Tag Archives: World Cup

Even for this White House, the child separation border policy is heartless and unspeakably cruel. A fantastic Spanish-language call of a World Cup goal. And the robot that will hug you anytime you want.

There is so much I could rage about, so much pure, unadulterated evil in this story that’s consumed so many of us for the past week, since more and more has come to light about the Trump administration’s despicable practice of separating babies, toddlers and other children from their parents at the U.S. border. About how asylum seekers, people trying for a better life and in many, many cases fleeing violence, persecution and drugs, are coming face to face with a horror that may even be worse.

I could point you to this story about a mother having the baby she was breastfeeding AT THE TIME get ripped away from her by ICE agents. Or this story, an audio recording obtained by ProPublica from inside a detention center, with the anguished cries of small children screaming after being taken away from their parents.

We could talk about the pure evil of Stephen Miller, and Donald Trump, and so, so many in the inner circle of this disgraceful excuse for a human being we call the President.

It is an unbelievable time in American history that we’re living through right now, and I mean that word “unbelievable”  in the sense of, I cannot believe there are people happily defending the idea of forcibly destroying the lives of innocent children.

I don’t have the words. I really don’t. And neither did Rachel Maddow on MSNBC Tuesday night, as she tried to read this breaking news story, about toddlers and babies being held in “tender age” shelters in Texas, crying and screaming all the while.

Rachel Maddow is no squeamish wallflower; she’s seen a lot, been through a lot, covered a lot. And this is how she reacted…

I am truly afraid of what will happen next. Of what the individuals running this White House, who will rot in hell right alongside the worst people who’ve lived, will do next.

God save us all.

**Next up today, from pure evil to pure joy. Telemundo, the Spanish TV network, never gets better ratings in America than when there’s a World Cup. And of course, there’s a World Cup going on now, and people get a tad excited. So do announcers.

So I give you the glorious Telemundo call of Mexico’s first goal on Sunday, giving it the lead against Germany (the game ended up tied).

Man, is this guy happy.

**Finally today, while I know many of you are probably interested in the World Cup (are you aware that 99.6 percent of Iceland’s population was watching their 1-1 tie vs. Argentina on Saturday? That’s amazing. And what the hell were the other 0.4 percent watching, ice fishing?), there is very important non-soccer news out of Germany.

Finally, a robot has is being invented that can perform a hug better than ever. That’s right people, even lovely human contact like hugging has been made better thanks to machines.

Check this out, from the website Digital Trends: At the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany, researchers there have been developing a robot that is designed for giving you a hug. And, far from an amusing gimmick, they are convinced that it’s really important.

“A robot hugging a person is a good idea because people may crave the benefits that come from a hug at a time when they can’t get a hug from a person, due to factors such as distance, timing, and health,” Alexis Block, one of the lead researchers on the HuggieBot project, told Digital Trends. “We think a hugging robot could be beneficial in this case because a person can get the support they need without feeling self-conscious.”

The team’s HuggieBot is no diminutive robot beavering away, unnoticed, in the background like a Roomba vacuum cleaner (Editor’s note: Hey, I always noticed the Roomba when it was in “Breaking Bad!”).

Instead, it’s a modified PR2 robotthat stands as tall as an average human, which can be configured to be made extra soft using layers of foam, polyester, and other materials. Its hugs can be further modified according to the firmness of hug you desire (thanks to a pressure sensor) and even the option of having them heated.”

Wow. Who wouldn’t want a heated hug? This is fantastic. God bless science. Check out how the HuggieBot works, below.

 

 

Samuel L. Jackson, nailing the “Pulp Fiction” speech 20 years later. John Oliver demolishes the Redskins. And U-S-A, U-S-A! A soccer upset that thrilled

Nineteen-ninety-four was a hell of a year for pop culture.
We had “Forrest Gump.” We had the O.J. Bronco chase. And we had one of the greatest movies of all time entering our world, “Pulp Fiction.”

Samuel L. Jackson basically went from famous to world-famous by playing Jules in this movie, and it’s great to see that 20 years and dozens of films later, he still remembers what got him here.

Specifically, he remembers the great “Ezekiel, 25.17” speech he got to deliver twice in the movie.
Check out this clip from “The Graham Norton Show” as he recites it all over again.

So great.

**Every week, “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” has been hitting out of the park with at least one hilarious segment. This week’s show had two (the one on immigration is sadly not online yet), but this one on the silliness of the Washington Redskins continuing to keep their name when it’s offensive to Native Americans was pretty classic too.
Man, I hope this show is getting a big audience, because it’s the best thing HBO’s put on since “Big Love.”

**And finally today, I watched my first full soccer game in years Monday, like I’m sure millions of Americans non-soccer fans did.

And it was awesome. A big underdog to Ghana, the U.S. stunned everyone by scoring 29 seconds into the match, as Clint Dempsey made a beautiful move to get free.

Then, Ghana pretty much dominated the next 75 minutes or so, with the U.S. kinda looking like Rocky  Balboa in the first “Rocky” movie, hanging on, hanging on, and hoping for the bell to sound ending the fight.

But with about 10 minutes left, Ghana, after coming close numerous times, finally tied it. So that looked like it would be it, America grabs a tie despite being outplayed and seeing star forward Jozy Altidore go out with injury early in the game.

Then, something totally unexpected happened: The U.S. got a corner kick in the 86th minute and a no-name sub named John Brooks smacked a perfect header into the net for the game-winning goal.

johnbrooks-usmnt-wc-pf-t1-t1-with-tabs

Wow. All of a sudden, the USA is alive in this World Cup, with a decent shot at making it to the next round.

Two fabulous reaction videos to share: First, a great roundup of U.S. soccer fans reacting to Brooks’ goal at bars around America, and second, this hilarious video of a Portland TV anchor being live on-air when the goal is scored, and his reaction is priceless (fast forward to about 1:45 for the good stuff.)

 

The genius of “Toy Story 3.” Rafa’s cool blog. And stretcher-bearers dissed at World Cup

Saw “Toy Story 3” last night with the wife.
Loved it. Thought it was the equal of, or perhaps greater than, the first two movies in the series.
And it occurred to me, as I thought about all the recent Pixar movies I’ve loved, from “Shrek” to “Up” to “Finding Nemo,” that there’s one common thread linking them:
The stories all have a tremendous amount of heart. It’s evident in the writing, in the acting (the voices of Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn and Estelle Harris are amazing in this one), and in the morals.

I’m finding that Pixar movies are so much better written than most other movies today, and yes, I might be the only person in the world who comes away from one of their flicks talking not about the visual brilliance, but the words.

But in telling this story of a young boy growing up and going to college, while his toys stay behind, Pixar takes a theme we all can relate to (growing up and outgrowing childhood things, and friends) and weaves a beautiful story.

Go see this movie. As soon as possible. It got the highest score I’ve ever seen on Rottentomatoes.com, 98 percent (and I want to meet the 3 movie critics who didn’t like it).

I wish some of Hollywood’s top “real people” storytellers would take a lesson from the genius writers at Pixar.

**There are lots of reasons to love and respect Rafael Nadal, which is why it’s so hard to muster up anger toward him when my idol Roger Federer plays him (six more days till Nadal-Federer IV on Breakfast at Wimbledon. Please, please, please give us that on the Fourth of July.)

One reason is that Nadal does things like this: During every tennis Grand Slam, for the last several years, Nadal writes a daily blog for The Times newspaper in London. He takes readers questions, talks about how he’s feeling, all that good stuff. Does he really write it? Who knows. But the fact that he does it to keep connected to fans during a tournament is pretty cool. Here’s a link to Nadal’s blog.

**The best writers are the ones who watch the same events you do, then ask the questions in print that you’re wondering.

Which is why Joe Posnanski had me cracking up the other day during the U.S.-Ghana World Cup game. I’ve always thought it was ridiculous how, when a player in soccer looks to be really hurt, they have four guys come out and carry him off on a stretcher. Of course, the guy’s not really hurt, because he seems to always re-enter the game like, five minutes later and runs like a gazelle.

Joe Pos saw it happen again with a Ghana player Saturday and said:  “You think those guys with the stretchers get mad when they carry a guy off and he runs right back on? It’s like: “I just CARRIED YOU.”

I think those stretcher-bearers should strike. Or at least, test these fakers when they get to the sideline. “Oh yeah, you’re really hurt? Well, then, I’ll just kick you right HERE to see if it hurts.”

Or how about they pull the old “get in the car” trick, where when the guy is about to get on the stretcher, they pull it away and make him roll a few feet more? Keep doing that and see if he can chase the stretcher to the sidelines, while the bearers yell “No really, this time I won’t move it. Get on already, we’re delaying the game!”

Two incredible sports events thrill me Wednesday. And buh-bye, Mr. McChrystal

It’s not your typical Wednesday in June when you get two amazing, heart-stopping, nail-chewing sports events.
But Wednesday was one of those glorious, wonderful days when it’s a joy to be a sports fan.
First the United States of America’s national soccer team had me on the edge of the couch for 90 minutes, screaming and yelling at the TV like I only usually do for Jets and Duke basketball games.
It absolutely, positively was maddening watching our boys in red, white and blue miss chance after chance against our longtime rival, Algeria (Seriously, could most Americans find Algeria on a map?).

I was convinced we’d blow it, especially when Landon Donovan hit the freaking post in the second half. But then, a goal was scored we’ll be talking about years from now. Donovan redeemed himself, knocking home a rebound in the 91st minutes.

I screamed. I yelled. I’m an Olympics kind of soccer fan (once every four years, I care about the sport), but this was a great moment.

Course, we were playing Algeria, not exactly a soccer powerhouse. And we just earned a berth in the second round, which is still a long way from winning. You could argue, in a glass is half-empty kind of way, that the U.S. just lived up to expectations so far.

Still, although I felt that way for a few minutes, I talked myself out of it. This does a lot for soccer in America, and for my many friends who are fans of futbol, I am happy.

Not as happy as these people, though; absolutely love the reaction from these fans at a bar in Nebraska. I love the first 40 seconds of despair, followed by incredible euphoria:

For a great take on the game, here’s SI’s Grant Wahl:

**Then, because we needed some more sports excitement, two men named John Isner and Nicolas Mahut decided to play the longest match in tennis history. They set the record while playing one unbelievable, mind-boggling set of tennis, for more than seven hours. The match didn’t end; it picks up again this morning, U.S. time.

The score? 59-59. Let me repeat that. FIFTY-NINE TO FIFTY-NINE! It’s pretty much incomprehensible to me, and there are so many astonishing facts contained in that 59-59. (Here are two: The seven hours of the fifth set is longer than any match in history. Just the fifth set! And in that entire set, there were only four break points faced by the servers. And oh yeah, 98 aces for Isner for the match, and 94 for Mahut.)

It’s truly a once in a lifetime match. I left my house at 28-all, to go have lunch with my friend Buddy, and figured I’d miss the end of the match. Got back an hour later, and it was 42-42 and my jaw literally dropped.

9:30 a.m. today on ESPNU, these two exhausted warriors resume the match. And it’s a travesty that Wimbledon isn’t putting them on Centre Court. An absolute travesty.

**I have absolutely no sympathy for General Stanley McChrystal today. None. From all accounts, he’s a pompous, egotistical military man who, like so many before him, holds politicians who are his bosses in contempt.

He’s gotten his way a lot throughout his career, but he did the one thing you really, really can’t do: Criticize the commander in chief and the VP, his bosses. I’m glad McChrystal didn’t try to claim he was misquoted, or was taken out of context. And I’m glad that President Obama wasted no time in canning his rear end.

Good riddance. Of course, what we really need is not a new general, but to get the hell out of Afghanistan. My former colleague Pierre Tristam, who I often disagree with but who is a really smart guy, has a good column on this here.

Who was Susan G. Komen, anyway? And World Cup fun with Legos

So many times we hear names associated with causes, and we never know who exactly they were.
Time passes, years go by, and we forget who the little girl was behind “Megan’s Law,” a bill that absolutely has helped save lives. Nobody remembers why it’s called an Amber Alert, but again, that law has helped protect children.

As I was walking around town doing errands recently I saw two women wearing Susan G. Komen breast cancer awareness ribbons and shirts. Normally, I don’t even think twice; the Susan G. Komen name is one of the most famous in all of medical research. So many charitable walks, fund-raisers, bake sales, you name it, have had her name attached to it.

But I got to thinking: Who was she, and how did she become the face of breast cancer? (these things pop into my head, what can I tell you.)

So I did a little research tonight, and was pretty amazed at what I found. Susan G. Komen (above, on the left) was a woman from Peoria, Ill., who was diagnosed with breast cancer at just 33, and died three years later, after nine operations and three bouts of chemotherapy, in 1980. She was a fighter, a source of laughter to her family, and a former high school Homecoming queen.

She’s not just a name on a charity. Her sister NancyBrinker  wrote a beautiful remembrance of Susan on the official Susan G. Komen for the Cure website. I urge you to read it and realize that all the millions raised to fight the awful scourge of breast cancer all started with one woman refusing to give up.

**Just to show the world that they have a sense of humor, the Guardian newspaper of London has up on their site a hilarious video re-creating the U.S.-England soccer game in Lego.

My favorite part is right after the English guy scores.

We tied England in soccer. Yay! And Oklahoma prisoners suffer a funny indignity

I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I love soccer.
But I don’t hate it nearly as much as I used to.

I loathed soccer as a teenager and young adult. Maybe it’s because I was cut from my seventh grade team at Burr Junior High School (Tommy Briel made it over me. Not that I’ve been carrying that around for a while or anything).
Or maybe because soccer is long stretches of boredom where nothing happens, broken occasionally by an exciting play. I used to really hate soccer, and wrote about my hatred one time in my gig at the University of Delaware’s student newspaper, The Review. I got my first experience with hate mail on a large scale after writing a piece in, I think it was 1996, saying soccer was stupid, it will never catch on in this country, and the new Major League Soccer organization would fail miserably.

Turns out a guy from Kansas City somehow read my article, posted it on a soccer list-serve (remember those?) on the Internet, and I got all kinds of angry emails from places I’d never heard of telling me soccer rules and I should shut up.

Anyway, I learned to like and appreciate soccer when I covered a minor league team in North Carolina for a few years. I became friendly with the players, they explained a lot of the strategy and technical aspects of the sport to me, and I learned to truly understand why things happen they way they do.

Still, like millions of Americans Saturday, I hadn’t sat through a full soccer game on TV since the last World Cup. But I love any competition where nations go at it, so I was riveted by the U.S.-England game.

Great to see America forge a 1-1 tie, even if the goal we scored, by Clint Dempsey, was softer than a Sumo wrestler’s midsection. That poor English goalie; if the Brits somehow miss making the second round because they tied America, he’ll never live in peace. Still, the U.S. played a great second half, and could’ve won if Jozy Altidore’s shot wasn’t stopped by English keeper Robert Green and ticked off the post.

Only thing that ticked me off watching the game was those horribly offensive and annoying vuzuvela noisemakers. It sounds like a swarm of 50,000 bees coming through your TV.

But go USA! I think we’ll make the second round, but after that, who knows.

**So I’ve been meaning to blog about this for a while but keep forgetting. The Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections in Cleveland County, Okla. has taken a drastic step to identify prisoners.

And make them look funny. Inmates there now have to wear hot pink shirts, striped yellow pants, and jelly shoes while walking around in the jail.

The state says it’s to make it easier to spot inmates if they escape. Me, I think it’s a desperate ploy by the warden to get attention from Joan and Melissa Rivers.