Nakul S

Aspiring Polyglot. Lover of films.

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2017 - A lookback

2017 was a fantastic year. I am a believer in using the word fantastic as much as I am allowed to, but this time I truly mean it. It was funny, it was mysterious, it was inspiring and wondrous and joyful and horrendous and cripplingly sad. There was a lot that happened this year - I finally finished business school, moved to my favorite city and started living on my own again. I met some interesting people, almost drowned in a flood, and saw the total eclipse in all the glory of Mother Nature. I went to South East Asia for the first time, ran hundreds of miles collectively, and had the general time of my life overdosing on peak TV.

I have always meditated about writing a lookback post, but I never have. So this year, I’m writing one from November, collecting my thoughts, gathering all things good and bad that have happened to me this year and putting them all here. I’m talking about...

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Water

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet
an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says
“Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a
bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes
“What the hell is water?”

This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the
deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story [“thing”] turns
out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if
you’re worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish
explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don’t be. I am not the
wise old fish. The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious,
important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk
about.

This is the start of David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech at...

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Last

A scruff. Knees scraping. Bottles softly clinking as they touch the ridge. The climb up. A huff, and a final push over the staircase. Finally, we reach over the edge and unto the rooftop we arrive.

And the view.

A sprawling, endless desert of fire and machinery. Fire and metal. A sea of yellow and orange, and boilers and distillers and molten steel. Exhaust pipes that made constant clouds, each more formidable than the last.

This was the city and that was its skyline.

We sit, seven faces in the dim night on the rooftop, bodies flush with alcohol and wrought with sentiment. Fearful – of the world that awaited us. Terrified – of losing this fragile bond between us and getting lost in the drudgery of everyday madness. The last of the irresponsible drinking and days of pointless laughter and cheap highs.

Silence descends.

We look across into the fire afar, each hoping to find meaning...

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Granny

“The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.” She thought for a moment. Then she smiled.
“Except for Granny, of course.”

If you pause while reading Neil Gaiman, you’ll bump into nuggets of precious writing. I thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ . It felt like a chapter from the Sandman comics, whimsical, dreamy, monstrous and all-round magical. It was definitely better than what most consider his best book, American Gods. Catch this book sometime, when you’re in the mood for phantasmagoria.

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Run

I went running in the evening today. It was sunny when I left my home, but it became cloudy - the kind of weather where the rain’s unsure of coming down or staying there. And so I reached the crowded SeaFace for my run.

I began running. About 10 minutes in, I was fiddling with my earphones and changing the song when I bumped into someone and almost fell. He was an old man, using a walker for support and a caretaker with him. Shocked, I began to apologize profusely. But he didn’t seem to mind. Not one bit. He looked up and down, sizing me up, gazing at my shoes. He wasn’t angry. He was beaming at me. He seemed so happy that I was running and seemed to find some vicarious joy in it, while the caretaker glared at me. I apologized again, but he waved it off and stared at me as I plugged my earphones back and moved aside to resume my run. Again I looked at him, and he stared back, almost...

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Imagine the Future

“If you want to imagine the future, imagine a boy and his dog and his friends. And a summer that never ends.

And if you want to imagine the future, imagine a boot … no, imagine a sneaker, laces trailing, kicking a pebble; imagine a stick, to poke at interesting things, and throw for a dog that may or may not decide to retrieve it; imagine a tuneless whistle, pounding some luckless popular song into insensibility; imagine a figure, half angel, half devil, all human …

Slouching hopefully towards Tadfield… .
… forever.”

Reading Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. This is how you end books.

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Prayers

Many films diminish us. They cheapen us, masturbate our senses, hammer us with shabby thrills, diminish the value of life. Some few films evoke the wonderment of life’s experience, and those I consider a form of prayer. Not prayer “to” anyone or anything, but prayer “about” everyone and everything. I believe prayer that makes requests is pointless. What will be, will be. But I value the kind of prayer when you stand at the edge of the sea, or beneath a tree, or smell a flower, or love someone, or do a good thing. Those prayers validate existence and snatch it away from meaningless routine.

Roger Ebert wrote these wondrous lines for his review of the Tree of Life, itself an epic. Roger Ebert remains the first guy in history to win a Pulitzer Prize for film criticism.

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The Master

I’ve gone back to reading Wodehouse this past week and I’m back in gushing fanboy love again, not that there’s any other emotion you can feel with him. Wodehouse is the Master. “ Still the funniest writer ever to have put words on paper ” as Hugh Laurie called him. This is about the most understated compliment you can give Wodehouse.

What amazes me each time I pick up a Wodehouse book is the wonderful prose. Nobody writes like that anymore. There are lots of funny writers, but none can make you grin absurdly like him. As an example to his starkly different prose:

“What ho!” I said.

“What ho!” said Motty.

“What ho!  What ho!”

“What ho!  What ho!  What ho!”

After that it seemed rather difficult to go on with the conversation.

See what I mean? Hilarious.

Wodehouse was one of the early writers who relied on situational comedy. He created hilarious situations for his characters...

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Flying Cars

In my favorite article of all time, George Packer mentions what is arguably Peter Thiel’s most famous quote: “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.“ In other words, according to Thiel, technology progressed, but not in the right direction. Technology reached a standstill, or there is a stagnation currently.” I don’t consider this to be a technological breakthrough,” he said (of his iPhone). “Compare this with the Apollo space program.“

I’ve thought a lot about this statement, and what it means. Is it right, and are we really stagnating? Or is he completely off-track? Most people think its the latter. We’ve got virtual reality, drone delivery, 3D printing of houses and body parts. There’s progress, however incremental on almost all fronts. Technology has crept into every aspect of existence. There is progress, and lots of it. As Thiel’s "intellectual sparring partner”...

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The Fundamental Problem in Public Policy

Or rather, the fundamental problem that Public Policy aims to solve.
Clickbaited you there, didn’t I?

Public policy is that branch of politics that aims to solve problems a civic society faces. It is problem-solving, on a government level. So what is the main problem that Public policy or policy analysts aim to solve?

I think it is the attempt to improve the psyche of a nation. It is finding ways to make sure the collective thought of the nation is progressing. How do you design policies that ensure that this generation and the successive generations do not litter on the roads? How do you implement policies and laws to ensure we follow traffic rules? Successive governments and policymakers have tried and failed to incentivize us to stop littering or stop spitting. But we all know how that’s fared. So how do you do it? I have no answer. But its worth thinking about ; that this is the...

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