Thursday, June 30, 2005

ten things you did not need to know about me.

1. Between this post and the last, I have entered the world of gainful employment. Details forthcoming.
2. Between this post and the last-but-one, I have fallen hard for one of those shiny new rock bands. Not ashamed! The Killers are so much fun they hurt.
3. I suspect I have socialist tendencies.
4. I have been accused of being feminist because I am single.
5. I'm straight. No, really.
6. I don't have any, repeat, ANY official photo identification. No election card, no passport, no driving licence.
7. Last night, I felt the horrible urge to read the cheesiest, frothiest, most morally offensive romance novel I could get my hands on. It just wouldn't let up. I didn't find any and had to go to bed with Reading Lolita in Tehran. I stayed up till two, reading. The funny thing is, it served the purpose just as well.
8. I'm going back to being vegetarian. Chicken SUCKS.
9. I just got a Shakespeare postcard from Lindsey in Dublin*! She is the rawking. item: I also have a stuffed rat from E. His name is Walsingham.
10. I am nasty. (Pls to cope.)

eta: * - I feel bound to clarify this statement further. My esteemed co-author and crack fairy is under suspicion of being one of the Bard's own descendants. :D :D Don't worry, L, even if you aren't, it wouldn't matter to the greatest charlatan of them all.

current musix: the decemberists - july, july!

Monday, June 27, 2005

moral of story.

I'm not yet decided on journalism as a career because I don't want to write the sort of stuff I read in the papers. Would it be a betrayal of conscience (it's back in fashion to have one, isn't it) or the only way to satisfy it?

Huh moment of the year? Social conservatives in the NYT pointing to Nazi Germany and Russia and other such places and talking about how leftism naturally progresses to fascism. Hello, did you not get the memo that says - SO DOES CONSERVATISM, KTHXBAI.

Leftism, rightism and centrism have theoretically nothing to do with the off-phenomenon of fascism. Extremism is the only position that is in any way logically connected to totalitarianism. (although I think the anarch-capitalists disagree?)

Sheesh. The New York Times needs to get opinions that are a little less stuffed up their own bums.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

play it cold.

The monsoon is here; I smell the rant about rock music no longer being what it was in the air.

I love The Guardian. They tell me exactly what I want to hear as a bleeding-heart pinko-liberal-intellectual-elitist-womyn and - oh, hang on while I take my tongue out of my cheek - they have some good writers. They did this piece on Coldplay just a month back that was excellent armchair rock journalism, full of the sort of bewitching trivia and fuzzy pop perspective that allows Rolling Stone to maintain its dignity even as it features the Ashton Kutchers and Ashlee Simpsons of the world on its venerated covers. Rock writing is an art, an exercise in creating a spectacle out of spectacle. Or as in the case of The G's Coldplay piece, spectacle out of nothing.

Now, this Friday, they come up with the piece linked in my first sentence. In summary it says: Coldplay sucks, Keane sucks, Snow Patrol sucks, new rock isn't going anywhere, the lyrics are no longer poetry, did we mention that Coldplay is the suXX0rz??/\??

Like, hello. We knew that already?

*discerns the sounds of Coldplay fanrage nearing*

Disclaimer: I'm a dud rock fan, possibly the worst, most populist, herd-following, nostalgia-glutted girl that ever owned a Doors tee-shirt. The most recent of my favourite English rock albums? Came out in 1986. (for more details, see the U2 post further down this blog.) So, yes, positively vapid. So much so that it's a wonder I don't listen to more 90's post-rock.

Rock music is no holy cow of mine. I don't care who plays their own instruments or writes meaningful lyrics or doesn't sell their songs in adverts or places in the charts. I love The Beatles, The Doors, Floyd, Zeppelin, and U2, and they have all committed crimes against their own beginnings by doing big fat commercial stuff and breaking out of the long dark teatime of the soul. I love Sigur Ros and I don't understand a word of what they're singing - I don't care what sort of noise-metal-thingummy they actually are, they sound like rock to me. And when I say love, I mean love, the I-can-listen-to-this-album-on-repeat, I-still-remember-what-each-note-felt-like-when-I-first-heard-it, now-i'm-dancing-now-i'm-crying sort of embarassment.

There aren't any newer rock bands that can do that for me. (Although, have you heard A Perfect Circle cover Imagine? They're pretty frickin' awesome.) I adore rock as an entity of many parts; there is the charisma of the band, the sense of being part of a passionate community, the preciousness of the bits of trivia that every fan uses to construct their idea of the band, and all these things add up to something that creates a framework for the main thing, the music. You could say that really good music doesn't need cheap props and spectacle. I'd say probably not. But that's what defines rock music for me; anything that doesn't create that need to geek out in me doesn't have the same effect.

In a conversation with Lindsey and friends about the Guardian article (on suxx0r bands), D, who I hope will not mind being quoted here, quite rightly pointed out:

Kinda unfair to say today's lyrics are banal and the ridiculous belief that older automatically means better. He holds up Lennon, Morrissey and Jarvis Cocker as great? Why not throw in Bob Dylan while we're at it? Yes, Bob, writer of such fantastically deep and profound words such as "Everybody must get stoned!" How about the incredible "Ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on, bla la la how life goes on" from the untouchable Lennon? (sp? It's a Macca song) ... I take the point that great lyricists are not as plentiful as they used to be, and I don't argue it. Music is more than just the lyrics. Oh, the lyrics help, but people don't air guitar, nod their head, tap their foot or just rock out to lyrics.


Yeah, man. I've never understood the need to equate rock lyrics with poetry. Who on earth goes to a rock concert for the 'poetry'? I love Lennon but I don't think he's a poet in the 'maker of poems' sense of the term.

I did pontificate thus:

Since the 1990's, rock bands have taken on the mantle of ironists rather than poets, and I think the post-Radiohead generation has brought this examination on itself. These guys are, at least at first glance, indistingushable from one another musically, they have no defining signatures - and there's no leavening by way of star power either. Rock music has traditionally been oriented around the figure of the bard, the prophet, the one who has been chosen to speak the mind of the public in spite of and because of the fact that he or she is different from them, because he or she can where others cannot. 'A man speaking among men', as I think Wordsworth put it. None of these bands have that, even though they sell themselves as boys-next-door.

Every decade has its share of pathetic bands that are all carbon copies of each other - and I am SO thankful the eighties are over - but there's been no overweaning, defining sound that the post-Nirvana era would be proud to be associated with.


Alt-rock really doesn't seem to offer any alternatives, because there aren't any BIG bands to take the house. Call me inattentive if I'm wrong, but from here it looks like we're sitting through an alarmingly long string of opening acts, waiting for the real thing to show up drunk and loud and beautiful.

--

Two U2 links. Shut up. They're good links: Transcript of a recentish Bono interview. "Radiohead just looked at the pop machine and the machinations of pop and just said, we don't have it in us, we don't have the energy, to have our way with that. I don't hear Thom Yorke singing on the radio. I want to hear Radiohead, extraordinary band that they are, on MTV. I want them setting fire to the imaginations of 16, 15, 14 year old kids."

Their Vague Majesties Of Rock. Excellent, if one-dimensional. Slate piece that notices something rather extraordinary about the band. U2's other trick is to pretend that it is a political rock band.



current musix: exodus quartet - the far east coast

Saturday, June 18, 2005

an offer i CAN refuse.

I was going to make a mighty and sentimental post on how this year has changed my life and the landscape of my many loves, but it rained last night, I'm still listening to the thundr of a real Mumbai monsoon, and I'm singing very cheesy words out loud to Brahms' sublime Hungarian Dance no. 5 (die convent school singing class), so I decided to save it for next week.

Life gets surreal in very funny ways sometimes. Someone offered my mother an introduction to a boy of suitable community and credentials, "for me," I presume. The boy's profession? A film actor in Hyderabad.

{ insert shrieking laughter here }

I wish I'd put up my review of Kingdom of Heaven when it came out; I had a bunch of laughs writing it. Today I was thinking of it again, especially this bit where the heroine, who has been speaking perfectly ordinary English all this while, pertly asks newly-migrated Orlando Bloom, "How find you Jerusalem?"

Bloom said something obviously forgettable, but I know that if John Lennon were alive and playing, he'd have said, "Turn left at the Meditteranean."

:D

By the way, if anyone isn't acquainted with History Spork yet, do go check it out. Very geeky history buffs picking apart "epic" films; lots of fun.

And this will be horribly out of context for most people reading this, but mah Lindsey and I just finished writing 21K words for our Crack Novel in the last week. We're feeling a bit kicked at the mo.

current musix: chopin - nocturnal for violin and piano

Friday, June 17, 2005

da veni, da vidi, da vinci

Yesterday I finally sat down to read "The Da Vinci Code," a book cavalier in its disregard for basic literacy. That's not even beginning on its crimes against human intelligence. On the whole, reading it was a bit like studying a State Education Board textbook - flat writing, misleading (and misled) propaganda, lacunae so wide you can bathe an elephant in them.

Some of its fundamental principles aren't quibbleworthy. I accept the thesis that religious organisations have done more harm than most in suppressing individual freedom and alternate histories. I also think it's cool that Jesus might have had a family (but then, I'm not a Christian and my view of JC is closer to the Jesus Christ Superstar reading than the more arcane Biblical ones). As for the (misguided) feminist factor, everyone knows chicks have been screwed over since the dawn of time. Welcome to the menstrual hut, Dan Brown. Don't mess with the big girls.

I'm inclined to think that humanity at large would be far stupider to endorse his pseudo-history than the Church's. Because baby, the Church, they be smarter than Dan Brown. In fact, I'm certain there are tribes in the deepest reaches of the Amazonian rainforest as yet untouched by civilisation who would do a better job of cobbling together a fiction about Christianity than Dan Brown*.

And when I think of all the brilliant writers I know, people who write both original and fanfiction, who will comb the back pages of the Internet and second-hand bookshops and the appendices of the Lord of the Rings to make sure that they've got their facts right ... !

I mean, when you make a blanket statement about rewriting biases in history, the caveat is that your own history is biased. Okay. So at the centre of the book is Leonardo Da Vinci, acknowledged as an eccentric and a prankster. I'm sure he'd think it a big laugh that someone picked up that old sketch of his, Jesus and the Apostles posing for a photo all one side of the table (the only detail Mel Gibson's The Passion bothered to correlate with reason - his apostles sat facing each other) and tried to sell it to everyone as, quite literally, gospel truth. What a paradox that is. I'm sure the rich nutters heading the Priory of Sion - whatever THAT is - are bubbling over with joy that someone decided to take their kooky old boys' club seriously. How convenient that Jesus' latest ancestor is pretty white French royalty and not some tanned, curly-headed Semite in Syria! All the femmenists who think that being female warrants being worshipped as a goddess must have their lacy undies in a bundle. Note, I have no quarrel with them. (Girlies, I have no quarrel with you, but pls to get over yourselves.)

And maybe, just maybe, in the wide gap between one fiction and another, is the possibility that the Church or the disciples or whoever, packed the Magdalene and the supposed divine daughter off to France because they thought that the best thing about Christianity was its inherent democracy, the idea that anyone could be a) head of the Church or b) a good Christian, regardless of whose blood they possessed? What is it with this royal bloodline? It's like believing Shakespeare was actually the Earl of Oxford or Queen Bess or whoever, isn't it - so hard for snobs to stomach the fact that someone brilliant and charismatic and wise came out of a commoner's family with no breeding or money to speak of? Didn't they address this already, the old can-anything-good-come-out-of-Nazareth deal? Or the loins of a glovemaker from Stratford-upon-Avon. Grrr.

Or maybe Jesus just wanted to keep his kid out of the tabloids (for Chrissakes. :p)

Still, the blame for the mass outpouring of stupid is to be shouldered by the large percentage of people who take the book for dazzling revelation instead of what it is, a cheap thriller that aims to amuse people in an airport lounge for a couple of hours, and fails miserably at that as well.

You know, I wish Shakespeare and Marlowe could have got together to write this book. Kit would have the solid ideas and philosophy, his Cambridge theological education at hand, his healthy skepticism and passionate individualism keeping the book fresh and self-aware, and Will would provide the clever plot twists, the sparkling dialogue, characterisation so sharp it would cut. And he, if anyone, could write real codes, mean mofos of puzzles that would balance readers one step ahead and one step behind of the plot simultaneously (that Hitchcockian suspense), not cheapskate tricks you learn in playschool. And in iambic pentameter that was actually iambic pentameter.

MIRROR WRITING. OH MY SODDING GOD. HOW DID THIS BOOK SELL SO MANY COPIES HOW.

items: Note that Mister Brown is far from iconoclastic when it comes to re-inforcing old Hollywood prejudices against albinos, Brits, Frenchmen and clever, twisted cripples. Also, I want to know: if Leonardo was all about the gay secks, how did he feel about being head of the Priory and forced to perform unnatural acts of heterosex against his inclinations? Pretty queer, I'll bet.

And an open letter to a favourite actor:

Dear Sir Ian Mc Kellen, Everyone knows your penchant for pseudo-history, what with your stellar performances in such adpatations of such truly clever reworkings of the English past as Richard III and The Lord of the Rings. Now I see you are also performing in the adaptation of this book. Why? Is it Tom Hanks? Oh, sir, you know he's a charlatan, well-meaning and great-hearted though he may be. Are you going to play your character queer? That would be significantly cool (Although, imagine if PJ'd allowed you to play your wizard as Gandalf the Gay. Mmmmm. "Now come the years of the Queen.") You're going to raise the tone of this desperate Ron Howard caper single-handedly by being in it.

Having said all of that: WTF. You must really need the money.

Thank you, no love,
A concerned fan.

((* - today's dose of bitter sarcasm brought to you by Blackadder Goes Forth.))

Now I'm going to take Anuj's advice and read Foucault's Pendulum to regain some of the perspective lost in this pointless exercise. I'd also like some steel wool to scrub the burning idiocy out of my brain.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

one more post.

Because who, upon having watched Mr. And Mrs. Smith, can afford to turn down the opportunity to comment on it? Especially when one gets the opportunity to quote a member of the audience saying, "Abbe, it's a god film!" The IIT slang, it tickles. (Although I agree with Anuj that 'Judwaa' tickles far more.)

Why do I keep making excuses for Brad Pitt? Is it because he really is a far better actor than he is usually allowed to be, especially when it comes to mining things like his more-than-passable like comic timing? Could it be his perfect, sculpted abdomen? I'm beginning to suspect that it is the latter more than the former, although I honestly thought he did a good job with the deal he got in the Ocean's Eleven franchise.

Anyway, sculpted abdomen.

No, that wasn't it.

MR. AND MRS. SMITH. Right. Ahem. Bad film. No plot, little coherence, lots of loose flab, enjoyed it thoroughly all the same. Very few funny lines, almost all of them Angelina Jolie's (and boy, does she use them well. I take back everything I said against her at the time of Alexander. Actually I don't. She was about as good as a rotten mango in Alexander). The whole extended metaphor, marriage as war, sex and violence, you wonder how it is that it gets so predictable. I mean, honestly, am I living another life in which I know how these things work, or is it just that we've heard the story a million times before? Then: Adam Brody playing a kid in all of three scenes. Whatever, much. A film that looked perfect, had the right combination of a bunch of things - although what it really needed was some snappier dialogue - but that you wanted to shake by the shoulders and hurry up the pace a bit. I remember watching a friend direct Ionesco's The Chairs and how he kept telling his actors to clip up the pace, and how it worked out brilliantly for the shows. I guess it takes talent to have that sort of perspective on your own venture, more so for a long-drawn out project like a film.

And - that's all. The film really doesn't deserve a long or complete review. The abdomen I could talk about for a while longer, though.

perhaps we have (found what i'm looking for).

I've been listening obsessively to U2 for the last few days. I've always loved their music, but this week has been really special. Music is a great stressbuster - I too, as the lovely E. once said, have mooched to The Verve after teenage disillusionment - and under this period of stress U2 have been perfect perspective providers. I have discovered that:

- in spite of my previous reluctance to embrace post-Achtung Baby U2, electric Irishmen pwn!!1~! my soul. In one word: Mofo, omg. In more words: you ought to know that if a band like U2 takes up something radical, they're going to do it well.

- Joshua Tree is still my favourite, and rightly so. Who am I to go against public sentiment? This is a landscape album in the best sense of the word. Lyrics are a very small part of this. I mildly enjoy U2's pop poetry, half-instinctive, half-calculated imagery, very broad and general stuff. But their music is everything. Chiming guitars = irritating at best when left alone. But Edge uses the sound so inventively on JT that it sounds like the wind wheeling, through "the arms of America;" an America that is not its people but a geographic entity; a continent older than humans. Primal stuff. There's the perfectly calculated rhythm section, nothing to heavy or too jangly, all backbone. And then Bono's voice, pulling it all together, subsuming, consuming, imperfect but thoroughly glorious.

JT is very rightly named for the tree that grows in the desert, even though Bono sings of white-golden pearls from the sea. These songs belong to the earth. There's nothing of limpidity, of sparkling water, of alien blue-green depths in their geography. Instead there are warm, roaring wings of storms, red-golden chaos, sand that will engulf you if you stop moving for so much as a second. There are no cuba-divers with froggish equipment in this album. Just the big, unknowing schoolboy dreams of century-old explorers, brave and innocent, trudging across unknown expanses of the Sahara.

- Rattle and Hum is another great album. Their cover of Helter Skelter is becoming a permanent favourite. I have three versions of that song. One is the original Beatles, vintage Macca stuff, really; frenetic guitar, awkward vocal, and that intangible Beatles quality. Purity even in the orgiastic. One is the Oasis cover, which is frankly a pain in the arse, snotty little Britpoppers trying to be other people. (I hate most of what passes for modern Brit alt rock. Pretentious little junkies. Come on, I'd rather have a Rage Against The Machine than a Coldplay or < insert Glum Rock band of choice here >. At least RatM's sense of entitlement had a point to it.) And then the U2 cover, which is essentially them doing what they do best, which is be big and arrogant and perfectly in sync with the groove of the song.

To end with the obligatory Bruce Springsteen quote:

Uno, dos, tres, catorce. That translates as one, two, three, fourteen. That is the correct math for a rock and roll band. For in art and love and rock and roll, the whole had better equal much more than the sum of its parts, or else you're just rubbing two sticks together searching for fire ... This is music meant to take on not only the powers that be but on a good day, the universe and God himself, if he was listening. It's man's accountability, and U2 belongs on this list.

Friday, June 10, 2005

pretentious musing: (n) to get one's tom lehrer on.

Browsing through a couple of blogs that belong to Kram and Vinod, self-confessed geeks, prompted this train of thought. What if numbers, and not words, were the fundamental means of human communication?

It's because I couldn't understand the subtleties of what went on in Vinod's post. I'm no math. geek, I will never pretend to be one - even though I know what a Pythagorean triplet is. I could say I am a language geek of sorts. Is there such a thing, or is geekiness qualified by an interest in/ expertise/obsession with science? After all, one of the fundamental precepts of being a geek is that a given population is not able to understand or relate to you. Language is a learned and necessary skill whose point of divergence into unnecessary abstraction is much higher than that of numbers. Quite simply, if we all get our pretentious hats on, it's likely that Kram and Vinod will continue to understand and relate to my brand of geekiness long after I have given up on theirs. Why? Because language is much more fundamental to socialisation than math.

Now, the possibility of a world in which people communicated in numbers. Let's forget the reality - that we do live in a digital world and that lots of things in society are identified by numbers - and go back to feasibility. Why is it possible? Numbers, like words, are symbolic. They stand for a certain value. This is not a dog; this is the word - dog, standing for a canine creature. This is not the number 1; this is a symbol for the value of unity. Numbers, like words, are identity. Identity is creation.

What does language stand for? Reality. What reality? The sensual. In the most basic way our minds function, let's say it stands purely for the visual. What are the levels of meaning? At least two: the visual of the dog - insert four-legged furry canine of choice here - and the visual of the word, the shape of the letters d-o-g. (There's also the aural component and so on.)

Numbers also stand for reality. Is it a sensual one? Sometimes. One acre of land = what is measurable to the owner. But the way numbers function in our world are dependent on language: thus to convey the idea of numericity I have to employ the use of a visual symbol, a sound. The layman merely uses numbers as a supplement to lingustic reality. I wouldn't point to something and say - that's one. I would say that's one dog. (Actually I would say that's a dog.)

So for us, math is a subsection of language. Could it work the other way around? I don't see why not. It's only a matter of perception after all. Numbers would take on much more primal visual and aural denotations in the absence of the more widely understood verbal components of communication. There are infinite numbers; everyone could stand for something. Philosophies would be equations. (Philosophies are equations.) Poetry would exist in the realm of imaginary numbers - although every once in a while there would be a movement to make it accessible to the people and bring it back to ones and twos. Hate speech = -ve numbers? Numbers expressed differently by different races of people?

Would we be any closer to finding the answer (and the question) to life, the universe and everything?

I think not. There are decimal points everywhere.

Also; can animals count?

The point of this rambling: not to reinvent the wheel, or semiotics. I wanted to resolve the idea that language and math. don't work in very different methods, even if there are differences in the way humans with received learning relate to them.

eta: But I do think numbers would allow religion to set right what it has been mistaken about so far: god would no longer be One, he would be zero.