Aug 27, 2011

When an established actor, sets up a TV channel, can you expect him to run things differently? There is an expectation, on my part, that he will remember the hardships that went into getting to where he is today. He would have experienced first hand, what goes into making a show, the people, the story writers, the post production team. All that should amalgamate into an executive who values his employees, values the creative people who are contributing to the success of his channel, and he will reward them justly so that they may continue to contribute and excel. What happens when he doesn't keep an eye on things and people within his organization are withholding rightful payments? An aggrieved client may write a public opinion that this is wrong, and force them to pay up to avoid a media scandal. Should the reaction then be to announce that the client can expect no more business with the channel?

Our country lacks the amount of universities to cater to the amount of students graduating out of high school. So new universities are starting up all around. My wife recently almost signed up to one of them for a job as a lecturer. Why would a new university advertise faculties they haven't been able to staff at a point of time? Should this not be taken as an urge to earn a lot of money rather than to start small and establish a good base? Why would a university urge that salary should not be important since the person applying as a lecturer has a family that can support her? Taking all that into consideration, when signing up she found out that they also want her to teach something in another faculty. The grand total of subjects she would be teaching at the university, had she taken the job would have been 7.

Music, as with other fields in the arts, are areas where you are nothing without passion. Lets face it, parents don't push their children into the arts - there is no future there, not like becoming a doctor, or a banker. Musicians die of old age, and some of them through lack of treatment they could not afford. Since the birth of this country, I have felt that we've seen a decay in the quality of music, and cinema. I cannot claim to know much of the literary world, but a few friends who are passionate there have claimed similar. Its not that there aren't excellent people in those fields, but that the mediocre are crowding up the space by their ludicrous large numbers. Had we had proper nurturing of the arts by those who could, instead of a run for quick bucks through cheap thrills, I might have been in a different mood this morning.

"Piracy" is another thing that we hear of these days when the music industry comes in question. Labels have been under scrutiny from artists for not establishing intellectual property rights and being greedy with the income of music. Musician get a down payment of money for handing over al rights to their work to the label - that was the norm. The storm that was kicked up did well in some aspects, since now someone like Grameen Phone wants the labels to show that they have the rights to distribute the music in the form of 'welcome tunes' or ring tones, etc. I just signed such a paper yesterday to a song my band recorded. Labels have joined in the fight to stop piracy, and to them, its the fight to stop their sales from diminishing. We have so far, given away three singles to a series of compilations from the same label, so I have signed away the rights before, also, but the last time I was not there for the 'lecture' The 'lecture' is what the labels are telling kids who are forming bands and eager to release their songs and eventually make an album. Its goes like this:

"Tell your friends, not to download the songs! Buy the originals, stop piracy. Don't put up your singles on your websites! If you know the administrators of the forums where they put out these songs, try to get in touch with them. If they are downloading for free, its like 'stealing'!"

At that point I just smiled. There was one reason we are giving our singles away - we wanted these songs to be out there, for people to listen. We knew the risks, yet we complied. BUT, I have a feeling that the label was so short sighted, they didn't realize there could be other ways of doing this - mainly, taking a lesser cut to make the bands feel appreciated. A compilation CD is packed with singles from different bands. Considering the costs of putting out a CD here, the label will make enough with just the sales from the friends and family of each of the bands' members during the ecstasy of eid. More friends than family. The label is just paying up the recording costs of the songs, and then its the cost of pressing CDs and printing the sleeves. This is the 4th release in this series and the third time that its a double CD. I believe they have figured out the marginal cost/profit ratio here of releasing one CD vs. two. What they could've easily done in the third cycle, is to arrange some royalty for the bands' works, instead of buying it up and advocating against piracy. Oh, the irony! Its almost like they are counting on the bands to carry on a few years like this and then to get disheartened and disband along the way. Instead of establishing good faith between these fresh, passionate bands, they choose the old ways. Talking of intellectual property rights, I don't see much relevance here since most of the labels are unscrupulous businessmen who would just lie about album sales and you have a far worse fate than the old down payment.

I heard the chairman of a start up software company once say, "we want to make money, but if we wanted it to make it quickly, we could have gone into internet pornography or internet poker, but we wanted to do something that helps people, even if it takes time". That software company makes billions a year now creating software for a niche within the health sector in USA. The proper mindset is needed, a bit of humanity alongside the profit seeking. The lack of vision and greed I see, I blame it on our education system (not just schools and teachers, but parents too), which puts us in a race very early in life that helps shed values.

Posted on Saturday, August 27, 2011

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To be aware of a single shortcoming in oneself is more useful than to be aware of a thousand in someone else. ~ Dalai Lama

Our two sarkars are involved deeply with each other, and the depth of their perverse romance or rivalry causes an equally deep scar in the progress of our nation.

Picture two children, insisting on doing one thing, with the reasoning "He did it first!". The question of 'first' doesn't usually have to enter the picture, so just the "He did it too!" is often heard. If you took a child and scold her for doing something wrong, you might also expect this as an answer. She doesn't understand the right and wrong of it yet, knows only that she has seen her brother of the same age do it. We can see the same happening here, on a national scale by the two children we've elected year in and year out to lead us somewhere. Digital Bangladesh or not, we have been continuously made to feel bad for our choices over the years.

Let us take into account, the pardon granted recently by our President to the convicted murderer and his accomplices. Proving that we are still holding on to some sense, questions were raised as to what overtook our main man to show such sympathy for the devil. The Man didn't answer, and we failed to understand what went through the head of the man, whose wife was murdered in a bomb attack meant for the current PM. Forgive and forget? None of those should have been his prerogative, when in this case, he was not victimized. When the media reached out to the government for answers, we received replies unexpected. We were told that the President acted within his rights, and we should not question it. Some replies even carried the connotation that it was wrong of us to question it. While they were answering, they also spit out the "He did it!".

The deaths of 5 on a bend of a highway that claimed many lives before, included two very liked personalities (see previous blog), that pulled a cloud of gloom over everyone. It also brought out statistics of how many people die on road accidents, and the lion share which involved buses and trucks. Two issues lay in here - the insufficient highways (slimmer than the roads in our city!), and the dangerous antics of our professional drivers. A brief hailstorm came out of all this, when citizens took these issues out and demanded they be corrected immediately - citizens want safer roads, and responsible drivers. First, the communications minister tries to weasel out of it, denying that roads are not in bad shape. He has been working on some big projects, and he didn't think it worthwhile to keep an eye on the current state of roads. As bad fortune will have it, at that moment highways in many areas had been damaged badly and filled up with rain water, increasing the travel time along those road to two times or more. Also, in that same moment our shipping minster showed face, said whatever insensitive statements came to his loyal-to-the-party and loyal-to-the-bus-truck-drivers mind. Previously, a news report claimed that he was pressuring the communcations minister for licenses of 24000 professional drivers licenses to come out. To that, he did not perceive a conflict of interest, in representing a minsitry and also an association working on behalf of transport businesses. He and his family apparently, are also owners of buses. He claimed that there wasn't any pressure, that the authorties were unable to handle such large amounts of licenses in a short time, and also went ahead and said that we should consider giving out licenses to those who don't have a formal education as long as they can identify signs - in his words, as long as they can distinguish between a goat and a cow.

A representative of the government did come to TV and claim that the roads were bad since it was raining. So, we needed that guy to come and tell us that our roads are in the shape that they are, by no fault of the government. Meanwhile, in one parliamentary session, some government members got up and strongly criticized the two ministers for their actions and words. The citizens had meanwhile been rallying up support for the sacking of those two. People suddenly started feeling that their voices might finally be heard! That was until three days ago, our PM took center stage in parliament and criticized those who were criticizing. To her ministers, she said, why focus on things that went bad, and why not talk of the good things we are doing!? Then, she listed some of those good things. Then she even criticized the citizens who were protesting. She alleged that many of them are also holding licenses they took out without getting tested. An ironic comment, since that only points to the corruption that exist in BRTA. So, she came to the defense of her two ministers. An in that speech she blamed the past government and the caretaker government, the prodigal son, for the state of the roads.

The statement that really annoyed me, was "don't arm your enemies!". This was a message to her ministers to not criticize their own. Was she totally blind to the public reaction that was similar to those ministers' critique? Is there a reason that the public shouldn't construe her words to mean, that the citizens are the enemy? Likeliest, is that she meant the brother of the same age.

Both parties had had their golden days, and what we're left with is bickering children. If we look back to our lives over the years, we'll also see that our situation was better than now. We should not always look to the politicians to fix things, but we do expect them to support us in living the right way, doing the right things. This needs a lot of thought. Please vote responsibly.

Posted on Saturday, August 27, 2011

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Aug 17, 2011

কাঁদ বাঙ্গালী কাঁদ

This was BAL's instruction to us. Just like last time, the city is appended with posters with this clear instruction. I was appalled the first time at the thought that our government was giving such a message, when there should have been so much more to do and say about building a better city, better lives, a better country.

 This time, its a little different. I am on the "ON" cycle of reading newspapers (almost daily) and even following the news on television, and I must say, this month IS PRETTY SAD! Worth crying over.

There is a list of dreadful events in my last post, and it leads a big tragedy - the deaths of Tareque Masud, the film-maker and Mishuk Munier, who was the CEO of ATN News and a man in love with the camera. They had started on movies together, leading to a film called "Runway". In the recent days, very little has been happening in the world of cinema that I would call noteworthy, and this man Tareque Masud was one of the few I had been looking out for. He puts an effort into his cinema that speaks loudly for the passion he holds for it. Unlike anyone else, he was taking his cinema to the different parts of Bangladesh himself with his crew, which includes his wife and producer Catherine Masud, enjoying the reactions and debates that would come from his movies. I loved the way he spoke and carried himself - grounded and humble, and how he had partnered for life with a kindred spirit and were doing what they love. Mishuk Munier must have been a genius, since the little I see of Runway now in its trailer blows me away! Breathtaking pictures of the rural.

They had gone to visit a spot for their new movie which had the working title of Kagojer Phool (Paper Flower). A few friends went along with them. The accident claimed 5 lives, and one of the friends was artist Dhali Al-Mamun, who is still on life support. They were traveling in a micro-bus, which ran into a bigger inter city bus from the other side on a bend, where other accidents have taken place before.

Just leading up to this accident, there were some noteworthy news - one stating how 41 people identified and proven as corrupt by the Anti-Corruption Commission who are still working, and some with high positions, in the department of Roads and Transport [সড়ক ও জনপথ (সওজ) অধিদপ্তরে]. Another news, stated that the Minister of Shipping, Shahjahan Khan, was putting pressure on the Ministry of Communication to have 24000 professional licenses granted bypassing the normal procedures, since this man and some of his family, are bus owners. He took out 10,000 licenses on a previous occasion.

The accident of course resulted in a lot of voices being raised for road safety issues, e.g., Why hasn't the government taken any steps to implement the recommendations made by the leading engineering university of the country - BUET? Why are professional drivers still so reckless even after a high number of deaths and destruction? Isn't it because they go unpunished every year backed by the strength of their lobbies? People like Shahjahan? Shameem Osman?

A ruthless businessman, Shahjahan did what was expected, denied that road accidents are the fault of the drivers in front of a panel of reporters (who I assume were quiet either for the fear of their lives, or they did not figure out how to go down to his level and communicate). Any one who drives on our roads and highways, will tell you the buses are driven in the most reckless fashion. The communications minister is now always seen with the minister of shipping. They are the new BFFs, the new Paris and Nicole, only lethal.

Whereas everyone is now sitting at home or even taking to the streets, claiming that these ministers step down, it is unlikely. The ministries they are in, are potent money making ministries and now with the road safety concern in the public sphere, I assume its an opportunity for them to fill new pockets. Even though the PM made promises to review her ministers regularly to make sure they are on track, its clear these people are somehow necessary for some plan.

Everyone is in grief. Talk shows are hosting old AL politicians who reminisce their golden days and state clearly how the party is derailed at the moment. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina expressed sorrow for the two talented individuals we lost in that accident through a PR statement, and that was all we heard of her for a while until last night. She was on TV, referring to her counterpart in BNP, saying that people who celebrate birthdays on the death anniversary of Sheikh Mujib can't be expected to do any good for the country. This? That is all you have to say? The people are expecting you to do something about your openly corrupt and inept ministers! Fire them. Declare them unworthy! And yet, you are silent, anyone is guilty but your office, circling in the old blame game with BNP. Unworthy. Unacceptable. I did all I could to not spit on the TV screen

মিশুক মুনীরের স্ত্রী মঞ্জুলী কাজী, মানববন্ধনে রাজনীতিবিদদের উদ্দেশে: "আপনারা বলেন যে মানুষের জন্য রাজনীতি করেন। এমন মিথ্যা কথা আর বলবেন না। রাজনীতি আপনাদের ব্যবসা"
সড়ক নিরাপত্তা কাউন্সিলের তিন মাস পর পর বৈঠক করার কথা। কিন্তু এই সরকারের পৌনে তিন বছরে বৈঠক হয়েছে মাত্র তিনটি। মন্ত্রণালয় সূত্র জানায়, এই তিনটি বৈঠকের একটি করা হয়েছে নৌপরিবহনমন্ত্রী শাজাহান খানের অনুরোধে। - প্রথম আলো

Posted on Wednesday, August 17, 2011