Saturday, April 19, 2008

on the indian premier league

I am not a cricket enthusiast and I have learnt to be grossly outnumbered in this. So I give in and watch the game when everyone around me is watching cricket or when something as interesting as the Indian Premier League is on. So here is an outsider's perspective on this recent phenomena in India - and outsiders to cricket in India are difficult to find.

Cricket aside, the IPL appears to be an interesting experiment. It promises to bring out new team dynamics as teams are multi-national. This will also be apparent when the same players play against each other in the international matches - only, how?

Yesterday I had a tough time trying to figure out which team to root for - Calcutta or Bangalore. I have grown up in one, and made the other my adopted home for a long time now. But it wasn't so difficult making a choice in the 2nd innings. Why was the Bangalore team playing this like a test match? And the funny (and ironic) part was the Vijay Mallya-starring advertisement that kept cropping in the middle of Bangalore getting routed jingling "jeetenge hum shaan se" (we will win gloriously)!

But this seems to be a larger problem. In international matches there is (usually) no question of forming loyalties and cheering for your home team. Here, it is difficult. States or cities don't really have a strong enough identity. I don't think many Indians can clap when Sachin gets out regardless of which team he is on. This might make it difficult to get people to stick to watching the matches with enough fervor.

The other anomaly I found was in the team context. Cricket is a game for the masses in India. It is almost like a religion here. Names like Knight Riders will certainly not be appreciated - they sound too much like out of a western comic book. I don't even know what context the team names, or their jingles, have. Royal Challenge (the Bangalore team name) is a Mallya's United Breweries brand. Other than that, they've just tried to blindly imitate the American league sports team names. What sense would Punjab Kings and Chennai Super Kings make to a majority of the cricket watchers? And even the jingles that the teams have adopted are a little outlandish, perhaps only appreciated by small, fragmented sections. To make my point, the Delhi Daredevils were showing videos from night clubs with loud thumping music in the background.

The Twenty-20 format is extremely skewed in favour of batsman. Cricket has become a game of just swinging your bat as hard as possible. No, really. With 10 wickets in hand for a span of 20 overs, a batsman is not obliged to stay on for more than 2 overs. They should seriously consider reducing the number of available wickets to 4 or 5.

So, in one stroke, the IPL has eliminated the loyalty angle, made the context farther removed for most people, and has taken the sport out of the game. Is this the beginning of the end?

But then, as has been very famously said: "The market for something to believe in is infinite".

downloading youtube videos

I've always been on the lookout of a good way to download YouTube videos and get them on my iPod (to avoid unnecessary computer time). Most of the ones I've come across so far either provide bad quality video or are too cumbersome or both.

Finally here is a good and easy way to get the videos directly as .mp4 files:

Sunday, April 6, 2008

a new food chain

What with Twitter and FriendFeed and all the blogging and facebook-ing and orkut-ing, we are learning to lead public lives. I doubt any of us would really mind the attention and the paparazzi if we were to ever become celebrities. We like to upload our photos on Flickr and make them accessible to all and we like tag them and make them organizable by anyone's computers. That's not all - we like to thrust these photos into the faces of everyone we have ever been acquainted with (or sometimes not even that) through Mini-feeds and FriendFeeds and a dozen other mutli-million dollar company evaluations being sold to VCs right now.

Flickr is just a case in point. Would you like to know what my favourite videos on YouTube are? What I had for dinner yesterday? What I am doing "right now"? Which parties I am attending this month? Who are my friends? What chances I have of becoming a millionaire? What my personality type is? What I read and like? What my friends think of me?

Perhaps we are an attention starved generation.

And we like to hold conversations in public.

Tastes in books, music or movies suddenly seem inadequate information about a person. And how well you know someone depends not on how much time you spend with them, but on how much time you spend trawling the web. Sometimes it can be quite a conversation killer. Perhaps catching up with friends will become scheduling time on each other's calendars to read each other blogs or mini-feeds. "Google me up, next time you're in town!".

But for all my satire, I do think it is a great and powerful thing.
I am on FriendFeed here (feed). It has a lot many things I want to share on the web. But it can be an information overload of sorts; I wish I could customize what I read from the people I have subscribed to. And then there is a little green box to the left (on this blog) that has some of the articles I have liked from my RSS subscriptions (feed).

Someday I think my feed reader will become more valuable to me than my email mailbox.

p.s.: If you are new to RSS/Atom feeds or feed-readers, go here and here.