G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

W H Auden: "But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie. / Mortal, guilty, but to me/ The entirely beautiful."

Will Self: “To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short. It is this failure – a ceaseless threnody keening through the writing mind – that dominates my working life, just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Art Spiegelman: "You know words in a way are hitting you on the left side of your brain, music and visual arts hit on the right side of the brain, so the idea is to pummel you, to send you from left brain to right brain and back until you're as unbalanced as I am."

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन व पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

Monday, September 15, 2014

लेगोत् लेगोम् उदच्यते!...But Ram in Hanuman

Independent, UK reported on September 14 2014:

"...Nathan Sawaya has built a global following with works crafted in the blocks that have inspired generations of children. He represents the artistic end of a growing movement among adults for whom Lego is anything but a toy. His giant sculptures, many of them human figures, include Yellow, a man ripping open his own chest and spilling out Lego innards (11,014 pieces make up the work)..."

 Artist: Nathan Sawaya

courtesy: Independent, UK

The picture above reminded me of the legend of Hanuman when he shows how Ram resides in his heart.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

विनोबा भावे: सर्वच फार लहान वाटले...When Life is An Affair of Places

Today September 11 2014 is 119th Birth Anniversary of Vinoba Bhave (विनोबा भावे)

Wallace Stevens, Adagia:

“Life is an affair of people not of places. but for me life is an affair of places and that is the trouble.”

G. K. Chesterton has said : "There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there. The other is to walk round the whole world till we come back to the same place..."

What if one takes the second way?

Vinoba and Orwell did that. This is what they had to say:

 Vinoba Bhave  (1895-1982), 'जीवन-गाथा', 'ज्ञान ते सांगतो पुन्हा', 2004/2006 :

"...गावात एक मोठा तलाव होता. त्या तलावा  जवळ एक उंच झाड व एक मोठे मंदिर होते. खूप वर्षानंतर जवळजवळ चाळीस वर्षानंतर मला पुन्हा गागोदे गावी जाण्याचा योग आला तेव्हा ते मंदिर, झाड, तलाव सर्वच फार लहान वाटले. तलाव इतका लहान की एका तीरावरून पलीकडील तीरावर दगड फेकणे शक्य होते. झाड इतके लहान की सहज त्यावर चढता येईल. पण बालपणी आपल्या दृष्टीला हे सर्व खूप मोठे दिसत असते .."

(...there was a large lake in the town. Near the lake there was a tall tree and a big temple. After many years almost forty years I happened to go to Gagode. Then the temple, the tree, the lake all were felt to be very small. Lake so small that it was possible to throw a stone from one bank to the other. Tree so small that it could be climbed easily. But during the childhood all this looked big to our eyesight...)

George Orwell (1903-1950). '‘Such, Such Were The Joys’, c 1947:

"...If I had to pass through Eastbourn I would not make a detour to avoid the school: and if I happened to pass the school itself I might even stop for a moment by the low brick wall, with the steep bank running down from it, and look across the flat playing field at the ugly building with the square of asphalt in front of it. And if I went inside and smelt again the inky, dusty smell of the big schoolroom, the rosiny smell of the chapel, the stagnant smell of the swimming bath and the cold reek of the lavatories, I think I should only feel what one invariably feels in revisiting any scene of childhood: How small everything has grown, and how terrible is the deterioration in myself!..."

Artist: Whitney Darrow,Jr. ,  The New Yorker,  17 July 1948

Not so high when you return as a grown man, kid

Monday, September 08, 2014

Mice with PTSD?

“… Maus became the proof text for academic study of the transgenerational transmission of trauma and its representation. It was in her discussion of Maus that the scholar Marianne Hirsch coined the term “postmemory” to describe the experience of second-generation children being so intimately and powerfully shaped by the stories and images of events that preceded them that they take on the force of their own memories.

Spiegelman likely still wishes to get out from under the shadow of the giant mouse—“a monument I built to my father,” though “I never dreamed [it] would get so big,” as a strip in Portrait puts it. But Maus is one of the great artistic works of the twentieth century, so what can he do? It is also a monument to the medium he has championed, and expanded, for decades.”

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has long ago become a shouting match over moral superiority. With seventy Israelis and more than two thousand Palestinians, most of them civilians, dead, the latest round of violence in Gaza, too, is being analyzed and discussed mostly on ethical grounds. But as fighting goes on, moral condemnation will likely do little to prevent the next round…”

 Maus, 1991 by a legendary cartoonist Art Spiegelman is considered one of the greatest books of 20th century

According to Wikipedia " It depicts Spiegelman interviewing his father about his experiences as a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. The book uses postmodern techniques—most strikingly in its depiction of races of humans as different kinds of animals, with Jews as mice, Germans as cats and non-Jewish Poles as pigs."

This is what Spiegelman feels about Israel today.

"I've spent a lifetime trying to NOT think about Israel—deciding it has nothin more to do with me, a diasporist, than the rest of the World's Bad News on Parade. Israel is like some badly battered child with PTSD who has grown up to batter others."

(PTSD= Posttraumatic stress disorder)

Artist: Art Spiegelman, The Nation

Friday, September 05, 2014

Vodka: Nobody in the World Knows What it is Made out of

The Hindu, August 27 2014: "Kerala bars to be closed by September 12. 15 days’ notice will be served on all bars except 20 bars in five-star hotels."
Mark Lawrence Schrad:

“…Yet even as drinkers of the world raise a toast to vodka, we should all be reminded of its dark past: the generations of Russians who found not only consolation at the bottom of the bottle but also grief, illness, and death. We must remember that such incredible human costs were—and still are—attributable not just to the lowly drunkard, but to the autocratic political system that reaped unimaginable profits from the people’s misery, generation after generation.

With history in mind, the cowboy philosopher’s alcoholic musings sound even more fitting: “Now that is the whole story to Vodka,” Rogers surmised. “Nobody in the world knows what it is made out of, and the reason I tell you this is that the story of Vodka is the story of Russia. Nobody knows what Russia is made out of, or what it is liable to cause its inhabitants to do next.”

The story of vodka truly is the story of Russia: not just its culture and society, but its history and statecraft as well. Whether it can ever break free of the shackles of vodka politics—and the autocratic system that nurtures it and is nurtured by it—may well be the most fundamental political question facing the future of Russia.”
Old Russian Proverb:

“A man comes from the dust and in the dust he will end—and in the meantime, it is good to drink a sip of vodka.” 

 The Times of India, July 2 2013:
"India's vodka consumption declined 3% last calendar — first fall in more than a decade — suggesting the odorless spirit's waning honeymoon with the youth."

The Economist, December 20 2001:
"...It may be small—each molecule is less than a billionth of a metre long, and consists of a handful of atoms of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen—but ethyl alcohol makes an excellent time machine. People have enjoyed alcoholic drinks since prehistoric times, making drinking one of the few strands that runs throughout the history of western civilisation. Appreciating the art, music or literature of long-vanished cultures can require years of study; recreating their drinks, and comparing them to what we enjoy today, is simple in comparison, not to mention more fun. The consumption of alcohol is so widespread in history, says Patrick McGovern, an archaeological chemist at the University of Pennsylvania, that drinking is, in effect, “a universal language”.."

When I drank little more than occasionally, I liked vodka, beer and rum. I hated (and still do) whiskey's taste including even Scotch's.

These days I hardly drink and don't miss it but I enjoy many aspects of drinking. For instance: What do people drink, how much and how they change in the process?

The chart in The Economist dated June 17 2013 is very informative.

China's national liquor baijiu accounts for a whopping 99.5% of all spirits consumed there. So China does not even feature in rankings of the best-known internationally consumed spirits in The Economist charts. Indi
India does figure there in rum and gin charts.  I wonder how. Isn't India's national liquor arrack/ toddy/ hathbhatti (हाथभट्टी)/desi-liquor (देशी दारू)?

Among branded liquor, Vodka is the most popular in the world, 4.44 litres, billion.

On Vodka drinking, Serge Schmemann wrote in NYT April 15 2007:

 "...The European Union would define vodka simply as diluted ethyl alcohol, which is, of course, what it is. ...vodka is a Russian word, a diminutive of “water” (before you adopt an ironic smile, be aware that “whiskey” comes from the Gaelic for “water of life”)...My beef is with the whole brouhaha over a liquor whose greatest, and only, virtue is that it is colorless and tasteless...the proliferation of premium vodkas, in ever fancier bottles and at ever higher prices, is understandable, given the decadence of the Western world. The endless debates about which vodka “tastes” better are less so..."

Running Amuck dated November 16, 1904, 

cover of the satirical magazine Puck depicting Russia—clutching a jug of vodka—stumbling into war against a Japanese hornet. 

Artist: Unknown to me


Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division 
‘Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State’, 2014 by Mark Lawrence Schrad

Monday, September 01, 2014

No Space for Sindhu but for Kvitova, Bencic and Krunić!

Please read my earlier post "Simona Halep or Hans Rudi Erdt's Lady Tennis Player" dated August 26 2014 here.

It's so sad but NOT surprising that Loksatta, Pune edition and The Times of India, Pune edition dated September 1 2014 has NO picture of P V Sindhu wearing her SECOND bronze medal of WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP at Li-Ning BWF World Badminton Championships 2014 on Aug 31 2014.

Remember that Sindhu kind of made history. No Indian sports-person has that kind of record.

Loksatta has a picture of Petra Kvitová on page 14!

The Times of India has pictures of Belinda Bencic and Aleksandra Krunić , female tennis players and Carolina Marín!

Following picture,  Sindhu at extreme left, is courtesy: BWF — Badminton World Federation.

Bertolt Brecht: Labor Day Remembrance: Was Young Alexander Alone?

Today September 1 2014 is  Labor Day in the US
Rick Perlstein, The New York Times, August 28 2014:

"...One abandoned idea documented in his (Nelson Lichtenstein) most recent book, “A Contest of Ideas: Capital, Politics, and Labor,” haunts me. Powerful people in the Democratic Party, like Senator Robert Wagner of New York, used to insist that the job of liberalism was to penetrate the “black box” of the corporation and turn the workplace into a more democratic institution..."

Bertolt Brecht (1896-1956), 1935:

"Questions From a Worker Who Reads

Who built Thebes of the 7 gates ?
In the books you will read the names of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock ? 
And Babylon, many times demolished,
Who raised it up so many times ? 
In what houses of gold glittering Lima did its builders live ?
Where, the evening that the Great Wall of China was finished, did the masons go?
Great Rome is full of triumphal arches.
Who erected them ? 
Over whom did the Caesars triumph ?
Had Byzantium, much praised in song, only palaces for its inhabitants ? 
Even in fabled Atlantis, the night that the ocean engulfed it,
The drowning still cried out for their slaves. 
The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone ? 
Caesar defeated the Gauls.
Did he not even have a cook with him ? 
Philip of Spain wept when his armada went down.
Was he the only one to weep ?  
Frederick the 2nd won the 7 Years War.
Who else won it ? 
Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feast for the victors ?  
Every 10 years a great man.
Who paid the bill ? 
So many reports.  
So many questions."

Artist:  Frank Cotham, The New Yorker, February 3 2014

I love this cartoon but on second thoughts I would modify its caption thus:

"Your people will remember you for not sacrificing  thousands of them by not building a pyramid."

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Simona Halep or Hans Rudi Erdt's Lady Tennis Player?

US Open (Tennis)- the only Grand Slam tournament that has been played every year since its inception in 1881- started last night, Monday August 25 2014

 I like watching tennis on TV occasionally. Some matches are just breathtaking (for instance 'The 2008 Wimbledon Men's Singles final') and they just take you in.

Before I graduated- unlike cricket, kabaddi, kho kho, wrestling, athletics, hockey, football, table tennis, badminton, chess, carrom etc.- I must have seen live tennis only a couple of times. 

Therefore, as I have mentioned on this blog earlier, I used to wonder, during my middle-school days, why tennis was covered so much- much more than some of the sports mentioned above- in Marathi newspapers when so few Indians play it or have ever played it. Premjit Lall and Joydeep Mukherjee were household names for those who read sports page of Maharashtra Times (महाराष्ट्र टाइम्स).

The answer probably is: Tennis is like Hindi films. 

Do you act in Hindi films? No, but you watch them. You write about them. You talk about them. Similarly, you don't play tennis, you watch it.  You read it. You talk about it.

Some of the female tennis players are good looking, almost like Hollywood actors.

   Simona Halep in action in US Open 2013


Artist: Hans Rudi Erdt (1883-1918) printed in Berlin, 1908. Advertises a tennis competition 

courtesy: Slate’s history blog The Vault

By the way: Who do you find more attractive? Ms. Halep or fully clothed lady of Mr. Erdt?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

अरुण कोलटकर...Leaving Jejuri Behind Without a Coconut in Your Hand

This year, 2014, is 10th Death Anniversary year of poet Arun Kolatkar (अरुण कोलटकर). We lost him on September 25 2004. He died about a km away from where I then lived.

Tim Harford, FT, August 21 2014:

"...One thing that need not worry anyone, though, is the prospect of an inflation target of 4 per cent. It will not happen. That is particularly true in the place where the world economy most needs more inflation: in the eurozone. The German folk memory of hyperinflation in 1923 is just too strong. That economic catastrophe, which helped lay the foundations for Nazism and ruin much of the 20th century, continues to resonate today..."

Tomorrow August 25 2014 is Somvati Amavasya (सोमवती अमावस्या), Shravan's (श्रावण) last day. It's the day that will be celebrated big, with a fair, at Jejuri, a seat of deity Khandoba (खंडोबा). This year among hundreds of thousands of believers, there is a faithless.

Raging food inflation!

Marathi daily Loksatta reported on August 22 2014:

"खंडोबा भाविकांचा खोबरे-भंडारा उधळण्यात आखडता हात" (Devotees of Khandoba hesitate to splurge coconut-turmeric)

It's because both the things have become expensive. According to the report, they used to be sold together around Rs. 60 a kilo and  now cost Rs. 240-280 a kilo.

This blog has entries on how inflation hurts literature  on December 27 2007 and December 24 2009.  Now it's the turn of faith!

Khandoba/ Jejuri always remind me of Kolatkar's poetry. Being a man with great sense of humour and a gifted poet, I wonder how he would have incorporated this development in his poetry.

After reading the news item, I went through his book to find out if he has referred to coconut and turmeric in the book.

I couldn't find turmeric but there is yellow on the cover and in the poem called 'The Butterfly' and coconut appears in 'Between Jejuri and the Railway Station':

'You've left the town behind, with a coconut in your hand..."

Have you, this time?

courtesy: Pras, 2001

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Digesting in Numerical Form

Nick Cullather:

“...Americans increasingly digested their information in numerical form. After 1905, gamblers judged horses by the portents in the Racing Form and baseball fans sized up hitters by the tables in The Sporting News. Newspapers published an avalanche of statistics evaluating business acumen by quarterly earnings, literature by copies sold, and drama by the number of weeks on Broadway. Many observers considered such quantitative reasoning a national trait. 'If the English are a nation of shopkeepers, Americans are a nation of expert accountants', critic and playwright Eugene R. White observed..."

 Max H. Bazerman and Ann E. Tenbrunsel, The New York Times, April 2011:

"...When we are busy focused on common organizational goals, like quarterly earnings or sales quotas, the ethical implications of important decisions can fade from our minds. Through this ethical fading, we end up engaging in or condoning behavior that we would condemn if we were consciously aware of it.

The underlying psychology helps explain why ethical lapses in the corporate world seem so pervasive and intractable. It also explains why sanctions, like fines and penalties, can have the perverse effect of increasing the undesirable behaviors they are designed to discourage..."

John Cassidy, The New Yorker, November 29, 2010:

 "...On Wall Street dealing desks, profits and losses are evaluated every afternoon when trading ends, and the firms’ positions are “marked to market”—valued on the basis of the closing prices. A trader can borrow money and place a leveraged bet on a certain market. As long as the market goes up, he will appear to be making a steady profit. But if the market eventually turns against him his capital may be wiped out. “You can create a trading strategy that overnight makes lots of money, and it can take months or years to find out whether it is real money or luck or excessive risk-taking,” Philippon explained. “Sometimes, even then it is hard.” Since traders (and their managers) get evaluated on a quarterly basis, they can be paid handsomely for placing bets that ultimately bankrupt their companies. “In most industries, a good idea is rewarded because the company generates profits and real cash flows,” Philippon said. “In finance, it is often just a trading gain. The closer you get to financial markets the easier it is to book funny profits...."

 I have worked in organizations who were obsessed with quarterly performance.

Sometimes I thought there was  little else happening. You closed the current quarter and projected the next. Or you closed the next quarter and projected the current. Or whatever.

The person who was an outstanding employee got fired in the next and the person who was an obscure also-ran became the guy to watch.

I have already shared  following great cartoon on the subject of being accountants on August 30 2007.
Artist: Sam Gross, The New Yorker,  January 11 1993

Now, I share another great cartoon I came across in March 2014

Artist: David Borchart, The New Yorker, March 2014

Was man's life as boring as this, even in caves?