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Outlook India profiles Dasrath Manjhi. Truly inspiring!

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Any man who reads the newspapers will encounter the phrase “even women and children” a couple times a month, usually about being killed. The literal meaning of this phrase is that men’s lives have less value than other people’s lives. The idea is usually “It’s bad if people are killed, but it’s especially bad if women and children are killed.

Excerpt from the transcript of the invited address titled Is there Anything Good about Men? by Prof. R. Baumeister at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association this year. He goes on to explain.

If a group loses half its men, the next generation can still be full-sized. But if it loses half its women, the size of the next generation will be severely curtailed. Hence most cultures keep their women out of harm’s way while using men for risky jobs.

An interesting text that focuses on the present role of men in society and its evolutionary origins. A few of the key points made are:

  • Men lie at extremes of a distribution – for e.g. there are more men than women in positions of leadership as also in prisons.
  • Differences between genders have more to do with motivation than ability.
  • Most of us have descended from fewer men than women. This means that in our evolutionary past, women could play it safe since there was a higher likelihood of them producing an offspring, while men had to be aggressive and ambitious, and had to take bigger risks for a bigger pay-off (read having an offspring).
  • Women favor small networks of close relationships, while men favor large networks of shallow relationships, where individuals are dispensable much like a modern day corporation.

It is interesting how one or more aspects of human behavior is traced back to our evolutionary origins, especially the hunter-gatherer theory that was more recently used as an explanation for why women favor pink.

This blog mysteriously disappeared immediately after my previous post, and was replaced by a generic WordPress.com page. The main blog page resurfaced the following morning, but links to posts and comments still led to the generic WordPress page. Response form WordPress Support was prompt, and the problem was resolved sometime after noon yesterday.

In case you happened to visit the blog during the time it was misbehaving, it apologizes and so do I.

Multiple tidbits of trivialities, mostly pertaining to movies:

  • Watched Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and it was a letdown compared to the previous Potter movies – no interesting characters, no exciting moments, and bland humor. Above all, I feel the most serious difference between the earlier Potter movies and the present one, is that the pre-Phoenix Potter was this small frail kid, rendered extraordinary through his budding magical prowess, while the Potter in this movie is a rather muscular teenager waving a magical wand and ends up looking rather wimpy. I’d have preferred Harry walk up to Voldemort, break his twig of a wand into two, and engage in some good ol’ fashioned dishum-dishum. I suppose the book comes across as being much better, given a greater level of detail and freedom in conjuring up characters.
  • Watched The Bourne Ultimatum and it is one gripping edge-of-the-seat kind of movie that has me motivated ’bout reading the book. Its interesting to contrast the character of Jason Bourne and James Bond – the same initials, similar occupations but at opposite ends of the spectrum in most other aspects. They ought to be cast in one movie, with a CIA-MI6 face-off theme.
  • Two books that I have read partly, that will be released as movies – The Kite Runner and Shantaram. The Kite Runner is a priority since the movie releases in November. Shantaram, the movie, has not yet got around to putting together a complete cast, so I suppose the book will have to wait. Shantaram is being directed by Mira Nair and stars Johnny Depp and Amitabh Bachchan. Quite some contrast, that!
  • Over the course of a meeting with friends of my roommate from Spain, I asked them what they thought of Almodóvar’s movies. Cutting out the expletives, the general opinion was that his movies are not as popular within Spain as they are internationally, and that the themes discussed do not reflect realities. Reminded me of Indian directors such as Deepa Mehta and Mira Nair and the difference in opinion within and outside India concerning their movies.

If you are hard at work and stiff of neck and shoulder, deskercize may help. And while you are at it, you can dwell on the purpose of life, work and the strange behavior of army ants in the Amazon.