Tuesday 31 August 2004

Greece is the word

So here's our take on the Olympics, then.
Synchronised swimming? We approve of fit young women in swimsuits any day of the week, mind you, and we kinda get it when there's more than one person in the pool, and they're all doing roughly the same thing. But individual synchronised swimming? Who on earth is the lass with the plastic smile synchronising with, fercyrinoutloud?
Hm, is it my overheated middle-aged imagination working overtime, is it just packaging, or are women athletes getting better looking?
Doordarshan's commentary. Shut Urrrrp! 'Twas ok when the feed kept the commentary that one assumes came with the feed. The Kiwis seemed to know what they were talking about. But when events of "national importance" came around, you'd get a couple of DD's finest bellowing over the airwaves, the brief being, from the evidence: Imagine This Is Radio And The Audience Needs You To Spell Out Everything. Camera zooms in on anguished Anju George (BTW, good on you, lass! You bettered your previous best. No more can be asked of you.] who has not been able to improve on her first jump: "She is looking disapointed." And that's not counting the bloopers - at the start of the 4x400 relay: "And representing Ukraine, [quickly reads out names from screen, only first names, because there isn't time], all from Ukraine!" - and, er, witticisms - during the closing ceremony as fireworks go off and music plays [roughly, from the Hindi] "Diwali is being celebrated in Athens too!"
The victory wreaths: lovely idea.
Oh, are we done yet with the One Billion People And Only One Medal essays in the papers? Well, actually, carry on. It makes for a change from the bloody cricket and what Sachin Said Next.
Right, now we shall go see if we can find you some funnier Olympic roundups.

They'd love him in New York

We didn't underestimate them, they were a lot better than we thought.
Nay, not W. That be Bobby Robson. Two more:"He never fails to hit the target, but that was a miss." "There will be a game where somebody scores more than Brazil and that will be the game they lose."

(: 30/08 :)

The problem with trying to do that connected-yet-disconnected intro thingy is every now and then, you want to link to a cartoon, but can't think up something snappy enough.
Yeah, you gotta talk to them first, and if they still don't listen...
Gotta show you guys some of our poetry some time.
In the city where we live, most everybody won't get this 'un.
Shudder. Been there.
Ooh, i lurhve my room.

Monday 30 August 2004

Cover story

Something that's always bugged us: seeing a reprint of an old favourite book with a scene from a TV show or movie adapt on the cover. It somehow seems to take away from the book, shoving actual faces into the mind's eye. And this is true even of film versions we loved, like Yes Minister and Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry in Jeeves and Wooster, and Jeremy Brett in the Sherlock Holmes stories.
What say you?
Oh yes, the article that got us on to this mini-rant - well, more a grumble than anything, really: at The New York Times, Verlyn Klinkenborg notes that "The Penguin edition of William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair has a new cover. It shows Reese Witherspoon, who plays Becky Sharp in the new film version, staring balefully at the reader." Klinkenborg reread an old copy of the book with the illustrations intact, and concluded that "...compared with a comedy as rich and sprawling as 'Vanity Fair,' a movie nearly always shows us too much of the world and not enough of the story. Compared with the way we moderns get to read 'Vanity Fair,' with an almost puritanical lack of ornament, the Victorians may have been better off."

Moore fire

I have written some new ads you can use on TV. People will soon tire of the swift boat veterans and you are going to need some fresh, punchier material. Feel free to use any of these:
ANNOUNCER: "When the bullets were flying all around him in Vietnam, what did John Kerry do? He said he leaned over the boat and 'pulled a man out of the river.' But, as we all know, men don't live in the river -- fish do. John Kerry knows how to tell a big fish tale. What he won't tell you is that when the enemy was shooting at him, he ducked. Do you want a president who will duck? Vote Bush."
ANNOUNCER: "Mr. Kerry's biggest supporter, Sen. Max Cleland, claims to have lost two legs and an arm in Vietnam. But he still has one arm! How did that happen? One word: Cowardice. When duty called, he was unwilling to give his last limb. Is that the type of selfishness you want hanging out in the White House? We think not. Vote for the man who would be willing to give America his right frontal lobe. Vote Bush."
Pop over to Michael Moore's blog for his letter to Bush.
And Moore is going to be covering the Republican convention for USA Today, so watch this space. Unless you're the GOP's candidate, in which case Mike has volunteered: "If you don't want to read it, you and I will be in the same building so maybe I could come by and read it to you? Lemme know..."
p.s. Pictures of of the anti-Bush march in NY.

We like. We can't do, but we like.

Craig Newmark, of Craigslist.org fame, talks to Wired: "I admit that when I think of the money one could make from all this, I get a little twinge. But I'm pretty happy with nerd values: Get yourself a comfortable living, then do a little something to change the world."
It almost, almost makes us remember we were a flower child once.

(: 29/08 :)

"Those?" We have them every day.
On the other hand, we do have the rare day when we wonder whether we shoulda quit the cubicle scene.
For the Alien in Noo Yawk, for when the TV ceases to enthrall.

Saturday 28 August 2004

(: 28/08 :)

As long as Roaming works.
They told us that about blogging...
...but we'd need a new phone.
Will blogs count?

We can help you find interesting sites! Mail now!

Spamusement: "Poorly-drawn cartoons inspired by actual spam subject lines!" Makes you look at your junk mail folder in a whole new light.

Going once...

Drop by Disturbing Auctions, which is "dedicated to the research and study of the most bizarre items found for sale on internet auction sites. Not the obviously fake auctions, like the infamous human kidney, but truly tacky stuff that people really, honestly, believed that someone would (and in some cases did) buy."

if you win a prize
spare a thought for poor ole zig:
lend us the books please

want to win a prize?
encapsulate news events
in three simple lines

paint a word picture
in seventeen syllables
five-seven-five form

a haiku headline
snapshot of the world today
Check out the Guardian's weekly topical haiku contest. Prizes are £20 worth of Penguin Classics.

We're all highbrow suddenly. Sort of.

Have you seen Tim Bradford's Writer's Workhop cartoons at the Guardian? So far, he's done Beatrix Potter, Franz Kafka, James Joyce, Samuel Johnson, Jack Kerouac, and the Bronte sisters.

Poems in search of moods

"At Books Unlimited we're so smart we can tell what mood you're in and what would make you feel better. Simply do our test and we'll find you some poetry to soothe your mood." Check out the moodmatcher

(: 27/08 :)

we have a great relationship with ours. And with our other gadgets too...
...but maybe we shoulda taken out a classified.
Hm. How would this work in India? Branded laathis?

Friday 27 August 2004

Thursday 26 August 2004

Of other worlds

The Guardian has a nice set of articles for the SciFi buffs. Philip Pullman writes about The science of fiction. Some of the world's best scientist knock up a list of their favourite SciFi authors. The short list: Isaac Asimov, John Wyndham, Fred Hoyle, Philip K Dick, HG Wells, Ursula K Le Guin, Arthur C Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Frank Herbert and Stanislaw Lem. And there's an extract from The Algebraist, Iain M Banks's first science fiction novel in four years.

(: 24-25/08 :)

We were thinking of making this a paid site, but perhaps we'll go with Ad Sense instead.
Another insight into Gee Dubya Bee's re-election strategy.
Cat cartoonists as opposed to dog cartoonists.
They're playing our song.
Hm, we haven't tried the hat thing yet.
And what's a nice girl like you doing in a blog like this?

Tuesday 24 August 2004

(: 23/08 :)

For Mara, until her book comes out.
We missed that one too. And it was a french window at that.
Can we have a red ferrari and a bimbette instead?

For the 5.27%: may your tribe increase

We meant to link to this ages ago, but kept forgetting: Internet Explorer usage actually declined slightly last month, by a whole percentage point. Of course since that drop was from 95.73% TO 94.73%, Redmond won't be losing too much sleep. Wired News marked the occasion by reviewing some alternatives to IE.
[For the record, we do have IE on our PC, but that's just to fault check pages we design for mass consumption. For our daily browsing, we fire up Netscape 7.1 or Opera 5.12, both of which give excellent service. And we're going to try out Firefox as soon as we migrate to a better broadband plan.]

Guaranteed, no pop-ups

Welcome to BannerReport, which hosts over 15,000 web ad banners, which it hopes "will be of special interest to graphic designers, web developers, marketing professionals and as those with an interest in online advertising." [via this Wired News article.]

Monday 16 August 2004


A couple of weeks ago, we posted about some new developments in the world of comics. And another of our illustrious pen pals, cartoonist Jef Mallet (check out the link to his wonderful strip, Frazz on the left), wrote in to say:
Those are fascinating. This is a weird business, and it evolves like any weird business. I'm not thrilled with the trend toward ultrasimplistic artwork -- I think readers deserve more -- but maybe there's too much sublety in a good cartoon. After all, this is the age of digitized computer special effects -- big and splashy, if not especially deep. Cartoons are quieter. I shouldn't be surprised if there's a tendency to say what the hell and do them the easy way.
But you'll have to forgive me if I choose not to be a part of that trend. And if it costs me my career, I'll go down proud. But I bet it won't.
Thanks for passing those along!
*The sound of a name dropping, yet again.

If you can help, or know someone who can...

...this email just in via a friend. Publicise, help, pass on, whatever you can.

Hello Friends,
My name is Jasmina Khanna. I reside in India. I was born with an ailment called Cerebral Palsy.
Due to Cerebral Palsy, both my hands and legs are paralyzed; hence, I am confined to a wheelchair. As you would see in my Résumé, despite all my limitations, I have done everything possible and met the challenges head on. I have just completed my Post Graduation from the Mumbai Bombay University. I have also learnt to work on various computer applications thoroughly. I have been working as a freelancer on several projects for various prestigious companies for the past 8 years now.
I firmly believe in the saying “Where there is a will there is a way.” I have the inner urge and motivation to grow my potential by learning, working, and being independent as much as possible. I want to do my further studies in Canada. But I have financial constraints to pursue the courses that I wish to go in for.
I wish to do a two-year Post Graduation diploma course in Enterprise Content Management in the field of information technology at Humber College based in Toronto, Canada. My expenses for the course amount to around US $15,000 to US $18,000 per year, including the tuition fees and other staying expenses. I would be obliged to get financial aid or scholarship for both the years but I would be grateful even if I get it for at least a year.
This email campaign appeals to each one of you to help me. My most ardent wish today is that this email reaches someone somewhere who will pick up the phone after reading it, or forwards this mail to the right person, who might be able to help me in someway for achieving this difficult but not an impossible task of getting financial aid or scholarship.
You can read articles on me that were published a few years ago from the links given below.
I can be contacted through my following email ids:
jasminakhanna@yahoo.com or jasmina_khanna@hotmail.com
Hoping for a favourable response from you!
Thanking you in anticipation.
Yours Sincerely,
Jasmina Khanna
Those of you on Ryze can see Jasmina's page here.

Comic picks 15/07

A new daily (or whenever we remember) feature.
Selected comics from our regular diet.
We, on the other had, are a filter blogger.
That's why we're always late on our deadlines.
We're 6'2", look like a younger Mel Gibson, and bought Microsoft in 1980.
Our oh-so-elegant solution has been to not have any money to bank.
Who are we to talk? We run a blog that no one comments on.
Our shrink is writing a book.
We don't take our car into town because we're worried someone will steal our cleaning rag.

Sunday 15 August 2004

Nuke Ids on the blog (Zig gone fission)

We're sorry we haven't posted recently. Real life has this nasty habit of intruding on blogging time, shoving bills in your face and yelling, "Who's gonna pay these, huh? Huh? Huh?" Work, we regret to say, has to take precedence over your surfing pleasure for a bit.
But, meanwhile, at the risk of your finding them so hot that you don't come back here, may we recommend a few places to point your browser? Those of you who look at our blogroll will have noticed a few new additions to that august list.
Our penpal, Manjula Padmanabhan, who frequent visitors (hah!) and commenters (hah!hah!) on this blog will know as the Margin Alien, has bowed to vociferous public demand and has started her own blog.
Another buddy, Sujoy Mukherjee usually does a new essay on tech, marketing and/or web-related stuff every week or two at Time is Fleeting.
And Seth Godin's riffs on marketing, respect, and the ways ideas spread is well worth a bookmark too.
Speaking of marketing, all you MBAs, this one's for you [link lifted from Seth's blog].
And if you're interested in blogging and networking as business tools, check out Conversations with Dina.
We'd also like to introduce you to Putu the Cat, who holds forth on lit, entertainment, food and all manner of other things.
And also to Phantasmagoria blog home of a virtual pal from another Zz avatar which we'd rather no talk about right now. Unlike us, she's a gifted, prolific writer who regularly posts essays, word-snapshots and poems. No links, though.
And lastly, a place where we can actually refer to ourselves as "we," without people accusing us of putting on airs or having worms. One of the things that's taken up some of our time is the setting up of a collablog - er, group blog? - for a bunch of (mainly) Bombay writers. We'd like to see it become a virtual hang out for writers to showcase their work, talk about writing and books, comment on lit news, exchange information, and sip coffee. So please visit Caferati. And we, er, this blog, er, Zigzackly, would love to hear what you think.
Right then, we're off for a bit. We need to rob a bank or something.

Monday 9 August 2004

Our's says "Zigzackly: Famous on our own desktop."

Have you seen the Valley of the Geeks "Banner Ads we'd like to see" series? Here ya go:
Banner Ads We'd Like To See
More Banner Ads We'd Like to See
Even More Banner Ads
Still More Banner Ads We'd Like To See
Way Too Many Banner Ads
Banner Mania
Some of our faves:





MS Office XP



and, of course


It's only a spoof
but with Microsoft and Bill
it might happen yet

The Bentinel has this lovely take off on our favourite target. Microsoft Touts New 6-8-6 Haiku Format: "It was a good start," agreed Microsoft founder Bill Gates, "But everything has to progress, and poetry is no different. The new haiku format allows for an additional syllable on each line, giving authors and users more options. It's all about giving the user what he wants."
"The 'Microsoft Literary Suite' will enable authors to quickly and easily convert their thoughts into structured poetry," explained Gates, "It provides hints, suggests themes, helps writers out of the corners they write themselves into, and does it all using tools you're already familiar with."
"People are resistant to change, it's inevitable that there would be some pushback from the purists," defended Gates, "But in the end progress will win out over purity. It's the natural order of things, and it's beautiful, really."

And for your reading pleasure, this enjoyable set of Haiku error messages that have found their way into my inbox at least once a year:

The Web site you seek
Can not be located but
Countless more exist.

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.

Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.

Yesterday it worked.
Today it is not working.
Windows is like that.

First snow, then silence.
This thousand dollar screen dies
So beautifully.

With searching comes loss
And the presence of absence:
"My Novel" not found.

The Tao that is seen
Is not the true Tao, until
You bring fresh toner.

Stay the patient course.
Of little worth is your ire.
The network is down.

A crash reduces
Your expensive computer
To a simple stone.

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

You step in the stream,
But the water has moved on.
This page is not here.

Out of memory.
We wish to hold the whole sky,
But we never will.

Having been erased,
The document you're seeking
Must now be retyped.

Serious error.
All shortcuts have disappeared.
Screen. Mind. Both are blank.

Program aborting:
Close all that you have worked on.
You ask far too much.

Your file was so big.
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.

Aborted effort.
Close all that you have worked on.
You ask far too much.

Petition: Revoke the ban on Final Solution

Do pass this around, people.

The Censor Board of India recently banned Rakesh Sharma's internationally-acclaimed documentary, Final Solution, for these reasons:
The film promotes communal disharmony among Hindu and Muslim groups and presents the picture of Gujarat riots in a way that it may arouse the communal feelings and clashes among Hindu Muslim groups. It attacks on the basic concept of our Republic i.e. National Integrity and Unity. Certain dialogues involve defamation of individuals or body of individuals. Entire picturisation is highly provocative and may trigger off unrest and communal violence. State security is jeopardized and public order is endangered if this film is shown. It violates guidelines 2(xiii), 2(xiv), 2(xvii) and 3(i). When it is judged in its entirety from the point of view of its overall impact, it is not advisable to be exhibited. Hence refused under Section 5(b) 1 of the Cinematograph Act, 1952.
An online petition has been created by Anand Patwardhan to protest against the ban, and ask the Central Government to intervene and revoke it (which the Government is empowered to do).
An extract:
We find the observations made by the Indian Censor Board to be deeply disturbing. We are appalled to note that the Censor Board preview panel has several members affiliated with the right-wing political party who do not hesitate to use their official position to suppress any film critical of their politics. We would like to express our protest against the ban on Final Solution as well as the attempts to harass the film-maker through show-cause notices querying the participation of his film in international film festivals and demanding explanations about customs duties etc, matters clearly outside the Censor Board’s jurisdiction. We are gravely concerned about the strong-arm tactics being used by right-wing cadres to thwart public screenings of the film even in film festivals like Films for Freedom at Bangalore on July 29, 2004.
The right to freedom of expression and the right to information are central to any healthy and vibrant democracy. We urge you to take immediate steps to arrange for the speedy release of Final Solution without cuts. Final Solution is itself a strong plea against the politics of intolerance and hate and we are perturbed to find it become a victim of political intolerance.
A little about the film:
Final Solution is a study of the politics of hate.

Set in Gujarat during the period Feb/March 2002 - July 2003, the film graphically documents the changing face of right-wing politics in India through a study of the 2002 genocide of Moslems in Gujarat. The film documents the Assembly elections held in Gujarat in late 2002 and records in detail the exploitation of the Godhra incident (in which 58 Hindus were burnt alive) by the right-wing propaganda machinery for electoral gains. It studies the situation after the storm and its impact on Hindus and Moslems – ghettoisation in cities and villages, segregation in schools, the call for economic boycott of Moslems and continuing acts of violence more than a year after the carnage.
Final Solution is anti-hate/ violence as “ those who forget history are condemned to relive it.

Wolfgang Staudte award and Special Jury Award (Netpac), Berlin International film festival.
Humanitarian Award for Outstanding Documentary, HongKong International film festival.
Silver Dhow ( Best Doc category), Zanzibar International film festival
Special Jury Mention, Munich Dokfest.
Special Award instituted and given by NRIs for a Secular and Harmonious India (NRI-SAHI), NY-NJ, USA.
Berlinale ( International premiere; Feb 2004), HongKong, Fribourg, 3 continents filmfest (South Africa), Hot Docs (Canada), Vancouver, Zanzibar, Durban, Commonwealth film festival (UK), One world filmfest (Prague), Voces Contra el Silencio (Mexico), Istanbul 1001fest, Singapore, Flanders (Belgium), World Social Forum (Mumbai; Indian premiere), Vikalp (Mumbai filmfest organised by Campaign against Censorship), Films for Freedom, Bangalore and several other filmfests.
[Thanks for the link, Rohit Gupta, Apollo Bunder Comics]

Saturday 7 August 2004

Favourite books - and the never-agains

Inspired by this page, our buddy The Babu has put together a list of his own. And he wants to know which books YOU read again and again. And also the ones you will never read again. Stroll over, why doncha?

Bespoke link

A few weeks ago, this blog visited Wankaner's Ranjit Vilas palace, as guests of the former Maharajah.
Nay, we hasten to add, those aren't the circles we normally move in. That was for Outlook Traveller, and the issue is out. You can read an extract here (third story - and the cover, he said, simpering coyly), and if you like it, do go buy the mag. We want them to do well and give us more assignments that will postpone the need for Real Work and give us time to blog for you. So there, it's your interests we have at heart.

History lessons

A litte while ago, we posted on some fascinating new developments in the field of comics, made possible by technology. And that got us thinking about the past. A little digging and Googling later, we found this, which we present for your consideration and enjoyment: The History of the Cartoon according the ghost of the late lamented Punch.
After we mailed that out, a friend (thanks Swapna) sent us back a link to this scholarly look at the history of Caricature, which goes much further back than the Punch piece. Most interesting to us was to see that things that we thought were relatively modern cartooning innovations date back quite a bit. Like The Shadow Knows, which Mad used to run, and Axe ripped off for its commercials, and a face morphing into something else, like a vegetable, which, we're sure, you've seen often, most recently in the TOI's election coverage.

Friday 6 August 2004

In which we attempt to demonstrate that we do not just Link, but can also Converse. (And continue to name drop.)

A couple of weeks ago, we sent this article[*] (about advances in technology that now permit one to make an exact copy of a piece of sculpture) around to our long-suffering mailing list, and one of the people who wrote back, our pen-pal, the writer and artist Manjula Padmanabhan (there we go dropping names again), who has been having a spot of bother with a magazine reproducing her work without permission, said
Very cool article! It answers a question that's been popping up in my head from time to time -- how can we cut down the boring features of art?
I have made an occasional dab at sculpting (I think in 3D) but there's always the tedious effort of removing physical matter. I would adore to make just the one piece and have it endlessly copied ... Painters haven't been displaced by photographers. But copyright lawyers are going to have a new level of tension to deal with.
I have been in contact with a young lawyer-to-be who wanted to know what authors felt about piracy -- the drift of his questions suggested that he felt authors get too much for doing something that might as well be in the public domain -- amongst his reference points was epic literature, which belonged to the community at large -- no doubt you see the glaring blind spot in his point of view -- but it was interesting nevertheless to see by how much the law misses the truth of a situation. Anjolie Menon's recent entanglements with an assistant who began knocking off and selling her paintings does throw up a peculiar problem -- she taught him to paint in her style, so she gave him the keys to her kingdom -- but she won't allow him to gain any profit from them!
Curiosities, all.
To which we, scenting blogpost, said:
Tried my hand at sculpture too. And that "tedious effort" sometimes gets a bit much, yes! i think i enjoy additive sculpture more than the subtractive kind.
On Ms Menon - i don't think she's objecting to him using the keys of the kingdom as much as pretending he owns it, so to speak, by passing off his work as hers. Poor lad, i imagine if he were to sign his own name to them, he wouldn't make much of a living.
This whole thing about copyright has occupied much mindspace over the years.
For a musician, some people think that it should perhaps be that recordings should be freely available (and free!), and that they would operate as an introduction to the musician(s), with the income coming in from live concerts. Which, of course, pisses off the music companies no end, because they get cut out of the earnings stream. Writers are the other ones whose work is easily ripped off with modern tech. And i haven't heard of any similar alternative revenue stream suggestions from anyone. As someone who is a gen-oo-ine professional writer, what's your take on it? Things like Creative Commons licenses, such as i have on the blog, they don't solve the issue of being deprived of revenue when one wants to make money of one's work. Do you think the Take One Free, Buy The Rest model would work for writers who want to use the web to market their stuff? As in putting out one free story as an appetiser for a collection that's available free? Or Stephen King's attempt of a chapter-a-time, with a dollar buying you the next, would that work?
The problem there, i think, is that there's still no easy way to stop someone from passing on work they have bought.
And the patient Manjula wrote back:
Ah the trials of being an h'author!! Yep. Well, the logical analog of musicians being paid to do live tours is for authors being paid to do live readings, while their books are available 'free.'
But the problem with both fields of creativity is this: by cutting off revenues to the agencies that make the work available to the public, i.e., the publishing and recording companies, the public is the ultimate loser! Because the publishing/recording companies, working entirely under the impetus of personal gain and greed have nevertheless created a situation where there is more literature and music available to the mass of humanity than ever before.
And you, Gentle Reader, what do you think?

Highway Bloggery

Friends, advertising people and activists - especially all you technophobes - here's an absolutely wonderful concept i'd like to point you towards. It will get you a much larger audience than, for example, this blog would. But then, so would the sound of one hand clapping. Anyway, "Apart from actual prisoners, you won't find a more captive audience than people in their cars," the site says, and goes on to explain: "Here's what you do: 1) Put paint on cardboard 2) Put cardboard on freeway 3) Repeat"
Now hie thee to FreewayBlogger.com and check out the wonderful examples they have up there. And if you're considering doing a little lo-tech blogging yourself, do check out their "How To" page.
[P.S. Where are our manners? Thanks for the link, Roma.]

Wednesday 4 August 2004

In which we continue to drop names

For once, this blog's claims about moving in august circles can be substantiated. Just after we read Nina's article, which we blogged a couple of posts ago, and mentioned Manjula's play, we also found a link to a lovely piece by another of our buddies, Nilanjana Roy, reminiscing about bookshops she has known, starting with her First Independent Purchase (we are much older and cannot remember that far back in our own life).
How most people mark the passage from childhood into adulthood, I do not know; I marked it by my first solo visit to a bookshop, unaccompanied by adults who would tell me what to buy, clutching a few notes that represented my first ever earnings.
It began badly, with the lady at the counter suggesting the What Katy Did books. My diffidence disappeared in the face of what I saw as a slight. “Oh, I’ve read all of those ages ago—when I was small,” I said loftily. She didn’t allow even the flicker of a smile to cross her face.
Instead she led me deftly into a discussion of reading, cross-examined me subtly, and produced Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird with expert judgement. I still have my copy; ragged, dog-eared, sadly tatty, but then it’s the first book I devoured as a paying adult.
Nilanjana goes on to mourn the imminent demise of one of her favourite bookstores.

What is it with our cities? We permit the sale of underwear strung on funny shaped coathangers on railway pedestrian overbridges, we allow rip-off electronic goods to be sold on the footpaths of our busiest business districts, but we're closing down booksellers? We can feel a rant coming on, but we're tired. Here, you go read the rest of the piece.

What? It is August? Never mind.

The road of books

Large sections of our bookshelves originally came from the pavement book sellers that line the roads between Fountain and Churchgate, dating back from college days, when we couldn't even afford Mr Shanbagh's famous standard discounts at Strand.
The books we own that we didn't buy there were all gifts, or purchased from the not-so-well-known New & Secondhand at Dhobi Talao - cramped, stuffy, dim and oh so wonderful. Despite the space constraints (if you were between two shelves and someone wanted to pass, you had to come all the way out, and no, we were much less wide then, so it's not that), the management encouraged browsing. Which, when you love books and the twenty rupees in your pocket is your allowance for the whole month, is a Very Good Thing. Many happy hours were spent scouring the shelves, lifting down entire piles of books and dipping through every one, weighing the merits of a matinee show against a hardcover Wodehouse.
Books are still our only real vice and extravagance - we're ignoring the weed here - and Bombay now has almost as many spacious, well-lit, A/Ced mega-bookstores as it has bowling alleys. Most of them are browsing-friendly, and we have spent many happy hours at them, ambling down the aisles, sipping here and there, and buying NEW books that are packed into large carry-bags with the store's name on them. We mark our calendar with the big book sales, where, in the past, we have staggered out weighed down with an entire backseat's worth of books, and discounts notwithstanding, having spent at least three times what we meant to when we went in.
But we still like to spend time at N&S when we're in the area, and frequently plan our rare town trips so that we get an hour or two to stroll down Fountain way and replenish the trusty haversack. So we shed a tear and are moved to a longer post than normal when we read in today's TOI (wonders will never cease, more book news in the TOI) that those pavement stalls may soon be a thing of the past. "Veer Nariman Road ... has been identified as a no-hawking zone under the BMC's hawking plan for the city."
The ray of hope is in what happened to Fashion Street. When the authorities cleared the clothes vendors off the pavement near the museum, they were relocated en masse to the sidewalk near Cross Maidan. Hopefully, the booksellers will, at worst, meet a similar fate. We suggest the inner pavement of Marine Drive. We'd also like to personally invite them to our favourite road in the entire extended metropolis, Palm Beach Road, just a ten-minute cycle ride away from this keyboard.

Tuesday 3 August 2004

The Old Lady of Boribunder, has she started reading again?

Very unusual week at the TOI it was. There was actually a full page on the arts in Bombay Times, of all places. An interview (well, five full questions) with Manjula Padmanabhan, another with Naseeruddin Shah, and we forget what else (put it down to shock) and their utterly pathetic search doesn't help either.
And then on Sunday, Men & Women, that extended Page 3 glossy that Sunday Review had morphed into, had a front page feature on books. In Book, line and stinker, our pal Nina Martyris writes on biography in India: "In a very basic way there seems to be a parallel between the kind of jounalism practised in India and the biographic material published – both allow public figures to keep their private lives private. [...] [Except for] scurrilous film biographies. Unauthorised biographies on popular icons like Madhubala and Meena Kumari, who can't defend themselves because they are dead, are in keeping with the tradition of unsavoury film journalism which inspires them. But far worse are the authorised ones, of film stars, business barons and religious heads, which take sychophancy to depths that haven't been plumbed before."

Sunday 1 August 2004

Let's see: tapping the female, check; extending and vibrating a wing, check; singing - ah, that's where we go wrong.

Fruit flies and humans are similar in their genetic makeup so Baker and his colleagues question whether genes that control sexuality in fruit flies could have a similar role in humans.
"If you look at the basics of fly behavior, you find an innate ability to recognize somebody who is the right species and is the right sex," said Baker.
"You tap them and get their attention, you play them a love song and so on. So the basic rudiments are pretty similar to what people do to get successful mating and produce an offspring."
Scientists, in the course of messing around with fruit fly genes, believe they have isolated the cells that control male mating behaviour. Apparently when they interfered with those nerve cells, male fruit flies neglected the fine courtesies, which involve, among other things, tapping, some snappy wing action, and singing (flies sing? we thought they just hummed.), and of course the flowers and the compliments, and tried to do everything at once. Net result: Male fruit fly's fly stays zipped.

Better safe than sari.

A little Beeb tells us that weavers in Varanasi rub condoms - state issue if they can get them - on their looms' shuttles, to soften them, thereby speeding up the weaving process. Feel free to add your alternate headlines in the comments box.
Also in the same article, these, er, unorthodox uses for condoms.
Villagers use them to carry water when working in fields
For waterproofing ceilings: condoms are spread under the cement-concrete mortar
Can be mixed with tar and concrete to give a smooth finish to roads
Can be placed over the ends of guns to protect them in desert sandstorms
Drugs 'mules' swallow condoms filled with drugs to smuggle them across borders