The Gonzo Diplomat

Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

The maddening Vuvuzela and Jabulani: Few favours for Africa

In Sport, TV/Movies, Uncategorized on June 15, 2010 at 6:28 pm

 

I have only gone to watch an International football match on two occasions, one was in Elland Road, Leeds in 1996, where I watched Spain beat Romania 2-1 in the group stages of the European Championship, and the second time was in the Martinez Valero stadium in Elche in September 2003, to watch a Euro qualifier between Spain and Ukraine, which also ended 2-1.

The Spanish were not necessarily the best chanters, but they made up for this with occasional songs and a great beat of the drum, usually orchestrated by Manolo el del Bombo, a 61 year old fan who hasn’t missed a Spain game since 1982, regardless of where the team are playing and matter what the expense.

I'll booom the frickin vuvuzela

The Spanish, or at least the patriots, are nonetheless vivid when watching their national side, but they are not the only ones. The Tifossi are radical followers who usually mix their laudable singing with not so pleasant flares, along with  passionate singers like the Germans, the Argentineans, even the God-awful French, or the samba music of the Brazilians. 

It is because of this that there is something that is really starting to irritate me during this World Cup, and finally this week I have seen the issue being debated in the media.

What is actually is the point of the irksome vuvuzela?

I first noticed it while watching last summer’s Confederations Cup, and even though I found it annoying, I never thought that it would affect the actual World Cup, where fans from different continents would impose their flair to the games they went to see.

However, I have had to endure nine games where all you can hear is the incessant sounds of those horns, sounding more like a World Motorbike Rally or an invasion of hornets that a football game.

FIFA “reacts”

The website southafrica.info described the vuvuzelas as “a brightly coloured horn that imitates the sound of an elephant and symbolises the beautiful noise of South Africa”   However these little horns can reach up to 127 decibels, nearly as much as the sound a jet engine makes when taking off.

Whilst footballers, managers and journalists have all complained about the awful noise these so called instruments make, the World Cup organisers initially contemplated banning the vuvuzela, however, after a very brief debate, it has been decided that the only moment the horns will be silent will be during the national anthems.

haaaaaaaarrr in your face!

The official spokesperson of the World Cup committee, Rich Mikhondo asserted,

“They will not be banned. We never considered banning the vuvuzelas, and we ask that the whole world respects our culture. The vuvuzelas are here, and they will stay until the end of the World Cup.”

Whilst perhaps it is a question of respecting another culture, perhaps the South Africans should also realise that this may be damaging their image. Despite this, Mikhondo continued,

“The fans and those watching the games on TV need to accept our way of celebrating football. The vuvuzelas have been used in South African stadiums for the last ten years. Their origins come from the horns our ancestors used for reunions. They are an instrument of expression of our spectators, and other fans are using them too”.

The last point is true, the habit is catching on with other, and whilst many players are opting to not complain too loud, as to not get the local fans against them, it is the TV viewers whose angst is being fuelled.

On facebook to this date, 30,142 have joined the group in favour of vuvuzelas, whilst 500,000 are in the groups condoning the instrument.

Vuvuzelas and jabulanis.

The Jabulani: popular in Benidorm and Blackpool

It appears that this World Cup will be significant because it is the first time the tournament has been held in Africa, and the Soccer City Stadium is, no doubt about it, and extraordinary ground, yet there is also plenty of controversy, particularly regarding security and transport problems. However, when the problems also spill onto the pitch, then the image of probably the world’s biggest tournament is stained. The annoying vuvuzela, added to the Adidas’ Jubilani beach-ball, which has already left several players and goalkeepers blushing and cursing, added to the recent news of FIFA’s banning of 36 Dutch fans who were banned from entering a stadium for making an advertising campaign of a beer brand that was not an official World Cup sponsor, is only ruining the image of this tournament, and certainly not doing a favour to the African continent.

Up until the now, the football has been dull too, but let’s hope to see sparks soon, because it must be on the pitch that this World Cup is remembered because, unfortunately, at least for now, Africa has wasted a great opportunity to show it’s worth.

P.S. For now, the vuvuzelas will remain, and all we can do is test our patience and train, with online games like these: http://bartbonte.com/vuvuzela/  The How long Can You Stand The Vuvuzela? Game

Insomnia, Mosquitoes and Staples Centre Madness (94-103)

In Sport, Uncategorized on June 7, 2010 at 4:02 am

    

At 4:15 in the morning, three mosquitoes are exchanging buzzes around my head with nasty approaches to my ankles. My eyes are red and squinted as I gawp at the TV screen. It is the fourth quarter if the second game of the NBA final and Boston are leading by two points, 74-72 in the Staples centre.    

The result may seem daunting, and it is easy to pick out the lack of pressure the Lakers defence have been putting on Boston’s offence, but it has actually been quite a remarkable come back. After a first quarter that saw Boston dominate and take a comfortable lead (22-29) things were looking grim for the Lakers. A disputes second quarter saw Lakers shorten the lead by one point as they got a partial of 26-25. However, the big shock has come in the third quarter, the Staples centre has erupted and the Lakers are making an great comeback, finishing the quarter 24-18 and drawing the game.    

It is now a very close affair, and it is these kind of games that make the NBA the spectacle that it is. I will leave the statistical analysis for ESPN, and the American Media, right now, as a spectator on the other side of the world, even the sight of the Laker’s cheerleaders, or the search for Dustin Hoffman in the Kiss Cam is entertaining enough, and then there is Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest and Robinson’s three pointers.    

 With six minutes left, Kobe is back on court and is playing an essential role, and my eyes are pealed, even though my head is throbbing and telling me to get my ass to bed. Meanwhile, a fascist bastard mosquito is plugged in my elbow.    

Kobe Bryant runs past Allen and scores a sensational two pointer to put Lakers ahead, 90-89, the Staples Centre is also buzzing. Ray Allen tries to take a three pointer and fails thanks to some great defence from Bynum, the crowd begin to taunt Allen, the nerves are stacking. Three and a half minutes left, Artest and Bryant have five fouls to their names, and the game is sea-sawing its way from one end to another as Boston are ahead, 91-90.    

Still no sign of Dustin Hoffman on the Kiss Cam. Perhaps that is a good thing, he has kissed enough men already.    

Jack Nicholson is smiling, he seems to be confident that his team can force their way to a win, or maybe that is just a natural smirk on his face, even as Boston ignore the crowds chants of “Defence” and extend their lead to three points and missed a chance to make it five after Allen missed a fantastic counterattack against Bryant.    

With Boston five points ahead and recovering the ball in defence, the commentators laugh at how coach Doc Rivers actually ran on the courts screaming for time out. The tension is rising, my eyes are getting heavier, but there is no way I’m getting my ass to bed, and typing these banal messages keeps my brain active.    

Thirty seconds remaining, 99-93, another shit little mozzie flies in front of my face, blowing its trumpet and scares the crap out of me, furthermore, Boston extend their lead, 100-93, with thirty seconds left and time out, it looks like the Lakers miracle will not come true.    

The Canal Plus commentators sound mournful, they obviously want the Lakers to win, what with Pau Gasol playing for them, I actually don’t mind, though I feel a Boston victory would be very interesting.    

 4:55am …kinda hungry, best not to eat, 24 seconds left and midnight snacks make you fat.    

 Sixteen seconds, 102-93, Boston have shown great guts and personality, especially after things got hard for them during the third quarter.    

 Why did God make certain blood sucking insects? What is their meaning in life? What can they possibly give to the world that is positive?

Cunts

The Staples centre is silent. How things have changed Game over, 103-94.    

Just one game, four days left and the excitement will continue, God..so hot…I love sport…I hate mozzies…damn things…what’s that itch?…meh    

Game, Set, Avenged

In Sport on June 7, 2010 at 3:07 am

As Rafael Nadal lay on the clay court, his arms outstretched in jubilee, it was clear that this had been the end of a unfortunate and frustrating streak. It seemed almost as if it had been conjured up in Hollywood, that his opponent on the day was the man who had initiated Nadal’s supposed downfall. 

One year ago Nadal arrived at Paris with a niggling injury and fatigue sustained after his most fruitful year, in which he had won three grand slam titles and an Olympic gold medal, amongst other titles, before almost forcefully going to the Madrid Open and losing to Roger Federer in the final.

The Roland Garros title was almost exclusively his grand slam title, and after equalling Bjorn Borg’s tally of four consecutive wins, he was on route to win his record fifth consecutive title.

Then he met Robin Soderling in the last sixteen.

aaarrrrrr wanker!

After a long and tiresome game, Nadal began to show signs of fatigue and was eventually and shockingly beaten 2-6, 7-6, 4-6,6-7. Nadal didn’t beat Bjorn Borg’s record, and Soderling remarked that he was expecting a thank you call from Borg. It was the beginning of a Frustrating year for the Spaniard, who would later pull out of Wimbledon through injury and lose his number one spot to a resurrected Roger Federer, who finally got to win the French Open and dominate men’s tennis once again.

 It was significant thus, that Nadal’s moment of truth in Paris was not against Federer, his closest rival, but against the man who defeated him in Paris one year before.

 A different kind of rivalry:

Many people despise Soderling, and many of them unjustly do so just because he beat Rafa Nadal. However, others dislike him because of his clearly manifested arrogance and disrespect, only rivalled perhaps with Novac Djokovic and Tomas Berdych, when facing the Spaniard.

Others dislike the Spaniard for his rich kid attitude, his snobby appearance, the fact that he got close to Shakira, and by many Catalan nationalists, for his devout patriotism.

The first case of this arrognace towards Nadal was shown during a third round Wimbledon clash in 2007. Initially, there were several moments of tensions on court between the Swede and the then world number two.  Firstly, when a shot by Robin Soderling hit the net and went into Nadal’s side of the court, there was no courteous apology, as usually happens when a point in this manner, as Soderling clinched his fist and resumed playing. 

Moments later, when Soderling had come back from two sets down to even the game at 2-2, Nadal prepared to serve, but took too much time for Soderling’s liking. To show his bother, Soderling went to change his racket whilst Nadal was about to serve. Surprised by what he was seeing, Nadal took longer than usual and showed his ironic intentions to the Swede, who in turn reacted to this by mocking and imitating Nadal by picking is underpants and mimicking his mannerisms.

 

Nadal ended up winning the decisive set 7-5, and was greeted with a tepid handshake by Soderling. He would later tell reporters this rival that day was “not the best guy in the locker room”, and that his was “very strange” and with a conduct that was “maybe the worst possible”. He also added:

“I have said hello to him seven times to his face, and he has never said hello to me. He never answers. I thought it was me. But I asked around the locker room; almost nobody had anything nice to say about him.”

Skip forward three years since that day in London, and on a cloudy day in Paris, Rafa Nadal cruised to a victory over his hated rival, 6-4,6-2,6-4, to gain the best revenge possible. Not only did he get back on terms with winning Opens, but he regained the number one spot and became only the second man to win the French Open at least five times, one shy of Bjorn Borg.

 Soderling tamley congratulated Nadal on his final address, and predicted more victories for him if he kept that form, though not without warning that he would do what he could to reach a third Roland Garros final.

Before biting the trophy in his typical way, a serious but triumphant Nadal told Soderling, “Sorry Robin, I played my best match of the tournament. If not, it was going to be impossible to beat you”.

Forced compliments perhaps, but whether he played his best match or not, Rafa looked unstoppable, and with Wimbledon around the corner, it looks like things are going to get very interesting in London.

Waiting (and dreading) for The Rum Diary

In TV/Movies, Uncategorized on June 4, 2010 at 6:43 pm

 

There is no need in hiding my admiration for Hunter S Thompson and after thoroughly enjoying David Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and smiling through, though not quite comprehending, Art Linson’s Where the Buffalo Roam, I am excited yet sceptically fearsome of the release of Bruce Robinson’s The Rum Diary.

 As with any film that is based on a novel, and more so when it is based on a novel you value, the standards are high, and any sign of relevant inaccuracies and daft cinematographic decisions are scowled upon.

The book:

The book itself may not be the greatest of novels, but it made a fantastic read. The story, written in 1959 but not released until 1998, tells the Caribbean booze indulged odyssey of a young Hunter S Thompson who finds himself in San Juan, Puerto Rico, early in its eventual colonisation by the United States of America.

 His protagonist, Paul Kemp, is a nostalgic journalist in his thirties, who fails to have grasped the passage of time and his wasted youth, who finds himself working in the offices of a botched up newspaper that is constantly on the verge of folding. All this, whilst sharing the companionship of his workmates and drinking beers in Al’s Bar, whilst witnessing what he recalls as “the pressure of hot air and passing time, an idle tension that builds up in places where men sweat twenty-four hours a day”.

 Even though it is clear that there Thompson was still a few years away from his best, and that the author at times tries to mimic his idols, Hemmingway and Fitzgerald, the real gem in the novel arises in the eccentricity of is characters and the style of narration, a raw example of what would soon be his trademark.

 With every adventurous and sometimes chaotic endeavours Paul Kemp encounters, there are also signs of rage, loathing, disappointment and regret, characterised in the almost paradisiacal surroundings delimited and contrasted by greed and a lack of fulfilment. At times, Kemp feels that his life is wasting away in the sweaty island.

 “Whenever I thought of time in Puerto Rico, I was reminded of those old magnetic clocks that hung on the walls of my classrooms in high school. Every now and then a hand would not move for several minutes- and if I watched it long enough, wondering if it had finally broken down, the sudden click of the hand jumping three or four notches would startle me when it came”.

The author also excels in his humour and expressing the awkwardness of certain situations, as well as the different characters, such as: the untrustworthy Segarra, the frenzied and inept Lotterman, the pessimistic and worn out Sala, the sleazy Moberg, who was a “degenerate…lewd and corrupt in every way. He hated the taste of rum, yet he would finish a bottle in ten minutes, then vomit and fall down…He spent all his money on whores, and when that got dull he would take on an occasional queer, just for the strangeness of it”.

 Yet the most captivating characters, apart from Kemp himself, are Yeamon and Chenault. Yeamon is a violent, impoverished fellow journalist, some kind of crazy man who has lost all regard for his safety, and all hope of staying in Puerto Rico.  All this whilst having a romance with a beautiful woman he treats like trash. A kind of danger Kemp must keep himself away from, but that he cannot help but feel drawn to. Eventually, mess after mess, Kemp finds himself involved in troublesome circumstances because of his friend.

 Chenault on the other hand, is a very influential character in the novel, and one you cannot help but hate and desire at the same. Thompson effectively captivates the sexiness and covetousness this character emits, and whilst at first you cannot help but fantasise over the blonde beauty, tanned and wearing a skimpy white bikini, as the plot unfolds you end up cursing her promiscuousness and irresponsibility. Regardless of this hatred, the love triangle that unfolds between Kemp, Chenault and the apathetic Yeamon remains perfectly understandable.

 The Rum Diary is well constructed and succeeds in capturing the insanity and alcohol induced absurdity of grown men let loose in a world with beautiful landscapes and ocean drives, contrasted with smoggy offices and beer induced rage, and how Kemp evolves and fights against the contrast of depression, beauty and Chenault.

 So…what will the film be like?

 This is where the big dilemma arises. It is not common for a film to surpass, or even live up to the standards of a novel, however, after seeing that Johnny Depp was to be involved in the film, playing the role of Paul Kemp, there was room for optimism.

 With regards to Bruce Robinson directing it, there is little to comment as he hasn’t been too active and his only “renowned” films are the absurd Withnail and I and How to get ahead in Advertising.

 With there being so little information about the actual film, the only way I could possibly remit to finding anything to quench my curiosity was to observe the cast list for the movie. It was then that I experienced mixed emotions.

 Characters:

 Johnny Depp as Paul Kemp,

 

This will probably be a good thing. Even though Johnny Depp is a laudable actor who has nonetheless been greatly overrated, his fantastic portrayal of Raoul Duke in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, made him first choice to play another Hunter S Thompson character. We shouldn’t expect him to run around with a fly swatter crying out that “this is bat country” or getting seriously high on adrenochrome, or probably even speaking in the same eccentric way as Duke, but we can expect him to play his role formidably.

 Amber Heard as Chenault 

I was unsure as to who could play the role of Chenault, and was fearful that someone inept like Scarlett Johannson would get the role. Acresses like Charlize Theron were too superstar material, Mena Suvari and Sienna Miller didn’t quite fit in, but when I saw that stunning Amber Heard had been given the role I thought they were spot on.

 Chenault’s girl next door attributes, petite yet curvy figure and dazzling appearance is fully matched by Heard, and after seeing that she had been cast I believed they had made the right choice. Now all we can do is pray that her acting ability matches up to her looks. (And I’m not relating to her willingness to take her clothes off).

 Richard Jenkins as Lotterman

 

Few actors can articulate such pathetic expressiveness as Richard Jenkins. After convincingly portraying the pitiable Ted in Burn after Reading, Jenkins has been assigned with playing the zealous yet despised editor of the San Juan Star Newspaper and, knowing his credentials, I have little doubt that the former Six Feet Under performer will do it well.

 Michael Rispoli as Bob Sala

 

I am quite undecided over this decision. On one hand, Rispoli can fit into the physical description of Bob Sala, on the other hand though, his constant association with mafia and gangster films, not to mention his role in The Sopranos seems to make him appear a little inadequate for the role. However, it will be good to see him prove us wrong, after all, who would have thought that Benicio del Toro could have played Raoul Duke’s crazy lawyer, Dr Gonzo, or Oscar Zeta Acosta, in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, so effectively?

 Giovanni Ribisi as Moberg

 When I was reading The Rum Diary and trying to imagine Moberg, I pictured a sweaty, blonde, dough eyed guy with receding hairlines. When Giovanni Ribisi was cast though, I felt that, yet again, they had made a good choice. I actually think Ribisi is a pretty decent actor. Ever since seeing him as Phoebe’s brother in Friends, or the crazy teenager who controlled lighting and appeared with Jack Black in an X Files episode, Ribisi became “that guy from friends”, until gradually making a name for himself in films like Saving Private Ryan, Cold Mountain, Avatar and appearances in My Name is Earl. He isn’t De Niro, but he won’t deceive.

 Amaury Nolasco as Segarra

 

Nolasco was good as the violent Jack Lupino in Max Payne, and was likeable as Sucre in Prison Break, before ruining things and taking part in another fugitive series, Chase.  However his role as Segarra is questionable. Nolasco looks good as a villain or as a good guy in its rawest form, but not as a cynical sleazebag like Segarra. However, even though I imagined Segarra with more hair and a thinner frame, with the right wardrobe, maybe Nolasco can pull it off.

 Bill Smitrovich as Zimburger

 

Having already played authoritative figures such as Detectives, Vice Presidents, DA’s, Judges, Police Chiefs and Generals, Smitrovich seems an adequate for the jackass, drunken and rich General Zimburger.

 Marshall Bell as Donovan

 

If there was a character that could have been left out in the plot, perhaps it was Donovan, yet for some reason the director has insisted that he has a role, and as such there is little relevance to Marshall Bell’s casting, as the character himself is not a key narrative figure.

 Aaron Eckhart as Sanderson

 

This is where the doubts start coming in. If Sanderson’s role in the novel is that of a big fish who, in contrast to Sagarra, takes a liking to Kemp an offers him interesting jobs as well as invitation to drink at his house, Eckhart could portray a role alike to Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, only without being a DA and turning into a short-lived super-villain. 

 However, Sanderson’s role in the film will be quite different. In fact, the scriptwriters and director have said that there will be a love triangle between Chenault, Sanderson and Kemp.

 Therefore, there is no Yeamon. Taking this character out of the plot, and spreading his characteristics among other roles will only be confusing. Yeamon himself is a key figure in the narrative, fully capable of holding his own and creating an impact on the readers. The violent, funny, drunkard troublemaker who is sleeping with the beautiful girl whilst treating like dirt has been replaced by a rich, smug big fish who has the girl.

So…it will be crap then?

 The plot must have been seriously altered. Without Yeamon taking Kemp on his troublesome adventures, spearing chickens around his house or ferociously partying in St Thomas and Charlotte Amelie, it is unknown when and where the plot will unfold. What can be said is that the story of the beautiful young girl who is in a relationship with a rich and conceited man, and who later falls in love with the poor journalist is wishful but also unoriginal and bland. It appears that this has been an attempt to commercialise the film with a insipid love story to try an attract a wider audience than those who are mere Hunter S Thompson fans.

 I hope that I am being too pessimistic, and that the plot untwines itself in a Thompson like manner and not in a cheap Hollywood Production. One can only have faith in Depp and faith in those respectful to the King of Gonzo in order to make the Rum Diary another collector’s item for those who, like me, are eagerly awaiting the film, but not without caution.