Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Another Long-winded and Tedious Account of a Rather Unpleasant Experience at the Barber on a Slightly Overcast Saturday Afternoon

Now don't get me wrong. I don't claim that I can't get a good haircut. Just not a good haircut twice in a row. And as it were, the last haircut I'd had was one of the better ones in recent memory. Understandably, I was a bit apprehensive when I walked in at the local corner barbershop last Saturday.

Once inside the barbershop, I was asked to kindly seat myself and peruse through a pile of magazines next to a plant that looked suspiciously like a Venus fly trap. I did so duly. Halfway through the June issue of Golf Today, I noticed a rather animated game of poker going on in the backroom behind one of the counters. One of the barbers must have noticed me noticing the game, for suddenly he hollered "Yo Frank! Customer's waiting for you, man". Slight commotion ensued. Presently, Frank emerged from behind the table. Judging by his expression, he hadn't been having a particularly good game. This did not bode well.

After tucking in the white sheet and adjusting the chair, Frank asked me what kind of a haircut I would like. A tough question, no doubt, but I was well prepared. "Uh, just a medium cut, please".

Something in that response stymied Frank. He looked puzzled. "You want it short?"

"Ummm... Yes, but not too short. Just, well... about average length, you know". Frank nodded understandingly. My sense of foreboding grew stronger.

Now let me take a minute here to explain to you what I meant by a medium cut. The medium cut, as you probably are aware, is a regular haircut, with the hair being cut neither too long, nor too short; just about somewhere in-between. A simple concept really. One would expect it would be the first thing to be taught in barber school. If not, then it bloody well should be. Most barbers coming out of these new-fangled hair institutes are spoilt stupid. Can't bloody think for themselves. I bet they couldn't even cut a blade of grass without asking you ten times about the length of the grass, angle of incision, and the phase of the moon. Where's the creativity I ask you? The ingenuity? The craft?

Oh, how I miss the days of yore. When men were real men, women were real women, and barbers were true artists with self-expression and pride. Like Abdullah.

Yes sir, good old Abdullah. Here was a real barber from the old school. One that never bothered asking what kind of a coiffure you wanted. He just knew. And he was always right. Abdullah never asked you if you needed sideburns or a square finish at the back. In fact, come to think of it, Abdullah never really spoke that much at all. Not one for idle chatter, Abdullah. A true professional if there ever was one. Maybe it was his supreme mastery of the art, or perhaps it was the fact that he was the only barber in town, but not once did I hear anyone complain about their haircut. Everyone in school, irrespective of age, size, gender or race, had the same haircut. And it was just right. Abdullah had mastered the medium cut.

I snapped out of my reverie to find Frank frantically rummaging through the drawers. Presently, he pulled out an evil looking clipper. Now, I don't know about you, but I could never trust these electronic hedge-trimmers. Not that the sound of a pair of sharp scissors clipping around my ears is particularly reassuring, but there seems to be such little margin of error with these clippers. And such little time to react. Before I knew it, Frank had swiped off the left half of my scalp in a single fell swoop. I started. "Whoa! That's way too short, man".

Franked looked at me. Then blinked slowly. "You want it short?" He had this all wrong. "No, no. I don't want it short. It is too short. I'd like it to be a little longer please". Frank nodded again. Then proceeded to wipe out the right half of my scalp as well.

A few deft snips at the back, and he proclaimed "Done". Done? I opened my eyes just a little to assess the damage. What I saw startled me. He had quite nearly shaved off all the hair at the sides, but had left the front practically untouched.

Then it struck me. I saw what had happened here. I had asked for an average cut. And that's exactly what I got. As Frank saw it,
No hair at top + Clump of hair at front = Average length hair over the total surface area of the head.
Whatever I may say of Frank, at that moment, I suddenly developed a newfound respect for his Math teacher.

Still, I persevered. "Ummm... Could you cut the hair at the front please". Pat came the response, "You want it short?" It was like talking to a gramophone machine.

"No, I do not want it short. But could you just trim it a bit at the front?" "Trim?" Something in that word struck a chord. Frank's eyes lit up. He picked up the scissors this time and dug in merrily through what was left of my hair.

After a while, he decided he'd had enough. There were other, more pressing matters to attend to. Like the poker game, for instance. He brushed off a few stray strands of hair, held up a mirror against my head and asked "Eh?"

I started (again). What was meant to be a medium cut now looked like the quills upon the back of a porpentine. A rather fretful porpentine at that, if I may add. I shook my head weakly and slithered off the chair, muttering a requiem to the dearly departed locks. Frank though, clearly had other things on his mind. "That'll be fifteen dollars, please" he smiled.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Avocado Lovers of the World Unite!

Cohan writes through personal experience about discrimination against avocado eaters. I can totally empathize with him on this one. For I too have been the subject of vegetable preference abuse. Sure it begins innocently enough, with taunts like guacamole lover and avocado man. But before you know it, you have people calling you weird to your face.

This is a serious issue that cannot be afforded to be taken lightly anymore. For ages, avocado eaters have been misunderstood, discriminated against, burnt at stakes and prosecuted for their dietary habits. But not anymore. I call upon the avocado-eating populace to unite! To come together as one against all those who mock us. To stand for our right to eat bland, pulpy green vegetables. Come comrades, and join me in this noblest of causes to herald in an era where the head would be held high in pride and avocados can be eaten without shame.

Oh, and please don't bring along any parsnip-eaters. Those guys are just kooky.


I wake up in the morning and introspect 'Jeez, I'm so full of myself'. Then I realize it's Sunday, and go back to sleep.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Matter of Life and Death kills the charts worldwide

Or so claims this press release. The album is currently number one worldwide, having sold over a million copies in the first week itself. It has even breached the top 10 in the US and Indian charts, a first for Iron Maiden.

So, is the album really that good? Well, yes and no. Though not a concept album per se, AMoLaD is brilliantly cohesive, with the central theme revolving around futility of war and religious zealotry. Not quite typical Maiden stuff, but very well penned by Harris and Co. It is often easy to get carried away when dealing with topical issues, but the songs on AMoLaD hold their own without taking sides or trivializing the issue. Lyrically, the album does not disappoint.

The high point of the album however is the interplay between the lead guitarists. I've often felt that the triple guitars were a bit underutilized in the last two albums. But here they gel beautifully, giving ample demonstration of what the beast is capable of. Triple leads never sounded so good. Harris' bass and Nicko's drums are reliable as ever, lending the album its distinctive heavy sound. Much heavier, in fact, than any previous Maiden album (with the possible exception of The X Factor).

The only downside of the album (and a major downside at that) is quite surprisingly Bruce Dickinson's vocals. Yes, you read it right. The air raid siren wails no more. Instead he screams in a high-pitched tone that more than belies his forty-eight years. To put it succinctly, he has lost it. And what's worse is that he doesn't seem to have noticed. Or doesn't care. In no song is this more apparent than in the intensely poignant Lord of Light, probably the highpoint in Adrian and Nicko's illustrious careers; ruined by Bruce's shrieks. In the documentary The Making of AMoLaD, Bruce claims that his Man-of-the-match award for this album would go to Nicko. That may well be case. I do not dispute that. But my Rikki-Clarke-of-the-match award would without a doubt go to Bruce.

That the album's done so well despite of Bruce is a testament to its brilliant music and production. If I were to pick a favourite song, it'd have to be The Pilgrim. Though For the Greater Good of God and Benjamin Breeg would run it close.

What's that you say? That's not much of an album review? Would it help if I gave it a rating out of 10? All right then, here it is.

A Matter of Life and Death: 8.5/10.

What's that you say now? The rating's too high? Well, what'd you expect? It is Iron Maiden after all. Jeez.

Note: For other, more objective reviews, please click here.
Highly recommended: Read Maverick's commentary on the album here.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Divide and Rule

Excerpt from tonight's Bill Maher show "The world can be divided into two types of people. Those who divide the world into two types of people, and those who don't". Priceless.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

And just whom do I support now?

Kimi Raikkonen is leaving McLaren to join the Prancing Horse next year. Yes, it's a tactical coup for Ferrari and yes, it's a smart career move for Raikkonen. But as far as I'm concerned, it's devastating news.

For years I've been supporting the McLaren team, following their fortunes through thick and thin. I've stood by them through the glory years of Mika Hakkinen, the frustratingly inconsistent MP4-18 season and the MP4-21 resurgence. No matter what the outcome, my loyalty to the team has always been unwavering. Like all genteel folk, I denounced Ferrari and their backhanded attempts at dictating the federation. And McLaren, like the perennial good guys, have always been there as the only team to consistently challenge the Ferrari hegemony. Plus they always seem to have the coolest Finnish drivers. None cooler than Kimi Raikkonen.

Raikkonen in so many ways is the natural successor to Hakkinen. He has the nerves of steel, the funny accent, boyish charm and bucketloads of talent. Add a dash of bravado in the mix and you have the perfect racecar driver (anyone who's seen the 2005 Japanese GP can attest to that). How can one not like Kimi? He is the Freddie Flintoff of Formula-1. And surely, everybody likes Freddie.

But now Kimi's gone and joined the dark side. What am I to do now? Do I suddenly start hating Raikkonen? Or do I now support Ferrari? And what about McLaren? Do I just dump them by the roadside? Stab them in the back, so to say. Not easy questions to answer, my friend. Not for anyone.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Hit-wicket in Little Rock

Was in Little Rock, Arkansas last weekend. A nice, quaint little town. I'd expected it to remind me of Raleigh, but for some reason it didn't.

As is customary in those parts, I woke up at seven o' clock on Sunday morning and trotted off to play a game of cricket. Couldn't remember when I'd last done either. To my credit, I managed to drag myself out of bed after a not unusual amount of muttering and under-the-breath-cursing.

The game was scheduled to begin at eight. Most players sleepwalked in by half past. After a brief squabble over the pitch, the ground, and the dietary habits of local geese, play commenced at nine sharp.

We won the toss, decided to bat and promptly lost a wicket in the first over. To my surprise, I found myself being volunteered to go out at number 3. Now, anyone who's ever seen me bat and not doubled over laughing their guts out can tell you that I am not particularly renowned for my batting abilities, especially that early in the morning. Still, not being one to back down, I put on a brave front and strode out to face the music.

I negotiated the first two deliveries fairly well (that is to say, I managed not to get out). What ensued next, however, would indubitably go down in the annals as the most controversial moment of the morning. Yes, even more controversial than the dietary habits of the geese.

What ensued was this.

The third delivery I faced pitched short of length and was angled down the leg. I tried to turn it through the on-side, but could only manage an inside edge onto the pads (or rather onto where the pads would have been had I been wearing any). The ball bobbed and fell at my feet. Being the kind-hearted soul that I am, I decided to do the bowler a favour and knock the ball back to him. In doing so, the bat must have inadvertently grazed the stumps and knocked the bails over. I, of course, was quite oblivious to it. The wicketkeeper obviously was not. All of a sudden, I found myself surrounded by fielders of all shapes and sizes appealing for my wicket. At this point, I quite distinctively remember saying something to the tune of 'Eh?'

It was soon brought to my attention what the appeal was about, and the matter deferred to the square-leg umpire, who thought about it, scratched his jowls, and in a moment of temporary insanity ruled me out.

The acute reader might have realized that the ball at this point was quite clearly 'dead', and any event after its demise could not have resulted in the batsman being dismissed. I considered raising the issue with the umpires, but thought better of it. After all, I didn't want to bring the game into disrepute and almost surely didn't want the umpire to demand $50,000 to resign. The cricket club probably didn't have that sort of money.

And so it was. I resigned to my fate. Cast a dirty glance at the mid-wicket fielder and trudged off back to the pavilion (or in this case, the bench). The rest of the game didn't quite match up to the excitement of dubious decision, so I'll spare you the agonizingly tepid details.

At any rate, I know now how Inzi must feel. I wish there were a post-match conference.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Waiting for Smeagol

A while back, I chanced upon this wonderful link illustrating how the Lord of the Rings would have been if written by other famous authors. My favourite of the lot was the P.G. Wodehouse adaptation
"Sam, I've decided to go and overthrow the Dark Lord by tossing his jewellery into a volcano."
"Very good, sir. Should I lay out your crazy adventure garb? I presume that this will pose a delay to tea-time. I would remind your Hobbitship that your Great Aunt Lobellia Sackville-Baggins is expected for tea."
"Blast! I say, bother! How can a chap overthrow the Dark Lord? I suppose I will have to delay my campaign."
"Very good, sir. I believe you will be free in about a decade."
"I'll do it then. Make a note, Sam."
Hilarious. Some of the others were rather funny too. Here's my own contribution to the list. Lord of the Rings by Samuel Beckett

FRODO: What have you got there?
SAM: A dead coney and some taters.
FRODO: Is there no lemba bread?
SAM: No. You always overdo it with your lemba bread.
FRODO: I like lemba bread. It tingles the senses.
SAM: Then melts away into nothingness.
FRODO: Like butter.
SAM: Like dreams.
FRODO: Like butter.
FRODO: Let's go.
SAM: We can't.
FRODO: Why not?
SAM: We're waiting for Smeagol.
FRODO: Ah! (Pause) I sense someone coming.
SAM: It's a Nazgul. Don't you remember anything?
FRODO: I remember a fiend that stabbed me in the chest.
SAM: That was him. He wants your ring.
FRODO: It is my burden.
SAM: (Sententious) To every man his one ring. Till it's destroyed.

Such fun, this is. Other contributions are welcome.