Monday, May 26, 2008

This American Life: Prom

This past weekend's episode of the NPR radio program This American Life was about the great American highschool tradition, prom. It was an interesting episode with four acts: about a prom night in a Kansas small town, when it was hit by a deadly tornado; an interview with an author of books for teenagers; a radio documentary-style recording of a prom night of a Chicago highschool; and finally, about prom at a highschool in Racine, Wisconsin which is taking American prom to a whole new level. You can listen to the full episode here.

In Indian highschools, at least in Bangalore where I went to school, we have something called "send-off party" and/or "class socials". "Send-off party" is a farewell party given to the out-going class by their immediate one-year junior class. "Class socials" as I understand it, is a party which the out-going class has exclusively for themselves. In some schools, they have both. In some, they have one or the other. In any case, the parties in Indian highschools are real benign affairs compared to the American prom which sounds like a real high-pressure act.

The prom is supposedly a formal dance party held in the school. Ergo, you need to go to it with a dance partner or risk being merely a second-class participant. That is pressure number 1 - to hook up with a suitable dance partner for the prom. I can imagine the number of proposals for prom dates, rejections and dejections which fly across American highschools from coast to coast during prom season.

But prom night doesn't end with taking a date out to dance in the school auditorium. The more thrilling adventures of traditional prom are what happens during the after-prom - the hours that start right after prom at school upto the early hours of next morning:

1. Doing something cool involving alcohol and/or drugs. How can prom be complete without getting wasted and/or high? That is pressure number 2 for the kids.
2. The final pressure number 3, of course, is to get laid on prom night. I hear and read that many kids these days have had sex well before prom. But that doesn't matter. It is the great American coming of age tradition to get laid on prom night!

I don't know about you, but I think that's a lot of pressure on American teenagers for one night. I'm glad I did not have to go through such an experience... Although I can imagine that for an American highschool kid who manages to have the full prom experience of dancing with the best girl of his choice, getting thoroughly wasted with his friends, and getting laid with his best girl, life must seem perfect. At least for that one night.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Google Me, the movie

Google Me is a documentary by a guy named Jim Killeen from Los Angeles. The movie is about Jim doing a Google search of his full name, and then setting out to meet other people who have that exact same first name and last name. During the course of the movie, he travels to three continents and meets a cop, a swinger, a priest, an engineer, a VP of sales and an Aussie, who all share his first name and last name. You can watch the entire movie on Youtube (also embedded below).

The premise of the movie sounds very simple. In fact, all the Jim Killeens we meet in the movie are the average guys, with nothing very special or great about them. Yet, the movie caught my complete attention and through the entire course of the movie, I kept looking forward to knowing about the life of yet another average guy named Jim Killeen.

Jim Killeen from Los Angeles is a good story tell. His documentary is well-made and entertaining. It is peppered with good humor through out. There were also a few poignant moments in the movie when he asks each Jim Killeen he meets one common question: What is the purpose of human life? It was interesting to see people with different backgrounds give different answers.

Another interesting part of the movie is that they do a DNA test of all the Jim Killeens to see if any of them are related. I won't spoil it for you by giving out the result of the test here. Go ahead and watch the movie when you have a free hour-and-a-half. The entire movie is available on Youtube, and it is worth a watch.

Monday, May 05, 2008


So, I coined a new phrase on Sunday: Google-race.

To google-race is to drive to a place faster than the time estimated by the Google Maps directions. You are racing against Google Maps.

Usage examples:
  • I was google-racing to the restaurant when I got slapped with a speeding ticket.

  • Would you guys get ready soon? I don't want us to google-race to the movies.
Go ahead, use the phrase liberally. Tell everybody about it. But remember, you heard it here first! Now, google-race responsibly.

Total Defeat - 300th Post

This is the 300th published post on this blog. Strictly speaking, this is not really the 300th post. I have one post on 'Addiction' that has been sitting in Drafts for so long. But it is so intensely personal, I have not had the guts to publish it yet. Also, there were a few previously published posts which got deleted. Nevertheless, as things stand now, this is the 300th published post on this blog.

I started blogging about two months after I moved to Phoenix, Arizona. This blog has been a companion through my life since then. It has not been the kind of life I expected at all. It has been intensely tough and trying. I feel like the arid desert has sucked up the love and vitality from my being, leaving it dry and lifeless.

I came to Phoenix in late November 2003 with hopes for a new beginning in life, in love, in my career. When I came here, I had gone through some unhappiness and defeats in life, but I still retained some part of the original happiness and undefeated spirit with which we are all born. Incredibly, I even had some of my original innocence.

The pre-Phoenix unhappiness and defeats were nothing compared to what has happened since then. Now, I have utterly lost it. There is not a single sphere of life in which I feel happiness and contentment, in which I feel I am in control, or at least feel like I am an equal partner with destiny - not in personal life, not in personal relationships, not in my finances, not in my career, and certainly not in love. I am totally tamed, utterly powerless and with no free will to influence any of these aspects of my own life. The loss of spirit is so complete that I don't even know for sure what exactly I want in any of these areas of life!

Is this what they call mid-life crisis?

The state of my life is hard for me to believe. I know it would be unbelievable for anybody who knew me from my previous lifetime. That was a time when I was fiercely independent and strong-willed. I used to live in a kind of special aura or halo which protected me from all the mundane trivialities and hardships of life. I was untouchable and impeccable. I did pretty much what I wanted to do and the Universe had a way of conforming to my will. Eventually, life used to turn out pretty much the way I expected it to go. I got better grades than almost all my friends, got a real job before any of them, travelled abroad before any of them, made more money than them. Success was something that just happened. Love used to be the only thing which did not work like I wanted it to... but I had this blind and total faith that it would eventually work out just right for me.

How did things come to this state? For the most part, I thought I made all the right choices. At every stage, in every circumstance, I did what I thought was the best. But every choice, every action seemed to have totally unexpected and undesirable consequences. All I could do was watch in helpless horror and defeat as each attempt of mine to make things better only resulted in things getting worse. And it all happened so fast. The past four-and-a-half years in Phoenix are a blur. It still feels like I landed here only early last year. Yet, I have stayed here more than double the amount of time I spent in the previous city!

Today, in this early morning hour, I look at each aspect of my life - my personal life, my personal relationships with family, friends, colleagues, my financial situation, my career and my love. And I still shake my head with disbelief. I had never thought that at this point of my life (31.5 years old), I would be in this state or situation, in any of these aspects of my life. I never thought that I would be so simply and totally defeated.

This blog is more about my journey through love, than anything else. So, I'll talk about love. Even at this stage in life, love is as usual the one thing which causes me the most angst and discontent. It is stuck in my throat like a golf ball-sized lump. Can't swallow it, can't spit it out. It chokes my breath and tears my eyes. The utter inability to communicate, to feel, to share, to care, to just BE, together, in unison, in sync for even a single moment is terribly defeating and immensely painful.

Things were simpler and orders of magnitude less painful when my love and defeats were all solitary, one-sided. But the addition of others, their feelings and their angst into the mix multiplies everything exponentially! It is so overwhelming, I am not even able to express it in words... So, I'll just end this here.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Crazy Italian Govt reveals incomes of citizens

Italian governments can be crazy and controversial. Their latest fiasco was to reveal the income levels of all tax paying citizens on a website!

Don't believe me? Check out this Reuters report for yourself: Uproar in Italy after Web publishes earning levels.

Here's an excerpt from the article:
Italians were surprised, and in some cases outraged, on Wednesday to discover their income levels were available for public viewing on an Internet site.

As part of a crack-down on tax evasion, the outgoing centre-left government made public every citizen's declared taxable income on the state's tax website, a decision attacked by consumer groups and some politicians.

Later on Wednesday the Italian Treasury suspended the website after it received a formal complaint from Italy's privacy watchdog.