Had to post this one

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I don't know why, but I just had to put this one up - this one's probably the greatest quote I've come across.

"The loveliest of faces are to be seen by moonlight, when one sees half with the eye and half with the fancy." - Persian Proverb


On Dr. Dre's latest prescription drug

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I haven’t done any album/movie reviews here because (a) nobody cares what a random blogger thinks and (b) why else are popular publications like Rolling Stone etc in business? They are the ones whose reviews shape the general reception of any movie or album that finds its way into theatres or stores. If you want to know whether you want to buy it or whether it’s worth a dekko, you’ll be better off reading what they think of it.

Anyway, the album is question is Eminem’s Relapse. It’s been four years since an Em record went on the shelf, and it’s most obviously an extremely important album for his biggest fans as well as people who hate him the most. The former group wants to know whether that magic and madness in his rhymes is still alive and kicking. The latter want to have another shot at belittling him. And truth be told, I myself wasn’t too optimistic when I listened to the first two singles from Relapse to have been released – 'Crack a Bottle’ and ‘We Made You’.

That skepticism changed for good once I listened to the rest of the album (‘Never has there been so much finesse and nostalgia’, as Em asserts in ‘We Made You’). For me, the first two singles were the weakest in the album – ‘Crack A Bottle’ with 50 Cent and Dr. Dre sure became the most downloaded song of all time, but didn’t exactly set my trousers on fire – it was nothing special. And as far as ‘We Made You’ is concerned, it’s a pale shadow of probably the best parody-rap song of all time, ‘The Real Slim Shady’. This one doesn’t even come close. The beats and chorus are okay, but Em’s accent in the song is annoying and the rhymes jar at places. The video was a good laugh, though.

But the rest of the album is at least as good as Encore, if not better. It’s vintage Eminem all over again. With ‘Dr. West’, there is a sinister (and homophobic, as the critics would spit) tone set for the album which is taken to an even scarier and gorier level with ‘3 AM’, whose music video was banned from being aired on TV, because it was deemed ‘unfit for TV audiences’. The TV regulatory bodies could have given themselves a break. Who cares these days when you have Youtube?

‘My Mom’ sees Em take the road he’s travelled so many times – he trains his hellfire on his mother, blaming her for what he is today (That's why I'm on, what I'm on, 'cause I'm My Mom!). ‘Insane’ is one of the best – and the probably the most cringe-inducing song in the album. He talks about his childhood experiences with his stepfather, which were anything but pleasant, and his mother’s constant indifference to the same (If you could count the skeletons in my closet/Under my bed and up under my faucet/Then you would know I've completely lost it/Is he nuts? No, he’s insane). ‘Bagpipes from Baghdad’ has been in the news to the barbs Em’s directed at Mariah Carey and her husband Nick Cannon, but it’s much better than a page three story, the Arabic Rhythm surprisingly works with the Dre beats and of course, Em’s rhymes.

‘Hello’ makes you smile at the start (Hello.../Allow me to introduce myself.../My name is, Shady/It's so nice to meet you/It's been a long time/Sorry I've been away so long/My name is, Shady/I never meant to leave you). The song is decent enough as well. In ‘Same Song and Dance’, he realizes how oft-repeated and flogged the jokes and disses about the current music scene generally are. ‘Medicine Ball’ has the references to Christopher Reeve, and has come in for a lot of flak, but towards the fag end of the track, Reeve has his own back – “Eminem, I'm coming to kill you, always hated you and I still do /You'll never fill my shoes, my Superman costume/Doesn't even fit you, they don't feel you/You're taking this shit too far, who do you think you are?”. This track is also among the better ones. ‘Stay Wide Awake’ also has an extremely dark, murder-ly and manslaughter-ly theme to it. Works. ‘Old Times’ Sake’ is a sort of nostalgic trip, and Em along with Dre really rocks this number (So one more time for old time's sake/Dre drop that beat and scratch that break). Dr. Dre’s beats and Em’s rhymes come together perfectly in this track.

‘Must be the Ganja’ revisits the drug theme, and by this time, Em has already introduced zillions of drugs, almost as if he is reading off the inventory list of a pharmaceutical corporation(Valium, Zantac, Nyquill, Vicodin, Klonopin, Hydrocodone, Ambien, Xanax, Formula 44d, Percodan, Lunesta, they’re all here). ‘Mr. Mathers’ has medics tending to a passed-out Eminem, and the next track ‘Déjà vu’ talks about him falling ‘deeper into a manic state’. ‘Beautiful’ is a surprisingly pleasing track, with a mellow chorus, and Em’s voice is used for proper singing in the chorus lines. Here he’s on about how difficult it was for him to get out of the drug problems and the extreme depression that had encumbered him in the recent past. It was extremely tough, but like he says, ‘But I need that spark to get psyched back up, in order for me to pick the mic back up’. Em’s pen still hasn’t lost any of its ability to stir the emotions. Some of my favourite lines are from this song:

"In my shoes, just to see, what it's like to be me
I'll be you, let's trade shoes, just to see what it'd be like to
Feel your pain, you feel mine, go inside each other’s minds
Just to see, what we find, look at shit through each other’s eyes
But don't let them say you ain't beautiful
They can all get fucked, just stay true to you
Don't let them say you ain't beautiful
They can all get fucked, just stay true to you"

His long-time antagonist Steve Berman makes a comeback in the nineteenth track of the album, and this time, he sums things up as far as Em’s critics are concerned: “Let me guess, another album about poor me, I'm so famous that it's ruined my rich little life, and I'm such a tortured artist. Let me make music about it and my tragic love life, am I on to something here? … Big selfish superstar (Steve, I had a drug problem) Oh poor me, I had a drug problem. Who hasn't had a drug problem in this town?” The twentieth track on the album is ‘Underground’, which draws the curtains on a worthy comeback by Slim Shady – Obviously, like all Shady albums, this one’s also a love-it or hate-it compilation. If you hate it, you obviously shouldn’t have listened to it in the first place. People who are quick to dismiss this as a rehash of his previous work, think again. This is what he does best, and in Relapse he takes off where Encore left. Nobody does this better, and in most of the songs, the target is Eminem himself. His pen’s acerbic and biting wit is still there, and the rhymes still pack more than a punch. It’s that time again, as Em says in ‘Medicine Ball’:

“I said I guess it's time for you to hate me again
Let's begin, now hand me the pen
How should I begin it, and where does it all end
My medicine ball, you're in my medicine ball friends”

The lines that usually announce Shady’s comebacks are conspicuous by their absence in Relapse, and so I absolutely had to end this with those very lines.

“Guess who’s back, back again?
Shady’s back, tell a friend.”

He’s back. And how! Good to see you back at it, Em! And here's hoping the next album is an even bigger step up.

The Mallorcan Marauder. And why he rules.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My apologies to – well, I don’t know who I should apologize to, but they have been long overdue. I was supposed to write this in the first week of February, but other unnecessary work kept me occupied – stuff like the quizzes and the endsems, the like.

A muscly, fist pumping, grunting and grinding Spaniard won the 2005 French Open at a time when the world, me included, just couldn’t have enough of the Swissmaster Roger Federer. No matter how much, too much was never enough. He was magical, he was sublime, he was winning everything and then some more. He was perfect – there weren’t any real weaknesses in his game, and over and above anything else, he never looked like he had to make himself the finest, and the best in the business or had to become the best the world has ever seen – he was born to be just that. And that’s what made him so special. If ‘poetry in motion’ is a term that could ever be applied to someone who wasn’t a Russian Ballerina, Roger on a tennis court was the perfect example.

When Rafa won his first French Open title against another lefty Mariano Puerta, the majority of us didn’t so much as bat an eyelid. My immediate reaction was, ‘Well, these clay-courters come and go. This guy might be good, but he’ll probably be unable to do much on the rest of the courts. He might fade away into sporting oblivion, for all I care’. I remember telling Puspen and the rest that.

I was justified in thinking thus. I remember so many random players who came good on clay, won the French Open (or at least came close to winning it) – Gaston Gaudio, Guillermo Coria, Albert Costa, Marcelo Rios, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Martin Verkerk, Alex Corretja, Thomas Muster etc etc. And then? Look at what these players achieved after that. They have all frittered away and, to the best of my knowledge, have chucked their rackets or are languishing at the bottom of the ATP Rankings. Why should I have thought any differently in Rafa’s case?

Come to think of it, I was furious, extremely so, when Nadal ousted Federer in the semi-finals of that tournament. I went mad; thinking that here was yet another pretender who has stopped the potential G.O.A.T. from adding the Coupe des Mousquetaires (that’s what the trophy’s called. Eek.) to his mantelpiece. Stupid Spaniard. I hated him. It wasn’t that I loved Roger too much. I just hated Nadal a little more. Anyway, better late than never. Roger would most certainly win the French Open. It was just a matter of time. His mastery would be complete.

Cut to the present day. ‘It was just a matter of time’. Heh. I’d never imagined it would take this long, and with it see the supplanting of the Fedex at the top of the rankings as well as the Wimbledon trophy being bitten on Centre Court by the same ‘stupid Spaniard’. The Aussie Open was conquered too. All this while dominating on the clay courts like none before him. Sheesh. And along the way, he’s also made me a huge fan. I’m sold.

His detractors say his game is too physical and too demanding. That his body will crumble due to the extraordinary demands he puts on it every time he goes out to play. That he is not quite the purist’s chosen one, for his game breaks a lot of established conventions. They don’t find it ‘aesthetically pleasing’ and that it is never a joy to watch him play – that is the exclusive preserve of the ‘artist’ and ‘magician’ Federer.

All this might be true, but why else do you think he’s succeeded time and again against Federer? It is precisely because of this ‘unconventional’ and ‘unaesthetic’ manner of his tennis. Nadal’s genius is just as great as Federer’s, albeit of a different sort. Nobody can beat the Fedex at his own game – that is the reason he so effortlessly dominated men’s tennis for such a long period. That is why opponents like Roddick and Hewitt get routinely thumped by him. Even though they’d been around before him and have played him so many times. It’s not as if they haven’t tried their best. They just CAN’T.

And don’t you lie saying you don’t enjoy watching Nadal on a tennis court. You may hate him all you like, but calling his game unexciting is like saying LK Advani is an eloquent and new-gen, charismatic leader who is fit to be the face of India on the world stage.

What is entertaining about watching him play?

Well, what isn’t? The lightning speed with which he darts about on the court, his dogged pursuit - and return - of every single ball the opponent sends to his half of the court, his lunging and scrabbling all the time, never giving up, that whiplashing top-spin loaded forehand, the way he wields his Babolat like a cutlass, the way he exults and fist-pumps after hitting yet another impossible winner or the way he passes the sternest of tests with the belligerence of a battle-hardened, uncompromising buccaneer, what? (OK, the repeated yanking at his shorts is). If there is one word to describe him on a tennis court, it is 'indefatigable'.

His bellicose, some would even say violent playing style is something Federer hasn’t come to terms with. Yet. This is testimony to his class and his resilience – he has steadily improved since that first French Open title, adapted himself fantastically to the other surfaces (something which so many people doubted he could do). He is probably the greatest counter-puncher the game has seen – whatever anyone throws at him, he’ll invariably find a way to send it back. Another striking facet of his game is that he doesn’t allow himself much of a margin for error. As last nights’ semi-final of the Madrid Masters against Djokovic showed, he is capable of winning matches against the best in the business even when he’s not playing at his best, his footwork is not quite up there, the timing is not coming to him or the shots look a little feeble. That, in my opinion, is what his opponents, most of all Federer, have to worry about. And speaking of his rivalry with Federer – it’s the best thing to have happened to men’s tennis since the days of Sampras-Agassi and Sampras-Rafter. Nadal always finds an extra gear, a way to raise his game several notches against him, and has prevailed with an alarming regularity. The current head-to-head is 13-6, in Rafa’s favour.

His domination over Federer came full circle in the Wimbledon Championships, 2008, where he outlasted Federer in that epic final, finally ending Federer’s 5 year reign at SW19. And his nature off the court is in direct contrast to the raging bull that we see grunting and snorting on court. It’s almost as if there is a switch that alternates him between ‘On-Court Mauler’ and ‘Off Court Captain Courteous’ modes. Despite humbling Federer on surfaces other than clay regularly, he’s always maintained that Federer is the best in history, and it is an honour for him to have been such a worthy opponent. It’s not that I like him for the depressingly kind words he has for the man who finally broke down (Aus Open ‘09) after losing yet another grand slam final to his greatest rival. I say all this because you might start liking him for these reasons!

Sure, he says all that and sincerely means everything he says. But he probably doesn’t realize he himself might be well on the way to becoming the most successful of all time. He is improving with every tournament; he’s giving absolutely nothing away to his competitors and he’s staying fit. Making such a prediction as this might be taking it a little too far, but (a Hammond-esque BUT) you never know, do you? And it’s not just about the idle speculations – he may not actually achieve the calendar Grand Slam, or win the most titles, or stay No. 1 longer than Federer, but that is not the point. The fact that he is forcing us to confront that possibility is.

I’m willing to lay any wager that if he can keep playing at the level he is now for another 4-5 years, he might become the one who replaces every other name in the record books.

If and when he does that, you can count on me rooting for him.

And so it happened

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The club has hit me in the gut, the truck has mowed me down and my carcass is being ripped apart, shred by shred, by the overanxious vultures, even as I use Blogger's 'Psychic Live Writer' to upload this post which I'm only thinking about.

With time and with experience, people expect a step up - even if they haven't done much to deserve it. And truth be told, I was expecting that too. But, as someone has famously and appropriately said, 'Shit Happens'. And so it has, big time. I am too loathe and too...indifferent(?) to do something about this. So, without giving it much thought, I have come back to watching Jack Bauer take out yet another rogue-organisation-with-WMDs-threatening-the-national-security-of-the-US and laughing my head off watching Jezza, Captain Slow and The Hamster falling over and cocking about amidst the usual orgy of speed and heavy metal (the real things - not six-strings with cocaine addicts holding them iffily and eliciting strange noises from them).

My death won't be a hero's one. That's hardly a surprise. Not even the vultures like the taste of me. One of them is undergoing convulsions- looks like it's going to keel over rather soon - and the others, taking the cue, are flying away. In search of better and more delectable meat.

In search of... you.

The edge of tolerance

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The obvious place to start would be !@#$?@#$ !

I mean, what can you say about things that look like they have completely spiraled out of control for a team that is supposed to be representative of the greatest, most enigmatic and undoubtedly the most evocative name in automotive history?

Imagine how fucking frustrating it must be for their army of fans around the world. The Tifosi. Me. Us. Probably you. And this is before we get to the predicament of their two drivers - Mr. rapid-yet-unlucky Massa and Mr. chocobar-ze-vodka Raikkonen. How bad can things get before they start to get better?

They started out with a car that wasn’t exactly at the forefront of innovation and development. We can understand that. Seeing McLaren in the same situation, it is obvious that these 2 powerhouses who were rabidly dueling for the 2008 world championship had to let some slack as far as the development of their ‘09 machines was concerned. Their drivers, as a direct consequence have had to endure a hellish time on track trying to battle erstwhile midfield no-hopers who have ultimately ended up in front of them.

Moreover, it is really, I mean, really tough to make up lost ground in the course of a single season. Even with the mega resource strength of Ferrari (and McLaren and Renault and BMW), it will be a Herculean task for them to outperform Brawn and Red Bull, because every team on the grid is in a constant state of evolution - everybody is taking steps forward all the time. So, for every one step that the teams in front take, Ferrari and the others will have to take two steps, even three, because what they are doing has to be cumulatively greater than the developmental steps taken by the teams in front if they have to gain on them. That's difficult. Very difficult.

The sad part is, they somehow managed to make that big step forward - as was evident on the eve of the Spanish Grand Prix. They had the pace to at least stay with the front runners, if not slay them. That was a start! And then Ferrari's mechanical gremlins and slapdash errors that the crew have repeatedly been making took over. It's not just bad luck any more. It is sheer madness, and dare I say, indifference. They probably have made more tactical mistakes in the first quarter of this season than they have made in all of the last decade - the overconfident and irrational decision to keep their driver back in the pits in order to 'preserve the car and its tyres for the future runs in Q2 and Q3’ (for which they eventually failed to make the cut). Twice! It happened to Massa earlier and it happened to Kimi today. And poor Felipe didn't have enough gas to even get him to the Parc Ferme! In all probablility, the Fezza's crew has become the laughing stock of the F1 paddock. And I haven't even started talking about the mechanical failures that have now become as much a part of Ferrari as their infallible reliability once used to be.

The KERS. Again one question. Why? The teams who invested heavily in this ‘curse’ are the worst off - cases in point Ferrari, McLaren, Renault and BMW. Does the handicap of the extra weight of the system outweigh its benefits of a 90HP boost for a fixed duration of the lap? Oh yes it does. BMW and Renault decided to junk it for this particular race, because quite frankly, with the staggering performance of the KERS-free teams in the front of the pack, these four factory-backed biggies were starting to look a bit like dorks. In modern F1, I guess, the best way to find a gain in performance is to give a lot of importance to aero-development. Credit here has to go to Adrian Newey of Red Bull Racing – they still don’t have that naff double-decked diffuser, and yet they are snapping at Brawn’s heels. Plus, theirs is the only car than looks exquisite, if you exclude the snowplough in front and the scaffolding at the back. Poor Sebastian Vettel – he’d probably have challenged for the victory had Massa not held him up for almost the entire duration of the race. Thoo.

So, what’s it going to be? Ferrari seem to have found some pace, but without reliability and shabby crew-work, it doesn’t look like it’s going to improve a great deal this season.

Clearly, the Schumacher-Todt-Brawn-Byrne combine is being missed. Badly so.

Strange Meeting

Saturday, May 9, 2009

After a very long and arduous journey, I can finally sing, 'Main yahaan hoon, yahaan hoon yahaan hoon, yahaan'. With the kind of finality that comes only when one is a Kolkata Knight Riders' well-wisher. You know the team HAS to lose. There are no two ways about it. What’s more, the weather here was just perfect. The skies were cloudy, there were brisk winds all round and there was a light drizzle in the air. Pleasant-ness. Felt good. The car in the parking lot looked like it was my getaway vehicle from some crime scene. I realized I was thinking of nothing else at that instant. HOME. After a period of over three months.

There are a lot of reasons for my calling this post ‘Strange Meeting’, after the poem of the same name by Wilfred Owen(one of the best ever, according to me). Strangely, happy was the last word I was thinking of. I’d put most of that to the monumentally boring, slow, eventless and annoying journey that I had to face first up. A raucous trio of Biharis who just couldn't stop gushing about their laptops, their mobile phones, their choice of music and about how retarded their maternal uncle was, for he was travelling with his family, and had made the catastrophic error of choosing to travel in the general compartment - and was stingy about paying the TTE and getting a seat in the A/C compartment. Bleh. In the next compartment was a family which didn’t seem to have the faintest clue that making an unearthly racket all the time can be annoying to fellow passengers. God, that kid, Pranshu was his name - may all the bloodthirsty hordes from hell descend on him and silence him for good. Now I’m positive I hate children – especially those of the peskier variety. Like a great man said, “Parents, beat the muthafuckas!”

How do I feel? Hanging out with my homies – that bit sure feels awesome. But when I am at home or I am alone, I’m not so sure. I feel _____. My room still has those scary looking books – IIT Physics, JPNP; Fundamentals of Chemistry, Mathematics for IIT JEE – Tata McGraw Hill, Organic Chemistry - Morrison and Boyd… and so it goes on.

All I can do now is point and laugh at all that shit! I’ll let it out here too – Hahahhaha.

There, I already feel better. But the rest of it is so same, yet so different. Spending the evenings out of home, coming back to food – lots of it (if you have ever met my mother, you sure know what I am saying – why else do you think I have the impressive physique that men and women lust after?) and holding up a book in front of my face whilst lying on the couch with the A/C set to 16 degrees C. Feels OK, yet feels _____.

Starting up my ride by thumbing the red switch, it again feels _____. The instant I got my arse onto the rather stiff seat, I realised that my fingers on the handlebars also have that bizarre sensation. Now, I had the temerity of calling my ride a ‘ride’ – it is anything but. I hope it was the Yamaha FZ-15, I dream it was the Ducati 1098, but I know it is only a Bajaj Kristal (cue for cracking all the gay and effeminate jokes). It’s got DTSi. Even the Duke doesn’t have that!

Anyway, the brakes are wound up a lot tighter and the thing is pulling cleanly and effortlessly – a sure sign that it had gone for a service in the recent past. I made some errors while riding in front of the Rabindra Bhavan. Braked too early a couple of times and almost caused a collision with a Tata pick-up that thought the view of the Kristal’s arse was most certainly an automotive aphrodisiac. Yuck. _____.

The ideal word in those blank spaces has to be ‘weird’. Ah, that does it.