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July 26, 2009

Hidden Agenda !!!

Visit to Crossword -Ahmedabad while working in Philips was an monthly ritual after pay-day. Always on a lookout for socio-econo-political comentaries with a bias towards history especially relating to those exotic sounding regions of the world that seemed mired in endless conflict - Latin America , Eastern Europe and Jerusalam . On one such occasion I chanced upon a book with a rather ominous title 'Hidden Agenda' .


Written by an world renowed, (but largely unknown in India) Australian journalist -John Pilger(http://www.johnpilger.com/) . The book chronicles how vested US business & political interest under the guise of "national security interests" ensured that puppet regimes were instated in many countires at the cost of true democracy & thousands of innocent lives. Each country is a case study in itself - Nicaragua, Bolivia, Guatemala list goes on.



Hidden Agenda had a dramatic effect on my way of thinking & analyzing.. it made me look at an issue from several different vantage points than the one most commonly viewed. It showed that there was nothing black or white , everything was a shade of grey,, including the US foreign policy .


So it was quite a delight when over the weekend I located & viewed an documentary 'War on democracy' made by John on the internet at http://freedocumentaries.org/film.php?id=171. (It truly made my sunday) The documentary is an extension of his book 'Hidden Agenda' and its central theme is around Venezuela & its highly controversial leader -Hugo Chavez. Without revealing the plot it highlights the challenges that an country faces in its march towards progress and prosperity .. should there policies be right-wing ( pro-big-business/bourgeoisie-and therefore pro-US) or left-wing (pro common-man/proleteriat, and therefore in nature -anti US). The documentary changed my opinion of what is happening in Venezuela - a country divided from within (Would strongly recommend watching that documentary even if you are apolitical person )

It also made me reflect about India , because we seemed to have found the middle path, between left & right wing. A country where business leaders - Ambanis, Tatas, Birlas are not hated but revered. Where a BMW and a bullock cart coexist amicably. We had some dark chapters in the past 20 years - Mandal commission , Gujarat riots and the politically manufactured crises in Singur (against the Tata nano project). But for a country as vast & complex as ours I would consider them as isolated incidents.
And so it is that watching' war on democracy' made me feel proud of our own democracy .. India



July 17, 2009

How I became a 'news Junkie'

Like all stories, this story too starts a long-long time ago..and is influenced - inspired by a women (no prizes for guessing that )

The story begins in the year 1994 - year Star TV introduced cable television to India, as part of their bouquet of channels they offered - Star TV, MTV, BBC, Star Sports.


At 17 years of age my staple diet of Cable used to be Baywatch (when parents were away at work) or Mash, Neighbours, British comedies (otherwise). But one day as destiny would have it, while browsing thru the channels aimlessly I saw her .......




Katy Haswell was her name and she was a News reporter on BBC World !!



... while the generation 'Next' tuned in to MTV to see their fav artists - Madonna, Mariah Carey, Paula Abdul et al, I tuned on BBC News to watch ...... Katy Haswell



Anyone familiar with BBC format would know that 30 mins of news is followed by 30 mins of other programming, did not matter I used to seat right thru those 30 mins... so while the world watched MTV, I became BBC's 'patron in chief '

And so it is that even 15 years later, in whichever time-zone, geographical area I may be residing, I wake up to BBC News (Thanks to broadband internet and streaming video technology)











Subsequently Katy left BBC to host her own show ' The Art Show' on CNN, which I used too I started following... http://www.excellentvoice.co.uk/talentdetail.php?id=140 and check the showreel which captures the personality of Katy Haswell ... or check this youtube video of her hosting the art club http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oU4N-Pcw_I



July 14, 2009

Both sides of the story ..

We are inundated by news from all directions; most of us form opinions, thoughts, based on what we watch on the news bulletin. But we do not realize how easily we can fall prey to media excesses. Because some time ago we got hot-wired in believing that what they tell in the news, it ought to be true.

Media outlets today are big business and like any business they want to get the highest ROI (Return on Investment), for that they need advertisers, to get advertisers, they need viewers (all of us). And to keep us hooked on to the news broadcasts, news media uses the human psychology to their advantage by sensationalizing everything. This strategy of sensationalism over substance seems to be bearing fruit for the news media outlets in generating record viewership.

But fortunately today for someone discerning, popular news media is but one option … so many alternate sources of information have proliferated that with limited effort, we can see both sides of the story and make our own opinion.

And I want to challenge you to an actual case in point - read these articles below on the current crises in Honduras from CNN and BBC

http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/07/06/honduras.political.turmoil/index.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8135622.stm


Now read this article I found on a offbeat news site www.csm.com

http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0702/p09s03-coop.html

And think how your opinion has dramatically altered because instead of just consuming whatever is served by the news media giants you decided to make your own informed mock-tail

July 7, 2009

Power of positioning !!

Barack Obama addressed students of the Cairo University today, what was billed to be a beginning of a new chapter between America and the Muslim world, a new dialogue based on mutual respect. I started admiring Obama for his gift of speech making in early 2007, when he was still a largely unknown candidate contesting for the Democratic nomination in the primaries. I was staying in Cleveland during that time.

But more than mere word play, what I admired the most was his positioning. On almost any issues, even the most intractable, he takes such a position which seems acceptable to all parties. I learned the art of positioning observing him, and it is more than ‘cliché’s’ and ‘glamorous words’ because you need to first know what is your positioning – which requires intellectual prowess, a deeper understanding of the world around you.

And recently I got treated to another exemplary example – abortion is a highly controversial issue in US, the entire population is divided right to the middle in two camps -- Pro –choice (favor of abortion) and Pro-life (Against abortion). You can just gauge the sensitivity and the kind of passion this subject generates from the recent incident where a doctor performing late state abortions was shot dead while attending Sunday Mass by a Pro-Life activist.

When Obama was giving a speech on the subject he took the position that we should be really focused on preventing unwanted pregnancies – which are the cause of abortion and the whole controversy in the first place. Though he did not elaborate on that in detail, according to me --it a masterstroke of positioning. Suddenly everyone has a common ground – whether pro-choice or pro-life.

And it is the art of positioning that we all should learn from Obama - create our own brand, our own positioning !!!!

the Universe !!!

Something in us recognizes the Cosmos as home. We are made of stellar ash. Our origin and evolution have been tied to distant cosmic events. The exploration of the Cosmos is a voyage of self-discovery – Carl Sagan

My fascination with the Universe started while watching “COSMOS” by Carl Sagan on Doordarshan as a kid, but than for decades it lay dormant. Than in 2007 when I was living in Cleveland . Watching hours of programming on the Universe on History channel, reignited that lost interest.

Since than I have spend countless hours reading on the Universe. But yesterday I took a first concrete step towards fulfilling a childhood dream – of exploring the Universe from my own telescope. I bought a 203 mm Dobsonion Reflector telescope from Orion.






The package arrived at the FedEx ground facility in El Paso from where I picked it up. Parked next to my car to give a perspective of the size of the scope.











It would take me all of the coming weekend to assemble its over 20 components. This is how it should look after it is fully assembled Wish me luck as any fault in assembling the scope would render it useless.
Will share the journey of discovery with all of you.