The “all-screen” Addiction


I am not a TV watcher or movie goer.

I rarely go for movies (on the average once in six months) in a theatre, or watch soap operas. I occasionally see CNN or CNBC or BBC on the home TV, more because I like the anchor or the presenter rather than the content of the news. Most news that I consume is via iPhone apps anyway, so I am more or less current on global affairs anyway.

However, after the advent of NetFlix which I have subscribed to (on behalf of the family of course), there have been some change in my behavioural pattern. I liked a few of the original NetFlix serials and a few movies. Initially, I used to see once per week. Later, it became twice and thrice a week, as I could not resist the urge to know more about the next episode of a particular serial. While movies can be had in one sitting of mostly less than 2 hours, serials can drive you towards serious addiction, as multiple episodes would generally be available for viewing at one go – which means you can sit through some 3 to 4 episodes, each spanning some 45 minutes. And, you are never happy and “complete” as there are many more episodes of the same serial still pending for your viewing and ultimate pleasure.

I must have seen at least 10 serials over the past 6 months or so – some of these are not finished, still continuing and I have not completed the viewing though multiple unviewed episodes are available for my viewing. I have more or less stopped seeing NetFlix movies, as my general rating is not more than 3.0 out of 5.0 for most of the movies. But serials have been good and absorbing, though I felt that several of these were unnecessarily dragging on without closure – similar to the Tamil language TV serials in multiple TV channels in Tamil Nadu (and elsewhere in India).

I think, by now, I have developed an addiction for NetFlix serials. What this means is simple – if I have nothing else to do, I tend toward NetFlix viewing, there seems to be not much else to do. This is wrong, and this is how bad addictions start (all addictions are bad). I have to shake myself off NetFlix, but sometimes I feel that I am paying for it, so I have to at least see some – get some viewing on NetFlix as my “share” of the overall family viewing experience and cost amortization. This is an useless argument, as we all know. Like cigarette or drug use, it is hard to drop TV addiction once you start liking and enjoying it. We do nothing while seeing TV or NetFlix – we are dumbos avidly lapping up the dishes served on the screen. Is this a good thing? No, not at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if clinics/hospitals/ashrams start NetFlix de-addiction programs and charge people a bomb for it, as most folks are getting sucked into NetFlix – especially in countries like India where the pricing is very low. In many countries such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, etc., mobile data consumption has shot up in a huge manner due to video viewing on mobiles by people of all demographics, especially millennials.

I am also addicted to YouTube – I see Stephen Colbert and Seth Myers every morning (my time) on my iPhone, and also see other stand-up comedians like Russell Peters, Rowan Atkinson, Hasan Minhaj, et al………again, I could not resist this simple temptation – after all it is some 30 minutes during my early morning hours. But then, I have created a pattern now which I believe might turn out to be harmful in the long run. Looks like I cannot live without YouTube, NetFlix, WhatsApp, and so many other apps.

On top of all this going on (not just in my case, but for most people I know), my son subscribed to Amazon’s PrimeVideo at the ridiculous price of SGD 2.99 per month – that is INR 150 per month! Much lower than NetFlix price of SGD 13.98 per month. Apart from the equivalent of NetFlix, Amazon Prime has other benefits such as a 2-hour delivery of items ordered, etc., and a free-month of PrimeVideo. I dilly-dallied for some time, but eventually approved the subscription. This means that my addiction problems are now doubled instantaneously. I thought of chucking out NetFlix, but after using PrimeVideo I decided it would be better to keep NetFlix going – as I found it to be a far better option. I still managed to see two movies on PrimeVideo before calling it a day, though my family thinks it is a better option!

Now you see my problem? Dealing with this addiction is going to be a bigger challenge than the usual corporate issues or inter-personal matters. Addiction is slated to be the biggest challenge for most millennials, but I am no millennial. My experience proves that addiction can happen at any age or any time and anywhere. In fact, I pulled out my iPhone on a high-speed train in China recently, connected it to the train WiFi and started seeing NetFlix serials! Come on, not a good way to spend time – you should be doing emails or creating a business plan while on such a nice transportation system. I am thinking constantly of how to go back to pre-NetFlix days when I was not disturbed by the feasibility of such on-demand movies and serials. I think I should. What do you think? Are you having this addiction? How are you dealing with it? Do you think such an addiction is bad? How will our children view us when we are constantly engaged on viewing a movie or serial on a laptop or on mobile phone, or even on the home TV? Feels like those days when TV was dominant…………..and grabbed all the family time.

Let me come up with a de-addiction plan. In the meanwhile, here’s wishing you a wonderful week ahead, folks.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

17th February 2019


Android TV Box


After some serious investigation, I decided to cut the umbilical cord of entertainment which has defined households for several decades when it comes to TV time.

Yes, I decided to cut my cable TV subscription when the current contract ends. Of course, not the broadband fibre internet connection, that is absolutely needed.

What happened, you might ask. I am asking myself why I kept paying for cable all these years.

High speed broadband internet of the order of 300 MBPS and above became available only some 3 years ago in Singapore. I got my 1 GBPS connectivity around 2 years ago (though it is namesake only, the speed does not come anywhere close to the stated speed of 1 GBPS, though it is fast).

Without such high-speed internet, it would not have been anyway possible to eliminate the cable subscription.

I was surprised with the plethora of options available on streaming internet with an Android TV Box. Not only that, I could even view foreign news channels and sports TV which are not available even with a cable subscription. Thousands of viewing choices become available at your fingertip.

Of course, we do not have time to see even one movie completely at home. I used to just see the top news on CNN and some financial news on CNBC. Nothing much else. I became movie and TV serial friendly only upon the advent of Netflix. Though I would like to maximize my returns from that monthly subscription (which enables the family to see movies and serials on laptops and iPADs), personally I struggled with watching even one full season of a serial. So, time is short when you are looking at the familiar options, and that does not change a wee bit even with the Android TV Box.

However, I took it upon myself the project of cutting cable subscription costs which are quite steep in a tight market like Singapore wherein the competition is rather limited. It became a technical evaluation project, not surprisingly. I am not an Android guy, having been committed to the iPhone for the past over 5 years, so it took some time to figure out things.

It was, however, an exciting investigation. It took me just about couple of weeks to figure out what to do and how to execute, what to buy, etc., I studied a variety of options and eliminated most as local support in Singapore was found lacking. I did not want to just walk into Sim Lim Tower (the consumer electronics hub of Singapore), and pick up any kind of Android TV Box, though my research did produce options which were available there. I decided to go and buy online, which I ultimately did, saving time and effort.

There is a mind-boggling variety of options available to anyone who wants to cut the cable cord and move into streaming media technology. It took me a while to wade through fake claims and determine what are the really good options available.

Finally, I chose the following main features as necessary for the performance I was looking for –

Main Features:
● Combines durable 1.5GHz ARM Cortex – A53 CPU with Amlogic S912 chip
● Android 7.1 version, coupled with the rapid and stable configuration
● 4K / 3D video gives you high-quality video experience
● Dual-band WiFi gives you more smooth speed experience
● Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity. Easy pairing with most Bluetooth-enabled devices
● Support Miracast / DLNA / Airplay, share your video to your TV
● Voice remote control (you would love it)

Specs:
Core: Octa Core
Processor: Amlogic S912
CPU: ARM Cortex-A53
GPU: ARM Mali-T820MP3
Model: M8S PRO L
RAM Type: DDR3 (3 GB min.) ROM: 32 GB min
System: Android 7.1

There are many boxes available meeting the above specification. I bought the MECOOL TV BOX

Like most such boxes, this is also made in China. It has a good reputation and good product reviews. I would like to remind the readers that there are several such products available from several China manufacturers and you better do your own research. I bought the Mecool M8S PRO L 4K TV Box Amlogic S912 Bluetooth 4.1 + HS – VOICE REMOTE CONTROL ( 3GB RAM + 32GB ROM ) model which you can find in Sim Lim Tower or online. This product has a local supplier in Singapore who offers one year warranty which is not usual for these kinds of products.

I had my usual enthusiasm of getting something new after I placed the order online. The box arrived in 3 days and I was surprised it was so small. It is very small, and I could not believe it could pack so much power, yet it is a real high powered cable cord cutter.

I installed the box and ran it for a couple of days, but then I grew tired of the look and feel on my TV screen and wanted to go in for a new build. Again this is a thrilling journey, as you have to erase all the pre-installed content on the box, and take the risk of the box not working after your experimentation.

But it worked for me – I uninstalled all that was there and re-installed it in the way I liked with a KODI build that I preferred. KODI is the entertainment dashboard for the Android TV Box, and there are many builds available on top of KODI to stream media content to your TV box. It took me a couple of days to understand what the geeks around the world are doing, and then I decided to do it my way with NO LIMITS MAGIC BUILD which is one of many types of builds available.

Finally, the TV Box is producing the results I expected, but I have more work to do. It is exciting and it is absorbing – more than the actual media content which has started streaming.

Kill your cable connection and embark on a new journey. Do not download media just stream it to stay within legal limits.

Cheers, and Have a good week ahead,

Vijay Srinivasan

02 September 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jurassic Park in the Gold Class


Someone close to me gifted two “Gold Class” tickets which cost SGD 39 apiece (around USD 29), which is a big price to pay for seeing a movie – for comparison purpose, the standard movie ticket in Singapore costs SGD 13 or USD 9, so we are talking about a three-fold increase in price. I was wondering what to do with the tickets, as I am not an avid cinema theatre goer – if I go to cinema twice a year, that would be considered special! Finally, I thought it would be better to go and see what is this gold class all about for myself, and I asked my wife to join me. There were only four movies available in the gold class category, and three of them were useless, so I was forced to select “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” which I would not usually select, as I think the whole movie series is escapist and does not reflect reality. Except to see the dinosaurs of a foregone era in action via animation – we all know it is not real, and dinosaur eggs do not exist.

However, we finally landed in the gold class lounge, and were not surprised to see the special lounge facilities with plush sofas, magazines to browse through, personal butler service, and a variety of food to order from. There were not many viewers in the gold class at 10 AM on a Saturday morning, though slowly the theatre filled up to some 70% capacity. We enjoyed the luxury of the place of course, and ordered some coffee and snacks to be served 30 minutes after the movie started. I have never witnessed such facilities in a cinema theatre, though I have heard of the same. I have always thought “what a waste of money”. I could not just throw away the two tickets however.

We walked into the theatre and found our seats – very plush and as good as a first class airline seat, almost fully reclinable with fully stretchable horizontal leg/foot cushions. They even provided a blanket – well I don’t use blankets even in an airconditioned bedroom, and I felt it odd that people were covering themselves with blankets – may be several of them were planning to doze off in the comfort of the luxurious seats!

Our coffee and food arrived (there was a call button that we could press to get the butler to come and attend to our needs) after a reminder, and it was not bad, indicating that the theatre considers us as our regular patrons. There were several folks who ordered wine and beer (at 10:30 AM!), and enjoying the tipple. Almost everyone had ordered food.

Between us and the next seats, there was considerable distance, so people could chat without disturbing others. It was indeed a very good experience for both of us who have not seen anything like it yet, except the regular cinemas which are already pretty good with good seating in Singapore. The gold class signifies something more important in a rich society – that people aspire for exclusivity, and are willing to pay for it. But, if you ask me if I would go again to the gold class, my answer will of course be a categorical “no”, as I do not see value in it apart from the luxury quotient.

Hey, what about the movie itself?

Well, my one single sentence about the Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom movie is that the various dinosaurs, and especially the very intelligent raptor, have acted better than the human actors – they are a class apart, and hi-tech animation has delivered phenomenal results. There are many thrills, twists and turns in the movie, but these are to be expected. But the movie descends into what I would call utter nonsense when the bad guys capture these majestic animals, bring them to California, and try to auction them to super villains from around the world. Come on!

In the normal course of events, this movie would be missed out completely. But kids might like the fantastic animation and dinosaurs running around, trying to communicate with each other and with our hero in the movie. Adults would find this sequel some utter nonsense with no sense or direction. Notwithstanding the animation, the movie lacks a substantive story line which is somewhat believable, so that the path can suitably be laid out for the next one due in 2021. Unfortunately, it is not the case with this movie.

So, the only benefit of seeing a useless movie is the environment in which we saw it – and that is the beautiful gold class. While I am not suggesting you should go for this luxurious experience, if and when you choose to do so please ensure that the movie choice is absolutely right and melds with the environment in a way which makes the overall experience that much more memorable.

When we walked out of the gold class, we were wondering what happened to that experience.

Cheers, and have a good week ahead,

Vijay Srinivasan

24th June 2018

 

Three Great Wines for Christmas


My wine recommendations are closely watched? Ha Ha Ha……..Not yet…………..

Here are my three suggestions (I have added a “bonus” suggestion as well – look for it!):

  1. Peccavi No Regrets Cabernet Merlot 2014 – Australia
  2. Penley Estate Phoenix Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 – Australia
  3. Clos Apalta Limited Release 2012 – Chile

And, the “bonus” recommendation is Glacomo Montresor Amarone della Valpolicella – Italy.

I elected to select all red wines this time as I continue to diversify into more reds (my choices earlier were dominated by Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, probably also because I like to drink chilled drinks with some “hot” snacks!).

Let us first look at Peccavi from the Margaret River region of South West Australia. Not an expensive wine (which in my parlance means that it is around SGD 20 thereabouts), it demonstrates how a smooth, easy-drinking and fruity wine can create new interest in anyone. I felt this was almost a full-bodied wine with some nice acidity with a spiciness that I liked. That did not dilute its fruitiness. I also like it when the wine is ruby red in colour and slithers down the wide-bottomed red wine glass along the sides with a stickiness demonstrating the good quality of the wine. I would strongly recommend this wine for white wine drinkers who would like to try out some mildly complex red wines which are easy to drink. This is my choice when it comes to entertaining guests at the beginning of the conversation (!).

The Penley Estate produces some outstanding wines from Coonawarra, Australia. The Phoenix Cabernet Sauvigon from Penley Estate is more expensive in the range of SGD 30 to 40, so it is outside of my normal range for good value wines. However, this being the Christmas season, I decided to include it having recently tried this wine. I should say I was “floored” by the goodness of this Cabernet Sauvignon. Given its complexity and sophistication, I would suggest you unleash this on friends with some wine-drinking experience who usually go for red wines. It has dark, inky fruit with a flavourful delivery which you will enjoy. I am amazed at its sophistication in the price range it comes in (please note that this wine is available in Australia for around AUD 20 – lucky guys down under!).

Clos Apalta Limited Release 2012 from the Apalta region of the Colchagua Valley of Chile,  is among top 1% of all wines in the world. It is VERY expensive, more than SGD 170. I happened to taste and enjoy it in a business meeting at The American Club of Singapore, and completely fell for it, though I haven’t had the chance to look for it or again try it, given its unaffordable price. This is a very sophisticated world-class Bordeaux-style blended wine with strong aromas of blueberry, very juicy and ripe wine. It is a full-bodied wine with a rich long finish. Great wine to be recommended to business associates or at a special family function. Why not Christmas? This is an elegant wine from Chile – if only they can offer it at half the price, then it would be worth importing it.

Now, let me come to my “bonus” suggestion for Christmas – this one is with a long name from where else, Italy, Glacomo Montresor Amarone della Valpolicella. This is in the range of SGD 30, so not very expensive. I do not usually go for Italian wines, but this time I was again “floored”. This is an amazing blended red wine, intense ruby red in colour, with juicy cherry flavours. It is easy-drinking which is a surprise for Italian wines I have tried in the past. It is smooth with a nice finish. I thoroughly enjoyed this wine. Again, I would recommend this as a starting wine for a friends’ get-together. Overall, a lovely wine at a not too expensive price for a festive occasion.

All these wines are amazing, and I would highly recommend to anyone wanting to try out. Of course, there is no shortage of excellent wines, the issue has always been the price-to-value ratio. I also found my usual run-of-the-mill wines on special offer this weekend, and I bought a couple of bottle. Lest you think that I am always thinking about wines and drinking them, please rest assured that I am yet to open my latest bottle of red wine bought yesterday (so I cannot write about it!).

Drink responsibly, and do not drive while under alcohol influence. The police are everywhere looking for drunk driving dudes, and it is better to save lives while saving oneself, and not get jailed during this festive season.

WISH YOU ALL A MERRY CHRISTMAS 2017!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

24th December 2017

Balanced Media Reporting and the Fake News Phenomenon


Just 20 months – that’s all it takes to badly damage the fabric of society and the news media. Today in the U.S. we have very polarized and ugly societal wars between the Left and the Right. That has in turn spawned very ugly and damaging wars between news media which continue to report in their long-established, traditional manner, and the media which has gone berserk towards the extreme right end of the political spectrum. The neutral media was always considered to be, ever so slightly, tilting to the left, and we all know that there is nothing that is absolutely neutral in this world. Everyone has an opinion, whether he or she voices it or not. We also know that when the silent majority does not voice its dissent on any matter, the country or the world is “in” for a major battle. When they do express their dissent, we can expect transformative change.

I have consistently followed both the “left” and the “right” media, to derive a real sense of where the world is heading. While many a time the neutral or “left-tilting” media is right, I have also seen instances when the “rightist” media gets it right for a change.

Achieving a balanced reporting stance is a hard thing to accomplish in today’s heavily polarized world. Couple of examples come to my mind: one is “BBC News” and the other is “CNN”. There are other excellent examples which I do follow such as “The NewYork Times” and “The Washington Post”, but sometimes they do take a harsh view of the right. I continue to enjoy their incisive analyses and opinion pieces, however. I also occasionally look at the “HuffPost” and “MSN News” – they are great alternatives, though clearly on the left.

On the right, my favourite is “Fox News” – there are rather interesting pieces of journalism that I read almost everyday, pretty captivating episodes, and well-intentioned, yet clearly manipulated headlines. There are many media channels on the right, of course, but I find more time for Fox News everyday.

I also follow two rather unconventional media diligently every day. These are “Aljazeera English” edition and “Russia Today (RT) News”. While Aljazeera is relatively new for me, RT News has been a staple for at least couple of years. I believe that both these “alternative media” provide a dose of reality as seen from their respective perches. I have seen wonderful and balanced coverage and analyses in both, and I am now of the firm opinion that the day is not complete without reading the headlines of both media.

I recently eliminated “The Hindu” and “The Guardian” apps from my iPhone – “The Hindu” being the oldest, yet running English language newspaper from South India and “The Guardian” from the U.K. I occasionally see their full web versions, and sometimes my research takes me to their archives. Nothing wrong with either one of their apps, however I felt they were a bit slow on news coverage and their analyses, and sometimes unnecessarily critical of the establishment.

From all of the above, you may come to the quick conclusion that I spend most of my morning hours reading these apps, looking for angles to write about in my blog! That is not true, my intent is to keep myself constantly updated on what is going on around the world, while uncovering some learning from the actions or inactions of global leaders.

With all this stuff, it unnerved me when I heard that some of what we read from global news media could be “fake” – what U.S. President Donald Trump has termed as “Fake News”. It has always been a possibility that some of what we hear could be wrong, or incorrect, but then responsible broadcast media make amends and apologize for any inadvertent errors on their part. That is pretty normal, because people do make mistakes.

But “Fake” news? Is that not a deliberate attempt to replace the correct news with deception to suit the political orientation of the media owners or editors? Yes, it is. But then who practices it? If you go by what Mr Trump says, almost all major news media – CNN, MSN, CBS, ABC, AP, and others who report on what he says, and what he does, are reporting “fake news” every day. Not that Americans are running away from these long-established broadcast media – most of them have grown up with these media, and they control the airwaves for the most part. It would be interesting to see the results of a survey which measures Americans’ responses to Trump’s fake news allegations.

Whatever it is, in my opinion the “fake news” phenomenon does not exist in the way it has been described. There is only one news, and most of us get it right every morning. Some of these could be incorrect, but that inaccuracy lasts only for a few hours before it is replaced with the correct content we should have seen.

There is a lot of satire by the U.S. late night shows on Trump, his tweets and his fake news. If the news as reported in the major news media is not as per his expectations, then that becomes fake news, and this “expectation” of Trump has smeared his presidential reputation to no end.

In a nutshell, we have to see both sides of the same coin. Balance is eventually achieved in our head because we are trained to see the right from the wrong. Our brains are hard-wired, and so sometimes we tend to fall on the side of the news that we really like to see. But then brain realizes its mistake and brings itself back to neutrality.

Enjoy your news via newspapers if you still get one. I get most of mine via the news apps, while still subscribing to The Straits Times which I never finish reading.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

2nd December 2017

Great Truths


1. In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm and three or more is a congress.

John Adams

2. If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.

— Mark Twain 

3. Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But then I repeat myself.

— Mark Twain

4. I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.

— Winston Churchill 

5. A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.

— George Bernard Shaw

6. A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to payoff with your money.

— G. Gordon Liddy 

7. Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

— James Bovard, Civil Libertarian (1994)

8. Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.

— Douglas Casey, Classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown University 

9. Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

— P.J. O’Rourke, Civil Libertarian

10. Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else. 

— Frederic Bastiat, French economist (1801-1850)

11. Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

— Ronald Reagan(1986) 

12. I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.

— Will Rogers

13. If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free!

— P.J. O’Rourke 

14. In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.

— Voltaire(1764)

15. Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you!

— Pericles (430B.C.) 

16. No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.

— Mark Twain (1866)

17. Talk is cheap…except when Congress does it.

–Anonymous 

18. The government is like a baby’s alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.

— Ronald Reagan

19. The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.

— Winston Churchill 

20. The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.

— Mark Twain

21. The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.

— Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903) 

22. There is no distinctly Native American criminal class…save Congress.

— Mark Twain

23. What this country needs are more unemployed politicians.

— Edward Langley, Artist (1928-1995) 

24. A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.

— Thomas Jefferson

25. We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.

— Aesop

FIVE BEST SENTENCES

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity, by legislating the wealth out of prosperity.

2.What one person receives without working for…another person must work for without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. 

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.

5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work, because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work, because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation!

I think there are some good truths in the above sentences. It is funny that many of these truths are in play today in nations big and small. I thought this is a good education for my blog readers. Enjoy but also think about these truths. Aren’t these relevant even today?

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

16th September 2017

 

Welcome 2017


2017 promises to offer non-stop entertainment from a geo-political perspective. I believe it will be a great year with new surprises being sprung upon a rather unsuspecting (is that correct anymore?) proletariat almost every other week. Fabulous, to say the least. All over the world, people are probably gearing up for revolutionary thinking and changes in political and social ideologies, don’t you think so?

Unless you have lived in Mars for the past few months, you will tend to believe what I am saying now – the world is being turned topsy turvy and most people who matter (meaning those who are less than 30 years of age) are cheering, they may not have assessed the outcomes carefully however!!!

2017 brings along a variety of new topics to the table – whether that table is at whichever country around the world, these topics are going to matter. The foremost topic will be the demeanour and behaviour of the new President of the United States, arguably the most important country in the world (China begs to differ, however!). President Donald Trump is already shaking up (though he is only a “President-Elect” as of now) established norms of diplomacy and economic fundamentals, and as usual, is using his Twitter account to deliver policy prescriptions and comments on world affairs and the people that he either likes or dislikes.

The other major thing in world politics and economics is Britain’s Brexit phenomenon, which is shaking up the European Union (EU). British Citizens voted to get out of the EU, but still would like to retain some major benefits of staying in the Union. The British Government is going around saying that it would win major concessions from the EU, which are not going to be granted given the dismay that the other major countries have over Britain’s exit from the EU.

Of course, European coverage will be deficit if we do not mention the aspirations of Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, who retained his title as the “mover and shaker” of geo-politics. He grabbed Crimea, ensured the defeat of the rebels opposed to President Assad of Syria, and allegedly helped Donald Trump win the U.S. Presidential Elections (according to the CIA and the FBI, as well as President Obama) by hacking and leaking out thousands of emails and documents detrimental to the Democratic Party of the U.S. Who can beat that record?

On the Asian side of world affairs, we would be remiss if we do not mention the North Korean exploits with launching missiles and threatening to explode yet another atomic device very soon. Kim Jong Un is excellent in annoying even his best supporter, which happens to be China. Since he is totally unpredictable, one can only wonder what he has in store for the New Year (should we send him an e-greeting at least?). He does not like any other country in the world, especially the U.S., South Korea and Japan, and is going to continue pushing the limit of intolerable behaviour.

That brings us finally to China, which has proved to be a conundrum as it is struggling to emerge as a well-accepted global military and economic power, much like the U.S. But, China is failing miserably in its efforts to do so. It is doing all the wrong things on its way to super power and market economy status. China needs to understand that people around the world do not care about hard power anymore. The U.S. and Russia have been the world’s super powers for the past six decades, and that is not going to change much in the coming decade. China needs to work on developing its soft power and project its influence in a positive manner around the world, instead of threatening every nation around the South China Sea, moving military equipment and missiles to disputed reefs, and illegally enter the exclusive economic zones of the maritime countries around in the guise of its claim over the sovereignty of the South China Sea. It is losing its image on the world scene.

Nevertheless, the global citizens can enjoy the antics ot the President of the Philippines, who has kept the global media entertained over the past six months or so. He is no friend of the U.S. or the UN. His people seem to like him, and that’s all he cares about – a very unique character who appears to have no respect for justice or rule of law. But then, what can ASEAN countries do? Nothing whatsoever.

Given the situation around the world, the one country which seems to be going about doing its business purposefully is India, right? The Prime Minister of India has gone after black money and corruption in a big way what with his demonetization of large currency notes which was a very brave move. The rural population have suffered heavily over the past seven weeks due to lack of cash, as rural India is largely a cash-based economy. Corruption is still prevalent in most places in India (can you register a property in India without such help?), and it will now shift to the new currency notes. It has been a tough time for over a billion Indian citizens in India, but the Prime Minister thinks that this could be a great way to move India to a digital economy with cashless transactions driving it. Great idea but infrastructure is simply not there to ensure a cashless economy does indeed come into operation in short order – it is going to take at least two to three years before things work out in the way the Prime Minister has envisioned.

No shortage of entertainment, right? There are many other things happening around the world, and one has to just keep in touch with the fast moving media coverage. I hope you are all doing that.

In the meanwhile, here’s Wishing all of you and your families a Wonderful New Year ahead in 2017.

Take care,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

1st January 2017