‘We are witnessing a crime against humanity’: Arundhati Roy on India’s Covid catastrophe


India is going through hell. Feels like some God has snapped his fingers and people are dying like flies. There is too much shock to even react.

This one was predicted, although its virulence has taken even scientists and virologists by surprise. So where is the Covid-specific infrastructure and the “people’s movement” against the virus that Modi boasted about in his speech? Hospital beds are unavailable. Doctors and medical staff are at breaking point. Friends call with stories about wards with no staff and more dead patients than live ones. People are dying in hospital corridors, on roads and in their homes. Crematoriums in Delhi have run out of firewood. The forest department has had to give special permission for the felling of city trees. Desperate people are using whatever kindling they can find. Parks and car parks are being turned into cremation grounds. It’s as if there’s an invisible UFO parked in our skies, sucking the air out of our lungs. An air raid of a kind we’ve never known.

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Arundhati Roy — The Guardian

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The Lack of Small Talk Is Breaking Our Brains


I spent just 4 days in office in last 12 months before the lock-down again kicked in India. I miss the casual conversations.

And it’s not just work small talk that we’re missing out on. Chatting with strangers out in public can also prove valuable—though it’s now increasingly rare. Gillian Sandstrom, a psychologist at the University of Essex, conducted one study that found that, when people engaged more with a barista—smiling, making eye contact, conversing—they felt a greater sense of community belonging. In another, her data showed that, the more people mingled with acquaintances or strangers in a day, the better their mood and sense of connection. Sandstrom observed that, in a normal prepandemic day, people interacted with an average of eleven acquaintances; university students interacted with sixteen. But, now, talking with more than two or three people a day seems inconceivable.

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Hannah Seo — The Walrus

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How Chinese cuisine became India’s comfort food


Chinese cuisine served in India is markedly different from that in China. I have witnessed how the dishes are evolving on the streets of small towns in India.

The evolution of Chinese food in India was accelerated by several such innovations, among them the invention of chicken manchurian. A man named Nelson Wang, the son of Chinese immigrants in Kolkata, is most often credited with its creation. The story goes that Wang ended up in Bombay in the 1970s, working as an assistant cook at another Taj restaurant, Frederick’s. One day, he happened to experiment with mixing garlic, ginger, and green chillies—quintessentially Indian ingredients—with soy sauce and cornstarch to thicken the gravy. The result was the now ubiquitous chicken manchurian.

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Maria Thomas — QZ

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What a Tiny Masterpiece Reveals About Power and Beauty


An amazing use of simple zooming to explain subtle points.

You will not, however, find it with the bulk of the museum’s Indian art. This painting, and the album it comes from, are in the Islamic collection; it’s a Muslim masterpiece made 2,500 miles from Mecca.

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Jason Farago — The New York Times

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Why You Stay Up So Late, Even When You Know You Shouldn’t


AS A SELF-PROCLAIMED night owl, I’m rarely surprised when I lift my eyes from Instagram and see that it’s well past when I intended to go to sleep. Here’s how I explain it to myself: I’ve always stayed up late, and now the only time I get to myself is when my husband and daughter are asleep. Here’s what’s actually going on: I’m procrastinating.

Some researchers call this bedtime procrastination or while-in-bed procrastination, while the Chinese word for it translates to “revenge bedtime procrastination.” No matter what you call it, in my case, it involves a combination of technology and anxiety; I worry that I won’t be able to fall asleep quickly, so I tell myself that I’ll just scroll through social media until I’m exhausted. It is this—along with a lack of what researchers refer to as self-regulation—that makes me a textbook sleep procrastinator.

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Ashley Lauretta — Wired

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One of the most delightful fantasies ever put on film


This 1940 movie is one of the great entertainments. It lifts up the heart. An early Technicolor movie, it employs colors gladly and with boldness, using costumes to introduce a rainbow. It has adventure, romance, song, a Miklos Rozsa score that one critic said is “a symphony accompanied by a movie.” It had several directors; as producer, Alexander Korda leaped from one horse to another in midstream. But it maintains a consistent spirit, and that spirit is one of headlong joy in storytelling.

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Roger Ebert

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Facebook Is a Global Mafia


What does Facebook want? To never pay a penny in taxes or fees, for starters. But the larger answer seems to be that Facebook wants the right to devour a country’s advertising market and freely tinker with the algorithmic dials governing what millions of people see. Anything that stands in the way of their autonomy to set a population’s informational intake—or that threatens to undermine the bottom line—is considered a threat. Facebook’s response in Australia shows that it’s not afraid to go nuclear to protect its market dominance and tens of billions in annual profits—a move that implicitly acknowledges that the company has too much power.

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Jacob Silverman — The New Republic

The Royals & Their Fictions


Morgan similarly oversteps in his account of the breakdown of the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. The heir to the throne is shown surrendering to the charms of a teenager 13 years his junior at a vulnerable moment—following the murder in 1979 of his grand-uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, in an IRA bombing. This much rings true, but then The Crown has the prince abandoning his bride and relying on his lover, Camilla Parker-Bowles, immediately following the wedding. “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded,” Princess Diana said famously in a 1995 BBC interview—and the show doubles down on that take. The messy reality that a woman chosen for her virginity—her suitability as future queen, in the traditional view of the role—would prove incompatible with an older man who had very different interests, is pushed aside for a simpler story: A young, well-intentioned beauty is shamefully used by a selfish, over-entitled stuffed shirt.

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Clare McHugh — Commentary

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How Priyanka Chopra Jonas Gets It Done


On social-media criticism:
Girl, I learned how to deal with that in a year or so [into my career]. Now I’ve been a public person for most of my life — it comes with brickbats and bouquets. You make that deal with the devil, the fact that I’m going to do this job, and I’m for consumption, news about me is for consumption — I made peace with that 20 years ago. So it doesn’t bother me unless it affects my work or my family. But my job is tangible. I go to a set, I create a movie, a TV show. This is what my work is. The freedom and beauty of social media is to create a medium for conversations. I have a tremendous amount of love and support on my social media from people who are interested or curious. At the same time, my relationship with social media changed after large, obscure “scandals” or chatter online that were baffling to me. I’m not as free, open, or vulnerable as I used to be. I monitor my relationship with the internet. I consume it for the positives.

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Hope Resse — The Cut

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The New Americans


Here, in other words, was Occupy Wall Street in action, but maybe a hundred times more effective: ordinary people protesting against the financialization of the U.S. economy by taking collective action to squeeze the short-sellers, saving companies they cared about and saving thousands of jobs belonging to the people who work at those companies, while forcing the suits to disgorge some part of the money they were making by treating the market like a giant video game and squeezing the life out of companies for profit. Give the money back to the people! And hats off to them boyz and girlz willing to show their faith in collective action by putting their measly day-trading accounts on the line. What a perfectly American act. What a demonstration of collective solidarity in action at a time of increasing social atomization and economic suffering, in the dead of winter, in the middle of a pandemic—why, I could just go on and on and on. …

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David Samuels — Tablet Magazine

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