Saturday, April 28, 2007

Saudi Arabian Travel Guide

I have just got back from Riyadh, central Saudi Arabia. I was there to perform a short mime act for a mobile communications company called “Mobliy”. Originally we had been told the gig was in Dubai, this was not the case!

I didn’t even know that I was going until Thursday afternoon, when our last minute visa applications were approved, and we were to depart Friday morning. When I found out I was leaving the next day I immediately got “Googling” to see exactly what I was in for and what I should take with me or leave behind. I discovered at this point that the country was an extremely strict Muslim country (and Riyadh one of the strictest cities) where, according to one website, public executions, beheading's and floggings were not uncommon. Apparently there is hardly any theatrical style performance over there (homosexuality is punishable by death (what if you’re an actor with bit of a girly laugh??????)) and music is forbidden. I immediately packed my most conservative clothes and really tried to take nothing that would offend anyone (lest I may be flogged until dead at customs). I didn’t even take any jeans in case the government frowned upon skate/ rap influenced fashion.

When I arrived at the airport the next day, it seemed my “holiday buddies” had done much the same research. During the required 3 hours prior to departure, we essentially compared notes, compounded our individual fears and basically resigned ourselves, before leaving Heathrow, to not leave the hotel for the duration of our stay! One particularly scary piece of information I hadn’t seen the night before, was that after a relatively recent multiple murder (of 4 French tourists who were out in the desert) the countries “terror threat” level had been elevated. Saudi Arabia was now the Middle East country with the second highest threat level after Iraq. Bowels suitable loosened!

My fears had been somewhat calmed that morning, however, as I had called the Saudi Consulate in London to ask about taking my iPod. I didn’t want to leave it behind but was also worried about the “no music” rule, especially as my iPod is full of foul mouthed gangster rap from the likes of Public Enemy, NWA, Dre, Snoop, etc. I didn’t fancy trying to explain to customs that I wasn’t affiliated with the “Eastside” OR “Westside”, nor was my blue suit any statement as to my being a member of the Crips. The conversation went something like this;

Hi. Can I take my iPod

Yes. Why not??

Erm, cos the Internet said…

I don’t want any problems at customs. Do you think they’ll have a problem with it?

No. Why should they

Simple as that apparently so I left it there. Packing my iPod and heading off. I also spoke to a friend whose parents live in “Saudi”. She said she loves it there and the people are really friendly. I was determined to enjoy my stay and not be ruled by any media hyped, irrational fears.

I can honestly say after breezing through customs and collecting our bags (mine arrived 2 days late, “happens every flight” the helpful attendant informed me) we had an amazing trip. The people were some of the friendliest strangers I had ever met. Granted we were performing a fun show that they seemed to love so were already popular, but everyone welcomed us. They asked us questions, wanted to spend time with us and welcome us to their country. I seemed particularly popular. I was complimented, flattered, and, at points, surrounded by interested Arabs. This prompted me to be dubbed “The Golden God” by my associates!

Some points of interest;

The Muslim people pray 5 times a day. Everything stops. All shops and restaurants close, their lights are turned off and service is stopped. The people go to a mosque to pray as a kind of “prayer song” is played out over huge tannoy systems all across the city. According to their faith, there is greater power in collective prayer so a mosque full of people praying is regarded as the best place to be. If for whatever reason they do not choose to go to the mosque, they can actually pray anywhere. Small groups would form in the convention centre where the trade show was held and they would literally pray in any available space. It was so surreal to be in a shopping mall at prayer time (midday ish). The mall was open but empty except for security guards. All the shops were closed, all the artificial light was switched off so it was unusually dark, the mini theme park inside was all flashing and moving merry go rounds, coke machines and video games but not a child in sight. Weird.

We were actually mid performance at the start of prayer time one day and we just came to a neutral position and left the stage. The audience knew what we were doing and respected us “Westerners” for respecting them.

Their days off are Fridays and Sundays. We arrived at about 2am on Saturday morning and ended up in 2 meetings that day. 1 mid afternoon the other at 10.30pm. Totally normal for a Saturday night in Saudi.

No alcohol is permitted or sold in Saudi Arabia. However, we were told that anything you want is available at a price. One of the people we met claimed a single individual has the monopoly on all “Black Label” whisky sales (a favourite out there). This can sell up to £500/$1000 a bottle.

One night, 4 of us ate at a Lebanese restaurant. We had drinks, loads of bread, 4 soups, 5 starters, 4 main courses and complimentary desserts that came to a whopping £20/$40 total! The food we ate on the trip was generally plentiful and very good quality and the price was always uber cheap.

The city is surrounded by desert. If the wind gets up it can make the sky “cloud” over as the sand/dust fills the sky. The sky looks exactly the same as that of a British sky as a storm approaches. It becomes dark. If you were stood in a doorway or at a window looking into the air you’d be forgiven for thinking there was a light drizzle in the air being whisked up in the wind. Being British, you step outside expecting to get wet but its still 30+ degrees, completely dry and you are just in a light dust storm.

Thursday night is the equivalent of our Friday night and the city seemed to come to life. There were tonnes of young people out and about at midnight the Thursday we were leaving for the airport. Parks were full, fast food restaurants were busy, kids were out in their cars and on their motorbikes. The road outside our hotel was 6 lanes (3 either direction). As we were leaving for the airport we saw 3 quad bikes burning up the road pulling wheelies in traffic and a small army of youthful rollerbladers weaving in and out of some crazy drivers. The pinnacle of these surreal visions was a young lad in full Arab robes performing 4 back flips followed by one straight back (back flip with no hands). He then looked extremely pleased with himself, ran on 50 feet or so and got back in the moving car he had vacated to perform his acrobatics in the equivalent of Friday night, city centre traffic.

All in all the trip was excellent. We were actually asked to stay to do another show in another city but we all had other work commitments in place so regrettably could not stay. By all accounts, the city we never made it to, Jeddah, is a great place to visit. Next time! Not all the information we found on the Internet was false, but it was full of isolated incidents and aspects that were blown out of proportion. As far as I can understand it, there is a certain element of western propaganda deterring potential visitors and keeping us distanced from Islamic nations and its people. According to some Saudis, there is also certain eastern propaganda from a proud nation who are eager to keep their country unspoilt and free from too many western influences.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Fight With A Girl

I have just accidentally wasted 1 hour 42 minutes of my life watching a film called “Girlfight”. It is mid afternoon on a Tuesday and I just feel it is my moral duty to write about how you must avoid this film. The plot centres on a girl (Marie? Who cares) who lives with her gambling alcoholic father and her artistic, “I’m a lover not a fighter”, younger brother. The father is paying for the son to have boxing lessons but the kid is a pussy and would rather not be there(He would rather be drawing the shittest picture ever!). Meanwhile the girl can’t stop fighting at school. She goes to the gym, convinces a reluctant ex fighter to train her and meets a boy. They fall in love in about 3 minutes. Somehow….. SOMEHOW!!!!... there is a press announcement stating that inter gender matches amongst the same weight class are now legal and can take place. Next scene… coaches are arguing as girl and lover boy are going to have to face off for a title in the films climax??? They both “give their all” (hmmm?) and she wins. He resents her for a scene then they hug.


This film has a bad plot, bad direction and some of the worst dialogue ever written for the cinema (whilst boxing, the boy and girl tire and do that boxing rest/hug thing. She says “I love you” in his ear. He pushes her off. They resume the position. “I really do” she adds. Genius. No really. If Shakespeare were alive he’d be shitting himself. He’d be destroying manuscripts of Romeo and Juliet style romances left and right and wondering why he ever bothered with the other 36).

Normally i watch a film for one or more of a few possible reasons. Most often a film is either recommended to me or i read that it is worth watching. It may be worth noting at this stage that if it should come to light that any of you recommended this garbage to me you may now consider yourself a none friend.

Note; the film is written and directed by Karyn Kusama. So there you go! One person to blame for all story, dialogue and directorial decisions. If any of you know her, tell her! “Oi! Love! Your film’s gash!” I wonder if she recognised at a young age that her surname is not a million miles from that of Japanese genius director Kurosawa. She just thought easy peasy, it’s in my destiny. She should have stayed in bed. Bitch.

You The Man Now Dog

have you seen this site (you the man now dog)? It is a site where you can upload pictures and images to create moving, musical collages of moving, audible art. Its hit and miss but some are very funny. Check out my "I've got too much time on my hands - pick of the day" via the link below

enjoy - rarg harg arg - (pirate laughter)

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Got an issue? Get a tissue

I have several issues when it comes to my improving as a poker player. A couple at the top of my thoughts are;

1) Impatience- this is fairly self explanatory but if i don't get cards, and watch others chips growing around me, i get itchy. I know in my rational self that the only thing i can do when i get like this is get lucky or bust. Unfortunately the latter is the most common result. I need to just stay cool. How often (when i am calm) i see someone lose a third of their stack then just move all in on the next hand and just laugh. I know its crazy to move pre flop in a flop based game. Relax relax relax is what i need to do.

when i achieve this calm, i must be careful not to become;

2) Placid - this sometimes happens when i am very relaxed. I think that i am in a good frame of mind to play poker because i am feeling very calm and rational; i don't expect that i will make any sudden, knee jerk, and ultimately, dumb moves. The problem being, that i can just dry up and not play a hand. If i do, i raise or call pre flop with decent hands, and should i miss, because i know I'm "calm" and I'm not wasting any chips, i don't push or defend "my babies" that are out there. If the good hands come and i hit some flops then this is a good style because it plays itself. BUT if they don't, then you can just drip chips. The result of this is that sooner or later you are forced to make a decision pre flop for all your chips. Not ideal at all.

This is where i need to perfect the mix strategy - a tight (calm) aggressive (the energy of impatience) strategy. Everyone has written about it but, man!, its hard to stay in the centre of that zone.

the third and final one for now is one I'll call;

3) Credit - Why?, oh why? when i pick up a hand and someone else is clearly interested in the pot do i find it so hard to give them the credit they deserve. For example - re raising pre flop, 6 handed with AQ and being re raised back and me just calling then flopping top pr on a low flop and getting all the money in - i lose a stack against KK - Another, calling a raise in the sb, 6 handed w A10 soooted - flop AxJ - i check raise - i am small re raised - i ask myself - am i folding this ace on this flop? - no is my answer - so i move at that point - opponent shows JJ for a flopped set - which his mini flop re raise was indicative of. Read the damn bets and the other players and not just your own cards! I also find it difficult, if i call with a speculative hand like 67 suited and say flop a 7 - do i let go straight away - too often i don't - sometimes i do sometimes i don't. Either way, even if I'm ahead at that point on the flop, i probably should anyway. Its like flopping a straight draw when there are 2 of a suit out there. What is the point of drawing to a straight when there is a stronger draw to a flush out there. (Unless you are heads up obviously). Of course this "credit giving" will sometimes result in you folding the best hand. I just think its better to raise, define a hand and then fold, perhaps folding the best hand occasionally. Better that than to lose a stack or the tourney.

Good luck you dirty mothers


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Decent cash finally

Today is Tuesday, i have just busted out of the Pokestars/Greg Raymer - living the dream freeroll. If you don't know about these; Pokerstars are running freerolls for UK residents in association with Poker Player Magazine. Basically you have to win a freeroll (first place only) to advance to another freeroll which you also have to place first in. Should you achieve this near impossible task (hey, someone has to win) you will be rewarded with a $10000 bankroll plus expert tuition from a Pokerstars pro, supposedly Raymer. I think there are several live tourney entries provided but even if there are not its still a kick ass prize. I just busted out 87(ish) of 800+. Gutted. Pocket 9's into pocket Jacks with no improvements. To be honest I'd just spunked off too many chips and made a move in good position and got unlucky. What wasn't unlucky was getting to a low chip point to begin with. With 120 left i was between 5th and 19th , back and forth. I cant remember hand specifics but my demise basically involved unnecessary aggression, respecting idiots and folding decent hands, and generally dripping off chips at a point where the blinds were high enough for it to have too big an effect on my stack. I shouldn't have got involved. LEARN THAT

As for the cash. On Sunday night i missed my more regular tourneys and so entered a $10 + $1, 180 sng/tourney on Stars. I did great at the start, dropped a bit in the middle where i was on a bit of a drip but then got the cards i needed to pull it back.

One hand pre final table was an all in pre flop with me in a dominating chip position, but only just, i got it all in w AKos against Jacks and I turned a straight flush. This put me in a great situation for the tourney end.

The final table came about and I was in good shape but not in first place, nor was my stack much different from 4 others at the table. Gradually a couple dropped and i was up to about $90,000 when the following hand occurred.

Me on the button with 10 10
18k stack to my right moves all in when its folded to him.
I look to the blinds and the sb has 60k and i just have this feeling not to move in as he could really mess me up should he have a stronger hand. Also by me calling I would be able to assess his strength as more than likely he will fold.
I call and the sb moves all in.
It is something like 40k to call. At that point i see the 8 people left and just picture the sb on AK or A something big. Looking at this against my stack and how I've been playing, i honestly see the following. I could call and lose this pot and still win this tournament. This is like a breakthrough moment for me. I have often played too tight at these moments but now i wasn't even playing for any other position than first. The other thing now is that it is about 40k to win 100k so i call.
smaller stack shows A5 off suit and the sb shows AK. I LOVE THAT.
Another weird thing happened now. Normally i would just expect to get skanked here. Ace on the flop etc. But i didn't even entertain the thought . The only thing i didn't want to see was a K. It didn't come and all of a sudden i had a massive stack with 5 or 6 left.
I played loose aggressive until 4 left when i also double busted 4th and 3rd place and we were heads up.

I believe that the stacks stood at - Me 210k Opp 60k. Now here is and interesting situation normally people may say to be aggressive here, put him to the test etc. But, i have bad experiences playing this way so i let him take the lead convinced that i could trap him for all his chips. He got up to 70 by chipping away against all my 93's and Q4's. I honestly didn't catch a hand and he had started pushing pre flop. I got him back in a proper pot, played like grown ups and took him back to 50k when the following hand occurred.

He sb - ?
he raises all in pre flop
There it is ladies and gentlemen - i win with Aces - i call and he shows Q8 off suit - ha! caught you- this is what he was taking advantage of me with -
flop - 767
I see that flop and know I'm going to lose
turn - 9
river - 5

making his absolutely impossible - yet all too true straight - Why here? Why now??


I didn't say anything at first - we played a few hands - until i had to say something like "i waited for days folding semi decent hands and that's what i get" he said "I know unlucky" or something

I was angry, I'll admit, and perhaps that's what led me to play badly in the next hand

He puts in a big raise pre flop i have A7 and move all in - he calls with AK


flop low....... xx ...............7!
turn A
river x
and its over

he had the dirty cahones to make some remark like "disgusting" in the chat box.

Yes it was. It was disgusting. It was a bad beat. He had the best of it and lost.

Just like my aces

Mwah ha haaaaaaa

Now actually I made an error here and probably should have finished second and i will learn from my tilted impulsiveness, but I won and was over the moon.

540 dollars for first -that's 270 quid that's over half a months rent - that's more time before i have to work a proper job.

I immediately loaded up a 6 dollar and a 12 dollar turbo (6 handed) - and won them both for another 60 or 70 dollars.

More of this please.

In other news - i have just been cast in a short film - there is no money involved as is often the case but it will be good material to shop about as a show reel for myself.
I have just today been offered a weeks work in Dubai. I am being hired with 2 friends to work a trade show for a mobile phone company. We are being hired as mimes. We have to react and improvise as they show their 8 minute promo video. These gigs are good cos you only work in 45 minute stints usually 3 or 4 a day. So that's flights to Dubai+accommodation+ food whilst at work+ a thousand pounds for 4x 45 minutes a day for 5 days.


Good night and good luck