Monday, June 27, 2005

MIT Weblog Survey

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

A dark day ...

Its the 30th anniversary of the declaration of a State of Emergency in India by the Indira Gandhi government. The nineteen month long emergency was one of the darkest periods in the history of independent India, with flagrant violation of human rights. Indira had opposition leaders arrested, and curfews imposed on the press. State legislatures were dissolved in states where the rival parties were in power, and a series of harsh bills and constitutional amendments through parliament, all which were approved with little discussion or debate. When Indira Gandhi called elections in 1977, she faced the wrath of the people who voted her out with overwhelming numbers. We can only hope that the political leadership will be more responsible in the future and not let us see these blatant misuses of power in the future.

Mr. Forward short leg passes on ...

Eknath Solkar (1948-2005)
Image from Rediff

Eknath Solkar, one of India's greatest close-in fielders died yesterday in Mumbai. Solkar played 27 test matches for India from 1969-77 and was one of the key reasons for the success of India's spin quartet in the 70s.

Image from Rediff
His key catch to dismiss Alan Knott off Venkatraghavan was an important turning point in India's first major win over England in 1971 at The Oval.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Some funny blog posts

Some funny posts from the Indian blogosphere:

Saket Vaidya's plan to make a collection of pictures of indian women (from mumbai to be precise) in their daily lives for good wholesome family entertainment! (that last one cracked me up ...)

Chanakya's letter to the Pakistani people - its too funny, this part in particular: "You guys should see the number of foreigners patiently standing in line (even when there is none!) applying for drivers licenses in Bangalore and Pune. Some foreigners are even standing in line to become our next Prime Minister. "

The Indian blogosphere seems to be getting more and more interesting and enjoyable every day. Every day leads to the discovery of more and more good quality content!

Book Tag

As part of the book tag doing the rounds of the Indian blogosphere, I have been tagged by Ashwini. And she certainly has a swell book collection! She doesn't seem to have or like Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooey, not yet anyway - but I bet by the time she is six, Parag will have to read to her 4 nights a week!!

I couldn't find any of the Hamster Huey strips, but here is another one - every parent's worst nightmare!

In the meantime, I will put out my book list soon ...

The Hand of God - June 22, 1986

Amul had a superb topical when Diego Maradona was taking the world by storm.

Image from Amul

Maradona spearheaded Argentina to victory in the 1986 Soccer World Cup in Mexico. A key step in that journey to that title was The Hand of God - Maradona's goal against England in the quarter finals, exactly 19 years ago on this day. Clearly, Maradona had stuck out his forearm and pushed the ball into the goal. The pictures say all the story:

Image taken from Yahoo's 2002 FIFA World Cup website

Much to the dismay of the English fans and players, the goal was allowed and a second brilliant goal (and i mean spectacular, no wonder it was voted Goal of the Century!) sealed England's fate. Maradona at that time did not admit it - he said that the goal was scored "a little bit by the Hand of God, another bit by the head of Maradona". He did admit using his hand in his autobiography published in 2002. When England beat Argentina in the 2002 World Cup, there came out tshirts reading Look no hands!

No denying Maradona's greatness as a soccer player, but the Hand of God certainly tarnished his image forever - for having 'cheated' on the greatest stage in the world. After all, everything is fair in love, war and the greatest prize in soccer, the Jules Rimet trophy.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The flag

i often check the wikipedia (on most weekdays anways) about significant events, births and deaths of the day. its a source of some really cool information. here is something about today (june 21):

among other things, today is the longest day of the year for those of us in the northern hemisphere (summer solstice) and the longest night for those in the southern hemisphere.

but an interesting event that took place on this day in 1989 was the decsion of the US Supreme Court in a case known as Texas v/s Johnson. Greg Johnson had burnt the US flag at the Republican National Convention in Dallas (1984), and had subsequently been convicted for desecrating a venerated object in violation of a Texas statute. The US Supreme Court however, overturned it citing "... Johnson's burning of the flag constituted expressive conduct, permitting him to invoke the First Amendment", the First Amendment ofcourse referring to the freedom of speech (and expression??) according to the US constitution. the decision did cause a lot of outrage amongst the public, but it has stood the test of time (so far!). there are some laws against misuse though - According to the US flag code,
# No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform"
# The flag "should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper.

what does all this really mean to all of us here? on the face of it, nothing really. but the question that intrigued me was that i am actually quite ignorant about any laws related to all this in india. i tried briefly to look on the web for laws in the indian constitution that prohibit the desecration of the indian national flag or even burning of the same. suffices to say that i didnt find any (i didnt look too hard though, im sure thereis something on the web!). but would we consider that someone burning the indian flag was actually 'expressing himself'? personally i dont think so ... the national flag is a symbol of the nation, and if you dont like the way it is - find some other nation or get parliament to change the law and get one you want ... but till then , the tricolor it is and no one's got the right to mess around with it.

as i write this, i recall that they sometimes show flag burning in movies (in roja, for example). but i also recall someone telling me that they do not actually use a 'real flag' - its a fake flag (i.e. something is inaccurate about it, such as the ashok chakra is missing, or the colors are inaccurate or something) so that they are not really showing the flag burning. which probably means that there are laws in india prohibiting the smae. any info on the same would be quite welcome.

UPDATE - someone (YB) did point me out to the Indian Flag Code which is quite restrictive about what one can get away with as regards the indian flag. certainly no chance of being able to burn it and gettign away by calling it freedom of speech and expression.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Guilty before trial ...

The Slimes of India has already passed judgement on Greg Chappell - pronounced that he will be a failure as coach even before the team has had a single match with him at the helm. Here is my answer to the SoI:

He is being paid more than any previous coach in the history of cricket - and its for a reason. The Indian team is a bunch of super-talented stars, there is politics at the BCCI, the media scrutiny etc - all these are just some of the difficulties any coach hired to lead the Indian cricket team is going to face. By saying that Greg will fail simply because of his aggressive mindset and lead from the front mentality is ridiculous. C'mon Slimeys, atleast give the guy an oportunity to prove himself before you bring him down. And if a coach is going to fail simply because the moutain of difficulties faced is unsurmountable, then should we conclude that the Indian team is so badly star crossed that its never going to make it to the top? John Wright was in the same boat, he faced the same hurdles - ok, he had a very different style from Greggo, prefering to be the invisible hand guiding the team. But the fact remains that he did have some stellar successes to his name, braving the same odds that the SoI rants about.

Again, all that we're sayin .. is give Greg a chance!

At the very least, give the name of the person(s) who put this piece together, so that I can address these comments at him (or her or them).

Friday, June 10, 2005

Jedi Master

The latest craze in San Antonio:
Obi-Wan Ginobili - May the force be with Manu!

And the way Manu Ginobili is playing, he is certainly looking like a Jedi Master. Last night's fourth quarter was just too much of the force. If this keeps up, Detroit better start planning for next season pretty quickly.

The picture above is pretty cool - obviously merged from these two pictures - Manu and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Nice work hobbes !

Flashback ....

I was reading Flashback on Mustang's blog when I was suddenly reminded of the fact that i appeared for the GATE several years ago - well why would Mustang remind me of the GATE? Because there is an anecdote to go with it, with him being a part of it:

I wanted to appear for the GATE, but was late (as usual) and it was the last day for getting the forms. The forms were available from SBI branches, but all branches stopped issuing them a day before the last date. The only place where it was now available was the SBI branch at Andheri. So one of Mustang's classmates (Rohan) went all the way to Andheri to get me the form since I had labs that day and could not leave. And the next day, Mustang went all the way to IITB campus the next day (it was the last day to submit the form) and submitted my form for me!!

I remember going and appearing for the exam simply because both of them had taken all the trouble to get me registered for the exam - although I landed at the exam center without any preparation whatsoever!! and i also recollect that whenthe GATE results came out, that if i managed what i did without any effort, perhaps a little bit of preparation would have landed me with a great score, and possibly a completely different course of action after graduation!!! Ofcourse that was not to be .... and the GATE became just another anecdote! Yet, thanks to Mustang and Rohan for running across Bombay to help me out at that time ...

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter
John Keats

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Ridiculous .... India's five-year-old policeman

It happens only in India
The Indian system allows a family member to take the post of a government employee who dies while in service - irrespective of age, and families needing the money will have to do it too. 5 year old Saurabh Nagvanshi goes to a police station and school on alternate days - the former to take his place instead of his father, and earn Rs. 2500/month to feed a family of 5 and his mother.

While its easy to condemn the system for exploiting children thus, its not quite straightforward to find another way to find a livelihood for the family when the only earning member dies. Part of the responsibility rests with the government - they have to provide adequate pension support to the widow so that she has the means to take care of the situation. But offering the same job to the kid, and making him do it irrespective of the age is nonsense. Bureaucracy at its finest ....

Friedman on Bangalore

Thomas Friedman had another column yesterday in the NY Times dedicated to Bangalore, titled Bangalore: Hot and Hotter. Salient points Friedman makes include a comparison between India and China, where he describes China as a smooth 6 line highway witha major speed breaker representing the communist leadership. On the other hand, India is a rickety bumpy pothole filled small street, but with tremendous promise to break out into the biggest and best highway of them all. Promise - thats what India certainly represents.

But he goes on to say that inspite of all the issues associated with India, Bangalore is moving on from being cyber coolies to providing a R&D hub for multinational companies. It is starting to provide complete backend support for anyone with a great idea. Ofcourse, with the talent flowing back into INdia, perhaps the day is not far when 'ideation' (as Friedman calls it) also firmly entrenches there. Also contributing is the fact that many smart folks from all over the world want to work for Bangalore giants like Infosys ...

Americans are warned - you better notice what Bangalore is becoming, and act ... China certainly is. Why else would the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao visit Bangalore first and New Delhi later? There seems to be no doubt at all that next time a US President visits India, Bangalore will be a destination. Bangalore - on the other hand, start getting your airport ready for Air Force One to land!

Friedman's liberal columns (often heavily focusing on outsourcing mecca India) are very popular with Indian readers of the NY Times. But I wonder how Americans react to them - for the liberal NY Times reader, they are well accepted as a way of life in the new world, but for those with a little stronger views against outsourcing, they might be serious eye-openers and might certainly up the ante of public opinion against India in the US ...

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

here's to you, Mrs. Robinson ...

Yesterday (June 7):
Oscar, Emmy and Tony Award winner Anne Bancroft died yesterday of cancer. She is ofcourse most famous for playing Mrs. Robinsion, who seduces Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate.

As NPR puts it, "her seduction of Dustin Hoffman was sexy funny and sad all at once -- and the scene has left an indelible mark on popular culture".

And here's to you, Mrs. Robinson,
Jesus loves you more than you will know
Wo wo wo
God bless you, please, Mrs. Robinson,
Heaven holds a place for those who pray ...

The song seems to have a whole different meaning right now ...!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Blog connections ...

Its funny how connections are made, and blogs help out ... here is a small anecdote:

A few days ago, I surfed my way through various photoblogs - not sure of the trail, but i am pretty sure started with a blog i regularly visit. As I surfed, I landed on Patina's Boondocks Photo Blog. In particular, I liked a picture of a boat abandoned on the shore off the Sea of Cortez. I was wondering where I had heard of the Sea of Cortez before, when I remembered that John Steinbeck (of the Grapes of Wrath fame) sailed there in 1940 on an expedition that led to several discoveries in marine biology. I had infact blogged about the Steinbeck expedition when NPR featured it as part of their Radio Expeditions series. I pointed Patina to that link, and sure enough - she had not heard about it, and was quite delighted to learn about the recreation of the original voyage. To quote her,

"I read the article via your link. wow, that was amazing. i had not heard about the Steinbeck expedition reinactment. great information. i will pass it along to the marine biologists that i traveled with to Baja. we spent a couple of weeks on the Sea of Cortez, ate delicacies provided by the sea, and saw lots of marine curiosities."

Its a cool feeling when something like this happens. Makes blogging worth it ... glad to be of help Patina.

I will leave with a picture of the Gus-D, the 1972 wooden hulled shrimp trawler used by the expedition to recreate the feel of Steinbeck and Ricketts' original adventure.

Image courtesy National Public Radio

Saturday, June 04, 2005


Flickr is an online photo management system - allows you to store photos, share them, as well as publish directly to blogs from their website. When i first started my photoblog, i looked at flickr as an option to Hello. Did not really like it then ... wasn't too impressed. Then along came Google's Picassa photo management system, and it was smooth, together with picassa and hello working so nicely with blogger!

however i have been 're-evaluating' flickr these past 2-3 months, especially news was out that Yahoo bought Flickr. That meant two things - one was that Flickr probably had something I had missed, they wouldnt spend so much cash buying them out, or that Flickr had gotten much better since I last used it. And guess what, both of them probably, certainly the latter!! flickr certainly rocks. The interface is elegant and clean. Having a photo management system online is no mean task, and the standards set by desktop clients are very high, especially since the advent of Picassa. But Flickr has really set the bar very high for web based photo management - it is after all sooooooo much better than current websites such as yahoo! photos or sony's imagestation. Flickr's blog says:
Are you going to become Yahoo Photos?
No. Yahoo Photos will get a lot of Flickr features, and there are alot of other areas around Yahoo that will also be Flickrized where Flickrization would be good. Yahoo Photos and Flickr have different kinds of users with different needs, and will remain separate for the foreseeable future. Flickr would also suffer from a sudden deluge of LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! omg! so we're going to grow it carefully.
And the public seems to have caught on to it big time. and imean big time .... Flickr just received its 17 millionth photograph [via Amit Karmakar]!! Its fun to even browse through photo collections of Flickr, the photosets are spectacular, the interface is easy, and for bloggers - its extremely easy to post to your own blog from flickr, whether its powered by blogger or typepad or wordpress or livejournal or movable type! Amit also gives a nice list of things he would like to see on Flickr - this includes faster download times, more useful messages for blogs when flickr is down and the ability for taking backups. things i love about flickr include easy editing and uploading, easy management, easy blogging, tags, ease of searching, and even creative commons licensing and RSS support.

i would certainly encourage everyone to try out flickr. one thing is for certain, yahoo buying flickr has certainly upped the stakes, and i would expect google to follow suit with something as good. and just as with gmail, we the consumers might be the ones who are able to reap the benefits of the yahoo-google tussle! personally, im even considering purchasing their 'pro' account (paid subscription to their services)!

in the meantime, i will leave you with a picture from my flickr page. Its a collage of pictures I took during a visit to Pune earlier this year.

you can access my flickr page here.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Smoking Shahrukh ... no more!

I watched Bunty aur Babli last night ... Abhishek Bachchan smokes several times, even shares a beedi with Amitabh in the movie. Heck even Rani Mukherjee had a few puffs in the movie. Today I found out about the Indian government's ban on depiction of smoking in films. The move has certainly angered the Mumbai film industry, which is screaming for withdrawal of the ban. Here are some of the main voices and arguments for and against the ban, from both the govt., bollywood and the blogosphere:

  • 800,000 Indians a year die from smoking-related diseases mainly among men aged between 25 and 69 (source: WHO)
  • "More and more youngsters and women are taking up tobacco use." - Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss - ostensibly by watching their heroes and heroines take a drag.
  • "Film actors have a lasting impact on the minds of children and young adults," said Anbumani Ramadoss, India's health minister.
  • A recent WHO study "held Bollywood responsible for glamorising smoking"
  • ''It is a good move to ban smoking because a lot of young children tend to imitate actors,'' so said Kareena Kapoor, actress.
  • It sure would help to deglamourize smoking among illiterates of India. - Parag
  • The directors and producers are VERY worried - putting health warning on smoking scenes in the hundreds of films under production will essentially kill these films
  • Anti-smoking signs will have to be inserted in large archives of old films and television programmes in all regional languages - almost impossible to finish.
  • ''When the tobacco industry was on the rise, in the thirties and the forties, everyone used to smoke in the films. The hero used to smoke, the villain also used to smoke. But with the awareness that tobacco causes cancer, all that has changed,'' - Shyam Benegal, Director. [This one sounds as if he is supporting the ban, but i dont think he is - more likely that he is trying to say now folks dont glamorize it in movies any more, certainly not enough to influence anyone to smoke]
  • infringes on creative expression,
  • good intentions completely misdirected - its ridiculous to blame films!
  • "One would understand a ban on surrogate advertising, but to completely ban [smoking] is ridiculous, a joke taken too far." - Mahesh Bhatt
  • "The government should go after the source - the guys who produce tobacco and make tons of money."
  • A worrying trend??? "Tomorrow, the government can turn around and say don't show guns in movies as it will encourage violence." - Anupam Kher
  • "We all smoked because of the peer group, not because people in the cinema were smoking." - Shyam Benegal
  • Kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray - Kiruba Shankar
  • "I don’t think banning smoking in films is the way to go about it. Because it won’t make a difference in the real sense of the word. People who want to smoke will continue to. Such a decision will only curb the creativity of actors and film-makers." - Amir Khan, actor, via Gaurav Sabnis.
  • So if James Bond is making love to a naked woman who is smoking, just the image of the cigarette will be blurred and that is the way it should be. -Varnam
I personally think the ban is indeed ridiculous [i don't really dispute the WHO's finding, or do i? I did express otherwise on Parag's blog]. Not that I favor smoking, but come on - is there anyone who doesn't know what they are up against? The government certainly has a weird way of trying to look after the people.

To put this in an extreme perspective: democracy is good ... but better authoritarian than libertarian for the good of the people?

War movies ...

Continuing with the previous post on Vietnam movies, let me try and extend the scope to war movies in general. The wars of the world have certainly provided Hollywood with unending inspiration to make films on the topic, and none more so than World War II. Not surprising, considering how dramatically the world changed through the course of that war. Maps were redrawn - even new countries created, and the balance of power was significantly altered. Most important of all were the number of lives lost, and its only fair that Hollywood do its bit to recreate the war on film.

I am trying to list the war movies that I liked (not exhaustive by any means, and in no particular order). Feel free to comment and add movies that you liked or disliked or those that perhaps I should have listed, but missed out on:

All quiet on the Western front - set in WWI, it showcases the tragedy of war through the eyes of young German recruits.

Lawrence of Arabia - an Academy award winning masterpiece set during WWI from David Lean, boasting of superb performances from a very formidable cast: Peter O'Toole, Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, and Claude Rains (probably most well known as the French Prefect in Casablanca).

M*A*S*H - set in the Korean war (very few movies based on this war, but MASH was a delight), trying to give a lighter touch in an otherwise exasperating conflict. I love the TV series later produced ... one of my all time favorites. But more on the TV series later, this one's for movies :)

The Bridge on the River Kwai - another David Lean masterpiece, this time with Alec Guiness in the lead. A band of British POWs under the Japanese build a bridge over the Kwai, only to see a that the Allies have slightly different plans for the opening of the bridge.

Schindler's List - voted the best war movie of all time by IMDB voters. Spielberg finally made it to the Academy awards list with this one.

Where Eagle's Dare/Guns of Navarone/Force 10 from Navarone - all 3 are based on novels by Alistair Maclean. I would rank WED ahead of both Navarone novels, and FOrce 10 from Navarone as the worst (by far). While WED not only has a cool plot and a super star cast (Richard Burton and CLint Eastwood as Maj. Smith and Lt. Schaeffer resp) - the filming is also pretty cool, esp the cable car sequences to and from the Schloss Adler in the German Alps. Guns of Navarone also boasts of a superb cast - Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthony Quinn as Mallory, Dusty Miller and Andreas Stavrous respectively. On the contrary, Force 10 is very mediocre - starring among others Harrison Ford (then quite unknown), Edward Fox (as Dusty Miller, remember him as General Dyer in Gandhi?), Carl Weathers (another newbie -just coming off his major role in Rocky)

The Sea Wolves - an unknown movie about a bunch of retired soldiers leading an attack on German ships in neutral Goa harbor. Stars Gregory Peck, David Niven and Roger Moore, shot almost completely in India.

D-Day movies:
The Longest Day - The elaborate D-Day drama - on an incredibly grand scale. Till Schindler's List came along, it was the highest grossing black and white movie. It resurrected the financial fortunes of Twentieth Century Fox after the disastrous Cleopatra

Saving Private Ryan - the critically acclaimed landing sequence is brutal, the reality of war in all its gory detail.

Casablanca - movies set in the war aren't only about fighting or tragedy. The war provides a splendid backdrop for some of the best movies of all time - Rick's Cafe in Casablanca was certainly the place to be 'as time went by'.

The Great Escape - Steve McQueen leads the escape from a POW camp.

U-571 - an American submarine made to look like a German U-boat in an attempt to recover an Enigma decoding machine. They say it pales in comparison to Das Boot (unfortunately i have not seen the latter to make a comment on that).

The thin red line - a contemporary of Saving Private Ryan - didnt get quite the same attention as the Tom Hanks starrer.

The Pianist - Adrian Brody in his Oscar winning role as Jewish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman. Based on a true story of one of the most accomplished pianists in Poland at that time, this Roman Polanski movie showcases his efforts to survive after the ghetto is destroyed by the Nazis, and the story of his amazing survival through the war. Brody was probably so perfect for that role, that he will always be typecast - may not ever fit smoothly into any other role.

Pearl Harbor movies:
Tora Tora Tora - what's unique about this movie is that it looks at the attack on Pearl Harbor from both Japanese and American points of view, and speaks of events not just during, but also leading up to the battle.

Pearl Harbor - I didnt fancy this movie too much, but the Japanese invasion sequences were great. Certainly worth a watch for that.

From Here to Eternity - Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr as two star crossed lovers in Hawaii against the backdrop of the Japanese attack. Montgomery Clift plays the boxer who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

A grossly incomplete list in the end - but if I dont cut it short, i will never finish this post. I will continue to add more as I recall ... feel free to add more of what you prefer/like.