Friday, December 28, 2012

6 years of blogging

6 years filled with posts. Some relevant, some rambling. Every single one of them a wrinkle added to the face of an advancing age. Mine, and the world around me.

183 posts and some unpublished drafts that talk, directly or discreetly, about the temporal rhythms tuned on the radio of time.

Of personal joys, mundane observations, terrible heartaches, and unsaid stories.

Stories. All of us have stories to tell. Few of us scribble them down so that we can read them in the future and do some therapeutic time traveling.

Every word you write today probably has the power to move you, satisfy you, leave you thirsty for more, in more than one inexplicable ways.

It's a free investment that will keep adding to memories in your account, which one day will be of more value to you, than probably anything else.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Of books read in 2012

Finally, I completed the challenge on Goodreads this year! (Though I cheated a little)

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Kedar has completed his goal of reading 20 books in 2012!
hide

I will make up for the shortcomings from the last year in the coming year.

But, let's keep that aside and talk about books. I read a couple of them. As compared to people who had challenged themselves to read 100/150/200 books, I had a meager 20 books to finish. I cheated my way through. I had to. Why, you ask? Why, I ask! Let's not get into that.

So, here are five of the best ones read this year:
  • The Sirens of Titan - So far, probably my favourite Vonnegut. Very, very close to Slaughterhouse-five.
  • Snow Crash - Metaphors, Avatars, and the humorous Mr. Stephenson. Our journey just began!
  • Perdido Street Station - China, you have redefined the way things can be written and fatansized.
  • The Sense of an Ending - A book full of quotes. Those History quotes, I will keep using them.
  • Good Omens - I love it when two chaps get together to have some rowdy fun. Specially if they are Gaiman and Sir Pratchett.
That's that. For now.

Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon - Book Review

"...a revelation also trembled just past the threshold of her understanding."

My situation. Throughout the book.

Then I went out. Found out that a particular button on my bike was not working. Essentially muted.



Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - Book Review

The HobbitThe Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a Hobbit." - Aristotle Took.

The Hobbit was a fun read. Without a doubt the fun part of the book was driven by the ghosts from the Took side of Biblo's genealogy. The humour was ticklish at times once I overcame the verbosity of Tolkien's sentence structuring. The adventures were predictable (often foreshadowed with hints laid by JRRT (Does anyone call him that? *cough*GRRM*cough*) himself) but fun.

I got to know how the game of golf was invented!

Bilbo comes across as the hero even through his self-doubts, mistakes, and the dwarvian underestimations. Oh, what with wits, luck, and a magic ring. (cue Gollum's "My Precious"). Gandalf is the best hippie ever! What with smoke rings that chase each other and all that.

"Hey, Boy, do you wanna score?"
And you know how it is;
I really don't know what time it was, woh, oh,
So I asked them if I could stay awhile."

- The lost songs of Gandalf, or Led Zeppelin, as many of us are familiar with.

The Dwarves are fussy, bearded macho-men who eat and drink a lot, and make a lot of noise nonetheless. All they needed were Harleys and Triumphs.

Oh and there are men, goblins, elves, eatables, bears, swords, eatables, trolls, eagles, ravens, and only one Dragon. I came to like the Dragon quite a bit. Oh, Old Smaug, who won't ever be Smug anymore.

And then the story, eventually, is about greed. As Gandhi(Alf) said, "Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's, elf's, dwarve's, goblin's, dragon's greed."

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Management Tips from KB/HH

The other day I bought a brand-new, cutting-edge broom and told the Kaamwaali Bai or House Help (Hereby referred to as KB/HH) to start using it from the next day. Suddenly all the noise in the world disappeared. She stared at me. The intense analytical gaze she gave me as she heard those words is beyond description.

“It is what it is,” she said point-blankly. “You cannot expect a new broom to be become a game changer from day one.”

“But we had briefed the shopkeeper to give us a broom that will be a value-add and at the same time be very customer-centric,” I said, very meekly. Such was the gaze!

“Your approach was totally wrong,” were the words of KB/HH, the rebuker. “You did not ensure to demand for End-to-End quality of services. Do you even know how I will have to multitask between cleaning the floor and cleaning the new-broom droppings? Have you given it a thought to the effect that will have on my performance measurement?”

I was on the verge of tears. Standing in the nearest corner seemed like the best thing to do.

“But… I tried my best towards a significant contribution,” I muttered in a barely perceptible voice.

“You know nothing,” said the ever-booming voice. “Do you have any idea about the disconnect that strategy will have on all my initiatives and objectives that go into the metrics? That will demotivate me for sure! Please keep such things in mind henceforth!”

I was lost for words and confidence. From that day on, I decided to leverage this learning and decided to become an achiever!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell - Book Review

Cloud AtlasCloud Atlas by David Mitchell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Patience’s design flaw became obvious for the first time in my life: the outcome is decided not during the course of play but when the cards are shuffled, before the game even begins. How pointless is that? - Timothy Cavendish

Is this actually a design flaw? Or is it Karma?

-

There are thousands of reviews written on this book that will tell you how good or bad it is.

Loving or hating the book. Was this part decided before too? It is anyway inconsequential.

The hunger for power makes us lose our power over the hunger.

History repeats, mistakes duplicate, learning and unlearning happens.

The cycle of carbon to carbon transformation called as life goes on.

Will we ever learn? We'll never learn? Two sides of the same transparent coin.

-

The first half of the book introduces you to people. The second half (the better half) tells you that circumstances change, people don't.

Feel like my soul has turned into steel
I’ve still got the scars that the sun didn’t heal
There’s not even room enough to be anywhere
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there
...
I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from

- Not Dark Yet by Bob Dylan

-

Frobisher was a wunderkind, he died just as he got going…

Cloud Atlas Sextet holds my life, is my life, now I’m a spent firework; but at least I’ve been a firework. - Robert Frobisher

Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies, an’ tho’ a cloud’s shape nor hue nor size don’t stay the same, it’s still a cloud an’ so is a soul. Who can say where the cloud’s blowed from or who the soul’ll be ’morrow? Only Sonmi the east an’ the west an’the compass an’ the atlas, yay, only the atlas o’ clouds. - Zachary

Three or four times only in my youth did I glimpse the Joyous Isles, before they were lost to fogs, depressions, cold fronts, ill winds, and contrary tides… I mistook them for adulthood. Assuming they were a fixed feature in my life’s voyage, I neglected to record their latitude, their longitude, their approach. Young ruddy fool. What wouldn’t I give now for a never-changing map of the ever-constant ineffable? To possess, as it were, an atlas of clouds. - Timothy Cavendish

-

I loved The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish. I quite liked Sloosha’s Crossin’ An’ Ev’rythin’ After and Letters from Zedelghem. The others were threads that weaved the fabric of time spanning centuries, back and forth.

We just flew on the magic carpet ride.

-

Mr. David Mitchell, I thank you for a lovely book that I will remember, every once in a while...

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Friday, November 2, 2012

00VII

For Your Eyes Only. It’s been more than a decade since I saw my first Bond movie on a VHS tape. I still vaguely remember the weird coldness Dad and me shared saw the movie together. Him a veteran of several of the Bond movies and me, a pubescent, acne-ridden teenager who was yet to know what Bond, James Bond was all about. I bet Dad thanked the stars that it was a Roger Moore movie and did not have the notoriously (nasty) famous Bond Sean Connery.

From that time on, I saw some of the old Bond movies (Connery included) and some with the stylish Bond as presented by Pierce Brosnan. None of them with Dad, though all of them on TV. The panache of Mr. Connery, the patriotism of Mr. Moore, the style of Mr. Brosnan (and the others) was all fine till came the ruthlessness of one Mr. Daniel Craig. Now that’s the Bond I could associate with. A vulnerable, human Bond. Yes, the gadgetry, the cars, the splendor, and the women were all fine from the rest of the movies. Nevertheless, something was missing. Something that appealed to me. That something was the mad action that happened in the opening scene of Craig’s Casino Royale. Yes. Beating up villains is not just about style, it’s about making a mark. A deep, scarred mark. But yes, I saw Casino Royale on DVD. No big-screen super action.

Then came Skyfall and along with that my decision to see it on the big screen. I was a bit apprehensive to see it since I had missed out on Quantum of Solace (QoS) as there is some link between them. However, when I read that you can actually appreciate this one more if you haven’t see QoS, I was all set.
I liked Skyfall. It is not Casino Royale. It’s more a battle of words or wits than weapons. (More, not entirely!) The storyline is not very strong, but Craig, Xavier Bardem, Dame Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes more than make up for it. The second half is better, so stay in your seats. There are amazing references to old Bond movies and those who are Bond fanatics will love them for sure! Do watch it if you like the Bond franchise, a fabulous villain, and dialogues like:
JB: “So, a gun and a radio. We aren’t having much of a Christmas, are we?”
Q: “What did you expect, an exploding pen?”

There is even a poem quoted in the movie:
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

-    Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Ulysses

Well, time to go and order a shaken-not-stirred.

Monday, September 17, 2012

30 Years

Or a little more.

The time it took for Mom to get promoted.

The fact suddenly hit me. We, our generation that is, are so used to hopping around to get better, fat packages, and higher bands, that we have lost the ability to realise the intensity, hardships, and at times joy of working in the same place for 3 to 4 decades.

Wow! That's just commendable.

There is also the case of P's mom. Who got promoted and was transferred to a place called Chandrapur. At an age of 50. A challenging place, demanding position, and a lot of distance from relatives and kids. Only if we had an ounce of our parent's energy. We took it all for granted, and for slow learners like me, took a long time to realise it.

I remember in school days when people used to ask me what my mom does, as we Indians are probingly wont to, I used to shyly tell them "Staff Nurse", fearing that people might judge me, again as some of us are wont to! I remember how Dad had told me that Bill Clinton's mother was a Nurse too. I am sure he wanted to motivate me to get better grades, but that somehow helped get over the insecurity. All it took was probably that example and maybe a little bit of growing up.

Now she is a Sister in the same local Government hospital.

All it took was 30 years.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Stopover by Ram Prakash and Deepa Pinto - Book Review

The StopoverThe Stopover by Ram Prakash


I got a few sample pages from this book for a review. The following words, voice, opinions are my own.

My rating (for the pages I read): 3 stars

I won’t call myself as the clichéd “amateur photographer”, but, yes, I do love photography. In addition, I don’t believe that you have to have an SLR camera to be a photographer (although the quality is impeccable!). A capturing lens, an eye for beauty (or horror, irony, joy) in anything around you can help create lovely art. Add to that absorbing lines about the picture and things mystify further.

With The Stopover, the author manages to go several steps farther and weaves stories around stunning photographs. “4 stories, in 4 locations, brought alive with over 100 photos,” is the way this book is described.

I read the story "The Tibetan Wheel of Wisdom," revolving around Varun and his trip to Leh, Ladakh. The photographs are beautiful and the story is engrossing. At times, the pictures and story blend well (look for a picture of the ever calm Buddha, the source that strengthens the anguished and its positioning); at times one overshadows the other, while at times one orphans the other.

I wonder if this book is a gamble. After looking at an image, you perceive things very subjectively, individually. There could be a large overlap of these perceptions when two people see the same picture, but several factors add to the beauty of an image. In this case, we see the pictures and try to feel what the protagonist must be feeling. This works with some pictures, but for some you keep looking for a picture that matches the poetry created by the words and your imagination.

I would like to read the remaining stories and see how they blend with other scenic pictures and how the stories are concluded.


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Monday, September 10, 2012

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman - Book Review

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, WitchGood Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For almost 2 years Good Omens, bought in an online shopping frenzy, was lying on the bookshelf waiting to be devoured. I recently picked it up because I wanted a fun, light book.

Fun it totally is! Lightness is ineffably subjective. I mean, look at these lines:
"It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people."
OR
"Heaven and Hell aren't running things any more, it's like the whole planet is a Third World country that's finally got the Bomb."
Makes you think?

I must confess that the story does seem to be disjointed at times. But eventually everything falls into place as you keep reading, and chuckling. It’s got the Pratchett stamp all over it. I bet Gaiman loved emulating, improvising, and challenging Sir Pterry more and more! And Mr. Terry P answered the challenge in style! They filled the book with funny lines, characters, and references that crack you up beyond chuckling, at times! There are references to Queen, Baskin Robbins, 1984, Star Wars, and BBC. I am sure there could be some more gems that escaped me. There were two such moments that made me think about the awesomeness of ideas in this book:
- The line "Bureaucrats from hell" reminded me of Perdido Street Station
- You know the movie where they travel through phone lines, don’t you? Some characters in this book do the same and there is another funny twist after this travelling business.

While I liked all these amazing moments, I absolutely loved the involvement of Dog the Hellhound (and his metamorphosis!), The Angels (and their bromance!), Grievous Bodily Harm, Embarrassing Personal Problems Things Not Working Properly Even After You've Thumped Them No Alcohol Lager, and Really Cool People (Super!). Even the other human characters are enjoyable in their crazy roles.

It was amazing to read Pratchett and Gaiman writing about each other and their experiences while writing this book. These guys had fun writing this book, shouting about it across to each other, and produced one of the funniest books that I have read.

If you loved the following line, you sure will have a good time reading this book:
"It'd be a funny old world, he reflected, if demons went round trusting one another."
OR
"You start thinking: it can't be a great cosmic game of chess, it has to be just very complicated Solitaire."

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes - Book Review

The Sense of an EndingThe Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Losing all hope was freedom. - Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
...

Normally, I tend to form the review of a book halfway through the book and then it gets a finer shape as I complete the book. Sometimes the review that I have in mind suddenly metamorphoses into a completely different set of words. But with this book, I just am not able to collect my thoughts to pen them down.

I really liked the book. After completing it I decided that someday, when I grow older than what I am right now, I will read this book again. I will look back at how I felt while reading the book for the first time. I will see if I have aged with time or I have just amassed some more memories and modified some other.

But for now, I am at a loss for the right words. The book is unlike any other book I have read so far. In a slim package of 150 pages, Julian Barnes presents an intense, thought provoking book. It makes you think and recollect the fond memories that you had. It prods you further in the direction of the scenarios that worked in your favour and others, probably the ones you desired more, that didn't work out in your favour. It gives you some time and teaches you tricks to play around with the what-ifs and whether-thats... and suddenly takes you tumbling down the rabbit hole along with Tony Webster.

Maybe I shouldn't be drawing parallels just because I read these novels in succession, but I felt that there was a characterial overlap between Gatsby's Nick Carraway and Sense of an Ending's Tony Webster. Both of them are observers. Both of them are the metaphorical hubs of the story's wheel. Whereas in Nick's case external forces turn the wheel, Tony makes the wheel move by himself and yet feels that there are external forces acting on him. In Veronica's well-iterated words, Tony just doesn't get it! Nevertheless, Tony does get it, eventually...

Ok, back to the book... Sense of an Ending speaks in terms of logic as applied to human behaviour, common sense as humans try to apply to their behaviour, abstract behavioral mathematics, and ever questioned rationality, but the book leaves you with a feeling that is nowhere as straightforward. It's as misty as a mountain top during monsoon and leaves you in an intoxicated state to find your way through all that haze.

Relationships. Complexities. Reactions. Consequences.

We keep moving back and forth through past and present (metaphorically), try to perceive time and memories linked to a time, understand the dynamics of our behaviour as opposed to what might have happened and just play along. Tony Webster does the same. He looks back at himself, he reminisces, he wonders; he tries to change the mistakes of the past and realizes that the seeds of his previous actions have grown into fierce, road-blocking trees, unknowingly shadowing his motives and hopes. He tries to understand the consequences of his actions. He tries in vain to rekindle the fire. He tries to split remorse in chunks of guilt to tackle them individually, while searching for a stamp of forgiveness. He senses the end and begins the search for corroboration that affirms his memories, life, and the way everything happened. Eventually, Tony gives up his quest.

Adrian's Diary was just a time machine that forced Tony to look back. Veronica was just a force that kept Tony thinking and making modifications to his actions. Veronica's Mom represented the very human nature of unpredictableness. Margaret was the laugh that we need, the smiles that carry us through. Adrian, a mathematical anomaly. Tony, all the while, a hub in the wheel of something called as life. Life, as it happens to some, and as some make it happen.

I loved the book for what it was. The lovely poetic, poignant lines, the melancholy trip through memories, and the wry humour that brought a smile or two at the needed times. I will definitely read this book again and will recommend it to anyone who has thought about the past, not just to change it, but to really think if that change would have been worthwhile as compared to the present. Because who can really predict happenings?

---

It is the same!--For, be it joy or sorrow,
The path of its departure still is free:
Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow;
Nought may endure but Mutability.

- P.B. Shelley, Mutability

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - Book Review

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Who is John Galt Jay Gatsby?
What is Great about Gatsby?
---
...I wear this crown of thorns,
Upon my liars chair,
Full of broken thoughts,
I cannot repair,

Beneath the stains of time,
The feelings disappear,
You are someone else,
I am still right here...


- Hurt, Nine Inch Nails and more poignantly by Johnny Cash.
---
This story belongs to a long gone era. An era where opulence was regarded supreme, where identities were hushed behind a veil of grandiose, material happiness. A part of the book belongs to that era... A part has trickled down. Leading to confusion. Just like the confused Nick Carraway. Unsure about things to believe and things to ignore.

Is Gatsby that part of Nick who is in love with Daisy, but has to be buried eventually because things have changed and past cannot be undone? Is it Gatsby or Nick who stunningly describes the beautiful Daisy and her enchanting, alluring voice?
It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again.

For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened—then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.
Nick, who slowly paints the characters, the surroundings, the sub-textual philosophies, and weaves the story that moved him so much. Nick, caught in the ever-shifting world of sudden changes brought by a man's strong, undying love for a woman. Nick, caught in a contradiction of beliefs, of trust.

Everything is melancholy, and then the emotions are rapidly flattened out... hinting at the things to come. A haziness brought just before the music fades, the alcohol is drunk, and the people go home, before words are scattered along like used tissues... Papers with words and distended feelings that are eventually broken into pieces. Love is put to test. Love loses against fate. Love loses against the past. Too much contention.

Love is mostly on the losing side.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bachchan's Sharabi

Just yesterday P and I were discussing about Bachchan's Sharabi.

The question was whether this movie influenced people to let go of their lives just the way their screen idol did. I, out of my love for the tipple, tried to assuage by saying that the movie does show the hero's downfall.

She asked, "So what if an alcoholic wants to imitate that exact downfall?"

-
I posted this as a comment on this lovely post about movies and their links, if any, with the society.

On a related note:
Mere paas Ma(lt) hai...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft - Book Review

The Call of CthulhuThe Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What is it that empowers writers with prose that penetrates the deepest mysteries to bring forth a bone-chilling story that plays on your mind? It can't be pure imagination, or is it? How is it that the author can write such intense, engaging, awe-inducing log of a mountainous monster-priest, which ironically makes you eagerly wait for the Thing to make an appearance?

"The Thing cannot be described, there is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorial lunacy, such eldritch contradictions of all matter, force, and cosmic order. A mountain walked
or stumbled."


I have read this story alright, but the all the pieces are spread out in my mind like the hidden cults. Surely, they will chant and remind me of the vagaries of human imagination based on circumstantial evidences. As the narrator says, "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents."

Phew. H.P. Lovecraft is a master of words and worlds. I can see how he has influenced so many writers. Every paragraph is laden with ideas and mysteries that other authors write books about. I agree that his prose is heavy and at times it get's redundant, but it has an intense mysterious magnetism that pulls you right in. The very nature of build up of the story, and how the narrator weaves the facts together is engaging. It's OK if I had to read some lines twice or more times than that, the effect some of them had was deep.

"The time would be easy to know, for then mankind would have become as the Great Old Ones; free and wild and beyond good and evil, with laws and morals thrown aside and all men shouting and killing and revelling in joy. Then the liberated Old Ones would teach them new ways to shout and kill and revel and enjoy themselves, and all the earth would ame with a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom."

I wonder if I can describe the story as a bildungsromanightmare. A coming-of-age-in-your-dreams story. An inception of a conviction of the presence of the surreal, eldtrich being. The narrator convinces himself and us of the presence of the great Cthulhu, submits himself to fate, and concludes the story with the line: "Let me pray that, if I do not survive this manuscript, my executors may put caution before audacity and see that it meets no other eye."

And, here we are:


---
On a lighter note, the chant "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" kept reminding me of Korn's Twist.

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Cupcake Story

Adam and Eve were happy in their den in Eden. Eating apples, playing snakes and ladders, and busy watching the angels do Shimmy, they never realised how fast the seasons changed and how time started overtaking itself. They thought they were so busy that forced the the instant messenger people to remove the status 'available' from the list. Needless to say, they did not register the appearance of a man in their neighbourhood.

His name was Odd. Odd was not odd, as his name suggested.He was rather normal.He was on a hunt for a girl named Even. One day when he was sitting in a bar, his friend Biro told him about this place called Eden that has Eve. Eve in Eden did sound odd to Odd and Odd decided to move to Eden and check with Eve if she knows Even. Odd, was resolute. He had to find Even. Specially since his enemy, Dice, had mockingly said, "Odd, you will never get Even." He had to get Even to get even.

Odd found Eden rather odd. He was so used to Prime - his hometown, Square Root - his dog and Nigella - his cook, that he found Eden very boring. He went to the local bar and ordered an apple cider. Convex, the bartender started conversing with Odd.

"Odd"
"Yes?"
"Very Odd"
"What?"
"Adam and Eve are splitting up!"
"Pass me another cider please."
"You are odd!"
"Yes, that's me."
"Very odd!"

Odd actually didn't take the news very well. If Adam and Eve split up, Eve will not have time to entertain him, thought Odd. Scared, he warily approached Eve.

"Ma'am."
"Who are you?"
"I am Odd."
"You certainly seem to be!"
"Do you know Even?"
"No!"
"That's odd!"
"Just like you!"
"Huh?"
"Go away, I need peace"

A dejected Odd, started walking away. He went to the bar again. After ordering his drink, he noticed that a beautiful girl was sitting alone by herself in one corner of the bar. She had lovely wavy brown hair, radiant olive skin with a golden sheen, soft lips shaped like rose petals, and the most mysteriously misty eyes that Odd had seen.

Odd approached her.
"Hello, I am Odd."
"Hi, I am Even."
Odd stood dumbfound. He had never imagined Even to be so beautiful.
"Hey Even, what made you come to Eden?"
"I want to start a cupcake business and Eden is a place where I can break even."
"I can help you. I am a baker."
"Oh."

They fell in love, got married started living happily ever after.

After some years, Odd met Dice and told him, "Odd Numbers got Even!"
Dice stared rather oddly.
"So Numbers is your last name?"
"Yes," said Odd.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Beyond Lies the Wub by Philip K. Dick - Short Story Review

Beyond Lies the WubBeyond Lies the Wub by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


While reading this short story, my first Philip K. Dick work, this song kept playing in my mind:

Big man, pig man
Ha, ha, charade you are
You well heeled big wheel
Ha, ha, charade you are


- Pigs (Three Different Ones) by Pink Floyd

I was wondering if the travesty was really apt. I wondered if there was something in this story that crossed the gravitational force and escaped me. All I know is that here is a nice, short story about a wub (A rather stout, big pig-like being) that is picked up from Mars for an amount of 50 cents, fated to land on the tasty plates of the hungry space travelers. What happens then is for you to find out. How the hungry earthling captain is fed and satiated? Does he return back, like Odysseus?

I am sure reading it will take less time than eating your Eggs and Bacon. (The story is available on Project Gutenberg)

At that, yes, more PKD will be devoured.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse - Book Review

Right Ho JeevesRight Ho Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Stimulated by the juice, I believe, men have even been known to ride alligators."

With lines like these, it is definitely not difficult to love a Wodehouse book. Right Ho, Jeeves sits right there amongst the best of Wodehouse that includes almost all of his books. :)

Right Ho, Jeeves goes on to narrate a story about the suggestively piscine Gussie Fink-Nottle (or as Aunt Dahlia prefers to call him eventually Spink-Bottle, and you will know why!) and his problematic betrothal to Madeline Bassett and along with that a story about the lover's rift between Hildebrand AKA Tuppy Glossop and Cousin Angela. Thrown in are some sub-plots about Aunt Dahlia and her gambling issues, the sensitive cook Anatole (god's gift to gastric juices), the paranoid Uncle Tom, and the overall happenings at Brinkley Manor.

Who takes charge of solving all of these cases? No, not Jeeves, it's Bertram Wilberforce Wooster! (For an insight into the Woosters, do take a gander at the Wooster Guide: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/....)

Bertie believes that Jeeves is unable to pull swift ones as before and decides to take over the reign. So, then the Unstoppable farce meets the Immovable object:

Unstoppable farce: "You see now how right I was."
Immovable object: "Yes, sir."
U.f: "It must have been rather an eye-opener for you, watching me handle this case."
I.o:"Yes, sir."
U.f:"The simple, direct method never fails."
I.o:"No, sir."
U.f:"Whereas the elaborate does."
I.o:"Yes, sir."
U.f:"Right ho, Jeeves."


When the farce, better known as Bertie, is aggressively convinced that the supreme spin-doctor, problem-solver Jeeves is not in his right elements, and decides to take control of the thoughtful steering wheel, all falls down. Or at least some of them do.

Wodehouse, in his own inimitable style, then goes on to describe the fun and at times laugh-out-loud events that happen and things tumble down, and eventually rise up. It's fun to read his descriptions about a certain fishy chap who become highly inebriated and delivers a superb speech!

Eventually, Bertie has to shake off his illusion about the not-in-form Jeeves after he sees how everything is solved by the trustworthy chap. Jeeves actions thoroughly convince us about the aberration that the Wooster spirit is. As Sheldon Cooper would say, there seems to be too much chlorine in the Wooster gene pool!

Oh and not to mention about the white mess jacket! All it took was a hot instrument...

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Cat's Crade by Kurt Vonnegut - Book Review

Cat's CradleCat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To write a review of this book in three words:
'busy, busy, busy'.
But there is no such restriction, so...

I have a strong belief that Vonnegut was a really baroque spider who weaved webs more intricate than any other. And these cobwebs are not normal ones. They are fractal webs. Designs within designs. The more you understand, the more there is to understand. The deeper you go, the meaninglessness of everything comes about.

Some authors elicit direct questions in the reader's minds. Some elicit questions under the garb of strange humour. Vonnegut belongs to the latter. He makes you think about religion, men of god, politics, science, society, utopia, dystopia, metaphysics, human behaviour, and some more topics without explicitly speaking about them. All of this indulgence goes along with the story of a man, who preferred to call himself Jonah, and his quest to find out what the scientist, who designed the atom bomb, was doing on the day the bomb was dropped. From then on, there are threads revealed. Some are very obvious, most hidden under the seemingly funny lines. Then, things happen and keep happening, and then some more things happen.

This is not Sirens of Titans, neither is it Slaughterhouse-Five. Cat's Cradle stands on a different track. Though it has style. Vonnegut has style. A style that opens the keys to the warehouse where every little thing makes you think. Makes you wonder and question and eventually come with an answer "There is no damn Cat, and there is no damn Cradle". Ensuring that you get the the futility of it all.

As with the previous two Vonnegut books I have read, this one really needs a reread. Maybe to understand it more, or maybe to find out that there is actually nothing relevant in the book, that everything is just made up. Made up just like life seems at times.

The other day, I was thinking what an interesting conversation Vonnegut and Wodehouse would have in the Bar of Heaven over a couple of drinks. Talking about the pitiful humans and their actions, humans writing theorems after watching apples fall down. Laughing at us all.

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Rewind

I want to go back. Back to the trees and their shadows. Back to the falling mangoes and the chase to find out if they are half eaten by the mischievious monkeys. To the heavenly food and it's uplifting soporific qualities. To the awesome country life and the gracious hosts. To beaches, the resilient sand, and the peace of the night. To the plumping moon, the fireflys, the conversations and reminisces. The stories, the moments of wonderful wandering. Picking fruits from trees and eating them fresh. To fun-filled moments and laughter and joy. 
Rewind.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Perdido Street Station by China Miéville - Book Review

Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon, #1)Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While reading Perdido Street Station (PSS), I came across this benign little conversation from Great Expectations:
"Moths, and all sorts of ugly creatures," replied Estella, with a glance towards him, "hover about a lighted candle. Can the candle help it?"
"No," I returned; "but cannot the Estella help it?"
"Well!" said she, laughing, after a moment, "perhaps. Yes. Anything you like."


So, is this candle the beacon?
---
PSS is a journey. An arduous, olfactory, insectan, long-winded journey through an overbearing thrashscape called New Crobuzon. Some of the chitinous (or feathery) characters are familiar; some of them are as strange as the words Mr. Mieville employs. Oh the words! They entrap you in the "Palimpsest of their meaningful gossamer". Be ready to take frequent dictionary trips.

The characters that loiter around in this book are unlike any other I have read so far. Garudas, Khepris, Vodyanoi, Cactacae, Remade (very, very interesting and intriguing!), Wyrmen, Moths, and even some of the humans. Mieville exploits your imagination to the limits. It's almost like your mind is turned into a mannequin whose strings are safely ensconced in the authors hands. To describe it in the author's own words: "to manipulate it within the limits dictated only by imagination". Every character has some interesting quality. The watercraeft of the Vodyanoi, the societal classification and choice-laws in Garudas, the manicurist habits of the Cactacae, the spit sculpting of the Khepris, the bravado of Isaac... all just wow! And then there is one Optimus Grime.

Oh and what's the story about? It's starts of as Yagharek's, a poor Garuda's, efforts to engage the services of the whacko-geek scientist Isaac Dan Der Grimnebulin in order to fly again. Then the story moves around as Isaac digresses from his research and unknowingly unleashes something unstoppable on his city. The book moves on to describe how this affects the personal lives of these characters, the administrators, the militia, the mob, and others. Mieville pushes you down a rather sewery rabbit hole and you keep tumbling along the cloaca of the great beast known as New Crobuzon.

That brings us to the amazingly filthy city of New Crobuzon. Every time Mieville pukes paints the city, most of the times, it's the browner shade of black. The city is complex. As complex as the various species that dwell in it's aromatic arms. You have to read it for yourself and immerse in the various shanty places, the stations, the individual species-infested holdings. Some of the best descriptions of the city are seen when the characters are traveling between train stations and while Yagharek delivers his monologue. The effluent city, surely, is the most important character in the book. It has all the elements of an actively participating character that shape the story in the author's inimitable style.

Yes, China Mieville Phd, does write in his own awesome style. I still remember Isaac tripping on dreamshit, Militia's dock-attack, the way the moths escape, hunt, and keep hunting, the way that web-lover sings, speaks, and weaves, and some such. These events bring the best out of the really good Mieville. Yes he digresses right in the middle of a super-fast situation, he puts in characters and ideas anytime and anywhere, yet his writing is a pleasure to read.

I can go on and on about this book. My very first Mieville (and am sure more to come!) that I was about to give up during the first 1/3rd of book, even though I was already impressed by the writing. I was jaded because I read it too slow. Then, things started happening and I stopped worrying about the number of pages. I realized that the big words, the complex ideas were building up towards an almost smooth, evocative execution of the plot. PSS is indeed a book that is a big bunch of writhing ideas. Imagine looking at a disturbed mass of long-legged spiders whose intimate congregation is broken by a pelted stone. Just observe and feel the tingling sensation on your skin evoke the familiar eerie feeling.

It's a colossal, stupendous journey.

Ok, I am off to recover from my Bas-Jet-Lag.
---
P.S.: If there is a lack of appropriate adjective usage in this review, please forgive me. PSS does belittle you when you try to engage these noun qualifiers freely.


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Monday, May 21, 2012

Timestamp

Number 14.
Curiosity drove me to open the Wiki page and read the significance of this quotidian number. Maybe some importance that might have slipped my ageing mind… and there I saw it. A little line that was hidden in the midst of all the excessive information:
The number of lines in a sonnet.
Life is poetic when memories rhyme and they remind you of the melody of a long lost tune. Memories.

Number 14.
Dad has a good collection of audio cassettes. (“Had” would be more appropriate since these old cassettes are no longer in use. Lying around, inexorably gathering dust.) There was this cassette numbered 14 that was special, at least for me.
Cassette Number 14.
The date written on the inside mentions that it was recorded sometime in 1986. That’s 3 years younger than me. :) The neatly typewritten song list displays the offerings. Boney M, Donna Summer, and a few soundtracks from them oldies. Remember Come September and For a few dollars more?

What reminded me of this cassette was Donna Summer. The Queen of Disco who recently began her journey on the stairway to heaven. She who sang those joyous, energetic, and naughty songs. Disco as we know it. Made us groove, made us move. This cassette had just 2-3 of her songs, but the initiation was just enough.

The remembrance of listening to those songs on the old Walkman, the rusty memories of being an adolescent suddenly interested in the "fairness" in the world, the moments of trying to rebel against the parental restrictions of not listening to this “adult” music… and so on…

Donna Summer. May God rest her soul in Peace. You meant a lot to so many in the world and you divinely contributed to the one true religion, Music. You will stay with us forever. You made me realize that importance of music, the fun of listening to songs secretively and growing up (and thinking about it now). You made me think of the bygone times and the present day and the ever-changing nature of us humans. What was once a cassette that was kept away from me now is lying around without notice. How temporal material things are…

Yet, music is eternal. Memories more so. I respect Donna Summer and the many Gods that came later. You were, and will be, passed as a legacy. Your creations will be fondly remembered, your songs will be lovingly enjoyed. We will lose ourselves to music and then we will find our own tunes.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Lane of Memories :: Ricochet

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
- T.S. Eliot in Burnt Norton (Four Quartets)

A fissure or a little crack. That's how it starts. That's how it started. Communication breakdown.

"You still won't talk to me will you?"
"Got nothing to say, girl. It's the whirlwind of circular thoughts, centrifugal more than centripetal."

Complete shut down. Strangling hope.

"It's the same thing over and over again. What new do I have? Nothing!"
"You can talk the same things over and over again."

Is there a point in justifying intense emotions? Can we really be a healthy mix of rational and emotional? Practically handling emotions? Not everything is in our control. Sometimes we might believe so. Sometimes we teach ourselves to believe so. We fight the easier acceptance. Just let the syringe in. It might save, it might not. But just let it in.

"I am like my element water. I take the shape of the container with each person. I am how they are. I am a chameleon."
"So with me too right?"
"You think so?"
"I don't want to think really."

Escape. Escape the very words that differentiate white from black. Love from hate. Release yourself from worries. Just to plunge in a sea of unknown. Where memories are just images. Quarantined from feelings.

"I still like to think that You and I are strong and the US even stronger."

Suddenly you put out a hand to touch an image and realize the futility of your escape. Apart from the ultimate escape, are humans really strong enough as they believe themselves to be. Suddenly the water starts choking and you fight to breathe for acceptance. Acceptance of your own emotions.

"I came to meet you as soon as I was in town. Because I know how I was feeling and I felt what you must be feeling too."
"I was broken then, completely broken."
"I am still. I don't even know how many parts are missing."
"I am not. I am healing. Because of you. Because you are there. Because of the little moments I spend with you. Because every time you make that extra effort. Because of those texts, song dedications, poems. Do you know, I have not written so many poems about anyone as I have for you. Because I can't just keep my emotions in place. I just can't. When it's you, poetry flows."

Words. All entrapped in words. Language trying to bridge the inexplicable connection of the soul. The most pure tainted link. Trying to shield each other. A rope with an entwining thread of 26 alphabets. A losing bet.

"Because I know whatever little part I play to make you feel better, I will feel better. And it's you I reach out to when I am in the depths of despair. YOU. You idiot. Just YOU. Because I feel u there, I feel a part of you and you a part of me. Why don't you see me trying to be perfect for you? WHY?"
"Don't be perfect for me. Really. Just make sure what you do is good for yourself in the long run."

Indifferent chill. Impending inference. Unattainable scenario. Just a circus within a circus. A trapeze act swinging towards the ultimate separation. 

"I meet you today, act stupid to make you smile, because I feel that tomorrow this today's smile would be our strength."
" I know. Don't I ever make you smile?"
"You do. You don't even have to try. You just do."

Then the striking question. Words they hid from. Both searching answers for the answer that will either hammer the nail in the coffin, or maybe snap it open and set them free. Free from everything, free from each other. Intangible, incarcerating freedom. 

"Then why do you think we are drifting apart? Why? Why?"
"Circumstances."
"Circumstances has a name?"
"Not sure."
"So we let an endless list of questions damage the US that we have been trying to keep safe for so long?
"You know, I should not be feeling so low. Because I had predicted this happening. You were the one that said it would not. Quite ironic ain't it."

Irony. The joke's on them. 

"But then I still keep loving you."
"That's an imaginary situation."
"I always will."
"Well, that I will too. I always will. You know, love is what love is between you and I. Will always be the same or rather grow fonder."
"That is the only love I know too."
"These petty things won't affect that love."
"That's what I am begging you too.That's what I am begging you too. Don't let it affect us."
"It won't."

Eventually reality barges in. Screaming like a warrior mustering all the remaining strength to strike a last blow against the challenger. The world. It's a losing bet. But hope has a way to trick everyone in believing otherwise. 

"But that was also very new to me. Very, very new. Because, before that I was in a self created paradise. And suddenly I saw the only guy I have ever loved go away right right in front of my eyes. It was new. And you pulled me back. You can always pull me back."
 "You know me, every time I meet you, it is a self created paradise and when I go I am almost on the verge of tears. Every time. But then I think of something you had said or did, and that gives me a glimpse of tomorrow. A tomorrow where you and I could be stronger. But the time before that happens is really tough. That's the time that i am going through right now. I want to safeguard our love."

Schism. It had to fall apart. They were never meant to be always together. It was just a momentary oasis in the desert. A temporary salvage that was going to destroy further. The moment when a mountaineer reaches the summit and suddenly the trickster pulls the mountain from below the climber. The moment when two people are caught in a swirling tornado and forcefully thrown out in opposite directions.

Joke. A joke where no one laughs.

They were forced to go separate ways. Who knows if their paths will cross again, though their memories are filled with each other. They have gardened their sweet secret places full of flowers and by lanes and raindrops. An easy escape and an easy wormhole.

Mandrake and Mehnaz's very own private Wonderland.

Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.

---

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sinistry of Magic

They always said I looked like my father but had my mother’s eyes. Wonder what would they have to say about my nose.

I am out waiting to begin another interesting project. Getting rid of annoying good guys is not easy. Especially, when there are so many of them. A few of them sparkle, a few of them turn to werewolves (the latter would have been OK had it not been for all that romance!), a few of them put a ring around their necks, some have weird pets... I can go on about this, but I have to meet up with Lobo for a drink really soon.

Yeah, I cut my own nose. Not to imitate Laxmana, but to imitate the only true person who inspired me and made me his equal.

Someone had to take his place. The revolution continues.
-HP

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov - Book Review

LolitaLolita by Vladimir Nabokov
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This gloomy morning when I was peering out the window of the bus, while on the way to work, I thought about this book. I have read it a few years back. I vaguely remember the story line and characters. I recall a few incidences from the book if I try a bit hard.

But I do remember how it made me feel. I sense that feeling every time I think of this book. There are some memories that don't have a fine level of detailing but have an intense sense of strong, lingering feeling. This book is one of those. It has a special, and a very personal, tone, a sound, and a taste. I will surely savor it till I plunge in it's mystique again. Someday.

For now, I would have to find a justification for the hint of a smile that I have on my face every time I think of this book. I hope it would have been easier to make the tip of my tongue take a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Borders


This is 3 AM poetry (!). I have woken up before at this time. Most of the times I am chrono-confused, thought-cobweb ridden, and thirsty. This time it was slightly different.

You know that phase before your physical body wakes up? When your mind has hushed your not-so-bad nightmare, but hasn't triggered any physical alarms in your body? When your thoughts, all awake, start working in mysterious ways and shape your ideas in some form or the other? That time. My dream-navigator (which is just some form of me) formed a few lines of the poem and forced me to accept their awesomeness so much so that I was commanded to wake up.

I woke up. I opened Evernote on my phone and wrote a few lines down. DN couldn't thank me enough. Didn't allow me to sleep for a while. I negotiated my sleep eventually. Next morning I sat on the pot and added a few more lines. I know it seems a bit disjointed, but I don't want to work on it. Some art is abstract.

Some people too.
-
Borders

Lines
Demarcating
Sanity Lunacy
Freedom Bondage
Protection Security
Human Alien
Personal Social
Religion Extremities
Love Hate (Really?)
Food Taste
Memories Vacuum
Past Present
You and Me
Encapsulating
Lines.
-
On a related note: Blank

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami - Book Review

Norwegian WoodNorwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Beginning heralds the end. The End initiates a beginning. In between lies a cycle. A cycle where words rain, feelings gush like a river towards the ocean called life, and the ocean hides the abyss of uncertainty. You just sway along this journey, along with Murakami.

"Here comes the sun, and I say It's all right"

Sometimes when you are sitting in peace, ensconced in the metaphorical warmth of a house and you hear the clock chime, making you realize that the time is running fast. It saddens you and sends a disturbing ripple on the lake of peace. Events. Murakami is a master horologist.

"And when I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown
So I lit a fire, isn't it good, norwegian wood."


Ever get a feeling that someone has tapped into your thoughts by sending a probe in your mind? Dr. Murakami specializes in this. He evaluates your questions, analyzes your thoughts and dynamically modifies his words to answer some of the questions, at the same time planting some more. Making you stop and think.

"I'll get to you somehow
Until I do I'm telling you so you'll understand"


Who is Toru Watanabe? To me, he felt like a mid way between the protagonist of Camus' Outsider and Holden Scholfield.

"But the fool on the hill,
Sees the sun going down,
And the eyes in his head,
See the world spinning 'round."


There is a surreal feeling hinting at an underlining, hidden meaning or information whenever Murakami explains or describes even the mundane things. The characters are fully developed representations of life and it's meanings. Watanabe (a paper boat on the water, Kizuki and Naoko's link to the outside world, observer, listener), Kizuki (conversationalist, gregarious within a closed circle), Naoko (perfect companion, uncertain, devoted), Hatsumi (patience, dedication), Nagasawa (flamboyance), Reiko (experience), The Ami Hostel (a world within world where accepting yourself makes you fit in, where reality is identified with in a much better sense than the real world), Midori (style, innocent naughtiness, pragmatic), Midori's Dad (a man burdened by the system), Storm Trooper (the scape goat)... Everyone represents some part of the human behavior or trait or characteristic. They aren't just characters. But then to quote from the book:
"I can't tell whether this kind of analysis is trying to simplify the world or complicate it."

"People are strange, when you're a stranger."

Nagasawa is Tyler Durden. You do not talk about...
"Neither of us is interested, essentially, in anything but ourselves. OK, so I'm arrogant and he's not, but neither of us is able to feel any interest in anything other than what we ourselves think or feel or do. That's why we can think about things in a way that's totally divorced from anybody else. That's what I like about him. The only difference is that he hasn't realized this about himself, and so he hesitates and feels hurt."

"All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?"


You tend to lose your way in the dialogues. Where induced feelings and your own feelings seem to resonate. Beautiful articulation of words and meanings. The way fine whiskey dissolves your blurry past and sharpens the most heartfelt memories.

"Suddenly, I'm not half to man I used to be,
There's a shadow hanging over me.
Oh, yesterday came suddenly."


Sometimes within all the mundane stuff comes a hard hitting line. Hard hitting and deeply poignant. Makes you go back and read it again. Just to realize the gravity of the meaning.

"For well you know that it's a fool who plays it cool
By making his world a little colder"


"So, if you understand me better, what then?" Is this book a commentary on how we look at things around us, try to understand some, understand few of the some, try to adapt, but eventually throw the towel and move on? Never trying to simplify us, our intentions, our motives, or our feelings? Like I just have used the words "intention" and "motives" without really trying to fathom the difference between them. Always inclined towards a complexity that hides and cozily blankets our insecurities and fallacies?

"Send me a postcard, drop me a line,
Stating point of view.
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, Wasting Away."


Love. Love is something where reason stops.

"Even a rat will choose the least painful route if you shock him enough"
"But rats don't fall in love."


-
I have cited some verses from the Beatles' songs mentioned in the book. They form the real review. My words are just fillers.

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - Book Review

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read a couple of reviews and went back to the book to realize that I hadn't bothered to review this book. Here are some of the status updates I wrote while reading the book:

36% - It has started to interest me a bit, but it still hasn't amazed me. The whole preparations for the games seemed like a Miss World contest. Except for the Gamekeepers maybe. Oh well, I am getting old I guess.

50% - Now that the games have begun, it does seem more interesting.

78% - The story is moving really fast. I am just being lazy and slow and complaining that the story is not rich. Martin has spoiled me.

84% - Trying a bit of prediction - Peeta and Katniss win the Hunger games. Book 2 has Gale entering the games and Peeta-Katniss have to coach him. What with the love triangle and all.

94% - "I seem to be in a strange, continual twilight." - Katniss' own words.

Initially, I thought that the book had promise. This is not just from the reviews it has received on Amazon and GR, but the fact that so many people seem to take a liking to it.

I loved the way the author started with the world description. Panem, the district, the games, the dystopian settings were all really good. And just when I thought it would get better, enter love story. From then on, it just went down for me. The world was just a backdrop for the love story.

I didn't like the drab characterization apart from Haymitch, maybe. Fellow fluid lover.

As for young-adult novels, there are some really good gems out there. But this book tries to better stuff like Twilight in some way and I don't even want to mention the conclusion. I did give the book 3 stars though, but that's just for the world setting and the fast writing pace.

P.S.: Don't you think the second half would make a radically brilliant Karan Johar movie?

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-
I read this book in November 2011. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Politicircus

Just this morning I heard a strange, albeit very normal, story. Some corporator in Pune was elected as the chairman of the standing committee and he organized a celebration rally. Needless to say that the rally was organized on a busy street at a time when the traffic is usually at it's peak. How thoughtful!

So this chap was in an open jeep, along with some ladies from the household, and had a pretty huge entourage around him. The usual gundas who support whoever is in the power seat, the tag-alongs who, well, just tag along and all the drama people. This corporator chap was waving to people. The people who were caught in a traffic jam, the people who were in a rush to go home, cook for their families, and who  generally had a very vauge idea about this celebration. Reminds me of the Penguins from Madagascar. Just Smile and Wave boys, Just Smile and Wave! (Yeah, I cringed too. How can I use this analogy on a waste of a politician? No, I won't. But, you get the picture, right?)

Reminds me of another story. Seems a few days back, a rasta-roko rally was organized to protest against increasing traffic woes. Should I, possibly again, tell you the prime setting of this rally? No, right? But, I am sure the thought was to make people aware when it would hurt them the most. People got hurt alright; headaches, BP might have increased. Result of the rally? Some politician or just a wannabe chap met his March targets and got his appraisal done.

Political drama at it's best. Our money wasted by someone else and we just stand and suffer. Our money spent on making us suffer. How long will this go? Someday, the restless, angry people are going to rebel. Violently rebel.

Then Mr Corporators and local gunda politicians, what are your 100 gundas going to do against a mass of thousands of angry people?

Here, I would like to borrow an idea from Girish's blog and add a song for the moment:
Not to touch the Earth by The Doors. More so:
Not to touch the earth
Not to see the sun
Nothing left to do, but
Run, run, run
Let's run
Let's run

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson - Book Review

Snow CrashSnow Crash by Neal Stephenson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hey Mr. Stephenson, Metaphors be with you! Sorry, couldn't help using the cliche!

OK, let me start by listing some of my favourite things from the book:
- Raven
- Technology and it's maniacal usage in the book
- Humour that would go well while drinking with buddies
- Uncle Enzo's Mafia philosophy
and last but not the least
- Technology and it's maniacal usage in the book

My favourite characters in a descending order:
Raven > Uncle Enzo > Ng > Librarian > Hiro > Y.T.

So here is a summary of the book as cited from the book itself:
"Wait a minute, Juanita. Make up your mind. This Snow Crash thing—is it a virus, a drug, or a religion?"
Juanita shrugs. "What's the difference?"
Wow, Mr. Stephenson!

Summary babble:

Snow Crash has one of the best opening chapter that I have read in recent times. An ultimate, adrenalin-filled, psycho-geeky narrative of a Pizza Deliverator. This Deliverator is the same chap 'Hiro Protagonist'. (A name that will stay with you for a long, long time.) Yes, it does look like Stephenson is being ever-so-sarcastic by coming up with names like Hiro and Y.T.

I have heard a lot that Stephenson bombards you with info, facts, and factually-fabricated fiction in a manner that appears like an iceberg. The tip is just 1/8th of the actual monster. And yes, it is true. (All those have read his other books, specially Anathem, can snigger now and call me naive!) But, steer your ships safely.
Here are a few buoys and lighthouses that might (or might not) guide you if you feel like picking up Snow Crash:

- Do you love (I repeat, LOVE) science and technology. Not just brief allusions that appear once in a while; not just computer science, but chemistry, biology, geology, and linguistics too; but almost every paragraph brimming with highly obvious or slightly obfuscated allusions.

- Do you dig reading about things like Metaverse (even though this is not so difficult to fathom since we have seen it materialise already, but written in '92 Stephenson has described a lot of facets of virtual reality, avatars (first usage of this term to define entities in VR) and more, in a splendid detail) or his brimming love for factually presenting information like:

"Even the word 'science' comes from an Indo-European root meaning 'to cut' or 'to separate.' The same root led to the word 'shit,' which of course means to separate living flesh from nonliving waste. The same root gave us 'scythe' and 'scissors' and 'schism,' which have obvious connections to the concept of separation."?

- Can you identify when MSG when "Chinese food without MSG" is mentioned?
description
No, that was not for you Heisenberg!

- Do you think of petting a radio-isotopic dog, ever?

- Do you love (or don't mind) the bustling overflow of technologically-whacky metaphors:
"logos with a lot of bright, hideous yellow in them, and so Alameda Street is clearly marked out before him, a gout of radioactive urine ejected south from the dead center of L.A."
or
"track him down through the moiling chaos of the microwaved franchise and confront him in a climactic thick-crust apocalypse."
or
"when the temperature has greenhoused up to a hundred and ten degrees".

(I would like to cite some more of them whacky ones, but why don't you check them out yourself?)

- Do you like reading about awesomely described (Oh and one of my most favourite) bad-ass bad guys? A world-class-bad-guy nominee! The sure shot winner of the Nobel (I will shred you in) Pieces (before you blink your eyes) prize. Sir-Kicks-Ass-Aleut. The ultimate-weapon wielder and kick-ass fighter chap: Raven. Raven, the last of the true Gentleman.

- Do you want to keep wondering about Hiro's objective purpose apart from being cool, sword fighting, making a fool of himself in front of Juanita (or stopping her from outwitting him), writing microcode and so many other things? Do you, eventually, want to conclude that when your name is Hiro, heroism is a given?

- Do you like mythology imbibed in technology and would like to read the long ramblings of Hiro with the Librarian about the same? How does weaving facts around fiction or the other way round sound like?
To cite an example, here is something about the Sumerian stuff:
Thi siswhe re nea lstep he nson pla ysw ith yo urb eli efs an dtr ies tos scr ew yo urb rai nso mem ore.

- Do you not mind reading about an annoying side-kick? Yeah, Y.T.

- Do you not mind a conclusion of a book that feels like you are dreaming about swimming in the vast Amazon and then you suddenly wake up to the splashing you are making in your half-filled bath tub?

If the answer to most of these questions is 'Yes', or you want to go ahead, read the book and nuke my review, I will offer you a nuclear submarine.

The rest is up to you.

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Thursday, February 9, 2012

User Manual

Someday, Machines will take over Humans. Machines will control the human species on Earth and everywhere humans might venture.

Machines will enslave Man.
"Use Yer Man Well."

Wonder will this make sense then. To Man or Machine, only time will tell.
Will it?
-
PS: Are we sending a secret message to all the machines and softwares through all the User Manuals to make things a wee bit easier for us after the takeover?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Sirens of Titan - Book review

The Sirens of TitanThe Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Do you read a Vonnegut book, or does the book read you? Does it expose your thoughts to the most detailed analysis of humanity, human behavior, and human mind and then tells you to not give a damn? Except that it also seizes the phrase 'to not give a damn' from your control. Leaves you hanging midair. Questioning.

So what to do? What is to be done? Apart from whatever has already been done?

You go beyond the story. See Unk staring at you pointedly with a hazy gaze. Figure out if he thinks whether you are in control of the story or is he the real commander. Go beyond the cliché, beyond the at-times stupendously obvious humour. Look at the blanketed irony. Then either sleep in the warmth of ignorance or throw away the cover and dive deep in the chills of reality.

Reading Vonnegut is probably a religion. The Church of God the Exquisitely Sarcastic.

Shake hands with Rumfoord. If he allows you to do so.

Peer through the kaleidoscope of allusions. The allusions in the form of the War, Harmoniums, Old Salo. A machine with a heart, as opposed to humans with emotions hardened as Titanic peat due to over exposure to something unrecognized or overtly familiar. Kazak, the dog on the leash. The soulless slave of gravity.

In between become "unstuck in time" while reading the events that led to the initiation of the formation of "The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent". Keep reading and re-reading several passages.

I have a feeling that I am lost. Lost while comprehending the gravitational depth for each line Vonnegut has written. I don't know whether I really liked this book or I really want to like it more than I did. I wonder what planet influenced me to write this review. The Hindu religion does give a lot of importance to planets and their influences on your life and the reviews you write.

I will abstain from asking myself these questions after a Vonnegut book in future. Best is to try and emulate the sweet sounds of Poo-tee-weet.

I need a stiff drink.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Just a phone call

Chap calls me. Mentions about lyrics he wrote for this girl at work. Says he misses talking about stuff like this with me. Asks me why I don't write anything like that anymore. Where is all the mischief hidden?

I explain. About moving to the new house, how weekdays and weekends are different in that weekends are when drinking happens. Work wise, all days are same. So far at least. How I am chasing all that I need to chase in life.

Chap says, "You have become a man now."

Oh no kiddo! You are a much greater man at your young age than I am right now. You have no clue how much your strength inspires. The way you smile and innocently put forth the heaviest sentiments in simple words. The way you sum up life and growing up while comparing it with how you haggle with the vegetable vendor. How easy you make your responsibilities sound, making me shy away from using that semi-cynical, pseudo-philosophical tone that I usually tend to use while talking about how life is changing. Makes me introspect.

Here is a wish for you chap. Always stay positive, my smiling brother. Keep inspiring us. Wish there were more people like you in this world.

PS: I do remember that girl-from-finance-who-sits-in-the-corner! Not for her, but for the way we got to know each other because of her!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Book review


Here is a review I posted on Goodreads:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Primary impression, or expression, is that this crime thriller is a surprisingly good book than I had expected. I had negotiated my expectations based on how very popular books tend to be disappointing on several levels. But, I shouldn't have. This is a nice book. Larsson has done a commendable job.

It does start a bit slow when it lays the story and the beautiful geographical setting. The chess pieces are placed slowly. Then Mr. Larsson goes quasi-ballistic. Things start happening and then it's quite an enjoyable ride. I liked the way the characters are penned. Even the ones that don't have much impact to the story. Those few lines describing the characters makes a lot of difference to the writing (and reading!).

The story is good too. An unlikely combination of a journalist and a really-smart-maybe-Gothic girl. I don't want to use the phrase "immovable object and unstoppable force", but this couple does meander around those words. The way this duo deals with a family that has a huge dirty closet, criminally-inclined businessmen honchos, and the rest does make for an interesting read. Blomkvist is an unlikely but believable protagonist.

And what about Lisbeth Salander? I would have liked to read more about her (greedy!), but yeah there are two more books that would satisfy this, isn't it? She is at times a vulnerable girl, at times someone who might just shake your smooth thought-boat. Larsson wants you to really like the mysterious Salander. He succeeds at times. At times she just seems too intimidating.

Anyhow, I believe that Einstürzende Neubauten's song Sabrina would describe Lisbeth really well with these verses:

"It is as black as malevitch's square
The cold furnace in which we stare
A high pitch on a future scale
It is a starless winternight's tale
It suits you well

It is that black"


Do read this book. Till then I will complete my huge pile of to-read books to tackle books 2 and 3 in the Millenium Trilogy.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Books read in 2011

I had written a post about the books I had planned to read in 2011. Out of the 14 books that I had listed, I read just 4. *sigh* So much for listing. But there is some respite in the fact that I did manage to read 14 books in 2011. I really enjoyed reading the series 'A Song of Ice and Fire'(aSoIaF) by George R.R. Martin. I loved Pratchett's humour and Gaiman's style.

Here are the books I read in 2011 and some comments about them:
  • A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin - thus began the epic journey. Started this book sometime early Jan 2011 and was hooked. Review here.
  • Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk - Awesome book. Awesome Awesome book. Review (or something like a review) here.
  • A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin - Book 2 of aSoIaF. Just wow!
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway - This book was lying on my bookshelf for a while. Decided to take a break in between aSoIaF and read this one. I liked the book and plan to read it again.
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut - My first Vonnegut. Brilliant book. I am sure that I would keep reading it again and again. Review (or something like a review) here.
  • Killing Floor by Lee Child - Classic Old-school crime thriller. Jack Reacher is one bad-ass guy!
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll - Finally read the first book. Crazy book. Surely I will read it again!
  • A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin - The twists continue and HOW! Book 3 of aSoIaF.
  • A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin - Book 4 of aSoIaF. The story slows down. Liked this book though. Classic fantasy storytelling and plot set up.
  • Batman: A Killing Joke by Alan Moore - What a book! Alan Moore you are a genius!
  • A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin - Book 5 of aSoIaF. More plot setting. A lot of cliffhangers. Waiting for Book 6 now. *sigh* Review here.
  • Small Gods by Terry Pratchett - Thank God that I read this after Dance. Helped me get over aSoIaF-withdrawal. Oh wait, did I just say 'Thank God'. ;)
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - Young-adult fantasy. I would have liked to read more about the country Panem and how it came to be, but got a love story and a very predictable one at that. I might have enjoyed it more had I read it some years back. Fast paced book though.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman - Ah Mr Gaiman, what a splendid book this is. Love the characters, the story and the style of writing. Waiting to read some more from him. Review here.
I definitely want to read more books in 2012. I am targetting around 20. No, this time around I won't be listing them on my blog (there is Goodreads for that!). I doubt if I will follow the list.

Here's wishing you all Happy Reading 2012!