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."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Why Aren’t There UFO’s Over Urban India?

I was shocked and saddened to read in Times of India September 9, 2007: “Today's hot fad: Rewind to your previous lives

“Scared of flying? Maybe you died in an aircrash 300 years ago. Can’t perform in bed? You might have suffered abuse in a previous birth. In a country where the concept of reincarnation is as old as life itself, it isn’t surprising that past life regression therapy (PLRT) has become the hottest treatment for upwardly mobile Indians demanding answers to all their life’s problems…”

On reading Carl Sagan’s “The Demon-Haunted World”, brilliant egotist Richard Dawkins exclaimed:”I wish I had written the book”.

Yes, I wish Dawkins wrote his books more like Sagan.

I acquired the book in 2003, six years after its publication. I have since then read it almost every week. No one writes better prose in English than Sagan. He is George Orwell of science writing.

Sagan says: “The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudo-science and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance. “

But he is not just skeptical.

“Both skepticism and wonder are skills that need honing and practice. Their harmonious marriage within the mind of every schoolchild ought to be a principal goal of public education."

This book should be a text in our schools from grade five onwards. Newspapers should serialize the book and once finished, they should start all over again!

I wonder why those millions of upwardly mobile Indians who are taken in by pseudo-science (rebirth, astrology, godmen etc. etc.) and superstition don’t sight UFO’s. If world’s ‘greatest democracy’ has hundreds of UFO sightings every year, why shouldn’t world’s ‘largest democracy’ have matching numbers?

Is it because of dense air pollution in urban India?

Artist: James Thurber The New Yorker 11 Sept 1948

Girls, Now Who Is Going To Read Me Sherlock Holmes Tonight?

Durga Bhagwat दुर्गा भागवत ‘pardoned’ Indira Gandhi- against whose tyranny she fought tooth and nail- because lndira composed a passable poem on Henry David Thoreau! (source- Pratibha Ranade's excellent biography of Durga Bhagwat)

Similarly, I tend to pardon the British Empire somewhat because it gave us Sherlock Holmes. So many stories of Holmes have India in them. Portrayed rather lovingly.

I read Sherlock Holmes in Marathi first and fell in love with this eccentric genius. Later in early 1980’s when I saw Jeremy Brett playing Holmes on TV, I started imitating him! My wife says I still do, eccentric part of it!

Two new books on Arthur Conan Doyle are recently released (September 2007).

The Economist says: “…The Sherlock Holmes stories continue to exercise extraordinary power. The writing is never more than efficient but the setting remains perennial: the comfortable, carpeted, fire-lit Baker Street sitting room shared by Holmes and Watson, the paradoxically womblike world of a Victorian bachelor set above an anarchic underworld full of violence and immorality. Doyle's literary masterstroke was dividing the story between Holmes and Watson. It was a device the writer used frequently but never as effectively as here…”

Quite shockingly FT says:”… But please note: Holmes never said “Elementary, my dear Watson”, P.G. Wodehouse did. “

And The Spectator says: “…Why were the Holmes books so popular that the last autocratic Sultan of Turkey, a man with a thousand concubines, used to have them read aloud to him in translation in what spare time was left? …What did they have that a thousand women above the Bosphorus could not supply? I read this book through without getting an answer.”

Now when you see the picture below, don’t read speech balloon given by Carl Rose first but instead read title of this blog-post.

Artist: Carl Rose The New Yorker 4 Dec 1948