FIFA Confederations Cup 2009: South Africa vs Spain

The final match day at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg is now at an end. The match between South Africa and Spain for third place was evenly contested, but Spain eventually triumphed 3 – 2.

It would have been a serious embarrassment for the number-one ranked team in the world, had they lost to the steadily improving South Africans, but Spain held out to score the winner in the second half of extra time. There’s no doubt that the Spaniards were given a real scare during this Confederations Cup, first by the USA during the semi-finals and now by the South Africans.

The South Africans showed great promise in the many build-ups to scoring, but need to work on their finishing ability in front of goal. The skill and talent is undoubtedly there; perhaps they will give a better account of themselves next year in the FIFA World Cup Finals.

However, the Spanish side has enough class and I am predicting that they will win the FIFA World Cup Finals to be held in South Africa during June and July next year.

This is your wannabe reporter, Lenny, signing off from the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, until next year; probably from a different stadium.

It’s full-time at the FIFA Confederations Cup: USA vs Egypt

Some journalist I’m turning out to be. While posting my half-time report (which lasted well into the second half of the game), I missed two additional goals scored by the USA. So much for predicting that Egypt would equalize.

The final score here at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, USA vs Egypt is three goals to nil. While I was typing the previous line, I’ve just been handed two Game Statistics printouts by one of the many Volunteers who man the Media Centre; one for this match and one for the other match that was played concurrently at the Loftus Stadium in Pretoria between Italy and Brazil, which Brazil also won by three goals to nothing.

These statistics printouts contain a dizzying array of information on various aspects of the matches played. There are statistics on everything from Shots on Goal to Ball Possession to the Fouls Committed by each player to Match Time each player spent on the pitch. I’m not sure who would want such information, but a big up to FIFA for collating and making such information available to journalists. This certainly makes their jobs that much easier.

I could quote a whole string of statistics on the match from these reports, but I’m not going to bore you any further. There was a clear winner, and for that team’s fans, that’s all that matters.

It’s half-time at the FIFA Confederations Cup: USA vs Egypt

Okay, this is probably sneaky. I’m not one of the accredited journalists here at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg where the USA is playing Egypt in the final group stage match, but I’ve just come in from the stadium grandstand, and am now sitting in the Media Centre with a fairly large contingent of journalists, and thought I’d play at being one too.

So while the real journalists are busy posting their half-time stories to countries all over the world, yours truly is posting to his blog.

The USA is leading by one goal to nil, but Egypt look likely to equalize. The atmosphere is amazing as always, in and around the stadium.. The vuvuzelas are in full cry, and I’ve even seen a guy with some sort of snare drum which echoes in the stadium corridors. Most of the local support appears to be directed towards Egypt, perhaps as a show of solidarity for another team from the African continent.

It’s pretty cold out tonight, so I’m going to stay in the warm Media Centre for the rest of the game, and watch it on one of several large-screen TV’s located at various journalist’s tables.

Until next time, this is your wanna-be reporter, Lenny, signing out.

Photo #4: The long and winding road

The long road to Nelspruit

The long road to Nelspruit

Date and time taken: 17 February 2009, @ approximately 09H55

Nikon D40, 20mm focal length, 1/2000 sec exposure F/4, ISO 200

I captured this shot while on my way to visit the new stadium being constructed for the FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup, in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga Province, South Africa. This area also known as Eastern Transvaal or the lowveld, is famous for its scenic natural beauty. Anyone travelling to the Kruger National Park from Johannesburg, must pass this way, on long winding roads which have now been upgraded from the narrow,  pot-holed roads of the past.

When I changed the look and feel of my blogsite (yet again :-)), I decided to use this photograph as a metaphor for the site: the long and winding journey on the path of knowledge and wisdom through critical thinking.

Big fuss over sounds of joy

I really don’t understand the big hoo-hah over the blowing of trumpets (known locally as vuvuzela’s) at the FIFA Confederations Cup matches currently on the go, at various stadiums around the northern half of South Africa.

I was at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg last night, where I’m working 🙂 as a Venue Manager providing support for the Media-IT and Broadcast network, and had the privilege of witnessing the sheer ecstasy and unbridled admiration of the South Africans supporting their team affectionately known as Bafana Bafana. Accompanying the wild gyrations and joyous singing of the fans, was the unmistakable sounds of the vuvuzela, in varying degrees of loudness. There is no doubt that the sound it emits is loud, shrill even, but when blown by elated fans in unison, it has a hypnotic tone that screams “come join the party.”

However, there have been complaints by some grumpy members of the public about the noise it makes. These complaints seem to emanate from those people who have just heard the sounds over the television or radio; they have not actually been in a stadium surrounded by hundreds of singing, vuvuzela-blowing fans to experience its magical effect and the euphoric atmosphere it helps create. Thus far, I have heard of just one complaint from a soccer player; Xabi Alonso, playing for Spain. He says that FIFA should ban it (the vuvuzela) because it is not a nice sound to hear. Apparently that didn’t affect his team from thumping New Zealand, five goals to nil on the opening night of the Confederations Cup tournament. Now imagine if I could get every sound I didn’t like banned; Beyonce, Backstreet Boys, The Pussycat Dolls and a host of other pop stars, would become just bad memories.

There have been absurd claims by some that the vuvuzela is a South African, cultural phenomenon, but this is so far from the truth that it needs to be dismissed with utter contempt. The vuvuzelais not an artifact of African culture; it is just an instrument that helps express the pure joy being felt by a soccer fan, most of whom happen to be Black. If you were at the game last night between South Africa and the hapless New Zealanders, then you would have witnessed scores of White South African fans happily blowing the vuvuzela, albeit with some difficulty. At the after-match press conference last night FIFA President, Sepp Blatter summed it up quite nicely when he said:

“It’s a local sound and I don’t know how it is possible to stop it. I always said that when we go to South Africa, it is Africa. It’s not western Europe.” and “It’s noisy, it’s energy, rhythm, music, dance, drums. This is Africa. We have to adapt a little”

The vuvuzela is here to stay. Visitors to the FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup next year, are in for a treat; a most amazing assault on the senses and an experience in pure joy. But the vuvuzela will require some stamina, an open mind and a willingness to have fun. I recommend that you pick up one at your nearest sports outlet and start practicing.

The purpose of life…for the uncritical thinker

Found this marvellous quote attributed to Ayn Rand, while poking through a discussion forum on Google Groups.

The good, say the mystics of spirit, is God, a being whose only definition is that he is beyond man’s power to conceive- a definition that invalidates man’s consciousness and nullifies his concepts of existence…Man’s mind, say the mystics of spirit, must be subordinated to the will of God… Man’s standard of value, say the mystics of spirit, is the pleasure of God, whose standards are beyond man’s power of comprehension and must be accepted on faith….The purpose of man’s life…is to become an abject zombie who serves a purpose he does not know, for reasons he is not to question.

South Africa, third world? Hell, no!

I attended a briefing session yesterday at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Stadium just outside Rustenburg , in preparation for the FIFA Confederations Cup that is due to kick off on Sunday, 14 June 2009. After the briefing session we walked around the stadium precinct to all the various areas (zones) which will be frequented and used by the Press and Broadcast Media, photographers, players, officials etc.

Now, even though I was intimately involved as a Project Manager in  installing the IT & T and Broadcast WAN and LAN networks in this, and other stadiums which will be used during the Confederations Cup, I was still amazed as we viewed our handiwork,  by the complexity and sheer brilliance of all those involved in conceptualizing and designing this futuristic network. The billions spent to put all this together is dedicated to one thing only; ensuring that billions of soccer fans around the world can receive all the action from the stadium, through either a television or radio channel, the Internet, or a multitude of print media, and give their audiovisual senses a treat.

The organizers of the tournament, FIFA have left very little to chance, if anything at all. As you observe the cutting edge technologies and facilities deployed around the stadium, you realize that they have thought of everything. I have been personally involved with the planning, deployment and commissioning of the entire IT & T and Broadcast solution for just over a year already, but FIFA personnel have been busy for much longer. And we have only just begun, because the Confederations Cup is only the opening act for the main event – the FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup, which will be held in exactly one year from today.

Imagine full high definition video of the matches being transmitted to every continent in the world almost instantaneously, and being watched by billions of people at the same time. Imagine photographers on the soccer pitch whose cameras are “plugged into the network”, taking high quality photographs practically every second, and having them transmitted to all corners of the globe immediately for editing and publishing. Imagine journalists interviewing different soccer players speaking a multitude of languages, at media conferences and having their responses translated immediately into a language of their choice, through headsets they are provided with. Imagine hundreds of journalists and commentators from a host of different countries having a dedicated Media area in the stadium grandstand from where to write, commentate, even photograph. Imagine a journalist based in one stadium, being able to “connect to” and cover a match taking place at another stadium entirely. The technology and facilities for all this, and much more will be available for the Confederations Cup.

And the most amazing thing is that it is all happening here on the southern tip of the African continent – a place which many people from overseas, still visualize as having wild animals running around in the streets. But maybe they’re not far off the mark; soccer stadiums featured in previous FIFA and UEFA tournaments are usually located in densely populated cities, but the Royal Bafokeng Stadium is situated in a semi-rural area, minutes away from Nature Reserves teeming with wild animals. What a treat for visitors coming to attend the soccer matches?

I feel privileged to be a part of such a huge undertaking, perhaps the biggest in the history of this country. In terms of the technology, skills, facilities and attractions, South Africa is up there with the best in the world, even surpassing world best in some areas.

Now, if only our politicians adopted some “first world” habits, we would really be laughing…

Love your life, live your life, for there is probably nothing after death

Are you one of those people who are just waiting to die so that you can cash in your “morally good” life, in exchange for a place in heaven, partying with your particular version of god? And perhaps some of you in this group, who are a little apprehensive about hell, are right now tearing your hair out trying to be “good.”

Or perhaps you are one of those fatalistic people who are “exceedingly good” and believe that you will be spared the agony of death, to be raptured into heaven on a winged horse or something equally spectacular. And perhaps right now, you are fervently praying for the second coming.

Or maybe you are one of those people who is naturally hard on himself or herself, and are just waiting for death so that you can get on with your next life or re-incarnation. And perhaps some in this last mentioned group who are just a little apprehensive about what form their next incarnation might be, are right now spending an awful lot of time trying to be “good.”

Or perhaps you, like me, are none of the above, and have “discovered” through critical thinking that life is all we have, and we need to own it, love it and live it. There is absolutely no evidence for anything spectacular or painful or even mundane, after death; and thus there is no reason to think about it, worry about it or dream about it. Rather, think about life, dream about life, even worry about life, if you must. Or better still; touch it, feel it, share it.

Perhaps the following words of wisdom supposedly written by an old man, sent to me only recently by a work colleague will help to contextualize my plea:

First, I was dying to finish my high school and start college

And then I was dying to finish college and start working

Then I was dying to marry and have children

Then I was dying for my children to grow old enough so I could go back to work

But then I was dying to retire

And now I am dying…

And suddenly I realized I forgot to live

The Death of General Motors

2006 Documentary
2006 Documentary

Ever since I watched this award winning documentary about GM’s dastardly role in killing the EV1, that lovable little electric car, I’ve harboured a secret resentment toward them. I’m usually critical of everything I watch, but this documentary film somehow appealed to me, especially in a time when we are being bombarded with information about the global warming threat.

So, the first thing I thought about yesterday the 1st of June, when I received the e-mail further below about the bankruptcy of GM, from Michael Moore of Fahrenheit 9/11 fame, was the EV1 and GM’s role in killing it. It seemed like divine justice had finally been served, not that I believed in anything divine.
I still clearly remember the scene where protesters outside a GM lot, were arrested for attempting to block the recovered electric cars from being taken away to be crushed. I wonder if any of these cars managed to survive the cruel fate that awaited them, and if they were stored somewhere for nostalgic reasons by GM.
At the time, EV1 drivers whose cars were “re-possessed” were willing to pay up to $1.8 million dollars to get a particular batch of cars back, but were ignored by GM.  Now that they are in financial trouble, would they grab the money with open hands? I wonder? Anyway, enough jabbering, let’s get to that letter from Michael Moore.

 Goodbye, GM
by Michael Moore

June 1, 2009

I write this on the morning of the end of the once-mighty General Motors. By high noon, the President of the United States will have made it official: General Motors, as we know it, has been totaled.

As I sit here in GM’s birthplace, Flint, Michigan, I am surrounded by friends and family who are filled with anxiety about what will happen to them and to the town. Forty percent of the homes and businesses in the city have been abandoned. Imagine what it would be like if you lived in a city where almost every other house is empty. What would be your state of mind?

It is with sad irony that the company which invented “planned obsolescence” — the decision to build cars that would fall apart after a few years so that the customer would then have to buy a new one — has now made itself obsolete. It refused to build automobiles that the public wanted, cars that got great gas mileage, were as safe as they could be, and were exceedingly comfortable to drive. Oh — and that wouldn’t start falling apart after two years. GM stubbornly fought environmental and safety regulations. Its executives arrogantly ignored the “inferior” Japanese and German cars, cars which would become the gold standard for automobile buyers. And it was hell-bent on punishing its unionized workforce, lopping off thousands of workers for no good reason other than to “improve” the short-term bottom line of the corporation. Beginning in the 1980s, when GM was posting record profits, it moved countless jobs to Mexico and elsewhere, thus destroying the lives of tens of thousands of hard-working Americans. The glaring stupidity of this policy was that, when they eliminated the income of so many middle class families, who did they think was going to be able to afford to buy their cars? History will record this blunder in the same way it now writes about the French building the Maginot Line or how the Romans cluelessly poisoned their own water system with lethal lead in its pipes.

So here we are at the deathbed of General Motors. The company’s body not yet cold, and I find myself filled with — dare I say it — joy. It is not the joy of revenge against a corporation that ruined my hometown and brought misery, divorce, alcoholism, homelessness, physical and mental debilitation, and drug addiction to the people I grew up with. Nor do I, obviously, claim any joy in knowing that 21,000 more GM workers will be told that they, too, are without a job.

But you and I and the rest of America now own a car company! I know, I know — who on earth wants to run a car company? Who among us wants $50 billion of our tax dollars thrown down the rat hole of still trying to save GM? Let’s be clear about this: The only way to save GM is to kill GM. Saving our precious industrial infrastructure, though, is another matter and must be a top priority. If we allow the shutting down and tearing down of our auto plants, we will sorely wish we still had them when we realize that those factories could have built the alternative energy systems we now desperately need. And when we realize that the best way to transport ourselves is on light rail and bullet trains and cleaner buses, how will we do this if we’ve allowed our industrial capacity and its skilled workforce to disappear?

Thus, as GM is “reorganized” by the federal government and the bankruptcy court, here is the plan I am asking President Obama to implement for the good of the workers, the GM communities, and the nation as a whole. Twenty years ago when I made “Roger & Me,” I tried to warn people about what was ahead for General Motors. Had the power structure and the punditocracy listened, maybe much of this could have been avoided. Based on my track record, I request an honest and sincere consideration of the following suggestions:

1. Just as President Roosevelt did after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the President must tell the nation that we are at war and we must immediately convert our auto factories to factories that build mass transit vehicles and alternative energy devices. Within months in Flint in 1942, GM halted all car production and immediately used the assembly lines to build planes, tanks and machine guns. The conversion took no time at all. Everyone pitched in. The fascists were defeated.

We are now in a different kind of war — a war that we have conducted against the ecosystem and has been conducted by our very own corporate leaders. This current war has two fronts. One is headquartered in Detroit. The products built in the factories of GM, Ford and Chrysler are some of the greatest weapons of mass destruction responsible for global warming and the melting of our polar icecaps. The things we call “cars” may have been fun to drive, but they are like a million daggers into the heart of Mother Nature. To continue to build them would only lead to the ruin of our species and much of the planet.

The other front in this war is being waged by the oil companies against you and me. They are committed to fleecing us whenever they can, and they have been reckless stewards of the finite amount of oil that is located under the surface of the earth. They know they are sucking it bone dry. And like the lumber tycoons of the early 20th century who didn’t give a damn about future generations as they tore down every forest they could get their hands on, these oil barons are not telling the public what they know to be true — that there are only a few more decades of useable oil on this planet. And as the end days of oil approach us, get ready for some very desperate people willing to kill and be killed just to get their hands on a gallon can of gasoline.

President Obama, now that he has taken control of GM, needs to convert the factories to new and needed uses immediately.

2. Don’t put another $30 billion into the coffers of GM to build cars. Instead, use that money to keep the current workforce — and most of those who have been laid off — employed so that they can build the new modes of 21st century transportation. Let them start the conversion work now.

3. Announce that we will have bullet trains criss-crossing this country in the next five years. Japan is celebrating the 45th anniversary of its first bullet train this year. Now they have dozens of them. Average speed: 165 mph. Average time a train is late: under 30 seconds. They have had these high speed trains for nearly five decades — and we don’t even have one! The fact that the technology already exists for us to go from New York to L.A. in 17 hours by train, and that we haven’t used it, is criminal. Let’s hire the unemployed to build the new high speed lines all over the country. Chicago to Detroit in less than two hours. Miami to DC in under 7 hours. Denver to Dallas in five and a half. This can be done and done now.

4. Initiate a program to put light rail mass transit lines in all our large and medium-sized cities. Build those trains in the GM factories. And hire local people everywhere to install and run this system.

5. For people in rural areas not served by the train lines, have the GM plants produce energy efficient clean buses.

6. For the time being, have some factories build hybrid or all-electric cars (and batteries). It will take a few years for people to get used to the new ways to transport ourselves, so if we’re going to have automobiles, let’s have kinder, gentler ones. We can be building these next month (do not believe anyone who tells you it will take years to retool the factories — that simply isn’t true).

7. Transform some of the empty GM factories to facilities that build windmills, solar panels and other means of alternate forms of energy. We need tens of millions of solar panels right now. And there is an eager and skilled workforce who can build them.

8. Provide tax incentives for those who travel by hybrid car or bus or train. Also, credits for those who convert their home to alternative energy.

9. To help pay for this, impose a two-dollar tax on every gallon of gasoline. This will get people to switch to more energy saving cars or to use the new rail lines and rail cars the former autoworkers have built for them.

Well, that’s a start. Please, please, please don’t save GM so that a smaller version of it will simply do nothing more than build Chevys or Cadillacs. This is not a long-term solution. Don’t throw bad money into a company whose tailpipe is malfunctioning, causing a strange odor to fill the car.

100 years ago this year, the founders of General Motors convinced the world to give up their horses and saddles and buggy whips to try a new form of transportation. Now it is time for us to say goodbye to the internal combustion engine. It seemed to serve us well for so long. We enjoyed the car hops at the A&W. We made out in the front — and the back — seat. We watched movies on large outdoor screens, went to the races at NASCAR tracks across the country, and saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time through the window down Hwy. 1. And now it’s over. It’s a new day and a new century. The President — and the UAW — must seize this moment and create a big batch of lemonade from this very sour and sad lemon.

Yesterday, the last surviving person from the Titanic disaster passed away. She escaped certain death that night and went on to live another 97 years.

So can we survive our own Titanic in all the Flint Michigans of this country. 60% of GM is ours. I think we can do a better job.

Yours,
Michael Moore
MMFlint@aol.com
MichaelMoore.com