Tuesday, January 25, 2005

NEW ARRIVALS, a pair of

It's been an action-packed two days. Yesterday I managed to wake up a whole thirty-minutes earlier than usual in order to get a start on the day, because there was going to be a guest for lunch. As some of you may know, I VERY rarely have anyone over to the house because of the peculiar manner in which I live -- the carton-based decor, the minimalist style of hospitality (" ... I can offer you plain tea, Nescafe or hot water ..."), the deadlines which mean I don't like going out at night or having anyone over for dinner -- but this guest has been here before and seems to have survived the dismal setting of our chats, so I wasn't worried.

I've had a lot on my plate currently -- there are two books I'm working on (the DoubleTalk collection for Penguin and the illustrations for a book of three funny stories by me, for Puffin) -- and I also have been helping to get Billy Arjan Singh's book "A Tiger's Tale" published in time for an award-giving ceremony scheduled for the first week of March. In the midst of this, I've also been running a sort of minor line of greeting-cards, printed in silk-screen at my favourite print-shop-cum-photocopier, in Khan Market, called Punjab Store. So I'd just sent off my Boy Friday to K.M. with a CD of photographs for Billy's book and art-works for the cards, had a shower and was getting ready for my guest, when E's cell phone rang. I didn't catch it in time, and he was out of the house, without having taken his phone with him. When my cell phone rang too, a few minutes later, I guessed it had to be someone who was willing to talk to either of us.

My phone has an answering service -- and I've got the ring-cycle set so that it only rings twice before switching to the message-mode. I listened to see if there was a message -- and OH WOW! It was from E's good buddy Ian, calling from Delhi, having arrived UNANNOUNCED from Turkey that very morning (i.e., yesterday)! It's not possible to describe the vast range of stories, associations and amusements connected to Ian in the collective lives of Me and E, so I'll just mention here that (a)we've not seen him since 1997 and (b) we think of him as one of our favourite pals -- and I'm NOT using the royal plural, I really do mean that both E and I like him separately and perhaps even equally.

Even as I called back on the number from which he'd called -- a small guesthouse in Nizamuddin, i.e., barely 10 minutes from where we live -- the door bell rang and there was my lunch guest. Let me reiterate -- I am NOT a practiced hostess, so the idea of suddenly having two people in for lunch was quite a shock to my system, even aside from one of them literally dropping out of the Turkish void without warning and even though I don't cook, but have a Genie in the kitchen to whom I have only to murmur that there's an extra plate for lunch. But it was a happy shock in this case. Anyway, I sat my guest down, explaining that I was about to have someone else in for lunch, so we had best discuss whatever needed discussing right away before he came because once he was here, all other topics would be washed away in a tidal wave of catch-up communication ...

And so it came to pass. Fortunately my guest was able to ride along the swell of squeaks and shouts of delight which attended Ian's arrival. E, when he returned, was completely flabbergasted to find Ian in the house -- anyway, we spent the rest of the day talking up a storm -- the traveller was so tired, he said, after a 17 hour journey which normally takes only 4 that he really couldn't fall asleep. Nor do we have space for a live-in guest any more because I am using the second bed-room as my work-space. So anyway, we muddled out a situation -- Ian slept in the same room as E while I shifted into my workspace -- and then talked into the wee hours.

This morning once more I had an "early" start -- all right, I confess, this means I wake up at 8.30 instead of 9.45 -- because I had an appointment to go to the All India Radio studios to record a short story plus interview that they had set up some weeks ago. I'd got my story ready a couple of days ago -- an existing story, but unpublished except for a one-time magazine debut -- and was showered and shod when I glanced at my cell-phone: a message had arrived early in the morning. When I read it I saw that my niece, who has been pregnant for the past nine months had gone into labour at 3.00 a.m.

I messaged back -- there isn't all that much to say under such conditions -- just a general what-ho and to say I'd be out of contact for a couple of hours. But by eleven, a call came through -- yes! She'd delivered a big baby girl, all of 8 pounds and from my sister's account, INSTANTLY feisty, with her eyes open, big billowy cheeks and bad-tempered, by golly! MAITREYI is her name, and I must say I like it. Got a nice, double-edged, slightly mystical, interestingly unusual sound to it. Names have become rather dodgy things these days, in case some of you haven't noticed. Some parents seem to really trawl the outer reaches of the mythos to scrape up names that have never before seen the light of day, full of weird consonant-combinations and sneezy sounds. But Maitreyi? NICE! I like it.

It'll be a while before I see her (I'm not a baby-friendly person and tend to shy away for some years until they are walking around and able to discuss the comparative virtues of Tintin versus Asterix), but this doesn't mean that I'm not very glad and relieved for my niece. A whole new person in our family, wow! What a challenge.

The car from A.I.R. arrived half an hour late, and took 45 minutes to get to the studio which is out in the wilderness at the Western-most margin of Delhi. The strange thing about the boondocks in India is that they do literally look like boondocks. This studio is only a year and a half old, but it looks like a film set left over from Dr Zhivago -- the summer palace episode, adrift in this case, not in snow but dust. But the program director was a sweet lady, soft-spoken and warm. She took me in to meet my interviewer, a young PhD student called Shubhra Ray. I rather like Shubhra -- but this hardly surprising because it's VERY hard to dislike someone who has made one's (i.e., my) work part of her doctoral thesis! We've been in correspondence for a while though we've met only once before I think.

It was all quite painless. Shubhra had done her homework well and so all her questions were easy to answer, after which I read out my story -- and we were done! Only one fumble, and that was from me, while reading the story. It's a very short one, just under 2500 words, and about my favourite subject, i.e., our friendly neighbourhood apocalypse-to-be. The title I used for this reading was "THE INCIDENT" but in print I had called it "THE DESTROYERS". It's really not worth describing -- just your every day, standard issue doom and gloom, with a very tiny, barely noticeable lift at the end. I think most people will miss the lift altogether, in which case it'll just be doom and gloom, pass the mustard gas please.

Amazingly, this session dragged on till late in the afternoon -- and I only got home at 4.30 -- and found it awash in men: Ian, E, and our mutual Ladakhi friend, P (some day I may explain why I hide some identities and not others, but today is not that day). In my absence I discovered E and Ian had shifted my workspace around so that the bed had gone into the large central space in the house, once an elegant drawingroom -- the one that's filled from floor to ceiling with cartons and variegated junk ranging from old tyres to used porcupine quills -- and a large pile of dusty junk had taken its place. This was because Ian couldn't appreciate the quality of E's snoring and needed his own space.

It might be imagined that I was upset about this sudden turnabout but ... no, not me. I've been trying to root that bed out of my workspace for, ohhh ... seven years? And now it has come to pass, smoothly and without even my participation. I did NOT despair over the junk that had replaced the bed in my room and instead just rearranged it tastefully elsewhere in the house until ... ta-daaaaa! My space is now magically roomier and less cluttered.

And so it goes. It took most of the evening and some part of the night for the four of us to tire of discussing books, politics, the wretched state of the world and our plans for improving it (annihilating the human race was amongst the better schemes that came up for consideration). It is now 2.30 a.m. and I'm the only one left awake. No energy left for proof-reading this post, alas! I'm going to send it out onto the web in all its ungrammatical and misspelt glory.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

One Hour Photosurrealism

Last night (i.e., Friday) we watched a Robin Williams movie called ONE HOUR PHOTO, on the Star Movie channel. I'd seen a vague description of it in the TV guide, and thought it was going to be a mildly SF movie about a guy who works at a photo-processing counter. It turned out there was no SF angle, it was a straight film which weirded out around mid-way.

Williams' character Sy is elderly, sympathetic, just slightly tending towards obsession and very lonely. His internal voice-over tells us that he's the kind of man who LOOKS at the photographs that cross the counter at which he works, at his supermarket. One particular family interests him -- mother, father, young son. He sort of loves them -- he's watched the couple grow over the years and he's had mild fantasies about entering their lives, being part of their pictures.

Then the twist -- a young woman hands him a roll of film to develop and uh-oh! It shows her entwined romantically around the father of the family that Sy has privately bonded with. This burns him up. Meanwhile -- is it just bad luck that this happens at the same time? -- the store manager informs Sy there have been serious discrepancies in the record of photos sold and photos printed. Sy denies complicity, but it turns out that yes, he has indeed been skimming prints away, from the rolls of the small family, for his own pleasure. In his home, he has the whole collection displayed as a huge montage on one wall.

He is fired from the store. On his way out, he removes a hunting knife from one of the store's locked shelves. At home he scratches the father's face out of all the photographs on his display wall. It goes on and on -- the entire build-up of events leading to his finding the adulterous couple in their hotel, forcing them to perform for his camera, trying to run away from the police -- all the scenes we're shown lead us to believe that Sy kills the couple after taking his nasty pix.

But no, that's not the REAL twist. It turns out he didn't do anything vicious -- he merely pretended to take pictures of the pair, to frighten them. When he talks to the police officer who takes his statement he explains (in a suitably reversed manner, so that it doesn't come out as a bald here's-why-folks) that he couldn't bear it that people who had so much, such a wonderful life, such a happy family -- things he, in his loneliness had never had -- should throw those precious assets away for just a bit of fun in a hotel room.

La,la,la. Here's what annoyed me: the unstated suggestion that elderly loners are pretty much bound to be twisted. Even though Williams' character turns out to be less vile than we're led to believe he is, the drama works on our expectation that it simply isn't normal to be so alone or to care so much for non-family members -- and that merely to be that way (since we have no idea of his past) makes it safe for us to assume he could be perverted. I suppose the intention of the film was to root for Family Values (i.e., it was an attack on philanders, anyone who threatens stable, secure families) but what I got from it was that a stranger cannot EVER afford to have or to express any warm feelings for the people he encounters in the course of his work or else WHO KNOWS WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN.

Williams' performance was subtle, nuanced -- all that stuff -- but it was still embedded in a film that played on cheap, sensationalist emotions. Brrr, ah-NOYing. I would've preferred it if there was no tragic-macabre element at all -- maybe a sticky-sweet movie in which an elderly, twinkly-eyed photo-mechanic finds a way to re-engineer lives by messing with the chemicals in the film processing unit ... maybe a magicomic story in which he enters the pictures and lives happily ever after in a Kodachrome universe ... something which allows us to accept the idea that being old and being lonely do not lead inevitably to monsterhood.

MEANWHILE -- just for contrast -- I also want to mention the utterly bizarre bit of information learnt on Animal Planet some nights ago. There was a program about bees -- I entered it late -- and according to the film ... Okay, I've got to start a new sentence. We were shown two different types of bees -- African and Cape, both being bred in hives in South Africa. It turns out that these two species of bees inhabit different territories in S. Africa and seemed to prefer to remain separate when initial attempts were made to introduce them. However, when these efforts were stepped up, and hives containing the two varieties of bees were placed in close proximity, a very bizarre thing began to happen.

The Cape bees infiltrated the African bees' hives. Many were repelled but a few got through. Those who got through began to mutate -- instead of remaining sterile female workers, which is of course what they were in their home hives, they all gradually became queens and laid their own eggs in the cells of the African bees' hive. Because these eggs had not been fertilized, they instead produced larvae that were clones of the false queens who had laid them. The confused African workers were tricked into feeding these clone-queen larvae royal jelly and in the meantime, turned on their own queen and killed her. Without a real queen, to produce new workers, the original inhabitants of the African hive weakened and died. The hatchlings were all queens and hence unable to provide food for themselves. They soon flew off to infiltrate fresh hives of Africans ...

The result was that all the hives thus affected had to be destroyed and all their inmates put to flame. Isn't it totally freaky? It's as if the Cape bees mounted a feminist-type revolt which resulted in no honey for anyone. GRIMB*!! (*that's GRIM with a bee added to it, as the sting in the tale)

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Drama & Good Fish (in that order)

Just returned from a pleasant evening, with Kaybe, visiting from NYC. First a play -- Habib Tanvir's AGRA BAZAAR at the Kamani, followed by dinner at "PLOOF", a restaurant I went to for the first time two weeks ago and liked a LOT.

So, the play: it was two-and-a-half hours long and a bit like travelling in time -- mythic-time, that is, not real-time -- the happy never-neverland, before those nasty, red-faced colonials with all their horrid rules and railways came in and made a mess of India. It was quaint and likeable, a slice-of-life in the bazaar, in Agra, rather like seeing a museum diorama come to life. I didn't understand a whole lot because it was in Urdu-ized Hindi and since I don't understand much Hindi at the best of times, most of the dialogue went whizzing past my comprehension centres. On the other hand, the form of the play makes comprehension a minor asset, as it is accompanied by songs, dancing and -- in one section -- an agile contortionist's performance. At the high point of her act she -- OUCH! -- picks up a pair of darning needles using only her eyelids ... while arching over backwards, supported on her hands and feet.

There wasn't much in the way of plot. It was a celebration of the flow of life, so beginnings and endings weren't the point -- just BEING THERE was enough. The performers were so authentic that I found it impossible to think of them as actors -- as I explained to Kaybe later -- they looked and behaved like indigent people who were merely doing on stage what they do in real life -- and of course, that's extremely unlikely. At the same time, I think in the case of at least some of them, they really are people who used to be street-performers, now performing to a theatre-going audience, through the intervention of the sprightly and white-haired playwright who came on stage to take a bow at the end of the show. I know too little about him to write with any authority, except that of course he's been one of the cornerstones of Delhi theatre, amongst its best-known names and a person who believes in retaining the "folk" in folk-theatre.

Maybe because I couldn't enter the language of the play, I found my mind wandering while watching the performance, thinking about the messages I got from it, despite not following the dialogue. One of the messages was the sense that this past -- in which nothing either very awful nor very wonderful happens, in which even the authority figures are only mildly cruel, in which men might while away whole lifetimes in contemplating rhyme-schemes for words like "cucumber" and "laddoo" -- is the fantasy world that Indians return to as an antidote to the casual savagery of our collective today. There were no cars in this idyll; no electricity; no TV. The whores had sweet-voices and pliant personalities. The hijras were always smiling, never offended by gender-bending jokes, always ready to jerk their hips suggestively for a dance. The beggars were dignified and golden-voiced. Even the communal riots ended happily, in a shared song or two.

It was a static world presented in the form of play in which everyone remained exactly where they were at the end of the play as at the beginning, except for the addition of a poem or two to their repertoir. It was also a world in which women appeared only as ornaments to the "norm" -- i.e., to men. It's a world we don't see today -- at least, not in films or on TV -- a place where the normal condition of men is to be companionable with one another, joking, laughing, discussing the world and conducting their business. In such a world, there was no space for the presence of women as companions -- they were part of the entertainment, the consumable aspect of life, in the form of courtesans, singers, dancers etc. and also, presumably, as wives, sisters, mothers -- that is, as part of the invisible, unquestionable superstructure of the lives of the men -- but in this play we really only saw "public" women, not private ones.

Of course what made the play so very gracious (for me, at any rate) was that the prevailing aesthetic was Islamic. The language, the costumes, the sensibility was of an otherworldly form of Islam, in which the graceful arabesques of the written script were a perfect facsimile of everything about that life -- beautiful languid curves and mysterious, poignant dots. So yes -- it was exotic and possibly that's why I liked it. But only at a distance. It's not a world I could ever inhabit. What would I be in it? Nothing! I would have no part to play -- a woman who does not live a woman's life -- I could only be a curiosity, exhibited perhaps like the little bear (i.e., a small child dressed as a bear) that appears during the play, as part of the oh-so-charming street entertainment.

And so to dinner -- nice! "PLOOF" according to the printed message on the placemats at the restaurant is the sound made by a stone when it falls in water. Errm, right. If you ask the waiters for an expanded explanation, they waggle their eyebrows charmingly and say, "Madam, it is the sound made by a stone ..." And if you persevere, they look a little put out and explain that the owners thought of the name and ... what would Madam like to drink, please? But the ambience is -- surprise! surprise! -- coolly sophisticated, with no overkill elements like cut-glass chandeliers or imported Spanish-speaking chefs just ... pleasant, interesting, well done. The food is fish-accented -- and this is how you can tell it just HAS to be a good place -- coz I DON'T like fish, and rarely ever order it. But in this restaurant it's fresh, tasty and attractively presented. So I have twice ordered fish dishes and twice enjoyed them. They don't have a liquor licence yet, which makes it all the more amazing that they are well-supplied with customers (though not bursting, as they would be, if they DID have a licence). It's not cheap, but then again, it's not unbearable.

Okay -- enough of the food & beverage tour -- I'll conclude by saying that it's got a bathroom better than most hotels can offer. There. Aren't you absolutely dying to run over right away? You won't regret it.

Friday, January 14, 2005

A Friendly Reading

Last Monday, with the generous help of friends Nilroy, DD, Zigzackly and Kaybe we had an informal reading of my play, THE ARTIST'S MODEL. There were just the five of us, and the venue was Nilroy and DD's home in Nizamuddin even though -- and this is where the generosity is particularly marked -- they were in the throes of shifting residence. The reason they/I chose to have the reading anyway is that Kaybe (New York) and Zigzackly (Bombay) are both itinerants, and I was keen to involve them while they were both at hand.

It went well, I think. The play is about three artists stuck in an improbable situation -- it explores what they might do and say, with side-swipes at today's art milieu. I wrote the play about ten years ago, and have never heard it read except once, a couple of days after I finished the first draft of the script, with one another friend and me alternating voices. The play has changed a little bit since then, but not significantly. It's been read to an audience, in NYC by Salaam Theatre, but I wasn't present, so I don't know what it was like.

Meanwhile, since Penguin India is going to publish a collection of my plays (five: LIGHTS OUT, THE MATING GAME SHOW, THE SEXTET (actually six short skits), A.M. and HARVEST) -- I am not including HIDDEN FIRES, published last year by Seagull, because to earn revenues from it would be to go against the spirit in which I wrote it (five monologues about the 2002 riots in Gujarat). I have been very keen to listen to pre-publication readings of the two -- MGS and AM -- that had not, till recently, been performed in any sense. Of course, MGS had several readings in its previous 5-hour versions, but its current stripped down slim-line edition was something I heard for the first time in 2004 in Nilroy's friendly abode and also in NYC in September. It is vastly preferable to publish a play only after it's been performed on stage -- but since that's not likely to happen, I've had to settle for readings, and am very grateful for the help I've had in this regard.

Take Monday's reading for example -- as a result of hearing the play read in three voices (Nilroy, Zigzackly and Kaybe, initially, with DD chipping in towards the end because K had to leave) with me reading the directions, I had, for the first time, a firm sense of what the play is saying -- WHETHER it's saying something at all, and also whether it's WORTH saying. Like I explained just before we began, since I've got used to the idea that the plays will be published anyway, despite not being performed, having a reading was a luxury that I was glad to afford but was not crucial to the publishing history of the piece. The purpose of the reading was in that sense truly about quality control -- if I could get a feeling for the directions in which I can tweak it, to improve it, I would. If I felt it would be best to leave well enough alone, I'd do that too.

So the post-reading discussion was really the best part, for me anyway. It's hard to repeat the discussion in detail without describing the play -- which would be rather tedious, I think -- so I'll cut to the chase: the main comment was that the situation presented in the play could be enhanced if I introduced the sense of time passing, instead of presenting it in real time, i.e., the events of the play corresponding to the time elapsed while performing the play. I realized, from this response, that I had perhaps written the play in a more flippant mood than its final form could support. I hadn't really wanted to commit myself to a realistic exploration of what the three characters in the situation might do -- but the reading helped me consider the idea that it would be worth making that effort (that is, of introducing realism to the structure of the situation).

I like this idea! I plan to re-work the play now, with this new element in place. What really helped was to hear from my friends that the play works as a concept -- that gives me the confidence to move forward with it, to take it further along the path that it is already upon. Until actually hearing the dialogue, I couldn't know whether or not it has enough internal consistency to be interesting. While printing out the script just before the reading, reading it again myself as I went along, I really couldn't decide whether it was a load of mildly risible garbage or whether it had "bite". Hearing it in three voices has made all the difference -- I believe I can discern a certain amount of "bite", but can see a fair amount of flab too. Which is great. One can't begin to remove flab until one can see it clearly (this can't, of course, be said about body flab, alas ...).

And in other news ... Monday was also the day I went over to Penguin with a rough version of the cover for the forth-coming collection of the DOUBLE TALK strips -- a reprint in book form of the Bombay avatar of Suki. I hope this will be fun -- I always preferred the Bombay strips, even though my drawing style, especially in the early days, was really quite atrocious, particularly the lettering in speech bubbles!! No doubt I'll have to re-do some of it. Still, it always brings on a shuddering nostalgia in me, looking at those early art-works -- I thought I had all the original drawings but apparently a large number have fallen by the wayside. It's hardly surprising: I was 25 years younger, I've moved home at least a dozen times since then, my life as a paying guest in Bombay was precarious to the max -- I often had less than the minimum balance in my bank account, and the minimum those days was FIFTY RUPEES (i.e. ONE DOLLAR at today's exchange rate)! -- and I often produced the strip with minutes to spare before press-time, in colour, with no time for photocopies or back-ups of any kind. Ay me. A desperate era.

And yet more: I am finally working on the drawings for an odd little book -- three children's stories about three weird little girls -- which got written rather to my surprise in the middle of 2003 and to my even greater surprise got liked by Sayoni, at Puffin. The drawings, incidentally, are being done free. Penguin/Puffin can't pay for them (i.e., if they did, I'd be insulted by the sum they'd offer and therefore wouldn't do the drawings) so ... rather than send the book out without drawings, I'm doing them for free. This means the book will be lavishly illustrated -- only in b/w -- but I'm planning to have fun doing them. I am SO tired of being unable to be an illustrator just because no-one's willing to pay ... It's been the bane of my life and now, considering I'm surely not going to live another fifty years, I'm beginning to feel I'd better just do whatever I can while I can still do it rather than wait for that never-never moment when I actually get a good price for what I do.

In the meantime, I must note in passing that a buyer in Bombay has bought a complete set of all my prints as a result of the show in Madras -- multiples of some -- meaning 60 pieces in all! This is rather nice. It makes up for the faint sadness I always feel whenever I look back on my working life -- so much failure! So many smoking ruins in the background!

Ah well. Gotta keep moving onward, onward ...

Oh -- and an essay by M.J.Akbar in the Asian Age, Sunday 9th January is really worth reading, re the tsunami's aftermath and the world's approach to compassion: pls click on
Asian Age then look for By-line M.J. Akbar and the name of the piece is "Conscience-Management". There's no link specific to the piece, so you have to go to the main page and click your way in.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Energy Matters

At the time of the Population Conference in Cairo, ten years ago (well eleven, now) I was fascinated to read a highly condensed view of the world, based on comparative energy usage. I made a chart at the time, reproduced below, based on the figures in that quote. Originally, I used a Venus symbol to symbolize the unit for each group of citizens. I can't seem to find a web-version of the little ankh-like character that looked like a very tiny person, so I've had to fall back on the rather boring "§" symbol from MS WORD.

These figures were widely publicized when they first appeared, but I'm guessing the world has moved on since then. Is there an up-dated version of this list anywhere? I tried Googling the opening line of the quote, which only results in locating the source. I also thought it might be worth knowing what exactly "… each child born in North America" translates to, in terms of energy consumption. It no longer seems right to identify the villains of consumerism rigidly in North America – not when we have big spenders in the Third World too, e.g., people willing to host weddings at the Eiffel Tower, including flying all their glamourous guests to the bash.

I'm not pretending that I've spent a whole lot of time looking for up-date information – my sloth-genes get in the way too much for such energetic activities. But if anyone knows how I can get more accurate information, I'd be much obliged. Meanwhile, such as it is, here's that old chart:


"Each child born in North America consumes as much energy as …

§§§ … three Japanese

§§§§§ § … six Mexicans

§§§§§ §§§§§ §§ … twelve Chinese

§§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§ … 33 Indians

§§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§ … 147 Bangladeshis

§§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§ … 287 Tanzanians or

§§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§§§§ §§ … 422 Ethiopians."

--–- UNEP Executive, Elizabeth Dowdeswell of Canada, at the Cairo Population Conference in 1994. (as published in The Pioneer, New Delhi, 1994)

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Happy This-Moment

... and may you have many more such moments to follow.

Earlier today, while wishing a friend happiness in the New Year I was struck (anew -- this has been happening several years in a row. It must be age) with the falsity of it all. I don't mean that it's false to wish someone well, just that a year is an utterly arbitrary unit of time. The earth goes around the sun, ooookay. But our days and moments aren't really circumscribed by planetary time. Today is no different in texture to three days ago, in old 2004. For some people it will be a better year, for others it will not, while for most it will be more of the same. Is this just crankiness? I'd rather aim for the idea that happiness or the lack of it has nothing to do with years, just our specific circumstances/neuro-chemicals. So ... ummm ... enjoy, or not. As always.

Meanwhile, for all those of you who have either been in touch with me by e-mail and are wondering why I haven't replied or are wondering why I haven't been in touch regardless of whether you've written to me, the reason is that my Hotmail account has unaccountably gone into coma. I can't get into the in-box at all now -- till this morning I could at least check to see who'd written and could, with a great deal of prodding and coaxing, force one or two messages to open up. Now I can't do anything at all except initiate a sign-in that goes nowhere. I'll wait a few days before ... well, of course, there ISN'T anything to be done about it, and I can't even get my addresses out now (though I have most of them stored elsewhere, so it's not a major catastrophe at that level). Till it clears up, the e-account to write me at is the one associated with this blog, i.e., marginalien@yahoo.co.uk.

And one more item, this one aimed specifically at those of you who play Spider Solitaire on your PCs: have any of you come across lay-outs which DON'T resolve themselves successfully? I only ever play the two-suit lay-out and my experience so far has been that every single game can be made to work out successfully -- believe me, I've played mega-dozens of games, so I know whereof I speak -- that is, until two days ago, when I caught a game that after innumerable re-starts I STILL cannot solve. If anyone knows a site or a player who has deep knowledge of Spider Solitaire, I'd appreciate being directed to it/him/her. If it turns out that some games really DON'T resolve successfully, I'll stop trying (and frankly? I'd really like to stop trying right away. But I HATE giving up).