There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune



I hate those guys

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2006 was a year of change for many of us. Personally, I have spent a lot of time adjusting to a new culture, a new job (of sorts), a new climate, a new language and a new lifestyle. For this reason, I have been silent regarding a pressing issue on which, I am well aware, the reading public desires my opinion. Well, it's time for me to speak.

Terrell Owens is a Dallas Cowboy
.

This simple, declarative sentence raises a host of emotions, which, if I was Bill Simmons, would elicit 4000 words of passionate self-flagellation interspersed with references to Beverly Hills, 90210 and The Godfather: Part II (I'm thinking Frankie Pentangeli, not Fredo). Fear not, I am still Sunset Shazz, so you'll get no more than 500 words, and no pop culture references.

Let me say unequivocally: I am quite simply thrilled that out of the 31 possible teams to which he could have moved, he was snapped up by that evil lunatic Jerry Jones, and will henceforth prove to be a cancer for the hated Cowboys. Clearly, Owens is incredibly talented. In 2004, he took a team that had over the prior four year period achieved the best win-loss record in the league (and yet had fallen short of even contesting a Super Bowl), and made that team better. It should be noted that Owens did not lead The Eagles "over the hump" to the Super Bowl XXXIX, as he was hurt for the two playoff games leading up to that contest.

More notable were the consequences of Owens' behaviour the following year. As was amply documented elsewhere, Number 81 found himself disgruntled with a contract he had signed merely one year earlier, and his ensuing shenanigans completely unraveled his team's season, ultimately resulting in his suspension by the Eagles' management. This was a team that, until then, had exhibited an almost-maddening probity and consistency under the squeaky-clean Mormon tutelage of head coach Andy Reid. The calm, methodical manner in which Reid, Eagles president Joe Banner, and owner Jeffrey Lurie had managed the team was replaced with utter chaos, leading to a catastrophic season marked by locker room in-fighting. Until the arrival of Owens, such dissension would have seemed unfathomable under an Andy Reid-coached team.

Can you imagine what kind of havoc Owens will wreak with an unhinged, senile Jerry Jones calling the shots and a permanently-scowling Bill "I'm too old for this shit" Parcells calling the plays? Oh, and his quarterback is old and shaky.

Cowboys fans, welcome to hell.

[Barely suppressed chortle]

Update: It just occurred to me that the Cowboys have also engaged an "idiot kicker who [gets] liquored up and [runs] his mouth off". This should be interesting.


A couple of golden throat charmers

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The two friendly young ladies below walk up and down Bosphorus University beach at Kilios, on the black sea. For 5 Turkish lira (about $3.40) they will sell you a bottle of Foster's lager. God bless them. Posted by Picasa


The Principle of Revealed Preferences

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From The Economist, August 5th (thanks to EnduranceJay, who is presently attempting to corner the Chinese retail industry):

  • People in Zhejiang like toilet paper “as rough as sandpaper”; the top seller in Kunming is spicy chicken feet; and Shandong natives like to buy whole steamed pigs’ faces to slice up and dip in soy sauce and vinegar.

Life is rather more prosaic here in Turkey.


The Best And The Worst, Vol. II

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Yesterday, I came home after a meeting and was surprised to find, in my inbox, a message asking if I could make a presentation the following day to the Board of Directors of a prospective client. So I cursed a bit, then put together the draft presentation, got a good night's sleep, and put the finishing touches on the bad boy this morning.

In the cab to the meeting, I engaged in a ritual that has been standard procedure for high school and college exams, job interviews and big presentations. I picked up my iPod, dialed "Beastie Boys" and listened to the aggressive, heart-pumping tunes in order to raise my adrenaline to an acceptable level. And the presentation? Crushed it.

So, without further ado:

The Best And The Worst - Vol II: Beastie Boys Track to Pump You Up for an Exam, Interview or Meeting

The Best: Rhymin and Stealin
The introductory track to the Beasties' breakout studio album, Licensed to Ill, "Rhymin and Stealin" owes not a little to Rick Rubin's maverick style of production. Rubin, who famously co-founded* Def Jam Records in his NYU dorm-room, was insistent that the Beastie Boys incorporate rock-and-roll in their first hip-hop album, in order to ensure crossover commercial success. Back before a 1992 Federal Court ruling against Biz Markie, artists were free to sample other music, and Rubin chose to sample Led Zeppelin's brilliant drum beat from "When The Levee Breaks", a "Pump You Up" track in its own right. As Stephen Davis describes in his definitive Zeppelin bio Hammer of The Gods, they achieved the unforgettable sound of this beat by recording John Bonham from the top of a three-story stairwell. This drum beat is combined with a sample from Black Sabbath to provide a perfect foil for the Beasties' yelling, whiny lyrics regarding pillaging and other such nonsense. As the Spin critic noted, "...[The Beasties] yowl about Betty Crocker and Colonel Sanders over samples of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath". Now THAT's a "Pump You Up" song.

Honourable Mentions: Rock Hard, The New Style, Sabotage, Shake Your Rump, No Sleep Till Brooklyn


The Worst: "Fight for your Right"
Since I am restricting myself to fast-paced Beastie Boys songs, I'll take this one, even though it isn't really a bad track; it's just over-rated and not representative of the Beasties' scope of talent. Adam Yauch (MCA) reportedly cringed at his wedding when his father quoted this song's title, and its a shame that it is so inexorably linked with their band that it will inevitably appear in their obituaries.

*Rubin co-founded Def-Jam with MC Run's brother Russell Simmons, with whom I took a yoga class in the East Village last November. After class, Simmons walks into the change room, gives me a casual "wussup", then says to one of his buddies "Yo, I know a dope falafel place round the corner, you comin'?" True story.


Genes Express Themselves

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Look closely at the picture below - there are two pigeons who tend to roost outside my window, on a rooftop below. Note that rather than the dull grey of the common Istanbul (or London, or New York, or San Francisco) pigeon, these birds are rust-coloured, matching almost exactly with the colour of rooftop tiles in my neighbourhood. Clearly, this a phenotypic expression of an adaptation that has been selected for by the pigeons' environment. What is interesting to me is the evolutionary time-scale: I'm reasonably certain that these tiles have been used in our area for a mere few hundred (as opposed to thousands) of years. Within this relatively short time period, over generations, a random mutation which conferred a marginal reproductory advantage was successfully selected.

The evidence for Darwin's theory is literally right outside one's window.

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Count Your Blessings

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I have a charmed life. I know this, and sometimes joke about the astonishing fact that things tend to work out well for me, in the end. Nevertheless, because I am a perfectionist, I occasionally fret about wee flies in the ointment and the various minor vicissitudes of life.

Over the last few weeks, I have become increasingly conscious that my little problems are of little consequence. Some close friends, who know who they are, have recently endured challenges of varying degrees, and whose courage in the face of such slings and arrows are an inspiration to those around them.

I have a page in a notebook which I sometimes pull out to remind myself why I live in Turkey, why I quit my job, why I left my friends and family to move to a foreign land. The last line on that page says "Count Your Blessings". This is good advice when times are good, and even better advice when times are not so good.

Jess, rest in peace. You will be sorely missed. I always admired your zest for life, and now, after a strenuous, well-fought battle, you have finally earned your rest. I am stunned by your grace, courage and strength, throughout. I am a better person for having known you, and am happy to have been a part of your life.


The Old Man Still Has It

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Today, on the streets of Istanbul, J randomly ran into some friends from Ottawa, in town with their parents. So we took the girls out, showed them a good time, then dutifully chauffeured them back to their hotel, where Father and Mother were waiting (because, of course, they're in a dangerous foreign country).

I was a bit surprised to find the parents outside at a cafe at the receiving end, and was even more surprised to find that the father displayed the unmistakable lightheartedness of one who has enjoyed a few Rakı. A solid sportsman, one who seemed like the right sort of fellow when away from the old ball and chain, so when he asked, I cheerfully handed him my card.

"So, " intones The Father, examining my business card, "you're Dr. Diamond's son, are you?"

"Actually, in this part of the world, they ask him if he is Sunset's father. . . "

Amazıng, after all these years, people still ask me the same old stuff.


Another day at the beach

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Istanbul really is a splendid city in that, when summer high reaches 95° F (35° C), you can get to the beach in less than an hour. The Black Sea's water is slightly salty, warm and clear. The sea itself is huge - it melts into the horizon, with the curvature of the earth preventing one from seeing the Russian coast on the opposite side. The Black Sea's total area is roughly equivalent to the size of California or Sweden. It is surrounded by Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia and Georgia. And it is wonderful on a hot day.


The Beach

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The best days of my life, whether at Kichisippi in Ottawa, Sandbanks on Lake Ontario, Antibes on the Mediterranean, Serifos in the Aegean, Hua Hin in Thailand, or in Santa Cruz, CA, have in some way always involved the Beach.

Today we went to the shores of the Black Sea, where Bosphorus University has an exclusive members-only private beach that we somehow talked our way into. What a great time. The water was blue and warm, there were many, many beautiful people, and there were various young ladies walking up and down the beach selling Foster's lager.

Outstanding.


A Texas Hold 'Em Game I'd Like to Join

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Given the popular misconception that I no longer work, my readership may be surprised to find that I am occasionally succumbing to job stress, thus necessitating the requisite "letting off steam".

Out at Bebek last night, with Big Swinging Sal in his trademark straw cowboy hat, the Iraqi back from adventures in Dubai, and the Soviet back from covering the Middle East crisis from Damascus. An acquaintance of mine was trying to persuade me to join a little Omaha and Hold 'Em game he has going every couple of weeks, and I was throwing up objections, due to the fact that I just know I'm a bad Hold 'Em player (because I haven't studied the expected values)*.

The Soviet then tells one of the better Hold 'Em stories I have ever heard (not least because it didn't involve the dreaded Bad Beat. Nobody cares about your fucking bad beats, punk. Go cry to yo' mama.)

It seems that the last time the Soviet played Hold 'Em, he was in the Baghdad Green Zone. The scene: a smoky living room. The players: The Soviet, another journalist, two Iraqis, two United States Army Colonels and 3 bottles of whisky. The Soviet then looked me in the eye and, with casual understatement, said that "some of the pots got pretty intense".

Indeed.



*Back in 1994, way before the current craze, I got heavily into the rec.arts.gambling newsgroup, voraciously soaking up principles of blackjack basic strategy and card counting as well as money management, variance, and expected values for blackjack, poker and craps, respectively. Even back then there was a vast literature of theoretical and empirical study regarding Hold 'Em, which I have yet to delve into with any seriousness.


Island in the stream

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J, my buddy Gloucester and I had a nice, leisurely brunch in Bebek, overlooking the Bosphorus, then met up with another friend, who is a paid-up member of the club on Galatasaray Island, which is described breathlessly on its website as "one of the most prominent landmarks of the city". There, we basked in the sun, drank smoothies made from fresh kiwis, and swam in the saltwater pool. I think J was suitably impressed - read her professional writerly descriptions here. The views from the island are spectacular; when the day was done, it was tough to return to The Mainland.


About me

  • I'm Sunset Shazz
  • Living the dream in Istanbul, Turkey
  • I grew up in the hardscrabble streets of suburban Ottawa, Ontario, committing petty crime, insulting the elderly - basically the classic misspent youth. When I was 19, I moved to West Philly, where I put myself through the Wharton School by dealing crack and hustling. After stints in Paris and London, I eventually graduated and moved to San Francisco, where I put in eight years hard labor working for The Man. But now I pop bottles with models, deciding cracked crab or lobster - who says mobsters don't prosper?
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