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."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

भो भो आर एम एस टायटॅनिक, जहाज, धन्य धन्य!...World's Largest Entertainment Hits ICEBERG

I could hardly watch rather kitschy Hollywood film 'Titanic', 1997 when it was released. Even today I have not watched it in its entirety.

However 'RMS Titanic' has grown on me...I have read a lot on it this year and watched a lot of TV programs based on it over the past decade, majority of them in April 2012.

Even before I read about its grandness etc, I liked this staircase. But then I liked even the tiny one our Miraj home had. It too had a personality and each of us made a distinct sound climbing it.

"Jack Thayer, a teen-age passenger from Philadelphia’s Main Line, who was one of only a handful of people picked out of the water by lifeboats, later recalled that the sound made by the many hundreds of people flailing in the twenty-eight-degree water, drowning or freezing to death, was like the noise of locusts buzzing in the Pennsylvania countryside on a summer night."

( Daniel Mendelsohn, 'Unsinkable / Why we can’t let go of the Titanic', The New Yorker, April 16, 2012)...it takes just 10 minutes for a person to die in that water...

...reading all this was eerie.

I wonder what kind of coverage, if any, was given to the event in Marathi newspapers in the decade of 1911-1920.

All eight of my and my wife's grandparents, people of Greta Garbo generation, and who would later dodge the bullet of 1918 flu pandemic, were kids in 1912. I wonder if any of them had learnt of its fate in 1912.

Sinking of Titanic happened on Emperor (also of India) George V's watch.

My mother's mother, Ms. Manu (Shanta) Karandikar (मनु / शांता करंदीकर), then studying in a Konkan (कोंकण) school, sang following Marathi song-cum-school prayer every day. It praised and well-wished her emperor George V (पंचम जॉर्ज).

I remember having heard a few lines of it from her mouth.

" भो भो पंचम जॉर्ज, भूप, धन्य धन्य ! विबुधमान्य सार्वभौम भूवरा ! ॥
नयधुरंधरा, बहुत काळ तूंचि पाळ ही वसुंधरा ॥
शोभविशी रविकुलशी कुलपरंपरा ॥ध्रु।॥ नयधु।॥

संतत तव कांत शांत राजतेज जगिं विलसो ॥
धर्मनीति शिल्पशास्त्र ललितकला सफल असो ॥
सगुणसागरा, विनयसुंदरा ॥१॥ नयधु।॥

नीतिनिपुण मंत्री तुझे तोषवोत जनहृदंतरा ॥
सदा जनहृदंतरा ॥
राजशासनीं प्रजाहि विनत असो शांततापरा ॥
असो शांततापरा ॥२॥नयधु.॥

समरधीर वीर करुत कीर्तिविस्तरा ॥
पुत्र पौत्र सुखवुत तव राजमंदिरा ॥
सौख्यपूर्ण दीर्घ आयु भोग नृपवरा ॥३॥नयधु.॥

भो पंचम जॉर्ज, भूप, धन्य धन्य ! विबुधमान्य सार्वभौम भूवरा ! ॥ नयधु.॥"

Little Manu could always have sung: "सौख्यपूर्ण दीर्घ आयु भोग टायटॅनिक, महा-जहाज"...wishing Titanic long life in a prayer...

Nigel Jones writes: "Two years before the guns of August 1914, Britain's century of unchallenged global hegemony ended not in fire, but in ice." (Guardian, April 13 2012)

There are a number good essays on Titanic out there.

Daniel Mendelsohn again:

"...One big difference between the Titanic and other wrecks—the Lusitania, say—is the way her story unfolded in real time. Torpedoed by a U-boat in May, 1915, the Cunard liner sank in eighteen minutes—too short an interval, in other words, to generate stories. The Titanic took two hours and forty minutes to founder after hitting the berg—which is to say, about the time it takes for a big blockbuster to tell a story..."

So 'RMS Titanic' became Hollywood's 'Titanic' because it 'took two hours and forty minutes to founder after hitting the berg.'

Michael Crichton writes in “Timeline”, November 1999:

"...In other centuries, human beings wanted to be saved, or improved, or freed, or educated. But in our century, they want to be entertained. The great fear is not of disease or death, but of boredom. A sense of time on our hands, a sense of nothing to do. A sense that we are not amused.

But where will this mania for entertainment end? What will people do when they get tired of television? When they get tired of movies? We already know the answer - they go into participatory activities: sports, theme parks, amusement rides, roller coasters. Structured fun, planned thrills. And what will they do when they tire of theme parks and planned thrills? Sooner or later, the artifice becomes too noticeable. They begin to realize that an amusement park is really a kind of jail, in which you pay to be an inmate.

This artifice will drive them to seek authenticity. Authenticity will be the buzzword of the twenty-first century. And what is authentic? Anything that is not devised and structured to make a profit. Anything that is not controlled by corporations. Anything that exists for its own sake, that assumes its own shape. But of course, nothing in the modern world is allowed to assume its own shape. The modern world is the corporate equivalent of a formal garden, where everything is planted and arranged for effect. Where nothing is untouched, where nothing is authentic.

Where, then, will people turn for the rare and desirable experience of authenticity? They will turn to the past. The past is unarguably authentic..."

Yes, sinking of RMS Titanic is authentic and it took 'about the time it takes for a big blockbuster to tell a story'.

Robert Shrimsley writes:

"We have been treated to news bulletins, saturated with anniversary retrospectives and yet another television miniseries. There have been postage stamps, commemorative coins, a requiem written by a Bee Gee and at least two new museums. There was even a cruise promising to “recreate” the Titanic’s maiden voyage – which, to me at least, falls somewhat short as a selling point: “Day four: seven-course meal, whist drive on upper deck. Day five: strike iceberg, perish in North Atlantic”...

...Of course, the Titanic perfectly suits the British self-image, being a tale of shambles and hubris dressed up as one of heroism and sangfroid. We think of the man who put on a black tie so he could die like a gentleman; or the ship’s band, which stayed on post playing a selection of Celine Dion songs – an event for which they are much admired, though one shouldn’t underestimate the readiness of musicians to exploit a captive audience..."

The best commentary for me comes from 1999 headline from the Onion: “WORLD’S LARGEST METAPHOR HITS ICE-BERG”, Robert Mankoff of The New Yorker and Mike Luckovich.

Q: Will RMS Titanic dodge an iceberg today?
A: You bet!


Artist: Mike Luckovich