Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mini-review and interview, also Mr. Sputum expounding on the Scholastic blog

My Hero
Mr. Sputum says
"Blog to blog,
Bog to glog,
Grog to Smaug!"

Nimmy Chacko was kind enough to write a lovely Scholastic blog entry on This Book Makes No Sense, and you'll find included a little online interview, where I expound on nonsense, giraffes, nonsense giraffes, Alan Watts as a neo-giraffe, Samuel Taylor Coleraffe, Xanadu and Olivia Newton-Jiraffe, and other things related to nonsense theory and giraffes (oddly, without any reference to Dr. and Mr. Doris Haggis-On-Whey's brilliant nonsensical Giraffes? Giraffes!).

Why Mr. Sputum?--I can't rightly say.  He appeared in the Indian Express newspaper (I think) during my trip... and he has been wanting to contribute to the blog ever since...

Here is the blog:

Friday, December 14, 2012

This Book Makes an Appearance in Boston!

This book makes no uninvited, unenlightened appearances in Boston.  A local groovy bookshop in Boston is selling copies of This Book Makes No Sense... so if you're around and you need a gift for the holidays or a grift for the polypods, go to Trident Booksellers and Cafe, and sprinkle some nonsense on your soup.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

29-30 November, 2012: A mayfly in Calcutta!

Thursday and Friday were spent like the mayfly: a brief fecund flicker-flash! I visited five schools: Calcutta International, Birla Boys School, South City International, and Mongrace Montessori (alma mater of a certain Samit Basu, by the way!).  I send out thanks to the teachers, administrators, and students for welcoming me, keeping me watered and fed and pink and happy.  The events fizzed and zbinged, and I spent a fair amount of time, with Sayoni’s unswerving nonsensical hand and eye, illuminating the book with nonsensical drawings, captions, and signings…  Here are some of the sights and ‘swounds. 

South City
Birla Boys

Mongrace minis!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Wednesday, 28 November 2012: Calcutta/Kolkata

I arrived in Calcutta again, after an absence of about 18 years.  India moves fast—even Calcutta moves fast despite the reputation of Bengalis (as Sampurna’s “bong” poem implies!).  Far fewer plumes of black exhaust, and far more buildings and overpasses being constructed these days, but the old crumbling grandeur persists.  Salt Lake still felt like a neighborhood, though, with the local market where at 7:30am we got crabs from the elusive crab man and his mysterious basket of crabs, not to mention freshly made jalebi from the Jolly Jalebi Joe. 

Mercifully, Wednesday was a bit of a break because of Guru Nanak’s Day.  Still, Scholastic would not keep me entirely idle.  I met my Scholastic connection, Debjani Banerji, who would prove to be a most able, amiable, affable, and taffyable guide over the next few days. I was taken to Seagull Books, which is a publisher, publishing school, and arts activist organization among other groovy things.  They were hosting One Nation Reading Together, an event whereby publishers donate books to worthy institutions and convey a pledge, and the children dutifully repeat the pledge, about the value of books.  This year’s pledge was written by Ruskin Bond.  I didn’t know quite what to expect with this appearance, but I ended up doing a modified set (sans guitar).  While some of the kids there had less English, things went well, and the adults had particularly good questions and comments.  Trust the Bengalis to dig nonsense!

Here is a link to the Seagull page, which has a blurb and some more photos from the event.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Tuesday, 27 November: Mumbai with Sampurna!

Here's what it looks like from our side!
Through various misfortunes and profortunes, Sampurna Chattarji was able to join me this day in her home turf, Mumbai, as we visited N.L. Dalmia School, Singapore International School, and St. John’s.  Once again, we’re being sent to some of the swankiest schools around, and so we slung some extra-swanky hanky-spanky round the marshmallowed halls.

Nonsense faces always... Sampurna and me with our hosts at Dalmia.

It was great to do these shows with Sampurna—who is zany and zippy and zinky and zlippy—and because we were together, we were able to do some different material, like “Nonsense Gonesense,” by Sukumar Ray, a kind of drama of nonsensical interruptions.  When we stormed off the stage in nonsense rage, we might even have frightened a few of the wee ones.  Sampurna, being a beauteous Bong, read her poem “What the Bong Tree Grows,” and she did a great job with “There Goes Gran,” one of the many pieces she translated.

Loonar howlings and loonier howlings
 At Singapore International, they asked if I wanted any musical instruments for the performance, and I thought it might be fun to play a little tabla—of course, using them to make some points about nonsense.  Tabla compositions, for those who don’t know, are transmitted orally, by a kind of drum language that only has meaning in terms of correlation to ways of hitting the drums.  These syllables, called “bols,” when strung together make compositions, and so “sense” in that functional way, but these compositions (chanted with great skill and delight) are also a kind of song, a joyful gibberishy meta-music.  This is why when you see tabla players reciting their bols, they are often smiling. Dha tire kite dhe ge na dha ge ti na ke na.  But when I tried to get a set of tablas at Singapore International, there was trouble.  We went down into the music department, which was extensive, and woke up the poor fellow who was obviously not expecting us.  Several Western drum sets sat out, but he said they had no tablas—and only a “broken dhol.”  Here I am in the music department of a huge and wealthy Indian school—with no traditional Indian instruments.  How sad!  Here is where we bemoan globalization, but I’d rather bemoan gobi-ization, the proliferation of cauliflower (or gobi) dishes in India.  Come on, cauliflower?  Really?

Sampurna and I were then whisked away on our mini-tour through the crazy Mumbai traffic to St. John’s school.  As you can see below, much nonsense was made...

Thanks to all the schools for being lovely hosts, for all the wee sandwiches with the crusts cut off, for the endless cups of tea, and for providing the kind of tireless, progressive education--where nonsense has value--to thousands and thousands of bright children!  A most munificent and mungfishful day.