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.”

Shel Silverstein : “Talked my head off Worked my tail off Cried my eyes out Walked my feet off Sang my heart out So you see, There’s really not much left of me.” ~

Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

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."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

Friday, January 31, 2014

Horse is Always the Foreigner in India: the Chinese Year of the Horse

January 31 2014 Friday marks the Chinese Year of the Horse, which stands for strength, loyalty, boldness and vigour.

Wendy Doniger, 'The Hindus / An Alternative History', 2009

"...It is therefore part of the very structure of history that India has always had to import horses, which became prized animals, used only in elite royal or military circles. And so the horse is always the foreigner in India, the invader and conqueror, and the history of the horse in India is the history of those who came to India and took power. There is still a Hindi saying that might be translated, “Stay away from the fore of an officer and the aft of a horse” or “Don’t get in front of an officer or behind a horse.” It dates from a time when petty officials, especially police, revenue collectors, and record keepers, were mounted and everyone else was not. These horsemen were high-handed (“ . . . on your high horse”) and cruel, people whom it was as wise to avoid as it was to keep out of the range of those back hooves.

The horse stands as the symbol of the power and aristocracy of the Kshatriyas, the royal warrior class; the horse is the key to major disputes, from the wager about the color of a horse’s tail made by the mother of snakes and the mother of birds in the Mahabharata (1.17-23) (an early instance of gambling on horses), to heated arguments by contemporary historians about the seemingly trivial question of whether Aryan horses galloped or ambled into the Indus Valley or the Punjab, more than three thousand years ago. Horses continued to be idealized in religion and art, in stark contrast with the broken-down nags that one more often actually encounters in the streets of Indian cities. Under the influence of the Arab and Turkish preference for mares over stallions, the Hindu bias in favor of stallions and against mares gave way to an entire Hindu epic literature that idealized not stallions but mares. Finally, horses are also metaphors for the senses that must be harnessed, yoked through some sort of spiritual and physical discipline such as yoga (a word whose basic meaning is “to yoke,” as in “to yoke horses to a chariot”)..."




Horse on  the Asoka Column at Sarnath, 250 BCE

Artist: Anonymous
 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

She May Look Clean....How Syphilis Shaped The World We Live in



sexual health warnings from the second world war

Photograph:         Courtesy: The Guardian, June 6 2013

Smallpox became small because syphilis once was a big pox!

Sarah Dunant:

"And then there are the artists; poets, painters, philosophers, composers. Some wore their
infection almost as a badge of pride: The Earl of Rochester, Casanova, Flaubert in his letters. In
Voltaire's Candide, Pangloss can trace his chain of infection right back to a Jesuit novice who
caught it from a woman who caught it from a sailor in the new world. Others were more
secretive. Shame is a powerful censor in history, and in its later stages syphilis, known as the
"great imitator", mimics so many other diseases that it's easy to hide the truth. Detective work
by writers such as Deborah Hayden (The Pox: Genius, Madness, and the Mysteries of Syphilis)
count Schubert, Schumann, Baudelaire, Maupassant, Flaubert, Van Gogh, Nietzsche, Wilde and
Joyce with contentious evidence around Beethoven and Hitler. Her larger question – how might
the disease itself have affected their creative process – is a tricky one...


...Guy de Maupassant, who started triumphant ("I can screw street whores now and say to them 'I've got the pox.' They are afraid and I just laugh"), died 15 years later in an asylum howling like a dog and planting twigs as baby Maupassants in the garden."

(Guardian, May 20 2013)



"Even infections that used to be a breeze to treat, like gonorrhea, are becoming incurable." 

(The New York Times, December 9 2012)

शरद जोशी:

" ...जगाचा इतिहास 'सिफिलिस' या आजाराने मोठय़ा प्रमाणावर बदलला आहे. हा लैंगिक आजार व त्याचे जंतू हळूहळू मेंदूपर्यंत पसरतात आणि रोग्याच्या मनात त्यामुळे विनाकारणच काही तरी भव्यदिव्य करून दाखवावे अशी बुद्धी तयार होते. त्याकरिता आवश्यक तर हजारो नाही, लाखो लोकांचेही मुडदे पाडायला तो सहज तयार होऊन जातो. इतिहासात रशियातील पहिले तीन झार आणि अलीकडच्या इतिहासातील माओ त्से तुंग वगरे पुढारी या वर्गात मोडतात. भारतातल्याही एका नामवंत पुढाऱ्याची गणना यातच होते. आपण अकबराचे अवतार आहोत अशी भावना करून घेऊन त्यापोटी सगळा देश लायसेन्स-परमिट-कोटा-इन्स्पेक्टर राज्यात बुडवणारे आणि इंग्रजांनी प्रस्थापित केलेली कायदा आणि सुव्यवस्था संपवून टाकणारे नेतेही या वर्गातलेच." 

(Loksatta लोकसत्ता, May 29 2013)

The Times of India reported in November 2011:

"India is on the verge of eliminating syphilis, one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STD) in the country. According to the National Aids Control Organization (NACO), syphilis, which earlier used to affect about 8% of pregnant women, has been reduced to less than 1%. Among female sex workers, it affects about 4% as against 30% till a few years ago."

I wonder about the veracity of this claim because Guardian article from which I have quoted above says:

"...Of course, we have not seen the end of syphilis – worldwide millions of people still contract it,
and there are reports, especially within the sex industry, that it is on the increase in recent
years..."


Marlene Zuk wrote in The New York Times on April 29, 2008:

"The new research suggested that syphilis originated as a skin ailment in South America, and then spread to Europe, where it became sexually transmitted and was later reintroduced to the New World.

The origin of syphilis has always held an implied accusation: if Europeans brought it to the New World, the disease is one more symbol of Western imperialism run amok, one more grudge to hold against colonialism…"

Jared Diamond says about it:

“…when syphilis was first definitely recorded in Europe in 1495, its pustules often covered the body from the head to the knees, caused flesh to fall off people’s faces, and led to death within a few months. By 1546, syphilis had evolved into the disease with the symptoms so well known to us today.”

('Guns, Germs, and Steel', 1997)

Michael Crichton says about it:

“…You can carry tuberculosis for many decades; you can carry syphilis for a lifetime. These last are not minor diseases, but they are much less severe than they once were, because both man and organism have adapted…”

('The Andromeda Strain', 1969)

This less severe syphilis (उपदंश) might have accosted a few prominent historical personalities that shaped India's destiny.

T S Shejwalkar (त्र्यं. शं. शेजवलकर) says in his classic "पानिपत, 1761" (Panipat):

Ahmad Shah Abdali probably had a disease like syphilis and so too was the case of Najib khan”.



Battle of Panipat,  14th January 1761

courtesy: 'Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire' by Sheila Corr,  
from History Today, December 2012

Shejwalkar also speculates that a few prominent personalities from 18th century Maharashtra too might have suffered from the disease.

These bigwigs married multiple times and also kept mistresses. One reason, he argues, they married very young girls late in their life because it was believed an intercourse with such a girl would rid them of the disease. The other possible reason was hypothesized increase in virility that came after mating with such a girl.

Belief still exists in parts of today's India that “… having sex with a ''fresh'' girl can cure syphilis, gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases, including the virus that causes AIDS.”

(JOHN F. BURNS, The New York Times May 11, 1998)

Indeed the disease played a decisive role in the history of the world.

Guardian , again : "How far his (Cesare Borgia)  behaviour, oscillating between lethargy and manic energy, was also the impact of the disease we will never know. He survived it long enough to be cut to pieces escaping from a Spanish prison. Meanwhile, in the city of Ferrara, his beloved sister Lucrezia, then married to a duke famed for extramarital philandering, suffered repeated miscarriages – a powerful sign of infection in female sufferers. For those of us wedded to turning history into fiction, the story of syphilis proves the cliche: truth is stranger than anyone could make up."


Artist: Dana Fradon, The New Yorker, 29 August 1959

"Have you heard about poor spirochete bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum? They've discovered a cure for him."

...well, not yet for syphilis

Sunday, January 26, 2014

But First Our National Anthem!

Today January 26 2014 is India's 65th Republic Day

Thomas Meaney:

"..."You have been infected by the virus of European imperialism!” he (Rabindranath Tagore) told his Japanese contact, Toyama Mitsuru. For Tagore, the nation-state was a tragedy in the making for Asian peoples. “Now after [the Great War],” he told a Japanese audience, “do you not hear everywhere the denunciation of this spirit of the Nation, this collective egoism of the people, which is universally hardening their hearts?”..."


(The Nation, May 15 2013) 

विनोबा भावे:

"…स्वातंत्र्यप्राप्तीनंतर  आता पुढे काय? आता कोणते युग  येईल? आता जागतिक युग येईल.  त्या भावी युगाकडे दृष्टी ठेवून आपणांस क्षुद्र अभिमान सोडावे लागतील. भाषेचा अभिमान, देशाचा अभिमान वगैरे सर्वच अभिमान सोडावे लागतील. भारताचा अभिमान देखील सोडवा लागेल. आजच्या युगाला जरुरी आहे जय-जगतची. सर्व जगताचा जय असो!…" 

('ज्ञान ते सांगतो पुन्हा', 2004/2006)


Don Barzini in 'The Godfather', 1972:

"Times have changed. It's not like the old days when we could do anything we want. A refusal is not the act of a friend. Don Corleone had all the judges and the politicians in New York, and he must share them. He must let us draw the water from the well. Certainly, he can present a bill for such services. After all, we are not Communists."

Trilochan Sastry, EPW, January 4 2014:

"Based on publicly available data of over 62,800 candidates, who contested national and state assembly elections from 2004 to 2013, it shows that both crime and money play an important role in winning elections."

The way nationalism works in a modern democracy...two examples...

 1. A turkey tries to survive Thanksgiving Day ...

Artist: Mike Twohy, The New Yorker

2. And gangsters go to work...

Artist: Tom Cheney, The New Yorker

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Finding Lobster Telephone on a Beach

Today January 23, 2014 is 25th Death Anniversary of Salvador Dali

Robert Mankoff, January 11 2014:

"There’s a René Magritte retrospective at MOMA called “The Mystery of the Ordinary,” which covers the artist’s work from 1926 to 1938, the golden era of surrealism, during which Magritte and Salvador Dalí helped establish that art form in the public mind. And, in the public’s mind, at least as reflected in the mind of New Yorker cartoonists, that art form was anything but ordinary, and begged to be spoofed."





 Artist: Salvador Dali, 'Lobster Telephone', 1936

courtesy: Salvador Dali, Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation/DACS, London 2002

  

Artist:  Peter Duggan

All kids have found lobster-telephones and look at Mr. Dali on the right...

 (See Vasant Sarwate's वसंत सरवटे take on another of Dali's famous picture in this post dated Sept 26 2010.)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

George Orwell...Defeated and Broken up by Life?

Today January 21 2014 is 64th Death Anniversary of George Orwell

Orwell wrote in his famous essay on Mahatma Gandhi, 'Reflections on Gandhi', first published January 1949:

"...The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection, that one is sometimes willing to commit sins for the sake of loyalty, that one does not push asceticism to the point where it makes friendly intercourse impossible, and that one is prepared in the end to be defeated and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one's love upon other human individuals..."

How was Orwell's own journey through his final illness and eventual death?

Andrew Ferguson reviews 'George Orwell: A Life in Letters' Selected and Annotated by Peter Davison for Spectator,  October 2013:

"...But nothing I know of offers a clearer picture of Orwell’s disorientation than a harrowing letter he wrote to a young, pretty art student who for a time lived in a flat beneath his.

He opens with an apology: “You are very beautiful…[and] it’s scandalous that a person like me should make advances to a person like you, and yet I thought from your appearance that you were…a person who lived chiefly through the intellect and might become interested in a man who is much older and not much good physically.”

It’s clear she wasn’t interested, but Orwell soldiers on, reassuring her with testimony to his ill health and foreshortened life expectancy: “What I am really asking you is whether you would like to be the widow of literary man.” There will be royalties to collect, he says, and lots of “unpublished stuff” to edit posthumously.

“It isn’t so much a question of someone to sleep with, though of course I want that too.” And because “I am also sterile, I think,” she would be free to find a “handsome young man” with whom she could have children. “I have very little physical jealousy.”
“You say you wouldn’t be likely to love me. I don’t see how you could be expected to.” No, he goes on, “I want peace and quiet and someone to be fond of me.”

As prose, I think, this comes as close as possible to transparency, laying bare grief, loneliness, lust, neediness…or is it guile? In any case, for a reader who honors Orwell as both a man and an artist, it is almost too painful to bear, and a reminder of why we should be grateful that good prose is never like a window pane..."


Would you call this  "defeated and broken up by life"? I would and I feel  it's inevitable.

  Artist: Whitney Darrow,  Jr., The New Yorker, 4 November 1950

(Just a coincidence but note that the cartoon belongs to the year Mr. Orwell died.)

Caption can also be read as:

"What I am really asking you is whether you would like to be the widow of literary man. There will be royalties to collect..."

Friday, January 17, 2014

Go Ahead and Die During Sex

"Mrs. Goodman, Yales's mother: [At Yale's funeral, he died of heart attack after sex

Judith just one thing...If you can remember...What were Yale's last words? 

Judy Benjamin: I'm coming."  

 (from film 'Private Benjamin', 1980) 


Goldie Hawn and others   Courtesy: copyright owner of the film


Daily Mail, UK Reporter,  January 5 2014:

"For one Seattle woman, a mind-blowing orgasm sent her to heaven - and then to the emergency room.
Liz had just had sex with her partner Eric, but well after he climbed out of bed, Liz was hitting new peaks of pleasure.
About an hour into her epic climax, Liz started to panic. By the second hour, the panting woman was rushed to hospital where medical staff thought she was in labor.
Liz's orgasm lasted for over three hours before she finally found relief."

The Times of India, November 11 2013:

"Stress and alcohol are the primary immediate triggers for stroke in Indian men but sexual activity could also set-off the life-threatening condition, a cross-sectional survey of patients conducted by AIIMS has found."                







Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones in 2000

Photo courtesy: REX/SHANE PARTRIDGE and Daily Mail, UK

I wrote on March 23 2011: "The Kama Sutra: It's NOT for me but have Blairs read it?".

In year 2013, I felt good that I generally think mouth is meant for eating, drinking...and kissing.

Why?

Michael Douglas: oral sex caused my cancer (The Guardian


"..."No. Because without wanting to get too specific, this particular cancer is caused by HPV [human papillomavirus], which actually comes about from cunnilingus."

Douglas, the husband of Catherine Zeta Jones, continued:

"I did worry if the stress caused by my son's incarceration didn't help trigger it. But yeah, it's a sexually transmitted disease that causes cancer. And if you have it, cunnilingus is also the best cure for it."..."



Artist: P C Vey, The New Yorker, May 17 2004

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

सूर्यफुले हाती ठेवणारा कवी…Namdeo Dhasal



Dylan Thomas:



“Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light…



…And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
  
George Santayana:

"Schopenhauer thought tragedy beautiful because it detached us from a troubled world and did not think a troubled world good, as those unspeakable optimists did, because it made such a fine tragedy."




"...Van Gogh never suggested that the sunflower had any religious meaning for him, though it is customarily associated with humanity's love of God, or Christ. But he did link it on two occasions to gratitude. He admits in one letter: "My paintings are … a cry of anguish while symbolising gratitude in the rustic sunflower."..."

I have never forgot following lines of poet Namdev Dhasal (February 15 1949 - January 15 2014) since I read them in class X,  1974-75.

"...सूर्यफुले हाती ठेवणारा फकीर हजारो वर्षानंतर लाभला
आत्ता सूर्यफुलासारखे सूर्योंमुख झालेच पाहिजे."

('आत्ता', नामदेव लक्ष्मण ढसाळ, गोलपिठा, १९७१ )

[ ("After thousands of years, we met a fakir who handed to us sunflowers
now we must become sun-facing like sunflowers"

('Aatta', Namdev Lakshman Dhasal, Golpitha, 1971)]


Tragedy in the hands of the late Mr. Dhasal was beautiful like fiery sunflowers. Like Van Gogh, those flowers also perhaps were his 'cry of anguish', while symbolising his gratitude towards Dr. B R Ambedkar (डॉ भी. रा. आंबेडकर).

But he never thought the world around him good because it made such a fine tragedy.


                                                            Van Gogh's Sunflowers, 1888

Courtesy: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam and The Guardian


I don't think NLD's rebellion in Marathi literature was pointless.



Artist: Robert Kraus, The New Yorker, April 9 1960