Sculpture and Literature

“Sculpture is the art of the intelligence”, said Pablo Picasso. Books lend themselves to more than just reading. The Walk of Ideas was conceptualized as part of a campaign called Deutschland – Land der Ideen (Welcome to Germany – the Land of Ideas). It comprised a set of six sculptures in Berlin, designed by Scholz & Friends, one of Europe’s largest advertising agencies, for the 2006 FIFA World Cup football event in Germany. The sculptures were  were put up between 10th March and 19th May 2006, and were on display until September 2006. They were placed on central squares in Berlin’s city center.

The six sculptures included Modern Book Printing, Milestones of Medicine, Masterpieces of Music, The Automobile, The Modern Football Boot, and The Theory of Relativity. The sculptures were built using neopor – a graphite polysterene foam for construction materials, and coated with a white varnish. The production time for each sculpture was about two months, with on-site assembly spanning three days. Plaques were created in both German and English, with details on the symbolism of each object.

Der Moderne Buchdruck (Modern Book Printing) was installed on 21st April 2006 at Bebelplatz, opposite the Humboldt University of Berlin. The 12.2 meter structure took three days to assemble on the Unter den Linden street. The steel structure held seventeen “book” segments of different sizes, each representing a different author’s name. Inclusive of the stabilizing ballast weight, the overall weight of the “book tower” amounted to thirty-five tons. The seventeen books were stacked, with their spines prominently displaying the names of German poets and writers. The sculpture was said to be erected in memory of Johannes Gutenberg, who invented the printing press in Mainz around 1450 and introduced printing to Europe. Gutenberg had even created the first bestseller in history – the Gutenberg Bible – the first major book printed in Europe using mass-produced movable metal. It marked the age of the printed book in the West.

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Here are the author names displayed on the spines, starting from the topmost:

Günter Grass

Hannah Arendt

Heinrich Heine

Martin Luther

Immanuel Kant

Anna Seghers

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

The Brothers Grimm

Karl Marx

Heinrich Böll

Friedrich Schiller

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

Hermann Hesse

Theodor Fontane

Thomas Mann and Heinrich Mann

Bertolt Brecht

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

I will be covering the remaining five sculptures in subsequent blog-posts.

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Writer Wednesday – Colette

A feature on the French novelist, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette. A movie with Keira Knightley in the titular role will be out soon.

Tomes and Tales

“Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet.” French writer Colette’s quote strikes a chord with all animal lovers. Our featured writer for this week is the French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, who wore many hats as mime, actress and journalist, and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948.

Colette was born in Yonne, Burgundy. At the age of twenty she married author and publisher Henry Gauthier-Villars, better known by the nom de plume, Willy. Colette’s first four novels appeared under her husband’s name – four books from the Claudine stories – Claudine à l’école (1990), Claudine à Paris (1901), Claudine en ménage (1902), and Claudine s’en va (1903). The series takes the reader through the coming of age of the titular character – a fifteen year old from a village in Burgundy to the literary salons of Paris at the turn of the century. The stories are semi-autobiographical…

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Animals, Inc. – Book Review

Title – Animals, Inc.

Authors – Kenneth Tucker and Vandana Allman

Genre – Fiction, Business/Management

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“When was the last time you took a course to make yourself more marketable, and found yourself wondering just what in the world you were doing?” Animals, Inc. is the business world’s take on the allegorical novella, Animal Farm. While Geroge Orwell’s classic was a political satire, Animals, Inc. brings to life major management lessons through a parable.

The story begins on a farm, with every animal carrying on their respective duties under the able guidance of Farmer Goode. Goode has gotten old now and plans to sell off the farm, and move into a retirement home. The animals are given a choice – they can either run the farm themselves, or be sold off to pet owners and petting zoos. A unanimous decision is taken to save their home and care for it themselves. Here’s when our motley crew takes charge – Mo the Pig, Lawrence the Owl, Jesse the Horse, Lily the Lamb, Spike the Cat, and a host of other farm animals from cows, hens, pigeons, mice, even the scarecrow, lend to the proceedings in their efforts to run a successful business as barnyard animals.

The animals read business books, conduct surveys, evaluate competencies, identify strengths and weaknesses, set up training classes, put up motivational posters, and work hard to overcome their natural shortcomings with any new project. But what happens if a horse is prevented from physical labour to operate a computer instead, a shy sheep is made sales representative, a scarecrow is transferred to the production department to lay eggs, cats are made managers of field mice, or a pig declares himself the most important member of the organization? The situations and expected results seem uncannily familiar to the human reader.

The story is simple but the parable is powerful, as the moral provides vital business lessons. Readers from the corporate world will identify with the scenarios faced by the animals in running their enterprise. For those unfamiliar with the business/management field, many terms are presented and explained through the story. Ultimately it comes down to what works best for us to reach our highest potential, and how can every individual employee contribute to the organization as a whole. The insights are not very deep and the book can be seen as more of a primer into business jargon. It is the way the story is presented which makes Animals, Inc. a delightful read. Readers with an interest in word play, witticisms, paronomasia, will love the copious quibbles that abound the book. The authors are at their hilarious best in crafting an entire book by playing around with the English language.

~ “Biggs sat down at his computer and reached for the mouse – and the mouse ran away.”

~ “Mo received more complaints about the Complaint Department than any other department on the farm.”

~ “I know you. You’re Sandra Bullock. No, Sheryl Crow. No, no…Miss Piggy, is that you?”

~ “I’d sure like to find the stool pigeon who told them all this.” (While referring to pigeon spies.)

~ “Lily was poor at sales because she was too sheepish – which is the primary occupational hazard faced by most sheep.”

~ “With whoops and cheers the hens egged each other on.”

~ “Jesse registered for a motivational course, which he wasn’t motivated enough to attend.”

Gallup Organization came out with this book for readers in the business world to discover the keys to effective management, re-energized morale and heightened performance. Among the author duo, Kenneth Tucker is a seminar leader and management consultant with Gallup, who helps develop strategies for improving performance. Vandana Allman is the global practice leader for hiring at Gallup, and consults companies on how to build successful organizations by improving their hiring strategies. Both writers draw on real-life examples, data-driven research, and years of experience in the business field to present this vivid story.

~ “I tried everything. And then one day I realized that the best thing I could be was me.”

~ “It doesn’t matter if a job is big or small. You can be a hero in any role.”

~ “The best self-help books relied on common sense – the sort of things you already knew but didn’t know you knew.”

~ “Just because you’re a bird doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good flyer, or a good singer.”

~ “It isn’t failure that matters, it’s how you deal with failure.”

All in all, a good one-time read if it is a story your’re looking for. But if you’re someone like me who loves word play, this book is a gem. I haven’t come across many books that have employed such fun writing in the entire length of the story. The cover is lovely too – the hand shadow animals are such fun.

Rating – 3/5

When Thoughts Scatter With The Light

CREPUSCULE DU MATIN

~Amy Lowell

 

“All night I wrestled with a memory

which knocked insurgent

at the gates of thought.

The crumbled wreck of years

behind has wrought

its disillusion. Now I only cry

for peace, for power to forget the lie

which Hope too long

has whispered. So I sought

the sleep which would not come,

And night was fraught

with old emotions weeping silently.

I heard your voice again, and knew the things

which you had promised

proved an empty vaunt.

I felt your clinging hands

while night’s broad wings

cherished our love in darkness.

From the lawn

a sudden, quivering birdnote, like a taunt.

My arms held nothing but the empty dawn.”

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Breaking Barriers In Marathon Running

“I lack the words to describe how I feel. It was really hard, but I was truly prepared to run my own race.”

~Eliud Kipchoge

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Yesterday was a great day for the long-distance running community. For those unable to fathom our excitement, a new world record was set at the Berlin Marathon. Imagine stepping on a treadmill, setting it to 13 mph, and running at that pace for over two hours. Or let’s use the analogy given by BBC Sports – imagine running 100 mts in 17.2 seconds; or if that’s feels slow, try it and repeat for 420 times without a pause. That’s just what Eliud Kipchoge accomplished at Berlin yesterday – setting a new world record by completing the marathon distance of 26.2 miles (42.195 kilometers) with a timing of 2 hours, 1 minute, and 39 seconds.

The first time a marathon was run as an official race, was at the London Olympics in 1908, where American Johnny Hayes emerged victorious with a timing of 2:55:18. Of course, a lot has changed since then in terms of training and technology. Four years ago, Dennis Kimetto from Kenya had created a new record of 2:02:57 in Berlin. Fellow Kenyan Kipchoge broke this record on Sunday by 78 seconds – recorded to be the largest single improvement in a world record marathon timing in over fifty years. Australian Derek Clayton had knocked down 2 minutes 37 seconds way back in 1967.

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Reductions in marathon timings over the years.

Kipchoge, 33, has competed in eleven marathons, out of which he has won ten and finished second in one. He has won both, the Berlin and London marathons three times each, and holds course records at both places. His split times astonished viewers and runners, both amateur and elite, the world over. Kipchoge’s average speed on Sunday was 13 mph, an average pace of 2.52 mins/km for each kilometer of the 42.195 km race, or every 400 mts in 68.8 seconds. He clocked the first 10 kms in world record pace, as led by three pacers from the start.

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With pacers, early on in the race.

Shortly after the halfway mark, all three pacers dropped out, leaving Kipchoge to run the remaining 21 kms alone. Rather than struggling or falling off the pace, he defied the odds and rather sped up, covering 30 kms of the race in 1:26:45, which is the fastest time ever recorded for that distance. He ran the first half of the race in 1 hour, 1 minute, 6 seconds, and went 30 seconds quicker in the second half. He ran from the 40k mark to the finish in 6 minutes, 8 seconds – the fastest known in any major marathon, without any obvious sprint. His overall pace was 4 minutes, 37 seconds per mile – for 26.2 miles. Jon Mulkeen from the IAAF (International Association of Athletic Federations) pointed out, “imagine running 200m reps in 34.60 seconds, and repeating that for 211 times with no rest in between”. That’s what Eliud Kipchoge did in Berlin yesterday.

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His splits up to the halfway mark

Long-distance runners might remember the “Breaking 2 Project” of Nike last year – an unofficial race to break the sub-2 hour marathon, on a track at Monza. Kipchoge had created a world record of 2:00:25 at the time, guided by a team of pacers. The race did not qualify as an official time, and was seen as more of a project. Kipchoge, however, did show his frightening potential as a long-distance runner, which manifested itself as he obliterated the competition on Berlin’s streets on Sunday. “I believed he was capable of smashing the World Record. He delivered in outstanding fashion and rewrote history”, said Paula Radcliffe – former record holder of the women’s marathon. Roger Robinson from Runners’ World added, “I have watched great runners for seventy years, from Emil Zapotek to Haile Gebrselassie, and not since Abebe Bikila in 1964 have I witnessed a world marathon record set with such focused mastery”. “I felt very confident. I am grateful to those who worked with me”, Kipchoge said after the race. Impeccable pacing and the focus of a Zen master have sealed Eliud Kipchoge’s place as the greatest marathoner of all time.

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“The lesson of running is to train well, and then have full faith in your training and show the proof in the race.”

 

 

 

Sources:

~www.bbc.com

~www.edition.cnn.com

~www.runnersworld.com

Tell Me Your Real Story – Book Review

Title – Tell Me Your Real Story

Author – Savita Nair

Genre – Poetry

12 sept 2018 (2)

Savita Nair had featured as a guest author at our book meet last month. Poetry is not one of the genres I frequently visit, but the writer’s description of her writing journey and her love for composing poems based on her observations of the world, intrigued me to give this one a go. Nair had read out three poems from this book at the meet, along with the backstory of what led her to writing them. Her thoughts and usage of language compelled me to order the book when I reached home – and Amazon delivered it soon enough.

So, I have spent the better part of the last three weeks pouring over some poetry. That’s the thing with poetry – you can’t review it the same way like you would for prose (fiction or non-fiction); it would just end up being slapdash if you don’t take your time through it. “Tell Me Your Story” is a collection of fifty-seven poems – a mixture of heartbreak, celebration, romance, skepticism, sarcasm, fun, disbelief. Nair describes her book as “urban and chic, cynical and syrupy”, and the reader is taken on a ride on the poetry bandwagon. Some of my favorites from the collection include “Mid-way Musings” , “Our Failings” , “The Freak and the Faulty” , “Leaving Things Unsaid” , “To The Heroes” , “Take Control” – each of the poems strikes a different chord. As Nair rightly points out in the blurb, the poetic journey helps you discover a little about yourself, as well as the poet.

“There was a slot called Mediocre, and happily I settled in. Some run the race, others admit with grace, that mediocre lies Within” , go a few lines from “Mediocre” , “Mid-way between Home and Nowhere, we got off at a stop called Stranded”, begins “Mid-way Musings” , “Slow Burn” tells us about a kettle simmering with anticipation – Nair’s brilliance shines through in her incorporation of figures of speech. Rhyming appears to be her forte and many of the poems follow this format. Personally, rhyming gets to me after a point, so I didn’t read the book in sequence. Cover to cover doesn’t always work for poetry. Phrases like “finding solace in the din” , “being optimistic isn’t a remedy, but being morbid is a crime” , “settle for nothing but restless” , “choose to stay silent, than make empty noise” – show you the writer’s exceptional talent in keenly observing the happenings in the world, reflecting on those observations, and putting thoughts into words. From the hilarity of “An Ode To The Common Cold” , to the difficulties of a working woman managing home and career in “A Lady’s Got To Do Some Straight Talking” , the tribute to the armed forces in “To The Heroes”,  and the melancholic “Falling In Love With The Rain”, the collection covers a multitude of emotions that anyone can relate to, at varying frames of mind.

And having had the opportunity of meeting Nair in person, the vividness with which she describes herself and her writings is displayed in her book as well. It is difficult to review books like these because each poem affects you in a different way – sometimes you might not be in the frame of mind to read one, but another one feels so much at home. Then you go back to the first one a few days later, and appreciate the sarcasm or disbelief it portrays. And this can be said for good poetry in general – it makes you go back to what you have chewed earlier, and digest it properly in the second visit. I re-read many of the poems and came back with something new each time. The poems are short and leave a lot to dwell on. The collection is lovely, and while retaining and showcasing her individuality, Nair still manages to relate with the reader. The collection is heartfelt, thought-provoking, charming, fun. A must-have in any book collection. I had initially purchased this copy as a gift, but later decided to procure one for my own collection as well – to keep reading and relishing one’s changing state of mind. For those interested in audio books, Savita Nair has herself read the poems aloud – and having heard her recitation at the book meet, I can vouch for the fact that the audio book will also be a treat.

The one single grouse I had was that the poems are numbered in the index page, but not in the rest of the book. And with a collection numbering fifty-seven of them, it becomes difficult to search for a particular poem.

Rating – 4/5

On Reflections – Inner and Outer

When your mind appears grubby and you can’t seem to think clearly, a little introspection helps. And insights present themselves from the unlikeliest of places. A friend from my book club  – a fellow bibliophile and runner – jotted down these lines a few hours ago, and I thought of sharing them here.

“I thought over daily

I didn’t get a clue…

Did scratch my head

And massaged my forehead too!

 

Everything was hazy,

Could not see the picture clearly

Even after a futile hand run over chin and neck

Even after getting into the depths of my grey matter, if any…

 

Every day I bathed in hot water

Every day I dressed up in my room

The mirror inside the bathroom was always steamy

The mirror in the bedroom was crystal clear

 

Suddenly it struck me!

 

I took a bath in cold water

I saw the mirror – no steam!

I poured more cold water on my head

The mirror was mirroring clearly

 

When the head is hot, I don’t see anything

When it turns cold, everything is perfect

Yes! I got the idea

 

You can’t blame the mirror

It just reflected your mind

Keep your head cool

The picture, big or small, will be as clear as it can be.”

~An Offshoot by S. Natarajan

 

Sassy Spoon – Food Photography

When friends visit from out of town, it’s a wonderful time for catching up. And food can never be far from the occasion. The day was spent meeting an old friend over lunch. (I had to create a ragtag prompt in advance yesterday, since I was scheduled to be out the entire time today.) The restaurant chosen to feast at was a place called Sassy Spoon, which serves mixed cuisines – Mediterranean, European, Asian. I had heard good reviews of the place that is known for its decor, food presentation, and courteous staff. Sharing a few pictures to feast your eyes on.

We started off with the beverages – a Fizzy Meloni – muddled fresh watermelon, with basil, lime and fizz, and Very Berry Khata comprising mulberries, orange, pomegranate and grape with kala khatta (jamun/jambolan syrup).

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Starters comprised garlic bread with cheese.

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From here we proceeded to the main course – grilled chicken in their house soaked BBQ sauce, grilled veggies and mashed potatoes.

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This was followed by dessert – a signature dessert titled “Seven textured hazelnut and chocolate”, comprising numerous layers of brownies, chocolate chips, mousse, and both solidified and dripping chocolate.

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All in all, a very enjoyable meal in one of the sassiest places around. The decor and ambiance are fabulous, with the rustic lighting adding a homely touch. Having visited during lunch hours, the place was packed, but never noisy.

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The sedate lighting.
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The wall covered with these trunk prints, providing a very old school vibe.
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A close-up of the wall featured above. See that palm print? It signifies a door that leads to the restroom. But the door is so ingeniously hidden in the wall.

Wednesday RDP – FEAST

It’s my day for fixing the prompt. As the ragtag community crosses a century of daily prompts over the last three months, join in by composing a post using the word of the day.

Hope everyone’s having a sumptuous week. The Ragtag Community completed a century over the weekend, having set over a hundred prompts in the three months since its inception. This calls for a celebration!

Our word for today is “feast” . Indulge in your creativity and let us gorge on the lovely articles you come up with using the day’s prompt. Let’s set the banquet for all. Cook up a story, compose a poem, click photographs, share your musings – treat us to your interpretation of the prompt in words or pictures.

You know the rules. Use “ragtag daily prompt” , “RDP” , and “feast” as tags. Add “photo” if you’re sharing a picture, as specific tags make your posts more accessible to other bloggers. Pingback your posts to this page or copy-paste your links in the comment thread here. And while you’re around, browse through what your fellow bloggers have come up…

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