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.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

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."

Chris Ware: "Being a cartoonist means you don’t consider yourself too fancy."

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

Monday, July 20, 2009

Imitating Rajesh Khanna, we walked with Neil and Buzz!

For a nine year old, 1969 was: Hindi movies:Talash (particularly its promos of scantily dressed dancers in champagne glasses from page 2 of Maharashtra Times), Waris, Anjaana, Shatranj, Ansoo Ban Gaye Phool, Ek Phool Do Maali, Do Raaste and Aradhana; passing away of P K Atre and Dr. Zakir Husain; Gandhi Centenary (so many mandatory, boring cultural programs in Gandhi's memory at school).

And cricket.

India lost the Nagpur test match to New Zealand in October.

It was a national calamity. There were rumours that our cricketers were too drunk to walk on cricket field on the last day October 8. Another rumour was that M A K Pataudi, India's captain, was too busy wooing Sharmila Tagore to concentrate on his cricket.

This loss was more than redeemed by beating strong Australian side in December.

Now I understand even following events happened in the same year: India's first credit card Diners card was introduced, the first Indian-built Centaur rocket was successfully tested, Dadasaheb Phalke award was instituted. ("The Indian Millennium AD 1000-2000" by Gopa Sabharwal, 2000)

I don't remember July 20, 1969 but it changed the scene. They say: For a very brief moment during the 1960s, America was moonstruck.

So was India.

Moon, Apollo spacecraft and its crew- Neil Armstrong, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin, Michael Collins were every where.

Many forts children built in Maharashtra during Diwali festival had the theme of Apollo mission. Ganesh festival pandals exhibited moon landing scenes.

Cartoons, jokes, films, plays, literature -popular culture as a whole- started referring to the landing. Mr. Armstrong became as popular as Rajesh Khanna!

No NRI complained why Gayatri Mantra was not chanted on the moon when it was reported that Buzz Aldrin gave thanks to God by the taking of the Holy Communion on the moon.

There was a sense of urgency to dump the old practices, now that we had reached the moon.

Some experts in India predicted that faith in astrology would wane because moon, which plays such an important part in a horoscope, was now soiled by a mortal man.

Nothing like that ever happened. Astrology remains more popular in India today than ever before. For some prominent scientists(?), astrology and vastu-shastra have become branches of science!

I personally like the moon mission because it eventually gave birth to Buzz, a co-hero of Toy Story films.



Paul Krugman says:

"...Indeed, manned space flight in general has turned out to be a bust.

The key word here is "manned." Space flight has been a huge boon to mankind. It has advanced the cause of science: for example, cosmology, and with it our understanding of basic physics, has made huge strides through space-based observation. Space flight has also done a lot to improve life here on Earth, as space-based systems help us track storms, communicate with one another, even find out where we are...

...Yet almost all the payoff from space travel, scientific and practical, has come from unmanned vehicles and satellites..." (NYT, February 4, 2003)

In 2007, Gerard DeGroot wrote a book “Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest

"...DeGroot came to share the view of many people today, that Apollo was 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..." (Clive Cookson, FT, March 9 2007)

"...In fact, it turned out the Russians were far behind the US in space expertise, a fact Kennedy only discovered in office. It was too late by then and the space monster he had unleashed began devouring money faster than any other federal programme. Kennedy might have stopped the rot, says DeGroot, but was assassinated. After that, 'the space programme became a homage to Kennedy and, as such, untouchable'

The US lunar quest was, therefore, 'an immensely expensive distraction of little scientific or culture worth', a grand futility from which the US space agency Nasa has never recovered. It is hard to disagree with this assessment.

DeGroot, a sharp and witty writer, has prepared his case assiduously, though for my taste he overstates it badly, wilfully ignoring the romance and chutzpah of what was, after all, the 20th-century's crowning human achievement..." (Robin McKie, The Observer, 3 February 2008)

"...But Dark Side of the Moon underestimates many positive aspects of Apollo. One was the psychological impetus given to the embryonic environmental movement by seeing our fragile blue-and-white planet from the moon. And Apollo gave a huge long-term boost to scientific innovation by inspiring a generation of schoolchildren to study science and technology. Their enthusiasm did not wane when the moon landings ended, and in subsequent decades many became high-tech innovators and entrepreneurs..." (Clive Cookson)



"What's happening to us, John? People will soon be going to the moon, and we don't even seem to get out of the house any more."

Artist : Richard Decker, The New Yorker, 19 April 1958