Friday, September 30, 2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland

Alice came to a fork in the road. "Which road do I take?" she asked.
"Where do you want to go?" responded the Cheshire cat.
"I don't know," Alice answered.
"Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."

#1: Jonah Hex

Thursday, September 22, 2011

#1: Korak, Son of Tarzan

Stamp of a Writer: Fyodor Dostoevsky

At home, to begin with, I mainly used to read. I wished to stifle with external sensations all that was ceaselessly boiling up inside me. And among external sensations the only one possible for me was reading. Reading was, of course, a great help—it stirred, delighted, and tormented me. But at times it bored me terribly. I still wanted to move about, and so I'd suddenly sink into some murky, subterranean, vile debauch—not a great, but a measly little debauch. 
From Notes from the Underground

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Writer at Work: Agatha Christie

Dame Agatha Christie introduced her famous detective, Hercule Poirot, in her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, published in 1920.

Monday, September 19, 2011

5 songs playing in     my ear

1. Honesty by Billy Joel

2. Streets of Philadelphia by Bruce Springsteen

3. Hotel California by The Eagles

4. Up Where We Belong by Jennifer Warnes & Joe Cocker

5. Livin' on a Prayer by Jon Bon Jovi

Friday, September 16, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Good books, 
cheap buys

1. It's Been A Piece Of Cake: A tribute to my favourite test cricketers by Brian Johnston

2. Pagan Babies by Elmore Leonard

3. The Spanish Gardener by A.J. Cronin

4. The Chinese Assassin by Anthony Grey

5. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

6. The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins

7. The 158-Pound Marriage by John Irving

8. Death Load (Mack Bolan: The Executioner #150) by Don Pendleton

9. The Tailor of Panama by John Le Carre

10. Snow Falcon by Craig Thomas

Do you know what is common among these ten books that have nothing in common? Ignore the order. They were all purchased for Rs.20 each, about 50 cents apiece, from a small bookstore in a northern suburb of Bombay, the financial capital of India. The paperbacks are secondhand but you wouldn't know looking at them. They are in near-mint condition. I picked them up randomly from a stack of used books over a period of three months. 

Over the past few years I've had the good fortune of buying dozens of pretty good books from this little-known bookshop — by authors as diverse as Louis L'Amour, Wayne D. Overholser and Frank C. Robertson (western); John le CarrĂ©, Craig Thomas, Jack Higgins and Leon Uris (thriller); Carter Brown, Don Pendleton, Nick Carter and Edgar Rice Burroughs (pulp fiction); John Irving, Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller (popular fiction); and Erma Bombeck (humour), to name very few. All for 50 cents each.

Now there is nothing to get excited about a bargain like this, especially for a reader or collector in the western world. But here in India if you find these books, and find them cheap, you've won yourself a lottery. Many of the books I mentioned are no longer available in new bookstores. 

I often resist buying a new book if I have a hunch that I'll find it someday in a secondhand bookshop, and I usually trust my hunches. They have never let me down. Besides, I get a thrill out of discovering a rare or good book tucked away somewhere in a dust-filled pile of other books.

So then, from the assortment of ten books the only one I've not read yet is The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane — one of many classics in my collection I should have read a long time ago. After all, Crane did write it 116 years ago, didn't he? He deserves more respect.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

#1: War Picture Library


The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

'What're you talking about?' 'Hope'

Andy Dufresne [Tim Robbins]: That's the beauty of music. They can't get that from you... Haven't you ever felt that way about music?

Ellis Boyd 'Red' Redding [Morgan Freeman]: I played a mean harmonica as a younger man. Lost interest in it though. Didn't make much sense in here.

Andy Dufresne: Here's where it makes the most sense. You need it so you don't forget.

Red: Forget?

Andy Dufresne: Forget that... there are places in this world that aren't made out of stone. That there's something inside... that they can't get to, that they can't touch. That's yours.

Red: What're you talking about?

Andy Dufresne: Hope.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


500 Miles by The Brothers Four

If you miss the train I'm on
You will know that I am gone
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles

A hundred miles, a hundred miles
A hundred miles, a hundred miles
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles

These are the opening lines of the 500 Miles song that has still not lost its soothing tone or quality and popular appeal fifty years after it was sung by the American folk band, The Brothers Four, who are best known for their 1960 hit song Greenfields. You might want to listen to The Hooters version too, at 

Official website:

Monday, September 12, 2011


The God Deluge-ion

Come monsoon every year and the rain gods don't spare even their earthly abodes as evident from these two submerged Hindu temples in India.

Bhattarika Temple at Badamba Village in Cuttack district of Orissa.
Photo: PTI

ISKCON Temple in the pilgrim town of Pandharpur in Maharashtra.

DC Comics rewrites history

2011: The new issue of Justice League #1.
Copyright: DC Comics

Purists among comic-book fans are in for a surprise, perhaps even a rude shock. DC Comics is rebooting, revising, resettling, reintroducing, whatever you call it, its legendary superheroes as if they never existed—appearing on newsstands and bookstores for the first time ever.

On August 31, DC Comics created history by launching a renumbering of the entire DC Universe line of comic books with 52 first issues. The rejig began with Justice League No.1 that erases fond memories of all previous issues of this popular series.

1960: The original Justice League of America #1. 
Copyright: DC Comics

DC, owned by Time Warner Inc., is not sparing even titles like Action Comics and Detective Comics which gave us Superman and Batman in the 1930s. According to a report in The New York Times, the reason for rewriting history is "A last-ditch plan to counteract years of declining sales throughout the comics business."

You will find the NYT story Heroes Take Flight, Again at

This comic-book story is a real page turner, all right!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I ain't afraid of no ghost!

Gozer (Slavitza Jovan): Are you a God?
Dr Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd): No.
Gozer: Then...DIE!
Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson): Ray, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say "YES"!
Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray): All right! This chick is TOAST!

Remember these lines? Well, I do and it's not because I lifted them from IMDb. I would remember these lines even if you shook me awake in the dead of night and threw them at me. You don't forget dialogues from a movie you've seen nearly a dozen times. And I have seen Ghostbusters as many times. The 1984 science fiction comedy was a big hit in my college days and there wasn't a single teen or geek who didn't know how to foot-tap to Ray Parker Jr's If there's something strange in your neighbourhood; Who ya gonna call?

Ghostbusters was a silly movie but it attained cult status. In fact, the Ivan Reitman film owed its success to its silliness, not to mention quirkiness, and a good star cast too. Any film with the comic duo of Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd and a script written by Aykroyd and Harold Ramis ought to be watchable. Ramis, Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis were added bonus.

What I liked about this film, which concerns three jobless New York City parapsychologists-turned-ghost hunters, was Murray's down-and-out character, Dr. Peter Venkman, and his mistimed
witticisms while his two friends and a fourth ghostbuster (Ernie Hudson) get busy tracking, chasing and capturing or eliminating the colourful spooks. He isn't there if you know what I mean.

Though Dr. Venkman heads the Ghostbusters, he is content tagging along with his teammates and poking fun at the ghosts who in turn laugh outright in his face. He is also more interested in Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) in whose apartment the ghosts, with funny names like Zuul, Gozer and Vinz Clortho, first materialise and reveal their evil plans for the Big Apple.

Bill Murray takes the film away from seasoned actors like Dan Aykroyd and Sigourney Weaver but I guess that is only to be expected from Bill Murray—always the funny man.

Before I forget to mention, Ivan Reitman, the Canadian producer and director, is working on Ghostbusters III due for release sometime next year. The film will have next-generation ghostbusters with the three original ghostbusters playing mentors. Weaver, Hudson and Annie Potts are likely to return as well.

Murray, Aykroyd, Ramis, Hudson, Weaver and Moranis are old Reitman hands, having previously acted, together and variously, in 17 of his 16 directorial ventures. My favourite Reitman-Murray film is Stripes (1981) in which buddies Murray and Ramis are unhappy with their jobs and join the army for fun.

It's twenty-eight years since Ghostbusters was released. I hope the third edition will have been worth the long wait.

Stamp of a Singer: Elvis Presley

I'm not kidding myself. My voice alone is just an ordinary voice. What people come to see is how I use it. If I stand still while I'm singing, I'm dead, man. I might as well go back to driving a truck.

Some people tap their feet, some people snap their fingers, and some people sway back and forth. I just sorta do 'em all together, I guess.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Monday, September 05, 2011

Inside comic books has carried a fascinating article titled An Inside Look at Comic Books on the history of the comic-book industry that's definitely worth reading. 

It's a set of three articles from the 30s and 40s with photographs of early comics and comic strips, references to published works on comics including Seduction of the Innocent by Fredric Wertham (reviled by the comics industry of the time but that's another story); gallery of comic-strip artists, links to a two-part article on the history of comics by M.C. Gaines, the pioneer of the modern comic-book; and rare black-and-white photographs of various phases of comic-book production. Salon has sourced the content from Imprint which claims to be the fastest-growing design community on the web ( 

So if you're a big comic-book fan, and I suspect you are, then I strongly recommend that you read this story as well as others behind the links.

You will find the tonic at

Sunday, September 04, 2011

A literary lament for death and dying

It's a coincidence that this delightful post should follow soon after Five Minute Fiction: Dead Imagination. But really, what is it about death and dying that captures the fertile imagination of writers of fiction? Why have some of the world's most famous authors obsessed with this glorious reality? What impels them to wax eloquent about a historical fact of life? Why is there acceptance and denial of the final hour and grand journey to the netherworld? How do you explain their morbid sense of humour? Really, what is the deathly excitement all about?

I don't know the answers to all these questions but the following literary czars with a predilection for death talk might be able to satisfy your curiosity.
Go Maugham...

Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it.

If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD WAS MUSIC.

Thank Heaven! the crisis — The danger, is past, and the lingering illness, is over at last —, and the fever called "Living" is conquered at last.

Death doesn't exist. It never did, it never will. But we've drawn so many pictures of it, so many years, trying to pin it down, comprehend it, we've got to thinking of it as an entity, strangely alive and greedy. All it is, however, is a stopped watch, a loss, an end, a darkness. Nothing.

I have wrestled with death. It is the most unexciting contest you can imagine. It takes place in an impalpable grayness, with nothing underfoot, with nothing around, without spectators, without clamor, without glory, without the great desire of victory, without the great fear of defeat.

Ignore death up to the last moment; then, when it can't be ignored any longer, have yourself squirted full of morphia and shuffle off in a coma. Thoroughly sensible, humane and scientific, eh?

Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death!

Let us endeavour so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.

The call of death is a call of love. Death can be sweet if we answer it in the affirmative, if we accept it as one of the great eternal forms of life and transformation.

For those who live neither with religious consolations about death nor with a sense of death (or of anything else) as natural, death is the obscene mystery, the ultimate affront, the thing that cannot be controlled. It can only be denied.

Well, there's a remedy for all things but death, which will be sure to lay us flat one time or other.

Woe, woe, woe... in a little while we shall all be dead. Therefore let us behave as though we were dead already.

It is not death, but dying, which is terrible.

Boy, when you are dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you are dead? Nobody.

Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have.

NEXT UP ON DEATH AND DYING: Poets, Actors, Satirists, Playrights, Scientists, Politicians...

Friday, September 02, 2011

Short Story: Dead Imagination

The young man boarded the last train out of Churchgate station and took a window seat. He looked at his watch, 12.55 am. In another five minutes he would be on his way home, way up north of Mumbai. He was alone in the first-class compartment. He pulled his rucksack close to him and looked out of the window. There was nobody on the platform either. He glanced at his watch again, almost one. He reached inside his jacket, felt the white envelope, and closed his eyes.

“Give me everything you've got. Your wallet, your watch, your phone, your bag…everything,” a gruff voice said.

The young man looked up and stared into the barrel of a crude pistol held unsteadily by a filthy looking mugger with bloodshot eyes. He reeked of cheap country liquor.

“Now!” he barked.

“Go to hell,” the young man said.

“Well then, I'm just going to have to shoot you,” the hoodlum said menacingly.

“Go ahead. You don't scare me.”

The mugger pressed the gun barrel hard into the young man’s cheek, twisted his face and rammed it against the paan-stained window grill.

“Brave but stupid, aren't you?” he mocked. “I'm going to kill you and take everything, even your pathetic life that no one gives a shit about.”

“Shoot and get it over with,” the young man croaked.

The hand behind the gun shook before firing…once, twice, thrice. The young man’s head jerked back and his face disintegrated.

The train moved out of the station.

Red nails dug into the young man’s shoulder.

“Wake up! You fell asleep over your sandwich and you spilled ketchup all over the front of your shirt,” the girl said. “You better clean up fast, the boss wants to see you.”


“Are you deaf? Didn't you hear what I just said? The boss wants to see you!”


“How the hell should I know?”

The young man stood up, brushed his shirt with paper napkins, and walked into the office of the resident editor.

“Close the door and take a seat,” the boss said. “Would you like a cup of tea?”

“No, thanks. You wanted to see me?”

“Yes, I'm afraid I have some bad news. Your services have been terminated with immediate effect. I'm sorry, kid.”

The young man came wide awake. “What? Why? Wha...wha...what did I do?” He stammered.

“I don't know, probably nothing. The board passes the sentence, I execute it,” the boss said and tossed a white envelope across the desk. “Sign one copy and hand it back. I'll give you a good recommendation. You'll be back in the newsroom in no time. Just not this one.”


© Prashant C. Trikannad, 2011

Thursday, September 01, 2011


I Made It Through The Rain by Barry Manilow

Here's some beautiful music. American singer Barry Manilow touches a chord, with his voice, the lyrics and the music, with I Made It Through The Rain from his self-titled album Barry released in 1980. Check it out...