Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Edvard Munch- Dorian Grey Fiasco


It was a sweltering summer day, the air was drowsy with lethargy and the diva was soaking up every drop of decadence. 'What if Edvard Munch were to bring to life his perception of Dorian Grey?', she wondered. She decided to take matters into her own hands by letting the ghost of Edvard Munch penetrate her artistic conscience. The medium of choice was oil pastel. The diva wanted to 'experiment' with the use of mirrors in paintings. The picture was to have a beautiful woman looking at herself wryly in one mirror. There was to be a mirror behind her that was to capture what she was actually looking at ; an ageing crone with eroding hair.The picture below illustrates how greatly perception and conception tend to differ. Especially when rendered by a 'self-assumed' prima donna with the artless knack for artistic rendition.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Art of the Insult

An insult is an innocuous, non-violent technique used to weaken the knees of another. It must come laden with guile and must be delivered with deliberate measure. An insult must never be coarse; it must be polished, subtle and painfully polite. That way the insulted can never tell what hurt them the most; the insult itself or the sheer articulate propriety of its deliverer.

Oscar Wilde once said, 'Always be kind to your enemies, nothing annoys them more' .

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

It Happens Only in India: Astrology Thrives like Nothing Else

India is one of the few countries guilty of globalizing yoga, curry and astrology. The first thing my grandparents did after my birth was to approach the astrologer. (They actually approached two.) Both the astrologers drew up charts that still make very little sense. Especially since the bengali equivalent of 'diva' doesn't feature in any of them.

Astrological charts are more like templates. They don't give a detailed analysis of microscopic future events. To dispell such ambiguity, astrologers set up little shops in unlikely yet strategic locations. Imagine this; you're dejectedly walking in an 'innocent' neighbourhood under the scorching Indian sun when your eyes chance to fall upon a sign that says 'Astrologer', talk about strategy! Most astrologers in Bangalore have these typical signboards that read, 'Faith is God. Come at once with your problems. Love, marriage, childrens education, foreign tour, politics, family problem, enemy problem, couples disunderstanding..' , down to every grammatical error. They never 'disunderstand' the psyche of an entire nation.

Ideas become obsolete but astrologers do not!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Hours



This one is for the sake of memory and nostalgia. 'The Hours' was nominated for nine Oscars in the year 2003. I was around 18 back then, and held the opinion that every film becomes watchable once it gets nominated for an Oscar. So I watched 'The Hours' after having read 'Mrs. Dalloway' and after being subject to all the hype around Nicole Kidman's fake nose.

The predominant theme in 'The Hours' is that of life and death. The story is told through the lives of three women in different decades. All three are bound by the book 'Mrs. Dalloway' by Virginia Woolf. The film starts with Virginia Woolf (played by Nicole and the fake nose) who is writing the book. Then it moves on to Laura Brown(played by Julianne Moore), a housewife of the 1950s, who is reading the book and then to Clarissa Vaughn (played by Meryl Streep) who is literally the 21st century version of 'Mrs. Dalloway'.

When I saw it the first time, I was thrilled to see the resemblance Clarissa Vaughn and the characters in her life bore to the people in Mrs. Dalloway. I was deeply moved by Julianne Moore's performance as the troubled Laura Brown who drowns in her superficially happy marriage and battles with her bisexuality. I was a tad puzzled by Nicole Kidman's portrayal of Virginia Woolf. She doesn't quite resemble Mrs. Woolf to start with, her performance was picture perfect but seriously lacking in empathy. Meryl Streep was good as she always is, but not as striking as Julianne Moore. Julianne Moore is expressive, empathetic and quietly brilliant. It still hurts when I think of how Catherine Zeta Jones won the Oscar for 'Chicago' instead of Julianne Moore for 'The Hours'.

The strength of the film lies in the screenplay. Very rarely does an adaptation hold one's unbiased attention. The melancholy score is unobtrusive yet profoundly correct. The film scores mainly due to its talented supporting cast. Ed Harris as the tormented Richard Brown, Stephen Dillane as the loyal Leonard Woolf, Miranda Richardson as Vanessa Bell and John C. Reilly as Dan Brown were some of my personal favourites. The showdown between Leonard and Virginia Woolf would have been incomplete without the geniune hurt on Stephen Dillane's face.

It is still worth watching after all these years. Very rarely does Hollywood churn out a masterpiece that compells one to reflect and introspect.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

To Poetry

Quiet art,
Feared and scarred,
Once Reared with care
And learnt by heart.
Once celebrated,
The wordsmith's mistress,
Now reeling
In subdued distress.
Her coffin lies
Half buried,
Three feet deep
In a decaying heap.
To revive her
Would be fruitless.
For want of an ode
Greater than her subtle death.

ps: All errors are protected under the tutelage of poetic license.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Memoir that wasn't Fiction

I have decided to start writing tall tales when faced with a dearth of ideas, rhymes etc. Please note,the work below is entirely fictitious and probably realistically unfeasible. All characters are a figment of my imagination. Any resemblance to individuals (humans, animals, plants, fungi,protozoans, bacteria etc) is unintentional, and is purely an outcome of subconscious internalization. No animals were harmed during the conception of this work. All animals were left out in the garden. If the little yellow kitty gets hurt; it is because she was stupid enough to entice the dogs and not because the diva attempted to introduce her to the dogs.

Let us call our protagonist Jason (no relation whatsoever to Jason from the 'Friday the 13th' movies). Jason was a placid, innocuous and agreeable man of 25. He wasn't mysogyinistic, anti-semetic, racist, holocast-denying, global-warming-denying, homophobic or politically incorrect. He paid his taxes on time, recycled garbage, was polite, helpful and never forgot to vote during the elections. His political convictions are irrelevant to the rest of the tale, so I will ignore them. So if Jason is near perfect, where's the tall tale?

Jason had a great weakness for being 'well-known'. He worked at the counter in a rather 'well-known' five star hotel. His pleasant nature made him very popular with the regulars at the hotel. A more twisted person would have suggested that he was 'well-connected'. Alas, little ones, human desire is insatiable and dangerous. Jason's life was to take a dramatic turn the day an ageing client of the hotel asked him, 'Say Jason, would you know someone who is not very well known, but can help me do justice to my memoir'. A little alarm went off in Jason's head, it had been ticking ever since he decided he wanted to be 'well-known'.

To cut a tall tale short; it should have become quite obvious that Jason 'helped' the gentleman with his memoir. 'The Hippie in a Muse', it was called;despite the fact that the man was neither a hippie nor particularly fond of musing over things. The book made it to the bestsellers list of 'The New York Times'. 'Unassumingly witty, original,blunt,honest and simply magnificient'- wrote a particular reviewer. It didn't quite make it to Oprah's book club owing to the fiasco over 'A Million Little Pieces'. There were no visible traces of plagarism, and it was the most lauded memoir of its time. The gentleman had no antecedants, or decendants who could question the credibility of his memoir.

To cut a tall tale even shorter; Jason soon became well known among a circle of folks possesed with the gift of the gab, but severly lacking dexterity with the pen. Jason became the counter clerk, turned writer, turned editor, turned confidant. Almost every memoir he 'helped write' was dedicated to him. He had indirectly become 'well-known'. Unfortunately, Jason wasn't a big fan of subtlety. He decided to write his own memoir.

'Jason: The Janitor who writes Memoirs' , was the rather unarticulate yet curious title of the book. 'To expose, to literally spill the beans, and to dispell any misconception', was the supposed purpose of the book as deemed by the man himself. Jason thought it was his best work, the publishers thought otherwise. Jason sent his manuscript to every respectable publisher there was. He decided that sending copies to publishers of 'disrepute' would be a crime against ecology.

Jason continues to help other people write their memoirs. He still has a job as a hotel receptionist. No one, barring the publishers who rejected his work and some of the secretaries who shredded those rejected manuscripts, ever got to read 'Jason: The Janitor who writes Memoirs'. Every publisher dismissed his work as 'creative but insulting to common intelligence'. In his memoir, Jason had committed the crime of embellishment only once. He made himself out to be a janitor.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Reality Check : Another Malapropism Gets the Axe

I have issues with the term 'reality show'. It is the most overrated form of platitude that this generation has seen. For starters, reality shows have very little to do with 'reality' . Paris Hilton living 'The Simple Life' is not reality. It is the most condescending form of narcissism. A gang of pretty girls ,'stranded' in a mansion, vying for the attention of 'The Bachelor' is farther away from reality than an episode of 'Will and Grace'.

I prefer films to 'reality shows'. A film is the outcome of 'real' work done by 'real' people. It reflects the collective effort put by a group of dedicated people to bring the sub-conscious to life. A film indirectly brings out the aspirations, frustrations and the endless bounds of societal imagination. How unreal is that?

As with all other cliches, this one is destined for the gallows. To hell with platitude! Let's have some originality.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Bridge that Widens the Gap

Yesterday night I was watching 'Celebrity Weddings' on VH1. There was a small segment on Marylin Manson, the poster boy of 'all who live to shock and only to shock'. There he was ; with his face painted ivory, his lips dripping red, his hair set like a mass of mangled rodent tails,his teeth jutting with metal and his eyes bearing those signature blue-white contacts. When one gets habituated to seeing the bizzare, one is seldom repulsed by it.

Sadly, this isn't the case with my parents. 'Who's that', they asked, not making any effort to hide their displeasure. 'That's Marilyn Manson', I said nonchalantly. Never did the flower-power generation anticipate the future their progeny would be subject to. Imagine singing , 'We are stardust, we are golden, we are ten billion year old carbon..', and then having to listen to things like, 'I exist therefore I blog'. My heart particularly goes out to the feminists who burnt their bras. They never saw it coming; not the 'Pussycat Dolls', not ten year olds in hipsters, not five year olds with eating disorders and definitely not the 'globalization of beauty' based on the concept of 'who resembles the waif the most'. I can vouch for sure that my parents never bargained to behold the face of Marilyn Manson on the television screen.

It is ironic how lapses of memory tend to catch up with the older generation. Do they not remember Bob Dylan's subtle euphemisms in 'Mr. Tambourine Man' ? (In case you don't know, 'Tambourine Man' is an euphemism for 'drug dealer'.) Do they not remember John and Yoko's stint 'In Bed' for peace? Do they not remember psychadelia, recreational drug use , dysfunction, and being 'Comfortably Numb'? 'Shock rock', is merely an innocent extension of what the older generation forgot to do. When one generation decides to shock,they must also prepare to be shocked. The bridge that widens the generation gap is not simply a metaphor. It is real and tangible to the extent that we don't want to see it.

From the point of view of practicality, no two generations of people like to be regarded as identical. It goes against the tenets of human self-respect to be superficially akin to one's ancestors. The generation gap was created to prevent such embarrasment, and to make everyone feel like they started the 'renaissance'. So much for so little!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Laughing in Translation

I've been learning French on the internet. I finally gave in to my weakness for anything Mediterranean and took the first few steps to satisfaction. French is refreshingly sweet and musical to the ear. It has soft syllables and subtle intonation. It has the power to make even the atonal sound dulcet.

Like every language (romantic and otherwise) French has its little quirks. Every word has an associated gender. I wasn't too perturbed by this as I became accustomed to 'genders' when I learnt Hindi. Like all controversial gender issues, it is more than challenging to construct a sentence without the kind of offence that can be kept out of the courts. Besides, gender-oriented languages seldom have a logical reason behind classifying words as either masculine or feminine. Our astute middle school Hindi teacher told us to 'say what sounds right'. It hasn't been that easy with French.

In French every masculine word is prefixed with 'le' and every feminine term with 'la'. For example; 'la femme' means 'woman' or 'the woman' and 'le homme' means 'man' or 'the man'. Also, un and une are used as prefixes with masculine and feminine terms respectively. For example ; 'une femme' is 'a woman' or 'one woman' and 'un homme' is 'a man' or 'one man'. Sounds simple doesn't it? Wait for the next bit.

In French even inanimate objects have an associated gender. Even streets, books, wine etc. have genders. Here are a few examples
  • 'une production' - a production (feminine)
  • 'un film' - a film(masculine)
  • le livre - book/the book (masculine)
  • la tour eiffel- the eiffel tower(feminine)


Take a load of this! How am I expected to keep a straight face through the perils of translation?

ps: In French 'La cuisine' means 'the kitchen'(feminine) and 'Le livre' means 'the book'(masculine). Interesting....

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Dissent

Speak of the storm, so resilient,
That made your spirit cower.
Speak of the intimidation
That shook the foundation
Of your callow reason.
Speak of the ideals
Of your generation,
Misconstrued and mired
In dulcet malapropism.
For I fear, we share
No other grieviance
Of which we can speak
With Civility!

ps:
  • I don't know how I come up with such things.

  • All blank verse is protected by the tutelage of poetic license.
  • Wednesday, January 10, 2007

    Sleepwalk

    Shadow, light,
    False delight,
    A creed denied
    Its right;

    Shapes, reverie,
    Contained revelry,
    A pale dream
    Around my sleep;

    Footsteps, rain,
    Sedate disdain,
    An inane
    Numbing pain;

    Fading away
    To blatant decay,
    In half a minute
    Of disarray.

    ps:
  • Don't ask me to explain the poem. I rarely understand my own work.
  • All grammatical errors are protected under poetic license.
  • Tuesday, January 09, 2007

    Terse!

    I exist therefore I blog.
    I blog therefore I offend.
    I offend therefore I'm insignificant!

    Saturday, January 06, 2007

    Mogwai

    If you read my post titled 'Zidane, Un Portrait du 21e Siecle', and if you came across a mention of 'Mogwai' read on.

    I first experienced Mogwai when I saw the 'Zidane movie'. I use the word 'experienced' because the music of Mogwai requires more than just open minded listening. I cannot think of an appropriate genre for Mogwai. Perhaps it would be safe and equally lame to call it 'progressive, experimental indie-rock'. (I'm trying very hard to write this without coming under the influence of 'Wikiality'.)

    The members of Mogwai use guitars, synthesizers and distortion (or so I think) to create an effect of psychedelia not quite like Pink Floyd, but original and untainted by mainstream influence. Mogwai's style might come across as esoteric to some, especially to 'head-banging' metal aficionados and 'puppy-love smitten boy band lovers'. For the sake of art, however, it is probably impudent and almost insulting to compare Mogwai with the rest of the mainstream.

    Here's to another cut against platitude! If we try hard enough we can give it(platitude) a slow and painful death!

    ps: Ooops! I forgot to mention that Mogwai is a band based in Glasgow, Scotland.

    Friday, January 05, 2007

    Malapropism!

    It's the time of the year when platitude goes under the cut. The Diva is her old self again. She is out on a rampage to find new victims! So don't do anything to offend me for a while.

    Given the recent spate of executions around the world, there has been a lot of linguistic abuse making the rounds. The people concerned (if you don't know about the Saddam Hussain execution fiasco, you really need to watch the news) were executed for 'crimes against humanity'. Now, the only crimes that 'humans' ever talk about are 'crimes against humanity'. Besides, practically every intentional, cold blooded 'crime against humanity' is a 'crime on behalf of humanity'. We need to express ourselves more appropriately. Not enough has been done to denounce this most blatant miscarriage of propriety. Let's learn to say it as it is, 'Crimes on behalf of humanity'!

    I must also decry the gross misuse of the word 'exclusive'. If events are meant to be 'exclusive' how is it that the press always gets invited?

    That's all for now children! There will be 'more cuts against platitude' in the future.