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, March 30, 2009

The Restored Commandments are in Mandarin

China Daily on March 25, 2009:

“The nation will continue buying US government debt but pay close attention to possible fluctuations in the value of the assets, a vice-governor of the central bank said yesterday.”

The Wall Street Journal on March 13 2009:

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao expressed concern over the outlook for the U.S. government debt China holds, urging Washington to take effective policies to restore the American economy to health.”

In “History of the World, Part I” (1981), Moses (Mel Brooks) is shown coming down from Mount Sinai after receiving the Law from God. When announcing the giving of the reception of the law to the people, Moses proclaims “The Lord Jehovah has given unto you these fifteen...” (whereupon he drops one of the tablets, which promptly shatters) “Oy...Ten! Ten Commandments! For all to obey!” (source: Wikipedia)

The dropped tablet has now been restored.



Artist: Danny Shanahan, The New Yorker, March 30 2009, Cartoon Caption Contest #186

My caption:

“It says in Mandarin: You shall buy US government debt.”

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Was Anand Yadav Terrified?


"...even though fifty years have passed since natives have taken power, instead of becoming fearless, people feel increasingly terrified..."

from य दि फडके "नथुरामायण" Y D Phadke "Nathuramayan" (1998)

अखिल भारतीय मराठी साहित्य संमेलन All India Marathi Sahitya Sammelan has little to do with मराठी Marathi literature but, like elections, has everything to do with entertainment.

Therefore, I like it to continue every year until I die.

This year डॉ. आनंद यादव (Dr. Anand Yadav) first 'withdrew' (for the first time in the entire history of books?) his book-'संतसूर्य तुकाराम' (Saint-Sun Tukaram) and then gave up his chair of presidency.

Yadav got lucky. Neither his house was burnt. Nor was he lynched.

If he were a Brahmin and had written about Shivaji शिवाजी the way he did about Tukaram, he (along with Brahmins like me) would be pushing the luck too far.

For Prospect Magazine April 2009, Kenan Malik has talked to Hanif Kureishi about the Rushdie fatwa and why no one would write such a book today.

‘“Nobody,” Kureishi suggests, “would have the balls today to write The Satanic Verses, let alone publish it. Writing is now timid because writers are now terrified.”…

Despite Kureishi’s brush with Islamism, he never saw The Satanic Verses controversy coming. “I first read The Satanic Verses in proof copy. I didn’t notice anything about it that might rouse the fundamentalists. I saw it as a book about psychosis, about newness and change. The 1980s was an age of fusion—in music, in food, in literature. The Satanic Verses was part of that postmodern fusion.” Even when the protests began, he didn’t take them seriously…

Kureishi does not even remember the book-burning. “It didn’t register,” he says. “Only with the fatwa did it become clear how serious and dangerous it was. It seemed mad to imagine that someone could be killed over a book. I was flabbergasted. How could a community that I identified with turn against a writer who was one of its most articulate voices?”

The Rushdie affair, Kureishi believes, transformed not just his own work, but also “the very notion of writing.” The fatwa “created a climate of terror and fear. Writers had to think about what they were writing in a way they never had to before. Free speech became an issue as it had not been before. Liberals had to take a stand, to defend an ideology they had not really had to think about before.” How have they borne up to the task? “The attacks on Rushdie showed that words can be dangerous. They also showed why critical thought is more important than ever, why blasphemy and immorality and insult need protection. But most people, most writers, want to keep their heads down, live a quiet life. They don’t want a bomb in the letterbox. They have succumbed to the fear.”’

Monday, March 23, 2009

Posturing of Prakash Karat while Watching a Mao-esque Great Leap Forward

David Pilling says in FT March 18, 2009:

India’s messy democracy works rather well:… China’s murderous Great Leap Forward shows that unchecked authoritarian states are even more prone than messy democracies to make catastrophic mistakes. Indian democracy, as the strong performance of some of its better-run states demonstrates, is perfectly compatible with good governance and fast growth. The hope for next month’s elections is that these qualities can somehow emerge victorious at a national level, however clamorous and baffling the process.”

T N Ninan says in Business Standard March 21, 2009:

“new CPI(M) website was launched on Wednesday, a couple of days after the party’s election manifesto was released. The manifesto is notable in that it does not promise outcomes (what rate of growth, how much increased equality, what level of reduction in unemployment, etc), but makes a list of random observations without any coherent framework: give the states more rights, protect the public sector, offer everyone guaranteed employment, etc…

From the third largest party in the Lok Sabha, this is a document that shows little thought, devoted to endless posturing so that it does not have to offer serious solutions.”



Artist: Mick Stevens, The New Yorker, March 23 2009, Cartoon Caption Contest #185

My caption:

“Listen light-weight…I am Prakash Karat…I am impressed by your Great Leap Forward. Would you be a prime ministerial candidate of our yet-to-be-named front?”

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Now Showing: Amitabh’s Uranium

In India, the most talked about element in year 2008 was uranium. Panacea to all our problems of national security and energy.

DRAKE BENNETT (NYT March 8, 2009):

“When it comes to press coverage, uranium does pretty well among its peers on the periodic table. Surely strontium or seaborgium or even manganese would kill for its name recognition. But how well do we really know the element in whose long, mushroom-shaped shadow we all live? If someone handed you two rocks and asked which was uranium, would you have any idea how to tell?

Probably not. For most of us, uranium is an abstraction, more like a vitamin or a gigabyte than like, say, copper. We know it is important, and we know more or less what it’s for, but it’s not something we’d recognize by sight.

With “Uranium: War, Energy, and the Rock That Shaped the World,” the journalist Tom Zoellner sets out to rectify that lack of familiarity. Part history and part travel narrative, the book presents the atomic age not through its scientists or grand strategists, but through its raw material: an undistinguished-looking ore, more common than tin, whose destructive power when refined is hard, even today, to imagine. As Zoellner writes, “A single atom of uranium is strong enough to twitch a grain of sand. A sphere of it the size of a grapefruit can eliminate a city.”…”

Uranium deserves to be featured in a blockbuster Hindi film: “Amitabh’s Uranium” (inspired by Mackenna's Gold , 1969)


Artist: Alain, The New Yorker, 8 March 1947

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Was Holi-2009 Safer?

BBC reported in March 2008:

“A Delhi-based NGO has organised a campaign against drink driving in the city to ensure a safer Holi festival. Activists say thousands of people die in India in road accidents during the two-day festival.

Holi is the Hindu spring festival, when people typically spray each other with coloured water. It is also when traditionally people take alcohol or drinks laced with bhang - an intoxicant derived from the leaves and buds of the cannabis plant.”


Artist: David Sipress, The New Yorker, March 16 2009, Cartoon Caption Contest # 184

My caption:

“Mr. Holmes, I swear all these Dancing Men died on the road, not here. This is where they lay in wet clothes before my bouncers got rid of them.”

Monday, March 09, 2009

Humans made Fire 790,000+ Years ago...

Humans made fire 790,000+ Years ago and it has been useful ever since.

For instance, more than 100,000 young women were killed in fires in India in a single year, and many of those deaths were tied to domestic abuse, according to a new study published on Monday March 02, 2009.

Business Line reported on November 9, 2008:

"...In rural areas (of India), firewood and chips is by far the most important energy source for cooking. There has been no change over the years — as many as 75.4 per cent of rural households primarily depended on this source in 2006-07, against 75.5 per cent in 1999-00...Surprisingly, 41 per cent of urban households in Kerala depend on firewood and chips, followed by Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh (35-36 per cent) and Rajasthan (34 per cent)..."

Reuters reported on October 26, 2008:

"A new study shows that humans had the ability to make fire nearly 790,000 years ago, a skill that helped them migrate from Africa to Europe.

By analysing flints at an archaeological site on the bank of the river Jordan, researchers at Israel's Hebrew University discovered that early civilizations had learned to light fires, a turning point that allowed them to venture into unknown lands..."

Maybe.


Artist : Robert Kraus, The New Yorker, July 1960

Friday, March 06, 2009

Park Your Nano Right in Your Drawing Room

The Times of India March 3, 2009: "Bookings for Nano will start from March 23: Tata Motors has advanced the booking date for its Nano, touted as the world's cheapest car, in India by three weeks,"



Artist: R K Laxman, The Times of India, September 1 2007


Artist: Tom Cheney, The New Yorker, 9 March 2009, Cartoon Caption Contest 183

my caption:

"I told you: our neighbour's drawing room was right above our bedroom."

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

India’s Lazy Cats Start Building Pyramids in My Drawing Room


Artist: Victoria Roberts, The New Yorker, March 2 2009 Cartoon Caption Contest 182

My caption:

"I know election fever has gripped India. My fat lazy cats have started building pyramids in my drawing room.”

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Why Mahatma Gandhi didn’t find History Very Useful

Historian T S Shejwalkar त्र्यंबक शंकर शेजवलकर (1895 - 1963) argued that Mahatma Gandhi didn’t have much use of history. (Preface to “Panipat 1761”, 1968)

I always wondered why.

After reading John Gray's "Straw Dogs" (2002) I have found a likely reason.

"...If we truly leave Christianity behind, we must give up the idea that human history has any meaning...In India, it was a collective dream, endlessly repeated. The idea that history must make sense is just a Christian prejudice."


Artist: George Price, The New Yorker, 14 August 1948