gambitch - now available in blue Our constant efforts to reinvent ourselves reveal how much we fear our own images.
Saturday, February 26, 2005
As some may know, I am by nature somewhat pessimistic and therefore likely to suspect that something, somewhere, will go wrong and work against the best laid of plans. So when indeed the worst thing happens - as they sometimes do - I would be lying if I said that there wasn't a little part of me that felt an urge to spring up and say "Ha! I told you so!" and have a little private laugh.
As much as that is true, though, I have to ask whether doing exactly that is going to serve any eventual good. I'm not sure it does, honestly, not when this time, the joke's on me. It's on a few other people as well, but it is also on me, and I have no cause to be happy to gloat when I should really be kicking myself for not providing a remedy that has worked. Not just a remedy that could work, or will work, but has worked. Because, at the end of the day, that's the job requirement. People are judged by what they have managed to achieve, not by what they could achieve, or what they will achieve. None of that means anything until it is written into the annals of history.
It is not delightful to have egg on your face, although I guess it's fine if it's a case of one of my pessimistic forecasts being proven wrong. In those instances, all that is harmed is perhaps my personal reputation, and even then it is not by such an extent that I find it unbearable. Certainly I will have to put up with a week's worth or so of ribbing, but I could live with that. But what is more important is the fact that, at the big picture level, it means that there is a positive net result for everyone else to cheer about. And when that happens, even if I am proven wrong, I would be happy.
So we are here now. Where to, therefore? Well, we could really wallow in self-pity for about a week and a half or curse our own bad luck, but we can't let ourselves delude ourselves, and we can't kid ourselves with the consolation that we are God's gift to this business and we have just been shafted. Because, simply, we aren't and we hadn't been. There are things to fix, and we should have endeavoured to fix them. Obviously this isn't the case now - it hadn't been the case all week, if you think about it - but we need to make sure that that is the case next time around. And the people who matter know what that means.
And we're not dead yet. Not by a stretch. Yes, for some of us, the season is effectively over, but the long-term goal remains very much alive and up for the pursuing. And even if you're not going to be around to taste the fruits of your own labour, I say, very clearly now, that it is not just about you alone, but also the legacy you leave behind for future generations. We could leave a legacy of continued disappointment and underachievement, or we can leave a legacy of something positive to aspire to, a mission that wasn't completed but at least attempted with the greatest amount of heart we could muster.
As for the rest whose dreams are still alive (even if you do not dream it), remember, it's still very much game on. Your position is not hopeless until and unless you decide it to be so. And if you do, well, you're just incredibly prophetic (yes, prophetic). And that is something I will not stand for. Come to think of it, you probably don't stand for it either. So it's very much about spending the next few weeks getting those mistakes out of your system, tightening up at the back, and discovering that sting going forward. And that means you have to be bloody vigilant and incredibly alert. The attention levels you have hit aren't the highest you can come up with. You can be better. Even if you don't think you can, I tell you once again, you can be better. There is potential yet untapped. It's whether you will yourself enough to dig deep and tap into it.
Does this mean I have to do a few things differently? Perhaps. But we change on my terms. If this sounds dictatorial, there's a reason. I've sat down here and I've seen quite enough, enough at least to use my little stash of experience to identify what the way forward ought to be. And even if all of you don't like me as a person - because I am actually capable of blowing my top - I should think that that amount of experience is in itself deserving of some respect. I'm not an idiot - I know what I am doing. You may ask questions, and you may have problems understanding on the first attempt. And you may doubt on occasion. But what you don't do is believe what I say to be utter, contemptible crap and choose to go off your own way. Because, trust me, I tried that myself before, and it got me nowhere.
Thanks for the beer, folks. Goodnight. gambitch [
Friday, February 25, 2005
Well, this comes a bit late, but I'll just write briefly.
Bayern Munich 3-1 Arsenal - Well, it's certainly appalling to see that Arsenal was that poor. The word is that Campbell won't make the return leg either, so I think the writing is very much on the wall for the Gunners. And while Dennis Bergkamp will have a chance to feature, just who he displaces is an interesting problem in itself. As for Bayern? Well, they should be very much on course, especially if Ballack recovers from his illness.
Liverpool 3-1 Bayer Leverkusen - A decent result, probably, although I could care less. It remains to be seen how Bayer will respond to the loss of Nowotny, and I think Ramelow as well. But Liverpool should make it. Then again, I don't really care.
Real Madrid 1-0 Juventus - I watched this, and personally I think the match suffered from the loss of Salgado and Nedved through injury. People were fouling each other a bit too often. Oh, and David Beckham actually looks normal with his haircut now. The return leg will still see Salgado out, so just how the backline is shuffled will be worth looking at. As for Juventus, they haven't really done much wrong, but one suspects they can't rise any higher than they already have, unless Trezeguet comes back really quickly.
PSV Eindhoven 1-0 Monaco - Nothing to say here, really. I don't quite care either way.
FC Porto 1-1 Internazionale - I didn't watch this, and I thought the result was a bit too ho-hum for Inter fans' liking. Certainly it'll favour the Italians who can afford to just shut up shop, but again I think that is atypical of them.
Werder Bremen 0-3 Olympique Lyonnais - Solid result for the French team. Then again, Werder's progress thus far is a bit of a surprise, so they're just being sorted out for the most part.
Manchester United 0-1 AC Milan - Why, oh why must Roy Carroll pick this game to make his grand mistake? I do think the rest of the team didn't fare too poorly overall given the circumstances, and AC Milan proved they didn't really need Shevchenko. The return leg will be tough, very tough, so we must see what happens in the interim.
Barcelona 2-1 Chelsea - Chelsea were terrible with their attitude, and I'm somewhat happy Barcelona managed to come back from one own goal down to win this leg. In the greater scheme of things, though, I hope this double whammy will make Mourinho wobble and distract Chelsea long enough for us to catch up in the league.
Okay, that's it for the week. What will the return leg offer? We wait and see. gambitch [
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
The washrooms here at the Oriental Hotel have a very interesting, if somewhat bad, door design. The handle on the inside of the cubicle door is of the long horizontal lever variety, while the lock mechanism is a smaller lever-like knob that flicks clockwise to lock. What is interesting is that, unlike standard designs where the knob is below the levered handle, this one has its knob directly above the handle, which made it momentarily difficult to work out how to lock the door.
The only reason I was in the Oriental Hotel to use the washroom was that I was passing through the area en route to the annual Chinese New Year fiesta, which was not too far away. Unfortunately, from experience, toilet paper can be in short supply sometimes when you use the washroom in shopping malls or fast food restaurants, and it can be rather embarrassing trying to ask for replenishment of toilet paper. Even more so, I should add, if you need the washroom in a hurry - which on this occasion I fortunately was not. For reasons not difficult to imagine, washrooms in hotels are usually well-stocked with toilet rolls, so that never becomes a problem.
Now it may seem odd why I discuss something like toilets on this here blog, something nobody else pays any amount of attention to. The truth is that toilets can be something very interesting to examine, because they give a very clear reflection of the amount of attention to detail paid by the people who design the place. Toilets at neighbourhood coffeeshops are often not impeccably clean; the odd wet puddle and cigarette butt is not an unusual sight. Heck, sometimes we even see cigarette burn marks on toilet seats. Typically they are reflective of the attitudes of both the people who use them and those who maintain them.
On the other hand, you would usually find well-designed and well-maintained washrooms that have a touch of class in places like five-star hotels, government buildings and newer shopping malls, which go beyond the rather standard glossy but inexpensive white square tiling, or conveniently designed steel toilet roll holders. In many hotels they go to the extent of spending good money on marble (or similar) tiling and smartly-designed washing taps, with the appropriate auric finish (sometimes with the gloss taken away for the less in-your-face, more subtle touch). Some washrooms even have plants thrown in, which just gives a whole "this is not a toilet" feel to the place. Class.
Okay, enough on washroom observations. On to something else more topical and pleasant.
The Chinese New Year fiesta was interesting. Many people - including many de-Sinicized Chinese - do not know that celebrations for the Chinese New Year actually last fifteen days rather than the usual two or three. Of course, there are reasons why only the first two or three days of Chinese New Year are observed as national public holidays, but the full celebration of the festive period actually lasts half a month. The fifteenth day, known as the yuan xiao in Mandarin, is somewhat the Oriental equivalent of Valentine's Day, which adds a little extra mood to the occasion, and traditionally the celebrations that go on on this day are of a level comparable enough to the first day of Chinese New Year itself.
Which is why, at this year's fiesta, the organizers threw in a fireworks show late in the evening, as a symbolic conclusion to the festive celebrations as well as to spice up the romance of the evening. In addition, Chinese custom also has it that celebrations will involve putting up many elaborate and beautiful lanterns. Lanterns are a very big thing in Chinese custom, and on three particular occasions they are a must-have - the first and fifteenth days of the Chinese New Year, and the Mid-Autumn Festival in the eighth Chinese lunar month. This year was no exception, although there weren't many traditional candlelight lanterns, but electric light bulbs will also do quite nicely.
In Chinese culture, lanterns are further associated with riddles. Now, to those of you who don't know the Chinese language or culture particularly well (and that's most of you), the Chinese riddle is an excellent art form that exploits the unique nature of the Chinese script and language. To my knowledge, even the Korean and Japanese culture do not have anything vaguely similar, and these are the two languages in the world that are arguably closest to the Chinese language. Which simply means that the Chinese riddle is a work of elegance. An elegance that, I might add, traditionally goes well with the beauty of the Chinese lantern. For those who can't appreciate this, I strongly recommend that you go to your neighbourhood Chinatown the next time they have a major celebration in the area, and make a special effort to go only in the evening. The trip will be a joy.
So anyway, I had some fun guessing a number of Chinese riddles, and actually managed to get a few right! I got a few modest prizes for my troubles - nothing too fancy, just some facial towels - but then we usually don't guess Chinese riddles for the prizes anyway. What was rather striking, though, was the fact that the majority of the crowd I was in were aged 45 and above. There were a couple of other people below 35, but teenagers were unnoticeably absent. Does guessing Chinese riddles not interest them? I actually find it fun to exercise my brain thinking of how to solve these puzzles, a relaxing change from the way I have to use my brain in "the profession". I've always found it fun, ever since I was a kid.
Or is it the fact that this was again a Chinese thing? To really derive joy from the game, you actually had to have a decent working knowledge as well as a liking of the Chinese language. Neither of which, I suspect, is in great abundance among our younger generation. Education policy in recent years has had to change in response to the ground reality of the de-Sinicized nature of our ethnic Chinese youth. They are raised in families that speak less and less of standard Mandarin (or putonghua as it is known in some parts), never mind the respective dialects of their places of origin. With this fundamental environment change over the years, most of us have become so de-Sinicized we probably have only a working knowledge of the language that is good enough to order food at the local food centre. In some cases, even that is a problem.
Ah well. I lament.
I'm definitely looking forward to the football tonight. In all likelihood I'll give a round-up of both nights of action tomorrow. So, cheerio for now.
Come on Keano, win it for us! gambitch [
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
I wonder sometimes whether I made the right decision to re-enter the world of "the profession" the way I did.
And if nothing previously had made me question the wisdom of my decision, then the events of the last couple of days have certainly tested my resolve. A test which, by the way, I'm not done with yet.
Anyone who has been following this site in the last six months or thereabouts knows how close "the profession" is to my heart. For quite some time I have had this great irritation with the way things at the grassroots level - where it all begins - have reached a point of stagnation and entrenchment, so much so that foreign ideas are not made to feel welcome. And that is something that I, being the foreigner I am, did not stand for (understandably). I never felt that that was the way to go, and at least this time I decided to put my money where my mouth was.
I entered the ring convinced that stagnant water breeds mosquito larvae - a bad thing, from a human health perspective at least. And I wanted to stir the waters and roil the oceans quite a bit - to tsunami proportions, if necessary. I crossed the border with the intention to prove that the system in existence was certainly not the only valid one, and that there are other routes to success. Sure, my methods are strange and my beliefs are maverick, but I came in fully wanting to break the stranglehold and prove a point.
And if anything, this past week was a firm reminder of the resistance I would go on to encounter. I saw it coming, but were I a lesser man who wanted the easy life I wouldn't have taken on the challenge in the first place. What I can't accept though is a decision to ditch my ideas and go for something else, when that something else, I am very convinced, is not the 'winning-est' approach. There is a way to do it, sure, but the methods involved are so absolutely tricky that it demands an unusually high level of alertness and discipline, more so perhaps than what my own proposals would have required of them.
I could head off the showdown by just bowing down and acceding to their requests. And at least for now, it looks like I don't have very much of an alternative beyond soldiering on my way - a way my own charges appear extremely unwilling to follow. This is happening at a bad time, of course; without unity of purpose it is very hard if not nigh-on impossible to pursue success. Unity of purpose is something our opponents will easily have. We don't have that.
Of course I could just achieve the unity of purpose by caving in. After all, I'm the one being outvoted here, despite the fact that my position of superior rank should mean something. I could forget that and just concede and accede. But I didn't enter this business on maverick principles only to betray them and turn into a spineless wimp!
More important than that, however, is this: I'm investing my time and energy trying to blow the system wide open and prove a point. And that point is that there is a different route to success, that the alternative approach I advocate is founded in reason and good sense, no less than the current setup is. How on earth can I possibly prove that when it's never put into practice because we're too lily-livered to dare to put our own chances of success on the line?
That's one of the reasons why I didn't settle for running an inferior outfit. It doesn't mean a bloody thing to try doing this on a bunch of championship no-hopers when they have even more fundamental problems to fix. You can't prove a thing doing it with those people, because addressing those other problems would drain me of so much energy that by the time I ever get around to the more nuanced aspects of my philosophy, there's not an awful lot I can do. More importantly, time is all too painfully not on my side. I can't prove the championship-winning potential of my approach if I don't test it on an outfit that is itself credible enough to be considered championship-winning material. Even if it means I'm working with rank outsiders, the Liverpools and Newcastles of this world.
I came into this business wanting to prove that you can "do it differently" and still win. I wanted to trigger off a revolution. And I definitely have no intention to go no further than all those before me who may have "died trying". But if I'm going to allow myself to cave in and concede that the nut is uncrackable because it just is, then I would much rather commit suicide in protest.
Let's face the facts. We're disadvantaged. You think you can win it your way? You're entitled to your opinion, but I'm entitled to mine. And my opinion is that the orthodox route will seriously disfavour us. We can't win because of who we are and who they are. Cannot be done. They'll drag us right where they want us to be, and they'll finish us without having to do a thing.
The only way we can survive this and come out on top, as far as I can see, is if we totally outwit them and spring a surprise. Of course we must do this in a matter that is logically sound and philosophically engaging. And that's doable - I can see exactly how to do it. And if the only reason you don't dare to do it is because the rules disallow it (and I personally think that in this case the rules are utterly too restrictive), then fine, go play by the rules and lose, as you're widely expected to.
But don't come back to me crying about a second straight year of nothing but disappointment. Because I'm having none of that. You had your chances, and you chose your path. And the moment you do that, that's when it's no longer my problem. Considering that I voluntarily made it my problem at the start, I don't have a problem with myself answering to myself. But can you say the same for yourselves? gambitch [
Monday, February 21, 2005
Anyone who knows gambitch long enough will know that I am not the type to let my emotions show... much. That is why, although I use strong and harsh tones of voice with some level of regularity, I remain mostly robotic and unemotional. Except when the sports channel is on.
All this is by way of saying that I'm very happy about something that happened over the night.
CHELSEA HAVE BEEN KNOCKED OUT OF THE FA CUP!
That's right. 1-0 to Newcastle at St. James'. Thanks Paddy.
Meanwhile, it remains a little depressing that I don't see much active readership on my blog. That is, nobody comments. Yeah, I know what you all are saying, go get a tag-board. But it clashes with the design, and I'm a design freak. So, no go.
Just click on that comment link and type something proper, will you?
Okay, better not beg. Too uncharacteristic.
Take that, Jose, and swallow it!
P.S. As the Surfer's link has died and he appears to have no new blog, I'm taking it off my links list. Sorry buddy. gambitch [