Tuesday, July 28, 2009


For a long time I said I would watch Spanish language TV if they would just put on something worth watching. For reasons I can't fathom, we now get Univision, which is all Spanish, but can't get the NBC affiliate, which is right here in town. And, sure enough, most of Univision seems to be soap operas and variety shows that ape US network shows, who, in turn, are aping someone else. All this is the price for not buckling under to the cable gods, who won't even let the networks be seen here, one of the few places in the country where that applies. Are you with me so far?
So I'm going through the channels, which takes maybe thirty seconds or so, when a TV miracle happens. Univision is showing the Gold Cup soccer matches, emblematic of soccer supremacy in North America. I got to see parts of more than one game, though it took me a minute to realize that I was watching the Spanish version of games being played in Chicago's Soldier Field, the builders of which had probably never even heard of soccer when it went up in the early 20th Century.
With soccer, I'm content with outsider status. I've seen enough to understand most of the rules, which, when compared to something like the NFL are just simplicity itself, and have learned to tell some of the good plays from the poor ones. But I'll never be an expert, and you can believe that before plunging into next year's World Cup (maybe the family will repeat its random moneyless pool from four years ago) that I'll try to get a handle on the favorites.
But watching it is pretty easy, though I didn't catch much of the Spanish. Following the ball is no problem, and the camera guys know when to zero in on the areas around the goals. When someone finally scores, the guy does his interminable "Gooolll!" schtick, then you get the chance to see replays from different angles to catch how it actually happened. No doubt the hombres at Univision have been doing this for years, so they aren't going to miss anything important.
The players themselves are impressive athletes. They aren't that big, though tall guys are naturally the norm in the goal, but they can break through with explosive speed while keeping control of the pelota, I mean, ball. I am of the naive opinion that everyone should be able to earn a living doing the thing he/she does best, and if that's soccer, then viva. You have to remember the flip side, which is - you screw up, and a whole network full of people can get muy furioso at you, amigo. Hasta la vista.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

On to the Other Side

If I was a smart highly-paid, one-sided pundit I'd have plenty to write about concerning:
Health care
Budget Deficits
Economic Stimuli
The need (or lack of need) for more jet fighters
..And plenty of other things. Sadly, I'm not confident I could write anything that couldn't be construed as stupid by future generations who might come across this stuff some day. Here's an example: "No country that has revised its health care system to that of a single (government) payer has ever reversed itself to adopt anything resembling what the US has now." It's true, but might not be forever.

So, let's focus some more on the dear recently departed. Walter Cronkite came from the Great Plains about a hundred years ago to work for one of the wire service news organizations. His career lasted through two massive technological changes - the radio and the TV. He never made any momentous decisions outside of helping run CBS NEWS. He didn't really say anything that will never be forgotten. He didn't get as rich as Trump, or any of the current Lakers or plenty of forgettable rappers. I guess what was memorable about him is that his face looked into the camera and into ours when just a few faces competed. He seemed to be a decent everyman in a self-effacing Midwestern way, and we became used to him. We came to trust him, though it's hard to see how anyone thought they were getting the whole story of the whole world in just a half hour a day minus commercials. We are now pretty far removed from those Big TV Network News days, but Cronkite will be remembered a long time, if, for nothing else, then just being there every night.

Billy Mays died almost a month ago. I truly have no real knowledge of his life, except that he possessed the ability to shout into a camera and make people buy things, sometimes pretty strange little things. He must have had a sense of humor or he wouldn't have done a commercial for ESPN that spoofed all his other commercials. Other than that I just don't know.
I wouldn't have written anything about him at all, except that I'll be darned if I didn't see his bearded mug on TV, yes, in a commercial, just last week! This got me thinking. Some big executive somewhere must have had a phone conversation that went a little like this: "You're telling me WHAT?? Mays is DEAD? We just signed him a month ago - the guy cost us a fortune, but look what he did for OxyKleen! Yeah, we figured he'd give us a real jump start. Now you're telling me he's dead? Who's idea WAS this? No, not dying. I mean getting him in the first place! Mine?? Oh, no. You're not pinning this on ME! Tell you what. Our customers aren't that smart. Why don't we just run his commercials anyway? Yeah. they're already paid for, so how bad could it be? If people call complaining we'll just tell 'em it was Corporate's idea. Right. Play 'em anyway. But you didn't hear this from me, capice?"

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Little Stuff

Anyone for a round of "Guess Who Said It"? OK, players. Here's the quote: "...we face a motivated Fish." Nice try for those of you who guessed "Captain Ahab", but the actual speaker was Goran Prpic, captain of the Croatian Davis Cup team (that's tennis). The "fish" he was referring to was Mardy Fish, an American player brought in on short notice to take the place of injured Andy Roddick. I just thought it was cool the way Prpic said it. BTW, he needn't have worried. Croatia wins, joining Spain, Israel and the Czech Republic in the semifinals. No, I wouldn't have picked those, either.

On a brighter note, maybe it wasn't much of a surprise that the US soccer team throttled Honduras 2-0 last week. The "only in America" note comes from the fact that the goals were scored by Santino Quaranta and Brian Ching. I wonder where the team went for their post-game meal?

That Steve McNair business - ugly. An ex-NFL star with a wife and kids somehow falls for a 20 year-old waitress who, for reasons we may never know, shoots him dead in his sleep, then kills herself. It's easy to bring out the old phrases: "swelled-head jock", "thought he was entitled", "cheater deserved it", and so forth. But the people who knew him well in the Memphis area thought well of him as a person. They liked him, and not just as someone who could throw the ball a long way. So perhaps we should hold back from casting stones (if we think of this at all) and just call it what they would have in Shakespeare's day - a tragedy.

Now for things local. Our side yard goes down to a major gully which must be 60 or 70 feet deep. It's full of wildlife, which sometimes come up. Yesterday a doe with two tiny fawns strolled up onto the grass. I don't know what species of deer this is, but they aren't very big. The fawns were smaller than terriers, probably not more than 20 pounds each. My view was through the window, about 40 feet away. Through the same window today, I saw a little skunk in about the same spot - and was careful NOT to disturb it.

Finally, a name which just won't go away. Yes, it's Dick Cheney again, like a dripping slow flow of news from which we never quite get full. I won't rehearse the latest accusations, which are complex and nowhere NEAR complete. But ask yourselves. When is the last time you recall his name in a headline that represented GOOD news?

Monday, July 06, 2009

Whence Mrs. P.?

Too many people pass away to make mention of here, but there are always exceptions. If you had needed a face to go with American hubris of the 1960's, that face would have belonged to either General William Westmoreland or Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Kennedy appointed McNamara, who stuck around when Johnson took over as president. His advice to both was badly flawed, based on what had happened in previous wars instead of the one we found ourselves in - Vietnam. McNamara left office in 1068, but then, over twenty years later, did something that's rare. He came out with a book that admitted that the whole war had been based on the wrong premise, and he took responsibility. This made him new enemies in the American Right, who had assumed he was one of their own. I mention all this because McNamara died, at 93, over the weekend.

I know you don't know the name Karl Malden, also a fatality (age 97) last week, any more than I would have known about Greer Garson in the 60's. But Malden was in more than his share of good movies, none of which depended on his good looks, since he was actually a homely man. He was a character acter, and a good one. In the 70's he went on TV as a San Francisco police detective, then sort of retained the role for over 20 years as a spokesman for American Express, always hammering home the slogan "Don't leave home without it!" (the AE card). He's the last actor I recall whose looks improved by wearing a hat.

Sarah Palin announced over the holiday that she's resigning as governor of Alaska. Her plans are pretty vague, though she mumbled something about a "higher calling". Don't be surprised if that gets amended by a future spokesman to "higher-paid calling" Since Letterman will probably steer clear of this one, here are the Top Ten Future Jobs for Sarah Palin:
10 TV executive in charge of bringing back "Northern Exposure".
9 Author of "When Cooking the Books Isn't Enough: A Guide to Official Scams".
8 Producer of "Sarah Palin Does the Wacky Characters of Tina Fey".
7 Author of a Tell-All Book on John McCain's mother.
6 Host of TV's "Are You Smarter than a Community College Stoner?"
5 Producer, "Turning Your Roadkill Moose into More than an Insurance Claim".
4 Reveals herself as the real heiress of the Chrystal Cathedral.
3 Owner of local Older Women's NBA team, in which teams don't play each other, but talk trash to the crowd until they get some 12 year-olds they think they can beat.
2. Hostess of ESPN's new gambling show "You Betcha".
1 Sarah, Queen of the Kingdom of Alaska, available for birthdays and bar mitzfahs.
If anyone is interested, my real guess is that Palin will suddenly seem like a journalist to Fox News, and an author to Ann Coulter's publishers. No, she will not be a major party nominee for POTUS, but she'll laugh all the way to the bank.