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Life as I'm learning it

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Location: Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, United States

"It little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Match'd with an agèd wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me."

Sunday, April 30, 2006

What is home?

As part of the BBC's ongoing series on Europe, Simon Davis visited the beautiful French city of Nantes. Situated in the Pays de la Loire region (the Loire country, after the river that flows through it), close to the Atlantic, Nantes has seen a rapid increase in the number of people who comes from Paris, and other big cities to make it their home.

Mr Davis had the good fortune to meet the Mayor of the city, Mr Ayrault. And he pushed forth the question, "So, why do so many people from other parts of France come and settle in Nantes? Parce que c'est la ville la plus belle en France? (Is it because it is the most beautiful city in France?)"

The Mayor's reply: "Oui, il y a des parcs, des jardins, la qualité de la vie... (Yes, there are many parks, gardens, and the quality of life...) But more importantly, this is a place which you can call home. You know, it is like what people say 'Home, sweet home'. Your home need not be the best in the world, but it is still your home - the only place where you don't feel like a stranger. That is Nantes. Anyone who comes here will say, 'This is home!'"

Saturday, April 29, 2006

No Roon for World Cup?

Manchester United and England star striker Wayne Rooney had to be stretchered off the ground, after a challenge from Chelsea's Paulo Ferreira today at Stamford Bridge. It was a heart-wrenching sight to see the 20-year old clutch his right foot in agonizing pain. The expression on his face said it all. Even the hostile Chelsea fans, who were booing Wayne every time he pressed forward, were distraught, an indication that England's hopes of securing the World Cup would take a beating if Rooney has a long lay-off.

With doubts over Michael Owen's fitness and form, and with no other top class poacher, England's strikeforce looks depleted without the Red Devils star. For English football fans, the next few hours and days will be crucial, as they wait to know if it is another case of "Roo woe", as it was in Portugal two years ago.

Let's hope the injury is not major, and that the Roon can shake it off soon.


Manchester United's website has confirmed the worst. The star forward has broken a metatarsal in his right foot. He will be out of action for 6 weeks. Incidentally, the World Cup kicks off on the 10th of June.

Friday, April 28, 2006

One man show

This past weekend, Ilaiyaraja and Lakshman Sruthi joined hands to bring One Man Show - a live concert, in which the maestro sung some of his best compositions for movies.

Friend Selva was there, and he terms it one mesmerizing experience, despite the troop not being at their best, nor some female singers, whom the organisers could have done without.

Inspite of the lack of proper arrangements, pathetic compering, average music by the troop, Sadhana sargam, one man really lit up the show. I now understand fully why the show was called "One man Show".

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

English football's annus mirabilis?

The Champions League semifinals ended as expected, with the teams which scored in the first leg, making it through, after (surprising) nil-nil draws over the last two nights. Barcelona have surprised no one by sailing through to the finals; Arsenal are anything but. The final should be an interesting match-up, as it pits two teams that are bent upon playing attacking football, punctuated by slick passing and dynamism.

In a way, the 2005-06 season has been one of the best for English football in recent years. Not maybe in terms of domination. But given the number of teams that have come good in various competitions.

Chelsea are one point away from winning the league, and retaining their title as champions of England. Manchester United, who are pushing them, won the Carling Cup. Liverpool and West Ham United will face off in the finals of the FA Cup in May. Arsenal, despite a poor domestic season, are in the finals of the Champions League. And if Middlesbrough can overturn a 1-0 deficit at home tonight against Romania's Steaua Bucharest, they will be in the final of the UEFA Cup.

If the Gunners and Boro go all the way, England would have clean-sweeped Europe. That may still be a far-off dream, but English clubs have had a thing or two going their way this season. Interestingly, it is not the case of one club dominating the others, as in 1999, when United won the treble. The two surprise packages this season are West Ham and Wigan Athletic. Both clubs, in their first season back in the top flight have reached the finals of the domestic Cups.

English football's hopes don't stop there. The prayers of that small island would be pinned on the national team winning the World Cup in Germany. Most people agree that the current England squad is probably the best England has managed to field in the past few World Cups. Rooney is in sublime form. Gerrard, Lampard and Joe Cole are in superb touch. And captain Beckham can suddenly push his football to an inspiring level. Defensive worries still plague Eriksson's team, but given the attacking strength, England would start among the favorites for football's highest prize.

This could be England's best footballing year yet. But it's funny old game. Ronaldinho, that smiling assassin, can pour cold water on all those hopes - twice over!

In praise of "internalization"

Computer programmers, especially the not-so-fortunate ones, are condemned to life of monotonous coding, the key to which lies in three strategically located keys - Ctrl, C and V.

"So, which project are you working for?"
"ABC-ZYX, Inc."
"Oh, that Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V thing? Poor you!"
Well, not any longer. We are all "internalizing" - the fine art of looking too much into something, and then deciding to pass it off as our own. Many thanks to Kaavya Viswanathan, our deliverer! You made us discover ourselves!

How Oh Pale Mehta Got Plagued?

The controversy over the plagiarism allegations levelled against Kaavya Viswanathan (of How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life fame) have come to such a pass that one has to fall back on Nietzsche to find solace - "There are no truths, only interpretations." Plagiarism is very tough to fight, because it concerns things intangible. Yann Martel and Dan Brown have both been accused of stealing ideas for their most popular novels. But what works against the Indian-American Harvard sophomore is the hard evidence against her.

It surprised me that the author could come back with only a tame, "I internalized Ms McCafferty so much that I thought I had the right to copy it over." Whereas the jury is still out on the truth in that apology, The Harvard Independent has rubbished it by quoting from some of her earlier interviews.

On April 15, Viswanathan wrote 259 words for the Times of India about her favorite books. She mentioned that she was currently reading Zadie Smith's On Beauty — "I like it a lot" — and she expressed her admiration for the works of Evelyn Waugh, P.G. Wodehouse, Henry James, Jane Austen, the Brönte sisters, Kazuo Ishiguro, Margaret Atwood, Dorothy Dunnett, and Ian McEwan — hardly the stuff of mass-market chicklit. At school, she wrote, she keeps up with the belles lettres "by reading all the books that are short-listed for the Booker," a reference to the Mann Booker Prize for Fiction, a prestigious award for novelists from the British Commonwealth and Ireland.
The article also quotes her as saying she really liked Kazuo Ishiguro, when interviewed by UniversityChic.com

But one author Viswanathan never mentioned was Megan McCafferty. And while McCafferty's books aim at a young audience and contain romance, few would describe them as "old children's books" or "romance novels." If McCafferty's books had "spoke[n]" to Viswanathan "in a way few others did," she kept it to herself.
In another detailed article, Shane Wilson talks about how the book might have come through from the genesis of an idea to its entry into the bestseller list. Wilson claims that books by debutant authors pass through different hands, and that some of the content might actually be thrown in by others.

It is therefore quite possible that there is some truth in Kaavya's apology. When she said, "I was very surprised and upset to learn that there are similarities between some passages in my novel, 'How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life,' and passages in these books", she might have really meant what she said. Namely: I didn't write those passages. And I didn't even know there was a Ms McCafferty. Only when I was nailed down did I realise that it is not such a good thing to get others to write your novel.

The Crimson reports that Random House have called the author's apology "deeply troubling and disingenuous." Well, seems like there's going to be some serious fun!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

My 15 seconds of fame!

After living a life of 22 years and 340 days without doing anything significant to get my name into a national newspaper (my mom tells me some local newspaper even published my photo for winning a local Math Olympiad - those were great days!), I got indeed a pleasant surprise today, to find my name published in the Deccan Chronicle of today. And that too, in a page reserved strictly for Page 3 celebrities - the front page of the Chennai Chronicle.

The article, titled Bloggers Track TN Polls, features the co-blog I write with friend Eshwar. Many thanks to all patient readers who helped me attain Blogging nirvana! Thank you!

The article, which is an almost faithful copy of the one published in DNA (forgivable, since plagiarism seems to be the flavour of the season) a week ago, needlessly ruffles the Mafia, calling him an inflammatory blogger. You may want to know what he feels about this.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Superhit "Thingal"

Sun TV, which had hit the capital markets with a 600-crore IPO, listed on the bourses today. And boy, was it a super-duper hit! The IPO, with an offer price of Rs. 875, opened above Rs. 1000 at start of trade today. But as the day wore on, it breached 1100, 1200, 1300 and finally breached the 1500-rupee mark! That's a whopping 70% gain in just a few hours.

(courtesy: Yahoo! Finance)

That's very much in keeping with the trend of IPOs opening at very high prices. Anyway, the promoters of Sun TV would be pleased that they have been able to complete this exercise before the elections.

And, if you made some money in this scrip, don't forget to vote for... ;-)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Hindi football commentary on ESPNStar

For the last few months, ESPNStar has been getting on my nerves by including Hindi commentary in the football broadcasts. Though they might want to take football closer to the Indian audience, this is not the right way to do it. For the commentary is downright bad.

Throughout the match, the commentator tends to give himself some free advertisement. Every 30 minutes, you'll hear him saying, "aur mein hoon Sunil Taneja!" That's okay, but there is worse to follow. Mr Taneja shows us how it is possible to give commentary with the use of very few terms.

The Barcelona-Chelsea Champions League clash was described with just the following few words... "Ronaldinho, Brazil ke khiladi he ye... Ronaldinho... cross badiya... lekin John Terry... aage chal raha he Frank Lampard... cross badiya lekin Rafael Marquez..." Believe me, that was all you could hear. The name of the player, his country and that he could play a good cross only to be collected by the opposition defender. The country identification part is simply irritating because it is overdone. "Rafael Marquez, Mexico ke khiladi he ye..." a couple of minutes later, the ball comes back to Marquez, "Marquez, Mexico ke khiladi he ye..." Poof! I didn't know that the stylish Mexican captain would change nationality every time a back pass is played to him.

This annoying commentary made one even more irate because the commentators forget many a time that they are covering a football game. Like in a horse race, they keep giving running commentary. Mr Taneja might as well contact those who compile the Guiness book of records and ask him to be entered as the person who can speak non-stop for 90 minutes, repeating the same few words. Only those reciting a mantra repeatedly would be Mr Taneja's competitors.

Even worse is when ESPNStar displays a message that says "Both English and Hindi commentary available." One could say "Well, yes! I'm getting both, and I can make out neither!" But at times, when one could make out, the difference was evident. For example, Wayne Rooney against Newcastle. During the closing minutes of the first half, Rooney struck a powerful drive, but it hit his captain, Gary Neville, who was in the penalty are, on the side of the face. The Hindi commentator passed it off with an insignificant comment. The English commentator seized on the opportunity: "Well, Gary Neville might reeling under the effect of Rooney's powerful strike. But really, it is Newcastle who have taken it on the chin. At half time, it is Manchester United 1, Newcastle United nil."

The solution

But miseries don't last long. My friend, Vijay Anand, thanks to four years of diligent study in the field of Electronics and Communication engineering, understood that digital signals can actually be split and regrouped, and that ESPNStar won't be an exception to the rule. Further research on his part revealed that ESPNStar relays Hindi commentary only on the Left speaker, and that English commentary is available on the Right speaker.

Voila! If you live in Chennai, have a set-top box and hate Hindi commentary, simply modify the Audio option for the channel that you want! If you set it to Right, you've set it right! No more Hindi commentary, no more Sunil Taneja and no more cross badiya, lekin... Enjoy maadi!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Farewell, Big Al

Like all great careers before, Alan Shearer's comes to an end. Yes, the Lion of Gosforth, the pride of St. James' Park has decided to call it a day. A sparkling career, though not one littered with trophies, yet in its ability to wow the spectators, was nothing short of the very best.

The Telegraph sums up the Newcastle and England centre-forward thus...

In some ways, Shearer is an old-fashioned hero. Ever since Blackburn's Jack Walker broke the British transfer record to sign him from Southampton, he has been aware of his price but given value for money. To paraphrase John F Kennedy, he has not asked what his clubs can do for him but what he can do for them. Thus, having helped Blackburn to their first championship since the First World War, he rejected the relatively easy option of Manchester United in favour of his beloved home-town club so St James' Park rather than Old Trafford could harvest the further fruits of his labours.
Despite the lack of club success at Newcastle, Shearer's personal success knew no bounds. He won the awards for Football Association's Overall Player of the Decade, Domestic Player of the Decade and Outstanding Contribution to the Premier League, in addition to being the top goalscorer since the beginning of the Premiership. He also holds the record for the maximum number of goals by a Newcastle player.

The fans from Tyneside, while wishing their most popular son farewell, will expect him to come back soon as manager. Let's hope that Shearer's next innings is just as sparkling!

Here's a wondergoal by the Newcastle legend against Everton. For more spectacular videos, please visit Google Video or Shearer9.com

Thursday, April 20, 2006

When he moved us to tears...

A couple of days ago, I watched Thillu Mullu for the umpteenth time. It is, without doubt, one of the best comedy movies in Tamil. Visu's dialogues and screenplay couldn't have been better as K. Balachander turned Hrishikesh Mukherjee's runaway-hit Golmaal into a movie that was just as good, and one which had not a trace of being a remake.

Rajnikanth's acting prowess was matched by 'Thengai' Srinivasan's portrayal of Sriramachandra Moorthy, probably the latter's most memorable role since Kaasedhaan Kadavulada. A landmark in Rajnikanth's acting career, Thillu Mullu proved the superstar's ability to adapt to a comedy role with ease.

Surprisingly, I was drawn into thinking about the movies in which Rajnikanth essayed roles which brought to fore totally opposite emotions - sadness and melancholy. Here are my top five picks (in no particular order).

Aarilirundhu Arupadhuvarai

A simple movie which narrates the life of the eldest son of a large family, starting from the age of 6, when he loses his father. Singlehandedly, the boy raises the entire family and, at the cost of his own career and well-being, provides a good life to his brother and sister, only to be ditched by them later. Few directors other than KB could have visualised Rajnikanth in such a subdued role, and the actor delivered one of the best performances of his career. This movie features the melodious song Kanmaniye Kaadhal Enbadhu...

Mullum Malarum

Many of us, children of this generation, hasten to liken Kamal Hassan to Sivaji Ganesan, and Rajnikanth to MGR. However, during the days they learnt their trade, the reverse was true. It was Rajni who essayed the more mature, performance-oriented roles, whereas Kamal tried his hand a popular roles. The role of Kaali in Mullum Malarum stands out as Rajnikanth's finest acting performance ever. Not unlike KB, director Mahendran brought out the best in Rajni, who plays a brash villager who, without much reason, hates a city-bred engineer (Sarath Babu). Upon watching this one, I realised why films are called movies - for their ability to move the audience!

Shoba and Rajni as siblings brought inevitable comparisons to Sivaji and Savitri in Pasamalar. This movie, which features the evergreen hit song Senthazham Poovil... won Rajni his first State award for Best Actor.

Nallavanukku Nallavan

Rajnikanth's next movie, the eagerly-awaited Sivaji (The Boss), is produced by AVM. The superstar should feel indebted to the production house, because they gave him his first break as a hero in Murattu Kaalai. Rajni has acted in many other movies under the famed AVM banner, but Nallavanukku Nallavan should rank as the best of that lot. He portrays the transformation of a brash misled youngster into a refined and successful man with elan. Radhika, as the leading lady, excelled in an equally good role. Rajni's portrayal of a mature father won him critical acclaim.


This is personal favourite of mine. Rajnikanth doesn't utter a word for the much of the first 30 minutes, yet has a magnetic screen presence. Yet, as the characterisation begins to strike us, we realise how many sacrifices he has done for his undeserving brothers, and how they respond to it by milking him, and finally even sending him behind bars. Another fine example of a movie in which Rajni's character undergoes a sea-change due to the progression of events. How can one forget Maasi maasam aalana ponnu...?


For all the success that it has achieved, Chandramukhi is a crass movie without anything to write home about. One wonders what reception a movie like Dalapathi would have got had it been released last year. Mani Ratnam, who had achieved iconic status with Nayagan, returned with another gangster movie, this time with Rajnikanth in the lead. It is a tribute to Mani Ratnam's genius that he can retell a story we all know, and making us remark that his version is the better. Based on characters drawn from the Mahabharata (Kunti, Karna, Duryodhana and Arjuna), Mani weaves an interesting tale of a gangster, siding with the man who took him in his arms, fighting his own brother.

Dalapathi marked the first occassion when Rajnikanth was paid a salary of Rs 1 crore. GV, who produced the film, must have surely felt that the money was well-spent as the public ascribed it instant cult status. Mammooty as Deva provided such a compelling performance that some people argue till date that he was the better actor - again, a tribute to Mani Ratnam's casting. Powerful scenes punctuate the movie, like when Rajni expresses his dilemma, when he confronts his mother (Srividya) or when he is confronted by Mammooty... scenes during which yours truly, a boy of 9 years old, jerked with tears in Chennai's Albert theatre.

Some other movies in the list: Engeyo Ketta Kural, Pudhu Kavidhai, Padikkaathavan, Muthu, Mannan.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

AC Milan 0 - 1 Barcelona

We are all extemely fortunate to be watching Ronaldinho perform during the peak of his career. If not, we would never have known what we had missed!

My knowledge of such footballing greats like Pele, Cryuff, Puskas, Yashin, even Maradona is limited to an odd clipping on TV, or a book or column on the history of football. Maybe, I can feel happy, even proud that I did not miss the magic of the great Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, nicknamed Ronaldinho.

And when this smiling assassin took on the giants in their own lair, he produced a special effort that sees Barcelona going back to the Camp Nou with a crucial away goal. The men from Milan would be pleased that they are not trailing by more, because they were almost clueless for 45 minutes as Barca cut open the solid Milan defence time and again in an exhibition of football of the highest order.

The game though started very differently. AC Milan are probably the most complete club side in Europe. They have some of the best attackers in the game - Shevchenko, Inzaghi, the young Gilardinho and Kaka. And are blessed with the best defence - Cafu, Nesta, Stam, Kaladze, and the peerless Paolo Maldini. With a midfield that can attack or defend at will. Barcelona, contrarily, rely on attack. Minus Puyol and Marquez, Barcelona's defence is uninspiring. So, the tie of the tournament would actually favour the Milan side, because of their tactical strength.

Milan started off in attacking style, probably wanting to capitalise on Barca's characteristic slow starts. It paid off, as Gilardino hit the post, and Puyol having to clear the ball in penalty area with his knee. Milan had a gameplan, and played it to perfection. Barcelona thrive on space, and Milan cut that out. And they cut out Barca possession time too. Gattuso was excellent, winning balls in the the midfield with remarkable ease. Milan's left flank was very active, with Serginho making deep runs, with good assists from Seedorf.

In the first half hour, Barcelona had a couple of chances, though none was dangerous enough to cause panic at the San Siro. Eto'o was surprisingly off-colour, wasting a few good chances. Around that time, Barcelona started waking up. Iniesta was good, winning possession for his team in the midfield, however Milan ended the first half stronger, though they did not have anything on the scoresheet to show for it.

The second half saw Milan give Barca more space. Wave after wave of Barca attack was arrested by the Milan defence. And then, the inevitable happened. Barcelona strung together a hundred passes, with Ronaldinho orchestrating it, playing in the central midfield. Crosses went to either side, and finally Ronaldinho picked out Giuly, and the Frenchman found himself at the end of a well-measured chip. With Kaladze and Nesta in front, Giuly rushed past a diving Nesta and beat Dida at the near post. Barcelona were ecstatic. They had done the improbable, especially given Milan dominance in the first half.

Once in the lead, Barcelona played fantastic football, the kind that propelled them to the Spanish title last season. Milan, surprisingly, seemed dazed, and their football lacked inspiration. Ronaldinho could have doubled the lead for the visitors, but his shot hit the inside of the upright and rolled across the face of the goal. A good save from Dida off Iniesta (who orchestrated a splendid one-two with Edmilson) meant that Milan go to the Camp Nou with just the one-goal deficit. That game, a week from today, should be a definite treat, for Milan, the wounded tigers, beaten at home in a European game for the first time in so many years, will want to inflict defeat in front of 98000+ spectators. As Carlo Ancelotti said after the game, "They have done it, beating us at home. So, we should be able to do it too."


Arsenal welcome Villareal for the last European night at Highbury. Villareal look depleted, with both their central defenders out, as also is their first-choice stopper. Arsenal look the stronger side.

Men to watch: Thierry Henry, Francesc Fabregas, Juan Roman Riquelme, Diego Forlan.

Monday, April 17, 2006

A rare moment...

Captured 5 minutes ago...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

We came in peace...

This Sunday, Manchester United beat Arsenal 2 - 0. The win was much more comprehensive than the scoreline would suggest, with United dominating the game for almost 80 minutes. Wayne Rooney was in magnificent form, and led United in a comprehensive demolition of their traditional rivals.

What follows is not about football. It is a revelation of how peace triumphs over brute force.

I was reading one of the football message boards on Yahoo! Sports today. I'm pasting the contents of a particular thread here. The thread starts with a United fan starting a stinging attack on Arsenal and their manager, Arsene Wenger. Titled Cheaters never prosper, Arsene, the post points out how many decisions went against United, including a penalty which was not given when Kolo Toure became goalkeeper for a single second, pushing away a Rooney strike with his hands.

The thread gains lot of steam as many fans line up expletives in the name of replies. Some samples here.

It doesnt suprise me one bit that United fans hate arsenal so much, wenger couldnt have made that club more anti-united if he tried. Well its always nice to know that they dont know how to cope with us anymore. Everyone was going on about arsenal before the game, saying fergie was quiet and arsenal were the team to be feared. What a load of nonsense! I wonder if these people were even watching them recently. Were Juventus and real madrid not awful?? Neither side created much at all! Juve lost 2 players in the first game and were not a good advertisement for italian football. Very dull. Their performances in the league were nothing special either. United however...blimey we have been on fire havent we!!? Arsenal were all over the place as soon as we had an attack. Flamini didnt know what to do and the normally superb toure was glad the whistle went for full time!

It gets worse as the thread progresses...

you ar*e fans are polite?lol,some of you are ,but not the ones singing disgusting songs yesterday,they wer'nt polite at all,still all fair,still i think next time w*nker oops wenger sorry says he'll help mourinho he'll cringe,lol

What a loser too, he still that "fu** you but have a nice day" off 8-Mile that black dude. Arsenal fans "Talk out of there ar**s, instead of there mouths"

Until someone decides to restore order...

An Arsenal fan in peace. Yes you were the better team in the second half and deserved to beat us yesterday. I really hope you overhaul Chelsea but I fear it's too late as they were superb against West Ham yesterday. We've had a lot of your fans wishing us well during the champions league run which is much appreciated. Good luck to you.

Just this one message in a red-hot board. And then there is peace and bonhomie all around...

chris thanks,and good luck against villareal

read_chris2002: Cheers Ian. There still seems to be loads of hatred between Arsenal and United fans. Shame really as it's only a game and although I'm Arsenal through and through I can recognise when my team is well beaten. You'd have beaten Chelsea with that performance yesterday and it's a shame that your not playing them sooner. I'm hoping United replicate that performance a week today because Tottenham will not be able to handle you.

jim_888_2000: Well said Chris. There are a lot of idiots on these boards who probably couldn't recognise good footballers. Arsenal have a very good young side, United are just a little better at the moment. Hopefully both will improve again next year and overcome Chelski,we just might do it this year if Bolton get at least a draw on Saturday. At last both managers spoke sensibly after the match and gave deserved praise to both teams, if this continues perhaps the 'hatred' felt by some will turn into healthy rivalry.

read_chris2002: I really hope it does turn to healthy rivalry. The only reason the hatred exists is because the two managers don't get on very well although this season I've seen more respect between Fergie and Wenger and with both sets of players so why don't the supporters follow suit?

Need I say more?

I'm currently reading a book called How Soccer Explains the World by Franklin Foer. The author, an American soccer aficionado weaves an interesting account of how different facets of the game explain diverse and (on-the-surface) unrelated things. If he had read this Yahoo! Sports thread, he might have added a few pages on the triumph of peace.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Not surprisingly...

clumsy artwork: Yours truly