Saturday, July 08, 2017

Is That All There Is?

This post is about watching TV.



Wow. What a song. Don't know if I've ever heard a pop song like it. Such a melancholic, witty, and knowing pop song. Turns out it was a major hit back in 1969.

It's featured at the beginning and end of episode 8 "Severance" in the 7th and final season of MAD MEN. I restarted watching the show recently, starting from the 6th season. I could never figure out what I liked about Mad Men, I always said that it was a weird and difficult show, hard to like.

However, in May I watched the 1st season of TWIN PEAKS. Don't think I'll watch the others, including the new one. Everyone I talked to about this would say "Isn't it weird?" and I would always respond, actually, it isn't. Watching Twin Peaks now, it feels like a lot of TV shows today; it's cinematic, long, directed by a film director, with lots of awkward pauses. Sure, back in 1990, it must've felt really bizarre, in the era of sitcoms. But I think David Lynch broke a lot of ground with this program, and influenced a lot of current TV, as many episodes of many shows now are directed by film directors, if not the entire series.

In rewatching Mad Men again, I realized very quickly that it had whiffs of Twin Peaks in it. Mad Men is also a weird and awkward show, and I finally figured out where that's coming from - I could really sense at times the impact that Lynch had on television.

I also like the program much more this time around. Before, I liked watching it, but I didn't know why. This time around, with rewatching season 6, the 1st half of season 7, and now I'm watching for the first time, the final 7 episodes, I can see what Mad Men is so good at. The writing is terrific, because you can never tell where the story is going. Even though I had seen most of these episodes already, and only a couple of years ago, I still found myself surprised by the actions of the characters. Terrific writing leads to terrific directing and acting. Mad Men is full of surprises. It's unconventional in that way, and that's why it's so good.

So that's what I'm learning from Mad Men, how you can never tell where its going to go.

The show I was watching before it was THE AMERICANS. I tend to only watch one program at a time; that's all my brain can handle. That's also a great series, and also happens to be set in the recent past. That also has great writing, directing, and acting, though I don't feel as compassionate towards the characters, probably because they are spies and assassins.

What I learned from The Americans, is how every little detail counts. Something appears in an episode of a show or in a film, because it matters. It might not matter right then, but it will come up later. For example - a mailbot that goes around the FBI offices...it might seem inconsequential, but it's not, at all. The mailbot drama - an innocent woman ends up dead, the spies risk their cover and lives, the Russians make choices based off of their intelligence from it, and once the FBI finally figures out that they're being spied upon from it, people's careers are on the line. All this from a mailbot, that first appears so casually and comically.

There are so many things like this that pop in The Americans, and I love how the writers handle things like this and play with your head.

One last thing - I think Mad Men has much better music than The Americans. 60s versus the 80s...the older decade wins in regards to its musical output.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Not sweet.

Yesterday a server kept calling me sweetie. This slightly irritated me. I really wanted to respond: "Actually, I'm not that sweet". I wonder what on earth made him think it'd be ok to call me that.

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Today I was explaining to someone why I love New Order so much. Unlike other favourite bands of mine, I don't really own their albums, rather their singles collections. I grew up knowing their main hits. When "True Faith" came out I was a little kid in the U.K., and I still recall that iconic and strange music video that I watched from way back then.

Here's the thing about New Order. Imagine you're in a band, that is getting lots of press and new fans everyday, you're about to blow up, and then your lead singer who is one of your best friends...tops himself. He ends his own life. What do you do?

To my understanding - and, I haven't even read New Order's wikipedia page, so I could just be making this up - but what I think they did is, they took a hiatus. They mourned, they took a break, they regrouped, and came up with new sounds and rhythms and lyrics that took the world by surprise. Everything in New Order's music - from the instrumentation, to the vocals, to the lyrics - is wired with emotion. At least it is for me. Anytime I listen to any song of New Order's, and this has been happening the whole time I've listened to them, since middle school or high school - their music evokes emotion in me. It reminds me of something, it makes me feel SOMETHING.

No matter how many times I listen to their songs, it's the same thing each time - high emotion. I can work while listening to them, and I can also just sit and truly listen to them, and do nothing else. And that's honestly all I want to do right now, but I must go off and work.

I should read up more about them. I was told today that the band collectively wrote some of their lyrics. I wonder how they came up with this genius that I'm currently obsessed with (again):

"I was standing by the ocean when I saw your face
I couldn't look at you
I guess you knew it but I never realized
That we were through

And now I'm down here all alone
With every feeling that I own
You can't take that away

And with every breath we take
And the illusions we create
Will come to you someday

And I was touched
By the hand of God
Never knew it
But of course I was

I never hoped to do the things in this world
I wanted to
Because everything I own
It belongs to you

I never looked at you in a sexual way
In my life before
And I've never woken up like this
So desperately before

And I was touched
By the hand of God
Never knew it
But of course I was"

When I sing this song to myself, either in my head or out loud, I sometimes replace "by the hand of God" with "by that hand of yours". But seeing the actual lyrics, I see what they were doing. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Bye bye bye

Somehow, the things I wrote about in my last post actually came true. I think a lot about technology and social media. Probably too much. There is a joke, something like, how do you know when someone is an atheist, or vegan? How? Well, that person will always tell you. I've become that sort of person in regards to social media, although it's usually a response to people asking me if they can add me on Facebook, and I tell them that I'm not on it. Hey, I'm answering their question! But then I seem like one of those people who loves to talk about how different they are ("I'm an atheist", "Actually, I'm vegan", "Yeah I do CrossFit"). Mine is "No, sorry, I'm not on Facebook. Would you like my email address instead?"

Not being on Facebook though, I'm forced to or they are, to exchange more personal info like email addresses. I left fbook in November. I say to people that I left because of the election, but actually I left near the end of November; as since I was alone in LA, I didn't want to be bombarded with photos of people's Thanksgivings, even though it's a holiday I myself don't celebrate (I appreciate invites though). Since leaving Zuckerberg's empire, I found that I was on my phone a lot less, and that I was a lot less distracted overall and much more focused on my work. I was also a lot less upset by the news, as I wasn't constantly reading about how everyone else is also always upset. I find now that I can read the Guardian headlines and think much more analytically and retain more information, rather than clicking on a gazillion links from fbook, from which I was never able to remember anything I read, all of the words just going in and out of my brain.

Try it, folks, it will do you wonders.

I also left Twitter. Though I have to log in once a month so that Twitter doesn't permanently delete my account (one day I think, I'd like to go through my old tweets, as they document my brain at those times). I also left Instagram too. But I found that, being off of all social media, I felt even more isolated. Would people back East remember me if they don't come across my profile/s? I do still exist. So I logged back onto Instagram. After a couple of days though I also took it off of my phone. I find that I've been able to kick the social media habit, as I've only glanced at Insta a couple of times from my laptop since then. Insta, I tend to reactivate every now and then.

Why do I spend so much time thinking about my social media habits and wanting to break them? Maybe it's because I know that overall that being off of Facebook has greatly helped my mental health, even though my social life has probably suffered as a result, as everyone else uses Facebook events. I am also terrible at making and breaking habits. So being able to wean myself off of this technology, is an accomplishment for me. I hope to do the same, with sugar. Inshallah.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Complaining about the internet on the internet

Hey anyone-who-happens-to-read-this,
May you all be enjoying the end of what's been an eventful summer - at times, quite unfortunately so.

I'm moving out west soon to start an MFA in Film Directing at UCLA. I actually applied to MFA programs in the autumn of last year, before I had moved out of NY. I found out that I got into UCLA's this past June, and am quite thrilled, as it was my first choice. But I'm also very nervous about the workload - so please send me good vibes/wishes/prayers! Really.

Maybe at some point I'll write/blog more for public viewing about my thoughts on this year and moving around, starting over, turning 30, etc.

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I will say this - this summer was quite alright for me socially and personally, and family-wise (somehow), but mentally, the news took a drastic toll on me - and maybe it did for you too. I found myself loathing the internet and social media, especially with my own personal over-consumption and over-use of it. I know I can't always tune out the news - especially considering all of the various identities/markers I have - but I/we cannot be bombarded everyday with awful stuff happening domestically and abroad, without going at least a little bit haywire. And so my wonderful friend Saleha in Lahore, reminded me in a whatsapp voice message, that God has created balance in the world. That yes, there are awful things and events that always happen, but that it's crucial for us to see the beauty and good that our Creator has also put in this world for us to see. So I'm following that more, I hope, by deactivating all of my social media accounts, and as a result I hope to reduce my online time and screen time, and to be more present with myself and with  the world in front of me, rather than always getting dragged down by the news.

I also want to challenge my own narcissism by doing this . Instead of posting about what I'm doing or seeing, or maybe even making, which I've been doing a lot lately - I want to be offline from my accounts for a while, and practice being patient. To just hold onto these memories and moments for myself first, before sharing with others. After all, I have 1000s of photos (as some friends and family like to remind me every now and then) that no one else has ever seen, and probably never will, let's be honest. And so now, just because my phone has a decent camera and I can upload and share from my phone right away, doesn't mean that I should. I want to practice challenging my own narcissism/ego/nafs, to practice being patient and to work on the material and photos I already have (as my friend Sidra kindly suggested), and to just be more plugged out in general.

No, I'm not depressed. Alhumdulillah, I feel pretty alright. My anxiety issues aren't depressive. I also don't think my frustration at my online habits stem from my anxiety either actually. I just want to make better use of my time, especially as I know that I'm going to have to work harder than I ever have before...so I suppose this is one way of me gearing up for that.

I'll eventually return to the social media world, when I feel like I have something worthy to share/showcase.

Peace,
Hena/HXA

migrant life





Well it looks like the road to heaven
But it feels like the road to hell
When I knew which side my bread was buttered
I took the knife as well
Posing for another picture
Everybody's got to sell
But when you shake your ass
They notice fast
And some mistakes were built to last

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Fire Next Time

Excerpts from The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Pages 26-27
"Every effort made by the child's elders to prepare him for a fate from which they cannot protect him causes him secretly, in terror, to begin to await, without knowing that he is doing so, his mysterious and inexorable punishment. He must be "good" not only in order to please his parents and not only to avoid being punished by them; behind their authority stands another, nameless and impersonal, infinitely harder to please, and bottomlessly cruel. And this filters into the child's consciousness through his parents' tone of voice as he is being exhorted, punished, or loved; in the sudden, uncontrollable note of fear heard in his mother's or his father's voice when he has strayed beyond some particular boundary. He does not know what the boundary is, and he can get no explanation of it, which is frightening enough, but the fear he hears in the voices of his elders is more frightening still. The fear that I heard in my father's voice, for example, when he realized that I really believed I could do anything a white boy could do, and had every intention of proving it, was not at all like the fear I heard when one of us was ill or had fallen down the stairs or strayed too far from the house. It was another fear, a fear that the child, in challenging the white world's assumptions, was putting himself in the path of destruction. A child cannot, thank Heaven, know how vast and how merciless is the nature of power, with what unbelievable cruelty people treat each other."

Pages 51-52
"But time has passed, and in that time the Christian world has revealed itself as morally bankrupt and politically unstable. The Tunisians were quite right in 1956 - and it was a very significant moment in Western (and African) history - when they countered the French justification for remaining in North Africa with the question "Are the French ready for self-government?" Again, the terms "civilized" and "Christian" begin to have a very strange ring, particularly in the ears of those who have been judged to be neither civilized nor Christian, when a Christian nation surrenders to a foul and violent orgy, as Germany did during the Third Reich. For the crime of their ancestry, millions of people in the middle of the twentieth century, and in the heart of Europe - God's citadel - were sent to a death so calculated, so hideous, and so prolonged that no age before this enlightened one had been able to imagine it, much less achieve and record it."

Pages 91-92
"Behind what we think of as the Russian menace lies what we do not wish to face, and what white Americans do not face when they regard a Negro: reality - the fact that life is tragic. Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death - ought to decide, indeed, to earn one's death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible to life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return. One must negotiate this passage as nobly as possible, for the sake of those who are coming after us."

Pages 93-94
"What it comes to is that if we, who can scarcely be considered a white nation, persist in thinking of ourselves as one, we condemn ourselves, with the truly white nations, to sterility and decay, whereas if we could accept ourselves as we are, we might bring new life to the Western achievements, and transform them. The price of this transformation is the unconditional freedom of the Negro; it is not too much to say that he, who has been so long rejected, must now be embraced, and at no matter what psychic or social risk. He is the key figure in his country, and the American future is precisely as bright or as dark as his. And the Negro recognizes this, in a negative way. Hence the question: Do I really want to be integrated into a burning house?"

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Didn't know that Baldwin was friends with Malcolm. Very cool.