Saturday, August 22, 2020

On the lighter side-Movies-Onward (2020-Animated)-Voices of Tom Holland, Chris Pratt Janssens

 Two brothers go on a adventure to bring their father for one day. Entertaining animated movie. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-The Invisible Man (2020) - Elisabeth Moss Aldis Hodge

 A woman escapes her abusive ex but start gets haunted by someone she cannot see and hard to convince the police that she is being stalked. Entertaining horror movie. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-Star Wars IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)- Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley

 Continuing saga of the Star Wars series with reistance again going against the evil Empire. If you are a star wars fan, you are in for a treat, all others it will be just another science fiction movie. Recommended with caution

On the lighter side-Movies-Warning: Do not play (2019-Korean) – Ye-Ji Seo,

 A director trying to make a horror movie stumble upon a horror movie which was made years ago. The more she digs deeper into the origins of the movie, the more supernatural she gets into. I was so pissed off at this non horror movie. Available of Absolutely Not Recommended 

On the lighter side-Movies-Spies in Disguise (2019-Animation)-Voices of Will Smith, Rachel Brosnahan

 When a spy turns into a pigeon, he reluctantly relies on this tech guy to save the world. Mostly entertaining but too sentimental in places. Recommended with caution

On the lighter side-Movies-The Room (2019)-Olga Kurylenko, Kevin Janssens

 Intriguing concept about a couple who rent an isolated house. There they discover a room which will grant them any wish they want with horrible consequences. I enjoyed the concept and the movie. Available on Streaming site. Recommended with caution

On the lighter side-Movies-The Grudge (2020)-Tara Westwood, Junko Bailey

 When you run out of ideas for a movie, you remake it in the hope that people will like it with updated technology. But it is the same movie with the same damn story, so if the original novelty has worked before, it should not mean it will work out again a few years or decades later. Not Recommended

Erasing History

Because of the recent and ongoing racial tension in the wake of the killing of young Black Man, the process of erasing history via toppling of statues, names of teams and products based on historically minority names and deleting or erasing number of racist scenes in movies is continuing unabated. Even some famous people on social media have been trying to defend themselves in the face of their post of past videos which have become now taboo due to their racist content. Although these people are trying to defend their behavior and apologizing for it and even deleting it, it seems it is this moment of reckoning that no amount of apologies or reeducation of sorts is coming to their rescue. Lets start with statues for instance, it seems no historic figure statue is safe how as their past racist attitude have overshadowed their achievements and people are just fed up and trying to topple their statues and in its place trying to either erect a politically correct one or just erasing them, but is this way to do it, I have my doubts. Although I understand that is so called cancel culture is trying to correct the wrongs done before but by erasing them, people would not know what sort of people were at that time and place and how their beliefs came to shape at that particular time in history. It seems like the people trying to erase these are saying that part of history never happened. And when it never happened, people would not be able to learn, how far the current era has come from those dark and unjust era.

The same goes with the erasing of some of the most racist pieces in media as some of the companies are trying to erase scenes which were okay for that era (rightly or wrongly) but it should not be shown now. It would have been more appropriate to mention those times of history when these movies of made and explain that era  and preserve this past so that people know how must injustice was there at that time. But by completely erasing it from media, it seems nothing happened at that time and those times were the same as today. I don’t believe in this erasing an important part of history. Also books should be read of that era but with a side note that it was done at that moment and it should not be done then and it should never be done instead of ignoring and sweeping under the carpet.

The changing of the brand names to less controversial ones is a welcoming sign and needs to done for which I once agree but this will take time to change due to marketing and other costs and time related to it. The process has started so let’s see how far this phenomenon will go but it is promising.

All I am saying is that there are certain aspects of history that you don’t want to erase but learn from it and teach the next generation the dark times in our history but to completely erase it will be ignoring what had happened before and unless the people are reminded about what kind of past they had they will not be able to create a new future based on learning from their past mistakes.

To wear a mask or not

 Despite increasing number of corona virus cases and mounting evidence that wearing a mask at least helps you in not catching the virus, some people insist on not wearing one. Some have excuse that it is their right not to wear one, some insist that they cannot breath and some outright dismiss it as having no effect on them as they are healthy. It has become a big debating issue as people have even gone to fist fights and attacks when confronted by people who are wearing mask. Where I live, it is mandatory to wear mask when entering a store otherwise there is no either no entry or no service. I have no idea why some people are adamant of not using a mask when it is not only good for themselves but for the people around them. The vaccine has not been developed yet and even then one would not know that the person next to them six feet apart has the virus or not.

Although all fifty states and overwhelming countries of the world have endorsed the use of Masks and even forcing people to do the same, there will and are always some fringe people who are in their own world and refuse to wear a mask for their own sake and for others. The only solution is that since the advice and laws are not clearing working to force them to wear one, it is only the social ostracizing them publicly that they will come to their senses, other than this, people will keep on putting their lives at risk and the people around them.

Private lives bared all

 You like millions of us are fascinated with watching celebrities chronicle their lives (sometimes too much) on social media. And it is not only the celebrities but ordinary folks with unusual circumstances and families are exposing their daily lives on Television and social media. And if this is not enough, some of the ordinary folks have dedicated videos channels where they have hundreds of thousands of followers following their every trivial detail of their lives (good or bad) and they are hooked on it and they keep update with the latest news about these instant celebrities. These so called Internet celebrities or Television celebrities make tons of money not only for themselves but also on the platform they host their lives. This has become a massive industry where some of celebrities constantly keep on updating their sites with new and updated status of what they are doing, buying and now their kids are joining them to and this updating is constantly having people clamor for more and more.

With everybody being a photograph thanks to smartphone and cheap access to internet, now anybody can create pictures and videos and upload it and make some money with the only condition being you have to expose your private life to public view. Sometimes the better known ones have also shown their vulnerable side and sometimes they face backlash for altering their pictures to show how good they look. Others have craved themselves niches where they go beyond the private life deep into things which are not viewed for public consumption but they make money by created a pay wall where you have to subscribe and see their most intimate details and also make money in the process. For many of them this is their only livelihood and they pay their bills with it and then some.

Television is another area where there is plethora of reality shows (many more or less scripted) that shows families with peculiar situation detailing their lives sometimes too much in front of the whole world. Although I am addicted to some shows but I don’t see the whole episodes just a little bit but I can figure out the story from these tid bits. Some shows are addicting and some shows are gross out not watchable unless you have a certain kind of weird fetish. But they are in all for the money and this is how they support themselves by exposing the most intimate parts of their lives which a normal and common human being would be very shy to do (at least I would not). But money makes many strange things happen.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

On the lighter side-Movies-Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn (2020)-Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez

 A superhero joins others super heroes to save a girl from a crime lord in this action packed, sometimes funny but overwhelming movie. Recommended with caution.

On the lighter side-Movies-Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)-Jim Carrey, Ben Schwartz

 A small town Sheriff helps a fast moving hedgehog evades an evil scientist. I enjoyed this goofy movie. Recommended with caution

On the lighter side-Movies-Guns Akimbo (2019-New Zealand)-Daniel Radcliffe, Samara Weaving

 A hyper active action movie where a meek guy develops powers to save his girlfriend from kidnappers. Entertaining in a weird way. Recommended with caution

On the lighter side-Movies-The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion (2018-Korea)- Seung-chul Baek, Kim Byung-Ok

 Action packed movie about a teenager who discovers her super powers. Supposed part of a trilogy and hence the Part 1 in the title. Available on Netflix. Recommended

Be careful for what you say

With everybody being a photographer and the internet is within the reach, now or ever is a good time to say something that will offend some minority or any person who has been wrong before in their lives. Everything can be recorded and monitored and even if you have said something in your past years, it can haunt you and people will dig up any remotely racist or insensitive and they will flash that in front of the social media (meaning the whole world literally) and then your job, your business and sometimes even you and your family are threatened. Even if you think that you are safe but have posted something years ago when you were young and reckless and thought it would not surface up now, it seems you are in the wrong as many thoughtless moments when you posted that picture or said something insensitive about some race or people have come back to haunt people and they have to apologize for the insensitive remarks. For this unforgiving world, this is not enough and these people have been fired and drop from sponsorship.

It seems now the freedom of speech has gone out of the window and people have been forced to retract their statements under pressure but in their heart I don’t believe what they said will be erased and it is only the fear of being social outcast and being economically ruined is forcing them to walk back on their statements and saying that they have now been educated enough to see that their past behavior is now unacceptable. I feel it that way and as usual maybe I am wrong and truly those people are sorry for what they have said in their past.  Now I saying is that people are becoming intolerable about how others feels and they are forcing them to mold them in their worldview and their opinion so we are all becoming a little bit more careful of what we say. But again if you feel that you are right and the world is wrong then please keep it to yourselves as the world does not want to listen and they will really punish you for what you believe in. A whole new world indeed.

Is this the boiling point on racism? (Reader discretion is advised)

 The death of Geoge Floyd at the hands of Police (advertently or inadvertently) seems to be tipping or boiling point for the minorities who are fed up with the racism that they encounter every day. Strictly going by the reports, he was arrested, handcuffed and a police officer put his knee on this neck for nine minutes, the police officer did not remove his knee while the Mr. Floyd kept on saying he could not breath. I am not going into details of the legal matter and the related heated arguments. My point is to make a statement that will this be turning point in addressing racism that permeates parts of society and it is just a phase that will also pass thru and people will normalize themselves again. The way things are going with protests erupting all over the United States and around the world, there are hopeful signs that things may change. I say hopeful and may in the sense that it is hard to predict human nature and change what has been ingrained since childhood and then growing up in a society which had a very racist past and keeps on repeating it now and then.

From Rodney King in 1992 and others before him and after and recently in New York and other places where there has been lesser known but equally reprehensible acts of brutality, will this latest episode tip the balance of racism in favor of equality? Slowly and steadily we are seeing backlash against people who say word or utter a sentence which seems remotely racist or insensitive to minorities and that person gets persona non grata for the rest of his life. Meaning he and she will be ostracized for not only him or her but they get fired from their jobs or their business sustain losses beyond repair. But is this a catalyst for change. I have read history of the United States past as you have also and although there is a great momentum going on to address the systemic racism in all walks of life but despite that I am not sure until I see a change with my eyes that we will truly be a society where all Men and Women are created equal and are afforded equal opportunities in life without the need of being called anything but human. I hope it does but not only the laws but also the mentality needs to change to this to happen.

The Jewel Crown of Hong Kong as I know it

 As Hong Kong spirals out of country and as the residents seem to be betrayed by the Chinese government of the promise of the 50 years Special Administrative Region in which there will be one country but with two systems of different government styles and economies. I don’t know why the Chinese government was in a hurry in destabilizing a place which had the most free economy and system in the world. I remember the time when my Father was posted there in the early 1970s, although I was very little, I still remember fondly the type of freewheeling world that was. I loved that place too much and still remember it but that was under the British supervision as compared to now. The British did create a Crown Jewel out of it and it was their biggest achievement for a small place. Law and order and hustling and bustling were there and so it was fun too.

I again went there in 1983 for a few days and was very happy to see that it was still thriving but to live there for a year or so and to visit for a few days is very different, still I was very happy to visit it again and I thought maybe I will come back again to visit. As I said before, everything was working perfectly with the fear of return to China in 1997 all but gone from memory and there was no beep even with almost 7000 k People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers came in to take border control. I am still try to make a sense out of who advised China to crack down and try to kill the goose that lay the golden eggs. It seems that if they had kept a low profile, they would have keep a lid on what was going in Hong Kong till the end of fifty year rule in 1947 and maybe even extended it or modified it at that time but some of the people in the Chinese Communist Party felt threatened and were anxious to show who is the boss in Hong Kong and put up a heavy hand on the protesters. They should realize that unlike China where the people have been docile enough for decades that they can keep a lid on protests that these heavy handedness could backfire in the case of Hong Kong since the people there are used to freedom not enjoyed by the Mainland Chinese. I hope better sense prevails on both sides. By the way, maybe this post can be blocked in China, but lets see.

Corona Conspiracy theories

 As Corona virus has spread so has the conspiracy theory related to it in various forms and in various countries. Some are in complete denial that it exists and some are saying it is a lie or related to 5G technology. Some say that it was man made and some say that it was done in China or in the United States. Some are now refusing to take the vaccine if it comes out since they smell some conspiracy in that too. In other countries, the conspiracy has taken on a whole new meaning with some Muslims even saying that since they are very pious, it will not hurt the Muslims and this is a disease that afflicts only the non-Muslims, even though Muslims have also been dying despite being supposedly very pious. As with other conspiracy theories developed over the years by naysayers, this one has its share of deniers which reach the highest levels of government as some head of states saying that it is just a flu and refuse to wear a mask and are opposed to a lock down of their countries.

I have read some of the people who were in denial and said there is no such thing as Corona virus later on were infected with it and now they are the biggest proponent of the Corona Virus being real and warning others to take the virus seriously and take precautions. There is something about human nature that when one someone is unable to explain certain things or their brain cannot comprehend the reasoning and logic and facts of a certain event or situation, they try to create a narrative which fits their world view and then the peddle this to other like minded fellows and thus perpetuate this view even if it hits them in their face. Nobody can convince them otherwise of the futility of their views and the only way is to leave them alone and their views because you cannot convince all the people and there will always be some deniers and their blind followers. I may be also been fallen to this mentality but when faced with truth I have accepted it after researching and confirming the fact but conspiracy theories don’t want to be even bothered by research and they are convinced that what they think is right.

Can’t a have lockdown forever

 A great Lock down in World history is still going due to the Virus called Corona. In order to stop the spread of the virus and with no sight of any vaccine coming out soon, desperate governments did what they can do and ordered a lock down of their countries and in effect shut their economies in order to save lives. Despite losing hundreds of thousands of lives in the process of lock down, it seems that the world will have to live with it and so cautiously some countries where the virus is on the decline have started to open up their economies which is the prudent thing to do. By prudent I knew, we cannot have a lock down of whole economies for unknown amount of time as the vaccine is nowhere in sight despite the best efforts of scientists and the world cannot stop working due to this virus. We will have to live with and face whatever casualties we will have to incur. The best thing to do is to believe that there is a virus, unlike some conspiracy theories going around (separate topic).

Then the precautions to take it to keep a distance between person like you do when driving and also keep a mask on since you may not have it but the other person may get it since even healthy people are having this virus.

With the world coming to a standstill due to this lock down, the effect on economies and lives have been devastating. People who work on daily wages and who work in restaurants and other places with a high level of personalized services have been let go and unemployment has been increasing everywhere in the world. It has been devastating the lives of people who were already living on the edge financially and now with unemployment now way up, the psychological and mental pressures that these marginalized employees are having was too much to bear for the governments to bear. The governments have been trying to aid their unemployed citizens but they cannot do it for uncertain time in the future. So it is appropriate that the lock down is being lifted slowly and hopefully we will either develop immunity to the virus or just make it part of our lives and go on with our lives working and praying that we don’t see a spike in cases and deaths in the future.

Financial advisors and reality

With the pandemic still going on, the Federal government has eased regulations regarding taking money out of your retirement funds to the tune of USD 100k instead of the maximum $50k as before and people have been increasingly taking money out of it for their current expenses. This has alarmed or you can say pissed off many financial advisors who think it is not right and the people cashing out or taking money out will be losing big time in the future. I had never paid any heed to any financial advisors who have such a big disconnect with reality of the common American citizens that it really pisses me off. You see I have written about this many years ago. Since I have been laid off four times, I have cashed out my retirement plans completely two times in the process incurring penalty and tax liability. It is after I had nowhere to turn too and had exhausted all avenues of getting funds when I was out of a job.

These financial advisors who may be sincere in their advises keep on harping about not to take out funds out of your own retirement funds and to tap some other revenue stream like cutting out your expenses, or taking some kind of other loans.

The thing is that people don’t want to tap their retirement funds and whoever is doing it (including myself) but when you are down on your luck and have nowhere to turn too, have reduced your expenses to the barest minimum, where are you going to turn too. It is your own money and like retirement, it is saved for a rainy day. And what can be more of a rainy day then when you unemployed, deeply in debt and can’t pay your bills and nobody is offering your any aid to support your in these dire times, you will have no where to go but to tap your retirement. I am sure the people who have died due to this virus followed the advise of the financial advisers by saving for retirement but if you are going to die early then all this retirement fund is useless. If you can guarantee one person that you would live to tap your retirement fund, maybe you can deter that person not to go after it. It is easier to keep on making noise about not to tap your retirement fund as you will lose out on future income but for many the future is now. Make your own choice as nobody can know your situation unless they are in your shoes and walk the path you are taking now.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

On the lighter side-Movies-Uncut Gems (2019) – Adam Sandler, Julia Fox

A New York city jeweler with massive debts due to his gambling addiction tries to stay afloat in this last bid attempt to score a massive winning bet on Basketball. Good movie with good acting by Adam Sandler. Available on Netflix. Recommended

On the lighter side-Movies-The Beach House (2019) – Liana Liberato, Noah Le Gros

A romantic getaway for a couple turns into an environmental horror at a beach house. Slow moving horror movie with hard to explain events. I was just scratching my head of what was happening. Available on Shudder.  Recommended with caution  

On the lighter side-Movies-Invisible Target (2007-HK) – Nicholas Tse, Jaycee Chan, Shawn Yue

Three cops chase after some really bad guys in this shoot them up Hong Kong Style action movie with plenty of gun fights. Recommended with caution. I liked it

On the lighter side-Movies-The City of Violence (2006-Korean) – Seung-wan Ryoo, Jae-mo Ahn. Kiil-kang Ahn

Two child hood friends track down the culprits who have killed their friend in this no holds barred Korean action thriller. Recommended

The Pension nightmare of U.S. States

Already the pension obligations of various states were nothing to brag about especially Illinois, New Jersey and New York, and now with this Pandemic, when the tax revenue shortfall is hampering the budgets of all states, these so called legacy obligations unfortunately enshrined in their state constitutions are no longer a priority and the shortfall is expanding exponentially with each passing month and year as the States fail to put whatever extra money they have into these Pension funds. Everybody who matters which means most of the state politicians have turned a blind eye to these obligations and just pushing this problem to the next legislative body that comes in. The scarier part is the more and more of the states’ budget is being consumed by these obligations which are becoming a rarity in the private sector. And the public sector employees who have a pension plan are under the illusion that all the promises they have been given regarding their pension plans will be fulfilled. How, nobody knows that and it seems nobody cares cause the future generation keeps on getting indebted with these obligations and the budget seems to getting bigger with tax increases the easiest way to pay for it.

And I have read how much pension some government employees are getting. I know that public sector employees’ salaries are less than private sector and they rely on these pension to bolster their salaries but not all private sector employees make a ton of money. If most of the private sector has done away with pensions and replaced it with other retirements plans, why can’t the government replace pensions with it too since it is useless to promise something which you don’t have like this promise of paying pensions when they don’t even put funds in these plans. It is time that government and public sector employees both contribute to their retirement plans and save the future tax payers a lot of grief and anguish and the states trouble to provide for present population instead of worrying about whether the past employees pension funds are fully funded. Get on with amending the state constitutions if you have too.

The economic disaster that awaits states and cities because of pandemic

With this pandemic upending everything, the states and the cities are set to get hit with revenue shortfall which will take a long time to recover. Already the states seeing a hit to their revenues are asking Congress to reimburse them for losses incurred due to this pandemic. Already some of the states are planning to lay off essential workers if the Federal aid does not come their way. This will include Police, Fire fighters, sanitation workers and other retrenchment in government offices that help the poor and needy citizens. Because of the lock down due to the pandemic and the huge job losses in the private sector, the resulting effect of their not spending money is hurting government tax revenues which are critical and essential to providing services to the citizens of their states and cities. I will give you one example of mine. I live in New Jersey and work in New York, I used to go every day to New York,  although I used to get coffee and donuts only and sometimes on Fridays lunch but my smallest act was supporting somebody’s livelihood and thus contributing to the economy of New York. My working from home for the last 3 months has not helped New York or even New Jersey much. I don’t drive much since I stay home five times a week working from home. I don’t take the subway and I don’t take coffee and donuts too and so it all adds up. This is just a simple example of one individual who is not even a resident of New York may be hurting the economy of New York.

One can just calculate how much the residents of New York who are under a lock down are hurting the economy of New York, while the salaries of essential workers are not stopped. The Tax revenues of almost all states are in dire straits right now. And this is on top of all the unfunded pension liabilities that keep on piling up. And at this time, nobody would want to increase taxes as common citizens are hurting without jobs and even talk about increasing taxes is a big taboo. So the only way to avoid mass layoffs and avoid cutting off essential services to vulnerable citizens is either to cut the barest minimum services or wait for the federal help to arrive which even if it arrives will not be enough to offset all the losses that have occurred or will be occurring in the near future. States and cities better brace themselves for a bumpy ride of economic ruin and decay for a few years to come.

Lessons learnt and being learnt because of COVID-19

Although it is too early to take stock of the lessons learnt during this pandemic since it is still ongoing but we can still try to take a look into what have we learned uptil now. The biggest lesson as we all know that and come to realize the hard way is that the life is unpredictable and without health one cannot work and we need to build up our savings however we can even if we have to stop our temptations and spend unncesssary amount of money on stuff which we don’t need and which we can do without. I am in the same boat as most of the people are since I have also been laid off three times and have to completely cash out my retirement plans to pay for ongoing expenses. The crucial thing is in the United States, your job is just hanging by a thread and as numerous surveys have come out stating that at least one third of people don’t have even 400-600 dollars for emergencies. So as life is unpredictable so are jobs so don’t listen to any financial adviser say one should have six months emergency funds. As jobs have become scarce and also outsourced, it is better to have a one year emergency funds at hand and if you can save more the better that is.

Where you are used to buy many shirts and trousers and clothing each year, you make it last longer than one year until your bank balance increases to a one year expenses level.

I don’t think I have to repeat this but your loved ones, family, relatives and friends are your most precious resources, check on them frequently and when this pandemic is over, go them and hug them and remind them how much you love them and miss them and try to spend more time with them instead of in front of computers or Television screens.

Another thing that this pandemic has taught us, although not new, but still relevant, is to have side hustle or second stream of income. If you are unable to do a side hustle on the weekdays due to your regular job, then on the weekend or at night you can do it. It maybe one hour at night and few hours on the weekend so that you have extra money on hand and if you ever get unemployed again, you may expand that business to survive. With Internet and technology growing faster each day, one can easily have their own business. Even if you don’t have access to high speed internet or no internet, there are things you can do with the word of mouth in your local area and when you generate that extra income, you can put it towards buying a computer and have internet access to expand your business beyond your local area.

Lately store or no name brands are becoming a popular alternative to name brands. You should buy store brand or no name brands which although lower in quality a bit are also lower in price and they are as good to eat and wear and use as the name brands. Although some people obsess about organic food but as money becomes tight, one should use the regular foods as the chance of dying by eating organic and non organic food is the same The best example is this Virus as I am sure that of all the people killed by this virus, there are sure to be people who were obsessed in buying organic food. And believe I have tried organic food and they don’t taste must different than the regulars. It is all in one’s head and it hits your wallet pretty hard when one needs to save money.

These are some of the financial and moral lessons that I can think off right now but as the pandemic progresses, we will learn more about what is important to us and what is not.