What are we teaching the next generation?

So much of what we do as a society is in aid of two things: humanity as a whole, and the next generation. As much as people are selfish and individualistic, that is rarely geared toward oneself alone. It generally encompasses your immediate surroundings as well. I don’t just mean your geographic surroundings, but the people you surround yourself with, your family, the things you create, the community you support. Your effort is a reflection of the world in which you would like the next generation to exist.

The policy decisions and technical developments we term ‘progressive’, the ones we are most excited about, and often most divisive about, are the ones that will most affect the world for what’s next. Although we’re divided by ideology, and can’t quite agree on what measures we should take to improve our world, we seem to agree that we’re better off now that we were before—medicine, nutrition, education, peace, human rights, technology… everything is on an upward trend. But we can’t seem to agree on how we got here.

We each rely on different cherry picked moments in history that triggered improvement. As if nothing after that was advancing the cause. Both in India, where I grew up, and USA, where I currently live, each segment of society treasures a different aspect of the founders of the nation to a fault. There’s a sense that since they created the nation, an estimate of what they might want is a great gameplan for what we should do. There’s a sense that we know them well enough to know what they’d think now—the pandemic of WW_D. And so we pick our greatest figures from history, quote them, and apply their ideas to new situations in the hope we will find answers that we’re scared to invent ourselves.

There isn’t however, any evidence that they would have held their opinion in the face of new circumstances. Most importantly however, I think the idea missing is that they are regarded well because they left the world in a better state than they found it; they didn’t fight to halt change and retain the status quo. What they passed on, was a momentum of change, and increasingly, the ability to alter the world for the better as we were presented with more opportunities to do so. They taught their next generation in the hope the next generation would grow better than them. And I hope we will leave our next generation with the power to far exceed the improvements to the world we have made.

This is why, when I hear support for a ‘traditional definition’, or something reasoned to ‘protect our children’, I see an attempt to roadblock a better future in favour of a past learning.

It shows in India’s recent ban on porn, arrest of unmarried couples, victim-blaming and general outrage over western ideas…. And it shows in America’s difficulties with institutional racism, fear of socialism, enormous wealth-gap and dependence on a literal reading of the bible. Each shows a fear of some development, a change, a progression; and this is no surprise, because change is scary.

But what worries me the most, is that the justification for these restrictions is often presented as a better future for the next generation. The very same thing people pushing new ideas are touting as their justification.

“I want progress”

“No, I want progress”

That’s a debate that will last forever. There’s a semantic wall because people using the same words mean entirely different things. Reminds me of a post by Neil Gaiman:

http://neil-gaiman.tumblr.com/post/43087620460/i-was-reading-a-book-about-interjections-oddly

In defence of poor taste – rape, racism, sexism and other hilarious side-effects of the human condition

In the past few months, there’s been an increasing amount of posts and twitter traffic about how terrible rape jokes are and why they are absolutely never okay. I’m not going to defend them directly, although I will link to articles from both sides. What bothers me more, is telling people to stop doing something. That’s censorship, that’s silencing a voice, and truly, is just an arbitrary line that someone decided to draw.

First, a terrible joke

A boy and a pedophile are walking through a dark forest. The boy says, “These woods are scary”.
The pedophile looks at him and replies, “Tell me about it. I’ve got to walk back alone.”

The context

We as humans, have never really come to grips with what we’re okay with talking about. The language grows, we continue explore, learn and grow about the world around us, and yet feel the need to protect the people around us, the next generation, the innocent. We start to define what it means to be an acceptable human being, what’s okay to say in front of elders, children, in ‘polite company’ – what can be said in certain buildings, or during certain activities. Most of this happens organically, with the offending party being naturally ostracised, but increasingly, there seems to be a need to actually be able to control it. Kapil Sibal wants to censor the internet, and the words he’s been using to define the content: inflammatory, derogatory, objectionable, controversial. Every joke on the planet fits that bill.

Another terrible joke

How many Jews can fit in a car?
About 50, most in the ashtray.

And another

What can black women do to prevent crime?
Have an abortion.

Whether or not you find jokes funny or offensive will depend on where you’ve drawn your personal line. Maybe your race wasn’t suppressed, driven to slavery and slaughtered by the truckload. Maybe hearing the word ‘black’ or ‘joo’ in a derogatory context doesn’t bring up the harrowing history of your people. For me, I find old, family-friendly sexist humour absolutely hideous. It makes me proper sick that at a wedding, all in ‘good humour’, there will be jokes about a women always getting the last word, about men staying out of the kitchen, helping with the chores, …. I’d truly like to believe we’re past this, and our roles are not defined by our race or gender or sexual preference.

Quick, gay joke

How do you turn a fruit into a vegetable?
AIDS

And then there’s violence and war. Absolutely as important and serious as anything sex related, but easily trivialised in action movies and video games. For some reason it is absolutely fine for a six-year-old to watch one man put a bullet through another’s skull, but if he kisses the girl he saved as a result, censor the shit out of that! Even in our daily lives, we use incredibly powerful and violent language to describe typical events: traffic was hell, work was torture. Torture! Seriously. You’d equate having a long day with having your fingernails torn out, or being electrocuted through your penis, or your kneecaps blown out.

I’m fairly certain the most ‘offensive’ word in that last sentence, was penis.

And hey, religion time

What’s white and hangs off clouds?
The coming of the Lord

I generally have a problem with the untouchables: the areas you can’t question for some unexplained reason. Religion tops this list, but respect for elders, government policy and maybe society as a whole are the other biggies. These subjects are apparently outside your scope of understanding and you really should have no say in them. Somebody important, and unquestionably smart came up with the rules to all this, and we are not worthy to even know why they are still applicable to us. That’s the way the world has worked thus far, and we must protect the next generation from the thought that it may not be ideal.

And in truth, all of it has faced change over the years. Change that we took for granted, but some section of a society fought very hard for. We say ‘Greek Mythology’ without batting an eye, but to them, it was anything but fiction. They were gods, and they must be pleased. Try saying ‘Christian mythology’ today. It’s the same with age and gender. Picture a politician. Chances are you picked an oldish man. That’s statistically accurate, but not for good reason. Someone, sometime decided that until you were this age, you couldn’t make decisions that would affect another person. If you were a women, you’re just shit out of luck. 18 to drive or wield a firearm, but 21 to drink yourself silly beforehand. Men can marry at 21, girls at 18. Someone just made this crap up – to help the function of his town during that time. It doesn’t have to apply anywhere else, at any other time.

Didn’t I start with rape

I just trivialised rape in the context of this blog post. I gave it no special attention, and put it right alongside war, torture, racism, disease, religious freedom and pretty much every other serious and we-shouldn’t-joke-about-this subject there is. And if you can tell me why it is any different, and requires a separate place on the mantle, please, be my guest. But to me, the ability to talk about something starts with taking it off the taboo list. Our generation has the ability to discuss, in comfortable circumstances, far more subjects than would have been socially acceptable a generation or two ago. We can, we do, and it helps us learn from it and grow as a species. Conversation is our greatest tool, and humour is a significant strength behind it.

The defence

There isn’t one. I can’t truly, and with a clear conscious, say that it’s okay to joke about something that was unimaginably distressing to someone. But that can’t stop the conversation. That can’t seal it off in a glass case, to be only discussed under guidelines and strict supervision, because no great idea came from those conditions and I’d rather live in a society that goes “She got raped? We really should bring it up and get her to talk about it.” rather than “Shhhh, pretend like everything’s okay.”

Humour can be an incredibly powerful, albeit confusing, coping mechanism. The most recent portrayal of which is Seth Rogen trying to come to terms with his friend having cancer in 50/50. Entirely great movie, and his character really gives our generation a voice. We know how we’ve been told to act, but we’re really not sure if that suits us just right.

Other stuff to get you thinking:

Tim Minchin does a rape joke

Sarah Silverman on incest and rape

Why Rape Jokes Are Never Okay

When Is It Okay to Tell Rape Jokes

Four Inspiring Life Stories of Our Generation

Our generation was brought up on the idea of meritocracy: always told that if we worked hard, we could achieve anything. And all around us, we saw proof of this. People with simple backgrounds doing incredible things, and altering the planet: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Dirubhai Ambani, Jack Dorsey, Mark Zuckerberg… the list is long. What nobody told you, is the chances that you’ll be the next tech billionaire, are just about as likely as a peasant becoming king in the midst of the black plague.

So as much as these people have achieved, their stories have never meant that much to me. On the other hand, our generation has also grown up with the ability to do what we love. Working 9 to 5 just to pay the bills, hating your job and getting drunk to forget it, are old battle cries, and more people everyday go into work with a strong intent to achieve something: to learn more, to experiment, to grow, to go back to college, to travel, to start something themselves. The subject/career choices may be similar, but I find more people making that choice with gusto.

The stories that truly inspire me, are the people who worked at what they love, and made it the one big step forward. They are not celebrities in the classic pre-rehab, paparazzi, family-drama, tabloid sense; they have achieved a portion of their dreams, and they are well on their way to writing more:

Felicia Day

Felicia Day
Image by watsonsinelgin via Flickr

Felicia is an actress/writer. You’ve seen her on Buffy, Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog or Dollhouse (Joss Whedon fan), The Guild and Legend of Neil (web series fan), or maybe Lie To Me or House (general television fan). She has one of those straightforward actor life stories going from childhood plays through commercials, and guest spots on TV shows. But her big special awesomeness, is the geekery that drives her and the dedication and love of a fanbase that comes with. She is a big gamer, and The Guild is at least partly autobiographical, which makes all the geeky things she does honest and first hand instead of a reach for marketshare.

Varun Agarwal

Varun co-started Alma Mater, Last Minute Films and Reticular. On top of all that he’s 90 days from releasing his autobiography type book. They’ve all been featured well in articles across local media, so if you’re in India, and have your eyes open, you’ve heard of him. The best part of all this is he’s just getting started. I don’t have wikipedia to help me summarise his life yet, so I’d recommend the book even more. His Facebook notes should give you good reason to not just take my word for it.

Randall Munroe

English: Randall Munroe balancing a stack of r...
Image via Wikipedia

If you’re a geek of any self-repute, or know a geek, or just like math, or have ever been in love, or have imagined you may, one day, be in love… you’ve heard of xkcd, and wait for the strips to start your week, mid-week and end-week.

He was an independent contractor, building robots for NASA at Langley… I’ll let that settle in for a bit. And when that ended, he stuck to his side-project full time: a webcomic. The strip has inspired tonnes of real world activities, and even a bunch of easter eggs (notably in Python, YouTube & GNU), and he’s started a bunch of other websites: wetriffs.com, bestthing.info, thefunniest.info … and other similarly spectacular stuff.

Jenny Lawson

A self-portrait of the Bloggess, also known as...
Image via Wikipedia

The Bloggess is, well, a blogger and journo, in the increasingly popular mom-blogger space. It’s really hard for me to describe her without using her own words so: “I have friends in spite of myself.” and “Like Mother Teresa, Only Better”.

Wiki tells me she has rheumatoid arthritis, OCD, depression and anxiety disorder and her blog will tell you, that concerns her quite a bit. She apparently gets paid to write about Clown Porn, has started a feud with William Shatner (wiki again), and if you want to be introduced the way I was, and never let her go: start here.

Also, she’s supporting #TravellingRedDress, and you should totally, like, read about that awesomeness.

Final thoughts

So, two chicks, two dudes: four of the people that have heavily inspired me in the last year or so… and who I’ll be watching in the year to come. Do shit you love, it works out great, no matter how small it is in the grand scheme of things… because, you know, bottom line, you’re doing what you love anyway!

The New Bangalore Top 10

So I had a chat yesterday about how there must be new music around us and we probably just aren’t listening for it. So this is what I did:

I went to ReverbNation, searched for Bangalore and started listening to Most Recent. This list is by no means extensive, it is very clearly my opinion and is based on nothing but clicking play. That said, let’s party.

Number Ten

Trick Cylinder
The Vampire Cult of Bangalore
http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/song_9700756

Takes me back to the nineties, of DJ Quicksilver and the Porn Kings. Not as much style as Fat Boy Slim but enough so suck you in nearly immediately and numb you into submission. Production needs a big bump but the beginnings are all there. Gotta hope they make lots and make it often so they get all of this stuff of of their system and start making something new!

Number Nine

Blak ‘N Wayt
Mind Wanderer
http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/song_9649568

Simple and strong, a touch Staind maybe, and hints of very generic rock from the 90s-00s. The song layers very well, and if produced well could end up sounding real nice and solid. The lyrics are well meant, a tad emo, but unapologetic about and I appreciate that. This track seems to stand as the every-man and exist because it’s always worth it to just be.

Number Eight

Pysko Suneel
Me and the Moon
http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/song_9344866

This track is entirely unfinished, missing the whole melody section, but I wanted to put it in anyway mostly because I’m ten pages into this hunt and haven’t gotten far. It’s not a bad ambient track, feels great to have around like an old tshirt, but I’m hoping this doesn’t make the final cut.

Number Seven

Ugly Fungus
Evil or Good
http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/song_9648942

An ambient rock base gets you started, and there’s strains of unpolished Thermal all over this. Comes off heartfelt though, and that’s important. Feels the type of band you would sit through live, but the drummer really needs a step up here and it could really open up the sound if the rigid beat let go a bit.

Number Six

J.Jo.B
Beautiful memories…
http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/song_8350122

Somewhere between electronic reggae and 80s rock, this has the corniest lyrics and the worst vocals on this list but I really like the sound base. New vocalist, writer and lead guitarist maybe… someone to tackle sound production of course, and there’s a song here.

Number Five

Ayaan’s Band
Chal kudiye
http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/song_9330981

Nothing but style here. Great, although overused back beat, and they’ve taken it apart real nice to give it the hip-hop backbone they wanted. It’s all on all the time, like a Michael Bay film, and that’s what this stuff is made for. Shit corny with the lyrics, and almost entirely ridiculous… and that makes it perfect random listening.

Number Four

Ajay Isaacs
Big Eyes
http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/song_8270519

The first original, truthful and truly deserving piece… yeay! I am now renewed with vigour and appreciate why I did this in the first place. This will sit comfortably in the soundtrack of Veronica Mars and strains of Indie from 5-6 years ago – a tad trippy in atmosphere but centred on very simple.

Number Three

Bulletproof Peach
Floating all around Sound
http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/song_9166926

We’re really warming up here. Epically long intro that lives up to the title… but then again, maybe I’m just a softy for the tabla. Surprisingly, about halfway through, it cuts right into an entire rap piece that slides in perfectly. I’m generally wary of rap in India, because of a lack of context and a weak grasp of the language, but this all gets handled fairly well here and all that turns a tad sour is the screaming guitar.

Number Two

Hungry
Keep Your Towel On
http://www.reverbnation.com/play_now/song_7598257

Damn thing is just a 30 sec preview but still the best thing so far. Really need to listen to the rest of the band, but seeing how that isn’t going to happen easy, this is the least objectionable thing. If anyone’s heard these guys, confirm my suspicion that they do actually sound nice and raw live… somewhere between Panatella and No Safe Word with some humour thrown in for good measure.

Number One

There’s no number one. Can’t do it. Site has given up and the flash media Player won’t load.


Yeay! Finished. And I learnt never to do this again. But you should still go out and give Indian music a chance.
Songs listened to before I got bored: 135

Other things: Metal and Electronica were the best produced but mostly all the same. There’s tonnes of hip-hop I did not know existed – almost all crap, but Bangalore seems to want to make it. I almost put a Bieber remix on the list because of the comparative value of the vocal quality (but I suspected, looked it up and found it was a shitty remix, no more).

Three hundred only sir, okay, two.

Bribes are a deeply ingrained part of our culture. I’m not sure where it started, but somewhere between our worship of the white man and immense self-loathing as a race, we have found a way to live our lives without having the slightest respect for life itself.

Human resources are cheap in India. So wages are low where they can be. But that’s only half the problem, and the half that’s easier to handle. The more significant aspect, and the part that concerns me, is the lack of respect the supposed ‘lower class’ has for themselves. And as much as we frown on the publicised ills of the system, we still benefit from it where convenient, and no self respecting father would have his spawn wait tables in this country (though they’d gladly do it abroad, and hope for tips…).

And so our hideously evil caste system continues to flourish in our daily lives, and although no self respecting middle class employee would ask for a tip for executing his mediocre workload, he will proudly feed the system that says it’s okay for thousands of police, waiters, handymen, maids, clerks, autos, drivers, cleaners, and most recently, bouncers, to do exactly that.

Before I continue, I must distinguish between bribes and tips. Tips are a reward for service beyond what was called for, and although they may have become expected in hospitality with or without excellence, there is never shame or cowardice in its giving or receiving. Bribes however, generally tantamount to blackmail, there is always a degree of expected service restricted without an additional, unmentioned-in-polite-company fee. And so while I will happily tip generously, and always recommend it, I try not to bribe, until I am strong-armed into it — I want the person to see the hole he is digging for himself.

By offering to pay that bribe, you are solidifying the gap between the person who can easily afford to lose that insignificant sum, and the person who believes he cannot afford to do without it, but does not deserve to receive it proudly. He will always believe his value to the world is the number on his cheque, and that he must augment this by brown-nosing those whose number is larger.

There are thousands of people who earn vastly more than me, but that is not a measure of my place in society and neither should it be of any human being. I will be able to have a conversation with any one of them without any level of condescension, and any expectation that my friendship and association was worth a number. I would like that to be the case on the other side, but generations of behavioural training deem it unreasonable. And just as we’ll use the seemingly innocuous “even a girl could” in casual conversation, we’ll whip out a hundo, for the blue collar worker who doesn’t deserve an official raise.

Screw you!

Alone, you are not a minority

I never liked the idea of minorities. It’s always seemed like an idea thrown out there by the majority to make it stay that way. When it comes down to it, nothing that matters is really about numbers at all.

You know who’s a minority? Jains. And you know how much of the economy of the largest population on the planet they control?

Know who else is a minority in India? Christians. Name the top 10 high schools in this country you can think of.

Who else? Apple. How many portable music players can you name and what do you think their market shares are?

More? 300 Spartans. The 12 apostles. The Mighty Ducks. Joan of Arc. Robin Hood. The Heart of Gold against the Kricket army. John Connor. Scott Pilgrim. Hit Girl. Friggin’ RAMBO!

Every story worth telling has been about an underdog, a smaller team that went up against the big guy and changed history. It’s no coincidence. We inherently know that a small team is together because of a shared passion, and, most likely, a big one is because of a force larger than them. Big teams tend to lose individual contributions and growth becomes clunky and unwieldy. Yet so much of our lives surround what the majority thinks…

We decide who runs a country by a popularity contest rather than who is most impassioned about the work they want to do. We decide on a successful company by how many people buy their product rather than how their products have changed the world around them. Top grossing movies get far more press than those that have influenced hearts and minds, the same with music and every other form of art. Price tag it, release it, and judge by numbers.

I may not actually have a solution to change democratic elections, but what if we went old school and made them compete in Takeshi’s Castle or Wipeout to see who wants it more. Have a staring contest, or see who can get the most smiles, rather than anonymous stamps on paper. I know every other way will probably be slow, inefficient and probably unreliable, but at least we’ll care! At least we’ll have someone in power who won people over in a truly human way; not with abstract, often unresolved promises of grandeur, and very often, straight-up bribes.

Hopefully someone we’ll laugh and cry with as we desecrate the planet with our hideous and self-absorbed decisions. And we can hold hands and dance our way into the apocalypse.

A Burger So Good, You Want to Buy It Dinner

I’m not strictly a foodie but I do appreciate a well laid out meal that meshes tastes well. When a chef has taken their time with it, paid attention to nice little details instead of throwing meat on a stove and shooting it with a spice gun. It’s also inescapable that I grew up in the nineties, and although I appreciate a good steak, a pasta sometimes, curries, dosas, …, even a salad, the one food that will always grab me, that I am, and always be a slave to, is a burger.

I grew up without a reference to perfection, and beef between slices of bread with some random salad would satisfy me greatly. I came to love the Sloppy Joe at Casa Picola, but this was still missing something special. And then there was Grill’d, Melbourne. This changed everything. Every burger on that menu has incredible character and they stand as the burger super-sqaud of awesome to me. I’ve miss Grill’d dearly since I left Melbourne, and have been running across Bangalore searching for a burger that can hold its own against this memory.

I’ve had much success actually (this list is chronological). Top of the list for the last year has been Thulp – Moo with Bacon and Cheese, and the Vietnamese pork burger. Both with their own brilliance, and I’m certain I’ve averaged over 1 a month from there. An epic first discovery, and a favourite location almost anytime. The rest of the menu is also fantastic. Then there is Cilantro: this is truly spectacular for its Club de Buoy, and the fact that you can get one 24 hours a day. Also, hands down the best fries I’ve ever had. They get big points for doing a burger-eating festival, and during that time, had some very interesting preparations that sadly didn’t make it to the regular menu. Not far behind, but suffering because of the hefty price tag, is Hard Rock Café. Simply because most visits here are connected to a live gig, a meal tends not to happen. But the selection looks fantastic, and whatever I tried, I loved (can’t remember names). I fully intend to give this more of a chance. A recent addition, and working its way up, is Peppa Zing – lamb with the lot. This was an all-round excellent burger save for the extra fat bun that absorbed too much of the juiciness (an essential part of burger perfection). I must also quickly mention Hungry Hogs; not burgers, hot dogs. But with a sincere homeliness that is a welcome change to the glass and steel commercial enterprise that normally exemplifies Bangalore.

Today however, I hit the jackpot. It makes me love my work schedule; so flexible I can duck out for a cheeky 2 hour lunch every now and then. The location: Hole In The Wall.

This is truly, perfection. Undoubtedly, unquestionably, perfect. A beef patty cooked slow enough to come clean apart, retain juiciness and suck up flavour like a sponge. Mayo, flawless bacon, lightly fried egg, oozing yoke and the freshest, crispest, greenest lettuce leaf in this country I think. It’s like it was stored and prepared in a vacuum, away from the real world, plucked straight from Eden and laid out to be demolished. Its entire being craves to be eaten, its life and everything it went through was with one destination in mind: your stomach. I’m fairly certain I’m going to have dreams about this burger… wake up with withdrawal symptoms.

I should add: they do an all day English breakie, waffles, pancakes, smoothies, and the girl who runs the place is really cute. So leave your humdrum life, get out of your home, office, boring daily luncheon, and have a real relationship with a plate of food like god intended.

Note: The place itself is really well put together, tonnes of character, funny little signs, paintings, posters, wine water bottles… standing strong as a symbol of indie against the epic corporate world. I want more of these places, with their own tastes and followings; gives a locality some soul; gives people a place they connect with rather than buy food from.