Monday, July 17, 2006

The height of Madness! - Car Futball involving 22 Cars & 1 big sized Ball

Dont believe me?! I dont blame you, yet thats exactly what was telecasted on this week's Top Gear. Top Gear's a crazy show with lots of crazy, silly things and pointless challenges that the cars under test must meet in order to satisfy the jury. But, I have never seen something more crazy, hilarious and childishly silly than the Car Soccer that was played. The set of 22 cars were organized into 2 sets of 11 - one painted in the colours of Argentina and the other 11 painted in the colours of Brazil. The Brazilians won 4-3 in a match that can only be described as hilarious. I was in splits by the end of it! U can catch the video of that episode here CAR_SOCCER_LINK - Just goto "Episode 5" and click on either the "Full Episode" or the "Car Futball" clip ......... Njoy!

Top Gear sure is the BEST goddamned show on this planet!! Long live Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May and last but not the least, the test-driver "The Stig"!!

These guys can find faults even in a Rs. 5 crore Maybach! The ease with which these guys make mince meat of the best cars in the world always makes me cringe!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The "Mumbai Spirit" - A genuine emotion or a facade for covering apathy and ignorance?

The "indomitable Spirit of Mumbai" - an expression that is bandied about in the wake of every natural calamity (manmade or otherwise) that hits this city. To say that the expression is cliched would be an under-statement. To say that it truly represents what we feel, I think, would be an over-statement.

Why is it that one never gets to hear bout this "Spirit" of Mumbai in the course of an average day? Why doesnt it occur to the folks who push and shove and swear to get into a Train compartment to respect other people and show this "Spirit" that we keep talking about. Why do road accident victims who call out for help are conveniently ignored by the tens of motorists going by because it involves some hassles? What happened to the "Spirit" then? Yes, you may call me a cynicist, a pessimist, but the truth is that in the course of a normal day, we are too busy fighting for that seat in the BEST bus or struggling to get a hold onto a running train that we have become completely insensitive to the city and each other.

So, is this talk about "Spirit" complete hogwash? No, I do agree that there are some very good samaritans in the city and a general sense of sympathy to victims of tragedies - be it manmade or natural. The recent rush of blood donors to hospitals around the city in the immediate aftermath of 7/11 bombings are indicative of that. The hospitals had to send back scores of people because they was surplus blood! However, five days later we are back to normal and we claim this is possible because of the "Spirit" of Mumbai.

By "back to normal", I mean once again swearing, pushing, punching in order to make it into the train, once again littering around always expecting the omnipresence of authorities to clean up the mess. The truth is the "Spirit" that we keep bandying about holds true in the immediate aftermath of the incident and then is quickly lost and forgotten in the madness called Mumbai.

I feel that "The Spirit" and "Resilience" are euphemisms for our return to absolute apathy and ignorance. I think its time to perhaps stop being "Resilient" once in a while and shake up the authorities concerned. I am not in anyway supporting bandh calls, but we must not be returning to complete non-chalancy and normalcy either. We must definitely protest the absolute lack of intelligence gathering, surveilance and security checks in our public transportation systems.

We use these improvised euphemisms to justify our return to a gleefully oblivious and ignorant existence. Perhaps its time that we stop putting facades and start to be a little more responsible and vigilant ourselves.

The Headbutt of all Jokes

Who would have thought that in the electrifying atmosphere at Berlin's magnificient party-venue Olympiastadioum, the 9th of July, apart from settling the World Cup battle will also forever change the meaning and usage of a colloquial expression forever!

Yet thats exactly what happened! At the 110th minute, with 10 minutes to go to a Penalty Kick Shoot-out (what I refer to as the Mother of All Russian Roulettes) and the rest is history! Tons and tons of stuff has been written and shown on the incident, yet what continues to bug me is why did Zidane lose his calm? Knowing that he's more than a little hot-headed, one would certainly expect what happened, yet knowing that its the WC Final with 10 minutes to go and it is his last appearance ever, couldnt he have chosen to downplay his ego and feelings for once?! I am more than a little miffed with him, but I think whats important is to let it go.

FIFA set up a disciplinary hearing against Materazzi, which I believe is only a just move. Throughout the tournament, captains of different teams including Cannavaro of Italy read Anti-Racism messages. If FIFA is so keen on using futball as a means of promoting Equality and end of Racism, then how ironic it is that we often get to see incidents of insuts/abuses/humiliation that players hurl at each other, some of them no doubt with racist undercurrents. And sadly, a lot of this is done as part of a totally unethical team-strategy and not on the basis of personal disputes. Obviously, FIFA must act on those who indulge in acts of provocation physical or verbal.

True, Zidane could have chosen to remain calm and he chose the opposite. But it cannot be denied that if what Materazzi said was indeed insulting to Zidane's close family, then knowing Zidane and his pride, one thing can clearly be concluded - Zidane may have been the bullet, but in more ways than one Materazzi was the weapon which fired that bullet. I feel that FIFA must punish those who provoke with the intent of confrontation as much as the people who actually do the bashing-up.

Zidane, in the meanwhile has gotten so much flak over all of it, that you cannot but help being sympathetic to him. Among the thousands of Zidane Headbutting Postcards, Zidane Headbutting Videos, Zidane Headbutting Video-games, etc ............ Here's a video that atleast captures the sadness/poignance of the moment when Zidane walks past the Jules Rimet Trophy, without as much as giving it a second glance.

Zizou u shall live on forever!! If at all people will mention your name, it will inevitably and deservingly linked with the likes of Pele and Maradona!

One Crazy Referee!

Take a look at this Referee and his antics!! Talk bout FIFA getting geared up for possible changes in Referee conduct and policy!! What was this guy thinking?!

Must say " " is a great site for funny videos, especially tonnes of stuff on Zidane's Headbutting incident.


PS : The Videos will work nicely with Broadband and Dial-Up connections may be frustratingly slow. However, once loaded completely, it will then play uninterrupted.

Indian Media - An Analysis

I have been a keen observer of the Indian Media - right from its nascent stages to its maturity and now to its cut-throatedness. In this fast growing landscape of modern India, the media, it emerges, no longer remains an archaic battery of reporters who "worked for the truth" on shoestring budgets and measly salaries. Today, the Indian Media is a global force to reckon with, with celebrities for anchors (Abhishek and Rani had done a cameo NEWS Reading on NDTV India as part of a Bunty Aur Babli promotion) and anchors for celebrities (Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt) and a motto that says "seek the truth that gets us attention". Gone are the days when an entry into the journalistic profession was viewed by such disdain by parents as might be reserved for the jobless. Now are the days of self-styled and self-employed Entrepreneurs who take pleasure in what they do. This unapologetically proud and self-confident batch now represents the face of the Indian Media, completely replacing the bygones of Doordarshan (well, these bygones still hang around on DD, where nothing has ever changed and nothing perhaps will) and has finally made NEWS so much more about the NEWS Reader! The Indian Media now uses the latest technology be it using the latest Video-linkup technologies or having the most feature-oriented web technologies. The Indian Media has truly come to age, with media pundits around the world proclaiming : "India seems to have a voracious apetite for NEWS! Look at how many NEWS Channels they have! And Look at how many are still being set up!". Whats more, in a review of Press-Freedom and Freedom-of-Expression, India was ranked higher than the United States for having a greater degree of Freedom of the Press!!

Yet, am I all that enthused by all of this? No. Why? Because, while the Indian Media has risen phenomenally from a job on the sidelines to a job in the headlines(pun intended), it has murdered some of the golden ethics of journalism that were being followed by the same "archaic" media we criticized so much. Is this maddeningly competitive world and an increasingly saturated Media, the various channels/papers have taken to unconventional, often unscrupulous means to get themselves heard most. The result is a whole lot of psycho/political/economical/sport babble, but no real analysis. The intense competition has lead to an atmosphere where channels often go out of their way in one-upmanship. The consequence is that the story that is being covered gets completely lost in a barrage of self-congralatory messages, "BREAKING NEWS" and "EXCLUSIVE" and "ONLY ON AAJ TAK/NDTV/CNN IBN" tags.

The Indian experience of using in-the-face and not-so-subtle ways of capturing the public's attention is quite radically different to the Western Media's method of taking up more conventional methods of revealing the truth (or very often hiding it). So, what is more effective and more ethical?

Drawing the line is very important in journalism, more so when it concerns a potential clash of interests - On one hand the issue of individual privacy while on the other the issue of revealing information that may be of public/national interest. So, where should one draw the line and does Indian media even considers these ethical paradoxes let alone obey them?

The answer to the above question is in the negative - Sting journalism in itself is a great concept. However its been given a bad name by the people in the circus called the Indian Media, which has often used it for purposes which violate both the ethical considerations of investigative journalism. By now, entire books have been written on the Shakti Kapoor incident and I am sure that there will be consensus when I say that it was a distasteful choice made by the owners of IndiaTV to telecast such a "sting op" as a matter of National Importance.

All this doesnt take away from Sting journalism as a valid and justified method of revealing corruption in public domain. Sting operations are controversial, in the sense, that a sting of any kind invariably involves an invasion of privacy of some kind. In the United States, Sting operations conducted by Private entities have no admissibility in a court of law. Infact, a sting operation conducted by other than a competent Public Authority is punishable by law. However, the point is that America is a country whose Judiciay and L&O system is undisputedy the best in the world. It ensures a speedy trial and swift justice. Moreover, America has transparency and the infrastructure and Human manpower to check corruption. But in the case of India, its a completely different story. In India's case, where an honest Govt official is a rarity and if he exists, he will be invariably occupying the lower niches of the Red-Tape machinery. In such an opaque system, Sting operation is crucially important to ensure that public officials do not labour under a cloak of invincibility and immunity. However the manner in which Stings have been conducted by the Indian Media has undermined the credibility of Stings as a tool for journalism.

Another grouse I have with the Indian Media is the self-congralatory messages and the urge and the glee with which the anchors read out "Exclusives" or narrate them, even if the incidents concerned happen to be as serious and as sober as a Bomb Blast. An incident in this regard is the Kumbakonam School Tragedy on July 16th,2004 when 92 school children were burnt to death in a grisly incident in Tamil Nadu. The tragedy left nothing but a smouldering ruin of exposed bones, ash and severly charred bodies - a gruesome image to watch. Yet, SUN TV went ON AIR with the pictures and was soon pursued by NDTV. I was in my living room watching TV along with my Mom and sister, when the images were flashed on screen. I will never forget those images, perhaps not even after dying.

The point I am trying to make here is that the Indian Media has a long way to go. Its reaching there in gasps and fits. It seems stylish, sleek and ready to take on the world, yet it must get its priorities right, it must learn to resolve its internal and external competition within the boundaries of taste and ethics, it must report NEWS fearlessly and in an impartial fashion. So far a majority of these objectives/plans have not been achieved in concrete. I think that the Indian Media has got it right in terms of Style and Ambition. Perhaps, for a change, it has to do some soul-searching for grass-roots driven hardcore journalism. Only then, can it represent this fast emerging superpower-to-be of the 21st century called India.


PS : Expect more on the Indian Media in the days to come.

Also, please forgive me if for any formatting/typing errors, etc as I have just made a start

Note :
Some background about the Kumbakonam Tragedy :