Vantage point

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Is Rev. Wright Sacrificing Himself?

FRIENDS is not my top choice for a pop culture analogy, so it bleeds my heart to present this possibly appropriate bit of dialogue -

Monica: (starting to cry) I’m a good person. And I’m a good chef, and
I don’t deserve to have marinara sauce all over me! Y’know
what, if you want me to quit this bad, then all you have to
do is....

Joey: (interrupting) Hey! Chef Geller! Y’know that little speech you
made the other day? Well I got a problem with it!

Monica: You do?

Joey: You bet I do! I just ah, wasn’t listening then, that’s all.

Monica: Well if you want a problem? I’ll give you a problem!

Joey: What are you gonna do? You’re gonna fire me?

Monica: You bet your ass I’m gonna fire you! Get out of my kitchen!
Get out!! (Joey leaves) All right! Anybody else got a problem?
How ‘bout you Chuckles? You think this is funny now?

Ever since Rev. Wright thrust himself back into the national limelight saying even loonier things, I have been wondering about his motivations. Is he publicity hungry? Or vindictive? Or paranoid? Or just plain nuts?

Now as I read see Obama reacting to Wright with a blistering counter-attack, I wonder if Wright is willfully taking the fall and giving Obama an easy way out of this situation. So Wright went so totally out on a limb, saying things that seem beyond outrageous.... and heck, even mocking JFK... and Obama had no choice but to trash him. In fact Obama can now say "well, he used to be a nice guy, but seems to have totally lost it. What can I do folks?"

If so, hats off to Wright.

Iss Thappad Ki Goonj Suni Tumne?

That has to be the most expensive slap ever.

Monday, April 28, 2008

More on the Chennai IPL Team

In reaction to my Madras On Top post, Hrishikesh writes in -

dude, what do you expect? MGR, the biggest politicial phenom in TN was an outsider - a mallu. the current God rajni, is a marathi guy brought up in karnataka (checked him out talking kannada?). and their film industry imports on a wholesale basis failed northie starlets like simran, just because they have a fair skin. the IPL team is just in line with that mentality. who knoes... maybe dhoni will grow a moustache and act in a tam film?

That was funny. To be fair, as another reader pointed out, a lot of TN players have signed up for ICL, which is why they are not in IPL. And we have seen the result of Bombay packing their side with locals. But still, it is interesting that while other traditional powerhouses of cricket - Bombay, Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and even Punjab, are being captained by local stars, the Chennai team is being captained by a star from the Northie hinterland, the "indhi" cowbelt. Ghosts of Periyar and Annadurai must be planning to haunt Chepauk.

Where is the love? The Hate?

For me, moving to America has meant bidding goodbye to a lot of things. But few break-ups keep resurfacing as frequently as my break-up with the Indian rain. In India, year after year, we go through a unique love-hate relationship with rain. After the dry oppressive months of summer, the first few showers are manna from heaven. Especially that smell, when water rains down on the hard baked soil, leading to a sweet scent wafting in the air. Thee are small puddles displaying the seven colours of the rainbow. There is the uncontrollable desire to down pakodas and hot chai when it is pouring outside. And then the rain overstays its welcome. It keeps raining for weeks and months until you are sick of it. You curse the traffic snarls, the massive puddles which cause your vehicle to break down. It is almost poetic.

In the US, you experience none of that. At least not in Pennsylvania. It rains intermittently, pretty much the whole year. The rain is not necessarily doing the job of parching the thirst of the sunbaked earth. There is no magical smell. There is no novelty, built up over 9 rainless months. There is no distinction between pre-monsoon showers and actual monsoon showers. And there is hardly ever discomfort caused enough for us to hate the rain. The rain just becomes part of the backstory, as opposed to the centre stage it takes in India.

There has however, been a new love-hate relationship forged. The one with snow. It is special in its own way, but not comparable.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Madras on Top??

So a little over quarter-way into IPL, the Madras team is on top. Which is good for them, and for everyone concerned. Considering that the most Tamil member of their team is probably Muttiah Muralitharan, it is a delicious irony. Not only are they depending on foreigner outsiders (Hayden, Hussey, Oram etc.) for their main successful thrusts, but they are also depending on India outsiders like Dhoni (the only non-regional captain in the IPL apart from Warne), Raina, Amarnath (update: Amarnath is a TN player, so my bad here), Gony, Joginder etc to a great extent.

I hope this puts an end, for once and for all, to the whining of Madras folks about the India selectors not picking their boys (like the ultra-talented Sadagoppan Ramesh). Heck, their own team doesn't want to pick their boys. :)

Review of Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

I liked it. It is funny. And what makes it funny is that it almost seems as if they started shooting this movie as soon as they finished the first one.

A serious piece of advice for those of you who plan to watch it. Stay on until after the end credits start rolling. Yes, totally till the end. There is something you might appreciate. And no, I am not referring to the little montage of the two stoners and their girls frolicking in Amsterdam. What I am talking about is of much significance, ans is shown only after all the credits (yes ALL, including chefs, and drivers, and insurers and suchlike) are done. Because they knew that only true Harold and Kumar fans would be devoid enough of life to stay back and watch.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Cricket and Liquor

Ram Guha writes

In my opinion, Test cricket may be compared to the finest Scotch, 50-overs a side to Indian Made Foreign Liquor, and 20-20 to the local hooch. The addict who cannot have the first or the second will make do with the last. The pleasures of the shortest game are intense but also wholly ephemeral. There is no time to savour delights offered in such a rushed and heady fashion. The medium form allows one to take in the booze more leisurely. Here, a batsman can bat long enough to develop an innings, to play strokes other than the hoick over midwicket or mid on. Although a bowler is restricted to 10 overs, 60 deliveries constitute a spell in a way in which four overs cannot — long enough at least to plan, and execute, a dismissal. As compared to 20-20, 50-50 allows a greater exposure to the varieties and subtleties of the game. After spending a whole day at the cricket one can, as it were, remember individual sips of the drink that one has consumed. On the other hand, after a Twenty20 game, all one remembers is that one got drunk, and one’s side won, or lost.

Nice analogy, but not one I agree with. Here is my version.

I would agree that test cricket is scotch... not just scotch, but 12 year old super expensive scotch. Each one different, magical, refined, flavorful, varied in terms of the year, and to be nursed at leisure. Not suited to everyone's palate. And the high/pleasure you get from it can not be compared to what you get from any other kind of liquor. Taste and intoxication both. Divine!

ODI is beer... some are good, the good ones are REALLY good, most are mediocre and others are worse than piss, but in general only about 10% of them are worthy of even tasting. Plus they take too long to drink, which means if it is a good one, you can savour it at leisure, but if it is a bad one (like any Indian or American beer), you have to pour it down the drain or suffer through it. And even then, it only gets you mildly buzzed. To get good and intoxicated, you need to have a binge (read World Cup). So dicey about taste, and dicey about intoxication.

Twenty20's is a shot of generic hard liquor, like tequila or whiskey or vodka. No pretense of taste, or savouring. Yet gets you intoxicated quickly enough. Does not make you suffer for the intoxication like most beers do. Quick and easy, and they give you a fast high without taking up too much time or troubling your bladder.

A scotch lover who isn't rich may not always be able to spare the time or money for a good scotch. But with shots of liquor around, he at least doesn't have to endure watery, dubiously concocted brews with low odds of being good, if he wants some intoxication.

Monday, April 21, 2008

This is Rich!

Pennsylvania has been abuzz with activity related to the Primaries over the last few weeks. Hillary was at Penn State yesterday, Obama was here a couple of weeks back, and so on. But did you know that Central Pennsylvania is also having an election for the Congress House of Representatives(kinda like a Lok Sabha election)? If you did,.... well you need to get out more. :)

The Congressional election has been a side-show that no one has really paid any attention to. Until recently. One of the candidates, Derek Walker seems to have all the makings of a Republican Senator or a Democrat Governor.

Derek Walker was charged yesterday with felony burglary and criminal trespass charges, as well as misdemeanor disorderly conduct, stalking and four counts of invasion of privacy, according to court documents.

The charges stem from an encounter between Walker and his ex-girlfriend last August. According to the criminal complaint, Walker entered his ex-girlfriend's apartment two months after they broke up and found her "becoming intimate" with a male companion. Walker then told his ex-girlfriend he was taking a video with his cell phone and said, "This video is going to put an end to your job with the school district," according to the complaint.

After being told by Clearfield police not to contact the woman, Walker texted her during a Penn State football game in October, writing, "Wow, that move takes balls, how did you end up with my tickets?" according to the criminal complaint. Another encounter occurred between Walker and the woman at the Sons of Italy Club in Clearfield, according to the complaint.

Walker flatly denied the charges in a statement yesterday, writing he believes the matter is politically motivated.

This is beyond hilarious! Why is the video not being aired on national TV? The elitist liberal media seems to have a bias against covering the perversions of heartland politicians.

Close Eye to Detail!

Watching one of the recent episodes of The Office, something interesting caught my eye. The windshield of Jim's car has on it 2 stickers, one orange and one blue, which any Pennsylvania resident with a car will recognize as the mandatory emissions and safety check stickers. The show, as you might know, is set in Scranton, Pennsylvania, but is shot in LA like most sitcoms.

I have generally noticed several conscious efforts from the show to ensure an appearance of Pennsylvania authenticity, starting from the firm's name - Dunder Mifflin (Mifflin in PA is like Shivaji in Bombay or Ambedkar in Lucknow). But this attention to detail really tickled the TV geek in me. These are not standardized stickers that will be the same state-to-state. These look like the authentic PA stickers. That they would go to such lengths to get the Penn-ness is rather cute.

Maybe Obama should put those stickers on his buses if he is serious about winning the state tomorrow.

Mukesh Ambani should ponder this

So over the weekend, I watched the IPL matches. And I noticed that most venues were packed with crowds, but Mohali was not. I was wondering if that was because as opposed to venues like Chinnaswamy and Wankhede, which are right in the heart of the city, Mohali is a bit inaccessible.

And if that is the case, will we see a half empty stadium when the Mumbai matches are held at the DY Patil Stadium in Nerul (New Bombay) as opposed to Wankhede. Wankhede is set to be renovated so this move is a necessary one. But thinking of it from a Bombayite perspective, it is easy for me to go to Wankhede in South Bombay. All locals from the Central and Western lines go there, and plus in the evenings I would be traveling against the rush hour traffic flow.

Nerul on the other hand is served by the Harbor line, which is low on capacity, train frequency and consequently really really high on crowds at all time. I can only shudder at the thought of how crowded it would be in rush hour traffic, which is the direction I would be traveling in if I were going from Bombay to New Bombay in the evening.

So once the matches move to Nerul, won't there definitely be a drop in the attendance leading to empty seats? Or is the population of New Bombay enough to fill all the seats? Maybe Mukesh Ambani plans to give free tickets to people working in the Dhirubhai Ambani Knowledge City in New Bombay. I know that gate collections probably make up a very small proportion of revenues, but I wonder if it would not have made more sense to install lights at Brabourne and play the matches there.

I just realized that since I left Bombay, lights have been installed at Brabourne for the finals of the 2006 Champions Trophy and for the India-Australia Twenty20 match last year. This shift to Nerul is then even more puzzling.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Irony!

A few hours before cricket took a giant leap towards becoming baseball-ized with a 3-hour long city-based-clubs league format, baseball put in a cricket-ish performance, which a game that lasted over 6 hours.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Who's bitter now?

After yesterday's testy debate on ABC, Obama has decided he does not want any more debates. Looks like someone is bitter about being bullied. And bullied he was. For most of the debate it seemed like the moderators and Hillary teamed up against him. Can't blame Hillary. This is the last straw she is clutching on to. But the ABC moderators, Gibson and Stephanopoulos seemed intent on compensating for the alleged pro-Obama bias the media has displayed so far. Not satisfied with recent flaps like Rev. Wright and Bitter-gate, they dug up fossils like his not wearing an American flag lapel pin.

Obama appeared a bit flustered and even tired. And these remarks make him look like a sore loser.

Never has just one word explained so much absurdity.

"I told them my hope is that we beat you (Chinese) [what?] in all disciplines [whaat?] and claim all the gold medals [whaat?]," he said to rapturous applause [whaaatttttttttt?] from the children [oh!] assembled at India Gate.

From here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Vintage Laloo!

This is just priceless!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Gunda Lovers, Be Prepared!

There are those who consider the Mithun movie Gunda a timeless classic. It is rated 8.3 on IMDB and it should have been #73 on the Top 250 list, if not for the draconian rules set up by IMDB solely to keep Gunda out. Critics have called it Shakespearean in composition, Ed-Woodian in visualization, Herculean in execution, Chuck-Norris-ian in popularity, and ummm.....let's just say Victorian in morality. Well, not critics, but me and Satyen have called it that.

But it is fair to say that Gunda is considered by a few thousand as the epitome of pop culture.

Well, prepare to have your world turned upside down. The bad news? Something even more potent has come along. The good news? It is but a spawn of the original Gunda. No, I am not talking about a sequel. I am talking about the Gunda wiki, which in itself is a piece of art. (Update: Some spoilsports "cleaned up" the wiki. If you want to read what I was talking about, go here) Critics of wikipedia will be stunned into silence. It is the biggest triumph of the creative commons.

I was thinking of including some select highlights from the wiki-page, but that would be like deciding which part of god is godlier than other parts of god. God!

Do read it.

The Gunda is dead. Long live the new Gunda.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Gracious in Loss

I am not a big fan of the South African team. But their behavior during and after the Kanpur test has raised them in my estimation. They have the right to feel a bit disappointed at being given a pitch like this. Mind you, I see no philosophical difference between a greentop that ends a match in 3 days and a rough track that ends the match in 3 days. Yet, it can not be denied that the Indians went as far as is legally allowed to snatch a well-deserved series win from Smith's men. So their gracious and even proud behavior is all the more laudable compared to the boo-hoo-hery that the Aussies displayed in 2004 even after losing the Bombay test after winning the series.

Sidharth Monga said it well -

What was most remarkable about the South African team might not come through just by looking at these numbers. They were given a pitch that might have had other touring teams complaining bitterly. The South Africans, on the other hand, made no complaints - their captain and coach even mentioned that they wouldn't hesitate to give the tourists a greentop if they were looking to come back in a home series - and instead went ahead and gave it their best shot. This was in stark contrast to Ricky Ponting's team that lost in Mumbai in 2004-05.

"Huhh?" Mail of the Day

I got this mail in my blog account -

I being a european first and also an englishman, find this
"film" ,as being anti spanish and obviously anti EC!
Who the fuck do americans think they are!!
World leaders?..think again.
I find the idea of a spanish hotel-worker blowing himself
into very small pieces ,over the fantasies of the arsehole of the known world, ludicrous,to say the least!
Sorry ,I beg to disagree with the feeble idea of american
world domination ..,but they just keep killing each other,
the more the merrier ,as far as I am concerned.
You must harder!!

Obviously I was puzzled. I tried to recall which post of mine would warrant such a response. Nothing came to mind. Then I wondered if this was a spam mail, but it wasn't trying to sell me anything. For a moment I suspected that the politically correct and easily offended had now taken to sending out protest mails recreationally or as practice to random people.

And then it hit me. He was talking about the crappy movie Vantage Point that my blog shares its name with. A pathetic attempt at creating a rashomon-meets-tom-clancy concoction. A movie so forgettable that even though I saw it just a month back, it took me a while to remember what he was talking about.

The perils of sharing your blog name with a crappy movie! I must harder indeed!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

No, this is NOT Satire!

The Commies in Kerala have made it compulsory for farmers to hire unionised farm labourers to harvest their crop. Machines have been banned. Obviously, the commies have the "noble" intention of ensuring employment and a hike in wages of farm labourers. Just kidding. Indian commies and noble? Clearly, there are more farm labourers and farmers so guess where more votes lie?

And the consequences?

It takes 10 or more workers a full day’s effort to harvest an acre of paddy; a single machine can do the job in less than an hour. The CPM’s intransigence has left the region on the brink of famine. “I could have saved at least 90 percent of my crop if I had a machine. The harvesting would have been over in the first week of March itself, before the rains that destroyed my crop this year,” laments Samuel Kunju, another farmer. “I had taken a loan of Rs 1,75,000. How am I going to repay it? Maybe I should ask the union.”
And to make matters worse,

Both production and acreage of rice have been plummeting over the years. The state depends on its neighbours for about 80 percent of its requirement. Also, the fact that harvesting takes a long time, increases the crops’ vulnerability to summer rains. Over 1,500 hectares of paddy was submerged in the rains in the belowsea level Kuttanad this year. Another moderateto- strong shower could wipe out a crop worth over Rs 30 crore in almost 7,000 hectares.
Not even the most imaginative satirist could come up with a more bizarre illustration of the vile consequences of Indian communism.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Whenever I see politicians or pundits in America talk, I am amazed at how little they have learnt about the Middle East even after losing 4,000 soldiers and hundreds of billions of dollars there. There are a million points that illustrate this, but the one I find most amusing is the whole "Iranian influence on Iraq" question. The talking heads are bugged that Iran seems to be becoming increasingly influential in Iraq. They can't stand it.

Excellent! So you first remove from power the Bath Party, a Sunni-dominated and somewhat secular party that ruled with an iron fist a Shia majority country. Shias who are already a tiny minority in the Muslim world. And whose only real "power centre" in the world is Iran, which happens to neighbour Iraq and share centuries of common history and culture.

And then you wonder why those "ungrateful" Iraqis are sidling up to Iran? Here are some more perplexing questions - why do mothers love their kids so much? Why are friends so friendly towards each other?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Damn Those Turtles

For the record, I don't care about any turtles apart from those that gamely become soup for me. I don't care about saving turtles. And I certainly don't care about any interactions you have been having with Ratan Tata regarding saving turtles. So please, keep your communications with Ratan between you and Ratan and leave me out of it.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

बढिया! मस्त!

अरे वाह! अब मैं इतनी आसानी से हिन्दी मे लिख सकता हूँ!

आणि मराठी मध्ये देखील! अर्थातच!

The kaanas, maatras etc may not display properly if you are using Firefox.

Best April Fool's Prank

Several lists have been made of the best April Fool's Pranks. But the one that continues to fool people with surprising regularity is by my friend RajK. He has entered his birthday on Orkut as April 1, though it is not his birthday. So every year, dozens of people leave him the cursory meaningless "let-me-check-whose-birthday-it-is-today-and-leave-them-a-paltry-scrap" scrap wishing him many happy returns and suchlike..

I don't know if he actively intended to make a statement about the utter futility of people who are not really your friends wishing you on your birthday thanks to these dastardly social networking sites. Or if it was just a prank. Either way, super successful.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


I know I am supposed to say that any act of violence is bad, and an eye-for-an-eye will leave us all blind and suchlike. But given that the target is a party which specializes in using violence and brute force to shut down any dissent in places where they are stronger, that sentiment right now is being strongly overpowered by schadenfreude.

McCain Has Fun

While Hillary and Obama continue their sleep deprived timeless test, McCain is having fun. He has been hosting barbecues for the media and sharing recipes for ribs. He is telling everyone his family history and life's story. And now he is doing something he has always been good at - having fun on the late night shows. Gotta love his delivery here -

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Google's Losing It

I was curious to see what Google's's traditional April Fool's joke will be this year. Well, it is kinda funny but very obviously a joke so I don't see many people falling for it, unlike the whole "print your email free" joke. It does make for funny reading though.