Monday, March 31, 2008

Surely, He's Joking!

Richard Phillips Feynman: "The Outrageous World Of World's Most Outspoken Nobel-Prize Winning Scientist..." so reads his anecdotal autobiography, which also flashes his life size image in a backdrop of equation-laiden blackboard - after all how else can we expect a Physicist to be featured on his book. A wide smile fits tight across his face, but that wideness is insufficient to capture any limit of the intelligence that this man is synonymous of. A free-wheeling pursuer of his own freaking curiosity, Feynman was known to follow unconnected different paths in life - and that too to great many extents:

- ...And so what if he once went out to play the Bongo Drums (Percussion) in an orchestra.

- Naah. He was better being trained and dance for samba competition in a Rio Carnival.

- Oh No! he also got a commission to paint a naked female Toreador & Playboy Playmates. In fact he was drawn in towards the brush strokes by his fellow artist, and had enough devotion to become a proud amateur painter. His
friend, in turn of this splendid exchange of professions, was never able to understand Physics that Feynman taught him. :)

- In between he had already become an evangelist of Physics (regarded as one of the best Teacher) and his opus "
The Feynman Lectures on Physics" is probably the most popular closest-to-textbook thing on the subject.

- ...And before all this he had already broken the safe combination locks that guarded some of the most secrets documents while he worked for the Manhattan project for World War II Atomic Bomb. "I always
had a thing about military guys, in such wonderful uniforms." - He quipped once. It required systematic study of safe-cracker books on how these locks worked. After one and a half years of playing with locks he became really good at it and developed a reputation at Los Alamos as a safe-breaker.

- And if the list is not enough I should mention he also had his hand through in Biology, Maya hieroglyph and...

- ...A Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965, for his work on Quantum Electrodynamics. In fact he had drawn the squiggly lines of his famous self-invented "Feynman Diagrams" all over his travelling van.

Feynman was no doubt an eccentric and a free spirit. What draws me here nevertheless was a piece of text in his book that showcases his views on Social Equality. It was during a conference on "The Ethics of Equality" when some Head of the Theology society argued about the big differences in the welfare of various countries -that leads to jealousy, conflicts, atomic weapons and eventually wars. The Head contemplated and spoke passionately about the RIGHT way out to strive for peace - by making sure there are no great differences from one place to another, such as the inequality in US itself. And so he avered that the rich nations should give up nearly everything to the other countries until we're all even - and start all over again. Everyone followed his words closely and was filled to brim with sacrificial feelings, except Feynman who reflected back only to find some uneasiness in the whole setting...

In fact Feynman finally felt grated, because no gentle chap in the conference understood his point, because he realized all of them seemed to suffer from Logorrhea, evocatively describing their own viewpoint like a bumper sticker (which is of no worth to mention individually here) without listening to each other. These many (not all, by any claim) "pompous fools" belonged to the bunch of the fields: Historians, Rabbis, Jesuits, Theologians, Philosophers bla bla bla. And the conference, according to Feynman, turned out to be a "pointless inkblot".

Feynman essentially thought of the whole concept - of distributing everything evenly - as inherently flawed, because it is based on the misleading premise that there's only X amount of stuff in the world, that somehow rich countries ALWAYS took it away from the poorer countries in the first place, and therefore they should give it back to the poor lot. This concept doesn't consider the real reason for the differences between countries in the new age - that is - "the development of new techniques for growing food, the development of machinery to grow food and to do other things, and the fact that all this machinery requires the Concentration Of Capital. It isn't the Stuff, but the Power to make the Stuff, that is important." [Chapter: "Is Electricity Fire?" Highlights by me.]

This is something I completely drive for - And that this "Concentration of Capital" for social prosperity is something people don't normally understand. These people behave like Equality Purists who view Money as source of all evil. We don't need any hard-headed Capitalist here, but yes for major development we do need large chunks of capital in small group of hands. And if that is attributed to Inequality then that is unfair, and gross misunderstanding which unfortunately drives powerful tug from our "Socialist" folks. It's like the desperation of itching that the fat richness of money make them do...And on a different note, it's also not that hard to weave consensus among people of different walks of life, only if they can come out of their fucking cocooned shell, of their closed circular viewpoints,
Wouldn't you agree?

** The Autobiography I talked about is the bestseller: "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! [Adventures of a Curious Character]". And if ever you thought that this book is only for Science geeks then go wash your face in some dirty mud.
Otherwise if you've even the slightest spark of self-intuition left within you, read the book here or buy it here.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Discovering Used Things...

Of late I've been doing a lot of writing, but unfortunately I can't bring them out here, which might explain rather less frequent set of posts here (but at least they are not just a mere passer-by hyperlink collection set to some other wisdom)...Anyways on a serious note, I feel Writing is a process of silent evolution, or any field of Art IS in fact the same for that matter...much like the streams of an undying river are in a constant effort to weather out the rocks, into unfailingly smooth pebbles...

This is a small piece I've written about someone on some life experiences. Its on writing, but written in first person with his bit of teenager-like brashness, so bear for the clichéd language :)

"Some creative accidents happen for the good in life, for as they dug out few hidden talent of ours, we are left in that delicate balance zone of whimsy and comfort. And when they are accompanied by a usual transition from despising something to loving it by heart - it’s no less than some sort of a religious experience.

On some bright day during college, I fortunately did meet this kind of accident, when some helpless friends of mine forced me to do something that I always assumed I wouldn’t do until I was tortured for the same - "intentionally" writing a creative piece - for the college magazine in this case. I mean, for whenever I was asked to complete an essay or answer a lengthy literature question, I used to treat it like fuzzy ugly stupid thing: “Oh! One Last Time...”, and I never took writing seriously - or what we call as putting the heart out into doing something worthwhile, with a robotic will. It had always been a big sticking pain for me - and I unfailingly dreaded it every time.

And so this time too, I felt a big mountain on my shoulders. I decided that scripting a poem would be easier, but again feared that I would bungle it out as some hogwash set of words. I doubted it’ll turn out as another cookie-cutter set of lines - like those we have in cliché-laden nursery rhymes. So I shifted to writing an article instead.

However I always had an innocent sense of feeling that every piece of art is normally driven by some inspiration, like some magical rainmaker stands up there to shake things up for you. And so I started out looking for some flashes of motivation - and they are never far by if we set out for them - just lurking behind into shadows of our otherwise entangled mind! And when it comes, it feels as relishing as first tinge of taste of a chocolate candy just propped in. I was all charged up with my newly discovered sense of intuition and then words just flowed in, metaphors kept tumbling around, as I scripted my first piece of "Own" writing...on the interesting analogy of one of my subject in the coursework to the mundane world, which was much appreciated by others – I was quite sure of that. I realized that the nature around has ample of inspiration for all of the souls it nurtures..."

Writing since then has been a second life for him. As it comes out, it has helped him rip off that “blinding flash of the obvious” of the used-to monotones of our grown up vision, and now he tends to experience all things around with an ever-searching eye of a child, driven by that ‘chocolate-box’ passion, looking out to fill up his rekindled trove in every little way...and he see a different world then, as I can make that out looking into him. Isn't writing beautifully mysterious? I think it is supposed to be mysterious, but not complex - as is often horribly interpreted, thanks to the made-up complexity of made-up esoteric writing, that leaves nothing but some sharp admonitions of those forgetful and fuzzy dark letters that patronizingly whooshes out past our mental ear.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

On 'The Lives of Others'.

East Germany Cold War-Era was really 'Cold', so confining in the sense that even people with artistic pursuits were trenchantly settled with a feeling: "They decide what we play, who is to act, and who is to direct" - as the leading lady Crista Maria Sieland remarks for the Stasi (E. Germany’s Secret Police), in one of the intense moments of the political flick: 'The Lives of Others' - a film about blatant repression in the former GDR where our playwright-hero (Georg Dreyman) is put under fashion-of-those-days surveillance for potential subversive anti-socialist tendencies, by a hardened Stasi agent (Gerd Wiesler) - our Protagonist.

But the movie is not that typical drama with made-to-be-unpredictable twists and turns, of heart-pounding climaxes, or of brutal imagery of social holocaust crimes. Instead its a stirring slow-moving story that stays persuasive without really meaning to be, drenches you in the emotional smugness of its lead characters, nudges you by the side in a sign of unintentional seduction...and leaves you without feeling manipulated by a feigned piece of cinema art.

Movies that center around character transformations are majorly successful (say our household-familiar flick Jo Jita Wohi Sikander, or like in 'A Walk To Remember' - haven't watched it but heard highly about it), but that also requires powerful screenplay and sound plot - which must appear far detached from sugar-coated and dream-come-true fantasy.

Our protagonist (
Wiesler) - a cold-fish, dispassionate character is a master interrogator who has lived and breathed every moment in the Socialists ideologies, is fucking good at his job and his passion reflects in his ever-staring unblinking eyes. The plot really kicks in when he is made (by his own doubting mind & the state minister's lascivious intentions) to rig through, to the very detail of every intimate moments, our playwright's life - the life of an ardent lover who allows some space of mistrust from his celebrity lady-love (Crista); of a silent radical who conspires with the 'West' world to pitch in anti-Stasi rehotric, and of a good-at-heart human being trying to live a life of purpose. This all is enough for Wiesler's hardened heart to melt and his enlightened morality pushes him down to even save playwright's subversive acts. But the plot is taken towards a poignant tough end with our leading lady...(no I shouldn't play the spoiler - Go Watch It!)

This is where the screenplay comes out strong - we don't see any mawkish scene where the
Wiesler weeps out loud with a sudden transformation of heart, instead the script fondles carefully with the sentiments, such as the scene when Wiesler stays slept, holding hand together as in a hug, as he hears on headphone the love of the couple (Dreyman-Crista) in the same position. Time to time we also witness the sheer power of the Stasi and the cower German citizens. A sense of paleness covers the film throughout, as it showcasts a dull stasis of Cold War-era psychology, of old crumbling architectures secretly surrounded by spy police eavesdroppers.

However on top of all this, the narrative is successful in putting the Protagonist on the center-stage - a life's worth of a man who lived listening and gathering the secrets of others, of his heroics in saving a breaking-up love relationship, of his dig at his own ideologies that has defied him later...At the end when he is trodding dutifully down the street dragging his trolley and Dreyman not deciding to meet him to thank for the life he owed to him, or when we notice a slightest hint of smile on his face (for the first time) as he replies "Its for me" to the shopkeeper, for the book Dreyman dedicates to him...there's something wistful that stays within us audience even as the screen light fades...

*This German movie (Leben der Anderen, Das) won Best Foreign Film Oscar, 2006.