Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Warrior Princess and her sidekick

Not satisfied with announcing that the discovery of a tenth planet in the solar system, astronomers led by Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology have found that it even has a moon circling it. Since the planet has been named Xena the moon has, but of course, been named Gabrielle.

But whether Xena remains a planet and Gabrielle her faithful moon remains to be resolved. We shall know in a few months from now when the International Astronomical Union (yes, such an organization does exist) will decide upon this matter. Until then the definiton of a planet shall be up in the air, pardon the pun.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

My favourite movie

We all have movies that we treasure, ones that we reminisce about fondly, and if necessary, will argue for vehemently if opposing views are put forward.

In general, my favourite movies of all time transcend genres and are not exactly in tune with most movie critic's choices. Sometimes I agree with them, but in most cases, I find that critics are fairly snobbish. Action and comedy movies are automatically downgraded in their opinions and rarely does a "non-art" movie meet their lofty standards. One critic I like, Roger Ebert, at least attempts to tell you why he liked or did not like the movie and leaves it to us, the review reader, to decide what we think of it.

So what are my favourite movies? I'll try to break them down by genre based upon the movies that made a deep impression when I watched them (all of them are in no particular order).

Comedy: Chupke Chupke, Golmaal, A Fish Called Wanda, My Cousin Vinny, and Midnight Run.

Action: Die Hard, Speed, Predator (yes, I know!), The Empire Strikes Back, and Sholay.

Romance: When Harry Met Sally, Tere Ghar Ke Samne, Gitanjali, Titanic (!!), and Roman Holiday.

Other: Forrest Gump, Casablanca, The Sound of Music, 12 Angry Men, and Mughal-E-Azam.

But there is one movie that encompasses all the above genre's and has a legendary cast of personalities who were involved in the making of the film - Spielberg, Ford, Lucas, and Williams. That movie is my #1 favourite movie of all-time. The acting is superb, the direction is slick, the plot is intriguing and has many twists, the music is rousing, and the action sequences are breath-taking. This year marks the 25th anniversary of its release. (Ebert has a re-review of the movie from his "Great Movies" section, at this link).

The movie? Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A thousand words and more

Here's a view of Edgebrook Field in Pittsburgh where our team participates in the PCA cricket league. The setting more than makes up for the long-ish drive that we have to make to get to the ground.

The last dance

Nick Faldo is currently better known as one of the best TV golf analysts. In the '80's and '90's, he was the world's best golfer and a feared one-on-one competitor (one of the best ever in Ryder Cup history). A couple of years ago, in his role as an analyst, Faldo criticized Tiger Wood's swing at the Buick Invitational golf tournament. Tiger Woods, who apparently never forgets an insult, hasn't communicated with Nick since then (not that Faldo has tried very hard to clear the air either).

This year at the British Open, which is set to begin in a few hours from now, the two will be teeing off together for at least the first two rounds. For the 49 year-old Faldo it is one last chance to relive some magic (he has won the British Open 3 times) before he joins the ranks of the senior golf tour. Faldo was always known for his focus and fierce determination to not let anything get in the way of his game. As the years have gone by he has mellowed a lot and has quite a bit to say on a variety of topics, both personal and professional.

For Tiger it is a chance to leave behind the mess that was the US Open and continue his assault on Jack Nicklaus's spot in history as the best golfer ever.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The last straw

By now, the whole world knows about Zinedine Zidane's ignominious exit from the world stage. I was going to write a long diatribe about how I felt he was being treated too harshly until I ran into this piece by Paul Zimmerman of Sports Illustrated. Read it and you'll know how I feel about that incident.

And while on this topic, watching the Italians moan and roll around in agony every time a French defender even breathed near them was nauseating. It was sickening to watch them roll around as if their very life was at risk and then, miraculously, get up a few minutes later.

I propose a simple solution to this acting. Keep 6 stretchers within 10 yards of the field - at the 4 corners and on either side of the halfline. As soon as a player starts rolling around, send in the stretcher. The player has until the stretcher reaches him to recover. If he does not, then he HAS to be carried off the field no matter how fit he suddenly feels and cannot come back in until 5 minutes have elapsed. His team will play on with 10 members for that duration. If this is strictly enforced it will be interesting to see how many cry-babies will still roll around in feigned agony.

I have lost interest in football (with apologies to SM the Elder) and will continue to avidly follow the American version (gridiron football) where sometimes even broken bones do not stop a player from continuing to play (just ask Gary Stills and Bryan Cox, who continued to play with multiple fractures without crying about it). At least, there, when a player is hurt there is some justification for halting the game.

El Matador y El Toro

Watching Roger Federer play Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon final was one of the highlights of last weekend.

Nadal impresses with his never-say-die, in-your-face, abrasive attitude that rattles opponents who are unable to match his ferocity and single-minded determination to chase after the ball. Almost at the opposite end of the spectrum is Federer. Cool almost to the point of being casual, he oozes talent and grace. Watching him play is like watching a composer lead an orchestra. Very rarely is he flustered or thrown off his game. The only player who manages to shake his confidence is Nadal. After a sublime first set (6-0), Federer let Nadal wake up and it took three well-fought sets for him to finally tame the beast...barely for now.

Watching the two contrasting, yet highly riveting, players is like watching a bullfight, as a friend so aptly pointed out. No prizes for guessing who represents the Bull and who the Matador in this rivalry.

A very interesting hardcourt season looms ahead of us. I can hardly wait for them to resume their battles.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Jumping the gun

(This was brought to my attention by fellow blogger Buck).

On July 5th, reported that Leander Paes had lost in the men's doubles quarterfinals at Wimbledon this year. Actually they had assumed that men's doubles were decided in three sets and had taken the score after 3 sets and run with the story. (See screen capture below).

A few minutes later, they appeared to have realized their mistake and as soon as the match was completed they put up the corrected storyline, without remotely acknowledging their previous error. (See screen capture below).

While not as monumental a gaffe as the "Dewey defeats Truman" newspaper fiasco, it is interesting that in this age of super-competition between internet-based news providers, the urge to report breaking news can cause such mistakes to happen.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Home of the Mountaineers

The WVU Cricket Club has not had a proper field to practice/play on for many years now. Eons ago, WVUCC played at what is now known as the Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium. After migrating around for a few years, we have now been given access to St. Francis Field (it is named for the school that used to own the ground before WVU bought it). The ground, before we set foot on it looks like this.

After "prepping" the pitch using some compressed board planks and astro-turf that used to be part of Mountaineer Field, we have a fairly decent ground to play on.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Indian cricket's talisman

In the last 5 years India has won more Test matches abroad (13) than in any other 5 (or even 10) year period. To put it into perspective, in the 15 years prior to 2000-2001, India won just ONE Test match on foreign soil. The backbone of the Indian batting order has become Rahul Dravid, whose effort in the most recent victory, the crashing of the West Indian citadel at Sabina Park, will be remembered for a long, long time.

They say the proof is in the pudding. Rahul Dravid's career average currently stands at over 58 runs per innings. Yet, in Indian victories abroad, the number bulges to a Bradman-esque 94.93, with over 1500 runs, inclusive of 4 centuries and 7 fifties in 13 Tests. Almost every major Indian win abroad has featured the calm presence of Dravid for long periods of time at the crease. The epochal wins at Headingly in 2002, Adelaide in 2003-4, Rawalpinidi in 2003-4, and Kingston in 2006 would not have been possible without his contributions and, fittingly, he was the man of the match in ALL four of them. In fact, the only major abroad victory that has not featured Dravid prominently (I am excluding Bangladesh and Zimbabwe from this) is Multan in 2003-04 when Virender Sehwag (309) and Sachin Tendulkar (194*) led India to a famous victory.

As a parting shot, ponder this - if you thought Dravid's average is mind-boggling, Sachin Tendulkar averages 108.70 in Indian victories abroad!

Maggi Noodle Review: Superman Returns

I give unto thee, my only son...

In a time of turmoil, when the world order is disintegrating and mankind is in dire need of a saviour, a father sends his son to Earth. In spite of his special powers, the son grows up amongst men, slowly revealing his special talents and saving many lives as he discovers his purpose in life. In return, power-hungry citizens loathe him for what he means to the people and do anything they can to destroy him and what he stands for. Eventually they even succeed in killing him. Yet, a few days later, he is resurrected and comes back to life, once more ready to don the mantle of saviour and fight for "truth, justice and...all of that stuff".

The above paragraph is not a simplistic synopsis of the best-selling book in history. It is, in fact, the story outline of the highest grossing movie at the US box office this July 4th weekend. "Superman Returns" is a pleasing visual spectacle and, at times, is worth the money paid to watch it on the big screen.

I do not think that the biblical similarities are entirely accidental either.