Saturday, July 11, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Michael Jackson: this really is it
“This is it, this really is it,” announced Michael Jackson in his last official public appearance, at the O2 centre on March 5th, 2009. He could have had no idea how true that phrase would turn out to be. The self-styled King of Pop is dead. There was to be no triumphant comeback just a final bizarre twist in pop’s strangest soap opera.
And that is what Michael Jackson’s existence had long since turned into, a particularly weird real life melodrama, played out in tabloid newspapers, gossip magazines, TV inquisitions and a succession of court rooms.
It was a story of a prolonged and ugly fall from grace told in whispers and innuendo, but all too rarely (sadly) in song. It was eight years since he made a record, and probably twenty since he made a good one.
Jackson rose like a showbusiness meteorite from much loved child star to the greatest pop icon of his time, but once installed on the throne he craved, he seemed to unravel before our very eyes. He mutilated his appearance in a vain attempt to turn himself into his childhood fantasy hero, Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up. He installed himself in a playground that he called Neverland, with monkeys and other animals for company. He entangled himself in inappropriate relationships with young boys.
He married and divorced Elvis Presley’s daughter. He acquired children through some surrogate shenanigans with his nurse. His nose apparently fell off. He blew an astonishing amount of money and wound up an itinerant superstar, pursued through the courts by creditors and sheiks baying that he owed them millions of dollars.
Neverland closed its gates. His belongings were exhibited for auction, including such prize items as an actual throne and an oil portrait of Jackson as a fairy tale ruler. He grew skinnier and paler (quite something for a black man) and apparently explored every possible avenue to return to the limelight without actually having to perform live. And then he surrendered to the inevitable and announced his return to the stage. Only even then, he seemed to be simultaneously announcing his retirement, telling us it would be the last time we would ever see him, in London at least. Or the last 50 times. “This,” he kept repeating like a mantra he didn’t even believe himself, “is it.”
I was asked last week by the LA Times why I thought Michael Jackson was staging his comeback in the UK rather than the US. “Are the British more forgiving?” the journalist wanted to know. My off the cuff reply was that because we watched the whole Jackson saga unfold across the Atlantic, tuning into scenes from LA on our home screens, we always treated it as a kind of fantastic Hollywood soap that said as much about America as it did about Jackson himself. And ultimately it didn’t really matter to us whether his comeback was a triumph or failure, we just wanted to catch the next episode. Well, this is it, this is really it. The final twist turns out to have been both impossible to predict, yet strangely anti-climactic, as our hero (or villain) shuffles off the world’s stage, not with a bang, but in an ambulance, to die behind closed doors, out of the public eye.
I wanted to believe, against all the odds, that this rather lost and bewildered fifty year old superhasbeen was going to stage one last rally, that he had it in him to reconnect with his extraordinary talent. I tried to convince myself he was a showbiz trouper and that the call of the footlights, the impatient rustle of the audience gathering beyond the curtain, would somehow snap him out of his lethargic, disassociative state, and that he would rise to the occasion.
But his behaviour at his press conference suggested otherwise. And rumours from LA grew steadily worse, as he failed to turn up to rehearsals, appeared at a dermatology clinic carrying a bag labelled ‘Skin Cancer’ (which seemed to be more of a photo op than an actual health complaint) and then postponed his opening shows for the vaguest of reasons. As famous last words go, “This is it” has a certain iconic ring to it, but Michael Jackson’s final recorded public utterances are actually less edifying and a great deal more disturbing. "I don’t know how I’m going to do fifty shows. I'm not a big eater - I need to put some weight on," Jackson whined to fans gathered outside the rehearsal studio.
So did the concert promoters do for Michael Jackson? They certainly have some questions to answer. It is pretty clear that he was, in some respects, a reluctant participant, driven back to the stage as a last resort to pay off overwhelming debts, whatever promoter Randy Phillips, head of AEG Live, has said about Jackson wanting to do it for his kids, while he still could. Dismissing rumours of Jackson’s frailty and ill health, Phillips declared on 21st May: "I would trade my body for his tomorrow. He's in fantastic shape." I think this particular medical expert will probably be trying to keep a low profile for a while.
The death of someone so famous shakes us to the core, because it is like a death in the family. Love him or loathe him, Michael Jackson was part of the fabric of all our lives. Or maybe worse, it is like the death of a God, a sudden unexplainable absence in the mythos of the times. President Kennedy, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Lady Diana: these are the kind of deaths that confront us with our own mortality, the realisation that the end is unavoidable, death stalks us all, no matter how anointed by the fates. Such a death is usually greeted with a kind of incredulity. But this is it. This is really it.
And as the dust settles, what are we to make of Michael Jackson, who had denied us, and himself, the ultimate showbiz redemption? Do we remember him as the extraordinary musical talent that he undoubtedly was? With one of the most distinctive and gorgeous voices known to pop, an incredible gift for rhythm and melody, and for combining different musical elements into a seamless pop whole and wrapping it all up in image and movement? The Jackson 5 sprinkled the airwaves with pure joy. His funky string and disco classic ‘Off The Wall’ remains one of the most sinuously addictive dance albums ever made. ‘Thriller’ is an extravagent plastic pop masterpiece to rival ‘Sergeant Pepper’. Even ‘Bad’ is, well, not bad, although the mania for physical transformation and the almost messianic self aggrandisement had started to cast a shadow over the music he was making.
Do we focus on the delights of ‘ABC’, ‘I Want You Back’, ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’, ‘She’s Out Of My Life’, ‘Billie Jean’, ‘Beat It’, ‘Human Nature’, ‘The Man In The Mirror’, ‘Black And White’? Or do we think of the Lost Boy, and the ugly rumours, and the way his talent seemed to turn against him, snatching tragedy from triumph? I remember looking at Jackson in the mid-nineties, a white, cleft-chinned, thin-nosed, stick figure miming onstage during his egomaniacal yet somehow shabby HisStory tour while footage was projected of his younger, smiling, black, handsomely boyish self, and thinking did some alien kidnap our sweetest star and replace him with a monster? Whatever really happened to Michael Jackson?
I guess the inquests will start soon enough. Maybe, for now at least, we should stick with the music. I had a conversation about Jackson quite recently, with an engineer who did some recording with him just a couple of years ago, working on a song for the victims of the New Orleans hurricane disaster. He said Jackson turned up to the studio in London on his own, and he was really focussed, totally on the music, and full of sharp observations and bright ideas.
But then his entourage showed up. Then news leaked of his presence and the tabloids and fans turned up, bombarding the studio to such an extent that Jackson had to be carried from his limo on the shoulders of a security guard. And his focus seemed to be lost. The recording sessions ground to a halt. The record never came out. But when he was in the studio, when he was working on the music itself, the engineer said Jackson was totally present, totally alive, comporting himself not as a star but as a true musician. Whatever became of that talent, whatever damage fame wreaked on his psyche and his life, my own guess is that the records are where we can continue to hear the real Jackson, the lost boy inside, singing and dancing to his own private beat. This really is it.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Inane mindless meetings -That don’t yield any results. From time immemorial, I have observed that in the corporate culture ppl go for meetings real looong ones and by the end of it nothing productive really comes out of it…mostly.
Sometimes ure just listening to the client jabbering away to glory! He’s having a monologue and NO he doesn’t care about your attention span, body language, the fact that ure some 5-6 cups of tea/coffee down or even ure sarci ones’ he’ll just jabber on like kal ho na ho….Sometimes everything but the agenda is discussed…from global warming to IPL….My past agency devised a clever name for such meetings i:e- ‘bridge building meetings’ which means a perfect non agenda meeting which wont yield any results and will be inane to the core. Irritating to say the least! I mean guys if u don’t value your time atleast value ours, we have better things to do in life (or so I’d like to believe) Also did u notice how we agency people suck up to the clients! When in our minds we are thinking, “ Wat a sad excuse for a human being!’ and outside we wear the perfect expression and go, “ I couldn’t agree more! Or Why dint I think of that! Wow that’s a brainwave! I mean we guys should win Oscars for such amazing acting skills! And mind you we don’t put them to work once in a while but its almost an everyday phenomena…sometimes multiple times in a day! Ho Hum!
Blogs- Yes I read a minimum of 15 posts everyday. Each one of these so similar yet so different…providing different perspectives to either the same issue or beautifully bringing out the variations in each! Yes I am addicted! But its not a vice and I am happy about it! These are people I know but some of these are also people I don’t! But that doesn’t stop me from meandering into their thoughts and expressing mine in some very relevant virtual forums. This explains exactly why I have more virtual friend’s dan real! And No, I don’t mind! I also don’t mind the fact that I am not so articulate when it comes to translating my thoughts into words and mostly I won’t even comment on a post I loved reading and most significantly my own blog is kinda passive but that doesn’t take away from my passion for blogging. Go bloggers go!
Sunday, May 3, 2009
ok time for my 1st food review...a topic ive been pushing to the back burner for a long time now but given the food enthusiast that I am, I think its inapparopriate on my part to keep trying out new and exciting places and share the experience with you guys....so I begin with the Kargeen Cafe'.Kargeen in arabic means an 'Omani house'.This Café in Muscat today is one place that is in the 'Must Visit' list of travellers an residents alike. You simply can't tag it either as a restaurant or a coffee bar, because this outlet has everything in the offering.But my vote goes to the ambience.It is by far the most innovative set up that one can see in Muscat, one that makes you want to break into a belly dance immediately!The large tents on benches in company with palms, ironwood trees, frangipani trees, and bougainvillea in the backdrop, this venue truly comes alive.
The 1st time I went there was in Nov last year for lunch with some visiting clients. I must admit that at first glance I was completely taken in by the set up.the outdoor is a colorful mix of a garden intersperced with very antique rusty looking furniture, large tents on benches in company with palms, ironwood trees, frangipani trees, and bougainvillea in the backdrop all nicely lit up with pretty bright lights.Not to forget the aroma of fresh kebabs mingled with the strong omani bukhoor, it is what one would assume an authentic omani decor would look like.
On the inside, the set up looks just as rustic, villagy (if u know at I mean) and at the same time classy.this place pretty much reminds me of a classic Indian village home but just for a few omani features thrown in here and there…like the unmistakable kahwa pot, khajoor, hukka dani, mandoos
OK, now wat kind of food wud u expect frm tis kind of a set up-I would expect typical arabic fare and nothing more! But surprise surprise! Wat u get here is not just authentic omani/arabic stuff but an entire platter of homous, mezze, Salade Niçoise or even French onion soup pizzas, pastas, sandwiches n salads!!!!! I mean I just cant digest the Italian street fare at an authentic omani café! that kinda kills the spirit of the kargeen I say…. Anyway now let’s come to the food. Foodwise its thumbs up to their succulent lamb kebabs and mutton stew with steamed rice! Also don’t miss out on their smoked tahina(or grilled fish in sesame sauce) which is quite a teaser. Everytime I go, I can’t help over-ordering these and then packing some for home. The famous arabic kabsa rice is not soo great though...ive had better fare at Taza (the arabic-filipino cafe next to my place) the regular Italian fare and salads are good but a total waste if you were to have them here.I guess they whipped up this part of the menu just to cater to the exceptionally gora crowd that haunts the place anytime of the day u go! Also recommended is the weekend lunch buffet they serve every thu-fri. here you will get to pick from a wide array of salads,deserts and the usual 1 veg and 2 non veg dishes. As an assortment it works out pretty well.
If you love your lamb this is the place for you!
I give it a 3 and a half stars for its ambience and a 3 for food.Kargeen is today among the coolest and trendiest hangouts in Muscat.
Go check it out folks.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
O-zone: I deserve better, I am special
12 Apr 2009, 0948 hrs IST, VINITA DAWRA NANGIA, TNN
Come on, admit it... all of you at some point have felt bigger than the situation you are in. It’s like you can give much more to life than life
I deserve better, I am special seems to want from you; much more to your work than the office demands of you — more in quality and bigger roles, that is, not in quantity of work. You feel you deserve more than is on your plate and a larger chunk of that pie called life. Your mind is restless because you are not stretching it to its limits and it tells you that life is passing you by — whizzing by real fast. I deserve much better than this, is the constant refrain in your head. I am special. That’s what Kate Winslet and Leonardo diCaprio (April and Frank Wheeler in the movie) tell themselves as a young couple in Revolutionary Road. Convinced they are “special”, they chafe at the bit that ties them to their mundane existence and the ordinariness of regular life. Frank swears he will not end up like his dad, but can see himself heading exactly that way. April cannot see herself as a housewife involved in routine chores and is yet doing nothing beyond that. It’s a case of life refusing to match their vision for themselves. Their reality has taken a completely different tangent from the life they planned and dreamt of and they do not like it. Sounds familiar? Is that self-delusional? When we think like that, are we deluding ourselves that circumstances are holding us back from the greatness we deserve and aspire for? Is it abnormal or is it the way the rest of the world thinks too? Does anybody anywhere believe “This is it! This is the life I want and this is exactly where I want to be at this point in time!” Why do we all get the feeling we are in the wrong place at the wrong time? We feel this all our professional life and feel it even more when one fine morning, we retire from work. With mental faculties that are sharper than ever, we wonder why the office suddenly doesn’t need us anymore. April feels deeply caught in the little life of suburban America in the 1950s in Revolutionary Road. She dreams of a life in Paris and plans to relocate her entire family in an attempt to shake off her angst and feeling of dissatisfaction — “running away from the hopeless emptiness of life here,” as they explain to a friend. However the whole thing boomerangs in her face because her husband apparently doesn’t feel the same depth of dissatisfaction and the movie ends in a tragedy. So many of us feeling caught in our circumstances, rue the situation and seek to change it. Is that good or bad? It can be argued both ways. A permanent state of dissatisfaction can only lead to misery and frustration, and so should be avoided. On the other hand, complete satisfaction with a situation leads to complacence and a lack of drive to achieve bigger and better! Is there a path between the two? Wonder if April had sought to deal with her angst in some other way than by changing towns, would the result have been as disastrous? She wails to her husband, “It’s what we are that’s being stifled; it’s what we want that’s being denied...” Can we possibly, as spiritual gurus suggest, change circumstances by changing ourselves? By looking within? Quite often, circumstances may be beyond our power, but we can certainly change the way we respond to them. All you need to do is step away and take a good, hard look. What is it that you really want to do with life? What is it that you hope to achieve? You can either focus on your limitations and lead a defeatist life, or resolve to turn your adversity into an opportunity and make the best of a given situation. Astrologer Sunita Chabra says, “Is there an end to wanting? If you achieve what you want today, you will want something else tomorrow.
There can be no peace from wanting and needing. The only peace can come from acceptance.” But acceptance sounds somewhat defeatist, unless taken in well-measured doses. We should have the wisdom and capability of figuring out what we need to accept and what needs to be challenged and overcome. The idea is not to quit dreaming and planning. Because it’s from those dreams that we evolve. The idea is simply to make sure we live life to our full potential. For as someone said, it isn’t dying that we need to be afraid of, but of an unlived life...
Monday, April 6, 2009
Yes I am married but I still want my boy to pamper me, take me out for loooong drives, buy me the best chocolates and ice creams, take me out for animation flicks sometimes….Do u think I am being selfish-I guess to some extent I am… but dats the very essence of ‘Being Ureself’ !
I am not really looking forward to it but I know that there will be a time in my life where I will break into a new person! I can only dream that she’ll be an extension of ME and not someone who’s a total stranger!