April 29, 2011 § 18 Comments
i had to help Organise an Event a few days back, a sufficiently novel experience for me to immediately gird the old loins by making a (small) list in a notepad file and wonder how to inflate it into an impressive spreadsheet; some people have alcohol for dutch courage, i have microsoft excel. it’s not so much the striking things off of lists i enjoy so much, i just enjoy the lovely inevitability of the whole being accomplished when little parts of it are. of course, the little parts are never really accomplished, because why would the universe make it that easy? so lists are retrospectively and sneakily modified to make it look like that which was eventually achieved was what was originally intended to be achieved. nobody is fooled but everybody is kind.
a couple of weeks back i finished reading a spot of bother by mark haddon of the curious incident of the dog in the night time fame. i thought it was fantastic, really fantastic, much better than …night time. a friend did complain that it was a bore, though, so who knows. i thought it was beautiful.
i also read neil gaiman’s anansi boys, which was nice in a lukewarm sort of way. the halfhearted attempt to build atmosphere was a Fail i think, and it wasn’t witty enough to make up for it. i liked american gods better, it was tighter and better paced and all manner of things that make a novel a good blip on the mental radar, which is really all you can hope for. unless your novel is pathbreaking and brilliant, in which case, hi, my name is Your Friend. what are you doing tonight?
speaking of brilliant, someone pointed out that i say things are ‘quietly brilliant’ a lot, and that is true. i think i am capable of finding things brilliant only if they do not make a song-and-dance about being so; if they do, of course, my go-to adjective is ‘smug’. i need to be less wartime british and more russell brand in my personality, don’t you think?
while we are on the subject, i would like to point out that in terms of pacing and structure and all, leave it to psmith is a really wonderful book. i feel a golden, misty sort of affection for the blandings series, and so do not have the objectivity to tell if those books are actually very great, and the jeeves ones have all merged into a single amorphous novel in my recollection, but i am reading this psmith for the first time and i am Shock and Awe, Shock and Awe.
i was wondering idly recently if i would ever morph into an intimidatingly successful but also fatally curvy businesswoman who would take on all the guys in the industry and leave them strewn helpless by her deadly path, and so i googled ‘tamil superwoman’ (you’re making The Judgey Eyes now…) and ended up here! check it out:
‘A vast majority of her movies are softcore and a common theme is her playing a freakishly strong agent in skimpy bikinis beating up huge thugs.’
are you serious, reshma of reshma ki jawaani? look good in bikini, beat up bad men, be an ‘agent’… she was all three charlie’s angels in one – both by mass and coolness. who’d a thought?
i am halfway through dune (book one) now, which came recommended to me, and i am seriously disappointed. i once read a review of the freakishly terrible eragon which used the masterful phrase ‘masturbatory writing’ to describe it, and i have this new book to apply it to. i have never read such self-conscious, self-indulgent, smug (ooh look! here it is again!) writing in my life (eragon excepted); if this author is also not fifteen, pimply and full of adolescent obnoxiousness, he has no excuse.
i recently summoned the testicular fortitude to harness myself to a steel rope and zip between cliffs and over lakes, and would love to say that i was the soul of courage throughout. i was not. i am scared shitless of heights and fifteen minutes in, i wanted to go home. so clearly, next up is bungee jumping. name a place and a time!
Suicidal ‘R’ Us.
in one week, i will be in bangalore selling my soul for a pittance, and i CANNOT WAIT to start.
bring it, world.
April 15, 2011 § 19 Comments
have you looked at your face in the mirror recently.
i mean seriously looked at it real good. i’m not talking about that face you make with the lower lip stuck out and that thing you do with your nose that you think makes it look smaller. i am not talking about your inner voice that is telling you in a tired voice, oo, some camera angles you look like penelope cruz. i’m asking if you’ve ever purposely pulled that stupid face with the slack jaw and the vacant, drooly stare that is your face at rest, your face completely inert.
that trainwreck on your neck, the one you’re frightening the birds with when you’re walking around, just walking around like the pleasantly ugly gawdalmighty that you are.
you know you don’t really know what you look like. you think you do but you actually don’t. what happens is, you are driving to work in the morning and then to lunch in the afternoon and then home in the evening, and you’re doing this every damn day. eventually you’re brave enough to roll down your window, sit one elbow on it and steer with one hand, and now you got nothing to do, so you look up at the billboards. so you’re looking up at all these billboards, right – one, two, three, five hundred of them,every god damn day – and they’re all pretty people man. all of them. so then you look back down at your rear-view mirror, and you see your weekly zit and your mamma’s fruity complexion.
and you’re not surprised cos you’re the transparently ugly gawdhelpus that you are and that’s that.
and so you whistle your tuneless tune and keep moving.
but The Man‘s a siren, his voice is golden, his waxen minions are convincing. these are saying you’re beautiful, and that one is saying you’re worth it, that other one is saying she bought her butt with her calvin klein jeans and so can you, and before you know it, you’re sold like a minister of parliament. you’re thinking, in the right light i got mia kirshner’s eyes, and if i stand here in the pitch dark, i have only one chin.
but you know you got the eyes of a potato and no damn chin at all, because you’re a companionably ugly gawdforgiveyou, and that’s perfectly fine by us.
but what with all the subliminal pushing, you wake up one morning and haul your malodorous self to the sink, and you look at the mirror above it – and in one quick move you stick your lower lip out and suck your cheeks in and narrow your eyes, and lose all credibility as an intelligent life form, because now you think you look like sameera reddy on an off day.
i really looked at my face this morning in that patchwork of fingerprints we call a mirror. put my face three inches from the glass and checked out my blackheads, in full colour and loving detail. got three of the little bastards on my nose. they’ve been there long enough, i feel like we should be making friends now. i got little rivers of red running through the whites of my eyes. i got skin like bubble wrap and a nose with its own gravitational field. i got a smile like a goddamn serial killer.
because i are a curiously ugly godawful, and how surprising and funny that this isn’t remotely upsetting.
you’re ugly too.
[this might be the world’s biggest open secret.]
April 11, 2011 § 8 Comments
i recently read the real life of sebastian knight (vladimir nabokov). nabokov also wrote the wonderful lolita. i am yet to find a book in the english language that is as consistently, funnily, unhappily lyrical as lolita… like with a suitable boy, i find that i can allow lolita to fall open at any page, and i can reread from there without feeling lost. either this involves a fantastic or a terrible narrative, you can decide for yourself.
there is not that quality in the real life… i can’t say it is as good as lolita, but i really can’t tell. i seem to have mentally elevated lolita to a position she won’t be shifted from without looking very disapprovingly at me indeed – and that image of the young dolores, all translucent freckles and transparent contempt, it is difficult to top that characterisation.
so, i was reading the real life or sebastian knight – which shall i call it? – and it has that very same gentle lyrical ebb and flow, ebb and flow that i think i can safely associate with nabokov now. it never really builds up to a breathless crescendo like lolita, but that’s okay. that’s fine. that’s forgivable, a master on a down day. there is a letter that is written to a woman in this book; a sad, funny letter ‘breaking up’ with her. it struck a chord with me for many reasons, but for exactly that reason i can’t tell – yet again! – if it was worth mentioning objectively. still, sebastian knight is worth one read so i suppose you could extrapolate that to the letter inside it.
do you remember when i said i was reading virginia woolf’s to the lighthouse? it’s stream-of-consciousness in a very real and wonderful way, and maybe i’ll talk about this the next time i get excited about it, but for now – there is a passage – was it an entire chapter? – where a stuffy young man realises that he is falling in love with a much older woman, and while this realisation is building up in him, he is first uncomfortable because he cannot recognise what is happening, and then is overcome with the disbelief that it could be happening to him.
and that wonderfully escalating lead-up to his bodhi tree moment, that description is the most beautiful description i’ve ever read of that mental ping! that sensation of hot sugar syrup trickling slowly, uncomfortably, impossibly down the inside of your chest, that moment you realise that flying in the face of all your plans and decisions and smug opinions of yourself, you have fallen in love.
i think what was nicest about having read nabokov first and woolf next was that nabokov’s love is black and physical and inseparable from regret and addiction and self-doubt and self-hate. i mean it’s fantastically written, but you’ll need electrolytes and a cold shower at the end of a really good nabokov session.
i moved straight from nabokov to woolf, and what with never having read anything by her (and very little of her) before, i was expecting – i’m not sure what – but here was this beautiful, perfect writing. not maudlin, you understand, and not played up like some sort of epic, inaccessible love.
just a woman with eight children and a young idiot freshly in love with her.
April 6, 2011 § 8 Comments
There is nothing to say, but when has that stopped me from saying it.
In recent times I’ve been consumed by the idea that plans are being abandoned at an alarming rate and life is very short, so I did the obvious and made a spreadsheet. Perhaps it is the many internships or the inner dork, but I seem to have formatted the spreadsheet very well indeed. Allow me a moment of surprise and pride.
I also wisely allowed my annoyance at having a filthy (and therefore unused) balcony to come naturally to a head, and eventually cleaned it out in a fit of righteous righteousness. The joys of having a lovely long LAN extension cord means that I can now put my feet up and watch the moon through the mesh while working and drinking my shitty plastic flavoured tea. Not sure what it says about the quality of my life that I look forward to coming back to my room much more just because of this.
I did not pay much attention to April 14 (the Tamil new year) back when I was around for it at home. My family’s attitude towards religious festivals may best be described as clueless. There’d be food, of course, and new clothes if it occurred to my parents that it was one of those festivals that warranted them. Otherwise we’d just sit around bumming in front of the TV, which thankfully for us, simply bristled with populist programming on festival days. The sun would set, we’d lunge about drunkenly (all that eating) and venture downstairs to take a walk along the beach promenade. My father would buy me icecream and sit my sister on the roof of someone’s parked SUV. Then we’d watch the fireworks people would let off at the beach. Then we’d come home, change out of our new clothes and pass out.
Some curiously proactive people in college have volunteered to collect money and organise a ‘thing’ around this year’s tamil new year, which is of course to be clubbed with Ugadi, regardless of the niggling technicality of Ugadi having passed. We are all south Indians, why waste this opportunity to collect more money and eat more food, it will undoubtedly be argued. Why indeed.
A new year of any description calls for some stock-taking or excuses it, depending on your perspective. Here is my attempt.
I’ve learnt to be sociable if not social. Talking to more than two people in a row does not make me want to climb walls anymore. I can give a passable impromptu speech without much casual swearing or many unfunny jokes. I am slowly losing my fear of Microsoft Word – I will not flinch when you say ‘macro’. I know I am kinder and more patient than when I first came here. I hope I am less literal than when I came here.
Right after the World Cup win, I got drunk for the first and possibly last time in my life, thanks respectively to my being an atmosphere-junkie (patriotism! win! Sachin! people! are! happy! ), my lack of judgment and my unexpected liking for cheap whisky. I remember that by my last drink, there was a lot of warmth and yellow light and spinning. I was completely, irredeemably out of it, but I was determined not to slur. I would die but I would not slur, so I practiced every sentence three times inside my head before I carefully enunciated it out loud. I then – no doubt motivated by some insane need to prove my Competence to myself – managed to fold laundry, file important documents and format a project before I voided the entire contents of my stomach, burst into song and then tears, and finally, mercifully, passed out.
My incapability to just go with the flow (god i hate that phrase) sometimes really depresses me.
How can you ever objectively seek what makes you happy if you are afraid of finding out what that is? What if I had my hands tied and could not, for the sake of argument, push myself into doing The Mature Thing or The Good Thing or The Right Thing, would I gently float towards what makes me selfishly, unwisely, unsafely happy? And what is happy?
I used to think being absolutely at peace and being absolutely happy were the same thing. Today, many angry self-flagellations, bitterly critical self-analyses and ego-driven cycles of compensatory action later I am a better person, in that I am back to being confident in myself. I am for all practical purposes, at peace. It has been terribly difficult getting here and it is precious to me, but let me not kid myself for this one moment, peace is not joy. I have known joy. It grabs you by the collar and shakes you into living with a goddamn vengeance. The sky bends to your song, the sun is always on your eyelids. it is one elastic, literally timeless moment given completely to the delusion of immortality, one moment of being suspended trustfully mid-air with no sense of time, space or fear. I remember what it feels like and I miss it every day.
I miss it every day, and more fool I, because it is probably the most unwise, unstable thing I could seek at this moment. Still, the hardest lesson of 2010 was that choosing to argue yourself into something is not the same as believing it. There is a truth independent of salesmanship. I have a very uneasy relationship with my intuition, but I have no choice but to shut up and listen to it this time round, because by god, I want that joy.
Perhaps this year.
‘Iniya Tamizh Puthandu Nalvazhthukkal’ in advance, to those to whom it applies. The rest of you can adjust. ;-)
(Note – Punctuation on this post because I want to see whether I like it better.)
April 5, 2011 § 15 Comments
i don’t like the hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy. i don’t think it is brilliant.
i read the first book and i could not read the rest. i enjoy the occasional monty python skit but i’ve only liked about half of what i’ve seen. i like black adder, it’s funny in a tepid sort of way. i’ve tried my hardest to explain away my dislike/indifference to all of these and i’ve battled to adopt them with the same manic joy as most of my very good friends (who are also very tolerant, thank you), but alas! i remain excluded from this club.
i find hitchhiker smug, like a smug fat frog that has smugly swallowed the fly, where the fly is the reader (complicated metaphor, construct yourself). i feel like the whole book is an exercise of “look i am so Absurd! isn’t this hilarious, all these little useless details and digressions simply bursting with selfcontained trivia that are delightful and Cute! look at all my cute Details! look at my Darling Absurd! fried eggs and a planet! cutely unhappy robot! look i am so dorky chic! look, i am so hipster cute!”
oh spare me.
what is odd is, i have no doubt douglas adams was brilliant, but the (first)book, well…
black adder, well i have a blind spot the shape of rowan atkinson in my head. i will watch anything if he is in it, but i can’t shake the idea that black adder could be a hell of a lot funnier and somehow, he hasn’t managed to make that happen. this confuses and depresses me, but only mildly, thanks in no small part to my freakishly small attention span.
what i do like is monty python. i like at least half of the skits i’ve watched. some of them i find simply stupid – like this one – and the fact that they should be treated on par with this perfectly wonderful one – simply cements my conviction that python fans enjoy the cachet of being python fans at least as much as they enjoy python.this is more than a little annoying.
of course, the fact that i find slapstick, running gags and floods of trivia unfunny means that i am doomed from the start. still, don’t you think python is ridiculously played up? breaking the fourth wall isn’t laugh-out-loud hilarious by itself, and yet skits like the Cannibal Baby one (too impatient to look for link) rely on this almost completely to be funny; the other contributing factor is the far-out absurdist humour (baby eats grannies. grannies do not expect to be eaten. har de har har).
is this really that funny? that funny?
take as next example the “and now for something completely different” gag on python, involving a series of cutaways (cuts away?) into john cleese(was it him?) in a bikini or being roasted on a spit or indulging in other potentially hilarious digressions of an obviously absurdist nature that should ideally involve a combination of shock, disbelief and awe culminating in much thigh-slapping and har-har-ing.
except that all i perceive is a faint sense of desperation (“look! suddenly, i am in a pink bathing suit! see this rustic but cute animation! you didn’t expect it but i am presently being roasted on a spit! aren’t i funny now? well how about now? and now? no?…”)
if you enjoy all of this, i am nothing but happy for you. send me the membership card to your club. or your secret word or magic key or however it is that your species does things.
until then i am reading asterix and whining.
(P.S. – there is not a single person google can find who agrees with me. how can there be support groups for furries and none for hitchhiker haters? :( )