Twenty one.

A shattered glass on gleaming floors,
Amber liquid spilling out,
Curtains burnt to make way for
Dream catchers hanging by the door.

Youth runs barefoot on hot concrete
Softened only by thin threads of grass,
There is the sharp salt air of the sea,
There is the jazz, broken, complete.

You cannot feel things in their halves,
The sun is servant to your prow,
Old men whisper that nothing lasts,
But bottled time flies from your mast.


Exploring Chatroulette.

I'm a novice when it comes to internet porn, internet sex, internet pleasuring yourself, whatever. I've never even watched porn, not really. When I was ten, my friend Jahnavi and I accidentally found ourselves on a porn site (or maybe not accidentally, I'm not sure), and then we clicked something, and pictures of naked people started popping up everywhere, and then my father walked in on us, and that was pretty much my first and only experience with porn.

No, that's not completely true. I have friends who watch it, and I've seen bits and pieces, but I've never managed sitting through more than a few seconds, because quite frankly, I think porn makes sex look unappetising, which it obviously is not.

Even less have I understood the concept of virtual sex. You go to a chat room, and you type that you're taking your clothes off and you're feeling hot and your fingers are exploring but I find it difficult to buy into that concept. I always get the feeling that at least one person is just sitting around in pyjamas eating a tub of ice cream. Also, I don't think I'm capable of doing naked things in front of a webcam either.

Anyway, the other day I heard about this site called Chatroulette. You go to it, and if you have a webcam you start conversations with strangers. If the conversation is not going as hoped, you click a button saying Next, and you are connected with another person.

Here are a couple of screen shots. In the first photograph, Chatroulette is finding me a partner. In the second, you can see the guy it connected me with. I didn't talk to him because he clicked the next button three seconds later (just for the record, my webcam wasn't even on), but as you can see he is on the phone, and I heard him say the words 'hemorrhoid cream' into it, so maybe it was all for the best. Anyway, as soon we got disconnected, Chatroulette moved me to another partner, but I shut it down, because if you haven't understood how it works by now, there is no point reading further.

Anyway, a couple of nights ago, I was really bored, and I went to Chatroulette to see what it was like. Also, I really felt like writing a blog post but I couldn't think of anything to write about, so I decided, for once in my life to be proactive, and to research something and then write about it which is what I'm doing now.  

What I wanted to do was to find out why people used Chatroulette. People from all over the world use it - in a matter of moments I met (for want of a better word) people - men and women, girls and boys - from Germany, the Netherlands, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, India, and France. I didn't talk to most of these people, just kept clicking next, but what struck me was that nearly all of them were young, and not unattractive either. What I really wanted to do was to strike up a conversation with a couple of people and find out exactly why they used it. The experiment was not a success.

Case A:

Man 1: hey

Me: Hi! 

Man 1: wanna take your shirt off?

Me: Actually, I'm on this site for research.

Man 1: lol

Me: Yes, I know. Lol. I'm trying to find out why people use this site to interact with complete strangers instead of, I don't know, going out and meeting people at a social gatherings. Why do you use this site?

Man 1: wanna see my dick?

I clicked Next. 

Case B:

Girls 1 and 2: *waved*

Me: *waved back*

Me: Hey, quick question...

They clicked Next. 

Case C:

Man 2: *saw my face and obviously clicked next*

Case D:

Boy: hey

Me: Hi!

Boy 1: how old are you? 

Me: How old are you?

Boy: 16... ;)

Me: Welllll, that's too young for me, but I'm really not on this site to socialise. I'm trying to research why people use it  to interact with other people.

Boy 1: c'mon..how old are you?


Boy: to meet hot women.

Me: You're sixteen, right?

Boy: yeah... ;)

Me: Don't you find it a little pathetic that at the age of sixteen you are sitting around on sites like Chatroulette trying to pick up strange women whom you can show your private parts to? 

Boy: well...

Me: Why don't you get out? Go meet a nice girl your age at a park or something. Go meet someone in a bar using a fake id. All that stuff is better than this.

Boy: you're right...

Me: Really? I'm getting through to you.

Boy: tell you what...i swear i'll delete this account as soon as we're done talking...

Me: !!! :) 

Boy: just show me your tits first. 

I clicked Next. 

Case E

Man 2: hey

Me: Please don't tell me to take my clothes off. Please listen to me. 

Man 2: ok

Me: I'm trying to research what satisfaction people get from using this site and sites like this. I've met a lot of people tonight and no one seemed like they were hideous or suffering from Asperger's, and I can't understand why they don't want to meet real people. Can you help me? Why are you on this?

Man 2: lol...I'm married. 

Me: Um.

Man 2: someone told me about this site and i'm checking it out for the first time because i was curious. 


After that, I gave up. I had no energy left to find out why thousands of people the world over use Chatroulette. I will say this in its defence though: I may have gotten no sexual satisfaction that night, but I did get quite a lot of entertainment. 


Why do we like art?

"I'm interested in art," is a vague sentence, and not a particularly intelligent one, but I know no other way to put it. To me, it is incredible that you can look at a painting, and it may mean absolutely nothing to you, you may not know anything about its history, or its composition, or even why you like it, but none of that matters - that does not stop you from being unable to tear your gaze from it, from being incredibly moved by it, from feeling it in a way that words themselves cannot be felt.

And paintings can bring up so many feelings. I've seen paintings that make me feel safe, that make me feel  I belong to them. I could be thrust right into the middle of the colour and the movement, and I could curl up in a corner, and nestle myself against a pigment of paint, and find peace. I've seen paintings that have disturbed me, and scared me, and yet, I could not move away. They could root me to the spot, and I would not know why, and that is part of the fascination, because I think when you are confronted with something that shakes you to your core, and you don't know why, it makes you ask questions that you would rarely allow yourself to ask. I've seen paintings that I've just enjoyed looking at because they are so goddamn pretty, even though you're not supposed to say that, and I've seen paintings dripping with history that tell the stories of people long dead, long forgotten, reaching out to you, even as you step forward, through the frame and through the canvas, allowing their story to become a part of your own.

Today, modern art is often about installations, but I have not yet learnt to appreciate them. I don't like installations because they are not permanent, they are not intended to be permanent, and one of the things I find comforting about art, and about books, is the permanence they offer in a world where everything is constantly changing. They outlive their creator, and so, something created by man, becomes greater than man, and - most fascinating of all - turns into something man can never completely understand, and can never wholly grasp.

I'm working in an art gallery at the moment, and this is a question that has often been thrown at me. It is a question only the most honest of my friends ask me, because it's one that you're not supposed to really ask: what is the big deal about art?

In the world I've been exposed to, inside the gallery, not the one I've been brought up in, the honest answer is that art is a business, like everything else. A lot of people buy art because they see it as an investment, or because it cements a certain position they have reached in society, whether financial or intellectual.

But, if you shove those issues aside for a moment, if you shove most of that world aside, as well as the people that belong to it, you might find something else. There is a book by Tracy Chevalier, it is called Girl with a Pearl Earring. In that book, the painter Vermeer tells the servant girl Griet, to look at the clouds outside the window, and then he asks her what colour they are.

"White," replies Griet.

The painter tells her to look again, and a little confused, she does. And then, as she looks, perhaps with a furrowed brow, she begins to see that the clouds are not white at all, but yellow and purple and pink and even green, and they all come together, to form a perfect pearl coloured cloud.

This is what that something else is, this is what lies at the heart of a world that has turned into an industry, and this is why, for all the people who buy art because it is a symbol of money or intelligence or social position, there are many who buy a painting because they like to look at it, because it gives them pleasure, because they find beauty in it and they like beautiful things, and there are even a few, who like art, not all art, but some art, because it takes them to a place that cannot be found anywhere else on earth, a place that is close to divine, despite being created by stained human hands.