Wednesday, June 28, 2006

World Cup Predictions - 3

So, 5 teams from my original picks for the quarter-finals made it through. I must say Fayyad was right when he said experience matters. In Holland's case they were a young an inexperienced team to Portugal's Golden Generation, and it showed. The Portuguese were successful in ragging the Dutch and making them lose their composure.

France! France! From my childhood I remember Arabic football commentary where they would go "GOOOOOOOAAAAAL" and repeat it ten times - when the player went near the net (forget scoring the goal) - followed by 'Halwa! Halwa! Halwa!'. Except when France played, they would scream Zidane instead of 'GOAL'. Well yesterday, the French showed the value of experience and history. Spain has never defeated France at a competitive match and it showed. This is why when you have a close cricket ODI game between Australia and England, bet on Australia. When you have penalty kicks between Germany and England, bet on Germany. When you have a close cricket game between South Africa and Australia, DON'T bet on South Africa. History, experience matters. They will show a trend and the same team winning.

So, without any further ado, here are my quarter final predictions.

Germany vs. Argentina
Both have scored lots of goals, but Germany scored them against various teams while Argentina mostly against one. Germany has no wonder goals while Argentina a half a dozen. German defence is organized but weak while Argentina attack is strong. Germany is playing at home and looks better with each outing. Argentina looks jaded. The Mexican game was destined for penalty kicks until the miracle strike. At the end, German's home support and Klose will get them through.
Winner: Germany.

Italy vs. Ukraine
Italy has looked in form. Italy outplayed Australia being a man down. The so-called 'stubborn' Ukraine defence leaked 4 goals against Spain. Italy to take this low scoring snoozefest of a game. Ideally I would like to see both teams lose.
Winner: Italy.

England vs. Portugal
England has continued to play in an ugly but effective manner. Portugal will be muted slightly with the loss of Deco but they will take the challenge to England. However Beckham looks inspired and could be the difference.
Winner: England. *touch wood*

Brazil vs. France
I am going to go out on a limb here and predict a French victory. If they play anywhere close to how they played yesterday against Spain, Brazil is toast. They looked highly unimpressive against Ghana. One goal could have been offside, and had Ghana shown some ruthless finishing, we could have had a game.

And please, that 25-pass move that all Brazil fans are claiming outshone Argentina's 24-pass goal against Serbia? Pmffh! Argentina weaved their way through the Serbian defence in their opponent's half and scored while the game was still in balance. Brazil scored while the game was dead, they passed in their own half before using a lucky long ball.
Winner: France.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Italian Job

We were in a sports bar near work, during lunch hour, catching the Italy-Australia game. It was packed with supporters, mostly Italian, with a few Australian drinkers in between. I had an Inter-milan shirt on too. Even though I was supporting Italy, I also wanted to see goals, and even cheered whenever the 'Roos got a touch on the ball. Must have presented a confused sight to the other fans.

Suddenly, while it was still in the middle of the first half and the Azzuri owned the 'Roos, a man walked into the bar. This is not a joke. He was white, tall, extremely weird looking (like one of those Psycho movies), glasses, thin hair and sweating profusely (it was a cold day). He had a briefcase with him. He panted, walked up to an empty chair, placed the briefcase on the chair, and exited the bar without speaking a single word.

We all looked at one another in amazement. Then at the door where the man had just left. Slowly, everyone's attention drifted away from the screen and turned to the lone briefcase lying on the chair, unattended. Was it our imagination or was there a ticking sound from the briefcase. We all started to move uneasily. From somewhere a voice came out, "Um... call the cops?"

Suddenly, after what seemed like an eternity but was probably five minutes, the man returned. He had just gone out for a smoke! We all sheepishly turned back to the drama on the pitch. Recent arrests of alleged terrorists in your city does that to you.

When the officials called THREE minutes of stoppage time in the second half I just felt it. There was NO WAY the stoppage time could be that high (there were hardly any stops to the flow of the game in the half). Someone up there (in FIFA) decided to play it until one team *cough*Italy*cough* won.

When the ref called the penalty in the 94th minute (remember THREE minutes of stoppage time?) it was all over for the 'Roos. The Italians may claim it was a penalty, but the rest of the world knows. At worst, the Aussie player could be called for obstruction which is AN INDIRECT FREEKICK and contrary to popular misconception CAN Be taken from inside the penalty box. While Italy was the better team it was sad that it took a referee's false call *eyebrows raised* to let them win 1-0 over the plucky Australians. Cheaters never prosper? Try telling that to the Italian team [secret training video].

So in the end my team won, but it was a dirty victory.


Saturday, June 24, 2006

Desis Rude?

We all tend to have a bit of laugh at ourselves time to time, but recently Mumbai was accused of being the rudest city on earth. While it's an Indian city and not a Bangladeshi one, I am entirely sure had Reader's Digest done the same survey in Dhaka we would have ranked alongside Mumbai. Same customs, similar people.

First, here's the survey. I do not agree with it at all, even though Toronto is 3rd on the list of polite cities. It is the most bogus piece of trash I have read from that magazine. Here's why.

  • New York is ranked the most polite city on earth.

    No matter how you try to spin that, it's plain wrong. There is no way NYC is the most polite city on earth. Hell, no. I am sorry for you if you live in New York. Really I am. I once asked a POLICE officer where the stadium was (we were on our way to a ball game). He looked at me, and said, "Well, as this sign here says in ENGLISH the stadium is this way..."

    Toronto rules.

  • The criteria used was too Western. Naturally all the Western cities ranked up there (most polite) while Asian cities were rude. Let's see these 'criteria'.

    - whether people opened doors for others in public buildings.

    Do you know the population of any city in Asia? And how many of them are on their way to some public building at any given time? If you remain standing holding the door open for everyone you will never get in. Besides, those doors are of really old buildings and made of real wood, often years old. They are heavy. We push our own doors.

    - whether they helped pick up papers dropped on a busy street.

    Ever watched Kuch Kuch Hota Hai? Rani drops her books and SRK is right there to help her pick it up, along with his 'dosti' bracelet. Seriously, the definition of 'busy street' in Asia is different - it's really busy. As soon as you drop something, it's trampled by millions of people. So we don't drop it in the first place, and if we do, we don't pick it up as it's damaged beyond repair. No wonder we desis are efficient.

    - whether a shopkeeper said "thank you" when a purchase - big or small - was made.

    Well, the last time a few British came to India to do a little bit of trade. They came to Bengal too, under Robert Clive. Some company called the East India Trading Company. We said thank you. They liked it so much that they remained for 400 years. So we don't do it anymore.


    BBC: Mumbai disputes 'rudest city' tag
  • Friday, June 23, 2006

    World Cup Predictions - 2

    Going back over the predictions I made at the start of the tournament, I managed to correctly pick out 13 of the 16 teams for the Round-of-16. Ivory Coast has been a disappointment - if only their defence had been a little bit more disciplined, if only one of their chances had gone in against Holland, then the final matches of Group C would have been crackers.

    I am supporting England. I don't want Brazil to win it AGAIN. They are good but c'mon let someone else win. I hope Ghana kicks their ass (not happening). So without meeting any meaningful opposition Brazil are on their way to the quarter finals and possibly the semis.

    The form teams of the tournament so far are Germany, Argentina (but ofcourse), Spain, Italy (tendency to sit on a 1-0 lead may haunt them), Portugal (good coach but not too great players) and Brazil. England has been stumbling while France does not deserve to be here. My underdog team that I am rooting for is Australia. Croatia-Australia was the match of the tournament so far.

    So, without any further ado, here are my knockout predictions.

    Germany vs. Sweden
    Sweden will be a handful for Germany but I expect the home team to prevail. It will be low scoring hard fought match (two European teams generally play out in the midfield).
    Winner: Germany.

    Argentina vs. Mexico
    Historically Argentina had trouble against American teams but I don't expect them to break too much sweat in dealing with Mexico. Mexico are vulnerable against pacy counter attacks (as they showed against Portugal) which Argentina are good at (as shown against Ivory Coast).
    Winner: Argentina.

    England vs. Ecuador
    If Rio Ferdinand is fit then I expect England to canter to a 3-0 win over Ecuador. The South American team can be frustrated by an organized defence and lack the quality strikers to penetrate. If Ferdinand is not fit, England will still win, but barely.
    Winner: England.

    Portugal vs. Netherlands
    Tough one to call. Portugal has Figo while Robben stars for the Dutch. Equally matched in almost every category, I would give the Portuguese the slightest edge, as they have Scolari, a great coach. Plus, if the match goes to penalty kicks, the Dutch don't have a good record of winning those.
    Winner: Portugal.

    Italy vs. Australia
    Much as everyone would like the Aussies to take this one, with Gus being a great tactical coach, the Aussies have too many problems to finish off a stubborn side such as the Italians. They don't know who will be the starting goalie, for one. Two, the Italians are great at set pieces, and the Aussies not so great at defending them. Three, the Italians have too much depth, experience and talent to lose to Australia. However, if the Italians take an early 1-0 lead and then decide to sit back, the Aussies WILL equalize. The way to beat Australia is to play attacking football.
    Winner: Italy.

    Switzerland vs. Ukraine
    The worst sides to qualify for the second round play against each other. Given that Ukraine struggled to break down the 10-men Tunisian defence whereas the Swiss honed their skills playing against France and Turkey through the qualifiers, I expect a Swiss victory.
    Winner: Switzerland.

    Brazil vs. Ghana
    Wouldn't we all love David to kill the Goliath once more? Sadly, Brazil has too much class to let the Africans trouble them. Well Ghana, you had your fun, you managed to put a smile on some peoples' faces and had your party, but now it's time to take your ball and your Israel flags and go home.
    Winner: Brazil (by a distance).

    Spain vs. France
    The eternal bridesmaid versus the once beautiful maiden now ugly old hag. Whoever scores first will win. I expect Spain to take this, but just. France is not out yet, their coach looks like he has learnt the lessons taught by Korea in the game against Togo. Then again, it was Togo.
    Winner: Spain.


    Monday, June 19, 2006

    World Cup Flags

    I was with some friends at the mall when one bought an England flag to attach to his car.

    "That's such a bad investment." Another remarked, "England will likely go out in the quarter finals and your flag will be useless. You'd better buy a Brazil or Argentina."

    The flag buyer looked around, lowered his voice and said, "Whenever England gets out, I will return this flag and exchange it for the current favourite and continue. Repeat if necessary. Thank God for Walmart's no questions asked returns policy."

    That's our desi way of jumping on the world cup bandwagon.

    I have noticed that during the World Cup, the flag wavers tend to be of the following types:

    - Casual fans: They like this one team. It could be their country of origin. They will buy this one flag. And when the team is out, the flag disappears for another four years.

    - Super fans: They like this one team. A lot. The flags will fly from all windows, nooks and crannies of their car. In the heat of the summer they cannot roll down their windows for fear of losing a flag.

    - Confused fan: Then there is the fan who does not know which team he will support. So he puts out multiple flags of various counties. Also known as the 'Hedging My Bets' fan.

    And finally, we have the

    - Proud-To-Be-Canadian fan: This dude is just mad that normally cool folks are flying flags of countries he has never heard of. Besides, the national sports of Canada is HOCKEY dammit, not soccer! So he first flies the flag of a Canadian hockey team. But we know they suck and will soon be out of the playoffs, so now this guy is left fighting a lone battle flying the Canada flag.

    BTW there IS a desi player in the world cup! [link]


    Tuesday, June 13, 2006

    The Home-Sweet-Home Syndrome

    "You should go to Bangladesh and marry someone there," advised a rather pompous uncle. "Girls here are too modern."

    An amazing comment to make, as he himself was the father of two girls, raising them here from a very early age. However, he was not alone in making that comment to me in recent times. Apparently, if I marry some girl who has been brought up in Canada or is living somewhere in the West, she would a) not cook for me b) not respect me at all as all girls living here are beyaadober haadi ('bone' of rudeness) c) will have had previous relationships and d) will never care for my parents.

    However, if I marry someone from Bangladesh (desher meye) I gather she will a) be able to give the chef at Sheraton a good competition from the amount of dishes she can make, b) will never refuse my commands (a robot?) c) will be 'pure' and Islamic d) will never ever dream of having her own home and will be shocked if I suggest getting our own place e) can sing like a nightingale and f) be an angel from the Garden.

    Now I have been to Bangladesh couple of years back, having returned after a long time, and I can tell you things are not the Bollywood rosy picture they are portrayed to be. Hell, if you watch the Indian teleserials the villain in most of them will be the wife of the second brother imported from Kanpur. I call this picture of an ideal Bangladesh where the people sleep on flower beds and wake up to a beautiful morning by the cry of the rooster the 'Home-Sweet-Home' syndrome. Reality could be VERY different.

    I am making generalizations, true, but aren't these uncles as well? Have they ever been to some of the university hang-outs? Shopping malls? Moghul gardens? Many of my friends and relatives who are in Bangladesh, my age, have met their spouses not through arranged marriage but by themselves. In many cases, they have gone out together for years, engaged in various levels of physical intimacy before committing to marital vows. In many cases, it hadn't worked out and they had moved on to other people. In some respects, they are more modern than people here.

    As always, there are no generalizations. There are quite a huge number of guys and girls in Bangladesh who still adhere to family and religious values and keep themselves chaste. However, the guarantee that some older folk here make, that you go to Bangladesh and whoever you marry will be a chaste virgin who has never talked to a guy and knows how to make roti, polao, gulab jamun, porota and manchurian chicken is ... wrong.


    Sunday, June 11, 2006

    Shyamol Chhaya

    I just finished watching the Bengali movie Shyamol Chhaya (2004), directed by Humayun Ahmed. To be frank, it was my dad who made me watch the movie (I owed him one after I made him watch Swades). I was expecting a sappy, bad effects movie but I was pleasantly surprised.

    Ahmed uses the stories of the people on a boat, fleeing their village in 1971 for a safer village, as a parable for the society they are living in. Various characters are fleshed out in the 110 minute story, and the plot is littered with constant twists to ensure that any part does not drag too long. Competent acting by all concerned, and a brilliant entry in anyone's collection.

    Shyamol Chhaya was Bangladesh's official submission to the 2006 Academy Awards. It also featured in the Palm Springs International Film Festival, as well as lots of others.

    A scene from Shyamol Chhaya


    Tuesday, June 06, 2006

    Aishwarya Rai

    I am talking with a friend about worthless movies. She asked me about the worst movie I saw this year.

    "Mistress of Spices," I reply. "The book was passable but the movie stank."

    "Who's in it?" She asked.


    "Oh, hmmphhhpssst!"

    The last word was a cross between an expression of disgust, the hiss of an angry snake, followed with an excessive spitting action.

    I have come to realize that brown girls hate Aishwarya Rai. Not just hate as in "I hate Mondays" category, but as in "if I see her on the road in front of my car I won't stop" category. Nearly every acquaintance of mine who happens to be a desi female has expressed this sentiment. And it's not because she's pretty. Angelina Jolie's pretty, but women don't seem to hate her with the same passion as what is reserved for Aishwarya.

    "You don't like Aishwarya?" I continue.

    "She's a terrible actress." Strike 1.

    "She's good looking," I counter. "Extremely beautiful. If there was perfect-"

    "She's a dumb bimbo." Strike 2.

    "That has nothing to do with her looks. She looks good."

    "She is ...." My friend seemed to struggle to find Strike 3. "How can you even say she is pretty? Ugh.. you men are so superficial. Hmmphhhpssst!"

    I cannot understand why the vitriol is directed at Aishwarya. Let's face it - she is a baaaad actress. As in bad with a capital B. She has made some terrible movies. Yet, she is not dumb. Any actress with movies of that success flop rate would have married and have had kids by now. Yet, she is at the forefront of public demand. Her bad performance on Letterman aside, she has brains.

    No desi woman will however concede to a man that Aishwarya Rai is beautiful. Only one girl I know conceded she could be "aesthetically pleasing".

    Is there some actor we guys like to hate? I have seen guys stand around while their wives/girlfriends would exclaim "Oh I have to see this movie. It has Shah Rukh in it. Oh he's every woman's dream!" And the guy would be like "Heh". And continue sipping his coke-that-he-pretends-is-alcohol. We don't care. We somehow have convinced ourselves that if Brad Pitt would step between us somehow we would have qualities that Mr Jolie would lack. There is this one guy, though, that bugs me.

    Abhishek Bachchan. Two or three years ago the guy's fashion sense was a green kurta with blue jeans and orange shoes (think Tera Jadoo Chal Gaya). He did a guest appearance in Neal 'n' Nikky for chrissake! And now, the guy's star is higher than his dad, his films are super successful, he is signing endorsements right and left, and has the fashion sense Italians would kill for.

    What gives?


    Saturday, June 03, 2006

    World Cup Predictions

    At the risk of ending up with egg on my face, here's my World Cup predictions.

    First Round
    Group A - Germany, Costa Rica.
    Group B - England, Sweden.
    Group C - Ivory Coast, Argentina.
    Group D - Mexico, Portugal.
    Group E - Czech Rep., Italy.
    Group F - Brazil, Australia.
    Group G - France, Switzerland.
    Group H - Spain, Ukrain.

    Germany vs. Sweden - Germany.
    Ivory Coast vs. Portugal - Ivory Coast.
    England vs. Costa Rica - England.
    Mexico vs. Argentina - Argentina.
    Czech Rep. vs. Australia - Czech Rep.
    France vs. Ukraine - France.
    Brazil vs. Italy - Brazil.
    Spain vs. Switzerland - Spain.

    Quarter Finals
    Germany vs. Ivory Coast - Germany.
    Czech Rep. vs. France - Czech Rep.
    England vs. Argentina - England.
    Brazil vs. Spain - Brazil.

    Semi Finals
    Germany vs. Czech Rep. - Germany.
    England vs. Brazil - Brazil.

    3rd Place
    England vs. Czech Rep. - England.

    Germany vs. Brazil - GERMANY.


    Friday, June 02, 2006

    Stephane Dion Interview

    I had the chance to interview Hon. Stephane Dion, former Minister of Environment and currently a candidate running for the position of leader of the Liberal Party of Canada (and eventually the Prime Minister). The interview is posted here.

    Tags: Stephane Dion Liberal Party Canada

    Thursday, June 01, 2006

    How Not To Mess That 'Date'

    You know the drill. You come home from one day, planning on just how your Saturday is going to go (out with friends for a 'good' time - maybe even catch the new movie) when all of a sudden your parents ambush you with the biggest grin on their faces.

    "It's fixed. We are meeting them tomorrow in the food court of the local mall."

    Huh? In the few minutes it takes for you to clear your head, you recall a vague memory of seeing some blurry picture sent to your cousin sister's husband's hotmail ( You remember saying 'not bad', and you will 'think about it later'. You also remember making up a quick excuse to leave the room immediately.

    Well, now it has come to bite you back in the ass, as you get the first hint that your Saturday is not exactly going to go according to plan.

    Compiled from advice from older cousins and friends, here are a few ways of how to deal with the situation.

    1. You are going to meet someone. Officially sanctioned by the parents. Ofcourse they will remain ten feet away from you at all times (so you can forget about telling that joke about the Sardar and the pharmacist's daughter). And naturally, family members you never heard of will arrive at the mall. They are all running in the How To Make Things Even More Awkward trophy.

    They will ofcourse, accompany you until you sit down at the table opposite your prospect. And suddenly, they will remember they have to check out the new sports shoes they have at Roots (the guys) or the new Dana Carling perfume at Sears (the girls). The extended family aunties meanwhile head to Dollarama.

    2. Decide on what you are going to order at the food court. Avoid experimentation at this time. Don't order Columbian spicy cinnamon coffee with drop of mango leaves. It doesn't impress anyone, and you never know what will give you gas. Just get a double double.

    3. Don't, EVER, discuss religion. Especially on a first meeting. There is no sane way to come out of that discussion looking good. Religion is personal - you should form your opinion from observation. Similarly, questions such as 'how many kids do you want' or 'do you believe birth control is allowed in the Hanifi sect of Islam' should be relegated to the dustbin.

    4. Don't, EVER say 'well I am not ready for marriage at this time'. Why are you here then? To go on a date with ten members of your extended family tagging along? Not to mention making up stories such as 'I went bungee jumping on the Himalayas'.

    Feel free to add more tips if you know some.


    Long Weekend BBQ Pictures

    I love summer. Give me +40 over -40 anyday. Last time when I went back to the Middle East, it was winter there - which was 25C. I was switching on the A/C while my cousins who lived there were freezing and putting on sweaters. The best part of Canada is the Toronto summer.

    We men can cook anything on a grill.

    Dodgeball Action - I

    Dodgeball Action - II

    Dodgeball Action - III - The opposing team plans an attack.

    Dodgeball Action - IV - So do we.

    Cake is good.