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Of Vuvuzelas and History July 11, 2010

Posted by blith3 in Sports.
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It has been 30 days since South Africa made history and became the very first African nation to host the World Cup. Despite my disturbed sleep and missing out on a slew of Hollywood’s blockbuster offerings at the cinema, it’s nevertheless, been an entertaining month. And, with only one game of the Olympics of Football left remaining, here are my selection of the best and worst of the World Cup 2010.

The Best Of

1) The vuvuzelas – All throughout the kick-off match between the host nation, South Africa, and Mexico, a low buzzing akin to that of a swarm of bees could be heard on TVs across the world. The culprit – a simple long plastic horn that was not only loud but also cheap, thus, it’s popularity amongst fans. From initial solid one-colours, the vuvuzelas had evolved quickly to also appear in colours of the teams, thereby ensuring a staple of the fans and its appearance or rather, sound, in every match and very much to the bane of the footballers.

2) Yoann Gourcuff – I had skipped watching most of France’s matches as it had the uneviable honour of living up to the expectation of underperforming at the World Cup. I had the good fortune though, of tuning into France’s last game just minutes before the referee slapped a questionable red card onto Yoann Gourcuff and of the cameraman zooming in onto the gorgeous Frenchman just as he walked off the pitch.

 

3) The All Whites – For a nation that lacked a professional league, New Zealand displayed a brand of football that was well above its largely part-time players, effectively showing the football stars out there just how game should be played. Their biggest win was something very few of the usual football giants could boast themselves – an impressive denial of the defending champions, Italy, from proceeding past the group stage.

4) The dramatic last minute goals – While not all matches have been impressive, I appreciate the series of last minute goals scored by different teams ensuring excitement all the way to the end. Cases in point, the consolatory 92nd and 94th minute goals respectively from Maximiliano Pereira (Uruguay) and Robert Vittek (Slovakia), the 93rd minute goal from Asamoah Gyan (Ghana), the fantastic 92nd goal from Landon Donovan (USA), Italy’s 92nd goal courtesy of Fabio Quagliarella, the 93rd minute goal from Winston Reid (New Zealand) and the 95th goal from Alvaro Pereira (Uruguay).

5) Celebrity fans – You know it’s the number one sport in the world when the head of one of the G7 nations dances about in glee across your TV screen to celebrate a goal…or when the famous faces of Hollywood elite are picked out sitting incognito, focused very much on the game instead of the stadium cameras.

6) A new team as champions – With two teams vying to win the World Cup for the first time, it promises to be an exciting final between La Roja and the Oranje. In addition, David Villa of Spain will be extra hungry to win the Golden Boot to become the top scorer of the tournament.

   

The Worst Of

1) The French team – While I’m not an uber sports fan, nevertheless I don’t think there has been any other team in any sport who has so brilliantly self-destructed at a major tournament such as the French football squad. In all its glory, the scandalous conduct of the French footballers and the coach against one another has been widely documented in all possible forms of communication for millions of people to read/see/hear.

2) The numerous instances of poor judgment of the referees – While errors by match officials are to be expected in this age of digital everything, nevertheless, the startling times in which bad calls – each time, worse than the other – have been made have left a bad taste in the mouths of many a football fan. Allow me to list the ways – the questionable sending off of Kaka, the overzealous sending off of Yoann Gourcuff, the totally undeserved sending off of Algeria’s captain, Anther Yahia, by a referee who obviously couldn’t tell the Algerian players apart and finally, the disallowed goal from Frank Lampard.

3) Post-match commentary from Luis Suarez – Handballing has long been considered an offense committed by the unlucky few who succumb to the natural instinct of using one’s hands. Though, it does seem like handballing is the new diving. The unapologetic post-match commentary of Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, who spoke with great conviction and a largely misplaced sense of arrogance, about his offense at handballing at the mouth of the goal, begs the question whether footballers really do consider it as an act executed by only the brave. Hand of God indeed.

4) Rantings of professional footballers – Nevermind that they are playing in a continent in which war rages on everyday or that children die due to poverty every minute,  it’s earth-shattering things like the high altitude, the super light weight of the Adidas Jambulani ball, the blaring vuvuzela, the harsh media reports, the isolation of top-notch hotels…which throw disgruntled famous players earning millions of Euros/dollars off of their game and the reason behind their general lacklustre performance. 

5) Tacky fans – The colourful fans from all over the world have long been half the attraction of the World Cup…however, this World Cup has exposed a breed of what I call ‘tacky’ fans characterised by the public vows of tasteless things they would do if their respective teams win. Larissa Riquelme and Bobbi Eden. Need I say more?

And yes, I will be waking up for the match, Monday Blues be damned. Whatever the outcome though, thanks to my colleague’s Facebook album detailing her Word Cup experience, I’m inspired myself to make it to Brazil in 2014.

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I mean, REALLY! February 13, 2009

Posted by blith3 in Music, Ramblings, Sports.
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It’s only two months into 2009 and already, celebrity-dom has become impossibly scandalous. From a starlet’s slitty-eyed photo to a case of ‘domestic violence’ between two of the youngest and brightest musical stars, the media is literally having a field day. While some of these wrong-doers have been rightly bashed by the media, there was one case, though, which, I personally thought was over the friggin’ top of Mt. Everest!

The photo of Michael Phelps smoking marijuana.

Now, I understand all the flack he’s been getting, especially since he’s been riding on this gigantic public relations wave aimed at making him a hero for children by  relying on his boy-next-door, worked-his-butt-off, healthy-lifestyle, Mummy’s-boy image. Of course, children will be influenced by the photo. Of course, and rightly so, society had to react by publically reprimanding Phelps.

I just don’t agree with the extent in which this was done – the very public pulling of endorsement by Kellogg’s and suspension from national representation by the USA Swimming – particularly when at the same time, another celeb caught in a scandalous photo, Miley Cyrus, got off with just a slap on the hand. Miley – who probably has a wider and younger fan base – escaped with minimal bashing and endorsements including her plump Disney contract still intact for her slitty-eyed photo.

This was despite the fact that Phelps was quick to apologise for his mistake compared to Miley, who initially responded with a disclaimer (shame on those who consider that an apology) which was so insincere and lame, she had to issue an actual apology later to quell the wave of outrage resulting from that first disclaimer.

*Scoffing* I mean, really!

Here to prove my point in a much more eloquent, direct way, is Seth Meyers from the Weekend Update segment of Saturday Night Live. I swear, there have been lots of gems from SNL (I’ll probably have a post on it soon), but this really takes the cake! Kudos to Seth!

(Just bear with the voice-over and unnecessary fonts appearing. This guy is definitely an anti-Kellogg guy! For maximum effect, I suggest you pause the clip to let it fully load as the critiques come fast and hard)

Michael, if you are reading this, hope you keep up the fight! The media is just a glare and completely not worthwhile throwing in the swimming towel for, especially when you have been and presumably, still are, so passionate about it.

MeMos of 2008 December 31, 2008

Posted by blith3 in Adventures, Movies, Ramblings, Sports.
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As is typical this time of the year, here I sit reflecting on my Top 5 Memorable Moments (MeMos) of 2008. The events I have listed are mainly themed around the human spirit, which I suppose, in all fairness, is something that has always intrigued me.

1) Barack Obama – A man who needs no introduction, even on an international arena, history will likely remember Barack Hussein Obama II as the first black president of the United States of America. To me though, he is the first (and I sincerely hope never the last) modern president. In an age where the working class has tremendous economic power and race becomes increasingly blurred with the world turning into one big melting pot, Obama is 100% representative of the people – not only in the United States but worldwide. How else can you explain the clockwork-like precision Japanese taking time out to specially announce during one of the lectures I was attending to inform that Mr. Obama was now President Elect Obama? And if all else fails, maybe a portion of his acceptance speech might just better clarify what I mean, if not, then hopefully to entertain. You gotta hand it to him, he does have charisma!

Besides, who doesn’t love a presidential candidate who fist bumps his wife as a sign of solidarity? 😉

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2) ISJ 2008 – Who could imagine being over the moon about attending a two-week course overseas? Sure the overseas part might be interesting, but sighseeing’s just only for the weekends and after office hours…and even that, there was bound to be a language barrier with the Japanese locals. The bulk of it would be spent in a stuffy classroom with strangers. Whoop-dee-doo. By some strange stroke of luck, though, it turns out that I enjoyed the classes equally as the sighseeing. Aside from learning more about the fascinating  industry I am in, undoubtedly the icing on the cake was the interesting mix of people who were my coursemates and the courteous Japanese hosts, who were efficient and courteous as they were friendly. In that short 14 days, I made some very good friends that opened my eyes far more quickly and much more discreetly than reading any amount of books or travelling can…and I feel much more inspired than I have been since leaving university!

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3) Germany – Another place I never thought I’d ever visit, Germany proved to have been a great treat. The weather was lovely, the food was excellent and of course, my appreciation for beer was improved. But most of all, Germany boasts not only beautiful sceneries, both architecturally and naturally, but also extremely lovely and courteous people. If anything, German hospitality is completely underrated. I would definitely return in a heartbeat, if only to visit Neuschwanstein Castle (below) that one more time…and to also catch that gorgeous American guy who was travelling alone.

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4) Heath Ledger & the Dark Knight – A virtual earthquake shook my world that day in January 2008, when I read about the passing of beloved Heath Ledger online. Updated mere minutes beforehand, it was absolutely heart breaking to read about the loss of one of the most calibre 20-something year old stars out there. Heath was one of those actors whose movie you know could not possibly suck if he held a significant role. Perhaps his death did buoy sales, but I’d like to think it was his mad artistic gift that ensured his most recent completed movie – the Dark Knight – ended up to be one of the highest grossing movies of 2008. Undoubtedly is cemented in pop culture as one of the best movies of all time, mostly due to how spectacularly believing he was to the point of being absolutely terrifying as the Joker. Hopefully, his beautiful toddler daughter, Matilda Rose, will one day appreciate the insane genius that was Heath.

ledger-joker-copy

5)  Michael Phelps @ Beijing 2008 – After watching Michael Phelps win his first gold,  I can honestly say even the most seasoned swim fans did not think of Ian Thorpe or Peter van Hoogenband – two titanic swimmers who outclassed the then-debutant Phelps at the previous Olympics. Not only did the Golden Boy of Swimming set 7 new world records and one Olympic record in the space of three weeks, but he had a monster presence out of the pool – mainly as fillial son. The moment where he went up to his mother and two sisters to celebrate his eighth and final Olympic gold will forever be enshrined on the Internet to be made as a good example for children in the future.

phelps

 

On that note, I’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year 2009! Let’s discard all the bad of the past year, and bring forth only the good in our hearts. 😉

Swing Batter, Vampire! November 29, 2008

Posted by blith3 in Movies, Sports.
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OK, so in the past I’ve written about my love for certain sports – football and swimming. And now, perhaps, I shall add baseball to it! Throw in a couple of vampires, preferably with blonde hair (I’m a sucker for the golden haired), an incredibly sexy song as a background…a dash of arrogance and super-human abilities…and voila, it’s enough to make any girl (OK, maybe just me) consider watching baseball for real! Went to the cinema today with rambutanseed and thumbprints145, and this was easily one of the best scenes from Twilight.

Sorry the clip is blurry right now, but I promise to embed better versions when it finally makes itself available on Youtube.

DAMN Tu Lan… August 18, 2008

Posted by blith3 in Ramblings, Sports.
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Today was a great day in the history of the Olympics – the day when the 3-days-old-newly-crowned greatest Olympian of all time (so far) would attempt to smash another record. One held for 36 years belonging to none other than his very own swimming role model, Mark Spitz.

And on this historic day, which I have been eagerly waiting and hoping for (it’s not every day that history like THIS is made) since the beginning of the 2008 Beijing Olympics…one of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT channel stopped its coverage of the swimming event…JUST BEFORE history was made. OMFG!

Imagine this: You wake up from a good-night’s sleep in a 5-star hotel and 5 minutes before the swimming finals start, you start to mildly freak out as you channel surf and STILL you do not see any coverage on the Olympics whatsoever. But wait, you find two local government channels whose commentators are in the midst of reliving yesterday’s results and when your mother calls to remind you about the historic swim, you assure her you’ll catch it although the first event has passed – the Women’s 50m Freestyle – and the commentator is STILL yammering on. Your faith pays off though, the swimming event is shown soon enough, including the missed finals. Your excitement mounts with each passing event and it reaches its peak when in the Women’s 4 x 100m Medley Relay, the Australian women beat the U.S. ladies by a mere one hundredths of a second for the gold. You are practically bouncing around on the bed. Next to you, your friend, sleepy-eyed, is also waiting although she isn’t much of a fan.

And then…you hear words that make you freeze in disbelief and then shriek in utter horror. Translated, it went something like this, “And that concludes our morning edition on the Beijing Olympics. Join us for our afternoon session when we report on the latest events, including the last swimming event, the Men’s 4 x 100m Medley Relay.”

W…T…F…?!!

I’m sure you can imagine what happened to me after that. At the end, I had to find out the glorious news from my friend who received one of those news updates SMS. And my mother had to describe over the phone what was happening right then during the awards ceremony – how the 23-year-old Michael Phelps had broken down with emotion on the podium, how the sea of photographers had parted to allow him to reach his mother and sisters to kiss them and how, already red nosed, the greatest Olympian of all time (so far) had broken down with relief in his mother’s arms.

 

I cannot believe I missed all that!

And I also cannot decide which is stupider…the fact that a government channel, who is non-profit and suppose to air shows for human development purposes, decided to NOT to adjust its schedule by a mere 10 minutes to showcase HISTORY BEING MADE LIVE…or the fact that a 5-STAR HOTEL did NOT subscribe to cable TV for the most prestigious sporting event in the world.

DAMN tu lan…

But luckily for me, right now at 11.30pm…I’m about to watch a replay of history (Aaron Peirsol just dived into the lane to swim backstroke). Truly, there’s really no place like home!

P.S. – The telecast didn’t show him going to his mother and sisters, darn it! I guess I’ll just have to use my imagine when I read the online reports. 😛

FPM = Fourth Place Medal August 15, 2008

Posted by blith3 in Sports.
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In the past, every four years, followers of the Olympics around the world have had to make do with reading boring old newspaper/website reports or listening to formal commentary on the television to keep tabs on developments. Luckily for us…that isn’t the case anymore!!! What has made the Beijing 2008 Olympics fairly interesting…and has subsequently led me to make my third entry straight regarding the same topic, is the latest arsenal of journalism – blogging.

The Fourth Place Medal is a Yahoo! blog maintained by a team of contributors (my guess is that these people are also reporters covering the Olympics). Admittedly, the focus is more on the American team but I suppose that’s a given considering they are the more popular of the teams and Yahoo! is afterall, an American product/service. 

While there are posts on the day’s events, the real gems of the blog are the non-competition entries. It is in these entries in which the contributors infuse the most personality into their writing, giving readers a whole new perspective of the Olympics…either by revealing the strange phenomenons in China or posting up photos that never made it into the newspapers (i.e. Bush’s visit to the women’s beach volleyball team) or even by answering the most popular questions from their readers i.e. why do divers shower off after every single dive? For the benefit of their readers, the bloggers have also gone on to crack the identity of a mysterious and attractive female Paraguayan athlete. Though, my personal favourite mystery-buster story so far is on the disappearance of Cullen Jones. Jones was part of the US Team in the Men’s 4 x 100m Freestyle Medley, but who was no where to be seen as his teammates screamed with joy when their anchor swimmer, Jason Lezak, won first place by mere hundredths of seconds ahead of France.

So, the next time you find that newspaper article a little too dreary to read, try popping over to the FPM. You never know what entry will amuse you next. For tonight, I leave you with a FPM entry on the winningest Olympian so far, Michael Phelps…and his dietary secrets to achieve such greatness. JK, this is dedicated to you. I had the same thing going through my mind reading it: Sometimes, life is just not fair… 😛

Hot! August 14, 2008

Posted by blith3 in Sports.
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Seriously…this has got to be the hottest Olympics photo (taken from Getty Images) I have ever seen!

And guys, I know you’ll beg to differ. *LoL*

A Footie Fan’s Tale June 29, 2008

Posted by blith3 in Ramblings, Sports.
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I can vividly remember the year 1997. It was to be a vital year for me, one that allowed me to come out of my shell…A LOT. I made a lot of good friends that year, most of whom I still keep in contact with today…and a lot of whom are guys who were all from one particular clique. I started out on my journey as a football fan that year too…when, and many of the same guys may not even remember this, I was ‘selected’ to be their record keeper and monetary guardian for this mini footie ‘tournament’ that they had conspired between themselves. Thanks to that, in that short time, I learnt the different positions on a footie team, how to interpret the football league table, deciphered the mysteries behind the formation numbers and fell in love with…the Liverpool Football Club. It had been the era of Ian Rush, John Barnes, Steve McManaman, Jamie Redknapp, Jason McAteer, David James, Phil Babb and Paul Ince (now the first black manager in the English Premiere League).

Liverpool FC 1996

Admittedly, over the years, my love for the sport has fallen down the priority list…I can’t even name that many Liverpool players in the current team. But its not to say my appreciation for football has diminished, instead it has just been accumulating until it reaches its apex every two years during the Euro and World Cup seasons. Many people wonder how I can jump up in the middle of the night (this year, it’s 2.45 a.m.), watch the game half sleepily, go back to bed, wake up for work less than 2 hours later and repeat the cycle all over again for several days at a stretch. Well, there’s several very simple reasons to that.

  • The differing football styles make for good entertainment.
  • The chase for international accolades ensures a gathering of only those with the best-est and most-est skill. Goes back to previous point really.
  • The colourful fans dressed to impress the cameras! To quote Tyra, “You look fierce, girl (or guy)!”

Dutch Fans

Spainish Fans

  • The thrill of finding a cute new unnamed player (at least to me) when the cameras do a close-up. I ‘found’ Gabriel Batistuta and Kaka this way! Seriously…what’s a girl to do?!!

  • The therapeutic properties of bellowing out, “GO-OOH-AL!” No other way to celebrate goal-scoring will do.
  • Texting other fans/friends in the dead of the night with funny commentary/criticisms.
  • The often hilarious antics of the managers, who are more often that not, more tightly wound that the entire team combined. Luiz Felipe Scolari, the ex-Portugese manager and future Chelsea F.C. manager, famous for his expressive nature (from pained facial expressions to wild gesticulations) is the best example.

Luiz Felipe Scolari

  • And lastly, having something to look forward to every day.

It may not seem like much, but I suppose when it’s an appreciation arising from a positive experience back in the days of innocence and self-discovery, these reasons more than enough. Here’s to the Wah Lai Toi gang of 1998/99! I still have that list of the tourney results tucked safely somewhere in my ‘Memories’ box. Maybe one day when I find it, I’ll elaborate more… 😉

Psst…in case anyone’s wondering, I’m supporting Spain to win the Euro 2008. The Germans, while fantastic players when they want to be (take the Portugal match, for example) just don’t have the consistency.