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Quotes From Here And There

Albert Einstein
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction.
Dylan Thomas
I fell in love – that is the only expression I can think of – at once, and am still at the mercy of words, though sometimes now, knowing a little of their behavior very well, I think I can influence them slightly and have even learned to beat them now and then, which they appear to enjoy.
Eddie Cantor
It takes twenty years to become an overnight success.
Edward Abbey
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.
e e cummings
To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight and never stop fighting.
Eyler Coates
We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually produce a masterpiece. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.
Friedrich Nietzsche
Without music, life would be a mistake.
Gustave Flaubert
The one way of tolerating existence is to lose oneself in literature as in a perpetual orgy.
Going to the Opera is like making love; we get bored but we come back.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
If I love you, what business is it of yours?
John Steinbeck
Only through imitation do we develop toward originality.
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
There is no remedy so easy as books, which if they do not give cheerfulness, at least restore quiet to the most troubled mind.
Leonard Cohen
Ring the bells that still can ring;
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything;
That's how the light gets in.
The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.
Paul Sweeney
You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.
Peter Altenberg
I never dreamed of being Shakespeare or Goethe, and I never expected to hold the great mirror of truth up before the world; I dreamed only of being a little pocket mirror, the sort that a woman can carry in her purse; one that reflects small blemishes, and some great beauties, when held close enough to the heart.
Robert Frost
In three words, I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.
There's no money in poetry, but then there's no poetry in money.
Satchel Paige
Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like nobody's watching.
Thomas Mann
A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
V S Naipaul
The writer has only to listen very carefully and with a clear heart to what people say to him, and ask the next question, and the next.

My Personal Library

The Abyssinian Boy - Onyeka Nwelue

My friend Onyeka Nwelue has had a wonderful thing happen to him. Read the following press release to find out:-

Onyeka Nwelue

DADA Books, an imprint of Design and Dream Arts Agency, have signed a book deal with 20 year-old University of Nigeria sophomore, Onyeka Nwelue, to publish his novel, The Abyssinian Boy by December.

Onyeka Nwelue was born in Nigeria in 1988. After graduating from High School at 17, he travelled to South Asia, particularly to India, where he wrote the first draft of his novel in three months. He has been published in the Guardian, The Sun, Eclectica, Nigeria Village Square, Kafla InterContinental and Wild Goose Poetry Review. He has received a grant from the Institute for Research on African Women, Children and Culture (IRAWCC) and is currently working on his second novel.

Set in India and Nigeria (and scattered locations of the world), The Abyssinian Boy is about a family whose nine year-old child gets haunted by an albino dwarf ghost.

Ayodele Arigbabu, publisher of DADA Books, refusing to comment on the terms of the deal, rather said: ‘The Abyssinian Boy lays bare the many paradoxes of culture clash with thought provoking and often amusing ironies’. Chika Unigwe, Nigerian-Belgian author of The Phoenix describes it as ‘an ambitious novel’.

DADA Books was established earlier this year and has already published Jumoke Verissimo’s I am Memory.

Sources close to the publishers say the author has been paid an advance of N 2.5 million.

For enquiries, contact: DADA Books, 1st Floor, 95 Bode Thomas Street, Surulere, Lagos; Tel: +234-01-7451990. E.mail: dreamarts.designagency@gmail.com

Eureka! '08 Mentors' Meet - SJMSOM, IIT Bombay - Anand Lunia

As finalists in Eureka!'08, the biggest business plan competition in Asia, me and my friend got to attend two immensely outstanding workshops on the business of business. Both of them were conducted at the Shailesh J. Mehta School Of Management, IIT Bombay.

The first was by Mr. Anand Lunia, Executive Director and CFO of Seedfund. A lanky guy, he became a VC after growing and selling many businesses of his own. One of his businesses was sold at 60 million dollars and I'm sure many of the participants hoped (prayed?) that they may have such luck with their startup.

Anand explained the Venture Capital business building up the idea of VC funding, its hows and whys from scratch. Right from Premoney, Postmoney to the intricacies of valuation and dealing with a VC, he covered it all.

Here are some notes from his lecture that might interest a person working on a business plan/startup:-
  • The VC fund is usually expected to give 3x returns. So pervasive is the 80-20 rule that it finds its way here too. Out of every ten ventures funded with VC capital, only two succeed. Since these successes must compensate for the failures of the remaining part of the investment, they are expected to have an ROI of 10x. Since all ideas/teams invested in seem exceptionally great (that is why the investment gets done), here is no way of knowing at the time of investment which of the lot is going to succeed. Hence the VC's have to maintain exceptionally high hopes from every venture, pray for the success of each, and plan for preventing the failure of any of the investments.
  • The three main criteria for assessing a business plan are team, market and product in that order.
  • Any business plan needs to be backed up by a strong team. The various factors that are used while judging a team are academic background, professional track record and its relevance to the plan at hand, the motivation of the team as demonstrated by the groundwork already done for the success of the plan, etc. Often the team factor outweighs the other considerations when VC's are considering a plan. Anand said that at Seedfund, a business plan is evaluated by five independent VC's. Even if the plan is rated B by some VC, the team must get a rating of A by all the VC's. This is because a good team can make more out of a good plan than a mediocre team out of a great plan.
  • The market for your idea has to be big. It should be usually atleast around a hundred crores or more for a VC to look into it. Less than that, it is better to go in for angel investors, loand from banks, relatives, etc.
  • If the product rests on confidentiality of the idea, then the claims to IPR better be good. But it is not necessary that you need to have a great idea to make a difference. It is the execution of the idea that makes an idea a million-dollar proposition. So take a good idea (you can pick somebody's brains; there is no copyright on ideas!) and get down to making it work better than your competitors.
  • Often a business plan will state that the team is working on so niche a project that it does not have competition at all. This spells bad news for the plan as the VC's figure out that a niche with no competitors will mostly have a very small market size. This can greatly dissuade VC's from investing in the plan.
  • Every once in a while, an idea will come along that will bank upon its niche as its USP. For example, Google which was turned down by more than 10 investors when it applied for seeding. But more often than not, VC's expect their investments to have a predictable way of capitalizing on an untapped market. While this spells problems for plans which seek to actualize niche ideas, it can actually help the planners by pitting them against critical VC's whose advice can help in polishing the plan so that the market traction is better once the idea is put into practice.
  • It is important to actually collect feedback on your customer sales presentation and/or conduct market surveys in order to test if there exists a need for the product/service you're trying to sell. This can often help in determining other factors that may be of importance and may even change the USP of what you are trying to sell.
  • The valuation of a company is directly proportional to the size of the market it is trying to capture.
  • It is the relevance of your academic/professional knowledge and experience that counts while your plan is being considered for valuation by a VC. There is nothing as deluding as self-valuation on the basis of academic/professional pedigree.
That's more or less the gist of the lecture. There was also a minor session on the documentation involved while raising money for a venture and negotiating with a VC. It involved the term sheet, VC rights, entrepreneur rights, shareholders' agreements, share purchase agreements, due diligence, and questions of the governing board and vetoes.

Though I've yet to grasp a lot about the details of valuation and negotiation, Anand's lecture was immensely helpful to me and the other participants as an introduction to valuing our ideas, polishing our business plans, and avoiding common pitfalls while pitching to a VC.

Let's Talk Haiku!

There's good news for me. And haiku for you. Actually, there was good news... A couple of months ago, I submitted some haiku to World Haiku Review. I got a good feedback from them - a nice mail which explained what I was doing wrong and where I could improve. If you've been around for some time in this business of sending off things on spec, you know how difficult it is to come by a thing like that. Then I all but forgot about it and hence had the pleasant surprise of finding my haiku in that magazine a few days ago. It's been over a month since they've out. Without further ado...

World Haiku Review, Volume 6, Issue 4, October 2008
Shintai (New Style) Haiku



in shadow

the moth stills its wings

leaving dreams to fly

Marie Shimane



after lunch he adds

the stork

John Bird


A fallen gulmohur bud:

An incomplete story but

A complete poem.

Abhinav Maurya


(In no particular order)

night alleyway...

my floodlight shadow

breaks into two

zinovy Vayman

even his trees

stay inside the fence

unseen neighbour

Ann K. Schwader

(A favorite!!!)

working lunch

haiku scribbled

on my napkin

Carmel Lively Westerman

each day continues

a journey of loneliness

crows screech overhead

Marie Shimane

dawn childbirth

when the door opens

a cock crows

Elizabeth Howard

a week of rain

new appreciation for

the nuance of gray

Claudia Coutu Radmore

reprinting the thesis

leaving the mistakes


Owen Bullock


(Zatsu-ei in no particular order)

year's end . . .

the bedding piled up

in the motel

Bruce Ross

vinegar bath

mother's diamond ring

regains its sparkle

Peggy Heinrich

noon church bell ...

how her dress

traces her

Tyrone McDonald

on grass she shone

under the vast sky-

bare and alone

Aju Mukhopadhyay

morn breeze

the trees filter light

and bird songs

john tiong chunghoo

posh café

the first bite of the plum cake

sends me back home

Rafal Zabratynski

a lady's voice

"your poor mother's grave," she says

needs your attention

Howard Lee Kilby



sunny day -

why not get

the divorce papers?

Owen Bullock




the mortice joints

on his coffin

John Bird


adoption center

she colors her mom black

her dad no face

Victor P. Gendrano


(In no particular order)

In the morning,

The suit, the tie, the watch…

At night, only you!

Abhinav Maurya

Season of mellow

Yellow fruit; ripeness is all

Too tired to die

Frank Corcoran

Gathering firewood

One life giving up their soul

For another's warmth

Kristin Reynolds

relationship's end:

he calls the baby

his fuck trophy

Richard Stevenson

Swords to bombs:

At war with one another,

At war with ourselves

Abhinav Maurya

a tiny twig trembles

in the blast of wind

first marital quarrel

Victor P. Gendrano

I told him, "Good boy."

His curled tail wagged one last time.

The vet said, "He's gone."

Elizabeth Ewing




winds thrash the trees,

no rains- whatever it is!

Aju Mukhopadhyay

Trepidation spills

From your every orifice

Revelation lost

Kristin Reynolds

All haiku are under copyrights of their original authors.

Received via email from Peter Griffin:-

Suketu Mehta in NYT - http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/29/opinion/29mehta.html

Dilip D'souza in the Washinton Post - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/28/AR2008112802247.html

Naresh Fernandes in The New Republic - http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=4ef869a4-0c91-4a83-8d3e-2b7ca1501996 See also http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=8e4fc4e9-5298-4f0c-bf66-980c253c43e0 - his piece on Jews in Bombay.

And these pieces, on their blogs, by Amit Varma, Sonia Faleiro and Rahul Bhatia.

And these by Prem Panicker: http://www.prempanicker.com/index.php?/site/respiro_ergo_sum/ & http://www.prempanicker.com/index.php?/site/an_officer_and_gentleman_and_a_moron/ & http://www.prempanicker.com/index.php?/site/end_game/ (the latter two link to some excellent stuff as well)

And this, by Ingrid Srinath - http://citizensforpeace.in/blog/2008/11/29/this-is-not-indias-911 (Read also Priyanka Joseph's comment to that post)

Winner Of The First Australia-Asia Literary Award

"There's a huge change coming very fast and this prize is giving a glimpse of that future." Nury Vittachi, judge and founding board member of the Asia-Pacific Writing Partnership.

DAVID MALOUF has won the inaugural Australia-Asia Literary Award for his short story collection The Complete Stories.

The AU$110,000 award, which was created by the former Labor government in Western Australia, is worth AU$10,000 more than the next richest, the Prime Minister's Literary Award, and is given for fiction by writers resident in, or outside Australia, writing primarily about Australia or Asia.

Malouf was "very pleased to be the first recipient". He welcomed the award, and praised it as unique among state literary prizes.

"There is certainly no other literary prize where Australia is the initiator which takes in Asia like this does, so it's a very good thing that we're looking outwards rather than inwards as we tend to do" he said.

The Complete Stories won from a very strong shortlist, including The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (shortlisted for the 2007 Man Booker Prize), The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser (longlisted for the Booker), Blood Kin by Ceridwen Dovey, and Orpheus Lost by Janette Turner Hospital.

The longlist, culled from 111 entries, also had plenty of dazzle, including the Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee (Diary Of A Bad Year), Haruki Murakami (After Dark), Rodney Hall (Love Without Hope) and Alex Miller (Landscape Of Farewell).

"It's a wonderful piece of writing, a combination of decades of work, and it captures the human condition in such a deep and intense way," said Nury Vittachi, a member of the judging panel, along with the Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie, and the Australian critic Peter Craven. Vittachi is also a founding board member of the Asia-Pacific Writing Partnership.

"His characters are very ordinary people and he captures the intense joys and sadness of ordinary life."

Vittachi agreed the decision to award the prize to a book of short stories was unusual.

"It might usually go to a novel. But there's an ancient story form called a bracelet, where you have a sequence of stand-alone stories which when read together have as much power as a single, united novel. We thought this book worked as just such a bracelet."

Vittachi sees the award as a means to divine the region's literary future.

"This award is special as it has a focus on a particular region, a region where there are 4 billion people," Vittachi said.

"The future of our cultural entertainment will be here. We're looking for a new Asia-Pacific flavour, as that is a good pointer to what the new literature will be. There's a huge change coming very fast and this prize is giving a glimpse of that future."

Malouf said he hoped "booksellers, publishers and the media get behind the prize in the way they do for the Miles Franklin Award".

Australia-Asia Literary Award Shortlist

  • Michelle DE KRETSER The Lost Dog Publisher: Allen & Unwin
  • Mohsin HAMID The Reluctant Fundamentalist Publisher: Penguin
  • David MALOUF The Complete Stories Publisher: Random House
  • Ceridwen DOVEY Blood Kin Publisher: Atlantic Books
  • Janette TURNER HOSPITAL Orpheus Lost Publisher: HarperCollins

Australia-Asia Literary Award Longlist

  • J.M. COETZEE Diary of a Bad Year Publisher: Random House Group Ltd
  • Matthew CONDON The Trout Opera Publisher: Random House (Vintage)
  • Michelle DE KRETSER The Lost Dog Publisher: Allen & Unwin
  • Ceridwen DOVEY Blood Kin Publisher: Atlantic Books
  • Rodney HALL Love without Hope Publisher: Pan Macmillan
  • Mohsin HAMID The Reluctant Fundamentalist Publisher: Penguin
  • Mireille JUCHAU Burning In Giramondo Publishing
  • David MALOUF The Complete Stories Publisher: Random House
  • Alex MILLER Landscape of Farewell Publisher: Allen & Unwin
  • Haruki MURAKAMI After Dark Translator: Jay Rubin Publisher: Random House Group
  • Indra SINHA Animal’s People Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
  • Janette TURNER HOSPITAL Orpheus Lost Publisher: HarperCollins
-from The Sydney Morning Herald, November 22, 2008.

Nadine Gordimer's Coming To Bombay!!!

We've a chance to witness a book reading by Nadine Gordimer in Bombay. Nadine Gordimer has won the Nobel for literature, the Booker, James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for the best book from Africa. The details are reproduced below. Thanks to Peter Griffin of Caferati for the tip.

Ministry of External Affairs (Public Diplomacy Division),
Sahitya Akademi & The Asiatic Society of Mumbai

cordially invite you to a book reading
Dr. Nadine Gordimer distinguished South African writer and Nobel laureate
Sunday, 9 November 2008
At 10.30 a.m.

Venue: The Durbar Hall, The Asiatic Society of Mumbai Town Hall,
Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg, Fort, Mumbai - 400 023.

Judith Hall Presents A Poem By Reetika Vazirani

Ghalib Speaks of His Poet Friends:-

All my life I’ve been amending their verses.
Now that I’m ill they write,
“You have not replied to my letter.” As if I
could make their couplets rhyme,
or rhyme slightly better.
Do they think I should live only
to correct their verses!
Shah Alam Sahib and Tufta, they’re peevish
to the end: they think my ill health
is a poetic exaggeration.

Without me they can versify or not versify;
it’s not for me to prod grown men
at the eleventh hour.
If I’ve lost my tact, I’ll offend them,
but all my life glad comments on loose verse
offended me. Now in pleasing myself,
I’ve lost the pleasure. But hell with these grudges
of the day, these small sentiments.
Let the newspapers print that I’m near death.
I’m not up to correcting the ghazals of a Tufta.

– Reetika Vazirani (1962-2003)
from The Antioch Review, Winter 1996, v. 54, no. 1

Note by Judith Hall

In 1995, I entered service as poetry editor of The Antioch Review. Much to my relief, my predecessor, David St. John, had already accepted poems for issues well into 1996. Vazirani’s is one of his I claim.

Her “Ghalib” is surely the 19th century poet who wrote in Urdu under that name. “Ghazal”, an intricate Arabic form, is probably familiar to BAP readers; the word also means, according to Agha Shahid Ali, “the cry of the gazelle when it is cornered in a hunt and knows it will die.” Form follows word here, and while a romantic editor would link this image to this poet. I will not. The complaints and witty tittle-tattle of Vazirani's Ghalib charm and need no justification.

For the next several weeks, I will be your Sunday editor, succeeding the estimable Bruce Covey in this role. I hope you will enjoy the Antioch poems coming your way.

Song Of The Little Road

A blogpost after a very long time. All things, one at a time.

I recently fished out page 11 of DNA Sunday dated August 10, 2008 that I'd preserved for the purpose of reference. Here's quoting from the article Mostly Pointless, Incessant Barking by G Sampath:
There is a famous New Yorker cartoon on blogging. It shows two dogs in conversation. One of them is telling the other, "I had my own blog for a while, but I decided to go back to just pointless, incessant barking." It would appear that a sizeable number of the world's bloggers are following the lead of this New Yorker dog. According to a Gartner estimate, by mid-2007, about 200 million people were 'ex-bloggers'. Make no mistake, the landscape of the World Wide Web is littered with the corpses of dead blogs. [..]

Before you can make a transition from pointless, incessant barking to a level of communication that gets you some returns in terms of either attention or money. But until that happens, you can't help wondering at some point if you aren't barking up the wrong tree. And that, by the way, is all it takes to kill a blog.
I do not agree with the above opinion for the most part. I believe that blogs have immense use, potential, and capacity for change. In the small time for which I've been acquainted with blogosphere (as compared to stalwarts like Peter Griffin), I've seen blogs defy all set limits of expression - most of these were blogs on writing, but there were also blogs on current affairs, technology, medecine, cinema, music, prostitution, sex and sexual deviousness, drug addiction, travel, cuisine, politics, blogs in remembrance of someone, blogs acting as public dairies, as professional journals, blogs with sponsored content, etcetera. I think blogs are a great thing to have happened to us and for these reasons, I would not want my blog to be 'dead'.

However, it's very restricting for me to keep this blog thematic and yet blog regularly. Writing is such an intensive and time-consuming activity (what with all the planning and research and plotting and dishing it out); blogs on the other hand need not be planned, need not have their grammar right (though it helps). All that a blogger needs to do is wear his heart on his sleeve. I'm not a professional blogger and I blog for the fun and joy of blogging. Hence, I've decided to nor restrict myself to reviews and literature but to blog about anything I care about. That way, I would have a lot more fun blogging and the blog would not 'die' out.

If I'm going to change the focus of the blog altogether, the earlier name .::The Reluctant Writer::. doesn't stick. So I have thought of renaming it to .::Song Of The Little Road::. 'Why?' you say. Because I'm in love with punctuation marks, but more importantly because Song Of The Little Road is the English name of Pather Panchali (a legendary movie by Satyajit Ray, the granddaddy of Indian cinema), the one movie that has singularly defined and redefined my notions of art in general and cinema in particular. Immensely delicate, poignant and humanistic, to the point of being Tagoresque. BTW, I also thought of The Life And Times Of A (A for Abhinav, just in case) and Midnight's Child (because I was born on the brink of midnight) but I think that Song Of The Little Road means much more to me than the others. So there you go... this blog is my Song Of The Little Road.

I've decided to take the plunge and go for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Actually, it should be InNoWriMo (International Novel Writing Month), and the organizers agree. But InNoWriMo is simply not as much pronouncing as NaNoWriMo, so there you go. It seems very unlikely that a person of my temperament should even think of attempting the herculean feat, let alone of finishing it. And mind you, I'm under no illusions about my inability to go all the way. But as Chandler from Friends puts it, you never know! And besides, I could do with some discipline to get started on a novel, the module of my creative writing course that I've putting on the backburner for months. So if you participating in NaNoWriMo, let me know and perhaps we can egg each other on towards that distant finish line as writing buddies.

Facebook seems to gel well with me for SN (even though apparently it doesn't for many people I know). I've been on it for about a year and unless Zuckerberg thinks of screwing up the design and layout in a irredeemably unlikeable manner (of which he showed us a rather unpopular trailer recently), I think I'm going to stick to Facebook for a long time. It's extremely user-friendly, sleek, and intuitive - no frills - SN at its best. In short, it's cool. I hate that amorphous, imprecise word and I must love Facebook a great deal to use it.

Godel's Theorem

An absolutely fantastic essay found here:

John von Neumann, the legendary mathematician who mastered calculus by the age of eight, who devised the familiar set-theoretic definition of the ordinal numbers at twenty, whose powers of calculation surpassed those of at least one early electronic computer, and who was described by Polya as "the only student I was ever afraid of", had the following to say regarding a certain episode in mathematical history:

This happened in our lifetime, and I know myself how humiliatingly easily my own values regarding the absolute mathematical truth changed during this episode, and how they changed three times in succession!
The cause of such awe was a short paper published in 1931 by the 25-year-old logician Kurt Godel, entitled Uber formal unentscheidbare Satze der Principia Mathematica und verwandter Systeme ("On Formally Undecidable Propositions of Principia Mathematica and Related Systems"). The revolutionary (and, to von Neumann and many others, disturbing) implication of the results therein was that any logical system comprehensive enough to describe elementary arithmetic necessarily contains propositions which can neither be proven nor disproven. Moreover, Godel proved that the internal consistency of such a system can never be proven except by employing reasoning which is not expressible within the system itself.


To better understand the impact which Godel's findings must have had on his peers, we should first describe the mathematical climate of the time.

In the nineteenth century it had been discovered, through the work of Riemann, Lobachevsky and others, that coherent models of geometry could be constructed in which Euclid's parallel postulate (that, given a line L and a point P in the plane, exactly one line exists which contains P and is parallel to L) did not hold. This, in itself, was a shock to many mathematicians: for millenia it had been assumed that Euclid's description of geometry, founded as it was on a "self-evident" and minimal set of axioms, was one of the firmest, most trustworthy branches of mathematical knowledge. The existence of non-Euclidean geometries not only challenged mathematicians' geometrical intuition, but also the Platonist view that mathematics consisted of discoveries about eternal, pure forms whose existence was objective and unquestionable. More "monstrosities" such as continuous functions which were nowhere differentiable soon appeared, further fueling the general loss of faith in geometry.

Attempts to re-establish the comfortable certainty of the past, by turning from geometry to set theory as the new foundation of mathematics, also ran aground. Set theory, when pushed too hard, soon yielded such abominations as Russell's "set of all sets which do not include themselves". It proved difficult to construct a theory of sets which outruled such objects without sacrificing one's principles in the process. Logicism, as espoused by Frege, Dedekind and Russell, gave birth to structures so complicated and unwieldy that the stated intention to formalize the intuitive laws of reasoning was obscured. Constructivism, which rejected even the law of trichotomy (that every real number is either greater than, equal to, or less than zero) was deservedly perceived as fanatical.

To sidestep the embarrassing possibility that multiple, equally defensible versions of mathematical truth might exist, mathematicians soon claimed to have never been searching for truth in the first place. The formalists, led by Hilbert, redefined mathematics as consisting of allegedly meaningless symbols which were not "about" anything in particular. The mathematician was recast as a practitioner who merely manipulated these empty signs, attempting to derive theorems (sentences consisting of the aforementioned meaning-free symbols) from axioms without concerning himself with the "truth" of his findings.

Hilbert hoped thus to outmanoeuvre intuition, and, more importantly, to make possible a proof of the consistency of mathematics. The logicists before him had already laid the foundation by developing a formal language in which mathematical statements could be expressed, along with symbolic transformation rules representing steps which could legally be followed in the progression from the beginning to the end of a valid proof. (The climactic, exhaustive chronicle of this endeavour is Russell and Whitehead's Principia Mathematica, page 362 of which finally yields the demonstration that 1 + 1 = 2.) With this framework in place, it should (Hilbert thought) be possible to study the combinatorial properties of the set of all sentences which could legally be derived from the system's axioms, and to prove that no two of them were logical opposites. This would obviously be an assurance that mathematics (or at least the portion modelled by this formal system) was free from internal contradiction: that is, that the axioms could not be used to prove both a theorem and its negation.

As well as proving the impossibility of internal contradiction, it was hoped that the set of "true" sentences (those which could be constructed by applying legal transformations to the axioms) could be proved complete in the sense that, given a sentence, one could be assured that either this sentence or its negation was a member of the set of true sentences. A formal system with this property is said to exhibit "decidability", since one need never be unsure of the truth of a given sentence.

Godel's theorem

Hilbert's dreams of reformulating classical mathematics as a formal axiomatic system equipped with absolute proofs of consistency and completeness were dealt a cruel blow by Godel's findings in 1931.

In his famous paper, Godel proved that it was impossible to find a metamathematical proof of such a system's consistency without employing rules of inference inexpressible within the formal system under consideration. (More precisely, Godel proved his results of any axiomatic system comprehensive enough to contain the whole of arithmetic. Henceforth, when the term "formal system" is used, it should be assumed that we are speaking of a system satisfying the aforementioned requirement. Less powerful systems, such as arithmetic equipped with addition alone or multiplication alone, can in fact be proved decidable and complete, as was shown by Presburger and Skolem in 1930.)

Godel's other main conclusion was that any such formal system is incomplete, and hence that "truth" within the system is undecidable. Specifically, he showed that it possible to construct a sentence such that neither the constructed sentence nor its negation is provable within the system. What is more, even if one were to arbitrarily decide that such a sentence was true and should therefore be added to the system's axioms, there would still exist other equally undecidable sentences within this new system; and no matter how far this process of augmentation is taken, there will always be further truths which elude proof.

Godel Numbering

The proofs of Godel's results hinge on the fact that the set of formulas expressible within a symbolic system is countable, and hence each formula may be mapped to a natural number. Therefore, metamathematical statements about these sentences may be construed as statements about natural numbers: meaning that these metamathematical statements are expressible in the system itself. As we will see, this power of the system to codify statements about itself turns out to be an Achille's heel of sorts, allowing Godel's ingenious construction of an undecidable sentence.

Godel considered a formal system containing only seven constant symbols: the left and right parentheses, as well as signs representing "not", "or", "for all", "zero", and "the successor of" (an operator which adds one to an integer, and can therefore be used to express all natural numbers via its repeated application to "zero"). Recall that Godel's aim was to assign a unique integer (usually called the "Godel number") to each sentence expressible within this system; to begin with, the constant symbols described above were allocated distinct natural numbers. Similarly, other primitive signs (such as letters representing sentential variables) are each assigned integers. Since the number of variables which might be needed in a sentence is potentially infinite, Godel was compelled to employ some simple number theory to avoid overlap between the integers associated with different types of variables. As such, a certain class of variables was assigned prime Godel numbers, while another class was allocated from the set of squares of primes, and so on.

A similar trick was used by Godel to calculate a unique integer associated with each sentence. A sentence is just a string of primitive symbols, each of which already has a natural number assigned to it. Obviously, a simple addition of the Godel numbers of symbols in the sentence is inadequate, since it does not guarantee uniqueness over the set of all sentences. Similarly, a weighted sum is out of the question since we do not have an upper bound on the Godel numbers of primitive symbols. (If such a bound existed, say N, then we could simply multiply successive symbols by 1, N+1, (N+1)2, etc., to obtain a unique Godel number for the sentence.) Instead, the Godel number of a sentence containing n symbols with respective Godel numbers G1,...,Gn is defined as the product p1G1* ... *pnGn where pi denotes the ith prime number. This representation allows us to unambiguously (as guaranteed by the fundamental theorem of arithmetic) retrieve a sentence from its Godel number via factorisation. Similarly, a sequence of sentences may be assigned a single Godel number by multiplying successive prime powers, the exponents being the Godel numbers of successive sentences in the sequence.

Outline Of Godel's Proof

Since every symbol, sentence, and sequence of sentences in the formal system has now been assigned a Godel number, and since the system under discussion is capable of expressing statements about natural numbers, we now have a way of expressing metamathematical statements in the language of the system. For example, the claim that one sentence implies another can be interpreted as asserting a certain numeric relation between the Godel numbers of the two sentences. This relation will obviously be very complex, since it will need to express, in the domain of Godel numbers, all possible legal transformations which may be applied to a sentence in the system. However, since in the end it is merely a statement about integers, it is certainly expressible in the language of the system itself. Similarly, a yet more complex relation between natural numbers m and n exists which expresses the claim "The sequence of sentences with Godel number m is a proof for the sentence with Godel number n".

To prove that an undecidable sentence existed, Godel needed to find a formula G which, somewhat like Epimenides (the Cretan who claimed "All Cretans are liars"), expressed the assertion that no proof of G exists. More precisely, this claim could be expressed in the language of the system as

There does not exist a natural number m such that m is the Godel number of a sequence of sentences forming a proof for the sentence with Godel number g.
where g is actually the Godel number of the sentence just quoted. The sentence can therefore be construed as making a claim about itself, namely that it is unprovable.

A little thought should show that constructing such a sentence is somewhat difficult. To calculate the Godel number of the above sentence, one follows the process described above of splitting it into primitive symbols, whose Godel numbers are encoded as exponents of successive primes. However, the result of this calculation, g, appears in the sentence itself, and therefore affects the calculation! It would appear at first that we need to be "lucky" by stumbling upon a number g with the property that, when substituted literally into this sentence, brings about the coincidence that the Godel number of the resultant sentence is also g.

Luck, of course, plays no part. Godel conceived of a complex but elegant construction which, through a process of iteration, shows how to find such a number in a finite number of steps. The details of this process, while readily understandable, are somewhat tedious and will not be described here. The end result is the important point: for a very general class of formal sysems, we have an explicit method for constructing a sentence, G, which asserts its own unprovability. Further, Godel showed that if the axioms of the system are consistent (meaning that it is impossible to derive two contradictory sentences from them) then G is indeed unprovable: since if a proof for G existed, then it would also be possible to prove its negation, making the system inconsistent. The converse also holds: discovery of a proof for G's negation would imply the existence of a proof for G. In other words, if the axioms are consistent, then G is formally undecidable.

Godel further noted that, although unprovable within the formal system itself, the sentence G can in fact be proved true via metamathematical reasoning. In fact, the immediately preceding discussion shows this: since we have established that no proof for G can exist, and since this is exactly the assertion made by G about itself, G is a true statement. Thus the system not only contains an undecidable sentence, but: since it contains a true, unprovable sentence: the system is also incomplete. (The term "completeness", applied to a formal system, implies that all true statements in the system are derivable from its axioms.) What is more, simply adding G to the axioms would not suffice to make the system complete, since exactly the same process could be applied to this augmented system to obtain another, similarly undecidable, sentence. Godel thus shattered all hope of ever constructing a consistent, complete formal system.

The final blow landed by Godel's paper was a demonstration of the impossibility of proving a formal system's consistency via a proof expressible within the system itself. A brief description of how he obtained this result follows. Above we saw how, from the assumption that the system's axioms were consistent, Godel proved that it contained a true, undecidable sentence and was thus incomplete. It turns out that the proof of this fact:

If this system is consistent, then it is incomplete.
is achievable within the system itself. To see how, note that the sentence G, which asserts its own unprovability, is equivalent to the statement "This system is incomplete", since it gives an explicit example of a true, undecidable sentence. Thus the statement above is equivalent to:
(This system is consistent) implies that G is true.
Next, let A be the statement "There exists a sentence which is unprovable". This claim is in fact equivalent to asserting the system's consistency, since if the system were inconsistent, then every sentence would be provable. (This is closely related to the fact that, if we have a false statement p in any logical system, then the sentence "p implies q" is true for any sentence q.) Hence the above statement may be expressed within the formal system as simply "A implies G". Godel showed that this latter sentence was formally provable within the system. Now, assume that a proof for A, i.e., a proof of the system's consistency, also existed. Then since we have proofs for both A and "A implies G", we have a proof of G. But G was previously proven unprovable. Therefore no proof of A can exist: the system cannot prove its own consistency.

Consequences of Godel's proof

Godel's findings were the catalyst for many philosophical controversies which continue even to the present day. The Oxford philosopher J.R. Lucas has made the claim that Godel's theorem precludes the existence of artificial intelligence, since any calculating machine is isomorphic to a formal system to which Godel's theorem applies. Others, notably Douglas Hofstadter, dismiss this view as "a transient moment of anthropocentric glory" and claim that Godel's proof may even offer insights about the workings of human intelligence which will be useful in the creation of AI.

Whilst the dream of establishing secure foundations for mathematics has never recovered from Godel's attack, his findings have not been construed as a reason to abandon all hope of extracting meaning from mathematical inquiry. Godel himself seemed to hold the view that Platonic realism provided the clearest definition of mathematical truth: of mathematical concepts, he said "It seems to me that the assumption of such objects is quite as legitimate as the assumption of physical bodies and there is quite as much reason to believe in their existence". According to Davis and Hersh, most modern mathematicians also secretly subscribe to Platonism: "like an underground religion, it is observed in private and rarely mentioned in public".

Godel's methods also sparked various fruitful lines of investigation which had far-reaching consequences. Since the publication of his paper, the first naturally-arising example of an undecidable set-theoretic statement has been found. Known as the continuum hypothesis, it is the statement that no set has a cardinality greater than that of the natural numbers but less than that of the reals. Godel himself showed in 1937 that this hypothesis cannot be proved from the axioms of set theory; Paul J. Cohen demonstrated in 1964 that neither can it be disproved.

A fascinating variant of Godel's theorem was discovered in 1970, when it was proved that no general algorithm for solving all Diophantine equations (polynomial equations with integer coefficients and roots) can be formulated. Loosely, it can be shown that in any formal number theory, a Diophantine equation exists which is in some sense equivalent to Godel's self-denying sentence G. Such an equation can be interpreted as stating of itself that it has no solutions; in fact, if a solution were found, one could construct from it the Godel number of a proof that the equation had no solutions. It seems unlikely that we have come close to exhausting the list of surprises derived from Godel's work. Perhaps von Neumann may be allowed the last word on Godel's significance:

Kurt Godel's achievement in modern logic is singular and monumental: indeed it is more than a monument, it is a landmark which will remain visible far in space and time... The subject of logic has certainly completely changed its nature and possibilities with Godel's achievement.

The Steam-Powered Turing Machine

Here's an interesting type of Turing Machine I found on the University of Washington website while surfing the net...

The "Steam-Powered Turing Machine" mural was painted on a stairwell wall of Sieg Hall in 1987 by a dozen first-year graduate students seeking diversion on the eve of the qualifying examination.

The SPTM was originally conjured up a few years before this by Professor Alan Borning. Borning was undertaking a revision of the graduate program brochure. Professor Larry "Tomorrow" Ruzzo was late with his biographical information for the brochure - real late. In desperation, Borning threatened to provide text himself if Ruzzo failed to come through. The threat didn't work, and when the printing deadline arrived, Borning followed through - that year's graduate brochure carried the following description of Ruzzo's research interests:-
Currently, his principal research project involves the construction and programming of a vaguely parallel computer, consisting of 32 steam-powered Turing machines installed in the basement of Sieg Hall. Of particular interest is the use of triple-expansion bypass valves, coupled to individual governors on each engine, to achieve write-synchronization of the machines. Graduate students have played an important role in the construction and operation of the engine, particularly in stoking the boilers, and advanced undergraduates are occasionally allowed to polish the brass gauges.

Originally intended as a general computing engine, restrictions imposed by the Pollution Control and Noise Abatement Boards require that only algorithms running in polynomial time may be used. The project recently suffered another setback when one of Professor Ruzzo's graduate students slipped on a mouldering stack of ungraded homework exercises and fell under the write head of one of the machines. Now permanently embossed with a series of 1's and 0's, the student is suing to have the machine dismantled.
(In a peculiar twist, Ruzzo received a number of requests for reprints from departments of mining engineering in Eastern Europe!)

Indra Sinha long listed for $110,000 Australia-Asia Literary Award

Indra Sinha has been longlisted for $110,000 Australia-Asia Literary Award. The longlist for the Australia-Asia Literary Award was announced on October 17, 2008 by Culture and Arts Minister John Day.

The Australia-Asia Literary Award is the richest literary award in Australia and Asia valued at AUD $110,000.

This ground-breaking award is for a book-length work of literary fiction written by an author resident in Australia or Asia, or a work primarily set in Australia or an Asian country. Works must have been either written in, or translated into, English and published in the preceding year.

Recognizing the increasing predominance of electronic media and to emphasize the Award’s focus on literary merit, no matter what the format; the Award is open to any book-length work of literary fiction published either electronically or in print.

All works submitted must be nominated by publishers and written in the English language. If the winning entry is a work translated into English, the author will receive AUD $88,000 and the translator AUD $22,000.

Entries for the award closed on May 31, 2008.

The winner of the Australia-Asia Literary Award and the Western Australian Premier's Book Award Premier's Prize will be announced at an awards ceremony on Friday November 21, 2008 at Fraser's Restaurant in Kings Park, Western Australia

Australia-Asia Literary Award Longlist

J. M. COETZEE Diary of a Bad Year Publisher: Random House Group Ltd
Matthew CONDON The Trout Opera Publisher: Random House (Vintage)
Michelle DE KRETSER The Lost Dog Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Ceridwen DOVEY Blood Kin Publisher: Atlantic Books
Rodney HALL Love without Hope Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Mohsin HAMID The Reluctant Fundamentalist Publisher: Penguin
Mireille JUCHAU Burning In Giramondo Publishing
David MALOUF The Complete Stories Publisher: Random House
Alex MILLER Landscape of Farewell Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Haruki MURAKAMI After Dark Translator: Jay Rubin Publisher: Random House Group
Indra SINHA Animal’s People Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
Janette TURNER HOSPITAL Orpheus Lost Publisher: HarperCollins

Urban Voices: A Literary Anthology On Bombay

My work appears in an anthology titled Urban Voice edited by Sunil Poolani. The theme for the anthology is the city of Bombay - the perennial favorite. Praise for earlier issue of Urban Voice appears here. Also featured in the anthology is Murzban Shroff, author of Breathless In Bombay. His well-crafted tragi-comic piece can be read here. Also there's Jane Bhandari whom I know only by reputation, courtesy the fantastic community of Caferati. Her work can be found here.

Paying Homage To Tagore

Today is Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore's birth anniversary. In the memory of a great poet, novelist, playwright, philosopher, musician, educationist and visionary...

I do not leave the trace of wings in the air,
But I'm glad I had my flight.

-Rabindranath Tagore

Eight Weird Things About Me

In the memory of a blog that was updated quite regularly until a month back, I'm taking up the tag by Aloi which is nearly two months old. Thanks Aloi for some fodder for thought; I seem to be starved of it for quite some time now. Here are eight of the many weird things about me:-
  1. I do not like speaking unless it's absolutely necessary or enjoyable; I studiously hate small talk. The written word can claim so much more pith and consequence than speech that the latter seems almost mundane and unnecessary in comparison.
  2. I love walking. It helps me clear my head and think of solutions I might not be able to think of otherwise.
  3. I love Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and can listen to it for hours on end. In fact, I almost never change to another song once I put it on.
  4. I am Indian and I do not understand cricket. Period.
  5. Whether in words or in colors, I do not like capturing things that are apparently and easily beautiful. I rather like to capture things in a way which reveals smaller beauties that are concealed beneath the surface of routine and are difficult to capture.
  6. I love good books. Someone once told me that reading a good book ten times is better than reading ten bad books; I would make the count hundred.
  7. I've a thing for Bengali language, literature and culture. I wish to travel the length and breadth of Bengal someday.
  8. I'm extremely non-judgmental. If I love something, I praise it heartily. If I don't like something, I pack up and move on. Different people want different things from life, and it is best not to try to stick to the rut of our opinions too much. My opinions are anyways not precious to me; I try to argue against them and refine them all the time.
In keeping with the good graces of some of my fellow bloggers, I do not wish to tag anyone in particular. If this tag strikes your fancy, please have a go at it. And please let me know so that I can read your version of eight random things about me and have a much needed laugh at your expense. ;-)

Done with that! Now for some (more) candid talk. When I started with this blog, it was an end in itself. But in thinking about it over the past few days, it has crossed my mind that this blog has gradually become incidental, the means to an end as of yet vague in description. It's purpose has changed to exploring other people's blogs and lives and basking in the awareness of how different lives can be even for people living in the same city, not to speak of the chasm that separates people on different continents. And yet there is a great universality to what we all seek and seek to express. And my quiet awareness of this universality seems to be growing as I lurk on blogs by people I do not know (which is what I've been doing all this while that this blog has remained forlorn), taking away pieces of a shared existence without letting the blogger even know about it.

Also I'm about to finish college in a week or so and conclude an education which unfortunately has not taught me anything. I hope that I can laugh at the useless wretchedness of it all after a few years. But then I know I will be able to.

Be Careful, Tread Softly, You Are Living A Dream

That's the way I feel. I knew that I would try getting a novel published sooner or later. But this is much more than I'd expected. My Book Pitch got four publishers interested at The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival. And as expected, I'm over the moon.

I like the fact that I don't know where this may lead me. But I know that I've arrived and am here to stay. And I do not say this with arrogance, but with a calm solitude of the person who knows that he has found a calling worth cherishing for the rest of his life through thick or thin. In fact, I count the announcement being made at the David Sassoon Library as an apt omen for the commencement of my writing career.

I find my situation slightly strange, because most of the blogger-cum-writers I know usually have an agent who takes care of all the details that bother us writers, including finding a suitable publisher for the books. In fact, McKoala got an agent recently. And here I've four publishers interested, and I don't yet have an agent to take care of things. God bless me!

Here's a brief outline of the book pitch:
Set in the fictional world of Prince of Wales Medical College attached to Queen Elizabeth Memorial (QEM) Hospital, the novel revolves around the lives of its four central characters – Vinay Sengupta, Bhoomika Sen, Shyamsunder Chatterji, and Arnaz Eduljee.

Vinay is the son of a retired lieutenant colonel, who wants Vinay to join the army as a medical officer when he is done with his studies.

Bhoomika is the daughter of a rich beer baron and a classical singer. Her parents had separated when she was four years old and she has grown up with her mother.

With a banker for his father and a housewife for his mother, Shyamsunder is a bourgeois nerd whose only accomplishment to date is his admission to the prestigious medical school.

The only non-Bengali protagonist, Arnaz is the daughter of a small-time industrialist mother. From her, Arnaz has inherited the verve and vivacity which make her the cynosure of attention on all occasions.

Set amidst the turmoil of anti-reservation riots that flare up across the country, A Cure For The Doctor tells the story of these doctors grappling with the thrill of their newfound affections, the burden of their noble profession, and the apathy of an indifferent government.
Other successful book pitches may be found here.

This book is not the sort that I might normally write - it has more to do with plot and incident than with the literary novel of detached observations that I may be able to pull off easily. You could even classify it as chick-lit or lad-lit due to certain lightheartedness of the romantic plot. For me though, the attempt will largely be styloclastic, if the word exists. It will be a sharp deviation from the sort of literature I appreciate and that I might write in the future. It will be in fact like an illegitimate child with a history more colorful and intriguing than legitimacy can provide.

I wish to thank Peter Griffin, Jason Evans, Sarah Hina, and Amogh Bhole for helping make this possible for me in some way or the other.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed and waiting to see how things shape up. Meanwhile living the dream while it lasts...

My Heart - A Preview

My Heart

Bae Chang-Ho’s My Heart shall be screened today at the Max Mueller Bhavan at 1830 hours i. e. 6:30 in the evening. The director is considered the foremost exponent of the Korean New Wave cinema. In a stark departure from his usual style of film-making, My Heart is set in the Korea of 1920’s.

The movie is shot amidst the beautiful scenery of Korea. It tells the story of Sun-Yi (played by Kim Yoo-Mi, the director’s wife), who is married off to a ten-year old spoiled brat. When her husband grows past adolescence, he brings home a mistress much to the petrifaction of Sun-Yi. The movie tells the story of how Sun-Yi leaves home and searches for an identity of her own. In a way, the movie mirrors the struggle of Korea to find its identity in a shrinking world.

Here’s what director Bae Chang-Ho thought of his movie’s purpose:

In 1985, I filmed Deep Blue Night, which dealt with the issue of identity among illegal Korean immigrants in the U.S.

It has been many years since then and today Korea is experiencing the effects of globalization. The government has made English a must-learn foreign language, which students are required to learn. As the boundaries of culture have become somewhat ambiguous, I think it is time to think seriously about Korean identity.

The answer to the question, ‘Who are Koreans?’ has been the driving force behind making My Heart. I hope people around the world can understand the psychological characteristics of Koreans represented by jung (love, affection) in this movies.

My Heart, my 15th film, has its background in the beginning of the 20th century when the traditional culture of Korea was vividly alive. I hope it shows the origins of Korean way of thinking.

The movie has won the First Prize and Audience Award at Benodes International Film Festival, France and the Audience Award, Udine Far East Film Festival, Italy.

Two of the gems of experimental cinema - Manhatta and The Man With The Movie-Camera - were screened at the Gallery Beyond yesterday. Since I missed the first one (I watched it on the internet anyway), I shall review only The Man With The Movie-Camera.The Man With The Movie-Camera

Made in 1929 by Dziga Vertov with cinematography by his brother Mikhail Khaufman, The Man With The Movie-Camera captures the Russian life in all its avatars. The movie has no story as such, yet one could call it the story of a people and a time.

The movie shows the Russian way of life in minute detail, and not often in the sad way that directors of art movies are wont to perceive. The camera captures in a most natural way the beautifully uncertain smiles, the lips that make unheard whispers, basking ladies, the victories and the excitement, the routine and the indifference - all captured with the devouring eye of a greedy voyeur and the detailed panache of a keen observer. The result is a movie which speaks of life without judgment and the consequent pitfalls that a jaundiced eye brings to the task of film-making.

Dziga Vertov made use of a variety of cinematographic techniques in this movie. The double exposures, the use of slow motion and fast motion techniques, still shots, multiple split-screens were especially prominent and effective throughout the movie.

Made by him in response to critics who ridiculed his earlier film One-Sixth Part Of The World, The Man With The Movie-Camera was Vertov’s cinematic experiment without the use of a premeditated script, actors, sets, and intertitles. And throughout the movie, this fact of experimentation is highlighted when the movie shows a giant camera apprehending the scenes of common life or when it shows people in the theatre watching the man with the movie-camera do his job of (what else but) making a movie.

For me, the darkness, the quiet and the solitude of Gallery Beyond have become as much a part of the experience as the movies themselves. And I seem to grudge when the lights come on and it’s time to leave.

Experimental Cinema For The Cinéastes - The Loss Of Solitude

The third session of Experimental Cinema screenings (and my second), Gallery Beyond showcased the last four of Avant-Garde movies they had chosen to screen. I say chosen to screen because the Avant-Garde Collection (from which the movies are being shown) is a much wider collection comprising many more movies than time would have allowed them to show.

The four movies screened were:

  • Regen (Rain) (Netherlands, 1929) directed by Joris Ivens, 14 minutes: This is a movie every Bombayite would love to watch, especially if you’ve grown up watching the rain and what gentle poetry it can create on the streets and in the minds of men. If you can catch this short film anytime, please do so. It is a lovely evocation of rain in Amsterdam and how people react to it. Perhaps the most lyrical of all Avant-Garde movies, it is for the best that it is a silent movie. The gentle strumming of the guitar throughout the movie is the only sound the movie has. It is the director’s best documentary before he moved on to doing political documentaries. It is now my favorite documentary; when you have watched it, it will be yours too.
  • H2O (US, 1929) directed by Ralph Steiner, 12 minutes: This movie demonstrates what light can do with surfaces, especially with water. An intensive exploration of the play between light and water, it soon delves into abstractions leaving the consciousness of the existence of water behind. Recommended only if you love the sort of cinema that academics can argue and debate over.
  • Even - As You And I (US, 1937) directed by Roger Barlow, Harry Hay, and LeRoy Robbins, 12 minutes: A story of how three directors, fed up with the traditional boy meets girl plot, decide to create a surreal movie for a competition. A funny take on surrealism, it shows the three directors shooting the movie from every angle, even inside drains and on electricity poles. Finally when they are done with the movie, the deadline for the contest has already passed. The movie ends with them seeing the ad for another competition of surreal cinema.
  • Ballet Méchanique (France, 1924) directed by Fernand Leger, 11 minutes: The only movie which I did not like, perhaps for lack of knowledge. It shows different objects in repetitive motion and from different perspectives. I have to agree that this was perhaps the most experimental of the experimental genre.

After the four movies one of which was a spoof of surreal cinema, an anthology of surreal cinema was screened. Then two of Luis Bunuel’s movies - Un Chien Andalou and L’Age D’Or both of which were absolutely likeable classics. I’d not planned to sit through them but saw them anyway.

However, there was a noisy crowd to watch the movies with cells ringing and whispers doing the rounds and the shifting of chairs and the moving of people and one guy even suppressing his laughter at his simple comprehension of the complexity of L’Age D’Or, unlike my first time when the screening hall was perfectly calm and silent and it was fun watching the great movies.


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