Lyrics: The Call of the Journeyman

2013 has been snooze time, so far. Breaking the lull, here is yet another comeback to the WordPress world.

Yours truly has been rather busy of late, doing little more precious than precious little. In the interim, your friendly blogger penned lyrics for a soon-to-be-composed number, for a band.

Stanza excerpts from the song are shared below.

Thundering whispers,                                                 
Echo of a silent breath.                                                          
Jungle reflects all,                                                      
A ripple across the breadth.                                       
Atop the earth’s throne,                                                          
A flyspeck of nothingness,                                                      
Liberated soul.                                                                       
 
‘Who am I?’, I ask,                                                     
Peeping within the abyss                                            
A place that is mine.                                                   
Of words that remain wordless,                                              
Of fun and of strife,                                                     
A journey is, after all,
Making peace with life.

—x—

Lift spirits. Not lyrics.

 

 

Tales Of The Slate: An Ode To Math God Srinivas Ramanujan

Wish you a Powerful birthday, Mr. Ramanujan.

Powerful is of significance here. In keeping with your nature, you may be thrilled to learn that this happens to be your 125th birth anniversary. 125, being what you would refer to as a Powerful Number.

Today the idle mind travels back a century to the intriguing life that you led – and could have led – had you not succumbed to the invitations of death far too early in life. Apologies Sire, we have never understood nor appreciated mathematicians very well; most times, not at all. It may not surprise you that a hundred years since, little has changed in this respect.

You presented to the world a vivid picture of what raw genius looked like. Genius appears in various degrees; spine-tingling, probably being appropriate when referring to yours. The kind of genius that is easily given to mass misunderstanding, and its logical extension, avoidance. That very few of the best teachers or compatriots could comprehend your ability bears testimony to the vast reservoirs of genius that you were gifted with.

A soul not given to the shackles of commonly accepted norms, and largely untainted by the fangs of education, you showed the world the values of harnessing one’s deepest interests in an area by flunking repeatedly in subjects others than Mathematics. The system tried its best to smother your talents; little has changed since you passed the world. We continue to be committed to building well-rounded individuals.

Most of us do not see beauty hidden in numbers. The ornate unending continuum of continued fractions – one of your favourites – to the very depths of Infinity, fails to excite but a handful amongst us. We love our Music, being moved to tears by pathos and left euphoric by uplifting tunes. When reminded that the wiggling notes are permutations and combinations of the twelfth root of 2, displeasure sets in. We do not appreciate Math detracting from our appreciation of Music. Breaking emotions down to wiggling roots of 2 is patently unromantic, bordering almost on the blasphemous. We like to appreciate the message, whilst dismissing the messenger.

Fault us not, Sire, for we see little utility in much of what you devoted your life to; abstract mathematics. An area replete with such gruesome arcana that all but the best, and/or the most persistent, of minds get lost in the abyss. Perhaps there is a class of beauty, that lies beyond the limits of our imagination, that is accessible only to a select few. The limits of our aesthetic powers inhibits our appreciation.

There are few things more disconcerting than the act of trying to express beauty, to an audience not gifted with the right eyes. The only thing more disconcerting, is to be at the receiving end, as a mathematically blind bystander. We, Sire, find it much easier to remind ourselves of the apparent non-utility of a subject area as daunting as yours. Brushing aside intimidating genius is easier than owning up to the limits of our comprehension.

Few possess the gift to channelise the power of the human mind in forging new pathways. Fewer still are endowed with the ability to carve multiple pathways to a destination. Most of us wilt not far from the starting point. There is probably a thin line separating a freak from a genius; we seek benefit of doubt in the former.

In this age of vast computing power, it is unthinkable to contemplate what you achieved, working mostly with a rundown slate, a chalk, and your elbow standing in for an eraser. A true rags to mathematical riches story.

Divinity probably exists. The world had occasion to witness it; in you.

SR signature

The Sachin Tendulkar Effect: When The Old Guard Fought Back

Finely attuned ears began hearing faint rumblings of discord in the cricketing world. The Brotherhood of the Retired was seen furtively scampering off to their favourite pub – The Old Guard – in the dark of the night to discuss a matter of growing importance.

The attendees had all retired from the game, and were somewhat weary of warming the benches in the commentator’s box in dreary test matches that no one bothered to watch. The uber veteran expert opinionators encountered a new grouse. The commentator’s box faced a population explosion problem. Hitherto, opinions, sane or otherwise, were seldom in short supply but experts were. Now, a new batch of Old Guards had taken birth and were jostling for a stake in the commentator’s microphone.

The veteran Old Guards decided to summon the new Old Guards to smooth things out and to explore a peaceable solution. Sachin Tendulkar was invited as a special guest to offer thoughts. Tendulkar exuded stoic silence, as usual, opting to let silence do the communication.

Veteran Old Guard Ravi Shastri was seen hooting at the top of everyone’s voices, in a veiled but hopeless attempt at drawing attention. The shirt-ripper Sourav Ganguly, self-anointed leader of the new Old Guards, furiously waved his Armani signalling Shastri to back off. His boom boxed, Shastri yelped and sat down.

This infuriated Navjot Sidhu, the Senior Wrangler, who was entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring no meeting was ever tainted by the vice of peacefulness. He did his bit, and with his brusque brouhaha, managed to evoke an equal and opposite reaction from Danny Morrison. Danny M huffed, face contorted, mouth and eyes pointing in humanly impossible directions. He made a valiant attempt at beating Sidhu at his own game but the latter countered with a dangerous weapon – the word bomb. Sidhu trembled, words scarily rushed out in rapid succession; Peace made a hasty exit. The veteran Old Guards seemed in charge.

Or so it seemed.

Loath to miss an opporunity at letting someone else walk away with the laurels of instigating a ruckus, Ganguly grabbed the microphone and hinted that the veteran Old Guard ought to move on. Retire. Again. It was time for the new Old Guard and fresh Old Blood to clean up the mess left behind by the veterans, and create a messy legacy of their own. The long dead W. G. Grace, was seen vividly expressing his displeasure (it seemed he wasn’t allowed to bat first, which seemed to irk him the most). The psychoanalyst and accidental Captain Mike Brearley chimed in with a whisper of approval. Shastri had an attack of his customary Feelings and yelled his innards out, as always, for no reason and little provocation. Gavaskar silently lobbied for the commentary box at the Wankhede Stadium to be named after him. Ramiz Raja and Aamir Sohail seemed clueless, as usual.

Kapil Dev, with a rich history of letting tears do the talking at opportune moments, outswung into action. Finding a perfect spot, in line with the lead camera, Kapil cried his gullet inside out. Every little drop of tears was summoned from the recesses of his being and unleashed at the opponents. The veteran Old Guards smiled, even as Kapil wailed himself into enervation. Not to give the veteran Old Guards an inch, Ganguly sent Vinod Kambli to counterattack. Kambli came forth and exploded in a tear bath that seemed to knock the great Kapil off his rails. The latter quickly collected himself and parried with a seductive display of passionate tear making. A sympathy wave enveloped the veteran Old Guards. The new Old Guard seemed worsted.

Ganguly, prudently, shifted track and requested the special guest to speak a few words.

Tendulkar took him quite literally.

As the new grand old Samaritan still adorning whites, many hoped that his statesman demeanour might calm things down. After what seemed like an eternity, the Little Master cleared his throat and out came a stream of words in all their empty glory. Many leaned forward, lest their aging ears failed to pick up words of erudition. Some claimed to have heard the occasional semi-moderate decibel ‘proud’. Tendulkar seemed lost in thoughT.

God then spoke.

He made a fervent and moving plea to the Old Guards, addressing both the new and the old, encouraging them to return to the cricket field. In a single shot, he silenced the warring parties. Even Sidhu and Danny M fell silent.

Tendulkar urged the Brotherhood of the Retired to shed their inhibitions, legacy and historical inertia in favour of a path-breaking step. The Retired ought to make a comeback. To buttress his persuasion, he cited veterans from other sports, his friend Michael Schumacher for instance, as luminaries whose examples ought to be followed. He even invoked the long forgotten memory of Nolan Clarke. Now, a princely 64 years old, and thrilled to have found a mention, Clarke cast his weight behind the Little Master. Fellow forgotten Old Guards John Traicos, Miran Bux and James Southerton, the oldest Test debutant, were unamused at being ignored.

The new Old Guard seemed thrilled. Given his many unsuccessful attempts at continuing in his state of cognitive dissonance with regards to his playing days, Ganguly was seen smiling the widest. Ponting, Srinath, Jayasuriya, Dravid, Kumble, and Shane Warne were all seen warming up, stretching their dormant muscles. Tendulkar’s stature, meanwhile, soared a little more.

The enthusiasm seemed to rub off. Drawing inspiration from the new Old Guards, the veteran Old Guards plotted their comeback.

Everyone was happy.

Tendulkar managed to add another record to his cap.

He never retired.

—————-

It is hoped that the cricket devoted post will not put off HaLin’s beloved non-cricketing nation readers. Baseball, unfortunately, bears some resemblance to the glorious sport but any allusion to cricket’s quality is purely a figment of the baseball fan’s imagination. HaLin admires all sports equally, after cricket.

Off-topic: Book Review Blog, Introduction

HaLin has been dividing time over the past few months, somewhat unequally, between laziness and more civilised writing than what he is accustomed to on this blog. The sheer volume of the latter succeeded in overpowering the former, and a new blog is born.

http://wordjock.wordpress.com/

The new blog will serve as an archive of HaLin’s reviews of book releases, penned for official sources. In keeping with these Facebooky times, you, dear Readers, are encouraged to ‘show your love’. Who knows, you might actually find a book worth reading, after all.

HaLin shall continue to indulge in less civilised forms of writing, treating touchy subjects minus wordy diplomacy, on this blog.

Your persistent patience in resting awhile on this blog is acknowledged, with humility.

Jungle Nights – Reminiscing Wilderness

A misty morning chill gently awakens the senses. As time marches on, the fog perishes to the arrows of the sun, which assumes ferocity as the day progresses. Dark clouds take over as evening approaches; this time it is the sun’s turn to accept defeat, which calls it a day ahead of schedule. The scent of wet earth wafts through the air, as the scorched ground gratefully welcomes the rain. The crimson twilight transitions into the blackness of the night, with the moon nowhere in sight.

The combined assault of the rain and blustery winds perturbs the otherwise peace-loving trees. Where they towered motionless in the stillness of the morning air, they now morph into enraged giants sparring with the forces of nature. In the darkness, the trees seem to draw closer and appear larger. As the night advances and fatigue sets in, the torrential downpour recedes into a steady drizzle and the trees slip into a drenched slumber.

The groovy flicker of a candle penetrates the darkness, imparting a melancholic eeriness to things. Lifeless objects come to life through their shadows, which dance upon the walls in merriment. In the spartan cottage from where I write, electricity and time are expendable luxuries.

For I am in jungle territory.

A family of frogs come to life. Their sonorously rhythmic croaking breaks the tranquil night. Beginning sporadically, other members of the croaking brotherhood soon join in, drowning the chirping of the night cricket. A few of these little beauties, youngsters from their appearance, saunter next to me, contemplating a leap. I watch riveted for the eventuality. The prospect of a body less than an inch tall taking on a hurdle several times its height is captivating.

The leap is successful and the frogs are relieved.

The ride has transported them from the alien confines of my dwelling to the familiar vastness of the jungle.

I hear sounds amid the din of rainfall. A bat announces its arrival. My eyes catch a glimpse of the striking silhouette of its outstretched wings. The sighting is brief, for the bat dissolves into the darkness as quickly as it arrives, leaving no trace of its existence.

The candle drowns in its own waxy muddle. Time ticks by.

Screeches originate from a branch less than ten feet from me. My torch follows the sound and discovers the piercing eyes of an owl, staring at me inquiringly. The light stays focused. So do the eyes. I move the torch momentarily to prevent discomfiting the night watchman. When the torch swings back to its earlier position, it discovers emptiness.

The owl has disappeared.

A voice in my head reflexively recites an old verse.

We see what you see not,

Your visions murky, eyes rot.

When you turn, we shall be gone,

Whispering our hidden song.

Then you see what may not be,

Shadows move where light should be.

In the darkness, all but blind,

A restive silence befriends the mind.

 

—————————–

Originally penned on Oct 20, 2011, from the depths of a jungle in the middle of nowhere. Reminiscing wilderness.

Off-topic: 25-Word Story

The customary three-digit word sighting is in hibernation. In its place appears a 25-word variant, conveying a story.

Ray beams. Paper reams.

Eyes gleam, Ponzi scheme,

Zealous stream. Bursting seam…

Deafening scream!

Pipe dream. Sunk regime.

Losing steam; soul redeems.

…Nested dream.

Silence.

——————————————

“Brevity is the daughter of Laziness.”

– Unknown (but possibly linked to yours truly)

——————————————

25-word rejoinders would be welcome in the Comments.

 

A Negative (Interest Rate) World: When The World Plunged Into Its Mirror Image…

(Un)customary Warning: This is a parody of a rather boring real-life event. Negative interest rates; a topic high on Repulsive Quotient. Mumbo-jumbo is kept down to a minimum, however, and one hopes the brief waddle through an arcane world turns out to be an enjoyable ride.

——————–

Johnny Simple was flummoxed and a trifle grumpy. The reason behind his grumpiness was his government. Simple didn’t really harbour views on the quality, or the sanity, of his government (‘I couldn’t care less’), but in the sleepy surroundings of his home, his mind was astir. An investment that he had made – out of his own free will – was giving him ample cause for bemoaning.

He had chosen the safety of his trustworthy government’s Bonds, had made an investment for a return, waited…but on maturity, something seemed amiss. Simple had naively thought his government would return his principal and then something extra, on his investment. But his government seemed to have charged him for the privilege of investing with it. He learnt the true meaning of ‘return’. To air his misgivings, he sought out a friend, Complexius, and learnt a bit about himself and human behaviour. Complexius quickly got down to dealing with complexities.

For centuries, people thought a country’s government was the safest of safe places to park one’s capital. It was simple. You invested in a country’s government bond, the government provided interim happiness (interest on the bond), and one got one’s investment back at the end of it all. This was when countries around the world were paragons of strength.

Like a body that wilts under the tentacles of cancer, countries were now consumed by Debt. A pale shadow of their strong former selves, countries were scampering to resuscitate one another. The world had changed.

Bank deposit rates had gone Negative.

Ailing countries proclaimed that considering their financial ill-health, their citizens would now have to pay them for the privilege of safe-guarding their savings. A few paused and thought, deteriorating financial health ought to lead to ever higher interest rates as compensation. What in the heavens was happening here? This minority, however, was superseded by a vast majority that deemed it rational to turn over their savings to near-default governments, that were now mavens of shakiness and scrambling in the race for life-support.

Risk-free return was now replaced by returns-free risk.

But humans, bless their rational souls, continued ‘investing’ blissfully in their rationality.

Some thought of taking this a step further.

Earlier, everyone desired more money and growing paper wealth. The rules had changed. Holding Paper Currency was now anathema. There would now be a mad desire to lose money. People would be paid to whisk money off their hands, instead of whisking it off others’ hands, as used to happen earlier.

Soon perpetrators realised that heading to an Ivy League was a great way of launching their lose-money careers. The degrees cost a bomb, and it was seen that Ivy League experience in blowing money served as a tremendous adornment in one’s CV.

This led to a happy situation, where smart fellows (with Ivy League backings) now spent their waking hours conjuring up ways to lose money. Investors brandished their capacity for generating the highest rates of return earlier, in order to garner investors. Now, everyone proudly brandished their capacity to lose other people’s money. It was observed that the ones with a long and established track record of losing money, often in scintillatingly novel ways, seemed to enjoy great demand.

Banks, which earlier were vilified by the larger public, suddenly assumed a God-like persona. Many thought no one would know how to lose money better than those with a centuries-old history of practising the fine art. Banks did not disappoint. Complex derivative transactions, which earlier were onstensibly aimed at reducing risk of loss, were now in vogue; with the sole purpose of finding complex ways of increasing risk of loss.

Governments across the world, well, were already in the game before most others.

This culture spilled over to the social sphere, threatening the very fabric of society by questioning age-old customs. The historical roles of the pilferer and the ‘pilfered’ swapped. Thieves, existing and aspirants, took umbrage to this unwanted development. They remonstrated that their identities were being snatched away forcibly and blamed lose-money Capitalism for this conspiracy.

The culture of education underwent a change too. Oodles of moolah was now spent in providing young humans with an that had little value. The institutions soon had a problem, they were generating massive amounts of money without enough outlets for losing it. So they turned to paying parents to send their kids to school. This circle of bliss, paradoxically, left everyone unhappy. Employment went through the roof, as everyone scrambled to lose money. Governments found that they had little to do, leaving them grumpy. There was no money in being a politician.

Eating also witnessed some queer developments. Farmers now fell over one another to pay consumers to buy food. Gradually, most resorted to not producing any food at all. Food was a source of headache for these producers, so they weeded out the cause. Humankind did not take to this kindly.

Riots began, queerly due to the negative prices for essential food commodities, and then thanks to food scarcity. Food scarcity, however, led to a death spiral of ever lower prices now. Things were not turning out well.

Riots soon morphed into skirmishes, which then morphed into regional squibbles, which then morphed into nationwide agitation, which then morphed into international conflict. Ending in obliteration.

Complexius’ exposition left Simple with a heavy head.

He had never thought losing money would lead to such unhappiness and collective disaster.

The Queer Lives Of Inflation and Deflation

Inflation and his brother, Deflation, were strange siblings. Apart from a rhyming name and a penchant for inflicting pain on those around them, the siblings’ personalities bore few pointers to their brotherhood. Each found it impossible to co-exist with the other, preferring instead the peace afforded by solitary existence. Neither was particularly welcomed by humans, who somehow, abhorred their presence, when they tried to make their existence felt.

Disturbed, the brothers attempted to unearth the reasons behind this hostile behaviour. What they found perplexed even the mavens of the Queer…

Like some humans, Inflation started thin and – like most humans – progressively grew heavier with time. Deflation, on the other hand, started fat and progressively grew thinner. Keen observers following Inflation’s growth noticed that the lad grew bigger and bigger with each passing day. On further observation, they thought the cause was an abundance in the supply of Money, which was nourishing fodder for Inflation. Deflation, on the other hand, seemed to grow thinner precisely due to a lack of similar nourishment. A handful of eager beavers, maestros of an arcane art-form called Economics, quickly concluded that controlling the supply of Money could regulate the brothers’ sizes. The consequences were dire…

Inflation noticed that he was a master illusionist. He created an illusion of growth for humans, who were generally oblivious to most things around them apart from the nickels that accumulated in their bank accounts. With time, as nickels grew, humans seemed mighty thrilled. What they seldom noted was that costs of most things that they so furiously consumed were on the rise too, sometimes growing faster than wages. Was there really growth? Inflation was a master of Money Illusion. Inflation gloated on learning about this hidden talent and smirked at the folly of human beings.

Queerly, both Inflation and Deflation held an intense admiration for the comely Gold. Humans, fearful of hyper-Inflation, frequently scampered crazy to Gold, courting her, doing their best to convince her to mollify Inflation’s wrath. She appeared to be successful in her endeavours but her record was patchy, at best. But humans, severely challenged when navigating the scale of time, especially backwards, cared for little but the very near-term. Gold seemed to be doing great and they deified her.

Always keen on growing ever thinner, Deflation pushed prices lower with time. Consumption-friendly humans noticed that their friendly neighbourhood cappuccino prices ticked down with time. Down went car prices, tuition fees, rents, real estate prices, household appliance prices and a slew of other materialistic things that humans enjoyed. But strangely, they did not seem happy with the scheme of affairs. Nickel-happy humans observed that their wages were stagnant or, worse, falling. Shrinking wages and dwindling bank accounts soon led to a congregation of the despondent.

It seemed that Inflation was preferable to Deflation. Few had lived in a Deflation-ruled world. Dread was high as a result.

Some felt the only way to trounce Deflation was by increasing Money. Money seemed like the cure-all. The spigots were opened.

All seemed well for a while…

Things got murky beyond a point, as humans forgot the true reason for owning things. Humans, ever alert to homing in on the scent of euphoria, felt a moral obligation to partake in the speculative orgy. Their frenzied buying was so intense that prices everywhere only went higher. Inflation started growing fatter, too much, too soon. When the bubble popped one fine day, prices reversed. The world looked different. Prices now only seemed to be headed down. Deflation stirred from a long period of slumber, even as Inflation prepared for hibernation. The Economists were invited to exorcise virulent spirits.

As Deflation reared his head, the Economist magicians, with their limited but well-rounded view of reality, recommended cranking up the fodder, Money supply. Known neither for prudence nor moderation, the Money spigots ran for far too long. Somebody had forgotten to turn the faucets off. Gradually, Inflation reared his head and Deflation threatened to hibernate. The Economists now recommended the opposite. The brothers were perplexed at these frequent flip-flops. Just who did the humans really like?

In a queer similarity with human relationships, those present went unappreciated while those absent were missed. That there were living entities queerer than themselves was quite enlightening to the brothers.

Neither seemed to understand humans.

Humans reciprocated.

The Assault Of Like & Whatever

With the passage of time, Man’s lexical arsenal lost much of its potency. New-age WMDs (Words of Mass Destruction) were born.

Wallowing in the characterless netherworld, the WMDs gradually, like parasites, gnawed away at the healthy body of English Words. Impressively camouflaged and true to their characterless character, these Immortals successfully consummated a coup d’etat, toppling the ruling Lexicon.

The takeover complete, conversational vocabulary was reduced to a handful of words; which in turn, were degenerate derivatives of a once-beautiful wor(l)d. Word processors running Word counts in this new-age world seemed to have developed a particularly close relationship with two of these WMDs – Like and Whatever.

Rabidly misused and liberally misplaced, verbally challenged folks discovered in these gladiators a cure-all to their social troubles. Like, how they were loved! Users discovered to their immense relief that Like and Whatever served as great fillers when lines of thought ended abruptly, as they did often. Apart from their filler attributes, they became constant companions in social interactions. Anything that terminated emptiness was extended a warm welcome. On this measure, Like and Whatever enjoyed unrivalled attention.

Like, which was initially used to carry out comparisons, soon gained independence. It was mostly seen in the company of ‘you know’; like, ‘you know like?’ A question, invariably unnecessary, often unleashed to emphasize the obviousness of an idea, with a secondary objective of conveying the speaker’s erudition and a tertiary objective of reminding the listener of their stupidity.

Due to its sheer utility in standing in for incoherent thoughts and as a tool that accentuated one’s social standing, Whatever was particularly favoured. While Like was demography-neutral, Whatever was in vogue among the teenage universe. Cool Quotient and peer acceptance were directly linked to the (over)usage of Whatever. Whatever soon obliterated Period as the universally accepted indicator of terminated sentences. Over time, this virtue found believers in the community of the Seasoned, who, like, quite liked the idea of replacing Like with Whatever. Those that Liked poking fun at this recent development were Whatevered into oblivion.

However, beneath the countenance of peaceful coexistence, faint rumblings were heard by a few. Not all seemed well.

Like, due solely to his longer existence in lexical history, never liked being likened to Whatever. Whatever could be done to trump Whatever had to be done, like, urgently, Like thought. Digging deep into his vast warehouse of parasitic skills, Like concluded that the surest way to gain supremacy lay in fully decimating half-decimated thought processes.

As vices were most easily planted in formative years, Like began his assault on the teenage community. Like was overjoyed when he encountered little resistance in carrying out his intended objective. Initial victories came easily as Like discovered the torch-bearers of tomorrow drowning in an overdose of profoundly meaningless TV. Smartphones lent Like a helping hand, by carrying out an admirable job of eliminating smarts. The assault was so successful that Like found his way into swear-lexicon. ‘Crap! I’m Liked!’, soon replaced the aboriginal F-man. Simultaneously, Like tied up with Facebook and WordPress to trademark a button bearing his name. The move proved to be a stroke of genius.

While this was under-way, Whatever remained in his state of rest, furiously repeating his name, when well-wishers warned him of Like’s assault. Whatever’s well-wishers brought to his notice that his most lucrative Top 3 markets globally – cities in USA – were also cities where Like was most prominent. They encouraged worldwide geographic diversification. Whatever responded with a yawn-y,

Whatever

Like’s assault led to Whatever being marginalised into the Appendix. A highly methodical chap, Like rubbed salt into Whatever’s wounds by presenting a Google Trends chart, tracing their relative progress over time.

Whatever only managed a whimper, ‘Like, Whatever.

The Battle Of The LOLs & The ROFLs

Sometime in the latter half of the 21st century, the process of achieving equality came to fruition. Fornicating bipeds gifted with an offspring (intended or otherwise) universally named the newborns, LOL.

LOL had an interesting history. Its exact date of origin unknown, it emerged from obscurity in the late 20th century, first through the medium of Short Message Service, then made famous by Chat and finally immortalised by Social Networking. The world went through some rather drastic changes but LOL managed to retain its identity.

LOL was initially mostly seen among the teenage community, who LOL-ed more than they actually smiled in the real world. The activity gradually caught on with folks of the seasoned age-group who, tired of smiling – often needlessly in social gatherings – found in LOL a trustworthy friend. Rather than attend social outings that called into service the lazy Smile, they chose staying home and LOL-ing. They also discovered that LOL substituted HA HA HAAAA perfectly. It was not only easier to write, it also kept emotions brief and controlled.  

Some were amused at the oddity of the situation. One group – the youngsters – who hadn’t learned how to smile, embraced the convenience offered by LOL; while another group – the seasoneds – who had learned how to smile, also embraced LOL’s company.

Cut to the late 21st century.

LOLs went to school, armed with hi-tech gadgets that automatically started everything with a perfunctory LOL. The teacher, also a LOL, LOL-ed so much that student LOLs came to associate LOL-ing with meaninglessness. Not many managed a LOL when they realised that they LOL-ed all the time too.

Tired of the sameness, a few eager LOLs attempted differentiation. The earliest adopters of the change in nomenclature opted for LMAO. Many noticed that though the LMAOs laughed off a lot, their derriers stayed put in their original positions. Ashamed at losing face on failing to deliver on their claims, a few disgruntled LMAOs changed names to conceal identity.

LMFAO came into being.

Keen to differentiate themselves from the LMAOs and LOLs, the LMFAOs took pride in extreme displays of laughter. They stood for extremities in life, some claimed. Even mundane conversational exchanges were LMFAO-ed, often unnecessarily.

A few in this gang decided to further push the limits of extreme displays of happiness. They would be paragons of delirium. With this in mind, they rechristened themselves LMMFAO. This process accelerated so rapidly that the last recorded group named themselves,  LMFFFMFFFMFFFMFFMMMMMMMMMMFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFAAAAAAOOOOOOOOOO.

Few could keep count of the number of derriers that were f****d and laughed off.

While this was under-way, an alien group made a sudden appearance from nowhere – ROFL. Not taking too kindly to this uninvited intrusion, the L-s huddled and prepared for battle. On an auspicious day and with a LOLmighty battle-cry, the L-brigade swooped down on ROFL. To counter the charge of the LOLs, LMAOs, LMFAOs and other extremist terrors, the ROFLs rolled over laughing at every possible opportunity. The LMFAOs found the ROFLs quite distracting, especially when they tried LMFAO-ing, even when no L was forthcoming. Fortunes swung greatly but a combined and Herculean charge from the planet of the LOLs managed to quell the assault of the ROFLs…

…who quickly found much-needed reinforcements arriving, in the form of the ROTFL and the ROTFFL.

Things got ugly at this stage as the F-ing battle left many wounded, disfigured and dead, some permanently.

After much bloodshed, a reluctant Ceasefire was called for and new ways of synergistic collaborations were explored, including marital associations. The offspring of this new cross-breed were named, ROTFFLMFAO.

A few veterans couldn’t bear to see this sorry state of affairs, and renamed themselves.

FML

The Battle Of Even And Odd

A curious soul interested in the history of the tussle between Even and Odd would have to begin with Oddam and Eve…When the Creator, in a momentary lapse of reason, decided to give the Milky Way some unwanted company, He created humans. Two of them, to set things in motion.

Even had scored its first mighty strike…

The garden of Even probably made Adam and Eve optimistic about the just-born world, to realise they were two-in-arms in the vast expanse of stillness. A solitary organism might have ended humanity through self-destruction, even before chaos had weaved its magic. A marvellous possibility, which, ironically, never saw the light of the day.

The Creator, it turned out, was sympathetic to Even on the subject of Anatomy. He designed Man’s anatomy to be a house of Even, endowing him with two of most things. But great care was taken to ensure that inlets, outlets and reproductive attachments in the anatomy, were given to the house of Odd. Yet, admirers of Odd were few.

Somewhere along the way, inquisitive jocks decided to impart sophistication to the study of periodicity. They named the experiment, Time. By carefully following the motions of heavenly bodies, noting the repetition of mundanities and by running a battery of wondrously incomprehensible experiments in counting and accounting, they eventually succeeded in conquering Time.

60 ticks made 1 minute. 60 minutes turned into an hour. 24 hours turned into a day.

Someone decided to house time in watches for Man to glance at occasionally, through the course of the day. These novelties were initially seen in Circular shapes. A compartment resembling a Zero, housing time, for eternity.

Watches soon evolved, with other shapes jostling for man’s attention. Squares, Rectangles, Parallelograms, Hexagons, Octagons and other members of the Even-Sided Geometric Shapes club, all competed with the Circle for Man’s rare attentions. The Triangle and the Pentagon had to be content with guest appearances, quietly making way for the more powerful Even-Sideds who hogged the limelight.

It seemed Nature danced to the tune of Even.

Mathematics tried to bat for the lot of the Odd. This endeavour though, turned out to be only partly successful. When numbers came into existence, those that could be divided evenly, with odd exceptions, were named Composites (so an 8 which could be ripped into 2 x 4, 4 x 2, 8 x 1, 1 x 8 was stamped a Composite). Those fortunates, which withstood the scissors of division-by-the-evens were grandly named Primes. 1, one of the most useful numbers to Man, felt pride at owning the title of being neither a Prime nor a Composite.

Unfortunately, Primes were clunky, unwieldy characters, feared by most people, who had great trouble handling them in daily mental mathematics. The fastest way to successfully end a game of mental warfare was to pose a multiplication of the Primes, ironically involving Even digits (‘37 x 53, you!”).

The world of Multiplication further tilted the scales in favour of Even. Kids found that only when Odd was crossed with Odd, was the result Odd. Attempts at crossing an Even with an Odd, or an Even with an Even, ended in a victory for Even.

Mathematically assaulted kids found merriment in a game of picking the Odd one out. Oddly, Even as Odd was regularly singled out, few admired the ostracised gentleman.

Elsewhere in the field of astronomy, the solar system played host to 9 planets, till recently. One fine day, a bunch of astronomers decided that Pluto was unfit for Planet Society, unceremoniously ejecting it from the League. The poor chap can yet be seen rolling around the sun forlornly as an outsider, both intergalactically and socially, leaving the planet family happily inhabited with Even members.

Away from the world of science, Man found succour in the pleasantly cheerless world of social networking. Even was discovered lurking here, too, in the form of the Character Limit.

Odd was seen as a mark of the weird, a symbol of incongruity, irregularity, non-conformity; while Even was a paragon of symmetry and general goodness. In the epic battle of Even and Odd, Even emerged inoddinately successful.

There were a few who found the unspoken fascination with everything Even, a little Odd to digest.

They were picked off in the game of Odd one out.

‘Happy Birthday, Mr. Jonathan Swift’

30 November 1667

———-

Dear Mr. Jonathan Swift,

If, either through force of habit or mere happenstance, your eyes ever rest upon this virtual ink devoted to you, I shall consider myself a fortunate soul.

As much as I ardently seek to provide an enchanting picture of our times, I realize that you might prefer ironies of reality to fantasied ironies. But before I lead you to raise your veil of scepticism and smile in acknowledgement, I beseech you to temper your expectations, for numbers of your satire aficionados are few.

Much has changed, and much hasn’t, since your passing.

It is not commonplace to associate timelessness with posthumous immortality, the true meaning of the word notwithstanding. Almost everything in our present times, Sir, unlike yours, comes with an expiry date. Most of us mortals even manage to wear a smile at the paradox of recognition. In our present times, the Dead are remembered, while the Alive are forgotten. Some of the Alive are bestowed recognition but only after joining the ranks of the Dead. There are no known instances of the opposite.

Your prescience in The Difficulty Of Knowing One’s Self is commendable. More than three centuries later, we continue to be faithful to your observations. We specialise in running headlong into sin and folly, against our reason; even deifying the process. In this respect, we can honourably lay claim to upholding the traditions propounded by your generation.

I recount with great fondness the excited hands that flipped through the pages of Gulliver’s Travels, in my childhood. With the progressive reduction of my ignorance about the world and its history (a process by no means, complete), my perception towards Gulliver’s Travels underwent a metamorphosis. The many facets to one story came as a remarkable discovery to me. Much of our world today is in the early stages of Gulliver’s journey, as he transformed from an enthusiastic fellow to a misanthrope. A few knock on the doors of the final stage but societal pressures impel them to assume the countenance of the early-stage Gulliver.

I discovered the beauty of sustained irony in The Battle of the Books, your satirical account of the battle between the writers of the Ancient and the Modern world. As I laboured to unearth contemporary writing, I found myself on a journey backwards in time. Somewhere in the early 20th century, Bertrand Russell, George Bernard Shaw and Vu Trong Phung (who nobody knows ever lived) reminded me that my journey to Aristotelian times to find stimulating pieces was unnecessary; even as PG Wodehouse gently encouraged me to return to the stillness of my times. The Battle of the Books – II, if written, would be a triviality, for we Moderns are an ill-armoured lot, acutely susceptible to literary attack. Beware, Sir, for should you decide to launch an assault, you might encounter some serious resistance in the form of Social Networking.

As regards your Modest Proposal, of selling toddlers of the poor to the rich as food, I report that my contemporaries have, so far, stayed away from cannibalism. Much of this is attributable to advances in food science, which has ensured that food is abundantly available to feed the entire planet. At 257 kg of grain per earthling, it should be a while before cannibalism overpowers civility. But times are bad and the economic downturn which is upon us for the past 4 years, overlapped on increasing inequality, might stoke anthropophagic feelings in hungry humans. You may be happy to learn, though, that politics and, more significantly, politicians have not changed an iota since your times.

Our life expectancies have received a major boost due to progress in medicine. As the world grows older, youngsters feel a sense of resentment at having to support the growing dependent population, apart from compulsions of subsistence. Given the horrid times, it seems that a modified version of your Modest Proposal, aimed at monitored rationing of the very aged, instead of the very young, may find some cheerleaders.

This, Sir, is a short picture of the state of our times.

344 years since the world was fortunate to have played host to you, you continue to live and breathe satire, in our minds.

Thank you for having lived amongst us, I remain, your humble admirer,

Happy birthday!

Ha Lin

—–
PS:
….Of beasts, it is confessed, the ape
Comes nearest us in human shape;
Like man, he imitates each fashion,
And malice is his ruling passion:
But, both in malice and grimaces,
A courtier any ape surpasses.
Behold him humbly cringing wait
Upon the minister of state;
View him, soon after, to inferiors
Aping the conduct of superiors:
He promises, with equal air,
And to perform takes equal care.
He, in his turn, finds imitators,
At court the porters, lacqueys, waiters
Their masters’ manners still contract,
And footmen, lords, and dukes can act.
Thus, at the court, both great and small
Behave alike, for all ape all.
— Jonathan Swift, Excerpt from The Logicians Refuted

An Experiment With Pigeons

Walking is a supposedly mundane activity, generally made interesting by a hip music player bellowing music into the ears of the walker (the hip is quite essential). I’m patriotic about my voice, so my throat usually replaces the music player during walks. This not only spares my ears from imprisonment by earphones, it also allows my eyes and ears to work as a team in appreciating the wonders of daily life.

One such activity that I have been carrying out over time concerns pigeons. Years of observation has led me to posit that pigeons are an attractively stupid lot, irrespective of country of origin. Some of their behavioural characteristics are remarkably similar to human beings, which make us (un)attractively stupid, too. But we won’t get there.

The observations began in Threadneedle Street, London. Apart from sporadic threats by its resident ghost, Threadneedle Street is a wonderful place to relax with a triple macchiato in tow. The ghost loved it, humans loved it and so did pigeons. The pigeons loved the place so much that they would turn out in large numbers, gracing the area with their shitty presence.

A soul, human, was noble enough to arrange for food supply for the hungry pigeons, every day. The food was spread around the place and randomness ensured that food density in some places was higher than neighbouring areas.

A group of pigeons would swoop by daily. The leader would scan the place with satisfaction and then proceed to an area rich in food. The followers would oblige. Soon there’d be about 15 – 20 pigeon-folk, stooped down pecking in the same area, catering to their bellies. Needless to add, food supply would diminish quickly. It so happened that there was a smart alec in the pack. Before the food was completely devoured, this chap would scan nearby locations for food. The simple mechanics of supply and demand rewarded his brilliance abundantly. Off he would go to uninhabited areas and enjoy his meal, alone.

Other members of the herd would continue in Place #1 until food was exhausted, would look around incredulously, then scoot away.

After a few days, some members noticed smart alec’s behaviour. Noticing that he continued to forage enthusiastically even as they chose flight, they decided it was probably worthwhile to follow him. After finishing off at Place #1, they would proceed to Place #2. This pattern was firmly established over time. What began as a trickle eventually led to the entire pack following smart alec, until the new place was conquered.

Smart alec was now at a loss. He observed that his contrarian behaviour paid-off handsomely, initially. When the crowd followed, his edge diminished and beyond a point, was extinct. In order to recreate the edge, he decided to make a pre-emptive move.

This is where stupidity overpowered him.

He moved back to Place #1, which had very little food supply! Silliness writ large on his otherwise smart face, he noticed the lack of food and then enacted Act 2 in stupidity. He rejoined the herd in Place #2 rather than looking at the vast arena, which lay unexplored. Having done all the hard work, smart alec ignored the wonderful lessons that experience had taught him. Forsaking a method that worked well and adopting one that guaranteed failure expunged his edge completely.

I learned later that pigeons do not suffer from short-term memory loss and are capable of remembering patterns of events in their recent environment. In which case, their behaviour corroborated my stupidity hypothesis.

Pigeons in other parts of England exhibited similar manners, which led me to hypothesize that probably pigeons, specifically in the Queen’s Land, were of a mental bent inclined towards foolishness. Empirical evidence from India negated this.

Besides, Indian pigeons adopted a cavalier attitude towards other bird species. They were particularly severe on sparrows and birds of smaller size. When larger birds competed for food, pigeons dejectedly made way. The same behaviour is observable, crudely first in school bullies and then polished to perfection in the world of business.

I tried testing if pigeons exhibited smarts in nest-construction. Twigs, which are the basic building blocks, are universally accepted material. When plant stems that resembled twigs were carefully placed in the path frequented by pigeons, the birds were smart enough to ignore them. It appeared that I would have to reconsider my stupidity hypothesis.

To carry the experiment a step further, I painted the green stems with a coat of brown so they resembled the dry, stiff twigs’ natural colour. This duped the pigeon, which carried the ‘twigs’ away. What happened to the nest is best left to speculation.

This leaves two possibilities. (1) My experimental methods need to get smarter, when I was being stupid in application, it would be erroneous to assign foolishness to the poor pigeons, or, (2) Pigeons are indeed rather stupid, colour-blind or both.

Before postmen, email and social networking put them out of business, doves discharged their mail-delivering responsibilities well. This punctures the hypothesis.

The onus is now on the pigeons to transfer the title of stupidity to my head, but only through diligent observation and carefully constructed experiments aimed at testing idiocy.

 

 Source: Wikipedia

‘I Think (Like Everyone Else), Therefore I Am.’ – Descartes – II

That industrialisation, over the past few centuries, has been instrumental in the forward march of humankind is indisputable. As the wheels of industry rolled captivatingly, many businesses were/are quick to reiterate the complete mechanisation of their processes. More than a few extol the virtues of economies of scale and reducing human action/thought in daily affairs, though they generally word the latter in euphemistic terms.

The repeated incantations have had the effect of manifesting in non-industrial spheres. Mass production was so successful that it found application in a new area – thoughts and opinions.

Ironically, progress of knowledge has contributed to this Uniformity movement. The inhabitant of the ancient world felt secure in the belief that the earth was the centre of the universe, and in the uniqueness of the Individual. As the Galilean earthquake shook the world, Man’s belief systems underwent a reluctant transformation. Galileo’s fate is a shining example of the perils associated with breaking away from the consensus. Sadly, schools sing paeans to Galileo without enumerating the true lessons of Galileo-hood.

From the moment an impressionable child begins his/her acquaintance with education, the venerable institutions of knowledge work hard at extinguishing sparks of creativity and brilliance. As the life expectancy of good habits is far lower than the bad variety, institutions have no trouble succeeding in the purging exercise. Years of indoctrination later, the child emerges, finely chiselled, looking and thinking like everyone else. Mass production of elementary education does an admirable job of readying children for tougher journeys through life.

Meanwhile, as the black swan kid encounters swarms of fellowmen who think differently, he/she learns the meaning of the words superior/opinionated/arrogant/snooty/pedantic and the like. As ostracism is discovered, the kid faces a binary choice, to forsake natural instincts and join the herd, or be destined to a life of struggle, invariably as a recluse. Several excruciating experiences later, most tend to opt for the former.

As man thinks deeply to create a future that minimises thought, uniformity is worshipped in nearly every occupation. While this disadvantages the exceptional, it confers great advantages on the average; who discover tranquillity by associating with the consensus. Moreover, the utterance of opinions that find wide agreement affords multiple advantages; it reminds the listener of his/her erudition, and agreement in thought greatly facilitates social warmth. The rewards of congruity of thinking in the professional sphere warrant no special mention.  

Pre-packaged thoughts leased free from another individual are subject to several iterations, with each successive version gaining in sophistication. Admittedly, this process has been underway for a long time and it is safe to posit that the onward march of time will only accelerate this evolution.

Not all is lost, though. As with most things in life, there is a good side to everything.

Agreement facilitates peaceable coexistence, whether in social or political matters. Politics is really a concoction of uniformity and one might claim that this is one of the reasons behind the long period of uneasy peace since World War II. Democracy is effectively the will of the agreeable, even as every citizen tries to convince everybody else of the opposite. The Opposition spends valuable time busily disagreeing with the Incumbent, who reciprocate when the positions are swapped. Solutions, meanwhile, lie in deep slumber.

In pre-independence times, the oppressed found a ready consensus in nationalism. While disagreement existed concerning the means, few disputed the objective. Trouble brewed once peace broke out after independence. The many found a worthy uniformity anchor in patriotism.     

An instance of this love for the consensus is evident in the investing world. Contrarian opinion is abhorred, especially when this shows the consensus view in poor light or as being ill placed. Consensus allows peaceful obliteration when capital is lost en masse; invectives lose vigour as blame is apportioned uniformly to the majority.

An orchestra comprising solely of violins would probably make a grand violin ensemble but would hardly justify as an Orchestra.

It is time for some dreaming.

Is it possible to build a world where children are not sent to/pulled from schools? A system of parallel education founded on the tenets of observation and questioning, where endangered virtues like passion and interest are nurtured? While we are at it, can we have a Protected Reserve for the black swans as well?

Can we have some disagreement please?