Don’t You Feel Like…


Sometimes when you read the headlines and on the state of the nation, don’t you feel like looking down in sheer frustration and then look up and say a silent prayer?

Yes, no doubt there other positive things to look out for – a roof over your head, good health, lovable family and friends, good job with enough pay to take care of your family and live rather comfortably. But once you take a look at the larger picture and knowing the small things that is happening far from your comfort zone is going to come back you hard, it becomes simply frustrating. From the rising crime (and the insane shooting and assassinations), the speechless outcry when the police kills a bunch of criminals (does that is exactly was expected to be done to end the criminals senseless killings? It should not be the end of the mop up exercise and it should continue until public perception of security improves), the release of the policemen who been charged with the killing of the Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu (gosh, so does this means she killed herself with C4?), the recycling and appointment of the same old tainted & corrupted politicians into the key positions of the Government again and again and again (“tak kan lah tak ada orang lain” in the whole of Malaysia who can the job?), the continued abuse of taxpayers money (the Government obsession with consultants seems to be running high and dry) and the manipulation the notion of race and religion for dubious reasons.

But that is not this post is about – let’s talk about something else and it came to me last night.

I was watching TV last night and out of the many channels in my room, nothing seems to catch my attention. The Fox channel was showing Will Smith’s I, Robot again for like 500th time. As I was scrolling up and down through the channels (stopping momentarily at the local channels), one looked interesting – it was about a group of rockers auditioning in front of the judges over some Korean Pop Channel. The rockers were quite crude and through their song (self composed one) style (they had long hair and leather jackets), their performance was rather so-so (in my opinion) and the judges were laughing all the way. One judge failed them but the rockers managed to scrap through as the other judges thought that the rockers had hope and passed them. Even the rockers were surprised and could not believe that they made it – they were quite hilarious.

Not the next group that came for audition – it brought tears to my eyes.

Five of them and all of them were close friends and fathers with small kids. All were professional background musicians playing for lead bands and singers on contract basis. They do not seem to be highly paid musicians. They dress casually and could just be the guy next door. They are quite close to their kids who in turn hold their fathers as heroes and better than anyone. But they have aged (in their early forties) and they no longer find enough work to support themselves and their families even though they all were extremely talented. One of them, the pianist who was playing for a young singer said that he was fired from his work without any notice as the singer only wanted younger musicians (perhaps to better portray the singer’s youthful image). Out of work and with a family to feed, he was at his lowest point of life and wanted to kill himself so that his family could gain from the insurance money. Somehow he changed his mind. And he heard about the talent show on TV, he and his musician buddies then decided go for the talent show and hope to win – a chance to change their life for better.

They walked in and as they take their place with their music instruments, one of the judges recognize them and asked why they are here. After all, they were all professional musicians. The pianist explains that this is the way they hope to put food on the table for their family. They then start to perform and the title of the song was rightfully called “Papa, Don’t Cry” and the performance was really excellent (ya, much better than the earlier rockers). I don’t understand Korean but due to the lyrics which had something very meaningful or perhaps due to very emotional performance by the struggling fathers, at least 2 judges in their tears. One immediately said yes whilst another abstained. The last judge said something was not right with their performance but before he delivers his verdict, the camera shot changed and was on the families of the band who have been waiting anxiously outside the audition room, some of their kids were even praying for the best. We are not shown on the final outcome of the judge’s verdict. The judge who said the negative comments suddenly walks out and looked “surprised” at the sight of the families outside. When they surrounded him and asked him on what had happened to the band, the judge keeps his silent and then out comes the men shouting, they have been picked to go on to the next level. The family members were in tears too. And that was inspiring and very moving.

Isn’t it just amazing, when things are looking bleak and hopeless, some inspiring story would come along and will inspire you not to lose hope and keep at it and things will change? Similarly there is hope for the country yet. Remember of all the nonsense that the politicians doing now and remember it well and when the next general elections comes, you will know what to do. In the meantime, keep your heads high and look out for the big break that surely will come.

Have a good week ahead…

Oh Dear, Tamil TV Serials!


(This post was prompted by another “duel” for the remote control on the horizon and yes, it is going to be with the same old aunty)

Read these first:-

The-Big-Bang-Theory-029

(One of the funniest and most educational TV sitcom to date – thanks to “mommy had him tested” Sheldon, who is by the way standing on the far right there – and I love every episode of it but why can’t the same winning formula be repeated in other places – places like the huge, extensive world of Indian entertainment industry where there is no short of talented, funny actors and scriptwriters? Why?  Image source: http://tvbreakroom.com)

It was a lazy Sunday evening (it was rather a very late evening) several weeks ago when I woke up from my slumber afternoon nap (with a baby in tow, afternoon naps are a luxury these days – some of you will know what I mean) and walked down downstairs where some kind of award show was on ASTRO with my grandma and my mum watching it.

It was the Sun Kudumbam Awards (if you have not heard of this, I don’t blame you) and I did not really catch the gist of the award until much later (yes, I was still in a daze from my afternoon nap) and realized that it was part of the Sun TV to award those in the TV serials “industry” in various categories. All the glitters and pompousness of a mega star studded award show with very revealing clothed dance performances was on the spot but looking at the various categories contested, it made little sense on the minds of the audience. I mean there was very little to shout for – all are TV serials with similar or overlapping story-lines and with categories like the best mother-in-law, best father-in-law and best brother-in-law, the whole award show seemed to be nothing but a well dress circus show. But still nothing happens without a sustained demand from the audience and the same happens here. The serials are there because of the demand from audience (likely to be housewives who have this for entertainment after a good day work of cleaning the house and cooking) and that is perfectly fine.

But certainly large entertainment corporation like SunTV with all it’s financial resources, creativity and talents (and a good pool of ready audience – both in India and internationally) can come up with Tamil serials on subjects other than on family problems, misery, back-stabbing, in-fighting between the in-laws and scheming, right? Just take a good look at some of the serials – see how long they drag the scene that in reality would probably take micro-seconds to complete – in the serials, they drag it to a point where it occupies the entire episode.

I saw one such nonsense some days ago – someone asking a lady if she can follow him to a place. In reality, we would have expected direct questions and answers – yes or no and perhaps why, where and when. But not in this serial! The background music somehow got more tense as the person looks at the lady in distress and the lady (as if she have committed some serious crime) looks back rather panicky and this goes on for a couple a minutes before the lady opens her mouth and asks why (even that took a couple of minutes before we got some kind of answer). Thank God, they are not doing western theme in Tamil Serials otherwise the quick duel with the pistols between 2 mean cowboys outside the bar would have been painfully long (laced with plenty of crying from the family members, emotional speeches and appearance of missing relatives at the last moment) and to a point, real cowboys would have gone back to the bar, order some root-beers and get themselves drunk like hell.

Certainty they can come up with serials that have a complete fast paced story within one episode (crying from start to end does not count here) whilst at the same time, having another bigger but slow paced story that needs one to keep up with all the episodes to know its final outcome. What they can do? What kind of TV serials that we can hope to see in the near future and where one does not need to (desperately) create award categories like best mother-in-law, best father-in-law and best brother-in-law just to keep the competition between the various serials stiff?

If they are scratching their head for a good theme, maybe they can look at these genres:-

Police & Law Enforcement

A story of a police station in a small town with colourful characters as the policemen on duty and led by a young, intelligent but inexperienced inspector. The focus of this story would be on the cases that the police station gets from the public and how the “men in blue” work their way to solve the crimes (I am sure they can pull success stories from the many police stations in the country). Added into this story are known criminals and corrupted politicians who are not happy on how close the police are getting in uncovering their criminal. The “SIDE” story in this serial would be the policemen interaction with their family. I say “side” because the last thing we want is for the family story to take the limelight and the actual policing work to be shown in the intermittent (if this is so, then we are back to square one).

Law

A story of 3 young lawyers who graduated from the same law school and are in the same law firm, each trying to impress all in their way up in civil suits to be senior partners of the firm whilst at the same time, maintaining the dignity and justice of the legal system. A good study would be made during the show on Indian legal systems, the various precedent judgements from the past court cases and perhaps suggestions to close the various loopholes in the system. It would be very highly educational for the common man to understand his rights and the implications under the law.

Paranormal

Short paranormal stories – it could be based on true story or fictional and to string all the short stories would be investigative reporter who goes around looking for paranormal incidents. One rule of thumb though – each case must start and end within the same episode and not not after 600++ episodes later. Zee TV already showing something similar (the show simply named “Fear Files“) in Hindi and it is quite good. Have something similar in Tamil and you are good to go.

Situation Comedy

It is a fact that there are way too many talented comedians in the entertainment industry so getting the right people for a situation comedy would not be so hard to do. There used to be one but it was laced with countdown to the top 10 songs for the week. They can start with something similar to The Big Bang Theory – a story of 4 bachelors who are well educated and living together in a small apartment in the city with multiple personalities including one that talks and acts like Sheldon.

Corporate Drama

A story of 2 business rivals who is trying to outdo each in business, not be scheming, backstabbing or by use of violence but rather by sound business decisions and making the right strategic moves. What are the best practices in business? How one inspires high productivity among his employees? How one deals with shortage of funds and insane call of order at the very last minute.

Farmer Story

Nothing beats seeing something very green on television – but then again, a story about a farmer means waking up early morning, a whole day nothing but hard work and putting the faith on a good weather and getting a harvest at the end of the day.

Historical Story

What was life of our ancestors or of great men & women in the early 1900s or 1800s or even BC? Wouldn’t that make an interesting story for the next generations? No special effects, no modern technology – just pure history studies. What they did for leisure? How they did their shopping and cooked their meals? What were the ancient games that the kids played when they are not busy with school or work at the fields.

Sci-Fi Story

We cannot talk about a futuristic Earth with warp speed spaceships here – I don’t think some of the housewives are ready for that yet but we can talk about an alternate reality, something along the line of women is the more pre-dominant gender and men are confined to homes to do the house chores and to cook (the housewives will love this). Or why not pick something sci-fi from Enthiran – what if the mad scientist also created other robots in secret – perhaps in form of small children.

Children Story

You don’t have to go far. Take Enid Bylton’s The Famous Five as the base of the storyline and put cute, witty kids in the key roles and you have a killer show for all generations. It has been done before and I am sure that an Indian version of it would be a hit too.

Mystery / Conspiracy Theory

Are all those in the Government aliens in disguise? Or the Government has a dark secret division which is doing out-of-world missions on a regular basis but no one knows about it (in likes of Men In Black)? Or what if someone had found something from ancient times that could change the future of mankind and they had to fend off the bad guys from getting it and use it for the wrong reasons? Yes, an Indian version of the X-Files!

At the end of the day, whilst we are fine with the entertainment side of TV serials, on a longer run it must also educate and inspire the viewer to see things from a different and positive perspective. The current (tiring) family themed TV serials are fine for its short term entertainment values but where are the long term positive points when at most of the time; it is nothing but family feuds, conspiracies and sabotage? What about family bonding, maintaining good relationship and positive inspiration? When we going to see them coming up soon on our local channels? I hope very, very soon. Viewers are getting more sophisticated and in more demands than ever (they should be – they are not paying small money for the satellite channels) and if they are not, the entertainment industry must be willing to be more innovative and realistic when it comes to making the viewers to be one.

Larry Hagman: 1931 – 2012


(The character itself is an icon and there was no other better to play the role than Larry Hagman. Image source: Wikipedia)

From CNN:-

Actor Larry Hagman, who created one of television’s iconic villains with the treacherous J.R. Ewing of “Dallas,” died Friday, according to a family statement. He was 81. Hagman died at a Dallas hospital of complications from cancer, said the statement posted on Hagman’s official web site early Saturday.

“Larry was back in his beloved Dallas, re-enacting the iconic role he loved most,” it said. “Larry’s family and close friends had joined him in Dallas for the Thanksgiving holiday.

When he passed, he was surrounded by loved ones. It was a peaceful passing, just as he had wished for. The family requests privacy at this time.”

“Dallas” was an iconic TV show back in 1980s and the main role in the series was the ruthless J R Ewing played by Larry Hagman. But back then Dallas was heavy stuff for us kids although my parents watch them often. For us, we prefer the funnier side of Larry in the sitcom “I Dream Of Jeannie” which was more entertaining and funny.

Andy Griffith: 1926 – 2012


From CNN:-

Actor Andy Griffith, who played folksy Sheriff Andy Taylor in the fictional town of Mayberry, died Tuesday at the age of 86, his family said.

Griffith died at about 7 a.m. at his home on Roanoke Island, according to Dare County, North Carolina, Sheriff J.D. “Doug” Doughtie. He passed away after an unspecified illness and “has been laid to rest on his beloved Roanoake Island,” the family said in a statement.

Other than the Little House on the Prairie, The Andy Griffith Show (that featured Ron Howard as Andy’s son Opie) was one of “the” shows that we often watched during tea-break when we were still little kids. Even as kids, Andy’s situational jokes and family oriented storyline was easy to follow. Andy Griffith also starred in Matlock but it did not come close to the more famed The Andy Griffith Show.

Rest in Peace, Sheriff Andy.

Astro Now Secured


Ha, finally….

A couple years ago, I highlighted just how unsecured some of the popular websites are and one of them was Astro. I did write to them officially but the response was lukewarm (almost patronizing from the webmasters). Perhaps it was not addressed to the right people, perhaps they did not have enough budget to make the necessary changes. So I left it as it is and avoided from using their services online.

Admittedly Astro subscription is not that cheap (perhaps lack of competition may be a factor here) – so I took away the Movie Channel and left with enough channels for entertainment – documentaries and cartoon (for the big boss). Couple weeks ago, my “big boss” walked up to me after hours of watching cartoon and told me that he had enough of cartoons. At first I thought he got bored with the same repeated cartoons and making a one time statement. I was pretty sure that he will be back watching the same cartoons the very next day.

The very next day, I caught him watching cartoon again and passed by him with a smile – kids will be kids. I went up to take my shower and when I walked down, I saw him waiting for me. He asked me why he can tune to the cartoon channel – he remembered him telling me that he do not want to see the cartoon channel anymore.

It took several reminders from the “big boss” for me to click on the Astro webpage, just to see whether there is any changes and I was indeed surprised.

(I have been looking for that “s” behind the http for sometime now – especially when I have to put down my IC and personal details over the internet)

(Validation through email, SMS and PIN number – I really did not expect that from Astro after the earlier snub but then again, it is a welcome change)

Certainly now things have improved – not sure what caused the change – change of the earlier sloppy webmaster or change of IT staff or unreported hacker attack but it was a welcome change – not only the registration is now on a secured page but registration is also authenticated through a SMS to a registered mobile phone and the final registration is activated with a PIN that shown in the said SMS. Impressive!

I had expected over the years, as hackers get better and easily work their way around basic webpage defenses, the more of the  unsecured sensitive pages will end up encrypted and secured. The faster some of the popular websites move to improve the security of their webpage, it is better for the end users. I was glad Astro had made their move before it is too late but what about the others? It is high time that the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation look into this seriously. There are still webmasters who are ignorant on the security of their websites.

I feel more confident using Astro webpage now compared to the time I was eager to use it couple years ago. Although some of the functions seems to be “offline” at the moment, it is comfortable to know it is at the moment…”secured”.

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Ronald Lee Ermey


(No one, I mean, no one messes up with the drill sergeant – more so if the drill sergeant is Gunnery Sgt. Hartmann. Gunnery Sgt. Hartmann is furious after finding out a hidden food in the recruit’s personal box. Image source: www:boston.com)

I am watching Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” and I must say Ronald Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sgt. Hartmann looks too real, too scary and certainly impressive.

I have “met” Ronald Lee Ermey in his show “Lock N’ Load With R. Lee Ermey” – shown in Astro’s History Channel. He looked tamed in this show but he is a quite a different man, playing the role of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in the Full Metal Jacket.

And there is an interesting fact on how Ronald Lee Ermey got the part:-

Former US Marine Corps Drill Instructor R. Lee Ermey was not originally hired to play Gunnery Sgt. Hartman but as a consultant for the Marine Corps boot camp portion of the film.

He performed a demonstration on videotape in which he yelled obscene insults and abuse for 15 minutes without stopping, repeating himself or even flinching – despite being continuously pelted with tennis balls and oranges. Stanley Kubrick was so impressed that he cast Ermey as Gunnery Sgt. Hartmann

The videotape demonstration was not the only factor which got R. Lee Ermey the role as the drill instructor. Ermey went to Stanley Kubrick and asked for the part, as the actors on the set were, in his opinion, not up to snuff.

When Kubrick declined, Ermey barked an order for Kubrick to stand up when he was spoken to, and the director instinctively obeyed. That sealed the matter, and Ermey won the part as Gunnery Sgt. Hartmann.

(Source: IMDB)

And Ronald Lee Ermey was so good with his role, he also improvised on his dialogues:-

Much, if not all, of R. Lee Ermey’s dialogue during the Parris Island sequence was improvised. While filming the opening scene, where he disciplines Pvt. Cowboy, he says Cowboy is the type of guy who would have sex with another guy “and not even have the goddamned common courtesy to give him a reach-around”.

Stanley Kubrick immediately yelled cut and went over to Ermey and asked, “What the hell is a reach-around?” Ermey politely explained what it meant. Kubrick laughed and re-shot the scene, telling Ermey to keep the line

Impressive piece of acting indeed!