Friday, June 29, 2007

Tendulkar reaches landmark 15,000

Tendulkar guides the ball through mid-wicket during his 106-ball innings.

Legendary Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar reaches 15,000 runs in his one day international career against South Africa today in Belfast. India 227-4 (49 overs) beat South Africa 226-6 (50 ovs) by six wickets.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Picture of the times

Noted bodybuilder Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hefts a dumbbell he found in the remains of a home that burned near South Lake Tahoe.

Sacramento Bee/Bryan Patrick

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Alien Trilogy - 1996 studio recording (A brief soundtrack review)

Unlike the Alien Resurrection soundtrack, this album has mostly active pieces, meaning that the music can stand on its own without the visuals.

Both the "Main Title" tracks from Alien and its first sequel Aliens (and especially the latter) are subtle, haunting and ethereal. These need to be listened to in an absolutely calm environment.

"Futile Escape" projects the overall character of the second movie (which, unlike the first movie, is more action than horror).

"Bishop's Countdown", which possibly may have started James Horner's long and productive career in Hollywood, gets your heart rate going. If I am in traffic, I have to ultra-concentrate on my driving.

The last three tracks, "Lento", "Candles in the wind" and "Adagio" (from Alien 3) sound right out of an orchestra. They are melancholic, inspiring and at times evoke strong feelings of agitation. "Adagio" especially ends with a premonition of disconcerting events to come.

This soundtrack can be obtained here.

Incidentally, this is my 50th post on this Blog. Right. Lets have a party.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Benoit factor

Who knows why someone would kill a 7 year old like that (personally I don't give a crap about the guy or his wife). A couple of summers back, one of my friends' wife jumped from their 21st floor apartment in downtown Boston. She took their toddler with her. I think I know why she jumped but could never figure out why she took the baby with her.

I don't have any of the issues apparently people like these have. Nor do I have any intention of screwing up my life. If I have to, I will deal with problems but I will shy away from putting my head in a lion's mouth. My resting heart rate is around 55 and I aim to keep it that way :)

My last post was a rather angry (and disappointed) look into the human need to reproduce. Given the disparate types of violence we see around us every day, I can't help but feel we are walking into a major quagmire of sorts.


Planet's Population Hit 6.5 Billion Saturday

Tony Blair and Co.

While I understand the instinctive need for humans to bear children (after all, we are animals too), I cannot quite agree that everyone is supposed to have children. As Gretel Ehrlich, while trekking through the glaciers of the southern Andes, writes in her wonderful The Future of Ice,

"I don't have children. The man I am with wants children. Isn't all this beauty enough?"

We have the ability to literally lighten the load on planet Earth. But the majority doesn't give a f*ck. They preach but, at the end of the day, are really only concerned about their wealth and their "traditions". I am not against material wealth. Far from it. I firmly believe that one should be able to take care of oneself and not rely on others. But if we consider ourselves higher than other animals with the ability to surmise and suppose (not to mention the ability to preserve entire ecosystems, if we so desired), then the "instinctive need theory" becomes merely an excuse to fill an otherwise empty life. As Butters' dad remarks in an episode of South Park,

"Well, our son is a perfect void-filler!"

261 people are born every minute...

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Queen (A brief movie review)

Helen Mirren was pretty good. But then I have always had a thing for her. No, really.

I like elegance and class in general: dining in style, the feel of a good suit, dignified bearing and conduct, choice of words (when not on weed) and all that. So that and a deep interest in history have always drawn me to the sumptuousness and lifestyles of the British monarchy. To be honest, I have never been interested in Diana or the antics of Prince Charles. My interest has always been the Queen and her interaction with parliament. So naturally I decided to watch this movie.

Its a good movie. It plays out during the first week immediately following Princess Diana's death. The guy portraying Tony Blair was very good. He resembled the real man too. I wouldn't call Helen Mirren's portrayal riveting although she was outstanding in some of the difficult scenes such as when she greets some mourners publicly (I thought that I was watching the real Queen). Some of the supporting characters (such as the Queen's private secretary) and her husband (played by the ever versatile James Cromwell) stand out. Others like the guy playing Prince Charles don't. To be fair, he didn't have much to do anyway. We hardly get a glimpe of the two Princes. I didn't feel like missing anything though as my interest in the movie was only relegated to the "relationship" between the Queen and the British Premier. The tight script admirably sticks to the Queen and "Yo, Blair".

Cape Cod Trip

Ok. So I went down to the Cape again. Big deal, man. I took last Friday off on a whim and joined Sudhakar and Dan down in Eastham. We bummed around for two days. The weather was beautiful!

Click pictures below for a larger image.

Cape Cod June 2007 - With Dan and Sudhakar
Some dude was out on one of the numerous (kettle?) ponds in the area.

Cape Cod June 2007 - With Dan and Sudhakar
Almost all of the rail trail (some 25 miles or so) has been repaved gradually over the last two years.

Cape Cod June 2007 - With Dan and Sudhakar
Rock Harbor in Orleans was at really low tide. My spirits on the other hand were at an alltime high.

Cape Cod June 2007 - With Dan and Sudhakar
I did my thing at the amphitheater outside the Salt Pond Visitor center. It did not draw in the crowds. Maybe I should have taken my clothes off. But I wasn't wearing any lingerie. So...yeah.

Cape Cod June 2007 - With Dan and Sudhakar
Ah, finally...the victory pose.

Cape Cod June 2007 - With Dan and Sudhakar
Buttonbush Trail. A brief hike around Salt Pond...did not prove to be our undoing.

Cape Cod June 2007 - With Dan and Sudhakar
Buttonbush Trail.

Cape Cod June 2007 - With Dan and Sudhakar
Buttonbush Trail. I trailed behind Sudhakar and Dan most of the time...and for good reason: such shots became possible. The trail itself was no sweat but then we were only out for a pleasant ramble.

Cape Cod June 2007 - With Dan and Sudhakar
El Diablo.

The ride back to Boston was a breeze.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Cutest Movie Line

Aanchal and Meet in Masti.

In the movie, Masti, the clingy and possessive Aanchal (the super-cute Amrita Rao), calls up her husband, "Meet" Mehta (Vivek Oberoi), on the phone every half hour and gushes, "You miss me, no?"

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sprinting for life

Well my sprinting program is coming along just fine. I can feel myself tightening up all over. There is no more pain behind the knees since I changed my sprint technique a bit. Rather than trying to move as fast as I can, I've been concentrating purely on, well, technique. And bringing my rear foot to my glutes took care of the really sore upper calves issue. In time, I will get faster (as I get stronger on the movement).

I recently bought compression shorts and tried them out for the first time last evening. They made quite a difference when I sprinted last evening after class (I actually had a mid-term; couldn't wait to finish it and get out on to the track). There was a good bit of light remaining and it was a good session. I left feeling refreshed (always a good sign). Now I can't wait for my next session, probably this weekend.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

An enigma called Rajnikanth

From humble beginnings as a conductor on a city bus to the second highest paid actor (behind Jackie Chan) in Asia, Rajnikanth has indeed come a long way. In terms of appeal and charisma, he could be described as the Schwarzenegger of India minus the muscles. I say Schwarzenegger because, like the Austrian Oak, Rajnikanth has inspired and continues to inspire tens of millions of people. While Schwarzenegger was directly responsible for the start of a billion dollar fitness industry, which provides a livelihood to the enormous amount of people involved in it, Rajnikanth's contributions have been markedly different. He provides hope to the downtrodden, those fanatic fans of his who look forward to every one of his movies. For the more well-off classes, the arrival of a new movie of Rajnikanth's is something to look forward to as well with the expectancy being more or less same as there is when, say, the Christmas...excuse me, when the holiday season is just around the corner.

Rituals are performed outside a movie theater in India screening Rajnikanth's new release Sivaji.

Did you know that, when a new Rajnikanth movie comes out, his fans (the fanatic ones) actually perform religious rituals right there in movie theaters?! They do this so that the Gods will ensure that the movie has a terrific run in theaters. I have found this behavior both fascinating and revulsing. It is fascinating because it showcases the larger-than-life persona of Rajnikanth and the great deeds (outside of the movie industry) that he is capable of where he to become more ambitious. It is revulsing because these fans look outside, to a single man, for hope, strength and inspiration and it does not look like they are going to change their tune anytime soon. This, in turn, gives rise to the fear that the community and social standards of today, which may well have allowed Rajnikanth to become who he is in the first place, will continue to remain.

Rajnikanth's new movie Sivaji (his first in two years) was recently released in theaters worldwide. I haven't watched it but I heard that it is doing well (number 9 in the UK Box Office as of this writing!). In his movies from the 70s and 80s, he mostly played down to earth roles. But his projects from the 90s and 2000s have shown him in larger than life roles. While Schwarzenegger has found a way out in the form of the Governorship of California, it remains to be seen for how long Rajnikanth or "Thalaivar" (meaning "leader", as his fans love to refer to him) can keep up his momentum as a huge box office draw. Whether he makes the transition to more realistic roles and/or retirement (as an actor) seamlessly is not important anymore given what he has achieved so far.

Fans apparently have been waiting in line for hours to see Sivaji all over the world.

The actor and icon is now in his late fifties. And in Sivaji, special care has been taken to make Rajnikanth appear half his age! To that end, my only gripe is that he never seems to have made an effort to develop and maintain a strong physique (which in his movies is portrayed as being able to absorb an enormous amount of "punishment" with amazing recuperative powers). I can only imagine the quality of the physiques on Indian men evident today had someone like Rajnikanth played an active role in (inadvertently or not) promoting physical culture. It is probably too late now. Nevertheless...a job well done!

Friday, June 15, 2007

The powers that be

I don't know why but I have long held a fascination for power pylons. I think the interest started when I was in my early teens making a trip to Trichy with a family friend. He had some business to attend to and I decided to return to Madurai (my hometown) alone. That was my first time travelling on my own and I found it thrilling (later I remembered my mother scolding that family friend for letting me travel alone). Anyway it was on that "epic journey" back to Madurai in a rickety old bus that some power pylons in the distant haze of the countryside caught my attention. I remembered trying to keep an eye on them almost all the way to the outskirts of Madurai before my eyes started to ache and I had to give up...temporarily. Those giants just stood there "lonely as a cloud". Ever since, whenever I travel, I have always kept my eye out for 'em.

Pearls before Swine

It was kind of amusing that James Berardinelli published a "reelthought" today, called R-Rated Day Care, on his observance of various inappropriate behavior at movie theaters while the above "Pearls before Swine" clip appeared in today's edition of the Boston Herald :)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Single life bad for health?

This article on talks about how married men unlike single men don't tend to die prematurely. Well let me tell you something, pipsqueaks. You could live up to a 100 years old. But all that means sh*t if you don't have your health or your wits about you on that journey of "longevity". This goes beyond just getting on a freaking treadmill.

I can attest that most married men are sloppier when it comes to maintaining their health. The reason is obvious: once married they seem to see little reason to take care of themselves well. One of my coworkers says that he gets a good workout from just playing with his toddlers. Hey, as long as he is happy :)

A married man

Most single guys on the other hand are adamant about dressing trendy and hitting the gym in one respect or another. They spend more time training just because they don't have to worry about hiring a babysitter. They also know that they might have to wake up on a Sunday morning and (perhaps on a whim) hit the beaches to scout out some hotties: a powerful reason to take care of oneself.

A single guy

On a related note, I have had several Indian guys suddenly ask me for "bodybuilding" tips usually starting a few months out from an arranged marriage. See, the Indian chick would never have seen the guy in the nude up until that point and so the guy ends up developing what I call "appearance anxiety". I always find that amusing. Of course, after all thoughts for good health and a strong appearance seem to go down the drain. Recently I mentioned that a close friend of mine had indeed "changed" while going through the wedding album of a mutual friend. My brother, who also knew my close friend, exclaimed, "He is in the photos?! Where?". He had completely missed my friend the first time he had viewed the photos.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Asterix the Gaul - Part I

Asterix isn't merely a French comic that is set in ancient times (50 BC). It exploits various events and persons from those times to maximum comic effect. It also has clever references to many famous works of art and engineering feats. I have presented some of these clips in addition to a few non-art related clips as part of this series of posts.

Click each picture below to see its full size version.

For a more insightful introduction to Asterix, go here.

Album: Asterix and the Big Fight. Apparently there were two kinds of gauls. The ones who accepted the authority of Rome and the ones who didn't.

Dolmens are referred to several times in the comics.

Album: Asterix in Spain. Unhygienix here is talking to Asterix and Obelix (the latter being a menhir-delivery man).

Album: Asterix and the Goths.

The repeated sinking of the pirates is always refreshing and never feels overused.

Album: Asterix the Legionary. Anyone recognize this frame from elsewhere?

Apparently fish is needed to make magic potion. The village needs fresh fish and Asterix and Obelix go fishing. But things go awry and they end up being marooned unknown land. Obelix, however, is convinced that they must be in Crete.

Album: Asterix and the Great Crossing. Naturally some misunderstanding is evident at the beginning of the book when Asterix and Obelix come across "Romans in disguise" (native Americans really).

Album: Asterix and the Great Crossing. The native Americans eventually befriend our Gaulish friends and gift them this work of art depicting our friends' hunting skills. Uderzo's drawings are always so well detailed with such clean lines.

Album: Asterix and the Great Crossing. They have to signal a passing ship which, hopefully, would take them home.

More to follow...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Vivah (A brief movie review)

Note: This is a "re-paste" of a post I had made in my old Comcast website.

Hmmm. This movie is akin to inserting a pretty lil white mouse in a sea of snakes. The latter, of course, refers to the recent spate of Indian movies in which showing an unnecessary amount of skin and spewing double-entendre dialogues seem to be the norm. I am not against glamour in movies when used judiciously. Heck, I frequent Revere beach in my Speedos...with a swagger . But I digress. Anyway, for the most part, I turn to Indian movies to enjoy pieces like Vivah and, say, Mahanadhi.

I have seen Shahid Kapoor in another movie and was not impressed by his performance. But this movie's script allows him to "grow" up. Amrita Rao, naturally, plays the leading lady with the appropriate "docile-ness" required in a movie like this. The lead pair is likeable (once again, I suspect primarily because of the script).

Vivah has a simple story woven with some equally simple characters...or maybe I should say, simple souls. The story seems fresh, of course, in that it spends a lot of time on that juncture between (arranged) engagement and marriage. For me the appeal of the movie was the talkfest between the lead pair. At times (but only at times), I was reminded of the Ethan Hawke-Julie Delpy characterization in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.

I liked Seema Biswas' character (she plays the jealous stepmother of Amrita) and both she and the girl who played her daughter could have been given a little more screen time. I didn't expect that twist toward the end but what followed was so sweet I gagged at times. So the movie does drag at times but there are a few wonderful scenes (like the one where Shahid and Amrita talk softly in the moonlight) that lingered in my mind well after the movie ended. The songs and music are softer than the aforementioned moonlight. This is a feel good movie and should hold immense appeal to most non-resident Indians (but especially the ones that need to go out and get a life).

Anatomy of a Scene

"It was late afternoon as I pulled into my driveway and climbed out. The sun was warm and making its way toward the horizon. On a whim, I walked across the huge yard toward the rolling fields beyond the property line. I scurried over the freshly painted white fence and, with my hands on my hip, stood there taking in the lazy scene. The sky was a deep blue with wisps of milky white clouds passing by at a snail's pace. They had all the time in the world. A cockchafer went flying past me. I craned my neck to follow his flight path. He was moving fast and soon he was out of sight over a small hill overflowing with dandelions that were swaying gently to the breeze. It was a calm day but then it was always calm out here.

As I sunned, I slowly became acclimatized to the smells and sounds of the field. A slight but angry rustle nearby indicated that my presence had disturbed the slumbers of a small animal, perhaps a field mouse. Two butterflies were in earnest conversation a ways off. They seemed to tumble down a bit. They were in combat. Were they fighting for the love of a lady then? The distant warble of a purple martin seemed to add a layer of melancholy to their battle. One of them was destined to lose. I hoped that they were not brothers.

The sun was sinking lower in the sky and the breeze had picked up. The light had turned to a cooler blue. There was a faint hint of a familiar scent wafting down from a small hill yonder to my right: the fragrance of bur marigolds that I could not see. Maybe that cockchafer had a cousin who made her home amidst those marigolds. Had he been taking tea with her before he said his goodbyes and so ended up flying past me on his way home? Maybe it was time for me to be getting home too. I took one long earnest look around. Everything seemed to indicate that it was time to start settling in for the night. I turned and started waddling my way back home."

Monday, June 11, 2007

A History of Flight

I recently re-watched one of the Discovery Channel's "Walking with Dinosaurs" DVDs. This particular DVD presents a Pterosaur (apparently the first vertebrates to evolve flight) migrating to Europe from South America. I found the migration as portrayed in the DVD to be fascinating. I am quite sure that a lot of what was presented was speculation based on fossil evidence available so far but still this segment always makes me wish that I had large wings using which I could ride giant thermals and soar for hours and perhaps fly to wherever I want to go on the planet. Hey, maybe I will get around to doing it someday. At the very least, I would "go out" with a...plop :)

Isn't he a tough looking bugger?

Anyway, portions of this segment are available on Youtube.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Picture of the times

"Dying Gaul and his wife" circa 220 BCE.

I am taking an Art History class at UMASS. This sculpture was one of several that we studied last night. I found it very engaging. According to Julius Caesar's own account, the Gauls made combat in the nude. Their wives would go to battle to cook for them and to cheer them on. The Gaulish warriors, on defeat, killed themselves and their women--not necessarily in that order--to prevent being taken as slaves. What struck me most about this sculpture was that the Gaul is still holding on to the wife that he has just slain. Or maybe he is lowering her to the ground. Either way, it shows his presence of mind (and perhaps his fondness for her) even during such a trying time.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

"Mom AWOL During Custody Battle Turns Self In"

Apparently the US Army is mulling over desertion charges for a female soldier who recently served in Iraq. This woman obtained emergency leave so she could return to the States to fight a custody battle for her child. Her main reason for getting into the military: so it could pay her bills.

If "soldiers" like this lady are what this nation has to depend on going forward then I am gonna go get trained in guerilla warfare myself. A lot of US citizens feel that it is the Army's duty to help out the woman. Pussies, I say to them! What do you think the Army is: a f*cking welfare program?!

I have to wonder about the various flavors of compassion evident in today's society. We have this female soldier and her plight (I think that she screwed up). On the other "end" of the social ladder, we have Paris Hilton in jail. Then...Wait! What? Paris is already out of jail! Well, gosh darn heckers!! She is such a "class act", isn't she?

On a side note, I remember making a recent post somewhere to clarify that an astronaut who lost an expensive camera during a spacewalk was female (Sunita Williams actually) since a lot of other posters on that forum assumed the astronaut was a male. One guy replied to my post saying, "That's what happens when you send a woman to do a man's job." I thought that he was being chauvinistic. Now it looks like I am not sounding off any different than he was!

Ok, it looks like today is definitely not a day in favor of women's lib.

True Depravity?

Ok, so this morning I had had a solid breakfast at the Country Kitchen in Weymouth and was making my way back to the office. As I was stopped in a red light, this driver, an Elizabeth Hurley lookalike, comes careening around the corner (she had a green light) in a little Volkswagon as if she had forgotton to slow down for the turn. Y'know, Oops! I did it again and all that...Then I realized what was happening. She looked like she was giggling, had a cigarette in her left hand (which was also clutching the steering wheel) and had a phone to her right ear (using her right hand, of course).
I mean, what the hell, man?!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Here comes another one, mates

There is yet another article about exercising being the most effective method for weight loss. However, there is an interesting tidbit. Apparently exercise becomes more effective if performed right after a meal (my Mom always said I shouldn't strain myself after a meal!).

Most people in the western world already know what needs to be done to lose weight and feel better. But a lot of them don't always do what is necessary. It is a question of inertia. You can print all the articles in the world. But if people aren't willing to get out and sweat it...

As for the actual tidbit (training after a meal), I always tell people (who ask me about training) that perfect health begins with developing good posture. If you have imbalances, then exercising will exacerbate such skeletal problems over time. So improve and fix that posture first. Here is a great article by Ian King on fixing imbalances:

And another one (you should really read this if you have a desk job):

And the best time to train:

When one feels like it!

This could be at 11 at night or 11 in the morning. Whatever works and, most importantly, whenever one feels like it. I have gone home after work some days and took a few minutes to do some burpees, sit-ups and single-leg calf raises (using a telephone directory). Then, once a week, right before I fall asleep, I might do a bit of bridging for the neck. The gem here is this: I do it when I feel like it. This way I am guaranteed of not having any burnouts or loss of interest in my training. I don't have to schedule anything. And by not scheduling a training session, I don't have to meet it! So...just do it.

Here is the original BBC article: