Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day

I was a little unsure about what to post. On a practical level, today is about the start of summer, spending time with friends, grilling meat, enjoying a relaxing day in a park. On a philosophical level, it's about memorializing the countless soldiers who have died in the U.S. military.

Kind of hard to bring it all together. So I decided to just find a patriotic video. Thought about something U.S. Soccer related--too commercial. Thought about Saving Private Ryan--too cliche. Reflected on the fact that there are no good Revolutionary War movies.

And in the end, decided on this:

Glory. The only movie that ever made Friend of the Blog Chris Widman cry. True story.

Now this is a patriotic movie. Yes, it's about the Civil War, a conflict that literally divided the nation. But this scene (sorry about the two clips' overlap and the credits--I just really like the frieze) sort of sums it all up. You have guys not just fighting for their country and for their fellow soldiers, but, at least indirectly, for an ideal: equality and freedom.

And that, really, is what America is all about... at least if I have to define it with a YouTube clip.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My rating: Three out of four camels

Last night I saw what was arguably the most concrete example of Emirati culture we have encountered to date. Not a wedding. Not a desert barbecue. Not camel racing. A movie.

It's called "City of Life," and it's pretty good.

On the negative side, it paints in broad strokes and is somewhat predictable. There are plot points that you can see several kilometers away and dialogue that is wooden.

Having said all that, though, it is beautifully shot and directed. On a subtextual level, it illustrates perfectly what Dubai is: a collection of people from all over the world whose cultures, goals and ideals all seem to be on a collision course.

Realistic, right down the the Salik tollway tag.

But perhaps most important, it presents an authentic vision (as far as I can tell) of the UAE. The ugly side, the poverty, the desperation, the wealth, the glitter, the fun. It also offers a glimpse--and I have no idea how accurate that glimpse actually is--of Emirati life. Specifically the "middle class" Emirati life, where several generations of a family live under one roof under conditions comparable to those of blue-collar expats.

It's hard to explain how that resonates after you have been living in the Emirates and seen many of the elements in this movie, from broad social behavior to details like truck decals and types of fruit cocktails.

It feels authentic--even if the characters don't. And authenticity is one thing this country could use more of.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The hat of the future

Apparently it will have horn thingies and make your eyes turn green.

I'll take size 7 7/8, please.

But seriously, folks. This isn't just any hat. It's the new hat for F-35 pilots. And it's neat not just because it makes the pilot look like an evil space alien, but because it projects the heads-up display and a camera-generated view of the world directly in front of his or her face, no matter which direction the head is turned--EVEN STRAIGHT DOWN.

That kind of situational awareness would be a massive asset in a dogfight, I think. Plus looking scary never hurt in a fight, either.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The grrs of Tanker Mai

Somehow, some way, our car has been turned into a jungle gym.

I took it to be washed today--a weekly ritual of scrubbing off seven days' worth of the airborne grit that blows in from the desert--and noticed a bunch of long scratches on the hood. Black car, white scratches. Grrr. This is after discovering that someone had ripped off the little rubber dome thingy* that seals the base of the radio aerial with the car body. Grrr.

My conclusion, base solely on circumstantial evidence, is that bored kids are playing on the Audi. I guess the scratches could be from large and energetic cats, but without opposable thumbs, the aforementioned dome thingy ain't going anywhere.

Great. I'm only 33, have no lawn, and find myself wanting to shout "Git off mah property!" out the window.

*not technical name

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Very Big 12

My cell phone has lost the ability to e-mail photos. That's a shame, because if you go back and look at the first few months of Abu Dhabi entries, you'll see that many times such photos provided key illustrations of Abu Dhabi wonder and weirdness.

It's also why you aren't looking at any photos of Musandam, where I, Mrs Blog and some friends spent two days on a boat cruising around the fjords and frolicking with dolphins and jellyfish. It was beautiful, and I saw one of the most eerie, surreal and incredible moonrises ever over the water there. But whatever. No photos means no blog entry. You'll just have to live in suspense until this story can be properly visualized.

Meanwhile, back in the States, the Big 12 Conference is apparently on the verge of becoming the Big 12 Minus Two That Is Joining the Pac-10, or something. I guess it's a big deal, but it's difficult for me to get to upset or excited about. First of all because this already happened back in the 90s, when the Big 8 became the Big 12 by adding the state of Texas. Supposedly this most recent move will send Nebraska and Missouri to the Big 10 (which already has 11 teams, but OK) and leave the rest of the league looking for a new alignment.

Dominating Pac-10 teams: Now coming twice a year?

It would be a bummer to see two of the original Big 8 teams hit the road, but it's hard to see much of a downside for the bestest university in the Big 12, KU. Losing a rival, that's bad, but the basketball program alone means the athletic department will land on its feet. The worst thing about re-aligning with a West Coast conference would be the massive road trips, but on the other hand, there are a lot of TV sets in California, and that might make it easier for me to find it on my TV here in the 'Dhabs. We'll see.

The one thing that could have a concrete impact on me, or my hometown, anyway, is the location of the conference tournament. I have many fond memories of watching the Big 8 and Big 12 tournaments on TV and in person, live from Kemper Arena and the Sprint Center. It's hard to imagine that continuing if the epicenter of the new conference were closer to LA than KC.

I guess for now, though, all there is to do is watch from afar and wonder what the new logo will look like.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

It's Monday, so that means high-def Apollo footage

Five hundred frames per second! What's not to love.

High speed, high temperature, weapons-grade dork.

Of course, the next generation of space missions will be broadcast in 3-D. Can't wait....