About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

16 February 2006


From a suggestion I made in Carl's blog, this post is a mind dump, a rant, bitching, moaning ... whatever the term is. I am not even sure that my post makes any sense. You are forewarned. However, I can assure you, unlike Carl's posts, my post has no romantic traumas ;) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Identity is a problem I have grappled with for a long time in my research. After all, what exactly is a user of a DRM system? And for that matter, what exactly is being protected? And what about the rules - how does the rules match up to the users, and the data? The problem is, identity itself is a very difficult concept to define, even when restricting itself to the digital realm. Even RFC 2828, the security glossary (which has become my de-facto second dictionary) does not give an adequate definition.

So, in a recent paper attempt (attempt because the paper was ultimately rejected), I had to fall back on the Oxford English Dictionary to define the term identity, which states:

1. a. The quality or condition of being the same in substance, composition, nature, properties, or in particular qualities under consideration; absolute or essential sameness; oneness.
absolute identity, that asserted in the metaphysical doctrine of Schelling that mind and matter are phenomenal modifications of the same substance.

b. with an and pl. An instance of this quality.

2. a. The sameness of a person or thing at all times or in all circumstances; the condition or fact that a person or thing is itself and not something else; individuality, personality.
personal identity (in Psychology), the condition or fact of remaining the same person throughout the various phases of existence; continuity of the personality.

b. Personal or individual existence. rare. ?Obs.

10. c. Belonging or relating to identity (sense 2), as in identity crisis, a phase of varying severity undergone by an individual in his need to establish his identity in relation to his associates and society as part of the process of maturing. Also transf.

Colloquially, identity is simply - who are you? But as discussed in Sophie's Choice, it is a very difficult question to answer. If identity seeks to define who or what something is, it becomes very difficult to pin down. Does identity then depend on the person's cultural heritage? moral compass? their geography? their political compass?

I first started thinking about this while leaving Cape Town International Airport for my trip to Budapest. The passport controller looked at me very strangely, and then asked rather curiously why I have a South African passport. It was not because I am of Indian origin, but rather because I was born in Nigeria? In fact, many times on overseas conferences, I have been asked how come an Indian guy carries a South African passport - a question I think many of my South African Indian friends could find offensive. I have found the idea of granting nationality purely on the basis of where a person is born to be rather stupid -- after all what does that have anything to do with it? So I qualify for a Nigerian passport because I was born there?

As for cultural identity - it is a difficult question for me. I have been brought up by fairly devout Hindu parents, and my broader family were once very devout Hindus - but then most Indians in India are rather devout. But many of my values differ greatly from my parents (and even greater difference to my other relatives in India). But much of my identity is not South African per se, as much of my beliefs etc. have been from my own extensive readings in all sorts of things. Although, I have spent about half my life in South Africa, I have also spent large amount of time in other countries.

This brings me back to my original question - what is identity? At the end of the day, does identity really matter? If a fingerprint, or iris scan represents an almost unique (identical twins problem) reference to a person, shouldn't that be enough to define what identity is? Why bring in other aspects to muddy the waters?

15 February 2006

Movie: Tsotsi

This is a movie I have been waiting for, ever since I saw the trailer about 10 months back. The trailer came with a tag line something along the lines of: "You can't choose how you come into this world, you can't choose how you leave this world, but you choose how you live in this world.", and is a very apt description of the story.

The movie is sad - it is sad to see how Tsotsi (gangster) becomes who he is. It wasn't his choice. It is also funny how the Tsotsi interacts with the baby at first. At its core, it's a movie about hope, hope that maybe it is possible to escape the cycle of poverty and crime. It is by far the best South African movie I have ever seen and has one the best movie sound tracks ever. It also shows that it is possible to create a South African movie without relying on big name stars. The authenticity of the accents, the settings, the actions make it a very believable and engaging story, something that is missing from other recent South African movies like Drum.

Like Yesterday, the movie also steers clear of apartheid. It is a story about modern South Africa and the challenges facing us today. The past should not be forgotten, but it is also worthwhile in examining the present.

Movie: On The Waterfront

It is regarded as one of the best movies ever made, and stars a very young Marlon Brando as a dock worker cum thug for the local waterfront union (which control the offloading, loading of ships in the harbour and is thus more like the mafia). It is a love story, it is a story about worker's rights and it is a story about the law succeeding in breaking a crime ring.

What has always impressed me about many old movies is how much these movies depend on acting, and story telling; as opposed to special effects. I am not sure if this kind of a movie would succeed in the modern times, but if you get hold of the DVD, it is well worth watching.

Movie: Titus

Looks like SABC 3 is having a Shakespeare month and screening quite a few movies of the great bard's plays. This is the only one I have watched so far (while I was still in Durban). I later read up in a Shapespeare Companion book at Exclusive Books that Titus Andronicus is his bloodiest play, his first tragedy and is one of the least performed plays because of some of its content.

In many ways, this is a very a weird adaptation of William Shakespeare's Roman tragedy, Titus Andronicus. Unlike Romeo+Juliet, it's not completely modern and features horses and swords alongside motorbikes and loudspeakers. In many ways, the movie environment is similar to post apocalyptic worlds like Mad Max.

The play itself is twisted - featuring a sadistic woman hell bent on getting revenge, an equally savage general (Titus Andronicus played by Anthony Hopkins), cannibalism and some really twisted torture - all wrapped in a very interesting story. It's unlike any other Shakespeare play I have ever seen (or read) and features very little in terms of a morality tales of good overcoming evil and is almost hellbent on focusing on the power plays between characters who can be called twisted at best. Very enjoyable - if only because I enjoy such twisted tales - the bard really knew how to spin a tale.

Movie: Munich

Steven Spielberg's movie has come under a lot of criticism - from both the Israelis (because the movie gives Mossad a bad name) and the Palestinians (because some incidents like the killing of an inocent palestinian by the Mossad squad) were left out of the story. The movie is about the story of a Mossad squad sent to assasinate various Palestinians who were involved in the murder of 11 athletes during the 1972 Olympic games.

Like most Spielberg movies, it is about the people - and how the people react to the situation and how they change as people. In many ways, the movie questions the validity of the past Israeili approach of fighting fire with fire, and questions whether Israel is still true to the original tenets of its creation. Like Paradise Now Munich has tried to be unbiased, as much as possible.

However, unlike Paradise Now, Munich is a very dark movie. It is a movie that everybody should (and probably must) watch - but it is not a movie that can really be enjoyed. Like Paradise Now, it is a movie that needs to be absorbed, and maybe we will all live happily ever after.

Movie: 40 Year old virgin

Like Ilan, this was also a movie I watched on the plane back from London (on my Hungary trip). The plot is simple, and I generally don't like watching romantic comedies - but this was hilarious. Incidentally, this movie was a sleeper hit - and many people did not expect it to do so well at the box office.

Movie: The Constant Gardener

Based on the John le Carré novel, the movie explores a conspiracy involving drug testing in the third world and how the western governments (where the HQ of the companies are) not only know the details of these drug tests, but are also active players in helping them set up and covering up when human rights groups try to investigate.

It is a dark story, although highly enjoyable movie and was great viewing on the flight back from London (yes this post is very late)

Movie: Paradise Now

This is a very interesting movie - because even though the fundamental theme of the movie is about the politics in the Middle East, it is a movie that does not try to push any particular political message. At its core, it's a movie about suicide bombers, on why ordinary palestinians are willing to sacrifice themselves, without any aparent rewards, including the famed 72 virgins in heaven.

The movie is also interesting because, it pushes the idea, that there are Israelli jews, who accept money to transport the suicide bombers around Israel knowing very well that these guys will blow up their country men. This in itself adds to the complexity of the all ready volatile middle east politics. With the rise of Hamas in Palestine, this movie is even more relevant to today's world. If nothing else, the movie can serve as a balance to tell the other side of the story with regards to suicide bombers, which are (almost) always reported as terrorist attacks.