May 26, 2005

Shallow

If only the number of interesting people were much greater on this earth, life would have been so much less boring. I could have blindly followed a revolutionary, fallen head-over-heels in love, toiled towards harvesting a good-for-nothing crop in the middle of some arid land or have even done something useful with my life. As it stands now, there is terrible sense of deja vu (even after discounting the actual phenomenon that I tend to experience regularly) in everything. Cities are stops in a journey with no end in sight, people are things you find and forget, career is just another grand excuse among the so many others, sex is something you have with someone and days are nothing but notches on driftwood with names and numbers attached to it. Boredom is my only best friend.

The tragedy, I feel, is that at the core everyone and everything is shallow. I am, with the rest of the populace, one thing or the other either because of some childhood trauma, sheer vanity or some totally nonsensical dream. Scale it up and you can see even entire revolutions being built on top of this shallow base. To make matters worse, people are slowly being reconstructed into more fluid forms. We are being broken down into a base material that can be readily molded into a given set of things -- well-to-do, traditional, eccentric, loser, obedient and so on. I don't even remember when was the last time, after discounting the close friends, that I was genuinely surprised by someone. Where have all the interesting strangers gone?

May 23, 2005

Out of Exile

If you have listened to their self titled debut album, Audioslave's Out of Exile is, well, very Audioslavish. It is droneful, explosive in fits and starts, moody and is an exceptionally refreshing change by means of alternative rock (does that still exist?) in the sphere of commercial music.

The band, which was formed from the leftovers of Rage Against The Machine and fronted by ex Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell, still manages to bring out bits of the best of both worlds -- Soundgarden and Rage Against The Machine -- in a single package.

On its own, the album is nothing great and the backbone of the music is kind of going nowhere, neither quite Soundgardenish, nor does it pack the punch and the rawness or edginess of RATM. Moreover, it does not take anywhere the sound that the band put down with the first record.

Now, to a couple of the tracks.

'Our of Exile' is a rocker of a track and for those people who dismiss electronica and gadgetry check out the outro of the song, you can hear a low pass filter+reso being applied to the drum track there.

'Be Yourself' has a wah wah drenched solo which starts off quite a bit like the vintage "I was made for loving you baby" track.

'Doesn't remind me of anything,' starts slow and melodic, explodes, only come back to the playful melody again and towards the middle it loses its way.

'Heaven's dead' is classic Cornell and a throwback to the latter half (post Badmotorfinger days) of Soundgarden's career.

'The worm' has the maestro Morello and the guitar gang going on a paranoidesque trip in the Sabbath vein. Listen carefully and you can hear even more familiar riffs. Nothing too great actually.

All in all, it is great to hear stuff by some veterans again than stuff put out by yet-to-grow-up kids with a half penny melody going gold with a great deal of luck and money behind them, but otherwise it is quite a disappointment.

Needless to say, I am biased, I miss the crazy stuff that Kim Thayil used to play and Zack's vocals. Put Morello and Cornell together and it is obvious that both can't shine at the same time or complement each other like Zack and Morello used to do. And yes, I do miss Matt Cameron too.

The album, in its entirety, is available for listening at Audioslave's page at Myspace.

Pointer

For the kind consideration of all those who still can't get it right.

It is not URL's but URLs.

Shoo.. now!

May 22, 2005

Saying It

After years and years of trying to put into words what I have felt like about the ghosts, not the ones that are born out of personal experiences, that we live with, finally, I come across something that puts an end of that quest. I do not think I can ever come up with a better way of putting it. And strangely, as the passage itself says, you can't understand it till you have lived it, a certain state of altered consciousness, without which it is all just fancy gibberish. Anyway, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, the wonderful passage by the amazing Doris Lessing from her book: The Golden Notebook.
I also knew what I was going to be told. Knowing was an 'illumination'. During the last weeks of craziness and timelessness I 've had those moments of 'knowing' one after the other, yet there is not way of putting this sort of knowledge into words Yet these moments have been so powerful, like the rapid illuminations of a dream that remain with one walking, that what I have learned will be part of how I experience life until I die.

Words. Words. I play with words, hoping that some combination, even a chance combination, will say what i want. Perhaps better with music?
But music attacks my inner ear like an antagonist, it's not my world. The fact is, the real experience, can't be described. I think, bitterly, that a row of asterisks, like an old-fashioned novel, might be better. Or a symbol of some kind, a circle perhaps, or a square. Anything at all, but not words.

The people who have been there, in the place in themselves where words, patterns, order, dissolve, will know what I mean and the others won't. But once having been there, there's a terrible irony, a terrible shrug of the shoulders, and it's not a question of fighting it, or disowning it, or of right or wrong, but simply knowing it is there, always. It's a question of bowing to it, so to speak, with a kind of courtesy, as to an ancient enemy: All right, I know you are there, but we have to preserve the forms, don't we? And perhaps the condition of your existing at all is precisely that we preserve the forms, create the patterns -- have you thought of that?
It is the forms that I have the most issue with in it. Are they that sacrosanct? Maybe, we have no need for total anarchy, but do we have to distill everything, including our existence, to just preservation of the forms? In effect, what are we striving to achieve -- the upper hand in a perpetual battle with the self or the preservation of the forms? Or, as it is very much possible and dreadfully too, are the two just way too incredibly intertwined like a dual headed monster?

May 18, 2005

Something Of Your Own

In setting something up of your own, there are a couple of major things involved: a) A good idea to work with b) Smart and dedicated people who can complement your strengths and make up for your weaknesses c) Someone to fund the entire operation d) The market opportunity, without which any good product/service can flop. The funny thing is that, other than for factors 'a' and 'd' there is not much else that I can claim to have and without the rest, my intention of starting out on my own is as good as dead in water, even before I can start on it. The thing is, once I am done with my current job, or after my next job, I have to find some way of getting my own show running.

The logic to all this is quite simple. I am not someone cut out for big firms and board rooms even if I were to be interested or qualified enough to aim for something like that. I like working with passion, putting my head down and getting things done, with the end-user kept in mind as the king. At the same time, the purely money making route -- of taking on enough consulting and itsy bitsy jobs and investing the money elsewhere to grow on its own -- would not be satisfying enough for me to justify keep going for a long enough time. It would get simply too boring. Lastly, I am a bit of control freak with a blistering pace when it comes to work. I need people around me who can challenge me, run with me and beat me at my game.

That said, I still have to figure out how to go about it. One way would be to approach one of the higher ups, or any other adequately moneyed private entity, try and sell the idea there, get it running and make away with a good enough slice of the proceeds if and when it succeeds and use it to start something else. Of course, this approach has its own major problems. Ideas are always easily copied, nicked and made one's own with a degree of ruthlessness attached to it that would put to shame even a hungry lion feasting on a fresh kill. It also depends a great deal on the standing and credibility of the person who makes the pitch. Do I have any standing other than my immediate working environment? Nopes, none at all.

Smart and dedicated people I have found, from my five years in the industry, are exceptionally hard to find. Successful small operations are run the best by people with excellent skills in multiple things. If finding them is hard enough, getting them to join you is an even more difficult task. After all, who would want to leave a secure job and start working in a dingy room, driven only by the grand visions of success which might never ever come your way? Moreover, as someone who starts something new off, you have to exude a certain level of confidence and passion that can see people through even the worst of times. Do I have any of that? Nopes, none at all.

Now comes the major issue called as market opportunity. Even the smallest of operations, save the consulting jobs, need at least a fair amount of stable and steady back office operations, without which any product will eventually fail. Irate clients/customers are a strict no, no and if the competition's lack of customer service is one of your major selling points, you better get this one right. Then you have to make it to the market with the right product. Which can still fail if you get to the market at the wrong time. Funky, lifestyle products, which don't feature on your list of primary, purchases don't normally tend to do well in times when the markets, employment and salaries are not soaring high. At least on this one, the time is more than right.

All of this are just thoughts on the surface level. Dig deeper and you can find other headaches like incorporation, taxes, licenses, distribution and the evil hands of the capital providers who will always want to have their money and more back at the earliest, which is ready and waiting to dissuade me. Even when all that is true, it is also a fact that I do need to give it a shot to see if it can be done. After all, I don't want to be like quite a few people I know: at age 32 and got nothing great to do. So they stick around playing petty politics and fiddling with petty ideas, wondering where all the good years and the good times have disappeared. Do I want that? No, never ever.

Big Blue Breathes

While the blogging world+dog has gone in a frenzied chase after its latest whipping boy - IBM's guidelines for blogging - it would be a wee bit interesting to try and figure out how else could it have been drafted. As I had commented on Dare's post on the subject, this is more about a company wanting to keep its mouth clear about whatever feet its employees choose to put in it. Time to tackle the points blow-by-blow.

1. Know and follow IBM's Business Conduct Guidelines.
Obviously, no company in its sane mind is going to ask its employees to ignore the business conduct guidelines.

2. Blogs, wikis and other forms of online discourse are individual interactions, not corporate communications. IBMers are personally responsible for their posts. Be mindful that what you write will be public for a long time -- protect your privacy.
To the uninitiated, blogs, wikis and forums are not any form of corporate communications. Don't tell me that you did not know that already?

3. Identify yourself -- name and, when relevant, role at IBM -- when you blog about IBM or IBM-related matters. And write in the first person. You must make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of IBM.
Refer to point 2.

4. If you publish a blog or post to a blog and it has something to do with work you do or subjects associated with IBM, use a disclaimer such as this: "The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions."
Once again, refer to point 2, a lot of the personal blogs I have seen have the disclaimer about not being the opinion of the employers. There is nothing new here, move along.

5. Respect copyright, fair use and financial disclosure laws.
Laws are laws, whether you, me or my mom likes them. Blogging is good, but blogging is not a way to get around them. Speak up, scream out, but do it responsibly.

6. Don't provide IBM's or another's confidential or other proprietary information.
Simple and straight forward, right? Even without these guidelines, almost every sensible blogger does this already.

7. Don't cite or reference clients, partners or suppliers without their approval.
Not too complicated again. Write something about a client, partner or supplier and it does not go too well with them, it should not be the company's headache that you wrote it.

8. Respect your audience. Don't use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, etc., and show proper consideration for others' privacy and for topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory -- such as politics and religion.
Self-explanatory again.

9. Find out who else is blogging on the topic, and cite them.
Did someone not say this was all about the conversation?

10. Don't pick fights, be the first to correct your own mistakes, and don't alter previous posts without indicating that you have done so.
Sounds like a decent enough rule to me.

11. Try to add value. Provide worthwhile information and perspective.
A simple case of signal vs noise?

Now, what was all the fuss about again?

May 17, 2005

Packitback

The shorter version of what the much-loved Backpack, the new information organiser from 37Signals, can do, which is already being done by Gmail.

Add content to a (password protected) page via email: Can be done in Gmail
Send content from a (password protected) page via email: Can be done in Gmail
Funky AJAX interface: Strange, it is there in Gmail too.
Tagging for grouping information: Also present in Gmail as labels.

Essentially, every Backpack page is a media-rich page or for the lack of a better term - a rich wiki - which does not do, other than the done-to-death reminder feature, much more than what Gmail already does for me. I have a Gmail account which has the labels todo, work, ideas and raw that filter my emails to that account when sent with the label: text as the subject line, which handles all my notes and ideas. Forward the same mail to myself and hey I have the option to have versions too. And as far as the collaboration features of Backpack goes, they are just not strong enough or comprehensive enough for me to even consider using it.

May 16, 2005

Strife

Well, it is that time of the year once again when a lot of things change all in one go. In keeping with the convention, every year, a bunch of people you know either get all grown up, start planning their lives ahead, invest in property, cars, bond markets or they just get married and move on. Of course, all of this is required for the so called 'foundation' of the society to move ahead and much more accurate descriptions of this process, from varying perspectives, have already been written about beautifully here and here. So, I won't torture anyone with more chatter on the same lines.

Last week, a good friend of mine (one of the very rare ones who do not criticize my often lunatic approach to life) was telling me about how someone she knows had finally hit the track she wanted to follow in life and is now leading a much happier, contented and clearer life, mostly travelling the mountains and teaching kids in a local school there. In stark contrast to that, two other friends of mine, who have been living a particularly glamorous, jet-setting and successful life, were complaining about how boring and disenchanted their lives had become of late. How many of you have the total conviction about the choices you have made or the choices that you are going to make? And what if you find out, later, that it was not the right one?

In writing all this down, it is for the first time that I have allowed myself to sit down and assemble the pieces that have been swirling around in the vortex of my mind. It is not just the lack of time or a particularly tough disengagement from the relationship that I have been in the past year or so that has made this process difficult. Most of the times, it is just the sheer terror in having to comprehend the permanence and the end results of the decisions that I am making now that has prevented me from doing this. But I must face up with them and now is always better than later.

As I have grown older, in the time that has passed since my 25th birthday, I have changed considerably. There is now a constant sense of tiredness, fatigue and the presence of a painful lingering feeling at the back of my mind that this is not what I want. Of course, the 'life is elsewhere' feeling is nothing new to me, but I have been asking myself if I required a complete and comprehensive deviation from the norm? Could I really afford another switch of my existing belief and value systems? Moreover, even more scarily, I have been struggling with losing touch with all of my innate contexts and concepts.

And yes, I have also wondered about my sanity and the alarming rate at which I am losing touch with it. Which is nothing compared to the fact that I am having trouble putting down an internal rebellion that wants to tear to shreds everything that surrounds me for its sheer vacuousness and pointlessness. I am truly disappointed with the parts that form the core of the life of most people, institutions and aspirations. I am tired of screaming into faces that there is more they can do, more they can achieve. But most of all, I am tired of screaming that at myself.

The fatigue, derived mostly from the disappointment, often pushes me into a corner. Most of the time I feel like I inhibit a mucousy bubble into which sound and light come in slow and confused, gradually rising towards a crescendo where I am forced to tear it all down and come out, screaming at everyone to just shut the fuck up. And this crescendo is what I am having trouble fighting. Going against the flow is something that is at my core. I do not know for how long I can pretend to be even a mock conformist. Have any of you ever felt the same way?

Sometimes I feel that it is just the stagnation that is killing me. For most parts, my mind has moved on to so many things. It is almost gone back to living by itself once again; even in all this noise there is not much else that registers in there beyond the 4x4 beat of the melody that is constantly playing into my ears; it has finally forsaken, for good, the relations or conventions it has never believed in; it is busy thinking up all sorts of interesting things to do and interesting places to go to. While, for all practical purposes, I am still here, living the same old life, resulting in a disastrous dichotomy.

There is also the realisation that at some point I would have to totally let go of myself and see if I can take it at all. In fact, I won't be able to know if I could not take it since I'd be gone for good if I cannot take it and such is the state of my mind that the only key to unlock it would be locked inside myself. Not a pretty thought, I agree. But I can't go on for much longer like this. Something has to give. In the absence of someone to share the monstrosity called me, I have grown weary and tired of carrying myself on my shoulders. If I have to fall and never get up again, then so be it.

You know, I miss the old me. I don't feel any passion for anything anymore. In my mind I feel more tired than what an 80-year-old man would feel like. At times I even think that I could happily make do with a crutch or a walking stick, only that, sadly, there are no crutches for the mind. I do not want to feel this tired. I do not want to feel this jaded. I want that part of me back that always had something to look forward to, a part that did not know the meaning of giving up. I want that person back who strongly believed that it would be much better to die trying than to give up, compromise and walk away into a dark corner.

Eventually, all of this is a result of the realisation of where I am headed for. I can't live with compromises. I have to live every moment in life at its fullest and if it need be, I will gladly burn in the process. I know that I have already started down this road, with the complete awareness that once I start on it there will just be no coming back, for better or for worse. I have no idea what it will do to me, but I need to push the line once more and do that dance with fate. This side of the divide is boring me, there is nothing new to see and there is nothing new to experience here. It is about time I had moved on.

May 13, 2005

We All Love Sax

When I started writing this post, I was going to write about Tim Deluxe, the man behind the beautiful Choose Something Like A Star track from his debut full length album The Little Ginger Club Kid. Instead, I became more curious about the female voice that was present in another track, Mundaya (The Boy), from the same album, which sounded very familiar to me. On further digging around, helped very well by Google, it came to be known that the voice was of Shahin Badar, who was also featured in the The Prodigy smash hits - Smack My Bitch Up from The Fat Of The Land and Get Up Get Off from Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned.

Even while the Mundaya track is nothing great, from the point of view of Tim's production or Shahin's singing, another track available on her website, 'LEILA (Friends of Benassi Remix)' is quite a treat. In any case, her vocals from Smack My Bitch Up, is one of my all time favourite interludes in any club, before the song takes off again. Coming back to Tim and the reason why this post was initially written, you have to check out this track, We All Love Sax/Sirens, to experience how well Tim has blended house music perfectly with some amazing free flowing sax by Dogsax. Listen, learn and enjoy!

May 12, 2005

Notepad

Strangely, the only time these days when thoughts with any semblance of coherence visit me are the few moments, or hours during the really bad ones, before I doze off to sleep. If I had a notepad in my brain, I would certainly have jotted them down then and later grant them freedom its nocturnal castle. Since that does not quite work in the possibility's realm, I am forced to wander aimlessly in my thoughts during the day, languishing in my thoughtless helplessness. Not that any of that matters much. After all, I have nothing new to think or write about, other than the same old issues looked at and whined about endlessly from different angles numerous times.

Now that I can finally remember it, one of the things I was thinking about was the capacity for truths that people have. A vast majority of the people who inhabit our little planet have only a minute capacity to swallow the truth as it is. In fact, most of us would gladly give away the capacity to be in touch with the truth if it would make our lives happier or easier. Come to think of it, that might not be that much of a bad thing. After all, even after living this way what is the most important thing that I do other than complain endlessly? Blue pills are nice to pop into yourself in movies. Was it blue or was it red? Damn, I can't even remember that. Can I get angry about that too?

May 03, 2005

Reflekt

Strangely, for a track that is driving a lot of people, including myself, totally nuts, there is very little information that is available about Need To Feel Loved by Reflect (feat Delline Bass). Even as a standalone song, excluding the special consideration that it gets from me for being a semi-trance number, it is a beautifully melodic track that refuses to go away from your head. Delline's singing is plaintive and the lingering melody in the background just adds to the entire dreamy feeling that is caught in an even more trippy way by the music video. Listen to the song here and the video here.

Update: Reflekt, I have come to finally know (via Yahoo! search and not Google), is not Reflket Records, but a collaboration between Seb Fontaine and Vern of Stretch N Vern, who roped in Delline Bass to provide the vocals and the lyrics for the track. Apparently, the background sample is from the soundtrack to Road To Perdition. Read up more here and here.