Friday, September 15, 2006

excerpts from "A Man without a Country" - I

Lately, I've taken a great interest in reading books. And by chance, I've stumbled upon some very interesting books.

The following are some excerpts from "A Man without a Country" by Kurt Vonnegut. This is part 1 of I-don't-know-how-many. It's no special book honestly. And I don't think you can categorize it to any genre even; for some odd reason, Barnes & Noble had it in the Media/Journalism section. The only section it probably belongs in is Nothingness. But in today's world, nobody values nothingness. It's a pity ...

I used to laugh my head off at Laurel and Hardy. There is terrible tragedy there somehow. These men are too sweet to survive in this world and are in terrible danger all the time. They could be so easily killed.

True enough, there are such things as laughless jokes, what Freud called gallows humor. There are real-life situations so hopeless that no relief is imaginable. . . While we were being bombed in Dresden, sitting in a cellar with our arms over our heads in case the ceiling fell, one soldier said as though he were a duchess in a mansion on a cold and rainy night, "I wonder what the poor people are doing tonight." Nobody laughed, but we were still all glad he said it. At least we were still alive! He proved it.

Do you realize that all great literature are all about what a bummer it is to be a human being? (Isn't it such a relief to have somebody say that?)

Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college.

And I realize some of you may be having trouble deciding whether I am kidding or not. So from now on I will tell you when I'm kidding. For instance, join the National Guard or the Marines and teach democracy. I'm kidding. We are about to be attacked by Al Qaeda. Wave flags if you have them. That always seems to scare them away. I'm kidding. If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don't have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I'm not kidding.

The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

. . . there's a reason we recognize Hamlet as a masterpiece: it's that Shakespeare told us the truth, and people so rarely tell us the truth. The truth is, we know so little about life, we don't really know what the good news is and what the bad news is. And if I die - God forbid - I would like to go to heaven to ask somebody in charge up there, "Hey, what was the good news and what was the bad news?"

. . . I am going to sue the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company, manufacturers of Pall Mall cigarettes, for a billion bucks! Starting when I was only twelve years old, I have never chain-smoked anything but unfiltered Pall Malls. And for many years now, right on the package, Brown and Williamson have promised to kill me. But I am now eighty-two. Thanks a lot, you dirty rats. The last thing I ever wanted was to be alive when the three most powerful people on the whole planet would be named Bush, Dick and Colon. Our government's got a war on drugs. That's certainly a lot better than no drugs at all. That's what was said about prohibition. Do you realize that from 1919 to 1933 it was absolutely against the law to manufacture, transport, or sell alcoholic beverages, and the Indiana newspaper humorist Ken Hubbard said, "Prohibition is better than no liquor at all." But get this: The two most widely abused and addictive and destructive of all substances are both perfectly legal.

© Kurt Vonnegut

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

naayn ilayvun






I don't know what I'm trying to get at. Somehow, it seemed a little more relevant when I first thought this through.

Think 9/11 and all that comes to mind is an airplane and two very-tall buildings. It's virtually inevitable to dissociate the two concepts. It's intriguing how two (almost random) numbers can create this ghastly image. It's just two numbers - nine and eleven. Nothing too complicated. 9 ... 10 ... 11....

I'll tell you a little story (even though I'm not good at telling stories). Yesterday, I was filling out some forms and as usual, there is the customary date field. Very nonchalantly, I write down "9/11/2006". And then it happened. It never dawned on me until then that it was 9/11. The 9/11. I honestly feel I could've gone through the whole day not thinking about 9/11 if I hadn't filled out that date field. Partly because I have the tendency to go through an entire day without thinking of the date. And partly because I consciously tell myself not to make a big deal about 9/11. But no matter how hard I try, I cannot erase that image from my mind. And I know I don't speak for myself here.

The media doesn't help either. featured a "9/11 : As it happened" on their home page which is direct footage of the CNN broadcast (2 videos totalling 3 hours) on 9/11/2001, as it happened! featured six stories of people who were directly affected by the 9/11 attacks and 'the 9/11 photo you didn't see' (Yes, there is only one more you need to see. After seeing this photo, you're all set - you'll have seen all the photos of the WTC towers blowing up. The complete set!) I didn't watch TV but I'm sure no news program missed out on the 9/11 bit. 9/11 was the flavor of the day. Amidst such circumstances, we are to cure ourselves of the '9/11 syndrome,' erase the horrific incidents of that day ..... hmmmph Now this might sound a little out there but my hunch is that 9/11 is soon going to be a brand name. We'll be seeing it everywhere. 9/11 fashionwear. 9/11 chocolates. 9/11 condoms. 9/11 potato chips. 9/11 this. 9/11 that. Cruel no?

sleep sweet sleep

Silly exercise : try saying "sleep sweet sleep sleep sweet sleep sleep sweet sleep" (etc.) as fast as possible - sleepsweetsleepsleepslipswipsiplipwiplspwsp - blllblblbllblbllblblbllblblbllllllllllllllllllll

OKkkkkkkk ..... that was very stupid ... if I were you, I wouldn't have done that. Why would you do such a thing? Shame on you for giving it a shot! .... that was kinda fun :)

Ok, I'm a little sleepy actually and I tend to do weird(-er) stuff under a sleepy spell. Ever feel so sleepy that you feel like a zombie? (No, I'm not that sleepy at this point of time) I've been zombie numerous times. It's weird how sleepiness can spur such actions. I know of a friend (you know who you are) who feels tipsy under the influence of excess lethargy - no kidding! Imagine - "Hmm ... feel like getting tipsy. Oh well, I'll just keep myself awake for a few more hours." Think about the amount of money you could save on getting tipsy or buzzed. Brilliant, I say.

My point is that .... forget about it, it doesn't even deserve to be a point! I've been sleepy all day and I've had some funny moments. Fell asleep while reading at Barnes & Noble, must've made a complete fool out of myself! The realization of a book on your face in that pre-conscious phase is indescribable :P Well, I've had my share of laughs watching other people dozing off in public.

P.S. I'm not that sleepy also ... I mean, I wrote up a whole blog entry ...

Recommended Song (Hindi) : Huzoor is kadar bhi naa itraake chaliye (Masoom) -

Was just browsing about the Gulzar (I told you he'd make another appearance in this feature)folder after a long time, and stumbled upon another one of his classics. Of course, a classic movie as well.

koi manchala gar pakadlega aanchal
zarah sochiye aap kya kijiyega
laga de agar badhke zulfon mein kaliyaan
toh kya apni zulfein jhatak dijiyega

badi dil nasheen hai hasi ki yeh ladiyaan
yeh moti magar yun naa bikhraya kijiye
udaake naa le jaaye jhonka hawa ka
lachakta badan yun naa lehraya kijiye

(and my favorite stanza)
bahut khoobsurat hai har baat lekin
agar dil bhi hota toh kya baat hoti
likhi jaati phir daastaan-e-mohabbat
ek afsaane jaisi mulaqat hoti

Friday, September 01, 2006

a gift, a curse

I went missing again, didn't I? I gotta stop these disappearing acts ... this is not good for my loyal blog readers ... OK who am I kidding! :) It's not like I haven't had anything to write about. I just got stuck up on this one thought and couldn't quite figure out how to go about it (psst : "this guy thinks he's writing a big-ass novel or something. it's a bloody blog, so cut the crap and get to the point!")

I have stopped watching TV in the last few years (I catch hold of the odd comedy show on TV and l download some Indian comedy shows). But I just cannot bear the news channels and so-called 'History' channels that show documentaries about the 'truth' (agreed that documentaries generally show only one side of a story, but they can do without the dramatization). There is no dirth of TV channels in the US; and it seems the same applies for Indian television in the recent past.

The great Jerry Seinfeld sums it all up in a statement of amusement : It's amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper. The same is the case with TV news, that everything happening in this world just exactly fits the 30-minute or 1-hour time slot. For once, I'd like to see a half-blank page in a newspaper, just a whole block of white space. I'll even frame it and keep it as a souvenir! For once, I'd like to see the news show which ends early because there's nothing new to report. A news show which has no headlines because on that day, the world was a normal place .............. Wait a second ... this is too much to ask, isn't it?

My disgust is not directed entirely at the news show itself; I have it reserved equally for the makers and the viewers of the show. Last I heard, news was supposed to be a medium for information and important happenings, not a f***ing tabloid. So why are the people behind the show willing to telecast such news-drama? Or is the education system to blame because it might encourage them to cater to the corporate needs? Is it a forgivable offence if they do it to feed themselves and their families? And why are the viewers willing to watch such crap? Is it the education system's responsibility to enlighten them about what the media thinks of them? Worse yet, if they know it is crap and unworthy of television, will they stop watching it or will they continue watching it in the name of 'entertainment'? ............... Questions, questions, questions .... and not a single answer .... (if you have an answer, please enlighten me)

So the title of this blog entry is 'a gift, a curse' - what's all this leading to, you ask. This is going to require a lot of courage on my behalf because I'm not capable of something so cheesy ... but if I've come this far, and I might as well. So here goes .... A great man once told Spiderman that "with great power, comes great responsibility." This was his gift, his curse. The way I look at it is we all work (or will be working) at jobs which affect other people's lives. There are are two ways about it though : choosing to affect their lives in a positive manner or in a negative manner. Let's not undermine ourselves, I don't want to : we are all share-holders of power in our own way; it might be a very small, teeny part, but we're in it. I'm not willing to accept that what I do today is not going to affect somebody I don't know. Just like the people working for the media cannot ignore their responsibility to the people watching their 'production,' I cannot ignore the fact that my deeds are responsible for some part of an unknown entity's life. I am responsible.

(phew ... I don't know if all that made sense ... you're free to comment)

The following is a link to a post-match analysis of an India-England test match (back in February I think). Expertise in cricket terminology is not required to understand the goings-on; note the tone and language used in the show. This was telecast on a major news channel in India. It's just a snippet of what the media is turning into.
Part I -
Part II -

The following is a link to an interview of Aamir Khan, who appeared on a show called on India Questions. This one is also quite old, back in January. But worth a watch, nonetheless. Aamir Khan is one of the few 'celebrities' to speak out about the current state of the media. Is anybody listening?