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, 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.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Batman and Robin Hood

Where did that come from? I can understand the likes of Rush Limbaugh frothing at the mouth over Bane sounding like Bain Capital and calling it anti Mitt Romney. Tea Party conservatives are known to go loco over innocuous things. You can forgive them a little over disliking Batman because the movie does show some socialist themes which the Tea Party staunchly opposes. But why the heck is a liberal complaining that Batman is against the 99%? I don't understand how anyone can perceive the movie to be criticizing the Occupy Wall Street movement. Bane is a hardened and violent criminal who will stop at nothing to fulfill his objectives. The Occupy Wall Street movement is a peaceful movement. You will not see Occupy Wall Street protesters gunning down people, taking banks hostages or trying to blow up entire cities. David Sirota of Salon.com needs to watch the movie more closely. Or perhaps he is not into literature.

"It was the best of times, It was the worst of times"

Many literature geeks have caught on that the Dark Knight Rises is heavily inspired by Charles Dickens famed novel 'A Tale of Two Cities'. Even those who have not read the book may have read several articles and fan logs online cataloging the similarities. Actually both liberals and conservatives who draw black and white conclusions from the movie should attempt to understand Dickens better. 

As a child Dickens was forced to work in a factory. During that time he faced the oppression and abuse faced by the working class of the industrial age. That is why he has always been sympathetic to the oppressed poor. His books offer a glimpse into the life and struggles of the proletariat during the industrial era. Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby and David Copperfield keep finding the odds stacked against them and have to struggle to get their due in life. Bleak House, Tale of Two Cities, Hard Times all draw a sharp contrast between the lives of the privileged and the struggling working class. And who can forget dear old Ebenezeer Scrooge the bitter stingy miser whose spooky visits on Christmas eve transform him to a joyful charitable man?

But while Dickens had a lot of empathy for the underprivileged, there were limitations to how far he went in terms of social justice. While Dickens would have strongly advocated socialist concepts like welfare, equal opportunity, minimum and fair wage, labor rights, 8 hour workday, health benefits and a lot more he never supported laziness or entitlement. Oliver, Nicholas and David never expected to be handed anything on a platter. The biographical David Copperfield is a cheerful, optimistic, extremely hardworking youth who truly believes in working his way to success. Pip of Great Expectations illustrates the follies of easy wealth and lack of gratitude. Pip gets an unexpected inheritance and is suddenly catapulted into wealthy society, a society he has desperately dreamed off. But he ends up losing everything to gambling, alienates his loved ones, has his heart mangled and broken until he finally understands the importance of family and being grounded. 

A balance of the struggles of the labor and the danger of going to far is represented "A Tale of Two Cities". Marquis Evrémonde is a vile and loathsome character. He is a wealthy aristocrat who has no regard for human life. In one event he runs over a child with his carriage and leaves him for dead. On the other hand Charles Darnay his nephew is a man born into aristocracy who loathes the class distinction. He cannot bear the atrocities committed by the rich against the poor. Madame Defarge is a cruel revolutionary. Coming from the oppressed class, she blindly hates all aristocrats and will punish Charles for crimes his relatives committed. On the other hand Miss Pross is a fiercely loyal servant. She has a sense of right and wrong and stands by her employer's family who has been kind to her. 

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."

Gotham's reckoning in the The Dark Knight Rises is reminiscent of Dickens themes and motifs, and draws inspiration from a Tale of Two Cities. Gotham is one of those cities where the gap between the rich and poor has grown wide to the point of social instability. The rich live their comfortable lives, intentionally turning a blind eye to the growing squalor that surround them. Their only purposes is to make their lives even richer. The struggling poor have turned to crime and menace. There is no sense of morality and the poor rob and murder to sustain themselves. Bane is like a Madame Defarge who incites the citizens of Gotham on a violent revolution to reclaim their city. However, characters like Batman, John Blake, Commissioner Gordon and even Selina Kyle from all economic backgrounds and history come together to do the right thing. 

Like Dickens, The Dark Knight insists on maintaining a balance. There are indeed socialist themes in the movie. There is a sense of sympathy for the criminals. Their choices are not always of malice but desperation due to lack of opportunities as shown by children who enter the sewers so they can survive. The rich are also expected to owe something back to their city. The Wayne family and the Wayne foundation is engaged in a lot of social charities. Bruce Wayne's father tells him that they owe the people. Batman's struggles are because Bruce Wayne believes he owes Gotham. But that does not mean that the movie supports entitlement and giving free money to the undeserving as conservatives fear. John Blake personifies the ideal of how one should be. A poor orphan, but instead of turning to crime, he worked his way up to success honestly. A success story of rightly invested charity. Commissioner Gordon and all the good guys represent an upright middle class who don't want entitlement and charity, but fairness and no corruption. Most importantly Batman stands against villains - those who oppress the poor, and those who terrorize the rich. 

"Henceforth I declare you to be an outlaw"

With every discussion of Batman comes Robin, but this time it is not just Robin, but Robin Hood. Selina Kyle or the Catwoman who steals from the rich, reminded me of this very famous folk hero who is often misused by both sides of the social justice argument.

It is often quoted that Robin Hood "Steals from the rich, and gives to the poor". As a legendary folk hero, it is natural that people look up to Robin Hood as a hero. And indeed Robin Hood is a great hero and role model for many. The tales of Robin Hood have not become popular and passed down for generations without good reason. However, it is irking when liberals take the hero worship to the extreme and believe that there is heroism in "stealing from the rich" in order to "give to the poor". Equally irking is when conservatives deem Robin Hood as a thief and a criminal due to his "stealing" and "giving", equating redistribution of wealth as theft and a crime. 

To say Robin Hood steals from the rich and gives to the poor is a gross oversimplification. It completely ignores the history, politics and economics times of England during Robin Hood's heyday. Not to mention that it completely fails to consider the background story and reason why Robin Hood a nobleman chose to become an outlaw. 

Robin Hood's roots are in feudal England. Peasants and farmers had no freedom back then. They owed allegiance and loyalty to feudal lords. The intent was that these feudal lords would govern the locality and care for their peasants. Unfortunately, the end result was abuse of power and neglect. Farmers and peasants who toiled day and night in the field to grow food crops often had nothing for themselves to eat. Feudal lords levied heavy burdensome taxes even in times of drought and crop failure, putting peasants in perpetual debt. Many feudal lords even claimed ownership of all produce and gave farmers barely anything for their hard work. These feudal Lords did not merely steal from the poor, they were kicking them to the ground, robbing them of everything they had including their dignity and leaving them penniless and desperate.

It is in this feudal system that Robin Hood stands against. When he returns from the crusades he is disgusted by the England under King John. In his hometown of Nottingham he is appalled to see the sheriff unleash such cruelty on his people. As a well placed man in society Robin Hood could have easily been apathetic to the situation. However, he chooses to protest. Initially he demands fairness. That taxes be levied fairly and the farmers be granted relief in extreme circumstances. That farmers and peasants be allowed to sell their for a fair price and make a reasonable living for their hard work. Only when he was declared an Outlaw  and robber of his land, for trying to do the right things did Robin Hood become the "Prince of Thieves". There was no alternative. The noble class was robbing the people blind and this was the only way to ensure a fair economy. 

Outside the legends, it is people like Robin Hood who got KingJohn to sign the Magna Carta. If you have studied political science or political history, Magna Carta is the mother of all charters. It is the grand daddy of modern democracy. The Greek gave us the idea of democracy, but democracy as we know it today was because of the Magna Carta. This document was the catalyst that spurred changes that led to modern democracy. Many Barons who were tired of the king's weak rule, upset at the arbitrary laws and punishment and sick of the overall squalor and poverty of the countryside rebelled against King John and made him sign the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta laid the foundation of free people, and protected them from arbitrary punishments without due process. They diminished the power of the king and let a majority of barons overturn his decisions. 

Tea Party members who scream "don't tread on me" would behoove to know that the concept of fredoom from dictatorial leadership was because of men like Robin Hood. Had it not been for these men tired of unfair monarchies and dysfunctional feudal systems, modern agriculture and free trade as we know it would not have been evolved. So before we paint Robin Hood as just a "thief" we should take pause and think of what he stood for. 

Even though the feudal system was ages ago, the industrial age ushered in a new era of struggle between the elite and proletariat. People worked in factories for 12-16 hours a day, seven days a week for meager wages. Lunch breaks were often a hurried 10 minute affair. The worker had no family life or freedom. Many faced dangerous and deadly jobs without fair compensation. Children as young as five were working in factories and mines. Mortality rate was high. They had absolutely no opportunity to rise in society. Many fortunes came on the backs of these laborers who were robbed of their fair share of economic benefits and boom of the revolution. The purpose of social justice is not to "steal" from rich, but ensure that everyone gets the fair share of their hard work, that the labor class is not exploited. Redistribution of wealth is not for the sake of redistributing and punishing the rich, but giving everyone the opportunity they did not get for generations. People should understand the basic principles before thinking it is just a ploy to "steal from rich" and "give to the poor". 

And those who hail Robin Hood as the "Prince of Thieves" and want to steal from the rich should know that theft is a crime. The purpose is not to take away from the rich, especially not for those who work their way up. The purpose is to establish an economy where everyone has fair and equal opportunity. By glorifying "stealing from the rich" and "giving to the poor" without history, reason or perspective is counterproductive to the intent. We need everyone to embrace Robin Hood as their hero, a champion for democracy, for people, and a fair free market that we claim to be proud of - not as just a thief.