Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Off to Old Blighty

I'm heading to London for a few days. My brother-in-law is being ordained to the Jesuit deaconate over there. I'll be taking my two oldest teenage daughters with me. They're wonderful girls (bless their hearts), but it's not like they've been going around recently earning the trip and a few days off from school. Arggh. Teenagers... In fact, if a couple of the boys had owned passports already, they may have bumped them. It should be great fun though.

Outside of passing through Heathrow a couple of times, I haven't spent much time in England. Back in 1985 I was passing back through Heathrow on my way home from Spain and my flight was cancelled. I spent a night in a hotel in Gatwick, but I was pretty much out of money so I just stayed in my room and watched Blade Runner on the telly.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Barcelona's Challenge

The UEFA Champions League Cup, El Clasico, La Liga...

Barça's Argentinian wizard, Lionel Messi

Last year I put up a post called Grown Men in Tears, about Manchester United's win over English Premier League rivals Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League Final.

As you may have noticed, through GolTV and the enthusiastic and contagious influence of my son, I've become somewhat of a fútbol fan... a fan of my son's favorite team in particular, FC Barcelona. Among others, of course...

Maestro of the Midfield, Xavi Hernández

This is a very hot team at the moment, but they have their work cut out for them. With their attacking front of Lionel Messi (probably the best player in the world right now), Thierry Henry (an aging but still potent legend, well-known from his days at Arsenal and the French national team), Samuel Eto'o (arguably the best player out of Africa), backed up by the brillant playmaking of midfielders Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta, as well as the rock solid defense of Carles Puyol, Daniel Alves, and keeper Victor Valdez, the Catalans have had a magical season.

Now, you can try to accuse me of being a front-runner, due to the fact that in some circles Barça are considered the New York Yankees of fútbol, full of deep pockets and high-priced superstar talent. Well, in all fairness, there are a few teams in every top European league that this accusation could be levelled against. In any case, I'm convinced that there really is something to Barcelona's philanthropic side and their motto "més que un club" ("more than a club"). For example, they feature Unicef on the front of their jerseys rather than the usual corporate sponsors such as AIG, Bwin, T-Home Mobile, Siemens, Fly Emirates, Samsung, etc, etc...

Besides, they haven't won anything yet. Speaking of the New York Yankees of fútbol, give the teams in England's Barclay's Premier League their due. They feature three out of the last four teams left in the UEFA Champions League Cup race - Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal. Barcelona is the only continental contender, representing Spain's La Liga. Man U knocked Barça out in the semifinals last year and went on to win the championship.

Barcelona is currently ahead in their own home league, La Liga, a race which they looked like they would easily run away with early in the season. Their archrivals and defending La Liga champions Real Madrid were lagging behind, but ever since Real switched coaches at mid-season, they have been winning steadily and inexorably, picking up ground and are hanging only a couple of games back now. The two team have a showdown coming up ("El Clasico") at Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu, sandwiched in between Barcelona's semifinal matches against a packed and dangerous Chelsea squad.

So here's the challenge Barça has ahead of them:

Tue. 4/28 Barcelona v Chelsea at Camp Nou - UEFA Champions League Semifinal

Sun. 5/3 Barcelona v Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu - La Liga (El Clasico)

Wed. 5/6 Barcelona V Chelsea at Stamford Bridge - UEFA Champions League Semifinal

They're going to need some luck and some fresh legs to make it through to the finals.

Here's the thing... I'm going to be in London during the first week of May. I'll have to keep my mouth shut. It would be bad enough if Chelsea supporters heard an uneducated Yank like me supporting another English squad like Everton, Tottenham Spur, or Aston Villa, let alone a team from Catalonia. Best keep my rooting interests to myself.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Rabid Fox

On the tentative blog I noted the other day that Fox News is Out of Control. Glenn Beck in particular.

Fox News, the creation of a foreigner, by the way, infuriated that the public did not follow its lead in the last presidential election, has apparently presumed to take upon itself the mandate to identify all things that must be considered true-blue American while simultaneously abandoning all restraint in pursuing a scorched earth policy in opposition to the Obama administration. The Republican Party is unravelling and Fox is leading the way in its spiralling descent into lunacy. Even those of us who've been somewhat disappointed in some of Obama's early moves can't head back in this direction.

Meanwhile, there are those on the left who simply chortle about those on the right missing the double-entendre embarassingly present in regard to the right's own recent Fox-inspired tax protests and "teabagging." Just as an aside... where would we be without the likes of Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary to keep us all informed that there are actual terms for just about every damned thing that people can do? Is it really necessary? Maybe. In a pornified culture, I guess everything has to be indexed and searchable. Like I said over at William's, I might be getting too old for blogging. Time has passed me by. I remember when we would have simply called that kind of carrying-on "foreplay" or just "fooling around." Then again, our grandparents would probably have been horrified and called it something else, but that's a different story... At any rate, the left and the moderates should take Fox's direction a bit more seriously, I think. We're really moving into pretty scary territory in terms of where our public discourse is heading. Is it overly-dramatic to say that we're starting to behave in ways that countries who eventually succumb to civil wars behave?

The Huffington Post isn't shy about wading into these battles, and the right might say that they engage in the exact same behavior, but nevertheless I thought these observations were pretty much on the mark as far as a critique of Fox is concerned. Dead-on accurate commentary or a failure to recognize a plank in one's own eye? Extended exceprts:

So, to sum up:

1. People who make far less than 250K per year, whose tax rates will be cut, spent Wednesday out in public demanding that Obama stop increasing their taxes. They proudly marched and defiantly yelled and etc., etc., insisting with waved signs and shaken fists on their opposition to something that is not the case. They have made it their business to prevent something from happening that was never going to happen in the first place--and they mean it!

2. These same people, whose economic and physical well-being are a matter of supreme indifference to the richest families in America, have been persuaded to insist on policies that will only benefit the richest families in America. There is a term for these people, and it isn't "right-wing" or "conservative" or "patriotic" or even "Republicans." The term is "sucker." These people are suckers. They have been tricked and manipulated into working against their own interests and for the interests of people who could literally not care less about them. Their patron saint isn't Barry Goldwater or Thomas Paine or Ronald Reagan or Jesus H. Christ. It's P.T. Barnum.

3. People who would be forced into bankruptcy by an attack of appendicitis, who have no idea what "socialism" is or how it differs from "communism" or "fascism," were to be seen Wednesday out in force, self-righteously pissed off and calling Obama a socialist, a communist, and a fascist, often interchangeably. And what are their ideas about how to deal with the worst economic crisis in eighty years? "Let them go bankrupt!" Ignorance and indignation: it doesn't get any more American than that...

4. Glenn Beck--a prancing, sobbing, gibbering buffoon who will say literally anything to keep his audience's attention--has become the new spokesperson for the right. Yes, just when you thought Sean Hannity was, not only as bad as it got, but as bad as it could get, here comes the next level in televised right-wing demagoguery. Glenn Beck--whom Dickens himself would delete from a novel as being "too obvious"--is a star. As a consequence of this...

5. Rush Limbaugh has become the "de facto leader" of the right. Think about it--if you dare! Glenn Beck has accomplished the impossible. This is science fact, not science fiction: He's somehow managed to make the country's most famous sex-tourist drug-addict saloon-loudmouth hate-mongering hypocrite seem dignified and thoughtful. Glenn Beck has succeeded in bestowing gravitas on Rush Limbaugh. Still, maybe we shouldn't be surprised. When the spotlight is grabbed by the dancing monkey, the rhinoceros in the background starts to look downright serious and thoughtful.

6. Fox News, a factory of propaganda and lies on the best of days, has decided "the hell with it" and become an outright partisan fomenter of "revolution." While formerly (as a study showed during the Bush years), watching Fox News actually made one stupider, now watching it (as a follow-up will surely prove) makes one insane. During Bush, Fox News merely promulgated falsehoods. Now, during Obama, its function is to corrode its viewers' very understanding of reality itself...

7. The devolution of the Republican Party (for which Fox News serves as Pravda) proceeds apace. The GOP, fifty years ago the Cotillion Party, is now the Toga Party Party. Newt Gingrich--hippie-dippy marital history, ethics charges and all--is newly converted to Catholicism and plotting his return. (Who said there are no third--or is it fourth?--acts in American lives?) The governor of Texas threatens to secede. (Memo to Gov. Perry: Here's your Stetson; what's your hurry? Just leave us Austin as your going-away present to us.)

This is not "the loyal opposition." This is Animal House...

What does it all mean? I'm asking, reader. Is this widespread madness fun? Is it business and politics as usual? Should we derive from it nothing more than good old fashioned schadenfreude, and just pass the popcorn while watching the people who created and supported the catastrophes of the past eight years as they now wallow in their impotence and irrelevance?

Or is all this manipulated, phony "grass-roots" outrage fated to lead to some serious danger to innocent people?

The anger and fear of these people are real and, probably in most cases, justified, however much they misidentify their causes. That's what the Limbaughs and Hannitys and Becks depend on exploiting in order to make themselves rich and famous. But this entire cycle (rage; exploitation; more rage) seems to me worse than usual, as does its manipulation by the wealthy and their servants.

Is it? Or is all this just more publicized than it used to be? Doesn't publicizing it make it grow, and therefore make it worse? Or is it a relatively minor, if lurid, sideshow?

Should I be worried, indifferent, or vastly amused? What does it all mean?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Reconsider, Baby

T-Bone Walker

Reconsider - T-Bone Walker

After taking a break over Easter week, I've done some reconsideration. Rather than retreating from the field, I think I'm going to keep posting here on RC-specific topics after all. Sorry about all the drama...

In the meantime, I'll be trying my hand at Wordpress too over at:

The Doge

Saturday, April 11, 2009


The Resurrection, by Andrea del Castagno (1447)