Flavours of Funny

Funny has two flavours.

One that makes and one that tastes.

We can be both, but we are not necessarily both.

One cooks, one eats.

One can eat what one can cook. Not always, though. It’s always better when someone else eats what we cook.

A friend refused to come to my place ever, because he discovered that I cook. I am now referring to ‘real’ cooking. Like food. He is afraid of dying of food poisoning.

That is funny.

I tried to be funny once. I wrote a post.

Tried.

You are funny or you are not.

Perhaps you cannot always be funny.

Or, once you were funny, now you are not. Maybe you will be funny later.

What you cook remains the same but their tastes change.

Maybe you will cook differently in some time.

Maybe it will appeal to the new tastes.

Maybe not.

What’s important, is the food.

Not whether you cook it or eat it. 

One who eats is as important as the one who cooks.

The kitchen needs the dining room. And vice versa. 

 

Up in the Air

There’s too much of more. There’s a new fanatic in town, and her exposed argot has more words that end with -er.

Faster, smaller, thinner, longer. Sharper. And the sorts.

In Victor Hugo’s apt words, however, argot is the language of the dark; a language of misery.

Here’s a blurred photo.

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It’s blurred. You cannot see much detail. There is hardly any specificity in the image. What does this mean for the image? Not for the photographer (that’s me, and I do not care much about what you think of me). Does it become a bad image because, alas, we cannot see the twist and the weave of the fibre that makes the thread that have revolted out of the binding Rexine?

A friend would take up this argument and talk of test cricket and the T20 format.

I’ll digress. If you don’t want to, skip the marked section.

<Start Digress>

I quit Flickr Pro and moved to 500px because it was a suggestion by a well known photographer. I hated it as soon as I saw the “top” photos. They just do not seem real to me. 500px is a muscle show of post-processing. Not that post-processing is bad. I use it all the time. I was looking for a word when I was discussing 500px with a friend. I didn’t find it then, I have it now.

Synthetic.

Over the years, the 500px platform went through a number of revisions and changes, growing together with technology and photographers, and keeping focus on the highest quality photos. Via 500px  (emphasis, mine)

500px offered a way to sell photographs, but I was not (and am not) interested in it, anyway. I’ve (mostly) quit 500px.

</End Digress> 

There is no doubt that our tastes are changing, our attention spans diminishing. We have lesser time for our friends and no time for ourselves. Enough research floating around to prove that. 2831215 is the phone number of the travel agent of my first company. This was when mobile phones didn’t exist. Now, I don’t even remember my fourth travel agent’s name. Hell, I don’t even remember if I use a travel agent anymore. I have to remind myself to add keywords to her address card. My choice of keywords defines what I will forget about her and what I might use to search for her. It’s exhausting, in a way. Her’e a worthwhile exercise – how many mobile numbers (of close friends or family) do you know by-heart?

I need to travel a bit. But I digress. (I should have warned you)

Adobe recently announced that the Creative Suite will now be cloud-based. To make the news worthwhile they included some super sharpening tools to the CS. (Now you know what triggered this post)

Apart from the irritating plugin that I *have* to use with browsers, I do not use any Adobe products because of their bloated sizes and prices. But this post is not about Adobe, at all. Software is a tool; it makes sense in a way that you use it. I find arguments about tools pointless. As long as you do your work well, the tool doesn’t matter. Hammer vs. Pestle. Mac vs. Win or Can vs. Nik. Same difference. 

This post is about simple questions.

How much sharper do we need our images to be? How slimmer should our phones be? How faster should our computers be? How much thinner should our laptops become?

And while the inanimates around us become more ‘-er’ and ‘-er’, what about us?

What ‘-er’ should we be striving for?

A French View

My blog-addiction was under control for a while. Gladly, I lost control.

Defying concern that the folks at WordPress might actually limit the number of blogs I can have, I have started yet another blog.

A View from the Top

This one is interesting. I have started learning French and have chosen not to attend classes. Yes, there are other sites out there (and I’ll link to these resources as I find them — and as my need to learn more French grows), but they are mostly structured — usually in the same way. Greetings, family, check-in to a hotel, ask for a taxi.

What if I am not travelling to France or a French speaking country? What if I want to learn to write poetry in French or watch French films without sub-titles? What if, I want to write a blog in French?

This one is a double experiment: Learning the French language and Exploring how you can learn a language through Web 2.0 — through people who are learners or teachers or just plain old you and me (who know or are interested in French). I plan to leverage all possible Web 2.0 means to learn French. Twitter. Facebook. Goodreads. Blogs. Google (I have been warned against translate.google, though).

I believe in the Web as it is today. I think I’ll learn well. I may not learn it quickly, but it will be a fun experience and more-so — a very fulfilling experience. In any case, I do not have a deadline. I am not going to France soon (but hey, I already have learnt useful French phrases).

So if it sounds interesting (whether the experiment, the language or the experience), I’ll be Learning French

Fluttering Thoughts

This time around, she didn’t challenge me. But a gentle conversation was good enough to push me into writing a very satisfying post, after a long time. In recent times I have not liked what I have written, here. There is a tense tentativeness in the thoughts.

In any case, it seems that I am forgetting the advice from Forrester, and waiting for the clear thought to permeate a cloudy head.

And for the same reasons, I have begun wondering if there is anything called the clear thought, in the context of expressing one. Is this the only noun doomed to be celibate? Never to have a perfect adjectival companion?

Thoughts, at best are caterpillars — they carry within them the future expression of beauty. But unless expressed, they remain just that – ugly, creepy creatures.

Thoughts should aim to become butterflies.

Blog Talk

We all have a language we speak. We all have a language we understand. Blogs speak too. Not just through what you write in them. Through their understanding of the words that we fill them with, they make their own language. And it looks good too!

Wordle

What does your blog have to say? Find out!

Failed in Abstraction

Lorelle has an uncanny way of kicking your blog-backside, every once in a while. I haven’t taken up all the challenges, yet once in a while the chemical reactions are too overwhelming to ignore the act of opening your blog-editor and type. Just type.

This time, the challenge is to write about a post that died an undistinguished death. Write about a post or many posts. Doesn’t matter.

He hangs it out for the world to perceive.

That is what I did, when I wrote the post, A Discrete Process of Abstraction.

This post deserved more attention than it got because it summarised well, my thought process of all that goes into most of my blogs; especially this blog. Because the name of this blog is a coined word, many often ask me what it means. Well, this post captured the meaning of Gaizabonts as discretely as is possible. EU, perhaps, caught on to the message, to an extent; commented that, that is precisely the reason why most may find it difficult to comment on this blog. The lack of context; which is a kind of a loop. The reason of avoiding explicit context is to begin a conversation, abstract though it might be. In explicit context, all is (often) understood and clear. It seldom leaves any room for further discussion. (Yet my blog-travels have proven me hopelessly wrong); the fogged context is supposed to be a conversation starter.

I know I have lost significant participation here since this flavour of abstraction began.

Why do I think this post failed? It was very dogmatic, to begin with. Its statement left no crack even, to pry open a possibility for a conversation. Then, it used artistic metaphors for something that isn’t often considered artistic. Finally it got tangled in its own wordsmithery. It still makes meaning to me, even if I shed the context I have, but I can imagine why, somewhere towards the end of the third paragraph, the reader may get lost. Anthropomorphism abounds.

And I am in serious risk of losing this blog challenge. For the same reason.

My Defunct Pen

There is a strong compulsion to write. There isn’t a thought that is insistent on expression, or such a thing, yet. The mind isn’t blank, either: there are the usual what-if thoughts associated with the day’s events. Nothing useful enough to solve a problem or to understand the world around me (or within me, for that matter).

Every time I use my ink pen, I am reminded of school. I recall, a senior, was once questioned by a teacher about the ink-spill on his hands.

Blood of knowledge, he replied instantly.

I remember nothing about him, except his name, and his face at that instant. I am pleasantly surprised that I do.

Leaky pens, misbehaving ink-droppers.
Dinner laid out.
Old rag to clean the hands and the pen’s barrel.
Mother’s automatic assumption: wash your hands before you come for dinner…


I am now attempting to write fast — simulate the feeling of writing an examination paper. History, perhaps, or English. They were ink-intensive. No diagrams, no pencils and compass boxes. I see it almost perfectly as it used to be.

The watch, off the hand, on the desk.
The backup pen(s) laid out.
Click of the clip-board.
The four-page main answer sheet — supplementary sheets to come, if you knew most answers.
Remember to draw margins, while waiting for the question paper.
Get you roll number right.
The purposefulness of answering the questions; solving problems.
Name and roll-number on all supplementary sheets.
Ensuring you get the thread to tie all the supplementary sheets.
Ensure that you number the supplementary sheets correctly.
And even if you are still writing the paper, tie them all up in the last 15 minutes and continue writing. You never know, sometimes they would snatch the paper from you, when the bell went.
Writing fast, yet maintaining a good handwriting.
All this while, ignoring the intense escalating pain in your index finger.


I stopped using the ink pen with advent of the micro-tip pen. Then to the gel-inks and other technological innovations. Perhaps, I wanted to let go of the memory of writing a time-bound examination paper. And then, there was no need to write as fast.

But somewhere (and perhaps, even, therefore), with the ink pen, the purposefulness of answering questions was also lost. Sentences started becoming phrases, phrases became keywords. And because t was only keywords, why write at all — not too difficult to remember keywords. Not surprisingly, very soon, I lost my handwriting to the keyboard.

Slowly but surely, there was more typing and a micro-tip pen lasted more than any pen I ever owned. In the ink pens, the ink dried and sad flakes clung to the inside of the barrel.

The ink pen now became an object of romance — a something to help you go back — in the hope that the determined nature of answering questions, will be ours again. Rather than being the sword that drips the blood of knowledge, it became an accessory. The branded clip or the monogrammed head of the pen’s cap, on display.

Heck, most forms today insist on using a ball-point pen.

Sometimes, it is good to just go back and get your Camlin, Cruiser, or Hero pen out of the shoe-box of school memories and write with determined aimlessness. It not only reminds you how you used to answer questions; solve problems — it gives answers; solves problems.

Tagged: The Writer Meme

It’s a calming view.

The mountains and the faraway sea are deeply in love, quietly courting each other. The late afternoon sun gleams wide over the sea, spreading its warmth all over. The valley is a shade card of all the green and hay that you will ever see in your life. Little sparkling silver streams line the ridges of the mountains, playful and eager to trek downhill. The leaves on the tall trees that line the mountain walls are a lush green, fresh, wet from a recent rain. You are driving through the road, angle-sliced on the mountain’s slope, in your car, cruising at a comfortable uniform speed along the locus, lost in happy peaceful thoughts, one with yourself and with the world that allows you to be such. One hand on the steering wheel, the other resting on the window, elbow sneaking out just that little bit, feeling the moist misty breeze. You almost don’t need to pay attention to the many curves, the slight turn on the steering comes to you naturally.

That, is the experience that a good writer allows his readers.

Amit, in spite of being stood up up the last time, has tagged me on this Writer’s Meme. As some of you are aware, I never refuse tags, yet that one instance that I did, haunts me like the stigma that a criminal – willing to reform – carries. Society, will never allow me to integrate and be one with society. One slip-up, just one slip-up. Nope, not ducking this one. Like Amit, I followed the link back in blog-time to understand the nature of tag, which, I must admit has become slightly open to interpretation regarding the presentation. I’ll just write about writing, perhaps I am looking to get there, perhaps I have admired a few writers’ styles, perhaps I write like that.

It’s almost obvious, but structure and grammar are important. There are many arguments going in favour of the SMS language, for example, and I don’t quite disagree with it, yet there has to be a common minimum ground when communicating. There is a difference between writing to someone telling them that you will meet them somewhere and expressing a thought. If you are in the IT industry, you will remember the analogy they used to help us understand TCP/IP. My car comes to a screeching halt when I have to take a detour into the mind of a writer and wonder what was really intended. Then I have to make an assumption. Somewhere along the reading, I have to correct or reset those assumptions. That makes for bad reading (and therefore, bad writing). Till, A Bridge Across Forever, Richard Bach’s writing was the smoothest I ever experienced.

Conviction in one’s words is a good quality to have when writing something. Be it an office email or objectivist-philosophy. Tentativeness in a writer doesn’t make for good reading. What I call ‘padding’ is a big turn off and is the same as driving on a pot-holed road on a rainy night with squeaky wipers. Unnecessary words and contexts used to fill-in matter. I see that a lot in everyday writing. For that reason perhaps, I have started appreciating some of the writing skills of a few of the British columnists. Writing with conviction is very different from “writing to convince”, mind you. It is often easier to disagree with a writer who writes with conviction, because the clarity shines through. Ayn Rand is one writer who wrote with such conviction and clarity. No wonder there is a very small number of people, if at all, who sit on the fence about her ‘way of thinking’.

Amit has already a post up about Brown Writing, which is not about the writing skills of the British Prime Minister. Colonialism in language, you see, will take a while to be eradicated – till the kids who learn non-colonial English start teaching in schools, and till these kids start writing. I am somehow reminded of English, August by Upamanyu Chatterjee. However, I think it is wrong to ask Indians to write in a region-neutral/culture-neutral way. The essence of your writing is your ability to express your observation in your context. I believe that writer is the richest in her writing when there isn’t a conflict with readership demographics (the ‘will they relate’ dilemma). Sacred Games, by Vikram Chandra is one book that I have admired for that reason (there is of course a whole lot more to admire in that book). He refuses to provide a glossary of Mumbai-isms; refuses to even italicise them where they appear. So you perhaps have a lot of non-Indian readers searching for Mumbai profanity on Wikipedia. Take any -ism and that is what makes the writer, the writer she is. Take the -ism out and you have an unimaginative translator.

A picture is worth a thousand words. If those thousand words are well chosen and well crafted, give me the words – anytime. As a visual person, I have great regard and respect for writers who are masters of imagery. Who are able to build the image with words, rather than colours. As a writer you don’t have to detail out the colour of the couch or the texture of the upholstery. Yet, some writers make visual magic with less than thousand words. Shakespeare is the one magician who rules this show. Sometimes, he uses less than a hundred words, to tell, not of a picture, but of a thousand pictures. That is also one of the reasons, I always prefer to read a book first, if there is a movie based on it. It’s easier that way. All through The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri, I had my own personal DVD being authored in my head. Even after having seen the movie, I am glad, my movie is still doing well at the box-office.

Some writing, however, is sheer pleasure that is beyond explanation and analysis. Perhaps a combination of all the above and the various things that bloggers before me have mentioned, when they took this meme. Humour has a large role to play in such writing. Most of all, however, it has to be human.

This is such a wonderful tag to do. So much better than the 10-things-about-you kind! Thank you, Amit, and I do hope you will be more generous when you tag me next time! I hope I have done justice.

Every tag deserves TLC (Tender Loving Care), and I know a few who will do just that:(in alphabetical order):

Bum Bum Bhole

Mostly Barefoot | Delivered

Murighonto | Delivered

Muse Cruise

South of the Border, West of the Sun

Sacred Games

IMG_1013

Either I am suddenly being a sucker for books or too much of a coincidence seems to be the new pollen of this summer. (is there anything called a quadincidence?)

In a month I have devoured four books, the 947th page of the last book, flipped shut a while ago, and I was unceremoniously brought back with a thud to my real world . But the pollen-like omnipresent coincidence is not just in the reading or theme of the books – it is in the fact that I loved all four of them!

You have of course read my feeble attempt at the review for South of the Border, West of the Sun, by Haruki Murakami which I wrote a month ago. It was closely followed by a feebler attempt of A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian, by Marina Lewcka. After these there were some loose flings and one-night stands with a couple of other books; then a week ago, I finished The Average American Male, by Chad Kultgen and a while ago, Sacred Games, by Vikram Chandra.

There is one prevalent theme in The Average American Male and Sacred Games – the language. Real world – as it happens. Offensive and loaded with expletives; swearwords and recurrent profanity. Disgusting, if you have relatively inflexible standards for good language. If not, they do make for good great reading.

The first generalises characters through a specific character. The Average American Male will no doubt evoke indignation from female readers. It is a funny book. Even if your sentiments are violated, you wouldn’t be able to stop that one smile escape sneakily. I’ll repeat myself:

The most interesting ‘story’ I have read in recent times. The presentation is just too mind-numbing. I have been in splits for a long while after I finished reading the book. Really very funny! This is a definite read – but be careful of not taking it too seriously, and be even more careful of taking it seriously!

Sacred Games, however, is a different game altogether. The characters are very real. And I mean “real”. Whether by design or otherwise, there isn’t a huge cover up about where the inspiration came from. You can’t but help draw parallels from the dramatis personae (when was the last time you saw a dramatis personae?) and the sights and sounds of those places that you experience everyday. Especially if Mumbai is your home, even if it is temporary. Mumbai reverberates throughout the book. I felt the same when reading Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts, yet Shantaram is a “true story,” so in that sense, it is different. Yet, Sacred Games came across more as a true story than Shantaram did.

There are some obvious Genghis Khan (John Man) ‘patterns’ in the book. I am sure of that. I have read both books. I am sure Vikram Chandra has too – and he has used it with flair and to good effect.

The Guardian review says:

What with international espionage, gangster chronicle and police procedural themes, it looks as if Sacred Games is going to be something of a boy’s book. So it is for the first couple of hundred pages and then Chandra begins to build up the female roles. He finds significant tasks for these characters in the plot, but also enjoys their worlds in themselves…

It is far from a boy’s book. Though I’d hazard a guess why it may be perceived so – mafia, espionage, counter-espionage, double-crossing, murder, sex, yachts and such – yet I believe he has been able to take the reader beyond it. The language however is a possible put-off – as I said earlier – to someone who gets easily offended (but in that case, you could get offended by just living in this city!)

I won’t deny it – I thoroughly enjoyed it. The masala elements are all there. It is almost a Hindi Movie. Action, emotion, romance, drama – there are even songs in it! And then, when was the last time RAW was ‘used’ in an international espionage fiction? But this book is beyond espionage. It is beyond the city. It is beyond fictional characters modelled on real-world characters. It is beyond what the Guardian review calls “an epic thriller which doubles as an anatomy of modern India.” (This is just one small spoke in the wheel in modern India) Even with its never-ending 947 pages, the presentation of a thriller is refreshing. The standard pace of a conventional thriller is conspicuously missing. At each climactic point Vikram Chandra withdraws, teases you for a long time, yet brings you back contentedly where you would have wanted to be. The drama of the entire story is in its intermittent absence.

With a little bit of an open mind, I leave it to you to discover yourself agreeing a little bit with everyone in the book yet keep your beliefs intact.

Shaping a Thought

I condemned a recent draft to eternal damnation.

It is easy to write impulsively – what we often call spontaneous writing. It often makes for good reading. But it has its limitations. Like a flight with failed engines it lands with a thud, a lump of battered metal, yet tangible as can be. It isn’t a smooth flight, with a smooth landing on the tarmac, its perspective complete and intact. If we linger in and around the thought for a bit, we could give it a much broader sense. Not a general sense, a broader sense. A wider PoV

For a long time I have been intrigued by Plato’s definition of shape. Before you read further, it may be worthwhile to think about it for a while.

What is shape?

Writes, The Imugi:

And like everything else, definition implies borders.

Now I have dwelled on this line and the paragraph that it heralds, for quite a while. Recent events and thoughts around them have probably helped shape meaning. The worst definition we can ever create – is for thinking. That definition is often called process. It is not, yet we use it as such. Beyond a wide channel of a guideline, a process isn’t anything more. And it never can be the definition of a thought. Of all things that can never take shape – it is thought and the ability to think. I have, over some time now, come to hate the phrase – thought process. It reeks of the rotting death of creativity and intelligence.

Here is the entire paragraph that has knotted the neurons to numbness since this post about the Philosophy of Blogging was written:

And like everything else, definition implies borders. As it becomes more clear just what this blog is, it also becomes more clear as to what it is not. It’s like Zhuangzi’s story about the musician: before any song is played, before any strings are touched, there’s a strange kind of perfection. It is the perfection of potential; any number of songs are present in potentia. Once you begin to play, however, that changes. One possibility from the infinite possibilities is selected; it is actualized. And once it is, the possibility of the others vanishes. There are borders now, and with borders there is differentiation. The musician is playing this tune, and not that one. Whereas before all of them blended together in the silence which contains the potential for all kinds of sound.

Shape is the limit of a solid, says Plato. I like to think of it more as, shape is the limit of form. (PDF of the entire dialogue: Plato’s Meno)

Is there, then, an entity that we could call a “well-formed thought”? I do not think so, what is well formed is the action, which is a derivative of that thought. The original thought itself is formless, shapeless and therefore limitless. A process imposes restrictions on further flight to a thought – crashes it down to the ground in a lump of often half-cooked tangible action. Like the tune that was played as against the one that wasn’t, we have a thought that was prematurely brought to life and made into default lumpy action rather than a relevant well-shaped one.

It may seem that I ask that all thoughts continue their flight of fancy without ever requiring them to culminate into action. Not so. The thought’s flight gives it perspective – and a better chance at well-shaped action, rather than an amorphous one dictated by the relatively narrow channel that a process defines. A few border crossings do not violate a process, yet they allow a better chance at deliberate and directed action.

A process is only useful if its purpose is known. A thought, every time it is weighed with apprehension, weakens its wings and limits its flight.

Good Evening

Of the splurge three days ago, one book winsomely managed to snuggle in between two other books I am reading (and haven’t finished yet).

It is not often that book comes and shakes you awake from the slumber of everyday usualness. I don’t mean those changes clanging about around you morphing your personality into some future permanence. No I don’t mean books like Atlas Shrugged. I mean the gentle awakening in the morning, where you do choose to take the sheets off your eyes and take the pain to open you eyes to the light that beckons. Perhaps walk over to the balcony, feel and smell the fresh air. This is a book of that genre.

I don’t review books very well. I don’t recommend books even – and for that matter I don’t take recommendations often. Books mean different things to different people, usually that meaning is inscrutable. The last time I recommended a book, my friend thought that Papillon was a general escape story; the last time I bought a book recommended by someone, I am trying hard to dispose Rich Dad Poor Dad (If no one takes it – it’s going out of the window).

Books make their own choices about you, Like AFJ says used to say, the book chooses you.

And AFJ is the reason I bought South of the Border, West of the Sun (Haruki Murakami). I’ll admit I didn’t know that this was a title of the book until three days ago, never having even taken the pain to read her archives. (She does have a review, I find today)

When I wrote a silent prayer three days ago, I really meant it. More because I wanted to stop buying and read the few that I bought.

We all use the comment form to say what we think of posts that fellow-bloggers write. God, I guess has his own super-methods to comment on posts, with a sense of humour, even. Guess he wanted me to have a nice day – at night. It’s about half-past three in the morning here, west of the world where the sun has started the day for my love, hopefully woken her up. It is nice and bright all over – here, even while the sun is there.

In an hour I’ll see the sun here in the east, west of you, anyway! All’s nice and bright.

Blogging Being

IMG_5101 - Version 2

I like to believe in coincidences. That way it is easier to deal with happenstance than dissect and analyse the ‘bigger scheme‘ of things that we aren’t privy to.

A couple of days ago I found great food for thought (as much as I was tempted to say food for blog, I shall let the cliché survive) on Lorelle’s recent Blog Challenge post. Just the thought sounded yummy and I said so. But I had no idea what definition I would give. I had shied away from it some time ago, when I had asked the same question to a few bloggers. Blogging means a whole lot of things to me and at the time I put my comment on her post, all those meanings were happily rioting against the floodgates that barricade my otherwise unruly thoughts.

Coincide the above with: The day after I did AFJ’s tag, I thought I would give the ‘answer‘ to the tag. But no, it wasn’t meant to be. I ended up running from here to nowhere via everywhere including WordPress WordPress Support. (The fine folks I always talk about). The problem was quickly resolved. Now, the response post wasn’t critical. At all. It could have been posted even after this post – it wouldn’t have mattered. But just the thought of not being able to post on my blog…!
Blogging doesn’t define me (and thankfully so; given the fifteen-odd blogs that I presumably “write”, I would be easily diagnosed with multiple – (and somewhat split) personality syndrome). I do, however, define blogging, and yet the definition is elusive. I talk of the kind of definition that we have all grown accustomed to.

x is y with z features.

A few of you who have been long-standing victims of my obsession with words, meanings and contexts will know my dilemma. What meaning do you ascribe to something like blogging? It is always easier, I believe, to derive meaning of multiple contexts, and blogging lends itself just fine to multiple contexts.

Blogging is spaces. It is about the spaces that we inhabit, in the world or the worlds that we create for ourselves. We believe we know our space, we are protective about it, often possessive about it. A blog becomes just that and a bit more. It allows for a meandering exploration along those in-between white spaces in between our worlds; those that we don’t often notice and hardly care for. When we are in the white space, when we see from that vantage, we see a lot of colour. There is a vigorous sense of being alive.

Blogging is fear. It is about two types of fear. One that we are able to overcome, often through anonymous blogging, a way for expressing that the otherwise imposed social rules of engagement do not allow us to. This is not floccinaucinihilipilification. Some of the best bloggers are anonymous and it doesn’t change a thing about the beauty and insight in their writing. At the same time, blogging causes fear. Well, fear is too strong a word, but after a while the material attachment to the post-count, comments, stats and therefore the readers, brings a tense sense of holding on. The blog becomes as human as we are. It has flesh and blood – and it has feelings. The cycle continues.

Blogging is judgement. Of every word that dims a few pixels on your screen. Of every post that was born of a thought that refused to disintegrate and crumble at the feet of your neurons; that insisted on being born. Of every reader who reads your post and says something, or doesn’t. Of the blog round the corner that often times does a tad better than my blog. Of the blog round the corner that often times does a tad worse than my blog. In these hallowed halls, where you become the judge and the accused in half-duplex, all is seen through a discerning eye. All is sliced up and spiced up, and given a permanent place, assigned a value.

Blogging, however, is mostly expression. An otherwise delinquent thought becomes a well-behaved angel and sits smartly in a post. And a million such, together create that wonderful experience that is not the author; the blog is seldom the author – it is the author’s projection of colourful thoughts like a festive London Eye on a moonless night, spinning at its own happy whim and in its own blissful frenzy.

And yet I haven’t done any justice to what blogging means to me. The most important context of it all; the most elusive: a blog’s cajoling nature that urges you to articulate more and articulate better (which has yet to work perfectly for me, what with the high level of abstraction that my discrete words adorn).

Ever had a dream, when you felt that you were in a deep dark abyss, falling and rising at the same time, lit up at both ends? Then you know what I mean.

Make the Shift

Make the Shift

Yesterday, after the “official” launch of the Second Version, I was chatting with my artist friend about the blog. She continued for a long time about her views on Food 2.0: socially relevant and pertinent comments. After a while I asked her to comment on the post – because I thought it was a very interesting thought. But she wanted to complete the idea. When she eventually did, I asked her to write a reference post on her blog (it would have been a very long comment). Of course, she declined, insisting that the instant messenger was more interactive than blog posts and comments.

She isn’t the first one.

I have asked many people I know to write a blog, or if they already have one, to write more. Some hesitate, because they think they aren’t as good writers. Then there are those who just don’t have the time. For those who think they aren’t good writers – I don’t have a huge argument. Either it is a level of inferiority complex or it is just an excuse. I have known most of them and I know how well they write – when the have to. Blogging, to me, has nothing to do with wonderful and correct writing (though it is helpful); it is a wonderful platform to share ideas.

For those who just don’t have the time, I suggest you read this and the linked post. It may seem radical to an extent, but there is a good idea somewhere there if you are willing to catch it.

What frighteningly amuses me is when I wonder if the corollary to “I am too busy to blog” is “I don’t have a lot of work.”

Second Version

About eleven months ago, I talked of my obsession of creating new blogs going unchecked. Since then I started yet another blog, which I didn’t advertise a lot at all. But then – there wasn’t much to write about it – it didn’t have a genre as my other blogs apparently have.

And I sometimes think that I take the statement from the WordPress folks too seriously when they say, “There is no limit to the number of blogs you can have, so create to your heart’s content, but blog responsibly.

So this time, though I have started a new blog, I haven’t started it; we have. Robert and I have been talking about interesting things for a while. And we thought we would involve you in our often but not always silly thoughts.

To all things, there is always a Second Version.

We hope you enjoy it.

Presentation in Particular

Being judged, whatever that means, based on your grammar is not a good thing. Especially if a missing comma shunts you to the category of a careless writer, or an expressionless one.

Good grammar and good sentence construction is more than showing off your un-split infinitives or un-dangling participles. Those who show off their grammatical skills are nothing but semi-colon bullies. In fact, I believe the more grammatical tools you use; the less you end up making meaning. There is good reason I believe this and let me tell you why. It’s a progression of sorts.

First, the writer becomes obsessed with good grammar, often to an extent, that the idea hardly gets any attention. The idea may be a great one or not – but it hardly matters then, when the structure becomes more important than the concept. You’d argue that a strong structure is important to hold the concept – or something like that. I’d agree, but if the concept isn’t expressed well, then, any strength in the structure is just a show of strength – nothing else.

Secondly, grammatical structures are often seen as rigid and uncompromising – as if bending the rule occasionally will be cause for long-term stigma. More often than not, the grammatical structure become so embedded in any expression, we begin using them automatically – almost absent-mindedly. This time, the concept suffers because of an incorrect structure to support it.

Finally the presentation of the concept and the concept itself become a blur. While I can’t understand XML to save my life, the reason I like XML and understand the power it holds for good expression, is exactly that – it separates the content and the presentation. Now, it would be too technical if I started explaining what it is and how it works, and it would be better that you head off here to know more about it, but I believe the logic of it.

Bad presentation draws focus on itself; relegates the concept behind the curtain. Bad alignment, missing commas, incorrect choice of words, no spacing between sentences or paragraphs, gaudy colours, txt spk (but that’s just me), or the marriage of serif and sans serif fonts, are all presentation demons that vie for and crowd the spotlight.

Presentation is best when you can’t see it. It helps a concept achieve nirvana.

An Obscure Death

I may soon lose my power of expression. The very thing that I work hard to improve through my blog(s).

A few words I know are becoming extinct – getting closer to where some of their comrades lie in peace. But it is not words I fear for. Expression itself is under threat. We are dealing with our over-sensitiveness in an otherwise desensitised world, dealing with the need to be politically correct in an otherwise wrong world. Words aren’t, in that sense, dying a natural death. They are rotting through misuse. “Acceptable words” are in a ruling minority – the clan of the hypernyms. We don’t need a whole lot of words because we are willing to understand a whole less than we did before.

We are creating shortcuts and templatised responses for most expressions – if something falls outside this predefined set, then it’s easier to say that we don’t understand or, better still, take offence. Few are able to say what they mean; fewer know the meaning of what they say.

In a world that is freer than it was a few hundred years ago, we are now enslaved by the fear of exercising that very freedom. The web and the Internet have progressed to the next version – this is Expression 2.0.

The rules of expression are changing, even if they didn’t exist in the first place.

Old Man; Old Pack Horse

A long, almost white, beard flowing down to the table. He was looking straight ahead at infinity along the plane of the half empty ale that he had apparently finished. An ornithologist perhaps or a physicist who had that question about quantum physics – a metaphysical question about the sense of existence – possibly questioning his own and of this young man who observed him in a fleeting moment as he walked past him. He is probably a photographer, I imagined – romantically seeing myself a few years from now – as much as I hate to have a bald head.

While my good friend and I were discussing the nature of conflict and delving into the past to find an answer that would somehow make us even more agitated (though that wasn’t the purpose) as the evening came to a close, in the Old Pack Horse, he seemed to be looking at the future.

Old age, we have all come to believe, looks towards the past for answers, even consolation, about the present. In this case, it seemed exactly the opposite – the young were analysing history – forming a context of the present on that basis – and looking towards multiple indeterminate futures. He seemed to be able to look towards the future just like that.

It’s not just experience – which he seemed to have loads of – that enabled looking into the future – neither is it divine intervention – an inexplicable phenomenon that allows visions into the future. It is one thing to look into the future – yet another to determine it.

On the large wooden table, the single figure, the pint glass half-filled, his ragged clothes exuding a confidence that even a Savile Row suit could not. It was some sort of a fishing jacket – the ones with more pockets than you need. From his left, through a stained glass in an ornately decorated frame, the late night sun cast hesitant shadows across his glass, made the smoke from his cigarette seem as fluid as his thoughts – shades of grey that I had never noticed. I didn’t notice his eyes; I often do not – because the face is a more comprehensive expression than just the eyes. Yet his eyes were resolute in looking to whatever he was looking at – no wavering, no blinks, no hesitation.

Is it possible that such an expansive thought can be captured in a passing moment?

There must be some reason that some images speak with you, even, if unfortunately, you don’t ever capture them on camera.

Ways of Seeing – 2

Ways of Seeing

John Berger, in his book, “Ways of Seeing,” tells of the story about the Original Sin

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig-leaves together and made themselves aprons….

He then asks:

“What is striking about this story?”

To which he immediately responds:

“They became aware of being naked because, as a result of eating the apple, each saw the other differently. Nakedness was created in the mind of the beholder.”

The book, as you may have guessed from the title, if you haven’t already read it, is about the role of perception in the way we “see” things. If you are an artist, whether of pastels, paints or photographs, it is a philosophical treatise of knowing you, it and them.

You – the artist, knowing your art, it – the art, as you made it and them – the audience who make sense, or not, of your art-work.

The book talks of the visual arts, and the first words after the title, “Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.” on the cover page, of the book say it all. But, words, written or said, are equal victims of perception. In the same book,

The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set, we know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight. The Surrealist painter Magritte commented on this ever-present gap between words and seeing in a painting called The Key of Dreams.

However, elsewhere,

We rarely see a photograph in use which is not accompanied by writing: in newspapers the image is in most cases subordinate to the text; in advertising and illustrated magazines there tends to be a more or less equal distribution of text and images; in art and amateur photography the image predominates, though a caption or title is generally added. But the influence of language goes beyond the fact of the physical presence of writing as a deliberate addition to the image. Even the uncaptioned photograph, framed and isolated on a gallery wall, is invaded by language when it is looked at. (Victor Burgin, ‘Photography, Phantasy, Function’, in V. Burgin ed., Thinking Photography (London, 1982), p.192.)

No medium, visual or otherwise can ever portray the exact intended meaning. The intended meaning may not have been as discrete, in the first place, the way an audience seeks it. The purpose is to derive meaning. Pastels, paints, photographs, paragraphs and phrases are just the vehicles that carry the meaning – the ability to derive meaning then, rests solely on the spectator. In college, a professor of philosophy was the director for a one-act play. It was an abstract play – and the fact that it was in Marathi further aggravated my ability to make sense of it. After picking on a few friends’ brains and having at least got the basic meaning of the words, I asked the professor-director – what the play was really about.

An artist is not obliged to explain his work of art.

In those days, when I didn’t look beyond the obvious, this statement from him was profound. A bit egotistic perhaps, profound nevertheless. It almost became a dogma; since then I have never asked an artist, “…but what does it mean.” Over the years, I have since added on to the truism that the audience exercises an almost equal power, if not more, over the meaning and interpretation of art. Yet, the artist still somehow rules over the audience. The audience is more desirous of getting the meaning that the artist has portrayed than making their own meaning. In abstract art, as the meaning becomes even obscure, the audience delves into the life and background of the artist and attempts to extract meaning from there. A prolonged and often futile act, because such a context may have no basis about the meaning of the art-work itself: it may potentially distort the meaning.

The artist’s life now becomes the context of the art-work.

It happens in life too; in the potentially wrong context (usually the past) the “artists” life so dominates the context for the “spectator” that the current expression in itself is denied any value.

And that’s where meaning loses its meaning.

And 300, It Is

It’s like a dash – the last reserves of your energy to get there – to the ribbon. The exhilarating feel of the ribbon on the chest – in days to come: the invisible cut of the infra-red beam by the first cell of your body that severs it.

The tea-maker told me a hundred posts ago that I had cheated – and I shall indulge in such cheating once again, this time five more times than the last time. Technically, I have possibly crossed the 300th, because WordPress failed to import a few posts from February 2006. But I am neither complaining nor disclaiming. You could say I am getting better at cheating.

It’s almost a burden – when you are just a few steps away from the milestone. Better get it off you chest.

But I want to rest a while. Do things that are equally as close to heart.

I read a lot about blogging – as a phenomenon, as a tool, arguments for and against it. I talked with a few people about the meaning of it all – and their perceptions. I have questioned myself enough about the purpose – because I am a firm believer in purpose.

And I stumbled on posts like this. I found kindred spirits.

In the recent past, most of my posts have abstracted themselves out of the context in which they were conceived. I have been questioned about that. Even blamed of the potential nonsensical-ness of it all. The comments have been waning. If there is pleasure in incidents and gory details of who said what – then there is always the movie gossip magazine. I once began writing a post which now has twelve words of unfinished text after I read this post that referred to this post. I don’t think I make a difference to the world. This blog is too inconsequential to be able to do that. Most blogs are. What my blog does however, is make a difference to who I am and how I see things. It allows me to express what I think, know from others what they think about what I think. It provides me a way to fine tune my thinking. To recalibrate my notions of things. Its one thing to have a thought – a completely different to be able to express it in the right way.

A small digression here: making a difference is often not a conscious choice. It comes out of a context. Imagine Mahatma Gandhi wasn’t thrown out of a train in South Africa. It’s almost destiny; (as much as I hate to admit it) the trigger is what helps make a difference.

Those rare days, when that one spike in a WordPress blog stat graph nearly touches the sky, and yet is pulled down by the day before and the day after. The one day Gaizabonts was featured on Desipundit. It’s as my artist friend tells me – huge canvases – those are the ones that sell.

The mark of how much your blog is your personal diary vs. an expression for others to see is the number of times that you go to your blog and check the stats and your sitemeter and such. What would we be if we just spoke with ourselves – where and what would be the significance of Web 2.0?

Blogging in isolation of the world to see and respond to is a thought. I wonder then, why such blogs aren’t private. All blogging services offer that. I enjoy the adulation I get out of blogging; I won’t deny it.

30-odd years of life and only 300 thoughts in three years (and a bit) is not a call for celebration, what is, however, is that this is a beginning. 4000, perhaps in the next. Wishful thinker.

I’ll see you after a while. Maybe short, maybe long, but a while it will be.

Cheers!

Any Given Day, Actually

Folks who have been reading Gaizabonts for some time now know the tumultuous relationship I have with words. Love them hate them, but can’t do without them. And sometimes words just take up a different altitude altogether. They achieve such heights in our hearts and create magic in our minds that they stay there forever, their sheer utterance (remembrance even) brings tears, gives us goose pimples, makes our hearts miss a beat.

These words are the perfect expression of what we feel. Not many words do that. Not many wordsmiths can bring such words together. Every so often, however, such words are strung together; the wordsmith working at his trade with providence, oblivious of the world, his heart almost bleeding out on the paper.

I was speaking with a friend today and we were talking about people – and we talked about behaviour and character. One is superficial, the other profound, I said, or something to that effect (words failed me, then). Words are the same, I guess, in some way. They have an obvious meaning – like in the dictionary and another, which we need to make for ourselves. What we remember, is often a factor of the meaning we make. Words, by themselves, don’t remain with us for long, if they do not appeal to our sense of meaning.

Some words, some times, have to make meaning to more than one person. And they have to mean the same thing to all.

Now that’s a tall order.

You’ll know what I mean, if you see the video below. (Some strong language, to good effect, I may add). It also happens to be the first time; I ever posted a YouTube video on this blog.