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Blog Description:

These are the things that keep me up late - at 11:30 or 12:00, my mind is still racing, still going. So, I’ll be writing here until 3 a.m., or at least until I can fall asleep. Sports, books, movies, music, television, art… anything that comes to mind, it’s all up for discussion.
Blog Added: July 28, 2008 08:52:32 PM
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Blog Platform: WordPress
Blog Country: United-States   United-States
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Blog Rating: 2.95
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Slow Times: Olympics Hangover

As you can see, I’ve been taking a few days off from posting – and perhaps I’ve given the impression that I’m being lazy.  However, such is not the case!  I’m actually at the tail end of a long job search which may or may not be coming to a happy end.  We’ll see very...

Lazy.

Lazy?

As you can see, I’ve been taking a few days off from posting – and perhaps I’ve given the impression that I’m being lazy.  However, such is not the case!  I’m actually at the tail end of a long job search which may or may not be coming to a happy end.  We’ll see very soon!  Also, I’ve got a little Olympics hangover, and I’ll need the US Open and Democratic Convention to pep me up.

Coming tomorrow: My review of the latest Mad Men episode.



Beijing Olympics Recap: Shawn Johnson’s Gold and Usain BOLT

Congratulations to Shawn Johnson for her long awaited, and well deserved, gold medal. In the words of Nastia Liukin and her father/coach, this really was the perfect ending for USA gymnastics for these Beijing Olympics. In the end, the US women actually ended up getting more medals than the Chinese women, including 1 Gold, 3...

Shawn Johnson gets her gold

Shawn Johnson gets her gold

Congratulations to Shawn Johnson for her long awaited, and well deserved, gold medal. In the words of Nastia Liukin and her father/coach, this really was the perfect ending for USA gymnastics for these Beijing Olympics. In the end, the US women actually ended up getting more medals than the Chinese women, including 1 Gold, 3 Silvers for Shawn Johnson and 1 Gold, 3 Silvers, 1 Bronze for Nastia Liukin. Of course, no matter how fervently Bela Karolyi says it on NBC with Bob Costas, I think objectively you can say that the Chinese team had the more successful Olympics, given their golds. Whether you believe that’s due to some scoring arbitrariness though is up to you. In my (uninformed) opinion, all of the scores were a little arbitrary, not just the Chinese, and I did not see any reason to think the Chinese were getting anything more than an innocent home crowd bump.

Bela was not always happy

Bela was not always happy

Give Bela credit though, he has an unwavering passion for USA Gymnastics, and I absolutely respect that. He really is the reason why gymnastics is so popular and successful here.

One last thing about SJ. I don’t know why, but the medal ceremony always gets me. If I were an athlete who had just garnered a gold and was standing there with the anthem playing… well, I’d be one of those with tears in my eyes. So it was very nice to see Shawn Johnson on the podium finally getting her gold, with her parents in the stands pretty much wrecked and ecstatic, and with her fully appreciating the moment and becoming a little emotional. All in all, great job by the Americans, and 2012 is already shaping up to be a great competition. It will be interesting to see how many of the “20” year old Chinese girls will be on the team (He Kexin anyone?), and whether the Russians will redouble their efforts to get back into gymnastic relevance.

Now, Usain Bolt.

Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt

First off, he has absolutely the perfect name for Olympic competition… Not just the obvious “bolt” and its lightning connotations, but the “Usain” is sufficiently pronouncable and exotic at the same time. It just rolls off the tongue, no?

Second, yes, he’s a bit of a brash youngster, perhaps even a jerk to some! Now, in the world of NFL wide receivers like Chad Johnson and TO and so on, he’d fit right in… which maybe makes some of his antics a bit unbearable in the Olympics. And, he’s gotta get another pose besides his finger pointing thing into the air.

Pointing again

Pointing again

I mean, once in a while, maybe just once per race, would be borderline for this trite pose. But to do it during his introductions, then when he finishes, and to do it for every preliminary round AND the finals? We’ve seen this about 12 times already, and it’s gotta go.

Now, about the running itself… Best I’ve ever seen. And this is all that probably matters. I never ever thought that Michael Johnson’s 19:32 would ever be broken. For those that don’t remember, that number was INCREDIBLE back in 1996. He broke the record by an unthinkable amount, and it seemed like one of those seismic shifts that just wouldn’t be accounted for until say 2050 if at all. But this guy just broke it without a problem. Absolutely incredible.

For those who haven’t seen him run, I would go post haste to youtube and look for his races. His 100m dashes seriously look like he’s jogging. His 200m final was so incredibly dominant that he’s practically the only on on the track. His race around the turn was flawless. And he’ll be unbeatable in 2012 as well.



Mad Men Season 2: My Review and Thoughts on Episode 4 (s02 e04)

As I sit here watching the still rings event finals for the men in Beijing, let’s talk about the latest episode of Mad Men:  Season 2, Episode 4. First off, in my opinion, this was the strongest episode of the second season.  Thus far, I don’t think Season 2 measures up to the drama, tension,...

Peggy, about to be embarrassed

Peggy, about to be embarrassed

As I sit here watching the still rings event finals for the men in Beijing, let’s talk about the latest episode of Mad Men:  Season 2, Episode 4.

First off, in my opinion, this was the strongest episode of the second season.  Thus far, I don’t think Season 2 measures up to the drama, tension, and frankly, novelty of Season 1.  I think we’ve strayed a bit too far from the smaller-scale stories like Don Draper’s past, the Peggy-Pete dynamic, and Betty’s growing insanity.

Betty and her gun

Betty and her gun

Betty and her dress

Betty and her dress

That said, Episode 4 was terrific.  Some thoughts:

1. My new favorite character?  Don Draper’s daughter, Sally.

When Don finds out that he has to go in to the office on Palm Sunday to deal with the American Airlines, and when Betty has to take Bobby into the emergency room for his burn, Don takes a deep breath and looks down at Sally…. who proceeds to clap enthusiastically!  Loved that moment.  Sally also got a chance to observe a lot of people at the office, most interestingly Pete Campbell taking a little swipe at Don behind his back, and Duck Phillips using that frustration to unite some employees against Don.  Will that come back to haunt them?  I wonder, probably not.  But you just never know.

2. In a moment of great casting, Don’s son Bobby looks a lot like Don’s half-brother.

That last conversation between Bobby and Don really brought out an almost sad look from Bobby that harkened back to Don’s half brother.  Overall, this was a very interesting episode to me, precisely because of this hinting back to Don’s hidden past and his seemingly lasting issues regarding his childhood.  Also, the fight with Betty revealed a few things that will definitely play out for this season:

a. That theme of distance between man and woman, husband and wife, has come back strong here, right when it looked like Don and Betty were starting to really grow a little closer.  Betty had no idea about Don’s past, about how deeply his father hurt him both physically and psychologically, and so she kept pushing Don to discipline Bobby by hitting him.  And Don never took the opportunity to talk to Betty, let her know about his past, not until they had a shoving match.  And even in the end, Don left a lot unsaid to Betty.  Why?  What is preventing him from opening up to her?  And how long will Bobbi (the manager) hold sway over Don’s fidelity?

b. Father figures. Don is becoming more of one for Bobby.  I still think we’ll see a bit of a relationship between Don and Pete.  Betty may need to rely on her parents a bit more if Don can’t come through.  There’s something a little fatherly between Roger Sterling and Joan.  And to get religious, the Father and Peggy had a quick falling out… but will that reverse itself in the future?  Where will some of these play out?

3. Duck Phillips and Don Draper are coming to a brutal fight.

It’s clear that Don made a professional mistake bringing in Duck Phillips.  It almost seems like Duck is Don’s boss, what with making Don go through that terrible breakup with Mohawk, with Roger seemingly taking Duck’s side on everything… It makes me think that Don’s standing as partner at the firm is going to be in jeopardy. How will Pete side on this one?  After all, with American falling way way through, Pete no longer has a reason to stick with Duck… in fact, he’s back to square one in a way.

Some additional thoughts?  Add them in the comments section!



Beijing Olympics: Nastia Liukin Wins Female All-Around Gold in Gymnastics

Congratulations to Nastia Liukin for winning the coveted Olympic All-Around Champion title!  She was rock solid throughout the competition, and her near-perfect vault in the first rotation basically put her on the path to the gold right away.  Add to that some questionable judging for Shawn Johnson’s beam routine (more on that later), and a...

Nastia wins gold!

Nastia wins gold!

Congratulations to Nastia Liukin for winning the coveted Olympic All-Around Champion title!  She was rock solid throughout the competition, and her near-perfect vault in the first rotation basically put her on the path to the gold right away.  Add to that some questionable judging for Shawn Johnson’s beam routine (more on that later), and a very well deserved gold medal for Liukin is the result.

Highlights of the female competition, both individual and team:

(1) Liukin’s uneven bars routine. The pirouettes that she does on the top of the high bar are both artistic and (apparently) difficult, and when she sticks the landing, that routine gets her a very high score, often in the high 16s. I’m guessing we’ll see a lot more female gymnasts pumping difficulty into their uneven bars routines because that seems to be where a lot of points are easily obtained.  Especially if they’re judged the same way they were this year (again, more on that later).

(2) He Kexin’s uneven bars routine (Chinese gymnast). She may not be 16, but her uneven bars routine is phenomenal. That release move she has at the very beginning, where she flips then twists to catch the bar BACKWARDS… even in slow motion, it just doesn’t seem possible.  It really is too bad that she fell in the qualifications, because she deserves to be in the event finals.

(3) Ksenia Semenova’s floor exercise. Now the fact that I can pull that name out doesn’t mean that I follow gymnastics – only that I watched the all-around on television and finally got a chance to see another team besides the US and China perform.  Those Russians really did choke away a bronze medal, based on what they showed during the all-around.  I don’t know why, but Semenova’s routine just had more artistic aspects (not that that matters) and a very sharp feel to her tumbling (which probably really really matters).

Now, the judging.

As a guy who plays lots of tennis and basketball, and who grew up playing baseball and soccer, and who is a devoted fan of the MLB and NFL, I think the one thing about professional and competitive sports that is an ABSOLUTE NECESSITY is fairness and validity in how the games are decided.  Every run is one run.  Every layup is two points.  Every touchdown is six points.  We know what a double fault is. The ball just need to cross the threshold to be a TD.  Etc, etc, etc…

But there was a major problem in these olympics with the judging of the gymnastics.  Namely, the scoring was absolutely ARBITRARY, and that is a big big problem that must be fixed. Again, obviously, I am not a gymnastics aficionado.  I really don’t know much about the technicalities, except what I see on television and what Tim Daggert tells me. But there simply are times when an absolutely perfect vault (according to Tim Daggert) gets a 9.45 on the execution, meaning the judges found 0.55 in deductions!  Or you see two gymnasts on the beam get the same scores for two completely different qualities of routines. This happened time and time again, with no clear definition of what constituted a deduction, aside from the big ones like stepping out of bounds or failing to hold a handstand.

I think this hurt Shawn Johnson a little, but again, Nastia Liukin won the gold running away anyway.  So congratulations to her again!

Now, let’s go Tyson Gay!



Beijing Olympics: Womens Gymnastics Team Final – China Outlasts the USA Girls

This picture tells the whole story of last night. For those who missed it, the Chinese Women’s Gymnastics team won the Team Gold over the USA team, by about 2.30 points in the final standings. Exactly 1.60 of those points came from mistakes by Alicia Sacramone. First, the stunning fall off the beam on her...

Picture worth a thousand words

Picture worth a thousand words

This picture tells the whole story of last night.

For those who missed it, the Chinese Women’s Gymnastics team won the Team Gold over the USA team, by about 2.30 points in the final standings. Exactly 1.60 of those points came from mistakes by Alicia Sacramone. First, the stunning fall off the beam on her mount, then an all-too-predictable fall on the following floor exercise. Her falls definitely deflated the team, and subsequent mistakes by Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson sealed the deal.

Meanwhile, the Chinese women did well, but not with their normal precision or perfection, on both the beam and the floor. They won going away, but you definitely got the feeling that the US would have either won the gold or at least put a LOT of drama in that stadium for those final routines. Furthermore, there would have been a lot less whining from the USA after the meet… more on that later.

But first, a picture of pure happiness. You almost can’t help but be happy for that Chinese team!

Pure happiness

Pure happiness

Congratulations to the Chinese for the gold, and to the USA for the silver!

Now, onto the ugliness that ensued. Before the glitter could be mopped off the mats in the stadium, the Americans – notably Marta and Bela Karolyi – began blasting the Chinese stadium officials for what they termed gamesmanship (the long delay before Sacramone’s beam routine). Then they took another shot at the Chinese nationals for allowing 14 and 15 year old girls to compete. Then they came up with every possible excuse for their loss… except for the one that counts: China outperformed the USA.

Why do we Americans have to do this when we lose?? Why does there have to be a nefarious reason?? Why can’t we just graciously congratulate the other team?? It just seems a little insecure. Sure you’re sad, and bitter, and angry, but first, look at the mirror. Then, get ready for the all-around. Even if China used 14 year olds, the bottom line is they were stellar.

By the way, this is not to say that we should be heaping any criticism on Ms. Sacramone. I actually feel genuinely terrible for her. But no criticism, because in the end, all that happened is that she had an off moment that led to a completely understandable loss of confidence. That’s what happens to athletes and any other competitors.

Some pictures to leave you with to show that Alicia Sacramone is already tearing herself up.



Beijing Olympics Recap: Men’s Gymnastics – US and China Medals

First off, an admission. When it comes to guilty pleasures, I have a few. I’m a pretty typical red-blooded, liberal, sporty guy from Philly. I follow baseball fervently, with a couple fantasy baseball teams and a throwback Phillies jersey in my closet. But, I will admit that there are a few Avril Lavigne songs that...

First off, an admission. When it comes to guilty pleasures, I have a few. I’m a pretty typical red-blooded, liberal, sporty guy from Philly. I follow baseball fervently, with a couple fantasy baseball teams and a throwback Phillies jersey in my closet. But, I will admit that there are a few Avril Lavigne songs that I love, mostly because of a couple routines from SYTYCD. I also love Top 10 (or Top 100) lists, whatever they are for.

AND…. I enjoy Olympic gymnastics. My wife and I were talking a couple nights ago about how we both remembered the women’s gymnastics from 1992 (the Kim Zmeskal and Shannon Miller year), and so on. But generally, it’s more about the women’s than the men’s.

However, last night, I got caught up in the Men’s Team Gymnastics Finals. The bottom line doesn’t quite capture the excitement: China expectedly won the gold, going away. The USA held on to win the bronze.

Bronze winners

Bronze winners

Gold winners

Gold winners

Again, that bottom line doesn’t come close to capturing the excitement of last night, which thoroughly caught me by surprise. The US men were extremely short-handed, having lost Paul Hamm and Morgan Hamm days before the Olympics started. They were the only two with Olympic experience! As a result, the US went into the Olympics with two out of their six gymnasts being alternates. I can’t remember the last time I saw an Indian-American doing gymnastics. They were NOT supposed to be contending for a medal, yet after 3 events last night, they were leading China for the gold! Granted, it was an illusory lead given that China still had its powerhouse events, but nevertheless, what a run. They had some tense moments with the dreaded pommel horse — BTW, there is SUCH a difference between people who barely get by on the horse and those who excel — with Kevin Tam opening with a terrible score in the 12s. But they pulled it out.

China on the other hand HAD to win the gold. Their head coach had promised to jump off the tallest building in Beijing if they didn’t. Probably an empty promise, but man, what pressure. They had a terrible Athens, where they were hoping to set up these Olympics with a statement gold. Their leaders were under scrutiny. Silver was not an option. They struggled in their first rotation. And so on and so on… But they were amazing on the parallel bars, and when they finished up on the high bar, the crowd’s reaction to their win was goose-bump-worthy.

South Korea Update:

The Korean men kinda bombed in the men’s gymnastics, but they have been dominant in Archery. (One of the weirdest country-domination pairings ever… Korea and archery?? Where did that come from? It’s like China and diving, Americans and backstroke, Kenya and the marathon.) AND, they have done well in swimming, because of one Park Tae Hwan. I’ve never heard of him, but he’s been stellar in these games, winning a gold and a silver already. And he’s only 18 years old. I have a feeling he’ll be one of the top gold medalists in 2012. He’s also got a face that’s made for TV… I’m sure he’s incredibly popular and swooned over by the ladies in Korea.

Park Tae Hwan, for all the Korean ladies reading this blog

Park Tae Hwan, for all the Korean ladies reading this blog



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