Thursday, July 31, 2008

Needs vs. Wants

Something that I used to do when I was younger to get me focused and motivated on my goals was a needs and wants list. I used to sit down, and write down everything I thought I should have subdivided neatly into two categories – what I need and what I want. This helped me get focused on what I really needed and helped me set my priorities in a way such that I first achieved/got what I needed and then focused my energies on what I wanted. For some inexplicable reason, I stopped using this wonderful system. I decided this morning to sit down again and do just that. And I came to a very interesting conclusion:

My “needs” list was minimal – and most surprising of all – it did not contain anything material! I think I need more motivation for my work, and more time; but as far as objects or tangible things, I don’t need anything! My “wants” list of course is jam-packed with materialistic things – larger home, more money, more travel… And while these things might make life more enjoyable, right this moment I do not need them. All those things can wait until I graduate and get a job. I’m pretty amazed! I racked my brains for a long time to think of something I needed, and I couldn’t. I also concluded that if I had to search so hard something that I needed, it was probably not something that I really needed anyway!

Now if only I could find that extra motivation!

P.S. I have begun reading “Clarissa”. It so happened that the ISU library has a limited edition of the complete and unabridged novels of Samuel Richardson in nineteen volumes. Of these, volumes 12-19 hold the whole of “Clarissa”. I got the first two volumes today and began reading. It’s a bit heavy going since the English of the 1700’s beautiful as it was, was also quite a bit more complex than it is today. This book has some of the longest sentences I have ever read – often conveying more than one or two thoughts. But what I thought was an absolute pity was that this copy of “Clarissa”, published exactly a century ago this year (in 1908) has never been read by anyone before. How do I know this? I found that many of the pages were uncut. (Books published long ago often did not have all the pages separated at the time of binding, and often the pages needed to be sliced apart at the fold in order to create two pages.) I was cutting pages as I was reading and I felt sorry that so wonderful a novel had gone unread by anyone at ISU for a whole century. I have a good mind to ask the library if they would sell me the books – it’ll most probably be refused of course because of stupid rules and things – it’s most incredibly exasperating! I’ve read six of the letters in this epistolary so far – and it’s absolutely delightful!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Twenty-Fourth Book

At the start of this year, I had resolved to read twenty-four books. I have already read twenty-three and have half-read two, which I shall not count. I had thought at first that since it is only the end of July, I shall easily be able to read at least five more. However, I have picked my twenty-fourth book - Samuel Richardson's "Clarissa". It was the longest novel in the English language for 200 years until "Mission Earth" was published in 1952. Following that, there were three other books published that are longer than "Clarissa", but none of them interest me - they're not the kind of fiction that I would read and enjoy. So, "Clarissa" it is!

"Clarissa" is a nine-volume epistolary, and I imagine that if I read it in its unabridged version, it will easily take me to the end of the year. So I think I shall end at my goal of twenty-four books. (Or maybe more, if I decide to take a break and read something shorter for a change - one book for five months is a bit much for anybody.) I begin as soon as the library can get it to me!

P.S. I just noticed that all my other posts this month begin with a "B". I considered calling this post "Book #24", but then thought better of it! Aren't I a rebel!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Brideshead Revisited - Remade

It is 11:41 PM. I think I am going to be sick. I was watching that idiot Glen Beck – I hate him! But that is not what makes me feel sick. As the segment cut to the adverts, I was folding my laundry. On the telly, a movie preview ad was playing and I caught a very British voice saying, “… announce my daughter’s engagement to Mr. Rex Mortram”. I felt dizzy and had to sit down. They have remade “Brideshead Revisited”. I hate them – whoever it is who have done that. I knew that the movie was being considered for production, but I was not prepared for it to be ready and hitting Theatres this Friday! One of my favorite books remade into a piece of utter crap – less than three hours with all the relevant bits ruthlessly chopped off! Apparently, there is no screen time focused on religion, they have eliminated the story of Sebastian and Charles’ relationship, and of Sebastian’s relationship with his family. This new “Brideshead…” is about Charles and Julia! I hate them. I feel sick.

I have been astonished at people’s reactions to the book and it’s 1981 flawless production. It seems that this book brings out in people fears of their own insecurities. An atheist person of my acquaintance who struggled with his relationship with the Catholic Church believed that this book was an expose of the cruel grip that religion has on people – of Lord Marchmain’s acceptance of communion before his death, this person said – “Religion did not let him go in the end. It kept its cruel claws in, even at the very end.” Evelyn Waugh did not mean that – and he wrote as much. The point of the book is not to portray Catholicism in a negative light at all – after all Evelyn Waugh was a Catholic convert and a staunch and fervent follower of the Catholic Church – he would hardly have denounced it. I showed what Waugh had to say about this to this person, but somehow, he did not see it at all. Yet another acquaintance of mine – who has not even read the book or watched the mini-series labours under the misapprehension that this book is entirely about gay men. That astonished me at first – and then made me laugh. It made sense of course – this man has some serious internalized homophobia.

Why does this beautiful book appear so twisted to people? It isn’t twisted – it is complex, clever and amazing. And it is being butchered ruthlessly for the screen. I know I shall go and watch it if only to get angry and rant more about it! I do feel very very sick!

P.S. I have decided to add to the orinal post and say a bit more about the 1981 mini-series. It was a masterpiece - with a star-studded cast (though many were not really stars at the time) - Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir John Geilgud, Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews, Claire Bloom and Nickolas Grace (inimitably playing Anthony Blanche). You can check out the IMDB page HERE.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Beautiful Fantasies

Being a Ph.D. student, or indeed any kind of full-time student, has several disadvantages – one is more often than not poor, bogged down with school work and lives an exceedingly dull life. Is it any wonder then that wild Spring break vacations and copious amounts of drink and drugs are associated with students? After all, students all over the world have tried in vain to either liven up their lives by going over the top in sensory pleasure, or dull their senses to the commonplaceness of it all by indulging in mind-numbing activities. The opiate of every student is different – it is wild partying for many, or videogames, or obsessing over physical appearance, or dungeons and dragons, or ... The list is endless. For me it is books, movies, telly and the internet.

And what do I get from all these sources? The lives of others – characters who don’t really exist, celebrities who exist but live more fun lives in my fantasies than they do in real life, people I have never met and probably will never meet, fellow-bloggers who anonymously allow me the pleasure of reading their minds, online flirtations affording my banal life some spicy diversion… There really is something very child-like and innocent about the way I weave my fantasies in and out of the millions of other lives which will never really ever intersect mine. Just this morning, I invented a make-believe romance with Ben Badra - an actor I saw in a movie the other day. It was something out of Shakespeare, with touches of an Eastman color Hindi movie. Byron’s poetry was spouted liberally, and it prominently featured incurable wasting diseases and other similar tragic circumstances of epic proportions. It did have a happy ending – my dreams always do.

Having an over-active imagination is a wonderful gift, but I also often wonder if it is not my most painful curse. I am never ever going to meet Ben Badra, let alone find out we are compatible or fall in love. And I am sure he knows nothing of Byron and has probably never read Shakespeare. I also hope he never is plagued by the horrific diseases I nursed him back to health from. One day I am going to have a rude awakening from this world of make-believe romance and goodness. Most men and women aren’t heroes, and no one is completely good. The idea of romance for the next person is probably dramatically different from my unoriginal ideas that have been unashamedly plagiarized from books and television. One day I shall wake up and be completely grown-up and laugh bitterly at these ridiculous ideas. All innocent hope will be lost and I will never again dream of Ben Badra. And that will be worse than anything else. But I bet it will come someday – utter, complete disillusionment. But until then, Ben Badra is crazy about me!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Breakfast In Bed

I have never had breakfast in bed before. The very idea of having my breakfast in bed conjures up fantastic images of me as a rather colonial memsahib lazing in a colossal curtained bed until past ten in the morning, being woken by the rays of the sun filtering in through the blinds that have been drawn apart by a very subservient maid who then presents me with a huge tray full of steaming tea, a full English breakfast, the morning mail, the day’s newspaper and a solitary rosebud in a charming little blue bud-vase. Needless to say I have never experienced such luxury, nor do I think I ever will. I might be treated to some such pleasure by a handsome man as a romantic gesture, but that hasn’t happened yet. In any case, there is something very comforting as well as exciting about having one’s breakfast in bed, and I should very much like to have my breakfast in bed every single day. And since that does not show any indication of happening on its own, I decided to make it happen!

I woke up around 9-ish today (being a student has the sole advantage of affording one summers off, and consequently being able to rise late). I got up and made myself some breakfast, and then on a whim, pulled out a wicker tray that I barely ever use. I laid it out and took it to bed. It wasn’t exactly perfect – I had to be my own maid. There weren’t any filtered sunrays, but there was a shaded bedside lamp. There were no curtains, and my twin-bed can hardly be called colossal. I am vegetarian, so a full English breakfast is out of the question, and I had tea and toast with a couple of Marie biscuits on a paper doily, pineapple chunks from a can, and a multivitamin. My morning mail consisted solely of bills and pre-approved credit card offers that I had not felt tempted to open last night. The day’s newspaper was substituted by three-day old news in the form of Wednesday’s free paper. And the solitary rosebud in a blue bud-vase was represented on my tray by daisies I plucked from the garden and a sprig of rosemary sitting together in a tall shot-glass.

Food tastes wonderful when eaten in such a delightful fashion. And the three-day old news seemed vitally important and exciting. I even read some of the fine print on my bills! It was silly and ridiculous, but I was always one for make-believe. When we were children, I would draw elaborate treasure maps for my sister and me, and we picnicked on the terrace pretending to be fine ladies with flowery parasols. A little bit of make-believe is tremendously entertaining. Afterwards, I had to dust off bread crumbs from my duvet; but don’t you know - it was fun!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Berries From The Park

The little park close to my apartment has over the past year afforded me many joys. It’s too small for a running track, the children’s play area is tiny and unused and it has only one bench in it. Needless to say, it isn’t frequented too often by too many people. But to a reclusive person like me, it is a sweet haven of relaxation amid nature’s beauty. I often go walking there, go there to sit under a tree and read, or get a small take-away snack to eat on the bench in the shade. And every time I have to go to the grocery store, I try and walk though it. In the last post I wrote about picking berries off the tree and eating them. As I walked through the park today, I thought I should pick some and bring them home to enjoy as a dessert. And so I did. I thought I ought to take pics to post them here too. You can also see the book I am currently reading. A bowl of berries and Agatha Christie… pure magic. :-)

A bowl of berries at Hy-Vee - $3.00
A bowl of berries picked in the park - $0.00
A bowl of free berries for dessert and a lovely read to go with it – PRICELESS