Monday, June 30, 2008

The Dark Knight (A brief movie preview)


Whatever you do, man, don't screw it up.

The only thing I liked about the Spiderman franchise was the first 20 minutes or so of the first movie. The scene where that Toby fella experiments with his new found powers was fun. Couldn't enjoy the rest of the movie though. Kirsten Dunst was totally hot in that movie but she seemed kinda washed out in the second movie. I know. When it comes to enjoying the Spiderman movies, I seem to stand alone like the..um..dark knight. The 3rd installment in the Spiderman franchise was clearly one movie too many.

Christian Bale has charisma, something I feel that Tobey Maguire lacked. But then Tobey was playing a high school kid...with responsibilities. Kinda difficult to relate to that, huh? So his character was a "tear-fest" at times. Bale, of course, will be playing an adult character with all the sophistication required for the calibre that is Bruce Wayne. Perhaps it is unfair to compare those two roles. So I think my concern -- and it is not often I care about what is being put out by Hollywood -- then has more to do with the script itself. When too many things are thrown into the mix, which is what happened with Spiderman 3, the audience will want to just...up and away. The Batman team has had plenty of time to learn from the Spiderman 3 debacle. So I certainly hope that they won't be repeating the same mistake.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Picture of the season


Seven A.M. by Edward Hopper

In 2007, the MFA exhibited a lot of Edward Hopper's work. Outstanding stuff! So I ended up spending more time at the MFA in 2007 than in any other prior year. This year, I am looking forward to a couple of exhibitions at the MFA.

It is a custom for me to spend several weekends in the summer scouring art shops and galleries in Rockport and Gloucester for pieces that capture my imagination. No, I don't have $30m to disburse for a 100 year old painting. But I have spent as less as $30 for beautiful art created by local artists. And, of course, while I am in Rockport, I also visit this little shop that sells Apple Strudel with Vanilla ice cream!!

And so it begins...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Park's 5x5

To conclude my spring training, I just started following phase 3 of Reg Park's 5x5 program this past Sunday. So far, I have put in two sessions on this "routine". All I can say is that at night, as soon as my head hits the pillow, I have been dropping off to Z-land like a pine cone dropping in the still depths of an Alaskan forest.

Usually I keep my workouts under an hour and not do more than 3 or 4 movements per session. And I only plan on trying Park's style of training for a month. Anyway, it has been taking me about 1.5 hours to complete the entire circuit, which speaks volumes about the gains I have made in my cardiovascular conditioning in the past few months! Had I embarked on a program like this before the start of spring training, I likely would have had a few buzzards circling my limp form outside the gym. Can't wait to see where my BF% is in a month!!

Got to go stock up on goat milk now...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Violet Eyelashes

So this is a poem about a friend of mine. Yeah, it is a she. Why would I write about a guy? Duh!

Enjoy!

Such a bundle of joy
She came into my life
From a world so far
And different from my haunt
Of times long gone by
To melt me in words
As sweet as the honey
From the rarest acacia tree
And soothing as the art
From the realm of rembrandt
I wonder in my sleep
If these arms can reciprocate
And possess a little strength
To hold my thieving magpie
During times of unfair disharmony

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cricket Vs Baseball

I have admired the occasional American Football game. It is an outstanding game of credit. Baseball? I could never dig that. The primary reason has to do with a complete lack of style in batting (or hitting) and not enough tactical requirements when compared to the richness and variety evident in Cricket.

Hitting/Batting

Baseball: The hitter either slogs or slaps an incoming ball. There is no wicket behind him that he needs to worry about. Then he advances by bases unless a home run is hit whence every hitter is allowed to complete the square. That's it. Simple.

Cricket: A batsman plays either defensively or aggressively (or a mix of both) depending on tactical requirements such as the influence of net run rates, skill of the active bowler (pitcher) and placement of certain fielders. The lack of a strike-out concept in Cricket means that a batsman could potentially "hit" for an entire inning and face numerous deliveries!! And all of that while protecting 3 Stumps (or the wicket) and being wary of the wicket keeper right behind him. Shots involve blocks, cuts, drives (cover, square, on), pulls, hooks, scoops, sweeps (regular, paddle, reverse), slogs (baseball style), glances, flicks and the Marillier and are accomplished using the appropriate footwork. Shot selection becomes crucial when a high run-rate is required. In addition, 1 or more runs can be scored against a single delivery. The equal of a home run in baseball provides 6 runs in cricket unless...the ball where to hit the ground at least once before it reaches the boundary, in which case, only 4 runs are provided.






Six consecutive sixes (homeruns)

Pitching/Bowling

Baseball: Mostly full tosses where the pitcher delivers the ball to the strike zone without the ball hitting the ground. The ball may not always take a linear route to the hitter depending on its wear pattern and wind conditions. That's it. Simple. It is not uncommon to use the same pitcher for the entirety of a team's pitching.

Cricket: Bowling can be both defensive and offensive depending on tactical requirements. While the occasional full toss is delivered to a batsman, it is usually done because the bowler slipped up or the bowler decides to surprise the batsman with a different type of delivery. Usually though, bowlers (both pace and spin) deliver so that the ball pitches (hits the ground) atleast once before reaching the striking batsman (inside the strike zone). So a delivery can be a high/low full toss, short ball, length ball or a yorker. The combination of such pitching on the ground, weather (wind and dampness on ground) and wear pattern can make the ball turn or swing in a variety of ways, improve bounce or dampen it and either slow the ball down or speed it up. Because the ball pitches, the condition of the ground laid out between wickets plays a significant part in the toss winning team's decision to bat or bowl first.

So the batsman needs a really quick eye and then has to decide in a fraction of a second as to how to play the incoming ball using the appropriate shot. The bowler could bowl a wide ball or a no-ball and provide a run to the batting team in the process, which can sometimes prove crucial in the later stages of a game. Toward the end of a game, the run up used by a bowler to get to the bowling zone to deliver the ball can work the crowd up and put pressure on batsmen and fielders alike. This I have found to be not nearly as spectacular in baseball.




Fielding

Baseball: Restricted to the square. Fielders use a glove to pick up the ball. I have seen some spectacular catches taken in baseball.

Cricket: The ball can be hit to any corner of the ground by a batsman. Fielders, except the wicket keeper who is always behind the striking batsman, do not wear gloves. Again, I have seen spectacular catches fielding moves made in cricket but without the aid of a mitt or a helmet.



Fielding (no mitt)



Because of the variety of shots that could be played and the bowling styles involved, the Wicket Keeper (fielder behind the batsman) has an athletic role to play in cricket.


Cricket fielding positions

Getting Out

Baseball: The 3 common ways a hitter can be dismissed are Strike outs -- hitter misses playing 3 balls in a row, catches and run outs (before a hitter can reach one of the bases, he is tagged).

Cricket: Bowled out (ball hits the stumps behind batsmans), catches, runouts, LBWs and stumpings are the 5 common ways a batsman can be dismissed. The type of bowling style, pace or spin, in a given situation can be used to predict how a batsman can be dismissed. For instance, stumping of the batsman during spin bowling occurs commonly in a high run-rate requirement situation. So the type of bowlers in the active team are culled from a bigger roster depending on pitch and weather conditions.

Game Format

Baseball: Has only one format comprising of 9 innings for each side.

Cricket: Has three formats. Test cricket is played over 5 days for multiple innings. I never watch it. One-Day International (ODI) cricket is played for around 6 or 7 hours total with one inning for each team with a couple of drink breaks in each inning and a lunch break. I only watch ODIs during the World Cup, which happens every 4 years. The newly invented Twenty20 format lasts for around 2.5 or 3 hours total with one inning for each team with a single (10 minute or so) break. I am really hooked on this format now! Twenty20 games are played in the evenings (local time) and many expect them to completely replace ODIs. The T20 World Cup happens every 2 years.

Wrap-Up

Additionally, in cricket, the team captain is responsible for making all tactical decisions and coaches have no say once play begins. This decision making capability by a player, along with the various batting styles, simply does it for me! For uncontrollable situations, such as rain, the team captains work with in-ground umpires to decide on the fate of the game or adjusting it to fit time and run rate constraints.

The IPL and the art of captaincy

Having said all that, I have to add that two of my favorite movies are The Sandlot (a real favorite) and A League of their Own :)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Watership Down (A brief book review)


I started reading Watership Down on the flight over to London from Boston and completed reading it in India. This was an engrossing enough read!

I originally bought the book at Logan airport because the book promised vivid descriptions of the English countryside and I was feeling a bit mellow. It didn't let me...down. It is about a bunch of rabbits that talk like humans and are attempting to find their own "land" in the English countryside. Various characters that you would see in a story like Toy Story can be found here: the calm, leader type, the nervous, brooding type, the spiritual type, the belligerent, muscular type, the comic relief type, etc.

But, by themselves, the rabbits would not have made as much an impact as they did had it not for the color, depth, sounds and smells woven into the story by Richard Adams' vivid description of the English countryside. The only other time I have come across a similar type of prose to describe a land was in Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams (which is the best non-fiction work I have read). Toward the end of the book, I occasionally forgot I was reading about a bunch of rabbits because Adams ratchets up the tension so well that I was somewhat drawn into the conflict myself.

This book will be liked by children (I don't know; 8 - 12 yo perhaps but only if articulated properly) and adults alike.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Commonwealth Delicacy

So last night I was out with this wonderful woman Ingrid, a Sociology professor, who was thinking of moving to Boston. I don't believe that I have ever dated anyone sweeter. The chemistry was so sizzling you could have thrown a couple of eggs our way and they would have finished scrambling by the time they hit the floor. Naturally, toward the end of dinner, we ended up holding hands and just gazing at each other. Those cornerside lounge-style tables at Match on Mass Ave are simply awesome! For once, it was a relief for me to not think of something to say on a first date. Anyway, after dinner we took a walk on Commonwealth ave toward the Commons. We held hands and kissed several times enroute. Usually I am very conscious of kissing in public but this time, it just felt so right!! Being with the right woman does that to you, I guess. That is the kind of date everyone dreams of. Although it has happened to me occasionally before, this one was special. I don't see why I can't get a second date -- after I get back from India, likely -- but, on the remote chance I don't, I will really cherish this one! I came home late last night, slept well and woke up to a cool, drizzly morning. I have a feeling she is going to give me sleepless nights during my time in India next week :)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

What a game! What a game!!

I think that I have finally acquired a good understanding of the "There is a game on tonight!" mentality here in the United States...courtesy of the Indian Premier League's (IPL) inaugural season which wrapped up today. The last two overs of the second innings of the final match today were simply phenomenal in the kind of in-your-face nerve-racking tension that built up during the course of the match!

Since I moved to Boston back in '94, I have not been following the usual formats of Cricket (that can last several days) as I picked up on other physical activities here in the United States. I have come to embrace this format of Cricket as each match lasts only 3 hours and is played in the evenings (local time). My weekend rock climbing up in NH has been put off because I have been sitting at home watching these IPL matches late weekend mornings (EST) for the past 5 weeks.

Anyway, both the losing team, the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) whom I came to thoroughly support, and the winning team, the Rajasthan Royals (RR), put up a consistently well-played inning each. The win was a very close one for RR. But full credit definitely goes to RR's lower order batsmen, Shane Warne (also the RR skipper) and Sohail Tanveer, for not giving into pressure and wrapping the final over up with dignity. Unlike Soccer or American Football, in Cricket, the coach really has no say once a game begins. The Captain of each team gets to make all tactical decisions. So it has been an absolute pleasure watching Warne (the only non-Indian skipper in the league) guide his team through each match and then eventually take the final! Now I have decided to make an effort to get out there and find some Cricket lovers so I can get to watch the next season of the IPL with some great new friends!