February 12, 2008

I’m not the sort to blogvertise, but here are the two blogs I maintain actively:

The Rest is Silence – where the mindshadows lie

Zorro on Doughnuts – where the music lies (or does not lie. Music is Truth, and Truth Music, after all.)

This is an example of double-coding, and also irony. I claim to be against advertising, thereby absolving myself of grubby worldliness, while at the same time I go ahead and place an ad. And, ironically, I seem to be using my anti-ad stance as some sort of subliminal selling point. Even more ironically, in consciously pointing out aspects of this post that might otherwise have passed unnoticed, I achieve all possible goals associated with this particular set of words/concepts.


Going On Hiatus

November 22, 2007

I am going to stop blogging for a while. Maybe until the beginning of 2008. Maybe for longer. I don’t know.

I just saw a documentary about Joe Strummer called The Future is Unwritten. It was one of the most inspiring films I have ever seen. And I wasn’t even that much of a fan of The Clash.

Here is an mp3 of something Joe Strummer said shortly before he died in 2002. [Listen.] He was born in the same year as my dad. He was still…young. And he died, not of an overdose, or some cigarette-induced cancer. He died of a congenital heart condition that no one knew about. So it goes.

It’s not that I’m depressed, or disillusioned with this form of expression. I feel good, actually. Blogging has been good for me. I just think I need a change. And I need to be this change. I need to stop using my lethargy and depression as material (or a reason) for my next blog post.   I have to stop waiting around for the great miracle or tragedy to kick me into adulthood.

I feel like I need to grow up. Maybe I won’t, and I’ll be back here eking out electronic quiddities.

I am not dropping out of communication. I’ll even reply to comments on old posts. I just have to cease output until I feel that something new needs to be said. I have some plans, and if they come into fruition, I’ll be back in the electronic sphere soon enough.

So long and thanks for all the fish-slaps! All what jazz, eh?


Comedy Heroes

November 19, 2007

I laugh a lot. People who’ve spent any meaningful amount of time with me will know this. I have the full range. I guffaw at old chestnuts. I chortle and chuckle at television shows. I giggle during periods of extreme comic tension. I’ve got a silent vibrato-laugh as well for those hysterical moments. Sometimes the laughter is controlled, although I am loathe to call it fake. For instance, when someone cracks a PJ, i feel the need to acknowledge the effort.

I was a giggly baby. It’s genetic. My mother’s a giggler, and so is my sister. My dad is good at the jolly belly-laugh. The origins of my own personal sense of humour are lost in the sands and all, but here’s an attempt to pay homage to the comic geniuses (genii?) that have tickled my innards.

Bugs Bunny & Daffy Duck

bugs and daffy

Bugs Bunny was probably my first glimpse of postmodernism, although at the time, I could barely shape the syllables of the word. He sings WWII era pop songs and kisses his enemies on the lips. He does things for no apparent reason, like his frenemy Daffy Duck. Daffy was a bit more hit-and-miss with his humour. Sometimes he just had too much energy. But on the whole, these two loony toons epitomize the Golden Age of American Animation.

John Cleese


Before I had discovered Monty Python, John Cleese was just Basil Fawlty, the unspeakably rude proprietor of Fawlty owers. There’s nothing that can be said about the show that would do it justice. If you do not like Fawlty Towers, then it can safely be said that you do not appreciate slapstick. Of course, the show is much more than that.

The Beatles


Now I’ll admit, the Beatles are musicians first, and comedians second, but ooh they did a great part-time job! And the music was pretty funny too. From Norwegian Wood (“So, I lit a fire…”) to All Together Now (“Black white green red / Can I take my friend to bed?”) to Rocky Racoon (“The doctor came in / Stinking of gin”) – the Beatles made nonsense melodic and intensely joyful!

They didn’t write the scripts for their movies, but no other Liverpudlians could have pulled off those zany hijinks. My sister and I know A Hard Day’s Night and Help! by heart — start to finish. [We speak to each other in a language made up of lines from our movie and tv show collection.]

John Lennon was also the author of some stellar nonsense. Enough to give Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll a run for their money!

Rowan Atkinson


Mr Bean keeps up the tradition of silent comedians from the early days of cinema. But slapstick is not his only game. In the Blackadder series he wows us with his elaborate puns and insults. Rowan Atkinson is a consummate performer, and I don’t think anyone can pull a funny face like this man. Highly recommended: Not the Nine O’Clock News. A show from the early 80’s that brought sketch comedy back, proving that Monty Python had not killed off the medium by being too brilliant.

Jim Carrey


[Need I say more?]

Monty Python’s Flying Circus


If comedy were a religion, then Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Graham Chapman and and John Cleese would be among its most revered saints. I discovered them rather late in life — while I was in IIT. It must be understood — Monty Python was not consistently funny. The TV show was very hit-and-miss, and the movies were brilliant but flawed. But few comedians can claim to have influenced generations of comics on both sides of the Atlantic. The broke the barriers. They defied the need for a punchline. They wore dresses. They featured a knight who hit people with a rubber chicken. They did silly walks.

And for this, we are eternally grateful. [Watch sketches on youtube! Dead Parrots! Hungarians!]

Mitch Hedberg


Mitch Hedberg was a stand-up comedy hippie. Surreal, disjointed, and observant. Tragically, he died before the world could fully discover his talents. Some quotes:

“I hate turtlenecks. Wearing a turtleneck is like being strangled by a really weak guy. All day. Like, if you wear a turtleneck and a backpack, it’s like a weak midget trying to bring you down.”

“I was in a casino, I was standing by the door, and a security guard came over and said “You’re gonna have to move. You’re blocking the fire exit.” As though if there was a fire, I wasn’t gonna run. If you’re flammable and have legs, you are never blocking a fire exit. Unless you are a table.”

Seek him out on youtube.

Bill Bailey


Another stand-up comedian. This time British. Bill Bailey is an audio-visual mindjob. He mixes his carefully constructed rambles with musical spoofs and parodies. His show “Part Troll” is available in its entirety on youtube. I have seen it at least 7 times. If you like music and/or drugs and/or laughing, you’ll like this madman.

Simon Pegg & Nick Frost


Them of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame. Two must-see movies. (Shaun of the Dead features a guy fending off zombies with a cricket bat. Brilliant!) Brits, but with an unmistakable American influence. I like comic duos. There’s also Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry (watch Jeeves and Wooster, and A Bit of Fry and Laurie.)

Simon Pegg is also in a show called Spaced which I quite like. Surrealism, pop culture and …er… romance (sort of).

Woody Allen


Woody Allen is, in my opinion, the greatest comedian of all time. Even if he had done nothing other than the film Annie Hall, I would still say this. Most of my favourite comedians are British, but this man single handedly maintains the trans-atlantic balance. I’ve often said that British comedy is quicker, zanier and generally of a higher quality that the American varieties. But Woody Allen transcends these distinctions. He is fast-paced, brutally witty, and in his writing he is wackier than the maddest Englishman. He even transcends the boundary between comedy and drama. He can bring me to tears – both of laugher and sadness.

Special Mention (since I rarely do comedy recommendation posts…here’s a truckload!)


Peanuts (Existential angst was never so beautiful. Good ol’ Charlie Brown.))
Garfield (though he sucks nowadays. Try this out. It’s fantastic.)
Get Fuzzy
The Far Side
Pearls Before Swine
Asterix (These Belgians are crazy. I was reminded of this by Blue Floppy Hat.)


Dexter’s laboratory (Genndy Tartakovsky)
The Powerpuff Girls (Craig McCracken)
Ren and Stimpy (Scary. Brilliant.)
The Simpsons (Obviously. Greatest TV show ever. Period.)
The Flintstones (Watch it again. It’s very good.)
Pinky and The Brain (Narf!)
Tom & Jerry

TV Shows:

M*A*S*H (Ranks up with the Simpsons for greatest show ever.)
The Jeffersons
Cheers (I love that will-they-won’t- they tension between Sam and Diane. Probably the best example of a traditional sitcom. The spin-off Frasier was good too.)
I Love Lucy (Surprisingly, this is still very watchable. World’s first TV sitcom.)
Home Improvement (Perfect for families to watch.)
The Young Ones (Anarchic nonsense.)
The Fast Show (Ooh! Full of catch phrases. Watch on youtube and stage6.divx.com)
Goodness Gracious Me (Kiss my chuddies!)


Terry Pratchett
Douglas Adams
P.G. Wodehouse
Joseph Heller
John Irving
Kurt Vonnegut


The Marx Brothers (I haven’t seen enough — but they were very influential.)
Stephen Fry
Hugh Laurie
Ricky Gervais
Spike Milligan
Peter Sellers
Abbott & Costello (Watch Who’s On First Base?)
Steve Martin
Martin Short
Eddie Murphy (look for his stand-up from the 1980’s. You won’t believe it’s the same guy who made Norbit.)
Dave Chappelle
Bill Hicks (philosopher-comedian. Profound. Watch It’s Just a Ride.)
Ed Byrne (a new discovery – watch him rip Alanis Morissette to shreds.)


On Bearditude

November 15, 2007

On Solitude

On Bearditude


I grows a little beardie
I gat him yesterweek.
He sits upon my chinny chin
But not upon my cheek.


I like my fuzzle beardie
He is my very friend
He’ll keep my chin-chin cozed and warm
In coldecember end.


I grows no nosy stachio
No under-snouted merkins
Wot tickles up my nostrils deep
And wettens in my gherkins.


A beardie without stachio
He make his bearer rich
Some hairs for stroky in deep-think,
And fuzzness without itch.




With all due respect to the inimitable nonsense of Mr John Winston Lennon.

Recommended supplementary reading: I Sat Belonely.


We wend our way

November 12, 2007

We wend our way through the world. Through the spiritual meadows. Through the existential wasteland. Through the cozy valleys of joy and the vertiginous peaks of sorrow. In solitude, filling our pockets with stones. Pebbles. Discarded bricks. The torn pages of books. Articles of debatable worth. We seek to fashion a crude memorial out of these analects. A temple. A phallic protrusion that stands as eternal testament to our wanderings. Each new stone a remembrance of a place, a person, an emotion, an idea. But these are not ordinary stones. They come from such stuff as dreams are made of. They are mutable. They change, they grow. And most of them turn to dust.


It has been said that when we die, we die alone. This is true, but it obscures the whole truth. Our whole lives are spent alone. This need not be a cause for sadness, however. We have that choice. That fundamental choice.

We wend our way through life, and with every day that passes, we become increasingly aware of our solitude. The loneliness of being in a crowd. In a theater. At a party. The ability to recognize one’s loneliness is a blessing. It is important to dissociate. As enjoyable as it is to merge, to dissolve, to meld, our sojourn requires a degree of separateness. Death is the final dissolution, so every moment leading up to it presents us with two options. To merge, or to hold back from merging. We must discover for ourselves how to balance these two. In dissolving, we prepare ourselves for the ecstatic end of isolation. In holding back, we acquire that special thingness that enriches the elixir into which we will one day dissolve.

We walk a tightrope between passion and dispassion. The solitude saves us from the all-consuming flames. Every love, every passion, is a fleeting thing, which decays as soon as it peaks. And once it has decayed, all we are left with is a lingering sense of loss. The memory of a feeling. Love fades; nostalgia remains.

We wend our way. We learn to recognize that which is ephemeral, and enjoy it for what it is. To merge consciously, and then separate. Subtly changed, but alone again. We weave through the network of paths, recognizing that the beauty of the dying autumn leaf is in no way different from our every passing pleasure. The leaf becomes one with the soil. In a way, it has ceased to be. But from the fertile matrix of mud, new life perpetually springs.



Peripheral vision, man.

November 7, 2007

One’s conversation and writing can give the impression that one ignores certain aspects of life on earth. For instance, I might be thought of as the sort of person who is blissfully unaware of hip-hop, or Bollywood, or Africa.


Not so. I am aware. I am dimly aware. (Except in the case of Africa. I have no clue what is going on in Africa.)


I have peripheral vision. I imagine we all do. Not the kind that allows us to see things on the edge of our visual field. I am talking about the ability to perceive things on the periphery of our cultural “field”. Out on the aesthetic fringe, life goes on without you, but you occasionally catch a flicker.


My dad knows I have a good memory for names. I recall with ease the names of politicians and diplomats and journalists. This is because I am a news junkie, and my dad is the reason for this. However, my dad is mystified by my ability to name fashion models, and pretty much every major actress in English, Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam cinema (and many minor ones). I can’t really say that movie gossip is a primary interest, but when I watch the E! channel or read The Times of India, I am able to remember the names mentioned. (The prettier they are, the better my memory is!)


But this isn’t really a very good example. What is really on the fringes of my attention? The emotional states of my friends. The debates on multiculturalism in Europe. US political controversies. The “songs” on the Billboard Top 40. Fringes themselves. Mainstream movies. The shoes on people’s feet. Reality TV. Books I don’t intend to read.


No. Those examples aren’t good enough either. I probably read about some of those topics, even if I don’t talk or write about them. I am dimly aware of even more peripheral things: The big fat janitor in my department, who speaks with his colleagues in a language I can’t place. The students I rarely talk to, who sit in nearby offices. The anime that people try to get me to watch. The strangeness and anesthetized cruelty of the experiments on monkeys, rats, and pigeons conducted by my fellow neuroscientists. The odd ability of Asian/Oriental women to look good in whatever they wear. The first-person shooter game played by the guy who sits next to me in my office. Emo music. The automobile industry. My friends’ research work. The rats in Boston. American football.




Hmm. I’m not sure any of that was even remotely interesting. But now that I’ve typed it up, I might as well publish it.


It sounded better in my head. I often come up with a title, and then try to think of what it should be the title of . Peripheral Vision Man was a cartoon superhero created by some side-characters in the execrable TV show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. For no reason in particular, I used to watch this show regularly with a friend, until it was canceled. Deservedly. The character was supposed to be one of those Saturday Night Live type animated segment thingies. The central characters always dissed Peripheral Vision Man. But it sounded cool to me. (My recollection of this artifact from a dead TV show is a good illustration of the thesis I presented above.)


I like to come up with titles. Names of theories, or systems of thought. I think up a nonsense name, and then try to imagine what it might be. Vibration Theology. The Quantum Duck Inferno. Analectic Immaterialism (which is now the preferred term for my personal aesthetic philosophy). One of my favourites was Digital Praxis. Unfortunately, it seems that this name already exists. It is the name of a CGI company or something. Perhaps I heard the name once, just on the periphery of my attention. Subconsciously.





“Praxis” is probably one of the coolest words ever invented. Partly because it rhymes with “axis”. But it means something too. Here are some of the definitions google provides:


“Praxis is a complex activity by which individuals create culture and society, and become critically conscious human beings. Praxis comprises a cycle of action-reflection-action which is central to liberatory education. Characteristics of praxis include self-determination (as opposed to coercion), intentionality (as opposed to reaction), creativity (as opposed to homogeneity), and rationality (as opposed to chance).”

“A Greek term, literally meaning “action”, adopted by Karl Marx to emphasize the importance of action in relation to thinking. This emphasis on “praxis” has had considerable impact within Latin American liberation theology.”

“Praxis is the customary use of knowledge or skills, distinct from theoretical knowledge. The term is used in Eastern Orthodox theology to refer to the practice of the faith, especially to worship.”


Digital Praxis sounds to me like the mental, physical and spiritual state induced by prolonged exposure to the Internet. It is both a lifestyle and a disease. The benefits of Digital Praxis are there for all to see. One of the most popular is the opportunity to be a part of a geographically distant (or diffuse) subculture or cult. But the darker side is starting to become apparent too. It is characterized by information saturation, premature cynicism, boredom, and petty skepticism. (Not to mention a decrease in workplace productivity!) It is digital because its approximation of “personality” involves reducing ones character traits and tastes to a series of discrete, finite lists. The Aristotelian pigeonholing of people, things and ideas has been moved into a higher dimensional state-space. The high dimensionality generates the illusion of continuousness, of freedom, and of “play” within the dynamical system. But I can’t help thinking that at some point down the line, the digital self will no longer be an approximation, but reality itself.



I find it interesting that a depressed monologue elicits more responses than abstract or experimental attempts at thought-provocation. Why does sincerity have to be associated with sorrow? Superficiality can be sincere too. A passion for intellectual arcana can also be sincere. Are people only able to relate to sadness?






Diving in!

October 23, 2007

I want to salute a school friend of mine for doing something that can only be described as spectacular.

He’s been working at a techie sort of company in Madras for a couple of years, but he’s done with all that for now. On October 28th he is leaving the mainland, and heading to the Andamans, where he will take up a position as a scuba instructor. Read about it here.

Think of the headlines: Indian boy with sensible job chucks it all to do something he really wants to do! What a scene.

Hats off to him. Such courage is rare. Scuba diving is not quite the career trajectory you’d expect from a good South Indian engineer in his twenties.

Too many people end up doing the ordinary thing. In the end, there just aren’t enough opportunities. And in India — with its fierce competition, pressure for parents and peers, and social conditioning — breaking out of the mold is among the bravest acts we’re likely hear about. Forget the NGOs and the politicos. The world will burn. But it a beautiful planet, all the same, and finding a way to dwell intimately with this beauty often seems more admirable than attempting to clear up the shit. After all, beauty is truth, and truth beauty.

Good luck Sayeed, and God bless. Watch out for sting rays, sharks, and hot Israeli tourists!


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