Mastermind Semi FinalsA retelecast of my MMI semis will air on BBC World at 10:00 pm tonight, with a repeat on Sunday at 10:00 am. Immediately next week will be the finals. All this is subject to there not being another crisis in Iraq or elsewhere in the world, otherwise the Beeb usually cut to breaking news live.
Jul 29, 2004
Jul 23, 2004
Sweeping generalisationsTalking of Bob Woolmer, in the autobiography I mention, IIRC he says that there are seven kinds of sweep shots in cricket (have I asked this before?). I know atleast four of them: the classical sweep (that ends up behind square of midwicket but not too fine, and is usually not played too much in the air), the reverse sweep (where a batsman turns his bat to play it on the offside, usually through the slips and towards third man). The other two are the paddle sweep (which is played very fine and past the wicketkeeper towards long leg and long stop) and the form that is very much in vogue of late, the slog sweep (that is played in front of square in the midwicket region and is often played in the air).
I wonder what the other three are? I suspect Woolmer, like Warne does sometimes with regards to types of wrist-spinners, may be indulging in hair-splitting technical definitions. Sometimes people do that to keep up an aura of "guru" like knowledge of the sport. I would really like to know if there indeed are anymore.
Was thinking of notable examples of these 4 types. Though classical sweeping is well-practised by the subcontinent players and briefly by the South Africans in their tours here, Graham Gooch's century in the '87 WC semis against India almost entirely consisted of it and hence springs to mind. The reverse sweep is a tricky one. Was reportedly invented by Mushtaq Mohammad, played with great skill by Javed Miandad and of late by Andy Flower, and most notoriously, caused the downfall of Mike Gatting and consequently England in the '87 WC final. Quite ironical that. I guess hardly anyone plays the paddle (or lap shot) better than Sachin Tendulkar and for the slog sweep, I guess Steve Waugh would be the most cited exponent.
My name is Gorky; Maxim GorkyIt's not just Australian psychiatrists that can dish out magic mantras to help international cricket teams. For the last couple of months, I coined one such catch-phrase myself, in hope of improving my mental strength. It says "Embrace Adversity".
I find myself put off by trifling annoyances a great deal and I'm experimenting with whether repeating such home-grown balms can help ease inner friction. I find that most intelligent people are able to figure out the basic things in life themselves, but recalling them and applying them at the appropriate time is what separates them. In short, the phenomenon of Karna's curse.
I'm not much of a self-help-book enthusiast, but I do like to learn from the actual experiences of others, which is why I have a keen interest in reading autobiographies. In turn, I also don't like to throw proverbs and adages around, but let me bend that principle this time to record three (Jewish) proverbs from Bob Woolmer's personal memoirs:
* If you are not for yourself, who will be for you?
* If you are only for yourself, what are you?
* If not now, when?
On the subject of former -pletives and televisionIf I've said this once, I've said this a hundred times: when I'm swearing, you are more likely to see me next to the Governor or President taking some dutiful oath than hear me voicing an oath of profanity. That is not to say that I have never vented my anguish in n-letter words, but to recognise that I reserve them for the most trying of moments. In fact, in such matters, only Jeeves with his slight twitching of eyebrows when deeply affected may be ahead of me in the Stoicism Olympics.
Which is why people respect the occasion when I do spout the words of cuss-dom, (if I may say so at the risk of the English Language sending her choicest selection my way). I retain the sanctity (or lack of) of the words and have not diluted their full essence. This previous post may stand testimony to this claim.
All this buildup, essentially, to further the record of television-soap bashing that this blog has faithfully engaged in (our motto is Die! tergent). I hereby announce a cash reward of Rs.xxxxxx to the first bahuu who has enough and says something like this:
M-in-L: Daayan! teri yeh majaal? Kya tumhaare maa-baap ne tumhe yahi sikhaaya hai? Thiik se Chicken-a-la-pousse bhi banaana nahi aata? Jaao aur apne bistar pe ronaa shuru karo. tumhe aaj bilkul dessert (Chocolate Mousse, by the way) nahi milegaa!
The traditional template in this situation would call for the D-in-L to clank her chuDiyaa.n in remorse and weep copiously (though carefully, without upsetting the carefully layered rouge and foundation on her rosy cheeks) while seeking the nearest tulsi plant (or amman kovil in case of the Tamil tearjerker) to ask mujhe kyu.n is serial mei.n janam lene par kyu.n majabuur kiyaa?. The challenge is to say in return, something like this on international television, without sacrificing most bahuu-like qualities:
D-in-L: Teri xx kii! Just ***k off, alright?
(followed by sharp turn to right-of-camera into the hall where there is no T.V. like in all self-respecting Indian TV serials).
That's the [Arial|Surf|Henko] challenge. That'll earn them a faithful fan in me. Only then will this blog will cease to foam at the mouth. (That line had a pun. It was intended. Go back and read it).
Of travels in Pune and Swiss cuisineLast Sunday, three of my classmates (Nikhil, Sandy, Akshay) and me spent an interesting few hours in the morning and afternoon of a typically pleasant day, walking about, riding through the roads of Pune and visiting three places where most of us hadn't been before to. Meeting up traditionally at the COEP Boat Club, we visited the Empress Gardens, the Aga Khan Palace and rounded it off with lunch at the Swiss Cheese Gardens at A.B.C Farms.
The website informs that the interiors have a Norwegian touch to their design. Wood has been used a great deal to make it look like some European cottage. Interestingly, the benches (for they weren't regular seats) had no backrests, and gave the impression of being fashioned in a rustic manner. Eschewing the chance to have tomato soup once again, our experiment began with Swiss Fagoli soup which had blobs & layers of cheese and pasta. Not being a gourmand, I couldn't tell you the taste, but 2 of us liked it, the other 2 found it decent. The appetizers came in for controversy. Settling for the Germanic sounding Rahmquark Dip, some of us were miffed at the idea of a dip with only about 3 vegetable slices per capita to do the dipping. Estimating the actual cost of it to be < Rs. 10 led to a round of wholesome cribbing which is so integral to the eating-out experience. The dip by itself was quite good, I thought, with its mustard flavour.
So now to the main course. The Cheese Fondue seemed to be the centerpiece of the main course, so we ordered that. Essentially, it consists of several cheeses melted in some wine and spices, along with some vegetables. We found out how novel the eating method would be when a pot containing the fondue was placed on a small flame in front of us. There were large pieces of bread to accompany it. We were each presented a long wooden fork. After a few curious glances at each other, we settled on the idea that you just had to poke in a cube of bread on your fork, dip and swirl it in the pot, and simply eat it. All pretence to sophistication was lost very soon as we lost crumbs in the fondue, tried to maximise our fondue-to-bread ratio and even indulged in mock fork-fights in the pot. Not how the Swiss intended it perhaps, but it was fun, and had we one less fork, we might have been four Dining Chinese Philosophers taking part in an Operating Systems course.
I had to have the Rosti once I saw the different kinds on the menu. Essentially because I didn't know if I'd get a chance again. The Simple Rosti turned out to be a flat brown mix of potatoes, onions and cheese ("pan-fried potatoes and onions baked with cheese"). It reminded me of the uthappa in size and filling, sans the flour. Not too bad.
Sandy recommended the exotically named Tiramisu as the first choice dessert. I'm glad we listened; it turned out to be a form of cheesecake served in a glass with a thick crust of chocolate powder on top. It literally melted in your mouth. Quite good. We even (amidst a spot of what can only be termed as "giggling" at the prospect of seeming to be unlikely hogs by the waiter) went in for a second piece of dessert, this time the Lemon Cheesecake which was not as good as the tiramisu, we thought. It was not that bad either, with an astringent taste from the lemon and a chocolate/cocoa base.
Despite what seemed to us as the worst form of excesses, we came away with a bill of Rs. 250/- per wallet. We were able to sample the main offering of the cuisine, though the portions did seem to be a little less compared to the prices. It was definitely worth an experiment and the food was not too heavy on the tummy. I'm no food critic so you'll have to take my word with a pinch of salt (with cheese of course).
Jul 21, 2004
The curious case of Albert Finney[Inspector Gregory] "Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
[Sherlock Holmes] "To the curious incident of the dog in the night time."
"The dog did nothing in the night time."
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes"
- "Silver Blaze" [From the "Adventures of Sherlock Holmes"].
Perhaps the above extract is not entirely appropriate in this context, but it always is a point of surprise when someone does not do something that is taken for granted of him or of his type. For some time now, I have had a similar wonder for the actor Albert Finney.
I first heard of Albert Finney while reading the well-known director David Lean's autobiography. But before that, if you haven't heard of this British actor, here's a quick marker. Remember Ed Masry, the lawyer who's also the boss of the sassy Erin Brockovich in the eponymous film? The man playing Masry is Albert Finney. Recently, he was also seen in Big Fish. Perhaps you know him from Murder on the Orient Express.
The fact that he is not a famous person is essentially the point of this post. For, from Lean's autobiography, I learnt that it was Finney who was the first choice to play the title role of Lawrence of Arabia. It seems that Finney was unanimously hailed as the best British actor of his generation, the man to carry the torch after Olivier and Guinness. Astonishingly, he turned down the chance, apparently on the notion that he couldn't (or wouldn't) cope with the fame that was inevitable with that major part. Or he perhaps didn't want to be beset with all the attention that would come with it. The part went to Peter O'Toole, who despite all the body of work later, is still known for being "Lawrence".
I don't profess to know anything about Finney apart from these facts and what I little I have read of him so I have no clue as to whether my inferences about him are in anyway true. However since Finney is not a big name, one may not understand or share my awe for that decision. As an analogy perhaps, if Irfan Pathan announced that he would not play in any overseas tours saying that he didn't want the attendant fame that accompanied successful cricketers, most of us would be surprised at such a decision - for he would have thrown away not only the secondary offering of long lasting adulation and the chance to enjoy good financial rewards, he would also have reduced his chances of playing at the highest level consistently. Any artist or sportsman typically wants to display his art and talent to the public. That is part of his ego, and the reactions of his audience to his skill is one of the primal highs for the artist. So would anyone throw away the chance to be part of the biggest and the best in their profession?
I am of course measuring Finney's success by the traditional yardsticks - look at the number of film blockbusters against his name (hardly any), Oscars (none), recognition (not outside UK or limited US audiences) etc. Compare this to O'Toole who atleast had one major blockbuster that will somehow live on as a classic (unwieldy, though it may be) and reasonable recollection among people. Considering what Olivier and Lean have said about Finney and given his vast success on the stage, Finney had evidently got all that it took to be a "superstar" (which, unlike becoming an "actor", has more to do with the media and the personality). But he refused. Till this day, since he's probably slotted in as a "character actor" who can be relied upon to give an assured performance, I wonder how he feels about being denoted as a "could-have-been".
That is assuming Finney cares at all. A quick web search revealed very little out of the usual list of filmographies. This interview promoting Big Fish has him talking about his film selections, how he never has been to the Oscars despite being nominated 5 times and why he feels his career lies in England only. I'd of course like to read an autobiography, but Finney rules out writing one! There is mention of an unauthorised biography though.
It's a theme that struck me some time back that to advance in many professions calls for certain kinds of lifestyles and personalities. For instance, jobs that require pumping people for information (such as some journalists or intelligence officers!) would require one to be coercive, persuasive, wheedling, canny and perhaps fluent with the language of the drink. High powered executives cannot be those who see socializing events as a waste of time, for networking is vital in that sphere. Introverted people or those who may not wish to be myopic to hypocrisy may find it difficult to perform these additional actions that come along with the territory. Cricketers and film-wallahs need to learn how to handle the mass of people around them. It may be lonely at the top, but you are surrounded by people when you are at the top.
Its difficult to stick to what you know best, for at the higher levels, it seems like the other "skills" take over. Is leading a life at the higher echelons impossible without requiring a high-energy orbit?
Back to Finney. It always strikes me greatly ironical that both Finney and O'Toole have never won an Oscar in open competition. Finney has had 5. O'Toole with 7 still has the record for not having won an Oscar despite the many nominations. Several people have taken home Oscars for a lot lesser. The irony is because the root of this reflection was in Finney's unwillingness to be Lawrence. O'Toole wasn't so reluctant. In the end, looking at their lives in broad highlights from a distance, the way things turned out are somewhat similar. I wonder if any of those two thinks about what may have been if one had chosen differently? What part cynicism, what part pragmatism and what part romanticism lay in Finney's decision?
Jul 18, 2004
Drought and the StrategyIn view of their election debacle, there may have been those among the BJP that wondered if calling an early election was indeed the best option, given that Mr. Vajpayee reportedly wanted to see out a full term. The danger in his choice would've been the uncertainty in the monsoon. Given that so far the rains seem to have failed us somewhat, the BJP can now drop that thought - it may have been an even greater rout (if not as bad) later in the year.
"Swapna" Alexander Kane?I wonder if Mr. Subroto Roy "Sahara" has seen the American classic Citizen Kane? In particular, the dismal efforts of Charles Foster Kane to promote his second wife Susan Alexander Kane as an opera singer, throwing the full weight of all his papers and influence, and ultimately failing? For the "Saharashri" (wonder what the Bedouins think of that appellation?) has a music label, a couple of TV channels and lots of influence to let his wife pursue a musical career. The songs play on these channels and though mercifully, she isn't awful to listen to, she doesn't have a perfect voice. The video (shot by Binod Pradhan, no less) showcases the opulence of the Roys in no small measure. How do you translate Xanadu in Bengali?
Had planned to leave this new item alone until I saw a Sunday TOI article on the budding singer who wishes she had done more "riyaaz" before this music video "Dheere". Also, the same newspaper had a feature on Lata Mangeshkar which said that she still had a "voice whose range and quality remains undiminished" amd "It's the same mellifluous voice". Astonishing! Even hardcore Lata fans wouldn't make such statements. Of course, her voice is not as good as it was in her heydays. I must respectfully disagree with the platitudes.
Jul 12, 2004
Faux News - VII
Sunny crowned ENT org's Brand Ambassador
By our Health correspondent
Sunny Deol is the new Ambassador at Large for India's premier ENT Surgeons organisation. The President of the Indian ENT Surgeons Association, Dr. Neelkanth, announced this in a press conference at Kanpur yesterday that followed a felicitation ceremony for the star actor.
Dr. Neelkanth expressed great admiration for the Jat actor's astonishingly robust throat that had enabled the actor to provide some of the most decibel-stirring performances in recent times. The President also unveiled graphs demonstrating the sharp increase in cases of ear-drum bursts and tinnitus among regular Sunny fans which directly benefited large number of ENT Surgeons in the Hindi heartland. He mentioned that the Association would provide requisite financial assistance to those doctors who are unable to afford the rising rental prices of those clinics situated close to theatre houses showing Sunny Deol films.
The actor in his speech wholeheartedly thanked the IESA for bestowing this unique honour on him and pledged to keep his voice intact. This would help further the cause of the ENT surgeons in this country who have not received their due, he said. The veteran actor refuted as "BASELESS!!!" any allegation that the high decibel levels of films like Maa Tujhe Salaam and Hero: Love Story of a Spy were financed by unscrupulous elements of the ENT community. He also fumed at allegations that his films "stank to high heaven" for precisely the same reasons and vowed "TO HUNT SUCH TRAITORS AND GROUND THEM INTO THE PURE SOIL OF OUR BELOVED LAND!!!".
Click here for a free look at the earlier editions.
Through the Peep HoleIf your idea of salespeople is romantically derived from films like Chasm-é-Baddoor's Miss Chamko, then you are standing on the wrong side of the reality chasm. Most salespeople that market smallish goods have a tough job walking up and down, being looked at suspiciously and having to get past the defences of cynical householders.
Saleswomen can be thwarted if you maintain that there are no "ladies" (always in plural, like in rail compartments where TCs and the passenger travelling alone get the "it is a question of 'ladies', can you adjust" treatment) at home. Some sales guys are college kids from management schools with hopelessly impractical theories on salesmanship and communication. There are different theories on dealing with salespeople while retaining some sympathy and sensitivity towards them. Some maintain that it is best to shoo them away while others feel it is better to let them display their wares even if one has no intention of purchase. Some just melt when they see the plight of the salespeople. However, it takes just one bad experience to reverse this tactic.
But till so far, we've had the best experiences with the guys selling Calcutta sarees. They're always polite, they always understand if you aren't interested and let you speak as a representative of the household without insisting on being shown to the lady of the house (who sometimes has the uncanny habit of arriving when you've just convinced the door-seller that there indeed isn't any female presence in the house). The demeanour of the Calcutta sarees salesman is one of "That's perfectly fine. But are you really sure? You don't know what you are missing". I don't, of course.
Jul 11, 2004
Notes from recent timesA quick glance on some of my recent postings reveals that I spend too much time once again only on films and TV and at strange attempts at being funny. I decided to take a leaf out of some of the other blogs on the sidebar by recounting some of the things I've been doing of late.
Jul 2, 2004
Law of Conservation of T.V. "Bahu"sFor each and every sushiil and sajjan bahu in the TV universe, there exists an evil and duraachaari bahu of equal and opposite magnitude. This ensures a critical mass of tense plot-making and avoids winding up of the serial below a minimum threshold.