Monthly Archives: March 2013

A Truly Depressing Winter in Iowa

I have been tested this time. I will admit that. It had been a while since I was made to go through something that demanded more than what I had been able to offer previously. Things that change me fundamentally, things that  help me appreciate the subtleties of my thoughts that much more. I am talking about things like the will power to see off persisting gloom, the determination to not let something overwhelm me. I am talking about faith in times of complete hopelessness, resilience in times of defeat, and self assurance in times of haunting solitude – it had been a while since I dealt with them.

But I have had to do it again. This time, the painful ordeal lasted for 4 months and had me go through a circle of emotions I never knew existed. Four months during which I tracked my graceful descent into the bottomless depths of melancholia. Four months during which I had no ownership over the state of my mind. Four months during which I came that much closer to accepting who I really am.

Sad Smiley is Sad

I think it must have been November when it really started because I remember I was happy in October. The degradation of the weather and the shrinking of the days were seemingly on a malicious yet purposeful loop. The numbers kept up too – falling steadily and offering no sign of ceasing. It might have all been gradual, like darkness creeping up on a cloudy day.  But it was heading only one way and there was no end in sight. Lady winter had just made it clear that there was no point looking for the bottom. There was never going to be one.

Denial: This is not happening to me.

Anger: Endless snowfall.

Depression: I hear my 2 year old cousin speak to me for the first time. Broken hearts. The price I pay. Not hearing back for several weeks from….

Acceptance: There really is no end.

The acceptance brought with it a sense of gloomy calm. A calm that revealed and reveled in the futility of hope. And there was something strangely satisfying about it. It was almost like I belonged there. No complaints or unfulfilled desires. Just a peace that comes with the true acceptance of complete loss of control.

Take me wherever you go.

And now I no longer wish to know.

For if I knew where you went

I would want perhaps to be somewhere else.

I was now celebrating tragedy and depression. Knowing now that it is OK to do so provided a clarity that had avoided me all my life after being told otherwise by every living soul. My mind now wanted something more profound and so I went about looking to satisfy my new needs. I found respite in books and music. A couple of depressing books and some really depressing music got me digging deeper, exploring the realms of the newly discovered rooms in my mind. But this time I was not falling into the bottomless abyss. I was going in search of it.

During my search, I wondered what it really meant to be ‘comfortably numb’. I think I did feel it a few days ago. I remember I was watching the snow falling endlessly and aimlessly on the barren trees covering them with it, listening to Kreng, had just finished reading ‘Snow’, and was reminiscing about all the things that could have been in my life. And it was at that point when I just smiled. It was such a beautiful thing to think about. All the missed opportunities, lost relationships, friends who have moved on without me, unfulfilled dreams, uncertainty about the future, and about that call that never came – it was simply the most beautiful collection of thoughts I had all winter.

I was always told to be happy. But by trying to do so, I realized that I was just running away from that one thing that made me ‘comfortably numb’.

Now I know not to run at all.

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Note: I had initially written a post describing my travails of the Iowa winter which was made to look like it was a ‘fun’ thing that I could simply just laugh about in hindsight. The weather is back in the 50’s this week and I was already feeling ‘happier’. But then today certain events got me back to a more introspective state and hence this version of my story.

Millions of people around the world go into depression after realizing Democracy does not work

In a surprising development towards the end of yesterday, hundreds of reports from all over the world poured in claiming large masses of people going to depression simultaneously. The reason : Democracy – or more specifically the realization that it does not appear to be working.

It first started with people in Japan reporting en masse to psychiatrists and psychologists complaining about general depression and a growing inability to trust anything. People were seen making long lines outside pharmacies waiting to pick up their prescription medication to battle depression.

Meanwhile, many reports started coming in about similar developments in Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Spain, Italy and a few other European nations. This was then followed by reports in the United States where millions of people were first confused if their depression was the result of the extended winter this year. However, after continuing to watch their preferred News Channel  – Fox or MSNBC – just to see the ‘other party’ get thrashed, the people found their depression getting worse and ultimately attributed it to the failure of democracy.

Depression is the only consequence

Common questions the people seem to be asking all around the world included: “Why isn’t anything getting done here at all?”, “If a party is elected by the people, then why doesn’t it get to do anything?” “Majority means they should be able to pass all the bills right?”, “I thought Obama had won the reelection. But then why is he still campaigning against the Republicans instead of getting things done?”

Questions like these were asked repeatedly by people when journalists inquired about their depression and what they thought of the economy.

A worldwide survey had shown a few years ago that democracy was “The Shit, Yo!”. It was apparently not just a ‘good system’ of governance, it was also the ‘only system’ of governance. People all around the world appeared to agree that the United States was ‘just awesome’ because it kept bringing in ‘democracy’ to all those poor souls in the middle east who were ‘totally suffering without democracy’.

A noted commentator who has been supporting democracy setups all his life had this to say about the new democracies in the Middle East: “It’s cool yo! I mean, there are a lot more people getting killed, more religious persecution, more security problems, more economical problems, and on top of it all, nobody is able to do shit about it! But it’s cool because they have a democracy, right?”

Another pro-democratic intellectual masturbator said this in response to all the increased violence and unrest in the new democracies: “Hey! At least now they get to feel awesome and brag to the rest of the world that they live in democracies right? I mean, now they actually have a RIGHT to brag and feel awesome! Yeah, take that Bitchas!”

Actually, this reporter was unable to find anybody who held anti-democratic views who could talk about the other perspective. Apparently, it was just ‘not cool to be anti-democracy’. Why? The only answer this reporter was given repeatedly to that question was “Because Democracy is the Shit, Yo!”

When more people were interviewed to hear their perspectives about why they felt democracy would not work, many of them echoed similar thoughts.

“I was told from my days in middle school that democracy is the shit. I never understood it back then but just thought it was something cool that everybody liked. So I  began to trust it as well. But I just don’t see it working ANYWHERE.”

Citizens of India, the largest democracy in the world, were initially upbeat about the next elections so that they could vote the ruling Congress party out. But then they realized that even a different party would never be able to satisfy the needs and demands of hundreds of retards  who will still be in the parliament- all thinking differently.

“The only thing that will continue for sure is the regular adjournments of the parliament sessions. No bills will get passed and no reforms will take place. Because this is democracy right? So you get to put down a bill just because it won’t help you win reelection.”

The only people who appear to be celebrating democracy and those that have not gone into depression are the folks who have been making their lives out of subsidy and welfare money from the governments. Social Security, disability, medicare, medicaid, unemployment benefits, you name it. People who utilize these welfare schemes appear to be extremely happy about democracies.

“I hope democracy continues. This way nobody will have the balls to take away my disability checks and Medicaid because if they do, I will vote for the other guy who promises me my free money. Isn’t that awesome? I  hope the people in the Middle East also begin to reap the benefits of democracy soon. Go welfare schemes!”, said a 43 year old American who has been claiming disability checks simply because his ‘back hurts a bit when he tries to stand up’.

It appears that only people who work, making money and leading generally better lives were affected by the depression epidemic that has swept the globe. The poor who have been living mediocre lives through welfare schemes and subsidies appear to be more than happy to continue to live in mediocre conditions as long as they keep getting their free money that in turn supports their mediocre existence.

All the people living off subsidies and welfare schemes were of the strong opinion that ‘Democracy indeed is THE SHIT!”.

When President Obama was asked about this mass depression epidemic, he responded with a prepared statement with beautifully crafted sentences, messages of hope, general GOP bashing, and a lot of promises and by the end of his speech, people were so excited and enthusiastic that they seemed to have forgotten what it was that they had asked him in the first place.

The President did refer this reporter (who pressed him with the same question a second time) to the following video from The Dictator…..

…..thus missing out the whole point altogether.

In conclusion, it appears that Democracy is not just ‘The Shit’, it is simply SHIT.

Bosnian Rainbows Concert in Minneapolis: Reviewing Omar’s New Sound

Last year my friend introduced me to this man who went by the name of Omar. (Till then, the only Omar I had heard about was the trench-coat wearing, shotgun wielding badass who robbed drug dealers for a living). It turned out that this new Omar had about half a dozen musical projects going on all at the same time and that he had a really good ear for progressive rock and experimental music. Without having to spend much time or effort, I was immediately captivated by the sound of The Mars Volta and most of his solo work (including that extremely disturbing album Despair). And now he has got this latest band – Bosnian Rainbows – and they were on tour with their last date at Fine Line Music Cafe in Minneapolis on Feb 28.

So there was just this small matter of doing the 4 hr drive from Des Moines to Minneapolis on a Thursday afternoon, watch the concert, do the 4 hr drive back to Des Moines that same night and then go to work at 8 on Friday morning. Well, of course I was always going to do it! And I did do it.

Omar Rodriguez Lopez (L) with his new band Bosnian Rainbows at Fine Line Music Cafe in Minneapolis

This was the first time I was going to a concert wherein I had not listened to ANY music of the band at all. Bosnian Rainbows has not yet released an album and I had not listened to either of the 2 Live singles they had released. But make no mistake. This band sounds real good Live. Omar has created a refreshing new sound that is not only well textured and oozing with craftsmanship, but it is also very catchy (Wiki calls it Alternative rock, experimental rock, electronic rock, art rock, and art punk). There is a generous dose of catchy electronic beats that is layered with Omar’s equally catchy guitar riffs. Deantoni Parks, the Mars Volta drummer, played a lot of drums, electronic percussion and keyboards (at the same time) and I am really curious to see how that sounds in the album recording. A defining characteristic of this band is the near perfect blending of the percussion, the electronic beats and Omar’s guitar riffs. But what pulls it all together is Teri Bender’s soaring vocals. Her voice gives this sound that cutting edge which it would otherwise have missed badly.

Most of the songs were about 4-6 minutes in length and did not contain any expansive passages or for that matter, any room for improvisations. As Omar had indicated in an interview earlier, these songs are very tight compositions with well defined structures. But, as with ANY Omar compositions, irrespective of how catchy or poppy this sound may be, all the songs are meticulously written and executed and some inevitably contain experimental passages.

A quick word about the performance. This was the first time I was seeing Omar Live, and boy does he get involved in the music! For extended periods of time, he appeared to be lost in the music and living in a different plane of existence. Immersed in the music, he was vigorously moving his body to get into the groove of his guitar riffs. He spoke very little to nothing at all except towards the end when he acknowledged the audience by thanking them profusely for showing up and supporting the band all the time and every day. The fact that he said this directly to the crowd  instead of to the microphone tells me that he really meant it.

Teri Bender really did steal the show with her robotic movements and gyrations to accompany the music. She even crawled on the floor where the crowd was standing at one point. Her stage presence does indeed complement her voice. Deantoni Parks, on the other hand, looked like he just came back from a workout session at the gym. This man is huge and with his massive muscles, was playing the drum kit, electronic percussions and the keyboards  – all at the same time!

A quick note on Omar himself. This man looks really really young. He looked like a college graduate who was just looking for a job. Humor aside, this in fact is an important reminder of how much he has composed and produced in such a young age (he is right now 37). The more I think about it, the more I am prone to draw analogies between him and Steven Wilson. Both have several projects going on, do the writing on most of them, produce all the albums, give special attention to releasing albums instead of singles, and are always looking to explore new sounds. It is the last part that makes me develop true respect for people like Omar and Steven Wilson. The fearlessness that is needed to go ahead and create a new sound that may very well be against what they are popularly known for among their fans is something to be admired. With regard to Omar, making this well textured and meticulously written music, albeit in a catchy song structure, had to be a challenging process – but one that did not deter him from going ahead.

As much as I am disappointed that both Omar’s The Mars Volta and Wilson’s Porcupine Tree are on a hiatus, I am not unduly worried about it as both Omar and Steven Wilson continue to write music exploring new sounds. And as long as they don’t stop doing that, I wont have much to complain.

Oh and turns out I will be watching Steven Wilson Live at the exact same music venue in the first week of May. Already have my tickets for it and looking forward to watching him Live for the second time in a pub.

 

PS: Special mention to MARRIAGES – the opening act for Bosnian Rainbows. Imagine Sigur Ros and a slightly heavier version of Sigur Ros. This band is pretty close to the latter. The female vocalist is really worth the comparison. Cool artwork too.