Thursday, October 31, 2013

Future Past

In the past they said, the internet would overthrow books, newspapers, print magazines and printed textbooks and as a corollary, the publishing industry itself. Fact remains that matters are different now. I remember, still, as a child I was fascinated by the talk about computers that textbooks would be replaced by something like slates, with glossy screens—like ipads, but hell, back in the 90s, there were no ipads in real life. What would happen to newspapers and magazines? We speculated. Who cared about newspapers and magazines? However, books were my weakness. I could not think, books being replaced by some solid, granite like glossy plastic and glass.  

They were matters of science fiction. In school, our textbooks always took the form of glossy slates, when we talked about computers. Then when the new millennium came, when there was a rage about the end of the world and all, computers came to India.

Image Courtesy: Google
At first, some of us thought of what might happen to the manual laborers, whose areas of work the computer and the internet would replace. Then they made a fuss about moral and ethical issues the internet and the resultant global communication would bring forth. They were undoubtedly aiming at the porn industry. Cyber crimes were the latest rant against the internet and the computers. They still are, in fact, and not for lesser reasons.        

Among all this cyber Nazism, the internet and the computers have grown in India like fungus on a dead tree trunk. It created slum dog millionaires, and hot and spicy blogs.

What happened to newspapers and magazines, then? Well, in fact, they are selling like in the old days and more, in the form of e-papers and e-mags. What happened to books? They have started making e-books and they are sold too, but not as much as the print ones, in India. Print books sell crazy. The publishing industry in India is in its baby boom and writers of the new generation include the author of this humble blog post as well.
Image Courtesy: Google

Then what happened to the textbooks? Newspapers, magazines and books all were scanned in and made available online and as e-materials. But next books are still in their lazy stone age. Our hardcore childhood science fiction did not materialize, yet in India. Governments after governments promise that they would provide free or low cost tablet computers to school and college students. Classrooms in many colleges are connected through Wi-Fi, in the hope that someday every poor student who cannot afford a laptop or a tablet computer can expect a favor from the governments.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What's Meaningful For You?

Note: I have a major case of arachnophobia.
The intuition was strong. In fact, the strength of my intuition was strong enough to wake me up from a startlingly clear dream I had so early in a morning, on a Wednesday. The Intuition was that there was something to this dream beyond the spiders I saw all over my body. The fear and aversion that I felt at the feel of spiders, already covering my face, and hands, and coming after me in a race of unsatiated hunger to terrify, to conquer me in my sleep, was at its peak, when the intuition hit me. There must be something to this, I heard myself think. I almost woke up, opened my eyes to the mild light of the early morning sun, and tried to make myself believe that it was all a dream--just a dream.

Image Courtesy: Google
I felt a wriggling sensation on my right hand. I shook the hand violently. The cover fell to the ground. The cover was my fortress inside the darkness of dizzying impenetrable embrace of sleep. The spiders, with their hairy, dark legs and an unfathomable dark determination in their eyes, crawled up my hands. Someone inside me, the detective, the rational thinker, the daring coward, shook his lethargy off and jumped up to meet the challenge of deciphering the meaning of the situation. This must be a dream, he told me. But you woke up for a short while. That too is true, he persisted. Don’t panic, he said. Some dreams do appear in order to teach you something. Some lesson, they might carry, he said.

I remember reading something like this in Carl Gustav Jung’s autobiographical non-fiction, Memories, Dreams, and Reflections, when I was at the University. Then I thought about the professor, who never wasted any opportunity to disparage any junior teacher who got appointment at the University. An adamant bully, he was. I opened my eyes once again. However it was difficult to open eyes, as a sticky linen-like substance covered my eyelashes. I felt something moving upward from my jaw toward my eyes, which must have been moving inside their sockets in the attempt to see light and to break free from the maddening incarceration of this dream.

Image Courtesy: Viktor. E. Frankl
I felt the sting of the legs; I counted them. I could not concentrate. The hair of the legs stung on my face, near my nose. The body above those legs, on two occasions, slid over my skin, the disgusting roughness in all details.

NO! I screamed. On opening my eyes, I found the pale yellow glow of an ordinary sunlight, neither the glittering gold of a dreamy one, nor a bright fusion of hot afternoon sun indicating that I overslept. I checked time. I overslept for 30 minutes. That’s OK, I thought. As long as there are no spiders, 30 minutes oversleeping is no problem.

On the table, the new book came to book review welcomed me. I had received it the previous day. Time to start reading it. I opened the first pages. Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl. The preface was written by Harold S. Kushner, a rabbi, from Conservative Judaism. He effectively sums up the relevance of Man’s Search for Meaning and the importance of the idea ‘search for meaning’.

Image Courtesy: Harold S. Kushner
“The great task for any person is to find meaning in his or her life,” writes Kushner, in the preface. This quote switched my button for fascination. Wasn’t it an echo of what the detective in my dreams told me to look for--meaning? Something had flipped a switch on in my mind. Fear and its manifestation in the form of that dream about spiders—now I realized. However, hope and meaning are the two fundamental elements that constitute human ‘being’, the mechanics of Homo sapiens, the built of the innermost architecture of the spirit.

Yes, I am the one who wrote a collection of short stories on hope. I am the one who told the world that even on the wall of a university classroom, there is someone watching and making a tale of everything that takes place. The painful memories of the past should not bother me anymore. The slimy webs of the spiders of the past should not crawl near my eyes any more. Boy was I asleep! I was deep asleep.

But thinking about the spiders...Gulp.

Let’s change the topic a bit. I will be reviewing Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor. E Frankl, shortly.
                            
The book review is sponsored by Mysmartprice.com

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Movies about Writers that Impressed Me

1st among the movies about writers that Impressed me. 

Capote

“It's the hardest when someone has a notion about you and it's impossible to convince them otherwise.”—Truman Capote in Capote (film 2005)
Image Courtesy: Google

Thanks to one of my old friends, she gave me this DVD with some movies eloquently lavish on artistic material and inspiring story telling techniques. One among them was Capote. Directed by Bennett Miller, and released in 2005, Capote is biographically inclined to the life of the man who wrote the first nonfiction novel—Truman Capote. Truman Streckfus Persons, aka Truman Capote lived from 1924 September 30 to 1984 August 25. Although he had written fiction, including plays, his grit came out to its true colors with In Cold Blood (1966). He addresses this book as the first “nonfiction novel” in the movie, Capote. The movie is based on Gerald Clarke's book, Capote, the biography of Truman Capote.
 
Image Courtesy: Google
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Truman in the movie and does it with not just his face or expressions, but also with his voice. Catherine Keener exhibits a matching performance to Seymour as Nelle Harper Lee.

Capote is a remarkable encounter of a writer with his subjects, and portrays complex psychological changes that surface in Truman’s personality after this life-changing encounter. He visits in jail, the man who became the gruesome character in his book. The reality of it all crashes in on him with full weight. Undoubtedly, the performances in the movie are par with the best and although Capote has a dark and murky feel to it, the entertainment meter in your mind would never show a down sign. 
Previous: Here

Monday, October 28, 2013

3 Hot Movies on Writers

And the 2nd place goes to…  

Becoming Jane

“As if the writing of women did not display the greatest powers of mind, knowledge of human nature, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour and the best-chosen language imaginable?”_Jane Austin in Becoming Jane (2007)

Even if you haven’t read any of Jane Austen’s books, Becoming Jane will be entertaining. Becoming Jane is a British-Irish film with beautiful locations and wonderful rhyming British accent. Of course, you can call this “colonial nostalgia”, or whatever your professors taught you at the university. However, the attraction the setting held out for me was immense. Along with the storyline, the background of the charming countryside was speaking uninhibited on matters of heart and mind in this 18th century woman writer’s life.
Image Courtesy: Anne Hathaway

Jane, the younger daughter of Reverend George Austen and his wife, aspires to become a writer, and in family gatherings, she prides herself in reading her long passages with flourish. One day, a stranger happens to listen to her read out from one of her passages and makes fun of her. This becomes a turning point in Jane’s life, because as it happens in most of the Romances, the woman finds herself in fires of lingering affection towards the stranger, a young man called Thomas Lefroy, a promising loser as a lawyer, living under the patronage of his uncle, the Lord Chief Judge Langlois.

The romance between Jane and Thomas, aka, Tom goes to see its spring times and its winters, it is interesting to see how Jane, a writer grows out of the cold ice of the oppressing reality. She, with her wit and charming irony goes to become a sensation in writing novels although her love life becomes a source of constant pain, at the end of the movie. A historical film, Becoming Jane, thus offers biographical insights into the life of Jane Austen.
 
Image Courtesy: Google
Becoming Jane also shows Jane’s beginning the manuscript, First Impressions, which will become Pride and Prejudice. Anne Hathaway performs Jane’s role and James McAvoy is Thomas Lefroy. 
Next: Tomorrow
Previous: Here

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Movies on Writers

   
Image Courtesy: Stephen King.com

Stuck in Love 

Bill Borgens, a successful novelist is unable to move on after divorce with Erica, his wife. Bill Borgens son, Rusty is seventeen years old, and is in a serious lack of romantic enlightenment. Bill’s daughter Sam (19 years) is, on the other hand, an emotionally matured writer, on her way to big success. She despises her mother, for leaving her alone as a child to find another man. Stuck in Love is a romantic drama directed by Josh Boone, and released in 2013, with these three people—Bill, Rusty, and Sam—struggling to find peace with their relationships.
Image Courtesy: Google

Sam publishes her first book, the one that her father, a successful writer, did not even see her writing let along help her edit. This creates a conflict between the father and daughter in the beginning, but is settled later, when the book receives lavish reviews from “critics.”

Sam learns that life in the world between a man and a woman can get complex beyond their apprehension, and she forgives her mother, towards the end of the movie. Greg Kinnear performs the role of Bill Borgens, and infuses all his maturity as an actor into the role. Jennifer Connelly is Erica, Bill’s ex-wife, Nat Wolff is Rusty and Lily Collins is Samantha aka Sam. Lily Collins has done a commendable job as an upcoming writer.
Image Courtesy: Lily Collins

Bill teaches Rusty that writing can only come from experiences. Stuck in Love, beyond its quest to understand man-woman relationships, also ventures into exploring a father-son relationship. Bill becomes an instructor and a teacher to Rusty, his son. Through Bill’s guidance, Rusty, also a poet, writer, and an avid Stephen King fan, finds his muse.

If you have noticed the “Stephen King element” in the story, you are into a surprise party. At the end of the movie, Rusty gets a call. His sister has secretly sent one of his short stories to Mr. S. King. I hope you can guess, who’s on the other end of the phone; yes, it is “the” Stephen King. Stuck in Love is not based on historical figures or biographies, but it is interesting nevertheless and kept me hooked.   

Next: Tomorrow
Previous: Here                  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

3 Movies on Writers that Impressed Me

For the next three days, I will be reviewing three of the most impressive movies I watched, 3 Movies on Writers that Impressed Me. The categorization, however, is based on the subject matter—writers. Being a professional in this area, the subject is of undeniable interest to me. I can connect deep skin with the characters and their feelings when someone says, “I sold my first story, today!”  
Image Courtesy: Google

The third movie I would talk about is not based on true events, unlike the other two movies. One of the movies, I reviewed had already appeared in TIC Saturday Flicks. This is the second movie in the “3 Movies on Writers that Impressed Me.”  

The criteria for selecting each of these movies are kept as simpler as possible: personal taste. How else can one demonstrate those matters that defy all possible rational explanations and are reluctant to fall into the territory of the supernatural, at the same time? I still do not know, what instilled in me the feeling of joy and comprehensive aesthetic sensation while I watched these movies. Perhaps, this indicates my naivety in the matters of laboratory definitions and techniques in movie making. I agree.
Image Courtesy: Google

Consider this attempt, therefore, is from a person as ill equipped to talk about movies, as an illiterate person is to write books.

In the next edition of this blog, you can read my short review of the third movie in the series 3 Movies on Writers that Impressed Me.

Next: tomorrow      

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Apple of Someone Else’s Eyes


“Hear me out. Listen to me.”
At first, I could not make out where the question was coming from. I looked around, saw the man sitting next to me, a fat gentle man in a blue shirt and white dhoti; then the young man leaning against the iron bar close to my seat; I saw the back of heads of the people sitting in the front seats; I also saw the many people crowding in a line in the aisle inside the bus.

“You can’t see me?”
The voice came back. I was pulled into a pool of curiosity that never before enveloped me during the afternoon hours. The next move I planned was to seek help from my nearby passenger.

“Don’t even think about that.” The voice said. It warned me, in fact.
I did not know what the repercussions would be, if I went against the instruction. This was the third sentence it spoke to me. OK, I agree, it’s my intuition that it’s an ‘it’.

I tried to focus. I could only see the seat in front of me.
“Look here; open those eyes of yours, which are so accustomed to see only manmade uselessness. Here I am; miracle among all the manmadeness.” The voice said. It sounded preposterous to me to listen to some hallucination inside my head. But it was as real as the crowd inside the bus and their fight for inches of space inside.

Then I saw, with a heavy voltage of shock crossing my heart. I thought about everyone I love, everyone I hate, and every moment I spent dreaming books and stories. I saw a face on the back of the seat in front of me. It was fully animated, not a picture. It was vague, and no one could easily see her in just a random try. Her? How on earth can I trust my sanity still? Nevertheless, the face looked like a woman’s.

“Who are you?” I mumbled under my breath, worried about the prospect in a rational society, talking to a face on a seat cover or as I believed, to myself, in a hallucination. I would not need to take additional pass to some mental hospital. The people will do everything. My students had to come up there to meet me, tomorrow morning. What would happen to my blog, to my unfinished portions in the English literature class, to my students, to my love, to the book I am about to read? No, that is a risk I cannot afford.

“I am your fatigue.” The voice came back.

I noticed, by this time, that even my nearby passenger is not noticing the face on the seat cover. Hallucination—I decided, right at that moment. I also decided to play with it a little more time. I know hallucinogenic instances could entail immense possibilities to learn. The book I read had told me that much. I am spared of peyote poisoning, thank God! This thought gave me courage. So I mumbled under my breath, one more time, “What do you mean, you are my fatigue?”

“I am the Wisdom in your fatigue. The bringer of rejuvenation, like the night that brings the brightest morning to your doorsteps.”

“Why are you here, now?” I said.
“I am here to show you the stupidity of yourself and the man sitting beside you. But before that let me tell you this, I know completely that you consider me just an aberration of your overworked brain—a hallucination. But I am not. Look at the child beside the man, near the window.”
Image Courtesy: Google

I had heard the child asking silly questions to her father, the man sitting beside me, as I sat near him in the seat, a few minutes back. However, I was intent on focusing at my latest lessons in the class. So I left the conversation, tuned out. The girl was asking, “Why is the evening news paper not called Matrubhumi, Papa?”
She had voiced this question a couple of times before the man heard it. He said nothing first, and then replied in a sagging and tired voice, “Because Matrubhumi is morning paper, darling.”

Then I wrapped my thoughts about the class bully whose parents came to meet me complaining about his results, the previous week. And right then, out of nowhere, or perhaps, truly from my fatigue was born this woman face.

I do have a character. I do not want to be a child-ignorer. So I said to her, “I did not…” I stopped. There was no face, anymore. My words, accidently, were a bit higher in tone. Some of the passengers, including my seatmate, looked at me. I showed them my cell phone and grinned ear to ear, shrugging.

I had my answer, I should take a less crowded local bus back home tomorrow onwards. This one is too crowded for hallucinations.

“Oh, so when this newspaper comes in the morning, it becomes Matrubhumi?” the little girl asked.
The man, her father, replied in a nod. He had an evening paper in his hand now, and was leafing through it.
“Why don’t some people do not have children?” she asked again. Her father did not reply. Although he attempted, his words were locked inside the box of inhibition in facing this child’s question.
 
Image Courtesy: Google
I could have told her about angels and children, how angels come in the form of children, but they forget who they are, once they grow up, I thought. Then the girl made another enquiry, “Doesn’t that road go to Mattannur, too?”
“No, it’s Caltex.” Her father replied.
“After Caltex, doesn’t it go Mattannur. Then why don’t we take that road instead?” the girl persisted. I would have told her, she was right. But this is ‘one-way’ system. You know that that road will lead to where you want to go, but you have to be patient for everyone’s good and take the turns and junctions to meet the same road at another juncture, traffic free, and welcoming.

My seatmate, the little girl’s father, kept on reading his evening newspaper, and did not say a word.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Secret of Dr.Weiss

"Hatred is love without the facts.” —Richard Bach (One)


At first reading, I thought I misread it. So I read it again. It sounded the same—bizarre, as if some grammatical error had ruined a piece of the beautifully written book.

Only Love is Real: A Story of Soulmates Reunited by Dr. Brian Weiss, first published in 1996 held out a promise to whoever leaved through the pages—life is a continuation of awareness in the timeless universe. One can also observe a two sided discourse associated with the title itself—love and reunion.

Only Love is Real deals with real life experiences from Dr. Brian Weiss’ life and practices as a psychotherapist. He substantiates that individuals meet through lifetimes in search of love. Soulmates come and meet with their beloved ones in life after death. Reincarnation, in Only Love is Real becomes a physical reality. Every reader is pushed through the door of skepticism and doubt, but at the end, familiarized with the idea. The question that came to my mind when I considered this was; why is it that we believe in such a thing as reincarnation in a scientific level, after reading this book, when it is actually not an accepted fact by the dominant scientific communities or mainstream cultural critics.
Image Courtesy: Google

Where does this conviction come from?

First of all, all of Dr. Weiss’s case studies and conclusions seem genuine and based on actual people and events. His books are written with the cadence of nonfiction. This provides another reason for his readers to consider his works trustworthy.

However, in my point of view, the most serious element that brings readers into Dr. Weiss’ works is his subject matter—love. In One, which although, is labeled novel, carries all elements to be considered nonfiction or philosophical treatise, Richard Bach demonstrates the same idea-love can unite people through lifetimes. Bach even uses hatred in parenthesis with love. Love is an enveloping force in life, civilization, and the cosmos, for Richard Bach. Read parallels with Dr. Weiss.

If we look closer into One, we can also find similar concepts intertwine its pages too, that of parallel lives, life after death, and the dominating power of love, etc.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Jenelle Evans and the Meridian of Morality

This issue appears nasty. I did not want to write about it. After grappling many a turn with some serious questions, I sat down to write it. I could not stop, but wonder, where on the earth are we, right now. The issues in this article appear to be from some stupid dimension, but only to disappoint ourselves. These are from this world of ours, proof that we are getting increasingly vulnerable to defective identification of stupidity. Hell, I would not ask you to read it, if you have other interesting things to do. But then, if you do read, you will not be able to keep quiet that thing inside your head you call mind.

In MTV's second season of "16 and Pregnant" a young girl appeared, her name was Jenelle Evans. She was born in 1992 and the world knows her as the ‘Teen Mom star’. An Indian audience may take it farfetched; Teen Mom series is a reality show that “follows” four girls and their journey into motherhood. When the Malayalam Movie Kalimannu released, a scene portraying child delivery raised furious controversy in Kerala. In a culture that is vulnerable to such levels of open display, how could the theme of four girls moving onto childbirth work? Did I tell you all these girls are teenagers? OK, it is evident from the name of the show itself.

Teens getting pregnant and being pushed into raising a family of their own seems a cultural dilemma in the US. Teenagers are in fact, children. To think they can take charge of a family emotionally and financially is to think asinine. The epithet to such a social system should be little short of ‘disaster’.

The problem of moral disintegration is the backbone to such issues. It’s the lost struggle for virtue, as Stevenson puts it. The struggle to keep moral order is destined to fail. It is inherently flawed. Even the concept of morality in the contemporary Indian context is close-read with religious order and the rule of Ram or Allah or God. When all these excuses involve, violence erupts and people kill each other, simple as that. What is morality? This question must be answered, here, right now. This is a humongous risk, since all the people I know of or I will know or those who lived before me or live right now in another altered dimension would be waiting for the answer to tear it apart and study it. On this question, there have been so many answers. Mine is simple, because it is essentially mine. Morality is the moment of pause when you think would I like this to happen to my mom, sister, father, or girlfriend.
Image Courtesy: National Geographic

Disintegration of moral values is not just a cultural and social problem. It is an imbalance in the personal level too. I am not saying it is morally wrong to get married or to ‘get laid’ in an early age. I am just saying you should not procreate too often. Our already congested social system would burst out with no scope for all these “new arrivals” in the womb of the earth mother.

Moreover, there is a political problem too. From what I heard, Sharia, the law of Islam promotes child marriages. In addition, Hinduism once promoted child marriages. In Kerala, recently, a similar discourse sprang up and bit all of us—peace loving, and sleep loving—Keralites. Someone somewhere said that the age for marriage in girls should be 16—teenage. The court and governments seem to agree with this notion too.

The fundamental problem in this stand is that the groom for a 16 year old would be at least 25, so that the male candidate can achieve financial independence and emotional maturity, to raise a family. Twenty-five, however, is only in the case of those who are exceptionally lucky to get a job at the right time and managed to set up fiscal security.

Twenty-five minus sixteen: think about the age difference. Think about the vast majority of those men, who start their job hunt when they were boys and end up, after the quest of a lifetime, ‘new adults (29-30 something)’ or middle aged men, until they find a job and a steady income. Think about the age difference between a 16-year-old girl and 30-year-old man. Think about their family life.
 
Image Courtesy: Google
If, in Kerala, they are legitimizing the imported social system from gulf countries, in America it’s already a well accepted cultural phenomenon--Teen Moms. They talk about vigor and sexual energy, the capacity to childbearing and moral corruption of girls if they are not given proper orientation in familial life as the causes for supporting child marriage. Fine, but I cannot say how moral it would be to molest a 16-year-old girl, making her believe it is marriage, and it is for the common good of all. 

Jenelle Evans has a broken marriage, a controversy over the custody of her child, and a heroin case, for which she is even jailed. This is where, in my opinion, Sharia, and all other arguments supporting teen childbearing loses its value. This is when it becomes immoral to push a child over the edge into the abyss of familial responsibility. It is not the sexual energy, or family orientation, but the aftermath to the individual, that matters. An uncommon level of immorality is at its best play, only to bring a worst future for us all.
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