Friday, 26 February 2010

schadenfreude. what a delectable word. never mind its origins, gruesome as they are. but still, what a word. it's an evil little word, that finds the darkest parts in us calls them its own. it's like a sort of a visceral red, but it's also a jealous orange, an envious green, a deep, deep black, and even an intellectually superior, philosophically cool blue. there is something about humanity that makes is feel schadenfreude, something about the way we think. do monkeys have it? maybe they do. but it really comes out in humans.

it's what keeps me interested in the internet, sometimes. when i read the blog of an emo teen and think 'you know, this kid seems to think his life has ended. thank god i'm not him. i mean, i might not be the most exciting person ever, but at least i'm not him'. perhaps despite my earlier rant about personal blogs i do have a need for them. i may not like them, but they do serve a purpose. they're like bendy buses, in that way. terribly irritating, but useful to have around, nonetheless.

perhaps my life isn't as exciting as some of my friends', but at least i'm (relatively) on top of my work, and i (sortof) eat well. just think, i could be one of the people on jeremy kyle. while terrifically hilarious, it would also be terrifyingly depressing. india works, on some level, on the feeling of schadenfreude. ok, i didn't top the state, but at least i'm not last in class. ok, i'm last in class, but at least i'm in a good school. ok, i'm not from a rich family, but at least i'm not down in the dumps. that's what keeps everyone going, the knowledge that there is someone else, out there, who has it worse than you.

it's a funny thing to feel, is schadenfreude. you feel guilty when you feel it, but not enough that you don't feel it anymore. for folk like mr emo boy down the (cyber) corridor, it's probably the only thing that keeps him going. what a weird thing it is, to feel schadenfreude.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

In My Craft or Sullen Art

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labor by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.
- Dylan Thomas

Monday, 22 February 2010

There is a certain joy in reading something you've never read before, and being blown away by it.

like reading the poems of Dylan Thomas. specifically, 'Do not go gentle into that good night', or 'And death shall have no dominion'.

i've never understood why i like poetry, or why it's specifically better than prose, especially when poetry like the kind i like writing seems to have no real rules to it.

maybe one day i will figure it out. that would be cool.

Friday, 12 February 2010

So what does one do, with a blog? I've been here two and a half years, and I have no idea. I really don't. Other people write, or talk about their life, or crack awful jokes, or post pictures, or theorise about world politics, or give advice on how to write a blog, even.

I mean, what the heck happens here? Some mediocre-to-good fiction. Some faintly humorous theories of life. A bit of economics. Some vague irritated-about-life rants that I really am not sure about. And some poetry, which I am actually pretty proud of. I quite like reading my poetry. But then, I quite like reading most poetry. Though there was this poetry reading I went to in January by this girl who wrote the most vapid unoriginal rubbish that even my haiku was good by comparison. But we're getting off track here.

I know what a blog can be for. I know what one shouldn't do. But seriously, what am I doing here? This cybernetic space where I have total control means what to me?

Who are these people, on the internet, who talk about their lives? Innit just a tad weird to be spilling your innermost secrets on the internet? Innit just a tad weird to be talking about yourself at all on the internet? Don't we get told, about how the internet is full of these awful people who will try to use the most vague clues you give them to try to track you down and then stalk you or something? And here we are, talking about it out in the open? Hello Mr Stalker Man, come find me, this is where I live!

Sometimes I read the blogs of complete strangers. I can never remember quite how I get there. I just keep clicking, link after link, and suddenly, I find myself somewhere I really don't want to be anymore. And here they are, telling me their deepest darkest secrets. Sure, they name no names and use pseudonyms like 'That Guy' of 'Mr Y' but I'm still being told about what he did to your best friend. In morbidly excruciating detail. HELLO! If you want to tell the internet your secrets, at least take the care to make your blog private or something? PLEASE?

I'm sure the people who write these blogs are perfectly nice, but every now and again they get some small thing wrong that will get me really, really irritated. Like, ONE CANNOT WRITE AN ODE TO SOMETHING IN THE FORM OF AN ESSAY! AN ODE, BY DEFINITION, IS A FUCKING POEM! IF YOU CALL IT AN ODE, AT LEAST MAKE SURE IT FUCKING RHYMES! (Can you tell I did a fifteen hundred word project on odes back in tenth class?)

Ok, glad I got that off my chest. Sorry about that little outburst. Sometimes the bit of my brain that controls the amount of pure rage I feel decides to go on a holiday. I never get invited, which only increases the amount of rage I feel. Anyway, moving on.

All things have an aim, in life. Aristotle said that. Maybe the aim of my blog is to find the aim of my life! That sounds terribly convenient! Erm, maybe not, then.

So, having talked about god-knows-what for a bit, we are still no closer to figuring out what is going on here. I leave you, then, with a list of the music I've been listening to recently ( I have still  not gotten around to Rahman's new album, but i will eventually, I promise.)

Lungs - Florence and The Machine (Specifically: Rabbit Heart, My Boy Builds Coffins and Hurricane Drunk)

Window to the Past - John Williams (from the third Harry Potter movie)

Mother - Pink Floyd (shame on you if you don't know which album)

Jack's Lament - Danny Elfman (The Nightmare Before Christmas)

The Time of Your Life - Randy Newman (A Bug's Life)

A Great Big Load of Carnatic Music Stuff - T M Krishna

Sunday, 7 February 2010

some photos i planned to put up a long, long time ago, that i'm only just getting around to now.

i remember sreya and mukunda being here. i remember laughing hysterically about...... oh, there was a phrase we thought was terrifically funny. postmodern? something like that. that was fun.

as sreya has indeed pointed out, the phrase was pseudo. PSEUDO!!!!!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

The Wire

I don't know how to write reviews (This is my last poor attempt). I certainly don't know how anyone manages the courage to write them. In my mind, there are two types of reviewers; those that are famous, and those that aren't. The ones that are,  do so for a gigantic audience every day. I could do a few things in front of  large amount of people. Acting isn't really a problem. Public speaking I can handle. Perhaps I could even write a book that might be read a load of people. But reviewing? Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit*. I couldn't handle that if you threatened me at gunpoint. And the ones that aren't famous, like me, well how can I say anything that the famous ones haven't already? What is the point of my voice? And it is for these reasons I don't review things. I don't see the point. But every once in a while something comes along that makes even me want to scream from the rooftops unto high heaven, and that is what is happening here. I want to shout out to you, whoever you are, family, close friend or complete stranger, the brilliance of The Wire.

I spent a good amount of time, over the holidays, and while in London, watching The Wire. Time that I could have spent in bookshops, in libraries, I spent sitting in front of my laptop and furiously trying to figure out what was going on. Every once in a while, I would swear, loudly and extravagantly, using the same phrases I heard being used on the screen in front of me. I was addicted, start to finish. I have no idea what cold turkey is going to be like. And it is that kind of storytelling that swept me off my feet.

At this point, I would not blame you if you asked me the question; what is The Wire actually about? The answer to that is I don't really know. Is it about drugs, and the effect that it has on its users and ultimately society? Is it about politics, and the effect of all the bullshit that politicians speak to us has on the streets? Is it about the police department? Is it about crime? I think it's about all of these things, but most of all, it's about the city of Baltimore. Situated not more than half an hour from the capital of the United States of America, The Wire shows us what the city of Baltimore has become. And it is that vision, more than anything else, that makes this a TV show more compelling than anything that has ever come before it. I wrote only yesterday of how no medium could capture the kind of brilliance literature can. I am willing, on this one occasion, to make an exception for The Wire.

The series tells us many stories; it hops, skips and jumps between them perfectly, and decorates them with characters that don't seem like they could belong anywhere else. The first season, which is really where you should start, is about a drug lord, one Avon Barksdale, and the police unit working to catch him. It is a thing of beauty.

They introduce us to the major players, not slowly, not smoothly, but in a jarring pilot where one just happens to take a peek into the world of these people. There's a huge cast, but by the time you're hooked, you'll know and love (or hate, as the case may be) each one of them. The main lead, played by Dominic West, is a cop by name of Jimmy McNulty, who complains about a murder trial he's lost to the judge presiding in that case. The main defendant is D'Angelo Barksdale, Avon's nephew. The judge demands to superiors in the police department that they assemble a unit to take Barksdale down, which they do, though reluctantly.

At the same time, the defendant in the murder trial is set free, and moves back into the streets. He's given charge of dealing drugs to a neighbourhood in west Baltimore, and his story of drug dealing and avoiding the cops is in chilling counterpoint to the story of those very same cops who try to catch him. The series' title comes from the the essential tool used by the cops in catching the criminals: the wiretap.

Some characters are lovable, others aren't, but all of them are amazing. There's Omar, the gangster armed with a shotgun and a code; he will not kill anyone not involved in 'the game'. There's Bubbles, the heroin addict who brings a smile to everyone's face with his easy humour and disarming charm. There's Jimmy McNulty, who doesn't bow to any authority except his own. There's Stringer Bell, Avon's lieutenant, who behaves more like a businessman than a gangster. But my personal favourite is Officer Pryzbylewski, a cop who is seemingly ineffectual at terrifically simple things, and manages to fire his gun into a wall and is thus kept off the streets.

The Wire also keeps you guessing, and second guessing. The script is so well written that you feel it every time a major character is killed, which is pretty often. And watching it will make you love characters you thought you hated, and hate characters you never cared about. It's complexity in unmatched, and you won;t get into it until atleast the third or fourth episode. They aren't the normal forty minute episodes, either. Each episode is almost an hour long, and is guaranteed it keep you on the edge of your seat.

I end with a video clip, from the first episode of the last season. It contains no spoilers, but is certainly one of the best scenes in the entire show. You will fall off your chair laughing.

* I take this directly from the show. see this

Thursday, 4 February 2010

why do i read? i've always been reading. amma used to get very irritated about me reading. she'd say i paid no attention to the outside world. i wouldn't offer help or take part in a conversation because i was too busy with the world inside my books (i still remember her snatching an archie comic, of all the things to be reading, out of my hand. we were on a train, and she demanded i go help with some luggage carrying somewhere. i was not happy). but why? i get so absorbed, so enmeshed into the lives of these fictional characters. a good book will keep me up all night even though i know i have a class in the morning, that i have work to be doing. i forget that there can be other things to do. when i watch movies, however exciting they may be, i never forget that i am watching a movie. a good book makes me feel like a part of a different world.

i'd sit in the middle of a room, full of people talking, and be completely oblivious. a good book is a pleasure of its own. i don't think about reading anymore. it just happens. sometimes i'm not even paying attention to the words, i'm too busy imagining the scene in my head, replaying what i've just read, thinking about how it could have been different and the whole book would change. the best books make me want to be in them, not just to be reading them.

music isn't like that. as much as i could drown in a song, i couldn't forget the world. too often i forget the song, and focus on the work i'm meant to be doing. movies aren't like that. however much they stimulate my mind, i can't think about movie characters in quite the same way i do book characters. games aren't like that. however well they simulate a world, this one or another, they don't do it nearly well enough. there is no artificial vision that can come close to competing with my mind's eye.

i thought i knew what hagrid looked like, and then robbie coltrane came and ruined it. i don't even remember what the gollum in my head looked like. peter, edmund, susan and lucy aren't nearly as exciting as they used to be. but i know what boo radley looks like. i'm told the movie is terrific. i'm sure it is. but the boo in my head will disappear once i watch it, and i'm too terrified of that.

i used to read kamala subramaniam's mahabharata every day. i'd just pick out a chapter and read. i still remember the smell of that book, it was old and musty, and reminds me of home. it feels like such a small book now, with such large type, but then it was a behemoth. when i was ten, it was as big as the lord of the rings and fifty times more important. sharan, having finished it much before me, would regale all of us with stories recalled from memory. that kind of deep and abiding love can't really be duplicated by any other art form. sure, you can memorise every line from casablanca, you can have long discussions about rahman, but a good book will be the best friend i will ever have.

this is probably why i do stupid things, like buying multiple versions of the same book (you can always give it off to someone) or buying the really expensive hardback as soon as it comes out (who knows, it might become collectible one day). i did both just last week. i bought a signed and numbered hardback version of the northern lights. why, i cannot say. i saw it and i thought 'it's been a while since i read it, maybe i should buy it'. and i really don't regret it. most things i don't buy. my inner-miser is too strong. but for books, he disappears, and the rest of me doesn't really care. when i think 'this dvd looks exciting', or 'that game is meant to be terrific', i won't buy it. i'll carry it around the shop, and then just before i leave i'll stick it in a shelf somewhere and pretend i've never seen it. but even bad books, even unoriginal fantasy or crap children's fiction will have me forking out my life savings just for that rush of speechlessness.

And so i shall take my leave, with this thought that i saw painted on the wall of a bookshop. oxford bookstore in madras, i think it was.

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.

                                                                                    - John Luis Borges