Eye Browse

1. Umberto Eco’s piece in the Guardian about the importance of good handwriting struck a nerve. I used to pride myself on my neat, even writing. Now, I have a collection of fine writing instruments [one of my obsessions], and a handwriting that deteriorates into the realm of the illegible after about two sentences. From Eco:

The crisis began with the advent of the ballpoint pen. Early ballpoints were also very messy and if, immediately after writing, you ran your finger over the last few words, a smudge inevitably appeared. And people no longer felt much interest in writing well, since handwriting, when produced with a ballpoint, even a clean one, no longer had soul, style or personality.

And while on that, a recent study indicates that handwriting is the best lie-detector test there is.

2. Social media familiarity breeds contempt, seems to be the moral of this Times Online story on Stephen Fry.

3. “When the pet develops rabies and starts biting its own mentors, it must be put to sleep, no way around it,” a senior general involved in military operations in the North-West Frontier Province told me in late April, suggesting a definite new realization — if not change of heart altogether — that as far as the military establishment was concerned, the militants had gone too far. Until that point, the Army’s claims that it was doing its best to hunt down “miscreants” were met with skepticism across the board.

That clip is from a Foreign Policy article suggesting that Pakistan is making more progress in its war against terrorism than an increasingly cynical world is prepared to acknowledge. It ends however on a prophesy designed to further fuel the cynical view that most of Pakistan’s ‘successes’ are calculated pitches for its fund-raising drive:

And we should not be surprised if, as a result of Muslim Khan’s interrogations, his mentor Maulvi Fazlullah also gets captured — perhaps timed to coincide with President Asif Ali Zardari’s trip to New York to host a “Friends of Democratic Pakistan” summit on Sept. 24, at which he is expected to urge the world to better compensate Pakistan for its efforts against extremists, who under the tutelage of al Qaeda still pose a grave threat to the entire region. But perhaps now it’s time the international community shows it is willing to reward success.

4. I can never get enough of writers talking of writing [the NYT series is a favorite, often visited/re-visited resource]. Here, for those interested in such, is today’s find.

5. A blog post gives six reasons for politicians to take to Twitter. Clip:

Now what you can do with Twitter – Dr Shashi Tharoor on his visit to his constituency met with a girl who has lost both her legs and on the same day he tweeted –

Visited a girl who lost both legs to a train when crossing the track bcoz road to her home was underwater. One more tragedy of underdevpmnt”

“Will look for prosthetic help for the girl. In her final year of high school. Desperately poor. A couple of Jaipur Feet cld change her life

That 280 letters changed the life of that girl. The same day itself offers for help came from all over the world and last I heard that girl is undergoing treatment. Could such quick response possible without Twitter? What does that show? Doesn’t that show that politicians and elected representatives can use twitter to spread the word faster than any other media out there?

Indeed. The catch? How many politicians are articulate enough to use that tool to get the right message across?

6. In The Atlantic, Mark Bowden has a great piece outlining, against the backdrop of TV coverage of the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, how journalism has been ‘outsourced’ to political hit men, business interest groups and such.

This process—political activists supplying material for TV news broadcasts—is not new, of course. It has largely replaced the work of on-the-scene reporters during political campaigns, which have become, in a sense, perpetual. The once-quadrennial clashes between parties over the White House are now simply the way our national business is conducted. In our exhausting 24/7 news cycle, demand for timely information and analysis is greater than ever. With journalists being laid off in droves, savvy political operatives have stepped eagerly into the breach. What’s most troubling is not that TV-news producers mistake their work for journalism, which is bad enough, but that young people drawn to journalism increasingly see no distinction between disinterested reporting and hit-jobbery. The very smart and capable young men (more on them in a moment) who actually dug up and initially posted the Sotomayor clips both originally described themselves to me as part-time, or aspiring, journalists.

Then again, who needs journalists? As this piece in Columbia Journalism Review underscores, the new business model is to spend a lot of money on a telegenic talking head, and let the news gathering end of the business go whistle. While on the media, Nikhil Pahwa linked on Twitter to this spiderweb of inter-connectivity between politicians and journalists in India. Open link with caution — guaranteed to change the way you read newspapers/watch television. 🙂

7. From TED via Mental Floss: Oliver Sacks in prime form on the subject of hallucination.

8. Transparency International has just released its annual report on Global Corruption. To no one’s surprise, India wins high placement.

9. Sometimes, all it takes to provoke a really stirring debate is a really badly written opinion piece. This qualifies. The writer sets out to trash contemporary Indian writing in English on the basis of book titles and blurbs; the resultant debate, now two weeks long and counting, is proving to be the gift that goes on giving. Wade right in — the last word hadn’t been said yet.

10. What happens when one of the most famous opening sentences in literature is rendered in Emoji? This:

Moby Dick is passe. Here's Emojidick

Moby Dick is passe. Here's Emojidick

The New Yorker, on the project. Seems to me we’re coming full circle — from symbol-based communication to alphabets, and now back again.

11. Having observed two of the four UN General Assembly sessions [as much of each as I could stomach] out of the five during my tenure in NY, I found them incredibly boring affairs. But then, they never had Muammar Gaddafi, spelt any one of 50 ways,  over during that time. My loss. Your gain.

Over and, for the day, out.