Thermometer of Democracy

Media is thermometer of a nation. It shows the temperature of its governance. In a democracy, it records every micro change. Many feared that with increasing impact of television, Indian newspaper would perish. Technology has indeed changed the way newspaper is produced and read but it still is as important as ever. Proving out the law of media coexistence, vernacular and English newspaper have adopted well to multi-media as well. Away from their home-town, many access news at home through digital or web versions of their favourite newspaper.

 

 

External Affairs ministry has put together short video-clips on salient ideas  like art, music, religious harmony, traditional crafts etc. It appears that these clips have been edited out of several documentary films that Doordarshan channel routinely produces. Clear simple, often simplistic, narration helps carry the core ideas across. Someone needing a quick cultural acquaintance – a crash course – with India would find these clips from indiandiplomacy extremely rewarding. A better categorization along with primary information of each clip would make this interesting collection more meaningful.

Serving Muse

 

Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.

Oscar Wilde

The Independent Film Channel has art, imagination, fantasy, heartbreak – every thing on its channel. Multi is prefix justified by this media company. Like Wilde’s artist who has no conversation for he is too full of art, IFC has no about section. Truth is, words are used as signifiers that lead to some video.

Of the several interesting things under its numerous sections, this short clip deals with inter-relationship of artiste with his art.

Make_IFC

An intimate journey into the lives of four self-taught artists, struggling with the disabilities life has dealt them. The short film brings home the truth that Art is not always spelt with capital ‘a’, as many glitzy reports often leads one to believe.

Freedom in Cloud?

It was with mixed feelings that cinema allowed a part of itself to bloom as multi-media. No doubt the visual excellence of the older medium could never be translated to new, ordinarily restricted to a small screen of monitor or wall television, but it gained momentously over the parent due to its mode of delivery and interactivity.

Today, a smart phone allows you to create, distribute and consume multi-media, sometimes with fingers and thumb of hand that holds it in the palm. Sill, it is wired; dependent: on the net-work grid that can always be monitored and turned off. Thirteen nations of the world control the internet, so the citizens can access only the filtered content. Recent revolution in Arabian countries has not helped in state-paranoia around the word.

So here comes a public acceptance of “Internet in a Suitcase”.

Josh King on CBSNewsonline show, Real Time Conversation on What’s Trending

We can all walk with our head in clouds. No longer does the citizen have to depend on broad-band services regulated by a ‘watchful government’; he can always use ‘Cloud-media’ instead. It consists of hardware components which can be easily assembled to deliver wireless service.

Is there anything ominous about such an innocent technology? Nothing, save it is designed for one purpose alone –  empower legitimately protesting citizens to maintain crucial communications. In other words, it is a strategic weapon to ease out governments not supporting the ideals of democracy.

"We see more and more people around the globe using the Internet, mobile phones and other technologies to make their voices heard as they protest against injustice and seek to realize their aspirations," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was quoted as saying by the NewYork Times."There is a historic opportunity to effect positive change, change America supports. So we’re focused on helping them do that, on helping them talk to each other, to their communities, to their governments and to the world."

War has been the leader in advance of technology. For the first time in human history, the research in technology has been directed by something other than war; it is Video games that have effected the current technological progress. Almost as recognition of the true value of berated, denounced piece of human activity comes the U.S. Supreme court decision upheld video-games as form of expression of creativity and ideas and even social messages. If dissent in another nation is supported by a country, the same facility can be provided by that nation to citizens of this country. The alternate/ parallel broadband points to the fact that equal access to ungoverned/ unmonitored broadband is people’s right.

Bias for ’neutrality

From a certain angle, recent medium, Internet uses all other traditional forms of expression, largely words and pictures. Hardware and software technologies had constantly to grow to reach a point where audio and video could be successfully transmitted. It was only in past few years that net gained capability of communicating audio-visual content competitively. And just as tech-innovators had surpassed earlier barriers, in stepped  the profit-makers. All communication industries to date, labeled as horizontal networks, were designed with specific content in sight. Telephone lines were laid for express purpose of voice-communication; cable networks designed to deliver audio-visual content. Internet grew out of purposeless innovation It is because of such freedom as essence, that people could experiment with tools available, creating more tools in return which spawned the plethora of uncountable applications that constitute the web. When people say that internet has changed the rhythm of life, they hold an insight which they may not realize right then.

Internet has granted people the freedom to ‘be themselves’.  This freedom extends from fantasy to fervent or frivolous communication, to collaboration and creation. Such an experimentation branded rogue, Napster changed the way music was owned and shared. The slick digital compression of audio files has resulted in completely different way people hold music. Vimeo and you-tube are repositories of personal-professional video clips. Viewers get information, entertainment and motivation.

Not long back, film was looked down upon as a medium of diversion – mere entertainment – when the genre of documentary stepped in. It is only recently that after about 7 or 8 decades of its growth, that films could be recognized as tool for education, information and change. Internet could achieve this along with changing trade, commerce, entrepreneurship, politics and so much more within a single decade.

Probably as poetic-ironic fate in pace with its whirlwind growth comes the threat of its demise. Well, if not actual demise, then its throttling for certain. It shall no longer be free universal non-discriminatory access to all of internet. Paying the fee demanded by your ISP might unlock certain points, but ones controlled by competing corporation would still remain inaccessible. And so, the builders, innovators and users are expressing their call for true net-neutrality so that spirit of free inquiry and untrammeled innovation may live on.

Death of Internet

Internet is not a traditional network where costs remain material and escalate with use. It truly is virtual where costs disappear as the number of users cross a certain point. The medium fully uses itself in its defense.  The clean design of website has an instant appeal and before you realize you are going through its FAQ page. http://www.savetheinternet.com/has several videos on site itself and directs you to youtube for more. The video films range from short coverage of meetings, conventions, speeches, interviews to text-audio-picture montage like one given below.

A short film  by Circlecityrabbit

H.R. 3458 "Net neutrality" and possible internet censorship

Watch these video films on youtube till you are informed and motivated enough to make one of your own. Be sure to share them on all public platforms. Remember internet is more an organism than mechanism or object. A perfect illustration of this is John Gilmore’s famous quote: “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” He said this in 1993 almost before anyone knew what he was talking about. Who cared for Net, then? But things have changed and stakes are high. It is no longer the war industry that directs innovation; it is the video games industry which leads innovation.

Please inform others once you read answers to these questions given in the FAQ page.

What is Net Neutrality?
Who wants to get rid of Net Neutrality?
Is Net Neutrality a new regulation?
Isn’t the threat to Net Neutrality just hypothetical?
Isn’t this just a battle between giant corporations?
What else are the phone and cable companies not telling the truth about?
What’s at stake if we lose Net Neutrality?

Let us hope, we don’t spend too much of our energies in granting the net its neutrality, using our energies to express our creativity, just as unfettered internet grants us a chance to.

Through the pearls that were eyes

It is the job of a story teller to spin yarns. They sometimes narrate secrets of their own craft. Like the one of a lonely soldier passing through a village spins about the magical stone which prepares a delicacy to delight his majesty himself and prepares a curry out of ingredients donated by his eager listeners. In an age when cryptic one-liners have invaded work and entertainment, the days of tall tales are over. Gone, apart from the humour of hyperbole, is the delicate local colouring that would recreate a life unknown to the listener or reader.

Purpose drives all our actions, so why not arts? As poetry was opposed to for its entertaining quality, poets tried to robe it in the garb of a tool for truth, of philosophy. With constant attacks against emotion and sentimentality, aesthetics too espoused an intellectual stand. As the joy was shooed out of intellectual sphere, it became restricted to popular culture. With technology matured to present moving pictures, the cinema started its skyward climb on primary human emotions.

A retired police officer narrating his experience in a diction, language and values of mid 20th century India. Courtesy: Youtube

Intellect devised its own tool. To reclaim audience weaned away from literature and serious thought by this all enveloping medium, the genre of Documentary stepped in. Starting as a straight forward activity to record ‘truth’ against mainstream cinema’s ‘fiction’, son this genre could not keep away from the power of visual to sway the mind. ‘Art’ was no longer a preserve of the emotional film-making; the documentaries through choice of their subject, manner of presentation and best, due freedom from appealing to human emotions, could become the experimental arm of cinema.

The story-teller, despised and shunned away now found an opening in this camp, too. He did have to disguise himself as a ‘researcher’, but after all that too was a part of story-telling. So, primarily a tool for journalism, the genre developed and grew so that the distinction between this and the other form  grew hazy. Under all its growth, the elements it started out with were forgotten or mislaid, there was germinating a technology empowered new movement that started usurping its role.

Armed with inexpensive video-cams, an army of diverse people with strange motives began filling out the video-space. The home-video has existed for years, but it was generally restricted to picnics, parties and functions. With more than one camera on his body during the day, the average youth is now recording anything that pleases his eyes or mind, unmindful of all grammar.

This well might be a passing phase and hopefully, things would be passed back to the yarn-spinner. But till that happens, if the researcher-curator could delve into the mire of visual wasteland, he would be able to find fragments that might still spell out essence of human existence. In anecdotal or home-videos, it is possible to catch these glimpses through language, diction and understand the sensibility of an era lost.

Such stand-alone, personal clips retain immense value. They are the honest most documentation, even though sparse.

X-Men: First Class — Exactly As It Should Be

X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class (2011)

X-Men: First Class [X1C] released yesterday at a New York premier. The bright cast, led by James McAvoy (Charles Xavier / Prof X) and Michael Fassbender (Erik Lenssher / Magneto), with support from Kevin Bacon (Kurt Schmidt / Sebastian Shaw), Rose Byrne (Moira McTaggart), Jennifer Lawrence (Raven / Mystique) and January Jones (Emma Frost) helms the fifth installment and second prequel to the franchise started by the original X-Men [X], released eleven years ago. X and X2 (2003) director Bryan Singer produced and worked on story, while Matthew Vaughan directed and wrote screenplay.

The entire effort, in both creation and marketing, has been to portray this as a “smart” superhero film; from the intellectual (even awarded) cast, to the almost indie director Matthew Vaughan, to the New York instead of LA premier. I found the commitment and dedication to the fantasy very gratifying. There were no slips in logic, no tongue-in-cheek comedy, no Stan Lee cameo. Even the references to the wider X-Men universe were limited and, with a very necessary and obligatory exception, consisted exclusively of allusions. In spite of this, it still explains everything that was alluded to but never quite covered in the earlier movies.

Since the film is set in the 1960s, it is set in a time when the human populace was not aware of the existence of mutants, while at the same time being under the threat of atomic war. The film plays out closer to Munich (2005) than any other superhero film, even though it bears all the hallmarks of having an ensemble cast, namely recruitment, discovery, betrayal, inspiration, and final sprint.

The acting is superb. The main characters are extremely convincing, and extremely detailed. So much so, that it makes the lack of detail in supporting characters (Angel, Riptide) stand out starkly at times, which is the only fault I could find. Michael Fassbender ultimately steals the show: he is charming and troubled, intelligent and doubtful, powerful and weak at the same time. The relationship between Charles and Erik, which is undoubtedly the center of the whole movie, is preserved and portrayed with unflinching precision and sensitivity, and holds the viewer with the warmth of their hearts, not just the speed with which it beats.

The final comparison, of course, is with The Dark Knight (2008) [TDK], Christopher Nolan’s Batman masterpiece which is considered the de facto standard of a superior superhero movie, which not only set the tone and bar for grittiness and complexity in the genre but also got nominated for 8 Oscars and won 2. Since the makers of X1C confess the inspiration TDK delivers, it would be unfair to compare the two. However, as one does venture into this dangerously subjective territory as one must, I find X1C having more cinematic merit than TDK, which has more artistic merit. Heath Ledger’s acting and Christopher Nolan’s twists and turns make an amazingly entertaining and satisfying watch. However, they didn’t have to deal with the restraints of the X1C team (the pre-established story, the ensemble cast). In addition, X1C manages to be a lot more believable, which is quite astonishing given the fact that Batman doesn’t really have any superpowers while Magneto can lift Submarines with his mind. The lack of plot points such as TDK’s cellular-sonar network, and dialogue such as, “when you’re done, type in your name,” goes a long way in supporting the integrity of characters. Furthermore, the end scene in TDK is, much like the entire movie, a bit rushed, especially the “fake jokers and doctors” scene. X1C, on the other hand, is very calm, very well paced, and does everything it needs to while also taking moments to reflect on the philosophical aspects of xenophobia, identity, self and social acceptance, and of course, evolution. TDK loses out since Batman himself is eclipsed in the movie by almost everyone: the Joker, Two-Face, Gordon, Rachel, Alfred, even Moroni. The terrible, terrible voice acting by Christian Bale also doesn’t help. And I am convinced that the Batman costume (or indeed, any costume) can never be made to look good in live action. X1C, on the other hand, focuses very strongly on the main characters, and reduces the detail as it goes out. Of course, most of this comparison is forced and unwarranted. On their own, both are two great films, and it comes down to whether you like Batman or Magneto, DC or Marvel, the Creator or the Polisher. In my opinion, TDK was not Nolan’s best movie. X1C, however, is better than both Layer Cake (2004) and Kick-Ass (2010), and is Vaughan’s best work so far.

X1C was one of the three movies I looked forward to this year. The first was a miserable disappointment, and the last has a tight ceiling on its aesthetic potential. X1C was really the only truly satisfying film of the year, and I suppose to have one in a year is not bad. All I need is one good film to make a year worth remembering, and I will remember 2011 with X1C.

~ Terence Tuhinanshu

O! Scar

Another year of desires, aspirations, disenchantment and disgruntlement has come and gone. The Oscars have been announced. Innovation, excellence, merit, hard-work have been appreciated. Isn’t it amusing how a whole coterie devoted to creation of a hypnotic world of make-believe, gather in a grand show of illusions and break their hearts. It appears to be a case of mass self-hypnosis. Brilliant minds who create ever-new planes of existence, sit with anxious eyes sparkling with curiosity holding their breath, unmindful of the unchanging patter and rituals with church dignity and military precision, waiting for the sweetest sound — their name.

And ah! the spirit of ‘best man wins’ takes over. It is one more year of machinations, opportunities, love-hate relationships before this magic moment of transformation comes again.

Perhaps, and befittingly, this ceremony represents in a paradoxical manner the reality of love-hope-joy- resolution which stays in the backdrop, as these wonderful men and women use these ingredients to weave a visual chimera that eases the dry cackle of real life enough to keep it in motion.

Thank you all for your efforts.

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