While my sitar gently weeps


Who else but Ravi Shankar.

Shankar practised throughout the day. “It was unusual for someone as old as Robu to be starting formal training,” writes Craske, “but he had the zeal of a convert.” An apt word, because the modern Indian arts—and the sitar is as much an emblem of modernity as the past—were often created by outsiders, rather than “natural” inheritors, with a quasi-religious fervour. I say “quasi” because it’s important to understand that the tradition—whatever its spiritual and philosophical moorings—is a secular one. It was called “classical” music to distinguish it from temple or scriptural music.

The complete article

Amit Chaudhuri — Prospect

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Ashoka’s moral empire


How an ancient Indian emperor, horrified by the cruelty of war, created an infrastructure of goodness.

In the Khyber valley of Northern Pakistan, three large boulders sit atop a hill commanding a beautiful prospect of the city of Mansehra. A low brick wall surrounds these boulders; a simple roof, mounted on four brick pillars, protects the rock faces from wind and rain. This structure preserves for posterity the words inscribed there: ‘Doing good is hard – Even beginning to do good is hard.’ The words are those of Ashoka Maurya, an Indian emperor who, from 268 to 234 BCE, ruled one of the largest and most cosmopolitan empires in South Asia. These words come from the opening lines of the fifth of 14 of Ashoka’s so-called ‘major rock edicts’, a remarkable anthology of texts, circa 257 BCE, in which Ashoka announced a visionary ethical project. Though the rock faces have eroded in Mansehra and the inscriptions there are now almost illegible, Ashoka’s message can be found on rock across the Indian subcontinent – all along the frontiers of his empire, from Pakistan to South India.

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Sonam Kachru — Aeon

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The Confessions of Marcus Hutchins, the Hacker Who Saved the Internet


The judge quickly made clear that he saw Hutchins as not just a convicted criminal but as a cybersecurity expert who had “turned the corner” long before he faced justice. Stadtmueller seemed to be weighing the deterrent value of imprisoning Hutchins against the young hacker’s genius at fending off malevolent code like WannaCry. “If we don’t take the appropriate steps to protect the security of these wonderful technologies that we rely upon each and every day, it has all the potential, as your parents know from your mom’s work, to raise incredible havoc,” Stadtmueller said, referring obliquely to Janet Hutchins’ job with the NHS. “It’s going to take individuals like yourself, who have the skill set, even at the tender age of 24 or 25, to come up with solutions.” The judge even argued that Hutchins might deserve a full pardon, though the court had no power to grant one.

The complete article

Andy Greenberg — Wired

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The president’s job is to manage risk. But Trump is the risk.


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But he has always played with other people’s money and other people’s lives. “The president was probably in a position to make riskier decisions in life because he was fabulously rich from birth,” says Murphy. “But it’s also true he has had a reputation for risk not backed up by reality. His name is on properties he doesn’t own. We think of him as taking risk in professional life, but a lot of what he does is lend his name to buildings with risks taken by others. He’s built an image as a risk taker, but it’s not clear how much risk he’s taken.”

The complete article

Ezra Klein — Vox

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He Was a Science Star. Then He Promoted a Questionable Cure for Covid-19.


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The results of his initial trial have yet to be replicated. “I think what he secretly hopes is that no one will ever be able to show anything,” Molina told me. “That all the trials conducted on hydroxychloroquine will not be able to even reach a conclusion of no efficacy.” In recent weeks, Raoult has in fact tempered his claims about the virtues of his treatment regimen. The published, peer-reviewed version of the final study noted that another two patients had died, bringing the total to 10. Where the earlier version called the drugs “safe and efficient,” they were now described merely as “safe.”

He has shown flickers of what appears to be doubt. In one interview, Raoult quoted Camus, from the fatalistic coda of “The Stranger,” hoping that “on the day of my execution there should be a huge crowd of spectators, and that they should greet me with howls of hatred.”

The Woman Who Can Smell Parkinson’s


Morgan Freeman Takes Off


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An old article published in 1988.

Walking along 42nd Street, Morgan Freeman talks about the performances he most admires—not the Orson Welles of Citizen Kane but the Orson Welles of Touch of Evil; not the Laurence Olivier of Hamlet but the Laurence Olivier of Khartoum. He stops on the sidewalk, raises his right hand to his forehead in a snappy salute. “Now, that’s the level of performance you strive for.”

Like Freeman’s performance in Street Smart. Vicious yet charming, scary yet seductive, menacing yet amiable, the kind of guy who can hold a gun to your throat, then slowly smile, pat you on the cheek, and say, “Come on. I’ll buy you a cuppa coffee.” Freeman’s Fast Black has all the oxymorons you’d expect in a routinely first-rate portrayal of a pimp. But he takes them to a level deeper, playing a man so tautly in control he could snap into psychosis at any second, a man, most of all, who knows that a large part of being a successful pimp is being a gifted actor.

The complete article

Ross Wetzsteon — Bronx Banter

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Kobe Bryant: Sheen of self-perfectionism


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If you want to watch something moving, if you want to see him play basketball but don’t know where to start, try the last three minutes of his last ever game – you can find them on YouTube. Bryant, ageing, tiring, balding, sweating, sucking air, is determined to score as many points as he can, and somehow, against the odds, starts winning – total focus, total exhaustion on his face, while the crowds chant KOBE KOBE KOBE, with his wife and two of his daughters in the front row. It’s a happy scene, almost implausibly celebratory, people are laughing in the stands as each ridiculous shot goes in, though you also get the sense that for them it’s only a game, and that nobody else is taking it quite as seriously.

The complete article

Benjamin Markovits — TLS

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Asimov’s Empire, Asimov’s Wall


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After the war, his reputation as a groper became a running joke among science fiction fans. The writer and editor Judith Merril recalled that Asimov was known in the 1940s as “the man with a hundred hands,” and that he “apparently felt obliged to leer, ogle, pat, and proposition as an act of sociability.” Asimov, in turn, described Merril as “the kind of girl who, when her rear end was patted by a man, patted the rear end of the patter,” although she remembered the episode rather differently: “The third or fourth time his hand patted my rear end, I reached out to clutch his crotch.”

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Alec Nevala-Lee — JSTOR Daily

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Iran’s Deadly Puppet Master


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An old profile of Suleimani.

The prominence the soft-spoken Suleimani has achieved is especially striking given his origins. Born into poverty in the mountains of eastern Iran, he displayed remarkable tenacity at an early age. When his father was unable to pay a debt, the 13-year-old Suleimani worked to pay it off himself. He spent his free time lifting weights and attending sermons given by a protégé of Iran’s current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He was enamored with the Iranian revolution as a young man. In 1979, at only 22, Suleimani began his ascent through the Iranian military, reportedly receiving just six weeks of tactical training before seeing combat for the first time in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province. But he is truly a child of the Iran-Iraq War, which began the next year.  He emerged from the bloody conflict a hero for the missions he led across Iraq’s border—but more important, he emerged as a confident, proven leader.

The complete article

Stanley McChrystal — Foreign Policy

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