About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

26 March 2016

Movie: The Big Short

The Big Short is somewhat like a re-enactment movie from the History Channel - with a bit less voice over, way better acting and arguably far more informative. Charting the path of three groups of investors who went against the established understanding of the US housing market - it is probably the most easily communicated story on the 2007 financial crisis. 

The negativity and the derision received by the three groups is in itself enlightening - how people in general do not like to hear contrarian positions; and how difficult it is to motivate contrarian positions. In addition, the story makes a very pointed link that the financial crisis was not just as a result of people who did not pay careful attention - but rather, that the position was a direct result of fraud and abuse of insider knowledge. 

And most worryingly, because the underlying cause of the 2007 meltdown was not really addressed - it is likely to occur again.

25 March 2016

Movie: Spotlight

It is somewhat ironic that a new media organisation, First Look Media, financed the Oscar winning movie about investigative journalism in the old media world. With The Intercept, First Look does have some of the characteristics of investigative journalism; but that is more due to the seed of its formation with Snowden's leaks. 

What Spotlight shows, above all else, is how difficult investigative journalism really is - not only the amazingly long time it takes to really understand a story, identify sources, the emotional toll on the reporters and above all else - get the story right. It is the complete opposite of most modern media - publishing before verifying, publishing without getting the complete story or even understanding whether there is a story. 

And in some ways, Spotlight asks the really difficult question - would a similar investigation be even possible by today's media - or is this really the homage to a lost profession? At the end of the movie, Stanley Tucci's character says - "keep doing what you do" - but are there really that many investigative reporters left in the world?

22 March 2016

History of Philosophy (Without any Gaps)

In late 2014, I came across a book covering classical philosophy - but what drew my attention more was the mention that the book was the result of a series of podcasts on philosophy by Professor Peter Adamson. While I considered buying the book, and even took down the name of the podcast - I didn't really pay attention - as I was not really into podcasts.

Then in January 2015, I discovered Serial - season 1 was winding down; and I was hooked - both on Serial and podcasts in general. Podcasts have become my defacto travel companion; and the History of Philosophy Without any Gaps series is the only one (apart from Serial) that I really started from the beginning. And after 260+ episodes; I have finally drawn level with the most current episode (now also covering History of Philosophy in India).

Prof. Adamson takes a broad perspective on Philosophy (sometimes, it can be argued that it's too broad) - covering not only the staples such as logic and argument; but also topics such as theology. But the beauty of this approach is - that it becomes more than just a recitation of philosophy. The podcast becomes an exploration of the intellectual development of human ideas - of how human thought has changed over time; and how ideas have built upon various interconnected and often surprising threads. And through all of this, there is the overall economic, political and religious history that overlay these developments. 

While there is philosophical jargon (which I don't understand, or to be honest care for); and some interviews and guests get too enthusiastic about their specialisations; the endeavour itself is a massive undertaking. The style of presentation is also worth commending, despite some cheesy puns and a proliferation of giraffes and Buster Keaton; Prof. Adamson makes the topic of the week interesting and engaging.

This is in effect an attempt at a singular compendium of how human intellectual thought has progressed - and there is a very long way to go. As covered in the podcast series; Philosophers have always valued commentators and their contributions to preserving philosophy. Prof. Adamson has probably already become the supreme commentator when it comes to how many he has commented upon; and what he has set out to perform. I hope that it continues till we get to Prof. Adamson commenting on his own achievements when the series catches up.