Friday, July 30, 2010

My theory on Noise for Thought

Have you ever said to yourself that you need some "quiet" time to think things out?  Have you desired some solitude to get your thoughts straight, to get in tune with yourself?  Away from the noise and distractions of the city, into the peace and calm of some country cottage or under the solitary tree on a lonely hill? :)

I used to think of these things quite often.  I felt that if i went someplace where there was a peaceful silence, i would be able to write, to ideate.  Well, i went to places like that a few times, and it just didn't work!  It never worked.  It was like I'd suddenly let a hundred monkeys into my brain.  It was alright till i was thinking everyday nonsensical thoughts, but the moment i tried to focus on something particular, a hundred different thoughts came pouring in, pushing through, clambering over each other.

Our stressful jobs and fast paced lives ensure that our minds are constantly analyzing, comparing, processing, remembering, and generally juggling stuff around.  In fact studies show that a rapidly increasing number of people are having sleep disorders because their minds just refuse to shut down even for a while.  Perhaps our minds are so damn used to this immense amount of activity and all this multi-tasking, that they cant handle thoughts in isolation any more.

Now that's a problem if you want to ideate or think creatively for any reason.

There are basically two kinds of noise around us.  One which immediately affects you, like someone or the other coming and talking to you, your phone ringing, somebody at the door, an sms or an email.  And then there's the background noise, like the murmur of traffic outside, the jabber of people talking around you, sounds of things being moved, etc etc.

The first kind is the real distraction, breaking your train of thought, directly affecting concentration and productivity.  On the other hand, we have adapted and learnt to work well despite the second.  We have got no choice!

My theory is, it goes deeper than that.  We now need some background noise.  Something for our brain to continuously chew on and process so that we can use the remaining bandwidth to focus and really get something good done.  Something to keep the extra naughty mind power busy, so that we don't drift away towards more engaging that hot chick in office or the hot aunty next door or the hot.....well, you got the drift.

So i decided to find that ideal level of background noise.  Music works for some, but for me, it either isn't enough, or then the songs get too interesting by themselves.  Strangely, travel worked wonders!  Buses were good, but long distance trains were the best!  The constant rocking motion, the rhythmic clickety-clack of the wheels, and the fast streaming visuals outside really worked.

Now i really don't know how its gonna affect my family life if i need to jump into a train every time, but the point is, maybe the next time you need to think/create/plan, it might be a good idea to find the right noise to accompany you...


I wonder if thats the reason why so many great ideas come when you are taking a dump.  Possibly a large part of our mind gets totally involved into the all-important activity of coaxing all that stuff out...that it makes eureka moments possible!  Also, archimedes-style, there is again the presence of water...and immersion...hahaha!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Book Review: Theodore Boone by John Grisham

Rating: 1.5 / 5

This is Grisham's 24th novel.  And a bad one.  I have read 5 of his novels before this one, and have liked all of them.  A Time to Kill, The Firm and The Client were really amazing.  Extremely gripping plots, unexpected twists and turns, and superb writing.  Even The Pelican Brief and The Broker were quite good.  Going on past experience I picked up Boone with a lot of anticipation; and was completely disappointed.

The writing was average, at best.  There was no plot at all.  Even after reading 100 pages i was left waiting for some semblance of a plot to develop.  An overly simple and straightforward story line, with no twists (other than the one where the surprise witness turns up; but that's the whole premise of the book anyways, even mentioned on the back cover), half-baked characters and a feeble ending.  And I thought Grisham was into legal suspense thrillers....


The story is about a 13 year old boy, Theo, who dreams of becoming  a famous trial lawyer or a judge.  Both his parents are lawyers, and he spends most of his spare time wandering about the courthouse, getting to know all the lawyers, secretaries, bailiffs, etc.  He also hacks into various law databases and systems to help out his school buddies in legal matters.  He is excitedly following a murder trial when he gets to know of a witness who's testimony would completely change the trial outcome.  Sworn to secrecy, but still desperate to see the murderer punished, he finds himself in a tough spot.


Theo's character is quite okay.  So is his uncle Ike.  But the other important characters, viz. his parents, his childhood friend, school friends, the school teacher cum mentor, the judge, the accused, the witness, etc are all ill developed.  Or rather, the author has hardly spent any time on giving them any depth or substance.  This, along with the lack of a substantial plot, are the two primary reasons for making this book highly superficial.


The other thing which really irked me is this foray into the Young Adult Fiction genre.  Many other authors are doing this because this is where the money is today.  Its like a critical mass of youngsters have suddenly started reading again, and you find so many of these new books claiming 'bestseller' status.  Some recent names are the all-too-obvious Harry Potter series, the Artemis Fowl series, the Twilight series, the Bartimaeus Trilogy, etc etc.  Does Grisham need to do this? 

Even giving him due consideration for wanting to reach out to a much younger audience and doing something different, it is not pardonable that he hasn't tried to understand this segment better.  Todays tweens and teenagers are quite complex creatures, who can handle complicated story-lines (see the later potter novels for example), who are already into relationships (it is absurd to describe a 13 year old who is not into girls - this is far fetched even in India!), who are reasonably mature individuals for that age...and want to be treated as such.  Blyton era innocence cant fly now.

To top it off, the ending seems to be designed for a sequel.  Or maybe we are to see many more Theodore Boone books.  I really hope not.