Thursday, April 28, 2011

Progress Report A: Secret project, ‘why can’t we be friends?’

A foreword on the following:

The following was written with the intention of being a commentary on neocolonialism, entrenching the politico-cultural process in the social phenomenon that plagues exchange students worldwide. It was intended to be a humorous perspective ridiculing the contrived understanding of diplomacy of large northern organizations attempting to enhance their soft power. I didn't intend it to be a report of human progress in the realm of friendship, though if that is what you infer, I won't hold it against you.

Note: In the words of French Renaissance writer Michel de Montaigne, or as I know him better; Anonymous, "Nothing is more firmly believed than what we least know."


2011 (almost a whole two years later)


Progress Report A: Secret project, ‘Why can’t we be friends?’

Date: 30.09.09

Location: Paris

Objective: To include in our contacts a vast number of global subjects, to create and establish relations with such associates, to do what we call ‘make friends’.

A great deal of progress was made today on the ongoing project, and it is estimated that by the deadline (30th June, 2010), the desired target shall be reached.

12.30 pm- 2.00 pm: The first task that we undertook was to establish ourselves in the French Level 0 class. This area was a good place to begin with, as the people here would have similar stance about being in a country that does not speak the English language. Immediately, on entering, we began conversations with other Asian people, with whom, we believe there might be a sense of solidarity and similarity, points that we hope will foster a bright future together. The subjects, 하나 (Girl) and (Boy) are from South Korea, and specifically originate from the university. The French level 0 class, unfortunately did not happen, and the class slowly exited the room. We tried to maintain contact with the subjects, continuing to research their past and present, hopes and dreams, and habitation in this new environment. We tried to create a bond by declaring the French bureaucracy vastly inefficient and the French banking system far worse.

In order to present ourselves as an approachable entity, we decided that we would suggest a picnic on the lawns. This act had a double purpose to both present ourselves as humble and also, simultaneously as one who understands the traditions of the great educational institution of which we were so lucky to be present in.

Subjects, those who have been in the same arena as others have a tendency to do what we describe as ‘socializing’. These subjects were inextricably linked to yet another subject, by the name of Fatt, who was also a member of the French Level 0 group of pupils. Fatt hailed from the southern continent of Australia, and our organization believes that he may not be the right type to incorporate in our group. His mannerisms were similar to that of a dog with a bone, an analogy that we sometimes use to describe a ‘show-off’. It strikes us that white-skin might go deeper than skin-deep. We are yet to attest this theory, and hope not to make judgment calls before we can come face to face with other similar subjects. We are still open to the idea of white skin. Conversations continued with these three subjects, until subject C (Fatt) called upon another person, Glorius (or something of the sort) a girl from Columbia, but pursuing her studies in North America. In terms of characteristics, she barely had any, and only future meetings can determine what exactly the subject represents.

Once the picnicking was over, and contact was established, we felt that a necessary ‘breather’/’break’ was in order, in order to embed ourselves (just the correct amount) in their subconscious, but not make it over flow, possibly with negative thoughts (clinginess). We departed and took our separate ways. Tomorrow, we have yet another class, and although this one is very early in the day, we hope to make new progress and perhaps continue the witty repartee.

5. 30 pm: The process continued on into the class titled ‘Spaces and Territories: the analysis of a hyperpower’. We approached the classroom and detected that the class was full. Our target was to continue relations with a French national, with whom we had made limited contact in the week prior to this. We scanned efficiently the area, to seek out prospective ‘seating arrangements’ that would fit into our plan. We were both highly successful, and lucky, as the ‘seat’ next to hers proved empty. We launched ourselves in to a prime position, at striking distance from the target. An opening greeting was necessary, and we complied. The subject, had however seated herself on the left of a known but disliked entity, for her accent and snooty/snotty-ness, DevilMonopolizer. The latter had also monopolized the use of the sole plug-point, -an object greatly necessary in defining our seating arrangements and recharging our ordinaters. Though we did not wish to establish contact with this being, we were forced to as this monopoly was affecting our system of being, and hampering our self-sufficiency. At times, we feel though that we can act as the US would with countries that it considers to be ‘rogue’, with superior diplomacy. We however, do not take pride in this policy. A kind request was made to the monopolizer, requesting the equal share of the plug-point. Monopolizer acted in accordance with our demands, making us feel a little less demoralized about compromising on our standpoint. The course of action continued smoothly, making intelligent conversation, swaying the subject onto our side. The Monopolizer was also swayed, as one could perceive, and perhaps we could use this subject as an ally for our future projects, much rather like the US utilizes Pakistan. The class continued and at the end, we managed to procure for ourselves an important rendezvous with the subject. We hope to continue on this fine line of progress and reach our target well before scheduled, as it is in our best interest.

It is necessary to note: Successive reports on our actions will be continued to be delivered to you, as we realize and understand that this matter is of great interest. We promise you that in spite of our recruitment of new subjects, and the enlargement of our entity, this will not test the loyalty that we possess towards you, our founding contacts. So you must bear in mind that this will simply give us a more cosmopolitan outlook, and perhaps global habitation outposts and settlements.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Development studies

Part I : What led me to Britney

A nostalgic Sunday morning often leaves you reflecting on bygone eras. In turn, this in depth retrospection often leads to blaring music that is in tune with the mood of the hour. This in most cases leads to Britney Spears.

Britney Spears is quite the star. She definitely broke the mold of female artists in the 90s and sort of paved the way for the Miley Cyruses that there are today. She’s right up there with things that accelerated a cultural revolution- the internet, facebook and reality shows. She’s so widely accepted that I don’t even get any spell check options when I type her name.

i. The inner workings of teenage girls

Good lyrics are often compared (if rightly so- I’m not to judge) to good poetry. The Beatles were renowned for it- barring their initial not-so-deep ‘I wanna hold your hand’ kind of stuff. Lyrics can make or break you and usually the bands that do well are the ones that are able to truly express themselves through the verses of their songs. Today’s Britney-shame-spiral left me analyzing her lyrics. Her lyrics coupled with her robotic-hypnotic, yet bubble gummy and hence ironic voice characterized her and differentiated her from all other contemporary acts. Teenage girls everywhere were thinking- ‘Boy! She really gets me!’ But what was unusual about these lyrics that exemplified universal feelings of angst, love and confusion among teenage girls, was that there the degree of personal-ness about them. I mean to say, thus, that though these feelings are quite universal amongst most girls between ages thirteen to seventeen, what was really interesting was the transparency of her thoughts, making it apparent that she was going through this odd phase as well.

ii. Lyricists

Panning her evolution as an artist is most fascinating especially when you place it in the context of the struggles she was facing in her personal life. The lyrics of selected songs from her first three albums that really reflected this caught my attention. Interestingly, majority of these songs are credited to Max Martin and Rami Yacoub and not Britney herself. I’m not an expert on the degree of artistic freedom she had at the age of seventeen when her first single was released, but taking a wild guess, I’d say not too much; evidence of which is her rebellious breakthrough a few years later. Despite that, Martin and Yacoub did try to keep the lyrics as close to Britney’s personal feelings as possible and the songs composed by them do seem to reflect her inner thoughts. Britney said it herself in an interview with the Rolling Stones in 2001 “He (Martin) gets exactly what I am saying when I tell him what I want and don’t want musically." And she continued to stand by this statement a decade later concurring that "There is nobody I feel more comfortable collaborating with in the studio."

Part II: Psychoanalysis

Britney has always been an interesting character to analyze. It’s probably because, as aforementioned, she was one of the first stars that really grew up in the limelight, enabling fans and the general public to track her evolution as a human being. When she first appeared on the scene, with her video “Baby one more time” she came across as cutesy at the most, typical of a good girl. An interesting fact that adds a third dimension to that video is this- the producers initially wanted it to be animated, an idea that Britney rejected, proposing instead the idea of the naughty catholic school girl. It is thus clear that her current ‘womanizing’ tendencies were somewhere embedded in that sweet teenage girl the world saw in 1999. David Browne of Entertainment Weekly got it right. He perceived that while “Christina Aguilera may flash skin and belly button, but in her music and manner, she's too eager not to offend — she's a good girl pretending to be bad. Spears, however, comes across as a bad girl acting good ...

Supporting this theory was her behavior during tours when she became criticized for her racy outfits. They contrasted heavily from her bubble gummy videos.

i. Oops I did it Again: I = Producers (1999-2001)

Britney concedes that ‘Baby one more time’ was part of the ‘massive hits’ that allowed her to gather legions of fans. Her artistic freedom was limited to what the producers thought would make international hits. In ‘Oops I did it again!’( released in 2000), the first signs of what can be seen as perhaps artistic unhappiness are reflected in the lyrics of single ‘Lucky’ released the same year. The verses and video revolve around a discontented star with the lyrics “They say she’s so lucky/ she’s a star/ but she cry, cry, cries till the early hour/ thinking/‘if there’s nothing, missing in my life, then why do these tears come at night?”. In ‘Stronger’ released a few months later, Britney appeared “Stronger than yesterday”, singing further that, “There’s nothing you can do or say/ I’ve had enough/You think I won’t make it on my own/ but now I’m stronger than yesterday/Now it’s nothing but my way/my loneliness ain’t killing me like before/stronger than i ever thought I be”. The song seemed almost like a rebuttal to Lucky and was perhaps her first lash out at the constant scrutiny that she was being placed under. I also think there is a hint of backtalk to some of her producers who were intent on making her stick to the good girl image that she had developed.

ii. Britney is overprotected (2001- 2003)

Her next album was aptly entitled ‘Britney’. For the first time, Britney had a greater hand in composing her songs, thereby allowing the complexities of her thought process to really become public. She sang “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman” reflecting her inner struggle of outgrowing her fan-base. She pleaded further- “all I need is time, a moment that is mine while I’m in between.” In “Overprotected” she lashed out for the second time, “You're gonna have to see through my perspective/ I need to make mistakes just to learn who I am/ And I don't want to be so damn protected", mainly exclaiming about being over judged by everyone around her.
From the start of her illustrious career up till this point in 2003, Britney’s private life was under the eye of the public. Her relationship with Justin Timberlake (and its woes) was constantly publicized, which (I feel) allowed her no privacy. Personally I believe that this is what led her to her breakdown- the fact that she was pressurized by record labels to produce things that were alien to her artistic interests while struggling to grow up while the world watched as a witness. She always had a rebellious streak in her- signs of which were apparent in the tie-up school shirt in her first video itself- and during this period, the rebelliousness rose up inside of her.

This phase also saw the end of a four year relationship with fellow pop icon Justin Timberlake. A ‘war’ followed, akin to the hip-hop rivalry between East coast ‘The Notorious B.I.G.’ and West Coast ‘Tupac’. (Perhaps this analogy borders on blasphemic?)

The video of the single released by Timberlake, ‘Cry me a river’, featured a blonde Britney look-alike while Timberlake proceeded to wreck the former’s house, singing “Your bridges were burned, and now it's your turn/To cry, cry me a river."

Apart from post-relationship rivalries with Timberlake, Britney was also often pitted against former blonde-haired contemporary, Christina Aguilera. Eventually however, the two pop idols shifted tracks following their own creative paths, moving out of the squeaky clean pop songs that had created them. The two even had a chance to publicly kiss and make up during the 2003 MTV music awards.

iii. Britney is In The Zone (2003 onwards)

My psychoanalysis of Britney concludes with her 2003 album entitled ‘In the Zone’. Critics state that Britney moved out of the in-between phase that she was facing two years previously and became, for the first time, a full-fledged woman in the eyes of the world. Her music was far more electronic, her videos much more risqué and both were comprehensively ‘sexual’. In an interview with Rolling Stones in 2003, Britney explained her album, stating that “this record is where I am at right now in my life. It's sensual, it's sexual. I'm probably writing about that subconsciously because I don't have that right now."

Thus with In the Zone, Spears had finally moved into the realm of adulthood, leaving behind the braided and skirted schoolgirl that she had started out as. What followed the album release was one annulled marriage, another marriage a year later that ended in divorce, two children, a reality television show and weeks of rehab. Britney had moved into The Zone, and steadily out of it as well. The most fascinating thing about this was that it was all reflected in her music and under the public’s watchful eye.