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Abort, Retry, Ignore 2

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The more things change, the more they remain the same. Considering the dormant state of this blog, this may be the question for the answer that given by Deep Thought!

Abort, Retry, Ignore?

Written by kowsik

March 10, 2012 at 05:10

Posted in civilization, death, life

‘Anna’hilation

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Americans had their Obama sometime back. The idea is neat. Times are difficult, everyone wants someone who shows the way. God is death but faith is not. On comes this guy who makes every one believe that this person stands for the exact same things as themselves. No one bothers to find out what (& who) he stands for… no one even wants to. The worst part is that most of the people did not even bother to think through what it is that they want, and whether they are fine with the consequences of their ‘want’s. To sum up l’affaire Obama, every one forgot what it is that they wanted in the frenzy of wanting Obama to win. They got what they wanted (Obama) but it did not solve any of their problems. They are not happy either.

India always follows America, even when it says it follows someone else. Ask the Russians. We have now created our ObAnna. The government is rotten. We have as a prime minister someone who does not even have the decency to go and ask people to elect him in some constituency. He is proudly a Rajya Sabha Prime Minister, in other words, he has shown us the finger. The government is rotten, both at the center and in the states. Conscientious citizens were busy watching IPL (or whatever else it is called) during the elections, so they are now pissed at everyone else for the present situation. So everyone sees what the Americans did in their elections. Minus the voting part, the whole idea is deemed copyable. The people now create their own Ob(ama)Anna, completely forgetting that Obama did not solve any of the problems in America. I guess it is not about solving our problems, it is about wanting something and getting it. Even if it is creating a Benevolent Dictator for Life (BDfL). Should not the fact that this person and his coterie, are eagerly volunteering for the job warn us about this idea? Well, we are the descendents of those who sold each other to the East India companies. This can’t be the first time we are screwing ourselves over… it certainly won’t be the last.

Rahul Gandhi is right. They are two Indias: those who vote and those who don’t. I think the former are happier of the two. The latter are creating this BDfL to reduce the happiness-gap.

Written by kowsik

August 24, 2011 at 08:19

Posted in life

Rambling on Reading

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Reading is often a pleasure. Not always for the same reasons though. Reading can also throw up frustrations. You read about a good book, look forward to reading it, even enjoy reading it and later be at loss for words when it comes to describing what it is that you have learnt from the book. Raskolnikov‘s internal monologues were long, his thoughts and actions violent, particularly appealing to any young man who wants to take arms against a sea of troubles. But how many of us can quote any of this ramblings from memory? Zosima the elder recounts his life and advises the youngest Karamazov on many matters that a young man is confused about. How much of that speech, which lasts for an entire chapter, can one recount? What about the ‘The Grand Inquisitor‘. Or any of the various descriptions of Tolstoy that transplant us in those scenes that he describes? One remembers the gist of it, but is it enough? One can’t escape feeling inadequate for being unable to quote at will the passages that one liked while reading them in the book. The nagging doubts about whether what one remembers is congruent with what was written can derail quite a few trains of thought.

Two books that I want to be proud of having read are prominent examples in this regard. Robert Pirsing’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” is one. Alan Bloom’s “The Closing of the American Mind” is the other. I had completed reading the latter yesterday. A faint, lurking at the corners of  consciousness kind of doubt about my understanding of the book spoiled the last hundred pages (of the total ~400) of the book for me. I did learn something from the book. The origins of the modern university and the incompleteness of the modern sciences for one. The present university where the various departments would be rated on their financial performance makes one wonder if we can ever re-scale the heights from which we have fallen. Bloom’s wisdom (I don’t know what else to call it) can be inferred from his simplified-for-laymen outline of the foundations of the present democratic system that we all follow. From being someone who believed that philosophy was bullshit, I am a convert now. And this is where my frustration lies. After closing the book I can’t boast of having understood what I have read. I have doubts, and I know that it will require many more years of reading for me to understand (or challenge) Bloom’s description. Having experienced this path in the relatively simpler natural sciences, it is frustrating to be aware of something but letting it remain out of one’s reach.

Written by kowsik

January 20, 2011 at 22:47

Posted in life

Brits with Gifts

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Almost four hundred years (395 to be exact) back representatives of the British crown visited Delhi in the hope of a commercial treaty while promising access of European goods. The previous time around Afghanistan, as we know it now, was yet to be born. The Russia-Turkey-Iran triangle would end up in the creation of Afghanistan. A side effect would stop the Sun from setting on the ’empire’…

Now, we have a representative from the same place, again talking of commercial treaties. Afghanistan is a hellhole that may end up in the creation of a couple of new countries. What are the odds that this time we will fare any better? Obviously there is no comparison in relative strengths between the two countries now with that when Jehangir was ruling. In fact the relation is almost the opposite. But again, then as now, the subcontinent never had any shortage of those who invite outsiders to settle local scores.

Random attempts at correlations aside, this is the first time that I am hearing about a British PM who appears to be trying to be nice to India (avoiding the K-word for example). I know that the bar is set rather low by the husband of the Queen and the Milliband guy, but at least some one has crossed it. Not every thing has changed though: the British press still refers to the terrorists who attacked Mumbai as ‘gunmen’, ‘related to Kashmir’ etc.

Written by kowsik

July 28, 2010 at 09:21

Posted in life

Memory remains

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I have quoted Lady Bracknell in the past, and I will quote her again. In fact I am considering sticking to her sayings whenever I am in need of a quote. We live, as she pointed out, in the age of surfaces. The alarming behavior of the French on beaches in summer forces me to wonder if Lady Bracknell might have been optimistic about the surfaces. Or, may be it was her age. Or may be I am stupid. I should stop digressing so often.

Coming back to surfaces. Some one allowed someone else to drill an oil well in a place that no one should have gone to in the first place. The fish have a right to their privacy and we have violated it. As with the Empire, so with Karma; strike back they will. Now there is oil in the Atlantic and President Obama is pointing fingers. And he is running out of speeches. In the middle of all this, and also Pachauriji’s talent at writing and making Nobels out of typos, we have lost perspective. Pelicans were swimming in oil even back when the  then President Bush (41) asserted that “this aggression will not stand“. The dude approved of the attitude and was silent on the pelicans. We moved on then, we will move now. There are more important things in this world than that oil in the Atlantic (which will eventually float to the surface anyway) and we should (atleast) occasionally talk about some of those.

For example, I came across this video:

One of the commenters on this video claims that Metallica start their concerts with “Ecstasy for Gold” by Ennio Morricone. Turns out that they even had it in one of their albums. But that is just a digression. I should make a resolution about those…

The concert, called  “Monsters Of Rock ’91“, was in 1991 in Moscow during (but, hopefully, not related to) the dissolution of the Soviet Union, when Gorbachev was the president of USSR. Supposedly the first such concert in the USSR, this may also have been the last. just before the country fell from being a superpower to a net exporter of mail-order brides. And this is putting it rather mildly. Now that we know what happened in the years following this concert, this video inspires, for the want of a better word, gloom. The song itself, one does wonder whether there is a method to this madness.

In school, one of the few things that I could do better than most other students in my class was remember the names and locations of countries on the world map. What happened in those places was never of much interest, unless if it involved cricket. As with all things innocent, it had to end. News of the attempted coup against Gorbachev was one of the events that had generated an interest in the non-sports pages of the newspapers. I remember making an effort to staying awake late in the night to watch “The World this Week”, hearing of events vaguely related and often apparently unrelated; tanks rolling around in Afghanistan, dudes with rocket launchers on shoulders, Hekmatyar, Rabbani… long before we heard of the Taliban. By then even kids like me realized that those rocket launchers were not that cool. At about the same time, Kashmir had suddenly gone to hell. The connection was not so apparent for kids who had only recently started following news. A parallel thread resulted in our introduction to suicide bombers. Then masjids got demolished, stock markets got bombed and mafia was no more the innocent vehicle of Amitabh Bacchan’s stardom. One can list all the relevant interactions in one’s life and still don’t know what to make of it. Or, one can quote wiser men than oneself to convince ourselves we-know-no-what… I choose the latter, and choose not to disturb Lady Bracknell this time.

The sense of helplessness that history induces forces us to wonder, “what’s a man to do?” A few years back we recommended the growth of sidelocks to uninterested IIScians. Earnest that idea might be, but it has its limitations. What I need now is religion. I think I will watch a Bond movie tonight.

Written by kowsik

July 17, 2010 at 08:40

Posted in life

Drive

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Love has had a lot of press-agenting from the oldest times; but there are higher, nobler things than love. A woman is only a woman, but a hefty drive is a slosh.

P. G. Wodehouse

What are the odds that Tendulkar/Federer/Woods ever gave this advice to their less disciplined juniors? Ambi definitely did.

PS: For some reason this post has been lying in the drafts for a long time.

Written by kowsik

April 7, 2010 at 09:05

Posted in life

Malvolio

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“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.”

— Malvolio, scene v, “Twelfth Night”, William Shakespeare

“Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three.”
— “Catch-22”, Joseph Heller

Ignorance of the contents of the letter that Malvolio ‘stumbles upon’ may make  Heller’s quote appear ingenious– as one of those funny lines that almost make  sense. In light of Shakespeare’s genius though, the quote acquires a new colour. It is one of  those moments of faith when a man bows down before his God with  exclamations of unworthiness that barely leave his lips. Heller’s self-confessed mediocrity in comparison with Shakespeare is just that.  Heller might admit to this description as long as we don’t use ‘religion’ to describe it. But then, the Bard covered the topic of names too!

 

Written by kowsik

November 16, 2009 at 19:25

Posted in life

Paris2Barack

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Back in 2007 the mainstream news media in the US was obsessed with entertainment news. So much so that gossip mags in supermarkets were feeling the heat. I mean, if the mainstream media poaches on their ‘safe-bet’ of celebrity gossip, what is left for them to report? Of course, this being the land of innovators, these guys started filling their front-pages with gossip about the Dubya-Laura-Condi triangle. Sick but hilarious. You go to the nearest grocery-store/supermarket, buy some stuff for the kitchen, stand in the queue at the counter and end up trying to make sense of the headlines speculating whether Condi can ever do a Monica… Definitely sick, occasionally hilarious.

In the middle of this hysteria discerning people (like me) started raising their eyebrows by more than the mandatory one-eighth of an inch. In short doses, such stuff is amusing. Large doses of such speculations suggest proximity of the end of the world. And I am not ready for that yet.

The entire phenomenon of page-1-ification of page-3 had created a positive feedback loop where the media was obsessing over those whose main job was to be in the headlines. It works for both, except that the ensuing loss of credibility would kill the news industry before these publicity-hounds grow old. The only way out in such cases, when all else fails, is Divine intervention. Intervene or not, Comedy there definitely was. The US was in the middle of two wars,  but these wars lost the ‘battle of the front-pages’ to the grand-daughter of a hotelier. The last time a heiress created a sensation, at least she was kicking some serious rear-end, this time it was all for nothing. We now know that things did eventually change for good, so much so that we can’t imagine that news was so silly back then. We now obsess over the Obamas.

Anyway, I was reminded of all this by this video clip of a news anchor trying to make a point about the sad state of affairs in those days:

(link-source: The Editrix)

Written by kowsik

November 2, 2009 at 19:47

Posted in courage, culture, life

Abort, Retry, Ignore?

with 2 comments

I was reading this old post by GreatBong lamenting about the lack of traffic to his posts that can be judged as sensible by any objective standard, while seemingly crappy blogs keep getting heavy traffic. It is a testament to his skill that, even in such a moment of frustration, he had managed to come up with a post that conveys the pain that is caused when one is rejected by a subjective standard that one finds unreasonable. May be the mythical ‘frustration of poverty’ that forces great works of art is at play here. I don’t know. But this post is not about what is behind works that touch our hearts. This post is about the frustration that is a consequence of being rejected by seemingly subjective standards. This post is not about whether its ubiquity is restricted to nerds. This post is about the role of chance behind these frustrations. It is about an instance that demonstrated how much a casual act by a stranger can change the fate of an enterprise from a soul-crushing humiliation to something that warms the hearts even years later.

Back in the fall of 2003, PJ and I were given the ambitious task of selling T-shirts to IIScians. Ambitious, because we had to convince the students, particularly the new entrants, to buy T-shirts from the non-entities that we were. It looked like there existed a T-shirt design, and we just had to do the front-end work. Blissfully unaware of the absence of any such design for the shirts, we made posters promising the moon (“babes for the guys, and dudes for the girls”) in a language that was meant to convince the readers that we were qualified to make such promises. A week before we hit the mess’ with prototype T-shirts, the truth of the non-existence of the design was revealed to us, and we had to come up with designs that were ‘cool’ and ‘acceptable’. Not surprisingly the designs that we came up with were, we were convinced, particularly unremarkable. And we went with these unremarkable designs to a students’ mess to begin the sale. And then began the long wait where we kept trying, unsuccessfully, to catch the eye of any student in the hall, in the hope of getting someone to wander by our table.

It was a good half-hour before the first set of students finished their dinner, and it was a good ten minutes after that before anyone even bothered to stare in our direction for more than a few seconds. You put a bunch of smart-sounding posters, notice that the reaction to the posters is good, and then occupy a few tables of the dinner hall with your T-shirts… You should have students dropping by your table, right? Wrong, apparently. We were being ignored by the same students who were frustrated about being ignored by the people that they were interested in all their lives. Being ignored appears to be something that we humans are incapable of empathizing with, in spite of being at the receiving end of the same treatment forever. Coming back to the mess that we were in, another few minutes, and we would have given up on any hopes of succeeding, and left with our stuff. At least that was what PJ and I had resigned ourselves to. What else can one do, when one has just become invisible to one’s acquaintances? And then, as Tolkien might have put it, something happened that we had ceased to expect. One non-descript student who we had not noticed till then (ignored by the ‘ignored by the ignored’) wandered towards our table while sipping on his tumbler of Boost. After a few, insanely long, seconds of looking at the shirts, he smiled, and asked, “How are you doing?” The rest was just a blur of people and numbers and cash. That smile of his was the difference between public humiliation and a memorable adventure. To this date, I don’t dare think about what the scene might have been had he not decided to walk towards our table. I don’t even dare to think whether the decision was about whether to walk towards our table, or whether to ignore us! I don’t know if PJ dares to think of it either. Occasionally we talk of him, but never do we try imagining the alternate scenario.

But then, as Tolkien said, somethings that should not have been forgotten were lost. The ungrateful bastard that I am, I don’t even remember this man’s name.

Written by kowsik

August 12, 2009 at 18:20

Posted in courage, cribs, IISc, life

Hanging on to the towel

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You believe that you are entitled to possess/experience ‘X’. As with any belief, this may not necessarily logically (colloquially referred to as ethically) valid. You are offered ‘X’.

The question here is not about whether you would accept the offer. The question is, “Do you consider this to be an issue of just two choices, or is it more of a grayscale issue?” And, how much of an effect would this answer have on how far you go with the offer?

Words of wisdom:
Marvin

You live and learn. At any rate, you live.

Zaphod Beeblebrox

I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don’t know the answer.

Written by kowsik

August 10, 2009 at 17:27