Monday, October 31, 2011

Things that Should not be Stolen

Let's call him Jim. Jim is a generic enough name. I could be a Jim. You could be a Jim. Anyone could be a Jim.

So. Jim.

Jim had, for long, been carrying around a desire to be heard. To be understood. Appreciated.

Jim wanted to write.

He wanted his voice to be around for years after he'd gone, echoing from mind to mind, growing stronger with each successive echo. He wanted people to wonder at the sheer brilliance that had given birth to such thoughts as he would pen down, the marvelous imagination that had shaped the thoughts into the beautiful words that finally made their way to millions of eager receptacles.

Except.

Except, Jim couldn't write. Anything Jim managed to string together sounded like an instruction manual. It lacked heart. It lacked soul. It lacked everything that made a good piece of writing a good piece of writing.

Some thieves, however, are born thieves. They have the ability to pick locks, to silently pad around a house even as the occupants sleep and to make off with pieces of someone else's lives and make them their own.

So it was with Jim. He could look into your eyes, talk to you, clasp your hand and your thoughts would be his. Of course, he would have to sift through your thoughts (for thoughts can be overwhelming, especially others' thoughts) and he would have to identify the ones worth retaining. And all this had to be done in a cordial atmosphere.

Because most people did not take kindly to strangers clasping their hands, Jim's unique talents were quite ill-suited for any get rich quick scheme he could have possibly cobbled together. There was no denying it, though- it was a strange and powerful gift, indeed.

He had first discovered it seconds before his first kiss. He had been holding the girl's hand. He had been doing it for about ten minutes- the routine comprising of concealing one's impatience and looking into each others' eyes, the talking, the holding hands, the mandatory mating ritual which precedes any sexual activity and which humans, perhaps to disguise the pure disgustingly primitive nature of the act to follow, ascribe so much importance to- and he was awash with excitement. And then they came. In blinding, migraine like bursts of pain, they came. Thought after thought after thought. Suddenly, he knew. He knew that this girl had kissed ten guys before him. He knew that she longed for an escape from her broken home. He knew that she stole regularly from the convenience store and that she loved to dance in the rain. He also knew that she was ready, impatient even, for his kiss and that she was wondering whether what she perceived as his hesitation to kiss her sprung from him not finding her attractive enough.

Because wooing a girl involved all the things that were necessary for Jim to steal thoughts, Jim's mind now held many girls' secrets.

And now, Jim wanted to be an author. Naturally enough, Jim decided to steal an author's thoughts. Jim had read about Neil Gaiman coming to a store near his house. It didn't take him long to figure out a course of action. He'd pretend to be a fan- he didn't, as a matter of fact, need to pretend- and he'd go close and clasp Neil's hand and talk to him and look deep in his eyes. He would then leave Neil, empty and vacant, and he'd go and write whatever it was that Neil had planned to write in his future.

And so it was that Jim found himself in the queue for the signing of Fragile Things. So it was that when his turn came, he strode forward, enthusiastically pouncing on Neil's hand and tried to engage him in conversation. Neil, being the fundamentally nice person he was, entertained this loony fan who obviously nursed a desire to write, but was, in no conceivable way, author material. But Neil was unaware that there were certain inconceivable ways in which one could become an author. And, finally, so it was that, mission accomplished and with that spring in his step particular to someone who has just conned an innocent (largely happy, but tinged with soon-to-be-forgotten guilt), Jim made his way from the bookstore, leaving behind a Neil Gaiman temporarily without ideas.

(Neil would not, for the next month or so, be able to write anything. There would be no lasting damage- thoughts, being thoughts, were always being born. After all, no thief can take from a home an object of desire that hasn't been bought yet, can he? All Jim could take were the thoughts that had already been born in Neil's mind but had not been acted upon.)

His head swimming with ideas, Jim hurried back home and opened his computer to, at last, begin work on the masterpiece. The first of many masterpieces, in fact. Plans had already been made for a visit to Stephen Fry's house and to Terry Pratchett's after that.

And it was then that Jim found out what many aspiring novelists have, over the ages, found out. He discovered, with increasing, maddening despair, that the thoughts were swimming in his head and were refusing to come out in any respectable form. He discovered that, when he forced them out, rather than coming out in a neatly packaged manner, they were just blurting themselves out in insipid, extremely brief and ugly half-sentences. He wrote and wrote, pressing Ctrl+N furiously, but never, in the document after document he opened in Word, could he get beyond expressing his (or rather, Neil's) thoughts in more than two mechanical sentences. There was, "the man who could think about a time and era and be there, but who then loses his memory and, with it, his knowledge of his ability and who is stuck in the 1400s till he dies" and there was "the natural electromagnetic wave from space that drastically affects everyone near an electronic device, and which is to man, what the meteorite shower was to the dinosaurs and which leads to crocodiles becoming the predominant species on Earth". And there were many more. But that was all there was.

It is quite easy to give up on your dreams. You just have to try and stop trying to achieve them.

Jim gave up, rather quickly, his dream of becoming an author.

Jim is now a guru. He looks into peoples' eyes, talks to them, clasps their hands and knows what they are thinking. What they want to be thinking. What they want him to say to them. And he says it.

Jim is now leading a very comfortable life, indeed and is (from the wealth bestowed upon his foundation by the adoring disciples who come from around the world to meet this miracle worker who can understand them to much more an extent in ten minutes than the people they thought closest to them could in a lifetime) far richer than an author could ever hope to be.

Jim is quite glad he didn't become an author.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

We are too Smart for this to be our Story, I hope.

It was a Monday morning. And that should be enough for you to guess the kind of morning it was. There was not a smile to be seen. Except the fake smiles of the perennially and artificially happy. The ones who claimed they had made peace with the way of the modern world.

The weather, oppressively hot, accentuated the emotions of the others- the hapless office-going crowd for whom saying goodbye to the Sunday had been heart-wrenching. The individuals who made up the crowd had long since recognized the futility of their attempt to be individuals and had grudgingly assumed their designated roles of  cogs in the giant capitalist wheel. Their weekly revolutions as cogs were punctuated with periodic symbolic protests at the system- they would utilize the office internet for deviant purposes one day, they would show up at work without shaving the next. But they all recognized the protests, if such demonstrations could be termed protests, that is, for what they were- a weak stab at convincing themselves that whilst their bodies were for hire, their minds were free to roam the plains of radical thought and to at least think of doing the things they always wanted to do and that this was, surely, a small victory.

But they were ashamed of themselves. And never quite knew whether their shame was justified.

On this particular Monday morning, however, one of them had had enough. One of them had decided he would no longer pretend.

So, as he walked into the lobby of his office building, smiling at his colleagues, his mind made up about the course of action that he felt was his destiny, he was happy. He was, for the first time since he had started his job, truly happy.

In his mind, sequences from Jeremy and He was a Quiet Man played out and he imported his consciousness into that of the protagonists'. He reassured himself it was the right thing to do.

He walked into his boss's office without knocking. To his mind, it was a final act of defiance to complete his day of defiance - he had decided that today would pan out on his terms and was wearing his black, faded t-shirt and his favorite pair of jeans and he looked disheveled, as he had routinely done through college- before he ended it all. The boss looked up, but did not recognize the look of pure loathing he was being given and inquired, in that polite but condescending manner characteristic of most bosses, "Yes?". Why are you, a waste of the world's space, being a waste of my time as well?

That was the final straw. He had expected this look and had primed himself for this moment. He reached into the back pocket of his jeans and pulled out what had been nestling there uncomfortably throughout the cab ride and his shuffling, nonchalant and what he thought of as a non office-goer walk up through the lobby and into his boss's corner office.

He pulled out...

His resignation letter.

And he placed it, with an exaggerated motion resulting in a loud thump and with his face crunched up to reflect what he hoped was the apt expression to go with this moment, on his boss's unnecessarily large, rectangular teak-wood table. Carefully drafted over the weekend, full of the choicest abuses and sarcasm, it was, to his proud fatherly mind, the epitome of resignation letters. After having waited a full minute while he watched his boss's normally inscrutable face going from its normal pale (from not receiving enough sunlight) white to a rather curiously shaded red, he said, "There. I've resigned. Now I can say what I have thought every single day since I started work under you. And that is...". Here, he paused for dramatic effect, before shouting, "Fuck you!". As soon as those words were out of his mouth, he felt that he could have better chosen his words. Maybe he could have fortified his "Fuck you" with a "you capitalist slave!" or better still, he could have gone for a harder hitting, less cliched "I pity you, you ball-less excuse for a man!"

His ex-boss's face went a shade redder, tottering on the brink of being burgundy.

And now (for today is Tuesday, one day but, for our protagonist, a lifetime removed from the Monday), he is staggering through the first day of his three-month notice period, as he was contractually obliged to do. He cannot afford to forfeit the bond money.

He is also regretting having quit in such a dramatic manner. Because his resignation letter, written in a haze of intoxication, had been worded in a manner that had angered his boss to such an extent that if it was legal, his boss would have had him slowly tortured by the extremely imaginative Russian mafia and then shot. In any event, it was more than enough to make his boss ensure that chances of him finding employment in the same or any related industry which would value his skill-set were virtually nil. In the darkness of substance induced euphoria, the letter had had an allure reminiscent of, and associated with, engaging in forbidden pleasures for the first time.

In the blinding light of common sense, however, it looked like what it was- a temptress whose seductive, suggestive appearances have to cloaked by the black velvet cloth of the night to be effective and who, by day, looks positively revolting.

And, after having served out his notice period, he will probably have to take up some low-paying job somewhere.

He will probably have to, in the course of such employment, serve or otherwise entertain several of his colleagues, who will give him looks, partly smug and partly sympathetic.

He will probably have to grin and bear it all, and take the measly tips they leave him and save up for whatever sad little thing or activity he will find solace in. Maybe a holiday with his family to a nearby cheap resort.

And he will surely hate his life.


Lesson: Don't be stupid. Even if it is Monday. And even if you feel like shit.

(Diesel Jeans may exhort to the contrary. But, well, it's Diesel Jeans. You'd have to be stupid to take that ad campaign seriously. So, the campaign may, in effect, in all its circular logical glory, be actually working. Who knows?) 

Friday, October 21, 2011

You are Always Right.

A liberal is a man who will not take his own side in an argument, it is said.

I do this quite often. The justification I offer myself is that it is not a sign of weakness; it is, rather, a sign of laziness and of the propensity to automatically lean towards the most convenient route out of a situation.

If you have an issue with the above, I concede to your superior logic.

As I said, with me, You are Always Right.  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rabble on, Anna



Image aestheticization credit to Igirit. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Totally Unnecessary Blues

Visiting facebook. Again and again. And again. Refreshing the page in the hope that someone else is as jobless as one is. Tinged with the expectation that that particular jobless person is thinking of you and has visited your page and commented on that ultra-slick status message you've only recently updated. Yeah, right.

Is this what my life has come down to?

No. THAT is not the only thing my life has come down to. It has also come down to trying desperately to ascribe some meaning to itself by elevating banal everyday happenings such as meeting overweight nitwits on the train to the status of something extraordinary and deluding myself that people will actually be interested in my social commentary on such a meeting. The result of such delusion is:


PS:
1) In case you decide to play along with my delusion, you will have to click on the comic to see the enlarged version of the comic. Don't have the energy to figure out how to have a zoomed version uploaded on to the blog.
2) Also don't have the energy to correct a grammatical (actually, misplaced punctuation) error in the comic.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Super 8

Contrary to my usual established practice, I did not spend time reading reviews on IMDB and RT before heading for this movie. It was, as such, a leap of faith; a leap into the dark abyss of possible boredom, pinning all my hopes on the belief that the lifeline that was Steven Spielberg's involvement in the movie would become taut and halt my fall.

Thankfully, there was no abyss and there was no fall and consequently, no need for the lifeline. The movie was engrossing from start to finish, largely due to the fact that it keeps you wondering. Wondering what's going on, what's going to be going on, why are they keeping us wondering etc. You get the idea.

The tone is set when a train is derailed, and the kids who chance upon it are warned away with a "They'll kill you and your parents." The kids are around because they are shooting an amateur movie for a competition known as Super 8. There is a fat kid, a normal kid, a stupid kid, a pyromaniac kid and a girl who at least two of the kids have a thing for. There is also a nuclear incident which serves no other purpose than as the backdrop of some sort of tension between the fathers of the girl and the normal kid, which, in turn, serves no purpose other than to put the kids' love into the realm of the forbidden.

The moments of foreboding are many and are quite effective in startling one out of the complacency one habitually slips into, and which is manifested in the slouching posture one lapses into after every periodic (each period being about ten mins) search for the perfect posture. The background score (and lack thereof) are used to great effect. The combination of the eerie silence characteristic of small town America and the predominantly night-time cinematography enhances, along with your absolute ignorance of what is going on, the taut thrilling ride that is this movie.

There is also a reasonably funny scene (funny only to a limited demographic, possibly) in which a guy is too stoned to move from the impending danger (which, of course, I can't reveal) with the comic result that people just leave the guy and flee. They never do show what becomes of the guy, come to think of it.

Ok. That's all I have. Someone please tell me how reviewers review a movie without giving away the central plot of the movie (and the central plot in this case is VERY VERY important because the movie depends on keeping people guessing about it, and on leaving them to draw their half- conclusions from the various strange incidents and weird phenomena that riddles the small sleepy town). Because I can't. I definitely can't. I can't even tell you whether the kids end up making the movie for the Super 8 competition because that would entail giving away whether they're dead or alive at the end of it all.

Ah. Fuck it. They don't die. They do make the movie. Whether they win the competition is another matter altogether. I won't spoil that bit of suspense for you. You can thank me later. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Strangers

We are close strangers, you and I
Doomed to a hello and a bye
A knowing smile and a resigned look
Before a re-burying in the book.

Strangers, but not quite.
You and I.

Ours is the dance of the uncertain
Of half-taken steps, awkwardly shuffled
Of a miscalculated how and when
And a pretense at feelings unruffled.

And when they have passed, the years
When we've laughed our laughs and shed our tears
And told ourselves, a life well lived
It may be then
It may be then that you look back
And remember a stranger that you knew
And wonder
Wonder if he remembers you.





Sunday, October 9, 2011

Real Steel


This is a confused movie. It’s quite evident that the director couldn’t make his mind up as to the demographic he was targeting. I mean, you see the trailer, and it looks like Rocky meets Transformers. Then you troop in to watch the movie, your expectations higher than Jay and Silent Bob put together after a marathon session and you get weird sentimental moments over a robot. There are boyfriend-girlfriend moments, father-son moments, boy-robot moments and more boy-robot moments. Emotional moments over a bloody robot. And one that can’t even think for itself, like the ones in Transformers. Beat that.

Someone should’ve told the director that Hugh Jackman shirtless is all it takes to bring the ladies in. As Twilight proved, they're not particularly fussy about the kind of movies they watch. :) He didn’t have to generously sprinkle what is essentially a feel good underdog action movie with unnecessary emotional moments. And they come at all the wrong times. They come when a fight is lost, when a fight is won, when there has been no fight- in short, like the gigaloop, they come at all the inappropriate moments.

Nevertheless, the movie is worth a watch. The robots look good, the fight sequences are well-shot, there are enough moments of fond nostalgia for Rocky fans who have whole-heartedly embraced CGI but refuse to leave behind their upbringing, including a particularly adrenaline-rush inducing homage to Rocky’s taunt to Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. Which is fitting, considering that the owner of the big bad robot is a Russian. There are also enough moments of robots bashing robots for those souls unfortunate enough not to have watched Rocky (and I include all of today’s kids in that).

And, most importantly, the movie made me crave for a time when I can make a robot fight for me. And isn’t that what good movies are supposed to do? Aren’t they supposed to either make you wish that you were a part of the movie or make you thankful that you weren’t a part of them? To lift your emotions or to make you cringe at what you see? 

On that count of not inspiring indifference in me, I award it a 6.5 out of 10. Which means, while it may not qualify as a real steal, it's enough of a steal to warrant hauling your ass up to Malad for a 11 p.m. show. 
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