Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mr. Friedman is Back!

NY Times columnist and erstwhile author Tom Friedman is quite simply brilliant. After laying out the globalized world we live in with his magnificent "The World is Flat", he is back writing columns in the Times. Now his pure focus is global warming and environmental policy, and his next book "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" will I'm sure be simultaneously terrifying, infuriating, and motivating.

I've linked his first column in the Times after his sabbatical, please read it, discuss it, forward it


So yesterday was my 32nd birthday and it was one very special day. Jess and I were long overdue for something to celebrate, and we really put our hearts into it. Plus, birthdays are just downright awesome.

In the morning I got hugs and birthday smooches from my wife, then spoke to my family while Jess went to her treatment. My parents always sing Happy Birthday and I dance and they tell me what I looked like when I was born and I laugh and they say how glad they are I'm alive and I get all happy.
Jess came home and we did present-opening. I had a little stash waiting for me and we got started. My card had a bird on it, which is most excellent, and lovely words from my beloved, which are private.
My first present totally caught me by surprise, because I didn't know it was available. She got me the DVD of "There Will Be Blood". Can't wait to watch it! I've been fascinated by early oilmen since I read "The Prize", and having Daniel Day-Lewis play on is going to be quite a treat.

Next came a great CD of loungey, zesty music from Hotel Costes. Honestly, though, the best part was the unwrapping. I first pulled away just a small corner of the paper exposing just a bit of the disc art, and was immediately reminded of the game show where a covered image was displayed and pieces of the covering were removed when a contestant got questions right. This would expose cartoon images that, when uncovered, gave away an anecdote like "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush". 10 points to whoever remembers the name of that show, cuz I can't seem to recall it.

Anyway, we played that game, and I had to uncover it completely before I got the answer. My last gift was immediately given away by the eyes of the actors on the DVD cover; the Coen brothers newest classic "No Country for Old Men". Sweet!

We moved on to a perfect breakfast at The Mission in Mission Beach. I had the best smoothie in the world, blackberry banana. Then we made an executive decision: we had planned to hit the SD Zoo, but it was hotter than a monkey's bum (that's a strange expression, Bruce) so we put that on hold to save our strength.
Instead, we forayed to the Bahia Hotel, the site of our recent nuptuals. We spent some time with the harbor seals (one was acting quite hung-over, the other was totally showing off) then sat in the garden where our ceremony was and looked at the ducks.

With my all-time favorite Soundgarden blazing in our speakers, we headed to the movies to get out of the heat. On the way, we stopped at Restoration Hardware, where I think we may have found the ultimate Captain's Chair of all time ever made.

Our film du jour was "Forgetting Sarah Marshall". Loved it. L-O-V-E-D it. Moving on...
Back at the Shapiro stronghold, it was time to rest before dinner. I spoke to my family again (I always provide an update on how the birthday is going; part of the tradition. I also opened my newly arrived present from my folks. My Mom makes her own cards out of photos she takes and this was a new one, an amazing perspective shot along a verdant road towards some distant hills. Inside were more lovely words for me, also private.
Finally, there was a big box from Amazon with lots of Civil War era books (brief aside; I'm spending much time studying the years preceding the war itself: the Wilmot Proviso, Compromise of 1850, Bleeding Kansas, the birth of the Republican party, etc. This gift will likely form the backbone of this subject matter, as well as the next subject of interest, the Lost Cause mythology which has come to define the way the Civil War is remembered and taught in the US. Need that strong foundation first...)
After spending some quality time in Civil War book heaven, there emerged from the cardboard another text I've been waiting to read. This is some of the most fun, intelligent, funny writing I've come across, and it has the best essay about tennis I've ever read, which will be discussed in some detail in a later missive.
While Jess started to get dressed for dinner, I made another indulgence into another wonderful hobby I've picked up; roasting my own coffee. Haven't written about it yet, but it definitely merits a few words of it's own. Teaser trailer: home roasting is the gold standard for coffee enjoyment. Luckily the hot weather had broken, so I could roast outside before getting dressing for dinner.
This was Jess' next treat for me, and I had no idea where we were headed. Neither will you, dear reader, until my next post, so stayed tuned!

Monday, April 21, 2008

A World Champion in Dramatic Fashion

Something really wonderful happened over the weekend in the world of sports, one of those magical moments that helps us remember why sports are so much fun, how we can explode with delight at the efforts of an athlete at the top of his game, and cheer when something truly remarkable happens. Football has its Hail Mary touchdowns, baseball its game-winning homeruns, basketball its buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Now the sport of bowling has this...
It happened at the Barnsley Metrodome near London, England, where the 16 best bowlers in the world faced off for the title of World Tenpin Masters champion. American Chris Barnes, who took the title in 2006 and has been a phenom on the PBA Tour, winning $1 million in prize money faster than anyone in history, was the favorite in the final round as he faced off against an unsung South African named Guy Caminsky, who was making his first trip to the final.
Friends of the Tipsy Historian may recognize that Cinderella story as my cousin, who has long been touted (by me) as "the best Jewish bowler in the world" but had yet to break out on the biggest stages. To jog your memory, he was the tall, good looking blonde dude with the fantastic accent at my wedding last September.
With the eyes of a packed house and the lens of Sky Sports (the English equivalent of ESPN) upon them, Barnes and Caminsky tested their mettle in a two-match battle for the championship and $30000. I'm no expert at how to score a bowling match, but I can tell a close score when I see it, and, coming into the final frame, Guy was ahead by 11 pins. Barnes, showing the heart of a champion, strikes out (a good thing in bowling) to take a seemingly insurmountable lead.
The only way Guy could deny Barnes his 2nd title in 3 years would be to throw back to back strikes with his final two attempts. If his first effort was anything short of a strike, then 2nd place would be his lot. A strike and a 9-1 spare, and he could force a tie.
If this isn't a tall enough order, Guy had to pull off this miracle at what is arguably the biggest bowling event worldwide!
To be reminded about what makes sports so wonderful, and why those we call "Champion" are those who play their best in the very biggest moments, click here.

Guy is airborne as I write this, both literally and figuratively, and I couldn't be more proud. I've been watching sports for many years and have seen the great moments from Kirk Gibson's homer to Tyus Edney's desperation shot at the buzzer. I've seen the looks on their faces at that moment of achievement and have only been able to imagine how it must feel.
It's very special to see my own flesh and blood have a moment like that all to himself, Guy is a champion in every respect, and to watch the unbridled joy on his face when he became World Champion is something wonderful for all of us.
There is a picture on the Associated Press wire today that captures not just the essence of sports, but the very instant of great joy that we've all felt at one time or another. Take a look at this picture to remember what it means to be overwhelmed with happiness, because there it is.
Interesting sidenote: the photographer came up to Guy at the press conference after and said "this is the best photograph I've ever taken"
The best photograph for the best moment, perfect! Well done Guy!