby Gibson, teen icons of the eighties cast as her parents. Although my favorite bit is Rebbecca Black of Friday infamy. It is just pure fun.

Lady Gaga - Bad Romance

One of my favorite artists of modern times is Lady Gaga. She is quirky, edgy, crazy and just pure genius. Many detractors find her off putting and a fame whore of sorts. It is true that Lady Gaga lusts for fame and attention. However, amidst all the riff raff of people who make it in music: Lady Gaga is seriously talented. She has powerhouse vocals and is a musical genius. Very few artists actually write their own songs, can play instruments or take part in production, arrangement, composition and creatieve elements of their songs. Lady Gaga does it all. Her unplugged piano versions of her songs are simply beautiful and a pleasure to listen to.

In her commercial pop music, "Bad Romance" is her crowning glory, her very best in my opinion. Bad Romance epitomizes everything that Lady Gaga is about. It is outrageous, over the top, quirky, edgy and a glorious depiction of creative genius. The fashion, the iconic dance moves, the shock factors all reflect her showmanship and marketing genius. What is most compelling about the video is the storyline and symbolism though. The entire album "Fame Monster" reflect an artists relationship with fame - the glory, the addiction, the sacrifice, the lust, the desire everything. "Bad Romance" captures that path to fame, being sold along the way, and then the eventual conquest of the bidders. In fact it reflects all the bad romances we engage in everyday, our desires and obsessions, our path towards it - our relationship with everything that we love and want, but not essentially what we need.

REM - Losing My Religion

Losing my Religion, is often confused as a song about religion and faith. It is the most common misconception. The song actually is about unrequited love. The lyrics and music video are a metaphor for unrequited love, but it can be taken literally to be about religion as well. Religion is often like unrequited love. You put all your faith and devotion into something, it reflects your desire for something, but you don't prayers don't always have answer, not everyone gets what they want or need. You make up explanations. It is like that with unrequited love. You give all your love, but you don't get it back. You make explanations why it failed. To the the religious imagery of the music video reflects the faith of unrequited love and the torn feeling of it. You feel like you are "Losing your religion", everything about yourself. Not to mention the video is directed by Tasrem Singh. It has a heavy influence of eastern melodrama and opulence. One of the few popular western music videos where you see the unmistakable imprint of Eastern styles of creativity. That Indian flair, the colors, the grandeur, seamlessly integrates with the main theme of the song.

Enigma - Gravity of Love

One of the most innovative musical groups of all time is Enigma. No other group seamlessly brings  religious motifs, Gregorian chanting, Gothic influences, tribal chants etc together in a modern manner, digitally remastered and recreated to form a musical record, nay a musical experience actually. There are those days when I could close my eyes and listen to Enigma all day. Sadeness, Return to Innocence, Principles of Lust, Mea Culpa, if all music was this innovative.

"Gravity of Love" is one of the few Enigma compositions that features full vocals. It has one of my favorite music video as well. The music video truly complements the song. It is set at a masquerade ball with an ancient Gothic flavor. The locale is Villa Wagner, a beautiful Viennese building designed by Otto Wagner, it has the romance and mysticism of Viennese architecture. The music video itself is sensual and erotic, an artistic portrayal of love, lust and desire. The video truly reels you into experiencing the "Gravity of Love"

Sergey Lazarev - TV or Radio

Here comes another Russian on my list. Sergey Lazarev is a beautiful man. I love his smile. I'm actually not a fan of his song "TV or Radio". I find it too screechy. It is a bad rendition of a falsetto. It is a far cry from his smoother velvety songs like Vspominai, Eye of the Storm, Dazhe Esli Ti Utyesh etc. What I like though about "TV or Radio" is the music video. It is a wickedly sarcastic portrayal of modern day television. I guess only a Russian could make scathing fun of commercial western television. He mocks the ridiculousness of this trend called reality TV.  He portrays the fake glitz and glamor the obsession. He makes fun of the ridiculous love-match romance reality shows. He shows how unreal the musical reality shows are and how bad contestants are promoted ahead by ignorant judges. I love it.

Shaan - Tanha Dil

Amidst the Indian pop singers, Shaan is the best. While he has made his name in Bollywood playback singing, his best works are his pop albums. He combines good music, good vocals with good production value, good videos and good thematic elements. It is a rarity in Indian music which tends to focus mainly on the colors, the opulence, the flashiness and dancing.

I have to admit, the story of Tishnagi is better - but "Tanha Dil" has been executed much better. The song is about the path we take in life, the people who come in our lives and those we leave behind as we go chasing our destiny and dreams. The video features Shaan walking alone down a path as all his memories, the people and friends he misses fade in and out around him. I love reminiscing the past with this song. As an immigrant to the United States, I left behind so many things I knew and loved. It is a music video that speaks to me on many levels. It encompasses the journey of life.

Michael Jackson - They Don't Care About Us

Michael Jackson had many number one hits and a plethora of really good music videos. "They Don't Care About Us" is his best and most hard hitting. Both versions of the music video for this song are really good. The Brazil version presents both the fun frolic of carnival and the bleak life of the favelas. If you ever visit Brazil, a favela tour is a must. It will be the most rewarding and eye opening experience of your life.

I prefer the Prison Cell version though. It just goes so much more better with the flavor of the song. I like the montage they have of events in history, the depiction of brutality, violence, discrimination, abuse in the history of the world. From the KKK cross burning to China's Tienanmen square - it covers everything. Prison is also the best illustration for the disparity of class and race in society. It usually is the oppressed, the poor, the ones with no other road to travel who end up there. This music video depicts all the conflict in humanity. I think it also speaks to minorities. As minorities we often feel, they don't get us. The media, the government is always so engrossed in other things "They don't care about us"

Billy Joel - We Didn't Start the Fire

If you mention "They Don't Care about Us", you cannot forget Billy Joel's "We didn't start the fire". Any history nerd has to love this song. The song has no lyrics per say, historical places, people and events make up the lyrics of this song. They capture the twisted nature of human history embroiled in chaos and turmoil. The best part of the video is the juxtaposition of these lyrics against a happy American family. It also portrays the changing face of the American dream and American society.

Taty - Prostye Dvizheniya

Ah the second Taty and Ivan Shapovalov video on my list. All of Ivan's videos were so creative. This is probably one of the most controversial music videos. Many channels did not air it. The video is featured only on the remixes album.

Why is this video so controversial and great? It is about masturbation. A major portion of the video portrays Yulia in the bathtub masturbating. But it isn't kinky or pornographic really. Prostye Dvizheniya translates to be "Simple motion". Throughout the video you see people engaging in simple motions. Sitting at the coffee shop, exercising, playing in the park, having dinner. It basically attempts to present sexuality and masturbation as just a simple part of everyday life, nothing gross or out of this world. I find that brilliant.

Chris Isaak - Wicked Game

This music video has been featured on several top 10 music video lists.  The production value is minimal. It is a simple black and white video shot on a beach. But it is oh so aesthetically done. Chris Isaac and the female model are gorgeous people and the camera captures them wonderfully. The pans, the fade ins, the transitions are just so stunningly done. There is an artistic precision to it as the movements flow fluidly with the music. So beautiful, so sensual, so erotic - truly a great music video. Goes to show, less is more.

Paula Cole - Where Have all the Cowboys Gone?

This is one of my favorite songs of all times. It is a lovely song with some strongly feminist lyrics. Rural United States is not the best place for women. It really is like India sometimes, where men work and hang out while women are confined to their homes. This is another simple music video that is put together in a classy manner with great camera work. You have Paula Cole with her expressive movements and a grainy montage of country life - a wedding dress, a horse, an old chevy, a farm.

Aqua - My Mamma Said

One of the best things is when a band does something different. In the nineties they were famous for the bubblegum pop. Their USP was catchy upbeat music, silly lyrics and colorful over the top music video that were as kitschy and campy as can be. Who did not love Barbie Girl, Doctor Jones or My oh My, they were just fun.

"My Mama Said" is a Aquas attempt at something different. The music is still upbeat, but the lyrics and video more somber. It explores darker, deeper and mature themes.  Lene represents religion and faith, while Rene represents science, mostly quantum physics. They both discuss death from the two perspectives in the song. How often do you get music that discusses quantum physics? Protons, neutrons, electrons, vibrations and string theory. This dark minimalistic music video portrays both sides of the argument. There is also a raw animistic quality to it with the raw meat.