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Comrade, Sir!

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Here’s Bill Bryson in “Notes from a Small Island” talking about Britain and Communism –

It has long seemed to me unfortunate – and I’m taking the global view here – that such an important experiment (Communism) in social organization was left to the Russians when the British would have managed it so much better. All those things that are necessary to the successful implementation of a rigorous socialist system are, after all, second nature to the British For a start, they like going without. They are great at pulling together, particularly in the face of adversity, for a perceived common good. They will queue patiently for indefinite periods and accept with rare fortitude the imposition of rationing, bland diets and sudden inconvenient shortages of staple goods, as anyone who has ever looked for bread at a supermarket on a Saturday afternoon will know. They are comfortable with faceless bureaucracies and, as Mrs. Thatcher proved, tolerant of dictatorships. They will wait uncomplainingly for years for an operation or the delivery of a household appliance. They have a natural gift for making excellent jokes about authority without seriously challenging it, and they derive universal satisfaction from the sight of the rich and powerful bough low. Most of those above the age of twenty-five already dress like East Germans. The conditions, in a word, are right.

It manages to poke fun at Communism, Britain, Russia, East Germans and a whole lot of things without being offensive, and conveys something which seems so obvious in hindsight – writing at its supreme best.

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Written by sujaybedekar

September 23, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Atonement-Slumdog mish-mash

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NB: This post contains spoilers for the book Atonement and for the recent ‘Indian’ movie Slumdog Millionaire. Also, it will most probably not make sense if you haven’t read the former (which I strongly recommend) and seen the latter (which is not a bad choice either).

Atonement‘ by Ian Mckewan has got to be one of the best books I’ve read. It has a wonderful, languid style of describing thoughts and landscapes, and yet manages to keep the story fairly tight. The book is essentially told through the eyes of a twelve-year old girl called Briony, and it describes the epic tale of her sister and her friend/ lover/ neighbour who get caught in a cruel chain of events with the Second World War as an imposing backdrop.

Slumdog Millionaire‘ by Danny Boyle is a decent movie which narrates a tale of love and destiny with the great slums of Mumbai as the primary backdrop. Watching the movie, I got the feeling that it was nothing spectacular, and could had in fact been much better.  and

I can see why the movie has been widely appreciated by a non-Indian audience. It has a lot of astonishing/ striking things which might not seem that odd to someone who has stayed in India all his/ her life but would certainly pique the interest of someone foreign. It’s more or less the same reason why I liked the movie ‘Cidade de Deus’ (City of God) so much. Slumdog, however, is NOT that awesome a movie. It is most certainly NOT the 34-th best movie of all times (at the time of writing) as indicated by the IMDb rankings. Rehman’s music in the movie, while pretty decent without a doubt, is NOT his best by any stretch – (Roja, Bombay, Dil Se, Swades and Taal come to my mind immediately). The acting is ok, but definitely NOT Best-Actor material: the lead actor perpetually oscillates between shock and anguish.

My favourite part in Atonement (and I don’t know whether it’s there in the movie since I haven’t watched it yet) is right at the end, when a now-senile Briony hints (Again: Spoiler Alert!) at the possibility that perhaps, all that she has described in the preceding chapters might not really be accurate – maybe what she has narrated with great conviction might not have happened at all. But she sincerely believes it to be so true and inevitable that she convinces herself that it is, in fact, the truth. And you don’t really care that you’ve just been cheated out of a standard conclusion to a book with all the makings of a classic.

Now imagine if the creators of Slumdog had incorporated this into the ending – Jamal keeps on telling how he was destined to know the answers (which is a roundabout way of saying he was quite lucky), but just before the movie ends – he reveals that maybe the crap which he dishes out to the police officer as explanation might not really be true.

That would had been an awesome movie – maybe not a feel-good awesome one, but a whoa!-awesome one for sure.

Written by sujaybedekar

January 20, 2009 at 5:54 pm

Titanic Revisited

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Imagine a strong behemoth of a ship like the Titanic

Imagine it sailing in somewhat choppy waters which are very risky but which overall helps the ship people make a lot of extra money.

Now imagine NOT being too surprised when the ship crashes into a big frikkin’ iceberg and people start blaming each other for not expecting this. The people responsible for charting the courses either have already gotten off the ship or are long gone.

And lastly, imagine the ship being fettered with a lot of gaping holes (because the iceberg keeps on coming back at the ship, and it also hollers out to other icebergs to join in in the fun), and the people onshore on board being entrusted with silver teaspoons to ‘Help keep things afloat’. Folks who work hard and show excellent potential and ability are given ladles instead of spoons and are rewarded by a lot of fully-paid Titanic cruise passes.

Now replace the word ‘Titanic’ with the name of any big financial firm and ‘the iceberg’ with the current Credit Crisis …. the bilaadi metaphor still makes sense.

Written by sujaybedekar

November 1, 2008 at 4:47 pm

Posted in europe, Finance, london

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Euro 2008- Predictions

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After an exhausting qualifying schedule, the Euro 2008 football tournament now enters the quarterfinals stage. Lalit Modi (The controller-auditor-general-senator something for the recently concluded IPL Twenty20 tournament) must be baffled by the decision to play Round 3 matches of the same group at the same time.

The men have been separated from the boys (and from the French 😛 – ok, that was a bit unnecessary). Given the tension and speculation, the teams expected to qualify for the Quarter Finals did qualify after after all. My predictions for the tournament now are –

Euro Predictions - Version 3

Why …

… not Netherlands? ’cause they’re a big bunch of chokers. ’cause, in Andrei Arshavin, they’ll be up against a superlative player. ’cause their huge goals tally is mainly because of their enthu for counterattacks alone. And because Guus Hiddink is a class apart.

… not Spain? ’cause the lack of wingers will hit them badly. Italy will play through the centre, and Zambrotta-Grosso will come forward and provide ample crosses. ’cause Luca Toni is long overdue a goal. And because Buffon is special.

… not Germany? Schweinsteiger is a big oaf for getting himself sent off. Gomez is just one big giant oaf. Ballack is good, but not a magician. Klose just seems bored and lost. And Podolski has had his fill of goals.

… not Portugal? Finishing will let them down eventually. And they are, like Netherlands, big chokers.

… not Italy? They’re good, but not that good. Pirlo looks jaded, the defense is at times quite frail, and they also seem to be having a fairly luckless tournament.

Croatia??? They have a good coach, excellent midfielders, hardworking forwards and fast full backs. Most of all, they are under no pressure – advantages of being underdogs. Plus they face Turkey in the QF, which might very well turn into a confidence-boosting match.

This is of course contrary to who I am actually cheering for – A dream final (for me) would be Germany vs Italy.

Very nice entertainment so far! 🙂

Ed1: Croatia seem to have taken up the ‘Choker Bali’ tag. Germany look a different team altogether with Schweinsteiger in and Gomez out. Time to change predictions!:( 🙂

Ed2: Italy without Pirlo are pathetic. Worryingly for Spain, they couldn’t score in 120 minutes. Arshavin is the man of the tournament already – and he’s played just 2 matches. Turkey has 4(5?) frontline players injured/ suspended – Germans always seem to get the easier draws in major tournaments!

Written by sujaybedekar

June 19, 2008 at 2:57 pm

Posted in europe, football, tv

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What’s in a name?

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Many people find football boring. Watching eleven (twenty-two, in fact) people tussling for the same ball for over 90 minutes seems like a waste of time and energy. Especially when you have no idea about the players, the teams, the tournament or the ball who seems to be getting too much of the attention.

For all these kind of people, I present a new reason – watch it to to become a more aware global citizen. Watching football can greatly help you increase your general knowledge about countries, the people, their styles and most importantly – their names.

Take someone by the name Zurab Khizanishvili. Once you get past the lols and wtfs, you might wonder why people have their names so ridiculous. Now football will might not answer that, but you will nevertheless come to know that such names are often associated with people hailing from the tiny country of Georgia. You will no longer be stumped if, for example, a person were to walk up to you tomorrow and say – “My name is Levan. Levan Kobiashvili. Guess where I am from?”

Or take the name Kahveci Nihat. The name is nice because the syllables can be rearranged quite freely to get names which seem equally (un)likely – Nihaveci Kavat, Nahveci Kihat, Kahneci Vihat, Kaniveci Hihat etc. In fact, just writing this confused me enough to go and confirm on wiki. This happens with other Turkish names too (Tuncay Sanli)

Further examples of names and helpful pointers –

-ov : invariably Bulgarian (Stoichkov, Petrov, Berbatov)

-ov (-off) or -ev + look extremely menacing: invariably Russian (Kerzhakov, Ivanov, Andreev, Akinfeev, Bilyaletdinov)

-ic + look like they’ve just returned from a fight in which they got bashed up more: Serbian (Vidic, Zigic, Ilic)

-is(-os) + long names with too many alphabets repeated and yet sound somewhat similar: invariably Greek (Nikopolidis, Papadopoulos, Papastathopoulos, Christodoulopoulos)

Words with a lot of j’s and i’s thrown in to earn more scrabble points: Dutch (Sneijder, Nistelrooij, Ooijer, Mathijsen). They still earn much less than …

Names with rarely used consonants like w and z all arranged to resemble the charts you’re made to read during an eye check-up: invariably Polish (Wawrzyniak, Kuszczak, Przyrowski, Błaszczykowski, Janczyk).

Names which sound like something you would eat: invariably L’Italie (Chielline, Pastroani, Barzagli, Natali)

Players who do not look/sound like they belong to the country they’re playing from – invariably French (Anelka, Makalele, Zidane, Samir Nasri)

Written by sujaybedekar

June 11, 2008 at 6:41 pm

Posted in arbit, europe, football

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Goalaaso!

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(Long football post. You have been warned)

The Euro 2008 football tournament kicks off today (has kicked off already in fact as I type), and it promises to be an awesome one for two reasons –

1. England is not playing. Hence, the english media will be forced to realize that there are more important things (and better teams) to look at, and better news to report than what clothes WAGs wear.

2. There is no clear favourite – Spain and Netherlands are favoured to go far, and history says that they are the South Africans of European and World Cup Football i.e. chokers with an inability to perform when the situation demands. Germany and Italy join them more because of their record than on current form.

I cheer, as always, for Italy and Germany – my 2 favourite European national teams. Although Alessandro Nesta and Paolo Maldini are gone while Fabio Cannavaro is injured (my favourite player of WC 2006), Italy still have a good defence and wonderful finishers in Alessandro Del Piero, Di Natale and all to win crunch games. Germany are awesome because they have wonderful individual performers – Ballack, Klose, Lahm, Podolski and Tongue twisting Schweinsteiger – and they have awesome team spirit.

My feelings for France are similar to those for Arsenal – love their football, love even more to see them lose. With Frank Ribery and Thierry Henry injured and Trezeguet not picked because of random reasons, things are going to be tough. And given that their co-groupies are Italy, Holland and Romania (who have an awesome striker in Adrian Mutu), their task becomes tougher. Yay :). They do have one of my players to watch for the tournament – Samir Nasri. Damn you Arsene Wenger – One can’t help but admire his eye for talent.

Spain have all the star players but play the wrong formation, because of which Fernando Torres will end up being ineffective. Plus they have minimal team coordination- kind of like the English national team actually. They have good players though – Casillas, David Villa, David Silva, Iniesta and their most underrated player – Xavi Hernandez. If only they can stop being good only on paper …

Portugal have an awesome defense and a spectacular midfield – Cristiano Ronaldo, Ricardo Quaresma, Deco and all. Problem is, they have a specacularly average collection of Forwards in Nuno Gomes and Postiga.  That might just prove to be their undoing, unless Ronaldo decides to do his country a huge favour and replicates his brilliant club form of 2007-08. Their coach Scolari is very good, but he just might end up restricting the free flowing football of his wingers, which would be a real crying shame.

Holland are not as good as everyone is hollering them to be – unnatural formations, not too good defenders, midfielders playing out-of-position, injured players (Babel, Robben, Melchiot) or players returning from injury (van Persie) – not good tidings for a ‘favourite’. They do have match winners like vNistelrooij and Sneider though …

My dark horses for the the tournament have to be Croatia and Russia. They have a lot in common –

– Instrumental in knocking out England in the qualifying phase.

– Good coaches. Russia’s Guus Hiddink is in fact a miracle worker, having shown his versatility with Holland, South Korea, Australia and now Russia. He is my first choice to replace Sir Alex Ferguson two/ three years later when he says he’ll retire. Or maybe not – SAF is irreplaceable 😦

– Young, interesting midfielders. Good goalkeepers. Somewhat easy qualifying groups. And a lot of confidence in themselves, which always helps.

Not that I don’t think Sweden, the Czechs or Greece are bad or anything, but I wouldn’t really put my money on them to enter the last four.

Players to watch: Samir Nasri, Karim Benzema (Fra), Mario Gomez, Hitzlsperger (Ger), Sneijder (Ned), Torres, Silva, Villa (Esp), Quaresma, Ronaldo, Bosingwa (Por), Modric (Cro), Akinfeev (Rus), Quagriella (Ita), Larsson, Wilhelmson (Swe), Behrami, Vonlanthen (Sui)

Hopefully there’ll be an Italy-Germany final – Cheers to that 🙂

Written by sujaybedekar

June 7, 2008 at 11:33 pm

Posted in europe, football

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