No Such Nonsense

A little of this, that and... what was I talking about again? It's TV, sports, pop culture and politics - all the stuff that really matters in life.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sure he can swim...

...but is Michael Phelps funny?

After 8 Olympic gold medals (including one that looked a hell of a lot like a silver medal to me), Phelps is NBC's official Olympics poster boy, and they aren't ready to let that go just yet. Hence, an invitation to host Saturday Night Live.

I have to say, my hopes aren't high. Athletes on SNL are a lot more miss than hit. For every Peyton Manning, who killed in his appearance, there have been many, many Nancy Kerrigans.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Prep for your Post-Olympics Fix

Soon, the Olympics will be over and the disturbingly addicted among us (read: me) will be faced with a dearth of sports drama (for, like, a week, until the NFL season starts).

To get you through that horrible two sportsless weeks, without having to resort to watching actual MLB regular-season games on tv, I give you...

Jen's Top Post-Olympics Sports Flicks

Olympics-Themed Flicks

Chariots of Fire
Admittedly, more of a cultured period piece than your typical rah-rah sports pic. But it does have one of the best sports movie scores ever (second, I'd say, to The Natural), plus Brits running barefoot on the beach, God, gold medals and a triumph over anti-semitism. How can you say no?

Cool Runnings
It's the Jamaican Bobsled team! Coached by John Candy! Consider it the silly antidote to all that Academy-Award-winning running twaddle above.

Okay, it's technically the Paralympics, but these guys kick ass in non-technical, holy-crap kind of way.

Winter Sports

Men With Brooms
Without question, the finest mainstream movie about curling ever made. Possibly the only one, true, but very fine nonetheless. Of all the movies on this list, this one gives me the hardest case of the giggles. I can't help myself. Plus, it has the Tragically Hip, curling. Truly Canadianly awesome.

The Cutting Edge
Toe pick!

Slap Shot
Once again, I'm Canadian. They take away my citizenship if I don't list this one.

Baseball Movies (note: way more interesting than actual baseball games)

The Natural
Total and complete sap. Irresistible, root for the underdog, music swelling, grand-slam home run, wonderboy sap. You know you love it.

Bull Durham
Takes the piss out of all the aforementioned sap. My favourite sports movie, bar none.

Major League
Totally, completely stupid. Which is rather what makes it so awesome, no?

Football Flicks

Jerry Maguire
My love for Cameron Crowe outweighs my natural desire to avoid Tom Cruise. Fast forward over Renee Zellweger.

Friday Night Lights
A somewhat bleak perspective on the lives of Texas high school football, but mighty compelling anyway.

Tears are shed. Lessons are learned. Sniff.

And, um. Wow, football movies are pretty bad aren't they? But for some mindless fun: The Replacements (Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory... lasts forever.), The Longest Yard (the Sandler version, for the stunt casting alone), Invincible (yeah, the guy's gonna make the team or they wouldn't have made a movie about him. Still, better than you think it'll be).

A Chick Flick too?

Bend it Like Beckham
You betcha.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Olympic Musings, Part II

After much media whining about our lack of medals in the first week of the games, Canada burst out with a flurry of medals over the weekend, which had me glued, happy but coma-like, to the screen.

I discovered if you PVR the live coverage overnight, allowing you to fast-forward over all of the RBC commercials, watching the Olympics can become a quite sublime experience. Canada scored in rowing, wrestling, trampoline, diving, triathalon and even on the track.

But still, many folks are calling for increased funding for our athletes. I dunno. I love seeing Canadians win medals as much as the next gal, but I'm not sure funneling more tax dollars into training for our elite synchronized swimmers seems like the smartest move with so many other priorities underfunded. Sport is important, and I recognize the sacrifices that our Olympic athletes make. But I wonder if the scrimping and hardships are part of the price of gaining an experience that so few of us can ever claim. The British spent something like 20 times as much on their Olympic rowing program as Canada did, and came back with 2 more medals. So it isn't just about spending dollars, it's about spending them wisely. For me, I like the trend of corporations supporting our athletes - the athletes put food on the table and the company gets to bask in Olympic glow.

Some other thoughts:

  • Usain Bolt is my favourite athlete of the games, mainly for his hilarious showboating just before his races. The fact that he could win the men's 100, and set a world record for that matter, while essentially jogging and celebrating across the finish line, is just scary good - not to mention seriously entertaining.
  • Jacques Rogge, IOC President, has criticized Usain Bolt for his failure to show good sportsmanship after his races, shaking hands with his fellow racers and so on. Has Rogge not spent much time around sprinters in his life?
  • My favourite moment, bar none? The Canadian men's 8 boisterously singing O Canada, off-key, during the medal ceremony.
  • My least favourite: The women's weightlifting. Looking at the medal winners, the spectre of doping was just too obvious to ignore.
  • Eric Lamaze just won the gold medal in show-jumping, after being kept out of the last three Olympics due to a cocaine problem - which got me wondering: I know sometimes there are problems with riders and mounts being thrown out of the competition because the horse has been drugged; but, is there anything a rider could take that would performance enhancing? If there is, I'm betting cocaine isn't it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Olympic Musings, Part I

I love the Olympics. They are grandiose, and ridiculous, and replete with the kinds of stirring back stories that first drove my interest in sports. Micheal Phelps, part fish. Dara Torres, post-40 super-mom. Various 10-year-old Chinese girls winning gold after gold after gold. Amanda Beard, naked again. Okay, maybe not so inspired by the last one.

Plus, you can see people who have devoted their entire lives to astonishingly obscure sports: the weary hubby was amazed on day 1 to see medals awarded in what looked like an Olympic BB gun competition. And best of all, my new favourite sport, synchronized diving! It's like the diving team got drunk one night and invented a new sport!

I can't resist watching to see if Phelps can beats Spitz's record. Perhaps someday, they will both be surpassed by someone whose last name doesn't sound like phlegm. Dare to dream.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Dance Like Millions of People are Watching

It's no secret that I seriously heart So You Think You Can Dance. I posted on it back in July of 2006, giving a bunch of reasons why you, too, should love the show - chief among them: Cat Deeley's wardrobe, Nigel Lithgoe's astonishing ego, the trainwreck that is Mary Murphy and, of course, that these kids actually CAN dance.

Well, in two years, my love of the show has only grown. Cat can't always be counted on for a wardrobe disaster any more - though occasionally busts out a dress made out of throw cushions or some Helena-Bonham-Carter-in-Sweeney-Todd hair. But she also has grown into the smartest, warmest and funniest host on TV. She's like the dancers' cooler and much taller big sister. The rest, Nigel and Mary especially, is entirely unchanged.

Tonight is the finale of this season - which has been marked by some excellent dancing, though few astonishingly memorable routines like last year's Shane Sparks' Transformers routine (with Lauren and Pasha), Mandy Moore's Sweet Dreams routine (with Neil and Sabra) or even Wade Robson's hummingbird routine (with Hawk and Jamie). All three of those numbers are up for Emmy's (you can check 'em out on YouTube, but I'm too lazy to find the links) - and I'm not sure they've been matched this year (though Mia's had a few high points with Twitch).

Given that the end is nigh, here are my fearless predictions for the final:

First to go:
The cherubic but outclassed Courtney.

And then:
Twitch. He has a huge fan base based largely on his personality, and I love the guy, but he just hasn't danced as well as...

The top two:
Katee and Joshua. Honestly, between the two, I'm hard pressed to pick a winner and wouldn't be sad if either of them take it. I'll go out on a limb and call this one for Katee.

Now on to Canada's version this fall!!

The Death of the Industrial Heartland Continues Unabated

According to Forbes magazine, the fastest-dying cities in the United Stated are:

Buffalo, New York
Canton, Ohio
Charleston, West Virginia
Cleveland, Ohio
Dayton, Ohio
Detroit, Michigan
Flint, Michigan
Scranton, Pennsylvania
Springfield, Massachusetts
Youngstown, Ohio

How did Forbes determine just which cities are on life support? By looking at economic growth, population trends and unemployment rates. In each of these cities, the economies grew sluggishly, at far less than the national average, while the unemployment rates far exceeded those around the rest of the country. So its no surprise that all of the cities on the list are experiencing serious population declines.

Look at the list: These were steeltowns and coaltowns, auto manufacturers, the heart of blue-collar America. Only Charleston really stands outside the rust-belt. Replace it with Pittsburgh, which has seen the biggest population decline in the nation outside New Orleans, and the picture is awfully clear. And it is awful.

The real common denominator for these cities is the same problem that plagues all modern industrialized societies. Cities that were built on the strength of manufacturing and industry face inexorable decline as those industries depart for cheaper labour and big economies of scale overseas.

It isn't new, and it isn't going to stop any time soon. Before the industrial revolution was half a century old, manufacturing had begun to shift. And over time, the location of the cheapest labour sources has shifted this manufacturing base again and again. From Korea to Taiwan to India and mainland China, to Indonesia and Bangladesh.

Some politicians and media types would argue that our governments need to bolster manufacturing in North America. Others argue that unions and big government are precisely the problem (though I do wonder what those folks think life before unions was really like and if they'd like to give a job at a 19th century coal mine a go).

As for me, I don't have an answer for these cities - because I'm not convinced there is one. It would be great if they all became knowledge economies like Palo Alto and Austin. But that doesn't happen quickly and takes a great deal of commitment and political will.

One possible ray of light? There is always the chance that as we start to run out of oil, it will actually become less expensive to manufacture for the North American market close to home instead of overseas. But factor in Mexico, and things look dim indeed.