Friday, July 27, 2007

A Bloggers Dilemna

What do you write about when in reality not much is happening at the moment. One thing I will not do is just post for the sake of posting so that readers will log expecting an insight into my slightly off beat world and stories.
You can surf around and find blogs that tell you how tipples the family cat is happy or that they are off to the Aunties for the weekend and try to launch a broad discussion on travel directions. It is an unwritten code of the male DNA that we cannot follow directions so try to post directions on a blog in the vain hope that the male of the blog will read is, is as pointless as giving the female of the species a map and ask her for simple coherent directions, this is the missing female DVA gene.

So back to the subject of today " A Bloggers Dilemna" . It is not that there is a lack of subjects to write about in the News at the moment, from the Tour de Pharmacy that concludes this Sunday on Champs EPOeeyse, to epidemic that Hollywood Stars face in their personal battles with Drugs, lets face it don't we all agree that poor Lindsey Lohan did not know who put the cocaine in her pants pocket and she must be innocent till proven guilty in a fair court of law. Or how about the story that Shuttle Pilots flew drunk, you can just imagine all the astronauts chugging back a "roadie" before walking to the launch pad, and of course the big question is in a space suit how do you get rid of the beer without triggering fourteen alarm bells in Houston Control on the medics console.

Then again I could write about how a 48 year old man is reading a book about a [deleted word] who cannot say a [deleted word] because of a new [deleted word] , but then thats a spoiler. And no I have not read the last page.

So I suppose you can beat a bloggers dilemna and prove the adage that given a typewriter a monkey could write the words of Shakespeare , or in my case a blogger taping the keyboard can write nothing of interest and yet cover topics that make us laugh, because life is simple in a quiet week.


Friday, July 20, 2007

The are two cliches here

Covering the News in the Middle East comes down to two stereotyped cliches. You have two choices when it comes down to it.

Cliche 1 , All stories start with the Natural Sound of the "Call to Prayer" Allah Ackbar and a lot wailing over a montage of shots with slow dissolves naturally distinguishing the setting as not out the front of middle class surburbia, the usual is then to follow follow up with shots of masked men carrying guns and firing into the air. It does not matter if it is a wedding or a funeral, masked gunmen firing into the air makes good television.

Now my theory is that the "Masked Gunmen" wear masks not because they are wanted but probably because they are Bank Tellars and Accountants in the real world and putting on the Mask transforms them into raging Militants to be feared by all, when in fact they have to be home before ten because there Mum will worry.

So there is Cliche 1 , now what happens if you do not have a Mosque nearby and no one is wearing a mask or carrying gun. Yes Dorothy there are places here where neither exist in the West Bank. Gaza well that is another matter.

Anyway this morning saw the release of 256 Palestinian Prisoners from Israeli jails back to their families in the West Bank and it was a near media feeding frenzy. Every TV Network from around the world was there and each one of them seemed to have decided to cover the same family that we had supposedly lined up, Asaad our talent, should of had an agent trying to set up a book deal.

His wife had been in an Israeli Prison for 3 and half years and Asaad had been raising his five children and they all came out and stood in the sun with us and waited and were filmed by at least ten other Networks, from Italy to Canada Asaad and the kids were asked the same questions just in different languages translated by local fixers and producers.

Eventually the buses came through and the families and the media did what is natural in such events, by this I mean we all tried to get run over by the buses and the released Prisoners hung out of the window and celebrated as they were taken up to meet the President.

I mean these Prisoners were not released for good behaviour, they were released by the Israelis who along with the rest of the world are trying to bolster the image of Palestinian President Abbas after the debacle of his supporters in Gaza last month losing power and anyone with any power fleeing like rats up a drainpipe.

Thus todays token release of Prisoners makes Abbas look like a man of power, the fact that thousands more languish in Israeli jails, roadbloacks and checkpoints make it impossible to travel between towns and villages and Israel holds onto all tax money that belongs to the Authority. The bottom line is that Israel will probably arrest more than they released today in the next few days just to get the numbers back up to the status quo.

Anyway Asaad was happy and managed to throw his two smallest children through the bus window to his with so she could share some quality time, I fear the two small children were totally terrified of this woman screaming and clutching them in this bus being mobbed.

So we get back to the bureau and face the dilemna of the classic cliche start to the package. No Mosque, no call to prayer, no masked bank tellars.

Have no fear enter Middle East cliche 2

The Warbling Women , yes the Arabic Woman dressed in National Costume coming up to the camera and warbling with there tongue olllllaaaaa ollllaaaa [well hard to translate warble] then after a couple of warbles up come the hands and holding there face and staring down the camera ala woe is me.

So when the masked bank tellars and mullahs in minarets are not available , have no fear the warbling grandmothers are ready to step up and solve the medias cliche conundrum.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Three symbols, a world of possibilities. Let the games begin.

Define Sport , here I could insert a quotation from dictionarycom , but in a quiet moment of channel surfing in the office I came across a new sport.

It has coverage on ESPN … following are the quotes from the telecast commentators.

“Thousands of pumps down “
“He has been unflinching all night”
“Oh no he has stumbled getting into the ring”
“Fatigue could be an issue”
“Slices paper for the point”
“Must throw flawlessly”
“Players must stay in sync”
“He is exhausted”
“These players are tired”
“On the verge of making sports history”
“He has done the unthinkable”
“One day we will see that fist in the Hall of Fame”
“This is the greatest moment in RPS history”
“He is my champion today”

Ok what is this sport?. Which somehow managed to elicit every sporting cliché from the commentators, there are some clues and even the acronym that it goes by.

I like watching sport and have even been known to comment on sports from curling to my personal favorite “solo synchronized swimming”. Yes they have solo synchronized swimming what the sync against is still a mystery perhaps they put a nose plug on the side of the pool and use that .

Anyway today I have to say that the second annual championship held in Las Vegas complete with $50,000 prize money was won by the “The Brain” in a tight match that included the referee having to stop the match for being out of sync.

Yes folks “ROCK PAPER SCISSORS” is now a serious sport

Check out the web site and if you are truly patriotic American please admit to cringing.

This article was on the site to promote the telecast that was my inspiration today …

After logrolling, spelling bees and hot-dog eating, you might think ESPN has run out of sports.
That would not be the case. Tonight, ESPN2 presents its first rock paper scissors competition.
The 2007 Bud Light USA Rock Paper Scissors League National Championship doesn't have the cachet quite yet of the Super Bowl, but it's growing, according to Matti Leshem, co-commissioner of the USA Rock Paper Scissors League.
Although the competition, held in Las Vegas, has been televised before - last year on the A&E Network - this is the first time it will be covered by ESPN, which still likes to call itself "the worldwide leader in sports."
"It's a real validation for the sport," Leshem says by phone from Los Angeles.
The competition was held in May at the Mandalay Bay Resort Casino, with enough underwriting from Bud Light that 300 finalists from nationwide barroom competitions were flown in with a guest for the finals, which carries a top prize of $50,000.
The league has only been around since 2005, Leshem says, "but this is a game played since the beginning of recorded history."
Really? Before the invention of scissors? Or paper?
"Back to the caveman days," Leshem says, though he adds, "it was known as rock rock rock in those days."
The discovery of new materials led to a change in the approach. "For a time, it was known as rock papyrus spear, which you may have heard of before," he says.
Clearly, the development of paper in China, along with the invention of scissors, made great strides in the hand game where, of course, rock smashes scissors, scissors cut paper and paper covers rock.
There is a historic angle to the other name by which the game is known, Rochambeau, after the French general who aided George Washington in the Revolutionary War, and whose march through Connecticut (through Farmington, not too far from eventual ESPN headquarters in Bristol) marked its 225th anniversary last year.
The French general, according to Leshem, "adjudicated several disputes with rock paper scissors."
That may be just as much a myth as Rochambeau supposedly plotting the Yorktown battle with Washington in Wethersfield. But it explains why school children pumping their fists three times in anticipating shooting their desired signal will often shout "Reaux! Sham! Beau!" instead of "One! Two! Three!"
Clearly, there are different styles of the game, which is obviously not treated in complete seriousness by the league. But what exactly makes a great rock paper scissors champion?
"Skill, athleticism, the ability to read an opponent - to know what your opponent is going to throw before they throw it," Leshem says.
Statistics play a role - women often open with scissors, while men often choose rock first; paper is the least often used first signal, studies have shown.
But athleticism?
"There are different styles of play," Leshem says. "It gets quite energetic. A lot of power goes into it. The mental drain of it has a toll on the body."
Besides that, he adds, "there are injuries, people dislocate shoulders or sprain wrists."
Because reading the opponent's intent is so important, a poker champion, Phil Gordon, has agreed to officiate.
Also, like poker, "it takes a moment to learn, but a lifetime to master," Leshem says. "It's like chess, right? You have to practice, and you really start to feel the Zen of throwing."
Eventually, a world view develops, he says. "You look at life as a tripartite thing, that life is not black and white, it's not a binary on-off switch - there's the possibility of third choice."
As for those who don't think it's a sport, Leshem says, well, it takes all kinds. "There are people who think golf is a sport."
Ilan Ben-Hanan, the network's director of programming and acquisitions, says, "For us, I think ESPN is all about competition - traditional stick and ball sports, for the most part. But there's room for something a little bit different."
And the childhood game of rock paper scissors is nothing if not that.
"Everyone knows how to play the game, so that helps," Ben-Hanan says.
Whether it returns next year depends, in part, how it does tonight.
"We'll wait to see what the response is," he says.
Leshem says the initial ESPN telecast coming on 7-7-07 isn't completely lucky for them.
"It's kind of a hard night, there's also that Live Earth thing on," he says. "But we're honored to be on the ESPN networks."
The 2007 Bud Light USA Rock Paper Scissors League National Championship runs tonight at 9 on ESPN2.

Now to add a bit more cringe factor I add one last paragraph from the official site …

“American players embody the ideals of the sport - aggression, cunning and intensity. Finally, they have the stage to showcase their mad skills. Annual nationwide tournaments will honorably determine the best RPS player in the USA, and bring on a new breed of elite athletes to make all Americans proud and unify our polarized nation. The red, white and blue will be properly represented in international competition and inspire a new form of patriotism. The USARPS League is destined to bring on new strategies, training techniques and of course, great American heroes.”

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Smells Like Paper to me

Amman Jordan

The trip to Amman Jordan to film the family of one of the doctors suspected in the failed UK Bombing Attacks in London and Glasgow had been uneventful, that is easy because Amman is probably one of the most uneventful places on the entire planet. I often refer to Jordan as The Hashemite Kingdom of Boredom, and Amman is a city with absolutely nothing of any interest for the tourist.
The hotels in Amma, though are good and the Hyatt is one of my favorite hotels in the world. Apart from being bombed a year or so ago and the foyer bar area destroyed by a suicide bomber that walked in off the street, that night two other hotels were also targeted by Al Qaida in a co ordinated attack. They had been soft targets with no security, you simply walked in off the street past a doorman. Now there is extreme security to almost airport standard.
Then again there is an equation in the Zen and Working in News. The better the hotel the less time you get to enjoy the hotel. The worse the hotel, you can count on spending hours and days trapped surrounded by white walls, cockroaches, intermittant power and naturally your room will be next to the loudest mosque in town. Now Mosques are not exactly heavy metal factories operating 24 hours a day, but then again Mosques suddenly come to life at 4 in the morning with the call to prayer blaring directly into your room, and that scares the life out of you.
Luckily this is not the case at the Hyatt Amman a great 5 star hotel but not enough time to enjoy it. We arrived in Amman at two in the morning Tuesday and after a few hours sleep were out tracking down the family of Mohamed Asha, we turned up at the house only to be told they were not going to do any interviews, so I suggested we find a coffee shop drink a cup of badly made black mud and go back and ask again.
Our driver interpreted the lets go and find a local coffee shop as "lets drive accross the city and drink coffee" and rather than a cup of simple mud served in a couple of minutes we ended up, yes you guessed we turned the corner and pulled up at a Starbucks. Twenty minutes later the coffee arrives and an hour later we end up back at the Asha Household which is now under total seige from media around the world and the family is talking. We get an interview with the father, who in true fashion cannot believe that his son would in anyway be implicated in such an act and butter would not melt in his mouth.
The rest of the day was a blur rushing here there back and forth and finally getting to bed around 2 am given the time differences between the Mid East and the East Coast.
When I am on the road I am always thinking about what I am going to write about and the trip to Amman gave me plenty of material, from the security man at Starbucks to the Mecca Mall of shopping boredom. But the title and highlight moment of the trip actually came when we were on the plane coming back last night.
Correspondent Reena Ninan, Producer Ibrahim Hazboun and I were buckled in ready for the flight between Amman and Tel Aviv, the only flight were you spend more time taxing than in the air, flight time 18 minutes distance 86 miles think of those frequent flier points everyone.
Anyway you know how in magazines they have those scratch and sniff folds, lift the tag and smell the new perfume male or female and the smell seems to last no matter how many times you lift the fold. Hey the one at my dentist still holds the smell after a year of use.
So here is this foldout in the magazine Reena took from the hotel, I peel it back and well there is a small amount of smell, not enough to overpower my senses, I pass it across to Ibrahim who reluctantly lifts it to his nose and with a casual shrug of his shoulders says he really cannot smell anything. Reena smells the fold and simply says "Smells Like Paper to me"
What was the mystery scent, well I have to say advertising has a lot to answer for, the product was a new line of female hygeine pads "Always Fresh".
Give me a break perfume yes hygeine no, but after a long couple of days it was a very light moment on the road.