Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympics Follow-Up!

The Brits did a good job with the Opening Ceremonies.  They highlighted what is typically British, presented it in a creative, thoughtful way, and successfully combined an old-style approach with hi-tech innovations.  Near as I can tell, the entire program went off without a hitch.

I am not viscerally attracted to Dickens or 19th century costumes, but I accepted them as appropriate for this presentation.  To focus a segment on the National Health Service was a gutsy call and while I didn’t relate to the cutesy kiddies I could applaud the effort.  Nor did I relate to the songs and dances, but tolerated them as a necessary evil.  (In truth, I recorded the whole thing and fast-forwarded through the parts that didn’t interest me.)

They didn’t fall into the trap of trying to outdo the 2008 Beijing extravaganza but concentrated on their core competencies, which was wise.  I can imagine that with all the royals and other notables in attendance the evening was a security nightmare.  But again, no problems here that I heard about.  So congratulations to everyone involved.

Now, if only they could get that old Queen to smile – that’d be a breakthrough!

Thursday, July 26, 2012


So far I haven’t found myself looking forward to the Olympics.  Since I’m a sports junkie I guess as they unfold I’ll pay attention and perhaps even get excited about some of the competition, but up to now – nada.

I’m amused (bemused) by how much the Brits seem to care about this thing.  In the face of security problems, traffic nightmares and a myriad of last-minute glitches, they are besotted with this wonderful extravaganza that is about to descend on their Sceptred Isle.  It makes William the Conqueror and the Magna Carta pale in significance.

Comparisons with China’s Opening Ceremonies four years ago are inevitable.  You remember – thousands of perfectly synced dancers, drummers, acrobats – and more.  I hope our friends across the pond don’t try to compete with them.  Better they do something that is so totally different, so totally appropriate for their culture that it stands on its own.  But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Wanting to host the Olympics is a fool’s mission.  To bolster national and local pride and ego billions are spent on facilities and infrastructure that will never pay for itself.  They justify the expense by pointing to the long-term value that accrues to the people of the city or state.  In this case an area of London is being ‘transformed.’  Sure!  I hope it happens, but again, I wouldn’t bet on it.

Well, enough of the negativity.  USA!  USA!  USA!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why Does the World Exist?

“Why Does the World Exist?” a new book by Jim Holt was recently reviewed by Jeremy Bernstein in the Wall Street Journal.  The cosmos intrigues me so of course I read the review.

Everyone’s first question on this subject is:  What was there before the Big Bang?  Some cosmologists will say they don’t know.  Others will say that since time and space were created by the Big Bang there is no “before.”  I like the answer but can’t quite get my head around the concept.

I can get my head around the final paragraph in Bernstein’s review:

A hedge fund manager who has made all the money that he will ever need, reads Mr. Holt’s book and decides to search for the meaning of the universe.  He discovers a Buddhist monk who lives in a cave in the Himalayas and almost never speaks but, when he does, speaks only the highest wisdom.  Our man undertakes a dangerous trek to ask the monk his question:  “What is the secret of the cosmos?”  The monk goes into a trance and comes out with a single sentence.  He says, “The cosmos is like a bowl of cherries.”  Our man is outraged, so angry he even shakes the monk.  “How can you possibly say that the cosmos is like a bowl of cherries?”  After a few minutes the monk replies:  “Maybe the cosmos is not like a bowl of cherries.”

A perfect response for a question that cannot be answered!

Different subject:  Penn State

The penalties imposed on Penn State by the NCAA were a good start but didn’t go far enough.  They should have banned football at Penn State for at least ten years.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tea Party Anarchists

Recently I watched a movie, “Sacco & Vanzetti,” about two Italian anarchists accused of murder in 1920 and put to death in 1927 after a trial in Massachusetts that was more about anti-immigrant prejudice than justice.  Why, I thought, does the political philosophy of these guys sound familiar?

As anarchists they believed the state was undesirable, unnecessary and harmful.  They opposed authority and hierarchical organizations that trampled on the rights of individuals.  While anarchism was considered a radical left-wing ideology, it endorsed self-reliance and the free market.

I didn’t have to look far to find the anarchists of today.  The 2012 version is our friends in the Tea Party.  I doubt they’d accept the label ‘Anarchist.’  But take a look:
            Grassroots oriented
            No centralized leadership
            Power to the individual, not the collective
            God loves the free market

And lest I forget – Happy Bastille Day!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Not Paying Attention!

I’m not paying attention to:

What Obama & Romney are saying about Romney & Obama.

Investigations by Congressional Republicans of alleged misdeeds by Democrats and protestations of innocence by said accused.

The heat wave in the east or south or midwest or wherever.  I got it.  It’s hot.

Trying to figure out what the Higgs boson particle is or why it matters.  Unless it helps prove the multiverse theory, which intrigues me.

The Lance Armstrong witch-hunt.  Guilty or not, they’re out to get him.

Analyses of the just-completed Supreme Court year and predictions about where it is headed.

Reviews of all the new tablets and phones on the market.  I got me iPad and iPhone and I’m stickin’ with ‘em.

Stories about priests molesting children and the cover-ups that were/are part of the story.  It makes me want to do bad things to bad people.

Diets and exercises that are said to help you lose weight.  Unless they happen to agree with my eating habits and life style.

New cars on the market.

NFL and NBA and NHL trades.

Box office totals for new movies.

And a few other things . . .   

Friday, July 06, 2012

Tomorrow's Afghanistan!

Dexter Filkins writes about Afghanistan in the current New Yorker.  The piece is called “After America: Will civil war hit Afghanistan when the U.S. leaves?”  Here is a quote:

“After eleven years, nearly two thousand American killed, sixteen thousand Americans wounded, nearly four hundred billion dollars spent, and more than twelve thousand Afghan civilians dead since 2007, the war in Afghanistan has come to this: the United States is leaving, mission not accomplished.

“Objectives once deemed indispensable, such as nation-building and counter-insurgency, have been abandoned or downgraded, either because they haven’t worked or because there’s no longer enough time to achieve them.  Even the education of girls, a signal achievement of the NATO presence in Afghanistan, is at risk.

“By the end of 2014, when the last Americans are due to stop fighting, the Taliban will not be defeated.  A Western-style democracy will not be in place.  The economy will not be self-sustaining.  No senior Afghan official will likely be imprisoned for any crime, no matter how egregious.  And it’s a good bet that, in some remote mountain valley, even Al Qaeda, which brought the United States to Afghanistan in the first place, will be carrying on.”

No further comment needed!