Friday, August 26, 2016

Football Jokes

More classic football jokes from The Guardian.

--- Real Madrid, meanwhile, are having a wee clearout now José's leaving the building. They've already opened all the windows and are considering hoicking Gonzalo Higuaín out of one. Representatives of Tottenham, Manchester City and Arsenal are all down at street level, holding out a sheet.

--- Having secured Cardiff's promotion to the Premier League, Malky Mackay is moving swiftly to secure their relegation from it. He wants to sign Bobby Zamora and Adam Le Fondre from soon-to-be relegated QPR and Reading respectively.

--- Arsenal will look to shore things up at the back by signing Martin Skrtel from Liverpool, who are looking to shore things up at the back by selling Martin Skrtel to Arsenal

--- It has happened before, many times. Against Lens. Against Spartak Moscow. Against Auxerre. Against Chelsea. Against PSV Eindhoven. Against Meeelan. Against Anderlecht. Against Monaco : all disappointing European nights for various incarnations of Wenger’s Gunners in which similar weaknesses to those on show against Olympiakos were prevalent. And don’t even get the Fiver started on the Premier League. OK, do. Luckily (or unluckily) for Wenger, his team of occasionally spineless underachievers have an opportunity to put things right (or make them worse) by beating (or losing to) Manchester United in the Premier League.

--- If history is any guide, listening to Klopp will open up a whole world of possibilities for them (Liverpool players): a league medal or two, the odd cup, and best of all, a big-money transfer to Bayern Munich.

--- Not for nothing is Pep Guardiola known as the best coach in the world; behold how he has arrived at Manchester City and binned everyone who doesn’t precisely fit his preordained specifications, replacing them with the most obvious and most expensive players available to him. Genius! And now, he’s decided that he’d like another centre-back, so calling once again on that amazing eye for a talent, has spotted a lad at Juventus by the name of Leonardo Bonucci.

--- Mancherster City insisting that £30m is a fair price for someone (Joe Hart) they believe to be less good than Willy Caballero.

--- Elsewhere, Arsène Wenger is still looking for a centre-back, but is struggling with the nature of the market. He simply cannot abide a situation in which English clubs are charged more money than other clubs, his degree in economics failing him right when he needs to notice that English clubs have much, much more money than other clubs

--- Given that he boasts Laurent Koscielny, Gabriel, Per Mertesacker and Calum Chambers as his senior centre-backs, it has long been clear that Arsène Wenger has absolutely no need whatsoever to strengthen in that department. Unforced error, slowness, clumsiness, callowness, impetuosity and unreliability – all the things that one now looks for in an Arsenal defence – could scarcely be better represented in what is a perfectly balanced back four.

--- Arsenal, after identifying Shkodran Mustafi as the centre-back that they wanted, refused to provide the £30m that Valencia. And now, having been told to pay his £43m release clause, they have somehow convinced themselves that the answer to their problems is "Philip Jones". The move, though, does also have some logic to it: rather than sign a player who starts making errors and getting injured all the time, it surely makes sense to cut out the middleman and sign someone who has already mastered those arts. Le Professeur strikes again!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

"2001 - A Space Odyssey" - Arthur C. Clarke (11/10)

Awe-inspiring, mind-blowing, incredible!

How do you even begin to describe a book such as this? A book that spans millenia, light-years? The adjective "enormous scope" doesn't even begin to do justice to the astonishing scope of this book.

I won't even try to put into a few words what this book is all about. Its science fiction. But in a way I've never read before, and I am a veteran of Isaac Asimov & Dan Simmons, having read everything they've ever written in this genre.

The unbelievably grand scope is perfectly complimented by the writing that is simply amazing. Such economy of words! To cover a story spanning millenia in just over 250 pages is nothing short of extraordinary. This is writing at the very highest level. Such matter-of-fact writing, without the slightest hint of conceit or self-consciousness. And conceited it very well should be because this is science fiction for the ages. That'll never grow old.

It is science fiction as it should be. The overwhelming emotion when reading science fiction should one of AWE. And this book is as awe-inspiring as it gets. Capturing the immensity of space travel so easily and seemingly effortlessly.

Brilliant, wonderful writing!

The Looking Glass War - John le Carre' (5/10)

I went through so many emotions while reading this book - bored, exasperated, impatient, annoyed, and finally, slightly interested.

The first part is extremely slow, ponderous, bleak and just plain boring.

Thats because the world of Le Carre's spies is so very different from the world of spies that we're used to. It is very, very difficult to get excited by it. His spies are so human, their problems so earthly and mundane...

So the first two-thirds of the book crawl along at a leisurely, boring pace.

In the final third, the pace picks up and the story is told at just the right pace. It gets nowhere near fast-paced, but just the right pace for a story of this kind.

Not a book for everyone, yours truly included.

Friday, February 27, 2015

"East, West" - Salman Rushdie (6/10)

A bunch of short stories, the first part based in India and the rest based in the west. Wonderful, simple writing. Without touching the heights of writing that he is capable of Rushdie still manages to capture so much in so little words. Being an Indian, I particularly appreciated and enjoyed the stories set in India. The villages, the people and their habits, the very specific problems of those days. Rushdie manages to capture the essence of the Indian culture so effortlessly. He truly is a great writer.

A very good read.

Monday, February 09, 2015

"Animal Farm" - George Orwell (5/10)

I don't like books with political connotations. So no surprise that this book did not blow me away. I read it because it is on one of the lists of the top 100 books of all time.

A farm is taken over by the animals residing there who drive away their human masters. The book talks about how the animals manage the farm by themselves and the different roles that different animals perform.

The story is written in a very simple and direct way. The writing is good. The political messages are a bit too much and thats why I didn't like it much.

The Imitation Game (7.5/10)

I really wanted to like this movie. After watching it, I did, just about.

But it did not blow me away. Its strange. I thought it was missing something, but I can't put my finger on the exact reasons. I just got the feeling in the end that it could have been better.

This is the story of Alan Turing. A brilliant mathematician who cracked the code the Nazis used to encrypt all their military communications during the second world war and consequently helped shorten the war.

The film has few obvious shortfalls. The inter-layering of the past and present could have been better. Perhaps they could have dispensed with it altogether. The acting was good overall.

Cumberbatch! Such a good actor. And for most of the movie he is outstanding. But sadly, a few times it seems like he's trying too hard. He should have been more restrained. Some of his emotional outbursts, while very good examples of acting, just seem out of context with the scene being played out.

On a more general note, I was shocked to find out that homosexuality was a criminal offence at that time. And even worse, there were hormonal "cures" for it. Seems absolutely barbaric!

Monday, January 26, 2015

"The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" - John Le Carre' (7/10)

A brilliant spy story.

At the height of the cold war, Alec Leamas, head of the British intelligence in West Germany, returns to London in disgrace after all his agents have been eliminated by East German intelligence. In London, Control, the head of Circus (British intelligence), offers him one last assignment before he can come in from the cold, that is, retire. The plan is for Leamas to fake his defection to the East in order to implicate the head of East German intelligence, Mundt, as a British double agent and therefore eliminate the Circus' biggest enemy.

The best thing about the story is that the plot is handled expertly. There is a triple bluff in the story that is set up and executed flawlessly. The writing is supremely controlled. The settings and the characters are so controlled and understated that it makes the entire story credible. You can believe that these things could really happen, because they are so unlike the loud action in James Bond, that is clearly too over the top.

The writing overall is very, very good. I usually expect the writing in thrillers to be at a lower level than dramas. Thats because there is already so much interesting stuff going on in the story that the writer doesn't need to make things interesting with his writing. But here the writing is great. There are so many layers and undertones to the things that are said and left unsaid. Its a spy story that frequently becomes philosophical, but in a really good way. Its hard-hitting, showing the espionage world in a stark light, where there is no good or bad, just effective and ineffective.

Loved it!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

"Mr Mercedes" - Stephen King (6/10)

By Stephen King's standards, writing this story must have been like doodling for him. A nice little compact novel.

A retired detective, Bill Hodges, is goaded by a killer, Mr Mercedes, towards suicide. Mr Mercedes had killed a number of people by plowing a Mercedes into a group of people at a job fair. Hodges had been the lead detective on this case, but retired before being able to solve it. Now, the killer sends him a taunting letter encouraging him to commit suicide. Unwittingly, though, the killer gives the ex-cop a reason to live. With the help of a few allies, Hodges races to find Mr Mercedes before he can unleash more carnage.

The story is fairly simple. There's no suspense because right from the beginning we know who exactly Mr Mercedes is. I found that the detective work was quite limited as well. But as ever with Stephen King, the writing is good.

A nice little read.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Birdman (9.5/10)

I loved this film. Being a huge admirer of 21 grams, I have a lot of respect for Alejandro G. Iñárritu and his film-making ability. In Birdman, my high expections were not just met but greatly surpassed.

Birdman is a very simple story told in a wonderfully creative way. Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) is a washed-up hollywood actor formerly famous for playing the superhero, Birdman. Now to revive his flagging career, his credibility, his very life; he is writing, directing and starring in a Broadway play, that he has adapted from a Raymond Carver book. The film charts the final few days leading up to the opening night of this play, during which we see the insecurities, the doubts, the desperate efforts of this former hollywood star to regain some professional credibility and respect, and personal redemption especially with his failed relationship with his daughter.

The first thing that struck me was : so much music! The entire movie is played out to the beat of a background jazz drum that hardly ever stops. The music dictates and controls the pace, the tone and the telling of the story. I have never seen a movie use music so much and in such an innovative way. This is not a musical, and yet it relies so much on the music that it wouldn’t be half so good without it.

The other winning aspect of this movie is the camerawork. I don't usually notice, or care for, the technical aspects of a movie. But in Birdman, you can’t help but notice and admire it. The film has been shot in such a way that it appears to have been shot in one single continuos take. This feeling of being in a one continuous shot really brings home to the viewer the agitation, the confusion and the claustrophobia in the mind of the protagonist as he tries to come to grips with his alter ego, his disturbed daughter, his difficult co-star, and the failing finances of his play as the opening night approaches. You can feel the walls closing in, just like the actor feels because of his failed career, failed relationships and now his ever-closer-to-failing play. I'm not for technical wizardry just for the sake of it, but in this case, the camerawork does so much to make the movie so much closer and more real to the viewer. As we traverse through the backstage of the theatre, we live every single moment with the protagonist. Its wonderful!

Finally, the acting is brilliant all round. From Michael Keaton to Edward norton, and from Emma Stone to Naomi Watts, every single actor has put in a great performance.

Excellent movie!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"Flashback" by Dan Simmons (1/10)

I had forgotten how bad a writer Dan Simmons is. You tend to remember good things and so when I think of Dan Simmons, I remember the wonderful world of Ilium and completely block-out the terrible writing in "The Rise of Endymion" (review here) and "Endymion" (review here)

Flashback brings to the fore all the limits that Dan Simmons' writing has.

Its set in the near-future, around 2032, where the world has changed a lot. America has declined both economically and politically, so much so that it is not even capable of holding on to its territory (just 44.5 states remain in the USA). It has bankrupted itself due to the so-called "entitlement programs". China has imploded. The new superpowers are Japan and India. And a powerful Global Islamic Caliphate has emerged that exterminated all of Israel with nuclear bombs wiping out over 6 million jews.

Flashback is a drug that allows people to relive their past and 95% of Americans are now addicts. America is a place of rampant lawlessness, frequent terrorist attacks and Americans live in conditions akin to, or worse than, the current third-world conditions. The USA has absolutely no importance on the world stage and is bullied around by Japan and even the Caliphate. The USA hires out its armies to the Japanese for money and there is a giant mosque at the 9/11 ground zero site and there are annual CELEBRATIONS that commemorate the attacks of Sept 11, 2001.

In this world, our hero Nick, is an ex-cop, now-addict of flashback, who is hired by a powerful Japanese billionaire to solve the murder of his son six years ago. Nick was the detective who investigated the murder 6 years ago without any success. Since then, his wife has died and the grief has turned him into a flashback addict, reliving his happy times with his wife. He's so shattered that he doesn't even care about his 11-year-old son whom he has sent off to his grandfather in Los Angeles.

That is all I'm going to say about the story. Lets just say that the plot is flimsy at best and the ending is formulaic and predictable.

Now with the problems.

The biggest problem is this future world that Simmons has created. I DON'T BUY IT! I just don't. Its too unbelievable, too fantastical and far-fetched to the point of ridiculousness. I don't care for this world because I don't like it, and more importantly I don't think its credible at all. I can envisage the USA not being a global superpower, but I don't think it'll ever get to being the utterly spineless USA that this book depicts. I mean, seriously, how ridiculous is it to see celebrations of the 9/11 attacks inside the USA, at Ground Zero actually? Such is the overly exaggerated decline of the USA in the book, and it is explained away by reasons so simplistic that it insults the intelligence of the reader.

The entire book was a huge political rant. A very myopic view of the current issues facing USA that blames the shocking decline squarely on the Obama administration. It feels so much like an excuse to vent the author's decidedly republican political views. And when the story took a breather from being a very badly written political rant, it felt like a very boring geography lesson. So many times in the book, the story comes to a complete standstill as the author either rants about his political views or gives a completely unnecessarily detailed geography lesson on the American southwest. So, for no reason at all, the story stops all of a sudden and you are reading the history of some stadium, or some park, or some specific building, while waiting for the story to restart. This adds nothing whatsoever to the story, is completely irrelevant to the plot and completely breaks the flow of the story. And it happens over and over and over and over again, throughout the book.

Another extremely annoying thing was how many times Simmons makes his characters say really stupid things. And as if it thats not bad enough, the character justifies saying that stupid thing by thinking of an excuse. WTF? Either don't write stupid dialogue, or if you do, at least don't attract attention to it by making an excuse for it. Its just bad, amateurish writing, even I know that!

One last word about the characters. Dan Simmons has never been good at making his characters real human beings that you care for, and that is sadly the case here too. Suffice to say that I didn't care for Nick, his messed-up son or even his dead wife.

The only good thing about this book was that it ended.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Interstellar (1/10)

I did not like this movie. NOT. ONE. BIT.

I found it painfully slow, plodding, fantastical, melodramatic, pompous, nonsensical and unconvincing. Its hard to believe that the guy who made the wonderful Batman movies is the same guy who made this sorry excuse of a movie.

I think that when you say bad things about something, its important to rely on cold, hard facts much more than when praising it. To that end, this review is going to be full of SPOILERS and so if the reader is planning on wasting 3 hours on this swindle of a movie, he or she is advised to stop reading right here.

The reason I did not like this movie is because I was expecting a scientific movie based on scientific explanations (with a bit of poetic license), while what I got was a full-blown fantasy epic-wannabe!

My biggest problem - the so-called “they”. It seems like any time the director didn’t feel like actually coming up with a logical explanation for something he attributed it to these mysterious beings. For example, when a worm hole conveniently and suddenly appears out of nowhere and its appearance is explained away by mysterious beings, that, for me, is cheating. Its the director being too lazy to come up with a real, in-some-way scientific reason for it. I just felt that the whole movie was filled with such instances of cheating and it was extremely off-putting.

Then there were so many sequences that just weren’t properly handled. For instance, the final space shots interspersed with earth scenes were very very badly done, with very little logical connection between the two. The sequence in which Doyle dies was just so stupid. Why didn’t he get into the flipping ship instead of standing there dumbly? He was not helping anybody and he saw the waves coming and still remained standing outside.

Another very stupid thing which is quite common in American movies is that the Americans try to save the world all on their own. Why on earth (get it? on ‘Earth’) would just one scientist work on an equation on which the future of the whole mankind depends? Its moronic and stupid beyond words.

Lastly, the acting was just not up to scratch. Matthew McConaughey was ok, but Anne Hathaway was surprisingly bad! Even Michael Caine came across as pompous.

With so many big problems, there is very little that could actually save this movie. But one of the rare good things was the music over the last hour that actually managed to create some kind of interest in how the movie would end.

A very very disappointing, nay, annoying movie!

Friday, January 09, 2015

Absence Haiku

the shape
of her absence
new moon

--- Great Haiku by Chen-ou Liu

Sunday, January 04, 2015

The Wolf of Wall Street (9/10)

I love Martin Scorsese! From the first shot of Goodfellas (the first Scorsese film I ever saw), I have been a huge fan and he has never disappointed.

This movie is based on the real life story of Jordan Belfort, a corrupt Wall Street Stockbroker. It charts his rise to wealth through aggressive sales techniques and downright corrupt practices. It depicts his highly decadent lifestyle filled with drugs and prostitutes. It is filled with swearing, so much so that hardly a minute goes by without an expletive.

I love it because all this decadence is portrayed extremely artfully by Scorsese. Despite showing this completely over the top lifestyle of the protagonist, the film itself never ever loses credibility and avoids descending into a farce. This exquisite control over something portraying a completely out-of-control protagonist is what I admire the most. The acting is uniformly great, from di Caprio as this larger than life character, Jonah Hill as his trusted friend and partner to Kyle Chandler who plays the understated FBI agent tracking Belfort. The icing on the cake is Matthew McConaughey, who is wonderful in a short cameo.

Great movie!

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun (Sonnet 130)

Came across this sonnet from Shakespeare today. Such an unusual (unpoetic?) way of conveying true love. Love it!

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
          And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
          As any she belied with false compare.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Whenever I think about great writing. I think about Salman Rushdie and the following passage which is by far the best passage I have ever read in any book!

We look up and we hope the stars look down, we pray that there may be stars for us to follow, stars moving across the heavens and leading us to our destiny, but it's only our vanity. We look at the galaxy and fall in love, but the universe cares less about us than we do about it, and the stars stay in their courses however much we may wish upon them to do otherwise. It's true that if you watch the sky-wheel turn for a while you'll see a meteor fall, flame and die. That's not a star worth following; it's just an unlucky rock. Our fates are here on earth. There are no guiding stars.

--- Salman Rushdie, 'The Moor's Last Sigh'

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Catcher in the Rye

I didn't get this book!

I'm not saying its badly written or anything. Thats not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that I didn't get it. Its just a long rant by a teenager that is completely understandable and extremely normal. What the main character feels and does is what almost any teenager would feel and do. So whats the big deal. This book is not full of some obscure revelations or anything.

What I mean is I don't get why this book is a classic. Its just a decent book. Nothing more. Just an insight into a teenage mind. Nothing profound. Nothing deep. Simple, obvious observations. No plot, no story, no beginning and no end. Just a recounting of three days in the life of a confused teenager. Sorry, I just don't get it.

Don't get me wrong, I got the messages that others claim to have got from this book. All that stuff about things changing and all. Obviously its sad that life is ending and things change and we would like them to not change. But thats the key word there "OBVIOUS". I know these things. I don't need this book to remind me of them. And anyway, it just states them. Doesn't give a different, more profound take on them. Just states what I already think. You see? I don't see why it should be a classic for stating (while important) very, very obvious truths of life in the most simple of ways!

I don't get it!

The Reader (5/10)

A war movie that begins after the war. A war movie that doesn't feature a single war scene. But nonetheless, a war movie that tackles some important questions arising from wars. Thats "The Reader" in a nutshell.

The movie starts after the end of WWII and shows us the affair between a young man and a woman twice his age. An interesting aspect of this affair is that the lady likes being read to. Thats where the slightly misleading title comes from. Anyway, the affair is short-lived and the next time we see these two, the young man is a law student observing a war crimes trial and the lady is among those on trial.

The movie doesn't exactly preach anything but it seems to try to make the war criminals human. By telling us that this woman who was responsible for hundreds of deaths, just liked being read to, the film in some way tries to humanize her. Add to this the fact that the ending seems to somehow absolve her of her crimes, and the message of the movie seems to be that even war criminals were simply human with innate human traits.

And this is why I didn't like this movie at all. I have the utmost respect for human life and so, this woman who valued her orders more than innocent lives will never have my compassion or forgiveness. She was a monster and just because she liked books and reading doesn't make her any less of a monster. The movie seemed to forgive her while I never, ever would.

Having said that, technically the movie is great. Very well directed with excellent acting all round. Thats the only reason I rate it 5/10 instead of 1/10

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A sobering thought:

It's discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


A great quote to start the week:

"We can only die in the future, right now we are always alive"

Such a simple statement, yet so full of possibilities!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Where do you go when you're lonely

Where do you go when you're lonely?
Where do you go when you're blue?
Where do you go when you're lonely?
I'll follow you
When the stars go blue

--- Ryan Adams

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Listen carefully!

When Someone Deeply Listens To You

When someone deeply listens to you
it is like holding out a dented cup
you've had since childhood
and watching it fill up with
cold, fresh water.
When it balances on top of the brim,
you are understood.
When it overflows and touches your skin,
you are loved.

When someone deeply listens to you
the room where you stay
starts a new life
and the place where you wrote
your first poem
begins to glow in your mind's eye.
It is as if gold has been discovered!

When someone deeply listens to you
your bare feet are on the earth
and a beloved land that seemed distant
is now at home within you.

--- John Fox

Il mio haiku

gocce di pioggia,
piange il cielo.

--- dreamcatcher

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Bei Hennef - D H Lawrence

Staying with D H Lawrence, how about this simple blissful poem written by him? It starts off nice and calm and romantic, a happy poem. And then, the entire mood of the poem changed by one single last line. Masterful! What a poet!!!

The little river twittering in the twilight,
The wan, wondering look of the pale sky,
This is almost bliss.

And everything shut up and gone to sleep,
All the troubles and anxieties and pain
Gone under the twilight.

Only the twilight now, and the soft "Sh!" of the river
That will last for ever.

And at last I know my love for you is here;
I can see it all, it is whole like the twilight,
It is large, so large, I could not see it before,
Because of the little lights and flickers and interruptions,
Troubles, anxieties and pains.

You are the call and I am the answer,
You are the wish, and I the fulfilment,
You are the night, and I the day.
What else - it is perfect enough.
It is perfectly complete,
You and I,
What more--?

Strange, how we suffer in spite of this.

- D H Lawrence