I always wonder what drives the journalists that sit in their air-conditioned newsrooms to go on a monologue. Questioning every other person, related to every news that has happened today. Or yesterday. Or in the last week. Or in the last year. The freshness, the relevance of the news they are reporting on, commenting on does not matter to them. What matters is their perceived notion that a journalism degree gives them a right to question, to mock, and these days, even scold everyone else.

They scold; absolutely pointing and shouting at their “guests”. Of course, even these “guests” know they are only here for getting scolded. There are those guests that get all the attention, all the respect. And then there are the remaining asses warming the chairs in the studios. Many only get to talk for once or twice. I wonder do they themselves care. Or are they just picked randomly from the support staff?

It is tiring to watch the debates on the news shows. Or the monologues that precede them. I’ve anyway long stopped watching any form of news for that matter. These anchors, though, need to remember that they are anchors, not judges.

We never call anything that’s good ‘content’. Nobody walks out of a movie they loved and says, ‘Wow! What great content!’ Nobody listens to ‘content’ on their way to work in the morning. Do you think anybody ever called Ernest Hemingway a ‘content creator’? If they did, I bet he would punch ‘em in the nose.

Greg Satell

Another issue of Slanting Nib & A Keyboard newsletter is out today. It features a few well-written essays that talk about the partisan debates around the different forms of the books, starting with their evolution over the years, from “the clay tablets to the e-book format”. The physical, emotional and psychological effects of eBooks and paper; a love letter to audiobooks. This issue has it all.

Do give it a read online. If what you read interests you, please subscribe. If you are already subscribed and have been enjoying the issues, I will appreciate if you forward them to your friends.

I came across this short little post I’d written 9 years back, ruminating on how we are so different. I believe if there’s anything that this year has proven, it is that just my small wish of uniting us my name was so naive.

We, the people of India; the divided people of India.

We are divided by states. We are divided by religion. We are divided by language. We are divided by accent. We are divided by names. We are divided by color.

Writing in Markdown is not always easy. If you are providing an interface, an editor of any form, you shouldn’t force your users to write in markdown. Especially if you are expecting them to use your application on a mobile device. It’s a complete mess on the smaller mobile screens.

Every time I’ve to write in Markdown on my smartphone, I shudder. Especially if I’ve to insert a link. Do not make me type all the markups. It is just not easy.

It is a lot simpler to select some text and tap a button, either to make it bold or insert a link. Sure, insert the markup in the background or in the editor, I don’t mind that. Just don’t make me type the whole damn stars and brackets sequence.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Markdown. It is the simplest markup format, a lot better than writing the posts as HTML. However, it’s not too intuitive to write on the smaller screens, without a physical keyboard.

So please don’t force me use that. Provide me an option of a toolbar.

I recently watched Free Solo, 1917 and Greyhound. Here are my thoughts.

Free Solo

This was such a thrilling documentary. I have rarely used that adjective for a documentary. But this one is so very different. I cannot fathom someone’s possession for their passion can blind them to the risks rather conspicuous to the rest. I was aware of the free soloing as a form of climbing. What took me by surprise was the level of planning that goes into the preparation. In hindsight, it was foolish of me to think that wasn’t the case, that the act was spontaneous.

1917

I can’t think of a better way to captures the immediacy of war than how Sam Mendes does with 1917. The single-take narration grips one right from the beginning and never lets off even for a moment. I was with the characters throughout their journey, feeling their anxiety, their pain. I entered every new terrain, turned every dark corner equally uneasy. What Mendes and his cinematographer Roger Deakins manage to achieve is absolute brilliance. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and was left gasping by the end. A cinematic masterpiece.

Greyhound

Another war flick that, sure, aimed to be different. A fast-paced action thriller about battleships is not very common. However, the economical 75 minutes of the runtime itself felt too long. The fights felt repetitive and with no other thread to hold the plot together, it was easy to skip over. Tom Hanks sells the character though. However, I am tired now of seeing him play the perfect guy. He needs to play some grey characters now, someone with a few flaws.

Bonus – Quarantine Special

I also finally watched the Quarantine special episode of Mythic Quest. This is the best show on Apple TV+, period. And this special episode was exactly what I needed now — an understanding of what I and most of us are going through in current times. What’s commendable is that it does so without giving up on the hilarity. As the episode came to the climax, it had me jumping with momentary joy. With my eyes full of happy, hopeful tears and my fists clenched, [spoiler alert] I joined Ian to shout out loud “Fuck you Coronavirus”.

Library Is a Space Ship, Time Machine and Much More

“A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas – a place where history comes to life.”

Norman Cousins

Though it’s an apt characterization, a library has been labelled in many more ways. For some, it’s a getaway, a place they tip-toe into to gain a momentary respite from their daily grinds. For some, it’s a vast ocean of knowledge they dip their minds in to get enlightened. For writers, it can be both. And so much more.

This issue features a few essays that depict what libraries mean to a few writers and what, according to them, they should mean to everyone else.

Featured Writing

Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

In this lecture explaining the importance of using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, Neil Gaiman emphasizes on why it’s an obligation for all us, citizens, to support libraries and to inculcate the love for books among children, right from early ages. Highlighting first the significance of reading books, specifically fiction, he goes on to make one understand why it’s absurd to “perceive libraries as a shelf of books”.

Libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information. I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally.

A library is many things

One would agree whole-heartedly with the title when it’s a mix of prominent personalities – an astronaut, a sci-fi writer, a painter, a cartoonist and a children’s author – convincing you about it. “Early-1971, in an effort to attract as many youngsters to the premises as possible, Marguerite Hart — children’s librarian at the newly-opened public library in Troy, Michigan — wrote to a number of notable people with a request: to reply with a congratulatory letter, addressed to the children of Troy, in which the benefits of visiting such a library were explained.” From amongst the responses from the likes of Neil Armstrong, Isaac Asimov, and Dr Seuss, here’s a snippet from the letter from E. B. White.

A library is many things. It’s a place to go, to get in out of the rain. It’s a place to go if you want to sit and think. But particularly it is a place where books live, and where you can get in touch with other people, and other thoughts, through books. If you want to find out about something, the information is in the reference books—the dictionaries, the encyclopedias, the atlases. If you like to be told a story, the library is the place to go. Books hold most of the secrets of the world, most of the thoughts that men and women have had. And when you are reading a book, you and the author are alone together—just the two of you.

My Manhattan; Not Just a Library, an Oasis of Civilization

Susan Jacoby’s love letter to New York Public Library, particularly its newly restored main reading room and its Center for Scholars and Writers. As she recounts the time that she spent in the library as the world changed outside, you can’t help but wonder if there’s any other apt description for this place than “an oasis of civilization” as she refers.

In a compartmentalized and bureaucratized American academic culture, the library is one of the last bastions of respect for those who try to carry on an older but increasingly archaic tradition of independent scholarship embodied by men like Kazin. My current research is concerned with the marginalization of secularism and free thought – the lovely, anachronistic term that appeared at the end of the 17th century – in American history. The range of the library’s holdings on this quirky and controversial subject has given me a new appreciation of the courage and vision of past generations of New York librarians, who collected material without regard for the received religious and political opinion of their time.

Featured Video

Featured Writer

Lena Valencia

A writer, editor and a teacher, Lena has published many short stories as part of publications and anthologies; one among them is the brilliant short story Mystery Lights published at CRAFT magazine. Though it’s not a mystery, Lena has you glued throughout as you learn more about the central character Windy and the other supporting characters. As the main plot about the show around Marfa lights is slowly unravelled, it glides into a crazed climax that brings a smile on your face. You can’t help but wonder if the Marfa town and the notorious lights that form the backdrop to this story are indeed magical.

Featured Tool

Pocket

Though libraries act as a repository of all the words ever written and published as books, many are also published independently online. Nonetheless, they can be equally significant, powerful and meaningful for an individual. As a free read-it-later service, Pocket allows you to catch up on these articles without being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of the written works available. With an optional premium subscription, it can also be your permanent library of articles and stories that you read online.

One Final Inspiration

Postscript

This post was delivered first as part of my weekly newsletter Slanting Nib & A Keyboard. Do read the archives and subscribe here.

Perfectionism Isn’t Healthy

I have been closely monitoring what affects my behaviour recently. One of the aspects that I’d identified was that I was always judging myself, was always thinking, analyzing my current actions for their effect on my future. I’d decided to stop doing that. But while I wrote that, I hadn’t realized that there is deeper malady there — my subconscious quest to be a perfectionist.

As I was reading an essay about the downsides of perfectionism from Amanda Ruggeri at BBC, it made me aware that I’ve also been affected by the same trait she was warning about. I want things to be done perfectly.

At home. At work. With the activities that I do on my own. With my family. With my peers, my superiors.

It is that perfectionist voice within me that’s constantly judging me, judging others. Even now, am thinking and rethinking on the ways I could word this prose. This paragraph. Is it the best way to make my point?

Why? Why do I do that? It can’t be healthy.

Even on Google, the first autocomplete suggestion for “Perfectionism” is “Perfectionism is a disease”. I wouldn’t term this trait as that — I don’t want to flippantly use a word while representing any form of mental disorder — it ain’t a “disease” for sure. However, even an offhand read through the internet would convince you that perfectionism can lead to a laundry list of such disorders. Anxiety. Depression. And much more.

I am not sure if my habit of aiming for perfection in every task is affecting my mood and my mind in any alarming way yet. However, I think it does lead me to procrastinate at times. I don’t have time now, will do it later “perfectly,” I can hear my mind say every now and then.

Well, it’s believed and acknowledged to be a vicious cycle – perfectionism, procrastination and paralysis. Or thought another way, it is the paralysis by analysis. Analysis paralysis.

All this lead me to a post I wrote back in 2013, on exactly the same topic of over-analyzing, overthinking. And it was then that I had linked to this term of Analysis paralysis for the first time.

That was 7 years ago. I believe I haven’t managed to get rid of my trait yet. It might be time to think about getting rid of this habit. To not let my pursuit for things to be perfect to affect me, to paralyze me.

The sixth issue of Slanting Nib & A Keyboard newsletter is out today. It features a few essays that depict what libraries mean to a few writers and what, according to them, they should mean to everyone else. A mix of prominent personalities out to corroborate, with their powerful words, the significance of library, and how a library is many things — now that’s something I wouldn’t want to miss.

So, do give it a read online. If what you read interests you, do subscribe. If you are already subscribed and have been enjoying the issues, please forward them to your friends.

I subscribed to Pocket Premium today. Recently, I have been reading a lot of articles on the web. And most of the times, it is on Pocket. I save the recommended articles from newsletters, blogs or Twitter to be read later and catch up on them towards the end of the day. Or when I have some free time at my hand.

What’s in the Premium option that made me upgrade from the free tier, you ask? Well, first of all, I wanted to support a service that’s part of Mozilla family. I’ve been a long time Instapaper user, but since Mozilla acquired Pocket, I have been using the later as my primary read later service.

I have also been using Pocket extensively to find the right articles to be included as part of my newsletter. I read a lot, heavily curate and include just a few of them. So my Pocket list and archive are always full of some great writings from many brilliant sources. I do not want to lose any of these wonderful essays.

I wanted to make Pocket a sort of my online reading library — it’s even better if it’s permanent as Pocket promises with an upgrade to Premium. The upgrade also offers full-text search which comes handy when finding that one article that talked about some peculiar topic. The biggest draw was the unlimited highlighting. The 3 highlights that the free option offered was limiting when each long read that I saved was full of thoughts worthy of absorption and introspection.

I have paid for a year; the pricing that it offers in-app is worth my current extent of the use of the service. I will re-evaluate after a year again. For now, Pocket stays the service of my choice.