Friday Funk(y)

* eh - Stephen Fry has a blog. As does Neil Gaiman.

* Say "widget".
Like so - wi-jit.
Now say "widget, widget, widget, widget, widget..."
Terribly addictive, very irritating to others. Highly recommended.

* If you look down, cover both ears tightly with your palms with your fingers on the back of your neck, and then start tapping the middle of your neck with one finger, you will get this dull gong-like sound echoing through your head. Surreal.

* Since BM doesn't blog anymore, is she still allowed at the proposed blog-meet with ph and Flaffy in October?

* Do people have unique knuckle-prints?

* Is any research being done to help reduce pollution by genetically modifying plants so that they have a higher rate of photosynthesis (thus reducing levels of CO2 more quickly)? If not, will you catch your friendly neighbourhood bio-geneticist and suggest this to them? And please don't forget to mention one's 5% commission from any patent royalties.

* Hummus-cucumber-tomato sandwiches taste surprisingly better after being lightly squashed against cut orange pieces.

* Has anybody ever read a sort-of fantasy book, about 150 pages long, which starts off with a boy in a strange magical land with no recollection about his identity, has a talking horse for company, concerns some journey of some sorts, and has a few conversations of the "Did that just happen? What did? That which just did. Ahh, but is what you think happened, the same as I think what happened?" kinds. Read just once, after being lent it by a friend long ago, the title of said book continues to elude, as the book itself is no longer locatable by said friend.

* Do people eat more fried foods on this day of the week? And if so, is it due to a subliminal association/suggestion with the name of the day?

* This weekend to try - Chocolate-and-date cookies. Recipe next Friday if successful.

Have a good one, folks.


* This was to be an extension of a Facebook moaning session that the poetry reading lady began. A look at how the site has gone beyond just catching up with old friends, and into some sort of fun-fair portal, what with all the applications. A look at how addictive it has become, and a mention of how naive people are, when they refuse to consider that the only reason the big M is shelling out bigger bucks for a slice of this pie is because it can show you lots of carefully-targetted banners telling you to buy stuff, which it can do (the careful targetting) because your information is an open secret.

* This was to be a smirk about the fickleness of Indian cricket fans, who now consider T20 to be the best thing since spreadable butter, simply because they won one tournament. And who transformed stone throwing and effigy burning into a city-wide victory parade. In Bombay. On the day of the Ganpati immersions.

* This was also to be a small warning about beginner's luck, about waiting till the next round, by which time the Aussies will have really planned things out, and about making sure you have enough stones ready for the pelting that will ensue after that rematch.

* This was to be a note pointing that that respective state governments are giving lakhs of rupees to players who have already won prize-money, got bonuses from the cricket board, and have won advertising contracts - but that these same governments seem to have no funds to provide any sort of compensation to the thousands of farmers who have seen their crops, livestock, and houses washed away in floods and storms.

* This was to be a post critiquing Indian governments for their gall to lecture others about democracy - after buying gas and lumber from Burma for two decades without so much as protesting against the repression of an elected government.

* This was to be a sigh and a farewell wave - for bloggers who won't write anymore (by-bye, CC). One has foreseen this.

* This was to be an incredulous shake of the head about us in general, when people can get so personal about a complete stranger that they resort to violence, despite the fact that the person in question couldn't be less bothered.

* This was to be an attention-drawer that some initiatives are worth being bothered about, however jaded you may be.

....this was to be, but now it just is.


Love is a matter of circumstances.

Corollary: Friend(ship)s are a matter of circumstances.



It's that time of the week. And to mark the end of summer, here's a nifty little starter/side-dish. Yenjoy.

Sizzling Asparagus
Time needed:
Preparation: 1 minute.
Cooking: 3 minutes.

Keep ready:
Garlic, few cloves, roughly chopped
Asparagus spears, cut into big chunks
Light soya sauce
Lemon juice
Sweet-chilli sauce

On a medium-heat, add the butter, and when it melts, the garlic. Let sizzle for a few seconds, then add the asparagus, oregano and soya sauce. Occasionally stir, making sure all the asparagus is coated well in the soya sauce. When the asparagus goes bright bright green, remove from heat. Squeeze lemon juice all over, add salt to taste, and serve hot with a squeegee of s-c sauce besides it to dip into.

What's nice about it:
Asparagus, like broccoli, has a very distinctive taste, which is normally very overpowering and hence off-putting, but when complemented with other flavours can make for a wonderful dish. In this, the soya and garlic give it a slightly Oriental flavour, while the oregano mixes it and brings out its own lovely taste. The lemon juice just gives that little extra tang, and when you dip one of these into the sweet-chilli sauce.........oh yes.

Try serving with a wedge of warm olive ciabatta.

Focus on:
1) Not burning the garlic - keep it golden.
2) Not overcooking the asparagus - keep it crunchy, but make sure it's cooked.
3) Not too much soya.
4) Lemon juice, not lime - the latter is just too strong.


Where have you gone Henry Blofeld*? A nation turns its ears towards you

One was sitting quietly, when Ep decided to drop by. You know Ep? Ep E. Funee? Yes, that Ep. Now, conversations with Ep tend to be quite mentally-stimulating, which also means tiring, so one approaches such visits with wary interest. But this one was worth it.

After the usual preliminary chit-chat in which Ep yet again smiled enigmatically when asked about the reason behind life (which is very irritating, and makes one suspect that Ep doesn't really have an answer, but just pretends to know it, and this non-silence is just a way to get one to keep searching for the answer, so that when one does find the answer (and it will be easy to identify it as the right answer because it will be so obvious and everything will make sense and fall into place and rainbows will burst forth and the earth shall sing and generally represent a scene out of a cheesy fantasy book) Ep can simply go "Ah child, now you understand", thus not only appearing smug and superior, and having evaded all the work, but also having got the answer. Shyaana bugger), the real reason behind the visit was explained.

"Have you realised", said Ep - although that's not quite true...Ep doesn't talk, but instead the words just sort of appear in one's head...except they're not so much words, as complete entities, born of ideas, and clothed in language.

So. Ep noted, "Have you realised that you have never seen a televised sports event that did not have a commentary running in the background?"

.....one hadn't.

No sports event? Ever? That can't be true - can it?
The Olympics? Nope.
Cricket? Nope.
Football? Nope.
Tennis, basketball, badminton, TT, snooker, F1, curling, darts, rugby, gymnastics, track and field? Nope, nope, nope.

It is true.
So true, that it bears repeating -
One has never seen any televised sports event that did not have a background commentary.

And that just feels......weird.

Because right now, one can think of several occasions where one simply wanted to watch a match on TV, with only the noise from the stadium, and no chit-chat. Edberg vs. Becker at Wimbledon. Game 6 of the Bulls-Jazz NBA finals in 1998. India-Australia at Eden Gardens in 2001. Just imagine that.

So, do we really always need commentary? When did we need to be this spoonfed? Yes, commentary is obviously essential for radio. But on TV? Not so sure. Especially since we seem to be subjected to a barrage of mostly mindless drivel, which is only getting worse.

A good commentator should anticipate what the player might do, or point out what's happening on the sidelines, provide some relevant background, appropriate statistics (because what's sports if not a series of statistical highlights?), and some interesting anecdotes and juicy gossip. That's it.

But instead, nowadays, it's not so much a comment-ary, as a report. We don't really need people telling us what's happening - we can
see that Sachin's just tapped the ball to cover, and Federer just played a delicate dropshot. That's expected from an online sports website, not from commentators during a live match. And neither do we need a constant coaching manual - he needs to approach the net more/ the defenders need to cover their man/ just tap the ball and run. Oi, shut up you.

An enterprising sports sports channel could so easily use this as a ploy - matches broadcast with sound, but no talk. And those who have digital TV could even select a statistics ticker running along the bottom of the screen. Problem solved.

* Not that he was the best, but at least he was entertaining.


If cricket was sex

Test matches would be rainy-weekend tantric-love sessions,
ODIs would be a workday evening quickie,
and Twenty20s would be a before-you-go knee-trembler.


Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye, toh kya hain?
- Saahir Ludhiyanvi (Pyaasa)


Learn thee patience

It's not so difficult. Despite what you may believe, and despite how you may be. This is for all you nervous wrecks, fidgets, insomniacs, and hyper-active types.

The trick is simple -
Learn stillness,
and patience will follow.
And, perhaps, even Patience.

Learn to sit, just sit, doing nothing but spacing.
Learn to teach yourself to sit.

Think of the stone, and the slow drip of the water. The long, drawn-out liquid cadences. Watch the drops fall, one after another after another after another. Watch them. A drop to a minute, crafting the stone into a pebble, smoothing polishing it round. A drop a minute, for every hour, for every day, forever. The slow drops of water on the stone in this cave.

See the cave. Stand in the vastness. The rock that stands, has been standing, will stand. Feel the emptiness, the dark, and hear the thoughts that take centuries to begin. With nothing but the gentle touch of a drop. A drop every minute.

See the plains. The horizon that seems endless, because it all looks the same. The level flats arcing away while no wind blows, and only one blade of grass grows. Watch the grass grow, sit and watch it live.

Feel them, be them.
Imagine every aspect and angle, as if you are taking a panoramic picture of them.
Focus solely on them, as if you need to write a dissertation on them.

And slowly, oh so slowly, you will learn to sit still.
Be still.


Secrets - 1

"I have to tell you something."
"I've been keeping something from you."
"Is it a surprise?"
"Good surprise, or bad surprise?"
"That depends."
"Ok, tell."
"See, its not that I wanted to keep it from you...well, I wanted to, but more because I needed to. It's just that I didn't see how I could tell you and retain any..."
"Is this something you've done? Been doing?"
"And you've kept it a secret? From me?"
"Umm..because...well, like I said..."
"No. Stop."
"You kept a secret from me."
"Despite all that we've been through, all the things we've worked on, despite all your promises, and all your assurances. Despite all everything we said about things like this, you did something which you felt you couldn't reveal to me? And now you feel guilty about it?"
"And you think you can just tell me now? After all this time?"
"It's not been that long, only a few..."
"I don't care! A week is too long. An hour is too long. You did it. And you chose not to tell me. So why are you telling me now? Why bother?"
"Because! I can't not ever tell you."
"No? But I can choose to not ever want to know. And I choose not to want to know."
"What? This is stupid...I'm trying to tell you..."
"But listen..."
"Come on..."
"NO !! I.don't.want.to.know. Live with it yourself. So shut up now, or you'll never get to speak to me again. Ok?....Good."


Friday Food Fiesta*

One shall press on with this idea, because sometimes structure is good.

If you do try it, reactions would be welcome. Ditto for any modifications to given recipe. If you would like specific meal types/ingredients to be featured, ask and one shall try and comply.

Crunchy Stir-Fry
Time needed:
Preparation, 5 minutes.
Cooking, 5-7 minutes.

Keep Ready:
Olive oil, or butter.
Garlic, few cloves, sliced.
Broccoli, medium chunks.
Baby corn, halves.
Tomato, quarters.
Mushrooms, variety of choice, sliced/quartered/other shapes.
Firm tofu (alternative = medium-soft paneer)
Oregano, black pepper, salt.
Lemon juice.
Grated cheese of choice (Gruyere or Parmesan suggested)

Heat the oil or butter on a slow-heat, add the garlic and wait till it just starts to go brown. Turn up to medium-heat, add the broccoli and corn, and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add the seasoning, turn up to high-heat, then add the tofu, mushrooms, and tomatoes and sauté till mushrooms just start to release water. Take off the stove, squeeze lemon and add cheese. Mix well, serve hot.

What's nice about it:
The mix of natural flavours, the colourfulness, and the crunchiness of the dish. It's a delicately seasoned dish, but the flavours come from the ingredients themselves.

Many people don't like broccoli, but in reality, a lot of them just think they won't like it, having never tried it themselves, and drawing their impressions from too many American serials where the poor vegetable is derided. When cooked rightly (just long enough for it to be actually cooked, without losing its crunchiness) it's got a wonderfully strong flavour, which in this dish is offset well by the blandness of tofu, the sweetness of baby corn, and the unique flavour of the mushrooms. The tomatoes add a piquantness, and also crucially, save the dish from being too dry. The lemon juice and the cheese are the final kickers, because they blend really well with the oregano.

Focus on:
1) Equal proportion of ingredients. Don't have too much of one item, or it will overpower the rest.
2) Try getting different varieties of mushrooms, not just the button ones, though those will do well too.
3) Keeping it crunchy. Don't cook the broccoli too fast, or it will go soggy. Cook them so any germs are killed, but don't let them go gloopy.
4) Don't stir too much. Just occasionally, to mix in the seasoning.
5) Big pieces.

* Don't mock - it's alliterative. You got a better name?


Kem, dikra?

Continuing from this little thread over at J's. This is a longish post.

If you're a metro-Indian (not merely urban, but metro - do pay attention), especially on the western cost, chances are that you might have met a bawa. Or, rarer still, an Iroon. The fading, but still proud (yet not prideful), remnants of Zoroastrianism. If you haven't, go out now and hunt one down - chances are you won't regret it.

But even if you've not met one, you'll have seen one - or at least, a caricature of one - in some little 'comic' interlude in a Hindi film. Not that anybody really wanders around in that white dress costume (the dagli, which is only worn on very formal occasions, rather like a tuxedo), or in that odd-shaped black hat. But these are Hindi films, after all - except perhaps the carrom-mania that 'Puppah!' exhibits in Munnabhai. That's certainly true.

Anyways, this is about an interesting recent development, which curiously, is linked to the WTC attacks.

Now, sometime in the 7th century, the Arab tribes attacked and toppled the last of the Persian kings. And as with any new religion, the Zoroastrians living there were asked to join the new gang, or if not, would they mind attacking this shiny sword with their nice long necks? Strangely enough, a lot of people were allergic to the touch of cold metal on their carotid artery, and decided to run, Forrest, ruuuuun! However, these being the days before planes, trains, and heck, even automobiles, a lot of people couldn't get far. Besides, travelling through all those deserts and mountains ain't much fun. So, a lot of people did join the ranks of the new club, while a few managed to reach strange shores where in a few centuries, they'd end up setting up steel plants and dingy cafes and be almost solely responsible for the perpetuation of the Birdie Dance.

Now, the Zoroastrians who settled in India are called Parsis, and follow a patrilineal religion. So all females marrying a non-Zoroastrian are ex-communicated, as are their kids. ( NonParsi-marrying-men, however, are welcome, and their children are accepted into the fold). Oh, and they don't let people convert to the religion.

Which, coupled with the low marriage ratio, the late average age at which marriages do take place, and the low ratio of children per marriage (all linked to the community being one of the most educated, gender-equal, and financially well-off ones in India) mean that numbers have been falling for decades. The 2001 census said there were just 69,301 of them in India. Yes, large numbers have moved to the UK, US, Canada, and Australia, but global figures are estimated at just around 120,000 to 140,00.

So that was background.

Now the interesting development is that post-WTC, encouraged by the growing pressure from the international community to promote 'religious tolerance' (also perhaps aided by Internet growth, and the collapse of the Soviet Union), a whole bunch of people in central Asia, which used to be part of the Persian empire, are now beginning to re-identify themselves as Zoroastrian.

And not chindi numbers - we're talking about 2.5 to 3 million people here*. That changes a lot of perspective.

Now, the orthodox Parsis do not accept them, saying (perhaps with some justification) that they've lost touch of the customs, rituals, beliefs, and only have some vague thread linking them to the religion. But the Z's say they had always kept to the faith, but just hid it deeply, or mutated it so as not to be persecuted, like so many other ethnic groups did in the USSR. And the Parsis retort with, if it was mutated, it's not the true religion, and don't you know, we don't accept converts.

The really interesting thing is the whole stand-off is more about ethnicity, rather than religion. The non-conversion bit is only adhered to by the Parsis, as part of the pact they signed with the Hindu king who first gave them sanctuary in Gujarat. They don't really need to keep to it now, but a promise is a vow is an oath, and all that. The religion per se does not mention conversion, let alone restrict it, because how else could the religion have grown in the first place?

So, technically, there could be Zoroastrians, and there could be Parsi Zoroastrians.

But....since the Parsis are the accepted followers and adherents of the religion, and all the priests and holy places are managed by orthodox Parsi organisations - without their approval nobody can be accepted legally accepted as a Zoroastrian. Talk about market monopoly, huh?

And so it stands - a few million people want to be accepted into a religion that's dying out, and whose numbers would jump 20-fold with their inclusion, but they're not being accepted. How very weird. And predictable.

Further reading .

* This hasn't been confirmed by any official sources yet, but apparently progress is underway.


And when was the last time you said "Pyrrhic"?

Often-read, but rarely-heard words.

Those weighty polysyllables that crop up so often in text, but which you've probably never heard being spoken aloud. Do they occur because of the potentially difficult pronunciations? Or is it because they are so...unwieldy? Is it just one of those differences between the written and the spoken language? Do pink turtles float on isotonic rainbows?

The Muse of Writing claims it's a mark of how lazy the tongue is, throws in a snippet or two about shortening attention spans, and then mocks the entire concept of accents. The Muse of Speech scoffs that such fanciful words were only invented by writers to fluff out their output, and which they use as a tool to expand their literary pretensions, knowing that using them on a face-to-face basis would expose them as silly little poseurs.

Then the Muse of Language asks whether it really matters, and demands to be passed the orange-scented hot chocolate.

Anyways, a short list of some of the more common examples -

(and, of course) Pyrrhic

More oddities to mull about. Add your own.