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."

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Kusumagraj, My Family, is Now 100!

Tomorrow Feb 27 2012 is 100th Birth Anniversary of Kusumagraj (कुसुमाग्रज) aka Vishnu Vāman Shirwādkar (विष्णु वामन शिरवाडकर)

William Shakespeare 'King Lear':

The weight of this sad time we must obey;
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most: we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.

Paul Feyerabend:

“My life has been the result of accidents, not of goals and principles. My intellectual wok forms only an insignificant part of it. Love and personal understanding are much more important. Leading intellectuals with their zeal for objectivity kill those personal elements. They are criminals, not the liberators of mankind”


Woody Allen:

"Look at these people jogging...trying to stave off the inevitable decay of the body. It's so sad what people go through...with their stationary bike and their exercise...Oh, look at this one. Poor thing. She has to tote all that fat around. She should pull it on a dolly. Maybe the poets are right. Maybe love is the answer..."

('Hannah and Her Sisters', 1986)


Kusumagraj was and still is like my family. I can't put distance between him and me.

Arguably there are better Marathi poets than him in 20th century: Arun Kolatkar, Sadanand Rege, B S Mardhekar, Dilip Chitre, Balkavi, Keshavsut, Namdeo Dhasal (अरुण कोलटकर, सदानंद रेगे, बा. सी. मर्ढेकर, दिलीप चित्रे, बालकवी, केशवसुत, नामदेव ढसाळ), but as a poet-playwright combo he remains unsurpassed.

My father left Sangli (सांगली) to take up a job in Nashik (नाशिक) c1974. Soon after, he was acquainted with Kusumagraj. Since then, not a week went by, whenever I lived with my parents, Kusumagraj- whom we called Tatyasaheb (तात्यासाहेब)- didn't come up in a discussion.

Often not as a littérateur but a great human being who lived his own life- to paraphrase Henry David Thoreau- someone who marched to his own different drummer.

My father has written probably the first biography of Mother Teresa in Marathi, titled 'प्रेम सेवा शरण' ('Love, Service, Surrender'). Before its publication, he wrote to P L Deshpande (पु ल देशपांडे) requesting him to write the foreword. However, he also mentioned in the letter that if Pu La were to decline the request, Tatyasaheb would write one anyway!

There was no need for that 'threat'. Pu La promptly turned down the request! (I have read that letter.) As foretold, Tatyasaheb wrote a sweet foreword!

My father used to write leaders for Marathi daily 'Gavkari' (गावकरी) for a number of years. Often he received impromptu appreciation of many of them from Tatyasaheb. And it was more than that...it was affection. (an aside: As mentioned earlier on this blog, Jaywant Dalvi had pilloried my father for his first social novel but when, for Gavkari, my father reviewed Dalvi's book- a collection of his such critical and humorous articles-in glowing terms, Dalvi wrote back in appreciation.)

Like my father, there were countless others from many walks of life who too were constantly appreciated and encouraged by Tatyasaheb.

I first met him on Seemant Poojan (सीमान्त पूजन) day of my sister's wedding- evening of Aug 20 1990. As soon as he arrived, almost everyone in the hall, including my sister's would-be in-laws, gathered around him and started touching his feet. Me too. Since early childhood, I had always loved his transcendental song :"सर्वात्मका सर्वेश्वरा, गंगाधरा शिवसुंदरा जे जे जगी जगते तया, माझे म्हणा करुणाकरा ॥" sung by Jitendra Abhisheki (जितेंद्र अभिषेकी). That song kind of started playing in my head.

I can never know how Sant Eknath (संत एकनाथ) looked in person but after that day I could imagine better.

Tatyasaheb looked cool. And so was he. He lived simple life. He never did self-promotion. Never conducted commercial programmes of his poetry-singing (काव्य-गायन).

He was constantly gheraoed by his devotees and fans, from late morning to late night but he never stopped being himself. He was never lonely but always alone. Never patronising.

Sadanand Rege (सदानंद रेगे) writes: (as of September 1981) Kusumagraj had not accepted any government award. (btw- He was never really welloff.)

We just celebrated 200th birth anniversary of Charles Dickens. Quite a bit of what George Orwell has said about Dickens can be said about Kusumagraj.

"...In every page of his work one can see a consciousness that society is wrong somewhere at the root. It is when one asks ‘Which root?’ that one begins to grasp his position. The truth is that Dickens's criticism of society is almost exclusively moral. Hence the utter lack of any constructive suggestion anywhere in his work...There is no clear sign that he wants the existing order to be overthrown, or that he believes it would make very much difference if it were overthrown. For in reality his target is not so much society as ‘human nature’..."

Hailing Kusumagraj as 'poet of humanism', V S Khandekar (वि स खांडेकर), who like Tatyasaheb received the Jnanpith award, wrote in 1942:

"...विषमता, पिळवणूक, गांजणूक आणि अन्याय यांच्याविषयीची बहुजनसमाजाची चीड कुसुमाग्रजांनी अत्यंत उत्कट आणि सुंदर स्वरूपात आपल्या काव्यातून व्यक्त केली आहे..."

(...Anger of the larger society against inequality, exploitation and injuctice has been expressed poignantly and elegantly by Kusumgraj in his poems...)

Of course, this was done in Marathi by saint-poets centuries ago but it was Dickensian alright when one considers average urban Indian life since the start of industrialisation, urbanisation and colonisation.

However, David Waller writes of the tragic story of Dickens’ final years:

"...during the year 1858...Dickens, like a grotesque figure in one of his novels, was at this time consumed with unrequited desire for the fair-haired, blue-eyed 19-year-old actress Nelly Ternan. Driven by uncontrollable passions, he walled his wife out of his bedroom and ultimately his life. He became the consummate Dickensian hypocrite, deploying lies, anger and emotional blackmail to get his way, while insisting on his righteousness.

‘The spectacle of a man famous for his goodness and his attachment to domestic virtues suddenly losing his moral compass is dismaying,’ notes Tomalin, with understatement. She deftly chronicles Dickens’ moral and physical decline as he abandoned his wife, home and many family members and friends to pursue and ultimately seduce Nelly..."

('Charles Dickens: A Life', History Today, Nov 15 2011)

As far as I know, Tatyasaheb could not be anything like this even in one's nightmare.

I first came across Kusumagraj's poem in 4th standard 1968-69. I think it was "Kranteecha jayjaykar" (क्रांतीचा-जयजयकार), 1939. (I think it was accompanied by a colour plate, so rare in textbooks then). After that, I remember him from 9th standard. We had a passage- "Konihi konach nasat" ("कोणीही कोणाच नसत") from his play "Natasamrat" ("नटसम्राट") and his poem "Pruthveeche Premgeet" ("पृथ्वीचे प्रेमगीत"). The poem from 'Vishakha' has following lines:

"गमे की तुझ्या रुद्र रूपात जावे
मिळोनी गळा घालुनीया गळा
तुझ्या लाल ओठातली आग प्यावी.
मीठीने तुझ्या तीव्र व्हाव्या कळा."

("Feel like in your fierce beauty
I should merge by necking
I feel like drinking fire off you red lips.
Let your embrace bring acute ache.")

Now these lines used to be very awkward for a teacher in a coed class full of 13-year olds!

Artist: Dinanath Dalal (दीनानाथ दलाल), cover of Kusumagraj's 'Vishakha', 1942, The Jnanpith Award winning book in 1987

I often try read Shakespeare but I get frustrated soon because I don't seem to understand him. Reading Shirwadkar's play 'Natsamrat'- inspired by medley of Shakespeare's plays- is closest I have come to understand the bard a little bit. Natasamrat in fact is a very ambitious project. Shirwadkar has tried to project tragic lives of some of the greats of first half of 20th century Marathi stage onto 'King Lear'. (For example, you can truly begin to understand Balgandharva (बालगंधर्व) only through a great stage tragedy and not some costume drama).

Othello, Act 3, Scene 4:

"OTHELLO: I have a salt and sorry rheum offends me; Lend me thy handkerchief.
DESDEMONA: Here, my lord.
OTHELLO: That which I gave you.
DESDEMONA: I have it not about me.
OTHELLO: Not?
DESDEMONA: No, faith, my lord.
OTHELLO: That's a fault. That handkerchief
Did an Egyptian to my mother give;
That's a fault. That handkerchief
She was a charmer, and could almost read
The thoughts of people. She told her, while she kept it,
'Twould make her amiable and subdue my father
Entirely to her love, but if she lost it
Or made gift of it, my father's eye
Should hold her loathed and his spirits should hunt
After new fancies. She, dying, gave it me;
And bid me..."

Natasamrat, Act I:

"अप्पा: (ओरडतो) हातरूमाल! सरकार! साधासुधा हातरूमाल नाही तो मिसर देशातील एका मंत्रिकाने तयार केला होता तो स्वतःच्या हातानं, माझ्या आईने मरतेवेळी तो मला दिला आणि सांगितलं -"

When I saw Dr. Shreeram Lagoo's (श्रीराम लागू) Othello 'jump' enacting the above at Sahitya Sangh Mandir, Girgaon (साहित्यसंघ मंदिर, गिरगाव) in 1980's, I missed my heartbeat.

"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players." or "All the world's a tent. And all the men and women merely clowns"?

Artist: Robert Kraus (1925–2001), The New Yorker, July 20 1963

But the best of Kusumagraj for me had already come, once again in text books, in second half of 1970's: his poem "Swapnachee Samaptee" (स्वप्नाची समाप्ती).

"ध्येय, प्रेम, आशा यांची
होतसे का कधी पूर्ती
वेड्यापरी पूजातो या
आम्ही भंगणाऱ्या मूर्ती !...

Ideals, love, hope
Are they ever achieved
But we still worship these
brittle idols !...

...काढ सखे, गळ्यातील
तुझे चांदण्याचे हात
क्षितिजाच्या पलीकडे
उभे दिवसाचे दूत....

...girl-friend remove your star-laden hands
from around my neck
emissaries of the day
are standing beyond horizon....

...होते म्हणून स्वप्न एक
एक रात्र पाहिलेले
होते म्हणून वेड एक
एक रात्र राहिलेले....

...there was a dream
Dreamt for a night
there was a folly
that lasted for a night...

...ओततील आग जगी
दूत त्याचे लक्षावधी
उजेडात दिसू वेडे
आणि ठरू अपराधी.

...His million emissaries
will pour fire over the world
Will be seen crazy in daylight
and judged guilty."

(from 'विशाखा' 'Vishakha', 1942).

He wrote this poem in 1936 when he was just 24. World had seen one world war and was on the brink of another.

Reminds me of following words of W H Auden's poem titled 'SEPTEMBER 1, 1939':

"I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night"

[The poem ends with this line: "We must love one another or die.”. In a brilliant essay titled 'Does Love Survive Loss?' on May 28 2012, Ron Rosenbaum writes: "Auden rethought his line—“We must love one another or die”—almost immediately. Indeed he turned violently against it, tried to ban, or vanish it. Called the poem in which it appeared “trash.” Said he “loathed” it.

Now compare Auden's closing with that of Kusumagraj. I think it still sounds as great as it did in 1936.]

Was young Kusumagraj already dismayed by the world? Had he lost his faith in love, ideals and hope?

I don't know but when he became our family above all he gave us affection and courtesy. And as for the poem, I find it one of the most moving poems of 20th century Marathi.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Raja Shivaji, Ferdowsi's Shahnameh and Manifestation of Shakti Saushthav

Today Feb 19 2012 is three hundred and eighty second birth anniversary of Shivaji Maharaj (शिवाजी महाराज)

The Times of India February 19 2012:

"At 425,000 barrels a day, Iran is India's second biggest crude oil supplier. And India is one of the largest foreign investors in Iran's oil and gas industry. The bilateral oil trade is worth $12 billion annually."
A.G. NOORANI, Frontline, March 23 2012:

"After 1947 the links with Central Asia weakened. Right now they are extinct.".


Aakar Patel:

"I have always thought of Faiz as a difficult writer for Indians because of his classical vocabulary. When I complained about this, the great Pakistani actor Zia Mohyeddin wrote to me to say that he found it difficult to believe that Indians couldn’t even understand basic Persian words that had been around since the time of Mir."

Wikipedia:

"Although Mirza Ghalib himself was far prouder of his poetic achievements in Persian, he is today more famous for his Urdu ghazals."


त्र्यंबक शंकर शेजवलकर:

"पर्शिअन  संस्कृतीची  अभिजात  बाजू  शिवाजीने नेमकी हेरली होती अन् आपल्या राजकीय जीवनात आणली होती ." 

[as quoted by Vidhyadhar Pundalik (विद्याधर'पुंडलीक ) in Sarojini Vaidya (सरोजिनी वैद्य) edited  'Tryambak Shankar Shejwalkar: Vyaktitva aani kartrutva (1895-1963) {'त्र्यंबक शंकर शेजवलकर: व्यक्तित्व आणि कर्तृत्व  (१८९५-१९६३)}]

How important was once Farsi/Persian in India? Short answer- as important as English today is! (Read little more on this subject here.)

Ghalib is the greatest Urdu poet ever but he would have liked to achieve that status in Persian/Farsi!

Setu Madhavrao Pagdi (सेतु माधवराव पगडी) quotes Ghalib himself on the subject in his excellent book "Mirza Ghalib Aani Tyachya Urdua Gazala", 1958 ('मिर्ज़ा ग़ालिब आणि त्याच्या उर्दू गज़ला'):

"फारसी बीन ताबबीनी नक्शहाये रंगारंग
बगुज़्रर अज़ मजमुए उर्दुके बरंगे मन अस्त"

("if you wish to experience the real juice of my poetry then read my Farsi poetry; why read juiceless Urdu poetry")

However, during Ghalib's own lifetime (1797-1869), Urdu's importance at Mughal court was on ascendency as Farsi's importance steadily declined.

'Shivaji His Life And Times' a new and much-awaited English book on Shivaji's life written by historian Gajanan Bhaskar Mehendale (गजानन भास्कर मेहेंदळे) was recently published.

For me, it's too expensive- anything more than 'Bata' Rs. 999 usually is- for my budget but my young friend and fellow Mirajite Nikhil Bellarykar (निखिल बेल्लारीकर) has already bought it and has enthusiastically given me his take on it after partial reading of it. I will not disclose that take now but will wait for his final version.

My current experience with most 20th century Marathi writing on Shivaji's life is the lack of adequate language skills among authors.

I am fascinated by many aspects of Shivaji's life but above all his command of languages.

I was first impressed with his Marathi language skills, in his order-letters (आज्ञापत्रे), addressed to army, that were included in our school text books.

I have of course learnt a lot about the subject from D G Godse's (द ग गोडसे) books. I know Godse's books always have some speculative elements but I like his boldness and creativity in putting forward hypotheses. [Read "D.G. Godse Yanchi Kalamimansa" Editor; Sarojini Vaidya, Vasant Patankar (Marathi), 1997 ("द. ग. गोडसे यांची कलामीमांसा" संपादक: सरोजिनी वैद्य, वसंत पाटणकर)]

Paul Krugman expects good historian "...to be a person unafraid of offering theories as well as facts, and therefore of saying things that might turn out to be wrong."

Godse wrote a 24 pages long essay titled '...इं कसरा मुहाफिजते वतन ख़ुद लाज़िम' ('...For me, (my) land’s defence (is) self indispensable') (In Marathi: 'मला (माझ्या) वतनाचे संरक्षण स्वयं आवश्यक (आहे)'), now part of his book “Shakti Saushthav”,1972 ('शक्ति सौष्ठव').

The essay is about a famous Farsi letter sent by Shivaji-maharaj (scribe-Munshi Nil Prabhu) (मुन्शी नील प्रभु) to Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb circa 1664-65. (The original letter apparently as of 1972 was in the library of Royal Asiatic Society, London but the essay is based on a true copy of it.)

Shivaji's irresistible personality, says Godse, is reflected in the letter. They clearly are his words and not that of his clerk, however smart he might have been.

start of the letter

Godse proves how badly the letter had been translated until then by a number of historians like Jadunath Sarkar, Riyasatkar Sardesai (रियासतकार सरदेसाई), Babasaheb Purandare (बाबासाहेब पुरंदरे). He argues that they had deprived us of a great thing of beauty.

And then he goes on to translate it himself with the help of Farsi experts. (by the way Farsi/Persian is not an alien language to even someone like me because it was regularly taught at Miraj High School as an optional language, the way Sanskrit was, when I was a student there. I still remember teacher's name- Mr. Pathan. And also the fact that sadly only Muslim students used to opt for it.)

The letter has such literary qualities that it needed great sensitivity and deep knowledge of Farsi to translate it.

Godse claims: Some Farsi experts say that Shivaji, in the letter, has quoted a few lines from old Farsi poetry, most likely from Shahnameh.

A page from a Shahnama manuscript, from around 1425

Over the past year or so, I got to know a little bit about Shahnameh. (I plan to buy 'Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings' by Abolqasem Ferdowsi, Dick Davis, Azar Nafisi some day in future.)

As per Wikipedia, Shah-nama (Persian: شاهنامه) is: "a long epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between c.977 and 1010 AD...the Shahnameh tells mainly the mythical and to some extent the historical past of (Greater) Iran from the creation of the world until the Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century..."

Peter Brown writes about the book in The New York Times, December 8, 2011 'On the Magic Carpet of the Met':

"...It should not be dismissed as an elegant fairy tale. The deeds of shahs from centuries before Islam were treated as timeless paradigms for just rule. The message of the Shahnama was all the more powerful because it spoke about a dream time before the coming of Muhammad. The ideals in it stood for something wider than the wish of the believers of one religion alone. They summed up the natural, almost cosmic, yearning of humanity as a whole for order, peace, and justice. When a painter produced a copy of Firdausi’s Book of Kings for the court of the Mongol ruler of Iran—the Ilkhanid Abu Sa‘id (ruled 1317–1335)—he showed the burial of one of the primeval kings of Iran, preceded by a stallion bearing a reversed saddle in the style of a Mongol funeral. In doing this, the artist did more than add a touch of local color. He was attempting to hold a newly Islamized ruler of uncertain temper to codes of justice that were rooted in the depths of time..."

I thought the quote above explains Shivaji's genius in quoting from 'Shahnama—the Book of Kings'.

Was Shivaji reminding the Emperor Aurangzeb- then arguably the most powerful ruler in the world and religious fanatic- about the world before Islam- "a dream time before the coming of Muhammad", "the ideals that stood for something wider than the wish of the believers of one religion alone" and "the natural, almost cosmic, yearning of humanity as a whole for order, peace, and justice"?

If so, I am stunned by the gravitas, finesse and sheer audacity of a 35-year old native Marathi speaker.

I just wonder what would have been spoken when the letter was read out to the emperor.

Some of the best writing on Shivaji has been done by Samarth Ramdas (समर्थ रामदास). This is how Samarth remembered Shivaji to Shivaji's son:

"शिवरायांचे आठवावे रूप |
शिवरायांचा आठवावा प्रताप |
शिवरायांचा आठवावा साक्षेप | भुमंडळी |
शिवरायांचे कैसे बोलणे |
शिवरायांचे कैसे चालाणे |
शिवरायांची सलगी देणे | कैसी असे |"

The bold line above says: How Shivaji spoke...Not just Marathi but also Farsi!

[p.s. Shivaji has used the word 'watan' (वतन) five times in the letter. It indeed is such a moving word. Just think of the Hindi songs having it:

Aye Mere Pyare Watan (ऐ मेरे प्यारे वतन ऐ मेरे बिछड़े चमन तुझ पे दिल कुर्बान),
Ae watan ae watan humko teri qasam (ऐ वतन ऐ वतन हमको तेरी क़सम)
Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo (ऐ मेरे वतन के लोगों)
Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyo (अब तुम्हारे हवाले वतन साथियो)]

Artist: D G Godse, Cover of his “Shakti Saushthav”,('शक्ति सौष्ठव')

'Shakti' (शक्ति)- a noun in Sanskrit-- translates as power, strength, force, energy, potency, vigour, impetus...

'Saushthav' (सौष्ठव)- a noun in Sanskrit translates as swiftness, elegance, charm, elegancy, excellence, skilfulness, posture of body...

Combine one word each from 'Shakti' and 'Saushthav' and you have a beauty on hand- for instance charm of vigour or swiftness of force or elegance of strength...

Now, look at the picture. Isn't it a wonderful embodiment of “Shakti Saushthav”?

Godse argues in his gem of a book that the 17th century Maharashtra- its Marathi literature including Bhakti, its architecture, its sculptures, its folk art, its music, its most beloved ruler- was principally characterised by 'Shakti Saushthav'...Godse-sir, I remain in an eternal debt.

p.s Nikhil Bellarykar informs me that historian Gajanan Mehendale dismisses that the letter discussed here is not authentic. This does not much change Godse's basic contentions: Likely expertise of Shivaji in the language of diplomacy of his period- Farsi and manifestation of 'Shakti Saushthav' in 17th century Maharashtra.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I Sort of Like Pawar(s), Thackeray(s), Chavan, Rane(s), Patil, Munde(s), Bhujbal(s)........

Dr. B R Ambedkar (डॉ.भी रा आंबेडकर ):

“Democracy in India is only a top dressing on an Indian soil which is essentially undemocratic...

On the 26th January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality...

..How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril...”

Frank Rich:

"Elections are supposed to resolve conflicts in a great democracy, but our next one will not. The elites will face off against the elites to a standoff..."

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) of India quoted in 'Business Standard' April 13, 2011:

“If you spend more than [Rs ] two crore to contest an election to become an MLA, you will surely earn [Rs ] 20 crore because you have to pay back … Elections unfortunately have become the biggest area of corruption.”

Keith Hopkins:

"Gladiatorial shows also provided an arena for popular participation in politics. Cicero explicitly recognised this towards the end of the Republic: 'the judgement and wishes of the Roman people about public affairs can be most clearly expressed in three places: public assemblies, elections, and at plays or gladiatorial shows'."

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".

Today Feb 16 2012 is the election day in municipal corporations of Mumbai and nine other civic bodies.

My wife probably won't vote. She wants a button on the EVM that says "None of the above."

Here is a Marathi article by cartoonist Mangesh Tendulkar (मंगेश तेंडुलकर) why my wife might be right.

courtesy: Pudhari (पुढारी), February 2012, Pune edition

(click on the image above to view readable version)

Please visit http://epaper.pudhari.com

I have already voted

Although, unlike my wife, I wish there were an option "All of the above" because, like the man in following cartoon, I sort of like them all.

They all come on TV (some of them never seem to leave!)...Not just that...

"Oh, how I wish I was like them! I haven't got any horns, more's the pity! A smooth brow looks so ugly. I need one or two horns to give my sagging face a lift. Perhaps one will grow and I needn't be ashamed any more - then I could go and join them. But it will never grow!..." (Eugene Ionesco's 'Rhinoceros')

And I like to think I'm a 'respectable social democrat'.

Artist: James Stevenson, The New Yorker, 21 May 1960

Sunday, February 12, 2012

King Parikshit, Charles Darwin: Ultimately the Worms will Not be Cheated

Today Feb 12 2012 is 203rd birth anniversary of Charles Darwin

The New York Times leader on September 5, 2011:

"How Many Leaves on the Tree of Life?...a recent study led by scientists at Dalhousie University, concludes that there are about 8.7 million species on Earth...And that 8.7 million? It doesn’t include the species of bacteria, which may number in the millions. It is the bare truth to say that no matter how much we think we know about life on Earth, we know almost nothing."


Adam Kirsch:

Yet at the very heart of Darwinism is the principle that there is no such thing as “levels” or “supersession”; as Darwin adjured himself in one of his marginalia, “Never use the word higher or lower.” Human beings are in no biological sense higher than cockroaches; we have simply evolved a different adaptive strategy.

In the same way, regarded simply as a strategy for survival, no human polity is higher or lower than another, only (momentarily) more or less successful.
(Spring 2011)

CHARLES C. MANN (WSJ, Aug 6 2011):

"Before Europeans arrived, the upper Midwest, New England and all of Canada had no earthworms—they had been wiped out in the last Ice Age.
In worm-free woodlands, leaves pile up in drifts on the forest floor. Trees and shrubs in wormless places depend on litter for food. When earthworms arrive, they quickly consume the leaf litter, packing the nutrients deep in the soil in the form of castings (worm excrement). Suddenly, the plants can no longer feed themselves; their fine, surface-level root systems are in the wrong place. Wild sarsaparilla, wild oats, Solomon's seal and a host of understory plants die off; grass-like species such as Pennsylvania sedge take over. Sugar maples almost stop growing, and ash seedlings start to thrive.
Spread today by farmers, gardeners and anglers, earthworms are obsessive underground engineers, and they are now remaking swathes of Minnesota, Alberta and Ontario. Nobody knows what will happen next in what ecologists see as a gigantic, unplanned, centuries-long experiment."


Stephen Jay Gould wrote a brilliant essay to commemorate 100th death anniversary of Charles Darwin in 1982.

It's titled : ‘WORM FOR A CENTURY, AND ALL SEASONS

He wrires:

"...Trifles may matter in nature, but they are unconventional subjects for last books.

Most eminent graybeards sum up their life’s thought and offer a few pompous suggestions for reconstituting the future. Charles Darwin wrote about worms—The Formation of Vegetable Mould, Through the Action of Worms, With Observations on Their Habits (1881)...

...What better than worms: the most ordinary, commonplace, and humble objects of our daily observation and dismissal. If they, working constantly beneath our notice, can form much of our soil and shape our landscape, then what event of magnitude cannot arise from the summation of small effects. Darwin had not abandoned evolution for earthworms; rather, he was using worms to illustrate the general method that had validated evolution as well. Nature’s mills, like God’s, grind both slowly and exceedingly small...

...We who lack an appreciation of history and have so little feel for the aggregated importance of small but continuous change scarcely realize that the very ground is being swept from beneath our feet; it is alive and constantly churning...

...The pleasure of reading Darwin’s worm book lies not only in recognizing its larger point but also in the charm of detail that Darwin provides about worms themselves...

...Here we also find an overt and an underlying theme, in this case leaves and burrows versus the evolution of instinct and intelligence, Darwin’s concern with establishing a usable defi nition of intelligence, and his discovery (under that defi nition) that intelligence pervades ‘lower’ animals as well. All great science is a fruitful marriage of detail and generality, exultation and explanation. Both Darwin and his beloved worms left no stone unturned....

...Then I came to the very last paragraph, and I shook with the joy of insight. Clever old man; he knew full well. In his last words, he looked back to his beginning, compared those worms with his fi rst corals, and completed his life’s work in both the large and the small:

The plough is one of the most ancient and most valuable of man’s inventions; but long before he existed the land was in fact regularly ploughed, and still continues to be thus ploughed by earthworms. It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures...

...A year after publishing his worm book, Darwin died on 19 April 1882. He wished to be buried in the soil of his adopted village, where he would have made a final and corporeal gift to his beloved worms. But the sentiments (and politicking) of fellow scientists and men of learning secured a guarded place for his body within the well-mortared floor of Westminster Abbey. Ultimately the worms will not be cheated, for there is no permanence in history, even for cathedrals..."

(The Oxford Book of MODERN SCIENCE WRITING, RICHARD DAWKINS, 2008)

Parikshit (Sanskrit: परिक्षित्), grandson of great Arjuna, was once the mightiest king in mythological India. He was cursed to die bitten by a snake.

(this is why he was cursed by Shamika-rishi's- in meditation above- son)
courtesy: Amar Chitra Katha and blog http://jayarama.wordpress.com

To escape it, he built a magnificent new palace. It was raised on a single tall pillar, and the base of the pillar was inside a moat. Many warriors and Brahmanas skilled in the art of repelling snakes were placed around the palace to protect the King. The King spent all the time in this palace, surrounded by Brahmanas learned in the Vedas.

Takshaka wanted to avenge the wrongs of the Pandavas committed upon his race- snake people- Nagas.

Takshaka transformed himself into a worm and entered a fruit that were being carried for the king. King chose exactly the same fruit that Takshaka was present in. He took one bite, then the insect came out of the fruit. In an instant, Takshaka assumed his form as a great serpent. He then entwined himself around the hapless king, and sunk his great fangs in Parikshit's neck. As was to be expected, the King fell down dead, charred by the potency of the snake's venom.

Well-mortared floor of a cathedral or a palace on a single tall pillar, worms will not be cheated.Artist: Dana Fradon, The New Yorker, July 2 1960

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Hey, Jay Leno. Don't You Dare Mock Honorary Legislators of the Largest Democracy in the World

Bill Clinton:

"It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is. If the--if he--if 'is' means is and never has been, that is not--that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement....Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true."

('Bill Clinton and the Meaning of "Is"' Slate, Sept 13 1998)

Bart Simpson:


"Oh, Dad. Nobody can rationalize like you."

(The Simpsons, Season 17, Episode 20, 'Regarding Margie')

ANNIE MURPHY PAUL:

"Appropriately, yoga seems to have come full circle: flush with cash and focused on perfecting the body, modern yoga has returned to its earthy origins in money and sex."

(The New York Times, Feb 3 2012)


I thought nobody indeed rationalised like Homer Simpson when he justified his action of keep accepting someone else's mail that contained steaks from Omaha, and even a wedding invitation

How wrong I was!

The Hindu, Feb 9 2012
:

"Legislative proceedings are usually far from stimulating and we have grown accustomed to MPs and MLAs stealing a surreptitious nap or even snoring defiantly to escape the tedium of debate. But the three Karnataka BJP ministers who were forced to resign Wednesday morning chose a most unusual way to escape what they regarded as an arid discussion on the drought situation in the State. Much to the embarrassment of themselves and their party, TV cameras caught them transfixed by, ahem, a film clip, on one of their cell phones. Laxman Savadi, who was Minister for Cooperation, may protest till he is blue in the face, but his explanation that he was watching a newsclip about a woman being gang-raped simply doesn't wash. The best that can be said in an age where our legislatures are sporadic witnesses to a range of boisterous activity — fisticuffs, abuse, screaming, overthrown furniture, ripped out microphones, torn papers and flung slippers — is that the trio were at least passing their time in quiet communion. Watching pornographic material in the House is a first in the history of Indian legislatures, but like almost everything else in the sleazy world of politics, somebody's already been there, done that. Last April, an Indonesian MP belonging to an Islamic party that campaigns for anti-pornography legislation was forced to resign after being caught watching porn in parliament, presumably to acquaint himself better with the subject matter of what he was opposing...

...On a serious note, there is an important message in this, one that exposes the unalloyed hypocrisy of those who adopt conservative and hardline postures on issues relating to sex and morality. It is in Karnataka that fundamentalists assaulted women in pubs, ran campaigns against Valentine's Day, launched investigations into the so-called love jihads — all professedly to protect Hindu culture from immoral foreign influences. For a party that likes to think it is different, the porn incident is a severe embarrassment for the BJP..."

Hey, Jay Leno. Don't you dare mock our honorary legislators. They were just acquainting themselves better with the subject matter of what they were opposing or even better: passing their time in quiet communion.

Think of the latter as Yoga and invite them as experts to your couch.


Sex, Religion, Politics...Awesome Threesome


Artist: Bill Lee, The New Yorker, May 20 1974

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Charles Dickens is Still Laughing with a Touch of Anger but no Triumph, no Malignity

David Hume (‘Of Liberty and Necessity’ in the first Enquiry):

It is universally acknowledged that there is a great uniformity among the actions of men, in all nations and ages, and that human nature remains still the same in its principles and operations. The same motives always produce the same actions: The same events follow from the same causes. Ambition, avarice, self-love, vanity, friendship, generosity, public spirit: these passions, mixed in various degrees, and distributed through society, have been, from the beginning of the world, and still are, the source of all the actions and enterprises, which have ever been observed among mankind. Would you know the sentiments, inclinations, and course of life of the Greeks and Romans? Study well the temper and actions of the French and English: You cannot be much mistaken in transferring to the former most of the observations which you have made with regard to the latter. Mankind are so much the same, in all times and places, that history informs us of nothing new or strange in this particular.


George Orwell has said: "Ultimately there is no test of literary merit except survival, which is itself an index to majority opinion."

('Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool')

And I saw an example of it- longevity rooted in literary merit- yesterday Feb 6 2012 on a Marathi TV news channel.

Its news ticker claimed that Sane Guruji’s (साने गुरूजी) ‘Shyamchi Aai’ (श्यामची आई), 1933 was the most sold book at the book-exhibition held at Chandapur (चंद्रपुर) during 85th "akhil bharatiya marathi sahitya sammelan" (अखिल भारतीय मराठी साहित्य संमेलन) where Marathi books worth Rs. 3 crore were sold.

The claim also appeared in print.

courtesy: Pudhari (पुढारी), February 7 2012, Pune edition, Page 2
(visit http://epaper.pudhari.com)

(btw- I like no other book from that best-seller list but I have read them all!)

The late N S Phadke (ना सी फडके) imagines that the 'time-man' (कालपुरुष) ferries all books in a boat with a limited carrying capacity. As time goes by and new books keep loading, the time-man is forced to discard books of lesser quality.

‘Shyamchi Aai’ remains firmly on board.

My mother bought me the book at Sangli (सांगली) probably in 1972. I must have read it dozens of times. When I saw P K Atre's (प्रल्हाद केशव अत्रे) movie of the same name later at Deval (देवल) talkies in Miraj (मिरज), I cried almost whole time during the movie. (It's so easy to cry in darkness! And that's the problem with watching movies on TV. No darkness, indeed privacy!)

We are witnessing another glorious example of survival based on literary merit as we celebrate 200th birth anniversary of Charles Dickens on Feb 7 2012.

George Orwell assures: Dickens is one of those writers who are well worth stealing.

But to do that, one has to first read him! And unlike Sane-guruji I have hardly read him.

In October 1999, Peter Drucker strongly recommeneded 'Hard Times'
with these words:

"The best description of the divorce of work and family, and of its effect on both, is probably Charles Dickens's 1854 novel Hard Times."

What endorsement! I bought 'Hard Times' but haven't still read it.

My son has read Dickens a lot more than me.

My favourite quote of Dickens remains the one that I remember every Diwali:

"………….a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of other people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys..." ('A Christmas Carol')

However, I have read a lot about him.

Graham Greene says:

"Well, there is no such thing as success. The priest can't hope to become a saint- or else it's an illusory dream which vanishes with time; the writer can't hope to write a book equal those of Tolstoy, Dickens or Balzac. He might have dared to believe in the possibility at the outset, but his books always carry a flaw somewhere."

('The Other Man: Conversations with Graham Greene', Marie-Francoise Allain,1981)

'book equal those of Dickens'

But the best essay on Dickens for me is Orwell's:

"...In Oliver Twist, Hard Times, Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Dickens attacked English institutions with a ferocity that has never since been approached. Yet he managed to do it without making himself hated, and, more than this, the very people he attacked have swallowed him so completely that he has become a national institution himself...

...Many children begin to know his characters by sight before they can even read, for on the whole Dickens was lucky in his illustrators. A thing that is absorbed as early as that does not come up against any critical judgement...

...The truth is that Dickens's criticism of society is almost exclusively moral. Hence the utter lack of any constructive suggestion anywhere in his work. He attacks the law, parliamentary government, the educational system and so forth, without ever clearly suggesting what he would put in their places. Of course it is not necessarily the business of a novelist, or a satirist, to make constructive suggestions, but the point is that Dickens's attitude is at bottom not even destructive. There is no clear sign that he wants the existing order to be overthrown, or that he believes it would make very much difference if it were overthrown. For in reality his target is not so much society as ‘human nature’. It would be difficult to point anywhere in his books to a passage suggesting that the economic system is wrong as a system. Nowhere, for instance, does he make any attack on private enterprise or private property...

...His whole ‘message’ is one that at first glance looks like an enormous platitude: If men would behave decently the world would be decent...

...And of course this narrowness of vision is in one way a great advantage to him, because it is fatal for a caricaturist to see too much. From Dickens's point of view ‘good’ society is simply a collection of village idiots. What a crew!...

...One very striking thing about Dickens, especially considering the time he lived in, is his lack of vulgar nationalism...In the whole of A Tale of Two Cities there is not a line that could be taken as meaning, ‘Look how these wicked Frenchmen behave!’...

...When one reads any strongly individual piece of writing, one has the impression of seeing a face somewhere behind the page. It is not necessarily the actual face of the writer. I feel this very strongly with Swift, with Defoe, with Fielding, Stendhal, Thackeray, Flaubert, though in several cases I do not know what these people looked like and do not want to know. What one sees is the face that the writer ought to have. Well, in the case of Dickens I see a face that is not quite the face of Dickens's photographs, though it resembles it. It is the face of a man of about forty, with a small beard and a high colour. He is laughing, with a touch of anger in his laughter, but no triumph, no malignity. It is the face of a man who is always fighting against something, but who fights in the open and is not frightened, the face of a man who is generously angry — in other words, of a nineteenth-century liberal, a free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls."


Caption:

Two standing women talking to each other-

"There's a guy reading Charles Dickens."

"Yeah, let's get nearer- he ought to be good for a seat."


Artist: I. (Isidore) Klein 1897-1986, The New Yorker, May 19 1928

He is still laughing...

Artist: Michael Hogue, The American Conservative, January 2012


Google Doodle on Feb 7 2012 Courtesy: Google Inc.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Steven Spielberg’s 'Bhimthadi Tatta'!


Artist: Pablo Picasso, 1937 courtesy: Wikipedia

I am always moved by Picasso's 'Guernica', above, for its depiction of a war-horse falling in agony as it has just been run through by a spear or javelin.

It was reported on January 25 2012 that Steven Spielberg’s 'War Horse' will compete for six Academy Awards: Best picture, cinematography, original score, art direction, sound editing and sound mixing.

According to Wikipedia the synopsis of the Michael Morpurgo’s novel of 1982 on which it is based:

"At the outbreak of World War I, Joey, young Albert's beloved horse, is sold to the cavalry and shipped to France. His rider Captain Nicholls is killed while riding Joey. The horse is soon caught up in the war; death, disease and fate take him on an extraordinary odyssey, serving on both sides before finding himself alone in No man's land. But Albert cannot forget Joey and, still not old enough to enlist in the British Army, he embarks on a dangerous mission to find the horse and bring him home to Devon."

Accrding to Gervase Phillips, writing for 'History Today':

"...the story unfolds from the perspective of the horse, a device that allows the author to explore the world of those voiceless but sentient creatures and invites us to reflect upon both the misery they have suffered at our hands and the compelling call of compassion that can transcend the boundaries of ‘human’ and ‘animal’... "

'Pack horses carrying ammunition in Flanders'

courtesy: 'The Horse and the War' by Captain Lionel Edwards, 1918

To celebrate the awards nomination news, I am reissuing my earlier post on Maharashtra's favourite pony and war-horse- Bhimthadi Tatta (भीमथडी तट्टं).

Maharashtra's military triumph from CE 1600 to CE 1818 owes a lot to this largely unsung animal.

The Marathi stories like that of Albert and Joey above may not have been documented or even told but it doesn't mean they never happened!

Sir F. W. Fitzwygram:

"It is impossible for a man of average sensibility to observe closely and to note the painful expression and the intelligence of these creatures … to witness their sufferings [and] the brutal treatment which they too often meet from ignorant and cruel men; it is impossible for him to see these things without sorrow, without endeavouring to alleviate their agony …"

('Horses and Stables', 1901)

Many Marathi speaking people feel proud about the military success of Marathas across the subcontinent in 18th century.

Many legends, heroes and myths are borne out of that pride.

A good part of that success was surely due to their mount- a pony aka Bhimthadi-Tatta.

"Maharashtra has Krishna, Nira, Ghodnadi, Bhima, Pravara, Godavari as main rivers. Out of these, more than Krishna, since the water from Bhima, Pravara, Nira, Ghodnadi, Godavari suited the horses better, horses brought up on their water were strong, smart, loyal..."

['Peshwekalin Maharashtra' (पेशवेकालीन महाराष्ट्र) by Vasudev Krushna Bhave (वासुदेव कृष्ण भावे), 1936]

("महाराष्ट्रात कृष्णा, निरा, घोडनदी, भिमा, प्रवरा, गोदावरी या प्रमुख नद्या होत. यांपैकी कृष्णानदीपेक्षांही भिमा, प्रवरा, निरा, घोडनदी, गोदावरी या नद्यांचे पाणी घोड्यांना चांगले मानवणारे असल्यामुळे त्या पाण्यावर पोसलेली घोडी बळकट, चलाख, इमानी व पाणीदार असत.")

I have read a few books describing that period but have never come across the praise for their horses as much as following.

Reviewing "Russia Against Napoleon" by Dominic Lieven that analyses one of the greatest military triumph in history, JENNIFER SIEGEL says:

"...Russia's triumph is also a story of logistics, supplies and, above all, the horse.

The country's leaders mobilized what Mr. Lieven calls "the sinews of Russian power": its vast population (although much smaller than the combined numbers at Napoleon's disposal); its outstanding and plentiful horse stock; its arms manufacturing; and even the sometimes unstable Russian economy.

Of these, it is the horse, and Russia's ability to mobilize its light cavalry to harass Napoleon's rearguard as it retreated across the great European plain, that receives the greatest attention in "Russia Against Napoleon." Coming in a close second to the horse in significance were the victuallers who managed to feed and supply more than a half-million troops during the two-year campaign..."

(WSJ, APRIL 14, 2010)


Is he a bargir बारगीर (cavalryman riding a horse belonging to his leader) or a silahdar शिलेदार (a Persian term meaning a cavalryman who enlisted with his own horse and equipment)?

Saturday, February 04, 2012

I sometimes wonder who all this is really for

(recycling my eralier post)

Henry James, Anton Chekhov, W H Auden, J L Borges, Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Vladimir Nabokov, M Proust, L Tolstoy, M Twain, Evelyn Waugh and E Zola among many others never won literature Nobel!

85th "akhil bharatiya marathi sahitya sammelan" (अखिल भारतीय मराठी साहित्य संमेलन) is upon us. It is being held in Chandrapur (चंद्रपुर) as I write this in Feb 2012.

What connects following authors- not listed in any order- of 20th century in Marathi?

V K Rajwade, Bhalchandra Nemade, Sane Guruji, Bhau Padhye, C V Joshi, Baburao Arnalkar, Vilas Sarang, D G Godse, Vasant Sarwate, Vijay Tendulkar, Natyachhatakar Diwakar, G A Kulkarni, Arun Kolatkar, Dilip Chitre, B S Mardhekar, M V Dhond, T S Shejwalkar, Vinda Karandikar, Balkavi, Keshavsut, Jayant Narlikar, Laxmibai Tilak, Vinoba Bhave, Setu Madhavrao Pagdi, D B Mokashi, Sadanand Rege, Ram Ganesh Gadkari, Namdeo Dhasal, Govindrao Tembe, C T Khanolkar, S N Pendse, R V Dighe, Jaywant Dalvi, Prabodhankar Thackeray, Mahatma Phule, Anil Awachat, Indira Sant...

(वि का राजवाडे, भालचंद्र नेमाडे, साने गुरूजी, भाऊ पाध्ये, चिं. वि. जोशी, बाबूराव अर्नाळकर, विलास सारंग, द ग गोडसे, वसंत सरवटे, विजय तेंडुलकर, नाट्यछटाकार दिवाकर, जी ए कुलकर्णी, अरुण कोलटकर, दिलीप चित्रे, बा. सी. मर्ढेकर, म वा धोंड, त्र्यं शं शेजवलकर, विंदा करंदीकर, बालकवी, केशवसुत, जयंत नारळीकर, लक्ष्मीबाई टिळक, विनोबा भावे, सेतु माधवराव पगडी, दि. बा. मोकाशी, सदानंद रेगे, राम गणेश गडकरी, नामदेव ढसाळ, गोविंदराव टेंबे, चिं त्र्यं खानोलकर, श्री. ना. पेंडसे, र. वा. दिघे, जयवंत दळवी, प्रबोधनकार ठाकरे , महात्मा फुले, अनिल अवचट, इंदिरा संत ...)

They never became the president of All-India Marathi Literature Meet (akhil bharatiya marathi sahitya sammelan)!

See this for the list of those who did.


'I sometimes wonder who all this is really for.'
The Spectator

Friday, February 03, 2012

I will have 2 of Lay's Baked!

Today Feb 3 2012 is 85th Birthday of Vasant Sarwate (वसंत सरवटे)

JANE E. BRODY:

"Developers in the last half-century called it progress when they built homes and shopping malls far from city centers throughout the country, sounding the death knell for many downtowns. But now an alarmed cadre of public health experts say these expanded metropolitan areas have had a far more serious impact on the people who live there by creating vehicle-dependent environments that foster obesity, poor health, social isolation, excessive stress and depression.

As a result, these experts say, our “built environment” — where we live, work, play and shop — has become a leading cause of disability and death in the 21st century. Physical activity has been disappearing from the lives of young and old, and many communities are virtual “food deserts,” serviced only by convenience stores that stock nutrient-poor prepared foods and drinks.

According to Dr. Richard J. Jackson, professor and chairman of environmental health sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, unless changes are made soon in the way many of our neighborhoods are constructed, people in the current generation (born since 1980) will be the first in America to live shorter lives than their parents do..."

(The New York Times, January 30, 2012)


I have started seeing ads of "Lay's Baked” range on TV. It claims to have 50% less fat.


Image courtesy: PepsiCo India

Verdict of my son and his friends: They are too expensive. That is too few for their buck.

Claims such as '50%' always bring back to me the following brilliant cartoon of Steve Breen.

This was done following McDonald's slashing the calorie content in their ubiquitous French fries by 50% in the USA.



Speech bubbles read as follows:

"Our fries now have 50% less fat"

"Great!"

Kenneth Rogoff:

Highly processed corn-based food products, with lots of chemical additives, are well known to be a major driver of weight gain, but, from a conventional growth-accounting perspective, they are great stuff. Big agriculture gets paid for growing the corn (often subsidized by the government), and the food processors get paid for adding tons of chemicals to create a habit-forming – and thus irresistible – product. Along the way, scientists get paid for finding just the right mix of salt, sugar, and chemicals to make the latest instant food maximally addictive; advertisers get paid it; and, in the end, the health-care industry makes a fortune treating the disease that inevitably results.
Coronary capitalism is fantastic for the stock market, which includes companies in all of these industries. Highly processed food is also good for jobs, including high-end employment in research, advertising, and health care.

So, who could complain?...


(Feb 1 2012)