Friday, June 25, 2010

Death becomes perfection

Have you noticed how everybody who dies – by accident, by suicide, by murder, by illness, by an Act of God – turns out to have been the ideal daughter/son/friend/sister/brother/parent/grandparent/aunt/uncle/human-being, full of sweetness and light and the milk of human kindness while being the life and soul of the party at the same time as worrying about kittens and puppies and abandoned children and the environment. Makes you glad you’re not the ideal anything, doesn’t it? Because if you were, you’d be dead and people would be reading about perfect li’l you in the newspaper.

Ok, that’s not my own original observation. I came across it, or something like it, somewhere and it struck a chord very loudly. I’ve merely embellished the original here (could you tell?).

I acknowledge that I’m uncharitable and un-empathetic and nasty, but I have to say that it's really irritating to read news items where the tearful friends and relatives of the deceased warble on about the latter’s all-round wonderfulness and lovableness for the first four paragraphs... and then, a paragraph from the bottom, you realise that the deceased in question had died in a drunken brawl started by him on the way back from the pub and this was something he had done many times before. (Started a brawl, that is. Not died.) Or else he had a criminal record for robbery with violence, or for abusing women, or for abandoning children and family, or was in a gang. Or lots of other things, none of which could be considered compatible with the glowing character description in the first few paragraphs.

I do realise that the news content is down to the reporter, and the order of paragraphs is down to the editor who passes that report for publication. So I guess my annoyance is 99% directed at them, not at the relatives of the deceased. (I hope that this mitigating factor in my otherwise mean and nasty character will be well publicised on my demise, and the rest omitted.) After all, there’s every chance that even despicable people have someone who loves them and isn't ashamed to admit it.

Why does being dead automatically add a halo to the character of the deceased even if in life they were anything but deserving of it? And if the glitter on the halo after death is directly proportional to evilness that went before, then shouldn't we be worshipping people like Hitler or Saddam Hussein?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sunday Scribblings – “Birth”

Giving birth is a difficult, difficult thing. Since I’ve chosen to avoid the physical process of birth, my only connection with birth is mental – in other words, the birth of ideas. I don’t mean that I’ve given birth to lots of brilliant, life-changing, fantastic, original ideas. Or even A single brilliant, life-changing, fantastic, original idea. Not even that. Just the fact that I’ve had any ideas is good enough for me. A naturally creative writer I’m not.

Anyway, as I see it, there’s a HUGE difference between the conception/birth of a child and the conception/birth of an idea - the latter being the worse experience. That’s only my opinion, of course. But I like to justify my opinion by pointing out that at least the process of conceiving a child is enjoyable, even if the birthing process is not – whereas conceiving an idea (even if only something to write about informally on a blog) is most certainly, most definitely not enjoyable in any way. Even surrogate conception (where an idea is conceived by someone else somewhere else, like the topic for this post) doesn't make the birthing process any easier.

For those of you who would like to disagree, I can only suggest that you try this experience – from conception to eventual expulsion - from inside MY head.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What if...?

I woke from a dream yesterday singing (in my mind, not aloud) the National Anthem – not “God save the Queen”, but the original one from when I was originally an Indian. I still think it’s the most melodious anthem, whether sung or played.

Anyway, fragments of the dream stayed with me, leaving me with a somewhat dismaying question: What if some pathetic partisan politician from a newly created “State”, in a quest for publicity and popularity and the public’s votes, starts demanding that the National Anthem should name ALL the Indian States? Or that each State should have its own Anthem?

I can’t begin to describe just how much I hate that idea. I wish it had not popped up in my dream. I hope it never occurs to anybody else.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What colour is YOUR hair?

Recently noticed on a shampoo bottle (I think it was l’Oreal, but I’m not 100% sure), this description: “Prone to dandruff coloured hair”.

Dunno about you, but I have to say I'm pretty happy not to be prone to dandruff-coloured hair. What shade of disgusting would that be, I wonder...

Really, could not ONE person in the company’s ad agency have thought about what the wording implied, and changed it to “For coloured hair prone to dandruff”? That would have made sense and been grammatically correct.

Right, a question for y'all: How much should I worry about noticing something like this, how much more for letting it bother me, and how very much more for actually pointing it out in print?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sunday Scribblings - "Superhero/heroine"

I think the Superman comics were the first ones about a superhero that I ever read, but I'm not actually certain. It’s not like I used to read comics serially... it was more a case of “Grab everything within reach and read it all”, so Superman, Spiderman, Green Lantern, The Phantom, Batman, Flash Gordon, The Hulk and others I can't even remember, were all grist for my mill.

So let’s say that Superman was the first alien superhero whose exploits took hold of my imagination well and truly. I think I was also reading Phantom comics (he of the “Ghost who Walks” fame) and Mandrake the Magician at the time... they were superheroes too, I guess, but they didn’t originate on another planet like Superman. They had extraordinary qualities, not extraterrestrial ones.

I guess the reason for liking Superman more than most was that I started at the beginning with him – that is to say, I had a big fat book of collected Superman comics starting with the very first ones. It was kind of strange to read those early comics because Superman’s features – and those of other characters - hadn’t quite evolved. To me the characters (all of them, not just Supe) appeared unfocused and a bit fuzzy, a bit like trying to read without my glasses. But as the years passed and the dialogue and drawings and colours and styles improved, Superman grew to look like the superhero epitomised (is this a valid usage?) by Christopher Reeves. As far as I’m concerned, he WAS Supe. Nobody else can be Superman, and anyone who’s seen Reeves as Supe will not be able to accept anyone else in his place - which is why there have been no super-duper HIT remakes of the classic Superman movies.

What struck me as totally inexplicable, undemanding though I was of my reading material, was the “Bizarro Superman” creation. I mean, why? It's not like they'd exhausted all other story/adventure avenues for Supe. Bizarro was the opposite of Superman – a sort of mirror-image, I guess. An anti-superhero. Ugly (with cracks? in his face) where Supe was good-looking, stupid where Supe was intelligent, irrational where Supe was anything but... and so on. Perhaps he was based on Frankenstein’s monster, but I’m not sure.

The weirdest part was how, in being the opposite of Superman, Bizarro’s speech was also “opposite” – meaning, if he said something was “good”, he really meant it was “bad”, and so on. I felt a bit sorry for Bizarro at one point, mainly because of a particular episode where he hates himself for being so... well, so bizarre, I suppose. “Me not human... me unhappy”, in his own words. But then the illogic of that pathetic statement occurred to me – if Bizarro said the opposite of what he meant, what he was actually saying was “Me human... me happy”. Why was his speech acceptable as a direct statement for that bit alone? I
found that stupid AND irritating. Supe's encounters with Bizarro weren't really riveting after that particular discovery of illogic.

It’s been a long time since I last read a Superman comic. I tried to relive the magic a few years back, but alas, I’d moved on from Supe, much to my regret. I’m just relieved to have the memories of my fascination with Superman to fall back on... it makes me happy to think that he made me happy once. My first superhero.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sunday Scribblings - "Mess"

“Our House

Although you’ll find our house a mess
Come in, sit down, converse.
It doesn’t always look like this –
Some days it’s even worse.”

That was the ditty on the pretty little wall ornament that used to hang in our house in Songea, Tanzania. Let me describe the ornament as best I can - it was made of black-painted porcelain, with a little house surrounded by colourful flowers on the top triangular bit, and each line of the verse on separate "strips" of porcelain connected by little vertical chains in the middle, so that the whole thing was loosely in the shape of a house.

I don’t know when my parents bought it, or if it was a gift from somebody. All I know is that I loved the thing because to me it epitomised the very pinnacle of classy humour. (Yeah I know, I know... but at the time I was young and less sophisticated than I am now – no sniggering, please - and Calvin & Hobbes were a couple of decades away from being conceived). It was, in hindsight, probably a cheap mass-made trinket, but the point was, I loved it.

One evening, my dad brought a colleague for dinner. Being vegetarian, and a kind-hearted man to boot, my dad didn’t make his colleague the main course for our evening meal. Instead, he and my mother fed the man to within an inch of his life while we kids impressed him by being polite and helpful and entertaining. (To anybody who wishes to demur: Look, this is MY memory of the occasion and anyway you weren’t there.)

At the end of the evening, the colleague remarked to my dad that he really liked the “Our House” wall ornament and that he wanted it. Ok, maybe he was not quite as openly covetous as that, but he might as well have said it because my dad, spontaneously generous as always, immediately offered it to him, much to my horror (which stayed verbally unexpressed because of me being polite and well-brought-up. I don’t know what expression was on my face, though). Of course the man said he couldn’t possibly take it, giving me a moment of relief before my dad insisted that of course he SHOULD take it if he liked it. (What if the colleague had said he liked me? Not that I asked my dad that, but I might have mentioned it later, with the merest trace of bitterness, to my mom. Ok, maybe I didn’t mention it to her either, but maybe I wish I had.)

Anyway, the colleague went away well satisfied, having repaid our hospitality with what I considered the basest treachery. I missed the ornament so much that I determined to make my own replica of it. Which I did, thin poster cardboard being my material of choice, but it had a less than satisfactory outcome because it just didn’t look the same or feel the same as the original porcelain version. It didn’t even hang right on the wall - which would not have come as a surprise to anybody but me, being as the hole I’d made at the top to thread the string through wasn’t even centred properly.

I don’t know what happened to this second-rate copy of “My House” – perhaps I lost interest in it and it went the way of all the other things in which I’d lost interest. But every time I have a guest at home, I mentally repeat the little verse. Sometimes I say it aloud, just to see if it’s still amusing.

It is.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Doing my bit for the Red Marker blogathon

A blogger friend of mine, Ummon, pointed me towards the Red Marker Blogathon hosted by Sunayana Roy. I’m glad she did because I’m always happy to rant on about my pet peeves, most of which are to do with misused idioms and incorrectly spelt words and poor grammar.

Ok, here goes, and this is only a tiny sample because I couldn’t possibly list ‘em all at one go!

- Wich (or “witch”) when what they (any and all misspellers) mean “which”. (So what do they call those ladies with pointy hats and black flowing robes who are reputed to fly about on broomsticks? Which witch is which? deary deary me...)

- “I damn care” – for “I don’t damned well care” or “I don’t care/give a damn” .

- “Where is your native” – meaning “Where do you come from?” A lot of Indians also say "I went to my native during my trip to India", and by that they mean the village or small town where they grew up. It's an expression that I dislike intensely. How much more effort would it take to add "place" after "native" and thus make it sound better?

- “He’s always loosing his things” – for “He’s always losing his things”.

Following on from that, using “loosed” (He loosed his pajamas) instead of “loosened” (as in made looser, or less tight).

And following on from THAT, calling someone a “looser” instead of a “loser”.

- This one’s way more common than it should be, sadly – random insertion of apostrophes where not required, and NOT adding an apostrophe where it IS required. Eg 1: “Your’s” - as in “this bag is your’s”, or “Your’s sincerely”, where it should be “yours”. “Yours” is a possessive pronoun, indicating something that belongs to you. No apostrophe required.

Eg 2. “Potato’s sold here”. An apostrophe followed by the “s” usually denotes a contraction. For example. “It’s” is a contraction of “It is”, “don’t” is a contraction of “do not”. So writing “Her’s” is wrong, because “her is” makes no sense. “Hers” is, again, a possessive pronoun.

Just “expanding” the word with the apostrophe will tell you whether or not it (the apostrophe) is in the correct place. It's so simple... and yet thousands and thousands of people get it wrong!

- I come across this ALL THE TIME in food blogs. “Palette” instead of “palate”, as in “This recipe will tempt your palette”. (How, exactly?) A palette is a flat board on which an artist might mix colours while painting. A “palette” can also refer to the range of colours that the selfsame artist might have used in his finished painting. “Palate”, on the other hand, is the sense of taste in humans (sometimes refined, sometimes not), and it also refers to the roof of the mouth.

- Using “pour” where the correct usage is “pore”. "He poured over his textbook". NO! It POURS with rain. He PORES over his textbook. If he POURED (anything) over his bloody book, it would do him no good at exam time, especially in the English exam!

I’m going to stop now, because I’m beginning to froth at the mouth. But if anybody wants more, I can do it again tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that. And the day after the day after that...
Just don’t tempt me.