An Asian Peace Plan for the War on Christmas

With Christmas round the corner, and War on Christmas cries against Obama rising instead of the good old War is Over, today’s needull looks at multiethnic Singapore:

Commercial or food-centric or not, the important point was that we all came together — and not just for Christmas but for Chinese New Year and Deepavali and everything in between. These festivals for us — regardless of religion or race — were about coming together to break bread and celebrate one another’s different cultures and understand them, after all. And it’s clearer to me now more than ever that we were the better for it — for us seeing the blurred lines of all our holidays and embracing them as one.

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Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

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The movie created by a collective memory

Collective memories define generations. But not all of them are true. This needull points to one such memory: A film called Shazam. I have such memories too, at least two: of a Japanese remake of Sigappu Rojakkal and of a 1984 horror film called Pyasa Shaitan. (Okay, after years of searching, that second one turned out to be true as I found it on YouTube in early 2010s, though I am not sure if it was ever released in theaters.

I can’t find evidence of the Clarks offer on the internet, though my sister remembers it and a poll that I conducted online shows that at least 500 other people do, too. Does this mean my memory is real? We have become very used to the idea that you can find anything on the internet, yet what do we accept as “proof”? Do we need pictures, videos, and articles, or is the fact that hundreds of others share our memory enough?

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The author

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The choice is yours

Today’s needull is about an art exhibit that explores how we make decisions, and how we choose the person we vote for:

R Luke DuBois an artist who works with data, and a professor at NYU. For his video Acceptance (2016), he wrote software to synchronize Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s convention acceptance speeches, so they appear to be reading each other’s words in a never-ending crossfire. In another one of his recent installations, Take a Bullet for the City (2014), a semiautomatic handgun connected to a police feed fires every time someone is shot in New Orleans. For A More Perfect Union (2011), DuBois downloaded 19m online dating profiles and ran word analyses across them, finding out how people in different cities described themselves. His most recent fascination is the process of voting – how we vote, and how we make choices.

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Geeta Dayal

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Stephen King: Why Bob Dylan Deserves the Nobel Prize

There has been a lot of talk about Bob Dylan winning a Nobel for literature. The voices have got shriller since he said he will not be able to make it to the ceremony. Here is another great writer, Stephen King, speaking up on why Dylan deserved the prize:

People complaining about his Nobel either don’t understand or it’s just a plain old case of sour grapes. I’ve seen several literary writers who have turned their noses up at the Dylan thing, like Gary Shteyngart. Well, I’ve got news for you, Gary: There are a lot of deserving writers who have never gotten the Nobel Prize. And Gary Shteyngart will probably be one of them. That’s no reflection on his work. You have to rise to the level of a Faulkner if you’re an American.

My kids listen to Dylan, and so do my grandkids. That’s three generations. That’s real longevity and quality. Most people in pop music are like moths around a bug light; they circle for a while and then there’s a bright flash and they’re gone. Not Dylan.

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Stephen King – Amazon page

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The fears that the Frankfurt school had after the second world war did not materialize then. But, Alex Rose argues in today’s needull, they are coming true with Trump’s rise to POTUS:

The fears of Mann, Adorno, and other émigrés came to naught—or so it seemed. The McCarthyite danger passed; civil rights advanced; free speech triumphed; liberal democracy spread around the world. By the end of the century, the Frankfurt School was seen in many quarters as an artifact of intellectual kitsch. In recent years, though, its stock has risen once again. As Stuart Jeffries points out in his recent book, “Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School,” the ongoing international crisis of capitalism and liberal democracy has prompted a resurgence of interest in the body of work known as critical theory. The combination of economic inequality and pop-cultural frivolity is precisely the scenario Adorno and others had in mind: mass distraction masking élite domination.

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Alex Ross at the New Yorker

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The artistry of ‘hijra’ music

Today’s needull is about music that we hear in India on all happy occasion, but still tend to look down upon:

Among some of the most marginalized of communities that have conventionally been professionally associated with singing and dancing is possibly the hijra community of transgender individuals. Although references to hijras in India date back several centuries, it is in the early part of the 19th century that they are mentioned as performers who sing and dance at auspicious occasions like weddings, the birth of a child, or trade-related events like the opening of a new store. Sadly, despite being associated with music and dance, hijras, khusras or pavaiyaas, different sociocultural communities of transgender individuals, have rarely been considered true “artistes” by practitioners of classical music and dance.

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Shubha Mudgal – Music Matters

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Post-facto design in policy

Policy in India sometimes seems to be a marketing exercise, done with the aim to maximize shock and awe. This has been the case with RTE earlier, and demonetisation now. Today’s needull points out how – in the case of RTE – this meant the first encounter with reality being worse than it needed to be:

The RTE law is a beauteous example of a law that evolved after its promulgation and continues to do so even today. The law has, predictably, not done well on contact with reality and its first reform is quite overdue.

Much is due to a system that is trained in post-facto design and iteration, aka adjust. Witness the annual budgeting exercise for the nation. Admittedly it had much more significance in the licence raj, but even today the industry lobbies thrum with activity in January and February as they pitch for lower taxes or other concessions in the budgets.

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Author – Meeta Sengupta

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“Online” is “real life” as well

A lot of people around me, and I am certain around you, make a distinction between their lives online and offline. This distinction is a lie. Our civic responsibilities do not disappear just because we are on Snapchat or Tumblr or Facebook. Whatever we choose to say has the exact same impact on the person at the other side of the conversation as it does afk.

Telling someone to go offline to get away from trolls is like telling them to stop leaving the house. Maybe it’s safer in there, but you can’t survive if you never leave. Many people need to be online to do work, attend school, and get important information. We literally can’t find out what our president-elect is saying if we don’t log into Twitter once in a while. “Going offline” isn’t a real option anymore.

As we continue forward into the twenty-first century, we need to take seriously the fact that every aspect of our lives has an online component, whether we like it or not. There is no such thing as an exclusively online movement or social experience. Our real lives, what we do in the streets, are wired into computer networks. The way those networks are run and the rules that govern them are explicitly political.

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Author profile

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In the game of life, anything times zero must still be zero

Today’s needull addresses an interesting question: how much risk is okay early in life? Should you park anything with risk for a little later in life?

There is a case to be made that, in the game of life, avoiding elimination in the early rounds is a good approach.

It always interests me that we are now more sanctimonious about tobacco than we are about drink, cycling, motorcycling and mountaineering. Almost every single person I know who has died before the age of 50 was killed by one of these four.

Something economists don’t understand, with their narrow focus on utility, which is an artificial additive function accumulated in a series of independent transactions, is that life is multiplicative, not additive. And it is path dependent.

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The author

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Is Wealthy the Only Rich?

What does it mean to be rich? Is it just having a lot of wealth amassed or is there more to it? Does a rich life have to be wealthy as well? In today’s needull, many a new wealth heroes answer these questions. All these perspectives move me to take the plunge towards a 4-hour work week.

‘‘Time is money’ is a weird saying – and a stupid one too. Time is freedom. Time is the only thing that matters and the experiences that you pack into it are the only true measure of your wealth.

‘Before the children were born I was the creative director for Red Bull in the US and my wife Chrissie was a project manager there. We worked 24/7, always in the air from one place to another. It was insane and exciting, and we were earning a lot of money.

‘But when Chrissie discovered she was pregnant six years ago, we decided to pull the parachute on that lifestyle and slow our whole world right down.

‘We planned our exit carefully and I opened a small design studio in Hamburg located just a few minutes from a great kindergarten and from our home.

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The Future Laboratory

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