Friday, September 30, 2005

Judgements

The glass – exquisite.
The drink – virgin.

The flashes blind,
clouding your vision.
Welcome to the new page 3,
but hey, that's on page 1.

The glass – sculpted.
The drink – dark.

The murmuring’s senseless,
and their tone’s judgemental.
Their looks are scornful,
but do they even care?

The glass – clear
The drink – cola.

You are the “every person”,
the girl next door.
To them you are nothing,
but an alcoholic par none.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Desi Oscar fever again!

The Oscars are exactly 4 months away and its already Oscar fever in India. This year it's Paheli!. I haven't seen the movie, though loved the soundtrack, at least most of it. MM Kreem's (aka Keeravani aka Maragadhamani) package was a mix of soothing melodies (Dheere Jalna, Khaali Hai) and peppy numbers (Phir Raat Kati), but some told me that at least a couple of numbers were rehashed from his own Telugu soundtracks. But that is not surprising considering that he has been known to do that a lot in the past.

Anyways, coming back to Paheli, it is interesting to see the competition that Paheli beat out to get the nod. Rediff mentions this -

The other films considered for the nomination were Mangal Pandey, Veer-Zaara, Iqbal, Swades, Parineeta, Page 3, Black, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Sachein (Tamil), Anniyan (Telugu), Uttarayan (Marathi), Achuvante Anna (Malayalam), Graham (Telugu), and Kadal (Tamil).

I have a couple of issues. Notice the names in bold. And I saw at least parts of those three movies and it suffices if I say that I pressed "stop" even before 15 minutes were up. And this is not a question of personal preference and Sachein won't figure even in the list of top 10 Tam movies of the year, if you were to ask any random Tam movie watcher. Similarly for Anniyan and Veer Zaara, again no comments. The rest, I have no issues with, since I haven't seen any of those movies, apart from Kadhal. Speaking of Kadhal, it made me cringe and squirm. But I have to agree that it was one of the better movies (in terms of quality and originality) made in Chennai this past year.

And if you want to know who was responsible for Paheli being chosen, read on here... (Hat tip: Amit Varma). My only grouse is that Paheli takes its premise from a novel that Mani Kaul had already adapted for an on-screen version, close to 35 years ago! Not that Amol Palekar does not deserve this, but I'd have preferred that the nomination went to a movie with a fresh screen play.

I will end with a recommendation - The sound track of Achuvinte Amma (Rediff screwed up the name badly) by Ilayaraja. Check it out! Found it last week, when i was looking to listen to some older numbers from Chithram, thanks to the discussion on Lazy's post about Selvaraghavan.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Art Appreciation for Adults

Sauntering into Tim’s room, 14-year-old Ron saw the words “- An art form” on the partially hidden TV-screen. Soon, he was throwing up the sandwich that he had gobbled earlier.
Years and 2000 films later, looking at his hirsute pot-belly, the blond writhing under him with the camera whirring, he realized that pornography WAS art!


Written as part of the 55-word story tag from Dhammo.
Megha "considered it sweet revenge" when she passed it on to Dhammo. But I am not someone prone to vengeance and so I am leaving it up to anyone who wants to attempt it. But I do hope that people like Dumbs, Shwe and Hathirpithi will try. Mebbe the likes of Vindy and Praveen might even do a humorous tale. But I am tagging no one!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Currently Testing - Yahoo Mail Beta



Currently Testing - Yahoo Mail - Beta Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 16, 2005

A new Phoenix?

Another Ashes series has ended. Last time around, the picture that lingered was of Steve Waugh stroking the last ball of the second day at Sydney to the boundary to equal Bradman’s century tally. But two years later, it is the sight of Flintoff slurring and tottering at Trafalgar Square and Vaughan commenting about some of his mate's lack of sleep to Tony Blair, that will stay with me for sometime. The English, by all accounts, are still having a party, four days after their victory. And quite rightly so, for it has been a series of nail biters. Warne’s stunning wicket tally, Hoggard’s cover drive, Simon Jones's reverse swing, Geraint Jones tumbling catch off Kasprowicz, KP’s butter fingers, his towering sixes and last, but the most important of all, Flintoff! What a series!

So did Australia deserve to lose? Yes they did. England was the better team. But, on hindsight, I think all of us had placed Australia in a higher plane than they deserved. Sambit Bal sums it up perfectly when he writes -

The Australians have been hustled by Shoaib Akhtar and Shane Bond before, but they have had easy runs to pick at the other end. With England, there was no getting away. Harmison pinged them; Hoggard kept them tentative; Flintoff challenged them incessantly; and Simon Jones kept them pinned to the crease.

Consider this English bowling attack that showed its mastery of a previously reviled Oriental art, four bowlers all of whom prised out batsmen almost at will and another whose efforts with the ball were overshadowed by his batting! That is something that Australia has not faced in the recent past. Then Bal follows this argument with a comparison that has stayed with Australia through their run of successes these past few years, but this time with a difference.

The big unanswered question during the West Indian reign in the late-'70s and mid-'80s was how great the West Indian batsmen really were. After all they never had to test their skills against their own bowlers. After they have been put through the wringer, we are now able to venture a guess about this Australian batting line-up.

Ok, I think the caliber of at least ONE all time great is being questioned, but nevertheless the question seems to be valid.

But Australia have been barracked unfairly from some quarters too. Another Cricinfo column, this time by Anil Nair talks about the air of invincibility that the Aussies bought with them when they landed in England, but seemed to have left it behind in their hotel rooms when they made it on to the field. However, sample this -

To have had only nine debutants in five years and 68 Tests - contrast it with England's 26 in 75 Tests for roughly the same period - speaks of a set-it-in-stone syndrome at work, at once formulaic complacency and an attempt at myth-making.

As far as I know, this fact, in the past has been thrown around as one of the reasons for Australia’s awesome run. And suddenly the next day it is slammed as shortsightedness? And the same actions that were billed as “motivational” are now being slammed as the necessary rituals of a cricket team bent on creating an aura around itself in the manner of the Chicago Bulls. That is something I don’t understand.

There are usually two ways to categorize the positive result from a contest involving two equally matched participants (this series apparently was, if you consider the margin of the results)
  1. A win resulting out of a team raising its game utterly dominating the otherwise equal team
  2. A win resulting out of one good team playing below potential and imploding in the face of good opposition
We all know which team's results typically gels with the second description. And when it comes to the 2005 Ashes, I think it was the first case all the way, the poor form of some of the Aussies notwithstanding. Hence this is not the end of the road for the Aussies. And I am of the firm opinion that no team can be labeled No.1 unless they play well all the time, or at least most of the time, home or way. Australia has done that consistently these past years and they are still the best team in the world. As for who is the second best, of course it is England.

Last year, just after the Aussie tour of India, I got into an argument with a friend who said that India was the second best team in the world, but I quietly pointed out to him England’s record over the past few years starting from 2001 when they went to Pakistan. Still he did not see eye to eye with me and pointed out that India had drawn the series in Australia. I think we were at a stalemate then with neither of us willing to let go. But now, he will have to change his opinion.

So, IMHO, all that England has to do to become the best team in the world is to play consistently during their sub-continental trips in the next few months and get to Australia and at least draw the series next year. As far as India is concerned, their first priority is to win more than one test match every away series and at least one series outside the subcontinent. Now if that is not stating the obvious, then what is?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Book blogging

First I did not know if I was the only one. So I refrained from mentioning it publicly. Now that I know I AM , DEFINITELY , NOT , THE , ONLY , ONE who was approached (boy, ain't I full of it?), I decided to share this with you all. (Note to myself: DO NOT talk about this blog to that hot gal in the adjoining office for the next few months!!)

Last week, one of the marketing managers from Scribner & Touchstone (part of the Simon & Schuster publishing house) left a comment on this post. In case you do not wanna read the comment, the gist is this. She offered me "review copies" of these two books and asked me to get in touch with her if I was interested. I replied to the comment with a short email and she just asked for my address to send these books, which I did immediately. Couple of days later, there it was, sitting in the lobby, a package with my name on it. Opening the package, I found this letter addressed to "Readers and Bloggers" and contained among others, this line -

Blogs and online magazines have become such a wonderful vehicle for the sharing of ideas and the spreading of culture, and we hold your opinions in very high regard.

It is a fact (and fittingly, a nice bit of trivia too) that the revered English journo E.W. Swanton was denied a chance to cover the 1932 Ashes series because his rival reporters got ahead of him in the line for the only telephone to report that Messrs. Holmes and Sutcliffe had scored 555 runs between them and had broken the world record for an opening stand at Leyton. His story reached late. While chastizing him for this, his newspaper decided that he was probably not the man for it and sent their tennis writer to cover what has since then been known as the Bodyline tour. And it has been said, in hindsight that if Swanton had been in Australia, his reports would have been forceful enough to convince the MCC (or the British government) to act tough with Jardine.

But I think that if Michael Vaughan was to do a Jardine today, Swanton would not be missed (no offense to the likes of Roebuck, Haigh and rest). The likes of Rick Eyre, Jagadish & Ganesh, Scott Wickstein and Will Luke (maybe even me) would do just fine. Wth MSM being what it has become, we bloggers are the new-age freelance journos and the writers. So, in this age of MediaNet and paid news coverage, it is no surprise that a publishing house such as Simon and Schuster (itself a part of the ViaCom media conglomerate, just like MTV, CBS, UPN etc.) has taken bloggers into confidence to pass on the impartial word.

Coming back to the books, I had read about Vikas Swarup's Q&A in The Hindu almost six months ago and being a quizzer myself, I was intrigued by the plot line. I have also had some personal experiences, that enabled me to relate to the subject in a convoluted manner (as you would probably see later). And Untouchables by Narendra Jadhav is coming as an incentive which I gladly accepted. And as Patrix mentions, none of us who has received these books are under any obligation to actually review the two books. Our brief is to just pass the message along, which I'm gladly doing. My thoughts about the books will follow, provided circumstances allow. But that's probably only after I finish my second reading of HP-6!

(P.S. Click on the book covers to see more info about the books!)

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The folly of comparison

I found (via this week's Bharateeya Blog Mela post at Harini Calamur's POV) that a number of Indian bloggers have taken offense at the tone of this Boing Boing post titled Katrina: whew, here comes India to save us, at last! and have come out with strongly worded rejoinders. The Boing Boing post essentially mirrors a post titled Thank Goodness, Here Come the Brave and Generous Indians to Rescue Louisiana (check out the "mood" and the "now playing" sections on this post!) which seems to project the classic (anachronistic) stereotype of the brown man and even manages to refer to imagery such as Gunga Din! While Uma and the others who have been driven to rage by the sarcasm of these posts, maybe we should stop to think whether some of us (i.e. Indians) are guilty of the same crime.

The most forwarded email among Indians this past week, seems to be the one that compares the aftermath of the cloudburst in Mumbai last month with that of Hurricane Katrina. It starts by giving you all kinds of numbers about the two disasters and ends with (what seemed to me) a sarcastic take on the customary labels that the media and the people have for long, affixed to the US and India, i.e superpower and third world country! Now, I got the forward twice and instantly relegated it to my Trash folder. But later, someone else at my workplace mentioned the forward and made some statements that mirrored that last sarcastic footnote that I have mentioned. I am not someone who gets my head hot over such things as forwards, but I got into an argument because the insinuations in this one just seemed plain offensive. Or is it just me?

A google search for the exact phrase "New Orleans vs. Mumbai" turns up 95 results, including a few blogs. Is it possible that these American bloggers who have ridiculed India's offer of help were motivated to post this way by these comparisons that we Indians have been making through such forwards? How many of us Indians, particularly the ones who have not seen the imagery from New Orleans 24 hours a day on CNN and MSNBC over these past 10 days, know about the scale of the disaster and the reasons behind those numbers that have been compared? For a description of the effects of Katrina, check out New Orleans resident Maitri V-R's VatulBlog which right now offers Daily updates from and for residents and friends of the Crescent City!

Sure, mistakes were made in Louisiana. The levees in New Orleans were (apparently) designed only hurricanes much less severe than Katrina. And how many of us know that most (if not all) of New Orleans is below sea level, as opposed to certain areas in Mumbai? And that the hurricane caused breaches in the levees and flood the neighborhoods with as much as 12 feet of water?

I am sure people like Amit and Dilip who saw the effects of the tsunami in India would say the same thing about mistakes made by the administration in that situation. But after December 26, the disaster response in India is probably much better now, because the shortcomings have all been pointed out! When disasters happen for the first time, be it the tsunami or the cloudburst or Hurricane Katrina, they HAVE TO BE attributed to that cause that is often termed as an "Act of God", which is NOT a religious stance, but just a term that refers to unknown and unforeseen reasons.

What's key is that we learn from mistakes that we make. Do we gain by pointing fingers and drawing parallels, and that too, seemingly with glee? It is a point to ponder! Accepted that the people in the Western Hemisphere need to get their facts straight about the "mystical" East, but do we have to add fuel to the fire with such comparisons, particularly in these testing times?
So, please stop forwarding such emails and please stop the trash talk about the difference in casualty figures. For some people I know, that seems to be a thing to be proud of. But at this age when borders are disappearing, that mentality is itself inhuman!

(Disclaimer: Some of the numbers quoted with reference to Katrina might be erroneous, but the motivation of this post is to stop comparisons at this time of need!)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The life of a fringe professional cricketer and related news

If you talked cricket with me during the early days of India's 2004 tour of Australia, just before the Test matches, you would have heard/seen me argue tooth and nail for Sadagopan Ramesh's inclusion as India's opener. But by the end of the tour, I had to grudgingly agree that the man who took Ramesh's (then) rightful place at the top of the order was the calm eye to the hurricane that was Virendra Sehwag.

As an opener, I still think he did nothing wrong in Australia, though so many people seemed to criticize him. I maintain that as a classical test opener, he did what was required. If you'd look carefully at the series stats and do some minor math, you would find that, on an average per inning, he played just 6 balls lesser than his partner. And the 20 minute difference in duration in their innings can be explained by the fact that the number three batsman was Dravid who'd have probably hogged some of the strike settling in. So essentially what I am trying to say is just this - he managed to hold one end up while Sehwag went bonkers on the other end, while scoring 40 percent of what Sehwag did and staying for the most part of Sehwag's innings. And in no point of time did you hear that Sehwag got bogged down due to his partner's stonewalling (though I'm not sure we will ever hear that statement about Sehwag, ever!).

I usually back a player (or a team), through thick and thin, but in this case what has happened is that I have had to put Ramesh behind me and that has not happened often. And now when this guy is outside the limelight, I want to do something to highlight what he has been doing.

Akash Chopra is currently in England playing for a minor team in Stoke-on-Trent and has been blogging too, if you'd call his columns (hat tip to Prem Panicker) that! By all accounts these are not ghost written and present a rare insight into a cricketer's mind. As the footnote to one of his early posts reads, he writes about life in England for Indian professionals (cricketers, that is), who have for years made the trips to the Old Blighty make some much needed money, something that they'd find hard to come by when not playing in India. And coming as it does from someone on the fringes of selection, the columns make for interesting reads. I have added his column to my browser favorites and though the summer is fast coming to an end, even in England, I think I will still go back and look at the archives to read about what he has been doing these past few months.

On a slightly related note (adding to my twin posts on May 15th and May 21st of this year), it turns out that Rahul Mehra and Shantanu Sharma have filed yesterday (September 7th) with the Delhi High Court, a set of suggestions for the BCCI to implement for improving cricket in India. Originally, this was scheduled to happen on the 25th of May and though it seems to have been delayed, it is certainly welcome progress in the proceedings that were set rolling more than 5 years ago on April 20, 2000! What will now ideally happen that the Delhi High Court will formally instruct the BCCI to react to this statement and inform the court what it intends to do to act on these suggestions. I am watching this situation with interest. If you are interested, you can read the complete text of Rahul Mehra's email to Prem Panicker here.