Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

Checking in as a patient is not the only way to know what it's like to be in rehab. Sometimes, it's possible to get a fairly accurate picture by reading a book like A Million Little Pieces by James Frey.

Frey was a 23 year-old who had been abusing drugs and alcohol since he was 10 years old when he was brought to a rehabilitative center in Minnesota. He was told he would die by the age of 24 if he did not get immediate help. And so began a long, painful, highly graphic journey of his path ro recovery.

The writing is conversational in parts. But it's more accurately an insight into the author's mind, as though he has hooled it up to a silent reader which translates his thoughts into text. Frey has employed an interesting use of capitalization, treating different words as though they were characters. Ironically, this is not distracting but actually lends more meaning to the reading.

The story develops very well, carrying the reader comfortably through it at every stage. The beginning of the book is quite harsh and it takes determination to get through the first few chapters. But once past that, the effort becomes worthwhile.

The timing of reading this book coincided with my discovery of a television show called Intervention. It deals with addictions of different kinds through real people suffering from the conditions. With help from their family, victims get help from medical facilities in different parts of the country. The visual elements of the show helped put the book into perspective.

A Million Little Pieces was once Oprah's choice for her book club. However, soon after it was discovered that not all parts of the book were true. Frey appeared on the show to admit and apologize for the falsity which was part of his "memoir." I don't support deception and it is tragic for the credibility of a text especially like this to be marred by something like untrue facts. But the story is compelling. Read A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. It will suprise you how a book with that title can make you feel reknewedly whole again.

On an aside, I've started my new blog here, where only my published journalistic work will be available. I encourage you to to take a look and would really appreciate feedback.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Changing times

This economy is scary. Although it was inevitable and felt imminent for a while, it still is shocking. But yesterday, a proefessor was explaining how the restructuring of a newspaper office may be the answer to keeping the suffering print industry alive. That's when it hit home that although this economy is here now and there seems to be little recourse from it at the moment, it will untimately end and that will happen when some radical changes take place.

So the answer does not lie in returning to old models which got us in this mess in the first place. Restructuring seems to be the answer - the process of making marked changes without changing the essence of the product. That means, reassessing business plans, rethinking the finance market, reorganizing the stock market and real estate sector with the efforts being extended to pertinent areas such as education, infrasturcture and of course, the media.

The right changes could likely help avoid such a catastrophic scenario in the future, making the public sector more insulated to the need to layoff employees by the dozen, snatch away their paychecks and leave them standing cold and wet by the side of the road.

We will ultimately go back to being okay. But it will take time. And things will not be the same when we do. Which is probably a good things. It's better to return to different models which work better than old onee which fail.

There is hope. All is not lost. It's just about making those changes. And as a wise man once said, "Change is good."

Monday, February 23, 2009

India is on a date with Oscar

The Indian presence at the 81st Academy Awards was unprecendeted. For once, India did not feature in only the foreign film category. Nor is Satyajit Ray, a great contributor to Indian cinema, the only Indian anymore to have one an award. AR Rahman joins him and does India proud.

As does Resul Pookutty, part of the sound mixing team which also won an award and the gorgeous kids from Mumbai who endeared a worldwide audience.

From the riot of hyper-pink-costumed dancers who performed a modern day jazz bharat natyam* to the dhol** players among the audience, the Indian actors who attended the event and the mindboggling number of awards Slumdog Millionaire won - the night truly belonged to bringing the world several steps closer to India.

Besides the entertainment factor, this movie and now these awards, will hopefully make the world more aware of a land which is home to more than a billion people and swelling community overseas. Make them appreciative of a culture of celebration and resilience, much of which languishes in indifference. No, not the politicians and geography majors whose job it is to know. But the next door neighbor in Sweden. The classmate in Australia. The fireman in Alabama. The everyday people around the world who will be curious to know more about a place like no other. And hopefully, just maybe, that curiousity will translate into opportunity for Indians to play host, to learn tolerance and embrace the process of opening of the mind. Because India needs more of an education. What better way than for an exchange of ideas? Only when this is successfully achieved can we claim to belong to a civilized society.

* A form of Indian dance
** An Indian drum-like instrument

The night belongs to Hollywood's Golden Boy

It's Oscar night baby!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Like a house of cards

A toy store I went to a week ago (don't let your imagination run wild, there are plenty of toy-age-playing babies in the family for whom I go shopping. Besides, no one ever said it was illegal to linger by the doll section a little longer than necessary, did they?) is two days away from closing down. A large scoreboard sort of sign hangs conspicously in a corner screaming out the number of days to go before closure.

The economy is in shambles. This is just one of the many victims.

The prices are marked down insanely low. A toy that cost 15 dollars at Christmas get five of them for five dollars. I gulp hard.

Losing businesses give me such a pit in my stomach. Like they're a contagious disease which will afflict anyone who breathes the same air as them.


Like the rest of the world, I'm waiting for this economy to get better. When cash registers are ringing again and money flows freely. Much like healthier times we had not so long ago before too many people in important positions decided to gamble.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

You gotta love Love

I attended a fundraiser dinner tonight at MIT. It was at Morse Auditorium, this large hall with life like paintings on the wall that seemed staight out of the Renaissance.

Poeple chatted, their murmur filled the room with a hum. Food was set on long tables along one side of the room. I found classmates and sat down at the same table.

Coincidentally, a shy boy and girl sat at the same table too. She, from Bangladesh. He, clearly not. As American as possible. And a physical chemist at MIT.

They were comfortable in each other's company and spoke to us through gracious smiles. Little did we know that the twosome who seemed too young to be out of bed past midnight were actually married! And had been that way for the past four years!

As the evening progressed, dinner was eaten and digested with dessert. The couple had eyes only for each other. They were both fun conversation. But they saved the best for just the two of them. They settled into each others arms and said sleepy goodbyes when we rose from the table to leave.

Love does exist. In the disparate combination of blond hair and auburn. In Asian accents and Western ones. It knows no boundaries. And it's wonderful to see it alive and well.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The man who is Joe Nocera

Joe Nocera stopped by campus the other day. And the fact that he is a B.U. alum turned the event into a mini celebration. It was, after all, the homecoming of our very own celebrity.

But Nocera is as removed from celebrity status as possible. It was so refreshing to meet a stellar journalist who doesn't take himself too seriously. He wasn't there to preach or explain his flawless journey to exaltation. He wasn't going to gab about how he made all the right moves or how he had nailed every journalistic practice in the book. It's not uncommon to find the worst of them with their heads full of fluff of this sort.

Nocera chatted, answered questions and made it seem so easy to get to where he is at. Keep talking Mr. Nocera, we're listening.