Lesson from a Lecture

My Twentieth Century Evening
and Other Small Breakthroughs
by
Kazuo Ishiguro

I was reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nobel Lecture delivered in Stockholm on 7th December 2017.

And I came across this following passage which caught my attention…

“The reason why so many vivid, undeniably convincing characters in novels, films and plays so often failed to touch me was because these characters didn’t connect to any of the other characters in an interesting human relationship. And immediately, this next thought came regarding my own work: What if I stopped worrying about my characters and worried instead about my relationship?”

There’s a great observation and lesson for all of us writers, filmmakers, storytellers…
As I write my script, I often think about in terms of character biography or character development. But I never thought in terms of character relationship…

As Ishiguro explains…
“… I could look at, say, this mentor-pupil relationship. Does it say something insightful and fresh? Or now that I was staring at it, does it become obvious it’s a tired stereotype, identical to those found in hundreds of mediocre stories? Or this relationships between two competitive friends: Is it dynamic? Does it have emotional resonance? Does it evolve? Does it surprise convincingly? Is it three-dimensional?…
… The thought came to me… that all good stories, never mind how radical or traditional their mode of telling, had to contain relationships that are important to us; that move us, amuse us, surprise us…”

How true and profound!

This 36 pages nobel lecture/book is a gem. He talks about how these seemingly small but powerful insights and breakthroughs emerges and we get a glimpse of his brilliant mind.
From now on I’ll try to apply these lessons in my work.
Thank you, Kazuo Ishiguro.

A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place
by
Seicho Matsumoto

I just finished reading “A Quiet Place” by Seicho Matsumoto (1909 –1992).
He is one of the most famous literary figures in Japan. According to wikipedia “Matsumoto’s works created a new tradition of Japanese crime fiction by incorporating elements of human psychology and ordinary life”.

The book was first published in Japan in 1975. And translated by Louise Heal Kawai and published in UK in 2016.

Synopsis from the back cover:

“While on a business trip to Kobe, Tsuneo Asai receives the news that his wife Eiko has died of a heart attack. Eiko had a heart condition, so the news of her death wasn’t totally unexpected. But the circumstances of her demise leave Tsuneo, a softly spoken government bureaucrat, perplexed. How did it come about that his wife – who was shy and withdrawn, and only left her house twice a week to go to haiku meetings – ended up dead in a small shop in a quiet, residential Tokyo neighbourhood?
When Tsuneo goes to apologize to boutique owner for the trouble caused by his wife’s death he discovers the hotel Tachibana nearby, a shady establishment known as a rendezvous for secret lovers. As he digs deeper into his wife’s recent past, he must eventually conclude that she led a double life…”

When is the last time I enjoyed a crime fiction so much?
If I say that this book is a page turner and unputdownable… that will be only half the truth. It’s also something else.
It’s not very complicated mystery novel, yet it’s ingenious.
Halfway through the book and you suddenly realize that this is not only about the man Tsuneo Asai… it’s also about you. You are tricked by the author into this unique situation… and you are forced to examine your own motivation, your own psyche. Here, you come face to face with your subconscious that governs your life. It’s an investigation into your life. It’s a call for a look deep into your soul and confront whatever you find there.

I want to go through the book again… now slowly… very slowly… and savoure the taste page by page…

The Girl with Striped Top

Artiste (Marcella), 1910
by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

Recently I was reading on “Expressionism” in art as preparation for my class. And I came across this painting “Artiste (Marcella), 1910 by German painter Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.
It’s difficult to pinpoint why I like this painting so much!
Is it the simplicity of form! Is it the dominance of colour green! Is it the white cat sleeping blisfully in the corner! Is it her relaxed posture! Is it her striped green top! Is it the composition… the fact that she is so close to us and yet we can’t see her face! Is it her face… which has an innocence and yet her face is mysterious! Is it the top angle of the frame!
It’s painted in 1910… 110 years back… and yet it feels so contemporary… It has a feel of capturing a spontaneous, fleeting moment… I find it extremely sensual too… and yet serene…
Thank you, Kirchner…

The Notebook: Issue 27

Hi,

How are you? 

Is everything OK?

We are all going through this strange and crazy time…

I really hope that everything is well and good with you and your family.

 As for me… I didn’t feel like writing “The Notebook” in the past three months.

Even now I am not feeling up to it.

But I have come across this amazing interview of Pico Iyer.

 And I just couldn’t help but share it with you…

 I never trust what I can explain”.

 Yes. That’s right. “I never trust what I can explain”.

 Pico Iyer was born and educated in England, then moved to California and now lives in Nara, Japan. 

gettyimages-1165782873-612x612
Image Used Without Permission

 A true wanderer, he was mostly known for his travel writing like “Video Night in Kathmandu”, “The Lady and the Monk”, “The Global Soul”, “Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells” and “The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere

 If you want to read some of his writings, then go to  “Pico Iyer Journeys”.

 So, in this month’s “Notebook”, I am sharing just one thing. 

 Read this fascinating interview of Pico Iyer here

 Do let me know what’s happening with you.

 Keep in touch and be safe…

The Notebook: Issue 26

Welcome to the March 2020 issue of ‘The Notebook’.

This is a list of books, movies, blog posts, interviews, video clips and other stuff I find interesting and worth sharing.

I hope you’ll like some of the stuff I am sharing.

If you have any feedback, please drop me a line.

Here it goes…


A Book Worth Sharing:

Interstellar: The Official Movie Novelization” by Greg Keyes

I have watched the film.

Read the first draft of the screenplay (Which is very different from the final version). 

Read the final version of the screenplay

And then read the book.

Remember it’s a novel adapted from an original screenplay. 

It’s beautifully written and unputdownable.

If you like the film then read the novel. 

It will not disappoint you.

 
A Movie Worth Sharing:

Spring Breakers” by Harmony Korine

I have watched only one Harmony Korine film. 

I loved it so much that I went through his many interviews on the film. 

And I found something very interesting… what he calls “Liquid Narrative”…

“I wanted the movie to feel like they go through you, like they change you in some way. It’s not even a question of whether you like or don’t like, it’s more as if something’s happened to you. It’s like a lived experience, and it’s something maybe that hits you afterwards in some way that you weren’t expecting.” – Harmony Korine

Read the complete interview here


An Idea Worth Sharing:

“We Made the Coronavirus Epidemic” – It may have started with a bat in a cave, but human activity set it loose.

“We invade tropical forests and other wild landscapes, which harbor so many species of animals and plants — and within those creatures, so many unknown viruses. We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.”

Read the complete article here

A Quote Worth Sharing:

“Creativity is not about creating a painting, novel or house but creating yourself ” – Rod Judkins


Random Stuff: 

Inside the House From Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” 

In this wonderful article, Production Designer Lee Ha Jun and the Director Bong Joon Ho share the secrets of creating the amazing sets of “Parasite”. 

Here’s an excerpt from the article…

“In order to get it right, production designer Lee Ha Jun visited and photographed empty towns that were set to be torn down, and then copied them as he built the Kim family’s crowded street and cramped, cluttered apartment on a set…

Lee also spun intricate backstories for the many fictional neighbors, which informed the props littering the fake street. “One particular house is owned by an old lady who sends her children to cities to collect reusable garbage to make a living,” says the designer. “Her back is so bent that she uses a stroller to collect paper recycling—so in front of her house is a stroller full of old paper.” Other characters on the block include a shaman and someone Lee describes as an “unemployed wannabe YouTuber.” The result is quite realistic. “Even Korean audiences didn’t realize they were built [on a set],” says Bong.”

Read the complete article here

Thanks for reading.

The Notebook: Issue 25

Welcome to the February 2020 issue of ‘The Notebook’.

This is a list of books, movies, blog posts, interviews, video clips and other stuff I find interesting and worth sharing.

I hope you’ll like some of the stuff I am sharing.

If you have any feedback, please drop me a line.

Here it goes…

 

A Book Worth Sharing:

Stillness is the Key: An Ancient Strategy for Modern Life” by Ryan Holiday

I love Ryan Holiday and read almost all his books. It’s another unputdownable book from him. And I finished it in one go…

Ryan is one of the world’s foremost thinkers and writers on ancient philosophy and its place in everyday life. 

You can follow him @ryanholiday.

Read an excerpt from the book here

 

A Movie Worth Sharing:

Confront” by Abhijit Mazumdar

This six minutes films made by my friend Abhijit Mazumdar as playback exercise in FTII.

It’s about ‘A musician grapples with his loss when his band breaks up’.

It’s beautifully edited by Shan Mohammed and features another great filmmaker and friend Amit Dutta as main protagonist.

Don’t miss this little gem of a film

Abhijit has made many films like “Plot”, “Chlorophyll”, “Vanishing Point”, “Yeti”, “Bhabaa Paagla”.

His films got selected in many International Film Festivals including Karlovy Vary Fresh Film Festival, Torino Film Festival, Glasgow International Film Festival, Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, Durban International Film Festival, International Film Festival of India, International Documentary Short Film Festival of Kerala. 

You can watch all of Abhijit Mazumdar’s films here

An Idea Worth Sharing:

The Social Media Trap” by David Perell

Eugene Wei, the former director of video for Oculus VR at Facebook, says that posting on social media makes people feel like a public company.

“Most celebrities learn this lesson very early on, most companies put their public-facing executives through PR training, but most humans never grew up under the watchful gaze of hundreds of millions of eyes of Sauron…

Public companies are restricted in what they can say publicly. The same is true for people who take themselves public. 

The markets punish companies that stumble, and the judgment of the masses is no less harsh for individuals who do their thinking out loud on social media.”

Public companies and people on social media are always being watched. 

For public companies, the evaluation happens in the real-time movement of the stock market ticker. 

Meanwhile, people on social media are judged in likes, comments, and social status. 

Like the stock market, your social status fluctuates every time you post online. 

Post a photo of your six-pack abs on the beach in Tulum and your status will rise. 

Tell your friends that you’re leaving Goldman Sachs to join a growing and profitable company in rural Wyoming, and the backroom gossip will begin.

As Jia Tolentino writes in Trick Mirror:

“Where we had once been free to be ourselves online, we were now chained to ourselves online, and this made us self-conscious.”

24/7 access to social media has over-socialized us. 

Every action is criticized, every sentence is scrutinized, until soon, we get stuck in a prison of fear and risk-aversion. 

Plus, the Internet has a perfect memory. It only takes one tweet to end your career and permanently tarnish your Google search results. 

Like public relations professionals, we’ve become hyper-aware of how the masses will respond to everything we say and do.

By creating an audience of critics, all those eyes have changed how we act. 

Psychologists call this the Hawthorne Effect, and it states that people change their behavior when they know they’re being watched. 

It was originally discovered in 1958 when researchers tried to study the effect of bright lighting on working hours and break times. Once the study began, worker productivity improved, but it slumped again after it ended. 

Researchers concluded that people worked harder not because of changing light conditions in the factory, but because they were being watched.

Thus, surveillance is a tradeoff. 

Under the critical eye of the social media panopticon, people are more likely to follow the rules but also take fewer risks — which creates a stagnant society.

Read the complete article here

 

A Quote Worth Sharing:

“Be present… That’s the nice thing about present. It keeps showing up to give you a second chance.” – Ryan Holiday

 

Random Stuff: 

No one will admit it, but thank god for our corporate overlords” by Mark Manson

It’s not popular to applaud corporations these days. But in an age of political gridlock, bureaucratic indecision, crumbling infrastructure, and emerging authoritarian tendencies across the planet, Amazon, Apple, et al. may be the only thing holding the world together right now.

Amazon’s logistical efficiency puts every other human entity to shame. 

Apple’s global supply chain is likely one of the few things that has prevented some sort of aggression with China. 

Nobody likes oil companies, but if it weren’t for them, we’d all probably be puppet states of Saudi Arabia. 

Tech companies like Samsung, Facebook, and Google are the ones spearheading internet infrastructure throughout the third world. 

And the greatest innovations in renewable energies are coming from the private sector.

Yes, the size of these corporations and their power and outsized influence cause problems. But then again, there are associated problems with any organization wielding lots of power. 

My point is simply that it’s just as easy to overlook the benefits of these behemoths as it is to criticize their faults. 

But these companies run the planet more than any international governmental organization. And in some ways, that might be a good thing.

Read the complete blog post “10 Important Lessons We have Learned From The 2010shere

 

Thanks for reading…

The Notebook: Issue 24

Welcome to the year 2020…

This is a list of books, movies, blog posts, interviews, video clips and other stuff I find interesting and worth sharing. I hope you’ll like some of the stuff I am sharing.

If you have any feedback, please drop me a line.

Here it goes…

A Book Worth Sharing:

Number9Dream” by David Mitchell

This is my second David Mitchell book. First one was “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet”. Now I have become a fan. Planning to read all his books.

 A Movie Worth Sharing:

Happy Together” by Wong Kar-wai

Wong Kar-wai reached Argentina with crew of 30 people to shoot this film. And he didn’t have a script (he works without a script) or synopsis (he had one page synopsis which he discarded) or story. He improvised the whole thing while shooting.

The film won the best director award at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.

One of my favorite Wong Kar-wai films…

(You can read my blog post “Wong Kar-wai on Literature” here…)

An Idea Worth Sharing:

Time is personal. Your year changes when your life changes” by Derek Sivers

“A new day begins when I wake up, not at midnight. Midnight means nothing to me. It’s not a turning point. Nothing changes at that moment.

A new year begins when there’s a memorable change in my life. Not January 1st. Nothing changes on January 1st.

I can understand using moments like midnight and January 1st as coordinators, so cultures and computers can agree on how to reference time. But shouldn’t our personal markers and celebrations happen at personally meaningful times?

Your year really begins when you move to a new home, start school, quit a job, have a big breakup, have a baby, quit a bad habit, start a new project, or whatever else. Those are the real memorable turning points — where one day is very different than the day before. Those are the meaningful markers of time. Those are your real new years.

This isn’t just selfish. You know your friends and family well enough to acknowledge these special days for them, too. The day that I most want to celebrate someone’s life has nothing to do with the calendar day that they were born.

The fourth Thursday in November is not when I feel most thankful. The 14th of February is not when I celebrate my romantic relationship. To force these celebrations on universal dates disconnects them from the meaning they’re supposed to celebrate. It’s thoughtless.

Celebrate personally meaningful markers. Ignore arbitrary calendar dates.”

(Source: Derek Sivers)

A Quote Worth Sharing:

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs most is more people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

Random Stuff: 

Karma – The Sculpture Stretches to Infinity” by Korean artist Do Ho Suh

(Source: Tim Ferriss)

Thanks for reading…

 

 

The Notebook: Issue 23

Welcome to the 2019 November issue of ‘The Notebook’.

This is a list of books, movies, blog posts, interviews, video clips and other stuff I found interesting and feel worth sharing. I hope you’ll like some of the stuff I am sharing.

If you have any feedback, please drop me a line…

Here it goes…

 

A Book Worth Sharing:

The Art of Creative Thinking” by Rod Judkins

Do you know Jørn Utzon’s iconic design for the Sydney Opera House was inspired by a cut-up orange he had for lunch? And Japan’s Shinkansen bullet train is modelled on the kingfisher’s aerodynamic beak?

This little book is a gem. And I am rereading it.

 

A Movie Worth Sharing:

Gerry” by Gus Van Sant

Have you ever watched a film where two people just walk, walk and walk? Well, here it is…

“A movie like this doesn’t come along every day. I am glad I saw it. I saw it at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, where a fair number of people walked out. I would say half. I was reminded of advice once given me by the veteran Chicago movie exhibitor Oscar Brotman: “Roger, if nothing has happened by the end of the first reel, nothing is going to happen.” If I were to advise you to see “Gerry,” you might have a good case on your hands for a class-action suit.

And yet, and yet–the movie is so gloriously bloody-minded, so perverse in its obstinacy, that it rises to a kind of mad purity. The longer the movie ran, the less I liked it and the more I admired it.”

Read Roger Ebert’s complete review here

 

An Idea Worth Sharing:

Am I Fooling Myself?” by Peter Attia“This story serves to remind me that we are not wired to think scientifically. Full stop. It is the quintessential human flaw. But scientific thinking is a skill to be practised and improved upon.”

 

A Quote Worth Sharing:

You have to spend the time to sort through the junk to find the treasure. There is no shortcut…. I like to try to apply this spirit of crate-digging to everyday life. The only way to find the good stuff, the special stuff, the genuine moments and the true inspiration, is to first engage with the everyday, the mundane, the seemingly useless, the things nobody else seems to care about. So engage. There is no shortcut; there is no algorithm. If all you do is track what’s trending, then all you’ll ever know is exactly what everyone else already knew. To discover, you have to dig.

(Source: Digging and Scratching – Austin Kleon)

 

Random Stuff: 

Plastic Hazard From Teabags

A team of Canadian researchers has warned that tea drinkers are swallowing microplastics shed from the new teabags and cautioned that the health effects of these plastics on humans isn’t yet known. To look into the amount of plastic released from the new teabags, the team removed the tea leaves from four different commercially available teas and washed the plastic bags. They then heated the teabags in water to simulate brewing conditions. Using electron microscopy, the researchers found that a single plastic teabag heated this way released about 11.6 billion microplastic and 3.1 billion nanoplastic particles into the water, amounts they reported are thousands of times higher than those found earlier in other foods. They also tested the teabags in water containing water fleas and found that while the animals survived, they exhibited anatomical and behavioral abnormalities. The investigators called for more research to help determine if the plastics emitted from teabags could have deleterious effects on human health.

 Thanks for reading.

The Notebook: Issue 22

Hi

Welcome to the 2019 October issue of ‘The Notebook’.

This is a list of books, movies, blog posts, 

interviews, video clips and other stuff

I found interesting and feel worth sharing.

I hope you’ll like some of the stuff I am sharing.

If you have any feedback, please drop me a line…

Here it goes…

A Book Worth Sharing:

Newcomer” by Keigo Higashino

I love Keigo Higashino. And this one is an absolute delight. I would say this is his best book I have read and much better than his most popular book “The Devotion of Suspect X”.

A Movie Worth Sharing:

Nainsukh” by Amit Dutta

“Nainsukh” is made in 2010 and I watched it recently.

It’s mind-blowingly beautiful and an exquisite work of art.

A few review quotes as appeared in the trailer…

“… creates a hypnotic fusion of imagery and sound that conjures up a lost age” – Museum of Modern Art, New York

“Amit Dutta is one of those exceptional filmmakers for whom every shot is an event” – Jonathan Rosenbaum

“In Dutta’s films, we literally breathe the air of the shot” – Cinema Du Reel – Centre Pompidou, Paris

“Its beauty can often take the viewer’s breath away” – Huffington Post, US

Don’t miss the masterpiece.

An Idea Worth Sharing:

“Over 107 billion people have lived throughout history. (There are roughly 7.7 billion people alive right now.)

Over the centuries, these billions of people have tried things, failed, learned, and tried differently. Sometimes, they found new solutions. And when you are born, you get to inherit the insights they learned by trial and error.

The cumulative lessons of those 107 billion people have been passed down to you. It is the greatest gift you will ever receive. We are smart not because of our individual genius, but because of our collective knowledge.

As the historian Niall Ferguson noted, “The dead outnumber the living fourteen to one, and we ignore the accumulated experience of such a huge majority of mankind at our peril.” – Via James Clear

A Quote Worth Sharing:

“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” – Albert Einstein

Random Stuff: 

Venkatachalam Saravanan by Amit Dutta

An international chess master and a filmmaker play a match while discussing the art of the game and its history in India.

Thank you, Amit Dutta.

 

Thanks for reading.

Take care and have a nice month… 


 

Wong Kar Wai on Literature

I am reading “Wong Kar Wai Interviews” edited by Silver Wai Ming Lee and Micky Lee.

There is this interview by Lin Yao-teh. First published in United Literature no 120 of Taiwan in 1994.

There is this fascinating discussion on literature.

I found it worth writing down because I am interested in knowing what influences Wong Kar Wai and, as I love reading.

The following books and authors influenced him…

Albert Camus.  According to him Camus’ ‘The Stranger” resonates with him immensely. In fact in real life he feels like living through many scenes in the book (I have not read Camus).

Honore de Balzac influenced him a lot (I have not read anything by him).

His favorite America Novelist John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway (I have not read either Steinbeck or Hemingway. I have not read Hemingway!!! It’s shameful).

His favorite Japanese writer is Yasunari Kawabata. Especially “Snow Country” and “The House of Sleeping Beauties”(I want to read Kawabata).

He is a big fan of Osamu Dazai and Riichi Yokomitsu (I have not read them too).

Kawabata, Dazai and Yokomitsu from Japan.

And Marquez from South America.

But it was another South American author… who influenced Wong Kar Wai in a very profound way… especially in his film-making style (His narrative divided into a series of fragments and shunned chronology).

Manuel Puig.

Two books…  “Kiss of the Spider woman” and “Heartbreak Tango”

I read somewhere that WKW has taken elements from Puig’s book in “Happy Together”.

(Well, I have not read him too)

Among Chinese writers, his favorites are, Lu Xun, Zhou Zuoren and especially Mu Shiying. He wants to adapt Mu Shiying’s novel.

And Wuxia novelist, Louis Cha and Gu Long.

(I have not even heard these names)

And we all know that initial story idea and some dialogues in “In the Mood for Love” came from Liu Yichang’s novels “Intersection” and “ The Alcoholic”.

So, Wong Kar Wai is a voracious reader of world literature.

And now I feel like a complete illiterate.