Recent Entries

3/18/14 08:05 pm - India

I'm back from India, where I went to stay with my cousin and his family. He took us to Haveli in Jalandhar, a surreal 'vintage Punjab' themed restaurant (/museum? /theme park?). We also took the waters at Dera Baba Vadbhag Singh where people were preparing for the mela. Finally, we visited Agra where we squeezed in guided tours of the Taj, the Qila and a stop-off at Guru Ka Taal. Here are some of the pics I managed to take.

2/28/14 01:59 am

Early Spring by Guo Xi

Without leaving your room you may sit to your heart's content among streams and valleys

4/7/13 04:13 am

I came across this story about a young blind Punjabi man who lost his parents and a brother; all in heart-wrenching circumstances. Poverty, corruption, police brutality, domestic violence, drugs, debt and finally suicide are all mixed up to make a miserable tale of the region as a whole.

The Independent - Drug epidemic grips India's Punjab state
Drug use has long been a problem... But the spread of drugs in Punjab... is a recent development that does not bode well for the nation as a whole, especially if the sharp economic slowdown of the past two years continues and youth unemployment rises.

Time - India's deadly chemical addiction
People of all ages succumbing to cancer

IJMBS - Study of suicide victims of agriculture in Punjab
The suicides in Punjab are... most often caused by poverty and especially by indebtedness

Live Mint - Corruption in government hospitals
There is widespread corruption in hospitals

HEtV - Domestic violence
Violence against women is a serious problem in India

Asian Human Rights Commission - Dark clouds of state repression: Police excesses have broken Punjab
The people of Punjab still suffer the wrath of police brutality and the indifference of the state machinery towards the economic and political development of the state.

TOI - Disability assistance discontinued in Punjab in more than 12% cases
Assistance is grossly inadequate

Cato Institute - Why Punjab has suffered long, steady decline
The state needs to tackle its chronic fiscal deficit, something that holds back investment in education, health and infrastructure

I wonder what happened to Rajinder Surdas

1/2/13 07:20 pm - Winter photos

Muddy winter fields


Church Street, Warwick

12/14/12 08:09 am - Great Expectations (2012)

Having been to see the latest Dickensian cinematic offering, I feel like I never want to see another Great Expectations again. The novel was already feeling over-exhausted before last year's Beeb-produced serial. With that still fresh in my mind, and the weight of countless viewings of David Lean's 1946 adaptation forever rooted in my memory (probably not a good thing), director Mike Newell's film needed to make a huge impact, which it does not. Jason Flemyng's performance as a more animated Joe Gargery is poignant and Ralph Fiennes plays a convincing Magwitch. But Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham is a little dissappointing. Her performance is too similar to what we saw her do in The King's Speech (2010), and she gives the whole film a kooky Tim Burton-esque flavour. Jeremy Irvine as the lead character, Pip, is frankly not the best casting.

John Mathieson's cinematography is excellent. I love the way that the wide, bleak Kentish coast landscape of Pip's youth is contrasted with the claustrophobic images of London. But there is another sense in which the film feels cramped. The desire of Newell and screenwriter David Nicholls to pack in as much of the source as possible has resulted in a conveyor belt of scenes stacked side by side. The whole film seems like an extended trailer of itself. So much of the satire of the novel is lost. For an adaptation that was meant to be an action-packed thriller, I was left feeling underwhelmed by a blandly written and rushed 'halfway house' conclusion. It's interesting how The Hobbit, a quick children's read, is to be stretched out over a ghastly trilogy of films, yet the Dickens tome is crushed into 128 minutes. I now wonder what value this adaptation affords a Great Expectations fan.

10/31/12 12:47 am - Autumn

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8/22/12 02:08 am

We went to see Taming of the Shrew. In interpretation, this Globe production focuses on the Electra complexes of the Minola sisters. Bianca, far from being an ingénue, is portrayed as a manipulative 'daddy's girl'. Although Lucentio conspires to win her, it's ultimately she who has caught him for her pleasure.

Meanwhile, suffering paternal neglect, Katherina is shown as having borderline personality disorder. It looks like Petruchio taps into her deeply buried need for a father figure. It's still difficult to know what to make of the "thy husband is thy lord" (5.2.155) speech, considering the torture that we watch her subjected to. Her capitulation here seems a bit like Stockholm syndrome. Samantha Spiro's manner keeps the character's motivation ambiguous - it could be fear, fatigue, genuine, satire, or a mixture. Meanwhile, Simon Paisley-Day's style of Petruchio suggests that the antagonist develops some genuine feelings for his wife.

A couple of quirks: 1. In a further metadramatical twist, a hooligan emerges from the audience, pisses on stage and turns out to be Sly of the Induction. Apparently, he hails from "Bermondsey" rather than "Burton Heath" (Barton-on-the-Heath). 2. Grumio has a northern accent and kicks a conveniently nearby bucket every time Petruchio mentions his father's death.

8/4/12 01:51 am - What was the inspiration behind The Tempest?

Ben Jonson said in the prologue of Bartholomew Fayre that his own play isn't "one of those that beget Tales, Tempests, and such like Drolleries." I have to agree that I often find Bill, with his frequent recourse to magic, light laughs and nostalgia, to be full of whimsy. But of course, without the knack for writing crowd-pleasers, Shakespeare wouldn't have made his fortune. The Tempest, with all its silliness, has a plot of a kind that a child might invent. But it has taken me a while to realise that, in such a criticism, valid as it is, Jonson was taking aim at a narrow aspect of Shakespeare's late works, and he probably knew it. Shakespeare wasn't the keenest satirist, but that was entirely to be expected, given his proximity to the King and his career-long commercial focus. Besides, The Tempest, more than any other of Shakespeare's plays, is infact self-conscious. Rather than a naïve tale, or a whimsical farce, the play would be quite redeemable if performed as a surreal comedy with plenty of ironic overtones and self-parody. It's not entirely without satire, either. It could have been written by Jonson himself. One theory holds that Jonson did indeed write The Tempest as a mischievous hoax of one-upmanship. I'm more prepared to believe that, than all of this Edward de Vere nonsense. I can't see how a non-actor could have produced any of the works.

Setting doubts over authorship aside, it's well known that The Tempest is one of only two of Shakespeare's works whose plot is not based on easily identifiable sources. This partly explains its structural simplicity; to use the word 'elegance' would be a bit too reverential. Shakespeare's usual method was take a source or two, work an imaginative subplot into it, and then embellish it with speeches and action to please all classes of theatre-goer. Without a borrowed plot frame onto which to weave a play, The Tempest reveals his plot conventions and thematic preoccupations. It has some unique features, but what I mostly see is Shakespeare's familiar skin. I find the supposed connection of the play with the wreck of the Sea Venture to be rather flimsy. Even if Shakespeare did draw some inspiration from the event, the importance of it to the play's development is very overstated and ignores connections to his own life and works. The Tempest is the last of at least three of Shakespeare's plays to feature a shipwreck. There's affinity with Twelfth Night in its musicality, and a similarity to Comedy of Errors in its classical style. The plot utility of the shipwreck in both Comedy of Errors and Twelfth Night is that of a natural event that effects the separation of the protagonists. It's assumed that, after all the misadventures along the way, there will be reunions and resolutions by the plays' ends.

The Tempest forms part of this shipwreck trilogy because it too deals with a separation: that of Prospero from his dukedom. The only unique feature of The Tempest's plot is that the role of the shipwreck is directly reversed to become an unnatural event designed to effect the resolution. It looks as if Shakespeare was just adapting plot elements from his own repertoire. Indeed, there seems to be a personal element that runs right through the shipwreck trilogy. Comedy of Errors relies on identical twins, the inspiration for this might have come from Shakespeare's own twins, Hamnet & Judith. Twins feature again in Twelfth Night; the presumed death of Sebastian might have been a response to the death of Hamnet. The Tempest is about a father who approves a marriage for his daughter; it doesn't require a huge stretch of the imagination to see that this mirrors Susanna Shakespeare's marriage to John Hall.

There seems to be an assumption that Shakespeare read or heard an account of the wreck of the Sea Venture, and then wrote a play about it in one go, at some point shortly before its first performance on 1st November 1611. I think it was more complicated than that. For such a short play, there are just too many quirks for it to reflect a simple development. For a start, of all the works of Shakespeare, The Tempest is the one that relies most heavily on 'real' atmospherics (rather than 'reported' atmospherics). It has a masque-like feel and features a masque interlude to celebrate the wedding of Miranda & Ferdinand. Shakespeare seems never to have developed a big interest in masques before. Why now then, so late in his career? Perhaps the King's Men were trying to produce a spectacle that would make better use of the atmospherics that the company had had at their disposal at Blackfriars since 1608.

Ben Jonson was at the head of a team which had fully mastered atmosphere, with their extravagant Christmas shows at the Stuart court. The last of these had a masque called Oberon, the Faery Prince, which was performed on New Year's Day 1611 in the Banqueting Hall of Whitehall Palace. It seems that The Tempest is the highly edited product of an idea that began as as a commercial counterpart to Jonson's masque, a classical-style comedy based around an Oberon-like character. The Tempest's masque interlude is somewhat similar to the 'play within a play' of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which celebrates the double wedding. Could it be that Shakespeare wanted to reclaim the magic of the Dream? Just how many layers of meaning are contained in the lines "we are such stuff as dreams are made on" (4.1.157–58)? The decision to include a shipwreck could have easily been made independently of the Sea Venture. If we are to believe that Shakespeare was exposed to an account of the wreck of the Sea Venture; I think its role was, at best, an addition to what was already conceived.

But what about the island setting, and the escape from it, surely that must have been in some way connected to the Sea Venture story? Not necessarily. It's significant that all three shipwreck plays are comedies. A mark of a Shakespearean comedy is an arrival at a dream-like setting or episode, an 'alternate world', where the characters then learn how to love. "Jouneys end in lovers meeting" (Twelfth Night; 2.3.43). Meanwhile, the Shakespearean tragedies feature only one world, where the protagonist learns how to die. "To be or not to be" (Hamlet; 3.1.64). Let's think about what the demands of the setting in the Tempest are. Firstly, it needs to be a place far enough from Prospero's dukedom to be an 'alternate world', but not so far that the dukedom can never be regained. Secondly, it needs to be a place which is coastal, so that there can be a shipwreck. Finally, it has to be a place that has no overlord other than a marooned Prospero, so that he can manipulate the climate and characters in the style of Oberon. With these requirements, an unidentified island becomes the setting by default. It's hard to think of any other setting that would be appropriate, especially if an attempt was being made to observe the classical unities.

As far as themes are concerned, I think the most prominent one in The Tempest is power; how to exercise it, who has the right to it, how it corrupts, and how it can be illusory. This is the most frequent theme in Shakespeare's tragedies and histories, and it makes strong appearances in his comedies. He was obsessed with it, at the poltical, societal and personal levels. In Prospero's relationship with his daughter, he's an exploration of paternalism. In his dealings with his subjects and slaves, the character looks at the emerging rhetoric of patriarchalism. The relationship between Prospero & Ariel is reminiscent of Oberon & Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. But there's also a contrast here to the Dream, a play in which male power is checked by strong female characters. The comparison of Titania to Elizabeth I, I think, would not have been lost on contemporary audiences. With his learnedness, right to rule and as the ultimate victor over all conspiracies against him; it's tempting to think that Prospero was a creation that was intended to flatter James I. The marriage of Miranda & Ferdinand might reflect the King's wish to unite England & Scotland. But such a connection might also be unflattering, given that Prospero is deposed in the backstory. These are interesting things to consider, and certainly they apply to how the King might have seen the play. But my feeling is that, more often than not, the actual circumstances of Elizabeth I's and James I's reigns were incidental to Bill's instinct to write plays about rulers.

From our 21st century perspective, we can not help but see Prospero as colonist, a slavemaster. But the slavery that we see throughout The Tempest serves no political or moral message. Prospero survives with his moral standing largely intact and the audience is not made to feel any special sympathy for Caliban. We might only do so now, but only because we live in the post-colonial age; we know better. We have to remember that the ethics of colonialism and slavery was likely to be of little or no concern to Shakespeare's Londoners. England's colonial project had only just begun.

Finally then, I want to think about why and how Caliban is called and depicted as a "monster." What is the point of this character, who stands apart from the main action of the play? It seems like he is just a vehicle for farce. Caliban is an example of Bill's 'mistaken identity' stock device, albeit without plot utility. He's part of the comic confusion which moves The Tempest along. But this doesn't mean that the character is without satire. Caliban is never really a 'savage' devoid of all civility; the "be not afeard" speech (3.2.135-43) is among the most eloquent lines of the play. Nor can it be said that Caliban is a 'noble savage', in a romantic primitavist sense. Afterall he's a rapist, relishes cursing in his master's language, and plots to murder him.

It is this subversiveness that makes Caliban satirical. The fact that his name is an anagram of the Spanish 'caníbal' (referring to the Carib) is meant to be blatant, not a hidden message. He's a parody that pokes fun at the dodgy reports of indigenous peoples that had returned to Europe during the 'age of exploration'. We know that Gonzalo's speech about how he'd rule the island (2.1.148-57) closely parodies an idealistic passage from de Montainge's Des Cannibales (1580). These ideals are immediately deconstructed by Sebastian and Antonio. What I hope Shakespeare was trying to say by Caliban's character is that, the distinction between 'savagery' (whether 'noble' or not) and 'civility' is a naïve and laughable one. He didn't know that the distinction would continue well after his time; not in naïveté, but rather in cynicism.

7/28/12 01:27 am - Walking in the Malvern Hills

You can see for miles around

6/14/12 12:11 am

I am a stranger here in Gloucestershire:
These high wild hills and rough uneven ways
Draws out our miles, and makes them wearisome

Richard II (2.3.3-5)

We cycled from Warwick to Gloucester and back over the weekend; 115 miles in total. Apart from perhaps a brief 'boarder crossing' when cycling near Ilmington, I don't think I'd ever been to Gloucestershire before. And, except a trip to Broadway village a long time ago, I hadn't seen much of Worcestershire either.

We took the usual route to Long Marston via the Fulbrook Lane and the Stratford Greenway. After leaving Warwickshire behind, the road to Evesham took us through the villages of Pebworth, Honeybourne, Bretforton and Badsey. Pebworth has some impeccably thatched Tudor cottages. Fearful sheep bleat at you while you speed past them. The lie of the land here is much the same as around home. It's endless fields; not flat, but with no large hills either. It seems a little less wooded. Bretforton was the first place that felt like we'd gone beyond our back yard, mainly because it has houses built of Cotswold stone. There's a NT-owned pub here called the Fleece Inn. Badsey is a rather run-down place that has a Spar, and a church dedicated to St. James. A wedding blocked the High Street.

To get to Evesham, you have to cross the A46. There are two ways to do this for non-motorists, and neither is particularly safe. The town itself sits on a bend of the Avon. It once had an abbey, of which only the bell tower remains. It now has a Lidl, around which there seems to live a lot of Polish people. A 'hot air balloon festival' was underway in the park, but there were no balloons on account of the wind. This is what caused our pace to slacken a bit, as we made our way south out of the Wychavon district.

On entering Gloucestershire, the terrain becomes more hilly. By the time you get to Winchcombe, there can be no doubt that you have arrived in the Cotswolds. Next, we had to ascend the northern face of Cleeve Hill. Doing this by pedal is punishing on the thighs but rewarding for the heart, literally and metaphorically. There are ancient structures in the area that we didn't have time to see. By the time we got to Gloucester, we were exhausted.

The city itself is a strange place. The gulls give it a coastal town feel. For a Saturday night, the town centre was rather quiet. There were a lot of stoned folk wandering around. We ate at a pub near the docks called The Tall Ship. After taking a look at the cathedral we a had a pint of ale each at New Inn, a very old pub/hotel with a nice courtyard. It was karaoke night, so we drank outside. Then we stopped for cider at Imperial Inn, because it's façade was delightfully Victorian. It was populated by a handful of very drunk and scary locals.

We stayed at the Edward Hotel. The landlady kindly gave us a safe spot to put our bikes. At breakfast, a couple made me laugh because they fulfilled the sterotype of American tourists so well. The bloke was hilariously rude, "hey lady! any sign of my tea?" Then his wife said, "we should go to Care-filly Khassel, it's the second largest khassel in England," and I struggled to hide my amusement.

Cycling back home was less difficult than I thought it'd be. The wind had died down but we did catch about half an hour of rain. We took a less challenging route to that went through the village of Elmstone Hardwicke. We pressed on to a series of boring cycle paths around the outskirts of Tewkesbury, returning to Evesham and then going home along the route we took before.

Overall, I was quite comfortable with the mileage and terrain, and it's made think that I might be able to attempt longer distances. Perhaps I might even be able to tackle LEJOG.

5/12/12 04:44 am

I went to Manchester to visit George on the last Saturday of April. We went to the city art gallery and the Whitworth, where there was an exhibition called 'Cotton: Global Threads.' Then George took us to these bars that were stuffed beyond capacity with people that looked like they had fallen out of TOWIE. As an aside, my sister actually went to Sugar Hut in Brentwood last week. Not in any sort of ironic way, it was more of a pilgrimage, I think. She's a huge fan of the show.

It was Greeny's birthday last week, I sent him a loosely themed mix cd; it's a long tradition. This year I went for a piano theme, mainly as an excuse to include Tigran Hamasyan and people signed to Erased Tapes. He sent me a book called The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It looks really interesting so I'm going to try to finish it without skimming. I'm a slow reader so I tend to skim stuff for the good bits. I'm still trying to get through On Liberty and Other Essays, and I've forgotten why I wanted to read it in the first place. Mill is a barmy old Victorian.

The rain finally seems to have eased off today, and the local area is no longer in drought. It shows, I went for a walk and some of the paths were best described as brooks. Still, I enjoyed getting outdoors. I'm working all weekend so I had to make the most of it. It seems like the sun only shines when I'm at work. That's the excuse I'm using for my neglect of the yard.

3/11/12 12:44 pm

I went to Punjab for two weeks to attend my cousin's wedding. It was a good trip.

My cousin's house
My cousin's house

My aunt
My aunt picking out mustard leaves

Souvenirs at Anandpur Sahib

Kiratpur Sahib
Kiratpur Sahib

Akāl Takht; a crowd gathers for the morning installation of the 'Bīr'

There are more pictures here

12/10/11 01:23 am - Cameron's veto at the EU summit

The only way I can view this is as a spectacular diplomatic failure. Europe has decided to find a way to press on with reforms without the UK, as was to be expected, given that its survival was at stake. The Tories speak of the national interest but what they are referring to is only the City's interest. Moreover, the move failed to secure any real gains even to that end. Bizzarely, UKIP leader Nigel Farage put it best,

We finish this summit with Cameron having gained absolutely nothing, with the prospect of us repatriating powers having disappeared completely and with the City of London, that he sought to protect, now more vulnerable than it has ever been.

So, even the most sceptical of eurosceptics has the common sense to see that Britain has suffered a pyrrhic victory. The Tories often accuse the Labour Party of being at the mercy of the unions; but hasn't this sorry affair has shown that the Conservative Party is at the mercy of morons?

9/10/11 10:52 pm

I watched Oranges and Sunshine (2010) and found it very moving. I was particularly disturbed by the idea of stolen, irretrievable childhoods. Being a skeptic of 'true stories,' I did a little digging to authenticate the extent of the film's claims. Listening to the full length of Brown's apology on behalf of the UK (02/2010), it seems that the film covers just the tip. I've read this to find out more, and now I'm buying Margaret Humphreys' book, Empty Cradles (1994), on which the film is based.

9/2/11 11:24 pm

It's been a pleasant couple of days with good weather and time off work. I can never seem to make time for reading though.

8/27/11 01:41 am - Escapism

Dunya is a word of Arabic origin that translates as 'the world' in many languages. Wherever there has been Islamic rule or influence in the past and present, the word has trickled down into the vocabulary of the local tongues of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It's probably the most commonly used word by the human race to describe the planet on which we live.

When the weather gets dull, or when work starts to get monotonous, my mind starts to wander. I begin to wonder about the dunya, the places I've never been. I think about all the things that I'll probably never see nor do.

When I was a kid, I used to spend time quietly poring over atlases. This developed into something of a shared hobby with my dad. For some reason, he especially liked to look at the map of Switzerland. I used to love listening to my grandad's stories about his stint as a migrant worker in Singapore. Lately, I've been spending more time than I should be, browsing through pictures of Iran.

My email 'penpal' ('e-pal'?) from Jakarta tells me that it's "Ramadhan" at the moment. She says that at Eid (she calls it "Ied"), it's traditional for Indonesians to holiday in their ancestral villages.

I will be going to my father's home town in central Java called Solo (it's a very beautiful city and it's very recommended to visit if one day you come to Indonesia).

If I "one day" go to Indonesia. I wish I could take the invitation up. I told her about my visit to my dad's homeland.

Was it your first time to see your father's village? What does it look like? Every time I go to Solo, my father takes me to the village where he grew up. My grandparents were rice farmers and the village mostly consisted of rice paddies. When I was little, I always had so much fun playing in the rice paddies.

I asked her if Solo is far from where she lives.

Solo is still in the same island as Jakarta. While Jakarta is in the Western part of Java, Solo is in Central Java. It's not very far, but considering the great exodus before Ied, all of the interstate roads will be jammed and it will take much longer to get there than usual. Just imagine, millions of people are moving at the same time.

I will "imagine." It's not unrelated that, when I was reading this interview of Ray Davies today, the writer's analysis of Waterloo Sunset seemed to match own my interpretation of the song.

Even if you don't quite grasp the lyrics, you catch the narrator's condition. He is ... scared by ... the crowd "swarming like flies" ... So he contents himself with watching ... the beauty of the sunset from his window. "And I don't feel afraid," he sings, holding on to this view of "paradise".

8/1/11 03:04 am - Gwynedd

I went on a trip to Wales from Thursday to Saturday, mainly to do some cycling. But we also did quite a lot of sightseeing, my favourite spot was Tre'r Ceiri.

How much could the people who lived here during supposedly Romano-British times have known about Rome? How much could they remember about the people who originally began building on this hill top? What, or who, were those original builders defending themselves against in the first place? Where did they themselves come from?

How much do the people now living in the towns and villages below have in common with those who once lived all the way up here? What were their hopes, fears and dreams? Who did they love and who did they hate? What made them angry, and what just mildly irritated them? Did they all get along? What did their conversations sound like? How important was their culture to them? What did they really value in their lives, and in their deaths?

We walked up here out of curiosity for them, but mainly for its own sake. Could they ever have contemplated us? Would they ever have had time for leisure? Did they think that the views from their homes here are as amazing as I do?

4/11/11 01:27 am

I did a bit of wandering around Kenilworth today. I saw a couple lifting their bikes over a footpath stile, it slightly amused me.


3/25/11 07:05 pm - Two unproductive days off work

In preparation for the warm season, I bought a bike and rode it home along the canal. I'm hoping to really get into cycling this year. Not for fitness or 'being green' ... just for its own sake. I saw a lady walking whilst managing to read a hefty book - multi-tasking. I'm scared of taking pictures of people because I'm usually unshaven and generally dodgy looking. That's also why I didn't ask her what she was reading, despite being a bit too curious. So here's a picture of a nice house by the canal, I wonder who lives there.

Grand Union Canal

The Sun was out this afternoon so I went for a short walk but it didn't seem satisfying, probably because the trees are still bare.


3/15/11 05:45 pm

I treated myself to Nils Frahm & Anne Müller - 7Fingers today. A pleasing album.

Edit, 27th July 2011: An interview with Anne Müller has appeared on an Economist blog.

3/9/11 11:04 am

I went to see The Usual Auntijies at the Belgrade last night. Surprisingly, I liked it, but maybe because my ticket was free (being under-26). The play tries to give us a different perspective on the condition of the auntie-ji, and does so in some poignant and comic ways at times. But the amalgamation of such a spectrum of true-life elements results in unconvincing characters.

12/7/10 04:10 pm

See all of today's photos here.

11/11/10 01:48 am

I went to see the Street Art showcase in Coventry. I'm not sure if it was worth it because Coventry city centre is still as rubbish as when I was last there... years ago. The Herbert is a nice building but, apart from the temporary exhibits, the museum itself is lacking in anything interesting. The idea of street art not being on the street didn't sit well in my mind, it turned out. But it did expose me to some styles, themes and names that I hadn't seen before. Plus it served as a reminder of art hat has unfortunately been erased from walls, particularly the brilliant work of AerosolArabic. I took a picture of Ben Slow's self-portrait, one of the specially commissioned works of the Street Art season's 'Fresh Paint' section.

Ben Slow

11/6/10 02:08 am

tea lights in coffee jars

ਦੀਵਾਲੀ ਦੀ ਰਾਤ ਦੀਵੇ ਬਾਲੀਅਨਿ॥
ਤਾਰੇ ਜਾਤ ਸਨਾਤ ਅੰਬਰ ਭਾਲੀਅਨਿ॥
ਫੁਲਾਂ ਦੀ ਬਾਗਾਤ ਚੁਣ ਚੁਣ ਚਾਲੀਅਨਿ॥
ਤੀਰਥਿ ਜਾਤੀ ਜਾਤ ਨੈਣ ਨਿਹਾਲੀਅਨਿ॥
ਹਰਿ ਚੰਦੁਰੀ ਝਾਤ ਵਸਾਇ ਉਚਾਲੀਅਨਿ॥
ਗੁਰਮੁਖ ਸੁਖਫਲ ਦਾਤ ਸ਼ਬਦ ਸਮ੍ਹਾਲੀਅਨਿ ॥6॥

- Bhai Gurdas; Var 19, Pauri 6

My interpretation of this scripture:

The lamps, lit for Diwali night only,
The stars, only visible before dawn,
The garden with its flowers being picked away,
The pilgrimage site emptying of its pilgrims,
Our imagination, existing and then vanishing,
The fruit of bliss
can only be found by savouring the word


Click here to read my thoughts on Diwali

11/5/10 03:36 am

I don't care if Pitchfork Media didn't rate Courage of Others. For me, it's a record that fits the dark and uncertain moods of present times. I went to see Midlake perform at the Roundhouse in Camden on Tuesday. I liked they way they brought out different facets of their new material by playing it in unexpected arrangements and including stunning extended electric guitar instrumentals. Their live work sounds so different to their recorded output; it's a shame that they haven't released live recordings. Plus, at the end of the show, it was a real treat to see John Grant and Midlake collaborate on a Czars cover.

11/1/10 12:11 am

A list of museums, galleries and exhibitions that I have visited, in descending chronological order of first visit. I need to visit more.

World Museum, Liverpool

Tate Liverpool (Turner, Monet, Twombly: Later Paintings - June 2012)

International Slavery Museum, Liverpool

Museum of Liverpool

Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (Cotton: Global Threads, 4/2012)

Manchester Art Gallery (4/2012)

Wellcome Collection, London (11/2011)

IWM North, Salford (11/2011)

The Lowry, Salford (11/2011)

People's History Museum, Manchester (11/2011)

MOSI, Manchester (11/2011)

Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum, Caernarfon (8/2011)

Tate Modern, London (Gauguin, 12/2010)

The Herbert, Coventry (11/2010)

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

Ulster Museum, Belfast

British Museum, London (Afghanistan, 2/7/2011)

The National Gallery, London

Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Tate Britain, London

Asiatica Musée d'Art Oriental, Biarritz, France (8/2006)

The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia (10/2005)

Science Museum, London

Coventry Transport Museum

Market Hall, Warwick

St. John's House, Warwick

9/6/10 11:36 pm - Jaswant Singh Kalrha (1952 - 1995)

After his abduction on 6th September 1995, Jaswant Singh Kalrha was killed on October 24th 1995 in revenge for daring to expose the illegal imprisonment & murder of youths at the hands of the Punjab state police. Five police officers were eventually given life sentences for his murder. But those responsible for the human rights abuses which he tried to bring world attention to, including Punjab Police Chief KP Gill, remain outside the reach of justice.

This subtitled video contains clips of his last international speech (Canada, April 1995)


8/1/10 07:44 pm

Father Zosima quotes another man to Madame Khokhlakov in a long and preachy conversation about "active love" in Dostoyevsky's Brothers Karamazov:

As soon as someone is there, close to me, his personality oppresses my self-esteem and restricts my freedom. In twenty-four hours I can begin to hate even the best of men: one because he takes too long eating his dinner, another because he has a cold and keeps blowing his nose. I become the enemy of people the moment they touch me.

When I go back and read this bit, it's as if Fyodor was making an aperçu directly about me.

7/12/10 02:48 am

kahte haiñ jīte haiñ ummīd pah log
ham ko jīne kī bhī ummed nahīñ

They say people live on hope,
We have no hope even of living

One of Ghalib's many morbid truisms. It was on my mind while I sat in St. Mary's yard, a good spot to hide.

St. Mary's Church Yard

5/23/10 02:06 am

After work, I took a walk. It was therapeutic.


3/23/10 04:59 pm

Bhagat Singh (1907 - 1931)

79 years ago, a 23 year old man attained the immortality of martyrdom for freedom. Today, I think about the figure we now call Shahid-i-Azam Bhagat Singh with some envy. He had a mission to live by and cause to die for. I'm nearly the same age, I don't seem to value any ideal, and I've never done anything with any real purpose. Does this mean I'm more dead today than Bhagat Singh will ever be? He lives on through the story of his deeds and the words he penned.

The aim of life is no more to control the mind, but to develop it harmoniously; not to achieve salvation hereafter, but to make the best use of it here below; and not to realise truth, beauty and good only in contemplation, but also in the actual experience of daily life; social progress depends not upon the ennoblement of the few but on the enrichment of democracy; universal brotherhood can be achieved only when there is an equality of opportunity —of opportunity in the social, political and individual life.

— From Bhagat Singh's prison diary (p. 124)

3/11/10 01:03 am - Bonobo - 'Eyesdown' feat. Andreya Triana

I've become something of a fan of the singer who provided the vocals for this track and the previous Bonobo release. Triana's own brilliant single Lost Where I Belong is out on 5th April and she expects her full length album to be released in August. I wait in anticipation for that, but in the meantime, Bonobo's fourth album Black Sands is out on 29th March.

1/31/10 04:19 pm

I haven't updated properly since the new year but I've found some time and sit down and type a bit of what's on my mind. I heard on a BBC programme the idea that, at the end of the decade just gone by, the UK today is unusual in the world for being a place where religion plays only a limited role in its politics. That's not entirely true if we consider Tony Blair. On domestic issues, he kept the church at arms length. But, it turned out that, in his foreign policy he was guided by the same undemocratic 'divine will' as George Bush. And David Cameron, considered by the media as our next Prime Minister, has already made a declaration of faith. I think our public's negative opinion on religion in politics is mainly based on apathy rather than on the merits of secularism itself. Where secular ideals are actively invoked, it's often just a pretext for Islamophobia.

An odd case in point, local to me, was the construction of Leamington Gurdwara. Some of the public initially mistook it for a mosque and objected to it for its extravagance. They assumed it was council-funded. It turned out to be a Sikh temple (which is in some ways irrelevant). Moreover, the four-doored building was funded exclusively by private loans and huge donations from the Sikh community and local businesses. Once the private funding and non-Islamic nature of the construction had become established knowledge, they shifted their bigotry towards religion as a whole. Their argument was that places of worship had no place in "our secular Britain." I wonder if they would have taken a similar stance were it an Anglican church that had been built in the gurdwara's place.

I blamed the seeming ubiquity of ideas about moral ownership (i.e. what makes this place "ours" and not "theirs" and what makes them "them" and us "us") on nationalism. This blame was misdirected for a few reasons. The main one is that the Leamington case only involved the complaints of petty xenophobes, as opposed to the actions of actual British nationalists. Secondly, I didn't emphasise the distinction between the different forms of nationalisms espoused by the majority (whether in political power or population size) in a society and its minorities. Majority nationalism is the extreme side of a political movement that concerns itself with assimilation, integration, fighting 'reverse-discrimination,' containment, or territorial control. Minority nationalism is the extreme end of a political movement that concerns itself with liberation, civil rights, self-determination, autonomy, or agitation. What they might have in common is violence, terrorism and a preoccupation with cultural 'purity.' I guess what I was thinking was that the driving force behind many conflicts in the world were not necessarily the cultural factors (ethnicity, religion etc.) of communal identities themselves but merely the importance that people attach on to how they divide us. The greater this perceived importance becomes, the more virulent the conflict.

In December, I visited Belfast and I was going to lead on to some pictures of the trip by saying how religion does still play a role in UK politics, particularly where Northern Ireland is concerned. But on reconsideration, it seems the Troubles period was not just an ethnoreligious struggle between the mainly-Catholic nationalist minority and the mainly-Protestant unionist majority of Northern Ireland. It was more personal than that. It was neighbours killing neighbours in vicious cycles of revenge. The IRA and loyalist paramilitaries were both guilty of killing civilians. Both nationalists and loyalists inherited sectarianism from centuries of animosity and passed on that legacy of hate to their children. The continuation of this 17th century politics is what interested us to go there.

Edward Carson stands infront of the Stormont Parliament Buildings but he refused the opportunity to be Prime Minister of Northern Ireland or even to sit in the NI House of Commons.

Carson's futile mission to deny the Irish people their holy grail of Home Rule makes him a hated figure amongst republicans. But whilst Carson was a passionate force for unionism, he had little in common with the six counties of Ulster that he managed to keep within the United Kingdom and disdained the outdated sectarian attitudes of the region. He's often quoted as advising Ulster Unionists with the following words, "we used to say that we could not trust an Irish parliament in Dublin to do justice to the Protestant minority. Let us take care that that reproach can no longer be made against your parliament, and from the outset let them see that the Catholic minority have nothing to fear from a Protestant majority." I think that a similar paradoxical sentiment was later echoed by Muhammad Ali Jinnah on the creation of his "moth-eaten Pakistan."

Some adherence to Carson's unheeded and late advice may or may not have prevented the Troubles but it showed that he had an understanding of the majority-minority dynamics within an administrative entity. What strikes me as odd is his naïveté for thinking the region could overcome its communal division without the protracted political negotiations which we finally see today. The devolution of justice powers from London to Belfast, a process clichéd in the media as the "final piece of the devolution jigsaw puzzle" is still stubbornly refusing to fit. I've been delaying this post to follow the news from the ongoing DUP-Sinn Féin negotiations. But the Orange Marches, an issue that I remember was tediously all over the news during the '90s, remains a sticking point.


There's loads to see and do in Belfast. I got us tickets to see the Ulster Orchestra and Emma Morwood perform a lunchtime concert. It was a contrast to the noise that this bloke was making on the street outside. While I sat there in the refurbished Ulster Hall, listening to Edward Norman Hay's Tryste Noel, it was clear that this city has a heritage that rivals London. This was confirmed when we walked around the reopened Ulster Museum. I was fascinated by its Iron Age artefacts. But what I enjoyed the most was the chronological walk through NI's history from 1600 to 1921. I would've liked to have seen more of the museum's art, but at the time of my visit the top floors were occupied by a Sean Scully exhibition. I think his rectangles are pretentious.

Belfast City Hall and Christmas market
We walked inside Belfast City Hall to find an Ulster Sports Association exhibition. Unsurprisingly, a lot of it was devoted to George Best.

'Reconciliation' is an iron cast of a statue by Josefina de Vasconcellos originally named 'Reunion.' Sister casts can be found in several cities including those named on the stones. This particular cast was presented to the people of NI by Coventry Cathedral which received its own statue as a donation from Richard Branson to commemorate the 50th VE Day.

From this statue, to the stained glass windows in the City Hall, to Christian unity-themed murals dotted around the place, the optimistic (or pleading) art of peace and tolerance can be found all over Belfast. Many pubs have local themed art. The walls of Bittles Bar's triangular lounge on Victoria Square are decorated with portraits of Irish literary greats and scenes from the Troubles. The John Hewitt is also well decorated and it's only there that you can purchase a Barney's Brew (a barley beer commissioned to commemorate the 200th birthday of the inventor of the Belfast Bap). I tried a draught Belfast Black there, it was a tasty stout. Guinness is overrated and tastes no better in Ireland.

Cromwell mural on Shankill Parade
Historians still debate on whether the Cromwellian re-conquest of Ireland was driven by sectarianism, along with the extent of its brutality. Whatever the events' true nature, it is precisely Cromwell's reputation as a muderer of Catholics for which he is venerated in this Shankill mural.

The city is famed for its political murals. We didn't have time to see many of them and we focused our walk on the Protestant area known as the Shankill. This homage to Oliver Cromwell struck me as the most interesting. Some lady has recently said that the mural "served no purpose in today's society." I don't think it would've ever served a purpose in yesterday's society, but it speaks volumes about Ulster loyalism. Look at the thoroughly ancient year when Cromwell died. Far from the shores of the island of Britain, a man that Westminster has long been ashamed of is still triumphantly honoured in paint on this little house.

While we were in the area, we took a day trip by train to Co. Antrim's north coast. If we had the time and the idea to go by car we could've spent more time exploring this region. I might return one day to drive, cycle or walk through the Glens. On a mild winter day as it was, the 4 mile coastal walk from Dunluce to Giant's Causeway was refreshing and scenic enough.

Dunluce Castle
We took an Ulsterbus from Coleraine, and asked the driver for directions to Dunluce Castle. He dropped us off at Portballintrae with the words, "it'll appear like a mirage." The wreckage of La Girona was discovered off this coastline in the '60s. I saw the the recovered artefacts, including a hoard of gold, on display in the Ulster Museum.

We retraced the 2 miles from Dunluce Castle to Portballintrae and walked a further 2 miles eastward. We talked to a few polite strangers along here.

Giant's Causeway
With the effort that we took to walk to this remote but popular geological feature, I was beginning to doubt that it was worth it. But we got there before dark and I like to think that we felt connected to the natural beauty of the place.
See all the photos I took on this trip here.

9/15/09 03:49 pm - A trip to Dorset

Herrington and I drove down to End of the Road Festival. It's set in a place called Larmer Tree Gardens in Cranborne Chase, a rural area that straddles the counties of Dorset, Wilts. and Hamps. There were so many acts we enjoyed, but the highlights of the festival were Fleet Foxes, Richmond Fontaine and The Hold Steady. The best 'discoveries' for me were The Acorn, Ohbijou, and The Travelling Band.

I took a few pictures of the weekend; see the rest of them here.

8/8/09 04:43 am - Ustad Ali Akbar Khan (1922 - 2009)

A great loss to music

The Telegraph
LA Times
Sepia Mutiny

A video of Khansahib in 1981, performing raag Zila Kafi

6/1/09 08:40 pm

On Sunday I was shamefully touristy, aimlessly wandering around the V&A for a long while before going to Regent St. in search of free paella and sangría (there was some kind of Spanish festival). I took a few pics, all of them can be seen by clicking here.



5/18/09 02:30 am

State of Play (2009)

This is a good fast-paced political thriller. The opening murder scene is brilliant and the rest of the film has relatively good quality dialogue and pace. But there were moments where I couldn't continue suspending my disbelief. Crowe's performance was a bit sedate, but I think the lack of melodrama was endearing. It's a slight deviation of the film's source material but I kind-of liked the way the plot had been adapted into a 70s-style US corruption / media themed movie. State of Play could have had less references to the real-life scandal of Watergate; a work of fiction ought to be just that. Overall I'd rate this movie a healthy 3/5. The original 2003 BBC miniseries is well worth watching if you haven't already done so.

4/11/09 02:57 pm - Nationalism

The point I want to begin with here is the simple one of the unrealisable quality of the nationalist search for clarity and 'purity' in the midst of the blurring, mixing and uncertainty that is the actually existing condition of all nations and nationalisms

- Gyanendra Pandey, Remembering Partition, 2001

The 'enlightened’ image that Britain tries to cultivate on the world stage is a farce. I'm not just talking about the obvious culprits of bigotry amongst us (BNP / NF), but the more numerous individuals who veil it behind a respectable veneer of so-called 'healthy patriotism'. They cynically orchestrate petty pseudo-dilemmas concerning the personal freedom of what they call the 'average Briton.' When somebody dares to criticise this masked xenophobia, they're promptly informed, “if you don’t like it, you don’t have to be here.” An irony is lost on the people who have this attitude. Their sensationalist complaints concern such paranoid delusions as ‘reverse-discrimination’ and ‘political correctness gone mad.’

With apologies to the legacy of the likes of Nehru, Atatürk and Mandela, I must say that no nationalism is good nationalism. I concede that it gave strength, unity or 'modernity' to people in the past. But what came first, the nation? or nationalism? I would say that the latter definitely precluded the former, in most modern cases at least. The concept of a nation was not one that was based in reality until the nation was deliberately forged (and purged). Consider the quote above, written in a book that examines the historiography of the events of 1947 in the northern Subcontinent. A ‘pure’ nation has never been achieved. But we live at a point in time where nation-states have been long established globally. We can not remember a time when the nation-state model did not exist.

Whether extreme or 'moderate,' the British nationalist wallows in the delusion that since they happen to belong to the majority demographic on the island where they were born, this somehow means that the island is under their exclusive moral ownership. They seem to lose sight of the fact that the parentage and location of their birth is a matter of chance. Nationalists have an intellectual inability to decouple their personal identity from their arbitrary geography. They lose their own humanity for the sake of a place name, a label worn with misplaced pride. Moreover, they force different labels on everyone else. Thus, in modern Britain, a person is not a person; we are reduced to being representatives of our supposed ‘communities.’

4/6/09 01:30 pm

It's just occurred to me that this LJ was started 4 whole years ago. My first entry was rubbish. It described the first time (and the last, to date) that I ever visited the north. Isn't it strange how somebody can live their whole life in such a small country and yet somehow manage to ignore half of it?


An annual variety showcase of Subcontinental classical music known as the Darbar Festival was hosted by the Southbank Centre over the weekend. I could only afford to buy a ticket for the inaugural Friday morning session, so I missed out on the highlight of the event (Nina Virdee's band project, Urban Love). However, I enjoyed Harmeet S. Virdee's stunning sitar rendition of Ahir. Then, Rahul Sharma's slowly building Alhaiya Bilawal on the santoor was hypnotic. With Subhankar Banerjee on tabla, the concluding drut was so fast & exhiliarating that, when it was over, I automatically stood up in applause. The Purcell Room is quite a small venue, and I got a seat near the front. It was a great experience to see & hear these instruments being played up close, to be fully exposed to the subtlety of their timbres.

3/8/09 09:45 am

Recently I've become interested in the ideas of Jean Baudrillard (1929 - 2007). It's just a passing phase, but here is a quote from Baudrillard's book Simulacra and Simulation to ponder over:

Today one has the impression that history has retreated, leaving behind it an indifferent nebula, traversed by currents, but emptied of references. It is into this void that the phantasms of a past history recede, the panoply of events, ideologies, retro fashions—no longer so much because people believe in them or still place some hope in them, but simply to resurrect the period when at least there was history, at least there was violence (albeit fascist), when at least life and death were at stake.

From the chapter II. History: A Retro Scenario

The cynical side of me can't help thinking that this is a psychological driving force behind middle-class, abstract, empathy for people in what is termed the 'developing word' where matters of life and death still exist, and history is still being made. Gaza, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan... these were places that people seemed to care about despite never having visited them. 50 years too late, there was an outpouring of sympathy for human rights abuses in Tibet (a place that has fallen victim to being nothing more than an orientalist Hollywood construct). Ultimately, these places fall from public consciousness. They remain the cause célèbre only until some new distraction is discovered. This year, that distraction seems to be in the shape of Slumdog Millionaire, a huge exercise in hyper-reality itself.

1/24/09 11:24 am

Last night, my housemates and I went to see a performance of three symphonies by the BBCSO at Maida Vale studios. They were David Fennessy's Dead End, the premier of Gwyn Pritchard's The Firmament of Time and the premier of Matthew Taylor's Symphony No. 2. I hadn't heard of any of these composers. Dead End  was an awful noise. The Firmament sounded like the Star Trek theme on acid, funny because the composer kept talking about space and nebulae in his introduction. Taylor's second symphony was more interesting because it was commissioned by the gynaecologist Ian Craft, who was present in the audience. The composer talked about the piece as if it was somehow supposed to sound like the development of an embryo into a baby... the guy was so full of bullshit that Asyikin couldn't help giggle a little as he spoke, "Beethoven has been the driving force of my life as a human being." However, this symphony was a lot more enjoyable than the previous two. I particularly liked the way intricate violin interacted with the woodwind section in the third movement. The whole embryo theme lead to a conversation about the recent news that the FDA has approved stem cell trials, which offered some hope to somebody that my housemate knew who was recently paralysed in a road accident. Despite not having a problem with the ethics, I heavily doubt the potential therapeutic value of stem cells. Not only because the therapy will be unavailable to the less wealthy nations of the world, but also because the trials of stem cells that have already been carried out to date have yielded far from amazing results. Either way, I guess it is worth doing large scale trials to find out once and for all. By the time it was finished we were all feeling quite hungry. But instead of dining amongst the New Year lights of chinatown, we walked further into the dark, sleazy backstreets of Soho to eat authentic char kway teow at a Malaysian restaurant called Melati. The place used to be a strip club, apparently.

7/4/08 03:51 am

Peep Show has got to be the best comedy serial to appear on television during this decade. An adequate synopsis can be found here. The first three seasons are freely available on 4oD. The latest season aired over May/June. I may have to invest in the DVDs just to satisfy my need to re-watch it. I particularly enjoyed the finale with its hilarious, although simultaneously disturbing, scene in which Jez cries I thought I knew what I was doing but I haven't got a fucking clue. 

7/3/08 02:15 am

Three of my friends are doing a charity bicycle ride from Land's End to John o' Groats in aid of Transplants In Mind. National Transplant Week is between 6th and 13th July. In the organisation's own words:

Transplants in Mind help save lives by promoting awareness of organ and tissue donation for transplantation, as well as funding valuable research in to all aspects of donation and transplantation.

The three guys' 1000 mile bicycle journey can be sponsored here. They would be thankful for any donation, be it large or small.

5/8/08 02:40 am

On Newsnight, Paxman asked David Miliband whether he thought that the UK had a moral obligation to provide asylum for people whose habitation and/or way of life has been destroyed by climate change, on the basis that climate change is the result of industrial activity. He asked this because Miliband was known to be in favour of 'green' policy. But the question seemed to catch Miliband off guard.

My answer would be to say that whilst those who contribute to climate change are accountable for the welfare of those whose lives are affected by it, it is only to a limted extent because it would be difficult to ascertain the degree to which industrial activity has affected the life of every individual who might claim asylum on this basis. It is impossible to prove blame for individual meteorological events on industry-induced climate change, since it is a concept based on global trends. The idea of climate change comes from observing the world at large. For example, the melting of polar icecaps caused by human-induced global warming could be cited as the cause for an increased global incidence of coastal flooding. However global warming cannot be blamed on for an individual flood in Bangladesh (for example).

The question has ignored the fact that half of the entire world's population lives in just seven countries which themselves are the top carbon dioxide emitters … specifically Canada, Germany, Japan, India, Russia, China and the USA. The USA alone is responsible for over 20% of global carbon dioxde emissions. This figure is soon to be overtaken by China. Therefore, even if an individual meteorological event could be proven to be linked directly to human-induced climate change, the UK would have a small fraction of the blame for it. This is especially true given that the UK is the only country in the world that has a significant 'eco-conscience' among its general public, which is finally being reflected in a political spectrum-wide espousal of ‘green’ policy. The UK still has a very long way to go in bringing down its 2.2% contribution to global carbon dioxide emissions but the lack of progress in this area is trivial compared to the massive industrial activity of the USA and the PRC, which is only going to grow further. Considering that there has been no serious implementation of any ‘green’ policy in these two top carbon dioxide emitters, the vast share of culpability for human-induced climate change rests with them.

4/10/08 06:20 pm - Det Gamla Landet

DGL (The Old Country in their native Swedish) are a folk band who use banjo, guitar, melodica, drums, organ and occasionally vocals. Their music is a satisfyingly rustic affair; delicately echoing with a subtle and understated melancholia. The band made their back catalogue available for free download a while ago. Saturnus has been the soundtrack of my week.

3/30/08 11:17 pm - Touristy pictures that I took in Russia 2005

... on an over-priced disposable camera bought from a souvenir stand.

Click the thumbnails to view the full images.


3/26/08 02:42 am

Are you from India?


[Says something in Hindustani]
You don't understand?
Sorry, not much.


[In Punjabi:] Can't you talk Punjabi with me?
I can try, but not fluently.


Are you not Portuguese?


[Whispered:] What is he?
[Whispered:] I think he's an Arab.


He looks like a Turkish waiter.


Where do you come from?
Warwick, it's a small Midlands town.
But before?
Yes that's where I'm from.
But your parents?
Yeah same place.


Are you Pakistani?


You there young man, where do you come from?
No, originally.
Oh, I was born at Wolverhampton.
Erm OK.

9/28/07 01:15 pm

I have moved into a room on Ashvale Road. It's larger than anything I'm used to and it's in a good location opposite the tube station. Most importantly, I have good housmates. They're clean, orgnanised and considerate, it just makes life a load easier. Plus, they are friendly. I just have a good feeling about living here.


11/6/06 02:36 am

On Saturday night I went with Herrington to go see The Acute at Stay Beautiful Club, hosted at the Purple Turtle in Camden. It was their first 'official' gig in England. We were early, so we found ourselves in some other curious looking bar, the live performer was an amazing beat-boxer. When it was time to get into the venue, we were surprised to find… there was no queue. Why is this band not as popular as they should be? Most of the people there were regulars of SB.. There we were, a two man queue, freezing our arses off when out of nowhere Davina Silver appears like a weird fairy with her exaggerated eyeliner and sparkly things in her black hair. More people had arrived and she told them to “please wait behind these two wonderful guys.” She proceeded to rush inside whilst telling us we won’t have to wait long, as if there were loads of us. A minute later she popped out again with various items for an “outdoor disco while you wait!” This involved a cd player (she slammed it on the table and it began to play Morrissey), a bowl of sweets and glitter (which she threw over us) and sparklers, which she lit and handed to the few people who had turned up. And then we finally found ourselves inside, to find Moulin Rouge playing on a projector screen and SB regulars with feathers in their coloured hair and in all manner of fancy dress, and that was just the guys. Simon played a DJ set then it was time for the band to play. It was a tense, threatening, and echoing show, all the good things about rock.

2/15/06 02:03 am

I’ve never done one of those ‘how my day went’ sort of updates that I read so often from you all. The following is an attempt; but be warned, this was the wrong day to pick for this...

I was idle. I considered making something to eat, but determined that that required too much effort. I thought about what it might be like to be a farmyard animal, and decided one of the major pros would be being fed, even if it is only slurry. I thought about calling someone, but wasn't in the mood for human contact. I contemplated doing something else, but decided the neighbours were already scared of me being a lunatic and besides I could not be bothered to make a costume today*. And so it continued while I forced myself into writing the draft History essay which was due last week. By the end of the day I made myself a self-proclaimed expert on the causes of the first Indo-Pak war.

Work was miserable as always. I do not like having to interrupt the lives of innocent people to ask them a bunch of pointless and embarrassing questions. I found it fun telling respondents it’s ok if they didn’t want to take part. I don’t care if I get fired. Having spent most of the day being alone, these scripted dialogues, which for this shift consistently instructed me to ask ladies across the country about their “underwear, nightwear and hosiery” preferences, was the most conversation I had all day.

On coming home, I saw Patricia Hewitt beaming on Newsnight because of the ban on smoking in pubs and clubs. Suddenly the image of a fanatical smoker shooting her face off comes to mind. I’m not usually pleased about the government intervening on the social/cultural habits of the nation, it’s not their place to say how we can and can’t enjoy ourselves. But passive smoking is detrimental to health. Smokers do not only kill themselves but contribute to the ill health of others. Most importantly though, other peoples’ smoke makes a perfectly good new shirt/jacket smell shit. I look mournfully now upon a jacket hanging up in my room in a futile attempt to ‘air’ it rather than pay to have it dry-cleaned.

*just kidding
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