Thursday, March 29, 2007

Of Wickets, Overs, and Ovals

I never thought the following words would ever come out of my mouth (nor spring from my fingertips, as the case may be), but here they are:

I am beginning to understand Cricket. The game, not the bug.

Dig it: a Cricket Wicket

I know, I’m kind of frightened by this as well.

But, it’s not my fault. Honestly. See the company for which I work has a lot of employees of Indian descent – almost all of them actually from India who are here on work visas. In fact, of the seven people in my department, four are Indian (the other three being two Caucasians and one Filipino, if you must know).

Workforce to the world

Now, that’s not enough in itself to teach me Cricket. I mean, it’s not like some osmotic process where working day-in and day-out with folks from India magically imbues you with a deeper understanding of their culture (though it does allow for a greater familiarity with, and appreciation of, the lyrical nature of their accents). No, a deeper understanding of culture comes from asking questions. And brother, I am not afraid of asking questions.

But I digress.

See, evidently, the Cricket World Cup is in full swing, with the initial elimination round just ended and the so-called “Super 8” just starting. I had no idea of this, but did notice that for the last two weeks or so, all of the Indian ex-pats in the office were completely abuzz with excitement and discussion. At first I thought they had gotten the order from Delhi and were about to launch their attempt to battle the Chinese for supreme control of the world, so I approached with caution. However, I wasn't really scared because I knew that if India does win the ultimate showdown, they’ll use us white folks as “skilled” labor, and not just send us to the camps. Except the British, that is. Those limeys will get their bill, and be sent straight to the mines.

Start digging

As it turned out, I didn’t need to swear fealty to my new overlords. Yet. They were dropping words like "Overs" and "Wickets" and the like, which I recognized from my close study of H2G2 as being related to this mysterious entity called Cricket.

So, I asked. And they answered.

No, I won’t give you a brief tutorial about the game, nor the ridiculous rules. But now, when I hear one of the guys say “Australia's chasing 152 runs with six wickets” I know what they mean.

Chasing 152 with 6 wickets!

And you don’t.


Ook ook

Monday, March 26, 2007

Muscle-flexing Muslim style

In case you hadn’t noticed, things are a bit tense in the Middle East. Have been for a while. Close to 1,000 years, actually. You know, what with the Sunni – Shia schism within Islam; a little hoop-de-doo regarding the Crusades; the flood of Mongols; the rise and fall of the Ottomans; little skirmishes involving Hindus; the Russians coming, the Russians coming (Whittaker Walt or no); some fey Englishman leading an Arab revolt; the repatriating of Hebrews; Ayatollahs and Mullahs; Mujahedin and Al Aqsa; more than a little Texas Tea; and so on.

The latest hulaballoo surrounding the 15 British soldiers captured by the Iranians seems to be par for the course. Personally, I blame the movie 300. I mean, it can’t be coincidental that it gets released right when tempers are flaring and emotions are running very tightly wound.

Think about it. This is a movie openly celebrating how a pack of semi-literate, half-naked Greek thugs held the effete, brutal, barbaric Persian hoards at bay for three days, while Jesus rose from the dead to get revenge on all those who use his name in vain and lay with other men.

Wait, sorry, I got my stories mixed up there at the end. But it does beg the question of why the number 3 is held as being so mystical. The Masons consider it the foundation of their damned secret society, and it forms the very core of the religion of baseball (three strikes, three outs, nine players, nine innings, three bases – coincidence?).

What the hell? Baseball? Okay, here’s an important safety tip for you kids: never try to write on three hours sleep and five cups of coffee. It jangles your brains and makes you mutter odd incantations.

So, where was I? Oh yes, Iranians and British. See, I blame Bush for this. Well, he and Rummy. And Cheney. Evil Dick doesn’t get a pass. I’d like to toss Reagan into this mix too, but try as I might I can’t. And Nixon, as evil and scaly as he was, had more than enough sense to not get involved in this sort of idiocy. Yeah, Bushco might be a syndicate with more firepower than the Cosa Nostra and the Russian Mafia combined, but they got less brains than a 1st grade special ed class. See, this whole “let’s invade Iraq” thing really screwed the pooch for us. At least when Reagan embarked on his ME adventures he had the sense to send a few F-14’s to the coast of Libya and launch some missiles into Tripoli. And even George I knew when to pull up the tent-posts and run. But George II is the idiot-child. Poor thing, he'd be overmatched in a game of Jenga with a spasmodic, and here he is trying to lead a nation.

Anyway, my point is, because of this quixotic endeavor (and yes, I use that term as a perjorative), our military is now basically helpless. If a skirmish suddenly flared up where a pack of drugged up, badge-less Mexican banditos decided to raid a small, dusty Texas town, we’d need to call in the Canadians to help. How sick is that? Relying on Canadians? It’s enough to make you want to shut the lights, lock the door, and crawl into a corner to rock while gently weeping.

And everyone in the world knows it. The North Koreans were jacking our jimmies for a year, playing with their pop-guns and bottle rockets, knowing full well we couldn’t do squat. All they wanted was some cash so their freakshow leader could buy more liquour and whores. And it worked. The bitches are on their way. The Iranians saw this and got pissed they didn’t think of it first. So, they’re upping the ante by not only chasing the atomic wedgie, but also now making like a dime-store gangsta trying to carve out some territory.

Guess what? It’s working. They’re sweating down 15 boys from Manchester, Bristol, Leeds, and Yorkshire, looking to see how far they can go before they get their hands slapped. And like an impotent old fart who promises seven orgasms and three hours of roaring sex to the young hottie with the tramp-stamp, all the US can do is talk a great fuck. We’ve used all our little blue pills trying to impress Miss Baghdad, and now can only make hollow promises to that Tehrani cutie with the big brown eyes, because we can't get our pecker up. Hell, we can't even control our pee on account of our prostate problems, and I think we now have irritable bowel syndrome, too.

It’s just sad. The worst part is those poor little Brit kids. Sure, they’ll be released and get some sort or hero’s welcome. But they’ll never be the same. How can they be? After eating kabobs and loubia and spiced rice and pomegranate infused dishes how will they ever be able to be happy with bangers, mash, and kidney pie?

Ook ook

Friday, March 16, 2007

March Madness for geeks

Because everyone else is doing it ...

The Monkey picks his flicks

I sure hope you all don't suddenly take a mind to go leaping off any cliffs or anything.

Ook ook

Monday, March 12, 2007

Nicotine Lunch

Like most workaday swine, I ply my trade in a dull grey cubicle in a dull grey building in a dull grey corporate park. You know these places … a complex of several identical, unimaginative, ugly-yet-functional buildings with ample parking, and within walking distance of several eateries and at least one coffee house. Essentially carbon-copy strip malls each containing the same cloned appearance, shops, and decor. And they always have clever and whimsical names, often recalling some idyllic paradise, or sophisticated locale. They're called Gardens or Parks and have creative pseudo-European spelling such as Pointe. Yet another affront to our lives, where conformity is integrated into every last minute detail, helping keep the drones in line. Soviet Russia aint got nothing on this.

Get used to it, Chico, it’s the shape of the New America. Either climb on board or prepare to be run over. Now is not the time for heroes.

The New America! Love it or the terrorists win.

The Corporate Park in which I spend 9 hours a day is no different. It's called a Garden Centre, managing the rare double of both idyll and Euro. There are four buildings in the Centre, each exactly the same as the other aside from the logos at the top. There are three parking structures, and a little food-court complete with Daphne’s, Baja Fresh, some Chinese place the name of which escapes me, Pismo Grill, and a Coffee Bean so the workers are never without some trendy choice for food or other.

Oh, the owners of the property also just finished construction of a rather extravagant outdoor addition, complete with benches and a few “sculptures” (if you consider a giant cement sphere and a long piece of shale positioned on end to be sculpture), surrounded by grass and some shade trees. The area is in the shape of an oval, and covers close to 100 square yards. The design is sort of maze-like, with bench arrays placed here and there, some at right angles and others almost making a small square. The idea (as near as I can tell) is to provide space for a large number of people (looks like 100 could fit there easily), while maintaining a veneer of intimacy within any little bench grouping. Pretty clever, actually.

Essentially, it seems the ideal place to sit, chow down a couple of tacos, maybe do a bit of reading, and just relax while enjoying the sun.

Me gusta tacos y burritos con salsa picante!

That is, it would have been. See, one thing conspicuously absent in the design and implementation of the new lunch area was ashtrays. The place is totally devoid of them. There is an area on another part of the grounds which serves the smokers – complete with many benches and plenty of ashtrays.

So, where do you think the smokers go?

That sweet Laramie taste!

Yep. They’re climbing all over the new lunch area like ants over a sugar cube. No ashtrays? Well, gee, that must be why god invented pavement. Or grass. Or benches. Or Styrofoam cups with a little bit of coffee remaining into which the butt can be doused and the whole packaged dumped into the nearby trash can. Or, just left on the ground. Or on the bench.

And smokers wonder why they are hated.

Ook ook.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Monkey as a Wedding Crasher

So, I attended a wedding this weekend. The groom was a recently graduated MD who is now in residency to become a vascular surgeon, while the bride has an MBA and just launched her own clothing company.

The MonkeyWife and I apparently run in high society.

The wedding ceremony was a typically catholic affair in that there was plenty of standing and sitting; the standard prayers offered to the father, the jesus, the holy ghost, and the mary; a few genuflections; communion; and a boring sermon about the evils of, well, pretty much everything. I did say catholic.

I forgot to mention that I didn’t know a soul there. Not even remotely. I saw a photo of the groom a couple of years back, but that’s as close at it got.

See, the groom worked with the MonkeyWife a few years ago while he was in med school, and evidently they got on pretty well. They must have, because she was the only person from that job he invited. In fact, aside from the two of us, everyone at the wedding was either a close friend or family member of the bride or groom. No other outsiders at all.

Oh, and to add to the awkwardness of the situation the groom and his family were African American, while the bride and hers were Filipino. Now, since the MonkeyWife is Asian she managed to blend. But as it turned out, I was the only white person there (other than the priest), so I tended to stick out. I only mention this because my whiteness underlined the fact that I didn’t know anyone there (and, more importantly, that no one there knew me), so I was pretty easy to spot as an outsider.

But weddings tend to be happy times, so someone strange isn’t automatically singled out - particularly if they are behaving as if they are supposed to be there. And having attended Filipino weddings before, I knew they tended to be very inclusive events. Also, having the MonkeyWife at my side was like having a diplomatic visa, allowing me entry and free movement.

The reception was where the real guests finally got a chance to find out who I was and what I was doing there. Sure enough, it was only moments after arriving at the restaurant hosting the reception that the first person came up to me and asked The Big Question: "So, are you a friend of the bride or groom?" And, not surprisingly, as soon as I explained things, the cautious looks disappeared and the conversation turned to the normal stuff – like sports, weather, the high cost of living, what a jerk Bush is, etc. Since the MonkeyWife was a “friend” of the groom we were assigned a table on his side of the reception hall, and everyone at our table was black. The couple sitting to our left was very pleasant and was visiting from New Jersey, while the couple to our right were locals. At first they thought there was a seating error, since they assumed my wife was with the bridal side (you know, her being Asian and all), but again, the explanations sorted things out.

At one point I was talking with the fellow from New Jersey, asking him questions about life out there and so on. I told him of my family in New York, and he guessed at my ancestry being Italian (there's something about my look, apparently). Eventually I brought up the whole weird feeling I had about being the ultimate outsider in the party. He laughed and remarked that now I could relate to how he felt as the only black guy in his physics department (he was finishing his PhD at Rutgers - something about dark matter and the fate of the universe). “Besides,” he added, “you’re Italian, so you aren’t even really white anyway.”

I couldn't have felt more accepted if he pinned a kinte cloth on me.

Ook ook.