October 14, 2009

Tweets - Oct 13, 2009

Tweets for October 13, 2009:
  • Start the day where I left off last night! Santana at Woodstock - the "slithering snake", the percussion... WOW! bit.ly/ZLcAA #Music
  • Speaking of great percussion, these guys rocked Davis Sq. on Saturday at Honkfest. What a party! I need more! afrobrazil.org #Music
  • Unseen Sahara - Photo gallery via @NGMag bit.ly/14VvnN Related article: bi t.ly/NGMSahara #Travel #AmazingWorld
  • RT @NGmag Psychedelic! NG funded researcher discovers new glow-in-the-dark mushroom species bit.ly/NGMush #Amazingworld
  • Experience Nature thru the eyes of one of NorthAmerica's finest Nature/Wildlife photographers @kristenwestlake at bit.ly/VE1Qf #Art
  • "I am sunk in the usual demoralizing happiness which this atmosphere produces in me.” - EdithWharton bit.ly/1m0vsT (via @maudnewton)
  • Read something by Anne Fadiman about reading a Yeats poem at his grave. Guess a Wharton fan would rendezvous at Louvre where she did? :)
  • Haah! RT @rameshsrivats Don't blame him. Given a chance we would celebrate the success of Desi Arnaz. RT @amitvarma bit.ly/kq58G
  • Just in Time for Halloween: Scroll forward to 3:42+ for the fun! :) bit.ly/2lKFyI (via @sepiamutiny Zinda Lash bit.ly/Ni2GR)
  • This one is for you, @amitvarma: Dallas man's collection of cow #art set for auction bit.ly/24klEE
  • To Read Later: Books of The Times: Beneath a Sheen of Glory, the Ugly Horror of War bit.ly/M3vN3
Post, automated thanks to LoudTwitter. If you are on twitter, you can follow me at http://twitter.com/sanjeevn.

October 11, 2009


We spent 2.5 hours on Saturday afternoon at the Honk! festival in Davis Square. I did not take my camera with me but found some videos that people have put online from this amazing street festival.

We walked around and saw couple of brass bands from 1.30-2pm and then saw the Chicago based group Environmental Encroachment from 2-3pm. Here is a sampler.

And then from 3-4pm (missed first 10 minutes in walking up to where they were), the AfroBrazil band rocked Davis Square plaza.

The 95 year old woman was amazing! What spirit to come out alone to HonkFest and enjoy raucous Afro-Brazilian music that you could not help but dance to!

THIS, my friends, is what life is all about.

October 9, 2009

The rest is just stuff

Reading the recent Paris Review interview with John Banville, I found this lovely excerptat the very end of the interview which I really loved and decided to transcribe and save for later savoring!

Banville: ... Art is a hard business. It's a matter of  sentiment, but not sentimentality. I do it for myself. The coincidence is that what I do for myself chime sometimes with the experiences and emotions and desires of other people. This is a kind of miracle, but I don't intend for it to happen -- it just does. Art is like sex; when you're doing it, nothing else matters. Away from his desk the novelist can care deeply about the social, political, moral aspects of what he is writing but when he sits down to write, all those concerns fall away and nothing matters except the putting down of one carefully chosen word after another carefully chosen word, until a sentence is finsihed, then a paragraph, then a page, then a chapter, then a book. When I'm working I don't care about anything, not even myself. All my concentration is directed towards the making of the thing on the page. The rest is just stuff -- even though it is the stuff of life.

Quotable quote that: Art is like sex; when you're doing it, nothing else matters ..was tempted to put it as an eye-catching title to the blog post ;)

October 8, 2009

To Be Or Not To Be

Flipping channels a few days back, I came upon Charlie Rose's interview with Jude Law, who I learned is playing Hamlet in a Broadway production: Hamlet -  directed by Michael Grandage; in preview starting Oct 6th at the Broadhurst Theatre in NYC. The play played to much acclaim in London before this.

I have never really been exposed to much Shakespeare (other than reading highly abridged versions of the plays when I was 15) and also have not gone to Broadway plays yet. Also, if you ask me to make a list of 20 really good Hollywood actors of the 80s, 90s, and 00s, I doubt Jude Law would even make my list.

And so, it was with great surprise that as I watched the interview, I got hooked by the minute. I am not sure if it was Jude Law's passion and his way with words or what ... but I absolutely loved the interview and it inspired me to pull my copy of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations off the book-shelf to read lines from Hamlet! (I know - the entire play can be read online, thanks to Bartleby, but I find it easier, for the purposes of finding wonderful lines, to read this book which has 9 pages worth of quotations from Hamlet.)

While it is not my intention to transcribe the lines I liked (there are so many!) here, I will post this short excerpt from the interview that talks about what is perhaps one of Hamlet's (arguably even Shakespeare's) most famous lines:
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of disprized love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
And here is a section from the Charlie Rose interview, in which Rose played a short clip where Peter Brooks talks about the famous phrase.
CHARLIE ROSE:  This is Peter Brook, who is analyzing... "to be or not to be."  Here it is. 

Peter Brook:  To be or not to be, which is should I then kill myself?  Or if I live, what can I live for?  And it ends -- the thought leads to him saying, thinking too much is what gets one into trouble.  And he says that the greatest enterprises can be completely squashed by what he calls the pale cast of thought.  And Hamlet realizes that he had been thinking and thinking all this time of should he kill, shouldn’t he kill, is life right, are people like this, are people like that.  And he now realizes that there is something much simpler, whether it’s -- he likes it or not -- he has an action with his destiny, and so he says, the speech would start to be or not to be and ends with this word, action.  And from then on, everything changes. 
Brilliant! So, "To be or not to be" is not about life-and-death as it may seem but about leaving our doubts, insecurities, and questions (which Hamlet has many throughout the play!) behind and taking action!

P.S. WNYC’s Sara Fishko considered a range of approaches to Hamlet. Also learned from the page that there have been over 50 film versions of Hamlet made since 1900, making it the most filmed Shakespeare play! Embedded at the link is a youtube video of a 1913 silent film version and in the embedded audio file Fishko mentions female actress(es?) who have played the lead part in some plays!

P.P.S. Via wikipedia, comes this rendering of the "To be, or not to be" soliloquy from First Quarto (Q1) which was published In 1603 by booksellers Nicholas Ling and John Trundell. It is the so-called "bad" first Quarto.

October 7, 2009

New possibilities, New experiences, New connections.

Perfect place to start the day...
 "When the way things are seems to offer no possibility; when you are angry and blocked, and, for all your efforts, others refuse to move or cooperate, ..when even enrollment does not work and you are at your wit's end -- you take this next ...practice: our graduate course in possibility." - Chapter 10, Art of Possibility, by Benjamin & Rosamund Zander. 
Enrollment is a concept from the previous chapter and is about the art of generating a spark of possibility for others to share.

I thought this quote at the start of Chapter 10 was quite timely to read this AM as I had a disheartening conversation with a local company yesterday. Through an old friend/contact, I thouoght I had got a foot in the door - a door which I had hoped would open up the possibility of a job soon. But after yet shut door and yet another disappointment in what has become a long drawn out and frustrating job search process, I find myself groping to pick myself up again and go at it again.

So, bring it on, Zanders -- not that reading about this makes it any easier to open up new realms of possibility!

P.S. Benjamin Zanders is the Conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and a teacher at the New England Conservatory of Music. His TED talk (embedded below) shows us how energetic and excited he can get about the art of possibility and how it can shape and transform lives - on both professional and personal fronts.

October 1, 2009

Eliot's Four Quartets, Life, and the Gita

I just ran into these lines from East Coker, the third poem in Eliot's Four Quartets:

And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate—but there is no competition—
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.

The last line sounds very Bhagwat-Gita-ish!

"Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana, Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani"

Which translates as: "You have a right to perform your prescribed action,but you are not entitled to the fruits of your action. / Never consider yourself the cause of the results your activities,and never be associated to not doing your duty."

Or like my friend, Bharat said to me once: "apna kaam pura kar. phal ki ichha kyon, Paarth?" ("Complete your work, why desirous of the fruits, Paarth?" -- Paarth being another name of Arjuna, to whom, in his moment of wavering, Krishna narrates the Bhagavad Gita in the Mahabharata.)

Coming to think of it, a lot of Four Quartets seems to be derived from teachings of the Gita or other Hindu philosophy, which Eliot had studied. For example: the lines about "endings and beginnings" in the 1st Quartet, Burnt Norton ...

... say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now.


Only the cause and end of movement,
Timeless, and undesiring
Except in the aspect of time
Caught in the form of limitation
Between un-being and being.


Quick now, here, now, always—
Ridiculous the waste sad time
Stretching before and after.

...and coming back to this theme again throughout the poem; with minor variations that further embellish this theme through repetition - trying to capture the complexity of life. For example East Coker, starts with "In my beginning is my end" and ends with the opposite - "In my end is my beginning". Then in the last quartet, Little Gidding, he ends with:

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

This is nothing but about the cyclical nature of life (a Hindu philosophy), no? Also, many lines of the poem (some of my favorite lines, in fact) are about time, the past-present-and-future, memory, consciousness, existence, and the "flux of life". They again remind me of some of the teachings of the Gita, which I admittedly have only read cursorily.  

Note (1): Eliot ends his poem The Waste Land with "Shantih shantih shantih" - but I have not really read this poem with a detailed eye and hence do not enjoy it as much as I do Four Quartets.

Note (2): I have been reading bits and pieces of Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot a lot recently in addition to two books about Eliot - The Achievement of T.S. Eliot  by  F.O. Matthiessen & Art of T. S. Eliot  by Helen Gardner. The latter especially has greatly enhanced my appreciation for Four Quartets. For example, in addition to the knowledge that the titles of the four poems in Four Quartets are about four places that were important in Eliot's life, I learn that they also represent the four elements - Burnt Norton about air ("on which whispers are borne, intangible itself, but the medium of communication"), East Coker is about earth ("the dust of which we are made and into which we shall return), The Dry Salvages is about water ("which some Greek thinkers thought was the primitive material out of which the world arose, and which man has always thought of as surrounding and embrancing the land, limiting the land and encroaching on it, itself illimitable), and Little Gidding is about fire ("the purest of elements... which consumes and purifies.") 


"the whole poem is about the four elements whose mysterious union makes life...and perhaps adding that some have thought that there is a fifth element, unnamed but latent in all things: the quintessence, the true principle of life, and that this unnamed principle is the subject of the whole poem."

Note: All quoted lines above are from an essay in Helen Gardner's book called 'The Music of Four Quartets'. This is an old book - from 1950 - which I am able to read thanks to the amazing public library system in the US. There are a few different essays about Four Quartets in the book but this particular one tells us about the musical aspects of this poem -- not just with naming it "Quartets" but also how each of the quartets contains five "movements", each with their own inner structure. However, it would be too much to go into all the details here of the exquisite lyrical quality of the poem that Ms. Gardner beautifully elucidates - not only through the music in the recurring words, each time deepened and expanded by fresh use but also through repetition of images, each time with different meanings. Instead I'll leave you with these lines by Gardner about the poem - which I think captures the reasons why I find such affinity to this poem.

We might begin a description of Four Quartets by saying it presents a series of meditations upon existence in time, which, beginning from a place and a point in time, and coming back to another place and another point, attempts to discover in these points and places what is the meaning and content of an experience, what leads to it, and what follows from it, what we bring to it and what it brings to us.

The point she goes on to make is that such a description can only be brief and abstract and such abstractions must yield to considerations of the form of the poem, to which it "owes its coherence". And that is where the circular nature of the poem, the repetitions, and the sense of working out through the "beginnings and endings" of life does the poem rise from being mere poetry to sublime art, which, like the Gita, captures the very essence of Life. Or as Ms. Gardner beautifully summarizes with the last line of her essay:

In it the form is the perfect expression of the subject; so much so that one can hardly in the end distinguish subject from form. The whole poem in its unity declares more eloquently than any single line or passage that truth is not the final answer to a calculation, nor the last stage of an argument, nor something told us once and for all, which we spend the rest of our life proving by examples. The subject of Four Quartets is the truth which is inseperable from the way and the life in which we find it.

Not one more refugee death, by Emmy Pérez

And just like that, my #NPM2018 celebrations end with  a poem  today by Emmy Pérez. Not one more refugee death by Emmy Pérez A r...