Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"The Myth of the Rational Voter" by Bryan Caplan

This is a book written by an economist who argues that democracy = bad economic policies.

I guess it confirms what we all knew all along: democracies elect their respresentatives irrationally. Voters most often (and inspite of having adequate information to make a rational choice), make choices emotionally rather than rationally. Especially when it comes to economic policies we tend to choose policies that are not in our best interests. The author cites many examples like say the voters' bias for employment as against productivity.

It struck me that India probably has more examples to prove this hypothesis than any other democracy in the world; even with an economist as the prime minister. Loan waivers for farmers, oil subsidies, inflation, the whole "Maharashtra for Maharashtrians" debate, nuclear energy deal -- all issues that the voters saw emotionally, rather than rationally.

An interesting read. A short article by the author here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Dark Knight

First, let me say, this is a GREAT movie. Everybody I know has already said this, but I'm going to say it again: Heath Ledger is absolutely brilliant!

But I did feel a bit upset at the director. It was almost as if Christopher Nolan was so taken in by Heath Ledger's Joker, that he gave the entire center-stage to him; Batman looked like an after-thought. This is a comic-book story about good against evil; but there was very little room for Batman to emerge as a hero. Joker came across as a bigger icon of evil than Batman did as an icon of good. That made me feel a bit cheated.

But what did work for me, was that for a comic-book story, "The Dark Knight" is an incredible 'thinking' movie. Spidey made a miserable effort in his last movie to do a thinking movie & failed. This movie, on the other hand, explores the whole 'US war on terror' situation -- the hero who must fight dirty; a villain who's psyche you can never hope to understand; the conviction that things will get darker until dawn breaks again; the 'social experiment' I thought mirrored the US dilemna on nuclear capaibilities in the Middle East. Very nicely done.

Finally, Heath Ledger. There's a close-up shot of his face in the interrogation room (his make-up is running & he has a creepy scarred smile)-- absolutely gave me the shivers!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Most Disappointing Sequels

I made a list of "Most Disappointing Sequels of Recent Times". (Well, mostly because I had nothing better to do, but also because bad sequels really do disappoint me!). Here's my list anyway:
# 5) Indiana Jones - Crystal Skull
# 4) Sarkar Raj & Dhoom 2 (it's a tie)
# 3) Shrek III
# 2) "Lost" Season 2 & 3
# 1) Matrix Reloaded & Revolutions

PS: If I were to make a list of the most disappointing remakes, Umrao Jaan, RGV's Sholay, and Devdas would be my top 3.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Memory is a deceiving thing;
But hard to dismiss.
Moments we ought to forget;
Persist & subsist.
Moments we ought to cherish;
Disappear & desist.
Imagine a different world;
Where memory doesn't betray like this;
A world with memories only of bliss.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Did you know...

...that breathing air in Mumbai is equivalent to smoking 20 cigarettes a day?

I'm not shocked with this piece of statistics; I did breathe that almost-air for 20 odd years; but when put like that, it makes me worry a great deal for the health of my family back home. Especially my little nephew who would've smoked over hundred-thousand cigarettes before he actually starts smoking!

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers

I liked this book.

It started off as a stereotypical story -- Chinese girl arrives in London & feels disoriented in the west. The narrative style I thought was cliched-- broken English; spoken like a Chinese. And the naivity of the girl was over-done; she came across as a moron.

But somewhere around pg # 100, the English got better, the writing was more heartfelt; her wistfulness more acute. I felt for Z & her claustrophobia in London; I was tickled by the "lost in translation" moments; I was touched by the love story of the two diametrically opposite lead characters; and the small everyday observations about the contrasts in the Chinese & Western cultures made it an interesting read.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pink, plastic, "Hello Kitty"

Is it a massive over-generalisation to say that South-East Asians love all that is "Hello Kitty" much more than any other group of human population ever loved any single brand?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


When we watched the movie a couple of weeks back, I was the only one who came out of the movie still wondering about the game show problem that Kevin Spacey asks in the MIT classroom in the movie (Yes, I did feel stupid being the only one who didn't get it).
Suppose you're on a game show, and you're given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1, and the host, who knows what's behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, "Do you want to pick door No. 2?" Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?
I thought that the answer in the movie ("yes") was counter-intuitive & it kept bothering me for days (I do get obsessive about the silliest of things sometimes) so I wiki-ed it up. For all those movie-watchers like me who're mathematically-challenged, please look here. Wikipedia has explained it quite well...besides, I thought the pictures of goats & cars were cute (its bizzare that the car is smaller than the goats) :)

Monday, July 07, 2008

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

So we visited this quaint & charming hill station in Malaysia & it was a lovely & memorable holiday.

We stayed at a Tudor-styled cottage-hotel called "The Old Smokehouse" and it was a slice out of colonial English holiday-life. Cuppa tea in the garden, wine by the fire-place in the evenings, even our breakfast was served in courses! :)

The landscape of Cameron Highlands is BEAUTIFUL. The tea-plantations cover a lot of land and there are points in the hill roads where you can only view acres & acres of tea plantations in any direction you see, as far away as you see. It's like a massive green carpet in the distance & a lovely never-ending garden up close.

And the weather was perfect. It was nippy, but not oppressively cold. In the mornings, the mist would sneek through the doors & windows until everything became bleary, romantic & bollywood-film-like (If I resisted the temptation to dance around trees or roll down the hill slopes, it was only because H is too shy to do such things).
Sigh. Back in Singapore's hot, humid & I see Monday-morning zombies as far as I can see.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Happy Anniversary :)

We glanced back from our speed boat,
At the track of ripples we left in the river;
Followed by the dew drops on leaves adrift-
like tiny gems on water; floating together;
And between the ripples & the gems;
A bleary reflection of two happy faces--
Both of us & this sojourn in paradise.