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Saturday, March 30, 2013


Of late, the mystery of existence and its reason has been hanging heavy on the shoulders of my brain. (I am a little drunk. Bear with me.) Why are we here? What are we here to do? And regurgitating on thoughts swirling around questions as such, leads to the question :

What are my rights as a human being? And what are the responsibilities that come with it?

My starting point is always the same - how life started. A firm believer in Darwinian evolution, survival is the key. It is the mother of all necessities. Things, we would not think of doing under normal circumstances, we will readily grapple with, if it came to our survival. 

That said, I agree with Richard Dawkins when he says that a Darwinian society would be a terrible place to live. But it does not change the fundamental rules of this game called The Human Life. And hence, this is my pitch. 

I have the right to live. As a being that came into this world, I think I should be allowed a natural death. 

The responsibility - I will not inflict on somebody, a condition that I would not want somebody else to inflict on me. Seems very sensible when you hear it, but its not the way the present world is run. 

And that, I would like to think, is the seed of all the other rules and laws that have come to be in the world. The ones that are not conducive to the survival of the human species will be eradicated with time. All will be tested in the burning white heat of survival. What remains, shall endure. 

Il Passione.....

Watching a good match between F.C. Barcelona and Celta Vigo on a relaxed, sunny Saturday afternoon is a lucky co-incidence when you live in the Adirondacks. Breaking the dead quiet of the afternoon is the commentary for the match. Now, I would like to say straight away, I am not against any person making his or her living commentating on sports. Do it, if it makes you happy. Feed me more bullshit about a players personal life and for I will gladly lap it up. Train that gun of useless statistics at me, for I will be blown away at how much research goes behind this commentating business. And then the inevitable questions -  is this commentating and statistics shit really important? When did reporting on the match as it was became not enough? Do these commentators really feel so connected with the game? Does it make a difference?


And it is that latter question that has been bugging me. How could a commentator, most probably a former player, feel so much for a game? To what end? He will never play again, so why get so involved? To what end is this passion directed?

This is where the meandering starts. How do I feel about what I do? How connected am I to what happens? I thought I always knew what passion was. This invisible drive that forces you to empathise with some cause. Get involved. Work with it. On it. Hitler must have been a passion cornucopia, going by what he accomplished, the cunt. Jenna Jameson must have had a lot of passion, pun intended, making some of the best porn in the business (I am quite the fan, ain't I?). A more obscure example, Adrian Newey, that wizard Formula 1 car designer (ex-McLaren, Red Bull) can only ever talk about what the car does and does not and how it was a deviation from what he wanted it to do. How much does passion drive a human? Is excellence the goal or just a passing mile stone? What does it accomplish?

I have to confess, when I took the trip from Minneapolis to Coachella Valley to see the Big 4 play, I felt the most passionate music fan in the whole universe. Along with 59,000 others, I am guessing. And I heard some great music. The pain of standing for 12 hours just cemented my passion, it seems. I love this shit! In my own little bubble, I was holding the Passionate Award.

And in my workplace, where I am surrounded by some of the smartest technical minds in the world of semiconductors, I am constantly in awe. These people, 30 years into their careers, still work 12 hours a day and solve such difficult problems. What keeps them going? Surely the nice salary helps, but after a point, you would throw your hands up in the air and surrender to the stress. Surely!

It is at this point that my "passion" starts wavering. Because, what I always assumed was, passion takes you above and beyond the call of pragmatism and logic to do what you love. I am not supposed to think about physical bodily functions under the influence of my passion. Until, I can say with any authority that I have done of any significance. And even then, what is significant? And even if my achievement is truly significant, to what end benefit is it directed? Something more than the useless statistics thrown out by the commentators.

Silver lining is, I know where to look for a true personification of passion - Ameya Kirtane. A PhD candidate in Pharmaceutics, a workaholic, toiling to find a piece of the jigsaw that will help cure cancer. He has not flagged, last time I checked. Constant push. True motivation. A truly righteous cause. Only passion helps drive this. Keep going dude. I will try to keep up.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Being a man..... and a good human.....

This blog comes in the wake of a torrent of horrible news that tell a harrowing tale of misplaced masculinity and subsequently perpetrated atrocities. I am sure this behavior is not just native to India, but is visible around the world. As a male, I have always hated such behavior and been against such attitude. I have been battling with the question of individual morality and that of being a human, in general, of late. Part of the answer to that question, was presented to me by a heavy metal musician.

Randy Blythe, lead singer of modern metal pioneers Lamb of God, was detained in the Czech Republic following the death of fan at one of their concerts. And after being detained for a month, for something that happened 2 years earlier, this is what he chose.

Greetings. This is D. Randall Blythe, checking in from my beloved hometown of Richmond, VA, United States of America. I was recently released on bail from Pankrác Prison in Prague, Czech Republic, after over a month of incarceration. Now that I am out for the moment, I would like to say a few things.

1. While in prison, I had minimal knowledge of how my case was viewed anywhere but the Czech Republic. I was told by my attorney that I had a lot support from peers in the music industry, my hometown, fans, and of course my family. I cannot express how emotional it made me upon my release to read about even a fraction of the voices that were raised on my behalf. From legends in my music community, to fans across the world, and even people who were previously unaware of my existence but sympathized with my plight- I am truly humbled. I cannot thank you enough for your thoughts and prayers. I would especially like to thank the people of Richmond, VA, for standing by me. In the 48 hours I have been home, many people I have never met before have stopped me on the street, waved and smiled as I passed by, or said hello in a restaurant. All have said "We are glad you are home, Randy". You all make me proud and grateful that I call Richmond home.

2. I would like state that I suffered no abuse, from either authorities or inmates, during my incarceration in Pankrác. I received no special treatment, and was in general population with everyone else- make no mistake, it was prison, not some celebrity rehab tv show. But I was treated fairly by the guards and kindly by my fellow inmates. People are dying of starvation all over the world. Men and women are losing their lives daily in the Middle East and other war torn regions. I had food, clothes, shelter, and no one was trying to kill me. I cannot complain over a short stay in prison while many people elsewhere fight to survive on a daily basis.

3. If it is deemed necessary for me to do so, I WILL return to Prague to stand trial. While I maintain my innocence 100%, and will do so steadfastly, I will NOT hide in the United States, safe from extradition and possible prosecution. As I write this, the family of a fan of my band suffers through the indescribably tragic loss of their child. They have to deal with constantly varying media reports about the circumstances surrounding his death. I am charged with maliciously causing severe bodily harm to this young man, resulting in his death. While I consider the charge leveled against me ludicrous and without qualification, my opinion makes no difference in this matter. The charge exists, and for the family of this young man, questions remain. The worst possible pain remains. It is fairly common knowledge amongst fans of my band that I once lost a child as well. I, unfortunately, am intimately familiar with what their pain is like. Therefore, I know all too well that in their time of grief, this family needs and deserves some real answers, not a media explosion followed by the accused killer of their son hiding like a coward thousands of miles away while they suffer. I am a man. I was raised to face my problems head on, not run from them like a petulant child. I hope that justice is done, and the family of Daniel N. will receive the closure they undoubtably need to facilitate healing. I feel VERY STRONGLY that as an adult, it would be both irresponsible and immoral for me not to return to Prague if I am summoned. This is not about bail money. This is about a young man who lost his life. I will act with honor, and I will fight to clear my good name in this matter. Thank you for reading this, and I wish you all peace.

(Courtesy - Rolling Stone. )

I got to see Lamb of God, finally, in January 2013 and loved the show. He had extra bellicosity and vigor in his performance, like he needed any more. But true to his word, he returned to the Czech Republic to stand trial. Before the day of his verdict, this is what he had to say.

“It’s a beautiful morning in Prague, & time for me to go to what is (hopefully) my final day in court here- supposedly judgement will be passed today & I will move on with my life in one direction or the other. Which direction that is, I do not know. I could walk free, or conversely go to prison for up to ten years. Such is my life right now, & I must stay in this moment until its resolution. Whatever happens to me, do not feel sorry for me, for I am at peace & refuse to feel sorry for myself. Life happens. Deal with it.
“Some people cannot understand why I have returned, saying I should not come back here. KNOW THIS, & mark my words well- it would be absolutely intolerable for me to hide from this situation. I am an innocent man, but a family suffers the loss of a son, a fan of my band. That is what this whole thing is truly about, not prison, not money, not politics, not ME- it is about a young man who lost his life at just 19 years of age. He will never come back, & it breaks my heart. I would not be able to sleep at night knowing that I did not behave honorably & try to give his family some answers. That would be disgraceful, and I do not wish to dishonor myself or my family by acting in such a cowardly manner. I was raised to face my problems head on. For me, this is BEING A MAN. I categorically refuse to live in a constant state of guilt & fear. I would rather die.
“My morality & convictions are not dependent upon unforeseeable circumstance, nor malleable when difficulty arises. So I walk this morning to court with my head held high, no matter what others opinions of me may be. I have to face myself in the mirror, & tomorrow morning, where ever I may wake up, I will be able to do that without regret. This is THE ONLY path to true freedom for me- peace within myself. This is the manner in which I choose to try my best to live my life, & I hope you all do the same- do your best to do what is right, no matter how difficult it may be. I promise you, this will bring you peace. I thank you all for your support, I wish you all a good day, & to quote one of my favorite movies: STRENGTH AND HONOR.”
After all was said and done, Randy was acquitted and this is what he had to say about it. 
I am leaving Prague now – I hope not to return for a long while. This has nothing to do with this city, the people who live here, or the Czech Republic itself at all. This is a wonderful place, and many people have been kind to me. Not a single soul here has been rude or mean to me at all, nor done me any harm – in fact it is quite the opposite. I have grown to love this city, for it is a marvelous, magical town. I encourage everyone to come visit here, to see this lovely country. But for me it is a place of great sadness.

While I am relieved that my innocence was proven and apparently I shall not be going to prison, I am in no way shape or form a happy man right now. The small inconveniences I have been through since my arrest are not noteworthy. People go through much worse daily and still keep a smile on their faces, but currently my smiles are far and few between. A young man is still dead, and his family still suffers. Please remember that fact. This family did no wrong, and have shown me great kindness - with silence, with actions, and finally with words - they spoke on my behalf to the court, and we had a private talk afterwards. All I will say about that is that they were very kind to me and displayed the utmost strength and class, and wished me a good life. They just want to get on with their lives the best they can. I wish them only the best, and will keep them in my thoughts and prayers. Please do the same - think good thoughts of them and healing thoughts for them. Trust me, they are good people, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. They did NOTHING wrong.

This picture is from Kutna Hora, at the Sedlec Ossuary. I was there yesterday - like Prague, it is an amazing place. About this city, Kafka wrote: "Prague doesn't let go... This old crone has claws. One has to yield, or else." I have found this to be true. I am yielding, I am leaving a part of myself here, I think. Some bit of me will always roam these streets at night, and that is only fitting. Now I will go home and try to see what good I can make come out the destruction that occurred here - it is the only correct thing to do. Rest in peace, Daniel Nosek.

He did not hide. He was not ashamed. He did not let his prison stay change his impression of what had happened. He stood up for what is right and did the right thing every time. And he holds his head high. He showed every dickheaded moron in the world, what it is to be a man, if they ever needed another example. For me, I had found a true hero of my own. Take a bow, you amazing man.