Thursday, December 20, 2012

Circular vision

I am a sucker for time-lapse photography.  What I am also a sucker for are panoramic photos.

Here's a website that gives you access to some fantastic panoramic views of some hauntingly beautiful places.  Click on them and move your mouse and enjoy!

The end is nigh

The world may be ending in a few hours.  I don't care.  I'm just happy that is is (finally!) snowing again.  Where has it been so far?

All is forgiven....

(C.S. Manish 2012)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Travel: Day 10 - Puerto Rico - The voyage home

One of the advantages of teaching at a small liberal arts institution is the freedom to design and offer courses that are close to your heart. In January 2011, I was fortunate enough to lead a group of 6 students through the world of Tropical Ecology. Apart from not being in the right ecosystem, Nebraska in the winter is definitely not the place to have field trips about Tropical Ecology. Consequently, one portion of the course involved a 10-day trip to Puerto Rico where we got to see for ourselves all the things we talked about in the classroom. 

This is a travelogue of our adventures together, the sights we saw, the things we did, and the lessons we learned. (You can see all the previous posts in this thread here).

On the 10th day, it was time to retrace our steps and head back to the mainland.  An early morning wake-up call was set to give us time to pack the van, check out of the hotel and make it to the airport in time for some last minute souvenir shopping.  KM and I dropped the rest of the group at the airport and came back to the car rental agency to drop the van off.  By the time we returned some of the folks had managed to find the nearest store with the best sales and proceeded to haggle their way into some expensive-looking items at a cheaper price.

As we left Puerto Rico behind, it seemed as if even the island was "questioning" our departure.  All of us shared that feeling, too...

(C.S. Manish 2011)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Travel: Day 9 - Puerto Rico - Swinging through the canopy

One of the advantages of teaching at a small liberal arts institution is the freedom to design and offer courses that are close to your heart. In January 2011, I was fortunate enough to lead a group of 6 students through the world of Tropical Ecology. Apart from not being in the right ecosystem, Nebraska in the winter is definitely not the place to have field trips about Tropical Ecology. Consequently, one portion of the course involved a 10-day trip to Puerto Rico where we got to see for ourselves all the things we talked about in the classroom. 

This is a travelogue of our adventures together, the sights we saw, the things we did, and the lessons we learned. (You can see all the previous posts in this thread here).

Having overcome (some of) our fears of the ocean and open water, it was now time for us to confront a fear of a different kind - heights.  For the last day of the trip I had booked a trip through Yunke Zipline Adventures.  The best way to see a tropical rainforest (in my opinion) is by getting off the floor and wandering through the canopy (if you can).  Since less than 2% of the sunlight incident on the canopy makes it's way through to the forest floor, the surface layer can, at times, be a murky place.  Higher up in the canopy and in the emergent layer, there's a lots to see and it is a lot easier to do so, too.

(C.S. Manish 2011)

Travel: Day 8 - Puerto Rico - Jungle jaunts and bio-luminescent trawls

One of the advantages of teaching at a small liberal arts institution is the freedom to design and offer courses that are close to your heart. In January 2011, I was fortunate enough to lead a group of 6 students through the world of Tropical Ecology. Apart from not being in the right ecosystem, Nebraska in the winter is definitely not the place to have field trips about Tropical Ecology. Consequently, one portion of the course involved a 10-day trip to Puerto Rico where we got to see for ourselves all the things we talked about in the classroom. 

This is a travelogue of our adventures together, the sights we saw, the things we did, and the lessons we learned. (You can see all the previous posts in this thread here).

The day began with AJ demanding a hearty breakfast so we fulfilled that request, courtesy Ponderosa.  As I mentioned earlier, you can get a lot of food for less than 5 bucks!

(Sami Wysocki 2011)
After 7 days of crossing through and circling around them, on the 8th day we finally ventured into the Sierra de Loquillo mountains that make up the central spine of Puerto Rico.  It was well worth the wait.

(Sami Wysocki 2011)
The drive was quite curvy, naturally, but as we rose into the mountains, it began to cool down and occasionally the canopy would clear to show some fantastic views of the rest of the island and the Atlantic Ocean in the distance.

(Sami Wysocki 2011)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Travel: Day 7 - Puerto Rico - Downtown San Juan and ecosystem tours

One of the advantages of teaching at a small liberal arts institution is the freedom to design and offer courses that are close to your heart. In January 2011, I was fortunate enough to lead a group of 6 students through the world of Tropical Ecology. Apart from not being in the right ecosystem, Nebraska in the winter is definitely not the place to have field trips about Tropical Ecology. Consequently, one portion of the course involved a 10-day trip to Puerto Rico where we got to see for ourselves all the things we talked about in the classroom. 

This is a travelogue of our adventures together, the sights we saw, the things we did, and the lessons we learned. (You can see all the previous posts in this thread here).

The 7th day of our trip was also the last day of the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian in Puerto Rico.  I knew about the San Sebastian Street Festival but since I know a little bit about large-scale parties from my days as a Mountaineer, I figured the best time to visit Old San Juan would be in the morning while the revelers would still be in bed sleeping off the effects of the previous night's festivities.

And I was right...

(C.S. Manish 2011)
Rather than drive into town and get mired in traffic while returning we took the bus.  Surprisingly, this was a first for some of the folks on the trip.  Wonders never cease. The lack of an extensive public transportation system in Nebraska reveals itself in the strangest of places.

(Andrew Jacobsen 2011)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Don't bag it, Sachin

Dear Sachin,

Years ago, Sports Illustrated begged another sporting legend to not quit the sport.  Today, it's my turn to follow their lead.

So, don't bag it, Sachin!  Some time ago, Times of India asked: Endulkar?  My reply today is an emphatic - No!

Several folks are telling you it is time for you to retire from cricket.  I have three things to say about it.

1)  It is NONE of their business to tell you when to retire.  That's a personal choice that is entirely yours to make.  Don't compound their mistake.  Their cries for you to retire are, in reality, cries for you to be dropped from the Indian team.  Those are two different things.  You've been playing cricket for your entire life and competitive cricket for 4/5ths of it.  Who are they to tell you when to stop?

2)  I don't want you to make the same mistake, too.  Retiring from international cricket is different from retiring from playing cricket.  It is very obvious that you love the game very much.  Keep at it.  Play Ranji Trophy, play county cricket.  Play the game for the love of it and not for the trappings that come with it.  If Graeme Hick and Mark Ramprakash could be productive into their mid-40's, so can you.  Heck, it would it really benefit Indian cricket if the Ranji players got to bowl to the likes of you and VVS Laxman.  It would give the selectors a clearer idea of how good they really are.

3)  To hell with how your legacy is being impacted the longer you play.  Don't fret it.  In the end, these last few flickers of the flame will be forgotten when your whole body of work is looked at.

When it comes time to discuss legacies, no one really cares any more that...
  • Sourav Ganguly's last Test inning was a golden duck, out to a spinner, of all things.  At least his fate was the same as Don Bradman's, in that regard.
  • Muhammad Ali was pounded into submission by someone named Trevor Berbick in his last bout.
  • Pele spent the last three years of his career playing for the New York Cosmos.
  • Michael Schumacher spent his last three years racing for Mercedes without winning a single race.
  • Jerry Rice did not catch a single pass in his final game, in a playoff no less....for the Seattle Seahawks.
  • Wayne Gretzky's last season with the New York Rangers fetched him only 9 goals (in 81 games).
  • Sunil Gavaskar was bowled for 4 in his final international inning by a journeyman fast bowler.
  • Michael Jordan spent his last two seasons with the Washington Wizards and did not even make the playoffs in those two years
Do you want me to cite more?  You get the point, don't you?  Legacy is over-rated.  You will not tarnish your legacy by playing on as long as you wish to.  If the selectors are bold enough to drop you, so be it.  They are simply dropping you from the Indian team, not stopping you from playing cricket.  That's what you value more, isn't it?

You are still among the best batsmen India currently has.  You are among the best outfielders in cricket.  Until someone else comes by whose contributions are vastly superior to the ones you can provide, I feel you should play.  After all, when you did play a Ranji Trophy match recently you made a century almost for fun, toying with the bowling.

Go back to being the kid who hated to get out, the kid who treasured the 13 one-rupee coins he won for not getting bowled, the kid who couldn't stop smiling when the World Cup was won, the kid who loved cricket for cricket's sake.

The Aussies will be here in a few months.  I look forward to seeing you take them on.  And if the selectors decide otherwise, I'll still look forward to you playing some first-class cricket and making centuries for fun.  Like how it used to be.  Like how it can be.  Like how it should be.

Because one day you, and only you, will know that it is time for one last fling.  For one last inning.  For one last battle.

For love of the game.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

The end is nigh

When Ricky Ponting announced his retirement yesterday he did so with refreshing candor and honesty.

Can you even imagine any Indian player ever saying the following things about the state of his game?

"It's a decision I thought long and hard about, put in long consideration about the decision, at the end of the day it was about my results and my output in this series so far," Ponting said. "It hasn't been to the level required for batsmen and players in the Australian team. My level of performance hasn't been good enough."

"I want to be a consistent performer, and if you look back over the last 12 or 18 months I haven't been able to perform consistently. I've had moments of really good stuff, and prolonged moments of cricket that's been below my expectations and below a par level for me, so there hasn't been one dismissal or one moment, it's just been in my own eyes reasonably consistent failure. That's why I believe the time is right now to be making this decision."


I feel like crying when I read that, not because I will miss Ponting (more on that in a second) but because I have become too used to hearing our folks talk about the 15,000 runs they have scored, the 50+ they average as an opening pair with Sehwag, or hark back to the 400+ wickets they have taken.  The first step to dealing with a problem is to admit that there is one.  The reason the members of the Indian team continue to flounder is because they insist that all is well and keep repeating the same mistake even as the opposition players have wizened up to their bag of skills.

But I digress.  This is about Ponting.  For much of the last decade Ponting's was the wicket I most looked forward to being dismissed.  Even when he was playing someone other than India.  One of my happiest moments ever was when I saw Ponting getting out for 99.

In the prime of his prime, when he was making centuries at a rate bested only by Bradman, I hated the fellow.  In the evening of his prime, as he became more expansive with his time and interviews, I came to grudgingly admire him for his honesty and *shock* graciousness in defeat.

Yet, it did not stop me from exulting when Jacques Kallis cleaned him up in the first inning of the recent Adelaide Test.  Seeing Ponting on all fours by the time he finished his shuffle brought me joy.  Today, I am a little sad that I was so gleeful.

If Imran Khan and Malcolm Marshall are the two bowlers I feared the most as an Indian fan, then Ponting is the batsman to match them in my mind.

However, when the Perth Test starts later today, for the first time in my life, I will be rooting for Ponting to score a century.  In fact, I hope he scores two of them.  Years ago, I exulted when he came one run short of being the first person to score twin centuries in a Test 4 times.  This time I hope he gets to three figures.  And beyond.

(Getty images, 2012, via CricInfo)
It took him 15 years to make me change my mind about him.  But in the end, he did.  Nostalgia does strange things to the best of minds, so what chance did I really have?

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Casting stones

Harbhajan Singh is back in the Indian team after a spell on the sidelines.  Once his selection was confirmed he lashed out at his critics telling them that a player should not be judged more than just the number of wickets he takes.  (It's a different matter altogether that Economy Singh has done diddly-squat in the time that he was out of the squad and no sound reason exists for him returning to it).

By the way, about a year ago, the very-same Harbhajan Singh was not beyond throwing around the fact that taking 400-plus Test wickets was justification enough for keeping his place in the Indian team.

Like Gautam Gambhir a few days ago, Harbhajan Singh needs to figure out exactly what it is that he wants to peg his hat on.  Self-reflection of an honest kind is seriously lacking among the current Indian players, it seems.

Harbhajan, read Ricky Ponting's incredibly candid self-assessment and learn something.  Please.
Ponting was trapped lbw three times in four innings in the South African series, twice dismissed for a duck, as Steyn and Vernon Philander made him their batting bunny.
Only a fighting 62 in the second Test saved Ponting's career and the 37-year-old now concedes he had huge technical problems and was almost falling over at the crease, in what were some of the lowest moments of his career.
“There is no doubt it was a lowlight. At that stage we needed me to be getting runs if the team was going to win games,'' Ponting said.
“Whenever you fail it is not just about you, it is feeling like you've let your teammates down.
“It was technical - you don't go from playing the way I was playing to getting hit on the pad as often as I was without something being wrong.
“My pre-ball movements were just a little bit earlier than what they should have been. I was trying to move early to give myself more time but it was actually having a detrimental affect. I was moving too early and locking off and not being able to move again after that.
“It took a long time to break the habit I was in and the cycle I was in.”

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Hi NYC, I'm Sandy...

I'm a sucker for time-lapse I cannot pass up a chance to show you this one, taken during the past couple of days while Hurricane Sandy made it's way through the Big Apple.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Scout's honor

Aakash Chopra played with great distinction for Delhi on the Indian domestic circuit before he was unceremoniously dumped from the squad.  Rather than waste time fighting the system, he took that as an opportunity to migrate and play for Rajasthan.  In two years, Rajasthan won the Ranji Trophy twice and his reward.....

....well, read for yourself.  There's a reason I will be following the fortunes of the Himachal Pradesh Ranji team very closely this year.  In fact, my dream final would be between Himachal Pradesh and Hyderabad.
So, why am I on the road once again? Have I fallen in love with this nomadic lifestyle? Or is it the lure of money that has forced me to ditch my old team? No, I don’t like living out of a suitcase and away from my family for five months in a year. The older you get, the more you miss the comforts of your home. No, it isn’t the money either, for God’s been kind enough to provide enough work to keep me occupied and the fire burning in the kitchen. I’m on the road for the very thing that made me hit the road for the first time - honour, a sportsman’s eternal quest.

Poetry in slow-motion

It's no secret that I believe Roger Federer is the greatest tennis player of all-time.  Or, at least, if there was/is a tennis player with a greater range of shots combined with grace in hitting the yellow ball, I'd like to have watched him/her play.  And I'd still think Roger could have held his own.

The secret to his success (as it is with most other successful sportspersons) is how focused he is on the ball at the moment of impact and beyond.  Check out this video:

And if that isn't enough for you, check him out in super-slow-motion....

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Paradise regained

If he plays a few more Tests, Mahela Jayawardene will supplant Rahul Dravid as the most prolific Test match fielder in history.  Lots of articles will be written about the (often) ignored Sri Lankan batting legend.  Many more have already been written about Kumar Sangakkara, who melds his lawyerly background with an outspokenness that is loved by writers everywhere.  Sangakkara, with his faux British-Lankan accent captures the popular press while the man who has made more runs, scored more centuries, and made the highest-ever score by a right-hander in Tests is content to cede the spotlight.

However, for all the press that the more prominent cricketers of our time (the Pietersens, the Tendulkars, the Kohlis) get, I doubt any of them will be the feature of a tribute as wonderful as this one by Wright Thompson, of ESPN.
This happened a few years back, a month after finishing a crushing second in the 2007 World Cup. It was during the war, when checkpoints regularly stopped traffic on the highways. Java and Mahela, the team captain, rode back late at night from a friend's funeral. Java drove. It was dark and empty on the garrison road. The troops stopped them. It was dark, the soldiers focused and on edge, the cricket star was out of context. Java was exhausted and needed to get home. "Tell him who you are," Java begged. "I won't," Mahela said. 

Java laughs now in the hotel lobby. "This guy asked for the ID," he says, "so he gave him the ID. The ID doesn't say 'Mahela Jayawardene,' it says 'Denagamage Proboth Mahela de Silva Jayawardene.' Even if you read it, it doesn't click, unless you look for it, you know?" 

They waited on the soldiers to finish searching their car and then drove on to town. Java was annoyed and wanted to know why Mahela wouldn't do something so simple that would speed up their day. "I may play cricket," he said, "but let them do their job."

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Quiet, please

Reason number 1,456,687,432 why I am a bigger fan of Roger Federer than Rafael Nadal:  Their pace of play.

In the time it takes Nadal to serve between points, the viewer can surf other channels, catch up on the endings of all the NFL games and still not miss a single shot of the match.

With Federer, blink a couple of times and you may have already missed the latest exhibition of shot-making from the maestro.

Check out this split-screen video.  Roger Federer wins a game in the time it takes Nadal to get ready to serve the next point.  Roger's video begins with him serving at love-all.  Nadal's video begins with him hitting the winning shot of a point.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Surf's up: Random musings - 7

a)  So, last night the result of an NFL game was determined by the shoddiness of replacement referees.  Ho-hum.  The debacle could have been avoided had any of the Green Bay Packer defenders followed the first rule of defending Hail Mary passes - KNOCK THE BALL DOWN!

Take a look at the replay - no less than three Green Bay defenders had the chance to ice the game by simply batting the ball away.

Yet, all of them went for glory and tried to intercept the ball.    See for yourself.

Serves you right.  You don't have my sympathies.

b)  VVS Laxman retired a few weeks ago and it hasn't sunk in yet.  I am still not in the mood to write my eulogy but am getting ready for it.  Until then, here are two must-read articles about the good guy of Indian cricket.

First, Peter Roebuck is no longer here to write about VVS, but when he did (in the aftermath of 281) it was fantastic.  Poetry in prose.

As Laxman took guard he found himself surrounded by the din of the crowd and the biting resolution of his gum-chewing, green-capped opponents near at hand. Habitually, he cuts an impressive and impassive figure upon which hostility falls like raindrops upon a bear. He stood his ground.
Laxman was about to play the innings of a lifetime, one of the greatest knocks the game has known. His effort has not shrunk in retrospect for it was not a mere protest against fate but rather a purposeful pursuit of an impossible dream.
Second, check out Siddhartha Vadyanathan's piece, not so much for what he wrote but for some of the videos link to in the comments section.

c)  If you are a famous sportsperson, maybe even the best ever in your sport, winning a match is not the end of your day's work.  Here's Roger Federer's grueling post-match interview schedule.  I used to wish I could play like him.  Now I don't, for I do not want to have to do all the additional things that come with that gift.

d)  Roger Federer is the Most Interesting Man in the World.  Stay thirsty, my friends.

e)  Very rarely do I burst out laughing when I read a straight-forward sports article about how someone can help Tiger Woods get his game back on track.  But this one did.  Johnny Miller is soooo modest, it makes me blush to hear about all the great things he has to say about....himself.

Bonus: Here's Johnny's unvarnished thoughts from a different article:
The drive I hit on the last hole at Oakmont in 1973 at the U.S. Open was special. I'd hit every green that day, and my average birdie putt was about 10 to 12 feet. To this day, I've never seen a major championship round of that precision, with tee shots and iron shots, by anyone. That sounds like bragging, but I've seen a lot of rounds. 
f) If you have a few minutes, take a look at some of the photographs submitted to National Geographic for the National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest 2012.  Which is your favorite one?

g)  And finally, one last look as VVS walks off into the sunset.  A big part of cricket's allure died that day.

(Copyright 2011, AFP)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Light at the speed of light

Are we on the verge of the next hyper-leap in scientific possibility?  It sure seems that way.  The possibilities are endless...if we don't end our world in December, that is.

Watch the whole video.  it is worth your time.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Dear VVS

Dear VVS,

I will write a longer letter later when I have more time.  I have a lot to say but this is not the time to say it.

I just heard that you were contemplating retirement because you were "visibly hurt by the comments that by continuing to play for India (you were) blocking the chances of youngsters".  The next two Tests against New Zealand may be the last I'll see from start to to end.

I don't blame you for this decision and, while it hurts to see you go like this, I am in favor of it.  I'd rather you leave on your terms than be ushered an unseemly exit by a bunch of folks who seem to make decisions, in the words of some, based on popularity rather than practicality.

But I DO have a request of you - please retire ONLY from international cricket.  Please continue to play at all first-class levels.  I'd like to see you turn out for the Ranji Trophy and, maybe, a stint for an English county (Lancashire would LOVE to have you back).  You have a lot of batting left based on the recent centuries you've scored in domestic matches in the last month and by playing at the Ranji level you can continue to give upcoming players a chance to see what a world-class player is all about.  Further, the bowling stocks are so lousy, this is probably your best shot at winning that elusive Ranji Trophy for Hyderabad.

You are contemplating retirement not because your love for the game has diminished but because you are seeing some ugly writing on the wall.  Please don't confuse one with the other.  Play on until you don't want to any more.  Otherwise you'll end up regretting hanging up your boots too soon like some of your peers.

Listen to your heart, not your head, on this one.  Please.  For cricket's sake.

Jaunty Q

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Maggi Noodle Review: The Dark Knight Rises

With great fanfare and much furor the final installment in Christopher Nolan's reinvention of the Batman saga - The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR) - was released last week.  Here are my thoughts on it.

(If you haven't watched the movie, fret-not, this is a spoiler-less review.)
(Christian Bale returns for the last time as Batman)
Batman Begins was about how Bruce Wayne sacrificed himself in order to become the Batman, a symbol of hope for the citizens of Gotham City and a harbinger of nightmares for evil-doers.  The Dark Knight (TDK) brought the dual personalities of the hero to light through the warped eyes of the Joker.  This movie was more about Wayne's struggle for an identity than anything else conjured up by the Joker.  Who was the real "person" - the crime-fighting vigilante or the playboy billionaire?  By the end of the movie, Bruce Wayne is beginning to wonder that himself.  In TDKR, Nolan's hero comes a full circle and the movie is clearly about the sacrifices made by the Batman in order to let Bruce Wayne exist.

In the eight years since the end of TDK, Gotham City has not needed the Batman.  Bruce Wayne has hung up the cowl and is holed up in his mansion, a recluse who rarely shows up in public any more.  This, more than anything else, tells us clearly that he believes that the Batman persona represents who he really has become while Bruce Wayne is the mask he wears so he can sleep better at night.  It takes a villain of monstrous proportions (physical and diabolical) to bring the Batman back onto the scene and the story takes off with some spectacular action sequences from there.

The movie is 264 minutes long and, yet, I never felt its length.  For a change, characters in an action movie take the time to talk to each other in more than a couple of sentences and the action scenes themselves are longer.  Rather than having scenes intercut every half-second or so the director lets us sit back and watch the action from a distance.  For the first time in 3 movies, we can actually see more than just one person on the screen during an action sequence and spatial orientation is not sacrificed.  

While the story follows a familiar arc, the movie finds time for sly humor in the form of Anne Hathaway's Catwoman (never clearly named that, though) and a love story between Wayne and Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard).  Surprisingly, there are a couple of twists that I did not see coming, and an ending that I did.  

All in all, it made for a very satisfying conclusion to the trilogy and good way for Christian Bale to give up the role.  While I was more impressed with TDK, this movie is great viewing in its own right and must not be missed.  Christopher Nolan promised to give us a grander, more elaborate Batman and he has delivered on his promise.

Watch it in IMAX, if you can, or in a regular theater.  Either way, the final scene will tell you all you need to know about the rise of the Dark Knight.

Monday, July 16, 2012


On the day Roger Federer reaches the very top, Nike says it best:

Here's a tribute to the 287 weeks he has spent at the very top of men's tennis: On a similar note, here's a tribute to Roger and the 17 Grand Slam tournaments that he has won:

The morning after

The after-life of a Wimbledon champ.  Here's a quick peek on what happens the next day as various media outlets try to find a nugget of information that will make for a different story than the rest of the competition.

My admiration for Roger Federer goes up even more.  What a gentleman!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Crash landing

Just watch this video and pay close attention to what happens.  You will not be disappointed.

(Note:  keep the volume low, especially if you are at work).

Monday, July 09, 2012

Backhanded complement

When Roger Federer was ruling the roost, his backhand was a fairly simple stroke, harking back to gentler times of serve-and-volley tennis.  While he was quite capable of the top-spin version, he much preferred to set up points by slicing it back with varying levels of spin and then running around it to unleash his forehand, once described by John McEnroe as the "greatest shot in tennis".

Lotur Rotak*

There are many ways to play tennis and the trivalry at the top of men's tennis today - Federer, Djokovic and Nadal - exemplify it better than ever before in the history of the game.  Federer is the artist, Nadal the ferocious fighter who is a ball-retrieving machine par excellence, while Djokovic has the ability to switch from offense to defense more decisively than anyone I've seen before.

From 2003-2008, Federer was the king of all he surveyed, picking up tournaments like nobody's business, at one point winning 24 consecutive tournament finals.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Reacher said nothing

My views on Tom Cruise reprising the role of Jack Reacher have been previously documented.  A couple of days ago, the first teaser trailer for the movie based on the book "One Shot" was released.  This isn't the Reacher I know and remember but since it is Reacher I am gearing myself up to embrace it.

Why couldn't Tom Cruise have been a foot or maybe even an few inches taller?  *sigh*

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The best form of flattery

If imitation is the best form of flattery, where does that put someone who imitates and plagiarizes himself?!

Aaron Sorkin is one of the more sought-after screenplay writers for political TV shows and movies.  Here's a mash-up of the many times he "repeats" himself.  While you may have never seen any of the shows, the self-plagiarism is oddly hypnotic.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Beauty and the beasts

If you wonder whether the Earth is still worth fighting for when the (inevitable) destruction is at hand, here's a reminder of all the wonderful things we may lose when we do so:

A sound of thunder

What can one write about a person who wrote stories for a living and did so well that when he dies, it feels like something monumental has just happened?  What can you say about someone that many others better equipped to do so have surely already done so?

Well, you can start by mentioning his name.  Ray Bradbury is no longer with us, but his presence will be felt for a long time to come.

You can talk about strange, quirky facts that are not well known about the person.  For example,  you find out from his Wikipedia page that he never ever had a driver's license.  Who does that any more?

But, in the end, it would only be fair to talk about what the man's work has meant to you.

Bradbury is most famous for his seminal work - Fahrenheit 451 - but the ones I like even more are A Sound of Thunder and Dandelion Wine.  If asked to pick one among them, I'd settle for the former, a story that spawned the phrase "butterfly effect".  It is as close to the perfect sci-fi/horror/ominous portent story as there is.  I read it when I was barely in my teens and remember it as if I read it a few months ago.

In a career spanning over 7 decades, he produced 27 novels and over 600 short stories, many of them unread by me.  And I am grateful for that as it gives me plenty of things to read of his before I get to properly rue his demise.  Actually, let me rephrase that.  I will not rue his demise since I did not know him personally, but when the time comes I will rue the fact that I will have no more stories to read.

Not many people leave a mark for posterity in their lifetimes.  Bradbury did that and much more.  If you do one thing for me this year, do this: read a Bradbury story.  You will see exactly what I mean.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Pop Quiz #4: Who am I?

(Note: Every so often I shall have a pop quiz on my blog with questions about people, places, things, events, and any other thing that comes to mind. Please take the quiz without peeking at the answers, which will be included at the end, and let me know how you did. Previous quizzes can be seen by clicking here.)

Today's quiz is about sports personalities.

1)  In a Test match in 2007, I was involved in a 408 run partnership for the first wicket. I was the first wicket to fall at a personal score of just 129 runs.  At that time my partner was batting on 49.  Yes, you read that right, he had scored 49 runs and I had scored 129.  Who am I?  Actually, more importantly, how was this 408 run partnership possible, especially considering that the opposition had give up just 10 extras?

2)  I am the only batsman to have been involved in two partnerships of over 400 runs for the first wicket.  Both times, the partnership ended within one scoring stroke of setting the world record. Yet, I have scored more runs (than anyone else in Test history, in fact) at a different position - #3. 

3)  On my Test debut I opened the bowling for India along with my fellow debutant Tinu Yohanan.  My solitary wicket was of Graham Thorpe.  In the second inning I even made the winning runs.  In fact, I scored 100% of the runs made by India in that second inning.  I am one of the few genuinely fast bowlers who have opened the batting and bowling in their debut Test.  Unfortunately, I never played another Test match for India.

4)  I am the only player in the history of tennis to have won at least 10 tournament on every surface that the sport is played on - clay, grass, hard court, and indoor.

5) The Sportsmanship award in tennis is voted on by the players.  I won it so many times that, after I retired, the award was renamed in my honor!  I am the only man to have won all four Grand Slams tournaments in the same year, as a junior.  I would have completed a career Slam on the senior circuit if a 17 year-old had not caught fire and won his only major after I was leading him 2 sets to one and was even up a break in the 5th set.

Answers after the jump:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The speck in God's eye

This one's for you, GS.

I am sure you have heard of The Shard.  The next time you are in London you should try to do what this blogger did.  (Either way, I'm sure you'll enjoy the piece, once you get past the initial paragraphs that are not really helping his narrative.)

A much better piece on that architectural project comes from Roger Ebert's blog.  Ebert may have lost the ability to speak but he has definitely not lost his voice.

(For more photos of the structure itself, click here).

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A tale of two chases

I give you two scenarios:

A)  The #1 ranked team in the world is playing the #7th ranked team.  The #1 team has 47 overs to chase 180 runs to win on the 5th day of the Test match.

B)  The #4 ranked team in the world is playing the same #7 ranked team.  The #4 team has about 50 overs to chase 192 to win on the 5th day of the Test match.

One of the teams won the match and the other drew the match.  Which was which?

Team A was India in the West Indies last year.  Team B was Australia in the West Indies yesterday. India settled for the draw despite losing just 3 wickets (with Laxman, Dravid, Dhoni, and Kohli still not out)., Australia chased the win, not letting up even though they lost 7 wickets along the way.

A year later, the botched Indian chase (and its farcical end) still stings.  Yes, it helped preserve India's #1 ranking but it also betrayed a safety-first mindset that came back and bit the Indian team really badly on the next two away tours to England and Australia.  MS Dhoni's timid captaincy shocked me and, in my mind, he has never shaken that tag since then. The seeds for the winter of discontent had been sown a few weeks earlier, but the weeds began to flourish on that sad day in the Windies.

It would not surprise me one bit if Australia continued to climb the rankings and overtake India in the near future.  They deserve to because they play to win.

If you do not fear failure, success will soon follow in your wake.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Hat tip

One Saturday evening, RT and I exchanged text messages in anticipation of the final round of the Master's tournament.  One thing we agreed upon was that the winner would not come from the final pairing of Peter Hanson or Phil Mickelson.

My pick was Louis Oosthuizen.  RT picked his namesake - Bubba Watson.

20 holes later, Bubba came through with a shot for the ages.

This post is to acknowledge how prescient RT was.  Too bad he wasn't as prescient when he picked Duke to go all the way a few weeks ago.

Anyway, I owe him a G&T the next time we meet in August.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Georgie Porgie

Here's Darren Sammy's take on how the recent Test series against India played out:

"In India, where teams don't go there and win, we went out and played and dominated India in two out of three Test matches. "
Darren Sammy

Are you reading this MS Dhoni?  Are your teammates in the Test team listening?  India won the 3-Test series 2-0 and the third one was an insane "draw" where the scores were level at the end!!  But Darren Sammy thinks that the Windies "dominated India in two out of three Test matches."

Do you know the sad thing, Masada?  Coming as the series did, sandwiched in between two 0-4 drubbings, I had to think for a few minutes before remembering how the series against the Windies played out.

More importantly, does it even matter to you that a vanquished opponent is now revising past history and no one even cares to remember that it was probably otherwise?  Do you care?

Oh wait, I forgot, you have more important matters to attend to...

Why do I even bother?

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Why I hate Rahul Dravid...and other random musings

....I hate Rahul Dravid.    I hate him for making me believe that as long as he was batting we had a chance to save/win a Test match.  I hate him for being such a team-man that he sacrificed so many of his preferences just so the team could do well.  I hate him for timing his retirement so perfectly that even the BCCI could not botch it.  I hate him the fact that, for years, he prevented VVS Laxman from occupying the #3 spot that he was best suited for.  But the thing I hate most is that he is no longer going to be there in the Indian line-up at #3.  *sigh*  I hate that he has gone away and I will never see him in whites again.  Good luck, Rahul, may you find that retirement is just the starting point of the more meaningful phase of your life.

...VVS Laxman should be seriously contemplating playing county cricket in England.  Any sort of cricket to keep him "match-fit" for the Test matches later in the year will be a must.  Unless, of course, he already knows that he is going to retire soon and not play those Test matches.

...If folks can change their stance and switch hit, then I say we abolish the amnesty that batsmen get from being adjudged LBW to balls outside the leg-stump.

...I do not want Sachin Tendulkar to retire.  (There, I said it, BRB....bring it on!)

...I don't follow the IPL but I also do not follow the logic of folks who claim that the IPL is a domestic tournament.  As long as the strength of an IPL team is determined by the strength of the foreign players in the roster, it can never be a domestic tournament.   Having said that...let me know when the tournament ends so I can go back to reading CricInfo regularly again.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Cold dishes

365 day ago (or was it 366?) was the last time I cried.  One year removed from that day, it is hard to imagine that I may be crying for an altogether different reason.  What a price to pay!

The world has turned upside down and, yet, there is reason for hope.  New Zealand will be here for a tour, followed by England, before Australia comes back to face the music as promised by the miserable tourists when they were being pummeled by Australia.

But before that is the beast that needs to be fed, the IPL.  May the best team win.  I would rather watch Sri Lanka and England battle it out.

Friday, March 16, 2012

When when became if and then became when

In my head, I have written and re-written this piece multiple times.  I cannot do any more editing.  What follows is exactly what I feel about Sachin Tendulkar's 100th 100.  If the thoughts are jumbled and disorganized it is because that's how they are in my head.

CricInfo's headline at the end of the Indian inning today was: Tendulkar's 100th century takes India to 289.  (Or something similar).  In my mind it actually was - Tendulkar's 100th century restricts India to 289.

Why, oh why, could he have not done this in the tour of West Indies, which he skipped?  Why, oh why?!!  For the want of a nail, a kingdom was lost.

For all his posturing about not caring about the milestone, it was blatantly obvious that he did.  If you believe him, then I own a statue of a lady in New York that I want to sell to you.

I woke up at 3am with a "premonition".  If India was batting, this was the day.  I am an unabashed admirer of VVS Laxman, but I am a fan of SRT when he bats like was born to bat.  For brief periods today, that SRT came to the fore.  When he did, I smiled.

I have a feeling we are going to see a couple more years of SRT.  No reason why he cannot continue playing.  He is still among the best batsmen in the world.  With no clauses.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Light and dark

How do artisits think the way they do? How do they come up with such beautiful expressions of their talent?

I can barely draw an X and they can create something so visually stunning it beggars belief. Here's an example of how to use shadows to create something magical. Awe-inspiring.

On a totally unrelated (and related) note - here's a very rare image, one that I am 100% confident will never be taken again - an artist working on the least-known skill of his.

The rest is silence

Thank heavens for small mercies.  By defeating Australia and qualifying for the finals, Sri Lanka did the Indian selectors a great favor.  Imagine how embarrassed they would have felt had India made it to the final and Virender Sehwag, who is nursing an injury so severe he cannot play a game two weeks away, would have had to struggle through that very-same injury to play the final.

He who watches out for Indian cricket (Mr. Srinivasan God) must be happy.  It gives his Chennai Super Kings Indian players a chance to rest before the very important IPL Asia Cup.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Call off the hounds!

I did something a few minutes ago that I have never done before - I stopped watching an Indian Test match.  In the past, no matter how dire the situation, I never gave up on the team.  Today, I am as close as I have ever been to do that.

I just saw Ishant Sharma, bowling just his 8th over of the day, about half an hour after lunch on the first day, trundle in and throw down an innocuous loosener, short and wide outside the off-stump to a salivating Ricky Ponting.  When I contrasted that with the number of times the Aussies have blasted through from the first ball of their spell, I felt like weeping.


Half an hour past lunch on the 1st day and they cannot summon their best stuff?!!  The fielding is lethargic, the field positions are defensive (I promise you, placing just one lone slip at 2nd slip is asking for trouble.  There will be an edge that travels between the keeper and the lone slip.  Just you watch), and the body language is of total surrender.  Senior citizens show more interest that these fellows.  Did you see the way they walked onto the ground?  Gah!

It's too bad I don't have a say in the selection of the Indian Test team.  This would have been my 11 for the Test (in batting order):
Ajinkya Rahane
Virender Sehwag
Virat Kohli
Sachin Tendulkar
Rahul Dravid
Rohit Sharma
Wriddhiman Saha
Abhimanyu Mithun
Umesh Yadav
Pragyan Ojha
Zaheer Khan

Oh, and I'd make one more change out of left field.  With the caveat that a failure will not affect his chances, I'd make Virat Kohli the captain and put Sehwag, Dravid and SRT on notice.  Twin failures from any of them and it would be the last Test match they play for India.  Anything less than 75 runs in an inning is a failure.  (By the way, unless MS Dhoni shows me in a first-class match that he is willing to tough it out and bat for a long time in the longer form of the game, he does not deserve a spot in the team, either.  Anyway, for me, his Test captaincy days are done).

I'm done with this Test team.  Wake me up when the new-look Indian team is revealed 8 months from now.  Until then I shall watch the Pakistani team and root for them to exact revenge on England.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Run, Forrest, run!

There are some things you can hide on the silver screen and some that you cannot.  One thing you cannot hide is how you run.  At least for a long distance, in a long shot.

For years, in my mind, the champion runner was Amitabh Bachchan. No one ran better or more impressively than him.  Check it out:

(The dude also got shot in the back quite a few times, didn't he?  I guess he couldn't outrun a bullet).

In Hollywood, the undisputed leader is Tom Cruise.  I have yet to see a movie of his where there isn't at least one scene of him running.  It's almost as bad as Paresh Rawal and eating scenes or Sridevi and monochrome saris in a song.  Here's a compilation of Tom Cruise running and running.

For what it's worth, I still think Amitabh is the better-looking runner.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Surf's up: Random musings - 6

Trolling through the web I often come across things that I file away for future (posting) reference. Here are some of the ones that still seem interesting enough to pass on to you.

a) An oldie, but a goldie. Do you want to know why Test cricket is dying (i.e. why spectators are not turning up to watch it any more?)? Well, look no further - it's the spectators who are to blame.

b)  Who says cricket is a batsman's game?  Here's some food for thought - Over 2,000 players have played Test cricket.  As of December 2011, a debutant has taken 5 wickets in an inning on 143 occasions.  In contrast, in spite of many more opportunities, only 93 debutants have scored a 100.

c) I can't really say much more than repeat the title of the link: High Speed Liquid and Bubble Photographs by Heinz Maier.  Wow!

d) Tring, tring.  Click clack.  Ka-ching.  Some of the sounds your kids will never hear in their lifetime.

e)  Which batsman and bowler has the highest rating - ever - in the history of Test cricket?  Check out #3 on the bowler's list.  He was the first bowler who scared me even though I was just watching him bowl on TV. The #1 on the Batting list is not a surprise, but see where Sachin Tendulkar's highest-ever rating places him on the all-time list.

f)  I know a picture is worth a 1000 words, but this picture being worth $4.3 million is simply ludicrous.  Why, oh why, is it worth that much?

g) I don't think I will ever have the guts to take this ride.  But, it does not stop me from living it vicariously.

h) And if you liked the previous one, you may like this one, too:

i) And, finally, I was debating whether to end with this picture, or this picture, or this picture or this picture.  But instead I settled for the one reproduced below.  I hope it is of Laxman tying his shoelaces for future battles, not of him getting ready to hang up his boots (more on that in a different post).

(Associated Press - 2012, via CricInfo)

Thursday, January 05, 2012

If, not when...

All these days I was convinced that Sachin Tendulkar's 100th century was a matter of when, not if. After watching the way the guy goes into a shell and becomes defensive for no reason whatsoever, I am not so sure any more.

The man has scored blah,blah,blah number of runs in cricket. If that ball-hitting ability of his had been alloyed with the temperament of a real accumulator he would have been challenging Jack Hobbs himself. I am not pissed that his tentative prod robbed him of a 100. That milestone is an artificial one and it will come when it comes and I will be happy for him if it does. What I am really pissed off with is his tentative prod, with the new ball just a few balls away, that opened the door for the Aussie, who then came thundering through it. You gave an easy wicket to Michael Clarke, SRT. Michael Clarke, for heaven's sake. Did the Aussies gift Sehwag a wicket when he bowled? Nah, they took him for 75 runs, no less.

So what were you doing, you gutless idiot, defending like you did not know how else to bat?  Leave that style of batting to untalented mutts like me.

Maybe the Wizard of Oz can give SRT a heart...he badly needs one.

ZAK, you invertebrate!

Zaheer Khan, your attitude is atrocious.

A few months ago, I got really mad at VVS Laxman and told him that he could no longer survive as a one-skill player.  Right now I am watching Zaheer Khan bat....let me rephrase that..I am watching Zaheer pretend to bat and I am befuddled by it.

As a bowler on this very same pitch you saw three Australian batsmen put on more than 650 runs while you trundled around in the field and did nothing noteworthy after an initial burst of wickets.  Yet, when it is your turn to bat, you are hell-bent on throwing your wicket away and making it easy for the bowlers to stay interested.  Gah!  On top of it, your fitness sucks.  You are a below-average fielder and a total liability in the field.

Since you are Zaheer Khan and your bowling carries an aura you will play for India till you decide to drop.  If I had anything to say about it, I'd pack your bags for you and tell you to come back when you were more prepared to fight it out.

As I type it, you are still flailing around while the Aussies refuse to bowl that full ball on the stumps that will get you out.  I have a feeling they are toying with you like a cat toys with a mouse when it knows the mouse cannot escape.

Your dismissal is a matter of time.  With this attitude of yours, it's too bad that dismissal is not from the Indian side.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

How SRT and the IPL ruined the Summer of George

(or) The Eternal Lament of the Spoiled Indian Cricket Fan

This was supposed to be the Summer of George. India had just won the World Cup and ahead of me, over the next 9 months, were no less than 14 Test matches, 6 against the West Indies, 4 against England and then the Big Daddy of them all – a 4 Test series against Australia.

On April 3rd, being a fan of Indian cricket was a good occupation to have. Then, two not entirely unrelated things happened that eventually ruined the happy ending.

First came the lure/pressure of the IPL, call it whatever you will. Virender Sehwag was injured but still played in the IPL, nursing his shoulder injury as best as he could. He played 11 games and, tellingly, only when the Daredevils were eliminated did he opt for shoulder surgery, rendering him inactive for the tour of the West Indies.

Sachin Tendulkar played every game (16 in all) in the IPL but felt compelled to seek rest after that from the West Indies series.

Gautam Gambhir got injured in the World Cup but was not totally aware of it until he re-aggravated it in the IPL. However, he continued to play with the injury until the Knight Riders were eliminated, and then rested, missing the tour.

Yuvraj Singh played 14 games but missed the West Indies tour because of a lung infection. All in all, four stalwarts of the the Indian World Cup campaign were rendered hors de combat for the Windies tour. However, I will not apportion any blame on the IPL for that.

Coming on the heels of a long and arduous World Cup campaign, the timing of the IPL was not the best. However, it is revealing that all the major players named in the previous paragraph did not seek “rest” or “treatment” for their ailments during that tournament, instead choosing to forego the West Indies series altogether instead.

I have absolutely no issues with a person choosing to make some more money at the expense of playing “for the country”. They have an obligation to themselves and their families and I am no one to tell them how they should go about maximizing their revenue or what their priorities should be. However, I do have an issue with the consequence of that choice and how it affected the rest of the campaigns over the next 9 months.

The second factor crept up on us during the World Cup, when Sachin Tendulkar was in sublime touch, continuing his rich vein of form of the past few years. He scored a couple of centuries, had a near-miss against Pakistan, failed in the final, but got the ultimate prize – courtesy a ride on the shoulders of his teammates. Somewhere along the way a new beast was unleashed by the media – the quest for the almost-mythical 100th international 100.

It is at that point that some of SRT’s choices become curious, especially in hindsight. By eschewing the Windies tour, SRT ensured that his next international match would be at Lord’s. Ooooooh, how perfect, his handlers (and he himself, maybe) crooned: a century of centuries at the Mecca of cricket. What a perfect setting for the feat. It made great business sense to score that century at Lord’s than, say, at Roseau.

After a fruitless Test series in England, SRT skipped the return ODI series at home. Why risk scoring the 100 in a meaningless ODI on an Indian highway, when Test matches at Kotla, Eden Gardens, and/or Wankhade were yet to come, each carrying an alluring ring for the media and his sponsors? When that did not work, the ODI series against the Windies was skipped since the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne beckoned. Longingly and achingly.

Now, bear with me while I imagine an alternate scenario. (Not a guaranteed scenario but still a very possible one.) SRT goes to the West Indies and scores a century in one of the Test matches (maybe at Kingston). Suddenly the stories go away, the pressure is lifted, none of the remaining Indian players have to field any more questions about whether SRT is feeling the pressure. Viru and Gambhir decide to skip the IPL, get rested during the Windies tour and are ready to play in England, fully healthy. With SRT playing the Windies series, the Indian batting order does not have to be reshuffled, and  since Viru and Gambhir are ready for the England Tests, VVS Laxman can continue to play at #5, and Rahul Dravid does not have to become an opener in England and the batting order is not unsettled. Since the batting order is more settled .... I can’t bear to carry that dream any further. It hurts too much to contemplate what could have been.

Damn you SRT and the IPL!  This was supposed to be the Summer of George. It really was...