Thursday, July 30, 2009

Netthi Adi

Business school appears to be an exit from the vicious cycle of forced aspirations and software defect reports. But the pain of writing essays along with MBA applications -- the crap about being motivated to excel at excelling and work in teams -- is comparable only to reading feminist rants about menstrual cycles. Worse yet, one cannot honestly write, "I want to do an MBA because I have fucking had enough of null pointer exceptions, I like bullshitting and am a natural at that, and want to be paid obnoxiously high for it so that I can buy that lakefront villa and a BMW." And after two years and a $100K hole in the pocket, one would realize that he has traded a relatively secure coding job for a "move up or move out" style ultra-competitive McKinsey shit.

Although my ideal career aspiration is not 'a waiter in Mayavaram Bus Stand'. I really want to be (a) House Husband (b) My Hero (c) Panchayat Board President in Kalidakurucchi with a field, pump set and 4 chinna veedus (d) SBI Officer - in that order.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Diaper Generation

There was a time when marrying your daughter off to an officer from State Bank of India was a cool thing. The father of the bride would buy things that the new couple would immediately need. They buy a grinder, mixie, couple of beds and a cot - and carry all this to their daughter's new home. The girl would become pregnant in a few months and come back to her parents house for delivering the baby in 7-8 months. Being a man was cool then. You saw your wife leave the afternoon of the seemandham and you start goofing of with your manager's receptionist the next day morning. The wife on the other hand gets a break from doing work and would lounge around in her parent's house whiling away time and watching her mom do all the work for her. The baby is born, a telegram is sent to the father, who goes and distributes sweets to his manager. The baby then pees and poops all over the red-oxide floor. The only thing that saves the red-oxide floor from more poop are the grand father's old veshtis.

Old veshtis were diapers then.

They tore it off in small pieces, tied it around the baby's "arana kayaru" and washed 50 such pieces every 2 weeks. The mom sleeps inside a mosquito net, gets up only to feed the baby and sleeps for most of the time. The grandma cleans the baby poop, changes diapers, cooks, gives thatha 'filter kaapee', does kulimurai, applies oil & seekai podi and buys 'nai kaasu'. The baby is stabilized, brought to normal sleeping condition in 3 months and when the dad gets to see the baby, he is blissfully unaware of all the baby poop under the redoxide floor. He won't see it ever and won't even know how the underside of the baby looks like. The mom has no mental problems and depressions. She is ready to send her kid to IIT classes and Srimathi Maa'm classes.

Then the thamizhan migrated to amerikka and became a saaftwear engineer mapillai.

Just like there are ABCDs there are also DCBAs - Desis Confused By Americans. These are proto-typical Bay Area migrants who have delusionally bought into the white man's life style. They put photo frame's of their wife and their wedding photos in their office, go on camping trips, buy mulch and worry about 'Green Bay Packers'. The last 10 years have seen a dramatic change in the desi man's involvement around pregnancies and babies. It is the complete opposite of the SBI officer situation. The other extreme. The man still invites the girl's parents to stay with him and to assist during the pregnancy. However, his wife ignores her mom's advise, goes to pregnancy classes, breast feeding classes, postpartum depression prevention classes, and prenatal yoga classes. The white man does it because there is nobody to help and his in-laws won't come even if he paid for the tickets. And the desi man wastes $300 for these classes 'just in case', accompanies his wife for all these painfully boring classes (this gets a separate post) and then finally follows his wife right down into the labor ward.

He is actually present when the baby is born.

This very act of participation is a symbolic show to the world that he is different from his rude, male chauvinistic, and barbaric ancestors. The man wants to be involved now. He has no choice. This is the definition of 'normal' now. Sun rises in the east, gravity pulls the apples down, man has to go to the labor ward. Its a religion unto itself, you don't question 'why' you just do it. All this has became so in the last 10 years. If you don't believe it - try saying 'no' to the labor-ward thing and you'll find out.

Diaper Fever, Obsession and Love

The man waits like a predator for the baby to be born. He crouches and is ready to leap. Moments after the baby is the born the man leaps, captures the baby, cuts the umbilical cord lining (signifying the importance of his participation) and proceeds to do the most vital thing he will ever do all his life - change the diaper. The man wants to change the diaper. He needs to. He has to. He pines to. He longs to. He desires to. Cleaning baby poop is a priority for him. It is all that he wants to do. He has been waiting 10 months to do this. It is the new code. It is a burning desire more potent than the desire to email pictures of alien-looking-new-born-soaked-in-blood sitting on a ghastly looking mom (the ugliest she has looked her entire life) to his entire corporate organization. More important than the desire to post ultra-sound pictures on Facebook. The grandma can go an entire pregnancy without changing the diaper. The mom can go an entire pregnancy without changing the diaper. But the man cannot.

If aliens were observing social patterns of earthlings, their report would read something like this - the younglings discard waste products from their intestines, which are emitted out through fissures on the back of their bodies. Curiously the male's social standing among other human beings is determined by how many times, how quickly and how desirously he cleans the youngling's intestinal discard. Cleaning the backside of younglings and removing intestinal waste with passion and love shows that the male is progressive, sensitive, caring and responsible.

In continuation with the theme that the default standard in the modern desi world has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. A person who is not appropriately tuned in can come for a rude shock. Changing diapers, celebrating fathers day, mothers day, first-onnukku day, and poopy day are the societal norms that need to be followed to preserve an appearance of being normal. Baby names have to get smaller and shrink to the point of becoming olden day police constable like serial numbers such as A1, C108 - so that the arbit white man who stops to say hello to the baby in 'wal-mart' can pronounce it without difficulty. If you forget to follow any one of these you are "not normal" "strange" and "difficult".

The rise of the diapers

The man has to use his parental leave (imagine this - pregnancy leave for men!???) and hang around the house. Even if he has his 'maamiyar' around to do most of the work, he has to hang around. Even if there is no work to do around the house - he has to hang around. While it is civil to buy tickets for maamiyar and ask her help, the desi society considers the man barbaric if he lets the maamiyar do all the work. There might be an army of 2000 people he could have paid for and brought them to United States to help with the pregnancy. However, the correct protocol for him to is tell the entire army of 2000 people that (a) they don't know anything, (b) they are in violation of modern science methodologies and (c) proceed to do all the work himself.

Even if he has nothing to contribute (the baby wants to eat, he has no part to play here), he has to get up in the middle of the night, stay awake and hang around the mom. Because if she is "suffering" it is considered good courtesy and acceptable normal behavior for him to suffer alongside. A person who refuses to do any of this is considered chauvinistic, barbaric, cruel, regressive and of course a wife-beating cave man. The word gets out soon. People ask each other details. Its like a hygene test. They ask "how many diapers does the father clean? How much work does he do around the house? ya..ya.. I know your parents are here and they do all the work but what does he do? It is what he does that is important?" A man who has cleaned zero diapers is an outcast. Other women won't let their husbands talk to this Neanderthal, lest they be corrupted by such evil and negative influence.

Diapers are everything. The smellier they are the more their importance. More than ever before cleaning disgusting, ugly, smelly shit has become the most romantic, caring, sensitive and important act a man can ever do. Diapers control things that are larger than poop. They control the man's status in the society. The baby poops and fills up these paper products unknowing of the consequences of that action and the tension surrounding things that what their bodies don't want. This is diaper generation. You pick up the wipes and start cleaning or you are permanently cut out of society.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Damal Krishnaswamy Pattammal (Post Updated)

A true pioneer when it comes to women's liberation. One who lived ages before silly teenage girls who thought things like bop-cut, dot-less foreheads and telephone-after-10PM was an act of rebellion. The last of the 'female trinity' passes away at 91.

It is said that when Krishnaswamy saw a newspaper article carrying a photo of his daughter Pattamal, singing for a show 'Satyavan Savitri', he was devastated. Which respectable family would marry a brahmin girl who sung in front of others? When she performed in Egmore Ladies Club, it was probably the first ever time a brahmin woman sang in a public concert. People who wrote about her constantly mentioned that the crowd purely came to see this odd event of a woman singing in public. And then she went on to sing pallavis in a concert. A difficult art considered to be strictly limited to male carnatic musicians.

The reason I began to like Pattammal was because of the song "aduvome pallu paaduvome" in the timeless movie "Naam Iruvar" (yes that movie with 3 billion songs) and for her rendition of Bharathiar songs. Bharathiar himself would not have envisioned his dreams on women's liberation come true in the form of an artist like Pattammal singing his songs. She said she didn't want another rebirth. Hope her wish came true.






Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Movie Review: The Hurt Locker

This is a really good movie that surprisingly has not received much fanfare. It is a fascinating story about a bomb disposal specialist in Iraq. His daily job is to defuse live bombs and he does it with an approach of a mechanic with a tool kit repairing BMWs and what not. The nice aspect of the movie is that it shows him to be this cavalier "redneck" reckless person who goes out of the way to defuse bombs (like it were his hobby) but still keeps the movie real with no show of heroism whatsoever. Actor Jeremy Renner plays this role with peculiar blend of geekish intensity and carefreeness. When he is disposing bombs he is a geek totally focused on the wires and the mechanics of the bombs. He seems to intuitively think like a bomber and feel around for traps and secondary devices.
This activity is more like a high intensity game to him. He does not treat it like a war where his life is in danger. Its almost as if his life/sanity would be in danger if it were not for the war and his job. An interesting counterfoil is his squad leader Sanborn, who is continually frustrated by James' recklessness and complete lack of awareness of rules, roles and responsibilities. The movie centers around 4-5 events surrounding 3-4 characters. Its shot in a grainy way with what seems like a handicam. You get to see the action as a participant of the proceedings. As if a camera was attached to Sanborn or one of his squad members. The suspense that is built up in the beginning sort of sustains till the end and keeps you at the edge of your seat.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Confession

I am not a Harry Potter fan. I have labored through and seen all the movies they released.

Underwhelming.

I don't think I have lost the child in me. I won't criticise the concept. It is probably not for all. Its simply that this piece of fiction did not capture my imagination. In my defense I'll say that I tried hard to like it. But I was constantly left wondering what people really saw in this series. Initially, I thought I didn't like it because this got released in parallel with LOTR and so this looked so-so in comparison. But now I think the series has become genuinely boring for me. The books are unreadable too.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Best Of Michael III

5. The Way You Make Me Feel

The rarely shown full version is embedded below. This is one of the coolest songs composed by Michael. In the late 80s when stereo (as opposed to mono) systems was a rare thing, the beginning of the song would knock you out. The first beat would be heard on both speakers and then the quick beats that lead to the base drums would be heard alternatively on the left and right speakers. He apparently composed this song at the request of his mother to to have a "shuffling" kind of song. It become the ultimate woo-the-girl category song with finger snapping becoming a well-imitated mannerism. The 'thumbs up' that the old man does was an impromptu thing, which the crew liked and so kept it.





The (really hot) version with Britney Spears






4. They Don't really care about Us

This is the best song from the HIStory album. The unique drums segment of this song will probably be the most unforgettable aspect of his music. The rhythm of the song is very basic but the sheer force of Michael's singing and the vehemence shown in the lyrics raises the song up a notch. Spike Lee directed 2 videos for the song. This was the first ever time Michael decided to do two videos for a song. The edginess and pace that this song had made both videos look powerful. Strangely the initial lyrics of the song became highly controversial "jew me sew me...kick me, kike me" were considered anti-Semitic by NY Times. The first video was shot in Shantytown, Rio inspite of state authorities trying to stop the production. It used a local band called Olodum who became world famous as a result of the video. The second video was shot in a prison with images of KKK and Nazis. Sadly, this song featured Michael's last ever video image. A rehearsal video of him for the 'This is it' tour shows him dancing to this song.

Official Video shot in Brazil



Banned Video Shot in Prison






Rehearsal video 48 hours before his death





3. Smooth Criminal

This is in many ways the ultimate Jackson song. It is by far the best song in Bad and many would consider to be his best song ever. Most people became hooked as MJ fans because of this song. Every aspect of the song is simply incredible. Originally composed in 1985 as an inspiration from Fred Astaire's "The Girl Hunt Ballet" the song was called 'Al Capone'. Then this last minute addition (can you believe it?) to the Album Bad was renamed Smooth Criminal. It has a fantastic drums rhythm coupled with a mesmerising trademark bass guitar that makes you get up and dance. It talks about a woman called Annie who is attacked by a criminal. The Video and stage performance of this song is creativity beyond imagination. With trademark White Suit, Jackson created a couple of dance steps and went on to patent the more popular of the two dance steps. My personal favorite is the complicated revolution that he does at 7:25 minutes in the video below.

The Anti-gravity Lean: However, what totally captured public imagination was the anti-gravity lean. Choreographed by Jeff Daniel, they performed this seemingly impossible lean (see 7:20 in video below) using wires/magnets and clever camera angles. But the creativity they showed to do it on stage led to US Patent #5,255,452. The stage is built to have pegs protrude from it at the correct time. The dancers have special shoes with holes in the ankles that would slide and lock to those pegs. The dancers would lean forward magically with the support of the peg.

The Video From the Movie MoonWalker.

Contains new lyrics and a different drums arrangement (especially the one when the song starts)




Live Version



2. Who Is it?

Dangerous is Michael's best and creatively the most complete album ever. 'Who is it' is the best song in that album. My god. If I had a buck for every time I listened to this song I'd be a billionaire. The cover of Dangerous is unforgettable to any MJ fan. It shows eyes from inside a armor like helmet with a strand of hair falling out and then a million little details surrounding it. This is such an awesome song that I'd do injustice to it simply by trying to describe it. It is a criminal injustice that this song was not treated with the respect it deserves. It should been among the first two videos MJ did for Dangerous. Instead he does a off-hand acapella of this song in Oprah (Video below) and it becomes so popular that Sony finally gets to see what dumb asses they were to not release this earlier. The way he does those beats with his mouth was simply brilliant. For a while I couldn't even track how his lips were moving while he did this. And he apologizes for that performance to Oprah. Imagine his standards.

The song is about betrayal and pathos. The lyrics are probably the best among MJ's songs. The special curves he does to the voice he does when he sings "i am the agony inside the dying head" are all mighty little things he pours to make this song a great one. Hiccup songs are always special. This one starts with a 'aahh' female choir and then the drums arrangement sort of erupts powerfully. The beginning beat of the song is so deep that you cannot stop noticing te suddenness of it. You want it to last for eternity and then he starts his magical hiccup and "I gave my money..".

And who directs the video - none other than my favorite David Fincher. The video is about Michael's girl friend who also lives a double life as a high class escort call-girl. He sees her visiting card 'Alex' and the tracks all her visits to clients. Until finally he lets her know her game is up. The video is shot in classy lighting seemingly in a city with Gothic buildings. The whole set up is very high-class and Michael is shown to be a billionaire. The way the visiting card rolls up and stands on the hand is very classy. I can go on.. but it just makes me more sad that such a song will never again come out.

Michael sings acapella to Oprah





Official Video Directed by Fincher





1. Beat It

Eddie Van Halen's guitar, MJ's silver voice, super cool lyrics, gangster theme combine to create Thriller's best song. It ranks higher than 'Who is it' purely because its stayed with me for longer. The unqiue phrase "beat it" ( Made Indians wonder what it was) was strange to me when I first listened to it. If you lived in the 80s ad listened to beat it for the first time, you were hooked on to what was referred to in India as "western music". Jackson wanted to do a rock song and called upon Eddie Van Halen to do a guitar solo. Eddie Van Halen did this solo for free of charge. I feel in love with the song purely for the speed at which it was sung. The bell like sounds and the knock you can here when the guitar begins (rumored to be a recording mistake by Van Halen knocking his guitar while playing it) are enduring sounds that you remember from the Panasonic 543 tape recorder/player era. The video used real life gangsters and Broadway performers.





Post Script: I never believed the allegations against him. I still don't. The fact that people who I think are idiots believe otherwise have convinced me even further. The judge said - 'Not Guilty'. That is the verdict and people should just shut up about it. Part of media's negative attitude against MJ was his own fault but a majority of it was a result of pure evil. The idiots who couldn't appreciate his music resorted to what they did best - gossip.

In closing - writing these posts made me relive the childhood days spent listening to his songs. It has been a while since I listened to his songs. I revisited myMJ scrapbook, where for 10 years I had collected clippings of most MJ stories that had appeared in print in India. Brought back memories. Sadly those days, like him, are dead and would never come back. It is a sad reminder of the unrelenting forward march of time where people whom you think will live forever ultimately do die in the strangest of circumstances.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Best Of Michael II

10. 2000 Watts

This is the best song in the album Invicible. It has a kind of a space age rhythm that is literally out of the world. When this song is playing it is absolutely hard not to dance. Total adrenalin pumper. A collaboration between MJ & Tyrese gibson, it was slated to appear in Tyrese's album but MJ released it in Invincible.



09. Dirty Diana

This was Michael's guitar song of Bad. Billy Idol's former guitarist Steve Stevens was the guitarist here and he starts and ends the song with the same low note. This was a song about groupies who offered themselves to rock stars at backstage. Speculation was rife that this song may have been about Diana Ross but it caused MJ embarrassment when he found out that "Princess" Diana would be attending his Bad Live concert in Wembley stadium (which is probably the stadium that has seen MJ's best live concerts). He removed the song from the schedule (however Diana let him know that 'Dirty Diana' was her personal favorite in Bad). This is a high quality song with Michael singing in a higher octave through out. The lady who is shown walking is actually Sheryl Crow who started off as backup voice in MJ's tour.



08. In The Closet

I am not sure if I love the video more or the song. It is a poster boy song for the new trend of "New Jack Swing" songs that producer Teddy Riley was creating which mixed R&B and Soul. It has MJ singing in a very sensual voice. Originally, Madonna was scheduled to sing this duet with Michael and they had a fall-out leading to her voice getting pulled off from this song (getting replaced with "Mystery Girl" princess of Monaco). Although the song's name suggests about "sexual orientation" being kept in the closet, the lyrics talk about MJ's secret relationship with a woman. The video is an amazing piece of work. Shot in bright light with rapid edits and cuts, this video probably has the best camera work I have seen in a music video ever. It shows people in angles that are unique. The breaks/moves that Michael does when he dances are freaking hard to do and he makes it look so easy. The silhouette moves he does when he opens the door is so cool. For years after this video was released every time I walked past a door with a white cut-banian and black jeans I'd do all the poses at the door until my mom got tired of my madness. There is a small sequence in the video that is not there in the CD. These small things made it look even more good.



7. Get On the Floor

So this is my most favorite song from "Off The Wall". This is a perfect meld between disco and pop that is sort of a handshake between the 70s and the 80s. The song doesn't request you to dance but compels you.



6. Speed Demon

It is one of the coolest song from bad that sadly went unnoticed. With a unique beat and characteristic bass guitar it talks about a high speed chase and escape situation. It is such a peppy song that I wasn't surprised to see the video turn out so good. The video featured in the movie Moonwalker. The song begins with a bike roaring off and after every beat set MJ would hiccup "chok". The song would then morph into a totally different tune when "speed demon you are the very same one" line occurs and it goes to a peculiar saxophone sequence. Watch the video, it is so nicely done.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Best Of Michael

If I were to build an ultimate MJ album featuring his best songs and at the same time do a MJ top 'N' songs countdown - how would it look like? A 3 post series covering that.

14. Whatever Happens

So I am going to be a bit partial to songs that have splendid guitar work. 'Whatever Happens' features Carlos Santana with a dreamy guitar that makes you feel the whole world has gone slow motion. This is a truly great song about two people in love, struggling in life but dearly hope that no matter what happens they at least have each other. The song starts with a eerie Santana whistle and has Michael using one of his more softer voices without actually breaking into a falsetto. It is a great tragedy that this wasn't released as a single or made into a video (the one below is a fan made video for this song).



13. Give into me

The biggest of em' all Guitarist Slash features in this song. This one is another of Michael's songs that talks about failed love, betrayal and sex. Slash features in several of Michael's songs: Scream, Don Sheldon, Black or White and Give In to me. I thought this song was very different from the kind of songs Michael prefers to include in his album. In the spectrum it is more GNR than MJ. This song has a touch of roughness (almost heavy metal like) to it. Michael uses a more open voice, in fact his screamy/gruffy voice here (and does so for all of his songs featuring Slash). The bell-like drums ending in this song is very classic. The video below is an extended version and has lyrics and segments not released as part of his album version. Again, yet another excellent song from Dangerous that deserved to be recognized more.



12. Come Together

So this is MJ's version of Lennon & Paul McCartney's "Come Together". This song was first featured by MJ in the climax scene of the movie "Moonwalker.". It was included as a "new track" in MJ's HIStory album, albeit with a different tempo than the one he sang for Moonwalker. John Lennon was the guitarist when he sung this song originally. Since then Aerosmith, Eurhythmics, & Tina Turner have redone the song. In MJ's version crazy-wig Jennifer Batten was the guitarist and she starts the song with a powerful note. MJ again sings in a open screamy voice and one can't keep wondering if its the same voice that sings those soulful ballads. Who can forget the lines "Here come ol' flat top He come groovin' up slowly" or "gotta be good lookin' coz its so hard to see"




11. One Day in Your Life:

This is a smooth soft Ballad from Michael's earlier album "Forever, Michael". His 4th and last solo album with Motown Records. His boyish voice suits the song very well. Its a dreamy song and very romantic. if the lower notes he touches are fantastic, some of the higher notes he hits are almost Maria Carey-esque.