Wednesday, November 19, 2003




with eyes closed





Tuesday, November 11, 2003

I am the Captain of my ship

You see
I have my firm hands on the wheel,
to steer this ship
across this vast sand !!!
Oh my god !!! I couldnt believe, I said sand.
What I meant to say was not sand but the..the..sand !!
Aaargh!#@ God.
I mean I will take this fucking ship
Across this cruel s..s..sand.
This vast ......sand
Oh no. not sand...

Oh, my ship.. slcw

New Evenings are here

Evenings of damp reeking soil are gone
evenings that spilled blood are gone
evenings of weightlessness are here
evenings full of aimless birds are here
feel unsafe
inside our two thousand square feet
rajasthan marble and plastic flower homes
Shadows fall from all angles
and mock the rising sun-like dial
of our protractors.
they claw on the bare walls
they stretch face down across the empty floors
shadows whom you can call by name
shadows that stop and look when you call,
but whose stares you cant bare.
I put my head back between the knees
and feel the weightlessness
of a soiled and used bale of cotton. slcw

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

At last, the pursuers and the pursued
got into this green cool shadows
I was just an eye on a tree with no eyelids to close
the pursued trembled and begged, inside
the tightening circle of burning eyes
and let out a sickening cry.
Hammer was the first to break the circle
the skull cracked and the leaves trembled.
then it was the sickle’s turn. it hissed in an arch
the blood shreiked and roused the crows
invisible in the damp shadows
then all of a sudden in a quickening drill
the machete, the club, the bottle
and a farmer's hoe trambled on the fallen,
while the hammer waited.
A bloody pendulam
marking time. till....
I was a naked eye on the tree
with no eyelids to close. slcw

Saturday, October 25, 2003






The lover

Tuesday, October 21, 2003


The grin


Mother and child

Tuesday, October 14, 2003





Friday, October 10, 2003




Green Christ

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Human body is made up of organic compounds. ie; compounds whose basic structure is made up of carbon,hydrogen and oxygen. Let us say, hypothetically, that human body contains all the elements in the periodic table.
We know that all the atoms of all the elements in the nature is made up of sub-atomic particles. And the nature of all the sub-atomic particles are still not understood clearly. But we can say that their exact nature cannot be defined in a concrete fashion which we are so used to, when learning science.
For example -Their position in space and their speed at a particular time cannot be known simultaneously (A paradoxical situation first conceived by Heisenberg).

So all the stuff that you see in this nature is made up of particles about which we cannot say anything solidly.

So when I die, my body desintagrate, and all the atoms and their constituents will go back to soil. Plants growing in this soil will absorb me and sprout leaves and fruits. Which, my children and their friends consume and grow. This cycle goes on and on.

Advaita vedantam says that all is made up of the same stuff and all that you see and feel exist only in your perception. What you should do is to release your self from this perceptionogenic maya to the world of absolute truth.Which cannot be explained or taught, but only experience by the one who is detached from the temptations of the senses.
So for a vedanti there is no difference between a tree and woman. For him everything perceived is a phenomena in the eternal flux of a common energy. slcw

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Grant Wood, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (1931)


Hey Fobs, no contributions from the resident artist? If the bug is lack of inspiration, maybe the Met's website would help. Fantastic stuff!slrs

Monday, September 01, 2003

'It's very funny to see, if someone else's mother gone mad'
malayalam proverbslq

Sunday, August 24, 2003

From Henry Beard and Chris Cerf's The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook (1992):

Vertically challenged = short

Chronologically gifted = old

Terminally inconvenienced = dead

Involuntarily leisured = unemployed

Incompletely successful individual = a failure

Sobriety deprived = drunk

Not necessarily unconstitutional = clearly wrong, but not illegal.


‘And what is a genuine lunatic?

‘He is a man who prefers to go mad, in the social sense of the word, rather than forfeit a certain higher idea of human honor.

‘That's how society strangled all those it wanted to get rid of, or wanted to protect itself from, and put them in asylums, because they refused to be accomplices to a kind of lofty swill.

‘For a lunatic is a man that society does not wish to hear, but wants to prevent from uttering certain unbearable truths.’

- ANTONIN ARTAUD, "Van Gogh: The Man Suicided by Society," 1947

‘We are all born mad. Some remain so.’
- SAMUEL BECKETT, 'Waiting for Godot', 1955

‘Mad, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence; not conforming to standards of thought, speech and action derived by the conform[ists] from study of themselves; at odds with the majority; in short, unusual.’
- AMBROSE BIERCE, The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

‘The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.’
- G. K. CHESTERTON, Orthodoxy, 1909

‘It may be a question which is the worst delirium, that by which a man possessing some great truth has lost the use of his practical intellect, or that other widespread delirium, in which the mind is enslaved to the lowest cares and meanest aims, and all that is loftiest and greatest in the soul is stupefied and deadened in worldliness.’
- JAMES FREEMAN CLARKE, "Jones Very," 1839

‘Those whom God wishes to destroy, he first makes mad.’

‘You are mad, Paul! Your great learning is driving you mad!’
- FESTUS (Roman procurator in Judea, -62 A.D.), to Paul who was being held as a prisoner, Acts 26:24

‘For the nineteenth century, the initial model of madness would be to believe oneself to be God, while for the preceding centuries it had been to deny God.’
- MICHEL FOUCAULT, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, 1961

‘Madness is man's desperate attempt to reach transcendence, to rise beyond himself.’
- ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL, The Prophets, 1962

‘A fixed idea ends in madness or heroism.’
- VICTOR HUGO, Ninety-Three, 1879

‘Madness need not be all breakdown. It may also be a breakthrough. It is potentially liberation and renewal as well as enslavement and existential death.’
- R. D. LAING, The Politics of Experience, 1967

‘Having stripped myself of all illusions, I have gone mad.’
- FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE (1844-1900), written in an asylum, My Sister and I

(To be continued)slq

I’m looking for the best bargain on broadband. Asianet’s cable connexion is interesting, but just discovered a catch. I had thought a cable connexion had unlimited download (since it is called a permanent connexion). But the cheapest scheme – the one intended for home users – has a monthly download limit of 500 MB. I don’t know, but how much is half a gig? Suppose I listen to streaming audio from a webcast station for an hour a day. How many MB would that notch up? And also heard something about BSNL entering the fray with a characteristically (much) cheaper offer. Got to do a bit of digging on this issue. And read that someone in TVM had the consumer court order Asianet to refund his money for failure to fulfil their promise of ‘500 times faster’ connexions!

Been watching a lot of television nowadays. No films; just television. One of the passions I developed during my last days in Pune was The Economist – a fine newsmagazine, probably the best in the world. For a hundred rupees a month I could borrow the weekly issues fresh from the newsstand, for three days. Reading an issue cover to cover took up the best part of my weekend, but that was time damn well spent. Been looking for a substitute for that here, in another medium. BBC World does not have a daily capsule programme that sums up the news of the day. Their website mentions an international news programme at 0030 hrs IST, but that turned out to be only five days a week. They do however have a half-hour weekly summary of world events in ‘This Week’ (Sat 1900, and repeated). And CNN – against which I should confess an early bias – appears to have a pretty good current affairs programme named ‘Insight’ (Mon to Thu nights, 0230 hrs – yeah, the timer rec feature on the VCR comes handy), hosted by the earnest and searching Jonathan Mann. CNN also has ‘World Business This Week’ (Sat 0400).

Other programmes that caught my interest include:
Design 360 (CNN, Sun 1100): design, architecture, commercial art. Last week’s lead piece was on a celebrated Japanese architect, who happened to come in second in the competition for designing the replacement for NYC’s twin towers.
Click Online (BBC, Fri 0100 and repeated): computing, technology, the internet. The last edition had an informative piece on GPS and its new competition. The only hitch with this programme is that the presenters’ attempts to jazz it up come off too often as clunky.
Profiles (BBC, Fri 0300 and repeated): Caught just one episode but that one was really good. The series is made of profiles of eminent personalities by someone well-known in that field. The life and work of Chinua Achebe was explored through images of a changing Africa and an interview with the renowned author. He spoke of how it is possible for one people to use the power of story to gain dominance over another: smuggle into their consciousness a one-sided version of their history and destiny.

Hey, it’s been a while. But how things have changed in the meanwhile! I am back home. I get to return home after each day’s work, and what a difference that makes! And as for verdant Kerala, I think my longing had made Kerala greener in my mind. And, when you have to walk or ride along these messed-up roads, the rains are quite a different thing from what you think of it as you contemplate it serenely form the window.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

The things I did during my two month absence from salon.
Shifted my business from the city to the suburb. Very near to the Cochin University campus.
Removed one of my business associate from the partnership for unprofessional conducts in business.
Read the biography of the humanist thinker M Govindan.
Read the book 'Modern Painting' by the scholar Kesari Balakrishna Pillai.
Went back to my detailed study of Paul Gaugin and El Greco.
Read the book 'Kerala History' by sreeDhara Menon.
Completed The Roller coaster ride simulation.
Met a soft spoken guy named Jyothish- he is an animator. ( today i read a short story by him. It was good.)
Read a book with highly volatile content- 'Re-incarnation of Bharat' (The book is in Malayalam. the title is my translation) by Aurobindo.
Read the chapter on spinoza.(again!!!) from Will Durants story of philosophy. Fortunately didn't understand a thing.
Read the book 'Sree Narayana Guru'. (Biography)

So, from this shore, last two months was not that bad.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

welcome home Clement.

sorry i wasnt around for a while.

I will get back to you soon.

One question to Clement.

Does Kerala look more greener now?

Thursday, June 26, 2003

And thanks to Deepa for that call out of nowhere. Made my day.

Thought I'd say hi to my blog on my birthday. Last year, this time I was whining. This year I'm celebrating--just confirmed today that I am being transferred back home soon. It's been a long time coming. But what the heck. A big thank you to all the folks who made it happen; for all who cared.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Not that I expected much from Shanghai Knights. Its predecessor was a disappointment, in spite of Owen Wilson giving ample proof of his comic talents. Where Wilson stole the thunder from Jackie Chan in Shanghai Noon, Knights is most definitely a Jackie Chan flick. Of Chan’s Hollywood oeuvre, this latest is the one where I think he best displays his reverence for that movie icon to whom he is most indebted—the incomparable Buster Keaton. There is in this film at least one scene of pure cinematic joy: a chase and comic fight through the streets of late 19th century London, full of knee-slapping slapstick and exhilarating invention.

Alas, if only the whole film were like that. Owen Wilson, of whom I’m a fan, is comparatively subdued. The script is simplistic and contrived. Actually, the filmmakers do not aim too high. They just want to deliver a happy hour-and-a-half. And even there, it is just hit-and-miss.slfr

Alright. Silences mean something, but this has gone on too long that its absurdist intentions, if any, are compromised. In other words, I’m back. Hopefully.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

From a mail I send to one of my friends a year ago. I feel like posting it in salon

"u r the one who forcefully told me about preserving my freedom and my independence. i have always carried that fire in me. even though i stick with my family, even though i am married, i never gave them the chance to control my life. the only thing they control in my life are silly things like ,how i dress, how i cut my hair etc. they can never control the way i think, the way i write, the way i paint, the way i look at life etc. once you open up this grand sense of freedom within you, nothing outside you can hamper you. nothing can hurt you.
think that you are the only one in this world who is interested in your life,which is the truth. dont let any body slow you down. preserving your self is the greatest duty one can do to oneself. that is what nature want you to do. your duty in this world is to develope the garden within you. concentrate on each of the plants in your garden. nurture them. dont go after the philosophies of the world. your garden is unique. no one in this world is interested in this garden,until it is in full bloom. once that happens the whole world will be interested and benefitted from it. the point i am trying to make is this. each one of us came to this place we call earth for a purpose. you are the only person involved in that purpose. kind of one man squad. preserve yourself until the mission is over."

Friday, May 30, 2003

Rhyme for Thomas

Fall fall roll and fall
steeply down the slope
cruely cruely cruely cruely
life is but a fall.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

For several years I have been struggling to come to a decision regarding the act of giving alms to beggars.
Today I came to a decision. To give. Clement you may think why fobs took so long to come to such a simple solution.
Simple solutions are hard to make. Ask me to give you complicated solutions to problems. I can give you bag loads of them.

The reason for my decision is this: "Hunger can push them to the level of brutes.They couldve stolen from you but they are only begging.Beggars are better than muggers."

Caring for Beggars is more vital to our species than caring for dogs.

Any one who travelled at night in any metros in India will agree with me that beggars in the street are less vicious than street dogs.

So clement next time you see a beggar go for that fifty or one ruppee coin in your pocket.

If you have any different opinion regarding this I am ready for a debate.

Let's make some noise hear in Salon. Recently it has become so boring like a new wave mallu film.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003


I think at last, surya bhagwan have desided to shine on my life.
Last month a very good friend of mine named Anoop, with whom I had no contact since september 25, 1992, called up at my home.
After three days, both of us were having beer at Avenue regent. It took me another week or two after Anoop left to get my orientations back. Things were happening like in movies. And today when I opened my mail there was another surprise waiting for me. Its a beautiful face with the name Vandana. She was Vandana Dutta before now she is Vandana Parikh.
What more happiness does a man need, than to meet his friends after crossing one of the wastelands of life.Thank you Snoopy, thank you Vandy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

"Philosophy is sublimated worry." - Paul Bowles.slq

Tuesday, May 13, 2003


Thursday, April 24, 2003

Just up the road from where I sit now in Bibwewadi, Pune, is the building where the D’Silva’s stayed until three days ago—that is, until three members of the family were identified as the first official cases of Sars in Pune. The spooky feeling I got as the news broke seems a little alarmist now. Still, even now I’m not fully cured of the intermittent thoughts of falling victim to this newest of mankind’s scourges. There was even a moment when I felt a semblance of relief at the thought of sure, if not imminent, death.

Camus’ The Plague keeps coming back to me:

‘Other men will make history... All I can say is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims - and as far as possible one must refuse to be on the side of the pestilence.’

‘We refuse to despair of mankind. Without having the unreasonable ambition to save men, we still want to serve them.’

‘The plague bacillus never dies or vanishes entirely... it can remain dormant for dozens of years in furniture or clothing... it waits patiently in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, handkerchiefs and old papers, and... perhaps the day will come when, for the instruction or misfortune of mankind, the plague will rouse its rats and send them to die in some well-contented city.’

And those scenes of the plague-infested town in Buñuel’s adaptation of Benito Perez Galdos’ Nazarin. And Scorsese’s bleeding-black tale of death and redemption Bringing Out the Dead“I came to realize that my work was less about saving lives than about bearing witness. I was a grief mop.”—with that soundtrack of Van Morrison’s ‘TB Sheets’.

Monday, April 21, 2003


Tuesday, April 15, 2003


I havent painted in ages. And I am suffering from demons within me.
Yesterday I read the essay Arundathi Roy wrote in Frontline about american aggresion in Iraq. As always it is pure H2SO4.
Again she proved the fact that she is the only one in the whole of Asia with balls. Shame on you fobbin.

Life is a slop
and i cant stop
got to keep rolling
to save my skin from peeling.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Hey Fobbin, like I told you when I saw for the first time that last painting you posted, it reminded me of a classic album cover. So I went searching for it, and here it is:

It’s the cover of In the Court of the Crimson King, the first album (1969) of the prog-rock band King Crimson. The painting is by Barry Godber, who died a year later at the age of 24—this the only cover he did.

Saturday, April 12, 2003


Monday, March 31, 2003

From ‘2 Reasons to Watch Al-Jazeera’, posted on Reason magazine’s website:

“Ziad,” [the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite channel’s] rooftop guy in Baghdad, is in the middle—and I mean right in the fucking center—of whatever area we're trying to pulverize. For a good twenty minutes tonight his camera picked up blinding flashes from explosions no more than a few blocks away, on at least two sides. One particularly close hit sent the camara reeling, and after it settled down, there was a long, stationary, eerily silent shot of a rising mushroom cloud of smoke, while the anchorman kept asking, “Ziad?...Ziad?” …

The weekend was a treat. On Friday I saw the second part of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers. The first part, though spectacular, was a little disappointing mostly I suppose due to an unfulfilling narrative. The second part I felt to be much better—something like Kurosawa’s Shakespeare adaptations diluted with John McTiernan’s The Thirteenth Warrior. There is Shakespearean grandeur as well as adolescent thrills. I think it is not an exaggeration to say that this film pushes the medium to new limits. Jackson has to be given credit for accomplishing in this series things that many would have felt was impossible. One review of The Fellowship of the Ring went so far as to say that the battle scenes would have Welles and Kurosawa turning in their graves with envy. (No wonder I was disappointed with the film!) Viggo Mortensen’s part may well be the cinematic character whose heroism is most spectacularly documented on the silver screen.

The second film of the weekend also belonged to a trilogy. Though I am yet to see the first two instalments, I caught the last of Sergio Leone’s so-called Dollars Trilogy—the celebrated The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It is one of those films that has become an archetype; or maybe it is the definitive treatment of a particular archetype. This one too has a Kurosawa connexion—the first film of the trilogy being a remake of his Yojimbo. Clint Eastwood continues the Mifune role. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a long, rambling film, stylishly made within the confines of a genre Western, with its sometimes extreme violence spiced with moments of comedy, suspense, and surprisingly, even pathos. Add to that spectacular cinematography, and the film’s most famous asset, the instantly recognizable score by soon to be legendary Ennio Morricone. It is clear that Ramesh Sippy, who made Sholay owes a debt to Leone. And it also appears to me that Amitabh Bachchan has borrowed something of the Eastwood persona in more than one of his films. But, lest we forget, it all goes back to that samurai swaggering into an unwelcoming town, with a scratchy beard, and a mean toothpick between his teeth. To Toshiro Mifune.slfr

A short essay in the Washington Post examining what makes, or rather what does not make, ‘good art’. Interesting.

The Kerala Blog Roll, courtesy Manoj Prabhakaran, an IITian now at Princeton.

Speaking of visually interesting blogs, here’s one that makes me wish for a Nikon and a scanner—Mumbaiite Natasha’s catchily titled ‘Sundancer, My Songbird’s Journal’. Natasha’s interests include Saint-Exupéry, Cartier-Bresson and Walt Whitman. And chiffon, shiny gauze and The Dave Matthews Band.

Congrats to Fobbin for having posted his first painting on Salon. More are welcome, to keep this blog visually stimulating.

Saturday, March 29, 2003


Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Ok, now that God has been thrown out of our party for some decades, it would be better to take a look at ourselves and the party scene as a whole. Till the act of throwing him out of the window, we had someone to blame for the morality hiccups and other party spoilers. He came into our party, uninvited, caught us by our balls and put us in straitjackets, twisted our arms and made us scream his name.

Now that he is gone, did we ever stop complaining? No we didn’t. About whom are we complaining now? Even though we are so much free due to extraordinary knowledge, superhuman reasoning and holy smoke, we aren’t feeling any better. Our party isn’t any better.

So whom do we point our finger at? Think everyone, think.

Remember, it is always good to have someone to throw shit at.slcw

Sunday, March 23, 2003

In the film The Deer Hunter there is a scene where Christopher Walken plays Russian roulette. Life is very much like that. We are doomed to play this fucking game called life, in this dark hot steamy shithole. God has left the place, content with the mess he has made of a decent game of solitaire he started long back. Even the devil is bored. But man, the greater being, must and will persist in this one-way game till the golden bullet enters his skull and closes this game. It is sad that man will not be alive to feel the great relief that comes at the end of the game, nor will he ever know who his opponent was.slcw

Saturday, March 22, 2003

‘The gun made a ripping sound like the opening of the fly of God Almighty.’
- Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Fiveslq

Monday, March 17, 2003

‘There is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper. Great art and great crime are similar deviations…. Most women have too much empathy to want to be involved in anything like that.’
- Camille Pagliaslq

Camille Paglia’s March 2002 lecture at Yale titled ‘Cults and Cosmic Consciousness: Religious Vision in the American 1960s’ is a comprehensive overview of the legacy of that seminal decade. From Arion.

Saturday, March 15, 2003

I am suddenly a fan of Paul Valéry, the French writer. I just read an article about him by Joseph Epstein in The New Criterion, and found that he was an early visitor to the abyss I find myself in.

[Valery] sought, as he himself late in life put it, “to know the substratum of thought and sensibility on which one has lived.” In his Cahiers, again, he wrote: “I would like to have classified and clarified my personal forms of thought, and learned to think within them in such a way that each new thought bore the imprint of the whole system generating it and was unmistakably a modification of a well-defined system.”


Of the various divisions among thinkers, I have always been partial to that between thinkers whose strength is in their ideas (Marx, Freud, to a much lesser power Orwell) and thinkers whose strength is in the texture and subtlety, the sensibility, of their minds (Montaigne, Henry James, Santayana). The former win their way in the world, then die out; the latter, always less dramatic in their presentation, are wiser and their work tends to last longer. Valéry is among the sensibility thinkers. “I don’t construct a ‘System,’” he reports in his Notebooks. “My system—is me,” And later he writes: “Just think!—The stock of ideas on which the majority of ‘cultured’ people live is the legacy of a specific number of individuals, all of whom were moved and inspired by philosophic and literary vanity, and by the ambition to govern other minds and seek their approval and their praise.” This may seem very radical, but Valéry would have viewed it as traditional, for, as he wrote, “in all great undertakings, tradition, in the true sense of the word, does not consist of doing again what others have done before, but in recapturing the spirit that went into what they did—and would have done differently in a different age.”

Valéry: “The mind is a moment in the response of the body to the world.”

“[Some minds] have the merit of seeing clearly what all others see confusedly. Some have the merit of glimpsing confusedly what no one sees as yet. A combination of these gifts is exceptional.”

Today I feel like telling you I think the Beatles’ so-called White Album is one of the greatest albums of all time. Actually today I think it is the greatest.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Lenny Bruce (1925-1966):

‘A lot of people say to me, “Why did you kill Christ?” “I dunno... it was one of those parties, got out of hand, you know.” “We killed him because he didn't want to become a doctor, that's why we killed him.”’

‘If Christ had died in the 20th century, Catholics would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks.’

‘Take away the right to say “fuck” and you take away the right to say “fuck the government”.’slq

Though I could never summon the whatever it takes to sit down and finish a piece to submit towards publication—so that I could show my mother my name in print—Lenny Bruce: The reason I’m in this business, I assume all performers are—It's ‘Look at me, Ma!’ It’s acceptance, you know—‘Look at me, Ma, look at me, Ma, look at me, Ma.’ And if your mother watches, you’ll show off till you’re exhausted; but if your mother goes, Ptshew!—the demise of Gentleman magazine put paid to my hopes. But I had read some time in The Hindu about another magazine that published creative writing: The Little Magazine. I just happened on their website today. Well, whaddyaknow? They accept online submissions. Maybe I’ll send them some of my stuff.

TLM is published every alternate month from Delhi and is edited by Antara Dev Sen, daughter of Amartya Sen. The April 2002 article in The Hindu says the publication receives 400 unsolicited articles a week, and that Ms Sen’s verdict on them is that most of them are lurid sexual fantasies disguised as poetry. Now isn’t that casting aspersions on their own readers?

Feel the heat twisting your heart in silence eating the last words that tear down your throat in hushed incredulity twisting and turning into an agonized haemorrhage that could have had you shooting off missile after missile of screams to the rings of Saturn, laughing like naked gods frolicking in the seas of opium I had thought were hidden under the skirt of Venus’ child. You there? You there? Yes, and you are smiling, for yesterday the cat had spilled milk over the red carpet’s bloody terrain. Yes, and the night is not your child’s playground. Yes she smiles. With laughter and wine, you begin an evening that could lead somewhere; yes, couldn’t it? Faithless, drown. Mesmeric aqua. Vita dolores. Antiquis temporibus, nati tibi similes in rupibus ventosissimis exponebantur ad necem. Vacca Foeda!slcw

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Christopher Buckley’s mirthful NY Times review of the reissued version of Alex Comfort’s The Joy of Sex, originally published in 1972.

A lot has happened, sex-wise, since 1972: Roe v. Wade; the herpes epidemic; AIDS; Attorney General Edwin Meese's doomed Commission on Pornography; ubiquitous breast implants; the rise and fall of Penthouse magazine; X-rated videos; triple-X-rated videos; Larry Flynt; the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue industry; Victoria's Secret; cyber-porn; ''Boogie Nights''; RU-486; Wilt Chamberlain's 20,000th conquest; Courtney Love and her band, Hole; the Wonderbra; Monica and Bill; Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche; Viagra; Maxim; Manolo Blahnik; the Anna Nicole Smith television show. It would appear that more people are having sex than ever before.

You gotta read this: the article really hacks into the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ mentality of modern poetry.

We are told outright what we secretly feared: that Graham’s poems are difficult, not due to any deficiency on the poet’s part, but because of our limitations as readers. Someone has noticed the hole in our head. Thus, the persuasion to buy is based on the implication that, if we do so, we will demonstrate to ourselves, and anyone else who cares, that we are better people, less frivolous, less blunted. As with any marketing based on an appeal to status, this works beautifully—if we will simply agree (and repeat to others) that Graham is difficult because she is a genius, because we are not, and never the twain shall meet. Now, paradoxically, we can join the privileged class of those who “get it ” by admitting that we never will. We don’t even have to read the poetry!

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Which films were selected as the best of the last year by various critics, publications and committees? Find answers here.sll

CNET’s top 100 products, including PhotoShop, CorelDraw, Office XP, Tripod, Encarta, Sound Forge, McAfee, etc.slrs sll

Monday, March 10, 2003


‘The existentialist... thinks it very distressing that God does not exist, because all possibility of finding values in a heaven of ideas disappears along with Him; there can no longer be a priori of God, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it. Nowhere is it written that the Good exists, that we must be honest, that we must not lie; because the fact is that we are on a plane where there are only men. Dostoyevsky said, If God didn't exist, everything would be possible. That is the very starting point of existentialism. Indeed, everything is permissible if God does not exist, and as a result man is forlorn, because neither within him nor without does he find anything to cling to.’
- Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism and Human Emotions

‘Man staggers through life yapped at by his reason, pulled and shoved by his appetites, whispered to by fears, beckoned by hopes. Small wonder that what he craves most is self-forgetting.’
- Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mindslq

Sunday, March 09, 2003

Harvard professor Lewis Lockwood is the author of the newest biography of Beethoven. From the NYT’s review of the book:

At his funeral, Ludwig van Beethoven was remembered by the dramatist Franz Grillparzer as a paradox, in his personal life discontented and alienated from much of society but full of love for humanity in his music. Baron de Tremont, who visited his apartment in Vienna in 1809, reported seeing ‘the dirtiest, most disorderly place imaginable,’ the piano buried under dust and papers, an unemptied chamber pot under the piano. This was the same year Beethoven wrote his Fifth Piano Concerto, the noble ‘Emperor,’ and ‘Das Lebewohl,’ one of his most elegant piano sonatas.

Miles Davis once pronounced classical music to be ‘dead shit’. The Economist reviews Julian Johnson’s book Who Needs Classical Music? Cultural Choice and Musical Values, in which the author passionately defends classical music against its detractors.

‘He who fights against monsters should see to it that he does not become a monster in the process. And when you stare persistently into an abyss, the abyss also stares into you.’
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evilslq

Saturday, March 08, 2003

Catch Me If You Can is a fun, enjoyable flick. Nothing spectacular. Fine acting by DiCaprio, Hanks and Walken. But I’ve got to say that with this film and especially Road to Perdition Hanks, a superb actor, seems to be getting too low-key.slfr

Scientific American: The Neuroscience of Suicide.

From The Telegraph:

‘Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.’

- the last verse of Dylan Thomas’s ‘Fern Hill’.slq

Robert K Merton, whose books I used to bump into at the Sacred Heart College’s Sociology section. He passed away this February.

Ms Kylie Minogue titillating her way to the title of the ‘Greatest Living Australian’.

I am sitting in the net café near Alaka cinema with the Muslim proprietor and I’m thinking I’m wasting the money and then I realize that though MS Word is doing the capitalization, it is not checking the spelling and I’m also thinking that I’m wasting the money because here it costs 20 ‘bucks’ an hour while at Netway it costs me only around 10 but I’m here because Vijay Cinema has the show at 1 pm instead of at 12 and 2 because Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can is probably longer than 2 hours and I’m doing stream-of-consciousness bullshit. Now the time is 2.24 pm according to the Seiko on my wrist. Got to catch the show at 4.

I just read that Kylie Minogue has been named ‘Greatest Living Australian’ and the Evening Standard wrote that the epithet ‘great’ ‘should not be wasted on a sprightly singer with a shapely butt.’slcw

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Celebrated my return to solitude and discontent in Pune by getting hold of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks (1968). What a weird ride I had yesterday night! An album quite unlike any I’ve heard.

‘If I ventured in the slipstream
Between the viaducts of your dream
Where immobile steel rims crack
And the ditch in the back roads stop
Could you find me?
Would you kiss-a my eyes?
To lay me down
In silence easy
To be born again
To be born again
From the far side of the ocean
If I put the wheels in motion
And I stand with my arms behind me
And I’m pushin’ on the door
Could you find me?
Would you kiss-a my eyes?
To lay me down
In silence easy
To be born again
To be born again’

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

‘Man has been a hunter 99% of mankind’s lifespan.’
- Amaury De Riencourt, Women and Power in History.slq

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Kochi on Sunday, again.

- Norman Rockwell, Breaking Home Ties

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Who is Dave Barry?

‘Dave Barry has been at The Miami Herald since 1983. He won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1988. Barry writes about various major issues relating to the international economy, the future of democracy, the social infrastructure and exploding toilets.’

The other day I walked into an airport men's room, which was empty except for one man, who appeared to be having a loud, animated conversation with a urinal. Ten years ago, I would have turned right around and walked briskly back out of there. One rule my parents stressed when I was a child was: ‘Never stay in a restroom with a man who talks to the plumbing.’ But of course as a modern human, I knew that this man was talking on his cellphone, using one of those earpiece thingies… So anyway, there I was, in this restroom, standing maybe six feet from this guy, both of us facing the wall, him shouting at his urinal about some business thing involving specifications, and at some point he said—I swear this is a direct quote—‘I am handling it.’…

Visitors’ guide to Florida:

MASS TRANSIT: Miami is blessed with a modern, interconnected light-rail transit system. If you figure out how it works, please let us know.

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS: Probably our biggest tourist attraction is naked Europeans on the beach. To find them, walk along the beach until you start seeing people without any bathing suits; these are your naked Europeans. When you see them, act cool. Don't stare or shout: ‘Hey! You people are NAKED!’…

I am not a fan of ballet. … I KNOW I AM WRONG. I know that ballet is a beautiful artistic form that requires great dedication and skill. I'm just saying that I, personally, would rather watch a dog catch a Frisbee. My problem—and it's MY problem, NOT ballet's problem—is that, because I am culturally unsophisticated, all ballet looks to me like—even though I know there is MUCH more to it—a troupe of mincing mimes. … I admire the skill involved. It's just that, after I have watched dancers mince around for, say, eight minutes, I have had my ballet quota for that particular decade. The only time I truly enjoyed ballet was years ago, when I attended a performance… At one point—I estimate it was 14 hours into the performance—a male dancer and a female dancer were onstage doing the Mince of Passion, and the male did what a man must do in BalletLand to show a woman that he truly loves her; namely, hoist her over his head. He then attempted to prance offstage with her, but her tutu apparently obscured his vision, and he pranced her, headfirst, smack into the shrubbery. She went in as far as her shoulders. The male had to yank her out, back up, re-aim, and prance off, trying to maintain an expression of passion, though you could tell from the female's face that the affair was OVER. I wanted to shout: ‘Encore!’ … I even enjoyed some of it, although not the costumes worn by the male dancers, which left nothing to the imagination, if you know what I mean, and if you don't, what I mean is they looked like they were smuggling dead squirrels in their tights. I don't want my daughter seeing that! …

A fun page: jokes from the late night shows of Leno, Letterman, et al.

As we prepare for this war with Iraq, President Bush wants to make one thing perfectly clear: This is not about oil. It’s about gasoline.

It was so cold that priests were groping each other.

It was so cold today that in the park I saw squirrels throwing themselves at an electric fence.

The other night the Golden Globes were held. Winona Ryder didn’t win anything but she did leave with three awards.

TV critics are now saying that reality TV has gone too far due to a recent episode of “Fear Factor” where contestants had to eat a horse rectum. The episode upset viewers and also upset the horse.

State of the Art:’ Yardley’s opinionated survey of modern American literature (The Washington Post, 14.7.02).

What one must first understand about American literature is that it is un-American… because literature is something with which we as a nation are inherently uneasy. The first European settlers were can-do men and women, more inclined to action than reflection… We borrowed our language from the English, but we have little patience for polishing our prose as they do and none of their quaint affinity for bookishness.

… I am positive that it was [Ring Lardner’s] You Know Me, Al: A Busher’s Letters Home, as well as the many Lardner short stories that followed over the next decade and a half, that showed other American writers how to get the American vernacular down right.

… [William Faulkner’s masterful novels are] the noblest individual achievement of American literature.

… Bellow and Malamud are among the most important writers of the 1950s, a far more productive literary decade than is often acknowledged. A lot of noise was made over writing of little weight—J.D. Salinger’s immensely popular, vastly overrated The Catcher in the Rye, James Gould Cozzens’s By Love Possessed, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and the entire oeuvre of the Beats…

… The intellectualization of American fiction produced one indisputable giant, Vladimir Nabokov, and a great deal of work—always ambitious, sometimes brilliant, often obscure and self-indulgent—by Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Stanley Elkin, William H. Gass, Robert Coover, Don DeLillo and others less widely known, almost all of them white men and many of them academics of one sort or another.

…that echt minimalist, Raymond Carver, the Jehovah of the writing schools…

…it has been a half century since an American writer published a novel that indisputably deserves to be called great: The Adventures of Augie March, by Saul Bellow. It is one of only 11 American novels published in the life span of this newspaper [ie, from 1877] that, in my judgment, warrant the same distinction: Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, Wharton’s The House of Mirth, Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, Light in August and Absalom, Absalom!, Ellison’s Invisible Man and Nabokov’s Lolita.

Jonathan Yardley on war literature.

…there are a few classics—Tolstoy’s monumental War and Peace, of course, Stephen Crane’s masterly miniature, The Red Badge of Courage, Joseph Heller’s wildly uneven but indisputably influential Catch-22, perhaps Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird, perhaps John le Carre’s The Spy Who Came In From the Cold.

…what may well be the greatest literary ‘war story,’ Shakespeare’s Henry V

On Mary McCarthy:

‘Mary’s smile is very famous. When most pretty girls smile at you, you feel terrific. When Mary smiles at you, you look to see if your fly is open.’ - Dwight Macdonaldslq

Wine, women and weapons: The strange ride of Kim Jong Il.

From Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an Opium Eater:

I was stared at, hooted at, grinned at, chattered at, by monkeys, by paroquets, by cockatoos. I ran into pagodas: and was fixed, for centuries, at the summit, or in secret rooms; I was the idol; I was the priest; I was worshipped; I was sacrificed. I fled from the wrath of Brama through all the forests of Asia: Vishnu hated me: Seeva laid wait for me. I came suddenly upon Isis and Osiris: I had done a deed, they said, which the ibis and the crocodile trembled at. I was buried, for a thousand years, in stone coffins, with mummies and sphinxes, in narrow chambers at the heart of eternal pyramids. I was kissed, with cancerous kisses, by crocodiles; and laid, confounded with all unutterable slimy things, amongst reeds and Nilotic mud.

Marcus Boon’s book The Road of Excess examines the use of drugs as an aid to writing. The following passage from Sartre is also alleged to have been written under the influence:

But it should be noted that this regulatory totalisation realises my immanence in the group in the quasi-transcendence of the totalising third party; for the latter, as the creator of objectives or organiser of means, stands in a tense and contradictory relation of transcendence-immanence, so that my integration, though real in the here and now which define me, remains somewhere incomplete, in the here and now which characterise the regulatory third party. We see here the re-emergence of an element of alterity proper to the statute of the group, but which here is still formal: the third party is certainly the same, the praxis is certainly common everywhere; but a shifting dislocation makes it totalising when I am the totalised means of the group, and conversely.

Because Sight & Sound mag’s much publicized recent list of the top ten films did not throw up any films from the recent past, they did a quick survey of British critics to compile the top ten of the last 25 years, ie 1978 and later. Best film: Coppola’s colossal piece of ‘Method filmmaking’ Apocalypse Now, and Best director by a long way: Martin Scorsese.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

A couple of weeks back Death reminded me of his presence. He gave prior intimation of his intention to rendezvous with a friend of mine. [S] uncharacteristically left office early on a Friday after reporting to me that he was feeling a little unwell. Monday brought news that he was hospitalized. On Wednesday, as I searched the faces of the occupants of the intensive care unit at the hospital, I failed to recognize the man I had known for the last six months. Outside, the doctor explained how blood was washing in tiny showers the surface of his brain as he lay unconscious. The next Monday, the drowsy eyes of his colleague who had spent a sleepless night interrupted by memories of the former high spirits of [S] gave me the answer to an unasked question. An hour later, the same man while attending a phone call told the voice on the other side to hold on to himself and calm down. He placed the phone down and mumbled something I did not understand. But the message was conveyed as he stood there staring blankly at the floor. There was one more sojourner in the undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns.

In the evening, witness to a cremation for the first time, I watched as flames returned what was once [S]’s body, now bereft of the force that through the green fuse drives the flower, to the elements.

‘Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life…’

Like someone has noted, death has nothing to do with the departed and everything to do with those left behind. It is a cruel fate to have to watch helplessly as a loved one slips little by little into the dark. You realize that the hand he extends to you for help cannot be grasped because it is not corporeal. My heart went out to those relatives of his whose desperation was tearfully evident.

It may be perverse to note here that humankind’s attempt to hang on to breath with the help of science and medicine seemed to me perverse. But maybe everything except Death is perverse. Life, light—are they not perverse? Life is a becoming—it is against the grain. Death is being; where there is no attempt to change; when the destination has been reached; when there is nowhere else to go to.

While on the subject, I may also call attention to the American poet William Cullen Bryant’s ‘Thanatopsis’—one of the finest poems on Death.

‘And millions in those solitudes, since first
The flight of years began, have laid them down
In their last sleep—the dead reign there alone.
So shalt thou rest; and what if thou withdraw
In silence from the living, and no friend
Take note of thy departure? All that breathe
Will share thy destiny.’

And that final admonitory stanza!slcw

The Srikrishnamangal Ezine, Edition III. Say hello to my friend K Anantanarayanan, the editor. He has just retired from his day job, but continues with obsessive enthusiasm to pursue such interests. He can always be depended on for a discourse on the universality of the great mythologies, the niceties of Advaita philosophy, the case for Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s films to be declared prescription sedatives, and, his current fave, India’s cricketing fortunes (There is even a rumour that he has voluntarily retired with two years of service left, so that he can follow the kismet of the Indian team in South Africa without having the big boss calling him up and ordering him to report for duty immediately.). Sadly, he will be shifting to Thane in a couple of months. It has been a privilege, a pleasure, and yes, at times an exasperation, to know and interact with him for many months now.

One quiet salon, ain’t this? It’s been a month since the last post—the longest silence in this blog’s career so far, I think; but I could rest assured that anyone who were to stumble into here would be greeted by the fine piece that the previous post is—my fave of Fobbin’s poems.

It may be that the most apt advice to any habitual blogger would be: Get a life! Happily, I got myself one. Thus the month-long silence. ‘So, what happened?’ you may ask. ‘Discovered amour? Found peace in the benign smile of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar? Joined kick-boxing classes?’ Let me reign in your adventurous imagination and inform you that the bland fact is that I spent most of the time sifting through piles of paper to the soundtrack of the BBC World Service. Being the sole occupant of what is termed a ‘2BHK’ apartment, I have now managed to fill one bedroom with crumpled sheets of paper waiting for the garbage man, and another with neatly sorted out piles of paper in various categories. The exercise was also a Proustian journey through the labyrinths of my memory. Coming across a cryptic note on a yellowing fragile sheet of papyrus that I have preserved for years for reasons I have forgotten can produce unexpected existential dilemmas. This cleaning up of cobwebs of my mind had been intended for a long time. For some reason the last few weeks have seen in me the kind of confidence I have lacked for this endeavour for years even.

William James, the hero of Pragmatic philosophy, has said somewhere that wisdom lies in knowing what to ignore. Pragmatic. (How easily a word can carry the weight of a whole philosophy!)