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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Missy


Emily Seebohm blew her wad early in the 100 backstroke with swims of 58.2 in the heats and 58.3 in the semis; she only had a 58.6 left in her for finals. Missy Franklin did the opposite, going a 59.6 in the heats, a 59.3 in the semis, and saving her best for last: a 58.3 in the finals, even after having just swum in the semis of the 200 free fourteen minutes earlier.

It was a masterful performance; and Missy is obviously an all around exemplary girl.

I just wish they wouldn't interview her afterward. Am I the only one who feels as if he needs an insulin shot every time he hears Franklin speak?

Everything means the world to her, everyone is just so wonderful, and every new experience is just the greatest ever.

At a certain level, her uniformly upbeat emotional state seems to keep her on an even keel; it must help her swimming to only think positive thoughts. (She is the poster girl for Norman Vincent Peale.)

But there also seems to be an undertone of near-hysteria to her niceness. You almost get the impression that if a single negative thought entered her consciousness, her head would explode.

She reminds me a little of all the people I've met who alway try to say the right thing. I always want to tell them, "You know, you'd be a far more interesting person if instead of always saying whatever it is you think you're supposed to be say, you'd occasionally say what you actually think."

Who knows, maybe Missy really is that nice. Maybe when she was born, the dial just got set to HAPPY, and that's just where she's at neurobiologically. Maybe she was born with an excess of serotonin, and the world is just a great big rave party for her.

She's certainly not a hypocrite: she's turned down an awful lot of money just to be able to have the experience of being on a college team.

(Note to Missy: I've been on one, and it ain't all that great. After these Games you'll be at your peak earning potential: take the money and run!)

Yes, I know I'm a horrible old grouch for pointing all this out.

I guess I'm jealous, partly of Missy's Olympic gold, but mostly of her frame of mind. I only wish that over the course of an entire week I could experience the amount of happiness she seems to feel every five minutes.

Ryan


A lot of people seemed to make a lot of assumptions when they anointed Ryan Lochte as the next Michael Phelps. You could just hear the wheels turning in the sponsors' brains: he's just like Phelps, except he's handsome! And if we sign him up now, we'll get to air our ads during the Olympics, when they'll be most effective!

Well, Lochte is certainly handsomer than the dorky-looking Phelps. But as for the swimming, Michael set the bar at Olympic perfection, and that's an awfully high bar to clear.

Ryan has gotten beaten badly each of the last two nights, yesterday not even medaling in the 200 free. And that's made some of those ads which air immediately following his events ("Luck didn't get me to London -- I swam there") seem just a tad presumptuous.

Part of the problem is that Phelps was more naturally inclined to go into automaton-mode; in Beijing he put the blinders on, and didn't come up for air until his eight events were over. Ryan, by contrast, stayed up until 2AM celebrating with his family the night of the 400 IM, even though he had two 200 freestyles to swim the next day. (Note to Ryan -- you're not supposed to celebrate until all your events are over.)

But part of the problem is simply that there are other swimmers, like the 6' 8" Yannick Agnel, who want to win just as badly as Ryan, and who may simply be more talented in their specialties.

People forget that Phelps was in fact lucky to win his eight golds. First, Milorad Cavic raised his head too early at the end of the 100 fly, slowing himself down. Second, Jason Lezak managed a superhuman performance on the anchor leg of the 400 freestyle relay to save Phelps's gold there.

And even Michael hasn't been able to pull off another Phelps this time around.

Ryan will swim in the 800 free relay tonight, which the Americans will most likely win, though they're no longer the overwhelming favorites they were a week ago. And he will probably win the 200 backstroke. The 200 IM is still a tossup between him and Phelps; we'll get a better sense of Michael's condition when he swims the 200 fly tonight. But it's already too late for Lochte to achieve perfection, and given that that's what he's been set up to do, he looks a trifle silly.

This is a little unfair, because he's still a great all around swimmer.

And he still looks like a Greek god.

Unfortunately, the character from Greek mythology he most resembles at the moment is Icarus.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The British bookies

It's illegal for British bookies to accept bets from Americans, and the credit card companies over here won't allow you to place money with them anyway. But every four years, I wish we could.

The British bookies are far superior to their American counterparts. They give odds on most of the major Olympic sports, something Las Vegas sportsbooks mostly ignore. They not only make odds on who will win every event, but even offer odds on whether a certain swimmer will place in the top three, and whether a world record will be broken in that event.

There are a number of bets I'd love to make. Yannick Agnel still pays off two to one in the 200, even after his spectacular relay leg last night. Taewhan Park pays off sixteen to one, which is a bet worth making just because the odds on him shouldn't be so long. And there are a number of other events where I disagree with the odds.

British online bookies, by virtue of their legality, are more respectable than the traditional American variety. They have names like Ladbroke's (sounds like Lloyd's of London to me). And money is deposited first, then used for bets, so there's none of the "You know I'm good for it" routine that can happen when arrangements are more informal. (Thus, no informal breaking of legs either.)

Oh well. I'll have to be content with watching the swimming in an interested, but financially disinterested, fashion.

More swimming

On the assumption that everyone watches the Olympics, I'm writing about swimming this week.

Camille Muffat, winner of the 400 free, has maybe the most masterful freestyle stroke I've ever seen from a woman. She always looks effortless, as if she's just biding her time before picking up the pace.

The American coaches made some questionable choices for our relay lineups. On Saturday morning Natalie Coughlin outsplit Alison Schmitt in the heats of the 4 x 100 free relay. Yet head coach Teri McKeever put Schmitt in the evening lineup ahead of Coughlin, despite Coughlin's faster split and greater international experience and the fact that Schmitt had the 400 free the next day.

As it turned out, Schmitt lost the 400 free to Camille Muffatt, 4:01.4 to 4:01.7. Would the extra rest last night have made the difference? Hard to say.

McKeever also happens to be Coughlin's coach in Berkeley, so it's possible that she opted for Schmitt because she didn't want to appear to be playing favorites. But she would have been justified in using Coughlin.

The opposite happened with the men. The two fastest splits this morning were from Jimmy Feigen, who led off in 48.4, and Matt Grevers, who split a 47.5. (Leadoff legs, done without the benefit of a flying start, are generally a little more than half a second slower.) But head coach Gregg Troy opted to replace all four swimmers from the morning. Nathan Adrian and Cullen Jones had earned their spots in the final by virtue of placing first and second at US Trials a month ago. But Troy also used Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.

Phelps swam well, splitting a 47.1, the fastest time of the relay. But Lochte anchored in 47.7, and was passed for the gold by the French anchor, who split a 46.7. Grevers had the 100 back final coming up the next day, so it's understandable that the coaches wanted to give him a little extra rest. But swimmers generally swim faster at night, and it's hard not to believe that either he or Feigen wouldn't have swum faster than Lochte did. Would the difference have made up the .4 margin by which the French beat the Americans? Probably not.

But it so happens that Troy is also Lochte's personal coach in Florida, so he appears to be playing favorites.

Speaking of the 6' 8" Grevers, here's his picture:


Here is the man who is his main competition tonight, the 6' 6" Camille Lacourt:




Hard not to look at the two of them and think, gee, well I know who'd win in a fight.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Phelps

There's no way that Michael Phelps could swim a 400 IM at Trials four weeks ago in 4:07.8 while not even fully peaked, and then, fully tapered, go a 4:09.2 in London unless something was organically wrong with him.

I vaguely remember reading recently that Phelps had his blood drawn by three different anti-doping agencies in one week. If each of them drew one decent-sized test tube's worth, that adds up to real reverse blood doping.

There are a lot of people who would pooh-pooh something like that. But in fact, for a finely tuned athlete who sleeps in a hyperbaric chamber in order to marginally increase his red blood cell count, and who works out in hopes of taking a gaining a slight edge in conditioning, the number of red blood corpuscles in your body does make a difference.

The different governing bodies in sport all supposedly conduct their tests randomly. But if all three happened to descend on Phelps in a short time frame right before the Olympics, that's just plain bad luck. And maybe bad coordination.

If that was in fact the case, expect to hear something about it from Bob Bowman, Phelps's histrionic coach, in the near future.

Of course, there's always an alternative explanation: maybe Phelps just isn't a big meet swimmer.

(By the way, we've seen an awful lot of Debbie Phelps over the past two Olympiads; I wish they had shown her face after the 400 IM.)

Speaking of finely tuned athletes, it seemed a big injustice that defending champion Taewhan Park was disqualified for no good reason during the heats of the 400 free this morning. He was reinstated after a review of the videotapes, but that process took several hours.

Meanwhile, Park was in shock. Even though he got to swim his event that evening, who knows how much he was affected by this. Did he warm down after the heats properly? Did he eat at the right time after his event? Did he digest his food as well as he would have had he felt more relaxed? Was he able to rest calmly and recuperate in the eight hours between heats and finals, or was he too distraught?

He ended up winning silver, which doesn't sound too bad. But he had been expected to engage in a close duel with China's Sun Yang, and when Yang began his last 100 sprint, Park had no answer. Would it have been different had he not gone through this turmoil?

We'll never know.

But we can make a pretty good guess.

In both of these cases -- with Phelps and Park -- it seems the officials played a role in the outcome.

The Opening Ceremonies

The Opening Ceremonies for the London Games hit a lot of highlights of British cultural history last night. They seemed to throw in as much as they could: the primitive, the glorious, the ingenious, and the droll, all of which combine to make Britain what it is.

They had James Bond meeting the queen, and the two of them pretending to parachute into the stadium. They had a Sex Pistols song and a Rolling Stones song and Paul McCartney singing Hey Jude. They had J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, reading from Peter Pan. They had the actor Kenneth Branagh dressed in a Charles Dickens outfit reading Shakespeare, a neat three-fer.

The only thing they were missing was the singer Tom Jones dressed as Charles Darwin reciting some of Isaac Newton's laws of physics. That would have been in keeping with the spirit of the show.

Four years ago in Beijing the Chinese seemed to be trying to express their grandeur and might and ability to organize thousands of people to march in lockstep (a perfect metaphor for the country itself).

What message were the British sending?

What I heard was:

"Well, we may not be as spectacular as Beijing, but we're far more interesting. And we have a sense of humor about ourselves -- something the Chinese have never been accused of.

"Oh, and by the way, we may not win as many medals as some of you larger countries, but let's face it: we've had a lot more geniuses."

Friday, July 27, 2012

Not exactly a newsflash

It's hardly news that the NY Times no longer makes even a pretense of being unbiased. But they outdid themselves this morning.

Mitt Romney is visiting London, and yesterday was asked by NBC what he thought of the security preparations for the Games. In an effort to show that he had been briefed and was on top of things, he replied, "There are a few things that were disconcerting, the stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging."

Today the NY Times had a large picture of Romney, spanning four columns at the top of the front page, with the following caption:

"An Awkward Exchange in London. Mitt Romney leaving 10 Downing Street on Thursday, began a trip abroad aimed at showing off his diplomatic skills by questioning London's preparedness for the Olympics, prompting a tart reply from Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain."

Is the Newspaper of Record supposed to drip with sarcasm?

(By the way, it's pretty obvious that NBC, the on air equivalent of the Times, wanted to get Romney on the record saying that the security arrangements were perfectly good -- just in case there are any breaches during the Games.)

If they weren't so biased, imagine the fun the Times could have had when Barack Obama showed off his diplomatic skills by presenting Queen Elizabeth with the official state gift of an iPod filled with his speeches:

"Ego Problems Anyone?"

"Queen Elizabeth's Insomnia Finally Cured."

Or, "This'll Sure Keep Her up at Night."

"That's a Gift?"

"Second Prize, Two iPods."

But no. At least give the Times credit for consistency. They never, ever veer from the party line.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sophie Ward

Watching the Miss Marple episode described a few posts below made me want to see another, so last night I watched "A Caribbean Mystery," another BBC production, from 1989. It wasn't quite as good as At Bertram's Hotel. But it featured a stunningly beautiful woman:


(The picture doesn't do her justice; to get the full impact, you have to watch the show.)

I'm surprised that I'd never heard of Sophie Ward. She was just luminously (if borderline anorexically) beautiful, with the kind of elegant features which broadcast -- rightly or wrongly -- breeding and intelligence.

Whenever I see a woman this beautiful, I can't help but be curious: where is she from? What is her personal history? (Thank you Wikipedia.) What became of her?

I looked up a few more clips of Ward on Youtube; later, as she attained a more healthy weight, her face wasn't quite as ethereal, though she was still beautiful. (There, hope I've done my bit to encourage anorexia today.)

Every now and then I'll see a beauty who never really made the jump from starlet to star. And I always wonder why, since she is far more attractive than most of the women who did become big stars. Was she unwilling to submit to the indignities of the casting couch? Was she just not the type the casting directors wanted to promote? Did she have other priorities?

Ward has her own blog about acting: what it's like to film a kiss, the relationship between assistant directors and actors, and so on. (Somehow it makes me feel better to find that such a beauty would also have a blog, even if she obviously spends less time on hers.)

She writes well, though intelligence and acting ability seem to have surprisingly little correlation -- or at least that's the conclusion I've drawn after having seen a few great actors interviewed.

Ward was married for eight years, had two sons with her veterinarian husband, and left him for a woman. Hearing that, it's hard for a guy not to think: ah, too bad. Not that it would have made the slightest difference to any of us. (Note to guys: learn to be good in bed. If a woman starts off with guys then but then turns to a woman, it's not because her new lover has a bigger dick; it's because the lover is patient and skillful. Then again, maybe the woman is just more attracted to women.)

That may be partly why Ward never became a big star: a lesbian would be less amenable to the casting couch. (Come to think of it, there are a lot of movie stars whom it's easy to imagine as prostitutes, which is essentially what they are if they snagged their roles that way.) And coming out publicly can have a dampening effect on one's acting career, as the public is less willing to accept that actor in traditional heterosexual roles.

Ward, a former model, appeared in a few movies you probably haven't heard of, and did some television. She's also done a fair amount of theater work, for which she has evidently been lauded.

For me at least, Ward dominated A Caribbean Mystery. It's hard to focus on Joan Hickson's apparent intelligence -- or even Agatha Christie's indisputable genius -- when Sophie Ward's face is onscreen.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"Cute"

Two days ago my father set a world record for men 85 - 89 in the 200 meter breaststroke with a 4:10.7, breaking the old record by three seconds. He already holds the 80 - 84 record with a 3:47.8. He's the fastest 85 year old in history, but is also at an age when the rate of decline is fairly steep.

Two different women came up to me at the meet and said, "Your father is so cute." When I mentioned these comments to him, he grunted in a not entirely happy way.

When you get to a certain age, and you no longer appear threatening, you become "cute" again, sort of like a newborn baby.

I knew my father when he was younger, and trust me, he was far from "cute." Stern, autocratic, formidable, headstrong, and forbidding are the adjectives that come to mind.

So even if he starts to look like a one year old, I will never see him as cute.

I suppose I'm only about 25 years away from that status myself.

Can't say I'm looking forward to it.

"Of Massacres & Media Myths"

A very amusing editorial in this morning's NY Post about how the media reacts to mass killings.

Miss Marple

Just a little plug for At Bertram's Hotel, the 1987 BBC production of the Agatha Christie book, starring Joan Hickson as Miss Marple.

To those of you who instinctively recoil at that thought of all the implied Anglophilia, all I can say is, give it a chance. The Anglophilia in this particular episode is actually played up and made part of the plot.

It would be easy to assume that Christie, who lived from 1890 to 1976, is now dated. But her observations about human nature were acute, and human nature has not changed over the generations. An example: she understood sociopathy before the psychologists even had a name for it.

The unique appeal of Miss Marple, in case you're unfamiliar with her, is that she is an unassuming, slightly dowdy little old lady whom nobody notices at first. She is surrounded by the rich and the titled, the strong and the beautiful, the tough and the cynical. But she outdoes them all simply by being more observant and insightful.

We can all imagine that we have a little of Miss Marple in us, and that's partly what made Agatha Christie the bestselling author of all time.

Joan Hickson was the perfect Miss Marple: she radiates intelligence, which is what you need to do if you're going to play a little old lady with a giant IQ. Hickson, with her owlish gaze, seems to peer right into people's hearts.


There have been other Miss Marples. Geraldine McEwan was the latest; but having a former cutie in the role just never felt right:


Hickson was undoubtedly far closer to what Christie had in mind when she created the character. Give it a try, you'll see what I'm talking about.

(Whatever you do, don't wait for the big budget Hollywood production which will inevitably star Angelina Jolie as a butt-kicking babe who solves crimes by seducing and then beating a confession out of the criminals.)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sacha Baron Cohen not so brave as advertised

I've been a fan of Sacha Baron Cohen ever since his Ali G days. All three of his creations were hilarious. Ali G was the faux rap artist from London. Bruno was the vapid, self-important gay Austrian fashionista. And Borat was the clueless "journalist" from Kazahkstan.

Cohen's specialty was ambushing unsuspecting victims who didn't realize he was in character when interviewing them.

Cohen has been fearless about playing the fool in all three incarnations

He has been fearless about creating excruciatingly awkward situations.

And he has shown no hesitation to take on recent power players like Avraham Koop, Brent Scowcroft, Pat Buchanan, Ron Paul, or Bhoutros Bhoutros Ghali.

He has even been willing, in his Bruno persona, to brave the wrath of homophobic gun nuts from Alabama.

My admiration for Cohen reached new heights when as "Bruno" he told a terrorist group leader of the Palestinian Al Aqsa Martyrs brigade that he had sustained great sun damage to his hair, and at another point, actually refers to Osama bin Laden as "a dirty wizard."

Yesterday it was announced that Cohen had settled a lawsuit with this man. Turns out the man, Ayman Abu Aita, is neither a terrorist nor a Muslim, but a Greek Orthodox grocer.

Cohen may be funny, but he is also a con man. And his contempt for his interviewees evidently extends to his audience, whom he fools with equal disregard.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Romney's campaign slogan

Just heard from a friend who saw a Romney sign today, "Believe in America." He felt it was too innocuous, too blandly patriotic.

My initial reaction was agreement. I said that I hoped the Romney campaign would not be hamstrung by the same thing that held back the McCain campaign: passivity engendered by fear of being called racist.

But then I realized that the slogan's subtext is that Obama does not believe in America -- certainly not in the center-right, robustly capitalist country it has always been. And at that level, it works.

My friend replied, unfortunately most people are not going to put that much thought into it.

But I think it actually works better at the subconscious, or at least barely conscious, level.

Driving home the message subtly is probably more effective than a direct attack.

And anyway, how much can you really say with three words?

Obama's new slogan is "Forward," just one word.

(The last three words are left unsaid: "off the cliff.")

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Parlay that body, Part II




Back in May of 2011 I wrote about how athletic ability and looks play an inordinate role in politicians' careers.

Mitt Romney wasn't much of an athlete; at Cranbook School, he was a manager for the hockey team and a member of the pep squad, and didn't participate in athletics himself until his senior year, when he ran cross country.

But he has the looks of an old-fashioned matinee idol.

What role has looks played in Mitt Romney's life? He's undeniably smooth, and smart enough, but how much success would he have achieved -- in business as well as in politics -- had he looked like, say, Andrew Lloyd Webber?



Would people have been as eager to do deals with him? Would his cohorts have wanted to promote him to head of Bain Capital? Would the International Olympic Committee have been as pliable back in 1999? Would all his friends have suggested he run for Governor of Massachusetts?

When Hollywood casts actors, they never doubt what they have in mind. When they cast Bonnie and Clyde, for instance they never would have dreamed of putting Warren Beatty in the Michael J. Pollard role, and vice versa.





(I'm using a picture of the older Beatty here, not the younger one who played Clyde, just to show his resemblance to Romney.)

It's fine for Hollywood casting directors to think this way. But what many don't realize is that the electorate often makes choices the same way, albeit somewhat unconsciously. Sad, but true.

It was said after the first televised debates between Presidential candidates, in 1960, that Kennedy won largely on the basis of his looks, and that future candidates would have to be photogenic. That hasn't always been true. But looks do seem to make a difference. (Age seems to as well.)

The pundits don't talk as much about looks much these days. Is it because doing so isn't considered "sophisticated?" Or because the voters themselves don't care as much? But appearances are always there, front and center, every time a candidate speaks.

The problem with good-looking people is that quite often they develop a somewhat passive attitude toward life. You see it more with women than men, but if you've had everything handed to you your entire life, and people already like you just because of the way you look, you get used to not having to put forth much effort to win people over.

We may have seen a little bit of that this past week when Romney asked Obama to apologize for having attacked his record at Bain. The demand had a little bit of an I'm-not-used-to-people-treating-me-this-way feel to it.

What exactly did Romney expect Obama to say? "Gee Mitt, I'm really sorry that I attacked you for having been in charge at Bain when they shipped jobs overseas. It was really unfair of me and I'll refrain from such aggressive campaigning in the future. After all, as Grantland Rice once said, it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game that counts. And I'll be sure to relay your concerns to David Axelrod, my chief strategist, as well."

You'd think Romney would be used to attacks after a term as Governor, and after the primaries this past year. But maybe a lifetime of being treated with kid gloves leaves its mark. Or rather, a debilitating lack of marks.

As far as the electorate goes, it's a plus that Romney's good-looking. As far as his character is concerned, maybe not so much.

Maybe his campaign staff should hire a hypnotist to convince Romney he's ugly and has to work harder to win people's approval.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Weiner considering another run


In case there was any doubt about former Congressman Anthony Weiner's narcissistic personality, word has come that he is considering a run for mayor next year.

This is reminiscent of how former Governor Eliot Spitzer wanted to run for office again within two years of having had to resign his governorship.

Both men were laughingstock, and that is not a great identity from which to fashion a public image. For some reason "laughingstock" just doesn't seem to sell as well as, say, "war hero."


Spitzer's transgressions were, of course, far more serious. He was a regular client at various brothels -- after having prosecuted people for prostitution as Attorney General. So not only did he break the law, he was a flagrant hypocrite as well.

Weiner never broke any laws, but merely made a fool of himself by texting semi-naked photos of himself to various coeds, then trying to deny that he had done so.

The outrage generated by his texting was out of proportion to his "crime." But it was proportional to how widely he was disliked by all his Congressional colleagues, even his fellow Democrats. Weiner was notoriously temperamental and had the highest rate of turnover of staff of any Congressman.

So everybody cheered his downfall.

What seems to have happened to Weiner was that he took steroids in an effort to buff up his image, and the steroids made him extremely horny and also reckless.

Then came the half-hearted attempts at denial, and the suggestion that he might have been hacked, followed by the admission that he "couldn't say with certitude" that the images were not of him.

It's hard to maintain one's dignity and gravitas in the face of pictures like those. And if you decide to run for office again, you're just begging for those pictures to be recirculated.

Can you imagine what a field day the press -- or his opponents -- would have?


"Will he be hard-on crime?"

"Weiner excited to run for Mayor."

"Watch out New York, here I come!"

"C'mon NY, time to put this behind us."

The possibilities are endless.

I almost hope he does run, just for the entertainment value.

At least the reporters won't have to ask whether he wears briefs or boxers.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

You probably hadn't heard about this

Another outrage by the Obama administration is described by the always commonsensical Kyle Smith in today's NY Post.

Obama now wants to use Title IX to  make sure that math, science, and engineering classes in college are gender balanced.

Yet he also calls it "a great victory for America" that 25% fewer men than women now graduate from college.

Two more by the master

Back in December 2010 I put up a post about the incredibly prolific Richard Rodgers.

I recently discovered that two more classics are by him.

I'd always thought that The Mamas and the Papas hit "Sing for Your Supper" had been written by John Phillips, who was great in his own right. But no, it's just another Rodgers tune.

And I've always liked "My Funny Valentine," but had never thought about its provenance. Also by Rodgers.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Condi

Rumor now has it that Condoleezza Rice is the frontrunner for Romney's VP.

She's too much of a hawk for me, but I've always liked what I've seen of her personally.

At an age where Barack Obama was smoking weed, Rice was practicing to become a concert pianist. At an age when Obama was neglecting his studies so badly that he later had his academic records sealed, Rice was becoming a Phi Beta Kappa. And that pretty much sums up the difference between them.

But personal histories aside, Rice is a brilliant strategic choice.

She nullifies the race card which the Democrats would otherwise inevitably play. If you're black, she causes a little bell to go off in the back of your head: ding, we can't lose either way. Blacks will of course still vote overwhelmingly Democratic. But maybe, just maybe, fewer of them are motivated to show up at the voting booths now.

Rice will help nullify Obama's edge among women. All those frustrated Hillary supporters who wanted to see the first woman President would now at least get to see the first woman VP. (And Rice, unlike Palin, has done her homework; I'd love to see Katie Couric try to ambush Rice.)

Rumor has it, and circumstantial evidence indicates, that Rice is a lesbian. Perhaps the most intriguing question about her candidacy is, will she come out during the campaign? Or, perhaps, will she be outed? Rice has always conducted herself with great decorum, so I doubt that she will volunteer her sexual orientation. Most likely the question will be raised, and she'll brush it aside with a nondenial similar to the one Janet Reno used ("I'm just an old maid with a great fondness for men"), and the issue will be dropped.

But if she does comes out, or is outed, she goes from being a twofer to a threefer.

Imagine she does. Romney has already come out against gay marriage, so it would be hard for Rice to support it. But what if she said something along the lines of, I'm gay and I'm for civil unions with all the benefits of marriage, but which stop short of marriage. Will gay voters support Obama and Biden, who only came out in favor of gay marriage late in their term, and purely for political reasons? Or will they be inclined to support a woman who is actually one of them?

Watch the polls when she is announced. Romney will surge. And remember, Rice doesn't have to win over a substantial portion of any of the groups mentioned. She just needs to win over a percentage point here, and a percentage point there. 

All the Democratic spokesmen will of course decry the cynicism inherent in picking Rice. But their anger -- which will be palpable -- will be commensurate with the extent to which their own strategic advantages will be blunted.

And after four years of the most dishonest administration in memory, they really ought not be complaining about cynicism.

How do Jesse and Al really feel about each other?

It would be easy to assume that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are brothers-in-arms marching forward together in the never-ending struggle for "civil rights," especially since their names are so often mentioned in tandem.

But if you really think about it, at a certain level, they must resent each other, since each wants to be the chief spokesman for Black America. (Barack Obama is theoretically chief spokesman for all of America.) So Jackson and Sharpton essentially compete for television time whenever a Trayvon Martin-type incident occurs, and they compete for donations to their respective organizations, Operation PUSH and the National Action Network.

They also make near identical pronouncements to the press whenever a black is the victim -- or seems to be the victim -- of unwarranted white violence. (One or the other will solemnly intone, "So it's open season on young black men now," or some similarly accurate assessment of our current social climate.)

So it has to be, in a sense, a turf war.

At least publicly though, there has been very little infighting. Jackson and Sharpton are often photographed standing near each other, wearing similarly grim expressions reflecting the continuing horror visited upon black America by white America.

But since both men are cut from the same cloth, they must see through each other. And you would think that each would resent his chief rival. Jackson is, after all, the man who, when he thought he was off mike, famously expressed a desire to cut Obama's nuts off.

Yet I could find only one quotation indicating discord.

When Sharpton was first thinking of running for president, back in 2001, he was asked if his role in the Tawana Brawley hoax might hamper his chances. He responded by comparing himself favorably with past Presidential candidates, including Jackson: "I think the Brawley case pales in comparison," Sharpton told Fox News. "Did I take the blood of the guy I loved and put it on my shirt? Let's talk about who we're getting behind!"

I have to think that similar sentiments are expressed by both men quite frequently in private.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sociopath alert: Jesse Jackson


Mentioning Jesse Jackson Jr. the other day reminded me of his father. You'd think Jackson would be yesterday's news, but he continues to insert himself into the middle of every racial controversy that flares up.

Jackson has led a life characterized by shamelessness, hypocrisy, dishonesty, lack of inhibition, manipulativeness, and the need for attention.

Jackson grew up in Greenville, South Carolina. While in high school, he worked at a fast food restaurant, where, as he later boasted to black audiences, he took pleasure in spitting in white people's food before it was served to them.

Jackson attended the University of Illinois for a year. He left, partly out of frustration at not being named the starting quarterback on the football team. He claimed he was denied because of racism, but those who were there at the time said that he simply wasn't good enough. Jackson's charge is curious because the starting quarterback that year was black.

Jackson first gained national fame -- and notoriety -- as an aide to Martin Luther King Jr. When King was assassinated on that Memphis hotel balcony, Jackson was in the parking lot below. But he rushed upstairs after the shooting, ran his hands through the blood on the balcony, and wiped them on his shirt. Jackson claimed to the press that he had cradled the dying MLK. When he appeared on NBC the next day, he wore the same shirt, with the blood still on it, which enraged those closest to King.

The Reverend Ralph Abernathy later kicked Jackson out of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for "organizational improprieties."

After Jackson was kicked out of the SCLC, he formed his own organization, Operation PUSH, which stood for People United to Save Humanity; Jackson evidently saw himself as the savior of all mankind. Jackson later ran into trouble with the IRS when he was unable to account for how PUSH funds had been spent.

Jackson ran for President in both 1984 and 1988, though no analysts thought he had a serious shot at the nomination. In 1988 he received 98% of the black vote, which was close to 24% of the Democratic vote. During the 1984 campaign he famously referred to New York City as "Hymietown," an interesting word choice from a man whose self-professed cause has been fighting racism.

Since then Jackson has made a career of inserting himself into every racial flareup in the country, as long as it ostensibly involved white perpetrators and black victims. The incidents he has injected himself into are far too numerous to list, but they include the first OJ Simpson trial (he visited OJ in jail to "pray with him" and "hear him express his concerns" about his "ordeal"), the Jena 6 case, the Duke lacrosse case, and the Trayvon Martin shooting (after which he said that "blacks are under attack" and suggested "we go to war").

One has to wonder, who invites Jackson to fly into town and weigh in with his opinion during these incidents?

Jackson also seems to show up at the funeral of every black celebrity important enough to attract television cameras, and appoints himself as family spokesman. He was prominent among the mourners at Michael Jackson's funeral. More recently, when Whitney Houston died, Jackson showed up and sat in the pulpit during the ceremony. It's gotten to the point where his constant lugubrious presence seems downright ghoulish.

The grieving relatives never tell him to get lost, since he's Jesse Jackson. But one has to wonder what they actually think of him; he can't possibly be close to all these families. (When Muhammad Ali dies, assuming he doesn't outlive Jackson, you can bet Jesse will be there doing his best to take center stage.)

Jackson has also made a career out of extorting companies he deems too white. His general modus operandi is to threaten boycotts and picket lines, then relent when the company either agrees to hire more minorities, or more likely, makes a generous contribution to Operation PUSH or some other entity Jackson has a financial interest in. In 1998 Jackson obtained an Anheuser Busch beer distributorship for two of his sons by threatening them with a boycott.

One executive, T.J. Rodgers of Cypress Semiconductor, rebuffed Jackson's efforts and publicly defended the diversity of his company. Jackson's response was vintage Jesse: "We can now officially describe Cypress Semiconductor as a white supremacist hate group."

When President Clinton was embroiled in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Jesse Jackson swooped in to "counsel" the President and offer him "spiritual guidance." It emerged shortly thereafter that Jackson himself had a love child with one of his employees, Karin Stanford, in 1999. Stanford sued Jackson for child support in Los Angeles Superior Court in 2011, saying that Jackson had not made any payments between December 2010 and August 2011, despite repeated requests from her.

Stanford later said that there were many former employees of Jackson's Rainbow Coalition/Operation PUSH who "hate him and want to destroy him." Leaving a trail of disgruntled former associates is typical of sociopaths.

In any case, the list of Jackson's hypocrisies is too long to list. The more interesting question, as with all sociopaths, is how he got that way.

The answer lies buried somewhere in his early upbringing. Jesse was born to a 16-year-old mother, Helen Burns; his father was 32-year-old Noah Lewis Robinson, a married man who lived in the neighborhood. Two years later Helen married Charles Jackson. Helen told the young Jesse that Charles Jackson was his father. But neighborhood kids taunted Jesse and told him that was not the case. (A surprising number of sociopaths seem to have been lied to about their parentage.)


It has always looked to me as if Jesse Jackson, with his widely spaced eyes, has fetal alcohol syndrome. I've also wondered if Jackson, who's never been without a mustache since he was a young man, might possibly have had a harelip. (Look closely at his mouth in the picture above; an improperly healed cleft palate could have something to do with his weird accent and staccato speech.) According to this website, a mother who drinks is four times more likely to have a child with a cleft palate.

When Jackson was born, in 1941, the rate of illegitimate births among blacks was far lower than it is now. Helen Burns reportedly received strong disapproval from family and friends when she became pregnant by the older married man; she was even expelled from her church. It's not a stretch to think that Burns turned to drink to assuage her troubles during her pregnancy.

Burns reportedly was one of the prettiest girls at her high school, had the best singing voice there, and had offers from music schools. Is it possible that Jackson's 16 year old mother didn't really want him? And that at a certain level, she resented the little baby who had in a sense ruined her life? And might those feelings have been intensified if, when she saw that little baby for the first time, he had a harelip?

All this is purely speculation, but it makes sense. And it would certainly provide the answer to Jackson's character.

Jackson can't be blamed for his family background. But neither can Ted Bundy be blamed for having been lied to about his parentage. And the fact remains, whatever causes a sociopath to become that way, sociopaths are by definition despicable.

Jackson is certainly no exception. By manipulatively telling black people that their problems are due to white racism, and by enraging whites with his hypocrisy, he has single-handedly set back race relations more than anyone else within recent memory.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Olympian sex

A new book is out which describes the partying that goes on in the Olympic Village every four years.

I had heard this before, that the easiest place to get laid in the whole world is the Olympic Village at closing ceremonies. It makes perfect sense: you have a group of attractive young people, all of whom are in great shape, and most of whom -- both the men and the women -- have higher than average levels of testosterone. (Testosterone is the hormone responsible for sex drive as well as muscle-building for both genders.)

They all feel like relaxing after having competed in a tension-filled event for which they have trained for virtually their entire lives. They're well rested. They're away from home. And they either want to celebrate a good performance, or distract themselves after a bad one.

So....as you sit in front of the television set in late July and early August, be aware that most of the athletes you're watching are about to take place in an orgy of Olympic proportions.

Who can blame them?

Moonrise Kingdom

Saw the latest Wes Anderson movie last night, and walked out trying to figure out how I felt about it -- which in retrospect, perfectly sums up how I felt about it. The only theater it was showing at was a local art house, which also tells you what kind of movie it is.

Moonrise Kingdom is about two 12 year olds who run away to "elope" on an island off the coast of New England in 1965. The word "sweet" must have been used in every other review of the movie that I read. And yes, it is sweet, in large part because of the youth of the protagonists. But it is self-consciously so, which means it cloys fairly quickly.

The movie is vintage Anderson: the sets are atmospheric, the era is evoked professionally, the characters are offbeat, and it is precious but manages to escape being boring, though not by much.

Anderson, if you're unfamiliar with him, is the fellow who brought you Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Darjeeling Limited. His specialty is smart, dysfunctional, oddball, alienated characters who tend to have a mildly catatonic feel to them. If The Addams Family intermarried with some nerdy MENSA members, Anderson characters would be the result.

The Boy Scouts in the movie are referred to as the "Khaki Scouts," presumably because the movie is defamatory enough that the actual Boy Scouts would have sued had they been mentioned by name.

Anderson did get the best out of his actors. Edward Norton, whose usual specialty is sleazy, was fantastic as a virtuous troop master straight out of Life Magazine circa 1965. Bruce Willis is as good as he ever gets, which isn't saying much. Bill Murray plays stuporously cynical, his specialty. Murray still can't help but try to steal every scene he's in, in which regard he's second only to Jim Carrey.

Frances McDormand, who seems to get her most prominent roles from Joel and Ethan Coen, those other proprietors of American Gothic, plays hysterical, then sympathetic. Tilda Swinton plays coldly hysterical.

Over on Steve Sailer there was an entire discussion about whether the movie is supposed to be funny. If that was the point of this movie, I totally missed it. I thought it was supposed to be sweet.

The harder question is why the movie got a 94% positive rating from the critics on Rottentomatoes.com. My guess is that most critics like to think of themselves as sensitive souls who identify with Anderson's cast of outcasts. But if you enjoy identifying with such characters, then you're not really an oddball, you're just someone who wants to think of himself that way. Which means it's just a pose, which means you're just part of the herd. Which explains the 94% positive rating. And which explains most critics.

Real oddballs don't want to be oddballs. They just are.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Jesse Jackson II suffering from "exhaustion"

An AP article this morning said that Jesse Jackson Jr. was on medical leave. The relevant paragraphs:

CHICAGO (AP) — The mystery surrounding U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s leave of absence deepened Thursday as his office disclosed a few more vague details about his medical condition, saying his ailments were "more serious" than previously thought and he needs extended inpatient treatment.

But his staff gave no hint of the congressman's whereabouts or exactly what he was suffering from, saying only that he has grappled with physical and emotional problems "privately for a long period of time" and was at an inpatient facility.

The nine-term Chicago Democrat has come under intense scrutiny in recent years for ties to imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and an extramarital affair. Despite a pending U.S. House ethics investigation connected to Blagojevich, he has been widely expected to win re-election in November.

He has been on medical leave for three weeks, though his office didn't disclose his leave until last week — and did so in a meager three-sentence statement saying he was being treated for exhaustion. Neither his family nor his staff has offered more explanation, and the statement Thursday provided few details.

"Congressman Jackson's medical condition is more serious than we thought and initially believed," the statement said. "Recently, we have been made aware that he has grappled with certain physical and emotional ailments privately for a long period of time. At present, he is undergoing further evaluation and treatment at an in-patient medical facility."

Multiple messages left for his spokesmen, his brother and his wife, Chicago Alderman Sandi Jackson, were not returned. His father, Rev. Jesse Jackson, said he spoke to his son once recently and he sounded "exhausted and overwhelmed."

Jackson, who first won office in 1995, is facing a House Ethics Committee investigation over allegations that he was involved in discussions about raising money for Blagojevich's campaign in exchange for the then-governor appointing him to President Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat.

Do Jackson's representatives think they're fooling people with this subterfuge? Is there anyone out there who is not aware that "exhaustion" translates directly as "substance abuse problem" these days?

Is it possible that Jackson is setting up a defense for having tried to bribe Blagoyevich into giving him Obama's Senate seat? As in, I didn't really know what I was doing, since I was under the influence at the time?

Or might it be that Jackson is trying to stir up the sympathy vote before his upcoming reelection bid?

Of course, it is also likely that there is a "medical" issue which requires attention as well.

All this deliberate vagueness and air of mystery that surrounds Jackson's enigmatic illness can only lead most people to think what I am saying here.

I must say, I'm shocked, utterly shocked, that Jackson Jr. would allow himself to get into this kind of trouble. You know, what with his father being such a paragon of self control and moral rectitude.

"Our Obsession with Iran"

http://www.wnd.com/2012/07/our-obsession-with-iran/

Excellent editorial by Pat Buchanan.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"Impressions of 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials"

For swim fans only:

http://www.SwimmingWorldMagazine.com/lane9/news/USA/31126.asp?q=Impressions-of-2012-U.S.-Olympic-Trials

"What I look for in a girl"

Mentioning Cosmopolitan in the previous post reminded me of all the articles I've ever seen in which some young heartthrob expounds on the qualities he looks for in a potential girlfriend. (And yes, shame on me for ever having read one.)

These articles are always unintentionally hilarious, since they have absolutely nothing to do with the way guys actually think. If you've ever read one, you know what I'm talking about. The young stars inevitably say things like:

"I like a girl with a spirit of adventure, who likes to travel to exotic places and try new kinds of cuisine."

"I like a girl who dresses nicely, with an eye to fashion, and takes good care of her hair."

"I like a girl who'll give me a handwritten card on my birthday -- it's so much more thoughtful than one of those cards you just buy in a store."

"I like a girl who likes to hold hands, and cuddle. And it's really important to me that a girl be a good kisser."

"I like a girl who'll surprise me by suggesting something spontaneous, like a romantic walk on the beach."

Such "criteria" alway make me think, either this heartthrob is gay, or this "interview" is merely the concoction of a PR agent who knows exactly what girls want -- a description they can identify with. ("Wow -- he wants someone just like me! I could be Justin Bieber's girlfriend!!")

Just to inject a note of reality, these are what honest young men might actually say if asked what they look for in a girl:

"Big tits."

"Small breasts with perky nipples."

"A proud, three-dimensional ass."

"Cheekbones."

"Blonde pubes -- those really drives me crazy."

"What? Her personality? Are you serious? I dunno, I never really thought about it. I mean, I'm not really picky, long as she doesn't talk too much, I guess. Main thing, she's gotta be hot."

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The new Cosmo

These days AOL seems to specialize in headlines which demand you click on them to find out the answer to a teaser. (Somebody is getting paid by the number of clicks.)

It reminds me of Cosmopolitan Magazine from thirty years ago. They specialized in headlines which promised you the secrets of the universe, but then, when you'd take a look at the articles themselves, they were invariably disappointing.

Today's AOL headlines were typical:

"WOMAN ACCIDENTALLY FILMS WILD THING. She was just taking video of the water outside her window as she rode the ferry -- but what she ended up..... Startling scene outside her window."

You're left wondering what wild thing she filmed. The Loch Ness monster? A great white shark? A grizzly bear on shore? A murder taking place on a nearby boat? When I clicked on the article, it turned out to only be a bolt of lightning. Of course, it wasn't a tame bolt, but a wild one. But it still made me think, I'll never click on another AOL headline again -- after all, lightning doesn't strike twice.

But then the next headline read, "THIS IS THE WORST CAR DEAL OUT THERE. We've done the hard work for you already. So if you're looking for a good price on a car.....You're not going to save on this right now."

And I simply had to know: what would the absolute worst car deal be? What unscrupulous car dealer are they going to expose? Which car is the biggest ripoff? But when I clicked on the headline, it turned out to be a list of ten cars, all described in glowing terms, ranked in order of the current discount one could expect to get off the MSRP. Well, there's a reason I never go to auto websites on my own.

The next headline: "PATERNO FAMILY MAKES BIZARRE REQUEST. Newly released emails seem incriminating to the late coach -- but his family doesn't want....What they want investigators to do instead."

Oh my god! Was Old Joe a pederast himself? Does his family want this information squelched? But when I clicked on the headline, it turns out to be a link to a Sporting News article which merely said that since the recently released emails could be taken out of context, the family wants his emails released in their entirety instead. Please explain to me: what exactly is "bizarre" about that?

Next: "CHRISTIE OPENS UP IN CANDID INTERVIEW. The New Jersey governor, known for his tough guy image, revealed a more personal and.....'Really difficult thing' he's struggling with."

Given that Chris Christie seems to be on Romney's short list of VP picks, I figured I'd better find out exactly what this deep, dark secret is. After all, the word "revealed" implies a revelation. But when I clicked on the headline, it turned out that he says his weight is a problem for him, but that he intends to work on it. That's a revelation? Maybe some people have never seen a photo of him.

Calling AOL the new Cosmopolitan is probably an insult to Helen Gurley Brown. Maybe AOL is in fact the new Weekly World News.

But now I'm thinking, maybe I can get people to read my blog by using similar tactics.

Maybe I could run an all-caps headline screaming, "BARACK OBAMA'S SECRET PERVERSION!" Then I could talk about how the President likes to watch ESPN.

Or I could post, "ROMNEY LIKED HAVING SEX WITH LITTLE BOYS....." And just leave out the last word, "nearby." Then, in the copy, I could explain how early on in his marriage Romney had sex with his wife while his two oldest sons, still infants at the time, slept in nearby bedrooms.

Or maybe I could even go further: "I WAS RAPED BY A GIANT BIGFOOT!" Then, in the copy, I could explain how I had seen a misleading article which implied that a large sasquatch had been spotted, but the entire incident turned out to be a hoax, and how I felt violated by this betrayal of trust.

Hey, I gotta do something to liven this blog up.

(My son has suggested I put in pictures of naked women; I'm not quite there yet.)