Joseph Epstein in Literary Genius, a compilation of great essays compiled about 25 classic writers who define English and American literature, discusses the style of genius which is captured here concisely:

Genius used to be thought to suffer deficiencies and even 1st century AD, Seneca wrote, “There is no genius not touched by madness” and A Beautiful Mind book and later film made the life of mathematician, John Forbes Nash amply stands for evidence. To impute madness to genius is to offer a partial explanation for the phenomenon, which remains another of those mysteries of life for which we’ve no real explanation. Genius, whenever or wherever it pops up, is finally unaccountable, inexplicable. Once cannot hope to explain its origins; one cannot plot its course; one must settle for attempting to describe it as it applies itself.

Why Art is so great than science and here’s the argument why artists should be given priority to be saved in World War II:

Perhaps it is scarcely realized how little time science would have lost by the loss of even the greatest scientists. If Newton had never lived, the world would not have to wait for more than one or two years for the law of gravitation and for the calculus, Huygens was hot on track of the first of the Newton’s discoveries, Leibniz had independently found the second. If Edison never had lived, Swan would have invented incandescent lamp and Hughes the microphone, at the same time.
But if Leonardo da Vinci had fallen in the battle of Anghiari, instead of remaining at a safe distance and painting it after the reports of eye-witness, the Gioconda painting would have remained forever unpainted. If Shakespeare had been sent to fight against the Armada and perished as a nameless hero, his plays would have been forever unwritten.
The work of creative artists us individual and unique. His loss is forever unrecoverable. The loss of a scientist or an engineer or inventor or entrepreneur – is only a loss of time….but a genius or creative artist is measureless.

Harold Bloom says Genius is “the god within” and “by necessity, invokes the transcendental and the extraordinary, because its fully conscious of them”. Geniuses operate through different styles. Edward Gibbon wrote on style as “The style of an author should be the image of his mind”. Timelessness, grandeur of vision, originality of outlook – all these, in concert and worked at high power, comprise the genius in writer. This and the ability to make us see constitute literary genius.


e-Reader and Global Recycle Corporations

I’m still waiting for the miniscule bounty or rational trash-money for 10 year loyal service to my organization. The outsourced benefits website allowed me to choose a eCredit Card, for which the card number is available instantaneously or its tangible avatar, the physical card. I went for the latter and it’s yet to reach me before I can get rid of this eReader bug – to own one such. Supply Chain is so inefficient that its taking 2 months for the card to be delivered to my doorstep. Hence the concerted push to e-Thingy on all possible has to happen sooner to get services faster, greener and meaner.

Amazon Kindle 3.0 is in my radar and hope Kindle 4.0 comes with color ink and of course infested with apps, the competitive spirit to dethrone apple will certainly bring the app-mania to Kindle as well.

There’s a growing menace of lot’s of device induced app platforms out there, a maze of specialized devices now including app platforms mindlessly in Readers, Mobiles, GPS, Game consoles, Home automation displays, off late – Apple Nano watches, etc. Seriously if you ask me of my app appetite, I’ll pay only if it really brings value – 300%.

My guess, in 15 years, I’m looking at e-Reader displays as thin as few laminated sheets with battery technology leaping 100 folds to become as thin and long-lasting to withstand quick charge cycles. And in 25 years, newspapers will not be in paper but rather in these displays. Medium changes but content remains and this has to happen as the global need for paper pulp is unsustainable to feed news to 4 billion adults in quarter century ahead. It saves environment (for trees) on one end but to dispose these electronic devices safely and environment friendly is equally important and governments need to institute a policy. Any device that comes to market, needs to have a proper recycle process thought through and the device price must include recycle cost. The company bringing it to market should take responsibility when the end user dumps it for good – once it has lost either its utility or fashion or value or becomes un-marketable or unbeknownst to the reason, simply gets dumped.  We need great global recycle corporations with the likes of Microsoft, Apple, GE but they must do green dumping and work closely with the producers & designers. Moreover all devices should carry self recycle routines depending on the make and version and the recycle corporations can read these instructions on chip/rfid tags/e-labels using a common interface and dispose / re-cycle them appropriately.

Venice, City of Commerce & Business

Some more clippings from the Peter Ackroyd’s “Venice, Pure City” that I loved reading and want to capture for future thoughts:

Palace in Prison or both side by side?
When Byron apostrophized Venice in the 4th canto of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, his tone was ambiguous:

I Stood in Venice, on the bridge of sighs;
A palace and a prison on each hand…….

He did not know or failed to recollect, that the palace itself is contained a prison.

Commerce to the core
Commercial self-interest became the foundation of national ideology. Every century has a predominant trade….wax, glass, silk, etc. Venice stood as a fulcrum between what we call mediaeval and the early modern age.

Form of Government
The government of the city was practical & efficient. It was moderate in its spending and vigilant over its auditing of costs. The originality of Venetian governance lay in its unique ability to fuse politics and economics into a new form of power, it can be called state capitalism, or communal capitalism or corporate government. The point that it worked. In administrative terms, it was the equivalent of the philosopher’s stone. Venetians are merchants, ambitious for supremacy, and competitive if not coercive towards his rivals, thrifty, and cautious. If these are paradoxical qualities, they are part of paradox of Venice.

There’s a sentence from Voltaire that underlies the economic significance of trade in luxuries – ‘Le superflu, chose tres necessaire’; luxury was necessary because it stimulated trade. The posession of luxuries was the vital element in the attainment of status. It has been argued that the growth of luxury is largely responsible for the rise of modern capitalism. The urban merchants and shopkeepers learned how to diversify, to create new occupations and products, to seek for simplicity in all forms of exchange. Luxury is the stepmother of fashion. In his “treatise of Commerce” (1601) John Wheeler remarked that ‘all world choppeth and chageth, runneth & raveth after Marts, Markets and Merchandising, so all things come into commerce’. This was the situation of Venice, the consumer emerges from Venice.

Living City
We may celebrate the practical genius of Venice. There were no visionaries in Venice. They produced no Machiavelli and no Plato. There was no speculation on utopias. There was no concern for dogma or theory. There was no real interest in pure or systematic knowledge as such; empirical knowledge was for the venetians the key to truth. Experience, rather than reason, as the furnace in which solutions were to be forged. In this they were also very close to English genius. The Venetians were well known for their adaptability and their common sense; in diplomatic negotiations they were inclined to compromise and to accommodate varying points of view. In the affairs of the world they tended to be efficient and unsentimental.

Venice: Pure City

Peter Ackroyd’s literary skills exemplifies Venice as pure city methodically, carves out every detail of the city starting from it’s origin till decline. A balanced portrait of a city’s triumph and tribulations from centuries of existence.

As I read the book (albeit in different order of chapters), I could instantly draw parallel to the city I’m living in, mostly exactly applies to Singapore.

Some tidbits from the book:

In 15th Century, glassware is considered a luxury (as now, highly refined timepieces, Swarovski crystals, high end cars) and Venetian glass grew ever more elaborate and ornate and it became a luxury, at a time when Venice had become the provider of luxuries of every description. Venetian glass industry imitated every kind of precious stone, a sweet contest between man and nature.

Ship of State
To guide venetians, doge of 15th century, Francesco Foscari, reverted instinctively to the language of sea. The analogy was made, for example, between the building of the city and building of the ship. When a ship was constructed, with keel and ribs of wood, it was not easy to say when the form first emerged; in a similar manner, it was not easy to specify the origins of Venice

City became State
1623, it became more than a state by name, also by deed and example. the abstract concept of the state emerged, the common good had created Venice in the first place. It emerged together with a well supervised system of public finance, sustained by such mechanisms as credit and bills of exchange. Some of the earliest banks of world were located in Venice.

Venetian diplomacy follows Sprezzatura
The ambassadors of Venice were unrivalled in the arts of graceful self-presentation, with attendant emphasis upon appearance and demeanor. These were the elements of Sprezzatura, which can be defined as the ability to create an effect while concealing the art or skill involved in so doing. Concealment and double nature, came instinctively representatives of Venice

Venice diplomacy was described as occhiuta or many-eyed – prudent, discreet, circumlocutory and practical. It was cloaked by dolce maniera, a term of mildness or sweetness derived from music. But behind that mask the venetian ambassadors probed for weakness and prejudice, they were not averse to bribery and other forms of corruption; and they watched everything, looking for grievances they might exploit; they were masters of intrigue. Sir Henry Wotton, 17th century, English ambassador noticed that doge and his advisors favored delay and stealth in matters of state. It is perhaps instructive that it was Wotton who offered the famous opinion that “an ambassador is a man of virtue sent to lie abroad for his country’.

The chosen People
In 1651, James Howell wrote in A survey of the Signori of Venice, ‘Were it within the reach of human brain to prescribe Rules for fixing a society and succession of people under same species of government as long as the world lasts, the republic of Venice were the fittest pattern on earth for both direction and imitation’. The rulers of Venice were acclaimed as epitomes of wisdom and fraternity.  They were devoted and impartial in their dealings, never allowing private interests to affect their judgments.

Screenplay from a budding writer’s viewpoint

I had fun watching 2 movies, 3 Idiots – a Bollywood comedy flick about 3 students pursuing their passion and The Robot (Enthiran) – a Kollywood sci-fi blockbuster with lots of animations, during long weekend. I started analyzing what ticks – a retrospective look at the screenplay that made them to be great successes and crowd pullers.

As a storyteller, what I captured from the screenplay:

  • Every movie needs a one liner theme, possibly a punch dialogue that’s repeated, a plot
  • Weave situations to create plots and sub plots
  • Character introductions must be serene and apt
  • Pepper with great humor – use all humor devices as possible
  • Pepper with songs – great lyrics and music is a must to win
  • Create tension and show how hero and rest of characters strive to reach that
  • finally create a climax to achieve the goal – here capture professor’s heart by out of the box thinking and change the outlook
  • how each one of them succeeds — in their chosen professions against all odds.
    Well, this pushes me to experiment with my own storytelling, have to start on one!?!


3 Idiots:

  • Movie starts off with 2 students after 10 years from college being teased to meet their pal by another student who challenged them then on who will succeed in life, btw this pal is missing in action
  • they meet and this student shares his life’s success and there’s flash back as to what happened then, culminating in this meet up      
    ———— story proper starts ————————–
  • A strict and pushy professor – character presentation – quick, stern looks, warden boy repeating his opening address in the background creates humor
  • 3 guys of different backgrounds – guy with out of the box thinking – totally a different and funny name – Hero, a Muslim – 2nd friend, a Hindu – 3rd friend, all their father’s have different earning capacities.
  • “Out of the box character” is presented through a series of scenes: college ragging, definition of machine to professor – layman definition vs. verbose, a student getting vexed for not completing his project and being pushed to the edge for incompleteness and this guy fixing and when he wants to show that student, he’s already dead by hanging himself
  • Gets scolded from Muslim student’s father for pushing him to dare to take on his dreams
  • Goes on to poorer student’s house to have dinner – a dry and horrible humor using poverty – goes in to professor’s 1st daughter’s wedding to have that rendezvous to meet his 2nd daughter
  • 2nd daughter is a doctor in love with a wealthy guy and hero woes her showing that this wealthy guy is only after things and not love
  • After this wedding expulsion, he has another brush with her and takes his bike to fetch his 3rd friend’s father in dire need of medical treatment
  • they tease a south Indian student by mixing up speech text with a word that brings lots of laughter – during his address before the professor and the minister and finally minister walks out and librarian who helped faints hearing the speech and thinking of the professor’s wrath.
  • Now this student comes to them and is very wrought with humiliation and sets them a challenge and says, he’ll meet them 10 years later      
    ————— the story continues ——————
  • 3rd friend’s father takes long time to recuperate and each one of the student takes turn to look after them and forget the final exam dates
  • heroine reminds them to go and take exam and they use her bike to go triples to catch the exam hall late by 30 minutes, professor repeats the message and says can’t accept their exam papers as they were late. Hero enquires whether he knows their roll number and he says no, he jumbles up them to be accepted – another out of the box thinking – but professor can always go to his database to find out their roll number – concepts defies analysis!
  • their marks arrive, 3rd student – last, 2nd student – last but one and Hero’s – not to be found
  • on a drinking session hero persuades all to pursue their dream. Later sends 2nd student’s unsent letter to a brazil photographer who he adores and want to work with
  • 2nd student convinces his father to pursue by a sentimental flash of showing his father that hero has always asked him to keep their parents photo in his purse and never commit suicide and succeeds
  • 3 friends go on a disguise & romp trip to professor’s house to meet hero’s girl and were caught high handed for pissing in his front door and professor finds out this act is done by 3rd student
  • 3rd student is summoned to professor’s room and reprimanded and prof. wants to rusticate him from college for his sordid deed and he’s begs his pardon. Prof. gives him a choice to expose his dear friend, the Hero or be suspended and dismissed – during his afternoon nap shaving time – 7 minutes to decide. He chooses to kill himself and falls off from 7th floor.
  • He’s rushed to hospital and heroine helps them. Hero makes all his trick to bring him from coma and uses his humor to make 2nd student as scapegoat to marry his ugly sister. Finally the student comes out of coma and all rejoice
  • climax is set to scene where all students leave the college and heroine has a fight with her dad and leaves the house.  Entire city is in traffic jam due to heavy rain and her sister is in labor pain and prof. calls but no ambulance to avail.
  • Hero comes back to heroine’s sister’s cries and brings her back to house and calls heroine,  who asks them to set up a webcam to direct a dramatic delivery. Asks hero to prepare a suction device as baby never comes out and patient is in serious condition. Then hero goes for a vacuum cleaner and modifies it to be controlled and delivers the baby.
  • Everybody rejoice and they capture professor’s heart and he changes his outlook
  • 2nd friend attends an interview with his low marks and arrears and captivates his interviewers with his honesty by telling the truth why he failed in exams and why he chose to tell truth rather than being “yes man” and as an anti-climax, the board gives him job
  • hero leaves them without informing them      
    ————- story continues to where it left off in the flash back
  • Eager to find out, they track back him in South America and gives him a surprise by bringing his girlfriend to him for his birthday
  • The south guy humiliated earlier, the challenger, is now a US MNC’s manager, who keeps talking to this hero without knowing he is an inventor of lots of new ideas and is waiting for patents to lure him with a contract from his firm
  • final climax, they tell him who they are and how they achieved their dreams

Count Leo Tolstoy Memoir & his writing style

Tolstoy’s essays is a must read. I’m eagerly waiting for my eReader to fill them up. What I remember from his intimate life memoir:

  • His literary skills are no match to his fame and influence but even greater
  • He despised Shakespeare’s style & content and even wrote an essay why he didn’t like
  • He fathered 11 children and a number of them died – active in sex life until sixty+
  • He was amazed at dictating machine, bicycle and phonograph – inventions of his time

His exploration never goes beyond what is directly perceptible to ordinary mortals. But he responds more intensely than ordinary mortals to the appeal of beings and things. Instead of bringing us closer to the Beyond, he brings us closer to the Here-and-Now. He observers a piece of carrion as attentively as a flower. The fatigue in the eyes of an aged horse is as significant to him for the comprehension if universe as the fatuous conceit shining in the captain’s face. The paradox is that his pantheistic process of creation, binding together pure and impure, great and small, beautiful and ugly, animate and inanimate, suffuses the entire work with the majesty of a second genesis.

The book rambles about his style like this:

His style is perfectly suited for his purpose. As his sole aim is to seize life in all its fullness and diversity, he pays no heed to harmony of his sentences: he spins them out, cripples them with adjectives, loads them with subordinates. His super abundant conjunctions are by no means a result of carelessness, but rather of a painstaking search for exactitude. By piling up his modifiers, the author laboriously but inevitably approaches the impression he wants to produce. He is like a painter trying to cover a wall with three –haired miniaturist’s brush. Nose to the canvas, he lays his infitesimal strokes with myopic doggedness, covers them over, sharpens them, scratches them out, puts them in again; and when he has finished, the myriad dots of color converge, at a distance, into a fresco. The margins if his draft is full of adjectives, as a painter mixes trial colors on the edge of his palette.

To portray Napoleon giving the order to begin the battle of of Austerlitz, he writes on a sheet of paper” “firm, refreshed, intelligent and light-hearted”; “healthy, gay, refreshed”; “light-hearted, happy, bright”; “with something like a reflection of well-earned contentment on his face”. Then with the help of his guidelines, he builds his sentence” “Feeling refreshed and light-hearted, in that happy mood in which everything seems possible and everything succeeds, he [Napoleon] mounted his horse and rode out on the field…….His cold face expressed the confident and merited happiness of young lovers whose passion is requited.”

Samsung Omnia 7 galore

I picked a Samsung Omnia 7 last Friday, the interface was cool and AMOLED screen was awesome, my kids started liking it and I’ve to remind them that it’s a windows phone as they’re aware of iPhone.

Some observations:

  1. Initially connected to my original Hotmail and realized all the contacts got synched (all 300+) including all unwanted ones. There’s no way to pick and choose which contacts you’d want to keep in WP7. I had to reset the phone and create a new Hotmail account with location as US for the marketplace apps to download properly.
  2. Feel Omnia 7’s grip is more like iphone3 and needs a design lift as iphone4’s thick band
  3. Apps downloading have some issues
  4. phone jacket isn’t working properly

I’ve to start my own app development soon….on some kids stuff but applicable to all to improve themselves on how they express.