Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Do you want to know a secret?

"I do-aah-do
Do you promise not to tell?
I do-aah-do"
Okay..not a Beatles tribute (at least not today!).
But if you do want to know a secret, or maybe several, check this out. I heard about this on the radio and it totally intrigued me.
What is it about being anonymous that gives us such an incredible sense of freedom? (Can you name a single superhero who is not disguised?) When I used to teach Intro to Psychology, I'd do an exercise in class where I'd tell my students to write down what they would do if they could be completely anonymous - about 85% of them always said they'd rob a bank or some version of that!
What would you do? What would you confess if you know nobody would ever trace it to you? What are you dying to tell?

Okay..current obsession: The Thyagaraja festival of Carnatic music in Cleveland. Just came back from a Ravi Kiran concert..awesome!

Friday, March 25, 2005

Killed - by a gun, by the court, or by society?

I have never followed any news program faithfully or read anything diligently to keep myself updated on what's going on. Some things, though, you just can't ignore.

Case # 1: Recently, a 16-year old boy in Minnesota killed 10 people including his grandfather and himself, and injured several others. While this is in itself, distressing, I am even more distressed at the lack of distress over this in public and in the media. Sure, they cover it, but not with the shock that say, the Columbine killings commanded. Has it become such a routine part of this culture to have young kids thinking morbid thoughts and killing people? Is it acceptable for kids to have guns? (okay, 'teenagers', but heck, a widely publicized study shows that your brain's frontal lobes aren't fully developed even in your late teens. And fyi, the frontal lobes are the center of planning, impulse control, and all that nifty stuff)
A guy I met recently from rural Nebraska was regaling us with stories about hunting, and how occasionally, a student would forget to remove his gun from the back of his truck or car, and just drive with it to school! While I laughed then, the thought now chills me. Imagine being a kid that has a long series of stressful events in his short life, coming to school and something pisses him off - with his under-developed frontal cortex and a gun he happened to have in his trunk handy, heck, why not go make some noise?!

Case #2: Terri Shiavo...okay, this is getting much more publicity that the high school killings, and we all are probably tired of hearing about it, but it just goes with the theme. (The theme being of course, where is society heading and what should we care about and why are we being manipulated by politicians and the media.)
Because I have a sneaky suspicion that the Shiavo case is not about denying this woman life-support or not, it's about politics. It's about getting the religious conservative replublican stronghold on America tighter. It's NOT about saving someone's life, if it was, Bush would have pulled out of the war and saved hundreds and thousands of lives. If it was truly people's lives he was concerned about, Bush wouldn't mind cutting short his many vacations to Crawford, or waking up to sign a bill at 1:11 a.m, or anything of that nature like he did in this case. I think this was seen and seized as a great political opportunity to send out a message to a certain target group.

Maybe I am just a liberal pinko-commie beeyotch, but I find it very difficult to wrap my head around a philosophy that simultaneously is pro-life, pro-war, but against gay rights, against gun control. If someone can explain this one to me, it'd be great!

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Getting HAMmered

This past week I was in the Magic City, in the Ham, in the Big B'ham, in sweet home Alabama..all different ways of saying I was in Birmingham, AL. Some highlights:
1. Feeling important because the folks I was doing the project for paid for hotel, food, airfare etc. I know it's common, but it's the first time it's happened to me, okay, so let me enjoy it!
2. Meeting some fabulous people - it's wonderful because every time I travel I end up meeting the most interesting people. My friend Robyn calls me a "Cool People Magnet" :)
3. Hanging out with 2 cute-as-buttons gay boys checking out other boys together - another first for me I admit!
4. Eating some really good food almost every day
5. Drinking after a loohoong time
6. Having to fill out forms to get into bars/clubs (I know, crazy, huh!! especially when I was clearly not in a position to be writing OR thinking!)
7. Being the only girl in a group of boys who were too drunk to realize that I am not 'one of the boys'. So when they started telling me "Dude..check out that miniskirt, dude" I totally fell off my chair laughing
8. The Civil Rights Institute - it is a brilliant museum documenting the entire civil rights movement, especially the 60's Black rights stuff. Never before has a museum made me almost cry...especially the "I have a dream" speech on big screen.
9. The Birmingham Museum of Art - a very very pleasant surprise.
10. The rampant blatant discrimination occuring even today - this was my first time in the South and now I know why it has a reputation for not being very liberal, to put it mildly.
11. However, the famous Southern hospitality was very evident, so I had a really pleasant stay.
12. Learning some new vocabulary - "That's so T" Or "I was so T" which can precede almost anything,"to yak" means "to puke", "alcomahol" means "alcohol", "hammed up" means "wasted" or "hammered" or "drunk" or "stoned" as it applies. I have also started saying "Y'all" again. Applying all that knowledge, "Y'all should have seen him, that alcomahol made him really yak. He was so T-for-totally hammed up".

Okay, that was that.

I'm going to share with you fine folks from time to timewhat I'm currently obsessed/occupied with, whether it's music, books, activities, people (maybe not!), ideas. For now, I'm maha-obsessed with Franz Ferdinand, especially the song "Take me out" I've heard it about 4 times today already.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The God of small (pain)tings!

Another contrived title for a post...maybe you'll like it, then again..maybe you won't!
In a relieving departure from the time of my last post, I decided to do something about my inertia today. I started a painting of those copy-a-masterpiece-by-following-these-really-simple-instructions-you-moron pictures. It was "A vase of irises" by Van Gogh. Man, it seems straighforward enough, but I lost patience after a while. Which is incredible considering the fact that it is a tiny little thing, with only about 5 colors being used! And it also is a pity, because all that's left is the table the vase is standing on. My painting looks good from far, but it's really far from good. The original, on the other hand..the simplicity, the depth, the balance, the color, the freshness, WOW! I am not at all into art appreciation or anything, but I do understand how you can really get into that stuff. Imitation is the surest form of flattery, but my imitation was the surest form of appreciation for Vincent's greatness :)

In other news, I was chatting with one of my best friends in India today, and she happens to be a very religious Catholic. Now anyone who knows me knows that my feelings towards religion are at best, skeptical. We approached the topic warily (and promised to continue when we were face to face). But the conversation was really interesting.

An excerpt:
Friend: I am not worried about getting offended or offending you because I love you
Me: You love me despite the fact that I'm going to hell?! *Because of course, if she's a real Christian she must believe that we who have not been 'saved' will have to go to hell!*
Friend: I don't think you're going to hell.
Me: Good to know!
Friend: Because I think that the God who made you and me is a just God.
Me: *Here's the good part, the one I'm so proud about!* And I think the God that you and me made is just a god.
See, same words, different meaning!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

In eRrRrr She AAH!!!!!

I am officially bbbbooooooorrrrrrrrreeeeeeeedddddddddd beyondddddddddddd belieeeeeffffffffffffffffff!!!!!!!!!
Don't get me wrong..not that I don't have things to do, just that I don't WANT TO DO THEM, DAMMIT!
Maybe my trip to Boston will shake me out of the inertia and get me moving on my dissertation. Maybe motivation, like happiness, is a state that eludes you the more you look for it.
Maybe happiness IS a mat that sits on my doorstep.*

Like my friend Sameer, inventor of languages and distributor of illegal cable TV says, "Maybe, then again, maybe not." (Best said in a thick Bronx accent, "Mebbe, mebbe not..wotcha gonna dooo aboudid?")

Boredom, like a slug
is difficult to get rid of.
clings to you without your knowledge or approval.
is not pretty.
brings on others' pity, disgust but no help.
can attack suddenly, even in the middle of a seemingly busy life.

Hope for a new improved me this time next week. Sorry for trippy post.
For now, my bheja is fried.

Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin' ship,
My senses have been stripped, my hands can't feel to grip,
My toes too numb to step, wait only for my boot heels
To be wanderin'.
I'm ready to go anywhere, I'm ready for to fade
Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way, I promise to go under it.*

*Apologies to Bob and Rob for the stolen lyrics. For those who recognized the lines, congratulations, we move in similar self-pitying but poetic circles! For the others, don't worry, your time will come..especially if you know cannot escape!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Supersize me!

Everything about America is big - the country itself, the ideals, the voices, the food portions, the malls, the stores, the cars, and yes, the people. Just returned from a showing of "Supersize me", a remarkable documentary about one man's crusade against the McFattening and McSickening of the world, especially America. Morgan Spurlock simply did what several thousands of people probably do on a daily basis - he ate nothing but McDonalds food three times a day for thirty days at an immense cost to his physical and mental health. A really healthy and fit man before the experiment, he put on 25 pounds, raised his cholesterol levels more than 80 points, shot his blood pressure up to hypertensive levels, and lots of other radical increases in health indices I don't know to spell, pronounce or remember!
Along the way, the documentary takes a look at a lawsuit against McDonalds, corporate America's hooking of young kids onto fast food and sustaining their deep pockets using the school system's lunch programs, advertising and marketing aimed specifically at kids. One especially telling scene is when Morgan shows some kids pictures of Jesus Christ, George Washington and Ronald McDonald and guess who the kids recognized?! They all knew the McDonald clown, one kid recognized George Washington and none recognized Jesus. (one kid thought that Jesus was George W.Bush and Morgan says wryly, "Close enough!"!!)
While I do think that the culture of victimization in this country makes people file unnecessary and frivolous lawsuits at the drop of a hat (or a drop of spilled hot coffee on their thigh!), this movie makes me sit up and wonder whether individual responsibility accounts for only so much and corporate (ir)responsibility then takes over. The book "Runaway Jury" by John Grisham that tackles the case of taking legal action against Big Tobacco (the movie chickens out and changes the focus of the lawsuit into gun control!) for deaths due to lung cancer deals with similar issues.
Kudos to film-makers like Spurlock and Michael Moore to remind us that capitalism comes with a price - sometimes a very real physical one, if not always a remote moral one. To do it with the bravado, humor, and sarcasm that they do, reminds us also that America is still a country where one can hold corporations and governments accountable and poke fun at them and make a living doing that!