G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

W H Auden: "But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie. / Mortal, guilty, but to me/ The entirely beautiful."

Will Self: “To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short. It is this failure – a ceaseless threnody keening through the writing mind – that dominates my working life, just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Art Spiegelman: "You know words in a way are hitting you on the left side of your brain, music and visual arts hit on the right side of the brain, so the idea is to pummel you, to send you from left brain to right brain and back until you're as unbalanced as I am."

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन व पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

तरी पंपतो फिबस काळोख...Phoebus The God of Light Pumps Darkness

Today October 21 2014 marks the beginning of the festival of lights- Diwali (दिवाळी)

B S Mardhekar (बा. सी. मर्ढेकर): 

"...पंक्चरली जरि रात्र दिव्यांनीं,

तरी पंपतो कुणी काळोख; ..."

("...Punctured though night is by light-bulbs,

 Some one still pumps darkness ;..")

This year (2014) the Nobel prize in physics goes to Isamu Akasaki, Meijo University and Nagoya University, Hiroshi Amano, Nagoya University, and Shuji Nakamura, University of California, Santa Barbara, for inventing the blue light emitting diode (blue LED) 20 years ago…“Their inventions were revolutionary. Incandescent bulbs lit the 20th century; the 21st century will be lit by LED lamps,” notes a statement by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the Nobel Prizes.

Wikipedia: "Apollo, like other Greek deities, had a number of epithets applied to him, reflecting the variety of roles, duties, and aspects ascribed to the god. However, while Apollo has a great number of appellations in Greek myth, only a few occur in Latin literature, chief among them Phoebus which was very commonly used by both the Greeks and Romans in Apollo's role as the god of light."

Thomas Pynchon, 'Gravity’s Rainbow', 1973 is considered one of the greatest books of 20th century I have still not read it.

Paris Review informed me this month how the book talked about “Phoebus”, an international light-bulb cartel.

"Phoebus fixes the prices and determines the operational lives of all the bulbs in the world, from Brazil to Japan to Holland..."

But  Phoebus is NOT Pynchon's imagination. It really existed!

Markus Krajewski informs on September 24 2014 in IEEE Spectrum:

"On 23 December 1924, a group of leading international businessmen gathered in Geneva for a meeting that would alter the world for decades to come. Present were top representatives from all the major lightbulb manufacturers, including Germany’s Osram, the Netherlands’ Philips, France’s Compagnie des Lampes, and the United States’ General Electric. As revelers hung Christmas lights elsewhere in the city, the group founded the Phoebus cartel, a supervisory body that would carve up the worldwide incandescent lightbulb market, with each national and regional zone assigned its own manufacturers and production quotas. It was the first cartel in history to enjoy a truly global reach...."

And concludes on a grim note:

"...True, today’s lighting industry is much larger and more diverse than it was in the 1920s and ’30s, and government monitoring of collusive behavior is more vigilant. Nevertheless, the allure for businesses to cooperate in such a market is strong. And the Phoebus cartel shows how it could succeed."

'Is he Phoebus'

Image courtesy: Philips Company Archives

As I looked at the picture above and re-read lines from Mardhekar's poem, they assumed a new meaning.

Is that towering figure- who looks like Lee Falk's Phantom- the god Phoebus?

 Mardhekar says some one is pumping darkness...तरी पंपतो फिबस काळोख... Is Phoebus doing that? A god spreading darkness instead of light...Mardhekar might have liked this twist!

Isn't any such carteling activity ethically equivalent to pumping of darkness? Isn't this an integral shadowy side of current version of capitalism?

"पंक्चरली जरि रात्र दिव्यांनीं, तरी पंपतो कुणी काळोख;…"

These lines by Mardhekar, which appear in the very first post of this blog, are indeed a powerful metaphor. They are funny and poignant. I never thought they would come handy here.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

And I Do Not Really Want to Understand...

According to Wikipedia,  Jonas Mekas is called the godfather of American avant-garde cinema.

Watch an excerpt from his 2000 film, "As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty." on YouTube here. It runs for only 2 min 29 sec.

"I have never been able, really, to figure out where my life begins and where it ends. I have never, never been able to figure it all out, what it's all about, what it all means. So when I began now to put all these rolls of film together, to string them together, the first idea was to keep them chronological. But then I gave up and I just began splicing them together by chance the way that I found them on the shelf.

Because I really don't know where any piece of my life really belongs, so let it be. Let it go. Just by pure chance, disorder.

There is some current, some kind of order in it, order of its own, which I do not really understand same as I never understood life around me.

The real life, as they say. Or the real people. I never understood them. I still do not understand them. And I do not really want to understand them."

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Journey of A Cartoon Caption

The world of cartoons and their captions can be so intriguing (and funny).

Read an earlier take on them , dated July 27 20111, here "Shallow People Demand Variety. Even in Cartoon Captions.

Now see the picture below.

Artist: Tom Cheney, The New Yorker

This was Cartoon Caption Contest, No.281 in the magazine.

Famous film critic Roger Ebert wrote a winning caption to this:

"I'm not going to say the word I'm thinking of."

 Dangerous Minds informed in May 2014:

"...Canadian prankster Morgan El-Kabong and his partner in cultural sabotage Bonnie Brekelmans have created the Tumblr page “New YorkerHigh Class Soap,” a collection of New Yorker cartoons (plus one “Garfield”) détourned with literal translations of Asian adult film titles, to goddamn hilarious effect..."

Asian adult film titles as captions!

If you have seen a really funny film 'Zack and Miri Make a Porno', 2008, you would appreciate the effort that goes into naming an adult film and how important the title is.
 The cartoon above gets this caption:

"Getting into school bus full of blonde girls by design"

Now I tried to find out a little more about the film.

Part of its description runs as follows:

"...A school bus full of blondes is bound to attract attention in Japan. There would be some men who would want an even closer look. These manage to get themselves on the bus and what happens to them is a lesson in….. how lucky they were..."

Friday, October 10, 2014

Will Your World End in Wheat or Rice?

Today October 10 2014 is 77th Birth Anniversary of my rice-manipulated mother.

Richard Klein:

"...Broadly put, neo-Epicureans suppose not only that you are what you eat, but that you think what you eat. Take German idealism, says Nietzsche. It has the leaden consistency and gaseous redolence of a diet thick with potatoes. Italian thought, one might add, is marked by the slippery texture and doughy blandness of pasta. Jewish metaphysics has the astringency and smoky intensity of briny pickles and cured fish. The indistinctness of Buddhist thought resembles white rice..."

Jared Diamond:

"Today just three high-carbohydrate plants –wheat, rice, and corn– provide the bulk of the calories consumed by the human species, yet each one is deficient in certain vitamins or amino acids essential to life."

Yuval Noah Harari, ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’, 2014:

“…The average farmer worked harder than the average forager, and got a worse diet in return. The Agricultural Revolution was history’s biggest fraud.

Who was responsible? Neither kings, nor priests, nor merchants. The culprits were a handful of plant species, including wheat, rice and potatoes. These plants domesticated Homo sapiens, rather than vice versa.

Think for a moment about the Agricultural Revolution from the viewpoint of wheat. Ten thousand years ago wheat was just a wild grass, one of many, confined to a small range in the Middle East. Suddenly, within just a few short millennia, it was growing all over the world. According to the basic evolutionary criteria of survival and reproduction, wheat has become one of the most successful plants in the history of the earth. In areas such as the Great Plains of North America, where not a single wheat stalk grew 10,000 years ago, you can today walk for hundreds upon hundreds of kilometers without encountering any other plant. Worldwide, wheat covers about 2.25 million square kilometers of the globe’s surface, almost ten times the size of Britain. How did this grass turn from insignificant to ubiquitous?

Wheat did it by manipulating Homo sapiens to its advantage...”
It was not wheat but rice that manipulated my Konkan-born Chitpavan-brahmin mother and her family. Thanks to her,  rice is my favourite food too.

Curd-rice (दहीभात) is  my ultimate comfort food. Some times even just a thought of eating it is quite soothing!

When we lived in Miraj, I felt little shy to admit it because rice-eating then was considered 'sissy' in Western Maharashtra. Eating jowar (Sorghum) bread was considered manly.

Later in life I realised, rice is eaten far more than jowar across the world and a lot of guys who eat them are as tough as they come.

It was interesting to read Anthony Bourdain on the subject of rice culture.

"...His love of the simple beauty of rice culture is a deep one. He loves Vietnam and Cambodia, for instance. He’s even gone so far as to have sit-downs with former Vietcong and Khmer Rouge Cambodians.

“This weekend I’m heading off for Vietnam. Love it. First love. It’s f--king beautiful. Any rice culture is beautiful.”

Any rice culture?

“It’s super-intricate. Just the irrigation systems, the level of cooperation with your neighbors. You need to manipulate the water levels, every little thing. Rice has something magical about it. Rice is an explanation for everything.” It dawned on me that “rice culture” embodies his celebration of communal work one finds all the way back in Kitchen Confidential..." 

('Anthony Bourdain’s Theory on the Foodie Revolution', Smithsonian Magazine, July 2014)

Does that explain a lot of why South India is distinct from the West? Why haven't I  read anything like this in Marathi on the subject of  rice culture?

Artist: Leo Cullum, The New Yorker, 25 November 1991