Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Big-Time College Football: Scenes From Stillwater

On Saturday, I once again watched from the sidelines as #14 Oklahoma State battled Grambling St. in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The view from the sidelines is fantastic. You're interacting with dudes who are making plays in front of 56,000 rabid fans, and yes, it's thrilling. If you aren't paying attention, you'll get knocked down. If you have a crazy streak, you might be tempted to run onto the field and line up with the offense. No one would stop you, at least for 15 seconds or so. However, your day would be ruined. I pretended to be a press photographer, and took these shots with my little point-and-shoot camera.

Dez Bryant (1) and pals pose for some pre-game shots. These dudes are physical specimens.

A lovely cowgirl. Also a physical specimen.

My friend Neal has a nephew playing for OSU (#87 Tracy Moore, at far right). Tracy caught a TD in the 2nd half. Neal's brother (Tracy's dad) played in the NBA in the early 90's. He occasionally had to guard Michael Jordan. Q: What was it like guarding Michael Jordan? A: What do you THINK it was like guarding Michael Jordan?

Male bonding in the end zone.

I love being on the field, taking pictures of my own self.

"Mad Men's" Don Draper might take his family on vacation in a vintage camper like this one. Sans graphics.

Here's what the press box looks like 2 hours before kickoff.

Anthropology 1.1: The lissome, nubile females of the tribe celebrate the bravery of the heroic young men. Implication? Success on the battlefield promises carnal rewards at home. The times change, but the roles stay the same. [Ironically, each of these young women will likely graduate with a degree and enjoy higher earning power than most of the young men she now celebrates.]

Mike Agan surveys the crowd.

The stylish Dez Bryant shares some love with the fans. Bryant is the best player on his top-20 NCAA football team. He's incredibly fast, charismatic and talented, and everywhere he goes in Stillwater he's quite literally worshipped. He appears genuinely sweet and kind, if slightly blown away by all the attention.

Stretch those hamstrings.

Jerry Rice Not Optimistic About Brett Favre as a Viking

The old graybeard, Brett Favre, just can't quit football. He's shown some steel with the Vikings this season, but the legendary Jerry Rice remains pessimistic:

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Q You don't sound too convinced that Favre will play at a high level for the whole season.

A I really don't. Brett is a competitor. But I know towards the latter part of my career, even though I still wanted to be out on that football field, it was like things became a little bit more difficult. But my job was different. It consisted of a lot of running and stuff like that. With Brett, the thing for him is dropping back, planting himself and throwing the ball downfield so it might be a little bit different for him. But he's a competitor. I think if he still wants to play, I think he should. But I really thought this team would be moving and looking down the road instead of trying to look for the one-year miracle.

Q How hard is that for guys like yourself and Brett to walk away from it?

A It's hard. It's hard because you love the game. I was listening to some guys doing commentary the other day. If you have other things going on in your life and you have other businesses going on, I think then you have other things you can focus on. But if it's just football and that's it ... and I think with Brett right now, he's been so in love with the game and he still wants to play. I tip my hat to him for going out there and giving it everything he can give it, but I don't know if it's going to be a good year.

While Rice certainly minces his words, this is still a surprisingly candid interview, especially coming from a man who played football into his forties.

Hollywood Renaissance Woman #2: Lucy Liu

Hollywood has been an historically inhospitable place for Asian women, yet Lucy Liu stands out in a world of willowy young blondes. Here are a few reasons why:

• She's the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants.
• She's forty years old.
• She graduated from one of the most demanding public high schools in the U.S., Stuyvesant High, in NYC.
• She later graduated from the University of Michigan
• She speaks Chinese (Mandarin), English, Italian, Spanish, and a little Japanese.
• In addition to acting, she's a visual artist, and has exhibited her paintings and photography.
• She's served as a UNICEF ambassador.
• She practices the martial art of Kali-Eskrima-Silat (knife-and-stick fighting), skis, rock climbs, rides horses, and plays the accordion.
• She once worked as an aerobics instructor.
• She lives with her brother and his wife.
• She has never tasted coffee (a fact to which she partially credits her beauty).

Friday, September 18, 2009

The View From Norway

From The New York Times:

"As a Norwegian, looking at the U.S. health care debate from the outside, I cannot help but laugh sometimes. It seems like the word “socialism” has become a swear word. In Norway, we just re-elected a “socialist” government. That does not mean that we live in a communist state. We have full-fledged capitalism over here, and we are just about the richest country in the world, per capita. But we have chosen to let the state supply world class health care to all inhabitants.

To allow private insurance companies to let private profit maximizing decisions get in between a patient and a doctor is close to unethical for us. In Norway, you get the same care no matter if you are a homeless drunk or the C.E.O. of one of the biggest companies. And that’s how it should be. They say that the measure of a country’s success lies in how it treats its most unfortunate citizens."

— Gjert Myrestrand

Word Clouds: U2's "The Joshua Tree"

Wordle is a website that analyzes any block of text to create beautiful word frequency diagrams. The larger the word, the more frequently it's used in the source text.

Since I've always been struck by the lyrics to U2's "The Joshua Tree," I decided to create a word cloud based on this album.

For those familiar with the album, it's not surprising to see so many of what I call "elemental words." These are the most basic words in the English language, and most would be understood very easily by English speakers living over 700 years ago. They're words like "rain," "eyes," "heart," "cold," "river," "stone," and "sky," and when used with style and invention, they work to form poetic works of striking directness.

These are the kinds of words used in the most memorable Bible passages, which isn't surprising coming from U2's primary lyricist, Bono. He's long been inspired by Biblical allegory. For "The Joshua Tree," he didn't write typical "let's party and get laid" songs. He wrote about feeling simultaneously lost and found across a harsh, yet beautiful landscape.

When a talented poet chooses monosyllabic "elemental words" such as these, the resulting work is timeless. It becomes understandable across generations, centuries, even millenia. It needs no annotation.

Though it has a few clunkers, at its best, "The Joshua Tree" speaks to the experience of being alive, not just being alive in 1987.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Reading Between The Lines

What do y'all think this recent CNN.com headline about young Miley Cyrus is trying to imply?

Appropriate? Inapropriate? Knowing? Cheeky?

Innocent? Innocuous? Wholesome? Hyprocritical?

Teasing? Suggestive? Off-Limits?

Wink-wink, nod-nod!!!

American Health Care, In A Nutshell

Let me put it simply:

In the United States, if you are wealthy, you are entitled to comprehensive health care.

If you are poor, you're up the creek. Sorry. Don't you wish you were rich?

Quick Quiz: Name one other wealthy, civilized country that dooms her poor to such shame and misery.

Yet, if anyone in the U.S. attempts to challenge this disgrace, they're quickly branded an anti-American. A Socialist. A Marxist. A Nazi. Just look at the signs being hoisted by the fat and happy folk benefitting from the status quo.

Why are those most opposed to health care reform members of the White majority?Haven't they been educated in the best public school systems? Aren't they most likely to land high paying jobs, the kind that come with some kind of health insurance?

Why are they so loathe to even entertain the idea of extending guaranteed health care benefits to the weakest Americans?

Do you ever see people of color at these anti-healthcare rallies? There's racism at work here, and it's pretty hard to ignore. If I'm wrong, show me some dark faces at these rallies.

Are we White folk simply afraid those lazy, unproductive minorities might get some free goodies at our expense?
Why aren't we protesting other forms of Socialism, like a paid police force, or public libraries? Why aren't we outraged by the taxes spent to maintain our fire department?

Here's a scenario: let's just eliminate all taxes, full stop. Let the Free Market rule. Stop all social services. No more Medicare. No more Medicaid. No more arts funding. No public schools. Check your history. This is what Republicans dream about.

If you've got money, you're going to be fine. If you don't — sorry, pal! It's social Darwinism, as practiced by Bible-thumping Christians.

Carter Weighs In

"I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African-American.

"I live in the South, and I've seen the South come a long way, and I've seen the rest of the country that shares the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African-Americans."

"That racism inclination still exists, and I think it's bubbled up to the surface because of belief among many white people -- not just in the South but around the country -- that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It's an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply," – Jimmy Carter.

Finally, someone is bold enough to strike back at the hate.

For Republicans crying foul: the facts aren't on your side. Remind me of the last time a member of Congress called the President a liar during a nationally televised address.

Jimmy Carter elucidates what all reasonable people in this country are sensing: that a hateful and disrespectful conservative groundswell is working overtime to further erode political discourse in this country.

"The president is not only the head of government, he is the head of state. And no matter who he is or how much we disagree with his policies, the president should be treated with respect."

It should come as no surprise that it was a Southern senator breaching American political protocol with a shout of "You lie!" during President Obama's recent address to the nation. South Carolinians have an embarrassing legacy of hatred and cruelty toward African-Americans in the United States.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How To Connect With 72,000 People

Over the decades, I've attended a lot of concerts. For me, nothing compares with seeing a great up-and-coming band in a small, sweaty club. When everything clicks, the energy is indescribable. The music slices into your core, and everything in the world seems right. You feel young and alive and beautiful. You're flushed with the feeling that, right now, there's no place you'd rather be on the entire Earth.

Sadly, this experience usually doesn't translate to larger venues. I've wasted wads of money to watch big, important acts play to large crowds (say, more than 10,000 people). Usually, the musicians fail to connect with the audience, and you never experience those feelings you get in a small club.

One performer, however, managed to make a stadium concert feel intimate. Freddie Mercury, the shy, African-Asian lead singer of the band Queen, was completely at home performing for large audiences. In fact, the larger the stage, the better his performance.

On a hot Saturday in 1985, my sister and I sat glued to the television all day long, fighting over the right to videotape our favorite performers. It was Live Aid, and she was 13, I was 17. Chandra got to record the New Romantics and New Wave acts. I recorded the more established acts. When it was time for U2 to take the stage, I invoked my first-born status and got to record their amazing set. Their performance at Wembley Stadium cemented their status as the best up-and-coming band in the world. Their performance of "Bad" transfixed the crowd, and I wondered how anyone could top them.

But then Queen took the stage. Queen was already very established, though in my mind, they were already well past their prime. Freddie Mercury didn't seem to dress very cool. He was almost forty years old. Wearing a pair of skin-tight faded jeans and a wife beater, he looked like a Tom of Finland character, before I knew what that was. I pressed "record," on the VCR, but wasn't expecting much.

Within a few moments, though, I realized that Queen was in complete command of the massive crowd. They burned through a few well-known songs, sounding tight and lean, and far younger than any band I'd ever heard. Freddie, in particular, was in total control of the audience, and I was stunned by his ability to capture the attention of such a huge crowd.

By the time the band started into "Radio Ga-Ga," the wall between artist and audience had been shattered. Everyone in the stadium clapped in unison to the chorus. It almost resemble a German Youth Rally. Mercury pranced and preened across the stage, relishing the moment, and you knew you were witnessing the highlight of the day.

In fact, many respected rock critics still rank this performance as the finest in rock history. Judge for yourself. For me, I still get goose bumps.

The song is essentially an aging man's love letter to a part of his past. He loves a thing that he knows is dying (radio), and delivers an elegy to her fading glory. But in the end, he still holds out hope that she'll rise up once again, cheating death:

"You had your time, you had the power
You've yet to have your finest hour "

Today he's reminding an audience half his age exactly what he loves. Watch his eyes. He's completely focused. Watch how he moves on stage. Nothing seems extraneous. He acts as if performing for 72,000 people were old hat.

Just two years later, Freddie Mercury would contract HIV. He eventually wasted away, and died at the age of 45.

Mercury was a complex man. He was born in Zanzibar, a tropical island off the coast of East Africa. He was raised Zooroastrian. He married a woman when he was young, and though they later divorced, they remained best friends until his death. In fact, he left the bulk of estate to his ex-wife, Mary. "The only friend I've got is Mary and I don't want anybody else," he once said. She still resides in his mansion in England.

His untimely death shined a bright light on the spectre of AIDS, and for many, served as a catalyst into action.

Over 20 years after his death, Freddie Mercury's status as a rock god has only grown. This sweet and gentle man with the enormous onstage charisma has become an iconic figure in rock history, and this performance at Live Aid may be his finest.

Mini Roadster Concept

Mmmmm... I love this Mini Roadster concept.

Check out the tilted-back windscreen.

It's a small car, but it's pugnacious-looking. It's designed with a huge aesthetic, managing to be gorgeous and full of scrappy attitude all at the same time.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Lean & Mean

From the NY Post:

"One simple indication of the difference in age and status of the two finalists: The 28-year-old Federer's guest box was full, with pals such as rock-star couple Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale and Vogue editor Anna Wintour seated alongside Federer's parents, wife and agent. Only three of the 15 available seats were occupied in del Potro's box."

Q: May I Say A Few Words in Spanish? A: No.

After a stunning 5-set win over tennis god Roger Federer on Monday, twenty-year old Juan Carlos del Potro dutifully answered questions from CBS Tennis lead announcer Dick Enberg. It was clear the young Argentine struggled with English, but still, he did his best.

But when del Potro asked for a moment to speak a few sentences in his native Spanish, how did Enberg react? "No, I'm afraid we don't have time," he deflected, nervously.

A few moments later, after yet another request to speak in Spanish, Enberg finally relented.

Does anyone else realize what kind of message this sends to the world?

Perhaps "Desperate, Fading Superpower?"

In a sport struggling to win fans in the United States, what is the value of disrespecting the language of a surging minority Hispanic population? Wouldn't you want to win Hispanic fans?

Why must American sports coverage constantly scrub away any semblance of diversity? Are we really so jingoistic as to deny a Spanish-speaking champion a moment or two to speak from his heart in his own language? Are we really that desperate to cut to an episode of "How I Met Your Mother?"

And how about Enberg's lustful check presentation? He positively purred out the amount of Del Potro's payday: one-million, eight-hundred thousand something or other. How crass is this? Is this our message to the rest of the world? Come to America, make some crazy money!!

Isn't this why we're in the financial mess we're in?

Paging Dr. Freud

In a roomful of megalomaniacs, just what kind of behavior is off-limits?

These people aren't like you and I. They're damaged, needy folk who've spent their entire lives devising new ways to capture the attention of others. Ironically, the "others" (whose attention they seek), are worthless in their eyes.

Should we be surprised when one of them behaves like a petulant child?

Kanye West isn't clear on this fact: the image of a drunken black man physically seizing the microphone from a blond, white woman while she's delivering a speech only fuels racial stereotypes.

As it turns out, the man who once told a post-Hurricane Katrina national audience "George Bush doesn't care about black people," is every bit as tone-deaf as "W."

FYI, Kanye: your world is a world driven by profits, not art. It's in your industry's interests to constantly develop new stars, regardless of their talent. This way, lots of different people in L.A. can get rich. It's all a game, only it's played with real money.

Later in the show, Beyoncé invited Taylor Swift back onstage to reclaim her moment. Even from one megalomaniac to another, you've got to appreciate this moment.

Sisters are looking out for each other. Across racial lines. Thanks, Kanye, for making my gender look aggressive, desperate and pathetic.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Jim Carroll Qualifies For His Own Song

Punk poet/rocker/athlete Jim Carroll died on September 11, 2009, at 60.

He's most famous for his The Basketball Diaries. With The Jim Carroll Band, he recorded a college party staple called "People Who Died," a morbidly fun power pop/punk anthem, that served as a blueprint for the blasé irony of Generation X.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Serena Williams Threatens Line Judge, Is Disqualified From Match

Whoa, scary Serena!

After losing a point on a questionable foot fault call, Serena thought about it for a moment, and then walked over to the lineswoman and threatened to shove a tennis ball down her throat. With a few choice f-bombs sprinkled in for good measure. While brandishing her raquet in a threatening manner.

She then walked back to serve, match point down, but decided it would be better to approach the lineswoman again. After another threatening tirade, the tournament director was summoned to the court to solve the dispute.

There wasn't much to solve. Serena had already received a code violation for smashing a racquet. The rules dictate that the next code violation results in a disqualification, even if you're Serena Williams.

Disqualifications in a Grand Slam tournament are rare. It only happens every 20 years or so. John McEnroe was disqualified from the Australian Open in 1990, and Willie Alvarez of Spain was qualified at the 1963 French Open.

The more interesting debate here is the way players deal with anger. Serena is heads and shoulders above the entire women's field, but when she finds herself being pushed by a contender, she doesn't always react well. She's loathe to credit her opponents when they beat her. She wears obnoxious t-shirts to press conferences with statements like “Can’t spell dynasty without nasty.”

In her post-match interview, I didn't hear Serena apologize for her threatening outburst, or even acknowledge that she was out of line. She reminded us what a passionate person she was, and told us John McEnroe was her favorite player.

She wasn't wearing her "Dynasty" shirt, however.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Meet South Carolina Republicanism

Republican Joe Wilson shouts down the President during a nationally-televised address to Congress. Aggressive, in-your-face attacks have characterized the health care debate in this country, and apparently, this Republican has abandoned all decorum. Thankfully, even his political friends condemned his actions, and he quickly tried to hit the "undo" keys with a formal apology.

Sidebar for Christians: Just try and imagine Jesus Christ shouting down someone for because he feared they would provide health care for illegal immigrants. Even more, just try to imagine Jesus referring to someone as an "illegal immigrant." All this stuff in the Bible about "who is my neighbor?" It's lip service, y'all.

Mark Sanford was black and white in his condemnation of Bill Clinton's behavior. But when it comes to his own shortcomings, he's all about "forgiveness," and none-too-shy about invoking God's name to reassure the Cracker voting base in his state that he's still holier than thou.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

San Francisco Dining, 100 Years Ago

If you're a foodie, you must head to Librivox and download a fantastic audiobook called "Bohemian San Francisco."

The book, written by Clarence Edwords in 1914, details the author's search for interesting culinary experiences in the beautiful city by the bay. He presses favorite chefs to share their recipes, and provides details for his readers.

He visits Chinatown and laments the her loss of charm after the 1906 earthquake. Apparently pre-earthquake Chinatown was an unbelievable experience for an American, full of mysterious alleys, exotic sights, sounds, and flavors. He barely recognizes the "new" post-earthquake Chinatown, and complains about gentrification and a general watering-down of the culture he remembered.

He spends time sampling Italian fare in North Beach, when Italian was spoken widely in the streets. He and his friends are invited to a lavish Japanese dinner, which is recounted in exquisite detail.

He describes the restaurant scene in the now-extinct Barbary coast, and clues us in to the early Mexican cuisine of San Francisco.

Most interestingly, he describes how he and his friends go "slumming." Then, as now, upper-class folk sought new experiences by traveling into the rougher areas of town for an evening's entertainment.

The stories in the book sound fresh even today, and make you wonder what happened to these long-defunct restaurants of yore. Little is know about Clarence Edwords, but if he were alive today, he'd probably be hosting a show on the Food Network.

Download it and listen for yourself, it's completely free:

Bohemian San Francisco

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Crimes of Fashion

Disgraced Ohio Politico James Trafficant was released from prison today. He served a 7-year sentence for accepting bribes.

The fashion police will be hot on his trail. He dresses with more postmodern flair than the most ironic Williamsburg hipster.

Has a toupee ever looked less convincing?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fania, 99 Years Old

photo from Ari ad advancedstyle

From the advancedstyle blog:

"I saw this wonderful woman at the movie theater and asked if I could take her photo. She told me that she was 99 years old and has lived in Manhattan her whole life. Fania is a Fabric designer and has worked with many studios throughout her long career.She has had most of her clothes for many years and always dresses up. While standing on the street corner, she pointed out buildings to me, and told me stories about what they used to look like."

Advancedstyle, by Ari, is an on-the-street fashion photography blog, but with a twist: the photos focus on seniors with a great sense of personal style.

Ari also shares occasional stories about his subjects. The stories are usually quite touching. Ari seems like a sensitive individual who, in searching for flashes of senior dignity and style, often finds extraordinary new friends.

It's a great site, click here to visit: link