These are little stuff that, were they to be published in an opinion journal or magazine, would have been called tidbits or snippets or finger-eat-readings. Of course, some of them are long enough to be merited an Order of Individual Blog Post honour! Since I have either dealt with them in individual blog posts in detail (as in the case of Saurav) or are not timely or critical enough to merit a full blog (yes, really, Orhan Pamuk case is getting a bit tiresome, dearie!. Or some are in the developmental phase that I would like to underline what's worth following on the international news radar. The earlier one, Oh Captain, My Captain! was the first of these bloggettes, as I would like to term them. Read on...
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Saurav Ganguly affair like Mohd. Azharuddin's, Ajay Jadeja's, Manoj Prabhakar's and much before that Mohinder Amarnath's and not too late in the past, Nayan Mongia's never seems to end. Of course, they can't end it. At least, the press wouldn't let it end. Else how do they fill up the space? Antickpix had remarked in the comments section to my previous blog on this topic that perhaps my article musta been reserved for after-Pakistan than now. After all, he feels that the purpose of my blog is defeated. Saurav is back! I don't think so. I still hold to my statement: Saurav must have opted out of the "Stake Your Claim" racket rather than making a huge hullabaloo about the whole thingie and meet Pawar and strengthen his case. My shout in the post was not about Ganguly's inclusion or exclusion from the team, but how a Loch-Ness is hiding inside More-ji! How past never seems to leave us Indian! Calcuttans may have gone on cracker-ing the celeb. My lowdown on the upshot of "Mission Saurav Inclusion" is this: Saurav must be pretty careful. By giving him a ticket to Pakistan, they have played an Azadi game. The Train to Pakistan is a veritable booby. How? Remember that 90s series where Kris Srikant was the Captain and he achieved what till then no one had achieved in recent memory! Square a series in Pakistan. And yet, when the Indians came back, he was not only stripped of captaincy, but axed from the team. Since then, the only couple of times Kris wielded the willow were 1) the Bi- and Multi-lateral over-35 ODIs and the recent Essilor Lens ad! And yet, another man who was equally dubious in the series, an erstwhile captain, opening partner in crime, the man who actually stole the Audi Car from Srikkanth in the 85 B&H WSC - inspite of not producing anything spectacular in individual matches to outshine Srikkanth or to actually do a Lara or Symonds or Pietersen or Lee or Warne to win any crucial match single-handedly - Ravi Shastri went on to be retained in the team. Because he was smart enough to play a dogged innings to wrap up a timely century to save his gluteus maximus. The same is going to happen to Saurav if he is not careful. How do you think Sachin survives these days? We have spoken about this in the L'Affaire Saurav article. My Ramp-up to this dope: Take Saurav's record against Pakistan. 7 Matches with 200+ runs at an average that is in the none too impressive 20s to warm the idiomatic cockle of the hearts! Actually it is a jathetic poke... er pathetic joke! And he has come at the expense of someone who survived the late 90-s and the beginning of this decade due to the clemency of his Dada! Saurav Dada has come in at the expense of Mohd. Kaif. And the other beneficiary of Saurav's munificence, Yuvraj, is preferred ahead of him! Dramatic Irony? Poetic Justice? Reasons enough Saurav must produce out of the world stuff. Stuff to claim back his opener slot in ODI; stuff enough to get back his patta for the 3-down slot; stuff big enough to whack the s**t out of the Frog Dance Moron of Indian Cricketing Chairmanship who goes on to say something very different each day about Saurav: alternately pandering and breathing pan masala spit. So, Saurav watch out. They are digging a bigger grave for you. As the Bard would say "Honor you at the trifles to Deceive you at the highest!" Time will tell whether Saurav is the Gladiator in the Arena or Kheema matter for Pindi Express - the man who Bends it Like No-one Else Can - Akthar! Or even Umar Gul, the latest Aquib Javed. It is the stuff of legend that Aquib Javed took about 70 odd wickets in ODI and 80% came against India, in Sharjah!
Fernando Alonso: I remember this bloke about 4 years ago. His debut was with Minardi. There was this race where it was a do or die for David "the undying" Coulthard. What the heck! He was in the Championship race. And the Scot was getting frustrated. Try as he might, he could not overtake the minnow in front of him. And he was furious, shaking his helmet-ed head and his bunched up fist... getting furious at the marshals for not blue-flagging the car in front of him... radioing expletives to his team at the pits... Imagine what you would do if this happens for like 18 laps... and the guy in front of you wasn't even a top-10 runner... the guy was a debutant in a Minardi! Well, the young turk in front of him had other ideas. He was in the clear. Coulthard may be fighting for the championship, but as long as the former was not a backmarker to Coulthard, he had a right to defend his position. Well drubbed the gravel on the grass, upstart! That was Fernando Alonso. The year, I guess, was 2001. And 2 years later, he won his first Grand Prix at Hungaroring! and almost earned a hard-fought duel with Schumi at the Spanish Barcelona Grand Prix. The home-fans squealed in manic delight that day. And 2 more years later, this guy has shaken up the entire paddock area 2 further years in advance. Well, the news - for those not following F-1 world when there is no race - is Alonso has already signed up to move over to McLaren for 2007. And the 2006 season has not started. Would not start until another month or two! A lot of questions are being raised over this Paddock Poaching for Driver Line-up 2007 by Ron Dennis when there is no apparent need to. At least, Alonso-Dennis combo need not have announced it now. So if Fernando doesn't due to some reason win as many races in 2006 as he did in 2005 or cannot retain his Championship (there's already breaking news that Schumi has set early season testing times ablaze at Fiorano circuit), question marks are going to be raised. And what of Montoya or Raikkonen at McLaren. Is this Ron's way of shaking Kimi for not winning the Driver's Championship? Or is this a way of rattling Montoya who until the other day, before the emergence of Alonso out of Renault testing service, was the fieriest and angry young driver of F-1? So who goes out? Who stays in? A lot of commitments are going to be put to test in what seems a difficult year for F-1 : 2006!
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Breaking News on the F-1 front: Hockenheim in recent financial trouble is already the only true-blood German Grand Prix. Nurburgring, although technically is in Germany and even closer to Schumis' home-town of Kerpen than Hockenheim, is considered a European Grand Prix hosted by Luxemborg Racing Authorities and the State of Luxemborg. And those folks are adding salt to the already wounded pride of Hockenheimers by offering to sharing the financial burden. Internal German take-over? What with BMW stepping in directly into the ring! On that count, we have a new team for 2006. A Japanese team that is not Honda, not Toyota... Of course, Taku Sato is in the driver line-up with another newbie. All Jap line-up. Sony took over Hollywood. Will Japan take over F-1 too? Max! Bernie!! d'ye both hear? Or will, when he retires, Schumi be the hier-apparent to Max and Bernie's stranglehold on the business part of F-1? Already we hear this week that Luca di Montezemolo - the honcho at Fiorano (Ferrari Headquarters) - announcing that Schumi is Ferrari's eternal future, hinting that even after quitting competitive racing, Michael would be active either as Manager or as Technical Chief or whatever Michael desires. Good thing that Rubens has decided to move over at the long last! But sad thing, everyone who moves into Ferrari talks rose before taking the tack Eddie Irvine took 5 years back. Losers grumblers, eh? That's it from F-1 paddock this week. You can check my dedicated brand new blog Little Shop of Formoola One Musings for regular updates and more detailed and specialized posts!
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Johnny Depp: Since the day - about 8 to 9 years or even more - I first saw the movie Edward Scissorhands, I have never lost an opportunity to admire Depp's acting. Of late I have been analyzing his work style and subtle approach to handling roles, he never fails to amaze me. In my 30 years of movie watching, I guess, this is one fellow who has really made me spout sweeping statements. Just this day, after belatedly watching Finding Neverland, I realize Depp is the finest actor of this generation. I have been taken in goosebump zone by Val Kilmer's facility with varying choice of roles and the handling of them (Independence, Top Secret, The Doors, Batman...the list is long!). I have occasionally wondered at the a-la Zen calmness that Keanu Reeves brings to his approach to his roles; I have been occasionally (initially) misled to consider Di Caprio as a potential (nah! Not Titanic, but The Man in the Iron Mask), but I was pretty disappointed by his portrayal of the hyped Aviator movie. And so with Hollywood's true successor to the blue-eyed boy seat left vacant by Paul Newman - Tom Cruise. In spite of repeatedly forced into watching The Last Samurai, I conclude that his range is limited. Of course, now they are all talking Orlando Bloom and Jude Law and others of the ilk. And my friend Radio Krishna says Javier Bardoe and Ed Norton are gunning at Johnny's heels now, but Depp still beats them all by streets and autobahns. I have seen him now in Edward Scissorhands, Deadman (directed by Jim Jarmusch of the Coffee and Cigarrettes and more recently the Cannes 2005 winning Broken Flowers fame and on whom alongside Terry Gilliam I plan to post a blog shortly), Finding Neverland and a couple of other movies; and there is a certain silkiness of approach and subtlety of undertanding he brings to the characters he plays. Even a movie like Pirates of the Carribean (which incidentally stars Orlando Bloom alongside) an apparently comic role in a bravado cult movie-line, he brings so much to the role. He makes is all his movie. When it's a Johnny movie you are never out of Deppth!
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Kerry Packer: The last week has seen the biggest event of perhaps the most catastrophic year of this millennium heretofore! The cricketing moghul who turned the world upside down in the Rand-era by introducing the ODI World Series - otherwise eponymously known as the Packer Series until it was officially accepted as a game worth considering blood brother to Test Cricket - died at the age of 68. It was a watermark but very sweeping sad moment. How else would the world of Lance Kluseners and Jayasuriyas and Yuvrajs and Kris Srikkanths have survived, if not for this invention! The Kiwis have tried their own share of Max and 20-20 series... and they have failed to uproot the fascination a ODI has till now. Salute the Great Gatsby of Modern Cricket, Late Kerry Packer, ladies and gentlemen! I shall try and post a dedicated blog later to this genius. I guess, juxtaposed next to his contribution, Sir WG can take a flight to moon and get back leisurely (if he wants he can stay there. It ain"t windy up there!)
Orhan Pamuk: It is getting a bit of tedium, this Case of Orhan "the Turk" Pamuk. The Turkish author - famed for his works My Name is Red, Snow, The Black Book et al. - perhaps the only of his ilk to have come from a bigoted and beleagured Turkey that is fashionably teetering on the edge of ambiguity vis-à-vis its entry into European Union membership, has been basking under the wrath of millions of fanatical Turks, who have been castigating him in all possible ways regarding his comments on the Turkishness of the National Turk Army (in a recent October interview to a German Press); who have been baying for his blood a-la Ayotollah for Rushdie's blood back in the 90s, for his apparent opinions upon the 1915-22 killings of 1.5 million Armenians and heck of a lot of Kurds at the hands of the Ottoman regime. First they went abuzz and paranoid and psychotic and mob-hysterical about his February comments to a Swiss paper about the Armenian alleged-Genocide. And then they issued some sort of a fatwa on him. Then they made a date for his trial in October. It was postponed.
They pushed it to December 16th. Now they have pushed it further to February. Grounds of adjournment and stay and postponement range from "non-availment of proper orders from the Justice Dept." to Outcry of the Western media. Ha! My Conspiracy Theory is this... I think, on a purely personal side it is turning out to resemble a purely sales-pitch by pro-Pamuk press and his retinue of small-scale industry (read publishers, agents and of the plumage) to keep him eligible for Booker, Nobel and whatnots. On the other hand, at a larger public scale it seems like an advertisement riot by the Turkish government to keep itself in the news constantly as the gather support for their membership. To project a "cry for freedom of expression" from media and artist community and then provide it (hopefully shortly) to a cued-timing, whereby the Western countries and the E.U member countries heave a sigh of relief; and Turkey can score a few brownies in its bid for EU membership. Of course, Greece is watching! They are not going to sit tight. As I write this, I truly adore My Name is Red and recommend it as a good laugh read. Have just started reading Snow. I would put Pamuk in the same scale of Italo Calvino in his ingenuity and on par with Eco in his plotting. Well, Dan Brown is a fake although he has better claims to pace and tempo in comparison with Pamuk.
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The Ambler Warning is one kitsch I managed to read (though not in one sitting) in one bated-breath in a long while. I had to labour through Archer's latest False Impressions (am tagging to Samanth's review of the book) and did not think unputdownable about Crichton's State of Fear (although is it highly recommendable as a read); thought of the allegedly legendary Da Vinci Code as inferior even to Brown's own Digital Fortress and repudiate anything by Brown as nothing more than a distant pollutant particule cousin of any of Umberto Ecos; and refused summarily to even read beyond the blurbs of the last two Cusslers and Forbes lest I get into a comatose for recognizing good reads. Ambler is apparently Ludlum's last individual novel. So they keep purporting. How many more? I mean, with a mother of mother-lode of talent such as Robert Ludlum's you need not have to pull all those sackfuls of wool to ensure sales of his works, however posthumous the publications may be. If co-authored books such as The Moscow Vector could sell, Ambler definitely will take care of its 1 millionth copy. My personal paean for The Ambler Warning is due to various factors. It is a better book than what is considered to be his best yet - The Bourne series. Subject matter is similar. An individual's quest for himself and his identity, caught in a political stabilization web. Well, finally Ludlum has conclusively taken the step other authors have made in a financial hurry: towards the Bamboo Curtain that is slowly getting the world under its slow but sure and large dragnet - China. Nice thing, Ludlum was not alive to see the Iraq operation of the US and Saddam fiasco, else he would have joined the band in wasting his time in writing umpteen journeyman fiction versions of Three Kings (in support of the movie, I must say, it is a fun watch!). But back to Ambler. For stats, it is 480+ pages. Four Parts. Sweeps the world from Langley Base in US to Hongkong to Parrish Island off US to Taiwan off China to Paris and Davos in Mitteleurope! It moves from a search for an individual's identity - not to mention his totally changed face (remember the ol' time Desmond Bagley novel in which this guy goes to sleep in England and wakes up in Oslo to discover to his horror that he's had a face-off and has to remember to drive on the wrong side, er... right side in Norway of the road?) - to a huge plot by the US to keep healthy-minded South East Asian political leaders from living and hence transforming the world to a peaceful place. Behind all these is a bunch of followers of Mr. Ashton Palmer - a once highly-tipped hier to the US Gubernatorial position and now a Professor of Politics, incognito of course! - a sort of quiet maniac who wants to do a Ramana (a-la Captain Vijayakanth in the eponymous movie) to ensure the Machtpolitik, Realpolitik and Geopolitik supremacy of the foremost upholder of democracy in the Universe - United States of America. A brilliant, at one-go, unput-downable crescendo of a finish in Part Four, spanning about 100 pages. Just Buy It. Worth its Rs. 250/- (an edition by Orion Books for Sale in Indian Sub-continent only).