31 August 2008

Beautiful Because It's So Ugly


Muscles bulging, sinews extended, face contorted, this is not the genteel sport we're used to seeing.

If I was Roger Federer and I saw this picture of Rafael Nadal getting ready to absolutely murder the ball, I'd be afraid, very afraid.

India Shining...Not According To The New York Times


Sigh, another New York Times article about India, another slanted look at everything that's wrong with India.

I hope Somini Sengupata can sleep well at night knowing she's making her living exploiting the very worst Western stereotypes about her own country.

There is a great blog post detailing all the lazy assumptions she has made in the past that directly feeds into these stereotypes.

I mean, I'm not saying that you should whitewash the many, many issues facing the country, but when all your reporting falls on one side of the coin, it gets tiresome pretty quickly.



LINKS

Recurring Decimals: New York Times Gets it Wrong Again
NYT: Crusader Sees Wealth as Cure for India Caste Bias

29 August 2008

38 Million Views Can't Be Wrong!


38 million viewers!

Wow!

Barack Obama's speech last night in front of what some are now estimating to be up to 84,000 people drew 38 million viewers on television, making it the highest-rated convention in history.

Apparently, Barack beat the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony, the American Idol finale, and the Academy Awards!

How in God's name is he polling that close to John McCain?

38 million! Thankfully, someone finally beat out Michael Phelps.

Now maybe they'll get Barack to host Saturday Night Live.

LINKS

NYT: 38 Million View Obama’s Speech

Marat Being Marat On Video


The irrepressible Marat Safin explaining his outburst over his foot-fault call during his first round match in the US Open against tenacious veteran Vincent Spadea.

Sigh, so entertaining!

Click below to play the video:

Ajantha Bloody Mendis


No seriously, Ajantha Mendis, stop!

Stop!

India was thrashed in the dead rubber ODI against Sri Lanka. I mean, it's all right, it's a dead rubber, India had already pulled off a historic series win, so naturally the Boys weren't really that into it, but somehow if it was Australia, they would have finished the Lankans off.


But Ajantha Mendis, that bum again, returned match figures of 4 - 10...that's four wickets for 10 runs!

Four wickets, ten runs!

Dude, seriously, someone has to stop this guy.

Are you kiddin' me? 4 - 10?

Wow!





LINKS

CricInfo: Bowlers Power Sri Lanka to Consolation Win

You Won't Like Rog When He's Angry


All right Fed, time to channel that anger and beat Rafa when it really, really, really, really counts...

28 August 2008

Yes We Can!


So, things got off to slightly imperfect start, they missed the cue when Barack Obama strolled out (the beginning to U2's "City of Blinding Lights" my favorite song from their last album).

I loved the fact they used David Strathairn to narrate the video. I love that guy, and his simple, straightforward, sincere delivery carried the piece subtly, without getting in the way as a more famous voice might have (though, really DS should be more famous).

But then Barack Obama got into it, and you realize why he has captured our imaginations the way he has.

He was forceful, grounded (credit cards, student loans), clearly marking out the differences between himself and John McCain.

He took great pains (as did others throughout the week) to point out McCain's heroism and his strength of character, drawing attention to the types of character assassinations McCain is indulging in (when he promised not to), without having to explicitly draw attention to it.

Less rhetoric and more about the economy. Wow, and he still managed to hold a crowd of 75,000 (75,000) transfixed. Dude, it was completely full behind the stage!

He was careful to give a lot of love to Bill and Hillary Clinton, smart man (you wouldn't like the Clintons when they're angry).

"America, now is not the time for small plans..." Nope, now is the time to think big, to think beyond yourselves and the petty political boxes the establishment is very happy to put you in.

"They have not served a Red America, or a Blue America, they have served a United States of America." Nicely done man, nicely done, especially after taking to task the negative politicking the Republicans are so adept at.

"If you don't' have any fresh ideas you use stale tactics to scare voters." Wow, the John Kerry Swift Boating did teach the Democrats some lessons after all.

"This election has never been about me, it's about you." Again, a nice counterpoint to McCain's branding of Barack as a celebrity in love with the sound of his own voice.

"In defining moments like these, change doesn't come from Washington, change comes to Washington." Again, this sense of change coming from an organic, self-sustaining, on-the-ground movement, not being mandated by the powers-that-be.

The speech wasn't quite as exciting and inspiring as his keynote address four long years ago (when my colleague Rich Chen and I discovered him, way back when, before he was cool). How could it be? On that day the whole world discovered this vision of the future together. This time he had to be on point, to get specifics across, to outline his plans, to stand up to the vicious Republican attacks, to tell people what he wanted to do, not what he wished for our futures.

But the fact that he managed do all these mundane little things and inspire all those people in the stadium, to electrify those tens of thousands, to carry his message forward of hope, of a new America, of this defining transformative moment in our lives, that was incredible.

And remember, in Barack Obama's own words:

"America, we cannot turn back."


LINKS

NYT: Obama Takes Aim at Bush and McCain With a Forceful Call to Change America

The Ecstacy And The Agony...


...for Julie Coin and Ana Ivanovic, respectively.

Andy Murray Is Fierce...


...not! Don't let the photo fool you, he's as boring and dour as a splendid Scottish summer.

Lindsay Davenport Is Smiling...


...because, according to lots of people who've seen her at the Equinox below where I work, she's actually very slim and fit for being a recent mother.

India Makes History...Of The Good Kind


Don't look now but India just created some history of the good kind by winning the fourth ODI against Sri Lanka thereby getting their first Series win, ever! over there.

Nicely done.


Especially when you consider that India were completely outplayed in the final deciding match of the Test series and then got thumped in the first ODI.


If this was the old Indian team, they would have folded straight away, but not Mahendra Singh Dhoni's unit. Some countries (like India) have the two-captain strategy (one for Tests the other for ODIs) but I think we're the only ones with a two-team strategy. I mean who are these guys? V. Kohli, R.G. Sharma, S. Badrinath, S.K. Raina (okay so the last one isn't so unfamiliar)...the batting lineup is almost completely different from the ones they use in Tests.

Maybe these young kids are the answer? Maybe (as much as I loathe to admit it) it's time to turn the page on the old faithfuls with Australia-like ruthlessness and start this youthful revolution in the longer form of the game?

The funny thing is that it was Zaheer Khan's bowling that helped India win the second and third ODI. That's right, I said bowling. Crazy.


And Dhoni played some clutch captain's knocks, like the kind Rahul Dravid used to turn out time after time, before he became captain. I'm not ready to love Dhoni yet; for some inexplicable reason he begged off the Test series because of, wait for it, fatigue. Not injury, but fatigue. C'mon man, if you truly are going to become the hero you are destined to become, you have to show up when it hurts, when your country needs you, not just when you feel like it.

But, for now, in the wake of India's unlikely and historic victory, I love ya man!


LINKS

Cricinfo: India Seal Maiden Series Triumph in Sri Lanka
Cricinfo:Dhoni Binds a Winning ODI Package

Oh No, Ana!


Holy crap!

In one of the biggest upsets in US Open, nay Tennis, nay sports history, World No. 1 Ana Ivanovic crashed out, literally crashed out to World No. 188 (188!) Julie Coin, playing in only her second match on the full WTA Tour.


Her second match.

Okay, so this is not totally shocking given Ana's injuries and horrendous run of form after her French Open triumph. But c'mon man, as World No. 1 you have to be able to fight through these things. With her loss the US Open does lose a little bit of oomph and pizazz, which is very unfortunate given how poorly Tennis is doing in the ratings these days.

Now the door really is wide open for Venus and Serena Williams, though I am still hoping against hope that Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina make it all the way to the end (the others like Amelie Mauresmo, Coin's next opponent and countrywoman, and Elena Dementieva I know have no realistic shot, but they have a soft spot in my heart anyway).

Things got a whole lot more interesting...


LINKS

ESPN: Coin Shocks the World

27 August 2008

Dragonheart...Yay!


So, you know that music, the one they always use in every single trailer and they recently used on the end credits of NBC's Olympics broadcast?

You know it, you hear it everywhere.

Well, my old UR/USC pal Nikhil Nadesan Sivakumaran ("Nick" to his white friends) told me a long, long time ago that it was from Dragonheart.

Yes, that Dragonheart with Dennis Quaid as a medieval English knight (no really) and Sean Connery...as a dragon.

Loved that movie, loved it! I'm glad to see it's legacy live on in the form of composer Randy Edelman's title music suite "To The Stars."

Awesome!

Click below to play a home-made video with the music in its entirety (the easily recognizable part comes 2 mins 30 secs into it):





LINKS

FilmTracks.com: Dragonheart Review

Brandi Carlile "The Story"

There was that great song they used in the GM commercial during the Olympics.

It's the song "The Story" by Brandi Carlile.

Pretty good stuff. Catchy, sentimental, great hooks, cheesy, and ultimately forgettable after about a year. I love it!

Click below to play the video:


Bill Loves Barack, Sort Of


I used to love Bill Clinton, love the man (as most people outside the United States did).

And then his reprehensible tactics during the Democratic Primaries damaged his legacy in a way that he may never recover from. I completely turned against him (as, I am sure, did a lot of people) which is why tonight's speech was so important towards rehabilitating his image.

He had to think beyond Hillary's possible candidacy in 2012, beyond making himself look good, beyond the hurt and anger he still reportedly feels, and use this moment to bring the party together in support of the nominee, not the nominee he wishes was standing there.

So the once great Bill Clinton started off lukewarm about our boy Barack Obama.

Instead he talked about how much he loved Joe Biden.

He also spoke about how great the eight years before the George W. Bush period were, which, you know, just happened to be the time when he was President. Nicely done. With Bill, it's always about Bill.

He talked at length about Hillary.

Just like Hillary is going to claim healthcare in the way that Al Gore claimed the environment, Bill is going after epidemics (malaria, tuberculosis, and AIDS).

After all of that, he did throw his full, unqualified support behind Barack.

He was passionate, funny, charismatic. He got the crowd pumped in a way that Hillary didn't quite manage the night before. He even gave us a civics lesson while he was at it. No one can work a crowd like Bill Clinton.

Just Bill being Bill.

Of course, I'm not sure how this is going to translate a couple of weeks from now when they need feet on the ground to stem Barack's falling poll numbers. According to The New York Times Bill is still mad at the Obama campaign and is having a hard time letting go. Oh, he's not actually going to be in attendance when Barack speaks tomorrow.

Just Bill being Bill.

Hillary got off a corker of a line last night when she saluted her "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuit."

Bill got an incredible line of his own off tonight when he spoke about how the people of the world were inspired by "the power of our example, not the example of our power."

Just Bill being Bill.

LINKS

NYT: Bill Clinton Says Obama Ready to Lead

26 August 2008

Marat Being Marat


Oh Marat Safin, again blowing a gasket, this time against Vincent Spadea in a routine US Open first-round match that turned into a five-set marathon.

Apparently he was upset about a suspect foot-fault call.

Oh dear, the writing's on the wall. I better find that USA HD channel on my awful Time Warner line-up before it's too late otherwise I'll blink and miss Marat.

And, on top of that, he's getting introspective in his old age. To wit:

"I just want to have a nice match, win or lose, and whatever happens to go home.

"I wish I could play normal tennis and enjoy my matches sometimes."

Ah Marat, it'll be a sad day when you finally decide to hang it up.


LINKS

Reuters: Victorious Safin Slams Stupid Rules

Remember Serena?


Great photo of Serena Williams playing against the other Bondarenko, Kateryna Bondarenko.

Serena won easily 6-1, 6-4.

Don't be surprised if she decides to apply herself, quit blaming others, and fight it out the end.

LINKS

US Open Official Site

Care For Some Chocolate?


My colleagues Matt Matyas and Bon Mercado sample the Cadbury Dairy Milk bar Bon brought back with him from the UK.

And yes, it's real!

My favorites growing up were the Cadbury Dairy Milk, Cadbury Fruit and Nut, and Cadbury Almond.

I'm hoping these all show up during the rest of the week.

Hillary Who Knew?


Wowza!

That was Hillary Clinton?

My God!

She gave a rousing, humorous, barn-storming, sincere-sounding speech at the Democratic National Convention tonight, and boy did I start to believe she may be human after all.

She used the word "healthcare" so many times that it's becoming clear that healthcare will become to her what the environment became for Al Gore (a cause célèbre, is that what it's called?).

And she was emphatic, emphatic in her support for Barack Obama (did you hear that you idiot "undecided" delegates, yes you, the morons who showed up before on PBS to tell Judy Woodruff that you still weren't sure if you were going to vote for the Democratic Presidential Nominee?). I hope this helps the poor chap get a bump in those polls that are too uncomfortably tight right now.

Is she for real? (It sure didn't seem like it when I caught that clip of her in Florida gently encouraging her supporters to get behind Barack.) I've worked with enough disingenuous people to know that you can never, ever take them at face value, no matter how sweet and full of sugar they may seem to your face. Time will tell if she truly is for real or not.

What we don't have to wait to see is that she redeemed herself in a very public way, and burnished her image in a way that Bill Clinton was never able to do after his awful campaigning. She has set herself up very, very nicely for another run in the future (of course, that was never her motivation to begin with, was it?).

Maybe that Second Act is there for her after all.

LINKS

NYT: Hillary Clinton Rallies Supporters Behind Rival

Friends Or Rivals?



Look at this, everything hangs in the balance for these two men, and they're just hanging out like best buds.

Somehow I don't see Tiger and Phil doing this.

Yet another reason why Tennis > Golf and why Roger Federer > Tiger Woods (and by extension Rafael Nadal > Phil Mickelson).

LINKS

US Open Official Site

25 August 2008

The US Open In 5 Words


Can this man be stopped?

Well, here it is, the last major of the year, the US Open, and not in recent memory has so much depended on one tournament.

If Rafael Nadal wins he will put the definitive last nail in the coffin of what was shaping up to be one of the greatest careers in sports, ever! Oh by the way, he would have also compiled not just one of the greatest Tennis seasons of all time, but one of the greatest sports seasons of all time.



If Roger Federer can somehow reverse his poor run and win as an underdog (for once), well then it will be his most stirring victory and will give renewed hope that he can continue his once inexorable march to sports immortality.



Of course, while all this has been going on, Novak Djokovic has quietly put together quite a year himself. Will that heartbreaking loss at the Olympics give him extra motivation against Nadal or just further discourage him? Just when I think it's going to be the latter, he always does something to bring the former back into the discussion.



How about my beloved Marat Safin? Maybe he has another Wimbledon 2008-like run in him at a tournament that was supposed to be the springboard to an incredible career? Probably not, but at least he'll be fun to watch.



Then there are the two Americans, Andy Roddick and James Blake, always flattering to deceive. They'll put together a few good wins, but will fade away when the lights shine the brightest.



Don't forget about the young whiz-kid Juan Martin del Potro who bludgeoned Roddick on his way to winning four straight tournaments in four straight weeks during the run-up to the US Open. Trust me, this kid could be dangerous and is wicked fun to watch.


Jo-Wilfried Tsonga


Richard Gasquet


Gael Monfils


Andy Murray

The young 'uns should hang around into the second week. I hope Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has recovered from him injuries. Richard Gasquet will play some eye-popping tennis, and then lose a tight match. His countryman Gael Monfils will follow suit. Andy Murray, his game as dour as his personality, needs a good result to keep those British tabloids at bay.

The women are even more unsettled than the men.



You realize just how great Justine Henin ultimately was when you see how much of a power-vacuum she left at the top of the game when she quit abruptly earlier this year.



World domination was there for tennis darling Maria Sharapova's taking. A mixture of injuries and dispiriting losses knocked her out, and she'll be watching from the sidelines.



Her heir apparent Ana Ivanovic could have established herself both on and off the court following her French Open win. But again, decidedly mixed results followed and at this point I don't even know how long the ranking calculations can keep her at the top.



The Better Half and I love the other Serb, Jelena Jankovic. This crazy young woman slipped into the top ranking by default ever-so briefly earlier this month, but again the losses piled up. If she is healthy (emotionally that is) then she'll be there at the end. If not...well at least she'll be crazy fun to watch.



The hottest player over the last few months has been the other Safin, Marat's Lil' Sis Dinara Safina. Much like big bro she has always had the game, but her commitment and focus were always the question marks. She's righted that part of the ship, and I would be very, very happy if she took that final step to the next level.



Elena Dementieva beat Safina for the Olympic Gold. I love Dementieva, man, years from now people will look back on her and marvel that someone could do so very, very much with such a jaw-droppingly bad serve. No, really, it is that bad!



Lindsay Davenport will be there for her last hurrah.



Svetlana Kuznetsova is a former champion. That's all I have to say about her.


Nicole Vaidisova


Anna Chakvetadze


Alona Bondarenko


Nadia Petrova

There will be the usual mixture of hard-hitting, but emotionally volatile Europeans who will flame out racquets swinging. I am talking about people like Nicole Vaidisova, Anna Chakvetadze, Alona Bondarenko, and Nadia Petrova.

Am I forgetting anybody else? Hmm, let's see...oh yeah...



Venus and Serena Williams.

The Williams Sisters showed what they could do when properly motivated at Wimbledon this year, where they finally played a great match against each other.

A couple of losses at the Olympics followed, but then two got together and demolished everyone in the Doubles field, including seasoned Doubles veterans.

If they decided to show up, and if they realize that this thing is wide open, then look out, we could be in for something very interesting.

To paraphrase the immortal Bette Davis:

"Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy ride."
LINKS

US Open Official Website