Saturday, September 30, 2006

First day in school.

I cannot quite recall if I went to school the very first time on a Dashera or a Gudi Padwa. It seems likely it was the latter because it happens to be the New Year Day according to the calendar (Nirnaysagar) the Mankars used to follow in those days. My first school was Sirdar High School, 12th Khetwadi Lane, not even two minutes’ walking distance from 233 Khetwadi Main Road. I remember being taught to write the first letters of the Devanagari alphabet (‘Shri’, ‘Ga’, ‘Ne’. ‘Sha’ that together spell Ganapati's name, a synonym for ‘auspicious beginning’) on a writing tablet made of proper slate and set in an off white or light brown wooden frame. I say ‘proper’ because soon afterwards all we could find in the market were faux slates with a tin writing surface. After writing my first lesson on the slate, I was asked to keep it in front of the family devghar (literally ‘home of the deities’) and bow down to it. In our devghar, there were pictures of our family deity (Maheshwari) as well as Rama with Sita and all his brothers, Vithoba and Rakhma and Shri Dattatraya, apart from a Shivalingam. Also, Gudi Padwa was the day my mother used to have erected a Gudi, a sort of an improvised flag made of a silken saree and adorned with a long garland of saffron coloured marigold flowers and mango leaves, to herald the New Year. On Dashera, people used to worship implements or tools of one’s trade. For instance, our car used to be garlanded and worshipped with all reverence and, later on, even my portable typewriter. Not a bad idea, I reckon, considering they help us to lead our lives and do our work a bit more easily and comfortably. And, though, I worked for an ad agency run by the Bhadralok Mafiosi for 11 years, 7 months and 4 days, &, I never managed to visit Calcutta or experience Durga Puja which in our part of India is celebrated as Navaratri (literally 'Nine Nights') culminating in Dashera.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Sound of silence.

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dare
Disturb the sound of silence."

That’s the third stanza of Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence, a hit release as single in 1966, made even more famous as a part of Mike Nicholas’s The Graduate soundtrack. I thought of it while reading a recent This Is London article. “Britain's offices are falling silent as email replaces conversation, according to a new study,” it tells me. The Corporate Services Group PLC, staffing specialists, found it in a poll of 2,000 office workers. “Almost half of workers admitted they email the person sitting next to them to avoid making verbal contact. Yet a nosey one in five Brits uses email just to gossip to desk buddies about work colleagues.” As for mobile phones: “A cowardly one in five Brits confessed to dropping a text to their boss instead of calling in sick.” Moreover: “… the silent culture continues with one in five employees regularly plugging themselves into mp3 players at their desks. Men are twice more likely to work to music than women, both sexes agreed the most common need for tunes was to relieve boredom at work. Yet, an anti-social one in 20 Brits confessed they listen to music purely to stop colleagues speaking to them.” If you go to office to work, is it such a bad idea that you avoid chitchat and concentrate on the job in hand? I see a lot of commuters listening to music these days in Mumbai. Nothing wrong in that, I feel, considering the ambient decibel levels. I like the sound of silence.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sohrab and Rustom?

By the late 60s, Clarion-McCann & (I joined it in 1965 and quit in 1976) had turned into the proverbial snake pit. By 1966, I was Senior Writer and therefore vulnerable to the emerging power struggle. I had a good working relationship with most departments including client servicing, media and research. The problem, however, was an Art Director with Napoleonic delusions and a Machiavellian mind. He fancied himself as the spokesperson of the downtrodden. Mind you, Clarion, Kolkata, happened to be the accidental offspring of the Trade Unionist struggle in DJ Keymer in the late 50s Kolkata. But the crusty old Comrades running it in the days I’m writing about had by then turned into hard-core capitalists, the worst kind you’d ever encounter. These veterans had not forgotten their realpolitik. One of their major fears based (I reckon) on their own past experience seemed to be that, if not checked in time, the Mumbai mutiny might result in the branch breaking away from the main Agency. To woo the Natives, they hired a mediocre and moderately successful ad manager from one of the most aggressive US marketing companies well-known for its cold remedies. He was a Gujarati who fancied himself to be quite a connoisseur of the arts and a man of the people, especially able to resonate with ‘creative’ people as he chose to address us. He used to tell me how his ‘influence’ inspired one of his ‘dear’ colleagues to write a play about an Englishman who went native in the 19th century Punjab. (The ‘dear’ colleague in one of his recent books wrote dismissively about him, though – not even mentioning him by name.) The new ‘strategic’ acquisition of Clarion-McCann, Mumbai, using his profound managerial wisdom and acumen in turn hired an England-returned Group Manager. Guess who he was? No less than the son (from her first marriage) of Mehtab, the wife of the once-renowned Hindi cinema and Parsi theatre legend, Sohrab Modi. The office grapevine had all kinds of rumours about him flying all over. Anyway, through him, I met Sohrab Modi on several occasions at their Cuffe Parade home when we were invited there for dinner. By then, I had come to be acknowledged as a fast writer who could produce plenty of alternative ideas at the drop of a hat. So, Mehtab’s son often used to invite me home for a hurried lunch and emergency work conference. One of the most vivid memories I have of him is about his fear of flying. We were flying to Hyderabad for a Vazir Sultan briefing session one Monsoon afternoon. The plane was pitching all over soon after the take-off. I was narrating to him something I had read about air crashes. Then suddenly something made me turn to look at him. It was a sorry and distressful sight. The man was virtually petrified. Though Sohrab’s surrogate son, he was no Rustom.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Distance learning.

You’ve got to be either out of your mind or out of this world to feel like what the first woman space tourist, Anousheh Ansari, felt when she saw Planet Earth from her space craft. “… you see the ‘Whole’ not the ‘Parts’ … I wish the leaders of different nations could do the same and have a world vision first, before a specific vision for their country.” Also: “You cannot see any borders… you cannot tell where one country ends and another one starts… the only border you see is the border between land and water.” She paid “about $20 million for 10 days in space” apart from bearing a lot of discomfort to acquire this world view, buddy. I guess us mere land lubbers better shut up and listen reverentially. As the old saying goes: “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Distance, too. P.S.: Now that Ansari has blogged the gory details of personal hygiene in space, I can finally figure out why Buck Rogers wore the perenially pained expression he always did in the comic strip. Read “continually constipated” for "perennially pained”, in case you didn’t get the point.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Down and out. Quit. Exit.

When in doubt, step out. I used to be persistent at one point of time. Very persistent. Dogged. I won’t take failure in my stride. I would keep trying. Hitting my head against a determined wall of resistance. No more. Now I quit early. Cut my losses. The sooner the better. That’s why I quit Window Live Beta yesterday. Got back to good ol’ Hotmail. Window Live just did not work for me. I couldn’t figure out how to write e-mails with it. There was no Compose button. Also, once I put an e-mail in a folder, I couldn’t figure out how to retrieve it. In other words, I could not open the personal folders. Also, the Help button was no help. Every time, I clicked on it, it would give me an error/try again message. This must have happened at least two dozen times. Then I simply gave up. Abandoned all hope and quit. But before I could go back, Microsoft put me through the grind of a questionnaire. Their drift seemed to be to make me see the error of my ways, I guess. Fair enough. I had my say and quit. Before letting me go, they even offered me the option of rejoining the queue for the Window Live Beta all over again. Thank you but no, thank you. I’d rather be Dead than Live.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Perils of Amanda, the hyper writer.

I’ve read about Amanda McKittrick Ros (1860-1939), yes. I have not read a single one of her three novels, Irene Iddesleigh, Delina Delaney and Helen Huddleston, though. Her first novel was dubbed by the humourist Barry Pain "the book of the century". For his pains, he got the sobriquet, "clay crab of corruption" from the mistress of aliteration. It’s an irony of sorts that Pain has long been forgotten while Ros is still remembered. She’s even going to be celebrated in her native land, Ireland. Come 26 September, fans will read from Irene Iddesleigh in a Belfast pub. The one who manages to read the longest without laughing will win a copy of a Barbara Cartland novel, a return ticket to Ros’ hometown Larne and a copy of the writer’s ‘how-to’ handbook. Just to give you an idea of the daunting challenge, here’s an excerpt from Irene Iddesleigh: “The living sometimes learn the touchy tricks of the traitor, the tardy and the tempted; the dead have evaded the flighty earthy future and form to swell the retinue of retired rights, the righteous school of the invisible and the rebellious roar of the raging nothing.” Or, this bit from Delina Delaney: “Have you ever visited that portion of Erin's plot that offers its sympathetic soil for the minute survey and scrutinous examination of those in political power, whose decision has wisely been the means before now of converting the stern and prejudiced, and reaching the hand of slight aid to share its strength in augmenting its agricultural richness?” And, this gem from her poem, ‘Visiting Westminster Abbey’ (from Fumes of Formation – her other book of poetry being Poems of Puncture):

“Holy Moses! Have a look!
Flesh decayed in every nook!
Some rare bits of brain lie here,
Mortal loads of beef and beer,
Some of whom are turned to dust,
Every one bids lost to lust;
Royal flesh so tinged with 'blue'
Undergoes the same as you.”

Aldous Huxley insightfully explained the Ros phenomenon as follows: "In Mrs. Ros we see, as we see in the Elizabethan novelists, the result of the discovery of art by an unsophisticated mind and of its first conscious attempt to produce the artistic. It is remarkable how late in the history of every literature simplicity is invented...”. He contnues: “This is how she tells us that Delina earned money by doing needlework: ‘She tried hard to keep herself a stranger to her poor old father's slight income by the use of the finest production of steel, whose blunt edge eyed the reely covering with marked greed, and offered its sharp dart to faultless fabrics of flaxen fineness’.” Nick Page (In Search of the World's Worst Writer) tells us: "For Amanda, eyes are 'piercing orbs', legs are 'bony supports', people do not blush, they are 'touched by the hot hand of bewilderment'." Have alook at three woodcuts from Irene Iddesleigh here:

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Gandhigiri’s first converts.

The Ulhasnagar Police Force, would you believe? Or, so claims the Mumbai morninger that used to be an eveninger till not so far ago and still sticks to the monicker that says as much. The credit for spreading the good word goes to a recent movie about two bhais with hearts of gold. How a criminal manages to possess one is beyond me. Come to think of it, though, if they call the Gandhian way ‘Gandhigiri’ – a pejorative derisive label, at best, compare 'dadagiri' (bullying) and 'chamchagiri' (kowtowing) – what they’re preaching (and practicing) may be a parody of what Gandhi preached and practiced. But I could be totally wrong. Maybe their simple-minded reinterpretation of Gandhi – a persuasive repackaging of his thesis laced with humour – is just what was needed to make people look at him anew. And, if Munnabhai could inspire hard core cops to enroll for a course about the Gandhian way and even resolve to practice it in their day-to-day work, that cannot be such a bad thing. Gandhi had a sense of humour. For instance, when a reporter once asked him what he thought of Western civilization, he reportedly answered: “I think it would be a good idea!”

Monday, September 18, 2006

Malegaon Days.

I’ve never been to Malegaon and hopefully will never set foot in the unfortunate and miserable place. No, I’m not condescending. Not a bit. I can well imagine the pall of doom and forlornness that must be forever hovering over the town. To live there looking forward to nothing must be what inspired the locals to make movies spoofing the mainstream movies made in Mumbai. I find it ironical, considering that these movies used to be made for strictly local viewing in the video parlour, that they always had Malegaon in the title. Malegaon Ke Sholay, Malegaon Ke Karan-Arjun, Malegaon Ka Rangeela, Malegaon Ki Lagaan … you get the drift? Is it not like rubbing salt in the wound reminding it is about (and probably set in) miserable and grimy Malegaon? Equally ironical, Malegaon’s Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Dharmendra, Pran and other actors had to pay to act – and still did. Maybe, while the movie was being shot, they could feel they were who they claimed to be: one way out of their otherwise grimy everyday reality. Nonetheless, I’m amazed by the humour even the movie characters transformed names show. Gabbar Singh metamorphosed into Rubber Singh. Basanti became Basmati. (Equally revealing are the names of Malegaon's localities: Tension Chowk, Achanak Nagar, Rishwat Nagar, Raunakabad, Tashkent Nagar, Bajrangwadi, Ayodhya Nagar and Islamabad.) It seems the Malegaon movie making is no more. Because the unlicensed video parlours have been forced to shut down. In other words, there are no distribution outlets left. So, the one escape route for the chosen few is now no more. R.I.P.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Digital immortality is a moral certainty? Ask James Fallows.

He has been writing for The Atlantic Monthly for many years. In the September 2006 issue, in his article, ‘File Not Found’, he argues persuasively that analog beats digital hands down for preserving information over “centuries, millennia, that sort of deep time”. In other words, stone and paper are far safer than bits and bytes. (The sub-title of his article reads: “Why a stone tablet is still better than a hard drive”.) Fallows cites James Belington, Library of Congress’s chief honcho, and a report the latter read. It estimated the quantum of digital information globally generated every 15 minutes to be “equivalent in scale to the contents of all the library’s books”. He also tells us what the Chief said about the best media to preserve information. “The best-preserved data tends to be on stone steles and cuneiform tablets.” Also: “Papyrus, vellum, parchment – all those classical modes hold up pretty well.” Next a story from Chris Weston (Office of Strategic Initiative): “Someone in upstate New York was cleaning out the attic of an old farmhouse—and there was a letter from Benedict Arnold. It had been in a cool, dry place for 200-some years. With most things on paper, unless you throw them away or actively destroy them, they’re likely to stay around.” With digital data, unless one is careful to renew and preserve it, it may simply disappear over time. Clay Shirky, a New York University media scholar, calls the cause ‘Playback Drift: The Silent Killer’, i.e. the tendency of physical devices for storing and retrieving digital data to “succeed one another so quickly that information is in constant jeopardy of being trapped in an obsolete format”. The one sure and simple solution is hard copy back-up. In short, print it, dude. Better still, carve it on a stone tablet. You may also use your imagination and use a 2 GB Gmail account for free online back-up, as Fallows writes. Also, consign some stuff to a blog network which hopefully will work to keep the information safe from the ravages of time and leaps of technology. The point is, immortality can be a moral certainty only if you work for it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Early learners?

Ashtavakra and Abhimanyu – both from the Mahabharata – come to mind. The latter learned the right way of penetrating into a chakravyuha (but not the way out of it) by listening to Arjuna from his mother Subhadra's womb. Partial knowledge was his undoing in the war. Ashtavakra’s case is even more fascinating. He was a Vedic scholar, a jnani – not a warrior. He was deformed (‘vakra’) in eight (‘Ashta’) joints of his body. I came across two versions of how his body got deformed. In the first version, his ambitious mother, Sujata, the daughter of Sage Uddalaka, was married to Kahor, his star pupil. When she was pregnant, she had high hopes for her child. She wanted him to be far above the ordinary. So, she began to attend the Vedic discourses given by her father and her husband. The unborn baby in her womb was so intelligent that, one fine day, he corrected his father’s chanting of a verse. Kahor apparently had a prima donna mindset. He couldn’t stand the humiliation of being publicly chided by his unborn child. Had he an ounce of common sense and humility, he would have felt proud that he had sired a super brilliant brat. Instead, he chose to stand on his dignity and his seniority like a father in a Bollywood flick. He cursed his progeny saying that he be born deformed in eight parts of his body. In the second version, though, Ashtavakra did not speak out his mind publicly. Instead, he bottled his discomfiture and displeasure at his father’s faulty rendering of the verses. He winced with embarrassment and his body twisted inside the womb at every slip of his worthy sire. King Janaka became Ashtavakra’s disciple. The dialogue between the two of them went on to become the celebrated Ashtavakra Gita or Ashtavakra Samhita. Here are a few quotes to get a feel of it.

“You do not consist of any of the elements – earth, water, fire, air or even ether. To be liberated, know yourself as consisting of consciousness, the witness of these .” (1.3)

“Righteousness and unrighteousness, pleasure and pain are purely of the mind and are no concern of yours. You are neither the doer nor the reaper of the consequences, so you are always free.” (1.6)

“Since you have been bitten by the black snake, the opinion about yourself that ‘I am the doer’, drink the antidote of faith in the fact that ‘I am not the doer’, and be happy.” (1.8)

“If one thinks of oneself as free, one is free, and if one thinks of oneself as bound, one is bound. Here this saying is true, ‘Thinking makes it so’.” (1.11)

“Pure illusion reigns in samsara which will continue until self realisation, but the enlightened man lives in the beauty of freedom from me and mine, from the sense of responsibility and from any attachment.” (18.73)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sounds like…

Memories come in all shapes and sizes. Some are sights. Some are smells. Others are sounds. One of my most distinct aural memory is the almost unearthly “uulfeemalaay” cry of the kulfi vendor who went down the Khetwadi Main Road on his nightly round around nine o’clock. His creamy kulfi used to come in little aluminum cones the mouth of which was sealed with a seal made out of dough. A little later, a fakir would go on his alms collection round. Strangely enough, I could hear him approaching and retreating but never stopping to receive alms. He must have been a Sufi or a Kabirpanthi, judging from the fact that he used to sing a doha (hymn) of Kabir, the weaver saint who lived between 1398 and 1518. (I knew it was Kabir’s poetry because I grew up listening to my father singing it.) Then there was the sound of a hack Victoria clop-clop-clopping along our road in the dead of the night. If it was coming from the Charni Road and going eastwards, I would start hearing it in my bed as soon as it approached the Girgaum Police Court. Then as it took the right turn at the corner, the pitch of the clop-clop would rise, reach a crescendo as it passed our house – the third house on the right – and then start receding as it drew away out of my aural range. Sometimes, I would wake up suddenly around midnight just when the 9-30 film show at the Krishna Talkies (later renamed Dreamland soon after 15 August 1947) got over. There would be a lot of approaching sounds – people talking and laughing raucously, hack victorias clopping along, stragglers waiting at the corner for the last tramcar that would arrive soon and clatter along the Charni Road on its last journey of the day – all of which eventually would die down. Then all I could hear no matter how much I strained my ears was the deafening sound of silence.

Inside job?

In most cases, I’m wary of conspiracy theories. But when a well-known and well respected professor of nuclear physics who ought to know his implosions from his explosions offers a ‘controlled demolition’ hypothesis, I don’t know. [Want a quick summary of the top 10 conspiracy theories, go here: Also see:] Urban Indians, Mumbaikars in particular, who take a very sentimental view of all things American staunchly object to the conspiracy theory for the following reason. Would they do it to their own people? Would they make their own folks miserable? Would they attack Truth, Justice and the American Way (what Superman now calls “all that stuff”)? Of course, they would. If they had a strong enough motive. If they could conjure a neo Pearl Harbour in order to justify a take-over of the Middle East oilfields, for instance. Or, if they could whip up enough popular support for their dream of restoring the US of A to the greatness and world leadership that, in their estimation, it is destined for. To hell with who gets hurt in the process, boys and girls. See how General Motors – which used to be a power unto itself at that point of time – systematically destroyed the California Transit Systems in the forties. The Prophet of Progress had the best of motives at heart. You guessed it: the profit motive. “Kerosene was poured on the streetcars and electric trains and they were burned, except a few placed in museums. Nothing was left of the transit system which had comprised 1479 streetcars and train cars and 771 trolley buses. Even the subway was made unusable by a future subway line.” Also: “…what was once a private company, making profit and paying taxes, eventually became both government owned and government subsidized, after GM destroyed both its efficiency and its customer base. This process was repeated in other of GM's transit operations in California. The transit companies also had owned much of the property under their tracks, and paid property taxes which roads never paid.” And: “Taxpayers to this day are burdened with subsidizing bus systems. To a much greater extent, they are burdened with subsidizing automobiles whose numbers are far greater than if the electric systems – with streetcars, trains and trolley buses – had remained intact.” Want another example? Read what happened to “the hapless and desperate victims of the Dust Bowl seeking work in California (much like the Joad family in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath attracted to California, portrayed as ‘the land of milk and honey’ in the bogus ads for fruit pickers placed in Oklahoma newspapers in order to drive down the minimum wages)”.

Okay, everybody. Let's belt it with gusto:

I like to be in America!
O.K. by me in America!
Ev'rything free in America
For a small fee in America!


Automobile in America,
Chromium steel in America,
Wire-spoke wheel in America,
Very big deal in America!


Immigrant goes to America,
Many hellos in America;
Nobody knows in America
Puerto Rico's in America!

Once more with feeling, boys and girls:

I like the shores of America!
Comfort is yours in America!
Knobs on the doors in America,
Wall-to-wall floors in America!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Almost a Ph D. Me, who else?

20 January 1949 was a fateful day for our world. It was a windy day and there was a snow storm raging in Washington, DC, as US President Harry Truman in his inauguration address to Congress called most of the world “underdeveloped areas”. He inaugurated at that moment the economics of development. Leaders of the newly independent nations – Nehru, Nkrumah, Nasser, Sukarno – accepted this world view unquestioningly and exchanged their respective people's recently shed yoke of a colonial past for the burden of a developmental future. Ten years later, having just got my Bachelor of Commerce degree from the then prestigious Sydenham College, I decided to do my Masters by writing a thesis in Public Economics. The subject I chose to study was how to go about mobilizing resources for economic growth using deficit financing and foreign aid. My guide was Professor LN Welingkar. He was the principal of the RA Podar College of Commerce and Economics as well as a very active member of the University Senate. I spent the next two and a half years in the University Library and the Podar College Library reading and making copious notes. Having accepted blindly the fallacious premise of development as the panacea for all the ills of the underdeveloped countries, I enthusiastically plunged into the task of collating all the facts and figures I could muster to come up with a fairly sensible theory of development financing. Apparently, I must have succeeded to a fair extent in what I set out to do. Because when I appeared for my viva voce in February 1959, Dr KN Raj, the eminent economist who had drafted parts of India’s First Five Year Plan at age 26 and who helped to set up the Delhi School of Economics and who happened to be my external examiner, complimented me copiously for my good work. He even told me that had I waited one more year I could have easily submitted my thesis straight for the Doctorate in Philosophy degree. Forty seven years after the event, after having seen the pitfalls of the development route, I wonder if it even deserved the M Com degree it earned me. I wasn’t meant to be an economist all my life, it turned out. After six years as a research assistant with the Forward Markets Commission, I quit economics and shifted to ad writing. P.S.: Here’s hoping the University of Mumbai Library has still preserved the copy of my thesis of 500 odd pages I submitted to it as required by the rules then prevailing. The copy I gave to my guide may be in the RA Podar College Library. I don’t know where my copy went. I guess I have always been careless with my books and other possessions.

She was there for the doll after all.

So Kajoj throws her famous “I refuse to pose for pictures” tantrum again. Big deal. Maybe, she doesn’t like her privacy invaded in public spaces, huh? Maybe, she isn’t partial to seeing her mug on the idiot box and the rags every other day. After all, she’s so thoughtfully sparing about how often she shows it on the silver screen. Even once in a blue moon would be a gross exaggeration. And, this time it wasn’t she who was supposed to be in the limelight. It was the Kajol doll (along with the Hrithik and Priyanka dittos). Both the stars did not show up. Kajol did. She even cut the cake. So why all the bitching? We don’t need to see her picture to know what she looks like, do we? I have a suggestion for the media folks who find it difficult to abide by Kajol’s bossy, bossy ways. The next time you see her, just ignore her. That will teach her who the real boss is. By the way, I once saw her mother (Tanuja) chatting away with the fisherwomen in the Grant Road market loudly lamenting the unavailability of fish roe just when she had guests coming for dinner. This was some years ago when she had started doing 'character' roles in the movies and Kajol was just getting into the heroine mode. Tanuja had no starry airs about her. None at all, as far as I could see.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Elaine’s exclamation points.

That’s why I enjoy Seinfeld so much. Not for Jerry – who frankly comes across to me as a wimp with a nasal whiny way of speaking (listen carefully to how he says “I know”), albeit a reasonably successful one. Not for George destined to fail for as long as he lives. Not even for the bizarre Kramer. But for the unwittingly insightful Elaine. Among the priceless lessons she taught me is the one on exclamation points. The fact is there’s a surfeit of them in the world. So let us not add to the congestion by using them recklessly and indiscriminately – on the idiot box of all places. The other day, I had the misfortune to be in a room where people were watching a soap called Virasat on a home theatre video screen. Every single time a character mouthed some inanity, the camera used to switch to show the expressionless mug of his or her companion. A sort of a muffled thud (the idiot box equivalent of Elaine’s exclamation point) would then come on the sound track as they cut abruptly to a still closer close-up of whoever was facing the camera. Avantika reminded me that they do it on The Bold and the Beautiful too. I guess Elaine’s logic for her generous sprinkling of exclamation points in her edit of Jake Jarmel’s book (“Well, I felt that the writing lacked certain emotion and intensity.”) is a cousin once removed of the logic soap directors, editors and music directors employ for the kind of sudsy style they adopt. Hype it up! Sock it to them, dude! They’ll just lap it up, boss!