Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Kids Swear They are Older

Statistical evidence indicate that a vast majority of pre-teen Americans tend to actively seek informal learning channels to expand their vocabulary of expletives. It has been observed that the growth rate in this section of the pre-teen's vocabulary happens at a pace which is significantly higher than that of overall vocabulary and is often times unrelated to presence or absence of learning disorder in the subject.

Researchers in the the Truism Development Lab (TDL), University of Obvious have been working since 2005 applying psychometric analyses with advanced neural net algorithms to identify patterns in teen behaviour captured through expertly designed surveys. These groundbreaking techniques have been able to minimize dependence anecdotal evidence.

Prof. {white-ish name} the founder of TDL and research scientists {Indian Name} and {Chinese Name} made waves with their article: Evolution of nefarious vocabularic tendencies in pre-teens. in the recent issue of Journal of {I exist so assistant profs. can publish and get tenured}. The survey conducted on 31 pre-teen subjects in the high school across the street from TDL - which {Chinese name} explains is a representative cross section of America, helped affirm many traditionally held theories.

The article puts forward the theory that many pre-teens tend to start 'cussing' in a conscious effort to appear older. This tendency was also inversely proportional to the extent of time spent in the country. "Immigrant children tend to make that extra effort to work in cuss words into their vocabulary. Apart from the motivation to appear older, they are also driven by the drive to "fit in" with their peers" said Dr. {Chinese name} drawing from personal experience.

Cuss words specific to certain ethnic groups tend to be picked up first by the children. "Of course this is because of the increased probability of hearing them more in the household. But apart from that it is also because it provides the opportunity of being able to cuss but make sense only to a specific group." says Dr.{Indian Name}.

In response to the criticism that some of the research conclusions were obvious Dr. {white name} said it was important to further social understanding by accurately quantifying and proving beyond doubt, that publicly held notions were indeed on the right basis. "Isn't it amazing that conclusions drawn from closeted individual cases- fraught with risks of personal bias- indeed turn out to be correct? Speaks volumes about the human intuition and common sense".

Dr {White name} also said that this intuition and the psychological underpinnings of social understanding was still a matter of open research. TDL is expanding to a Neural mapping facilities in early 2009 that will take research to a new level. "Neurosociology is surely the technology of the future" say all three in chorus. TDL's founder-professor is smug walking into the future looking ahead. As Dr.{Indian name} puts it in Hindi -"sAlA yEda hai" - which loosely translates to "he is indeed a visionary".

PS: This is tet another recycled text foisted upon you unsuspecting readers. I wrote this some time back after reading a pretty lame magazine article about some inane 'research': a paper that did a bunch of regressions to prove that kids take up smoking to appear older. Duh!
PPS: Got reminded about it when reading this via mislexic today.

Monday, September 13, 2010

5/7 > 2/7

You are what you do....on weekdays.

கோலமகட்துணை ஏற்றவனை மாறிடவிலகிட வாழ்த்தியபின்
காலமகட்டிய நட்பதனை தேறல்நெருக்கிய மாலைகளித்(து)
ஆழச்சுழட்டிடும் காவிரியில் துடுப்பாடியும் செல்வழி மாற்றமிலை -அது
போலசிறுச்சிறு நினைவுகளைத் தேக்கிதிரும்பிய திங்களிது

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Drums Mani

This post is to bid to elucidate the roots of admiration that explain the etymological roots of this blog

John Wayne said 'In all my films, I have played John Wayne. And I have done rather well, haven't I ?" On the other hand, Oscar Wilde most famously said "I put my genius into my life I put only my talent into my works". Two contrasting schools. But what happens when the artist in question is genius personified ?

If the previous paragraph sounded sophomoric, well you guessed right. It was the gist of the opening paragraph of a piece I tried writing when in college, titled : "Of Wayne, Goundamani and Wilde". The intended recipient was "The Hindu" of indhula-sandhula fame. The paper had published an article the previous week hailing a then hot comedian which was a tad too effusive in praise for my taste. So I had set about trying to right wrongs.Of course, the article with the rejection slip came back home before I was even back from the post office.

It was indeed juvenile fanboy attempt to defend one's star. But looking back even today I cannot dismiss it completely. I did the squirrel's part in making the world at large understand the under-appreciated genius (though the genius himself has objected to the metaphor : "dEi, ANiL vEra ....peruchchALi vEra da". )

Mine was not love at first sight. I am not able to say "why not". Perhaps I was too young, perhaps I just absorbed peer/elder genteel perceptions, perhaps I was overexposed to his duds etc. But I think it was largely the incredible novelty. I had never seen anybody like that before. Who else ever and since would have said "puli nakkunAlE nee seththupOyiruve" to a harmless elderly gentleman on screen.

It took Drums Mani from Singaravelan to unlock the doors to the wonderworld. But apart from personal fascination, looking back today I also feel it is the movie where he packed many many varieties of humour. Henceforth I will stop waxing eloquent and rest content with quoting the master.


My favourite joke in the film is the following one in the gym. (to be fair the timing credit is shared by GM and Vadivelu). As they enter the gym, GM and VV step on the rotary torso machine. GM is on the sitting twist and he rolls around..VV immediately asks
VV: cutting or saving ?
GM: mottai adi

First time I understood this joke - which was not the first time I saw it - I burst out laughing loud and hard and missed the rest of the scene including (hey mottai payyA !....ding) Absolutely spontaneous, almost poetic in the sense that you are left to infer the unsaid and as 'harmless' as the genteelest person could ask for.


Humour is not about illogic. It is using the force of logic to point out the absurdities in our day to existence. GM does that to maximum effect with..
sOru kEttA arisiyum sudu thaNNiyum kuduththuruvaanga, naama thaan poNgi thingaNumA

Same scene- answering a specific question literally and thus not rendering the question ridiculous

GM: dEi segappu sattai...dEi segappu sattai
Kamal: yEN yA kaththura
GM: (in a whisper) ye- se-ga-ppu sat-tai ye- se-ga-ppu sat-tai


avar aatakkArarA irundhA ennA...pAattukkaarar-A irundha enna ? mooku mEla thuNiya kattittu eppidi varalAm

GM: inge dhaan adakkam paNNiyurkkAnga
Sumitra: ah !
GM: idhu...adukki vachchirukkAnga
Sumitra: !
GM:....admit paNNirukkaanga


His pronunciation and intonation when speaking English is stuff of legend:

GM: Please..my help
Kamal: No
GM: Tankyu !

Daring to ridicule Central Themes

Equanimus mentioned once that, in most movies he is in, GM works against the movie. In that way he is a non-supporting actor. A screenwriter's nightmare in that sense he can dissemble an emotion, character, important plot point which was carefully nurtured till he came along.

Kamal: naan oru latchiyaththOda vandhirukkEn
GM: enna kondu vandha karuvAttai...kozhambu vachchu thinnittu pOyiralAmnA

GM: idhuvallavO latchiyam !
GM: ...appidi senjA unga latchiyaththukku izhukku vandhirungaLA

Snides,quips and insults

Snide remarks and insults are GM's forte of course. And he excelled in them..
ingeyAvadhu ingeyAvadhu ingeyAvadhu ....irukkA ?

Mano: (on VV) moonjiyappAru
GM: irundhA thAnE paakkuradhukku

GM: enna kai nadungudhu....thaNNi adikkira pazhakkam undA

GM: yEN annikku nee azhalaiyAkkum ?
ThAthA: what man kiNdalA pannura
GM: Yes man

Physical attributes

In TFI, GM was the first to push the envelope and break the taboo that certain things cannot be laughed about. Complexion, physical attributes, death nothing, absolutely nothing deterred GM. This was widely considered 'insensitive'. But most humour - even the seemingly harmless varieties - indeed have their roots in misery. So laughing at some miseries and checking oneself for others it actually both insensitive and self-deceptive. No hold barred is GM's "message" for those who seek messages in comedy.

Mano: vignAnam evvaLO vaLarndhirukku
GM: vignAnikku kooda dhaan vaLandhirukku

VV extends hands to Khushboo for handshake
GM: hey ! kai edu man, thakkALi pazhaththumEla tAr oothunA maadhiri irukku

GM: oru moongil kuchchila Ottai pOttu....mooNu maNInEramA oodhittirukkAn andha bulb-thalayan

This is a man who reacted quite virulently to baldness throughout his career when he himself started his career bald. So pause a bit with that insensitivity charge.

And lastly... Jokeless jokes

This is where GM's genius scintillates. Talented comedians do one liners but it takes a GM to do no-liners. The joke is simply nonexistent. No funny line, no banana peel slip, nothing funny in his remark. Yet you laugh. Laugh not smile. Just the way he says what he says makes humour something that is beyond defintion:
(in kALiyaNNan Gounder's house)
GM: (to Kamal) kaapi kELu... kaapi kELu
Kamal: shh..
VKR: ennavAm
Kamal: illa...asingamA EdhO kEkkurAnga
GM: ada summA kELu

After you have finished laughing, can you really say what is it that made you laugh ?

Why is genius elusive to imitators ? Well, because it is greater than the some of the parts and thus cannot be put together by talent and effort alone.

PS: This is largely a copypaste of something I wrote a while back. Reposted here in the continuing effort to archive my contributions for posterity.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Neela Padmanabhan and Kazuo Ishiguro

I just started reading Neela.Padmanabhan's thalaimuRaigaL.VAnathi charged me a princely Rs.120 for what they claim is one of the all time best Tamil novels. I had just finished Kazuo Ishiguro's short story collection Nocturnes (faber and faber Rs.499/-)

Q: O what kind of man names prices of books he reads?
A: Well, an angry one:

Neela Padmanabhan's foreword showcases a writer who is quite conscious of his craft and the need to wield it with care. He takes strong exception to the practice of the narrator (or the author's voice in 3rd person novels) manifesting himself at the expense of the characters' credibility. His choice of dialect and expressions are dictated by his familiarity with the province and people. He was refuses to go all out in creating in completely unfamiliar territory. Regardless of whether this is ideal or not, that this is dictated by a commitment to credibility was something that I found impressive.

And - here is the cherry - the novel's lead character is a boy of fifteen who ages through the novel. The author points out that, in writing the novel, he has taken care to ensure that the choice of expressions reflect this gradual transition. And these are not just spoken expressions, mind you, he means the expressions in his thoughts, that thereby shape his characteristics as perceived by us.

As I am writing this, I have not got beyond the initial chapters but wanted to record this right away for a reason: if I read further, my opinion of the author's achievement of his stated objective, may overshadow the fact that I am thrilled, that this was among his considerations when writing. That he recognized how this was at the very core of writing fiction just blew me away. I expect writers to agonize this much before putting pen to paper.(Tireless readers of this blog may know that credibility is something that I have obsessed about in more than one occassion here.)

And this novel was written over 30 years ago.

Now, to the Booker winning Ishiguro. I was surprised that this considered acceptable, leave alone admirable, writing. It is bad enough that clever ideas have come to pass for a poems, but to attempt to pass them off as a short stories should be protested against severely before this too comes to pass (or has it already!).

Each of the stories in his collection 'Nocturnes' has a very interesting central idea. Most of the themes appeal to me a lot : genius past its prime, identity and jealousy, the importance of the ideal rasika, an artist attempting to relate to the world etc. But all stories were uniformly badly written: superficial conversations where people open up to near strangers (for the convenience of the stories), people speaking/doing the most convenient things for the writer and thought processes which are annoyingly simplistic.

In one of the stories, the lead character, a 'loser' is invited home by his married friend so that the latter can come across as better in his wife's eyes. Some of the conversations and characterizations are to be read to be believed. They are talking about the plan over phone when the friend dismisses a potential praise that his wife may not buy: "ah come on..that doesn't sound believable".

I laughed out loud there.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Like a Child

It is that time of the year again.

The day we celebrate the child god. And quite unlike other birthday festivals like Christmas, Vinayaga Chathurthi, Ramanavami etc. this one feel special, because there is special emphasis on the child-God Himself. i.e. not a child who shall one day grow-up and become the God commanding awe. Which is why the feeling of celebration and endearment, come so naturally without piety and its attendant grown-up-ness.

As has become an annual custom I was reading periyAzhwAr today. Arguably the most pleasing, universally appealing , easy-on-the-cerebrum poems in the divya prabhandham. And sheer delight.

In an earlier post I had written about the appeal of celebrating the omnipotent as a child. PeriyAzhwAr explores various facets of this in several poems, which I will try to give some examples in the rest of this post.

YasOdhA, after witnessing the various of acts of the Lord is afraid to nurse him. A whole decad of poems end with the refrain

.. உன்னைஅறிந்துகொண்டேன்
உனக்குஅஞ்சுவன்அம்மம் தரவே.

Which is even more scintillating when taken out of context. Isn't the inseparable joy and terror of parenthood about bringing something into the world, which one can never understand or control fully? Imagine a mother having a தம்மின் தம்மக்கள் realization way way ahead of schedule and that too suddenly, rather than gradually.

But then the Lord's mother has to lord over the Lord

அள்ளி நீ வெண்ணெய் விழுங்க
அஞ்சாது அடியேன் அடித்தேன்

One of the poems seemed even Jocastian to me, but let me not derail this post!

Notable are the poems in the அம்புலிப் பருவம் which describe the stage of childhood when the child is shown the moon. It is the நிலா நிலா ஓடி வா routine but more like: "for your own good, you better be here Mr.Moon".

And here is a sample of the threat:

சிறியெனென்று எண்ணி இளஞ் சிங்கத்தை இகழேல் கண்டாய்
சிறுமையின் வார்த்தையை மாவலியிடைச் சென்று கேள்

Now that's more like it !

The one that made my morning is the following last lines from a poem in that section.

தக்கது அறிதியேல் சந்திரா சலம் செய்யாதே
மக்கள் பெறாத மலடன் அல்லையேல் வா

Today, our civilized self, can't help feeling an 'ouch' when reading the epithet 'barren'. But I feel inclined to take it in the spirit of poet-King who famously said a childless man's life is quite useless

மயக்குறு மக்களை இல்லோர்க்குப்
பயக்குறை இல்லைத் தாம்வாழும் நாளே

And as mentioned in the earlier post, the appeal of these poems is incredibly heightened when one thinks of PeriyAzhwAr, as a man who never had a grandchild. So when he asks the moon to double up, I can see a sort of camaraderie in that familiarity.

Art thou barren
My moon brother?
Child-Lord beckons
Come thee hither

PS: Here are some links