Monday, January 30, 2017

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

There have been five mass extinctions in the past. This book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History shows that we are currently going through the sixth one. And that we, humans are responsible for this undergoing mass extinction event. And, that there is still hope and more importantly, evidence, for improvement.

This book starts with history and slowly comes to the present. It includes amphibians, mastodons, auks, corals, forests and agriculture, and also why we, homo sapiens, made the Neanderthals and homo erectus extinct, among others.  A chapter by chapter summary of the book is available on Wikipedia. 

Here are some excerpts.

The trunk in elephant-like animals evolved five times separately!

Georges Cuvier: The father of paleontology

Darwin and his guru, Charles Lyell

We humans are the worst.

"Long periods of boredom interrupted occasionally by panic."

Back to school.

Human impact on world geology.

Ocean acdification and mass extinctions.

Are we living in the twilight of the corals?

Twilight indeed.

Speculating why more species live in the tropics.

Who would have thought some species can migrate so much in response to ecological changes?

Climate change and borders.

We, and all other species are cold-adapted.

Insects are everywhere, and outnumbering everyone.

Islands on land: indeed.

Humans: contributing to extinctions since prehistoric times!

Neanderthals: cultured or not?

In little parts, we are all Neanderthals.

From The Madness Gene, the second to last chapter.
A very eye opening and overall knowledge expanding book.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Dangal

I just saw the movie Dangal.

Aamir Khan's weight gain for the movie felt very inspiring. It is very easy to fake things, but some people take the hard way and leave us awestruck.

The movie, based on real people, was very good. I surely did not feel like having wasted my money after watching.

Throughout the movie, I had one complaint: why was Aamir's character, Mr. Mahavir Singh Phogat telling his daughter what to do from the stands during her bouts? I felt this was some bogus way of showing a female wrestler perform well. But in the final bout, when there was no Aamir there, Geeta remembered what her father had told her while teaching her how to swim: Don't expect your father to save you from drowning every time. And she went on to win the fight without any guidance from him. This teach-a-man-to-fish rather than give-a-man-a-fish moment felt great, not in the least because it proved that my problem was misguided!

One thing I thought was not right was that in the final bout, the Australian wrestler looked at least a few kilograms heavier than Geeta.

I always thought that there is needless hype around Aamir Khan. But at least in case of this movie, I was wrong.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The best advertisements

(I have no idea of what advertising is or how it works, so feel free to enlighten me.)

I just saw this Havells wires advertisement, the tiger vs dragon one.  "वो fire  है, तो मैं wire है!" Could have been funnier in Punjabi.




Till the end I was not sure what product the advertisement was for. More importantly, I did not care.

The product at the end was just a happy coincidence. The coincidence part made sure the product wasn't forced.

Now I might be biased due to any number of things, or this one advertisement might have been too good to cater to the "rules", but this is what advertisements should be like.

Any idiot can go around screaming about their product, but that does not give the consumer any value. (Consumer here is the person watching the advertisement, since the advertisement itself is the product here.)

What are some of your favourite advertisements?

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Mountain Shadow: the second Shantaram book



Shantaram is the first book written by Gregory David Roberts.

He ran away from a prison in Australia to end up at Mumbai. He then lived in a slum in Mumbai, created and ran a free-of-cost health clinic, and then joined the mafia, otherwise called the underworld.

It must be mentioned here that other than the fact that Mr. Roberts came to Mumbai, most of the book and its characters are fictional. Nonetheless, it makes for great reading.

I read the first book in December 2007 - January 2008, and was surprised to hear about the second one. Before I post my favorite quotes from the second book, I must mention that
1. The first book was way, way better; and,
2. Even if one ignores the first book, the second one is boring.

Going to Sri Lanka in the future was a big thing in the first book. But it looks like Shantaram went there only to keep the promise made in the first book. Not the promise to Khaderbhai, but to the readers that going to Sri Lanka would be like going to Afghanistan in the first book.

There were a few smaller things. Small and irritating but too little to be mentioned. But when the author himself says it is fictional, I feel the criticism should be held back. And moreover, how many books have I written?




Now getting to the book's contents itself.

--

"An amateur is anyone who hasn't learned how not to do it"
--
".. Writers never really die, until people stop quoting them."
--

A sadists' sadist

A case for bargaining, and a case for not bargaining.

Corruption as a tax.

I think in the first book Karla said Khaderbhai took her to Ajanta or Ellora caves. Now she talks of Kanheri caves.
Difference between war and peace. Seems a bit confusing though.

Justifying a life of crime. Or sugarcoating. Or just inventing excuses. Who knows?

Gotta love Didier talking about himself in third person.

A very logical yet simple case against suicide.
Though I do not understand these discussions completely, or even in parts for that matter, reading these makes me feel like an intellectual for a while :-)

Difference between good and bad pride.

Didier at his best!

Had Tolstoy not written Anna Karienna, literature and science would be lacking a lot today.

Because we can!

Religion in its most basic parts.

Not today. Not any more.

Experience speaks.

Someday, poor Indians will rise. Atleast I hope so.

Clients in the fake passport business.


If you are thinking of reading the Mountain Shadow, please don't. Read Shantaram first and then go through the Mountain Shadow. Reading it directly will most likely kill your mood for the first book as well.

I must say that I was introduced to Shantaram by many friends: Vidhu Shekhar, Salil Kaul, Sharad Saxena and Diwakar Chauhan. There is also a certain Navdeep Toor, who since 2008 is saying he will read Shantaram, but now I do not have any more hopes of that happening.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi

I am reading random books at the moment. This one is the autobiography of Andre Agassi, an American tennis player.

Though every man is the hero of his story, I love the frankness and honesty that he brings.

Instead of writing down quotes, I have clicked pictures of a few pages and am putting them here.

Can't really summarise this. Some things can only be felt.

This is something I can relate to.

It is better to be judged than to be ignored. But nobody thinks it at that time.

No arguing this, Agassi had an asshole father. The man made his son play for his own selfishness. And then wanted his son to quit for the same.

This is the most motivating thing I have read in 2016!

Aaaand, the most badass thing of 2016.

 What is an autobiography or biography you would recommend?