Friday, July 28, 2006

The Greatest Endurance Sporting Event Ever

The Badwater Ultramarathon -- An annual ultra-marathon, held every July, that starts in Death Valley in California, at the lowest point in N. America and ends at the trailhead of the highest mountain in the lower 48 states, a total distance of 135 miles. The summer heat can rise to as much as 135 degrees Fahrenheit and the total elevation gain during the course of this race is approximately 13,000 feet.

85 individuals participated this year, 67 completed the race.

One, very good, account of the 2006 race is here.

Another one is here.

The first Indian, ever, to participate completed the race too (50th on the list). Nattu Natraj -- I salute you.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

You think you have problems?!

Welcome to World War III ! According to Newt Gingrich, we are already there! What with events, from Iraq to N. Korea to Iran to the Israel-Lebanon/Hezbollah conflict and even to our Mumbai trains’ bomb blasts, he thinks this is a World War against Islam. So let’s see – the main enemy flank of this “World War” is a bunch of smelly Pathans, in remote areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, using ancient to semi-modern weaponry, with a twisted medieval ideology and with their preferred choice of attack being to blow themselves up! Talk about self-defeating war strategies!

Not to say that fundamentalist Islam is not a real threat…it certainly is and has to be stamped out with all force at one’s disposal. But to call it a WW??! Lets see – Hitler had an entire war machine for which dangerous-sounding words were specifically assigned like Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe whereas Osama has Al-Jazeera and lieutenants who can’t even fire a machine gun! The Ottoman Empire (a WW I enemy of the “good guys”), at its peak, was knocking at the doors of Western Europe and if it had succeeded, the world as we know it would be completely different. On the other hand, Al-Qaeda is busy trying to grow more hashish (or poppy, if we’re being technical here!) in an attempt to bring back the Swingin’ Sixties (or finance itself, but in keeping with the non-technical nature of this…) and are busy preventing young girls from going to school, the bloody cowards, with their version of the “No Child Left Behind (Just kiddin”!) Act”!

I think Gingrich personifies what all Cold War warriors loved most about the 50s, 60s, 70s and the 80s…the overwhelming fear of world destruction by crazy dictators or totalitarian regimes using weapons of mass destruction. Heck, what’s there not to love?! Just a little problem, though, in the thinking – Osama can’t quite hold on to even Kabul (admittedly with US and NATO help), how’s he going to: 1) Get his hands on, say, a nuke; 2) Have the capacity to deliver it without it getting intercepted and/or stopped in some other way and 3) Ensure that whoever he hits with that nuke won’t retaliate back to make north-western Pakistan and almost all of Afghanistan a moonscape for the next thousand years, while they’re still hiding there?! The insurgents in Iraq are busy in their own little historic grievances – the Sunni hate the Shia, the Shia hate the Kurds, the Kurds hate the Turks and the Turks hate falafel that’s not cooked to a golden brown color! How, in the ever lovin’ world, does this bunch, which I assume Gingrich would think is the common enemy, the Muslims, ever going to confront the West as an united enemy?!

I don’t tar the entire Muslim world with the same brush, not at all. But when politicians use terms like “World War III” it does signify fighting against a unified, fearsome and organized enemy who, as a whole, has a rational chance of success against us, the good guys! Maybe, as a solution, here’s what can be done: Ask Gingrich to smoke some of the finest agricultural produce from Afghanistan and take it easy, contract out to Osama, and his ilk, the Afghan version of the immensely successful “Girls Gone Wild” so that he would let women go back to colleges over there and make himself an honest buck (nothing like capitalism and the profit motive to distract from jihadi thoughts and insane rantings on various recording media) and as for the Iraqi situation…well, open Pottery Barn stores across the country and show people, literally, what it means to be at the receiving end of the Rule that all the civilized, mall-loving, non-china-breaking world lives by!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Cartoon for the Week

Some dark (in the timing of putting this up) humor in this time of tragedy, apropos the Mumbai train blasts. But getting back to normal is one way to deal with it.

PS: The "Wizard of Id" is one of the funniest, and most underrated, cartoon strips what with its dry, current humor seamlessly intertwined with its medieval, "dark-ages" Europe setting!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Football or football?

Photo Credit:

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see the above 2 photographs of US supporters at the soccer World Cup being held in Germany currently? Ok, lets do that again: what’s the second thing that comes to mind when you see the above 2 photographs? These are from the Fox sports website, on which, as part of their coverage of this odd sport, to most Americans, called Soccer, they have a special section called “Babes of the World Cup”, wherein they show various comely fans of all the teams playing in the World Cup. Yes, Fox is really the fourth horseman of the coming apocalypse, trying to conflate something as innocent and virginal as competitive sports with sex, but it’s a pretty successful formula for Fox’s owner, Rupert Murdoch: mix sex with everything, and voila, you have another billion bucks added to your net worth!

Anyways, the original point of mine was the No. 1 sign shown by these attractive US supporters. There are 93 pictures of “babes” on the website, fans of virtually all the countries, and it’s only the US fans, in TWO photographs, who have the No. 1 sign held up, as a sign of support for their country. Now, I am not ragging on these two particular lovely women. My grandfather told me never to rag on a pretty woman – and 2 women?...sacrilege! But I am pointing out the fact that in the worlds’ most popular sport, followed by over 2 billion people, for which the interest level in the US during non-World Cup times is in the low single digits, and in which the US had a negligible chance of standing anywhere even close to the top 3 spots in the current World Cup, there are US fans who still have a No. 1 sign, as their preferred way of supporting their team! Speaks to a very innate desire in the US mind and soul: to be the best in everything! No. 1 is all that matters…if you have anything to do with No. 2 than you either need an anti-laxative or you’re the henchman of a bumbling, fictional evil genius.

The US has perfected the art of playing sports which no other country plays and then calling the annual championships as “World” championships! I like American football, like the NBA too, and as for baseball, I have nothing to say there, lest the NSA is keeping tabs here, but why, o why, do Americans not compete with the rest of the world in their major sports? There might be some kind of ignominy being beat by a, say, Mexico or Iran, in a soccer match but at least one would be competing against the best the world has to offer. Sports could also act as a bridge of understanding between countries that normally don’t talk to the US. Iran’s President (him of the unpronounceable name and of whom David Letterman, in his late night show, very aptly nick-named “Larry” to smooth things over) is a soccer fan. Now, what does Larry do in his free time besides chomping down goat curry with the friendly neighborhood Hezbollah militant or playing the “Holocaust or Dare” game with his close circle of weekend jihadis? Watch a soccer game! When he asks his adviser, “How are those infidel Americans doing in soccer?” and gets a response, “Supreme Leader, they don’t play soccer much!” his respect for the Americans goes down lower than to what he would have for a fuchsia colored abaya! Perhaps the way out of the current nuclear stalemate with Iran, for the US, is to play more soccer. It’s a simple enough game for Bush to follow (“Kick ball. Put into net. No, not this side’s net but the other net.”), and might just be the right conversation-opener that Larry was waiting for before abandoning his country’s nuclear weapons program and embarking on a full scale re-engagement with the US! After all, they don’t have much to talk about, do they? Larry is a hard-line Islamic neo-supremacist, with an ideology based on a fanatically rejectionist reading of history and Bush is a hard-line Christian neo-supremacist with a….never mind.