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Look Ma, I won….

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So after 5 years of fearless & relentless blogging, I finally won an award for the efforts.

One of the funniest and most astute among the denizens of desi-blogosphere, and a rare person who even manages to consistently remain funny on Twitter has announced his own awards. And I get a prize in the …..”Blog most likely to make you an alcoholic” category.


So take that, y’all byaaatches who are crowing about winning the Indiebloggies. This award is so much better because:

I did not have to be nominated by some uber-elite jury.

I did not have to obtain the post-nomination eminent-blogger endorsement.

I did not have to send out e-mails, post  messages on my Twitter and Facebook accounts extorting random people to vote for me.

I do not have to be gracious and and say that everyone’s a winner in my book.

I do not have to send out e-mails, post messaged on Twitter and Facebook thanking people for voting for me through multiple e-mail IDs.


Now  that I have won the award, I promise to live up to it’s meaningless much exalted status. As a result of this, I will drink more (but of course) and blog more (yeah! dream on….) – preferably at the same time.

In terms of award winning achievements, this one ranks up there with the best of them:

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

December 17, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Monty Python: Almost the Truth

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I have been in a Monty Python-induced state of silliness nirvana over  the last few days. IFC is showing a 6-part documentary, Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut), on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the six guys getting together to create some of the funniest, most  irreverent and of course, the most parroted comedy sketches of all time.

There is always a danger of such documentaries to turn into a fluff idolating piece. However, this series (so far) has not shied away from some of the controversies  among the group members. Part three had interview footage of Chapman where he talks openly about his coming out and his troubles with alcohol and how that affected his relationship with the other members.

But on the whole, the documentary offers some delightful insights; tracing the evolution of the group, from the social background of each member, through their Oxbridge revue experiences (or comic-book writing at Occidental College in the case of Terry Gilliam), early work on the Frost Report and how Monty Python’s Flying Circus came into being, quite by chance.  The best bits are when they talk about how some of the most iconic sketches came about, e.g  the Lumberjack Song, which was apparently thought up in just 20 minutes at the end of a day only so that they could segue from the Barber Sketch.

Later episodes cover the tumultuous  making  of the Holy Grail, and the famous interview of Cleese and Palin with Malcolm Muggeridge in response to the religious backlash against their supposed blasphemous depiction of Christ in Life of Brian. There are also tributes by current British comedians, actors and writers and other who have been influenced by the Pythons (including some interesting snippets with Sanjeev Bhaskar – of The Kumar’s at No 42 fame – who talks about how his desi parents really disapproved of him watching a show where men dressed up as women, till they learn that all these actors went to Oxford and Cambridge).

In short, a must watch for any Python fan.

And of course, the post cannot be complete without linking- so here goes the Philosopher’s song, well suited to singing at the top of your voice after downing a few pints.

Speaking of a few pints, before they sang it during their Hollywood Bowl show, Eric Idle quipped:

We find your American beer like making love in a canoe. It’s f$%king close to water.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

October 22, 2009 at 11:37 am

Friday Cocktail Blogging: The Manhattan

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I blogged about the Manhattan before, but lately I have developed a renewed affection for this drink.  (Also, in that earlier blog, the drink was more of an after-thought – wanted to expand on it a bit).

This renewal of affection came about  possibly during the trip to Boston earlier this year, when fellow connoisseur BH led me to this wonderful watering-hole in a Cambridge alleyway. Over the stretch of a Friday evening, the extremely sympathetic barman treated us [1] to an array of Manhattan variations, the names of which I fail to recollect, but various other New York city subdivisions were involved.The variations mostly involved using different kinds of whiskey, bitters and vermouth (well duh!).

The other reason is the discovery of Gentleman Jack, a double charcoal filtered, extremely mellow Tennesee whiskey that seems ideally suited for this drink .

Note that the kind of Manhattan you prefer, like Martinis, is a personal choice: the type of whiskey, on the rocks or straight up, dry or sweet and cherry or not. etc are some of the options one is faced with.  Couple of ground rules though. First, the obvious – never use expensive whiskey like single barrel bournbons, or single malt scotch. Second,  even if you partake a cherry – don’t add the syrup – the drink will be too sweet. For the rest, go by your own taste.

The Manhattan hasn’t yet replaced the dry Martini as the pre-dinner drink of choice, but it is running close. This is the way I prefer it now, especially on summer evening after work:

  • 2 parts Gentleman Jack
  • 1/2 part Dry vermouth
  • 1/2 part Lillet
  • Dash of Blood Orange Bitters (or Angostura)

Shake in a cocktail mixer with lots of ice and strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.  Optional cherry garnishing (best way to do this: add the cherry – sans the syrup – to the bottom of the glass and pour the drink over it).

As you can see, I prefer straight up. Unlike the Martini, where on the rocks is a definite no, a Manhattan is okay over ice. However, I recommend that you use ice a bit more fine than usual for this.



[1]: No, we paid for the drink, but the barman possessed that ideal quality so severely lacking in many of the profession: anticipating our next drink -both in terms of when we needed one next, and what we would enjoy. In a Friday-evening crowd, that is a fine

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

August 14, 2009 at 7:25 pm

A winning note and a farewell.

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Finally a series win in Test cricket against the Aussies. Well done to the entire team. My wish for the last match of the Fab4 together ending on a winning note was fulfilled.

Dhoni is turning out to be the proverbial man with a Midas touch. Three wins in three tests, a major ODI tournament in Australia and the 20/20 World Cup. I had mentioned in an earlier post that he remains unruffled under pressure. The last day of this test match, he showed himself as a good leader as well by offering Ganguly to lead the team for a few overs once Australia were nine down and then insisting that former-captain Kumble lift the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with him. Humility and respect are two qualities of a good leader.


So whats left?

Saying so long to Dada.

Thank you for all the great memories, and there have been great many. But the most cherished one would  still have to be that summer evening in our central Kolkata flat, the chest swelling with parochial pride as Ganguly – derided as the zonal selection and who got a chance to play only due to Manjrekar’s injury – stroked one silken drive after another on the off-side. India had lost the first test, and were under a bit of pressure in the second match at Lords, having lost one opener cheaply. In came Ganguly, who had already taken a few wickets while bowling, but certainly sent out by Azhar as a lamb for the slaughter in the fading lights. Not only did he survive that evening, but went from strength to strength the next day.The rest as they say, is history.

There were two regrets that day: one, I could not watch Ganguly get to his century live. Whichever channel was covering the test had to switch to Euro’96 action during the time he got his century. And two, that day I was hoping India would create a record with a second debutant scoring a century, but Rahul Dravid fell at 95.

For far more eloquent tributes to Dada, read GreatBong’s excellent piece here and JAP’s moving tribute.

(another tribute here).

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

November 11, 2008 at 1:21 am


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Not sure, when it originated, but there is this recent, post-internet tendency to wish ‘Happy I-Day’ to everyone. Back when we were kids, we just watched the flag hoisting ceremony at Red Fort on DD and enjoyed the rest of the holiday (albeit with a bit of pride instilled in us).

Anyway, as I drove (more accurately, was being driven) about 20kms through the streets Kolkata this morning, I was struck by the paucity of unfurled flags, flag banners, streamers etc. Except for one sad, half-torn streamer tied across the electricity poles at the Gariahat crossing, I did not see one flag.

Perhaps I have gotten too used to the chest-thumping, in your face, we-will-put-a-flag-everywhere-you-can-imagine, kind of patriotism they display in the US on 4th of of July (and to a lesser extent on Australia Day down under), but still it is curious.

Could also be that I was there too early, flag hoisters aren’t possibly early risers or I was in the wrong part of the town.

(For clarification, I am not commenting either way about the lack of flags – just making an observation).

I assume patriotism will be on display on the cable channels through the day ……… although most ordinary folks seem to be looking forward to shopping deals and the release of Bachna Ae Haseeno.

Speaking of which, I will pay good money to anyone who lands a good slap on the face of Ranbir Kapoor. Can’t stand the guy.

UPDATE: Looks like the early morning theory is right. I was on the streets around 7am. I can now see more flags, banners and (FSM save our ears), loudspeakers being put up.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

August 14, 2008 at 11:02 pm

Kolkata bound (yet again) and Mumbai musings

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This hasn’t happened in the last decade: touching home base twice within an year, far less the same calendar year. It wasn’t planned, but so much in life isn’t.

So there it is……waiting in Singapore to catch the evening flight to Kolkata. Much business to be taken care of in Kolkata, involving lots of loitering around the passport office. Then to Mumbai, briefly, and back to Kolkata, hopefully finish the business there if not done already (the more likely scenario), then back to Mumbai for the main business(this is opposed to the original plans for staying in Mumbai all the time).

Question in my mind: will it be worth it ?  It is a sort of closure, so we have to go through with it. But, as a prominent blogger-friend asked, do we want it ? It is a philosophical question, answerable only after a few martinis.

Sorry about the vagueness, just in a mood for rambling….

Anyhow, hoping to meet up some people in Kolkata, and having fun celebrating a very close cousin’s birthday – last time was ten years ago just before we had left homeland and her age could be counted on one hand. Now she is into modeling and physics !!

Also looking forward to being in Mumbai after ten years.

Mumbai must have changed, although I might not even notice much difference as even while living there, I mostly cloistered myself within the Powai campus,  usually not hazarding a local train journey unless on weekends. But have fond memories of walking from VT to the Marine Drive, all the way down to Nariman Point. Or, catch a dinner first at Bengal Lodge  and then walk to Marine Drive. The best meories of Marine Drive was actually once when my train to Kolkata got delayed by 12 hours and I had to  roam around with nothing to do. The monsoons were on, it was windy, and the sea was spectacular.

Not so fond, in fact , nightmarish memories of the daily commute from Powai to Anushakti Nagar for about three months (summer internship). It started out well, there was a direct express bus right from the campus door-step, easy to find a seat and got there in less than 30 minutes. But wouldn’t you know, it got cancelled two weeks after I started commuting, forcing an additional bus/auto trip to get down the hill and then catching the dreaded Route 399. That was a bus that meandered all around town and took more than an hour (sometimes worse as the monsoons set in and traffic got worse). Sometimes I would spend about 4 hours a day commuting (which, to be fair, wasn’t as bad compared to what many Mumbai commuters face all through the year).

The pain of the commute was more than amply made up by the availability of government subsidized canteen food at BARC. The food was tasty too – hot jalebis with savory upma – try the combination sometime. And Friday lunch chicken biryanis – Rs 10 only per plate e my very second one in the city.

The worst Mumbai commuting story, however, would have to be my only second experience in the city. Again, this was monsoon season. It was my first visit to the city, and somehow I had managed to reach the Powai campus from Dadar Station without any adventures. Now, having finished the business at the campus,  I had to reach my cousin’s place in Thane, with no money for cabs, and a very vague idea of where Thane was located geographically or how to get there. Someone told me I could take bus and numbers such and such – so I stood at the bus-stop. Now this was when they had decided that no Arab numerals would be used on the front of the B.E.S.T buses,  only Marathi on the front.  So unless the bus actually pulled up, I would have no idea what route it was and where it was headed and this being Mumbai peak hour, by the time I realised I should step into a particular bus, it was either full or it simply rushed off. Took me a while, but I eventually learnt the Marathi numerals (which helped in future as well) in the two hours of waiting in the constant downpour that is the Mumbai monsoons. Eventually, I did find my cousin’s place, after reaching some place in Thane by bus, then wading through knee-deep water for a while to get to the wrong rickshaw-stand and therefore charged 40Rs extra (a princely sum for a poor student at that time), only to be dropped off at the wrong gate of this humongous apartment complex where people in one block of the complex did not know the location for a block at the other end and oh – it was still raining, and there was a power-cut, and hence quite pitch dark. I never loved the sound of my cousin’s voice nor found chicken curry so delicious after a hot bath as I did on that night.

Hopefully, I can avoid such nightmares this time around.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

July 30, 2008 at 12:06 am

Posted in Immigration, India, Kolkata, Life, Personal

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Australianniversary….and a move (yet again!)

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Last week (18th of May) to be exact, marked our anniversary of stay Down Under; a good time, I suppose, to reflect upon the upon the differences in lifestyle, attitudes, career-prospects etc. between the USA and Australia.

Unfortunately, a further move within Australia – this time to the west coast of the country, Perth – is keeping me busy. So longer posts, piling up in the drafts folder, will have to wait a while.

Meanwhile enjoy a few pictures of a recent storm that passed through.

(click for full views)

Compare to images on a clearer day.

Meanwhile, I just realised that in the last 15 years or so, I haven’t lived at any one address for more than two years! The modern nomad ?

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

May 24, 2008 at 6:34 am

Posted in Australia, Life, Personal

Khoya Khoya Chand

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Kyun ………….Khoye Khoye Chand Ki Firak Mein Talash Mein Udas Hai Dil

Kyun………..Anpne Aap Se Khafa Khafa, Zara Zara Sa Naraaz Hai Dil

(full lyrics)

….asks the Man [1] in a moment of nirvanic clarity that (to my drunken mind) could possibly be achievable only under the influence of (1) one dry sapphire martini, stirred not shaken with olives (pitted please – thank you), (2) several glasses of the finest New Zealand Pinot and Barossa Shiraz-Viognier and finally (3) couple of Oban 14-years old (the only one made available by Diageo), diluted not with ice, but only a few drops of water (all of course, paid out of someone else’s pocket). Or any combination thereof.

But who knows…..Swanand Kirkire probably did not need all that as an inspiration. And…… lyrics such as these……..touch the heart, even without the lubricating effect of alcohol ?

But this post is not about alcoholic debauchery (no matter how tempting that sounds); it is about the soundtrack for the film, Khoya Khoya Chand.

Yes I know, for those of you who are into these things, the music is about an year old. Even the film has been released, done and dusted.

But, but……Good music, like Good Wine and Scotch, finds me a bit aged (the music, wine and scotch, not me), and certainly fruitful in its enjoyment.

Shantanu Moitra recreates the lilting music of the 50/60s in the soundtrack for Khoya Khoya Chand…. – a soundtrack that will draw inevitable comparisons to his period pieces in Parineeta ; the latter perhaps comes off slightly better, but only marginally so.

Don’t expect a full-fledged review, but In Brief:

Yeh Nigahen‘ is an ‘inspired’, but well done reworking of ‘Jingle Bell Rocks‘, ‘Khusboo Saa‘ is a jazzy throwback to the seductive blurriness in-between the vamp and heroine essayed by Tanuja in ‘Raat Akeli Hai’ (Jewel Thief), ‘Chale Aayo Sainya‘ is an enjoyable thumri sung with confidence by Shreya Ghosal, and for some reason, it is the title song ‘Khoya Khoya Chand‘ (discussed above) – best enjoyed if you imagine the singer lovelorn and lost in unrequited love, and under the influence of a few pegs – that I have (possibly unreasonably) taken to heart.

The highlights however are the two slow numbers: Sonu Nigam’s ‘Oh re Paakhi‘  wrenches the soft heart, but it is Shreya Ghosal and Pranav Biswas’ rendition of ‘Sakhi Priya‘ – a song about love and longing – that really the captures the imagination and causes you to succumb to the entire soundtrack.

Sakhi Piya Jo Mein Na Dekhun
Tu Kaise Kate Aandheri Ratiyan-

Simple lyrics, yet so touchingly composed and essayed.

Follow the last link to enjoy.


[1] Not me right now, but what male hasn’t faced such soulful listlessness, in general ?

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

May 15, 2008 at 11:49 am

The reverse culture shocks….

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…..when I went home recently after a gap of 3+ years did not involve the burgeoning number of new shopping malls, or the new fly-overs, or the sudden new-fangled fad for Mehendi (Gariahata crossing was chock-full of Mehendi-wallahs adorning nubile arms), or even the (as Dipanjan had warned) inflated value of the rupee (although I did pause for a brief moment when I heard the cost of phuchkas, one rupee now buys less a phuchka!).

But I did a double-take when I saw two teen-aged guys blithely walking with their arms around each other!

Took me a second to remind myself it was all quite normal: Boys (and some girls) of all ages from kindergarten to college-bound, walking with arms around each other, or holding hands. Did not have any additional meaning. [Not that there is anything wrong with people of same gender having mutual affections, its just that my automatic thought for the first few seconds was how India had progressed socially to be accepting such a behavior 🙂 ].

And there it was – the things that hadn’t really changed in Kolkata, the mundane managing to catch me off-guard. Amidst the mental preparations for the various transformations you hear about in India, I had forgotten how much living away had changed me.

Among the other such experiences, which used to part of my daily life, but seems strange now:

  • The lack of personal space; not that I really expect it in an overcrowded country, but more than once I came across this irritating habit of the person behind me in a queue edging as close as possible (hoping no doubt that the extra few inches gained would allow him to get his job done mighty sooner).
  • The absolute and unabashed manner in which people delve into your personal lives, especially in regards to question of employment, salary and importantly, the issue of having kids (I am told that there are a few well meaning people – who aren’t even relatives or close friends – in Kolkata who are losing nights of sleep over the fact we haven’t had kids yet).
  • The fact that simply standing quietly in front of the butcher’s, fish-monger’s or vegetable-vendor’s, waiting for your turn to be called by the shopkeeper gets you nowhere. The trick is to push in and announce what you need – you will be served. But no one’s going to flash a smile and ask what you want.
  • The fact that duties of a good host involve force feeding people till they are sick. In most cases, I was actually the victim; but then there were couple of instances when I would ask guests if they wanted some extra food or sweets and when they say no, I would not ask a second time. Took a while to remember that perhaps they indeed wanted more food but were being polite; I was supposed to continue insisting a bit!

Sigh ! Just ten years away from the motherland and I am – as some of the relatives would not fail to point out disapprovingly – turning into a saheb !

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

May 12, 2008 at 7:22 pm

Posted in India, Kolkata, Life, Personal, Uncategorized

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On Flying (in planes)

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I do hate the old-hag manner of going ‘things used to be better in the days..yadda yadda….’, but in case of flying (on airplanes), the statement is probably true.

Or else, I must have been much less demanding and easily pleased twenty three years ago, which was the last time I flew half-way around the world on Singapore Airlines and figured I was in heaven or something. On the other hand, the recent trips between Brisbane and Kolkata on the same airlines were quite the disappointment.

But then, back in the mid-80s, flying was still somewhat of a novelty (to us at least) and had an aura of luxury surrounding it, even for Economy Class. That overall aura and glamour has all but eroded as flying became cheaper and ubiquitous. And in the post-911 era, flying is almost a chore, especially for domestic flights within the US: long security lines, rude flight-attendants, over-priced airport food, non-existent inflight service, unexplained delays, cramming of more and more passenger in smaller planes etc. One looks forward to these flights with dread.

International flight experiences, minus the chaos that is Los Angeles airport, fare slightly better. Plus, I am careful about avoiding obvious pit-falls such as flying Aeroflots, Royal Jordanians or Bangladesh Bimans. (I figure I’d rather pay an extra $200 than be stuck in Moscow bereft of my passport, told in Jeddah that my remaining non-stop segment has been converted into a 2-stop on – on two different airlines – or worse, not allowed on the the plane at all in spite of a confirmed ticket because some dude paid extra money at the check-in counter – all true stories that happened to people I know. And I have flown Air India and Indian Airlines on international segments – but those stories deserve a separate post). Even then, trips on Qantas, British Airways, Malaysian and China Airlines (this was before I was aware of their horrendous safety record) have been a mixed bag of expereinces. Somewhat true to stereotypes, personalized services and food were slightly better in the Asian airlines compared to the European or Australian ones. But there were are experiences aplenty: Malaysian once gave us a half-broken seat that would not recline (for a 12hour flight) and did not seem to be bothered to do anything about it and British Airway’s scheduling errors once led to a nightmare 10-hour wait in a queue at Heathrow, sustained only by warm bottles of Coke.

In this scenario, I was quite looking forward to the Singapore Airlines flights. Apart from the previous highly positive experiences with them (albeit two and half decade ago), the airline’s reputation for punctuality, safety and service is matched only by Cathay and more recently, Emirates.

Well, only the flight from Singapore to Kolkata was delayed by an hour due to technical problems and we did manage four flights without a crash – so they were delivered on punctuality and safety ! However, the service was a bit of a let-down. The so-called ‘warm towels’ handed out were regularly quite cold, and smelly (not the good smell). In one trip, half of the passengers got the towels before take-off and half later. Then there was the irritating habit of serving spirits only with the meal; pre-dinner Gin and Tonics had to be asked for (the horror!). The worst part was their highly touted personal entertainment systems. The system had about 99 channels – great variety of choice, including some of the latest blockbusters; but rather than a on-demand system like Qantas, the movies played on a loop. For some reason, quite a few of these movies started midway at the beginning of the flight and there was no indication as to when the next loop would start ! A minor inconvenience of course, especially given that I wasn’t going to spend much time watchin movies anyway. And all these lapses in services would have been quite acceptable on any other airlines, but I guess I had much loftier expectations from Singapore.

In their defence, the food and drink on all sectors were of very high quality, including the red wine. They even served ice-cream as deserts on some sectors. One only hopes that the attendants should know better one not be expected to ask for a slice of lime in the G&T. And their Boeing 777-200 (not the 777-300ERs) have quite a bit of extra leg-space – always welcome for vertically extended people like me.

On a slight aside, the best airlines service I have encountered in recent years have been on Qantas domestic flights. I have flown both short (1 hour) and long (5+ hours)-haul flights, and apart from the slightly cramped seats and tendency for long queues at the check-in counters, there is very little to complain about. Australian domestic flights do not have the stupid liquids and aerosol bans, and getting through security is much more hassle-free. They have a high ratio of on-board attendants to passengers, and these are usually a cheery lot. On any evening and all long haul flights they serve wine, not only pretty decent South Australian Shiraz ( they offer but I have never tried the white), but they actually hand out a whole 375ml bottle – to be poured into a proper wine glass that is actually made of glass ! On both my long-haul flights, the attendants were even quite insistent that I try out a second bottle. It does help that Qantas only has to compete with Virgin in Australia, and not a whole bevy of low-cost airlines.


Among other flying notes: a bit of venting against co-passengers. When the flight it half-empty, why would you wish to be cramped up occupying the aisle seat in a 3-seater row ? One can easily move out to a another empty row and make life comfortable both for yourself and the remaingin two passengers. Yet this kind of obstinacy of clinging on to the assigned was demonstrated twice by different passengers, occupying the third seat next to ours when plenty vacant ones were available. Yes, I suppose we would have moved, but it is usually easier for the single person to find a different seat.

Also, when you don’t feel like reading a book, and the movie choices have whittled down to Aaja Nachle or 27 Dresses, a couple of G & Ts are of immense help in digesting either the silly song and dance routines or the saccharine-coated chick flick moments.

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

May 7, 2008 at 11:54 pm

Regular programming….

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…..such as it is, will resume soon. As in posts/rants/reviews on topics other than cricket.

As the all-mighty Lord (apparently prodded by the Dictator, who for some peculiar reasons thinks much too highly of American Football) pointed out, this blog has been possessed by cricket in recent times.

Should we blame the partisan Aussie media? Should we blame Harbhajan Singh’s itchy armpits ? Should we blame the streaker ? Or, the obnoxious weeds ?

Nah ! Just Blame Canada…….

Speaking of which, here is the best rendition of the song, IMHO:

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

March 6, 2008 at 6:14 pm

Sleeping with the Enemy

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I knew that Mac users (and general Apple lovers) are a bit crazy, even cultish (in fact, I like Apple products as well, mainly due to aesthetics). But this is kind of extreme:

Violet Blue, a popular blogger and sex columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, who also features in the film, says: “First of all, I’ve never knowingly slept with a Windows users … that would never, ever happen.” (link)

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

February 19, 2008 at 3:32 am