The Funny Thing About Humanity


MARCH 20 ― Two days ago, I watched Ricky Gervais’ Humanity on Netflix. I’ve always been a fan of his dark and appalling humour, but this comedy special left me thinking.

In one of his jokes, he mentioned getting into a Twitter argument with a fundamentalist Christian who was pro-life (against abortion) but only until the child grows up to be gay ― then suddenly he is not pro-life anymore.

That got me thinking.

How ironic would it be for people who are both pro-life to suddenly advocate for abortion if technology ever advanced far enough to detect signs of homosexuality in a fetus?

So I raised this question on Twitter.

While I understand that social media is never an accurate measurement of data and statistics, I had to start somewhere.

Out of 1,181 votes, the 40 per cent majority voted “No.” I don’t know what I was expecting from the poll; perhaps my expectations were too high but the results left me dumbfounded.

Now, I am pro-choice for many reasons which I shall not state here, for then it would warrant another column. However, I am trying my best to put myself in the shoes of someone who is pro-life. I understand the sentiment behind the thought, thus why the results scared me.

In the pre-Islamic era, female infanticide was widely practised, which was the burying of female babies alive when they were born because there was more honour in having a male child as compared to having a female one.

The Quran forbade this practice. If the technology had existed back then, cruel patriarchal figures might have deliberately caused miscarriages to prevent female children from being born; to “save face.”

Now I know what you’re going to ask: Why equate female infanticide to LGBT infanticide? They are two different things. They are different, but they are also two sides of the same coin.

Understanding the context of the pre-Islamic era, you’d know that women were seen as objects and commodities. Thus the killing of female babies was a practice they had no problem with. But as the Quran brought about morals and ethics, ancient Arabia was taught that this was inhumane.

Female infanticide was practised during the jahiliyyah period, a dark time in which women were seen as lesser beings.

If you’re willing to end a life because of its sexual orientation, how are you any different from the jahiliyyah people who buried females?

A lot of pro-lifers claim that their sentiments stem from the idea that every human life is sacred and that it is an abomination to prevent a baby the opportunity to live in the world. How terrifyingly easy it is for someone to retract this notion because of prejudice against the LGBT community.

Suddenly, life isn’t sacred anymore.

I could go in-depth into reasons why I believe that the LGBT community deserves the right to live (which is a funny thing to demand considering it is an intrinsic human right), but I’m not here to discuss this. Perhaps another time.

I’ll end here for now, but let me just leave you with a few quotes I found while surfing the internet of Aberjhani:

“Love is our most unifying and empowering common spiritual denominator. The more we ignore its potential to bring greater balance and deeper meaning to human existence, the more likely we are to continue to define history as one long, inglorious record of man’s inhumanity to man.

“Diversity is an aspect of human existence that cannot be eradicated by terrorism or war or self-consuming hatred. It can only be conquered by recognising and claiming the wealth of values it represents for all.

“Humanity is not without answers or solutions regarding how to liberate itself from scenarios that invariably end with mass exterminations. Tools such as compassion, trust, empathy, love, and ethical discernment are already in our possession. The next sensible step would be to use them.”

Truly, if our greater intelligence is the hallmark of our species ― a distinguished advantage over all other life on Earth ― then we have to learn to use it better.


Jimmy Kimmel Says Another Oscars Mix-Up “Would Be Funny”


(LOS ANGELES) — The 90th Annual Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, is just days away. But no matter who wins, the award ceremony will — we hope — not feature a repeat of last year’s screw-up, which saw La La Land accidentally named best picture.

“I still don’t know how it happened,” Kimmel told ABC’s Paula Faris on Monday’s Good Morning America. “I’m still not clear how the wrong envelope got into Warren Beatty’s hands.”

After a scrum onstage, it was announced that Moonlight was the actual Best Picture winner.

“I’ll be honest,” Kimmel said, “It will be funny if it happened again.”

So, what’s a sure way to avoid that same gaffe?

“Color coding might be a nice thing to think of this time around,” the late-night host advised.

While Kimmel didn’t elaborate on how the accounting firm in charge of the envelopes would avoid another mix-up, he noted the bad press they got was likely all they needed to make sure it won’t happen again.

“The biggest safeguard there is is that this company, Price Waterhouse Coopers, will literally have to go out of business if they do it a second time,” Kimmel laughed. “So I think they’re gonna be very, very careful.”

The 90th Annual Academy Awards airs live from Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre on March 4 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

‘U Expats are Funny’ Tour To Tickle UAE


Three comedians from two continents will be headed to the UAE for a tour of rib-tickling fun between February 8 and 19.

The Laughter Factory’s U Expats are Funny tour will feature Canadian stand-up comic Allyson June Smyth, along with Irishman Ian Coppinger and a growing name on the UK black comedy circuit, Prince Abdi.

This show is expected to inject its own humour in a unique take on expat life, one that most residents of the UAE are probably familiar with.

The first two nights will see the show kick off at 9pm at Moevenpick Hotel, Jumeirah Beach Residence, followed by a special Valentine’s Day special at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Ajman from 8pm. Two other consecutive nights will take the tour to Grand Millennium Barsha Heights from 9pm, followed by a double bill on February 16 at Jumeirah Golf Estates (7pm) and Jumeirah Creek Hotel (9pm).

Tickets cost Dh150 and the show is strictly for those over 21 years.

Shazam! Will Be Funny, But Won’t Include ‘Quippy One-Liners’


Shazam! director David F. Sandberg has taken to Reddit to promise fans that, while his film will be funny, it won’t have too many quips or one-liners. Once again, the future of the DC Extended Universe appears to be in a state of flux. The DCEU was launched by controversial director Zack Snyder, who took a dark and brooding approach to the Superman mythos. He interpreted Superman as a reluctant hero, one weighed down by the burden of his powers. Critical response was mixed, but Warner Bros. continued with this approach – right up until the release of Batman V Superman.

That film forced a course correction, and the result was last year’s Justice League. Unfortunately, even Justice League hasn’t met with the popular and critical reaction the studio hoped for. DC Films is currently pivoting once again. Fans have long suspected David F. Sandberg’s Shazam! would be part of the course-correction. After all, it stars a teenager who transforms into a superhero when he utters a magic word.

It’s the perfect film to take a lighter approach, and one Redditor suggested it would be the DCEU’s “first comedic movie.” To the delight of fans, Sandberg himself chimed in on Reddit. Although Sandberg confirms that his film is “very funny,” he insists that the humor won’t come from one-liners. Not that he has anything against “quippy one-liners,” he stressed. Rather, it’s simply that he’s choosing to go for situational humor. No doubt a teenager’s mind in the body of an adult male superhero is perfect for that kind of comedy. “The important thing for me,” Sandberg added, “is to mix the funny with a threat that’s serious and to also have dramatic moments. All funny all the time takes the weight out of it.”

In short, Sandberg’s argument is that the best films have a balance of different elements. If a film is nothing but dramatic moments, it’s difficult to care for the characters. If it’s nothing but humor, the threats feel meaningless. The blend of disparate elements is what gives the film its character. Take, for example, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. James Gunn used the quips to hide the fact that, in thematic terms, this is Marvel’s darkest film to date. The villain is a father who has slaughtered his children. One of the most important scenes features two sisters, Gamora and Nebula, brutally attempting to kill one another. Gunn used the humor to create a style and tone for the film, but blended it with some tremendously dark concepts.

It looks as though Sandberg is taking a different approach with Shazam! He’s not interested in the quips and the one-liners. Instead, the film’s humor will come from specific situations. It’s a different approach to humor, one that’s subtly different to many Hollywood blockbusters, and Warner Bros. will hope it’s a hit.

Ten Interesting Things That We Read This Week


At Ambit, we spend a lot of time reading articles that cover a wide gamut of topics, including investment analysis, psychology, science, technology, philosophy, etc. We have been sharing our favorite reads with clients under our weekly ‘Ten Interesting Things’ product. Some of the most interesting topics covered in this week’s iteration are related to ‘overvalued US Stocks’, the ‘rising power of tech platforms’ and ‘how networking is overrated’.

Here are the ten most interesting pieces that we read this week.

1) Investors should be wary of overvalued US stocks

US stocks are overvalued. Therefore the decision to commit money (even passively) to the S&P 500 is a bad idea. This is the argument made by James Montier and Matt Kadnar of GMO in a recent white paper. First, their model starts with breaking down the total return on stocks into its constituent parts – dividends, earnings, margins and the multiple that the market puts on earnings. In the long term, nearly all of the total return on stocks comes from dividends: since 1970, the total average annual return on the S&P has been 6.7 per cent, of which multiple expansion makes up 0.1 percentage point. But during the past seven years, returns of 13.6 per cent have been driven primarily by margins and multiple expansion. There is nothing sinister about this. In the short term, dividends tell us little about returns. Excitement is generated over periods of a few years by the noise of the changes in the multiples that investors will pay for earnings, and changes in the margins that companies can command. Multiple expansion can lead growth in dividends for several years in a row. But to buy now you have to hope either that dividends will start growing at a much faster rate or that multiples and profit margins will continue to expand.

2) Ray Dalio turns cautious amid Washington conflict

Ray Dalio – the world’s biggest hedge fund manager – is turning more defensive on concerns that the political drama in Washington will impair the US government’s ability to function and weigh on already wobbly financial markets. The move comes amid Donald Trump’s nuclear brinkmanship with North Korea and White House infighting over the president’s response to neo-Nazi demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia. Mr Dalio, who was initially optimistic about the economic impact of Mr Trump’s policy agenda, wrote recently that divisions in Washington meant “conflicts have now intensified to the point that fighting to the death is probably more likely than reconciliation”, pointing to the President’s sharply diverging approval ratings among Democrats and Republicans. The hedge fund manager said Bridgewater was “reducing our risk” because of the likelihood the conflicts will not be “handled well”, arguing that their resolution “will have a greater effect on the economy, markets and our overall wellbeing than classic monetary and fiscal policies”.

3) Content isn’t king

Ben Evans of Andreessen Horowitz in this blog argues that while people in tech and media have been saying that ‘content is king’ for a long time he’s not sure how much of it is true. He says that music and books don’t matter much to tech anymore, and TV probably won’t matter much either. In the past, any music you bought for your iPod could only be played on Apple devices, and the same was true in reverse for music from any other service. Your music library kept you on a device. With streaming these issues mostly go away. All the major services are cross-device and if you do switch to a different service you’re not giving up tracks you’ve paid money for. Unlike in the past, switching has become easy. Since music no longer stops people from switching between platforms, it’s gone from being a moat to a low-margin check-box feature. All services have roughly the same underlying library of tens of millions of tracks, and the differences between them are fundamentally tactics, not strategies. Music is now merely marketing, not a moat. A Taylor Swift exclusive for Apple Music might drive some iPhone sales, just as a cool new ad campaign might, but there’s no strategic lever here – no lock-in. Something similar applies to ebooks. Like Spotify, the Kindle app is on any platform, so it doesn’t stop you switching devices.

4) Future of work: Learning to manage uncertainty

“Change is coming at us with the greatest velocity in human history”. In the single second it took you to read that sentence, an algorithm executed 1,000 stock trades. Computers at the credit card network Visa processed over 3 million transactions. Right now, 56,000 Google searches are returning tens of billions of results links and at this very moment, more than 2.5 million emails are being sent, not all of them by actual human beings. Technology is accelerating the pace of business at unthinkable speeds, so much so that the job you have today is changing as quickly as you read this page. If we can barely imagine one second’s worth digital deluge, how will we get our heads around the stunningly different future of work. For generations, new technologies – from the steam engine to the Internet and beyond – have fundamentally changed the nature of work and the economy. But the change is happening faster now while we are living longer. Where our parents and grandparents might have experienced only one, or even no, significant change in their lifetimes, you have likely already experienced a dramatic technology-driven shift in your career, and your children will likely absorb a major shift every ten to fifteen years across theirs.

5) The era of blind faith in big data must end

In this Ted talk, Cathy O’Neil – an American mathematician and author of several books on data science – says that today algorithms are everywhere. They sort and separate the winners from the losers. The winners get the job or a good credit card offer. The losers don’t even get an interview or they pay more for insurance. We’re being scored with secret formulas that we don’t understand that often don’t have systems of appeal. That begs the question: What if the algorithms are wrong? To build an algorithm you need two things: you need data, what happened in the past, and a definition of success, the thing you’re looking for and often hoping for. She says that in real life everyone uses algorithms. They just don’t formalize them in written code. For instance she uses an algorithm every day to make a meal for her family. The data she uses is the ingredients in her kitchen, the time she has, the ambition she has, and she curates that data. A meal is successful if the kids eat vegetables. However, the definition of success will be different if her kid is in charge – he’d say success is if he gets to eat lots of Nutella. But she gets to choose success. She’s in charge and her opinions matter. That’s the first rule of algorithms.

6) Good news for young strivers: Networking is overrated

Adam Grant, in this piece, reminisces how he has been stunned by the lengths people will go to at tech and business conferences to make a connection with a big name: sneaking backstage for a selfie, slipping business cards into briefcases, chasing them out the exit. However, he says, if the very thought of networking makes you throw up in your mouth, you’re not alone. Networking makes us feel dirty — to the point that one study found that people rate soap and toothpaste 19 percent more positively after imagining themselves angling to make professional contacts at a cocktail party. Yet we’ve all been warned that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Success is supposed to come to the suave schmoozers and social butterflies. Grant says that while it’s true that networking can help you accomplish great things, it obscures the opposite truth: Accomplishing great things helps you develop a network. He puts forward the case in point of George Lucas and Justin Bieber. The former became a mentee of Francis Ford Coppola after he won first prize at a national festival and a scholarship to be an apprentice on a Warner Bros. film. Bieber too didn’t network his way in but taught himself to sing and play four instruments, put a handful of videos on YouTube, and a manager ended up clicking on one.

7) Japan in race to build driverless tractor

Greying farmers, a rural exodus and low food self-sufficiency have thrust Japan’s biggest agricultural machinery giants into a national race to build a driverless tractor. The quest to perfect the “robo-tractor”, which has been encouraged by the Cabinet Office and is viewed as a way to stem the demise of Japanese agriculture, is expected to see the first generation of machines go on sale next year. The technology — estimated to add 50 per cent to the cost of a normal tractor — seeks to boost the effective manpower on Japan’s farmland, firstly by working fields with driverless tractors running alongside those piloted by humans to allow emergency intervention. As artificial intelligence, tracking and safety technologies improve, the vehicles will increasingly be left alone to till the farmerless expanses on the islands of Hokkaido and Kyushu. Unlike other countries where autonomous tractors are being designed to work huge fields of wheat, corn and soyabeans, Japan’s focus is on more intricate business of smaller, waterlogged rice paddies.

8) India’s perverse political equilibrium

One of the central concepts of modern governance is that only the state has the right to use violence. The state, in turn, may delegate the use of force to other agencies but if it begins to lose its monopoly over the use of force, say to crime syndicates, drug cartels or terror groups, its foundations begin to erode and its viability comes into question. Yet, there have been innumerable instances in India wherein the state has wilfully ceded its monopoly over violence, and in doing so, also stepped away from its primary responsibility to provide law and order to the citizenry. This was precisely the case when Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was convicted of rape last Friday and his supporters ran amok, spreading mayhem in Haryana as well as in parts of Punjab and Delhi that cost 38 lives and injured close to 250. The state was unprepared and inefficient, if not indulgent—though, admittedly, it managed to somewhat get its act together over the last weekend, as a result of which the situation was much better handled on Monday, after the court handed down a 20-year prison sentence to the self-styled godman. Still, the fact remains that the state capitulated—yet again, and shamefully so.

9) Narendra Modi’s illiberal drift threatens Indian democracy

As India completes 70 years of its independence, its polity’s performance between elections is acquiring profoundly illiberal traits says political scientist, Ashutosh Varshney. In political theory, an illiberal democracy is defined as one that only pays attention to elections, while it violates, in the years between elections, some core democratic principles, especially freedom of expression. It views elections as the only measure of democracy and once elected, it seeks unrestrained power, often on behalf of the majority community. The India of Narendra Modi, prime minister, is beginning to resemble this description.

10) Game theory explains how Veeru broke every rule of courtship and still won Basanti in Sholay

The enduring charisma of Sholay – a 42 year old Bollywood blockbuster ¬– needs explanation. Besides crisp dialogue, its deft portrayal of human emotions — from sublime loyalty to visceral revenge — has received critical acclaim. What has probably escaped the attention of critics is its portrayal of rational decision-making. One sequence, in particular, stands out. The context of this scene is as follows: petty criminals Jai (Amitabh Bachchan) and Veeru (Dharmendra) are engaged by the former cop Thakur Baldev Singh (Sanjeev Kumar) to clean up the bandit-infested ravines of Ramgarh. In this ‘mission’, Veeru is infatuated by vivacious village belle Basanti (Hema Malini) who reciprocates his feelings. The only problem in matchmaking is Basanti’s mausi (aunt), who dislikes Veeru due to his bad habits. Jai’s ill-fated and tragicomic interventions on behalf of his friend worsen the situation. To overcome mausi’s resistance, Veeru hatches a convoluted plan. He climbs atop a water tank and threatens to jump to his death unless his demand for Basanti’s hand in marriage is met.

The 15 Funniest Jokes From The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Revealed


A joke about the new pound coin has been named the funniest of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Ken Cheng won the 10th annual award for Dave’s Funniest Joke Of The Fringe with the line: “I’m not a fan of the new pound coin, but then again, I hate all change.”

The joke, from his show Ken Cheng: Chinese Comedian, won 33% of a public vote on a shortlist of gags picked by comedy critics.

Previous winners of the award include Tim Vine, Stewart Francis and Zoe Lyons.

Cheng studied maths at Cambridge for a year before dropping out to play online poker professionally. His big break in showbiz came when he reached the final of the 2015 BBC Radio New Comedy Award.

On winning the Dave prize, Cheng said: “I am very proud to have won. As a tribute, I will name my firstborn son after this award and call him ‘Joke of the Fringe’.”

Frankie Boyle came second in the poll for his line: “Trump’s nothing like Hitler. There’s no way he could write a book.”

The award, which was voted on by 2,000 people, lists jokes anonymously to avoid any bias towards well-known comedians.

Steve North, general manager of Dave, said: “From Trump and veganism to the new pound coin, this year’s news agenda has certainly also provided some great inspiration for comedians to get grips with – it’s fantastic to see that, even after ten years of the Joke of the Fringe award, there is no shortage of brilliant one-liners delivered at the Festival to get us all laughing.”

Dave’s Top 15 Funniest Jokes of the Edinburgh Fringe 2017:

1. “I’m not a fan of the new pound coin, but then again, I hate all change.” Ken Cheng – 33%

2. “Trump’s nothing like Hitler. There’s no way he could write a book.” Frankie Boyle – 30%

3. “I’ve given up asking rhetorical questions. What’s the point?” Alexei Sayle – 29%

4. “I’m looking for the girl next door type. I’m just gonna keep moving house till I find her.” Lew Fitz – 28%

5. “I like to imagine the guy who invented the umbrella was going to call it the ‘brella’. But he hesitated.” Andy Field – 27%

6. “Combine Harvesters. And you’ll have a really big restaurant.” Mark Simmons – 27%

7. “I’m rubbish with names. It’s not my fault, it’s a condition. There’s a name for it…” Jimeoin – 26%

8. “I have two boys, 5 and 6. We’re no good at naming things in our house.” Ed Byrne – 24%

9. “I wasn’t particularly close to my dad before he died… which was lucky, because he trod on a land mine.” Olaf Falafel – 24%

10. “Whenever someone says, ‘I don’t believe in coincidences.’ I say, ‘Oh my God, me neither!”‘ Alasdair Beckett-King – 23%

11. “A friend tricked me into going to Wimbledon by telling me it was a men’s singles event.” Angela Barnes – 20%

12. “As a vegan, I think people who sell meat are disgusting; but apparently people who sell fruit and veg are grocer.” Adele Cliff – 20%

13. “For me dying is a lot like going camping. I don’t want to do it.” Phil Wang – 20%

14. “I wonder how many chameleons snuck onto the Ark.” Adam Hess – 18%

15. “I went to a Pretenders gig. It was a tribute act.” Tim Vine – 18%

Finding The Funny In Single Parenting


It’s always great to look at the funny side of life, and new series Thuli no Thulani does this through side-splitting comedy. However, while offering viewers bellies of laughs, the sitcom also focuses on the struggles of single parenting, something that many people in South Africa can relate to.
Starring Tango Ncetezo, Wright Ngubeni and newcomer Slindokuhle Tshabalala, the plot revolves around twins, Thuli and Thulani, who have to adjust to living together again after Thuli has a run of bad luck. This turns playboy Thulani’s life upside down.

“Thuli is a single mom who suddenly comes back into her twin brother’s life after she finds her husband cheating on her. Thuli coming back into Thulani’s life thrusts his life into chaos and the show deals with their daily struggles of being a pair again after so many years apart, and it navigates their issues as they try to raise Thuli’s 11-year-old daughter, Mbali,” said head writer and producer, Rethabile Ramaphakela.

“Thuli soon finds out that her brother lied about being a lawyer and going to law school, so she blackmails him into letting her stay with him in exchange for her not ratting him out to their parents.”

The series also looks at what it means to be a single parent as a twenty-something-year-old.

“How do you still enjoy what is considered the best years of your life while still trying to raise a child? Also, how do you navigate the dating world, love and relationships? These are issues that affect everyone and these issues are amplified when you are a single parent. What the characters realise is that it takes a village and everyone needs to come together and help each other out,” she said.

Ramaphakela said the idea of exploring a twin sibling relationship has been something that has always fascinated her.

“Sibling relationships are always so complex and interesting, but then it obviously gets more complicated when you are a twin and you have to share everything. So we wanted to play with an idea of bringing a twin sister and brother back together again after they hadn’t really been together in years,” she said.

Although only a few episodes have aired so far, the show seems to be growing in popularity.

“People really seem to love it. They are responding well to the characters and story. A particularly popular episode was the one where their parents came to visit and they had to keep up the façade that their lives are still perfect,” Ramaphakela said.

Regarding the comedy aspect of the show, Ramaphakela said they never really know if the audience is going to find it as funny as they do: “You never really know until it airs. But we spend quite a lot of time crafting in the story room and working on the comedy beats of the show in each scene. We sit around the table and read the scripts out loud trying to add more jokes. After that process, we leave it up to the director and the actors to bring the comedy to life. The rest is not in our hands.”

Like any good sitcom, Thuli no Thulani offers a strong concept, an even better script and, finally, the actors that bring it to life.

“We have some very exciting, fresh and funny characters that are sure to get you laughing. We’re also dealing with relevant issues of being a young parent and still navigating your twenties, which is something many people can relate to.

“It’s one of those shows that you can sit down and enjoy with your entire family, as there’s definitely something for everyone, whether young or old,” Ramaphakela said.