A few more links on Roger Ebert:
Jai Arjun Singh and Roger Ebert—both wonderful writers—once had a brief encounter.
Roger Ebert’s best quotes.
newsyoucantuse [at] gmail [dot] com
Legendary film critic Roger Ebert is dead.
“‘Kindness’ covers all of my political beliefs,” he wrote, at the end of his memoirs. “No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhapy is where all crime starts. We must try to contriube joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”
Just two days ago he wrote this sad yet hopeful piece ending it with:
I’ll see you at the movies.
Everest climbing season is approaching and we already have the first inspiring story: An Oregon teenager with Down Syndrome made it to the Everest Base Camp a few days ago.
A few headlines (and the interviewer above) incorrectly mention that he summited the peak. While that did not happen—it is too early in the season to summit—reaching the Base Camp is in itself no small feat: 10 days, 70 miles and 8,000 feet of elevation gain ranging from 9,000 feet to 17,600 feet.
Previous post with the giga-pixel image of Mt. Everest here.
Vir Das combines the two things Punjabis like: Men and boobs.
Boobs have to win in the kickass-on-one-gender-but-so-not-on-the-other category.
Well maybe after moustaches.
This is something I’ve been meaning to write for the last few months. I have penned this in a bit of a haste but I hope I haven’t missed any important bits.
Nearly two years ago, I wrote about minimalism and my efforts at applying it in my everyday life. In the process, among other things I cut down on reading most of the blogs/columns I used to read. I tried to read quality content which by definition respected my time as well. I discovered some marvelous writers (Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jai Arjun Singh) and read my share of writing that could have been much better. Of late, I’m seeing much more of the could-have-been-much-better variety. I noticed some common themes in such writing. Once I identified them, it was easier for me to skip content that would add nothing to my perspective, or worse, add noise into my thoughts. I have nothing against the writers I’m linking to. I’ll be only happy to read good writing from them in the future.
These are the recurring themes in writing that I avoid because they rarely lead to anything good:
1. It is an overreaction right after an event.
In my experience, any writer who churns out posts right after an event is articulating a visceral reaction or a predetermined opinion, or taking a short-sighted view of the happenings. Writers owe it to themselves if not to their readers to think through events before putting pen on paper.
2. It is common sensical—or something obvious made to sound profound.
Exhibit: The subtitle of this magazine (PDF link) which says, “The existential threat to Pakistan comes from disease, poverty and ignorance and not from India.” Unless the readership is the Pakistani Taliban, they’re preaching to the choir. Andrew Sullivan has a recurring series Poseur Alert for this kind of writing.
2a. It passes off information as knowledge and analysis. Exhibit A: Take this reaction to the Italian Marines trial in India.
The writer is often quoted as a foreign policy analyst in the Indian twitterverse. Note the uses of geopolitical in the post.
“Turning a legal issue into a geopolitical one has raised the stakes and hurt bilateral relations.”
“The action has shifted to the geopolitical domain.”
There is very little geopolitical about the Italian Marines’ case unless by geopolitical, one means foreign or external affairs.
2 and 2a show disrespect to the reader.
While on the subject of Italian Marines, the reason the Italian government refused to send the marines back on March 11th seems clear in hindsight: To negotiate a no death penalty for the marines. How many of the foreign policy wonks, think tank members or regular columnists guessed this? Zero, to my knowledge. (I didn’t guess it either but my shtick is not foreign policy.)
3. It doesn’t add anything to your thinking.
Exhibit that doesn’t do the above: Gautam Patel writing about Ram Singh’s (one of the accused in the Delhi gang-rape) suicide.
There is far more at stake in the Delhi gang-rape case than the fate of individuals. Can our system respond in an appropriate and just manner to such cases? What must we do to ensure the safety of our citizens, and what form should the remedies we must provide take? What is the value of a particular form of punishment?
And most of all, this: that the measure of any just society is not how quickly it deals out an extreme punishment, but how evenly it deals with those who stand accused of the most heinous crimes. This is a collective trial of our society. Allowing, even by inaction, one of the accused to be killed like this robs us all of a chance at redemption.
Emphasis mine. This perspective was fresh to me.
4. It has no inside perspective—or put bluntly, the opinion lacks qualification.
These are not the only exhibits of writing I avoid and not all posts that exhibit one of these traits are worthless. I trust you to be a good judge and read wisely. Happy reading!
Spiritual guru Ravi Shankar speaks about Bollywood:
It is so tempting to write a snarky gotcha post just by quoting him verbatim: Saying that one cannot generalize that all ashrams are corrupt to saying all Bollywood stars are despicable within the span of two sentences; the questionable claim of Bollywood wanting to turn the youth towards Naxalism (?!); the claim that lack of religion will cause India to become like Afghanistan where the Buddhas of Bamiyan were destroyed (it was a fanatic adherence to religion that caused it); the claim that religion keeps one away from drugs (this guy disagrees); his conspiracy theory that there is a drug lobby is working with Bollywood to get Indian youth addicted to drugs; his equating of religion to all creativity. I could go on.
One thing on which I do agree with him is that it has become common to criticize religion. And thank god for that, for we now atleast have a debate.
It is said—and I have experienced it in minute ways—that meditation and yoga help clear one’s mind and give a fresh perspective towards life. That in my book sums to being a tad wiser. I also equate wisdom with having fewer opinions, not more.
Which raises the obvious question: With all his spiritual practices, why is Ravi Shankar not wiser?
The larger question is: Why is he even being asked questions about something a movie depicted? Can’t we learn just spiritual practices from him and figure out the rest of the universe for ourselves? I don’t expect him to be wise about economics, computer science, or mountaineering—and he proved as much with his answer.
Then again, if I were as wise as people say he is, I would use silence to better effect.
Allow me one snarky comment: For someone who blames Bollywood for showing people practicing ancient wisdom in bad light, you know who else is practicing ancient wisdom and yet showing it in bad light?
The Justice Verma Committee report, something the Anti-Rape Bill was asked to be based on, recommended reducing the age of consent from the existing eighteen to sixteen. You can read about it on pages 443 and 444 here. [Warning:PDF link]
The BJP and TNC blocked it:
Trinamool and BJP are objecting to a lower age of consent on the ground that this is in conflict with “conservative norms” of Indian society.
I disagree but fair point.
My next thought was—and it ought to be obvious why—When did Rama get married? It’s hard to know for sure but after a bit of searching, the most generous estimates put the age of Rama at around 16 and Sita at just below 16.
Hey BJP/TNC, you know who was doing it before 18? And you know who was probably guilty of statutory rape at some point?
You should know that there is a heated debate about how old Sita was when she was married. There is one group which claims she was really young (around 12). It is easy to see why this group is consists of liberals hell bent on tarnishing Hinduism, the best religion eva! The other group is trying hard to put together incomplete pieces of information from various versions of the Ramayana because nowhere is this clearly cited. Damn you, Valmiki! You had one job!
This group insists it is around 16 which is reasonable in today’s world as well.
Then there’s a third group which takes the short-cut to hilarity without getting caught up in integers below 20:
But Ramji didn’t send Sitaji immediately for exile. They lived happily for 10,000 years and then Sitaji became pregnant.
I find these so you don’t have to.
A Congress MP on Wednesday faced the fury of film actor and Samajwadi Party (SP) MP Jaya Bachchan in the Rajya Sabha for allegedly clicking her photographs from his mobile phone.
After Bachchan complained to her colleagues, senior Cong-ress leader Ambika Soni pulled up Pradeep Kumar Balmuchu, asking him to delete the photos and apologize.
This wasn’t voyeurism in the sense it is defined in the Anti-Rape Bill, but it is a problem nevertheless. How many of us know that it is common courtesy to ask someone before photographing them in public? So many of us think it is our right to capture anything in a public area. There is no such right.
Asking “Can I take your photograph?” is one of the first things I learn in the local language before visiting a country. Ahead of even customary greetings. It shows respect and sometimes sparks an interaction that has led to wonderful moments.
This common courtesy not something that can (or should) be enforced by law. It’s a cultural change that needs to happen around the world especially with the prevalence of smartphones.
Fun fact: There actually are certain laws governing taking pictures in public. Take this example. Funner fact: Yours truly is one of the people responsible for that.
In this video, a nine year old embarrasses all of us:
At what age do we stop thinking, “I might be wrong.”?