Friday, July 30, 2010

Wishing upon a star

One of my favorite movies (ever) is Forrest Gump. How different would it have been if it had been made 40 years ago and featured James Stewart in it? Well, let's see a "preview" and get a glimpse of what might have been.

Warrior of the worlds

I found an article, slightly dated, that talks about Virender Sehwag. What makes it different is that I found it in the New York Times and, unlike most other articles that try to explain cricket to the average American, this one does it in a rudimentary, off-hand manner, while playing up Virender Sehwag's credentials as the cricketer of the 21st century. I kid you not.
As sporting awards go, it lacks the status, hallowed in years, of prizes like the Cy Young in baseball or even Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year. Yet there is an impressive ring to “The Leading Cricketer in the World.”

That is the title Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, the game’s 146-year old annual work of record, has again bestowed on the Indian batsman Virender Sehwag. He is the first repeat holder since the prize was created in 2004.

The winner is decided by the Almanack’s editor, Scyld Berry, after consultation with an informal panel of experts. The question they ask themselves is: Who would be the first name on the team-sheet for a notional World XI to play Mars

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The buck stops here

This one's for you BD/DSC. Every time I go past this local store I think of you. Naturally.

(C.S. Manish 2010)
Though, it does seem quite rude of the store owner to say this to me when I am taking photos!

(C.S. Manish 2010)
P.S. Please excuse the awful pun in the title of this post.  I thought about it for a long time but could not come up with anything better.  Any suggestions?

Monday, July 26, 2010

A love affair

I thought that Up was, by far, the best movie of 2009. As time has gone by, my impression has not changed from what I expressed when I reviewed the film.

At the heart of the movie is a 4-plus minute long montage of the life shared by Carl and Ellie. A dialog-less montage that gripped me and provided the emotional anchor for the rest of the movie. See for yourself and get a glimpse into one of Pixar's greatest bits of "filming" ever. It should serve as a lesson in the lost art of movie-making magic to the likes of Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer. Simply amazing and poignant.

Maggi Noodle Review: Salt

Let me state this upfront: I am neither a big fan of Angelina Jolie nor do I think that she is particularly beautiful. My disdain for her acting prowess is based on the Lara Croft movies. My indifference to her beauty is more because of personal taste. In spite of that, I found her to be particularly effective in her latest movie. She is a little too thin to convince me that she is physically capable of some of the actions sequences she participates in. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Salt is an uncommon action movie among today's whiplash-inducing, CGI-heavy, action genre movies. It is not as if it does not have the requisite parkour-heavy running sequences, car chases, exploding buildings, and bullet-wasting shootouts. It is just that it is done very effectively. The story is about a woman who may or may not be a sleeper Russian agent and whose goal is to eliminate some big guns to cause worldwide panic. Or something like that.

As in any action movie, the initial story is just a set up for a series of set pieces where the characters speak only those lines that will move the movie forward. Salt is no different but about 10 minutes into the movie I stopped paying attention to the absurdity and just got carried along in the slipstream of its fast-paced action. At less than 100 minutes, the movie does not linger to contemplate the enormity of the conspiracy that is being perpetrated by the main players. If you can believe that a person can chase a fast-descending elevator for 8 floors and do it with just a grunt or two of exertion while jumping from girder to girder, then I have just the movie for you to see.

I don't know how else to say this, but here it is - Salt is an action movie to its core and yet it is easily the best-made action movie of this year. By a wide margin. Take a bow, Angelina Jolie.

Here's the preview for the movie, one of the better previews of late:

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Atlas shrugs

(Click here for source)
Let's start this post from an unlikely angle. Years ago, Sylvester Stallone wrote and acted in Rocky which, by the way, won an Oscar for Best Picture. (If you're counting at home, that's Sylvester Stallone movies: 1 Oscar, Alfred Hitchcock and Charlie Chaplin movies: 0 Oscars).

Apart from providing fodder for 5 additional Rocky stories as well as countless rags-to-riches sports movies, Rocky popularized a pose, one that was immortalized in Philadelphia with a statue of the same. Here's the pose at the end of the short video (the extremely recognizable and cool Rocky theme music is an added bonus as you watch this training montage).

To do or not to do

In a few hours from now, India and Sri Lanka will resume festivities on a cricket field (again). I will be watching it and am tempted to maintain a running diary. But am nor sure if I should or not. Should I? What do you think?

To do or not to do, that is the question.

A stitch in time

1) Something I have wanted to know forever but never really thought about finding out the answer for is how a sewing machine works. If you share my wonder, click here for the answer.

2)There's nothing common about the wealth being squandered by the authorities as India prepares to host the Commonwealth Games. Can anyone say White Elephant?

Friday, July 23, 2010

TGIF: Songs to hum - 4

Every Friday afternoon, after I am done teaching the last lecture of the week, I sit in my office, put my feet up on my desk, lean back in my chair and softly hum songs to myself, unwinding and releasing the built-up tension of the week so far. Youtube is a good companion during these times and I have my own version of Chitrahaar, with the songs following some unfathomable pattern, changing per my mood and wishes.

Here is today's trip through Youtube:

First up, a song from the Telugu movie Magdheera which has among the best special effects I have ever seen in an Indian movie. Almost seamless!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Farewell to arms

How many wickets has he got? 792. He's confident then, one more Test.

Michael Clarke reckons Muttiah Muralitharan's last Test is enough time for him to reach 800 Test wickets (July 7, 2010)
When the India-Sri Lanka series was pigeonholed into a gap in the schedule leading up to next year's World Cup, it was almost as an afterthought before the main dish - India-Australia for the right to be the #1 ranked team in the world.

Then something nice happened - Muttaiah Muralitharan made it more meaningful. Sadly, he had to announce his retirement to get people to pay attention to yet another Indo-Sri Lanka series. But attention did get paid and Sri Lanka responded to the situation with chilling efficiency.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Maggi Noodle Review: This is it

In the early 1980's, I was a budding quiz enthusiast in Hyderabad who was mostly content to ride the coattails of my more accomplished brother. Let me rephrase that - my much, much, much more accomplished brother. Gathering trivia was an obsession and I remember stumping him once by declaring that Michael Jackson had the biggest selling album of all-time. (It's a totally different matter that my brother was more into Geeta Dutt and SD Burman so I don't think he cared that I knew MJ's name!). The Grammy Awards were telecast in India for the first time the year MJ won 8 awards for Thriller. While watching the show, my brother and I surmised that he was "preserving his voice" for his concerts. Only much later, when I actually heard the songs, did I realize that MJ did have a high-pitched voice.

Over the years, Michael Jackson's world got more bizarre by the day, eventually culminating in an early demise. However, music has a beautiful way of lingering on long after someone is gone. This is it is more than just a collection of Michael's songs - it is a window into the last few days of the talented singer-dancer. Say what you want about his off-stage activities and medicinal challenges, on the stage the man was transformed into something else.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Maggi Noodle Review: Inception

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master...
-- If (by Rudyard Kipling)
Of late, movies that make the audience think are becoming the exception. The joy of such movies is that you don't quite know what is going to happen next, and at the same time, you are trying to figure out what the characters should be doing. Inception is one such movie. Directed by Christopher Nolan, the movie could fit into the science fiction genre but firmly has its roots in heist movies.

All the elements of a heist movie are in it - an initial plan that provides a basis for showing us what the main characters do, the break-up of the gang leading to a recruitment process in exotic locales (Mombassa, Paris, etc.) where the rest of the new (improved) gang is assembled, the "target" is explained, all the "rules" that must be followed are demonstrated, followed the sting, the job, the heist.

Water, water everywhere

It has been raining a lot in Omaha of late.  The days start off hot and sunny. By the afternoon, the humidity picks up and thunderstorms are commonplace, sometimes accompanied by tornado warnings.

Freedom Park, our home ground for cricket, is about 500 yards from the Missouri River.  So when the river runs high, the corresponding water table is so high we have big pools of water on the ground after even the slightest rainfall.  This was the case this past Friday but we were determined to have a game at home on Saturday.  And we did.

This is what we had to do to get the ground ready in time!  Those are 50 gallon buckets you see there.  In all, we removed about 60 buckets full of water (i.e. moving more than 3,000 gallons).  I bet they'd love to have us in Galle right now!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Reviving rhythms

Once in a while there is a perfect storm in an Indian movie - picturization, actors, acting, song, singers, lyrics, and music all come together and create everlasting memories.

Here's one that came rushing through into my thoughts a few minutes ago and took me back almost 30 years...Kamal Hassan, Sridevi in Aakali Rajyam:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Travelogue - Colorado: Day 3 - The Rockies

The convenient aspect of a road trip is that one can be flexible about the route home.  Having seen the Rockies in Wyoming, a detour into Fort Collins accorded the opportunity to see the more famous section of the Rockies in Colorado.  Heading directly west from Fort Collins towards the Rockies...

(C.S. Manish 2010)
 ... takes one to the edge of the thick band of parallel ranges that make up the bulk of the Colorado Rockies.  The eastern-most of them are not as snow-capped as the central ones, but vestiges of ice caps do remain even in the middle of the summer.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Travelogue - Wyoming: Day 2 - The Grand Tetons

To get to the Grand Teton National Park from Rock Springs, WY, involves driving north for about 3 hours until you reach Jackson, WY. The road meanders its way through little towns and farmlands that stretch all the way to the far mountains.

(C.S. Manish 2010)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Travelogue - Wyoming: Day 1 - The ascent

The favorite part of traveling, to me, is the journey more than the destination itself. However, for the July 4th weekend I was interested in both. Opening up an atlas, I spent a couple of hours casting my "net" all around Nebraska, until my eyes settled on Wyoming. Far enough to seem elusive, yet near enough to be alluring. Having decided on the journey, I had to decide on the destination. After considering (and rejecting) Yellowstone National Park, the destination presented itself in the form of the Grand Teton National Park.

Armed with little more than an atlas, a rental car, and a semi-formed idea of what to see, the journey had begun. The snow-capped mountains in the far distance were calling, and an almost primeval urge needed to be fulfilled.

(C.S. Manish 2010)

Freedom at mid-day

On July 10th, 2010, after weeks of hard work, struggles with the weather, flooding, and most of all, perseverance, the Cricket Association of Nebraska hosted its first home game. The picturesque Freedom Park in Omaha provided a great backdrop to the game.  More pictures to follow...

(C.S. Manish 2010)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

An evening to remember

(Four months ago, a few like-minded and dedicated folks formed the Cricket Association of Nebraska. The organization, of which I am the President, has gone from scratch to having a fully-functional charter, non-profit status, a dedicated ground to play on, organizing cricket demonstrations and coaching camps for school kids, and playing in the Heartland Cricket League.

If you wish to know more about the organization or its activities you can contact me at csmanish13 at gmail dot com.)

(C.S. Manish 2010)

(C.S. Manish 2010)
The Cricket Association of Nebraska (CAN) was formed with the main mandate of popularizing and spreading cricket among the local population of Nebraska and beyond. In keeping with this goal, on June 26th, 2010, CAN organized a fundraiser - India Night 2010 - a fun-filled evening dedicated to entertaining guests while introducing them to the sport of cricket. Guests at the event were treated to a combination of good food, cultural programs, presentations on cricket, and dance music courtesy of James from SupaFly Promotions (DJ).

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Tingling with anticipation

After a long, long time a movie preview produced goosebumps as I watched it.  I can hardly wait for November (and July) to roll around...

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Grand design

I will be resuming regular blogging very soon. Travel descriptions, book and movie reviews, cricket stuff, links, and a special night (India Night 2010) are on tap for the next few days.

In the meantime, here's a sneak preview of what I have been up to lately...

(C.S. Manish 2010)