There are some old posts here, just because I’m still catching up with the backlog from the last 4-5 months.
My President was Black [The Atlantic] – A really long (in six parts) and powerful article by Ta-Nehisi Coates on the rise and political career of Barack Obama. It talks about Obama’s childhood in Hawaii, the influences that shaped his outlook and policies, and the recent election – all viewed from the lens of race and history as well. If there’s one long article you read this month, let this be it!
The Defense of Liberty can’t do without Identity Politics [Niskanen Center] – Identity politics has been recently maligned as one of the major causes of general dissatisfaction with the government. This is a solid essay that explains in good terms why Trump’s election is no reason to get rid of identity politics. In fact, we need more of it to make sure the rights of oppressed groups are protected.
Spearheading a Survey of Caste in South Asian Diasporas [Medium] – There’s some background in this article, with personal stories, and link to a survey set up by the Dalit American Foundation and co-sponsored by Ambedkar International Mission, Ambedkar Association of North America, and the Dalit American Women’s Federation. It’s a fascinating look into how the caste system works among the Indian diaspora.
Amateur Sociology Considered Harmful [Things of Things] – A highly recommended post on the pitfalls of amateur sociology – it’s fun but we have to be much more careful about assuming it actually describes the world.
A Health Benefit of Roller Coasters [The Atlantic] – This is truly wacky research. In a unique, home-spun experiment, researchers found that centripetal force could help people pass kidney stones—before they become a serious health care cost.
Peter Thiel, Trump’s Tech Pal, Explains Himself [The New York Times] – An interview with Peter Thiel about his behavior during the last presidential election. His responses make it evidently clear that he hasn’t fully considered the damaging positions of the candidate he supported.
Democracies end when they are too democratic [NYMag] – An article from May that I finally managed to read. While I don’t agree with all points, it now comes across as extremely prescient about the events that followed.
Trial Balloon for a Coup? [Medium] – This is a speculative article that argues that the current administration’s imposition of the Muslim ban, then backing off on some points, followed by the confusion that followed was a way of testing the limits of the system. Quoting, “Yesterday was the trial balloon for a coup d’état against the United States. It gave them useful information”. There’s also this article that constructs a similar hypothesis – “We’ve just tested the country’s willingness to capitulate to a fascist regime”. On the second article, I disagree with the tone that protests have limited efficacy, but agree that much bigger and stronger organization is key.
I watched several good movies this month, though there are still more I have to catch up on.
Queen of Katwe – A feel-good movie about a little girl in Uganda who’s a Chess prodigy, and goes on to rapidly achieve great success. The best part is that this is based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi, who grew up in a slum in Katwe, learned to play Chess there, and eventually became an international champion.
Kapoor & Sons – I’d watched this movie before, but watched it again on the flight back to San Francisco. I think it needs a mention, because even after the second watch, it was an extremely well-made and delicately sensitive Bollywood movie. It surely is one of my favorite Hindi movies from the new generation.
Dear Zindagi – Another Hindi movie that deserves a mention. Bollywood tends to poorly treat many complex issues, and mental health remains one of them, so it’s refreshing to see a generally mature movie centered around mental health issues and therapy (which is still a big taboo in India).
La La Land – Nominated for 14 academy awards, and every bit worth that. Each frame feels like art, and Emma Stone in particular is a very good actress. That said, there’s something ironic about a movie about saving Jazz with all-white cast.