Saturday, December 29, 2007

Wanderlust, or Lack Thereof

The two years after my experience in China were a little frustrating. After more travel than I could possibly have dreamt of, I was confined to Western Europe pretty much from late June 2006 to December 2007, discounting a short jaunt to Egypt over the Christmas break 2006. Whilst this frustration may sound extravagant, remember the context. I feel like Tom Hanks in The Terminal – a stateless person. Therefore, a sense of foreignness sets upon me, wherever the world I may be. On a subconscious level, I am eternally trying to escape this foreignness. Therefore, I yearn for travel...oh...about every 3 months, as I try to get the proverbial devil off my shoulder. So for me to sit around in every one place for more than a quarter of a year feels slightly Luciferan, and whilst I'm no god-fearer, it only makes sense to hedge my bets and stay out of the devil's bewitching grasp.

So fast-forward to December 2007, and fulfilment, a dangerous word though it is, bears down upon me. Just between New Year's and Easter, I will spend time in the US, the UK, Finland and China. Furthermore, I will only spend two complete months in the UK through next summer, and those two months (May and June) are GCSE months. In other words, although not my doing, I will only spend mandatory months in the UK. So despite wanderlust being my signature emotion, it appears to have lost me in the run-up to 2008. I suspect, however, we will rejoin at some point down the line.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Just Desserts

Former Gunner Ashley Cole revealed in his show-all autobiography that, in his opinion, Cesc Fabregas was an "unproven featherweight," publicly acknowledging disagreement with Arsenal management. So good riddance came around and boy oh boy was karma evident this afternoon at the Emirates Stadium. In a 1-0 Arsenal - Chelsea fixture, William Gallas (whomst Cole was exchanged for) poked home the eventual winner late in the 1st half. Then, with the clock running out, Fabregas was booked for a meaty challenge on "Cashley Cole," who decided that the £150,000 offered to him to stay on at Arsenal was not enough.
Needless to say, but there was bad blood a plenty in a game that had 10 bookings and 2 injuries. Despite the magnitude of the event on the field, turfside relations were apparently calmer.

"The Israeli has been close to Wenger for more than a decade and, while admitting their friendship will be on hold during tomorrow's meeting at the Emirates, Grant wants to treat the Frenchman as a source of inspiration.

"He is a good friend of mine," Grant said. "He is a great coach, a great person and he has a great vision of football. He thinks about the game in the right way and he works not just for the short term but for the long term, right from the base of the club. I like to take good things from any coach I respect and he is one of them."

Despite these pleasantries, the atmosphere was very heated as push came to shove several times throughout the match. However, Arsenal will be happy: they emerged with 3 points and their position atop the Premiership intact. Chelsea however have dropped their 1st league match under Grant and in doing so have lost both their skipper in John Terry and their position in the Champions League spots. In all senses of the word, Arsenal are victorious.

And let's not forget:

- That unproven featherweight we all know and love as Cesc Fabregas is one of the most highly regarded young players in the game today.
-William Gallas, who Arsenal gained in addition to cash for Ashley Cole is captaining the Gunners and has come up with several clutch goals this year.
-Arsenal claimed their first victory against the Blues since the sacking of Claudio Ranieri. They never managed it under the reign of the Special One, Jose Mourinho, but succeeded on their first try with Avram Grant at the helm.

It seems the Battle of London is complete, so quit crying and go home, Cashley.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Collective Strength

Growing up on that piece of land known affectionately by Anglophile Bill Bryson as "the small island," I am well aware of the so-called "Island Mentality" that surrounds its inhabitants. Due to some sort of primal reflex, Britain seems to try and push away foreign elements. Despite suffering greatly over the course of World War II, Britain was not a founding member of the European Union. Considering that it took the military might of the United States and Soviet Union to really take an upper hand in the war, it was perhaps naive of then Prime Minister Harold MacMillan to not join the European Economic Community upon its foundation. This was high noon of the Cold War, and if war had broken out, a fragmented Western Europe would have been knocked aside by the considerably stronger Soviet forces. Of course, certain countries have actual reasons for not joining the EU. For instance, Switzerland is hell-bent on pristine neutrality, and Norway's whaling industry is key to its economy, but Britain simply does not have a case to stand on. In the two World Wars, the UK required the US Army to fend off the Axis forces...
50 years after the EEC came into being, and Britain is an established member of what has developed into the European Union. There has been almost no bad blood amongst Western Europe since 1945, and despite the noise-making of the UK Independence Party a few years back, Britain is still part of the EU. Not that its citizens like it that way.
But still, people do not see the practical advantages of the Euro, seeing it more as a voucher for cheap booze than a pan-European currency. That is what really irks me, that Britons feel the right to flaunt their membership, without fulfilling one of the most basic commitments. The point I'm trying to get across it that whilst there has been no conflict in Western Europe for half a century, that is largely down to the EEC and the EU, and if member states do not abide by their rules, fractures may develop and the strong collective strength built up by the EU could subside, and with the regional economy struggling to keep up with the likes of India and China, the future would not look bright. So I urge you, people of Britain, to take up that Euro. It may not seem like a difference-maker, but believe me, it is.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Who'd have thought it?

Really, who'd of thought it? My beloved Canucks are 11-3-2 since that "apocalyptic" early November match-up against the Nashville Predators. For the uninformed, the Nucks lost key blueliners Kevin Bieksa and Sami Salo to freak, potentially career-threatening injuries. Yet through the red haze lurking around the Canucks forum after that encounter, seemingly with the Grim Reaper, several heart-warming storylines emerged.
Numero uno is the play of Alex Edler, native of Ostersund, Sweden. The rookie defenseman has been Vancouver's most consistent and is drawing rave reviews from Canuck fans. TSN (Canadian ESPN) has lauded him in their rookie rankings, and deservedly so, most Vancouver fans would argue. Then we've got the resurgence of Markus Naslund, who has recovered that laser wrist shot that escaped him in his prolonged post-lockout slump. Of course, Roberto "Luongod" Luongo has figured in his team's recovery, posting 4 shutouts in November after an unsightly October, drawing a NHL.COM 1st Star in the process. Yet what would we expect from ol' Bobby Lu?
Perhaps the most refreshing storyline has been the development of Ryan Kesler. The 23 year old had struggled since being drafted in the 1st round in 2003, but has carved out a niche for himself on Alain Vigneault's defense-first team, taking Marian Gaborik, Joe Sakic, Ryan Smyth, Jarome Iginla and...Sidney Crosby off their games, thus taking a huge amount of pressure off the aforementioned Luongo. All this for a guy who suffered two serious injuries and a family illness last year. The fire must be burning in his belly.
Yet my unsung hero is most certainly Curtis Sanford. The Owen Sound, Ont. native was establishing himself as St. Louis's starting netminder, but took a pay cut to back-up All-Star Roberto Luongo. Yet this brave decision has paid off. Through 3 starts, Sanford has picked up a 100% win record and a career-high .911 save percentage. Not bad for the undrafted 28 year old who just 8 years ago was languishing in the United Hockey League.
Oh and did I mention? The Canucks are 2nd in the West going to tonight's tilt with the Kings. Not bad for a team given little hope waaaaaay back in October.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Up the Us!!!

Today is the day that could potentially solve Cambridge United's financial facilites. The Us take on Weymouth, who currently hover precariously above the Blue Square Premier dropzone. The sides meet at 3pm, at the Abbey Stadium. But what is the significance of this match? Well, this fixture is part of the FA Cup 2nd round. A win today for the Us would see them advance to the 3rd round, where Premiership and Championship teams enter the fray. Depending on where the tie is held, Cambridge could stand to gain £1 million, which would go a long way to setting up the club for a sustained return to League football.
It was this lack of funding that lead to the former Championship play-off finalists fall from grace. Despite a short resurgence in League 1, the club quickly fell out of the league, a drop that was quickened by the 10-point penalty they earned for going into financial administration.
However, Cambridge has been known for nuturing young talent, and former Us such as Dion Dublin, Dave Kitson and John Ruddy have all gone to Premiership sides. The Us' match-up against Weymouth last season marked Cambridge's escape from the relegation battle. The 7-0 defeat of the Terras followed a 4-0 whipping of Northwich, and the Us have carried that form into this season, going undefeated at home, good for 3rd in the Blue Square Premier. All in all, I tentatively predict a Cambridge win, and look forward to the 3rd round draw on Sunday.