Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Book Review: The Post American World

I recently read the book, "Post American world" by Fareed Zakaria. It is a very good book. This one goes into my list of books, that i should buy soon.
There is a famous saying, "The sun never sets in the British Empire". The Britain was a great empire. When the queens birthday came, there were celebrations in all parts of the world. It is really amazing, how a small country, was able to control the entire world for so many years. But now, that mighty British Empire is no more. America and Russia took over as the worlds most powerful countries after the world war. But, after the end of cold war, America is literally the uncontested leader, far above than any of its competitor in any field possible - military, politics, economy, technology, research to name a few.
The main question raised in the book is, "If such a mighty British Empire can fall, what can possibly happen to the US in the next few decades?" There are striking differences between the British Empire in 1900 compared to the US now, but there are few similarities too. Rise of China and India are often compared to the rise of the US and Germany in 1900. Can the rise of China and India bring down America? There are two separate chapters focusing on the rise of India and China, not just because they are the two fastest growing countries in the world. But also because they paint a good picture of the foreign policy difficulties that the US is about to face in the future.
I have read a book, "The world is flat", by Thomas Friedman. I should say both these books go hand in hand. They both talk about the impact of globalization on the world economy and politics. But this book, also talks about the policy issues from the US point of view and also the rest. Also discusses the plus and minus of the current US policies and explains in detail, what needs to be done, in order to regain the momentum and give life to the fading American Dream.
And when it comes to india, the book deals about the current challenges that we are facing, and the relationship between India and the US. Did you notice the recent state elections? The central issues in the country, including Terrorism, didnt take the centre stage, rather more local issues ruled the elections, one main reason why Congress was able to win. The author have talked about this "local" politics taking a big leap in the country and have compared it to the US during 1920.
Well, anyways, it is really a good book. Give it a read, and you wont regret.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire

One of the best movie this year. No doubt there. The movie is just full of life. I just cant believe that this was directed by an English guy.

The movie opens with a question.

Jamal Malik is one question away from winning 20 million Rupees. How did he do that?

A. He cheated
B. He's lucky
C. He is a genius
D. It is written

And the movie travels towards answering the question and along the way, picturises, the best and the worst of India. It touches the core problems in India, the poverty, Hindu-Muslim riots, Beggars, Red light areas, and many more. It also touches some really beautiful part about India as well.

The movie has already won critical acclaims. Right from the New York times, to the Time magazine, everyone have already praised the movie so much, for its reality and the story telling. (already one of the top 100 movies in IMDB) All said and done, i would like to see the movie from an Indian point of view. It is a great movie about India. It explains in detail, how big a hell, life in India can be. 

At last, we have to wait for an English director to direct a "Indian" movie, when every movie maker in India is trying to desperately imitate Hollywood. AR Rahman said in his recent interview with Reuters, that the Director, Danny Boyle, literally lived in Mumbai for two odd years, in order to learn about Mumbai to make this movie. The songs and the Back ground score is brilliant. AR Rahman is god. No more words needed to say about him. I really hope he wins the Golden Globe and also lets hope he has a shot at Oscar.

There is one really good scene in the movie. The hero, as a kid, is a travel guide. And one time, he is with some Americans and some thieves steal the foreigner's stuff, while they were outside the car. And when they come back and find out, even the tires from the car was stolen, the car driver, Indian, starts beating up the kid accusing him for stealing everything. The Americans try to stop the driver and the bleeding kid says to them, "You wanted to see Real India, here it is" The Americans say, "Here is a bit of real America son" and generously give him some money. I think, it brings out the true India. Helpless, cruel, tough. 

But i think it has it flaws too. The movie is mainly made for audiences around the globe. So all the dialogues are in English and I think that steals a bit of reality from the movie. Even though, i don't fully understand Hindi, i would love to see the movie in complete Hindi.

Do see the movie.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

TIME - Person of the year 2008

It is BARACK OBAMA . I am not surprised at all. In fact, no one should be surprised to learn this.

Apart from Obama, you can also find, Hillary, McCain, Palin, Henry Paulson and other prominent personalities. Surprisingly, Bush is listed as one of the "People who mattered". Actually, he did. In a negative way.

Monday, December 15, 2008

America's war on Terror - Lessons to be learnt

I read two really good articles today. One in "The Hindu" about the lessons to be learnt from the US War on Terror. You can read it here.

"As many as 654,965 more Iraqis may have died since hostilities began in Iraq in March 2003 than would have been expected under pre-war conditions. The deaths from all causes — violent and non-violent — are over and above the estimated 143,000 deaths per year that occurred from all causes prior to the March 2003 invasion. Iraq’s overall mortality rate more than doubled from 5.5 deaths per 1,000 persons before the war began to 13.3 per 1,000 persons by late 2006"

And other article, in Wall Street Journal, about the Indian Democracy. You can read it here. This article talks a bit about the recent elections in India and about the status of the Indian politics in general.

"The electorate's ability to look through the fog of terror, set emotions aside and focus on basic quality of life matters is a sign of the maturation of Indian democracy."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Obama - The next president of the US

I am really glad, that Obama was elected the next president of the US. chuck all the effects, Bradley, Urkel, everything. He smashed all the records and has become the first African American president.

Like many people, i have been following the US elections right from the beginning. Initially, Obama said "change" and all other competitors even in the Democratic party laughed. In spite of all the silly and desperate campaign efforts from the McCain group, he has made history.

If you think about it, Obama's story can be made into a movie and it is a sure block buster. He is like a Hero now. If this indeed was a movie, then by this time, credits will be rolling. But it is not. And it seems like Obama understands that already. Do you know, Obama already has a 50-chapter transition booklet, with details on how, when and who he should appoint for which position? Just brilliant. Bill Clinton started the planning only after he got elected and reached a decision only 4 days before his inauguration.

As all the newspapers pointed out, it is indeed a success for Democracy. With a record turn out like this, newspapers are claiming that it looks like America is just re-inventing herself. The US behaves as if it is a newly formed Democratic country, as if people were given a right to vote just yesterday. Americans have proved that they are a lot more tolerant about race than any other country in the world. Imagine, if the Bradley effect did work and if Obama lost the election, it is a big scar for the country, that boasts its Democracy and Free Markets.

Now, what can I expect from a Obama era? It is weird and at the same time astonishing, how every single person in the world is asking this same question. This is a testimon of the American influence on the World, which is both good and bad, as i have always assumed. Anyways, in India, there is already a suspision that he will crush the Outsourcing industry. In my opinion, there is a slight possibility for that happening. He promised to give tax cuts for corporates, who employ more people in the US. Given the fact that the Corporate tax in the US is so high, and the forthcoming recession and the unemplyment rate in the US, there is a slight possibility of that happening. But again, it can be argued that all the above said reasons can work in favor of India as well. We gotta wait and see.

What about Finance industry? I am really worried about the answer to this question. The american president has enourmous power to bring about change in anything. And in general, the Democrats have always, always argued for more regulation. Therefore, we can expect to see more oversight and strict regulations for the American Banks. This can be a big blow to the Investment Banking industry, given the fact that the industry has been thriving because of less regulation and more risk-taking. All this will change. But to what extent? We gotta wait and see.

Obama said during the victory speech, "Change has come to America". I dont know how change can come, if he is going to appoint everyone in his team from Clinton era. Every president in the US, said he wanted to change the way business is done in Washington, but noone ever achieved it. (Even Bush said, he wanted change, during his 2000 election campaign). But lets hope, atleast Obama will bring about the Change we expect.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

US Presidential Elections - III

After two long years, the race for the White house, is about to end this Tuesday. The race was so close. It was really tough. Even today you cannot be sure about who is going to win. It looks like Obama has a good chance. But anything can happen.

This week "Time" magazine had a good article about the leadership style of the two candidates and also, about the various problems that they might face in this presidency. I think it makes perfect sense. There are just too many things that the next president should fix. There is a huge Economic Crisis, Energy crisis, Unemployment, Housing crisis, Health care, possible Recession, Problems in Iraq, fragile Afghanistan, decaying Pakistan, Rise of China, newly refreshed ambitions of Russia, Climate crisis, Problems with Iran, Terrorism in the country itself.

Am just a normal university student, who occasionally happen to check the news. Even I can list down 14 critical issues that the next US president has to address. Then imagine the real trouble he is in.

Over the years, the world has developed a certain dependency towards US. We all tried to follow their Free Market Capitalism and Democracy and unknowingly became too dependent on US. The problems that the US president has to address just becomes too much when you add in this "Dependency" factor. Whether you like it or not, every decision, he is gonna make is gonna affect the world, not just the US. And that is the sad reality. We are in a once-in-a-century crisis right now, because the current administration for some reason, refused to acknowledge this fact.

You can read the 6-page article here and it will give a pretty good idea of how the next 4 years can be. Anyways, am eagerly waiting for the results of the US elections.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Obama informercial

Check this one. I found in Time website. Prolly shd hav been the effect of Obama buying primetime for an infomercial. If you havnt seen it yet, you can see the infomercial here. I think Obama has too much money to spent and is not quite sure, what he can do with it, with elections coming to an end. "Spend this many millions in this many days". lol.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Spoofing Sarah !

"Katie, I would like to use one of my life lines"

This is hilarious. I read something in Time website today, titled, "Shamelessly Spoofing Sarah". See the videos and have fun !

I dunno how many ppl saw the Sarah Palin interview with Katie Couric, where she said, she has foreign policy credentials, just because she can see Russia from Alaska. I bet, even Vladimir Putin would have laughed hysterically when he read about this. For some reason, when i saw the interview, i remembered the Miss Teen USA video.

After seeing the videos, i thought about President Bush. I mean, how is she different from Bush? Have you seen the "Sovereignty" video, where President Bush, tries to explain what tribal sovereignty is? lol.

I was actually feeling bad, that Bush is leaving, because with Bush it was too much fun. But i think we have Sarah Palin now. Atleast for this, Sarah should win.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

US presidential Elections - II

Have you seen the "Google Docs rox" video in youtube? I kind of like the "commoncraft" series. I dunno how many people know about this. But check the following video, titled, "Electing a US president in plain English".

The US system is so complex. The first time i was introduced to the US politics, it was through the module "Introduction to Political science" in my second year. Until then, i had no clue about their presidential system. We often read about this in "Civics" (Last few pages of "History" book, where they vaguely introduce rights, duties, blah, blah) in school. But who cares about Civics, when you get enough choice in "History" portion. (That is the plus side of studying in State board syllabus)

As i was saying, the US system is quite complex. But this video makes it so simple. I wish i had seen this video when i was doing that political science module. (Not that, it would have helped my grade. Just that it would have made me go to classes)

Why Obama is winning

I read an article in Time website today, about the Obama's journey in the last two years. Was really interesting. You can read it here.

"He is undoubtedly as ego-driven as everyone else seeking the highest office — perhaps more so, given his race, his name and his lack of experience. But he has not been childishly egomaniacal, in contrast to our recent baby-boomer Presidents — or petulant, in contrast to his opponent. He does not seem needy. He seems a grown-up, in a nation that badly needs some adult supervision."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Is it really the end of America and Capitalism?

Is the current crisis, the beginning of the end?

America has always been the sign of Democracy and Capitalism. (or Anglo-Saxon capitalism, as the Europeans like to call it). No denying that. My opinion is, Democracy is the best form of government, in spite of all the trouble that comes as one package. And capitalism is the best way to increase the prosperity and also is the best ideology for nation-building.

A serious question is being raised these days. Is the current crisis, the end of American dominance in the Finance ground? The American government is planning to buy stake in all the big banks. They have publicly announced that this is a short term decision and the government will not interfere in the banks activities. But many Europeans have already started saying that the American system has failed. Is it really the end of capitalism? I hope not.

But what exactly is about to happen? If indeed America fails miserably, what will happen next? Read this article in Wall Street Journal, titled, "The dangers of Diminished America". I think every line makes sense in this article. The failure of America will indeed create a power vacuum. And given the current situation, where the world rogue countries are either afraid of America or dependent on America, this could prove disastrous. The Democrats in America are already talking about ending the war in Iraq, abruptly. They are already talking about cutting foreign funding. They are going to concentrate more in Nation building. Considering the current situation, where Recession in the US in unavoidable, i think this can create real trouble for the next president. Lets hope Obama can lead the nation, as he led his campaign in the last two years, which is the best example of how a campaign should be run. McCain campaign was chaotic. Not in line with the Democrat, as pointed out by Colin Powell.

But the serious question remain, What is his stance going to be? Is he going to pull out the country from the world and create a "Financially induced Isolation" or he is going to keep the country as the focal point for the world and pay the huge price tag? We are not sure.

I have a friend, and we constantly argue about this. His view point is that capitalism has failed; Deregulation and Decentralization has failed. My point is, yes, it has failed to some extent. But the question to be asked is, "What alternative do we have?" And i truly believe Capitalism and Democracy is the best way for prosperity and we are not going to achieve that in a world where America fails, and a place where there is no one else to take up the leading role.

Also, read this interesting article in Newsweek magazine titled, "There is a silver lining", by Fareed Zakaria. And also, another article in Newsweek, by Francis Fukuyama, titled, "The End of America Inc"

Anyways, lets hope for the best and wait until January 2009.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Power of Oil !

Check the following link. I found it using stumble upon. Btw, if you havnt started stumbling yet, now is the time. Great tool to kill time.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Varanam Ayiram - Songs

Just heard the songs of VA. Really liked it.

Well, it is Harris. So in few more days, we can expect to see people uploading videos in youtube, showing with proof that he "adopted" the songs from some english or spanish song. But lets give it up. The songs are really good. A good mix of fast and melodious numbers. I liked 5 songs out of the 7. "Adiye Kolluthey", "Yethi Yethi", "Nejukkul peithidum" are the three most played songs according to my winamp playlist.

Really looking forward to the release of the movie. They say it is like Forrest Gump, which is one of my fav movies of all time. So should definitely see the movie.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Black Monday !

Lehman Brothers office in Wall Street

This is a famous term in the Wall Street. Every traders nightmare is this. And that is about to happen. The monday that initiated the "Great Depression" in 1930 is called the Black Monday. Can today, the history repeat itself? What will happen if this monday indeed becomes the beginning of the biggest depression that we have ever seen? Or will the take over of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America, smoothen the crisis? What is in store for the Asian Markets?

There are so many unanswered questions and we shall get the troublesome answers in few more hours, when the NYSE and DowJones start the trading.

Lehman Brothers, one of the worlds most successful Investment Bank is about to file for bankruptcy. Lehman was one of the highly paying, cool investment banks. But today, it is filing for bankruptcy. No one has a clue as to what will happen to all the 25000 employees in Lehman. All their stock options evaporated in days. The stock price of Lehman was once worth 85USD, but on friday it was 3USD. Almost a 95% drop in stock price within a matter of few months. The CEO's stock options were worth almost a billion one year ago. but now, his stock options are worth 36 million. The worse is yet to come. If lehman indeed file for bankruptcy, the stock price will fall way below than this. There are so many companies that have invested in Lehman Brothers stock and bonds and Lehman will drag them all to mud.

Next is Merrill Lynch (ML). One of the oldest and most famous Investment Bank in Wall street. The company was worth almost 150 billion a year ago. But now, they have been acquired by Bank of America for 50Billion. But i would say, this is a good move by ML, as they can prevent themselves from becoming another Lehman.

If you had followed the events that happened in the last weekend, it was like a thriller novel. All the emergency meetings and the billion dollar funds and rescue attempts...Lehman and ML were two of the four pillars of Wall Street and American Banking system in general. They have collapsed and brought to their knees by this Subprime mortgage crisis. “My goodness. I’ve been in the business 35 years, and these are the most extraordinary events I’ve ever seen,” said Peter G.Peterson, co-founder of the private equity firm the Blackstone Group who was head of Lehman in the 1970s and a secretary of commerce in the Nixon administration. (During the Interview with the New york Times)

This leaves Singapore in a very bad state, as Singapore is one of the Financial hubs, where ML and Lehman are pretty strong. What will happen to the employees here? what will happen to students like me, who are just now starting to look for a job? Singapore is pretty much a manufacturing hub. If it is not Finance industry, Singapore will face serious problems.

This problem can continue to European Markets. I recently read an article in nytimes, that said the house prices in UK are suddenly falling in a rapid rate. If you can remember, this is exactly how the US credit crisis started. If the problem continues, it will result in the downfall of the European banks that have been pretty sterile to the credit crisis so far. Lets hope that doesnt happen.

Indian software companies could face various problems. They might loose a lotta money in this crisis. When the foreign companies fear about their future, the first spending they will cut is IT.

What is the fate of US Economy? What is most likely to happen? These are two important questions. Well, the answer lies in todays stock market. If the stock market reacts very very badly to the problems in ML and Lehman, then that is the beginning of the disaster. Because you see, failure in investor confidence will seriously affect the stock prices. If all the investors think their holding is risky, they might try to sell it off. If every single investor is plannin to do that, then we are doomed. The virus will then spread to all the other sectors, with falling stock prices and job cuts. And further increase in inflation and spiralling loss in consumer product manufacturing companies.

All the financial ministers have already started pleading the markets not to panic. There can be no panic in Japan, because the exchange is closed for a public holiday. But no one is sure how the other stock markets will react to this. This might as well change the way we see Banks and Investment banks for the next few years. There is so much at stake here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Rare ARR Interview

I dont know how many people have seen this interview. I think, this was taken roughly one year after the film Roja.

Friday, August 29, 2008

One small question, can I vote for Barack Obama?

Funny cartoon i found in Time Magazine

The entire world is talking about him. Let me just say this. If i had a vote in the US, i am gonna vote for this guy. I have no relation whatsoever, i dont live in the same country as he is and pretty much dont like the country and its policies, but i can swear it, if i had a vote, i will most certainly vote for him.

I pretty much spent the last 5 hours watching various debates that i missed to see and also the speeches in the Democratic National Convention by various Democratic Party Speakers, including Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, and of course Barack Obama. And also watched all the TV ads by John McCain.

As Bill Clinton said, "the heat in this election is so high, that i think it even contributed for the Global Warming". I am really looking forward to all the presidential debates. Past few weeks, John McCain have been hitting hard on Barack Obama on his various policies and his lack of experience. But this DNC looks like a twist. It shows that Barack Obama is ready to take on McCain and his complaints about Obama. That is a great start.

See this fairly lengthy article in International Herald Tribune about the speech of Barack Obama and what the future holds for the Democratic Party. The Speech by Barack Obama was just brilliant. "An Economy that honors dignity" is a dream. Which is currently a dream in all the countries around the world. The first part of a 5 part video is here. Watch the first and you will certainly watch all the 5. But i recommend the last part and so i have embedded the video here.

And also the speech by Bill Clinton, was amazing. "We have to show the power of our example, rather than the example of our power". At one point in time, Bill Clinton said something good about Obama and the crowd started chanting, "Yes, we can. Yes, we can"(Obama's party slogan). He immediately stopped them and said, "Yes, you can. But first, you gotta elect him". Great timing. I have pretty much watched all the videos of his speeches in youtube. He is most certainly one of the greatest American presidents( just for one min here, forget Monica Lewinsky). The first part of the three part video of his speech is here.

If you wanna check out various policies of Barack Obama, visit his Scribd page. If you dont know what Scribd is, it is the youtube of documents. Anyways, i also saw few ads by John McCain team and all the recent ones show Hillary Clinton saying something bad about Obama. Are you confused why people in the same party say bad things about each other? If yes, then welcome to American Politics. Hillary started lots of issues to beat Obama to win the Democratic nomination, and sadly the Republicans are using that against Obama now. See the video below and you can see why Obama didn't select Clinton as his Vice President. This should hurt anyone's feelings. Hillary said it once and McCain is now using it against Obama. It is definitely a little bit funny.

Biggest minus for Obama is his lack of experience and lets hope Joe Biden helps him with that. Biggest minus for McCain is his association with Bush and his policies.

Bush and McCain.
(This picture makes me laugh every single time. Sorry cant help it)

Before the debates, there is one other thing that i am really really looking forward to. I am waiting to see Bush and McCain in the same stage, in the forthcoming Republican national convention. Gotta wait and see what President Bush is gonna say about McCain. And what McCain is gonna say about Bush.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Is America helping Afghanistan?

"If there is no law, and the government does not listen to people's complaints, then it is better to go back to the Taliban era. At least then we had justice." - Sister of a 11 year old child who have been raped in Afghanistan.

I am not a huge fan of American policies. During the past 7 years after 9/11 attacks, America literally stopped investing in herself and started attacking all the other countries. They have spent a trillion dollar in both the wars. And what have they achieved? Nothing. They have ruined the development within their country and also ruined the lives of various other countries, including Afghanistan or Iraq. I am not saying, the Afghans and Iraqis had a prosperous living before America entered their life. But at least they had a secure life. When America created a political vacuum in both the countries by removing Taliban and Saddam, the vacuum was filled by bad people. And that is the reason for this political failure. Read this article in "Time" Magazine, about child rape in Afghanistan and i am sure everyone will share my opinion.

American might be a world superpower, they might have the world's best army, navy, etc, etc, buts lets face it, they dont have the resources, to restore order in a country. They can march in and remove the Talibans and Saddam in a week, but they just cant restore order in a country. That is a tremendous task and America has failed in both these countries. They have to realize the entire world economy is swirling around theirs and should become more responsible. The lack of this realization is the reason why people are even talking about the emergence of another Super power.

The Civil Engineers society of America have calculated that the American government has to spend one trillion more dollars in the next 5 years to update the infrsturcture in America. Because there are nearly 10000 bridges in the US, that needs some kind of patch work to be done or all the bridges will become unusable in 10 years. Now, can you see the where the trillion dollars went? The tallest and attractive buildings are not in the US anymore. Can you see why the government was not able to upgrade the technology and infrastucteure in the country? They were concentrating completely in wars and the affected people are not just Americans. I hope atleast the next president will realize this.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Reflections on Olympics 2008

Today the Beijing Olympics officially comes to an end. This was a good Olympics. With 40 billion dollar budget, this is the most costliest Olympics. I read somewhere that the Chinese government has already did break even on the spending for the Olympics games. That is just brilliant.

I went to Beijing during the last year december, as a part of an "Exchange" program between Peking University and NUS. It was a good experience. I was the only non-chinese guy. I din understand a single word of Chinese. And the Chinese din understand a single word of English. It was a good experience.

(Can you see the "Birds nest" and the "The National Aquatics Center" in the background ?)

In all the meetings with the professors from Peking university and from the meetings with few beijing based companies, (Lenovo, Sohu, Aigo, etc) one thing was clear to me. The ambitions of the country was high. They had huge hopes for Olympics and they were looking to expliot all the opportunities to take their companies global. If you can remember, Olympics in Japan paved way for all the Japanese companies to go global and that is why their economy became strong. The chinese were also looking to do that. That was the first thing in Agenda.

The dominance of Chinese in this olympics is discussed a lot. Check this article, in the Washinton Post. The article titled "The Real China threat" addresses their dominance and what it means to the rest of the world and how their policies contradict that of the United States. Talkin about the dominance, read this article in Newsweek magazine, about "The post-American World". Pretty interesting.

One take-home point is, this olympics is seen as the beginning of the end of America and beginning of another era of Chinese Dominance in the world history. Lets see.

This olympics was good olympics for India too. We won 3 medals. Read this article in Newyork times, that made my blood boil. They call india as the "mysteriously nonathletic nation". That is kinda demeaning. But i hate to agree, that is the truth. Cricket is not a athletic game. You need more stamina to play soccer or Tennis compared to Cricket. (One thing that makes me laugh is, Beach volleyball is in Olympics, but not Cricket. Sorry Cricket fans)

The opening ceremony was just brilliant. If you missed it, see these photo galleries in "Time" website. Pretty good collection of pictures.

But few really bad things happened in this Olympics. First the lip-sync. say whatever you want, nationalism, Olympic spirit, but that issue doesn't look good in the eyes of the world. Similarly the fake fireworks issue. It just shows their desperation to make the opening ceremony into a big hit. Above all is the Gymnastics issue. I don't know if anyone can prove it, or if it is true, but that really gave a bad impression to China. It raises a question as to whether china won all the gold in the same way. Obviously that is not the case, but i cant help asking that question.

Anyhow, today is the olympics closing ceremony. Am eagarly waiting to see that live in Channel 5.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

4 oranges for 100 billion...4 oranges for 100 billion...

People in India are always complaining. Always whining about something. But look at Zimbabwe, inflation is only 2.2 million percent and people dont call for a Trust vote. Communists should see and learn from this fantastically stable south African nation.

Read the "Economic Times" article here.

Zimbabwe dollar

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"Boom-De-Yada Boom-De-yada"

I saw this really good ad by "Discovery Channel" in GV Max the other day, when i went to watch "The Dark Knight". Check this out. Really awesome. The song got stuck in my head and i was singing it all day. Well, if i were given the job of editing this ad, i would have added one more line after "The World is just Awesome" and it would say, "Mend your ways, or it is no more". Pay attention to "Boom-De-Yada" said by Stephen Hawkings computer.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Dark Knight

I am a huge fan of batman. All the other super heroes are not as good as batman. Lets face it, Spiderman is just some mutant combination. Superman is some extra terrestrial living being. Batman is the real hero. (Believe it or not, i have 8 GB worth of Batman episodes in my PC. Ya, it does sound childish, but i don't care.)

I have always loved the batman series. If you consider all the villains faced by comic superheroes, the villains that Batman face are far more creepy and dangerous (If you watch Spiderman series, you can recall that all the villains that spidey face are from other planets or some mutant lizards or some lousy sand man) On the other hand, see the villains that batman face. Joker for example. There is no better villain than this character. Purely psychotic with a criminal master mind. Best villain ever.

I went to the movie, "The Dark Knight" today. Imagine the following scenario. The movie is over. People are just sitting in the theater silently watching the credits roll. Spellbound. Totally stunned by the movie. That is how powerful this one is. Of all the movies, that Nolan has directed, I would say, this is five times as good as "Batman begins". Three times as good as Prestige" and two times as good as "Memento"

Fantastic screenplay. Honestly, a superhero movie cannot get better than this. Nolan has lived up to the title name. The movie is completely dark. The mere darkness adds a thrill to the movie. The special effects are fantastic. That too, to watch in GV Max is a great experience. If Bourne Ultimatum can get two Oscar for sound effects, then this movie should definitely get one for the Back Ground score alone.

Above all, the performance by Heath Ledger as Joker is just marvelous. He should get an Oscar for this. I wish he was alive to act as Joker in forth coming movies. His death is a real loss. (And only now i feel it. Damn !) The way they ended the movie gives me a clue that there is surely going to be a third part to this and Joker will be atleast one of the villains in the third part, even though he might not be the only villain. If that happens, the guy who is going to act as Joker got big shoes to fill in. The expectations will obviously be higher in the next part.

This is just not the same superhero movie that you watch in every summer. This one is a lot more than that. They have really put in so much thought into the screenplay and characterization.

Really imagine a world where a masked guy just comes in the night and kills bad guys. This will trigger a bit of heroism and will lead to series of "Copy Cat" issues and this has been clearly portrayed in this movie. Also the inner thought process of Batman has been made clear in this one. The Batman character is getting an uplift by directors like Christopher Nolan. Now Batman is getting a lot more gadgets like Bond, something different when compared to normal comics. These kind of evolutionary changes are attempted in this movie.

Overall, fantastic performance. Wonderfully made. One advice though. Please watch in theaters. Dont just watch it in your laptop and say "Ya. Ok. The movie was good. But i really cant understand what the fuss is all about" (Most of my friends said this after watching 300 in a 14" laptop screen)

Read "Time" Magazine review here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Kuselan songs


Kuselan – Superstar’s next movie. It is a remake of “Katha parayum pol”. It is a block buster movie in Kerala with Mr. Mammotty as lead actor. I really like Mammotty a lot. He is a very good actor. A sensible actor. But anyways, this post is about Superstar Rajnikanth.

Rajnikanth is one of the most recognized people in Tamil Nadu. One of the very few people respected by even the notorious Indian newspapers. Sincere and hard working person, as widely said in the film industry. People always say that he is too old to sing duet with some young heroine. But I don’t think so. Cinema is a business. Trying to make it into an art is a tough job that only people like KamalHaasan try to do. But at the end of the day, Cinema is all about business. And that is not a bad thing. If you think it that way, then no matter how old the product is, as long as it has a selling point, then there is no reason why the business world should not use it.

Rajni has some kinda magic. I dont know what he does. But people go crazy when they see him on screen. I saw the movie Sivaji (first day) in chennai Albert theatre. Oh my God. You have no idea. I would compare Rajni's karizma to Barack Obama.

If you take into account all the prosperous years for the Tamil Movie industry, Rajnikanth would have made a movie in that year. I am not implying that Rajni makes Tamil Filmdom into a success. I am just implying that there is a positive correlation. When Rajni is starring in a movie, he really does give a lotta confidence to the Tamil industry.

Kuselan Songs are out. I heard the songs. Songs are good. No complaints. GV Prakash has done a good job. I think I have heard few tunes before, but let’s give it up. Good work by this young music director. That guy is younger than me. But he is the music director for Rajnikanth movie. It is really an achievement.

But one thing I hate about the songs is the Lyrics. It is pure praise of Rajni. Every song somehow implies that he is THE star. You know, Rajni movies always have these kinds of lyrics. But this movie seems to be an over-dosage. If you think about it, director Shankar also used similar strategies in Sivaji. But he used in a very subtle way. But Kuselan is a bit too much. In this movie, Rajni acts as himself. Maybe that can explain why they were bold enough to use lyrics like this. Hear the “Cinema cinema” song sung by Shankar Mahadevan…Really really too much. Also the "Om zaarare" song. I presume, while writing this song the song writers forgot all the tamil words. So used all Rajni's previous movies to help them complete the song. I really pity the writers. I really hate the lyrics, but if u see my winamp playlist and iTunes playlist, these two songs top the list in "Most played items". Following lyrics from "Cinema" song.

அண்ணன் தொட்டா விரல் தான் பட்டா
தவிடு கூட தங்கம் ஆகும்
அண்ணன் நடிச்ச படத்த போட்ட
வருஷம் பூர வசூல் ஆகும்
superstarum சூரியனும் தான்
உலகம் சுற்றி ஒளிர்வது உண்டு
இந்த பெருமை அண்ணனை தவிர
இங்கே எந்த மனிதருகுண்டு தமிழா !

This verse reminds me of Election season. I dont know about Chennai. But in places like pudukkottai, before elections lotta funny things happen. The politicians will hire some lady who will sing in a man's voice. Then they will take a hit song, and change the verse of the song, prasing the political party head. And they will sing in open jeep. It was like the most fun i have had hearing a song. Kuselan is kinda same. (Sorry Rajni fans)

they obviously got carried away by the success in Sivaji. If this movie fails miserably in Tamilnadu, then Rajni is in for a big time embarassment. (For people who say, "Are you crazy? how will rajni movie become a flop?", i would like to remind BABA)

To me, Rajni doesnt look like a guy, who will force the directors to add these kind of lyrics into the movie. (One other Tamil Actor, forces all his directors to add these kind of lyrics, etc in the movies. You know who that actor is) I think Rajni is surrounded by opportunistic people. By all this means, these people are seeking his blessing to succeed in the film industry. Really sad.

In general, lyrics could have been better. But no complaints about music. I am a bit worried about the movie. I read the story of the original Kerala movie. It was really moving. (I am searching for the original movie. Gotta see that one before seeing Kuselan) But I am worried that Rajni’s fan following will force him to change the story, which will just replace the true story with lousy Heroism. Frankly the songs have not proved me wrong. July 25th is the release it seems. Lets wait and see.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

KamalHaasan in Dasavatharam - 2

My previous post KamalHaasan in Dasavatharam - 1

Dear Mr. kamal,

How many times should we make it clear to you? We have said it directly (by not watching Anbesivam) and indirectly (by making Thirupachi a big hit), that we, tamilians, hate good, thought provoking and intelligent movies. Why cant you take the hint? I am seriously disappointed. Next time, just make a movie, like thirupachi. All bullshit and no storyline. That is when you can make your movie a hit. That is when tamil people will acknowledge that you are a star. Please dont over think and give us some good movie like Dasavatharam. We plainly hate good movies. And tell the truth, did you honestly believe we, tamilians, will get the concept behind "chaos theory" ?

Yours truly,
Tamil Nadu.

Dasavatharam Review:

Easily the best movie this summer. First of all, i was right. 10 different roles is just a selling point. It is a desperate measure inserted in the movie to make it more interesting. And frankly few make-ups were pathetic. Gotta agree that. But the amount of hardwork gone into every part of the movie is just fantastic. Kamal just steals the show. Fantastic performance.

The best part about the movie is the Screenplay. Amazing screenplay. This guy is a genius. It is really hard to write a screenplay for such a story line. Kamal has used the chaos theory perfectly in the screenplay. There is a bit of everything in the movie. There is a bit of god belief, Atheism, Communialism, politics, etc, etc. There are no loose ends. The screenplay is just that perfect.

Background music could have been better. Make-ups could have been better. They could have avoided the scene in which Mr. Karunanidhi praise kamal for saving the world. Asin's character "Andal" behaves like a small kid. That could have been better. But so far this movie is the best with respect to special effects in Tamil Cinema. (Maybe "Robot" will take this spot in the future. But gotta wait and see).

I thought only English movies are going to be better this summer and franly i thought Dasavatharam cannot be that great. But i am so wrong. This movie is better than "Indiana Jones and the crystal skull".

Hats off Mr. Kamal, for the good screenplay and good storyline with lots of messages.

Anada Vikatan has given Dasavatharam 43 upon 100:

How can they give "Dasavatharam" 43 out of 100, while giving "Santhosh Subramaniam" 44 ? I used to like this magazine a lot. But now, i think it is getting worse. And i feel bad for it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I Hate Facebook !!

Facebook is actually a very good tool. I should not deny that. Few predict that Facebook will become an Online Operating System in few years. People have already started creating applications for Facebook and it is actually a module in NUS. Google is chasing facebook in all ways possible. Their Orkut business is not doing that great. So they introduced the "Google Friend Connect" to remove Facebook from the picture. But to me it seems they are not going to be successful in that venture as well.

Inspite of all the craze, i hate facebook. There are few reasons though.

1. Facebook wont allow me to use S Sathappan as my name. It forces me to use my full name.

2. Even if i enter my full name (Sathappan Sathappan), it says, "Repetition not allowed". (Facebook has strict rules about the name that you use for your profile. I think they are trying to make it professional.) So if you check my facebook account, my name is "Sathappan Sathapan"

My profile

Friday, June 20, 2008

Book Review - Freakonomics

This is a very famous book. Most people would have already read it. So if i write a review, it makes no sense. But the book is really good. As always, it is "New York Times" Best seller.

One thing i really like about this book is the way the author has related irrelevant things and finally made a beautiful sense out of it. Do you think there is a relation between Abortion and Crime Rates? There is a stunning relation. Read the book and you will find out how.

Of all the chapters, my favorite is the chapter about Drug lords, crime rates, etc. It is all explained in a economist point of view. Definitely worth a read.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Reliance Petroleum Limited

There was an article about Mukesh Ambani in the International Herald Tribune. The title is "A tycoon for the new India, loyal to the old"

There is no need for introduction to Mr. Ambani. He is the richest person in India. As said in the article (and I agree), he is the most famous and powerful private citizen of India.

I really admire the Ambanis. Espesially Dirubhai Ambani. If you look at all the other rich folks in India, including TATA, Birla, etc, etc, all these guys were rich for over five to six generations. They had close ties with the British. Ratan Tata didnt create the Empire. But Ambani has created an empire from nothing. He is richer than all these guys. Ambani story is a really inspirational story. U can ask me, how Mukesh is different from Kumaramangalam Birla. He is different because he was there when his father suffered. He was with his father, even when Dirubhai Ambani was a normal textile business owner in a 10x10 room. That is what makes him different. That is the source for his passion and entrepreneurial spirit.

In the recent Shareholders meet, Mukesh Ambani proudly proclaimed the completion of his mammoth project. Here are few facts.

1. Refinery location - Jamnagar

2. Construction contractor - Bechtel Corporation, America. (Bechtel employed thousands and thousands of engineers to complete the project. Apparently Mukesh Ambani had said to Bechtel that he is not bothered about the cost but bothered only about the schedule. The project engineers worked day and night to complete the project on time. )

3. Refinery stats - World's biggest refinery, with the daily capacity of 1.2 million barrels. The next biggest refinery in US can't produce even half of this one. The refinery is constructed keeping the future in mind. It is widely said that in 20 years, it is impossible to get "pure crude" and so the purification process will take lots of time and resources. Most refineries in the world are not capable of doing that. But this reliance refinery is capable of refining even the worst kind of crude. That is the specialty. In 20 years, there is a fairly good chance that India might become the petro-chemical hub of the world. They have leased 3 oil wells in Gulf and that is going to add a lot more revenue to RPL.

Reliance is planning to construct two more Cracker Units and they are planning to venture into Downstream business in collaboration with Dow Chemicals. If everything goes according to plans, no one can stop Mukesh Ambani. But there is an eminent threat for the refinery. It is close to Pakistan border. He is spending millions and millions of dollars on this. But why construct such a big refinery near Pakistan border? That is one thing i cant understand. Only time has to answer that. But he will break even in two to three years.

This is not the only successful area where Mukesh has invested. We all know about "Reliance Fresh". He is also planning to start a luxury cab service in Mumbai by 2009. I recall an "Economic Times" article that said, in 2015, Mukesh will be running a private government. That day is not too far.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Yahoo is now Damaged Goods !

I read this really good article in "New York Times" today. Thought it was very apt, given the current problems in Yahoo. I just have to add one more thing. This Yahoo story is an important lesson all the giants in Internet business like Google, Facebook, etc should learn. Remember, Yahoo was worth 100 Billions once. It was once the coolest company, like Google is today. www.yahoo.com was widely regarded as the "world's most visited website". Not anymore.

This is how bad the US stock Market reacted for the
Yahoo-Google Deal

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Inflation in India

Inflation in india is 8.75%, highest in the past 8 years.

Inflation is a normal issue in any country. Developing or developed doesn't matter, inflation cannot be completely eradicated and should not be. There should be certain amount of inflation in the country for a very safe economic situation. Lets not forget the fact that many African countries face deflation. Even inflation can be tackled, but deflation, is a real mess.

Inflation in India has been in the rise during the last couple of months. If you had constantly followed, the rise in inflation was set by rising oil price (right now, oil price is flirting with 130$ per barrel) and food prices around the world, weak US dollar, recession fears in US, many many more. Everything is interlinked. That is the biggest of all the problems. Until normalcy sets in every aspect, Inflation cannot be controlled. But rest assured, this is a temperory state. It will definitely change. But will take time.

As our Finance minister said in his book 'View from the outside', "Inflation will not affect the rich people. It will only affect the savings of the middle class people. But poor people will face the worst side of it. That is why inflation is a serious issue in India."

The government has been doing a lot to control it. They have literally stopped exports of all food products, hoping to control the food prices in the domestic market, but fueling the global food price. (Starving the neighbor for the entire country's good is still a bad thing, but that is a complete different issue). One very bold decision by our Finance minister is forbidding the Futures trading. It has already created tensions in the Indian stock market. But i think that is a necessity now. "Futures trading" is a big concept, but to be short, it has power to increase the price of anything. (Ya, anything, from oil to steel). And we all saw what this can do to Oil price.

Finance minister P.Chidambaram & RBI Director Y.V.Reddy

They have increased the CRR (Cash Reserve Ratio). They hav increased the Repo Rate. They are doing every thing possible. Lets also not forget the fact that the indian economy is expected to grow more in this year, inspite of all the crisis.

The reason i write this is because i went to Mustafa centre twice in the past 2 weeks looking for rice. For your information, Indian Rice is not available in Singapore right now. Same is the case in many foreign countries, as India stopped exports. There was a huge line waiting for some good ponni rice. Also, the price of 1 Kg ponni rice was 1$ few months ago. But it is around 3$ today, that too you will get it only if you are patient enough to wait for 2 hours. Well, i just cant wait for two hours. So instead i bought some Lily fragrant Chinese rice. Ya, you heard it right. When you cook, the rice will smell like Lily. It should be fun !!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Energy Crisis

The Oil Price in India has been increased yet again, by 5 Rs per liter for petrol and by 3 Rs for Diesel and 50 Rs for LPG

Global Oil price increase. Pay attention to the last graph

3 days ago, the price of oil increased 11 USD in one single day. This is the highest one day rise in the history. Many reasons are attributed to this. But I would say speculation is the most deadly reason. Maybe the Indian finance minister also felt this way, so he cancelled all the "Futures Trading" in the Indian stock Market. But the speculation trading is still going on in New York and London stock markets. Whatever the reason is being said, the main reason for the increase in oil price is the Supply-Demand Mismatch. The OPEC cartel refused to increase the production because they did learn the lesson a decade ago. When they increased the production, the oil price came down so bad, that they had to face some heavy losses. So the cartel is refusing to increase the production and they are exactly doing what any smart businessman will do. Can’t blame them really. The biggest problem is the world's dependence on oil.

Many people just don’t get the fact that Oil industry just doesn’t affect the Petrol, Diesel and LPG price. It is a major factor. Every industry right from the electronics, plastics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, etc, etc, etc...Use one or the other by-product of the Oil industry. Ethylene is one of the thousand useful by-products we get while refining crude oil. See how much it is useful in the modern world, as said in Wikipedia.

“Approximately 80% of ethylene used in the United States and Europe is used to create ethylene oxide, ethylene dichloride, and polyethylene. In smaller quantities, ethylene is used as an anesthetic agent (in an 85% ethylene/15% oxygen ratio), to hasten fruit ripening, as well as a welding gas. Polyethylenes of various density and melt flow account for more than 50% of world ethylene demand. The primary use of polyethylene is in film applications for packaging, carrier bags and trash liners. Other applications include injection moulding, pipe extrusion, wire and cable sheathing and insulation, as well as extrusion coating of paper and cardboard.

Ethylene derivatives include: ethylene oxide, styrene monomer (via ethyl benzene) and linear higher olefins. Ethylene oxide is a key raw material in the production of surfactants and detergents. It is also used to manufacture ethylene glycols, which are in turn used in soft drinks and food packaging and textiles, and to make ethylene oxide glycol ether solvents. Styrene monomer is used principally in polystyrene for packaging and insulation, as well as in styrene butadiene rubber for tires and footwear. Linear higher olefins are used as base materials for the manufacture of detergents, plasticisers, synthetic lubricants and additives, but also as co-monomers in the production of polyethylenes”.

Next time, when you buy a room freshener, or a perfume or any pharmaceuticals products or any manufactured product for that matter, check the ingredients. You will find one or other Crude oil byproducts in it.

Well, there is an alternative. We can switch to Natural resources. For example, we can use Natural rubber instead of synthetic rubber for making tyres. That is what Goodyear tyres does. (Btw, synthetic rubber also relies mainly on Crude oil.) But wait a second, that is not going to be possible in the long run. Do you know the reason? Yup that is right. Natural resources are also depleting. What choice do you have now, but to pay the price?

When oil price goes up, the Oil companies around the world will increase the price of the finished product to save them from loss (In India, oil companies will increase price only when they totally run out of money, to even buy basic crude, but the Communist party will oppose for that too. There are only two explanations. The Communists just don’t get the basic economy right, or they are targeting only the ballot boxes) When the oil companies raise the price of the oil, they also increase the price of all the other by-products. This will affect the entire Consumer Price Index of a country, pushing the prices too high and resulting in burgeoning crisis of inflation. (Btw, the inflation in India is 8.34% and for christ sake, don’t blame the congress led UPA government for this. This is the world phenomenon. If the prices in US doesn’t go up, that doesn’t mean, our government is doing something wrong. The reason is the companies in US are bearing the loss and they are not transferring the price increase to the people. So the inflation is low in US. But this wont last long)

Well, the Indian government can actually bear the difference in oil price and do us all a big favor. But that will be a disaster. If all the countries around the world do that, then the consumers won’t feel the pinch of the crisis. They will not curb their usage and so the global demand will keep on increasing. (That is what is happening in China. As the government is bearing the difference, the price of oil is so damn low, and the people are not reducing the usage. Which increases the demand in China and eventually Oil Price goes up in the world market. Something similar is happening in India as well, but not to the extent of China. Remember, no where in the world you will get Kerosene for 9 Rs. That is why the world nations are asking India and China to cut subsidies)

If the demand keep on increasing and the Oil price goes up in the World Market, the only people in the world who will be happy are the OPEC countries. So I honestly believe price increase is the only way out and it is inevitable. In fact, it is a necessity right now. There is a thin line here. Even if the government is rich enough to bear the price, price should be increased. I would certainly advocate for that.

But the current decision will have huge repercussions in the economy. First and foremost, the stock market will plunge (That already did happen). Next the consumer price index will go up. (That is about to happen) The price hike will be transferred from the manufacturer to the retailer to the consumer. And IT WILL AFFECT EVERY LIVING SOUL. And that is just something we have to live with. One and only way out is to find alternative resource to replace Oil in at least one tenth of its commercial usage. That is all we can possibly do in the next 20 years. Let’s not get our hopes high in completely replacing Oil. It is almost impossible in the next 20 years.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Book Review - I am America (and so can you!) by Stephen Colbert

I know about the show “The Colbert Report”. It is a big Hit in US. But I never thought of watching it. I thought it was one other late late late shows. But after reading this book, I am gonna start watching the show. This book is freaking hilarious. It is pure mockery. Nothing but mockery. It is filled with really really offensive jokes. After the introduction, this book has a “How to read this book” page. Just read that page and you will get the feel of the book. I basically love sarcasm. (My fav character in F.R.I.E.N.D.S is Chandler Bing). This book is filled with sarcasm.

One of the many interesting things are the comments. You can find comments in the margins for the contents in the main page. It is actually distracting but I liked it. Very lively comments. When he talks about some personality, he uses their real name and the comment on the margin says “Names have not been changed. If carl cant handle it maybe he should find another church basement to dribble in. No one drives my lane without paying the toll". I bet you will laugh out loud. Every comment on the margin is similar to this. Lively and funny.

There is one other chapter on old people. In one place, he was discussing some serious issue and he added a quote there. Reading the quote i was really moved. When i looked the margin for his comments, this is what i saw "I made this quote up".

There is a chapter about sports. The name of the chapter when he begins talking about sports is “Sports”. But 2 pages down the line, he will “sell” the chapter to highest bidder (like most sports teams in US, which are owned by corporates and rich individuals. BTW, are you thinking about IPL now?) And after that, the chapter will be called “Chevron, the gas with Techron”. And 2 pages from that, he changes the name to "Kraft, creamy italian dressing". Every chapter is like this. There is some creative idea to make you laugh.

There is this chapter on immigrants and Higher education. Both these chapters are my fav in the entire book. In the higher education chapter he talks about resumes. According to the author, universities teach students nothing but to lie in resumes. This is how he says it. “One day in college you are bored in your class and make out with the Danish Exchange student next to you. And when you apply for a company, you tell in your resume that you carried out, ‘an independent research in a foreign tongue’.

And also in the higher education chapter, there is a page where he takes some modules from a typical university and gives his one line comments. Awesome. Just awesome. Few module names and Colbert’s comments in braces.

1. Introduction to Islam. (If you take this module, then the terrorists have won)

2. Woman on woman: literature of liberation (It is not what you think)

3. Introduction to Metaphysics (Nothing here you cant pickup by eating the wrong mushroom in a camping trip)

4. Ethnic stereotypes and the humor of cruelty (The professor will tell some hilarious jokes and you are not allowed to laugh)

5. Dance for Men (Go ahead. Break your mother's heart)

6. Carrer is poetry (Just move back in with your parents. Now)

There are many many more funny stuff in the book. But I do disagree in lots of his ideas, especially about old people, god belief, etc, etc. And also there are few things that make you frown. But the book is definitely worth reading. And I think I might buy this book. I almost forgot to mention, this is a New York Times Best seller.

Warning - if you hate sarcasm or if you get easily offended by sexual or racist jokes, then don’t ever read this book. This is not for the faint hearted.