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: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

Monday, September 29, 2008

How can Our Democracy Afford to Provide Third-rate Services to the Poor?

Arundhati Roy recently wrote

“…all Indians who are not nanga or bhookha are—and have been—complicit in complex and historical ways with the cruel cultural and economic systems that make Indian society so cruel, so vulgarly unequal…”

Financial Times, that beacon of modern America-led capitalism, agrees with "rabid Roy".

David Pilling (FT September 24, 2008) said:

“…the neglect of basic education and healthcare which, as well as being scandalous in its own right, deprives India of the fit and literate workforce any competitive industry requires. Mao Zedong, for all the reckless horror he unleashed, did bring schools and rudimentary healthcare to the peasants. “The train of China’s industrialisation runs on the secure foundation of Maoist rails,” says Prof Sen. If India is to become a car-owning democracy, it will have to solve some basic problems first. “

Now many Indians want to hold only their “government” responsible for this so that they can continue to party.

They should read Suhas Palshikar's brilliant Marathi essay in Samaj Prabodhan Patrika April-June 2008:

“…When patients die in government hospitals because of adulterated medicines, government and civil society look at them coldly because of the contempt for human life. When homeless poor die in summer and winter, children die only because of lack of access to clean water, they don’t become scandals for our civil society. Therefore, we assign the question of homeless, support-less, old, physically challenged to either a joint family or an invisible system called ‘government’…”

(“गरिबांना भुक्कड सुविधा पुरवणं आपल्या लोकशाहीला कसं परवडतं?”)


Peasant. 'Ah! I'd like to be cared vor half as well as thee be!'

Artist: John Tenniel,'The Pig and the Peasant' Punch 9 September 1863

Saturday, September 27, 2008

What is the Breed of Your Tethered Dog? Financial-Watchdog?

"The chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a longtime proponent of deregulation, acknowledged on Friday that failures in a voluntary supervision program for Wall Street’s largest investment banks had contributed to the global financial crisis, and he abruptly shut the program down..." (NYT, September 27, 2008)



Artist: Robert Mankoff The New Yorker Sept 29 2008 cartoon caption contest 162

proposed captions:

“He turned out to be a financial watchdog. True to his breed, he bolted when they came to rob me.”

or

“Your bitch wears coloured contact lenses. And my Dev Anand didn’t want to kiss her eyes.” (read more here)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Practical Problems with Hell and Heaven

Since my mother died in January 2006, I have been really hoping to meet her one-day. In flesh and blood. Although I saw her going up in smoke. (See previous hopes here and here)

However, I have always wondered about practical problems with hell and heaven.

Paul Johnson has put them across really well.

“…Death is inextricably linked to time, because if time continues after death, and the disembodied spirit lives in time, then insoluble problems arise. Heaven (or Hell for that matter) becomes a bedlam, in which husbands are confronted with wives married at different times, each with claims, and many with multiple husbands too, hovering moodily in the background. And the children! At what stage in their lives are they fixed, as it was, for all eternity? And what is eternity if it is time-governed? How could anyone conceivably bear it, however blissful? On the other hand, if when we die time loses its grip and we step into an existence where time and change, permanence and impermanence, past, present and future all cease to have any meaning, and we exist in an infinite instant without location or material dimension of any kind, leaving all to the imagination, then there is comfort in the prospect of leaving this world.”

(The Spectator, Wednesday, 27th August 2008)


The New Yorker

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

India has Produced Bigger Financial Scams than US

There is smugness in Indian air about what is happening in US. There shouldn’t be.

Adjusted to the size of its economy and per capita income, India has perhaps produced bigger scams than any other country in the free world. Worse, unlike in America, almost no one has been punished in India for their crimes.

If only we had justice system like US, scores of chiefs of public sector and co-operative banks, NBFC's, plantation companies, rogue financial institutions would have been sent to the jail or, like China, would have been executed.

Unit Trust of India was proved to be one of the most scandalous institution in the world. Its bailout damaged finances of federal government.


source: The Spectator

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Indian Film & Glamour World Women: Only Peek-a-boo and Coloured Contact Lenses?

Dev Anand:

“…All the girls today are too bold. Take a look at two of their pictures and there is nothing more left to see. A girl is beautiful only if she is innocent and vulnerable. Hasn't all that innocence and vulnerability evaporated? They wear coloured contact lenses. God, if I was acting in today's films and had to kiss an actress on her eyes, I would be turned off…” (Times Of India-Mirror, August 12, 2008)

Alfred Hitchcock told Francois Truffaut:

“Sex on the screen should be suspenseful, I feel. If sex is too blatant or obvious, there is no suspense. You know why I favour sophisticated blondes in my films? We’re after the drawing-room type, the real ladies, who become whores once they’re in the bedroom….” (“Hitchcock by Truffaut” 1968/1986)

Where is this complex thinking gone?

Is this because “as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence”? (Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey)

Now we read:

“Fearing censure from the Censor Board, Kangana Ranaut’s wardrobe malfunction scene in Fashion has been blurred.” (Asian Age, September 19, 2008)

“No one blinked at the Marc Jacobs fashion show last week when the model Freja Beha Erichsen appeared in a sheer black top that revealed that she was wearing a nipple ring. No one blushed at the Chris Benz show when Sasha Luss and Ekat Kiseleva posed in see-through camisoles. No one seemed particularly hot or bothered that Ali Stephens’s breasts were clearly visible through her dress when she walked for Derek Lam. No one was outraged that Francisco Costa showed a transparent raincoat at Calvin Klein with nothing but a thong underneath.

Peek-a-boo was the biggest trend at the New York Fashion Week that ended on Friday,

…But nudity, like fashion, has lost much of its power to shock.

We have become so desensitized to images of naked celebrities, sex tapes and Internet pornography that designers are hard-pressed to create anything that seems really transgressive.” (ERIC WILSON NYT September 12, 2008)

I feel we Indians are still not completely “desensitized to images of naked celebrities, sex tapes and Internet pornography.”

When we do, can we hope for some quality mainstream cinema, television and fashion?

Or are we condemned to what the late David Foster Wallace said:

"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.”?


source: The New York Times

Friday, September 19, 2008

In 2018, Rogue Nation’s Fed won’t Face Shortage of Chairs in Boardrooms!

In his book “When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management.” (2002) ROGER LOWENSTEIN said:

“…September 23, 1998…On account of a crisis a LTCM, McDongh had summoned the heads of every major Wall street bank. For the first time, the chiefs of Bankers Trust, Bear Sterns, Chase Manhattan, Goldman Sachs, J. P. Morgan, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, and Salomon Smith Barney gathered under the oil portraits in the Fed’s tenth-floor boardrooms-not to bail out a Latin American nation but to consider a rescue of one of their own…

Unaccustomed to hosting such a large gathering, the Fed did not have enough leather-backed chairs to go around, so the chief executives had to squeeze into folding metal seats.”

My first thought: In year 2018, chairs won’t be a problem because most of 1998 invitees now have disappeared!

Recently (NYT September 7 2008) ROGER LOWENSTEIN said:

“…The Long-Term Capital fiasco momentarily shocked Wall Street out of its complacent trust in financial models, and was replete with lessons, for Washington as well as for Wall Street. But the lessons were ignored, and in this decade, the mistakes were repeated with far more harmful consequences. Instead of learning from the past, Wall Street has re-enacted it in larger form, in the mortgage debacle cum credit crisis…

Indeed, through the lens of today’s more widespread failure, the Long-Term Capital collapse looks like a small dress rehearsal…

In ’98, though credit markets froze and stocks plunged, they recovered quickly. Long-Term Capital was wholly a financial episode; it left no scar on Main Street. The current crisis has its roots in housing, a mainstay of the economy, and with the bubble’s bursting the damage has been enduring and severe…

If individual responsibility is to be fully excised from American capitalism, the free-market enthusiasts who founded Long-Term Capital deserve no little credit…

INVESTORS have no confidence in banks or in their disclosures. How much will each downward tick in housing prices hurt the bottom line? No one knows. Failing to inspire confidence, banks cannot raise (enough) capital; thus, they do not lend…


I heard on BBC TV on Sept 17 that AIG worked for sanctions against India because it would not open its insurance sector to the likes of AIG!

On Sept 18, FT’s John Gapper said:

“…But AIG takes the biscuit. Here was a huge multinational insurance group with a reputation for solid underwriting and risk management that decided to diversify from insuring risks it knew well – car crashes and fires – to covering derivatives it did not understand…

Well, $24bn of write-downs later – a mere 10 times its maximum estimate – the company has burned through its equity, spread financial chaos to all corners of the earth and humiliated the US Treasury. The job of insurance companies is to guard others against catastrophes, not cause them…”

I wonder if history will judge terrorists and these investment bankers very differently.

Therefore, I didn't find the picture below funny. Rogue nation's crisis is hitting common man and beggars of India.

* "Rogue Nation" phrase is borrowed from the title of Clyde Prestowitz's book 2003


Artist: R K Laxman, September 18, 2008 The Times of India

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Is Non Resident Maharashtrian Just a P-L-Deshpande-Book-Eating Lobster Robot?

Non Resident Indians based in USA keep coming under fire from different quarters- Vasant Sarwate, R K Laxman, Ramachandra Guha, Gurcharan Das etc.

But no attack I read has been as vitriolic as this one. It is targeted at Non Resident Maharashtrians.

I found it handy for The New Yorker Cartoon Caption contest # 161.

GPD EPW Issue : VOL 43 No. 28 July 12 - July 18, 2008

“…The NRMs have decided to celebrate the language that they rarely if at all speak. But they cannot be blamed. Their relatives and friends do not speak it either…

… A number of them went to modest schools in Pune, Nagpur or Mumbai. They perhaps read some books then. Most of them must have read the grand icon of the middle classes, P L Deshpande. They would remember a few of his jokes and witticisms. They would have seen some DVDs of his one-man performances. Whatever little Marathi they might speak there would be for telling each other PL’s “jokes”. Not for any reason is he called “Maharashtrache Ladke Vyaktimatva” (Maharashtra’s icon). Of course there is no reason why they cannot or should not celebrate their icons. And, after all, “PL” was no ordinary writer.

But then the point is that it amounts to nostalgia for those years of lower middle class living. The NRMs do not give the benefits of being cyber slaves. An occasional return to culture and tradition leaves them in peace with themselves and with their past…

… Most of the NRMs are cyber slaves in the Silicon Valley. They have no clue as to what is happening in the world of Marathi letters…”



Artist: Michael Crawford The New Yorker Sept 22 2008 Cartoon Caption contest 161

Proposed caption:

“Hey, so you are not just a P-L-Deshpande-book-eating lobster robot from the Silicon Valley. You are trying to clasp the culture.”

Monday, September 15, 2008

Life is Suffering, Meaningless. Even Complaining. पण या नश्वरात तमाशा बहुत आहे.

Newsweek (Aug 18 / Aug 25 2008) recently interviewed Woody Allen.

“…Allen has devoted his career to making films that consistently assert the randomness of life. That they do so in a variety of genres— comedy, drama, suspense, satire, even, once, a musical—only partially obscures the fact that, in Allen's eyes, they're all tragedies, since, as he says, "to live is to suffer." …
Allen says the indifference of the universe has obsessed him since he was a child… "I can't really come up with a good argument to choose life over death," he says. "Except that I'm too scared."…

"Your perception of time changes as you get older, because you see how brief everything is," he says. "You see how meaningless … I don't want to depress you, but it's a meaningless little flicker."

It's not that Allen is unable to enjoy himself (though he did want to title "Annie Hall" "Anhedonia," which means the inability to experience pleasure); it's that he's convinced the moments don't add up to redemption. "You have a meal, or you listen to a piece of music, and it's a pleasurable thing," he says. "But it doesn't accrue to anything."…

समर्थ शिष्या अक्का : "स्वामीच्या कृपाप्रसादे हे सर्व नश्वर आहे हे समजले. पण या नश्वरात तमाशा बहुत आहे."
(जीवनसेतु, सेतु माधवराव पगडी, 1969/2000)



The New Yorker

Friday, September 12, 2008

God in the form of Higgs boson; Devil in Flesh and Blood.



Artist: Tom Cheney, The New Yorker, September 15 2008

cartoon caption contest 160


My caption:

"We will soon know if the god indeed manifests in the form of Higgs boson but here we already have the devil in flesh and blood."

Friday, September 05, 2008

Cultures Committed to Unifying Greeds

Susan Sontag:

“We live in a culture committed to unifying greeds…..everyone on the planet feeding at the same trough of standardized entertainment and fantasies of eros and violence…"


Artist: Drew Dernavich The New Yorker September 8, 2008 Cartoon Caption Contest 159

Proposed Caption:

“Like Graham Greene’s ‘Dr Fischer of Geneva or The Bomb Party’, I now invite you to get inside the cup and drink the beverage to get to the grand prize at the bottom. Remember, one of them is perhaps laced with cyanide.

Go. Prove to the world limitless greed of the rich.”

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Leaping the Other way to the planet Saturn and Return


Artist: Mick Stevens The New Yorker August 25 2008 cartoon caption contest 157


Proposed Caption: "Some 380 million years ago, a few pioneering vertebrates first made the leap from water to land. And today, tens of millions of their human descendants seek summer amusement by leaping the other way. According to the travel industry, close to 90 percent of vacationers choose as their holiday destination an ocean, lake or other scenic body of water. So said Natalie Angier in 21st century.

Today I would like to append to her list a new destination- the planet Saturn.

But I am confident this will have no impact on the booming business dedicated astrology channels, run by our sister companies, do in India."