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Wednesday, 27 August 2008


Well people, here's a new thing on my blog: a series. I've decided to start this particular one because I've always been a huge Star Wars fan and I've wanted to show tell people how its not 'just another Sci-Fi movie series' by getting them to look at it from the philosophical perspective. Star Wars is actually quite a fascinating amalgamation of philosophy and technology and LOTS more.

So, lets start with the 1st in the series. The Force. The Force is, well the crux of Star Wars. All the events in the whole series of movies took place because of The Force: The Sith(about whom there will be detailed discussions later) plan the blockade on Naboo, the Jedi(also to be discussed about) end up discovering Anakin Skywalker who has been prophecized to bring about 'The Balance' in The Force and who in turn breaks the code of conduct by falling in love and starting a war- a war that nearly wipes out the Jedi and turna Anakin over to the Dark Side, Anakin's son then learns the ways of The Force to triumph over the Sith in the end and restore peace. All of it revolves around The Force. So what is The Force? Well in 'Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope',Obi-Wan Kenobi describes it as 'energy created by all living things that surrounds the galaxy and binds it'. In the same movie though, Han Solo describes it as a 'hokey religion', but that's hardly important. Now, this sounds like a 'ridiculous concept'.Or is it? Well actually, examples similar to the concept of The Force exist on this very planet itself. Sages in India claim to have tapped some mystical energy that ensures that they don't spill their guts when using their bodies as pincushions for swords; Japanese martial artists believe that every living being possesses energy called Chi and martial arts is one way to tap it; the whole concept of Feng Shui revolves around 'positive and negative eneries and vibes'. The Force is not very different from these examples. In Star Wars, not ALL people can tap into The Force. It is only creatures (yes, creatures, because Humans are not the only sentient species in Star Wars) that possess cells known a Midichlorians that can tap into it. But that's not where it ends.

Just like there are positive and negative sides to either Chi or the energies in Feng Shui, so too does The Force have a 'Dark Side' and a 'Light Side'. Those who CAN use The Force make a choice between the 2 sides. Force users (as they are called) who use the powers of The Force to maintain peace and justice in the galaxy are on the Light Side and are called The Jedi. These beings are generally considered the 'heroes' in Star Wars. On the other hand, beings that use The Force for destructive and selfish purposes and to quench their thirst for power are on the Dark Side and are called The Sith. But its not as simple as that. When George Lucas introduced such a concept to the world, he conveniently created lots of complexities through its portrayal. Let me explain with the help of the example of 'day and night'. To a 5-year old kid, 'daytime' is when the sun is visible in the sky, and 'nighttime' is when the moon is. But as he grows older, he learns that there is more to this. He learns about the sunrise and sunset, about how the sun 'travels the sky' with every passing hour and finally 'gives way to the moon'. Hence, he learns about those hours when its not exactly 'daytime' but not 'nighttime' either. This is exactly how the concept of The Force works. To an untrained mind, The Force would basically just consist of the Dark and Light Sides i.e the 'good' and 'bad' sides. But people who have seen the movies and read the books will know that there is no real good or bad. Its all just a point of view. 'One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter'.

This fact glares most brightly in Star Wars:Episode III-Revenge of the Sith during Anakin's conversation with Chancellor Palpatine (who eventually turns out to be the Sith Lord Darth Sidious himself and is the reason for Anakin's defection). Palpatine tells Anakin how 'the Dark Side is a window to powers many consider unnatural'. Which is true. They are not powers that The Jedi can tap. But that doesn't necessarily mean they are evil. To elaborate, he tells Anakin 'the tragic tale of Darth Plageuis the Wise', a Sith Lord who could use the Dark Side to save people from dying. According to that tale though, Plageuis taught everything he knew to his apprentice (whose identity is still unkown but going by the smug look on Palpatine's face as he told this part,he seems to be the most likely candidate) who one day killed Plageuis in his sleep. 'Ironic, isn't it?' Palpatine continues, 'he could save others from dying but he could not save himself'. Why is that?Well it because Plageuis taught his apprentice EVERYTHING. He did not leave himself the upper hand. And that is where the separation between The Jedi and The Sith is apparent. While The Jedi follow the path of selflessness, The Sith follow the path to power. Plageuis's apprentice capitalised on Plageuis's blunder, because he seeked to be more powerful than his master.

So, that about wraps up an introduction to The Force. I hope this was interesting. Watch this space for part of The Force where the focus is on the Light Side.

May the Force be with you.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Don't bother talking to him about music, he likes 'death metal' man!!!

How many times has a metal-head heard this?And why is it that this is said to him/her?And why is it that once you tell someone that you listen to only metal,its interpreted almost 90% of the time as 'Death Metal'???The answers to these question right after this break....

So, there I am,just hanging out in college with some guys and when asked what I like to hear,someone promptly says 'nah,no Floyd for him,he likes Death Metal'. Now,please allow me to enumerate exactly how much Death Metal I like: Death,Bloodbath and to small extents Nile and Six Feet Under.That's 4 bands.Out of I don't know HOW many.These 4 would make about 5% of the bands I like.Good enough?I don't think so. See,the point is not 'which band belongs to which genre' (that's a different story),the point is,why does the term 'metal' NOT seem synonymous with 'music' for so many people?And the less important one,why is someone who has a reputation of listening to metal shunned as some psychopath who has no musical taste or sense because he likes 'Death Metal'? Time for another break.We'll be right back...

All right,I guess the 2nd question easier to answer:prejudice. When Black Sabbath came out with their self-titled debut that started a whole new revolution in music,people were TOO scared to actually sit down and see that there was a very classical influence to their music.In fact,most of metal has been influenced by western classical:the sweeps,the fast riffs,the palm-muted chugs etc. Anyway,it was this fear,coupled by the churches labeling such music as 'antichrist' that started deterring people from this genre.Soon it was just people cautioning their kids and other kids to stay away from this music.

But herein lies part of the answer to the 1st question as well.Metal was,and still is,the heaviest,fastest and most bass-rich form of music. Its these traits that prevent people from actually listening to the rhythm sections and tunes. Now,I say PART of the answer because frankly speaking,the general public's basis for deciding how good an artiste is is from the vocals.Everyone is too centred on the vocals. Anything screamed,growled,shrieked etc. is just plain NOISE because 'that guy can't sing'. Or,if it IS the music that they like,they like it because its CATCHY.Which is why a band like Fall-Out Boy or Creed finds more favour than say Iron Maiden or Children of Bodom. Now,I understand that a scream or a growl would take some getting used to at first,but when you actually try to see what style of vocals would best suit the given rhythm,mood and lyrical content of the song, clean singing sounds absolutely RIDICULOUS. Take the example of Children of Bodom's 'Everytime I Die' - melodic guitars,atmospheric keys and THUNDEROUS bass= heavy,slow rhythm=melancholy,epic feel= perfect backdrop for screams and growls (though Alexi could try to NOT eat up half the words). If someone actually decided to sing those words like "no sparks of hope inside,no shooting stars on my sky,on broken wings,no flying high",it would sound totally out of place.

But thats the problem; no one cares about the rhythm.Thats NOT the 1st thing that catches one's attention.In fact, when I asked a female friend of mine what she thought of 'Nothing Else Matters' she said that it takes too long to start. Why? Because the intro instrumental portion is too long. So Hetfield and Ulrich should have just kept the singing part? So they are idiots to have 'disrupted' the song by painstakingly writing that solo and riff? Ridiculous, but true. But if you're a metal-head and reading this, don't bother getting people to appreciate metal. They won't. Give them some stupidly easy song or something with a ridiculously simple, beat-bastardized rhythm and cranky vocals, they'll LOVE it. No one has time to sit and appreciate the emotion or the epic feel in a song's rhythm. Everyone is too 'scandalized' by 'death metal'. So that's what Megadeth referred to in 'The Day the Music Died'.

Poor things.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Amaseffer: Progressive storytellers

Israel.The land of many stories.The most famous of those being that of Moses and the Ten Commandments.Recently,Israel also found a place on the world metal map thanks to that very innovative Progressive Metal band Orphaned Land. I have hardly heard anything by these guys,but I've heard a lot about them. Then I stumbled upon another Progressive Metal band called Amaseffer.They released their debut album 'Slaves For Life' in May this year. All it took was a snippet hearing on,and 15 minutes later,the album was on my iPod. To be frank,this album is GRAND. It tells the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments, and is the 1st in a trilogy of albums. What follows now is a review that I wrote for that album on to enjoy:

A Better Concept Album There Will Seldom Be...

I have always been a bit wary of progressive bands, mostly because of their attempts at complexity. Be it with time signatures or technique or just those ridiculously long solos, band just FORGET that their aim should be to make good music and not write a staff notation of a solution to Schrodinger's equation. With Amaseffer's Slaves For Life however, I felt blessed to have stumbled upon such a work of art.

Firstly, I would like to acknowledge this band's sheer songwriting prowess. It was truly unlike anything I had heard before, or even expected from this album. Right from the start, one can tell that the aim of this band was to present a story to the listener through their music, not how the drummer can beat Mike Potnoy at complex time signatures. Their use of folk instruments, the Mid-Eastern tunes and symphonies and of course,their use of sounds from everyday life and the dialogues in Hebrew; all of them made it seem as if it one was watching a movie and not listening to an album. The vocals by Mats Levin of Therion are perfect.Not too whiny, nor too cheesy. Sometimes, they even remind you of Roy Khan's (Kamelot) singing. The lyrics are very to-the-point. Amaseffer have not tried to be excessively poetic by using verses that could mean ANYTHING, which is something I really appreciate. If a story has to be told, the events within it should unfold with ease.

Now, the fact that this band is a progressive metal band, could mean that people will expect a high level of technique. Unfortunately (for such people), that is not the case. But its not a problem either. Their rhythms are pretty simple and straightforward powerchords, notes and chords and their solos are not very fast or technical; but they all add to the overall mood of the album. There's not a single moment where the mood of the song becomes casual due to a rhythm that may be technically sound, but that's all it is. Every song generates its own mood because each song talks about different phases of the Moses story. And all the dialogues and sound effects make sure that even if you're not very knowledgeable about that story (like me),you WILL know what events unfold (even though the dialogues are in Hebrew).

If I was to describe what band these guys sound like, I would say a slower, less technical but exponentially more melodic version of the newer Symphony X. I don’t have a personal favourite song as every song is great and paramount to the album. But yes, I enjoyed ‘The Wooden Staff’ the most for its digitized Hebrew voice in the beginning and that section in the middle where the guitar, bass and xylophone are playing this catchy Mid-Eastern tune.

All in all, this is the best concept album I have heard till date. Once again, I’d like to congratulate the band. To be able to come up with such brilliance on debut itself is nothing short of a world record. In fact, if the band continues to write music like this, and improve, they could easily dethrone even veterans in this genre like Opeth and Symphony X. A brilliant collection of music. Something that every fan of good music should possess.

Its Star Wars season again!!!!!

Boy,am I kicked!!!!Just when I had thought that George Lucas had decided to go over-and-out with Star Wars,its BACK!!!!This time in an animated form.Today marked the day 'The Clone Wars' released in the US and the UK.A revolution in terms of animation, this movie basically gives you some of the little details as to how Episode II led to Episode III i.e it basically elaborates on the wars itself. Unfortunately,from the little research that I have done online, the release date in India has not been decided yet. Well I shall declare a bounty on the censor board if the movie isn't released in India, but really,I can't wait to see this movie. I'm especially looking forward to seeing Asajj Ventress, the bald female dark jedi,in action (what with 2 lightsabers and all!!1).

May the Force remain with Lucas FOREVER. More Star Wars!!!!!

Monday, 11 August 2008

The arrival of romance

Yes 'Thought Processor' loyalists,I have a girlfriend.Her name is Kirti. Yeah, hard to believe isn't it?I found it hard to believe myself. I mean,just look at me.For years people have laughed at the idea of me going out with someone. I mean, I like metal and Star Wars. I can be quite mean sometimes,and I've never really thought I look good (though Kirti vehemently differs). But here I am all the same. And its a WONDERFUL feeling. I always thought getting a girlfriend would be a pain, because people have always complained (throughout history) about how girlfriends suck out your time and money, but Kirti is just AMAZING. She respects the fact that you have other responsibilities in life, doesn't drain the money out of you (in fact she pretty much pays for everything in life) and is just SO understanding.

Its been 6 days now,and it just feels like it JUST began everyday. Haha.Sorry people, I'm just TOO ecstatic about it. I love her. And she loves me too. And its just great.

OK, bye.