links for 2009-01-24

24 Jan
  • What would help ameliorate future financial crises? The government should not be in the business of hiding real risks through political imperatives, or of insulating corporations from the risks that they have freely taken. Doing so confounds the normal risk signals that keep the market in balance. For risk aversion to keep markets working, people and corporations have to be allowed to assess real risks and to fail if they take inappropriate risks. Only the people who produce wealth can properly assess how best to risk it in future investments. The Warren Buffetts of the world can do that. The Ben Bernankes cannot.
  • An assertion is made about Maytas Properties having a land bank of 6,800 acres on the same page – however, a CNBC report could verfiy only 100 acres of this land (I have posted previously on this). This view is consistent with the statement on the bottom of page 6 that only 110 acres of 6,800 acres has been pledged with banks for loans. Obviously, you can't pledge more than you own. Practically every aspect of the presentation made was based on misrepresentation.
    While there are so many gems in these minutes – it is clear the independent directors only asked enough questions to cover their rear. Obviously no meaningful questions were asked, at least not with any seriousness. This is reflected in their immediate satisfaction with any answer given, howesoever irrelevant and absurd.
    (tags: satyam fraud)
  • …I am embarrassed to admit that I don't watch Doordarshan now. Perhaps Doordarshan changed. Perhaps I changed. But Doordarshan has remained to me what my small town is – the faraway, tiny island of memory that has so many personal stories wrapped around it, where I often take refuge when the past seems more comforting than the present.
    I miss the Doordarshan of my childhood. I miss my naani. I miss the guavas she cut and sprinkled with the spicy "buknu" powder. I miss the stern-faced rasgulla seller with the thick twirling moustache who came sharp at 3 p.m. around the corner, carrying a wooden, glass-walled box on the head and selling gulab jaamun for 25 paise each. I miss buying tiny birthday gifts for my mother with our monthly pocket money of ten rupees, later raised to twenty due to inflation. I miss the Murphy radio my brother and I broke and hid under the bed until my father found out three days later. I miss the trips to the messy chaotic lanes of Aminabad.
  • books that really sell in India — indeed, anywhere in the world — are those that promise to change your life. In other words, self-help books. This, then, is a look at some of the titles we could well be seeing on the shelves in the near future.
  • The big question, however, is whether memories alone can make a movie – and the answer, based on the evidence of Chandni Chowk to China, would have be, well, perhaps every now and then. Because between all the nostalgic nods – my favourite is a throwaway shot of a father and his estranged daughters, all in the same frame, all blissfully unaware that, as in a Manmohan Desai production, reunion is but a shout away – there are stretches that are weighted down by a distressing amount of dead air. The problem isn’t the shambling plot – some cheerfully lowbrow hooey about a cook (Sidhu, played by Akshay Kumar) navigating the titular journey upon being mistaken for the reincarnation of a Chinese warlord-chief – but Advani is a curious choice to direct this material.
  • I'd like to think that this is a romantic return to youth, but it looks like a bad case of cultural infantilism. And when we're not horning in on our kids' favorite books, most of us aren't reading anything at all. More than half the adults in this country won't pick up a novel this year, according to the National Endowment for the Arts. Not one. And the rate of decline has almost tripled in the past decade.
    …Data from the NEA point to a dramatic and accelerating decline in the number of young people reading fiction. Despite their enthusiasm for books in grade school, by high school, most kids are not reading for pleasure at all…
    And when their parents do pick up a novel, it's often one that leaves a lot to be desired.
  • So the next time your brain insists on fearing strangers, try to tell it to cool out a bit. It’s not that you necessarily need to insist that it fear your friends and family instead — unless, of course, you are friends with someone like Bernie Madoff. Don’t forget that the greatest financial fraud in history was committed primarily among friends. And with friends like that, who needs strangers?
  • Generally, when people simply see the phrase "What Should I Do With My Life?" in print, it conjures a notion of deep introspection that is implicitly economically-self-indulgent…
    But the article itself flipped that connotation inside-out. It argued that with the economy in a tailspin, it was unsound economic theory to have millions of drone workers shuffling to work every day doing jobs at quarter-speed they didn't care about, so they weren't very productive at, and certainly didn't add value at. The economy would never get kick-started if our workforce was uninspired and didn't innovate. So the article — really a manifesto — suggested that the way to get business going again was for its basic building blocks — the workers — to do something they were really good at, or were inspired by, or cared about, where they would work extra hard, and innovate their way out of this black hole.
  • Instead of focusing on what's next , let's get back to what's first . The previous era of business was defined by the question, Where's the opportunity? I'm convinced that business success in the future starts with the question, What should I do with my life?…People don't succeed by migrating to a "hot" industry (one word: dotcom) or by adopting a particular career-guiding mantra (remember "horizontal careers"?). They thrive by focusing on the question of who they really are — and connecting that to work that they truly love (and, in so doing, unleashing a productive and creative power that they never imagined). Companies don't grow because they represent a particular sector or adopt the latest management approach. They win because they engage the hearts and minds of individuals who are dedicated to answering that life question.
    This is not a new idea. But it may be the most powerfully pressing one ever to be disrespected by the corporate world.
  • I also wonder about this fight over depicting "reality" in movies. It's true that vast disparities of wealth are a reality in India where a Dharavi and Ambani's residence co-exist in the same city…But such are the paradoxes of India and it's best to embrace them instead of getting horrified.
    To me, both are the present realities of India and anyone who ignores one or the other is ignoring the truth. I am not an advocate of ignoring India's poverty because it may be shameful to some, but neither am I a proponent of bringing up India's poverty everytime some genuine achievements are mentioned – that seems to be the game played by those inspired by certain ideologies or partisan politics. Yes, there's still work to be done but I'm sure we'll get there. However, I do remain skeptical of the effect a movie can have on alleviating poverty by simply depicting it, when a movie is a product that we all consume and is the ultimate in make-believe.
  • In the hot days immediately after the fatwa, with Salman himself on the run and the TV screens filled with images of burning books and writhing mustaches, I was stopped by a female Muslim interviewer and her camera crew and asked an ancient question: “Is nothing sacred?” I can’t remember quite what I answered then, but I know what I would say now. “No, nothing is sacred. And even if there were to be something called sacred, we mere primates wouldn’t be able to decide which book or which idol or which city was the truly holy one. Thus, the only thing that should be upheld at all costs and without qualification is the right of free expression, because if that goes, then so do all other claims of right as well.” I also think that human life has its sacrosanct aspect, and though I can think of many circumstances in which I would take a life, the crime of writing a work of fiction is not a justification (even in the case of Ludlum) that I could ever entertain.
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Posted by on January 24, 2009 in Links


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