2008

December 30, 2008

So, 2008.

2008 was the year I looked largely like this:

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…either largely bewildered, swept up in things either incomprehensible, or just filled to the brim with sheer bad luck. (This was also the face I wore listening to M’s rendition of THAT PARTICULAR JAMES BLUNT SONG on my birthday)

This was a year of madness, sheer cheerful lunacy and long stretches of unrelenting malaise. There was, off the top of my head, the theft of electronic equipment, the creation of the cookbook of abominations, the debauchery of alcoholic WTF, endeavours in public speaking, the use of explosives on primates, Jaundice, Pneumonia and the use of spoons to throw projectiles at people (If you’re reading this G, I’m so so sorry. I had no idea what I was doing)

Taking a cue from my employers, I’m going to summarize the year now, in neat categorized bullet points (with visual aids!).

Moments of complete and utter clarity

– Way back in February,  sitting on that table in ACJ’s ‘Lab 1’, feet dangling in the air, in the middle of some ludicrous deadline with 23 computer keyboards clattering away, telling N that I was ‘terrible at letting people get close to me.’ It was a strangely surreal, jarringly heartfelt moment – just came out of nowhere.

– Finding that place behind the first bookshelf at Landmark in Citi Centre with A, sitting down in front of the Bodybuilding and Pro-wrestling books, and racing each other to finish China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun. Oh, brilliant stuff.

Viva la Binja!

Viva la Binja!

-That particular lunch/evening snack thing at Chandiras – where L, B, K and I discussed the finer points of Tamil culinary hygiene and eating habits.

– Every game of Guitar Hero. We were all strangely deprived of it – being able to play only sporadically, or in uneven bursts. The standout session, of course, involved the cunning theft  of a TV set, and managing to take it up two floors and three corridors without anyone noticing.(Strangely, me and A.M would repeat this feat six months later, only this time – we dragged it shiftily through the streets of Rajendra Nagar at 10 pm)

(It’s not often that I can claim the Kaiser Chiefs made my year better. But they did)

– That sudden, inexplicable craving (courtesy K and L) to watch the Senthil Banana Joke.Change lives, that clip can.

– Calling an old college friend on a whim after getting placed in Delhi, telling her, rather excitedly, that I was coming to meet her. It was a childish, supremely joyous call, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that we were jumping about like chipmunks on pogo sticks throughout. (Then, of course, she moved to Mumbai before I got there)

– A’s arrival in Delhi – and breaking up the euphoria of her arrival with grave news of the July Twitter Controversy. Priceless.

– Momos in Janpath.

– Giggling like an idiot after holding G’s hand, those immortal Chajju Ram jokes that followed, and moments in subsequent weeks where I felt like this:picture-3

– The phrase ‘There is a monkey on my t-shirt’, and how it’s seared into all the walls of the little enclosure in my head that contains all my embarrassments and moments of absolute social idiocy.

Moments of complete and utter despair:

– Missing the last train to Rohini at Kashmere Gate near Midnight, after a particularly long and wrong day. Then running out of money and patience on the *endless* inevitable auto ride.

– Leaning against my employer’s large logo on the side stairwell of the office in complete defeat, shouting ‘Fuck! Fuck!’ at all the dustbins and walls, which were faintly amused. Then breaking down on the phone, losing all coherence and ability to make sense.

– Sitting on the balcony on a Thursday morning in July, head in my hands, preparing to go for a funeral.

– The long, uncomfortable, completely silent walk from Kodambakkam to a nearby bus stand, wondering if farewells were supposed to be this terse and cold.

– Being told, by one of the security guards at office,  that I look like Narenda Modi.

– The phrase ‘There is a monkey on my t-shirt’, and how it’s seared into all the walls of the little enclosure in my head that contains all my embarrassments and moments of absolute social idiocy.

Okay, okay,i’ll admit there are times this post delves a bit too deeply into personal territory, and thats annoying – yes. But its all true.

Happy new year to you all! Have a great 2009!

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Professor Challenger

December 30, 2008

…for some reason, I never quite got into the Sherlock Holmes books as a kid.

I stumbled onto Hound of the Baskervilles a tad too late, finding its phosporus-laden canine antagonist rather silly, and those small, abridged, one-side illustrated pocket books didn’t really get me too excited about the detective from Baker Street.

Things were helped somewhat by two rather intriguing and (mostly) well designed video-games from the pits of the 90s – The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes 1 and 2, which, inspite of combining crude graphics with horrible typography:

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(Watson seems more shell-shocked than fortified)

…retained the charm and wit of the setting.

(Notice the poorly disguised journalist taking notes on Floor 1)

(Notice the poorly disguised journalist taking notes on Floor 1)

But infinitely more interesting (and less famous) were A.C.Doyle’s science fiction books – specifically the ones featuring the ‘homicidal megalomaniac with a turn for science’ : Professor Challenger!

Professor Challenger, the wealthy eccentric mad scientist/explorer, unlike Holmes is an aggressive, often impulsive figure – one who manages, single-handedly, to piss off every scientific society in England. One character, in the beginning of the Lost World (dinosaur laden, and probably the most famous of the Challenger books) points out the only two characteristics of his personality anyone should ever bother knowing:

Why, his insufferable rudeness and impossible behavior!

An impression, no doubt, spurred by a letter Challenger wrote to the head of the  Zoological Society, which had a minor disagreement with one of his research papers (i.e they thought it was fiction):

Professor Challenger presents his compliments to the President of the Zoological Institute, and would take it as a personal favor if he would go to the devil.

Being old and relatively obscure, the Challenger books have slipped out of the slippery shackles of copyright, and into the free, anarchic domain of the Internet. The Lost World, by now slightly quaint is here, but the Land of Mist is a  great read, with its explorations of spirituality and mysticism in the wake of a personal loss.

The shorts: The Day the Earth Screamed (where it is proved that the Earth is a huge, living creature), The Poison Belt (where the Earth passes through a mist of poison in the Ether) and The Disintegration Machine (where Challenger fights a rival scientist and wins), are also worth a look. especially since they’re poignantly defending scientific theories of the time  that are now discredited and abandoned.

Now, I’d always imagined Challenger to look like a pastiche of three of my favourite professors, combining the twinkling-eyed charm of Professor Balthazar:

The incidental genius (and mad, pointed rage) of Professor Calculus,

…with a bit of victorian flair and level-headedness, like this bloke, Professor Layton:

We'd really like that sequel now, thanks)

(Note to developers Level-5: We'd really like that sequel now, thanks)

The Internet, however, begs to disagree.  When trawling through Wikipedia and the Interweb for some artists impressions of the man, I found this rather disappointing picture:

No, no, no, no.

To be fair, its just some bloke cast to play the professor’s part in some mini-series – but No.

Professor Challenger, we must remember is a slightly unhinged, overpowering figure – not just a well built, bearded fellow in a Crocodile Dundee hat.

Edward Malone, the intrepid narrator of most of the Challenger books, describes him thus:

He had the face and beard, which I associate with an Assyrian bull; The hair was peculiar, plastered down in front in a long, curving wisp over his massive forehead. The eyes were blue-grey under great black tufts, very clear, very critical, and very masterful. A huge spread of shoulders and a chest like a barrel were the other parts of him which appeared above the table, save for two enormous hands covered with long black hair. This and a bellowing, roaring, rumbling voice made up my first impression of the notorious Professor Challenger.

Now if I did have to cast someone to play him based on that, I’d probably pick one of my old professors, who meets that description EXACT:

Perfect.

Perfect.

Abbreviated Conversations

December 26, 2008

I’ve been exchanging a huge number of text messages with someone in the past week, and have come to realize that my texting habits need a lot of work. =(

I’m not bad, per se, but I think I’m getting it all wrong.

I (too often) stumble good exchanges with a clunky reply, ask all the wrong questions when I want to extend a conversation (lets not get into the bad jokes), bring in needless clarifications, change the subject too abruptly, and generally derail the flow with weighty, inarticulate chunks of pointless blather.
(This is all true)

Ive said things like this. Ask A. Ask R. Say the word Monkey. Then watch them groan.

I've said things like this. Ask A. Ask R. Say the word 'Monkey'. Then watch them groan.

I’ve had some brilliant conversations through SMS, but they’ve largely relied on the charm of whoever i’ve been exchanging messages with, or on the sheer awesomeness of the subject matter (You can never go wrong with gossip, or with ninjas).

Part of the problem is texting the same way one chats on IM – but the way a text message exchange works is pretty different – you can’t for example, fire off a stream of smilies, or a ‘…’ line to build suspense (unless you have l33t typing skills and/or a benevolent billing package) – and spelling mistakes, once made, aren’t as easy to correct like in a chat.

But unlike a chat, texting can tend to be a little more…planned. I sometimes read through a long or particularly important message as I would a draft, sometimes pausing to add an intentional grammatical inaccuracy or smiley after a potentially misunderstandable sentence. (Chats can do this too, sure, but hanging on to a sentence for too long might seem suspicious in certain circumstances. )

But that’s just little things – These are where I majorly fail:

1. Starting and Stopping Conversations.

How appropriate. You fight like a cow.

How appropriate. You fight like a cow.

How do you respond to an observational SMS, something that isnt really a question but an observation, often clever and funny and witty? I always face a dilemma when I get one of these  – do you respond with a counter observation of your own, or ask for more details in the existing observation? What continues the conversation best?

I also never know when to stop asking about something – I am genuinely curious, but I suppose its kinda silly to keep asking about something that was only a small observation in the first place.

2. Choice of Words

Ive always wanted to use this line in conversation someday.

I've always wanted to use this line in conversation someday.

My cellphone’s stupid dictionary is to blame for this: oh, the sheer number of times it puts in ‘me’ instead of ‘of‘ and vice versa, and the oft-annoying ‘suppose and ‘purpose’ overlap (I’ve purposed that a lot of things are good ideas, and wondered what suppose a particular idea had).

I also hate the fact that the word ‘ninja‘ isn’t recognized, neither is ‘blog’ (which has to be typed 2 down arrow down arrow 5 6 4 down arrow) And lets not forget the perennial troubles with typing apostrophe words like ‘couldn’t‘ etc

3. Awesomeness

Ahh, I love the friendly Sign Painter

Ahh, the friendly Sign Painter. The Hemingway of SMS-length tutorial messages, she is.

How do you respond to an awesome message? I feel bad sometimes, sending out ordinary replies to brilliant crafted texts, or settling for a convenient ‘haha. that was awesome!’ to something that was, indeed, quite awesome.

And yes, The tyranny of memory space – my phone allows a max of about 100 messages to be saved, and deciding which ones to keep and which ones to discard is a deeply saddening process.

Hope this post wasn’t too long. =p And if you’ve ever got a terrible message from me – I’ve come clean now, so hopefully you’ll forgive me. =)

First Post

December 25, 2008

Hello! (and Merry Christmas!)

Normally, in first postses, you’d talk about the current day…but nothing interesting has happened yet today (unless you count the routine monkey visitation in the morning, and the drudgery at work) so I’m going to talk instead about a few weeks back.

I’d gone to Daryaganj (Delhi’s streetside Sunday book market), which never ceases to amaze me. I’ve started to get a sense of the geography of the place…identifying individual shopkeepers (like the fellow who sells strange self-help books right in the centre of the street), where to look for for what (Scholastic books on the left, Asimovs and classic Sci-fi on the right), even a source of steampunky gadgety goodness, and rare video games (I kid you not, I actually saw a retail copy of the excellent Jagged Alliance 2 once. =O )

Anyways, its almost a regular ritual of sorts to go there atleast once a month – usually with A, for whom it never ceases to amaze more than it never ceases to amaze me.

I was  looking for this:
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And hopefully, this and this as well:roald-dahl-the-bfg224eeb6709a0e83b154a0110l

…because it’d been ages since I read them and they were enormously influential for me growing up. Swami, of course, I was hoping to find the edition with the classic, hand drawn cover (Google can’t seem to find this – a gap that must be addressed)

I got off to a decent start – finding a copy of James and the Giant Peach amidst a pile of Artemis Fowls.

Then I got distracted. A new shop, one I had not seen before, had quite a healthy crowd around it – a paper sign saying ‘Import Books’ above a large pile of bizareness, with a blanket price of Rs. 20 per book. I spent nearly half an hour here, finding, among other things:

The undoubtedly stellar but excruciatingly niche:

It had separate chapters for different kinds of seculars.

It had separate chapters for different kinds of seculars.

The intriguing but excluded because of demographic mismatch:

The quote in the bottom-right nails it.

The quote in the bottom-right nails it.

…and the downright bizarre.

The book on the left is apparently quite good. Can't say about the one on the right though - Google denies its existence

The book on the left is apparently a DIY classic. Can't say about the one on the right, though it claims to be a NYT bestseller

But nothing would prepare me for what I found next:

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Is it just me, or is Ultimate Warrior's hand a bit painfully positioned?

Now, those of you who grew up faithfully colouring in the strangely surreal pictures in the Saturday Hindu Young World (this one is from 6 years back) – we should probably restart that tradition, especially now that the Hindu’s choice of picture has been steadily going downhill, and the colouring book industry has apparently moved on from timid fantasy creatures to muscled men and women pretending to beat each other to a pulp.

So starting this week, a weekly picture, from the above ‘WWF Big Book’, will be uploaded for colouring fun! This week, enjoy this stunning depiction of someone who looks vaguely like Hulk Hogan (Im guessing from the hair and moustache) and err…[wait, who is the other one?] kcking a potbellied, rather somnolent Earthquake (or is it Typhoon?) in the face.

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Have fun. Feel free to colour outside the lines, but no adding gratituous blood spurts. Remember it’s all pretend.