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.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Bucket List

Yesterday, when I wrote about Susegaado; I expressed my wanderlust in a lame attempt to woo my latest musical crush. That got me thinking about my passion for travel and bucket list in general. I'm not sure if it is appropriate to call this a bucket list. It is more like a wishful thinking list. A set list for my dreams. Most of these wishes were on my list of things to do before thirty. While I have accomplished some like traveling the Great River Road, eating Unagi and sea urchin roe - visiting Brazil, going on a pilgrimage to Lords, seeing the change of guards - a majority of my dreams are still unfulfilled. Here is my wanderlust on steroids - in no particular order.

1) Travel Historic Route 66
2) Hike the Appalachian Trail (at least some day trip segments)
3) Hike the Montana Narrows (at least some day trip segments)
4) See fall in New England
5) Go Shark Diving in Cape Town
6) Backpack across Europe (belongings stuffed in a backpack and a Eurail pass - no reservations)
7) See the Northern Lights
8) Learn to speak Spanish
9) Learn the Cyrillic alphabet
10) Meet some Melungeons
11) Meet some Eskimo
12) Meet some Australian aborigines
13) Travel the historic Grand Trunk Road
14) Travel the old Silk Road trade routes
15) Ride the Trans-Siberian railway from Moscow to Vladivostok
16) Drive on the Autobahn at 120 mph
17) Join the mile high club
18) Drive along the Konkan and Malabar coast
19) Visit the Amazon
20) Take a riverboat down the Mississippi
21) See the Plitvice Lakes
22) See Machu Pichu
23) See the Ayers Rock
24) Go to an Olympic event
25) See the Hagia-Sofia
26) Ride the modern Venice-Simplon Orient Express
27) Ride the Rocky Mountaineer
28) Eat Puffer fish sushi
29) Muster the courage to eat escargot, blood pudding and beef tongue
30) Write a book and get published
31) Visit all seven continents
32) Retrace Aenas historic journey from Troy to Rome
33) See the Great Barrier Reef
34) See the great Pyramids of Giza
35) Take a dip in the Devil's Swimming Pool
36) Go Sky Diving
37) Learn to fly a single engine plane
38) Learn to ride horseback
39) Go on an African Safari
40) Take the Nairobi to Mombasa train
41) See Petra
42) See Yellowstone National Park
43) Walk as much as possible on the Great Wall of China
44) See Stonehenge
45) Kiss the Blarney Stone
46) Take the ferry from Calais to Dover
47) See St. Basil's Cathedral
48) Hire Hookers at Las Vegas and make them watch Bollywood movies with me.
49) Visit the Galapagos Islands
50) Karaoke in Tokyo drunk on Sake

That is all I can think of now. Every time I read about something cool or interesting, I want to visit or do - my list will expand. I'm not one for marriage, but if you are a rich and charitable person willing to fund all these extravagances I will be willingly obliged. On the opposite spectrum, if you don't mind being dead poor living a hand to mouth existence trying to do all these things and find the idea incredible - let me know as well. I'm yet to meet someone willing and able to do all this - and suffer in the process.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Last night as I was surfing the Internet to find the music videos to my favorite happy songs, I discovered a gorgeous musical gem. I can't believe I had been oblivious to this song for so long. It is "Susegaado" from the MTV India show "Sound Trippin". Now "Sound Trippin" is a unique show with a lovely concept. The host Sneha Khanwalkar, one of India's youngest music explores a new place in India to discover "sounds" that capture the spirit of the place. Her quirky musicality, rustic style and daring to experiment with unusual and unconventional sounds and rhythms results in a sensational song and music video. This is what Music Television should be about, not dumb rich teens blowing their parent's money or celebrities going jack shit crazy.


Link: http://mtv.in.com/soundtrippin/videos/susegaado-full-song-episode-4-intel-mtv-sound-trippin-8575-1.html (As player fails to initialize sometimes)

Even though I was born and brought up in Bombay, my ethnicity is Goan. My family roots are in Loutolim, a small village in ancestral Goa. My aunt married into a full blooded Goan family. Our family deity is Ramnathi in Goa. When I was not living my usual life in Bombay, majority of my time was spent in Goa with my aunt and cousins. So I've always had a fond association with Goa. It is not just my ethnicity and heritage, but runs in my blood and veins. I'm proud of that heritage.

That is why "Susegaado" delights me so much. It captures everything that I know and love about Goa. I can't believe that someone was able to go out there and find these "sounds" that represent Goa. Sneha has done an incredible job. The melody is soulful, laid back and lilting that perfectly embodies the title "Susegaado". It is a Konkani word with Portuguese roots that represents the quiet, laid back and totally chilled out attitude in Goa. Life in Goa moves at a snail's pace so you can savor every blessed moment. After the hectic grind of Bombay, I always looked forward to being "Susegaado" in Goa. Goans are not lazy, they just have the right attitude in life - a calm outlook towards everything. I'd say the rest of the world needs an attitude adjustment and learn from the Goans.

The lush green landscape of Goa is dotted with tiny townships with quirky names like Paolim, Loutolim, Siolim, Cortolim, Curtorim, Talaulim, Benaulim and dozens other "lims". Each town has its own unique character. Not many people notice this precious little detail or gives it much thought. How marvelous of someone to pay attention to this little detail and somehow capture these small towns that often get lost in the Panaji, Ponda and Vasco? And of course the veritable destination Dona Paula.

Another totally unique aspect of Goa, which I have fallen in love with is the Latin influence. Goa was a Portuguese colony for the longest time. It was not until 1961 that India actually annexed Goa from the Portuguese. The Latin influence is what makes Goa such a unique holiday destination. You can still be in India, but once you enter Goa, you are transported to Rio De Janerio, New Orleans or the Spanish coastline. But unlike those places Goa is a lot more affordable and accessible. Like Rio and many other Latin townships Goa also celebrates Carnival in January. Portuguese conversion has left behind a huge Catholic population in Goa, higher than most other states. These Latin and Catholic influences are there everywhere in Goa - the Portuguese style architecture, the many beautiful little churches across the landscape, Catholic insignia in stores and neighborhoods, the salsa and bossa nova inspired music, the foods like Xacutti, Sorpotel and Bebinca, the Catholic bakeries, the Portuguese words in the language and so much more. The song captures this historic Latin and Catholic influence that gives Goa its character.

Finally Goa is a the holiday destination in India. Its affordability makes it the holiday destination for many people in the world. As part of the hippie trail, it continues to grow as a popular party destination. The western ghats are a world biodiversity hot spot. Goa's history of sustaining its natural beauty and ecosystem makes it a hit with green travelers. The tourist side of Goa is associated with fishermen, beaches and drinking. And drinking entails reverend references to the local hard liquor feni. And of course all that paints a delightful picture of lazy days laying on a beach under the palm tree sipping your coconut. The song represents this aspect as well and rightly so. After all what is Goa without its tourist nature.

I love the song so much that I was shocked to read some of the negativity and criticism people were throwing at it. My family in the states, in Mumbai and in Goa will most definitely love the song. I cannot not believe that some Goans are being so childish and whiny about the song. The points of contention are the use of Catholic names in the song, the portrayal of the Catholic influences, the depiction of the tourist stereotypes and all the usual immature whining. It is heartbreaking to see people complaining and sowing discontent instead of the vibrant joy and cultural identity the song is supposed to evoke. I've been trying to understand why people are so bitter and negative towards something positive, and have come up with three key reasons why some Indians simply cannot be happy.

1) A blind rejection of all things colonial: There is a very small but increasingly influential and vocal population in India that is obsessively nationalist that wants to reject and discard everything colonial. I think it is the result of being a young nation, still growing, still on the way to true enduring maturity. The colonial rule represents everything that is wrong and evil in this world. It evokes imagery of shackles, slavery and subordination. People view it as an era where we lost our freedom, dignity, society and culture. There is a growing movement to erase everything colonial from our lives. You see that with the name of Bombay changing to Mumbai, the renaming of a Gothic landmark Victoria Terminus to a completely anomalous name like Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus. Anything remotely modern or western influences is perceived as a rejection of being Indian to embrace something foreign. It is severely frowned upon. There was a time Goa was immune to such sentiments and embraced the Portuguese influences with pride. I remember my uncle talking fondly of village wedding feasts a uniquely Latin influenced Goan tradition with a lot of pride in their adopted culture. But now with growing Maharashtrian influence, especially the likes of Shiv Sena even the susegaado Goans are succumbing to these sentiments.

What the hard core nationalists often fail to realize is that colonization had positive influences as well. Our education system, the abolition of social evils like sati and caste system were due to colonial missionaries. The railway network, the highway system, the core of our infrastructure originated with our colonial rulers. They did leave back some good.

We are Hindus, and our ancestors had to flee Catholic persecution. Our kuldevta Ramnathi had to be moved from Salcette to its current location to prevent destruction at the hands of the Portuguese. The Portuguese tried to stamp out my language Konkani. We know that colonialists were often unfair and cruel. Yet we harbor no ill will or hatred. They did add something beautiful to Goa that we appreciate. I was taught to study history, understand historic change over time, learn from it and embrace the good in it. As a child I not only learned our original Konkani but happily learned the Portuguese influenced Goan dialect with its unique enunciations, pronunciations, words, tone and speed. While we worshiped at Ramnathi and made special offerings, we also visited St. Francis Xavier church in Old Goa and awed over its architecture and history. As a child I loved Portuguese Goa because the buildings, places, styles were so unlike anything else in India. I think we ought to embrace the Portuguese stamp on our culture rather than try and eradicate it.

2) The majority wants to be the center of attention: Any immigrant to the United States will tell you, one of the most difficult and irking thing to deal with is the white America insisting on a sociocultural identity of a "white" in America. Whenever a minority population influences the sociocultural flavor of United States, whenever a minority is given status and recognition the white American population complains about being sidelined or ignored. Whenever a place starts to gain an Hispanic, Arabic or Asian flavor white America makes insists on pointing out that they are still the majority. When you point out that the America of the future might be bilingual with Spanish, they insist on the white English United States. When you point out that the religious diversity of America is growing, they insist on the notion of white Christian United States. Focus on any minority the Hispanics, the homosexuals, the blacks, the Indians, the Asians, the Native Americans - white America is jumping up and down "me, me, me, me, 80% of the people is me, me, me, please see me, me, me, talk about me, me, me, this country is about, me, me, me"

Hindu Goans suffer from this same white American syndrome. We Hindus have a tremendous majority in the rest of the United States. Our dominance as religion and society often sidelines the other ethnic minorities in the country. Even though Goa has roughly a 25% Catholic population, it is one of the few states where an ethnic minority has made such an indelible and distinct stamp on society and culture. So influential is the Catholic minority in Goa that movies on Goa center around them, tourism in Goa centers around them, it is their food, their culture, their language, their lifestyle that evokes attention and curiosity.

This is abrasive to the Hindus who are the majority with over 60% of the population. The rest of India is about Hindu history and culture, our language, our religion, our food, our lifestyle, our traditions that the thought of a minority getting attention makes us jealous. When Goa is portrayed as Gonsalves, Da Cunha, Da Costa, Almeida, Miranda, Hindus suffer the same insecurity that Richard, Paul and Mark do in front of Ricardo, Paulo and Marco. The Hindu Goan is always vying for attention - trying to tell the tourists, the historians, the music video makers that they are there, they were there first, that they are the majority and they want to be recognized. How dare a minority ever gain equitable status in a democratic country?

As a child, I never developed the obsession with my religion. I never found the need to tote my majority status or the superiority of being a Brahmin. Other people in my community did, but my silly childhood naivety never understood it. I really liked the Gonsalves, Da Cunha, Da Costa, Almeida, Mirandas etc. of Goa. It was so unique, so different. In a sense I was sick of temples and amchi gali food. I relished the idea of churches being important and Catholic inspired food and culture.

Now as an immigrant in a foreign country, I empathize with the need for minorities to gain recognition and have their own input and stamp in the culture. I maybe a minority, but I'm equally American as the next person. My cultural history and heritage brings something unique to America. Recognizing my roots and influence does not diminish American culture but adds to it. Just because they are the majority White America does not own the nation and is not entitled to get front page all the time. So there is no way I'm going to insist that Hindu Goa get special attention or try to diminish the recognition Catholicism and Catholic culture gets in Goa.

3) Stereotype aversion: This is not an Indian problem, but a global problem. Stereotypes have developed a very ugly, unsavory and negative connotation. Yes, sweeping generalizations are often false. But stereotypes serve as a way to simplify something that is too complex or diverse to digest. Not all stereotypes are negative. Many are positive and capture the salient features of a population. New York, Bombay are associated with hustle and bustle, crowds and urbane views. Switzerland is known to be green and peaceful, Paris and Venice are known to be beautiful and romantic. These are all positive stereotypes. Sometimes it is neutral at best. Italians and Pasta, Japanese and anime. Mexico with chiles, India with curries. The only ones we really need to worry about is the negative ones - all Mexicans are illegal immigrants, all Italians are mobsters etc.

Here in Wisconsin, we are called America's dairyland. The state is personified by dairy farmers. People in the USA view the state as full of simple minded hicks and farmers who are all about beer, brats and cheese. The term cheesehead was even coined to be disparaging of Wisconsin which produced copious amounts of cheese. Wisconsin is more than farmers, beer, brats and cheese. It houses one of America's top universities, is the pioneer in medical research and has a highly educated and intelligent population. There are huge urban areas with a lot of high tech and financial industries. The cuisine here is a diverse melting point. For a tiny state you can have a culinary journey through Europe and the world. But we are not offended with the stereotypes - we embrace it. We Wisconsites proudly wear our cheesehead hats taking pride in our cheese. We don't mind being known for beer, brats and cheese - it is the definition of a good time and our gift to the world. Wisconsin is also known for drinking and partying. But so proud are we of our cultural stereotypes that we embraced it with the whole Sconnie movement.

So should it be for Goa. Our Goan stereotypes are positive. Beaches, fishing, chilling and partying - you cannot go wrong with that imagery. Of course there is a lot more to Goa than that. There is a diverse population engaged in diverse occupations. Only someone dumb as a door knob would think that everyone in Goa lives in a fishing village, catches fish for a living and drinks themselves into a stupor to sleep every night. People know that stereotypes are wrong and places are diverse. That is implicit knowledge. And if people don't understand that, don't bother with them, even God didn't care to bless them with intelligence. Embrace the stereotypes. It is what makes Goa beautiful and unique. It is Goa's gift to the world. The world is blessed by our laid back lifestyles, our pristine beaches and our fondness for strong alcohol. Rather than complaining about it like some whiny ass child, we should make giant Feni hats and take pride in being "Fly like a Goan". Your home is Paradise, you should be happy and proud about it - not become a miserable wanker over it.

But now that we are done, let me end on a positive note. Here is another composition by Shenha Khanwalkar from Sound Trippin. This song captures the cultural notes of Yellapur in Northern Karnataka - a unique rural culture that is a confluence of many cultures. Yellapur is home to the Siddhis who are actually an African tribe that has immigrated to India and made the forests here as their home.


Link: http://mtv.in.com/soundtrippin/videos/yere-full-song-episode-3-intel-mtv-sound-trippin-8359-1.html (As player fails to initialize sometimes)

Damn! I love this style of making music. I'm in love with these songs and the idea behind them. Sneha Khanwalkar - marry me. Three things on my bucket list (if God willing) are road tripping the Old Grand Trunk Road, Historic Route 66 and rediscovering the old Silk Route. We could go on a road trip together. I'll be the driver and the history dork who rambles about people, places and events long lost in the sands of time. You can be the passenger and the cool contemporary composer who turns that dorkiness into sweet music.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Guranteed Happiness

Music is truly magical. They say it has amazing healing powers. It is supposed to relieve stress, ease pain, calms the nerves and some claim it even boosts the immune system. Nurseries play music to soothe children. Hospitals claim that music helps their patients. Cognitive and reasoning abilities are also enhanced by music. Many autistic children or elders with Alzheimer's rely on music to learn and function in society.

Now I'm not absolutely sure about the healing power of music, but I like to believe in it. To me music is a prescription for better life. It has the ability to magically transform my moods and put me in an upbeat optimistic state of mind. No matter how depressing my day has been, how miserable my day has been - these tunes lift me up to the top of the world. It is my prescription for instant and guaranteed happiness. The following play list will have me giggling gleefully like a little child.

Duck Sauce - Barbra Streisand

Currently this is my favorite song to blast in the car. One blast of this on a dreary morning drive and the Monday blues are chased away. Forget Monday blues, I'm ecstatic and set for the week. This song is a total earworm. The hypnotic "ooohooohooohooooh" of the chorus crawls inside your eardrums and makes itself at home in there. It is the most awesome thing ever. Moreover, how can you ever go wrong when you sample Boney M and loop it through your song. You are transported to happier times in the seventies when disco was not dead and music was groovy like this. What more does one need in life? A Barbravention fixes everything.

Glee Cast - Marry You

The song is originally by Bruno Mars. However, I cannot stand his saccharine laden screechy voice. Bruno Mars might as well catch that grenade and overdose on that morphine and get washed away in the rain for all I care. But the Glee cast version, now that is something different altogether. They take this Bruno Mars song and transform it into delightful frothy fun. The musical arrangement is lighter, poppy and upbeat. The vocal ensemble is fresh, energetic and clean sounding that gives the song a vibrant youthful feel. I'm not a sucker for romance or marriage like some people, but a whirl of this song makes me smile, tap my feet and feel as if I should elope to Vegas and marry the next person I meet.

Ace of Base - Life is a Flower

It is a great travesty that Ace of Base is often unrecognized and unappreciated in the United States. Ace of Base is the quintessential Europop band and what music should be. My firm belief is that the world will be a better place if we replace the garbage on radio these days with good old fashioned Ace of Base. First and foremost the song has that wonderfully upbeat electronic rhythms of Europp and classic Ace of Base that we love. But to add it to it, the song has some inspiring lyrics that give you a much needed pep talk."Life is a flower, the most precious thing you have. Carry on smiling, and the world will smile with you" Even your mom couldn't give better advice. 

Sound of Music (Julie Andrews) - My Favorite Things

No matter how old we get, there is a little child inside all of us. Nothing brings ushers in happiness more than innocent and heartwarming childhood memories. Everyone has delightful fond memories of Sound of Music and tunelessly singing along to the songs. I've watched the movie dozens of times and never get tired of it. Till today I catch myself singing and whistling this tune. It is just one of those truly magical musical pieces that will forever be a classic. Every time I listen to this song, I'm instantaneously transformed to a little child hugging my blanket daydreaming about the wonderful Maria tucking me to bed and singing me songs of my favorite things.

Journey - Don't Stop Believing

A few mysterious cheap shots of whatever that thing was your friend bought. Sticky tables and seedy ambiance of a dimly lit karaoke bar. The blissful joy of belting out God awful sounding karaoke that should probably be classified as acoustic torture by the feds. Truly believing that you can do anything and everything simply because you keep screaming "Don't Stop Believing!". That giddy drunk hysterical euphoria is priceless. Who has not let their hair down and belted out their own personal head banging rendition of this Journey classic. This is what good music ought to be like. This is the real stuff. Thats the magic of this song. You can be completely sober, dressed in your prim and proper uptight best, diligently engrossed in the daily grind - but a few notes of this song can get you happily drunk on life in an instant and put you in that serene feeling of believing whatever you want to.

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam - Dholi Taaro Dhol Baaje

This song totally brings out the half Good Jew (Gujju) in me. Anyone who is a true blooded Bombayite knows how to really party. Discotheques, Raves, Gay dance bars they all are good, but they have nothing on Navratri (a festival celebrating Goddess Durga). If you really want to dance the night away and have a fabulously awesome time, then you have to enjoy the festivities at Navratri by playing Dandiya raas. Raas is a traditional folk dance form Vrindavan in Gujarat (where my half Good Jew comes from). The roots go back to Lord Krishna's youth in Vrindavan. Dandiya raas a raas form using two decorative sticks (representing swords) is the festival dance of navratri. It originated as a devotional dance, but over the times has transformed into a socio-cultural dance event of Navratri. For nine nights you go to a huge arena or hall and dance dandiya all night. Once you get used to it, dandiya is an energetic, faced paced, high octane dance, danced in groups with elaborate circular patterns and movements. You break a sweat and get a vigorous but fun workout if you lose yourself in the dance. Anyway, coming back to the song - although more of a garba (another raas folk dance) song the beats are totally ideal for dandiya as well - and transport me to a night out with friends playing dandiya.

Remo Fernandez - Ya Ya Maya Ya

If Dholi Taaro appeals to my Good Jew, then Ya Ya Maya Ya appeals to my other half - a Goan Konkani. Ya Ya Maya Ya is a very old old Konkani folk song, and I honestly don't know who first sang the song. As far as I know it has been sung at Goan festivities for generations. My first memories of the song are a school trip to Goa and the music belted out in the bus. Listening to the song means a journey down memory lane to summer vacation as a child. Summers meant a trip to Goa and visiting relatives. What makes me happy about the song is that it evokes fond memories. Goa is a tropical paradise, truly the most beautiful place I have ever known. A lush green state with quirky named villages, the miles and miles of beaches each with their distinct character, the ancient Portuguese architecture, the fresh fish markets, the bakeries and the distinct Latin/Catholic influences in society and culture. I'm one of those people whose hometown is in paradise, and that definitely is a reason to be ecstatic about.

ABBA - Dancing Queen

Abba is the greatest band in the world. Period! Abba is perhaps my favorite band of all times and I have no qualms admitting that I'm a sucker for old school disco. How can anyone not love Abba? I'm not ashamed that Abba is from my parent's generation, to me they are timeless. They had great foot tapping beats, lovely ear pleasing music, melodious vocals and two pretty eye candy girls. They were perfect. In fact if there is a God, then God's gift to man is not the Bible, the Quran or the Gita - it has to be Abba. My version of Genesis goes like this "Then God made man and sang unto him in a fabulously gay choreographed routine - don't go wasting your emotions, lay all your love on me". Dancing Queen is just one of those melodious songs that makes me want to dance and be happy. It makes me grateful that there is a God and he gave us music, disco, Sweden, meatballs, Ikea and Abba. 

Dirty Dancing - Time of My Life

I might shy away from the notions of love and romance, but the magical property of music is that every now and then it can reel in even the most heartless soulless beasts and make their heart skip a beat. Time of my Life from the movie Dirty Dancing is just one of those songs. The movie is a simple boy meets girl story of summer romance, but presented in such a way that it warms your heart and sticks with you in a timeless sort of way. Listening to the song, even I can't help but smile. It makes me want to dance as well and evokes that girly notion of going on a vacation and snaring myself a handsome hunk. It is this power of music of giving us wishful dreams and the notion that it will come true that gives it the ability of bestowing instant happiness. 

Nazia Hassan - Disco Deewane

As you can clearly see by now, I am a total sucker for disco. I simply don't get why some people reject or abhor disco. To me it is the happiest music there can ever be. In the early eighties the Indian subcontinent also contracted disco fever and created their own brand of desi influenced disco. Pioneering the movement was British Indian composer Biddu who discovered the teenage talents of Nazia and Zoheb Hassan. While Nazia's first claim to fame was the Hindi movie hit "Aap Jaisa Koi", she was one of the first subcontinental playback singer to get signed on by EMI for an album. Disco Deewane was that first album that was a hit in India, Pakistan as well as Latin America, Russia and West Indies. Disco Deewane invokes happiness because it evokes an era gone by of some really enjoyable, boogie worthy desi disco - and the unique voice and incredible talent that Nazia Hassan had. Rather than mourn her untimely death, it is the perfect beat to merrily celebrate the heyday of desi disco.

Of course this list is incomplete, there are literally dozens more songs that guarantee happiness. I probably could fill my i-pod with happy music that brings me joy through memory and melody. You just have to find the right beats that get your groove back and then you will never ever be unhappy in your life again. Music does have that superpower.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Sacred Code

I feel sorry for Prince Harry. He is just a single young man who wants to have some adult fun. So what if he is a Prince? Beneath all that he is just your average hot blooded Joe. Who hasn't done thing things that are embarrassing? Who hasn't had a wild night of partying and regretted the next morning? And if you are in Las Vegas it gets even crazier. Casinos, Night Shows, Clubs, Parties, Strippers, the sin city has everything. Every night the city witnesses drunken debauchery and raunchy partying. There is always a bachelor/bachelorette party, a road trip, a boys/girls night out that goes well beyond crazy.

But what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. It is the sacred code. It is not just about sin city. There is just an unwritten code about socializing. You don't kiss and tell. You simply don't do it. Not only is it uncool, but it is damn unethical as well. Whether it is with friends or strangers you hookup with, there is an unwritten expectation of discretion and privacy. That everyone will indulge in good harmless fun to the extent of their pleasing. No one will go to rat anyone out, embarrass anyone, share secrets, release embarrassing images or violate privacy in anyway - unless there was something criminal or non-consensual was taking place.

As a Prince and someone in constant media attention, Harry messed up. He acted with indiscretion. However, his big mistake is not partying or playing a game of strip pool - but hanging with the wrong crowd and not being discrete about who he invited to his after party. As a celebrity and public figure he probably learned an embarrassing lesson and will be more careful about the people he lets loose with. But a young man should have the freedom to have fun. It is unfortunate that celebrities and public figures are held to such unfair and microscopic scrutiny.

It is nice to see that people are standing up for Prince Harry though and telling the gossip mongers to lay off. He didn't do anything harmful or criminal. Yes it is probably embarrassing to the royal family, but it is about time we let them be human beings. No one knows about the wild night Joe Schmo down the street had with the girls he picked up - so should it be with Harry. In fact shame on the girls who violated the sacred code for their fifteen minutes of fame. Shame on the girls who are selling images, seeking media attention and spilling embarrassing details about Harry's weekend in Vegas. Shame on the people who think it is ok to violate privacy and embarrass people for a few quick bucks.

What I am surprised at is why no one has brought up what would happen if the tables were reversed. How would the girls like it if some guy (or Harry) they partied with started posting their naked pictures all over the internet? What if some guy (or Harry) was going to the media and spewing out dirty details on all the girls he got naked or banged in Vegas? There would have been a witch hunt and huge backlash in the media. The images would be deemed pornographic exploitative. There would be a hue and cry about being disrespectful to women. There would be a good dozen lawsuits over violations of privacy and claims of all sorts of mental trauma inflicted. Our society has double standards. Harry's picture gets leaked. He is not a victim of privacy violation but it is front page news of the Prince gone wild. But if Harry is the one leaking pictures, it would be exploitation and privacy violation.

Let us stop the double standards and call out the people violate the code. People who do that should be ashamed.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Machine

Yesterday we were strangers unknown to each other
Yesterday we met and our paths merged as one
Yesterday we lost our souls the world will never be the same
Today you know me more than anyone ever will
Today you leave me forever at a crossroad
Today you will make me lose myself for you
Tomorrow you won't know me, I'll forever be unknown to you
Tomorrow you won't see me, miles away from you
Tomorrow you will lose me and search for eternity
I am now but a machine of perpetual motion
There is no energy left to spent, no fuel to burn
Yet the cogs and gears seem to ceaselessly turn
Vacillating between two extremes of eternal conundrum

Today I shall love you like never before
Today I shall touch the sky for you
Today I shall lay down my life for you
Tomorrow I shall loathe you like never before
Tomorrow I shall condemn you to hell
Tomorrow I shall kill to be away from you
Day After, I don't know how I shall feel
Day After, I might love, I might hate, I might be ambivalent
Day After, I might care, I might be apathetic, I might feel everything at once
I am now but a machine of perpetual motion
There is no energy left to spent, no fuel to burn
Yet the cogs and gears seem to ceaselessly turn
Vacillating between two extremes of eternal conundrum

A comet lies forever trapped inside its orbit
A comet shall never explore the universe
A comet does not really have its place
Doomed to come closer and closer only to part
Doomed to go further and further to revolve back in
Doomed to a perpetuity of uncertain faith
Fate may lead to collision and destruction
Fate may lead to loss and anonymity
Fate may lead never to tranquility and bliss
I am now but a machine of perpetual motion
There is no energy left to spent, no fuel to burn
Yet the cogs and gears seem to ceaselessly turn
Vacillating between two extremes of eternal conundrum

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Just because I'm a liberal

Just because I'm a liberal does not mean you bombard my inbox with dozens of messages about the same thing over and over and over again. Yes, I know that I have the option to unsubscribe from your list and cease receiving this emails. The thing is that I actually do want to receive the emails. I would like to know what is going on politically, socially and economically. I would like to know who is running what race, what the latest news is and what people really stand for.  I've signed up for only one or two updates, but it seems that there are dozens of different organizations that email me. I'm perfectly fine with that. My background in marketing makes me tolerant of the fact that organizations share lists and mutually promote each others interests.

There is a limit to it though. There are marvelous things known as planning, logistics and organization. If a dozen different people email me the same thing, ask for the same repeated donation the impact is diluted and I'm most likely to ignore and delete the emails. Streamline your lists, know who is emailing what to whom when. Do it practically and efficiently. If there is a rally this weekend, one email is sufficient. If you are fund raising, know that I cannot and will not donate every day, every week. In 2008 I was more than impressed with the way Barack Obama harnessed the power of social media to propel himself to the White House. It was smart, intelligent and one of the finest uses of social media marketing I have seen. Unfortunately now, the entire Democratic campaign machine is equivalent to the crappy penis enhancement emails that flood inboxes. Progressive politics is being promoted like it is some cheap knock of Viagra pill that will solve the penile erection problem of the nation magically. I'm sure it is the same with the conservative end as well. Stop! It is fucking annoying and sickening.

Just because I'm a liberal does not mean I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off because Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan as his running mate. I'm not petrified that the sky is going to fall on our heads and the world as we know it will come to an end. Sometimes I seriously wonder if the whole world is an ostrich with its head buried in its sand. Right from the get go I knew the Republican Primary was going to be pointless. It was clear as daylight that Mitt Romney would get the ticket. He seriously was the best of the lot. All that back and forth over Michelle Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum was just smoke and mirrors. I can't believe the media even wasted its time speculating who would get ahead and what cards they would play. A brainless zombie or an alien visitor from Mars could have predicted that. And I don't know why liberals are so sickened by Mitt Romney still. Yes, he is a conservative, he is good for the rich people and will be a burden on the middle class. I'm not voting for him. But even as a liberal we have to admit he was a good pick from the other side. We also should be commending conservatives for not falling for ultra right wing hate mongering nut jobs and picked a candidate who was more serious about fixing the economy. Kudos to them for getting their priorities right.

When Mitt was picking his running mate, I had a 90% gut instinct that it would be Paul Ryan. Again, I don't get why it was so secretive and surprising. It is simple elementary deal political folks. Paul Ryan is a rising young conservative politician. He got a lot of popular attention with his budget proposal which made him a darling amidst fiscal conservatives and small government advocates. He hails from Wisconsin, a swing state that has been in the center of political crosshairs for a long time since Scott Walker's election. Not to mention an energized swing state where the political momentum shifted in favor of the Republicans when Scott Walker survived the recall election. Mitt is often perceived as soft and a flipflop conservative who appeals only to the educated upper class fiscal conservatives. He needed a running mate who appeals to the more hardcore conservative factions of his party and the blue collar workers. No one fits the bill better than Paul Ryan, a Republican from Janesville a very low income blue collar town in Wisconsin. Let us not forget that Paul Ryan is young and extremely good looking which can appeal to youth and women, two groups that tend to lean democratic. It might seem irrelevant, shallow and frivolous, but those factors count as well. And before we give Mitt Romney bullshit over picking Paul Ryan and tear him down - let us pause for a moment - whom would we he rather pick - Sarah Palin? Other than Marco Rubio all the other allegedly considered candidates were worthless nutjobs like Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, Bobby Jindal etc. Rubio could have brought in the vital Latino vote, but lets see how it plays out for Mitt. I'm glad he chose wisely because even if my choice does not win - I know the White House won't have nut jobs. Paul Ryan maybe uber conservative and religious too, but I have never heard him being hateful and spiteful like Santorum, Perry or Bachmann.

Just because I'm a liberal does not mean I'm willing to twist philosophy to suit my needs. I'll admit that Ayn Rand is a fucking bitch who deserved a tight slap across the face. When I see her in hell, I'm gonna give her two on each cheek.  I cannot stand her philosophy and critique of altruism. However, Ayn Rand's philosophy was not all about selfishness. When you quote her words on "virtue of selfishness" and leave it at that, you do some selective editing and don't present the whole picture. According to Rand, selfishness in itself is not a virtue, but what she means is that there is some degree of virtue in selfishness. She states "each individual should exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself". While she encourages a degree of selfishness in encouraging the person to think for themselves, nowhere does she advocate using, abusing or disenfranchising other people to get there. She does not discredit altruism in its entirety but states that altruism at the expense of ones own self is not pragmatic or rational.

Think about it this way. You have a moderate amount of wealth. You are at the cusp of poverty and middle class. Pure altruism would have you give a share of your wealth to those less fortunate. That means that you and everyone else remain poor. However, if you were a rational egoist, you would keep it to yourself until you actually have enough to give without making yourself poor. Similarly, taking care of the elderly, the homeless, the poor, the minority are all noble and altruistic thoughts of compassion. But that does not mean that it is always pragmatic and rational. A nation could overburden itself and prevent its prosperity if it sacrifices rational growth interests for sentimental compassionate interests. Rational egoism does not ask you to be evil or selfish, but to be practical in how you distribute wealth. You also have to consider the environment Ayn Rand came from. She came from the Soviet Union where communism had failed into a corrupt structure leading to widespread poverty and no capable individual had opportunities to rise on the basis of their own merit - both the capable, incapable, hardworking and lazy suffered equally in poverty. Now I disagree with Ayn Rand and believe there is value in compassionate interests. I feel that moral fiber, charity also do invest in society and have long term economic benefits. But I'll have a proper epistemological argument about Ayn Rand's philosophy without misrepresenting her as evil or purely selfish. I can prove her wrong by pointing flaws in her logic, not in her character or person. Same goes for Paul Ryan.

Just because I'm a liberal does not mean I'm going to gladly nod my head at everything liberal politicians or organizations say about politics. I'm not a sheep to follow anyone blindly. To be honest I think they preach to the choir and bleat the same thing repeatedly without making a good solid case for what they are saying. Although to be fair the conservatives do the same thing. Just a bunch of political cult leaders whipping their brainwashed masses into a frenzy. There is no discussion or debate on what is good for the country, but constant accusations that the other person is bad for the country. If the other person is so wrong, what is your alternative. In that sense I give Barack Obama credit on the fact that he always says "Here is what we would do" "This is what my plan would entail". He does try to hit the basic points on why is plan is more efficient or better for the country. That is one thing that I like about him. My real beef with him is consistency, follow through and delivering on those claims.

I honestly cannot say that about most other liberal politicians or leaders. I hear all the cra-cra on why Paul Ryan has a horrible plan to turn medicare into vouchers but no discussion on how we can save medicare as we know it and why it is necessary not just morally but in a pragmatic economic sense. I hear all the cra-cra on why Union Busting is a terrible thing but no discussion on why we need unions, why it is an economic necessity and how we can prevent unions from holding economic growth hostage. The thing is that me and other liberals (some not all) know these things. I know what better alternatives are there to Paul Ryan's budget, I know why taxing the 1% is not unfair, I know why Union busting is bad, I know why the voter ID bills will disenfranchise voters. Most of the people you bleat it to know it or are sheep who will believe anything you spoon feed them. What we need is bipartisinal discussion that reaches across the aisle. Liberals are failing to reach even in the rationalists and moderates in between. They are doing the exact same thing they accuse conservatives of doing. The thing is to explain people bitter towards unions why they are still good, tell those who are wary of voter fraud on why they need not be so afraid, tell those who fear immigrants why immigrants are also good for the economy.  In a heated debate over Kathy Nickolaus vote counting error, a conservative whom I had debated with on FB sent me a message to thank me for being polite and making good points and said he had been banned from the group. Anytime a conservative posts their views on a liberal group they are banned and prohibited from expressing their views. Conservatives are Americans too. What is the point if you don't care enough to reach out and partner with half of America? They are sensible people who can be convinced as well. We are all Americans and we need to stop letting politicians and organizations from influencing us and discuss amidst ourselves.

Just because I'm a liberal does not mean I'm some jobless hippie wearing some commie shirt. This is to all the conservatives who make sweeping generalizations about people who vote for Obama or support movements like Occupy Wall Street. It always infuriates me to see the baseless jokes about liberals being made everywhere. I'm actually  a business major who will be getting MBA very soon, Thank You very much. I probably have studied a lot more about business and economics than people on both sides who discuss these subjects like they know shit. I'm also a big believer in the American dream. When I was born in India; my parents, my grandparents, my aunt, my aunt's friend and our cat all lived together in a one bedroom apartment. I didn't have many toys and played with magnets and wires which were inventory in my grandfather's small business. Today in the United States we own a five bedroom house and three cars. We have a nice upper middle class lifestyle with big screen TVs, DVDs video games etc. We did not get here overnight. We worked hard for it. My parents did not have fancy high end jobs. They worked at Wal-Mart and JC Penney. We made it on low income retail salaries. My family could not afford college, and I'm not brilliant enough for a scholarship. I worked full time and paid my way through school and yes accumulated student loan debt as well. We made it because of that word most liberals tend to dread austerity.

But we were favored by luck and some opportunities as well. Just because we made it does not mean that everyone else has the equal and fair opportunity as well. It also does not mean that the system is unbroken and needs no fixing. Throughout our struggle in life to get to a better place we have seen unfairness, disparity and lack of opportunity. We have seen many problems that need fixing and many solutions that can be implemented. We have seen unethical unchecked business practices, unfair exploitation of labor, and many numerous flaws of the free market system. We have seen how education, opportunities and substantial investment in poor and disenfranchised communities can actually pay rich long term dividends to society. The results are not instantaneous, but over time society and economy can thrive so much more. I'm definitely not like the liberal stereotypes many conservatives seem to hate. In fact my family is more like Joe the Plumbers, a bunch of hard working middle class people who worked to get where they are and are worried if the government might take it away. Actually, to us even Joe the Plumber is like a billionaire. How dare he cry about having to lose a little of his $250,000? The only difference is that unlike Joe the Plumber we are not uneducated, loud mouthed, stupid dicks who shoot off illogical gibberish - we are well educated and can see both sides of the debate.

Just because I'm a liberal does not mean I'm some far left loon really. In a sense I am that jobless hippie wearing the commie shirt. I am also Joe the Plumber, an average middle class Joe. In a sense I am also that young wall street banker as well. I'm also the farmer, the peasant, the local kid who loves our mom and pop stores. I'm a tech savvy, computer oriented person into e-commerce and e-business. I'm also a hermit who loves nature and preserving a world of old. I'm something moderate, I'm in between. I'm just an American who wants what is right for America. I follow a liberal ethical code and vote liberal because that is what I believe as an American to be right for America's bright future. But I'm also open to debate and willing to explore options and admit that I'm human and sometimes I make mistakes too.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Free Pussy Riot

 Today's blog post is about "Freedom of Speech". Amnesty international has declared today August 17th "Pussy Riot Global Day". For those who are unaware "Pussy Riot" is the most recent face of freedom of speech against corruption and free speech suppression. Basically, "Pussy Riot" is a feminist Russian Punk Rock band. They are loud, provocative, in your face and often stage controversial impromptu performances. In a country where free speech does not come easily, they break the rules frequently, dangerously and often will push the envelope. They have been strong critics of Vladimir Putin and believe his reelection was rigged.

It all began on February 21st 2012 when four members of the group did an impulsive and quite foolish act of protest. They went to a Russian Orthodox church in Moscow and performed the song "Virgin Mary, put Putin away". While not explicit their song had lyrics inappropriate for church and called on Virgin Mary to become a feminist and do something about Putin. Now I will admit that they pushed the limits to far. The protest was offensive and the mock prayer hurt the sentiments of the Orthodox Russians. Of course they deserved some sort of punishment or censure. Perhaps a nominal fine and community service.

Unfortunately, ever since their arrest in March their treatment of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alekhina at the hands of Russian authorities has been appalling. They have been in prison since then awaiting trial and have been mistreated and ridiculed. They were accused of hooliganism and spreading religious hatred and potentially faced seven years in prison. There was international protest and calls for clemency. After a grueling trial the courts chose to ignore global concerns and declared Pussy Riot guilty and sentenced them to two years in prison.

I don't care much for their music, nor do I think performing in the church was a wise thing to do. But I am a huge believer in freedom of speech. In this case a government is overreacting to public dissent. Instead of allowing the citizens to freely air their grievances and criticize the government, they have chosen to suppress and subdue the voices of the people. The ruling also sets a bad precedent that a religious place gets special preferential treatment. Staging a vulgar anti Obama performance at the mall will get you time - but as a misdemeanor and a chance for bail - not endless custody and two years prison. It is a matter of freedom of speech. 


Here is how you can show your support

http://www.amnestyusa.org/ - You can make a donation to free them

http://www.amnesty.org/ - The Amnesty International Page

http://freepussyriot.org/ - Learn more about the band, see videos and take part in local protests

http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/08/17/russia-band-members-conviction-blow-free-expression - Read more why this is a major setback to free speech

PS: On a side note I do wonder if the likes of Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev fighting against corruption in India will care to speak up for the rights of feminist punk rock girls - after all they are on the same side of the battle against a corrupt political system and power silencing people's voices. Perhaps India could do with their own pussy riot.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Olympic Spirit

The London Olympics concluded with a spectacular closing ceremony on Sunday, August 12th. Before the Olympic fever completely dissipates, I wanted to take time to mull on the Olympic Spirit that creates such a hue and cry today. Modern sports is embroiled in controversy, the Olympics even more so. Every year the scandals multiply exponentially and send the masses into an outrageous frenzy. Why my previous blog itself was dedicated to the drunker, stupider, hornier Olympics and I shook my head at some athletes. But was I right? Do we really follow an ancient, venerable and honorable tradition? Are the modern Olympics a social construct of model society, custom made by picking and choosing at the Greek Model? What does the Olympic spirit really mean? Why don't we dissect the Olympic Spirit - a la mode ancient Greece.

1) A gargantuan franchise

Competition sport getting to big?Wondering about the Olympics, Winter Olympics, the Parlympics etc. The Ancient Olympics was not a singular event. They were part of a larger sporting franchise known as the Panhellenic games.

These were
  • Olympic games hosted in Olympia
  • Pythian games hosted in Delphi
  • Nemean games hosted in Nemea
  • Isthimian games hosted in Corinth

2) Sponsored by Nike

Well you would not find the Nike Swoosh back in the day. Although some carvings of Nike do look like a big Swoosh. We are talking about the Greek Nike here - the Goddess of Victory. She is a winged goddess who comes from a pretty cool family. If she is Victory, her siblings are Strength, Force and Zeal. The ancient Olympics were all about victory. There was no "it is about the journey" or "the experience that counts" sympathetic crap for the non victors. It was purely and simply about winning (strength, force and zeal too). Of course the Greeks were quite honorable and had a lot of integrity, but victors were almost Gods. Being Gods, you bet they were swelling with pride, walking with panther like strides and acting like the world belonged to them. Usain Bolt would not be censured for cockiness but held on a pedestal as a God.

3) They did it for Kotinos

Speaking of victory, that brings us closer to the true Olympic spirit!

Here is a bit of a history lesson for you, about SPARTAAAAAAAAAAAA! And nothing really embodies the Olympic spirit like SPARTAAAAAAAAAAAA!

You might have always wondered why of an enormous nation only 300 men fought and died at the battle of Thermopylae.  Even though he crushed Leonidas and his 300, Xerxes was obviously very shaken. I mean what kind of nation really sends only 300 to defend it self, especially against a massive sea of Persians in a shark attack feeding frenzy. And considering he sweat so much to beat 300 Xerxes was worried. He asked the locals in Arcadia why so few fought there. To which they replied "Most men are competing in the Olympic games". Intrigued that this must be a pretty important event Xerxes was curious what sort of wealth and fancy trinkets the winners would be getting. In Persia they honor their winners with rich Persian carpets, Turkish delights, Baklava, and belly dancers in a lavish celebration you see. The Arcadians responded "With Kotinos (Olive Wreathes)". Hearing this one general Tigranes peed his pants exclaiming "what kind of men are these against whom you have brought us to fight? Men who do not compete for possessions, but for honor." (On a side note the other Panhellenic games gave equally delightful winnings like Laurel wreaths, wild celery and pine cones)

What can we say the Persians were a pretty persistent bunch to try attacking Greece again after what was handed out to them at Marathon the last time. Either way, not only were these ancient Greek men crazy enough to battle Persians in alarmingly low numbers that ensured certain death - they competed for honor.The other major prize of the games was vats of Olive oil which was used not only to give the athletes that sexy shine but also rub the grime away. They literally had Olive Oil baths. 

No medals, no pedestals, just Olive wreaths. Although ancient athletes did get significant amounts of money from their home state, it really depended on the regent and the home states economy. The interesting thing was that the ancient Olympics were not played for medals, not for the nation, not for the people back home - but for themselves and the honor of being a winning athlete. That is why sometimes foreigners, slaves, and women tried to compete - not so that they could take a medal home, get freedom - but because they would be fighting for victory and honor. Can you imagine telling USA and China to ignore the medal count, ignore the tally and focus solely on honor? Even the very honorable Chinese can't do it.

Although the Olive wreaths did make a slick joke on the poverty of Zeus. "Why, Zeus is poor, and I will clearly prove it to you. In the Olympic games, which he founded, and to which he convokes the whole of Greece every four years, why does he only crown the victorious athletes with wild olive? If he were rich he would give them gold." Apt for modern Greece too.

4) Not a sporting event but a religious festival

Secularism takes center stage in our modern Olympics. We try to put away religious sentiments for the Olympic games lest we be politically incorrect. After all this is a sporting event, not a religious festival. That is why the Muslim month of Ramadan was a sideline. The ancient Olympics were first and foremost a religious festival. Held by the massive statue of Zeus in Olympia (a wonder of the world in its time), the Olympic games were about honoring the Gods. Sporting events were merely a means of worship. In fact despite being so religious, we could learn a thing or to about secularism from the Greeks. This religious festival in its own ironic way is the epitome of secular sentiment. The Greeks were a diverse group with multiple cultures honoring various Gods. Some Gods held grudges against Zeus and each other. Some people held grudges against some or all Gods. But despite that the Greeks as people got along, the battle of the Gods was not for people. In fact the Greeks had a very honorable system that whenever they traveled they would go honor the local Gods. Which is why the poor Philistines were so humble and respected the One true God of Israel but were not sure why the Israeli's still insisted on slaughtering them and cutting of their foreskins. The ancient Olympics died away when Christianity was being forced on the Greco-Romans as the state religion.

5) Libations and Orgies

Although the Greek were pretty religious, their religion did not confine them in shackles of temperance or abstinence of any sort. When all was said and done they indulged, and boy did the indulge. Blessed by the Gods Bacchus and Aphrodite who would not get drunk on the fine Mediterranean wines and then proceed to bang every man and woman west of the Hellespont. Athletes were no exception. They didn't have the pressure of being role models or model citizens outside the games. In fact their competition, their athletic bodies, their prowess and their victory was role model enough for the young. It was only fair that they deserved their fair share of celebration. No athlete would be sent back to Sparta for being found drunk like a skunk doing unspeakable things with some local beauties. Any reporter, coach, or passerby who witnessed it did not text, tweet, or FB the scandal but gleefully joined in. I bet Ryan Lochte wonders why he was born a few thousand years too late. Then he would not have to blush and clarify his mom's faux pas, but would say "Fuck yeah I attend orgies every night".

6) The Olympic Truce

One of the most misunderstood concepts is the Olympic truce. Unlike the modern day truce which is all about peace and doves, the ancient truce was more pragmatic. It would be impossible to host the games without a truce. Many of the athletes were also soldiers. Secondly, the athletes traveling from far and abroad needed safe passage to the games. Although, their intentions may not be as idealistic as we want our dream world to be the actions of the Greeks was honorable. The Olympic games were a religious festival, and they dare not dishonor their Gods by breaking sworn truces.

By truce we really mean truce, the whole hog. All troops would withdraw and cease fire. Any occupied but not captured or claimed territory would be evacuated. The city states and war lords went as far as to send their diplomats to the games to negotiate post game politics and truce as well. Permanent peace never lasted very long, but the Greeks still did their very best. Not much can be said about us these days.

If today's nations were Greeks - US would withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan so the local athletes could travel freely and safely to the games. The Islamic leaders would declare an end to the Muslim agitation against the west, forgive the kafirs and send officials to negotiate peace to the Olympics. Actually even Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev would cease their political agitations focus on honoring the victors and athletes and the Gods instead.

7) Athletic nudity

Need I say more. Imagine the NBC ratings if the Olympics were really authentic. Although NBC might stick sponsor logos on the junks, the trunks and the racks as their form of censorship. Unfortunately, that would mean that women except for the equestrian events. To be honest I would have loved to see Zara Phillips race the four horse chariot. Maybe Pippa, Kate and Zara could compete against each other in the four horse chariot races. It would be not as fortunate for the slaves, even the freed ones are not allowed to Compete. There goes Dream Team USA. Even if we don't revert to all the old ways, USA might be really keen to enforce athletic nudity. It is the only way to ensure that their uniforms will be all American with nothing from India, China, Philippines, South America etc. Unless of course (illegal) immigrant labor is acceptable, who else will make cheap uniforms in a sweat shop.

On a serious note in Ancient Greece the  human body was something to be displayed and celebrated. It was not vulgar or dirty, but beautiful, dignified and showed off hard work and honor. Today the human body is something shameful and unacceptable. Something that should be covered up and not displayed. It is reduced to a cheap thrill of watching men in speedos and scantily clad beach volleyball chicks.

Despite some of their backward ways and tendency towards barbarism the ancient Greeks had something going. Their society, morals, way of life was completely different from ours. The Olympic spirit took on a whole new meaning. While some aspects of it maybe unpalatable truth be told - the ideals of secularism, democracy, religious freedom, libertarianism is somewhat lost in our modern world. Even in their indulgent and arrogant emphasis on victory - there is nobility an d honor.

And it makes you wonder - what is the Olympic spirit - what is the history behind the Olympic games. And to be completely honest - I think every person, every culture will find their own history of the spirit. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Citius, Altius, Fortius

In plain English, that would be "Faster, Higher, Stronger" three well known words that form the Olympic motto. The Olympic creed is even more profound and deep. It goes as such "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well." That is some pretty deep and meaningful stuff. The hallmark of the modern Olympic games has been the Olympic spirit. It is not easy to define but it embodies virtues such as sporting spirit, honor, integrity, honesty etc.

Unfortunately, sometimes the modern Olympics embody anything but that. "Drunker, stupider, hornier". Now those are three words that truly capture the modern Olympic spirit. From the beginning of the games and still going on Olympic athletes keep getting kicked out for outstanding accomplishments in being drunker, stupider, hornier. In the cases of some athletes we can add cockier to the mix.

First we have the racist tweets

Swiss footballer Michel Morganella called the South Koreans "bunch of Mongloids"

Greek Triple Jumper Voula Papachristiou said "So many Africans in Greece at least West Nile mosquitoes will eat homemade food"

Although even the finest Olympic athletes are no match for US fans who have to get the gold for racist, stupid and hopefully drunk tweets (because no sober person should be that dumb). The US gold always brings out the gold in our fans. When Gabby Douglas won the gymnastics individual all round gold - Twitter exploded with arguments on her hair. Now when US women's soccer team wins their third gold Twitter explodes with people congratulating the soccer girls for exacting revenge for Pearl Harbor. One American twitterer wrote "This is payback for USS Arizona, you Japs" (I hope their rage was not directed at Jewish American Princesses).

I'm a Hindu. Ever since the demolition of the Babri masjid in Ayodhya, I've been embarrassed that the members of my religion are a bunch of idiots who think modern Muslims are time travelers who fought for Babar when he destroyed a temple to built his mosque. Now I feel much better realizing that there are actually dozens of people out there who seriously believe the Japanese women's team bombed Pearl Harbor. The delicious irony is they trend #PearlHarbor and #Japs on August 9th - the anniversary of not the first but second atomic bomb we tossed into Nagasaki like a callous disposal of a candy wrapper. You would think two atomic bombs were enough for payback and our girls did not have to work so hard against time traveling Japanese bomber chicks.

Then we have all these Belgian athletes who get drunk. First cyclist Gijs Van Hoecke was sent back home for being being photographed appearing totally hammered. Then they had Fanny Leclusye also sent back home for crawling back into the village at 3:30 AM drunk as a skunk.

You also have St.Kitts and Nevis sprinter who got sent back home for disappearing three days for a really long conjugal visit with his wife. They should treat the Olympic village more like a prison system and organize chaperoned conjugal visits so that athletes don't go missing. Although if the games were about losing athletes then Cameroon gets gold, a whopping seven of them. They just lost seven athletes in London, almost the entire contingent.

Yet, the biggest and stupidest controversy has to be the disgraced badminton players who had to be kicked out for trying to throw a match. Any seasoned cheater knows that there are many finer ways of cheating. You take steroids, you take contraband substances, you stick something in your equipment, you master sneaky magician ninja cheat moves - all sorts of things - but two teams acting pathetic as they both desperately try to lose is the dumbest thing ever. They should consult a seasoned cricket player about match fixing. You fix the game so that one team wins and one team loses (someone has to lose in sports) but both teams get the necessary monetary rewards (business transactions are a win-win deal). Soccer players and NBA professionals could have offered ample advice on how to fake plays. Both sports require the highest level of acting chops.

Although, being an Indian my personal favorite has to be our gatecrasher Madhura. In a country of over a billion people, it just takes one. I just glanced her over. I think most people saw it as just and oddment of a person in red in a sea of mustard yellow Indians. But Indians are sharper than that and can catch a fly in a billion. They spotted her and immediately began to speculate who she was. A suicide bomber? A shy streaker? India may not have one Olympic gold, but in terms of Olympic memes Madhura really unearthed a gold medal mine with all the photoshops of her stopping by to say "hi".

Finally we have cockiness. Modesty, respect, humility, and sporting spirit take a backseat when it comes to the modern Olympics. When you are championship material like Usain Bolt, you can get away with a lot. Usain Bolt is undoubtedly one of the greatest Olympians ever. We are lucky to watch him and Michael Phelps accomplish their feats and set new world records for generations to come. It will be a long time before someone matches their magnificence. For all his decorations, Phelps still manages to remain a bit humble. But that is because Phelps is a shier introvert. The soccer team is not. They are a bunch of outgoing, outspoken girls who really had to speak up and break the conventions to become the athletes they are today. The road for a female athlete is not easy and you have to be over the edge to get somewhere. Unfortunately, that end up with them rubbing salt on wounds with their "Greatness has been found T-shirt".

And here is the final zinger, many people especially Americans seem to be alright with some of this behavior. What is wrong in expressing your opinion on Twitter? What gives if players want a good time after their performance? What is wrong in showing off how proud you are of you accomplishments? To be honest, I get this. I admire Hope Solo because she is a ballsy spirited fighter, a gorgeous woman who is a role model for young girls. Someone who tells teenage girls that playing the game does not make them less sexy or beautiful. I admire Usain Bolt too. I find his cockiness sexy. There is something charming about exuberant confidence, making claims and fulfilling them. I'm a proponent of freedom of speech too, and social media like twitter are the greatest tools free speech ever will have. It may not always be palatable, but thats free speech and we live with it. And there is nothing wrong with drinking or getting drunk. It is human nature to celebrate or wash away sorrows. After working so hard, athletes to deserve a break.

But all that is an individualistic perception of sports. A self centered, me my accomplishments, my glory, my opinions, my freedom, my happiness, my life, my choices kind of view. There is nothing wrong or immoral with it. Competitive sports will always have that attitude. Glory for the nation does come in, but the notion is my accomplishments will give my country glory. Unfortunately, all this does not fall in line with the Olympic spirit and creed. This is a collectivist culture. It is a cultural exchange between nations. It is about honor and dignity, the opportunity to do something meaningful and represent your homeland. A creed that you see shining in the eyes of smaller less fortunate nations as they walk in the parade of nations. They know they won't triumph, but they are here for the struggle and the journey. And when triumph takes precedence over the struggle and journey - you lose the Olympic spirit.

That lost spirit was shown in the ESPN article glorifying sex and partying in the Olympics. Only in the United States, the birth place of the Kardashians, Jersey shore and sex tapes will one of the most revered sporting events in the world be reduced to sex and partying. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with sex and partying at all. What the Olympians do in the Village is completely fine. Many spend half their time training and are out of touch with friends and family, it gets lonely, they are bound to look for companionship. They don't have time for long term commitments, they are still married to their sports so it becomes a matter of hookups and one night stands. Many are young, virile, kids who get their first taste of life away from family, they are bound to have fun. You also have to consider no one really gets athletes like another athletes. It is not surprising how much sex and partying takes place in the Olympics and how many condoms they go through.

What displays the desecration of the Olympic spirit is the utter disregard that the Olympic village is a melting pot of cultures. Sex before or outside of marriage is taboo for many cultures there. Some will give into temptation, but many will be abstinent dedicating their mind, body and soul to sport. Many athletes are committed family people who cannot think of betraying their spouses. Many athletes will maintain absolute focus, training hard trying desperately to get their country an elusive gold. You cannot respect the Olympic spirit if you cannot respect the diversity and culture of the entire Olympic village. You simply can't paint them all in one light. And truth be told - USA is the only country where athletes promote glorified sexual prowess. In most nations debauchery, being drunk in public, sex scandals, excessive partying are taboo and sports players are frequently censured or dropped from the teams for showing poor judgment. Most importantly, the sport is what is to be glorified, not what goes alongside it. If the sport is secondary to everything else - what is the point.

In my opinion as long as people like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James who play not for the game, but for the money and glory walk amidst the Olympians - the spirit of the Olympics will always be dwindling. I have scant respect for the egomaniac NBA stars. High school basketball is a more thrilling and honest sport. Thankfully, everything is not lost. The greatness of Olympics is not in the champions but in the underdogs. When it comes to the Olympics, the real hero is Eric Moussambani and not the guys who always come first. And every dog has its day. There is a whole army of unlikely and unsung heroes waiting to fulfill their Cinderella story. As long as they are there going faster, higher, stronger with their struggle - the Olympic remains triumphant.