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Yesterday i was ‘dragged to court’. Must to the chagrin of my family. ‘Why did you get involved?’ ‘you should have just walked away’, now you’re going to have to waste half your life there and you’re never going to be able to even leave the country, was the general surmise.

It was about this. Some three months ago i was driving down Lorenz Rd and discovered the body of Kanapadipillai Udayakanthan, he didn’t seem to have had a very comfortable death judging by the blood and wounds. I told the cops, and with one casual phone call on Sunday afternoon someone from the Bambalapitiya Police summoned me to court. Told me to come the next day. No letters sent to my house, no paperwork just ‘Hello, is this Abdul Halik? Come to court tomorrow at 9 a.m kthnksbye’.

I’m like erm.. is this some sort of prank call? So i asked my cousin who practices in Hulftsdorp, apparently this is the yoush when it comes to criminal cases. He scared me a little and asked if i needed a lawyer, i filled him in on the details and he said that i could probably make do without one. ‘Probably’? relief mixed with apprehension, what have i got myself into?

Hulftsdorp is amazing. I’d only been there once before. You have all these massive old Dutch buildings. This one was so big that it stretched for almost a kilometer down the road i went in search of a mosque. And the majority of them don’t seem to be under heavy use, and have crumbling facades invaded by weeds and rubble.

I took my phone into court. No one checked. We sat in the back row (my dad insisted on accompanying me). Soon it was so crowded that people were jostling for standing space. It was hot and sweaty, and the lawyers were in black ties and jackets. I’m glad my ten year old self got distracted from the temporary ambition of becoming a lawyer.

Above it all one man ruled. No not the judge. The mudaliyar, to whom all the lawyers were sugary sweet . My dad filled me in. The mudaliyar is the in-between between the judge and the rest of the court. Administrative staff like him and the Registrar (what the mudaliyar becomes when he gets a promotion) are powerful because they can move files up and down and presumably do wondrous things to paperwork that can make or break a case. They net in the cash from corporates, rich/desperate people eager to make something go away.

The justice system wouldn’t be complete without its own unique brand of injustice.

I hear clanking. Like a thousand little bells going off. The prisoners, manacled, are being brought to the little cage in the corner from where they’ll observe proceedings. Wait what am i saying, they’re not prisoners yet, none of them have been proven guilty. But none of them have been proven innocent either. Apparently this is enough to cage and chain them.

There were some interesting cases being heard. One drug addict (going by his sallow cheeks, shadowy skin and sunken eyes) was allowed to represent himself. He was asked to cross examine the men testifying against him and he kept directing his questions to the mudaliyar, who repeatedly barked at him to ‘ask the damn witness, not me’. The phone in question was an ancient nokia 1100. The cost of the whole court case probably cost everyone involved several times its value.

He was put back into his cage and the case was postponed. At recess i saw him with his family throwing a little baby girl up and down in his arms. I smiled, he smiled and nodded as if we were long lost friends.

I felt sorry for the thambili seller up next. He had managed to acquire the services of a lawyer, who pleased on his behalf. Apparently he’s had no income for five days since the police confiscated his cart for trading on the pavement. He was given the cart, and let off with a warning.

The woman accused of prostitution was the best. She looked half like a beggar, and didnt seem to be al there. She loudly protested her innocence for ‘ayale yama’ or ‘indecency’ (Sri Lanka apparently doesnt have direct laws against prostitution). Whereupon said the judge (always via the mudaliyar, who is used as a mouthpiece) that she could get off with a fine of Rs 100 (yes 100 Rupees!) if she pleaded guilty. She wouldn’t hear of it. And was remanded for 9 days pending trial. I was like ‘you go girl’!

My testimony was carried out in the confines of the judge’s office. A stenographer took it down as i spoke on an ancient typewriter. I signed and left. The whole thing took about 5 minutes. But I sat in court for 5 hours.

Going to court is a hassle. I don’t think i’d like to do it several days over and over and over. Probably why a lot of Sri Lankans walk away or tip annonymously and straight out avoid any involvement like the plague. Being caught up in a case might mean a major restriction on your life, the inability to leave the country for extended time periods. And cases can last for years. Even decades. But i hugely enjoyed my visit to court yesterday. Everyone should go once. You can just walk in and sit down and watch. No need of cardboard summons even.

*title changed from Why Everyone Should Go To Court (as opposed to Once)

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The Fight of the Century is a cool video that depicts a rap battle between John Maynard Keynes and FA Hayek. Arguably the most influential guys in economics in the last century. Of course, they had opposing views otherwise this wouldn’t be a rap battle it would be a fist bumping gangland bop in caddies, or whatever.

Good for econ noobs and econ geeks alike. And for people in between, like me. Good for the lolz also i think. But not as lol worthy as Darth Vader Vs. Hitler say, but thats just slap dash humor. This here my good sir is intellectulolz. I reserve the coinage on that one. thankyou.

Keynes is famously known as the man who ended the Great Depression. His policies have somewhat stop started the Great Recession (these names i tellya) as well, but only barely. And many argue that the great recession wasn’t all that great as it was stupid. And the slacking rate of job creation makes them wonder if it has even ended as they say.

Hayek is the geek of the schoolyard who gets the last laugh (or the last lolz) on this one. He argues that u need to look at things from the bottom up and not top down. Advocates the free reign of markets and the surfing of the boom and bust economic cycle. You can’t let prices function if you bail out the failures.

Anyway, the above was a very disfigured narrative. I was just thinking that it was time for a blog post, then i saw this video courtesy Tim Harford (http://twitter.com/timharford). Or it could have been the other way about. Anyway ’tis pretty epic.

Now, enough talking. Here..

-here, take some free publicity

Remember the time when your Facebook messages page was only crammed to the hilt with invitations to theme parties happening around various nightlife establishments in the city of Colombo?

It’s surprising how quickly Facebook marketing was used by local event organizers. Just goes to show that they maybe understood their target audiences better than scruffy tie wearing corporate executives but i digress.

I for one didn’t appreciate their kind invites. I am not a party animal. At least not in the conventional way. Yes i like to stay away from stereotypical conventions. It reflects my rugged individuality and adventurous disposition but i’m digressing again.

Anyway this ‘shotgun’ approach to marketing parties over Facebook greatly offended my august sensitivities. This was where marketing innovation became overkill. I even had one chap whom i know distantly send me enthusiastic weekly messages inviting me to parties he was DJing at, in Washington DC.

After patiently declining his invites for many months I have now politely removed him from my friends list. And am no longer troubled by these invites. And my Facebook message page has since been taken over by infrequent messages from old friends and the long and repetitive conversations of the blogger gang trying to find appropriate times to meet each other, celebrate birthdays, fling random friendly insults etc.  Definitely an improvement.

So i got a bad taste in my mouth when i opened my inbox to find an invite from ‘the JUNGLE all the way to HOLLYWOOD’. Sitting there for my perusal. It was the usual hash. Except that it seemed to be referring to our wholesome nation as a ‘jungle’ and talked about its amazing party innovations such as red carpets, catwalk models and ‘live paparazzi’  and a ‘crew’ with the word HOLLYWOOD in their name to presumably add some authenticity to their claim of transporting you to Hollywood for one night. I quote:

We make you a star as our TV camera’s, paparazzi’s and prestige’s dj’s will show you what the glamorous life is all about !!
Do you’ll like to celebrate the Hollywood awards night with brad pit, tom Cruz, Megan fox and Angelina jolie???

Well here is your one and only chance.
For the first time Hollywood comes to Colombo!!

Gee I didn’t know all those A-listers were going to be in Sri Lanka but i suspect Brad ‘pit’ could be a lookalike impostor. Anyway all theme parties are filled with your standard drunk guys (who missed the memo about the dress code) and one or two good looking girls attached to rich, thuggish looking guys who take it in turns to cocktease the whole club (with other women, not thuggish looking guys). The bouncers stare at you like you’re a criminal waiting to incriminate yourself and the waiters are only polite after you’ve ordered liquor worth a cool few thousand.

Kind of depressing, unless you’re a rich thuggish looking guy with a beautiful girl on your arm who can get a kick out of parading for the laity. Iwas under the impression that theme parties had died out in Sri Lanka. But then i got invited to Hollywood.

Small note on ‘Foam parties’; I’ve never been to one but i have sighted people leaving these events. Remind me to go if the ‘depressed wet chicken’ look ever comes into fashion.

-the truth may hurt, but Jack Baur hurts more

The Economist ran a piece recently on how people are taking Jack Baur seriously. I mean seriously, this is Jack Baur we’re talking about. An excerpt;

During a televised debate in 2007, Tom Tancredo, a Republican presidential candidate, was asked what methods he would authorise to extract information from a terrorist suspect in a “ticking bomb” scenario. “I’m looking for Jack Bauer at that time, let me tell you,” he said. Bauer routinely tortures terrorists in disgusting ways to save innocent lives. Being a fictional character, he never tortures the wrong guy or extracts false information. Real life is not like that. Yet a Pew poll last year found that half of Americans think that torturing terrorist suspects can “sometimes” or “often” be justified. Only a quarter said “never”.

The amount of ‘terrorists’ tortured by the Bush administration was no small number. Maybe Jack Baur helped constrain public opinion to the level of what it was. Maybe he convinced Obama not to prosecute Bush. Whatever.

The movie industry trying to belittle atrocities created by wars their home country’s are engaged in are nothing new. I don’t know if this is done on purpose. If i was in more conspiratorial mood, i would tell you it was all the fault of the Jewish Lobby. But it comes down to a question of what impresses people about the movies they see. Its how the people see it that matters and not for what purpose the movies are made.

Batman, in last year’s The Dark Night, went completely batshit on international regulations and the rule of law. The message was clear; you fight fire with fire, and when fighting the lawless, you can’t let little things like laws get in your way.

Mot people, on the surface would probably like to think that movies don’t really influence the way they think. But most people really don’t know what influences the way they think. We think through ideas, through mental constructs we have built up that help us see the world in a particular light. And i assume that the foundations of these constructions are located in the subconscious. They build up beased on externalities that influence them. This is probably where Jack Baur comes in; he creeps into our subconscious and fucks with it.

Island Dreamin’  by T

What is art? every now and then i find myself posing such questions of a dangerously philosophical nature. The danger being that people will get that blank filmy look in their eyes and try to edge away from me in a sideways direction when i speak thus. This is why i have a blog.

‘All art is quite useless’ said Oscar Wilde, presumably right before he wrote ‘A Picture of Dorian Gray’. Where, as anyone who has read it or watched the movie (pfft, you watched the movie?!) will know, a work of art did come extremely in handy to a certain Mr. Dorain Gray. But to the rest of us who do not immerse ourselves in black magic, what is the point of art?

Take this rather fetching painting. This painting reminds me of Jungle Beach back in Galle. So i sit and stare at it. But the colors are wrong. The lines are too mathematically verticle. Water is only that color in swimming pools. In ways, this painting is as far away from the Jungle Beach iv seen as the concepts of integrity are to most modern Sri Lankan politicians.

But in other ways it makes a sense of familiarity wash over me. The greenery, the small stretch of sand caught between steep cliff and deep sea. The rock and cosy pathways leading down to the beach from a cut in the mountains. I can remember  it all quite well when looking at this painting.

Its strange. So art draws me to the real while displaying only a depiction of it. Art is an exaction of cousciousness on what we usually define as reality. Art, tightly defined, is not art. Art exists in that fringe at the edge of your eyes. And like a man wandering the forests in the night looking out for lions (this might seem like a dubious metaphor till you watch ‘Man Vs. Wild; African Savannah’), your best chances of seeing art is by observing it from the edge of your vision so to speak. Looking at it directly and trying to define it through your rational axioms of reasoning will only render art meaningless.

I think art is undefinable, and that is mostly how you define it. Nature and reality as we see it is probably only a product of our minds. And nature as it exists objectively is probably colored so much by our subjective perceptions of it as to render it almost completely distorted.

Take a fly. How it sees the world is how you would see it of you looked through a kaliedascope all your life. Dogs, are attuned to hearing different things. Lizards can see in two different directions at the same time, probably creating some depth perception problems but still. These creatures’ senses are only adapted to their needs. We humans would be arrogant to assume we percieve objective reality in its pure form.

Take a fly. Now imagine you’re the fly.

i was watching ICE AGE 3 the other day and some furry creatures suddenly fell into a pit of bubbling tar. Thats not the absurd bit, that kind of stuff probably took place all the time in prehistoric times. They probably had a mother of a public awareness campaign to stop it.

Even the floating bubbles were not that absurd. While the non physcs academia/ professional (i.e. the layman) may not find the concept of a bubble of gas lighter than air emanating from such a pit absurd, what he will find absurd (provided he is not stoned out of his mind) is the presence of a heavier than air squirrel with sharp claws floating a few feet off the ground inside said bubble.

I was not stoned out of my mind at that moment. So i noticed this. This blatant insult to all human knowledge physical. This violent thrust at the very guts of Isaac Newton himself. This, this… i cannot continue, i am spluttering too much.

Well not really. I am familiar with cartoon-esque absurdities you know, i grew up from 2 feet tall watching woody and road runner achieve mass feats of practical impossibility over and over again. But at that moment, as everyone around me crashed around laughing, i felt strangely disconnected.

Humans have a fascination with the fantastic. Yet they try and remove almost every element of it they possbly can from their daily lives. Instead, they reserve their hours of recreation to dreams of impossibility; helping to spawn and maintain a whole stand-alone industry.

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