Friday, August 31, 2007

TOPIC: US Open - Day 5: Nadal Picks His Seat... and Other Player Quirks
Not much in my fan camp occurred today at the US Open. Tonight, Rafael Nadal played Janko Tipsarevic in a rather uneventful match. The kids and I had a little fun with Rafa, though. It seems that the young Spaniard has a pre-serve quirk that is quite hilarious, if not a bit gross. Nadal picks his seat -- or what we call, a butt crack snack. If you don't believe me, watch him Sunday afternoon as he plays.
The norm is to take three balls from the ball-boy. Switch them around once; drop one. Stick one ball in his right pocket, swoop his hair behinds his ears and then for the finale -- Nadal pulls out a wedgie from his butt crack. On second serves, he generally doesn't take the third ball or swoop the hair. BUTT, he still goes digging for gold.
My wife thought I was being cruel, saying Nadal doesn't pick his seat on almost every play. I challenged her that he does it dozens of times every match I've ever seen him play. So, we counted. Yeah, I know... but the kid got a great laugh out of slow-motion TiVo of the "butt crack snack". In fact, we counted each Rafa butt crack snack for the match -- until Tipsarevic retired from a rib injury during the third set. The total = 67 butt crack snacks for Rafael Nadal. His pants even showed a large wet spot from all that digging crack with his right hand.
My wife asked me if other players have odd quirks. The only ones I have seen during the 2007 US Open are Maria Sharapova's two high bounces before shreeking on every serve. John Isner generally bounces the ball between his legs, from behind, on his first serve.

Can you think of other tennis players with odd quirks? If so, feel free to leave a comment.
REVIEW: US Open - Day 4: The Best Match I've Ever Seen!
Last night, I had the pleasure of watching the best tennis match I've ever seen. James Blake and Fabrice Santoro put on a show that kept the seats full in the stadium and hundreds of thousands glued to their TVs. The level of play between these two athletes has rarely been equaled in men's tennis. The sheer entertainment value of the play has never been matched, in my opinion.
Before you think me a "novice" fan, please note that I've been watching tennis since the days of Bjorn Borg, the Jimmy Connors vs. John McEnroe rivalry -- and the days of Chrissie Evert, Bille Jean King and Martina Navratolova's great matches. That, my friend, is thirty-plus years of watching tennis as a fan.
Blake and Santoro tracked down shots that pretty much everyone thought were impossible to touch. Even more amazing, these two made shots out of those unreachables. They tested each other's limits, all the while maintaining a sense of humor with their opponent.
I am a fan of James Blake (ranked #6) and am familiar with Fabrice Santoro. After watching the second round match last night, I have an even healthier respect for BOTH players. Even though Blake won the contest on the court, Santoro won the hearts and minds of the spectators. He played his heart out -- running down balls that no ordinary man could have even thought about returning. Along with great prowess on the court, the 35 year old Santoro gave us a great show with funny quips, hilarious facial expressions & witty remarks to the chair umpire and James Blake.
For his part, Blake played tough -- seemingly inspired by the agility and commitment of Santoro. Blake had his own share of awesome shots and fun moments. The J-Block was in da house, but their rousing didn't seem to have any effect on play. In the end, Blake showed good humor and enormous talent -- winning 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
In post-match interviews, both players gave mad props to each other for playing so well - and giving the US Open it's best match thus far.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

TOPIC: US Open - Day 4: Commercials, I'm Already Sick of Them!
There is plenty of sports and player related coverage of the US Open. I won't try to duplicate or surpass the excellence of those articles or blogs here. However, the US Open is one of my two favorite tennis tournaments each year. Therefore, the family TV is tuned to USA Network or CBS for most of the two weeks that encompass the US Open.
To that end, my comments today concern the commercials shown during the tourney. Even though it's only Day Four, I'm already sick of the repetitive nature of the television ads. If the US Open is going to have only 4-6 major sponsors, those companies should be required to have a variety of ads available for airing.
So far, I have seen American Express rep John McEnroe hug Claus Ullott more times than Barney the dinosaur ever hugged the kids in his entourage. And, the worst commercial of all, Andy Roddick chasing a tennis ball in a silver Lexus, has been shown so often that the stupid tunage is now stuck in my head. ARGH! Almost as overdone are the two IBM Bladecenter commercials -- heat and cables. The funny thing about those two ads are that 95% of the people watching them have NO CLUE why heat and cables are a bain to I.T.'s existence. So, who exactly is IBM selling to? -- not normal tennis fans, not the sports jock, not the average housewife who's sitting at home during the middle of the day. DUMB!
Then, there's the Aviva commercials -- that have no real message except, "Trust us." Billy May is more convincing. Lastly, Serena Williams' overdone it's all-about-me fest for HP. As if her ego isn't big enough, we have to endure repeated ads showing her celebrate herself -- including that huge booty she thinks is all that. OY-VAY!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

TOPIC: Doubt or Certainty? Which Does YOUR World Revolve Around?
2005 editorial from Charles Krauthammer of TIME magazine
These things come in waves, of course, but waves need to be resisted, even if the exercise leaves you feeling like King Canute. The new wave is fashionable doubt. Doubt is in. Certainty is out.

The New Republic
devoted a cover article to hailing the "conservatism of doubt." For the less bookish, Hollywood spends $130 million on a Crusader epic in which the heroes are 12th century multiculturalists, Christian and Muslim, who want nothing more than love, peace and interfaith understanding. (Such people inhabit 21st century Hollywood, but as columnist John Podhoretz points out, they were nowhere to be seen in 12th century Jerusalem.) And dare you have any "deeply held views" -- a transparent euphemism for religiously grounded views -- especially regarding abortion [or homosexuality or the war against terrorism].
The Op-Ed pages are filled with jeremiads about believers -- principally evangelical Christians and traditional Catholics -- bent on turning the U.S. into a theocracy. Now I am not much of a believer, but there is something deeply wrong -- indeed, deeply un-American -- about fearing people simply because they believe.
It seems perfectly O.K. for secularists to impose their secular views on America, such as, say, legalized abortion or gay marriage. But when someone takes the contrary view, all of a sudden he is trying to impose his view on you. And if that contrary view happens to be rooted in Scripture or some kind of religious belief system, the very public advocacy of that view becomes a violation of the U.S. constitutional order.
What nonsense. The campaign against certainty is merely the philosophical veneer for an attempt to politically marginalize and intellectually disenfranchise believers. Instead of arguing the merits of any issue, secularists are trying to win the argument by default on the grounds that the other side displays unhealthy certainty or, even worse, unseemly religiosity. Why this panic about certainty and people who display it? It is not just, as conventional wisdom has it, that liberals think the last election was lost because of a bloc of benighted Evangelicals. It is because we a handful of years of moral certainty, and firm belief -- and that's about all secular liberalism can tolerate.

Do you remember 9/11? How you felt? The moral clarity of that day and the days thereafter? Just days after 9/11, on this very page, Lance Morrow wrote a brilliant, searing affirmation of right against wrong, good against evil. A few years of that near papal certainty is more than any self-respecting intelligentsia can take. The overwhelmingly secular intellectuals are embarrassed that they once nodded in assent to Morrow-like certainty, an affront to their self-flattering pose as skeptics.

Enough. A new day, a new wave. Time again for nuance, doubt and the comforts of relativism. It is not just the restless search for novelty, the artist's Holy Grail. It is weariness with the responsibilities and the nightmares that come with clarity -- and the demands that moral certainty make on us as individuals and as a nation.

Nothing has more aroused and infuriated the sophisticates than the foreign policy of a religiously inclined President, based on the notion of a universal aspiration to freedom and of America's need and duty to advance it around the world. Such liberationism, confident and unapologetic, is portrayed as arrogant crusading, a deep violation of the tradition of American pluralism, ecumenism, modesty and skeptical restraint.
That widespread portrayal is invention masquerading as history. You want certainty? You want religiosity? How about a people who overthrow the political order of the ages, go to war and occasion thousands of deaths in the name of self-evident truths and unalienable rights endowed by the Creator? That was 1776. The universality, the sacredness and the divine origin of freedom are enshrined in our founding document. The Founders, believers all, signed it. Thomas Jefferson wrote it. And not even Jefferson, the most skeptical of the lot, had the slightest doubt about it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

TOPIC: Throw Out Pre-Conceived Notions of Christianity
Article by Lillian Kwon of Christian Today
"I want you to throw out your pre-conceived notions about Christianity for a moment and think about what Jesus said," a national evangelist told thousands seated at the Amphitheater at California State University Stanislaus. "Who better to tell us what God is like than Jesus?" posed Greg Laurie at the Central Valley Harvest Crusade, his third evangelistic outreach this summer.
Some 48,000 people flocked to the Harvest Crusade with thousands more watching top Christian artists perform and Laurie preach via live webcasts. The evangelistic crusade has been months in the making, involving around 150 churches and 3,000 local volunteers.
Addressing pre-conceived views of Christianity that some visitors may have brought to the three-night event, Laurie affirmed what many believe – that there are hypocrites in the church.
"I'd like to say to you that there are no hypocrites in the church, but there are because the church is made of real people," said Laurie Saturday night. But "just because there are hypocrites doesn't mean that's going to get you off the hook when you stand before God", the evangelist and Southern California pastor stressed. "Jesus didn't say 'follow my people'. He said 'follow me'," he highlighted. "Jesus will never let you down."
Speaking to those who may view Christianity as a religion of rules and regulations, Laurie mimicked such a person saying, "Ah, man. God is just out to ruin our lives. With all of its rules and regulations, who wants to get into that kind of thing?"
When Laurie had his Christ decision-making moment in high school, he did not originally set out to become a Christian. He was part of the party scene and had a mother who divorced seven times. And he thought Christians were Jesus freaks. "A lot of us are like that. I'm going to draw my own picture of [who] God [is]," Laurie told the Harvest crowd. And he did not deny that sin can be fun. "It's fun to sin for a while. We've all had fun. But it comes with a penalty," he warned. "It (sin) promises freedom but it brings slavery," said Laurie. "It promises pleasure but it ultimately brings misery."
Rather than judging from their own views, Laurie asked the crowd to see what Jesus says about what God is like. Like the renowned story Jesus told of the prodigal son and the father, God will throw His arms around you and say "Welcome home, son/daughter," said Laurie.
Nearly 4,000 people accepted Jesus Christ over the August 24-26 event. Laurie's next Harvest preaching is slated for New York on September 23.

Monday, August 20, 2007

TOPIC: Family Ties Key to Happy Kids
Article from
So you're between the ages of 13 and 24. What makes you happy? A worried, weary parent might imagine the answer to sound something like this: Sex, drugs, a little rock 'n' roll. Maybe some cash, or at least the car keys. Turns out the real answer is quite different.
Spending time with family was the top answer to that open-ended question, according to an extensive survey — more than 100 questions asked of 1,280 people ages 13-24 — conducted by The Associated Press and MTV on the nature of happiness among America's young people.
Next was spending time with friends, followed by time with a significant other. And even better for parents: Nearly three-quarters of young people say their relationship with their parents makes them happy.

"They're my foundation," says Kristiana St. John, 17, a high-school student from Queens in New York. "My mom tells me that even if I do something stupid, she's still going to love me no matter what. Just knowing that makes me feel very happy and blessed."
Other results are more disconcerting. While most young people are happy overall with the way their lives are going, there are racial differences: the poll shows whites to be happier, across economic categories, than blacks and Hispanics. A lot of young people feel stress, particularly those from the middle class, and females more than males.
You might think money would be clearly tied to a general sense of happiness. But almost no one said "money" when asked what makes them happy, though people with the highest family incomes are generally happier with life. However, having highly educated parents is a stronger predictor of happiness than income.
And sex? Yes, we were getting to that. Being sexually active actually leads to less happiness among 13-17 year olds, according to the survey. If you're 18 to 24, sex might lead to more happiness in the moment, but not in general.
From the body to the soul: Close to half say religion and spirituality are very important. And more than half say they believe there is a higher power that has an influence over things that make them happy. Beyond religion, simply belonging to an organized religious group makes people happier.
And parents, here's some more for you: Most young people in school say it makes them happy. Overwhelmingly, young people think marriage would make them happy and want to be married some day. Most also want to have kids. Finally, when asked to name their heroes, nearly half of respondents mentioned one or both of their parents. The winner, by a nose: Mom.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

TOPIC: Young Girls Going Wild, But at What Consequences?
Article from
Role models” like amateur porn star Paris Hilton and her underwear-challenged cohorts Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan are prompting more and more young girls to “go wild,” but with negative consequences. Mental health experts say more and more youngsters are being influenced by the “sexualization of girls,” a term coined in a report released earlier this year by the American Psychological Association.
The research analyzed the content and effects of virtually every form of media, including television, music videos, music lyrics, magazines, movies, video games and the Internet. It also examined recent advertising campaigns and merchandising of products aimed toward girls. What they found was a sort of “Girls Gone Wild” effect in which young girls are succumbing to the pressure of sexualization by posting nude pictures of themselves on the Internet, allowing boyfriends to photograph them in the nude and making their own amateur porn videos. “The consequences of the sexualization of girls in media today are very real and are likely to be a negative influence on girls’ healthy development,” said Eileen L. Zurbriggen, PhD, chairwoman of the APA Task Force and associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, earlier this year in reference to the report.
As a result of an over-sexed society, young girls are reaping the following mental health issues:
Cognitive and Emotional Consequences: Sexualization and objectification undermine a person’s confidence in and comfort with her own body, leading to emotional and self-image problems, such as shame and anxiety.
Mental and Physical Health: Research links sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems diagnosed in girls and women—eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed mood.
Sexual Development: Research suggests that the sexualization of girls has negative consequences on girls’ ability to develop a healthy sexual self-image. As a society, we need to replace all of these sexualized images with ones showing girls in positive settings—ones that show the uniqueness and competence of girls,” said Zurbriggen. “The goal should be to deliver messages to all adolescents—boys and girls—that lead to healthy sexual development.

SOPEBOCKS: I've been saying this for a couple of years now. The sexualization of young girls is detrimental to their health and society as a whole. When we see human beings, especially precious young women, as nothing more than sexual objects to be used, abused and then left behind, we damage the very fabric of life. Abercrombie & Fitch, Bratz, LonelyGirl15, and pretty much ALL hip-hop music -- are current examples of sexualization of girls for the sake of entertainment and money. Prosti-tots are everywhere -- just go to your local mall and walk around any evening. Blame the parents for much of what you see, but blame yourself for allowing images of young girls to be put into the marketplace as a means of sexual excitement and gratification.
Again, we will reap what we sew -- and America is sewing the seeds of sexual abuse, depression, murder and rape into young boys and girls from every angle. We need to change the images being presented in media and music NOW.