Saturday, August 23, 2008
Friday, August 22, 2008
A stunning few days of developments since our last water polo update. On the women’s side, Team USA fell just short of capturing the gold medal, falling to the Netherlands 9-8. Team USA fell behind 4-0 in the first quarter, but rallied to tie 5-5 at the half. After trailing again in the third quarter, the US knotted things at 7-7 entering the fourth, but did not have enough left in the tank to stop steamroller Danielle De Bruijn, who scored seven goals. The silver represents a wholly satisfactory outcome for the women, and makes the US the only team to medal in all three Olympics featuring women’s water polo.
On the men’s side, pool play [hyuk -- ed.] ended with Team USA unexpectedly winning its group after Serbia “lost” to Italy 12-11. Having been defeated by Croatia in pool play, Serbia could not win the group and receive a bye to the semi-finals. It therefore intentionally tanked [hyuk deux -- ed.] against Italy in order to face Spain and the US on its way to the gold medal game, rather than the more highly-ranked Montenegro and Hungary teams. So after blowing out Spain 9-5 in the quarterfinals, Serbia met the US earlier today in the semis.
From the "careful what you wish for" annals, the US came out and played the game of the tournament thus far, defeating Serbia 10-5 behind sound defense and three more goals by Tony Azevedo. US goalie Moses Merrill played out of his mind, saving 16 of 21 shots, including a few spectacular saves that appeared to demoralize the Serbs. Portions of the game will be shown in *prime time* sometime tonight, so let’s all do our part (not just the women) in keeping those ratings up!
On Sunday, the US men will face two-time defending Olympic champion Hungary for the gold medal. If the defense stays strong, there is a real chance for the US men to capture their first gold medal since the 1904 St. Louis Olympics, in which three US club teams swept the medals. [No wonder there's a St. Louis water polo thing -- ed.]
Meet fashion trend-setter Naomi Natsumoto. And needless to say, nothing's been asked of the male players.
[More women's ping pong awesomeness from elsewhere on NBC.]
Thursday, August 21, 2008
(Only in Ha'aretz will you see the headline "Two Jews and a black man help Phelps fulfill Olympic dream".)
Meanwhile, Israel's Irina "Ira" Risenson has qualified for the rhythmic gymnastics finals, and you can preview her ribbon, jump rope, clubs, ball and hoop routines for their athletic merit. (The team, however, failed to qualify, and a "3 Hoops 4 Clubs" routine sounds more like a viral Internet video than legitimate sport.)
Open thread for Thursday night, which will include the men's beach volleyball finals, women's platform diving finals, and much Athletics.
updated: Also for tonight, via Scott: IOC forced to investigate Chinese gymnast He Kexin's age, because bloggers are crafty.
updated II: Okay, I erred: yesterday was just the first of two days of qualifying events for the rhythmic gymnastics finals; both Risenson (9th) and 17-year old Neta Rivkin (11th) are still in the hunt for those ten slots.
But I'm sure you wondered, as with monkeys typing Hamlet: what would happen if a classroom full of blindfolded British art students made the attempt? What if your medium was Starburst candies? And what if Lionel Richie tried to sing the song while sucking down helium?
[Click here to watch the original video, because Prof. Richie's a creepier stalker than you might remember. No, the actress isn't blind in real life. Also, there's a real continuity issue others have noted: how did she know how to sculpt him accurately unless she was already familiar with his face?]
First challenge this time around, simple and straight-forward, is to write a tune about the moon. Moon Song Fu? Yes. Moon Song Fu. *Your joke HERE -- possible topics: martial arts, take-out food, influence of Universalist Church on U.S. print and broadcast media.*
Paul & Storm have responded with a ditty about being eaten by a girlfriend (in a bad way), and Coulton's got something distant and plaintive about pearls and permanence and how there's always a ... okay, he kind of lost me. Nonetheless I'm teetering on the brink of bestowing the infamous ALLOT5MA-fave-by-fiat upon him. It's very tempting, but with great power comes great responsibility, and with trivial and arbitrary internet prerogatives comes precarious exposure to the temptations of pseudonymous self-indulgence. You know, frequent hyphenation, polysyllabic sprees, self-referential asides... ellipses...
Big ups to newcomers The Rifftones for their retro-smoothie about the moon's malevolent influence on dipsomania and dating, "Moon Shine:"
The moon is a sadist who makes us do evil
likes us to suffer and laughs when we fall
He whispers that alcohol makes us immortal
then shines with delight when we lose it all
Moonshine... Moonshine... Moonshine...
If you're having a slow day, dig through and give thoughts on your favorites. Don't forget to vote.
Hat-tip: ALLOT5MA-fave Jonathon Coulton. Heh heh.
Well, it's been kind of a mixed bag for Team USA over at the Bird's Nest. Our sprinters have done well but my overly optimistic hope of a surge of US runners dominating or at least medaling in the distance events has proven... a little wrong. But! It's not over yet!updated: Those who've been following this morning's relay results know that we have even more to discuss. In addition, the US women's basketball team beat Russia this morning to advance to the gold medal game; Becky Hammon went 1-6 (including 0-4 from beyond the arc) for the South Ossetia Strikers, totalling 3 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, and 1 steal in twenty-four okay-maybe-not-traitorous minutes. (And, um, how did we lose softball?)
Shalane Flanagan's bronze in the 10,000 meters despite food poisoning a few days before. Fantastic and gutty. Also, her post-race interview on NBC was just so cute.
Nick Symmonds ran a gutty front-runner pre-esque (Prefontaine for the non track nerds and yes, I know Pre didn't really run the 800 but still...) 800 semifinal to easily qualify for the finals. For a late kicker this showed some versatility and guts. Eugene is proud of him already.
Bernard Lagat getting boxed in during the semis of the 1500 and failing to make the finals. He was boxed in by competitors and his time wasn't enough and so, the US' hopes for a gold there were crushed.
Kara Goucher's 10th place finish in the 10k. She described it as disappointing herself but its made her hungry for the 5k, so let's hope she goes for it there.
Lopez Lomong not making it to the 1500 finals. He ran well, but I just wanted to see some kind of miracle or surprise out of him. But, he'll be back!
Deena Kastor breaking her foot 16 minutes into the marathon. With the way that race unfolded I really believe she could have medaled. And she broke my heart. Can you imagine running 150 miles per week for months and months only to have it crushed (literally) at mile 5? I can't imagine. Of course Deena handled it with grace and class. I literally gasped when she dropped out of the race causing my entire family to make fun of me for being so interested in "watching paint dry in Beijing."
The Still To Come:
- Nick Symmonds runs in the 800 final-- we'll see.
- The men's 5000-- I think Lagat's stronger in this event and will want to redeem himself, I hope. Matt Tegencamp also did well by winning his semi heat today and could take a medal.
- Women's 1500- Rowbury could make it happen, she looked loose and strong during prelims.
- The women's 5000-- Shalane and Kara will be back along with Jen Rhines and I think at least one American woman will medal. My bet's on Goucher-- she looked the freshest during prelims.
- Men's Marathon-- I'm still holding out for Ryan Hall. It could happen. You never know.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
And, of course, Chris won. As good as the top three were, he came back and stole the Project Runway show right out from under this seasons' contestants (without deploying human hair anywhere in his doubly mirror-domed Valkyrie outfit, except possibly in that great golden wig). I'm sure you can't buy all the components at Mood, and that it took more than thirty-six hours to plan and execute, but for my jeebus-we-pay-how-much-per-month-for-this? basic cable dollar he can bring all the monkey house Tim can handle once a season for as long as the show stays on air. Glorious.
The elimination was dead-on. No defense. Who in the world thinks Cirque > Showgirls > Drag in over-the-top garish glitzplosions of great glittery bigness? No one, no matter how instinctively high their taste level.
The gymnastics portion of the Olympics are over, and this is how the final medal count stands: China: fourteen, nine of them gold, USA: ten, everybody else: two or one.. Poland, Ukraine? You are now tied with Uzbekistan.Also, from Taylor's corner of the ALOTT5MA Repressive Regime Desk, evidence that the Chinese may not have a Takings Clause in their laws, and doesn't have much tolerance of elderly citizens who claim otherwise. Comments open for all of Wednesday's events, including the men's 200m dash, the women's 400m hurdles, BMX racing and the women's beach volleyball final.
Welcome to the next era in gymnastics, where USA is still an excellent, top-notch, powerful, adjective-prolific team, but it is not a juggernaut. That would be China. Whether or not half the Chinese women's team was eligible, it's impossible to deny that the People's Republic has taken over the gymnastics world. Will it continue at worlds next year? What about London 2012? Maybe if Bela and Co. scream loud and hard enough, there will be more stringent guidelines for proving age (Can you see it? British officials denying the visas of next generation of questionably prepubescent Chinese gymnasts.). Meanwhile, I heard nothing about the ages of the Chinese men, and again, they were an unstoppable train in every competition: team, all-around, and events.
At the same time, the superpowers of gymnastics are pulling away from the rest of the pack, team-wise. Individuals from countries like Russia and Romania shine and individual specialists shine even more -- I'm thinking Sandra Izbasa, who was shaky on beam during all-around, but gold-medal worthy on the floor event final. Is this a function of the new scoring system, that specialization is rewarded?
This is the first Olympics with the new scoring system in place, but it's been there for almost two years at international, medal-viable competitions, including the world championships in Germany last year. Why all the outrage now? Did Bela seize on the large audience that NBC primetime sports can provide to make a forum for his longstanding grievences? Why did it seem to reward the artistic part of gymnastics one night and deny it the next. It's most likely its just an uninterested system being all things and all evils to all people. Oh yeah, they're modifying it slightly next year too, just to keep everybody on their toes.
The women of the USA Gymnastics team were at least a better sport than the commentators. Thanks Tim, for registering your barely contained biased outrage on Nastia's behalf while she was graciously accepting her silver medal, a feat that 99.998 percent of people will never accomplish. She wuz robbed!, he and Elfi grumble over the national anthem. (Side note: Sacramone wuz robbed! robbed! of bronze.) I can set aside the laughable, cheesy statements of Al -- and of course they have to keep up a good banter between the three, but when I watch a whole broadcast and learn nothing significant about the sport or the routines of the athletes I'm watching, or when even as an ardent team US supporter I feel bad for the way Tim is backhandedly complimenting the Chinese team, something's wrong. I watched the all around final on the NBC website, without the soundtrack of Al, Tim, and Elfi. It was glorious.
While Shawn and Nastia were battling it out for one and two, the surprise of the all-around competition for me was Ksenia Semenova from Russia. She came in fourth by only a few tenths (and was less than two points behind Liukin). She has a similiar style to Nastia and is only 15. With a few more elements, especially to her floor routine and she will be in serious contention as a champion all-arounder for the next couple of years, maybe even to the next Olympics.
The most moving part, strangely enough, was the medal ceremony for the all-around. Watching the three top women in gymnastics was a study in contrast. A huge sunny smile from Yang Yilin that quickly disappered into blankness. And was that disappointment or pride or both on Shawn Johnson's face? (I'm still not buying the Shawn-Nastia BFF story.) The best, though, was the real, honest to god "I can't believe I did this" moment from Nastia Liukin. Go team.
Thing I like? Team Comic Book Guys said they practiced for the Race by, among other things, "doing things like convincing everyone in a line to let them go first." Of course, the things I'd do to prepare are (a) learn to ride a bike already, and (b) learn to drive stick. Basics, really.
Well, today's NYT sits down with Applebee's new CEO to talk about distinguishing the brand from TGI Friday's, Chili's et al, now that she's already tweaked IHOP with additions like cream-cheese stuffed French toast: “Don’t get me started on the mozzarella stick. Can we get rid of them entirely? Probably not. All I know is we can do better in appetizers. Maybe it’s a panko breaded calamari. Maybe a baked wing.”
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
This is an open thread for Tuesday's events. The coverage of the women's 110m hurdles was odd, no?
We've waited seven months since last we raced from the Republic of China to Alaska, and now we have our teams for the thirteenth season, including Team Superbad and Sorry, I Cheated. Only two all-male teams, one parent-child team, married hippie apiarists and only one competitor who lists his occupation as "Comic-Con Treasurer". Will any team capture our interest like Team I Wasn't A Supportive Father When You Were Growing Up, And I'm Not About To Start Now did last year? The AP has more on the upcoming season, which begins airing on Sunday, September 28, at 8pm.
I followed the advice of my physician and consumed copious amounts of ibuprofen, applied ice frequently, and, hardest of all, I rested. I also followed the advice of my friend and frequent commenter Jim Bell and took steps to improve my luck. I rubbed the belly of the Buddha that sits outside my
Then, yesterday, I had my wife Amy drive me back to where I got injured and I finished riding the final 52 miles to
Last night Amy and I went out to celebrate at what had been my father’s favorite restaurant, a wonderful Italian restaurant in
It had been dusk when we entered the dark restaurant. During dinner the sun had set. As we walked out my eyes adjusted to the night sky. Then, this being
Thanks to your extraordinary generosity, I have raised $6,000 for the PMC, but I am still just shy of my goal. Please click here to make a contribution (this website looks best if you use Internet Explorer; also, please add a note to my guestbook there.) I believe Matt's kind offer to match contributions by "Thing Throwers" is not quite fully subscribed yet.
(Say what you will about his JFK or Nixon as truthtelling, but at least both work as mature, complex filmmaking. W seems like a Farrelly Brothers production.)
Monday, August 18, 2008
("His name: Kurt Thomas. His title: Three-time world gymnastics champion. His assignment: A secret mission for the United States government. His only weapon: himself. And that's all he needs...")
I want to raise the bar in the sport of swimming more. You know, it's come a long way. I've heard about 70,000 people at Ravens Stadium staying after the preseason game to watch the relay on the big screen, to the 100 fly being on the Jumbotron at the Cincinnati Reds game. You know, four years ago, there's no way that would ever happen. I think the sport of swimming has come a long way so far and I think it can go even farther, and that's where I hope to take it, even farther.Can it go farther? If so, how? Do you have some other path you'd recommend for Phelps? Or in the words of Josiah Bartlet, what's next?
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Anyway, we've never really blogged about the show here, but tonight gives me an opportunity. Why? Jose Garces -- beloved Philadelphia chef at the helm of Amada (tapas), Tinto (Basque tapas) and now Distrito (Mexican) -- has entered Kitchen Stadium to do battle with Bobby Flay. There's a lot of melons and a lot of liquid nitrogen in the room. Things get grilled, charred, pureed and anti-griddled. Do set your TiVos and watch.
The USA men’s water polo team continued its overachieving ways yesterday [yesterday, at least, by NBC's standards -- ed.], pulling off a stunning upset over the world's number one team, Croatia, by the score of 7-5. Previously, the men had beaten China 8-4, beaten Italy 12-11, and lost to Serbia 2-4. While the win over Croatia is probably the biggest single-game win for U.S. water polo in a couple of decades, it will go down as a Pujols-Lidge footnote [yeah, I don't get that either, although five'll get you ten it's a Cardinals reference -- ed.] unless we beat Germany on Monday. Although currently tied for the lead in Group B with Serbia and Croatia, because of how the head-to-head wins and losses have broken down, a loss to Germany would leave the U.S. out of the medal round. On the other hand, it’s barely possible (if Serbia loses to China – ha!) that the U.S. could win its group, and thus get a bye to the semi-finals.
This scenario is actually a lot like the way this team is playing -- lots of upside, but frightening downside. Essentially (and look at the game scores), the U.S. men are playing to the level of their competition. While beating and hanging tight with two of the best teams in the world, the U.S. has been struggling against middling competition. So the good news is the U.S. men have the ability to beat the best in the world, and the bad news is that they sometimes lose focus against weaker teams. The U.S. matches up well with Germany, though, and Serbia and Croatia have pounded Germany by a total of 12 goals. So set your DVRs and hope for the best.
A quick note on the women: although they have won their group and thus advance automatically to the semi-finals, the U.S. women have been less than impressive in group play. They beat China 12-11, tied Italy 9-9, and then beat Russia 12-7. They’ll play the winner of Australia/China on Tuesday.
I will agree with Our Friend Dan Fienberg that the film doesn't say anything new, and that there's a darker, more challenging movie that could have been made with this premise. And as The Wife noted, there's not one real female role in the film. But, end of the day, it's funny enough. More than. If you go for broad humor, that is. And Downey.
[Speaking of which, I take Dave Itzkoff's thinkpiece on gross humor as an implicit correction, insofar as it refers to an incident in There's Something About Mary as "the protagonist’s genitals caught in the zipper of his pants".]
I realize that I haven't really described any of the gags. I shouldn't. You know the setup. You know who's in the movie. If you thought you might want to see the movie, then, yes, see the movie. And let me not spoil a single thing here.