Friday, June 27, 2008

Turn that frown halfway upside down!

Boy, they knew what they were talking about in the '60s. Live life to the full, in the present, etc. Never mind that the ashes from World War II were still cooling, that the Korean War had only just passed over and that the Vietnam war was in full flow, these guys did what they could to simply be happy, even if the Cold War looked like it was about to get hot.
So to even compare our existence to our tie-dying forefathers seems like a long shot. Sure, the Middle East is still on tenterhooks, but South East Asian instability is an afterthought for the international tourists lounging in Da Nang.
There is still a lot of work to be done, such as relieving the numerous crises in the Middle East, and the lovely remnant of the colonial era, impoverished Africa, but progress has been made in other areas in the last 50 years.
The funny thing is that the colonial era is, to an extent, the driving factor behind the Middle East conflict. Sure, golden oldies will go and remind us that the region is extremely volatile, but at the same time, it was our governments that established Israel, which is undeniably a huge thorn in the side of Arab peace. The effects of that map-drawing session can be seen in the Iranian revolution, which in turn sparked the Islamic fundamentalist movement.
Point is, as insatiable Jeremiah Wright's comments were about "birds coming home to roost," there is an element of truth. By dabbling in the Middle East 60 years ago, we established a climate that allowed for tension to further destabilize into anarchy.
Likewise, "colonial" Africa has yet to produce a stable, wealthy economy. The problems are so many and so complicated that I won't try to go into them, but we've seen what aid has done for the likes of Germany and Japan post WWII, but at the same time, we may just be seeing the immense consequences of AIDS.
However, as Coldplay once said, "everything's not lost." Aside from the Balkan conflict, Europe hasn't seen real war since 1945. East Asia is booming economically, which has had happy knock-on effects for central Asia and may have some antidotal qualities for Africa. Who knows.
Point is, there's a lot of bad things going on, but there is also so much resurgency that to walk around with a cloud over your head just doesn't make sense.
Advisory: this really was a musing.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Considering Freedom

Freedom is a fickle thing. Nearly impossible to define. Absolutely impossible to grasp.
Here I sit, freshly released from the confines of the classroom and I still wonder just when summer vacation starts. As I said in my last post, I'm lost between vacation mode and exam season. The two have become so intertwined that I force myself to labor away here, tapping out thoughts from an empty brain.
So used to intense academic workouts my brain has become that I feel lost when considering that I still have 11 long weeks of bliss in front of me. Don't get me wrong, I am glad to be relieved of the somewhat claustrophobic nature of Melbourn Village College, but the allure of Hills Road is a huge distraction ahead of my longest summer break ever.
Still, the hardest part of the transition is being at loose ends. Thankfully, the doldrums disappear on Saturday, with the start of my first tennis tournament in nearly a year. What an opportune moment for shoulder tendinitis to appear. But still, I did a few exercises today and the soreness is ebbing a little. Admittedly, I also didn't pick-up a racket today, but with similar precautions over the next couple of days and I should be drugged and up and good to go come Saturday.
Anyway, after the weekend tournament, its getting ready to make haste to the bright lights and sunny nights of El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula, LA to you and me.
Its hard to believe that in less than a week, I'll be stepping out into the glorious, fume-laced scent of LA World Way before cruising down Lincoln Boulevard and into the hills of the Palisades. But hey, where better to find freedom in the "land of the free, the home of the brave?"

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Its Finally Come!

For many weeks now - ever since the exam schedule came out back in March, I had been counting the days until June 18, the end of a hectic mixture of exams and revision. Four days have passed since that landmark, but if feels like an eternity. Indeed, I have enjoyed the company of relative freedom of the summer holidays, which have made an annoyingly unmarked arrival. Admittedly, I have had a lot going on since Wednesday, what with Prom and the After-party, and I still have to catch up on some Music Technology work, but it still feels like the academic choke-chain around my neck hasn't been loosened yet.
My guess is that the ETC Singles Open, starting in Braintree on Friday, will help to draw my thoughts away from the classroom, and shortly after that, several weeks of sun and fun in Californ-I-A will reinforce this weird concept of relaxation. Its an alarmingly harsh adjustment from the nervous tension of exam season to this doldrum-like boredom, so I am definitely glad that I will be busy more or less until I start Sixth-Form College in September, and if truth be told, a big part of the indifferent start to the Hols would be to do with being free from the classroom for around a month now. Essentially, the tye-dye contrast will only really show when I walk out onto the "hallowed lawns" of Braintree Tennis Club, and from there on out, get this: there will be something happening for 10 glorious weeks. My first unaccompanied flight, my first real sailing trip, my first real tennis tournament, etc etc. Still, I may have been released from the "jail" that is school, but it feels like I'm only on parole.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Elixir of Life

Well what was all the fuss about? Group C, the group of death, was undercut by a resurgent Holland team desperate to dispel the label of "perennial underachievers." And how.
For the past couple of years, Coach Marco van Basten has been criticized for failing to bring more experienced players into the squad. The voices have gone quiet as young guns such as Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder dominate whilst vets such as Clarence Seedorf and Roy Makaay were left out of the fold.
Far from the maligns of 2006, the Oranje destroyed Italy to the sweet tune of 3-0, playing a graceful counter-attacking game, outclassing their cheap Italian counterparts. Several days later, the boys came back for an encore, thumping the other half of the last World Cup Final, France, 4-1 as Sneijder notched his second goal of the tournament. The Oranje proved that the best defense is a strong offense, as Arjen Robben slammed home from a ridiculously acute angle a mere 90 seconds after former Gunner Thierry Henry converted past Edwin van der Sar.
In two games versus the World Cup finalists, the Dutch had established a goal difference of +6, so French and Italian coaches, Raymond Dommennech and Roberto Donadoni pleaded with van Basten to leave Romania flailing like their respective teams.
And he delivered, despite fielding a second-string lineup. Get this, the Dutch reserves comfortably beat Romania, a team that held both Italy and France. That is the magnitude of what Holland are capable of. 23 world class players staring you down in the tunnel must send shivers down any opposition's back. Very few teams in the world, let alone this tournament can rival that strength.
Prior to the opening game, many Dutch fans didn't give their team a chance, but my voice of reason as rung true as the Oranje progress to the quarter-finals, where they will face an unpredicatable Russian team on Saturday.
As John Motson so eloquently put it, thank the "Oranje BOOM!" Well, that plus 120,000 orange-clad fans.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Like, Totally Awesome!

We're back, baby! The days of total football are no longer a thing of the past. The Oranje destroyed the Azzuri, reigning World Cup champions to the glorious tune of 3-zip. Coming into the European Championships, Holland had maintained the best defensive record, but chose to accompany it with a paradoxically empty score card. Not anymore. van Basten's boys have at long last found the middle of the road, and did they ever ride the camber tonight.
In the 9th minute, my screams for a penalty were waived away by the referee but just under half an hour later, Ruud van Nistelrooij slotted home whilst veteran Italian Christian Panucci lay "injured," voiding the offside rule. Ruud himself stood for a moment in disbelief, but quickly was embraced by his ecstatic teammates. All chatter of a training-ground fracas was dispelled after the Dutch came together in unity. 5 minutes later, Holland was once again reaping the rewards of a youthful squad sprinkled with a handful of established veterans.
Gio van Bronckhorst cleared off the line, setting up a break that eventually saw Dirk Kuyt tee up Galactico, Wesley Sneijder for a volley not far off that of his coach, the legendary Marco van Basten. Holland continued to dominate through to the interval, with Orlando Engelaars particularly impressive despite the Italians taking a liking to kicking anything that moved, Dutchman or football. Indeed, van Nistelrooij was robbed of penalty after once more being kicked by Massimo Ambrosini.
After the break, the Italians began to ratchet up the pressure on the boys in orange, but despite some shaky defending, the Dutch managed to reassert themselves with around a quarter of an hour to go. Indeed, the turning point in the second half came when Edwin van der Sar saved magnificently off a Andrea Pirlo free-kick. His teammates quickly broke in on Gigi Buffon thanks to some wonderful passing play from Gio van Bronckhorst and Rafael van der Vaart. After Dirk Kuyt's initial attempt to lob Buffon was rebuffed, the Liverpool man crossed to van Bronckhorst who knocked the header into the goal off a helpless Italian defender.
The Dutch maintained the clean sheet after Luca Toni was unlucky to see his shot deflect of a fellow Italian, but ultimately, the Oranjes were far superior, more or less deserving the 3-0 scoreline.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Now hold on a minute...

For as long as I can remember, which admittedly on stretches back 3 Presidents , every man, or now woman that has had a shot at going for the White House has made the same grand proclamation that "The United States does not negotiate with terrorists," or something along those lines.
But "terrorists," that's a funny word. The Bush administrations have taken it to mean any Arab organization that doesn't coo with admiration when talking about the West. Sure, the Shah was nice to the US but he killed his own people. Still, that's not terrorism, no matter how scary it may be to have a ruler who wants to kill you. So now the Ahmedinejad-backed government is listed as a state sponsor of terrorists. Iran's hardline regime may be unsavory, but their domestic rule is merely an interpretation of the Koran. No motive to induce terror. Likewise, the main reasoning behind labeling Iran as a sponsor of terrorism is that it gives money and arms to Hezbollah who admittedly wreaked havoc across Lebanon in the Civil War.
However, times have changed. To describe Hezbollah as an active terrorist organization would be loose. Leader Hassan Nasrallah condemned the 9/11 attacks. Osama must be banging his head against a brick wall.
Likewise, Kim Jong Il undeniably leads an oppressive, totalitarian regime but has never committed an actual act of terrorism.
Point is, when Obama said yesterday that "The USA does not negotiate with his terrorists," he basically said nothing about rescinding his promise to engage in dialogue with "rogue" states such as Iran or North Korea. Just because they don't like us, doesn't mean they want to blow us up. I'm starting to see how the IDF got Israel into such a mess. Indeed, if we're calling Hezbollah a terrorist organization, surely the IDF are as well. After all, I'd be pretty terrified if I was sitting on Beirut Airport's runway two summers ago and massive craters started appearing all around me. But hey, food for thought.