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Hell’s Angels

In authors and stuff,Books on December 31, 2010 by Sukrit Tagged: , , ,

 

Well. Hmm. A cigarette does a person a world of good. No generalities. It does me a world of good. Clears up the head a little. Focuses ones mind. I find it hard to distinguish whether this mind clearing effect is narcotic or rather a play of my own psyche. But that is secondary. Whats important is that it does me good. Didnt i just start out with this. Focuses the mind ! yeah sure sure.

So anyways just finished reading Hell’s Angels , a chronicle of the marauding losers outlaws jokers petty criminals etc. written by the wild man of American Journalism Hunter S. Thompson. Well that guy does live upto his reputation. The book is as good as promised- frank, real, un-prejudiced and with depth. You see what makes Thompson different from other writers is a set of two things :

1. He doesnt go into anything with pre-nomination or rather a pre formed opinion. Like Holmes used to say , its futile to theorize before you have the facts.

2. Unlike other journalists who tend to stay away from the action and take a bird eye view, Thompson jumps in the pot.

How do you chronicle a gang of killer biker outlaws notoriously famous (or infamous) for their notoriety ? Well its simple. buy a big fuckin bike. Fill it up with gas and spend a year on the road with them partying pleasuring eating drugs. Thats Gonzo Journalism. Hunter S. Thompson founded it in Hell’s Angels. What ends in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas begins in this book. Its the freewheelin journey of a man out to document the most awesome and shocking phenomenon of the American 60s- The Hell’s Angels.  It takes a man as crazy as the Angels themselves in order to be able to successfully document them.

Well Hell’s Angels are the elite of the motorcycle outlaws the one percenters, outlaws whose Harley 74 is all they own in the world and all they care about.  Living on the bike from one run to another, booze and drugs and occasional visits to the mamas and huge tattoos and the winged skull on the back of their jackets and the mix of human semen grease and sweat characterizing them and with chains as belts holding up the crumpled levis and orgies and scuffles with the police and shows for the ‘squares’ and breaking up peace marches and constant pondering about the world and the feeling of alienation and constant worrying, worrying that the person sitting next to them might just turn around and stick it in their guts and devotion to their president and a healthy contempt about all middle class upper class and all other classes and the protection of their dominion and to being called losers and being seen with awe and shock by the so called citizens and LSD and marijuana and more sex and week long parties with stupors long enough only to sustain the human body and Harleys and road accidents and road rash and characterized by California and beating up the niggers and being petty criminals showcased by the press as professional thugs and being forced to live up to their image and drinking beer instead of water and knowing nothing or no one except their angel brothers and with no money or property or corrections and showing respect for Ginsberg but hatred for the screwed up beatniks and generally inhuman (or human- depending on which side you are on) and the mystic element and beer brawls and then some more beer followed by sex.

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The Books of Bokonon

In authors and stuff,Books on December 21, 2010 by Sukrit Tagged: , ,

Just got up from reading Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. The book turned out to be typical Vonnegut- full of deadpan humor, bitter irony and tragic satire. It would be a tough quest if one set out to explain or review the book. The book is about life or rather its meaninglessness, the senility of human beings and the futileness of all human endeavors. Its also about the war, the atom bomb, science, midgets , dictators and religion. Take everything around you put it in a mixer turn on the switch and out comes Cat’s Cradle.

Even though Vonnegut’s narration is crazy at best and drivel at worst, the book strikes a chord somewhere deep down. It opens up the box that each of us has kept safely locked up, the box full of Whys.  Why this ? why that ? why iit? why life ? blah blah blah. I wont go on , afraid lest it may turn out to be Confessions 2.0

Anyways the best part of the book is Bokonon – a crazy half negro full of nice little witty sayings. I’ll sum up few of my favorites

Tiger got to hunt,

Bird got to fly;

Man got to sit and wonder,’Why, why, why?’

Tiger got to sleep,

Bird got to land;

Man got to tell himself he understand.

 

A lover’s a liar,

To himself he lies.

The truthful are loveless,

Like oysters their eyes !

 

In the beginning, God created the earth, and he looked upon it in his cosmic loneliness. And God said, ‘Let us make living cretures out of mud, so the mud can see what we have done.’ And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close as mud as man sat up, looked around, and spoke. Man blinked, ‘What is the purpose of all this?’ he asked politely.

‘Everything must have a purpose?’ asked God.

‘Certainly,’ said man.

‘Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this,’ said God. And he went away.

There are several more. If you liked these then you would love the book. A warning. All of the above are fomas ofcourse. fomas are lies.

I must thank Shriram for lending me In Xinadu. For one I became a great fan of William Dalrymple and ended up reading From the Holy Mountain. On the other it revived my taste for History especially Roman History. All though In Xinadu was splendid in many ways, its epilogue was special. Here’s a snippet –

When Sir Richard Burton left Mecca having spent a year there in disguise, despite having just accomplished one of the greatest-ever feats of exploration he found himself overcome with depression.

The exaltation of having penetrated and escaped the Holy City without damage was followed by languor and disappointment. I had time upon my mule for musing upon how melancholy a thing is success. Whilst failure inspirits a man, attainment reads the sad prosy lesson that all our glories “are in shadows not substantial things……”

Sukrit


 

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Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade

In authors and stuff,Books on October 27, 2010 by Sukrit Tagged: , ,

All this happened more or less.

Billy Pilgrim became unstuck in time. Billy Pilgrim is ,was and always will be a friend of Kilgore Trout, kidnapped by Aliens and a prisoner of war who witnessed the fire bombing of Dresden . Billy Pilgrim survived to tell the tale. This is a novel somewhat in the telegraphic schizophrenic manner of the tales of the Planet Tralfamadore, where the flying saucers come from. Peace.

A review must address the question: What is Slaughterhouse-Five ? Slaughterhouse-Five is not an anti-war book. Vonnegut expounds his position in chapter one, “that writing an anti-war book is like writing an anti-glacier book,” both being futile endeavors, since both phenomena are unstoppable. Slaughterhouse-five is not just science fiction, the author keeps the protagonist rooted in existential reality. It is certainly not funny, how can a massacre be funny? It is a funny book at which you are not permitted to laugh, a sad book without tears. The best way out would be to go and read the book ofcourse. Then why the review?

Why ?

“That is a very earthling question to ask Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber?”

“Yes”. Billy, in fact had a paperweight in his office which was a blob of polished amber with three lady bugs embedded in it.

“Well here, we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why. “

Vonnegut explores the themes of fatalism and irrationality in his somewhat meta-fictional and post-modern (whatever that means) account. The encounter with the aliens leave Billy Pilgrim more accustomed to “non free will”.

On an average 191,000 new babies are born each day in the world. The population Reference Bureau predicts the worlds’ population will double to 7,000,000,000 before the year 2000.

“I suppose they will all want dignity,” I said.

“I suppose,” said O’Hare.

Most of humanity is insignificant. They do what they do, because they must. That is the way the moment is structured. To the tralfamaldorians everything exists simultaneously. They suffer from wars and tragedies and mishaps just like the earthlings, but choose to concentrate on the happy moments. Human action is irrational. Wars have been and always will be there. There’s one thing thing the earthlings might learn to do , if they tried hard enough. Ignore the awful times and concentrate on the good ones.

My favorite character in the book, by far is the author Kilgore Trout. The alter ego of Vonnegut, Trout writes about the craziness of humanity in his own highly fictionalized style. I have this notion that all great works of Science fiction are the ones most deeply rooted in reality (Asimov etc). Pure fiction would be too boring. According to Trout, the Gospels Teach us ­– Before You kill somebody make absolutely sure he isn’t well connected.

The flaw in Christ’s stories said the visitor from outer space, was that Christ, who didn’t look like much, was actually the sun of the most powerful being in the Universe. Readers understood that, so when they came to the crucifixion, they naturally thought, and Rosewater read out again:

Oh boy- they sure picked the wrong to lynch that time!

And that thought had a brother: “There are right people to lynch.” Who ? People not well connected. So it goes.

[From the Gospel From Outer Space by Kilgore Trout]

The destruction and oppressiveness of the war dominates the book. The inhuman sufferings and the widespread destruction, the ubiquitous poverty and deprivation torment the soul of Billy Pilgrim. Amongst all this brutality and suffering, the death of Edgar Derby underlines the bizzareness in our actions. Time is taken to punish one man. Yet, the time is taken, and Vonnegut takes the outside opinion of the bird asking, “Poo-tee-weet?” The same birdsong ends the novel God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, as the protagonist gives away his fortune to the plaintiffs of hundreds of false paternity suits brought against him.

Billy Pilgrim is depressed and suffers, suffers for his own unchangeable fate, the obscenity pervading the fabric of society, Human desire too rot out all evil in the world by using nuclear bombs. Billy pilgrim never cried during the war. However when he saw the state of the horses transporting the American prisoners of war, he burst into tears. Later on in life, Billy cried very little, though he often saw things worth crying about, and in that respect atleast he resembled the Christ of the Carol :

The cattle are lowing,

The Baby Awakes.

But the little lord Jesus

No crying he makes

In all his moments of torments Billy Pilgrim always found solace in one thing :

God grant me

The serenity to accept

The things I cannot change

Courage

To change the things I can

And wisdom always

To tell the

Difference.

I don’t believe in God. So it goes.

Sukrit

PS:  If you happen to visit Cody, Wyoming , don’t forget to ask for Wid Bob.

Rosewater said an interesting thing to Billy one time about a book that wasn’t science fiction. He said that everything there was to know about life was in the The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

“But that isn’t enough anymore”, said Rosewater.

Credits: The italicized stuff is the genius of Vonnegut. The other rudimentary misunderstandings are all mine.

Articles

Hawking Radiation

In authors and stuff,Physics Stuff on September 27, 2010 by Sukrit Tagged: , ,

Physicists have been looking long and wide for a trace of the elusive Hawking Radiation. But they have been beaten to it by a bunch of guys who claim to have produced it in the lab. From a figment of theoretical balderdash Hawking radiation now has the chance to become an empirical footnote. As is the case, I am far ahead of myself. Sort of like Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse-Five.

Hawking Radiation ? No prizes for guessing the origins of its name. Stephen Hawking has been called many things ; among them is the title of the greatest physicist of our age. His greatest achievement till date has been his hypothesis of Hawking Radiation : Black Holes have entropy. Black Holes piss in the form radiation . This radiation is called Hawking Radiation. On the face of it ; it seems absurd. If it weren’t i woudn’t be writing about it and people wont be reading about it. I have this attraction for the absurd and abstruse; hard to figure out why. Perhaps i too was kidnapped and frisked away to the planet of Tralfamadore. Damn this Vonnegut guy and his telegraphic schizophrenic narration style.

So back to Black Holes it is. Black Holes are called black for a reason -Light cant escape from it. Since light cant nothing else can. The archaic view in cosmology was to consider black holes as dull, static fragments of the universe- old and forgotten. But Hawking changed all that. Here’s how: The universe (and vacuum in particular) is filled with pairs of particles-antiparticles zooming in and out of existence. These rapidly annihilate and directly return their energy to vacuum. Hawing realised that if one of the pair were to cross the event horizon, it could never return. But its partner on the other side would be free to go. To an observer it would look as if the black hole were producing a constant stream of quantum particles, which became known as Hawking radiation.

Anyone could have figured out Hawking radiation provided he looked at the edge of the Black Hole. But to realize that a black hole edge would so radically alter things takes a genuis. People (idiots mostly) usually question the genuis of Hawking. Well , as i said before – They are idiots.

Now physicists have discovered a fancy way of producing and detecting this radiation thingy- something with liquids and light. In principle they have created a white hole (formally equal and opposite of a black hole) in the lab. To read the details click here.

Sukrit

PS: I just lurrrve Slaughterhouse-Five.

“Well here we are, Mr Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why.”

There are enough pics of Hawking on this blog. I wanna put one of Vonnegut. Damn, i wish i had his hair.

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Metamorphosis

In authors and stuff,Books on August 22, 2010 by Vikas Tagged: , , ,

Merely a day after finishing that weirdo Moby Dick I read Metamorphosis. I was scared maybe I won’t understand it and it would ruin the book for me. But as you will see that reading the book was not such a bad thing after all.

One morning Samsa wakes up and finds himself inexplicable as a vermin, a human size, hideous insect. Instead of his thoughts being “how did this happen?” Not, “what is happening to me? Will I die?” His chief concern is “how am I going to get to work?” . This first line makes Kafka revered as a literary genius. He showed in this first line that we are free to make our own choices but are everywhere in chains by this reality. Of course Gregor’s first thought is about getting to the office. We’re all slaves to it in one form or another.

Gregor shouldn’t have worried as his boss comes up to his house where he lives with his family to check upon why didn’t he catch the early morning train. Now the apeshit is this that now on seeing what he has turned into only the boss goes apeshit, his family just show mild concerns. The heavy symbolism of classic existentialism is great onward here. The family then turns to caring for Gregor, all the while feeling repulsed by him. Gradually everyone distance themselves from him citing one reason or other. They can’t relate to him anymore and that makes him scary…weird. Towards the end we get to know that family had various rationalizations for their feelings. By this Kafka comes out and thus he proclaims that whoever we are, we are all trapped in our own version of reality and no other person in this world exist who would understand what it is like to be us, therefore even in throngs of crowds, at dinner table with family or anywhere we will always be alone. Gregor’s metamorphosis is just an awesome symbol of the fact.

-Vikas

P.S:

I am sorry that first I didn’t advise Sukrit to go ahead and read it. But now I wish he reads it as soon as possible.

Plus today is Sukrit’s birthday…..:) Happy Birthday 🙂

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Literary last words

In authors and stuff on August 8, 2010 by Sukrit Tagged: , ,

Terry Breverton at Guardian selects some of literature’s most memorable farewells, from Samuel Johnson to James Joyce. Here are a few:

Literary last words: James Joyce (1882-1941)‘Does nobody understand?’
Joyce died in Zurich, two days after surgery for a perforated ulcer. The Irish government declined his wife’s offer to repatriate his remains. According to Richard Ellmann, a Catholic priest tried to convince his widow that there should be a funeral mass. She replied: ‘I couldn’t do that to him’

Literary last words: Count Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy (1828 - 1910) LEO TOLSTOY 1828 – 1910
‘We all reveal … our manifestations … This manifestation is over … That’s all’
Tolstoy left his estate, aged 82, to begin a new life as a peasant. Reaching the small town of Astapovo he contracted pneumonia, and died a few days later in the stationmaster’s house. According to the stationmaster, his last words were: ‘But the peasants … how do the peasants die?’ His friend Vladimir Chertkov preferred to remember something from the night before. ‘He was lying on his back, breathing heavily … all of a sudden – as if arguing with himself – broke out in a loud voice: “We all reveal … our manifestations … This manifestation is over … That’s all”.’

You can check out more here.

Sukrit

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