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.”
Albert Einstein: “I am content in my later years. I have kept my good humor and take neither myself nor the next person seriously.” (To P. Moos, March 30, 1950. Einstein Archives 60-587)
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."
Friday, March 30, 2007
Implicit in this is argument is: cricket CAME hockey way.
Did it? No.
Hockey has always been played by many Europeans nations since its debut in 1908 Olympics. India was at number one in the sport from 1928 to 1960- winning 30 games on the trot at Olympics while losing none, scoring 197 goals while taking only 8. After losing to Pakistan in 1960, India reclaimed the gold at Tokyo 1964. Even after 1964, Indian Hockey did quite well, claiming two Olympic bronze medals and World Cup in Malaysia. Its decline started with 1976 Montreal Olympics.
Cricket, on the other hand, was never played by more than handful nations. Even then India can boast of very few great results– 1971 series win against England in England (England had just beaten Australia in Australia), 1971 series win against WI in WI, 1983 World Cup and 1985 World Series victory in Australia. Out of these only the last two could be compared to Olympic gold.
Indian hockey is surely in wilderness today but it truly has a glorious past. I am not sure if the same can be said of Indian cricket.
Our cricketers are rich. Our cricket bodies and their bosses are richer. In our country, like Americans, we increasingly associate wealth with personal merit. Therefore, once the dust settles down on India’s world cup performance, we surely will find tons of merit in all our wealthy boys.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Michael Crichton “Airframe” (1996)
“…..A lot of people complain that television lacks focus. But that's the nature of the medium. Television's not about information at all. Information is active, engaging. Television is passive. Information is disinterested, objective. Television is emotional. It's entertainment. Whatever he says, however he acts, in truth Martin has absolutely no interest in you, or your company, or your airplanes. He's paid to exercise his one reliable talent: provoking people, getting them to make an emotional outburst, to lose their temper, to say something outrageous. He doesn't really want to know about airplanes. He wants a media moment. If you understand that, you can deal with him.”
Viewer is disgusted that tonight he will not perhaps get his media moment!
Artist : Richard Decker The New Yorker 27 oct 1956
I have mixed feelings on the subject of HP. HP is a clever mix of what children seek in their real life and fantasies. It is good but it gets more mind share of children than it deserves. It also is highly addictive. Like Pokemon or tomato ketchup.
Indian media too plays a big role in promoting HP. My son recently attended a quiz organized by Times of India. To our horror, it was dominated by questions on HP. Children were asked questions on personal life of author J. K. Rowling and they knew the answers! I am not sure we want our son to attend such a quiz again.
Therefore, I am also tempted to howl to J. K. Rowling : “Think of the children. Please don’t start another trilogy”
Artist : Richard Decker The New Yorker 10 Sept 1955
Gandhiji, Vinoba Bhave विनोबा भावे and Sane Guruji साने गुरुजी wanted us to focus on soft skills to build tolerant and healthy society. Society free of corruption and communal hatred. Society that is compassionate. Society free of dogma and superstition. Society that respects manual and intellectual works equally. (on the last point, read Vinoba Bhave’s brilliant Marathi essay on Sage Agastya who gave equal importance to both brain and brawn)
Shiv Vishwanathan “… Science today is a creature of market or state. It is seen as the IT of Azim Premji and Chandrababu Naidu without asking how cyberspace and justice can unite. But there is no sense of fun, no invitation to ask why the sky is blue, or why a top spins or why a boomerang moves the way it does. We need to go back to our inventive history and bring science back into the celebration called culture, to create a science as inventive as our music or dance, a science that celebrates 40,000 varieties of rice and ensures they do not become a monoculture of five to 10 species.”
I think as a nation we worry only about technical areas of education. Is it good for us in the long run?
Therefore, I am tempted to ask my 13 year old son…………
Artist: Rea Gardner The New Yorker 10 Nov 1945
“This isn't life, it's just stuff. And it's become more important to you than living. Well, honey, that's just nuts.”
Many times we forget this. We think the stuff defines us. We think the elephants we ride define us.
No wonder others don’t recognize us without them!
Artist: Richard Decker The New Yorker 17 Nov 1945
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
But media are fighting back.
Now, they want to poll cricket fans on various issues afflicting Indian cricket. Just like exit polls during elections, you have plethora of cricket polls.... Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Dalmia, Pawar, Vengsarkar, Sandip Patil, Wright, Sidhu, Jadeja, Yuvraj Singh etc etc.
No one has called me so far. But if they do.............
In the past, I may have let it pass. Not so this time. (Thankfully I have still not heard: Two billion eyes are watching cricket).
Neither my wife nor I were praying.
Since our maid- Sunita- who was borne in Pune district and has been living in Pune city since her marriage (much before she turned 18!)- is also part of that billion, I asked her if she prayed for such a cause.
Her response was startling: “Dajee, what is cricket?”
Sunita’s husband – an able bodied male- refuses to work. She has two kids. She has no electricity at home. Her kids attend private school because she thinks subsidized public schools are rotten and are bad influence on her children. With her meager income, Sunita looks after family of five including her old father-in-law. Her dwelling in nearby slum is registered in the name of her father-in-law. If he were to die, Sunita is not sure about her fate because her relations with husband are so soured that she refuses to sleep with him.
If at all Sunita prays, it is for longevity of her father-in-law.
I think we neo-rich and our media are just getting carried away. Let us remember that in this land there are still more Sunita’s than us.
“One billion people, yes. But how many human beings?”
Artist : William O'Brian The New Yorker 14 Nov 1964
Sunday, March 25, 2007
During last several months of 2006-07, I have been pissed off by ICICI Bank, Books Today (India Today group), Reliance Communications, Standard Chartered Bank, DSK Developers, Birla Mutual Fund, HDFC Mutual Fund, local cable guy and so on.
Mind you issues involved are not minor irritants.
It has become so bad that I have come around to think that perhaps government in India is less irritating than the private sector.
But companies perhaps think I am their best customer because I continue to do business with them!
ELEANOR RANDOLPH writes in NYT March 11, 2007 "A Time and Place for Grousing":
"In today’s global economy, however, there is a totally different culture for complaints. Artful bellyaching has become a survival skill. And, the harder it becomes to complain (“You’re talking to me from Tajikistan?”) and the longer it takes to get satisfaction, the angrier customers become in return. American consumers are so angry that companies are assessing the new level of customer rage. A study by Arizona State University found that 70 per cent of customers who had problems were either extremely or very teed-off as a result of their complaints. Scott Broetzmann, president of Customer Care Measurement and Consulting, which helped with the university analysis, said, “You have to go back more than 40 years (i.e., Ralph Nader’s heyday) to find the acrimony you now have between consumers and businesses.” Although there are many companies that care deeply about customer service, too many consider the consumer complaints desk to be a cost center worthy of cutting. So, consumers are fighting back. Mr. Broetzmann, who helps businesses deal with consumer outrage, says that customers become angrier with every hour spent trying to get relief. (Four hours is the average.) But he also says that many consumers say they would be satisfied with respect or an apology rather than, for example, a replacement iPod."
Artist : James Stevenson The New Yorker 23 Jan 1960
I was brought up in an era of shortages. Shortages of all kinds. Cement, Kerosene, Rice, Sugar, Tires, what-have-you. We were taught frugality. Conspicuous consumption was crime. Leaving food on plate was crime. Eating in restaurant was crime. Too many clothes. And so on........
Now, there is a new spin on all this.
Consume more to help the economy. Consume more to generate jobs.
Therefore, every time anything is robbed in front of us, our only hope is: Not that criminals will be brought to the justice but loot will be spent locally!
Artist : Richard Decker The New Yorker 2 May 1959
We practise it many times. Once we become insiders, we change our colours.
But you may be exasperated if you can do neither.
Artist : Richard Decker The New Yorker 21 December 1957
“Everything that can happen to a person, I think, is determined in the first sixteen years of his life”
Therefore, she is right. He got to write about what he knows best. His first sixteen years- crummy childhood!
Artist : Richard Decker The New Yorker
"Happiness eludes the rendezvous we fix, arrives when we least expect it, disappears when we think we have it in hand. In other words, those people who are unhappy about not being happy forget that happiness has a knack for indirection, coming in the middle of the most ordinary day or disappearing at the height of one’s career. It is a matter of luck, almost of grace, a visitor who enters the house unexpectedly and vanishes on tiptoe." ("Another Last Chance to Change Your Life" By PASCAL BRUCKNER, NYT Jan 1 2007)
Poet Jacques Prévert says: "I recognize happiness by the sound it makes when it leaves".
My wife's aunt, a wealthy doctor in US, says what she misses most in US is the draft dry lands of India get on a summer evening. Whenever I have lived outside western Maharashtra- Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Doom Dooma (Assam), Calcutta- I too have missed it dearly.
Coming in the middle of the most ordinary day, bringing along happiness and .............
However, frenzy among Indian cricket followers and media before, during and after India's matches is quite scary. All in the name of the nation. Thank our luck there is no actual war being fought with Pakistan or Bangladesh or Sri Lanka.
I am increasingly thinking that rise of nationalism may be the biggest problem of this century on Indian subcontinent. Ahead of poverty.
I wonder if we can ever solve problems of river water sharing among Indian states in such a charged atmosphere.
Artist: Richard Decker The New Yorker 26 Feb 1955
Much celebrated hero-reporter of "Watergate" scandal Carl Bernstein (played by DUSTIN HOFFMAN in "All the President's Men" ) has this to say (Feb 2006) :
"But I think the really important trends in journalism in the last 25 years are basically the dumbing down of media what I called in a cover piece for The New Republic in 1990 the triumph of idiot culture, manufactured controversy, sensationalism, shouting from the left and the right as if this were real news and real information.In this cacophony truth, the best obtainable version of the truth, which is really what reporting is that snapshot at a given moment of where an event and the facts stand when reporting is good that's getting lost in this noise and, as Bob says, in this rush to get stuff out. Who the hell knows what's right and what's right and what's fact and what's context and what's not? And if you -- it's particularly egregious on television with all due respect and on the Internet."
Artist : Garrett Price The New Yorker 15 Dec 1945
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Robert Frost wrote in one of his poems;
"We may choose something like a star/To stay our minds on and be staid"
I have chosen Chekov.'
He is not alone.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
1. I or some-one-I-know is going to US to attend to a child birth
2. My or some-one-I-know’s son / daughter is coming to India from US/Europe/ Middle-east/ Far East on a vacation
3. I or some-one-I-know is buying a new car / house / plot of land..
4. Value of my or some-one-I-know’s real estate/ stocks has doubled in last 12 months.
5. Traffic jams / Restaurant food
6. One day Cricket
7. the latest SRK / Amitabh Bachhan starrer / TV sitcom
8. salary of mine or some-one-I-know
9. practice of religion / horoscope, moon signs
10. sloganeering: “with pride I say I am an Indian / Hindu / Marathi / Brahmin / Maratha etc.”
Artist : Bruce Erik Kaplan The Publication: The New yorker 17 Jan 1994
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Donald Morrison in his review for FT on Sept 29, 2006 says:
’……… the real star of Sacred Games is Mumbai, described with the fond precision of Joyce’s Dublin - from Colaba to Bandra, gang-ridden Dongri to graceful Marine Drive….
Chandra gets the sounds and smells, as well as Mumbai’s mix of smugness and longing, rural atavism and mobile-phone modernity, filmi (film music) glitz and gangster strut. He also evokes the close links between those last two realms, in an almost painfully hilarious account of Gaitonde’s attempt to produce a Bollywood movie.
For added authenticity, Chandra sprinkles the pages with enough Hindi, Urdu and Marathi to fill a dictionary. It helps to know your blenchods from your maderchods, your lakhs from your crores. He never offers translations - or italics - yet clarity prevails. When one of Gaitonde’s girlfriends says: “Give a boy a ghoda, doesn’t make him smart. Just makes him a chutya with a gun,” you get the picture.’
In Bhau Padhye, Mumbai had her best chronicler of all time.
Marathi speaking people often say- in day to day life they speak Tukaram’s (17th century saint-poet) Marathi. Similarly, a lot of Bambaiyya Hindi / Marathi is deeply influenced by Bhau Padhye’s Marathi. Or is it the other way round?!
Literary stalwarts like Durga Bhagwat दुर्गा भागवत, Vijay Tendulkar, Bhalchandra Nemade and Dilip Chitre have all called Bhau Padhye world-class artist. Quite rightly so.
Unfortunately, Bhau’s royalty income from his entire life’s work would never equal even a fraction of Chandra’s advance (US$ 1 million) for this single book!
Artist: Helen E. Hokinson The New Yorker 9 June 1945
Saturday, March 17, 2007
I have been snoring, I think pretty horribly, for many years now. Luckily for our marriage and our budget (as explained later), my wife sleeps like a log and only the noise of my nose blowing, next only to a bad dream, can wake her up.
TRACIE ROZHON in her article “To Have, Hold and Cherish, Until Bedtime” (NYT March 11, 2007) says:
“Not since the Victorian age of starched sheets and starchy manners, builders and architects say, have there been so many orders for separate bedrooms. Or separate sleeping nooks. Or his-and-her wings.
In interviews, couples and sociologists say that often it has nothing to do with sex. More likely, it has to do with snoring. Or with children crying. Or with getting up and heading for the gym at 5:30 in the morning. Or with sending e-mail messages until well after midnight.”
Lady in the picture is surely on her way to order her own bedroom.
Artist : Dana Fradon Publication: The New Yorker 4 March 1985
In picture below, Mrs. Booth did not cure anything. Booths moved into a larger house with separate bedrooms!
Following cartoon made me cry. Tragedy of aging.
Artist : Richard Decker Publication: The New Yorker 19 April 1958
By the way moon travel itself has come under a lot of flack of late.
I remember post 1969, moon travel was every where. ‘Forts’ children make in Maharashtra during Diwali used to have themes of Apollo mission. Ganesh festival pandals exhibited moon landing ‘scenes’. Neil Armstrong for few years was as popular as Rajesh Khanna. Experts predicted that faith in astrology would come down because moon- who plays such an important part in one’s horoscope- was soiled by a mortal man.
Resurgent Hindu and Muslim fundamentalisms were few years away. Hence, no one talked about Buzz Aldrin performing the ritual of Holy Communion on the surface of the moon.
Gerard DeGroot author of “Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest” calls moon missions “ A $35bn ego trip - an outrageous waste of money that should have been spent addressing problems on Earth. For him, Neil Armstrong’s “small step” on to the moon achieved nothing for mankind beyond a brief burst of media-generated euphoria. Its main purpose, to beat the Russians in the race to the moon, had been achieved. The astronauts were paid off and space travel gave way to other fads.”
“DeGroot, a fine writer with a real flair for storytelling, has fun with Nasa’s extravagance and its tendency to look for complex solutions where simple ones would do. For example, the agency developed a pen that would write in zero gravity - an invention that is still marketed to gadget enthusiasts. The Russians made do with pencils. And he demolishes the commonly accepted idea that Teflon and Velcro were spin-offs of the space race."
Thursday, March 15, 2007
In India, from ages, we have weighed our royalty- both borne and elected- using various things. (It is interesting to note that renowned Marathi-Farsi poet Madhav Julian माधव जूलियन् was weighed in footwears just after his birth because he would not stop crying - "Aamchi Akra Varshe" by Leelabai Patwardhan)
Inflation seems to have affected even that practice!
Artist : James Stevenson Publication: The New Yorker 7 Nov 1964
And how are we middle class people coping with it when even our neighbourhood shopkeeper is so scared……..
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
"I like to think of advertising as something big, something splendid, something which goes deep down into an institution and gets hold of the soul of it. . . . Institutions have souls, just as men and nations have souls,"
Artist : Frank Modell Publication: The New Yorker 5 Nov 1960
Mario Pisani reveiwed the book "THE MEANING OF LIFE by Terry Eagleton" for FT on March 2, 2007।
It has these lines : " I decided to put the book’s analytical framework to the test। I identified three people with very different perspectives on life, and asked them what it meant to them।
A British friend, a member of the international policy-making elite, answered with a dry “it means nothing.” A German colleague said something along the lines of “to be happy.” My Turkish corner-shop-keeper answered “What is ‘meaning’?”
It looks like Eagleton got it right, after all."
Artist: Lee Lorenz Publication: The New Yorker 10 Dec 1960
Tom Wolfe: “The demise of Freudianism can be summed up in a single word: lithium”.
Artist :Alan Dunn Publication: The New Yorker 14 Nov 1936
When in college, I always envied smokers who could make friends so easily and had no trouble in passing time anywhere and on any occasion.
Even at work, especially in non-smoking offices, smokers gathered outside and networked.
Artist : William Hamilton Publication: The New Yorker 31 Jan 1994
Masahiko Fujiwara - author of best selling Japanese book "The Dignity of a State"- says: "Japan used to despise money, just like English gentlemen. But after the war, under American influence, we concentrated on prosperity."
Similar thing has happened to educated Indians.
Does money make us more happy? There is overwhelming evidence against it.
Consider a paradox outlined by London School of Economics economist Richard Layard in Happiness (Penguin, 2005), in which he shows that we are no happier even though average incomes have more than doubled since 1950 and "we have more food, more clothes, more cars, bigger houses, more central heating, more foreign holidays, a shorter working week, nicer work and, above all, better health."
Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert goes deeper into our psyches in Stumbling on Happiness (Knopf, 2006), in which he claims, "The human being is the only animal that thinks about the future." Much of our happiness depends on projecting what will make us happy (instead of what actually does), and Gilbert shows that we are not very good at this forethought.
Michael Hecht- author of The Happiness Myth (Harper, 2007)- writes, "The basic modern assumptions about how to be happy are nonsense." Take sex. "A century ago, an average man who had not had sex in three years might have felt proud of his health and forbearance, and a woman might have praised herself for the health and happiness benefits of ten years of abstinence."
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
As you may read some of the items here that could be your response. Even I have not found everything funny here!
JOHN TIERNEY NYT March 13 2007: "Laughter, a topic that stymied philosophers for 2,000 years, is finally yielding to science.....They’ve discovered something that eluded Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Kant, Schopenhauer, Freud and the many theorists who have tried to explain laughter based on the mistaken premise that they’re explaining humour.....Occasionally we’re surprised into laughing at something funny, but most laughter has little to do with humor. It’s an instinctual survival tool for social animals, not an intellectual response to wit. It’s not about getting the joke. It’s about getting along.......most speakers, particularly women, did more laughing than their listeners, using the laughs as punctuation for their sentences. It’s a largely involuntary process. People can consciously suppress laughs, but few can make themselves laugh convincingly....The human ha-ha evolved from the rhythmic sound — pant-pant — made by primates like chimpanzees when they tickle and chase one other while playing."
Monday, March 12, 2007
Also, it is not simply demand-supply economics at work.
For example, price of oil rises because it is favourite commodity of speculators and hedge funds and not because some great fundamental forces are at play.
Another prevailing thing among business media is the pervasive and insidious habit of anthropomorphic thought. "markets will go where they want to go"!
Edsger W. Dijkstra: "Is anthropomorphic thinking bad? Well, it is certainly no good in the sense that it does not help. Why did the stone fall in Greek antiquity? Quite simply because it wanted to go to the centre of the earth. And, several centuries later, we had the burning question: why do stones want to go to the centre of the earth? Well, that is simple too: because that's where they belong. Why are heavier stones heavier than lighter stones? Because they are more eager to be at the centre of the earth. But then Galileo made the troubling discovery that the heavier stone does not fall any faster than the lighter one. How come? Simple, dear Watson: the heavier stone has indeed a greater desire to be at the centre of the earth, but it is also more lazy. So much for a - be it somewhat simplified - history of the development of physics."
Artist : Richard Cline Publication: The New Yorker 25 Apr 1994
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Over centuries lovers have used different techniques to prove authenticity of their feelings. This century is not an exception.........
Naomi Klein in "No Logo": "The astronomical growth in the wealth and cultural influence of multi-national corporations over the last fifteen years can arguably be traced back to a single, seemingly innocuous idea developed by management theorists in the mid-1980s: that successful corporations must primarily produce brands, as opposed to products....global corporations have leaped on the brand-wagon with what can only be described as a religious fervor. Never again would the corporate world stoop to praying at the altar of the commodity market. From now on they would worship only graven media images. Or to quote Tom Peters, the brand man himself: "Brand! Brand!! Brand!!! That's the message . . . for the late '90s and beyond."
Artist : Edward Koren Publication: The New Yorker 13 June 1994
Swedish dramatist August Strindberg : "Shallow people demand variety – but I have been writing the same story throughout my life, every time trying to cut nearer the aching nerve".
Friday, March 09, 2007
Paul Krugman recently asked in his NYT column: "Is the health insurance business a racket?" He concludes: "It’s the ugly incentives provided by a system in which giving care is punished, while denying it is rewarded."
My limited personal experience has taught me that insurance companies invent ways to deny you benefit. Language is a powerful tool in their hand..........
Artist: Michael Crawford Publication: The New Yorker 23 May 1994
For sure, ordinary folks have always suffered through history. Suffering on a scale, most of blog reading/writing people like us cannot imagine.
I am reading "The Last Mughal" by William Dalrymple. The debate whether 1857 events should be called first war of Indian independence or mutiny will go on but the overwhelming sense I get is the suffering of ordinary people of Delhi all through that.
Similarly M V Dhond's Marathi book "Marhati Lavani" describes the painful struggle of population of Pune while rule of Peshwa degenerated in late 18th/early 19th century.
Therefore, you wonder if D D Kosambi amongst all is closest to the truth when he says: “It seems to me that Gita philosophy, like so much else in India’s ‘spiritual’ heritage, is based in the final analysis upon the inability to satisfy more than the barest material needs of a large number”
There could be many Quixotian solutions to this. Use politically correct language. Stop calling poor, poor! Stop calling third class compartment, third class. That is what Indian Railway did when one day they just erased one line from III to make it II!
Artist : Bernard Schoenbaum Publication: The New Yorker 28 Mar 1994
And then all hell breaks loose! It always is 'information of startling nature' to the receipent of the news. As if stokes indeed got the babies.
Most interesting of those fads is their language. You would be very lucky to understand it if you are not one of them. SMS makes it even worse -that 'weird' language is further transformed.