Nuggets and Aphorisms

Food for thought. These first appeared in Amit Varma's blog, India Uncut

Saturday, June 24, 2006


In most men there is something evil which resents greatness in others. With what delight are tales repeated of people's private lives as though the fact that Marlowe was a homosexual, Shelley a nympholept, Dr Johnson a masochist, Dostoevsky a gambler, Turner a miser or that Dickens maintained at least one mistress, in any way affects the greatness of their work? Unable to attack that work, the denigrators think by labelling the men with various weaknesses that they belittle it, which is nonsense. Just as, unable to bear the thought of any one one man being as mighty as Shakespeare, people must invent theories to prove that he was a syndicate or at least that he was a gentleman, a Bacon or a de Vere or a cryptogram, so must tales be whispered about Bradman, and when these tales fail to stick, envy mutters its last poison with the word machine.

Machines can be very beautiful things.
Philip Lindsay, in his delighful biography, "Don Bradman." Such truth, though I'm not sure I concur with the word "evil" in the first sentence. If something so commonplace can be termed evil, what does that say about us?
amit varma, 3:41 PM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink | homepage |

Friday, June 23, 2006

The dribble, the pass, the beauty

[W]e love the ball more than the game and, for that reason, the dribble more than the pass.
Jorge Valdano, about the way Argentina like to play their football, in a fascinating piece in the Guardian about that famous Argentina-England game in the 1986 World Cup, and those two goals Diego Maradona scored.

That second goal, ah, such football! That's beauty in the service of efficiency, something great teams and great players managed. And Maradona could pass as well as he could dribble and score -- Brazil found that out the hard way in 1990.
amit varma, 5:34 PM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink | homepage |

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The long and the short of it

Schmuck! You shortchanged yourself. What studio head tells a director to make a picture longer? Only a nut like me. You shot a saga, and you turned in a trailer. Now give me a movie.
Robert Evans, Hollywood mogul, shouting at Francis Ford Coppola after the first screening of "The Godfather."

I found this quote in an excellent feature in the Guardian by Peter Bradshaw on how extremely long modern Hollywood films are getting. He's upset that "The Da Vinci Code" was "a pitiless two-and-a-half hours." Peter, dude, if you're in Mumbai anytime soon, gimme a buzz and I'll take you for a Yashraj film or two. They you'll know 'pitiless'!

Nah, actually I agree with Bradshaw, and the greatest movie-watching experiences of my life have come watching the ten one-hour films in "The Decalogue," Krzysztof Kieslowski's masterpiece. In India, strangely, we have a taste for the longer stuff. Are our lives are so wretched that we need more of the escapism? Nah.

(Link via email from Kind Friend.)
amit varma, 8:48 AM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink | homepage |

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Piss, and copyright

It is better to be pissed off than pissed on.
Stephen James Joyce, grandson of James, quoted in an excellent feature by DT Max in the New Yorker, "The Injustice Collector." Stephen Joyce controls James Joyce's estate, and the piece is about how, in his efforts to 'protect' his grandaddy's estate, he stifles a lot of legitimate scholarship.

Having copyright protection extend to 70 years after the creator's death seems a bit excessive to me. (It was 50 until the Mickey Mouse Protection Act.) I quite understand Stephen Joyce's desire to protect his family's privacy, but trying to shield his granddad from literary criticism by not allowing scholars to quote from his works is pushing it too far.

(Link via email from The Graduate, in response to this post of mine.)

Update: Ashutosh Jogalekar writes in to remind me of Lyndon Johnson's famous quote about why he kept K Edgar Hoover in the FBI. Johnson remarked that it was "better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in."

What I want to know is what the hell was a tent doing there? Brokeback Mountain or what?
amit varma, 12:49 AM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink | homepage |

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The absurdity of money

We were in a lawyer's office and we had to decide at what age Otto would be given a, you know, substantial amount of money. And they said, '15?' and we said, 'God no!' And they kept suggesting older and older ages until we surpassed our own age: 'People of 33 should not be handling this sum of money. That's absurd!'
Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, in an interview with my former boss, Tim de Lisle. "A Series of Unfortunate Events" (a lovely series, though it gets tiresome if you try to read all the books at one go) has earned Handler more than US$ 50 million, and yet he's struggling to make a mark in adult fiction under his own name. Such irony.
amit varma, 10:05 PM| write to me | email this to a friend | permalink | homepage |