Books, Childhood, Myself

I’ll keep it brief

I like Stephen King a lot, ever since I read The Shining on a train journey from Delhi to Guwahati and shivered to myself on the upper berth halfway through the book. True to the way I behave, I began to scrounge out Stephen King books right after that. I think I bought close to 7 books in a month, the same month I was coming down to Warangal to join the college. My father and I stayed in Calcutta for a day, and I spent the better part of that afternoon at Gol Park, haggling with the booksellers there for a bulk discount on the Kings I bought from them. Then I bought a couple more at Vijaywada station, where I got them for 50 Rs each, by some strange coincidence.

One of those books I bought and read in that initial white-heat period was Insomnia. Probably not one of King’s finest, the book was engaging enough because it seemed to be linked to King’s other works in odd ways. There were nods to The Dark Tower, and to Pet Semetary, and because most of the characters of all these books were fresh in my mind, I could enjoy the book a lot. You know what the most important thing about Insomnia was? The way it talked about sleep-deprivation. The main character – Ralph, I think his name was – slowly begins to sleep less and less. It’s not like he doesn’t want to sleep, it’s just that he could not go to sleep. He used to twist and turn in his bed and manage to sleep for an hour or so, and even that got chipped down to a couple of minutes per night. And it was then that Ralph starts seeing colours. Auras around living things. And small people in white coats with scissors in their hands.

Needless to say, this completely freaked me out.

Oh yes, I do know how to seperate fact from fiction, thank you. Especially fiction of the Stephen-King-kind. But what happened was – the book made me promise myself that I would never ever forsake sleep or change my sleep-cycle, that every night I would get a minimum of six hours of sleep, regardless of whatever else is going on in my life.

That resolution held good for all of four years in RECian life, except for a night when I had to sit and design a poster on my computer. Photoshop 5, 32 MB RAM. By the time morning came, I was a completely frustrated wannabe designer – woke up the guys who were sleeping on my bed ( they had come on over to offer moral support through the night, and had dozed off at around midnight). Technically, what I am saying is, I have never done a “night out” before, be it before an exam, or after, or because of college fests or whatever. Well, sure, I would stay awake late, but I could not do things like – I had to grab some sleep when it was dark, or else Stephen King’s Insomnia would come to haunt me, and force me to close my eyes and shut down my nervous system. On the positive side, this meant I could fall asleep under any circumstances, with loud music playing in the background, on a bare floor, on a chair, inside a train toilet…

Over the last two weeks, things have changed a bit.

I begin working in the evening, at about five or six PM if things are really tight, and continue until about seven AM in the morning. I see the sun rise every day, and shiver in the cold morning breeze every time I head home. I sleep until about noon, and then I listen to music and read Doom Patrol until it’s time to come to the office again. (Must. Resist. Doom Patrol. Rave. Must. Resist.) Four hours of sleep every day, food at slightly odd hours ( I have been having a very heavy breakfast, courtesy this really swanky restaurant near my place that offers a buffet from seven AM onwards. 45 Rupees only. And they serve pancakes and honey among other things, yummy!) Lunch gets postponed until the evening, and dinner gets done sometime at midnight.

But the fact is, I’ve never really felt better. It’s actually quite fun to work at this time, I have found that more work gets done because of lesser distractions, and also because I am working in synch with the overseas team. I can play Juno Reactor really loud if I want to. I can play anything loud if I want to, hee-ah. I have a secret stash of chocolate bars right here in my office drawer, and the pantry has an ample amount of coffee to soothe my tastebuds at times. It’s not like I stay tired during the daytime, or that I am over-working, none of it at all.

You know what? I think sleep, and the concept of sleep-cycles are a tad overrated.

Social life, you ask? Not too bad, really. My “window” for a social life is between three and six PM, which means that most of normal human society stays away from me, muwhahahaha. But yesterday was good. Managed to catch a surprisingly good Jazz concert at this cafe yesterday evening. Got drenched too, while coming to the office later in the night. I did what a self-respecting software engineer ought to do against natural born dilemmas – I used my credit card. Saw a sale going on at an Arrow outlet and bought myself a couple of shirts. (Had to pinch myself later to see if I was still sane.) But yesterday was a good day, in fact. I found my USB drive again. Yes, the same one that had gotten itself dunked into the washing machine the last time ( that’s called transference of guilt, for the uninitiated). I could not find it for about a week, and just as I had given up all hope of finding it altogether ( I thought it had fallen out of my pocket), there it was, inside the pocket of a shirt that I was about to put into the washing machine. I have a feeling this little bugger likes refreshing its memory every now and then in the washing machine.


eBay woes

PeTS, otherwise known as the Post-eBay-Traumatic-Syndrome, affects me from time to time. Times when I realise that this website is just too unapologetically vast for my liking. Everybody I know tells me that I am spending too much time on eBay – ah, but if only you knew how much time I really spend on the site, heh – and I half-heartedly agree, and promise myself that I shan’t even think of typing in “” for the next three months. (Now there’s a tip for you, if you’re in India and want to buy comics off eBay, don’t type “” on the browser, it redirects you to ) Don’t know why, but three months seems to me like a perfect rest-time from eBaying. Not four months, not six months, not even three and a half months, but three months. So I promise myself, and threaten myself with dire consequences, and then of course, I have to go and check out the new listings two days later.

It makes me sit and weep, I tell you. Especially when it’s the end of the month and there is a COMPLETE Groo The Wanderer run up for sale – and by complete, I mean complete, all 120 Epic issues and 8 pacific issues, and even a couple of signed copies and two CGC Graded ones, and a couple of graphic novels to boot – and another original art page at a very decent buy-it-now price. (No, don’t ask me which artist it was, I am pretty sure I would be lynched if I say anything.) (Oh, very well, it was Frank Quitely. I am getting obsessed with the guy, and that’s that.) And then there is a complete Starman run which I need, Starman being very high on my priority list. Then there is the friend of this LJ user from whom I am buying a pile of comics. How do I prioritize? How do I prioritize? Do I buy the Groo run or do I go for the Quitely page or the Starman series or the Wonderful Ashley Wood pages that are being sold for SO CHEAP or that Darick Robertson Transmet page or do I *whimper* forget all about them and go watch Samurai Jack at home?

Ah, well, after that embarrassing display of inner turbulence, here’s something better.

This is Jeon Ji Hyun, the lead actress of My Sassy Girl. *sigh* I think I’ll stare at this picture and let eBay run its own course. For the next three months. Yes.

P.S I wouldn’t mind Jeon Ji Hyun getting me out of my PeTS-mood in her own inimitable way.

(Pic swiped from adgy)


Three favourite soundtrack composers

I am a big fan of soundtracks. Not just Indian soundtracks, all kinds. I am just awed by the fact that music can be used, in the hands of a skilled composer, to augment the impact of a scene in a film. I love the way music can be used as subtext in a barebones storyline. In fact, half the reason I end up hating a movie is when the accompanying soundtrack is crock. ( Perfect examples: the recent assembly-line productions of Ram Gopal Verma’s The Factory, which rely on over-the-top moodscapes to ruin half-baked storylines) Right now, there are three composers who are my personal Gods, people whose music make my day ( or night) anytime I listen to them.

On top is AR Rahman. Part of the reason why I like him, truth be told, is that I’ve grown up with his music. He was the nineties, for me, every year indelibly marked in my memory by a couple of Rahman albums. There really have not been too many Rahman soundtracks I cannot listen to at any given point of time, and there are few Rahman tunes I cannot recognise in the first seven seconds of the song playing within earshot. But yeah, his background scores are no great shakes – they are essentially reworked versions of his songs in that particular movie, played on a different instrument or in a different style, or a slower/faster tempo than the song itself. Very few Rahman-scored films of recent times had memorable scores, to be honest – the songs might be awesome, but that’s all you remember after you finish the film, the songs, and not the music. And I don’t think I was hallucinating when I heard the same snatch of music at the end of Swades and at a point in Mangal Pandey: The Rising. Of course I am a Rahman fan, you idjit, but faith that refuses to face the facts is not faith at all, as Albert Schweitzer once said and all that.

Second in the list, not because of quality – let me assure you that I am not comparing any of these three composers in any way, other than the fact that they make my earth move – is Ennio Morricone. I have been introduced really late to his music. Believe me, chances are – you haven’t heard Ennio Morricone’s music yet, true Morricone music, that is. Because, in the sixties and the seventies, when Morricone was composing kick-ass stuff, certain unscrupulous hacks in America, like Henry Mancini or Mantovani (that’s right, I know I should not call them such derisive terms, but it’s just their covers stunted my musical education. They have also done some good stuff in their days) did some lame-ass cover versions of his soundtracks, and just to show that people have lousy musical taste, these cover versions sold really well, and I suspect made their way up the Billboard Charts too. The cover versions didn’t sound bad, just watered-down. Insipid music that did not have a tenth of the energy that the original Morricone versions did. What was so unique about Ennio Morricone’s original compositions? I could rave about his quirky use of instruments, or the completely loony themes he came up with. A solitary twanging guitar, a wailing harmonica, the sound of a jew’s harp, shrieking human voices – Morricone did not need the grandeur of a string orchestra to come up with the soundscapes needed for a brutal desert shoot-out or a blood-splattered night. Or for that matter, a tenderly-shot love scene.It’s not like he never used string orchestras either,;he did, and very beautifully too, in later day classics ( Wolf, Once Upon a Time In America, Cinema Paradiso). This man made the most memorable oboe piece in cinematic history – ‘Gabriel’s Oboe’, from The Mission. He’s composed nearly six hundred soundtracks so far, and has managed to repeat himself in only two of them. Pure genius, I say.

Of late, I have stumbled upon ( not by chance, to be honest) Morricone’s scores for Italian Giallo movies – Dario Argento’s Cat O’Nine Tails, for example, and Mario Bava’s Danger Diabolik. Awesome, goosepimply scores. I have much to thank Kill Bill for, and rediscovering Ennio Morricone is one of the reasons.

Third in the list is a lady whose music I heard people raving about so freaking much that I nearly went berserk trying to get hold of her stuff. Yoko Kanno is her name, and she’s a Japanese composer who has done music for anime titles like Cowboy Bebop, Macross Plus, Earth Girl Arjuna, and Ghost in the Shell; Standalone Complex. There’s one thing I need to make clear about Ms Kanno – you can never, EVER slot her into a genre, or even in two, or ten, or fifty seven. Absolutely no-no-No. Fine, so you listen to ‘Tank’, the theme music for Cowboy Bebop, and go “Ah, a Jazz-oriented composer, reminds me of brass bands of the forties.”, and then you hear ‘Live in Baghdad’ off the same album, a song that can give Judas Priest a complex, it sounds so eighties hair metal.Right, so the next song happens to be ‘Fantasie Sign’, a song that begins like an Edith Piafish French ballad, leading to a 180 bpm Jungle beat that kicks your teeth out of shape if you have your speakers loud enough. Of course, there is ‘Bindy’, a faux-middle-eastern piece where an alto saxophone tries to sound really hard like a shehnai, and very nearly succeeds; followed by ‘Forever Broke’, which is a slide-guitar piece you might hear Johnny Winter playing on a really, really bluesy day.

Right. So maybe I went overboard trying to describe how hard Yoko Kanno’s music cannnot really be described to anyone, you have to listen to it to figure out how much it rocks. And this is just one album, from out of a possible 7 albums accompanying Cowboy Bebop, with all its music as diverse as the genres from which this anime borrows its themes from. And then you have to listen to the rest of her work, each more audacious than the other. “Audacious without being pretentious” is the term I’ve heard someone use with regards to Yoko Kanno’s body of work, and it strikes me as the perfect term to describe her.

To buy or not to buy?

I am seriously waiting for the music of Rang De Basanti to be released. Music by AR Rahman, of course. It’s due sometime this week, and I really need to hear something more than the single line ( and that infectious banjo loop that plays along with it) on TV. The music of Water ( also by Rahman, and one that he called “the best work he has done so far” in an interview sometime back) has released on all the online radio stations, but I am not listening to it until the CD comes out.

Also tempted to buy Bluffmaster, even though I already have Trickbaby’s album. Two Ranjit Barot albums have also come out – Pooja Bhatt’s Holiday, the songs sound pretty decent, and another one called Brides Wanted that I saw last night in Planet M. But the 145-150 Rs tag on each of these CDs puts me off, I don’t want to buy Hindi movie soundtracks just for a good track or two, and then two months later, find prices slashed to half.

Heard Susheela Raman’s Music For Crocodiles playing at Habitat, and nearly ended up buying it. Saw the 445 Rs price tag and took the easy way out – ran home and listened to Love Trap(her previous album) for three days. That lady has a sexy voice, and she does some awesome music.

Also saw Trilok Gurtu’s latest album Broken Rhythms, it has Huun Huur Tu and Gary Moore guest-starring on some tracks. Temptations, temptations….


Beatzo’s Laws of Second-hand Book-Buying

First Law, or the law of pricing: A book will always be priced higher than what one is willing to pay for it.
Corollary I : The feeling of euphoria induced on seeing a book is inversely proportional to amount on the price tag.

Second Law, or the Scouring Law: You always find a book when you least expect it.
The less the effort you put into finding a book, the greater the chances are that you will find it.
Corollary to the Second Law: If you decide to stop buying books for a limited period of time, the quantity of book sales around you will increase dramatically.

Third Law, or the Law of Boundless Optimism: A book will always be available at a cheaper price at some other place some other time.
Corollary to the Third Law: You will always meet a guy who has bought a book at a rate cheaper than what you paid for it.

Fourth Law, or the Serious Law: If you wait to buy a book you think is slightly overpriced, you will always find it on the shelf, but not on the day you give up and go to buy it.


Couple of random addressings

Woo hoo, I bought 13 volumes of Blade of the Immortal off eBay for less than half the price. The total came to 99.88$, including shipping. Which makes me extremely happy, because Hiroaki Samura’s manga was one of the items on my wishlist – the pencilwork alone elevates it to Godlike status. Dear Hallowed People at Landmark, you can now come kiss my ass.

An article on the Finnish band Varttina, about whom I posted quite a few weeks ago:

“We were scouring the world looking for just the right sound, and then one day we came across the album Ilmatar by Värttinä,” reminisced Nightingale at last week’s press conference in Toronto. “One listen to track six, a brilliant dark, piece, and we knew we had our sound.” ( for the Lord of the Rings musical)

I empathise, Mr. Nightingale, I really do.

* * *

Parents arrived last night. Spent quite sometime the last couple of days cleaning up the room; gave up trying to hide the DVDs at oddball places. And I hadn’t got me a haircut too, bah!

But what the hey, they were quite accomodating about the Far Side collection, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Special collection, and the Mecha-Hulk statuette, and the Ultimate Matrix set, and the rest of the darn DVDs and books and comics and CDs. “At least we know where your money went.” Ma got me the Bolton sketch (which looks awesome!) and the Englehart postcard, both of which had been delivered to my Guwahati address. They liked the house a lot, especially the fact that we have kept it quite clean and human-habitable. Now isn’t that surprising?