Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Best of the Internet

For those unimpressed by cat videos and other such shoddily art directed content that clutters the internet, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency “a website that ran all its articles in the same font and within abnormally narrow margins,” has been an oasis of sanity and unlimited entertainment (and laughter) for the past 15 years. And also a reminder of the hope and change and possibilities originally promised by the internet, before sanity was sacrificed at the alter of noise, clutter and click-baits. While all the articles are available for free online, the site runs no ads and thus earns no money. So every year they collect the best pieces and publish a book to keep the laughter going. Makes sense. As a reader, if you enjoy what you read and want to continue to derive enjoyment from reading, then it is your responsibility to ensure the enjoyment continues unabated. Unfortunately, good content and good writing aren't sustained merely on good wishes and moonbeams.

In 2013, a collection of the best of the best, The Best of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency edited by Chris Monks and John Warner was published featuring legends like ‘I’m Comic Sans, Asshole’ by Mark Lacher and ‘It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers’ by Colin Nissan. And many popular one’s like ‘I Regret to Inform You That My Wedding to Captain Von Trapp Has Been Cancelled.’ by Melinda Taub, ‘Hello Stranger on the Street, Could You Please Tell Me How To Take Care of My Baby?’ by Wendy Molyneux and ‘America: A Review.’ by Megan Amram. And a personal favourite, the ongoing back and forth ‘On the Implausibility of the Death Star’s Trash Compactor’ that first appeared in 2002 and is still going strong. 

This is one happy addition to the bedside table.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Ghosts of Gone Birds / Extinct Boids

What is the purpose of art? Where does its power lie? The answer to such questions vary depending on one’s state of mind– sanguine, cynical or pragmatic. Regardless of what the answers maybe, my favourite ongoing art project is ‘Ghostsof Gone Birds’. Over 200 artists, writers and musicians attempt to breath life into birds long gone (in large part due to human actions) so that other living birds that are under threat may survive. A part of the profit from the sale of the original art works and 50% of royalties from the book are donated to critical bird conservation efforts worldwide.
The book: a visual record of the four exhibitions
Some pages from the book.

The Snail-Eating Coua, Chris Harrendence (left) and Brace's Emerald, Victoria Billet (top right)
Another rendition of the Snail-Eating Coua, Brandon Lodge

The Snail-Eating Coua, a non-parasitic cuckoo from Madagascar became extinct in the 19th century. Deforestation, introduction of Black Rats (that competed with them for food) and domestic cats (that preyed on them) lead to their demise. Brace's Emerald hummingbird lived in Bahamas since the Pleistocene became extinct due to habitat loss and destruction (by agriculture) at the end of 19th century.
Margaret Atwood's knitted Great Auk

Last recorded sighting in 1852, the Great Auk once common in the waters of North Atlantic was important to Native Americans both as food and a cultural symbol. Used as fish bait and hunted for its beak, skin and feathers the species became extinct from the face of the earth, despite late efforts to save the birds.
Not just illustrations, even words bear witness to the silenced voices

When Ralph Steadman was asked to contribute one work of art, he, in what comes as no surprise, provided a book full of 'Extinct Boids', an illustrated record of extinct and imaginary birds in his inimitable style. The result is this book:

On the cover is the Dodo bird, the unfortunate symbol of all the birds that have been lost and gone forever. Not even a single complete specimen of the bird exists. Appropriately the book begins with an Egret– the bird that was hunted to the brink of extinction for its plumes that adorned women's hats. It was the campaign against plume-hunting that lead to the establishment of RSPB– the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. (In the US it lead to the declaration of the first wildlife refuge, Pelican Island in Florida.)
Japanese Egret
In Ralph Steadman's imagination:
How a Bird is Born
One minute there is an egg, the next there is a boid!
One big push and an inky shake of its plumage, and a boid is boin!
How a Bird is Born
Real and Imagined Boids, 240 pages of them
For more about Extinct Boids click here.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The Book

Choose from the option below:
a) I like Tom Gauld a lot.
b) I like Tom Gauld very much.

'You're All Just Jealous Of My JetPack' comics by Tom Gauld, published by Drawn and Quarterly (2013) was eagerly awaited by people who love Tom Gauld's work, people who love books, people who love books with pictures and people who love books about books. It's packed full with all things associated with Tom Gauld– dry humour, unexpected literary references and pairings, whimsical imagination and sharp insights into human behaviour. Here's a small peek.

The story:

About the author:

The street the author grew up on:

The author's family:
 The (inevitable) end:

All comics are on a white background (excuse the camera phone distortions), a reason why you should buy the book.

Meanwhile, on the Facebook page, this week posts on birds (photographs) along with a poem related to each bird to demonstrate a progression in bird watching:

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Other Worlds

“It is a curious emotion, this certain homesickness I have in mind…It is no simple longing for the home town or country of our birth. The emotion is Janus-faced: we are torn between a nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.”
Carson McCullers, ‘Look Homeward, Americans’ 

It's been a while and I wondered, "Does anyone read blog posts anymore?" I'd be lying if I said I was torn between nostalgia and homesickness. For one, I have been posting very regularly on Facebook. But also because I have no such 'feelings' towards posting entries on the blog as I know for certain that nothing lasts for ever. It's because, just like our fellow primates (I have watched the chimpanzees at the London Zoo very closely), we get bored too easily. Look at how we read online: in just 10 seconds we decide whether we should read further or move onto whatever is next.

But I have also learnt that boredom is the biggest motivating force. It can motivate us towards either action or inaction. In fact, to accomplish (or insert any other word you'd rather ascribe to daily existence) anything in life one has to sacrifice boredom, it's not easy but it has to be done. At that the precise moment imagination walks in opening the way to other worlds.