Olympians of the Moment

(I’ll be adding to this as new Olympians bubble up into the headlines….)

(Update 1, 7/28. Update 2, 7/31. Update 3, 8/2. Update 4, 8/5)

Seems that whenever the Olympics come around, the sports media here quickly develops a story line that will utterly dominate their coverage. This time, it’s the Simone Biles Olympics. Only things that happen to her deserve detailed coverage. If someone else manages to win a medal, everyone rushes to her to get her reaction. It gets annoying after a while – especially when there are so many other great athletes with real interesting stories to tell.

When you just barely qualify for the finals in the 400m Men’s Freestyle, you get stuck in Lane 8. Against the side of the pool, where you have to deal with waves reflecting off the concrete wall. In a contest that comes down to hundredths of a second, that stuff matters. Tunisia’s Ahmed Hafnaoui wasn’t going to let that bother him….

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Let the 2020 Games Begin

As I’m writing this, some of the preliminary & qualifying rounds of the competitions at the Tokyo Olympics are underway. There are still plenty of people questioning the wisdom of holding an international event of this scale given that we are still technically in a pandemic.

I am not one of them.

COVID-19 is shifting from “pandemic” to “endemic”. It’s all over the world; we can’t contain it anymore. We know what it is, how it spreads, and how it works. We’ve got vaccines that work better than we could have hoped for. To those who have been vaccinated and take reasonable precautions, it – and even the variants – should no longer be a big deal.

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On the 2021 All Star Game

Let’s get the most important thing out of the way first.

Those uniforms should be collected, brought to an isolated area, burned, cast into concrete, dumped at the bottom of the ocean in an undisclosed location, and never spoken of again.

Their utter blandness is terrible not just from a sartorial standpoint, but from a marketing one. The ASG is supposed to show off the game’s “best and brightest”. But how can you do that when everyone looks the same? In a regular game, it’s okay for everyone on a team to wear the same uniform. You’ll be given plenty of chances to see them and have the announcers talk about them. But in the ASG, a player may be in there for just one inning or one at-bat. How can you show off any player when everyone looks the same? You don’t want fans to be wondering “Who is that guy in right field?” At least when they are wearing their own team’s uniform, fans can ask “Hey, who plays right field for the Cubs?” and narrow things down somewhat.

FOX did OK with their coverage. Continue reading

A Close Run Thing

When thinking on the American Revolution, it’s generally a matter of national pride to see that the outcome was inevitable. A plucky militia, with Right on its side, handily defeated an Evil Empire who couldn’t be bothered to listen to the concerns of the rebels.

It’s always nice to have a happy origin story – or at least one that couldn’t have gone any other way.

Too bad that’s nowhere close to the reality of the American Revolution. It was one close call after another.

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Book Review: Then Everything Changed

Then Everything Changed: Stunning Alternate Histories of American Politics: JFK, RFK, Carter, Ford, Reagan
Jeff Greenfield
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Copyright 2011 by the author

Greenfield, author and political analyst, adds his considerable knowledge and experience to the “alternate history” field with this surprising and insightful trio of lengthy essays. He takes great care to avoid creating words for historical personages, instead taking what they actually said (albeit in different contexts) and using that to bring his hypotheses to life.

His first essay deals with the prospects of a John Kennedy administration. The early 1960s are fertile ground for counterfactual history. Given the constitutional crisis resulting from Richard Pavlick’s assassination of Jack Kennedy before he had been confirmed as president by the Electoral College, it’s no wonder. We all know how Lyndon Johnson took the reins of power through the sheer force of his personality and guided us through that crisis. But without it, Greenfield suggests that the charisma of Kennedy would have blinded us to his utter lack of political experience and the many scandals waiting to happen just below the surface.

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Juneteenth

So we’re coming up on June 19th, which is in the process of becoming a major holiday. It’s supposed to mark the day that slavery ended in the US…..

HOWEVER, they’ve got the date VERY wrong. June 19th, 1865, was when Union Army general Gordon Granger announced “General Order Number 3” – that as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation, slavery had ended in Texas – in the city of Galveston.

That’s a pretty darned limited thing. First of all, as we should all know, the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery. Secondly, it wasn’t until the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865, that chattel slavery was finally made illegal in the United States.

If they really wanted to mark the day slavery ended, the celebration would be in December – right in the middle of the holiday season. That’s not going to happen. And people started celebrating June 19th almost immediately afterwards, so there’s enough of a tradition behind it.

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Movies I’d Like to See – I

As you can gather from my reviews here, I’ve watched a lot of movies. Not as many as some, though. I have different tastes than most. Very little of current cinema catches my interest. Nor do I consider myself a “scholar” of the art form. I’m just a person who has a bit more than a mere passing interest in movies.

And since I have this blog, I therefore have free rein to write about them.

Naturally, I imagine the sort of movie I would like to see. And that’s a topic for a post or three.

First, a reimagination.

The character of Fu Manchu was created by Sax Rohmer in 1913. An early archetype of the genius supervillain, he was everything the era was afraid of when it came to the Orient (“the Yellow Peril incarnate in one man.”). Yes, it was racist AF. But the novels – and the movies made from them – were incredibly popular in their day, and the character still haunts pop culture.

There’s actually been an origin story for him – The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu (1929). Let’s do it again, but tinker with the point of view.

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Bowling in the Olympics

While at dinner tonight, I caught a bit of a news item on the upcoming Olympics. This set me thinking. They’re always looking to add more sports to the Olympics (which is one of the reasons they’re getting more expensive, but I’ve already written about that). Baseball and softball have been “demonstration” sports. Among those activities that are or have been seriously considered are ballroom dance (!) and chess (!!!).

Look, we’ve got to make something clear to stop such foolishness. Make a hard and fast definition that a Sport is a “competition primarily for physical skills where a winner can be determined objectively”. While competitive chess at the highest levels can give rise to serious physical stress in the players, it is almost entirely a mental game. You can play it with almost no bodily movement. And while ballroom dance requires great physical skill, it’s rarely obvious who “wins”.

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Watching the Grand Final

Thanks to the Peacock streaming service swinging the deal at the last minute, the Eurovision Song Contest is available for watching here in the US.

The events all happen in the afternoon on US time, and since they’re not going to let me watch the show at work, I can only see the Grand Final – held on a Saturday – live. I’ve been to a couple of “watch parties” before, but there’s none that I’m aware of this year. So I get to watch it at home – and comment on the show as I watch!

This will NOT be a “live blog” – I don’t think I can type and post that quickly. But it will be my impressions in order of the entire show. There are a bunch of “professional snarkers” like the legendary Graham Norton out there who can and will do a better job at this than I ever could. I’m not a professional music critic / pop culture expert, so….
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Unmasking

With the CDC issuing another set of de-masking guidelines, there are a few groups of people who are upset that they are being lifted too soon, in their opinion. Other places have tossed the “Masks Required” signs into the garbage – if they ever had them up in the first place. There’s ambiguity in the new guidelines, and each state is likely to be in a different situation where following those guidelines isn’t the best option.

Frankly, it seems to me like it ought to be easy to come up with a set that should work everywhere.

Health Care Facilities: REQUIRED. Duh. Hospitals, nursing homes, dentists, even eye doctors – you’re going to be around people who aren’t in the best of health. Do you want to catch whatever it is they’ve got? Why even walk in to a place with lots of sick people WITHOUT a mask?

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