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As I walked out of the cinema hall, Natalie Portman’s obssesion with trying to be perfect at what she does best kills her, is still haunting me. Her final performance in the movie, Black Swan directed by Darren Aronofsky, was absolutely mind blowing. One might argue that Natalie is not a trained ballet dancer and the movie uses top shots and foot close ups to conceal that fact. However, purity and obsession were both captured though facial expressions and the eyes. Subtle changes in wardrobe were made to emphasize on the transition of good to evil.

One of the many definitions of the word Perfect in the The Oxford dictionary is –  as free from any flaw or defect in condition or quality; faultless and make (something) completely free from faults or defects; make as good as possible. The key words here being ‘as good as possible’. So when did ‘as good as’ become the ‘ultimate best’. Perfections as perfect you want it to be. Its an illusion, that if not contained could become very very dangerous.

We all are unique in or own way and it is up to us to identify or uniqueness to make it stronger. This holds true for not only our careers paths but also for every decision we make. So when did a need become obsession? Im not sure if i have a definite answer to it. However, simple day to day observations help us become more aware of our behaviors and obsessions.

I come from a country where being fair is the holy grail for any girl, specially if your from the southern parts of India. Movie stars and models use immense amounts of make up to project flawless skin that in turn helps companies sell their product. In the process the end consumer forgets the levels of edits and changes the images grow through before they are finally projected to the end consumer. A video illustrating this was commissioned by Dove to O&M –

However, not everyone has access to such information and in the bargain companies continue to exploit  the consumer’s ignorance.

As girls we grow up to reading fairy tales and dreaming about our perfect prince charming with whom we live or perfect lives. However, as you grown up you only learn in time that there is almost never a real happy ending and the perfect prince charming doesnt really exist. So what is it that exists. After 26 years of my life I found an answer that seems to satisfy me in the movie Good Will Hunting, where Robbin Williams tells Matt Damon –

“You are not perfect, She is not perfect. The question is How perfect are you for each other”.

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Being a vegetarian in India is a no brainer. Anything that moves is considered non veg including eggs and any ingredient that is derived from animals. To add on to that I went to a hindu school and grew up the Arya Samaj way. Brahmins, Jains and Gujarati’s to name a few were common as friends and in time one learns to respect the fact that people can live eating only ‘GRASS’ or as some might call it ‘Ghas phoos’.

Then, times changed, I grew up and decided that it was time for me to move out of my comfort zone and explore the world. Surprise Surprise!!!! the meaning of the term Vegetarian did a 360 degree turn for me.

In a short three things happened –

1) Suddenly, eggs, fish and sea food were  considered vegetarian, depending on which part of the globe your at. How and when did that happen???

2) And as I’m still digesting that fact of life, boom Soy Meat !!! wait what ??? SOy meat …. whats animal is Soy …. never heard of that one before.

3) There are kinds of vegetarians …. there is lacto vegetarian, the vegan vegetarian …. and  god know how many buzzillion different kinds …..

Gosh !!! i always thought, your either a complete vegetarian or not. Where you have Amul cheese and you know you can have it without thinking of Renette, and products have either  a Red Dot or a Green dot and you could buy them without having to read the extremely long ingredients list. After 25 years of my life I find out that Im not actually a vegetarian, Im a lacto vegetarian. But then I say I like drinking milk, just dont have cheese, coz of the renette thing and now everyone is confused. You want to know why and Im confused on how to explain it. Well its just way too confusing for myself and everyone around me.

But then I’m forced to question myself, Would I have know as much as I do now if I hadn’t left my comfort zone of a green dot and a red dot in India and moved out. If I even know the spelling of renette, its because of the fact that Im forced to read up here. I am forced to educate myself so I know exactly what I’m consciously putting into my system. At then end of the day, it becomes a part of you.

Traveling around and getting introduced to different cultures is the best teacher in my experience. I learnt to be ‘politically correct’ and learnt to become more sensitive to everyone else’s opinions and belief systems. I realized that Just because I am vegetarian does not mean I go around telling people that the need to convert. I realized that if I i wanted to people to  respect the fact that I am vegetarian, then I would first have to respect the fact that they are not. That they have their set of ideologies and that is perfectly fine.

Then I started to get making ingredients my friends and I started reading up and understanding them. Its not as easy as it sounds bit not that difficult to understand either. Confused!!! I was initially as well. But then when I started to understand the science behind the whole thing, it doesnt seem that complicated anymore. Although I have to admit I am still learning.

Courtesy Brand New

Image Courtsey http://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/archives/all_right_mr_schultz_im_ready_for_my_close-up.php

America lives on Starbucks! The company needs no introduction anywhere in the world. You almost feel at home when you see the ‘Starbucks Green’. The company recently announced rebrand project with the logo unveiled. The lady becomes closer to her audience. Starbucks not only sells coffee but  a whole lot of other things to go with the coffee.

The company has always retained its name as a part of the visual identity, that is now stuck into the minds the consumer. So obviously the first question that comes to the mind is – how will the consumer react to not having the name at its usual spot?

We are a part of an era where duplication is not hidden. Minor changes (that are not even noticeable at the first glance) are made to logos and duplicate products are sold at large. I feel like the company might have to take some drastic measures in advertising to convince the consumer that they are getting the authentic Starbucks that they have grown up to.

Although I have to admit that I absolutely love the simplicity of the icon and the play on the lady coming closer to its audience. Definitely gives it a more personal touch and makes you feel that the company is making an effort to get to know its consumer a lot more. Are they actually doing it? Only time will tell.

This ones for all the Apple lovers …. Copyright of Rrubina at 2010.

Recently I came across an article that wrote about how couples, in my words affected by brands, are inventing new ways of marriage ceremonies. While some might call it quirky, crazy or be dumbfounded just by the idea, I personally think there is something sinister about it. I mean think about it, they meet at the apple store, feel the connection and decided to pay their tribute to APPLE for introducing them. They get married at the apple store. Talk about brand loyalty. If that would be considered brand loyality in the first place. The concept of brand loyalty has always been using products of that one bran you love and NEVER looking at its competitive. But this is a whole new level of brand loyalty. Maybe they just wanted to be different. they aren’t the first and deff wont be the last do something like that. As I started digging deeper, I found many couples have had such ‘Themes’ so to say for their wedding. You have couples dressing up at the characters if Halo / or Star Wars and getting married. I wonder what my wedding would look like. It’ll probably a traditional Indian wedding. I mean if I had to even suggest it, my in-laws would probably think im crazy before I even became a part of their family. But Im a designer, and hey! thats what we do, think out of the box.

Coming back to crazy couple, I dont really think they are crazy. For one, I’m judging them and I dont even know them. not fair!!! But what i do wonder is what would it be if these guys had to actually live in a mac store? they probably would do it. Or everything in their homes were a mac product. Steve Jobs tribute to this couple. the rate at which apple is going, it wont be long before they try and capture every space their consumers touch, breathe and see. From redefining the way people listen to music, to the definition of a mobile phone they have, without doubt, captured it all. My kids will probably never know what it is like to hold an atlas or simply get lost in an unfamiliar place and flip through a paper map to find their way around, or even simply ask someone for directions. Human interaction with one another is now going into an age where it will be through a technical substrate. Hold on, it will depend on that substrate. what apple offers is coined as location based services. However, the big question is, was apple really the first to offer such a service. Other brands like Nokia SportsTracker (http://sportstracker.nokia.com) which simply allows you to use your Nokia with its built-in GPS to track your fitness routes and share, catalog, and track your performance numbers and other stuff. This, and things like Bones In Motion (http://bonesinmotion.com), Geoladders (http://www.geoladders.com/) and others. So what makes apple so special? Apple made common man aware of location tracking devices.  Its not only hidden to your pets and kids, and its deff not done without your knowledge. You feel kool about the fact that your have this device that makes you detectable at any given point of time. You have pop ups and other additional features that add to the glamor. The consumers willingly are giving up their privacy without realizing the consequences.

There are many stages in a persons life. Birth / student / householder / retired, these are only some of the basic ones. Then we can get into details and look at the different stages within each one of these and then sub sub dived them. The only thing constant amongst all these stages, sub and sub sub stages is ‘CHANGE’. From the day we are born to the second we die everything changes in every second of our lives. We use the word ‘change’, ‘changing’, ‘different’  all the time.

Every experience we have teaches us something new, that in turn makes us wiser than yesterday and will teach us something new for tomorrow. Sometimes things just happen and we wonder if thats the change we really want. Its a change that we probably were not expecting. It is a change thats not a part of the plan. Then you wish you could erase that part of your memory so you dint have to deal with the pain. Not thinking for a second that we might just repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

When a series of event takes place in our lives at that point we blame God. We tend to ask questions like Why ME? Why now? At that point its frustrating and we feel helpless. In that state of helplessness we leave to God and things happen. When things happen in the state of acceptance, we call it ‘things happened’. When things happen unexpected and unplanned thats when we question. What we should question is that did we look back and thank God for what happened, because if that event had not taken place we would probably not be where we are at the moment. And assuming that everyone reading this at this very moment is content with everything that IS HAPPENING in their lives, it was extremely important what the events that HAPPENED to happen at that time. Take some time and look back at everytime something happened and we questioned it, did something better for us follow it. Could be after a year or more or less. But something good would have come out of it. Did we learn anything, maybe. Did we stop or even reduce questioning the lord, maybe, maybe not.

It is in the nature of a child to be carefree. The child knows that the parents are constantly watching and will reach out for him should anything happen to him. Even though is might be playing and the parent is sitting on the bench, he knows the parent is ALWAYS watching. And truely, should the child fall, the parent will stop doing everything and run towards the child. Thats the kind of faith we need to have towards the lord. We need to take a step back and let Him make the decisions for a change. We need to stop fighting with Him to let us down so we can walk and simply let him carry us. God knows that the number of times I have fallen has been simply because I acted like a brat and wanted him to put me down so I could walk by MYself. I fell everytime. However, He has always been there standing right by me carrying me in his loving arms, everytime I fell.

By simply saying that the glass is half full does not necessarily make me the most optimistic person alive. Optimism comes from Faith which come from wisdom which in turn comes from experience. And none of this is possible without the Lords Grace, love and blessings. At the end of the day the only thing i pray is

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
🙂

This is the mantra that BT tried to spread through its ad campaign. Think investments, think graphs, think money and thats all your energy lost!

The Glue Society came up with, what I think is a rather appealing solution. For a change I actually enjoyed looking at graphs!!!

As interactive media is taking over and companies try to engage their consumers with the product, Coco Cola is not far behind in the game. 21st Century Coke dispensers were put up redefining the way consumers asked for a drink. Honestly, I dint even know that many coke flavors even existed, Considering that they have a few flavors that are exclusive depending on the country your at. So till we find out about all the flavor options that coca cola has to offer, Enjoy the new dispenser that we hope to find soon in the market.

http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/zachary-wilson/and-how/coca-cola-gives-ten-times-choices-freestyle

In the past few months that Ive been a part of ACCD, I have been inspired by Art and Design in Berlin. And the place does it again. Nik, the Department Chair at ACCD, shared a lovely form of expressionism that is being used for data visualization. What is it??? Visualizing the traffic in a busy street. How? by using paint and Cars that pass by.

Who imagined Jackson Pollock’s form of expressionism would be used as a tool for Data Visualization in the 21st Century???

Man is a curious animal. Thinking and being curious is a function of man’s immortal soul. Our curious nature is what makes us superior as compared to animals and machines. The opening sequence of the film 2001:A Space Odyssey, projects this very nature that has been a part of us since the beginning of time. In a world that is ruled by apes, one particular group discovers a mysterious rectangular monolith near their home, which imparts upon them the knowledge of tool use, and enables them to evolve into people. Man has always been coupled with technology to carry out activities and survive. We have in a way reached a point where technology is not a separate entity to aid our activities, but has become a part of us. The relation we share with technology is very different from what it was even 25 years ago. I am a part of the generation that grew up to the Internet, ipod’s, iPhone’s and robotic pets. The Internet changed the way information is exchanged and the iPhone redefined our relationship with our phones. Robotic pets are a topic of common discussion and many people are moving towards adopting robotic pets as compared to real animals. How then do we define what is real and what is artificial.

The more the essence of humans is sought, the more the lines between human and non-human blurs.[1] Teresa Haffernan made this observation during her attempts to ‘improve’ the human through ‘Artificial Intelligence.’ Although John McCarthy coined this term in 1956, Alan Turing’s famous paper ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’ and particularly its section on the Imitation Game, have resonated throughout the world of Artificial Intelligence (AI). This, without doubt, is the most significant publication in the entire history of AI.[2] The Imitation Game, also known as the Turing Test discussed in this paper, demonstrates the machines ability to demonstrate intelligence. As scary as it sounds, I think we are headed in that direction.

The movies we watch in the cinema are only a reflection of the thoughts, ideas and experiments conducted by scientists, philosophers and artists. Rick Deckard uses the concept of the Turing Test to identify the clones from the humans in Riddley Scotts much acclaimed film Blade Runner. Human nature and human capacity to grasp reality are questions that are posed to a society that is dominated by digital technology. The psychological implications of films such as Blade Runner, Terminator and now Avatar are proof of the studies that are being conducted. After the release of Avatar, CNN created a wave when it published the article ‘Audiences experience Avatar Blues.[3] People are actually depressed that they live in the world that is a result of their own harvest. Videos are uploaded on YouTube by a group of young people who paint their bodies blue and role-play the film.[4] Simply watching the video and listening to them talk informs us of how distorted their vision of reality is. Avatar is considered fictional world depicted on the big screen. It becomes a problem when we allow fiction to affect us and want to make it reality. We fail to see the big picture, to understand the underlying message in the film. We take it at face value and bring it into our ‘real’ lives. People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them.[5] That’s when the line between what is real and fiction is blurred.

As we try to understand what our purpose of life is and sharpen the line between real and fiction, we are not only experimenting with our surroundings but have also started experimenting on ourselves. From being as analog as painting one’s body the color blue to ‘relive’ Avatar to the other extreme of connecting our bodies to machines and becoming a hybrid, man is trying it all.

One such hybrid that I recently became aware of are the cyborgs. The term ‘Cyborgs’ was coined in 1960, when Manfred Clynes and Nathan Kline used it in an article about the advantages of self-regulating human-machine systems in outer space.[6] This term was used to describe an organism that has both artificial and natural systems. In Donna Haraway’s words

Cyborgs came into being when boundaries – particularly those between animals and humans or between self-controlled, self-governing machines and organisms – become blurred.[7]

Sounds familiar? The film industry does it again. Such organisms are constantly projected in Hollywood films such as Spiderman, Terminator and Blade Runner. In more than half of the science fiction films that are released every year, technology is projected as being politically, environmentally and socially disastrous. For example, in Avatar, Robots controlled by humans are used against the Na’vi tribes. Another example is the film Spiderman. The character Dr. Otto Octavius is initially an obsessed and brilliant scientist. When involved in a freak scientific accident, he becomes the dangerous Doctor Octopus. This character is inspired from the concept of cyborgs and is portrayed as a threat to mankind. It almost feels like he directors of Terminator felt the need to show a cyborg that is not all that bad and decided to make Terminator 2. While Terminator 3 in a way informs us that only metal can cut another metal, a cyborg is required to destroy the other. I find it very interesting that in spite of repeated reminders of the adverse effects of technology, we continue to move towards a future that will lead us to a dead end at some point.

It is common knowledge that as humans we use only a minute percentage of our brain capacity. Using machines to upgrade humans is in a way trying to use our brain to its fullest capacity, if that is even possible and If human will be able to handle that level of intelligence?  Is that why we continue to experiment irrespective of what the result might be? Technology, in a lot of ways, provides a very seductive way to extend ones abilities and senses. Are we that mesmerized by the seduction that has resulted in the line becoming a blur?

Characters such as Dr. Octopus do not live only in the world of cinema. It almost feels like these characters are trying to mimic scientists and artists who are experimenting on themselves in their quest to becoming that hybrid, a cyborg. One such cyborg STELARC[8], an Australian based performance artist whose work explores and extends the relationship between the human body and machines. While designers write about how a style today becomes obsolete tomorrow, STEALRC makes, what I think is a bold and provocative statement, ‘The Body is Obsolete’[9]. Even if one had to visit the artist’s website, I personally feel it is a very disturbing experience. In a way he justifies his actions and thoughts by stating that as humans we have always been coupled with technology. However, what we are forgetting is that initially technology was a means to an end, a means to simplify our living conditions. It was only a matter of time that technology became a norm and we are now completely dependent on it.

Another example is Prof. Kevin Warwick, a Professor of Cybernetics at the University of Reading. Prof. Warwick used himself as a guinea pig and connected technological implants to his central nervous system, in his quest to enhance human capabilities and to become the worlds first Cyborg. Correction! first human to become a Cyborg. This hybrid between the natural and the mechanical has been tested on apes before and has been successful in the past

While on one hand we have STELARC and Prof. Kevin Warwick for whom the line between humans and non-humans is blurred, on the other hand we have MIT students such as Pranav Mistry who are trying to push boundaries and redefine the line while keeping it sharp and visible. Pranav Mistry, invented what he calls the ‘Sixth Sense’.[10] The idea behind this device is to use gestures and translate the information into a digital substrate to further our knowledge. We are no longer confined to a particular physical space and a computer, but we now carry the digital substrate with us everywhere.

Apple also pushed boundaries to a large extent with its iPhone. We do not use the phone only to communicate, but for a million other reasons. Apple’s slogan – ‘There is an app for everything’ says it all. We have almost forgotten what the world was without an iPhone. Applications such as iCry Translator translate a baby’s cry and inform the mother what the baby needs.[11] Personally I find this shocking. Understanding a baby’s needs comes instinctively to a mother. Now we need a digital substrate to tell us what our baby needs. What’s next? iBlink to tell us that we need to blink or iBreathe to tell us that we need to breathe. In a way it make me wonder if people designing these applications for the iPhone are blurring the line, maybe not the same way as the cyborgs, but in the same direction that might result in something unexpected.

A vision that many scientists continue to have is a world in which robots and machines will take over, a time when machines will have intelligence more powerful than that of humans and when machines will make the important decisions. As humans we are comfortable with being the most superior race, however, we seem to be in a spot where we are now competing with machines and it almost feels like it is becoming our fight for survival and our fight to remain the superior being. This can be considered as a very male chauvinistic attitude. However, to a feminist, it is inappropriate, eccentric and only natural to distrust any new technology endangering the bodily integrity of the women. To the religious, it is not acceptable and to the spiritual it might be considered as an act of paying for our own karmas, i.e. paying for our own past doings. However, the existentialists would say, we make our selves what we want to be’.

To an existentialist, If Man is, then man becomes the creator, preserver and the destroyer. We created machines to preserve ourselves, which in turn has backfired and is destroying us, in a lot of ways. If Man is, then man as an individual has freedom, Freedom of expression and Freedom of choice. Each individual decides for himself what is right from wrong. There are no set rules and everything becomes subjective. With freedom comes responsibility. Freewill results in a lot of anguish, which has a direct impact on the world we are a part of. This accumulated anguish forbids man to become a leader. Is man ready to bear the burden of such responsibility where our decisions and actions have a direct affect on mankind simply by ruling God out of our lives?

Our tomorrow is the encounter of our today. Scientists and artists like STELARC and Prof. Kevin Warwick seem to be only the tip of the iceberg. By catering to their sense of freedom and self-expression they are reinventing the forms of artistic expression, communication, stimulation and the meaning of being human. They are responsible for their actions and their actions will result in an affect on mankind – positive or negative.


[1] Afterword, The Human in the PostHuman, N. Katherine Hayles, http://www.jstor.org

 

[2] Robots Unlimited, Life in a Virtual Age, by David Levy, Page 40.

[3]http://www.cnn.com/2010/SHOWBIZ/Movies/01/11/avatar.movie.blues/index.html

[4] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yk2vR8w2sjc

[5] http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/e/epictetus_3.html

[6] http://www.scribd.com/doc/2962194/Cyborgs-and-Space-Clynes-Kline?autodown=pdf

[7] The Ethics of Hybrid Subjects: Feminist Constructivism According to Donna Haraway, by Baukje Prins, Page 352, http://www.jstor.com

[8] http://www.stelarc.va.com.au/arcx.html

[9] http://www.stelarc.va.com.au/arcx.html

[10]http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/pranav_mistry_the_thrilling_potential_of_sixthsense_technology.html

[11] http://www.crytranslator.com/