Sunday, February 27, 2011

Autumn - Illustration

It is too hot now; you can feel the sun burning up your skin. I don't feel like getting out of the house these days! And the nights are strangely cold and humid. It's like a combination of the worst weathers possible. Weatherman on strike, maybe. I want some good ol' climate back. Something pleasant like autumn, maybe. I can just picture it!

Leaves fall off the branches and swarm up around your feet, dry and crumpled. And it's as if the earth is covered with a huge brown blanket. I love the sound of the leaves crackling under your feet as you walk, just as much as I love the smell of fresh paint, or the feeling you get when you tear paper! There is something very uniquely artsy about autumn. And the outside of your house; okay maybe not the 'just outside', starts looking like a picture right out of a fairytale!

An Illustration Friday entry after a long, long time - though it is a bit of a stretch with the theme. But works for me; of course, it's the 'them' that it may not work for!

(The first image was borrowed from here)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

I know, I know, so much for all the drama, you'll say (see: previous post!). I guess I just can't stay away from my (awesome) blog anymore! My blog winning under two categories in Blogjunta's BOIB 2010, and one of my posts being selected in Blogadda's Spicy Saturday Picks was no help! Yay, me! But I don't like to brag, so let me move on to the part where I tell you how the last post wasn't all drama. Have you seen that episode of True Blood where Sam crushes the maenad's heart in his hand? Before every exam I feel like someone's doing that to me. Retarded, I know. But now that the exam tension is wearing off, I can gradually see all the little drops of creativity obediently return back to me.

Having one day to spare before the stress for the next, more important exam, I went back into my reading mania, for the last 24 hours! I finished reading Small Gods (from the Discworld series, of course!) and 'I, Robot' by Isaac Asimov. Then I went and hit my head on a wall for several minutes for being stupid enough to not have read 'I, Robot' before.

'I, Robot' is a collection of different short stories, with one connecting link: Dr. Susan Calvin. She is a robopsychologist at U.S Robots, and the novel is in the form of stories that she is narrating to a reporter. Each of the stories revolves around the interaction between man and machine and the efforts made by men to make superior robots. This is where the Three Laws of Robotics come into picture.
1) A robot may not injure a human being or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm;
2) A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law; and
3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Most of the stories have the same basic plot; something is not right with a particular robot, and everytime they have to fix him by taking into consideration these three laws. The book shows the evolution of robotics, from the time when there were the primitive robots who couldn't even talk, when the world wasn't ready for them yet, till the time when robots were used to manage interplanetary affairs! It has everything right from a robot who can read minds to a religious one who refuses to believe that there was no force higher than mere humans involved in his creation! The book also gives an insight into human nature, specially with respect to our growing dependence on technology, something all of us can relate to!

While the book is amazing to read, it falls short on the literary front. It is written in simple language, and is easy to understand. That is great, but it is too simple at times, and it makes you feel like you are reading a text book instead of a novel. There are no vivid descriptions of anything, and a bit too much is left to the imagination! As you know, my creativity was still on its way back to me, so what were probably supposed to be cool, glossy, towering, futuristic-looking robots, looked like enlarged Wall-Es in my mind's eye! A little more use of adjectives would have helped me!

But that hardly mattered compared to the rest of the book! The stories were just plain amazing. I obviously plan on reading the entire Foundation series, but maybe later. Till then, do make it a point to read this book, if you haven't already!

(You can also read this review here.)
(Ooh, and check this out too - while you are at it!)

P.S.- For an 'Illustration & Design' category blog, this sure has a lot of book reviews. Next time, I'll write something artsy, definitely!!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bye-bye Creativity

I just witnessed, what I imagine, was the last ounce of creativity in my head, force its way out of it, slide down to my shoulder, jump onto my knee and then on the ground. Then it hastily ran away without looking back for even a second! I am not kidding. It was the size of a garden gnome, and it was shaped kind of like a dew drop just about to fall off a leaf, and it was a weird translucent combination of newspaper print and bright blue colour. It had spindly arms and legs, brown like wood polish, I think; I couldn't get a closer look!
I have been running very low on imagination for the past couple of days, in the midst of all the exam preparations. So I should have guessed this would happen sooner or later. But it still came as a shock, and now, well, I feel like I have been kissed. By a Dementor, that is.
Maybe it will come back to me in a couple of days, I really need it, specially in time for my exam on Monday! The least I can do is hope.
As for this poor blog, it is going to be more stagnant than the rivers of Pune (and that's saying something!), at least for a while. Let's pray for the best, shall we?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Kitten Love :)

I have loved pets ever since I was a little kid, cats to be precise. I have had more than 20 pet cats over the years, or just strays who lived with us, and I still love all of them. Every pet was special in its own way!

A few years back, I was playing in the backyard with one of my cats, Manya, when he suddenly started growling and his hair started to rise! He was usually a very good boy, so this sudden behaviour surprised me. Something was bothering him. Then I heard it too, a soft meow; well, soft to my ears. I calmed him down and looked around a bit. And there in our neighbours yard, was a little white kitten, only about a month old.

She looked sick, and her fur was shedding off. Her pale yellow eyes looked lifeless. Unable to just leave her there, I called to her and went inside to bring some food. When I came back there she was in our yard, sniffing Manya's nose curiously. Ever the gentleman, he didn't growl, and waited patiently for her to go! I looked at her, wondering where she came from.
I knew she wasn't lost, because she would have been instinctively scared of other cats. But she wasn't scared of me either. She wasn't lost, no, I was pretty sure she was left there by someone. I fed her and cleaned her and decided to take her in, what difference would one extra cat make when you already have ten!

As the months passed, she grew into a real beauty. She was lively and playful, and one of the smartest cats I have seen. Everyone loved her. She used to curl up in my lap and play with me. Her bright twinkling yellow eyes really made your heart melt. I always wished whoever left that little angel there would really pay for it somehow!!

And then she got sick, or maybe she always was sick. We may not have done everything that was possible for her; but we thought we did the best we could. But even then she was just the same old joyful self. You'd never find her sitting or lazing around, no, she'd be outside playing! She had a spark in her eyes; if I ever had to tell anyone what hope looks like, that was it right there, the spark. We never would have guessed she was hurting. I don't know how much thinking animals are capable of, and I'm sure it's not much, but whenever I think of her, I imagine her fighting to live, not ever giving up.

One day, just as suddenly as she'd stepped into our lives, she was gone. It's the little things in life that matter the most. Seeing that tiny little soul face every obstacle in its way with a happy heart, not knowing or caring what was about to come next, taught me a lot more than some self help book about someone from across the globe. I will always remember her, that little miracle!

"He/She is so typical" - What I mean when I say this about everyone I know!

I have had the fortune of reading quite a lot of "Typical this and that.." lists lately. You know, typical Facebook profile pictures, typical Facebook status messages, typical people you meet at a cafe/bar, typical people in your class, and so on. Quick question: If doing everything is being 'typical', what exactly is being 'atypical'? All the lists are exceptionally funny of course, and inspiring enough to make me come up with my own list of - wait for it - typical people! This list may be longer than most, but come on, the sample size is huge too, right!

1. The Parties-are-cool people: These people don't say they like parties. They say parties are cool; not that I'm saying they aren't. They even say parties are 'correct' at times, may be they're just trying to solve some inner moral turmoil. Who knows? Never been there, never done that! And the funniest part is if you ever happen to tell them that you don't like parties, they keep reciting the universal truth: 'Parties are cool', till you accept it. It goes something like this:
"Are you coming to the party?" "No...can't" "But parties are cool" "I'm not a party-person" "That's sad, parties are so cool." "I bet, but I'd rather stay at home" "Are you sure? Parties are cool." "I know. My mother won't let me go. But I agree, parties are really cool." "I know right? Parties are cool."
True story. :)

2. The Obsessive-huggers: These are a class of giggling girls, who shriek "Heeeeeey" every time they see you and run to you and hug you.
Can't...say....more....have to go puke.

3. The We-are-smart people: This is a huge, huge class of people, whose only goal in life is to inform the world of their intelligence. Most of them don't possess any, but that's not for me to decide! There is a slightly different class of people too, the 'We-know-everything' people; that group which coolly tells totally wrong "facts" with the air of a wise owl.

4. The We-watch-only-Bollywood/Hollywood-movies people: These people happen to hate people who like Bollywood/Hollywood, whichever it is that they don't like! It is as if it were a matter of life and death, and liking or not liking Bollywood determines your level of patriotism. Very funny, I think. These class of people are quite similar to the 'We-only-listen-to-English/Hindi-music' people.

5. The We-hate-all-the-really-popular-stuff people: The people who think it is very cool and rebellious to hate Harry Potter or F.R.I.E.N.D.S or other 'really popular stuff!!'

6. The In-Love people: These people cannot stop talking about love, and death and sadness and life and pain. And here I was thinking people in love are actually happy. Most of the people I know in this category are also the "We-love-anime-and-weird-looking-glittery-cartoons" people (this title is kind of self-explanatory!) Many of them are poets.

7. The We-love-dogs (a.k.a Cats-are-icky) people: These people deserve a special mention. It's not just that they love dogs, that I can understand, but they happen to think that loving dogs is synonymous with hating cats. They walk past an adorable lab, and they say, "He's so cute, I hate cats." They walk past a skinny mongrel, and they say, "Aw, poor dog, I hate cats." Cats and dogs are two very different animals people, not comparable. Totally unrelated. And equally good. It's like comparing a pizza with a burger.

8. The We-read-a-lot people: That group of people who think reading the likes of 'Bridget Jones' Diary' or 'The Devil Wears Prada' makes you a very literary person. Also, many of these are the classics-worshipers. Then there are those who club every thing other than the cheap chicklits available everywhere these days under 'philosophical' books. For them, philosophy is anything you don't understand or anything that is boring. This class also includes the 'My-language-'rocks'' people, the people who form long complicated sentences with a couple of obscure words exceeding four syllables; because how could you possibly write well without using big words, huh?

9. The Sarcastic/Indifferent people: These are the people who are great observers and have the knack of spotting all the 'typical' things in the world. Then they painstakingly write up long lists, with their eyes screwed up in concentration so as not to accidentally miss mentioning a particular class of people. When they're done, they sit back and read their masterpieces with a smirk on their faces, and secretly giggle at how smart they are (or may be that's only me?) Most of these people 'don't care' about the world.

Forgive me if I forgot to mention the people like 'you', how ever you are. My list is hardly over, but I am just too damn sleepy to continue right now. Not to worry though, there are so many lists on the web, you'll find yourself in one sooner or later. It's hard to do anything anymore without getting shoved into some category, isn't it?

**This came as a very pleasant surprise :)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Peskipiksi Pesternomi!

So many people have asked me what the hell my blog address is about! I say it's a very long story. That's how I avoid sessions of uncomfortable small talk. There is better place to talk about my blog address than in person. Good guess, here I go!

Peskipiksi Pesternomi is a spell that Gilderoy Lockhart casts, or at least tries to, on the Cornish pixies that he accidentally sets loose in class. Nothing happens after he does it, so it's highly likely that it is not a spell at all! "Pesky pixie, pester no me", could easily mean, "Pesky pixies stop pestering me!!" And we all know how Lockhart is!

With a very sincere title like Tabula Rasa, I wanted to shove all my goofiness into the blog address. And it had to have something to do with Harry Potter. "Avada Kedavra" or "Nitwit Blubber Oddment Tweak" were far too popular to make the cut. So I went with this! And it's definitely got a classic Harry Potter sound to it.

Harry Potter reference aside, that still doesn't explain why it is my blog address. I'll tell you. It's a remarkably funny word. That is reason enough, my sister thought so. That's also all my previously mentioned startlingly bad memory can come up with. But I could always attach a couple of less honest, more abstract meanings to it.

For me, Peskipiksi Pesternomi is a stupid thing done to fix other stupid things, which unfortunately has stupider consequences. Peskipiksi Pesternomi might as well be the story of my life, or the story of the past couple of years of my life. If Tabula Rasa is a new beginning, then it's Peskipiksi Pesternomi that made it happen. It is the bunch of silly things that I have done, and still do!

Also, when I was little, when I first read it, I used to chant it over and over in a crazy sing-song voice. That was fun.

(As for peskypiksipesternomi, that is a small 'typo' that I sincerely apologize for. In my defense, however, that's what my copy of the book says! Also, is that pixie ugly or what!!)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Post Office by Charles Bukowski

The Post Office by Charles Bukowski. Ironically, I first heard about Charles Bukowski in Gilmore Girls.

Paris: Typical guy response. Worship Kerouac and Bukowski, god forbid you pick up anything by Jane Austen.

Jess: Hey, I've read Jane Austen.
Paris: You have?
Jess: Yeah, and I think she would have liked Bukowski.

I had heard of Jack Kerouac, but not Charles Bukowski. So I decided to read a book by him.

The Post Office is the story of Henry Chinaski, Bukowski's alter-ego, and his years working at the Los Angeles post office. He drinks a lot, sleeps around a lot, and well, he works somewhere in between all of that! He hates everything, including himself. It's a story about bitterness, distrust, cynicism and alienation. The book ends with a life changing moment, where Chinaski overcomes his urge of self destruction, and instead decides to write this book about his life.

"In the morning it was morning and I was still alive. Maybe I’ll write a novel, I thought. And then I did."

The book is written in a very unsentimental fashion, and ends that way too. The writing is very different from anything I have ever read before, ranging from utterly captivating to outright disgusting. What made me keep on reading was the fact that it was very amusing all along. Written in a simple diary-like fashion, the main character is as honest about everything as one can only be to oneself. It is very straight forward, and I guess only that kind of honesty could make you actually 'like' a character like Chinaski. Well, that and his sarcasm.

You can only like this book if you are capable of taking your 'morals' and throwing them out of the window. The book is not about love or hatred, nor booze or women, for that matter - it's about life. And the life of a mail carrier, to be precise. And it's brutal. But you can still sort of make sense of it, it's like he's a sane madman. He repulses you most of the time, and he's crude and never talks about anything remotely emotional, yet there are those moments, when you realize there is much more to him than he says. It's a book about what circumstance can do to people.

I can think of at least ten girl-friends of mine, who will read the first page of this book and look at me like I've lost my mind, some might even start ignoring me entirely! But, what the hell, this book is a must read, especially for most guys, and I'm glad I read it.