Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Contesting Contexts or Contextual Contests?

Some words are great levelers. While they soar in contexts that are complex, sacred or respectable, they also serve to deflate those very contexts by finding usage in polar opposites. This raises pointed questions about the people who came up with the varied usage of these words - they were definitely double-agents for the dark side.

  • Swear - A gloriously multi-faceted word that begs close inspection. You can swear in the name of god to proclaim truthfulness and integrity, swear in the name of god to express shock/anger and basically blaspheme, swear to invoke hell/evil and blaspheme again, solemnly swear to uphold a declaration or a position in society, or just simply swear to your heart's content (here you stand the risk of swearing out your welcome). The last one has maximum potential as well as honest emotional value. What is key regarding this word is that you can swear in the name of god and be either religious or blasphemous! This beats Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.
  • Institution, Committed - Both marriage and mental asylums are institutions. You are required to commit to the first, and are forcibly committed to the second. You might be sane enough to identify you are insane and voluntarily check into a mental institution - I believe that percentage is significantly low. Either way you end up committed and in an institution. So what exactly is being implied here? And what of people who go insane after marriage? Can they plead sanity by noting they are already committed and in an institution?
  • Culture - We are a culture growing on nutrient substances, usually under controlled conditions. So are bacteria, a form of life that are orders of magnitude simpler than human beings, yet capable of causing unimaginable havoc to the human culture. The good bacteria typically dies young while the evil bacteria seems to live forever. Anyway, why is a word of such sweeping range and richness used in the bacterial context?
  • Organized - While this word holds its own when used individually, it takes on a different connotation when used in the context of 2 diametrically opposite (are they?) concepts - religion and crime. I wonder which one has resulted in higher casualties.

Then there's the incendiary 'race' which does not require a context at all (because it is the context) and is in a perennial contest with itself. People are a race and in a race, and oneupmanship is inextricably wired into the human gene.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Tooth Shall Never Set You Free!

Chewing is essential for survival, but the complexity of the apparatus designed to perform that activity confounds me every time I visit the dentist. It's a torture-fest involving multiple sharp objects, a drill, a syringe, and plastic objects with sharp corners that are painfully inserted for X-rays. Gums are always at the receiving end - they get poked, prodded, and are forced to bleed for an activity as simple as cleaning - the fact that cleaning involves a needle is so easily accepted that it does not even elicit a protest. An eternity passes by the time that simple activity comes to a conclusion, with the only high point being the application of a toothpaste-like substance by an electric scrubber.

As for cavities, the space-time continuum is breached and the universe comes to a standstill when the dentist inserts a bendable needle (how cool!) multiple times in the deep confines of your gums, for the purposes of anesthesia. The whole act is performed with extreme nonchalance, and is invariably followed by casual banter between the dentist and the assistant. Seemingly rhetorical questions are directed from time to time towards the person lying helpless with the mouth wide-open, waiting breathlessly for a lull in activity to shut their aching jaws, figuring out ways to ignore the constant whoosh of the vacuum rinse mechanism, constantly being asked hairdresser-like to adjust their head, and wondering if they are supposed to provide an unnecessary mono-syllabic response because nothing else is feasible.

I am not even going to talk about root canal - it's traumatic, to say the least.

I watched an indie movie called 'The Secret Lives of Dentists' a few years back during my indie-movie fascination phase, which waned after realizing that many of those indie movies are actually even worse than the assembly-line formulaic Hindi movies. While the movie was mildly interesting and irrelevant from a pure dental perspective, it did involve a dentist couple whose marriage was losing gravity, getting riddled with cavity, and had decayed to the point of a root canal (read 'therapy') if not extraction (read 'divorce'). A deep filling and timely recognition of wisdom of the tooth saved the day. That couple deserves a plaque for their 'crown'ing achievement.

Here's the anatomy of the tooth - why is it so complex? We could definitely use stronger enamel instincts to avoid dental retardation and replacement by implants, in addition to preventing attacks by Huns and Tartars.

The tooth always hurts and it shall never set you free. That is because when you have lost all your real teeth, you will be in'denture'd.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


There once was a man named Witty
With oodles of imagination in his kitty
He gazed at the world with different sensitivity
And invariably found humor in the nitty-gritty

Extracting an unforced chuckle was his creativity
Analogies and metaphors made him sit pretty
His mind soared over the seeming simplicity
Finding unexpected patterns with unwavering acuity

Puns and alliterations ascended banality
Similies and oxymorons generated vitality
But delusions of grandeur reduced humility
With a progressive reduction in civility

Ambition, condescension, and unneeded complexity
Caused his audience to slowly lose synchronicity
Painful contemplation resulted in much-needed lucidity
That absurdity needs reality for human connectivity