Oscars prediction 2011

Had done a similar post in 2009. This is my Oscar awards prediction for this year. As always, these predictions are based solely on my gut feeling and I have not watched many of the nominated films in this list. So these predictions may or may not represent what I think is the best, and it’s mostly based on what I think the Academy would choose for the Oscar awards. You can tell me your list in the comments section. :-)

Picture – The Social Network
Actor – Javier Bardem (Biutiful)
Supporting Actor – Geoffery Rush (The King’s Speech)
Actress – Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Supporting Actress – Amy Adams (The Fighter)
Animated Feature Film – How to Train Your Dragon
Art Direction – Alice in Wonderland
Cinematography – True Grit
Costume Design – Alice in Wonderland
Directing – The Social Network
Editing – 127 Hours
Foreign Language Film – Biutiful
Make Up – The Wolfman
Music – Hans Zimmer (Inception)
Original Song – We Belong Together (Toy Story 3)
Sound Editing – Inception
Sound Mixing – Inception
Visual Effects – Inception
Adapted Screenplay – The Social Network
Original Screenplay – The King’s Speech

Technology IS value-neutral

I happened to read this blog post by Alex Payne (CTO of BankSimple who formerly has worked with Twitter) that has his opinion on what Alec Ross, a senior advisor to Hillary Clinton said on Technology.

Alec Ross said,

[t]echnology itself is value-neutral. It depends on how a government chooses to use these technologies.

Mr. Ross said this in the context of US companies selling invasive technologies to repressive regimes. Quite obviously, that is a statesman unsuccessfully trying to defend the state’s wrong political strategies. It needs to be countered of course, but carefully or else they would get away with it. Alex in an attempt to counter Mr. Ross does that for all the wrong reasons.

I think we cannot entirely rule out what Mr. Ross said. First, you have to clearly define what technology is. Is it the raw idea/material used to implement/create a strategy/product? Or is it the end product itself that you call technology? If you are referring to the raw material/idea by “technology”, I think Mr. Ross is right. Only that he should have replaced the word “government” in his statement with “creators” or “people”. The raw idea that technology is is value-neutral until you intentionally use it to design specific products at which point you can argue about it’s neutral position.

Ironically, Alex’s reasons to call it value-centric itself proves he is wrong – “Technology is made of people” – made of “People”. Not “good people” or “bad people”. And the next – “Technology Values What People Value” – exactly my point.

And on that basis, I think the following definitions that Alex found for “technology” is fallible because, well, technology is value-neutral.

  • The process of human beings inventing tools that improve (?) our quality of life.
  • A particular tool from the above category
  • An industry or amalgamation of industries producing said tools
  • Dehumanization (only people who think technology is all about giant robots invading earth would say this)
  • Progress (not necessarily be. destructive technology could lead to regress)

And only two from his list seems to be proper definitions:

  • The future
  • Change

I think It is not the mere word of “technology” that Alex should have focused on if he was worried about how politicians or governments manipulate the technology in their own interest. He should have rather focused on the policies and strategies of governments to counter what Mr. Ross said. And the criticism should have seriously woven in those lines to make an effective counter argument.

Social media revolution?

You know, at times I feel that we are taking ourselves too seriously. By us, I am referring to the blogosphere, twitterati, facebook and such social media platforms. I do agree about the good things that social media can do in our times, but I think sometimes we stretch this pride too far. One recent example is the change in the ruling system of Egypt.

Many people attribute the victory of Egyptian struggle to social media. But I don’t really get it. Were those people who marched towards Cairo actively participating in social media? How many of the Egyptians who live in Egypt have an internet connection or a smart phone? What help did social media do that the traditional wall posters or leaflets couldn’t do in this struggle?

Revolution can only happen when people actively participate in it. On the road. Many of the people whom I have seen participating in such struggles or agitations locally have come from the offline socio-cultural groups. Most of them seldom use Internet. Just clicking on a ‘Like’ button in a Facebook page or RT-ing a tweet would only make it armchair solidarity and nothing else. It would be interesting to take the statistics of how many of this “I Support!” guys have actually went on street for any such issues. Just ask these social media evangelists to participate in a local meeting to protest the arrest of Binayak Sen, for example. The first question from them would be, “you think I have nothing else to do with my life?” or a comment like “our people are too much politicized and there is too much unemployment that people go to these stupid meetings“.The same lot would be eager to register their protest on other issues by clicking a Like button in Facebook or by changing their Twitter profile pic.

I recall this funny quote I read in a friend’s FB page – “I don’t understand how Tunisians got their freedom without me filing an e-petition or changing my Twitter profile pic!“. That’s how we have become a socially concerned social media generation.

Also read – The myth of Egypt’s butterfly revolution

Save the space, please

Aattukaal Ponkala - Railway station prepaid counter

If the above photo made you think that you were looking at an offerings counter in a temple, look closer. You are looking at the prepaid auto-rickshaw counter at Trivandrum Central railway station. This photo was shot at 6 in the morning on February 14th Monday, after a tiresome night train journey. I was running towards the pre-paid counter because there would usually be a long que there if you got down from the train a bit late. The prepaid center has two ticket counters and both of them would have long ques when trains were arrived. But this Monday, I found one of them to be closed. Not just closed, they made a temple out of the place that bordered carefully with hollow bricks. So the que at one counter went on to the walk/drive ways and the traffic policemen had to control the line.

This temporary setup was made by the prepaid auto-rickshaw drivers for their Aattukaal Ponkala celebrations. They had a photo of the Goddess, a lamp lit, fruits as offerings and most of them all, a pot placed at the forefront for money offerings (which is out of the frame on the left hand side of the photo above) from the travelers. Aattukaal Ponkala was still one week away.

I don’t understand who gave them the right to use this busy public space to mint money. And how come nobody talks about it or no paper posts a photo of this, because such looting in the name of religion and such gross misuse of public space are publicly agreed upon.

To all the girls I loved before…

The Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean a thing to me personally and I have never celebrated it. Except for one time when Muthalik and co. were out in arms against the couples in Mangalore who wanted to celebrate the day. My mode of celebration (or protest) was music though (check out the song “Let them sleep“). This year, I take the opportunity to recall all the good and bad memories of my boyhood, teenage and early adulthood crushes and infatuations. These memories, good or bad, have only added value to my life at the end.

The first crush I had was to a girl who used to come for group song practice sessions. I was too shy even to take a straight look at her and would put up a serious-about-music look myself. The group was a mix of senior and junior boys and girls and obviously there would be senior fellows eying on girls who spent too much time on talking than singing and they made jokes to impress the opposite sex. I, being the “good guy” was rather irritated of all these. Then this girl whom I mentioned would take a note of this and would ask the other girls to stop talking and start singing. The “good guy” was impressed that the girl focused on music and took a notice of my feelings. Later on I found out that she has an interest in literature too, which was an added reason to be more impressed. However, it was just a crush and I did not even know how to express it.

In my boyhood, there was another girl who used to come for music competitions in several stages. She was tall, lean, fair, had cropped hair and a very peaceful look on her face. I saw her for a few music competitions and there was something about her that attracted me so much. Perhaps it is how peaceful she looked. Or perhaps it is just that she did not have a giggly girlish thing about her. She did not seem to talk too much. And I did not know anything about her – her name, where she came from or anything. I just observed her with some kind of curiosity from a distance. I would even imagine going out together.

During the teenage, there was this girl from the local neighborhood. I had to help a team for Christmas carol choir practice that year. Though my gang of friends used to take a note of this girl, I never had a chance to interact with her. So there I had my chance with the choir practice. Occasional smiles and gestures were passed to each other and I could see her friend noticing the whole thing. I could see the girls whispering to each other, looking at me and giggling at times. I would do anything to impress her, would go to her house to call her for practice sessions and would make silly jokes when we traveled together for singing competitions. She was beautiful and I remember writing in my old diary at that time that “she looked like an angel in those white robes” when I saw her one day. That was probably the first one-way love affair but I was sure she had something going for me too. Probably, she wanted to hear from me first. But I, being the shy guy I was, blew off that chance.

Then came a pen friend, from a distance. We wrote to each other. I sent her a hand-painted birthday card for her birthday and that really impressed her. The inland letters from her moved way to heart-shaped papers. I would try hard to improve my English writing skills because her language seemed scarily perfect. That was the time I quit college and was working as a gold smith. She would insist me to continue the studies. And one day she gave me her phone number. I was earning very little those days, just about 600 bucks a month, but I spent so much of it on the phone calls. Scariest part was when she spoke English and I had a hard time understanding what she said. Then finally one day I went to her hometown to meet her. There she was! A typical NRI child, not so cute but all so modern. She came with her friend wearing a black T and jeans. I could tell from the shock on her face that she did not expect a short, lean, un-interesting guy who stood before her. Then came the worst moment. She said some of her friends would come along soon and she did not want me to tell them that I am her so-called pen friend. I just had to pretend I’m just a casual friend of her friend. She did not speak a word thereafter. I just sat there, humiliated.

Then came Internet and one chat friend. Again, phone calls and offline meetings. Then the first kiss which went just great. I remember sending her a cheesy message that evening which said “you made me feel like a man”, which was a rip-off from the Celine Dion song “you made me feel like a woman” from the album “Falling into you”. There was a personal record of a phone call that lasted 10 hours one day- from 10 at night to 8 in the morning. Many adventures followed and I enjoyed every bit of it. Everything about that relationship was too perfect to be real and obviously it began to break up. In an year and a half, we realized that we would be better being just friends.

Then there was one, who did brighten up each of my day with her words. A lovely girl. A good soul. A wonderful friend. By that time I had passed the boyish notions about love but was still looking for a soul-mate. I thought this girl would fit my life like a T emotionally but then there were many other things I considered and I realized it would be totally unreasonable. Moreover, I did not want to humiliate her a bit with telling her about what I thought of her. We remain good friends.

This valentine’s day, I remember them all. I thank them for the whole thing because at a time when my life had nothing interesting going on, the thoughts and dreams about them kept me alive. Some of them helped me learn a lesson or two about life too. And if you ask me, I would never regret any part of it.

Today I have a lovely wife who could tell what I am thinking or if my mood is changing by just one look at my face. With her I know that the tiny fights we have would only strengthen our relationship. And just a tight hug would do to ease out any problem between ourselves. To her, I toast on this valentine’s day.

Here is a song I had posted earlier which I think would be perfect for the occasion. Have a good day, everyone. :-) Oh, and about the post title? That’s a Willie Nelson song. You should check it out. :-)

Wilson Pereira

Wilson Pereira is a short film by Dhaneesh Jameson and it has vocal narrations of Mohan Lal (Malayalam), Nasirudeen Shah (Hindi) and Tom Alter (English). The film tells the story of Wilson Pereira, a cemetry keeper. The story that unfolds take you for a mystery ride. Beautiful animation, music and voice overs by some very talented actors. Check it out.

Wilson Periera (Malayalam) from Dhaneesh Jameson on Vimeo.

Ente Sampathu – Malayalam Gospel Rock

Here is a song that perhaps you could call the first Malayalam gospel rock song. This song was written and composed by the 19th century Christian missionary and poet Sadhu Kochukunju Upadeshi and this version was done by Sanjeev Thomas on the vocals (lead guitarist for A R Rahman), Baiju Dharmajan on lead guitars (of ex-”Motherjane” and now “Wrenz United” fame) and bassist Keith Peters (lead bassist for A R Rahman). The song was recorded at music director Deepak Dev’s D Major studio. I like this song for the distinct vocals of Sanjeev and the treatment of Baiju and Keith on the strings. Check it out!

Smart Chandy!

If you have read his comments on LDF government signing the Smart City agreement, you must have realized already that Ommen Chandy is the smartest politician in Kerala now. Contrary to the image he had, he proved himself in a day that he is the smartest politician of Congress party in Kerala. Have doubts? Just check out the history of Smart City agreement that was initiated during the Congress led UDF government. With the help from an anti-Left media power house in Kerala, Chandy could instill the “hunger for development” in people of the state. It was so much so that the people forgot to ask for the details of agreement. They were already awestruck by the numbers – the number of job opportunities which would come to the state.

Chandy was so eager to sign-off the agreement. With this he could have achieved two things – to prevent an opportunity to discuss the agreement details and to attain the “Karunakaranhood” of being a development friendly chief minister closing the deals in a fast pace. But then V S Achuthanandan, the then leader of opposition and now chief minister, brought the issue before public. The anti-state clauses in the so called development project was exposed. But a major portion of Kerala society still did not stand by it because they were so blinded by the hunger for “development” which was cunningly fed everyday by a newspaper that continuously sent anti-Left propaganda.

So what Chandy was eager to sign-off were these agreements:

  • The successfully running Infopark, Kochi,  and related area would be handed over to TECOM
  • State’s holding in the project would be 9%
  • TECOM would have the right to sell 12% of the project area
  • There should not be any I.T. related development in the area

Today Chandy had claimed that there were only “slight changes” to the original agreement and the credit for the project should go to his party. SO let us have a look at these slight changes that V S Achuthandan had been pushing:

  • Infopark, Kochi,  and related area will not be handed over to TECOM
  • State’s holding in the project has been raised to 26%
  • TECOM will not have the right to sell 12% of the project area as per the SEZ law
  • Other I.T. related development in the area is possible

Small changes indeed. And Chandy squarely blames the Achuthandan government for delaying the project. TECOM, who wanted to get the free holding in the land with the right to sell, is no where to be blamed by Chandy. I wonder what happened to the so called “threatening” of TECOM about withdrawing from the project.

They had tried it all the way – Like our Smart Chandy, TECOM also said they were ready to sign the deal and it was the government that had been delaying it (while they did not talk about the free holding clause), but nobody asked why TECOM was still so hot for the project. As far as I know TECOM did not have any of their forefathers who were born in Kerala to love the state so much so that they kept on insisting that they wanted to make the project happen in Kerala. At times, they even threatened that they would take the project elsewhere in India. With the help of Congress party and Malayala Manorama newspaper, they already had the public sentiments with them in the name of “development”.

But V S Achuthanandan stood strong. As the then leader of opposition and as the chief minister. His tough stand made TECOM bow finally and nod to the original agreements put forth by V S. So the credit for the Smart City project would duly go to V S Achuthandan. A portion of it would also go M A Yusuf Ali, the busienss magnet who was the mediator for the talks between TECOM and the state government.

If Smart Chandy has any political or personal integrity left, he should apologize to the Kerala society for trying to sign-off the deal that had many anti-state clauses foreseeing the elections back then. Not that I expect anything in that line from a politician, but at least he could have kept silent.

As for my personal thoughts on the project, I can foresee the land mafia being active again, the prices in and around Kochi going sky-high and other unavoidable evil associated with development.

(Here is a blog post from me in 2007 on the Smart City project)