Tag Archives: Venus Williams

“The Big Sick” a really warm, funny movie with heart. Remembering the best July 4th fireworks show I saw live. And Wimbledon begins, can Federer win No. 19?

It’s rare that I go to the movies anymore, and even rarer that I go to the cinema in the summer, when nearly every movie is an insipid superhero flick with $200 million special effects budget but a $5 plot. Summer movies are almost always dreadful; the best thing about them is that you’re inside and getting air conditioning for a few hours.

But I’ve been reading and hearing so many positive things about “The Big Sick,” the new romantic comedy starring Kumail Nanjiani (he’s on HBO’s excellent “Silicon Valley”) and Zoe Kazan, that my beautiful wife and I decided to check it out.

It was sensational. Really, really strong flick, maybe the best romantic comedy I’ve seen since I don’t know when. (maybe since I saw “Knocked Up?”)

The plot is simple: Kumail (playing himself) is a Pakistani stand-up comedian in his 20s living in Chicago, totally happy with American culture, but stuck with old-world parents who keep trying to set him up. One night at a comedy club he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan), a blonde and perky grad student who’s studying to be a psychiatrist. The two hit it off immediately, start to have a relationship, and a few months later it falls apart (I won’t spoil the whole plot).

Then right after the breakup, Emily gets very sick and is put into a medically-induced coma, and suddenly we’re in a very different movie. Soon Kumail has to deal with Emily’s parents (the usually hilarious Holly Hunter is great here, and Ray Romano continues to show he can actually act), who know about the breakup and understandably aren’t thrilled he keeps showing up to the hospital every day.

There were a lot of little, funny touches in “The Big Sick,”  that show the writers (Nanjiani and his real-life wife, Emily Gordon) realize the small things are important, including Kumail needing to get ahold of Emily’s parents, but not having their phone number, and of course Emily’s phone is locked.

So he takes Emily’s iPhone and slides her comatose thumb over the home button, unlocking the device, then mouthing “sorry” to her. But hey, how else would he have gotten their digits, right?

The movie also contains what I believe to be the first and only truly funny 9/11 joke, which I won’t spoil here. You may hate yourself for laughing at it, but you will laugh, trust me.

“The Big Sick” has great heart, its hilarious and moving, and credits its audience with having a brain, rare for a summer movie. It’s only playing in certain cities right now, but it’s gotten a 91 percent fresh Rotten Tomatoes score for a reason: It’s terrific. If it’s playing anywhere near you, go see it.

Next up, I’m probably not going to be attending any live fireworks shows this year (our little guy can’t stay up that late and is terrified by loud noises), so I got a little nostalgic and found this on YouTube: In 1986 there was an amazing fireworks show over the Statue of Liberty, to celebrate its 100 year anniversary. My family and I camped out 12 hours earlier to get a good spot. It was pretty magical…

**Finally today, it’s a national holiday for tennis fans like me: Wimbledon is here! The most prestigious and best Grand Slam of the year arrives, and for me it’s two weeks of pure racket bliss. OK, sure, I did have a few moments this weekend remembering the once-in-a-lifetime trip to Wimbledon my wife and I took last year, and had a few small pangs of “Man, that was so incredible, I want to go back!

But that quickly passed. This Wimbledon figures to be utterly predictable on the men’s side, and completely unpredictable on the women’s side. With the men, I have to believe it’ll be either Roger Federer or Rafa Nadal winning the title; Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are in deep slumps, and I can’t see an upstart like Grigor Dimitrov or Alex Zverev breaking through here. Please, please tennis Gods, give us Federer/Nadal final in 2 weeks.
On the women’s side, who the hell knows? Serena Williams is pregnant, Maria Sharapova is hurt, and none of the other top women’s players have any great pedigree on grass.

Jelena Ostapenko won the French Open, Simona Halep is always dangerous, and don’t count out Venus. Should be wild.

Two glorious weeks of Wimbledon. Can’t wait.

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Anger, joy, sadness: So many thoughts from another Trump-ruined weekend. A Monty Python video to make you laugh. And an epic Aussie Open ends with Federer and Serena on top

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I really don’t even know where to begin.

Since Friday afternoon, when the current leader of our country signed an incredibly cruel, stupid and inhumane executive order barring citizens from seven nations from entering the U.S., and also inexplicably banned legal residents with green cards, until Sunday night, when I beamed with pride looking at all of the protests (and one big ACLU legal victory) across America at what that president has done, I’ve had so many emotions and thoughts running through me.

Fear. Anger. Sadness. Pure joy (that’s when I was watching the Australian Open tennis, more on that later). Frustration.

I don’t know how coherent any of this is in my head right now, but the only way I think I can try to be semi-intelligent on this is through some bullet-points thoughts.

So here goes, on yet another almost-unprecedented weekend (I’m imagining this is a little bit like what the mid-1960s felt like, and not I’m not equating the two eras .. yet)

— The first thing I could not get over Friday was how fast this executive order from the White House was implemented and had its effect. Do you realize that government never, ever works this fast? I mean, it takes days, weeks, months to get anything done, whether it’s legislation, or just a trip to the DMV. Yet somehow at 4:30 p.m. on a Friday the President signs a piece of paper and suddenly the entire federal government apparatus at airports and other border checkpoints springs to life and begins detaining anyone from those nations on Trump’s order, as well as legal green-card residents trying to get back into the country.

The speed and power of how this happened should frighten the hell out of any American.
One other quick point: I see lots of people calling this a “Muslim ban.” Trump is not banning ALL Muslims from entering the U.S. It’s not a Muslim ban. No need to make it worse than it is when it’s already terrible.
Besides, the full “Muslim ban” is probably still ahead of us from Trump.

— One of the many unbelievable parts of the executive order was that legal green-card U.S. residents were detained, including 88 and 83-year-old Iranian green card holders who were detained for 17 hours at the airport. You have a new administration refusing to allow people who are LEGALLY allowed to be in America access. It took 48 hours but the Homeland Security secretary, John Kelly, said Friday night that green-card holders should be allowed back in.

Wow, what a hell of a compassionate stance. Put him up for sainthood.

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— Two quick facts that help to illustrate how ridiculous Trump and Bannon’s “this will keep us safe from terrorism” bullshit is:

1. It’s worth noting that South Carolina born terrorists killed more Americans on US soil in last decade than terrorists from the 7 named countries.

2. There have been 3.2 million refugees admitted to the U.S. since 1975. 0.00062% of them committed terrorist acts, killing a total of three Americans.

So, you know, those are my “alternative facts.”

— The airport protests were fantastic, all across the country, Americans coming together to protest the grotesque and inhumane treatment refugees were receiving, and protesting that so many people here legally (there’s that pesky word again). I loved the passion, the chanting, the sheer “we can’t let them get away with this” attitude.

I wonder if this is what it’s going to be like for a while, every week a new Trump administration atrocity, and every week new protests.  As an anonymous Twitter person said Sunday: “If you’re looking for something to invest in during the Trump presidency, I think the poster board market is going to hold up pretty well.”

— So oh yeah, while everyone was rightfully pissed at the executive order, two other huge and awful things happened from the White House. First, and this is pretty inexplicable, the White House didn’t mention Jews in their statement commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day because, and I quote spokeswoman Hope Hicks here, “because we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all those who suffered.”

Wow. I mean… wow. Six million Jews killed, and you don’t mention them on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Shameful. The other huge deal that is getting less attention is that Stephen Bannon, the white supremicist (sorry, “nationalist”) who is basically running the White House has been named to the National Security Council while two other high-ranking security officials are told they can only go to some meetings. This is unprecedented, and wildly dangerous. For why, read this and get chills.

–Finally, I don’t ever wanna hear a Republican talk about a Democratic president overreaching, ever again in my life. That was the one of their huge complaints about Obama. Go ahead and tell me how Trump/Bannon aren’t acting like dictators right about now.

**And now, because I think we ALL need something completely pointless and hysterical today, I give you my favorite Monty Python sketch ever, the iconic “Black Knight.” I’ve seen it 100 times, still makes me laugh every time. “OK, we’ll call it a draw then.”

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**Finally today, this weekend’s Australian Open finals, as I alluded to earlier, brought me much joy. Sure, I was rooting for older sister Venus to beat Serena on Saturday morning in the women’s final, but it was a competitive match and hey, Serena is an incredible player and as I’ve said before, clearly now the greatest female to ever play this sport.

Sunday morning, my goodness, what a match. I don’t want to gush on too long about the great Roger Federer because this post is super-long already, but what a tremendous show he and Rafael Nadal, his greatest rival, put on. Five sets, back and forth, one of their best matches ever, plot twists aplenty in the fifth set, Federer getting down 3-1 and me getting pretty upset as I paced the room… and then somehow the Swiss master found a way.

The greatest men’s player ever won five straight games over as good a competitor as the sport has right now. Somehow, despite being 35, coming off a six-month layoff and being deep in the fifth set, Federer pulled it out.

There’s so much about him to admire, but how about this quote from Federer: “Tennis is a tough sport and we don’t have draws but if I could have shared it today with Rafa I would have taken a draw.
“Keep playing Rafa, please. Tennis needs you. Thank you for everything you do.”

We are so, so fortunate to be tennis fans in this age of Federer and Nadal, two supreme sportsmen who have a wonderful rivalry and are both thoroughly decent human beings.

Eighteen Grand Slam singles titles for Roger Federer. What a champion.

The miracle of the Williams sisters ought to be celebrated more. A hilarious commercial from the Netherlands directed at America’s new President. And a note from a neighbor warms a Muslim’s heart

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The outstanding sportswriter (and, full disclosure, friend of mine) L. Jon Wertheim often says that Venus and Serena Williams’ remarkable rise to the top of the tennis world is the most under-covered story in sports.

The first time he wrote that, I scoffed. Come on, who doesn’t know about the Williams sisters? Even non-tennis fans I know are good on the basics: Two young African-American girls, raised in gang-infested Compton, Calif. and coached by their Dad, rise up together and become two of the greatest players in the history of a lily-white sport, inspiring thousands of young people and becoming legends.

Everybody knows that, right? Sure. But the longer their careers have gone, and the more championships they’ve won and long absences they’ve taken from the court due to injuries or illness, the story has only gotten more astonishing.

These two women, these two sisters, individually have had two of the greatest tennis careers ever. But the fact that they’ve played each other 27 times, and have 29 Grand Slam singles titles between them, and their first meeting was in 1997 when most of us were still learning what the Internet was… I mean, how is this not a bigger story?

Can you imagine if LeBron James had a slightly younger brother, and they competed against each other for championships all the time? Or if Tom Brady’s sibling went against him in the Super Bowl once or twice? It’d be the biggest story in America for 20 years.

But because tennis is sadly not a major spectator sport in the U.S., I think Wertheim’s right: The enormity of what these 2 have accomplished is not talked about enough.

I’m an odd duck when it comes to the Williams sisters, in that I’ve always liked and admired Venus while I find Serena repellent and an awful sportsman, though her behavior and off-court attitude have improved in recent years. They play for an Australian Open title Saturday night, improbably, and it feels like a delicious treat because most of us tennis fans never thought we’d see it again.

Venus has always struck me as a thoughtful, intelligent observer of tennis and sports, and what she said following her semifinal win Thursday has stayed with me. Check out this quote about why we watch sports:

“What I will say about sport, I think why people love sport so much, is because you see everything in a line. In that moment there’s no do-over, no re-take, no voice-over. It’s triumph and disaster measured in real time. This is why people live and die for sport, because you can’t fake it. You can’t. You either do or you don’t.”

Triumph and disaster measured in real-time. I love that.

I don’t expect you to wake up at 3:30 a.m. Eastern time to watch their match in the wee hours Saturday morning. But ESPN2 is showing the final at 9 a.m. Saturday. Tune in, and see history we’ll likely never see again, from two remarkable champions who were born to the same parents.

**Next up, this is all kinds of fantastic. A comedy show in the Netherlands decided to make a welcome video for Donald Trump, telling him all the wonderful things about their country. It’s hilarious and brilliant; fast forward to the 36-second mark for the beginning of the piece.

You go, Dutchmen.

**Finally today,  this is a good news story that warmed my heart. A Muslim woman in Cincinnati, Ohio named Hend Amry was concerned the morning after Donald Trump was inaugurated. She and her family have always been OK in her community, but still, this was a possibly life-altering event.

A white neighbor of hers thought she might be upset. So he wrote this amazing note and put it on her uncle’s front door:

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Know hope.

The tennis-playing sisters from Compton give us more thrills. A Barenaked Ladies cover that’s awesome. And a really bad idea at the Auschwitz camp

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The story has been told so often, and yet, I feel like it can’t be told enough.

Two young African-American girls, growing up on the dangerous streets of Compton, Calif., rise up to become extraordinary tennis champions, and role models to millions.

They win Grand Slam championships. They play each other for some of them, always feeling awkward and uncomfortable celebrating a victory while the sibling suffers.

And after nearly two decades in the spotlight, Venus and Serena Williams are still here, playing on the world’s biggest stages, still at or near the peak of their sport.

The two put on a fabulous show Tuesday night at the U.S. Open, putting on one of their better matches against each other. Venus raised her game significantly to match Serena’s, and going into the third set, I stared at my TV and honestly thought Venus might, might have a shot to win.

But then much as Roger Federer seems to do, Serena went to 11. She raised her game, showed what an incredible competitor she is, and hung on for the win.

Before we get back to focusing on Serena’s quest for the calendar-year Grand Slam, let’s not lose sight of the amazing career Venus and Serena have both had; Sibling rivalry? They never showed any sense at all of any jealousy (well, that’s not true, Venus did look a little mad when Serena was the first to win a major).

They have been best friends and confidants, and have at times taken turns ruling the sport.

Two little girls, growing up in Compton, Calif., turning out like this.

If it’s not the most improbable sports story of all time, well, it’s in the Top 5.

**Next up today, this is one of those random covers of a classic song that’s probably been out there for a while, but I’d never heard it until recently and I think it’s fabulous.

It’s Barenaked Ladies, a terrific band that’s not as famous as they should be, performing the Phil Collins song “In the Air Tonight” at a small show this past summer.

Just beautiful stuff, a different twist on a great tune.

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**And finally, an idea so awful you just have to laugh out loud. At the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp, administrators there wanted to do something to help visitors/tourists cope with the oppressive summer heat in Poland.

So they installed “misters” to spray mist on the visitors. Mist, which is basically water, which of course reminds people of the showers that millions were forced into during the Holocaust before they headed to the gas chamber.

Oy. Pretty bad optics on that one, Auschwitz.

A point in their defense, though, which was raised by a panelist on ‘Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,” where I first heard about this: You’re on a tour of Auschwitz. Aren’t you supposed to be thinking about the Holocaust at this point?

Just saying.

Some thoughts on a fabulous first week at the U.S. Open. And a football team plays with 10 men to honor a fallen teammate, and scores a TD

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I have been extraordinarily blessed this year in many ways, with the latest wonderful gift my having acquired a full press credential to the 2015 U.S. Open, thanks to the rising fortunes of my American junior star Reilly Opelka, who I’ve been covering for a long time.

As such, I have been here at Flushing Meadows almost non-stop since Tuesday morning, and am enjoying every damn second of it. I’ve been doing some freelancing for new places (hello, Buffalo News and Wilmington News-Journal readers!), hob-nobbing with some of my tennis writing/broadcasting heroes (spent five minutes with the amazing Mary Carillo Sunday; she’s fantastic) and seeing some fabulous tennis.

I’ll try to keep this relatively coherent but my brain’s been overloaded with lots of great stuff and I’ve been in the sun a lot this week.

Herewith, some thoughts from a fantastic opening seven days of the U.S. Open…

— Best thing I’ve seen, Part 1: Donald Young, a former phenom who was once hyped as the future of American tennis, but then never quite lived up to it. I saw him on Court 17 Tuesday come back from two sets down to beat the No. 11 seed, Gilles Simon.
Then, improbably, he fell behind two sets again on Friday, to Viktor Troicki on the Grandstand court, the best place to watch a match here. With the crowd going nuts on every point, Young fought back to win the final three sets, punctuating the win on match point here.

I was at the top of the stands for the final set, and it was an insane atmosphere; crowd was screaming on every point, and even the yahoos chanting “U-S-A!” U-S-A-!” didn’t bother me that much. (OK I lied, it did bother me. Does every international sporting event have to turn into a xenophobic “we’re No. 1” contest?)

Nothing better than the Grandstand court during a great match.

— Best thing I saw, Part II: The last U.S. Open match of Lleyton Hewitt was also fabulous on Thursday; he played fellow Aussie Bernard Tomic, and believe me when I tell you a stadium full of Australian fans cheering and chanting is about as much fun as it gets. Hewitt got down two sets, won the next two, went up 5-3 in the fifth, and then somehow lost the last four games. Again, the crowd made it special.

— You really don’t appreciate how hard, and how accurate, pro tennis players hit the ball until you sit down close. Madison Keys on Friday night hit the cleanest, most powerful shots I saw all week. She obliterated her opponent, and I thought for sure she had a good chance to beat Serena Williams yesterday.

And she didn’t come close. That’s how good Serena Williams is.

— Two Serena thoughts: 1, She first won the Open in 1999, and now she’s going to win it in 2015. Sixteen years apart, that’s never been done before. 2, she plays Venus on Tuesday night, and how dramatic and incredible would be if her big sister stopped her Grand Slam?

— Did a mid-tournament podcast with my Twitter e-migos Jonathan and James over at The Body Serve; give it a listen here if you want to hear three tennis nuts have a good time.

— So here’s something I wished I’d seen: A flying drone crashed in Louis Armstrong Stadium Thursday. During a match. Didn’t hurt anybody, thankfully. But that had to have been weird to see.

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— They honored the legendary tennis writer/broadcaster Bud Collins Sunday morning in a dedication ceremony, officially naming the media center after him. It was a sweet, beautiful tribute, with Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and other luminaries there. Two great pieces on Bud that I read Sunday: this one by Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated, and Mike Lupica, Bud’s best friend in the media, penned an ode to Bud as well.

— Nothing like seeing the “professionalism” of European media members openly cheering loudly at matches for their countrymen. That would be, um, frowned upon here in the U.S.

— Finally, this bothered me to no end: I saw a bunch of people throughout the week dragging strollers with babies in them around the grounds. Really? This seemed like a good idea, bringing your baby or toddler to the Open for 7-8 hours in 90-degree heat, schlepping them up and down stadium stairs? Sometimes I just don’t get people.

**Finally today, Arkansas Tech is a Division II college football team, and earlier this year a teammate, Zemaric Holt, unexpectedly died at age 21.

He was a defensive player, so to honor him, Arkansas Tech decided to start the first game of the season, on the first play, with only 10 men on defense.

And then this happened…

Very cool…

In the Women’s World Cup final, the U.S. steamrolls Japan. Stephen Colbert and Eminem, kicking it on public access TV. And Manic Monday at Wimbledon is here!

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Well that was a pretty typical soccer game Sunday night in the Women’s World Cup final, huh? Very little action, barely a goal, ton of boring stuff…

Um, yeah. That wasn’t a soccer game, that was a track meet in cleats. If more soccer games were like that, I might actually watch the sport more than once a year.

With 15 years of built-up World Cup frustration, the U.S. Women’s National team unleashed holy hell all over Japan, getting revenge from the heartbreaking 2011 finals loss and just blitzing their opponents.

The score was 4-0 after 20 minutes, which is insane. It’d be like a football game being 42-0 in the first quarter, or a basketball game being 46-3 after the first period.

Carli Lloyd, who’s the new hero of millions of American sports fans and most 11-year-old girls (move over, T. Swift), scored a hat trick in the first half, and the final was 5-2, and the second half was basically academic.

What a wonderful moment for women’s sports. I don’t think this World Cup-winning team will get the incredible recognition and fame the 1999 team got, because of the circumstances in which that team won, that is was on U.S. soil, it got unprecedented attendance and TV ratings, etc. (Just for fun, I asked some friends who are soccer-savvy on Twitter Sunday night who would win if the ’99ers played this team. All said this year’s group would win.)

But this team is sensational. And deserve every ounce of attention they will get. Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, the legendary Abby Wambach… just great stuff.

Congrats, ladies. Take a well-deserved curtain call.

**Next up, Stephen Colbert continues to do weird and wonderful stuff while getting ready to take over David Letterman’s old time slot on CBS late night. Last week he took over a public access TV show in Monroe, Mich., and completely played it straight, interviewing the show’s usual hosts, and then bringing on “Michigan native” Marshall Mathers, aka Eminem, and the two put on a hilarious deadpan interview, including Colbert asking him “Are you one of those slow-talking rappers or fast-talking rappers?”

The first five minutes are my favorite part, but the whole thing is great.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 01: Venus Williams (l) and Serena Williams of the United States during their Ladies Doubles second round match against Kristina Barrois of Germany and Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland on day eight of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 1, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

**Finally today, my favorite tennis tournament has always been Wimbledon, which of course is going on now, and the best day at Wimbledon is always the second Monday.
It’s called “Manic Monday,” and not because all tennis fans worship the Bangles (though hey, if they were good enough for Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, they’re good enough for me.)

Today is the day when every player left in the singles draw plays, with eight men’s matches and eight women’s matches on top. It is fantastic and filled with great tennis all day.

Today’s Manic Monday is even more special because for the first time in six years at a Grand Slam, the Williams sisters will square off. I could spill barrels of ink writing about the incredible impact on sport Serena and Venus has, about how the younger sister Serena has far eclipsed her sister’s accomplishments, and how this likely is the final time the two will meet in such a significant match.

My e-migo Jonathan Newman has written a great piece here about the rivalry and today’s match; for me, even though neither player is my favorite, the historical nature and specialness of it will make it must-see TV.

Happy Wimbledon Manic Monday, everyone. And also, check out this terrific piece by Pete Sampras, wherein he writes a letter to his 16-year-old self. Really great stuff here.

The Obama opponent I fear most jumps in the race. Venus Williams’ hideous new outfit. And Jon Stewart, thoughtfully, appears on Fox News

Follow me on Twitter here.

We’re only about 16 months away from the next presidential campaign, and up until now I’ve been pretty uninterested.
Seeing the complete lack of serious candidates on the Republican side (Santorum? Gingrich? Really?) had me feel pretty comfortable. Even if Sarah Palin jumped in, I wasn’t really worried. Mitt Romney is a phony, Tim Pawlenty keeps making one mistake after another, and I saw no one in the field who truly could look, act and talk presidentially. If Barack Obama was to lose, it’d be a self-inflicted wound that killed him, I thought.
Until Jon Huntsman got in the race, which he apparently will do today. Jon Huntsman scares me a little bit, I have to tell you.
He’s a former governor of Utah, so you know he’s conservative (Utah likes Democrats about as much as kids like lima beans). He’s not a nut-job, which immediately puts him in the upper-tier of candidates.
He’s smart, not nearly as conservative as some GOP primary voters will want him to be (he supports civil unions), but from what I’ve seen he’s a very smooth speaker who can get his point across without shouting or browbeating the audience.
Of course, the fact that he worked for the Obama administration as the Ambassador to China will hurt him in GOP circles. But as this NYT story points out, it also helps him in a lot of other ways.

I don’t know enough about Huntsman to be truly frightened of him. But he’s certainly the most electable Republican I’ve seen so far this cycle.
So yeah, I’m a little worried as a Democrat. 

**OK, I’m no fashion expert. It was until I was in my late 20s that I really learned what “matching” meant, and there are still some sweaters I was forced to throw away by women that I still will fight to the death for.

But even though I ain’t no Tim Gunn, certainly I can’t be the only one to wonder what the hell it was Venus Williams was wearing on Centre Court at Wimbledon Monday.
Seriously Venus, it looks like something a “Star Wars” character would wear on the spaceship. Or maybe it just looks like a frock of some kind. Either way, it’s really, really bad.
Isn’t there someone who could’ve told her that?

**Finally, I’m always fascinated with how Fox News treats people who call them out. Jon Stewart, of course, has been taking shots at the Roger Ailes propaganda machine (very warranted shots) for as long as he’s been hosting “The Daily Show.”

Sunday, Stewart went on Fox to have a sit-down with Chris Wallace, one of Fox’s more toned-down idealogues. It was really fascinating television; watch the whole thing if you have time.
The false equivalency of Wallace baffles me; watch how he continues to try to say Fox News is just like the NY Times and CBS, while Stewart keeps trying to show him that they’re not.
Really entertaining stuff. (For the full, unedited version of the interview, click here.)


That “inglorious basterd” Tarantino made a great flick

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OK, first things first. The U.S. Open has started; I’m blogging it daily for my newspaper; here’s the link for my thoughts on Day 1: Pretty routine day, Venus Williams nearly went down, and Andre Agassi gave a great speech.

Also very psyched for the “Rescue Me” season finale Tuesday night; I have no idea what will happen except that I’m sure some characters will almost die, Tommy will survive, and there’ll be lots of sex and violence. How could anyone not love this show?

And could someone please explain to me what the hell is going on with the Kansas City Chiefs? New coach Todd Haley fires the offensive coordinator in the preseason.  He can’t be that stupid as to panic over a team’s preseason results, can he?

Well, it is the Chiefs. Boy it stinks to be a Kansas City sports fan these days.

And oh yeah, last month you may remember I was bellyaching that there were no creative basebell nicknames left. “The Splendid Splinter,” “Joltin’ Joe,” “The Human Rain Delay,” all those were fabulous.

Well, thanks to my sportswriting god Joe Posnanski, I have found a new great one. Royals soft-tossing minor leaguer pitcher Chris Hayes has acquired the nickname “Disco.”

Why? Because he throws in the 70s.

Perfect. I so hope he makes The Show.

OK, now on to the “Siskel and Ebert” portion of our blog; saw two really good movies over the weekend; will save the other one for tomorrow because quite frankly, I’m not sure you all have time to read 1,500 word blog posts.

Quentin Tarantino, to me, has been like that long-lost friend you see every once in a while, have an awesome time with, and then when they leave you’re like “Why don’t we spend more time together?” Only time goes by and you forget about the friend for a while.

When I actually take the time to watch a Tarantino movie, I’m wildly entertained. “True Romance?” Brilliant. “Pulp Fiction,” well, if you don’t think it was great, than we’re probably not going to get along. “Jackie Brown” was also solid.

But I don’t know why, but I tend to miss a lot of Tarantino’s movies. Still haven’t seen “Kill Bill” in either of his volumes, and I’ve missed some of Tarantino’s other flicks, too.

But I am extraordinarily pleased I wandered to the cinema (I always loved that word, “cinema,” sounds so old-fashioned) Saturday to see “Inglorious Basterds.”

You know how there are some movies where at the end you’re like “I spent 9 bucks for that?” Well, let me tell you, you get your money’s worth here. The story, which I’m sure you know by now, is about a group of ass-kicking Jews in World War II, led by, of course, Brad Pitt, who try to kill as many Nazis as they can.

(Let’s pause for a moment. You know, you just don’t get to write the phrase “ass-kicking Jews” very often. Reminds me of that great scene in “The West Wing” where after Toby and Sam are in a bar fight, Toby calls back to Washington and talks to Will Bailey, who already knows about the brawl.

“It’s big news in Washington?” Toby asks.

“Are you kidding?” Will replies. “A Jew won a bar fight. It’s big news everywhere.”

(God, I love Aaron Sorkin. But I digress.)

 Along the way in Tarantino’s film, we meet some superbly drawn characters; Tarantino is fabulous at giving his characters dimension. There’s Pitt, who I only love in his comedic performances, as the non-Jew leader looking to scalp Nazis. There’s a beautiful Jewish woman, Shoshanna,  who escaped and now plots revenge.

Every actor is fabulous in this movie, but the absolute standout is the German SS Colonel Landa, who mesmerizes you every time he’s on screen. If this guy (Christoph Waltz) doesn’t get an Oscar nomination out of this, I’ll be pissed.

Now of course the movie is totally fiction, and the ending is truly mind-bending in its improbability. But that’s the point of movies, isn’t it, to show us a world we can’t imagine?

Four stars for this movie from me. It’s not as good as “Pulp Fiction,” but to me this is Quentin’s second-best film.

Again, it’s a movie with Jews kicking ass for two hours. When do you ever get to see that?

Certainly not at my high school when I was growing up, that I can assure you.