The Sapient Ape

Life as an employed MBA grad during an economic recovery. DISCLAIMER: Everything written here is fiction.

Babies are the new speed.

baby arnold

Watchoo Talkin' 'Bout Willis?

For men, babies suck.  They make shit loads of noise and crave attention from women, which they get without even trying by just making a stupid face or gurgling.

Kids somehow, I can deal with more, coz at least the relationship’s somewhat multidirectional.  Don’t get me wrong — I’m not a baby-hater  — I’m just jealous coz I want all that attention myself, dammit!  But seriously its more like I’m not drawn to them by the cute factor — not a single bit — and other than that they just make incoherent noises.  Kids a bit older, you can fuck with their heads a bit (I’m sick), but babies don’t know wtf is going on.

I need my children like my video games — interactive.  With lots of shit flying around and blurry lights and stuff.  Not some goo-goo gaa-gaa thing lying on its back like an overturned tortoise, flailing its arms and legs wildly.  Laaaaaaame.

But its interesting that most men probably feel like I do, until they are fathers, or when their own genetic heritage is at play.  At that point, their previous disgust and general eww-ness towards babies turns to a rapturous love affair with the-now-object-of-their-love-and-affection for a good two or three years, at which point the normal dad reverts to not caring and or engaging the child till he’s a teenager and the angst…

Well lets just leave it at that.

But yeah, men and babies.  Its quite simple, really.  Its all biology, isn’t it?  From a biological standpoint, men exist at the basest level SOLELY to pass on their genes.  However, over the millennia, male humans (and probably other animals as well, mammals particularly) have, through natural selection, evolved a genetic predisposition to care for their young as soon as they are born.  Too protect the young and not stray from the mother.

Why?  Coz if you believe in natural selection, males who had this trait were more likely to care for their young.  That trait got passed on to the little ones.  Those offspring were more likely to survive due to better parental care, and that trait was passed on.

If you think about it, its quite amazing how much we are still ruled by our biology.  Granted, perhaps some of us more than others.  But for me personally, I think that my ultimate reason for being is to pass on my genes.  Shallow?  Perhaps.  Untrue in today’s world?  Perhaps.  But to this day, genetic heritage is the closest we as human beings have come to immortality.  And I guess I’m afraid of dying.

Right here, I’ve really intellectualized my reason for wanting to pass on my genetic code by blaming it on my fear of death.  But perhaps, at a baser level, the chemical reactions driving my need is much… well… baser.  Its just my biological clock telling me.

“Hey, psssst.  You’re gonna die soon.  Better get on with it and make a baby or something.”

Which I guess is the same thing, ‘cept in version A I’m in control of my decision-making, and in version B its all predetermined by biology.

I don’t want anyone to worry too much tho — I’m not gonna have any babies any time soon — I have to screw up my sister’s kid first — I mean fix him, fix him… THAT’s what I meant.

And oh yeah — babies are the new speed.

They keep you up all night, make you mumble incoherently, and something else I forgot.

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Is the Recession Killing My Drive?

Settling.

I once had a friend say, “Misha, never settle.”  Whether in relationships or in life in general, I have always taken his words to heart.

But now, I find myself wondering.  At almost 33, unemployed and in debt, with only an education and some good experience to show for it, I wonder if it wouldn’t be better for me to take the easy road.

If this last year has taught me one thing, its that I am definitely ready for some stability.  So much so, that I might give up lofty dreams and perhaps even ideals for it.  Its been tough being homeless (even tho my family has totally been there for me), and not having the freedom of an income.  I never appreciated it so much, and for some independence, I’m willing to give up more than I was before.

I’ve had to significantly re-adjust my expectations during this time, going from expecting a 6-figure plus salary and bein’ a success in my own eyes to just wanting to make enough to get a place of my own.  Pretty serious change, eh?

Going through a psychological readjustment of such a degree has to have some form of adverse affect on one.  So why am I not feeling the pressure that much?  Is it my not caring syndrome that is letting me live with myself?

But there has been an adverse effect.  I think for me, that has become the need for stability in one facet of my life, whether my career, my relationship (or lack thereof), or my psyche.  I seem to think (and perhaps rightly so) that if I can find one of those, the others will follow.

I have always seen myself as a risk-taker, and in some ways its one of my greatest strengths — to try, fail, and then go on as if nothing has happened.  I am somewhat scared of losing that at this moment.  That the instability in my own life created by this recession and my subsequent unemployment has made me more risk-averse, and willing to well…

Settle.

Ouch that kinda hurts.

I still can’t let go of the dreams of world domination.  I just want too much still from this life.

But how little a thing can change that forever?  Perhaps my new nephew already has.

Filed under: Personal, Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

Convergence, or “Till all are one”

Humans are like flesh Transformers.

Humans are like flesh Transformers.

Adapting to changing conditions… or conversely, adapting our environment to our needs…

It’s really all that separates us from the beasts (or maybe I should say separates YOU guys from the beasts… I’m still a beast with three simple needs that all start with F).

Think about the amount of adaptation that has been required for a human being who has lived over the last 100 years.  Commercial flight, space flight, gene mapping, gene sequencing, computers, the internet, heavy industry, manufacturing, telecommunications — all of these technological advances have become such a part of our day-to-day lives, that without them we would probably be lost.  Civilization might even crumble.  Thats the extent to which these advances have been adapted by and integrated into our modern society, primarily in the West, but now more and more in the rest of the world as well.

And its in the rest of the world that the rate of adaptation is truly amazing… a testament to the fact that biologically, we are one species with a similar ability to adapt to change.  People in Bangladesh, who 20 years ago may not even have talked on a phone in their whole lives, now walk around with a mobile phone clipped to their belt (usually a Nokia).  The mobile phone itself, as a device, has really become ubiquitous to humanity to an extent greater than any other technological device that has been invented in the past century.  One could say that it’s a measure of the great transition of the time in which we live, from the industrial age to the information age.

Even for me, in the US, the cell phone an adaptation that I barely took up ten years ag0, maybe eleven.  Now you can find them in the hands of a farmer in the remotest village in China (or Bangladesh for that matter), and I’m sure not many people are left on Earth who don’t know what the capabilities of the device are.  The rapid global expansion of telecommunications in the last 10 years alone is phenomenal, and a breath of positive foresight by large telecommunications companies that for once benefitted both their relentless need for profit as well as the lives of the citizens of the countries they expanded into.

This global technological convergence is a result of many factors which I’m not going to go into detail about, such as rapid communication, easier transportation, and better education.  But it is a fact that societies which 20 years ago were 100 years behind the west, today are perhaps only 20 years behind (although granted, the issue of poverty remains unsolved for the most part).  And the rate keeps quickening, as countries like China start to research and develop their own technologies, and as countries like Japan outsource their R&D to Bangladesh.  A friend of mine here was telling me about a Japanese company that is outsourcing the development of 3D technology using standard LCD screens to a local partner in Bangladesh.  According to him, the technology is already ready for the market.

So what are we going to see in the future?  A technologically equal society with large pockets of poverty?  The dictionary definition of convergence is the coming together of two or more things.  In an IT or technology setting, the meaning takes on a different connotation — the coming together of two separate technologies into one technology.  Like for example the computer and the phone = iPhone.   Or, in the future, computer and TV = yet unnamed thingy that does both.

I randomly took this video the other day and realized that its a perfect example of technology convergence in Bangladesh.  Exhibit A) Shitty public transportation that runs on environmentally-friendly Compressed Natural Gas.  Exhibit B) Dude pulls out his Nokia as soon as he gets off said shitty public trans-po.

But in a broader societal context, we can take convergence to mean the coming together of two societies at different technological development timeframes into a society where all technology is available to everyone (at a price, of course).  So is that really what we’re heading to?  A society where medical immortality is available to those who can pay for it?  But where half of humanity still doesn’t get enough nourishment to meet their minimum requirements and live in squalor?  I’m not judging — just throwing it out there as a possible scenario for humanity’s future — barring self destruction of the species, of course, which is probably more of an inevitability.

Convergence… it levels the playing field… if you got the cash.

Filed under: technology, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I love…

everybody and everything… for another few hours.

No drugs just booze.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Masturbation, Self-promotion, or Flagellation?

flagella

Flagellation

Here it is — my “Why did I start a blog?” post.  Or did I do that one already?  Today, since  I hit 145 hits on this blog in a single day, I’ve decided its time to try and answer that question.

So, why is it that I started this blog?  Was it a desperate cry for attention?  A thinly veiled attempt to garner some sympathy from my peers for my current predicament (which actually ain’t so bad!)?  Am I trying to get a job?  Or do I just have a big ego?

All of these could be true.  And probably are, to varying degrees.

A couple of months ago, my sister, mom and I were having our usual daily family spat, when my sis said to me, “You know you really have a problem with showing us that you care about anything.”  That very poignant truth caused in me a lot of self-reflection.

To many of you, what she said may sound like the opposite of what you know about me.  I seem so emotionally colorful, always smiling and shit.  Good ol’ “Mr. Party!”  Always down for a drink and a laugh, right?  “Hey we want to do something totally banal and surface-level?  Lets go out and get wasted with #####.”  But thats just the superficial side of me.  My public persona.

In reality, I am extremely bad at displaying emotions that really matter to me.  Showing vulnerability is my ultimate vulnerability.  One of the negative aspects of being an emotionally empathetic person is that you leave yourself open to pain.  That’s why nowadays I’m more emotionally apathetic than empathetic.  I may act emotionally in the moment, either in happiness or sadness, rage or anger, but it has become hard for me to really let myself feel deep emotions — especially if they impact me negatively in the long-term.  I just end up… not caring.  Whether its a family fight, a girlfriend, or a job — if its gonna hurt me, I turn the dial straight to the “don’t give a shit” channel.  Making snide comments?  Don’t give a shit.  Screw me over for someone else?  Don’t give a shit… and never did.  Don’t wanna hire me?  Well fuck, I never wanted to work for you anyway.

Does that make me sound superficial?  Hmm, well should I really get into this here?  Nah lets leave the psychological self-diagnoses for another post — it’ll be more interesting that way anyway (and I can milk it — you don’t know how tough it is to keep thinking of “interesting” topics).  The point here is that I’ve developed a self-defense mechanism, where something that really mattered to me before, ceases to do so as soon as it has the potential to hurt me.  Which, although it has its advantages, has taken the passion out of my life somewhat — and I want that passion back.

I’ve realized that caring about stuff, or even hurting about stuff, is what gives it value (“Stuff” Valuation 101, people — we all took it!).  I feel like I’m walking around these days literally an emotional shell, not feeling anything — and although that may save me from pain and other negative emotions, thats not necessarily the best way to go for me, personally.  I need that passion back to feed the fire that drives.

So here it is, my blog!  My semi-lame attempt to give people some insight into what actually is feeding my fire — insight into what I give a shit about — or the fact that I give a shit at all.  Of course, actually vocalizing these emotions to real human beings would probably be the best way to go.  But shit, you gotta learn to take baby steps before you can [finish this cliche].

Speaking of baby steps, my sister just had one (a baby), and I gotta say his eyebrow arches are mine.  I see my furrowed brow in his.

Filed under: Personal, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

Young Blood May Prevent Spilt Blood

So my cousins were telling me that this past election that just occurred in Bangladesh (early 2009) was in many ways comparable to Obama’s recent victory.  People were out in the street on election day, cheering and dancing, oblivious to the threat of violence that has become so prevalent in politics, not only in Bangladesh, but pretty much everywhere.  Even in the US, our joy and innocent cheer was subdued by the constant threat to the first black presidential candidate that covered the area (when we were around him) like the view from a secret service sniper net.  I can’t describe the fear I felt as an Obama supporter, constantly praying (to my non-existent God) that nothing would happen to him.  I can’t imagine the sorrow and depression that would permeate our nation and our world if that were to happen.

I’m not going to get on a whole political diatribe.  We all know what politics begets.  It has forever been associated with power, violence, and the suffering of the masses for the benefit of the few.  That may not change in some time, if ever (until women take their true place as the master race, and us men are relegated to sex objects (bring it on!!!)), but perhaps there is hope.  That word, hope, did not mean much to me before — it was a joke, a crutch for weaklings.  But somehow, this transformative election and individual have given hope back to me — a person who in the past was the epitome of  apathy, self-centeredness, and self-destructiveness.

But again — I digress.  This post is really about why politics continues to be run by the same people.  Why the masses around the world are so drawn to cults of personality that they would rather elect a despot they know than a stranger who’s actions might actually benefit their lives.

For example, in Bangladesh.  To those of you who don’t know, I’ll attempt a brief explanation.  Bangladesh used to have three major political parties.  The Awami League (left), the Jatio Party (center), and BNP (right).  Both right and center have gained political power through coups and assassinations, although Awami isn’t much better in terms of political subterfuge.  Today, only left and right remain.  Jatio has been eaten up by Awami, and right (BNP) has formed an alliance with far right (religious fundamentalists).  This recent election was won by left.  But here’s the big joke.  The main political players in Bangladeshi politics for the past 30 years are all still heavily involved on today’s political stage, if they are still alive — otherwise their family members are.  Family dynasties have formed, and power keeps changing hands between them.  Can we really consider this democracy (And please remember that family dynasties are not something very unique to Bangladeshi politics before you attempt to judge us for our backwardness)?  So Bangladeshi politics is starting to mimic more and more the politics of the US, or vice versa.

Except for the rampant — RAMPANT corruption.  Its everywhere here — to the point that it has corrupted the national mindset.  I was in hour 4 of an 8 hour conversation with a friend recently when I realized that us Bengalis have really changed as a people, our self-identity warped and twisted by corruption and greed.  There used to be a time (although it may have been before I was born), when we used to fight for values — for our right to our language and culture.  Now we kill for money and power.  And this is seen as not only unavoidable, but even normal or respectable.

So how do we change it back?  It definitely won’t be by handing power back and forth between the same tired old political parties.  Bangladesh, like the US, needs someone transformative.  Someone young, someone not associated with any of the political dynasties, someone full of idealism, someone incorruptible.  Someone who believes that things can change for the better, and is willing to sacrifice self-interest for that change.  So if you’re out there, transformative political candidate — out there on my friends list on FB — get in touch with me.  I’ll help you run your campaign.

Filed under: Politics, , , , , , , , ,

Lifer’s Block

Since the introduction of CNG tech, air quality in the city has improved noticeably

Since the introduction of CNG tech, air quality in the city has improved noticeably

Lifer’s Block.

As in writer’s block, but relating to your whole life.  That’s what I’ve felt about coming to Dhaka in the past.  A black hole from which escape is very difficult.

I guess that’s why, since high school, I’ve been coming back less and less.  I see Dhaka as what my life could become, should I let it — the dark side of my personality finally taking over for good.

In many ways, I’m being unfair to Bangladesh.  The changes here have rolled through almost overnight (if you count almost 20 years as overnight).  There used to be a time, when I visited my family in the 70s and 80s, when the roads used to be clear of any cars after 8pm, where convenience  stores were few and far between, where even picking up a toothbrush involved planning and a 20 minute drive.  The 70s and 80s didn’t see much economic development, and change was slow.  Enter globalization, in the 90s, and a rapid period of development, both economic and social.  Today, city-wide all-day traffic jams make a half mile trip take half an hour.  Commerce abounds, and restaurants are everywhere.  Crate and Barrel quality imports enter the local market straight from the Chinese manufacturers as private label goods.  Here, at least, one can see the benefits that globalization has had on Asia — at least the middle and upper class of Asia.  Their lives have definitely improved.

I stopped playing this game once I got to high school.

I stopped playing this game once I got to high school.

But for me, Dhaka represents stagnation — my last two years of high school were here, and were filled with long periods of boredom and frustration.  Escaping back to the US was the beginning of my freedom, not only from my parents, but from a society that is often small-minded, judgmental, and ultra-materialistic.  Wealth, and the accumulation thereof, is seen as primary measure of success and power.  I realize this can be said about almost anywhere in the world, but it seems to me that due to the extreme poverty that is prevalent here, the materialism is more pronounced.  And I find myself easily falling into that mindset, or being a victim of its consequences.

But I’m generalizing.  Things aren’t all bad here — people aren’t ALL evil.  My dilemma is, that as an unemployed broke-ass, I could probably get a job here relatively easily, either with an NGO, or with a local multinational — the salary would be pitiable by Western standards, but I could actually live relatively comfortably here.

Ahh Dhaka... the idylic crow by the putrid lake...

Ahh Dhaka... the idylic crow by the putrid lake...

This would also (hopefully) give me an opportunity to work on my own business projects which so far, I’ve been stagnating with.  If I were here, I could find other individuals who could help me launch my ideas and make them a reality.  I could even work on products for the export market.  Even China, which remains one of the countries that I would like to maintain a connection with, is a closer flight from here, and business with China is booming in Bangladesh (as it is everywhere).

So I’m actually considering it as a real possibility, especially after June — once I take my Foreign Service Exam.

Like I’ve mentioned before, I have trouble making decisions.  Every time I come here, I am able to convince myself that I can give up my dreams of world domination and settle down to make babies with some hot young thing.

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Diamond in the Desert

So my posts have been kinda on the dark and gloomy side lately, or maybe more serious than usual.  It reflects my mood at the moment, but that will change soon.

This is just gonna be a short one — I’m in Dubai Airport right now on the way to Dhaka, so I have some time to kill.  I’m drinking a beer at 930 am local time.  I can’t believe how many immigrants live in this city/country.  I would say 25% of the population is East Asian, mostly Chinese and Indonesian.  About 40-50% is South Asian, most of them Bangladeshi.  And then you have the locals, who perhaps make up about 20%, with white people maybe making up 5-10% (although I can’t really tell that from the airport, but its an educated guess from the number of MBAs I know working here, multiplied by the number of hot stewardesses I see).

I stopped at one of the duty free stores and rocked out some Guitar Hero — I turned around after “No sleep till Brooklyn” and found I’d drawn a crowd — I guess I’m a rock star wherever I go — is there any way I can leverage that?!?!

Before I left I was dreading this trip, but my experience in the airport so far just reaffirms that I need to come back to Asia at some point.  It IS the future.  Infrastructure is so super-developed here — it really does make the US look like a third-world country.  I know this isn’t true everywhere, or even in the majority of places, but its true enough at the major hub cities around Asia.

Of course at the same time, society is more close-minded and conservative, but really, in Dubai at least, I don’t feel that its much more conservative than like Arkansas or something!   Diversity breeds openness.  Some people may dress more conservatively, but like I said, when its only 20% of the population you barely notice.  And multiply that by .4 for the number of women actually wearing that long black thing, and its really not a big number.

I think I could really clean up here, in terms of the ladies.  Ha ha!  Is that a joke?  I’m not really sure.  But I hear there’s a dearth of places where you can go out and meet people/women, which could be  a bit of a damper on the picking-up-chicks scenario.

A friend of mine also mentioned that reports of Dubai’s dying economy are greatly exaggerated — its no worse off than anywhere else right now.

That’s all for now, I guess — sitting at an airport bar is only so interesting.  More tomorrow or the day after… when I finally reach my destination — the hot, sweaty, dirty city that is my semi-home…. Dhaka.

Filed under: traveling, , , , ,

All Along the Final Watchtower

battlestar_galactica_intro

Is it a little fucked up that I get more emotional about BSG (Battlestar Galactica), a show about cyborgs and artificial intelligence destroying humanity, than I get about most human beings?

Perhaps, but I’m sure I’m not alone.  This is what happens when we, as viewers watch shows for years at a time, week after week, experiencing traumatic experience after traumatic experience with characters we’ve grown familiar with.  It is a testament to our own self-reflection and self-obsession as a society that we often don’t even interact with our own family members as much as we do with these fictional persons.

I was catching up on last Friday’s episode, and I found myself reacting very strongly to a musical score that includes a remake of All Along the Watchtower by Bear McCreary, which I suggest you play as you read this post for full effect (note the use of both Western and Eastern musical themes — may be cheesy but it matches the underlying primary theme of the show — read on).  As we draw near the end of the series, I can’t help but observe the parallels between my own life (although I’m not going to go into that today), our society, and the themes explored in BSG.

cylon

As is true of any good show, BSG is a reflection of our own society today.  Although the story itself may have a science-fiction setting that in the past may only have appealed to nerds such as myself, the emergence of the themes it explores — as the prevalent moral paradoxes of our current civilization — have given it a mass-market appeal.  Terrorism, suicide bombing, occupation, rebellion, xenophobia, xenocide, secularism, religious fundamentalism, and the dichotomy between technology and humanity — all are presented to us repeatedly throughout the series.  The protagonists who we grow to care about are often the ones who commit crimes, stifle free speech, judge with religious fervor, and engage in human rights abuses.  The lines between “us” and the “other”, as defined by intelligent self-aware technology, are blurred, as are the morals and values each society holds dear.  As viewers, we are betrayed again and again, when characters who seem morally unflappable display character deficiencies which shake our foundations to their cores.

But lets go back to the single major theme which I feel defines the show.  Us vs. them.  Man vs. machine.  West vs. East.  We begin with the premise that the differences between our societies can never be reconciled.  That we can never understand each other.  That the only choice we have is to destroy or be destroyed.  Sound familiar?  The series shortly came out after 9/11, and must have been written with much of the political turmoil of our nation and our planet in mind.  The machines represent a world-view that does not include humanity in its future, and set out to destroy us.  But throughout our relationship with them as our enemy, we see examples of reconciliation between the two cultures, and even mutual understanding and love.  It sounds much cheesier when I explain it than it really is — all I can say is go ahead and invest the 40-50 hours into the series that you do for other shows you watch and love, and you won’t be disappointed.  The acting, the storyline, the special effects — all of these come together to make a show which in my opinion is equal to the best out there right now (and perhaps, one of the best ever), like Lost or The Wire, and in many ways less thematically trite than both of those.

Human or Cylon?  Either way works for me.

Human or Cylon? Either way works for me.

The series isn’t done yet, and I don’t want to ruin it for anyone — especially since with 3 episodes left, I don’t know what the hell is going to happen.  This season has been a series of glimpses into a bigger picture which is still somewhat unfathomable.   With the quality of the writing that has been prevalent so far, I can’t help but think that somehow, it will all be revealed in only 3-4 more hours, but I for one, remain totally clueless about how that’s going to happen.  But it is interesting that our own real world has seen the end of a political viewpoint where continued conflict with forces that are diametrically opposed to our own world-view was the only way to resolve our differences.  BSG is, to me, a direct measure of and reaction to the policies that have dominated global politics for the last decade.  But that story, and this one… is over.

I would like to take this opportunity to say that as a genre, the science fiction television show has given us many insights into our own civilization from a macro perspective.  I think this is due to the fact that by attempting to paint a picture of civilization as it may exist in the future or elsewhere in the galaxy, the writers of these shows are forced to extrapolate what the defining legacy of our species is going to be.  What issues are really going to write the future of humanity?  It won’t be the micro-societal interactions between drug dealers in Baltimore or individuals trapped on an imaginary island.  It’ll be war, love, understanding, and hate on a global scale that make or break us.

Next post will come from Bangladesh — as this post goes live, I’m on a plane.

Filed under: Entertainment, , , , , ,

Check back on Wednesday March 4, at 5pm GMT (Noon Eastern) for my next autopost…

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