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



“5. . . 4. . . 3. . . 2. . .1!” The emcee pointed me, and I turned to the crowd of several hundred Slovenians. And then, as God is my witness, I started rapping.

I don’t know how I get myself into these situations. I don’t plan them. I put it to the fact that I am physically non-threatening and temperamentally curious, actively seeking out novel experiences. My buddy Ace is the same way. And that’s how we get ourselves in ridiculous situations when we travel.

I arrived in Ljubljana yesterday, had a pre-dinner cocktail to kill some time, then sat for a nice steak with truffle sauce.

“Would you like it English, medium or well done?” asked the friendly waiter.

English? I hadn’t heard of this before. In France, if they think you’re English, they burn your steak to a crisp.

“’English’ means it is very bloody, sir. Very bloody,” he stressed. I nodded, approvingly. This is a cool town.

After dinner, I was walking through town, by the serene, beautiful river, when I heard a commotion off to my left in the main square. It turns out that the best rapper in Slovenia was putting on an outdoor show, and as you all know, I am a fan of the music they call hip hop.

In Slovenia, my dark skin signals “visitor”. This is what probably prompted a friendly fellow to strike up a conversation and invite me for a beer with his buddies. Turns out my new friends were self-described “football hooligans” who were hanging out, maybe a dozen guys and girls, enjoying the music and drinking beers. At one point, a local candidate for mayor showed up, nattily dressed in a sports coat, and one of my buddies, the tall, crazy one, tried to persuade him to have a drink.

As the evening went on, the excellent music show came to a finish, when presently The Tall, Crazy One turned and explained “there’s a rapping contest where you can win 10,000 Euros!” I was intrigued. Now, the contest was just starting, with the contestants lined up at the back of the stage, patiently waiting their turns. The whole show was being managed and organized efficiently by a couple of decent-looking production assistants.

I followed The Tall, Crazy One through the crowd, until we were confronted by a burly security guard. My buddy yelled a few words at him, then pushed past. I followed. As we approached the stage, I observed, as I have described, the well-organized system and I realized that we were a bit late for the contest and should properly wait at the back of the stage.

Instead, The Tall, Crazy One walked right up to the front of the stage and hoisted himself up. The crowd loved it. Of course, I followed. Pandemonium. Consternation. Naturally, I started raising my hands up in the air, striking Run-DMC poses, throwing up gang signs. They went wild. The Tall, Crazy One and I had made that stage our own. Understand that I was wearing gap jeans, a thin cashmere sweater over a pink Lacoste shirt, and a hooded mountaineering jacket I had bought in Katmandu. In short, I looked nothing like a rapper.

The quick-thinking emcee knew a good thing when he saw one. He handed me a mic and started counting down from five. When he reached one, I momentarily froze, realizing that I was now expeccted to rap. Then I remembered my Snoop, my Too Short – my West Coast roots. And I pulled my hooded jacket off my shoulders, raised the mic to my lips and yelled “Hellooo Sloveeeeenia!” Then - I swear this is true - I began rapping.

I wasn’t very good. Had I had even 10 minutes of preparation, I would have been much better. But considering the circumstances, I believe I acquitted myself rather competently. The Tall, Crazy One couldn’t believe what I had just done; he was rendered speechless. And now, on my resume, in the “Other Accomplishments” section, underneath “Speaking Role, 2002 Team Canada Road To Gold DVD”, I shall add “Popular Slovenian Hip-Hop Artist”.

MetaBlog: On Narrative


J, probably because she is a writer, believes that people live their lives according to a set narrative; she thinks that one chooses one’s personal path with the view that it will make a good story later. She elaborates: “You and Ace are always getting up to ridiculous adventures, which you did for the story!”

I disagree.

I hold the view that life is influenced by random, contingent variables. My own decision-making disregards narrative: it is based on estimating probabilities, payoffs, expected values and opportunity costs. (It is also based on clearly defining what you know, what you don’t know, and being aware that often you don’t know what you don’t know, as Rummy likes to say). Narrative is constructed after the fact by the pattern-recognition architecture in our brains. I bring this up because I departed to Ljubljana for the weekend, alone, without any clue as to what I would do once I got there. I trusted in providence that I would fall into my usual hijinks and shenanigans. And I did.

Quote of the week


"I've always believed that the human being only responds to one thing and that's pressure. Some respond favorably and others respond negatively."

- Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells

OK, I know that last weeks pick didn't exactly work out as planned; that's why they call it gambling. Stick with me through the season and then we shall evaluate the results.

I am off to Ljubljana, Slovenia for the weekend, in order to i) fulfill my obligation to leave Turkey every 90 days and ii) drink good beer. Also, I'm reliably informed that the women there are rather attractive.

Buying Beer the Turkish Way


Yesterday, my new landlady came over to help with my DSL installation. As is the Turkish way, there were complications regarding the line, requiring one phone company worker to go get another worker so that they may gossip with each other about their respective wives.

Therefore, we (my landlady, another fellow who is either the property manager or her brother, and I) were left with a little downtime. Neither of them speak English, so the conversation was somewhat moribund. Presently, she turned to me and asked "will you drink a beer, Sunset?" Well, you know me well enough to know the answer.

I wasn't prepared for the following scenario:

Buying Beer The Turkish Way
(A drama in one act)

LANDLADY [opens window, yells, stage-right]: Bakkal!

[A Bakkal is a convenience store.]

APU [From street 4 stories below, poking his head out of nearby convenience store]: Yes madam?

[The fellow's name is not actually, "Apu"; I merely name him thusly out of habit. He is, in all probability, either a Mehmet or a Murat. Years ago, in Canada, when Ace and I would attempt to inviegle our way into parties to which we hadn't been invited, we would invariably say "I know Dave", or, failing that, "Mike". In Istanbul, under similar circumstances, one typically says "I know Mehmet", or, failing that, "Murat".]

LANDLADY: "Three cold beers please."

[LANDLADY then engages in the following bit of business: with the aid of a stout twine cord, she lowers a basket, containing 10 Lira, to the street below. APU removes the note, replaces it with a plastic bag containing three half-litre bottles of beer, and the resulting change from the transaction. LANDLADY then begins to gingerly reel the basket up 4 stories, taking care not to upset the precious cargo.]

And they all live happily ever after.


The basket, laden with cold ones

That was thirsty work!

Lock of the week


Internet gambling is of course illegal in the United States, and is proscribed by the Abrahamic religions. But those of you who are hindus, buddhists or pagans and residents of Nevada or ROTW might want to consider the following:

Tease the Pats (-3) at home versus the Bills with the Eagles (+0.5) on the road against the Texans. I think the spread may have moved a point against the Pats, but they should still beat out the bills comfortably. Also, if you are confident that the Giants are pretenders, add the Colts +2.5 for the 3-team teaser.

Consider this my gift to you for the new season.

What other weblog provides insight into economics, evolutionary biology, sports wagering and hip hop? I didn't think so.

2006 NFL predictions


Here are, in no particular order, some assorted predictions for the 2006 NFL season. Guaranteed correct or your money back.

  1. Eli Manning will not live up to the considerable media hype.
  2. The Philadelphia Eagles will finish their season 11-5, winning the difficult NFC East. The hated Dallas Cowboys will finish second in the division, despite Terrell Eldorado Owens' antics. The aforementioned Eli Manning's Giants will not make the playoffs, due to their tough schedule and aging running game. The Washington Redskins will implode.
  3. I shall once again win my suicide pool, although my chances of going 17-0 like last season are damn near impossible. I am very sorry that I did not join a bigger pool last year, since such a feat would have won me 5 figures in some of the pools that are around. Please email me or comment if you run such a pool.
  4. Raiders owner Al Davis will not be a very happy man. He's crazy, by the way.
  5. Cowboys coach Dick Parcells will not be a very happy man. Part of me feels sorry for poor Tuna, because he is a good, sane, right-thinking fellow who is now surrounded by lunatics (Jones, Vanderjagt, Owens - did I mention Jones?) But most of me chortles at the fact that he is going to make Owens' life as difficult as he can. This bet with Faceman is whisky in the bank.
  6. The Madden Curse will continue. Poor Shaun Alexander has to battle both the Madden Curse and the Super Bowl Loser's Curse (just like Donovan Mcnabb last year). Promoting Chunky Soup would give him a trifecta.
  7. Kicker Mike Vanderjagt will miss a critical potential winning or tying kick in the waning seconds of a game. This will not make Mr. Parcells happy.
  8. My buddy Cooter will deep-fry a turkey before watching football on Thanksgiving Day.
  9. My buddy ZMama will not become a Niners fan, despite having moved to the Bay Area.
  10. New England's Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will be exposed as mediocre talent who have had a run of great luck. (I wrote that just to see if you were paying attention. Of course, the real prediction is that the Patriots will take the Deion Branch holdout and loss of kicker Adam Viniateri in stride, culminating in another successful season. Their organization remains the class of the NFL.)
  11. Brett Favre will end his career with a horrible losing season, due primarily to front office incompetence. Good offenses are built around the line, guys. The lack of protection will be ugly.
  12. Football remains a game of attrition, and injuries will have a big effect in December and January. This is not so much a prediction as an immutable truth.
  13. San Diego Coach Marty Schottenheimer, if he can make it to the playoffs, will make a boneheaded decision resulting in a loss and/or failure to cover the spread, making me lots of money in the process. (I will never forget betting on the Chargers in 2004 and seeing the graphic "Schottenheimer - 5-11 playoff record" cross the bottom of the screen in overtime. Good times.)

What I miss (updated)


Faceman was excoriating me yesterday for being a bit quiet on the blog. I have excuses:
1) I just moved apartments, which consumed a lot of energy
2) I have been working a bit harder at the office, now that the August holiday is over
3) My new DSL line is not yet operational

Anyway, I am back in action.

A few months ago, I posted on things I miss. Here is an updated list of the things I really miss about North America:
  • English Common Law. Turkey's legal system, based on Swiss Civil Law, is cumbersome. I think the evidence supports Richard Posner's claim that Common Law, based on a system of precedents which result in a spontaneous order, is an efficient way to order a society. Certainly more efficient than legislative fiat.
  • American Retailing. Information technology, telecoms and outsourcing receive all the headlines, but the stunning development in the American economy over the last ten years has been the dramatic increase in productivity in the retailing sector. This appears to be due to the fact that technology-using (as opposed to technology-producting) sectors are the ones that have enjoyed the greatest productivity increases. American retailers, driven by intense competition, have passed those increases on to customers. I miss both the quality of service and low prices.
  • The National Football League. This Sunday, I will not spend hours in front of the television. I will not eat mounds of greasy food and drink too much beer. I will not wear a midnight green jersey with a large 5 on the back. And I am a poorer man as a result.

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?
    More information about this blog.
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