Misfortune never comes single, so they say… what of fortune? I for once had an overdose of fortune for a day. I got up late for college, missed the college bus and was in a predicament – to use the city bus to reach college, bunk college or to use one of my bikes to reach college. If I used the city bus (I had to use three buses), which I obviously detested and still loathe, I would yet be late for college anyways losing almost 500 bucks as loss of pay. If I bunked college, I would lose almost 1000 rupees as loss of pay, which naturally was and is not to my liking at all. What of my motorcycles then, one might as well as ask… Well… one of my motorcycles had not cleared the FC inspection and had no papers certifying it to be used on road. I did not want to take any risks with the law enforcers by using that. The other motorcycle was the mighty Yamaha RD350, which munches miles like it is made to do only that and drinks petrol like a Viking consuming ale. If I used that beast I would have to shell out 500 rupees at the least, for the mileage it offered was around fourteen kilometres per litre. Such was my situation. I finally rolled the mammoth out, perched upon it forlornly and rode it like the devil was after me. Boy! Did it fly! It set the road on fire. Thirty minutes to cover forty kilometres in mediocre traffic. Not bad for the leviathan!!! I reached on time. Fortune number one. I got a call from one of my brothers asking me to pick him up from the airport at five. He did not want to take a taxi and waste money. The luggage he had, required the assistance of two people, courtesy my youngest bro and I. I had the beast with me. The other motorcycle, the one we call the pooch, the one without papers, was at home with the youngest brother. He was a rookie. The bike was mighty powerful. Did not want him to feed the filth on the way to ride that motorcycle, because a lot were standing to collect whatever they might find to fill their uniformed garbage cans from unwary motorists and poor truck drivers, bringing defamy to the glorious image of India. I had no other option. The rookie was asked to come – slow and careful. I reached on time, followed by the kid, grinning like a Cheshire cat because he had come unscathed. We reached home safe. Fortune number two. The beast had actually softened and given a mileage of around 20 kmpl!!!A miracle. Fortune number three.
Life, for lovers of English residing in India has been nothing less than exciting, with the launch of many exemplary short stories and novels that thrill, enthrall and energize the reader into pursuing heroic deeds unheard and untold of in various forms and lands forming in the mind of the reader. Although 2014 saw the release of some books not done with a literary flavour making big waves in the Indian book markets commercially, there were also some quality books that failed to garner the interest of readers because of the lack of marketing techniques. However, one can be sure that this would not deter upcoming talented writers to lose enthusiasm. We would like to remind authors around the world, and especially in India, that 2015 would have bigger surprises and hidden springs of creativity than 2014 had for them. So creators, for that’s who you all are, gear up for the New Year with thanksgiving for the current year and continue to amaze us and transport us into your world with the power of your pens. Do not ever lose hope and never ever think of giving up writing-for that is one of the purposes for which God has created you. Winding off now to give you room for creativity. Let us welcome 2015!
‘Wasting time on internet’ is now a course offered by The Department of English for the spring 2015 semester.
University of Pennsylvania is offering a new course on ‘wasting time on the Internet’ which requires students to stare at a screen for hours and only interact via chat rooms and social media.
The Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania is offering the course for the spring 2015 semester.
The course description on the university’s website reads:
“We spend our lives in front of screens, mostly wasting time: checking social media, watching cat videos, chatting, and shopping. What if these activities – clicking, SMSing, status-updating, and random surfing – were used as raw material for creating compelling and emotional works of literature? Could we reconstruct our autobiography using only Facebook? Could we write a great novella by plundering our Twitter feed? Could we reframe the internet as the greatest poem ever written?”
Students will be required to attend a weekly three hour seminar where they stare at the screen for three hours, only interacting through chat rooms, bots, social media and listservs.
The students will also explore the long history of the recuperation of boredom and time-wasting through critical texts by thinkers such as John Cage, Betty Friedan and Guy Debord.
Distraction, multi-tasking, and aimless drifting is mandatory, the course description added. More details here.
Facebook, Twitter are preferred avenues for expression; English blogging deteriorates!
The once vibrant English language blogger community of Chennai is nearly gone. Some blog once in a while, but the action seems to have shifted to social networks, primarily Twitter and Facebook, where ‘instant gratification’ is the name of the game.
“The number of visitors I get these days are not much compared to what was even three years ago,” a popular blogger confides. “Maybe my writing is not what it used to be,” he laughs. “But undoubtedly the traction is more on Facebook these days. I ask my friends who read my post there to leave likes. Seems to work better that way.”
Another blogger, Lavanya Mohan, who says she grew up in the healthy environs of the blogging community after starting her first blog as a 14-year-old in 2004, says the slowdown has been especially severe since 2010.
“Until even 2010, young writers could begin their writing in a healthy environment where blogging was the way to express yourself and find like-minded people,” she points out.
In recent years even Lavanya has slowed down the frequency of her posts. “At the peak of my blogging in the years 2008, 09 and 10, I had around 48 long posts a year along with several short posts. But of late, it is just one or two posts a month.”
Humour blogger Balajee.G.E, who writes the popular ‘Local Tea Party’ blog, says blogs going niche has coincided with the likes of Twitter and Facebook offering easier ways to publish. “Blogs tend to have a backend interface to manage and can be cumbersome. Also other forms of expressions like Memes and GIF images with text are becoming popular and going viral.”
A few others say the slow demise of blogging is a blow to writing itself. Blogs are imminently more searchable. Though a Facebook post might gain likes and comments almost instantly, the real-time nature of the timeline makes what is written temporary. The long tail effect — where an old article or a blog post suddenly comes back to public view — is ruled out.
Some of these changes have also had an impact on the writing style of bloggers. Lavanya, who has dabbled with humour, says anonymity was a boon in the past. “A grumpy office colleague or an everyday incident might inspire a humourous post,” she says. “But in this day of Facebook, it is impossible to write something like that out of fear of offending someone.”
Serious writing for blogs
Though English blogging has taken a hit, the Tamil blogging scene remains vibrant. Popular writers like Jeyamohan and Payon regularly post on their blogs and also use it to interact with their readers.
Payon, whose humorous short stories have found a good audience online, explains how blogging helped him and his writing be taken seriously. “To keep writing, make myself write longer pieces, and to earn more credibility as a writer, I bought a domain name for my pseudonym and signed up with a hosting service. I started writing regularly on my website and posted links on Twitter, got a decent number of readers to follow my RSS feed. My blog has a simple design and it helps. Many people I know read my writings on my blog. I’d say the more serious people prefer reading me on my blog than a Facebook page.”
Writing on Facebook and on one’s blog are different, even from the manner in which writing is approached. “On my Facebook page, any post above 10 lines is often ignored. That’s Facebook for you. If it’s gossip, people would willing to read longer posts,” the writer says. “The problem with writing on Facebook is that you turn into something like a circus monkey performing for “likes”. You do it without immediately realising it. There’s no dignity in that. People compile their Facebook posts into books, but I think a blog is a more respectable place to write. Also you’re conscious of what you write. A blog is where you write for yourself and you’re more spontaneous. So you get genuine, serious readers on your blog, which is good for you.”
Rise of new formats
Popular online personality Krish Ashok, who has a good following online and publishes in different formats – memes in a Tumblr blog, audio on Soundcloud and videos on YouTube – says the situation should be viewed more of content creation than just blogs that were popular at a time when writing was the easiest format to publish online.
“User generated content has undergone a revolution both in terms of both volume and diversity over time. It’s important to remember that text based blogging was mainstream at a time when both amateur/indie music and YouTube didn’t exist. In my own case I’ve never really seen myself as someone who writes. I started doing memes on Tumblr, jokes on Twitter, podcasts and music on Soundcloud and videos on YouTube,” Krish Ashok says.
The new publishing service Medium that combines the long form advantage of blogs and the viral nature of Twitter promises to usher in a new era where long form writing could thrive. Lavanya says she is tempted to write something for Medium though now she mostly reads the post recommendations there.
What is the difference between ‘pillow talk’ and ‘small talk’?
(R Madan, Bhopal)
‘Small talk’ or ‘idle talk’ refers to the polite conversation you have with someone whom you may or may not know very well. The conversation usually revolves around topics that are neutral; nothing that is likely to make either party angry. A person usually indulges in small talk when he meets someone for the first time. ‘Pillow talk’, on the other hand, is the conversation that one has with one’s spouse or significant other. Since the conversation, in this case, usually takes place when the two individuals are in bed, it tends to be intimate or personal.
*Bala is not very good at making small talk.
*There is no pillow talk. He falls asleep the moment his head hits the pillow.
What is the meaning and origin of A1?
(K Sankaranaryanan, Madurai)
This rather informal expression has been around for over 200 years. When you say that something is ‘A1/A one’, you mean that it is excellent or first rate. The expression can be used with people as well.
*The car is over ten years old, but the engine is in A1 condition.
*As a teacher, Aishwarya is A1.
Lloyd’s, a British company that insured ships, coined the term. Before any ship was insured, the company inspected it and then rated it. The letters A, E, I, O and U were used to indicate the condition of the hull of the ship, and the numbers 1, 2, 3, etc. were used to indicate the state of the equipment (cables, anchor, etc.) on board. If the ship was rated A1, it meant that both the hull and the equipment were in excellent condition.
Is there a connection between ‘wit’ and ‘half wit’?
(R Revathi, Chennai)
Yes, there is. The term ‘half-wit’ is used nowadays in informal contexts to refer to someone who is rather foolish or stupid.
*The company has hired a bunch of half-wits.
*I’m not going to let you marry a half-wit like Ravi.
A ‘wit’, on the other hand, is someone who has the gift of the gab; he keeps the listener amused by his skilful play on words.
*Chalapathi, a notable wit, died in a car accident last night.
The term ‘half-wit’ was originally used to refer to a writer of mediocre wit; he was a ‘dealer of poor witticisms’. A ‘half-wit’ failed in his attempt to be funny half the time!
How is word ‘zenith’ pronounced?
(R Kulkarni, Pune)
There are two different ways of pronouncing this word. Some people pronounce the ‘e’ like the ‘e’ in ‘set’, ‘bet’ and ‘pet’, while others pronounce it like the ‘ee’ in ‘fees’, ‘bees’ and ‘knees’. The final vowel sounds like the ‘i’ in ‘pit’, ‘kit’ and ‘hit’. The word can be pronounced ‘ZEN-ith’ or ‘ZEE-nith’. It comes from the world of astronomy, and it was originally used to refer to the highest point reached by a celestial object — like a star, for instance. Nowadays, the object can be anything — a ball, a missile, a rocket, etc. The highpoint or the most successful phase of one’s life can also be called ‘zenith’.
*Nandu’s career reached its zenith when he was just thirty.
*The missile exploded much before it reached its zenith.