Category Archives: Uncategorized

Found in Escapes

What if I seek light in
This night.
Flicker lights falling upon my
Cheek, glistening a part of it, a part
Still left hidden.
What if I seek journey here
Sitting at a deserted bus stand, who
Uses them anyway? Maybe,
Some adventures are good untravelled
What if I seek dance in
The still trees and fully
Blossomed but burdened petals
Of this red red flower, Maybe
Some emotions are best unspoken
Nothing has
Broken down in this part of
The world. The passers by
Still passing, the pretentious
Still talking
What if I seek forgiveness in
This waning crescent moon,
This stillness, this halt
This long drawn silence is not
Here to stay forever,
But it’s still mine
So I don’t see anything moving
But my memories, Maybe
Some notes are better unplayed
Some songs,
Better unsung.


Picture: It’s me trying to discover Fort Kochi


Seldom songs will just be played
When it’s not the music
That we need, but
The words.
I would want your love, laying
Right at that couch, in
The living room.
I would want that touch, not
For I need what love gives
But to realise,
All what it failed to make
Of our lives.


Picture : Well, that’s me chilling at the beautiful coastal city of Kochi

Day Breaks: Understanding Life’s Journey through Full Circle

Norah Jones has witnessed a magnitude of success that was quite overwhelming for her own devices. What could’ve been just another experimentation of a pseudo jazz artist, developed into this whole new genre of contemporary music that had overlapping tones of pop and blues. Come Away With Me as a record librated Norah from a sculpting phase of an artist where one simply tries to shape oneself to fit the voids carved out by the industry.

The resounding success of her debut studio album led to a series of transcending musical adventures where genres such as country and indie pop were also explored. In a span of four studio albums we saw Norah grow musically with her commercial prowess unable to keep up with such diversification.

It was in 2012, that Norah Jones deviated the most from her self produced ‘style’ and released Little Broken Hearts that brought electronic undertones to both her music and vocals. The mixed reviews from the critics and lukewarm reception from the audience kind of faded Norah’s presence from the music scene for at least four years. She did have a couple of collaborative albums being released with The Little Willies and Billie Joe but both the works were merely covers of classical hits.

So after this history of rise and apogee of Norah Jones’s musical trajectory, how do we perceive her new album. Well, the answer comes from the singer herself.

Day Breaks has been translated as an album that shows the completion of Norah’s full circle. This term is quite intriguing for it not only represents a journey but also the various threads of realisation that a person has imbued while embarking upon it. Like a circle is made up of many points that lead to the meeting of the starting point with the end, a full circle journey is one’s professional or personal travel that crosses various moments with each having its own space and value in the whole.

In the lead single Carry On, Norah goes back to perch behind her piano and belt out a soothing melody about the most ordinary yet unfelt moments of romance. Though the lyrical context has matured, the glimpse of that innocent smile breaking between piano solos is still the same. Day Breaks have given a rebirth to Come Away With Me with a refined flavour of instrumental profoundness. There are welcoming features of organ, double bass and saxophone. This is not just Norah going back to her debut era but it’s also a celebration of what she has become today.

So, how does this full circle album treats us? The very idea of going back to your roots, embracing your beginnings, is potentially very impacting in one’s quest for answers about self. We often tread upon various versions of ourselves and get thrown into this twisted maze of complexities about our own identity. It is during this mayhem, that going full circle becomes an answer to that much needed calmness.

Reiterating it yet again, going full circle doesn’t reflect loss or giving up. Neither does it stand for denying what the present shows itself to be. One should not confuse this idea with lack of prospective thinking or death of creativity. This is because you can never make a circle until you merge all the points. Or you ignore to tap upon them. When you go full circle you not only begin to understand your own evolution as a person but also find yourself at a position where you can objectively differentiate between substance and superficial. You get the power to describe your own history and take pride in what you’ve done. Such constructive approach towards past can build strong foundations for future realisation of one’s potential. Therefore, instead of crumbling walls of pride, going full circle makes you preserve the ones that matter.

One should hardly pay attention to the commercial success of Day Breaks because that’s not what Norah seems to prioritise with this album. This album is a realisation, a celebration that has made us realise what Norah Jones was, is and can potentially blossom into.


Picture Credits – Rolling Stones

Cultural Mythology, Jurisprudence, and Terrorism

American children are taught about the Magna Carta Liberatum (“the Great Charter of the Liberties”) and how this document was a fore bearer that brought into existence our current – “most perfect” – system of legal justice. It’s likely they are taught that the Magna Carta granted civil liberties, like habeaus corpus, and that it holds the governing to account on the same laws as the governed. It’s probable that the story is taught as if autocracy voluntarily relieved itself of power and enshrined, under the charter, an equality-based classless system of free society.

Probably, since it isn’t Federally mandated reading material, it isn’t taught that those civil liberties have nothing to do with the Magna Carta, were never even in the document, the few rights written into it were not for common people and that the document was repealed before even a year had passed – and that it was filed back into law only after it was stripped of the few rights it ever held. A writ to sue for involuntary detainment first arrived, in a very limited form, in the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 more than 450 years later.

The Magna Carta dealt primarily with how and at what amounts barons rented land from the land-owning royal crown and what the rates and processes there were for taking loans from bankers under royal protection – it did not give any rights or even mention rights of the working serfs. Disagreements over these banking terms ultimately led to what’s called the First Baron’s War, of which there were several as the name implies, and had local lords rebel against the crown.

Americans are taught incorrectly that the Magna Carta established rights such as habeus corpus and sovereign legal accountability. This misunderstanding may have come from a particular judge in Medieval Britain who used the Magna Carta as a political tool. In 1627 Cook supported arguments that involuntary detention in the case of unpaid rent to the crown was not explicitly authorized by the Magna Carta and therefore not legal. The court system disagreed, as the Magna Carta was never intended to enumerate in full the rights of the state.

As a historical equivalent to modern polemicists who politicize The Constitution and claim its Articles say far more than they do, Cook’s arguments were not only lost in the British court system – he was eventually arrested for treason and the book he had published on his interpretation of the Magna Carta were removed from circulation. Today, Sir Edward Cook is criticized by modern historians for ‘”misconstruing” the original charter “anachronistically and uncritically”, and taking a “very selective” approach to his analysis.’

This of course was inevitably magnified by a Henry Care who, functioning as a payed propagandist, deliberately spread misinformation about the Magna Carta and its presumed continuity of law in Britian and her new American colony in an anti-Catholic political revolution. Eventually convicted, and his pamphlets censored by the British crown, Care’s work did inspire American Whig revolutionaries such as William Penn, who took to reprinting the Magna Carta and circulating it through the 13 Colonies.

Similar to the Magna Carta, American cultural impression of their law also gives it independent claims to lineage from mythological versions of the Code of Hammurabi, the Roman 12 Tables, Hellenic Democracy, the laws of both the Left and Right from Post-Revolutionary France,  and “Enlightenment Thinkers” – each of which are told in the same story format of autocracy voluntarily relieving itself of power to giving way to equality-based, classless society.

It has remained a part of United States cultural narrative not entirely on accident. Tracing continuity of rule – be it through blue blood, legal inheritance, divine right, or doctrinal privilege – is a mainstay of Western, and possibly much of Eastern, culture. Just as Germany had in the 1940’s attempted to establish a line of legitimate rule back to both the Aramaic and Indo-European people and a relationship to the Holy Roman Empire – and just as any political revolution in America would necessarily argue its close relationship to The Constitution – drawing fictitious connections between American law to ancient laws helps establish what seems to be just rule in a line of continuous, legitimate, succession.

While the historical accuracy of these cultural myths is easy to factually disprove, a more interesting challenge presents itself. The principles of ‘just’ power, although only presumed through folklore to have come from ancient rule in a traceable form to our current government, are themselves enumerable and are in some real measures manifest in society. While the stories of origin may be fabricated, to what degree does the ‘social contract’ imagined by those stories, in which civil liberties are first principles, exist in a real form today?

Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act

This bill amends the federal judicial code to narrow the scope of foreign sovereign immunity by authorizing U.S. courts to hear cases involving claims against a foreign state for injuries, death, or damages that occur inside the United States as a result of a tort, including an act of terrorism, committed anywhere by a foreign state or official.

It amends the federal criminal code to permit civil claims against a foreign state or official for injuries, death, or damages from an act of international terrorism. Additionally, the bill authorizes federal courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over and impose liability on a person who commits, or aids, abets, or conspires to commit, an act of international terrorism against a U.S. national.

S.2040 – Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act – The Senate

S.2040 – or JASTA “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act” by name, just passed the United States Senate and will make its way first through the 114th Congress and then be signed into law by the current seated president Barack Obama – unless it is vetoed, which the White House has promised to do unless Congress weakens the language of the bill.

The Obama administration has been particularly careful about using its veto power, only choosing to do so when it is considered a very high priority for the administration. As such, Mr. President Obama has only cast 9 vetos during his entire stay at the top of the Executive Branch. As such, the veto promise underscores the importance to our Executive Branch that JASTA not be made law.

Covered in the domestic media as “Senate passes bill allowing 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia“, the actual stipulations of the law do not mention Saudi Arabia and are on the whole very narrow. It forces the US Justice Department to hear trials against foreign government officials on charges that the support, arming, funding or training of terrorists has caused damages – mortal or monetary – against US persons and property specifically inside of the country’s physical boundaries.

The surprising thing for many people in America is that this isn’t already possible. They had thought not only that justice against sponsors of terrorism was something the US Justice system was able and willing to take on – they thought it had actually been done: mass domestic propaganda campaigns convinced the public of the righteousness of the Bush Administration’s version of ‘justice for sponsors of terrorism’, which involved invading a country not in any way connected to the September 11 attacks.

Furthermore in the War on Iraq the United States followed an operating manual called the Wolfowitz Doctrine (online copy), whose recommendations included destroying Iraq completely, so as to strike fear in in the minds of countries around the world. Americans don’t remember that the carnage was so bad, and so one sided, that the full force of the international community called for the Americans to remove themselves from Iraq.

Compare the legality of lawsuits over terrorism when the charges are against Iran. In 2012 the Justice Department upheld its choice to pursue economic reimbursement for American losses to Iranian proxy forces.

Whereas minor financial compensation seems a small price to pay for “the day that changed the world,” it would by normal measures be criminal since the funds from any successful suit are virtually guaranteed to come from Saudi civilians’ taxes and national budgets rather than the officials themselves. This is only if you’re first willing to agree that financial compensation – rather than a prison sentence – should be the punishment for funders and provocateurs behind heinous actions like the 9/11 terror attacks. For the royal family in Saudi Arabia and their enormous wealth, it would seem to suggest that they can afford to sponsor a great deal more terrorism – provided they budget in the legal expenses necessary to cover any following lawsuits.

Compare the “justice” in Iraq to the reaction of the United States government to potential of lawsuits that could reach the actual support networks of the attacks. Not only is financial litigation so controversial for the Executive Branch that they’ve promised to veto it – but the kind of physical retaliation knowingly visited on the wrong suspect (Iraq) isn’t even on the table for discussion for the real purpetrator (Saudi Arabia).

This leads us to ask: why is this such an important priority for the Obama Administration? Josh Earnest, Secretary for the Press out of the White House, explained the official position after the Senate passed the bill:

“I know that the advocates of this legislation have suggested that they have taken into account our concerns by more narrowly tailoring the legislation.  But, unfortunately, their efforts were not sufficient to prevent the longer-term, unintended consequences that we are concerned about. This legislation would change longstanding international law regarding sovereign immunity.  And the President of the United States continues to harbor serious concerns that this legislation would make the United States vulnerable in other court systems around the world.

There’s also a concern that hasn’t gotten as much attention about the potential vulnerability that is created for some of our allies and partners in U.S. courts.  And the concern is related to the fact that sovereign immunity is a principle that is critical to our national security.  The United States is more engaged in activities in other countries than any other country in the world.  Typically, those are actually activities that other countries benefit from significantly.  These are peacekeeping activities, or humanitarian relief activities, or other activities in which the United States is supporting the national security activities of other countries, and the national security of other countries is enhanced by the involvement of the United States.

But out involvement in those activities is made more complicated by the chance that the principle of sovereign immunity could be eroded.  So the administration strongly continues to oppose this legislation.   And we’re obviously going to begin conversations with the House about it.”

Josh Earnest, 5/17/2016 White House Press Briefing

By the official account, the White House is concerned about the legislation for several reasons. First, the United States government holds sovereign immunity as a principle of law, and considers it critical to National Security. The United States, as per its own law, is immune from legal repercussions unless it specifically consents to be accountable, as it has done (for example) for very narrow cases in the Tucker Act.

The White House Spokesperson continues to explain that the United States is engaged in “activities” around the world for which a weakened international standards concerning sovereign immunity would cause problems for the United States. He helpfully volunteers “peacebuilding” and “relief” activities before listing “National Security activities” and supporting the National Security activities of other countries – which active listeners understand to mean activities intended to incite civil wars, topple governments, change regimes, incite public discord, or isolate governments by supporting regional terrorist forces.

Second, Josh Earnest explains that the United States is worried about what the law would entail for the security of many of its important allies, Saudi Arabia remaining unnamed, as the law could similarly problematize their ability to sponsor terrorism.

Let’s put aside this episode of America internally debating between its branches of government how to craft legislation that balances appearing tough on support networks of terrorists and reluctance to pursue justice for fear of reprisal for its own international activities.

Here we have our government quite clearly expressing their support for the principle of sovereign immunity – the principle that governments, officials and royal family should be above the law, held to lower standards than that of citizens around the world. This principle, so enshrined, the spokesperson for the White House says from the platform, is considered critical to National Security.

While journalists and pundits haven’t batted an eye at these remarks and while the media surges with the reports about Saudi dialogue with the US over the bill – citizens who had once thought that habeus corpus, sovereign accountability and jurisprudence existed as principles over National Security and State Power may take a sharp breath and bother to do their homework.

“Smart Power”

I did not grow up in a war-torn nation, fearful of tanks or planes or soldiers. All of that was–and still is, pretty much exclusively–something I see only in movies and on the news. The closest I’ve ever come to feeling like I live in a war zone was living in New York on Nine Eleven, and even shortly thereafter the apparent suicidal ambition with which those attacks were carried out–with the expressly-stated purpose of drawing the United States into a Soviet-esque empire-bankrupting war in the Middle East–was hard to differentiate thematically from the casualties of U.S. foreign policy throughout the last seventy years. For some, the sense of war on September 11th, 2001 was very real, but for most, it was just another event happening inside the idiot box, distinguishable only by the sense that, this time, you were supposed to put a flag out on the lawn or something. Despite these things–despite my having never truly felt an iota of what it is to live with war–war abroad has become an American staple. When the most war-like places in my country are the products not of warfare but of disregard for the downtrodden, of systemically racist policies, of corrupt police forces, of infrastructural neglect, what is it, exactly, that I’m supposed to see is the benefit of turning foreign nation after foreign nation into war zones for the meager cost of half our total national budget? The September 11th argument is coherent enough for me to understand: they attacked us in a way that managed to yield major destruction on our soil, so we brought the fight to them on their soil. Everything beyond that is an utter fucking wash.

We bomb hospitals, we bomb schools, we bomb weddings, we bomb funerals. There is nothing “smart” about our military policy abroad, only brute force limited by what is politically expeditious domestically. If another ground war in the Middle East so soon after the quagmire of Iraq hadn’t been a public policy polling disaster, do you really think Barack Obama would have disregarded the “red line” he set regarding the use of chemical weapons by Syria? Do you think he would have disregarded the Russian invasion of Crimea? Do you think he would have withheld ground troops from Libya? After all, what is achieved solely with air forces–aside from near-invulnerability to losses among American servicemen and women–that cannot be achieved more effectively with a combination of every available branch of the military? Surely, if anything, when raining down bombs on an area with little-to-no support on the ground, precision is lost, not gained. The argument need not be considered hypothetically; the hospitals, schools, weddings and funerals I alluded to are very real and very routine casualties of a war strategy not particularly far removed from the carpet bombings of Vietnam and the shock and awe policy of both Gulf Wars.

Yet I’m told over and over again that this is a policy of “smart power.” That Obama, like the Democratic Party Christ and savior Kennedy before him (who even died for our sins), has carefully balanced a serving tray of feuding nations that pose potentially-unspeakable threats to the United States atop his greying head. But the world is no longer divided into atomic-faring capitalist and communist superpowers squaring off from across clearly-drawn battle lines like it was in the days of Kennedy, and, you might remember, in the days of Kennedy, the foreign policy was pretty shitty anyway. So what is it, exactly, that compels us into these wars for supposedly only the most just of reasons? What vested interest, purely in service of national self-determination and not rooted in resource manipulation, did we have in the outcome of the Libyan conflict? What existential American crisis is served by our increasing entrance into Syria? I hear a lot of discussion about civilians and the terrible things being done to them in these countries, but why does this argument not apply to Africa? Do Americans have some affinity for Arabs that they don’t for Africans? I think not. Americans couldn’t give less of a shit about either. So what, aside from the presence of oil, the accompanying first-world-level economies, and the also-accompanying top-tier military programs (largely funded by ourselves or our associated superpowers), compels us toward the Middle East? What are the honest intentions that cause us to fix our eyes on the Middle East with such determination? Russia’s footholds there are not really any less tenuous than they were while they were at war in Afghanistan three decades ago. ISIS did not have tangible ambitions against the United States until we re-inserted ourselves into Iraq to stem their advances. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, our most stalwart supposed-ally in the region, is not only one of the most vicious and autocratic regimes in the world, they are increasingly appearing to have had a heavier hand in the attacks of September 11th than anyone else.

For what rhyme or reason? Why do we ally with Saudi Arabia? Why do we fight in Iraq? Why do we enforce no-fly zones in Libya and Syria? If we are pure-hearted in our intentions, why not Nigeria? Why not Chad? Why not Somalia? Why not Sudan? You’ll find no raison d’être for our labyrinthine foreign policy in this final paragraph. After fifteen years of looking, I still can’t find one. By all appearances–and judging from the results, the general lack of progress, and the ill-explained adventurism–there is none. Not if you take the idea of gold-hearted American foreign policy at face value. But, after fifteen years, one thing is clear to me: I can rationalize every bomb dropped, every bullet fired, every life lost, when viewed through the lens of corporatism and an increasingly-oligarchic and disingenuous American state. I must not be loving America hard enough.

M (Fritz Lang, 1931)

M is a pitiless film except regarding the mother of one of the victims, who waits for her child to come home for dinner, and the hunted man, whose sickness draws Lang’s full measure of pity. Even children are casually monstrous.

Dennis Grunes

The following is one of the entries from my 100 Greatest Films from Germany, Scandinavia, Finland & Austria list, which I invite you to visit on this site if you haven’t already done so. — Dennis

Giving birth to the police procedural, Fritz Lang’s M, though talky, retains a grim fascination. It is about two city-wide hunts for the same man—one by the police, the other by the underworld, which hopes to put a stop to the police search of which their criminal business is running afoul. The hunted man is a pedophile and serial killer of little girls. When they wrongly suspect someone on the street of being the killer, people become an enraged mob and assault him, taking the law into their own hands, just as the criminals are doing. Moreover, they reflect something of the compulsive killer’s own inability to control himself. Primarily, the film identifies…

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