Leylah vs Emma

I like these names. Leylah, as usual, is pretty familiar to Indian ears as it’s in stories and folklore and movies of India. And Emma is familiar to anyone who is familiar with Jane Austen. It’s one of those famous books which I haven’t read. Yet the name has a sweet tone.

Leylah Fernandez and Emma Raducanu are both teenagers. Laylah just turned 19 and Emma will reach that figure in November this year. If age counts and if days and months count too, then this makes Emma younger and more potent on the court by few months. Both of them have defeated opponents who are not much old at all. Yet, during movements on the court and during long rallies, it’s very noticeable that the younger of the two have more reach, speed, and relentlessness, with no compromise on accuracy.

Emma Raducanu’s presence in the US Open 2021 has a history. Initially, she was not on the list of players. They called her in when the original participant, Jeļena Ostapenko, withdrew. But before getting her place in the first round, Raducanu had to go through a qualifier and in one of the three qualifiers, she defeated the experienced Mayar Sherif.

After defeating 4th seed Sharif in the qualifiers, the other seeded players she defeated were 11th seed Bencic, the Olympic 2020 Gold Medallist, in the quarterfinals and 11st seed Sakkari in the semifinals. Compared to Leylah, Raducanu has an easier ride to the finals, being pitched against lower ranked players.

Unlike Raducanu, Leylah played against higher ranked players. She defeated 3rd seed Osaka in the third round, after which Osaka seems to have quit tennis for the time being. Then she beat 16th seed Kerber, this year’s Wimbledon semifinalist, 5th seed Svitolina and finally, 2nd seed Sabalenka to reach the finals.

Till the eve of finals; Raducanu played 9 tournaments with total 18 sets and 18 wins. Leylah has played 6 tournaments with 16 sets and 12 wins. With quality and quantity head-to-head, Raducanu has more match and more wins, but Leylah has defeated higher ranked players.

If the intentions are good- statistics will tell a lot. But not without the usual clause, because life is uncertain. Past performance is no guarantee for future returns, in tennis or other-wise. Yet, one can gain judgment and perspective just by having some judgement and perspective to start with.

When Leylah walks on the court to face Raducanu in the finals of the US Open 2021, she will have several advantages in the game in which Raducanu is yet untested.

Leylah has shown something which the followers of Federer, Djokovic and Nadal may have noticed – the ability to raise the game whenever required. In most games, Leylah played three sets and faced tie breaks. If experience is anything in tennis (though many experienced players lose badly), then Leylah has that mental ability to get out of a hole and raise her game up a notch.

If Raducanu faces similar situations, will she be able to come back? That’s the question not known yet.

Raducanu is untested in either in comebacks after a set loss, and in three setters, and in tie break situations. One way to approach this is to consider that Raducanu may be a better player, that she has more skills and better technique, that she doesn’t get into sticky situations and shows her anticipation.

One would choose to be a Raducanu. Be lucky, at least to start with. She was at home when a phone-call notified a vacancy in the US Open. It may have been the world’s shortest time to say – Yes. Time and Talent met. Probably that’s called Dream-Run.

But one would love to see Leylah win. She has worked her way up with victories, defeats, and in one instance, against Kerber, a temporary debacle in the quality of her game. For people who show both their successes and failures and faults, the vulnerabilities, the benevolent majority always wish for their success.

I would love Leylah to win.

Walks on YouTube

Once you watch anything on YouTube, your friend, “Algorithm” will present you more of the similar kinds. Probably the “Algo” also gauges the “tone and texture” of the viewer, and throws up suggestions to widen the viewing curve. Maybe this got me a unique show; a show where people walk the streets with a camera and then upload their recordings. Later I found, this “walking with cam show” actually proliferates the Tube.

The first for me was – Keezi Walks, and I was hooked when I saw this gentleman, probably from New Zealand, walking the lanes and by-lanes of Varanasi (Banaras, Uttar Pradesh, India). An hour-long walk presents assorted views, sounds, colors and culture. Here is the link of the Varanasi Walk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX-zkkB7Y3M). Actually, “Mr. Keezi” walks all over the world.

Then there is this lady who walks in Sweden, Stockholm. She walks at Eleven in the night in bright sunshine. The view is absolutely surreal for me. Here is her link – https://www.youtube.com/c/StockholmWalks The good thing about this lady’s walks is, she gives some historical perspective too when necessary. And her walk lengths have variety–some are for just 10 mins and some for an hour. Which is easy as one can choose as per his time and mood. She cycles too.

And then there is this Japanese Gentleman who walks around Tokyo, suburbs and surroundings. We starkly noticed one thing in his walks–Japan has no population. I’ve seen him walk for half an hour, and in several videos, without a soul on the streets. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGb1R_vIqPE)

In contrast, to the Japanese walk, there is an Iranian–who walks the street of Tehran which is like walking any streets in India. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ln194SF0DUE)

Also popular is London Walks/Moscow Walks/Seoul Walks/US walks/Berlin Walks. Choose your own favourite walks.

Watching people on the streets and other lives making their living off it, one gets the feel for the uniformity of all our lives anywhere on earth. Same hurry, same gait, same sound, and same “mobile mania.”

But there is a difference, particularly in walks in western countries. And also Japan. Not only the streets look clean but one can see the use of colours; like street paintings and flowers on the sidewalks and on windows and also on the railings of bridges. And those flowers maintained. Besides, one can feel the order and symmetry in the houses and buildings. It’s pure pleasure. My reference point is the StockholmWalks.

Japan is pristine. And their back gardens are like the epitome of perfection. Such neatness and order speaks a lot about their culture and thought.

I compliment those who make these shows. It may seem just carrying a camera and walking around but I see a consistency in these posts which shows that they enjoy what they do and also want us, the watchers, to enjoy the same wonderful experience. Thank you all, “Cam Walkers” for bringing the vibrancy of life to every home around the world.

Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time. ~Steven Wright, stand-up comedian.

The Gold Rush, YouTube.

There are many things which one claims to knows without really knowing it. We know famous books, famous places, and famous movies. In this list, one can also include famous people, but knowing famous people is not a privilege readily available, and not even desirable due privacy concerns. But books, places and movies are readily available, and within these three, famous books and famous movies, classics so to say, can be accessed free of charge, except, Internet charges will apply.

So, in search of variety, I chanced upon this Movie “The Gold Rush” on YouTube. (https://youtu.be/Deu7xcKy-jc) Seems to be a very clear print of a 1925 movie. Now, I know, and you too know about the movie – The Gold Rush – but have “we” seen it. I, frankly, no.

Charlie Chaplin’s short movies are huge on YouTube but there are limits to how much one can expose oneself to such incessant comic-madness and not get immune. Cake-Throwing, Kicking, Hitting, Falling, of course, the famous Charlie Chaplin’s Running entertain you but only to an extent. Finally, one craves for good old story. The Gold Rush is exactly that – a good story decently shown.

The Gold Rush – is different primarily because there are no extended and exaggerated slapsticks. These are toned down considerably.

And since overt motions are restrained, more attention is spent on capturing subtleties of expressions and one can see and guess what’s being said between characters. This means, most scenes have steadiness and poise.

There are many clever devices through which the emotion of the scenes are highlighted. Particularly the “Shoe Eating” scene. A shoe is boiled and its leather is eaten with relish, with Iron nails of the shoe picked and nibbled as if it is a Fish-Bone.

The story is less about the Gold Rush and more about predicaments of few characters in the context of Gold. The primary pursuit is for love and relationships, with winning the Gold as an add-on gift. It’s a rags to riches to winning love story.

The story is such that it got to have a happy ending, otherwise, there was no point in the Rush.

If Chaplin said that The Gold Rush was the film for which he most wanted to be remembered, then it’s an apt choice.

Babel, Lionsgate, Apple TV

The movie “Babel” is eclectic. It moves back and forth between four families in four corners of the world all interconnected through incidents and human drama.

This movie was earlier on Amazon Prime with English Subtitles. But it’s missing there now. On “Loinsgate” (Apple TV) there are two flip sides for this movie.

One, the absence of English subtitles. Apart from English, Babel has other Languages – Arabic, Spanish and Japanese. The absence of subtitles will greatly disadvantage the first time viewers. Although, when the scene moves to Japan, dialogue is not primary. You’ll know when you watch it.

The second problem is that – on “Loinsgate” an important scene is brutally cut. There is a scene where Kate Blanchett, badly injured, has to shit in a pan, helped by Brad Pitt. The unedited version has a period of shot where it captures the distress of the couple having to go thru the act. In my opinion, this was the brilliance of the moment in the movie, the celebration of acting and the actors. Sadly, that has gone missing.

Nevertheless, viewers can avail free “Loinsgate” subscription on Apple TV for two weeks. Just subscribe and binge free for two weeks. Though one may not get the full impact of this movie without English subtitles, still, mutely, this movie has a charm.

The Japanese Girl has blown the screen. You won’t need words to understand her. She is mute.

Incendies, Movie, Amazon Prime

When watching any movie I try not to pre-read any reviews on it and also not know the full story. A small blurb is just right for me. The rest I try to gather as the movie progresses. I have a bias towards the rhythm of the unfolding plot and I “challenge” the movie to tether my attention, if it can. Or else, I move on.

This habit has made me reject many movies at the first dissonance. I hate labor in watching and reading. (Also doing anything!) I’m more for ease, patience, and mind-stuff. You see, I like things which I am not.

This habit of choosiness, particularly in my watchings and readings, has sometimes surprised me.

And this movie, “Incendies” has actually blown my mind.

The fact for which my mind is blown – I won’t reveal here. And if you want your mind to be blown, you would do what I did. Jump into the viewing right away and stay with it through thick and thin. I guarantee you absolute satisfaction – that you will come out of the movie with your brain in your hands.

This is a Canadian movie in mostly French and some Arabic and little English. Subtitles in English are there.

The backdrop of the movie has harsh terrain, religious violence, and bigotry. One can’t help observe and comment that human nature are same everywhere.

The main actresses’, the mother and the daughter, have performed and made the movie what it is, though other supporting casts are equally accomplished. When the movie is good, the sum is always greater than the parts.

Refer Wiki only if you don’t understand it till the end. You’ll discover “One Plus One is indeed One.”

Salt, Movie, Sony Liv

I had watched “Salt” before, in 2010, in theaters when the world was good. At that time I had found the movie pretty trashy. Good for one dekho.

But, recently, while browsing the “Sony Liv” I found “Salt” under heading “Oscar Winner” and lined up alongside some greats as “Spotlight,” “Erin Brockovich,” “1917” etc. I wondered “what the hell this trash win.” Wikipedia says – it was nominated for Oscars for best sound mixing but lost to “Inception.” Thank God.

Nevertheless, I gave it a second dekho.

The movie is definitely better than most of the new trashes on the streaming platforms. The Movie has all the ingredients of a racy and spicy fix, innumerable illogical jumps, and flights of fancies, primed and tuned for an uninterrupted watch.

In 2010, when this movie was released, this “Cold War” subject was old and stale. Spy thrillers between US and USSR is not exciting when the young population does not even remember what was USSR. Besides, old population like me also don’t care for we had enough of that. Variety is the spice of life. More potent and virile enemies have arisen since the debacle of USSR in 1990. Iran, China, Afghanistan or “state supported non-state actors” against the big brother US, would have made better and relevant movie subject.

The movie seems like a “Tom Cruise Reject” so the producers may have got slim and sexy Angelina Jolie who won’t disappoint. She had done these before (Lara Croft). Besides, she is watchable.

If you want to be thrilled. Only.

Few thoughts on China

China and United States do one thing very similar. Their governments invest heavily in Science and Technology.

We, Indians, think, rather erroneously, that in United States, it’s the private firms and private enterprise invest in Science and Technology. But it is not so. Right from Atomic Energy to the Moon landing, to Challenger missions and International Space Stations and any thing in between and thence, has all been the money of the US government.

China has copied this US method of supporting and subsidising science and technology. The flip side for China is – they have not copied the US politics. China is mono-party as US is multiparty, rather duo-party. This puts China in a very vulnerable position. How can they see some Techs which they have supported and subsidized go independent and list in the US stock market and start earning their own currency. Besides, any tech which comes in control of the western market can then be used as a handle to influence Chinese Politics and Policies.

Also, this narrative that China is “against online school systems” and apps, does not seem to be too believable. China is actually against “profit or use offshore vehicles” to fund Chinese Techs. China today has achieved a huge mileages in tech not because of some “Baiju” of China. They have got this through their own state school system. One child or three child, their school system will always have the heft to provide knowledge workers of the future.

The Wizard of Lies, Movie, Hotstar

Bernie Madoff died a couple of months ago this year. His name and misdeed is just an event in a long list of financial scamsters over the ages – past, present and future.

One present scam uncovered recently is committed by a Pakistani Billionaire, Arif Naqvi who defrauded Bill Gates among many other high end people. There is a book out on this and one can read about his “exploits” here.

There is a saying by Aristotle – “Youth is easily deceived because it is quick to hope.” As far as Finance is concerned, it seems, this “youth” is prevalent irrespective of age and experience. It won’t be false to guess that we are all living among some unidentified scams in our midst, waiting for it to uncover.

The movie “The Wizard of Lies” has not much to show how the scam occured. The movie begins with the scam already done and dusted. Only the fall out is left. It’s a human predicament story. Except one character, Bernie Madoff, the rest are shown in the dark about the details of the scam but considered equally liable for the crime. The most poignant part in the story was when Madoff’s eldest son commits suicide. The second son later died of cancer. Madoff’s wife had to downgrade her living.

The movie is watchable because of two great stars – Robert de Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer – who keep the audience engaged through their restrained performances for little over two hours long movie. There is not much melodrama and sob-stories. Just matter of fact conversations interlaced with some back stories on how the scam came about in short and wrong steps.

One other actor who leaves his mark on the movie is Hank Azaria. In a role of Bernie Madoff’s hatchet man he complements De Niro and adds a lot to the scene value. In a mostly sedate rhythm of the movie, Hank’s character enlivens the screen and has an impactful edge in the story.

The movie does have some undertones of rationalization and an attempt to show that the family of Bernie Madoff also suffered. But after all is said and done, for thousands of people whose savings were wiped out, there won’t be any consolation. The movie and the reality also shows (and shows time after time) that, not only the individuals scams the system but the law enforcement agencies remain docile till the scam blows on everyone’s faces. History shows – Only the Law Enforcers had survived.

Whole government is a Ponzi scheme ~ Bernie Madoff

Swami Vivekananda on Himself

Swami Vivekananda’s complete works are compiled in books of 9 volumes. It’s also available online for free here. But if you want to have just one book which is comprehensive then “Swami Vivekananda on Himself” seems to stands alone.

It’s a “diary” plus other writings, a compilation, by Vivekananda about himself, his travels, his thoughts on people of different countries and his efforts to raise money to set up monasteries in India and also others parts of the world. It’s not clear when Vivekananda started penning his thoughts as a diary and the first recorded date in the book is 2nd March, 1884, when he was 21 years of age. The last diary entry is on 15th May 1902 when he knew his end was near. He died on 04th July 1902.

Vivekananda’s story starts when he meets Ramakrishna Paramhansa, the head priest of Dakshineswar Kali Temple, Calcutta. Ramakrishna recognises Vivekananda as an evolved being and chooses him to mentor him and to take Ramakrishna’s work and words forward to the world. But, Vivekananda, initially, considered Ramakrishna as a crackpot and a monomaniac. There were several arguments between them, on religion and philosophy, but Ramakrishna, through his patience and persistence and some “miracles,” was able to show Vivekananda the efficacy of his thoughts and actions.

Once Vivekananda is won over on Ramakrishna’s side, there was no stopping him. Ramakrishna dies in 1886 and Vivekananda took his monastic vow in 1887 and by 1902, he has published, lectured, taught, established institutions, and travelled the world, all in whirlwind 15 years. His last two years were spent in bad health.

Vivekananda writes clearly, perceptively, sharply and sometimes, humorously. Also Humanly.

There is one diary entry which is like kick-in-the-butt; “Going around the whole world, I find that people of this country (India) are immersed in great Tamas (inactivity), compared with people of other countries. On the outside, there is simulation of the Sattvika (calm and balanced) state, but inside, downright inertness like that of stocks and stones. What work will be done in the world by such people?…So my idea is first to make the people active by developing their Rajas, and thus make them fit for struggle for existence. With no strength in the body, no enthusiasm at heart, and no originality in the brain, what will they do, these lumps of dead matter!

And this by Vivekananda is a remark which, I believe, is a genesis of Globalization. He spoke these words in 1894, much before the world or the word became a fashion 100 years later: “I am thoroughly convinced that no individual or nation can live by holding itself apart from the community of others, and whenever such an attempt has been made under false ideas of greatness, policy, or holiness — the result has always been disastrous to the secluding one.

And here is one diary entry which is caustic but hilarious too; “Western music is very good; there is in it a perfection of harmony, which we (Indians) have not attained. Only, to our untrained ears, it does not sound well, hence we do not like it, and think that the singers howl like jackals. I also had the same sort of impression, but when I began to listen to the music with attention and study it minutely, I came more and more to understand it, and I was lost in admiration.” I’ve also heard similar remarks from our late filmmaker Satyajit Ray.

By early 1902, Vivekananda seems to be in pain and his diary entries reflect his inner state. “If ever a man found the vanity of things, I have it now. This is the world, hideous, beastly corpse. Who thinks of helping it is a fool! But we have to work out our slavery by doing good or evil; I have worked it out, I hope. May the Lord take me to the other shore! Amen! I have given up all thoughts about India or any land. I am now selfish, want to save myself! (The bold letters are omitted from the book, but I got the full version here.)

In the very last days of his diary entries he writes how the rains have poured and poured and the river has broken its banks and flooded his “Ashram” and he had gone out to dig a canal to drain off the waters. Well, I’ve myself stood on that river bank and I had watched the Ganga several times, emotionless. Next time when I will visit the Belur Math in Calcutta I know I will not be alone. And I’ll have the memory of this book with me.

The conviction has grown in my mind after all my travels in various lands that no great cause can succeed without an organisation. ~ Vivekananda (May, 1897)