04 September 2008

Thoroughly vetted

I hate to give the appearance that I'm obsessed with Sarah Palin, but I just listened to her speech at the Republican convention. It was the auditory equivalent of eating a jar of Strawberry Fluff. At least she calls snowmobiles "snow machines".

[Update Thursday AM]
I wrote the above when she was halfway through her speech and was waxing poetic about her family. (For someone who would prefer the "East coast media elites" not talk about her family, she sure talks a lot about her family.) After posting, I closed the computer and started getting ready for bed. At this point, the speech turned *mean*. Overall, I was (perhaps predictably) disappointed and frustrated with the slate of speakers last night, but I'll save that for another post.

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The Olympic Handoff

I started writing this post over a week ago, then ran out of steam. I hate to see all that "hard" work go to waste, though, especially because Iceland is featured prominently. The political conventions have been distracting, and I just can't keep up with the 24 hour news cycle. So here, for your reading enjoyment, is an edited, week+ late, postmortem on the summer Olympics:

Although I'm more of a winter Olympics guy (maybe it's my affinity for the Nordic countries), I was a pretty rapt follower of the Olympics the last couple weeks. Here are a few brief thoughts on the First Communist Olympiad.

First off, the Chinese proved to be highly entertaining hosts. It's tough to pick a favorite moment, but the top two would have to be the (allegedly) underage gymnasts and the opening ceremonies singer that was too homely for primetime.

Of course, I don't watch the Olympics to see the host nation embarrass itself. I watch to see all of the weird-ass sports no one in America plays. And the prize this year has to go to Team Handball. I had no idea before I watched it online that team handball was even played the way it's played. I assumed it was somehow a variation on the sport the middle aged men play in the racquetball courts at the UC Berkeley fitness center every morning. But it's not like that at all. Instead, it's like a hybrid between basketball (albeit with rules against traveling that are even more lax than those imposed on stars in the NBA) and indoor soccer. The best part for me was Iceland's captivating run to the final game in the men's tournament. Sadly, they came up short in the gold medal game against France, but it was still pretty cool that the tiny island nation mustered a silver medal in a sport that is (allegedly) widely popular in the rest of Europe (if not much of anywhere else).

Looking ahead four years, if the Olympic hand-off sponsored by London is any indication, I'm not optimistic for the upcoming games. For those of you who didn't see it, a key moment featured Jimmy Page playing guitar on top of an open-topped bus sided with neon umbrellas. David Beckham joined him to kick a soccer ball into the audience, apparently symbolizing ... something. I heard this portion of the ceremony previewed on the radio a few days prior, and the commentator described how it would be "impossible for it not to be absolute rubbish." As luck would have it, I caught this spectacle on TV (in the grocery store of all places), and it lived up to the billing -- it was absolute rubbish. Becks feebly kicked the ball into the first row of spectators, alarming an unsuspecting gaggle of Japanese visitors. Jimmy Page looked on, a bit bewildered by all of the flashing lights.

Luckily, the sporting events themselves always seem to transcend the setting of the Olympics. Here's to hoping the next summer games will be as entertaining as this year's and not absolute rubbish.

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