Saturday, December 06, 2008

Deppe recommends - 7

It's not often that I can claim to have read any book that significantly altered my outlook on life. I managed to read two in a row!

Book 1: Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis

A couple of quotes from the book.

"You, too, have turned into a typical lousy Greek, a tavern-loafer, a wallower in café-life, because you need not think only cafés are cafés; books are, too, and habits, and your precious ideologies. They are all cafés"

"the highest point a man can attain is not Knowledge, or Virtue, or Goodness, or Victory, but something even greater, more heroic and more despairing: Sacred Awe!"

Book 2: Collapse by Jared Diamond.

I loved the "cautious optimism" that Diamond advocates. I've almost stopped being a doomsday prophet.

Here's a blog recommendation. I'll be watching (and working on) this VERY closely.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Spottings from the Muthathi trip

Rufous Tree Pie
Jackal (don't know what kind)

Nice!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mystery Spot

Mystery Spot is an area in California where the rules of gravity don't hold good. Or so they claim. Knowing that a lot of us are stupid they offer this explanation

"Some speculate that cones of metal were secretly brought here and buried in our earth as guidance systems for their spacecraft. Some think that it is in fact the spacecraft itself burried deep within the ground. Other theories include carbon dioxide permeating from the earth, a hole in the ozone layer, a magma vortex, the highest dielectric biocosmic radiation known anywhere in the world, and radiesthesia. Whatever the cause is, it remains a mystery."

You'd be surprised at how many people actually believe that rubbish! The only mystery there is "What the hell was the architect smoking?". Farce or not, the place is good fun and it does give you a few insights on how your brain works. Here's VA climbing a wall...


...and AJ dodging a bullet.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Deppe Recommends - 6

Movie: Religulous
I'm a fan of Bill Maher and I think he, as he proves it here, can be insightful while being funny and caustic at the same time. That's why I had high expectations from Religulous. I did have a lot of fun watching it and I believe every man, woman and child should go watch it.

There are all kinds of nut jobs in the movie but my favourite was a researcher from Israel who specializes in working around the sabbath laws. For instance, you are not supposed to dial numbers on a telephone during the sabbath (the old testament is more comprehensive than I thought). So this guy has invented a telephone where all the keys are pressed by default, and you un-dial the numbers that you don't need. Apparently god approves the design, because armageddon hasn't struck! Then there's a "scientist" who runs a Young earth museum. The main attraction there is a scene depicting rubber humans running around with rubber dinosaurs.

While I laughed all along, I was disappointed that the film didn't aspire to anything greater than just making fun of religion. Despite its strong material I doubt if it will change attitudes. People who are in denial will continue to be in denial. How often have you heard people say " is a religion of peace!". Hyper-sensitive folks will continue to be outraged at the silliest things (How insecure must you be to let Harbhajan Singh hurt your sentiments! I mean HARBHAJAN SINGH!!! ). Religion will continue to be given unnecessary privileges in society and politics, so that you can win at least a few constituencies with the promise of a ram temple or bridge!

My only other complaint is that Maher completely ignores my religion. Come'on bill, aren't we ridiculous enough to make the cut?

Book: Zorba, the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pseudo-french

I've already hollered about this before, but I'm having to rant again about pseudo-french because it is making my life hard. These two are so wide-spread that I am tempted to mispronounce them just to fit in!
1. Warren Buffett's last name is not pronounced like the self-served meal. "Booffay!" sounds like he is a comic-book villain who aims to amass vulgar amounts of money and dominate the world. Hey wait a minute!!
2. Roulette, for some reason is being called "roolay" by a lot of people around me. In Las Vegas, I got condescending looks from my betting partners when I pronounced it the way it should. I assure you, that is why I lost all that money.

And then there is pseudo-greek. Why do the Americans pronounce processes like it rhymes with hypotheses?

While I'm cribbing about it, I must also mention that when the republicans talk about the "Nucular" weapons in "eye-rack" it feels like a fork on porcelain

Monday, October 06, 2008

Vegas

Random notes from my Vegas trip
* Gambling is addictive. I was up $65 by the end of Saturday. I thought I had figured out the roulette. I couldn't wait to double my money on Sunday. By the end of the trip my net loss was $105. It's all orchestrated. The dogs make you win on Saturday so that you get reckless on Sunday.
* What's a few hundred dollars? I put something else at stake on Sunday evening, my life! The rides (XScream, Insanity and BigShot) on Stratosphere are the meanest I've ever been on!
* The casinos are impressive in their scale but there's something stupid about watching a replica Eiffel tower with the Louvre (I think) in between its legs!
* Driving 20 hours in a weekend is hard. In the one hour that I decided to take a break and hand the wheels over to my co-passengers, we got pulled over for weaving too much on the highway, almost rear-ended another car on a freeway exit, burnt so much rubber while braking that we could smell it for the rest of the journey. I even once opened my eyes and found that we were cruising along on the wrong side. I took back control and drove the rest of the way. Concentrating for 20 hours is tiring as hell. I think I built a lot of character. Now, how often can you say that about a Vegas trip?
* What(ever else) happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. So that's the end of that.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

God doesn't play dice

N calls me his brother from another mother, and I take the title seriously. We even get a little silly and emotional about it at times. N & I booked our cars on the same day. We got adjacent even numbers on the plates. We drove our cars at almost the same time out of the showroom, had the tanks filled at the same pump and even had it blessed by the same Ganesha. Two months ago, a huge jackfruit fell on my car totally mutilating the roof and windshield (and somebody stole the fruit while I was examining the car but that's another tale). And in a conclusive demonstration of the profound order that rules the universe, this morning, a coconut landed on N's car. His turn to hurt and mine to see the funny side of the story that he kept trying to make me witness.

What are our personal obligations toward the environment?

That is such a hard question to answer. The freaks tell you to go back to the stone ages. The freaks on the other end dare not even entertain the question. In the end, most people are stuck at a relativistic position that roughly translates to setting the bar at precisely the lifestyle that they themselves are leading. It's not unlike the law of driving "Anyone who's driving slower than me is an idiot, and anyone faster is a maniac". This is when the economists' detached unemotional approach is so refreshing to read. Found this really interesting. The comments are great too.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Deppe Reccommends - 5

I started Guenter Grass' The Tin Drum on May 15. The narrator is 30yr old Oscar Matzerath, a mentally challenged midget. His account is set during the second world war. The incongruence of Nazi germany is beautifully captured in symbolisms and Matzerath's vague attempts at comprehending whatever transpired, but the book just did not engage my fancy beyond a point. Exactly 3 months after I started reading it, I noticed I was still on the 300th page. I kept it aside and my reading rate has returned to levels I'm content with. So, it's time for yet another edition of Deppe Recommends.

Fiction: The Fall by Albert Camus
The narrative is a monologue in the form of a confession. As the protagonist lays his soul bare I got persuaded into some really intense reveries from my own life. In the end I was sighing at the meaninglessness of it all. Sartre called this Camus' best work and I can see why.

Short Stories: Dark Side by Guy de Maupassant

Here's a little excerpt from The Horla that I really liked
"Jul 14th: The French national holiday. I went walking in the streets. Fireworks and flags still delight me just as much as they did when I was a boy. Of course, I realize that it is quite idiotic to rejoice on certain dates fixed by government decrees. Ordinary people are a silly herd, sometimes stupidly docile, and sometimes fierce and rebellious. When they are told: "Enjoy yourselves!", they enjoy themselves. When they are told: "Go and fight your neighbours!" they go and fight. When they are told: "Vote for the Emperor!" they vote for the Emperor. And when they are told: "Vote for the Republic!" they vote for the Republic.

Those in charge are also fools, but instead of obeying other men, they obey principles that can also only be inane, sterile and false just because they are principles, that is to say, well-established, certain, immutable notions in a world in which we can be sure of nothing, since both light and sound are nothing but illusions."

Non Fiction: Origins of Virtue by Matt Ridley.

Song: GnR's cover of Sympathy For The Devil.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

When I was broke...


I've been broke for a few days now. A couple of days ago I was driving my car wondering where I will get the money I needed for a project. Just as I had resigned, my guardian angel appeared in the guise of an irreverent, murderous, totally obnoxious auto driver ("Is there another kind?" - Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men), overtook my car from the left and flashed me a sign. I'm convinced that there's a very appropriate financial advice hidden there. I didn't figure it out, and I'm still broke, but I managed to come out of my blues. I'm guessing it's because you can't really be perplexed about one thing and worried about another at the same time. The "what the fuck does that mean!" feeling had completely displaced the "I'm doomed" thought. Guardian angels work in mysterious ways.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Red tape

For reasons that I've kept aside as material for another post, A & I found ourselves in the office of the District Commissioner of Chikkaballapur. The office is in the middle of nowhere and has a corridor which also serves as the waiting area. I can now vouch for the fact that that place is a proven time warp. The corridor was full of people whose frustrations were clearly written the faces. Uncomfortable nervous energy prevailed. As if somebody was challenging the piqued lot to make the situation a little more absurd, there was an unguarded AK 47 lying on a chair, waiting for someone to pick it up. We waited there but we can't tell you for how long. All I can say is that when we eventually got out, we came into a less-innocent epoch where a bomb could take you out anytime. There had been 8 bomb blasts in Bangalore and A's car was a victim of the paranoia that ensued. We had parked it at Bangalore Central. The police had had the place vacated some time in the afternoon, and they got suspicious of this one car that hadn't moved. That's all we knew. We had no clue whether the car was still there or it had been towed away. As we ran from one police station to another trying to figure out the whereabouts of the old zen, we developed a deeper understanding of the term "Kafkaesque". Getting home, when it eventually happened, never felt so good.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Item #19

They say that if you never lose at anything, you are probably playing ping pong with a 4yr old. It might sound like an irritating positive spiel, but I think It's a good sign if you suck at a few things. It probably means that you are challenging yourself. I do confront my own mediocrity quite often, and I've grown to even accept it once in a while. Yeah! Occasional mediocrity's cool. But every Sunday I come face to face with downright incompetence. My salsa class! I pay 1500 Rs to a guy who asks me to send my rib cage, spine, arms and legs on radically different journeys for the first 7 counts and assemble them back on 8, all the while making me watch my own reflections on 4 dozen mirrors. I pay 1500 Rs to have my self-esteem sucked out of me, one portion at a time.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Boléro

I've probably mentioned this somewhere else before in my blog, but one of life's most underrated joys is when you finally "get" a song that you've been hearing a few times. This morning I entered into that period of infatuation for Maurice Ravel's Boléro. Continuing my recent habit of questioning the evolutionary purpose of every human characteristic, I began to wonder why we evolved into a species that likes music. What survival benefits does that afford? Here's the most satisfying answer that I've come across . We acquired the faculty of pattern recognition early on. That's what allowed us to plan a hunt, allowing us to improvise our strategies based on the position, number, and distance of the prey and on the nature of the terrain. This ability to recognize patterns has obvious benefits for the success of our species. I'm guessing this same faculty then manifested in what we now call aesthetic sense, and specifically into the appreciation of music (Exaptation they call this).

What I still haven't found an answer for is why we yield our emotions to the persuasions of a nice song. Today, for instance, I felt rapture and pathos and calm and angst all in the space of 15 minutes, while the different instruments played the same notes for dramatically different effects. Well, I think I should listen to A for once and just enjoy the experience without the noise of a million questions.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

NOW the world is doomed

http://www.reuters.com/article/wtMostRead/idUSN2339172520080623

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nandi Hills redeems itself



The annual school trip to Nandi Hills was my groundhog day. Every nandi hills trip was like every other nandi hills trip. The only detail that ever changed in the 6 trips I made to that place was that when I was in the 7th class I wore shorts, but the year after I wore trousers.


The trip would begin with the assembly in the school grounds. It was then followed by the bus trip on which we were allowed to loosen our ties but were warned using not-so-subtle clues that we were being carefully watched. They always fed us apples on the journey. As soon as we arrived there, Peetappa herded us out and made us count ourselves. It was then time for breakfast, which invariably was uppittu and kesaribath. I have no recollection of what we did for the next 5 hours, which is a good indication that we never did anything fun. All I remember is that some of us who were in the boy-scout and NCC troops reminisced our own grander getaways. At dusk, we used to be served tea and biscuits before being packed off back to the school where irritated parents waited to pick us up.


As you can see, I don't have too favorable an impression of Nandi Hills. However, I agreed to go there a couple of weeks ago, mostly because it is really difficult to say 'No' to the S-man. And boy was I in for a surprise! It probably made a difference that we left at an unearthly hour, reached there just before sunrise and were treated to some gorgeous sights of low flying clouds. Take a look at these pics.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hash

Jon Culshaw wonders on Commercial Breakdown "Why isn't women's football more popular? It has everything a man ever needs; women and football". It doesn't always happen that you bring two great ideas together and there's magic! But last weekend, I did stumble upon two (or three) individually good ideas that have been brought together to some remarkable effect. I've always enjoyed the woods, I freak out on running and I can't always say no to a cold beer. Last Sunday, I went out with a group (Hash: "Drinkers with a running problem" or something) that does these three together on a regular basis. We found a completely deserted place near Bannerughatta, ran like crazy (10 kms cross coutnry), reached a hilltop and then drank cold beer while watching a gorgeous sunset. wow! As part of the initiation ceremony, we first-timers had to sit on ice, kneel in dirty water, and drink beer out of pisspots, but it was all worth it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

1056 words


I like this little afterthought in which the quack realized at the end of his promo that he can cure brain problems too.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The anandrao circle newspapaperman



We bangaloreans are given to a lot of nostalgia constipation. We just cannot stop ranting about how Bangalore has changed so unrecognizably. As a consequence we really cling on to those few things that have remained constant. For instance, even the rudeness of the waiter at MTR makes us all emotional. One character who has stayed on unchanged continuously for at least the last 25 years is our newspaperman on Anandrao circle. He still insists on calling out the "breaking news" in his high-pitch excited voice. He has lost all his teeth and you can bearly understand his words, but he still manages to evoke curiosity. He's probably the last of his kind.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The 10 km run

Reading the Selfish Gene (and the Origins of Virtue after that) screws up the way you think, at least for a while. You stop participating in human experiences normally. Instead, now when you watch people do something, you step out and think what's making them do it? or What's the evolutionary advantage that this behaviour gave us as a species? So this morning while I was running the 10k event in bangalore, I was noticing that there were twice as many people facilitating this event as there were running. Even I did my altruistic bit by egging on the stragglers. There were people on the pavements who had come there just to cheer the runners. And I felt this overwhelming sense of bonhomie towards everybody; the runners, the cheerers, the organisers and even all the people inconvenienced by this event. I could see that everybody was experiencing that feeling too. And naturally, I am wondering what evolutionary plot is behind this feeling. I didn't get the answer but I managed to finish the race in 55 minutes, 5 minutes lesser than I had initially targeted. I felt incredibly proud, despite knowing that those absolutely gorgeous running machines that drop in from Kenya and Ethiopia and other godforsaken places run this stretch in roughly half that time. Anyway, one of the best things about running is the way you enjoy everything else you do immediately after that. The water down your throat never felt better, Masala Dosas were never more satisfying, and I don't even have words to describe the cold shower.

All in all, it felt great to be in that sea of humanity, coming together for a seemingly inane activity, but nevertheless feeling that warm fuzzy sense of togetherness. At the parking lot, trying to get our cars out of the almighty mess, though, we were all back to hating each other.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

New folks

Like my last post revealed I'm having a lot of conversations, mostly with myself, about age in general, mine in particular. One of the reasons, I figured, is the amount of time I've spent with a couple of new sets of friends who are all from such diverse age groups. For example in the last week I've sat at the same table with A.jr, who is a decade younger then me and I've also had a drink with Chief, who is a full twenty years older than I am. It's striking how similar all these people are in their joie-de-vivre. On the one end I sat there admiring A for how well-adjusted, confident and comfortable she was in her skin and so un-overwhelmed by the new place and people and on the other I was in awe of the Chief for how much and how easily he smiled, and how meanly he bent his harmonica during that absolutely unforgettable virtuoso performance.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Marathon kit

There's something about turning thirty. I imagine this giant ominous odometer on which the units wheel goes from 9 to 0 goading the adjacent wheel to skip to the next numeral. Although I know 30 is just one more than 29, just like 29 was one more than 28, it just feels a lot more momentuous. There's suddenly more evaluations; "Is this where I wanted to be at this point in my life?" and "What next?". There is a lot of paranoia. A good indicator of that is the list I have of things I want to do before I turn thirty. Most of the things on that list are pretty cool and diverse but they all have something in common; they all reveal a fear of ageing and all of them have the theme of proving something to this youth-obsessed world. Item no. 14 was to run the half marathon. Since there's no half marathon happening in the near future, I settled for the 10k run that's happening tomorrow.

Yesterday I collected my marathon kit. Although I know I paid for more than what I got, I still can't stop getting excited about "freebies". The kit has some really useful things such as a water bottle, some biscuits and candy. But some things in that bag are bizarre. There is a packet of instant pasta. Ok, maybe pasta makes you fasta, but what's sugar-free doing there, robbing you of the carbs when you so badly need them? And most weird of all, there's a packet of chilli powder. R had the last word "I can think of 18 ways in which you can employ chilli powder to make ANYBODY run the full marathon!". Makes sense.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A little less...

I'm dead tired and ready to plunge into deep slumber if I as much as blink. I've driven half way around town, spent an eternity in the sun and managed to get a lot of work done; I've earned my rest. Yet I'm forcing myself awake. I'm rolling the memories from the day over my tongue one last time before I swallow them. Suddenly I remember two separate incidents from the day. In the morning I had almost driven past a left turn that I was supposed to take, realized it rather late and chose to give my wheel a tug and made that turn; the kind of turn that emits a screech and leaves a generous deposit of rubber on the road. I am now thinking of what could have been. There could have been pedestrians in the path. There could have been vehicles in my blindspot that I may have taken down. I am thinking of everything that could have gone wrong and my palms are sweating uncontrollably.

Another incident elicited a different kind of fear but very similar bodily reactions. RR asked me if I want to join his startup. I don't know the future there, I don't know the pay and I don't know the work so I gave him a courteous but phoney 'I'll give it a thought'. Now lying on my bed I'm actually giving it a thought and I can sense all my organs starting to malfunction.

I'm going to be awake for a long time now.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Another Hallmark Day

RJ: Good mornin' bengalooru. Happy Women's Day. On this day, exciting prices kodtha idheevi.
S: Write this down! Kannada won't make it to the next decade.
RJ: We've got our first caller on the line. Rekha, how are you doing today? Tell me, why do you think women are better than men?
Rekha: hmmm...
S: How about that we've never started a war? ever!
Rekha: hmmm...basically...uh
S: How about that we never install rear spoilers on our cars? ever!
Rekha: ... women are more flexible, responsible, creative and strong.
S: Fuck!
RJ: Wow! That's so true. You win yourself...
ZAP!
S: ... a gift voucher to a shop that'll sell you a misguided beauty ideal.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Recent Peeves

There are a lot of things about this world that make me raving mad, such as the fact that the Self Help Industry is a 6-billion-per-yr-growing-at-12% one. But ironically one of these self-help fundas instructed me to list down all the things that irritate me on any one arbitrary day and I decided to oblige. This exercise is supposed to illuminate me on my degrees of intolerance. So here's my list for one such average uneventful day.
* This guy is explaining to me the new house that he is building. I manage to overlook his excessive attention to detail and his over-the-top lifestyle obsession. He wants me to be impressed by his "achievements" and I play sport. However, I lose it when, for the second time, he pronounces the word Duplex like it's a french word "Dew-Play!". So I say "Oh Duplekkkss! that must be nice". He gets the hint but he is convinced that I'm uncultured and wrong. So he frames a completely contrived sentence with the sole intention of using the word so he can convey the correct pronunciation. I, for my part, forfeit the use of pronouns just to be able to use that word in another sentence. This exchange goes on for a couple more iterations and before things get too "Com-Play" and I do a quick pranayama and bail out.
* I'm not proud of this but file names with spaces irritate me.
* People who enter the lift before everybody has stepped out.
* And then there are things that not as much irritate me as make me lose faith in humanity, such as Dan Brown and Puneeth Rajkumar Fan Clubs, or worse still, the latest fad of sticking up gauche posters wishing pseudo celebrities a happy birthday. We, as a people, are not very well-known for our visual aesthetic sense- just look at our (Karnataka) flag if you need the proof- but these posters take gaudiness to a whole new level. Like the one wishing Rajnikanth a good day. The words go "There can be many suns and many moons but there can be only one star" and has a Rajni likeness covering most of the real estate on the poster. Wherever there are spaces, you have pictures of moustachioed men speaking on their mobile phones.
I'll post a picture soon.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Men Are From Halebid, Women Are From Belur

Adversities had beset us all morning. We had almost died from not having had breakfast. The roads, or their absence, had threatened to disintegrate the car. S, with her accented kannada, had almost taken us to the "Helipad" (YEAH! Hassan has a helipad!), but we finally made it to the temple on our way to Chikmagalur. The theme of the trip was set by a fairly casual and dreamy comment made by A about what traits she would like in her knight in shining armour. By the end of the third day we had decided that this gentleman needed to reconcile a lot of mutually exclusive characteristics. Someone who surpassed this creature in hodgpodgeness.

On the other hand, V (and I found myself nodding in immediate agreement) had a simpler set of expectations: nothing an average cosmetic surgeon couldn't furnish. Once again, the temple had the answer.
We did pay dearly for our shallowness. We were "objectified", evaluated and judged during the rest of the trip. That apart, I couldn't have asked for a better way to start the new year.