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IPL, YouTube, and Cricket in UK

By on Apr 24, 2010 in On A Whim | 4 comments

So, the Indian Premier League 2010 extravaganza is finally coming to an end tomorrow. Nothing really causes as much upheaval among the masses in India as cricket does. This year, it has resulted in a minister in the Indian government having to resign, income tax raids, and the head honcho of the IPL potentially getting sacked too. Over the past weeks, the amount of space Indian media devoted to this event has been staggering – as always. Let’s take a few steps back, for the sake of my UK visitors. IPL is a Twenty20 cricket tournament held annually in India, run somewhat along the lines of EPL. Privately-owned teams consisting of players from most of the cricket playing nations are signed on to these teams and knockout type sporting event proceeds. Why do I bother to explain this? Because I’ve realized in my stay here that nobody really gives a shit about cricket in UK. You see, cricket in UK is a bit like hockey in India, i.e., nobody really gives a shit because everyone is busy following a more popular sport (cricket in India, football in UK.) Here’s the typical demographic of sports fans in UK: Posh chaps, Barmy Army members, and Indians follow/play cricket. Cricket fans in UK are, as a rule, fucking annoying. Consider, for instance, this chap who write in The Stag on our university’s cricket team’s ‘achievements’. This involved crashing out in the first stage of a tournament – and still having the balls to write an annoying article where he changed the nicknames of his players every. fucking. time. I was so fucking annoyed copy-editing this article that if I ever meet this guy, I’ll beat him to death with a spoon. Everybody follows soccer football. Goes without saying. Hooligans who can afford to buy match tickets are often posh chavs. Any visitor of YouTube would at least heard of IPL though, thanks to the loud flashing ads. If you’ve been unlucky enough you’d even have been bombarded with this video-as-an-ad the moment you opened YouTube’s frontpage. Take a moment to see this video I’m talking about. Jai Ho is a song that has captured a niche similar to that of All The Young Dudes in semi-urban Hollywood movie trailers. You know, ever have those days when you really wanted to make an ad that said ‘India’ but couldn’t figure out what to put as the soundtrack? Why, just use Jai Ho! Also, going by this video, IPL is the bastard child of a one-stand between cricket and dance reality shows. I’m not a follower of cricket. Never bothered that much about IPL when I was in India. However, when you’re so many miles/mules away from home, nostalgia draws you towards clinging on to whatever you can get. Such as (sometimes) watching IPL matches being live streamed on YouTube. For most normal videos, YouTube automatically adjusts video quality according to connection speed. Naturally, having oodles of bandwidth here I expected to get a high quality stream. What do I actually get? A rectangular box filled with pixellated mess whenever any sort of action is happening on-screen. You can vaguely make out that a colourful blob is moving from one end of the screen to another, but precisely what’s happening is unclear. High speed broadband isn’t that common in India, so a lower quality stream for slower connections is fine, but if you want to attract viewers overseas you need a decent, viewable broadcast! YouTube has a lot to prove, since this is the first time it’s live streaming any sporting event – that too with an event on the scale of IPL (duration, money involved, audience, et al). You’d think that with so much riding on this, YouTube would hire competent editors to see the webcast goes smoothly. Unfortunately, ‘competent editors’ is one of other items on their budget that faced cutbacks. I mean, look at the video below. What they’ve done is they’ve taken standard 4:3 aspect ratio video and squashed it into a widescreen 16:9 format. Listen r-tards, squashing the bejaysus out of a (pixellated) 4:3 video into widescreen doesn’t automatically make it better quality. Nobody at YouTube HQ seems to’ve bothered to notice and rectify this either. So far, watching IPL on YouTube has been like watching six hours of a Pac-Man game video interspersed with obnoxious ads. Maybe switching the camera angle will help? I thought that this would show the same match from a different angle – that would indeed be neat, but instead it turns out to be a ‘fun feed’. Blinking arrows on the streaming page exhort you to view this ‘fun feed’. Intrigued, I clicked on a ‘fun feed’ video. This is so much phun. You have to see this video! From what I gather, these ‘fun feed’ videos are supposed to be a recap of ‘fun’ moments from a particular cricket match. Going through some of the videos at random, I’d say that if these are the best moments of the match, then I feel sorry for the viewers. What you get is a poor quality video: poor quality because it mostly consists crowds not doing the Mexican wave (or pretty much anything); poor quality in the technical sense because you can ratchet it all the way up to 720p HD on and still get the same blurry pixellated mess that you get at...

The Mott The Hoople monopoly

By on Apr 5, 2010 in Reviews | 3 comments

I went back to the ‘flea pit’ at the start of this week to watch Shutter Island. I have resigned by now to the fact that there won’t be an intermission, so grudgingly stock up on snacks and drinks accordingly. To prepare fully, I’ve even bookmarked runpee.com on my cellphone. (It tells you the most ‘optimum moments’ to run and pee during a film, in case nature calls. Gives you a summary of what you’ll miss at that point.) Odeon has recently started offering candy floss too, and it reminded me of childhood days. It all began with the customary advertisement overload of course. This Nissan ‘giant paintball’ commercial stood out from the rest. Not as good as this other commercial from Nissan, which might possibly be the best car commercial ever. ;) That was followed by trailers for upcoming films. I had a moment of enlightenment during that. You know how James Brown‘s I Feel Good has to be used in a montage sequence in any movie billed as a family movie? When the trailer for Cemetery Junction was shown, I couldn’t help but notice how Mott The Hoople‘s All The Young Dudes is almost always used in any movie trailer that is a) set in rural/semi-suburban areas b) quite probably an indie movie c) ultimately, has a feel-good plot. Do moviemakers get a discount coupon if they agree to use the same song for trailers multiple times? Gritty reboots seem to be the order of the day. Who knew that a bumbling fool à la Robin Hood would get a gritty reboot too, with hotheaded Russell Crowe portraying the lead? I mean, come on. This feels more like Gladiator (and the story too) rather than a legend Mel Brooks could have even thought of lampooning. The movie will be exciting though – with Ridley Scott directing! One of my greatest dreads when I go to the cinema is encountering tall people. I hate having to spend close to two hours craning my neck to see past the tall dude in the seat in front of me. Another of my greatest dreads is that people in neighbouring seats will be of the variety which can’t stop talking. The gods were particularly cruel to me that, for I had a tall bloke with spiky hair blocking my vision. What took the biscuit as far as annoying neighbours go was an annoying group that was sitting a few seats away. There was one guy in this group who was translating the whole frikkin’ movie from English to Arabic (or some similar language), loudly at that. Really, they should’ve stayed at home and caught the DVD (with Arabic subtitles) when it was released. My rating of Shutter Island: 8.5 / 10 Directed by: Martin Scorsese Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer Studio: Paramount Pictures Reviews of Shutter Island have universally been saying that while it’s a good movie, it’s not a great movie – coming from Martin Scorsese. This ‘lazy’ story is being attributed to Martin Scorsese. While agree with the diagnosis, I don’t agree with the verdict that it makes the movie worse. Why does every suspense need to be in-your-face with tightly shot action sequences? Shutter Island works and needs that slow pacing because it’s a psychological thriller. After watching the movie, I read Dennis Lehane’s novel version on which the movie is based. Turns out that the movie is an exact reproduction of the novel – down to every line of dialogue. Some changes have been made in the [spoiler] hallucinations that Leonardo DiCaprio has, but apart from that it sticks faithfully to its source material. In that situation, it’s a case of you like the plot – or you don’t. Nothing to do with how Martin Scorsese has done or not. And boy what a psychological thriller it is! Shutter Island may not reach the iconic levels that Fight Club did, but if you enjoyed watching Fight Club, you’ll surely find this a good movie too. Related articles by Zemanta Pickles at the picture show? (cnn.com) The Latest Robin Hood Trailer: No Longer Just Gladiator II! (nymag.com) Shutter Island Review...

raraahahahromaromamagagaoohlala

By on Apr 2, 2010 in Personal | 14 comments

Visitors who came to my blog yesterday would’ve, quite unexpectedly, found themselves being redirected to RA RA AH AH AH ROMA ROMA MA GAGA OOH LA LA. Did elicit a few “Yo maan yor blog bin hacked lol” emails / messages being sent to me, but I assure everyone that no personal details would’ve been stolen as it was merely a spur-of-the-moment idea of a joke. It sounded a lot more hilarious when I staggered home at 6am. The first of April. Ah, that day. The day this blog shifted to WordPress. The MAD TV releases prank-ing videos for. The day technology companies around the world vie to make the best jokes. Sources assure me though that Photoshop CS5’s content-aware fill feature is not an April Fools’ joke intended to ‘content-aware fill’ your homework for you. (If it could do that, I’d buy it the day it was released.) It’s also the day when many of you who’ve applied for US colleges and universities would get your application decisions. Much joy and exasperation will follow, and I wish all of you best of luck. Rejection letters seem doubly bitter when served on this day. Whichever way your decisions swing remember this – the best few years of your life are soon to follow. :) So, Easter break has started at my university. When I expand on this definition and tell you that ‘Easter’ break is a whole goddamn month long, you’ll wonder whether the definition of the holiday has been redefined here. Last heard nobody’s complaining though. This break is also meant for students to revise for the exams…which come six weeks or so later. We also have an electronics design project to work on, where we have to build a specified device from scratch. Prior to the Easter break, I also got a pleasant surprise in that I was one of the students who got the departmental international student scholarship. UK universities, being government-run and funded institutes (UK residents essentially don’t pay upfront; they pay it back after they graduate), don’t offer much support to international students but as a gesture it’s nice. I quite fancy travelling a bit during this break but will see how everything works out. For one, I’m working at SCEPTrE on a week-long national education conference. I wonder how much time I’ll have left for anything beyond within-borders travelling, given that I must revise my academic stuff and work on my project too. I’ve a whole pile of books ordered from Amazon that I need to devote my attention too too, and I’ve slowly started attacking that pile over the past few days. Expect some book reviews. Those heading off to US institutes (well, even UK too) should definitely buy The CollegeHumor Guide To College – you will find it full of utterly hilarious and ultimately useless take on college/university life. ;) I’m addicted to strudel too now. And I’m listening to these songs on repeat currently: Are You Gonna Be My Girl by Jet; Supermassive Black Hole (cover) by Tiffany Page; Team Drama by The Automatic. Also, I never noticed until now that that Moldy Peaches song mentions the Konami Code. Related articles by Zemanta If Online April Fools Pranks Had Balls (cracked.com) April Fools 2010: The Definitive List (TechCrunch)...

“What’s Wikipedia?”

By on Feb 28, 2010 in Food For Thought, Personal | 12 comments

Do you ever get that feeling when you’re walking to someplace or working on something, when you’re hit by a sudden feeling of nausea? It happened to me yesterday when I was at the Tesco supermarket. I suddenly felt listless and quite nauseated. Maybe it was due to the fact that I was wheeling my shopping cart round and round in circles. I have no idea why I was doing that. Maybe it was because I hadn’t had any breakfast. Anyway, I felt that I was this close to puking. I quickly checked out with whatever I had picked up so far. As soon as I stepped out, a massive blast of fresh air hit me and I felt so much better instantly. That’s when I ‘saw’ for the first time how green this town is. Whether it’s on campus or other parts in town, you’ll find large lush green fields, or at the very least many trees dotting every road. I did notice this fact when I came here, but for the first time the greenery all around me struck me as I stood there drinking it all in. Delhi is a concrete jungle. Even the few trees you have left will be covered with soot from the thousands of vehicles driving past them. I was quite fortunate in that the place where my home is does have more than average green cover. I miss being in a hectic city where people are always zipping from one place to another, cocooned in the comfort of your vehicle, the Metro, or even the humble autorickshaw. It’s a big change coming to place where practically everything is, at max, half an hour walk away. For one, it’s given me a perspective of how incredibly huge New Delhi is – and given its size, how it does a reasonably good job of handling transportation and civic infrastructure. I find it difficult to put into words what I was about to say now, but the gist is that that moment outside showed me how wonderful the enviroment of this place is. Given the number of things I’m involved in, I’m often rushing from one meeting to another; rushing from one deadline to another; rushing from location to another as I try to fit in multiple layers of work sandwiched in day. I won’t lie – I am stressed by this hectic schedule, and I love this stress. I’ve realized this fact about myself that I have often suspected – I enjoy working under pressure. I hate not having to work on something with the clock ticking down. But I also realized that within this schedule I can and should take some time to slow down. Go for a long walk. Watch squirrels fighting with each other near the lake. Drink in the freshness. ———————————– I work part-time at SCEPTrE (not to be confused with the James Bond Evil Inc ‘SPECTRE’), which – to cut a long story short – gets fuckloads of money from the university and external government funding agencies, and puts it to use by paying their employees (even part-time ones) quite well and conducting events to improve ‘personal development’ of Surrey students. We conducted an event last Thursday, where businesses from various industry verticals came along to learn about social media technologies. We had people from PR companies to give them a lecture first, and then they were given a demo of various social media sites by us. My task was to demo Twitter. At the same time, it was an opportunity for Surrey students to network with businesses. I was prepared for the fact that a majority of the attendees would not know what Twitter is, even if they had heard of it in mainstream media. I walked in to the event confident I’d be able to field most questions they asked. What I wasn’t prepared for is the following. Someone saw a flyer mentioning ‘wikis’. So she came up to me to ask: What are ‘wikis’? A fair question, you would say. Might not have heard of wikis in general, but would surely have heard of Wikipedia? So I mentioned how it’s “just like Wikipedia”. Pat came the response: What’s Wikipedia? I leave that as a parting question. How would you explain Wikipedia to someone who’d never heard of it? I fielded that one, following it up with a prolonged session of headdesking when she was gone. Related articles by Zemanta NSFW: Cherchez la fame – or why the media’s obsession with Twitter campaigns will make customer service smell French (techcrunch.com) Sainsbury’s self-checkouts fail on so many level (thatcanadiangirl.co.uk) Will New Delhi ‘Attitude Makeover’ Work for India Games?...

“My phone got stolen and I lost all my numbers”

By on Feb 23, 2010 in Personal | 4 comments

You want an anecdote to demonstrate how polite the British can be? Here’s one. You know those times when you receive a text message from someone whose number you haven’t yet stored as a contact? I’m sure we’ve all had moments like that. Back in India if something like this happens you’d probably send back a message saying “Who’s this?”, appending an ‘lol’ perhaps if the text was funny. Or maybe even “Who the fuck are you?”, in case you want to practise your French. If the same thing happens here in UK though, this is the standard response people send back: I’m sorry, but I lost my phone [alternatively, ‘my phone got stolen’] and I lost all my numbers. May I know who this is? I kid you not, but this has happened with me at least 5-6 times so far – especially when I’m exchanging numbers with someone for the first time and the other person forgets to save my name as a contact. Then, when I get back to them via text (and if they’d forgotten to store my details), every time I got back a text which says pretty much precisely what I wrote above. I can imagine British people having secret meetings in hidden lairs across the nation to decide protocols on issues such as this. “Yorrite lads, we need to come up with a jolly good protocol to maintain our stiff upper lip if we make a social faux pas in forgetting someone’s cellphone number.” I wonder whether cellphones sold in Britain have a ‘panic button’ which these genteel folk can rely on to send the nationally approved text response to awkward social situations. It’s either that, or the poor British folk have rotten luck in actually getting constantly mugged and having their phones stolen. ——————————– Last Wednesday we had Headphone Disco at our students’ union nightclub. Basically, no sound is pumped through external speakers; instead, everyone gets their personal set of wireless headphones and can switch between a grand total of three different music choices – ‘DJ station A’, ‘DJ station B’, and ‘off’. (The two DJ stations being DJs on stage playing different music.) Watch a clip from Headphone Disco at University of Surrey’s Rubix As you can see in the short video above, it can be quite a weird experience. Bunch of folks seemingly dancing to…nothing at all. You can be on the dancefloor jigging along to some song when all of a sudden you realize all of your friends around you are on the other station and dancing along to something completely different. The system does have its drawbacks. For instance, there was this one instance when both DJs started playing…started played…songs by Miley Fucking Virus. The ‘off’ station came handy at such times. The other problem was that wearing a decent set of headphones meant that a lot of people laboured under the delusion that they were good singers. The cacophony of ‘sing-alongs’ that I could hear even over my headphones was so terrible that it must be outlawed under international human rights standards. When I first heard of Headphone Disco, I was curious to know how they handled clubbers breaking the supplied headphones. Did they have tracking systems installed, and dispatch a SWAT team to bust you in case you broke one? Turns out they just take a £5 deposit before handing out the headphones. ——————————– While I’m at it, I might as well give an update on what’s happening in my life. After a long Christmas break of basically watching my toenails grow, university life has been extremely hectic ever since the new semester started. I think I need to make a copy-paste template saying “I’m busy with work for The Stag and MAD TV and CoLab/SCEPTrE and gooble gobble gooble gobble“. Because I am, and also with all the labs and lectures which make for a much heavier study schedule. I usually get a handful of hours of sleep daily; after that, it’s back to keeping track of all the different things I’m doing and trying to make sense of what to do when. BTW, I’m also blogging about my experience for The IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology). IET is UK’s professional body of engineers; in a sense, somewhat like IEEE in USA but covering more engineering disciplines. (Trivia – University of Surrey’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Christopher Snowden, is the current president of IET.) So anyway, these ‘student diaries’ have been up for quite a while, and I intended to mention them here but totally forgot. Until today, when they pushed this out as the lead story in their student newsletter. On the other hand, I’m surprised that I got all that Hitchhiker’s stuff approved in my submissions to the IET so far....