Why #iDontLike Steve Jobs

October 31st, 2011

You tend to take people for granted as long as they are alive: be it your parents or, as it turned out to be, Steve Jobs. At least that’s what I gleaned looking at the outpouring of grief on social networking websites. #iSad was a top Twitter trend and that gloomy emoticon all I could see on my Facebook timeline. Once the brouhaha subsided I asked my friend, who is an avid Apple fan, what he loved about Steve Jobs. He said that his products were otherworldly, compact and any gadget freak’s dream.

He was one of those mule-headed people into whom I couldn’t instill any sense of this madness and this is what I would have told him. Steve Jobs is not a visionary like Thomas Edison as those fawning newspaper obituaries would have you believe. Edison created electricity. In comparison, Jobs only had to offer digital knick-knacks like iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Have they made any profound difference to anyone’s life is a million-dollar question. Electricity, for sure, did. Jobs is at best a terrific salesman. Like any astute salesman he made us believe that we needed these products that we didn’t even know we needed at all. He commodified music through his ginormous devices to the extent that the current generation doesn’t even know what it like is to listen to an original lossless track. He combined his sense of calligraphy and fine arts to create these sleek devices that are good but I doubt if they are ground breaking. The current fad for size zero figures has its roots in the way Jobs made us believe that sleek is the new cool.

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wasn’t terribly impressed with Jobs either, “The iPhone and the iPad may be aesthetically perfect, but in an otherwise stagnant society their charms can be an invitation to solipsism — holding up mirrors to our vanity, instead of opening windows to breakthroughs more impressive than the latest app.” Here was a man who ensured that the sweatshops like Foxconn in China met his unreasonable demands. So excruciating were his demands that workers of Foxconn killed themselves. Why didn’t he generate jobs in the USA where the unemployment rate has for long been plateaud at the ten per cent mark? Why generate more jobs in downtrodden countries like Philippines where there are more Apple employees than government employees?

So as you see he was just another businessman who doesn’t deserve to be lionised as the poster child of modern-day technology. He never propagated open source software. It took lot of chivvying from his cohorts before he deigned to release iTunes for Windows users. Don’t get me wrong here, I have nothing against this man and the eight-billion-dollar fortune that he amassed. No one can deny the fact that his products are incredibly good.

It’s just that we need to realise that there’s a fine line between fandom and naivety.

del.icio.us:Why #iDontLike Steve Jobs digg:Why #iDontLike Steve Jobs newsvine:Why #iDontLike Steve Jobs reddit:Why #iDontLike Steve Jobs Y!:Why #iDontLike Steve Jobs

Why is Islamophobia okay?

September 23rd, 2011

Recently, fashion designer John Galliano and film-maker Lars von Trier faced a lot of opprobrium for their anti-Semitic rants. Galliano’s drunken remarks at a Parisian pub got him sacked from Christian Dior and Lars von Trier was banned from the Cannes Film Festival. In this age of social networking and reduced attention spans, is anti-Semitism really that important a stand? In his book The Freedom To Be Racist?, writer Erik Bleich says: “There are people who hold anti-Semitic views, but they generally don’t hold them intensely. They don’t fear that Jews are going to threaten their livelihood or culture or any of the things that people truly worry about.”

Still, anti-Semitism is somehow deemed equal to anti-humanity. That begs a question that why is Islamophobia allowed to thrive? Dutch politician Geert Wilders is furthering his political ambitions not by any brilliant reforms but through his unbridled hatred for Islam. So much so that he called Koran a “fascist book”, which should be banned in the Netherlands, like Hitler’s Mein Kampf. And Wilders got away with his rant because it didn’t deal with Jews.

Muslims are being oppressed in various ways. In her novel Welcome To Americastan, Jabeen Akhtar mentions how the FBI Terror Watch list contains “names of two-year-old kids. Names of dead people. People complaining about finding their names on the list and not knowing how they got on there”. That constant fear among Muslims is getting more and more visceral. We hear stories about Muslims shaving off their long beards and having cropped hair to assimilate with others and not raise any ‘suspicion’. The Western world is turning into a liberal Taliban if its constant raiding of madrasas and banning of burkhas is any indication. So ruthless is the stereotyping that the first image that strikes of any venerable looking man in long beard and skull cap is that maybe he spends half of his time in the Tora Bora caves. The recent tenth-anniversary of 9/11 was a huge slap on the extremists’ face, thanks to gunning down of Osama. However, the slap could have been tighter if only The Cordoba House project was okayed.

Last year, when a 13-floor Islamic center was proposed to be built three blocks away from Ground Zero, the 9/11 venue, there was an unprecedented hue and cry. In his piece for Financial Times, Basharat Peer wrote, “The Cordoba House project will be a venue for reconciliation between Islam and the west, delivering a powerful rebuttal to the al-Qaeda terrorists who attacked the trade towers; opponents call it an offence to the memory of those who died in 2001.” Finally, the project was scrapped.

Don’t think I’m being insensitive towards the Jews. It pains me to no end when someone compares a crowded Mumbai local train ride to a concentration camp. The sheer facetiousness makes me cringe. But then if you go to the same Parisian pub where Galliano was indicted and add any number of expletives preceding the word Muslim, you’ll still be fine. After all, those one per cent of Muslims who are mindless enough to blow themselves up subsume the other 99 per cent.

del.icio.us:Why is Islamophobia okay? digg:Why is Islamophobia okay? newsvine:Why is Islamophobia okay? reddit:Why is Islamophobia okay? Y!:Why is Islamophobia okay?

Why NOTW will be missed

August 25th, 2011

Once the paroxysm of anger against News Of The World subsides, the tabloid will be sorely missed. Here’s why. In the age of Internet, when there’s ginormous amount of information to be accessed instantly, it’s a foolhardy thing to assume that people will wait for the next day’s paper to know what’s happening at that moment. Unless newspapers reinvent themselves and start doing original reporting, there’s no real reason why a newspaper should exist at all.

NOTW was doing exactly the same thing. It might be using guerrilla journalistic techniques but it’s giving something new to the reader every morning. Rupert Murdoch, owner of NOTW, is probably the last news baron the world will see. His love for newspapers is amazing. He bought Wall Street Journal when it was bleeding money and couldn’t cope with competition from Internet. And this is exactly the reason why the world needs Murdoch now more than anytime else.

Newspapers make sense of the madness. On Internet anything goes as news as long as it’s taken at the earliest. You can pass canards and get away with it but it’s the newspapers that give the reader an accurate sense of the event. So we need more newspapers now more than anytime else. As it is, newspapers across the world are shutting their presses or resorting to ridiculous cost-cutting measures. This is why we should not take point our knives towards Murdoch, yet.

His championing of the newspapers is legendary. He still believes they have a role to play in the way world shapes up. He started a New York Metro section in WSJ as competition for New York Times. He started a book reviews supplement in WSJ when everywhere else the reviewing space is constantly shrinking. This doesn’t mean that Murdoch may sup with the devil (read phone hacking).

But clearly demarcated lines can do a world of difference. I’m sure journalists must be wondering if committing that act of daily journalism is worth it if this is how things are going to pan out. Right now, we should mourn the shutting of NOTW. I have a feeling this might be the beginning of the end of newspapers.

del.icio.us:Why NOTW will be missed digg:Why NOTW will be missed newsvine:Why NOTW will be missed reddit:Why NOTW will be missed Y!:Why NOTW will be missed

The longest 90 minutes of my life

July 22nd, 2011

There used to be beatniks, peaceniks and these days there are coolniks. Everything that anyone does has to and is supposed to be cool. Be it the words they utter or the phone they brandish or their Facebook timeline, the underlining theme is, yes, ‘cool’. Being cool is passé as well, now it’s all about being uber-cool. This is just the sort of affliction Abhinay Deo has. He’s the man who made Delhi Belly with some able production support from the supposedly sole arbiter of sensible cinema in this part of the world, Aamir Khan.

Right off the bat let me make it clear that this isn’t a review where I’ll throw around intensifiers followed by the synonyms of either brilliant or horrible. And neither do I intend to piss on anyone’s parade. What really gets my goat about this egregiously execrable movie is its hollowness that’s being showed off as ‘boldness’. I didn’t know that mouthing the F-word (that too in the most effete manner possible) would make a movie ‘shocking’. For the last six weeks, I was addicted to this brilliant American series called Wire and, trust me; the variants of F- and S-words in it will leave you gobsmacked a.k.a ‘shocked’. Since we are so cool, female infanticide or farmers’ deaths or massive corruption is just sad, if ever they fall in our social radar. An erection on screen or blown up display of human feces or sonic variants of farts is what is, well, shocking.

I don’t mean to sound like an idealistic savant here. When a movie claims to have “broken new ground” in terms of “shock value”, I obviously would draw comparisons with the clitoral circumcision in Anti-Christ or the abandoned fetus scene in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days or the butter scene in Last Tango in Paris and so on.

New York Times was on its money in its review of the film,” Your average American sitcom, let alone summer comedy, outdoes “Delhi Belly” in rudeness and crudeness, though its graphic language and sexual candor are unusual for an Indian movie.” The point to be underlined is the “unusual for an Indian movie” part. Post-Internet, we shouldn’t be at the mercy of Indian film-makers to teach us what is profane or sacred. If a cerebral film-maker in Senegal has something to say, we should be all ears as well. A car boot load of non-funny gags passing off as ‘bold cinema’ cannot be construed as the zeitgeist of any generation. As long as we the audience demand such shoddy supply, movies like Delhi Belly will continue to be dumped on us.

In a nutshell, I wanted to chew my arm off than watch something as putrid as Delhi Belly.

del.icio.us:The longest 90 minutes of my life digg:The longest 90 minutes of my life newsvine:The longest 90 minutes of my life reddit:The longest 90 minutes of my life Y!:The longest 90 minutes of my life

Breaking Bad

June 16th, 2011

What would you make of a brilliant chemistry teacher, who uses his chemical expertise to churn out the purest form of methamphetamine the US state of New Mexico has ever seen? Before you jump to a conclusion, allow me to work a Nazi metaphor here: not everyone who worked at the concentration camps is evil. Walter White is diagnosed with an acute form of lung cancer and obviously his piffling teacher salary will never be a cushion for his wife, a disabled son and a soon-to-be-born daughter.

Thus, to provide for his family after his truncated life, he gets down to ‘cooking meth’ with his erstwhile not-so-bright student and currently a drug peddler-cum-junkie, Jesse Pinkman. This duo is probably television’s equivalent of Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid and a more menacing one at that. While White is the matter, Jesse is the anti-matter and their banter is easily the show’s greatest strength. This must be one of those few television dramas whose mise-en-scene is not contributed by the garage sale of a rich man’s mansion. Barring the household squabbles of White, rest of the action happens in the open and this is the sort of action that can give you anxiety attacks.

Apart from the lead duo, there are a bunch of other characters who could easily straddle both the worlds of David Lodge and Werner Herzog. There’s White’s tough-as-Kevlar cop brother-in-law Hank, whose psyche goes for a toss after a ghastly experience. White’s sister-in-law Marie is a kleptomaniac and is forever in a state of self-denial. Of course, there’s White’s wife Skyler, a perfect embodiment of a household dominatrix. As show progresses there are other minor but hugely memorable characters that keep giving the show its Eurostar brio. Of the three seasons, the last one has some high-octane drama that would put even Robert Rodriguez to shame.

More than anything else, this show only reignites Gore Vidal’s assessment of USA: United States of Amnesia. Here’s a show set in the sleepy town of Albuquerque where all the settings are natural and the show’s creator Vince Gilligan has a Zen-like focus on the failings of the much ballyhooed Great American Dream. This is one show that will richly recompense for whatever time you expend on it. David Foster Wallace merits to be quoted here: “Entertainment provides relief. Art provokes engagement.”

Breaking Bad is art with capital A.

PS: Fourth season begins on July 17.

del.icio.us:Breaking Bad digg:Breaking Bad newsvine:Breaking Bad reddit:Breaking Bad Y!:Breaking Bad

El Classicos galore

May 9th, 2011

I’ve always been a late bloomer. Heard Beatles at an age when people usually graduate to jazz, started watching French cinema even after those living under the rock and read ‘Corrections’ at least four years late. While I’ve taken these things in my stride, I couldn’t reconcile with the fact that I came to know about El Classico this late in my life.

From April 17-May 3, four Real Madrid-Barcelona games were to be watched. Comparing it to India-Pakistan cricket matches will be a huge disservice and facetious to the Spanish teams.
The history attached to these teams is way too much and intricate to encapsulate into a blog post. It would be suffice to say that barring El Salvador-Honduras football game (Ryszard Kapuscinski’s ‘Soccer War’ is a brilliant piece of reportage on this), El Classico is the greatest sporting tie, ever. With Jose Mourinho at the helm of Madrid affairs, I knew that these four games will be high on testosterone. The way things panned out, they exceeded my wildest expectations.

Last November, Madrid received a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Barcelona and a fusillade of, rather premature, obituaries were written out how a team full of superstars (Ronaldo, Kaka for the starters) is not a patch on the proponents of ‘beautiful game’. April 17 was the second leg of La Liga and the game sailed by to a satisfactory 1-1 draw. Next game was the Copa Del Rey final and a beautiful Cristiano Ronaldo brace in the extra-time ended Barca’s chances of a treble this season. These two games were just a prelude to the opera called UEFA Champions League semi-final.

A barrage of soccer invectives were exchanged between Mourinho and Pep Guardiola (Barcelona’s manager) prior to the game and they only intensified after the game. Barcelona have been accused of playacting, a neologism for the way Barcelona’s players feigned fouls and fell to the ground. The game touched its nadir when Pepe was sent off for what looked like a typical football tackle on Dani Alves. Reduced to ten men and that too without Pepe, who was pretty successful in marking Lionel Messi, Madrid were barely hanging to the game when the final straw came in the form of two successive goals. If that wasn’t enough, further salt was sprinkled onto Madrid’s wounds by UEFA for banning Mourinho from the stadium for the second leg for his comments on Barcelona’s style of playing.

With an insane advantage of two away goals, Barcelona had to just defend itself during the second leg of the semi-final. Defend they did but if not for a disallowed goal at the 47th minute, Barcelona would still be smarting from a bitter defeat. While Gonzalez Higauin was at the cusp of converting a Ronaldo pass, Javier Mascherano fell to the ground in controversial circumstances (he allegedly faked an injury) and from there on the game ended in a tame 1-1 draw.

At the end of four El Classicos, I was reminded of what Kingsley Amis thought of someone who just got initiated into P G Wodehouse: “What a lucky beggar! Just think of the fun he’s going to have reading all those other books for the first time.” This late-bloomer thing really tastes bittersweet.

del.icio.us:El Classicos galore digg:El Classicos galore newsvine:El Classicos galore reddit:El Classicos galore Y!:El Classicos galore

Gentleman of Letters

April 11th, 2011

For the last three years, most of my mornings’ caffeine shot has been Arts And Letters Daily, but on 28th December 2010, I saw a black masthead on the site. The site’s founder Denis Dutton breathed his last. This was my “where were you when Michael Jackson died” moment.

This was the very site that opened my eyes to a plethora of world-class writers and amazing pieces of writing. After spending a couple of months at the desk of a newspaper, this particular Oscar Wilde quote was ringing in my ears: “Journalism is unreadable and no one reads literature.” Time was ripe for the most sophisticated deus ex machina: www.aldaily.com.

Modeled on an 18th century newspaper format, Dutton, professor of philosophy at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, started aldaily in 1998. For the uninitiated, I’ll try to describe the site: The site is divided into three sections, ‘Articles of Note’, ‘New Books’ and ‘Essays and Opinion’ and, six days a week, one link is uploaded to each section. On the left-hand side there’s another section called Nota Bene (Latin for “note well”). This might be seen as the site’s equivalent of tabloidish news,
which could easily walk into New Yorker’s pages.

Forget the paywalls, there’s a lot of material out there to be read on the Internet. How do you rummage through this midden to spend a couple of hours of your day reading something intellectually stimulating? Aldaily condenses its three links into a tweet-size introduction and lets you make the decision if you want to read it or not. In a way, aldaily is a precursor to Twitter’s 140-characters. Right from 1998, Dutton and his small but able team have been giving links preceded by just the right kind of tantalising text. Sample this: “When her daughter died, Edith Piaf slept with a man to pay for the burial. The melancholy grit of Piaf’s voice was hard-earned.” That was good enough to let me decide that I’m going to spend the next twenty minutes on reading the piece.

It’ll be unfair to lump aldaily along with other news aggregators like Browser or Utne or Longform. If an earthquake takes place in Japan, aldaily will give a reflective piece after a week rather than flashing the news on the site on the day of incident. Dutton’s refined tastes used to reflect in the kind of pieces he used to handpick. He is a connoisseur of classical music, world cinema, classic literature and also dismissive of technology and geopolitical conflicts. Through aldaily I came across magazines that I would otherwise always be oblivious to. Dutton never gave much thought to the publications. A New York
Times article will have a piece from Dublin Review of Books giving it company. In fact, I tell my friends that “you read only aldaily and there’s absolutely nothing that you wouldn’t know about this world”.

Dutton will be sorely missed.

del.icio.us:Gentleman of Letters digg:Gentleman of Letters newsvine:Gentleman of Letters reddit:Gentleman of Letters Y!:Gentleman of Letters

Internet: a brainmelter?

January 17th, 2011

It’s a familiar pattern: A provocative piece with fragile logic and thin evidence but crisp writing and pungent examples goes viral followed by a storm of discussion. After all, it’s an assault on sacred cows. What follows is on expected lines: A lucrative deal for a book length extension of the essay. Nicholas Carr’s “The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains” reinforces this syndrome. The book is an improvement on Carr’s bridge burning essay called “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, which appeared in Atlantic magazine a couple of years ago.

Backed by evidence in neuroscience by pioneers like Michael Merzenich and Eric Kandel, Carr crystallises the most important debates of our time: while enjoying the Internet’s bounties, we are sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply. Carr posits that the nature of the beast called Internet is that it is supposed to distract humans through its “ecosystem of interruption technologies”: a few chunks of text, video or audio stream, a set of navigational tools, various advertisements and widgets. He says that the 21st century man will be busy flitting among bits of online information while losing “capacity to concentrate on a complex task from beginning to end”.  So piercing are his observations that I almost felt guilty for checking my Twitter timeline while reading the book and started wondering if the Net was indeed a digital Chernobyl: the air is fine, the water is fine but it is just not worth inhabiting.

While denouncing the mind-numbing nature of Net, Carr also doesn’t discount its multiple and attractive benefits: interactivity, hyperlinking, searchability, multimedia. The best part about the World Wide Web is that information is now literally available on fingertips. This blessing is inherently a curse in disguise too, according to Carr. “Whenever we, as readers, come upon a link, we have to pause, for at least a split second, to allow our prefrontal cortex to evaluate whether or not we should click on it. The redirection of our mental resources, from reading words to making judgments, may be imperceptible to us— our brains are quick— but it’s been shown to impede comprehension and retention, particularly when it’s repeated frequently.”

But the case that Carr makes for books tends to be simplistic. “By allowing us to filter out distractions, to quiet the problem-solving functions of the frontal lobes, deep reading becomes a form of deep thinking.” Carr fails to notice that a book too is a form of technology and not some organic object that was plucked from a tree. Let’s face it, a book also can no longer provide what our relentlessly connected age has made difficult, if not impossible: splendid isolation. But Carr tends to get mystical when the talk veers towards the brick and mortar: “There was something calming in the reticence of all those books (in the library of his alma mater Dartmouth College), their willingness to wait years, decades even, for the right reader to come along and pull them from the appointed slots.” Sadly, ‘The Shallows’ is beset by similar bouts of mawkishness that Carr never manages to shrug off.

While the book’s subtitle purports to talk about the impact of Net on human brains, Carr barely touches on the subject the half-way mark. In the first six chapters, I got the feeling that Carr was on literary auto-pilot with meandering accounts of Friedrich Nietzsche wrestling with a typewriter and Sigmund Freud dissecting the brains of sea creatures.

The Shallows breathes hard in the initial parts when Carr dons a historian’s hat and takes the reader on a guided tour on the genesis of paper to Google’s ascendance to Internet superpowerdom. A more careful editor could have curbed his indulgence. It’s not until the seventh chapter (The Juggler’s Brain), which is the book’s linchpin, that Carr gets down to business. Carr introduces us to John Sweller, an Australian educational psychologist, who explains that human brains incorporate two kinds of memory: short-term and long-term. While the former holds immediate impressions and thoughts, the latter stores all our conscious and sub-conscious impressions of the world.

Carr says that the depth of our intelligence hinges on our ability to transfer information from the former to the latter. “When we read a book…. Through our single-minded concentration on the text, we can transfer all or most of the information, thimbleful by thimbleful, into long-term memory. With the Net, we face many information faucets (remember “ecosystem of interruption technologies”?) all going full blast…. And what we do transfer is a jumble of drops from different faucets, not a continuous, coherent stream from one source.”

To say something so substantial about a technology that’s only two decades old, this thimble, faucet metaphor seems a bit farfetched. That said, there is much to admire in ‘The Shallows’, primarily for the brisk, vividly written chapters that flow with the swiftness of a river. If only Carr could match his magpie’s eye for detail with an insight that’s truly unique. ‘The Shallows’ is so packed with thrills that the reader doesn’t have a moment to breathe— or to enjoy the deep reading that he so strongly recommends.

The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
W W Norton & Company
276 pages
Rs 1,277

del.icio.us:Internet: a brainmelter? digg:Internet: a brainmelter? newsvine:Internet: a brainmelter? reddit:Internet: a brainmelter? Y!:Internet: a brainmelter?

Ending recession, musically

December 16th, 2010

It was with much trepidation that I took the really late night bus to Pune for the Bacardi NH7 Weekender. Why trepidation? Using plastic loos for a prolonged period is not my kind of thing and Woodstock is nothing more than a relic of a glorious past. With these niggling doubts I attended the concert this weekend and I wished that the following three people were present among the 10,000 people: Manmohan Singh, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and D Subbarao.

Apart from promoting Indian independent music, concerts like these are a quick-fix solution to the economic slump that we are going through. All those 10,000 people had bought tickets (mine was Rs 1,500 and I was dragged along by a friend) and what more, the people who man the multiple stages (eight in all), the ones in charge of car parks, the bar tenders, the security personnel, all owe some of their living to the 60 bands that belted out their best music.

Vishal Dadlani

And I haven’t even started talking about the engineer in charge, who makes sure that Vishal Dadlani’s growl is absolutely audible, and the multiple lorries that are used to ferry the kit. What more can the trio expect, when people are loosening their purse strings generously at an event where the vibes are post-apocalypse Woodstock?

Here are a few performances that made me mark the event in my calendar as a must-visit every year. Susheela Raman’s meditative Tamil chants from her latest album were just the kind of start a Saturday evening wanted. When she was singing ‘Vel Muruga’, it was as if everyone present were having a pie of her séance. The ensemble performance that included Rajasthani folk artists was the closest anyone could come to a commune with the Divine Being. Susheela’s wicked version of ‘Voodoo Child’ was just the sort of denouement the act needed. Now I got a clear picture of why Sigur Ros’ Icelandic lyrics broke all language barriers. It’s not about the words, stupid!

Following was the headlining act of the day Indian Ocean that at last seemed to have made peace with the death of one of its band members last year. Starting with ‘Bandey’, they went through their predictable-yet-delectable playlist that includes ‘Maarewa’ and ‘Kandisa’. I look at this band and I am really chuffed that they chose to stick to their passion at a time when rock music in this part of the world was unheard of. To think of it, it is still unheard of here considering most of us are yet to go beyond Bryan Adams and— may the force be with them— MLTR.

In gourmet terms, if Saturday was a starter, Sunday was the most expansive platter. I had so much to choose from: right from Shaa’ir + Func to Raghu Dixit Project and Midival Punditz to Asian Dub Foundation. Not to forget, the British indie act The Magic Numbers. This band made up of brothers and sisters seems like a love child of Belle &Sebastian and Drums. Every hook of theirs only reinforced my belief.  Be it the riff-laden ballad ‘Love Me Like You’ or the soothing ‘Forever Lost’, here was a band that in the right time period would have been lumped along with the British New Wave movement.

Audience

My musical evening, however, began with Monica Dogra’s crunchy voice. While she was singing stuff from both the band’s old and latest albums, I was wondering if this is the closest India can come to Black Eyed Peas and one look at Monica she would remind you of Fergie, a campy one at that. For a brief while I listened to Junkyard Groove and was reminded of a line from poet Jack Black. “No, you’re not hard-core/ Unless you live hard-core.” These guys do.

Up ahead were the electronic duo Midival Punditz, whose 70 minute electronic genius stuff started with a tribute to Edvard Greig (recall the rowing scene in Social Network?). Following that, they beat the bejesus out of the electronic equipment what with a glorious mish-mash of Hindu chanting and schizoid verses. With a little bit of chemical assistance, the music was a guaranteed brain-melter.

The son-et-lumiere, both literally and figuratively, of the evening was Asian Dub Foundation. With an expansive set arrangement that includes dhol jamming with guitar interspersed with rap lyrics, it was pretty obvious that this London group packs a wallop.

Thus, as I was saying, we should be having more of such concerts where people can lounge around and quaff alcohol to get out of the meltdown rut. This might seem like a simplistic solution. But the times are such that I know what ‘quantitative easing’ means but not ‘money’!

del.icio.us:Ending recession, musically digg:Ending recession, musically newsvine:Ending recession, musically reddit:Ending recession, musically Y!:Ending recession, musically

The much hated B-word

November 15th, 2010

After watching The Social Network, a middling biopic (sort of) of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, I thought the eight most hated words in English are: “I am a businessman and I am human”. Right from the first shot, Jesse Eisenberg (Zuckerberg) is portrayed as a typical nerdy Harvard kid, who has an all-consuming passion for excellence at the expense of human relations.

Let’s admit it, we love facile sinkholes. As soon as someone tells his profession (gynecologist or surfer or concert pianist), our mind conjures some images ‘associated’ with it. When someone says he is a businessman, we immediately think of him as an arch manipulator, mean, cold, maximising profit is the only driving force of his life, showy to the extent of irritating (Exhibit A: Mukesh Ambani’s Antilia). Hollywood being the most-obliging industry, Eisenberg’s character ticks off all these boxes. He is dismissive of his girlfriend in the first scene and those tics are to be seen throughout.

“If you could have, you would have created Facebook,” says Zuckerberg derisively to The Winklevoss Twins and Divya Narendra, the trio who accuse Zuckerberg of stealing their idea. This Aguirre-kind of smugness is really misplaced and it becomes apparent when you read about the real Zuckerberg. In reality, Zuckerberg is a Mammon devotee (who isn’t?) but his personal traits are certainly not so abhorrent to portray him as a moustache-twirling villain. While David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin have created a masterful drama, they also end up doing a great disservice to the business fraternity.

Bill Gates donated $28 billion for charity and Google’s founders (Larry Page and Sergei Brin) are going beyond the realms of search engine. Google just invested $5 billion in wind energy and had also recently brought out a self-driven car prototype. All of this is crammed onto inside pages and page one material is this: When Apple ‘harassed’ a tech blogger of posting  the pictures of iPhone 4 prior to it hitting the market, there was a virtual outrage. If law of averages is taken into account, at least three-fourth of those posting comments will have an iPod. While we discount our propensity for hypocrisy, we expect businessmen to stick to a strong moral ethic.

If there is a poster boy for this depraved image of a businessman, it has to be Gordon Gekko (played with seductive relish by Michael Douglas) in Wall Street. His ‘greed is good” speech in the 1987 cult classic has apparently inspired lot of kids to end up being one of those ‘fat cats’ on Wall Street. While Oliver Stone raked in the moolah with a half-decent movie that was lapped up by the lowest common denominator as 80s’ answer to Citizen Kane, the damage was irreparable. When the sequel (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps) released a couple of months ago, the image of Gekko was still resonant. The brick-size phone might have been replaced by a sleeker one but the sneer on Gekko’s face didn’t budge.

While the sequel was a snore-fest I had bigger problems with the film. Oliver Stone nails a Goldman Sachs-like investment bank to the wall but lets off the homeowners, whose bottomless appetite for that second and third home led to the recession, too easily. Oliver Stone had to keep that myth of slimy businessmen alive, after all.

PS: Eisenberg’s lawyer tells him in the movie’s final scene that only a ‘demon’ could have created something like Facebook. Now, really!

del.icio.us:The much hated B-word digg:The much hated B-word newsvine:The much hated B-word reddit:The much hated B-word Y!:The much hated B-word