Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The ultimate question, and search for answers


The answer to Life, Universe and beating Australia?


Last year, in the same Chappell Hadlee series, NZ had won almost both matches that involved chasing in excess of 300. They fell short by a heart rending 2 runs while chasing 322 in Wellington in the 2nd ODI. They made amends in the 3rd chasing a then record of 331 in Christchurch with an over to spare. I remember watching those chases and then excitedly explaining the details to everyone who asked. Or didn't. I thought I saw something special in those 2 back to back matches.

I was wrong. This time they went a notch higher. Higher targets, achieved with few balls to spare. In the first one you almost felt pity for Australia not to get the wicket of Ross Taylor early on, the way alsmot every run until his fifty came from the edge of his bat. He played very well after that and supported by McMillan, Fulton and McCullum NZ won with over an a half to spare. The six off McGrath that McCullum hit will remain in memory for a long time. Coming up to a bouncer and pulling with all his might, ball hittting the middle and disappearing way beyond.

The last ODI was even better. For the last few overs while Australia were batting, fours were a rarity. The way Hayden was nonchalantly hitting sixes, with a fractured toe, was unbelievable. Especially the one with one hand that went miles high in the stands. Putting the exams I had the next day on lower priority, I knew I just had to watch the NZ response. And you all know what happened. McMillan's innings and again the last part of McCullum's knock again with a winning six, though under much more pressure this time, was a joy to watch.

Which brings me to McCullum. Here are his contributions in the four matches I mentioned:

2006, ODI 2 : 48 of 33 balls, run out.
2006, ODI 3: 50 of 25 balls, not out.
2007, ODI 2: 22 of 15 balls, not out.
2007, ODI 3: 86 of 91 balls, not out.

Had he not been run out, and that was pretty unnecessary, NZ would have won that match too. Amazing consistency under pressure. No wonder he wears the jersey number 42.

Also these four matches point out to the size of grounds in NZ. It was certainly a huge factor in these amazing run chases.

The last time Australia lost 3-0 in the erstwhile Texaco trophy in '97, I remember what the mood was. Mark Taylor, the captain for the tour and the first two ODI'd had to drop himself in the third, something unprecedented. Steve Waugh captained in that match, Australia lost (by 6 wickets in all 3 matches!). But that phased Taylor out of the team and put Waugh in charge. We all know what happened then.

So are Australia on a shaky ground before the world cup? Results certainly point that way, although I think this well help off shake whatever complacency there would have been. They might just emerge a better outfit in the WC. Can't wait for that.

I watched the match and then slept to wake up in time for the Bayern vs. Real Champions league match. Real won 3-2 and it was 3.15 am by the time they did that. I had an exam at 9.30 am and hence this was another record for the least time spent on preparation of an exam. I slept in an hour, thank God it was only a humanities course.

As an afterthought, they have art appreciation, movie appreciation etc. courses as electives. Time to have a sport appreciation probably?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The one minute movie review post

Like the previous time, the idea is to list all the movies I've seen lately so that at a later time I won't have to go halfway through a movie to realise that I've already watched it.

This time most of the movies I saw had some themes. Have them categorised accordingly.

Star Wars

It was rather shameful that I hadn't seen the 'real' Star Wars movies yet. Decided to rectify that. Though after such a long time all three parts have blended into one another and it is difficult to remember what was when.

A New Hope: Honestly for me the better parts were the conversation between C-3PO and R2-D2. Visual effects are way beyond their age. Wait, you don't need me telling that.

The Empire Strikes Back: Forget everything, I discovered Chewbacca's blog! hrrrrrrrrrrrrnnnhhhh!! Coming back, people say this is the best Star Wars movie. Would have loved to agree had I been able to recall.

Return of the Jedi: Seriously what was with the teddy bears for half the movie? Imagine those fuzzy little primitive bears beating laser gun armed empirical guards. What about evolution baby? The dark side dialogues were impressive nonetheless.


Bergman

Persona: Completely blown away by this. Cinematography is such that it feels like watching high resolution award winning photographs one frame after another. Script is riveting, dealing with human pysche, dark sides of it. Cast is perfect and minimal with just two very beautiful actresses, Ullman and Andersson playing the intentionally mute actress and the nurse. I realised how little I understood of this movie when I went through the multitude of essays about it. These are the movies they study in movie making PhD courses I guess, so I won't even pretend beginning to describe exactly what everything meant. Unforgettable experience.

Wild Strawberries: Had very, very high hopes after watching Persona. A totally different movie, chronicling the life of an aging man who goes on a journey, both literally and figuratively, figuring out all the mistakes he has done through his lifetime. Again thought provoking.

Seventh Seal: Most famous of Bergman's works. Very symbolic. Kind of reminded me of a poem we had done back in school, 'Journey of the Magi'.

Hitchcock


The Lady Vanishes: I could watch this over and over again just for the two cricket obsessed characters whose only motive is to get to England and watch the Ashes test match. At one point of time they refuse seeing the 'vanished' lady just because they do not want any trouble that would stop the train to England! Wonderful.

Shadow of a Doubt: Easily one of the best Hitchcock movies. Set in a suburban home where a girl discovers that her uncle might be a serial killer. Given the constraints of the home and the realtions they have to keep, no one can make a decisive move, but someone has to. Classic.

Strangers on a Train: Back to the murder mystery type, but with a special twist. The Hitchcock twist. A stranger convinces a tennis star switch murders. Enjoyable.

Westerns

Shane: This movie leaves quite a few things open to interpretation. None more than the almost mysterious and superhuman character of Shane, the good cowboy who moves from town to town to make them a better place, risking his life in the process. Why, no one knows. Best remembered for the last lines, "Shane, Shane come back Shane." He must have been used to hearing that by then.

Rio Grande: A western with a family touch, a 'family western'. John Wayne and his son do a good job of driving away the Indians though.

Unforgiven: I'm used to seeing the Clint Eastwood of early years, the nonchalant sharpshooter with his trademark poncho. Was shocking to see an old guy struggling to ride a horse to go on one last mission. And the fact that after showing him struggling for about 80% of the movie, he does what is suited for a Hindi film hero. Inexplicable.

AFI's 100 Years 100 laughs

I had the urge to complete all the top movies in this list. Sadly had to do the job of the bringing the movies myself. It was a great thing that I managed that though.

The Producers: Two producers trying to produce the biggest flop play and hiring pathetic actors, directors to implement an insanely numb script called 'Springtime for Hitler'. Even thinking of such a thing makes me laugh. 'Springtime for Hitler' was genius, would love to watch a real life rendition :)

One Night at the Opera: Marx Brothers, enough said. Liked Duck Soup better though.

Young Frankenstein: Another Mel Brooks movie. Hilarious script, funny for most part.

Blazing Saddles: Mel Brooks again. The ultimate western spoof. Imagine a black guy as the sheriff of a town. And that is just the beginning. A satire I gather, and a good one.

Recent Releases

Apocalypto: I did not find it gross as people warned me it would be. A great tale of survival instincts and evolution. Loved the ending. Now everytime someone stands next to us waiting for us to get off a table after we've finished eating, I can't help but recall the ending. (Nothing to do with restaurants, don't worry!)

The Prestige: Great storytelling. I wondered if would ever like Bale after having watched American Pyscho. But Batman Begins and now this movie have changed my opinion.

Blood Diamond: Saw this in Regal as a part of the job treat. The fact that Di Caprio got nominated for this movie and not The Departed does speak volumes about his acting. A few scenes with the mindless killings and the children reminded me of City of God. And the exclamatory sighs when India's name was mentioned as a part of the whole diamond nexus, though not in a derogatory manner, was unmissable.

The Good Shepherd: I thought a movie based on CIA, Cuba, Cold war and having Matt Damon and De Niro (director) could not be boring. I was proved terribly wrong.

Generally..

The Thing: The fan base this movie has generated is huge and remains Kurt Russell's probably only megahit movie. The underlying theme of mistrust is very well executed and the isolated setting of a research station in Siberia add to the chill. The ending is quite good too, kind of reminds me of Orr in Catch-22. The graphic details of the slimy 'Thing' are supposed to be highly repulsive, but I'm way past that stage I guess.

Gosford Park: Only the second Altman movie I have seen after MASH and I don't need to reiterate how big a MASH fan I am. Loved this movie form start to end, a murder mystery in a British country house. Brings out the 'upstair' and 'downstair' relationships pretty well too. Wonder why it isn't that widely acclaimed.

Raging Bull: I'm sceptical of watching boxing movies, but this one is an exception. My favourite De Niro movie now. The 'I coulda had class' lines from On the Waterfront came back to haunt me again at the end of this one and also inspired two lines of the poem, if I have the liberty to call that so, I had written a while back.

It Happened One Night: It is tough to watch a movie when you know everything that is going to happen beacuse you happen to have seen the Hindi remake about 3-4 times already. Once you get rid of that scepticism, this is one wonderful movie. Worth watching only for the dialogue exchanges if you still need a reason.

Big Fish: Strange movie. How facts get exaggerated and change into unbelievable fiction which sound like fables when passed on from one generation to another. I didn't think the ending was sad in any way though, discussed in a lot of places. Nice movie.

Glory: Watched this movie after I found out that Blood Diamond was by the same director. Based on the true story of the general who led the first black battalion. Inspiring in parts.

The Night of the Hunter: I've never seen a movie with such great visual symbolisms used to such haunting effects. One of the chilliest villians in movie history, posing as a priest and having the words 'LOVE' and 'HATE' tattooed on his knuckles, chasing two little innocent kids who know the secret to a fortune. The underlying religious themes are quite intense too.

American Graffiti: Felt like watching 'Happy Days' all over again. Underrated Lucas movie.


Not only this, compulsivley got all seasons of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' and gobbled them up. Larry David provided the long needed respite from the popular, unfunny, drab sitcoms I see floating around these days. Hadn't had the Larry David dose since Seinfeld. Feels much better now.

Meanwhile life goes on. Exams are due in 2 days time. The last midsems ever.

Friday, February 09, 2007

In Da land

Q. Who painted Monalisa?
A. You and Me: Da Vinci
Them: Vinci, Da!

(Akhil on our way back from IITM)

It is almost fascinating how the IITM junta manage to insert that ubiquitious filler word in almost every sentence they use. They don't say a plain yes or no, they make it special: No da, yes da. I'm not saying it in a derogatory sense or anything, but it is as I said; fascinating. Not 'astonishing' as you might expect me to write these days, I'm discussing entire theories on the possible use of that word in place of 'surprising' (as in it's 'astonishing' to hear from you, rather than 'surprising' to hear from you) with a lot of people. Almost everyone agrees that astonishing gives a "I thought you were dead or something before I saw your message. It was a pleasant thought you know.." sort of feeling. Without getting too far, for people who would be astonished on this digression, the word is fascinating. Plain fascinating.

Not surprisingly then, it got itself a paragraph in the most famous research paper to ever come out of IIT. Also the most read thesis paper among all IITians. Ironically it has got nothing to do with science or technology. Quite understandably it would have no readers then. I'll quote just a part:

The word da means friend or buddy in IITM slang and is usually used at the end of the sentence, for instance in the sentences, I have to go now da, Come here, da or Can you do me a favour da. In Tamil da seems to be a lexical, bound morpheme which is used as a suffix at the end of the verb. This suffix, for instance in the request Vaada! (in English Come here!), is a highly informal form of address towards a male person and shows a lack of respect for the addressee. Although the use in the sentence Come here, da. suggests that this lack of respect is also prevalent in the IITM slang, examples like How are you da? and What are you doing da? show that it may still be a very informal form of address, but not necessarily disrespectful because these questions imply a certain care or interest in the addressee. The sentence final position in the slang may be taken from Tamil syntax in which the verb is put at the end of the sentence.


By the way, do try searching 'IITM lingo' on Google. See what almighty Google has to say :)

This probably is the only paper that has the phrase KLPD in it, in an attempt to explain it. But, I'm sorry 'mam' there are so many contexts and connotations that you are not aware of, but you cannot be blamed for that. I don't know why but this paper gives a feeling of what our profs think while we give our presentations and reports. They know the topic inside out, they see all that could be, all that it means and all that we are doing wrong. We on the other hand, with our meagre knowledge of these issues, just try and come out unharmed. Going through this thesis always gives me that feeling, albeit with roles reversed. It's not a good feeling though. Makes me feel vulnerable.

Anyway, beyond all this pointless drivelling about lingo of all things, we had a fun trip to IITM. Saarang itself wasn't very exciting or involving, but the four of us: Audi, Akhil, Maddy and I did manage to keep ourselves busy for the duration of our stay. I don't have too many ideas of what kept my dear friends busy; I for myself had an excellent host in my schoolmate Tushar whose high level student body post helped us in getting a fair amount of free food through coupons every evening. That too without moving a muscle, except those to procure the grub coupons. We talked about good old times and ate free junk food. Sheer joy.

There were a few other reasons except visiting my friend that had brought me to IITM though. The most important one being the famed all night main quiz which starts from midnight and lasts till the break of dawn. It's like the timeless test match of quizzing. Pure unadulterated quizzing. Of course I was a part of the audience; for I am not qualified enough to qualify for the finals, but every bit was worth it. I loved the way things are so informal, nothing is predecided. There are 3-4 quizmasters, they roam around, mingle with the small but dedicated crowd in which somehow everyone happens to know everyone else. Suddenly one of them decides to grab the mic, open his folder, click on any of the multitude of text files in notepad, format if necessary and then just let the participants soak in the question. I slipped in a nap or two in between a question and answer. Infact the thing is so informal and laid back that at around 3.15 when the participants were given a break, the sound guy promptly packed up his system and shut off the power supply without anyone noticing. They only did notice when it was time to get back to asking questions!

The one thing you can be sure about is the quality of questions. Sometimes there were 30-40 slide long visual connects, 18 clips long video connect each of which was played long enough to last an entire quiz in lesser places. Some questions looked like a collection of short stories from our ICSE books. Some had so many X, Y, Z variables that you could have been in a linear algebra class. But when the answer was given, everything started to make sense, every bracket closed itself perfectly and the program got executed beautifully. Perfection.

The other beautiful thing about this trip was that I got to see the IITM Chemplast cricket ground. I know for most of you that means nothing. For me, when as a schoolboy I found out that an IIT had a cricket ground where the Indian Cricket practised occasionally, it thrilled me beyond words. Probably provided an extra incentive to try hard and get in too, only later did I learn that it is not used on a daily basis. Anyway, the ground is amazing. It provides a perfect backdrop for an ideal Sunday afternoon. Laze around in a smallish, green ground with friends and watch good cricket. The South African way of watching cricket.

The rest, well, if you take out the lit events, Saarang isn't that absorbing. Maybe having watched three Mood I's biases my judgement, but I see no comparison if you take out the lit part. I won't even try comparing.

The freely roaming deers and blackbucks also deserve a mention, they look exceedingly charming until you get bored of them. Contrast this with what we get in our campus: stray leopards and crocs. Wow!

We had a great trip back there. Sure we burnt a few things and didn't own up to them. I don't think burning yourself is a solution to get rid of mosquitoes. But that is very nearly what we achieved courtesy of a Mortein coil. Considering everything that could have been, everything else is collateral damage :)

Time to pack up da. Macha. (I don't know what the hell that means)

Monday, February 05, 2007

Horse powered weekend

Eventful weekend it was. The list of to-do things I've had since long has two tick marks now; bold satisfactory ones.

Saturday

Friday night I logged into YM to message Krishna make plans to watch the Ranji finals at Wankhede. Call it telepathy, I found offlines from him that asked me about the same. I took it upon myself to increase the number from the dismal two of us. When Rai, Rajeev and Ansul agreed and Sujay coaxed another 4-5 of his batchmates to join in, I knew we were in for a fun outing, good cricket or not. Mumbai had lost Sachin overnight and then Bengal ran through the tail, and lost two early wickets by the time we left our rooms. Everyone had the same thought in mind: to watch Ganguly play. We made it just after lunch time, and found that entry everywhere was free except the pavilion stands where they charged a nominal 50 bucks. Watching so many test players and a few upcoming talents like Rohit Sharma or Manoj Tiwary from just about the best seats available at this cost was a bargain. Everyone chose the stands.

It was a pleasant suprise to see that a considerable number of people had made the same choice. Then the shocking news came. Bengal were 50/5 and Ganguly was out bowled first ball, yet again by Zaheer. The good thing is that we got to see Zaheer's lethal spell of accurate bowling, a rarity in ODI's, especially if Ponting is around. Twice he was on a hat-trick and looked like taking wicket with most of his deliveries. So much so that we figured that considering Bengal's plight we might get to see Sachin bat by the end of the day. Meanwhile watching a burly, fat Romesh Powar with a funny fatman's walk near the boundary was entertainment enough and the crowd made sure the message got across to him too. Spotting sporting celebrities like Vengsarkar, Patil and of course Dravid who took the focus away from the match in the middle for a while was another timepass we stadiumgoers got to indulge in.

As expected Bengal folded out for 143 just around tea and our expectations ran high to watch Sachin bat. An early Mumbai wicket raised the expectations to a higher level. Rohit Sharma and Wasim Jaffer had other ideas though. They made us wait and wait and wait even more, until it was almost time for end of day's play. Just as we were about to leave, Sharma got out and the entire ground rose and chanted in anticipation of the man himself walking in. But he saved himself from another day, making sure people with enough free time would turn in on Sunday too. Hope they did because I had other plans.

As an afterthought, today would have been the best day to watch with Ganguly playing well and Zaheer again picking up 5 in a Mumbai victory, the 37th time they have done this. The fact that we couldn't does leave room for another visit to the stadium with similar high hopes.

Sunday

I've always wanted to witness a horse race, a big one, ever since we had this story in our ICSE short stroy book.

Sunday was the big derby day, The Mcdowell's India Derby, and I wasn't missing it for anything. Fortunatley Ansul was just as excited to accompany me to the Mahalakshmi race course. I had done enough research to convince him that we didn't need immaculate formal clothing and uptown manners or a lot of money to watch the race. Well that was there, but there was a provision for the common man too. All it took was 25 bucks for the entry and 10 bucks to place the minimum bet. He called two of his other interested friends and we joined in the carnival atmosphere of the biggest horse racing event in India. Samba dancers, stilt walkers, bollywood personalities; it was an another world altogether.

It's intimidating from the moment you walk in. People of all ages bent over their little racing books, analysing and figuring out the horse that could earn them a fortune. I've never seen so many people standing patiently in a line ready to lose their money. We knew nothing about the race, not even the horse names or the odds or the favourite. We chose 4 random names, 2 of them being the favourite (by a long margin at that, Southern Empire) and the second favourite and put 50 bucks on them. Rest two were long shots and we put 20 bucks on them.

All bets done, I looked around to the members area to get a feel of the glamour quotient talked about in the pre race articles. Honestly I've never seen a greater, more conspicuous class divide than the white wooden fences of the normal and the members area. One look at them and you know how and why they are where they are. I could have spent the evening meticulously noting all the difference but I'll save that for another race. We had a race to focus on.

The jockeys paraded the horses near the stands for public appreciation. The horses I'm used to seeing are ragged, old beasts carrying tourists on the beach or pulling tongas on the road. These beasts were different, like the members area people. Shining, beautiful, powerful, beastly and presented a picture of elegance. Soon the horses lined up and with the sound of a shot the 2400 m race began.

Most of the race had to be followed on the giant screen. Amazingly 3 of the horses we had bet on numbers 1, 5 (favourite) and 7 were in the top 4 for three fourth of the race. In the last quarter, 5 overtook 6 and then both 1 and 4 overtook 6 and near the finish 1 was pulling away for an upset victory. The horses crossed right in front of us and 1 had won by a long margin from 5. We were overjoyed. I know the probability of getting a winner right when you bet on four of them is very high, but when a long shot wins; it means a lot of money.

People all round were booing Southern Empire blaming it for stealing their money. Diabolical on the other hand won 1 crore for its owner and jockey, and a 'lot of money' as the ticket counter lady told for us. Sadly we had put only 20 bucks on this winner at 1:9.2 odds. But that 20 converted into 184 and finally put us in profit of 50 bucks. Beginner's luck maybe, but sure to get us drawn into this horse racing business. Wherever I am the next year, I'll try and make it to the Derby to experience all this again, probably with a little more cash to spend, or waste whatever way you see it.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

ischool ke tem pe

News from back home had been consistenly good lately. Tata took over Corus and gave everyone from Jamshedpur (forget Jharkhand or India for a while) something to brag about. Dhoni was back in blazing form, sending balls into orbit with amazing regularity. On a personal level there was this peach of a song we had unearthed recently, wildly popular in Jharkhand, and unleashed it here in IIT to a diverse audience who liked it immensely. Or at least they pretended to, it sometimes is very hard to tell. Anyway this song is catching on as a sort of Jharkhandi anthem here and you deserve a look at it too.

ischool ke tem pe

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There is a sort of undeniable catchiness to this tune. Something like an ad jingle. You try to ignore it first, then it grows upon you. Before you know it's all that's playing into your head. Over and over and over again. Something like what George Costanza had to say about his name

George: I'm going out with her tomorrow, she said she had some errands to run.

Jerry: That's a date?

George: What's the difference? You know they way I work, I'm like a commercial jingle. First it's a little irritating, then you hear it a few times, you hum it in the shower, by the third date it's "Costanza! Costanza! Costanza!"

Jerry: How do you make sure your gonna get to the third date?

George: If there's any doubt, I do a leave-behind keys, glove, scarf, I go back to her place to pick it up...date number three.

Jerry: That's so old. Why don't you show up at her door in a wood horse?


Eveidently Seinfeld has covered even this little thing that is happening to me. Yet again. Some show it was.

Anyway getting back to the point, everything was all fine and pleasant and happy; until...until I came across this piece of very disturbing news.

Two years after Pyaar Ka Hawa, a Nagpuri audio cassette containing eight love songs sung by Bokaro-based Manoj “Dehati”, was released and the producer having sold over 100,000 cassettes — HRD and culture minister Bandhu Tirkey is determined to clamp down on the “undesirable” songs.

His wrath is specially directed at the hit that calls upon a schoolgirl to bunk classes and meet her boyfriend at a dam. The song, the minister feels, does not send out the right message.

Now I have never bothered much about censorship, it doesn't effect me or people like me in any way whatsoever. But this I think is too much. An innocent girl going to the dam or 'dem' as they put it not sending out the right message? Come on!


Freakish coincidence though. Just when I was on an aggresive popularity drive for this song, this news had to come through. I need some support to protest but I think bloggers have much more pressing issues to work on. Iraq, US elections and whatnot. If you love this song and can't imagine young people of Jharkhand being deprived of this gem, come join forces with me. We'll think of something.

Until then singing this song and popularising it would be support enough. And by the way, the 'dem' in question is the Chandil dam. I vow to make it a point to visit this place once I get back home. This song should add on to the tourist value, but the short sighted government fails to see beyond their manufactured shortcomings. Nuts.