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The Forum seen from the cubicle

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Hamid Ismailov Hamid Ismailov | 12:00 UK time, Friday, 3 December 2010

There are many ways of being clever (or indeed stupid).

One of them is to be as logical as "A students" - to use the term invented by an American satirist writer PJ O'Rourke (in a minute I'll tell why I'm mentioning him).

But logic is not respected anymore. To support this view some of my mildly radical friends cite the failed consensus on whether invade or not invade Iraq as the 'very end of Western rationalism'.

As for myself I would rather refer to James Joyce's notion that we - the modern species - can hardly be logical in the length of a couple of paragraphs.

Or I can come up with another example.

I've got a friend who has a wonderful character.

She is a musician and she thinks and converses in a musical way. Imagine dining with her: she asks you: 'Where do you get these awesome croissants from?'

You reply: "From our local bakery".

She then goes: "Have you heard that LOCALS are being forced out of their residential areas, I heard it on Radio 4."

You are a bit puzzled at the mental leap the conversation has taken and struggle on with the theme: "Our bakery is also struggling with big supermarkets built around here recently".

To which she replies: "We are also BUILDING a conservatory".

Initially this kind of conversation, which my wife calls "catching a flee" can be irritiating, until you accept the rules of the game and reply: "My wife graduated from Tashkent CONSERVATORY" to which she continues:

"Yes, I have to call my son's WIFE after I finish with this awesome croissant" at which the conversation ends up on a happy note in a full circle of mutual understanding and satisfaction.

I was thinking about all of that last week in the cubicle of the studio during the recording of the discussion programme The Forum with PJ O'Rourke, English science writer Philip Ball and American nano pioneer of Costa-Rican origin Sam Stupp.

I like The Forum because it's a free flowing conversation between different minds on different topics. It doesn't include any pre-emptive Truths.

There's a famous saying that the happiness is not a destination, but a journey and that is just the way I feel about the conversation and the composition of The Forum.
In all cultures there are places where people gather just to have a good, entertaining conversation, where you can learn something, share knowledge or emotions.

English pubs and Uzbek chayhanas - tea houses - are places like that.

The Forum also reminds me of a global chayhana. The hosts - be it the programme's producer Emily Kasriel or the presenter Bridget Kendall are like real Chayhanachi - owners of the place, who try to be almost invisible, serving not just a few guests, but a much bigger global audience.

They are there like conductors who don't play music themselves, but bring out the best in the "music" of conversation.

The drama of The Forum lies in the tension between the speciality and the communality, as the A student would say. I would say it simpler - it's about surprise and discovery.

Three specialists are put together to talk about their achievements in their specific areas. So what are the latest breakthroughs in nano-technology, pioneered by Sam Stupp, while the political satire of PJ O'Rourke urges us not to vote for politicians.

Apparently in both cases they are sending signals: in the first case to regenerating organs, in the second - to society, that also wants to amend itself. Apart from that the nano-technology could also help the satirist with his right dysfunctional hip. Not bad at all!

I said that The Forum doesn't aim for any pragmatic goals, such as healing aches and pains, but it's not completely true.

There's a section of the programme in which one of the panellist is asked to come up with any idea which would drastically change the world. They have to explain the idea within a minute.

When PJ O'Rourke came up with the idea of forcefully ejecting earplugs from kids' ears Philip Ball was first to catch him out: "You argue for more freedom in your books and suggest a pretty authoritarian change!"

So the world is not just about logic, but even in the illogicity (another A student word) of it there's a certain logic?

On that happy note I would repeat a quote from Antoine Saint-Exupery, that there's "no hope of joy except in human relations." Which for me sums up The Forum exactly.

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