Sunday, August 28, 2016

Transforming Bullshit into Success!



In recent times, certain triumphs that have become rather phenomenal and utterly inexplicable—in politics as well as in other spheres of life including show-business, society, and even literaturehave baffled many. People have tried in vain to wrap their heads around the possible logic behind such unforeseen trend and coup de grâce. 

Now, here’s a story that explains it perfectly:

Female leopard
A certain wealthy man goes on a safari in Africa. He takes his faithful pet dachshund along for company. One day, the dachshund starts chasing butterflies and before long realizes he is lost.

Wandering about, he catches a glimpse of a leopard heading in his direction with the obvious intention of having lunch. The dachshund thinks, “Oh, my goodness! Am I about to die?”

Albertine Rift Safari monkey - Western Uganda
Panic-stricken, he looks around him, notices some bones on the ground. Hurrah! He has a brainwave. He immediately settles down and begins to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching cat. Just as the leopard is about to leap, the dachshund exclaims loudly, “Boy, that was one delicious leopard. I wonder if there are any more around here.”

Hearing this, the leopard halts in mid-stride, a look of sheer horror on his face. Slinking into the woods, he exclaims, “Whew, that was close. That dachshund nearly had me.”

Leopard Vs Monkey
Meanwhile, a monkey who has been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree figures he can turn the detection into a bargaining power in his quest for protection from the leopard. So, off he goes. 

The dachshund turns in time to see the big mouth primate heading after the leopard with excitement, and somehow understands. Long story short, the monkey catches up with the leopard, spills the beans and strikes a sweetheart deal.

As expected, the leopard is furious that the dachshund had made a fool of him, and says, Here monkey, hop on my back and see whats going to happen to that devious canine.

Now, the dachshund, still unable find a way out of the woods, sees the leopard coming with the monkey on his back, and thinks, “What trick dare I pull now?” Suddenly, he has another brainwave. So,  instead of escaping as one might expect, he sits down with his back to the looming danger and pretends not to have notice the furious leopard and his new friend.

As soon as they are within earshot, he says, “Where’s that monkey? I sent him off half an hour ago to bring me another leopard.”

There! (I'm sure you get the drift.)


DisclaimerThe story of the dachshund on a safari in Africa is not my original creation.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Exotic Settings of a Troubling Story

Prato della Valle


Is partially set in the university town of Padua - from the fabulous Prato della Valle, a 90,000 square meter elliptical square, which is the largest square in Italy, and one of the largest in Europe - to Pedrocchi Café, best known as café-without-doors for its long tradition of keeping its doors open, night and day. It was founded in the 18th century in central Padua.

Prato della Valle
The early chapters are also set in a spectacular location known locally as Colli Euganei, meaning the Euganean Hills, which are a group of hills of volcanic origin that rise to heights of 300 to 600m from the Padovan-Venetian plain a few km south of Padua.

She wanted the truth, now it has ensnared her

Annabella is a gorgeous college sophomore, passionately in love with a young army recruit, who is forbidden to love her. When her father conspires with the military to send him to a foreign country on a peacekeeping mission, a series of unexpected evil begins. Annabella’s reliance on the Red Cross to circumvent her father’s plan seems perfect, until a strange young woman, declared dead in her country, crosses the Mediterranean into her home with a story that’s poised to change everything...

Excerpts & Snippets ...

Pedrocchi Cafè
It was a breezy morning, almost the end of September; the hustle and bustle that often marked graduation ceremonies here had eased up today. Three flags perching at the top of the Town Hall were fluttering in the autumn breeze and the stern-faced police officers standing outside it, ogled her as they did every woman who walked by, mercifully without accompanying catcalls.

Colli Euganei
“1973 is a crazy year, isn’t it?” she heard her father’s smug voice in her head and winced. Sometimes there was no escaping genetics unless, of course, love was at stake, she musedStill, she reckoned that her dad’s theory might have some merit because there, indeed, was something about the year that hinted at madness.

City of Padua

Padua is a city in Northern Italy’s Veneto region. It’s known for the frescoes by Giotto in its Scrovegni Chapel and the vast 13th-century Basilica of St. Anthony. In Padua’s old town are arcaded streets and stylish cafes frequented by students of the University of Padua, established in 1222.

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Monday, August 1, 2016

Is English a crazy language?

#Humor - The Paradox of English


-   H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling, who, in 1907 was the first English-language writer, and at the age of 42, the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, was said to have been fired as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. His termination letter was reported to have said, “I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language. This isn’t a kindergarten for amateur writers.” 

Now, while there is no corroborative record of this event, it nonetheless sounds crazy to hear that an English journalist and Nobel laureate was actually fired for improper use of English. Hilarious? Yes. Crazy? Maybe, but certainly not as far-fetched an incident as it might seem, after all publishers get it embarrassingly wrong some of the time. 

In one of his most enduring quotes, Kipling was recorded as saying, “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”

Interesting? Now, here are the top 20 reasons why the English language is so difficult to learn:   

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture.
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10) I did not object to the object.
11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

13) They were too close to the door to close it.
14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.
15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Well, isn’t it funny that there is no egg in eggplant and no ham in hamburger? There’s neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat. Native speakers take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

Now, here’s a quick question: If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices?
Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race (which, of course, isn’t a race at all). That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible. How about when you want to shut down your computer you have to hit “start.”

Hilarious Quotes:

  • “In my sentences I go where no man has gone before… I am a boon to the English Language.”  George W. Bush                     
  •  “Drawing on my fine command of the English Language, I said nothing.” Robert Benchley                          
  •   “England and America are two countries separated by a common Language.”  George Bernard Shaw                                                                 
  •   “The English language has a deceptive air of simplicity; so have some little frocks, but they are both not the kind of thing you can run up in half an hour with a machine.” Dorothy L. Sayers                                              
  •   “English is a funny language; that explains why we park our car on the driveway and drive our car on the parkway.” - Unknown Author  

Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Danger of Populism

Willful Ignorance 

The Danger of Populism

Politics is like sex. It fills people with euphoria, expectancy, and a shallow, reckless acquiescence that’s akin to madness. It uses a combination of lies, conspiracy theories, fear-mongering, and outlandish promises that can’t be kept to woo voters. It does so with unrelenting hypocrisy, and nothing demonstrates it better than the political position widely known as populism. Yet, as has been demonstrated again and again, the reality of governance always contradicts the lofty stated principles that encapsulate many a campaign rhetoric. Still, virtuous citizens, citing disappointment with mainstream politics, repeatedly fall prey to charlatans—the so-called advocates of the common people, counterfeit revolutionaries, and the phony heroes—who claim to be populists.

Beppe Grillo
In February 2013, following the disastrous tenure of Mario Monti, an austerity-obsessed bureaucrat, as interim Prime Minister of Italy, the people were so disappointed with politicians and politics that they turned to a comedian named Beppe Grillo. As founder of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, Grillo had previously organized what he called V-Day celebration (the “V” stood for vaffanculo, which means “fuck you!” or “fuck off!” or “go fuck yourself!”), effectively establishing himself as a quintessential populist, the man to rescue virtuous citizens from the money-dominated hypocrisy that politics in the country had become. Not surprisingly, the anti-establishment feeling in the country catapulted him to third place in the 2013 election. But once in parliament, rather than put the old dogs to shame with a populist agenda, the elected officials of the Five Star Movement began their tenure with a bitter and well-publicized fight over the amount they were entitled to as allowances, etc.

Alexis Tsipras
In January 2015, Alexis Tsipras of Greece, riding the wave of anti-austerity feelings in his country, led his party, Syriza, to victory in a snap legislative election. His campaign promise was to end austerity. Once in government, he faced a different reality – if he needed bailout funds from the European Union, he had to implement austerity measures because, in the world we live in, who pays the piper dictates the tune. It became increasingly clear that a refusal to accept the bailout terms would lead to Greece’s exit from the single European currency, or Grexit. Tsipras had two options: accept the terms of the bailout and apologize to his people for his inability to save them from further hardship or refuse the bailout terms and lead Greece out of the union into uncharted territories. Tsipras did neither. He called a referendum instead, insisting he wanted the people to decide whether to accept the terms of the bailout or not. As far as populism goes, he was on the verge of making history. He actively campaigned for a “No” vote and the people voted accordingly. But barely hours after the referendum, Tsipras dropped his anti-bailout finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, ignored the people’s vote, and accepted the terms of the bailout, plunging his country into the darkness he had come to deliver them from.  

In Britain, Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independent Party, UKIP, promised the people
Nigel Farage
that if they voted to leave the European Union, the £350m that his country pays to the EU weekly would be used to bolster the National Health Service. No one asked him how he planned to do that seeing as he was neither in government nor in any position to guarantee it. Well, as it turned out, the UK voted 52 – 48 to leave the EU. The morning after, just like bad sex, Farage denied that he had made the promise.

Basking in his victory, Farage went to the European parliament and insulted everyone in the most hypocritical rant of the Brexit drama. In spite of the victory of the Leave campaign, he and all UKIP MPs still maintain their seats in the European parliament, many say because he wants to continue to receive the €16m that EU taxpayers give his party every year. Interestingly, for all his anti-EU stance, Farage is clearly one of the major beneficiaries of the European Union.

What’s worse, some of the people who voted to leave the EU regretted it the morning after,
again, like bad sex. In a piece published on, Marcie Bianco said, “Voters’ confusion about the consequences of their actions is indicative of a larger trend. Civic-mindedness in the digital age increasingly seems to rely less on reason or facts and more on passion. In the case of Brexit, people voted emotionally. Many voters were fueled by a xenophobic nationalism reflective of a larger, global uptick in nationalist movements worldwide – including Trumpism in the US.”

Some of those who later regretted voting to leave the EU said they did not know their votes could make a difference. That, on one hand, is as idiotic as it sounds. On the other hand, it seems that in the era of social media, people’s minds are conditioned to irrational words or posts that can be edited or deleted in the name of freedom of speech. But in real life, unlike the artificial world of social media, irrational words and actions have consequences. They can’t always be edited or deleted at will, and therein lies the danger of populism. Unfortunately, freedom of expression, like the late Umberto Eco (author of The Name of the Rose), once said, has become the “Invasion of fools.”

According to him, “Social media gives the right to free speech to a lot of idiots who, in the past, only aired their views at a bar after one glass too many, which, of course, caused no real damage to the collectivity…But with social media, they are put on the same pedestal as Nobel laureates. In the past, the television had uplifted the village idiot with the impression that the viewer was superior. Now, the nightmare scenario of the internet is that social media has elevated the village idiot to the status of truth bearer.”     

The veracity of his claim was demonstrated in The New York Times with a report, which explained that activities on pro-Brexit Facebook pages—more than 11 million likes, shares, and comments—exceeded the engagement on pro-Remain pages. Likewise on Twitter, the Times’ John Herrman, citing analytics firm Talkwalker, said there was “a substantial lead in leave-related hashtags over remain-related hashtags in May, suggesting there was more discussion on the ‘leave’ side.”

And in an article entitled, “The science of why people insist on making idiotic choices,” Professor Andre Spicer of Cass Business School, City University London, wrote, “In the UK, we have seen a broad consensus of economics experts warning that a vote to leave Europe would be disastrous, but the majority voted to leave anyway.” He offered the following explanation, “To find the real reason people seem to disregard the views of experts about important matters, we need to look at how we process information. In The Stupidity Paradox, a recent work I completed with Mats Alvesson, we asked why, in a world of increasingly smart people, we so frequently end up making incredibly stupid decisions. One reason is our inbuilt cognitive biases. We often make quick decisions about complex issues on the basis of our past beliefs or even chance associations. After we have made these decisions—which often happen in a matter of milliseconds—we start the laborious process of proving ourselves right. We seek information which justifies decisions already made.

The Brexit vote, not surprisingly, has convulsed UK politics. Even before Boris Johnson—
Boris Johnson
leader of the leave vote—was stabbed in the back (some might say, good riddance!), his political star did not look bright anyway. A comment in the Guardian newspaper summed it all up nicely: “Perhaps many Brexiters do not realize it yet, but they have actually lost... Throughout the campaign, David Cameron had repeatedly said that a vote for leave would lead to triggering Article 50 straight away... but, in the midst of the sentimental nautical references of his speech yesterday, he quietly abandoned that position and handed the responsibility over to his successor. As the day wore on, the enormity of that step started to sink in: the markets, Sterling, Scotland, the Irish border, the Gibraltar border, the frontier of Calais, the need to continue compliance with all EU regulations for a free market, re-issuing passports, Brits abroad, EU citizens in Britain, the mountain of legislation to be torn up and rewritten ... the list grew and grew.”

Boris Johnson & British PM David Cameron
Continuing, the commentator said, “The referendum result is not binding. It is advisory. Parliament is not bound to commit itself in that same direction. The Conservative party election that Cameron triggered will now have one question looming over it: will you, if elected as party leader, trigger the notice under Article 50? Boris Johnson knew this... If he runs for leadership of the party, and then fails to follow through on triggering Article 50, then he is finished. If he does not run and effectively abandons the field, then he is finished. If he runs, wins and pulls the UK out of the EU, then it will all be over - Scotland will break away, there will be upheaval in Ireland, a recession ... broken trade agreements. Then he is also finished...”

Donald Trump
Populism, like cancer, is something evil that spreads destructively. The examples of Italy and Greece cited above explain it all. Now too, the UK has begun to reap the fruit of its willful ignorance. In the US, where the Trump madness has stunned many, perhaps no observation is more apt than the words of Winston Churchill, “Americans will always try to do the right thing—after they’ve tried everything else.”  

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Literature & Political Correctness

Gone are the days when literature was bold, honest, and witty, with a take-no-prisoner approach to storytelling. 

Now political correctness has taken hold of the society in such a way that any straight, tell-it-as-it-is piece of writing risks offending the sensibilities of many.
Some people actually believe that the term “Politically correct” is about being right. Unfortunately, that’s a bit of a misnomer. When the term was first conceptualized and made popular during the 1970s and the 1980s, it was about being respectful and considerate. In simple terms, being “Politically correct” meant making an effort to avoid expressions that deliberately excluded, marginalized, or offended a particular group of people. The same should still be true today. 

But it appears as if the more “Politically correct” society becomes, the more people’s sensibilities burgeon. Such sensibilities have now permeated the field of literature, where some, including students, have even demanded a kind of trigger warning on books that may have a negative impact on the reader.

In 2014, Kathleen Parker wrote a piece in the Indy Star, in which she indicated that some schools (like Oberlin College, Rutgers University, George Washington University and the University of Michigan) were already considering the question of “trigger warnings” on books and syllabuses. Citing this example: “Warning: This book includes a rape scene,” aimed at warning rape victims less they be traumatized by the contents, she wondered if it isn’t more sensible for students to Google a book in advance of reading if they’re so fearful of a psychological crisis.

Some authors consider trigger warnings on books an exaggeration because even in films, while the Motion Picture Association of America provides film ratings (like G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17) to advise about content so that moviegoers can make informed choices for themselves and for their children, trigger warnings are caveats some reviewers feel inclined to issue. They often do so based on their personal convictions to prevent people who have an excessive emotional response to certain subjects from encountering them unaware.
Books, on the other hand, should have neither a ratings system nor a trigger warning, authors say, though many publishers, on their sole discretion, choose to indicate heat levels for novels with sexual contents on their websites, not on the books. They say it is all right for a book reviewer to issue a spoiler alert to inform the reader that the review may reveal critical points that ruin the story, the same way a movie reviewer may issue an NSFW (acronym for ‘Not Suitable for Work’) alert to indicate that the material is not suitable for the work environment.

But “Political correctness” should not ride on the back of exaggerated sensibilities to stifle literature. This does not mean, however, that “Political correctness” does not serve an important purpose. While being “Political correct” helps promote equality by demonstrating an understanding that all people, regardless of race, culture, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, are valuable to society, forcing literature to walk on eggshells amounts to smothering creativity. As Ralph Ellison said in Invisible Man, “Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat.”

Powerful literary quotes 

[with a tell-it-as-it-is approach to creativity]

Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.
   - John Steinbeck [Of Mice & Men, 1937]
Terror made me cruel.
    - Emily Brontë [Wuthering Heights, 1847]

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.
            - Jack Kerouac [On the Road, 1957]

We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.
            - Margaret Atwood [The Handmaid’s Tale, 1985]
Jack Kerouac

It sounds plausible enough tonight, but wait until tomorrow. Wait for the common sense of the morning.
            - H.G. Wells [The Time Machine, 1895]

Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.
            - Charlotte Brontë [Jane Eyre, 1847]

You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget.
            - Cormac McCarthy [The Road, 2006]

We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won't do harm - yes, choose a place where you won't do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine.
            - E.M. Forster [A Room with a View, 1908]

And meanwhile time goes about its immemorial work of making everyone look and feel like shit.
       - Martin Amis [London Fields, 1989]

History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.
       - James Joyce [Ulysses, 1922]

No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.
            - Nathaniel Hawthorne [The Scarlet Letter, 1850]

Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
            - Oscar Wilde [The Picture Of Dorian Gray, 1890]

No one forgets the truth; they just get better at lying.
  - Richard Yates [Revolutionary Road, 1961]

It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.
  - Philip K. Dick [Valis, 1981]

Perhaps it was freedom itself that choked her.
  - Patricia Highsmith [The Price of Salt, 1952]

The only lies for which we are truly punished are those we tell ourselves.
     - V.S. Naipaul [In a Free State, 1971]

Some birds are not meant to be caged, that's all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure.
      - Stephen King [Different Seasons, 1982]