Soccer in Sun and Shadow: Mini Review

You can’t write enough about a book that begins with, “We lost, we won, Either way we had fun.

In the book, Eduardo Galeano takes you through a brief history of football (soccer to him) through the last century, inter woven with a lot of social commentary. You get goosebumps reading his description of certain goals, matches, and individuals. Though not as intricate in social details as CLR James in Beyond the Boundary, you can clearly see the viewpoint of a South American in a game that was then managed by the Europeans.

To choose a few highlights from the book would be a travesty, given that every short note (the maximum length of a chapter is three pages) is a masterpiece in itself. You would have read authors describe players, plays, matches, or rivalries, but have you ever read an ode to the stadium? Read what Galeano has to say of it when a goal is scored.

“… the stadium forgets that its made of concrete and breaks free from the earth and flies through the air.

There is nothing more mute than the stands bereft of people.

At Wembley, shouts from the ’66 World Cup which England won still resound, and if you listen very closely you can hear groans from 1953 when England fell to the Hungarians. …… The Stadium of King Fahad in Saudi Arabia has marble and gold boxes and carpeted stands, bit it has no memory or much of anything to say.”

Or what he says of idols.

“Sometimes the idol doesn’t fall all at once. And sometimes when he breaks, people devour the pieces.”

And of course, he writes the most (for a player) about Maradona, who he felt has not been fully understood and punished too often for speaking out his mind.

“Maradona charged a high price, and paid one as well. He charged for his legs – and paid with his soul.

Diego Armando Maradona never used stimulants before matches to stretch the limits of his body. It was true he was into cocaine, but only at sad parties where he wanted to forget or be forgotten because he was cornered by glory and couldn’t live without the fame that wouldn’t allow him to live. He played better than anyone else in spite of cocaine, not because of it.”

If there is only one soccer book you will ever read, let this one be it!

Office 2010 – worth it??

Anyone who knows me decently well, knows my hatred for all things MS on one hand, and the extreme love for MS Office on the other. I think that Office is one of the most useful piece of software ever written.

Anyway, the generous folks at MS were good enough to give me a copy of the Technical Preview of Office 2010 sometime back. I started using it almost ten days back, and so far I have been pretty pleased. I was never a huge fan of Office 2007, as I was never comfortable with the ribbon. However, Office 2007 is the standard install at ISB, and having gotten used to the ribbon over the last three months, it was not too difficult to transition to Office 2010. I did not install the newer version of Outlook, and from what I have read, it seems to be a major improvement. So this is in no way a complete review.

Most of Office 2010 is pretty similar to the previous version, but there are a few enhancements that I particularly like.

  1. Excel Sparklines – create good looking graphs in cells easily. Minimal formatting, but immensely useful for dashboard kind of stuff.
  2. Insert Screenshot – immensely useful! How many times did we have to do Print Scrn to paste pics from other widows. Kiss goodbye to such troubles. The new office suite gives immense control on the kind of screen shots you can include.
  3. Advanced Picture Tools – from a damn cool background removal tool, to advanced Photoshop like features, this is a a major improvement.
  4. More Smart Art than the 2007 version, and pretty useful ones.
  5. The older Office button has been replaced by a much more useful Office tab with control over printing etc.

On the negative bits, it is quite slower on launch than 2007, and the online help has not been updated to reflect extra options.

On the whole though, I like this better than 2007 edition, and hopefully they will have some more additional features before the final launch.

Random Notes

Some random notes from the extended weekend I am enjoying.

  1. Andrew Symonds is an idiot. Why would you call another player a “lump of shit”? That too on air. That too when you take offense at someone calling you a monkey. And that comment about Hayden’s wife. Funny, but not done!!
  2. Slumdog Millionaire is a good movie. But it does not deserve to be in the Top 250. And 10 Oscar nominations. Are you kidding me?? Frieda Pinto looks good 🙂
  3. The Wrestler is another good movie. Bottom line – you need someone to talk to. The scene where he is getting a lap dance, but is clearly not interested in it, is very real.
  4. The Big Lebowski is as random movie as any. For me, it is the one that comes closest to Cool Hand Luke. Must Watch.
  5. Will also be watching Milk. 

So there. 3 movies down. A couple more to go. Now that time well spent.

Raging Bull – Review

There is a huge difference between other boxing movies like “Rocky” and “Cinderella Man“, and “Raging Bull“.  While Rocky and James Braddock are shown to be entirely white characters, Raging Bull portrays Jake LaMotta as a failable human being. Somewhat like a Shakespearean character, with a mix of black and white, a grey character.

The movie opens with a tragic soliloquy of Jake’s fears, sexual anxiety and confusion, and from then on we are taken into the down the hill journey that is Jake’s life. We are introduced to him when he is almost at the peak of his career, and are shown how he is made to suffer and his life becomes a horrid mess.

He is a self made man who doesn’t want to take any favours from the mafia because he knows that they would come at a big price. However, his brother Joey, played brilliantly by Joe Pesci, convinces him to throw a match once to get a title shot. He does that and from then on, loses respect for himself. He weeps bitterly in the arms of his trainer after the fight. Though he gets his title shot, and also wins it, his fears turn more violent. He doesn’t trust his wife or his brother any more. He takes himself on a path of self destruction and ends up in a jail. The last scene is a poignant one  with Jake reciting the famous lines from “On the Waterfront”. He blames his brother for making him throw the match that changes the course of his life. His life completes a circle from dizzying heights to near obscurity, where he has to do stand-up routine at shady bars.

It wasn’t him, Charley. It was you. You remember that night at the Garden you came down in my dressing room and you said, ‘Kid, this ain’t your night; we’re going for the price on Wilson?’ ‘remember that? ‘This ain’t your night?’ My night. I could’ve taken Wilson apart that night. So what happens? He gets a title shot outdoors in the ballpark, and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palookaville. I was never no good after that night, Charley. It was like a peak you reach, and then it’s downhill. It was you, Charley. You was my brother. You should’ve looked out for me a little bit. You should’ve looked out for me just a little bit. You should’ve taken care of me just a little bit instead o’ making me take them dives for the short-end money. You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody instead of a bum, which is what I am. Let’s face it. It was you, Charley. It was you, Charley.

Robert De Niro is brilliant as Jake and his acting is top notch. It doesn’t come as any surprise that he bagged the Oscar for this one. His physical transformation within the movie had been carefully manipulated by him. He gained around 60 pounds for second half of the movie when he plays the older Jake with a huge belly. Joe Pesci plays the part of his younger brother to perfection and the facial similarity they share add to the character. The direction by Martin Scorsese is top notch and everything is perfect, including the Italian accent. The black and white composition gives the movie an authentic era look. All in all, a wonderful movie. Must watch!!

So gimme a stage
Where this bull here can rage

Shoot ‘em Up

Worst movie in my memory. Even Yaadein was better. The 7.5 rating on IMDB is a joke and I personally think that it does not even deserve a 2!

Some brilliant scenes –

  • Kills a villain by stabbing in the eye with a carrot. Yes, you read that right, a carrot.
  • Hurts 4 people by two bullets, in a trick that would make even Rajni cringe!