Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Long and Short of It

Embarassing stuff this is. More so since it has been on the BBC's Most Emailed / Most Read articles for the last three days. All the Brits are probably having a good snigger or two over their evening Earl Grays. Going back to the article - two questions immediately popped to the distraught mind - Surely 1200 men do not a nation make, and what if it's true? Statistical analysis are prone to errors aren't they especially when with such a small number, such large inferences are derived! Or are the Indians really not cut out to international standards.

If you, dear reader, haven't visited the link yet, I shall try and get the gist of it in the next few sentences. The title of the BBC article reads "Condoms 'too big' for Indian men". I think that one sentence is enough for the gist after all. On to the substance then. 1200 men from various classes, religions, villages, cities were checked for length and breadth and it seems that they didn't set no statisticians pen on fire. The failure rate for condoms (falling off/tearing) in India is high - one in five times (Where do they get this kind of information?!!). And that custom-made condoms (read smaller) should be introduced since those made according to international sizes are too large for a majority of Indian men.

The Ego has crash landed...

Now I don't know how these 1200 men volunteered for the survey. I wouldn't take it too kindly if a chappie with a measuring tape came up to me and asked me drop everything and raise it so that he can then measure it. So firstly, I am not too sure of the kinda men who were actually measured. No self-respecting, virile and well endowed Indian male would have stood for such nonsense - a bunch of wusses these surveyors must have run into and cowed them into standing in front of the tape. Moving on to the next possible flaw in the survey. The measurements need to happen when the thingy is at its best - that would have called for the volunteers to get it to the maximum. Now that would take some stimulation. How can I be sure that the surveyors had high quality material with them to get the volunteer's blood flowing. Was the erotic stuff textual or was it visual? Did it take into account the participant of the survey's individual taste and kinks? I dont't think so. So the chances are that due to the lack of good infrastructure the most of the 1200 men didn't get it to their maximum. I mean there is the real large probability that they could have stuck a better pose and raked up a couple of more centimetres on the ruler if they were shown their favourite porn star in action. Finally, onto the actual process of measurement. The article mentions that the measurements done were accurate to the last millimetre. I remember my Physics teacher telling the class long ago that the instrument that is the daddy of all measuring tools is vernier callipers - it takes it down to the millimetre and more. Since the survey claims to have been very precise with the readings I assume that this would have been their tool of choice. One thing I vividly remember about the contraption was that it was extremely cold - steely and very very cold. It also had a couple of sharp points. Now when I imagine the cold steel with the pointy things taking readings I can't help but feel that it would most certainly have had a damping effect on the poor soul that is being measured. Kinda like the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. If the calliper touches, it would shrink, if the calliper doesn't touch, reading would be inaccurate. Either way, it points to more skew in the conclusions drawn.

These are the three compelling arguments I have in defence of the slandered Indian male.

Excerpts from the article

But Indian men need not be concerned about measuring up internationally according to Sunil Mehra, the former editor of the Indian version of the men's magazine Maxim. "It's not size, it's what you do with it that matters," he said.

"From our population, the evidence is Indians are doing pretty well.

"With apologies to the poet Alexander Pope, you could say, for inches and centimetres, let fools contend."

On a not so relevant note, I must mention that the survey was done in Delhi. (I live in Bombay by the way)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Poxy Pixels Turn Pricey

The chap who made a million dollars by selling a million pixels at a dollar each as advertising space on a website is at it again. (All the ads contain links to websites.) This time though each pixel is going to cost two dollars. The minimum cost of an advert is 200 dollars (the minimum that one needs to pay - for a space of 10 x 10 pixels). One dollar goes into Alex Tew's kitty and one gets added to a pot which when will finally be handed over to a lucky surfer. One month after the final pixel is sold one advertisment from the page will be randomly chosen and another draw will determine one surfer who had clicked on the chosen advert - the surfer gets a million dollars. I was wondering how the site administrator would know who clicked on which advert. It turns out that you need to create an id on the site and then login before setting off on the clicking spree to increase your chances of winning the jackspot. However you are allowed to click on only a maximum of 10 ads a day. The new site has sold around 75000 pixels so far.
I spent some time going though many of the adverts put up on the original page - most of the adverts are for online gambling sites, there are quite a few dating / networking sites, there are sites that have aped the idea (this site was launched on 11 Jan 2006 and has sold around 200 thousand pixels so far, 800 thousand more to go), adverts for medicinal cures for hairloss, organ enlargement and so on. Advertisement of pornographic sites is not allowed though (like they need any you may say eh!). At the end of it, I really don't think there were any sites except for the Internet Yellow Pages) which seemed useful or were of interest. (The site still gets 7000 hits a day and at it's peak it used to get around a million hits a day!). The point is, the site made money only because of the novelty of the whole thing, because Alex thought of something noone else in the world had thought about. Grudging envy - my feelings on Mr Alex Tew - the 21 year old who made his million bucks in 5 months - purely on the strength of an idea. I wish him luck on his new Pixelotto venture.
Are ideas spontaneous or is motivation needed for an idea to germinate? (Alex needed money for his education and was thinking of ways to make some). When was the last time I thought of something innovative that at least made me feel good even if it didn't make me any money...I don't know. Imagination - I need to work on it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Base Bose

The time once came when I decided to move on from Sony HiFi systems and set up a home theatre. I had procured an amplifier and a dvd player. I had to go speaker shopping. I grew up hearing a lot about these amazingly small speakers that belt out awesome sound. So the first in the list of probable speakers was Bose. Have you ever visited a Bose showroom? If not I heartily recommend that you make a beeline to the nearest store this weekend when time permits. It makes for a nice experience. I have been to showrooms here in Bombay quite a few times. It never fails to give me a kick. Before proceeding I must state that I have nothing against the salespeople there. They are smart and very friendy. They can also without fail keep smiling for ten minutes without a shortening of the arc which stretches from ear to ear. The demo usually takes around five minutes and is done in batches of five - for the home theatre demo they will normally play the horses scene from Fellowship Of The Ring - Lovely Liv being pursued by the wicked wraiths or the Quidditch cup clip from Harry Potter. They will pause twice in between the demo and ask you to pay special attention to the sound coming from all corners of the room and how crisp the chants of limpid eyed Liv sound. They say it with such vehemence - it is as if till now all you were doing is staring at luscious Liv and trying to listen to the hum of the air conditioner and not paying any attention at all to the speakers. And when the scene is over with a florish he or she will without fail ask you "Wasn't that wonderful!?". They make you feel as if they had just put on a magic show or performed a small miracle. (If you stand up and applaud they will probably take a bow).
Then when you ask them for the specifications of the speakers they reply that Bose doesn't believe in putting numbers to their speakers. No sir. Impedence, sensitivity, frequency response, crossover frequency is all classified information and would be of no use to the customer. We are to let only our ears do the judging when buying Bose. The first time they said that to me I couldn't believe anyone selling speakers can say that to a customer. Yes, the ears have the maximum say in the decision to decide on a particular speaker but the specifications add greatly to the judgement. Any questions on technical details are just not encouraged or met with vague answers. It was apparant that the guys at Bose are not very interested in selling just the speakers. What they want for you to do is to buy their whole system - all the jewel cubes, the media center and the bulky Acoustimass module. The product line is called Lifestyle. That says a lot to me. The reason I became anti-Bose is not because of the quality of their products (which is really good) nor the fact that they have serious competitors (there are many), it is because of their marketing strategy - "Don't question us. Just buy our product". It is not about music, It is about "Lifestyle". They want you to buy Bose, not speakers. It didn't sell to me.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

What's in a Name

This is with regards to a post I had put up sometime ago - Unravelling the Womb. This was done with the intention of following it up with another explaning the reason for posting a wierd drawing with the curious title. The time has come.

I was reading up on paintings and downloaded random works of a few famous artists. The names of some of them struck me. They ranged from the very simple to the highly abstract. It set me thinking as to how much thought does a painter have to put into naming his creation. How pertinent is the title of a painting or sculpture for an artist. It looks like the title assumes different levels of importance for different artists. It must have been a very easy task for some - One of Renoir's painting shows a girl with a watering can standing in a garden. Renoir called the painting A Girl with a Watering Can (1876) - it can't get simpler than that. Thoreau would have been mighty pleased with Renoir.

Dali takes it to the other extreme - The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory (1954). It is tough to conjure up a picture on hearing the title. It is equally tough to make any sense of it on having a look at it too. It has a fish, lots of bricks, a couple of leafless trees, watches that seem to be melting with the hands floating over them. It seems that to Dali this painting symbolises "the psychological effect that the advent of the atomic bomb had on humanity"!!! (Wiki's my source) I bet you a million bucks that there was no way you would have come up with that unless you had heard or read about it.

The point is that the title can be very straightforward in many cases and it can often be vague with no obvious connect to the painting. Does a seemingly cyyptic title enhance the appeal of the painting by making the viewer try and think about what was going through the artist's mind when he was creating the work of art? I think it does. The average man would walk past Renoir's painting thinking Aaah, girl with the watering can, how sweet, those are very pretty colours. The same man will stop for more than a while at the Dali trying to figure out what the boxes and the jellyfish have to do with memory and disintegration.

Another enigmatic one is Paul Gauguin's painting that is called Where Do We Come From, What Are We? Where Are We Going? (1897) Bill Watterson's Calvin had a very ready answer to Gauguin's queries. "I came from my room, I'm a kid with big plans, and I'm going outside!". Gauguin would not have agreed. His masterpiece portrays more profound thoughts. Gauguin's thoughts on the whole of humanity. The characters in the painting depict different stages of life. The painting is to be "read" from the right to left, starting with birth and ending with death and beyond.

I think artists stopped being concerned with just the composition, form and colours. They wanted their paintings to have a character that was an extension of the artist themselves, wanted the painting to portray opinions and philosophy. The titles have thus kept getting more obscure with time (or so I feel).

Painting Eras of the last century and a quarter - Impressionism giving way to the Post Impressionist period followed by the Expression, Abstraction, and Fantasy and then Surrealism.

Monet (1840-1926) - Water Lily Pond (1899), Impression: Sunrise (1872) (Impressionist)

Renoir (1841-1919) - Girl With a Hoop (1885), On The Terrace (1881), Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (1876) (Impressionist)

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) - The Yellow Christ (1889), The Spirit of the Dead Keeps Watch (1892) (Post Impressionist)

Van Gogh (1853-1890) - The Potato Eaters (1885), Still Life with Absinthe (1887) (Post Impressionist)

Dali (1904-1989) - The Persistence of Memory (1931), Soft Construction With Boiled Beans (1936), The Metamorphosis of Narcissus (1937), Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bumblebee around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening (1944) (Surrealist)

Calling a rose a rose is not going to raise any eyebrows. Calling it Layers of Love on Thorns might add a new dimension to it.

Monday, November 06, 2006

When I Grow Up

Yesterday's paper had an article on Neil Patrik Harris. He has announced that he is gay. His lover is a fellow actor of name David Burtka. Seems they have acted together in the sitcom that Harris is currently starring in, How I Met Your Mother. It was strange - the emotions that coursed through me when assimilating the news on Harris. It has been well over 12 years since all ties between him and me were severed. I am talking about Doogie Howser M.D. It used to be one of my favourite serials when I was in school and Harris played the young doctor who juggles work and adolescence. It had things that are the worries of any teenager - peer pressure, girls, best friends, sports, unravelling life. Was easy putting myself in his shoes (although he was a practising doctor and I was struggling with high school). Then I went to college, Doogie Howser dropped off my radar. Now suddenly Doogie is back and he's back to say that he's gay. I was certainly surprised. Doogie had a steady and sweet girlfriend called Wanda! I also haven't met anyone who is gay so my impression is only that which is stereotyped and somehow Doogie doesn't confirm to that. It all just goes to show how much one tends to associate the actors to the roles they portray on screen.

The article also made me look up on what Fred Savage is doing nowadays. This dude played Kevin Arnold in Wonder Years. I liked this serial more than Doogie Howser M.D. Kevin was the more realistic sort - has a hard time in school, gets bullied, doesn't score wonderful grades, not great at sports. As with Doogie I lost all contact via the TV with Kevin once I moved to college and I missed the last few seasons. In real life, it turns out that Fred later graduated from Stanford, is married to a Jennifer Stone, became a father in Aug 2006, is working on a serial called Crumbs. His girlfriend in Wonder Years Winne Cooper was played by Danica McKellar who has majored in Mathematics and has a theorem to her name now! She has also written and directed two short films.

The place that these serials held was what Friends replaced once I grew up. I can't help wishing that Harris and Savage hadn't grown up with me - Doogie Howser and Kevin Arnold just aren't the same people anymore.

On a different note, the last lines of the final Wonder Years episode pretty much sums up the feelings that most of us have about the time gone by...

Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you're in diapers, the next day you're gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place, a town, a house like a lot of other houses, a yard like a lot of other yards, on a street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is, after all these years, I still look back, with wonder.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

You can leave your Hat on...

Was watching Nelly Furtado's recent videos the other day and was pretty amazed to see the changes in the once like-a-bird girl. It was not too long ago she was wondering where her home is, where her soul is. She said her love was true and her love was rare and that she was a bird who'll fly away. Her latest album is called Loose! That sets the tone for the songs. She is a Man Eater who will make you work more, spend more, buy cars, fall hard on love. Then in the next song she says that she's a Promiscuous Girl and tells the promiscuous boy (who claims to know what the promiscuous girl wants and that he has what pg needs) that she's all his and asks what's he waiting for?! *wipes sweat off brow* Phew. Its getting hot in here Nelly. She had certainly put in more thought into the lyrics of the songs (I'm like a bird, Turn off the light, Powerless) in her first two albums (Whoa Nelly, Folklore) but I am not complaining. Loose is cool. Loose is good.

Cristina Aguilera - She was a genie in a bottle and if you wanted to be with her you had to rub her the right way! Suggestive? - certainly, Risque? - I don't think so. Then she came out with the album Stripped. If the title left some scope for imagination the first video removed all doubts - lets get Dirrty - and she wasnt talking about rolling in the mud. She came in for heavy criticism - unjustified I feel. The lady dares to bare, why should anyone care?

Lets not forget Britney Spears. The chaste schoolgirl-like Spears stuck to the good girl image for quite a while, a lot longer than the other ladies who have featured on this post. When she said "Ooops! I did it again" she made it clear what 'it' was. 'It' was just playing with hearts and getting lost in the game. No ambiguity a la Meatloaf and his doing anything for love but not that. Stronger, Lucky, Born to Make You Happy, Crazy - wholesome family pop - dad, mom, daughter, son can all sing and dance along together. Then there was I'm a slave 4 U. Family dancing and singing turned a tad uncomfortable. She followed it up with Toxic, Breathe on Me, Touch My Hand. She kissed Madonna on stage during a gig. It was time for the family dancing and singing together to stop. Dad returns to Jim Reeves, mom to Cliff Richard, sis and bro take the cd to their friends place.

I have to mention Mariah Carey. This was probably the first transformation I took notice of. Hero, Emotions, Dreamlover - songs that you listen to and at the end of which you want to pick her up and be all protective and caring and feel all macho. She also did Christmas carols. Just when you think that she's just that kind of gal mom's discerning eye would be appreciative of, she comes out with the album Butterfly. Honey - it's first single. High high heels, short short skirt, small small top. Mom meeting Mariah was one meeting hastily struck off the calendar. Nice doey eyed Carey dropped clothes at the same time that she claims to have got total creative control over her music. I heartily agree, partly because the songs too were good. The new image however was there to stay. The later albums never had Mariah dancing by the brook in flower filled fields - Dreamlover was a thing of the past.

Four singers who left behind their Miss Goody Two Shoes image and opted for a more sexy and naughty look. Good girls go to heaven, but the bad girls go everywhere?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Painter Man - Deux

From the BBC website

A US casino mogul has pulled out of a deal to sell his Picasso painting for a record $139m (£74m) after accidentally elbowing a hole in the middle.

Mr Wynn, known for gesturing with hands while speaking, was showing the painting at his office at Wynn Las Vegas when he struck it with his right elbow, spokeswoman Denise Randazzo said.

Director and screenwriter Nora Ephron was at the incident and wrote about it on a blog site.

She said Mr Wynn raised his hand then "at that moment, his elbow crashed backward right through the canvas. There was a terrible noise".

"Smack in the middle... was a black hole the size of a silver dollar. 'Look what I've done' he said. 'Thank goodness it was me.'"


Wynn had bought the painting for 48 million dollars in 1997. Had this deal gone through this would have become the most expensive painting ever sold, surpassing the 135 million dollars paid for Gustav Klimt's Adele Bloch-Bauer I in July this year. Now this dude is a billionaire and it seems he has quite an art collection. He paid 17.4 million dollars for a C├ęzanne self-portrait and 23.5 million dollars for a Renoir in May 2003. He hangs these paintings in his casinos. He is an art collector. Does it automatically mean he is an art lover?

Given the prices it seems pretty hard for an art lover to be an art collector and does the vice versa can hold true? Is it hard for an art collector to be an art lover? Surely I feel. Wynn is careless enough to damage a 75 year old masterpiece when showing it off and all he has to say is 'Look what I've done' - Even if he were a very stoic person I think that's too nonchalant an exclamation from someone who has just irrevocably damaged an irreplaceable and priceless piece of art. Surely the gravity of the situation calls for some display of emotion? I would expect an art lover to show remorse and maybe great anger, not a 'Look what I've done'. I would expect someone to say that when he punches a hole in the cookie jar not in a Picasso. But then Wynn is an art collector.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Gel

This one's for my girl.

Color me any color.
Speak to me in tongues and share.
Tell me how you'd love to hate me.
Tell me how you'd love to care.
Well I just want to shake us up.

Lets mingle
And make it well.
Come together now.
Yeah lets gel.

Clothe me in any fashion.
Glitter to so mundane.
Tell me how you'd love to change me.
Tell me I can stay the same.
I just want to shake us up.

Well lets bungle
And live to tell
How we came together.
Yeah how we gelled.


Collective Soul - 7even Year Itch


Highly recommended album. The best of Collective Soul - Shine, December, The World I know, Gel - all in one lovely cd. Yeah, I still buy audio cds. I have never managed to like or get myself to like mp3- in spite of the pull of sound economics - 100+ songs on a 20 rupee disc. I have tried but all my mp3 cds lie dusty and unused. There is something about getting the originals - the recording quality, the album art, the song listing on the back, the easy browsing between songs. I am not talking mobile listening - the ipod scores over the discman humungously. When at home I like my music on cds. It's funny but I dont feel the same way about books or dvds. Cheap and pirated ones cheer me up any day. I don't get the same pangs of guilt when I pick up Lost or Friends DVDs from the street for a meagre sum. I paid as much for my Collective Soul album as I paid for all the seasons of Lost on DVDs. If you ask me, I think it was a fair deal.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Two of a Kind

I have always loved bands like Heart, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Janis Joplin, Bangles, Cranberries. I think it's something to do with the women in the bands - they were very spunky and gutsy.

Two ladies burst into the music scene in 1995. Both of them were lead singers of their bands. Their music a blend of hip-hop, techno, rock and blues. They were both very pretty. They were also very good songwriters. I am talking about Gwen Stefani and Shirley Manson, of bands No Doubt and Garbage.

The two were very different too. Garbage had a dark, doleful sound to them with songs like Stupid Girl, I Think I Am Paranoid, Queer. Manson also looked that way - with all the dark eyeliner around the melancholic eyes (She had a very troubled childhood it seems - something about being skinny and having no confidence).

No Doubt was more chirpy sounding with Just a Girl, Sunday Morning (Though there was underlying sadness in a couple of their songs of the breakup of a seven year relationship between Gwen and Tony Kanal - the band's bassist - most audible in the song Don't Speak). Their videos also were bright and colourful with Gwen in trackpants or lively frocks.

Spiderwebs was the first No Doubt song I heard and Happy When it Rains formed my introduction to Garbage. Somehow I have always associated one with the other since the very first time I heard them - like Tom and Jerry - You can't think of Tom without Jerry intruding your thoughts and vice versa.

Garbage had two successful albums - Garbage and Version 2.0. I liked both equally but I tend to lean towards their second album. I feel that the band were at the top of their form then. Garbage's drummer Butch Vig is also a record producer and was behind Nirvana's Nevermind success! He has also produced albums for Smashing Pumpkins and Soul Asylum (Runaway Train!) among others. He was also the one who spotted and inducted Manson into the band. Garbage came out with the title song for the James Bond movie The World Is Not Enough. Their later albums didn't go down well with me. I didn't like the songs too much and more importantly Manson had her hair sheared and dyed. That was such a bummer. I hear that Manson might come out with a solo album soon. I hope she lets her hair grow back by then.

No Doubt did extremely well with Tragic Kingdom and Rock Steady. Their second album Return of Saturn did ok (Gwen turned thirty that year. The planet Saturn takes thirty years to complete one revolution around the sun - thats heavy trivia!). Gwen was well known for the way she carried herself, for the clothes she wore, for style. She popularised the bindhi. She wears one in most of her videos. She came out with her solo album in 2004 - Love, Angel, Music, Baby. The songs are nice (Hollaback Girl, Cool) but I like her more for her No Doubt days - before her L.A.M.B clothing line and fashion dolls days. Seems that the band might get together and come out with an album next year. I can't wait to lay my ears on it.

Been a while since I have been able to do any associating - at least not pairing that happens subconsciously. Alanis Morisette and Sheryl Crow? Madonna and Kylie? Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey? Can't think of any in this century - Avril Lavinge and Pink maybe? None of them match up to Manson and Gwen, not for me.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Painter Man

Why would one buy a painting? To adorn the walls of a house so that home looks better? Because one loves paintings just like someone else likes music? To cover the broken plaster? Because one's brother painted it? Because one is cultured? I can try and maybe eventually relate to all these. The tricky question is how much would I be willing to pay for one...


The most expensive painting ever sold was for $135 million - Portrait of Adele Bloch - Bauer painted by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt. Paintings by Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso sell for upwards of 60 million dollars. The Mona Lisa may be worth more than 700 million dollars (so Wikipedia says)! There may be hundreds of paintings in the ten million dollars range? Highly possible.

I have to admit, though I have tried, I have never understood why someone would pay so much for a painting. Is it because they have tons of cash lying around and don't know what to do with it? Does looking at a picture indeed provide so much pleasure or satisfaction? Or it the pride that comes in owning something that absolutely noone else in the world has ?

(Is there any other collector's item in the world other than paintings / sculptures that is absolutely unique - coins, stamps are not. Books (original manuscripts) I consider different. A book, unlike a painting, can be duplicated since the essence is in the text not in what kind of paper, font, pen or ink the text was written with. Ming vases? Am not sure but I don't think so).

If someone had only(!?) 100 million dollars with him would he spend all his money to buy a couple Renoirs or Monets and live the rest of his life in penury? Can someone want a painting that bad? Can someone love a painting that much? I am not sure that any of the current Rembrandt or Salvador Dali owners would fall into that category and somehow I cannot picture anyone doing that.

Ego - We don't need Ayn Rand's Anthem to tell us about it. It is one of man's best and worst trait. To have something that noone else has - that would certainly feed the big E. I find this very believable. And I certainly wouldn't think it bad if someone bought an expensive painting just for the pride in being it's owner.

Does looking at the painting provide a subliminal or a spiritual experience? From my experience at the Louvre, I don't think so - at least not for the average man. All everyone wanted to do was rush to where the Mona Lisa was and click as many pictures as they could of her. I was actually expecting a sombre atmosphere with people gaping at the lady in awe and the lady smiling back at them. Instead there I was, blinded by all the camera flashes and found myself elbowing and avoiding elbows to get anywhere close to the picture. I don't think I was able to look at it for more than 15 seconds and I hadn't stopped e and avoiding e during those 15 seconds either. Maybe there were no real art lovers there. Maybe I can never look at a painting with an art lover's eyes and mind. So I can't answer this one. But I certainly would like to think that this plays the biggest role in someone paying a ton of money and picking up a painting.

Whatever be the real reason, I am sure there are enough and more people in the world who will keep the Christie's and Sotheby's very happy in the ages to come.

[Boney M didn't predict a rosy life for the painter man and they may have been right. The most expensive paintings today are those whose creators are long dead.]

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Why I like the BBC

The BBC site has live coverage (more of a list of frequent updates) of most sporting events - football, tennis, cricket. It has been the source at office to keep abreast of the scores. Not just because we can't access the sites like cricinfo, rediff cricket etc from office since they have been blocked, it's also because it's fun.

Snippets from the site reporting on the happenings during the second ODI between England and Pakistan being played at Lord's.

1143: Here come the umps. Interesting decision from upstairs - the game has been shortened. By two overs. That's right - it's now 49 overs per side. No way we could have squeezed in an extra 12 balls, old boy - simply impossible. Why, it would have taken a good six minutes.

Someone in a position of influence has been reading these updates - they've now cut the overs per side to 46. Good work, bigwigs.

2nd over: The ball is moving around like a ping-pong ball in a gale. Mohammad Asif has Ian Bell and Trescothick edging into their pads, and the only runs come from hurried singles.

1207: A heavy shower, this one. Every brolly in the house is up. The forecast isn't great for the next few hours either, but we'll keep everything crossed. Except eyes. Otherwise I'll end up typing phrases like this: jdd odfofere, dhepvpbt eiwza.

1235: Still raining. If you've got any urgent odd-jobs to do - de-scaling the kettle, cutting back your toe-nails, phoning your aunt to thank her for the card she sent on your birthday - now might be a good time to get cracking.

1245: Two of the six covers are off! Aunt Veronica will have to wait - we're suddenly looking at a re-start in about 15 minutes time.

8th over: WICKET Trescothick c Younis b Asif 6
It was only a matter of time, and not very much time at that - Trescothick drives wildly at Asif and edges straight to second slip. His feet finally move, but only to take him back to the pavillion.

The blokes there have a wry sense of humour.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Monday, August 21, 2006

Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young

There is this song that I have heard on the radio many a times. The lyrics always made me smile. I was never able to catch the name of the song or of the artist. I finally saw the video on TV yesterday. The song is called Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)!

The lyrics of the song is actually picked up from an essay that was written by Mary Schmich which appeared in the Chicago Tribune as a column in 1997. The title of the essay is the title of this post. Doesn't seem to have a very high opinion of youth, this Mary (Another Mary! The exclamation in reference to my previous post).

In 1999, the essay was read out by Australian actor Lee Perry to soft music and backing vocals and that's how the song was born. The song is credited to the Australian film director, Baz Luhrmann, who among others has to his credits the movies Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Moulin Rouge (2001).

Lyrics

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’99
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be
it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by
scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable
than my own meandering
experience…I will dispense this advice now. Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh nevermind; you will not
understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded.
But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and
recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before
you and how fabulous you really looked….You’re not as fat as you
imagine. Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as
effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing
bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that
never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm
on some idle Tuesday. Do one thing everyday that scares you Sing Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with
people who are reckless with yours. Floss. Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes
you’re behind. The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with
yourself. Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you
succeed in doing this, tell me how. Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements. Stretch Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your
life…the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they
wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year
olds I know still don’t. Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone. Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children,maybe
you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky
chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary…what ever you do, don’t
congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your
choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s. Enjoy your body,
use it every way you can…don’t be afraid of it, or what other people
think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever
own.. Dance…even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room. Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them. Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly. Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for
good. Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the
people most likely to stick with you in the future. Understand that friends come and go,but for the precious few you
should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and
lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you
knew when you were young. Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live
in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel. Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will
philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize
that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were
noble and children respected their elders. Respect your elders. Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund,
maybe you have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one
might run out. Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you're 40, it will
look 85. Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who
supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of
fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the
ugly parts and recycling it for more than
it’s worth. But trust me on the sunscreen.

Friday, August 18, 2006

There's Something About Mary

I hate anything that is ambiguous. I can't handle doubt. I like things spelled out. I like all the angles to be brought to closure in a logical way at some time or the other, before or at the end. Don't get me wrong, I love suspense but it has to be suspense that ends. It can't be left hanging. It can be a book, it can be a movie. There can be numerous threads that weave the story. In the end all the threads need to be tied up. I hate it if any are left dangling. I am ok if there are minor side stories or characters that retain an air of mystery even after the saga is complete but if the central theme is not explained throughly or if the hero of the story never ever leaves clues about the motives for his actions then I am left with a sour taste in the mouth. The suspense, it's like a lemon - sucking on one is no great fun but if one precedes it with a shot of tequilla and some salt the feeling is alltogether different, to say the least. tequilla - story, salt - the protagonist, lemon - suspense - the mix has to be correct to get the right package, to make one feel good.

Now we come across mystery books and movies all the time but then occasionally there are these songs we chance upon that ask one to do a lot of guessing.

I'd do anything for love (But I won't do that) - Bat Out Of Hell II:Back Into Hell (1993)

Our man Meat Loaf (Marvin Lee Aday) has claimed he would do anything for love except that. He may be a bat out of hell but what on good old Earth is "that"?! The debates raged. The imaginations went wild. Conclusions were reached but they fail to satify everyone. I am one of the not-satisfied people. Loose ends all around as far as I am concerned.
The title apart, the video was great - a beauty and the beast kinda thing, and whatta beauty. The video featured Dana Patrick who lip synched the female vocals (Lorraine Crosby was the actual singer if thats of any help). Dana also appeared in the video of the song I'd Lie for You (And That's the Truth). He does has a way with song titles!

Can I Touch you...There
- Greatest Hits 1985-1995 (1995)

Michael Bolton croons and asks if he can touch. Where, throwing caution to the wind, you may ask and he says there, deep inside. *sigh* I really don't want to try and get into what was in Mr Bolton's head. Its a good song and the video is very pretty. Again we have a case where the man doesn't make clear what he wants to say and that weighs on my mind.

Hazard - Rush Street (1991)

Richard Marx talks of a small village in Nebraska. There was this girl called Mary and this nameless young man. Noone in the village liked the man except Mary. They took walks by the river and she loved to watch the sun go down. Thats all plain sailing. You would expect young men and women to do some walking and watching. The song goes downhill from there. Mary disappears and the police accuse the man of foul play. The dude claims he doesn't know where Mary went. Now if she went walking all alone then why does he say that he left her by the river?! Did they go to the river together and then Mary went on walking and he came back? Why would he do that?! The police have a right to be pissed. Now I love this song, I really do, but theres just way too much lemon and way too little tequilla. The sour taste is strong.

The River - The River (1980)

Another melancholic song about another nameless man and another (we presume) Mary - and there's another river involved. Sweet. They did diving in the river, no sun gazing for this couple. Mr Bruce Springsteen delivers a lovely soulful song nevertheless. By the way, the boss' next album was called Nebraska. Mary, nameless man, river, Nebraska - I guess Richard grew up listening to a lot of Springsteen.

We have moved away from ambiguity in songs to another theme just as complex. Mary. I wonder what it is about Marys and rivers that make the young men sad. I must say that she finds her way into quite a few songs. A quick search revealed the following.

Proud Mary - Tina Turner
Mary Mary Mary - The Monkees
Mary Mary - Run DMC
Mary - Scissor Sisters
Mary - Sarah Mclachlan

From nursery rhymes to songs, Mary continues to befuddle.

Mary Mary quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Right Ho, Ms Croft


I have just completed Tomb Raider Legend on the Playstation. Feeling immensely smug about it. There are not many games I have managed to take to the end. This one I did. Maybe it was an easy game to beat, maybe all the walkthroughs and strategy guides I downloaded from the net helped, maybe I couldn't get enough of Lara - maybe it's just all the above.
People can smirk all they want but yes I do get a kick out of controlling Ms Croft - she is a very pretty woman, is British, happens to be very intelligent, is as acrobatic as a chimp and has the curves one would love to slip and slide on. A lot of people think of Angelina Jolie when someone says Tomb Raider. I think that's sad. The virtual Ms Croft has an identity of her own. The first Tomb Raider movie came out in 2001 whereas the game was released in 1997. If one did have to pick a real life Lara Croft, AJ does pass the first and the last test with flying colours, we can forgive her for not speaking with the British accent and I don't know her well enough to comment on the other two. It seems that the other contenders for the role in the movie were Demi Moore, Linsey Dawn McKenzie (some UK nude model!), Elizabeth Hurley and Anna Nicole Smith. All in all, I feel that AJ was a good choice for the film.


On your left ladies and gentlemen is Karima Adebibe, the official model for Tom Raider Legend. I don't mind her starring in the next Tomb Raider movie, not one bit. She is no stranger to cinema either. She made her debut in 2004. She was a sacrificial maiden in the movie Alien vs Predator. She can move on. A big step up in screen presence and role it may be, but am sure with some effort, she can now be the one making all the sacrifices to an Inca god (The Tomb Raider games have had Lara doing her thing all over the world - Peru, Egypt, China, Tibet, Venice, India, Antartica, Cambodia, Russia, Ireland, New York, Rome, Paris, Japan, Prague, Nepal, Bolivia, Ghana, England, Kazakhstan)

Lara has undergone many changes to her appearance in the course of each release of the game (There have been 7 games so far and I dont think we have seen the end yet. Tomb Raider Legend ends with Lara finding out that her mother may not be dead yet. Am sure Lara will be packing her guns pretty soon and carrying on with the search). The changes have been made right from her ponytail to other parts that must have involved adding and removing silicon. Come to think of it, the real life Pam Anderson has a lot in common with the virtual Lara Croft. Anyways, I think the developers have got it just right. She looks gorgeous in Tomb Raider Legend.

The game apart from jumping across precipices, operating levers, dodging boulders, shooting and slashing bad guys, solving puzzles, wrestling jaguars, swinging on ropes also involves unlocking different costumes for Lara. How exciting is that! She has a variety of colours for the classic costume, ripped evening gowns (ripped so that it doesn't hinder her somersaulting), winter suit, biker gear (she rides a Ducati in the game), catsuit, snowsuit and a sport costume. There is also a swimsuit (choice of black and white) that can be unlocked but it requires one to finish the game completely - beating all the levels in a stipulated time, collecting all the rewards - basically would mean spending many many more hours on the game. (No, I don't have pictures of Lara in the swimsuit) (That's right. I haven't unlocked the costume) (No, I don't plan to) (Yes, I would love to but I dont have the time) (Yeah, Have searched the net but couldn't find the pictures. Do let me know if you run into them.)

Moving on, the enterprising chaps at Playboy have stripped a few virtual heroines for their magazine! Thats how popular these ladies of the gaming world are. Listing some of the hotties who made it to the magazine.

Indigo Prophecy's Carla Valenti
Darkwatch's Cassidy
Darkwatch's Tala
50 Cent: Bulletproof's Alexa

I haven't played any of the above games, yet. Maybe I'll just pick up that edition of Playboy (Oct 2005!) and save all the time.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Go Lola Go


Channel V has an office in the building next to the building that houses our office. They (Channel V) moved in recently (a couple of months ago). Since then I have caught sight of funnily dressed people many a times - the odd kurtas, rings on the nose/ears/eyebrows, long curly hair etc - you get the picture - these are people you pass by on the street and you know for sure from the one glance that they don’t work for a software firm or a bank. Funny how ones appearance most times is linked to the kind of work one does. Saw the VJ Luke Kenny chatting to his phone one evening. Was exciting stuff. He's one of my favourite VJs. As far as I am concerned, a VJ need not look good, need not crack jokes, need not dress well - as long as he plays good music, provides the odd trivia, caters to a varied audience I will love him/her. Luke did that. He had amazing body language. No overly waving of the hands, no sashaying to and fro, no pumping the eyebrows, no widening-dewidening eyes. He stood with his hands in his pockets and delivered. Nowadays he's stopped appearing on TV too. His program Luke's After Hours is non-stop music videos picked by him. I think that shows tremendous confidence. He knows he doesn't need to woo the audience. They see and listen to him through the videos. Anyways that's enough of the eulogy. That evening, I couldn't pluck up the courage to go pump his hands - I like to think it was because both his hands were indisposed - one as always was in his jeans pocket and the other holding the phone. It's also rude to interrupt someone when they are on the phone so I just happily gawked for a while.

The day before yesterday was a good day. Lola Kutty of the Lola T[V] show was outside the office getting ready for a shoot. She was to interview Vidya Balan (of Parineeta fame). A colleague spotted her on his cigarette break and he spread the news. We rushed down like school boys setting off on hearing the bell for recess. This time we went up to her and chatted. I told her I louve her wark (mallu ishtyle). I am not sure she appreciated the attempt at humour, partly because she may not have heard it. I get cold feet easily and I was looking at the floor when I said it even though I had rehearsed that line about 10 times before we went up to her. Anyways, we also had a photo taken. She was cool. She said on seeing our camera phone "You not going to send out MMS no?". I think she's a great TV personality. A friend of mine said that everything about her except her is real. He's a deep thinker, this friend of mine. Yes, she does put on a phoney accent, she actually may not need those huge glasses; am sure she wouldn't be caught with all the jewellery, bright silk saris and jasmine flowers on her hair at places other than on the TV set but I just can't picture her in anything else. To me Lola T[V] was radical. I enjoy watching the programme - I normally hate chat shows. I find them phoney. Maybe that's what sets this show apart. They know that the whole show is a sham and they make no effort to cover that up. The objective is to have fun, the chatting is secondary.

I have always liked Channel V as compared to MTV. Their VJs - Luke, Trey, Sophiya, Laila Rouass, Sarah, Gaurav, Ranvir, Yudi and Purab - they all had class. To borrow a quote from a friend (the deep thinker), if MTV was Jim Carrey, Channel V was Woody Allen. Its true though - the former is good only in small doses. I have nothing against the MTV VJs. They are a perky bunch and no doubt very talented but I find them too loud most times, a little pretentious and over the top. Sedateness appeals to me.

Channel V too started playing Hindi movie songs, just like MTV. I really don't know the reason why MTV and Channel V started showing more and more of the latest Hindi movie songs, showing promos of newly released movies and leaving the music videos to a few select shows that were peppered with lengthy advertisements and telephone calls between VJs and teenagers who wanted to be heard giggling on TV. I am not sure about the economics but there probably is more money in airing new movie songs and charging the producers than just broadcasting music videos. Whatever be the reason, it was with a heavy heart I saw the transformation. VH1 was brought on air by MTV and ZEE Turner in Dec 2004. That warmed the heart and brought a lot of cheer. In the beginning it played only music videos, it was also being promoted as a commercial free channel. It was awesome. That has however changed. But it still remains the channel that shows the maximum music videos and it occupies channel number 1 on my TV. MTV is now a lifestyle channel whatever that means (It unfortunately means talk shows, candid camera type shows, movie previews and more advertisements). Our cable network decided to take Channel V off their menu of channels sometime last year. Not sure how much of a loss that is since they anyway were following MTV's footsteps.

Video killed the Video star.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Beached

The Beach was a good movie, almost half as good as the book on which it is based which means that it is an awesome book. It was written by Alex Garland (1996). The book is throughly recommended for those who liked the concept / movie.

Here is an excerpt from the book.

I once read that the most widely understood word in the world is "okay", followed by "coke", as in cola. I think they should do the survey again, this time checking for "Game Over".

Game Over is my favorite thing thing about playing video games. Actually I should qualify that. It's the split second before Game Over thats my favorite thing. Street Fighter Two - an oldie but a goldie - with my friend controlling Ryu. Ryu's his preferred character because he's a good allrounder - great defensive moves, pretty quick and once he's on an offensive roll he's unstoppable. My brother Theo's controlling Blanka. Blanka's faster than Ryu but he's only really good on attack. The way to win with Blanka is to get in the other person's face and never let up. Flying kick, leg sweep, spin attack, head bite. Daze them into submission. Both players are down to the end of their energy bars. One more hit and they're down so they're both being cagey. They're hanging back at the opposite ends of the screen waiting for the other guy to make the first move. Leo takes the initiative and throws off a fireball to force Theo into blocking and then jumps in with a flying kick to knock Banka's green head off. But as he's moving through the air he hears a soft tapping. Theo's tapping the punch button on his control pad. He's charging up an electricity defence. So when Ryu's foot makes contact with Banka's head it's Ryu who gets KO'ed with 10,000 volts charging through his system.

This is the split second before Game Over. Leo's heard the noise. He knows he's fucked. He has time to blurt "I'm toast", before Rye is lit up and thrown backward across the screen, flashing like a Xmas tree, a charred skeleton, Toast.

The split second is the moment you comprehend you're just about to die. Different people react to it in different ways. Some swear and rage. Some sigh or gasp. Some scream. I've heard a lot of screams over the twelve years I've been addicted to video games.

I'm sure that this moment provides a rare insight into the way people react just before they really do die. The game taps into something pure and beyond affectations. As Leo hears the tapping he blurts "I'm toast". He says it quickly, with resignation and understanding. If he were driving down the highway and saw a car spinping into his path I think he'd react the same way. Personally I'm a rager. I fling my joypad across the floor, clench my eyes shut, throw back my head and abuse at anything within abusing distance.
A few years ago I had a game called Alien 3. It had a great feature. When you ran out of lives you'd get a photo-realistic picture of the Alien with saliva dripping from its jaws, and a digitized voice would bleat "Game Over man!".

I really used to love that


I can so connect with this. Video games sometimes do bring out the real us. Almost as much as sports do. I have always been able to make pretty accurate first time judgements about people by their demeanor on the soccer field, tennis / squash courts. The way they react to missing an open goal, someone cheating, opponent playing rough, being on the losing team and other myriad situations. I guess thats because when playing there is not enough time to think and act. You say things because you want to and you do stuff because you want to. There is no analyzing and counter analyzing. You react on instinct and that instinct is you. Some show restraint, some rant and some cuss because thats what comes to them naturally.

Moving on to the differences between the story of the book and the movie.

In the movie, Richard becomes an American and Sal British! Richard does the rice run with Sal in the movie. Sal knows about the map that Richard made and gave the Americans and uses this to blackmail him. In the book, Sal comes to know of the maps existence only towards the end. Richard has an affair with Francoise in the movie where as in the book the relationship is limited to light flirting (How can Francoise choose a Frenchman over Leonardo DiCaprio?! Oh! The horror that would be. So Richard gets to sleep with Francoise). In the movie Richard is blamed for the shark attacks (He kills a baby shark if I remember correctly). Not so in the book.

The endings are different

Movie - the drug lord asks Sal to shoot Richard and she does it except that the gun the drug lord gave her was not loaded. Seeing Sal's attempt to kill Richard the others freak out and they all flee from the island.

Book - the drug lord warns the group about trespassing on his poppy fields and dumps the the bodies of the American duo and the German couple, who the drug lord had killed earlier when he catches them wandering in his fields, in the camp. Everyone loses their senses when they see the dead bodies . They attack Richard who manages to escape from the island with Etienne, Francoise, Jed and Keaty who were anyway planning to leave by boat.

References to Tintin - Daffy has a collection of all except The Blue Lotus which Richard had but in French. Daffy's favourite was Prisoners of the Sun. Richard liked Crab with the Golden Claws or Tintin in Tibet.

Other books by Alex Garland (Haven't read any of them)

The Tesseract (1998)
The Coma (2004)

More Trivia - The song "Pure Shores" (All Saints) was a part of the soundtrack. It was from the album Saints and Sinners. The English / Canadian band had 4 members (3 initially before they split up in 95 and inducted the Appleton sisters). Nicole Appleton was once Robbie Williams lover. She later had Liam Gallagar's (Lead Vocalist, Oasis) baby in 2001. Her sister Natalie Appleton, also a part of the group, married Liam Howlett of The Prodigy (of the Firestarter fame). Quite a music troupe the whole family would make.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Second helping of Soccer for the Soul

One of my good friends landed up at my flat this Sunday evening. We (my wife, a friend and I) had just finished watching Black Hawk Down. Our heads were still ringing with all the gun shots in the movie (btw, BHD is a must watch for those who haven't seen it. It's sad, touching, gruesome, gory, graphic - war up close - based on actual events that took place over a day in Somalia in 1993. Might as well have been 2006, things havent changed much in this world). Anyways this is a happy post. As I was saying my good friend turned up - and he looked as if he had jumped out of the Black Hawk Down set into our living room - like a Delta Ranger returning from a sortie into the Bakara market in Mogadishu. He was sporting a bad limp, an exhausted look, big blue bruises on both elbows, four cuts to his left knee that were wrapped up snugly in a big white gauze roller bandage with a bright iodine stain , the look of annoyance that tetanus injections cause and he actually had the air of someone who has just got back from a long weary battle - vanquished but with all the pride intact from the knowledge that he gave his enemies all that he could and more. Explanations followed - It seems that the company he works for had organised a mini seven-a-side soccer tournament over the weekend. His team lost in the first round and he took quite a few tumbles on the field. He said that looking us in the eye and without shame. He went on - continuing to look us in the eye and without shame - he blamed the rain, the slush, the lack of practice and the lack of proper football gear (soccer shoes esp) for the tumbles. We had a good laugh at his expense. [Among the Mind, Body and Soul, I think its probably the Soul that ages the most slowly. It still feels that the Body can engage in activities that it was once very involved in and very good at 15 years ago. I guess it gets the feeling thats it's all about getting the Mind over matter. The Body inevitably takes a battering before the humbled Soul decides that it's better off letting matter drive the Mind with regards to physical issues like these.] At the end of the soliloquy, my friend said modestly that he's giving up football and is going to channel his energies to cerebral sports (If such a thing exists! Is chess a sport or a game? I didn't voice my thoughts nor raise the issue for debate. He most certainly wasn't in a mood to exercise his grey cells - because the smart cells that they were, they probably had a look at the state of all the other cells that had had more than enough exercise and decided that they were better off unused). Moving on, once the laughter was out of the way, we sat down and watched Tour De France - wishing we too had a teeny weeny bit of the incredible endurance and stamina that the chaps on screen had. 3800 kms over 23 days, sometimes cycling at over 65 kmph. Phew - Unbelievable.

My friend sent me this article today ....


"SOCCER INJURIES MULTIPLY WITH AGE"

If you've ever thought about getting into shape, you need to take lessons from me. I'm an active guy. Not only do I jog regularly (to the pizza shop), I also walk every single day (to my mailbox). And as if that isn't enough exercise, I'm even playing in a soccer league this summer. It's an over-30 league, which means that all the players, without exception, must be at least 30 pounds overweight.

I don't want to brag, but after three games, my statistics are nothing short of remarkable: three goals, one assist and four injuries. The injuries include a pulled hamstring, a strained quadriceps and a sprained ankle. I won't even mention the injuries I've inflicted on others. I don't want to provide any evidence for their lawsuits.

Perhaps it's called an over-30 league because every game seems to produce over 30 injuries. (That's an unofficial number. It doesn't include any injuries suffered by referees, either during the game or soon after.)

Injuries occur partly because soccer is a contact sport. Players in my league contact each other, contact the ground, and, every now and then, contact the ball. Pretty soon, they're also contacting their doctor.

But in an over-30 league, you don't need contact to get injured. All you need is motion. Any motion. Some players, eager to help their teams, get injured while jumping out of their cars. Others get injured while running toward the field. A few get injured while stretching. That's why, to minimize injuries, I've decided to give up stretching. I don't want to take any chances.

Considering the frequency of injuries, it's no wonder players are required to sign a waiver, promising not to sue the league. Players are also asked to protect themselves by wearing shin guards and, if they're smart, bringing their own stretchers. A few bright players also wear jock cups, knowing that the world doesn't produce enough aspirin.

But regardless of the injuries, the over-30 league is quite competitive. Not all the players are in poor shape. Yes, some do get tired quickly, but others can maintain great intensity, without taking a breather, for at least an entire minute. Perhaps even two minutes.

Being an over-30 soccer player does have a few advantages. You have lots of experience and you can think fast. You know exactly what to do with the ball. If only you could get to it.

As I've come to realize, soccer isn't a sport designed for older people. There's far too much distance between the goals. It would be a lot easier if the game were played within one of the goals.

It would also help if the ball weren't so round. It rolls a little too fast. That wouldn't be a problem if we could play with several balls at once. When you have 22 guys trying to kick a single ball, you're asking for trouble.

It's a good thing my league has referees. They do a good job of keeping the game under control, especially when they're awake. (Players sometimes have to shout, "Wake up, ref. Didn't you see the foul?" That's yet another downside of America's growing problem of sleep deprivation.)

Even with all the injuries and limitations, soccer is an enjoyable sport -- no matter your age. I paid $35 to get into the league, so my expectations are high. I'll be very disappointed if we finish the season without a single pizza party.

http://www.melvindurai.com/soccer.htm

Monday, July 17, 2006

Defining High Definition

HD - the buzzword in the AV industry or atleast in the visual industry. TV shopping is not easy anymore. Maybe it never was but there were very standard and established guidelines for the common buyer. How many inches and what brand were the two and the only two questions that needed an answer before stepping into an electronic shop and coming out with a brand new TV.
The answers to the two questions were pretty easy to arrive at too. Budget for most people and maybe room size for some, decided on the size and make of the TV. Those who had the extra cash went for Sony and most landed up with an Onida, BPL, Sansui or Videocon. The general opinion (mine included) was that Sony was the best. The most popular size would have been the 21". 90s saw the 25" TV gain popularity since by then it was pretty much affordable. 29" was still a distant dream for many. Baron Electronics and Akai changed the face of the TV industry in India. (Actually they had a big hand in the audio industry too but thats out of the purview of this post) They started selling TVs at a price previously thought impossible. To cut a long story short - TV has evolved. Size, price, brands, features (Nicam stereo, timer, automatic settings, organiser and headphones) evolved.
This century saw the maturing of new technologies - LCD, Projectors, Plasma, Rear Projection TVs. CRT technology has ruled the roost for half a century. Will it soon lose its ascendency to any of these upstarts? The net is filled with countless articles articulating the differences between these technologies. The common feature among these articles is the fact that they dont agree with each other on which is the best among the lot. To keep things in perspective the good old tube will continue to be the TV of choice for the majority of people simply because it continues to be much much cheaper than the rest. The people with the moolah or the gadget lovers with a little bit of moolah will have to decide from one of the following - HD CRT, LCD and Plasma. (I think rear projection TVs are out of contention. I am leaving out projectors too from the list since they are more likely to be found in pubs and other public places)
Before going further, what is HD? Whats all the fuss? Why the fuss? Is the fuss justified? Simply put, HD will provide the view sharper pictures and more detail - provide cinema-like picture quality. I think that justifies the fuss (With the rising multiplex ticket rates, getting cinema experience at home is no small thing). Analogy would be a the difference between 1 megapixel and a 5 megapixel digital camera. The 5mp camera is able to capture and display more detail than the 1mp camera. The HD TV will be capable of handling and displaying more detail. A HD TV can display HD signals (from set-top boxes, dvd players, videogame consoles, handycams etc). Those of us with the progressive scan DVD players can finally use the feature to get better resolution on a HDTV.

Shopping for a HDTV

Fix your budget. I can't emphasise enough how important this is. I guess this holds true for any kind of shopping nowadays because there are commodities available to take care of all kinds of purses - the large, the small and the everything-in-between. The cheapest HD TV would be around Rs 30000 and I have seen TVs that go upto Rs 300000. Fixing the budget helps in a couple of things - deciding on the type of tv (plasma/lcd/crt) and the screen size -- My budget was Rs 50000. Was sure that I would be looking for a screen of size around 29 to 34 inches. With that kind of a budget, Plasma was out of the question. Had to decide between LCD and CRT (LCD being the more expensive in terms of money per inch of the diagonal)

Do some homework. The first time at the shop, let the salesman do the talking. What you should be doing is listening and listening good. At the end of the sales pitch, it is helpful if he hands over a brochure otherwise it is important that the model numbers of the TV sets are noted down. Head home and check the net for reviews. Never buy on your first visit - there's a very high chance that this will lead to regrets. Download manuals. Compare features. Ask friends -- At the end of this stage I decided against the LCD TV. Reasons being contrast, refresh rate and also the cost to a certain extent. The cons of medium priced LCD tvs are that they can't handle shades of black as well as their CRT cousins do (contrast). The refresh rate is also a lot less. This will be apparent when playing very fast moving video games (ghost images/lower frame rate)(apparant in desktop PCs too - CRT monitors vs LCD (not TFT LCD) monitors - the game environments look so much better on CRT). The cons of a CRT TV are weight and bulk - nothing else. A 29" TV weighs 50 Kgs and a 34" is around 75 Kgs!! Image quality in my opinion is better than LCD and the same as Plasma. Of course the other con being that CRT TVs dont come in sizes larger than 34". So if one is looking for a 40" or larger TV then CRT is out of the options.

After about a month of looking around at various showrooms and reading up article after article on the net, the options I had were pretty limited in terms of brands. Only Philips and Sony had CRT HD TVs. I decided on Sony because they had a few models to choose from (Philips had only one - the PixelPlus series) and from past experiences. Whatever be said of Sony, they do make excellent Television sets.

These were the models I finally shortlisted

da29m80 Rs 49990
db29m80 Rs 44990
hz29m85 Rs 59990

The differences between all of these were not significant. They had to do with the number and type of optional line ins and the highest model supports teletext. Otherwise all three support resolutions upto 1080i (not 1080p which is the highest available in the market) and have the same kind of picture tubes (Trinitron - aperture grill CRT). I finally went for the da29m80. I have no regrets. DVDs are amazing. Cable TV too looks a lot cleaner.

In closing, CRT I feel still has some way to go before it dies a natural death. Theres still a lot of room for improvement in Plasma and LCD technologies. Till that happens and till the cost comes down they pose no challenge to CRTs (for buyers like me - no money to burn but will burn if convinced). And when they do I shall be ready to bid adieu to CRT. I must say that it's a wonderful period in time for all the technology freaks out there. The AV industry is passing through some very exciting phases.

Monday, July 10, 2006

I don't know, R.E.M

It was a sultry saturday evening. Bombay had been battered by rains that afternoon. We (a couple of friends and i) had finished watching a German movie(!) - Goodbye Lenin (Was a good watch. The movie is about a staunch Communist lady who is in a coma when the wall is brought down and how her family, her son in particular, takes extreme and hilarious measures to shield her from the fact that her beloved country DDR, Deutsche Demokratische Republik, is no more). We finished with the movie and sat around chatting. The topic of blogs somehow sprang up. Both of them had been, still were regular bloggers and were pretty surprised to know that I didnt have a blog (reasons why I never wanted to start a blog shall be addressed sometime else). I hadn't had a look at their blogs before. One of them said that he has some interesting photos and digital pictures put up. We deciding that there was a lot of time to kill had a look. As we were going through my pal's blog I somehow felt what I had assumed I would never ever feel - I felt that I should have a blog too. It would be a cool thing to have if not anything else. Maybe it would also feel like I have a private place of my own (that everyone else can see!) on the vast and intimidating net. Atleast create a blog, there's absolutely no need to post - my thoughts went.

The name was the key. My friends blog is called Froogy simply because he couldnt find something he liked that wasnt taken by someone else. I was certain I would have to do some considerable thinking to come up with a good name. And considerable thinking is something of a habit not very much like cycling. It's not as if you get on a bike after five years and lo - pedalling and balancing follow automatically. Nevertheless I decided I would do some thinking.

The next day I was watching VH1 classic and the song Whats the Frequency, Kenneth came on. Its a song by R.E.M (from the album Monster, 1994). I have always wondered what R.E.M was singing about - the lyrics aren't particularly easy to comprehend but the title set me thinking - Who's Kenneth and whats the frequency that this Kenneth is supposed to know. Maybe R.E.M was asking all the Kenneths in the world about the elusive frequency in which case it was also directed at me. So I categorically wanted to tell R.E.M that I haven't the faintest idea about the frequency. Maybe then he will take my name off the list of Kenneths who might know it and narrow down on the Kenneth who has the right answer. So the title of the blog - "I dont know, R.E.M".

Initially I thought it was a cunning idea but I am not so sure anymore (Its not R.E.M who wants to know. Its a not so normal guy called William Tager whos looking for the frequency and he's not singing a song to find out. He prefers a different and not so subtle approach - he follows the Tell Me Or I Smash Your Head In approach. More details at the end). So it is even more imperative that I make myself clear that I have absolutely nothing to do with the dang frequency. So there.

Anyways I dont think I can come up with anything smarter (not without a lot more of considerable thinking) so I am sticking to it. I dont know, R.E.M sounds a wee bit better than I dont know, William.

Heres the story behind the song.

One night in October 1986, CBS News anchor Dan Rather was walking down a Manhattan street when he was punched from behind and thrown to the ground. His assailant kicked and beat him while repeating, "Kenneth, what is the frequency?"

No one could explain the event, and the rumors flew fast and wide. Some speculated the assailant was a KGB agent, while others claimed the attack was the work of a jealous husband. Rather himself couldn't shed any light on the subject. His explanation at the time?

"I got mugged. Who understands these things? I didn't and I don't now. I didn't make a lot of it at the time and I don't now. I wish I knew who did it and why, but I have no idea."

Apparently the strange event moved R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe, who said of the incident:

"It remains the premier unsolved American surrealist act of the 20th century. It's a misunderstanding that was scarily random, media hyped and just plain bizarre."

The attack inspired the 1994 hit "What's the Frequency, Kenneth." Being a good sport, Dan Rather even accompanied the band when they performed the song on a Late Show with David Letterman appearance.

In 1997, based on a tip from a psychiatrist, Rather's attacker was identified as William Tager. According to the psychiatrist, Tager, who was currently serving time for killing an NBC stagehand, blamed news media for beaming signals into his head, and thought if he could just find out the correct frequency, he could block those signals that were constantly assailing him. Hence the enigmatic inquiry.

Rather wierd eh?!

Here's the lyrics of the song

"What's the frequency, Kenneth?" is your Benzedrine, uh-huh
I was brain-dead, locked out, numb, not up to speed
I thought I'd pegged you an idiot's dream
Tunnel vision from the outsider's screen
I never understood the frequency, uh-huh
You wore our expectations like an armored suit, uh-huh

I'd studied your cartoons, radio, music, TV, movies, magazines
Richard said, "Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy"
A smile like the cartoon, tooth for a tooth
You said that irony was the shackles of youth
You wore a shirt of violent green, uh-huh
I never understood the frequency, uh-huh

"What's the frequency, Kenneth?" is your Benzedrine, uh-huh
Butterfly decal, rear-view mirror, dogging the scene
You smile like the cartoon, tooth for a tooth
You said that irony was the shackles of youth
You wore a shirt of violent green, uh-huh
I never understood the frequency, uh-huh
You wore our expectations like an armored suit, uh-huh
I couldn't understand
You said that irony was the shackles of youth, uh-huh
I couldn't understand
You wore a shirt of violent green, uh-huh
I couldn't understand
I never understood, don't f**k with me, uh-huh

[Amphetamine (Benzedrine is one) also known as speed, is a synthetic stimulant used to suppress the appetite, control weight, and treat disorders including narcolepsy and Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. ]


I had assumed that the Blog creation would be a piece of cake. The tough part would be choosing a name for the blog and that I was ready with. That was not to be. I had to spent a lot of time on procuring a username (more of that sometime else). Anyways that hurdle was overcome as well with patience and some perserverence. The rest was easy. Clicking nexts, copying funnily written alphabets into a textbox, reading lengthy service level agreements (or at least agreeing that I did) and so on and so forth. So here I am, with a blog to my name and a sufficiently witty title (or so I hope) - all I need now are posts. I do hope they follow.