Headlines: hot, hip or happy

Headlines have to be catchy. Especially when they want you to read a tedious article about the stunningly mundane flossing habits of a celebrity, or an uninspiring piffle of a politician, shoddy statistics and research that is not yet ground-breaking. There are key words that make an article sell, generate better website traffic and make résumés more attractive. There are sites and books on how to do that. There is a thin line between dishonesty and a sales pitch. A friend and I were discussing an article in Daily Mail (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2350797/Want-better-social-life-Move-Denmark-Luxembourg-Brits-fun-Europe.html). A few years ago, I would not have paid much attention to an article like this. It says, “Want a better social life? Move to Denmark or Luxembourg…” But having lived in foreign countries for a few years, I know that such articles really do influence many people to leave behind their good life, go to a country in search of a better life, and find that it is not what it was hyped up to be. It is one thing to present the statistics of a study, however dubious they might be, and another thing to write that you should move to XYZ country for a better social life. It is inherently flawed, like suggesting you move to Japan to have a better life expectancy. Of course the local people of a place may say they have a good social life, but that does not mean you can fly in there, insinuate yourself in, and be a part of that life of “theirs”.

Scientists, doctors, sociologists, psychologists, schools and textbooks are expected to be rational, responsible and honest in their writing and publications. But what about newspapers and media that report on sociological, scientific and medical findings? When you write “coffee benefits you”, and the next day, “coffee is bad”, and again, “coffee may be bad, but only when more than 10 cups a day”, you are essentially exploiting the layperson’s lack of knowledge to sell your media. By lack of knowledge, I mean not knowing how to read scientific reports and interpret them, what do medical statistics mean and how slow the pace of scientific research can be at times. Even the “ground breaking” inventions and discoveries we know of, like penicillin, or DNA, or HIV, were actually achieved in years, sometimes by several separate groups from different countries contributing slowly to a growing knowledge base that eventually reaches a definitive “new discovery” stage. By “new discovery”, I don’t mean a catchy headline in a newspaper, but a paper (usually peer reviewed) in a respectable scientific journal, and a vast majority of the researchers of that field agreeing that the study presents convincing evidence or arguments to support what the authors are claiming. Then it is YAY! However, nowadays we do see many groups seeking press releases for tenuous findings, to generate publicity and grants.

Some years ago, a friend was attending a conference on nanotechnology and nanoscience in India. One day a reporter sat next to him, and told him that he is from a certain popular Hindi newspaper and is going to report on the ongoing conference. The reporter stayed there for half and hour or so, and asked this friend some questions to understand what was being presented. The friend tried to explain to him in laymen terms the gist of the talks. Implications of nanotechnology, like nanoweapons, were also mentioned by the Asian speaker. Next day, the friend eagerly thumbed through the said newspaper to find what had been reported. The headline of the article said, “चीन ने बनाई नेनो हेलीकाप्टर, अमरीका की उड़ी नींद”. [ US loses sleep as China makes nano-helicopters]

WordPress problems

I have been unable to use the wordpress reader or even the WP sites in fact, since they updated. This has gone on for enough months, and I have had enough. I even reinstalled my browser, but WP is still S-L-O-W. I cannot read in peace, I cannot comment, and I have wasted enough hours on WP. I as a blog reader more than a blogger, really find the reader highly irritating with more flaws than advantages. I don’t read all blogs I follow daily, in fact I save some blogs to read on idle days enjoying and savoring them. But that pleasure has been taken away from me. 

So until the time WP becomes more lightweight to use, or firefox corrects the endless “script” problems, or I get a new computer, I am going to resist the temptation to open WP. I am just going to take a blog reading break for sometime. 

Why money won’t buy you happiness

Nomad:

An interesting post!

Originally posted on Mind Hacks:

Here’s my column for BBC Future from last week. It was originally titled ‘Why money can’t buy you happiness‘, but I’ve just realised that it would be more appropriately titled if I used a “won’t” rather than a “can’t”. There’s a saying that people who think money can’t buy happiness don’t know where to shop. This column says, more or less, that knowing where to shop isn’t the problem, its shopping itself.

Hope a lottery win will make you happy forever? Think again, evidence suggests a big payout won’t make that much of a difference. Tom Stafford explains why.

 

Think a lottery win would make you happy forever? Many of us do, including a US shopkeeper who just scooped $338 million in the Powerball lottery – the fourth largest prize in the game’s history. Before the last Powerball jackpot in the United States, tickets were being snapped…

View original 810 more words

The Pain Cloud

I have been down with influenza the past month. And other troubles as well. Nothing new or interesting about that. But the interesting thing that happened was I lost my voice (am still voiceless) due to the infection, and that has been a great learning experience to be unable to say even “hmmm” (my favorite word). In the past two decades, each part of my body has gone on solitary or orchestrated strikes off and on, teaching me the value and function of each of them, but being voiceless is a new thing for me.

——-

Yesterday I spent many hours in an emergency room, clutching a pen and a notebook (always a source of great comfort to me in stressful times, now a tool of communication), and the minutes I was alone led to these thoughts:

Strange things people take
To mellow, numb or intoxicate.
Not me.
I founder down the day in a daze
Hours hum by past my bleary haze
Blaring white noise blasting my brain
Pathetically plastered on agonizing pain.

———

The person far more distressed than me for my lost voice is my music loving two year old daughter, who needs me to sing songs all day to her. Oh, ok, I don’t sing, I croak songs, my singing voice and musical intelligence are both croaky, but she does not know that yet.

Nomad:

A deep thought, summed up in just a few words. Beautiful.

Originally posted on The Third Glance:

Autistic People Should…

When I first heard about the “Autistic People Should” flashblog, I thought about it for a long time. But I couldn’t think of anything that would be insightful. I’ve seen some wonderful posts today, about how autistic people should “be respected”, “be loud”, “be accepted”, and “be proud”. I’ve seen things saying that I should be an activist, that I should speak out, that I should do all sorts of things. And they are powerful, insightful pieces of writing. I have nothing against them, in fact, I agree completely.

But here’s the thing. I’m autistic. And I believe that autistic people should be. What do I mean by that? I mean, that I should be free to be myself. I should feel safe being the whole person that I am. I should be afforded the opportunity happy being myself. I should be respected and perhaps…

View original 66 more words

“The Search” Short Film [Review]

In 2009, I was tagged by Devinder Paul Singh to do a favorite film tag. I discussed why I liked a few movies in a series of posts, which were read by only a few people, but I cherish the posts because it was through them that my friendship with Dev and Man of Roma started.

Back then, Dev was working in McGill University (Montreal) and was an aspiring film maker. He had a graduate in engineering and an MBA, and was ardent about his passion for films. The wonderful thing is that he did go on to become a film maker and made his first short film, Take Out, which was screened at Cannes Film Festival in 2011.

I watched an advance screening of Dev’s new short film, The Search, and I simply have to share my delight with the world about this amazing movie! Here is the trailer:

I love the supernatural genre (no romances, pure suspense), and in that I find most interesting the paranormal short stories. The story of this movie is just that, something weird, something not quite right, not quite normal, and yet you cannot put your finger on it till the last moment.

John Woods, the protagonist, is an average middle aged man, who received a text message from his wife in the library that suggested something was wrong there. The movie begins with the worried John entering the library late in the evening to look for his wife. The story is about his search for his wife in the library, vacant except for the sinister staff, and yet fraught with something heavy and ominous that bears down on the book cases already burdened with the dead weight of the books.

The screenplay and cinematography are absolutely engaging, without anything superfluous, and drew me into the eerie library, breathless with anticipation of the lurking menace, and I accompany John in his quest, trying to make sense of the seemingly meaningless and inexplicable clues he finds, until it all leads me into the final moments of dismay with startling clarity. The story, by Anish Pallyal is interesting with a novel climax. The music is great, and without spoiling the suspense, I must tell viewers that you must LISTEN carefully!!! Use all your senses to join John in his search for his wife!

This is a short film of just a little above 7 minutes, and yet, in such a short duration, this film could get me totally immersed in the intrigue. And you will think about the movie afterwards. You might want to rewind and watch and listen to a few crucial scenes again. And the idea of the movie will haunt you, and you will shake your head with a smile and agree with me and say, a damned good movie!

Kudos to Dev, this movie is a fine piece of work. All the best!

————————————–

You can join the Facebook group on “The Search” here. The movie is going to be released soon, and you can find the link for viewing it when it is updated on this FB page.

My Pine Tree

I love the snow on the pine tree across my window. I never get tired of looking at it. When winter has denuded all the trees to frail shadows, when the overcast sky has decolorized the world, this pine tree still remains leafed, green and strong, and is at times the only colored and hopeful object in the bleak greyscale panorama.

P1060472-1
P1060472-2

It is snowing again, and the temperature outside went down to -6 C on Tuesday. Snow in practical terms means wet roads full of salt granules, and the water and salt quickly make their way into the apartment. Not a pretty sight on the foyer floor, but the outside view is definitely pretty!

wpid-20130117_094143-1.jpg