Archive for June, 2010

Brazil Wins It’s Second World Cup Match With a Show of Beauty and Force

June 22, 2010 3 comments

Order and Progress ... Dunga's Line

Brazil won its second World Cup match yesterday 3-1 in convincing fashion against the Ivory Coast. Fans that had been complaining about an ugly game from Brazil could rest their minds at least for the moment – for the only ugliness came from the part of the judges and the opposing team.

Two of Brazil goals came from forward Luis Fabiano. The first was a precision shot from short range after some tricky passing between him, midfielder/forward Robinho and midfielder Kaká on the way to the penalty area. It shot up at just the right angle to rise over the hands of the Ivory Coast goalie Barry.

The second goal Fabiano scored was artful though controversial. He kicked over two defender’s heads and controlled the ball on his shoulder before kicking it into the goal. The ball in avertedly touched part of his arm amidst the acrobatics (harkening back to Maradona’s “Hand Of God” goal) but it was quickly enough and so clearly not intended to be ruled inconsequential to the final resulting goal – and even the referee who saw it plainly smiled it off.

Elano the midfielder also made his second World Cup goal in as many games. His was a soft controlled shot in front of the net from a perfectly fed ball from Kaká – who played much better this game than he did the last.

From then on things took a turn for the worst. The Ivory Coast players appeared irritated by the Brazilian dribbling antics and compensated by playing rougher. The referee didn’t make a big deal of it and it only led to the attacks becoming even harder – with eventual grim consequences: when Elano slid to try to strip the ball from the Ivory Coast player Tioté the player went over the ball and rammed his foot into the Brazilian’s shin upwards near the knee. There was no foul given.

Elano was carried off the field looking as if he had fractured a bone and the hard play mixed with terrible officiating continued – finally culminating in Kaká being thrown out of the game (and receiving a suspension from the next game against Portugal) for what was essentially a non-foul – the player Keita bumped into him and performed a perfect flop, looking as if he had been elbowed hard.

Even after this expulsion the violent play went on until the very end, but what stood out more is that Brazil did not lose its focus. The Ivory Coast did manage a goal, but it looked to have been as much as a surprise to them as it was to the Brazilians and so carried no weight behind it.

At the end of the match Brazil and its fans rejoiced – there was the “beautiful game” we had been waiting to see. Dunga looked vindicated (at least for a day) and the country classified for the next phase of the Cup. Kaká will sit out, as will Elano most likely, which will give both men enough time to rest, recuperate and train during a game against Portugal that matters but is not a game changer as far as classification goes even if Brazil looses. As I mentioned at an earlier time: things can only get better.

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Categories: Sports

Kobe Bryant, Is He The Best Ever or Just the Best We Have?

June 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Two Greats ... But Who Is The Greatest?

In winning it all this year, the Lakers did what looked improbable given their lackluster performance in the time leading up to the NBA Finals and the beating they received from the Boston Celtics before returning back to LA.  Leading the charge was Mr. Kobe Bryant who for many year has been in the in the conversation of who is the greatest player of all time.   What has kept Kobe from the top spot, it seems, was his lack of NBA Finals hardware to prove him muster and moreover the shadow of Shaquille O’niel: the Finals MVP for Kobe’s first three title conquests.

Mr. Bryant has now won two titles on his own and two MVP awards to go with it – one against a clearly weaker and inexperienced opponent: the Orlando Magic, and another in a series against the Boston Celtics where statistically he did not give his best performance, 29.2 PPG.  This being said, he is currently the proud owner of literally a handful of rings (one for each finger) – and as he so noted, “one more than Shaq”.  Still, as immense as Mr. Oniel’s shadow is, there is a larger player’s shadow which lurks in basketball – it overspreads all that came before, during and after he played – that is Michael Jordan.

One for each Finger!

The hurdle that Kobe has to jump to surpass Mr. Jordan is a monumental one, because his predecessor defined greatness not simply in terms of winning but in terms of the raw passion that he had for the game, that one could feel pouring from his heart every night he touched the ball.  Michael Jordan didn’t just play basketball – he bled it and wanted us all to bleed along with him regardless of our team affiliation through every difficult game, improbable end or unbelievable shot.

Kobe, sadly, never has been able to convey this universal charm and most non-Laker fans do not like him.  This could be for a few reasons.  Some think he is arrogant, other think he is cocky: as if he is self-aware of his greatness and doesn’t do much to hide it.  Only Muhammad Ali was creative enough to know how to turn such hubris into a positive for himself.

Sports fans love a great athlete, but not as much as they love a humble one who looks just as surprised and enthralled when he makes a clutch shot, as the people at home and in the stands.  In order for Kobe to be considered the greatest he must somehow relay this in his play.  People need to care about him and love him.  Greatness is funny in that for it to be achieved it doesn’t just require statistical prowess, but an ability to show that you are sweating out there to make it all happen.  Greatness is built by the record books as well as in the psyche of the spectators.  Look at tennis great Roger Federer, an athlete who only truly solidified his, “Greatest Of All Time” status over Pete Sampras in most tennis fans’ minds, not after breaking his predecessors’ records, but when he got his own personal Andre Agassi in Rafael Nadal, who came along and gave him a challenge – made him look human.

For Mr. Bryant, being the greatest ever may not be the main objective- he would probably much rather be the best that Kobe Bryant can be.  Yet, I doubt that anyone who goes into a sport, or really any sort of competitive activity, doesn’t have that desire to better their predecessors.

Going For the Top

Michael Jordan left a large legacy, but is it impossible to overcome?  Federer did so with Sampras as we see, Tiger Woods most likely will do so with Nicklaus (if he hasn’t already).  But it will take more than just winning to solidify this notion with the fans and Kobe unfortunately may not ever achieve it based solely on his perceived arrogance.  Still, as he gets older and the shots get harder, and the competition stiffens, and he is perhaps more humbled by this but still able to perform miracles on the court, his journey to the top might become a reality.  It may or may not happen.  Who truly knows?  I can only imagine that it will be probably be a great ride.


Categories: Sports, Uncategorized

Brazil Wins World Cup Opener Without Much Style

June 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Brazil: Where Soccer is the National Language

Brazil wins its first game 2-1 against North Korea.  It wasn’t a beautiful game, for that one should have been watching Germany dominate Australia for 90 minutes, nor was it a completely underwhelming performance.  Maicon’s goal at the beginning of  the 2nd period from an absurd angle proves that Brazil is still capable of creating what looks to be impossible offence, and Robinho’s pass to Elano for his World Cup goal was a reminder that in Brazil soccer is still an art form.  What worries this observer is the lack of firm belief that this group of players has been able to instill in the heart of the fan.

This is Brazilian coach Dunga’s “Anti All-Star team” – almost as if he wants to prove that Brazil can win the World Cup on its soccer merit and disciplined play and not its Ronaldo, Pelé, Ronadinho star power.  Much like the 2004 Baskeball Olympic team that was full of talent but no cohesion, Dunga feels that the last World Cups were marked by more individual ego than team work, which led to ultimate failure.  But can he prove that teamwork, players with good moral character and defense can win championships as opposed to big name players that get along but aren’t neccessarily best of buds, questionable off-field behaviour but oustanding on-field behaviour and a relentless attack on the goal – as if each game needed to be won by 5 points or more.  If he can prove the latter he will be heralded as a genius – if he doesn’t … well, they do say the summers are lovely in Portugal and he already speaks the language.

Dunga's strategy is meticulously thought out but will it play out as planned.

It’s still early in the competition and although Brazil wasn’t stellar against a much weaker opponent, no team has truly shined with the exception of Germany, though their loss to Serbia was shocking.  It’s safe to say that Brazil can only get better.  Yes, this is the team that kept it close with the US in the Confederations Cup Finals, and played less the convincingly in their final games leading up to the Cup – yet, in all that hankering of the lack of the “beautiful game” one thing remained true – everyone of those matches ended in a victory.   For those of us who want both victory and show, we may have to wait until 2014 when the likes of Neymar, Ganso  and the other new stars of Brazilian national soccer teams- who play with style as well as proficiency- get their chance to put their foot on the ball.

Categories: Sports

Michael Jackson is Alive! His Story continues in the tragedy of the Media Culture

June 15, 2010 Leave a comment
The Magic Man

A year has passed since Michael Jackson was pronounced dead last June 25th, but it doesn’t feel like it.  Perhaps it’s because of the release of his documentary film, This is It in October and the subsequent DVD release; or the continuing news stories and interviews with family members; or even the new ads for the Cirque Du Soleil show in 2011 which make it appear as if he’s more active in the media now than ever.  Then again it could simply be because the years before his death were lived so privately simply releasing some new Michael Jackson music compilation package that his actual physical absence doesn’t feel like such a sharp contrast.

After a year though, we can reflect on issues that should resonate even for those that weren’t the biggest MJ fans.  The first is the power of the media.

For most of his late career, Michael Jackson was maltreated, scandalized, turned into a joke and viciously attacked by the media.  Mr. Jackson’s name sold newspapers – his name tied with some off the wall story, sold more.  Yet, this same media that defamed and tried with earnest to destroy the legacy of the legendary artist was the same that with one fell swoop was able to turn him into a glowing superstar once more.  So quick was the media’s turnaround that it should make one wonder where they and their celebrity cohorts were when Mr. Jackson was acquitted of child molestation charges In June 0f 2005.

The second point, and more frightening than the media’s ability to manipulate, is the public’s willingness to be manipulated.  Gangs of people who were quick to call Mr. Jackson a child molesting freak flocked to their TVs to watch the memorial services , packed their music stores to make him the number one artist of 2009 and ran to the theaters to make This Is It the biggest grossing concert film of all time.

If it’s this easy to sway public opinion on something that was pretty much set in stone, “Michael is Wack Job” – one should begin to question where else these nifty sleight of hand tactics are used.

We See Hear and Say Nothing

In the end I don’t know who has had the last laugh.  On one side there are a fervent group of people who believe Michael Jackson faked his own death and played the media back on itself by redeeming his image , Conversely, if he truly died then it’s the media, with their ability to change positions as effortlessly as Jackson moonwalked who wins out by effectively pressing delete on years of negative reporting and ultimately portraying themselves as Jackson’s number one fans from day one.

Easier is the question of who doesn’t laugh: the public, who are (knowingly or unknowingly) toyed with in and endless cycle of Good News, Bad News, What to Think, What not Think etc.  Michael Jackson is just a small example of the many facets of news which are fed to us in whatever light the media decides to present it.  Some of these stories are more important than others, but this does not make the Michael Jackson media spin any less instructive and perilous than the 9/11 media spin, the Bush media spin, the Obama media spin and so on.  This chain can only be broken when good people begin to choose for themselves, think for themselves, conclude for themselves.  As one of the lyrics of a Jackson classic states, “look at yourself and make a change.”


Categories: Arts

Helen Thomas Is Forced to Retire – This is Still America, Right?

June 14, 2010 1 comment
Standing Firm on American Ground

Why are more and more Americans suddenly becoming UnAmerican

Just last week Helen Thomas was forced to resign from her position at the Hearst News Service, due to her racy comments made on May 27th about Israelis getting out of Israel and returning to Germany, Poland or the US.

Freedom is a funny thing.  Some only like it when the flag of independence is blowing more steadily in their direction.  America continuously claims to be a citizen run, capitalist society – but more and more we appear to be losing large stake in this, “capital”.  What happened to, “let the market decide”?

Simply because Ms. Thomas stated something which is in no way associated with her publisher, in an interview with Rabbi David F. Nesen, on the White House lawn during the American Jewish Heritage Celebration Day, that goes against the majority American opinion (the Gallop Poll shows that US support for Israel is at 63%, a close to record high she gets the ousted by her employers.

This is as un-American as pulling Don Imus off the air for his racist jokes towards the Rutgers Women’s players on April 4th 2010.  He called them, “nappy-headed hoes”.  It seems we always forget that the public has the choice to listen or read or do neither – or at least that is what I was taught in grammar school American Social Studies class.  Oh, but that was a long time ago, and who’s minding the details? Does my chocolate fudge sundae really taste all that much worse if the girl forgot to put the M&M on top?  Hmm, bad analogy, because think of it I really love M&Ms.  How about a cheeseburger with pickles when I didn’t ask for any?  Damn it!  I’ll tolerate it once, but if it happens again … oh, well.

What will it take before Americans wake up to the reality that their freedom to speak is being stripped away slowly (or freedom to speak and still make a living, I should say) because after all America is still a land where one can walk into their favourite bar and say: “Fuck America,”; “Fuck Obama,”; “Fuck Bush before him,”; and still make it home without a stop at a Secret Service jail – and if that’s changed I wouldn’t know because after all – they don’t call it secret for no reason.

But the troubling issue is how the country has inverted its model.  Instead of citizens saying, Helen Thomas, Dom Imus, Howard Stern or Rosie O’Donnel (to name a few) are idiots, so I won’t listen anymore – therefore won’t be attracted by their advertisers – who would then rightly fire the personalities because they are no longer profitable – and I’m sure we are all aware of how “unprofitable” Stern and O’Donnel were to their respective companies:  ” Despite controversy — or maybe because of it — O’Donnell was good business for ABC, owned by the Walt Disney Co. Ratings for “The View” during February sweeps were up 15 percent in key women demographics over the same time in 2006. “;  “ Stern was carried on almost 50 radio stations across the country. His show generated almost $100 million in advertising revenue and an additional $50 million in cash flow for CBS.” reversely Dom Imus, who  reached about 3.25 million people a week before his controversial remarks, a fraction of other big name radio hosts should have been fired for low audience shares years ago, as for Helen Thomas, one could argue the same.  How many ardent followers did she have anymore?

Instead, these people say something, “bad” and the suits decide, and the major advertisers decide before the audience chooses (or worse while the audience is choosing at times to stay – Don Imus actually came back with higher audience interest than when he left to remove the voice from the air.  Sadly over the last decade, more and more of these voices have been silenced and they are almost all of the less popular opinion.

I hear Americans say frequently that they live in a democracy.  This is not true!  You live in a republic- though it’s tough to tell.  A democracy is primarily based on majority rules.  In a simplified way it means that if 7 votes say, “hang ‘em” then the other 3 don’t count.  Notice this is much better than totalitarianism or dictatorialness – which is why Bush’s “I’m the decider” sounded so scary.  But a republic is built on different ground.  It wants to find a way to restrict the majority so that everyone has a voice, a vote, a piece, in the best manner possible – unless that freedom in some ways infringes on my freedom.;

So where is Ms. Thomas’ piece, where was Dom Imus’ piece and the many other who have had to suffer being cut from the system or who still are?  Americans, or more broadly, people, need to wake up to what is happening to their right of expression.  It’s simply not acceptable to fire someone, or force them to retire, or make any alteration to their livelihood or whatever other fancy semantically appropriate term we want to use, based upon one’s opinion or political view.  The individual must be empowered once more.

We have, for a very long time, been more willing to trust the government than ourselves.  It seems we have forgotten the government’s role in our lives as constructed by the Founding Fathers – and it’s an important one:

“…a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.” – Thomas Jefferson.

“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government — lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.” – Patrick Henry

The American government was established primarily to protect us from other people who might try to take away our right to be free.  Sadly this does not include emotional protection – I guess people back then had thicker skins.  Nowadays we have to put blinders on for everything.  God forbid we think an Israeli is a terrorist (this must mean we are Nazis according to the right) or that Barack Obama really has no clue what he’s doing (this must mean we are Racists according to the left, which is just as guilty of anti-American scare mongering.)  But you know something?  What if one is!?!  Good for them!  Plenty of guys that are still left on the airwaves I believe to be racists – I don’t listen to them – but if there are enough people that do, that they’ve earned their right to stay on the air.

Liberty comes at a price – that price is the acknowledgement that others posses the right to this same liberty.  We must accept and respect this right – which is a far cry from accepting and respecting the actual opinion or person.  Words are power, and the ones who can control words can ultimately control reality.  Now imagine if only a select few were allowed this opportunity.

The coming years are wrought with uncertainty, rumours of wars, disasters, plague and bigger governments with bigger agendas, offering bigger solutions to all our woes.  What this ultimately means is that now is the time of the individual to awaken.  Perhaps the dragon has become too fat to be slain, our sharp words won’t cut through its thick skin any longer, but though its girth has made it implacable it also has made is slow – easy to be spotted, quickly avoided.  What happens after that, is solely up to you.

This brings me to an important final point.  Do Americans really want change?  The more I think of it – the less I know.  After the World Wars, when America got a taste of global domination, it seemed that both her and her citizens forgot humility.  Americans don’t want to be Norway or Canada – which usually rank above it in terms of safety and  education, but have little to no importance on the world stage.;

Americans have a certain pride in knowing that there is a McDonald’s on every corner of the globe or that practically wherever they go there will be someone who speaks English.  It’s a dangerous line which is crossed when pride becomes ego.  My wish is for Americans to realize the good which has come from their system but to not become so entrenched in its mystique that it distorts its primary good and purpose: the betterment of its own country and citizens.  That is the American dream.


Categories: Society

Hello world!

June 12, 2010 Leave a comment

This is your world … ready to be criticized and loved … hated and bettered … yours and yours, and mine all the same.  Let me hear you talk.

Categories: Uncategorized