Category Archives: Uncategorized

Djokovic outlasts Federer in another epic Wimbledon final. Some fireworks in reverse. And remembering Louis Zamperini, an all-time great American hero.

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At the risk of sounding like a grandpa, young tennis fans don’t know how good they’ve got it.

Really, they don’t. If you’ve only been following tennis for the past decade or so, maybe you think it’s always been like this. Three or four all-time greats, battling it out in epic, high-quality matches at Grand Slam Final after Grand Slam Final.

But I remember the Lleyton Hewitt-Yevgeny Kafelnikov years of the late ‘90s and early aughts; the Marcelo Rios-Guillermo Coria (shudder) era.

Which is why I don’t ever take incredible matches like Sunday’s men’s (excuse me, gentlemen’s) singles final for granted. For five tight, thrilling sets, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer played sublime, scintillating tennis, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
First it looked like Federer had the upper hand, winning the first set. Then Djokovic, so many times in the past few years having come up short in major moments, winning the next two sets playing fantastic defensive tennis.

In the fourth, with Djokovic up 5-2, I got dressed and put my sneakers on; my best friend’s in town and we were headed to the Met (an aside: still the best museum in NYC; spent 3 hours there Sunday but easily could’ve spent 6 or 7), and I thought the great Federer was cooked.
My buddy ended up going to the museum ahead of me, because with absolutely no warning, Federer stormed back and won the last five games of the set, a gag job of Buckner-ian proportions.
“No way Djokovic can recover in the fifth,” my Mom and I agreed on the phone.
Only he did, winning a 6-4 fifth set that finished with the soon-to-be father crying hysterically, dropping down to the ground and eating a blade of Wimbledon grass.

Sensational match. Of course I was pulling big-time for Federer, my all-time favorite athlete, but I can’t be too mad he lost; he played attacking, ferocious tennis, and proved he can still hang with the big boys. And I was happy for Djokovic, who’s suffered a lot the last few years and really deserved this win.

I honestly think if he’d just held on and won 6-3 in the fourth set, it wouldn’t have been as impressive as the way he ended up winning.

Another incredible Wimbledon final, at least the fifth classic final we’ve had since 2007. We are SO, so spoiled in tennis right now; greatness is with us everywhere.

Can’t wait for the U.S. Open…

**And now, after watching fireworks this weekend, try watching fireworks in reverse. Cool, and a little trippy…

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**Finally today, I didn’t blog Friday so I’m a few days late on this, but don’t want to let the passing of American legend Louis Zamperini pass by without a few words. I wrote about Louie after reading the incredible New York Times bestselling book about his life, Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken,” which I highly, highly recommend.

Zamperini was 97 when he died Thursday, and he packed so much living, and endured so much suffering, in that time. What amazed me most about his life was his complete lack of bitterness and good humor about life; a man who endured what he did as a prisoner of war still found so much good. He is a role model in every sense of the term.

Here’s a great obit of Zamperini from the L.A. Times, and below, a “CBS Sunday Morning” piece from 2012 that shows his humanity beautifully:

 

My first Lamaze class proves enlightening (and scary). The Michigan politician with a sparkplug sexual fetish. And gorgeous video of Antarctica

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Tuesday night the wife and I passed yet another “milestone” on the road to birthing a human and then taking care of it for the rest of its life: Lamaze class.

Technically, it’s called “Childbirth Education” class, and for the next five weeks, for 3 hours a week, my beloved and I will sit in a room with four other couples and learn how to deliver a child safely and without strangling each other in the delivery room.

With the caveat stated right off that “Yes, I know, you can’t really prepare for being a parent, you just have to DO it!” here are a few things I learned on  the first night:

– When your wife tells you she’s had her first contraction, go make a sandwich. Walk around the block. Watch the entire six hours of HBO’s “Angels in America.” But whatever you do, don’t rush to the hospital. Yep, contrary to what I’ve seen on TV all these years, early labor can take hours, and should be done at home. If you go to the hospital with contractions 20 minutes apart, they will laugh at you and send you out quickly. So I was told.

“Birthing ball” is a term I will get very familiar with. Apparently moms-to-be are supposed to sit on these exercise ball thingies toward the end of pregnancy, since it helps strengthen the pelvis and lower back, and helps turn the baby for easier delivery.

– I’m old. Well, I didn’t learn that in class, but my wife and I, both in our late 30s, were definitely the graybeards of the group. Hey, at least they didn’t offer us a senior citizens discount on the class or anything.

-Lamaze class feels a little like health class in high school, with all kinds of diagrams of the female anatomy and arrows and photos and stuff that generally you’d rather not see. Unlike in Mr. Stangasser’s health class in 10th grade, though, I didn’t spend most of Lamaze class trying to get the cute girl in the next row to smile at me.

Toward the beginning of class, Mary Lou, our instructor, said the goal was to get us new parents more relaxed and less anxiety-ridden by giving us all the information about what’s going to happen.
Not sure if she was looking at me and saw the terrified look on my face when she said it, but that immediately made me feel better.

And besides, those breathing and relaxation exercises can be done by the dads, too, right?

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**Gotta admit, this is a new one on me. Was watching Rachel Maddow the other day and she mentioned this story, which I had to find to believe.

Jordan Haskins, of Saginaw, Mich., is a 24-year-old convicted felon running as a Republican for a seat in the Michigan House of Representatives, and it seems he’s getting no support, or opposition, from the county GOP.

Maybe that’s because as a teenager, Haskins had a long criminal record, mostly due to one of the most bizarre sexual fetishes I’ve ever heard of.

According to this story, Haskins admitted to police that he scaled fences and trespassed on both public and private property in order to take vehicles for joyrides and to facilitate a fetish he referred to as “cranking.” Police reports state he disconnected the spark plugs on a vehicle and then masturbated while attempting to turn over the engine.

I mean, seriously, this is a thing??? Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner, please move to the back of the line, your transgressions have got nothin’ on Mr. Haskins.

Spark plugs? Where does one even discover a liking for this kind of thing?

Lot of strange, strange people in this world.

**Finally today, some very cool video of a place we don’t get to see like this too often: Antarctica.

The AFAR travel guide company sent Chris Jones to the remote continent last winter, and he wrote a fascinating story, and shot some really cool footage, of how beautiful the place is.

Really gorgeous stuff.

 

 

U.S. soccer battles valiantly, but falls to Belgium. A fantastic commercial empowering young girls. And a stunning Wimbledon upset, as Nadal goes down.

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For just a few minutes, I started dreaming.
After Belgium had thoroughly dominated the U.S. Tuesday evening and finally, after superhuman goalkeeping by Tim Howard broken through for a couple of goals, leading 2-0 with just 15 minutes to play, it looked like it was over for America at the World Cup.

But then, a 19-year-old kid named Julian Green scored a great goal, and the U.S. was pressing, and Clint Dempsey had an incredible chance right in front of the net of a perfect set piece, and maybe, just maybe, we were going to tie Belgium and win on penalty kicks.

But nope. Belgium hung on, and they 100 percent deserved to win. They were so much better than the U.S., offensively, defensively, everywhere but in goal.
Tim Howard, the U.S. netminder, may have had the best game in goal of any American keeper, ever. He was incredible back there, a stone wall of defense.

(My favorite “Tim Howard was awesome” Tweet Tuesdsay night, and there were many fantastic ones, came from Grey Munford: “Tim Howard’s protection is so effective, Hobby Lobby has banned him from their stores.” I also heard Tommy Smyth on the ESPN Radio broadcast compare Howard to Henrik Lundqvist. Beautiful.)

And so for many American sports fans, the World Cup is over. But for millions more, like me, it goes on, because we’re hooked on this tournament now.

Couple great pieces I wanted to share about Tuesday night: Sports On Earth’s Will Leitch wrote a terrific story about why there’s reason to hope for the future of U.S. Soccer, and ESPN.com’s Chris Jones with a beautiful column about each American player in the starting lineup, and what playing for country meant to them.

**After yesterday’s awful news about the Supreme Court’s disregard for women’s health and well-being, here’s a nice palate-cleanser. A group called the Always Global Puberty Education Program has been doing excellent work all over the world for decades, and they just put out this terrific PSA on what it means to younger people about what doing something “like a girl” means to them.

Really, really encouraging stuff. In five days, this video has been viewed more than 14 million times.

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**Thrilling day at Wimbledon Tuesday, with Rafael Nadal getting upset by a much-lower ranked player for the third straight year.

Truly though, this time Rafa didn’t play poorly at all; 19-year-old Australian Nick Kyrgios just took it to him, playing beautiful, brilliant tennis. Kyrgios showed no fear, and when the match got tight in third and fourth sets, the kid showed zero nerves.

What does this mean? Well, it could be the arrival of a new star, as Kyrgios has the serve, forehand and cojones to be a top player, it looks like (and you’ve gotta love his enthusiasm.)

And also, Rafa’s ouster is great news for Roger Federer, who, if he beats Stan Wawrinka today, won’t have to see his nemesis in the semis. Not saying my man Fed is going to win Wimbledon, but his road looks a lot easier than it did yesterday morning.

The Supreme Court doesn’t give a damn about women. Rafa Nadal with an amazing off-court feat. And a major moment arrives for USA Soccer

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The current United States Supreme Court believes in religion more than science.

It believes the beliefs of a few outweigh the rights of the many.

And it believes that requiring companies to cover women who want contraception, as legally required under the Affordable Care Act, is wrong and shouldn’t be mandated.

The right wing of America hasn’t just hijacked one political party. They’ve hijacked the Supreme Court.
And it’s a damn disgusting sight.

There were a ton of great pieces written Monday in light of this horrendous Hobby Lobby decision, one that will affect millions of lives. Here’s a roundup of what it all means, and here’s a devastating piece from Mother Jones about why what 5 justices did was so wrong.

**Next up, this is pretty freaking amazing. Rafael Nadal, during a day off at Wimbledon, decided to see how many times he could bounce a tennis ball off the frame of his racket.

He claims he once did it 100 times. Sunday, he did it 406 times. Insanely hard to do (I’ve tried hundreds of times and could never get past 20.)

What can you say, Nadal is amazing.

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**Finally, pretty enormous moment arrives at 4 p.m. Eastern today for the U.S. men’s soccer team at the World Cup (and thank you, sports gods, for scheduling the game right about the time the terrific Wimbledon lineup on Tuesday should be wrapping up. Sometimes, the gods think of me).

If Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Co. find a way to beat Belgium and advance to the quarterfinals (nobody eat any Waffles today, support America), it might be the biggest moment in American soccer history.
I know we’ve made the final 8 before, in 2002, but the difference is, there are SO many more Americans paying attention to soccer now, so many more soccer fans thanks to a variety of factors (Premier League being on TV, U.S. being better, Major League Soccer thriving and expanding), and such a soccer presence on the Web.

I have no idea if we’ll beat Belgium, who from the snippets of highlights I’ve seen look really tough. But Jozy Altidore, our best offensive threat, is back from injury, Team USA is a lot more rested than they were against Germany, and hey, it’s been a wacky World Cup so far, so why not the upstart Americans advancing?

Really looking forward to the game. My prediction? Belgium wins in penalty kicks, which would be the ultimate drama and ultimate heartache (ask Greece about that).

My old stomping grounds of Glens Falls has been radically transformed. Jason Kidd, a complete village idiot. And the craziest hula-hoop skills you’ve ever seen

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I think I have mentioned this here before, but from 2002-2005, I lived in a sleepy little upstate New York town called Glens Falls.

It’s a small burg about 45 miles past Albany on the New York State Thruway, and its famous natives include wrestler “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and recent college basketball sensation Jimmer Fredette (now in the NBA).

I enjoyed my time there immensely, loved the newspaper I worked out, and made great friends, some of whom I saw this weekend on the wife and I’s annual summer trip up to Saratoga Springs (we usually go during horse racing season in mid-August, but as she’ll be 8 1/2 months pregnant then, seemed wise to move it up a bit).

Glens Falls, though, was always pretty run-down when I lived there. The population base had shrunk drastically since the 1980s, most of the downtown stores were either empty or dilapidated, and there really wasn’t much to do if you were a 20-something looking for fun (which I was).
In short, the town was pretty much dead, and figured to remain that way for the foreseeable future.

Only … it has come dramatically back to life. I was literally walking around with my mouth open this weekend, seeing the incredible turnaround. The public library (above) used to be a tiny afterthought of a building; now it holds its own with any university library I’ve seen.
Instead of the dark and depressing empty storefronts downtown, there are new restaurants, clubs and businesses, signs of a thriving city.

It was amazing. It was unrecognizable from what it was eight years ago. And it gave me a little bit of hope that with some strong local leadership, incentives for businesses, and local ingenuity, plenty of other struggling small towns can do the same.

You think you know a place… I kept thinking this weekend that I almost wish I lived there now, and where was all this when I was looking for love?

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**So let me make sure I have this Jason Kidd situation straight, before I proclaim him the biggest horse’s ass in New York coaching circles since Mike Keenan:
He finished a Hall of Fame NBA career with the Knicks in 2013, and despite having zero coaching experience, he schmoozes Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and GM Billy King to hire him as head coach of a loaded Nets team.

He then gets off to a hideous 10-21 start, looks more lost than a virgin in a whorehouse, and somehow avoids getting fired, rights the ship and guides his team to a second-round playoff loss, barely meeting preseason expectations.
Then, when any sane person would be trying to get better as a coach and thanking their lucky stars they have an owner who loves him, he goes to that owner, DEMANDS to be placed completely in charge of basketball operations, and knowing that he’ll get turned down (firmly), secretly starts negotiating with Milwaukee, and any day now will be named their GM/coach/major domo?

Yep, that’s apparently about right. What an utter and complete jackass, and disgrace, Kidd is.
I will always be grateful to him for getting my long-suffering Nets to the NBA Finals in 2002 and ’03, but that was a long time ago. This drunk-driving, ego-tripping fool should be put on the No. 4 train out of Brooklyn and on the first flight to Milwaukee.

Enjoy the winters in Wisconsin, Jason. And it’ll be a cold day in hell before Nets fans ever stop cursing your name.

**Finally today, this is Rachael Lust. She does some insane things with a hula hoop. I know, I know, you can’t always trust what you see on YouTube. But fast forward to the 1-minute mark and tell me you’re not impressed.

She should definitely be hired for birthday parties and bar mitzvahs.

Good News Friday: A daughter gets her dad a day off at Google. A Mom’s very funny advice to new parents. And the NBA with a very classy draft night move

The U.S.A. men’s soccer team lost at the World Cup on Thursday! But we advanced to the next round anyway! Crazy tournament, this World Cup.  We won even though we lost.

How did this happen? Only Gloria from “White Men Can’t Jump” can truly explain it.
“Sometimes when you win, you really lose. And sometimes when you lose, you really win. And sometimes when you win or lose, you actually tie.  And sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose. Winning or losing is all one organic mechanism, from which one extracts what one needs.”

Thanks for clearing that up, Gloria. Now on with the show…

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We start this Good News Friday off with a cool father-daughter story. Some people love Google, some people don’t love them so much (I personally think they’re mostly on the side of good), but in this story, I think we can agree that there’s at least one boss there with a good heart.

A little girl named Katie wrote a letter to her Dad’s boss at Google, requesting that he be given a day off since it was his birthday.

The letter (above) reads:

“Dear google worker, “Can you please make sure when daddy goes to work, he gets one day off like he can get get a day off Wendsday. Because Daddy ONLY gets a day off on Saturday.” She signed the missive “From, Katie.”
Below that she put an emphatic postscript: “PS. It is daddy’s BIRTHDAY!”
And just in case that wasn’t enough, Katie added: “P.P.S. It is summer, you know!”

And you know what? It worked. Google gave him a whole week off (of vacation time).
Read Google’s response here on the “Today” show website, which ran the story.
Very cool.

**Next up, Thursday night was the NBA Draft, and for the most part it was a pretty boring, routine event like most drafts are.
Until this happened. Isaiah Austin was a star at Baylor University and was projected to be selected in the draft this year.

But a few weeks ago Austin, who is legally blind in one eye, discovered he had Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder that would end his career before it even got started.

Still, a dream of hearing his name called in the NBA Draft was made possible thanks to this beautiful gesture by Commissioner Adam Silver. This was so great…

**And finally, another “tales from parenting” story that yes, I seem to be running more and more of in this space as my impending fatherhood gets closer.
A hilarious writer named Lauren Laverne wrote this in the English newspaper The Observer last week, and my friend Amanda (a new Mom herself) sent it to me to prove to me that, like Laverne says, parenting will simplify your life.

Here’s an excerpt, but I strongly recommend reading the whole thing:

“We’re constantly being told to pare down, to be in the moment, to identify and pursue our goals. Lifestyle experts make wads of cash claiming they can help us: coaches, organisers, motivational speakers, declutterers, assertiveness trainers… A baby is all of these experts, rolled into a snuggly package of hope and meconium that you really quite inconveniently have to push out of your vagina or have removed with knives (these options: WTF). Your baby will be your life coach. Here’s how.

It will tell you what to do, all the goddamn time. Dealing with the entry and exit points of its food will take up 96% of your day. You will spend the remaining 4% figuring out how to make money to pay for food and nappies. At work you will become more motivated, assertive and efficient via a mixture of desperation, exhaustion and a distorted perspective on what you can achieve.

You made a human!

This fact will explode the boundaries of what you believed possible. Perhaps you can fly. Have you checked?”

Sounds great to me.

 

Laser helmets that cure baldness (maybe). Sending smells via text message (It’s real). And the Sacramento Kings crowd-source their draft pick

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It’s been a while since I’ve written about science breakthroughs on the ole’ blog, but now that I’m knee-deep into “Breaking Bad” Season 5 and am inspired by Walter White and Jesse Pinkman’s chemistry brilliance, I’ve been trying to learn more about a subject I was terrible at in school.

OK, that’s a lie. Today’s blog has nothing to do with being inspired by “Breaking Bad.” But I did hear these two new breakthroughs in science on the radio this week, and I think they’re awesome.

First, something that could help me and any other follicly-challenged readers immediately! A California company has come up with what it claims to be the solution – a helmet that fires cool lasers at the wearers scalp to stimulate hair growth.

The Theradome headgear is said to be the only wearable, clinical-strength laser treatment that people can use at home, but it will set buyers back almost $800.

First of all, I would TOTALLY pay $800 for this if it worked, since I throw away $50 every three months on Rogaine which really doesn’t work for me.

Second, I totally wish I could believe that these lasers would target my hair follicles and grow hair, but I’ve been fooled many times before (Although the fact that a NASA scientist is behind Theradome is encouraging, right?)
And third, can you imagine the looks at the store I would get if I was walking around wearing that thing?
Still, I’m intrigued. As is Larry David, Patrick Stewart and many of the rest in my “hair-loss” crew.

 **Next up, something not nearly as useful but equally revolutionary. A Harvard professor named David Edwards has invented a device that will allow cell phone users to send smells via mobile messaging.

This is a real thing: The “oPhone” by Vapor Communications will allow users to mix and match different scents to create more than 300,000 unique aromas to send via mobile message.

The device is designed to sit on a table or desk, and uses small cartridges called oChips (“o” for olfactory) to send 32 “primitive aromas” through the device’s two receivers. These oChips are good for hundreds of uses, and can be replaced, like printer cartriges, when the aroma gets used up.

So let’s say you’re chatting with a pal in London and you want to tell them how good your chocolate chip cookies smell. Voila, you send them a text and boom, it’s like they’re in the kitchen with you.

I love stuff like this that gets invented that absolutely no one, anywhere was clamoring for.
Watch Edwards explain the “oPhone” above, and then wonder if maybe not all Harvard professors are, you know, sane.

**Finally today, I thought this was a very interesting idea. The Sacramento Kings, owned by a very out-of-the-box owner in Ranek Vanadive, decided to do something quite different when it came to this year’s NBA Draft, being held tonight in New York: They asked amateurs (fans, basically) who are very into basketball analytics to come up with ideas and suggestions on who they should choose with the No. 8 pick.
Filmmaker Jonathan Hock has been recording the teams’ front office meeting with these wannabe-GM’s, and it’s nine minutes of really interesting video, I think.
Can’t wait, after watching this, to see what the Kings do with the pick.

Me and Meryl Streep, hanging out on a Tuesday night. A park ranger fired for dancing. Seriously? And a singing Mom belts her heart out while her sons fight

"The Eye Of The Storm" New York Premiere

Had a very cool “Only in New York” kind of moment Tuesday night: My wife and I went to a Shakespeare in the Park performance of “Much Ado About Nothing” (if you’re not familiar with Shakespeare in the Park, it’s an awesome free summer series in NY featuring two of the Bard’s plays every year, the only catch being you’ve got to wait on line for tickets for 3-4 hours the morning of the performance you want to see.).
Anyway, so our seats are right near one of the entrances to the theater, and all of a sudden my wife looks over my shoulder and whispers “Look, it’s Meryl Streep!”

And it was. I quickly shouted “We love you Meryl!” to her, because I’m just cool like that. She turned around and smiled at me, then went on  her merry way to her primo seat in the center of the theater.

After a long career as a sportswriter, I never get star-struck around athletes anymore. Politicians? Nah. But when the greatest female actor in American history walks by me on a random Tuesday night? Yeah, I was pretty pumped.

I love living here.

**Next up, a story so ridiculous it sounds like it came from The Onion. But sadly, it’s real.
A park ranger in Tennessee was fired last week after a mother visiting the park was offended by his dancing in the parking lot.
That’s pretty much it. Watch this video and you’ll see this dude was hardly “Madonna during her ‘Sex” book era.
Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. Hope you’re proud of yourself, Melissa Parsons. You put a man named Darrell Nelson just trying to have a little fun out of a job.

**And finally, this was made a year ago but a Facebook friend just posted it Tuesday, and I think it’s fabulous. While Katie Crank’s four sons rough-house with each other on the family couch, she belts out a pretty song and annotates it with what life is like trying to tame four crazy boys.

Really, really funny. Four boys all under 10? That woman be crazy.

Our “friend” Egypt disgustingly imprisons 3 innocent journalists. The 6-year-old drumming sensation. And an apartheid-era police chief seeks penance in a unique way

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Next time you find yourself feeling too good, or too smug, about America and how morally righteous we are, think about this story.

Last week our secretary of state, John Kerry, went to Egypt and sung the praises of the new government (what’ve there been, four since the Arab Spring three years ago?), tossing around words like “freedom” and “democracy” like so many coins in a fountain.

Then this happened: Three journalists, all accused of helping a Muslim Brotherhood protest rally, sentenced to seven to 10 years in prison, on the most bullshit charges you can ever imagine.

Read this story in the N.Y. Times, about the disgusting treatment of these three professionals who did nothing wrong, and then go ahead and see how much Egypt gives a damn about democracy and freedom. Mohamed Fahmy, a Canadian citizen of Egyptian descent, is one of the reporters sentenced. Peter Greste, an Australian, previously worked for the BBC and had spent only a few days in Egypt at the time of his arrest; and Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian, who previously worked for a Japanese news organization, The Asahi Shimbun, are the others.

None of them did a thing wrong. This story pissed me off so much, yes, probably because I’m a former journalist who loves and admires reporters so much.
I’m glad to see there’s some international outrage about it; there ought to be a hell of a lot more.

**Next up, saw this on a friend’s Facebook page this week and was wildly impressed: A then 6-year-old kid named Avery Molek gives us a kick-ass rendition of “Welcome to the Jungle” on the drums. You go, future Axl Rose impersanator! Here’s the child prodigy’s website if you want to hear more bad-assery. article_inset_fairbanks2 **Finally today, I don’t think I’ve ever had two South Africa-related posts in the same year on my blog, but here ya go. After yesterday’s post on Rodriguez, the star of “Searching for Sugar Man,” who is a huge hero in South Africa, comes this story I read Monday that floored me. It’s about a much darker side of South Africa’s past: apartheid.

From Eve Fairbanks of newrepublic.com, it’s the story of a 68-year-old man named Adriaan Vlok (left, above), who was a vicious police chief during the apartheid era, and how he’s now trying to make up for some of his crimes: By washing the feet of the black men he wronged.

So much about South Africa’s last 20 years, since the end of apartheid, has been agonizing, as the present tries to reconcile its past, and this desperate longing of one man to save his soul, as it were, is fascinating.

One of the most interesting stories I’ve read this year, and the ending just stunned me. Definitely worth the 15 minutes of your time.

“Searching for Sugar Man” and when fame doesn’t change a man. Team USA excruciatingly ties at World Cup. And “The Karate Kid” turns 30

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So I mentioned briefly last week that I finally got around to watching the Academy Award-winning documentary “Searching for Sugar Man,” the story of a mysterious early 1970′s rock singer from Detroit named Rodriguez, who never found success in America but developed an enormous following in South Africa, where more than 500,000 of his records have been sold in the last 40 years.

The film, released in 2012, is astonishingly good, and at less than 90 minutes, packs a lot of story and fabulous music into an incredible story.
I don’t want to give away too much of the plot (The movie is playing on the Starz cable channel all month, and is on Netflix), because the story is so incredible, about how Rodriguez was living his life in Detroit as a construction worker, toiling in anonymity for decades, before being “found” and told what a sensation he was in South Africa.

But for days now I’ve been thinking about this theme of fame and success. Sixto Rodriguez made a few records in the early ’70s, and never became famous. And he seems pretty fine with that. When he was “discovered” by two enterprising and dogged South Africans, he was stunned, and happy to discover his music found a huge audience.

But it didn’t change him, this “accidental” discovery. So many times in America we’ve seen people go from anonymity to instant fame and it completely changes who they are, and what they believe.
Very rarely does fame not change a person. What I found fascinating about Rodriguez is he was living his anonymous life, suddenly became famous, then went back to his mostly-anonymous life for years afterward, until “Searching for Sugar Man” brought him back into the spotlight.

He’s still the same guy, living in the same house. And I think that’s beautiful and rare. In his mind, he’s always been a success, because he’s doing what he loved, and had everything he needed.

Not sure if I’m making the point I’m trying to make here. I guess what I’m trying to say is the true character of a person comes out when they suddenly get “famous,” and in Rodriguez’s case, it was wonderful to see.

Now go see the movie.

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**Man, that USA-Portugal soccer game Sunday night was intense. Has a tie ever felt more like a loss in our lives?
I’ve really gotten into this World Cup, and from what my soccer friends tell me, this has been the best tournament in decades. But Sunday night brought forth all the emotions: Despair when Portugal got the early goal, encouragement when we tied it, elation when Clint Dempsey and a 20-year-old kid named DeAndre Yedlin team up to give America an improbable 2-1 lead, and then utter shock when with 30 seconds left Portugal ties it.

Crazy. Now the U.S. has to beat or tie Germany, or hope Portugal squeaks by Ghana by only a goal or so, to advance.
You know what else is crazy? That soccer’s “extra time” period is a joke; only the referee knows how much beyond 90 minutes the team’s will play, and even that seems to be an estimate.
Is there some intelligent reason why the referee can’t stop and start the clock whenever there’s an injury or sub? I mean, every other sport seems to be able to do it, but not soccer.
Just seems ridiculous to me.
Still, even with giving up the late tying goal and all U.S. fans feeling deflated, it was a hell of a game, and a hell of a performance, from the Americans. Now a tie or win against Germany and our boys advance to the knockout round, something very, very few people thought possible two weeks ago.

 

**A teenage soccer player named Daniel LaRusso moved from New Jersey to California, fell in with an old Japanese guy who was the handyman at his new apartment complex, met and fell in love with a beautiful blonde girl named Ali (with an “i”), learned karate, got bullied by some mean boys, then got the girl and some revenge at the end.

Sounds like the plot of a classic movie to me! “The Karate Kid” was somehow released 30 years ago last week, and Mental Floss has once again come through with some awesome facts (30 in all) about a movie that I, and everyone else in Generation X, considers a classic.

A few of my favorite nuggets from this piece:

– Daniel’s original last name was “Webber,” and even more horrifying, Johnny Lawrence was gonna be “Donald Rice.” Sorry, Donald Rice could be your attorney, not a blond karate killing machine.

– One of the greatest song/movie montages ever (above), Joe Esposito’s “You’re The Best,” was originally written for “Rocky III” but was replaced by “Eye of The Tiger.”

–That was NOT Mr. Miyagi actually doing the crane kick in the famous beach scene, it was a body double.
Well, you might as well tell me there’s no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny either, man.