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Out of Exile: A Eulogy

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“Someone who Must Not Be Contradicted said that a man must be a success by the time he’s thirty, or never.” “To have reached thirty,” said Reginald, “is to have failed in life.”
Reginald, the easy-going hero of some of Saki’s best short stories, probably uttered those words like I imagine he did all others- with a shrug of detachment and just enough cynicism to come across as worldly without sounding unwise.

Words that could have come out of the mouths of any of my first musical heroes-  Layne Staley,  Andrew Wood, Kurt Cobain. Not to mention pioneering artist Jean-Michel Basquiat who approached life with such lightness of being, deftness of touch, that he deserves a whole musical genre unto himself. 
But those words would not have felt nearly as natural coming from Chris Cornell- not even during or after his hard-drinking, dragon-puffing heyday. Cornell was the boy-done-good and lately, the Grand Old Man, of the grunge music scene. Even when talking about his own history of depressio…

The Chainsmokers - A 'Closer' Listening

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Enough and more has been said and written and Reddited and subtweeted -and not nearly always kindly- about EDM duo and self-professed frat bros, The Chainsmokers. I'd previously scrolled over some of the hate in passing but it wasn't until late on a February night last year, at a house party in New Friends' Colony Snapchatted in its entirety by the 30-odd early 20-somethings that attended it, that I'd had a chance to actually listen to one of their songs in any seriousness. 

The song was Closer - The Chainsmokers' runaway hit and ubiquitous soundtrack of 2016- and hand on heart, it deserves every download or stream or whatever fancy new metric determines pop music greatness these days. It's an ohrworm of a single, and the 'smokers are, on said evidence, Ubermenschs of post-genre EDM. The DJ at the party, dressed in an unseasonal Hawaiian shirt and thigh high shorts combo, must have felt the same because he kept going back to it every 4 tracks or so in trite …

Captain Fantastic (2016): Film Review

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First things first: this is not a comedy. It’s funny in parts, but it’s not ‘dark comedy’ or ‘absurdist comedy’ or any of those other variants often touted out when they really mean ‘indie movie with artistic pretentions’.  
What it is though is an at-all-times interesting tale about a grieving husband (played admirably by Viggo Mortenson) and his ragtale bunch of home-schooled warrior children (all equally brilliant in their respective roles) on a mission to rescue the body of their dead mother from her Christian parents to cremate her in accordance with their wishes.

While the premise is quirky enough to set your indie feelers tingling, the backstory is what gives it character: the kids have all been born and raised isolated from conventional society- in a remote farm when they were young and since then in their own little private settlement in a forest. Every day, they wake up and train themselves to scale mountains and hunt wild game and incapacitate human attackers. As Papa Fan…

The Association of Small Bombs: Book Review

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Pardon the pun, but I found Karan Mahajan's second novel, The Association of Small Bombs, to be a bit of a dud. I'm going to chalk this up to two things: (1) the book came so heavily recommended that it inevitably failed to live up to the hype, and more importantly, (2) if you're going to write about -and thereby stake a claim to- a minority experience, maybe put a little more than cursory googling into your research.

Neither disclaimer is a reflection on Mahajan's writing- which is equal parts richly indulgent and the model of restraint- but you can't stylize your way out of the burning trainwreck that is deconstructing the Muslim experience. Some throwaway lines and sentiments attributed to the Muslim characters are so familiar, so cliched, that you wonder if the author has based all his understanding of the conceptual landmine he is taking on not even on Right Wing media, but Hollywood fluff. I can only imagine that for a Muslim reader, parts of this book must …