Thursday, June 30, 2005

Freakonomics available Online!

Here's the link.
Levitt also maintains a popular blog.


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The travails of an Artist

After all, in any other walk in life it doesn't matter if
you're not very good; you can get along quite comfortably if
you're just adequate; but it's different with an artist.

I'm quoting the narrator in the Somerset Maugham novel - The Moon and SixPence.
This one line sums up the reason behind the apathy towards fine arts among the youth all over the world.
After all, why would you want to risk becoming a professional writer even if it were the overriding passion of your life, when you can earn a comfortable amount writing mind numbing code which doesn't require you to be the best in the business!

A novelist, or for that matter a painter or a playwright has no surety of monetary success as his fortunes inextricably depend on the whimsical,often uncultivated,taste of the hoi polloi.
In contrast, a technologist or a professional manager need not lose sleep over his next meal as long as he possesses the right qualification and appropriate skillsets.Natural ability or flair is a useful adjunct, but is in no way indispensable for survival as is the case with an artist.

Moreover, unlike in conventional professions, Mediocre Art is rewarded and wins more acclaim often at the expense of original art.
The Sidney Sheldons and the Chetan Bhagats end up raking in more moolah than the VS Naipauls and the Ramachandra Guhas.
Hence,there is little or no incentive for a talented youngster to pursue art seriously. Even if he does, he must consciously pander to the popular constituency by dumbing down his output and running the risk of being branded as a 'populist' 'lowbrow' artist.

Young Artists who defy popular trends and heedlessly pursue their obsessions deserve more appreciation from the society. So, the next time you meet up with a student of literature, Archeology or any such 'arbit' course, Don't denigrate his ilk with the snide remark- 'You're after all a BA!' as nothing else could be more mortifying for an artist.


Saturday, June 25, 2005

Moulding Precocious Talent

John Stuart Mill had a singular childhood. At three, he learnt the Greek alphabet. By the age of eight, he had read the whole of Herodotus. He was steeped in Aristotle's logical treatises at twelve.Was very much into Adam Smith and Ricardo's work in early adolescence. What's not so well known is the role played by his father in regimenting his life and disciplining his intellect. A few excerpts from his Autobiography are very revealing-

One of the evils most liable to attend on any sort of early proficiency,
and which often fatally blights its promise, my father most anxiously
guarded against. This was self-conceit. He kept me, with extreme
vigilance, out of the way of hearing myself praised, or of being led
to make self-flattering comparisons between myself and others. From
his own intercourse with me I could derive none but a very humble
opinion of myself; and the standard of comparison he always held up to
me, was not what other people did, but what a man could and ought to
do. He completely succeeded in preserving me from the sort of influences
he so much dreaded. I was not at all aware that my attainments were
anything unusual at my age. If I accidentally had my attention drawn to
the fact that some other boy knew less than myself--which happened less
often than might be imagined--I concluded, not that I knew much, but that
he, for some reason or other, knew little, or that his knowledge was of
a different kind from mine.

He also points out the importance of developing good work habits during the formative pre-adolescence years. Even a person who is not naturally quick-witted can be moulded
into a formidable intellect with the right training.

If I had been by nature extremely quick of
apprehension, or had possessed a very accurate and retentive memory,
or were of a remarkably active and energetic character, the trial
would not be conclusive; but in all these natural gifts I am rather
below than above par; what I could do, could assuredly be done by any
boy or girl of average capacity and healthy physical constitution: and
if I have accomplished anything, I owe it, among other fortunate
circumstances, to the fact that through the early training bestowed on
me by my father, I started, I may fairly say, with an advantage of a
quarter of a century over my contemporaries.

Very,very pertinent views. Here's the link to the ebook


Friday, June 17, 2005

I'll be joining NetD in a fortnight from now. Slightly apprehensive at the prospect.
Never broken a sweat for anything during the past 21 years.And now I'm expected to slog for 40-60 hrs a week! My Psmith-like distaste for routine work is bound to make the transition a very painful process.


Friday, June 10, 2005


I've been in Bangalore all my life. But somehow, the incongruity of a thoroughfare being named -'Avenue Road' never struck me until I read this. Very,very strange.
The institution in which I study-'University Visweshvaraya College of Engineering' is
another good example. God knows why it was named so.
Has anybody noticed similar oddness in any of the vernacular names for roads/institutions. Or are these instances merely indicative of the inability of the colonised people to wield the English language with finesse?



Thursday, June 09, 2005


There's a world of a difference between a strong ego, which is essential, and a large ego, which can be destructive.The guy with a strong ego knows his strengths.He has a realistic idea of what he can accomplish and moves purposefully towards his goal.
But the guy with a large ego is always looking for recognition.He constantly needs to be patted on the back.He thinks he's a cut above everyone else.And he talks down to people who work for/with him.

- Lee Iacocca


Friday, June 03, 2005


Smitten by the meme which originated at Yazad's place.Though no one has tagged me as yet, I am posting my list to relieve the boredom :

Total number of books I own

Close to 500.

Last Book I Bought:

Galahad at Blandings

Last Book I read

The Complete Yes Prime Minister - By Jonathan Lynn and Anthony Jay

Five Books That Mean a Lot to Me:

1. To Kill a MockingBird
An exquisite book. Atticus Finch's address to the jury is the most moving piece of prose I've ever read.

2. The Best and the Brightest
This tome by David Halberstam on the Vietnam War fiasco stands out for its detailed charecter portrayal. Not even in my wildest of dreams could I have imagined people as bright as McNamara and Bundy!

3. Leave it to Psmith
Read it.I shall say no more.

4. India - A wounded civilization
This book ought to be read by every Indian who wants to know all that is wrong with this country.

5. The Valley of Fear
Vintage Holmes.'I am Birdy Edwards' shall forever remain etched in my memory.

Tag five people and have them do this on their blogs:

Rohit Kaul



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