Friday, 22 June 2007

Billy Collins

After valiant efforts and many conversation with his agent, we have Billy Collins making a guest appearance on this blog, reading his poetry. Found these on YouTube. Enjoy.

"Noted for their intelligent humor, accessibility and observations on daily life, Collins' popular poems come alive further in a series of animated poems produced by JWT-NY."

The Best Cigarette
(This one's the pick of the bunch, IMO. Watch this even if you don't have time for the others.)

The Dead

Walking Across the Atlantic

Some Days

Now and Then




Three more, by ComedyFilm, who, unfortunately, does not allow embedding. These aren't animations. Just slide shows and some background sounds.

A History of Weather
Shoveling Snow with the Buddha
Saturday Morning

Two more from Acumensch, who, unfortunately, et cetera.

Man in Space
Sweet Talk

And Collins introduces the Best American Poetry event at the New School 9/21/06 and mentions the controversy surrounding the publication. (Very fuzzy video shot by someone in the audience who wasn't in a good seat. But the audio's clear.)

And since we're ODing on Collins, here are some more links from emails that, erm, may have, um, been sent to you, in a manner of speaking, by me.

See The Best Cigarette where
All 33 tracks are available for FREE DOWNLOAD.
Internet Archive.(whole album or track by track) (song by song)

You can download, share these, burn these, give these for non-commerical puposes (you can't make money off it). For the full details read the creative commons non-commerical use license here.

On Minstrels:
Introduction to Poetry
Reading an Anthology of Chinese Poems of the Sung Dynasty, I Pause To Admire the Length and Clarity of Their Titles
Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes
On Turning Ten

And a bunch of links shamelessly lifted from here.

Another Reason I don't Keep a Gun in the House (Also here)
Ave Atque Vale
Child Development (Also here)
The Dead
Dear Reader
The Guest (From the very rare, out of print, "Video Poems")
Hangover Procedure #12: Emptying The Jacket Pockets (Also from "Video Poems")
The History Teacher
I Ask You (Audio available)
I go back to the house for a book (Also here)
Introduction to Poetry (Also here and here)
Invention (Audio available)
Japan (Also here)
Jazz and Nature
Lines Lost Among Trees
Man Listening to Disc (Audio available)
Neither Snow (Audio available)
On Turning Ten (Also here)
Putting Down the Cat
Questions about Angels
Shoveling Snow With Buddha
Reading an Anthology of Chinese Poems of the Sung Dynasty, I Pause To Admire the Length and Clarity of Their Titles
Study in Orange and White
Three Wishes

For Collins reading Nightclub, go here and click on "Recordings" just below his photograph.


Tuesday, 19 June 2007


Damien Hirst, him of the dead-animals-in-formaldehyde fame, had a new exhibition last week, Beyond Belief. Among the items on exhibit, this little skull, called "For the Love of God", which is
..without precedent in the history of art. On one level, the work is a traditional ‘Memento Mori’, an object that addresses the transience of human existence. ‘The skull is out of this world, celestial almost’ writes the distinguished art historian Rudi Fuchs. ‘It proclaims victory over decay. At the same time’, Fuchs continues, ‘it represents death as something infinitely more relentless. Compared to the tearful sadness of a vanitas scene, the diamond skull is glory itself’.
Me, I think it's beyond belief that people lap up this stuff.

More from ABC News:
"For the Love of God" is a life-size cast of a human skull in platinum and covered by 8,601 pave-set diamonds weighing 1,106.18 carats. The single large diamond in the middle of the forehead is reportedly worth $4.2 million alone. Hirst financed the project himself, and estimates it cost between 10 and 15 million. Of course, it will cost someone a pretty penny to own the work: It's priced at $99 million.
Ooh. Cleber pricing. This doesn't sound anything as expensive as $100 million.

As the chap in the gallery clip said, "it proclaims victory over common sense." Or something.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Golden Anniversary

Nope, not us. (Though it is a bit of a landmark: this is—trumpets!—post # 1000 on this blog. Yay! Et cetera!) But yes, we shall break precedent, abandon the first person plural, and put down a personal post.

On this day, fifty years ago, my parents got married. And, despite the considerable stress given to them by their youngest issue, they're still there.

They gave me a happy, hassle-free childhood, sometimes at great cost to themselves. They gave me a love of books, of finding things out for myself, of art. They didn't shove their values down my throat, they demonstrated them to me, and if I chose not to take all of them, they didn't kick up a fuss. They respected my choices even when they didn't agree with them, never questioning that they were my choices to make, even though in hindsight, not all them were great decisions.

No big celebrations, alas, because Mum is still pretty much an invalid, and Dad has surgery scheduled in a couple of days, but hey, there'll be a cake, and a few friends to share it with. And they're there, together. That's a lot, yes?

Brand new waste of time

We're on Facebook. Look us up, if you're in those parts.

We have to admit that we're having a bit of fun with it. We had kinda avoided most YASNs for a while, seeing as they were coming out of our ears at one point, but we finally succumbed just to see what the buzz was all about. And someone we know asked in tones we find difficult to resist. And four-and-twenty hours later, we have linked up with 68 friends, many of whom we hadn't encountered elsewhere. Not bad for a hermit.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

What type type are you?

We were just reading the Slate photo-essay on Helvetica, and thinking back to our Lintas days, to a Visualiser who was so devoted to the typeface that he had several T-shirts extolling its virtues. One had all the names of the variants of Helvetica, in their respective typefaces, natch; the other said, "when in doubt, use Helvetica."

And there's a companion piece that asks various authors about their typeface of choice. Many favour—the horror!—Courier.

Curious minds want to know: what typeface do you write in? And why? We mailed this around to our long-suffering list and here's what some have to say:

Ranjit Hoskote: For me, it's Times New Roman, very much — although I'm now experimenting with a genre-sensitive system, with TNR for my poems and Trebuchet MS for prose... :)

Kamla Bhatt: Arial and Trebuchet are the two fonts that I seem to favor.

Neha Viswanathan: Verdana - easiest to read online.

Vikram Doctor: Courier is just force of habit from typewriter days I guess, rather sweetly retro no? I just do Times New Roman, seems like a good newspaper font (though I don't know which papers actually use it these days, we use Meridien Roman which is sort of boring and squashed.

Rajesh Lalwani: I like to use Trebuchet - neat, clean, clutter-free and classy. Same for Tahoma, which I use sometime. Abhor Times New Roman - I itch to change it, everytime I see it.

Hanisha Vaswani: Easy. Verdana. Or maybe - Tahoma. Nice chubby fonts - not too skinny a la Arial, and easy clean lines unlike Times New Roman and other serify stuff. If you want more serious, thought-about reason, here goes: Verdana/ Tahoma fill up a page very well... gives the page decently well-balanced expanses of black and white.

Manish Vij: times new roman. neutral.

Gouri Dange: i hate Times Roman. i dont know why. a truly irrational hate. would need to go into past life regression therapy to figure out why. i love Batang and Footlight (sadly, not in my comp right now) and Garamond and Georgia. the sans-serif fonts like Arial, Univers etc are too sterile for me; and the too-embellished ones i dont like either - so Batang, Footlight, Garamond, Sylfaen, i like for being contemporary and yet classic. (god i'm sounding like some pretentious wine-taster.)

Nikhil Pahwa: For fiction, I prefer serifs: Book Antiqua and Times New Roman. For articles/posts, I prefer sans-serifs: usually Arial. One little known font that I'm very fond of (have always had a copy saved somewhere for six years since I discovered it) is Celticmd. Only used it for design, though.

Kiran Jonnalagadda: My preferences vary with the application:
For shared documents in Word:
Headlines: Trebuchet MS
Body: Garamond
If document was for printing only (ie, no hassle with fonts on recipient's side):
Headlines: Adobe Myriad (Bold)
Body: Garamond
For websites:
Headlines: Georgia
Body: Lucida Grande, Lucida Sans, Verdana
For feeds in the feedreader: Candara (takes a little getting used to, but pleasantly readable)
For visiting cards: Optima (and maybe Adobe Myriad)
For presentations, option 1:
Headlines: Baskerville
Bullets: Hoefler Text
For presentations, option 2: Futura Condensed Medium
For presentations, option 3 (misc): Optima, Gill Sans, Helvetica Neue
That said, my peeve: I really can't stand to see Arial or Helvetica (not Neue) on screen and Verdana in print. They're so not meant for that.

Jerry Pinto: Most of the time I am too lazy to bother with changing the typeface and so I stick to the default Times Roman. But when I do think about it, I like Garamond. But I would never write anything which requires lots of italicisation in Garamond because I think the angle is far too steep. Often the result is that the space between the last letter of an italicised word and the first letter of a non-italicised word becomes negligible and then I have to insert another space for my own sense of how the words should look.(This is more important in poetry than in prose.) Of course, the result is a curly under-lining courtesy Microsoft. And yes, I am not above being spellchecked or edited grammatically by MSWord. I often disagree but I have been chastened — by discovering that I have been wrong — often enough to appreciate it.

Melody: Since this seems like a very worthy project to better the world, I thought I'd add my two bits.
The first bit being Verdana. I think in Verdana, I speak in Verdana & of course, my typeface is Verdana.
The second of my two bits has something to do with my mood-swings. Yes, with so many voices in my head, what did you expect.
I've been know even to use 'Bill' and 'Perpetua' and a variety of other typefaces that I shouldn't know by name.
So there you have it.

Bobin James: My favourite typeface would have to be Verdana... 10 point Verdana!! Am not too sure about the technicalities, but I personally find it easier to read than most others...

Janhavi Acharekar: While I'm partial to Times New Roman for its clarity, have a curious fixation with Arial Narrow. Have also come across a fascinating typeface (during Lintas days, interestingly) — one with sexist overtones — called Girls Are Weird!

Anita Vasudeva: Changes with what I'm writing, not just type of document, but sometimes content of one poem vs. another, kid stuff in Comic sans MS for instance. Swing between Verdana, Garamond, Trebuchet, Georgia, Palatino. All the draft work seems to be in Arial which is the default typeface on my machine, and its become a non-personality. Don't you experiment — write something and see what it looks like in various typefaces — love the way it changes the writing sometimes. Also with corporate housestyles its fun to figure which typeface suits their personality and communication.

Nandini Chopra: arial 10 - straight and no nonsense.

Maya Sriram: Times New Roman- I think it is purely a spill over from my working days where newsletters and reports and more all had to be in this font. Comfort of the familiar, perhaps?

Shivam Vij: I love Times New Roman but only in large 14 size. May be it's my glasses :)

Prakriti Pushp: I have used Book Antiqua for a long time now. It is just so very quaint. Makes even trivial look important.

Amit Varma: Verdana, size 12. I find it clean and readable.


Oh yes. This blog's personal choices.

Of course there were huge excesses back in the day, when we first played with a Mac, when we used just about every font we could find. Then Helvetica became a favourite. Franklin Gothic for text that needed emphasis. In later years, Goudy Old Style took a large share of or affections, with Garamond as a second choice. (And we just luhrve Goudy Handtooled for headlines of a certain type.) Brief flirtations happened with Dom Casual, Bernhard Modern, Caslon Open Face, Futura, some Humanist variants, various "ye olde" type fonts and brush scripts. Nowadays, all paid work goes to publications in Times New Roman, since that's one all desks are likely to have. Online, we prefer Georgia, and for headlines and suchlike, Verdana.

We have about 900 fonts on our system at the moment. That's the most it would take. :)

(Oh, and puhleeze don't follow Slate's example and call them "fonts." A font is a set of characters in a particular typeface, in a specified size and style. Times New Roman is a typeface. Times New Roman, 9 point, italics, is a font.)

P.S. Falstaff, who has weighed in via the comments section, also mailed to advise us to read this and this for the poet's perspective.

P.P.S. k.m. shares our feelings: "Courier is also the *industry standard* in Hollywood. Shame, shame."

Oh, and a note for the designers and copywriters and other communication professionals. This not about the fonts that a communication will eventually appear in; of course you will put one heckuva lot of effort into choosing just the right font on a case by case basis. This is about what you use yourself, when composing, when writing just for you, when it's just you and the computer.

Note: We have added quite a few opinions that have come in via email roughly in the order that they came in, unedited except for the odd typo.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Young peope today, *mutter mutter* no respect, *mutter mutter* going off and having fun doing wild things *gah*

Akshay Mahajan, who we already hate intensely because he takes much better photographs than we do, has now gone and upped the ante by enlisting for the Rickshaw Run. There's a lot more at the Rickshaw Run link, and at his blog, but the gist is this: he, with two young ladies (damn his eyes) will spend two weeks driving from Calcutta to Manali (swine). In the rains (kutha). In an autofrigginrickshaw (words fail us. etcetera).

Seeing as this is an expensive operation involving the purchase of autorickshaw, one numbers (which will be donated to a needy cause post the Run, Akshay tells us), plus pledging of some money to a charity, plus personal expenses on the trip, he and his friends need some a lot of help. You can go find out more by reading his post, and then whacking his Paypal button as hard as you can. And while you're there, tell him we can't stand him. We're green. We hate him. We loathe him. *dissolves in deluge of self-pity and envy*

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

What it eej? (2)

Yup. That's us. In all our glory. Not.

Right. That, amigos, is a printable mask that you can then cut out, and stick on over your own if you want to look perfect. Y'see, it's a depiction of the planes on a perfect face, the "Golden Mask" as per Marquardt Beauty Analysis. It's all about the Golden Ratio. Apparently the the faces we find most attractive are "lousy with golden ratios." (That quote from an article on Discover Magazine, which reads far better than the Marquardt site, which is frankly a bloody ugly, clunky piece of work.)

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

What it eej?

It's an E8, or rather, a picture of the E8 root system.
Mathematicians have mapped the inner workings of one of the most complicated structures ever studied: the object known as the exceptional Lie group E8.

This achievement is significant both as an advance in basic knowledge and because of the many connections between E8 and other areas, including string theory and geometry.

The magnitude of the calculation is staggering: the answer, if written out in tiny print, would cover an area the size of Manhattan.

Mathematicians are known for their solitary work style, but the assault on E8 is part of a large project bringing together 18 mathematicians from the U.S. and Europe for an intensive four-year collaboration.
The magnitude of the E8 calculation invites comparison with the Human Genome Project. The human genome, which contains all the genetic information of a cell, is less than a gigabyte in size. The result of the E8 calculation, which contains all the information about E8 and its representations, is 60 gigabytes in size. That is enough space to store 45 days of continuous music in MP3 format.

While many scientific projects involve processing large amounts of data, the E8 calculation is very different: the size of the input is comparatively small, but the answer itself is enormous, and very dense.
All we know is it looks bloody lovely. Geeky types can go here to read all about it.

CC: to all our former bosses

“The longer you work, the less efficient you are,” said Bob Kustka, the founder of Fusion Factor, a productivity and time-management consulting firm in Norwell, Mass. He says workers are like athletes in that they are most efficient in concentrated bursts. Elite athletes “play a set of tennis, a down of football or an inning of baseball and have a pause in between,” he says. Working energy, like physical energy, “is best used in spurts where we work hard on a few focused activities and then take a brief respite,” he says.
You said it, brother. We know just what you mean. We're like a golfer. We stroll around a lot, and now and then, we whack a ball, then we stroll some more.
And those respites look an awful lot like wasting time.
Sigh. Yes.
Over the years I have come to see that the hours away from the writing are the time when the real work gets done. When a paragraph turns itself this way and that in a corner of my brain even while my fingers are buying books on What appears to be wasted time is really jell time. This redefinition only makes me feel a little less guilty.
Pliss to read Time Wasted? Perhaps It’s Well Spent by Lisa Belkin in the NYT.*

Via Nilanjana, on the phone.]

Friday, 1 June 2007

"I love deadlines. I especially like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by."

We're dreadfully late on an article and it's the first time we're writing for this publication. Appropriately, we were completely distracted by this treasure.

As we put our proboscis back to the grindstone, please go read this Exclusive Interview with Douglas Adams from 1979 in Darker Matter, an online Science Fiction magazine. In three parts, naturally.
Almost 28 years ago, a young (27) and still overdrawn Douglas Adams was poised on the brink of fame. The first radio series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy had been released ("Escaped," was more the word, according to Douglas) and largely ignored in a late night slot on BBC Radio 4. It had then been repeated at a less perverse time, gathering listeners and momentum as the six episodes unfolded. But the books, the second radio series, the TV show and the long, long-delayed movie version were still to come.

Douglas Adams had done a handful of short interview pieces, most of which had just pinched his jokes and ignored his opinions. But when freelance reporter Ian Shircore got the chance to spend several hours with him under cover of an unlikely feature for Penthouse magazine, Adams found himself with half a day to ruminate, pontificate and smoke too many cigarettes in the cluttered office where he was earning a crust as script editor for the Tom Baker-era Dr Who. Apart from the few column inches Penthouse was able to accommodate, these tapes, from 1979, have lain unpublished ever since. They are being released now, in three parts, to mark the first issue of Darker Matter, the online magazine that brings you the best new SF short stories from around the world.
Part One
Part Two
Part Three

[Link via qaro's links. qaro, we haven't a clue who you are, or how to get in touch, so, if you're reading this, many thanks for all the lovely links you dig up.]

Update: qaro now has a blog. Go say hello.