>Christine and Joe are getting married

>I heard some very good news the other day. I got a message from my great friend Christine informing me she and Joe are going to take ‘the plunge’ as she called it The big M. Marriage. While there are some reasons which would make their lives easier being married (visa issues), they have been together longer enough and get on well enough to make a huge success of it. The ceremony will be next month and only parents are invited.

However next year, it will be all made up to us friends as we’re invited to a big do over in Florida with hopefully a lot of old names from Japan. This I might use that opportunity to see some friends round that way, get to other cities and then down to Colombia. (Gabriel invited me to go back to Colombia this August when he has to go back for 2 weeks. It’s so tempting to throw plans out the window and just do it).

Christine has been a good friend for a long time, since January 2nd 2002. I was meeting LP in a bar in Shinsaibashi, Osaka and was keeping to my traditional poor timing. LP being the jovial type and having an eye for the ladies, starting talking with 2 girls getting drunk on a table nearby. I swung in without fear and met up with Bobbi and Christine. Ironically I ended up with Bobbi that night but Christine made me a tea in the morning and became firm friends. Christine radiates intellect and consideration as well as a vivacious eye for fun.

I was going to Korea to work and persuaded Christine to come over and we lived together. (I therefore, naturally take all the credit for Christine meeting Joe). I arrived a month earlier than Christine and naturally lived on a mattress in the living room, paying scant attention to the rest of the rooms except Christine’s room which I spent a tortuous few hours trying to figure out how to put together a bed from a plan in Korean. My friend Dave picked up Christine at the airport bus stop and took her to the apartment. Within a week, the apartment was transformed from heroin chic by simply organisation and thought.

The year went by, both of us frustrated with our jobs and the country but never with each other. Only once did we fall out, the famous clock-changing night, but the rest of the time shivered and sweating through the wearsome four seasons fluidly and without incident. We made friends with the local bars owners and generally found a niche even if we found it too tight. I am not a patient person and often let my frustrations build up within my soul, warping my thoughts or as Thornton Wilder said making vice out of a virtue. Without Christine there to lighten my mood and listen to my various rants over too many shit beers and teach me about books, music and WINNNAAAAApeg (home of Neil Young apparently), I might have gone postal.

So this wedding party is gonna be fun. Too long has passed but we stay in good contact and miss each other. She is a true friend.

(And that’s 1000 posts!)

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>Newcastle United Are Relegated

>I have taken time over this. I don’t have an especial emotion. Being relegated for the second time as a Newcastle supporter, it isn’t a total shock. The season has been such a disaster from the top down. A new start was promised under Ashley but his plans, which had some merit were enforced by the wrong people in the wrong way and completely ignored any traditional values or ideas in the most traditional of clubs and cities.

Maybe you can buy Chelsea or Spurs fans and give them unprecendented success but Newcastle United is different. Moderate success is fine as long as the fans are entertained and feel part of the movement. With Keegan (and Shearer), Ashley brought inspire into the movement and sought to be part of its congregation. Alas, you then can’t reject God when he doesn’t fit your rules and then claim intimidation from the very people you tried to bribe with charm and appointments. Ashley fled town like a charlatan on the run from his fooled congregation.

I didn’t want Keegan back in general but he has an eye for a player and is respected. JFK can take his middle name and off. Shearer isn’t the man either but he might has the clout to change the club around. He is the new God when we really need an experienced and persistent Scotsman.

I am looking forward to the Championship. Maybe I havent fully been exposed to it yet but there are at least 8 teams who are at least as big as the smaller teams in the Premier League. We have a chance to re-organize, jettison some of the highly paid wasters and get some wins under our belt. Sure we won’t be playing the bigger teams but for a while it would be nice to go into games without forboding. A more simple and less delusional season.

But let’s not here anything about the fans needing to be more realistic. This isn’t my job or my bank account. This is football, my team, my hopes and dreams. Don’t go into games hoping to eek a win against Gillingham. Hope of smashing them, sending them back to whereever Gillingham is with harsh memories of power and verve. As Mark Twain stated ‘keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.’

>4:34am

>

(Sunrise 2003 in Bolivia on the way to Argentina)

In Poland, all women’s names ending in the letter A. Malgorzata, Magda, Anna, Karolina etc. 100%. Bet on it. Men have a touch more variety but almost all names are derived from the Bible. Have a stab at translating Tomasz, Piotr, Mariusz, Lukasz, Jacek. have noticed a slight leaning towards Scottish names as well. The Prime Minister is called Donald. I know a few Roberts too. But I have yet to meet a Bruce. One reason for the ubiquity is the tradition of name days. Everyone in Poland has a name day. At least everyone I have met. It’s more important than a birthday. Presents are given, friends meet up and toast the name-holder.

I have a name day too. Unlike my birthday, I can’t ignore it. Being a known person is an effective tool of communication in my job. I would let it slide by unnoticed but gratefully received some beer and pens. Pens. Like biros. Might sound tight but my chewed pens are well-known here. Their broken spines and knawed tips raised eyebrows. I thanked all and passed the pens into the bottom of my bag. I prefer the weathered look.

It gets light very early in Poland more than I am used to. 4:34AM is my regular waking time right now. Despite going to bed close to 2am each evening, my body clock registers the first light as an overwhelming signal to lurch me into consciousness. The sky is pale, tinted with rouge. It doesn’t impact my eyes but dulls my senses back to sleep. I have no need for 4:34AM. Closing the blinds might help but I fear I will sleep straight to a more preferrable hour. 9am or so sounds rather attractive on a week days.

I am not for flogging myself for this company. I do my work, do it better than anyone before me according to my colleagues. I am part-time psychologist, part story-teller, intense relief from work and a goal to focus at outside the daily drugde. I enjoy my work, guiding people to better opportunties in life, opening minds and possibly, possibly inspiring them. It’s not really work at all.

Right gotta go to bed. Don’t wanna not wake up.

>Mes Que Un Club

>

A match of the top two teams in the world turned predictable as Barcelona pinned United back with pin-point possession football. But the match was always meant to be that way. United were to then play at pace on the break, attacking Barcelona’s patched-up defence. This is a team shorn of 3 of it’s best defenders but United were unable to penetrate. Their centre midfield had been made to look impotent. It was simply bypassed at times. All the hype about Anderson and Vidic’s defensive abilities look forlorn as Toure, Puyol, Pique and Silvinho had few problems after a nervous first 10minutes. 

Ronaldo became increasingly frustrated but his arrogant, blinkered sulking would have missed the genius at the other end. Like Cantona, Maradona and Zidane, Messi’s talent is that he is a team player despite his extravagant skills. Other players are willing to make runs for him for two simple reasons. 1) there is a very good chance he will pass the ball; and 2) he will likely use the created space to further the team. Too often Ronaldo ran aimlessly, over-running the ball or simply running at his own men before running into a wall of defenders. 

Going forward, Barcelona were constrained by a less than fit Henry but Eto took his chance like a quality striker. Xavi and Iniesta controlled the ball with such fluidity. British commentators before the game questioned if they could handle the physical side of United’s game. Seems laughable now. You can only tackle a man with the ball. Barcelona moved it round with such fast accuracy, Anderson and Carrick were by-standers. Rooney was positioned out the game. Park barely touched the ball. Berbatov was wasteful while Scholes and Giggs looked their age for once. 

All credit to Barcelona though. They bought well in the summer, complimented the supreme talent they have in midfield matched together with solidity and organisation at the back. World class team certainly but with the ability and age to keep it going for 2/3 years. 

Let’s not have any talk about Messi going to Chelsea, Man City or Manchester United. Say what you want about revenue or profit. Messi is already at the best club in the world in a fantastic city, getting paid and his family taken care. Que Mes Un Club. 

Apologies and commiserations to Si, Danny, LP, Vedran, Jennie!

>Some Recommendations For You

>
I don’t watch too many films but prefer to pick out the less luminous but greater acclaimed features. Milena, a friend here made up a CD and sent me some fair crackers.

The Proposition

Nick Cave written film and rightly feted. Set in the Australian Outback in 1880s as Ray Winstone chased down the Burns Gang. It haunts you for a long time after.

Urga (1991)

Winner of numerous prizes back then and rightly so. A tale of a Mongolian man helping a travelling Russian. Very cute, very funny, simply told and looks stunning.

Thanks to Milena for both recommendations.

The Hurt Locker (2008)

Good movie indeed. Realistic looking, it’s a film with about essentially 6 or so scenes which dealing with the fearful and exposed nature of the army’s work out there, exploring the confused state of mind of the US soldiers and the ambivalent feelings of the Iraqis to their liberators. Its very simply and well-made and taunt with tension at times. I am not sure it’s brilliant but its certainly very, very good and memorable.

PS.

I also watched Once Upon a Time in the West. Cuuulasssiccc!

>Bad Boy!

>I have internet installed in my apartment by the company and have rightly abused this free facility to over-dulge my heart with downloaded music. Dazed has aided this by allowing me access to his log-in and password on a music hosting site, the kid of places you can find anything and usually before it is officially released.

So I have been able to update and upgrade my music! Bad eh!

The list is something like this:

The Allmans Brothers

Andrew Bird

Amadou and Mariam

Anthony and the Johnsons

Arctic Monkeys

Badly Drawn Boy

Band of Horses

Beck

Belle and Sebastian

Bjork

Bob Dylan

Bon Iver

Brian Wilson

British Sea Power

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Soundtrack

Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah

Datarock

Dark Was the Night – Various Artists

David Bowie

Devendra Banhart

The Eels

Elbow

Fleet Foxes

Franz Ferdinand

Gomez

Gorillaz

Graham Coxon

Grizzly Bear

GZA

Interpol

Japandroids

Jimi Hendrix

Jim Ward

Johnny Cash

Leaves

Led Zeppellin

Leftfield

Leonard Cohen

Lou Reed

Mark Lanegan & Isobel Campbell

Massive Attack

Mogwai

Morrissey

My Bloody Valentine

My Morning Jacket

Neutral Milk Hotel

Nick Cave

Nouns

Olafur Arnalds

Outkast

Patrick Watson

Paul Weller

Pavement

PJ Harvey

Plush

Queens of the Stone Age

Radiohead

Ryan Adams

Serge Gainsbourg

Sonic Youth

Super Furry Animals

The Arcade Fire

The Breeders

The Clash

The Field

The Flaming Lips

The Kills

The Last Shadow Puppets

The Shins

The Stone Roses

The Streets

The Velvet Underground

The White Stripes

The Wombats

Tom Waits

TV on the Radio

Vampire Weekend

Yeah Yeah Yeahs