Thursday 31 January 2008

definitions for the perplexed

Teri maa ki: Hindi curse phrase, short for 'teri maa ki chooth'. In English: 'your mother's vagina'.
Cricket: The gentleman's game.
Gentleman: In a wide sense, a man of good education and refined manners. More specifically, one who, by virtue of wealth, family or social position, is given carte blanche to act in a manner reflecting neither education nor manners, without ceasing to be deeemd a gentleman.
Cricketer: Gentleman. See above, and above, and above.

All I want to know is, the next time someone upbraids me for swearing like a herniated sailor on shore leave, can I claim to be a cricketer and receive impunity? 'Coz that would be cool, ya truckermucking wipeassing jiggerpokers!

Tuesday 29 January 2008

51 years on, On The Road still feels immediate, vital and alive.

There's a lot of great writing about jazz, especially about smokey jams by bar bands (with Dean Moriarty always flailing right in front of the soloist, sweating like a pig). Kerouac's prose has a lyric beauty at such times, as also when describing the vast expanses of America he traverses, and the people therein, that has a lot in common with the questing, improvised work of great jazz musicians; it also conceals a honed artistry and forethought in common with these musicians. Some of the passages about a tenorman in full flight could well describe what I've come to understand and infer about Kerouac's own writing style - free-flowing, yes, as spontaneous as certain, sure, but with deep structure and extensive rehersal behind it.

There's an innocence and romanticism in Sal Paradise, at best, a yearning for freedom and fulfillment but also a strange uncertainty about finding it or commiting to it.

Dean Moriarty is a manical, glib-talking, bullshit-spewing phony whose only real distinguishing characteristic is this total lack of self-awareness or inhibition, which made him into something of a force of nature. I wouldn't know how true this is of his original, Neal Cassady. The point is, I've known people like this, and they are tiresome exhibitionists who die badly.

In fact I feel like I know a lot of the people in this book, or at least people just like them. I was never very comfortable with them after the initial buzz of meeting a total spazzing freakazoid. After sometime, you realise they're getting all that energy by leeching it off you.

The Beats had no business being in adult relationships - the greatest tragedy of this book, if taken as roman a clef, is the number of young women who are exploited and cast aside during the course of it.

Kerouac was naive and parochial, and it's not clear how much all his travel really changed that - he is full of stereotypes about African-Americans and Mexicans - fond steretypes as opposed to racist slander - but still, stereotypes.

The scene in the Mexican brothel makes me feel a little sick.

The Beat lifestyle, like the hippy lifestyle it spawned, was a lot of noise, and haze, and filth, and confusion, and hustling, and bullshit, and cliquism and squalor. It did however give people like Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg and others the opportunity to lead interesting lives and use their new freedom to create new ways of writing and seeing things.

Burroughs is consummately cool. The bits where everyone camps in Old Bull Lee's house are just about my favourite part of the story.

I don't think a book like this could have been written by anyone except an American.

I'd like to get a hold of the edition comprising of the entire text of the original scroll that was released last year.

Seamus Heaney strikes me as writing just the sort of thing you would write if you read some Elliot and Pound and thought to yourself 'Oh well, then, let me go get an expensive education in the classics and then write allusive, navel-gazing poetry and put a lot of dull parochialism in.' And then, every now and then, there is a passage that trips me up and makes me gasp in awe as the perspectives open out and something universal is illuminated.

Odd stuff, that.

I'm now reading Catherine Moore's tales of Jirel Of Joiry, swords-and-sorcery pulp heroine. Moore's prose reads itself aloud in my head in a sonorous, intrepid tone that's just a little corny and just a little awesome, like Shatner's rendition of the Star Trek mission motto or the narrator in The Powerpuff Girls.

Monday 28 January 2008

When they start frisking me at grocery shops I will become a hermit.

Friday 25 January 2008

the survival guide
(a manual for the urban indian)

jump queues whenever you can
if someone was waiting before you, that qualifies as a queue too
so jump it
but still accept inflated prices
so that the broke and the careful have no choice
but to shell out and fuel the mighty
if you can't jump a queue, call a friend who knows a friend
anyone who can get you to the head of the queue
go on, cut that lane
cross that yellow line to overtake
orange light is equal to green light
first fifteen seconds of red light is equal to red light
and if there is a ticker,
last five seconds of red light is equal to green light
indian concept of time is complex
always jump a queue when you can
lines are for left-brain westernised rationalist
cultureless fools
we are organic and cyclic and
can ride our motorcycles on the pavement
as long as we are careful and in a hurry
ignore zebra crossings, accelerate even if
someone is crossing;
lines are for some other ideal, not ours
but still buy overpriced, useless things
so that the economy grows and more of nothing at all
trickles down to those who have no hand in
and have their hand out
drop a coin and tighten their chains
who has the time
got to jump that queue, jump that light
rising and shining
and a queue is an alien concept, confining our
vibrant diversity
disregard it
as you disregard the cries
of the raped, disposessed, aborted, mugged, mobbed and murdered
unless they are glam and/or the reporters campaign for them
and most of all don't forget to wipe your mouth
after you spit on the soil
of the soiled nation

Tuesday 22 January 2008

When I was in high school, I'd often see a middle-aged man, paunchy but dressed in clothes that were tailored to fit his form closely, hair permed in tight, frizzy curls and done up in a sort of pompadour, face covered in thick pancake make-up, with the skin pale white, lips livid red and eyes surrounded with dark, thin lines of kajal and a pencilled-in zorro mustache walk around the neighbourhood.

Apparently he was some sort of Kannada stage actor who lived nearby and also ran a xerox shop across the road. Sometimes I'd see him sit down for a meal in a local cafe with his wife and son, who seemed comletely nondescript and nonchalant.

I wonder if the hair was a wig.

Plan 9 From Outer Space is as bad as advertised, if not worse. 'Future events such as these will effect you in the future'. Most of it is just shoddy, and amatuerish but Criswell's hairstyle is outright criminal.

Oddly, I'm almost certain I've seen this movie before, on Doordarshan, as a boy.

The Skull is a handsomely produced film, with a great performance from Cushing and a good, if small, contribution by Lee. It pads itself out by repeating an entire sequence set in 18th century France, and is a little thin, plotwise, in the third act. But Cushing's understated work, that truly haunting and slightly surreal Russian roulette sequence and the lushly creepy set design all compensate. The use of colour, and the death-by-falling-on-stained-glass bit make me wonder if Argento was watching and taking notes.

Pictures of Fidelman by Bernard Malamud is a sometimes-picaresque series of short stories about a failed artist adrift in Italy. More specifically, Fidelman is a failing artist, one who constantly refuses to learn from past failure and tries again, and always fails again except for a brief period when he becomed indigent and wanders from town to town making and exhibiting square holes dug in the ground. Eventually, Fidelman learns from a gay Venetian glass blower that there's no point in clinging to failure, and goes back to America where he apparently bungles along less tragicomedically. I've always liked Malamud's way of inserting the numinous into otherrwise more or less realistic narratives, mostly in his short stories, but here he pulls out all the stops and weaves a shaggy dog story full of intricate ironies, bizarre obsessions and riotous reverses. Excellent stuff.

Friday 18 January 2008

CDs received.

War Of Words isn't quite as good as it sounded all those years ago - too many throw-aways and fairly undistinguished near-approaches to then-current thrash/death styles. The Halford material is far more substantial, but this is an amiable enough album with 3 or 4 really good songs.

Ritual De Lo Habitual is far more sprawling and diverse than I remember it being. This is good. Also, there was a time when Dave Navarro was a talented guitarist and not just a reality tv tart.

From Beale Street To Oblivion has to be heard on original CD rather than mp3 to hear just how brilliantly it follows through from Robot Hive/Exodus. I had some pretty good quality mp3s, but I'm just picking out so many more of those little details and layers that made Robot Hive/Exodus so fulfilling, and seemed less promininent on this one.

Pretty much the same applies to Leviathan. This album really deserves the expense of the original packaging, the CD and the rather cool booklet. I've gotta order Blood Mountain post-haste.

NOLA is still pretty awesome, not dated at all and Anselmo's contribution is way stronger than on the new Down album.

It's good to have Degradation Trip on OCD, but there's something a little too mainstream about its sensibilities. Then again, once I heard Acid Bath, Alice In Chains never sounded that dark to me again.

The Garden Of Unearthly Delights is a super album, and I love the cheesy artwork with its Black Sabbath reference. That overlong song still sounds overlong, though.

I haven't yet heard the Helloween CD.

I'm continuing to enjoy re-discovering that first Skid Row album more than is strictly healthy or wise.

Books read and being read.

Alan Ginsberg is totally cool, and a huge relief after trying to wade through some Heaney.

Marcovaldo is astounding. In this earlier work, you can see Calvino moving from an RK Narayan-esque whimsy-of-mundane-life, with the sensibility of one of those very earthy Disney shorts where Donald or Goofy would do something very everyday, like spend a day working on a construction site, or go on a fishing trip, and a series of bumblim mishaps would transform the quotidian into the hilariously absurd, to something larger, darker and more surreal.

The Enigmatic Lett, the first Maigret novel by Simenon is rather good reading, but not quite as delectable as some of the stories to follow.

Love Of Seven Dolls is totally sentimental and a bit incredible, but like all Gallico's novels it works, if at all, because of the disarming effect of this tell-not-show mode of storytelling that runs counter to all the advice aspiring writers receive, but actually works remarkably well for writers as diverse as Gallico and Calvino.

It doesn't work quite so well for me, but I'm still firmly in the novice section of the aspiring category.

Movies to see.

Lots. Mostly old horror: The Black Cat, The Revenge Of Frankenstein, Scars Of Dracula, Plan 9 From Outer Space, The Skull and so forth, but I've also got No Country For Old Men and one or two other things more recent lined up.

Monday 14 January 2008

People can babble on endlessly about military discipline, a soldier's honour and the like. The simple fact is that every army in the world is a cadre of trained murderers. Military culture is the culture of violence. Maybe we should ban wars before we ban video games, slasher movies and violent books.

Wednesday 9 January 2008

Things I'm listening to today:

The Deep Blue: Antarctic Abyss. A fine album of Sleep-worshipping stoner doom with a nice mix of spacey textures and brooding menace. Two songs, about half an hour of brooding, somonolent fuzz.

Church Of Misery: The Second Coming. Absolutely hypnotic, misanthropic stoner metal from Japan. I need to get more by them.

Acid King: III. It's about the awesome guitar tones, and Lori S.'s stoner queen vox. When's the new album coming out?

Deep Purple: The Battle Rages On. An overlooked gem, Blackmore's last moments of begrudged, uneasy yet indubitable brilliance with the band.

Skid Row: Skid Row. Late-80s pop metal at its most fierce, OTT and brilliant.

Skid Row: Slave To The Grind. A much darker, heavier album, but balanced out with mellower moments that transcend the power ballad cliches.

Soundgarden: Down On The Upside. I remember how excited I was when I first heard this album and then how crushed I felt when I heard it would be their last. The excitement still bears up - they went out on a high note.

W.A.S.P.: The Crimson Idol. A conceptual album about the rise and fall of a rock star, apparently. The idea was tackled before, but Blackie Lawless' sleaze/metal epic is still awesome. I wasn't that blown away when he spent a few years basically re-making this album at one point.

The Guardian has some pretty good coverage of Indian news and issues, which you can access here.

Just glancing at the topic headers makes for a pretty thought-provoking experience.

In the meantime, I'm aghast that RK Laxman has apparently been letting Air Deccan use his iconic Common Man character as a mascot for some years now. Memo to Laxman: you, sir, are a whore. I suppose it's syptomatic of our nation's character and condition that a national symbol of the bemused, embattled man-on-the-street is now an advertising peg for a cheap airline.

Monday 7 January 2008

3 more people die thanks to the Hindu religion's evil caste system. This time it wasn't even in India. And here we thought that all this migration to the West was a brain drain...

Friday 4 January 2008

If our great national god-thumpers were any more out of touch with reality they'd forget how to breathe. On the 31st of December, Nithyananda, the latest goo-roo to flaunt his empty visions all over our national spritsphere 'observed that crime rate was very low in the country because the dharma enforcement department (swamijis and mutts) was strong here'. Oh, really? Hey, chump, let's look some notable stories of crime and bad behaviour that have emerged in the last few days, despite the 'dharma enforcement department':

Sex racket busted in Naroda

Boy beaten up in gang fight

Serial killer case unfolds

Cyanide killer

Man slits wife's throat

Drugs on the rise in Punjab

Ex-MP's son fires at brother

Mother held for girl child's death

Woman shot at by unidentified man in Delhi

16 year-old girl abducted

Man steals and sells uncle's car

Abuse at juvenile homes

Man arrested for raping 6 year-old

Bus driver stabbed

Man stabbed in drunken brawl

Armed robbery in broad daylight

Youth gone wild

PhD student molests domestic help

Travel agency cheats customers of lakhs

Mob molests women in Mumbai

Tourists molested in Kochi

And...really, I can't carry on. Because there's just so much more.

Seriously, Chutiyananda, next time you want to open your mouth, put a sock in it instead. Smug self-congratulating sanctimony and pious fallacies aren't what's going to heal our sick society.