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Monday, October 14, 2019
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EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT...

The biggest news story today, explained.

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The amazing achievement of Eliud Kipchoge 

The Kenyan runner made history on Saturday by becoming the first human to complete a marathon in under two hours. But it will not count as a world record. We explain why.


What did he do exactly? Kipchoge ran 26.22 miles (42.195 km) in one hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds. To put the achievement in perspective, Kipchoge ran “a mile in 4 minutes and 33 seconds—26 times. He ran at a pace of 13 miles per hour, for two hours in a row.” Or as The Guardian puts it: “Imagine running 17 seconds for 100 metres and then keeping the pace up for two hours. Or setting the pace on the gym treadmill to 21 km an hour and trying not to get dumped off within seconds. It was at that pace the Kenyan was speeding, never flinching, never faltering.” (Watch the winning moment here)


So why isn’t this a world record? Because this was not an open race. Kipchoge ran on a track in Vienna’s Prater Park at a sponsored run dubbed the INEOS 1.59 challenge. Point to note: Kipchoge already holds the world record of 2:01:39. That said, some questions have been raised about his achievement.


Tell me about these ‘questions’: The first set of Qs point to the artificial conditions of the ‘race’:

  • Kipchoge was assisted by 42 pacesetters who included Olympic medallists—and five of them ran ahead of him to “reduce aerodynamic resistance.”

  • The runners were preceded by an electric car that used laser lines to ensure everyone stayed in line.

  • He ran up and down a nearly gradient-free 4.3 km track with 90% straight paths.

  • And then there were his shoes: extra-special Nike Vaporflys with special curved plates and fluid-filled bags that—rumours have it—boosted his performance by 7-8%.


And then there is INEOS: The British petrochemicals company that sponsored the event—reportedly to the tune of $19 million—is one of the world’s largest producers of non-degradable plastics. And owner Jim Ratcliffe has long been accused of using athletics—including buying a cycling team—to ‘greenwash’ his company’s reputation. As Forbes notes: “Ineos’ branding was plastered across every available surface as the 34-year-old made his way around the circuit in Vienna and was even more prominent as he crossed the line… That Ratcliffe chose to associate his brand with two sports in cycling and running that promote environmentally friendly forms of transportation feels uncomfortable but is surely not a coincidence.”


The bottomline: Speaking after the race, Kipchoge said, “Today we went to the moon and came back to earth! I am at a loss for words for all the support I have received from all over the world.” The moon-walking analogy is apt in every sense. Even Neil Armstrong needed a team and the best available technology to make history. Kipchoge’s achievement is as much a tribute to human innovation as it is to endurance. 

 

Learn more: New Yorker offers a picturesque account of Kipchoge’s winning moment. For a counterview, check out The Atlantic which offers a blistering takedown of the event. Quartz looks at why Kenyans keep winning marathons and the 42 pacesetters who helped Kipchoge win. The New York Times and The Guardian weigh in on whether the ‘special conditions’ make his feat truly historic. Forbes looks at the problematic involvement of INEOS and Kipchoge’s Nike sponsorship. And for running nerds: Runner’s World has everything you ever wanted to know about his special shoes.

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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

dreading a sex-fueled remake of Mallory Towers

Your Syria update is here: and it includes the following:

  •  The escape of hundreds of ISIS prisoners.

  • The brutal killing of a Kurdish human rights activist, Hervin Khalaf (disturbing clip here). 

  • And a glimmer of hope. The Kurds have brokered an agreement with the Syrian government—which will now help them push back the Turks. 

  • Meanwhile, US President Trump is readying to save face by imposing “serious” economic sanctions on Turkey. 

  • Missed our Friday explainer on the Turkish assault on the Kurds? Read it here.


Meet Saint Mariam Thresia: The Catholic Church will soon canonise a Kerala nun. She is the third nun and fourth clergy member from Kerala-based Syro-Malabar Church to be declared a saint. Vatican News has more on her and why she was canonised. Indian Express explains the canonisation process.


The World Bank adds to government woes: It has slashed India's economic growth forecast for 2019-20 from 7.5% to 6%. Adding salt to fresh wounds: Bangladesh is expected to grow at 8.1%. Hell, even Nepal is doing better than us. Also adding to the PM’s woes: the shenanigans of his ministers: 

  • Exhibit A: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman launched into a bizarre tirade when a businessman dared to suggest that everyone is “cursing” the existing implementation of GST. 

  • Exhibit B: Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad declared, “I was told that on October 2, a national holiday, three Hindi films did business of Rs 120 crore. Only when the country’s economy is sound can you get such returns”—a claim he has since withdrawn after much heckling. 

  • Also related: this funny TOI cartoon.


Sourav Ganguly is BCCI prez: After a series of high-profile scandals, the Supreme Court stepped in to appoint a committee of administrators to clean the cricketing stables—with dubious results. Now, the reins are back in the hands of the cricket board which will be helmed by ‘Mr Clean’ Ganguly—who may or may not be a figleaf for the rest. The Court banned those who hold public office from being on the board. The result: Amit Shah’s son is Secretary, and Minister of State Anurag Thakur’s brother is Treasurer. Related read: Indian Express lists the many bhai, behen and bachhe of formerly disgraced or presently powerful luminaries who now dominate Indian cricket.


Finally, a bit of good news for Kashmir: The government will restore post-paid mobile connections in the Valley at noon today, but prepaid connections will remain suspended. The government cut mobile access citing the possibility of terrorist activity. However, while announcing the decision, its spokesperson stressed “credible inputs continue to be received of the likelihood of large-scale terrorist attacks.” Gaping holes in logic aside, it will undoubtedly come as a huge relief to Kashmiris.  (The Telegraph


On men and housework: A new Norwegian study has found that marriages where the man does more chores around the home are also more likely to end in divorce. Now, they don’t claim that one leads to another, but there is a strong correlation—maybe because the women are more independent or the couple is less traditional etc. (Medical Daily)


China ups surveillance to seriously creepy levels: It is increasingly mandatory for Chinese employees, students and journalists (!!) to download the government’s Study the Great Nation app—a propaganda tool that highlights President Xi’s activities and worldview. That’s icky enough, but now a cybersecurity firm has found that it can literally take over the phone and send detailed reports on a user’s messages, photos, contacts and Internet history—and activate an audio recorder inside the devices. Wait, didn’t Amit Shah announce plans to conduct the next national census on an app? (Washington Post)


Everyone’s talking about ‘Bala’: Ayushmann Khurrana’s upcoming flick is all about one man’s hilarious hair loss woes (the trailer here). But all the noise is about this photo of his co-star Bhumi Pednekar in ‘brown face’. 


Remember Nancy Drew? Not this one, you don’t.  A new TV series remakes everyone’s fave teen detective into an angst-ridden waitress who has sex in a bathroom and investigates ghosts. Yup, nothing is sacred. A related read: This lovely column on why Indians adore Enid Blyton, racists warts and all. 


Weekend reads you might have missed: include the following:

  • New York Times highlights five works of contemporary Indian art that comment on how Gandhi has been used and misused in India.

  • Also in the New York Times: Bill Gates’ murky relationship with pedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein.

  • Quartz looks at how Hong Kong protesters are reclaiming the ‘basic bitch’ stereotype.

  • Huffington Post highlights nine awesome movies that will be screened at the Mumbai Film Festival.

  • The Verge offers a compelling and eerie story on how a stalker in Japan tracked down a pop star by analysing her eyes in her Insta selfies. 

  • This Long Reads essay helped us name the reason why Twitter makes us extremely uneasy—even when we agree with some of the opinions expressed on it. 

  • Also valuable: this thought-provoking read in Another Gaze on the ‘unlikeable woman—the most famous being Fleabag.

  • For Star Wars fans: This provocative piece in CNet that argues that the new trilogy is far worse than George Lucas’ disastrous prequels. 

 

Your daily quota of sunshine items: includes the following:

  • These $19.9 million shoes with a solid gold heel shaped like the Burj Khalifa plus diamonds and a piece of a meteorite.

  • This lovely Twitter thread where many shared a historical artefact that “blew their mind.” Our favourite is this ‘baby potty’.

  • Take a pair of crawling twins, add playful dog. The result: very giggly babies.

  • The winner of the Fat Bear of the Year crown. Ladies, please note why the experts think she won.

  • The amazing photos of a young Jackie Kennedy’s trip to India in 1962.

  • Cricket special: The excellent catch taken by wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha which went instantly viral. Plus this bit of cricket eye candy: A Twitter thread that collates some of the most brilliant clips of masterful bowling.

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YOU NEED TO KNOW

The best place for the best advice

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How to feel better about yourself 

Human beings are excellent at two things: overestimating our worth, and beating up on ourselves. And we yo-yo wildly between the two extremes, each exacerbating the other. The recipe for calm, steady self-worth is to stop feeding our burning desire to be ‘special’.


Don’t buy into the ‘self-esteem’ lie: The whole ‘self esteem’ discourse is all about boosting our self-worth with constant affirmation. Unfortunately, all that does is turn us into delusional narcissists. The real answer: self-compassion. First stop telling yourself that you’re amazing. Start instead by forgiving yourself for not being amazing. None of us are all that amazing, and that’s okay. 


Stop comparing yourself to others: We feel ‘special’ precisely because we think we are smarter, prettier, richer than Nisha, Gaurav, Mahinder et al.  But that’s until someone far smarter, prettier, richer comes along… and we’re right back in the abyss of insecurity, jealousy and rage. The solution: stop that ‘better/worse than’ thought right in its tracks, and then examine where it comes from. Pick it apart, turn it upside down and inside out, trace its roots in your psyche, childhood etc.… till it gets tired and goes away. Then spend a lot of time with people who love you exactly the way you are. 


Stop chasing what you can’t have: We’ve all been there, chasing a job or guy that we can never have—and decimating our self-worth and dignity in the process. So why do we do it? Because we are wired to want what is ‘scarce’ and not readily available—be it a lust object who doesn’t call or a limited edition overpriced designer bag. We also want what is widely desired by others because getting it will prove we are better than everybody else (now, why does that sound familiar?).  And in all relationships, we give the other what we want to receive—i.e. lots of time and attention—because humans have a built in expectation of ‘reciprocity’. Instead, remind yourself over and over of this one truth: distant objects are far less desirable than they appear.


Stop trying to be perfect: ‘Perfectionism’ is just another name for our nasty little inner critic. We constantly feel like a failure when we don’t meet punitive expectations. Worse, the human response to failure to meet one expectation is to raise the bar even higher—to ‘make up’ for past failures. The trick is to stop focusing your life on specific goals. Focus instead on living according to a set of values, and then appreciating your effort toward doing so. Example: It’s okay that you’re the biggest klutz in the yoga class  because what matters is your commitment to learning yoga so you can lead a healthier life.


Learn when to give a f*ck: We do many things we don’t want to do because we don’t want to displease or be disliked. Or we spend all our time apologizing for not doing it (a specialty of women). Cue constant cycle of guilt and resentment. The solution is to prioritise our ‘f***ks given’, according to Sarah Knight, author of ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck’.  Make a ‘f**k budget’ allotted to people and things that matter most to you—including you. Then feel free to bail on that boring book launch of someone you don’t know that well, and don’t really care about. The upside: the joy that comes from spending time and energy on everything you actually do give a f**k about.


Learn more: 

  • Eric Barker writes at length on how to improve self-esteem through self-compassion. This lovely School of Life video uses quirky animation to teach us how to be a better friend to ourselves. 

  • Man Repeller asks a therapist to explain the best ways to break the comparison habit.

  • Elite Daily sums up four reasons why we want what we can’t have.

  • The Atlantic has a long essay on the psychology of perfectionism, and how to become comfortable with being “good enough.”

  • Vogue has an excellent summary of the philosophy underlying Sarah Knight’s book.
  • Brilliant TED talk by Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, focuses on the importance of raising young women to be brave rather than perfect.
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