Archive for March, 2006

The remaining five

March 30, 2006

Okay, so here are the remaining five, typed in from a public wifi at a busy train station (Work related travel, what can one do?). And to satisfy Falstaff, I’m including a couple of classical pieces that are (to me) big turn ons. In no particular order again:

1. Besame Mucho
Its sung by everybody and their grandmother. And that includes an extremely drunken me, in a karaoke bar in NYC, only to be booed of by the crowd. Sigh. The world has no appreciation for talent.
Anyway, I prefer the original spanish song by Luis Miguel, but you are free to like any version – the beatles, frank sinatra, dean martin, mangatraam paanwaala – whatever. All of them are beautiful in their own way. Except for the one by Swedish death metal band Necrophobic. Relax, just kidding. There is no such version.

2. Bolero, Maurice Ravel
Surprised again? It’s all about the hypnotic tempo and the build-up. Originally intended by Ravel to be staged as a ballet, this has become an orchestral piece over the years. I love the way the melody passes from instrument to instrument, gradually adding up to the crescendo in a way that is almost reminiscent of a frenzied lovemaking session.

3. Baby its cold outside, Esther Williams & Ricardo Montalban/Bing Crosby/Dean Martin.
I know there is a version by Rod Stewart. But I don’t seriously expect any of you to be Rod Stewart fans, and I pretty much hate his guts. Hence I’m not mentioning him here. Wait. I just did! Whatever.
This song was originally written and recorded for the 1949 movie, “Neptune’s Daughter”, i find the playfulness very sensual. The movie is a really nice comedy. And gosh do her lips look delicious!
” i really i cant stay
(but baby its cold outside)
ive got to go away
(but baby its cold outside)”

4. Prelude and liebestod, “Tristan and Isolde”, Wagner
Tristan and Isolde was the quintessential middle age romantic story, but as an opera it was considered revolutionary for Wagners use of lietmotifs. This piece (liebestod = ‘love-death’), is romantic, soft and warm, in an extended foreplay-like way. And, it is incredibly long, which, again, reinforces that analogy.

5. “I put a spell on you”, Nina Simone/CCR
I have been unable to decide which version of this song is more sensual, so I have included both.

“I put a spell on you
Because you’re mine
You’re mine”

The one thing that strikes me about this song is the single minded obsession with the loved one it embodies, an obsession that most people except for die-hard romantics are incapable of. But, again, play this song and you have magic.

I have been eating chips and salsa all night…

March 29, 2006

Another list

March 29, 2006

I have a much stronger emotional to response to music than I believe is normal. There are musical pieces that will drive me to despair in the happiest of moods, and others that elevate me when I’m miserable. Music elicits every concievable reaction from me – from sorrow to outright laughter. It makes me contemplative, it makes me disdainful – in some ways it is almost like a remote control to my emotional state, putting me in charge of something that is otherwise beyond my control.

The other day, someone asked me which musical pieces I found sensual. I could come up with only a few on the spur of the moment, because it takes time to come up with well thought out list. So anyway, here are the first five. The next five coming up in a few days. The list does not include any Indian music, for now. I’ll come up with another list for Indian music.

1. “Tear Drop”, Massive Attack:

A song with a hypnotic and extremely sensual beat, that starts off with the somewhat puzzling and at the same time erotic lyrics

“Love, Love is a verb,
Love is a doing word,
Feathers on my breath.
Gentle impulsion,
Shakes me makes me higher,
Feathers on my breath”

Massive Attack is a british modern rock group that fuse together elements of modern rock and commercial pop – powerpop if you may. ‘Tear Drop’ came out with their widely acclaimed album Mezzanine (1998).If you’ve watched the video ever, you’ll remember this song – it featured a fetus singing. Also my favorite Massive Attack song.

2. “Sara”, Fleetwood Mac.

Fleetwood Mac have been around since forever (1967-current), and they have, rather successfully, covered the ground from pop to rock to blues. It is difficult to classify “Sara”. I actually have some unpleasant memories of this song – the first time i heard this song was at a party where I was one of the few single people around, and when this song started, i loved it. But pretty soon, I realised that the song had caused all the couples around to snuggle up, leaving me clutching my drink and staring uncomfortably at the ceiling.

“Drowning,
In the Sea of Love
Where everyone
would love to drown”

As sensual numbers go, this is way up there. There are several versions of this song floating around. The best is the original 7 minute version from the album ‘Tusk’ (1979). The same version features in the Greatest Hits collections of Fleetwood Mac. The live versions are good, but not quite there.

3. “Miracles”, Jefferson Airplane/Starship.

I have always considered Jefferson Airplane to be amongst the more mellow of the early druggie rock groups. “Miracles” from the 1975 album ‘Red Octopus’ probably symbolises this mellowness. The song is a rather explicit and somewhat longish piece, that essentially starts off with foreplay and ends with a climax. The kind of song that *will* turn anybody on.

” I feel like swirling and dancin’
Whenever you’re walking with me
You ripple like a river when I touch you
When I pluck your body like a string “

4. “Bewitched”, Ella Fitzgerald
Written by hit musical duo Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, this song was in the 1940 musical ‘Pal Joey’. Ella’s rendition of the song is an incredibly erotic piece of vocal jazz. Her warm voice and the alliterative rhyming that characterizes the Rodgers and Hart style make for a great combination.

“I’m wild again. Beguiled again.
A simpering, whimpering child again.
Bewitched.
Bothered and Bewildered.
Am I”

5. “Kashmir”, Led Zeppelin.
I’m not going to go into introducing you to Kashmir, since almost everybody has heard it.
And I am sure you are surprised to see it in this list.
But think about it. Think of the hypnotic and suggestive beat. The way it gets progressively frenzied, the way it builds up. The almost orgasmic “Ooh-yeah, Ooh yeah” towards the end. Kashmir is (and trust me on this one) one of the greatest songs that you can play while you are at ‘it’.

Five more coming up tomorrow, and that will be followed by another list consisting entirely of Indian music.

No sympathy for the devil

March 28, 2006

This post originally started as a comment on Falstaff’s blog. And precisely when I hit the submit button (after duly entering in an inordinately long word for the sake of verification) blogger chose to go down, and this was left unsaid.

While I agree that the Rolling Stones was one of the greatest rock bands ever, I am a bit leery of nostalgic characterizations of all bands from that generation as revolutionary. As a rock and roll band, the Stones were pretty mainstream, and my belief is that bands like the Stones had it easy by piggybacking along the backs of a social movement that started during the euphoric years when the post war generation grew up. As a band, I do not think their music was all that inspirational.

The history of rock and roll (and of music in general) has been of breakaway movements that got assimilated into the mainstream, and typically bands that chose to so sell out are the ones that saw commercial success and are remembered with nostalgia. Those that ‘stayed true’ (such as VU in the ’60s, or Sonic Youth from the ’80s onwards) remain quite obscure, apart from a small core of fans that truly appreciate what they were worth. It was these bands that had the greatest degree of influence of what was to come. The Velvet Underground was the inspiration for the punk and new wave movements in the seventies and early eighties. Sonic Youth has influenced almost every genre of alternative rock (which, arguably, has become quite ‘mainstream’) over the last twenty years, while still remaining relatively obscure. Or we could take the example of the Pixies, who were the precursors of grunge and heavily inspired bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and the likes. It is the latter that have had a lot of commercial success and will be remembered as symbolizing that genre of music years from now.

The closest analogy to the Stones that comes to my mind is that of Nirvana, which having been heavily influenced by the alternative scene of the time, went on to become one of the most popular rock bands of our times. Nirvana will be remembered with nostalgia, but they will never have the kind of influence that bands like SY and the Pixies will have on subsequent cultural movements in music.

Pictures that are worth a thousand numbers

March 25, 2006

Years ago when I held a *real* job, I had to deal with a MS application that I hated with a passion. Widely used by corporate types, bankers, consultants and techies alike, it has become ubiquitous in the *real* world. Yes I am referring to powerpoint, a piece of software that, to me, is the strongest piece of evidence that Bill Gates plans to take over the world through mind control -by making us stupid and by diminishing our mental abilities till we are capable of digesting only pre-processed information fed to our feeble brains in the form of pictures, charts and five bullet point slides.

So you can understand that much happiness happened when I discovered powerpoint is rarely used in my current professional community. I thought, and rather self importantly too, that it had something to do with the (supposedly) intellectual nature of my profession. After all, I reasoned, if intellect is a significant determinant of your success, you are hardly likely to be interested in reducing complex analyses to bite-sized bits of information.

Recently, something occured that challenged this notion of mine, and has led me to believe that *ahem* information asymmetry, rather that intellectual pride, could be the reason for not seeing too much powerpointing around here.

It all started because some research of mine involved a lot of collaborative interaction with a corporate entity. This required me to discuss the findings with both individuals from the entity (lets call them, without any pejorative intent, the ‘duhs’) and my colleagues (the ‘blahs’) in two separate presentations.

I prepared two distinct documents for the meetings. The first one, done as all respectable blah documents are done, was prepared using LaTex. It looked something like the schematic to the left. All the intricacies of both the formulation and the analysis laid bare open for the sake of blah peer review!

I spent a few hours and Latexed like i had never Latexed before, discovering new .sty files and packages and writing new \define statements with impunity, all the while boldly going where few blahs had gone before. I was happy with myself at the end of it.

The other document was meant for the duhs. It looked something like this image here to the right, and i need say nothing more than that a picture is worth a thousand words (and that phrase applies here twice, if you get my drift.)

Needless to say, there was a mixup, and it was copies of this document that were sent across to the blahs. On the day of the presentation, I arrived, armed with the original document, and started the talk, when I noticed disappointed looks from the audience.

“Your handouts don’t match your slides”, a senior blah in the audience complained.

Realizing the error, I started apologizing furiously, when I was interrupted with a, “Don’t apologize, we’d rather have the handouts than what you are presenting”, from another senior blah.

“How exactly *did* you do this?”

“Er… Powerpoint”, I said meekly.

“You can *do* all these things in Powerpoint? I didnt know it was so powerful. It looks very impressive. What do all of you think?”-he looked around quizzically.

I looked around and realized that all the blahs in the room was nodding their heads. I could barely suppress a groan.

A Room with a View

March 23, 2006

Those of you who know what we do for a living (and are in similar situations in life) will be pleased to note that we recently moved offices to a room with a window. For the moment let us abuse our notation a little bit and loosely use that term for a smallish hole in the wall that lets you see outside. Gone are the days when we had to look at a clock to figure out if it was day or night. Yes sirree, we know by the light that streams in through our window.

My window (said in the same tone as ‘My precious’) is triangular – a right angled triangle with a convex hypoteneuse. Convex – oh, how i love that word. It brings to mind convex graphs and convex sets and other such words. I occasionally use them to show how real-analytically-proficient i am.

It opens onto a view of another building – a building with red walls that happens to be a library. There isnt too much of a view of anything else – if you really strain, you can make out what appears to be the sky. And you can catch glimpses of a path between our two buildings. Not that open skies and such things have any use for us. Countless nights spent in the cell-like environments of the big room aka the bat-cave aka the fountain of scholarship have made us allergic to open skies and sunny days. Sunny days, especially, for they make others happy, and, by the law of conservation of happiness, contribute to our misery.

The view is nice. Libraries can be interesting places. I get to see other people because my window opens on to a library. I used to know people once. There was something exciting about that, but I cannot put my finger on what it was.

Most of the time, the people in the library have their noses buried in their books. But occasionally something really interesting happens. Like the other day, I saw a girl talking into her cellphone. And the most exciting thing that has happened in my life in a long long time – I saw someone smoking through an open window in the library. That does not happen too often.

My window makes me happy. And no, you may not have it.

And the time is..

March 16, 2006

Communication

March 7, 2006

I am talking to you about poetry
and you say
when do we eat.
The worst of it is
I’m hungry too.

~ AliciaPartnoy

This poem is part of the poetry in motion series on the New York subway. You will see it rather frequently, and having had the opportunity to ask people what they felt about this poem, I have realised that it is like a Rorschach test of sensibilities. Different people react differently to this.

Friend J hates the concept of being in a relationship. He has spent the last few years moving in and out of short-term flings that never last more than a month. He thought that the poem showed how domestication kills romance, “the sort of smugness that causes people to become fundamentally disinteresting after they spend too much time with each other”

Another friend, who belongs to that annoying club of people who are madly in love and gush and coo about it thinks of it as an incredibly romantic poem.
“It describes a situation where two people become so much a part of each other that one person’s desires induce similar desires in the other person, the kind of relationship that all of us secretly aspire to”, were her exact words.

I, on the other hand, think that this poem is about the power of the culinary over the poetic. Self-deprecatory because it places food before poetry, it is about the triumph of food over other forms of human expressions. But then I am obsessed with food to the point that I have almost gone to jail for stalking it.

There are, of course, other possible points of view. More general ones, in a manner of speaking. I asked friend W, a beer drinking,’gidday-mate’ wishing buddy from Oz about it while travelling on the subway, the other day.

“That’s gay stuff mate, pomes and what not”, was the only thing he said.

Update: This is what Falstaff has to say:

“Personally, I think it’s about the poem as hunger, the poem as need. Marianne Moore famously said ‘these things are important not because some high-flown interpretation can be put upon them, but because they are useful’. That, I think is the point of the poem – that true poetry isn’t about intellectual discussion, it’s about the immediacy of wanting something, about a need inside us crying out be fulfilled. Denise Levertov describes it well: “living in the garden and being hungry and eating the fruit”.”