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Photo-Ops that didn’t change history

When a US president shakes hands with another leader it’s pure theatre. These photo ops then become legacy shots –timestamps of a presidency. Just like when Richard Nixon met Zhou Enlai in 1972, now a milestone of a major diplomatic overture.

But these photo ops have a mixed meaning around the time they’re taken. Some seem to do it just for the symbolism – somewhat like teenagers taking selfies in front of a coffee shop to seek validation among their followers.

Donald Trump,Kim Jong Un

In my September column, I feature 5 Photo-Ops that have taken on new meaning by now, but have not been treated kindly by history.

  • 1456876549762Adolph Hitler and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, 1938
  • George W. Bush on the USS Abraham Lincoln, 1 May, 2003
  • Richard Branson, October 2011
  • Dennis Rodman, 2013
  • Donald Trump and Kim Kim Jong-Un, 30 June 2019

Read the article here.

 

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2019 in Communications

 

My Mum, Catherine Fernando

A mother seldom reveals parts of her resume. So there were many sides of my Mum I got to know of by accident.

She was entrepreneurial, a dressmaker in the family otherwise known for Salonpas and pharmaceuticals; a winemaker who ran an underground milk-wine business around Christmas. I once was a part accomplice, printing labels for her limited edition brand, Cathy’s Vineyard. In between these two moonlighting jobs – three, if you considered the cake orders she took – she was a formidable tennis player with a wicked forehand. I’ve seen photographs of her posing with trophies, and heard stories of her in action at the Bandarawela Tennis Club.

My short answer to the question people always asked about how she was so active for so long, was this: The Legion of Mary work she did in the evenings was like her gym membership. If you’ve been up and down a flight of stairs at the Bambalapitiya flats you’d know what I mean. Until a few weeks ago I would be amused at how she would describe her friends at St. Martin’s Home for the Elders as “these old ladies!” many of whom were much younger than her.

Speaking fitness, last year we took her on a train trip to Bandarawela, and in Ella faced with a very steep flight of 90 steps, took it in her stride. If I asked her do Adam’s Peak next year she might have agreed.

Mummy loved my long-winded letters and until a few years ago would write back. Then in June she made it a point to mention that she liked an article I’d written in LMD. “You did?” I asked, perplexed. It was a feature about Facebook. (I tell the publisher that his readership is skewed. Besides CEOs and tech people, nuns at her home, and someone born 65 years before the Web was invented read the publication.) Sometimes an audience of one is all you need, isn’t it?

I’ve met many people who had stories of my Mum’s quiet power and influence. She had a sense of humor, and was an incurable optimist. She ended many phone conversations saying how blessed she was to have so many friends and relatives around her, and more than anything else, thanked God for her good health. “I’m getting more forgetful,” she would tell me, but in the same sentence recall details about Nadia and Aaron, or Tanu’s fruit trees. If she forgot anything it was forgetting to keep grudges, and forgetting to complain. 

So it’s hard to sum up someone who’s been a dressmaker, cake maker, winemaker, homemaker, devout Catholic, tennis player, a wonderful mother, aunt, grandparent and friend to many. Oh she was also a member of what we called the BBC, that three part team of sisters Bridget, Beta and Catherine. They dominated the Bharatha channel so many of you tuned into. On Saturday August 24th, the last small powerful voice on the BBC went off the air. 

My brother Tilak and I, and her dear brother Ben will miss her very much. We thank all those who connected with her, and supported her over the years.

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2019 in Sri Lanka

 

Raising Arizona Raisins!

When life gave us triple digits temperatures, at least we have a bumper crop of raisins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This morning, we harvested two large bowls raisins. That is in addition to the loads of sweet champagne grapes we were blessed with in June.

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2019 in Home

 

Facial recognition, a weapon?

File this under “Sigh! We knew this was coming.”

The story is breaking that protesters are being tracked down by facial recognition software in several cities. But more alarming is how in Hong Kong, which is erupting right now, police are seeking out protesters, then grabbing their phones, and attempting to use the facial recognition software on the phones to unlock their phones.

Hong Kong was a colony of Britain until 1997, but is now a ‘special administrative region’ of China.

“Oh, how neat!” some people thought, when Hong Kong announced that it has facial recognition software in the airport so that passengers could pass through immigration and security smoothly. Likewise so many now use door bell cameras (such as Nest and Hello) that have facial recognition, not realizing the vulnerabilities they could bring.

Facial recognition is a short stop from racial and social profiling. Why is it that few people seem to care?

 

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Easter Sadness, Sri Lanka. Our faith will rise again.

It’s Easter. Which started out on a wrong note –a hope of the resurrection clouded by sadness. If there is any consolation for us who grieve, it is knowing that many Christians who had watched the gentle sparks kindle an Easter flame saw the face of Jesus that morning. Confronting the message of the empty tomb this week are the mass graves with tiny caskets. Children, mummys and daddys, uncles, aunts and grandparents gone too soon. The images are too raw to process. The cruelty too grotesque.

At this moment, we must weep together, forgive together, and spiritually hold up each other. How else to confront the unspeakable actions of a few? Our collective pain from a scab that healed ten years ago has resurfaced. For now, we grieve. Later –weeks, months? –we will untwist those hateful ideologies, and move past our suspicions. We must trust again. 

We come from an island in which hospitality, inter-faith harmony, and inner joy are a default lifestyle. But this week we cannot hide our tears. After the crucifixion came resurrection. I know our faith, and those departed souls, will rise again.

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2019 in Sri Lanka

 

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Eavesdropping is a nice way of saying ‘spying’.

It comes as no surprise that the Amazon Echo speaker is listening more closely than people think. Let’s be clear: It’s not listening in, it’s eavesdropping. The word has been around for more than 300 years! It describes the act of someone secretly “listening under the eaves” to another.

Alexa is supposed to be in ‘listening mode’ only when the speaker is addressed. Last week, however, Amazon confirmed that some of its employees did listen to recorded conversations. Employees! Not Amazon’s software. Are you comfortable with that? Some folks secretly listening in under the Artificial Intelligence eaves? Oh sure, for ‘quality and training purposes’?only. All in the interest of Big Data. The Atlantic reports that millions of people are using a smart speaker, and many have more than one close by. (Read it: Alexa, should we trust you?”)

In May last year, the speaker recorded a conversation of a husband and wife and sent it to a friend. I wrote about a related matter a few weeks back. I’ll never be comfortable with a piece of hardware sitting in a room just there to listen to me. The Bloomberg article reports that some employees at Amazon listen to 1,000 clips of recordings per shift. Like some privatized surveillance company, laughing at all the conversations going on behind closed doors. Beyond eavesdropping, it is audio voyeurism! Aren’t you troubled by that?

We were once alarmed by having too many cameras aimed at us. Now it’s listening devices. Does the convenience factor blunt people to the privacy they give up?

 

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Unplanned. Powerful message about a disgusting industry

You can’t watch the movie Unplanned and be the same. The morality and the ethics of abortion are disgusting, even if you didn’t factor in the bloody scenes.

On the level of communication, the movie (predictably critiqued by much of the media) exposes how the industry works, manipulating a message. Clinics like these have business goals which must be reached (to keep corporate bosses happy). Their ‘customers’ are young women – children, mostly — at a vulnerable point of their lives.

To hear Abby Johnson the central character in the movie (a director of a Planned Parenthood clinic who quit) explain it, distortion is actually what the other side does well.

Watch her in real life speak to a congressional committee, using similar, powerful arguments heard in the movie.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2019 in Communications

 

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