Saturday, March 28, 2009

Five Birds and a Reptile


I returned to Calcutta yesterday after a four-hour bus journey that has left me wincing slightly every time I sit down. And this was after two whole days mostly spent travelling in a cramped SUV. Sometimes I think the measure of a trip’s success is the number of stories you have from that trip. A road trip with nine other friends had all the ingredients of a good blog post, but these pictures taken on the Kopai river seem like the only things worth posting. I guess the fault lies with us.

Anyhow, I’m off to Ranchi in a few hours. There will be more pictures and stories (hopefully better ones) from that trip.

*exits to the tune of On the Road Again*

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Friday, March 13, 2009

Kindred Spirits

When you’re passionate about something, it’s always nice to discover that you’re not the only one who feels thus. For example, it used to bug me no end that the keyboard doesn’t have a proper apostrophe (or proper open and close quotation marks for that matter). That inverted teardrop prime symbol that passes for an apostrophe simply cannot compare in form and beauty with its curly cousin. On my blog, I painstakingly type ’ every time I want an apostrophe. Not too many bloggers I know do that, but then again, law school is not the best place to find typography enthusiasts. But books on typography are a different story altogether! Look what I found in A Type Primer by John Kane:

This is a good time to point out that a prime ( ' ) is not a single quote or an apostrophe, nor are double primes quotes. […] Because of the limited number of keys, they were used on typewriters as substitutes for single and double quotes and apostrophes, and came to be known as ‘dumb quotes’. When used as quotes in typesetting, they aren’t just ‘dumb’ – they’re criminal.

Similar passions were aroused in the breast of American type designer Frederic Goudy (1865-1947) by the practice of letterspacing. Since I know none of you will go look it up if I provide the Wikipedia link, I’ll just explain letterspacing myself. It is the practice of adjusting the amount of space between a group of letters, typically done to correct unsightly typographical flaws. In other words, it is a cheap trick, a short-cut. Here is what the redoubtable Mr. Goudy had to say about the practice:

Any man who would letterspace blackletter would steal sheep.

We use Goudy Stout, a typeface designed by him, for the masthead of our university magazine/newsletter. Substituting our own aesthetic judgment for that of Mr. Goudy, we letterspace it by minus 9 pt.

We think we know better.

Ironic, isn’t it?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Attempted Rabbits

One of my optional courses in the final year is Law Teaching, where I get to teach part of a course to a junior class. I chose to teach Jurisprudence to the third years.

One of my classes was on the Economic Analysis of Law. As a cheap gimmick to get the class interested, I divided the lecture into ‘The Rabbit Part’ (so-called because of a tenuous link with the rabbits-in-Australia story) and ‘The Cathedral Part’ (after Guido Calabresi’s article, Property Rules, Liability Rules and Inalienability: One View of the Cathedral). As a further gimmick (I use these gimmicks freely), when outlining the structure of my lecture on the board, I drew a rabbit to signify the first half of the class and a cathedral to signify the second.

Said third years are remarkably generous with compliments. Funnily, there was more praise for my rabbit than for my classes in general. One of them told me that her friend’s exercise book was crowded with attempts to replicate my rabbit.

I didn’t tell her that in the morning before class, I drew fifteen rabbits in my own exercise book to make sure that I got it right on the blackboard.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Good Enough

If I started naming reasons why I like Belle and Sebastian, I’d never stop. Obscure wit, mischievous word-play, profundity, melody. Music so light and fragile that it almost shatters upon listening. The fact that they personally answer fans’ questions on their website. (Most of their fans phrase their questions in grammatically correct and properly punctuated English, which in itself says something.) But to cut to the point, I like their endearing modesty.

“Think of it this way / You could either be successful or be us.” (Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying)
“Nobody writes them like they used to / So it may as well be me” (same song)
“We’re four boys in our corduroys / We’re not terrific but we’re competent.” (This Is Just a Modern Rock Song)
They are almost deliberately small-time.

* * *

Some of us on the editorial board of our college magazine (myself among them) believed that we should try to be as unassuming as possible; do our best never to come across as being too self-important. In our Society of the Month columns we’ve always refrained from featuring ourselves. We resisted the temptation even when we were voted Society of the Year on Annual Day. (Yes I know I’m bragging here but this is my blog, not the magazine, and the rules are different.) One of our issues had a supplement containing a selection of blog posts by NUJS students. Almost everyone on the editorial board has their own blog, but we didn’t feature any of ours. These are just two examples. All I know is that at least for me this deliberate self-effacement wasn’t always easy. I guess genuine modesty doesn’t quite come naturally to me, and that’s something I’d like to change, but I value modesty in others.

* * *

Roaming around Bloomsbury one day last August, I saw Goodenough College, and it brought a smile to my face. Surrounded by schools and colleges screaming from a thousand websites and newspaper ads that they’re the best ever, Goodenough College was charmingly unpretentious. The sort of college where you go if you’re not gifted, influential or rich like your friends in high school, but still too proud to drop out.
Unfortunately, my romantic ideas were short-lived. Their Wikipedia page says that the college got its name from Frederick Goodenough, one of its founders. But to cap my dismay, the page has this box on top:
This article is written like an advertisement. Please help rewrite this article from a neutral point of view. For blatant advertising that would require a fundamental rewrite to become encyclopedic, use {{db-spam}} to mark for speedy deletion. (April 2008)
Sheesh. Talk about a letdown.

Monday, March 2, 2009

In case you were wondering why my blogging has been irregular of late...

...look what went to the printer today.

The subtitle is stolen from a blogpost by Anasua.One hundred and four pages. Ninety-three articles, poems and sketches. Two hundred in-jokes. Literally countless phone calls, emails, swear words and high-fives. Three all-night formatting sessions. Twenty litres of Coke. One day before end-semester exams. One imminent and cataclysmic drop in CGPA.

But worth it. Worth every goddamn moment.