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10 things we have learned from the first round of Euro 2012 games

In Uncategorized on June 12, 2012 at 2:19 pm

The first batch of games have been played. Issues like peer pressure, stage fright, good runs, bad runs and niggling injuries have been dealt with, and, as expected, there have been a fair share of surprises. With two games for each team to continue their run in the Euros, what lessons have been learned from Stage one, Round one?

1. Form mean nothing: A valuable lesson that always gets forgotten. The media loves statistics and indulging themselves with banal information prior to a major championship, but once the ball starts rolling, there is no time to see who has scored the most headers in the qualifying rounds, who has the best pass percentage, or who hasn’t lost in the last three months. You can ask Holland to corraborate that. Their form prior to the Euros was formidable, their key striker Robin Van Persie, on fire, and their playmaker Wesley Sneijder under heavy criticism. So suprise, suprise, Holland lost their first game to Denmark, Van Persie was nowhere to be seen, and the best player for the Dutch was Sneijder.

France’s recent form also saw them start the game against England as clear favourites, as did same against Italy, who had come from a 3-0 friendly defeat to Russia. In the end, the favourites couldn’t take all three points against the weaker side, and in Spain’s case, it took a lot of suffering to scratch the draw, with a goal against a team who, in another reference to form, had only let in two goals in the qualifying rounds.

2. Possession means nothing: If form means nothing, neither does possession. The three culprits mentioned in the first point are also proof of this. Holland’s 29 shots, and control of possession was to no avail against an organised and efficient Danish side. Spain’s tiki-taka football was contrasted by an aggressive and well structured Italian eleven that also posed a serious threat to Casillas. Funnily enough, as the French paper L’Equipe criticised Spain’s tactics and inability to score without a striker, the following day they did the same thing against England, controlling possession and the fluidity of the game, but seeing all their efforts break up, with Nasri and Ribery colliding for a central role outside the area, and Benzema having to drop wide to create spaces, thus leaving the area without a striker. Possession gives you control of a game, but without efficiency and effectiveness, and that bit of lady luck, it cannot guarantee wins.

3. One must still respect one’s elders: A lot has been said about the new talents in Euro 2012, yet some of the more veteran players are playing important roles for their country’s. Some are being more representative, like Robbie Keane for Ireland, but Casillas, Pirlo, Buffon, Di Natale, Dennis Rommedahl, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and more importantly, the oldest of the lost, Andrei Schevchenko, whose brace gave the Ukraine three points against Sweden.

4. Ukraine and Sweden hosted the most entertaining game: Thusfar, all the hype about Spain, Germany, Holland and France, have seen how the smaller, supposedly less significant nations have put the best football. France and Spain played the best midfield play of the Euros so far, but their inefficiency when it comes to scoring has turned all their passing and flair into a dull show of frustration and sterile football. Nonetheless, Italy vs Spain was entertaining, but not as much as the Ukraine’s battle against Sweden, where the lack of renowned stars was replaced with real football.

5: Russia are back to business: After missing out on the World Cup, Russia are back to playing the great football they showed in the last European championships. Back then, only Spain’s possession football was able to meet them (and twice), but on their way they disposed of Sweden, Greece and Holland. This year, after a 3-0 trouncing of Italy, the team’s 4-1 demolition of the Czech Republic, with Dzagoev in excellent form, shows that they must not be taken lightly.

6. England are not as disorganised as you would expect: They may not be favourites, and they still aren’t. However, England’s game against France showed that they can stil hold on and fight through a tough football match. Regardless of this though, England were clearly the inferior side, and whilst we have seen that possession doesn’t win you games, lack of balls and creativity, and perhaps an excessive hope placed on Wayne Rooney will not make things any easier for the three lions.

7. Torres…oh Torres..you suck: Yes, OK, the second Torres ran onto the pitch Spain’s football became dangerous and out Italy against the ropes, but was it Torres, or Navas opening wide that did the trick. With a striker, Spain found the spaces they needed to make Italy’s defence spread and run and Torres it great at finding spaces, the only problem is, he cannot score. His three chances against Buffon were blunders that a world class striker, especially one with 60 million, shouldn’t miss. His one on one with Buffon was the kind of angle that Ronaldo slots goals in frequently (such as Barcelona vs Real this season), and the final miss required a subtle chip that Raúl or Villa would have wished for. Yet Torres isn’t Villa, or Raul and it showed.

8. Germany quietly get the job done: Whilst Holland and Spain are being criticised, Italy praised, England judged and France too, the Ukraine are miracle winners, and the Russians are back in the limelight, Germany sit quietly, with three points, no goals conceded and waiting for their next rival. Their last game wasn’t the most convinving, but it was against a tricky Portuguese eleven, and it looks like this is just how they like it.

9. The grass may be greener, and will definifitely be dryer on the Spanish side: You cannot choose what kind of pitch you want to play in, it isn’t a given right you have. However, quicker pitches, wetter and shorter green carpets give better and more entertaining football that dry hay patches. The things is, many teams don’t want to play pretty football, they want to win games, and you can bet your bottom euro that Ireland, Croatia and whoever else may come, will prefer to play on long dry grass against the Spain, and will refuse to allow to wet the surface. Spain are not known for their physical ability, so the Irish and Croatians have a better chance of slugging it out against Spain will long balls and headers on a dry surface whilst the Spaniards struggle and stroll on long, arid surfaces.

10. People are going to get their heads bashed in: This isn’t football related, but it is repulsive and linked to the Euros. It has happened before, but the sights of thugs beating offices and fans in the head are hard to ignore. This time however, it isn’t the English, who people tend to pick out so quickly, but mainly eastern europeans, russians against ukranians who are giving a dire image to an important competition.

Ten Debutants to look out for in Euro 2012

In Sport, Uncategorized on June 5, 2012 at 3:04 am

Last week the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, feebly posed trying to defend his posture and explaining that things were going as expected and that sooner or later Spain would crawl out of the shithole they currently find themselves him. Dry mouthed and twitching, he went on to add that he hoped that the Spanish national Football could bring “some joy” to those who were suffering in his country, the same way that they had during the last four years, where they managed to hide some of the ex-President Zapatero’s lamentable doings by boasting about sporting glorious, such as the Spanish national basketball and football teams and Rafael Nadal.

It is time for Euro 2012, and even though part of me wants Spain to lose as to not allow the Spanish public to face distractions from the crude reality that is surrounding them, I am somewhat wooed by the opportunity they have to become the first side to consecutively win European Championships, World Cups and a subsequent European Championships.

It is pure subjectivism, but everyone likes to have their say in who will be the best team, best players or worst losers in any football tournament. Whilst for many players, this won’t be the first time they step into the international limeleight, there is a selection of players who will be making their debuts. If in the last world cup players like Özil and Müller stood out, here are some debutants to keep an eye out for in Poland and Ukraine.

10. Alan Dzagoev: Russia, Attacking midfielder, 21 years old, CSKA Moscow:

The youngest outfield player to debut with the Russian national side, at the age of 18 and 116 days, Dzagoev is an intelligent player with great vision and not afraid to score the odd goal. Some formidable performances in the Champions League may have sparked some interest amongst other European clubs who will keep an eye on the youngster to see how he performs in these championships.

Bring on the youtube video with annoying music:

9. André Schürrle: Germany, Forward, 21 years old, Bayer Leverkusen.

Germany have a habit of brining in new stars in every championship. From Lahm and Schweinsteiger, to Neuer, Özil and Müller, this year the same applies for Die Mannschaft. Schurrle isn’t a new face, but it is his first mayor championship, and even though his first team chances are limited, he is tipped to shine when the moment arises for him. A technically gifted player, Schürrle has been in great form for both his club and his country, where his dribbing skills have excelled and also been complimented with his physical grit and dedication to recover balls with interceptions and tackles, perhaps to the detriment of his scoring abilities, he has established hismelf more as a hard working creative scorer rather than a goal poacher.

8. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: England, 18 years old, Winger, Arsenal FC

A talented and physically gifted winger, Chamberlain is a footballer many England fans will be looking to as a future prospect. However, I cannot help but feel similiarities with Theo Walcott in the whole future English wonderkid tag. People should keep a look out for Alex, to see if he really is worth all the fuss, that is, if England do well enough, and if Roy Hodgson takes the risk and gives the powerful player enough minutes.

7. Jordi Alba: Spain, 23 years old, Left Back, Valencia CF

Another Catalan in the Spanish national team, only this one was not formed in the Masía, Jordi Alba owes most of what he has learned to Valencia CF. His technical ability has earned him a spot in the World Champion’s starting eleven, covering Capdevilla’s old spot, with Arbeloa moving to right back. Whilst Spain’s most laudable assets are its midfield players, many eyes will be on Alba as he is currently playing for a team that has in the past sold players like David Villa, Juan Mata and David Silva. Barcelona and Manchester United are reported to be interested in his services.

6. Ashley Young:  England, 26 years old, Winger, Manchester United

He may not be a teenager, or even in his early twenties, but Euro 2012 will be the first time Ashley Young will put on an England shirt in a major tournament. A venomously quick player, his year at Manchester United has earned him some valuable experience, despite it being relatively unfortunate. Rather than Walcott and Chamberlain, the absence of Rooney will put added strain on his United colleages, Danny Wellbeck and Ashley Young. Whilst Wellbeck is a steady striker, Young’s runs down the wind and interior shots are a handy weapon for England, that is, if his diving doesn’t marr his talent.

5. Yann M´Vila: France, 21 years old, Defensive Midfielder, Rennes.

Another player who will be scouted by bigger teams M´Vila represents the gritty, hard working and robust defensive midfielder that France have been accustomed to with Makelele and Viera. Quicker and younger than Lassana Diarra, this player may be regarded as the new Essien and many teams will be checking his worth in the Euros.

4. Olivier Giroud: France, 25 years old, Striker, Montpellier.

The truth is that most of the burden of scoring France’s vital goals are going to fall on Karim Benzema. This means, that with the little pressure surrounding him, Giroud can show what he can do and how he has become on of France’s most rated strikers in one succesful year for Ligue 1 Champions Montpellier. However, as with other French strikers like Anelka, Saha, Trezeguet or Cissé, you never know what to expect.

3. Kevin Strootman: Holland, 22 years old, Central Midfielder, PSV Eindhoven.

Capain of PSV Eindhoven and only 22 years old, Strootman’s consistency and important role has made him an essential assett to both PSV and the Dutch national side. To some he is considered the new Roy Keane, and for starters he is competing for a starting role in the first eleven with Kung-Fu master Nigel de Jong. Strootman’s leadership and maturity is one that will appeal to many clubs, particularly in the Premier League.

2. Robert Lewandowski: Poland, 23 years old, Striker, Borrusia Dortmund.

Dortmund have a habit of bringing up gifted youngsters, and whilst most of the praise two seasons ago fell for Nuri Sahin, Lewadowski is a player who has improved dramatically over the last years. It is no coincidence that he was nominated the best player in the Bundesliga for the 2011-2012 season (the last two winners being Sahin and Özil),and subsequently, most of the joint-host nation’s hopes to finish respectably lie on the 23 year old, who scored 30 goals in 46 matches last season, and can score great goals like the one he scored last week against Andorra.

1. Mario Götze: Germany, 20 years old, Attacking Midfielder, Borrusia Dortmund.

Whilst Spain’s midfield seems to take all the plaudits, Germany are without in possession of best future prospects in midfield. With players like Schweinsteiger, Özil, Müller, Kroos, Khedira, Schürle, and even Marko Marin, you would think they would have enough, yet Mario Götze is one of the most promising footballers around. An essential part to Borussia Dortmund’s recent success, and a key partner to Sahin in his first season, he has been vital in this season’s Double winning side. Along with Schürrle he is also one of the two players to play for Germany who were born in the reunified Deutschland. This new wave of post Berlin Wall gootballers has also brought a new style of football, more flair than Germany were accustomed to, Götze will be on many manager’s wishlists by the end of the European Championships.

ONE MORE TO LOOK OUT FOR:

Christian Eriksen: Denmark, 20 years old, Midfielder, Ajax

By the time he was 19, Christian Erksen had already had trials at AC Milan, Barcelona and Chelsea. However, he had decided to learn his trade at Ajax, who were renown for bringing up talented youngsters in a league that had also been a stepping stone for foreign players like Ronaldo, Romario or Ibrahimovic. He did play in the World Cup, even though to little effect, which is why he isn’t mentioned in the list before. However, keep your eyes peeled for this gifted playmaker.

Ten Comic Strips that make me smile

In Uncategorized on May 29, 2012 at 12:50 am

When I talk about comic strips, I’m not referring to Marvel or DC comics. Not that I have anything against them, I’m just not the most avid reader of them. Watchmen and The Killing Joke aside, I tend to find that the films are just as much fun as the comics, or better.

It is the comic strips that appear in newspapers that I seem to adore. Even as a kid, eating some Krispies and tired of reading the back of the cereal box, the strips at the back of the newspaper were there to make me chuckle, when and if I understood the satire in them, that is. These days, I seem to have resumed my interest in them. Anyway, enough about the crap where I talk about how I like comic strips. Here is a list of the top ten comic strips or webcomics (excluding strictly political satirists like Herblock or Eneko) from the many that are around, that are there to cheer you around when you need some light reading.

10: Garfield

Jim Davis’ 1976 creation holds the Guiness World Record for the most widely syndicated comic strip. The lazy ginger cat, named after Davis’ grandfather, is a childhood favourite, as its humour was pretty simple and lacking political or social commentary. Yet whilst the comic seems to have jumped the shark, especially due to to the unsucessful movies released in the last decade, during the 90’s it was certainly my favourite comic. A trick to know which comics come from the best eras is that the bigger Garfield’s eyes, the less witty the content.

The evolution of Garfield

Having started with his comic Gnorm Gnat, which followed several insects, upon having this strip rejected because, as Davis would explain, it looked like only he found insects funny, the artist decided to choose a cat for his next strip, even though the main character was Jon Arbuckle. In the end, as the United Feature Syndicate saw that the cat had the wittiest lines, the stories began to centre around him and his feline life, eventually transforming from a simple cat, to a cat that could communicate with his dog friend Odie, walk on his hind legs, and push him off stools.

In recent years, Davis seems to focus more on Merchandising Garfield and this appears to have taken some toll of the comics, which do not seem to have the spark of its earlier years, and like other cartoons like Mickey and Donald, are being saturated for marketing.

9: Fred Bassett

Another comic strip that follows the daily life on an animal, Alex Graham, who had confessed to not knowing how to draw dogs, was given a Bassett Hound as a present and began to write a comic about him in 1963.

Slightly more surreal than Garfield, the strip is also non-political and straight to the point, only differing in recent publications that are no longer made by Graham (who died in 1991), but by Michael Martin and Graham’s daughter Arran Graham.

8: Dilbert

Not a comic for kids, Scott Adams’ Dilbert originally was originally set in the home of Dilbert and his pet Beagle, the megalomanic Dogbert. However, it was only after Adams set the main stage to the workplace that the comic strip kicked off. The satire regarding corporate culture, the dullness, incompetence and idiosyncrasy of the characters seem to resemble the hopelessness and tight grip managerial big fish have on their workers, and the grimness of office life, in a way that one may actually relate to it somehow. Then there is Dogbert.

Two times Presidential candidate, CEO of a company, head of the FBI, lover of soft pillows and President of the Fourth World ex-Communist state of Elbonia, the dog with no mouth seems to steal the show with his evilness and apathy, mixed with a strange devotion to Dilbert, only when he wants to. The original Stewie Griffin, Brian the dog or Brain the mouse.

7: The Oatmeal (The Bobcats):

When Matthew Inman got tired of his job in a marketing firm he decided that he longer wanted to work for somebody else and preferred to generate his own income. Now, many of us may dream about this and then resume our meagre existence, yet Inman’s first step was to set up a dating website. This site was called Mingle2, and the way Inman set out to advertise for his site was through fun quizzes and comics. It was these comics and absurd tests that eventually led him to also make The Oatmeal. Random comics are scattered around with strips ranging from Grammatical lessons (How to use an apostrophe), his obsession with Game of Thrones, Why it is not cool to date a Tyranosaurus Rex, his awesome comic strips on cats and grotesque faces.

My Daily Lie

His page is growing at a ginormous rate, he also collaborates with Tumblr whenever the server breaks down, has a song about Motherfucking Pterodactyls and gets over 20 million page visits a month, and if anyone has a cat, they will love his comic The Bobcats.

6: Simon’s Cat:

I actually don’t have a cat, but my girlfriend does. And they are selfish, cheeky arrogant little runts. I have dogs though, so that must explain why there are so many cats and dogs in this list. My girlfriend loves Simon’s Cat almost as much as she loves the Bobcats. The only difference is that while the Bobcats, as well as Garfield, have talking animals in surreal situations, Simon Tofield follows the Oatmeal’s original cat comics in potraying cats being cats and the humour behind their intentions and often stupidity.

Starting off as a cartoon film, Simon’s Cat is now in two book forms and as a strip in the Daily Mirror. The cat doesn’t speak, and usually just wants to get into the house, scratch things, attract the attention of Simon or eat, yet recent strips are starting to see the cat take on the surreal forms of other comics. It is still cute though and fun to look at.

5: The Far Side

Gary Larson’s comic stopped being published in 1995, but by then it had already been translated into seventeen languages, carried by nearly 2,000 newspapers and published in 22 compilation books. I also remember going shopping with my mother, and letting her look around the aisles while I hung around the birthday card and calendar section reading cards and chuckling at monthly comics taken from The Far Side.

Originally preceded by the comic Nature’s Way, Larson doesn’t follow any specific characters, instead opting on varying from cavemen, to animals to married couples and a range of repeating themes like desert islands, alien invasions and the difference between heaven and hell. His comic though, usually consisting of one to four panels with a text written below it, as opposed to the typical speech bubbles, is gold, and it is no surpise that his books have topped the New York Times Bestseller List on several occasions.

4: Toothpaste for Dinner

Drew Fairweather is some kind of a genius. Yet calling him Leonardo Da Vinci may be taking things too far. Still, he has managed to make himself self sufficient by drawing one strip with a ball point pen (no Adobe Illustrator or digital software) and scanning it every day. He has also written a book, Veins, which in his strange humour kind a way, is hilarious, and he has recorded albums, first under the names KOMPRESSOR and Dog Trader, but most recently as CRUDBUMP. The music is strange, almost a pisstake, but actually quite catchy, but nothing is comparison to Toothpaste for Dinner.

Starting off as a chemist and part time musician, Drew started to draw comics in 2002 and ended up publishing one a day. His wife Natalie Dee, also publishes Married to the Sea, with occasional wit and absurd humour, but of no rivalry to Drew. The socially awkward, surreal and sarcastic messages, criticising modern day hipsterosis and obnoxiousness is somewhat pessimistic, but ironic and funny all the same. More importantly he always manages to point out what we hate about what we see around us, and the geekiness in some of our acts in a way that you can only mumble to yourself “so true”, (something that only memes like socially awkward penguin and bachelor toad can do as well).

3: Suicide Bunnies and Selfish Pigs:

You’ve probably seen them in posters and books. I remember my Suicide Bunnies poster hanging in my room next to my Radiohead, Fight Club and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas ones.  The other posters passed unnoticed, as most music and film posters should, but people always chuckled at those rabbits trying to kill themselves in the weirdest ways possible.

The Book of Bunny Suicides is Andy Riley’s Masterpeice. Along with the three books on Bunnies trying to commit suicide, Riley also has two books on Lies To Tell Small Kids and one about Selfish Pigs. Since this post seems to be animal orientated, though it didn’t seem to be my initial intention, I will stick to Bunnies and the Pigs.

The dark humour in both comics, where pop culture references are used as well as numerous contraptions and devices, show the creativity employed by Riley to make each death, and act of egotistic selfishness unique. The bunnies are tragically funny, the pigs are a repulsive invitation to snigger and both comics, without speech bubbles are gems.

2: Calvin and Hobbes

So much can be said about Calvin and Hobbes, I wouldn’t know where to start knowing that this can’t be a full post about them. All that can be said is that I love them. Bill Watterson’s duo is the perfect nostalgic flashback about a boy called Calvin and his best, albeit imaginary, friend. This friend, of course, is his toy tiger, Hobbes.  The philosophical debates, the social criticisms, and the jovial imaginations of Calvin are delightful to read and worthy of high appraisal.

Despite the incessant childish traits that characterise Calvin, there are numerous artistic references to show the talent of the boy, even though they are also challenged by his macabre intentions, fuelled by his curiosity, for example, upon seeing how quickly some snowmen melted, the act incited Calvin to try his own inventions on snowmen.

His intelligence and wide imagination is also accompanied by his sensitivity, particularly regarding death, as can be seen when he sees a dead bird and, after trying to philosophise, concludes that it is a strange world we live in, or during the time he cared for a dying raccoon his father took home, and upon being to save  it, concluding that despite eventually losing everyone in the life cycle, it is imperative that Hobbes stays with him.

As in many cases, Watterson was a man frustrated with his job in advertising who would spend his free time drawing cartoons. After several tries to publish some comic strips, United Feature Syndicate finally gave some positive feedback on a secondary character in one of his comics. It was a little boy and his stuffed tiger. Even then, despite the UFS final decision to turn down the comic strip,  the Universal Press Syndicate opted to take it. Ten years later, Calvin and Hobbes was one of the most succesful comic strips ever produced, until the last day of 1995, where Watterson, tired of resisting merchandising his characters, stated that he would cease from producing the comic strip and sent his last one, showing Calvin and Hobbes heading off to explore more things in the snow.

1: PEANUTS:

Imagine the difficulty faced when having to shortern the appraisal and information on Calvin and Hobbes into four paragraphs and multiply it by ten. This is what happens when you have to write concisely about Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts. A key reason for this, apart from the genial content and character development (but not physical growth) of its key stars, is the fact that it ran from 1950 to 2000, when Schulz passed away. Over those fifty years, Peanuts allowed Schulz to earn nearly one billion dollars, due to the selling of merchandises, animated shows and the actual strip, something unimaginable when Sparky published his first strip with Charlie Brown.

Having initially had little success with his first comic Lil Folks, Schulz continued with the essence of his characters from his first comic to make a new one, which the UFS baptised as Peanuts, much to the dislike of Schulz, who would later add and Good Ol’ Charlie Brown, whenever possible and also name his paperback collections as Snoopy or Charlie Brown.

During the first five years of the comic strip key characters began to emerge, Charlie Brown, Schroeder, Shermy  Patty (who would stop appearing in the mid seventies) and Snoopy, who would gradually become more and more extravagant. In subsequent years, characters like Violet, Pig Pen and Linus would also become key figures, and it is only in the sixties when the famous bird Woodstock and characters like Peppermint Patty, Rerun, Franklin and Marcie were introduced, showing the changes that took place within the comic.

Physical changes too

Snoopy is cute, Schroeder determined and obsessed with Beethoven, Lucy in cynical and aggressive, Linus a vulnerable and genius and then there is Good Ol’ Charlie Brown,  the perfect symbol of failure, awkwardness and low self esteem. In the real world you may even hate his whiny ways, self doubt and constant monologues, but for some reason, I couldn’t but help but love him when reading his comics (and the books). Social, political and general satire was used in this comic, mixed with the absurdity of Snoopy’s doings and the cuteness of mixing adult issues through the eyes and lifestyles of children in the most popular comic strip ever released. One that could sadly only end with the failing sickness of its creator.

The Mathematics of Eurovision

In TV/Movies, Uncategorized on May 27, 2012 at 2:19 am

Part Two. The Contest is over, my predictions were not too far fetched, and this is not because I am a genius, but because it seems pretty easy to determine, because whilst it is a contest, it is evident that there are formulas for winning. The combination of cheesy+trashy+english tends to reap decent results, along with geopolitical standings, those that allowed Serbia’s drab song to reach a high ranking as well as the truly Godawful Albanian song.

However, the top three were not bad songs to be honest. Romania’s song was catchy and sexy, Russia’s was adorably cute, and Sweden had the sufficient help from her neighbours, and a catchy dance tune that had already reached number one in four different countries. Truth be told, the fact that more than ten songs for Eurovision had been composed by Swedish musicians, and that Sweden is economically capable of holding the event next year, I don’t think it was that bad a result. However, the UK’s and Denmark’s terrible results; Spain and France’s deserving of a higher place, and Albania’s farcical top five finish, shows that some countries are going to find it almost impossible to win Eurovision, whilst others can always get a helping hand from their neighbours.

Serbia’s help from Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, was an example of geopolitical companionship, even more so Albania’s help from their neighbours from left to right, Italy, San Marino, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia and Greece. The UK’s neighbours, France and Ireland only managed to give them four points (all from Ireland), and the unpopular French got no votes from their neighbours.

Nothing new here, at least Jedward didn’t win, though the dissapointment of Albania’s ranking is really frustrating, as can be seen in the video in my last post, it was painful to listen to.

So the formulas for Eurovision: Trashy+Cheesy+Good neighbours+English+Make sure you have made good PR of your song before hand (Germany’s Lena Meyer Landrut can also testify to that) is a winning formula. Congratulations to Sweden you are Europe’s cheesiest singing nation.

Now one last formula and Eurovision’s “finest”:

Colin Farrell + Ed Norton = Parfeny Lauter

   Ed Norton

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Eurovision 2012…oh sigh

In Uncategorized on May 26, 2012 at 10:54 pm

Well I am back on this blog, as an alternative to my other one, and coinciding with Eurovision, I had decided to make a new entry, without the political criticism that usually follows this terrible, terrible, music event that wastes money yet cannot be ignored when it appears on our screen. Here in Spain, they have been boring the pants off us with constant, and I mean CONSTANT, reruns of Pastora Soler’s whiny “Quédate conmigo”.

Yet as the event is currently on, so here is a live reaction to Europe’s cheesiest representatives in Baku, which may I add, looks like a nicer city than I could have ever imagined:

Credit goes to the presenter of the Festival, a mixture of Justin Timberlake and a mongol. This promises.

THE SINGERS:

UK: Engelbert Humperdink- Love will set you Free: Forget the Harry Potter-esque  name,  respect must go to  Humerdink’s trajectory in music, yet to be honest, this song doesn’t do him any favours. A love song as it may be, sweet in it’s essence, it is just way too cheesy but not trashy enough for Eurovision.

Hungary: Compact Dis- Sound of our Hearts: So normal I can’t even remember it.

Albania: Rona Nishliu- Suus: Oh Lord, this must be the worst song in Eurovision 2012. A horrible dress making her look like dracula’s test tube baby with a nest on her head. And screams. Lots of screams. Yelps, blood curdling, painful screams.

Her face during the whole song.

Lithuania: Donny Montell- Love is Blind: Ah, I get it, Love is blind, hence the blindfold. Now, the seventies disco pop song? And the geeky white Carlton dressed as James Bond and shaking his hips? Fail.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Maya Sar- Korake Ti Znam: Normal, bland, boring and…zzz

Russia: Buranovskiye BabushkiParty for Everybody: These cunning Russians, they know how to trick us, to make us vote for them via the sympathy vote, a bunch of grandmothers with a bread stove, the story of them wanting to spend their Eurovision money on rebuilding their church, they musn’t be trusted, I will not fall for it, I…Oh my God, did you see the really small grandma?!! I want one! 12 points!!!

I want this one.

Iceland: Greta Salóme and Jónsi- Never Forget: Yes, Eurovision mediocrity, singing in English, violins, an aryan guy and girl, and plenty of vomitful material.  Me no likey.

Cyprus: Ivi Adamou- La la Love: Pretty, tall girl… oh and the song? Catchy. Should get a decent positions but I don’t know how popular Cyprus is politically.

Leggy. Iva Adamou

France: Anggun- Echo (You and I):  Exotic and beautiful, Anggun’s song starts catchy, then gets drab, then gets catchy again. Noone likes the French, but their song is ok.

Formidable, je crois.

Italy: Nina Zilli-L’Amore È Femmenina (Out of Love): Amy Winehouse’s talentless long distance cousin. Slightly better looking. Not much else to boast about.

Estonia: Ott Lepland-Kuula: Good voice, young lad, boring, borrring song. Humpledinkory.

Norway: Tooji- Stay: Ten seconds into the song, it is good, my sister is wooed by his looks, fifteen seconds she begins to suspect that he may be gay, the tight leather pants confirm it. “Shame” she says. “And the song?” I ask? Meh.

Azerbajan: Sabina Babayeva-When the Music Dies:  Operated sex doll lips. Cher like inexpression, sloppy love song with violins. An original dress and hairdo and…ah there they are, annoying screams. Yep, that certainly killed the music.

Romania: Mandinga-Zaleilah: So it begins with a guy moonwalking with a bagpipe, not bad, then there is an outlandish brunette. She sings in Spanish and English with a  latino vibe, and sufficiently catchy. It’s pretty good. the song that is…and her looks.

Mandinga

Denmark: Soluna Samay- Should’ve known better: Keisha lookalike (looking better though), trying to be an indie cutie mixed with a sailor in leather pants. Truth be told, it isn’t the worse of the songs, it sounds like a typical radio tune, maybe not Eurovision material though. More Kiss FM.

Greece: Eleftheria Eleftheriou- Aphrodisiac: What name is that? How am I going to Google that? Yet another country who have played the pretty singer card. Now the song? Okay too. But her voice isn’t the best. And there is no way Greece could afford to host a Eurovision contest next year.

Elle Elefthariou

Sweden: Loreen-Euphoria: This year’s winner for sure. Because it is already well known. Because she is exotic in the most non-swedish way possible, the dance is great and it is a pub song. And they have good neighbours, if the Eastern Bloc don’t have their say.

Turkey: Can Bonomo-Love me Back: Rio Ferdinand dressed in leather and singing a disneyfied stereotype of Turk music. It will get votes from their neighbours though.

Spain: Pastora Soler- Quédate Conmigo: Great voice, best in contest, but slow, boring, non-eurovision song. Mid table.

Germany: Roman Lob- Standing Still: The Fray wannabes. Typical radio song, from a guy with a sock on his head.

Malta: Kurt Calleja-This is the Night: Sleazy chat up lines in a song I have taken three minutes to forget.

Macedonia:Kaliopi-Crno i Belo: Zzzzz…Mercy!

Ireland: Jedward-Waterline: Shoot me. Is it the fact that I already hate them? the pidgeon shit bobs on their head? their lame song? Trashy, cheesy, like that episode of the Simpsons where Bart and his friends make a boy band and sing lame songs. And that part where they get together and form heart shapes with their hands…killed me.

Serbia: Željko Joksimović- Nije Ljubav Stvar: The violin part sounds nice but too familiar, the singer? no opinion whatsoever. This looks like it should be midtable indifference, but Serbia has lots of neighbours. Lots.

Ukraine: Gaitana-Be my Guest: Anastasia’s voice, not unattractive, yet this song, you can never know how it does in Eurovision or as a Euro 2012 song, and this indecision makes me think it will probably be midtable.

Moldova: Pasha Parfeny-Lăutar: Colin Farrel and Edward Norton’s bastard child singing another disney like tune, sounds like the right kind of cheesy, and thanks to the magic of geography and politics, Moldova will be fine.

PREDICTIONS:

For the song and the popularity of the song: Sweden

For geographical reasons…just that. Serbia, Azerbajan, Moldova and Albania.

For cuteness, (oh so cute): Russia.

Worse song: Albania. It was terrible, truly terrible. And they will probably get more points than UK, Spain, Germany and France combined.Oh and Jedward were Shite.

Eurovision Scream Contest winner.

 

Boxes and Learned Helplessness

In Uncategorized on April 4, 2011 at 1:27 am

“Everything he kept saying to me was some sort of fantasy he would conjure up on his own and spread to all those who surrounded him.” I told the man, as he lit his cigarette and fixed his glasses on his long, pointy nose. “But everything is always somewhere else; everybody was nowhere to be seen, all the thoughts, the ideas, the castles would just slip away”.

“But it was you who chose to believe him”. He quickly pointed, “And that was your own free will”.

From the window where I was staring out, the heavy rain was blurring the screen, and all that could be seen was the distorted up wavy figure of an oak tree fifteen metres in front of the window. I tried to look beyond the tree, into the city, the streets, the schoolyards with fighting kids and footballs flying in the air. I tried to rise myself above the skyscrapers, over the avenues and the financial centres, searching every lost alley for an explanation.

“Sir?” the man enquired

“Yes.” I assured him. “Yes you are right. I am perfectly aware of that.” And I was. He was not the first to point that out to me. Far from it, I couldn’t blame it all on my old man’s fantasies; he was after all, just a dreamer. An old dreamer who had taught us all to hope and never reach anything, from a young age, he had taught us that patience and faith was a virtue, that goodness was repaid and that, in time, those with devotion and conviction would reap what they deserved.

“Yet, you did not search for another alternative?” the man continued.

I took a deep sigh, and felt my temple began to beat; it was anger for the man was right, it was the normal question to ask, and I had searched for alternatives, but for some inexplicable reason, all of them had been met with closed doors, as if there was a code of conduct I had failed to understand, something I had missed out on. And every time I entered these clouds of doubt, my father’s fantasies of a greater life, of his big deal, of the people he knew who could help me out were the cushion I fell on, whilst the hard side, the wall or the floor, was composed of people who insisted that it was my mistakes, my indecisiveness, that had cast this great shadow upon me.

“I cannot get this shadow away”, I whispered. “It is too heavy”.

I felt entrapped in a teasing game, like a hamster in a maze, or a dog in a cage. I was being fed dung by everyone around me, and I was trying my best to construct something solid and worth believing in, but these ideas, these attempts and evidences, they just never hung around long enough to be served as proof later on that they even existed.

I heard somewhere that in the late sixties, two psychologists composed some experiments on dogs, driving some of the poor things nuts. These dogs, they were put into groups of three, and then different things were done to them. The first group of dogs, they were released with no harm done to them. They just strolled and ate their food and proceeded to sniff each other’s butts in joy, like some kind of Ivy League yuppies.

The second group of dogs were paired up and put on a leash, then, one from each pair was given electrical shocks that would end if the dogs sussed out hot to press a lever. Eventually, the dogs learned how to avoid the shocks, and assumed control of an else wise desperate situation.

The third dogs, however, were the suckers of the pack. They too were paired up and leashed together, but when one of the dogs received shocks, pressing the lever wouldn’t do anything to avoid further shocks from taking place. They just continued, inevitable and unjust, and with this, the dogs developed something the shrinks called “learned helplessness”. The poor mutts assumed that nothing could be done about the shocks anymore; they assumed their fate and the fact that they had little to say in the events that surrounded their environs. They developed symptoms of clinical depression. Later on, when those helpless dogs were put in a box on their own, they were given more electrical shocks, only this time they could end the shocks by simply jumping out of their boxes. Thing is, these dogs didn’t even bother anymore; they just gave up and accepted what was coming to them.

“Maybe it is some kind of learned helplessness or somewhat”, I babbled more to myself than to anyone else.

“Are you thinking you are a dog again?” the man teased sourly.

I placed my hand on the wall, only was it a wall? What was it made of? Plastic? Wood? Cardboard? Did it matter? In the end you think something is one way, but when a higher number of people tell you otherwise, you’ve got to learn to take it and accept that that thing that you are so sure is a chair is actually a Goddamn Schitzu and that is that.

I mean, maybe I hadn’t seen the buzzers, you know? They must’ve been there, and I just never saw them.

Maybe they were always there, so blatant, but I had not been able to sense them out, to pick them up, to press them and to determine a possible future, instead, I embraced a fantasy fed to me many years before.

These dogs, they kept having things changing around them, when they thought they knew how things worked, all of a sudden, they were being buzzed and shocked, and some managed to sort things out in the end, others found themselves incapable, and initial growls and winces, their frustration to what was going on around them, inevitably became a passive admittance and willingness to let the pain seep through. C’est la vie.

“Dogs don’t philosophize, they smell and lick themselves”. The man continued.

“I am not asking you for your advice right now”, I spat.

“Then why did you call me?”, he taunted, playing with the ashtray on the table.

“I didn’t”. I felt like I was growling.

“Yes you did.” The man assured smugly.

I turned back to the window, blurry, unsure and faded. What was it exactly I could see outside, was that really an oak tree I could see out there? Or was it just a weak deduction my mind had made to try and decipher the washed up smear in the frame in front of me? Everything kept changing around me, just not for the best, and I had long gone tired of chasing shadows.

On the window, there was another figure vaguely staring back at me. A weak reflection of a weaker person. His eyes were heavy, and had once burned with rage upon seeing that life and its disappointments had been shocking him, he had screamed and cursed, and vowed for change, but now they were weary, for he had been drowned by problems he had had the chance to solve, but that now he could do nothing about.

Sometimes it is all about time. Too much time, too little time. Often, you learn things too late, and when you finally try to solve a problem, you find that the problem doesn’t exist anymore, that in fact, there is a new problem and that you’re trailing yet again.

“When the EU finally began to be prepared to defend themselves from an invasion by the Soviet Union, all that defence planning was useless, the Soviet Union broke down on its own”, I lectured myself.

The man remained in silence for a while, until he slowly murmured, “So…?”

I have had opportunities and different scenarios to change them. I have had different experiments bestowed upon me. I have been a lab rat and dog, with triangles, squares, and circles shown in front of me, having to choose the right one.

I have been fed cookies when I have been right, I have been buzzed when I have been wrong. I have been shown a box and told to go for it, and when I have, I have been rewarded, only to find out further one that the box is no longer useful, it is no longer the right one.

“People are always changing, looking for something new, a new job, a new love, a new environment. Sometimes, they don’t even know what it is they want, but they chase it all the same”. I commented.

The man sat up from his slouched position. “Sir, am I supposed to understand anything you are saying?” He desperately asked.  “There is no coherency in your words.”

“There is no coherence in my world”. I added.

The boxes, my aims, the things I go for, when I finally learn to press buzzers and avoid the traps I find that the boxes are empty or out of date. Even worse, at times, you go to open a box one day, after pressing the buzzer and having done everything in your way to reap your rewards, and you feel the shock running through your veins. The currents shattering your bones, your teeth clenched, you realise that the buzzers were just a decoy and that your fate is not tied to your own actions.

The first time this happens, you are bewildered and overcome with rage. How could this be happening? I am an educated man, I hold my own destiny, and the world is full of boxes to choose from. However, as the shocks begin to kick in, and you begin to see others tremble in pain, eventually you don’t even bother warning them about the buzzers, or the lack of meaning in them. Eventually, you grab the box because you have to, you can’t just sit there and watch it in front of you. We are people, we do not sit and let years pass by, we cannot, we need to move, we need to breathe and make decisions and take them no matter what may evolve out of them. We grab the boxes. We feel the shocks.

Some boxes, you just throw them away, go to the next one, the next opportunity, the next change. The shocks however, are startlingly alike. The problems are still with a lack of solution. In anger you search quicker, with pure momentum, but sooner or later exhaustion begins to kick in.

I remember the box with her in it. Her face, the image of her sat on the grass with the shadows of the leaves on her face. She was smiling, even though she was probably grudging about the insects on the ground and how they would get tangled in her hair. I remember the feeling when I saw it, I didn’t care about buzzers, and I had to open that box. Her summer dress shimmering, her arms outspread, her eyes, blue yet warm. I ran to that box, I pressed the buzzers and passed the tests and when I opened it I felt the heavenly warmth of a task well done. I felt her embrace, I let years pass in it, and I routinely pressed the buzzer and opened that box. I got my cookies.

The day I felt the first shock whilst staring through her eyes, I couldn’t understand it. It must have been some flaw. But the currents got stronger, the pain, I tried to ignore it, I kept opening the box, getting the shocks, sizzling, frying, fizzling, sweltering, scorching, electrifying, crackling, these words coming to my head as I tried to reach the embrace. Eventually, it seemed that this old dog had reached a stage where he did not learn any longer, and they changed the box on me. One day, the box simply wasn’t there anymore.

“I don’t know what to chase to anymore”. I sighed.

“You always say that”, the man patronised, “Yet you’re always chasing rabbits”.

Indeed, we are always opening boxes, it is in our nature. We need to want, to open, to seek, to delve in frustrations when our dreams are not met, to sulk and try again.

“But I’m really tired this time. I am not even sure what I am chasing anymore. Is it that empty hole? The thing that elders chase just before they part? I’m not even sure if I want to chase anymore, or to what extent I am conditioned to my sanity”. I waited for a response but nothing came,

There are pills for everything these days, I mean, they have to have them, and people just can’t stand the boxes. They used to lobotomise them you know? The aggravated ones. Make you dumber, the dumber the better. It healed the pain and the frustration. For those who can’t find the buzzer, for those who aren’t Ivy League, you need some sedatives, or you end up hurting yourself.

“And in the end that just makes you lower than those around you. The dumb ones who have accepted their fate, they don’t cry in the end, because they no longer hurt, they don’t face disappointments or losses, they just accept any small shock that might come”. I heard footsteps outside the door.

“Doc?” I asked. I turned round to see if the man had left, he tended to do that, the miserly fiend, and I found that the chair behind me was empty and that there was a figure by the door. It was a slim and fragile lady, and I half expected to find that box I had left behind, the one with my loved one waiting for me with her arms opened. Instead it was a nurse staring, ready to reprimand.

“The doctor is ready to see you”. She assured me, before looking around the room at my hunched posture over the window, “Who on earth let you in here?” She asked politely.

I didn’t understand what the fuss was about. It was just a room with two chairs and window with a miserable view. “I suppose I let myself in, I don’t know”. Did it matter? I pondered, “And besides I have already been talking to the doctor for the last fifteen minutes or so”.

The nurse stood frozen by the door, her eyes squinting as if trying to suss me out. As if trying to decipher whether I was kidding with her or being truthful.

“The doctor has been in a meeting for the last two hours.” Her eyes still scanned me, waiting for a response.

“That can’t be”, I insisted, feeling slightly weak and confused.

“Oh it can be Mister Carr”, a voice implied from a far. Slowly, the doctors appeared by the door. His glasses perched on his coat pocket. “Now, take a seat, tell me, how are you feeling this week?”

I took two steps back and banged my back against the window. I looked at the table; there was no ash tray, the man looked at me concerned. He leaned his head towards the nurse, “same as last week, I see”, he mumbled.

With this, the room remained in silence. I closed my eyes and clenched my teeth. I saw the boxes flash before me, I saw the chances lost, the dogs whimpering, the doctor and the nurse on the doorway, the oak tree shaking outside under the rain, my father waiting for me in his paradise and my loved one’s arms begin to close.

Meme-ories are made of this

In Rant, TV/Movies, Uncategorized on September 23, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Oh the wit.

So anyway, it is cloudy yet again, and whilst it is hot and humid, the clouds are spitting crappy droplets and ruining any chance of going outside and getting some decent sunshine. It is then, thus, that I turn to the Internet to waste my precious, after dinner siesta time. And what better way to do so than by playing mind numbing games on Miniclips.com, reading fake news on The Onion, listings on Cracked and searches on Gorillamask. Whilst doing this, it is very likely that you stumble across memes on these and many internet sites.

What are they?

If you are one of those people who have yet to have sold their soul to the World Wide Web and still haven’t seen or heard of memes, then here is a simple description:

A meme is a popular term in the so called blogosphere, and refers to conversations, images or trends that end up becoming viral and spreading to other blogs, in a way that the original blog receives many visits due to it being the creator of the original meme, and other blogs feed on that popularity by enhancing and modifying the memes to keep the trend going.

Whilst it can be applied to viral marketing and promotions, as bloggers seek bigger audiences, though it could also be applied to simple cultural, humorous or even educational works that are spread from one mind, book, or even a blog to another, suffering variances, mutations and selections.

Like what?

All well from here, it even makes memes sound somewhat serious, particularly if you consider that one of the first important memes online was the Million Dollar Homepage meme, where Alex Tew, a student from Wilshere, England, decided to fund his university studies by selling pixels in 10×10 blocks at the price of one dollar a pixel. His page, which had space for one million pixels became a giant digital billboard. In 2005, it was positioned 125 in the Alexa web traffic ranking, it has decreased substantially since then, and the last 1000 pixels were sold for $38,100, bringing the final gross income tally to $1,037,100.

It isn’t all about making business though, and like all modes and fashionable trends, the popularity eventually goes down, and what was cool soon goes old. One of the first memes to be done, just for the hell of it was the Ate my balls meme, in the late nineties, where hundreds of celebrity photographs where modified with MS Paint and hung up on Geocities (oh the days), with speech bubbles making references to testicles. Remember, internet was limited then, and it was harder to get thrills.

One more in the Internet Phenomena List.

The Internet, apart from being highly useful for finding information, copying essays, searching porn and networking, is also great for wasting time looking at pointless shit and seeing it spread. Some other Internet phenomena many people have heard of include:

At this date, September 2010, the Internet is packed with memes, some of them just for fun, absurd and highly contagious. Social networks like Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and Tumblr have allowed memes to spread quickly and programs such as Adobe Photoshop, but even MS Paint, can make modifications very easy. For now, here are some of the memes I see the most while wasting my time, let’s see how long they last, and how long it will be before they create a meme that can finally destroy and rid the world of Justin Bieber.

Top 12 September 2010: Because most of the stuff I put here will be old shit in about..two weeks time.

1.      Lolcats: Still lasting, whilst other memes like Rick Rolling, Leeroy Jenkins, unicorn adoration, the God awesome Philosoraptor and dramatic chipmunks are losing out in popularity, you just cannot avoid stumbling into cats making pricks of themselves.

Lolcats...Fail

2.      O Rly, another perpetual meme. Originated on the Something Awful Forums, it was used to sarcastically reply to something that was dull, unoriginal or just retarded.

3.      Prancing Cera meme: A picture taken of Michael Cera jumping between two platforms in Norway was uploaded in Flickr. It wasn’t long before he had a F*uck Yeah Tumblr page flooded with modified fan made images.

http://fuckyeahprancingcera.tumblr.com/

4. Sad Keanu: A paparazzi picture of Keanu Reeves eating on his own fuelled a massive array of pictures and even videos taking the pitiful piss out of the Canadian actor.

5. Rage guy (fffuuu): A popular comic which has served as inspiration for countless memesn including Forever Alone, F*ck yeah, Okay, Y U No? And Everything went better than expected. http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/rageguy-fffuuuu

6.      Cool dog: Cool Dog is a nickname given to a leashed Shiba Inu dog with an elbow bent over what looks like a doghouse roof in a “cool” posture. Get it?

7.      Leo strut: Similar to the Disaster Girl, Leonardo Di Happrio is a photoshopped exploitable that uses an image taken of DiCaprio during the filming of Christopher Nolan’s “Inception”. The original image is of DiCaprio walking happily down a street but it has been edited into several scenes that usually depict a catastrophe or terrible happening, and where Di Caprio strolls as if he could have stopped the incident or helped people nearby, but instead continues throughout the scene doing his jolly strut. Source: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/leo-strut

8.      Son I am disappoint: First seen in November 2008, the pictures simly show a son doing something that disappoints his father, who replies, “I am disappoint”.

9.      Inceptions: Memes made from inception quotes and scenes, often merged with other memes. http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/inception

10.      Surprised Kitty. More popular among the less sarcastic, but it is a very adorable kitty looking surprised.

11.      Bear Grylls: Pictures of Bear Grylls with captions that mock his…assholeness

12.      They asked me I could be anything I wanted…so I became a God: Famous meme from 4chan, though I kinda feel sorry for the kid

Anyway, enough with the time wasting, I think it is time to do my second favourite thing to waste time, eat. And by the time I come back there will be another hundred memes to try and get the gist out of. This stuff moves too quickly for me.

More info for meme spotting.

Further links: http://fuckyeahfunnythings.tumblr.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Internet_phenomena

http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/

www.Urbandictionary.com

http://www.failblog.org

The Fishermen

In Uncategorized on September 20, 2010 at 3:17 am

The Fishermen await their big catch

Two raindrops fell on my sleeve and another one landed through my collar and down my neck. I shuddered and outstretched my hand, testing the clouds for further rain.

“Looks like it might rain any moment now”, the woman next to me sighed, her gaze still firmly placed on the hustle of men in front of her.

“t’would be a pity,” her husband added, “we might not get to see what it is they have caught”.

The clouds were spreading over the sky, stretching as far as the horizon, trying to pry out any remains of blueness it could uncover, but they were yet to reach the blackness or heaviness that preceded a downpour. At this moment, you were just as likely to expect the heavens to piss down on you, in an almighty cloudburst, than to see some gracious rays of light seeping through the gray mass and illuminating the dullness surrounding us. As a result, we stood where we were, indecisive, waiting for whatever had to happen to occur, a deluge, enlightenment, or nothing whatsoever.

Ahead of us, the shouting and fumbling were getting louder as a man arrived behind us in a motorbike and ran to join the group.

“I think the fishing rod is his”, the man explained, “he got bored a quarter of an hour ago, went for a sandwich, I bet he wasn’t expecting this”.

The guy on the motorbike ran up to the group shouting and reaching for the rod, they were all surrounding him as he tried to reel in whatever it was he had caught. With his helmet still on, he began to draw in the line, trying to tighten the wire and secure the hook in the fish’s mouth.

“You know, I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen them fish anything”, the woman confessed, “and I’ve been coming here every day for four months now”.

Her husband nodded assertively, “I don’t know if I would have the patience”.

There was a small crowd forming on the edge of the lighthouse and on the rails of the way to the rocky edges where the fishermen usually lay, just to see what all the fuss was about.

On the edge of the lighthouse the sea begins to change as you enter the port. On your left you have the wildness of the open sea, with dark blue waters, thicker waves and stronger contours. In the centre the currents begin to merge and as the sea begins to get closed down you can see that around the corner the waters are calm, static and tame.

The fishermen were grouped around the calm areas, where their joking and card playing had been interrupted by a heavy jerking in one of their rods. By now, they had caused such a fuss that they had fifteen people watching above them from the lighthouse and me grasping on my camera trying to capture the moment.

“Must be quite hard being a fisherman”, the husband continued, “so many hours sat on those rocks, waiting for something to happen. I´ve seen these guys before, they spend hours here, they do nothing else.”

“Probably can’t even afford a boat, you know, to do it properly”. The wife added.

“What a waste”, he lamented.

The rain was still resisting itself and the fishermen were all trying to help bring the fish in, but the stubborn bastard kept right at it.

“Let it swim! Let it swallow the goddamn hook! ‘Til it reaches its lungs and pierces its heart!” The fishermen cried, “The son of a bitch will get tired sooner or later!” The fisherman with the motorbike helmet held on to the rod, switching his arms alternately on the cord and leaning back, trying to put his weight against the fish.

Nothing happened. The fish continued to push into the water and the helmeted fishermen gave in and let another colleague have a go against the fish. The beast just swam, and the man could not raise it no matter how hard he pulled.

“This is a very big one,” the husband commented us, “probably the catch of his life!”

All of a sudden, the line jerked strongly to the left, the rod began to move to the open sea and the fishermen, perhaps inexperienced or in simple awe, chose to follow.

“Perhaps it is not they who have caught the fish, but the fish that is catching them” the wife teased, hoping that the fishermen could prove her wrong, as she grasped onto her digital camera.

They say that good things come to those who wait, and for the fishermen, this was their moment. They knew that this fish was going to demand the best out of them, but they also knew that after day after day of mockery and disappointment sitting on the edge of those rocks, fishing minute catches and either throwing them back or feeding them to the stray cats around them, that this was their chance to redeem themselves to those around them.

***

I had tried my best to assure people that I still had something in me, that it wasn’t all lost before it had all begun.

“I’m sorry, but these things are like they are, and journalism means unemployment”.

I tried to think of a comeback to try and rescue and defend my vocation.

“It’s just what it is Ed, you are dispensable, when there is a crisis, when people need something with urgency, you and all that stuff that you do, are the first to be thrown away”.

For fifteen years I had tried to find something I could do, varying from vague architectural ambitions whilst building stadiums with colourful Lego bricks, to digging in deserts in Mongolia in search of new dinosaur remains.

“Your mind isn’t made for maths and physics, your buildings would crumble”, my sisters would say to me, “Palaeontology? You want to be digging up bones all your life?” my mother would enquire; “well you better find some three eyed winged mega-dragon-saurus or you’re not going to make much money” she would continue.

It wasn’t until I was sixteen, when two clumsy English teachers told me that I would do well as a journalist, that I was finally complimented for something in my academic life. Writing therefore became my vocation, and I taught myself that it was better for one to dedicate oneself to something he likes, than to do something merely because of the outputs he might acquire. At the time, everyone around seemed to support that idea.

Then the crisis kicked in.

“You are just wasting your life; you are waiting for what exactly? For something to happen? What exactly are you waiting for?” My girlfriend’s voice was getting angrier over the phone. Mine was getting quieter.

How could I say what I was waiting for? Did I even know? I was waiting for the moment to show what I could do, for somebody to accept, to catch an opportunity and prove my worth, but around me there was nothing, and hence I had to move. Why hadn’t I?

***

Ten minutes later, we were stood under darker clouds one hundred metres away from where we had originally started watching the catch. The fish had pulled the fishermen round the bend of the lighthouse and along the ridges to the other side of the rocks where there was open sea. A man with a green cap was holding onto the lighthouse, shouting at passersby in sea jets to stop by and try to help them somehow beat the fish. Next to him, the man with the helmet stood helplessly holding a small fishing net and nodding with pessimism.

I had had time in those ten minutes to strike up a conversation with the married couple next to me. They came from Bristol and were planning on moving back to England in the following months as they missed it and were worried about how the crisis was ruining Spain. They also offered me some compassionate hope and sympathy with regards to the daunting unemployment issue in the peninsula. Another man had joined us, an old American who has giving us fishing tips while observing the desperate fishermen.

“Oh I haven’t fished in eight years; I just don’t have the patience for it anymore.” He explained, “you don’t fish much around here anyway, these guys, they just don’t find anything else to do, they have a tent there and everything”. He watched the men along with us for a couple of minutes more, before waving us goodbye, insisting that the catch “wasn’t gonna happen.”

The fishermen were getting anxious, the moving further down the lighthouse, being led by the fish until they reached an area where rocks were now seeping from the water.

“I bet you this fish has been caught like this before”, the husband confidently assured, “he’s taken them there on purpose”.

“Why don’t they just yank him out?” the wife asked.

“That fish is too big, you need to let him tire, the thing is, he is the one who is tiring the fishermen out”. He replied.

The man with the green cap was cursing as he grasped onto the rod, fully aware of the expectation around him. The lad with the helmet would look up at us and the spectators and nervously look back down, playing with the fishnet in his hand. The fishermen had tried to stop jerking, to stop the hook from widening the cut and allowing it to come out. He needed it tight, stabbing the fish, wearing it out.

A cat joined us in the crowd. Small and spotty he licked his lips, perhaps waiting for the catch to be another disappointment, or a snack for him. He purred and strolled up and down, before sitting and watching with us.

***

“Why the hell are you still there? You 25 year old mummy’s boy, why are you blaming everyone else for your bitterness? You bring it on yourself!”

These are hard words to take and harder to accept when they are true. I had put too much faith on those around me, on their assurances that everything would be fine, on making plans on other people’s terms, and I blamed them for it, when really there was no one to blame for myself. I had made myself deteriorate into half the person I used to be, all on my own doings.

“When this so called crisis ends, there will be new people, younger and more prepared people getting your job, you will be old and surplus to requirements. You would be a waste of time, talent, everything.”

So what exactly could I do? Apart from hear obvious realities. The truth is, I ask myself why I became a journalist. Do I really have it in me? If I did, then why am I wasting away? Why am I not being used? Why does nobody admire me?  On the contrary, I have become a burden to those around me, even those who once loved me, who perhaps have yet to find the coldness to tell me that my presence is a discomfort for them. I have learned to not hope, I have learned that love can be encumbered when you are no longer admirable, that for those who have the wind in favour there are plenty of other fish in the sea, and that either you make the most of the moment or you are disposable. Maybe I am waiting too long for that big chance, maybe it will never come, or it did and I failed to catch it. Maybe it is too late for anything and I need to leave everything behind and start again, only now it is harder.

***

The woman had hidden her camera in her purse, and mine was also in its cover. The fisherman stood hunched over the rock where the big fish had hidden under. The line had gotten caught between the rock and the algae and was stuck.

“Well, if you want I can bring your tent over here?”, a colleague asked him.

The fisherman scowled at the rock and shouted “Not even God could get this bastard out!”

The man with the helmet was stood by his side, his hands on his waist, the fishing net on the floor. His body language said it all, for he had long lost his hope of catching the big one. He had imagined the big catch, the crowd exclaiming in praise, the moment he had been waiting for. His friends congratulating him as he drank beer with them. That big fish, the one he never even got to see, but that he had in his grasp.

The man in the cap took one last jerk in anger and broke the cord, he yanked the rod and walked away cussing, leaving the man with the helmet staring at the rocks where the big fish was hiding.

“It’s a pity”, the woman said by my side, “they were almost good enough to be part of my holiday album”. I smiled and walked away with them back to the beginning of the lighthouse. The cat disappeared under some blocks and the crowd dispersed, all this, while the man in the helmet picked up his net and stood still, knowing that he had lost his big moment, after so long waiting and waiting, he divergently debated with himself what he should do next.

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