Monday, December 28, 2009

Hindi Pulp Art

Here are a few more samples of the 4000+ Hindi pulp novel covers by Mustajab Ahmed Siddiqui a.k.a. Shelle, the master painter of Amroha, U.P.  These didn't make it into our postcard book of his work, Heroes, Gundas, Vamps & Good Girls, but don't let that stop you from buying it.

There are so many damn guns, you know?  (Acutally Blaft has put a lot of guns on the covers of our own books too, and sometimes I feel guilty about it.  Dear customers: Promise you're not going to get all inspired to start stockpiling firearms and become all trigger-happy like a bunch of psycho American National Rifle Association members. OK? Please?)

This guy's blog has some nice examples of older covers, including some that appear to be Shelle's work.  And there are a bunch more in the nice online collection here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bizarre Chennai Kids' Clothing Slogans

by Rakesh

I used to get annoyed at how hard it was to find a T-shirt with a Tamil slogan on it. It still bugs me occasionally, because I find the Roman script one of the least attractive looking of all scripts (if you're not familiar with all the beautiful alphabets, abjads, and syllabaries on Omniglot, it's worth spending some time exploring). But I am now the proud owner of 2 of those popular yellow shirts given away free by the cement companies, which bear their company name and slogan (ராம்கோ சிமென்ட் -- சூப்பர் கிரேடு!) so I don't complain about it so much anymore.

Also, I've been starting to admire the exceedingly strange English slogans that appear in Chennai street fashion, on T-shirts and jeans. It seems that these are not really intended to be read -- it is enough that they are in English, or at least seem to be in some European language, and make vague references to hip or cool sounding "phoren" things like race cars. Or robots. Or dating.

Yesterday, we went Christmas shopping in Thiruvanmiyur; there were a number of kids on our list for whom we meant to buy clothes. We were really blown away by some of the slogans and designs on the kids' outfits at the shop... I think there is some sort of bizarre new textual art form emerging here. Check out this shirt sleeve:

Like, huh?  Is that in Latin for a minute?  Is there some deep Marxist-theoretical interpretation of the 1675 conflict between the Wampanoag Indians and the settlers of New England being referred to here?  What?

Here's another beauty:

I think some African-American literary critic types should be set loose on interpreting that one, I'd like to read what they came up with.

This one reminds me of some iterative-mutating-text experimental poetry I've read somewhere. I like all the different spellings of "Tahiti" and the use of capitals and full stops.

Then there are designs where it looks like the letters of a plaintext have been rearranged or partly encrypted by some algorithmic process.  This one appears to be mostly gibberish, but then note the "FANTASY GOLF" in the center.

There are some that are even more abstract, where it's hard to parse the letters:

I really want to know what that word right before "dreaming" means and how to pronounce it.

Anyway, I wonder where these nameless, brilliant designers are from: Tirupur? Ulhasnagar?  Somebody needs to write a manifesto, I think.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Nandan, Young Ornithologist of Neelankarai, reports

Today, we feature a report on the birds of South Chennai by Nandan Sankriti Kaushik, illustrated by his younger sister Sarayu.


Hi, I’m Nandan of class 3C. I like bird watching.

In my old apartment all I could see were screech owls, (known as barn owls), crows and hundreds of pigeons.

In July last year, we moved into a new house. I never thought we’d see so many birds! It was not like we were living with a large garden. Just a tiny one with a couple of trees and a few bushes that we’d planted.

There are, of course, crows--such noisy creatures--but especially noisy were the egrets, a whole family of them, nesting on the neighbours’ coconut and mango trees; including pond herons and night herons.

There are some jungle babblers that live around us. Funny little things. They attack rear view mirrors whenever they see one.

We have put out a bowl with clean water, for a birdbath, in the garden. The babblers look very cute when they stand around on the edge and take turns to jump in and out.

Unfortunately, most of the time we don’t have a camera nearby.

But, I’d like to tell you about an incident when we DID have a camera:

Early one morning, I was getting ready for school, when my mother called me to the garden. I saw a bird. We knew it was a cuckoo, but weren’t sure what kind. The crows were all making a racket and were trying to kill this bird. It was injured, and could not fly, so we put a basket over it and gave it a cup of water.

We called the Blue Cross. They said they’d come by 10 am.

I left for school. But at 3 pm., when I got back, they hadn’t yet come, and the cuckoo was still under the basket. When the Blue Cross came and rescued it, it was nearly 4 o’ clock!

They told us it was a red winged crested cuckoo and allowed me to touch it before they took it away. It felt like soft cat’s fur. Only thing it was feathers!

Cuckoos lay their eggs in crows’ nests. When the cuckoo hatches, it pushes all the other eggs or chicks out. No wonder the crows wanted to kill this crested cuckoo.

We used to see a couple of magpie robins, but now we don’t. I hope they’ll be back.

A couple of regular visitors are white breasted kingfishers. We can’t ever get a clear picture of them, so here’s one from the internet.

From December to February, if we go up to our terrace, we can see the lovely palm swifts flying in loops over our heads.

A couple of kites tried to make a nest in our coconut tree, but the crows chased them away because they already had a nest there.

Speaking of nests, for the last couple of months we’ve been watching a pair of tailor birds build their nest, and flit in and out. We thought they must have eggs or a hatchling in it. But since the rains started they seem to have abandoned the nest.

Drongos on a wire are quite a common sight, but they still look lovely.

We get occasional treats, one time sightings, of some birds; once it was a red crested woodpecker, once a golden oriole. Just last week I saw a male and female pair of koels, right from my bedroom window! And on the bush next to them was a treepie!

Only two days ago I saw a crow and an owl fighting. The owl flew into the neighbour’s neem tree and stayed there for a few minutes. I tried to get a view of its head, but when I jumped down from our “thinnai” seat, and looked up, it was gone. I ran and fetched my binoculars. My mother said it had peeped out from under the roof next door, but we couldn’t spot it again. It was probably a barn owl. It had a white back with brown spodges, and that was all I saw. I couldn’t see its face.

There are lots of bids to see in the city… 

We just have to stop, and look up. Thank you.

The illustrator and the author at Pulikat Lake