The quick Dan Brown foxes and jumps over lazy reader dogs

My first Dan Brown book was The Da Vinci Code, which when translated fully to English curiously becomes “The Of Vinci Code”. Of course, the incorrect juxtaposition of an article and a preposition wasn’t something that bothered me as I raced through what I thought was a throughly enjoyable story. The Da Vinci code was undeniably unputdownable, especially if one had little better to do.

But after Angels & Demons, Deception Point and Lost Symbol, I’ve come to realize that Dan Brown has a formula, a formula so precise and un-mysterious (unlike the plot elements in his books) that any one, with a little bit of time (and a broadband connection) on their hands, can write a Dan Brown novel.

We will now attempt a Dan Brown micro-novella using his formula.

What we need first is a simple story premise, something that can be expressed in a sentence or two. For the purposes of this tutorial, we will use this:

Robert Langdon has a crush on Lady Gaga but does not have the courage to friend her on Facebook. Will he eventually do it or will mysterious circumstances beyond his control thwart him? Will a global online conspiracy threaten the foundations of human society as we know it?

I know, I know. Not very Danbrownesque, you might interject, but bear with me. The true strength of his formula is that even this can be turned into a Dan Brown novel. What you need next is a grandiose moral/denouement. Da Vinci code told us the the kingdom of god was inside, not outside and that Mr. Of Nazareth changed diapers at some point in his life. Lost Symbol told us that the founding fathers hid the fundamental principles of democracy in the architecture of Washington DC, or something like that. The moral of our tale will be

The secret of the universe is to let go of shyness, and swim freely through the cosmic void, and most importantly, avoid Facebook and meet friends in real life.

Ok. Now we have the broad plot and a grandiosely lame moral. We’re doing well so far. Now, you might assume that we will move on to the story structure, but no. That is a triviality that can wait till later. The more important thing right now is the title of the novel and the cover art. That is what sells books at Walmart, not op-ed reviews in the New York Times. In our case, the choice is simple

Masonic Antisocial Network

It’s obvious really. After 5 books about the Illuminati and the Masons, it’s hard to find any more veiled references, so we can just cut straight to the chase. Of course, this is a Dan Brown story, so the title is not as simple as you think it is. Note the first letters of the words in the title. M.A.N. Man, which subtly hints at the moral of the tale – “You are the man. Be real. Get off Facebook”.

Now we get to the cover.


Just a couple of quick design observations. The A’s have their middle line removed, just like that, to give them an exotic touch. Also Note the 3 O’s lined up in a mystically straight line, with some smoke seeming to arise from the W. It will serve as a plot element and also provide many hours of puzzle solving entertainment to n00bs who believe Brown is the Cryptographic pwnz0r. It might also help spread a rumour on some sort of a viral promotion campaign website that there is a symbolic connection between the number of cells on that stained-glass image on the cover and the title of the next book, or something like that. Our brains are wired to detect patterns, even when there aren’t any, so feel free to be generous with utterly pointless symbolisms.

Right, we are done with the important bits now – the plot, the denouement and the title/cover, so we move on to the opening line. Very important in any Dan Brown book. Let’s review the opening lines of some of his earlier books:

  • Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery – Da Vinci Code
  • Physicist Leonardo Vetra smelled burning flesh, and he knew it was his own – Angels & Demons
  • Death, in this forsaken place, could come in countless forms. Geologist Charles Brophy had endured the savage splendor of this terrain for years, and yet nothing could prepare him for a fate as barbarous and unnatural as the one about to befall him – Deception Point

See the formula? There is usually death involved, some heavy duty action, and a curriculum vitae of the person dying. So let’s try ours now

Canny Chief Finance Officer Rene Franc, B.A (Oxford), C.F.A (Correspondence) was lying face down on his keyboard, which he knew was his own. Death was on its way, like a pizza delivery man snaking through the streets of Geneva, but nothing could prepare him for a fate as bizarre as the one about to befall him.

The key to a good Dan Brown opening line (or any sentence for that matter) is the juxtaposition of several elements that don’t go together, like a Greek Salad with Avial and Gongura Chutney. He achieves spectacular conciseness of prose by describing the dramatic death and a detailed curriculum vitae (including board exam results) of the person dying at the same time, much like an obituary in a newspaper. In fact, if Dan Brown had been Indian, he might have used “Attained Sivaloka Praapthi” instead of “died”.
Also, no sentence is complete without a misplaced simile or metaphor, so our choice of death arriving like a pizza delivery man is ideal. A few other choices we could have considered:
  • Death hit him, like the thunderous slap of Mark McGwire’s bat (Note: If the chap was really hit by a baseball bat, this image would be suitable, but the unsuitability of a metaphor is what determines its use in a Dan Brown sentence)
  • He felt his life ebbing away, like a receding wave on the shores of a desolate beach (Waves usually come back, which is why this metaphor is perfect for a Dan Brown opening. Note that the desolateness of the beach adds no further value to the sentence, which is exactly why it must be there)

We then continue to describe Rene’s death with a few more clumsy metaphors and epithets practically transferred to Mars.

As he lay, catatonic, floating between life and death like a log in a Canadian stream, his enfeebled mind reflected on what had just happened. The evening’s party had been one of those boring affairs, the kind he had begun to despise. After the usual pleasantries, he had excused himself to update his Facebook status. He had felt a tingling sensation when he logged in, but he put that down to the champagne he had consumed in not modest quantities downstairs. He noticed that Emmanuelle had poked him, so he decided to return the favour and poke her back. This online social game of poking reminded him of his childhood when he had played tag with his friends. He refreshed his browser just to see if there were any new updates, and that’s when he felt the jolt. At first, it seemed like a mechanical drill boring through the back of his head, making its way through his cerebrum like engineers digging the Channel tunnel. He had never had migraine and had a fit, lithe and athletic body toned by a rigorous daily workout and he hadnt visited the doctor in a long while.

It was only when he tried getting up that he realized that something was seriously wrong. He couldn’t move! Panic rising at the base of his spine, his eyes opened wide as the drilling sensation in his brain unleashed unimaginable pain.

The last thing he saw before he passed out was the latest update on his Facebook news feed. Superpoked by Sugar Mountain.

Note the use of italics. Use italics for dramatic effect and at the end of every chapter or scene.

Now step back, relax and spend some time building the character profile of Robert Langdon. This time, curriculum vitae details must be blended with detailed product descriptions. Don’t forget the casually thrown-in references to desirable physical characteristics. Most people in his books are elegantly middle-aged and always physically stunning.

Renowned Symbologist Robert Langdon, B.A(History), M.Sc (Masonry and Illumination technology) rested his supple, athletic 50 year old well-toned posterior on the state-of-the-art Herman Miller Aeron chair as he logged on to Gmail on his 24 inch Apple iMac (with a 3 year AppleCare protection plan). His thoughts were on the girl he had seen on Youtube a few days back, performing a catchy tune called “Just Dance” which had struck him particularly because of the richness of symbolism inherent in the lyrics. Not many modern day pop songs make veiled references to the Illuminati, he had thought then

You got that? Educational qualifications, qualifiers for qualifications (‘renowned’) plus detailed gadget and gizmo references. And Italics. Now, let’s build the story. 3 simple rules – symbolism, symbolism and symbolism. If you have trouble thinking in symbols and connections, here’s a tip. Any two seemingly unrelated concepts can be connected with 5 minutes of research on Wikipedia. Like this.

He had been piqued and wanted to learn more about this Lady Gaga. With a name derived from Freddie Mercury’s “Radio Gaga”, the Masonic influence was obvious. Too obvious. Queen, the Lady monarch, not Freddie’s band, came from a family of Masons and  Freddie himself was a rockstar and therefore “illuminating”. Marconi, the inventor of radio had also been a Mason. And he, Robert Langdon, was going gaga over the lissome girl whose throaty voice sang “Just Dance”. This rich tapestry of  symbolism rang through his Harvard educated mind like carillon bells and he found himself  harbouring a strange desire – to add Lady Gaga as a friend on Facebook.

By the way, feel free to consider anyone a Mason. Now we get to the meat of the story.

He logged on to Facebook, and was mildly surprised to find that his good friend and Mason, Rene Franc, had been friended by Lady Gaga, and he made a mental note to ask him to introduce him to her. Despite years of teaching, Langdon was still shy around women. His keen eye for detail also noticed something odd – Rene had been superpoked by someone named Sugar Mountain and that was the last entry in his activity feed. That was odd. Rene was addicted to Facebook, even more so than his account books.

Dan Brown humour, bi4tche5.

Now we break the news. Indulge in some nostalgia.

He tabbed-over to Google news, and his eyes stopped at something that made him go cold. “Rene Franc dies from massive brain aneurysm at his home”, screamed the headline. Rene was a good friend and had over the years, passed on several insider tips on buying shares and staying away from one Mr Madoff. They had gone on a teenage trip to Amsterdam, and even tripped out together there.

Dan Brown wordplay y’all.

Now dont forget clumsy similes. And throw in some more veiled hinting at symbolism.

He was struck with sadness, like an oncoming train. He stood up from his 24 inch Apple iMac and staggered towards the balcony and stared into the night sky. He saw the belt of Orion, its 3 stars in a line. He composed himself, and walked back to his desk when his iPhone 3GS rang to the ringtone of “Just Dance” by Lady Gaga. He was in no frame of mind to take calls, but something niggling in a corner of his mind made him take it.

Now introduce the chick angle. Angels & Demons had the physicist chick and Da Vinci Code had Miss Jesus, Jr, so this time, we have Emmanuelle, a name chosen deliberately for its ability to evoke imagery of vaguely Frenchy B-movie heroines. We also slip into dialogue mode.

“My name is Emmanuelle, and I need your help”, a dusky voice tinged with panic announced in a lilting french accent

Yep. In the Dan Brown world, people don’t announce, voices do.

“My friend Rene has died”.

“I know. I am sorry”, said Robert.

“I need your help, because I have proof that Rene was murdered!”.

Italics. Never forget them. Now that we have the basic framework in place, we can spare the readers a couple of hundred pages of bumbling prose and cut straight to the action.

Langdon, a claustrophobe, took the Queen Elizabeth to Southhampton and flew into Geneva by Ryanair. He was meeting with Tim Berners Lee, a well known Mason and suspected to be a member of the Illuminati as well. Emmanuelle had indicated that their journey must with start with him. Tim didn’t mince any words.

“The Masons built the foundations of the internet”, he declared.

“I knew that. It makes sense. Masonry, foundation, cement, plumbing…”, said Langdon.

“But Sugar Mountain is threatening to destroy it”

What did you just say?

“Sugar Mountain”

“Who is Sugar Mountain?”

“I dont know. Ive been trying to find out..”

“Perhaps, it’s a code of some sort”

“I’ve had my best cryptographer friends look at it, and they have no clue. It’s an enigma”

“Wait..what did you just say?”

“Enigma”

“The German Cypher machine?”

“Yes”

“And German for Sugar Mountain is approximately Zucker Berg. That’s it. Sugar Mountain is Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook

“It makes sense. The Masons built the internet, and Zuckerberg is threatening to destroy it using Facebook”

And he is going around killing Masons with superpoke!

Ok. Don’t forget the italics. Now we’ve had enough dialogue. In general, quite a lot of plot revealing happens when Langdon is thinking, not talking. We also need to throw in a few images.
Langdon sat in the high speed train from Geneva to Paris where he was meeting up with Emmanuelle. His mind was reeling from the  the horrific nature of the conspiracy that lay spreadeagled before him. Sugar Mountain. Zucker Berg. Why had he not realized that before? That avatar of his, with the 3 O’s in a slanted line should have tipped him off. The 2 O’s of Google represented knowledge and wisdom. The 3 O’s of Sugar Mountain’s avatar represented the 3 eyes of Shiva. Destruction. It all made sense now. Sugar Mountain’s Facebook feed had even featured a LOLcat with the text “Im in ur internetz, unbuilding”

He opened his Macbook Air, and logged on to Facebook and to his surprise, this image stared back at him


Bad Concrete. The realization that dawned on him, like the sun in the arctic summer, was chilling. Concrete. Masons. Bad. Sugar Mountain was going to superpoke all Masons! He knew what he had to do.

Yeah yeah. We could keep going for another 100 pages. Take your pick from trans-atlantic flights with claustrophobia references, dark alleyways of European capitals, the occasional Catehdral and museum, and because of the specific nature of our tale, throw in a few CERN and WWW references and bring the tale to where it needs to be just before the climax. So now, let’s just get to the conclusion and be done with this.
Langdon quickly sent an email to all the Masons he knew and implored them to do something right away. He told them that it will save their lives, and their souls from the diabolical clutches of Sugar Mountain.


The cosmic truth, he had realized was staring him in the face right from the beginning. He had almost fallen into the same trap Rene had, trying to friend people on Facebook instead of meeting them in real life. Emmanuelle, he realized, was the real Lady Gaga of his life.

We can even throw in a little epilogue
Robert Langdon and Emmanuelle were watching LOLcats when this email arrived. It was from someone named Geoffrey K. Pullum, apparently a professor at the University of Edinburgh. It had an image attachment. He opened it. And smiled.

“What is it? It looks like Brown”, said Emmanuelle.

“It is. But it’s an ambigram. Look at it horizontally and vertically flipped”


“Hahahaha. Sucks.”, announced Emmanuelle’s voice.

The End

References
1. This post is inspired in large by Geoffrey K Pullum’s Language Log post from 2004 – http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/000844.html


143 Comments

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  1. OMFG!! This is amazing…You also managed to find a relevant captcha and link it to mason and concrete 🙂
    Ashok: I kept refreshing one of those registration pages with recaptcha like a gazillion times till I got “Bad Concrete” 🙂 Actually, no. I photoshopped it

  2. This is the best thing I have read in my lifetime!
    You are so awesomely intelligent.
    And jobless.
    THANK GOD FOR THAT!

    *Keeps archanai at Kabali to maintain your joblessnes*
    Ashok: Ahem

  3. ROFL..! In fact, if Dan Brown had been Indian, he might have used “Attained Sivaloka Praapthi” instead of “died”.

    Brilliant stuff..! 😀

  4. You’ve pulled a fast one on us alright. Surviving this post through the end would mean you couldn’t pull a true Dan Brown, and tossing it midway (in the true Dan Brown spirit) would not do it justice.

    Well, I did end up reading (and grinning through) it all; it simply ended before it got to the tossing-point. And I like how you stuck to all the Calvinball rules as you wrote it 🙂

    g

    PS: This used to be our substitute for a marital fight – spinning & throwing the Zuckerberg (lol, that) kind of Dan Brownisms at each other 😉
    Ashok: Calvinball? Dan Brown does not play Calvinball (said in the voice of Einstein, replace god with Dan and Calvinball with dice)

  5. This i s the best…… OMG.. that ambigram in the end is the highlight 😀 and am sad cuz your story ended just like that.. looking forward for MASONIC ANTISOCIAL NETWORK 😀

  6. OMG!! I fell down from my chair on laughing
    Zuckerberg reference was good one.
    using Brown’s “renowmed” symbolism at the end was a master stroke!!! 🙂

  7. Awesome. I bet that tingling sensation is from Angels and Demons – ain’t it?
    Ashok: Hardly remember. His prose tends to slip over my memory like illegal immigrants at the US border

  8. Hi!! Just stumbled across your blog a few days back…been following it religiously since then 🙂

    This post was amazing!! hilarious….
    Never realised that Dan Brown’s writing was so full of cliches and blunders… (thankfully haven’t read the new one .. yet…) I guess the ordinary reader is just going along with all the razzmatazz…. without paying much attention to the grammar or structure..

    Thanks for adding the link to Geoffrey K Pullum’s post….. that was amazing too!!

    i occasionally write short stories, will make sure to avoid such pitfalls !!

    Keep up the great work…. 🙂

    — Nikhil.

    P.S : the ambigram was superb…

  9. Thank you. I thought I was alone in the recognition of Dan Brown as a total and utter hack. When people enthusiastically ask if I’ve read it, I’m too embarrassed to honestly tell them what crap I think it is. My Man calls me a literature snob. But I don’t think even he could swallow our formulaic nemesis.

  10. Seriously Ashok, how long have you been planning this post? 😀
    Ashok: Ok. Yet another time related question. I dont sit down and write down whole posts in one shot. I’m not a full time writer. If this sort of geekery does interest you, here you go.
    I carry with me, an Android smartphone, and use the AK Notepad free app to take notes on random ideas, puns, jokes and references that come to mind. Most ideas come in what is now called the Hypnagogic zone – the period when you just wake up but are still too woozy to get up, the time when you still remember dreams. Once you are out of the hypnagogic zone, you forget everything – dreams, and anything you think of during that time. That zone is highly fertile when it comes to creative writing for the simple reason that one thinks with no inhibition. I’ve trained myself to get my lazy ass to atleast scribble/write down things that come to mind then so that I dont lose them. And on the weekends, I sync all of these small little bits, and assemble posts out of them, a process that usually doesnt take longer than 30-45 minutes. It also explains why a lot of my posts tend to be random, force-fitted, loosely assembled grouping of ideas. I just use that weekend time to add glue to these bits. For e.g, the Dan Brown post would have grown out of several 5-10 minute ideas on what Dan Brown’s formula was. Most of the connecting bits, like the Zuckerberg reference were today morning’s hypnagogic output

    1. Hey, dont get me wrong! I was just curious as to how you assimilate points for your posts. And you’ve elucidated that very crisply 🙂
      Ashok: No problems man. I do tend to get a lot of “jobless” accusations, so I thought I’ll clarify

    2. Thanks! I’ve been curious to know this for a long time.. the secret formula to a Krish Ashok blog post 🙂 (I’m actually toying with the idea of a Krish Ashok blog post generator)

    3. Lovely. ‘Hypnagogic’ thingummybob rules. You have ‘rem acu tetigisti’ed when you say ‘The tough bit is getting off lazy ass at that point’ etc. Must try same. I get some brilliant psychedelic ideas around pre-dawn….
      (But the bed is soooo warm… And who’s going to expose arm to the chill outside comforter?)

      Seriously wonder post.
      🙂
      Had read the referenced article a few weeks ago and this was a great reworking.

  11. Ashok,
    If this post does not get you some recognition beyond the desipunditry world, then I am not sure which one would. Should seriously consider sending it to Dan Brown himself..:-))
    Cheers!
    Ganpy.

  12. Dan Brown = Dr.Vijay of Literature !! 😀
    Ashok: LOL 🙂 I like the fact that you didn’t miss the “Doctor” part.

  13. hilarious.
    I’d read the geoffrey pullum article on langlog long ago. My first reaction when I read this till halfway, was to go to that page, and post this link, saying ” see see, one more supporter”.
    then i see geoffrey’s name in the Credits section 🙂 [ glad u don’t forget to give credits 😛 ]

    Pullum kinda runs a mildly official dan brown cliche haters club. Members might be invited.
    Ask around, Poke him if u must 🙂

  14. Attained Sivaloka Praapthi ? Hmm.. What does Praapthi mean ?

    Yeneway, extra props for using the Dan Brownesque “Why use one word when 1024 would do?”
    Ashok: In “Nadu centre” and “Gate Kadhavu” style, Praapthi is actually redundant as it means “attainment” 🙂

  15. Priceless! And going by the consistent tone of comments on your posts, I wonder how long is it before you figure out a pattern there and automatically generate comments immediately after posting 😀

  16. Though, you forgot an object covered with symbolic clues from top to bottom. Langdon will have to decipher one clue every 70 pages so as to get to the bottom of the mystery.

  17. OMG! You completely outdid yourself this time! Pity “Masonic Antisocial Network doesn’t actually exist…

    In fact, you should write the novella and then get Rajkumar Hirani to make it into a film. 😛

    1. Rajkumar Hirani will not be interested really. Seeing dan Brown does not offer any scope for his genre – Sentimental Advise Comedy. Talk about formulae personlities 😛

  18. Awesome.. The satire was really good..

    The ambigram came out brilliantly…

    Have enjoyed reading lot of your blog posts.

  19. one observation: onga book oda cover page la ANTISOCIAL word la the second A does have the middle horizontal line.

    Is there any specific reason on why this A alone does not have that exotic/magic touch?

    Other than that your post was good time pass for me during my lunch…kept laughing non stop…

  20. Yer just too good man!!
    You never ever fail to amaze me with your creativity and the amount of research which goes into posts like these. (I totally mean it. I think it takes more research and creativity to write posts like these than serious stuff)
    Totally totally hilarious!! 🙂

  21. Please do write one like this on Chetan Bhagat.

    Ashok: For all the fun I’ve had with Chetan, I don’t have an interest in taking his books apart. Yes, his prose is clumsy and perhaps he writes formulaic tales too ( I haven’t read him enough to decide one way or another ), but there’s something Chetan deserves credit for, and that’s introducing the English reading habit to a generation of Indians whose reading habits were either restricted to vernacular pulp fiction or Tinkle comics. For all our English peter-vuttufication, there really is an implicit caste system of sorts based on English knowledge in India. Upper middle class, CBSE/ICSE, English medium educated Indians, a very small percentage, were traditionally the only market for English writing, and the entry barrier for a writer was also pretty high and that kept most Indian English writing completely inaccessible to someone who is desperate to speak better English, comes from a small town, and does not have a peer or family environment that is conducive towards learning good spoken English. Perhaps it’s a bit much to give Chetan the sole credit for breaking through this barrier, but he’s the only one I know. Every one of my cousins and friends who were intimidated by Indian English writing was suddenly reading FPS and ONIACC during their train journeys, feeling good about toting a book when their more erudite cousins were reading Midnights Children and God of Small things.

    It’s very easy to dismiss him as someone who panders to the lowest common denominator, like Dan Brown, but there’s a huge difference. We are a country with a huge divisions between rich/poor, educated/poorly educated/illiterate, urban/rural and for a large percentage of Indians, English is a 2nd or 3rd language. Chetan’s writing does not ‘pander’ to them. They are a totally new market that never existed before. One can ‘pander’ only to known tastes. One might argue that after 4 books, he certainly belongs to formulaic, LCD pandering category, and perhaps he does, but I will still stand by the fact that there’s still a huge number of people in India for whom one of Chetan’s books will be their first ever English novel, something they can understand and discuss with peers. One hopes they will move on, read more, and develop a taste for better writing, but it’s unfair to ignore the fact that Chetan’s books were probably stepping stones for the kind of readers who dont have uncles and grandparents who quote Shakespeare and titter at Wodehousian turns-of-phrase. As a privileged Tambram who inherited a bookshelf that came pre-filled with Jeeves and Wooster, it’s easy for me to dismiss Chetan’s writing as clumsy and predictable.

    Dan Brown, on the other hand, lives in the world’s richest country, where English is practically everyone’s first language, and clearly panders to the lowest common denominator, and also claims to be intellectually sophisticated with all of the “All the facts stated are true” kind of bullshit preface. WRT Dan Brown, people should really know better.

    Presumably, you have reached that stage when you have read his books and because of your better knowledge of English and literature in general, you found him boring and crappy. But that’s not the case for millions of readers who haven’t read anything beyong FPS and 2 states and are still on the path towards discovering better writing.

    Of course, Chetan might still be a pompous ass (as he was during the piracy and blocking episode on Twitter) and the unseemly stunt with the FPS/3 idiots issue, and me and my friends have had immense fun poking fun at him, starting hashtags, making Hitler videos etc. But that’s Chetan the person. I don’t have a problem with his books.

    It might be pointed out that there are several better writers of simple English in India. RK Narayan is the obvious one that comes to mind right away. Sudha Murthy writes beautifully simple prose too. Perhaps they should have been popular, and not Chetan. But hey, RK Narayan’s stories were set in pre-independence India, and often, people like to read about their times, something more contemporary. Perhaps a more cynical way to look at this is that Chetan saw a market opportunity, a dearth of simple English language fiction writing set in contemporary India dealing with issues everyone identifies with (unlike GOST or Midnight’s Children, I might add), and he exploited that opportunity.

    But I’m not a cynic. He’s written his books. They are undoubtedly popular. Millions read them and enjoy them. Some go on to discover better writing. And the world moves on.

    1. Krishahok:

      This response deserves a pat on the back (although I am one of those who asked you the same question, and that’s why I’m responding to a response that’s not directed at me). I might not agree with it all, but you do make an important point — the divide, the reading caste and so on. Some other time, I’ll get back to it with a critical mind. Right now, I’m glad you made those points.

      regards,
      asuph

    2. That was just a brilliant analysis… only because you have brought out i had in my mind about Chetan’s writing…. 🙂 seriously…. even the references like wodhouse and shakespeare… wow… unbelievable…..

    3. and he also makes some pretty astute observations bad prose notwithstanding. plus he has a sense of slapstick humor that actually makes me rofl.

    4. Hi,

      I agree with Krishashok. I came to know about all those ‘English’ rhymes when I was in my high school. Though I studied in English medium, they were quite alien to me. Only convent educated kids knew these English rhymes and of course, read, Wodehouse, etc. I read Wodehouse only recently and I thoroughly enjoyed his style of writing. IMHO, R K Narayan’s writing, which is beyond compare, though set in pre-independence will be enjoyed and appreciated by those who know Madras and Mysore-Bangalore style/way of living. People from other parts of India might not relate to it that much. Sudha Murthy’s writing is more global (i.e Indian as against regional). And like you mentioned, yes, this reading-caste is very much in existence. My guess is that, the school library and also the reading environment/habits at home makes a big difference.
      Your posts are so amazingly creative & witty. I start reading with a HUGE smile and end up with a hearty laughter. It also feels good to go back to basics like Avagadro’s number, etc and see them with a fresh perspective. The way you connect the hard-to-remember science concepts to everyday things is just fantastic. I came across your blog by chance and now, am an ardent admirer of your writing. Please keep them coming. God bless!

  22. At the banquet scene in ‘Asterix in DJSJtown’…All the villagers are reading the latest Jalsix blog and rolling…
    Obelix: These bloggers are crazy..
    Happy escaped boar: For once the villagers have forgotten us..
    Cacofonix: I will now present ‘danbrownix ki jai’
    Jalsix and readers: You do that and you end up with Brownix at the treepost…
    Cacofonix: Savages.. phinistines…

  23. Havent read the whole part coz i found mistake on very first line…so i guess u might have done the same thing wid whole of article as u have done to the title of “The Da Vinci Code”…MISINTERPRETATION…I knw u think its “Da” as in french word “Of” but instead its Leonardo “Da Vinci”…soo the title means “The ‘Leonardo Da Vinci’ Code”…now dont tell me tht he was named as such coz he came from Vinci and his real name was Leonardo…:P so according to you, Leonardo of Vinci…hillarious….

    1. Leonardo was indeed from a place called Vinci – his name means Leonardo of Vinci His full name was Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (meaning: Leonardo, son of Ser Piero of Vinci)
      And the first line here is to be considered in a lighter vein – there is no mistake as such

  24. Very entertaining…Not the post Krish, but the comment of intellectually gifted Jais!! “Next you’ll say he’s called so because he is Leornado of Vinci! Ha ha ha!!” May be you should start a #jaissays on Twitter! Here’s one: “Maybe they are called Red Indians coz someone mistook America for India and named them thus”

  25. Too good saar, too good!

    With the fad of bloggers-turning-into-authors being all too prevalent nowadays, at first sight I thought this as a self-promotion post 😛 Apologies for that.

    I’ve never read any Brown novel though have seen the movies and staying with the same theme, think that the “Masonic Antisocial Network” would also be good enough to be churned into a Hollywood movie…mebbe Zuckerberg can co-produce it 😉

    Say, who’d you cast innit? Maybe you’ll get the answer to that in your next hypnagogic state!

  26. still reading the post, one quick observation: the last A in antisocial (on the cover) still has the middle line, thereby reducing the exotic touch index 😉

  27. Thank you… thank you… was waiting for something like this. We didn
    ‘t have the patience and concocted a pathetic one like this:

    ! @ # $ %

    Suddenly the meaning of this seemingly unintelligible squiggles became clear. Robert Langdon leaned forward to explain…

    ****

    It was a bright sunny day – but Kate had to finish baking her secret chocolate cake. She had discovered a fabulous recipe. Why was she so uneasy about the Master Chef coming to watch her in action.? Her usually sharp instincts failed her this time and she stepped into her kitchen shrugging her shoulders.

    The mandatorily abnormal looking villain was determined to blow her kitchen and recipe to smithereens…

    ****

    Robert Langdon said excitedly to his mentor Solomon and the others – “Look – it’s the first five symbols on the keyboard – that’s 1,2, 3, 4,5 – I cannot believe it was staring at us so obviously in the face.”

    *****

    The kitchen was blown up in flames – Kate’s work was ruined. Just when we were thinking her elaborate cake was a nuke weapon in disguise…and this was the matter of national security…

    ****

    Langdon was shown something that made his jaw drop – his lower mandible actually touched the floor.

    “It is indeed a matter of grave national security ,” said the CIA Director delighted to see the reaction. “It is even more a matter of grave concern than Al Qaeda or Iran with the nukes.”

    “I agree a video of Obama, the G8 and the Olympic Team typing secret codes and generally acting like fools cannot be released on You Tube – it will annihilate America. But look, we should also study the picture “An Idiot Types Some Words and it Becomes a Big Hit Because his name is Dan Brown” for more clues.”

    With heart in mouth they ran under endless corridors forgetting the fact they had just escaped near death experiences and one of them had is hand chopped off.

    ****

    Langdon is dumped for death by drowning in a water tank. Only later it turns out the water was some kind of super-oxygenated fluid. Muwahaahahaahaa – (that’s the villain laughing by the way!)

    ****

    End of the day Solomon and Langdon went up CN Tower. Solomon said “Look below the world looks so tiny and can you see Roger’s Stadium? No? It’s covered by the skydome – that’s the secret we have been protecting for centuries! And my hacked off hand – inexpertly cut just some 12 hours ago – means nothing – I am in no pain what so ever – have no trauma what so ever – the fact the son I thought was dead – was actually alive and came back and begged me to kill him in a sadistic act of revenge but eventually died at the hands of the CIA – all mean nothing to me. What’s so important is for me to show the great Robert Langdon the meaning of the code – which actually I have taken an oath never ever to reveal to anybody.”

    Yeah – the Harvard educated world renown expert in symbols guy needs an explanation of all of this which millions of readers figured out right at page 1 itself….

    ****

    By the way see the new platforms for the local trains. No-one has ever solved the mystery of why they were constructed as to provide maximum inefficiency and discomfort to the commuters. What this has no relevance to the story? Muwahaahahaahaa (that’s the publisher – villain is dead remember?)

    ****

    And what of Kate – thank God for backup – her recipe was backed up – she could go back to her baking.

    THE END

    By the way The Guardian has nice one too – but not as good as yours:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2009/sep/15/lost-symbol-live-reading-dan-brown

    Ashok: Haha. I kept postponing reading this comment for a few days and finally read it today. Nice 🙂

  28. i’m not a fan of dan brown or anything, but am just saying this for the sake of saying it..

    now, theres a lot of metal bands out there who dish out the same stuff over and over again, not just by themselves, but along with other bands. and they are super popular.

    whats the difference between brown and them? amean, he may be formulaic and all, but his stories, individually, needn’t be bad.. not bad enough to be ridiculed at least..

    the ending was geththu by the way..
    Ashok: You have a valid point in that several fields of art tend to have untalented, cliche-spouting superstars. There’s Nickelback for rock music, Himesh for Bollwood music etc. But here’s my point – Nickelback, for all their formulaic suckiness, still play tuned guitars, in beat and don’t sing out of tune. Dan Brown on the other hand, seems to get the basics wrong, and yet attempts to write intellectually “deep” stories with lots of symbols, allusions and general mystery. He cant seem to turn a phrase or get a allegory or metaphor right, and his vocabulary is a lot like a student mugging words for the GRE – he uses several words (for e.g “precarious”) in ways that completely mislead. Well, I never thought I’ll say this, but Chetan Bhagat, to quote Ravi Shastri “sticks to the basics”, and does not try to be Salman Rushdie. Dan Brown, on the other hand, tries to be Virender Sehwag with Ravi Shastri’s range of strokeplay

  29. your machosmo article is very good in cricinfo. it was clean and funny in a way we laugh at ourself. Well done.

    you sucked in your previous brahmin tinted crap article. India should abolish caste system and brahmin /hindu tribal crap culture. That is the only thing pulling india down until it gets divided into pieces.

    That is ok. No one can be good all the time.

    Ashok: Thanks. And, that previous article about Tampunk technogy trends was not for general consumption. It would have made sense only to folks from Madras. And um..it was really abt laughing at ourselves as well, if you understood it, i.e. While it’s very noble to believe in the abolition of the caste system, we wont get anywhere till we know how to laugh at ourselves about it.

  30. Since when did it become “tribal”?
    Ashok: Our protagonist doesn’t like tribal culture and thinks it’s backward, and wishes to conflate tambram culture and tribal culture. In that case, he is being condescending and insulting to tribal folk, more than he is to Tambrams 🙂

  31. oh man!! awesome one. I thought you will add some mallu angle. turns out it was only a mispelt word (monutain). I thought mon becomes monutain after eating lot of plaintains – awwww. this calls for another story.

  32. Hi,

    I am from the media cell of IIM Bangalore. We are having an event called The Fourth Estate, a media conclave at Vista 2010, management fest of IIM Bangalore. We wanted to invite you to be on the panel which also includes Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyar and Mr. Manish Sabharwal, Mr. Jayant Dasgupta and Mr. Sidin Vadukut.

    The topic is “Indian at the Crossroads”

    Venue: IIM Bangalore
    Date: January 31, 2010

    I would be very grateful if you could give me your contact details so we could talk further about this. My contact details are:
    Email: nitin.v09@iimb.ernet.in
    Mobile: 09886358730

    Looking forward to the meeting.
    Thank you,
    Nitin

  33. At last, at last, AT LAST a post worth the wait. This level of brilliance has not been seen in a while (but yes, that’s just my opinion) 🙂 Way to go, KrishAshok!

  34. Awesome post Dude…I also liked your reply to the time related question and the one regarding Chetan’s books……I have been reading all that you write for the past year or so…I haven’t seen anybody else in the blogosphere who could write so well (that too from an entirely different perspective) on diverse subjects as much as you can….

  35. Btw, there’s no Ryan air flight from Southampton to Geneva.

    Ashok: Well. Assume he drove down to London 🙂 Aren’t you glad I spared you the details of that road trip?

  36. ” Death was on its way, like a pizza delivery man snaking through the streets of Geneva”….roflmao

    And the sadness like an oncoming train…..Brilliant!

    * Bows *

  37. Wickedly funny!

    I dont usually read blogs, but was sent this through link…
    And has the the best half hour spent this week!

    I hope all your blogs are as good or better….

  38. Too good a read. This post was unwindowchangeable. 🙂 Another bit of predicatability in Dan Brown’s work – the villain is always the person who is most knowledgeable.

    Keep up the great work.. 🙂

  39. How do you do it??

    I had to read it THREE times before I could reach the end!!
    Was laughing so hard that I had to be shushed by my friends here.

    I’ve read all of Dan Brown’s books, and you are right. They suck big time 🙂

    Cheers ,
    N.

  40. Since there are too many comments, I wonder if someone else made this (rather lame) deduction too. When I read the blog I got so much into the groove of taking this ‘spoof’ seriously (:D) that I just can’t help writing it……

    The first 3 letters of the title (MAN) and the last 3 (CLK) again sends another message ‘Man is on the clock’, so get out of facebook and live a little 😀 !

    and ironically, it all comes down to me being just too vetti today…….
    Ashok: Aha. I wish I had done that deliberately, but no 🙂 In true Dan Brown style, the reading public imagines most of the cryptic clues

  41. Was at work and needed a nice good break 🙂 All thanks to your post… I’ve read 4 of his books and I can completely relate to the post..

    Your work is just amazing.. Laughed a lot 🙂 Thanks to your sense of humor and analytical brains 🙂

    Keep writing,
    Dew

  42. Oh this is awesome! I’ve read it six times and laugh harder every time! Too bad it ended too quickly, contrary to the comments of others who say this was a long post.

  43. Gr8 post, I loved the Sugar Mountain thing.. and the mason one too!I Would love to know how did people die after being super poked by “Sugar Mountain” :D. How did u come up with this funny connection with Zuckerberg by the way?

    Also a better ending was needed to this epic take on Dan Brown!

  44. Krish,

    Just brilliant man! I think you should just go ahead and write that book… just imagine!

    Arthi
    Ashok: I am thinking of fleshing this one out fully and making it available as a free pdf online

  45. A good contemporary art…in the true sense.

    I had wanted to bring in the cliched writing in Dan Brown’s book on my own blog sometime back but was too lazy to pull in the parallelism and then support them with URL’s and excerpts…and your write-up is just above ‘Brilliance…’

    I could not have done justice to it, like this….but yes, could have matched up…(procrastination)! 🙂

    Creativity at its best!

  46. I am sure you get this a lot…but u are a freaking genius :). Quite honestly, it dint take reading the whole article and a few more that i am reading at work, and all the rest i plan to read for the rest of this quarter at work, to realise that you are a freaking genius, but the fact that you live in chennai, you claim to be antisocial and that you are married, was sufficient to establish that you are a good-(the good ones are either not interested, live too far or taken- you are all three for crying out loud!!).

    Great blogging :).

  47. Absolutely hilarious! StumbledUpon your blog page, brilliant. You are India’s answer to stephen leacock (sivan kandasamy!!)

  48. Long time reader,first time commentor.

    “Yeah yeah. We could keep going for another 100 pages. Take your pick from trans-atlantic flights with claustrophobia references, dark alleyways of European capitals, the occasional Catehdral and museum, and because of the specific nature of our tale, throw in a few CERN and WWW references and bring the tale to where it needs to be just before the climax. So now, let’s just get to the conclusion and be done with this.”

    Noooo.That won’t do.Those middle hundred pages where they are flitting about the world in flights and trains are the most important part .It’s very similar to the event horizon of a black hole.Once you get into that section of the book,you can never leave.In that section of the book,the story never progresses because your brain simply loses its capacity to parse sentence formations.Also,you can never reach the end of the book from that section because it takes infinite time for the necessary motor signals from your brain to reach the hand.physicists should simply study this ol’dans book instead of wasting money of telescopes and particle accelerators.Even better,they simply bypass dan brown and study boredom directly.:)

  49. Have you read Mathew Reilly’s(MR) books? I’ve had a strong feeling that Dan Brown(DB) keeps flicking the skeletal plot from that book.
    Temple(MR)–> Da Vinci Code(DB)
    Ice Station(MR)–> Deception Point (DB)

    I understand that beyond a point, they all seem the same. But I just can’t convince myself that DB is not a thief.

  50. I got to this part of your blog late (very late it seems). But ‘The Colbert Report’ had a segment on Sugar Mountain = Zuckerberg + super poke thing. Did Stephen Colbert lift it from here?

    Google tells me he did this on Sep 23 2010 episode, but I am unable to get the full episode. You should definitely get some royalty 😉

  51. Or the epilogue could b finally robert landon send lady gaga the friend reques.while stalking her profile he was bewildered to find out she was the brains behind SUGAR MOUNTAIN.
    LOL 😉 hillarious article

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