Monday, February 22, 2010

Confessions of a File Sharer

Why File Sharing is not Evil
An ardent follower of my blogs (starting from my earlier music blogging - napster -audio galaxy days) wrote to me recently questioning my judgement on why I continued to provide free download links to MP3’s and Avi files in my music and movie blog posts. Considering the hostile climate surrounding file-sharing, he wanted to know if I had forgotten about my precious little Music blog which Google had banned in 2008. Why was I risking my name, time, money and reputation again in needless legal wrangles and a possible re-ban in giving away those links when I could instead just write about them and leave the downloads aside.

He was indeed right. And as a content syndicator myself, giving away those free links would certainly look like the cardinal sin but ponder deeply and you’ll see the larger good. Give me 5 minutes to explain.

Have you ever seen the movie - Local Hero? The reason why I ask is because it happens to be one of my most favorites. It was released in 1983, stars Burt Lancaster and Peter Reigert and wasn’t a big hit at the box office. It just did OK but it’s an awesome feel-good movie with a stellar soundtrack by Mark Knopfler that definitely needs to be seen and enjoyed, even if its 2010. Same is the case of That Night which came out in 1992. Based on the Alice McDermott novel, it’s a romantic drama set in 1961 starring poster boy C. Thomas Howell, Juliette Lewis, Helen Shaver and a very young Eliza Dushku. Chances are, if a friend of yours didn’t tell you about these 2 movies or if you missed them on the TV or theaters, you might never have heard about them. But, now you have!!

The same logic would apply to Music stars too. So many good bands, so many good artists but miss a beat and you never know they exist.

Letting you discover cine gems like Local Hero or That Night or a aural delight like Skye Edwards and perhaps hundreds of similar great movies, great bands and fantastic musicians is pretty much why I blog about Music and Cinema. And since many of them don't get their fair dose of spotlite, whats the point in writing about them when you cant actually view or hear them? Besides, my posts are thank you notes to anonymous bloggers and file-sharers who introduced me to some of the best movies I ever saw and some of the best bands that ever rocked on earth. A way of giving back.

You know about the big hits on the radio and most of the films that played a few months ago at the local multiplex but with my help, now’s the time to choose what you’re going to watch and hear at home (or office) tonight. How do you make heads or tails out of the confusion of the colorful DVDs at your video rental or the large number of audio CDs at the music store? Choosing DVDs you want to rent for an evening, a music CD as a gift for your cousin or just add to your own personal library can often be an overwhelming experience. With my own personal (mostly legal)collection of over 10000 movies and over 50000 songs (MP3s, CDs and Audio tapes of various assortments - some of them which cost a fortune), I suppose I’m here to make that process a little less daunting and a little more enjoyable (or at least that is what I would like to believe).

And if you’re someone who knows my various avatars or has been following my audio and video reviews across the blogosphere and the print world, you’ll find that my posts are sometimes critical, sometimes humorous, sometimes offbeat but all of them share a personal touch. My approach is to talk about music and cinema the way you do with your friends and family. Whether it’s a horror film that seems a bit overdone, a sci-fi actioner that takes place in outer space or the euro metal band from Estonia, I want to make what you discover through me a special pleasure that makes owning it absolutely worth it (even if those means are supposedly illegal). So, let me be your guide. Your local friendly web Samaritan(or bootlegger)!!

And if you have a special movie or music which is really great, just go ahead and share it for the world. Ignore the piracy nonsense. All file sharing is not evil.

P.S: This is a DejaVu post since I had posted something similar on February 2009. You can read it here -

Free Movie Link - Local Hero - Stagevu Movie Link - Watch Online or Download

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What I Saw This Week - 8 Movies Worth Watching

Badlands (Terence Malick/1974)Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek are brilliant as young lovers who embark on a killing spree across the Midwest in this seventies shocker. Loosely based on the Starkweather-Fugate killing spree of the 1950's, in which a teenage girl and her twenty-something boyfriend slaughtered her entire family and several others, Badlands is a gripping, provocative depiction of unfeeling, psychotic behavior from one of Hollywood’s most famous and under-rated icons. One of the most influential films of its decade, it remains as fundamentally shocking as when it premiered.

Danny Boy (Neil Jordan/1984) – Outside a country dance club in Ireland, a young saxophone player (Stephen Rea) experiences psychological and emotional anguish after witnessing the brutal murder of his band manager and a mute girl (Veronica Quilligan) on a night of violence. He then proceeds on a vengeful trial after the culprits. Also known as the Angel, this was the directorial debut of Oscar winner Neil Jordan (Crying Game, Mona Lisa, Company of Wolves) and was executive produced by the John Boorman (Deliverance).

Frantic (Roman Polanski/1987)Harrison Ford is a prominent doctor whose wife is kidnapped in Paris during a convention visit and he spends the majority of the movie trying to find her in a land of nonchalantly snotty French people and babes in leather miniskirts (specifically Emmanuelle Seigner, director Polanskis’ then luscious squeeze). A critical success, the action boasts some vintage Polanski-style tension and you will also enjoy Ennio Morricone's atmospheric score.

Gallipoli (Peter Weir/1981) – Directed by the Oscar nominated Aussie new wave specialist – Peter Weir (Witness, Dead Poets Society, The Truman Show), this is a story of how the irresistible lure of adventure and the unknown combined with national pride brings 2 men together in the Australian army during the First World War in 1915 Turkey. This film was well received by cine critics and was also a box office hit but still missed by many across the Atlantic. With spectacular war scenes, this was also incidentally then the most expensive movie to be made down under. Aussie superstar Mel Gibson was also first noticed here.

Gorky Park (Michael Apted/1983) – An ice cold thriller set in the former Soviet Union about a murder of 3 people whose faces and fingers are removed to prevent identification. William Hurt stars as Moscow’s chief homicide investigator who must solve the bizarre puzzle despite its internal and international ramifications besides threat to his career and life. Prolific British Director Apted (The World Is Not Enough, Gorillas in the Mist) succeeds in capturing the paranoia of life behind the iron curtain yet fails in depicting everyday life in Moscow, a major strength of the Martin Cruz Smith best seller on which it is based. However, it’s a solid thriller, worth a watch. Lee Marvin, Brian Dennehy and a sultry Joanna Pacula provide company.

Hitcher (Robert Harmon/1986) – Pretty boy C. Thomas Howell turns mean after making the mistake of picking up psychotic hitchhiker Rutger Hauer. What follows is an intense cat and mouse chase through the desert that reminiscent of Spielberg’s equally satisfying Duel. Rutger Hauer is menacing and truly makes his presence felt, something that was sorely missing in Sean Bean in the 2007 remake. A very young Jennifer Jason Leigh also co-stars in this cult classic.

Re-Animator (Stuart Gordon, 1985) – Dr. Herbert West (a superb Jeffrey Combs) has a special serum in his little doctor bag that brings the dead things back to life. H.P. Lovecraft's story of power, greed and insatiable horror is captured with a stark humor visually unmatched and direly needed in most horror movies today. A genuine pulpy Horror classic, it certainly deserves its cult status.

Siesta (Mary Lambert/1987) – MTV Director Mary Lambert made her debut feature in this surreal often pretentious fantasy set in Spain based on the Patrice Chaplin’s sex and death novel. Ellen Barkin wears a red dress (when she’s not running around naked) as she searches for a mysterious lover (Gabriel Bryne) amid endless plot contortions. Often visually splendid enhanced by a nice Miles Davis jazzy score, Siesta is stolen by Jodie foster who plays a Brit-inflected yup. Martin Sheen, Julian Sands, Grace Jones and Isabella Rossellini also co-star.

Some FREE Movie Download Links that I could gather from the web
Badlands - Link 1, Link 2
Gallipoli - Link1, Link 2
Re-animator - Link1, Link 2, Link 3

Monday, February 15, 2010

Not So Happy Valentine Days

If you’ve ever been dumped on Valentine’s Day or spent the entire day gloomily checking (and re-checking) the very empty post box just in case the postman or the courier guy crept up while you weren’t looking, chances are you already view this dubious day with a healthy dose of skepticism.

But even if you’ve never experienced anything particularly bad in your lifetime of February 14th’s, if you’re a swingin’ single, chances are the day, with all its hype and sickly schmaltziness, really holds nothing but wholesome irritation!

The new year had barely begun when already we are bombarded with a barrage of Valentine’s merchandise, mostly, dare I say it, of the cheap n’ nasty variety. From the endless rows of fluffy toys clutching fuzzy red hearts emblazoned with the cringe-worthy words “I luv u” to the heart-shaped paraphernalia of every description (including heart-festooned lingerie “for her” and valentine red boxers “for him”), the message is clear: “romance” is a great way to package and sell just about anything!

Now, wherever you dare to venture, the reminders of this day, this smug ode to coupledom, are gleefuly shoved in your face. Turn on the radio or the telly, or surf the internet, and hundreds of adverts promoting the “celebration” of St. Valentine’s will coerce you to shop for cards and perfume here, roses and chocolates there.

Indeed, as I write this story, a newsletter from a national retail chain has just landed in my in-box, telling me that they’ll throw in free coffee and cookies if I spend some money on their valentine goodies at their store till Feb 21! So, am I still the only person suffering from post-new year shopping burnout?

Pity the single person going anywhere near a restaurant, coffee shop or a pub on Valentine’s Day. Concerned waiters will be “shaming” them, while sentimental maitre ‘d’s would send complimentary, “neutral” white roses their way. And if you happen to be on your own anywhere else in public, there’s sure to be the odd hand-holding couple nudging each other with embarrassment, pretending not to look.

But it doesn’t get much worse than Valentine’s Day spent at school. During my torrid high school years, some of us would anxiously check our diaries to see if the 14th would fall on a week day – desperately hoping and praying that it would not!

The reason why was that the day was always, inevitably, turned into a humiliating competition between all the boys, regardless of age or interest in the whole affair. Little cardboard hearts – white for friendship, pink for deeper interest and red, of course, denoting “love” - could be bought and “posted” throughout the day, with the recipients proudly safety-pinning them to the back lapels of their school shirt ( of course without the teachers knowing)

The varying degrees of popularity of the respective girls and boys could thus be detected at a glance, with the shamed heart-less shirts swiftly bundled up into schoolbags to be hidden from the others’ vicious, scornful laughs. Ahh, the cruelty of youth!

But then, of course, there’s also the horror of the office romance on this “day of love”. Many a startling revelation has come to the fore over the appearance of cute, heart-emblazoned coffee mugs or single, long-stemmed roses on particular co-workers’ desks during office hours.

“Who could it be?”, becomes the favored topic of conversation at the water fountains or coffee corners as jealous colleagues try to sniff out more evidence of a forbidden liaison.

It’s a terrible day, really, and more so because there are so many people out there who coin it at our expense.

I once had a lesbian friend who, feeling sorry for me one lonely year, sent me a special, hand-made “valentine” card – just too make me feel alright and convey that all women were mean! These days I’m still tempted to call the day just that because, you have to admit it, it’s got a great ring to it (though I now rather like women and wouldn’t dare imply that they’re anything less than wonderful at all times!).

Call me cynical if you will, but just remember this especially if you are a female: too much chocolate can make you feel sick…horribly sick, possibly diabetic...and fat, too!

So, if you’re single and tired of hearing or reading about sunset cruises, dinners-for-two, romantic picnics and marriage proposals, brace yourself for the side-ways looks and whispered asides and plan ahead for a day that celebrates singledom!

Here are just a few of the things that you can do on Valentine’s Day or any other day - alone!

> Go for a “man for the day” beauty treatment at your favourite salon, relishing in the fact that you’re being pampered from head to toe with absolutely no obligation to the person doing all of this (other than paying them the required fee, of course).

> Re-invent yourself! Get that haircut or permanent colour you’ve been delaying and buy yourself that fab outfit you’ve already fitted several times. Then go and drink cappucinos for the rest of the afternoon – you’ll feel so great that you’ll WANT people to look at you!

> Take the day off and catch up on all the new movies you’ve been dying to see, one after the other. Enjoy the peaceful, non-disruptive atmosphere of the cinema, for a change.

> Take the day off and get to the video store early enough to get an armful of their latest releases, watching them all in the peace and quiet of your own fabulous company.

> Take yourself out for dinner to your favourite sushi bar, ordering slowly and savouring each plateful as you read a new, glossy mag or that thick novel you’ve been putting off. Nobody would DARE stare at you at places like this!

> Act like a tourist and do things in your town that you would never normally do. Book yourself on a cultural tour or hang out at the museum or art gallery. You’ll learn something new and feel very pleased with yourself for being so cultured!

> If you live at the coast, take the day off and go to the beach with your ipod and book. By evening you’ll be exhausted and happy, so won’t really care what you end up doing!

> Start your day with an energetic workout, then treat yourself to an extended aromatherapy massage session. Nibble on healthy salads and feel great about yourself while the rest of the world over-eats on chocs.

> Buy yourself a bottle of the most expensive bubbly you can afford, crank up the volume on your favourite music and drink a toast to your fabulous freedom and wonderful self!

Or send me your Valentine's horror story since not all Valentines Days’ are a bed of roses, even when the most romantic plans have been made.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Does God Exist?

Keeping the Faith

I happened to be at an interesting debate today organized by a scientific think-tank that dabbles in psychiatry and neurology, mostly new-age research on the power of the human brain. Pretty hi-tech deep science stuff but something that has always interested me. And if you are a fan of Discovery or National Geographic, easy enough to understand.

The debate’s topic was what had taken me there. It was about God or rather if God Exists? this was the million dollar question that was being debated. Stretching to more than 3 hours from 90 minutes the invite originally promised, it was time very well spent.

Is there a supernatural being watching over us? An omnipotent force, all powerful in command reigning over the universe or is it just an imaginative invention created by the human brain as part of our evolution. Or is God the manifestation of society’s needs to set and maintain social order – a mental redline to preserve morals and ethics as humanity evolved. With members of the Christian and Islamic clergy besides Hindu priests & Buddhist monks on one side and atheists and the scientific community on the opposite side, it was indeed an incendiary mix for a humid hot afternoon.

I won’t take sides here cos I am a believer (who periodically suffers from a loss of faith only to be brought back on line by some divine intervention that’s indeed truly divine). By definition, spiritual experiences are of a personal nature. A person's search for, explanation of, or relationship with God is a very private thing. It doesn't affect everybody in the same way. There is no archetypical measure by which you can say 'I just made contact and that was my spiritual experience number 8 on the spiritual Richter scale’ just because I went to the church today or I survived a car crash or I hit jackpot in the tele lottery.

And with all due respects, the Bible, the Quran, the Torah, the Bhagwad Gita or the hundred other holy books can never be proof of God’s existence. In fact, these gospels have been in decline as a source of truth in the minds of average people for some time now. And not because there is no truth in them but because humanity has discredited their sanctity and undermined their real essence.

And the blame for this is not on science as you might think, but on the major religions itself and its wrong practitioners. They have undermined Gods truth with misinformation, and buy using it in a manner that it was not intended for. It is the same principle that the Govt uses in discrediting any particular story that they do not want told. They encourage all sorts of misinformation to be put out, by anyone, even the nut cases, so that when people hear it, they will close their mind to it.

And you only have to turn on your TV to see all sorts of misinformation. The most common phrase used by TV preachers is that “The Bible says or the Quran says ..And then they proceed to tell you that it says …if you send in your seed money, God will bless you with all the money you can spend. And at the other end of the spectrum, an other will tell you that in order to go to heaven; you must walk on fire, kill an infidel or drink poison to prove your faith. All that these preachers and teachers on TV really yell for is their love of the almighty MONEY. Needless to say, all of this dilutes the truth of these holy books and makes it harder for people with open minds to ever take them seriously.

And because of this, I never tell anyone that they prove anything, but only relate my personal experiences in a way that I feel are accurate to describe God’s presence. I have to admit though that this proof is personal and can never be transferred to others. I could relate how that proof came to me and describe it perfectly, but they could never give it the same weight as if it had happened to them.

What matters is that each of us have a certain level of understanding based upon our ability to think and our willingness to believe. For many, Gods proof depends a lot on how much we ask from him, on how much he gives or rather how "satisfied" we are with the worldly rewards we get. For example, if I pray for a promotion or a big house or a fancy car and I get it, I am a happy believer but if I keep praying and he does not seem to fulfill my shopping list, I get disappointed. This frustration soon turns into disillusionment and I either turn into a non-believer or jump from one religion to an other hoping the other god would hear my prayers.

What we fail to understand is that God speaks to us in many tongues, through many men, and at different times. He speaks to us through the sun and the stars and the birds and the animals…through our five blessed senses, through our love for one another. He spoke through Jesus, through Moses, through the prophet Mohammed considered the greatest Man ever born on earth and through countless other prophets and myriad other great men the world has seen. You need to connect at a deeper, spiritual level to understand God's language and you don’t need to be a die-hard believer to do that.

Unfortunately, what we have left of God's love now is all gone, substituted by adulterated religious nonsense that has been further subject to the corruptions of man's ignorance, greed and avarice and love of power and worship of self.

You cannot see God, hear God, touch, smell or feel him to realize his existence. To believe in God, you need to have faith. After all, with so much bloodshed and sadness all around, its time to have some faith or perhaps like the Bon Jovi, its time to ‘Keep the Faith’ alive! Godspeed.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Conservatives vs Liberals

Whose Side Are You On?

Once upon a time long, long ago some courageous individuals did something shocking. They dared to think. Out of this creative activity, they began to hold personal opinions. This groovy practice caught on and became widespread. After all, this was way before movies, books, television, rock n roll, and drugs, so these early peoples had a lot of time on their hands, and this seemed a good way to spend it.

Some enterprising individuals eventually figured out a way of making a profession of this thinking activity. Those who became pure thinkers were called Scholars; those who became the sharers of the thoughts of thinkers past and facilitators of this practice were called Teachers; and those who took it upon themselves to tell others how they should think were called Preachers.

Inspired, guided, and agitated by members of these three professions, the masses formed personal opinions and eventually gathered together in two camps based on their similar beliefs, values, and preferred ways of doing things. One of these groups quickly gained widespread popular appeal and it grew and grew until most people were members of it.

As is always the case, leaders emerged and decided to organize, prepare a mission statement, set an agenda, and go about having things their way. Members of this larger group called themselves CONSERVATIVES, and this was their mission statement: We conservatives believe it is self evident that absolute truth is knowable and that we know it. We see it as our moral duty to convert everyone to our correct view; to coerce them if necessary (for their own sake and ours) to conform to the one truth, adopt the right way of doing things, and join our movement. We assert that life is not as complicated as it seems and that everything, in the final analysis, boils down to clear-cut choices between true/false, right/wrong/ good/evil, moral/immoral, appropriate/inappropriate, proper/improper, etc. Because we humans are free agents with a will of our own and capable of making correct choices, each person must be held fully accountable for his or her actions. To keep everyone on the true path and to keep the conformity ball rolling, anyone disturbing the status quo by spreading false beliefs or exhibiting deviant behaviors must be severely punished. This will help the ones who stray to see the light and return to the fold, and it will demonstrate to others that if they should do likewise, unpleasant consequences will follow. Our goal is creating a monocultural society in which difference, dissent, and free thinking is discouraged.

Since the masses at that time were illiterate and ignorant, this simplistic way of looking at things made sense to them, and those who joined this camp attempted to resist change because change and the unknown are scary, and they struggled to preserve the status quo because it feels comfortable, safe, and secure. Anyone in this CONSERVATIVE camp who, from time to time, rebelled, were branded as traitors, heretics, or troublemakers and they were treated as outcasts.

At the same time, another smaller group formed, and its members called themselves LIBERALS. They formed the LIBERAL camp. They too organized, prepared a mission statement, set an agenda, and began trying to create a world reflecting their very different view of things. The liberal mission statement goes as follows: We hold it to be self-evident that absolutes are unknowable because they transcend the capacity of the mortal mind to know and understand We understand that all things are relative and can only be put in perspective by means of comparing and contrasting. Truth seeking is a noble and worthwhile endeavor, but there are many truth paths, each of which adds to the collective understanding. Since it is obvious that diversity and change are cosmic norms, we welcome diversity and free thinking. Since we admit to not knowing absolute truth or "the way," we are reformers always trying to change things for the better. Our focus is on the journey. We do, of course, set goals, but when these goals are reached, we do not see them as final destinations but rather as launching pads for still another leg of the never-ending journey. To help our society grow, learn, mature, and improve, we welcome all members to think for themselves, to hold personal views, and to share these freely in the open market place of ideas. We are slow to judge others because we realize that the causes of behavior are multiple, complete, and interrelated. We willingly and aggressively champion the cause of any individual or group that does not have full access to the good life. We believe the best possible environment in which to live is one that is dynamic and pluralistic.

Since the olden days when all this began, human beings throughout the world have tended to gravitate to one or the other of these philosophical camps. And it is the ongoing tension generated by these two opposite ways of seeing things that creates the energy that propels our social, political, economic, moral, and spiritual evolution. so, whose side are you on?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Incoherent Post-Modern Deconstruction

I recently came across a very angry piece of writing that was submitted for syndication that described Post-modernism as some kind of scourge of society; that post-modernism in its very ideals propagates social dissolution; that it takes a kind of anti-enlightenment position subverting the ideals of intellectual elitism of the modernist movement. The whole article was pretty livid, especially at the notion that post-modernists do not believe that people are capable of pure objective reasoning.

In order to see what post-modernism is, we have to know what modernism is. "Modern" simply means now, current, up-to-date, etc. So what could POST-modernism be if we are always living in the modern age (as opposed to the Middle Ages, or the roman empire, etc)?

The best I can do to give you an idea about what I think post-modernism is, is to give you some examples of things that are post-modern.

Before photography, which is a "modern" invention, artists would paint realistic paintings of people and places. The idea was to make it as exactly like reality. A "mirror" of reality. (Notice that this is similar to one idea about how the mind works. Some think the mind is a "mirror" of the real world.) But then with photography, the artists had to do other things, not paint reality, but something else. Art started out as a reflection of reality and has now ended up as a hyper-reality that is totally different than the "real world", (just like how some say there is no objective "real world")

Also with modern technology you could copy paintings. Some believed that the price of an original paining would drop in value because one could just get a copy. But that didn't happen. The POST-MODERN result has been that the original is valued even more than the copy. Before recorded music, the only way to hear music was live. But just because you can buy a CD of your favorite band doesn’t mean you don't want to see them in person does it? In fact, seeing them live is MORE valuable than before. This is the POST-MODERN result.

My favorite example is natural breasts. Women have always had natural breasts, so why the big deal now? Because of the MODERN invention of silicone breasts. Now the "real thing" is more valued. But it's not a new thing really, it's an old thing, but it takes on a different look and is so "new" again.

Anyway, I am against intellectual elitism that has infected our present day post-modernism. There is no good reason to exclude large parts of the population to enlightening ideas simply to feel superior. If anything the last few years have shown us, it's that with the organic spread of the internet, we've seen a growing pluralist intellectual society emerging, and to a greater extent an explosion of entrepreneurial pluralist elite (the Dells, Gates', 20yr old silicon valley millionaires) whom curious aren't exclusivist, but rather quite inclusivist.

In defining post-modernism, even people who ascribe to some of the values that are said to be post-modern do not consider themselves as such and avoid trying to define what post modernism actually is. Albeit, the opposition strangely seems to have a definitive definition of what it is.

The various tenets I ascribe to is the multiplicity of perspectives, and contrary to popular modernist impositions of what they think I believe, I don't think that most postmodernists believe in the absence of a kind of objective reality, only that, like Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, we change the things we perceive simply by observing them, more so through the processing of the images and the consequent judgement of them. The hamburger is not a cow. In fact, it is probably several different bits of cows.

What was once a modernist whirlwind of ideas, with people like T.S. Eliot (A true elitist), Ezra Pound, Keats, Joyce, etc., standing by the sidelines, waiting to extract from it the various kernels of truths, the moment of access, or revelation, now has scattered. And the contemporary equivalent to the modernist vortex metaphor would be a rain of intellectual truism, on which anyone can connect any number of droplets in any arrangement, imposing whatever image of truism they want.

So, what's your perspective?
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