Friday, December 31, 2010

So ... 2011

Kind of underwhelming so far, but it's early days.

If you put any credence in the first dream of the new year, 2011 is going to be ... weird. I dozed off not long after midnight, missing the final couple of minutes of Kentucky's win at Louisville and leaving "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" lying unread next to me. For some reason, I was cruising around an inordinately large parking lot while apparently trying to buy a car. The place I ended up choosing had a familiar salesman -- Jake, a former friend and employee at the Bellevue BP station -- and he was determined to sell me what he said was a Chevy Camaro but was chopped down to the size of a Mini Cooper. I distinctly remember the speedometer only going up to 15 miles per hour, though he assured me its actual top speed was 65.

This is where things get a little weird. A young woman took over the sale, and I felt for all the world like I'd known her for years, even though her face is now a blur in my mind. Of course, I'm better with names than faces anyway. I asked her how I would know how fast I was going if the speedometer only went to 15 and only received a sheepish grin in return, but the whole car deal isn't the important bit. I'm still picking through my mental Rolodex in search of a name to go with said young woman. What I remember of her doesn't ring any bells among the people I know from college or my working life. It could be high school, but I remember pretty well the people with whom I regularly associated. One person -- Chelsea, a girl two grades behind me -- comes to mind, but she doesn't quite fit. The name Michelle Williams comes to mind, but I should be so lucky to run in those kind of circles.

Oh well. I guess I'll just chalk this one up with the Aloha dream, the Invasion of the Damned and the one about being trapped in a K-Mart overnight with only a squirt gun to protect me from a bunch of lurking tigers.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Barring full-on nudity, I'm not sure it's possible to be more unattractive, more unsexy than I am today. What a troll.

How does that Erma Bombeck title go? When you look like your passport photo, it's time to go home? I'm not going home, but hoo boy. Something needs to change.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

One sure sign of economic progress

Road rage.

Roughly 10 million cars, buses, trucks, scooters and motorbikes crowd New Delhi's potholed roads every day, causing long traffic jams, gridlock — and frayed tempers.
The city's roads have not kept up with traffic growth. While the vehicle count has soared 212 percent over the past two decades, the number of miles of road has grown a mere 17 percent, according to the New Delhi Transport Department
"People are on the road longer, and everyone is on a short fuse," Satyendra Garg, the police official in charge of New Delhi traffic. "The result is a situation which begins verbally, then escalates to physical confrontation."
And because vehicles are a powerful symbol of often-newfound wealth, any scratch can feel like an assault on a person's status, he added. "So if someone scrapes their new car, they find it unacceptable and are ready to hit out."
Sociologist Abhilasha Kumari also senses a change in attitude as the country's new economic wealth makes society more materialistic.
"It's as if Delhi's centuries-old culture of graciousness has been wiped off and has been replaced by a frenetic and pushy 'me first' ruthlessness," she said.
Migrants from nearby rural areas, some newly rich from selling their land for real estate development, have also helped change the city's texture from a quiet government town to a thriving commercial hub.
"People are more upfront in their aggressiveness," Kumari added. "They believe if you have the money, you flaunt it, with your big shiny new car, and you assert yourself forcefully on the road."
 I'm sure none of this sounds familiar to my fellow Big Durian residents.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holiday tunes

Christmas music has passed its use-by date for another year, yes, but I still wanted to share with you a couple songs I found in the past few days.

First, "I Don't Believe in Christmas" by the perennially awesome George Hrab:

Next, "Are You Lonely Tonight, Mrs. Claus?" by Dan Wilson (hat tip: Dave Lifton):

Whomever you are, I hope you're having a great holiday season. May these videos provide some Christmas afterglow to tide you over until New Year's.

Thanks, Alfie

AFF Cup first leg:
Malaysia 3-0 Indonesia (Kuala Lumpur)

I'd just like to thank my good friend Alfred Riedl for alleviating any concern I had about Wednesday's second leg. Now I can go to Singapore in peace, knowing the result is all but secure and I will be far, far away from any shenanigans that take place. Considering the build-up, I imagine there will be a fair few angry fans at Gelora Bung Karno.

The Reader's Digest breakdown from tonight — this was Indonesia back to its worst. The confident, collected attacking unit from earlier in the tournament was nowhere to be found. Instead, the Merah Putih went back to their bad, old ways: getting stroppy when things went bad, running out of ideas, playing kick-and-chase and collapsing under the slightest bit of pressure. Other than Bambang Pamungkas not starting, it was the Benny Dollo era all over again.

Here is Indonesia's record so far under Riedl (hat tip to Jakarta Casual): 1-7 vs. Uruguay (Jakarta), 3-0 vs. Maldives (Bandung), 6-0 vs. East Timor (Palembang), 2-0 vs. Taiwan (Palembang), 5-1 vs. Malaysia (Jakarta, AFF Cup Group A), 6-0 vs. Laos (Jakarta, AFF Cup Group A), 2-1 vs. Thailand (Jakarta, AFF Cup Group A), 1-0 vs. Philippines (Jakarta, AFF Cup semifinals), 1-0 vs. Philippines (Jakarta, AFF Cup semifinals). Notice a pattern? Friendly crowds, compliant opponents (with one notable exception) and a certain puckering sound once the pressure increased.

The good news is that Indonesia can spend the whole of the second leg attacking, which is what it does best. The bad news is that just one away goal by Malaysia and the host suddenly has to score five. The ugly? That will likely come out in the post-mortem, when the anti-Riedl faction in the Indonesian FA (and it does exist) will furrow its collective brow and speak solemnly about expectations and accountability — two subjects that may as well be Swahili to the empty suits at the PSSI. Stopping the rot in Indonesian football is a long-term project, but the PSSI will wallow in the mediocrity it so richly deserves if it sacks Riedl for daring to challenge the cabal that runs the sport in this country.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Workers unite!

Still putting things together here. In the meantime, a couple images from Workers' Stadium in Beijing, where I went to see Beijing Guo'an take on Dalian Shide in a Chinese Super League match.

A statue dedicated to the workers of China, situated just outside the stadium.

The inside of Beijing Workers' Stadium, shot from the upper tier. Not much to recommend it, really. More after the jump.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Blog, interrupted

Hello, friends. Many apologies for the lack of posts. I was without Internet access at home in Beijing after China Unicom somehow "lost" five payments and turned off my account, and I wasn't about to try installing VPN software on the computers at work. As I am no longer employed by the China Daily or living in Beijing, though, I plan to start posting here on a more regular basis.

I have some stories to tell, to be sure, but first I have about six months worth of Facebook posts, requests, etc. on which to catch up. The aforementioned VPN, supposedly one of top quality, couldn't get me Facebook, Twitter or YouTube behind the Great Firewall of China. About the only things it was good for were Blogspot and a few other websites that may otherwise have been deemed too sensitive by the GFoC (no, that's not a euphemism for porn -- that's readily available without any extra cloaking).

In the meantime, here are a couple stories I put together for Jason Davis and the good folks over at Match Fit USA: