Sunday, March 25, 2007

Section ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha

Imagine this. You are a tyrannical dictator of a rapidly deteriorating nation. The country is in ruins, malcontent is high, but you continue to rule with an iron fist. Your despotism and oppressive ways have drawn severe criticism from the international media who paint a grim picture of your reign, stopping just short of equating you to Adolf Hitler. What do you do to improve your image?

Answer: If you are Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, you go ahead and grow yourself a cute little toothbrush moustache.

To borrow a phrase from Zaphod Beeblebrox in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "ten out of ten for style, Mr. Mugabe, but minus several million for good thinking, yeah?"

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Oh, The Humanities!

In a Chronicle of Higher Education article, the pseudonymous Thomas Benton imparts rather stern advice to those considering grad school. Benton paints a bleak picture of graduate life, and literally spooks students into staying away from grad school. Although the article is addressed mainly to humanities majors, I think it resonates fairly well for most engineering disciplines too. There was more than one cold shiver running down my spine as I read the article. Maybe it was the AC vent acting up, but then again, maybe it was the article.

While I agreed for the most part with what Benton said in his article, there were some parts I just couldn't relate to. Especially the part where he talks about grad student depression:
I hardly know anyone who was a grad student in the last decade who is not deeply embittered. Because of my columns on this site, a few people have told me how their graduate-school years coincided with long periods of suicidal ideation.

Suicidal ideation? Really? Now, I may not be an expert, but having spent the better part of six years in grad school, I can safely aver that never once have I had a suicidal ideation. No, sir. Not one. In fact, the only ideation I've ever indulged in has been purely homicidal in nature.

Ah yes, I have fond memories of those days. Sitting through boring lectures on seemingly endless Tuesday afternoons, mentally decapitating the lecturer. Ruminating about chainsaw massacres in the midst of a conference. Drawing caricatures of obnoxious TAs being dipped in boiling tar. Wistfully slow-roasting pesky undergrads on an open fire. Perfectly normal, cheery thoughts all. There might even have been the occasional reverie that bordered on the genocidal, but for the most part, it was just pure and simple homicidal ideation. None of that depressing suicidal ideation that Benton raves about. I wonder where he gets that from. It must be a humanities thing.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Who Is Responsible?

The Woolmer tragedy still has me all riled up. I am sad. I am confused. And more than anything, I am incensed. I need someone to vent all my pent-up anger at. I need to find who is responsible for this mess. This completely avoidable tragedy.

One could perhaps blame the fans. But that would mean I would partake the blame too. And I just cannot bring myself to do that. No, that can't be it. Next, I turn to the Pakistan team. Surely, the captain bears the brunt of the team's failure. But putting any more guilt on Inzamam's shoulders wouldn't be right either. He has gone through much strife the last few months, and will now have to not only take the blame for the team's dismal performance and face the wrath of irate fans, but also carry the burden of his coach's death. I just hope the media leave him alone. Inzy is famously staid, and a giant of a man, but even giants have their breaking point.

But the blame has to be affixed to someone. And as I sit down and think about it with my famous level-headed coolness (or is it cool-headed levelness?), it comes to me, as clear as day. This is all Stuart Matsikenyeri's fault. Had Matsikenyeri not missed the last ball in Zimbabwe's game against Ireland, his team would have won, Pakistan would still have the chance to qualify for the next round, and Bob Woolmer would still be alive. If you have to blame someone for this tragedy, it would have to be the irredeemable Matsikenyeri. Off with his head, I say.

Which brings us to the next question: who then is responsible for India's inexplicable loss to Bangladesh? The press, in all their haste are drawing out swords against Dravid for choosing to bat on winning the toss. But if the Matsikenyeri affair has taught us anything it is to always get to the source of the problem. In this case, the question to ask would be: Who is to blame for winning the toss in the first place? Tricky question at the face of it, but with a little investigation, it is not hard to trace the culpable. It is none other than that old rodent-riding demi-pachyderm, Ganesha at it again.

NDTV reports that there has been a special Ganesha temple established in Chennai to help the Indian team, and "[w]hile India's success in the World Cup will hinge on what Rahul Dravid and his men do on the field, visitors to the temple hope this will at least help India with the toss".

That settles it for me. I am off to my local Ganesha temple to indulge in some vandalising. You are welcome to join. But please bring your own Ganesha effigies.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Tragic Loss

It may be a sign of the times, but sports journalists tend use the term tragic loss so casually that when a real tragedy does occur, there are no words to describe the feeling anymore. Just a bagful of cliches.

Pakistan cricket has, in the recent months, been a constant source of entertainment. No matter what the circumstance, what inconceivably sticky mess the team found itself in, they somehow found a way to sink further into the mire. But through it all, they managed to plod along. Like a stumbling juggernaut on uneven wheels. A travelling circus of bumbling captains, drug scandals, ball tamperings and face slappings, to mention but a few.

The media and fans lapped it all up, of course. And why wouldn't they? There were enough scandals here, erupting at such a furious rate, to put a soap opera to shame. And every episode had with it a tinge of the ludicrous. It was tragic, yes. But in a comical sense.

It all reached a cresendo (or nadir) with the incredible loss to Ireland that scripted Pakistan's early exit from the World Cup. "The saddest day for Pakistani cricket", newspapers claimed. Surely, one reckoned, it couldn't get any worse than this. But then it did. Infinitely so. And this time, it isn't funny anymore.

No, no one's laughing this time. The juggernaut may keep rolling, but the wheels have come off. Even the world cup, with all its glitter, and years of anticipation, seems nothing more than a trifle now. It is, after all, but a game.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

In Memory of the Fallen

"You know, what I miss the most about being single", my married friend told me. "It's not the late night binging or freedom of speech. One learns to live without those things after a while. It's the little things one misses the most. When I was single," he said almost wistfully, "I used to eat over the sink all the the time. Saved me so much time and energy. But now... now we have to sit on the table, and eat off dinner plates like civilised people. Oh, but heaven forbid if we use the 'nice china'; oh no, that's only for special occasions. You know, I used to enjoy my dinner over the sink. Now I just try to gulp down my meals as fast as possible. Sometimes I don't even bother to chew anymore".

As I listened to my friend ramble on, I felt truly sorry for him. I tched and I tchahed, and with a heavy heart I realized just how often we take things for granted, without so much as sparing a thought for the less fortunate. Now, whenever I stuff my face over the sink because I'm too lazy to wash my week-old pile of dirty dishes, I can't help feel a pang of remorse for the underprivileged members of society. As I brush the crumbs off my three-day old stubble, my friend's anguish-ridden face flashes in front of my eyes. He was a brave one, he was. That's what makes this so sad.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Setting the (Palace) Grounds Ablaze

No, that is not a picture of India's long-awaited answer to Gilbert Jessop. It is, in fact, dear old Eddie promoting Edd-Fest, the India leg of the Matter of Life and Death tour. That's right, after twenty-six years in existence, Iron Maiden are finally touring India. Steve and the boys can be seen in all their magnificence at the Bangalore Palace grounds on March 17, 2007. Rest assured, it is going to be one hell of a show. Wish I could be there to witness the historic event. For all of you in Bangalore, or anywhere else in the subcontinent for that matter, please do not miss this one. Book your tickets now.

As for Eddie's batting technique, from the looks of it, it seems to belong in the Mahendra Singh Dhoni mould. I'm a big fan of the Dhoni mould by the way.