Monday, August 27, 2012

And the Links Go On

I thought I had linked to the Ukulele Orchestra before, but it appears I have not.  A friend alerted me to this amazing sea shanty also known as The Who's "Pinball Wizard".  It's light on the ukulele, but worth a listen nonetheless. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Please Enjoy this Link

As you might have sussed from the blog silence, things have been nutty.  But I saw these photos of old timey Glen Echo Park and was charmed. We went to Glen Echo Park quite a few times when I was a child, either to partake of the merry go round and giant slide (and no, I did not once hold up the line at the giant slide gathering up the courage to slide down, who told you that?) or to see the plays at Adventure Theatre.  Glen Echo Park has undergone a transition or seven, but these photos are still fun. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

TBR Challenge 2012: It's a Hard Life, This Reading

I had been reading like a crazy person of late, so I was sure I had some good stuff to choose from for the TBR challenge, until I looked at the list and realized I had been focused on stuff that only recently entered my pile, even if some of the books themselves were old.  So, no problem, steamy reads are practically a no brainer search in my pile, so I pulled some stuff off the shelf (actual shelf) and was...uninspired.  It's possibly more me when both a firefighter and a football story just left me flat.  But, there was this one, Karina Cooper's Blood of the Wicked which had been lingering in my pile for no good reason, considering how excited I was to read it.  And fortunately, it lived up to my expectations.  (I almost wrote our there, but that would be mighty presumptuous of me.)
A post-apocalyptic tale of a woman named Jessie who's been living off the grid since she's from a family of witches and these days the government has whole organizations dedicated to witch hunting. Things are going pretty well until a guy named Silas shows up in her bar.  He's been looking for her since they suspect her brother's involved in something huge and figure she's their best shot at getting close to him. And while post-apocalyptic might not sound like the best choice for steamy, um, yeah, Silas.  I really enjoyed this one and, amusingly after having grown tired of a string of books that could be titled failure to communicate, oh there are lies and half truths littered all over this book, which proves, if its motivated it well, I can sign on for many things. 
This book came out last year, so it wasn't like I had been sitting on it forever, but clearly, I need to get cracking and read the next. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

7 Things: An Olympic Review

1. I acknowledge that this is hard.  There are a lot of sports.  It is probably impossible to cover them all, especially since people might want to tune into your channel occasionally for things like local news.  Or morning shows.  Added to that, if my loved one was competing in the Olympics, I would want them shown.  There are a lot of loved ones out there, and not just on team USA. 
2. I acknowledge that sports are unpredictable.  A lot of these, erm, human interest pieces had to be done in advance, you know, when the athlete had time in their schedule to hang out and show the reporter their dogs or their bedroom or what have you. So, if you have a queued up piece about person who just kerplunked (where we assume kerplunking is bad) it's not like you have a spare about someone else lying around. And hey, the story behind the kerplunker is still interesting, but I get that sometimes you can't just whip out the piece about that other athlete that just did that amazing thing that no one expected.
3. The audience has better access to information nowadays.  I'm not saying the internet was just invented or anything. (And hey, as a UU, I knew who Tim Berners-Lee was before the opening ceremonies.) But I do think people are more accustomed to receiving news via the internet and gathering it from multiple sources.  So, the veil of what will happen in the events that are time-shifted, well, that's not working so much anymore.
4. Now that we all know that it's time shifted, the suspense feels false. I understand, for example, from a drama standpoint why you would spend long moments of footage showing people staring up at the results board, but the reality is that I may already have this info.  So, now, I'm wondering why you couldn't cram some, what's it called, actual sports in there instead.  And when these long moments are occurring late into my bedtime, I have less patience for the manufacturing of the moment. 
5. Sports announcing is a tricky thing.  You have to find a balance between educating your audience to subtle nuances of a sport they may only watch every four years and not saying the same thing over and over again. It's hard not to fall back on cliches (whoever scores most wins (except in golf), falling is bad, speed is good, etc).  I am much more forgiving of such things when I know the announcers are watching this live and just responding off the cuff.  Given that the live coverage and the delayed coverage have different announcers, it seems hard to believe that this is really, truly off the cuff.  (It may be.  I am simply skeptical.)  And well, when you have the benefit of the results, it's easy for the announcers to start seeing weaknesses in people who won't fall for another two minutes. 
6. Given that time delay, and I say this knowing I have never attempted to televise anything ever, so am probably not truly understanding the scope of what's involved, why isn't the commentary, well, better.  Why did no one look at the script that said "racial barriers fell a long time ago" and say, you know, that kinda sounds like we're saying racism is all fixed now, maybe we should revisit that. Why did no one spend a little more time digging up more info and tidbits about the athletes who shined a little bit more than expected?  And why did no one come up with a better way to segue into asking the very first American to win a judo gold medal about being molested? 
7. I understand that sometimes when the scope of what you could cover is so huge, you have to create filters.  So, okay, Olympic coverage will focus on things Americans tend to watch, things Americans are expected to do well in, things with really amazing stories.  (Like, a runner with no legs.)  But, the other side of this is that I am tuning in for international coverage.  When else will I get to see Spanish or Italian beach volleyball players? My recollection is that the last two Olympics had a lot of straight coverage.  A lot of it was relegated to cable channels, but I could watch a whole volleyball game and not get bounced back and forth (no pun intended) to shots of the semifinals of this and the teaser of that.  I realize that in order to show one thing straight through other things have to be tape delayed, it's the nature of the beast, but I like the idea that if I tune in now I can watch X, not a dash of X, a smidge of Y, a teaser of Z, and oh yes a retrospective look back to something from four Olympics ago that has no actual bearing on any of the current participants, that's annoying.  So, really, if I know I'm being time shifted and tape delayed, then being bounced back and forth so they can draw out the things they think I care about in between the other stuff, that's terribly annoying. 

Monday, August 06, 2012

Tenish or So

You may have heard somewhere on the interwebs that NPR is compiling a list of the best YA books.  It will surprise you not at all that I have thoughts. 
First, because nothing makes me love to count more than a list of book, I counted how many I read. This is where the quibbles come.  YA or teen books is sort of a moving target.  It is generally agreed upon that this encompasses books where the protagonist is somewhere in the age of 13-18.  Or of high school age.  But of course, there are historical books that feature sixteen year-olds and are shelved in the adult sections.  (And NPR addressed some of this in their original post.)  And sometimes one has a narrator who pays particular attention to one character who is a teen, but the narrator is definitely not so.  This is often the argument used for Stand By Me that the reflective and mature voice of the narrator makes it an adult story about teens. But upon reflection, I realize I firmly believe that The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is YA and might quibble with The Book Thief and so, I shall perhaps be quiet on that. 
I will say that where NPR helpfully collapsed series, I counted it as read if I had read (and finished) any of the series.  (However, since they separated The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings series, for example, I only counted it as one since I never made it past The Hobbit.)
And while I'm here, I'll share my personal top ten.  Obviously this was culled from those I've actually read, and obviously it was a super hard choice and all the others are worthy except for that one (kidding, I'm kidding). 
So, I have read 48 out of the 234.  (I know!  Such a slacker!)  So, my person top ten (which was so hard - my first pass had 25) is in fact more than that, because after torturing myself I realized aha!  My blog, my rules.  Here we are:
1. American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang
2. Ashfall, by Mike Mullin
3. Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray
4. Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver
5. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
6. The Curse Workers (series), by Holly Black
7. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart
8. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
9. Gallagher Girls (series), by Ally Carter
10. Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers
11. How to Save a Life, by Sara Zarr
12. The Hunger Games (series), by Suzanne Collins
13. If I Stay, by Gayle Forman
14. Perfect Chemistry, by Simone Elkeles
15. A Ring of Endless Light, by Madeleine L'Engle
16. Soul Screamers (series), by Rachel Vincent

And I noticed something.  For all my talk about how book clubs that read adult books feature a whole lot of dead and/or dying people, um, there are some dead and/or dying people on this list.  I swear, some of these have happy endings, despite all the, you know, dead people. 

Friday, August 03, 2012

Tangentially Related

I was at a party the night of the Olympic opening ceremonies, so I watched it later.  (Ah, "Flower of Scotland" sung by tiny children.)  As a St. Andrews alum, the "Chariots of Fire" inspired scene was a special notice to me since it originally took place on West Sands in St. Andrews.  (Yes, it is not uncommon to see students on the beach humming the "Chariots of Fire" theme while running in slow mo.)  Well, it appears that they filmed the Olympic ceremony version there also, and student Phil Goose has an account of his participation here

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Rules are Funny Like That

I remember a long ago sports column where the columnist stated that really, anything determined by judges and not clear you get here first (speed) or you get the thing in here (score) is really a pageant.  I'm not really feeling like debating the merits of that at the moment, only bringing it up to make the point that there are things in sports that are arbitrary.  One swimmer (sorry, dude, I already don't remember your name) was talking about the whole concept that all these things measure performance very specifically.  Even in the swimming competitions where there is a clear speed based result, it's only your result in that one race that matters.  You could have had the fastest speed last week, last month, or even that morning at the semi-finals, but in the end the medals go to the fastest in the final.  Sort of the swim equivalent of any given Sunday. 
I was once in tennis lessons.  I reached a point where the divisions by age were leaving me in the middle.  The intermediate class, as they called it, had lots of kids a year or two younger who were still working on some of the finer points of hand eye coordination. The Advanced class had kids mostly a few years older who played tennis all the time.  (It seemed all the I play tennis a few times a summer kids fell out by then.  Except me.)
So, the instructor started getting one of the older kids to come play a match with me during lesson time.  This was when I realized I was not cut out to be a tennis star.  (Not a great shock or anything.)  As he crept ahead of me in games, I wanted to stop.  Just concede defeat.  Not out of embarrassment.  I knew he was a better player before we started.  I just wanted to stop because trying harder and possibly succeeding meant, I could possibly take a set and force us to play another.  And that sounded endless. 
But, this is why I'm not an Olympian.  If I was, well, one hopes I would have gotten over that.  But apparently that was not so for some badminton players.  The round robin system meant some people were essentially in medal contention early enough that losing held no actual downside.  (In theory.  Apparently they lost so badly and so obviously that they have now been removed from the competition.) And while I think the internet (at least my little corner of it) has made their distaste of that clear.  But, go here, this article talks a lot about how this is different than just benching your players because you have a playoff berth, or other shall we say, known instances of trying less hard and how it's still not as bad as this.
And the point is, that there is slacking and there is slacking.  (Or tanking.  Or throwing.) In an Olympics where all sorts of folks are playing with bits bandaged, patched and taped so they can have their shot, in an Olympics where a fencer sat on the piste in tears for hours to keep herself in contention while her team filed an appeal, well, if you're going to lose, at least make it look like you tried. 
Although, I'd be interested in considering some sort of possible redaction of playoff berths if you suck too much.  Food for thought.

h/t to ALOTT5MA for the links