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Friday, July 21, 2006

(Last) Quote of the (Fri)day

It should come as no surprise to the smattering of people who still check in here on the odd occasion that the political ramblings of this blog have withered and gone away. Perhaps it is the general summer malaise. Perhaps it is a sense that the purpose of Ahab's musings has finally run its course. Perhaps, as Benedick so memorably says in Much Ado, "I am so attired in wonder, I know not what to say."

All of which is to say that it is time to "Hang up the Hyatt" and go on a bit of a sabbatical, until the embers of the fire call out to hit the keyboard once more. Soon there will be busy months ahead as the "professional" career begins in earnest, and a level of seriousness begins to pull rank on the quixotic.

But, of course, we'll be back - later - and maybe even in a grand re-united effort of the old contributors as well. When those 2008 Candidate Profiles finally get completed, eh Coop? In the mean time, here's a closing quote and an apt philosophy, stolen graffiti art outside Strange Adventures comic shop on Sackville Street. Enjoy, and stay well until next time.

Gentlemen: A Toast! To Chivalry!

May Common Sense ne'er quell our love for high hearted adventurings, nor dull expediency prevent our doing brave, splendid, foolish deeds. May we ever serve romance as we ride errant to and fro about a sunlit world. If we be not always wise, God send that we at least be admirable.

To Chivalry!

- Prince Valiant, Knight of the Table Round, Court of the Good King Arthur

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Geopolitical Craps

A crude title to the post, perhaps, but there's certainly no Grand Strategy chess games being played in the Middle East these days. And with the latest developments, I wonder if the dice have been cast - outcome unknown - that will fundamentally reshape the region.

I fully appreciate the concerns over proportionate response, the killing of innocents, and unequivocal support of Israel regardless of their actions. Yet here are two intriguing articles by well-known American conservatives that take a short and long view, respectively, on future possibilities.

Krauthammer: Every important party in the region and in the world, except the radical Islamists in Tehran and their clients in Damascus, wants Hezbollah disarmed and removed from south Lebanon so that it is no longer able to destabilize the peace of both Lebanon and the broader Middle East... But only one country has the capacity to do the job. That is Israel, now recognized by the world as forced into this fight by Hezbollah's aggression. The road to a solution is therefore clear: Israel liberates south Lebanon and gives it back to the Lebanese.

Sullivan: The potential for a wider Sunni-Shiite war across the Muslim Middle East is also now a real one - like the religious wars in Europe in the seventeenth century, only with far more destructive potential. Some might advise the U.S. to strike a deal with the beleaguered Assad regime in Syria, or put its weight behind the now-very-nervous predominantly Sunni autocracies as a counter-weight to Iran. I'm not so sure. Decades of backing such autocrats helped create the Islamist wave. Picking another losing side looks like short-sighted masochism to me...

I guess what I'm saying is that a period of appalling warfare may now be
inevitable, and the only way for the region's tectonic plates to find a new and
more stable platform.

I just don't know if there is a role for the "honest broker" Lloyd Axworthy alludes to amidst this mess. By now we are well aware of the fanatics on one side of the table, as well as their respect for negotiations.

Sadly, there may not be anything that can be done before this powderkeg bursts wide open. If it does, all bets will truly be off.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Quote of the (Fri)day

No matter what form the dragon may take, it is the mysterious passage past
him, or into his jaws, that stories of any depth will be concerned to tell.

- Flannery O'Connor, Mystery and Manners

Fridays are for adventures. Go, then, and seek them out.

Right at the End...

For those who may be dismayed (or dare we say, caught up, in Zizou's stupidity, er, excuse)... lest not forget what the majesty of a dramatic end of season moment sounds like. And that idiotic headbutt denied us all, worldwide, of his (perhaps, such magic) potential.

I like Materazzi all the more - the worse the insult, for the clarity. If only I were alive and an Arsenal fan in '89, when Michael Thomas burst through the midfield... Who were the fortunate sons, who were the fathers who were teaching them how the world worked, then. And at that most dramatic, failed so.

Right at the end. Perhaps the most dramatic finish? Oh magic becomes us.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Camouflage

Sampling Martinis for a friend's birthday this evening - and as we sat on the downtown patio near the end, across our path ran the most inexplicable sight. A young dude - how else to describe him - ran up and down the street with a bunch of green shrubbery in his hand, pausing momentarily to hide behind it and look from right to left, before running on.

Clearly no one was in pursuit, and yet no attempt was made to engage his ample audience of Martini imbibers on the Bitter End or Argyle patios, all of whom were transfixed by the inexplicable performance. I suppose just another one of the optional activity ideas for ambitious, anonymous, exhibitionist drinkers.

It was a lovely thought, for its simplistic beauty and unbridled execution.

The Fire

For a long while, I have pointed to a Beckett quote from Krapp's Last Tape as my favorite: "Perhaps my best years are gone. But I wouldn't want them back, not with the fire that's in me now." First seen so magically on that hostel wall in Kilkenney the day after St. Paddy's 2000...

So it is with some surprise that I find one to rival it in my imagination, referenced in the pages of a Robert Ludlum novel as I while away an uneventful Tuesday evening. Yet here it is:
A poet (Jean Cocteau) was once asked, 'If his house were on fire, what favorite object would he save?' And Cocteau said, 'I would save the fire. Without fire, nothing is possible.'

Truly, an excellent response.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Quote(s) of the (Fri)day

And here we are back again. Was it but one week ago when we waited with anticipation outside the Reichstag for admission into the 10,000 seat Adidas stadium for Germany v. Argentina, and all England remained optimistic on the boys' chances? Two quotes today in honour of that truth:
"A traveler. I love his title.
A traveler is to be reverenced as such.
His profession is the best symbol of our life.
Going from -- toward; it is the history of every one of us."

- Henry David Thoreau

"A good traveler has the gift of surprise."

- W. Somerset Maugham
I love the title too, whether applied to those little 50 mL "bonus" attachments on the liquor bottles, or to myself in general. And what better gift is out there than surprise? Here's to a great Rum 'n Coke Friday - in a few hours I'll be sipping Harvey Wallbangers and basking in the Mush-a-Mush sunset. Ya gotta love it.

About Last Week

Miscellaneous Musings, Images, and Observations on the Trip that Was:

(1) "We are shaped and fashioned by what we love." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. And how true thou art, good Sir. A pleasure to visit your home and see you fully in the spirit.



(2) "One cannot divine nor forecast the conditions that will make happiness; one only stumbles upon them by chance, in a lucky hour, at the world's end somewhere, and holds fast to the days..." said Willa Cather once. You wonder about the perpetual need to seek rejuvenation on the road. But it is hard to question what always works.

(3) When the capital is truly devoted to the cause, when the "Kaiser" Beckenbauer is deemed Chancellor for the month, when the Reichstag itself serves as a mere backdrop to the spectacle, you know you are in excellent hands. Torsten - the only man I will ever see drink 2 litres of beer in 65 spectacular seconds - was on edge right until the final Lehman save. He emailed me after the semi-final loss to say he was not "crying in the streets like some". Like so many, he just wanted it to last. And Germany will play on the second last day.


(4) "The physicist Richard Feynman used to make a joke about a posteriori conclusions - reasoning from known facts back to possible causes: 'You know, the most amazing thing happened to me tonight. I saw a car with the license plate ARW 357. Can you imagine? Of all the millions of license plates in the state, what was the chance I would see that particular one tonight? Amazing!' His point, of course, is that it is easy to make any banal situation seem extraordinary if you treat it as fateful." - as taken from Bill Bryson's Short History of Nearly Everything.

And yet, it is still difficult to doubt that magical power of coincidence to overwhelm. Who are all these beautiful people in the streets, in the rail stations, in the beer gardens? Where did they come from and why are they here?

(5) "You are crazy, James. Though I suppose people have been telling you that for a long time now..." So says my old friend from Glasgow, Renate.


Yes, dear friend. They have.

(6) Often overseas on the quixotic 10 day voyage, I found myself asking that ever-enigmatic question: just what the hell am I doing here?! Then you read the Times' Simon Barnes and his column on the day of England's last match:

"But what’s the point? In the end, it’s just 22 men trying to kick a bladder between a pair of sticks.

The point is that it is a story. It happens in front of us, and 20 million or more people in this country will watch and care. What happens at the World Cup will become a shared memory of triumph and disaster, agony and delight. It is the formulation of a living myth, a tale we will tell for years. We humans are a species of fabulists, and that is why sport is the most fabulous thing."

A species of fabulists indeed, at our best. I googled the phrase and Barnes seems to have coined it direct. Magnificent. As good a definition as why sport is so highly esteemed as you will ever see expressed in words. Or you could just look to those two Italia goals from Tuesday that sent them through.

(7)
... from Frankfurt International, you can go anywhere. Samarkanda not listed on the big board, but surely you could catch the train from Moskau. As you can see, Casablanca was the next gate over, departing at the same 14:40 hour. If they allowed you to exchange your ticket on the fly, I just might have tried it. To live, ay, is to dream. 'Twas such a wonderful World Cup.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Quote of the (Fri)day

Officially Quarterfinal Game Day in Berlin now - the city has been on noticeable edge since I arrived up from Munchen on Tuesday. None more so than my old mate Torsten, who earns the quote of the week for his description of his feelings this evening as the Argentina encounter approaches:
"So nervous... I feel like you do if you must go to the dentist or something - you don't know how it will go, you are so worried that there might be something, might be pain, might be problems... Or maybe like waiting for a big exam. You cannot do anything more, so you want it to arrive, but are scared if something goes wrong and then all is over. If Argentina win, I will never eat a steak from that country again."

So outstanding. Even better is the Adidas Football World make-shift stadium of 10,000 set within a Beckham free kick of the Reichstag here where I hope to camp out this morning to secure last minute tickets so we can enjoy the agony and ecstacy en masse.

More stories and photos from Munich later, but the return pilgrimage was truly a magical one. And there is a sense that the next 2-3 days will be the memorable ones. To Frankfurt Saturday to watch England amidst the public fan site, and then to the stadium to hope for a minor miracle look at Zidane and Ronaldo in person. I keep upping the amount I am willing to spend in my mind, but we will have to let it unravel. And Dylan is playing in Gelsenkirchen on the 2nd if the scalpers don't put my money to use.

Truly an epic one awaits. Last night I dreamt of goals and jewels. Time to see what the gods hold in store, what slight touches and sublime maneuvers will be immortalized. Oh, for more days like today.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Quote of the (Fri)day

Sitting in the windowless cubicle. Watching the clock. Tick, tock. About 12 hours until the anticipated landing in Frankfurt. Maybe 7 more until arrival at my favorite rail station in Munchen. So - likely less than 20 total 60 minute revolutions from now until the leading of a triumphal procession of 1 back into the Hofbrau House. The first time since Gartner and I left our man below and took off to Vienna, in search of Don Giovanni and that missed meeting with Grisele pre-Oktoberfest.



A celebratory and surreal mood this Friday, indeed. What will the next 10 days or so hold? For us? For England? Whatever the case, Nick Floyd of Three Floyds Brewing has it right:
"I love the smell of hops in the morning. It smells like victory."

And victory is what we seek. C'mon, England. See you on the other side.

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