People

A Crash Course in Newsworthiness

This is a tweet from the official Real Madrid account before today’s game against Real Betis.

https://twitter.com/realmadriden/status/325640502219268096 : A minute of silence in the memory of the victims of the Boston marathon bombings. #halamadrid

I may be alone in this, but I blinked twice, then thrice, when I saw this. Why on earth is Real Madrid, one of the world’s foremost sport brands, commenting on an incident in the United States? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been watching all the coverage of the stories emerging from the Boston bombings, just like everyone else. And that’s for 2 reasons. One is that I was searching for answers about why this happened. The second reason is because that is the only thing any news outlet is talking about.

But here’s a glimpse of other events in the world that would have had more airplay if the marathon ended without incident: the Sichuan earthquake which killed 100+ persons and injured 5000+ others (yes folks, that’s thousands injured and over one hundred dead); the bomb blast targeting a candidate in the upcoming Pakistani elections which killed 3 of his family members and injured 7 others; random Syrians are still being killed in the civil war crossfire. I would look for positive headlines, but that’s becoming as scarce as pygmy elephants.

So why is a Spanish organization which is ranked by Forbes as the of most valuable football club in the world, observing a minute’s silence for the victims of the Boston bombings and not every other “significant” disaster in the world? I mean, one does not become globally successful by such myopic pandering. I guess American victims are more interesting than Chinese or Pakistani or Syrian victims. And it helps that #PrayForBoston was trending. Better than that, Madrid.

That brings us to this gem. Quite a lot of folks saw this as heartfelt condolences. I think that’s a gross misunderstanding. Let us think for a second what it must be like to live in terror… real terror… everyday. Not one Monday at a large public event. Everyday. Think about something as routine as going to find something for your family and being very uncertain to make it back home.

And so with tongue firmly in cheek, and armed with très American “peace” signs, the Syrian Revolution sends condolences to the first world.

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People

L’eau des nuages

Il a quitté mon cœur

Sur son retour à lui-même

Il a mis son cœur

Dans une boîte, cachée

Il a l’oublié, je me pense

Dans la tempête forte

Avec les vents de peine.

Il a parlé,

Il a parlé des choses simple

Et il a satisfait

Content, sans me voir.

Il a regardé

Les jeux.

Il a ri

Avec ses amis, un sourire.

Il a travaillé

Comme rien n’a changé.

Sans me parler,

Sans me regarder

Il s’est senti de moins en moins

Il ne l’a pas vu

Ses mots ont se assis comme les nuages

Où sont les profondeurs de tu?

J’ai espéré avoir de ses paroles les plus vraies

Parce que je les aime

Et j’ai su que je te ai connu

On veut quoi d’autre?

Sans tout le cœur

Sans les deux mains

Et moi, je suis me souvenu

Les temps de parler,

De nous nous sommes compris.

Je reappelle. C’était un décembre.

For those of you who are familiar, this is clearly a tribute to “Déjeuner du matin” by Jacques Prévert. Déjeuner du matin is the first French poem I have read (last week, in fact), and I immediately loved it. The Frenchies may correct my mistakes, and suggest better or more poetic phrasing. I hope you enjoyed it, and I look forward to your thoughts.

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Uncategorized

“Necessity… is the mother of invention” – Plato

There is a first time for everything, and tonight is the first time I wished I had amazing computer programming skills. Why would I want to venture into the murky world of geekdom? Because after much reading and googling (and I am an expert googler… like most people born in 1986 are), I still cannot find a website that can either offer English passages for translation to beginner-level French, nor a site where I can input English words and have a passage generated using them.

Somewhere, a programmer probably wrote the required code for this for fun and has it saved on a diskette.

Necessity, ftw

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Uncategorized

A Simple Friday Sunset

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Further up the coast, a half dozen vultures are congregating. A little closer, I notice for the first time that there are vines on one of the sea-trees. To my right, there is a family enjoying a laugh. And an ambulance whizzes by on the highway behind me. A blackbird offers me an uncharacteristically pleasant chirp. Fourteen vessels and a steel carcass dot the horizon. The water laps the rocks gently, like old friends. The hidden currents stretch out a vast pattern for me on the water’s surface, swirling pathways into the distance.
And me? I wait for the sun to peep out from below it’s wispy blanket on it’s way to the next side of the earth.

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Books, People

Pages of My Imagination

I’ve started reading again. And not just my daily dose of 5 or more BBC articles about anything. I’ve started reading novels again.

The last time I got on a bike, it was the first time I’d ridden in more than a decade. It was either a wake or an Old Year’s lime in Couva; I forget which. But I remember getting on the bike and thinking, “everyone says you can never forget how to ride a bike, but I’m pretty sure I’m making this up as I go along.” I just wasn’t at ease as I used to be on it.  If you’ve had a non-literary tertiary education, the only reading you ever did was textbooks. Since then, I’ve only read a handful of novels and many of those were Nicholas Sparks’. Reading a book is nothing like struggling for lost dexterity and wondering where the enjoyment had gone. It’s always been smooth and seamless.

Thank goodness for my Amazon Kindle app and my phone. I decided that buying digital books would be cheaper, and simpler. The first book I came across (literally, the very first book Amazon suggested) was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. It was just the sort of book I loved: a period drama, biographical and as a bonus it was also quite scientific. Mrs. Lacks was a black woman born in Segregated 1940s, USA. She had an unfortunately aggressive case of cervical cancer that killed her in her prime. What she is best known as is “HeLa”. Without knowledge or consent, a sample of her tumor was taken during a medical exam and cultivated for research purposes. Today, HeLa cells are the bedrock of biomedical research and have been used to test all manner or substances and conditions against the human genome.

Henrietta and David Lacks

Henrietta and David Lacks

Less known is what sort of person Lacks was, and what was the story of her life. Rebecca Skloot shared her experiences while researching this extraordinary woman perfectly, and showed us how far down the rabbit hole goes for those connected to her.

I just finished Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I’d always wanted to see the movie (a bit of a fan of RPattz’ acting, not so much Team Edward though). This was a wonderful read. I kept forgetting the writer was female because the protagonist is male. This made me wonder a lot more about what men think about and how they perceive things. Mrs. Gruen is also happily married with 3 sons, so I suppose she’s pretty much an expert. Most of all, I’ve found myself haunted by the main character’s struggle with his advanced age and issues of loneliness. Only a great book could do that… And so begins my journey back into a familiar place where my imagination paints outside the lines of the author’s story, and I muse upon the lives of the characters long after the last page.

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People

Live Feeds 101

One of the phenomena of this modern “electro-digital-social media” era must be the increased propensity to over-share. Keep it real: you’ve seen it, and you’ve done it. 

If it’s not a shot of some (otherwise level-headed) girl with all her wares on display on Facebook,  it will be someone else typing 140 characters about how “people” can  be so mean/ stupid/ annoying etc. Then you read it and figure out “people” is a euphemism for John*,  who will likely read this thinly veiled rant-as-a-tweet and reply in kind.
But, why?

I just read a tweet on my feed from a friend about seeing through an unnamed person’s fake smiles and pretty words. Here’s the thing: why not just let the faker know in person that you see their game and move on?  Why do you always have to declare your moment of clarity online? Counter-intuitively, in the same way social media is supposed to be linking us more than ever, it’s ebbing away at the social skills that would’ve let Adam know Eve was miffed versus stoked.

The world wide web is our favourite invisibility cloak, under which we shout our hurt and displeasure to the world. Somehow it’s easier to let it all out with a hand-picked display picture in our place rather than our actual furrowed brow. But you know what? What about the fake smiles and pretty words we tell ourselves when we don’t have enough honesty to really look ourselves in the mirror? I’ve been through my fair share of fakers but the older I get the more conscious I am of what I say about them, and to whom. The allure of venting via status change has got to be reevaluated; many times one will realize the issue just isn’t that serious in the long run. Fakers can change into better people. Meanies might grow up. And if you first examined whether this point of offense is part of your modus operandi in any way before you hustled over to the little blue bird,  that’s 10 points to you for good sense.

* Ironic change of name to protect identity 🙂

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Football, Photography

An Appreciation of Stuart MacFarlane

The official Arsenal website says Stuart MacFarlane joined the staff at 2000 and is the Senior Club Photographer. They also say he’s an Arsenal fan, but you’d know that simply by the pictures he takes. As an amateur photographer (and Gunner fan!!), MacFarlane’s photos are a breath of fresh air, feel absolutely personal and often brings a smile to my face. Never has the term “I’m living vicariously through you,” been so apt.

 

I remember this game so well. It was a perfect Saturday morning. And my birthday. Arsenal was having an infamously horrendous season start. The kind of start that featured an 8-2 loss to MUFC. The kind of start where Arsenal was mid-table. But then came that glorious late October day. The captain’s hat trick, and Santos and Theo. I absolutely love this picture. I was unabashedly celebrating for a week after. Happy Birthdays don’t get much better.

 

Look! They clean up well too! Thanks, Stuart! I love how the ever-serious Belgian can hardly contain himself here. Alex’s smiley disposition must be contagious. And what is Jack doing?

 

This is just one of Stuart’s many excellent portraits. He plays on Vermaelen’s usual straight secret-agent face so well by sharpening up the left of the image, and softening up the right. Brilliant post-editting. Now you have to wonder, which is he?

 

A serene composition of Clock End, before the Milan match. Definitely, one of the best matches of last season.

Jens Lehmann is one of my top 3 favourite Gunners (the others being Henry and Bergkamp, in no particular order at all). Arsenal goalkeepers are supposed to have “personality.” Jens happens to have a double dose of personality and Szczesny’s been taking notes.

There’s something about Tomáš… It’s probably the feeling I had the first time I saw him playing in World Cup 2006 in a Czech team that was doing wonders because they played as a unit. I was mesmerized by his movement and football intelligence, and forever impressed.

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Just a couple guys who used to kick ball at the club…

Untitled1A beautiful profile of a man you can tell must be a joy to know. As always, MacFarlane’s portraits are well-executed and speak volumes.

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M. Wenger has recently lamented the loss of several high-profile players over the last couple seasons, but I’ll never forget when Defensive Midfielder extraordinaire Gilberto left. The season was a complete soap-opera; nobody knew who was going to be captain when Titi left and after a forever of  “will he, won’t he?”, he left. For Panathinaikos. (Yes, you’ve recently seen a remake of this movie, with a Dutch lead and a Scottish supporting actor.)

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Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. There were mics in 2001 and there are mics in 2012. Regardless of what’s happening now, in many ways he is Arsenal.

I haven’t watched football or Arsenal play in a while. This is a side-effect of 9 am French classes that last for four hours on Saturday mornings. Given Arsenal’s current form, I’m doing myself a favour by not watching for now. But, a perfect picture can bring back memories and fond reminders of one of the clubs that made me love the game in the first place.

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Hearts, People

Who is Mr Right?

Mr Right and I have been friends for about five years. I met him at an interesting time in my life. A time when I was pretty comfortable and totally carefree. He was a friend of a friend’s friend… or something. I didn’t take much notice of him at the time. We were at a Jabbawockeez concert in a defunct open-air cinema (oddly named Kay-Donna). Jabbawockeez never showed. The night was a little bit of a waste, although the other acts were pretty good. I was liming with a couple girls I don’t talk to at all now. Mr Right was there with the brother of one of our mutual acquaintances, and took my camera to take a picture of himself. I rolled my eyes in my mind and moved on to other thoughts.

As the years passed, we spoke more and more. If it’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that having a close male friend (or worse, a male best friend) always evolves into something akin to a common-law relationship. It is not important if you are aware of this, or if you actually desire this change of state. It is bound to happen. My first (real) male bestie fell in love with me, and described the development ruefully as laying a brick each day until an entire house was built. At that point, he said, the house was impossible to ignore. There’s not much one can say in response to that. My second best friend, who was actually an ever-present fixture in the previous friendship, picked up the pieces. On a very random afternoon in 2008, he sent me a text saying “This is long overdue, but I love you.” I was a walking definition of naïveté. I told him that I loved him too, and felt warm and fuzzy because I thought I had a super “brother from another mother”. This was followed a few months later with “I think I really like you”, to which I said I thought he only felt that way because we talk all the time. I wanted to move to Lithuania panicked, but told myself it could still be salvaged. The friendship didn’t end right then, but the die was cast.

I’d started avoiding guys like the plague at this point. I was weary of breaking things. But, Mr Right was around. I thought he was like a brother to me… the kind of guy you could talk football with, but balked at the idea of dating. Yet, there I was telling him a bunch of things I didn’t really tell anyone else. I never called him my best friend because history is a cruel teacher. I ignored every suggestion of “something more” by our friends… for a long time. In a few weeks, we will be together for a year. Sometimes I muse on the fact that I didn’t know I’d met the most important person in my life five years ago. Loving him is the bravest thing I ever did.

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Do you remember the first phone you had? The ridiculous weight of it? The little (or not so little) antenna perched on the top? Yes. These are fond memories. I was in Form 6. Everyone else had had a mobile for at least a year and a half before me. It was a Nokia and I was a Snake pro. A text message was 50 cents, and we sent tacky quotes or jokes. But times quickly changed. I got a new Nokia in Upper 6. It had a colour screen and the Snake game was still good. It was a water-resistant phone, so I talked in the rain whenever I could. I can attest to the fact that this phone is indestructible. Roll down a flight of stairs? It’s fine. Sit on it? Good to go. Eventually, I changed the case to a (cheap) black one then decided to upgrade.

When I started UWI, I got a random Motorola. I never liked the clam-shell business. It had a colour screen though, and for a short while the novelty of learning a different mobile OS overshadowed the fact I much preferred Nokias. (Of course, it wasn’t mainstream to call the software phones ran on “OS” back then, which says a lot about how far mobile communications technology has come.) Around that time, cameras on phones were beginning to become trendy. One would send pictures via MMS. It was a good phone. Then, one day, at approximately 5 pm, the phone slid out of my sweater’s pocket and into a waiting, full mop bucket in the female restroom of first floor Natural Sciences building. I remember looking at my reflection in the mirror and wondering if I was the sort of person who was crazy enough to put her hand in that bucket. Sadly, I am. The phone was toast, and I remember feeling ridiculously sour. Tech withdrawal is real, even if your tech is low-end.

I ended up getting a black Moto Slvr. Perhaps my favourite thing about that phone was the aluminium case. A thing of beauty, it was. I had that phone for a long time. I left UWI, and started working in the Eric Williams’ Medical Sciences Complex and had Love and Attention as my ringtone for maybe 2 years. The day the first sign of trouble came was a sad one; it stopped showing the name or number of persons who sent me an SMS. I knew better than to wait around for that problem to metastasize. What I bought thereafter, I simply cannot recall. There’s a fuzzy period until I got my Nokia E63. It was a lovely navy blue that many mistook for a pretty BlackBerry (an insult, if I ever heard one).

In true Nokia fashion, it was quite sturdy and touted as a business phone. This meant that if you didn’t download some interesting themes, your phone would look VERY BORING. It was an absolute nightmare. Heaven forbid you had to plug your phone into your computer to transfer some media to or from your SD card. The theme would lift because it was saved on the SD card, and you would be reminded of how much aesthetics can make or break a mobile experience.

After 2 years, I grew antsy. It was time for graduation; it was time for a touch screen phone. I remember when the thought first occurred to me. I was seeing my uber-techie friends fiddling with their HTC phones. They spoke of Android and a land of milk and honey. But did I really want to wallow in this awesomeness 24/7? Could I handle such awesomeness? Was I ready? No one ever really knows this answer before they step over to the touch screen. It is a leap of faith. The day I unsubscribed from the Ovi Store, I felt like I was crazy. But buying my first Android was the best thing I ever did. The HTC Desire Z… as heavy as, beautiful, wonderful, and Android. HTC Sense was the sort of thing dreams were made of. I ran from the keyboard to the touch screen the way toddlers take hurried steps to their parents’ waiting arms.

Previously, I would have told all who would listen of the wonders of the HTC mobile. It was sturdy. It was lovely-looking. HTC Sense running over Android was like having a generous layer of your favourite cheese added to the perfect burger. Awesome. I really loved it. Here comes the reality check. Friends, if you drop any (smart)phone several times, for 2 years, without a protective case of some sort, your phone will behave accordingly. Can you imagine your phone not recognizing your SD card? I’ve tried gentle tapping, removing and replacing, fiddling with the battery (I was getting desperate), and I even spoke to it a couple times in a kind voice. Nothing. I handed the device over to Mr Right and started looking for a new phone… albeit, on a budget.

It’s been a month since I bought a Samsung Galaxy S II phone. As an HTC lover, the only fact more scandalous than that purchase is the price I paid: a paltry $1400TT. That’s roughly $220USD or £140. One would think that I would be overjoyed at this sweep, but every now and again I find myself thinking back to my old friend, my Desire Z. That “Sync All” widget and trackpad. That notification light. I never believed I could nitpick over something so seemingly insignificant as a a little LED. To the HTC Android owners out there, buy a case. It doesn’t make your phone any less awesome, it just makes you smart. The old fella had the worst battery life ever, and cost a whole thousand more than its replacement, but it was faithful and beautiful. I really appreciated the HTC’s affinity for UI aesthetics.

How am I liking my SII, you ask? I’ve come to accept the lack of notification light. It was really difficult at first, but I’m over it now. I can have a ton of apps open all at once and switch between them with ease, yet that’s really the perks of ICS OS and newer/ more powerful hardware. I use Swype now, so much so, that I robotically try swyping on other phones by default. Also, my phone is delightfully light. Once I tossed that default widget with the tacky font for the time, and customized the screens, I settled in.

So, Mr. Chou, if you are reading this post, think about me. I’d love to come back to the warm embrace of a beautiful HTC Android phone. You know, something with a sweet UI, and a decent battery life (mutually exclusive, I know) and maybe not heavy enough to double as a weapon. As a matter of fact, if it could make me breakfast just the way I like it, that would be super too =)

Warm Regards,

HTC Customer with ridiculous expectations

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