Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Category archive: India
Finally. Well, yes, fair comment, but I had and I have my reasons.
One of the reasons there have been so many inanimate objects in these wedding photos so far is that I got there so very, very early. And it was such a lovely day, and such a lovely place. What was I supposed to do? Not take photos of stuff?
But another reason for the relative absence of people in these photos is that just shoving random wedding photos of people at a wedding and its immediate aftermath onto the internet raises the question of just how public a wedding is. Is it the business of the entire world? Not really. Not necessarily. (Think of the arguments that rage about who may and may not photograph celebrity weddings. These arguments are not only about money.)
So, are weddings entirely private? Again, not really.
A wedding is certainly not just about the Bride and the Groom. They are of course central to everything, and in modern, self-scripted weddings, we guests are often included in the proceedings by being told that we are “sharing” this “special day”. But I think more is involved than us merely sharing a basically personal ceremony. What these two people, and typically also their two families, are doing is proclaiming to one and to all that, as of now, things are different. The Bride and the Groom are no longer separate individuals in quite the way they were before this day. They are now, in whatever way they want to do this, a couple. Still two individuals of course, but also in it together. And they are not just saying this to each other. They are saying it to … everyone. We are now living a different life. Back us up, people. Don’t hit on either of us during marital rough patches. Help us to live this new life we are embarking on, rather than expecting us to behave like the singles we used to be. If you are a long time friend of hers, but don’t much care for him, make the effort to change that, and meanwhile, keep your grumbles about him to yourself.
In the past, holding weddings in public was even more important, because only if you had lots of witnesses could most of those directly concerned be entirely sure that the wedding had even happened. Public ceremonies, a marriage ceremony being only one such, were public ceremonies in order that everyone could then agree that they had happened, on that day, in that place, and that this or that, these or those promises had indeed been exchanged. In pre-literate times, public ceremonies were the nearest thing most people had to a collective record of events. They weren’t merely the principal form of public propaganda (although there definitely were that too); they were the public record.
As the old Church of England marriage ceremony puts it, right at the very start of the event:
Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; …
God, this congregation, this Man, this Woman. The congregation is no afterthought.
But exactly who, at a wedding these days, are the members of this congregation? In the internet age, is the congregation the entire world? Hardly. Yes, families and friends gather together to tell each other, and then to pass the word on to all their families and friends, that, as of now, they’re a couple and we will all help them to be a couple and to stay a couple. But what of total strangers on the other side of the world? Do you want random bods in faraway places to be told all about this event, and all about who was present at it, what they were wearing, and about how drunk they all got? Maybe you will be delighted to be telling absolutely anyone who cares all about it. But, maybe you will not.
So, in this next clutch of photos I have once again downplayed the individual portrait aspect of things, and concentrated on the kind of generic wedding-ness of the event. Ceremonial niceties, beautiful or quirky fashion statements, food, sunshine, music making, distant shots of brideness and groomness. But individual, recognisable faces? Once again, hardly any.
For me, the fact that, in my pictures of my fellow amateur wedding photographers, faces are so often hidden behind cameras is a feature rather than a bug, when it comes to showing my snaps, at least in theory, potentially, to total strangers. That’s basically why there are more photos in that collection than there are in this one.
Let me add another point on the anonymity front, relating to the sticking up of photos of people on a blog. Let me put it thus: I have quite a few subjects which I instruct Google to email me about whenever anyone mentions them on the big old www. One of these subjects is “face recognition”. I get a lot of emails from Google about that, often involving Google itself.
By now, the name and face of the Groom is not much of a secret to any friends of mine or of his or of both who care, what with him explicitly name-checking a couple of us guests for a couple of our photos (in this piece), my one being one of the sign photos I took beforehand. I did take quite a lot of portraits of people at the event itself, of course I did. But they will be thrown into the photographic bran tub that the Bride and Groom will presumably trawl through about once every decade, without casual internet passers-by seeing them. I may even have the odd trawl through them myself in the years to come. But as for the rest of you, you will have to make do with snaps like this:
As you can see, this is not just the ceremony itself. It is also the reception.
In 2.1 we see the Bride putting a ring on the Groom. And in 1.2 we see us guests passing … something along between us, but I already forget what it was. This was in accordance with some kind of Hindu ceremony that the Groom had read about on the internet and, if I recall what the Bride’s Mum said, we (i.e. regular Hindus) never do. So the Groom, no sort of Hindu himself, had invented an entire Hindu wedding tradition. Outstanding.
I particularly enjoyed the bit later on in the day (see 3.2) where the Bride and Groom, surrounded by musicians, were photoed together, at the far end of the lawn from the rest of us. I got no really good photos of this, but what I saw reminded me somewhat of this famous Jack Vettriano painting, of people dancing on the beach, attended not by musicians but by umbrella holders. I thought there were musicians involved in that picture, but I now reckon I was combining in my mind that painting with this one. Ah, it seems that the man with the umbrella was singing. So music was involved.
Setting Vettriano aside, one of the musicians told me that although they had performed at many weddings, they had never, ever been asked to do anything like that before. So it was a slightly special day for them also. Excellent.
The IPL (twenty-twenty cricket) is so far proving to be one of the best yet. Just now, there was this, from Amit Mishra, this being his last over, to win it for Sunrisers Hyderabad against the Pune Warriors, by 11 runs:
1 W 1 W W W
When Mishra went in to bat, Hyderabad were 44-6. Mishra got 30 and Hyderabad struggled to 119-8, which never looked enough, until Mishra got stuck in, and Pune panicked, as in really panicked, even more than they had already been panicking. At one point Pune were 101-4, for heaven’s sakes, needing just 19 more runs. So, last six wickets for seven runs. In the end, it wasn’t even that close!
As I keep on saying, the English really should be allowed to get in on this.
At least Eoin Morgan (Eoin sounds like Owen) is doing okay. He is the nearest thing to an Englishman making any sort of impact in this tournament.
At his talk chez moi on Friday Feb 22nd (see below) on How globalisation has made the world less rather than more homogenised, Michael Jennings intends to show us some photos. Indeed, he will be dropping by earlier in the week to make sure that the relevant technology can be guaranteed to work properly on the night. This may also require some creativity with the seating.
Here, in the meantime, are a few photos that he has emailed to me, together with commentary. Enjoy.
This is in Sukhomi, Abkhazia, a breakaway non-recognised state that is de jure part of Georgia (and is supported by Russia). Mango is a fashion label that grew out of a stall in the Ramblas market in Barcelona, and is now to globalised retail what the sub-prime market is to home ownership.
An interesting phenomenon occurs when there is a market for a particular international business, and that international business does not operate in that particular market for whatever reason: because the market is too small, too distant, too poor, too corrupt, or there are political problems. Clones of the business will often spring up. These can be particularly entertaining in places where there is no trademark law, trademark law is weak, or where it can be legally difficult to pursue claims from the owner of the trademark. This burger place in northern Cyprus in no way resembles Burger King. Obviously.
One of the most extreme cases in which this phenomenon occurred was in South Africa under apartheid. Many international companies boycotted the country, which in some ways was a modern country with a sizeable middle class, economy and legal system. (In various other ways, it wasn’t and isn’t.) South Africa in 1990 was therefore full of quite good clones of international businesses, that until then were constrained as to where they could operate, but faces competition only from one another at home. Post 1990, the international businesses that they were clones of entered South Africa in a big way, and the South Africans themselves were subsequently able to compete in the wider world. The South African clones weren’t good enough or rich enough to compete in the home markets of the major internationals, and have subsequently expanded into countries that are poorly served by the internationals for a variety of reason - this means Africa, parts of Eastern Europe, parts of Asia, parts of the Middle East. Politically dubious markets of questionable legitimacy a lot the time. One often finds South Africans and Russians side by side.
One could write an entire book about fake Apple Stores. The ones in China (this one is in Tianjin) are the most awesome. The entire story of international brands in China is itself fascinating. Everyone is there, because of the perceived size and importance of the market. Yet the country is far more chaotic, far more unstable, far more corrupt, for more authoritarian, has weaker copyright and patent laws and a weaker rule of law in general than many of the markets these companies would generally consider operating in.
India is more problematic in some ways: bureaucratic beyond words, and culturally difficult in ways that make foreign business models work less well, or at least require a lot more adaptation. (Imagine you are McDonald’s, and you are told that you are not permitted to use either beef nor pork in the food you sell). There have historically been limits on foreign investment. Supermarkets are only now in the process of being legalised. Very large companies can find entry to the Indian market - car makers or mobile phone companies. Medium sized companies - which is where most of the interesting stuff happens - find it much harder.
It’s going to be an interesting evening.
I want to live here!
Here being here:
It’s Mumbai though. They will only ever finish half of it, and there will be a slum in the location where they want to build the second swimming pool that they cannot do anything about.
In a way, this would be good. In China, the slum would be demolished and the people living in it would be relocated 3000 miles into the middle of the desert at gunpoint. So there are different ways of doing it.
Incoming from Michael J:
This is right in the middle of Malabar Hill, the poshest address in Mumbai and some of the most expensive real estate in the world. Everything in India is next to everything else.
Incoming from Michael J:
Not a great photo, alas, but there is a sign at the entrance to the slum saying that this is in fact a co-op. housing society (proposed). The nearby rich residents have clearly decided that the slum should be demolished and replaced with something nicer and less unsightly for the residents to live in and to make the neighbourhood prettier. But this being India, it remains forever proposed.
A sane way of dealing with this situation would be to give the residents of the slum legal title to where they live. They could then sell it to developers, and use the money from it to build themselves palatial houses elsewhere. Everyone would then be better off.
Unfortunately, Indian bureaucracy is too stultifying for this to happen, and in addition Mumbai itself is too corrupt for it to happen in a fair way. Even if it could happen legally, gangsters would find a way to steal the money.
Micklethwait’s Law number about seven states that if you want to cheer yourself up about your own country, ignore your own country and look instead at all the others.
I’m trying to write a big old piece about how hard cricket is to organise these days.
Meanwhile this evening at the IPL, this just happened, to Dale Steyn!!!:
6 2 4 6 4 1
The batsman doing this was AB de Villiers, which explains it.
An earlier over by Steyn was a maiden. Against Chris Gayle. Maiden overs are rare in the IPL.
Now Simon Hughes is calling AB de Villiers a genius. Like he says, Steyn is now the best bowler in the world. What’s more, AB kept the bowling for the final over, thus making sure his team won.
The second 6 in that Steyn over was particularly amazing. It was a yorker on middle and leg that would have splattered most batsmen’s stumps. AB smoked it over extra cover into row … about Z. Shot of the tournament for me, that I’ve seen. Steyn just smiled.
In the previous game West Indian Dwayne Smith, playing in his first ever IPL game, had to hit 14 off the last 3 balls to win it. He did exactly that. 6 4 4. Off Hilfenhaus, who is also no mug at bowling. The first three balls of that last over had gone dot wicket dot.
Best day of the IPL yet.
I love what James Tooley has been doing with his life, namely telling the world about how the world’s poor are now getting themselves educated. The world’s poor are not getting education from their governments. They are purchasing it from their fellow citizens.
This is Tooley’s description of how he got started learning about this global educational miracle, and triumph of the free market economy. It’s from his book The Beautiful Tree (Chapter 1, pp. 3-7):
After a stint teaching philosophy of education at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa, I returned to England to complete my doctorate and later became a professor of education. Thanks to my experiences in sub-Saharan Africa and my modest but respectable academic reputation, I was offered a commission by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation to study private schools in a dozen developing countries.
The lure of faraway places was too enticing to resist, but I was troubled by the project itself. Although I was to study private schools in developing countries, those schools were serving the middle classes and the elite. Despite my lifelong desire to help the poor, I’d somehow wound up researching bastions of privilege.
The first leg of the trip began in New York in January 2000. As if to reinforce my misgivings that the project would do little for the poor, I was flown first class to London in the inordinate luxury of the Concorde. Forty minutes into the flight, as we cruised at twice the speed of sound and two miles above conventional air traffic, caviar and champagne were served. The boxer Mike Tyson (sitting at the front with a towel over his head for much of the journey) and singer George Michael were on the same flight. I felt lost.
From London it was on to Delhi, Chennai, and Mumbai. By day, I evaluated five-star private schools and colleges that were very definitely for the privileged. By night, I was put up in unbelievably salubrious and attentive five-star hotels. But in the evenings, sitting and chatting with street children outside these very same hotels, I wondered what effect any of my work could have on the poor, whose desperate needs I saw all around me. I didn’t just want my work to be a defense of privilege. The middle-class Indians, I felt, were wealthy already. To me it all seemed a bit of a con: just because they were in a “poor” country, they were able to latch onto this international assistance even though they as individuals had no pressing need for it at all. I didn’t like it, but as I returned to my room and lay on the 500-thread-count Egyptian-cotton sheets, my discomfort with the program was forced to compete with a mounting sense of self-criticism.
Then one day, everything changed. Arriving in Hyderabad to evaluate brand-new private colleges at the forefront of India’s hi-tech revolution, I learned that January 26th was Republic Day, a national holiday. Left with some free time, I decided to take an autorickshaw - the three-wheeled taxis ubiquitous in India - from my posh hotel in Banjara Hills to the Charminar, the triumphal arch built at the center of Muhammad Quli Shah’s city in 1591. My Rough Guide to India described it as Hyderabad’s “must see” attraction, and also warned that it was situated in the teeming heart of the Old City slums. That appealed tome. I wanted to see the slums for myself.
As we traveled through the middle-class suburbs, I was struck by the ubiquity of private schools. Their signboards were on every street corner, some on fine specially constructed school buildings, but others grandly posted above shops and offices. Of course, it was nothing more than I’d been led to expect from my meetings in India already - senior government officials had impressed me with their candor when they told me it was common knowledge that even the middle classes were all sending their children to private schools. They all did themselves. But it was still surprising to see how many there were.
We crossed the bridge over the stinking ditch that is the once-proud River Musi. Here were autorickshaws in abundance, cattle-drawn carts meandering slowly with huge loads of hay, rickshaws agonizingly peddled by painfully thin men. Cars were few, but motorbikes and scooters ("two-wheelers") were everywhere - some carried whole families (the largest child standing in front; the father at the handlebars; his wife, sitting sidesaddle in her black burka or colorful sari, holding a baby, with another small child wedged in between). There were huge trucks brightly painted in lively colors. There were worn-out buses, cyclists, and everywhere pedestrians,
whose cavalier attitude toward the traffic unnerved me as they stepped in front of us seemingly without a care in the world. From every vehicle came the noise of horns blaring - the drivers seemed to ignore their mirrors, if they had them at all. Instead, it seemed to be the responsibility of the vehicle behind to indicate its presence to the vehicle in front. This observation was borne out by the legend on the back of the trucks, buses, and autorickshaws, “Please Horn!” The noise of these horns was overwhelming: big, booming, deafening horns of the buses and trucks, harsh squealing horns from the autorickshaws. It’s the noise that will always represent India for me.
All along the streets were little stores and workshops in makeshift buildings - from body shops to autorickshaw repair shops, women washing clothes next to paan (snack) shops, men building new structures next to the stalls of market vendors, tailors next to a drugstore, butchers and bakers, all in the same small hovel-like shops, dark and grimy, a nation of shopkeepers. Beyond them all rose the 400-year-old Charminar.
My driver let me out, and told me he’d wait for an hour, but then called me back in a bewildered tone as I headed not to the Charminar but into the back streets behind. No, no, I assured him, this is where I was going, into the slums of the Old City. For the stunning thing about the drive was that private schools had not thinned out as we went from one of the poshest parts of town to the poorest. Everywhere among the little stores and workshops were little private schools! I could see handwritten signs pointing to them even here on the edge of the slums. I was amazed, but also confused: why had no one I’d worked with in India told me about them?
I left my driver and turned down one of the narrow side streets, getting quizzical glances from passers-by as I stopped underneath a sign for Al Hasnath School for Girls. Some young men were serving at the bean-and-vegetable store adjacent to a little alleyway leading to the school. I asked them if anyone was at the school today, and of course the answer was no for it was the national holiday. They pointed me to an alleyway immediately opposite, where a hand-painted sign precariously supported on the first floor of a three-story building advertised “Students Circle High School & Institute: Registered by the Gov’t of AP.” “Someone might be there today,” they helpfully suggested.
I climbed the narrow, dark staircase at the back of the building and met a watchman, who told me in broken English to come back tomorrow. As I exited, the young men at the bean-and-vegetable counter hailed me and said there was definitely someone at the Royal Grammar School just nearby, and that it was a very good private school and I should visit. They gave me directions, and I bade farewell. But I became muddled by the multiplicity of possible right turns down alleyways followed by sharp lefts, and so asked the way of a couple of fat old men sitting alongside a butcher shop.
Their shop was the dirtiest thing I had ever seen, with entrails and various bits and pieces of meat spread out on a mucky table over which literally thousands of flies swarmed. The stench was terrible. No one else seemed the least bit bothered by it. They immediately understood where I wanted to go and summoned a young boy who was headed in the opposite direction to take me there. He agreed without demur, and we walked quickly, not talking at all as he spoke no English. In the next street, young boys played cricket with stones as wickets and a plastic ball. One of them called me
over, to shake my hand. Then we turned down another alleyway (with more boys playing cricket between makeshift houses outside of which men bathed and women did their laundry) and arrived at the Royal Grammar School, which proudly advertised, “English Medium, Recognised by the Gov’t of AP.” The owner, or “correspondent” as I soon came to realize he was called in Hyderabad, was in his tiny office. He enthusiastically welcomed me. Through that chance meeting, I was introduced to the warm, kind, and quietly charismatic Mr. Fazalur Rahman Khurrum and to a huge network of private schools in the slums and low-income areas of the Old City. The more time I spent with him, the more I realized that my expertise in private education might after all have something to say about my concern for the poor.
Khurrum was the president of an association specifically set up to cater to private schools serving the poor, the Federation of Private Schools’ Management, which boasted a membership of over 500 schools, all serving low-income families. Once word got around that a foreign visitor was interested in seeing private schools, Khurrum was inundated with requests for me to visit. I spent as much time as I could over the next 10 days or so with Khurrum traveling the length and breadth of the Old City, in between doing my work for the International Finance Corporation in the new city. We visited nearly 50 private schools in some of the poorest parts of town, driving endlessly down narrow streets to schools whose owners were apparently anxious to meet me. (Our rented car was a large white Ambassador - the Indian vehicle modeled on the old British Morris Minor, proudly used by government officials when an Indian flag on the hood signified the importance of its user - horn blaring constantly, as much to signify our own importance as to get children and animals out of the way.) There seemed to be a private school on almost every street corner, just as in the richer parts of the city. I visited so many, being greeted at narrow entrances by so many students, who marched me into tiny playgrounds, beating their drums, to a seat in front of the school, where I was welcomed in ceremonies officiated by senior students, while school managers garlanded me with flowers, heavy, prickly, and sticky around my neck in the hot sun, which I bore stoically as I did the rounds of the classrooms.
So many private schools, some had beautiful names, like Little Nightingale’s High School, named after Sarogini Naidu, a famous “freedom fighter” in the 1940s, known by Nehru as the “Little Nightingale” for her tender English songs. Or Firdaus Flowers Convent School, that is, “flowers of heaven.” The “convent” part of the name puzzled me at first, as did the many names such as St. Maria’s or St. John’s. It seemed odd, since these schools were clearly run by Muslims - indeed, for a while I fostered the illusion that these saints and nuns must be in the Islamic tradition too. But no, the names were chosen because of the connotations to parents - the old Catholic and Anglican schools were still viewed as great schools in the city, so their religious names were borrowed to signify quality to the parents. But did they really deliver a quality education? I needed to find out.
Cricinfo boffin Anantha Narayanan:
My surmise was correct. In the 210 4/5/6 match Test series played so far, the England win over India is the most comprehensive and devastating in history of Test cricket. That is what many experts are saying but this is now proved here with hard analytical conclusions.
I found the series utterly fascinating from beginning to end, despite its ever more extreme one-sidedness. Partly, this was ignoble sadism, watching my team slaughter the other fellows. But there was another slightly more honourable impulse at work, I think. The thing is, England have never played like this before. England don’t do whitewashes, or whatever such slaughters are more properly called when the white guys beat the non-white guys. They don’t win the series with a succession of wins, with no draws, and then win the dead test match at the end as well, also by an innings. If anything, I found the final test the most riveting of all. Would England keep it going, and win the lot? Yes they would. Yes they did. Wow. Fancy that.
There was also a backhanded compliment involved in my gloating. I can remember when England slaughtering India at cricket was about as much fun to contemplate as someone torturing a cat. It proved only that England were being horrid to poor defenceless India. It didn’t prove anything about England’s prowess. Ditto New Zealand. But India, in cricket and in the world generally, is now a major force, a fact reflected in their recent number one test match status and nouveau riche economic status, second only in public esteem in that particular contest to China. This result was as freakishly bad for them as it was freakishly good for England, which is all part of how freakishly good it was for England. India can live with us poor little Brits gloating about beating them at a mere game, while they continue to take over our steel industry. So, I gloat.
This, by the way, and I apologise for tangenting off, is one of the sources of anti-Americanism. Anti-Americanism is a similarly backhanded compliment, paid by the world to the top country in the world. Americans, we all instinctively know, can take it. If people ever start hating China more than America, then watch out America, because that will mean that China is the top country.
But this is a cricket posting, so I really don’t want to end with that digression. And yes, there are a couple more things I want to say about cricket.
The first concerns a disagreeable new habit that the television cricket commentators have suddenly acquired, probably from Geoff Boycott. Whenever anything happens, instead of pausing, thinking, and then saying something pertinent, in clear-as-a-bell English, they are now groaning. Boycott and Michael Vaughan are the main offenders, so maybe it’s a Yorkshire thing. Ooooooh. Ooooor. Awwwww. Errrrrr. Often there is a rising inflection to it, as if they are disapproving of what they see. In short, the television commentators are starting to sound exactly like spectators. This is not what they are paid to do. They should be sent away on courses, presided over by Richie Benaud, the Pope of the pause think say something pertinent school of commentating. The worst offence was right at the end of one of the games. Instead of saying: England have won by however many runs it was, Boycott groaned and moaned and said something highly non-pertinent. Terrible.
The second thing I want to say about India is that I hope England slaughter them in the one-dayers also. England have already won the only T20 game, but then got the worst of a rained off start to the 50 over series. I hope that is no portent and that England come back hard and win the rest of the ODI series 4-0.
I do not say this out of sadism. I say it because cricket needs India to be good, and nothing provokes cricket goodness like a jolly good thrashing. England’s current excellence is directly traceable to earlier humiliations, when the Aussies five-nothing-ed them in 2006-7 or thenabouts, and when the Windies blew them away in Jamaica, just after Andy Flower became the coach. If India win these ODIs, lots of Indians will say: there you are, when we try, we win. Test cricket is boring, who needs it? We are the one day kings and we just proved it. Our team’s okay. It’s test matches that are the problem, blah blah blah. Cricket very much now needs Indians not to be able to say this, but instead to say to themselves: bloody hell, we are rubbish at ... cricket. All of it. We must spend some of our new money by not being so rubbish, across all the formats.
Against Bangalore in Chennai, during the last four overs of their innings in the IPL Final, Chennai go from 177-1 to 205-5:
2 . . . 1 2 | 6 1 . 1lb 2 6 | W W . 1wd 6 1 2 | 1 . . W W 6
During the exact same time period, also in four overs, in the their first innings in the First Test against Sri Lanka in Cardiff, England go from 168-2 to 172-2:
. . 1 . . . | . . 1 . . . | . . . . . . | . . 1 1b . .
Go Cook. Go Trott.
Generic ITV4 Telly Sport Announcer (Matt Smith?), talking about the IPL Final: “We all know what has to happen for this to be a match.”
Oh dear. Gayle gone. Match over? Probably. Bangalore now 16-2. It’s all happening in Chennai, but pretty soon it will stop happening and just dribble away into an inevitable Chennai win. (That’s how Twenty20 can be dull.)
England now 185-2. Two more days to go in Cardiff after this one, and it’ll probably be a draw, what with all the rain there has been. (That’s how test cricket can be dull.)
Yes, time for a link dump, of things I have cluttering up my screen but which I don’t want to just delete and totally forget about.
John Buchanan, on the left here, looks nothing like Christopher Martin-Jenkins, but he does look a lot like Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Fannie Mae Eases Credit To Aid Mortgage Lending. New York Times, September 30th, 1999. Steven A. Holmes is entitled to say: I told you so.
Since it’s Friday: Project Acoustic Kitty: how the CIA failed at using cats as spies. After many confusions, caused by the cat not doing as it was told (and who could possibly have seen that coming?):
The first mission took place in a park near the Soviet embassy, where the cat was tasked with eavesdropping on two men. A CIA reconnaissance van across the street released the operative, who took a few steps towards her foes and was immediately run over by a taxi.
And finally, just when you think you’ve seen and heard everything, Hugh Laurie sings the blues.
There are some interesting titbits in this piece about the IPL cricket tournament, and about how well it is doing as a TV show.
“A sense of meaning has been absent,” Desai said. “It has become repetitive. Sports must produce some sort of meaning finally. Otherwise it is just leather hitting wood.”
But even he agrees advertisers don’t have to worry yet, saying “there is still good reason for [the IPL] to exist” and that it simply needs to transition from being a spectacle into a tournament that reflects “what every team represents and stands for”.
Indeed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thoroughly enjoying what I am seeing of this tournament. But, what I am enjoying - and will remember for a while - is the achievements of individuals, rather than the distinctiveness of and collective success of teams. I do remember great things that have been done by Malinga, Valthaty, Sehwag, Gayle and Ishant Sharma. But if asked which teams those guys play for, I’d have to pause and think about it.
It doesn’t help the way players move around from one year to the next, according to who gets them in an auction. This is the problem with salary caps, and in general with a tournament that is that little bit too centrally controlled, and controlled to contrive equality of outcome. It makes for more evenly matched teams, but there isn’t the romance of “organic” teams, emerging from the wider society of whatever society it is. A similar complaint applies to American football, I think. In general, I am not fond of the word “franchise” in sport.
In this respect the IPL is not a patch on that other Premier League. Yes, in “the” Premier League, there are usually only about half a dozen teams each year with a serious chance of winning, or even of doing well enough to play in Europe the following season. But teams do rise and fall. Unlimited money is not enough to guarantee success.
It must say something that the Olympic Games, the World Cup (as in the soccer World Cup) and the English Premier League, three of the most successful televised sports tournaments on the planet, all have this huge inequality between the best teams and the rest of the teams built into them. Yet people still care about their little country getting their one amazing Silver Medal, or their recently promoted team avoiding relegation the following season with a last gasp win against a mid-table team, or their little country snatching a draw again Germany and scraping, against all odds, into the last sixteen before being thumped by Brazil. Personally, I detest the Olympics and don’t get that excited about soccer or any sort. But I know sporting super-success when I see it. The IPL needs to keep working on its formula.
In defence of the IPL, those other biggies have been going for decades, while the IPL isn’t yet half a decade old. Given time, it too will become “organic”.
Hello, rain stopped play. That’s not supposed to happen in India. An earlier match was totally washed out, on a day when the weather here in London was fabulous.
LATER (Sunday afternoon):
That’s a picture of the Gayle effect. 40 off 3 overs.
Spring is in the air in England, and in India it’s IPL time. And I’m watching what could prove to be the best game so far, between the Chennai Somethings and the Punjab Somethingelses. Punjab opening bowler Praveen Kumar made a sensational start, taking two wickets with the first two balls of the match. But his third over, much later in the innings, just went for 4 6 6 2 . 4, courtesy of MS Dhoni. Chennai, having been 0-2 are now a very strong 181-3, with another over still to go and two powerful hitters, well set, at the crease. Dohni out to the last ball of the innings. 43 off 20 balls. Chennai 188.
If you are a neutral, as I am, what you want in these games is for fortunes to fluctuate, and that innings was very fluctuational. Lets hope the game fluctuationalises some more before it finishes. I’m following it here.
So far, my impression of the tournament is that the bowlers are getting cannier at this type of game, and captaincy and fielding are getting better, which means that totals are getting smaller. 188, by far the biggest innings total this time around, is a very good score.
The player of the tournament so far has been a bowler, the amazing Lasith Malinga, who apparently practises his yorkers by bowling at a pair of boots rather than at an entire batsman, a boot destroyer being what a “yorker” is. Malinga’s arm is not nearly vertical, like a regular bowler, when he bowls. It is nearly horizontal. I can’t explain how Malinga manages to be so accurate with such a low action, but then again, neither can anyone else. His first match analysis was a match crunching 5 for extremely little. In his second game he took only 2 for thirty something, and the armchair occupiers on the telly back here in London were rather sniffy. But Malinga took a wicket with the first ball of that match, a vicious outswinger that sent the off stump cartwheeling but left the leg bail in place (which I love to see), and I believe that set back the batters for their entire innings. First they were cautious because they needed to recover from that early setback, and I believe they later avoided risks to avoid exposing their tail enders to Malinga at the end. Two for thirty didn’t tell the true story of Malinga’s impact on that game, which his side won at a canter.
The Punjab Whatevers have made a great start, so those fluctuations are continuing to be suitably fluctuationalistic.
I have nothing very original to say about the World Cup Final yesterday. (I’m talking about cricket, of course.) I enjoyed it very much, and I particularly admired the batting of Mahela Jayawardene for Sri Lanka and of Mahendra Singh Dhoni for India, as did millions of others.
Yuvraj Singh also batted calmly at the end for India to help Dhoni see them home, and in general Yuvraj had a great series, being named Man of it. I also enjoy Yuvraj’s default facial expression, which appears to be, in about equal measures, a mixture of anger and shock. Strangely, he looks much more good humoured in most of these pictures.
Antoine Clarke has just emailed me to say that his Norlonto Review is back in business, and that he also had things to say about this wondrous sporting event, including this, which is a slightly more acute observation than anything I can manage:
I’m guessing this is the biggest celebration of a sporting win by anyone at anytime in any sport.
I guess that’s right. It certainly was fun listening to excited Indian commentators talking about India winning “the world cup”, without it seeming to cross their minds that there are any other world cups in the world of any significance.
Now, if those Chinese were ever to get seriously interested in cricket ...
It looks as if the England cricket team are finally being put out of their misery. They are now 134-5 against the Windies. Bright start but now they’ve crumpled.
Everyone is talking about how “tired” they are, but it wasn’t just the physical effort. Their problem has been that after winning the Ashes, they were expected to carry right on. Their problem was psychological as well as merely physical. It’s hard to separate the two angles at the best of times. With England now, impossible.
The thing was, while they were winning the Ashes, they were concentrating entirely on winning the Ashes. Then, suddenly, that over-riding aim was snatched away from them. The Ashes were done with. They won them, but that’s not the point. The point is, that was the Big Aim, to the total exclusion of all other aims, however immediately those might follow. That’s the only way to win the Ashes. But when a Big Aim has gone, you need time to turn your mental guns around and aim them at a new Big Aim. And what was the new damn Big Aim, after the Ashes were done with? Was it to win the one-dayers against Australia? Was it to win the World Cup? They were playing (and losing) those damned one-dayers when they should all have been having picnics with their WAGs and thinking about nothing at all, letting their subconscious minds adjust to the next Big Aim.
“Tiring” doesn’t quite capture it. It’s like they were trying to do essential maintenance on a car and drive it at the same time. It’s no wonder the wheels have fallen off.
They are now like people trying to do a full days work on no sleep the night before. Because something similar happens when you’ve done three or four months of maximum effort, and are then expected to make more efforts without even a fortnight off in between.
Their subconsciouses have all decided. The Big Aim is now to get bloody home and have a holiday. Anyone who does well and causes them to have to stay out in India for another fucking week is a fucking traitor. Their subconsciouses have all become a bolshy trade union.
Except Trott’s subconscious, because he doesn’t have one. Trott is a robot.
Some say that, well, these preening bastards are paid top whack to do this kind of thing. The Battle of the Atlantic was far worse, as is working in a call centre. They should just get on with it. Well, they have “just got on with it”, and they have done, if anything, amazingly well. They tied against India, and beat South Africa. Those were the surprises, not the defeats. I wouldn’t put it past them to beat the Windies, even now, through a combination of sheer willpower (willpower being the conscious and brutal self-abuse that consists of over-riding the subsconscious) and the Windies getting a bit windy.
I see that Luke Wright is playing. And Tredwell. And Tremlett. Good calls. They picked the team consisting of the eleven blokes most eager (or least reluctant) to play. It’s all about effort now. Like I say, good calls.
England 243 all out. Better than it looked like being. Luke Wright a useful 44.
Okay I just had lunch with somebody, and I’m back. Windies 140-5. Pollard batting. 150-6. Pollard out! Bloody hell. Looks like England could be there for another week. Big stand. Windies need twenty-one to win with four wickets left, going like a train. England doomed. Wicket. Windies need 21 with three wickets left. Wicket. Wicket. Windies need twenty with only one wicket left. England favourites. S.J. Benn run out 2. England win by 18:
. W . . . . | . . . 1 . . | W . W . 1 . | . . . 1,W
By England’s standards in this tournament that wasn’t even close. Go here for the scorecard.
Six of the Windy wickets taken by bowlers, Bopara and Tredwell, who didn’t play in the Ashes. One run out. And the other three? Swann. He of the dew-induced tantrum. Two wickets in his last over.
England now need help from some of the other results. If they lost that they were definitely out. Now they’ve won, only maybe through.
So, the torture continues. Will they get eliminated? Torture. They get eliminated. Torture. They get through. Torture.
I of course liked this:
I get a real sense of globalisation when I check out the lists of skyscrapers around the world that are under construction.
It seems that not everybody has been told about the Credit Crunch.
Here’s a link showing proposed buildings and those under construction. A quick run through struck me with how few are in Europe (apart from Russia). I’m sure Brian Micklethwait has linked to this site before.
Yes, I must have, because I regularly go there. But never to this particular bit of it, I don’t think. I tried to turn the big picture into a graphic that I could shrink and put here, but failed.
If not, he will now!
Another striking thought is how many are in cities that most sophisticated multiculturally-correct do-gooders of the sort that support green campaigns but drop trash in parks couldn’t place on a map, such as Hyderabad, Incheon, Pusan, Tianjin, and Wuhan, to only name some of the first 25 listed. It reminds me of this list, of Chinese and European cities with over 2.5 million inhabitants.
The East is on the up and up.
If you want further proof of that, in Mumbai, there’s this guy who lives in his own billion dollar tower. And yes the b at the start of “billion” is not a bisprint, like that was. Bigger and closer-up picture here. Picture showing surroundings, and article, here.