Thursday, August 10, 2017

Looking back at 2016 Rio Summer Olympics


Its one year since 2016 Rio Summer Olympics and a good time to post a review of sorts. Just to see what it was, and where we are going ? (Also a good excuse to hide my procrastination, because of which this lay in drafts for so long).

Long post alert. Until I figure out how to add intra-post links, here are the sections to follow:
  • America
  • Other heroes
  • India
  • India in Para Olympics
  •  Media
  • For 2020
  • Lessons Learned

I watched the coverage on NBC, and forced my kids to stay glued through the swim wars; not even blinking was allowed. Watching every night was inspirational and later had to compare records offline, in much detail. Too many thoughts floated on my mind.

Inevitably, I was interested in athletes from India, US and then a couple countries where some of my fav people live. In most of the sports, there was no competition among these, so it was easy to root for them. Plus winning is not everything. Records and performance matter as much.

AMERICA


It was exciting to watch the American swimmers and gymnasts go for the Gold each time.

NBC focused their telecast on American players. Camera kept its eye on the American while they prepared mentally before they began, their limelight minutes and then their after-reactions. And they did not disappoint. All of them showed thrilling performances.

Swim and Gymnastics telecast dominated the nighttime TV slot. And what a performance ! Katie Ledecky and Biles are our newest favorites.


Sarah Robles won Bronze for USA in weightlifting. She is the first athlete from the United States to win a medal in Olympic weightlifting since the 2000 Summer Olympics. I follow her on Instagram. She is an inspiration for many reasons.


Other heroes


41-year-old gymnast Oksana Chusovitina is such an incredible athlete. She continues to be a competitive gymnast at age 40 and as a mother - I don't think she has a peer in that way. In Olympics she has participated from 1990 to 2016 Olympics and represented 3 countries along the way. Read her Wiki page for the exciting story.
 
And Joseph Schooling from Singapore, who won Gold - the very first for Singapore. And beat his hero Phelps in 100 metres butterfly

INDIA


Felt extremely proud of India - so many athletes, in so many sports, shining bright.

Some finishing 4th or missing medals narrowly by few points.

Abhinav Bhindra missed the Bronze by 0.1 point. He later went on work on taskforce panel for 2020.


Dipa Karmakar's medal was a narrow miss. We watched the finals telecast and she is the master of that vault, that is unmistakable.It was heartbreaking when someone edged her out of the Top 3 and pushed her to 4th position.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/sahilrizwan/dipa-is-a-female-version-of-a-hustla?utm_term=.cuj32oZ7M#.feLWAodLK



Lalita Babar became the first ever Indian since PT Usha in 1984 to qualify for the final round of any track and field event at the Olympic Games. She finished an impressive 10th.
https://www.sportskeeda.com/athletics/rio-olympics-2016-athletics-ruth-jebet-wins-gold-women-3000m-steeplechase-final-india-lalita-babar-finishes-10th

Marathon runners O. P. Jaisha and Kavita Raut finished at 2:47:19 & 2:59:29. For me, the unqualified runner, these are super impressive timings.
https://www.sportskeeda.com/athletics/rio-olympics-2016-athletics-op-jaisha-kavita-raut-put-up-dismal-show-womens-marathon-event

Dhutee Chand fought many challenges to be here and she ran like a champ. I saw her 100m sprint on TV.


Indian men's hockey team out of Rio Olympics 2016 after loss to Belgium in quarter-final. It was heart-breaking.

Sania Mirza


And finally our fantastic medalists.

PV Sindhu wining Silver in Badminton in finals versus Spain's Calorina Marin. Here is the video.


India's Sakshi Malik celebrating here win against Kyrgyzstan's Aisuluu Tynybekova in the women's 58kg freestyle bronze

Even if medals tally was less this year, compared to London Olymics 2012, I am impressed by the improved performances of the variety of athletes.

India in Para Olympics


Para Olympics followed immediately after. And Wow, how India performed !

I followed it mainly on ParaOlympics India FB page and Go Sports Deepthi Bopaiah's Twitter account. Commendable coverage.

Each of the medalist gave thriller show. Need to share their videos for proof of super-heroes.

Gold medal for Mariyappan Thangavelu in Men's High Jump. I saw his video on Twitter.




2 times Gold medalist Devendra Jhajharia won Gold for Men's Javelin Throw.


Silver medal Deepa Malik for Women's Shot Put.



Bronze medal for Varun Singh Bhati in Men's High Jump.


MEDIA

 

Go Sports did some great coverage from India pov. I followed them on Twitter..

These Facebook pages have some relentless intensive sports coverage, through the Olympics and after.
Sports Keeda coverage was noteworthy.

For 2020

 

Every media organization woke up to the athletes during these few weeks and coverage fizzled off after the closing ceremony. There have been numerous recommendations. Hence its heartening to know that some governing body will work on taking steps towards 2020.

India Olympics Taskforce will include Bhindra and Gopichand.

Lessons learned 

 

Or rather comparisons to point out what India lacks in terms of preparation ?

Comparing Indian infrastructure vs USA existing sports infrastructure. There are 100s of gymnast schools that have sprouted in each school district in US. Similar number of swim pools with lessons. But so there are in Indian cities and towns. There are enough stadiums and open grounds in cities, just not in population dense cities. So the difference lies not in infrastructure, but in Resources. Human resources as in parents, sport coaches, sports academies, advertisers.

In USA, gymnastics & swim pools are everywhere. I have seen those 100s of shivering 7-10 years in swim pool, every week. Obviously some of the kids are the cream rising up, from the innumerable kids who have indulged in this sport. Yet everyone is the winner - some of Olympic and other medals, others of good health, healthy pursuits and connections.

Sports medicine, nutrition & sports psychology. Not a new field in India. But it needs more new knowledge and development so India can reap the benefits. Needs to be taken more seriously.

Sports Statistics as a field needs much support in terms of tools for data storage and media to share. There is a large scope for growth here. For example, none of the road races in India, showcase all runner results. Only the select top few participants, maybe a few division breakdown. Maybe the elite times are captured and shared. But not the amateurs who follow later. For comparison, check out the road race results on MTEC results. You can look up by name, age & gender divisions, sort them in any way. Every finisher can compare her own performances with others and make notes. Its useful for any newbie, when assessing a race before deciding to sign up. She can check how many finish at her times, to decide if she will be lonely.

Fashion designers had put in immense production value on creating the gymnast suits and swimsuits. Makeup was A-grade. Explicit shout-out because I know of some, who feel these 2 departments are not worthy of attention and only thing that matters is actual gymnasts. This is called attention to detail.

TV telecast featured parent reactions for each of the athlete while they performed.Ads used parents or individual back-stories. Just a brief reminder of all the childhood years spent by kids shivering, burning, learning their sport, and their parents who facilitated the whole thing. How very connected parents are to everything their athlete kid is doing, every second of that brief performance.

It helps to glamorize all athletes. Like USA media does for all sports. Like Indian media does for Cricketers. The lame headlines used in Indian media sometimes! Can they come up with interesting things to report ? Can't they create interesting things ? Like talk about their coach, their work, strategies, school. Glamorize the players, something like this for Hockey and Dipa. Too much work maybe. Bulk of the article headlines are judgmental. I mean how else is a young adult athlete going to behave or say ? It's still at the envious neighborhood gossip level - yeh aaj kal ke bache, kuch nahi aata inko. Yet my cynical mind says, even negative coverage is good news and will bring in some needed publicity.

And finally, the goof-ups and high handedness and misappropriations of Sports officials. I can't even.
O P Jaisha raised the dismissal water stop and fuel facilities during the Marathon. That s just one of the many.I have my hopes on the 2020 taskforce to reduce this atleast to an extent.

Ciao


Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among stars !

Until 2020 Tokyo !

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Bhaag Hero Bhaag

Running has been a part of the Indian movies cardio-dance sequences.
Hero-Heroine running towards each-other from the 2 sides of the wide-screen. Or running around the trees.Or slow-mo running for Hero entry scene.

But thinking about some realistic running, I feel there is no better runner than Anil Kapoor.
My favorite Mr Fittest.
This is him running in the movie Saaheb. The most real jog ever seen in a movie.
Then so was his sprinting in Tezaab. And many others.
I think there is a gif of him running in Badhaai Ho Badhaai. Very unrealistic speed for someone in bulky prosthetic. Got to look for it.

Anil Kapoor in Saaheb.


And here are a few instances of slow-mo glamorous running. I heard there was a superstition for a long time, that any movie featuring SRK running, was a sure-shot hit-blockbuster. Hence many showcase this.

SRK in K3G

SRK in K3G

The one in KKHH song is done right. The music tempo and running speeds match perfectly well.


SRK running in Kuch Kuch Hota Hain



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Jagga Jasoos

I am so glad I saw Jagga Jasoos in theatre. I had to rush in the 2nd weekend, coz I was not sure it would last another week. Ekdum 1st class movie. Am so glad it was made and released.

The doomsayers have been predicting, that the long-delayed movie won't last. Now I hear, it took 3 years of production and release. Arre any online project also takes 3 years to implement. Movie are large physical efforts. Especially movies of this scope. But we can't make out that from the movie, cause lead roles appearance remain consistent in the movie. Thanks to workout lifestyle. And looking at such a complex movie from making point-of-view, I can imagine why production took so much time ?



First thing I liked was the latest trailer. The adventure scenes were enough for me to decide on theater viewing. I needn't wait for reviews to decide on that. And because I love Ranbir and Katrina individually and definitely as RanKat.

Despite rumors, I did not see much similarity with Tintin (and I am a qualified Tintin fan-expert). The village mystery, circus, military outpost, train and plane sequences are staple for any adventure movie. That's what we go to see. Kids are still talking about Fire, Knife-throwing, Eggs and Clock-tower mystery. Makers must have done something good if kids are impressed. And I am thankful movie treated death causally. People were getting killed in shootouts but no one lingered on it, so it has escaped notice. Except that I bring it up.



There are so many artistic elements. So much work has happened. And not just good prod design or set. Just crafting of each of the scene and its execution. JJ world was definitely an extension of Barfi world. Same hilly woodsy town in the first half for Manipur. Same serenity and soft visual tones. Visually all scene are so well composed. Activities which can be simple actions, are done in interesting way, so mind never wanders.

Special callout to using technology - CGI (when older Ranbir visits the house playing his childhood memory in Phir Wohi song) and oil painting matte finish for clock tower mystery. They used retro props for nostalgia - dial phones (no cell phones at all), old plane and train. So time period wise this movie is just a happy place of your pleasant memories. Adventure is covered in the second half which completely moves to Africa/Morocco, with a stopover first at Kolkata. Director Anurag Basu sneaked in a reference to Bhilai, Chattisgarh as well, a town he grew up in.

Using a fairly recent historic event (90s) as backdrop was brilliant. Loved it how they incorporated multiple languages in the movie - Ranbir speaking Manipuri, Katrina singing in African.

The dominating thing in the movie is music of course. Technically there are like 4-5 songs. But the rest of the dialogues are all sing-song rhymes. All of it. And it was good too. All except the children backup singing and dancing for Sutradhar - that cheery overload was irritating. End movie credits for music ran for like half the time. Obviously so many were involved in the music. Shillong & Africa choir among others.


Only after the movie release, T-Series has blessed us with Audio jukebox. Earlier it was difficult to find a decent video song too. Except Galti se mistake and Ullule.  Tushar Joshi is lovely in Musafir, and gives just a hint of Shaan in his voice. Kids have been giggling non-stop at Galti-Se-Mistake dance steps. I love it for the Bihu beats & instruments. And the modern dance in Ullu Ka Patta. Group singing/chanting Khaana Khaake is so catchy; its the new ear-worm. Now waiting for more videos after I overheard kids singing Chocalaty Chunnu. There are no lyrics yet too for these other songs.

Due to all the singing, and I only realized it much later, I did miss Ranbir's voice. An angry tantrum is his signature and this one had it, but without his rant. Missed that. It was like English-Vinglish without Sridevi dance.

I know my review is not going to help anyone decide on whether to watch this movie. But I loved the movie and again, am glad it was made. More so as it's an Indian movie with catchy beautiful Hindi songs, using a fairly recent historic event as backdrop for the overall mystery and traveling through interesting locations. I could use this movie, to showcase the good part of Indian movies to my kids.

Update 7/28:

So Thrilled ! Yesterday I tweeted the link to this review, and Director Anurag Basu liked that tweet !!!!!!! Its like receiving a reply to fan mail #OldWorld. But totally unexpected !!!

 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Paddy Harvest

My Aunt shared these photos in our Udupi family Whatsapp group. Totally stumped me with nostalgia. I have seen all of these activities in my Ajja-Ajji's house. All during my school time summer vacations.


Not my Ajja's actual house, but it had similar architecture.
I knew little then, about these activities. I will blame my Mom of course, cause she didn't want us kids lolling in the hay, and then be itchy all day and scratch our skin off.

But these farming activities were the taken-for-granted things for us, and ever the constant of life. And hence, now it pinches me when I look at the pics. Who knows if they continue doing this ? Will I get to see them again ?

Best monsoon means easier tilling of the slushy fields.


Planting paddy saplings.



After harvest, paddy is thrashed to separate the husk and rice in a pile.


These activities take up all the verandah and surrounding spaces.

Rice/paddy is then packed in rolled balls. I need pics of those.

  

Mangalore cucumber, harvested and lined on the ceiling, hanging on strips of coconut leaves.


All pictures from the internet; no credit to me or anyone I know. At least some of them have watermarks.  Of course I didn't have any digital camera when I have seen these activities. And now I don't have any opportunity to see them. Hence, God bless those admins of FB pages (BeautyOfTulunad) dolling out full-on nostalgia.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Starter Pack for Trail Wanderlust

When your daily sights are cars, architectural marvels and kitchen chores.
When you longing look, at the trees lining your daily commute.
That's when it's time to hit the trails.
Run or hike or walk in there and be reinvigorated back for life.

If that's not an option. If TV and books is still you go-to. Then feast on the below and make do till the next chance.

Madhumati

Images of the mist-laden jungles, trails, brooks and waterfalls in song Aaja re Pardeshi.
And there is more in the rest of the movie.




Riki Tiki Tavi by Rudyard Kipling

One of the classics which was a must-read for a few school years.
Image may contain: 1 person
And the recent Jungle Book movie, immersed in deep jungle images only.

For added nostalgia, there is the TV animation show, which played the Hindi-dubbed version in the late 90s. Apart from the Anime drawings, it's most remembered for "Chaddi pehenke phool khila hai" credits song - Gulzar's quirky lyrics on Vishal Bharadwaj's music, Mowgli's voice and Nana Patekar as Sher Khan.


Jim Corbertt

His books are the real thing. His life was in those jungles in Northern India. Each story in every book of his is a total trip through every nook & gnarled root of some jungle. His devotion to everything jungle is the core of who he is. Oxford publication print copies are awesome quality. Special mention for the lovely black and white illustrations inside.



Phantom comics

At one point I was suffering from an acute bout of Phantom nostalgia. I was longing for the yellowing crumbling pages on which Diamond comics printed Mandrake and Phantom. I am managing with this library copy of 1920s printed on supreme quality paper and hardcover.
Mandrake was interesting for the magic tricks he performed while saving others. And Phantom universe was rich with his bravery, and the ensemble in his stories. Mainly his location were those thick jungles of Ivory Coast, along with beaches and some quick trips to NYC.

 

 

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I read it in 2015 and wrote about it. It is an account of her through-hike of PCT, mixed with her past in Minnie. Reading through it, is like being out there in the jungle hiking too.


Hunger Games

First one specifically. Every time Katniss escapes to the woods, its such a relief to us reader too. And then when she faces the same jungles in the Games, scary as it is, we know she will survive it.



Additonal readings / views:

Monsoon in India - 30 drool-worthy photos by Blogger Neelima Vallangi

Gaya Days in Sanctuary Asia magazine.
"Sanctuary’s Lifetime Service Award winner of 2016, S.E.H. Kazmi is synonymous with Jharkhand’s Palamau Tiger Reserve. However, in the early days of his career, he served in the Gautam Buddha Wildlife Sanctuary, a little-known wildlife sanctuary now split between Bihar and Jharkhand. Here, he narrates charming and thrilling anecdotes from those initial years in Chotanagpur's dense forests."


Friday, June 30, 2017

Devaluing Math & Science

I have to begin with sharing Vinod Khosla's medium post.

Is majoring in liberal arts a mistake for students?

Critical Thinking and the Scientific Process First — Humanities Later

So happy this is being spoken about now. Till middle-class parents kept saying this to their kids, it was uncool. I hope more cool folks spell it out too.

There is an India version and simplistically put, yet highly precise, on Live Mint.

Literature graduates aren’t the answer to India’s job woes

There is an urgent need for a revamp of the education system to provide holistic learning which includes crucial skills that allow a person to earn a reasonable livelihood

There is this thing that has creeped in wildly into popular culture. That Math Trigonometry, Science - Bad bad; Humanities - goody good. It's become the lazy go-to point to create sympathy. Or to make a point.

In a lot of fiction or near fiction writing, it is a general lazy-trend to "imply" that Math-Science is forced by parents on unwilling high-schoolers while humanities is an loved and the only preferred option by kids.

For example, this one.
17 Kaafi Useless Things All Indians Were Taught In School That We've Never Needed As Adults
How is any of these useless? Is twitter & argumentative training the only thing needed ?
Why this intense effort to devalue Math & science and only promote Humanities and Performance Arts ? How did they come up with a list like this ? How did they expect anyone who went to school in 90s to agree with them ? Have they not seen the large nostalgia packages, specifically 90s kids ones ?

There is beauty in life, in grown-up adult life thanks to Math and Physics as well as Geography and History. Knowledge of History gives you enough fodder for gossip. And that Geography gives you the wanderlust, enough to make you a camera yielding globe-trotter, even while whirling around sometime mundane 8-5 day job.

Negating a child's achievement of 50% or 98.8% because the neighbors kid got 99.2% - now that is deplorable horrible parental behavior. And that is a totally different thing. I mean if not anything else, but just the role models of internet should be enough to show that the nerds rule the world, not sports jocks (to use 2 terms, I have no idea what they actually mean in life). Sheer diversity in Science and Technology fields, along with well-paying career path in those, are alone to lure kids in STEM path.

But the same whisper campaign continues against corporate jobs. Drudgery, non-challenging 8-5 desk jobs. Oh the disdain, at a well-paying job which keeps your personal life in order. This kind of motif has taken on the Gemino Curse or Doubling charm and multiplied throughout MSM generated opinion articles.

I have lost a friend when I shot back in rant, when he tried to shame me, for not working on a book or film-making. Publishing a book or making a short, feature or commercial film is a career boast, when your profession is politician speech writer, or award function script writer or astro-science technology news-writer, basically part of the writing or film-making world. If not, then it makes makes no sense to dedicate a huge portion of your day away, from your priorities, towards some kind of day-dream when no specific real-life plan in place to jump orbits.

I can't even begin to list, how many kids I have met, who have been exceptional in their STEM fields and yet faced self-doubt because it's more glamorous to write a book or make a movie. If anything, this is the time when you can do both. It is so possible to come back from office and indulge in activities that bring in joy. Take classes or be active in leagues in art, cricket, sports, fitness, writing. There are just way too many forums to compare notes, and then to showcase your output.

Unless the regret is not being part of the industry, living a life of 24/7 thinking, talking, meeting people absorbed in that world. I agree if the longing is for that, then the secure, methodical, "well-settled" life brought by a corporate job is not the same.

A huge amount of Political science material and generic literature have been generated by folks, who went through the technical stream. Loads of runners, musicians, artists all hold a corporate day job thanks to their technical studies. It keeps them from being starving moody artists.
How can dedicating a life to hedonism be glorious ? Its only self-destruction.  Actually a lot of literature has been created by those living a mundane life. Technical studies are not a lost opportunity here. Instead it builds the very strengths these creators have - discipline, networking, technology tools.

To quote Stephen King (from this panel in Zen Pencils), "Life isn't a support system for art. Its the other way round."

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Bus stops - Dwitiya - The Americas

Minnesota bus-stop photo, in the first post Bus Stops Bus Goes, grew insane, so here comes the sequel post.

 Minneapolis

Metro transit in Minnesota connects all suburbs to downtown and few other main places. It goes via the expressways and once in a town, it stops every 2 blocks. Then these are connecting stations in major malls.


Bus-stops in quint suburbs are amusingly simple but just as efficient. First reaction is, "Is this it ?" Disbelief, "Will the bus really stop here ?"




I have seen butterflies at a neighborhood Bus Stop. Which is very impossible at a Bangalore Bus-stop given the crowds, and noisy vehicle around. But that did happen at a Minnesota bus-stop - in Spring yes. (Need a special reminder as Minnesota is synonymous with snow).



In Office districts, there are stops where multiple numbers buses will stop, every 2 blocks.



And then there are some with shelters.


Bus stops at shopping malls, have multiple shelters for buses spreading in different direction and connecting other malls.




Speaking of snow,  Metro buses are just as functional in Winters. A sudden snowstorm before the rush hour, will give no time for cleaning up the roads and only that can delay the bus arrival timing.  Otherwise its business-as-usual in winter.


Along with Metro Transit, there are few other private service from suburbs to downtown. Some fancy with Wifi for those who want to start work before reaching office.

Metro monorail connecting Downtown, Mall of America, Airport and those in between. Great way to beat the parking hassles in those areas. Trust me, I agree now after facing 45 minute wait in 1 mile to VMAC parking near Minnehaha Falls. I kept looking longingly at this monorail while locked in my car waiting for the queue to crawl forward. I made it to the race startline with few minutes to spare.


Toronto

Here is the sole surviving photo of my 2005 trip to Toronto. I was so impressed by my first visit trip in a non-Indian subway, I wrote an entire post about it. but alas without pics. Clicking every single thing was not as epidemic in 2005.