Monday, July 03, 2006

The Petulant CryBaby Club

I'm no fan of Christiano Ronaldo, but I am even less of a fan of Wayne Rooney and the entire English squad.

Maybe it's because I live in Ireland and therefore get innundated with the English media. I know the starting lineup of the English soccer team, and all their wives and girlfriends, which the tabloids affectionately term the WAGs. If England won it would be insufferable. Further, I just don't like the players, they are real rough lager lout types. Shreck, oops I mean Rooney, is a complete yob.

I've come to the conclusion that the English soccer team is the Toronto Maple Leafs of international football. They haven't won since the sixties, and there is no shortage of people who can tell you all about those heady, glory days of 1966. Which is incidentally before I was born. In the past few international tournaments, they have put out a middling team, due to a coach and management who refuse to make tough decisions when it comes to the roster, but yet everyone in the country is convinced that they will win the Cup because it is their destiny.

England finally made their World Cup 2006 exit on Saturday in typical controversial fashion. The English fans are proving just how blindly subjective they really are. I have heard the following ad nauseum:
  • They lost because the Portuguese are cheating divers and England refuses to stoop to that level. They don't dive, they play fair, and it's really not too much to ask that the ref abide by the rules of fair play.
  • The ref is Argentinian, and therefore wanted England to lose (Hand of God Part II or revenge for the Falklands War, you choose the conspiracy theory).
  • Ronaldo discussed tactics with Scolari to get Rooney kicked out of the game. The wink he made towards the Portuguese bench when the red card was shown proved this.
  • The ref deliberately did not call a hand ball in the penalty area so that Portugal could win.

The English need to get over this by accepting the following facts:
  • The English team was not that good. They were not looking stellar at any point in the tournament, and had they been in a tougher group, they would have struggled to get out of the group stage. Would they have beated Mexico in the second round like Argentina did? Would they have beaten Holland or Australia?
  • Riling Looney Rooney up is like shooting fish in a barrel. If he wants to be a great player, he needs to learn to keep his head. As it is, he's a liability. He did stomp on the Portuguese player, and then pushed Ronaldo in front of the ref. He is the dumbest football player out there, and that's saying a lot. A great player keeps his cool and can get past the goading and the psychological games. If Ronaldo did discuss ways to get Rooney out of the game with his coach, well that's not hard first of all, and second of all, unsettling your opponents is part of the game. If Rooney is too stupid and falls for it every time, then maybe, just maybe, he should go back to his anger management classes.
  • Anyone who says that the Brits never dive have never seen Joe Cole or Michael Owen play.
  • David Beckham deliberately flipped the ball at the Portuguese defender's arm to draw a penalty. Sorry, what was that about never cheating?
  • Diving hasn't been exclusive to the Portuguese, Italian, Argentinian or Spanish team. Michael Ballack has made a few meals out of minor knocks throughout the tournament. EVERY TEAM is guilty of diving or making more out of a fall in order to draw a free kick.
  • The English team sucks at penalty kicks. Or as one journalist put it, they took penalty kicks with the skill of a bunch of eight-year olds.
  • Lampard couldn't hit an empty net at two yards out.
  • The only English player that really excelled in the quarterfinal match was the Canadian that the British fans boo whenever he enters the stadium. He was the only one who scored a penalty kick too. On Canada Day.
  • Just because it was an Argentinian ref does not mean it was Hand of God Part II. This wasn't a conspiracy. England just didn't win, and if they did, there is no way they would make it out of the semis. They just weren't going to win the cup, and we all need to accept this and move on.

Portugal wasn't stellar either, but they won in the end - without their main playmaker, Deco. They were also really beaten down from their slugfest against Holland. They kept it together just enough to pull through. Portugal is not the cleanest of teams, I'll admit, but it wasn't enough to make England lose. England just did not have enough in them to win.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

900 pubs and nowhere to go

Ok, so I hate going out in Dublin. It's only the feeling every couple of weeks that I really should be sociable that gets me out of the apartment. If I had more reclusive tendencies, I just wouldn't bother at all.

So last night, I went out to dinner with a couple of friends. We hadn't made reservations, and every place was completely packed. Yes, you need to make reservations to go out in Dublin, which annoys me to no end. I'm supposed to decide what I feel like eating six days in advance??? We ended up at "Gruel", which is a funky restaurant with good food. This restaurant is an anomoly in Dublin - it serves breakfast until late in the day on weekends, and has french toast with real maple syrup, and the bread is not crap Wonder Bread. We got a seat downstairs on the couch in the corner, which was perfect. The only thing was that a rugby team was in the small room as well, so it started to get really loud after awhile.

I was perfectly content to stay there despite the rugby team, but I could tell my friends wanted to move on. I didn't want to, I knew what was out there - completely nothing! 900 pubs in Dublin and nowhere decent to go - especially on a Saturday night.

So off we went. I had already decided that I wasn't drinking because I had to do some work today. We went into one bar, "The Bank", that I like to go to in late afternoon if I'm meeting people. They have good drinks. My friend suggested it because she thought I would agree, but I didn't. I knew it would be really loud and obnoxious at this time of night. Thing is, I couldn't think of any place else to go.

In Dublin there are really a few categories of bars:
Old Man Pubs
Tosser bars (majority)
Yuppie bars - expensive and full of tossers
Wine bars - good wine, zero ambience - except for one but I can't get anyone to go there because they don't even sell bottled Perroni, just wine
Hotel bars - comfy seats, good atmosphere - though called inauthentic by my friends (they want authentic too?? have to go to another city for that), great drinks - very expensive
Tourist bars - to be avoided at all costs

Old man pubs themselves fall into two categories. Ones where women are really not welcome, no matter what the law says on the matter, and those where a woman can go without being subtly told to go somewhere else (no really, I'm not exaggerating). Old man pubs are the best for being able to get a seat and holding a conversation. However, there is nothing to drink at all.

I don't drink beer anymore. The draught beer in Ireland (and the UK for that matter) makes me sick, literally. It's the chemicals and preservatives that they put into the systems, I get physically ill after two pints. I can drink beer in Canada no problem, and I can drink bottled imports. In an Old Man Pub, there is draught beer, which I can't have; Guinness, which I only want in the afternoon - it's just too filling to have at night; bottled beer - Budweiser, Miller Genuine Draft, or Corona without lime. These bars never have lemons or limes. They also don't have a better selection of bottled beer - no Budvar, no Grolsch, no Tiger. I don't drink Budweiser at home, I'm sure as hell not drinking it here. The wine they serve is the worst kind of Chateau Plonk. Beware wine that comes in a quarter bottle - no matter what kind of bar you're in. It's all bad news. And as for hard liquor, ever hear of Cork Dry Gin or Huzzar Vodka? No? Well there is a reason for that. The Irish aren't particularly choosy drinkers, whereas a bar in Canada wouldn't be able to sell anything less than Beefeater or Smirnoff. In fact, Cork Dry Gin smells like chocolate. I kid you not! Though that may just be a symptom of an impending stroke or aneurysm from ingesting radically foreign chemicals into the body, and causing a radical potassium imbalance.

I should add that to order a sparkling water or soft drink will cost you about EUR2.50 for about 200ml. A pint of Guinness is around EUR4.00.

Ok, so to summarise Old Man Pub (where women can go) = good conversation, nothing to drink

So where else? There are very few bars in Dublin where you can have a good drink, get a seat (I hate standing for long periods of time and even more - I hate being jostled every two seconds as people walk back and forth), and carry a conversation on a weekend night - and is not full of tossers. Though to be honest, at this point, I would be happy with getting a seat, a nice cocktail and able to hold a conversation. I think the tosser aspect is inevitable in Dublin.

But while we're on the subject. There is an unbelievable number of tossers in Dublin. When I go out, sometimes I like dressing up, but usually I wear jeans. No matter what, I'm always underdressed here, and I certainly am wearing the least amount of makeup. Take "The Bank", the bar we were at last night. We were standing being jostled while sipping the world's heaviest Merlot (and we have all seen Sideways, or should have, so why are bars still even carrying this grape?) I was the most dressed up in the group, wearing a jean skirt, knee-high boots, and a wrap sweater. I was seriously out-dressed by the women at this bar. If I were to start looking like them, I would need to spend two hours with a straightening iron before going out, and start to apply my makeup with a spatula. Why are they trying so hard? All the men their age haven't been to the dentist in years and still live with their mammy. The town is just full of people who are trying way too hard. It's pathetic and it reeks of desperation. They all HAVE to find someone and get married. It's like my friend said to me once when we were at "Tonic" in Blackrock, a pathetic try-hard bar of the worst kind. He said, "you know, when you think about it, this is the most outre these people get. This is them being young, wild and crazy. It's really sad, isn't it. They think they're REALLY living life, but really they're going to some stupid bar every Thursday night, hoping desperately someone will notice them." Ok, so he's a bit bitter sometimes, but he has a point. I don't know how else to describe it, but it's the posing of the university scene (but in dresses and makeup) several years after university has ended. Sad in that Tori Spelling comeback special kind of way.

All I want is someplace with comfy chairs and good drinks. When I've found that place, I'll let you know. In the meantime, they sell nice reds at Tesco and I have two couches in my apartment.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Fire and Ice

March has come and gone, and I am glad to see it go. It's not a pleasant month in Ireland - wind, rain, and too many drunk people celebrating a Saint known for his temperance.

It has really passed by me in a fog as I've been living to work instead of working to live, which as we all know isn't why I came to Ireland in the first place, but I'm really focusing on my career right now.

To reward myself for working so much over the past two months, I decided to take a couple extra days at Easter and go somewhere. At first I was going to go to Budapest with a friend, but she didn't want to go at Easter because the prices are a bit higher than for other weekends. Though we have yet to set a date for that, I still wanted to do something at Easter. I have a four-day weekend that's just burning a hole in my calendar. I then decided that Istanbul would be nice. Something different, exotic, expanding my horizons beyond Europe proper, and warm weather. But I didn't get around to booking.

A few weeks ago, I got it into my head that I must go skiing. Not it would be nice to go skiing, but I MUST go skiing. I started to look at options and resorts, but it was hard going. Most web sites were touting ski packages that were expensive, and demanded a full week stay - from Saturday to Saturday. I finally found a flight & hotel option I liked on, which by the way, has some great deals and ideas. The package was to fly into Geneva, and stay in Brides-les-Bains in France for £300 from Friday to Monday. Not bad. I checked a ski rental online, and I could rent skis, poles and boots for the whole weekend for EUR60. The only thing was the ski conditions. Brides-les-Bains doesn't have a high altitude, so it ranks low for spring skiing, and Easter is late this year. Not that I'm a good enough skier to care about ski conditions, and I am from Ontario - the icier the better, but it would be nice for there to be snow. Then I found out that you can link into the Three Valleys pass, a short gondola ride away. That pass includes Meribel and I believe Courcheval - resorts that are way out of my league, but if they're good enough for the Brits, then I can ski them too.

Before I had gotten around to booking, I was talking to a friend of mine. She was thinking of going to Iceland for Easter and wondered if I was interested at all. Am I? Iceland is SO COOL, I love going to places that are interesting, but that no one goes to - like Slovenia, or Prague in 1991 before the Brits and Irish found out that beer is the equivalent of a Euro. Even better, I would have a travel companion for a change.

It's set. Reykjavik here I come.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Artistic Interpretation

I'll give the BBC one thing about their Olympic coverage: when the Ice Dance compulsory skate was underway, the Italian couple came in first. The commentators didn't agree, and said: "There may be a new marking system, but it's still ice dancing." Brilliant. It almost makes up for the fact that they keep interviewing the British ice dancing couple who have annoying Scottish accents and totally bug me.

One other thing bugs me about ice dancing in this Olympics: the costumes. Is it just me, or are they getting worse and worse? Since so much of ice dancing is based on artistic impression, musical interpretation and overall performance, in my opinion, the costumes count. I think there should be a costume judge - there are plenty of qualified people with taste out there, and there should be deductions for tacky costumes. Just like when someone falls, the overall performance is diminished, so too when the team is wearing what seems to be Henry VIII on acid.

In fact, I think this should be implemented across all figure skating disciplines.

2010 Olympic Hopeful

I've noticed that there is a certain percentage of Olympic athletes that are taking advantage of dual citizenship in order to compete in the Olympics. I don't really have a problem with this; if you can't make it for your home country, then by all means make it for your adopted one. Though, I have to say that this has certainly bitten Canada in the ass. Dale Begg-Smith received the gold medal for Australia in the men's moguls, though born and raised in BC and emigrated only last year. All the goals scored against the men's hockey team were at the hands of Canadians playing for other countries, and the female ice dancer skating for the US is from Kingston, Ontario, and ony received her US citizenship last week.

I was watching the cross-country skiing coverage and the BBC interviewed the lone Irish cross-country skier. It was a piece on the skiers from countries where there is no snow - Costa Rica, Thailand, Ethiopia, and Ireland. All of them knew they weren't globally competitive and they didn't care, they were here for the ride. It hit me. Not to belittle their achievements, which are great and I admire them, but if I get a decent pair of cross-country skis, head over to the Continent to practice every chance I get, I too could be an Olympic athlete. Ireland doesn't have a women's cross-country team. I could be it!

See you in Vancouver. Though, I'll be really old by then - as far as Olympic athletes go.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Deep thoughts

There are still news stories about Muslims protesting about the cartoons. Doesn't anyone realise that the cartoons are only news now because someone high up in the Islamic world wants them to be news? They were originally printed in September, and only now there is a furor - because someone brought them to the Middle East to stoke the flames. What are the motives for this?

But what I wonder most is that people who don't have access to basic medical care, schooling, or sometimes even food, somehow are able to get their hands on Danish flags. Where are they getting them from?