Thursday, September 06, 2007

Whose Song is it Anyways?

Normally, discussions surrounding “art” and “appropriation”, follow a simplistic and linear logic. It usually assumes that the Centre appropriates/borrows/takes/steals elements of culture from the Periphery in order to be “cool”. I have made a simple diagram to illustrate this below.

But watch these three clips from youtube, they indicate, that maybe it’s more complicated.

Exhibit A) T'es Ok! by Ottawan (French Cananadian disco band circo 1970)

Exhibit B) Jimmy Aja from Disco Dancer (classic Bollywood film circa 1970)

Exhibit C) Jimmy by MIA (present day bomb track)

To summarize, we have a classic Bollywood tune, which aped a French Canadian disco act. Which was then given new life by a British born musician of Sri Lankan background. And, I can already see the alternative white girls going nuts flailing their hair back and forth to this track.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

And You Say He's Just a Friend

“So, if someone were to ask…”

“We’re just friends,” he answers without needing me to the finish the question.

“Oh, ok.” I say, nodding my head too quickly.

He says that my face always betrays my emotions. That he can read how I feel just by looking at me. I know that he noticed how I flinched. I am sure he saw how I averted my eyes. And, he must have seen that distant look I assumed for a moment.

“The church looks like the one from Kill Bill, it’s so small,” he says after a few moments of silence.

“Oh yeah,” I say trying to abandon my current thoughts. But still, the phase, “were just friends” echoes in my head. “Well hopefully their won’t be a shoot-out”.

Earlier in the day, while he was out picking up his suit from his tailor and I went out to buy a wedding card and dress socks, I had begun to compose an alternate starting for this post. Something to the effect of: I’m so proud of my boyfriend; he has come such a long way. I was then going to elaborate on how for us to steal a kiss at Union Station when we’d first started dating had been such ordeal. We would wait for that fleeting second, when no one was passing by, so our lips could say goodbye. I then planned to discuss how we navigated from such a place of fear, to him now taking me as his date to a wedding. We have grown daring as of late; the public kiss or holding hands not being a moment of panic and self-consciousness.

But being out in public, on downtown streets and hip establishments, at times can almost be anonymous; as mainly the audience and spectator is a random individual, whose opinion doesn’t matter. And, after all, our parents and family live in the suburbs, they don’t come downtown.

“You can take your mother, I wouldn’t be mad, I would totally understand.”

“No, when Fancy Pants first asked me to be his best man, I was like okay, I am going to ask Dutty to come with me,” he declared solemnly.

“People are going to know though, do his parents know about you?”

“No. You’re just my friend.”

“But dudes don’t take dudes as dates.”

“I want you their with me.”

This is progress for us, in fact this is monumental. While I might just be a “friend”, my boyfriend is openly inviting speculation. He knows that it will be curious that I am his date at the wedding, but yet he is willing to bear such a consequence, to have me by his side. I attempt to placate myself with this final thought. But while I am lying in bed, with him fast asleep to my side, I whine at the situation in my head. I imagine myself at a table, surrounded by strangers, with the inevitable question arising, “how do you know the bride and groom?” And, I would then glance over at the head table, and say, “my boyfriend is the best man”. Like a child I want to demand a right to have that moment.

The next day, I sit in his SUV, while Mr. Honey Tongue and the wedding party obey instructions barked by the photographer, my emotions stewing during the hot July afternoon. The photo shoot lasts almost two hours and I have time to let my anger roll to a boil. I imagine myself making snappy retorts if he was to say something cute to me, “but, I thought I was just a friend”. Or be even harsher and declare, “how can we talk about getting married when you aren’t ready to say to people that I’m your boyfriend”.

“What’s wrong?” he asks once all the photo taking is completed.


“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, it’s fucking hot today,” I say, deciding that I don’t want to make an issue at this moment.

Later at the reception, I’m having a post-meal cigarette with my boyfriend and an acquaintance of his from high school. They are playing “when’s-the-last-time-you-saw?” exclaiming loud “ohhh’s” and “I haven’t seen them since” each time the other scored a point.

“Yeah, the last time I saw her she was very happy, she had come out of the closet,” says the old high school mate. This turn in their conversation draws me in from the periphery and I stare at Mr. Honey Tongue for his reaction; he just nods.

“I always had a feeling she was…you know how some girls just seem like dykes. But she finally came out and you could tell she’s happy. Why should anyone have a problem with it, who cares who you wanna fuck?”

“Yeah, it shouldn’t matter” my boyfriend responds. He is holding a poker face.

“If anything, if someone has a problem with someone being gay, that speaks to them and their insecurities,” I state.

“For sure, I don’t care man. I love gay people. I love pride.” I give him a good laugh at this.

“Pride is the best party ever.”

“I felt nervous about bringing him,” my boyfriend starts pointing to me. “But, I was like I didn’t care what people think, he’s the only one I wanted to bring.”

“But you’ve been out for awhile now haven’t you?”

“No,” both me and my Mr. Honey Tongue shake our heads in the negative.

“Oh, cuz Fancy Pants had told me a few years ago that you were gay.”

Thursday, February 22, 2007

How can you say I go about things the wrong way

I reach into the freezer and withdraw a jar of coriander, which I had frozen for future use. I open the jar and to my astonishment see that the process of freezing has made the coriander into a smooth paste. This is obviously a dream, as just yesterday, the jar I had put in the freezer would not open. I proceed to add a spoonful of coriander paste to some dish I am cooking, maybe its lamb curry?

I am then sitting with my sister and my boyfriend at the dining table in my apartment. Except it more closely resembles the apartment that I had resided in University because of the formation of the furniture. I hear a key turning the lock on my door. I have a moment of panic. I have a vision which shows me the other side of the door and I see my parents. I have an initial urge to run and clear the place of all items that would bother my parents i.e. alcohol, drugs and pork. I resist this urge and remain seated. My parent’s barge in to the apartment and at that instant I look over at my boyfriend and he is now wearing a lavender sari.

The detail of the sari comes to me later when I am showering. It is a beautiful sari with delicate embroidery work of paisleys in pale purple sequins. I recall a photograph from our family album, which shows my mother wearing said sari in 1978, on a trip to Niagara Falls which we had taken. In the photograph my mother looking impossibly young, she is holding me at the age of one, with the tail of her sari fluttering to the side. Her hair is parted down the middle, with her plait of braided hair falling just below her hips. In the background is a white man, with a thick moustache and a mullet, wearing short red shorts and a tank-top in the fashion of the late seventies. The contrast between my mother and the trailer park trash in the background makes the picture stand out in my memory. And, now when I recall the dream, an image of the photograph passes through my head, as if it were part of the dream. Dreams become so malleable after the fact, so unreliable in terms of authenticity.

The dream now becomes flashes of images. My parents are storming through my apartment. My mother picks up a bottle of rum and screams. My father sees a bag of weed and gives me that disapproving stare which is his trademark. I don’t recall them leaving the apartment, but they seem to have vanished. I did not make excuses regarding what they saw but I also did not declare that this is how I live. The dream then rewinds and gives me a flashback; like a Quentin Tarintino film. I see my parents coming up to my apartment, pushing a buggy that is loaded with groceries. They have decided that they will tolerate me living on my own and to show their acceptance they have bought groceries for me. Now it shows my mother talking to me with the buggy of groceries in-between us, and while she doesn’t open her mouth her thoughts come clear to me, “I could accept you living on your own, but I can’t accept your life-style”.

The dream is jarring. I wake up feeling drained and empty inside. I don’t want to get out of bed. I keep going back to sleep, saying to myself, I will rise the next time. I am partially allowed this indulgence as my boss is not in the office today and no one really watches what I do. I finally force myself out of bed at an entirely unacceptable hour and staring out the window I feel remnants of depression. I have the sensation that I am doing something wrong and there is a slight edge of panic. I feel like I did that year in University when I had my first nervous break-down. While I get dressed quickly just throwing on the first item I grab from my closet, I try to understand these feeling of despair I have. For, I haven’t felt like this in ages and these emotions are no longer applicable. I am not in school flunking out of all my classes with mounting debt and dwindling cash in my bank account. If anything, the situation is quite opposite, I have a cute apartment, a successful career and am earning more money than I have ever before. But, their does remain one constant, my parents, who seem incapable of understanding me.

I haven’t spoken to my mother for close to two months. Every day that goes by, which lengthens the silence between us, makes it seem more difficult to break the silence; like a dam solidified with cement every day we don’t communicate. When I first moved out, I would call her every other day. Then it became weekly and eventually bi-weekly. It would always be me calling and our conversation would not last more than two minutes. Our conversation would basically consist of me asking her how everything was, and she would ask me the same. She would then ask what I had to eat for dinner and then wish me a good-day, thereby ending the call. My sister revealed to me that my mother had told her to stop talking to me. My mother’s rationale was that if I felt cut-off from my family, I would feel compelled to return home. I shook my head in sadness when my sister told me this, as it indicated that she still didn’t understand. I also learned from my sister that my mother was outraged I had allowed my sister to have a party and sleepover with her friends at my place, as this broke rules of Muslim propriety.

“That’s so wrong, how could he have four girls sleep at his home,” my mother had supposedly declared.

“Don’t worry, Bhaijan would never do anything, their like his sisters,” my sister had said defending me.

“I know, I know, but what would others say?” my mother had purportedly asked.

“Which others are you talking about Ami? Who is watching what I do?”

After learning about this argument, that my mother knew about my aiding and abetting in a lie to help my sister, I didn’t want to speak to her. It would lead to an argument that would be unpleasant.

I feel the dream is fairly explicit in outlining the impasse that is my life in terms of my relationship with my family. I have gained independence from my parents and now have the freedom to live my life as I please. They will never understand the choices I have made. I always will pause and look away as a chord of sadness is plucked inside me, when me and my boyfriend talk hypothetically about getting married, discussing how we would have our wedding. For I know, that would be an event my parents would never attend. And, if by some miracle they did attend, I would not know how to behave, as I would be plagued with guilt at having to subject them to such an event. My life is on a path that is incomprehensible to them, a Friday sermon describing the evils of the West come to life.

On the way to work, I racked my head, trying to explain the feeling of depression that had infected me in the morning. I realized that I am not eating well. When I first moved out I made a concentrated effort to eat well and to save money by cooking as often as possible. For the last two weeks I have eaten strictly take-out, lots of deep fried foods, lots of saturated fats, and not a vegetable or fruit in sight. In fact, my diet is similar currently to how I ate that horrid year of University. I have definitely found that there is a relation between how I feel and how I eat. And, then I remember the start of the dream, I was cooking some sort of curry; my sub-conscious is giving me a nudge to clean up my diet.

After writing all this, I think I will call my mother tonight. She might have been mad at me before, but now she probably feels that I do not think about her, or can not bother to check up on her. I will make sure that I eat better, so I do not return to an unhealthy emotional state which should remain in the past. Still, I do not know the solution to my impasse, how do I include them in my life? How do I have a gay partner who I potentially might want to live with forever and conservative Muslim parents that believe “the gays” should be shot? This question has plagued me in one form or another since I was a tender young teen and now that I am approaching thirty and the answer is still elusive. Our respective visions of what life should be like are mutually exclusive – how the fuck do you reconcile that?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Twenty-Four Hours in Montreal

Last week I started a new position at the Big Evil Corporation and as a consequence had to fly out to Montreal for a day this week. I was quite excited at this prospect, thinking it was wonderfully fabulous that I was being flown to another city at my company’s expense, and that in-fact this would become the norm. This may be ordinary for many people already, but for me was an exciting novelty.

Upon arrival to Montreal, I had the following first impressions of the city: (1) it is much colder in Montreal than in Toronto, (2) all the cab drivers are Arab, (3) the general population is better dressed and more attractive. I immediately became self-conscious of my thick Anglo accent. While previously I had always felt French-accented individuals to sound comical, with their pluralizing of every word, I know felt that their English sounded pretty, like fluttering butterflies. My own English sounded like rough sand-paper and at any moment I felt like a mob of people would attack me for speaking the Queens English.

I check into the Hilton which is supposedly in the heart of their downtown. I wonder to myself where everybody is, as the streets seem deserted. I have an uninspired meal, with a Martini, which I savour a little more, as it will be complementary after I submit my expense report. I retire to my room and sit on the edge of the bed and miss my boyfriend. Hotel rooms are now forever tied to that period of our relationship, where that was the only place we could spend quality time. I pictured him standing at the window, with me trying to coax him to lie in bed with me.

It’s late and I am tired and I should get to bed for my early start tomorrow morning. However, this is my first time in Montreal and I have a hankering to visit their gay quarters. An internet search before leaving had indicated that Montreal boasted North America’s largest gay village. It was a Monday night though and quite cold, but still, against my better judgment I found myself donning my petticoat and Kangol fedora hat and telling a cab driver to take make to Rue St. Catherine and Rue Amherst.

A club that was supposed to be open on Monday nights appears dead. I walk for a few blocks and indeed it seems this gay village is never ending, the gay rainbow flag is ubiquitous and seems to constantly be fluttering in the far distance. I walk by a couple of boys who are shivering on a snow covered bench rolling a joint; I smile indulgently at them. I walk by a convenience store and see advertising for beer. I recall that they are civilized here and you can purchase alcohol anywhere.

I hear strains of bass spilling out from an establishment. I look at the posters covering the wall and while I can’t read French I discern that this is a male strip club. With no other entertainment options available, I enter the club. There are maybe only a dozen patrons at the establishment, the majority are young groups of two, who only seem to casually glance at the entertainment on stage, with a sprinkling of aged men, who all are flying solo attention squarely focused on “men-tertainment”. I walk up to the bar and see a fairly attractive man on stage with his back turned to the audience and his plump buttocks exposed. It seems that the men from a swim suite calendar have stepped out of their photographs and are milling around and dancing for my viewing pleasure. I order a Heineken and take a seat and take in the view. I suck in my gut, making a mental note that I will have to start going to the gym regularly. I assume from the current performance, that all I’m going to see is lots of ass tonight. The “dancing” only goes on for a song and the dancer saunters away and the DJ announces his name and a number. It appears that if you wish, you can get a more intimate dance, if you head to the back of the club. The next song begins and a male emerges from behind the curtains on-stage. My eyes bulge. His fly is undone and the belt buckle dangles, and out of his black underwear, a fully erect penis is thrusting out. It’s pink and unbelievably huge. It’s not real, keeps going through my head; it looks like a Muppet cock. When he lowers his underwear and I can clearly see that it is attached to his body, I am shocked and mesmerized. I feel I can look at nothing but his appendage, but I don’t want to stare, so I try to look away, but my eyes are instantly drawn back. I feel self-conscious. I have never before felt inadequate in terms of what I am packing. I have never left anyone disappointed and always see that my measurements are a pleasant surprise when unpacked for the first time. But, now seeing this anaconda, in front of me in the flesh, I feel I should be bigger.

The dancers appear in a pattern. The first dancer only exposes his ass. This is followed by a dancer who walks around at full-attention. Every once and awhile a dancer disappears in the back with an old man. Another aroused dancer appears on stage. He also makes me feel inadequate. However, he is quite attractive. His swagger indicates that he probably listens to hip-hop. He has a base-ball cap turned to the side. And he is just walking up and down on stage, as if he were on the street, except his cock is jutting out. My head is beginning to spin at the surreal nature of this place. The next song is “Killing Me Softly” by the Fugees and I feel that I am sitting through a climax of a Wes Anderson movie. I finish my beer, grab my jacket and leave.

I attend training in our Montreal office the next day. While walking around and especially when I got in the cab to return to the airport to fly back to Toronto, I had the feeling of being illiterate. Everything was in French, the advertising, road signs, menus, and I was unable to understand. I suddenly had an appreciation for what my Mother must have experienced when she first migrated to Canada. It’s almost as if you are blinded, being surrounded by hieroglyphics which you can’t comprehend. I have been to foreign countries before, like Pakistan and the Dominican, where I have been faced with a similar situation. This is different though, because in the other situations, I was in foreign countries, where I did not expect to understand. But, here in Montreal, looking out the window, at a city that at times closely resembled Toronto, it gave the impression of being in a parallel universe, one in which I could not read.

I recall a grade nine essay I had submitted, which was supposed to express our opinion on the new French law that mandated that all signs be in French and not English. I think my closing line read something to the effect of, “the people of Quebec should relax and not make such a big deal about signs.” Now, as an educated and informed adult, I now admire what the Quebec government did at the time. They had an understanding of how important language is in terms of being a gate keeper of culture. I have heard it expressed before, and I would agree myself, that Quebec is a slice of old-world Europe preserved in North America. I think this can be largely attributed to the language laws passed here.

I sit in a bar, in the departure gate, seeming to have entered a secret club; that of the business traveler who is en route to a destination. Everyone seems to be laughing and drinking gaily, striking up conversation with their neighbour randomly, exchanging flying horror stories. Black Berries are a must have as they are intermittently taken out and consulted in mid-sentence. I eat my meal in silence and take out my own Black Berry every once and awhile, to make evident that I also am a business traveler, even though I have no new emails to check.

I learn that my flight is delayed by half-hour. I calculate that I will now arrive home close to 11 p.m. Business travel doesn’t seem that glamorous anymore.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy New Years!!!

Another year draws nigh and I’m a year older; I just turned twenty-nine a couple weeks ago. I have resigned myself to the inevitable thirty which looms ahead. Maybe it’s a bit of a death march or an attempt to get over my Peter Pan complex, whatever. What makes me happy is my good skin and the fact that my age startles people at times. What makes me sad is that I recall secretaries at old workplace swapping stories of how they cried when they turned thirty. I want someone to give me a nice snow cake for my thirtieth; big thick lines of Colombian blow curving into a fat number 30. My good friends crowded around singing me happy birthday and at the climax of the song, “happy birthday to you!” me and a nice tight bill taste some fine icing.

So it’s December 28, 2006 and today was around 3 degrees. That’s kinda fucked up. It would be cliché to continue along obvious lines, “when I was a little boy…”, but it really is the most logical exclamation. It hasn’t snowed here yet; I live in Canada and that is strange. The next logical cliché statement, “its global warming”, needs to be taken seriously.

“The people of New Orleans, people in Asia who got hit by the tsunami, they know what can happen. They know how the environment can affect their lives. They have seen it.” T. Diddy says in a recent conversation.

“I know. We think we are divorced from our environment that it doesn’t matter, but if you piss off Mother Nature, she can be one mad bitch.”

“Oh yeah, you don’t want to piss off Mother Nature”

“Well, you know, some people say, that in thirty years most of North America will be covered in water, it only takes a little melting of the ice caps,” I inform T. Diddy in a similar graveness I would use to relate plot developments on Desperate Housewives.

“I’m safe, I live in Kelowna. I’m on a mountain.” I can picture T. Diddy beaming when she says this statement. “That’s why you should come live here.”

“No T. Diddy, all of North America is going to be covered in water, you can’t survive in Kelowna.”

“Yes I can, were very high up here Dutty,” she pauses for a moment. I can hear her voice become fainter as she moves the telephone away and ask her Baby Daddy. “How high up are we here?”

“Eight-hundred feet above sea level,” I here Baby Daddy answer in the background.

“Yeah, see we’re safe up here, we’re are eight-hundred feet above sea level, in Kewlona.”

“Ewww, Kewlona.” I make a puking sound. “I don’t need to survive the end of the world living in a hick town in British Colombia on a mountain. I am going to move somewhere wonderfully tropical, like Brazil.” T. Diddy immediately starts laughing at this.

“Oh of course, Brazil.”

“Yes, Brazil, and I’ll keep some cute cabana boys. Maybe someone named Miguel, and a little Jose Cuervo on the side to keep me amused.”

My current favorite past-time (read obsession) is losing myself into TV DVD set marathons. I don’t have cable and really stopped watching TV in the last year of living my parents house. I’ve missed quite a few of the new cool shows out their in TV land. I love Lost and am so glad that I am watching it on DVD rather than on regular TV otherwise I would have pulled out all my hair in anticipation for the next episode. I thought Heroes had some weak writing and poor acting but an amusing enough story arc to follow through episodes. Weeds is fucking hilarious. The last season of Will and Grace is classic. And currently I am watching Prison Break, which leaves me between a hard on and a heart attack; what with the beautiful Wentworth Miller and the adrenaline pumping storyline. The sight of Wentworth Miller renders me weak and wet. Rumour has it that he is gay, wither it is true or not doesn't matter, he is simply a gorgeous man.

I am currently pondering my options for New Years eve, (a) I go see Diplo (who I have been dying to hear spin for two years, as I always miss him when he comes to town) spin a set of mash-up, hip hop, dancehall and funk or (b) spend a quite evening in with my boyfriend, ordering Chinese food and losing myself in a haze of ganja smoke, mimosas, and Melrose Place. Can you believe that I am actually leaning towards option B? I am getting old.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Racism - 2006 Remix Reloaded

I had started writing my post Racism - 2006 Remix with a different direction in mind. The examples I used, were meant to be anecdotal and introductory, leading to a discussion regarding race and music. I felt the post was complete before I took it any further and honestly I felt too lazy to build further on my point. However, as time has gone by, I realize that the original direction I was headed is still relevant and deserves to be aired.

I was going to intertwine what had happened at Tangos and Crews late this summer into my discussion. For those unfamiliar, Tangos and Crews is a gay club/bar located in Toronto’s “gay village” on Church Street. It was in fact the first gay club I visited upon accepting I was gay. I remember sitting their on a plush dirty couch on their top floor, listening to Alanis Morsitte whining in the background. I felt depressed. Alanis did not move me, she did not inspire me, she did not speak to me, and she certainly did not make me want to get up and shake my ass. When getting ready for the night, I had felt a nervous excitement; I imagined that I was going to be somewhere that I belonged. When going to straight venues, while I may have been with a group of friends, and heard music I enjoyed the fact that I saw boys and girls getting their mack on and I knew that wouldn’t be happening to me, always made me feel out of place.

I hate Alanis Morissette. And, while I don’t mind Ani DiFranco, the artist they played next, she was not what I had in mind, in terms of dance music. It was 1996 and at the time hip-hop was the only music that moved me, in heavy rotation on my CD player at the time was A Tribe Called Quest, Gangstar, and Wu-Tang Clan. I accepted it as my fate, that being gay meant either listening to techno or lesbian folk rock. I gave up on the gay scene. I figured that my taste in music could be not reconciled with being gay and so didn’t investigate further.

Earlier this year me and my boyfriend visited Tangos and Crews. The top floor which a decade earlier had maybe ten people dancing to Ironic was now packed to capacity with at least eighty people bumping to a Cutty Ranks track. My initial instinct is to put one hand in the air, grab my crotch with the other hand, and start moving my hips in time to the music. The crowd is probably a third black, with a strong showing by other ethnic groups. Of course, this isn’t the first time that I have been to a gay jam and heard black people’s music. I slowly discovered that within the gay scene in Toronto, their existed sub-scenes, and that one could go to gay hip-hop night or gay desi night. But, this night at Tangos and Crews was different, because it was not being hosted by someone black. This was a “white” club, which recently had begun to play “black” music. All the other popular gay clubs in the city still played exclusively Madonna, Brintey Spears, and ABBA.

I learned near the end of summer that management at Tangos and Crews had banned the playing of Reggae, Dancehall, Reggaton and Soca at their establishment. Now Magaine which ran a piece on the situation stated that Tangos and Crew’s didn’t return any of the calls regarding their policy. As I see it, the club wanted to get jiggy and play some hip music, but didn’t like the people that came in through the door as a result. The music had begun to change the racial makeup of the club and I think that made people uncomfortable. By controlling the music, they attempted to control their clientele, which is really fucked up, if you recall the history of segregation that black folk have endured. Back in the day, clubs used to have “paper-bag tests” where if a black person was darker than a paper-bag they were not permitted in, or “comb tests” where if their hair didn’t pass through the comb this meant no entry. It’s even more fucked up, given that gay people have their own history of persecution and exclusion, and for a gay establishment to continue in a similar vein is disgusting. The club later allowed West Indian music back in their club, but, it was done grudgingly and half-assed. The West Indian music set lasts twenty minutes, with 2 soca songs being played, then 2 dancehall songs being played and so on and so forth. They do it enough, so that you can’t cry racism, but not enough to get the crowd hyped and excited with said genres of music.

We recently had a “Holiday Season” party thrown by the Big Evil Corporation. It was a big event, with a huge venue being rented, and a big name DJ from Toronto’s popular urban radio station providing tunes. I was having a conversation with one of the planners regarding the event, and I came to learn some disturbing news.

“Yeah, he said he didn’t want to hear any rap music,” the planner informs me. The “he” in question, is one of the top Don’s at the Big Evil Corporation. “He said he didn’t like the rap music.”

“That’s not fair, it’s not for him it’s for the call centre,” I reply back.

“That’s what I told him, have you seen the call centre, its uhm pretty urban. He said he didn’t enjoy himself at the last party and he got lots of complaints.” My mind travels back to the last party. I remember being surprised as to how much fun that night had been. I had gone with low expectations given that it was a work function, but ended up dancing the night away on a packed dance floor.

I actually know of the Don in question. He is queer. And while I don’t think there is a “pink” conspiracy to bring about the demise of danceable music, I think he is perpetuating racism through control of music. A good DJ should cater to his crowd. At a work function it is accepted that their will be a wide variety of tastes in music, and a DJ should be able to feel out his crowd and play to them. But to exclude a whole genre of music, which basically means that you are in essence excluding a whole group of people is discrimination. I understand not liking a genre of music, when I am at “cracker” bars and hear the likes of Barenaked Ladies, I feel any sort of buzz I have being sucked out of me. What I see happening here, is the practice of exclusion, which I feel is based on fear; a fear based on stereotypes associated with black culture.

This makes me sad, and to relive my feelings I will smoke a joint and put on some Marvin Gaye, I think the Whats Going On album is in order.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Gender Bender

I am convinced that if my mother had been able to pursue an education beyond grade four she would have been an engineer or at the least a forewoman. My childhood memories are peppered with instances of my mother sitting with a toolbox fixing and repairing some household item. I.e. The VCR which my father opened and left in a million separate pieces is assembled and brought back to proper functionality by my mother. Since my parents bought their house about four years ago, my mother has concocted and executed several complicated renovation projects. Refusing many a time to hire someone, she would observe men at work, in a similar fashion to how she observed a recipe for the first time, and would replicate their efforts herself. So, if you had driven by our home earlier this summer, you would have witnessed my mother squatting in her cotton shalwar kameez assembling the stone tiles for our front patio and walkway.

“Why do we have to do this?” I would ask my mother.

“Be quiet. You should know how to do this. A man should know how to handy-work around his house”. My mother would retort, huffing as she was making sure a stone slab was level.

“Why, when you can always hire someone to help.”

It is this very advice that I follow to solve my own current home décor challenges that I am confronted by. My designs on my apartment were virtually finished, except for a few touches which were proving difficult to complete. The wall in my new apartment appears to be immune to penetration from my drill and so I had drapes, a mirror, and some shelves which were floundering in the corner. I search on craigslist for a handyman to come and solve my current renovation challenges. A person by the name of Stormy responds and I assume the name is some sort of e-pseudonym and contact the number provided. I am caught off guard when I realize that Stormy is the name this person uses for interaction, and that Stormy is a woman.

"So, I called someone to help me put up my stuff.” I am telling my co-worker Sun King.

“You might as well,” he responds.

“I’m so embarrassed though.” I pause. “It’s a woman. I feel so gay.”

“I bet you ten-dollars that she drives a pick-up”.

When I had first realized that Stormy was a woman I hesitated, I was not sure if I trusted a woman to do the job properly. Still, the other guys that I had found were proving to be more expensive, and so I found myself making arrangements for Stormy to come over the next day to do the job. I do feel a sense of disappointment at not being able to complete the jobs myself. Having watched my mother complete all sorts of jobs, I thought these small installations would be a piece of cake. I felt failure at my inability to drill a hole through the ceiling as my boyfriend sits on the couch and watches. Many a time my boyfriend gently reminds me that he is the lady and that entails me having to worry or take care of certain details. The last time he reminded me I relieved him of his heavy bags and walked them from the car to the apartment. So, if he is the lady, I am the man, and therefore I should be able to drill holes to install my drapes.

My mind travels back to my second year of university to my Philosophy of Gender class. Our professor spent the semester attempting to show how gender, sexuality, and sex were constructed via discourses; where males and females enacted binary codes of behaviour based on subject/object positions. Translating this ivory league jargon, basically what is being said is that what it means to be male and female is not based on biology but rather through social interactions we have had since we were children. So, for example the idea that men are supposed to be strong and aggressive, is something that our society cultivates through popular imagery, myths and various narratives that we tell ourselves. I recall that I play with my little boy cousin differently, making playfull boxing gestures, versus how I play with my little girl cousin who I coo at and keep commenting on her beauty.

“So, if our behaviour as men and woman is regulated by discourses, well couldn’t we solve problems like sexism and homophobia if we tried to get rid of discourses?” I pose this question in our class. The professor contemplates the question, in her usual fashion, with her head cocked to one side and her eyebrow raised in interest.

“But if we were to do away with discourses, how would we construct identity, as identity as we understand it is based on the binary of subject/object positions.” She responds in a cool collected manner.

The answer was a typical post modern response. Answer a question with a question. Revel in deconstructing something, but do not seek solution or resolution to the problem, just make it more problematic. However frustrating her response is, I do see her point. While the theory of social construction to me initially translates into a possibility of a utopian gender free society, I realize it to be just that a utopian dream. Being in relationship, especially gay relationships, I see that we still unwittingly re-enact all sorts of male-female bullshit expectations. Hence, I don’t feel like a “man” for being to drill some holes, and I feel uneasy about a woman doing the work for me.

I eventually grow curious to have Stormy come over and do the handy work. At this point I just want to see what she looks like. Initially the name Stormy recalls to my mind some character from a sordid historical romance novel, who would be presented on the cover of the book in an outfit that would have her bosom hanging out and her hair as flowing tendrils in the wind. But, as she is a handy woman, I realize this imagine is not appropriate, and so imagine her to look like Charlize Theron in Monster. I am mildly excited when there is a knock on the door and I jump to the door and peep through the hole.

I am confused as there appears to be a man standing at my door with a big toolbox. I open the door and am shocked. What stands before me appears like an adolescent young male, with peach fuzz for a moustache and goatee. Stormy is wearing white and orange Reebok basketball kicks, vintage plaid dress pants which hang loosely off her undeniably feminine hips, exposing her black Fruit of the Loom male jockey underwear. For her top, she is wearing a long sleeve red shirt with a faded Pixies concert t-shirt with just the faintest showing of breasts underneath. Her face is covered in unfortunate acne and her short unevenly chopped hair is covered by a bright multicoloured cap. I am left speechless. Stormy is a trans male. I welcome her into the apartment and she starts accessing the work that needs to be done. I am dying to ask her if she is post-op or pre-op, but figure that is a tacky question to ask.

She produces her professional tools and gets to work, while I stand to the side, my arms crossed across my chest, inspecting the work being done. I do like this better, inspecting someone do the work for me, rather than do it myself; I always fancied myself more of a Victor Newman than a Dan Arnold. The ceiling proves to be a challenge to her also, she informs me it has to do with this being such an old building, and the ceiling and walls being cement and something about a lack of leverage. I nod at this information, tapping my cigarette in the ashtray, with a sense of relief. I am not incompetent. It is the building and my lack of proper tools that caused the entire problem. This job is a challenge to a professional; I feel somewhat vindicated.

“Excuse me, I hope you don’t mind, I just want to make sure the shelf is level.” I say as I jump in before she makes permanent holes in my wall. I feel that she is not being exact and careful enough as she is installing things. “I just want to make sure it’s exactly right, or it will slowly drive me nuts.” I say to justify the third time I pull the leveler to ensure accuracy.

“No problem I understand you want to make these things perfect. These are the things in life that you can control,” she says pointing to the one shelf which is already installed. “The other stuff that life throws at you, you can’t control, but this, you have in your power to make sure is just right.” I love this rationale. It justifies my neurotic attention to detail in my interior decorating project.

Late in the evening, I slowly inhale from a joint that I have rolled, and let my eyes lazily roll over the finished living/dining room. I like the effect I have achieved. I stare at the shelf and Stormy’s words come back to me; these are the things in life that you can control. I am high and I imbue this words with more significance than they probably warrant and feel that this is indeed a profound statement. I feel that her statement doesn’t just have to reference my shelves and wanting them straight and perfect, but could also apply to problems that arise out of gender relations. While I may feel caught up in discourses; social expectations of what it means to be a man, I do have agency. While these discourses may be necessary in formation of identity and can not be abandoned, they need not control and bind me. Indeed, just by virtue of me being in a gay relationship is subversive. While me and my boyfriend enact dynamics of heterosexual relationships, we are at the same time fucking with those dynamics by being two dudes in a relationship. There is nothing wrong with him wanting to be treated like a lady and have his bags carried by me, and conversely me sitting on the couch with one hand done my pants hogging the remote control is also fine. When we let such patterns blindly control us, and more specifically lead us to hurt or compromise someone else is when we have a problem. But then again, these are the things in life that you can control.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Phir Be Movie hai Hindustani (Still the Movie is Indian)

I believe something really important must be declared and stated. I love Abhishek Bachan. I adore Abhishek Bachan. I want to worship Abhishek Bachan. That man is one of the finest specimens of Indian manhood that I have seen in awhile. His lips, those dropping eyes, the 5’oclock shadow, the lean body, all make me feel giddy and weak, and actually enable me to sit through a Bollywood film for the whole three hours. His smile simply disarms me. When he pouts when he acts I am willing to give him my whole world. And when he dances I want to do things which would make the Indian Censor Board spontaneously combust. I have loved before and been captivated before by the actors from Mumbai; by the likes of John Abraham, Vivek Oberoi and Salman Khan. Now to me, they all pale in comparison to Abhishek.

Being the old school cat that I am, I only watch new Bollywood films if my sister insists that it is an important movie to watch. So, this weekend my sister came over, armed with Dhoom, Dhoom 2 and Bluffmaster. I thought Dhoom was an interesting Hindi action flick, I absolutely adored Bluffmaster. It was wonderfully postmodern and ironically self ware, which almost never happens in a Bolly! I almost felt high during the last few minutes of the movie. But, while watching both movies, the deconstructionist in me was awakened, and I felt something interesting was going on in this films.

Before I begin any serious analysis, I will caveat that I am not fully up to speed on my Bollywood films, and this analysis is limited to four movies. Still, as I understand it, all these movies were fairly popular commercially speaking, and such I think are useful “texts” to be used for decoding. Now, while watching Dhoom and Bluffmaster (I didn’t watch all of Dhoom 2 but it seems fairly close to the original), I was reminded a bit of Bunty aur Babli, another movie my sister had insisted I watch last year. The similarity being that these movies focused on a couple/group who were running cons/robberies, and where also the moral lines of what defines a hero became somewhat blurry.

Amitabh Bachan did popularize the “angry young man” character type in movies such as Shloay, Deewar and Shakti where his character did stary outside of acceptable social morality. In Sholay he played a thug who lived on the fringes of society and whose definition of morality was questionable. What I find interesting, in the modern Bollywood movies, is the intersection of class with this character type. When you watch the old 70’s Bollywood movies with Amitabh playing the angry male, his character is imbued with signifiers of his position in society. These young angry characters of his were young and angry specifically because of the economic/social climate that existed in India at the time. And, if anything, this character type was a commentary on the lack of opportunity that young men living in urban centers were faced with.While Abhishek’s character in Bunty aur Babli does face a crisis at the start of the movie regarding career choice, his dilemma is more of an existential nature, than one of economic necessity. If anything, the characters of these movies, betray a very urban cosmopolitan finesse, not only in appearance but in acting; as the “Hindi” they speak is sprinkled with a fair number of English words. Of course, I know that what I have described above is common for Hindi films lately, but, what is strange is that the link between class and being the anti-hero has been broken in these new movies. These characters are cunning for the sake of being cunning, not because of social necessity.

At this point I am simply musing, as I have said, that I simply haven’t watched enough Bollywood movies to make do fully educated decoding. But, lines from “Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani”, echo in my head:

Toray anaree hay, toray kilaree, (We are a little amateur, and a little tricky)
Ruk ruk kay chaltee hay apnee garee, (and our cars don't go too fast)Humay Pyar ay chahee yea, (We want some love)
or kuch paysay bee, (and also some money)
hum aysay bee hay, (we are like this)
hum hay waysay bee (but we are also like that)
Hum logo ko samaj sako toe, (If you could understand us)
samjo dilbar janee, (then understand us my honey)
Ultee, seedee, jaisay bee hay apnee yahee kahanee, (Wither we are straight or crooked, this is still our story)
Toree humay hosh-yaree hay, toree hay nadanee, (We are a little smart, and also a little childish)
toree humay sachayee hay, toree bay eemanee, (we are a little honest, and also a little dishonest)
Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani (But still our hearts are Hindustani [Indian])

In this song we see the expression of an Indian identity, and identity which glorified, for lack-of-a-better-term Indian cleverness. The song is somewhat of modern interpretation of the classic, “Mera Joota Hai Japani” from Shree 420, in which Raj Kapoor strools across the Indian countryside singing in Charlie Chaplin-esque mode. Interestingly enough, in Shree 420, Kapoor’s treatise on money, happiness and modern India, his character goes through a classic rags-to-riches story again by being a con-man. Again though, his characters descion to be a card-shark and become rich as a result was based on economic necessisty. Whereas in Bunty aur Babli and Bluffmaster, there is no clear connection made between a life of conning and economic need. But returning to an examination of Indian identity, the archetype of an Indian as expressed by Raj Kapoor almost 50 years ago, appears to be someone who is nadan (childish) and hoshar (clever). This made sense when Shree 420 was released, as India was a newly independent state and was allowed to sit at the big-people table. However, the India of today has come a far way, with cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad being IT capitals, and Indian pharmaceutical firms opening head quarters in the Unites States. So, why still evoke this archetype today?

I think that in contrast to North American culture, which really works to stress the Protestant work ethic, Indian culture exemplifies cleverness and shrewdness. I see these new movies exhibiting an anxiety, in terms of trying to reconcile being the underdog rising to the top by any means necessary, with having already risen somewhat to the top and not needing to rely on cleverness. I think the lack of grounding these new movies have in the economic realities of India is indicative of this, with Bluffmaster being a perfect example where Abhishek’s character reliance on conning seems almost habitual; something forced which he can’t help.

I would be interested in getting peoples response on this, to see if they agree or disagree with my analysis. Or, if I get readers from Bharat, who are really experiencing India rather than vicariously through movies as I do, I would really be interested in your feedback.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


“Come on down boys,” beckons the security officer at Toronto Pearson International Airport. We both approach his booth and hand over our Passports and disembarkation cards.

“Where did you guys go?” He asks without even glancing up.

“Dominican Republic” we reply in unison.

“Did you guys practice that?” We chuckle at his joke.

“How long were you guys away?”

“One week,” replies Mr. Honey Tongue.

“Where did you stay?”

“At a resort in Puerto Plata,” I state.

“So, what’s your relation to each other?”

“Good friends,” I answer without a second thought.

“How did you guys meet?”

I balk. I open my mouth, but am not sure how to answer. I turn to Mr. Honey Tongue and he is also staring ahead blank faced.

“Do you want to tell him the truth?” Mr. Honey Tongue asks me. I nod in the affirmative, but am unsure as to what truth he refers too.

“We’re partners,” says Mr. Honey Tongue to the security officer.

“Hey, hey,” says the security officer putting up both his hands in the air. “I just asked how you guys met, I don’t need to know about your lifestyle choice.” I wince at the term lifestyle choice. “Did you guys meet at school?”

“We met online.” I respond hastily.

“There you go, that all I wanted to know.” He hands us back our documents.

“I didn’t anticipate that,” I say to Mr. Honey Tongue as we stand by the conveyor belt waiting for our luggage. He laughs.

“What do you mean?” He asks.

“Well, what am I supposed to say? That we were at a club and you eyed me all night, and then coincidently we ended up on the same chat site a couple days later?” I say, as I retrieve his black and grey monogrammed Pierre Cardin suitcase. “We are totally going to get checked by customs.”

“You think so?”

“Yes!” I lean over again and retrieve my red and maroon monogrammed Pierre Cardin suitcase.

We are approaching the sliding doors that would exit us out of the secure area of the airport. There is a mild throng of people in this area, and we get separated into two different queues. We both approach the respective security officer of our queue at the same time handing over our disembarkation cards.

“That way sir,” motions the security officer in my queue, pointing towards a long winding corridor. I look for Mr. Honey Tongue, but his behind had already slipped behind the immediate exit door.

“But, my friend….” I say feebly.

“You will see him in a moment.”

I take my suite case, and walk down a winding corridor, into a large room, where three fellow passengers are already in the midst of a custom examination.

The same officer who directed me here, asks me to place my luggage on a metal examination table.

“Is this your luggage?” She asks.


“Do you know the contents inside?”


“You packed this suitcase yourself?”


“Please, open the suitcase.”

I proceed to open the suitcase for her. Even though all the clothing inside is now dirty, they are carefully arranged according to outfit. The rolled white Lacoste polo right next to the white linen HM pants. She places latex gloves on her hands, and gingerly goes through the contents.

“What’s this?” She asks, picking up an oblong object encased in a Spanish newspaper.

“A sculpture.”

She proceeds to open another compartment in the suitcase. In this section I have enclosed the four pair of shoes that I took with me. Her fingers run past the shoes, to my vanity bag. She picks up the bag and unzips it. She observes my two bottles of cologe (Escape by Calvin Klien and Envy by Gucci), two hairstyling products, facial cleanser, toner, and moisturizer. She extracts these products out, her fingers digging further into the bag.

She pauses. She is now staring at my black bottle of Platinum lube. She hurriedly puts back all the items into the vanity bag, and quickly tosses it back into the suitcase.

“That’s fine,” she says turning herself away and stares ahead disinterestedly.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Racism - 2006 remix

“Did I go to sleep and wake up to a racist world?” I ask my boyfriend.

He laughs, and I continue to lug in my groceries.

Of course, I understand the world is filled with racism, prejudices and stereotypes. The best of us are guilty, as it is hard to escape negative attitudes that prevail around us. Still, I felt, that for the last few years, race was not a pressing issue in my day-to-day life. That living in the multicultural hive that is Toronto, my fellow residents had entered the new millennium with more enlightened attitudes. I realize, I may sound naïve. That, in this city there are still bigots, but I still felt that they did not cause the same impact, that I had once felt growing up.

I am standing in the elevator that is probably 5’ by 5’ crammed with probably 10 people. I am closest to the floor buttons, so implicitly volunteer to be operator and field floor numbers from people. This white girl with blonde hair and Versace glasses on says, “Eighteen”. I hear her clearly, but apparently did not press the button fast enough for her pleasure. A few seconds later she almost yells, “Eighteen!” Not even a please.

Today is shopping day and I didn’t give two thoughts to my appearance. I am wearing a baseball cap and some jogging pants with bleach splattered on them and long shirt with a few tears. My skin is already fairly dark, and today especially, I probably appear as one of the thousands of Tamil’s that inhabit my neighbourhood. She has probably assumed that I don’t speak English and that it is permissible to be rude and yell loudly.

Earlier, I had been in Wal-Mart searching for various items in the House Wares section. An Indian lady wandered over donned in a scarf, with her young daughter in hand. She stuttered for a moment, and then hesitantly asked a sales assistant if she knew where the knapsacks were located. The sales girl had a look of confusion on her face, and made a loud snort before saying, “huh?” The Indian lady did have a thick accent, and her English was broken at best, but with a little patience what she was asking could have been discerned. The lady repeated herself, and before she could even finish, the sales girl responds, “No, I don’t have knapsacks here, I only have them in Fashions!” The sales girl repositions herself as to indicate the conversation is over. The Indian woman appears uncertain, she is about to walk away, when she starts to weakly explain that the sales person in Fashion had said that maybe they would have knapsacks in House Wares. The sales girl laughs aloud, “No, I don’t have any knapsacks here.” She gives the Indian lady a look of disgust, “only in FA-SH-ON section.”

Is yelling at immigrants that can’t speak English racist? In certain context’s I do believe this is the case – at least implicitly. Raising one’s volume when speaking, does not cause clarity in meaning. In the case of the Wal-Mart girl, she is a customer service representative and it is her job to seek to understand the shopper. If, the customer had been an old white lady, who could speak perfect English but just spoke barley above a whisper, would she have received the same treatment? And, for the sake of argument, if the girl in the Versace glasses had stepped into an elevator at my workplace, and I was dressed in the Kenneth Cole I am wearing today, would I have received the same treatment? Probably not, as I would not appear as uneducated Tamil, but rather, as the Indian who “enunciated so well”.

As, I write out this post, I realize that I did not wake up to a racist world, but simply began interacting with it again. For the past four years, I have lived in the suburbs, worked in a progressive work environment and was selective regarding the venues where I hung-out. I am now in the midst of the ghetto.

The ghetto has changed dramatically since I was a little boy. I would guarantee, that if you called me a “dumb paki” today, at least ten desi thug brethren would appear out of nowhere and beat the living crap out of you a la Londonstani. But, the ghetto remains a site of contest, as probably a new immigrant arrives weekly onto my block. Here they learn what is acceptable and what is not acceptable while they save up for that down payment for the house in the suburbs. And instead of being called Paki, they will have someone yell, “FA-SH-ON!”

Monday, October 16, 2006

On My Own Again

Free, free, free at last.

I moved out. I am living in a one bedroom apartment, in the most densely populated area in Canada, known as St. James Town. The neighbourhood is quite familiar to me, as I inhabited these ground four years ago, before student loans forced me home. While the area is sometimes referred to as “crack town", I don’t mind the ghetto factor. This is what I can afford right now, and I am living on my own; the master of my own domain.

I recall, once at a family dinner, one cousin asking another cousin, what his five year plan was. The question gave me internal shudders. At the time, I had already changed my major twice, and dodged any sort of commitment. The idea of committing to a life plan was simply unfeasible; I wanted to live in the here-and-know.

As thirty became a number that would soon be my age, I realized that something had to give. I was whoring myself to temp agencies, and refused to become that forty year-old who worked the same job as me, with no hope for progress.

Two years ago, I devised myself three goals. (1) To pay off my student loans, (2) To get a job that paid me at least $40,000, and (3) To move out on my own again. I am filled with pride and joy with myself, for having achieved these goals. They might not be the loftiest of aspirations, but that is what I desperately wanted at that time – and I worked my ass off, and did it in the time frame I had allocated.

I still walk around with a giddy feeling in my apartment. I’ll be dressed only in my gitch, with a cigarette in hand, admiring my handy work in interior decorating, and think, “I did this!” Having achieved my current goals, I have a new set of goals, primarily to become a published writer.

If anything I feel living where I do, will aid me enormously in such an endeavor. As I walk around my building, ride the elevator, or stare out from my balcony, I feel that I have somehow wandered into my childhood as an adult. I stare at the Pakistani mother with the shalwar-kameez she clearly sewed herself, with three children in tow all wearing label free clothes probably purchased at Wal-mart. I can’t help but stare at them, as I feel that is my past being brought to life in-front of me. With approximately a thousand people living in my building, it is simply teaming with life, and I feel that if I try hard enough I can pluck tales from the air.

I can’t afford therapy. But, this time, with me living on my own again, being reflective of my past in my writing will be the best possible healing (and, hopefully let me cash in on the desi love-in that is going on in the literary world).

(Yes, I said I discontinued this blog. But, hey, its my blog, and if I choose to update it every once and awhile, that is my prerogative.)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

It was Fun

I am deeply flattered. I checked up on this dusty old blog, and saw that it had been getting consistent hits, even though I have not contributed anything for awhile now. It is really sweet to think that people are curious to see what I have to say, and keep checking to see when I will return from hiatus.

Unfortunately, this hiatus will be permanent. I started the blog project for one sole reason: to work on my writing. I found that the blog format forced me to write and the end I was left with a post - a completed piece of writing. Also, it gave me the opportunity to work out some theoretical ideas I had regarding writing.

I loved blogging. I loved getting responses from people, and in the process discovering other blogs.

The blog project definitely got my writing juices flowing again. I found that I was writing posts which I did not feel I wanted to share with the general public (strange I know given my previous level of candor). I found myself continuing to explore theoretical ideas regarding writing style, which were not worked out enough for online display.

So, I have kept writing, except no longer for this blog. I am currently labouring away on a writing project; a memoir cum novel. The current project is a labour of love and consumes all my creative energy; as such this blog will not be updated. God willing, at some point in the near future, this labour of love will be available to you at your local bookstore ;)

I may choose to incarnate myself again in the blogsphere and provide commentary on the world as I see it. But for now, Dutty Brown Boi has left the building.

Thank you all who came to read what had to say.


Friday, May 12, 2006

Random Rants and Praises

On the days that I have to work, to rise from bed and get ready for work is an epic struggle. All I want to do is sleep-in for an extra hour or so, and I only get out of bed at that last possible minute. So why is it, that on that one rare day I have off during the week, where I am free to sleep-in to my hearts content my body wakes me up fully charged half-hour before I normally get up?

Oh my god. Hostel is one the wickedest movies I have ever seen. I finally got around to renting it last night. I had avoided the movie for some time, because I was slightly scared to watch it. I wasn’t scared of it being gory, I was scared that it would leave me disturbed for a few days. I don’t find images scary, but I do find certain ideas to be scary (American Psycho the book gave me nightmares). And, I remember that scene from Saw, where the one survivor had to cut open the stomach of her lover to get the key to open the head-exploding contraption she was wearing, haunting me for about a week after. So, I didn’t feel like being haunted for weeks, but Music Man ranted and raved about this movie, and I decided to stop being a pussy and just suck it up and watch it. I’m glad I did. I can’t remember the last time I was so charged after watching a movie. Plus, it is a pure pleasure to stare and admire the face of Jay Hernandez.

What the fuck was up with the last episode of America’s Top Model? So the five model finalist find themselves in exotic Thailand. The challenge for this episode? They watch a lady perform classical Thai dance, and later must perform a classical Thai dance number themselves in full Thai garb. I found the whole sequence making me feel uncomfortable, as it smacked of appropriation. Of course there is nothing wrong with American models learning Thai dance. But to give them 15 minutes instruction, and then perform a number? The models just improvised the dance number with stereotype and cliché moves, drawing on their imagination as to what they thought Thai classical dance should be like. In effect, disrespecting an art form and its history. Thai classical dance is something you spends years learning, those finger and eye moves are meant to be done in an exact way – not synthesized into a 15 minute challenge for a reality show. I guess that’s American T.V. for you.

I believe – for an optimally happy adult population – every one should have sex every day. A couple night ago, Mr. Honey Tongue rocked my world, I’m talking about a two-hour session of Karma Sutra proportions. The next day at work, I was walking around with a big grin on my face, a bounce in my walk. Normally, the customers of the Big Evil Corporation are the bane of my existence, with them begging me for exceptions that they are not supposed to receive. Normally, I am firm in my insistence on playing by the rules, rarely ever budging. Yesterday, I was making exceptions left, right, and centre, not really caring to uphold the rules of the Big Evil Corporation, just reveling in the day-after-glow of my jam session.

Finally, while a week late, I wanted to express my sorrow at the passing of probably one of the greatest musical directors of Hindi Cinema, Naushad Ali. Simply put a musical genius, who made more than a lasting impact on Filmi music. Responsible for the music of such classic movies as, Pakeezah, Mughal-e-Azam, and Mother India, he innovated and pioneered the sound of Hindi film music. And he, gave the world the gifts, which are the voices of Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammad Raffi. Rest in peace.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Some Clicks

I updated my links section - and added some music sites I like to visit. You may already be aware of them, hopefully some are pleasant suprises.

Sona Family - "Gold Family" has dope podcasts (my fav is vol. 3)
RBDTV - wicked Bhangra fun

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Sound Check

So you’ve heard of Reggaeton, right? And, of course you’ve heard of Bhangra. But have you heard of the new shit – Bhangraton? No – I’m not joking – and it’s hot like fiiiya!

Bhangraton is a fusion of the two genres of music. Currently, the tracks in circulation are being made by desi artisits, who are remixing Bhangra tracks with a Reggaeton sensibility. BUT – apparently, production teams Luny Tunes and Rishi Rich are collaborating together – and a joint album is in the works for release in summer/fall of this year. So we can expect to hear tracks with Daddy Yankee and Jay Sean together.

Ummmmm……Daddy Yankee and Jay Sean together in the same studio….I wish I could be there. I’m sure the whole laying down tracks business must get really tiring. I’m sure they would want a massage or something for stress relief, and I am good at giving massages or somethings…..I want to make a sandwich with them two and me be in the middle…….but I digress.

Here are some samples of Bhangraton.

Kawan (Bikram Singh/Gujun/Dom Minic) Jay Dabhi Remix

Ishq Naag (RDB feat. Elephant Man) Reggaeton Remix

So I wandered into HMV today, and saw DJ Jazzy Jeff’s “The Soul Mixtape”. I immediately grab it and head to the sampling station; 2 seconds into the opening track I am nodding my head. When I take off the headphones, they must have been wet from the pre-cum my ears were oozing. The album was pure SICKNESS! Apparently, the album was dropped last summer, and slipped under my radar. If you haven’t been following DJ Jazzy Jeffs career as of late, it might seem confusing that the Fresh Prince’s dee jay is dropping soul tracks. But DJ Jazzy Jeff has taken a more soulful/house turn in his music for the last 6 – 7 years. Apparently when he was last in T.O., his loyal fans were disappointed that he didn’t spin a single hip hop tune, but rather made it a pure house night. It is my utter disappointment to this day that I missed that jam.

(note: previous songs I have uploaded are not downloadable anymore, because my hosting service deletes them if they are not downloaded for over a month, if you really want them write me a comment and I can email it to you)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Brown Fruits

In this world saturated with semiotic play, to be, to feel validated, is to see one’s reflection somewhere in that twisted looking pool called the media. As a desi, the situation is less that perfect, but improving, as the children of the South Asian Diaspora are coming of age, being spotted in movies, music, and literature. But as a queer desi, I do not see the sum of both my identities out there. Yes, the queer is out there, but more often than not it is glaringly white, and while the desi may appear metro it is still very hetro. Queer and desi together – rare. Searching through the internet, I finally came across shards of images, namely blogs by other Indian fags (Venialsin, Asshole Roommate, Talking Closets). Reading their daily accounts - echoes of my own fears and anxieties – brought a sense of comfort which I can not fully explain. The other day, I came across a site, which gave the most unflattering of reflections, exposing blemishes and all.

This weekend I wondered how the friends of Dorothy get along in the land of seven rivers, and googled “punjabi gay”. I stumbled onto the homepage of Asian Gay and Lesbian Marriage of Convenience. The site is based in honest intentions, the creator of the site is Pakistani and gay himself and gives his story, “At age 28, under severe pressure from my parents, I was made to marry my first cousin in 1999. After living together for 3 months (at that time, I was in US), I decided to come out to her, since it was getting unbearable for us to go on. The results were devastating; I lost everything and everyone I knew”. In an attempt to help others, so that they do not have to face a similar situation, he started the site, “to engage in a marriage of convenience where both the individuals involved understand and accommodate their orientation, whilst fulfilling social obligations that are so painfully obligatory in our cultures. I am also certain that other individual like me yearn to have children, and this would possibly also be a viable option for them to fulfill their dreams”. I feel a sense of sadness, as I click on the browse link, and start perusing the ads.

The ads use contradictory vocabulary, indicating the psychosis that being gay and desi can cause.
“I am looking for someone to be my life partner in an honest marriage. I would like to live as a conventional couple in front of family, friends and work colleagues”

“I am gay but have never had gay sexual relations or a boyfriend because what I really want is a wife and children.”

“we would also be free to pursue any loving attachment to people of our own sex if we were totally discrete and not willing to jeopardize our own domestic security. come on, give it a chance, we all deserve happiness, I am sure that a marriage of convenience could work”

“Being an Indian gay person, I believe it is so much worth it to give up sex and have a nice otherwise normal family”
I understand the drive that lies behind these ads. Indian parents can present themselves as an insurmountable force, and the desire to please them and conform to societal expectations can be intense. I understand the strategy, to work within the system, to construct an elaborate façade of lies to please others, while trying to obtain the pleasures that are outside the accepted norm. This was very much my mode of operation as a teenager; this way I could go see movies, have female friends, and go to my prom. I became two people, one who I presented to my parents, and the other who lived life outside of home. I admit, the fantasy of compromise these ads seek, was my own when I was younger. I imagined seeking some Indian girl who came from a household as repressed as mine. We would have an understanding, and live our respective lives the way we wanted to, maintaining our family names. In third year university I suffered a nervous breakdown, which would haunt me periodically for a two year period. Lying comes at a price. Deceit requires regular maintenance, and there is the constant stress caused by the fear of being found out. These proposed marriages are a commitment for life, to maintain a life of deception and pretense. I do not look down at the people seeking a marriage of convenience. They feel that this is the only option available to them. If anything this is what saddens me, this reminder that our culture, creates an environment where people feel the only answer is to live a life of repression, which euphemistically this site dubs convenience.

I began this post by over killing the metaphor of images in my first paragraph. I really think this is where the key lies though, positive images are needed, not just to give a sense of validation to queer desi’s, but to foster acceptance. If our parents, aunties, uncle ji’s, continuously see us out there, this will at least force them to recognize that we do exist. While this may not translate into immediate tolerance, it will enable them to see that “the gays” are not just white or hijeras. The other day while coming down the stairs, I saw my mother reading her “Urdu Times”, self proclaimed to be North America’s first and largest weekly Urdu newspaper. And there taking up half a page was the ad shown below.

I couldn’t believe it, and later picked up the paper and gazed at it dumbfounded. I felt a thrill at the subversive nature of the ad, as a few pages in there was an ad for pilgrimage travel to Saudi Arabia. I imagined thousands of conservative Pakistani’s opening up the paper and the ad being right in their face. Boo-yah! I applaud Alliance for South Asian Aids Prevention for creating the ad campaign, and “Urdu Times” for publishing the ad.

This is a step in the right direction.

Monday Miserable

When will you fucking learn? It is NOT a good idea to have a nap on a Sunday evening, especially when you have to start work the next day at seven in the morning. So, last night I found myself fully charged, unable to fall asleep with the number of hours before me having to depart for work quickly diminishing. I tired every trick in the book, engaging my manhood, reading, changing bedrooms, finally with less than two hours of sleep time, I imagine how I would direct "The Picture of Dorian Gray". I get as far as imagining the opening credits - a super zoom-in of a canvas painting with the depths of the paint sticking out like a mountain range - and I am out like a light, dreaming about finding a collection of Ralph Lauren Polo shirts that I never knew I had.

I get ready for work in record time, and fly out the door. I stand by my bus stop, to tired to even listen to Sangeet (my I-pod) sing to me through my headphones. Why do I always catch the bus which will either bring me in right on time, or five minutes late? The bus arrives at the subway station, and like frogger I maneuver around people who should be banned from walking in public places, because they move as if they were in an elderly home. The free Metro paper litters the subway, but I avoid reading it, I have sought ignorance from world affairs for about a month. I do not care what Gwen Stefani is wearing, nor wish to be depressed by learning about the evils our Tory government is concocting.

I walk in five minutes late to work. But it is ok. This week I am on special assignment, I am acting manager while someone is on vacation, and so am afforded the leeway given to management (at least I hope). Today, I am on what we call the referral gate, and I am relieved, as I can relax. The referral gate, is the line that customers are transferred to when they are upset with the answers our agents provide them and proceed to demand to speak to a manager. Usually, I don't get a call for the first hour, which gives me ample time to do browse the internet, and then gate a call an hour, giving me time to do other work-related tasks.

I got my first call in ten minutes. And another one shortly after, by the first hour alone I had taken four referrals, and my in-box was piling up with more calls, as the line was too busy to accommodate all our passionate customers. All, the calls I take run a similar gambit, I greet the customer and introduce myself and inquire as to how they are doing. They typically answer is, "not good", and the customer then breaks off into a litany of wrongs the company has committed against them. I place them on mute, and stare off into the distance, wave at passing co-workers, or look at my nails thinking how badly I need to get a manicure. I release the mute button intermediately, to say a "uh-huh", "ah", or "oh". Eventually, the customer looses wind and stops, and demands that I do as they bid. In the most soothing voice I can muster, I apologize for their frustration. I restate the problems they have listed, and provide the exact same solutions the agent gave before they were transferred to me. This more often than not is satisfactory, and causes the customer to launch into the problems of their life story again, this time at an increased volume. Each time I calmly restate the existing solutions that we have to provide. Finally, the customer well yell, "are you telling me that you are not going to do _____ ?" In my head I am thinking, "You fucking moron, I have only been telling you that for the last ten minutes, is it only sinking in now?" Instead, I say yes sir/mam that is the case and they hangup much to my relief.

The referral line is hell for the rest of the day. One irate customer after the other. Even though I am on the referral line, I have to keep an eye on the team I am watching. This means ensuring that they are working, not slacking off, and taking breaks at allotted times. One girl on the team is blatantly goofing off, and I wrestle with how too approach her. It is my first day watching this team, and I do not want to come across as over-bearing, but I have a job to do at the same time. I decide I will approach her at the end of the day.

My head is pounding as my work day nears an end, and I am feeling delirious. Everything is a bit strange, and I feel disconnected from reality. I want to avoid the girl in question, but I know if I don't approach her today, this will make her more brazen tomorrow. I put on a big smile, and walk towards her, and wait for to finish the call she is on. I gently remind her that she should be on break right now, she retorts back that she knows, and positions herself so she doesn't have to face me. My nerves tingle, and my heart rate accelerates. I want to say, "if you fucking know its your break then why are you taking calls? Go on your fucking break." She proceeds to take another call. My head is spinning, "honey, why are you taking another call?" She looks up at me flustered. "Please, go on break after this call." She nods her head. I can't deal with this right now, I don't have to deal with this right now. I am done work. I'll deal with the bitch tomorrow.

I leave work. I feel like I have tumor in my head, somewhere in the back of my head an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice comes in and says, "it's not a tumor". I am to exhausted to even laugh at my own internal joke.

I reach home, and collapse on my own bed. But I have reached that point where you are so tired, that you can't even sleep. It's like coming of an acid trip, you beg for the release of slumber, but your body doesn't seem to want to give in. I log on to the internet and read a humorous post on Sepia Mutiny, and then read a few pages of my current read, "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West". It turns out this is bad combination of reading before going to bed, as I have three hour nap, fueled with some dream of crazy brown bloggers taking over Munchkinland.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Sampling Soul

I write this post, to articulate a theory which I have been musing upon for the last five years. My speculation may be dated, but sometimes time is needed to give necessary hind-sight.

Let me begin by stating a position I hold regarding art. While many theories abound regarding aesthetics, the one which makes the most sense to me, is to say that art serves as a reflection of society. That art in turn, should either in form or content, represent some truth regarding the time in which it is produced. As such, even when a period-piece movie is produced, it should not simply be trying to re-stage the past for us, but rather, the by-gone era should serve as a metaphor for something relevant today.

For the last five years, the sounds of the exotic east have filtered into hip hop. The voice of Lata is often sampled, an Indian flute is thrown in, or distinctive bhangra dhol lines are added. And why shouldn’t Indian beats influence hip hop? It would seem inevitable, go too any Indian jam, and the hypeness of the music is immediately evident. And India is home to the world’s largest music industry. Indian culture has become fashionable in the runways, why not in music? Is this new musical urban sensibility, just a passing fad, a trend which merely points to how we are truly becoming a global village? It doesn’t appear to be simply a passing fad; Bollywood still is influencing new hip hop releases. While it may be a sign of the global village, I feel it is more of a sign of the reality of the world we live in, a reality in which there exists imperial America, which is actively occupying two Middle Eastern states.

Hip hop is musically speaking my first love. While Hindi Filmi music was the soundtrack to my childhood, it was a genre that I would later return to in my teens and explore. Before that, Hindi music had simply been the music my parents had listened too, Lata’s voice was something I took for granted, akin to how my white friends regard the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. Hip hop moved me. It turned me on. The bass lines, scratching, samples, in general the whole culture, excited me at a level which was visceral.

Hip hop in both form and content has represented the truth of its times. So much so, that hip hop is a global phenomena, being the most popular form of youth counter culture worldwide. From the war-torn streets of Gaza, to the decadent metropolis of Tokyo, you will find kids rhyming on their blocks about their experiences, there unique reality. Of course, to call hip hop counter culture today, may not be accurate, as it has moved from the realm of the underground, to that of popular culture. Now, commercials abound, for products ranging from soft drinks to cars, which capitalize on the mass appeal of hip hop.

Essentially the bastard child of dancehall, hip hop began in the 1970’s in inner city New York. DJ Kool Herc – a Jamaican immigrant living in New York – considered the father of hip hop, invented the hip hop sound, by isolating “breaks” in songs - the part where only the drums could be heard - and as such the hip hop beat was born. Over this beat the Master of Ceremonies, or M.C., would rhyme tales of bravado, relating every day experiences.

While, there are some great lyrists, I mainly fell in love with hip hop for its beats. The hip hop beat originally mainly relied upon sampling soul and funk songs from the 1950’s to the 1970’s. James Brown, probably is one of the most oft sampled artists in hip hop, in 1988 every major hip hop release, had a James Brown sample to boot. While on the surface it may be obvious as to why he would be popular, his songs have an electrifying funky quality, I feel there is more to it than just that. One can not simply stand and listen to James Brown, without standing still. His tracks cause one to inadvertently start nodding there head. James Brown recorded the majority of his tracks during the civil rights movement in America. “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” was the theme song to a proposed revolution, the backdrop to the raised fist of protest. As he recorded this track, outside his studio, America was in the midst of a confrontation of its race relations. How could this not influence the track, not simply in lyrical content, but in it’s form itself? “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” can not simply be infectious because of its production value, but also due the fact that it was manifesting the truth of its time.
Like I said, hip-hop was the music of inner city youth in New York. It developed and grew during the Regan administration, a time in which the black community was faced with the harsh economic realities that the government at hand brought forth. Realities that included gang violence, poverty, and project living, which rappers related through their rhymes. While original hip hop recordings, like "Rappers Delight" were “party” songs, hip hop was a music of protest, if not explicitly, at least implicitly. It was a big middle finger in the air, to established notions of what music should sound like. The cutting up bit’s of old tracks, scratching of vinyl, and aggressive bass lines was a challenge to what was musically acceptable. Further, by riffling through the catalogues of the likes of James Brown and Parliament, hip hop was in effect sampling the “soul” of the civil rights movement itself, so that it could echo in the present. When Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth released “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” in 1992 – an ode to fallen ghetto comrades which was popular not only as a club track but at funerals – which sampled the break from “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” they evoked the essence the original recording had captured, so to reflect the truth that was theirs in the present.

Near the end of the 1990’s hip hop had moved away from the sampling of old funk breaks. New producers like the Neptune’s and Timberland had taken to producing hip hop tracks, which were based on synthesized drum beats. Also, hip hop had moved away from being conscious based music which provided a commentary on the realities of the ghetto, to glorifying the excesses which occurred in the ghetto. Materialism had been a preoccupation in hip hop from the start; disenfranchised youth dreaming of fast cars and nice clothes delivering false stories of luxuries they did not have. As hip hop gained commercial appeal, the next-generation of rappers were able to realize these dreams. While these rappers may have originally started out in the hood, the hood no longer remained there stomping grounds. The likes of Puff Daddy and Jay Z now vacation in the Hamptons, with there respective business and spin-off clothing labels accounting for multi-million dollar revenues. While some prematurely declared that hip hop was dead, it had simply evolved. The tracks released during this time, I enjoyed for superficial reasons, because they were simply that, superficial. But to me, the sound, the appeal, the gut response to the music was gone. To me, hip hop had lost its soul.

In July of 2002 Truth Hurts released, “Addictive”, a Dr. Dre produced song, which sampled the vocals of Lata Mangeshkar from the Hindi film “Jyoti”. Apparently, Dre had heard the song while randomly coming upon the movie while watching T.V., had the idea of sampling it, and the song went on to become one of the top 50 U.S. singles of that year according to billboard music charts. At the time of it’s release the invasion of Afghanistan was well on it’s way by the American military. In 2003 almost every major hip hop release contained at least one track, if not more, with an eastern influence, a situation akin to 1998 where every album had a James Brown sample. It was the same year that the American military began it’s invasion of the sovereign state of Iraq.

To me this development in hip hop was fascinating. I remember growing up the 1980’s – before the policy of multiculturalism had been instituted - when it was acceptable to be called a “paki” at school. My Indian culture was a source of embarrassment to me, and I recall being ridiculed for my curry food and the sing-song of Hindi films was the butt of jokes. Now, I would go to clubs, and people would “lean back” to the rhythms that originated from the sub-continent.

While the black community in America, has by no means attained equality in this new millennium, the music that had been formulated by their youth two decades ago, had evolved from a music of protest to one of commercial excess. Across the Atlantic, in the middle-east, where a war is being waged for oil to allow for a SUV hungry nation to drive to it’s heart content, lies this generations truly disenfranchised. Hip hop producers having exhausted ransacking through their own “soul catalogue”, probably being only subconsciously aware, turned to sample the imagined soul of a culture which was experiencing colonization. Similar in fashion to the appropriation of black culture by the likes of Elvis Priestley, American hip hop producers in turn had turned to appropriate a imagined voice of struggle which currently was lacking within it’s own borders.

I say imagined on purpose, because, of course I realize that Indian music, is distinctly different from the musical traditions to be found in Afghanistan or Iraq. However, in the melting pot eyes of America, the far east appears as one blurry vision. Cultural appropriateness and understanding of subtleties that lie across the many nations of the middle-east and Asia are not understood. Indeed, when the video for Truth Hurt’s “Addictive” was released, it featured Truth Hurts and her dancers in typical Arab belly-dancer costumes, and the décor of the set was Arabic in nature. Continuing in the great Orientalist tradition, all things Muslim were confounded into one, and seen as exotic.

Was it wrong for hip hop to sample classic Bollywood tracks? No, of course not. I personally have enjoyed this particular cross pollination. Hip hop instinctively moved to sample the soul of Indian music, because the nature of world politics today. If not in content, in form, it represented the truth of our geo-political situation.

Now what makes a totally sick tune? When content and form both strive to show truth, like this track, “Hustle Everyday” by U.K. act Def 1.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Comming Out - Part 2

Happiness. Elation. Relief.

I finally fucking did it. I told my sister that I was a big ‘ol batty mon.

I lay on her bed, as she sat by her computer, playing me the latest in Bollywood tunes. My confession lies at the tip of my tongue, as it has for the last month or so. I sit up, this time determined to get it out of me, once and for all.

“Uhhhh,…there’s something I want to tell you.”

I stare down at my hands, and then look up at her. She is taken aback by my sudden seriousness, and turns the volume down, and stares at me with concern.

“What?” She asks.

“Uhmmm…,” I look back down at my hands, and then back at her again. I open my mouth again, but only ending up grimacing. “It’s probably something you already know, but I wanted to tell you…”

I have know begun playing with my hands, and can’t seem to stop looking at them. I ending up just repeating myself.

“I just wanted to tell you something, and you probably already know….”

“What, what is it?” My sister is staring at me with alarm. We both just stare at each other. “What, that you have a boyfriend?” She asks dropping her voice.

Of course, I knew that it would end up this way. That my “big” revelation, would not be that big, and not be much of a surprise. That my keeping this from her was unwarranted. That my closet door to her was quite see-through, and I should have just opened up the door a long time ago.

“Yes, I do. I am gay.”

“Oh, I thought you were bi.”

“No. I’m gay.”

“Oh, because, I just thought you were bi, because you dated Rasta Lady for three years.”

“Yeah, no, I’m gay. I like boys”

“Then how could you date her for so long?”

I pause. And stare away at her door. I feel nervous energy. This is a challenge to myself, it feels awkward, but right. For so long, my sexual preference and choices was a taboo subject for me in our conversations, and here I am finally explaining it to my sister.

“Well, she was a special circumstance. I don’t think I’ll ever meet a girl like that again. I thought I only liked boys before her…but….we totally connected. I did love her. But, now I’m only interested in guys.”

She nods her head absorbing this.

“So, you knew all along. I was feeling afraid for telling you for no reason?”

“It was kinda obvious.” She says and we both laugh. “I can’t believe you were afraid to tell me.”

“Yeah, I know it was stupid…it’s just….”

She shakes her head.

“I just never said anything, because you never said anything. So I didn’t want to go there.” She says, and smiles at me. “But whatever, I don’t care about that, who cares if your gay? You’re my brother and I love you no matter what.”

I feel like my heart is going to burst.

She asks me about my boyfriend. And I tell her about us. I tell her how we met. She’s met him a few times already, when he’s dropped by, and she tell me she likes him. She’s shocked that we’ve dated for close to three years.

“Your right, mummy will never understand you. You can’t ever tell her, she’ll go crazy.”

“Yeah.” I respond back flatly.

I feel pure love towards my sister, a love brought through openness and understanding. Yet, her last comment makes me realize, that she is the only one in my family that I will feel this way towards. And, in turn I feel sad.

I eventually go to my room, and light a cigarette. I decide not to dwell on the negative, and instead chose to savor the feeling this bonding has brought upon.