Monday, January 28, 2013

MONDAY 28th January

Okay. Ten days. Almost. Since my last post.

But I'm back in Delhi. Arrived this afternoon. I feel I've been running continuously since my last post. Even though I've been mostly sitting down. And eating. *sigh*

This is going to be a very quick recap of the week, which was built around the birthday of my niecelet, who turned eight this month. On Sunday the 20th, we went to the Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Vandalur -- the niecelet, her father, the sister and me. A great time was had by all and I will eventually post photographs from the trip. On the 21st, the sister and I had dinner with my uncle, aunt and cousin, all three visiting from London, at the Madras Gym. Good dinner, great conversation -- we haven't met for a very long time, so it was fun to catch up.

During the day I worked on the design for the cover of a collection of short stories (by me) due to be published by Zubaan. That was fun, but also a bit stressful since everything has to be done at break-neck speed these days. Publishing is no longer the leisurely occupation it once was. Books fly out of presses like bullets. And vanish just as quickly ... which is why it's worth making the effort to produce attractive covers. Alas, "weird" is what I am best at producing, not "attractive" and this cover design is no different. But at least there's a design that we all agree is worth working on and so that's a relief. More about this later -- I mean, when the book is closer to flying out of the press.

All of the 22nd was spent at the office of my publisher in Madras, Tulika and Radhika Menon (the proprietor) in particular. I was supposed to be helping to organize their artworks for an exhibition early next month, but more than half the day went in just talking and talking and TALKING - a broad, wide and flowing discussion about many different facets of publishing for children and of being an illustrator of children's books (me, not Radhika) and of the number of important subjects that really had to be tackled, such as nudity and prudery amongst them. But the 22nd was a red-letter day for another reason -- a new child in my family -- this time a boy, in the US, born to my niece there, who had a daughter just 18 months ago. So that pretty much took care of all thoughts and communication for the whole of the 23rd. I'm sure something else happened, but it is now a blur, during which I also managed to work on a concept note for Tulika's exhibition. On the 24th, the nephew arrived from Bombay and aside from eating too much food while talking about food -- he is a well-known food-writer -- the birthday had to planned for and stuff had to bought for it.

On the 25th, there was a very discrete and self-contained celebration, at two speeds. One speed, sedate and dignified, was downstairs in my mother's house, attended by four others aside from the immediate family. Cake, sandwiches, samosas, soft drinks and chips were had. The other speed was manic and heady, attended by two (only two! And still it was like a herd of elephants overhead!) young friends of the niecelet and was celebrated upstairs, with her parents and the boys' mother. I didn't go for that, having already had my fill downstairs. Five hundred balloons (regular air-filled balloons, not gas) were blown up by a professional Balloon-Wallah and deployed all up and down the driveway and in the stairwell. At party's end, these balloons were ritually popped by all three celebrants, with the help of plastic forks and to the accompaniment of much whooping joy.

On the 26th, the sister and nephew left for a two-day stay in Cochin, while the household rested from the party and the country celebrated Republic Day. My mother watched the parade on TV while I contemplated my wasted life, in the gloom of my room, while gnawing moodily on a gigantic triangular slab of Toblerone that my Madras niece had thoughtfully bought for me. On the 27th, my architect cousin brought a Chinese takeaway lunch to share with my Mum and me, and on the 28th ... well, that's TODAY! I left for Delhi.

So, yes, many of my resolutions have been suspended during my stay in the South, but I am expecting to bring them all back online, one by one ... stay tuned! If nothing else, there will be photographs.

Friday, January 18, 2013

SATURDAY 19th January

It's been ... oh ... FOUR DAYS since my last post?

Too much to process, not enough time. Still: some of my resolutions are in running order. No bread. Two hours of the morning without the internet. Daily origami (though I haven't been posting pix).Daily photographs (ditto -- not been posting to the blog). Eight glasses of water every day. All the rest are merely in suspension while I'm in Madras.

Here's a recap of what this week has been like:

13th: We (E and I) arrived from Delhi in the late afternoon. We ate a snack at the airport in Delhi, lunch on the plane, and immediately after arriving, had tea at my Mum's house followed by an extremely filling FONDUE DINNER. So that pretty much set the tone for the week, i.e., near continuous eating.

14th: In the morning, we began the day with a visit to my Mum's sister's home, filled with flowers and paintings, plus, two beautiful cats upstairs. My uncle passed away peacefully on the first of this year, so this was also a condolence visit. It was a beautiful fresh day and my aunt was looking relaxed and the house was fragrant with incense. This visit was followed by a visit to meet two more cats, also very charming, in my cousin's daughter's home. Much purring was enjoyed.

Back at home, for lunch, Mum's cook had made fried fish. She knows that E likes fish, so she had laid out FIVE MACKEREL for him and he ate FOUR!! Everyone was delighted, because of course, the one thing my Mum still enjoys is to feed people at her table. Everyone here loves E, because he is totally unfussy with food, and eats everything that's set in front of him, including all the spicy, bony things that I for one NEVER eat (I don't like fish. A cause of much sorrow to my parents, all through my childhood). In short, he is the perfect guest, in Indian terms. In the evening we played badminton with my niecelet. And at night we ate some more. *sigh*

15th: Idlis in the morning. Since these are festival days in Tamilnadu, celebrating PONGAL, (a harvest festival, following the end of year rainy season in this part of the country), my niecelet is on holiday till Thursday. In the evenings we play badminton  -- I call it goodminton, because we play so dreadfully -- on my Mum's small lawn. All through the day we fend off mosquitoes with spray-on repellant, which, to my surprise, work quite well. The weather is exceptionally balmy, with the result that walks down the road are pleasant. The only problem is eating five times a day -- three times at my Mum's table and twice upstairs with my sister, niece, niece-let and nephew-in-law! Alas, all the food is good and there's always too much of it.

16th: Idlis again in the morning. My Mum's kitchen produces fixed breakfasts -- Khichdi on Mondays, Idlis on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Dosai on Thursday, Uppuma on Friday, Dosai again on Saturdays, then on Sundays the upstairs cook (my sister's cook, i.e.) sends down dosais made by her. In short, it's a rice-based breakfast every day except Friday's semolina uppuma. At lunch, it was fish again for Ethan, a flat fish with a name none of us could recognize.

The niecelet came down and was happy to be offered two portions, much to my Mum's disapproval. She felt that E was not getting his rightful share!! In the late afternoon, G, E and I went out on what was meant to be a brief drive to see the festival crowds at the beach, but instead we ended with a huge snack at G's Club -- I had a sada Dosai and ice cream, G had peas Uppuma, E had fresh, hot julienned potato chips, plus coffee. Then back to Mum's house for dinner ...

17th: E left in the morning. I went with him to the airport, with a hired driver. Said goodbye (didn't wait, there's no point at the airport these days, since visitors can't go in) and took photographs from the car all the way back. As always, I managed to see many more interesting sights than I could ever take pictures of -- I never have my camera up in time. For instance: an elderly woman, tall and grey haired, walking right across a busy street, dressed in a baby-pink silk sari, with sparkling gold borders, dripping gold jewellery from her ears, wrists and neck! An amazing sight. Later the same day, I saw a homeless woman, dressed in rags, standing in a shaft of sunlight, drinking tea from a paper cup. She stood with such unaffected grace, in that shaft of light, steam rising from tea in her hand, it was as if she were standing on a stage under a spotlight, savouring her drink, not out in the dusty, crowded street. Wonderful.

Later in the day, went to FabIndia, bought three short tunics and two beautiful indigo blue cotton stoles.

18th: Tried hard to catch up with my various projects but instead spent the whole day wool-gathering, doing puzzles on my iPad and ... eating, of course. My cousin R came over around lunch-time and chatted with my mother, while she and I ate lunch. He lives in London with his parents and comes with them every year around this time. He enjoys talking to my Mum and she enjoys his company too, so it was a pleasant interaction. On Monday night we will meet again for dinner, with his parents, whom I haven't seen for several years.

19th: And now I must stop, because the power goes off for two hours load-shedding every day.

LATER: I have finally managed to upload a photograph and also to correct the many errors I made while posting this account earlier today. I am not satisfied with the colour I reported for the lady I saw crossing the street in a pink sari. It wasn't baby-pink, but a much brighter, fresher colour. Neither fluorescent nor the famous "mutai-pink" of my childhood -- the pink of boiled-sugar sweets we bought from the local sweet shops, a vicious, poison-pink -- whereas this sari was an entirely pretty, lively and flowery colour, like maybe a phlox or bud-rose. It wasn't an artificial colour, yet it caught the eye, it was so TASTY bright.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


... FINALLY ... managed to upload a photograph from my iPad to this blog, via the Acer laptop kindly lent to me by my niece. I am sure there's a simpler and less round-about way to do upload to the blog, but I'm not in the mood for figuring it out just this minute. I find that it can take a couple of hours to do something the round-about way and I know that the quick way really would be a great deal quicker -- except that it can sometimes take a couple of hours to learn that quicker way! So nowadays I refuse to bother learning something new on the computer unless the learning process is itself exceptionally basic.

I'm in Madras at the moment. E & I arrived on Sunday and I feel like we've entered an alternative Universe -- it's a nice one -- but also really very different to my regular life. The main difference is that here, in my Mother's house, I become a tiny little girl of around 10 years of age, who must be asked whether or not I've had my bath or scolded for not wishing to eat fish at lunchtime!! Fortunately, at the moment, E is with me, which means that all attention is focused on him. The cook is thrilled that he enjoys eating fried fish, because it means that she's entitled to cook stacks of fish for herself and the other "staff" (my Mother has four ladies to help keep her household in running order) as a result! But he'll leave in a couple of days and I'll be back in the familiar dog-house. 

I have been taking photographs with my camera but I'll wait till I'm back in Delhi to upload them, because I prefer to edit them on my MacBook.

I've been making origami lillies to give away and have just seen a great link to a whole zoo of origami animals ... No doubt a couple of them will find their way online just as soon as I find a good source of the Right Kind Of Paper. The hunt is on!

Saturday, January 12, 2013


12: Okay ... so ... that's my photo upload for today and here's my Resolution: To Stop Making Any New Resolutions for this year!

I believe I've done medium-well so far and it's been fun and it's been a bit frantic and the best part of it has been making a number of new origami models, at least three of which are now firmly fixed in memory (the flowers, the butterfly and the folds for creating a pentagon), posting regularly to this blog, spending the first two hours of every day AVOIDING the internet and writing for at least two hours regularly.

However, tomorrow I am going away to Madras for two weeks, which means the inevitable disruption in all my familiar routines. I know I won't have the right kind of space and time to create origami models and all the other stuff -- uploading photographs, posting to my blog etcetera -- may be a little more difficult because I'll only have my iPad with me, not my laptop.

I did take pictures today! But they're on my phone and the local server is refusing to upload anything right now. So maybe I'll do that later this evening or maybe not. Whatever else, I'll be taking lots of pictures while I'm away and I will eventually upload them, one (at least) for each day that I'll be away.

And I'll be sending one piece of snail mail most days (I've sent five out so far). And drinking 8 glasses of water every day. And doing one tedious chore a day (today's was dusting ...).

Thursday, January 10, 2013


10 & 11. Well now. Yesterday I was so distracted by the origami segment of my resolutions that I made three altogether and dropped the one about posting a Resolution for the day! All three are from videos posted at online sites. The red and blue flowers are by JO NAKASHIMA while the third one, called "Carambola" is from a video posted by SARA ADAMS, who credits CARMEN SPRUNG with the design. (aside to Biatti: if you want, you can watch the demonstration in GERMAN! This is how I first watched it, but was later glad to find that she has English versions too)

All three were a real delight to create. Particularly the Carambola (which, I discovered by Googling the name, is another name for STARFRUIT -- which I've seen in supermarkets but never tasted!)

One reason it was an unusual and exciting model for me to try was that it was my first ever attempt to follow instructions for creating a pentagonal paper origami base from the more traditional square one
and then to fold something from that point of departure. It does involve cutting -- but then, very often, we start off with a sheet of rectangular paper which must then be cut to make a square. So this is not really that different -- and besides! Isn't it too thrilling to know that you can fold a square sheet in such a way that a perfect pentagon can be cut from it??

So. Well. The day began with origami, with two hours of writing, four glasses of water and ... okay, NO BLOGGING. Also, I went out for lunch at Delhi's Santushti complex, at the excellent BASIL & THYME which was a complete distraction from all resolutions -- even though I did manage not to inhale the bread, to the amusement of my lunch companion.

I must report here that I've been rather lucky in the lunch department: on Monday, I had, if possible, an even more excellent meal at DIVA. Actually, it's not fair to compare the two experiences: DIVA offers Italian cuisine in a style that subtly flatters the diner -- I mean, I felt my host and I had made such a CLEVER choice by going there for lunch! And the food was fresh and creative. I, who don't especially like fish, had a portion of Dover Sole that was exactly right in terms of quantity and flavour, presented with half-a-peach, poached plus just a little pasta and some spinach (I think) for colour and contrast. For dessert -- o yummm! -- a scoop of coconut ice cream, creme brulée and glittering strands of spun sugar. And the accompanying drink was a custom-designed (for my host, who is a regular) glass of prosecco with ginger -- yesss! It was good!

Basil & Thyme is a more familiar hangout for me and I have great memories of long, chatty lunches with just pathé and tiny toasted rolls and Zara Gateau for dessert. This time I had a Chocolate Espresso Almond Gateau for dessert, the Glazed Filo stuffed with Chicken and Mushroom for my main course. All good. Both meals were hugely augmented by great companions ... *grin* They know who they are.

There really isn't space left over to describe the rest of my day -- which included a visit to Jorbagh's THE BOOKSHOP, to buy a copy of Amruta Patil's amazing ADI PARVA, then to the IIC to have another long and interesting chat over tea with yet another clever and interesting friend.

All of these effects resulted in getting home so over-stimulated that, even though I did consider making a late-in-the-day blog entry, decided to be "human" once more and to default a second time.

So what is my Resolution for today? Just this: to take more photographs, because I have a cute little camera that I never use as much as I'd like to -- and to post at least one of them here ... now and then. I am not going to commit to Every Day. What I'd like is to take pictures of the world outside my living spaces, and to post them here. I've not been out today yet! So if I do post one today, it'll be later.


Wednesday, January 09, 2013


09: Today's offering appears to be very similar to yesterday's but it was actually rather different except that it is also an "inflatable" model. The difference arises from the two little feet underneath (and an other pair that are hidden underneath). They were rather difficult to fold, or maybe the instructions didn't make enough sense to me. I was sure I was making a mess, but to my surprise, the feet formed quite nicely in the end and, as you can see, the model sits up on its haunches. Nice. Sort of. I would have preferred more explicit final instructions at the feet-folding stage.

Today's Resolution is ... To Relax And Be Human Occasionally, By Breaking Some Of My Previous Resolutions! So I ate a slice of toast at breakfast along with an excellent spinach omelette. It was great and I felt unusually human by the end of it!

My link for the day is to a very good item in the New York Times, by Sohaila Abdulali. She writes
about surviving to live a happy and productive life, despite a brutal gang rape at the age of 17.

The author talks about the incident which -- had she been a very different person -- might have been described as the defining/scarring event of her life. I remember reading her account of the assault, many years ago, in MANUSHI, an Indian feminist magazine. The fact that she wrote it under her own name made it possible to connect that story with her update today, following accounts of the recent rape-murder incident in Delhi that has caught the attention of the world's media. At the time I read her earlier account, I was deeply impressed by her honest, uncluttered presentation of the incident. I always wondered what happened to her. It was very good to discover that she continues to be as she described herself in that article of 30-odd years ago, someone who refused to be defined by her encounter.

There can never be any prescriptions for how to respond to the derailments that occur in our personal lives, because each person's situation is unique. However, if choices are possible then, I think, Abdulali's experience shows that a supportive family, absolutely committed to helping the survivor rather than further punishing her with shame/guilt/fear, has to be the best possible approach.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013


08. So ... here are the results of yesterday's and today's efforts -- two failed cranes and one semi-failed -- plus today's model, the BLOW UP BUNNY.

The semi-failed crane came SO close to being successful! But I was impatient. The front leg was perfect while the back leg just refused to fold back on itself in the right way. The real challenge was not the leg at all, but an earlier phase in the folding involving a five-way "sink fold". This is what caused the previous models to collapse in a mess of crumpled paper (there's one more, not featured here, that I simply had to throw away). So when I was finally able to get past that point and arrive at the leg-formation, I should have taken a break. I've noticed that it actually helps to think about the forms and the folds as they turn into recognizable shapes and to take breaks. The reason I could get past the sink-fold phase this morning, for instance, was that I'd had time to visualize what needed to be done after having messed up three squares of paper yesterday.

The choice of paper is important too: it's got to be crisp enough to crease accurately, but thin enough that the paper doesn't bunch solid as the layers increase. Origami paper is always the best, but the sheets I have with me are for very small models, whereas this crane does demand more paper (for novice-folders anyway). The semi-failed crane was made with wrapping paper from the Giftwrap For Artists series.

I plan to continue to work on the crane until I can produce a properly flapping model! But after that struggle, it was a great relief to make the simple little bunny.

My resolution for today is: to do one task around the house -- such as dusting my room -- that I really DON'T want to do. It doesn't have to be a big task, it doesn't have to take very long, so long as I do it. Today's is going to be clearing up my desk!!

Monday, January 07, 2013


07: And here now is the infamous, never-seen-before FAILED CRANE! It was meant to be a FLAPPING CRANE, a fancier version of the familiar origami crane and the book's author, Robert J. Lang, warns the reader that it's a "somewhat difficult" model.

No kidding!

So I'll just have to try a bit harder and perhaps use a 10-inch square, like he suggests. It was quite amusing to produce a failure. It was going all right to begin with, but at one point, there was clearly a coloured patch in the instruction drawing that was NOT showing up on my model. A little while later, that same coloured patch appeared in the wrong location on my model and meanwhile the anticipated "five-point square" (yes, it can't REALLY be a square) that was supposed to develop in the middle, collapsed in a squishy mess. You can sort of see the mess, at the centre of the tangle of folds in the picture.

So! Onward. Today's resolution is ... okay, I have a list of resolutions and today's was going to be a more time-consuming one than I can manage, what with the Failed Crane in  my recent past. So today's is going to be: Send More Snail-mail! The idea is, I should aim to send at least one piece of mail BY POST to someone, every day. I have LOTS of post-cards, so that's what I plan to do. I've not done that yet but it's only 11 a.m. I have time.

Sunday, January 06, 2013


06: And that's my origami item for today, the Flapping Duck. Only a still photograph I'm afraid, because the truth is, my model refused to flap. I don't know why. Actually, I made a previous version of the same duck yesternight, and though it was a mess in several ways (the beak, the tail), it DID flap its wings very nicely. This one, in spite of its precisely folded tail, just won't flap. I will have to fold yet another one ... but not tonight, Josephine. I'm well aware that for the past two days, I've been posting my resolutions rather late in the day. If I'm to catch up then I'm going to have to confine my origami activities to one model a day, as resolved.

So TODAY's resolution is to write for TWO HOURS every day. If any of my publishers is reading this (heheh, I KNOW one of them will be ...) he/she will sigh with relief, because I won't include e-mail and posting to my blog in the two-hour minimum. I mean, two hours of work. I've already done one hour today, so there's only one to go. Right after the blog.

About keeping up with the resolutions so far, I'm not doing too badly: I've stayed away from the Web for the first two hours of every day; have posted to this blog; made new resolution; made a daily origami item; and not eaten any bread since the night of the 31st. Tonight, I have two more glasses of water to drink to complete my quota. So, not bad. Not especially great either because of course I chose easy resolutions! We'll see how long I can keep up.

Meanwhile, here's a link to a SALON article/interview about sexual violence against women with special reference to the recent brutal gang-rape in New Delhi, resulting in the death of the victim.

Saturday, January 05, 2013


05. Today's resolution is a simple one: to drink at least eight glasses of water a day. This is something that I've been working on for many years because I rarely ever feel thirsty. When I'm at home, I've got little systems in place to remind me to pour something or other down my throat but when I'm traveling those systems break down. So keeping track of glasses is helpful. Tea and coffee count towards the tally, but only if they're big mugs or tall glasses (of tea).

So far, I've been on track for my resolutions. Though ... uhh ... today I was kind of late posting evidence of my day's origami. That's because I had already tried it out yesterday and knew that I would have trouble completing this model with the result that I postponed doing it until after dinner!

An odd thing about origami. There are times when the diagram absolutely makes no sense the first time around and then a day later, the very same dots and dashes resolve themselves into folds that fall into place just the way they're supposed to. Anyway, today's Eagle worked out all right and, as you can see, it flaps quite efficiently. Doesn't look too much like an eagle though ...

Friday, January 04, 2013


04: Today's resolution is that I will NOT surf the net until two hours after waking up. This may not sound like a particularly difficult resolution, but it sort of is. The reason I sound diffident is that even while recognizing that I may have an internet addiction, I don't like admitting it.

The fact is, I often reach for my iPad even before I've got out of bed. So it's a problem.

Sort of.

I mean, I believe if I can't maintain this resolution, then I will have to admit that it IS a problem. It's been four days so far and I've managed to keep to the schedule. So I'm telling myself that it isn't really a problem. That's where doing the origami comes in too -- it gives me something to do immediately after waking up, something that does not require turning on the computer.

Today's model is a variation on yesterday's butterfly and -- as may be obvious -- I managed to make a brief video of it. Then I attempted the next model, but it was a disaster. Hmmm. I will have to try harder tomorrow morning, I guess!


The other item I'd like to offer for today's amusement is DAVE BARRY'S Year In Review 2012 from the Washington Post. It's really very funny, especially considering that most of the events he refers to are and were pretty grim.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


03. Today's resolution is to make one piece of origami every day for this month. If I manage to keep this resolution, I may continue it for another month. Or year or whatever. The resolution only covers this month however or else I will lose nerve and fail right away.

Why origami? Because it's a great way to focus the mind. If you pay close attention to the diagrams and instructions, it's usually very easy to get a reasonably good result.

The book I'm following is one that I bought several years ago: ORIGAMI IN ACTION, Paper Toys That Fly, Flap, Gobble and Inflate! by Robert J. Lang (St. Martin's Griffin, New York). As its title suggests all the models are created with the capacity of flapping or twitching in some way. The reason I made three models today is that ... well, today's the THIRD! So at least for a few days, I'll have one new model a day. Of course, after a certain point in the book, the models become rather difficult and I may need to spend a longer time practicing simpler models for a while before I'll be able to make the Strumming Guitarist and the Fiddling Bassist (probably never. They're really tough).

I've always liked origami -- who doesn't, after all? -- but last year I watched a documentary on Netflix called BETWEEN THE FOLDS (by Vanessa Gould, Green Fuse Films) which showed truly breathtaking examples of origami. I mean, origami bordering on sorcery. I realize that ordinary mortals aren't ever likely to achieve that kind of mastery, but it re-ignited my latent fondness for the art.

There is something extremely satisfying about producing small, three-dimensional objects out of paper, using just one's fingers and a blade to cut the initial squares and sometimes rectangles required as raw material. In the past, I've rarely been able to remember how to make a model after having made it once, following the instructions. The only one I've been able to store in memory for many years is the so-called "water bomb", which is kind of cool, because it puffs open to form a cubic shape and can hold a small amount of water.

Anyhow, so one of my aims, currently, is to be able to recall the steps for making the simple models. I do really love to make things that can do something -- I mean, something more than just look like a crane or a flower -- so I'm already enjoying this book. All three models in the picture do indeed flap and if I were a little more organized, I could make a 5 second video to prove the point but ... my resolution only covers making the model! And posting a new resolution each day! And updating my blog!

So I'm done for the moment.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013


02: For the whole of this year, I'd like to eat more consciously. It's no longer about losing weight or how I look but just about being more thoughtful about what I eat. For instance, I plan to keep one favourite food item off my plate for a month at a time. This month, it's going to be bread. Why? Because I eat bread like an addict -- it's not about taste or flavour or texture, it's just about shoveling processed wheat-grain down my gullet.

Now maybe this is just the way I am. If so, then a month of abstinence will mean a pleasurable wallow when I dive back into the bread bin. Or maybe, who knows, I will get to the end of the month and not feel I missed anything. Either way, it's a journey of Discovery! All from the confines of my own dining table.


Here are links to two articles I enjoyed today:




The first is about an American woman who decided one day to walk for peace, carrying nothing but the clothes on her back and "— a pen, a comb, a toothbrush and a map. That's it. " Her name was Mildred Norman and I first heard about her many years ago, from a newspaper cutting a guest who came for dinner left in the house. I always wanted to know more about this oddly interesting story and here it was, at NPR's website.

The second is the fascinating story of Apollo Robbins, a pickpocket who appears to be supernaturally skilled. He steals for entertainment, not as livelihood. From the New Yorker.