Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category
So there is a small matter of absence for three months from blogging. I could have just brushed it under the carpet and resumed posting as if the last post was just yesterday. But I am going to trot out the usual lame excuses anyway, if only to get out of the rut of lack of blogging:
One, a move of hemispherical and continental proportions: Around mid-June, we bid farewell to the two years of fun-times in Ozland and returned to the USofA. In fact, moved to one of my favorite cities here. The move itself was quite blog-worthy, involving as it did, flying the longest commercial route in existence (eighteen hours and change non-stop) followed by separate 6-hour and 9-hour road-trips, still followed by another 8 eight hours of flight before reaching the final destination!
Two, change of jobs: but of course that had to happen along with/because of change in continents. It was somewhat of a chicken and egg – I wanted to come back and did because I got a job, and because I got a job I had to come back, or something (okay, so not much of a conundrum). Anyway, the bigger news I guess is the nature of the job – which is a major shift in what I had been doing for the last few years, having switched from academia to the euphemistic ‘dark side’. Perhaps more on this later.
Three, Twitter. Okay – so this is the lamest of all. Not totally blaming it on Twitter, but I find myself nowadays increasingly unable to break through the shackle of 140 characters. When I started blogging (as in both reading and writing blogs) many years ago, I realized that I was gradually losing the ability to read any reports longer than two three paragraphs ie the typical blog post. If a piece of news or comment was not wrapped up in that space, the mind would start wandering. Hopefully, Twitter won’t induce a far greater attention deficiency syndrome.
Anyhow, this here is the first step. The Dictator’s recent return to longer posts is bit of an inspiration as well. If any of the regulars are still around, look forward to more ranting and irrelevant posts pretty soon.
There are lots of negative things to be said about Sydney: the multitude of dodgy characters, the incredible rents, the hole-in-the-wall that purports to be a place of residence for the next few months (hopefully a longer post about the city etc in a while).
However, they are all balanced by the fact that right opposite the said hole-in-the wall is a pub. And not just the run of the mill, typical Aussie pub that satisfies itself by pouring weak lagers, but a true-blue alehouse that serves at any time, about 15 different beers covering ales, lagers and stouts on tap (not to mention the multitudes available on bottle). Apart from style, they cover different countries as well including US (the good ones), German, Czech, New Zealand and of course Australia (the good ones). And they keep changing the beers weekly/monthly.
Overall, some interesting beer-drinking experiences ahead.
A big pat on the back of those who actually stayed awake to watch the entire Oscar’s night live; I had recorded it and even with the benefit of fast-forwarding through really boring bits and the commercial breaks, I wish I could even say ‘meh’ !
This was undoubtedly one of the most uninspiring, insipid and boring Oscar ceremonies I have witnessed. Allright, so Hugh Jackman can sing, he can dance, he can self-reference during his song and dance routines, and yeah, yeah…he is the sexiest man alive, or something. But he did not bring anything extra as a host – the best one could say is that he was not as irritating as Ellen Degeneress two years ago. But that’s not really saying much.
And, that was the best choreography they could come up with for O saaya and Jai Ho: A bunch of dancers in ethnically confusing pink dresses !? Jai Ho was slightly better, but only just. they should have left it to the professionals in Mumbai ?
The moments barely enjoyable included bits of the opening routine, Tina Fey and Steve Martin’s banter, and Jerry Lewis’ acceptance. Of course, Jai Ho to ARR and Gulzar for winning Oscars.
Finally, Kate Winslet: For fugs sake – stop the crying already and show some dignity. Meryl Streep was sitting not very far – she has won the award three times and nominated a zillion times, learn something from her.
Even before the last embers have died on the worst bush (forest) fires in the history of Australia, a fire that is predicted to claim more than 300 lives , some religious nut-job here is trying to relate it to abortion laws:
The Catch the Fire Ministries has tried to blame the bushfires disaster on laws decriminalising abortion in Victoria.
The Pentecostal church’s leader, Pastor Danny Nalliah, claimed he had a dream about raging fires on October 21 last year and that he woke with “a flash from the Spirit of God: that His conditional protection has been removed from the nation of Australia, in particular Victoria, for approving the slaughter of innocent children in the womb”. (link)
Oh yeah – god’s message against the “slaughter of innocent children” (high debatable anyway)….is killing of more people!
Aussies are actually too laid-back to be deeply absorbed in religion like the Americans, and I hardly ever hear about religion being spoken about openly, so I assume this guy is really quite a fringe element of the society. But it is really deplorable how someone would try to take advantage of such a tragedy to further an agenda, especially from someone who is supposedly aiding with the disaster relief efforts. What a sad, pathetic excuse for a human being.
However, as I always say, extremists are bad on either side – here is a climate campaigner from Greenpeace linking the severity of the fire with global warming (not saying there isn’t any effect, but now is not the time to talk about it).
: Regarding the fire itself, while any disasters that claim large human and animal tolls are always sad, but the fact that this was started by an arsonist, makes it tougher to digest.
During a crucial period of an embarrassing  loss to the Kiwis last Sunday at the WACA, the Australian side effected the following controversial dismissal:
If you watch the replay, you will find that the New Zeland batsman Broome was given out bowled, but it looks like it was Haddin’s gloves and not the ball that clips the bails.
There is little controversy that the ‘bowled’ verdict was quite wrong. Not only did the umpires miss out on the fact that it was Haddin’s gloves that displaced the bails, they failed to enforce a law that states if a wicket-keeper has his gloves in front of the wicket, a no-balled should be called.
What is debatable is how much Haddin knew about what was going on i.e. did he know that it was not out and deliberately suppress the knowledge while keeping up the celebrations? This would be a clear-cut case of cheating and Haddin should face a censure. Alternately, he was not sure if it was the gloves or the balls that hit the wicket. In this case, popular opinion is that he should have said something to the umpires about the doubt, although I personally he was not obligated to do the umpire’s job.
The incident has kicked up a storm of accusations between the trans-Tasman rivals. New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori definitely believes that Haddin knew something and was suppressed it:
“I think you saw from Haddin’s reaction that he knew something was wrong so he probably should have made more noise about it,” Vettori said
As expected this barb mightily upset Aussie captain Prickly Ponting, who rushed to defend his player, and without even the benefit of a second look at the incident, took up the role of a judge and jury to declare Haddin innocent of any wrong-doing (not too surprising coming from a captain who regularly takes up the mantle of umpiring while on the field).
“[Haddin] obviously didn’t know, because if he knew then he wouldn’t have claimed it. Whatever we’re saying about Brad Haddin here, you can’t say that knowingly happened, that is for sure.”
(also brings to mind the denialisms of a certain recent ex-President of a large country)
I would have been inclined to give Haddin some benefit of doubt and not call him an outright cheater (perhaps just a bad sport), but that was before he came up with this clanger today. Miffed at Vettori’s accusation, Haddin claimed to have done nothing wrong, but let slip this gem:
After looking at the replay my hands were in front of the stumps, but the ball I am 100 per cent sure hit the bails first then came up into my gloves,” he said. (link)
So according to him, the ball hit the bails and then lodged in his gloves which were in front of the bails ! That would require the ball to hit the wicket and then travel back towards the bowler before landing in his gloves. There must have been one hell of a spin on that ball.
Reminds me of this Seinfeld episode:
 It was an embarrasing game all around: Australia put up a pathetic batting display and the Kiwis were hell-bent on wanting to lose the match in a miserable manner.
(Btw, it is possible for the balls to hit the bails and come upto into the gloves even if they are in front of the wickets – if his gloves are pointed with open face down. However, from the replay it is obvious that Haddin’s gloves are cupped upwards. Ergo, Haddin is lying)
On the occasion of the Republic Day in India, it would be appropriate to celebrate with Bharath Bala and A R Rahman’s wonderful take on Vande Mataram (Maa Tujhe Salam):
Way back when, Republic Day used to bring about much misty-eyed pride while catching the parade on TV; now I am more cynical, but this video is still moving.
Down under, it is also a holiday on account of Australia Day, which recognizes the foundation of the country by celebrating the day when the first British fleet landed. Just like 4th of July in the US, or the I-Day/Republic Day in India, there is a surfeit of flags all around – from cars to underwears, and the patriotic scale has been set to high. However, some Australians – quite appropriately – view it as Invasion Day, and many opponents, including this year’s Australian of the Year, Mick Dodson, have called for a change in date in order to be more inclusive of the indigenous people.
Either way, Aussies know how to enjoy a holiday (there are very few public holidays in the calendar year): the day is sure to feature thong-sporting picnic-ers, barbied snags, cheap lager, sun-burns, ferry races, air-shows and finally the ubiquitous fireworks in the evenings. This year coincidentally will even feature a celestial event with a partial solar eclipse visible towards the early evening.
And in that day-long partying spirit, here is one of the most celebrated songs about the country:
…actually no, it isn’t (but I do love the Alvin and the Chipmunks version of the song).
Warm (~30Celcius) weather and long summer days does not put one into the same type of holiday mood as does a good covering of white fluffy snow on the ground. Add to that a curious lack of carols and songs on the radio, malls and cafeteria here in Oz. Not even much of Christmas-like decorations in our neighborhood. So all in all, not the usual x-mas mood I have been used for the eight odd years in the US.
But hey, if it something the Aussies do well – it is taking holidays, partying, and fun-stuff like drinking.
Speaking of drinking, Christmas in summer means that the usual egg-nog (with a good amount of brandy) is not such a good option. Hence , to enjoy the holidays, I made up this sweeter derivative of the classic Mint Julep:
A Festive Julep
Muddle 1-2 teaspoon of sugar with 5-6 mints leaves and a dash of water. Add crushed ice (it is important to add crushed ice to this drink instead of cubes) and pour 2 oz (60ml) Kentucky Bourbon (or Jack Daniels) and 2oz (60ml) Southern Comfort mix lightly and top off with sparkling water. Finally, drop in a maraschino cherry (add a bit of the syrup too if you want it even sweeter).
Traditionally a drink associated with southern USA, especially the Kentucky Derby, this is quite a refreshing cocktail. Santa would appreciate at the end of the gift runs !
Merry Christmas, happy holidays etc !
Me, I am off to Melbourne tomorrow (sadly not in attendance at the MCG for Boxing Day though), with a drive along the Great Ocean Road, and checking out the vineyards of the Barossa and McLaran Vales in store.
Due to a rare celestial alignment of the moon, Jupiter and Venus, the sky smiled down upon us last night.
Something nice on a otherwise cheerless day, wordl-news wise.
Well its only Sourav Ganguly who is retiring (and given his performance, there is enough pressure on Dravid as well), however, yesterday was the last innings where the Fab4 of the Indian middle order – Sachin, Sourav, Dravid and Laxman – got to play together.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t pretty: Sachin and Laxman scrapped around, Laxman got a brilliant ball from debutant Krezja, Ganguly played a slightly lazy shot for a first ball duck, and Sachin had a mind-fart three balls before tea looking for non-existent runs. And Dravid continued his woeful slump in form.
In total the Fab4 contributed 19 runs, and if it wasn’t for Dhoni and Harbhajan’s rear-guard, aided by Captain Prickly’s decision to push forward the over-rate to avoid a suspension, their last test together might have ended on a losing note.
As it stands now, Australia needs a record run chase to win. The pitch has not worn out as much as it should, and I would have given the game in favor of the Aussies if they had someone like Gilchrist in the middle. But The Australian batsmen will still go for it – I don’t think they would like to surrender the Border-Gavaskar Trophy that easily.
The interesting part will be the morning – Hayden is the other Aussie who can turn the game on its head, and getting him early will be the key.
Hoping for the best. It would be wonderful to wrap up a series 2-0 against Australia.
Gautam Gambhir apparently purposefully elbowed Shane Watson yesterday in the third test between India and Australia. The Aussies are furious. How dare Indians turn cricket into a physical sport ! It should have been an innovation coming from them.
I reckon they have a fair enough complain, banging into opponent players has no place in cricket. However, reading most of the reports from the Australian media, you would have no idea about all the sledging being indulged by the Aussies all through the day. Or the fact that just before Gambhir’s elbowling, Watson had in a very unsporting manner stuck his hand out to block Gambhir’s running.
Local lad Gambhir and Watson continued their series-long feud and exchanged verbal barbs from the moment Gambhir charged the blonde fast bowler. This tension escalated when Gambhir appeared to purposely nudge Watson in the ribs when he completed a second run in the 51st over.
Nope, the Aussies were as pure as freshly fallen snow. Just watch this video and observe the Aussie bowlers indulging in ‘jaw exercises’ through the day.(you can see the elbowing incident here too) Now suppose the exact incident happened but with Matt Hayden elbowing Ishant Sharma. Here is how Australia’s leading cricket journalist Malcolm Conn would have seen it:
Having copped a verbal barrage all day from the frustrated Indian bowlers and close-in fielders, matters reached a boiling point when Sharma – in a blatant contravention of the spirit of the game – blocked Hayden on his way to the first of an easy two runs. In response, Hayden nudged Sharma with his elbow on his way back, a gentle reminder to the young speedster that it was the burly Queenslander who held the upper hand at that stage of the game.
In the current Indian test team playing against Australia, we have two players who made their debut at the same time (and quite spectacular ones at that); both subsequently went on to be integral parts of the Indian middle-order and played important roles in the resurgence of Indian cricket in the post-Azhar match-fixing era, and both went on to captain the Indian team.
However, over the last few years, the batting form of both players are supposed to have declined, along with that of two other important middle-order players (dubbed together fancifully as the ‘Fab Four’.) Such is the decline that there has been vociferous calls for these ageing players to step down voluntarily and make way for young blood.
Fair enough, after all the young blood has worked wonders for India at the T20 and ODI levels. Thus, one of these two batsmen has decided to call it a day, and will be retiring at the end of the current test series.
But lets have a quick statistical look at the decline: here is player 1′s record in the last two years (Matches-Runs-Highest-Score-Average-Strike Rate-100s-50s): 23 -1842-239-47.23-59.07-4-9.
Here is player #2 during the same period: 23-1292-129-33.12-40.40-2-7.
So, about six hundred more runs, average of 47 versus 33 (even at a higher strike rate of 59 versus 40), two more centuries and half centuries for one player.
Now guess which player is retiring ?
: Even though the said player is retiring voluntarily, make no mistakes that the circumstances forcing his decision were anything but voluntary.
In more ways than one. These aren’t scenes from some pop-concert, as might be expected, but the most misleadingly named World Youth Day being held at Sydney.
Update: To elaborate briefly, what dispppoints me is that young people are embracing a religous hogwash with fervor one expects them to associate with a say, Christina Aguilera (or whoever the latest fad is), concert. One worries about the future if people are falling prey to piety so early.