Category Archives: Randomness

Testing

Just testing the ‘post by email’ feature. Let’s see how this does bold and italics. Here’s a link to get you through the day. A quote from it:

The sources said Helzer apparently tried to kill himself by jamming pens in each of his eyes.

And a picture to look at (a Moon and Ba comic strip):

Why Booksales Are the Devil’s Work. Also? Debit Cards.

NB: I am offering my copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Book 1 for sale. Refer to third paragraph from bottom for details. Sold to the James Hetfield wannabe against one bottle of beer.

I was standing in line at the Landmark check-out counter this evening with my bucketload of books. And this guy rushes to the counter in the other line, plunks down one book (which was *shudder* a Jeffrey Archer) and pays in cash, and I think, money looks very expensive when you see it in pieces. There’s three hundred-rupee bills, and it seems a lot to pay for one book.

My conquests, on the other hand, came to around ten times that. But that was okay, because I was paying by card. So I didn’t actually have to see the swathes of money disappear from my account and reappear across town in somebody else’s.

But, while that gave me pause, I finished my shopping anyway. You know why? Because I was getting them cheap. When my friends talk to me about books, it’s sort of like when men taunt women about buying things they don’t need just because they got them cheap. Actually? It’s exactly like that.

Over the last year, at a variety of booksales, I have bought books that I didn’t need because (a) they were shiny-new, (b) ooh look how much they’re cutting the price – never mind that the books had been rotting in the store till I saw them and would continue to do so if I just left, and (c) it’s still fucking worth it. You buy ten books at the price of four. You like five. You hate two. You give/throw them away. You don’t read three. You’re still up one book.

So essentially, I’m unrepentant. Sue me. So what if I always have less money for food, drinks, clothing and computer peripherals? Thank goodness I don’t have to worry about rent. I’d have been homeless by now. Saving is for wusses. Books are where it’s at.

Speaking of which, today’s haul:

2 copies of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s MirrorMask picture-book. Two different editions, both hard-back. One 7×7, one 10×10. I’m going to give one of these to a friend. But I’m deeply conflicted about the one I should keep. The larger version is, obviously, larger. (L: 1, S: 0) But the smaller version looks more compact and readable for me as an adult, and it has a dust jacket with a rather lovely texture. (L: 1, S: 2) But the smaller one’s cover lists the authors as ‘Creators of the National Bestseller Coraline’, which is not sodding true, and the larger version lists them as ‘Creators of the Bestseller The Wolves in the Wall’, which is. (L: 2, S: 2 minus a very large number) And the larger one would be more readable for my niece. Which shouldn’t really be a consideration because, when she learns to read (years in the future), I’ll give her a separate copy which she can tear up to her heart’s content. So I think I’ll keep the large version and give the small one to my friend, who is an adult, and who’d, I think, like something that wouldn’t break if you sat on it (which is more of a danger with adults than with tots).

I also bought three SFF collections.* Also very cheap (one was for 125, against an original price of more than Rs. 1000). One’s a Best of Fred Pohl (refer to this). I’ve read tonnes of his stuff from the school library, but this is only my second buy, I believe. The first was a novel whose copy was so old that it disintegrated at touch.

* I buy a lot of collections. Because theoretically, it takes less time to read short stories than novels. But only in theory. In practice, I find myself choosing the novels.

One book that I didn’t buy, but which I very much wanted to, was a copy of Jasper Fforde’s Something Rotten, one of my favourite funny books. But I don’t have the rest of his Thursday Next series, and this copy wouldn’t fit in the set when I buy it.** So, in spite of being a hardback at a mere Rs. 200, I forsook it for the eventual, more expensive, matching set.

** They had this copy, and the copy that fits in the set looks like this. Also (psst, psst), that one was a US edition. With, as we all know, spelling mistakes.

And, wonderful person that I am, I bought another copy of the first Hitchhiker’s Guide book. In spite of having a boxset. Well, you see, the boxset is like this: Commemorative Editions of Books 2-5, which consist of a photograph of the first edition cover for each, and matching spines. But Book 1 is a film tie-in edition, with a film tie-in cover, and lots of extras – photos, interviews, notes on the making, all that, including in-depth thoughts on how the Arthur-Trillian romance was the right thing to do (to be brief, it wasn’t) – all of which I didn’t really want. So I had a boxset that didn’t match. You can see my predicament? Today, on the other hand, I found a copy of the first book, which was, wonder of wonders, a Commemorative Edition. With cheesy cover with needless embossing, no extras, and (this is where you can almost hear me having an orgasm) a matching spine!

So I’m going to sell off my copy of the film tie-in edition of the book. Anybody wants to buy it? Make me an offer. Note that this is only Book 1. It’s more-or-less pristine (‘like brand new’ in sales jargon), it has a new cover with a still from the movie, and it comes with lots of nice extras (mainly about the movie) which you might like (but which I didn’t). I’d prefer someone from Pune, of course, but we can work something out. My email ID, as also given in the sidebar, is: adibidi (at) gmail (dot) com. If nobody makes an offer, I will probably give this away to one of my non-H2G2-educated friends.

I think that’s quite enough ranting about booksets. I’m not usually that anal about matching editions. I’ve got a hundred different editions of Stephen King books, for example. And I actually avoid the matching cover editions of Michael Chabon books, because the matching design is printed on paper that gets dirty real fast. But I prefer sets of books which are supposed to be sets – such as trilogies (Samit Basu’s books – which I have signed editions of, by the way – for example, or the Alexander trilogy) or series (Mike Carey’s Felix Castor books, Bone***).

*** This actually only comes in one edition, but I wanted to mention it because I also have signed copies of these books. And I got to meet Jeff Smith. It’s been almost five months and this still makes me break out in a grin.

Fail …?

The city is being prettified these days for the Commonwealth Youth Games. There are shiny new signposts on roads, there are reflective cat’s eyes being pasted at regular intervals so people can see where the road ends at night, and the stripes are being repainted every which way.

Which is all a bit sad, really. This drive to show people that we look good, when, for the rest of the year, they can see that we don’t. We’re not the kind of country where people don’t know what we don’t tell them. Everyone with reasonably clear eyesight sees us as we are. It’s a bit like a chronic drunk suiting up for a wedding party. The clothes might be clean, but the reddened eyes with bags under them and the belly poking out between shirt buttons tell the story.

Some of it is mildly heartening in a sad way. Not all of the new shiny signposts are bilingual, you see. Some of them are written only in Marathi. Which, while unfair, may imply that not all of it is being done for the visitors – some of it is for us. On the other hand, it might just be that somebody in the department plain forgot, or perhaps thought that the money kept aside for the English part of the sign might be put to better use lining his/her own pocket.

***

I went to More the other day, as I sometimes do – mainly because they seem to have lots of useful and useless stuff side by side, which makes pointless shopping easy on the shopper – and I realised they had this odd security check which stank of bureaucratic ineptitude to me.

I did my shopping and came out and reached the security counter (this is the place where you have to put your bags before you go into the store). The guy at the counter there asked me for my bill (and, get this, not for the bag of shopping). He then stamped the bill (without checking it) with a ‘Delivered’ stamp, and gave it back to me.

I am, obviously, at a complete loss to understand what happened. And the same happens in stores all over the city. Is it a holdover from an original plan where the counter was situated inside the store? Is it actually supposed to be a longer process, involving him checking my shopping, but somewhere along the way, the actual relevant step got eliminated? Or is it simply supposed to be a customer mindfuck conspiracy within More? I think I actually like that last idea.

***

A sidenote – I was reading the Discworld Companion last night, and came across this:

Pratchett: … I’m mildly optimistic about Maurice, though, because one guy in Hollywood said ‘no one will want to see a movie about a bunch of rats’. That has the feel of a phrase that he’ll one day regret. You know, like ‘no one will want to see a movie where the ship sinks at the end’.

Ahemheh.

Where We Are

Currently researching the smoking bans around the world for a little project for the evening. Surprisingly, I am fine with most of the bans. Except for the hospitality sector – the blanket ban on that is plain silly. Thank fuck we don’t have those here in India.

But seriously, why do people want to smoke in places where other people also want to be (for whatever demented reasons of their own)? You wouldn’t expect someone to be drunk in the middle of the street or drugged off their tits and it to be considered normal. So what fuckwits are these that think that because smokers don’t usually step in front of cars or wrap their knees around their heads out on the road and scream, “My face! My face! I am a new species of human and I have no face!”, they should be allowed to smoke everywhere?

But yes, there should be places where it’s allowed. And what better places might these be than the ones where you are already indulged in killing an exponentially increasing number of brain cells using fluid that is, in part, poison – i.e., bars? Not all of them. Some might be reserved for those who want to be smashed in one way but not another. Choice, damn it, choice.

***

I am currently sitting next to my window, in the sunshine, with a pair of jeans drying next to me, and I’m thinking it isn’t cold enough. (Paddy, you idiot, global warming!*) Just a few days ago, the temperature went down to five. And while we were frozen**, we just couldn’t resist getting out of the house at 1am, trudging out in the thick, crackling air and getting a hot coffee, y’know, to warm ourselves. And the next day, it wasn’t cold enough anymore.

* In-joke. Ignore.

** Five might not be that cold for some of you (especially one particular overly couth bastard sitting in Manchester), but here, where we are used to having our brains steadily simmering at a temperature slightly above that in a very warm arsecrack, it means it’s cold enough that we could pull our hair out in clumps and it won’t hurt.

We have a theory. Some of my friends (and me) take quite a few trips up and down from Mumbai to here. Every time someone arrives in Pune or leaves, the weather changes. We are like the guy in the fourth Hitchhiker’s book. Except we take it in turns. (I know someone who could turn that sentence into something very dirty. In fact, so could I. You can have your own ideas.)

So one chump from Mumbai went back there, and everything working perfectly dandy till then suddenly went balls-up.

How did I get onto the temperature? Oh yes, it’s 11am, and my pants are drying much faster than they should, and I can barely see the text on the monitor in the sunshine. I draw the curtains, but they blow inexorably and vengefully in my direction, thus forcing me to choose between a literally hot head and a very cluttered, tea-covered desk.

***

(Later the same day, as they say.)

These days, we (my little group of friends and I) are building a picture of the mental culture we inhabit together. We send each other what we find interesting and think the others will as well. We have an idea of the mindspace we share, after several years of feeling our way towards it. It is like a Venn diagram, except it’s a lot more misshapen and organic, which makes it fun. Violent disagreement*, after all, is what fuels discussion. And it is interesting in that the more someone disputes your supreme (as you see it) eligibility to expound on something, the more eligible you become. (This makes it sound somewhat pedestrian, but it’s a lot more sublime than just that. What I want to say is something in the order of: Someone might know better than you something that might fit your mental landscape and enrich it. You are unique, but not as unique as you think you are.)

* This is usually one particular chap, as another pointed out to me just now, but he disagrees violently enough for up to and including two to three average-sized people, so it’s all fine.

So we send each other articles (about culture or about entrepreneurship or something that can vaguely be classified as philosophy), or videos and other net-thingies. It is a little like recommending a song to someone. It never has the exact same effect on everyone (for example, I associate Tom Waits with billowing curtains with the evening sun shining through them – wanna bet you don’t?), but if, somehow, the reaction is as interesting as the one you had, you can compare. And like with recommending a song, it reveals something about you, whether you want it to or not. And we can generally recognise who recommended it by the recommendation itself. Each person’s taste has a pattern to it.

***

Finishing this up at around 1am. Going to Mumbai tomorrow. (Which is why the post is as half-baked as it is. I’m not waiting till next Monday to clean it up.) Will be meeting Samit Basu. Will be attending a concert on a friend’s birthday. Will be meeting family. Will be buying things. Will be roaming around the city aimlessly (there’s a companion, but that doesn’t make it any less void of aim). And then, will get back to lovely little Pune, where the streets have names and that, I assure you, does not magically make them better-paved.

Current Music: Blue States – ‘Metro Sound’ (This is right now. In the afternoon, it was … sigh … the Monkees.)

Me Talk Pretty One Day

For years, we have been mocking Indian English as a bastardisation of the original, as an inept way of saying the same thing while fuddling up the essential structure that gives it meaning. And most examples we see of this gross attack by Indians on the English language (apparently as revenge for the English occupation of our country) seem to justify this rejection of the form as a valid mode of expression.

But this hasn’t dimmed its popularity. The malleability of this hybrid, made of more languages and dialects than one can pinpoint, means that it serves the basic need that makes people use language – to communicate with one another. And while we the purveyors of correctness find it, at times, difficult to comprehend, this might be because of our preconceptions of the language, the ones that force us to use English in one particular manner, exclusive of any other. In general, we even choose (usually consciously) between the two major modes of English accepted worldwide – the English and the American (that these constitute only two is another preconception, which is, in one word, wrong). But this isn’t necessary. For those not entirely proficient with the accepted form of language, it is more important to put forth the thrust of the communication in a way that it can be understood by the target. If it isn’t, they have a hundred other manners of speech to choose from. We, on the other hand, do not. Or we think we do not.

And so the hybrid has grown into what could be classed as a pidgin – if only it could actually be classed. When heard on the street, it picks up on the emphasis on speech rather than the writing, which is manifested in posters that say ‘Child Bear’ when they mean ‘Chilled Beer’. It affords us amusement, but to the person on the street, it signifies [a] intrigue, [b] comprehension (he is, after all, the target) and [c] a drink, cold at that. And while it might be ambiguous when put into writing, it possesses a palpable clarity when spoken. After all, both “Leave me to the corner” and the phrase “corner boys” can actually be understood.

But this is merely work-going (kaam-chalau, as anyone should be able to tell you). The true class of pidgin comes through not when it is forced on the user, but when it is chosen. It is, therefore, the high-school and college students, along with young upcoming professionals, that make it come into its own when they, who should know better, choose to ignore the meepings of self-proclaimed custodians of linguistic purity and tear the language limb for limb and put it back together in an unselfconscious lingua franca that might not rival its parent in elegance, but does possess an underlying sense of humour such that grammarians haven’t spent hundreds of years trying to wipe out.

English is a beautiful language to write in, to read in, and, in fact, even to use. But when it is the mundanities of your day you wish to talk about, such as your mother making a vegetable market of your head, or your tiffin not falling well enough that day (see, in-jokes galore), I prefer the pidgin. And actually, I think linguists should pay a bit more attention to it than they do. Sometimes I swear, if you listen carefully, it’s a language all its own. Mother promise.

Current Music: Richard Galliano – ‘Libertango’

Ten Things

Ten songs to ring in the new year
(First ten songs on shuffle)

  1. Do You Love Me? – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
  2. Little Drop of Poison – Tom Waits
  3. Cold Irons Bound (Live) – Bob Dylan
  4. Carry on Regardless – Van Morrison
  5. Across the Universe – The Beatles
  6. Stranger – Hooverphonic
  7. Rock the Shack – New Order
  8. Spit and Soar – Blue States
  9. Golden Brown – The Stranglers
  10. Till Victory – Patti Smith Group

Ten books to be read in the new year
(Those marked with an * are already in my possession)

  1. Neuromancer – William Gibson *
  2. My Name Is Red – Orhan Pamuk
  3. Crooked Little Vein – Warren Ellis
  4. Lisey’s Story – Stephen King (Oh, fuck you. I like him.)
  5. The Golden Notebook – Doris Lessing
  6. Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. *
  7. The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
  8. Jump – Nadine Gordimer *
  9. The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins
  10. La Symphonie Pastorale – André Gide *

One resolution to be kept in the new year

  1. Write, you bastard.

Family Matters?

When I was a kid, I was entirely unsure that anybody apart from me actually had their very own separate life. When I turned my back, how was I to know that they did not lose their existence? (I thought this up before I knew Descartes existed, and since, according to him, I can’t know he existed … well, you do the math.)

Anyway, discreet investigation cured my of this particular idea, but I am still not entirely sure of one group – my family. My perception of them is so entwined with my time spent with them that I can’t actually think of them as entities separate from my idea of them. That goes mainly for my extended family, but that’s only because my nearest biologicals are close enough to keep a watch on any time I want.

Somehow this idea does not extend to my friend circle, which is intertwined enough for me to know that they probably don’t fashion elaborate fictional histories regarding their interactions for my sole benefit. One can, of course, be paranoid about that as well, but that strikes me a tad unhealthy.

Even the disembodied voices I speak to – the text floating towards me over the internet – have a comparatively real sense of being, while my family manages to be more convincing theoretically than in actual fact.

It is deucedly odd, because I am reasonably sure they do actually exist apart from when I see them. It just doesn’t seem entirely believable, for some reason.