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.”
Shel Silverstein : “Talked my head off Worked my tail off Cried my eyes out Walked my feet off Sang my heart out So you see, There’s really not much left of me.” ~
Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”
Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”
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."
Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”
विलास सारंग: "… इ. स. 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."
Sunday, December 31, 2006
Jesus Christ, Saint Eknath, Mahatma Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave विनोबा भावे, Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Anna Hazare are few of the Satyagrahi's world has known.
There is a defiance in "turning other cheek".
Artist: Mischa Richter Published : The New Yorker Apr 23, 1960
p.s Perhaps it is no coincidence this came right in the thick of The American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968) led by a Satyagrahi Martin Luther King jr.
By the way, I have rarely seen picture of anyone at Rajghat bowing so reverentially as Jazz masters below in Jan 2007. Satyagrahis? You may never get tickets or passes to their show but you can hear sound of their instruments loud and clear.
Swedish dramatist August Strindberg is reported to have said: "Shallow people demand variety – but I have been writing the same story throughout my life, every time trying to cut nearer the aching nerve".
I am using the same blue as his to reach the aching nerve but damn, I have run out of it.
When I wore half khakis to school, JFK's photo was ubiquitous in small town of Maharashtra. It used to hanged in esteemed company of Nehru, Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose, Rana Pratap, Shivaji et al. I still remember seeing this pantheon on the wall of a small neighbourhood restaurant.
Over the years, JFK has been unmasked. He has been pushed down from his pedestal like a Lenin. For my back, reading Gore Vidal's review of Seymour Hersh's book- The Dark Side of Camelot- was the final straw.
Now, I don't want to know which is which Kennedy.
I think similar fate awaits most of India's most prominent political families. Although I must say reputation of Nehru has fared much better than JFK after his death.
In "Titanic", First officer William McMaster Murdoch, the officer in charge of launching the lifeboat, threatens to shoot any man who tries to get into the boat, allowing only women and children to get in.
Where is William or has everyone aboard paid this Bill a bribe inducing a bout of amnesia?
Artist: Dana Fradon Published in The New Yorker July 2, 1960
Ingmar Bergman: "I've a strong impression our world is about to go under. Our political systems are deeply compromised and have no further uses. Our social behavior patterns, interior and exterior, have proved a fiasco. The tragic thing is, we neither can nor want, nor have the strength, to alter our course. It's too late for revolutions, and deep down inside ourselves we no longer even believe in their positive effects. Just around the corner an insect world is waiting - and one day it's going to roll over our ultra-individualized existence. Otherwise, I'm a respectable Social Democrat." I am a respectable social democrat!
Artist: Norman Rockwell publsihed in Saturday Evening Post , May 16, 1959
Dad watches mother and the children parade through the living room on their way to church.
Artist: Barney Tobey published in The New Yorker on 16 July 1960
Dad gets a birthday 'gift' of exercycle from the family. Now, who called it a "happy" and a "gift"?
Friday, December 29, 2006
A E Housman:
“For Nature, heartless, witless Nature
Will neither know nor care”
“The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.”
“…… if your God is a being who designs universes, listens to prayers, forgives sins, wreaks miracles, reads your thoughts, cares about your welfare and raises you from the dead, you are unlikely to be satisfied.”
Steven Weinberg: “The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life a little above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy.”
I don't try to understand the universe. Therefore it is...........
Woody Allen says: “I feel that life is divided into the horrible and the miserable. That's the two categories. The horrible be like, I don't know, terminal cases, you know, and blind people, crippled. I don't know how they get through life. It's amazing to me. And the miserable is everyone else. So you should be thankful that you're miserable, because that's very lucky, to be miserable"
Luckily I am miserable. So far!
But them Adam Phillips advises me: “Sanity involves learning to enjoy conflict, and giving up on all myths of harmony, consistency and redemption.".
I am trying to remain sane.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Artist : Bruce Eric Kaplan Published: The New Yorker April 10, 2000
People are living longer.
When I grew up in 70’s in a small town in Maharashtra, India, death was ubiquitous. Some one seemed to die all the time in the neighborhood. By all kinds of causes. Boozing, child-birth, jaundice, typhoid, snake-bite, fainting into the water-well, road accidents etc.
You saw old people but not as many as you do these days. Now, they are all over. At a family function, they sometimes seem to out-number the young.
But they seem to be treated cruelly more and more. More so by their so called loved ones.
The most tragi-comic figure I have known is of Abe “Grampa” Simpson, age 83, father of Homer Simpson. He is, according to Wikipedia, "an old, grizzled, periodically incontinent and quite senile figure who lives in the Springfield Retirement Castle, a sad, lonely place filled with demented, crippled and depressed old people. "
I sometimes think creators of Simpsons are heartless when it comes to Grampa. But then look at some practical examples.
Charlie Hauck said “The fact is, mature viewers are threatening the well-being of network television. I have a bold but common-sense suggestion: old people should not be allowed to watch TV.” This is about old people watching TV. And how about they on TV? Television wants just one qualification in you to appear on it, LOOKS. So unless you are a Sophia Loren, you won't look good when old.
When most popular jokes in a culture (such as in Maharashtra, India) are around nature calling or loss of hearing, weakening of bladder control and other body functions is very funny before it is cruel.
So how much longevity is desirable?
In 1999, Time magazine did a feature called “Visions of the 21st century”. JONATHAN WEINER wrote a piece called “Can I Live To Be 125?”.
He wrote: “Walking and talking get more difficult for my mother every day, and when I phoned to tell her the headline of this story, there was a long pause before she found the words to reply: "I don't recommend it."At 75, she is fighting one of the innumerable syndromes that elderly flesh is heir to.”
Artist : Bruce Eric Kaplan Published: The New Yorker May 25 1998
When man left hunting-gathering for farming, organization arose and her favourite child - bureaucracy was borne. Bureaucracy’s most visible hallmarks?
Practice of unnecessary cc-ing.
I am sure you have heard jokes like while doing office clean-up- “destroy the original but keep the copy”.
There is also a fear that is lurking in our minds. Is death the end or just another beginning? There is an expression in Sanskrit: “Poornat poornam udachyate”. Zero borne out of zero. Or is it?
So we fear, we might meet the same dreaded bureaucracy wherever we reach eventually.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
9/11 was huge for USA and the world. Befitting 21st century, it also was TVgenic. It created a lot of shock and awe.
Americans felt insecure and sought safety. They made more love in weeks following that than ever.
Outside bedrooms, it created a sense of brotherhood in that otherwise deeply divided nation - precisely for two months!
We in India go through similar roller-coaster rides with our feelings. We need to remember teachings of our poet-saints when best-before date is reached.
We have large home, lots of stuff, number of rooms,
We never use some of them, here is one......er....our child,
We never use him either!
How many times I remember I have met the house, its rooms, its toilets, its cars, its a/c's, its sofas, its proud re-sale sq-ft rate, its balconies but not adequately its people.
One word on chracters of BEK. They seem to be synchronised... Moving in a pattern.... Slightly leaning.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Published in The New Yorker November 20, 2006 Artist: P.C. Vey
"The dominant role of the corporation in modern society is one such form of innocent fraud, and he (John Kenneth Galbraith in "The Economics of Innocent Fraud: Truth For Our Time") explains how managers hold the real power in our system, not consumers or shareholders as the image would suggest. Despite the "appearance of relevance for owners," capitalism has given way to corporate bureaucracy--"a bureaucracy in control of its task and its compensation. Rewards that verge on larceny."
Most corporates agree with Galbraith's argument than the other way round. They are nothing but big bureaucracies. You have to know your way through the labyrinth to get anything done.
Worse, machines have joined men in this. If you know the levers, even your coffee-only vending machine can dish out beer for you!
Every word was a poem once. Every step by a bipedal man a rhythmic dance. But probably no one died attempting them.
Not all inventors were that fortunate.
Here is one of the first inventor-martyr. We salute him.
Published in The New Yorker November 27, 2006 Artist Peter Mueller
Climate change is upon us. We all know it.
Every summer is hotter, every monsoon weirder, every winter more elusive. It has been a long time since dawn of first day of Diwali was cold.
We are told pole caps are melting. Seas are rising. Some day, polar bear is likely to stray into a parched field of a third world country of Asia or Africa. Who will be more surprised? Labourer or bear?
Let us not look surprised. With our ultra-individualized existence. Big and bigger cars and houses. Air conditioners and more conspicuous consumption. We know it.
Published in The New Yorker September 27, 2004 Artist: Robert Mankoff
Guantánamo Bay is one of the darkest chapter in America's war on terrorism. The use of Guantánamo Bay as a military prison has drawn fire from Human rights organizations and other critics, who cite reports that detainees have been tortured or otherwise poorly treated. Amnesty International has called the situation "a human rights scandal" in a series of reports.
But who knew it has triggered a fashion wave? What is it called? Detainee Orange!
Outsourcing has got under skin of the West. The subject has reached drawing rooms, restaurants, bedrooms, parliaments, courts and so on.
But no one saw it reaching heaven and even there it is not a very easy subject.
Wings are manufactured in hell as labour is cheaper there. Notice arrow on carton showing which way is up.
There is an apparent calm in the picture. It may not be always so.
NYT of Dec 24 2006 has an article "Goodbye, Production (and Maybe Innovation)" which says:
"AMERICAN manufacturers no longer make subway cars. They are imported now, and the skills required to make them are disappearing in the United States. Similarly, imports are an ever-bigger source of refrigerators, household furnishings, auto and aircraft parts, machine tools and a host of everyday consumer products much in demand in America, but increasingly not made here.
Import penetration, as it is called, worried economists and policymakers when it first became noticeable 20 years ago. Many considered factory production a crucial component of the nation’s wealth and power. As imports gained ground, however, that view changed; the experts shifted the emphasis from production to design and innovation. Let others produce what Americans think up.
Or as Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com, put it: “We want people who can design iPods, not make them.” But over the long run, can invention and design be separated from production?
“Most innovation does not come from some disembodied laboratory,” said Stephen S. Cohen, co-director of the Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy at the University of California, Berkeley. “In order to innovate in what you make, you have to be pretty good at making it — and we are losing that ability.”"
Heaven cannot wait! It has to do something about it but doesn't know what.
But who is responsible for it? George Bush for sure but then who is responsible for George Bush?
No American voter because he/she voted for Gore. Remember, Gore won popular vote in 2000.
No UN because it never approved of the war.
And no most of the world except Britain.
Politicians can go to any length selling us dreams. This is how George Bush sold Iraq war to Americans. It will give you fresh minty breath. What else?
Indian lot may even do better. They may promise moksha to our forefathers- the reason Ganges was brought down by Bhagirath from Shiva's hair.
David Foster Wallace: "TV is not vulgar and prurient and dumb because the people who compose the audience are vulgar and dumb. Television is the way it is simply because people tend to be extremely similar in their vulgar and prurient and dumb interests and wildly different in their refined and aesthetic and noble interests."
Great thing about democracy is, it leads rulers like George Bush to confuse between "vulgar and prurient and dumb interests" like following those TV programs and "aesthetic and noble interests" like defeating him through ballot box.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
This picture is perhaps most incisive anti-war commentary I saw in such a small space. Although scene is of a film shooting, its panoramic setting gives an impression of an impending battle.
And then you see a small battle that is already pitched!. A robin has held up the shooting and film crew is throwing stones and using other means to shoo it away. Once robin flies away, guns will boom and shooting will start.
Peace is so fragile.
It indeed was in 1930. Mankind's worst war was going to rage in less than a decade.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Well, society still doesn't even know I exist! Why should it? Why must there be greatness?
Mukti or Bhakti? Hunter-gatherer or sit-com watching Homo sapien?
Mel Brooks: “Nietzsche whispers to you: ‘Without audacity there is no greatness.’ Freud whispers to you: ‘Why must there be greatness?’ That fight’s still going on. And you don’t understand either one, because they’re both whispering in German."
Monday, December 04, 2006
Vasant Sarwate वसंत सरवटे remains one of the most under-rated cartoonists in India. Maybe because he has primarily contributed to Marathi publications.
His art has been moving me for more than three decades now.
I have selected two pictures here to represent him. More may follow.
First picture (1968) pokes fun at middle class ethos of Maharashtra, India as effectively as other literary masters of 20th century like the late Shri Kru Kolhatkar, Chi Vi Joshi and Pu La Deshpande did. And in far fewer words.
Man has just sipped his tea which perhaps is hotter than usual and it has given him a sore tongue. He admonishes his wife (not in the picture) why she poured such a hot cup. Picture becomes so poignant because the broadsheet he is reading has these news-items: "A quake in Iran kills 5,000 and injures thousands", "floods in Gujarat killing hundreds", "Boat capsizes" etc! Even reading of these catastrophes has not made a dent on our Marathi speaking Homer Simpson's sensitivity. He remains just like HIM.
Architects and urban planners like Charles Correa had opposed expansion of Mumbai into Arabian sea. They saw what would become of Mumbai. But no one 'saw' it better than Sarwate.
Picture shows few in the crowd spotting Bollywood actor Rishi Kapoor flying over them in a helicopter and are shouting his name.
Picture captures beautifully what was eternal in Mumbai- her glamour manifested mainly through film industry and what was changing- her physical landscape, getting perhaps uglier.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Following article is the top ten lister for NYT in calendar 2006.
After reading them I realized I neither asked nor was asked any of these questions. And I tell you living thousands of miles away from New York, most of them are relevant. Marriage indeed travels well!
December 17, 2006
Questions Couples Should Ask (Or Wish They Had) Before Marrying
Relationship experts report that too many couples fail to ask each other critical questions before marrying. Here are a few key ones that couples should consider asking:
1) Have we discussed whether or not to have children, and if the answer is yes, who is going to be the primary care giver?
2) Do we have a clear idea of each other’s financial obligations and goals, and do our ideas about spending and saving mesh?
3) Have we discussed our expectations for how the household will be maintained, and are we in agreement on who will manage the chores?
4) Have we fully disclosed our health histories, both physical and mental?
5) Is my partner affectionate to the degree that I expect?
6) Can we comfortably and openly discuss our sexual needs, preferences and fears?
7) Will there be a television in the bedroom?
8) Do we truly listen to each other and fairly consider one another’s ideas and complaints?
9) Have we reached a clear understanding of each other’s spiritual beliefs and needs, and have we discussed when and how our children will be exposed to religious/moral education?
10) Do we like and respect each other’s friends?
11) Do we value and respect each other’s parents, and is either of us concerned about whether the parents will interfere with the relationship?
12) What does my family do that annoys you?
13) Are there some things that you and I are NOT prepared to give up in the marriage?
14) If one of us were to be offered a career opportunity in a location far from the other’s family, are we prepared to move?
15) Does each of us feel fully confident in the other’s commitment to the marriage and believe that the bond can survive whatever challenges we may face?
p.s. I may not have to repeat what happened since May 22 1987 but some times for my wife and/or I have to for last one day/week/month/quarter!
Tons of literature is generated on this subject in the West every year.
That makes Adam Phillips ask: "A culture that is obsessed with happiness must really be in despair, mustn't it? Otherwise why would anybody be bothered about it at all? It's become a preoccupation because there's so much unhappiness. The idea that if you just reiterate the word enough and we'll all cheer up is preposterous."
Most troubling aspect is - nations are getting wealthier not happier.
Here is another take by a practitioner of that dismal science- economics : Paul Krugman.
MONEY CAN'T BUY HAPPINESS. ER, CAN'T IT?
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- A few weeks ago my wife and I finally gave in to the pressures of modern life and acquired a cell phone. But it turned out that once we had the thing we had a few questions -- questions we couldn't get answered, because customer service was swamped with similar calls from the thousands of other people who had recently signed on.
Meanwhile, my parents started calling contractors about some minor work on their house -- only to be told that every carpenter and plumber in the area was booked well into next year.
Talk to almost any middle-class American, and you will hear similar stories -- about poor service, excessive traffic, overpriced housing and so on. In fact, there seems to be a sort of rising chorus of complaints about the annoyances of prosperity -- complaints, in effect, that spending lots of money isn't as gratifying as people expected it to be. Most of this is petty stuff, but it is just possible that the chorus of complaints marks the beginning of a broader shift in attitudes -- a shift that will be healthy if it doesn't come too quickly.
Of course, people don't complain about the disappointments of prosperity unless they are prosperous, and in a way all this whining is a symptom of a remarkably successful era in American economic history. Still, you don't have to be an ascetic to wonder if there isn't something a bit manic about the pace of getting and -- especially -- spending in fin-de-siècle America.
Even the dry statistics suggest that something a little strange is going on. Consider: we are now eight years into an economic expansion. Consumer spending traditionally lags behind the economy as a whole in boom times, because families figure that times will not always be that good and that they should save for a rainy day.
This time, however, consumers are leading the charge: while the economy expanded an impressive 4 percent between the first quarter of 1998 and the first quarter of 1999, consumption grew 5.5 percent, and spending on consumer durables -- cell phones, bathroom fixtures, S.U.V.'s and home entertainment systems -- surged an incredible 12 percent.
There are at least two reasons to question whether America's consumption boom is really a good thing.
One is that by conventional standards, the typical American family is being a bit, well, imprudent in spending so much -- indeed, personal savings, never high in this country, have now disappeared almost completely. True, millions of families have seen their wealth surge because of a soaring stock market, but while more people than ever own stock, most still have no significant personal stake in the market.
You might argue that ordinary families are spending freely, despite sluggish wage growth, because they believe that prosperity is here to stay. But survey evidence suggests that many workers remain nervous about job security, a nervousness that manifests itself in a surprising reluctance to demand wage increases.
So why is spending so high? Much of the surge is driven by those families that do own a lot of stock and have been willing to treat recent capital gains not only as durable but as likely to continue. And at least some of the rest is the result of what Robert Frank calls luxury fever: families with annual incomes of $30,000 try to emulate the consumption of those with $60,000, who try to emulate those with $120,000, and so on. Ultimately we are all trying to keep up with the Gateses, and some of us really can't afford it.
And this leads to a deeper concern: there is good reason to think that even those consumers who can afford all this spending will eventually find that they can't get no satisfaction. It is hard to talk about this without sounding either moralistic or supercilious, but it turns out that the folk wisdom is backed by hard statistical evidence: you really can't buy happiness, certainly not for society as a whole.
Partly this is because of congestion effects like the ones my family is experiencing: when few people have cars, the one-car family is king, but when everyone has two, a lot of time is spent in traffic jams.
A more important point, probably, is that human beings are hard-wired to judge themselves not by their absolute standard of living, but in comparison to others. It may be true that in material terms today's borderline poor live as well as the upper-middle class did a few decades back, but that does not stop them from feeling poor. And consumer spending ultimately disappoints because of habituation: once you have become accustomed to a given standard of living, the thrill is gone.
But there is one very powerful argument that can be made on behalf of recent American consumerism: not that it is good for consumers, but that it has been good for producers. You see, spending may not produce happiness, but it does create jobs, and unemployment is very effective at creating misery.
Better to have manic consumers, American style, than the depressive consumers of Japan -- a country where the only consumer durables that have sold well the last few years are home safes, the better to hoard cash in.
This attempt to keep up with people richer than ourselves, however ineffectual it may have been on its own terms, has allowed the United States economy to sail through a global financial storm unscathed, and arguably made the difference between a global wobble and a repeat of the 1930's.
There is a strong element of rat race in America's consumer-led boom, but those rats racing in their cages are what have kept the wheels of commerce turning. And while it will be a shame if Americans continue to compete over who can own the most toys, the worst thing of all will be if the competition comes to a sudden stop.
Now there are faint hints in popular culture -- though certainly not yet in the spending numbers -- that Americans are starting to become disillusioned with high consumption, that in years to come the American consumer will become wiser and more prudent. Let's hope it really happens -- but not too fast.
Published in The New Yorker May 22, 2006 Artist: Charles Barsotti
This is how "corporate- speak" works. Those who have faced it know that it is ominously Orwellian.
Letter to "The Economist":
SIR – The biggest problem in trying to retain talent is that employees tend to be rewarded not for innovation but for how well they play the company game. Companies that are forever reorganising, employ managers who prefer teams based on a “personality cult” and have review systems that are easily manipulated by the reporting manager, tend to reward those who can figure out internal politics more than problem solving, innovation or team building. Indeed, the innovative talent a company thinks it has built up is different to the talent of people to merely advance and survive.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
“The animal world has finally taken its revenge on Irwin, but probably not before a whole generation of kids in shorts seven sizes too small has learned to shout in the ears of animals with hearing 10 times more acute than theirs, determined to become millionaire animal-loving zoo-owners in their turn”
“some things in nature should be left alone. He (Steve Irwin) clearly took a lot of risks and television encouraged him to do that.. It's a shame that television audiences need that to be attracted to wildlife. Dangerous animals, you leave them alone because they will defend themselves. Nature defends itself, it isn't all about hugging animals and going 'ahh'. It's wonderful to observe but you have to be sensible and maintain a safe distance. Television has become very gladiatorial and it's not healthy. The voyeurism we are seeing on television has a cost and it's that cost Steve Irwin's family are paying today."
Right wing Americans have made mountain out of molehill of gay marriage. There are fierce debates raging across the land. At times, it seems to be the most important issue around in US. Even more than terrorism.
Richard Dawkins, "America, founded in secularism as a beacon of eighteenth century enlightenment, is becoming the victim of religious politics, a circumstance that would have horrified the Founding Fathers. The political ascendancy today values embryonic cells over adult people. It obsesses about gay marriage, ahead of genuinely important issues that actually make a difference to the world."
Osama has sensed it and is seen ordering his troops to get married to each other instead of driving planes into buildings!
One redeeming feature is, he himself laughs at his clumsiness with these things.
Here, he is having hard time pronouncing a sect of Islam without swearing! Small wonder Shia militias have gone berserk in Iraq!