Thoughts About The Beatles Documentary

I found out about the Beatles documentary from a podcast episode. The host was talking about a clip showing the Beatles legend, Paul McCartney, composing the song “Get Back.” The stunning part of this video was that he had started from nothing. He was idly strumming chords on his guitar, early in the morning. Ringo Starr and George Harrison were sitting across from him; they appeared disheveled, tired, and sleepy. The final Beatle, John Lennon, was nowhere to be seen. I watched this video a few times; hoping to get a glimpse of something around McCartney which gave him the inspiration to come up with the melody. I wonder if other viewers were watching the video looking for a similar kind of revelation. But there was nothing. McCartney had created the song out of nothing; like a vaguely remembered dream converted into a beautiful melody. I learned more about what the documentary was and where the footage had come from. (Admittedly, I went through this information gathering process in a frenzy.) This past week, some theater chains in Japan capitalized on the mania of Beatles fans by airing a 1-hour special, The Rooftop Concert, for a limited period of time. I watched the special, and here are some thoughts about my experience.

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Monthly Recommendations (January 2022)

For the first recommendations post of the year, I have picked out some of the best New Yorker stories that I read as I worked through my issue backlog from early 2020. I have given up on reading the New Yorker at the pace at which it is published. However, the articles that are included in each issue are rarely “current affairs” related and can basically be read and re-read years into the future. Lately, the role played by magazines in our reading diets has become clearer to me: They are published at a much faster pace than great fiction or non-fiction; while they are written by the very same people who will eventually produce those great works; so magazine pieces offer us a window into upcoming great work. (I think.) So, this month I have a mix of dealing with grief, bad governance as seen through the eyes of an official, compared with the impact of bad policy as seen through the eyes of a journalist, the “mad science”-y feel of triggering avalanches intentionally to avoid larger avalanches, and a disturbing article about the effects of late-stage capitalism on workers.

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Video Calls Are Tiring

Video calls are ubiquitous. Skype and its modern counterparts were the go-to tool for connecting people who were not in the same physical space. In the era when travel was possible, convenient, and exciting1, these tools were stopgap solutions; to be employed until the time that you could refill your “physical presence” account balance with people. Then, COVID19. Everyone was stuck at home. Travel became impossible. Video calls became the only way to meet some people. At work, the number of people that I interact with on a daily basis whom I have never met in real life has gone up from 0 in March 2020 to 5 this past week. I don’t think my experience is an outlier. The necessity of using this tool could not be escaped; neither could the feeling of tiredness that would always follow its use. What is the source of this tiredness?

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Nostalgia vs. Anxiety on Social Media

When Facebook came on the scene, the most attractive features on the platform for me were photo albums and life events. These two features in combination gave the user the ability to build a timeline of their life. Every trip that you go on, place that you visit, and dinner that you eat can be documented for the present and archived for the future. The photos and events were arranged as milestones that the user chose to retain when they told their story. The digitized nature of this data enabled the creation of works that were out of reach for the ordinary scrapbooker or the amateur video editor: The personalized Facebook “Lookback” videos, which were generated for Facebook’s 10th anniversary, were the biggest “proof-of-concept” of a world which was digitizing at a fast pace. I feel that Facebook was at “peak utility” back then. Nostalgia was the currency that the platform traded in effortlessly. Product managers at Facebook intuitively understood the value that they were creating in their users’ lives. Looking at the Lookback video is not like looking back at photo albums from a decade ago because in the latter experience there is no curation. However, Facebook’s usage is on the decline. Platforms that focus on creating Anxiety in their users’ minds are on the rise. Did something fundamental change?

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Monthly Recommendations (December 2021)

There is no specific theme for this month’s recommendation list. It is an assortment of the articles I read over the past year which had one thing in common: I wanted more people to read them and decide what they thought about the underlying institutions and people that these articles described. So, we have two articles about the tennis world: one about an athlete within the world and another about the incentive structure of the sport; one article about a non-contrarian CEO with some interesting ideas about running companies that he does not divulge, and another one about a politician with new realizations that helped him confirm 3 nominees to the US Supreme Court even though the confirmation of a single Supreme Court nominee was hailed as a big achievement just a few years ago on the TV Show, West Wing.

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Notes and Review - Meditations on First Philosophy (Descartes)

Descartes has a gift for reasoning that I will not attempt to summarize in the few paragraphs of this review. Descartes’ essay is worth reading if you have ever wondered about the philosophy behind his saying “I think, therefore I am.” It is worth reading if you have a few hours to yourself and you want to think. It is challenging, and some of the philosophy went over my head. Despite that, I got a basic understanding of what he was trying to do. He attempts to reason from scratch to prove the existence of the “soul” and of “God,” for he believes that if he is able to prove their existence, then even the most irreligious person would follow his reasoning and become religious. I was not completely convinced by his logic in this regard, with regard to his proof of God’s existence. But I was convinced about the reasoning behind his quote connecting doubting, thinking and existence1. In this review, I have explained both Descartes’ lines of reasoning and the doubts that arose within me when I followed these lines “without prejudice”2.

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India's National Monetization Pipeline

The National Monetisation Pipeline was a policy announced by the BJP government in India in August 2021. This policy was not widely covered in any of the national newspapers, and there were no policy analyses that went deeper than the headline numbers highlighted by the government. While some articles started coming out in September with more details about the government’s expectations, I couldn’t find any criticism of the government’s approach. A tired comparison to Australia’s asset monetisation plan was everywhere, but this did nothing but scratch the surface. (The same comparison was repeated in multiple publications including The Print and India Today.) This post is a summary of my understanding of the policy after reading some detailed coverage in the September 27, 2021 issue of the India Today magazine.

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Monthly Recommendations (November 2021)

The theme for November’s list is Nature. Movies starting with Jurassic Park have tried to show humans that Nature’s powers are wielded at the most uncomfortable times for human beings and that there is really no consideration for us. This does not stop us from wanting to change the natural course. And this forceful change in nature’s course that we effect through our actions, our scientific understanding of fundamentals, our engineering acumen to build huge structures, and our knack for planning long, complex adventures with far-fetched goals in mind is the theme of this month’s recommendation list. It includes one article about a ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal, a team of people who want to set a world-record and thus circle the globe 1.5 times in their pursuit, and the story of a government’s need to do data-driven policy gone haywire.

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Monthly Recommendations (October 2021)

I have tried to stay away from COVID-19 on this blog. Most people are writing nearly constantly about it and I don’t have many original takes on this topic. But this month, I reverted back to a way-of-life that was typical for me before the pandemic began. I traveled to another city to meet relatives; I went on a vacation; I traveled to some places in the city that I am in; I went out to restaurants and dined-in. These experiences signal a return to normalcy which seemed unlikely in March 2020, 18 months ago. These experiences also shined light on a change within myself: I have gotten used to not being among strangers. Going back to a previous lifestyle, seeing and listening to strangers again has been an interesting return to normal. (I am glad that the “new normal” was transient.) So, this month’s theme is a receding pandemic. I look back at some of the articles which I read at various milestones during the pandemic, starting from the beginning of the pandemic in Japan last year, through the emergence of the vaccines, and right up to the most recent article about the long-term effects of this crisis.

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Climate Change Fever, Late 2021 Edition

If you haven’t caught the climate change fever yet, you almost certainly will catch it in the next few weeks. Even a cursory glance of the news will familiarize you with COP26. As the climate conference approaches, Western publications have gone all-in and bet that the conference will generate a large amount of news. They are right about this, the conference is definitely going to be a hotbed of some stunning news stories. Some countries might announce new targets, others might go back on their existing targets or not commit to anything new, etc. Every change in policy will be followed extremely closely and dissected and analyzed from every possible angle. Only one question will remain unanswered: What is the point of all this hoopla?

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