The Green Beautiful explores the idea of an utopia holding a fine mirror to our broken reality. The film is silly and self-aware. Down from the Mountains is the tale of a family separated by mountains and money. A mother in Verte quips ‘but they don’t have lipstick’ in a moment that refuses to linger with delusions of grandeur. In Mountains, the mother of six holds banknotes against the light as she double-checks the sum she is paid for peppercorns and wonders if it wouldn’t be great if she didn’t have to.
Just Ride is a painfully (!) practical guide to cycling without the gear obsession and adding things to the bike while hoping to shave off milligrams. This, as I am burning bandwidth looking for a positively eyelet-infested tour-ready frame.
Tim Crabbe’s Rider and Robert Penn’s It’s All About the Bike are excellent reads too, to help put you in the mood for a long ride. It is Gironimo next.
Chabter after enchanting, dark, pin-prickly self aware Chabter, Deepak Unnikrishnan’s Temporary People consumes the reader in whole, like the countless Pravasis and suitcases sprouting limbs littered allover its stories. The writing’s self-awareness stops just short of being too sweet to swallow, the bitterness too heady to spit. I read it like I used to read Stephen King back in highschool (during the run through Dreamcatcher, our motherly librarian was concerned). I was moved to tears many inappropriate times in state transport buses and sprawled atop awkward couch layouts during afternoon indulgences in the studio.
He writes as if he knows—exactly, down to the quirky typographic detail—how someone is going to read not the lines but the inbetweens. You could see, with eyes half-closed, all the revisions the text must have been through, lighting pages up like Christmas trees in heat. For example (despite attempts, there are no stone-set rules in how Malayalam words ought to be anglicised*) he transliterates vegetable into Pucchakkari. A belittling† piece on the platter. In an Arundhati Roy book, this would’ve read like kulcha bait. Not in Unnikrishnan’s Chabters. Here, their visa out of linguistic self-harm is a knowing nod from the author, from behind the printed page. That is to say, I maybe imagining things. Pucchakkari and Kadakkaran blend in, with no (apologetic, italicised) footnote in view.
There is a Kiran Nagarkaresque rhythm to the sentences—the wordplay is effortless, long sentences bookended by short, punchy ones. The blessings of a coconut oiled tongue, alien but comfortably so, shines through. The more out-of-the-ordinary parts and the magically realist parts read like there were carefully measured, quality-controlled substances involved. Even then, the prose is grounded, the wackiness hitting you in ways least expected. Sentences deliver aftershocks way beyond their designated periods. Some don’t even wait to grow up to adult-sized sentences to drive home the despair. A two page Chabter (Google ‘Pucchakari’ and look at the Books result) on Gulf Malayalee nouns turns sinister word-sized-sentence after word-sized-sentence.‡
The type treatments and typesetting complement the content too; the blacked out words aren’t gimmicky, the illustrations aren’t afterthoughts. My only gripe with the design department is a misplaced diacritic late into the book. The Rodrigo-Corral cover tops the package off nicely, equal parts architectural plan and slice of the temporary, replaceable lives inside.
* A user-friendly version would say Pachchakkari, but that sounds pedestrian. Think Poppadoms over Pappatams.
† Puccham is denigration. Pachcha is green. Kari is a lady who trades in precedents.
‡ As I was reading this, I was mentally putting the terms in a spreadsheet, trying to find method to sort the madness into something as effective as the one in the book.
We rebuilt KL11’s website from the ground up, on Stacey, with enough Easter eggs to start a delivery business.
Chris Ware’s Last Saturday over at the Guardian. Three years new.
Sometime last year, my Diwali-gifted smartphone kissed an elevator-floor. The glass shattered, sending proper menus and hamburger menus and notification icons and tiny unsubscribe buttons to corners they weren’t supposed to see. Two generous pieces of cellotape and some craftiness with the surgical blade held it together for a few days.
I am not comfortable in my new interaction-designer shoes. I admire the printed page from the years spent in the screen-printing lab and under the A4 sheet studded wall in the Gurgaon studio and in quiet bookshops and in front of surprisingly good ‘PGs for Boys’ posters[^1] pinned to trees. Something from those years have put this ‘us-versus-them’ notion in place where I think about ‘experience designers’ the way I think about the sixth Hitchiker’s book. I don’t think it (the thinking) is entirely healthy or appropriate.
I have lost the urge to stay up-to-date. How a swipe up is different from a half-hearted swipe up-then-sideways seems trivial, overthought. I didn’t know it was possible to feel any more out of touch when in company of people talking technology. Despite a license, I stay behind on the older version of design software just so I can round corners individually. (No, that is an exaggeration. The X230 sans a battery won’t run like makhkhan anymore with countless updates and a hunger for a decent internet connection.) This is, I tell myself, not a Luddite romancing of older technology; I just find the illusion of control comforting. (There is a physical switch on the laptop that turns on the Vimanam mode. There is a battery I can pull out to make sure the phone is absolutely, positively, switched off, or parts I can put back together after a skirmish with the elevator-floor.) The rejection isn’t based on profound ethical questions or plant product induced lucidity; sometimes I just want to fiddle in the pant-pockets to change an inappropriate track. (This, while holding onto chromed pillars in an overcrowded bus home. The resemblance this exercise has to pole-dancing violates copyright laws. The bus twists and turns and wallops and sings a Metallica song as it comes to a halt, throwing you into a confused dance of limbs and polythene covers and the occasional umbrella. This is what I imagine mosh pits to be.)
Our devices have shrunk-in size and in number-to one portable, all-knowing object we sleep with and wake up to. Mine have, since the elevator incident, grown in number and demand room of their own. Shortly after switching to the Nokia 105, I found a 4th Generation iPod Classic on OLX, a used Fujifilm X-20 in Velacherry and fell back in love with the Kindle. I switch these[^2] the way people switch applications. Mine just involves more hand-chrome-pole-coordination.
[^1]: There was one in front of the sandwich shop along the road next to Ramaiah Institute in Bangalore, where I would stop on my way to (and later, from) the IISc and polish off a black-tea and sandwitch, watching the traffic pause and change colours. The poster was basic, made in MS Word (or so it seemed). That is one thing I respect in those posters-you can’t tell which program they’ve been through. All our 3D rendered, bezier-nudged, pixel-pushed pieces carry that unmistakeable stamp of the program through to the end. To my biased eyes, they are somehow not ‘fully there,’ not honest enough, certainly not ‘loved’ the way someone who uses a tool along and outside its strict margins and bleed-marks loves her work.
[^2]: The Price I Paid: A counter-argument to the many-devices proposition is the amount of money it takes to acquire and maintain these. Here is a cost breakdown for anyone interested. Nokia: Rs. 950 from a shop in Mavoor Road (cheaper than buying it online); iPod 4th Gen: Rs. 2300 off OLX (did not bargain); battery from iFixit: Rs. 860; Fujifilm X-20: Rs. 20,000, from OLX.
Update: KL11 Blog has an article on setting up a frugal design practice.