Friday, December 31, 2010

Character, what defines it?

I know this topic is very subjective. But I always wonder about what defines the "Character". Can the character of the person be changed? what defines a good or bad character? I definitely don't know answers to these.

I always wonder, after playing so many hero type roles in the movies, do they have an impact on the person's original character who is playing the lead? Even though I cant speak about all of them, but in majority based on my opinion, the people playing good Samaritan roles in movies would not be affected by them. Here I have to say about one such major Hero I know.

In recent Assembly (Congress) elections back in my state, this big hero started his own party (yep, my fellow Americans, it's that easy to start your own political party in India, all you need is MONEY, thats all). He expected that his party would sweep the elections and he could become Head of the state (called Chief Minister (CM), even though there is Governor above CM, he doesn't not have much control over politics and he is there is just to sworn in the CM and his party after elections).

He contested from two places for two seats of Assembly. With his huge fan following from movies, he expected to win from both places, HANDS DOWN. But to his surprise, he could bag only one win, and his party lost miserably with less than one tenth of the seats in the assembly. After this disastrous defeat, he lost all the interest in politics and forgot all the promises he made to the public during campaign. During campaign, his political party's only agenda was "Change" (same as Obama's) and provide Social justice.

He was cribbing about all the injustice done to the people by the ruling party and he should be given a chance to serve people. He even decided to quit movies and satisfy his undying urge of serving people. But after his defeat, it was so astonishing to see, as how he could care less for the people and their worries. He, even though won one seat, paid no interest in taking care of the dire needs of the people in that constituency. The place lacks basic things like clean air, food and shelter. The major public use areas like bus and railway stations looked like garbage damping grounds. This did not bother him even a bit, and now he just decided to come back to movies, as thats the only thing he is capable of.."acting and fooling people" on and off screen.

People like this, prove that how much ever influence you have from outside (in this case, from positive hero characters in movies), the intrinsic CHARACTER will not Change. The character is formed and defined during your budding years when you get some awareness and some clue of whats happening around you. During these years, your family and friends have huge influence in shaping your character. Once formed, the Character is not easy to change.

I remember one of the saying from one of my dearest friends of my Bachelor days about character which is "Character is everything and if you don't have Character, you will be thrown out of the society". I remember him and his saying all the time. Even though I agree with each and every word of his, somehow I feel it is not applicable to everyone, at least not to the one I mentioned above. Even though he was thrown out of the politics, he is still hanging in there making huge bucks via movies.  I honestly feel with the influence of MONEY, the CHARACTER can be shadowed.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Economy vs War

As you might or might not be aware that US has spent close to 900 billion dollars on the Iraq war and has lost close to 4500 American lives and 100,000 lives of Iraq civilians over the span of 7 years. The war happened on the premise that Iraq is holding on to weapons of mass destruction, harbouring Al-qaeda, and financing Palestine suicide bombers who instigated the chaos between Israel and Palestine.

Even though President Bush vetoed the bill to retrieve the troops from Iraq, after Obama took over, he kept his presidential campaign promise of retrieving the majority of American troops by Aug-31-2010. There are still 50,000 troops who have stayed back to train Iraqi soldiers and make them self sufficient in sustaining their country's peace and security.

Along with 50,000 troops in Iraq, there are about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. So, it is still becomes first and foremost priority of US government to support the troops and maintain their safety by providing all the financial support they need, and also provide emotional support to their families back home.

But interestingly during the midterm and after the midterm elections, neither of the parties (republicans and democrats) mentioned about anything related to the troops or their families serving for their country. The media found it very strange and it had open group discussions with different panel board members to understand this. I have chanced on one of these panel discussions where I heard one of speakers mention the  political reasons behind this issue. He said that the reason neither political parties referred anything related to war was due to American people not being very keen to hear about the war and troops when they are themselves suffering back home with no job and health benefits, as the Economy is worst hit only second to 1929 great depression.

That really caught my eye and thought. I realized that no matter how proud we can be about the troops fighting for our safety, when things get tough or ugly on a personal level we do not bother about the soldier who is sacrificing his life for his country and people. This is where we put our self interests in front of anything else.

This proves that after all we are the most selfish creatures ever made, and I feel that there is nothing wrong about that. What do you think?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bush tax cuts - What do they mean to you?

Hey, I am definitely not a news junkie, but these days the news started intriguing me, I think it is a sign of aging. Previously, I would be interested in anything but news, and now even though I can’t say that I am completely contrary, news do started interesting me. 

Along with my aged interest, now a days there’s lot of interesting political stuff going on, that getting me hooked. The politics and politicians can always create havoc on anything or nothing. But lately there is one thing that could have direct impact on you and me, i.e. Bush Tax Cuts. There is this great hoopla and big drama going on about this, whenever I turn on the TV lately.

Then I started to know more about this, and how this would matter to me. As most of you would know that the Bush Tax cuts would expire on December-31st and coming Jan-1st we would go back to Clinton Tax rates that were set prior 2003 and 2001. With the republican sweep in the midterm elections, things aren't going that smooth with democrats, whether it is totally a bad or good thing that's another debate. Due to midterm election defeat, now the ruling government is succumbing to the opposition party’s every need. Democrats wanted to extend the tax cuts to only people who individually earn less than 200,000$ or family less than 250,000$, but where as Republicans wanted to extend these tax cuts across the board for all the Americans. Republicans have a notion that rising taxes on the wealthy people, would hurt creating new employment in the private sector, and would push the economy in to the double dip recession.

The president had to give in to this, as republicans weren’t just ready to extend the taxes to the middle class, as they say, it’s all or nothing. Even though the President is in agreement, the bill still has to pass through the congress and has to get the approval in both the senate and House, after which the president makes the signature before it becomes the law. As of today the democrats still hold the majority in both houses of congress, but the scenario will change coming next January, where democrats loose House to Republicans while retaining slight majority in Senate. The Senate agreed with the president and passed the bill to House, where the unexpected twist happened. The House (where currently democrats hold majority) is saying, until the bill is presented with changes they won’t allow it, but republicans are not very keen on any changes.

So, now there is this BIG drama happening in the capitol hill, that the whole economy and stock market is eagerly watching to see what’s going to happen. The stock market kinda booked some profits when both President and Senate agreed to pass the bill last week, but now those profits seem to be in danger as there is a chance that the house might fail to response within deadline leading to the expiry of bush tax cuts.

Assuming this happens, here’s how it affects middle class men like me:

As of today, the Taxpayers now find their income might fall into one of six tax rate brackets, starting at 10% and topping out at 35%. Middle class men like me fall around 15-20%. If the tax cuts expire, on the first day of next year, there will be only five income tax rates: 15, 28, 31, 36 and 39.6%. Today's lowest tax rate of 10% will be gone, meaning taxes at 15 percent will be assessed on up to at least $34,000 in income for single filers.

To put more in numbers, for a typical single filer with adjusted gross income of around $40,000, the increase might be about $400 a year. At $80,000, that rises to about $1,600. How about married couples filing jointly? They'd get hit with both higher tax rates and a lower standard deduction. A couple earning $80,000 a year in adjusted gross income might pay about $2,200 extra. A married couple on $160,000 a year, Maybe $5,500 extra. 

Also for people in stock market, this is not good news, Investment income also will be taxed at higher rates. Most taxpayers now pay maximum long-term capital gain and qualified dividend rates of 15%. But in 2011, capital gains tax rates are scheduled to go up to 20%. There goes whatever the little profit you might have made in this turbulent economy.

So here are some tips to make the best out of this:

  1. Sell the stock that has appreciated nicely in 2010, so you can take advantage of the lower capital gains rate
  2. Hold on to possible capital losses. These will be more valuable in future years when the capital gains and ordinary income tax rates are higher.
    • You can use those losses to offset gains, and when you have more losses than gains, you can use up to $3,000 in excess losses to reduce your regular taxable income
  3. Enroll in to a Roth IRA. While traditional IRA distributions will be taxed at ordinary income tax rates, money taken out of a qualified Roth IRA is tax-free.
  4. From next year, the marriage couple filing joint returns would pay more taxes than the amount they pay filing individually. Bush tax cuts gave joint filers a standard deduction twice that of a single taxpayer. Also, the 15% tax bracket for couples was made twice that of a single filer. So you might want to speed up your wedding ceremony. Your filing status is determined by your marital status at the end of a tax year. If you were single for 364 days, but wed Dec. 31, the IRS considers you married for the full year. You can file jointly and take the benefit of bush tax cuts before they expire. 
Good luck saving money...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Movies and their destroyers

I have been thinking to write about this for a while. I am a movie buff and watching movies is like an addiction to me. The addiction is so bad that, even how ever bad the movie was, I have to finish it once I started watching it. Like this, I have wasted countless hours on watching some seriously stupid movies. I see these movies and keep cursing the people involved in the movie all the while, like how they are just taking advantage of our addictions. So, now you can be thinking that why I watch movies that I don't like, or why the movies have become an addiction to me. To make you understand this, you have to read through this post.

I hail from a state in India called Andhra Pradesh, where watching movies is only favorite pass time that people had after their week or day long hard work. Watching movies is the only hobby that most people (including me) had. Movies were the best medium to connect with people, to have something to talk about and provide best ways to socialize. Movies are so big in my state that there are hard core associations in the names of their favorite male and female leads. These associations have such strong beliefs and attachments towards their favorite actors, that their love towards them can only be compared to the one they have towards their family. I have seen so many good and bad deeds done by these associations. Good deeds include charity work, like donating food, clothes or blood on the day of their actor birthday which is very auspicious to them. The bad deeds include trashing the public and public property, on occasions when something bad done by other actor associations or something bad was shown in the movie regarding their favorite actor. This shows the craziness of the people towards the movies in the place I grew up. So, even though I am not that hardcore, where I was part of any association or anything, I was ardent movie watcher, and watched movies all time when ever I had time available. My friends and family are like this too, and getting surrounded by them adds more reasons to why the movies became an addiction to me.

So, as I was explaining above, the people in the movie industry are making use of our addictions. The movie industry is now completely filled with pile of crap people, that there is no way for the real talent to shine. The industry is ruled by these dynasties for the decades now that room for real talent is vacant. There are plethora of people from these dynasties that fled the industry, that the industry is complete rotten shit now. I have to explain here about one of such dynasty, where the dad, started as villain, who slowly graduated himself to lead characters, stayed in the industry till the time he gone completely bald playing the leads and taking advantage of female co-stars off and on screen, to the core. There is open public talk that this guy takes advantage of every moving thing that looks like a female without any hesitations towards age. But nobody can do anything about it as he had some strong tie-ups with the politicians and some other strong people in the movie industry.

Now this guy with his wife has laid three shitty eggs, the elder one being the she, and the other two are he's. Now since their dad is in the industry, they feel that its their birth rite to be in the industry and ruin it to their best. The daughter is so immature that she was run away bride, where her father had gone to the streets trashing the guy she eloped with, to bring her back and getting her married to some lame NRI guy. Now she squeezes herself in to industry in some form or the other, as daddy's little girl, even though she has zero talent. I feel so sorry for the guy she married to. And to talk about the boys, they are so bad in every possible way, their appearance, acting, dancing, you name it and they suck at it. They dump all the illegal money they make from other means in to making movies (they make their own movies, as nobody even dare to try to make movies with them), and churn out so shitty movies that you end up with only one question to god, i.e. "why?". why you let these fugly people to keep rubbing their shitty products at us? "why?"...and even god tells that "he doesn't know". All their movies bomb at the box-office back to back, and instead of stepping back they come back in fury with even more shittier product as a revenge. Damn these guys feel no sorry for us or no shame on themselves and keep coming back at us like blood sucking vampires.... I don't know when there is an end to all this crap....

Why the blog title is titled like that?

Hey....if Ram Gopal Varma (most controversial movie director in India) can write a book by title "Naa Istam" (My Choice), publish and release it such a big way that whole world just dying to read it..why cant I give name to my blog in what ever way I want. But as lame as it sounds, I still have a reason behind this. I named Universal because I write here not to one genre of people or topics or things..but covers a whole lot...that run in my mind at any particular time I write my blog post.

One more thing I want to say that I am not a writer, and the stuff you read here is simple straight forward English where you don't need a dictionary to look in to to know the meaning of the words. So, if you are looking for some hi-fi..very imaginative and polished words to put the thoughts across...then u will not find this blog very interesting. But for other guys like me who are simple, the GAME is on from now on.

Keep visiting guys and be on board for ever joy thrill ride.