Year: 2017

Denouncing People Who Don’t Participate in Secret Santa

Secret Santa gifting

It’s Christmas 2018. There are eight people in my team at work. Out of these eight, who are all in the age group of 24 to 33, five have not opted in for the Secret Santa program. And I don’t blame them. Because they have some legit reasons not to. But still, I would like to take this self-created opportunity to call them out, denounce them, tell them I cannot CC them in work emails anymore because not participating in Secret Santa is right there among the top things that baby boomers think millennials are killing and I, for one, believe that one to be true.

Here, my arguments for why you should participate. Or, why I have been participating since 2015 when I joined the workforce.

While there are many reasons why people don’t participate, the most common one is that they don’t get anything back despite having put in efforts to buy and lovingly wrap a Christmas gift to whomever they were Santa for in the past. And they have endured this snub several times over the years. Reason: a bunch of lazy snobs who opted in for the program but forgot (or chose not) to execute their duties as a Santa. They receive their gifts with open arms but somehow don’t show the same enthusiasm when it comes to giving back.

One coworker began staying away from the Secret Santa program (and thereby choosing to stay home on the day of the event) when he stopped receiving gifts for three Christmases in a row. Nowadays he gets anxious at even the slightest mention of a gift, any gift. You can call it bad luck, but this is not a lottery system. The participants here are real live people who have all the necessary resources to buy a gift and be faithful to the system. The program isn’t foolproof because it randomly pairs two people and expects that both of them do what they are intended to; it is more of a system based on trust. If a person has opted in (if mistakenly, there should be an option to opt out), the onus is on them to fulfil the promise. Calling it luck is like advocating for a person who did not think it was necessary to spend a few minutes at Amazon.in, or IKEA India which is my latest personal pit stop for undesired spending.

Another common reason is that people request expensive gifts. While I know this to be a fact, there is no reason for you to mandatorily buy the same stuff that is requested. This becomes problematic when Santees (ugly term for those receiving the gifts from the Santa) ask for Apple products and don’t leave their Santa with a feasible option. I remember one time where a person asked for a WiFi router worth more than INR 20,000 and he got an alternative, cheaper one. No harm done, right? In such cases, it makes sense to draw chits and let the Santa figure out what to gift the other person (this is the most common type). The opposite is also true. Someone once asked for one of three different things and she got all three.

This issue, which can become all the more problematic if the program also includes housekeeping staff who may not be willing to spend much, can be easily avoided by keeping a minimum/maximum limit. Every person has to suggest two options of which one has to be mandatorily around the minimum amount. If the decided lower limit is INR 500, make sure one option is in that range. Two pairs of Trudeau-like socks? Two paperback books or a hardcover? A small sack of onions?

Secret Santa: Why You Should Participate?

I believe that the Secret Santa program is one that improves the liveliness of the holiday season as we end the year with happiness all around (at least that’s how it is for me; December is my favourite month though I hate the chill). Receiving a gift may not be uncommon for many, but it can be the only thing for that person who may be on the brink of a life breakdown. A lot of us are lonely these days, and a random gift may just be the external stimulus they need to keep moving. Receiving a gift, albeit from a stranger, but in good thoughts (or bad thoughts; a pack of glitter?) can easily be the best thing that happens to such a person the whole year. It can lift their morale (especially in a workplace environment where staying sane is critical) and make them start the new year with more positivity. And breaking the heart of such a person is not cool.

Therefore, I’m using this website of mine to condemn people who have done this sort of a thing at least once. You may have your reasons but if you think about them, you know you are being ridiculous. It’s not just about you. Because of the people who don’t participate and the cumulative nature of their action’s consequences, today, fewer people are participating. (The Human Resources tell me it is not true, but for argument’s sake, it is.) Which means only fewer people are going to be excited about receiving something this season. If the trend goes on, there will be no more office Secret Santa programs in the next 10 years. And for once, boomers will be correct about their prophecy.

I’m calling out because the times we live in are getting worse. Desolation has peaked and people are getting anxious about plain existing, thanks to the always-online culture and a lack of social mixing. I’m calling out because giving must not be perceived as a luxury of only the rich. It must be perceived as the only habit there is.

And if such a program contributes to the low spirits of a person, it’s better if you become “a moron” as organisers of the program at my agency (Performics India) like to brand them.

Secret Santa program
The opt-in form of the Secret Santa program / Performics India

So, this Christmas, I implore you to participate and help bring smiles to people’s faces as we end 2019. If you have already signed up, you have my congratulations. If you haven’t and are reading this post now, there’s still time to talk to the organisers, there always is. It doesn’t matter if you receive a gift or not, but knowing that you have made the day of a person is enough appreciation and that’s what matters.

If you don’t know what to gift or request, here’s Kottke’s holiday gift guide (expensive but cool stuff) and a few damp suggestions from yours truly (scroll way down).

As always, I’m asking for books this time. TN.

Featured image credit: benwhitephotography/unsplash

Festival de Cannes is Hiring: Professional Standing Ovation Timer

Last week (May 2017) at our prestigious Cannes Film Festival, Adam Sandler’s new film The Meyerowitz Stories received critical acclaim from both the jury and the audience. The director of the film likes to think the praise was for the whole film, but it was Sandler’s performance which was met with a four-minute standing ovation at the end, making film enthusiasts around the world spiral into a state of delirium.

This job posting is a direct consequence of that event. It is because of an error in calculating the period of that ovation. It was three minutes and fifty seconds, to be exact, and Dave got it wrong. (Dave was an intern from PricewaterhouseCoopers, the same folks responsible for the Oscars Best Picture snafu earlier this year. But, we the French don’t care about those Americans trying to make their country great again.) He will not be with us in 2018, and that’s for sure.

Job Overview – Professional Standing Ovation Timer

If you have always been interested in knowing who times standing ovations at our screenings and how, then this is the job for you. One of the most coveted jobs in the planet and one that does not require much skills, the responsibilities of a standing ovation timer are limited. (And still Dave screwed it up.) Consider it as an entry pass into one of the most important and widely publicised film festivals in the world where you can ogle at celebrities endorsing designers and designers endorsing themselves. If you are someone who prefers a wristwatch over a smartphone to keep track of time and know how many seconds constitute a minute, then you are already half-eligible for this job.

Do a better job than Dave. Do a better job than our former graphic designer who retouched the picture of Claudia Cardinale for our 2017 promo poster so she looked thinner. Do better than Adam Sandler does in most of his films. And you will be hired.

Job Requirements

  • Must have at least a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics or related majors
  • Must have answered all CAPTCHA math answers correctly in the first try itself in his/her lifetime
  • Must be a native of France (Cannes a plus)
  • Past experience in ovation timing is a plus, and candidates who have worked with the Academy (AMPAS) will be preferred
  • Interest in films would be a plus, but is not necessary. (Due to limited seats, you may have to stand during the screenings, but you cannot count yourself as one of the audience while tracking standing ovation time)

Job Responsibilities

  • Keep track of film schedules and be present during the allotted film screenings from start to end
  • Accurate standing ovation time tracking based on audience response. At least 10 people have to engage in applauding when you can start and stop the timer. (More details will be given to the selected candidate)
  • Liaise with the press coordinators and brief them about the type of audience response (elated, dull, etc.)
  • Understand who and what the standing ovation is for
  • Declare the exact standing ovation time to the press so that it appears on publications before the critics can even publish the reviews
  • Cross-check the tracked time with CCTV footage
  • Create reports based on the tracked time and associated categories (Palme d’Or, Grand Prix, etc.)

Job Benefits

  • Competitive one-time-project package with full access to the festival events
  • Gift hamper and Festival de Cannes merchandise
  • Free lifetime passes for two for Palme d’Or film screenings
  • Resume building experiences where you can get associated with films and actors
  • A mention on our Wikipedia page
  • A chance to watch films from around the world (Blue is the Warmest Color was watched by two of our former standing ovation timers who brought in their spouses with them.)

We are looking for a dynamic team player who is the creme de la creme of professional standing ovation timers. Come and be a part of Festival de Cannes 2018 and help us understand the importance and accuracy of standing ovations. Help us create experiences so that our films achieve creative and box office success.

To apply, visit our website (http://www.festival-cannes.com/en/contact) and fill the form. Please do not attach a CV, but instead describe why we should hire you. Also mention your favorite Palme d’Or winner. Since this job has to do with tracking time, should you receive a reply from us about your application, your next step would be to calculate the exact time it took for us to reply from the moment you submitted your application. Good luck!

How to Fall to a New Low in Cinema Box Office Business?

We all know that Malayalam cinema is not known for its marketing techniques, and yet they somehow sometimes succeed greatly. Sharing reviews posted by nobodies on social media, posting the BookMyShow seat booking status of a specific show in a popular theatre, and republishing substandard reviews posted by amateur reviewers/publications like FilmiBeat are some common methods employed by the makers. Yet, this past weekend (third week of May 2017), something happened that defined a new low for the Malayalam cinema box office business.

Adventures of Omanakuttan, also known as AOK or AOO, an avant-garde romantic feature film by debutante Rohith VS and starring actors Asif Ali and Bhavana in the lead roles, became the cynosure of the Malayalam film industry for a brief time. After being stalled for months due to a variety of reasons, the film finally released on 19 May 2017 to polarized reviews, hitting all its chances to be counted among the best Malayalam films of 2017. Quoted as “a tedious watch” by Sify, sentiment soon spread across social media that the film is trash, and that it is only suited for people who adore experimental films. Considering that two other big titles – namely Kannan Thamarakkulam’s Achayans and Basil Joseph’s Godha – also released the same day, the film was going to have to beat heavy competition to come out victorious. In addition to the obvious factors (poor trailer and response, lead actors’ last film’s poor box office performance, and other recent related affairs), one another reason why the film failed to perform was because it was distributed in a very few theaters in Kerala, with no presence anywhere else in the country or in the UAE.

So, what do you do to salvage the situation? Use social media non-sparingly and request people to watch the film without making presumptions and without giving in to reviewers’ dumb-downs. Ask the debutante director to cry out loud, literally, by posting a heart-breaking request on his Facebook page urging people to go and spend some money before the film is taken off the listing, so that “Malayalam cinema” can stay above the waters. Ask the cast actors to support the cause. Ask fellow friends in the film fraternity to support the cause. Create hashtags like #SupportAOK and #SupportGoodMalayalamCinema. Mercilessly post updates about the booking statuses of different shows in different theaters and share related photos. Create memes.

And as days pass by, cash registers will start to make more noise, and you have succeeded at it, because people are gullible. The ratio of negative reviews to the positive ones started minimize, and Adventures of Omanakuttan somewhat became a hit. That is how you save a film from tanking at the box office by using the power of social media and compromising a bit on self-esteem. The actual roots of the problem – quality cinema and not distributing widely enough – was unfortunately lost in the wind.

The Thing with Wristwatches

I know what you’re thinking: who wears a wristwatch in 2017? Well, I do, and today, I have something important to tell you. It’s about a small thing that I have observed over the history of my owning wristwatches of different types.

Have you ever noticed that the thing, other than the power system,  that mostly gets messed up is the strap or the chain of the wristwatch and not the actual clock mechanism? No matter how good quality your strap or chain is, it’s bound to start wearing off the moment you wear it. I know the practical reasons behind this deterioration in quality, but don’t you think it’s weird that you have to replace the strap or chain of your wristwatch almost every year than any other part of the watch? Some might say that it’s an entrepreneurial move by companies who manufacture these straps and chains, so that they can stay in business till the end of time. But, I personally disagree, and think that this has never been the subject of a discussion in any boardroom of any wristwatch-making company.

It’s like you are paying the price for taking the time with you wherever you go and still not making it in time.

I think wristwatch companies – those folks in Switzerland and elsewhere – should now start focusing on the strap or the chain, because everyone knows that the mechanism is going to be top-notch. They just need something more durable that does not degrade due to human sweat, and I think Tag Heuer already has Tom Brady in the team.

So, the next time you are out shopping for a wristwatch, why not put more focus on the strap or the chain than the actual wristwatch for a change? Good luck!

Why I Am Always Late to the Movies These Days?

Some people who know me might think it’s because of my perennial habit of being late (to school, college, dates, and now even work). I assure you it’s not.

It’s because of two things, primarily. One, because of that redundant anti-smoking advertisement that takes you through the disadvantages and consequences of smoking. While we are subjected to that pointlessness only once – at the start – in Hindi films, in Malayalam films, they show it even before the start of the second half. You buy a medium-sized bucket of popcorn using the money you got after selling your house and now you start nibbling at it watching some folks crib about making some pretty bad life decisions. I am 100% sure that not one smoker who has watched these ads has kicked the butt because of them. But, then you would claim that such adverts have been appearing since Marco Polo immodestly wrote the description of the world. I agree to that point, but these days, it’s almost like a short feature film. It’s like to watch a 2-hour long movie, you have to watch another movie, and that too, featuring the Wall.

Secondly, and this one is important, the forceful patriotism. Yes, I have stood up countless times for the national anthem before a film, and still do whenever I am at an event and they play it. But, after the Supreme Court verdict, even my body refuses to give in to the newfound practice of forcing patriotism on people. Only a fool would go to a movie these days and not stand up during the national anthem. The better alternative is to just be late. (I’m sorry, fellow cinema-goers who have to shift in their seats to let me in.) Missing few intro scenes of a film is a lot better than having to consume your dose of entertainment with patriotism and righteousness forced into you by conservatives.

An acquaintance of mine has just stopped going to the movies since the SC verdict, but a cinema aficionado like me just cannot do that. Can I?

Top 15 Malayalam Movies of 2016