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Saquib Mehmood's Blog

I am the least likely person to write a few words about myself, not because I am overly secretive about my great life, but because I am simply lazy. It's an effort to think up good things to write about oneself so I will instead stick with the truth. I believe in evolution not creation, I believe in reason not in the mindless ramblings of some unknown god, I think love trumps reason, I believe that humanity has come far beyond all that was good and beautiful in this world and what is left behind is the foul stench of accumulated sweat formed by a thousand millennia of wasted effort, I believe 'hope' and 'goodness' are words used by aliens probably while having forbidden sex on their far off planets, I think "love" is a dark ritual performed by some lost tribe in Amazon and people will do everything in their power to prevent it from infiltrating into the heart of their rotten civilization, I think people will kill you for thinking differently, I believe that eccentrics are the best hope for humanity and arrogance is the only way of dealing with fools, I believe that when the time comes calling one should stand up and fight and fall and stand up and fight again till there is nothing left, I believe that one should not be scared of death and calamity and adversity as they seek the one who is afraid, I believe that 'prudence' is a refuge of sycophants who are afraid of the consequences of honesty, and yes I dream that one day I will take off on a space ship to some far off galaxy and will never turn back...

Currently reading

Rumi: Bridge to the Soul: Journeys into the Music and Silence of the Heart
Rumi, Coleman Barks (Translator), With A. J. Arberry, With Nevit Ergin

The Stranger

The Stranger - Albert Camus,  Matthew    Ward
What I have read in fact is a translation by Stuart Gilbert, and I don't feel that anything perceptible was lost in translation. 

You have to read this book very carefully to get Camus' point. It perpetuates a certain motif of existential philosophy that many readers may not be familiar with and, therefore, prone to make errors of judgement about the merit of the work, which is nothing less than ground breaking and brilliant.
Meursault is accused of a crime which he has in fact committed. Camus does not invite anyone to make judgements on his culpability. He intends only to expose the source of collective morality as it prejudices human judgement. The source keeps shifting, for Meursault, it was the societal indignation at his way of life and his core beliefs. He could have escaped the punishment, had he not been perceived to be such a monster. This is the heart of the matter in fact. Existential thought patterns would ultimately lead one to concede the supremacy of indifference prevailing in the workings of the universe. Moralists, on the other hand, lose the very foundation of their beliefs, if they allow this point of view. So poor Meursault, face your end with the same "supreme indifference that guides the benign hand of universe!"
I had deliberately avoided reading this book for a long time because I never wanted to face the intellectual conundrums that it raises. But eventually it turned out that I faced the conundrums regardless, so why not read the book!

Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
Well, I enjoyed this book. And this is perhaps the last good thing that I am going to remember about it. For the last week or so, I have been planning to watch the movie being played in the theatre near my home, and that is frankly why I read the book. On literary merit, it doesn't score very high. In philosophical discourse: quite low, and I am too well versed with military strategy to take Card's thinking seriously. Even the greatest General in all history cannot save the world. Generals exist only to destroy it. It is for us lesser mortals to try and save it from them. But nonetheless, you will enjoy it, the action is quite fast...
Disgrace - J.M. Coetzee
I fail to comprehend why most people don't find it in them to sympathise with David Lurie's predicament. He has done nothing wrong except to provoke the self-righteousness of a society in moral decay. A society that cannot tolerate sexual infringements across generations. When was it actually that having consensual sex with a desirable younger woman became a taboo? Yes of course, there are so many protectors of "virtue" and "purity" that it becomes an absolute monstrosity to even contemplate such a violation of "The Code". David Lurie is on trial for his way of life. 

"Disgrace" is a very personal story for me, call it vanity. I am not David Lurie and I am certainly not 52 years old, but I think that people should learn to treat sexual affinities with some objectivity.
J.M. Coetzee brings forth the tensions of an under-formed and conflicted societal structure. It is not going to go away. "Lucies" will keep getting raped and society will protect the perpetrators, but "Melanies" who give it of their own accord, are free to get a shot at playing victim. What a "Disgrace"!...

The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt
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BREAKING: Russia’s Investigative Committee today announced that it will apply for a three-month extension to the detention of the Arctic 30.

The Arctic 30 took peaceful action to protect the Arctic on behalf of a 4 million - strong movement. Now they need your support more than ever! ACT now:

►Join the global day of action tomorrow: http://act.gp/HQgFAW
►Put an end to injustice and demand the release of the Arctic 30: www.greenpeace.org/freethearctic30/?fbgpi15nov2
The Book of Love: Poems of Ecstasy and Longing - Coleman Barks, Rumi
I cried all night. Such miracle with words: "Last year, I admired the wines. This, I’m wandering inside the red world.
Last year, I gazed at the fire, This year I’m burnt kabob."
[bc:The Book of Love: Poems of Ecstasy and Longing|67376|The Book of Love Poems of Ecstasy and Longing|Rumi|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1347355850s/67376.jpg|65340]

And then I cried in the morning: " As everything changes overnight, I praise the breaking of promises. Whatever love wants, it gets, not next year, now!
I swear by the one who never says tomorrow, as the circle of the moon refuses to sell installments of light. It gives all it has.
How do fables conclude, and who will explain them? Every story is us. That’s who we are, from beginning to no-matter-how it ends."

I think we need to cry for the rest of our lives: " This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor."

-------------" Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance, when you’re perfectly free."

" In the slaughterhouse of love they kill only
the best, none of the weak or deformed.
Don’t run away from this dying.
Whoever’s not killed for love is dead meat."
In the Line of Fire: A Memoir - Pervez Musharraf Impossibly poorly written! I believe some low ranked military staffer wrote it and the book never found an editor. If you want to celebrate the lack of education, irrationality and moral bankruptcy of Pakistan Army's Generals, then this is compulsory reading. The fellow cannot even find an original opening line for his book and insults our intelligence by plagiarizing Dickens: " “These were troubled times. These were momentous times. There was the light of freedom; there was the darkness of genocide. It was the dawn of hope; it was the twilight of empire.”
I say Bollocks! Here is Dickens original line : "“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair . . . .”
And to think of it, this travesty was compulsorily issued to all serving Army officers - not complimentary copies of course! Musharraf made quite a buck by selling this trash to fellow officers who had no choice in the matter except to buy it.

The Prince

The Prince - Niccolò Machiavelli I think I am getting awfully fed up with these self help manuals on immoral governance and how to make the world a more miserable place than it already is. I mean, what were these jokers thinking when writing this sort of stuff? Has anyone ever profited from this? Well I can stake my reputation, which is not much anyways, that all true followers of Machiavelli and Chankya and other war mongering gurus like Sun Tzu, Jomini and Clausewitz & sons etc. have been miserable failures in their lives. If they were so good they would have been the kings not miserable writers of balderdash. Well, I read it only because it was required reading. I have given it five stars? Well, that is just to impress some literary minded girls who are attracted to moral depravity and who, following in the foot steps of their soul guru Machaivelli, have threatened me with withdrawal of their affections if I try to start a silly little counter revolution of my own. Already they are not so thrilled with what I like to call my "refreshing honesty" but which in their estimation is just another name for my "delusional dreams". :)
The Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut Malachi Constant is someone with whom I can readily identify, though god knows I am not as rich.In fact I am poorer by a few billion dollars and some change. But that is compensated in equal parts by my talent for depravity and wickedness, though god knows I do not get to consort with girls as posh as Mr Constant does. But I hope to do that some day and end up at "Titan" to do my final penance. :)
Breakfast of Champions - Kurt Vonnegut I was left a little underwhelmed by this, frankly!
Galápagos - Kurt Vonnegut I think Vonnegut has beaten me to this idea. I thought, I was the only one with a view that the psychology of homo-sapiens is holding this planet a hostage. But Vonnegut saw it many decades before me, and this is what makes him one of my heroes. Very few authors make it to my 'fan's list", and I am honoured to enter Vonnegut there.
Yes, it's the big and useless brain that is causing all this commotion. There were no issues on the planet a few million years ago, life was thriving. Enter homo-sapien, with his clever hands and over-sized brain, and everything goes haywire. Bloodshed, poverty, hunger, devastation, and name a negative word in the lexicon and it would surely have followed the march of so called civilization. What pity! only one known planet capable of hosting life and it is falling hopelessly along an irreversible spiral!
Songs of Blood and Sword: A Daughter's Memoir - Fatima Bhutto Fatima Bhutto is a very pretty and classy girl, a fact that often draws adverse comments from jealous and insecure- mostly female - reviewers who find it difficult to accept this reality. For them I have just one advice: Back off! you can never hope to be in the same league.

I fully sympathise with her predicaments. Imagine a pretty rich little poor girl left to face the savage world with all her beauty and wealth! What can be more heart wrenching?

I like the fact that she has shared a lot of personal information in the book. I really appreciate it that she is a Virgo. I would have liked it more if she had also mentioned the exact time of her birth. The world has become a more tolerable place since then. :)

In the end, I have a chilling confession to make: I have not read this book. Yes, this is true. But I am rating it five stars based purely on my aesthetic biases. Call it "Blind Reader's Syndrome", if you like.

PS: I hope no one takes this seriously. :)
Consider the Lobster and Other Essays - David Foster Wallace

Commenting, reviewing or adding to something that David Foster Wallace has written is few notches above my abilities. There are some writers that you like and some others that you love, but there are very few that you really respect. Foster is probably the only writer for whom I have great respect, not because he writes so well as his brilliance, his wit, his keen sense of observation are all a given, but for his humanity and the way he makes me feel ashamed of myself every so often. I who often think of myself as sensitive, original, sincere, witty and profound am no more than a creature of pretensions and a prisoner of my self-interest. This is the uncomfortable message I receive every time I pick up something from Foster. That is why it is always such a hard decision to read his work knowing that you will be humbled in the process. I only want to record my observations on the title piece, that is, “Consider the Lobster” in this entirely outstanding collection of Foster's Essays. Another one worth mentioning is "Up Simba" which is an account of days spent on Senator McCain's campaign trail in 2000.
Most of those who will find time to read this must have noticed my proclaimed love for animals and in general all life forms. Well, don't be fooled by that. I think it's a lie, some pretension that I came up with while drunk with a vision of my goodness. Because if this is true, then why am I not a vegetarian? Why do I mock vegetarians with all the nastiness that I can muster? What is your opinion of someone who has been scheming all along to kill and eat those he claims to love? Certainly I don't hold that person in a very high regard. But in this case I am also faced with a moral dilemma, because that person is myself. Now here is a test of character, I can condemn myself and admit that I am dishonest and a liar or seek justifications for my actions.
Now consider the case of lobster. One of my countless conceits is to promote myself as a great connoisseur of such delicacies. "I like them fresh and I like them grilled!" is a slogan by which I thrive and maintain supremacy in my social circle. So on any given evening, I would descend along with few cronies at the restaurant managed by my brother, and shame them into trying it out. They would agree because not doing so would be so un-hip and un-cool. Most eager among them would be that pretty young thing whom I want to impress this evening with my knowledge, my wisdom and my worldly ways. Then I would demonstrate my command of the intricate methods and procedures involved in "preparing" the lobster as well as the general esteem in which all the staff at the restaurant holds me, not because I am the manager's brother but because of my overly (and incorrectly) advertised knowledge of culinary matters. How naively arrogant one can be! Anyway, I would offer them to see what is actually going on in the kitchen while this great crustacean is brought towards its inevitable doom. "I like to personally prepare my lobsters, because I want to honour them (in some cryptic tradition of my forefathers from pre-cambrian periods that required killing the prey yourself to honour it)" - but this is just another of my empty slogans as I envision their sweet, succulent meat savoured in a frenzy of gastronomic impudence before ending up in my digestive tracts. Where is the honour in this?".
Well those of you who do not know what this seemingly innocuous word "prepare" means in a lobstrian context, let me give you a synopsis. You fill a large kettle with water and set it to boil. Do not forget to add two tea spoons of sodium chloride (which is the ordinary table salt). Now the real fun part: take out your crustacean friends from the large glass jar in which you are keeping them and in which they are alive and kicking and put them in the kettle in which the water has reached the boiling point. All the cronies are eagerly watching as the poor things scramble about the kettle in obvious pain and possibly disgust.
The pretty young thing (whom I want to impress) is the bravest of them all as she watches the massacre with undisguised devotion, her eyes lit with strange primitive emotions as the lobsters writhe and squirm in pain. I believe she is secretly cheering them on in the manner of a pretty cheerleader who is indifferent to the fate of the players or the outcome of the game, but loves the accompanying mayhem and bloodshed. "Lobsters do not feel pain because their nervous system is wired differently", I triumphantly announce - an obvious lie of course, but a few lights are extinguished in the pretty young thing's eyes and a general air of despondence descends over cronies.
The freak show continues as we exit the kitchen and take prominent seats in the dining area. Other people are obviously in awe of us now. We have access to forbidden lands where we have just performed secret and gruesome rituals the details of which will remain buried in our hearts for all eternity. But this only increases their esteem for us, we are the cool ones. The pretty young thing glows in the aftermath of the spiritual experience she has just had. She looks at me with her smouldering eyes which shine like distant stars where secrets of creation are written every day, her love for me is assured now, I can see it in those haunting eyes. Chefs are grilling the now deceased lobsters over freshly lit charcoal as I dismiss the few remaining shreds of guilt that threaten to oppress my heart. The cronies laugh into the night....

Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea - Chelsea Handler Haha, She is hilarious!

She is so over the top and out of control, and I naively thought that I was the crazy one!
Good for a lot of laughs!
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men - David Foster Wallace Brief Interviews with Hideous Men is Wallace's way of communicating what a lesser person would deem incommunicable. These men are hideous not for some exceptional flaws in their characters but for a universally hated virtue, that is, honesty. They lie, cheat, obsess, fornicate and what not, like all the rest of us. But they get bad press because they choose to speak about it. So they are hideous, deserving of contempt and derision!
Admittedly, not all the stories in the collection are at the same level, but there are enough brilliant pieces to keep the reader engaged. My recommendation for aspiring readers would be to first go through the Brief Interviews, these are some of the best stories,and read the last one first as it will probably stay with you for the rest of your life. What goes on in the mind of a girl about to be raped? Well, I cannot admire Wallace enough!
My Feudal Lord - Tehmina Durrani with William and Marilyn Hoffer I read it a long time ago and only now I am reminded of it, as the book popped up for some reason on my goodreads page. It is only a list of complaints of one person against another, not worthy of a serious consideration in a literary sense.
I do not grudge Tehmina for having her revenge on her feudal lord, but one does not blame others for life's mishaps. Things happen old girl, I hope you are happy with your industrial lord now!
But really! Is this it? This is what you have been struggling for? Why can't you stay away from Punjab Chief Ministers? And this one is a special case. He has a head transplanted with a guerilla's pubic hair and his brain replaced with an octopus' kidneys. That was a bonus! (Never mind, just kidding)!
The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho Full of un-quotable bad quotes and philosophy for dummies, consider this:
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
Really? my experience is the exact opposite of this!

or another gem:
" “I don’t live in either my past or my future. I'm interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living now.”
I see!
Only someone who is seriously delusional can subscribe to this kind of thinking.

and what is this supposed to mean?
"True love never keeps a man from pursuing his destiny”

what kind of a moron pursues his destiny when true love is staring him in the face?

Now this is quite irritating because I don't really like to be told by "my authors" and "my philosophers" what to think and what to do. I like to make up my own mind.
If at all I am so desperate for advice about my affairs, I will turn to Dr Tatiana's Sex Column not to Paulo Coelho.

This is like a children's book for some very dim-witted children!

Many great writers have tried the parable style, but none of them has come up with something as ordinary as this.
My recommendation: read "The Pearl" by John Steinbeck or "The Old Man and the Sea" by Ernest Hemingway if you like some classy writing and are really interested in this format. Both these writers let the readers draw their own conclusions instead of imposing their philosophies.