Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Royal Flush

What can I say?

I was so busy with a project that I only got there in time to see Theron get the boot.

The Kings XI Punjab were all out, short by 31 runs at 19.1 overs. Rajasthan didn't just beat them. They crushed them. Knocked them down and stomped all over them like they were cockroaches in the kitchen.

The best part?

That look of utter despair and frustration on Yuvraj Singh's face.

Christmas done come early!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chennai Super Weenies

It's as the old saying goes, they pulled defeat from the jaws of victory.

The Chennai Super Kings put on a master class tonight, in how to squander a brilliant defense that had resulted in the Kings XI Punjab squeaking out a bare 136 runs.

About 10 overs into Chennai's innings, it wasn't just that you sensed that the Kings XI had lost, but that this was going to be an absolutely crushing defeat, a defeat that would have been the crown jewel in their winless record.

Yet somehow, that defeat didn't materialize. Dot ball after dot ball, that niggling sense that Chennai might not be able to pull it off, began to grow.

And that sense was right. Somehow, someway, the Doni-less Super Kings lost the plot and forgot they were playing cricket. They managed to tie the Kings XI, forcing a super innings, but as Matthew Hayden walked onto the field with his Mongoose in hand, the match was a foregone conclusion.

While I don't feel too bad about the whole affair, as Rajathastan was, is, and always will be my team in the IPL, Chennai, like the Deccan Chargers, are a secondary team for me, one I cheer when there is no blue and gold out on the pitch.

What I do feel bad about, and absolutely curse Chennai for, is the sight of that legendary fathead Yuvraj Singh winning the game in the Super Over, with a sweeping hit that seemed to just nudge Muralidaran's spinner gently into the boundary. As the camera closed in on Yuvi's open mouthed, spittle expelling, celebrating face (Complete with non-stop fist pump action), I was mighty tempted to throw my remote right through the screen. But only tempted, mind you, as I had wisely put the remotes up on the shelf earlier, just to forestall that very possibility.

That, and I'm a bit broke, and not up for TV shopping at the moment.

Thanks Chennai. Now it's not just Madrasi food that gives me indigestion.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Yes, But is it Attested?

Just in the Gulf News this morning, out of that den of tolerance and wisdom known as Ras Al Khamiah, a couple has been arrested for having sex in their car. A Bangladeshi man and an Indian woman have been sentenced to a year in jail followed by deportation.

So far, so normal for the UAE, but there are a few niggling details that should give pause.

The first is that the car was covered, as in, you could not see into it at all.

The "witness" never actually saw the offense, but claims to have "heard some noises" coming from the car. At first blush that sounds plausible, except that unless the windows were open, how could anything be heard at all? Once I close the door to my car, I can't hear a peep from anyone inside, so unless this "concerned citizen" had their ear pressed right up the glass, I can't see how they would have heard anything at all.

So our concerned citizen did what "anyone" would do, they ran to the nearest police officer, flagged him down, and led him to the scene of the crime, where the illicit pair was caught "red-handed."

So far, so normal. It is the UAE, and illicit affairs are a no, no... Except that this was not an illicit affair.

The man and woman were married. They even produced a marriage certificate for the courts.

So to recap, a married man and woman have sex in a covered car, completely hidden from public view (Something I very much doubt is unheard of, if only going by the number of Landcruisers and Patrols with midnight-black tinted windows I see parked in the unlit sections of various beaches at night). Then they are arrested, go to court, prove the relationship was not illicit, only to have the judge notice that the couple hadn't paid the 150 AED to have their marriage certificate attested. So the judge ruled them unmarried, and sentenced them.

That's it. They didn't have the right stamp.

In the UAE no birth, no marriage, no education is officially recognized unless you fork over a handful of cash and get a wee little stamp recognizing the validity of the certificate.

The problem this case poses is for potential tourists.

It is doubtful that any tourist couple would line up to get a stamp on their marriage certificates after coming to the UAE, if they even brought them. And while it is RAK we are talking about here, and not Dubai, it is a distinction without a difference for most of the world.

After the spate of recent, tourist unfriendly incidents in the past little while, you have to wonder if we are seeing the beginnings of a real trend.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What is Stephen Harper Reading

In case you haven't heard (and chances are you haven't), there has been a pretty popular meme in the CanLit world for the past couple years regarding Stephen Harper. One day, Booker Prize winning author Yann Martel decided that the Prime Minister of Canada was not a sufficiently educated man, and endeavoured to correct that deficiency. To that end, he started mailing a book a week to the Prime Minister, accompanied by a long winded letter about how that book would help correct some or other fault Martel felt the Prime Minister possessed.

I was never a fan of Martel's stunt. It reeked of arrogance and condescension when he started it, and now that he has a book out detailing his years long bibliostalking, it just seems sad and tired.

Just to pick a book selection at random, take Martel's choice of Christian Bok's Eunoia. The opening of the letter says it all.

Dear Mr. Harper,

Have you ever felt limited by language? I’m sure you have....

And it gets better.

Look, Bok is a nice guy. I had him for a professor, and when we plied him with enough beer, he told us all about reading the dictionary from cover to cover numerous times, and spending eight years building a database that allowed him to separate words by vowel usage. It was an admirable feat, and Eunoia will certainly long have a place in the canon of language poetry, but what it has to do with running a country?... Sorry, but I just don't buy Martel's arguments.

I think John Ivison said it best back in 2007....

Can't judge a reader by his books
John Ivison , National Post
Saturday, Oct. 27, 2007

OTTAWA -Yann Martel is outraged. The Life of Pi author has been sending classic novels to Prime Minister Stephen Harper every two weeks since April, in an act of guerrilla arts advocacy aimed at securing more funding for the world of letters, and has been getting no response.

Mr. Martel would have us believe that by working his way through the prescribed reading list, Mr. Harper would undergo a New Testament-style conversion and boost public arts spending overnight.

Quite how the author thinks reading Animal Farm by George Orwell, a savage attack on statism, would induce anyone to increase state subsidies for the book industry is beyond me. But never mind. In reality, Mr. Martell knows this won't happen, so he is happy to convey to Canadians the impression that the barbarians have breached the gates of 24 Sussex Drive and are now using Pierre Trudeau's old swimming pool. Mr. Harper is left looking like someone who thinks Mr. Martel's excellent Man Booker Prize-winning opus is a study of either mathematics or Greek linguistics.

"I got a feel for a man who has no sense of the arts," Mr. Martel told the Carleton University student newspaper.

But it is Mr. Harper who should be outraged. Provided you take a pretty broad definition of "the arts," the Prime Minister is an avid patron. He is a keen movie-goer, a competent pianist and is currently learning a third language (Spanish). If further culture vulture credentials are required, he once named AC/DC's lilting ballad, Thunderstruck, as his favourite rock song.

That is being facetious -- but no more so than Mr. Martel's public relations campaign. Mr. Martel says he is trying to make suggestions to Mr. Harper's "stillness -- those quiet moments of reflecting on daily struggles and the purpose of life." I don't know about Mr. Martel, but after a day reading fiscal reference tables until my brain ached, I think I'd forgo Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilych (the reflections of a man dying a slow, agonizing death) or Francoise Sagan's tale of rich French people who have lots of sex but still aren't very happy, Bonjour Tristesse.

Small wonder that when the Prime Minister ditches his briefing books, he picks up Harry Potter or Artemis Fowl to read to the kids (which he does every night, apparently, regardless of workload), in preference to Mr. Martel's recommended reading. Other Harper favourites are said to include mystery novels, thrillers by such writers as Robert Ludlum and Total Hockey -- the Ultimate Hockey Encyclopedia by Dan Diamond. The Prime Ministerial nightstand is also said to contain the obligatory political biographies, such as Alan Greenspan's Air of Turbulence and Peter C. Newman's Secret Mulroney Tapes.

The Prime Minister is probably like a lot of us when confronted with a novel by August Strindberg or Gabriel Garcia Marquez -- we admire it, lay it aside making a mental note to read it at some point in the future and then never pick it up again (though I did labour through Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, which is about how long it took to read the damn thing).
Do we know Harper doesn't read that many books? Or a sizeable amount? He is an educated fellow, after all.

The issue here is Martel's hubris in prescribing a canon, with the unspoken corollary that only a philistine would read something other than these approved books.

What are Martel's thoughts on the "Great Books" canon, or the push to force students to study those relics white male-dom? It's the same arrogance.

If, say, Harper had agreed to a challenge, and they shared and compared reading lists, that would be one thing. But here, Martel unilaterally decided that Harper was a stupid man who needed some proper education, and he was going to provide it.

Would Martel have done the same for Le petit gars de Shawinigan? He had far less education, and far less of a reputation as a scholar. In fact, old Jean-ny boy had a real reputation as one who preferred to settle disputes with knuckle and skin rather than pen and ink.