On Privacy and Surveillance-05

These days there is a new watchman manning our society gate. And he is not interested in me. Well, not yet!

The New Watchman sits on the seat looking out, towards the gate and not my window, unlike the earlier watchman whose eyes never leaves my window. Probably, the new guy is not briefed about me. The Watchman who is mainly entrusted with the task of my surveillance is missing – on leave, I assume.

This makes my life easier. At least for a couple of days I can stand by the window and gaze the sky, without being gawked at nonstop. As one can guess, if someone starts watching you non-stop and periodically, it gets on your nerves. In India, one can’t do much about it. Probably, if I were in any western country, I would have called 911 or some such number and reported this behavior. In India, I might have to wait another decade or so, for that kind of facility. But, the question remains, will Indians ever get unto that kind of sensitivity with respect to privacy? My assumptions is – never.

There are no safeguards in India, if “someone turns someone’s head.” Sexual Harassments have a structure of reporting. What about Privacy Harassments? I’m not pointing towards any breach of Privacy. I’m a step ahead. I’m pointing towards outright, blatant harassment.

While working in my last company, the key people in the department came to know one day, that there is a “head” that exits near my house, whose “turning” can give them information on me. It took them just a couple of days to “recruit” and they got a “Turned Head” – a live CCTV pointing towards my house. How I know this? Let me show you how —

Shortly after the “installation of Live CCTV,” one day, as I was leaving the society gates for my evening walks, there appeared a loud call from the rear. Standing on the far end of the society compound was the “Turned Head.” And he shouted at the top of his voice – Neeraj Sir! Ambience! with repeated signs of an inverted thumb pointing towards his mouth. The cry was at the top of his voice with all evening goers of the society present. And also children who had stopped playing to watch the circus.

For people who don’t know, Ambience is a Bar nearby my house where I spent half my life snorkeling. It’s also a bar where I took all my friends to drink and paid all those through my nose. It’s also a place where people send there informers to snoop on me. It’s also a place I’m expected to be. My identification with “Ambience” reached such an extent that people mailed parcels to Ambience for me to receive.

The cry of “Ambience” which rang through my society that day signified many things. One, that people of position in the company can “recruit” a subordinate, a new guy with just few years in the company, and tell him everything about me, immediately upon knowing his location proximity to me. That’s a contemptuous attitude and this should have alerted me from my any future associations with them.

I had never had any relationship, social or otherwise with the “Turned Head.” In fact, I don’t have any social relationship with anyone in my society. It’s just Hai-Bye. The fact that the “Turned Head” knew the information on me including my habits and my usual haunt can only be informed by people known to me and with whom I sat and drank.

The “turned Head” turned several heads that day and after I left the company, the “Turn” is still on. I marvel at the hard work and discipline of all the Khabaree (informers) of my last company. They are the best workers. Just imagine the application and hard work they put in to feed their handlers. On a Bell-Curve their KPI would always be at the top.

I’m waiting for the day when I actually meet or they call me, those former “Khabaree” colleagues. The first thing which I will generously propose is a good position and reward for the “Turned Head.”

The “Turned Head” is doing a really great job. Work-From-Home, None-the-Less.

My life has always been news worthy. Not because I’m some great Hoo-ha, but because of my quirks – eccentricities, whims, accidents, mannerism, together with “over-the-head” partying and merry-making. These made my space a den of news-worthy information which patrons then, trade with their higher ups for miniscule personal gains.

Well, there are big information flowing in the corporate world but big information is rare and difficult to get hold of. Social Climbers and ingratiators need Daily Talking Points. Question – Who will provide those Daily Talking Points? Answer – A Low Hanging Fruit. And I’m that Low Hanging Fruit.

You won’t believe this. A Prime Informer of my last company got Star Performer Employee Award just for trading personal and private information.

At the turn of this century, while processing papers to join the company, I was in Calcutta. There was a lady working in a department of the company (which I was to join) who did not know me at all, but sought me out anyways to warn me from joining the company. She told me, and this I clearly remember, that I was making a mistake and the company is a dirty place from where it would be difficult for me to get out, that the company was not fit for people like me. I dismissed those warnings.

It’s my habit to dismiss warnings.

Twenty Two years after that warning was given, today I remember that lady and the warning. I had indeed joined a company with toxic culture. I had made a mistake.

In my Calcutta company, even though there was (and is) politics and dirty games, but when I was in the process of leaving and even after I left, there were no bad feelings and rancor. But, the company which I joined, the start was itself virulent and malignant.

Had I been in the habit of heeding warnings, I would have quit sooner before the rot of the company set into me. For, within a year of my joining the new company in 2001, some quite good staff simply left. And before they left they had wondered why I had chosen to join “that” company and no other. For they knew the pestilence. And the venom.

Just like the movie “Nagin” and the proverbial Indian myth, the snakes of a defunct company, are still seeking me out to bite. They already have a “Turned Head” positioned on me and a turned head can always get many more turned heads. I wonder what the end-game is going to be.

There are angels who walk far to warn. If only they could open minds and help perceive.

Leylah vs Emma

I like these names. Leylah, as usual, is pretty familiar to Indian ears as it’s in stories and folklore and movies of India. And Emma is familiar to anyone who is familiar with Jane Austen. It’s one of those famous books which I haven’t read. Yet the name has a sweet tone.

Leylah Fernandez and Emma Raducanu are both teenagers. Laylah just turned 19 and Emma will reach that figure in November this year. If age counts and if days and months count too, then this makes Emma younger and more potent on the court by few months. Both of them have defeated opponents who are not much old at all. Yet, during movements on the court and during long rallies, it’s very noticeable that the younger of the two have more reach, speed, and relentlessness, with no compromise on accuracy.

Emma Raducanu’s presence in the US Open 2021 has a history. Initially, she was not on the list of players. They called her in when the original participant, Jeļena Ostapenko, withdrew. But before getting her place in the first round, Raducanu had to go through a qualifier and in one of the three qualifiers, she defeated the experienced Mayar Sherif.

After defeating 4th seed Sharif in the qualifiers, the other seeded players she defeated were 11th seed Bencic, the Olympic 2020 Gold Medallist, in the quarterfinals and 11st seed Sakkari in the semifinals. Compared to Leylah, Raducanu has an easier ride to the finals, being pitched against lower ranked players.

Unlike Raducanu, Leylah played against higher ranked players. She defeated 3rd seed Osaka in the third round, after which Osaka seems to have quit tennis for the time being. Then she beat 16th seed Kerber, this year’s Wimbledon semifinalist, 5th seed Svitolina and finally, 2nd seed Sabalenka to reach the finals.

Till the eve of finals; Raducanu played 9 tournaments with total 18 sets and 18 wins. Leylah has played 6 tournaments with 16 sets and 12 wins. With quality and quantity head-to-head, Raducanu has more match and more wins, but Leylah has defeated higher ranked players.

If the intentions are good- statistics will tell a lot. But not without the usual clause, because life is uncertain. Past performance is no guarantee for future returns, in tennis or other-wise. Yet, one can gain judgment and perspective just by having some judgement and perspective to start with.

When Leylah walks on the court to face Raducanu in the finals of the US Open 2021, she will have several advantages in the game in which Raducanu is yet untested.

Leylah has shown something which the followers of Federer, Djokovic and Nadal may have noticed – the ability to raise the game whenever required. In most games, Leylah played three sets and faced tie breaks. If experience is anything in tennis (though many experienced players lose badly), then Leylah has that mental ability to get out of a hole and raise her game up a notch.

If Raducanu faces similar situations, will she be able to come back? That’s the question not known yet.

Raducanu is untested in either in comebacks after a set loss, and in three setters, and in tie break situations. One way to approach this is to consider that Raducanu may be a better player, that she has more skills and better technique, that she doesn’t get into sticky situations and shows her anticipation.

One would choose to be a Raducanu. Be lucky, at least to start with. She was at home when a phone-call notified a vacancy in the US Open. It may have been the world’s shortest time to say – Yes. Time and Talent met. Probably that’s called Dream-Run.

But one would love to see Leylah win. She has worked her way up with victories, defeats, and in one instance, against Kerber, a temporary debacle in the quality of her game. For people who show both their successes and failures and faults, the vulnerabilities, the benevolent majority always wish for their success.

I would love Leylah to win.

Walks on YouTube

Once you watch anything on YouTube, your friend, “Algorithm” will present you more of the similar kinds. Probably the “Algo” also gauges the “tone and texture” of the viewer, and throws up suggestions to widen the viewing curve. Maybe this got me a unique show; a show where people walk the streets with a camera and then upload their recordings. Later I found, this “walking with cam show” actually proliferates the Tube.

The first for me was – Keezi Walks, and I was hooked when I saw this gentleman, probably from New Zealand, walking the lanes and by-lanes of Varanasi (Banaras, Uttar Pradesh, India). An hour-long walk presents assorted views, sounds, colors and culture. Here is the link of the Varanasi Walk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX-zkkB7Y3M). Actually, “Mr. Keezi” walks all over the world.

Then there is this lady who walks in Sweden, Stockholm. She walks at Eleven in the night in bright sunshine. The view is absolutely surreal for me. Here is her link – https://www.youtube.com/c/StockholmWalks The good thing about this lady’s walks is, she gives some historical perspective too when necessary. And her walk lengths have variety–some are for just 10 mins and some for an hour. Which is easy as one can choose as per his time and mood. She cycles too.

And then there is this Japanese Gentleman who walks around Tokyo, suburbs and surroundings. We starkly noticed one thing in his walks–Japan has no population. I’ve seen him walk for half an hour, and in several videos, without a soul on the streets. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGb1R_vIqPE)

In contrast, to the Japanese walk, there is an Iranian–who walks the street of Tehran which is like walking any streets in India. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ln194SF0DUE)

Also popular is London Walks/Moscow Walks/Seoul Walks/US walks/Berlin Walks. Choose your own favourite walks.

Watching people on the streets and other lives making their living off it, one gets the feel for the uniformity of all our lives anywhere on earth. Same hurry, same gait, same sound, and same “mobile mania.”

But there is a difference, particularly in walks in western countries. And also Japan. Not only the streets look clean but one can see the use of colours; like street paintings and flowers on the sidewalks and on windows and also on the railings of bridges. And those flowers maintained. Besides, one can feel the order and symmetry in the houses and buildings. It’s pure pleasure. My reference point is the StockholmWalks.

Japan is pristine. And their back gardens are like the epitome of perfection. Such neatness and order speaks a lot about their culture and thought.

I compliment those who make these shows. It may seem just carrying a camera and walking around but I see a consistency in these posts which shows that they enjoy what they do and also want us, the watchers, to enjoy the same wonderful experience. Thank you all, “Cam Walkers” for bringing the vibrancy of life to every home around the world.

Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time. ~Steven Wright, stand-up comedian.

The Gold Rush, YouTube.

There are many things which one claims to knows without really knowing it. We know famous books, famous places, and famous movies. In this list, one can also include famous people, but knowing famous people is not a privilege readily available, and not even desirable due privacy concerns. But books, places and movies are readily available, and within these three, famous books and famous movies, classics so to say, can be accessed free of charge, except, Internet charges will apply.

So, in search of variety, I chanced upon this Movie “The Gold Rush” on YouTube. (https://youtu.be/Deu7xcKy-jc) Seems to be a very clear print of a 1925 movie. Now, I know, and you too know about the movie – The Gold Rush – but have “we” seen it. I, frankly, no.

Charlie Chaplin’s short movies are huge on YouTube but there are limits to how much one can expose oneself to such incessant comic-madness and not get immune. Cake-Throwing, Kicking, Hitting, Falling, of course, the famous Charlie Chaplin’s Running entertain you but only to an extent. Finally, one craves for good old story. The Gold Rush is exactly that – a good story decently shown.

The Gold Rush – is different primarily because there are no extended and exaggerated slapsticks. These are toned down considerably.

And since overt motions are restrained, more attention is spent on capturing subtleties of expressions and one can see and guess what’s being said between characters. This means, most scenes have steadiness and poise.

There are many clever devices through which the emotion of the scenes are highlighted. Particularly the “Shoe Eating” scene. A shoe is boiled and its leather is eaten with relish, with Iron nails of the shoe picked and nibbled as if it is a Fish-Bone.

The story is less about the Gold Rush and more about predicaments of few characters in the context of Gold. The primary pursuit is for love and relationships, with winning the Gold as an add-on gift. It’s a rags to riches to winning love story.

The story is such that it got to have a happy ending, otherwise, there was no point in the Rush.

If Chaplin said that The Gold Rush was the film for which he most wanted to be remembered, then it’s an apt choice.

Babel, Lionsgate, Apple TV

The movie “Babel” is eclectic. It moves back and forth between four families in four corners of the world all interconnected through incidents and human drama.

This movie was earlier on Amazon Prime with English Subtitles. But it’s missing there now. On “Loinsgate” (Apple TV) there are two flip sides for this movie.

One, the absence of English subtitles. Apart from English, Babel has other Languages – Arabic, Spanish and Japanese. The absence of subtitles will greatly disadvantage the first time viewers. Although, when the scene moves to Japan, dialogue is not primary. You’ll know when you watch it.

The second problem is that – on “Loinsgate” an important scene is brutally cut. There is a scene where Kate Blanchett, badly injured, has to shit in a pan, helped by Brad Pitt. The unedited version has a period of shot where it captures the distress of the couple having to go thru the act. In my opinion, this was the brilliance of the moment in the movie, the celebration of acting and the actors. Sadly, that has gone missing.

Nevertheless, viewers can avail free “Loinsgate” subscription on Apple TV for two weeks. Just subscribe and binge free for two weeks. Though one may not get the full impact of this movie without English subtitles, still, mutely, this movie has a charm.

The Japanese Girl has blown the screen. You won’t need words to understand her. She is mute.

Incendies, Movie, Amazon Prime

When watching any movie I try not to pre-read any reviews on it and also not know the full story. A small blurb is just right for me. The rest I try to gather as the movie progresses. I have a bias towards the rhythm of the unfolding plot and I “challenge” the movie to tether my attention, if it can. Or else, I move on.

This habit has made me reject many movies at the first dissonance. I hate labor in watching and reading. (Also doing anything!) I’m more for ease, patience, and mind-stuff. You see, I like things which I am not.

This habit of choosiness, particularly in my watchings and readings, has sometimes surprised me.

And this movie, “Incendies” has actually blown my mind.

The fact for which my mind is blown – I won’t reveal here. And if you want your mind to be blown, you would do what I did. Jump into the viewing right away and stay with it through thick and thin. I guarantee you absolute satisfaction – that you will come out of the movie with your brain in your hands.

This is a Canadian movie in mostly French and some Arabic and little English. Subtitles in English are there.

The backdrop of the movie has harsh terrain, religious violence, and bigotry. One can’t help observe and comment that human nature are same everywhere.

The main actresses’, the mother and the daughter, have performed and made the movie what it is, though other supporting casts are equally accomplished. When the movie is good, the sum is always greater than the parts.

Refer Wiki only if you don’t understand it till the end. You’ll discover “One Plus One is indeed One.”

Salt, Movie, Sony Liv

I had watched “Salt” before, in 2010, in theaters when the world was good. At that time I had found the movie pretty trashy. Good for one dekho.

But, recently, while browsing the “Sony Liv” I found “Salt” under heading “Oscar Winner” and lined up alongside some greats as “Spotlight,” “Erin Brockovich,” “1917” etc. I wondered “what the hell this trash win.” Wikipedia says – it was nominated for Oscars for best sound mixing but lost to “Inception.” Thank God.

Nevertheless, I gave it a second dekho.

The movie is definitely better than most of the new trashes on the streaming platforms. The Movie has all the ingredients of a racy and spicy fix, innumerable illogical jumps, and flights of fancies, primed and tuned for an uninterrupted watch.

In 2010, when this movie was released, this “Cold War” subject was old and stale. Spy thrillers between US and USSR is not exciting when the young population does not even remember what was USSR. Besides, old population like me also don’t care for we had enough of that. Variety is the spice of life. More potent and virile enemies have arisen since the debacle of USSR in 1990. Iran, China, Afghanistan or “state supported non-state actors” against the big brother US, would have made better and relevant movie subject.

The movie seems like a “Tom Cruise Reject” so the producers may have got slim and sexy Angelina Jolie who won’t disappoint. She had done these before (Lara Croft). Besides, she is watchable.

If you want to be thrilled. Only.

Few thoughts on China

China and United States do one thing very similar. Their governments invest heavily in Science and Technology.

We, Indians, think, rather erroneously, that in United States, it’s the private firms and private enterprise invest in Science and Technology. But it is not so. Right from Atomic Energy to the Moon landing, to Challenger missions and International Space Stations and any thing in between and thence, has all been the money of the US government.

China has copied this US method of supporting and subsidising science and technology. The flip side for China is – they have not copied the US politics. China is mono-party as US is multiparty, rather duo-party. This puts China in a very vulnerable position. How can they see some Techs which they have supported and subsidized go independent and list in the US stock market and start earning their own currency. Besides, any tech which comes in control of the western market can then be used as a handle to influence Chinese Politics and Policies.

Also, this narrative that China is “against online school systems” and apps, does not seem to be too believable. China is actually against “profit or use offshore vehicles” to fund Chinese Techs. China today has achieved a huge mileages in tech not because of some “Baiju” of China. They have got this through their own state school system. One child or three child, their school system will always have the heft to provide knowledge workers of the future.

The Wizard of Lies, Movie, Hotstar

Bernie Madoff died a couple of months ago this year. His name and misdeed is just an event in a long list of financial scamsters over the ages – past, present and future.

One present scam uncovered recently is committed by a Pakistani Billionaire, Arif Naqvi who defrauded Bill Gates among many other high end people. There is a book out on this and one can read about his “exploits” here.

There is a saying by Aristotle – “Youth is easily deceived because it is quick to hope.” As far as Finance is concerned, it seems, this “youth” is prevalent irrespective of age and experience. It won’t be false to guess that we are all living among some unidentified scams in our midst, waiting for it to uncover.

The movie “The Wizard of Lies” has not much to show how the scam occured. The movie begins with the scam already done and dusted. Only the fall out is left. It’s a human predicament story. Except one character, Bernie Madoff, the rest are shown in the dark about the details of the scam but considered equally liable for the crime. The most poignant part in the story was when Madoff’s eldest son commits suicide. The second son later died of cancer. Madoff’s wife had to downgrade her living.

The movie is watchable because of two great stars – Robert de Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer – who keep the audience engaged through their restrained performances for little over two hours long movie. There is not much melodrama and sob-stories. Just matter of fact conversations interlaced with some back stories on how the scam came about in short and wrong steps.

One other actor who leaves his mark on the movie is Hank Azaria. In a role of Bernie Madoff’s hatchet man he complements De Niro and adds a lot to the scene value. In a mostly sedate rhythm of the movie, Hank’s character enlivens the screen and has an impactful edge in the story.

The movie does have some undertones of rationalization and an attempt to show that the family of Bernie Madoff also suffered. But after all is said and done, for thousands of people whose savings were wiped out, there won’t be any consolation. The movie and the reality also shows (and shows time after time) that, not only the individuals scams the system but the law enforcement agencies remain docile till the scam blows on everyone’s faces. History shows – Only the Law Enforcers had survived.

Whole government is a Ponzi scheme ~ Bernie Madoff