Jun 27, 2012

Any fan of Rock music would notice that the majority of it comes from USA. Though the best of them, the most inspiring ones, seem to spring from the UK and then reach the world via USA. Either way, while listening to Aerosmith's Get a Grip this morning, I was musing at how the 90s saw some fine, polished production within the genre -
Aerosmith's Get A Grip (1993/Bruce Fairbairn)
Guns n' Roses Use Your Illusions I and II (1991/Mike Clink, Guns N' Roses)
Metallica's Black album (1991/Bob Rock)
Nirvana's Nevermind (1991/Butch Vig)
Bon Jovi's These Days (1995/Peter Collins, Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora)
Scorpions' Pure Instinct (1996/Erwin Musper, Keith Olsen and Scorpions)
... and so on.

Each of these albums represent a slight change in the quality of production of these bands' music  from their previous releases. The bands' compositions were given that edge by working with some great producers who knew what to do with it, where to take it.

I learn today, that Bruce Fairbarn had died in 1999 (Read: Obituary Bruce Fairbarn), but had till that date produced a lot of very successful albums. He tried his hand first at being a musician but those  bands never reached heights he had hoped for. On the other hand, his successes as producer are noteworthy - Get A Grip, Slippery When Wet (Bon Jovi), Elegantly Wasted (INXS) and lots more.

Here in Bangladesh, a lot of bands start out and they really have to rely on themselves to produce their albums. There aren't really any 'producers' at work for the most part. Exceptions? In recent times, Jewel, who is a well known guitar player of Legend, Warfaze, and now Miles and X-Factor (his own project) has acted as producer for Black's album 'Abar'. That did seem like a well produced, balanced album, though 'Uthshober Por' before that, and 'Black' which came after 'Abar', were also well produced. Jewel however also arranged a series of rock albums with new and old talents of the country - Rock 101 till 707, where he played curator - selecting bands from a pool of probably 50 or 60 bands each time. A better use of Jewel's producing abilities would've been to select less bands and work on the production a little with them.

Western genres (esp. rock, metal and the like) are not considered widely marketable music (though time and again, rock concerts have had raised lots of money for different causes). In a country that sways so much to imported Bollywood music, its commercial success is also influencing local artists to follow their trends. As a result, even older local music or styles are not really getting produced. However, when you love a style so much, you tend to create and try, and there are some formidable Bangla rock bands here - Cryptic Fate, aforementioned Black, Arbovirus, Breach, Nemesis, Kral and others. They have all been around for some time, and spent countless years trying to realize and learn what makes a great production. Since we started from a point where we lacked even the tools for great productions, we have seen some studios (e.g. Bengal Studio in Baridhara, Acoustic Artz in Dhanmondi) invest in good equipment. Though we don't have studios apt for live recording (all instruments played and recorded at once), the album 'Arnob and Friends' (not rock, but an ecclectic mix of pop, folk and others) was done that way with musicians in different rooms. Others realize that since they payoff isn't much, it doesn't matter if you record everything digitally in your bedroom using lightweight soundcards and other shortcuts. Then comes the lack of producers - a person with ideas, with a vast landscape of aural vision, who when he or she hears a demo, can hear the possibilities ringing inside for a great song. On the other hand, some musicians fail to understand the role of a producer and bear negative impressions or mistake it for the role of 'the man'.

Some Bruce Fairbairn statements:

"None of the songs on Pump would have flown if the guys in Aerosmith hadn't played them great initially. Once you have something good on tape, then you have a really solid basis to play around with, adding the production aspects, mixing in texture and colour to the tracks. All those songs can be stripped down - you can get rid of the horns, the piano, the accordion - and still have a good album with great songs. The production is just there to enhance what the band has done. It's like baking a great cake with a lot of icing. I like a lot of icing."

"If a band feel they can't make a good record unless they're high, I tell them to find somebody else to get high and make a record with"
Kirk Hammett vs. Bob Rock
Classic Albums Documentaries

Posted on Wednesday, June 27, 2012

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Jun 26, 2012

Buses and Tempos
I used to travel by buses or "tempos" - which are three wheeled vehicles with a carrier at the back where people sit along the walls. Some bus services are government owned and their buses are standard, but by no means enough. The use of the word standard was to differentiate them from the privately owned services - where you'll see buses that wouldn't pass the 'fitness' standards of anywhere but third world countries - their front or back or all lights are either missing, or hanging by a wire, the seats inside are cramped to maximise the number of seats for maximum profit. Tempos have similar inhuman arrangements. Both of these services can be seen packing people to the brim where you might be standing indecently close to another sorry human being just trying to make his way to work or wherever. Apparently the bus owners' association is so strong that they are above the law. One member of that association is a minister. Conflict of interest anyone?

Taxis and Autorickshaws
These were introduced I suppose 10 or 15 years ago (autorickshaws existed long before, but not the variety we see on the roads today which run on CNG or Compressed Natural Gas) - when they were all new and used to run without any noise. That was true for about 2 years. They are fixed with meters that the drivers are not too happy about.

Everyone in the past 5 years have also grown weary and angry about these drivers constant refusal to go anywhere and their high fares when they do agree. They say they have to pay higher than the affixed charge to the people they lease the taxi from. Apparently this is a problem our law & order people cannot fix.

When I was able to get my hands on a car - be it an 86 model reconditioned car that was used before me for 16 years, boy was I glad. Glad to be above the mental torture that was trying to get on a bus or trying to speak out against their reckless driving when no one else would support me, or the hour spent trying to negotiate a taxi to get to work or back home! I was super glad, lets just say. However, running an old car is mighty expensive. After three years of having it, its become my main expense, especially for the last three months. As I was nearing saving enough to buy a fresher car - a reconditioned one from Japan maybe, since they are reliable enough to run for a good number of years, we have come close to another budget - and what have you - more taxes to be placed on cars. The reason he stated was what caused this downpour! They are luxury goods!? Really! In a country where public transport is allowed to reach such demeaning lows, how could you say that! If I visit neighboring Kolkata or Thailand, I find their sense of humanity is still reflected in their public transport systems. Buses in Thailand were wide, with enough leg-space and lots of place for standing commuters to be comfortable. They also have tempos which are the same way.

Cherry on Top: Tax-Free Rides for Ministers
An editorial yesterday went over the state of a provision that allows ministers to import cars duty free. This was put in place as an incentive for ministers serving remote areas. However, there are cases where they had just imported cars and sold them for profit! A civic sense if such existed might have denounced and punished these people. What exists instead is a sense that they deserve this. This is one issue that the feuding parties of our so-called democracy agree on and take advantage of.  Apparently, this governments term saw the most use of this providence. So, citizens, stay on the grass and just watch in awe as our lords and ladies continue to carry on this theater of governance and service. The editorial is linked below. The total amount of tax evaded through this provision is said to stand at Taka 280,00,00,000 (with current exchange rates, a little over 34 million US Dollars).

ধনবান মন্ত্রী-সাংসদদের গাড়ি-ক্ষুধা (সোহরাব হাসান)
PERSONAL: Navigating through Dhaka (Sanday Chongo Kabange)

সহজিয়া কড়চা: তালিয়া বাজাও—জোরসে তালিয়া বাজাও (সৈয়দ আবুল মকসুদ)

Posted on Tuesday, June 26, 2012

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Jun 20, 2012

Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.

Albert Einstein

Posted on Wednesday, June 20, 2012

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Jun 19, 2012

This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back again. 
 Oscar Wilde

Posted on Tuesday, June 19, 2012

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I posted my hopeful rants about a film "Runaway" some time ago, and later learned that the film was on the film festivals' circuits in USA and elsewhere. That meant, it will be some time before I can get a chance to see it.

However I pranced on another film by chance today, that comes out of India, but has the name of the city where I grew up in! "Chittagong". This looks very promising too, and seems to be also in the rounds of film festivals. I also learn that there is an Indian Film Festival in New York! Bravo India! Goes to show what you can do when you have properly educated individuals in the arts.

Posted on Tuesday, June 19, 2012

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Jun 17, 2012

This post contains an excerpt from the book Manob Sagor Teeray, by Shankar (মানব সাগর তীরে/শংকর) about france, the french and often about how different of similar they are to Bengalis, or the rest of the world. Insightful and funny accounts from 1990.

"এই একটা ব্যাপারে ইন্ডিয়ার লোকদের কিচ্ছু শেখার আছে. রাষ্ট্রপ্রধানদের নামে রাস্তা করা ফরাসি রুচিতে বাধে, যদিও অন্য রাষ্ট্রপ্রধানদের নামে রাস্তা করতে ফরাসিদের আপত্তি নেই - তাই রাস্তা আছে জর্জ ওয়াশিংটন, লিঙ্কন, ফ্রাঙ্কলিন, রুজভেল্ট, চার্চিল ও জেনারেল আইজেন্হাওয়ার-এর নামে. ....

শিল্পী, সাহিত্যিক, অভিনেতা ও দার্শনিকের নামে রাস্তা করতে প্যারিস অবশ্য সারাক্ষণ উঁচিয়ে আছে. ইবসেন থেকে বালজাক পর্যন্ত কেও বাদ যাননি. লর্ড বায়রনের নামে রাস্তা আছে অথচ উইলিয়াম শেক্সপিয়ারকে কোনো অজ্ঞাত কারণে ফরাসি এখনও যাতে তোলেনি. দার্শনিল কার্ল মার্ক্স-এর নামাঙ্কিত রাস্তা রয়েছে, কিন্তু লেনিন ও স্তালিন ঢুকেছে পিছনের রাস্তা দিয়ে, এঁদের নামে রাস্তা না ঠেকলেও স্তালিনগ্রাদ ও লেনিনগ্রাদ নামে রাস্তা আছে. ভারতবর্ষের একমাত্র প্রতিনিধি মহাত্মা গান্ধী. "
For non-Bangla readers, the writer above is talking about how in India, it is common practice to  name streets, buildings or bridges (the latter two not in the above excerpt, but elsewhere in the book) after head of states, where as for the French, it went against their taste. As for buildings and bridges, as mentioned in another part of the book, bear the names of the designers or the architects (makes sense, give credit, where credit is due). In the above excerpt, he notes how they have streets named after artists, writers, actors, and philosophers - Ibsen, Balzac, and Lord Byron for example.

The flip side in Bangladesh is not far from India naturally. Though, the writer here claims that the Indians only had Mahatma Gandhi, a Bangladeshi from an outsider's point of view could claim that they also had Nehru. Coming back, I have often mentioned often that we have a merry-go-round of 5 year power grips of the two major parties here in our democracy (demo-wha!?) - BNP and the BAL. Thus, every 5 years its common to have a lot of money spent to rename a lot of things - be they schools, or places like the "Moulana Bhasani Novo-Theatre"or a stadium. Like I said in my last post - Love They Leader, each party loves their figurehead, and would gladly accept a 15 year old spawn from them as their next leader (almost, you should see it isn't too far fetched).

Both parties also require from their members a pledge to respect and revere the establishing fathers of the parties, and to do so unconditionally. That is noticeable each time one of them is in power, in the form of a portrait of that establishing father in every govt. office. I was joking with a fellow the other day, that if we produced a frame that had their photos on each side, then we could just turn that around every 5 years! Maybe its already whats happening, I don't know!

Its a noticeable trait of a society, to see who they name the streets after - showing in turn, who they uphold. I applaud the French in this small acceptance of even foreigners' names on their streets in remembering what those foreigners upheld - a noble attempt in politics, literature, arts or another field. BAL's strong arm tactics however would have anyone believe that most of our notable upholders of the goodness of humanity came from Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family. The lunatic is most inraged about the treatment Moulana Bhasani's name has been getting.

Posted on Sunday, June 17, 2012


Jun 15, 2012

In Bangladeshi Democracy, each party is like a lil' fan club of its figurehead. 

They wish him/her well, respect him/her, love him/her, and want to shower them with gifts of flowers, odes and Nobel prizes. I am shocked no one in the meeting mentioned a Booker, Nobel for Literature, or a Pullitzer.

Posted on Friday, June 15, 2012

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Jun 12, 2012

In publishing and designing websites, there is a paragraph of Latin that designers use to demonstrate a space where text should go, and how much. That paragraph could be:

Lorem Ipsum dolor sit amet mi id ligula amet morbi tellus sollicitudin dolor pellentesque. Morbi accumsan lacinia velit metus morbi ipsum sit sollicitudin consectetur. Ullamcorper viverra sollicitudin sit mauris posuere auctor praesent id lorem. Tortor elit facilisis sit ligula tellus ac sollicitudin facilisis sollicitudin.

There are supportive sites on the Internet where you could generate this amount of text depending on the space on your website or page you want to fill.

While watching our parliament session last night (and of course watching them in general), I wonder if they get trained in their own little academies on how to fill the time given to them to answer questions, with meaningless Latin. Of course Latin is not meaningless to those who understand, and I am not sure who is meant to be the audience for these politicians when they start with their filler speeches!

Last night, a question was put for the home ministry, an apt question considering the recent display of the audacity and the ineffectiveness of the police force. The question was not so well stated, due to what I think is the attempt (of all in parliament) to be theatrical. Since the home minister was not present (?), the second-in-command was asked to answer. That is what inspired this post.

The filler speech could be broken down to two things, and they have 2 or 3 minutes usually to fill:
  1. - Draw attention to the failures of the past regime with lots of emotional appeals, hand gestures, pauses - things that will put many stage actors to shame. This works too, since our two major parties almost without fail have cyclically come to power and have found it enough time to take whatever it is they need to survive the years they are to be out of power
  2. - Speak highly of the dreams, goals and steps taken by the founding father of the party.
I was happy when the law & order question was asked, since, I and many citizens believe that the home minister should have stepped down or been fired for her inadequacies. Even on the evening this question was posed, there was a report in all the morning papers of a policeman beating a judge outside a courthouse somewhere.

While the fillers were being delivered, I felt like laughing out loud (LOL) like the lunatic I am, and I did to some extent. I could not believe the answer I was getting! Then he also pointed out that they increased their salaries and so and so forth.

We have managed to really turn our heads from what is the root of a problem and just throw money around as if the problem was that they didn't have enough toys or enough to eat. He mentioned they bought pick up trucks too. An editorial was also published which asked if we need to spend even more money on them to get them to do their jobs! A lot of people say they have a tough job. I don't disagree, but I think, so does a farmer, a rickshawala, a thela-gariwala (men who transport heavy goods on pull carts) and so many other people who live on less than them. Who will rise up and put us in perspective? Thanks for asking the question at least MP Fazlul Azim. Don't know what kind of a person you really are, but thanks for the question last night indeed.

Posted on Tuesday, June 12, 2012

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Jun 11, 2012

This post contains an excerpt from the book Manob Sagor Teeray, by Shankar (মানব সাগর তীরে/শংকর) about france, the french and often about how different of similar they are to Bengalis, or the rest of the world. Insightful and funny accounts from 1990.

... এক কাগজে পড়েছিলাম, ঢাউস-ঢাউস শহর তৈরিতে ইউরোপীয় ও আমেরিকান সাহেবদের অরুচি ধরে গিয়েছে. দুনিয়ার বিশিষ্ট শহরগুলির তালিকা এখন তৈরী হয় লোকসংখ্যা অনুযায়ী নয়, লোকের ট্যাকে কত পয়সা আছে তার হিসেবে. ট্যাকের পয়সা এবং রুজি-রোজগারের হিসেব উঠলে আমরা কলকাত্তাইয়ারা অবশ্য গোহারান হেরে যাব, দুনিয়ার দুশ বিত্তবান শহরের তালিকাতেও আমাদের নাম থাকবে না. আসলে আমরা কেবল সংখ্যায় বেড়ে চলেছি, সামর্থ্যে নয়, সমৃদ্ধিতিতে  নয়. স্রেফ লোকগণনার জোরে টাউন থেকে সিটি, সিটি থেকে মেট্রোপলিটন, মেট্রোপলিটন থেকে মেগাপলিস-এর তালিকায় নাম লিখিয়ে কোনো লাভ নেই. 

Though the above was written in 1990, what the writer mulls over comparing his own city of Kolkata and the cities of Europe and USA, seems to hold true still for us in Bangladesh after all these years. Kolkata I hear, has really cleaned itself up on the other hand. Dhaka holds such an allure for so many, whoever comes here doesn't want to leave. One factor is that there are no other cities that come close to it in terms of being active and alive. Chittagong, where I grew up is an important city, and while there, we used to think we'd never leave - it was a blessing in the form of 'less crowded', 'scenic', and thus 'peaceful'. However since being a teenager in the 90s to now, I have only seen the degradation of the roads and the train services that connect Dhaka and Chittagong. Not to mention that Chittagong is the major port of Bangladesh and hence it affects businesses a lot to have to allocate one day for goods to transport in between where it should have taken two to three hours.

The writer is also touching on the subject of the wealth of a city. Dhaka has managed to create a caste system over the years in the struggle to accumulate. Whoever has to be put down, will be put down in an effort to get land, housing, a living. The poorest are the ones to suffer the most (failing even to get justice often when asking for it), and crime is on the rise. The appropriation of utilities of the city - power, gas (for cooking, cars, generators) and water - are under immense pressure.

Yet, the city is growing. Dhaka's allure is so powerful, that it is being grown sideways and upwards so people don't have to feel they are leaving it. Yet, we are not working hard enough in improving communication with, and building other major cities where other industries and commerce might flourish. The government has already given in to their friends from India (Sahara Matribhumi) to build a "New Dhaka" without having gone to the local developers or their association called REHAB. Brav-Oh!

My sense of things when I had the chance to visit Europe, USA, or even closer countries like Malaysia and Thailand, was that they as a nation knew, or was guided to what would be 'peace of mind' for the majority of the country. There are grievances in Malaysia about certain racial issues, but they are still fortunate to have well connected cities where industries exist and people can consider moving from one city to another professionally without a sense of losing out. They all seem to have plans to not burden one particular city with everyone. Our plan seem to be using all the projects that can be set up to get money into pockets where it doesn't belong, in the name of common good. How else do you explain rising taxes and a provision for Whitening Black Money?

GINI Index of Bangladesh
Sahara vs. Developers in Bangladesh
Critique of Sahara Group
Tax lawyers oppose legalising black money

Posted on Monday, June 11, 2012

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Jun 10, 2012

This post is inspired by the book Manob Sagor Teer-ay, by Shankar (মানব সাগর তীরে/শংকর) about france, the french and often about how different of similar they are to Bengalis, or the rest of the world. Insightful and funny accounts from 1990.
If the Parisians invented sitting around in a cafe and doing nothing, maybe its not that apparent these days since it has caught on so much worldwide. As I am reading Shankar's account of Paris, I am beating myself up about my own trip there, which now in comparison seems much less interesting. Shankar's friend Pachuda is taking him around the city right now, first they bought bread from a shop where people love it so much, they queue up for it (I think its this one), and then they are about to go to a cafe, while all the way Pachuda is telling him the history of the love affair between coffee and the French. It struck me to look for something similar on YouTube, and this is what I found - However, one walk around any area in Dhaka, you're bound to find a tea stall, or a tea stand, and lots of people around it or in it. You may not find anyone reading a book there or sitting quietly, but, definitely you'll find the other thing that makes us tick - ADDA - or chatting.

Posted on Sunday, June 10, 2012

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Jun 4, 2012

What are we first? This question is often asked when trying to prioritize the identity of a person. You might hear someone say, I am an American first (though some Mexicans will take offense to that and that the correct term should be United States of American), then a Muslim, and then a father, and so on. Based on the religion you subscribe to, a philosophy, a profession, a nationality, you could prioritize them to reflect how you judge a circumstance, or how you act.

We saw these questions come up recently in the news. When newsmen got beaten down by the police, they took a more intense stance on their reports against them than before. There was a lack of that intensity when the receiver of that brutality were ordinary citizens. Before, we heard of reporters being persuaded to not publish a story by some mild push from higher ups in the government, and two TV channels had magically disappeared off air due to some pushing from some 'mysterious' quarters just before the opposition's meeting was about to be aired. This current intensity also didn't last long, went largely amiss just before the "Meet the Press" fiasco with Sahara Khatun.

REHAB (Real Estate & Housing Association of Bangladesh) is a bunch in a frenzy buying up land from those who own it, with deals that are hard to pass up. Their identity is clearly established. Though I am not fond of them in any way, I have to say I agreed once with something they've said. When Sahara Group came over and suddenly emerged here as the company of choice for the government in building small towns outside the city, REHAB had to come out and say "Hey! What about us?". I have often mused in the frantic fashion that I do, that "we need to get these developers to do projects outside Dhaka before they cover up the view of the sky with these tall buildings". Its a shame that they are being sidelined quickly by the rich and powerful of India. The govt. could've also initiated this with REHAB (the point the latter is making), but I guess they like what this Sahara had to offer (well, they like what both Saharas have to offer, despite or becuase of). My 'consumer' identity however, has no respect for most of these developers, since their profit margins still don't seem to allow safety provisions and weekends for their workers, and their products leave a lot to be desired frankly. There are also reports of unlawful or unjust land acquisitions.

As part of a democracy (ho ho ho), we also have to be 'voters'. Now this is important, cause for 5 years, or more, you have to live with that decision. We have a booming democracy, two parties who have democratically selected their party founder's family members for years, and will for years to come, at the helms of their parties. They use their freedom of expressions to lick their feet and bottoms and their freedom of speech to flower them with odes. 

Just today, news came that the parliament discussions had concluded that Abdullah Abu Syed, who is an educator and famous for his "Bishwo Sahityo Kendro" (which has been encouraging kids to read for years), has been undemocratic, unpatriotic, unconstitutional and should apologize. This due to his appearance at the TIB show the day before, and calling names to politicians ("unethical" or "corrupt"). I didn't vote for BAL (Queen Mother, I still love you! Please don't get me whipped), and now I must suffer them standing up in parliament and claiming that politicians voted in by people, should not be called names, its like calling names to those voters, to the countrymen! Damn! Ship me out already!

I don't know where this is going, so I'll try to conclude here. Whether you are a REHAB businessman, or a person who is a fan of either of the parties' founders, or a reporter, whatever your identity is, think both of humanity and justice when you put your voter caps on. A few ministers has had done very well, in their fields - food, agriculture, you can identify them clearly and vote for them. For the rest of us, we should give the 4th/5th and 6th man/symbol a chance (considering the 3rd man might be H M Ershad - we already ousted him out once! Don't tell me you forgot?!!!).

Open Letter to Prime Minister:

Posted on Monday, June 04, 2012

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