Vantage point

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Just got back from a Barack Obama event on campus, and the foremost thought on my mind - I am so out of shape because of the long winter! Had to stand for two hours in a line that was over a mile long, and had to stand during the hour long speech and my legs hurt!

The more relevant thought is the obvious one - this guy sure knows how to speak in front of huge crowds. The crux of the speech was unsurprisingly similar to what he has said before. But what was noticeable was the way he engaged the crowd by injecting witticisms in between, like always referring to Dick Cheney as "My cousin Dick Cheney".

The crowd itself was way larger than I had expected. Must have easily been about 10-15,000 strong, which is pretty remarkable given that the population of this town is less than 50,000.

The Audacity of Ignorance

Our friend Dr. Phil Frank Burns, after lamenting about people not writing intelligent posts or articles about cricket any more, lays a splendid turd which is both banal as well as based on plain wrong facts. He says - Madras is not a preferred test venue like Bangalore is. While Bangalore gets a game every year or every other year, Madras gets a game once every four years. And so there is a good chance that Sachin's last innings at one of his most productive venues will be a duck.

Of course, anybody who actually follows test cricket would know that in the period 1998-2008, Bangalore has hosted 6 test matches while Madras has hosted 7. That even if you take other grounds like Wankhede, Eden Gardens, Kotla, Motera... the number will be at the most 6 or 7. That until 2005, Madras was almost getting a game a year or so. That the cricketing season in India usually consists of a home autumn series followed by a home spring series in the following year, and venues are alloted on that basis. So Madras got a test in the 05-06 season, and now the 07-08 season. That the longest interval between tests in Madras has been between this one and the last one - 27 months, so still not close to 4 years. That 06-07 was a World Cup year, so India did not have it's traditional spring home series, only the autumn home series, and that the 2 previous autumn tests in Madras were rain-hit.

Facts are such an inconvenience when you want to convey both banality and victim mentality.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Pinch Me!

So... I just woke up. Came online and checked this. Now I am wondering if I really have woken up!

Sehwag seems to have a special affinity for the date 28th March. He got most of his runs in the Multan triple hundred on 28th March 2004. And now today. And if you expand the time window to, let's say, last week of march it gets even freakier. In 2005, he scored 201 off 262 balls against Pakistan on 26th March.

All coincidences aside... what a guy! He has actually given India a real whiff at victory.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Upton - Good News of Bad?

I was chatting with RajK about the Ind-SA test series, and this portion was funny.

Me: Their coach is a bit pissed, because Paddy Upton, India's new mental conditioning coach, has worked with SA before.
Me: They are worried about whether he will keep the SAn's info confidential. Gotta say, there is a conflict of interest.
RajK: SA and mental conditioning???? We have hired the guy who 'mentally conditioned' SA?
Me: Yeah!
RajK: Why? Will Indians also start choking now?
Me: Heh
RajK: I hope he doesn't pass on any info from his sessions with SA. Could be dangerous. For India!
Me: true. Hiring the guy who mentally conditioned SA does seem like a stupid move!

Good point! Is Paddy Upton SA's secret weapon? :)

About Venues

I noticed a couple of things about the venues for the upcoming India-South Africa test series.

SA have never played at Chepauk. And they go into the first test without a single practice game. Their coach and captain are making optimistic noises, saying they have recently played and done well in Bangladesh and Pakistan, but really, that is a foolish response. I hope for their sake that they don't believe that all subcontinental tracks and conditions are basically the same. Madras in March can totally sap you, as can Ahmedabad. The conditions on the peninsula at the onset of summer are nothing like the conditions in Pakistan and Bangladesh in autumn and winter.

And even if we leave the weather/conditions aside for a while, it is the Chepauk pitch. The Chepauk pitch is unique not just in the subcontinent, but in the world. I can not think of any other pitch that is as egalitarian to all cricketer constituencies as Chepauk. Pacers, spinners, grafters, swashbucklers, all are rewarded by the pitch. It is not your typical Indian featherbed. SA have never played there and I doubt if they really understand the nature of the pitch. Are they ready for a pitch that keeps the contest alive and provides twists and turns right through the last session, especially in conditions which can sap every ounce of H2O from their bodies?

Then there is Ahmedabad. Why the hell are SA playing at Ahmedabad? Is my memory failing me, or did SA vow never to play at Motera? I remember that after Srinath packed them off for a little over 100 in 1996, thanks mainly to a minefield of a pitch, they cribbed like babies. They cribbed about the pitch, the outfield, the facilities and the crowd, pledging never to play there. And yet this time, a test has been scheduled at Motera and not a peep from them?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Idiots Taking on Idiots

What else can one call this? Ramadoss is just priceless. He should have been given the padma vibhushan instead of Pranab Mukherjee. heck, he should have been given the Bharat Ratna!

Meanwhile, we have another example of some comrades being more equal than others -

Bhattacharya reportedly smokes in the privacy of his chamber despite a ban on smoking in the writer's building.

Reminds me of Somnath Chatterjee demanding that he not be searched or frisked when going to other countries. Or Buddha's own family memebers' cars being let through during strikes.

What is more hilarious - the Communists' hypocrisy or Ramadoss' lunacy?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Demitri Martin

From unintended comedy to intended comedy. Demitri Martin is one talented SOB that everyone should watch out for. Those who watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart will recognize him as the "Youth" correspondent with a Beatles-ish hairdo. But his own material is much better. You can search for his clips on youtube and judge for yourself what a bright future this guy has. This flipchart bit is my favourite -

What makes comedians special is some eccentricity in their personal lives. Larry David is as eccentric as they get, and behind most classic Seinfeld episodes lies a true incident from Larry's life. Demitri kinda follows in his footsteps. It turns out he had a full scholarship while he was attending the NYU Law School. But he dropped out one year before graduation because he realized he wanted to be a comedian. When asked why he didn't just stick it out one more year and get the degree, he replied he didn't want to waste any more time. Just the kind of response you would expect from someone who hobby is constructing palindromes.

His absolutely deadpan delivery reminds me of Steve Martin and the absolutely mundane and observational nature of his humour reminds me of Jerry Seinfeld's stand-up. Especially this bit... is it not totally Seinfeld -

"They say people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. OK. How about nobody should throw stones? It's crappy behavior. My policy is - No stone throwing regardless of housing situation. Don't do it. There is one exception though. If you are trapped in a glass house and you have a stone. Throw it. You an idiot? So really, it's only people IN glass houses who should throw stones! Provided they are trapped. In the house. With stones. It's a little longer, but yeah."

He has been signed up by Jon Stewart's production house to make a TV series, and has already sold a movie concept to Dreamworks called Will, which seems to have all the makings of a Napoleon Dynamite type cult classic. This insanely talented guy is bound to be the next big thing. Do watch his clips on youtube.

Heh Part Deux

This guy has been entertaining me over the last few weeks in a manner eerily reminiscent of Larry Linville. Linville, for those not steeped in sitcom trivia, played Frank Burns on M*A*S*H. Whenever I tried to picture Bharath, it is Frank Burns' face that always flashed in front of my eyes. I decided to call him the Frank Burns of blogging.

Until today. Today, I noticed this hilarious postscript at the end of his post -

P.S: Dear disgruntled Sabnis blog readers. Food for thought. He has called people not interested in Primaries as "jackasses". I suspect 99% of you folks who read him aren't interested in the said Primaries. Are you jackasses? :-).

Sorry, but even Frank Burns can not come up with earnest hilarity like this. This is pure Dr. Phil level stuff. Leaps of logic, half truths, cliches and a rhetorical question to boot! Priceless!

I really hope that through future posts, I again unknowingly make Bharath Ram a.k.a. Dr. Phil aware of more of his several inadequacies and insecurities, so that he continues to regale us like this.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


There is an interesting fringe benefit of writing a blog post which takes pot shots at jackasses generically rather than specifically. Some other jackass whom you specifically classified to be a jackass of a different genre, spectacularly reveals himself to fit here too.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Kallu Hai Yaar!!

Over the last few weeks, whenever I meet fellow desi grad students on campus, I try to veer the small talk towards the US Primaries. Based on their responses, two very different categories emerge.

The first category is of people who are aware of the world beyond their advisors, labs and the next desi dance party. I presume they read newspapers or watch news channels or both. These guys are usually hoping Obama will win the Democrat nomination, and most of them want him to be President. There are a few who, like me, slightly prefer McCain. And there are few who support Hillary but have substantive reasons for it.

The second category is of people who really dont seem aware. Their choice is almost always Hillary. They dont want Obama to win, because in their words, "Kallu Hai Yaar!"... this sentence or something to this effect said with a crinkled nose. And of course, if I mention McCain, their response is usually "Who?"

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Birth of the Sequel Fad

It seems like every major box office grosser these days is a sequel. Heck, my own personal "most awaited movie of the year" is the sequel to Batman Begins. White people are obsessed with sequels. They just can't wait to come up with them. In fact every time they make a movie, on the odd chance that it might become a big hit, they leave open some sort of a loophole in the plot to sequelize it.

Film historians would have you believe that the sequel phenomenon started with the Thin Man movies in the thirties. But they are way off. The seeds for the first ever sequel were sown in 1918. Towards the end of what we now gullibly refer to as World War I.

I have previously expressed my disapproval at calling that little 4-year-long skirmish a "World" war. I mean come on! Seriously! It happened mainly in Europe. All the other "theaters" like the African Theater and the Middle-Eastern Theater were just that - theaters roleplaying the war on a tinier scale. Where does that piddly war get off calling itself a "World" War?

In fact, until the big daddy, i.e. WWII happened, they just called it the "Great War". "Great" in the sense, "wasn't that war just great and wouldn't it be fun to have another one like it?". So the seeds of the first ever sequel were sown, quite wilfully, by the world leaders at the end of the 1914-1918 war.

Historians have made careers out of dissecting the mistakes after WWI. The terms of the Treaty of Versailles, ignoring the obvious hubris in Mein Kampf, England and France folding at pretty much every hand Hitler played in the 30s, and America's reluctance to enter the picture until attacked directly. You think the world leaders at that time were not smart enough to see how catastrophic all these mistakes were?

Of course they were! But they let them happen anyway, because those were the plot loopholes that would justify a sequel. A bigger badder sequel which would gross more money (and human lives) worldwide than the highly popular original ever could. So don't blame Chamberlain for his stupidity. Praise Chamberlain for having the vision to craft the first blockbuster sequel the world ever saw.

And what a sequel that was! No longer could skeptics like me question the "World" part of the name. That baby was everywhere - Europe, Asia, Africa..... even friggin Hawaii!!! The villain was freakishly short, had a funny moustache and even had a moll. There was enough complexity in the plot to keep fans discussing "what if" scenarios for decades. And what an ending! Nuclear bombs annihilating large swathes of civilian populations? Who could have seen that coming? WWII totally kicked the ass of what we now have to call WWI.

So the next time you watch an overhyped but disappointing sequel, be accurate when you apportion the credit/blame.

Obama's Minor Error

Every time Obama wins a state, the Hillary campaign shrewdly changes the subject by creating some new issue. This time, after his Wyoming win and before his almost certain Mississippi win, they have done it again. They have got the press talking about the whole "Obama as a Veep" issue. Panel after panel is dissecting it.

Obama, who usually is good with responses has, in my opinion, made a minor error. He reacted at length, ridiculing Hillary's chutzpah at making such insinuations despite trailing and despite calling him unprepared. He has played into her hands.

Maybe a better reaction would have been - Yes, Bill might be right. The two of us on a ticket would be unstoppable. So maybe I will consider an "Obama-Clinton" ticket after winning the nomination.

It's Been Four Years Already!!

Note to self- Whenever I meet someone named Pedro, or when the name Pedro is mentioned in my presence, I should stop responding like an automaton - "Vote for Pedro!"

Clear Division

The chief benefit of a two-party system, among others, is the ease with which anything can be divvied up between the Republicans and the Democrats. Most states and even districts are divvied up as red or blue. Issues are divvied up - abortion for Republicans and healthcare for Democrats.

But the most astounding division is that of sex scandals. Republicans seem to have gotten the gay sex scandals and Democrats seem to have cornered the straight sex scandals.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sweet Metaphor Alabama

James Carville apparently once described Pennsylvania as "Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between". If I were Alabama, I would be very pissed off with Carville.

If Only God Had Made Self-Fellation As Easy as Sneezing

The extent to which some people will go to make themselves feel better is remarkable. But do they really have to be so prolix while they are at it?

The King of All Comments!

Who would have thought that eskimos are just as capable of getting offended as the next race?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Decline of the Aussies

Everyone and their uncle have sprung forth to predict that this is the end of the Aussie domination of world cricket. The same articles that were written after the 2005 Ashes, the embarrassment in the Chappell-Hadlee Series, the retirements of Warne-McGrath and the defeat in the 2007 CB series, have been dug out, tweaked and published. I am NOT about to rush on judgment on that.

What I do find disappointing is the decline of the Channel 9 commentary team. Is it just me or have they become unbearably boring to listen to? Whenever I would look for a sopcast feed during the last 2 weeks, I would cringe if it turned out to be a Channel 9 feed. And I would be elated if it was an ESPN-Star feed. And when you seem even more unbearable than Ravi Shastri and Michael Slater, it means there is something seriously wrong with you.

As if Healy and Taylor were not irritatingly stupid and inarticulate enough to overshadow Benaud's sublime forbearance, they have added that prize oaf Mark Nicholas to the team. Nicholas fawns over the Aussie team in a manner that would make Sigmund Freud go into diagnostic overdrive. And of course, in the last few years, they have made it a 3-man panel, which makes things even more drab.

It is pathetic to see the once outstanding Aussie commentary team sound drearier than Michael Atherton on valium. Whether Ponting's boys are sliding from their perch or not, Channel 9's boys have definitely hit rock bottom.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Answer this is Manchurian Candy Date.

Apologies to all those who thought it was some profound quiz question.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What's Wrong with Cricket Australia?

From here -

Aware that he lacked the pace to beat the bat, Praveen utilised the Gabba's low bounce to keep the batsmen tied down

Who would have thought we would live to see the day when the words "Gabba" and "low bounce" appear in the same statement? Add to it the fact that Perth was such a pancake track during the test. While Indian grounds aspire to have pitches like Australia, it seems like the Aussies are trying to replicate subcontinent pitches.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Attack of the Weeds

Normally I don't care much about ODI results. But the CB series win has really warmed the recesses of my heart. There are several reasons why this win is significant. Sachin tendulkar finally produced a pair of innings to silence critics about his inadequacies while chasing, and in crucial matches, and away from home, and against tough opposition. India won a series abroad after ages. New stars emerged and earlier emerging stars consolidated (Dhoni topped the averages table).

But none of these reasons even comes close to the real reasons - we showed them! The Hayden radio interview in which he arrogantly said that India havent won anything, and the RJ who said India should just get on with the cricket. The incessant attacks from the Aussie media and fans, especially their obsession with Harbhajan Singh (a new youtube video apparently "proves" to the Aussies that Harbhajan was giving Gilchrist the finger. Comments by ex-players that Australia aren't able to dominate India as effectively because they are treading on egg-shells.

The Indian win is extra special mainly because it enables us to derive the vicarious pleasure of pointing a finger at the Aussies and going "Nanananananana...hahahahahahaha... we won the CB series, and you guys didn't." Eric Cartman will tell you that being able to say that is much more satisfying than saying "Screw guys, I'm going home", which the Indian threatened to do a few weeks back.

Even better, the 2nd final was closely fought. The audacity of Hopes was not quite enough to stop India. (OK, this paragraph exists only so I could use the "audacity of hopes" pun, given that it is the 2nd of many super tuesdays in USA. I thought I would prepare you all for the barrage of Hopes-based puns that the Indian newspapers will throw at you tomorrow.)

People have remarked that Ponting looks a lot like Bush. But he is like Bush in other ways too. As Peter English notes, he is almost incapable of timely introspection. Just as well. Considering how effective Clarke was, dropping Hogg was a mistake not unlike Bush's mistake of invading Iraq with insufficient troops.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Is there such a thing as Monkey Fatigue?

Here we go again. The Australians lose and up comes another allegation - Harbhajan made monkey gestures at the crowd and spat at them. And this controversy has illuminated me about another vignette of Aussie culture - spitting in someone's general direction (not spitting "at" them) apparently crosses the line!

"He was copping a lot of abuse, but spitting is not on in my book. That's a bit out of line."

Maybe he should have taken a leaf out of John Cleese's book - blown his nose at the crowd and farted in their general direction.

I don't think the spitting is a problem, but the monkey gestures might get him on trouble. The standard defence that would spring to the minds of the Indian team management is - Bhajji has itchy armpits.

Bu here's what Bhajji should say instead - "I wanted to say to the crowd "tum sab ki maa ki..."... but they couldnt hear me, so to signal to them I gestured like a monkey. They think monkey-maaki is the same, so this should be an acceptable physical sempahore for "teri maaki"

Is anyone else experiencing monkey fatigue?