अनिल एकलव्य ⇔ Anil Eklavya

June 17, 2011

From Abbottabad … With?

On the other hand, the website (of a software) that is operational, there is map that shows the places (as dots) from which people have visited that website. Adding it to the site was an extension of an idea given by someone who once worked with me, who had suggested that we might add such a map to another website meant for a research workshop.

In the beginning I used to eagerly see the map (the details that you get when you click on it) to check how many people have been visiting. Since the number was not very encouraging, now I only sometimes see this map.

Today I happened to see it and noticed that now they have an extra feature which more specifically lists (apart from showing on the map) the places from which the most recent visits have originated. One day, one IP address, one dot. Same day, another IP address, another dot. And so on.

And what is that? One of the dots is from … Abbottabad. Now given the things as they are at present (in India and elsewhere), and have been for some time, that is something to make you jump out of your chair. As I nearly did.

I wonder which of the three great parties is using my software. Or is there a fourth* party? Should I swell with pride, shrink with shame or just faint from fear?

* Dotters or Dot Busters?

Or should I just say: one more and in a new place. And go back to my work. Or sleep.

I wonder and wonder. Because it’s a wonderful world.

Perhaps I should just curse someone (unknown) somewhere (unknown) in the Night of the Living Geeks.

(With apologies to the good people of Abbottabad.)

(As an afterthought.)

(There are some, aren’t there? … There must be.)

January 12, 2011

Life without Corporate Media

Sometimes you have to give up things without which you think your life would be incomplete. That it will be hard to bear. How the hell are you going to manage without it?

This can happen with other things too, but it usually happens with things which have become so much a part of your routine that you can’t imagine life without them. You become, in a way, addicted to them. When you are somehow compelled to give them up, life seems hard. For a while, at least. After a while, or more than that, you might become used to living without them.

Having got out of the addiction, the feelings that you might have may differ. Sometimes you might still look forward to the day when you can have that thing back in your life. Sometimes you might adopt a sour grapes attitudes and just pretend that you don’t want it anyway. But there are times when you can say, with all truthfulness, “Good riddance!”.

That is how I feel towards Corporate Media now. I have been an addict, in some cases a hard core one, of all (or at least several) kinds of Corporate Media: of radio and T.V., but most of all of newspapers. Radio and T.V. were lost long (several years) ago and the loss was not so big. The hardest was newspaper. I was one of those people whose day is spoilt completely if they don’t get their newspapers, not just everyday, but with their morning tea. And who simply have to read almost all of that newspaper. Even if it is a pain for the eyes and the back and the neck.

Therefore, when I had to stop reading newspaper everyday (whatever may have been the reasons), and here I mean hard copy, not the online version, it really was a hardship for quite some time. It was as if a part of my life was taken away. Still, I continued reading it online, not exactly everyday, but quite regularly. Then, the frequency of reading it got reduced and gradually there came a point where I totally stopped reading newspapers.

This complete stoppage, though from the chronology it seems to be the sole result of not being able to read the newspaper in hard copy, was a conscious choice. Because, by that time, I had come out of the addiction and when I thought about it, I found, very much to my surprise, that I could heartily say, “Good riddance!”.

Note that I am talking about newspapers in general, but with the implied assumption that all of them were basically instances of Corporate Media, and am not talking about a specific newspaper. In fact, the last one, the one that I finally stopped reading was definitely better than most others and perhaps with the least Corporate characteristics. I might also add that I have been an addict of at least three major (Indian ‘National’) newspapers at different times during the last (more than) thirty years. And even in case of T.V. and radio and some other forms of media, I have the experience of regularly following many sources or outlets.

Of course, not reading any newspaper daily has its drawbacks. For example, these days sometimes I find out about some major event several days later. For a person like me (who is marginally involved in the dissident media), that can be problematic. Still, it is not exactly true that I don’t read any newspaper at all now. I do periodically check Google News and read some of the ‘stories’ linked there. But that is mostly in the sense of, “What are they up to now?”.

What I do read, and where I get information and even ‘news’ that matters, is the ‘dissident media’. And I find, with only a few reservations, that this (much) more than compensates for the loss of my daily newspaper, as far as being aware of what is happening in the world is concerned.

In spite of the many usages of the first person pronoun in the preceding paragraphs, I hope the reader will have already understood that it is not about me. Because this kind of thing, even for me, could not have happened independently of what is happening in the world today. For one thing, there was no online newspaper just 15 years ago (neither did I have access to the Internet). There was no online dissident media, no blogs, no subscription in emails etc. For another thing, Corporate Media was never so blatantly, shamelessly Corporate as it is now. And being that, what it produces now is such trash that, when your addiction is gone, you can only wonder why were you addicted to it in the first place?

But then there is another thing. Since I have been consuming the produce of various kinds of Corporate (as well State) Media for such a long time and in such quantities and with such critical concentration (bordering on obsession) that given an event, I can predict most of the things that a particular newspaper would say. I have learnt their mechanics. I can see through them. I can read the subtext. I could do that even when I was still addicted, but what I mean is that this understanding of their methods (and I don’t mean behind the scene goings on, but only the text-subtext-message itself) makes the loss only the loss of an addiction, which is not a bad thing.

There was a time when the media, in spite of being owned by corporations, had something real to offer. You could get some truth out if it. That is now history. Yes, in a crude sense you still can get some information, and if you know how to read the subtext and to guess the unwritten, you can still be in touch with the global and national goings on by following this same media, but only to a small degree. Earlier, blatant lies were a rarity in the prestigious sections of the media. They could be exposed, and when exposed, they could cause major scandals and embarrassment. That is not the case now. Blatant lies are now quite common even among the more responsible newspapers. Let alone the distortions, omissions, spins, deliberate distractions etc. And exposure doesn’t rattle them much. The skins have become much thicker.

So, whatever may be your ideology, if you want to get a good idea about what is going on in the world, your best bet now is the dissident media. Even blogs are better than the mainstream media, if you know how to pick the good ones.

I am not kidding. I am not exaggerating either.

How can that be? There must be a catch somewhere. The bloggers and the dissident media people simply don’t have the infrastructure to gather news from all parts of the world everyday. That can only be done by Corporate Media.

Yes, there is a catch. The thing is, the bloggers and the dissident media people can take all that they want from different sections of the Corporate Media, clear out the trash, put the non-trash things together, and produce something much better than what you get from the mainstream media. There is another catch. Due to the ideological differences and some other factors, one dissident media source alone may not be enough. You might have to more than one of them. You don’t have to do that all at the same time. You can rotate between these sources. Read one source one day and a different one the next day. On the Internet, it is not very difficult to do, provided you don’t become addicted to just one source.

There are problems with the dissident media, some of them the same as with Corporate Media, but they are much less. The major problem is that there is still (as far as I know) hardly any dissident media at levels smaller than at least the national level. For example, if I want to know about the local politics of a particular state in India, there is little of that to be found on the global dissident media sources. There may be some blogs, but they still don’t (at least in the Indian context) provide a real substitute. This is a problem if you want to give up following the Corporate Media altogether. But as long as it is there, there is no harm in using it for some purposes. In fact, one reason I occasionally still follow it is to get an insight into the workings of the minds behind the Corporate Media, from their own sponsored words. (By the way, in that sense, even the advertisements can be helpful). They can also help you in predicting what they are going (or planning) to do, regardless of the surface meanings of what they (and the media) are saying. Crudely put, the Denial Principle works here, i.e., Peace means War.

But we can look forward to the day when the dissident media will be able to collect all its news on its own, probably (and partly) through what is called ‘citizen journalism’, though I am aware of the difficulties.

Meanwhile, there is a life of awareness after Corporate Media. And I can say that it is better than what it was before, leaving aside, for a moment, the other aspects of life.

Not to mention the saving of paper and, therefore, the reduced need to cut trees.

Viva la Dissident Media! (Excuse my Spanish).

June 13, 2008

Sharing Yves Montand’s Gift

I can’t resist sharing this legendary song by a legendary singer. It’s possible for you to watch him sing this song which was introduced by him a long ago but has since been sung by innumerable singers, including his mentor Edith Piaf.

It’s called ‘Les Feuilles Mortes’ (‘Autumn Leaves’ in English) and is based on a poem by Jacques Prévert and has music by Joseph Kosma. I am sure a part of the tune has been used in an old Hindi song, but I am just not able to place that song.

This is also a gift from technology. There are people who, over the decades, have helped in the development of technology for this. And there are people who have helped make something like ‘precision’ (and/or) cluster bombs.

Perhaps the intersection between the two sets is quite large.

Did they have to? Necessarily?

By the way, here is the link for the residents of IIIT, Hyderabad who won’t be able to see the video above as the youtube site is banned there.

I mean here.

Too dangerous a technology.

But the in.youtube site (which was inaugurated with news stories in the national mainstream media) is not banned so far. I hope nationalism ensures that it remains unbanned. It should be of some use. Nationalism. Earn its keep. If it works hard enough.

Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t recognize the in.youtube site.

But nationalism has not saved the India Together site from being banned. And the funny thing is that I am perhaps the only person on the campus who tries to access this site.

While I am at it, I may as well share a song by Edith Piaf.

April 26, 2008

A Tryst with the Soul of Paris (1)

As I promised, I am going to write about the movie ‘La Môme’, also known as ‘La Vie en Rose’ (‘The Life in the Pink’). The movie is about the legendary French popular singer Édith Piaf, real name Édith Giovanna Gassion, but earlier known as La Môme Piaf (The Little Sparrow).

For the last many weeks, I have been soaking myself in her songs. Not her alone, because I am never ever an exclusivist, but my playlist during this period has been almost half full of her songs. Or songs related to her, i.e., songs sung by her which were later also sung by others. As far as music is concerned, this has been one of the major obsessions so far. And it doesn’t look like I am going to get over it soon. I don’t mind it, of course.

I even found some notes and tunes familiar from Hindi film songs, which are the true melting pot of music like nothing else.

Did I say I will talk about it later?

Let it be said that I have listened to a very wide variety of music from around the world and claim to have a very good musical sense. So, now that you know about my qualifications for writing about her and the movie based on her (I guess you already know that I also claim to have a very good cinematic sense), I can get on and you better take me seriously.

Heh! Heh! Where is your degree?

First, I will say what has already been said by all. Marion Cotillard has given a great performance in this movie as the legendary singer. It’s hard for me to forget that she is not really Édith Piaf.

By the way, she became the first actor (or actress) to “ever win an Academy Award for Best Actress (“Oscar”) for a performance entirely in French”. Given that winning an Academy Award is considered the height of achievement for people working in the movies, doesn’t it sound a bit strange? I mean French directors (along with directors from other countries from Europe and Asia) have been making movies and setting the standards for others for a long time now and French actors have been acting in them. Well enough to deserve world class awards.

How easy it is to forget that the Oscars, the Academy Awards, are mainly meant for English movies. There is just one magnanimous (or guest, if you like) category for ‘Foreign language movies’. But everyone behaves as if the Academy Awards are equally for all movies of the world.

Can we expect globalization of the Academy Awards? I won’t bet on it.

Except that I have never bet.

The spell checker has identified ‘globalization’ as an invalid word. I am adding it to the dictionary. The spell checker also doesn’t recognize ‘exclusivist’ as a valid word. I am adding this word too.

I have heard the term ‘Artificial Intelligence’ somewhere. I also heard a rumor (rumour for the non-dominant party) that computers now have some of it. Why do I feel a bit relieved that it is just a rumor?

Coming back to the movie, it is about a singer who, as someone said, “belts them out, doesn’t she?”. She does indeed. And she does just great. I have become her lifetime admirer. For whatever is left.

She was a born singer. She started on the street. She was the daughter of an acrobat and a street singer. For some time she lived in a brothel managed by her grandmother, where she was treated very well. One of the prostitutes became so fond of her that she was heartbroken and hysterical when the father came back for his daughter. With her father, she (the singer to be) lived in a circus. Later she accompanied her father on his acrobatic (contortionist) street shows and started singing. Then she sang on the streets with her half-sister, who remained close to her till her death, except for some time when she felt ignored and abandoned by the star singer.

She was discovered by a nightclub owner. She was suspected of involvement in his murder, but was cleared. She denied that she had anything to do with that and I would prefer to believe that. I would rather give her the benefit of doubt than to Henry Kissinger. Or so many like him, even if not his equal in douchehood.

She sang under the protection of local mafia men, who took their share, obviously. She met a composer, Marguerite Monnot, who also became her ‘most loyal friend’ for the rest of her life. Then she was mentored by a composer who was also a poet and a businessman. She became popular on the radio as well as on the stage. She became a star. Actually, in France, she became a super star. She mentored many people and helped them launch their career. And ‘dropped’ them when they became successful and no longer needed her mentoring. She helped launch many careers, including that of another legendary singer Yves Montand. Jean Cocteau wrote a successful one-act play ‘Le Bel Indifférent’ specially for her and she acted in it.

She was severely injured in a major car accident. Then she suffered more car accidents. Partly because of injuries from the car crashes, she got into addiction and suffered more. She fell in love with a married French boxer (who was a star in his own right in France) …

Well, according to the ethics of movie reviewing, I shouldn’t divulge too much. Suffice it, as the phrase goes, to say that if there was anyone whose life was the stuff of legend, she was the one.

I would say even more than Howard Hughes.

So much about her, what about the movie? It is one of best biopics I have ever seen. It is better than ‘The Aviator’. It is better than ‘Capote’, even though I have more than a soft spot for movies made about writers or about literature. It is better even than ‘Gandhi’. More about that last movie later.

Now the reasons why it is better. First is simply that I like it more. But more specifically, everything is almost perfect in this biopic. Direction (Olivier Dahan) is really good without being pretentious or stiff. Screenplay (Isabelle Sobelman and Olivier Dahan) is as it should be for a biopic. Realistic but still interesting. Not over the top. Neither starry eyed, nor of the kind which seems to be declaring ‘I will (academically) judge this person’s personal life and cut him or her to size’.

Marion Cotillard actually became The Little Sparrow. I don’t know whether it was with or without Method Acting. The rest of the cast also gave very convincing performances, including the actress who played Marlene Dietrich. I should make special mention of Sylvie Testud who played the role of Mômone (Simone Berteaut), Édith’s half-sister and her lifelong friend. Her lifelong partner in mischief.

For now, I will stop talking about the movie here as I intend to write a second installment of this post.

I would be proud to have lived a life like the one she lived. With warts and all.

Even now, as I write, she is singing in the background. Literally.

In the words of the movie’s Marlene Dietrich, she is taking me on a voyage to Paris. Where (unlike Marlene Dietrich) I have never been, except for half an hour at the airport when I had to keep sitting in the plane as there was a strike at the airport. So I have yet to set my feet on the soil of Paris, but The Little Sparrow, who really belts them out and who embodies the soul of Paris, has flown me around there plenty of times now.

P.S.: The strike in the above paragraph doesn’t mean terrorist strike. It means labour strike. Just in case.

And yes, labor for the dominant party.

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