Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A must read for every white collared 'professional'

I first happened to come across a few Dilbert strips during my engineering days. I had heard a lot about how funny it was and how popular it had become over the years. A friend of mine, whose elder brother was in an IT service based company, happened to have a copy of the book, 'The Dilbert Principle'. He himself hadn't read it, but told me that his brother loved the book. With high hopes, i began reading it. First and foremost, it wasn't a comic book, much to my disappointment. Secondly, most of the strips didn't make any sense to me. I just couldn't get myself to go beyond the first few pages. 'What an over hyped piece of crap!' was my reaction back then.Needless to say, the book was promptly returned.

Then it happened. Actually, IT happened. I joined Infosys right after my college. Pandemonium ensued.With some of my peers or senior colleagues and their strange, funny and at times irrational behavioural patterns, i realized how different office is from my college. The irony of a bunch of amateurs in a professional setup confused me. And then, the Gods decided to be kind to me.
The enlightenment. My first appraisal meeting.In the divine presence of the supreme being. The greatest leveller of them all. The manager. The final piece of the jigsaw puzzle was in place.

All of a sudden, Dilbert became the Bible of our lives. Me and few of my friends lapped up everything Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, threw at us. This guy is a genius. The similarities between the characters in Dilbert and some people i know in real life, is eerie. The situations in the central character Dilbert's life is generally what anyone amongst us might be facing on any given day in our office. I can identify with most of these characters or situations. So can a lot of readers, as evident from the letters they write to Scott Adams.

Coming to the characters of Dilbert; we have Dilbert himself, the geeky engineer who doesn't get appreciated in his office for all his hard work; the feisty Alice; the smart Dogbert with his brilliant philosophies on life; Catbert, the evil head of HR and many others. But the three standouts , according to me, are Asok, Pointy haired boss and Wally.

Asok is the unappreciated intern vying to become a permanent employee. He is a graduate from one of the IITs and is at the receiving end of his boss or colleagues' ire most of the times. The poor fellow does all the work and is never rewarded for it.

Pointy haired boss, as you might have guessed, is the manager of the whole bunch. He is shown to be a moron, who relies on his 'managerial instinct' to save his ass from the board and to assert himself on people who work under him.His speeches or presentations are like crash courses on managerial jargon. A must for every aspiring manager. His lack of brains is the premise of many strips, but more often than not, he emerges on top in all situations. There is a only guy who outsmarts him regularly. That is Wally.

Wally is a coffee guzzling co-worker of Dilbert, and is probably the laziest person on earth but one who is smart enough not to get fired. He uses his wit to get himself out of any work that is assigned to him and goes back to his favourite pastime, sleeping. Get to work, drink coffee, sleep for sometime, drink coffee again, have lunch, sleep again, pass on some gyaan to the interns on how to avoid work, fool your boss, go home and get paid for doing nothing. That's Wally (and some other people i know at work ;) ).He is the one character most of us lazybones aspire to emulate, but few are successful.

If you are working in such a setup or if you identify with any of these characters, start reading Dilbert. In case you already don't, that is.

Take a bow, Scott Adams.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Everything's fair in love, war and national television.

And i thought only the Indian television based media goes to such lengths to attract viewers!
Come to think of it, the fact that the poor lady agreed to chain herself for the journalist and his crew raises a question. Was she coerced to do this or was the desire to get featured on national television too hard to resist?

These days the standards of some of our television news channels, especially the ones broadcasting in Hindi, have fallen to a new low.Some of the news stories reported in crimson red and bold letters as 'BREAKING NEWS' are like one liner jokes. 'Aishwarya Rai marries a plantain tree', 'Jayalalitha adds 10 grams to her 500 kgs frame', 'Thackeray cousins fight over a pencil', 'Chappell exercises his middle finger'( no pun intended), 'Sehwag losing his hair ( and runs) @10 per day', 'Amitabh's pet dog growing increasingly jealous of Amar Singh'. Ok ok, i made up some of these lines.But they may be true, who knows? Especially the Amar Singh one. Dogs don't take kindly to new pets.

These channels have made a habit of sensationalizing even the most trivial matters. I remember seeing a news channel actually running a special program damning a popular cricketer one day after a failed innings and asking for his expulsion from the team. The very next week, after the guy performed well on field, they ran a special show highlighting how good a player he is! One news channel had brought in an out of work movie actor to enact (must add, rather pathetically) the war between the Ambani siblings.

One particularly sad incident was when a group of media men were accused of inciting a man to set himself on fire. I had seen the footage on TV. It was gruesome. But no one will ever know if he did it himself or if he was coaxed to do it. Makes me wonder if some of these so called onsite 'reporters' have any ethics at all. Not only as journalists, but even as human beings! Even if they didn't prompt him, they could have at least prevented him from a certain death.

On the flip side, some of these shows are hilarious to watch. Even while covering non-events, some of the wannabe reporters behave as if their ( and our) lives depended on it. Especially when it comes to filmy weddings/parties. Such fun.

On a final note, coming back to the much debated marriage of the actress to a tree. I think it was very logical of her to marry a banana tree, due to biological reasons. Imagine her marrying a pineapple and the subsequent carnal desires. Ouch!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Forza Kaka!

No, this is not a piece on Rajesh Khanna. Although, i do admit being mesmerized by his acting skills, or the lack of it, on quite a few occasions. This is about the magician, the enforcer, the creator, and the finisher. The footballer. Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite a.k.a. Kaka.

The ace midfielder of AC Milan has been undoubtedly been one of the best in the world since the past few years. People tend to focus on the magic of his Brazilian team mate Ronaldinho, but those who have followed Italian Serie A closely would agree with me. Scoring goals in Serie A is a lot tougher than in the Spanish Primera. Most of the teams in Italy play football with a defensive mindset and many games end in 1-0 scoreline. The Spanish league is more flamboyant compared to it and the emphasis is more on scoring spectacularly than defending. This is not to say that Kaka is better than Ronaldinho, who would probably end up as one of the top 5 footballers of all time. But he is just as good.And effective.

Kaka is a complete footballing package. He has got pace, power and an amazing eye for pinpoint passes. His sublime passes from the midfield would even put the deft touches of Cesc Fabregas to shame. On countless occasions, he has assisted goals with his exemplary vision. He creates spaces that doesn't exist in the eyes of lesser players. But he has another ability which very few midfielders have. Goal scoring.
On an average, he scores more than 10 goals every season. In fact, he nearly scored 20 goals for Milan during 2005-06, the season when he was widely regarded as the best in the world and was awarded the best midfielder in Champions League competition. His pace is on par with any top notch striker, he can shoot with either of his feet, his finishing is clinical and precise. And his best ability is to take long shots at goals. He scores many of his goals from a good distance and the goalkeeper can expect a thunderous volley anytime the ball is on his feet.The art that players like Paul Scholes and Pavel Nedved have perfected.

Other than AC Milan, the beneficiary of his rare skills has been his national team Brazil. He is equally dangerous when playing for Brazil, which cannot be said as true for many of his European counterparts. If you feel that there is any exaggeration in my words, check out this and this. These videos showcase some of his goals scored for his country and club.

He was one of the prime reasons behind me becoming a big fan of AC Milan. The team of 2005-06 which reached the finals of Champions League was a dream team. A diamond shaped mid field with players like Pirlo, Gattuso , Seedorf and the dangerous Kaka upfront, right behind strikers like Shevchenko (at his peak), Inzaghi, Gilardino and Crespo (on loan from Chelsea). Backed by goon-like defenders namely Jaap Stam, Nesta, Cafu and Maldini. Even goalkeeper Dida was far more reliable in those days. It was a dream team and they were on the way to win the Champions League until the 7 minutes of madness ensured that they ended up as runners up. This final match against Liverpool will go down in history as one of the greatest games of all time.

Since past 2 years, Real Madrid has been trying to prise Kaka away from AC Milan, something which they have been doing with many talented players from other teams around the world. Given AC Milan's current poor form and other crisis ( Italian match fixing scandal), they might succeed next season. However, i do hope Kaka stays at Milan. Without him in the midfield, Milan won't ever be the same. Forza Milan, Forza Kaka!

And if he chooses to move from Milan, i hope it's to Arsenal, my other favourite team.However unlikely that may seem, the free flowing game of Arsenal will better suit the player of the caliber of Kaka. And who better to have as a coach than Arsene Wenger, a striker up front than Henry and a fellow midfielder than Fabregas. And a fan like me.

Wherever he goes, one thing is for sure. There won't ever be any dearth of followers of his game. Like the Kopites would sing, You'll never walk alone.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Who's to blame?

Yet another blast. Scores of innocents killed. Time to start pointing fingers at each other.
Pakistan will blame Indian Hindu extremist groups for this dastardly act. Indian government will predictably blame ISI or SIMI for the blast.

In all probability, the real perpetrators will never be caught. Few suspects will be held.The case would go on for years. People will forget about the blasts within days. Life goes on. Till the next blast. Its a cyclical process that we all have become accustomed to.

Does anyone know who was behind the Mumbai train blasts of 2006 ? Nobody cares. As long as the stock market is booming, salaries are rising and the Indian cricket team is playing well, we all are happy.

Sigh. Try telling this to the near and dear ones of the victims.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Don't wanna miss a thing.

Dont want to close my eyes
I dont want to fall asleep
Cause Id miss you baby
And I dont want to miss a thing
Cause even when I dream of you
The sweetest dream will never do
Id still miss you baby
And I dont want to miss a thing

Me thinks this is a fantastic song with lovely lyrics.
What say you?

Hooked to TV.

Overheard during the 3rd ODI between India and Sri Lanka, India's very own legendary cricketer and a veteran of 4 tests, Atul Wassan , now acting as a television commentator cum expert on Neo Sports :

Robin Uthappa plays a fine hook shot to the boundary.
"Uthappa is a good hooker"

Now this is news for some of us. That's taking the role of a multi-utility cricketer to new heights.

Within moments, Uthappa gets caught off the bowling of Maharoof.
Mr. 'Haven't been there and haven't done that' says, "Maharoof tastes first blood".

Conclusion: The hooker was a virgin.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Can i spank you, Cupid?

Trust our political parties to gain mileage out of anything under the sun. Usual noises are being made by the extremists, warning couples from celebrating Valentine's day. So all you lovelorn people out there, get ready to be spanked by the moral brigade.A new development this time though, is that there is another rival party willing to protect such couples. So all you need to do after getting thrashed , is dial the rivals' number and invite more trouble.

Personally, i think Valentine's day is a big joke.And thankfully my fiancee agrees to this (albeit reluctantly).However if two consenting adults want to celebrate it their own way, then it shouldn't be anyone's business. As long as it's not affecting others. Time to grow up, my babies. Go burn some effigies or something.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Mend it like Beckham.

Last week, when Real Madrid slumped to yet another defeat to the relegation threatened side Levante, I had started writing a new post on the subject. I was curious to know who would get the blame now for the defeat from coach Capello, given that Beckham and Ronaldo were no longer in the team. I didn't finish the piece and before i could do that, came the news that Beckham was selected and scored a decisive goal for his team in the match against Real Sociedad.

His comeback goal effectively saved the coach from getting a sack from the notoriously exacting Real Madrid board. The same board had infamously sacked Vicente Del Bosque in 2003 for not winning the Champions League, a day after his team won the Spanish League. The club has not won a single trophy since then.

David Beckham is a decent footballer. He is not a 'great', as some of his ardent fans would like us to believe but also, he is also not as bad as some of the pundits would like to point out. His problem has always been the publicity he gets off the field, which is a major put off for some of his managers and team mates. Beckham is partly to blame for that, starting with his extravagant lifestyle with pop star wife Victoria Beckham to his tattoos and hairstyles. The other party responsible for this publicity is , as usual, the media. Especially the British media. The lesser said about them, the better.

On sheer football terms, he is an ordinary footballer when it comes to many basic skills. He is not all that quick, not a good dribbler, or a tackler. Makes little use of his left foot or his head ( literally) for that matter. George Best, the Manchester United legend, once said this about him, "He (Beckham) cannot kick with his left foot, he cannot head a ball, he cannot tackle and he doesn't score many goals. Apart from that he's all right."

But for all his shortcomings, he is a fantastic crosser of the ball and a specialist in dead ball situations. Ruud van Nistelrooy would testify for the number of times the ball was delivered to his feet in the 'D' area. To an extent, so would Ronaldo and Raul.

He was never a winger, like Vicente or Robben or Christiano Ronaldo, so one cannot expect to see him dribble the ball much. But he did play his part well on the right flank of the midfield. He was a prominent member of the famous treble winning Manchester United team. His contribution to Manchester United and Real Madrid on the field cannot be discounted at any cost.

But probably his biggest contribution is off the field. His name sells. Big time. People, especially in south east Asia, flock to buy David Beckham merchandise. Real Madrid displaced Manchester United at the top of the richest club list since he joined them from the latter. Ironically the same money, that he helped generate, will be used to replace him in the club.

No player is bigger than his team or the club. But it doesn't make any sense to blame a team's bad performances on one or two individuals. Alex Fergusson made that mistake and effectively dried up the goals for Nistelrooy, who struggled to score in the absence of Beckham's pin point crosses. Capello made the mistake and had to eat his own words, when he admitted his mistake of omitting Beckham from the team.Next in line could be Steve McLaren, the boss of the perennially under performing and over hyped national team of England. But then, no one can rescue the English team. If you can call them a 'team', that is.

On the virtue of his successful comeback into the team despite all the humiliation bestowed on him by the coach and the club president Ramón Calderón, Beckham has proved that he is a fighter and can still deliver the goods.

He may not be special. But like Best said( albeit sarcastically), he is all right.

Black or white.

Courtesy India Uncut, i happened to come across this link.
It's a collection of black and white photographs taken inside a deserted island city near the shores of Japan.

There is something with such black and white photographs that always captivates me. Such photos are able to capture the mood in a way that colour photos cannot. People, objects and landscape look different in this mode. A dose of nostalgia adds to the flavour.

Check out the link. Experience the magic.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Parzania : A reality check?

An amazing movie this.

This movie makes you realize that incidents such as post-Godhra riots can happen any place,any time and affect anyone in our present day society. Including you. The family portrayed in the movie could well have been ours. The director smartly interweaves the story of a family next door with the horrors of the Gujarat riots.

The movie is neither technically brilliant nor are the acting skills of some of the supporting cast worth mentioning. But the performances by the lead players make up for it. Perhaps what strikes us most in the movie is that it's based on a real life story. That is where it hits us hard. A reality check, perhaps?

It is such a pity that this simple but honest movie could not even find distributors for a long time. It should come as no surprise though that it is banned in Gujarat , given the fact that the ruling government's true colours has been boldly and unabashedly depicted in the movie. Time to face some home truths.

Watch it on the big screen.

Child's play.

The headline for this news snippet is hilarious.
The state rewards you and your spouse if you both commit crimes and get caught. The apple of your eyes will get the best facilities in 'five star cells'.
Too bad for single criminals. An incentive to get married, perhaps?

Friday, February 2, 2007

Sach is life.

Poor Sachin. Whenever he plays poorly these days, people say "He is not the Sachin of the 90s". When he plays well, people still say "He is not the Sachin of the 90s". That's the curse of being Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.

Of course he is not the same. Is any one amongst us the same person that he/she was 10 years back? Why should he be an exception? He is no vegetable.Or Dev Anand. With age, the bones start to ache, the muscles start to cramp and crucially, the mind starts playing games.

Let us all admit it. His batting won't probably be as exciting as it was 7-8 years back. There will be times when the old sparkle will be visible, but not as consistently as we are used to. Lets give the devil his due though. He was the proverbial knight in shining armour of the Indian team, when it was choc-a-bloc with either match fixers ( Azhar, Mongia, Jadeja and company) or with a bunch of no gooders ( Venkatesh Prasad, V Raju, H Kanitkar, V Bharadwaj, V Rathore etc).He was the sole reason many people watched matches during that dismal period. At least for me. This is not to demean the contribution of others at that time ( Kumble, Robin Singh and yes, Azhar). But he was the star, the saviour, the messiah.

It was the late 90s and early 2000s that saw the emergence of Dravid as a champion batsman ably supported by Ganguly, Laxman, Sehwag and others. Sachin has seen both the worst ( match fixing controversies, drubbing at the hands of Aus in 99 to quote a few) and the best (first series win over Pakistan, reaching finals of 2003 WC, Ind-Aus series of 2001) of Indian cricket over the past decade or so.

He has done enough to be counted amongst the top 3 batsmen of the modern era. I would dare say, second only to Lara.

There have been doubts regarding his ability to perform in crucial moments and under pressure. Try telling that to a man having played the way he has, with a million expectations of the people of our country. Leaving aside the TV viewers, just performing in front of the thousands of expectant spectators in a stadium is a daunting task. I have been to Wankhede stadium in Mumbai on a couple of occasions for watching international matches. The sheer volume with which he is greeted when he arrives to the crease or plays a dazzling stroke is daunting and can terrorize lesser mortals into meek submission.

I guess that's the curse of being Sachin, the matches he couldn't win for his team is mentioned before the ones he has actually won.Let's celebrate the legend of Sachin while he's still playing for India and cherish what he has given to this team rather than dwelling on what he could have given.

On a related note, this is a good read. The writer makes an interesting point about cricket being just another sport and a form of entertainment at the end of the day. Some of us do tend to cross the fine line between appreciating a talented man's achievements and blind, fanatic worship. It's true for the people at the other end of the spectrum. Those who vandalize cricketers' houses or burn effigies after poor performances on the field. They need to channelize their boundless energies into something more constructive.

Post Script: Yes, i am a Sachin fan. I always was. But I never try to justify his mistakes or try to cover his shortcomings. He is no GOD to me either. But i am a fan nevertheless. The only complain i have ever had with him is with his restaurant 'Sachin's' in Mulund. It sucks.Big time.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

I have the power.

Such is the power of lobbying. The legislation may or may not get passed but it does signify one thing. The increasing presence and influence of the American-Indian community in US. I am not suggesting that people must have lobbied hard to get stamps honouring Diwali, but i can surely vouch for the fact that this idea would not have originated from an American.

The American-Indian community, as well as the Indian government, have many lobbyists in the US Senate on their 'payrolls'. This factor also played a decisive role in the recent civilian nuclear deal between US and India.
However, experts from both the countries are divided in their opinions about the deal itself. Would India gain anything from the deal or would we become more vulnerable by exposing and demarcating our civilian and military nuclear reactors? Only God knows! And George Bush. And maybe Sonia Gandhi.

Till that time, enjoy your Diwali stamps.Maybe to return the favour, we can issue stamps with Pamela Anderson on them. With a warning at the bottom : 'Lick on the other side'.

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