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Mon, 26 Oct 2009:

People don't make decisions. Decisions make people.

That can't be true. I know to the exact dot, dash and every crossed tee to why I made the decision to write this blog. Or am I just writing out a rational framework as an after-thought to a pithy cliche? Maybe it's because I picked up an Orwell book and read Shooting an Elephant again?

I will never know. Not for sure. The sequence of thoughts that precede and follow an action are often so mixed up in retrospect. They get even more muddled up when I introspect deeper. I can't use my mind to understand itself. Going third-person collective on this stuff!

We strive to maintain a certain rational self-integrity as a survival trait. In some sense, our self images involve a picture of a conscious, self-evolved and rational person. We cling to it, however transparently false it might be to everyone else around. We are proud of it.

Impulsive decisions prompt a certain cognitive dissonance in deep dark of your sub-conscious. You know you aren't that kind of a person, but the act is behind you and there's no rewriting your actions. But perhaps there's other things you can change to make it all fit. Most of us fight it by becoming a new self, to whom the actions are a natural consequence of who they are. I understand, even have grown to respect that it's inevitable. But rather than admit that the change of heart was after the action, we'd rather revise our history a bit to recover a bit of internal coherence. Because in the disordered and confused world they live in, the coherence of self is perhaps the only thing they've got left to hold onto.

You've become a different person and it surprises everyone around you. The most convenient lie to trot out to mask all this internal turmoil is the ever cliched "I've always been like this, you didn't know me well enough!". I can't really read minds, but I've learnt to read people. Observing people will themselves into believing this - that they haven't changed due to their decisions and that causality flowed the other way around - has brought me some insight into the ways change has creeped into me.

I've come to embrace it. My decisions have changed me, some for better & some for worse. I'm a product of my decisions, not of my dreams or desires - of my decisions & actions. I live out my own punctuated equilibrium of personal evolution. And not everything that changed me came from within. I'm not taking anything away from myself with that admission. It's the truth.

But I've come to despise the impulsive pretenders of later rationality.

Perhaps despise is too strong a word. But it'll do for now.

One could laugh at the world better if it didn't mix tender kindliness with its brutality.
          -- D. H. Lawrence

posted at: 06:01 | path: /observations | permalink | Tags: , ,

Wed, 14 Oct 2009:

Inglourious Basterds. I almost had to be dragged to this movie. I'd like to thank that person before I actually put down anything here.

Now, I'm not a big fan of gore. I mean, superflous, gratuitous gore that Tarantino has almost made into an art. I'm not against realistic, in-context gore, but the sauce and ketchup show that was the restaurant scene in Kill Bill is exactly the kind of scene I never want to see again. I shouldn't have worried about that. I really shouldn't have, because I was in for a treat.

Tarantino had it spot-on with the Basterds. For what, from a quick glance, promises to be a jewish cowboy Western mashed into a World War II universe, the movie really revolves round the brilliant performances of two characters. It turns into a drama of unexpected events and odd coincidences, instead of the grit & gumption of the war hero. The script really winds around them and are perhaps the most real characters I've ever encountered in a Tarantino movie. So, move over Brad Pitt and the rest of the Basterds off the posters and let Shoshanna & Landa take their well deserved privileges. They're the real deal. It's their movie.

Shoshanna. I'm undeniably smitten by this woman. She is not a woman of violence, but neither is she driven to it. Violence lay in her path and she accepted it within herself. Her character is beautifully portrayed as woman whose war walked in through her front door & sat down to watch a movie. As the unwittingly chosen angel of death, she brings vengence back into style! Played by the lovely Melanie Laurent, her eyes speaking better than her words, Shoshanna comes to life right before our eyes. And dies.

But without a Hans Landa, there wouldn't be a Shoshanna. The multi-lingual SS officer is probably the key character to the entire plotline. The first few minutes of the movie are entirely his. But as the movie rolls on, it becomes clear that what he does is just what his job is. He is portrayed as a man who is given a dirty job because he's the best at what he does. By no means is he a positive character and eventually painted as a traitor, but he's not a demon posessed with a single-minded quest. Indeed, the way he deals with von Hammersmark, is frightening at a level beyond the impending violence. He's an intelligent opportunist on the wrong side of the line. And he plays that role with a smile and straight faced perfection.

The attention paid to details in the movie is amazing. The German three fingers versus the british three, the fancy shoe left behind, the autograph with the kiss and even the intial scenes where the conversation in French & English is intended to lull the hiding children into a false sense of security. Though I'm not quite happy with the way Hitler has been portrayed, he can be demonized without making him a comical misfit.

But perhaps, just perhaps the movie should've ended with Shoshanna's message and her laugh echoing through the flaming wreckage.

In a war of ideas, it is people who get killed.
    -- Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

posted at: 01:32 | path: /movies | permalink | Tags: ,

Tue, 06 Oct 2009:

Occasionally, as I flip back the pages of my life, I find myself in conversation with a younger me from a much older time. As if caught in a flipbook time machine, I see myself change, grow and in some sense, stay the same. Once in a while though, I turn up a page with which I disagree with enough to need revisiting.

In the mid-summer of 2007, out of my frustrations with work was born an unadulterated rant of pure cynicism.

There's some sort of misplaced humility that is injected into us by our educational system. Or maybe it is some sort social stigma attached to the braggart or overacheiver. Must've been what was going through Lennon's mind as he penned down "they'll hate you if you're clever and they despise a fool". Eventually, the struggle to stand out and the pressures to blend in, find some sort of balance in your inner selves. You'll be happy to be the best at something everybody is doing. And even if you aren't, it's somewhat a partially ordered set. Life makes sense and the years roll on.

So you are the real deal, the bee's knees. To start off your career, you dive in and start pulling your weight. Even a moron in a hurry can see that what you're doing valuable, nay essential to the company. Your management wants to know that, it's exactly the kind of information they crave. When it's handed to them in a platter, they love it. But, you keep working, in your little corner. Nobody notices anything and if they do, it's when you fail. You complain about not being noticed to your peers, you write out long rants on your blog about how your life sucks.

Most people at this point in their careers blame the management for everything that's wrong at their job. And treat every peer who chooses to move into management as a blood traitor. I'm not denying that there are bad managers, just the same as there are bad people. But most managers promoted out of rank & file end up being good people with a job which looks like herding cats, except without any catnip. The people working under ordinary managers go passive agressive in their rebellion, complicating the situation further. Eventhough 'tis a betrayal every which way, it happens because nobody trusts anybody.

You are doing something very important and valuable to the company. Then why don't they trust you? Because they have had people work under them in past who were poor communicators because they weren't getting anything done. They even had good people work under them who secretly didn't like the plans, but kept their traps shut and worked towards a fait accompli. So if you communicate poorly, they are not going to give you the benefit of the doubt. No matter how many poor communicators actually end up getting work done, the managers will always remember the times they've been burned.

You don't need to be a 'Yes Man' or a atrocious sychophant to get your manager to treat you well. All you need to do is to make his job easier ... after all, managing you is pretty hard work. Though, there's such a thing as overdoing it. But that's yet another story altogether.

Watching your future with much interest,
  — future me.

Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
           -- George Bernard Shaw

posted at: 22:01 | path: /observations | permalink | Tags: , ,