Monday, July 30, 2007

Ingmar Bergman

I had watched Wild Strawberries before. A friend of mine wanted to watch it for quite sometime. Never got the time and the mood to watch. We will never know why certain things are chosen to occur in a particular way. Today we thought of watching it. No, we did not watch it fully. But we had watched for sometime. We never knew that we were paying our homage to the film-maker Ingmar Bergman.

Ingmar Bergman has passed away today at the age of 89. I have also watched The Seventh Seal.

He has said,

"Film as dream, film as music. No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight room of the soul."

"Anyone who makes films must have a goal before his eyes: namely, to try to get as close to the viewer as possible, to affect him as deeply as possible. What i call technique is knowing exactly how to affect the viewer. That's the crux of the matter. All the rest is secondary. And it is a matter of talent.."

"I want very much to tell, to talk about, the wholeness inside every human being. It's a strange thing that every human being has a sort of dignity or wholeness in him, and out of that develops relationships to other human beings, tensions, misunderstandings, tenderness, coming in contact, touching and being touched, the cutting off of a contact and what happens then."

Some links:

  1. BBC report
  2. Bergman profile - BBC
  3. Ingmar Bergman website
  4. Ingmar Bergman Foundation
  5. Ingmar Bergman - IMDB
  6. Bergmanorama
  7. Obituary - BBC
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Two Missions

M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, in 1997, identified two major goals for the 60th anniversary commemoration.
1. Hunger-free India on the lines proposed by Mahatma Gandhi in 1946 at Naokhali

Over 200 million children, women, and men go to bed now partially hungry. Unfortunately, an integrated strategy is yet to be put in place with the result that the goal of a hunger-free India is nowhere near accomplishment.

2. Knowledge and skill empowerment of rural families with the help of information and communication technology

While connectivity can be achieved, content creation and capacity building will be the greatest challenges. The content has to be dynamic, demand driven, locale specific, and in local languages. As a single step, the rural knowledge revolution is likely to have the largest beneficial impact on the physical, economic, and social well-being of the more than 700 million people living in villages. Poverty will persist under conditions where the human resource is under-valued and material resources are over-valued.

(From this article by M. S. Swaminathan)
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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Trust

There are stories everywhere. Each story speaks to us in a personal tone. The narration and sequence of events are some of the important aspects of story-telling. Stories are built around beads of small events that are tied together. Those events may be communicated well but the thread that ties them up may not be strong. Sometimes events may look frivolous but the thread puts them in a different perspective. So possibilities are many. I am planning, plans are always planned to have a shorter life, to write short pieces on such events that have occurred in movies, novels, and short stories; events that can be taken out of the thread and can be seen as a separate bead that shows colors of emotional shades. It does not matter if events are from art or commercial movies (what an inaccurate classification), good or bad novels, cooked up or real (this is something different), etc.!!! Here we go.
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A husband creates a foundation to initiate many socially relevant projects. The foundation runs schools, colleges, and hospitals, to name a few. People are too happy to receive help from the foundation. The foundation becomes really a foundation to social changes.

But where is money coming from? Through legal or illegal means?

Investigators, Regulators, and Monitors suspect foul play. How to unearth the secrets?

Catch his wife - a soft, a law-abiding, and a law-fearing wife.

Police and others make her believe that if she could give them some proof of the foundation's source of income, then her husband could escape with mild punishment. Else?

What else? He has to pay a heavy price - his life; he is also in the hit list of many local criminals and politicians.

His wife thinks. She thinks again. She thinks again and again and again. And she decides to pass the laptop, which has all information about the source of money donated to the foundation, to investigation agencies.

Police and other government agencies come to his home to arrest him. He comes to know that his laptop has been given to them by his wife!

He could not believe it. Shocked; Shell shocked.

His parents start scolding his wife. What does he do? His future would possibly be doomed by this act of his wife. His name and fame would receive hits from all sides. What about his image? That would be smeared with black; black tar. Saving his face is the last thing he could expect.

What does he do?

Is he going to have vengeance against his wife? Is he going to scold her to start with? Is he going to mistrust? Does he feel betrayed?

He stops his parents from shouting at her and says, "If she had done this, she must have perceived that it would do some good to me. She will not do anything that would destroy me. She cannot do. Do not scold her."

Trust. This is it.

Apart from the trust he exhibits, it is his composure, that gathers energy and courage to say that 'I trust you' to his wife in such a situation, makes a good case to ponder trust, composure, courage in relationships.

(The situation is from the movie Sivaji - the Boss)

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Nutty Connections

There are many theories - scientific, philosophical, and soporific - on causes and their effects. Causality. And its effect. Can one find the link between the two? While you are thinking about all these, just read this (via) :
The (ground nut) oil prices have gained 23 per cent since the beginning of this year. The problem with groundnut oil is that mills are not getting kernel for crushing.
What is the reason? Possible and feasible reason?
One of the reasons is rise in direct consumption, including as snacks, especially for liquor consumption.
Peanuts are preferred to be eaten during consumption of liquor as they are cheaper than cashewnuts. Also, rising income levels are seeing corresponding increase in consumption of almost all products, including liquor.
My friend, who applies loads of coconut oil on his head, face, hands, etc., thinks of writing a petition to the government for a ban to use coconut in the domains other than.. other than applying on one's own body!!!
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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Rejection?

Rejection is part of life.
Some of the famous rejection stories are (from here) :
  1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – 14 rejections
  2. Jonathan Livingston Seagull – 18 rejections
  3. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – 38 rejections
  4. From rejection slip for George Orwell's Animal Farm: “It is impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.A.”
  5. From rejection slip for article sent to the San Francisco Examiner to Rudyard Kipling: “I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language."
  6. From rejection slip for The Diary of Anne Frank: “The girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the curiosity level.”

Friday, July 13, 2007

My Country and their prayer??

Thus asked few Americans.
For the first time in its history, the 218-year US Senate opened its session on Thursday with recitation of Hindu prayers. Hindu priest Rajan Zed, Director of Public Affairs and Interfaith Relations of Hindu Temple in Northern Nevada, recited the prayers. However, the prayer was marred by protests by a handful of persons, one of whom shouted "we are Christians and patriots." (from here)
Some reactions are quite interesting.
From here:
A prominent Christian historian and constitutional expert, David Barton, is expressing concern that the U.S. Senate will be opened up for the first time with a non-monotheistic prayer. David Barton is questioning why the U.S. government is seeking the invocation of a non-monotheistic god. Barton points out that since Hindus worship multiple gods, the prayer will be completely outside the American paradigm, flying in the face of the American motto "One Nation Under God."
Barton says given the fact that Hindus are a tiny constituency of the American public, he questions the motivation of Senate leaders. "This is not a religion that has produced great things in the world," he observes. "You look at India, you look at Nepal -- there's persecution going in both of those countries that is gendered by the religious belief that is present there, and Hindu dominates in both of those countries."
(You can also have a look at many reader's comments.)
It cannot be the matter of pride for a religion, that has been around for tens of centuries and centuries, if its prayers are recited in a couple-of-hundreds old institution.
The most significant thing is to note these: reactions, the mode of reactions, and the ignorance and/or understanding.
The influence of religion on politics can never be underestimated; more so in this age of manipulation through media.
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Thursday, July 12, 2007

BBC fined

The BBC was ordered to pay an unprecedented £50,000 fine today after asking a child from its Blue Peter studio audience to pose as the "fake" winner of a premium-rate telephone competition, in which 40,000 youngsters had participated.
In what was its first fine ever given to the corporation, the media regulator Ofcom issued a damning verdict stating that it was guilty of "deception" and of making the child "complicit" in its fraud.
“The breaches involved a pre-planned decision to fake a winner in the interests of ensuring the smooth running of a programme, and in doing so made a child complicit in events leading to the deception."

“There were also a series of serious and avoidable management and compliance failures before, during and after the breaches occurred.”
BBC response? From its press release:
We fully accept the seriousness of this case and apologise for the breach of trust with our audiences.
We regret that Ofcom found it necessary to impose a fine on the BBC.
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Monday, July 09, 2007

Nirmal Shekar on Federer

Greatness in sport is almost always achieved in tiny increments — each little pebble consuming gallons of sweat, demanding loads of skill, and drawing from deep reserves of willpower and physical energy.

But, then, the latest instalment accruing to the account of one Mr. Roger Federer seems more like a huge Alpine rock rather than a pebble.
Shortly before 6 p.m. on a glorious Sunday afternoon on the centre court at Wimbledon, the magisterial wizard of lawn tennis pulled alongside one of the game’s legends — Bjorn Borg — and did so in front of the great Swede.
The best of sportsmen spend a lifetime searching for greatness, courting it passionately season after season. But, with Federer, you tend to believe that it is greatness itself that is wooing him single-mindedly, hiding behind the silverware to finally embrace the master at every major stop.

Next in line is Sampras’s modern day record of seven titles. After that well, who knows how high Federer will raise the bar by the time he’s done.
Like a slightly wounded gladiator suitably working up his anger and charging at the opponent, the three-time French champion fought back to give himself a chance in the sixth game of the second set. But what does Federer, down 40-15 on serve, do? What would you expect? The great man hits three straight aces and in the blink of an eye the door is once again shut on Nadal.

Then again, Nadal is not a man who wilts easily in any psychological battle of one-upmanship. He hit a marvellous winner from a hopeless position after sliding on his bottoms to the turf in the 10th game on Federer’s serve and went on to pocket the set with a superb backhand pass.
At this point there was very little separating the players although you got the feeling that the momentum was swinging ever-so-slightly Nadal’s way. But it was Federer who once again came out on top in the tiebreak.
Nirmal Shekar compares Federer with Sampras here.
Roger Federer speaks:
To play a champion like Rafa and to equal Borg means a lot to me. It was such a close match I told Rafa at the net that he deserved it as well. I was the lucky one.
He's (Nadal is) a fantastic player and he's going to be around so much longer so I'm happy with every one I get before he takes them all!
(to Borg) Thank you for coming. It is an honour to play in front of you.
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Friday, July 06, 2007

Nature and the study of Nature

Ackoff in his book On purposeful systems, Fred E. Emery is the co-author, has written this:
The need to synthesize findings in the many disciplines of science arises because these disciplines have been developed with relatively unrelated conceptual systems. Scientific development has resulted in the groupings of phenomena into smaller and smaller classes, and in the creation of disciplines specializing in each. As disciplines multiply, each increases in depth and decreases in breadth. Collectively, however, they extend the breadth of scientific knowledge.
Nature does not come to us in disciplinary form. Phenomena are not physical, chemical, biological, and so on. The disciplines are the ways we study phenomena; they emerge from points of view, not from what is viewed. Hence the disciplinary nature of science is a filing system of knowledge. Its organization is not to be confused with the organization of nature itself.
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Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Politics of Writing about Tibet

N. Ram has written the article The politics of Tibet: a 2007 reality check. He had issued a warning about this as a footnote to his other article Tibet in the time of high economic growth. The blog post outlining certain things in his first article is available here. Now for the second article.
The statements from the article are given below in italics.
N. Ram begins his article by asserting that the Tibetan Buddhist doctrine of reincarnation belongs to the mystical-religious realm and asks a lot from 21st century believers. He further writes that the Dalai Lama’s approach even to rebirth is decidedly ideological-political. What he proposes here is to remove the religious aura from the Dalai Lama. The theory of rebirth and reincarnation is in the realm of religion and philosophy. Giving a political color to a statement and then extrapolating that to the whole domain of idealogy and belief is anything but mischievous. The word even gives a hint to what we can expect next in Ram's article.
When a religious leader is in the forefront of struggle for independence, one can expect politics and region are going to be mixed in a disproportionate way. The use of power in one domain based on the power in another domain is quite common, and is needed to initiate a social process. And Ram recognises this - the 14th Dalai Lama has been primarily responsible for keeping the Tibet question active internationally, within China, and in the arena of India-China bilateral relations.
Politically, Tibet presents a paradox.
We immediately look forward to the paradox which Ram is alluding to. What is the paradox?
  1. On the one side, there is not a single country and government in the world that disputes the status of Tibet; that does not recognise it as a part of China.
  2. On the other side, there is little doubt that there is a Tibet political question; that it has a problematical international dimension; This problematical side is a function of the interplay of a host of subjective and objective factors.
The first side of the paradox is clear. The second one is vague. What are those subjective and objective factors?
They are the Dalai Lama’s religious charisma combined with the iconic international status of Tibetan Buddhism; his long-lastingness and tenacity; his alignment with colonial interests and western powers and the ideological-political purposes he has served over half a century; his considerable wealth and global investments, and resources mobilised from the Tibetan diaspora in various countries; the grievous cultural and human damage done in Tibet, as in the rest of China, during the decade of the ‘Cultural Revolution’ (1966-1976); the nature of the ‘independence for Tibet’ movement that has rallied round the person and office of the Dalai Lama and follows anything but the Buddhist ‘Middle Way’; the links and synergies he has established with Hollywood, the media, legislators, and other influential constituencies in the west; and, most troubling from a progressive Indian standpoint, the reality of a continuing Indian base of operations for the ‘Tibetan government-in-exile.’
It is quite clear that Ram is befuddled. He has beautifully written that there is a paradox. He then identifies the other side of paradox in Dalai Lama alignment with western powers. Since no single country and government supports independent Tibet (the first side of paradox), we can only conclude that the western powers, with whom the Dalai Lama has aligned, must be non-governmental ones. But Ram says those alignments have colonial interests too. Which entity is there with non-governmental colonial interests? Moreover, when you talk about political paradox, it is better to have stakeholders whose interests are in conflict. Ram here makes the Dalai Lama as a stakeholder against the world opinion. The politics of Tibet cannot be this simple where the conflict arises between the world opinion and an individual's wayward life as Ram's article wants us to believe.
The long-term assessment of China’s political leadership has been that the Dalai Lama cannot be treated merely, or even primarily, as a religious leader. The Dalai Lama’s track record certainly bears out this assessment.
Ram writes as if what China has said is found to be true. As we said before, religion and politics are going to be coalesced when the impact of occupation is harmful to the culture where religious aspects are intertwined with daily lives of people. He emphasizes this - There have been other political provocations under the guise of exercising traditional religious authority.
The Chinese central government and the Communist Party of China have shown exceptional patience.
Ram appreciates the patience. Looks like the Chinese central government is quite clean in its policies, and all problems arise because of impatient Tibetans!!!
He identifies two core issues:
  1. What kind of autonomy Tibet should have?
  2. Is ‘one administrative entity’ for all ethnic Tibetans possible?
What is the response?
  1. According to Ram's article, the Dalai Lama says, "the Tibetans should have full responsibility for education, economic development, environmental protection, and religion." The Chinese say,"No." Ram writes,"the kind of autonomy that the Dalai Lama demanded cannot possibly be accommodated within the Chinese Constitution."
  2. According to Ram's article, the Dalai Lama says,"Greater Tibet as 'one administrative entity' for all ethnic Tibetans." The Chinese say,"No." And Ram writes,"The Chinese government makes the perfectly reasonable point."
Civility, open-mindedness, flexibility, and a positive attitude to resolving the Tibet question will certainly help, on both sides.
In an article that is supposed to address the political issues of Tibet realistically, Ram has written only about the Dalai Lama and has not written about the other side of the conflict - the Chinese government. He mentions 'both sides' but writes about 'one side'.
China will not allow independent Tibet to form. It will not allow its existence. Tibet is very important for China; strategically and militarily. Ram's article is silent on these issues. No, I do not envision Tibet as an independent country. But, the least we can do is not to justify an occupation.
By citing developments and progress, we cannot justify war and killings. A war is a war. An occupation is an occupation. We can think of ways to reduce harmful casualities in any given circumstances. We can think of ways to make human lives precious and their culture vibrant in the given realistic situation. Justification of occupation, destruction, and war is a wrong step to start with. In any case, writing about what I do not agree with one side of the conflict does not imply that the other side is right. What we need is a heart that puts idealogy and politics after human well-being.
Ram has not issued any warning about future articles. But we can expect articles, in various forums and forms, from him in future as a week-long visit deserves more than two!!!
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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Humane Posts

Mogadalai mentioned recently about internal sort of blogs.

I have just read two nice posts from those blogs.

  1. A woman scientist ponders about the topic of children and an acadamic career
  2. Conversation with a person who creates male-imagery for the word scientist
Internal or External blogs? These posts are very humane.
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Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda:

It is an insult to a starving people to offer them religion; it is an insult to a starving man to teach him metaphysics.

*
Today is Swami Vivekananda's 105th death anniversary.

Links:

Complete Works
His prose, poems and tales
His Life in Snippets
His biography written by Swami Nikhilananda is available in this site

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Materialism against Spiritual Heights

Osho writes on Tibet:

...Unfortunately, Tibet has fallen into a darkness. Its monasteries have been closed, its seekers of truth have been forced to work in labour camps. The only country in the world which was working – a one-pointed genius, all its intelligence in the search of one’s own interior and its treasures has been stopped by the communist invasion of Tibet...

...And it is such an ugly world that nobody has objected to it...It was such a beautiful experiment...Their whole thing was an introvert pilgrimage...

...Nowhere has such concentrated effort been made to discover man’s being. Every family in Tibet used to give their eldest son to some monastery where he was to meditate and grow closer to awakening. It was a joy to every family that at least one of them was wholeheartedly, twenty-four hours a day, working on the inner being...to live in Tibet is a tremendous trouble. But still every family used to give their first-born child to the monastery...

...There were hundreds of monasteries… and these monasteries should not be compared with any Catholic monasteries. These monasteries have no comparison in the whole world. These monasteries were concerned only with one thing – to make you aware of yourself...If humanity were a little more aware, Tibet should be made free...

...But communist China is trying to destroy everything that has been created in two thousand years. All their devices, all their whole spiritual climate is being polluted, poisoned. But they are simple people; they cannot defend themselves. They don’t have anything to defend themselves with – no tanks, no bombs, no airplanes, no army. Tibet should be left as an experimental lab for man's inner search. But not a single nation in the world has raised its voice against this ugly attack on Tibet...

...And we think the world is civilised, where innocent people who are not doing any harm to anybody are simply destroyed. And with them, something of great importance to all humanity is also destroyed. If there were something civilised in man, every nation would have stood against the invasion of Tibet by China. It is the invasion of matter against consciousness. It is invasion of materialism against spiritual heights...

(From this article)
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The Sponsor and the Sponsored

One advantage with journalists is they can articulate their opinions and ideas as facts. If you own a newspaper, it makes things slightly easier. If you are writing an article in academic journals, it is a good practice to mention about the funding agencies. In fact, it is mandatory sometimes. This might be a formality in most of the cases but it is very important in certain cases to put the discussion in perspective.
For example, in the study of social, political, and economic theories, the information about the funding agencies is quite critical not in establishing the ideas investigated in any particular article but to have a wider perspective of the motivation behind such investigations. How does it matter? Why the knowledge about motivation is important? The social, political, and economic theories (some scientific theories too!) depend on the framework over which you build theories.
If you start with Marxist theory, you might analyse a situation in a completely different manner compared to someone who starts with Capitalist ideas. Who is right? We do not know. If the framework is not the focus of an article, it is better to write a word about it. If you do not write it explicitly, then naming the funding agencies would help immensely to identify the framework.
For instance, Congress Party will probably never sponsor a project titled "Why Sonia Gandhi should not be in party committees?" just like how Chinese government will probably sponsor a project titled "Why Tibet, Arunachal Pradesh, etc., should belong to China?"
Naming the sponsor is important. But journalists can get away with that.
N. Ram visited Tibet in June 2007 along with four other Indian journalists (who are they? Read articles about Tibet in the coming days. You may come to know). He has written an article on Tibet. He has also warned that an article on the politics of Tibet would follow.

From the article (and loud thinking is in italics):

The world’s highest railway, Mr. Tsiren exulted, “has ushered in a new millennium for Tibet. It is the realisation of a dream of two generations, of great importance to the Tibetan people. It has greatly reduced the cost of transportation. We have taken one more step towards the modernisation of Tibet and the deeper integration of the regional economy with the Chinese economy.”

Deeper integration of the regional economy with the Chinese economy?? What is the difference between integration and occupation?
Taking the cue from ‘independence for Tibet’ propaganda, the romantics see the railway as the ultimate destabiliser of Tibet’s culture, religion, demography, and environment.

Independence for Tibet is a propaganda??

In a historical essay published in the New-York Daily Tribune in 1853, Karl Marx analysed the potential of the railway to end India’s “village isolation … this self-sufficient inertia … with a given scale of low conveniences … without the desires and efforts indispensable to social advance.” He famously predicted that “the railway system will … become, in India, truly the forerunner of modern industry” and, further, that “modern industry, resulting from the railway system, will dissolve the hereditary divisions of labour.”

We all know very well the importance of railways. Moreover, we also know how Indian railway system has dissolved the hereditary divisions of labour!!!

Apprehensions about the railway’s adverse effects on the environment and wildlife have proved exaggerated if not wholly baseless. The real threat to Tibet’s environment comes not from the railway but from global warming.

Blame the global warming for everything!! Thanks Global warming. We, humans, are using you nicely to our convenience.

That Tibet under the Dalai Lama-headed theocracy had no schools worth speaking about, and that the illiteracy rate was 95 per cent, are indisputable facts.

Similar story was told about Indians during British rule. Thanks Shri. Dharampal. We now know better. Such an illiterate country is also the storehouse of many Buddhist traditions.

The Chinese socialist system showcases the “fast, coordinated, and healthy development of education” in Tibet Autonomous Region as a solid achievement of liberation and especially of the post-1979 reform.

Oh! No. This is not a propaganda. Do not call the chinese action as propaganda!!

N. Ram also mentioned about wordly wise monks.

Thanks China. Thanks Ram.

With scrupulous respect for the language, culture, religious beliefs and constitutionally mandated autonomy of the Tibetan people, rising China is eminently capable of achieving the all-round development.

Hahahaha!!! Haha!!! That is not a joke. Please do not laugh. Listen to me. China do respect Tibetan culture. They do respect the cultural revolution. Do not laugh. Ram is not joking.

Let us wait for Ram's second article. The sponsor is the sponsored.
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Monday, July 02, 2007

How do you respond?

How do you respond to the charges levelled against you?
To know more about the charges, the following links might be of some use:
  1. Posts in this blog - 1 and 2
  2. Two articles of Arun Shourie are available here.
  3. V. Sundaram's articles: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5
Here is how Mrs. Pratibha Patil responded:
Instead of coming out with details and clarifications, she said, "All charges are baseless.." (here too)
That was her answer to all those charges!!! The statement of negation is all she needed to tackle those charges. Sounds weird? But, the rationalist Mr. Karunanidhi had found nothing of that sort. He, using all his rational powers, said, "she had adequately replied to her detractors."
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