Welcome to Darkside Daily

When I'm not writing about my experiences in this journey called 'life', I'm singing and uploading my own interpretations of modern music. Click on "Cover Songs" to hear them, or on the YouTube logo on the right to see my YouTube channel.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Long December (Or Good Riddance 2012)

Well, here we are again. The end of yet another year. I had such grand plans for my year ending post, but I thought I'd save that for a first of 2013 post instead.

I suppose I should reflect on the year and all, right? Well, it's been a terrible year for blogging - I've posted the least number of posts this year since I started this blog. I shall attribute this to less time in front of the computer and more time actually doing things, and I'd only be half lying. It's been a pretty good year on the music front though, what with the Colombo Music Festival, my introduction to the Melomanic Sessions in January, and the recently concluded "Final Wishlist". When it comes to music, there are few better teachers than experience, and I've had a lot of hard lessons this year. Some good shows at Melo, a few good performances at the Music Festival, and a lot of bombs that have me still shaking my head. Still, I'm so glad for all the opportunities I've had to perform and I hope 2013 brings even more my way.

It's hard for me to write about the personal front. It's been challenging, and I have made mistakes more often than I have succeeded, but isn't that life in general? I've watched the people I love let me down, and I in turn have let down the people that love me, and at the end of the day all we can do is try to forgive, try to heal, try to live with the things that have been said to us or by us. Our hearts keep beating, our lungs keep breathing, and time calls out from ahead of us asking if we're coming or not. Is it easy? No. But mixed in among all the bad, there is a lot of good, and sometimes that's enough to make peace with the rest of it.

My brother moved to Switzerland for his higher studies, and I miss him terribly. I wish he had been here to watch my sing; he has always been an honest critic. Christmas was tough without him, but apparently he was working on Christmas so I suppose we got the better end of that deal. Looking forward to seeing him in 2013.

All in all, 2012 was memorable, for both good and not-so-good reasons, and if anything is 'memorable' then I suppose it was worth it, wasn't it?

So here's to a new year, with more of the new and less of the old. May you, dear readers, always journey forwards and onwards to brighter, better things.

To sign off, let me add a few songs to this post. The first is a video of one of my solos at the "Final Wishlist" programme 3 weeks ago. The second is a rush job, hastily edited cover made with my hoarse vocals and zero editing. Not something I would normally do, but I just wanted to get it out there.

Happy New Year everyone!


Saturday, December 29, 2012

To All You Rapists

The woman and a male friend, who have not been identified, were traveling in a public bus in the Indian capital, New Delhi, after watching a film on the evening of Dec. 16 when they were attacked by six men who raped her. They also beat the couple and inserted an iron rod into her body resulting in severe organ damage. Both of them were then stripped and thrown off the bus, according to police.
(Source:  TIME World)

I haven't blogged in a long time, but this was enough to spur me to break my silence.

I'm getting really tired of hearing the same old arguments in connection with abuse against women and sexual assault. I'm sick of hearing about her underage drinking, about her partying, about her drug use, about her tiny skirts, about her many sexual partners, about how it wasn't "legitimate rape".

So listen up, priests, ministers, policemen, bus drivers, layman and even some of you women - you can sit and debate - debate - the so-called ethics and 'moral code' regarding men and women's attire and behaviour. You can debate lifestyles, you can debate all of these things.

But there is no argument in heaven or earth, no argument from any religious text, no argument from any corner, no conceivable scenario that justifies or excuses a man from sticking anything, be it his dick or a metal rod, into a woman's vagina. By even trying to do so, you are joining the side of the rapist. You are siding with the RAPISTS!! DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT??

Got it? Good.

It has to freakin' stop. Now. 

p.s: Dear Indians; you are quick to set fire to things when cricketers fail you. Please, use this opportunity, this media spotlight, this worldwide outrage to unleash your pyrotechnics and end this lackadaisical, nonchalant, turn-a-blind-eye type of attitude towards your mothers, your sisters, your daughters. For the love of God women, please make it stop.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Final Wishlist: A Christmas Programme Making A Difference

The last few weeks have been extremely busy for me, involving training programmes, lots of travelling, and lots and lots of singing. Yes, 'tis the season to be jolly, and what better way to get in the festive mood than Christmas carols and tunes?


Besides the usual church carol services, I've been lucky enough to be asked to do a couple of songs for Music.Inc's latest production titled "A Final Wishlist" , directed by Shannon Jacob.  If you’ve been to their shows before, you’ll know that they put up great musical and stage performances, and always in aid of a worthy cause. This time, their final show is in aid of EMERGE LANKA, a foundation that undertakes for the care and rehabilitation of girls that have been the victims of rape, incest and other forms of sexual assault, and are waiting for their respective court cases to be settled. These girls are between the ages of 10 and 18, and these court cases can sometimes drag on for years and years. During this time, the attacker is free, while the girls are kept in shelters, isolated from outside contact, and shunned from their families.

Emerge Lanka works in co-ordination with these shelters, providing basic education, counselling, financial knowledge, life skills and sex education to these girls until they are released, at which time they will then be equipped to handle being reintroduced to the world without the support of friends or family.

Music.Inc will be staging two shows on the 12th and 13th of December at the British School Auditorium, from 730pm onwards. The tickets will be priced at Rs. 1000, 750 and 500 have been sold out! However, there may be a few balcony tickets available on a first come first served basis, so do try to come as early as possible if you're coming and you might get lucky! The team from Music.Inc have spent some time with the girls from Emerge, and have gotten them to write up a 'wishlist' comprising up to 5 items of what they really want this Christmas season. The money raised from this programme will go towards making those wishes come true, including a small mini-carnival for the girls; something that they would never be able to participate in in their current confines.

If you've not able to make it, here is a small sample for you:

Hope to see you guys there! I may be biased in my opinion, but trust me when I say: I've never been to a show like this before. I sincerely hope you make it, and join in on making someones wishes come true this festive season.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Notes On A Funeral

Recently I attended the funeral of a colleague's father. He had been battling throat cancer and succumbed after around 6-8 months of treatment. He was in his 70's, and I think his passing was somewhat expected given his frail condition. I got the call on Sunday that he had finally succumbed, and we went with the rest of the office crew for the funeral at his house.

I've not been to too many funerals, and the few I have been to have been traditional Christian funerals, at churches etc. Perhaps this colours my opinions a little bit, but whatever the case may be, I thought of jotting a few points down.

1. The first thing I noticed was how there were very few people actually 'grieving'. As we entered the funeral home, there were no idle people around. The family members were busy arranging food and drinks, while the rest of the 'visitors' simply sat outside catching up with each other in the hastily erected tent. Even our colleague showed little or no emotion that this was in fact his father's funeral, instead spending most of his time making sure the generator was okay and chatting with a few of his relatives and work friends. Now, I perfectly understand that people deal with grief in different ways, yet I still felt a little unsettled at this lack of emotion at the proceedings.

2. While the family at least were somewhat sombre, the rest of the people who had turned up at the funeral showed little concern that this was a funeral, loudly guffawing and joking with each other, completely oblivious that they were standing roughly 20 feet from a dead body. I was really embarrassed by this; how can people be so callous over the death of a loved one? Sure you may not have known the man personally but still, some form of decorum should be present. Just because they've seated outside in this tent, the gang goes into party mood. If there was booze around, they would probably have burst into song.

3. The Buddhist monks arrived, and while my poor Sinhala and ignorance to most Buddhist customs prevent me from commenting more on the part they played, I was rather surprised when they left abruptly in the middle of the proceedings. Just as soon as a someone got up to speak about the deceased man, they three monks simply nodded at our colleague and got into their waiting trishaw. I found this rather strange, but again this may be the custom that I am unaware of. Yet, if we are asking a religious figure to attend our funeral, isn't it sort of a given that we want them there for the whole ceremony? I would be very surprised if a Christian priest simply read a few verses and left in the middle of the funeral, leaving the family to handle the rest of the proceedings, and as far as I know, most faiths would have a similar expectation.

4. While I know that a funeral of a loved one is certainly memorable, I don't know why in the world anyone would want to take photographs during it! There was one relative, armed with a point & shoot, who took several pictures throughout the evening. I'm talking about the coffin, the deceased, the people, the priests, the priests and the coffin, and then the hearse, the coffin again as it was carried to the graveyard, the grave stone, the coffin as it was lowered, the coffin as it was buried. It was ridiculous, having this serious and difficult time being punctuated with camera flashes and the digital beeps every time he went back and forth to see if he got the coffin in just the right light. If anyone did that at a funeral of my loved one, there would be an extra body to bury. I'm sure he uploaded them on Facebook that same night.

5. Our company makes a point of sending an email to the entire workforce if a relative of an employee passes away, including providing transport to and from the funeral. I always found this surprisingly considerate, given our 'corporate' label, but I have since noticed that this trend of announcing and providing transport for everyone's funerals has made the whole idea a bit of an 'event'. You hear people asking each other if they're going for this one or not, as if there is some form of merit gained by attending the most number of funerals in a year. Is this what has led to my previous points regarding the levity of the attendees? I'm unsure, but it's something to ponder on.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Natalie and Nadiya Anderson Fiasco

It was a firestorm of the shortest duration, but if you spend as much time as I do on the internet you pick up things pretty quickly. Recently, a YouTube clip from the show "Amazing Race" went (slightly) viral among Sri Lankans, as it featured a 3 minute interview with two Sri Lankans who were taking part in the latest season of the show. Natalie and Nadiya Anderson are twin sisters who, from what we have since gathered, were born and brought up in Sri Lanka but are American citizens who completed their secondary and tertiary education there.

The video clip has since been removed or made private, presumably from the barrage of negative comments it has since received, so I'll try to reconstruct it from memory.

The clip was basically a short on-location interview between the show's hosts and the two girls who had just won a challenge. They appear exhausted and tired, yet jubilant after completing whatever task had been set for them. The clip starts with the host asking them what they felt about the challenge and their reaction to winning it. They respond rather enthusiastically saying how they get to experience things from "the other side", and how because they are from a "privileged" family they are not exposed to this so-called 'other side' often, and what an eye-opener this was. The word "privileged" is tossed around a little bit more, as the girls painstakingly try to show they are embracing this new "street life" despite their obvious affluence.

Now, here's where things get awkward. Somehow, in their giddiness, they mention how proud their many "servants" would be of them if they could see them now. "Servants?", the host asks, not so innocently, and the girls gladly oblige, reiterating that their "servants" would be ecstatic that the girls are seeing into their world, so to speak. The host then asks (again not so innnocently) how many servants they have, and the girls answer "many", or something of the sort. If memory serves, they go on to mention that they have one for cleaning, and one for cooking, before noticing (for the first time) that the hosts are not so amused with these tales.

By this time, one of the twins seems to have caught on that they have made a colossal blunder, and she starts to try to explain that in Sri Lanka, it is quite common for people to have - yes, she says it again - servants, and then once again mentions that they are after all from a 'privileged' family, and it is the accepted norm. The girls, in an attempt to make light of the situation, then go on to tell a story of their beloved driver Premasiri, who has been in their employ since he was 14 years old. This draws an exclamation from the host, who says, "You've had a driver since he was 14 years old, before he was old enough to get a license??". The girls, again, still laughing and giggling but not as much as earlier, try to joke about it and one of them started with "Well in Sri Lanka you don't need.. " before the other sister cuts in, trying to show that they treat him like one of their own, since they've known him since he was so young.

The presenter allows for a slight pause, letting the awkward silence stretch out for a few seconds, before saying (only half-jokingly) "I don't think I should be giving you girls a millions dollars."

The girls finally catch on to where this interview has gone, and immediately get on the defensive, boldly claiming that "oh, we don't want the money, because half of it we plan on giving to our parents anyway and the other half we're donating to charity", and one sister then rather bluntly states that she works for a non-profit in Sri Lanka, alongside her mother, and that the money doesn't matter. Sadly, the damage has already been done, and when the presenter asks why they're taking part and they answer a) "to prove we can do it" and b) "to represent the 'brownie girls' of South Asia woohoo!", things couldn't have gotten worse.

The interview ends on a tame note asking if they had boyfriends waiting for them back home, to which one sister answered yes while thankfully avoiding mentioning anything about his social status or domestic help.

Most have ridiculed the two girls in the video, though their reasons have been varied. I personally could barely watch the video after the millionth mention of their vast array of servants, and Premasiri's child labour situation didn't help. What bothered me the most however was their complete ignorance of the politically correct way to talk about domestic help and maids. Yes, Sri Lankans do use hired help often in their households, but mentioning it in such a callous and offhand way in front of a camera crew is just unforgivable. These are not uneducated, socially awkward girls; they are self-professed "privileged" adults, exposed to both Western and local culture. Thanks to 3 minutes with them however, CBS happily captioned the video "Twins Natalie and Nadiya share with Phil how comfortable life is for them in Sri Lanka", making it sound like child labour is something every affluent Sri Lankan makes use of. The twins obvious back-tracking, with the "non-profit" employment thrown in, only made things worse for them, and no doubt made for good TV.

It seems that the YouTube video received a slew of insults, rude comments and verbal abuse before being taken down. I don't condone the insults, (and I definitely don't consider them a "national embarrassment", like this prominent news site does - ridiculous) but I do however understand the anger, or at least where it is coming from; Sri Lanka gets enough (but probably deserved) bad press internationally without having to have two giddy girls unknowingly making a mockery of the social situation at home.
One blogger has written a spirited defence of the twins (whom she knows personally), but while I commend her for standing up for her friends I feel she is letting that friendship cloud her judgement. I'm sure the girls are lovely, friendly, good-natured adults, but that doesn't excuse being really, really ignorant. If this were any other country, they would be releasing statements to the media clarifying their statements and apologising, but I sincerely doubt they'll do that here. Instead, they'll have to suffer in silence knowing that for a brief few hours, they were exactly who they said they were - privileged, spoilt children who hadn't seen anything outside of their little bubble, and now that they have, are still unable to comprehend it.
The fact that their online bio for the show states that they liken each other to Kim and Khloe Kardashian now appears rather poignant.
Welcome to the internet, Natalie and Nadiya. Actually, welcome to social etiquette 101. Take the punches, learn from it, and move on.


After reading this post with a more cool head, I realise that I may have been too harsh and not explained my thinking clearly. I get that these kind of bloopers can happen when you're in front of a camera, and no doubt the girls were only trying to express how they were enjoying themselves. They just did it in an appallingly inappropriate way. I hadn't read the comments on the clip before it was taken down, but I fear that it is highly likely they were as ridiculous and over-the-top as the Groundview status update I linked earlier in the post. I feel sorry for them having to go through that, but I hope they learned from it, and I wish them the best.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

We Are Too Lazy To Stay Alive: An Environmental Rant

Sri Lanka is often advertised as a nation of smiling people, too cool to be bothered by the stress and strife of modern life, blithely relaxing under coconut trees just waiting to chuck up what they're doing to go bum around at the beach. Our chillingly high suicide rate, increased rape and abuse statistics seem to go against that fiction, but except for all the people trying to kill themselves and/or assault others, we're a "happy-go-lucky" bunch apparently.

This does not necessarily translate well in real life situations; in fact, it more often than not comes across as extreme apathy.

Take for example my work place. As some of you know, I work in the sustainable energy field, and my main job is to make sure we save money energy. This is not an alien concept, as most companies and organisations are now gearing towards greener practices and more environmentally conscious processes. Some of this activity is mostly genuine, while some are more PR based. No matter, I say, as long as the job gets done.

Yet, I am constantly surprised at our neglect for the environment, and our flippant attitude towards most things environmentally related. Any form of communication regarding saving energy, recycling, global warming, water and land pollution is met with a sort of glazed over look, a few nods, an empathetic sigh and a swift change of subject. Either that or enthusiastic agreement, followed by nothing.

I admit I was often part of the latter, until very recently. I never fully realised the dire situation our planet and especially our country were facing regarding the energy and environmental crisis until I started working here in this capacity. Did you know we were once almost 85% dependent on hydroelectricity, and now that percentage is closer to 50%? The rest we are now generating in our faulty Chinese coal plants. As a result, the universally cursed CEB is selling us electricity at a massive loss every single year. The demand for electricity in our country has gone up steadily over the last 7 years, with no signs of slowing down. Let's talk about garbage then; did you know that despite laws in place that clinical and hazardous waste be segregated by hospitals and relevant industries before disposal, these bags all wind up in the same land dump anyway? We neatly segregated the poisonous materials at our work place, only to have the authorities lump it together in their tractors and thrown in the same sites, eventually seeping into our water table. Did you also know that a majority of Colombo was actually marsh land? Yes, this marsh land was simply filled up and built on, which is one of the main reasons why so many areas of Colombo flood at the mere hint of rain, because the soil is just not suited for normal drainage.

Enough lectures; a lot of these issues are beyond the control of you and I, yet there is a difference between knowing these facts and actually doing something about it. I was extremely proud of, and motivated by, T when she wrote her blog posts on the tree cutting fiasco near her workplace, because despite there being so many hoops to jump through for her to get even a clue as to what was happening, she still did whatever was in her power to do. That's the kind of attitude that we need to inculcate on a larger scale.

Luckily at home my parents are somewhat energy conscious; we have a solar water heater, we've been composting for more than 17 years, and our outside lights are switched off by 730pm. My mom has set herself a monthly target bill amount for the house electricity, and is trying her best to attain it. Long distance trips are scheduled to coincide with some of the office work, so that we don't need to waste fuel with two vehicles. The list goes on, and as you can see, the list is not filled with anything very complicated.
Yet, when it comes to other people's resources and costs, our already disturbing apathy goes into overdrive. I stayed in a common housing while at work for a while, and I was constantly surprised at how often people would just leave the TV on and leave the room Once I came back after a late dinner to find everyone in the house asleep, but the TV still on full volume. Then there's the iron that gets left on for hours. The fridge door that isn't closed properly. The taps which are left open. 
After raising these points with my fellow tenants whenever I could, they slowly began to cut down on a few infringements, if only to avoid me throwing a tantrum. Still I find it hard to believe that anyone that isn't from an extremely spoiled and affluent background can't fathom the costs (both financial and environmental) that their carelessness incurs. But make no mistake: this isn't restricted to our employees. Even our environmental awareness programmes that we hold in the local schools get little or no support from the staff, simply because they feel that if you're not being 'tested' on it, it isn't worth learning. With that kind of attitude, I suppose it's no wonder my peers look at me in bewilderment as I knock off unnecessary lights while staring daggers at them.
Bottom line: while we push forward with all the development in our country capital, it's important to remember how fleeting our reserves of natural resources are. Mindless landfilling and constructions are not going to make us more eco-friendly. It seems that the UDA, in all its wisdom, has confused environmental 'cleanliness' with mere the more cosmetic definition of it. If the people in power can't seem to understand the difference between planting trees and painting buildings green, then it paints a rather grim picture of all our futures. So take a stand; push for better practices in your workplace and homes, your schools and colleges. Don't be the guy that reasoned that the TV would eventually switch itself off if you just stopped looking at it.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Melomanic Sessions No.6 - We Have A Llama

It's that time again, when the Melomanic Sessions swings back into town. For those who haven't heard of them already, where the heck have you been?? The Warehouse Project in Maradana hosts the Melomanic Sessions every 2-3 months; an evening of chilled out acoustic music by some budding local talent, including a few bands like Salvage, MagicBox Mixup, and Cynosure to name a few. It's not a performance, it's just a very cool, very laid back environment with some easy listening, good friends and the Warehouse Project's famous chocolate cake.
This month we have an interesting lineup, but most important of all it will be the debut of Melomanic's very own Asela Perera's EP titled "Evenings In The Sun". Yes, turn up tomorrow to be the first to get your hands on some great original music from our own shores. I've already written about it here, go read up if you haven't heard his music yet.
Here's the lineup for tomorrow:

- Arshad
- Gehan
- Nipun
- Shaafo
- Asela & Rushinee
- Isuri
- Dave
- Magicbox Mixup

Also happening tomorrow? The Warehouse Project will be carrying out "Dispatchers", a fun programme that aims to fill up the fissures of broken walls and buildings worldwide using multicoloured plastic building blocks (Lego). All are welcome, all you have to do is turn up and grab your bag of blocks and get going! You can read up more on the international programme here, and click here to get yourself signed up for tomorrow's event at the Warehouse.

Finally, there is a llama in the poster.

Honestly, what more could you want?

If you don't know how to get here, it's just after the Maradana roundabout, as shown below.

(If my drawing is too crude for you, here, go find it yourself!)

Click here and let us know you're coming, and see you tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My Father's Son

I don’t understand you. Me. Us.
I am constantly shifting from yearning to be like you to being terrified that I will
Your strengths are magnified in my eyes because of my weaknesses, which in turn are magnified in my own eyes because of your strengths
We are cut from the same cloth, of the same blood, but are we the same?
Will we ever be? Do you want us to be?

I know nothing about anything anymore, but I know this, father.
In the cool silence of these nights, I have learned one bitter truth
I am my father’s son
So make room at your table, for I too am destined to disappoint the ones I love

I hope you are proud.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Save The Cheerleader, Save The World! - Why There's Nothing Wrong With The T20 Cheerleaders

Sri Lanka is in the grips of an energy crisis, an economic crisis, a human rights crisis and cricket fever! The T20 World Cup is in full swing and right now everyone is glued to their TV's every evening to watch the fireworks on display. However, amidst all the zealous cheering, venomous anti-India slurs and numerous hypothetical scenarios that get Sri Lanka into the finals, there have been steady complaints regarding the tournament. Now this is generally the norm with most any international event, especially those held in the cash-strapped sub-continent. However this time, despite several questionable decisions (such as the utter stupidity in holding any form of sporting event in the ghost town that is Mahinda Rajapakse's backyard aka Hambantota), the bulk of the complaints have been regarding the cheerleaders.

What cheerleaders, you ask? These cheerleaders:

Similar memes are doing the rounds on Facebook and other social network sites, and even some friends who went for the matches shared their pictures of the girls in action, often followed by some over-the-top statement about them being the "disgrace of our country" and how they should be (and I quote) "shot with a sniper rifle".


There are many things I don't like about the T20 World Cup, chief of them being the fact that there is T20 cricket involved. I also can't stand how every time we host an event like this, the government uses the distraction of the masses to raise fuel prices or take some other more disturbing course of action. But cheerleaders?

Let's be clear about a few things. First of all, according to 'reports', the contractor for the cheerleaders couldn't land any better looking women because the payment was "not that great". Which is silly, really, because it's not so much the girls that people are complaining about, it's the hideous outfits. I guarantee that none of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders (which seem to be the standard everyone compares cheerleaders to) would have looked any better in those dreadful orange, pink and blue leotards. This so-called contractor should be the one on the receiving end of all the heat, not the girls! A 5 year-old could come up with a better outfit by eating crayons and pooping on a colouring book.

Secondly, why do we need cheerleaders at all? Cheerleading is an activity that has its roots in the USA, where no sport is allowed to be boring (even their golf has Tiger Woods). It's been around since the late 19th century, and it's come so far as to be classified as a sport itself by ESPN, complete with a governing body, inter-school and national competitions. While most school and college programmes involve some percentage of males as well, most professional sports teams have focused on good looking scantily clad female dancers, with the male "cheerleaders" being relegated to mascot duty.

So naturally, the concept of female dancers at sport events has migrated internationally, and yet very few European sports use them. Tennis, football, handball etc are conspicuously without cheerleaders. Yet for some reason, cricket (of all sports) had to have them. The Indian Premiere League, that orgy of wealthy, bored billionaires and overpaid cricketers, were more than happy to import some cheerleaders to add to the flash and bang of the tournaments, and perhaps India (despite being the worst G20 country for women) could be justified in using them, given their rich history of provocatively clad movie stars traipsing amongst bushes in the rain for men's attentions.

But Sri Lankan sports have no idea what to do with these cheerleaders. Our sports begin and end with cricket, and cricket has always involved sneaking alcohol in to Premadasa Stadium, getting drunk to the sounds of the multiple bands in the stands, and dancing and taking our shirts off. This is how we 'cheer', and a group of dancing bedazzled girls is only going to act as a distraction, not an incentive. Someone should have thought that through before trying to slap on a borrowed sideshow from India and running with it. Last year's ODI World Cup didn't need them; in fact, I thought the drummers that played for every boundary and wicket were a great idea, and they blended well with the crowd. At least, a lot better than these fluorescent fairies.

Bottom line: the real crime here is not that the cheerleaders fail to be a cross between Miss Universe and Missy Elliot, but that there are cheerleaders at all! Objectifying women under the guise of sports is another topic all together, but while being a cheerleader may be a glamorous and recognised vocation in some countries, it doesn't translate at all well to cricket in Sri Lanka. This isn't a crime, nor is it a reflection of our 'backward culture' as some would like to hint at.
We just don't need them.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Homegrown Talent (Featuring Asela Perera)

"I've heard some international standard original material from our little island the last few years. Support your local artists and music. Support original music. You'll be surprised how good it has got here."
The above quote was posted on Facebook by Salvage lead singer (and Melomanic's own) CC, and it got me thinking about the local music scene. Lately I've been lucky to be exposed to a lot of local musicians and singers, and it's beautiful to see what gifted and talented artists we have in our island. We don't see them though, because most of the time they are working in our banks, teaching in our schools, studying in our colleges. Rarely do they find opportunities to perform, and almost never are they recognised for it.
Which brings me to my friend Asela Perera. I remember the first time I heard him sing was through word of mouth, and eventually one day at work I listened to "Eyes Wide Open", a beautiful duet (with Isuri, another talented local artist) from his earlier work "Paper Boy". At that time I had never heard anything as good by any other local artist, and it was just so refreshing to me. Above all, it was original, and his style and personality permeates every song he sings.
I have been lucky enough to watch him perform several times now thanks to the Melomanic Sessions, and I've also had the fortune to hear several budding local artists perform as well, from rock bands to ukulele players, from teenagers to seasoned veterans. It's beautiful to see people expressing themselves so eloquently through music, despite limited opportunities to perform or for coaching. It makes me wonder what we could do if we actually nurtured these homegrown musicians, and supported them by giving them the audience and the applause that they so richly deserve.
Despite listening to "Paper Boy" before, there was one track that I had somehow missed. I discovered it today for the first time while going through his official site (click here). I'm not sure what it is about this song, but it somehow connected with me. Asela is quite the lyricist, but it's strange how even in this instrumental song, he has managed to communicate so much emotion and describe so much without saying anything at all really. That is no easy task; it takes skill, talent, and soul. Perhaps I'm reading it wrong, but the message it conveys to me is beautiful, and it resonates deeply.
This is 20:55.


Today he released "Once", his first single from his upcoming EP titled "Evenings In The Sun"; an EP that I am itching to get my ears (?) on. So go on, give Asela a listen, and look out for more local artists. They may not be on a stage, in front of the big lights, but they could be in your break room at work, or providing the ambiance for your Friday night drinks. Acknowledge them, speak to them, encourage them. They need it, and in my opinion, they deserve it.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Free Fallin' At The Colombo Music Festival 2012

As some of you may know, I took part in the Spirit singing competition which was part of the Colombo Music Festival 2012. The finals were last Sunday, for Rock, Pop & RnB, Gospel, Fusion and Instrumentals. While there were a few technical glitches, the show was, in my opinion, of very high standard. I myself was extremely entertained with the talent that was on offer, on that day and even the day prior when the finals for Musical Theatre, Jazz and Classical was held.

There have been several poor reviews of this Colombo Music Festival, and most of them have been more than justified, but I must say that the singing competition went off pretty well. The show opened with Gospel and Rock, with some very memorable performances. One of the competitors for Rock solo opened with a great acoustic rendition of The Police's "Message in a bottle". Another played a soulful piano rendition of Aerosmith's "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing". I had decided (rather quickly I must add) to go with "Adrienne" by The Calling and "Free Fallin'" by Tom Petty for my song choices, and in hindsight with more time I probably would have picked a more popular song than "Adrienne". However, limited time and a rushed schedule meant I had to stick with my choices. We went with The Calling first, and sat back in the audience to listen to the other categories as they all finished their first song choices in sequence.

Those of you that came for the show will know that there were a few people that really stood out from the pack, showing some amazing soul and character vocally. Dave, Mayanthi, Dominic and recent Onstage winner Melissa were to me the cream of the crop, far outdistancing themselves from the rest, despite the high standard exhibited by the contestants overall.

There were some performances that were not so great as well, but not because of a lack of talent. Despite years of reality singing shows, the simple rule eludes most of us, myself included: pick the right songs! I felt that a few contestants in the pop category really suffered here, choosing songs that were a little too old fashioned (honestly, no one sings Bonnie Tyler's "I Need A Hero" voluntarily). On top of that, some people  ended up incorporating a huge band, complete with backup singers, drums, lead guitars and a horrendous keyboard player who seemed determined to drown out everyone and everything all by himself. This was really unfortunate, because I had heard their previous performances, and they have some serious talent. However I am not at all surprised that the eventual winners of the genre were accompanied by a maximum of two instruments.

Speaking of instruments, I can't say enough about the two contestants in the Contemporary Instrumental category. You couldn't find two more contrasting styles for such a category, yet they both blew the roof off the place. Joshua is a young piano maestro, putting together an entire composition made up of popular movie themes, while Nisal is a guitar genius, playing John Petrucci with ease. Their combined four pieces were a treat to the ears, and the judges decided to award them as joint winners, and deservedly so. 

Anyway, by the time I sang my second song, I somehow had a sense that this was probably the last time I was going to step on a stage like this with a full band behind me for a while, and so I decided to really soak in the atmosphere while I could. "Free Fallin'" went of pretty well, if I do say so myself, and I was quite proud of the way we had engineered it despite the limited hours we had to rehearse. Many thanks to Nishan and the band for that!

Unfortunately, the judges decided not to place me when the results came out, and so I remained simply a 'finalist'. I'll admit, I was pretty disappointed, but at the same time I had learned so much about myself musically, as well as pushed myself to sing songs that I normally would have been hesitant to. My main learning though? I need vocal training; pronto!

Without much further ado, here's "Free Fallin'" - probably one of my better live performances (narrowly edging out "Roxanne"). I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises Review

To those of you that follow my Twitter feed or are friends with me on Facebook, you are probably aware that over the last 9 days my friends and I have been travelling from Mumbai to Goa to Hampi, with a few hours in Bangalore thrown in as well. Now, I could tell you that the main reason for this trip was a) purely recreational in nature; sun, fun and travelling in a foreign country with friends or b) to get a much needed break from the grind of work or c) to find myself in some sort of "Eat, Pray, Love" styled spiritual awakening among the temple ruins of Hindu gods.

Or, I could shrug my shoulders and say, quite truthfully: The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX.

Since Sri Lanka is still catching up on 3D cinemas (and has now gone on to convert almost all of their theatres to be 3D compatible), the thought of watching Christopher Nolan's masterpiece in a hastily converted local cinema and not in all its IMAX glory was unbearable! So, after a little bit of internet research, we found out that Mumbai provided the most affordable and geographically closest IMAX theatre in the region, so quickly an Indian road trip was put together, with a few additional stops so that we didn't have to actually admit we went to India to watch a movie.

Enough background; on to the actual review!

As fortune would have it, despite not pre-booking our tickets, we managed to get the best seats in the house for the movie. If you've been to an IMAX movie before, you'll know that you need to be at the perfect elevation to fully take in the scale of the screen. As I got comfortable in our couch seats (yes indeed!) I realised we were in for a helluva show.

First off the movie started with the "Man of Steel" trailer which, especially when viewed in IMAX, gave me some serious chills. Is it possible that finally, after all these years, DC was going to get a Superman movie right?

".. But in time, they will join you in the sun.." - Love it.

(Have no fear, no spoilers be here!)

As most of you all know by now, TDKR picks up the story 8 years after the events of "The Dark Knight". The people of Gotham still don't know the truth behind Harvey Dent, about his switch to madness, and how he died while attempting to murder Gordon's son. Harvey Dent is still hailed as the White Knight, and his death has been blamed on the Batman, who hasn't been seen since that night. However, when a new type of criminal begins to spread his tentacles in Gotham, Batman feels compelled to don the cowl once more to save the city that branded him a criminal.

I'm not sure I should give much more away because it would take away the experience. Let me just make a few bullet points instead.

  • The opening sequences of the movie, while in the beginning may seem a little random and disconnected, are so perfectly relevant to the whole tapestry that is Nolan's Dark Knight saga when viewed in hindsight. The tone is set straight from the get-go; no wasting time at all, similar to the first two movies.
  • The score in this movie is just brilliant. The "Batman theme" is hardly heard throughout the 2 hours and 45 minutes, yet when it is it gives such an amazing lift to the scene your heart will skip a beat. Literally.
  • No, there is no equal (or even a mention) of the Joker in this movie, but then there was never an intention to top the Joker. Even in the comics, no matter the challenges Batman faces, there is never a criminal as chilling, as deplorable and as intimidatingly psychotic as the Joker. There is no sense in trying to compare Bane to the Joker; they are two different criminals on totally different levels.
  • That being said, Bane was flat out scary. That is all I have to say; just mean, menacing, terrifying.
  • Not much has been said of the Catwoman, despite a lot of hue and cry regarding Anne Hathaway's casting. Few people realise how nuanced a character she really is; she is neither a hero or a villain, simply an opportunist. Throughout the comics her relationship with Batman/Bruce Wayne is as complicated as it gets. Does Hathaway deliver? Definitely! She was everything I imagined Catwoman/Seline Kyle to be; at this point Nolan could probably cast Sacha Baron Cohen in a movie and I would still have to take him seriously.
  • It's hard for me to pin down my favourite performance in this movie because everyone had their moment. Michael Caine once again provides the 'heart' of this movie, delivering one of the most moving dialogues in the movie. But I was most impressed by Gary Oldman's performance; his Jim Gordon is absolutely perfect. Once again he delivers a key line (in my opinion), similar to his screaming at Batman about having to save Harvey Dent and the ending speech in "The Dark Knight". 
  • The line goes like this: "There's a point, far there, when the structures fail you. And when the rules aren't weapons anymore, they're shackles, letting the bad guy get ahead. One day you may face such a moment of crisis, and in that moment, I hope you have a friend like I did. To plunge their hands into the filth, so that you can keep yours clean!"
  • The dialogue in this movie is just riveting; there are so many quotable quotes in this movie that just reading the 'quotes' page on the movie's IMDB page makes me want to watch the movie again. I haven't felt that way since "Pulp Fiction".

Many are worried that TDKR would not be able to live up to the epic performances of TDK, but TDKR achieves the one thing that it's predecessors did not: it builds up the story to a dizzying finale. The lows in TDKR are excruciatingly, painfully low; the highs are euphoric, sensational highs. The word 'epic' has been far too casually tossed around these days, but rarely has it been more apt than when describing this movie (and the trilogy in general). It is an amazing final stroke by Nolan, a perfect send off to my beloved character, and one of the most satisfying trilogies I have ever seen. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Darkside Has Come To The Colombo Music Festival

Greetings one and all. The rumours of my passing have been wildly exaggerated; I have merely been too busy of late to blog. Much to your relief, no doubt.

Just thought I'd write a quick update on what I've been up to in the last month or so. Besides the daily grind that work provides, I've found myself rather busy with an "extra-curricular" activity - singing. A few weeks ago I heard about the "Senses and Soul" Colombo Musical Festival, which is to be held during the end of August. Along with several workshops, talks and performances from reputed foreign artists, the music festival is also organising, as a lead up event, a singing competition, with the finals to be held during the festival week itself. The contest spans various genres, including Jazz, Pop & RnB, Rock, Classical, Musical Theatre, Gospel as well as group and solo events in each category. With the promise of international talent scouts coming to view the finalists, and the possibility of 'international' exposure, the music festival seemed to be a real first for Colombo, and so it was with much excitement (and a slight bit of nerves) that I applied in both Gospel and Rock solo.

The first audition was very American Idol-esque, with three judges giving you roughly a minute to impress them with any choice of song, sung without accompaniment. I sang snippets of "And Now My Lifesong Sings" and "Dolphin's Cry" for my auditions, with the judges asking me to sing another song for the Rock audition to show my 'variety'. In a panic I sang Incubus' "Dig", and crossed my fingers. Luckily, I made it through to the next round.

The preliminaries required music, so after a few rushed practices with Bro during the weekend, I managed to work out Building 429's "Always" for the Gospel solo and Alter Bridge's "Watch Over You" for Rock solo.. This was the first time we saw the other competitors in our categories, as the initial audition was for all genres. I had to admit there were some amazing voices on display, especially in the Pop & RnB category. The whole day was spent at the venue, and by the time the results came out I had heard some of the best jazz, broadway, opera, pop and rock singers Colombo had to offer (as well as some Korean Pop - I'll get to that later).

Again, I was lucky enough to make it to the semi final round for both categories! I had to admit I was feeling a bit confident at this stage, but then I was told we had to sing something in complete contrast to what we sang for the preliminaries. This sort of threw me: what the heck is a contrast to "Watch Over You"? After several nights on Youtube and going through my iTunes playlists, I finally settled on what would easily be my hardest cover song: "Roxanne" by The Police.

It was definitely one of the most fun performances I've done, and it was enough to get me through into the final round of the Rock solo category. Unfortunately I wasn't so lucky for the Gospel round, but I'll upload that video as soon as I can too.

Well that's what I've been up to! I'll write more later on my observations during this competition and working with all these extremely talented musicians and performers; it's definitely been a very eye-opening experience.

The finals are on August 25th-26th; more details soon! Hope to see you there as well.


I've uploaded the audio on Soundcloud: enjoy!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Aurora Shootings

There is something extremely chilling about the Aurora theatre shootings.

"The Dark Knight Rises" may be one of the most anticipated movies of the year; an event that many people would gladly line up for days to see. The midnight screenings must have been booked up within minutes of tickets going on sale, and understandably so; imagine being the first people in your town to see the biggest movie event of the year?

And then, with all that excitement and anticipation, just ten minutes into what was supposed to be 165 minutes of cinematic excellence, a mad man walks in with a mask, drops tear gas on the floor, and starts killing people.

The absurdity of the situation, the sheer senselessness of the act, terrifies me. 

What an evil, wicked and cruel world we live in.

(Click image for source)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Late Night Psychology

I just caught myself in the most bizarre situation.

There I was, in my room, at 2am, shooting imaginary free throws in the dark.

I kid you not. One minute I was in bed, staring at a silent phone, endlessly refreshing Twitter, when suddenly I just jumped out of bed, stood at a ‘line’ formed by the floor, set my feet, and went through the motions of a free throw. I must be losing my mind.

I’m a mess right now, but you couldn’t tell by looking at me. On the outside everything is pretty much business as usual, yet inside my head there is a lot of confusion, a lot of stress, and it manifests itself in strange ways. I have often looked to music and singing in times of turmoil, but it was two o’clock in the morning, and there was no way I was bursting into song at that ungodly hour. Option 2? Basketball.

Why basketball? I’m not sure. It’s not just because I love the sport, or because I was any good at it (I wasn’t). So what possible explanation could there be?

I got in position again and went through the same motions again, the same ball spin with all those dribbles before getting into my shooting motion, letting my arm rise with an open palm, releasing the imaginary ball at the apex and following through with the shooting arm.

In basketball, no matter if you are shooting the ball well or shooting it horribly, the true scorers know that you need to get to the free throw line by drawing fouls on you. Scoring points from the free throw line is key; they’re relatively easier than shooting with someone trying to defend you, and they are the same all the time. So players develop routines, unique to them, that helps them get in rhythm and shoot the free throw as close to perfect every time. Easy points.

Perhaps that’s what I need: routine. Something tried and tested that I can go back to with confidence. Something to restore order to chaos. Something stable.

I am reaching and searching for answers right now, and I am struggling to find them. I am struggling to find comfort or stability in anything. I am blessed with a home and a loving family, but after the recent trials we have been through, that ‘stability’ has not yet been re-established in them. Friends are too fickle and fleeting; they come and go depending on their posting. I am constantly on the move, one week at home, one week in Colombo, the rest of the weeks at work.

There is too much flux, too much change, and nothing constant. It irks me. I crave peace, silence, stability, but there are just no answers, not in music, not in reading, not in prayer, not in meditation, not in family, and not from above.

Perhaps soon I will figure out what will give me this peace that I desire, but until then I suppose I’ll just stand here like a complete idiot, shooting invisible basketballs, and seeking solace in the imagined swish of the ball falling through the net. Comical, pathetic, and melodramatic. Yes, even I’m laughing at myself. Yet tonight, it will have to do.

Friday, June 15, 2012

How Not To Be An All-Island Best Speaker

Warning: this is going to be a full on rant!

Last weekend I went for the final round of the All Island Best Speaker competition held at the Galadari. Someone I knew had taken part and had made it to the final 5, so a few of my friends went to show him our support.

The Toastmaster's club runs quite a tight ship, I must say, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the programme started exactly on time. I literally can't remember a single time I've been to a function in Sri Lanka that ever started on time, so this was very refreshing. Our 'host' for the evening was clearly a member of the Toastmaster's club, and he spoke extremely well, throwing a few jokes in to his 'banter' before introducing us to the competition and the rules.

Basically the competition would consist of two rounds. The first round would be a prepared speech, which was meant to be 7 minutes in duration, while the second round would be an impromptu speech of at least 2 minutes, on a topic given to the contestants twenty minutes before they were to speak. As we waited for the first contestant to step to the stage, I glanced around at the crowd of 300 and couldn't help feeling like this was a much bigger deal than I initially thought it would be. Everyone was extremely well dressed, ladies in fancy dresses and the men in suits. I felt distinctly and hopelessly out of place in my neon-coloured Foo Fighters t-shirt and jeans.

First up was my friend, and he did a fantastic job of it, in my opinion. His chosen topic was about his life, and while it could have so easily turned into something boring or insincere, his speech was filled with colour and expression, yet somehow also conveyed the earnestness and honesty of someone who was speaking from a place of experience.

I can't say the same for the rest of the competition.

First of all, let me just say this: it turned out that my friend was the only competitor above the age of 25. He was also the only male, and thought technically that shouldn't have factored in to the competition, I somehow feel it did.

Contestant no.2 was a young teacher, who brought a 'prop' to the stage in the form of a single chair. As soon as she started speaking, I felt like I was transported back in time to the inter-school drama competitions. For this was not a speech, this was almost a soliloquy. Her entire speech was an exhibition in drama, as she pranced around the stage, making comical expressions at the audience when she made a joke, and basically acted out a one-woman play for us. She spoke about the 'cost of living', and tried to somehow connect her experience at the supermarket to how much we value life, while throwing in a story about an autistic child (the chair prop was for her to 'illustrate' how she sat on a bench to speak to this poor unfortunate soul). I couldn't wait for it to be over, but little did I know that the fun was just beginning.

Contestant no.3 spoke about "Man's best friend", and she too began in the shrill, theatrical voice used by her predecessor. However, with this one it was all about the hands; they went everywhere! From her face to show surprise to her waist to her sides, flapping about to show the urgency of her situation - it was just mesmerizing, and not in a good way. Her speech was terrible, somehow equating her fear of dogs, and how she ran away from one, to her fear of life, and how she avoided challenges. It was about as genuine as a Gucci bag bought in Pettah.

Contestant no.4 fared slightly better, but again her theatrical depiction of a rather mundane driving accident just did not work for me. Once again, her attempt at equating her fear of driving as some form of example regarding fear of challenges in life were just unconvincing. You hit a lamp post and it gave you an epiphany? Give me a break.

Contestant no.5 was a lot more lively, and her topic was something that easily tickled the slightly older audience - a "love affair" with her cell phone. Seven minutes of 'cute' jokes regarding her 'young and passionate affair' with her cell phone and how it disconnected her from the real world were the perfect topic to engage the somewhat elderly audience, who no doubt still think mobile phones are the devil.

By the end of the first round I was thoroughly disappointed. Here I was hoping for some really stellar oration, but instead we were sent to Dramatist's Anonymous. Perhaps my definition of a 'speech' is different from what the Toastmaster's organisation believes it to be, because in my definition, there has to be some tangible point to be given across, and that should be the focus of the speech. Instead, by the evenings end, it was clear to me that the panel and indeed the audience in general gave points for the most endearing, theatrical and dramatic performer. When the second round came around, the contestants had to give a 2 minute speech on "Love and War". My friend absolutely crashed and burned here, and I wasn't surprised; he is much more comfortable giving longer speeches where he can drive his point home. However, the remaining four did their best to make his speech look good, floundering around and doing their best to distract the judges once again with grand theatrics, stomping around the stage and trying to squeeze cheap laughter out of the audience with bizarre facial expressions.

There's a very strange misconception about what 'good English' should sound like, and it seems to have been instilled in us from our drama teachers and English teachers, who in turn have been influenced by the BBC. For some reason, we have this idea that to speak 'good' English, we have to speak with a British accent, and this was very evident during the programme; all four of the girls spoke in an identical accent! I have never been in the same room with four people that spoke that way, and it made me question why people had a problem with my Indian accent. Hey, I'm half-Indian and I lived and studied there; when were you working in the Queen's kitchen?

Bottom line: communication in this day and age is still key, despite the growth of digital media. Being able to stand in a room and deliver what you have to say is vital to success in any arena, and if we want to be successful individuals, we can't let ourselves believe that the theatrics exhibited at the All Island Best Speakers contest are necessary for that. Also, our accent and our pronunciation shouldn't need to be amputated for us to speak in a public forum. As long as we pronounce the words correctly, I don't see why we need to emulate our ancient conquerors.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Twenty Minute Posting VI: Sun and Rain

I haven't written a "Twenty Minute Post" in a while. For those who haven't read them, basically I set myself twenty minutes to write whatever comes to mind. A sort of writing exercise, that helps me get things out on 'paper' so to speak.

So what do I have to say today? A lot, as usual; my mind is always actively seeking distraction in any way it can. Recently I have been thinking about tattoos, and whether I should get one. Of course, it's not just about getting a tattoo; these things are rather permanent, so you need the right design, the right location, the right artist, and above all the right 'reason'. I don't really see myself getting one for purely artistic reasons, as I'm hardly someone who can claim to have artistic taste. Yet, it's intriguing, the idea of branding yourself with something that you assume will still be relevant and attractive 10, 15, 20, 40 years down the line. 

What do you think? Would a tattoo look good on me? 

I performed at the Melomanic Sessions last Saturday, and as always I had a great time. The show was excellent, and the music was really good! In my opinion Asela and Salvage stole the show, but Imaad was an excellent opener, and the bands were all good. I'll upload the audio as soon as I get my hands on it. It was a fun show, and though I was rather nervous before the performance for some reason, once I got up there I felt relaxed. Overall I have got more positives than negatives, so I'll take that as a good thing. I'll let you be the judge of it yourself as soon as I upload the audio from the set. Stay tuned!

One of my biggest flaws is that I can be rather moody. I'm not sure if moody is the right word; it implies that the reasons behind the mood shifts are generally petty. Life is a constantly moving ocean, and one can never expect the highs or lows to last forever. Yet, it's how we deal with those swells that show your character and strength. I have done a poor job of that, and I must rectify this as soon as possible. Being euphoric when I'm high is well and good, but beating myself down into submission during a low is unacceptable. After all, broody introspective men are sexy only for a short while; then it just begins to become annoying, and quite rightly so.

I feel that my idea of friendship is very different from most other people's views. I don't have enough time left to elaborate further, but I have been in some surprisingly awkward situations regarding friendship in the last few months. My motives in friendship are generally honourable, and I am not the kind of person to pretend to be something I'm not just to appease a peer. Yet it seems this is a common characteristic among most other people, and indeed a celebrated skill, as not everyone 'needs the same thing'. It's a disturbing thought, but it has merit. While my 'strategy' involves more honesty and is easier to maintain, perhaps the other way is more successful.

Another thing about friendship is that despite history and the past, friendship is just like every other infant relationship. I often am surprised at the tiny things that can reduce a solid friendship into a bickering, blathering mess. It has happened too many times in my past to be labelled as isolated incidents. At the end of the day, you have yourself, and you have your words, and you have your actions. There is no such thing as character and reputation, no excuse like "you know me, you know who I am"; friendships are hard, and unforgiving. They're great when you're on a high, but when you're down, there are few who are willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, or attempt to see things in your eyes. Perhaps the world has made us too bitter, for too long, for us to trust anyone to that degree anymore.

I must think about it.

Time's up!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Melomanic Sessions: June 2nd!

The Melomanic Sessions are back, people!

I've blogged about the Melomanic Sessions before, but in case you haven't heard of them - it's a relaxed evening of acoustic music and good company. These will be the fourth such 'sessions', and believe me they have only been getting better!

As always, the entrance fees are of your choosing; all of it goes to the Warehouse Project for their charity events, so whatever you feel you are able to contribute will be more than fine.

Bring your friends and relax, we've got a fun lineup as usual, from Asela's cool vocals to Kei's breezy ukulele, as well as Cynosure, Salvage and Not Another Metal Band playing some easy listening acoustic set

So bring your mellow self to the Warehouse Project, Maradana this Saturday at 6:30pm, and tell a friend too! Click here to go to the Facebook Event page, and click here to join the group!

Here's the lineup for this Saturday's show (courtesy of T's post):

See you there!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

When Words Are Not Enough

My world makes no sense to me, and unlike before, my words are unable to encapsulate this and present it as a witty commentary on this blog.

I used to be able to express myself in song, but now I can't find anything that accurately expresses what I'm feeling.

It's moments like these I simply raise my hands in surrender.

This song helps me do that.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Avengers Was Bad, But Not For The Usual Reasons

Have you seen the movie "Get Shorty"? If you haven't, go watch it now; it's an excellent comedy starring Travolta, Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, Danny DeVito and that guy from "The Sopranos". In it, Travolta plays Chili Palmer; a mob collector who somehow comes to Hollywood to collect a debt and gets entangled in the movie business.

One of my favourite scenes in the movie was when Chili Palmer, who is an avid movie fan, goes to see an old Orson Welles movie "Touch of Evil". He sits entranced and alone, quoting the dialogue by memory, and at the end of the movie he taps the person in front of him and says, "Incredible, huh?", with obvious awe in his voice.

That was probably the exact opposite of my latest movie experience.

So finally, I managed to go see "The Avengers". Granted, it's no cult classic (yet) but it was a big movie that was creating a lot of hype, and I was expecting to enjoy it very much. Unable to get tickets for the 3D Cinema, my friends and I booked balcony seats online for Savoy for the traditional 2D experience.

Before I get into the movie itself, let me just say that the whole show was pretty much a disaster from the get-go. First of all, the ushers had given our seats to some other people, leaving us fuming in the aisles while they tried to relocate them. Then it turns out some people had come in using the previous day's tickets, so now the ushers started checking all the tickets again. By the time we were seated, I had missed the first ten minutes.

A further ten minutes into the movie, I realised that I had managed to get seated in the worst possible place: right next to two rather easily amused girls and right in front of a row of some tragically unfunny funny-men, who proceeded to make a comment on every single aspect of the movie.

Yes, I was watching The Avengers with a laugh track and DVD commentary.

Lets start with the girls; clearly they had little or no idea of what was going on in the movie, because while the movie definitely had its funny moments, it didn't have this many! Captain America, precariously dangling off the edge of a building? Fits of laughter. Samuel L Jackson, looking into the camera after making a realisation? Laughter. Robert Downey Jr raising his eyebrows and ending a sentence with a slight inflection? Rolling on the floor.

As for the witty, wise-cracking wankers sitting behind me, I won't even torture you with some of the jokes that were coming my way. However, if you've seen the movie, allow me to give you an example. Remember how towards the second half of the movie, there's a very somber scene? You know, all serious and panning between the different Avenger's reactions? Here's what I hear from behind me: "Machan, awkward silence! Machan, machan! Awkward silence, get it? Haha awkward silence...!"

At this point, I couldn't take it any longer, so I turned around and got his attention.

Me: Hey, you; come here.
Dude: Huh?
Me: You're jokes? They're not even remotely funny...
Dude: I wasn't telling for you okay??
Me: .. No, you don't understand. They're really not funny! If you want to make your comments, save it for when you're watching the DVD in your basement alone, okay? Thank you.

After that? Silence. Not the awkward type; just silence for the rest of the movie.

As for the movie itself, well I really liked it. Mark Ruffalo played an excellent Bruce Banner, and almost stole the show from Robert Downey Jr. The story line was well told (even if a bit nerdy) and somehow the movie managed to give equal screen time to the many characters involved, even giving them some sense of character depth despite sharing the screen with so many others. Scarlett Johanssen played a believable Black Widow, Robert Downey Jr. was excellent and witty as usual, and as I mentioned earlier, Mark Ruffalo was excellent as Bruce Banner.

Even if you're not a comic book nerd, you will enjoy the movie, given you've at least seen two of the three films leading up to this one ("Iron Man", 'Thor" and "Captain America"). If you are a comic book nerd, then you'll absolutely love it. So far I've only read positive reviews (except for one bizarre review questioning the geo-politics of it all - don't ask) and it's definitely a must-see summer blockbuster.

Just make sure you're not seated next to morons, like I was.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sight-seeing In Singapore

Thanks to the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, and Sri Lanka's general reluctance to work, I had a solid 12 day holiday in the middle of April, and it's about time I blogged about it! While I was more than content to laze around at home and devour whatever my mother cooked up, my parents decided to organise a small trip to Singapore to coincide with one of Dad's business trips.

I'm sure many of you have been to Singapore, as it is one of the more popular destinations within South East Asia. I've only been there once back in 1999, which meant this trip would basically be a second 'first' time.

However, I know a lot of you will testify that going on a vacation overseas is extremely different when you're doing it with family. There are less adventures and more tours, less exploring and more shopping, less drinking and more eating. Needless to say, my brother and I was slightly wary of this trip to begin with.

Anyway, here are a few of my thoughts on the more 'interesting' points of our trip.

The Flight

We left Monday morning via Sri Lankan Airlines, flying direct to Singapore. Thanks to Dad's miles, we were in business class, and me and bro used the opportunity to finally watch 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows', in spite of the pitifully small screen and poor quality. The movie was excellent, but nothing beat the hilarity that ensued when my father, headphones firmly clasped on his ears and oblivious to how loud he was, turned to my mother and said in what he thought was a discreet whisper, "Oh look, that stewardess spilled the whole thing on him!". Sure enough, the stewardess in question stopped mid way through her attempts to clean off the juice that had spilled on to the passengers lap, and gave a rather un-airhostess-like stare at my father. It's been 3 weeks and my brother and I are still laughing about that one.

The Hotel

The hotel we stayed in was a good, 4 star hotel right along the famous, and very expensive, Orchard road. Bro and I were sharing a room, and for some reason they had booked us as Mr. and Mrs,. However, this wasn't the biggest surprise we had in store for us.

While the room was nice and looked extremely comfortable, the bathroom left me feeling quite the opposite. Sure, it was very plush and well lit, but for some reason the wall separating the bathroom from the bedroom had a large 6 foot tall glass window in it.

"You missed a spot..."

Yes, this meant that whoever was in bed at that time could watch the other person showering. I have no idea why they would have this 'facility' in a regular room (and yes, it was a regular room and not a honeymoon suite) but at least they have a waterproof curtain that could be rolled down for the less adventurous. Bizarre. Bro and I refused to discuss it.

The Shopping

One of the only items on our Singapore agenda that was written in stone was a trip to the fabled Mustafa's Shopping complex.

Shopping at Mustafa's is a singular experience that can't be replicated in Sri Lanka. I'm not exactly a shopping 'expert', but I've never been through anything quite like those 4 hours we spent there among the mountains of goods laid out before us. It was shopaholic-heaven, and consequently, our worst nighmare.

Oh dear.

That is kind of what shopping at Mustafa's is like. It's a two building complex with 3 basements and 3 floors, designed to be so maddeningly confusing that once you enter it, you're almost compelled to buy something just to distract yourself from how lost you are. They not only have everything, they have a lot of it. We were completely overwhelmed with it, so much so that it was almost impossible to pick anything, due to the vast array of choice available to us. Shoes? Sure, just this way sir; we have millions of shoes all stacked one on top of the other. Electronics, sure we have all of them in this entire floor ranging from cell phones to 3D 50-inch TV's. Food items, perfumes, curtains, watches, ceramics, jewelry, footwear, computers - it was just too, too much for us to handle. After Bro and I wandered around bewildered for a while, we managed to find a few sunglasses and a pair of shoes, but in the process we had managed to get ourselves completely and utterly lost. So, we did what anyone would do in this situation: we ran in every direction as fast as we could, screaming for help. Well, not screaming, but we just randomly ran up and down stairs and along corridors until we finally found the exit to the road. Then we realised we had somehow crossed over from one building into the other across the street! To this day we have no idea how this happened, but luckily we managed to get to the road and send a text to our parents to meet outside.

Guitar Heaven

We stumbled on to some 'unconventional' stores too. Read carefully.

Universal Studios

The weather cleared up for the one day, and we were lucky enough to be spending it at the Universal Studios theme park in Sentosa. After two days of shopping, my Bro and I were looking forward to some enjoyment. Frankly, Universal Studios blew our minds! The park was so well done, with the themed sections being unbelievably detailed. There was a Hollywood section, complete with a Hollywood walk of fame and a sound stage with a video intro from Steven Spielberg. Then there was "Madagascar", themed after the animated movie, and "Far Far Away" themed after Shrek. Till here it was very low key and interesting, but I was psyched about the next section - "Waterworld", themed after one of my favourite 'bad' movies from back in the 90's. We were just in time to catch the live-actions show, which was 15 minutes of a small enacted and choreagraphed scene from the movie filled with jet skis, boats, explosions, fights and some very cool stunts.

From there we moved onto the Lost World section, and then moved to Egypt section. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

After a good lunch, we went through 1940's New York, a Sci-Fi section, and of course the famous 3D Transformers ride. Honestly, I don't have words to describe how great that was; it was so amazingly real, and done so well that the transition between real walls and the 3D screen lent the ride a fantastic feeling of reality. Being hurled through buildings by Megatron and falling out of the sky, only to be scooped up at the very last second by Bumblebee, talking to Optimus Prime - all done to perfection. Easily the highlight of the day.

The People

I found the people of Singapore rather interesting. Here they were, surrounded by all this wealth and affluence, and yet most of them were eager to complain about government taxes and increasing prices. Our cab drivers, quick to spot we were tourists, were an abundant source of information and witty humour regarding the state of the government, often lamenting how expensive it was to buy a car or cab in Singapore.

And yet, after all the complaining, one cab driver had to admit that he was still able to take care of his family and his children quite comfortably. After all the deductions, he said he takes home SGD 5000 per month, which in Sri Lankan Rupees is roughly Rs. 500,000! As for the price of vehicles, one can only imagine the wealth in the country when we saw four Lamborghini Gallardo's, a McLaren F1, and at least 10 Mercedes AMG's in a span of 3 days.

Yes, Singapore seems to be a vibrant, modern city, as is evidenced by the crowds of fashionable, well dressed men and women on their streets, clutching their expensive handbags, wearing their slick suits or rushing in their bright red high heels or bright red Mercedes. Yet, I seemed rather unnerved by the lifestyle here. I wasn't there long enough to be sure, but there seemed to be a strong materialistic aura that hung around most people I saw, especially the women. While many of my friends told me there would be lots of "eye-candy", I was slightly put off by the over-dressing stiletto-wearing girls I happened to notice. Personally, I see no reason for Asian women to be envious of the freedom Singapore women live under; while they may be able to wear and do most anything they choose to without condemnation, to me they seem to be living under a different type of bondage all together.

Yes, so that's my wrap-up of Singapore, finally! It was definitely a very interesting visit, and I am quite looking forward to visiting again. Perhaps when I do my Masters? Time will tell.

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