mlbright's shared items

M-L's occasional ramblings.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


I'm reading a very interesting book about a dry subject. It includes the following tale:

On a very cold morning, a farmer is walking in his field and hears some very loud chirping. He bends down and it's a bird with a broken wing. Because it's very cold, the farmer picks up the bird and places it gently into a steaming cow dung then moves on to his busy day. The bird keeps chirping. Alerted, a fox arrives and eats the bird.

There are so many ways to interpret these events. For example:

a) Someone who puts you in shit doesn't necessarily mean you any harm
b) Someone who takes you out of shit doesn't necessarily mean you well
c) If you're in shit, the best thing may be to shut up


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Veuve Pourrie?

Veuve Pourrie?
Originally uploaded by martyloo.
What do you think of this? Is it funny, creepy, gross, or cute?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Coupe du monde

I don't want to give excuses for my absense on this blog in the last month, but I'm going to anyway. I’ve been watching the FIFA World Cup rather obsessively, and I’m just barely coming down off the Sunday final’s low. Yes, I was rooting for France. I am a French citizen in addition to being 100% Canadian. I am completely bilingual, although I now find translating to French is more difficult than translating to English.

More relevantly, I love football (the world variety, not the american variety, in case it wasn’t clear). I play every week in a recreational league here in Toronto. I played when I was a kid in a house league and at school. I’ve watched the FIFA World Cup since 1990, when it was held in Italy and Germany won it all. The symmetry of this Cup is amazing: unless you have been living under a rock, you know that Italy won it’s fourth cup in Germany 2 days ago. I watched the English Premiership games and the Serie A Italian games far too frequently this past year. I read Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch and enjoyed it. I saw a bit of myself in it and it was scary. You’ve seen the Adidas commercials with José, the little kid from a non-descript (Spanish speaking?) poor neighbourhood who selects a series of current and past professional players for his game of pick-up… I've dreamed like José. That clip does a great job capturing the joy of the game. There’s a freedom, joy and creative element to playing football that is just unmatched by any other sport I’ve played. That Joga Bonito stuff is true.

I’ve been a French national team fan since the victory against South Africa in 1998, the first match of the world cup that year. (The next World Cup will be hosted
in South Africa in 2010.) I liked what I saw and followed les Bleus through victory and defeat until now. I follow the players, I read l’Equipe online and
off. I was embarassed when they lost in 2002, not even scoring a goal.

However, the World Cup is much more than just the sport, isn’t it? There’s the politics, the business, the giant party that grips the world for a month every four years. The cup generates a lot of emotion, a lot of it wrapped up in nationalism.

There’s the good nationalism. The consciousness of being a part of a larger community, the nuggets of wisdom found in our parents' culture(s). The knowledge of an older country’s social and cultural insitutions and all the good things that brings and/or hopes to bring to the world, but also the warnings about the bad things. The Cup teams are an advertisement, of sorts. I love to see the “good” nationalism. I like it when Mexican families go to the pub and cheer on their country (but not when they call Argentina's goalie a faggot), or the cab driver from Ghana light up when I tell him how I think Appiah is a better player than Essien. I like that a guy from Djibouti or Brazil starts a conversation with me on the Vomit Comet because of my French jersey. And as much as I didn’t like the endless honking of the Italian fans on Sunday, I liked the fact that the victory coincided with the Italian fest here in T.O.

Then there’s the “bad” nationalism. It’s unerving to see fans taking the result so seriously but not caring about the game being played or being in any way realistic and/or modern about what a national soccer team really is. It's frustrating to see people have hopelessly vague and dangerously confused notions of race and culture. In 2002, I went to little Italy to watch a few games, and I thought I’d attended a giant funeral. It was awful. And driving around in a car honking your horn if you are 1/8th Italian or Portugese or Croatian and you haven’t watched the game is not cool. It’s pathetic. The whole “it’s in my blood” argument has pissed me off for a long time now. Is Serie A match fixing in the blood too? (Tomorrow, Italy’s biggest club will be relegated because its administrators were involved in a match fixing scandal.) The worst aspect of the "bad" nationalism is outright racism. For now I'll just say to those who thought the number of blacks on the French team was somehow inauthentic or a dubious outcome of mercenary colonial recruiting: all the black players on the team are 100% French and you're racist for not thinking so.

Aside from whatever Materazzi said to Zidane, I don’t want to take away from a hard fought campaign by the Azzurri. Most of those guys are consummate pros and they deserved to win the world cup 2006. You’ll notice how Buffon gave Zidane a genuinely sympathetic embrace after the game in which Zizou ended his career in shame… Those are some amazing moments in sport. Pirlo was superb throughout the tournament, like Cannavaro and Grosso. Gattuso, the guy who looks like a rabid dog, was
simultaneously a monster and a clown in midfield. Couldn’t care less about Totti, Iaquinta and Materazzi, they were wankers.

On the French side, the games against Spain and Brazil were superb. They attacked and defended as one tough and fast unit. Arguably, the final against Italy was in French hands for the end of the first half, the 2nd half and extra time before the penalty kicks. Henry, Ribéry, Malouda, Vieira, Sagnol and Zidane (before the headbutt) were fantastic. The gargantuan play of Thuram in defense was simply unbelievable for a player who many thought was too old to be selected on the national team. Thuram was a extra goalie for France, more of a goalie than Barthez. If France had won, he would have been man of the match. Both France and Italy moved the ball, attacked and defended as a team and it was great to watch.

Of course, in the end Zidane threw the match away in one of sport’s most bizarre gestures of violence. Italy had the extra confidence it needed in the
penalty kicks. Barthez, who should never have been selected (Gregory Coupet of Olympique Lyon should have been the #1 French goalie) seemed lost while the
Italians hit their penalties flawlessly.

Zidane broke my heart. The headbutt was so unzidanesque I thought it was a bad dream. Whereas Zidane lifting his second world cup on the last day of his illustrious career would have been a peak in the ongoing history of football, the result instead shocked the world and ended his last match and otherwise stellar career in shame. Materazzi is probably a piece of garbage for what he said to provoke Zidane. But Zidane is the one who is suffering most now, I'm convinced of that. And if he’d just kept his cool, like everyone thought he would, like we were accustomed to see him doing, everything would have been OK, even in defeat. Tragic.

For me, Zidane is still up there with Pelé and Maradona. Despite the headbutt incident, he is:

- Classier than the drug addicted melodramatic midget known as Maradona
- Right up there with Pelé
- The best French player there ever was, dethroning Platini
- A great ambassador for the game
- One of the reasons the French got to the final of the 2006 Cup, and possibly the reason they didn't win.
- The FIFA golden boot winner.

Today the (slimy) French president Jacques Chirac had these words for Zidane and the rest of les Bleus (quote translated by me from article in Le Monde):

"You are a virtuoso, a world football genius. You are also a man of heart, commitment and conviction. That's why France admires and loves you" he declared in the gardens of the Elysée. To all the players, the president said: "You have made
us live a sports epic of tremendous proportions that will remain deeply ingrained in the memory of the men and women of France. You have demonstrated to France that it is strong when it is united in its diversity and confident in its own ability.",1-0@2-669420,36-794181@51-793747,0.html