Friday, December 31, 2010

Thirty First Night

Hello Reader,

It seems fitting and appropriate, though a good Thesaurus will probably tell you that the two words have the same meaning, that I write the last post of the noughties while sitting in the garden cafe at Barefoot. It's almost 2PM and the place is buzzing with people; a wealthy mix of tourists and Sri Lankans who have returned for the festive season. There is of course the traditional white bloke in a sarong, going through the whole trying to look cool and relaxed whilst desperately hoping it stays up thing.

I've been doing all sorts of things. I had my first ever trip to the Dutch Burgher Union the other day, for a wedding reception. It was a blast, with C putting in a rare appearance in a rather short and head turning dress. Dominic Sansoni, who more or less runs the DBU singlehandedly, was startled by the sight of C's legs so much that he was thinking of changing the constitution to include a minimum dress length for women.

The morning event saw yours truly cut a rather elegant dash in a very British suit and tie. I felt like a twat in the heat, every sensible chap wore a loose fitting shirt and nice airy trousers while I roasted so much that at one point I nearly loosened my tie and undid the top button. I maintained my dignity though, as I felt as if I was representing the Brits and needed to show some stiff upper lip stuff.

It's my first time ever in Sri Lanka during the Christmas season and I'm observing and absorbing as much of the detail as I can. I'm amazed at the heaviness of the decorations everywhere, that certain lack of subtlety looms large in the Sri Lankan approach to Christmas trees and lights. The outside of my hotel, the one on the lake, looks like the result of a traffic accident involving the Hi!! magazine graphics designer and a huge truck on its way out of the white light bulb factory.

The buzz around what people are going to do tonight is tangible and mounting. Every hotel and venue is getting ready, putting up stages and decorations and getting staff and fixtures in place for the big night. I've wanted to experience a 31st night here for years and finally get to do it. Mine and C's choice is to head over to this thing at Park Street Mews. It's a bash with bands, DJs, dinner, breakfast and a good crowd of friends, so should be fun with a capital g.

There are more stories to tell, particularly the tale of Java and the missing crisps, but time has got the better of me and I'll leave you with wishes for a good New Year, whatever you're doing in whichever country.

Somewhere in Kingston there's a sixteen year old having a few friends round to her Dad's apartment while he holidays in Sri Lanka. You've got to wish that Dad a lot of luck haven't you!!

See you in the next decade.

Friday, December 24, 2010

You Scumbags!

You maggots.

You cheap lousy faggots.

Happy Christmas to everyone who's read, commented and been a part of the great thing that is the Lankanosphere.

I wish you peace, prosperity, love and everything you wish for yourself and your loved ones.

See you in London or Lanka.

RD x

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I'm Dreaming Of A Grey Christmas

Two things I've had enough of; snow and the American Government, neither of which it seems I can do anything about.

There's good stuff to do with snow, I admit. Snowball fights, tobogganing and that whole Christmassy feeling. And that rather magical atmosphere, the way everything sounds muffled and more peaceful than ever.

On Saturday I walked into Kingston. It sounds a bit braver than it is, for I do actually pretty much live in the middle of Kingston anyhow. I spent a couple of minutes fighting bravely through a blizzard, feeling like Scott or even Ralph Fiennes as I tucked myself into the folds of my parka and let my almost brand new Timberlands do the walking.

Then, when I got to the Bridge, I saw that every car approaching it was getting stuck, unable to get the traction to climb the smallest of slopes and get onto the bridge. Without exception every single car was slipping, sliding and wheelspinning as they went nowhere.

The result? That Great British gung ho spirit poured out of passers by by the gallon. Every single one of us stopped and helped push a few cars before we went on our way. It's weird how us Brits do that in times of need. We, a term I'm hesitant about using, can be cold, unfriendly and downright miserable to each other for most of the time. But, give us a time of need, and we're the friendliest and most warm and helpful people around.

I pushed one car to freedom, along with about two or three other strangers. Then I moved along to the next car and did the same. Both drivers shouted their thanks and tooted their horns as they went on their way.

As the third car loomed in my vision I felt a bit uneasy. There was a whole queue of cars coming, all of which would suffer the same predicament. What was I to do? I might have spent the weekend pushing them. The Christmas shopping would have had to wait, none of the drivers would even have known that I'd been pushing cars for hours. So I legged it after just the two, feeling as though I'd done my good deed times two, so things were okay.

Driving into work on Monday morning was more treacherous and risky, more hazardous and filled with heart stopping moments than the last time I went to the Barefoot Colombo Pub Quiz. At one point my car told me, in its silent German tones, that the outside temperature was minus 9.5 degrees. Mentale!

Then there's the flights. One of my girls at work failed to fly to her home town of Prague because of the disruption, though she's now hoping to go on Thursday. I've been checking the Sri Lankan Airlines website regularly as I'm booked to depart on Boxing Day. Occasional snow showers, little bursts of the stuff have made me moan and groan and hope like buggery that it turns into grey and dull rain, the very grey and dull rain that I hate so much at any other time.

I can't wait to be destined for Serendib. To feel the plane take off and know that I'm on my way. Boarding and even being in my seat won't be enough. The radio waves are bounding with stories of people who've boarded then sat around for hours on end only to be told they have to go back into the airport and wait, or worse still sent home.

The only question is a book dilemma facing me. I've started reading Chinaman and have been forced to read that so old fashioned type of book, the sort that is printed on paper, with ink and whatnot, for it's not available on the Kindle. It took me a while I must admit. I'd thought, after reading and hearing so much about it, that it would grab me within the first forty two, maybe even forty, words. It just didn't, yet I ploughed on.

Then at about the one hundred page mark, it captured me. As I write this I'm waiting to rush home and find out what Wije has been up to for the last few hours and exactly where the story's going to lead us. The characters, the language and the Sri Lankan nuances, some of which I even understand, have got me spellbound.

The dilemma is about whether to take the book with me on the flight or to just take the Kindle and read one or some of the many others I'm currently involved with. It seems wrong to have an e book reader but to then carry a paperback with me, a hefty one at that.

Vut too doo?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lately In The Lankanosphere

Yes, it's back. It's been a long time since the last "lately" post in these parts, mostly because there just hasn't been much in the Lankan blogosphere that's caught my reading eye. Most of my regular reads have gone quiet or now prefer to splash out quick 140 character tweets or Facebook status updates, usually saying how much they hate Facebook's latest look, instead of sitting down and putting the effort in to write sntces + wrds tht arnt abbrvted.

Many of these former bloggers are so outrightly selfish that they concentrate on their own lives, never thinking about the enjoyment of us, their readers. And Kottu has morphed into more of an aggregator than it ever used to be. Say what you like about fixing the most read lists but there used to be a sense of interaction and community on Kottu that's no longer there. It's become like a band that have split up but get back together now and again to do a tour just for the money.

And then this week there was a shift in the Earth's vibrations, a sneeze in the Lankanosphere and my interest was captured.

First Java Jones whacked one out. Then he wrote a post. There are many blogging youngsters who are unaware of the legend that is Java Jones, of his widespread influence among many of us, not to mention that he's a cat only matched in coolness by TC. Or Huggy Bear, but he's not a cat. As a young up and coming blogger all those years ago I'd read Java's posts and wish I could write with his fluidity and sheer fucking sense of craziness. They tell me that copious amount of drug taking helps with this.

These days JJ has semi retired and spends most of his time living in the hill country. He blogs only occasionally and spends the majority of his time practicing the vuvuzela. He's one of only a handful of professional vuvuzela players in the world and is a first call session player for most of the world's top gigs. He'll deny it though, he's humble and bashful like that. You thought it was a saxaphone at the beginning of Gerry Rafferty's Baker Street didn't you? Well it's not, it's JJ, doing his vuvuzela thing.

His post is only a brief one, on his thoughts on the Wikileaks cable saga, but worth its weight in gold and it got my attention immediately. I urge you to check it out and comment demanding that he writes more.

Then Dramaqueen, usually as elusive as a huge big invisible and soundless monster who's decided to have a game of hide and seek, decided to spurt out not just one, but four posts, all in one day. Somewhere in there lurks a joke about four poster beds. I wish I was wittier, as you do probably. About me I mean, not about you. You probably think you're quite funny as it is.

The thing about DQ is that she's funny, in a slightly animal loving and sensitive way. I can imagine that an evening with her, involving drinking games and farting would be incredibly good fun, until the point that an innocent fellow cracked a joke about killing cats or breeding Christmas trees for commercial reasons. Then all hell would break loose and the farting would stop.

Grab yourself a few minutes and read her posts, my favourite is this one, the story of her first full body massage. (insert smutty joke here......) Any girl who can write about farting gets my vote every time.

DD also came out with a quickie. His blog isn't one I find easy on the eye, what with its various adverts blaring out at full volume all the time, but I'm always keen to read his perusings. The latest one is entitled the £600 haircut and it's about, well a £600 haircut. At first glance I saw the opening picture of him and assumed that he was showing us the "before the haircut" situation.

"Not a problem" I thought, a decent hairdresser should be able to tidy up that mess and do great things with it. I read on and, without giving too much away, I'll only say that I hope DD got a receipt!

Also catching the RD eye lately has been this new blog called I am. I've mentioned it before but it deserves another shout. It's an eye and earcatching combination of images and narrative, all about Sri Lanka's regional identities, told through the eyes of some highly thought provoking characters.

Dominic Sansoni himself told me the other day that it's much, much harder than it appears to put images and sound together and come up with something so special. I noticed that he was talking to his mouth was actually making the movements for the word before the one I was hearing. So it must be true then. Check it out and see for yourself.

Groundviews has gone to the shops and got itself a sexy new look for the festive season. I must admit that I can't figure out if the logo is new or if it's always been there, but I wonder if Sanjana, at the merest hint of a rights violation, rushes into a phone box, does a spin and emerges with a T shirt with the GV logo on, some extra fast slippers and his pants on the outside. Actually, as I think on it I realise that's how he was dressed last time I met him anyway. Presumably he must have been rushing to an emergency.

This post by Michael Meyler tells us Suddhas about the word "goday". I just wish I was able to pronounce it correctly without you guys looking puzzled and then laughing at me once you realise what I'm attempting to say. The esteemed Mr Meyler tells us that the nearest word to "goday" in contemporary English s the word "naff".

With the utmost respect to him I disagree. I reckon it's "chav" or "chavvy". Just ask the Auf, he'll back me on this. And talking of the Auf I've heard it on good authority that there may be a little bit of Auf love in the air. I won't tell you who's involved but let's just say that myself and Pseudorandom are currently busily writing our speeches.

The channel has been particularly busy of late. He points out in this post that the noughties is almost over. The fact had escaped me until I read it. Bloody hell, that's another decade gone. In my life it's fair to say that it was a pretty big one, how was it for you?

Rajaratarala, him with all the As, published this post, all about eggs, chickens and the possibility of them being imported for the festive season. Clearly it's a chicken egg situation. That's all I have to say on the matter.

That's pretty much it for now. If you want more you know where to look. It's ever so slightly awash with posts on how to make your blog look like a Christmas tree, film reviews or out of focus pictures taken on someone's mobile of Murali dancing at a party but, once you filter through all of that stuff, there are some gems to be found.

As they say in France, this isn't goodbye, just bonjour.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

More On Wikileaks

This whole Wikileaks thing is good for us bloggers isn't it?

Let's face it, when the world ticks along nicely, when life is treating everyone well, something that happens infrequently I'll grant you, there's fuck all for us to blog about. Wikileaks, or the recent cablegate thing has given us all endless possibilities, with the promise of even more to come for Julian knows how long.

And, while we're on the subject, isn't it annoying that anything big these days gets the word "gate" bunged on the end of it. I hope there isn't some big event to do with Bill Gates in the future or the copywriters will have a field day.

The stories of espionage, of bumbling British Princes who should really keep their mouth shut, of Politicians exchanging favours for votes and votes for favours are seriously interesting and will almost definitely change the way many view the world of international relations.

But so far there's been one story, and one story alone, that has caught the RD imagination and is trapped, like a fart in a colander, in my head.

It's about Ahmad Zia Massoud the former Afghan vice President. You've probably heard it anyhow but it's about the fact that, in 2009, when visiting the UAE, he was caught carrying $52 million in cash. The fuss in the media relates to the probability that he was money laundering and that US and UAE officials stopped him then let him go with his cash and no explanation of where it came from.

I guess it's bad, bad that he was let off and all. But the simple fact is that this chap was carrying $52,000,000 in CASH, yes CASH. I mean how does a chap actually do that?

I've put quite a lot of thought into this, even doing a mind map which you can see here in front of me. When I began to think about it I couldn't comprehend $52 mill in cash. Would it be a suitcase full of sponds or a huge fleet of suitcases? Perhaps it would be a small bag containing a mere 52 of those 1 million dollar notes.

And how exactly does a chap go about carrying this on a flight? If it was just the one big bag I suppose old Ahmad would have bought himself a really good one, like one of the medium range Samsonites or perhaps even some top of the range Balrin Parris (sic) ones from the Pettah. If he could afford it of course. I've been wanting to write a sentence with (sic) in it for quite some time you know.

He would have faced the issue all of us have to face at times. Do you buy a hard case, giving more sturdiness, security and protection but also more weight, or a soft one, with less of everything including weight?

Would he have got one with a combination lock or a proper padlock with a key. When carrying around $52 million I think a combination lock is probably better and it's a good idea to use a number that no one will think of, like one of his kids' birthdays or perhaps his wife's. Had he gone for a soft case then I'm told anyone can open one by poking the zip with a biro. He'd have to hope none of the baggage handlers knew that cunning trick.

Then, once the luggage choice is sorted out, how would he have checked it in? It's probably fair to assume he went business or maybe even first class but it must have still been a nervewracking episode to check it in and watch it disappear along the belt at the desk. As you probably know I lost a case once when I went to Barcelona so I know how it feels.

My case only contained pants (Odel ones) and some clothes. I can only imagine the hassle in trying to fill out the lost bag form when you have to write "$52 million in cold hard dodgy cash" in the appropriate box. I hope Ahmad hadn't put his pants in the same bag as the cash. I had to wear the same pants for two days in a row.

All blokes know that it's perfectly normal and acceptable to wear pants for several days in a row when there's no woman around, but I was with C at the time so had to pretend it was something unusual, making that face as if I hated doing it. Had I also lost $52 million at the time I reckon things could have been a lot worse.

All the permutations and comedic possibilities were driving me mad so I did some googling and wikipediaing.

I found out that there has never been a $1 million dollar note that has been legal tender. Though there were some $100,000 notes that are not legal tender anymore, the highest in circulation now is the $100 note.

So old Ahmad would have had to use $100 bills and the weight of one of these is about 1 gramme. Therefore $52 million would have weighed about 520 Kg. That's a fair bit of weight and I reckon, allowing for 20 kg a suitcase, it would have meant 26 suitcases. Let's round things up a bit and say that he may have taken 25-30 suitcases.

Well that's a lot of excess luggage, even taking into account the extra baggage allowance (about 10kg) you get on business class.

It's all been kept quiet, even on Wikileaks.

I don't think we should accept it.

I demand to know who paid his excess luggage bill. I bet you it was the Americans.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday Invalidation

I saw this and thought of you.

Any musos out there, but also normal people, will see this and think of many they know.

Enjoy your Monday morning. It's bound to be a snowy / icy / rainy / hot / cold one.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wikileaks And The Lankanosphere

I'm one of millions who have been captured and enthralled by this Wikileaks business. The unspoken question on the edge of everyone's lips sounds a bit like:

"Cables? I thought they went out years ago!"

Because, in this high tech iEverything age, who the hell, apart from electricians, uses cables? I really didn't even know they still exist. My parents used to use them, mostly when someone had died, and frankly even I'm pretty old compared to most of my readers.

Everything these days is secure, password and PIN number protected. To penetrate a careful person's email account you need the advanced computer skills of Harry Potter after he's been to some evening classes on hacking, or a fourteen year old Nigerian fraudster.

The Americans chose cables to communicate these highly sensitive bits of information. Surely they weren't surprised when something sprang a leak?

They were, and don't call me Shirley, with my thanks to Leslie Nielsen.

The reaction of the Sri Lankan blogosphere has been surprisingly subdued. I don't know why this is the case, perhaps as more leaks specifically related to Lanka are released the momentum will increase or maybe people just aren't interested.

There have been three main blogs and a few posts that have caught my eye.

First, and undoubtedly foremost, there's Groundviews with this fantastic precis of the situation to date. It's got even more graphs, diagrams and flashy charts than a piece of homework submitted by my fourteen year old daughter and it explains things pretty clearly and succinctly. There are links galore and it tells you everything you need to know, everything if you're me that is.

The only thing it's missing is a good pie chart. Perhaps Sanjana might want to use the one I've shown below, the only pie chart ever worth using IMHO. By the way, the invention of the pie chart is often credited to Florence Nightingale, her of Florence and the Machine. She didn't invent it, sorry about that.

Moving on we've got Sittingnut on Lanka Libertarian with his take on things. It's his first post for months and it's good to have him back and active in the Lankanosphere. His approach demonstrates his usual degree of level headedness and wisdom with his unparalleled ability to see things from the perspective of a large bird with a very long neck.

He asks "Who will be most embarrassed in Sri Lanka when these cables come to light", something I think is an interesting question. Sadly I think the answer, at least where Sri Lanka is concerned, is a resounding "no one", as so many things are so shameless there anyhow.

In the updated section of Sittingnut's post he reports on the Commonwealth turning down Sri Lanka's offer to host the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting because of "concerns about lending international credibility to the Government's actions".

Sittingnut's response to this is to ask who cares about the commonwealth anyway. This response is akin to a child who, on being told he can't join in a game with his friends because they think he might have cheated last time, retorts by saying he never wanted to play anyhow. He then goes and plays with a bunch of Chinese kids and......

Lastly we come to Indi with his views on the matter at hand. He's given Wikileaks quite a chunk of attention with three posts at the time of writing.

This one informs us that Wikileaks has 3166 documents to be released on Sri Lanka. They'll be released in forthcoming months so we don't yet know what secrets they contain. Here in the UK I expect their release will be carefully planned around the X Factor and Cheryl Cole's scheduled appearances, possibly synchronised with her clothing.

Indi's first post about the thing starts off by showing us a picture of Julian Assange, the Wikileaks' founder, doing a hand shadow puppet thing. He's evidently not very good at it, but I reckon he'll attain fame in other ways.

Indi uses this post as a platform to argue that the over 100,000 deaths in Iraq revealed by Wikipedia recently are far more than alleged in Sri Lanka and that the US has lost much of the trust from the rest of the world because of this. It's undoubtedly a valid view, with one major flaw.

There isn't a massive body of people in the West saying that the actions of the US, the UK and whoever else are correct and justified and that it's just little old Sri Lanka who have done wrong. No, there's huge public opinion here in the UK that the invasion of Iraq was wrong, that the public was misled and that the troops should withdraw. People here are allowed to say these things quite freely too.

His post here demonstrates the Indi thinks it's a positive thing that Julian Assange and Wikileaks exist, I'm inclined to agree with him.

Indi has a lot more readable stuff on his blog about the whole Wikileaks saga, check it out.

Finally I must tell you what I think. I guess it would be a cop out to criticise others without revealing my thoughts.

The first thing that struck me, on reading Indi's and Sittingnut's opinions was that they shared a view, perhaps a first. They both demonstrate a lack of consistency. They both believe that it's okay for these secrets about the US Government to be revealed, thereby showing us its real face and giving us a true picture. Yet they both think that it's perfectly acceptable for Sri Lanka to keep certain things secret as it's in the interests of national security.

Indi says this

"Their logic for dialling back these leaks works on a local level in the same way that the white flag story works in Sri Lanka. These are our secrets and we keep them to protect our country."

Sittingnut tells us

"It appears that american state is run by arrogant hypocrites who care nothing for ethics and morality when they want to dominate others..."

My stance is that Sittingnut's take on the US is, or maybe was, correct. But, if it's good that these things are revealed, then it should be good if all atrocities are revealed in all countries.

Fundamentally I feel it's a good positive thing that this information has been made public. I care not one iota for the arguments about patriotism, national security etc. I think that, if the Americans, Brits and whomever else have behaved this cynically then they deserve what they get.

But I wonder on the wisdom of Wikileaks in revealing all of this. There are cases when people have been named, people who have been motivated to pass on information to the Americans for genuinely good reasons, and some of them may now be in very real danger.

In the longer term this may discourage others from coming forward to people in not just American but all diplomatic circles, that can't be good.

The whole thing makes the Americans look cynical and arrogant. If I had a friend who was an American diplomat right now I'd be wondering if he really was my friend and whether I could trust him. It's a stroke of luck that I have no friends in these circles. Apart from Condoleezza and Hillary that is.

In the UK, at least at the time of writing, our main concerns have been the plainly stupid and bigoted views of Prince Andrew, as well as his very dodgy choices on when to air them. Most of us think he's an idiot anyway. I'm sure there'll be more to come though.

I leave you with the last word quoted from Groundviews, in itself a quote from Kusal Perera:

“The first is that, in Sri Lanka, it would never be possible for any one to play “Julian Assange” and dare face an open media briefing in Colombo, to justify his or her claims on war crimes and torture. Right or wrong, excessive or not, that “democracy” is nowhere within the shores of Sri Lanka and would not be, for many decades to come. There is also no possibility of any lawyer, any public litigant, requesting Courts to “order” relevant authorities to begin investigations into allegations of crimes committed during war, as in Britain. Relevance if any on such democratic practices, is almost naught.” – From WikiLeaks to WikiLanka: War Is Definitely Savage Though “Accusations” Differ, Kusal Perera