Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Gods Who Walk

Serendipity works in a number of ways. For some, it's an evening at Bloomingdale's in New York buying gloves. For others, it is finding, after waiting for weeks, a book on angry, disillusioned, desperate and murderous gods by the guy who wrote the definitive graphic novel that spans multiple mythologies and came out trumps.

Gaiman takes a unique look into American History - it's gods, many of whom who were immigrants just like the residents. The main characters and their rich mythology - irish, norse, egyptian, indian - doesn't surprise you anymore. It's the cameos that you oh-so wait for. Not only do some popular characters from the Gaimaniverse find their way into this book (Anansi and, get this, Delirium), but a few other familar yet unexpected characters contribute to the twists and turns.

American Gods is the story of the reticent Shadow, who seems have to regained his life after getting early release from prison, but to have it lost when everyone who meant anything to him is no more. Recruited by the mysterious Wednesday as a bodyguard, Shadow is thrown deep into a centuries-long war between the old and new gods where nothing is what it seems.

While the main plot thickens, American Gods suffers from a pacing issue with the extensive Lakeside subplot which might not appeal to everyone. But wait for it to unravel as it has an interesting payout and makes up for some nice characters.

Caution: People who read "Anansi Boys" first and were hoping for a lot of light-hearted humor with some bumbling gods, don't. If Anansi Boys is personified by the funny Fat Charlie, then American Gods would be sledge-hammer wielding Czernobog.

Read on ... (at your own peril, obviously) ...

Thursday, May 13, 2010


At first, we saw Politics become like Cricket. MPs throwing things at each other, politicians worried only about their own selves, underhand deals, fight for captaincy and the likes. With our politicians becoming so adept at Cricket stuff, can our Cricket players be far off?

Here are some gems that would make the Greek transfer the Intellectual Property rights to Irony to us.

"The IPL is a domestic tournament and the standard is much lower than a world event where you are up against quality batsmen and bowlers. You don't expect to go to World Cup semi-finals if you play the way the team has played in the Caribbean. Yuvraj has to look at his game. If he doesn't perform for long periods, the selectors will not play him just on the basis of his reputation. Some of the players have got a lot of opportunities, but have not delivered. They have been around for quite a while and the entire country wants performances from them."

As a matter of comparison:
- teenage boys playing cricket in Madurai (one pad on the front foot and no gloves) would be laughed at if they dance around the crease half as much as Ganguly (two pads, two gloves, thigh guard, elbow guard, jewel guard, helmet and what looks like a kevlar suit) does at short pitched balls.

- the only other person who had more opportunities given than Ganguly: Shishupala.

"India's lack of adaptability has been a disappointment. What is baffling is that even though most batsmen showed a distinct sense of discomfort against the short ball during the World Twenty20 in England last year, they were picked again for an event on even bouncier pitches in the Caribbean. All other teams remember what happened last year and the tactics employed by them against the Indians prove this."

This gem about adaptability comes from Sunil Manohar Gavaskar, who greatly adapted from Test Cricket to ODIs with a swashbuckling 36* from 60 overs, and then, according to Wikipedia at least, conceded he couldn't, ermm, adjust to the pace of the game. Let the record also show that it took him 12 full years to really understand that it is possible to score 100 runs within 50 overs. No truer words have ever been said.

"It's hard to put a finger on the exact reason [for the defeat] but of all the tournaments MS Dhoni has led India in, this is the most disappointing. At times you can be stubborn and stick to your ideas but he might want to be a little more flexible in future. Only 73 runs were scored in the last 10 overs despite having nine wickets in hand. There is no explanation for that. Tactically Yusuf Pathan should have come up in the batting order. Selectors will have to look for Twenty20 players who can play in all kind of conditions."

This comes from the man who stubbornly stuck to his idea of "score 10 runs in the first 15 overs when the field is closed in. dont worry if it doesn't make any sense" while the Greatbatches and Bothams of the world were smashing up things right across the road and the Srikanths were doing it at the other end. If only the selectors had looked for players who could play in all kind of conditions in the late 80s and early 90s.

"Obviously if you stay up the whole night, it would affect you. Players should be responsible enough. The game is more important than the parties. Excuses like these cannot be given after you lose. For a player, cricket should come first and everything else is secondary."

Thank you, man who was suspended from international cricket for essentially selling out your team. We really needed a lecture on "cricket should come first" from you.

"I don't think that [attending IPL parties] is a reason. Who was forcing them to attend these parties? They could have said no. I don't think they should say all this. These are silly excuses. Fact is they had gone there to win the World Cup and they just weren't good enough."

Madan Lal's 16-page resume:

- Was kapil's partner when he scored 175*
- Bowled first ball ever bowled in a World cup
- 15 blank pages

Honestly, even Madan Lal's own cricket academy couldn't build his resume beyond one paragraph. But let's face it. Madan Lal's ICL had the star power of zee-tv mega-serial and bhojpuri actors while the IPL struts out the Shetty sisters, the Padukones and the Zintas. The difference in attending the two parties has to be as disparate as the speed gun readings of Madan Lal and Michael Holding.

Read on ... (at your own peril, obviously) ...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

IPL Chairman for Nobel

If Einstein can get a Nobel for something we already know, how about our IPL Chairman for this year's Nobel?

Personal Integrity: In the mid-80s, arrested for carrying only 400gms of cocaine (as against the tonnes drug lords usually get charged with), charged with assault and kidnapping (but not anthrax based bio-terrorism) and pleaded guilty (brownie points for honesty) [Courtesy: Wikipedia]

Contribution to the game: Ensured that the current and future generations will have a very short attention span for times to come. Introduced highly cricket-relevant concepts like cheerleaders and a strategic timeout to a game already overflowing with advertisements. Re-vitalized the dreaded "5 days and sometimes no results ?? Test Cricket is a bore" maxim. Didn't contribute a dime to domestic cricket from the billions made from the IPL.

Innovation: Somehow being called Genius for stealing a concept originally formulated by the ECB and introducing it in India. Praised for managing the IPL and making millions when in actuality, making money out of Cricket in India is like saving money using Geico.

Camaraderie: Destroyed the lives and careers of fellow countrymen who played for the ICL for two reasons - the undisputed monopoly enjoyed by the BCCI and just plain spite.

Character: Dated supermodel. Got dumped. Ruined her chances at the IPL contest successfully. Worked hard to deny her an Indian visa. Got shafted by central minister. Attempting to shaft central minister.

And personally, for re-enforcing the fact that Twitter indeed is a garland. We all know what happens to garlands when it falls in the hands of a certain sub-species.

Read on ... (at your own peril, obviously) ...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Whatever Happened To Neil Gaiman

Okay, that was a cheap shot. But hear me out. (spoilers ahead)

Its common knowledge that Neil Gaiman is ultra-talented - Novels, Graphic Novels, Films - this man has scored on every field he has played. So when DC gave Batman to Gaiman, it sure sounded like Jimi Hendrix on acid. Only, when I was hoping for "Purple Haze", Hendrix OD-ed and went into "Star-Spangled-Banner-using-teeth-as-pick" mode.

"Whatever happened to the Caped Crusader" looks a lot like "The Wake" from the Sandman series. The lead guy is dead, an esoteric set of friends and enemies appear in the story reminiscing him, and at the end of it all, you guessed it, there is a "we are not done quite yet" moment. It didn't work for me with The Sandman. It didn't work for me with Batman.

I loved the earlier Sandman books. Packed with action, twists and thrills all along. The first four books (preludes, dollhouse, dream country and seasons) of the Sandman series just blew me away and my interest peaked for me with "Season of mists". That should give an idea of what kind of people Gaiman's audience contains - The "dont-get-all-metaphysical-on-me" kind which is actually the "not-smart-enough-to-understand-much-outside-of-an-action-novel".

Clearly, Gaiman didn't dumb it down to my levels in the next few Sandman books, and that's perhaps exactly were WHTTCC left me wanting as well. A superhero novel needs to be a superhero novel. If the author isn't a superhero author, he should perhaps change his style just a little, but only for that series. Frank Miller knew how to do it with his "Dark Knight" books. Alan Moore worked his magic with "The Supreme" which is a stand-out in many ways. Gaiman's time will come soon. Just not yet.

The artwork and inking is outstanding in WHTTCC, the Gaiman touch is prevalent - he makes you look at the characters in a different light, the Gaiman-esque Joker-Batman sketch is top-notch in it's own way. But it feels like walking into Chipotle and being served Wasabi-on-Sushi. Both good on their own, but were they meant to be together?

Read on ... (at your own peril, obviously) ...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Shame Shame Puppy Shame

A six month hiatus from one's own blog is usually unpardonable. Even if it is one that isn't read by anyone else on this astral plane. Coming to aforesaid blog with a comeback post is shameful. Even if it is one that isn't laughed at by anyone else on any other astral plane.

And then, Michael Schumacher, as his name is usually misspelt (real name: Soomaker), announced his comeback. It was a no-contest between the radiance of my shame (Shame Radiance Reading: Lakshmi Vedi) and the brilliance emanated from Soomaker's (SRR: any explosion on the Pikinni Atoll). I just lost the argument of "Is this comeback post the biggest act of shame in self-promotion". And the margin is monumental.

Surprised at Soomaker's decision to come back? Are you one from the "I am glad God is coming back. Now you will fear His wrath. The Rain Master. The Champion of Champions. No, He is not a cheater. He is not a sore loser. You are. All you Hakkinen/Raikkonen/Alonso fans are. Mummy, this blog says untrue things about Soomaker and hurting my feelings. Mummy, make him stop. You are a bad-bad boy. Mummmeeeeee " club? You came to the right place. Here is an exclusive look into Soomaker's diary.

Nov 3, 2009.

Great news. Kimi not coming back to F1 this year. Should somehow convince Ferrari to take me in. Life is good again.

Nov 7, 2009

Alonso driving Ferrari? Sehr geehrter Herr. Should check if Todt can give second-rate car like we used to give Rubens. Ah, good days back then.

Nov 11, 2009

Ferrari not taking me back. Thank God. Can't complete with Alonso. Got kicked-in-butt twice already with better car. Can't take more.

Nov 15, 2009

Need a car that can make _any_ driver a contender. Hey, how about Brawn ?? If Button, who won exactly one Grand Prix in 9 years exclusively because of rain and a motherlode of luck, can win a championship in a Brawn, I shouldn't do much worse. Right ?? Right ??

Nov 22, 2009

Stupid Vettel. Stupid stupid Vettel. I hate him. Mercedes wants a German driver and this stupid Vettel is an available, talented German driver. Should forge a birth certificate to say he was born elsewhere.

Nov 29, 2009

I love Austria. I love Austrians. Heck, I would love flesh-eating-nanobots if they could tie up Sebastian Vettel till 2011.

Dec 4, 2009

Told Brawn I will be driver #1. As usual, there will be no driver #2-#9. The "other" driver _could_ be #10 or beyond if he goes on his knees and begs for it.

Dec 11, 2009

Remember to pass on "Barrichello's Post Race Interviews" DVD to Rosberg for mental conditioning. Add "Excerpts from Austria 2002" bonus DVD.

Dec 28, 2009

Hurt hip when practicing signature celebration move aka "jump from podium like a chimp". Should use this as an excuse when not winning.

Read on ... (at your own peril, obviously) ...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mid Life Crisis

Quick. Go and check the blog for everyone you know who is on either side of 30 today. Like right now. What do you find? Some post on Megan Fox's acting chops (or otherwise) hoping the wife doesn't watch? A diatribe on the reporting manager? A treatise on the current recession and how it hasn't been giving double-digit salary rises as it used to? Still fuming about the 20/20 WC?

While all the above are quite possibly good options, this week in the 30-somethings diary will be dedicated to Michael Jackson. For MJ was the Apostle of Bathroom Dancing to people born in the 70s and even the early 80s.

Bathroom Dancing is an art, but a violent one like Kalari Payattu or Mixed Martial Arts where every moment is laced with danger. Fortunately BD does not require a partner like the other activities.

Unsure how BD can be dangerous? Try moonwalking on a wet bathroom floor, looking forward but walking backward. It usually results in a terrible thud and concerned parents asking if you are okay. Or how about the anti-gravity lean from "Smooth Criminals" without the protective pillows all around? Its safe to say that having the ground come up at such short notice isn't a pleasant feeling. But what has to be quite the killer is the attempted Toe-Stand from "Jam". It would literally hurt to imagine a 100-pound body attempting to stand just on two big toes, wearing no protective footwear like MJ.

Despite all self-inflicted injuries to fans, it is undeniable that MJ taught a whole generation to dance like no one is watching (sometimes, thankful that no one is watching). He made rich kids badger their parents to buy big boom boxes and show off. He helped school bullies get extremely cocky and go on stage to try assorted dance steps in an effort to impress the women and inadvertently giving the rest of us tonnes of fun episodes to talk about even today. Me? Nostalgia and RIPs aside, it probably worked best for all parties that "Nevermind" happened. So long MJ, Keep Dancing.

Note: Having partners for BD is only a matter of personal preference and don't let this blog hold you up. Just make sure your partner knows what s/he is getting into.

Read on ... (at your own peril, obviously) ...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ultimate Protection And Then Some

So you are coming back home after destroying the Death Star and The Galactic Emperor, this after taking down the T1000 and some martial combats against Agent Smith. You step into your home and you see this: hall strewn over, things lying upside down and a low groan/moan from somewhere in the dark. Unsure how you missed such a natural threat? Feeling under-prepared? Relax, Ultimate Protection against the Undead is just a library away.

When you see a title like "The Zombie surivival guide" subtitled "Complete protection from the living dead" with a rifle and machete right beneath, you look forward to reading a "shaun of the dead" like comedy-horror. At least I did. What I got was a complete tongue-in-cheek parody of all survival guides, only a little too tongue-in-cheek for my tastes.

Not sure how to spot an outbreak? Check the guide. There are reports of an outbreak and you don't have enough time to get out? Check the guide. Have a whole cache of weapons ranging from sub-machine guns to swiss army knives and unsure which one to choose? Check the guide. Want to team up with some Resident Evil fans and take out the undead? Yep, check the guide.

In short, When the undead do roll out their plan of hostile takeover, make sure you have this book in hand to run, hide, kill, clean and reclaim our planet. The book itself is partitioned into aforesaid sections with great detail on what weapon to choose, how to fortify your location, how to identify an outbreak and most importantly, how to plan for your hideout. Whew.

The premise is beautifully set for Max Brooks to take his dad's signature sarcasm and run with it. But he lets the juicy half volley safely to the 'keeper without offering a stroke and hopes you liked the twist. Not me. The "zombie incidents" section was fun, but the guide itself was just about okay. In a planet where people stored firewood, canned soup and cartons of paper napkins ahead of "Y2K", am sure this is a holy manuscript alongside other potential best sellers like "Trekking through Mordor" and "What to order at the restaurant at the end of the universe".

FWIW, the bonus chapter from Max Brooks' next book (World War Z) has me looking out for that. The fact that the second book has already been optioned out as a film, more so.

Read on ... (at your own peril, obviously) ...