Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Geeks, poets and fink ployd

One of the things that i have been wondering about, and I'm a deeply inquisitive sort of a person that way, is pink floyd. you know, the english rock band. specifically, I have been thinking about why the hell they were so loved, some twenty years after they stopped producing good music, by those of us belonging to a certain subculture on engineering campuses back in the homeland. We listened to them all the time, and every doper worth his salt found deep meanings and hidden messages in their music. (I even found colors! Guitar riffs that were streams of blue and taps on the snare that were red splashes. But that was usually on a bad weed trips. I had lots of those. What to do, I was like that only.)

We idolized the bands of the classic and psych rock era - floyd, led zep, deep purple (who i swear no present-day college kid in the western world has heard of ). Drawing a little bit upon other genres, throw in some iron-maiden, a bit of tull and a bit of dire straits, and yeah 'free bird' by lynyrd skynyrd, and you get a fairly good idea of what a 90's indian college geek was listening to as he drew on his spliff.

The poets (and here i use the term to include all non-engineering types), on the other hand, having shared a pitcher of beer bought with pooled cash at the Razzberry Rhinoceros, were shaking their booties to "Backstreet's back, alright!"

I know, I know. Respectable poets were all about Dylan, Baez, Joni Mitchell, and good ol' jazz. There might even have been some in that community who obsessed over floyd, although i suspect those were just geeks too afraid to break out of their poetic skins. And I must stress that all such people are friends of mine. (Falstaff, heres your cue to comment). But as a general rule, kids who went to city colleges with a healthy sex ratio (both in terms of gender and number of times gotten laid) were much more into pop-culture than the average geek was.

This divergence between geek and poet preferences is interesting, but it is not a new phenomenon in itself. If i read the situation right, it has been this way since the seventies. During a conversation with someone who went to the same campus i did, only two decades earlier, I realized that he had heard the same music back in the seventies (which was then current) that I did in the late nineties. He was part of a small amateur band, and their repertoire turned out to be rather similar to what the little outfit that I was a drummer for played. It is easy to see how this came about. Druggie music came to india in the late sixties, and engineering campuses, because of their mostly residential nature, were good places for the blooming of a subculture that revolved around psychedelic substances. Once the process started, druggie geeks just remained in their own insulated campuses and played the same things over and over again - each generation passing it on to the next one. Meanwhile, the outside world, which has *always* been about the hip and the showy and the new, moved on. So terry jacks , who was popular in city colleges back in the 70's was trashed and the boyzones and westlifes of the world took over poet hearts. It was all very disturbing.

Sometimes I have a vision of college-going poets in 70's india holding hands in a circle and singing 'we had joy we had fun, we had seasons in the sun', gushing and sighing and hugging each other. Meanwhile the geeks on their isolated campus in bumblefuck, eastern india, buy cheap g*nja from a thatch-roofed shack and sit by a rarely used railway line to commune with their chill*ms, 'interstellar overdrive' playing in their heads, much like their successors two decades later.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

a sandwich for epicures

the next time you decide to drop by at the friendly neighborhood deli for a sandwich, here's a suggestion for what is arguably the best sandwich in the world, especially so because it was concocted by me.

it consists of hot pastrami, melted provolone, lettuce, tomato, onions, regular mayo, and (here's the special ingredient) lots of hot sauce. You may ask the guy behind the counter to use any hot sauce he has, but I have found that Sriracha works best.

Oh, and dont forget to order it on a toasted plain bagel. All other forms of bread are inferior to toasted plain bagels. Toasted plain bagels rock, they are the best. Okay, enough said about plain toasted bagels. (Did I mention that I *love* plain toasted bagels?)

when you eat it and discover, as I did, what is possible the best combination of flavors in the world - the butter like texture that pastrami gets after bring grilled, the sublime combination of lettuce tomato and onions, the taste of mayo lurking out there just beyond sight, and the occasional stab of Sriracha- do spare a thought for us.

We will appreciate it, consequently, by the law of karma, good things will happen to you - you will get the raise you were looking for, you will hook up with the girl (guy, if you happen to be a girl or are gay-not-that-there-is-anything-wrong-with-that) you have always wanted to hook up with and other such things. Forget god - its all about cause and effect. Do good and good shall be done unto you.

Right. And I know that it is a bit weird when a recipe for a great tasting sandwich turns into an exposition of the law of karma. What else did you expect when you came here?

Friday, November 10, 2006


Every once in a while, when a blogger runs out of stuff to blog about, he puts up a list of random searches that lead to his blog. i've avoided doing it so far, but maybe now is the time.

Some searches that lead to your blog are completely understandable. You cannot get away with posting silly posts about random early 90's movies like "Jaan tere naam" and not have losers who come searching for bolly-trash. The realization that the said losers are not totally unlike you being disheartening, you quickly upgrade them from the status of losers to that of fellowmen.

It is also completely understandable when people flood to your blog looking for advice on which pressure cooker to buy. After all, your blog is in the top ten results for "Marlex pressure cooker" and is the only one peice of text on the internet that includes the line "Hawkins ki seetee baji" (I have Megha to thank for that one.) And owing to the courtesy of other commenters, you have people searching for "Lekin chup chupke milne se" turning up at your blog.

Things get a bit disturbing when you come to know that there are people out there who are curious to know "Rohit Roy age". I mean, why? Unless you are a twisted individual who wants to marry rohit roy and have his babies, why would you care about how old he is? And more importantly ( a somewhat moot question since i have already cast aspersions on this rohit roy fellow) who the hell *is* Rohit Roy?

You start feeling a little better when you discover that you are amongst the top results for the musical "Beguiled Again". But it is mitigated by Finnish folk who come to your blog because it is the number one result for "cuck eki". I dont know what that means in Finn, or Finnish, or Finnski, or whatever the hell their language is called, but it sure sounds like a bad thing to do.

When your blog turns up in the top ten google results for "I hate happy people", it is time to sit up and re-evaluate your outlook about life. And then, one day, you discover that you are the only person on the interwebs to have ever expressed that "Happiness is an unnatural state", and you do not know if you should be proud or you should go see a shrink.

Oh, and regarding that last bit, I can totally imagine the not so distant future when the world has *finally* gone to the dogs, and has reached a social equilibrium where everybody is miserable (as is certain to happen). I wonder if they will look back, and revere a certain wise man who first postulated the fundamental truth that governs their crappy lives.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Have you ever noticed how the trees in a forest sway about when a gentle wind blows? It's not exactly a synchronized sort of a movement. Even though the wind drives it, it has little rhythm.

Occasionally there is a thunderstorm, accompanied by flashes of lightning and claps of thunder, and somewhere deep in the forest, the crashing of trees.

Once there was a storm and our little forest was assaulted by a gale that uprooted many trees. But while the winds raged, the trees that were strong enough to withstand the onslaught moved in lockstep, much like the violin bows of an orchestra conducted by a maestro. Then it ended, and a gentler breeze flowed. The trees went back to their arhythmic nodding.

It might not be obvious to you, but lurking somewhere in there is a dissertation topic.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

round and round

I'm back in all my grouchy glory, in case any of you are still around, and this time i promise to post regularly.

First, hearty congratulations to Falstaff, for this post. Its not everyday that you have Steve Levitt linking to you and Steve Sailer commenting on your post. Well done, sir, well done indeed.

*clears throat*

When I was contemplating a career in academia, I was under the impression that it was a glamorous business, like hollywood, or the fashion industry. I had dreams. I would do path-breaking research, extend the frontiers of human knowledge. I was in it for the learning. I even described the process of learning as (pompousness alert) being akin to "cleaning a grimy glass pane, to let sunlight stream in through the windows of your cognitive abilities". (To be fair, I was drunk.) As an academic, I thought I would be a celebrity, with fans lining up for my autographs and women shrieking and fainting with excitement when I entered the room. Like some kind of rock-star. That last bit should tell you something about my capacity for self delusion.

As is the case with anything you do for a significant enough period of time, reality set in, much like mustard gas that seeps through the little gap at the bottom of a door you thought was airtight and kills you. (And the twisted, bad analogies, they keep on coming - Heh Heh)

The reality is this: Academic research is like watching clothes getting washed in a laundromat. Most of the time nothing happens. You put in soiled clothes, add detergent and bleach, wait and wait and wait. Eventually, clean garments pop out, leaving you marginally better than before. You have made no significant contribution to the world, but you did manage to keep yourself occupied doing something trivially useful. You also listened to music, read a few journals, generally twiddled your thumbs, and caught up with the latest developments in the Virginia senatorial race (Incidentally, who do you support - George "M*c*ca" Allen, or James "I don't want 'em b*tch*s in the Navy" Webb? - Heh Heh).

Occasionally, a cute idea walks into the laundromat, chats you up, borrows your detergent and goes away, leaving you with nothing. Your hopes crushed, you go home, and come to terms with your mediocrity.

(Have you ever heard "Everyday is like sunday" by Morrissey. Please do - Heh Heh)

Very rarely, a *really* hot idea walks in and asks to borrow your detergent. You strike up a converation with her. She likes you. You ask her for her number, go on a date with her and she turns out to be the sweetest person in the world. One thing leads to another and you get married. Soon your brain is full of the babble of little cutesy papers. Sometimes you make lots of them, but mostly, it turns out that she's not the breakthrough you thought she was; divorce ensues and you go back to the laundromat.

The good thing about academic papers is that you do not have to worry about them getting addicted to crack or becoming strippers. The bad thing about them is that they mostly turn out to be mediocre little sh*ts. With a miniscule likelihood, however, your papers become the talk of the world and they make you proud and well known. When THAT happens, you are successful and, as befits a true academic, you come to the conclusion that it was destined to be that way.

But until then, you have to find your happiness in watching weeks old laundry tumbling, through a dinner-plate sized glass hole.