Sunday, August 23, 2015

I sound like An Old

I am a fairly private person. Yes, I make the occasional appearance on social media or podcasts, but for the most part I don't enjoy putting myself out there. I don't particularly like talking about myself, and pictures of me on the internet are hard to find.

This is by design. I enjoy my solitude, and this whole internet culture of documenting everything with one's smartphone and immediately uploading it to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook just leaves me cold. Human memory is fallible, I know, but is the ability to watch a video you'll probably forget about days after the fact worth seeing some of the most enjoyable moments of your life through a viewfinder rather than your own eyes?

Feathering one's nest

Hang around the UAE long enough and you start noticing some trends. First and foremost, the whole "at least it's a dry heat" thing doesn't fly here -- being so close to the ocean means you get all the heat and humidity you can stand. The local soccer league has kicked off games with temperatures in the mid- to high 90s and 70 percent humidity. Not surprisingly, attendances are even lower than usual.

Another thing is how often words such as "exclusive", "ambition" and "prestige" are thrown around, especially in the retail and financial sectors. There's one level of basic service for the hoi polloi but, if you're willing and able to pay a bit extra, you suddenly get upgraded from Number To Be Served to a Valued Priority Customer. I got a snootful of this on Day 1 here -- there was a long line for the medical exams you have to undergo before receiving a residence visa, but because I and another white Westerner each stumped up 200 dirhams (about $50), we were ushered to the front of the line. As one who considers himself Not That Special as a matter of policy, being plopped in front of a queue of South Asian-looking men who were already there waiting patiently was absolutely mortifying. (To their credit, if this sudden display of #WPR put them off, they didn't show it outwardly.)

This two-tier system appears to be the way of the future. There's the high-end market, who want and can afford the best, and then there's everyone else. With the American middle class increasingly being hollowed out by job losses and economic shifts, it seems as though there isn't much of a middle ground on which to stand anymore. It's Dollar Store or Dolce & Gabbana, Shopko or Chanel. Just look at the airline industry for an example. Economy-class passengers are packed in like sardines, treated almost like nuisances by the airlines and told to be grateful for what service they do receive. Step up to business or first class, though, and suddenly the airlines can't do enough for you. A drink before take-off, served by your Personal Food and Beverage Consultant? But of course. Chauffeur service to and from the airport? Happy to assist. A luxury lounge with free food, drinks and wi-fi? Right this way, valued customer. Membership clearly has its privileges, as I can personally attest, but it's hard not to feel uneasy about being waited on hand and foot while others are treated like those who rode steerage on the Titanic.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

This is how you do a political ad BETTER

No celebrity endorsements, no Steve Martin or Joss Whedon pushing their preferred candidates.

Just one Canadian man, a dream -- and a green screen.

BEHOLD.



Canada gets this guy, and Americans have to settle for Donald Trump? There's no justice, I tells ya.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Sports and politics, joined at the hip

Make no mistake – for all the rhetoric about how they should never interfere with one another, sports and politics are inextricably linked. Even former International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch admits as much. Whether for good or ill, there will always be political entities who prioritize promoting their worldview or policies over competition, fair play, and other Corinthian values. People mewling about how sporting events and political protests don't mix clearly have no sense of history, whether out of ignorance or willful blindness.

Shaking off the rust

Hi there. Yeah, it's been a while. Here's the thing – I've been almost monk-like during the past six weeks or so, frantically reading and writing as part of laying the ground for the Next Big Thing™. That didn't leave a lot of time for posting here. I'm waiting for one or two more things to fall in place before I feel comfortable speaking about the Next Big Thing™ publicly, but suffice to say that so far, so good. More updates as things develop.

In the meantime, here are a few links to other things I've created during my absence. I host a podcast called The Kickabout, which focuses on soccer in the UAE. If you don't mind hearing me and others wibble on about esoteric subject matter, you can find the podcast by clicking here. Also, a friend in Japan asked me to write an introductory article on UAE soccer, which in turn led to me doing an interview with Beyond the Pitch about the article and what's going on in the country. The article, which you can find here, is a surface-level look at the state of play in the UAE, while the interview goes into a bit more depth on a few issues. You can find that here – my segment begins at the 35:50 mark.

My plan is to post here more now that my coursework is finished. If all goes well, there will be a steady flow of updates before too long.