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Posts from the ‘Media’ Category

NEWS today: Nukes, Epidemics, War, Shit

There is something that has bothered me for a while about some of the leading T.V. news channels of the world. And, I guess it’s not getting any better

I am talking about the time, energy, intensity, and viewership that is dedicated to news that is primarily negative. I include the following in a broad “negative” category: War, Terrorism, Fundamentalism, Violence, Death, Scandals, Natural disasters, Epidemics, Recession etc

Granted our world has changed drastically for the worse over last 10 -15 years due to many events natural or otherwise, primarily 9/11, but I nevertheless believe there is scope for more positivity.

Fox news (which watched in U.S, and do not follow now), & C.N.N (which made a name in the 80s gulf war and has since made more money out of war and human suffering than most other channels) are the biggest culprits. Even BBC, which I have always had tremendous respect for, seems to have a lot of “negative vibes in the air”. The Indian media is a joke that deserves separate discussion and I would leave that out for now.

Considering U.S has been perennially in a war like situation across the world for ages, I would have thought most Americans would have given up tracking the “wars on terror” in minute detail. But, a few months in Texas convinced me otherwise. An unforgettable experience to me was  how people were constantly tuned in to war news, even at the gym in our community. I mean, I would prefer some music , sports or nothing at all I am working out, and while each one has its preferences, the fact that all of the locals wanted to watch the war news, at all times did surprise me! I don’t see the wars on terrors ever ending in our life time, and if that’s all the news you follow for your life, how depressing is that?

War in Afghanistan, detailed analysis on WMDs and biological weapons that never existed, war in Iraq, Iran and Korea’s nuke plans, terror alerts and terror level watches, Guantanamo Bay, Saddam Hussein, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Islamic fundamentalism: These pretty much cover 95% of all the news I have seen in most western channels. The other 5% is for discussing how many times Tiger Woods said sorry in his speech to the media. Okay, I am exaggerating a bit, but you get the point

When the recession was in full swing, there were huge debates on why the recession happened. Everybody became an expert in hindsight, but nobody could tell the Wall Street banks to be careful a few years back. And now that we are slowly heading out of a recession, there is very little time dedicated to discussing positive steps to recover economy. I mean relatively speaking. It surprises me that most people in the west would rather watch news on what Iran or Iraq is up to, and the latest position of a Taliban leader hunted by U.S, rather than discuss more actively on how to keep the economy sustainable and growing strong.

I do stumble upon some good programs once in a while that may be hard hitting or pleasant, but have an inherently positive message. Typically, I find them in BBC, but the BBC also has too many programs dedicated to Islamic terror. Most of these programs appear self righteous in nature. One story was on how young U.K Muslims become hardliners. Point taken, but what about the hard line, far right British party?

While the fact the news channels themselves make money out of any “negative” news is an accepted reality, what surprises me is why people would spend their time to watch them. Thinking day in and day out that the world is becoming sick and murderous is not going to make our lives any better.

As a little kid, news papers, T.V. news and magazines were my window to understanding the world. I would run to the library to the Encyclopedia to understand new terms, places, people I read / heard about, to know more. And I had a good balance of “negative” and “positive” things to read up. For every article I read about the Gulf war, and Babri Masjid, I read one for Globalization, Economic liberalization, scientific progress etc. To a little kid growing up today, the internet has replaced the encyclopedia, and all the things he / she could learn about the world, is centered around terror, wars on terror, fundamentalism, and disaster.

The world is actually a far better place than what the news men tell us!

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Bucket list entry # 6561: Indian man, German shepherd dog!

Have you seen the movie “The Bucket list”?

It’s not a great movie, or a classic; it’s pretty much candy floss Hollywood, but just happened to feature two stalwarts in Jack Nicholson & Morgan Freeman, who made a very simple story line look good on-screen.

In fact, on a guys evening out at Prithvi’s place in Bangalore, when there wasn’t anything exciting to do, we hired the DVD almost as an afterthought. The only other notable event of the day was Akash’s ridiculous claim that “The Dark knight” wasn’t such a great movie, and all of us pouncing on him like a pack of wolves!

Back to the bucket list; without getting into a movie review, or storytelling, I would explain the central theme in brief: two old men, who know the end is near, exchange notes about a “bucket list”, or things to do in life, before you “kick the bucket”; and they set about doing just that in the last few days of their lives.

The list itself is a combination of some very simple personal desires that they yearned for, to the extravagant, such as skydiving, tattoos, climbing the pyramids, the French Riviera, the Great Wall of China, a lion safari in Africa etc.

Many random things to do, and places to visit, capture my imagination every once in a while. I think that’s the case for most of us. The only cue I took from the movie was to actually write it down and make a list. However silly the list may sound!

This particular item in my bucket list is a very old fascination: of owning a pet, a dog in particular, and a German shepherd to be precise. Of all dog breeds, I dig the German shepherd the most, the Labrador comes next. To me that’s the best choice for a man, and though many other dogs look much cuter, in terms of intelligence, utility, versatility, and ease of training, the GSD / Alsatian is the king of the canine world! I don’t have too many friends who own a GSD. My cousin Vaish has a terribly cute Pug, but I haven’t played with him 😦

It may not sound like a big deal, and a relatively easy item to tick of the list, but trust me, it’s been a bloody difficult wish to fulfill all these years, and will possibly stay that way for a few more.

To start with, I have to grapple with this huge contradiction that I love animals, but I am scared of being very close to them. Dogs in particular! I am the guy that ticks “Like animals, but at a distance” box in any questionnaire. My pet theory (pun intended) is that if I happen to have my dog starting from the days when it’s a small puppy, I would eventually overcome my fear.

It all started with my neighborhood in Chennai. As little kids, my sister (Poorni) and I were taking a walk around the streets when a friend of mine, who used to have this Alsatian, lost control of the leash and the dog. The dog ran wild and bit my sister, and I was helpless nearby. Poor girl is still petrified of dogs, and I am just 1% less afraid than her! She would hold my hands when there was a dog anywhere in the near vicinity, and I used to act brave. There was no way I could tell her I am equally scared, as having me around was her only source of comfort against any dog!

The problem of stray, street dogs is massive in many Indian cities, most notably Bangalore.  There were these incidents last few years when street dogs attacked people in packs (children in particular) and remains a source of huge debate between animal lovers and the regular people on the roads. Despite being a massive animal lover, in this context, I would place the interests of people above dogs. It may be sad, but that’s the pecking order.

Even if Bangalore evolves an effective mechanism for tackling the stray dog menace, it still doesn’t address the problem of irresponsible owners. Like my friend whose dog bit my sister.

Trust me; this is a massive problem in our country. And it felt even more massive to me when I have traveled abroad. Pets are so well-behaved, and owners are so mature here. I have never heard a dog bark and scare a stranger, or appear intimidating in any way. I have seen that in US, Japan and in Switzerland. I figured out the laws for keeping are very stringent, and well-regulated. Along with pet insurance, regular medical checkups, there are mandatory classes for pets, and owners.  The system pretty much ensures that if at all you have to keep a pet, you have to be extremely sensitive to the animal and fellow human beings.

So that comes to another reason I haven’t had a pet so far. The challenge of keeping a pet to the standard I would like to maintain is difficult in India. There are millions of pet owners in India, but from what I know, not too many of them are sensitive to the pet’s psyche, and its behavior in a public place. What would be easier in India though is to take care of my dog when I am working late, or travelling for e few days. I would find it relatively easier to find a neighbor or friend who takes care in my absence. There are dog walkers in Switzerland, but they come at a price and have their own schedules! Bottom line is, I would like to be a very responsible pet owner, or not have one at all.

On a lighter note, one of the most enjoyable sights from my apartment in Tokyo was a regular “owner – pet – pet – owner” routine I would see from my balcony every evening. The dogs are so well-behaved, (and bloody cute as with anything Japanese) that on the rare occasion when a dog barks at another on the street, the masters stop, apologize profusely  in the long tradition of Japanese manners, exchange pleasantries and become friends. God knows how many business alliances, and love stories have come about that way!

But, by far my biggest challenge has been living in one city long enough to keep a pet. I wouldn’t want to put my dog through relocating cities / countries, and flight journeys! There is no way any dog can live off a suitcase like I do! I remember pleading with Amma to keep a lab, when I wasn’t working yet and didn’t have a place of my own.  Her decisive statement was “If you insist on getting a dog, fine. I can only feed so many people in this house, so it’s either you or the dog. Your choice!”  Appa, and Poorni were eagerly waiting for my response. ..in one of the most decisive moments in my life, I chose myself over the lab instinctively 🙂

 I can thankfully laugh about it today, but on that day I was an angry young man!

So perhaps one day when I know I am going to stay in one city for years together, I would finally knock this long pending item off my bucket list.

Till such day when you visit my house and play with my dog, enjoy the amazing videos here!

Cheers!

Vasu

P.S: Since I have made, chopped, and changed such lists  for so long, that it doesn’t make sense to start this series with #1. Those who know me know my fascination with numbers and patterns in numbers. So I would number this series with my favorite numbers rather than 1, 2, 3…6561 is one such number. I was born on a terrific day for a number lover: 8th January, 1981, or 8-1-8-1. 81 * 81 =6561. Also, 8+1=9, and 9*9*9*9 =6561. There you go!

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