I’m going to do something strange: post two things in one day, which I never do. The reason is that (a) I need to say certain things while they’re topical (and they’re already slipping away) and (b) there’s a reading next Friday and I may not be able to post an announcement until then because (woo) I’m having this thing done to my eyes tomorrow morning. It’s supposed to stop my corneas from rapidly degenerating into a shapeless mess (they’re already pretty ugly) and so it’s important for me to do this. It’s not a terribly serious procedure (my doctor insists on the word “procedure” and not “surgery” so that’s a good sign), but my vision will be distorted and I will be on painkillers, so it’s goodbye to the internet, the TV, film screenings, books — basically things I like.
So it’s obvious there won’t be any incessant blogging through the week, unless I heal very quickly. Hopefully, I’ll come out of it like those people in ads going “Now I can see!”
Idol, not Manmohan Singh. Actually just one thing about the Indian elections: why do people think it’s funny/witty/clever to say Singh is King? So what if there’s a dumb movie by that name.
Back on topic. I’m not too disappointed that Adam Lambert lost. In a way I could see it coming. When something is too sure, it becomes unsure. Besides, every time I feel strongly for a candidate, I half hope they win and I half hope they don’t. Because if they win they have to sing nonsensical songs about scaling mountains and crossing hurdles (which make me think of rulers and horses respectively). (I was told Kara DioGuardi is an award-winning songwriter. If so, why is her song as bad, if not worse, than the previous “Idol songs” written by amateurs for a contest?)
My analysis of why he didn’t win is quite simple. Firstly, it’s not all about homophobia. It’s tempting to say it is, but as I was reminded, there are gay Republicans and all sorts of strange contradictions in this world. I don’t think it’s homophobia so much as a general conservatism about sexuality. Lambert has been the most overtly sexual contestant of all, and that made people uncomfortable. Someone like Clay Aiken, on the other hand, isn’t a challenge to mainstream society. I wonder, also, would Prince have won American Idol if he were a contestant?
Then, of course, was the fact that he was being endorsed so blatantly by the judges (did you notice how Simon didn’t get up to applaud for Kris Allen when he won?) and by celebrities (did you see Katy Perry‘s ugly cape when she performed on the Idol stage?).
The most important factor is that most of Danny Gecko‘s supporters switched over to Kris Allen (who is similarly safe, Christian, comfortable).
So yeah, that is my analysis. Not terribly insightful, but I like the sound my keyboard makes when I type. And I’m always entertained by the typos I make and delete (seriously, the ones I notice and delete are the funniest).
Oxford (again *vomit*)
It’s quite clear now more than ever that morality is required of all public figures, even immoral poets. With Walcott, the issue was not of morality as much as it was about criminality. With Padel, I think it was more stupidity than immorality. I can’t fault her ambition, though. It’s strange how she’s been vilified more than Walcott. Maybe that’s how I’m perceiving it, but it’s almost as if we’re to respect Walcott for not commenting on the charges levelled against him and balk at Padel for attempting to salvage her reputation.
More interesting are the comments on Mehrotra. Amit Chaudhuri said in The Guardian that he got 129 votes, the highest ever for an outsider. Does that mean he has a better chance if he decides to stand for the next set of elections?
The other interesting thing is the way he’s being talked about: “Not only is Mehrotra a great poet and not only will he deliver a great set of lectures, he is also a dignified and morally upright man who has not slept with any students and not leaked things to the press.” More than anything, that says that morality is important. Morality and dignity. I’m pro-dignity, I think, because there many ways in which to be dignified.
I’ve also become cynical. Why was I so invested in this anyway? I think it started because there was an Indian involved and then it became about Walcott and Padel. Now I’m thinking: this is Oxford, not Bangalore University. Why should I care so much?
I’d love for Britain (or any other part of the world for that matter) to learn more about Indian writing. But I also think it would be nice for Mr Mehrotra to come to Bangalore and give some lectures here. Then again, BU is such a disreputable institution. I’m so glad I went to an autonomous college.
I discovered yet another book that I own and haven’t read: The Book of Imaginary Beings by Borges. I keep reading one or two pieces, but haven’t read the whole thing. It’s lovely, of course. S has allowed me to replace any one book of my current reading list with this one, so I did away with Heart of Darkness.
Here is Borges’s entry for Sirens:
Through the course of time the image of the Sirens has changed. Their first historian, Homer, in the twelfth book of the Odyssey, does not tell us what they were like; to Ovid, they are birds of reddish plumage with the faces of young girls; to Apollonius of Rhodes, in the upper part of the body they are women and in the lower part seabirds; to the Spanish playwright Tirso de Molina (and to heraldry), ‘half woman, half fish’. No less debatable is their nature. In his classical dictionary Lemprière calls them nymphs; in Quicherat’s they are monsters, and in Grimal’s they are demons. They inhabit a western island, close to Circe’s, but the dead body of one of them, Parthenope, was found washed ashore in Campania and gave her name to the famed city now called Naples. Strabo, the geographer, saw her grave and witnessed the games held periodically in her memory.
The Odyssey tells that the Sirens attract and shipwreck seamen, and that Ulysses, in order to hear their song and yet remain alive, plugged the ears of his oarsmen with wax and had himself lashed to the mast. The Sirens, tempting him, promised him knowledge of all the things of this world:
For never yet has any man rowed past this isle in his black ship until he has heard the sweet voice from our lips. Nay, he has joy of it, and goes his way a wiser man. For we know all the toils that in wide Troy the Argives and Trojans endured through the will of the gods, and we know all things that come to pass upon the fruitful earth.
A legend recorded by the mythologist Apollodorus in his Bibliotheca, tells that Orpheus, aboard the Argonaut’s ship, sang more sweetly than the Sirens and that because of this these creatures threw themselves into the sea and were changed into rocks, for their fate was to die whenever their spell went unheeded. The sphinx, also, threw herself from a precipice when her riddle was solved.
In the sixth century, a Siren was caught and baptized in northern Wales, and in certain old calendars took her place as a saint under the name Murgen. Another, in 1403, slipped through a breach in a dike and lived in Haarlem until the day of her death. Nobody could make out her speech, but she was taught to weave and she worshipped the cross as if instinctively. A chronicler of the sixteenth century argued that she was not a fish because she knew how to weave and that she was not a woman because she was able to live in water.
The English language distinguishes between the classical Siren and the mermaid, which has the tail of a fish. The making of this later image may have been influenced by the Tritons, who were lesser divinities in the court of Poseidon.
In the tenth book of Plato’s Republic, eight Sirens rule over the revolution of the eight concentric heavens.
Siren: a supposed marine animal, we read in a brutally frank dictionary.