Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sheep Dogs Can't Jump

Commander Shepard, the captain, the soldier, the noble warrior, the saviour of the human race. Commander Shepard, the bane of evil in the galaxy, the mighty Spectre. Is there any way at all that you can halt the march of so colossal a figure?

Put him in a closed pit, one with walls no more than a foot high, and let him be.

You can make the pit as big, as small, as round, or as square as you want. Actually, you can even give him as many weapons as you wish, and make them as powerful as you possibly can. RPGs, bazookas, sniper rifles that do twenty rounds a second and don’t ever overheat, omnigel that rains from the sky, everything’s legit, as long as you can stuff it all in the pit along with him.

Just put him in a closed pit, one with walls no more than a foot high, and let him be.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Truth

Roses are red.
Aha, but you can find yellow, white and even green roses if you look hard enough.

The sky is blue.
Not on Mars, it isn’t.

Men are skirt chasers.
I foresee evolution trying its hand at making us hermaphroditic.

George Bush is stupid.
There is a non-zero chance that a microscopic alien ship will lobotomize part of his brain, and accidentally improve brain function.

The Earth rotates from West to East.
It is not inconceivable that a collision with a large asteroid knocks the Earth so far off kilter that its direction of rotation is reversed.

The Earth revolves around the Sun.
It might be captured by another star during the merger with Andromeda galaxy.

The Universe is.
It will either collapse into nothingness in a Big Crunch, or expand away to such uniformity that it would be akin to nothingness.

Arsene Wenger will not sign anyone.
Arsene Wenger will not sign anyone.

The Fountain of Age

It was one of those inconsequential debates that make up the bulk of conversations you have at home. Naturally, it started with the moustache.

At one point in the discussion, I proclaimed loudly that moustaches made people look old. (I can’t quite claim a lack of bias here: I loathe bushy things sprouting from the lip). My mother loved them, and by way of a retort, pointed out that the lack of hair makes a person look even older. This comment was a well-aimed barb at yours truly, but it did make me wonder. What is it that makes a person look older than his years? Here are a few thoughts.

1 Mous T. Ache (Read: Musty Ache)
Lip fuzz has been the favoured form of facial adornment for generations of Indians. This is baffling, because it is apparent that moustaches throw up several functional obstacles. The impediment to erm, romantic activity is obvious. I have also observed that if a certain level of bushiness is achieved, it will result in a perpetual itchiness in the nose that is impossible to get rid of. Sufferers often try to remedy the symptoms through nasal excavation. The impact of this vocation on social life has been well documented, painfully. A more tactful solution would involve flicking relentlessly at the bridge of the nose. It’s quite all right if you look like a pompous fool swatting imaginary flies, as long as you look strong and manly right? 

People with moustaches tend to spend an inordinate amount of time tending to them. As pruning too much (shaving accidents) and pruning too little (you don’t want to look like this) are both equally unacceptable, such solicitousness is maybe excusable; but the brand new professional in me is obliged to bring up the word ‘productivity’ just to make a point. (There, that felt good.)

Besides, (excuse me, I’m stubbornly persistent) moustaches make people look old. Ten year olds can’t grow moustaches right? Only real men can, and by default, real men are older than ten year old kids.

That seems to me to be a Q.E.D. worthy list of cons, but you only need one pro to send them all back to jail. Virility. The moustache maketh the man. The fuzzier the hair on your lip, the more children you will produce, and the world will be a better place. Blessed be the man who conceived of this remarkable concept; I can only assume he had blisters on his upper lip and could never get a clean shave. Well, ideas are like viruses wrapped in Velcro. They are infectious and they stick. 

Interestingly, the length of a man’s hair was once a sign of virility. Today, all that a brave comet will get are jibes about homosexuality and the effeminate mind. More on this in the next section, but the moral here is: Believe in the power of change.

Agification Potential: 5-6 Years

2 <This head(ing) lost all its hair>
There was once a time when haircuts were not only deemed unnecessary, but frivolous. Have you even seen a Jesus Christ film where Jesus had a crew cut? Long hair was, of course, associated with good old virility back then, and we all know how big a draw that is. That no longer works today, and I’ll try a different tack.

It is an utter (Fascist) fabrication that long hair requires more maintenance time! 

OK, I might concede that long hair that’s not quite Dave Mustaine long might, but then it really isn’t long enough, so that’s that. How many panes of glass exist that aren’t thoroughly abused by short haired men for a comb-in-the-back-pocket touch up? How many toilets have been forced to shut down because they budgeted out mirrors and fostered suicidal tendencies in deprived young people? How many apparel labels have gone bankrupt because they thought removing back pockets was cool? If you have waist length or even shoulder length hair, gravity is your comb, and since gravity is always around, productivity quickly follows. As a perk, there won’t be any more getting embarrassed by one way glass.

That rant might appear significant, given that my argument links hairlessness with perceived age, but I have to admit it’s tangential at best. Long hair does not work, and not just as an anti-aging agent. In fact, I’d wager that most people would take baldness and a penalty of five years over the social stigma of long hair any day. On a sidenote, if I’ve suggested in any way that long hair might be used to hide baldness, put that thought out of your head, before it ferments your brain and turns it into slush. Comb-overs died in the eighties, I’m afraid.

So yes, the amount of hair on your head is inversely proportional to your perceived age, as long as it ain’t too long. Historically speaking, people have always viewed hair loss as an inevitable symptom of aging. It is absolutely pointless to bring up arguments about how life is stressful today, and that stress causes baldness, or how random road accidents that cause bumps on the head require a shaved head. Twenty something and have no hair? Get ready for uncledom. 

Agification Potential: upto 10 years depending on the extent of hairlessness.

3 Corpulence: Persistence :: Turbulence: Existence
Before I launch into some observations, a couple of caveats are in order. First, (I have to put this one on the table), there is the potentially anomalous phenomenon of the baby face. Those amongst the clan of the obese who are lucky enough to be blessed so, are likened to chubby, cherubic babies, and you can’t really go further down the age spectrum than that. A couple of pointers for the corpulent who want to go this way: try absolutely everything to get flawless facial skin. Ignore snide comments about being sissy. Get rid of every single strand of hair from your face; get a laser/ultraviolet/<buzzword here>operation done if necessary. When memory fails, just remember: Babies don’t have facial hair! A thinning thatch might actually come in handy here; you should also get the Superman-style lock of hair on the forehead if possible. If desperate, you might even consider getting all your teeth removed. If things don’t quite work out even after this, there’s a reason why I think this phenomenon is mysterious.

However, with due respect to long caveats, it is extremely likely that if you are fat, people automatically upgrade your age. Why? Perhaps because weight gain is generally a marker for the end of childhood. If you are no longer piling on inches vertically, what’s the body to do with the obscene amounts of food you are ingesting? This mindset may be out of place in the television/computer era that is today, what with obesity in children hitting the roof, breaking through to the next floor and looking for the next roof, but I suspect such perception is not quite voluntary.

Agification Potential: upto 10 years, depending on the level of corpulence.


There are many, many other factors that contribute to perceived age but these are clearly the ones that affect the greatest number of people the most. A yet-to-crack male voice at thirty, or wrinkling at twelve, or producing salt-and-pepper hair at twenty, might be just as good at agifying, but are infinitely more exotic. Besides, this post is quickly rambling on into obscurity, so I’ll part with one thought:

If you are bald and/or fat and/or have a splendid handlebar moustache, there is only thing you can do. Forget everything I've said, and just be Cool.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Farmland Park

I wasn’t very impressed. This place was supposed to be so top secret that the only people who knew about its location had collective retrograde amnesia. The CIA wing in the Al-Qaeda you ask? The Martian invasion of 1977? The underwater Neanderthal colony off Mauna Kea? Amateurish attempts at concealment, I thought everybody knew about those. This was the real deal, and it was just a dingy shack in the grasslands. Welcome to Farmland Park.

The non-descript (the adjective I’m forced to abuse) man who sat in the only chair in the room grinned from ear to ear.

“You see, we save the world on a daily basis.”

He must have caught my contemptuous sneer, and his grin grew even wider, and possibly met at the back of the neck.

“We watch Frank Lampard. We dictate what he does, we dictate what he doesn’t. Simply put, we live his life for him. And we save the Universe in the process.”

I hadn't quite grasped the scope of that pronouncement yet, and my only thought was to wonder if the man did this sort of thing often. My journalistic instincts bristled at that thought, and I wondered if the silly looking man in the raincoat (raincoat?!) was a trained martial artist and could snap my neck before I could ask to go to the bathroom. Besides, he seemed to have an uncanny knack for pre-empting my questions.

His voice grew sombre; this was a voice that left no doubt that whatever would follow would be very profound indeed.

“Every once in a generation, an anomaly is born. It can be anything (in fact, the last one was a toilet seat), and it is slightly inconvenient that this time it’s a human being: Frank Lampard." He paused for effect. "What is this anomaly, you wonder, and how bad can it be?"

"I’ll spare you the details; it suffices to say that anomalies are very powerful, and very lethal. If the flashpoint of the anomaly is not identified and nullified in time…” His voice, if possible, grew even more sombre at this point. I could feel the profundity turn the air in the room foggy.

“… the Universe will disappear in a soundless explosion of millions of wiggly space-time thingies!”

I couldn’t help it. I laughed. But I was a journalist, I was getting paid well for my job, and I had to ask the questions. I asked him about the flashpoint.

“Ah, that is the question, isn’t it?” All the melancholy had disappeared, and his 360 degree grin was firmly back on. He cleared his throat, laughed to himself at some amusing memory, cleared his throat again, and continued.

“Frank Lampard cannot score a goal in the football World Cup!”

This statement perplexed me more than any hogwash about the Universe. Football was one of my few vices, and I had to admit that I had a couple of uncharitable thoughts about Fate when that goal was disallowed. (I’m English, but I guess you’ve already worked that out.)

“I see that you begin to see. Indeed, do not go by appearances. We have resources, and a lot of them, and we have had to strain them to breaking point to keep this lovely little world of ours intact. Let me tell you something… “ He paused, reconsidered, tittered, and said, apparently tangentially, “What would you say is the role of Frank Lampard tactically?”

I gushed eloquently about his superb awareness, and his knack for scoring, his intelligence and his never-say-die-attitude, and how he was the best box-to-box midfielder in the world. At this point, he cut short my rant, chuckling happily to himself.

“Box-to-box?” He chuckled again, with what seemed to me to be a hint of malice. “Who but the English would think someone who makes five yard passes, and runs around from one penalty area to the other talented? I’m not calling you stupid here, simply misguided. It wasn’t easy repeatedly publishing articles calling defensive mindedness beautiful, when it was so obvious it wasn’t. Just swamping the media proved to be insufficient; we took to conversational level lobbying. Even that wasn’t enough, it turned out. Eventually, we were forced to…” He looked around surreptitiously as if to check for eavesdroppers.

“… use our time machine.” At this point, he set off on a misty-eyed recollection of the delightful bloody mindedness of 16th century England, which I choose to skip from this narrative.

I had to put an end to the pedantic and remarkably unhelpful gloating (OK I admit it. My pride was a wee bit hurt.) I asked the man how they actually stopped Frank Lampard from scoring. Surely, working on the national psyche would do nothing to help here? Did they put jell-o in his World Cup boots or something? I chuckled at my resolve in the face of adversity, cracking jokes and all. He seemed to have been waiting for just this question. Again. He promptly broke off an anecdote about 17th century English women, and how prudishness was just about the last thing on their minds.

“It’s not been easy. Remember 2006? Frank Lampard missed a lot of chances. Most of them were worked out with slight aerodynamic modifications to his boots, and some jell-o in the socks(?!), but there was this occasion, I’m sure you’ll recall, when he blasted over from something like three yards. That was a toughie. We had to bring into play our remote controlled crossbar lowering mechanism. It turns out we didn’t quite get the hang of that particular device, what with a similar incident occurring this time around as well. We undershot a bit, and the ball crept over the line. Nasty, but not irreparable. One of our agents in the stands reacted quickly, and chucked a scarf in the linesman’s face. He even added a few insults about the poor official’s sister for insurance, I hear. FIFA aren’t going to do anything, because well, they have all been custom grown by our biologists from pieces of mould. It’s a wonder they can talk at all.” He sniggered for a moment and then lapsed, inexplicably, into an impregnable silence.

Stunned as I was, I decided to try and employ some of my journalistic loquaciousness to try and get him to talk. His expression only became progressively more sullen, and the grin receded back to looking ear-to-ear. I gave up and lapsed into a hurt silence of my own. Eventually, and I’m convinced my mute protest had nothing to do with it, he started to talk again.

“You lot are stupid you know, really stupid. Frank Lampard is a smart man, a genius even, and surely if a man of that intelligence cannot score, no one else in the team can? And if no Englishman can score, aren’t you lot monumentally dense to think they'll win the cup?” He appeared to shiver at the thought, and I decided to keep any retort about the man’s debating skills to myself. He marched on relentlessly.

“Your cluelessness helped keep our operation running fairly smoothly. But the imbalance we had imposed on the Universe was far too great; we had to do something to set things right, or we would have created a fresh anomaly ourselves. Hence, the Frank Lampard of the Premier League, the Frank Lampard with the hatful of goals, Frank Lampard, the fox in the box." He winked obnoxiously.

"I assure you, it’s far harder helping the man score than to stop him from scoring.” Astoundingly, throughout this piece of invective any sane man would classify as ‘vitriolic’, his grin resolutely stayed plastered.

“Still, we saved you all, didn’t we?”

Then, something unexpected happened. The Rolling Stones’ ‘Sister Morphine’ started to blare out from hidden speakers in the wall. (Up to that point the most technologically advanced object in the room had been my fountain pen.) The man’s grin had fallen off, and he suddenly looked quite harried, mumbling to himself incessantly.

“That Mick Jagger! We wined him, we dined him. We made him rich, we made him popular, and he still won’t let go.” He must have noticed my incredulous expression because he explained himself, “Don’t you see? He’s even more powerful than us. And we don’t even know what his agenda is, or even if he has one.” I was still baffled.

“He was there! He was there at the USA match supporting them, and out they went. He supported England and they crashed out. And Brazil! Unbelievable, we thought at least they were beyond his influence.We’re not even sure who his agents are, and how many of them there are. We don’t know what technology he’s using, and how advanced it is. He’s rich and powerful, and we made him that way.” At this point, he was positively whining. “He’s a dangerous man!”

I can’t quite say that meeting went well, but I came out of it with a glow in my heart. The English will always fight back, even if the Universe has to go down as a result! Come August, come another season of the EPL, we'll show them who the Men are! Here's to the best league in the world!

PS: It was Mick Jagger's toilet seat.

Cricket Phenomenology

"Phenomenology suggests that any sport that is not purely luck based, if played for a sufficiently large period of time will become tactically non-different in complexity from any other sport."

T20 cricket is/will be just as smart as test cricket, and far more entertaining to boot.

Sidenote: Non-difference is this delightful term I picked up from an Indian philosophy text. It is supposed to imply an equality of different things, at some exalted level far beyond our petty minds – something like ‘twice infinity is non-different from thrice infinity’. Don’t blame the ancients for a lack of mathematical rigour, that example’s all mine.