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Mon, 29 Aug 2005:

Reading is one my favourite things to do - ever since being forced to lie in my bed for a summer when my family was having a serial attack of Chicken Pox. It started with me - so I was pushed to a room and lying there thinking of castles, woods and running animals, listening to the kids play cricked in my backyard. Then my sister caught it, then the rest of the crowd dropped pretty quickly. So there I was, perfectly healthy and cleansed of all filth I've been feeding myself, thanks to a strict diet of rice with curd,chopped carrots and beetroots mixed with a little lime juice and absolutely no salt.

Anyway, we didn't have cable TV at that time and the thing we did have was a 3x5 foot shelf full of books - from a couple of decaying P.G Wodehouse from the 1940's to Mahabharata in 10 volumes. I got reading and by the end of the summer my brain was exploding with shakespearian prose, wodehousian puns mixed with a greek rendition of mahabharata with the sounds of brass hitting steel.

The defining nature of good fiction is this - The good won, the wicked was punished and everyone else lived happily ever after - it makes you want the underdog to win, the goliath to fall and the boy to get the girl. The Hero despite his failings wins and you feel that you can do the same.

In my list of authors to worship, I've put Douglas Adams on top, Wodehouse a rung below and Frank Herbert on a totally different ladder at the top. I mean anyone who could think of Aorist Rods or Agrajag is someone to worship on a pedastal - Wodehouse wrote too much to actually provide such distilled jokes.

Now I've put two more authors on my list - Tom Holt and Terry Pratchett to the list. Tom Holt is a little bit more sedate of the two, but his Grail Blazers is about Knights who deliver pizzas or the Mirrors 3.1 used by the evil queen which gets hacked by humans and such higher level paradoxes which are funny in their own right. Terry Pratchett is funnier closer up - here's a quote:-

One reason for the bustle was that over large parts of the continent 
other people preferred to make money without working at all, and since 
the Disc had yet to develop a music recording industry they were forced 
to fall back on older, more traditional forms of banditry.

These guys are amazingly hilarious - especially when read in the light of two candles on a dark night after your UPS has run down its battery. What's even more interesting is that these guys actually make some sense - like Douglas Adams did.

You should not use magic because you can't .. you should not magic because you can.

Denying a temptation is the most powerful thing any man can do. Ever seen what a pretty girl does when you actively ignore her ?. First she ignores you, then she tries to get your attention and then finally she'll confront you. Anyway - there's no other way to get them to talk to you first ;)

Anyway - I read, and I read those books last week and I like them - which is what I said about in so many sentences.

By the way, I suggest you read Saki's Shock Tactics or Jerome K Jerome's Three men in a boat (to say nothing of the dog). I think the latter as one of the best book with the most stories in it. Never has digressions taken such a wild ride - I admire Douglas Adams for his digressions, but it can't be said enough that Jerome K Jerome invented that, pretty much from scratch.

That trout lay shattered into a thousand fragments -
I say a thousand, but they may have only been nine hundred.
I did not count them.

Mark Twain's quotes and Oscar Wilde's Model Millionaire are all treasured peices in my memory. All of these are works of art beyond the words they are written - they are more than just sum of the words they are written in. The underlying joke is already in our heads, they just tickle it to make us laugh. That is what makes these the Gods of English literature - they play to the gallery and not to the front row.

posted at: 17:01 | path: /slashdot | permalink | Tags:

Wed, 24 Aug 2005:
I've been watching some episodes of The Coupling, and all I can say is Wow !. These guys are the ultimate sit-com I've ever seen - Subtle and funny. The kind of show you could watch with a six year old and the kid wouldn't understand anything, while you'll be on the floor rolling. It is all about context and referential humor. For example one swallow doesn't make a summer can mean a couple of things.

Also it sticks to my favourite character types - fumbling hero, sure and confident heroine, the strange side-kick and a attention-drawing companion. In H2G2 - Arthur, Trillian, Ford and Zaphod. Here it is Steve, Susan, Jeff and Patrick in those roles. The mix is almost too rich till you add two crazy women to compensate for the guys.

The comedy is unfortunately very surreal - you can't quote it without explaining the context which sort of destroys the joke. The story proceeds from all direction and sort of joins up by the end of the episode. Adult themes are rampant including political jokes : what revolution ?. you guys are in power now. We're the rebels now. and lots more jokes which the British-illiterate won't get.

To top it all off - the show actually has no sex. No, nude women or even semi-nude ones. Just suggestions - like a bunch of remotes with no batteries.

Susan: oh, the batteries must have run out.
* Steve looks inside the remotes
Steve: they appear to have also climbed out.
Susan: hold on a tick, I think I know where I put them
* Susan goes into the bedroom

Now think about it - were they in her alarm clock or her flash light ?. You see the subtlety in the word-play ?. Some stuff is unimitably funny. Here's steve trying to pass off some porno as just being erotica (as in having a plot that cannot be expressed in diagrams).

Jill: Do these movies have plots too ?.
Steve: They are mostly mood peices.
Susan: expressionistic ?
Steve: yes.. yes
Jeff: at the top of their voices
Steve: Jeff, you can stop helping now.

I am pretty sure that if Douglas Adams mixed sex into his books (other than the part about "Thor and Trillian up in the bedroom" , which thor promptly explains as "I was weighing her, flying is a tricky business"). And made a screen play out of it for TV, this is pretty much what you get. It's got the word play, the personalities and just a hint of reality to make it appeal to the loser in us (really, I like Jeff).

All in all, I suggest you read the title again and think what I was talking about.

posted at: 14:27 | path: /slashdot | permalink | Tags:

Tue, 09 Aug 2005:
I am currently reading a lot of evolutionary science from Richard Dawkins - The Selfish Gene and A Devil's Chaplain. I have much to agree with most of what he says, especially this - science brings to you the awe of knowledge about how something as blunt, cruel and wasteful as natural selection can produce a work of art like the cheetah or the gazelle.

Even more wonderful are his disagreements with Stephen J Gould about what progressive evolution means. Evolution in itself has no purpose - except when dealing with arms race between two evolving species. This is a faux-purpose, which is indirectly influenced by the success of these against each other. Eyes vs Camofluage is the topic of the book Seven Deadly Colors.

Now, where do I disagree. There's a brave man called John Diamond who died of cancer - he wrote "Even cowards get cancer" about how he resisted the whiles of alternative medicine. But what Dawkins fails to see is the power of the placebo - why homeopathy cures people, or why crystals cure cardiac arrythmia. It's been technically proven that placebos work.

Or on the topic of GM seeds. The point where I draw the line at GM is when the companies operate their production from opaque laboratories. I wouldn't mind if I could get and understand the mutations in the GM rice. But until the companies come out into the open and don't club their own employees into acceptance of ethcially unacceptable risks - I'll continue to oppose them very much. Dawkins is not being very pragmatic when he assumes the corporate world speaks the truth - he's too deep into academia to assume that someone would lie about this.

All in all Evolution is a beautiful concept in biology - so sad that I learnt about it after school. I could have made life interesting for my teachers.

posted at: 18:29 | path: /slashdot | permalink | Tags: