Eye Browse

The fruits of random browsing. More random stuff on Twitter.

1. The secret of success: Marry Chris Evert. Oh and on the morning after, don’t forget to click on this link and update the scorecard.

2. What to  call this bunch, The Dirty Five Dozen? ISI offers the Taliban a new ‘get out of jail free’ card: enter India, cause mayhem. George Bush was right after all, when he repeatedly called Pakistan ‘a front line ally in the war on terror’ — without them there would be no terror, ergo no war.

While on Pakistan-related issues, the latest updates on Stratfor contains an analysis of the October 5 suicide bomb attack on the Islamabad office of the United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP).

Also, a TimesOnline story that sources army chaplains to say US troops in Afghanistan are rapidly losing heart, as the war completes eight years.

3. No wonder they call China the world’s manufacturing hub — they make anything there these days. Even virgins.

4. The guy in the lead image in this NYT story is wasted as a farmer. With aim like this

5. Maldives highlights global warming by holding an underwater cabinet meeting [Hat tip Titto Antony]. Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh nearly followed suit last week.

6. Introducing a group blog — and a story of how Kaminey became Kill Bill.

7. When you separate the contents of a daily newspaper into stories, ads and just plain rubbish, what do you get? This.

8. In the Independent, Emma Townshend interviews Richard Dawkins. And while on everyone’s favorite god-basher, a  delightful read by way of bonus [Link courtesy Atanu Dey]

9. Why does India find American ‘liberals’ harder to deal with than its conservatives? Bhanu Pratap Mehta examines the seeming paradox.

More, as and when…

Aide memoire for ‘Adam’

It also illustrates why I hate the term eve-teasing: because it’s such a mild, obfuscatory term for the acts of sexual aggression and intimidation it’s supposed to describe. And it’s blinding in its mildness. A woman being eve-teased–yeah, we all know what that means. But do we really, when even the language we use doesn’t allow you to see what is really happening in each case?

There are subtle differences between the man who wolf-whistles at you from across the road, and then pays no further attention; and a ten-minute barrage of sexually explicit, demeaning suggestions and threats of violence unleashed at you by men who will follow you all the way down the road, until you reach a “safe” area.

Nilanjana Roy on “eve teasing” and the need to avoid obfuscation — a must read.

Books as the furniture of life

Books, any old how, in the study

Books, any old how, in the study

Books taught me my first lessons in ersatz entrepreneurship: at the start of a school year, I’d present my parents with a long list of ‘prescribed’ textbooks including many I didn’t really need. I’d dutifully buy the books, meticulously present my parents with the bill and books, and a day later head to Chennai’s Moore Market; specifically, to Maheshwar Book Shop, one of over 200 used books outlet nestled in the iconic Chennai landmark [that place, sadly, hasn't been the same since a 1985 fire destroyed much of its interior and for all practical purposes ended the market as Chennai's go to place for second hand books].

One Chandrasekhar, who was the owner then, would take my brand new books and replace them with serviceable second hand copies. The money thus earned was promptly splurged on novels, which I read and then traded in for other novels, the number of books diminishing with each trade.

Books also taught me to pick locks. Dad operated on the theory

...and on the floor...

...and on the floor...

that the more I read the less I would study, so at the start of each school he would ostensibly lock his bookshelf with the promise that it would be opened once the final exam was over and school was out for the summer. What he didn’t reckon with was the inventiveness of a boy separated from books by a pane of glass — it took me a day to figure out how to use a knife to slip the latch; subsequently I learned to use a compass from my geometry box to open the lock at will.

Books — or rather, deprivation thereof — even changed the way I dressed. This was during an eight-year hiatus when I was done with college [before college was done with me, but that is another story], had no job nor prospects nor hope. I whiled away my days at the Connemara Library, and that was when I discovered that tight jeans and Ts tucked into the waistband were contra-indicated for book theft, and found through dint of experimentation that a kurta and a jean borrowed from a friend with a larger waist size was ideal for abstracting those books I wanted to read [bonus: Maheshwar Book Shop would buy

...the living room...

...the living room...

them off me when I was done, so one pilfered book translated into several more — another vital business lesson].

I still acquire [paid for, not pilfered any more] books — indiscriminately. While criminality is a thing of the past, I still need to practice a certain degree of duplicity. Thus, the boot of my car and the space beneath my desk at work is packed with books I’ve bought but haven’t introduced into the home yet — the other half tends to freak when I walk in with overloaded book bags. So I introduce new purchases into the home one or two at a time, slip them in among the older books and when the wife stumbles on one such and goes, hey, where did this come from, I’m all wide-eyed innocence [Books also teach you acting] and go, oh, that book, that’s been there forever, what’s wrong with you?

With trademark perspicacity, the other half once told me she suspects I spend indiscriminately on books because I haven’t fully gotten over my earlier period of deprivation. She is likely right — add to it the unvoiced fear that some

...and the bedroom...

...and the bedroom...

day, I might want to read a book and not have any.

In a recent essay [Hat tip Arvind Swarup]  film critic Roger Ebert looks at books as the ‘furniture’ of his life. Extended clips:

“What do I really need that isn’t here in this room?” I asked. “Its dimensions are a little more than twice as wide and deep as I am tall. I don’t know, maybe 150 square feet? Here I have the padded wood chair in which I sit tilted against the wall, my feet braced on my straight desk chair. I am holding the three-inch-thick Paul Hamlyn edition of Shaw’s complete plays. This room contains: A wood single bed, an African blanket covering it, a wood desk and its gooseneck lamp, a small dresser with a mirror over it, my portable typewriter, a small wardrobe containing my clothes, a steamer trunk serving as a coffee table, and two bookcases, filled to overflowing. What more do I actually need?”

...the top of wardrobe, and every other available space...

...the top of wardrobe, and every other available space...

Chaz and I have lived for 20 years in a commodious Chicago house with three floors, a furnished basement apartment and an exercise room we built on the roof-top deck. This house is not empty. To my 1965 edition of Shaw, which cost me about two quid and now sells for $119, Chaz and I have added, I dunno, maybe 3,000 or 4,000 books, countless videos and CDs, lots of art, rows of photographs, rooms full of comfortable furniture, a Buddha from Thailand, two elephants from India, African chairs and statues, and who knows what else.

Of course I cannot do without a single one of these possessions, including more or else every book I have owned since I was seven, starting with Huckleberry Finn. I still have all the Penrod books, and every time I look at them, I’m reminded of Tarkington’s inventory of the contents of Penrod’s pants pockets. After reading it a third time, I jammed my pockets with a pocket knife, a Yo-Yo, marbles, a compass, a stapler, an oddly-shaped rock, a hardball, a ball of rubber bands and three jawbreakers. These, in an ostensible search for a nickel, I emptied out on the counter of Harry Rusk’s grocery, so that Harry Rusk could see that I was a Real Boy.
My books are a subject of much discussion. They pour from shelves onto tables, chairs and the floor, and Chaz observes that I haven’t read many of them and I never will. You just never know. One day I may — need is the word I use — to read Finnegans Wake, the Icelandic sagas, Churchill’s history of the Second World War, the complete Tintin in French, 47 novels by Simenon, and By Love Possessed. That 1957 best-seller by James Could Cozzens was eviscerated in a famous essay by Dwight Macdonald, who read all the way through that year’s list of fiction best sellers and surfaced with a scowl. It and the other books on the list have been rendered obsolete, so that his essay is cruelly dated. But I remember reading the novel late, late into the night when I was 14, stirring restlessly with the desire to be by love possessed.

I cannot throw out these books. Some are protected because I have personally turned all their pages and read every word; they’re like little shrines to my past hours. Perhaps half were new when they came to my life, but most are used, and I remember where I found every one. The set of Kipling at the Book Nook on Green Street in Champaign. The scandalous The English Governess in a shady book store on the Left Bank in 1965 (Obilisk Press, $2, today $91). The Shaw plays from Cranford’s on Long Street in Cape Town, where Irving Freeman claimed he had a million books; it may not have been a figure of speech. Like an alcoholic trying to walk past a bar, you should see me trying to walk past a used book store.

Other books I can’t throw away because–well, they’re books, and you can’t throw away a book, can you? Not even a cookbook from which we have prepared even a single recipe, for it is a meal preserved and happy time then shared, in printed form. The very sight of Quick and Easy Chinese Cooking by Kenneth H. C. Lo quickens my pulse. Its pages are stained by broth, sherry, soy sauce and chicken fat, and so thoroughly did I master it that I once sought out Ken Lo’s Memories of China on Ebury street in London and laid eyes on the great man himself, dining alone in a little room near the entrance. A book like that, you’re not gonna throw away.

Your turn: What do books mean to you? And which books mean the most, and why? Talk to me.

A shot across the bow

In a development that slipped unnoticed past the radar of the mainstream cricket media in India, the international players’ association has trashed the latest edition of the ICC’s Future Tours Program [and given me another excuse to keep banging on about my latest hobby horse: the need for the ICC to urgently rationalize not merely its calendar, but its overall approach to how it manages the game]:

FICA CEO Tim May said the ICC’s proposed international schedule is merely an extension of the existing format that does not address changes in the game and diminishes its value. “The ICC’s draft is just a continuation of the ad-hoc bilateral series that we have seen going on for 100 years,” May told Cricinfo. “The ICC draft does not address an increasingly changing cricket landscape, which demands considerations of changing priorities of players and broadcasters and the increasing need for context, not volume.”

May is aware that FICA could well be whistling into the wind. When it comes to taking on board the opinions of the game’s stakeholders — the players’ associations, the captains, broadcasters, the media — the ICC has routinely paid lip service to the concept, and as routinely ignored the suggestions that have been put forward. But, as the FICA chief points out, the ostrich policy may have outlived its time: earlier, the ICC could go its own way regardless, because what alternative was there? With the IPL establishing itself, and the Champions League emerging onto the stage, that is no longer true.

While the ICC admits that FICA is a key stakeholder in the game and has given the federation a seat on its cricket committee, it is not bound by law to accept any of its proposals. In fact, May admits that he would not be surprised if the ICC board rejects these proposals, but he also warns that in such a scenario “the natural forces will take effect.”

“More and more players will follow Andrew Flintoff by retiring prematurely from one or all forms of international cricket,” May said. “The grind of the present international calendar just can’t exist with the attraction of shorter-duration, less physical, better-remunerated T20 leagues. International cricket will no longer be the best versus the best. Crowds will diminish, commercial rights will reduce, and international cricket will be very much an inferior product.”

If this happens, May said, the ICC will have to accept the blame. “They will have no one to blame but themselves. It won’t be the first business to be destroyed by failing to recognise a changing landscape.”

Meanwhile, a paper to produce under the added pressure of an absent colleague. Will be back, as and when [oh, and will find time to respond to some of the comments you guys left on earlier posts].

Cobras versus Eagles

So starting today, bar-room cricket conversation will revolve around a clutch of unfamiliar names: Cobras, Eagles, Otago, Wayamba…

Cricket, say the pundits, is struggling to reinvent itself in the age of T20 — and yet, ironically, all the innovation is coming in the shortest format while the Tests and ODIs, which arguably need all the reinventing they can get in the face of dwindling spectator interest, watch passively.

This latest competition is a strange, unfamiliar brew — a mix of state teams, county teams and IPL franchises that seek to shuffle the existing order of domestic competition and conjure from it an international attention-grabber.

It is uncharted territory for a game largely built on the flag-and-country premise. A sense of history, of back-story, has powered our interest in the international calender: the tradition of the Ashes, the needle of Indo-Pak encounters, the trans-Tasman rivalry that spices what would be otherwise one-sided contests between New Zealand and Australia, the sense of schadenfreude as we watch the precipitous decline of the once all-conquering West Indies…

Absent this sense of history, the latest tournament in the calendar provides little for us to hang our emotional hats on. The question the next few days will answer is whether the League can rapidly build fresh points of interest, and create newer loyalties and fan following.

If it succeeds, the League will join the IPL as the cutting edge of an insurgency that puts club/franchise cricket in the driving seat, and in doing so overturns the global cricketing structure as we know it, topples the ICC from the driving seat, and reinvents the game’s architecture for the commercial age.

It is tempting to see this first season as the ‘acid test’, as the cliche-meisters have it — but my own sense is that this is merely a tentative dipping of the toes in untested waters.While there is blanket coverage in India, the television footprint is limited elsewhere [NB: This is the sense I got from talking to friends in the business. I understand Eurosport will beam the tournament in England -- appreciate input from readers on which broadcaster is showing what, where]. If, however, this season proves a success, the television footprint will widen in the coming years, and that in turn will propel the tournament — and the concept of a club-driven format — towards critical mass.

Absent wall-to-wall global coverage, it will be difficult to judge the full potential of the CL at the end of the 16 days, and 23 games, to follow. But already, it has many of the ingredients necessary for success: a tight format, a clutch of international stars in the most attention-getting version of the game, a second opportunity within the year for the growing fan base of leading IPL teams to claim mind-share, and most importantly, money — not merely in terms of the sponsor interest which, friends tell me, is growing rapidly, but in terms of how the prize money on offer [and the possibility of foreign club sides getting Indian sponsorships] could end up changing priorities across the cricket-playing world.

Andy Bull, in a piece in The Guardian, looks at this aspect as it plays out on the England county scene:

For the first time, club cricket is going to emerge as a serious rival to international cricket. A rival for the attention of the fans, the time of the players, and the money of the sponsors. The jackpot for winning the 2007 world cup was $2.24m. The winner of the Champions League will walk away with $2.5m. By football’s standards that is small change. But in club cricket it’s a fortune. It is over three times what Durham received for taking the county championship title this year (and over 15 times what they won the year before that). More tellingly still, it is three times more than Surrey’s entire pre-tax profit in 2008, and six times that of Yorkshire.

If Sussex can play well over the next three weeks, this may turn out to be the most profitable year in their history, despite the fact that they have just been relegated from the first division of the county championship for the first time. All they need to do is win five games of Twenty20 – fewer than 200 overs of cricket. With that kind of financial incentive qualifying for the Champions League is going to become the top priority for every eligible team.

The injection of such a significant lump of cash into a single club would have interesting ramifications for the entire county championship – as it would for domestic leagues in each of the seven competing nations, with the exception of India. The disparity in operating budgets between the top Twenty20 teams and the others will become vast.

Another fascinating aspect, for me, is that besides putting club/franchise cricket on prime time and thus directly attacking the hegemony of the ICC’s international calendar, the League undermines traditional player loyalty and threatens a shake up that could accelerate the process of creating a breed of cricketing mercenaries. Andy Bull anticipated the point I intended to make, and so a clip from his piece suffices:

Wrapped up inside all this is another conundrum, neatly exemplified by Dirk Nannes. He took 12 wickets at an average of just 13 apiece in the KFC Big Bash for Victoria this year. This Friday however, he will be opening the bowling against Victoria, his own State side, for the Delhi Daredevils. Both teams have contracts with Nannes, but Delhi made sure to stipulate that, in the event of a clash, he would have to play for them. Understandably, Nannes team-mates are just a little unhappy about the prospect of lining up against their own star bowler as they compete for a $2.5m jackpot.

….

This situation is being replicated across the cricketing world. Farveez Maharoof had to choose between Wayamaba and Delhi, Brendon McCullum could have played for either Otago or New South Wales, Herschelle Gibbs for the Deccan Chargers or the Cape Cobras.

Starting 8 pm this evening, we will be treated to the latest cricket ‘spectacle’. For me, it is not the cricket on offer that is most fascinating, but the sense that we could be getting ringside seats as traditional structures are overturned and a new order takes over the cricket world.