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.

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!
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