Wednesday, February 11, 2015

More Miniscule Musings

  • As a heartfelt 'thank you' to their Soviet once-overlords and for being subjected to their magnanimous, random-acts-of-senseless-kindness over several decades, this Polish town decided to give back - by means of a wonderful, charming statue of the great Vladimir Ilyich. (Apparently it's even become a tourist attraction now.) Here is the news item and the statue in question

    Now chuckle to your heart's content!

  • Jon Stewart's leaving The Daily Show! As a long time fan, this is a little surprising, though not completely unexpected (NF and Vatsa were among the show's audience once with Jennifer Aniston as guest). Of late, the show was losing its edge, the writing seemed halfhearted and its thunder was stolen by the Stephen Colberts and John Olivers. However, credit must be given to Jon Stewart's championing of a new form of journalism; and for showing that farce, absurdism and satire can be as potent as serious investigative reportage.

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel employs all the by-now-classic stamps of a Wes Anderson handiwork - a fairy-tailish setting; children as miniature adults and adults as oversized children; precious character pieces that you can't not adore etc. etc. - but it leaves you feeling cold. True, it's his most visually arresting film and the art direction is stunning; but in the end it feels more a triumph of style over substance. This is especially true if The Grand Budapest... is compared to Anderson's oeuvre as a whole which includes the absolutely delightful Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited and the likes. However, as one of NF's favorite filmmakers, this film's success in the prize/festival circuit can't help but please NF.


  • Here is an excellent, well written profile of Walter Pitts - an early AI trailblazer - focusing on the human interest angle of scientific research and the sad, true story of his incredible, raw talent and his homeless-to-genius-to-alcoholic-to-penniless-dead-guy life trajectory. Also starring as main villain, is Norbert Weiner's wife Margaret, whose machinations would make Lalita Pawar proud.

  • A portrait of the mathematician as a hero: This is the New Yorker's profile of Yitang Zhang - the mathematician who put a finite bound on the prime number gap (the bound in question being 70 million). NF has written about his amazing achievement before, especially his dogged pursuit of the problem despite being brutally, brutally underemployed for several decades.

    If you can look past the very dramatic, filmy-with-bordering-on-the-hagiographic profile (imagine a lonely genius looking through a rain drenched window dreamily etc. type stereotypes) it comes across as surprisingly informative and well researched. NF can personally vouch for Zhang's self effacing, shy but very funny personality since he had the honor of attending his talk at Stony Brook last year. (An example of his shy, somewhat deadpan sense of humor was seen in a post-talk question to the effect that "You proved prime gaps are finite but why did you give a (ridiculously high) bound of 70 million?" Zhang was quiet for a few seconds and then smiled and said softly: "I was tired.")

  • It is very, very heartening to see Bill and Melinda Gates win the Padma Bhushan this year. The Gates' Foundation has done incredibly good work, not just in India but all over the developing world. Personally, NF has been cheering on this new avatar of Bill Gates for some years now and if within the next few decades Bill and Melinda Gates don't win the Nobel Peace Prize, one could be forgiven for thinking that only the future Henry Kissingers are under contention, for having underperformed against their yearly evil benchmark.

No comments: