Suspended

Two worlds
To each its own virtue
It’s each its vice
Distinguished yet equal

Old memories
On foreign faces
Pulled in two directions
Stuck in the middle

Running for so long
No longer sure
What I’m running from
Or to

I hover in the void
In the spaces between the worlds
Life frozen around me
Though time marches on

Looking down on my existence
As if from another plain
High above
Unable to reach me

Once there were tethers
Golden chains binding me to one plane
Or the other
But the tethers have frayed

Now I sway in the breeze
Tempted by shiny things on the ground
Shiny fleeting things
That cannot hold me

Drifting
Waning
Directionless
Without drive

High
So high
So frighteningly high
Please

Don’t let me fall

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A Plea Against Fear

Mere hours ago a stranger walked up to me on the street and threatened to kill me.

A provocative way to start a story I know, but I’m not really in the mood to sugarcoat this. Walking along with my earphones in I was enjoying a pleasant walk from my friend’s place to the bus stop when a man in a blue hoodie approached me and began to say something. I paused my music so as to inquire what he was saying. He began to ask me if I was “That f**ker’s brother?” Unsure what he was talking about, I simply replied “No”. He then began to walk away, but no sooner had he taken a few steps ahead that he turned around and began to berate me once again. “You’re one of those c*nts that killed that guy didn’t you?” he said, “You think you’re gonna get me?!” I was speechless. I have had “encounters” before when people have made derogatory comments in my direction, but they have usually been in passing, usually by someone who has had one pint too many. But this man did not seem intoxicated, he seemed angry. He repeatedly lunged at me while repeating accusations that I was “one of those arabs that did that thing“. When I replied that I was Indian, he retorted, “You got the same f**kin brown skin don’t you, you f**kin c*nt!” At this point I slowly started backtracking as he angrily walked on. The last words he yelled at me, as he thankfully kept on in the opposite direction, were “You better watch yourself. Because I am going to slit your f**kin throat.”

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An Open Symphony

It’s been forever since I attended a classical music concert. I can’t really even remember the last one. Which is why I was happy I managed to make it to Trafalgar Square yesterday for the Open Air Classics free concert where the London Symphony orchestra performed the Symphony Fantastique by Hector Berlioz.

Unfortunately, due to moving hassles, I didn’t make it to the square till 6, the concert being scheduled to begin at 6:30. So you can imagine that by this point it was rather full. In fact access to the square itself had been cordoned off and shut – a fact one of the ladies in charge seemed to delight in reminding us of every 5 seconds through her bullhorn.

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Online Anonymity – Protecting the Bold or the Bully?

The Internet provides the average person with the power to speak on a level that was unimaginable a mere decade ago. Web 2.0 and social networking has effectively opened the door for people to express their views in seconds and have millions of people the world over access those views, and contribute their own in return. But the downside is that people don’t always use this freedom responsibly. It’s not like anonymous speech didn’t exist before the online revolution, but there was a far greater element of control – either by law or by the constraints of the physical world – a published work had to have an established publisher to reach a greater audience and elements of costs and distribution restricted the power of the average person to have his views reach large numbers.

With the explosion of blogging, greater interactivity of websites and social media, these constraints no longer exist. Everyone has an opinion and everyone now has the power to have it heard – well, as long as they have access to a computer and an Internet connection. And of course this is a wonderful development! The average person can now have his voice heard; people under dictators can now speak out and have the world know of their plight; it has brought the world together like never before. And the necessity to protect the right of such individuals to speak anonymously cannot be contested – the freedom to speak out is nothing if you have to fear a bullet in the head in exchange.

But in protecting the freedom fighter, we also protect the bully. You have but to go to the comments section of any blog or YouTube video to see people flood pages with obscenity, graphic language and just unimaginable cruelty. Is it not a sad state of affairs where the right to free speech becomes a right of hate speech? One has to wonder if the same people would be brash, cruel or “brave” enough to spew such hate in person? Then why do they freely do so online? The obvious answer is because they feel they cannot be held responsible for such behavior. They feel invisible and invincible behind avatars and online aliases and freely speak in a manner that would shame them in person.

But it isn’t so cut and dry. The individual is far less hidden than he thinks. The world of Cyberspace has become far more pervaded by law than imagined by John Perry Barlow when he made his Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace in 1996. For example, in the UK, a party can apply to the courts for a Norwich Pharmacal Order under which an ISP can be compelled to disclose information enabling a party to identify a user through his IP Address where a party can show that an anonymous user has engaged in an activity that commits some criminal or civil wrong, such as an act of Copyright infringement or Defamation. Similar provisions for disclosure exist in many if not most jurisdictions with established cyberspace law including India. So people should think twice before feeling that they cannot be found out just because they leave belligerent comments under an alias. But let’s face it. Though the remedy exists, due to practical considerations it will employed rarely. Few people would go through the hassle and costs necessary for disclosure when they are likely to get little from an action for damages, especially in a jurisdiction which might require evidential proof of damage to reputation.

But it’s not just about going after the individual. A faster and less costly approach may just be to contact the online service provider asking them to take down the defamatory or infringing material. In the UK and the US, online service providers like Social Networking sites or blogging platforms enjoy protection from liability for such acts under “safe harbor” provisions, as long as they respond promptly to notices making them sufficiently aware of the act in question. This may be a slippery slope though, as service providers would likely take down content as soon as they get a notice, without actually bothering to judge whether the complaint is credible, so that they protect themselves from liability. Though some precautions do exist against such an action – in the US the Digital Millennium Copyright Act specifies that in the event of a counter-notice from a user the ISP must put back the material unless the copyright owner starts proceeding in 14 days.

Though the developments in “the Law of Cyberspace” have done much to help draw the line between protecting the Freedom of Expression, which inherently includes the right of Anonymous Speech, and the right of persons to protect their reputations and personality, these solutions have far from curbed the problem. Real change can only come once people begin to take responsibility for their actions. Individuals need to recognize that while traditional legal constraints may not translate to the online world, this does not mean that one is free to act as wildly and brashly as one wishes. If you would not insult a stranger on the street, why is it okay to do it on twitter? Why do we insist on defying Shaw’s Principle: “Liberty means Responsibility: to be allowed to speak in a public forum one must respect other members of that forum.

This post scarcely covers the problems created by the supposed unlimited freedom online and the solutions developed by law to tackle them. It is meant only to initiate some form of dialogue or possibly just encourage readers to maybe think twice next time they leave a hurtful comment on someone’s blog or twitter feed.

Though it may seem idealistic now, I am drawn by John Perry Barlow’s words, spoken when the Internet was still in its fledgling phase and held unlimited potential for greatness and unprecedented growth, and I am saddened at how far we have come from the vision its pioneers had for it in its inception – “We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.” – Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace, John perry Barlow

Illogical Neuro-Physiological Defect

“I fear I just do not understand sir. These creatures are very… confusing.”

“What is it about them that confuses you Mr. Fritz?”

“They do not behave in logical patterns sir. Their actions seem almost haphazard at times. Their history shows that they are capable of immense growth. Indeed they have made unbelievable strides considering that their already limited cognitive potential is further impaired by these… What are they called again?”

“Emotions Mr. Fritz. They are called emotions.”

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The Delhi Zoo

A few days ago I put up pictures form my visit to the London Zoo, which made me realize that I hadn’t shared my shots from my visit to the Delhi Zoo a couple of years back, so I looked through my archives and picked out some old shots to share.

Sadly I didn’t get nearly as many shots as I wanted because it was so hot that half the animals were inside their draped cages with air coolers on ; p

What struck me comparing the pictures from the two visits was that while the London Zoo is far better maintained, the Delhi Zoo isn’t all that far off. Delhi definitely had a larger collection of exotic animals, especially the big cats!

Movie Review – Star Trek: Into Darkness

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

In the fallout of Iron Man 3 I almost forgot that the sequel to the Star Trek reboot was coming out this week. Don’t you make the same mistake. With all the hullabaloo this year over movies like Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, World War Z and The Wolverine, Star Trek seems to not be too high on people’s “must watch” lists, indeed it wasn’t really on mine. Again, this was my mistake!

Though I am familiar with the show and have seen some of the movies, I was never a “Trekkie” per se, or “Trekker” if you prefer. So maybe that’s why my level of excitement over the Star Trek reboot/relaunch wasn’t as massive as the idea of an Iron Man series or an Avengers franchise. Indeed there are so many superhero movies coming out these days its hard to be a fan of them all. But the new Star Trek has really delivered where many other “big summer blockbusters” have fallen short. J.J. Abrams has done a masterful job of bringing an old and long beloved collection of characters back to life, and even more impressive, he’s done it in a way that hasn’t brought upon him the wrath of hardcore fans worldwide – not an easy task trust me (Geeks can be quite ferocious at the helm of a keyboard).

Abrams’ sequel cements the great job the first new Star Trek did in 2009 – I remember being quite impressed with the job Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine did – not easy considering they were following the legendary and immortal Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner as First Officer Spock and Captain James Tiberius Kirk. But the excellent casting isn’t limited to them. Kark Urban as Dr.Bones” McCoy (“Damn it Jim I’m a Doctor not a Mechanic”); Simon Pegg as Scotty; Anton Yelchin as Pavel Chekov and John Cho as Hikaru Sulu – the combined effort of bringing the original legend to life is simply marvelous. And speaking of excellent casting, one cannot move on before giving a most deserved mention to Benedict Cumberbatch for his truly spine-tingling portrayal of Kirk’s arch nemesis Khan. Cumberbatch’s involvement in the sequel took it to a whole new level of awesome and I truly hope the role is revived in the third installment.

But casting only gets you half way. The other brilliant move by Abrams is to take so many iconic moments/plots from the old series and be true to them while at the same time flipping them around. The prime example being Spock‘s shouting “Khaaaaaaaaaaan!” to the heavens as Kirk breathed his last in front of  a crying Spock after saving his entire ship from certain death – the inverse of the iconic scream by Shatner in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which is well-known and parodied. But it wasn’t done as a joke or an “easter egg”, the moment was truly moving, even moving the lady behind me to tears. And this is one of its greatest achievements – the movie does an amazing job of showing the evolution of the relationship between the “cocky and brash” Captain and his “cold and logical” First Officer – not easy to reproduce in 132 minutes, especially when the first one did it over 3 seasons and 4 movies.

Yes I wasn’t a massive Star Trek fan growing up. So maybe I am able to watch these movies with less expectation, but if you ask me, Abrams and his stellar cast have done an amazing job of being true to the original while at the same time evolving its own personality for the next generation (pun intended!) and I look forward to them making another movie and once again boldly going where no man has gone before… well, at least not since 1998 ; p

Though it remains to be seen whether it will retain its flavor, seeing as Abrams isn’t going to be available to direct the next movie, at least not if its going to be out in time for the 50th Anniversary of the show in 2016. But he’s not leaving altogether – he’s announced that he will still be around as a producer, at the very least (yeah, I saw how that worked out for Iron Man 3 with Jon Favreau!).

 

Six Seasons and A Movie – Community Gets Renewed

I am truly torn about the news that one of my favorite show in many years will be back for a 5th season. The recent season finale pulled in massive numbers and despite the feeling amongst many fans that the show jumped the shark once Dan Harmon was let go, it still has a lot of support and love. The truth is, I can’t blame people for still wanting to watch it, even though it isn’t the show it used to be.

From the very beginning Season 4 had a dark shadow overhead. Harmon, the original creator and visionary, was no longer in charge, and fans feared what this meant for their beloved Greendale Human Beings. As it turned out, it meant sub-par episodes and a comedy legend calling it quits after a long spiral of negativity towards the show and its creator. But despite the general aura that the show was beginning to flat-line, I still had hope.

Truth be told, there were moments – fleeting ones – but moments nonetheless, where I saw the brilliance this show used to possess bleed through the blah it has become. Episodes like the “Advanced Documentary Filmmaking” and “Basic Human Anatomy” had solid build-up and spiked my interest, but sadly they lacked the follow-through of the old seasons. “Heroic Origins” was a particularly capturing episode, right up to its end, which just fell flat, even though the episode started at such a high point that I actually swore to my friend, who decided that Community ended at Season 3, that there was life in this old dog yet!

But nothing is as definitive of the show’s flat-lining as the Season Finale – “Advanced Introduction to Finality”. I have to admit, that while watching I was unaware it was the final episode, which did alter my reception of it, but that’s beside the point. At first i thought a revival of The Darkest Timeline was brilliant! The show looked like it was kicking it into high gear – in the words of Abed “They found a way to make paintball cool again” – a solid nod to some of the best episodes of the old seasons. But then it went and became “blah” by just explaining it away as a dream sequence. And Chevy’s little storm-in right off at the end – how dreadfully matter-of-fact!

So it is that I find myself not knowing how to feel about the news that the Study Group will be back for another season (minus Chevy). I still remember how great this how used to be, and frequently re-watch old episodes – you can’t help but form a slight emotional investment in such brilliantly sculpted characters – so it’s really hard to watch them disappoint you – but you still want to watch.

Maybe there is a miracle around the corner. Maybe some time away will make people realize this show needs to go back to its roots. If they really want to do this one more time, they better make it count. I refuse to watch this show slowly fizz out like Heroes – If they’re going down, I want them to go out guns blazing.

I’m also unsure how to feel about the departure of Chevy Chase. I mean this man is a comedy legend – his many years of starting SNL with this iconic fall, his MANY movies – Fletch, Caddyshack, the Vacation series – I absolutely love this guy! Too bad he is a complete prick! His antics and resistance was a major contributing factor in Harmon’s departure – like his character, he was just becoming harder and harder to deal with. I tried my best to separate the man from his work, but I fear I have lost repeat for both. On the bright side though, maybe his departure will open up a possibility of the creator’s return?

Help us Dan Harmon. You’re our only hope.

To Err Is Human

Human beings make mistakes. I believe it is in our nature to err. And the day we stop making mistakes, we stop being truly human.

If you believe in the theory of evolution, then you might say that it’s the inherent nature of man to err so that he can grow by learning from such errors. This is basically evolution. Trial-and-error. One grows or evolves by learning from one’s (as well as others’) mistakes and not repeating them.

If you’re more partial to creationism or intelligent design theory then maybe you believe that man errs because he was created not to be perfect. In fact to suggest he was ever so might elevate him beyond his station. For would God not be the only one with a right to that handle? God created man in his image, in his likeness, but not necessarily exactly in his mould.

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More Djibouti Jokes

The first batch of Djibouti (pronounced jee-boo-ti) Jokes were so popular, and I had so much fun thinking of them, that I decided to do a follow-up post with some more. Some of these are just humorous double-entendres that popped into my head, while others are actual quotes off the wiki page for Djibouti ; p

Here’s hoping I don’t make an ass of myself… ; p

  1. There have been mass evacuations due to gas leaks in Djibouti.
  2. Did you know that the gravitational force is particularly strong in Djibouti? That’s right, Djibouti pulls you right in…
  3. I just got a work contract with a company in Djibouti. Now Djibouti keeps me really busy.
  4. Djibouti is largely concerned with the service sector.
  5. Djibouti has a growth rate of 4.5% annually.
  6. It seems a massive earthquake has left a giant crack down the middle of Djibouti (I almost fell into it!)
  7. Djibouti contains some 820 species of plants…
  8. It seems the new PM has some major plans to re-shape Djibouti
  9. Djibouti can’t figure out why it seems to be the butt of so many jokes in the UN…

If you missed the first batch, here they are – Djibouti Jokes