Sunday, August 31, 2008

Things to do in Denver.....if you want to die (Swooping)

While the Democratic Convention* made headlines this week, there was another major event happening just up the road from Denver as the National Swooping Championships were taking place in Longmont, Col.
Swooping is a more extreme form of sky-diving (is that an oxy moron, or what?). The difference is that one lands in water.
My brother-in-law Matt Lovell who was the spokesperson for the Dennis Kucinich campaign (that is a joke!) did not jump out of an airplane, but along with my sister Lale, he did take many photographs of this unique event.
As some of you know, I told this blog that I was taking a day off from teaching and  going sky-diving in Orange, Va. (near Charlottesville). That was of course my April Fool's joke.
Many people fell for it!
My sister did not.
She knows me too well!

*- Among those present at this year's Democratic convention were Virginia's awesome governor Tim Kaine, our favorite Caddyshack actor Chevy Chase and members of the hip band Death Cab for Cutie. Alas, I was not there:(

Check out Matt and Lale's photos at:

The photo used in this entry is actually from a swooping event in West Virginia. It was not taken by Matt.

Other useful links:     (with info on where you can go swooping...they have a place in Orlando...)

The band reportedly performs in Seattle on Mon., and in Charlottesville, Va., on Thurs.

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Short List (satire)

Since John McCain announced that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was going to be his running mate (the shock is just now wearing down, some 36 hours later), I was wondering who else might have come close to being his Tonto.

Here is what I came up with:

1) Judge Clarence Thomas

Yes, this ultra-conservative judge who is reportedly social friends with Rush Limbaugh may have qualified under the "well if I choose a black guy, blacks will vote for him" mentality. The problem is he has about as much interest in African-American affairs as outgoing Republican Mississippi senator Trent Lott.

2. Rev. Jimmy Swaggart

What better way to appeal to the most loyal base of the Republican Party that is the Christian Coalition by choosing one of its own?! The fact that Swaggart compared gay marriage to bestiality during a televised sermon (now on youtube) will also help the GOP with their other loyal base, which is paranoid homophobes. (This photo is actually from Swaggart's official web site! Love those nails).

3. Sen. Hillary Clinton

Hey, if you really want to connect with Hillary voters. Why not choose Hillary herself? Oh, the fact that she is a Democrat may pose a slight problem, but this move would be a bold one and prove that McCain is actually a maverick (newsflash: he's not). Rush Limbaugh hates McCain anyway, and this would actually help him win the retirement home vote in Florida. Alas, Sarah Palin will not!

4. Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho)

He's still not gay! And, he has lots of experience in the senate. What more do you want?

For more serious information on the election, you can go to or

Hmmm.... yes that did just sound like a public service announcement.

Not Ready for Prime Time!

"I think she is the most inexperienced person on a major party ticket in modern history," said presidential historian Matthew Dallek in an interview with today in reference to John McCain's dubious selection of Alaska governor Sarah Palin.
The liberal activist group revealed that Palin supported Pat Buchanan for president in 2000, and she sued the current Bush administration for listing polar bears as an endangered species to assist her oil-drilling industry pals.
Palin is also a member of the extremist pro-life group Feminists for Life, and she opposes abortion even in the case of rape and incest. And, she moved to have creationism taught in Alaska's schools. (Hence, the reason why I've chosen Dana Carvey's Church Lady character as a photo image for this story).
She is no maverick, and neither is McCain.
In fact, conservatives who know they can't go on Fox News and defend this infamous decision are saying what they really feel confidentially.  One such 'deep throat' said the following  to Dan  Balz  of  "The Washington Post:"
"I would rather be arguing with conservatives about abortion  (had McCain picked a pro-choice politician like Tom Ridge for veep) than with Democrats about a lack of experience on our ticket."

Pictured: Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the first hockey mom to run for vice president.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Ca.) told "The Washington Post" that McCain had other options to go after women voters, including seasoned senators like Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tx). Boxer went on to call Palin a 'dangerous choice.'

The move was also not a welcome one to Mitt Romney supporters, who thought the former Massachusetts governor, known for his flip-flops, was a better choice.

Utah Republican Party chair Stan Lockhart said told the "Dessert Morning-News" in Salt Lake City that he was stunned by McCain's choice: "I know about as much about Republican politics as anyone in our state and up until the vice-presidential choice was announced, I thought it was Mitt Romney."

Lockhart's counterpart Utah Democratic chairman Wayne Hollard told the same newspaper that the Republican decision could actually assist Democratic candidates in Utah, a state which does actually have a Democratic congressman, suggesting that this would make voters aware of the religious intolerance and bigotry in the right-wing of the Republican Party.

The announcement also makes the words of Bill Kristol, a leader in the infamous neocon movement responsible for the War in Iraq, quite prophetic. He wrote the following in his column for "The New York Times," according to "Washington Post" columnist Howard Kurtz:

"It's awfully tempting for the McCain camp to revisit the possibility of tapping Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO, Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice, or Alaska Governor Sarah Palin," Kristol wrote. "But, the first two have never run for office, and Palin has been governor for less than two years."

Useful Links:

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sarah from Alaska???!

Since Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is John McCain's running mate, I thought I'd dedicate this photo of Rocky and Bulwinkle  to what now sincerely looks to be the losing ticket this November.
What we know about her: She's pro-life, hunts moose and has been governor of Alaska since 2006. Dan Quayle, Dick Cheney and now Sarah Palin???! Even the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Oliver North should publicly admit Democrats are better at choosing running mates.

PROGRAM NOTE: Michael Moore, who is actually to my left politically- but I love and admire him anyway, will be on Keith Olbermann tonight at 8 pm EST on MSNBC. He would've made a better running mate than Sarah Palin!

UPDATE: According to this cool web site (see link) Sarah Palin has also tried to pass initiatives to have creationism taught in Alaska schools........!


Yes, I am stooping low here by posting a Jonas Brothers video for their hit song (aren't they all hit songs?) "Burnin' Up." But, hey John McCain is not telling us who his veep is quite yet. I really want it to be Mitt Romney, but I have ulterior motives.

The Jonas Brothers are this generation's New Kids on the Block. They have been profiled in "Rolling Stone" and on the NPR music show "Sound Opinions."

This weekend, they perform in Syracuse, NY, and Allentown, Pa. I imagine there will be a lot of 16-year-old girls there.

I'm still recovering from when a person in that demographic yelled in my ear during a Bryan Adams concert 15 years ago as he was singing that sappy theme song from the Robin Hood movie with Kevin Costner.

Useful Links:

UPDATE 8/31: I tried to watch this video in its entirety, but I only made it to the :59 mark!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I Guess There Was No Bruuuce?!

I guess this proves you can't always go by the rumors you hear in the media even if it's from the reliable "Washington Post," though their blogger Mary Ann Akers said that the rumor that Bruce Springsteen might make a surprise appearance at the Democratic Convention in Denver was just that. But, I can add this performance of "This Land is Your Land," the Woody Guthrie classic as performed by Bruuuce in Los Angeles in 1985.

But, what a speech! I heard Obama speak as I was driving on the radio tonight. First, I listened to it on NPR and then I caught the second part of it from AM stations out of Boston and Charlotte. It was quite impressive.
I think he hit on all the major points, including his plans for health care, the economy, alternative energy plans, and the fight against terrorism. The line about how Bush couldn't capture bin Laden was great (if only I could remember it). It almost made me ashamed that I voted for Hillary Clinton in the North Carolina Democratic Primary in February. I'm sure it will be criticized by Republicans for being a bit lofty and ambitious, but hey aren't most convention speeches!
Though I'm sure Obama's powerful speech was enough to make Sen. Joe Lieberman (R-Ct), oh excuse me  I meant (I-Ct) wonder if he made the right decision by switching teams. (Between us, I think that John McCain will choose either Lieberman or Mitt Romney as his vice presidential choice tomorrow). I imagine either way, Lieberman was watching the speech while playing Connect-4 and sipping cocoa with McCain and friends in Dayton, Ohio.
To complement the Springsteen video, I would like to add this video from another singer named Bruce- my friend Bruce Piephoff. He is a highly respected folk singer in Greensboro, NC. Alas, I will not be able to see him perform at the Grove Winery near Greensboro on Labor Day as I did last year.
But, I was able to see him perform one of his best songs "I Remember Asheville" at a cd release party in February. This video footage, which was not taped by me, is from that very same performance. We have posted it here before, and I'm sure you will enjoy it.
If not anything else, it should take one's mind off of politics!

Useful Links:

UPDATE: I just looked at a convention blog from liberal cartoonist Tom Tomorrow, and he pointed out that ironically the song that was played after Bill Clinton spoke in Denver was none other than "Addicted to Love" from Robert Palmer.

UPDATE TWO: Apparently, Lieberman is actually vacationing in Long Island. Rumors are now circulating that McCain will choose the sitting governor of Minnesota Tim Pawltney as the vice-presidential choice. Personally, I hope he chooses Romney- I just loved making fun of him when he was running for prez!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Happy 100th Birthday, LBJ!

 Today, indeed marks the 100th birthday of our 36th president Lyndon Baines Johnson or LBJ (1908-1973), who was a Democrat from Texas. It is ironic that this day coincides with the Democratic convention in Denver. He was president from 1963 to 1968.

 LBJ is best known for passing the Voting Rights Act and issuing civil rights initiatives for African-Americans. He is considered to be a liberal figure, though many on his side of the political fence criticized him for getting involved in Vietnam. LBJ also beat Republican Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater in the heated election of 1964 which featured the classic 'Daisy Ad' that we posted on this blog several months ago.

LBJ was also the subject of a trivia question I heard on NPR today as he was the last sitting president not to attend his own convention in 1968. That Democratic Convention in Chicago is the subject of a recent film called "The Chicago 10," which now out on dvd. My friend Moviezzz has a review of it on his blog (see link below).

LBJ was also the father-in-law of former Virginia senator Chuck Robb who defeated infamous right-winger Oliver North in his own heated senate race in 1994. That campaign was the subject of the brilliant documentary "A Perfect Candidate."

In an article for "Rolling Stone," Bill Clinton said LBJ was a tremendous influence on him. He said that LBJ took a huge risk with his civil rights initiatives as they helped bring the conservative movement to the South.

Racial tolerance remains a huge issue in American life. But, as one commentator said last night, LBJ would be delighted to see an African-American running for president in America if he were alive today.

Useful Links:

PS_This marks the 900th entry for Politics, Culture and Other Wastes of Time. To think, there was a time when I was so unsure of what to say here that I actually posted my grocery list!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Alternative Presidential Race: Love vs. Reed

 A few weeks ago I was reading a vast collection of the alternative comic strip "This Modern World" by political cartoonist Tom Tomorrow. The strip is more cutting-edge than "Doonesbury," but not as scathing as the even more outspoken cartoonist Ted Rall..

"This Modern World" is perhaps best known for using Sparky the Penguin (pictured here) who often acts like a reporter covering political news of the day.

I must say that I am perhaps just a tad less liberal than Tom Tomorrow (I was recently diagnosed as being 35 percent conservative), but I still agree with Tom a solid 75 percent of the time. I suppose one can figure out where they stand politically by how much they laugh at "This Modern World" as opposed to the conservative comic strip "Mallard Filmore," which features a less-humorous version of "Howard the Duck."

In a strip that was originally written circa 2004, Tom Tomorrow (not the cartoonist's real name) suggested that the 2008 presidential race might come down to Courtney Love, the former lead singer of Hole who was acquainted with the late Kurt Cobain (the radical documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield suggests she might have actually killed him!), for the Democrats and Ralph Reed, the former Christian Coalition prez who actually ran for office in Georgia, for the GOP.

So, I am asking you, the blog-reading public, to decide which candidate would be your choice. I know this may seem kitschy, but hey- wouldn't this make the presidential race that much more interesting?

And, it's not as if Reed is devoid of scandal himself as he was very close to Jack Abharamoff, who fell from grace quicker than Humpty Dumpty.


 To make this even more interesting, I am giving these 'candidates' running mates. For Reed, I will designate my good friend Gary Frink from New Market, Va., who used to be a Democrat before going to God's Own Party. To give him some credit, he defected when Walter Mondale was running for president. Frink actually ran for Congress twice in his native Michigan. Once as a Democrat. Once as a Republican. Alas, he lost both times.


I will give Ms. Love, another friend as her running mate. Cenk Uygur is a fellow politically progressive Turkish-American, and he is the host of a liberal talk show (yes, there are such things!) called "The Young Turks." It once aired on Air America. Mr. Uygur was a Republican until the Dick Cheney administration came to power. To my knowledge, he has never run for office. But, he has stood firm against guests like Lou Dobbs, which proves that we could use more ex-Republicans in the Democratic Party.

I actually have an uncle Uygur in Florida..........

Now, I do have a slight bias here, even though I was never into the band Hole when they were popular (it was like ten years ago, right?). After all, I did once refer to the Rev. Franklin Graham as Satan here, which may hurt my chances to run against Cong. Virgil Goode (R-Va) should my Facebook friend Tom Perriello not defeat this evil man (who used to be a Democrat!) in November.

Nevertheless, I did try to dig up video footage for both 'candidates.' But, I'm not sure anyone would want to see Reed's complete interview with Charlie Rose, which is actually pretty interesting, on this blog. You can go to Youtube for that. It does run for about a half-hour.

But, we will leave you with the video for the song "Malibu" as performed by Hole.

(Gary Frink's site)

(Cenk Uygur's site)




Monday, August 25, 2008

"Linda Lovelace for President"

For starters, let me say that sometimes my ideas for blog entries actually come from other blogs. But, hey_very few of us make a dime of these ventures!

Today's second entry is no exception.

My good friend Moviezzz who has a most excellent blog about movies revealed yesterday that a long forgotten exploitation film called "Linda Lovelace for President" (1975) comes out on dvd this week.

Lovelace was made famous when she became the star of a low budget film called "Deep Throat" which made millions of dollars and became part of the pop culture, so much so that a key Watergate figure who secretly talked to Woodward and Bernstein became known as 'deep throat.'

The film stars Lovelace as herself as well as Mickey Dolenz and Scatman Crothers.

Moviezzz summed it best by saying: "I've never seen this film from the mid-70s, and I never knew it existed."

It is an odd coincidence that the film is coming out this week as the Democratic Convention gets underway in Denver. Lovelace actually died in a 2002 car accident in Denver at the age of 53.

She went on to renounce the porn industry which made her famous, and she openly talked about the alleged abuse that she endured during her career.

Lovelace was actually nicknamed 'Miss Holy Holy' in high school because she always kept her dates at a distance.

There is actual a good documentary called "Inside Deep Throat" which talks about the reasons why this film became so popular in the 1970s, and how it actually influenced then-president Richard Nixon's effort to go after the porn industry, which Ronald Reagan took one step further with the Ed Meese Commission.

Useful Links: (not sure if this site is active)

Back to Politics: Rednecks for Obama?!

I don't know if comedian Jeff Foxworthy (pictured here) has endorsed a candidate for office yet, but there is actually a group called Rednecks for Obama which has made its way to the Democratic Convention in Denver, which starts tonight with a speech from Michelle Obama.

"The Denver Post" reports that Les Spencer from Rolla, Missouri, said he started the informal group because he was tired of people like him who continously vote against their own self-interests.

Spencer pointed out that very few rednecks (his words) make more than $300,000 a year, and are in desperate need of adequate health care. Spencer also said he has absolutely no fears that Barack Obama would take any of his guns away from him. Of course, as one might expect, Spencer likes to go hunting.

And, Spencer might also enjoy the Charlie Daniels Band, seen here performing their trademark hit "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" at the Opry in Nashville, Tenn.

One can assume that Daniels will vote for John McCain though. As NPR commentator Doug Moe of "Weekend America" fame found out in his hilarious book "Conversatize Me!," Daniels is pretty far-right.

While Daniels will not be at the Pepsi Center in Denver, "The Washington Post" through blogger Mary Ann Akers is reporting that Bruce Springsteen, who is enthuiastically supporting Obama, might. If he makes the surprise cameo, it would be after a video for his song "The Rising" is shown on jumbo tvs.

"The Denver Post" also reported that Obama's veep choice Sen. Joe Biden stopped in for lunch at Boney's B-B-Q in Writer's Square, where he may have run into a member of the Rednecks for Obama delegation. While there, Biden and his wife Jill Biden talked to a local school teacher who expressed her concerns about education.

That newspaper is also reporting that rap group Public Enemy will give away free tickets to their concert in Boulder, Col., tonight........for any family members of mine who might live in that area (wink, wink).

PBS and MSNBC will be devouting the most hours of coverage from the convention tonight.

Though I am pretty far from Denver, I intend to post many entries about the event. And, I may be one of the few people who is actually exited about it!

Useful Links:


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Olympics in the Age of Globalization

 We conclude our 2008 Beijing Olympics coverage with an entry about athletes who represented different countries besides their nations of birth.

These include Turkish runner Elvan Abeylegesse (pictured here) who won two silver medals. One in the women's 5000 meters and the second in the 10,000 meters.

Her native country is Ethiopia. According to Wikipedia, Elvan simply fell in love with Turkey during a 1999 visit to Istanbul. She said that the Turkish federation got behind her, and she agreed to compete for Turkey.

She later got married and changed her name to Elvan Can, but she got divorced and returned to her maiden name. Elvan does not train in Ethiopia, but she remains friendly to her fellow Ethiopian runners who represent Ethiopia.

But, Elvan's story is hardly the only one of its kind at the Olympics. Armenian wrestler Ara Abhahamian represented Sweden, and he got lots of media attention for protesting his bronze medal on the medal stand.

Similary, many American Olympians, like runner Bernard Lagat (Kenya), tennis player Liezel Huber (South Africa) and badminton player Khan Malaythong (Laos) were from other countries.

 American-born athletes also played for other countries.

When that country is Russia, assuredly some eyebrows were raised. American men's basketball player J.R. Holden played for Russia, but women's basketball player Becky Hammon, a guard who has played for the WNBA's New York Liberty and San Antonio Stars, played for Russia as well.

Hammon, who is originally from Rapid City, SD, said the American women's basketball team was not interested in her so the Russian team asked her to play for them. Hammon had played professional basketball in Russia, and she was familiar with their players.

The Russians lost to the USA, which went on to win gold in women's basketball, 67-52 in the semi-finals.

 Russia won the bronze by beating the host China 94-81 (Team USA beat Australia for the gold).

Bob Ryan of "The Boston Globe" talked to Hammon, who was called a traitor which may have been aided by Russia's invasion of Georgia right before the games.

Hammon told Ryan that she was relieved the Olympics were behind her.

"It was nice to win a medal, but that was never why I did it," Hammon said.

Since this is my last blog entry on the Olympics, I would like to mention rower Benjamin Boukepti, who won a bronze medal for Togo. It was the first medal ever for that country, which is an island in the South Pacific.

And, one has to feel for Taiwanese baseball player Chang Tai-shan who could not compete because he failed a drug test. As it turns out, he was taking the drug for fertility and not to enhance his performance 'on the field.'

The Olympics reportedly cost $40 billion, and eight American protesters who tried to hold a Free Tibet protest were deported back home. Perhaps, the next host country, the United Kingdom, will be more accomodating?!

NOTE: See earlier entry on gymnast Oksana Chusovitina of Germany who is originally from Uzbekistan.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Heroine's Homecoming for Alicia Sacramone

 American Olympic gymnast Alicia Sacramone, who was part of the silver-medal winning team in Beijing, arrived back home in Burlington, Mass., to a heroine's welcome according to "The Boston Globe."

Sacramone, who has also achieved a huge internet following, signed posters and t-shirts for fans who waited for hours to greet her.

"After long months of training and high-stress situations coming back home is amazing," Sacramone said in the "Globe" article.

Here are some interesting facts about Sacramone:

-Born on Dec. 3, 1987 in Boston

-Began gymnastics at the age of eight

-Joined U.S. Team in 2003

-Tried out for 2004 Athens Olympics

-Spokeswoman for Team 24 Fitness

-Shannon Miller and Nastia Liukin are the only female American gymnasts with more World Championships medals

-Majors in sociology at Brown University, where she is also a member of the gymnastics team.

Useful Links:


Back to the Olympics: The Icelandic Handball Team

 There have been surprises in team competitions at the Olympics. These include the U.S men's water polo team as well both the U.S. men'a and women's volleyball teams which have reached the finals of their respective sports.

Another team which has shocked the sporting world is the Icelandic men's handball team.

The nordic country defeated Spain in the semi-finals by a 36-30 count thanks to Snorri Steinn Gudjonsson (pictured here) who scored six goals in the victory.

The Icelanders will now face France in the finals. France beat Croatia 25-23 in the other semi-final game.

Of course, the most famous person in the world from Iceland is the pop/rock singer Bjork, who may not perform in China for a while. She chanted FREE TIBET moment during a concert in Beijing. I imagine it was quite the Youtube moment!

Beach handball is also a competitive sport, but to my knowledge it is not an Olympic sport.

UPDATE 8/24: Iceland lost their game to France 28-23 today in team handball competition. According to the AP, the streets of Iceland were completely deserted and two cinemas showed the game for free. But, all is not lost as Icelandic President Olafur Ragnor Grimsson said he was considering giving each team member the Order of the Falcon_the highest honor for Icelandic citizens.

Joe Biden is a Good Choice

 Well, it came as no surprise even though it was a well-guarded secret, but Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware is now Barack Obama's running mate.

In an entry earlier this year, Biden was my second choice for vice-president behind New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. But, I think the emergence of a potentially new Russian threat makes Biden the best choice even though Richardson is one of my favorite Democratic politicians.

Biden has excellent foreign policy credentials, and he is an expert on Pakistan, which is also going through political turmoil at the moment.

He ran for president himself but he wasn't quite as good at giving stump speeches in Davenport as his Democratic competitors, but that doesn't mean he is not qualified to be veep.......

In fact, in many ways, he is better than either Obama or John McCain! This is because Biden, 65, has been in the Senate since 1972, longer than both of them. I believe he is the third-longest serving senator on the Democratic side behind elder statesman Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Interestingly enough, former Bush advisor Karl Rove also thought Biden would be the best choice for Obama. Though, somehow I doubt that was a factor, but who knows?............

Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia, who I volunteered for during his campaign, was also on the short list for vice-president. I think there's a good shot that Kaine might get a cabinet post should Obama win the race.

Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican from Florida, was who I expected to be McCain's running mate in a blog entry a few months ago. But, now I think it might actually be former Democrat Joe Lieberman, who is now an independent senator for Connecticut. He was Al Gore's running mate in 2000. I think Rush Limbaugh has basically said that if McCain chooses him, his followers may as well 'drink the Kool Aid!'

Regardless of who you are voting for, it should be interesting.

My friend Marc Montoni, who was once head of the Virginia Libertarian Party, would probably want me to remind readers that his party has Bob Barr, a retired Republican from Georgia who left the party because of Bush, on the ballot. He was one of the guys who tried to have Bill Clinton impeached.

And, of course, there is Ralph Nader. But, Michael Moore is not supporting him this time around........

We will now return to Olympic coverage. Does anyone know who that Mongolian athlete is (see below). I'm guessing he's some sort of wrestler.

Useful Links:




Friday, August 22, 2008

What Do With that Post-Olympic Hangover?

The NPR series "Weekend America" will supposedly answer that question in a segment during their savvy show, which airs on Saturdays and is available through WUNC (91.5-FM) in Chapel Hill here in the Tarheel State.

The program will also have an in-depth piece on Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Michael Phelps who has reportedly won 43 medals (that is a joke..!). For some reason, my mom is obsessed with the fact that NBC has not talked about his father. I actually thought about devouting a blog entry on the matter, but I have decided to try to land an interview with Paris Hilton instead (ok, that is a joke too!).

Another NPR show "Market Place" is reporting that the United Kingdom is going to spend (yikes!) $28 billion on the 2012 London Olympics. I wonder how Ron Paul* would feel about that?!

I have no idea who this Mongolian athlete is in this image (which I 'borrowed' from a site out of Serbia). If anyone knows, please email that info to me at

But, somehow, I can't imagine that he'll get a date with Alicia Sacramone** anytime soon.

My alter-ego is off to the annual Burning Man Festival in Nevada........while I sit on the couch to watch syncronized diving as I eat a comforting bowl of Life cereal.

Useful Links:

*- Ron Paul was the most fiscally conservative presidential candidate this season.

**-Alicia Sacramone is an attractive American Olympic gymnast who has developed a major internet following


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Australia's Alexandra Croak- Gymnastics to Diving

 I was watching the Olympics on NBC last night, and I saw during the diving competition that Alendra Croak of Australia, whose name sounded vaguely familiar, was in fact an Olympic gymnast as well.

She is now a diver though, and even though she did not qualify into the finals, one has to admire anyone who can switch sports like that!

Thus, Croak was a gymnast at the 2004 Athens Olympics, and now she is a diver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Perhaps, she will try to be a pole vaulter for the 2012 Olympics in London next!

SIDEBAR: A friend of mine told me that the phrase: "Alicia Sacramone is Hot!" was one of the hottest tags around. This, of course, refers to the American Olympic gymnast who came in fourth on the vault.

BACK TO POLITICS (I KNOW, I KNOW): Sen. Barack Obama came to our area yesterday with stops in Martinsville and Danville, with former Virginia governor Mark Warner, who is likely to be the state's new senator, joining on the trail. Tom Perriello, who is running against far-right extremist Cong. Virgil Goode (R), who used to be a Democrat!, joined Obama in Lynchburg. When asked what question Obama should be asked, Cong. Goode, who has also made disparaging remarks about Muslims, said it should be about the 'heavy burden on taxpayers that gay marriage will bring.' As if a gay/lesbian couple would contemplate moving into a trailer park in Rocky Mount, Va. (Goode's hometown).

My sincere apologies to visitors who are only interested in Olympics, and not the presidential campaign. To quote Bill Clinton: "I feel your pain."

Useful Links:

For Obama's campaign coverage:


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sample of Rhythmic Gymnastic Videos

Whew! I am never doing this again. Here are five rhythmic gymnastics videos:

1) Turkish rhythmic gymnast Gizem Oylumlu. Ribbon. Baku, Azerbaijan. 2006.

2) British gymnast Hannah McKibbin. Ball. Athens Olympics (from German tv) 2004.

3) Greek gymnast Filiou Barbara. Hoop. Competition Unknown. Footage is recent.

4) Olga Belova (Belarus, not Russia as originally stated here). Clubs. Stuggart, Germany. 2003

5) Canadian gymnast Alexandra Orlando. Rope. Thiais 2007

Don't try thisat home! The rhythmic gymnastic competition traditionally follows artistic gymnastics at the Olympics. This sport does alas get much less attention. Russia, Spain and Bulgaria are the traditional powers in the sport. If anyone knows if any of these athletes are competing in Beijing (or not) please let me know. It does consist of these five events shown here.

UPDATE: I just saw on Wikipedia that Orlando will be competing for Canada. She finished ninth at the world championships this year. She is of Italian heritage.
UPDATE 2 for 8/24: Russia won the team competition in rhytmic gymnastics with China taking the silver. Belarus won the bronze. In individual competition, Evegeniya Kaneva of Russia won the gold, Inna Zhukova took silver and Ganna Bezsonova got the bronze.
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Kudos to Shawn Johnson for the Beam Routine...

As everyone in West Des Moines, Iowa, and the rest of the world knows, American gymnast Shawn Johnson, 16,  edged out teammate Nastia Liukin for a gold medal on balance beam during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

This footage is not from the Olympics as NBC would feed me to a peacock if I posted a video of the actual performance (for those not old enough to remember that bird was NBC's mascot for years) which gave Johnson the gold.

But, this similar beam performance is from the 2007 Pan American Games, which were held in Brazil. WARNING: The commentary is in Portuguese, but I think that makes the footage more interesting. To my knowledge, the Pan Am Games were not shown in America.

As an added bonus, I am also posting footage of Johnson's teammate Samantha Peszek who was not able to compete in Beijing at the very last minute! She was on the cover of the June issue of "International Gymnast." This floor routine from the 2007 American Cup (which is in English) will make all gymnastics fans wonder might have been.

Useful Links:

Amazing Story- Olympic Gymnast Oksana Chusovitina

If you watched the NBC coverage of the women's vault competition on Sunday, you may have seen the silver-medal winning performance by Oksana Chusovitina of Germany, who previously competed for her native Uzbekistan.
The story is compelling for two reasons. The first is that Oksana is 33-years old. The average gymnast retires at age 18 unless they get to compete for a college or national team. It is often remarkable to see gymnasts competing well into their 20s. It is simply astonishing that Chusovitina is competing at this age.
The second aspect is the more touching one. Alisher, her son, was in dire need of  medical attention as he was diagnosed with leukemia.
In 2002, she moved from Uzbekistan to Germany for this reason. She agreed to compete for the German national team.
She told a Newark, NJ, newspaper that she simply had no choice:
"If I don't compete, then my son won't live."
Even though Alisher's cancer is now in remission, Oksana is still competing.
Alicia Sacramone, the American gymnast who narrowly missed getting a bronze in the vault told "The Star-Ledger" that as a gymnast, she is truly amazed by what Oksana accomplishes:
"I don't know how she does it," Sacramone told the 'Ledger,' "I'm 20 and my back hurts, my knees hurt. I think I have arthritis. She's a role model for so many of us."

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Videos of German Olympic Gymnast Daria Bijak

As we have stated previously on this blog, many NCAA student-athletes are competing both for The United States as well as other countries around the world at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

For college gymnastics fans, there has been much interest in Daria Bijak, a University of Utah standout who is competing for her native Germany.

Initially, three of her routines from the games were posted on Youtube, but they were removed today. Presumably, NBC probably made the request.

But, we have two past floor routines by the gymnast here.

The first is from the 2006 American Cup (preliminaries) and the second is from a 2008 college meet against Arizona State.

I had a chance to talk with Bijak during the autograph session with college gymnasts at the NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga. I made the mistake of asking her is she was from Hungary?! I had apparently gotten her mixed up with a Ute gymnast from past years (oooppppppppssss!). But, Bijak was gracious, at least on the surface!

The University of Utah has one of the best college gymnastics programs in the country. They came in second his year to the host school Georgia. The team also featured past U.S. national member Ashley Postell.

American gymnast Alicia Sacramone, who almost got a bronze medal on the vault in Beijing, is a member of the Brown University gymnastics team.

I am also working on an entry about Bijak's Olympic teammate Oksana Chusovitina (try to spellcheck that!). Amazingly enough, the German gymnast, who is originally from Uzbekistan, is competing internationally at age 33!

Women's gymnastics coverage continues tonight on NBC.

PS_ I have since been informed that the Hungarian gymnast who competed for Utah was Gabriella Onodi........
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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Divers Claim Mexico's Lone Medal

Several countries are struggling at the Beijing Olympics. Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Canada and Argentina are among the countries which seem to have borught in fewer medals than expected so far.

Similarly, Mexico has not had many chances to visit the medal stand, but the platform diving pair of Paolo Espinosa and Ortiz Tetiana won the bronze in the women's sync 10-meter platform.

Another athlete who won the only medal for her country today was marathon runner Catherine Ndereba of Kenya who got the silver for her country.

And, Perez Jefferson of Ecuador won a bronze medal in the men's 20-km walk. It is the only medal for that South American nation so far.

We found this cool image of Jefferson.........

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I Should Try Archery?!

According to this fun little 'quiz'' I took at, the Oympic sport I should most try would be archery?!
The only time I've tried my hand at this sport was back in high school in Salem, Va. My good friend Brian "Woody" Woodward, who now works for a radio station in Richmond, was in the same high school gym class that I was in, and he came close to hitting someone with a bow and arrow by accident! I wasn't quite as clumsy at archery, but I did nonetheless stink at it.
Nevertheless because I work better alone than with others, it would apparently be the one sport for me.......though I am no Green Arrow!
Here is a video from South Korean Sung Yun Park, who has won a gold medal in Beijing.

Archery is a sport that South Korea does quite well in. They have won five gold medals in archery so far.

Surprisingly enough, the best known archer in America is perhaps actress Geena Davis ("The Fly"). She even tried out for the Olympic team from what I gather.

Useful Links: (Brian Woodward's blog)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Former Radford U Runner Competes for Serbia

When I posted my earlier entry today, I was unaware that my alma mater Radford University, a relatively small state university near Virginia Tech, had an athlete competing in Beijing.

Goran Nava, pictured here, is originally from Italy but he competed for Serbia (the largest of the former Yugoslav republics) on Friday. Serbia is the country of his mother.

Nava is a track and field athlete and he competed in the 1,500 relay where he finished sixth. The race was broadcast on NBC earlier tonight.

The Olympian is RU's most decorated track and field athlete.

During his RU years (2002-04), Nava compiled 19 Big South Conference titles.

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Turkish Hokie Swims in Beijing

Even though I was a Turkish-American as opposed to a student from Turkey and I went to nearby Radford University, I was a member of the Turkish Student Association at Virginia back in the mid-90s.
So, I am delighted to hear that a Turkish student-athlete from Virginia Tech has competed for his country at the Beijing Olympics.
Kaan Tayla (pictured here) was an ACC Champ while competing in Blacksburg this year.
According to "The Roanoke Times," Tayla  finished 37th  in the  50-meter  freestyle  prelims on  Thursday.  He also swam for Turkey in the 2004 Athens Olympics.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Congrats to Nastia and the Girl from Iowa

It was a very exciting night of women's gymnastics tonight as Nastia Liukin, the daughter of a gold-medalist Soviet gymnast, won all-around gold in Beijing.
Her teammate Shawn Johnson from West Des Moines, Iowa, came in second.
All of this, of course, brings back memories of a certain girl from West Virginia.........
.......who was, of course, Mary Lou Retton.

I was really impressed with both Nastia and Shawn. Nastia's performances on the beam and then the floor were both stellar. She provided the grace of a swan whereas Shawn demonstrated athletic prowess and power.

I think it more than made up for the disappointment of coming in second to China in the team competition. Both gymnasts will now go on to compete in individual apparatus events.

It Might Not Make Up for Cherynbol, But.....

 Some years ago when I was in college, I had a crush on a girl who was a member of the fencing team. Alas, like my crush on the girl who was on the gymnastics team (different school), it did not work out.

But, I did go to quite a few fencing meets and I learned a few things about the sport. Having said that, I have not caught any fencing action on tv so far, but rumor has it swimming and gymnastics have 'slightly better' ratings.

Nevertheless, there was a huge upset today in women's team fencing as Ukraine defeated the host Chinese team 45-44 in a come from behind victory, which should give fencing schools a big boost in Kiev.

 In the final round, Olga Kharlan (we presume this is her picture) upset Tan Xue, who was ranked fourth in the world. China had a commanding 25-15 lead until Round 6 when Kharlan defeated Bao Yingying.

The match was tied 44-44, when Kharlan delivered the 'fatal blow.'

Thus the team consisting of Kharlan, Olena Khormrova, Olha Zhovnir and Halyna Pundyk won the gold medal for Ukraine.

Khormrova put the victory in simple terms:

"We had nothing to lose, so we relaxed and started fencing."

Our American girls came in third in team fencing today as they defeated France, which should make Republicans happy.

Side Note: I know some of you might be saying: "Omigod. This is turning into a sports blog..." Well, it is good for ratings (over 250 hits yesterday, and I think we average nine a day!"

Useful Links (Unrelated, except that it deals with sports): - A Link to the NPR sports show from WBUR/Boston.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

No Medals for Happy Country (Denmark) So Far

 According to a story in the Sunday edition of "The Washington Post" from Scott Vogel based on a study by the University of Michigan, Denmark is the happiest country in the whole wide world.

America ranks #16, and I imagine if they asked people living in the economically-repressed town of Martinsville, Va. (between Roanoke and Greensboro, NC), that number would be even lower!

During a travel to Copenhagen, Vogel found a sausage vendor who credited Carlsberg Beer (pictured here) for the reason why everyone in Denmark acts like they're on Paxil. Other folks told the reporter that the Danish tradition of dinning with friends made them feel happy.

But, Denmark can not to be too thrilled with their early Olympic results. The Danes have yet to medal though the Swedes, Norwegians and Finns have.

Nevertheless, I did see Danish swimmer Jeanette Ottesen (pictured below) compete in the semi-finals of the 100-meter free-style swimming event, during the NBC broadcast tonight.

Ottesen, who turns 21 on New Year's Eve, holds the Danish record in this event.

Alas, she did not qualify for the finals today, but since she is Danish perhaps she will go home happy, anyway!

CORRECTION: I saw Ottesen compete tonight, so perhaps she made the semi-finals after all. She came in fourth. I need to see if Denmark has won any medals........!

UPDATE (Aug. 15)- Denmark has won its first medal! It was a bronze (team competition) in the equestrian/horse sport of dressage.

UPDATE (Aug 18)_ Denmark should now be even happier as the country has won two gold medals since this entry. They were team gold medals in rowing and sailing. The rowing medal was a disputed one, but we don't have time to go into that!


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Water Polo News

 If there is one unique thing about the Olympics, it is that it gives one a chance to see sports that would otherwise NEVER be shown on television any other time. In the Winter Olympics, these sports include curling. In the summer games, they include fencing and water polo.

I could kick myself for missing the water polo match between The United States and Italy, the defending gold medal-winners, today. But, as it is the game ended in a 9-9 tie.

There is a unique story on the Italian team which NBC may have made into one of those  sentimental bits. I saw one last night on Chinese pandas. Awww.

It turns out that Italian water polo team member Erzsebet Valkai has a sister who competes for another team!

They are not in the same pool, but they could end in the same 'pool' if both Italy and Hungary advance to the next round.

This is because the other sister Agnes Valkai (pictured below) competes for Hungary. Both sisters were on the Hungarian squad during the 2004 Athens Olympics.


In other water polo matches today, Holland beat Greece 9-6. Mieke Cabout scored an impressive four goals for the Dutch team, while Kyriaki Liosi netted two goals for Greece.

Hungary tied Australia 7-7.

And, China recorded its first win of the Olympics by defeating Russia 13-11.

Both sisters said their dream would be to face each other in the finals of the water polo competition.

One has to wonder which team their parents would root for.........

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

China Wins Gold in Women's Gymnastics

One must congradulate the Chineses women's gymnastics team for an impressive gold medal-winning performance tonight in Beijing, lead by their captain Cheng Fei (pictured here).

 Our American girls came in second and won a team silver medal thanks to the likes of Nastia Liukin (pictured, taken by Grace Chiu) and Shawn Johnson though expectations were higher. Some mishaps on the floor and beam cost the team dearly. One has to feel for the team's most experienced gymnast Alicia Sacramone who had a very disappointing night.

Romania, the 2004 Olympics Champs, came in third ahead of their long-time rival Russia.

I think the main disadvantage that the American girls faced was the fact that the games were in China. Much as Atlanta helped us in 1996, the home gym seemed to really assist the Chinese team this time around.

In other Olympics news, Elnur Mammaldi won the first gold medal for the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan on Tuesday (I visited the country last month) in men's judo (73-kg division). It took him 13 seconds to defeat his opponent Wang Kichum of South Korea.

I was hoping to download a photo of Mammaldi because he bears an uncanny resemblance to Adam Sandler!

Let's try it again.........


Hey, it worked!

(Great Olympic coverage here)


That Dutch Beach Volleyball Player is........

 For those who actually read these blog entries, you may recall that I mentioned a certain Dutch beach volleyball player in an entry this past Sunday who just happens to be very attractive.

Well, her name is Merel Mooren. She is 25, and (perhaps it's hard to tell in this photo) she is indeed quite tall. Wikipedia lists her as being 1.86 meters tall (perhaps my friend Terry Williams knows how big that is. He is good in math!). Mooren is also a native of Haarlem, a town I visited back in 1993.

Her teammate is Rebekka Kadijk. In 2005 and 2006, the duo reached the European Championship finals. Last year, they won their first Euro Tour competition in Hamburg, Germany.

Mooren was a professional indoor player who kicked off her shoes and headed to the beach in 2002.

They lost to the American duo of Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor in Olympic action on Sunday.

But, I will keep an eye out for the Dutch team and see how they do the rest of the way.

Useful Links:

(In Dutch, but there are some great photos here). 

Monday, August 11, 2008

Turkey Wins Silver Medal

 Kudos to Turkish female weight-lifter Sibel Ozkan, 20 (she was born on March 3, 1988- the day before my 18th birthday!) for winning a silver medal for my father's country.

Ozkan's medal is the first one for Turkey. It was in the 48-kilogram (circa 90 pounds, I believe!) category. Ozkan lifted a 199-kilograms for the medal.

Turkey started becoming competitive in weight-lifting when male lifter Naim Suleymanoglu defected from his native Bulgaria during a time of social repression for Turkish Bulgarians in the late 1980s. Suleymanoglu went on to win gold for Turkey at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. It was Turkey's first gold medal in 20 years, and Suleymanoglu became a national hero for his efforts.

Bulgaria's communist government was overthrown a few years later, and the few remaining Turkish Bulgarians now live there in relative peace.


And Now a Word from Our Sponsor's......Poutnik Beer!

 I had a chance to see the surprisingly good Kevin Costner movie "Swing Voter" today while taking a break from my 'golf trip' (more on that later) in Durham, NC- where Costner's "Bull Durham" was filmed 20 years ago. (And, Costner was also in the golf film "Tin Cup"- which is better, but alas much less popular than "Caddyshack").

The new comedy, which also stars Dennis Hopper, uses humor to clearly illustrate how Americans are more or less as politically divided as Greeks and Turks are on the island nation of Cyprus (forgive the ethnic humor).

But, there are a few things all of us seem to agree on. And, with the exception of corporate CEOs, I think it's safe to assume that most of us hate all the effin commercials that come on the screen during the Olympics.

Thus to make fun of this nuisance, I am going to occasionally post moc advertisements for goods that either no longer exist (do they still make Honeycombs cereal?) or are hard as hell to find here in les estats unis.

And, what better place to start than with Poutnik Beer. This is a real brew from the Czech Republic. To my knowledge, it is going to hard to find in America, but then again I'm no expert on beer distribution.

I've only had one Czech beer in my life, and that was Pilsner Urgel (which is available in America) and it was quite good. So, I will assume Poutnik kicks ass too! And, therefore, so should you..........

Oh, if one is wondering if I was sober while typing this up. The answer is definitely yes, though I am bit giddy. I will blame that on all the Devo music I was listening on the drive to Durham.

I need to work on my putting though, as it did alas cost me a trip to The Bahamas! (and, that is not a joke...)

Useful Links:

(Where the image came from)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Olympic Fever........Uhm, Not Feeling It?!

 So far, I've watched less than two hours of coverage and that was a women's volleyball match between The United States and The Netherlands. And, that was partially because I thought the tall Dutch volleyball player was really hot! Perhaps, it's time to seek political asylum (well not that I live in Angola, but at times it does feel that way!).........

I would also like to wish a happy birthday to my Turkish friend Seda Ertanis who lives in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which I imagine does NOT have a women's volleyball team, a happy birthday.

All of this proves that there are actually places which are more sexually respressive than small towns in North Carolina. Is that possible?

And, lastly, this public confession. I did see "Mama Mia" at the Eden Drive-In last night. My friend Moviezzz wrote a very negative, hostile review to it several weeks back. I was wondering what he had against musicals based on Abba* music. But, as it turns out. He is right. The movie really does suck!

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*- According to the NPR show "Sound Opinions," Abba is now topping the pop charts in the UK. I guess the Swedish pop music band from the '70s will be with us for some time to come. As it is, I just can't get "Take a Chance on Me" out of my head anyway!


Friday, August 8, 2008

Which Should Be the Next Olympic Sport? (satire)

I know this may not seem very patriotic of me since these two sports would be more likely to help Yemen and Thailand earn more Olympic medals than the United States.

Nevertheless, these sports do actually exist!

I would imagine serious injury or death are possible with both sports, but the same could be said of crossing the street in Philadelphia.

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In Case You're in Uzbekistan.........


............The Summer Olympic Games from Beijing, China, are now underway.......

Alas, our Olympic gold medalist hero from North Carolina Joey Cheek (a speed skater who would not be competing, obviously) can not go to protest the Chinese government's economic assistance to the Sudanese government as a part of Team Darfur because he had his visa revoked!

The Chinese embassy did not return a phone call to "The Washington Post" explaining the reasons for this........hmmm..........

Although the AP is reporting that Mitt Romney, the candidate whom Michael Moore voted for in the Michigan Republican Primary*, is asking the Chinese government to reconsider.

But, it should be interesting to see which American Olympic gymnast will be next Mary Lou Retton. Ironically, it may very well be a Russian girl! (U.S. gymnast Nastia Liukin. Her parents were Soviet gymnasts. In fact, her dad is her coach).

And, if you happen to be in China right now, you can also visit the pandas at the Beijing Zoo. Although I'm not sure that Homeland Security will allow you to carry bamboo on the plane.

Lastly, the image below is of the French comic book hero Asterix. His fat friend is Obelix who would have undoubtedly made a great Greco-Roman wrestler.


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*-means that was a joke! (Not an endorsement, but even us moderate liberals love this guy!)