Monday, May 28, 2007

That Library Thaang...

One of the things I constantly gripe about is that I dont get enough reading time nowadays. I am probably down to about 2-3 books a month. Really need to do better, especially as my To-Be-Read list continues to grow and grow.

I came across this fantastic website though. Its a great way to keep your library catalogued, and also provides good suggestions based on books you rate. Need to browse more into the website to check out all the tools it provides. You can also browse through other people's libraries and rate/review books. Neat!

Book fest at work last week. There was a literature based quiz contest as well, and I won two prizes. One was a nice little pen-and-business-cards stand, useful desk decor. The other was a Rs. 250/- gift voucher for one of the stalls at the book fest. Unfortunately, this was the stand which had obviously decided that what the techies must need most are books on technology. Blech! Anyway, they did have Freakonomics, so I picked that up. The other book I bought was "Motherless Brooklyn" by Jonathan Lethem which I have been planning to read for a while now.

Currently have a bit of a back-log though. Reading "My name is red" by Orhan Pamuk currently. I'll probably jump to Lethem's novel after this one coz I really am very excited about it. Orhan Pamuk, though, has me completely engrossed in his 16th century world of Turkish miniaturists. Wonderful stuff.

Other books I have on my reading list (the one's I already own that is) are Wally Lamb's "She's come undone", Tom Wolfe's "The electric kool-aid acid test" and James Ellroy's "American Tabloid: A Novel".

Friday, May 25, 2007

Milan 2 Liverpool 1

I would have loved to report a different scoreline above, but thats how it ended in Athens. Not half as cool as two years ago in Istanbul.

But, hey! You can't win them all. Not that Liverpool has been winning 'them' all recently, but two European finals in three years is commendable. The irony really was that unlike in Istanbul, this time Steven Gerrard and his team went out on the field with the determination to take the game by the scruff of its neck. Playing Gerrard in a more advanced role than the right wing, as Rafa usually has been doing, signalled that even the cautios Benitez had decided to go for a greater focus on attack.

And there were definitely very good performances put in by many of the Reds that day. Milan are a good team, but not a team in the same calibre as Barcelona, who would inspire fear through their attacking prowess. Kaka is excellent, but Mascherano and Dan Agger put in terrific performances in controlling him. Where Liverpool severely lacked though, was on the wings. Zenden and Pennant huffed and puffed, but especially in the case of Zenden, were completely powerless to influence the game. Pennant actually surprised a lot of his detractors, including me, through several intelligent runs, but his greatest weakness is his final ball. His crosses either never go past the first defender, or are lobbed too high and far over the danger areas. The first time he did manage to get a tight, low cross in, it was the 83rd minute (or so) and Crouch didnt manage to beat the keeper. The next time his cross was low and tight, Agger touched it on for Kuyt to score the consolation goal. But the match was already lost by then.

Notable performers - Carragher and Agger were solid in defence, except for one misunderstanding which Milan could not take advantage of. Riise and Finnan were both very good, although Finnan had to cope with not enough help from Pennant down the right flank. What we wouldnt have given to see one of Riise's magical long distance goals on Wednesday!

In midfield, Mascherano was superb, as was Gerrard. But I was surprised to see Alonso losing his head so often. He was a ticking bomb waiting to explode, and finally he did concede the free kick with a foul on Kaka, which was converted by Pirlo via Inzaghi's wincing arm or shoulder. Harry Kewell got a chance to find out what the second half of a CL final feels like this time, but he could not influence the game as much as could have been hoped. Kuyt was hard working, but he did not see enough chances created for him.

So, another season comes to a close. Having missed most of the season in the US, I hate the thought of nearly 3 months without any football. But there will be a lot of action happening in the transfer market. And this time, Liverpool could be among the big spenders, thanks to Hicks and Gillett spreading the dosh around. Hopefully, we will have a couple of brand new wingers as high priority requirements. If the rumours are true, Arjen Robben could be out of Chelsea soon, but do we really want the oldest 'young' player in the world? Can Kaka be dragged away from Milan? Will we see two new exciting Portuguese players in Simao and Nani travelling to Merseyside next season? Will Rafa keep faith in Kewell for another season? Zenden, i feel, will definitely leave. Pennant may remain as backup only. Also, Gabriel Palleta and Sami Hyppia are probably leaving, so there should be another center back coming in. And how much dosh will Rafa be ready to blow on either Torres or Eto'o? Or David Villa?

Loads of questions. Hopefully, we will get the answers gradually over the summer. Exciting times ahead for Liverpool!!

Friday, May 11, 2007

I knew this one...

You Are 16% Sociopath

You're empathetic, loyal, and introspective.
In other words, there's no way you're a sociopath... but you can spot one pretty easily!

The Superhero in me !! :P

You Are Batman

Billionaire playboy by day. Saving the world by night.
And you're not even a true superhero. Just someone with a lot of expensive toys!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Pleased to meet you...

If I was more of a pious guy, I guess I'd probably be ringing the ghanta of my neighbourhood temple (there's one right next to my house) a lot more, thanking God for the wonderful things he has given me the capacity to appreciate and enjoy. But I missed that bus a while back.

And then there's the undeniably un-godly nature of some of the music I appreciate a bit too much of course. Case in point, as the title of this post suggests is the terrific Stones number "Sympathy for the Devil". Of course, the Rolling Stones were not to blame for the hue and cry from the clergy and the moral police who related rock 'n roll to satanism. That argument goes a long way before Mick and Keith paired up. But this song, along with several other Stones numbers, have had their fair share of controversy.

But who cares? What a great song! Great lyrics penned by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, great music which, according to rumour, had Led Zep's Jimmy Page pitching in with a guitar solo. Page, of course, was a well-known occultist and probably begged Mick for a bit part in this ode to Lucifer. Also, the lyrics are said to be inspired from Mikhail Bulgakov's great masterpiece "The Master and Margerita".

Bulgakov's book has its own colourful history, taking him almost a decade to complete. In Socialist Russia, Bulgakov had to go through a great deal of censorship and harrassment as his book was seen as inflammatory and satirical about the bureaucratic system. Three years into the writing, Bulgakov one day decided to destroy his work and burnt the entire document on his kitchen stove. Boosted by his wife's support, he again re-wrote the entire book and finally managed to get it printed, though in a censored form. The book is now considered a great piece of literature of course. I've got to get me a copy sometime soon!

Coming back to the song, I can't resist printing the lyrics here, with due regard to Mick and Keith who wrote it.

Sympathy For The Devil
Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man's soul and faith
And I was 'round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game
I stuck around St. Petersberg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the Czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain
I rode a tank
Held a general's rank
When the Blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
What's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah
I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the Gods they made
I shouted out
"Who killed the Kennedys?"
When after all
It was you and me
Let me please introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadors
Who get killed before they reached Bombay
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what's confusing you
Is just the nature of my game
Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
'Cause I'm in need of some restraint
So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I'll lay your soul to waste, um yeah
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, um yeah
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, um baby, get down
The song is from the point-of-view of the devil, with references to the mysterious deaths of the Czar and the Kennedy's. The vocals are brilliant, as you would expect from Jagger. The song was later covered by Guns 'N Roses also.
Themes inspired from Bulgakov include the references to the Czars and also the lines "And I was 'round when Jesus Christ/Had his moment of doubt and pain/ Made damn sure that Pilate/ Washed his hands and sealed his fate". The story of Pontius Pilate meeting Jesus and reluctantly handing him over to those who wanted to kill him forms a second strand in the novel.
So, some great music, intelligent lyrics, intellectual inspirations. What more could you ask for? So what if it deals with themes that are considered controversial. Go, listen and read. I already am.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Back in Bangalore!

I'm back, and it feels good.

Things I will miss about the US in general - driving on those lovely freeways, the smoothies, the fantastic beer, the great scotch, and that Mecca for book-lovers in the Glendale area, the Foothills Branch Library. FBL - it was great while it lasted. I will miss you.

Spending a week in Mumbai with family was great. Even though the weather was a killer, the lazy days doing nothing much felt damn good. Gorging on vada pav and the terrific Mumbaiya pav bhaji was yum. Also the delicious maacher jhol at home, with mom trying to make me go through a month's quota in a week.

Being able to watch football on the telly is another pleasure I've been looking forward to. I missed almost the entire 2006-07 season of the Champions league and the EPL, but it was great to catch Liverpool's victory in the CL semis over Chelsea. Also, very very happy that ManUtd is now the EPL champs beating Chelsea again. Its great to see that big money doesnt always win you everything. Chelsea fans - you are free to rant.

The downsides are also there of course. Its becoming harder to watch the news everyday. Its astonishing the level of corruption in this country, with new cases of "fake" encounters every day. Were encounters ever supposed to be legitimate? I understand that they are a necessary evil in many cases, but the flip side is the fact that many of these encounters seem to have involved victimization of innocents, rather than the guilty. Now we are faced with the ugly mug of DSP (or watever) Vanzara, a criminal of the lowest order plumb in the middle of our police forces.

My first experience on reaching Bombay airport. The visibly inexperienced Indian steward on the Delta flight, had made the mistake of handing out just a single immig form per family, instead of one form per person. Standing in line at Bombay airport, the disgracefully dressed, vernacularly challenged person who was responsible for guiding people to the various booths for other similarly challenged people to process the forms, looks at the single form per family and says - "Cha maayla, kon toh chu**ya", which translates to "What the? Who's the a**hole who gave out single forms". And this loud and clear, without bothering to notice that there are families and women and kids around. Lovely.

Then the gentleman actually processing the forms, suddenly looks past me with his mouth wide open and eyes lit up. I look back to see an American lady in her mid-30's, drawing a lot of looks coz she left one shoulder uncovered. Bang, bang, bang go the stamps on my forms as the immig man tries to make sure she gets sent to his booth! Well, there's my immig checks done.

Not that I want this to turn into a rant, but there really does need to be something done to improve the first experience that visitors have while entering our country.

Well, on second thoughts, thats not the only thing that needs changing. We really need to do something about the beer we get here.