Saturday, May 19, 2012

Didier Drogba
Didier Drogba (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 My Log 306 May 19 2012

These babies, the soccer players with their histrionics and warped view of life’s priorities

I have just watched the whole of only the second soccer game I have seen since 1970, when I avidly followed the wonderful Brazilian team led by Pele and various other players almost as good, as their ferocious but controlled aggression swept them to the World Cup (I think it was being held in Mexico. I watched it from a hotel room in London, England, and the final in the bar of a Stockholm hotel).).
This game today was the final of the European  club championship between Chelsea and Bayern Munich, won by Chelsea. I heard someone say on TV a week or so ago that they should erect a statue to Didier Drogba for all he had done for the club. I have no idea what he has done, but when I saw him he seemed so much a template for the African sportsman, he looks so beautifully athletic, that I said, Drogba will win it for them. And what do you know, he did.
My customary criticism of soccer is that you have to watch it for 1,000 hours before anything happens. Of course, that is a cartoonish comment, and can be easily disproved by an aficionado.
But I have other criticisms: for example: the behaviour of the teams at the end of this game was just appalling. A player called Schweinsteiger, who missed a penalty kick, was prostrate on the ground, and acting as if his Granny had been killed in a car accident, blaming himself for the loss. At the same time, or shortly before, the Chelsea players had collapsed into a huge heap on top of the player who brought their penalty count up to equal with that of their opponents, exhibiting symptoms of excessive joy which indicated that World War III had just been brought to a glorious conclusion. They are not taking part in a war, or in a matter of life and death; and surely it is part of the training of any soccer player to know that in every team match, there is a winner and a loser. How to lose gracefully should be as much part of the playing of any game as how to win gracefully.
But it seems that soccer players have never heard of such ideas. They act as if soccer is the only thing on earth that means anything, which is probably why it has attracted the most disgraceful hooligan type fans, so brutal in their bearing that they have been known to be banned from even attending a game. And in today’s game--- it may have been my imagination --- there seemed an awful lot of incidents where the teams, particularly the German team, exaggerated their injuries with the intention of getting penalties or some other advantage. Rank bad sportsmanship.
For all the chuntering the soccer people do about “the beautiful game”, I find there is nothing beautiful about their attitude towards the game at all. The only acceptable thing I saw in the after-game behaviour was when Drogba, of the winning team, went up to Schweinsteiger and hugged him, presumably to assure him, “Okay, sonny, it’s just a game: your life will go on tomorrow. Go home and let your mummy tuck you into bed for a good night’s sleep.”
I am an enthusiast for Rugby Union, and for cricket. I know these are not perfect games, they do have their moments of degeneration, but at this level, they tend still to be run  on a concept of sportsmanship, certainly in comparison with the childish behaviour of the soccer players. Indeed, cricket has given its name to the very idea of doing things right, as in the expression, “that’s not cricket, to behave like that….”
In summary, my future viewing of soccer will be limited. I will stick to the excitement of the Indian Premier League of cricket, with its constant movement, wondrous skills, and intense good humour (okay, I know some cricketers have been reported to have engaged in corruption, which no one can condone.)
I am talking about the messages given to youngsters who oplay games.  Hockey, for example, gives the message that violence and fighting is just okay: if you are losing, you can always bash your opponent over the head. I remember being appalled by the brutality of Canada’s famous matches againstthe So;viet Union in1972.
Wasn’t that the series where a Canadian player went out on to the ice with thedelib erate intention of breaking the arm of one of the more successful of his adversaries, and he broke it?  One of Canada’s fondest sporting memories.
I have one other thing against hockey --- which I regard as one of the world’s greatest games, if only one can ever see it played free of it' thuggishness --- and it is something I heard for the  first time when I came to North America. It is the concept that was common here, and apparently still is, that a kid couldn’t make the team.  I never heard of such a thing in a New Zealand school, where I played most of my games. If there were more kids wanting to play than were needed for a team, another team was formed..No such thing as a kid standing on the sidelines, wishing he could be playing.
The result was that when I first arrived here, almost straight from a boyhood passed among the sports of New Zealand, I had the impression that Canada’s sports culture was very feeble, if it existed at all. And as for sportsmanship --- the game above the prize was the motto I always respected --- in Canada  with its concentration on the result,  sportsmanship as I understood it seemed to be virtually non-existent.
It may be different now. I know there is a vast network of opportunities for youngsters to play, but there is still the concengtration on the result: all sports is measured in terms of medals won, which is not exactly what sports should be about.
Okay, I’m an immigrant, and bring to this country for better or worse the values I grew up with.  

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Electric cars
Electric cars (Photo credit: Argonne National Laboratory)



“Please do everything you can to cause the $1.5 trillion the Defense Depart proposes spending on F-35 warplanes be spent instead on solar power and electric vehicles.

“I am in the process of having an $11,000 solar system installed on the roof of my home office. It will generate enough electricity to meet all my household needs and will also have enough surplus capacity to charge a 24 kwh electric car battery daily, which is the size battery in the Leaf or Focus or Volt.

“$1.5 trillion is enough to purchase 75 million such solar systems, installed and grid tied. There are about 75 million single family homes in the United States. After purchasing and installing 75 million rooftop solar systems, there will be enough money left over from the $1.5 trillion proposed to be spent purchasing 2,400 F-35 warplanes to offer 25 million $27,000 electric car rebates.”

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Friday, May 11, 2012
NASA Scientist James Hansen Arrested, August 2...
NASA Scientist James Hansen Arrested, August 29, 2011 Photo Credit: Ben Powless (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A photo of a match between Chennai SuperKings ...
A photo of a match between Chennai SuperKings and Kolkata Knightriders during the DLF IPL T20 tournament (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My Log 305

A cricket tournament that is taking place in the unimaginable heat of the Indian plains --- I can sympathize, having experienced it once myself

For the last several weeks I have been mesmerized by the IPL (Indian Premier League), the 20/20 cricket league that has transformed the world’s greatest game from a sleepy, often-resultless enterprise into one of the most exciting sporting occasions on earth.
I expected to deplore this development, because of all its dressing up in multi-colored uniforms, the presence of dancing girls, the use of media technology to have the players talk about the game while out in the field --- all these innovations in a game that had always been beyond such fol-de-rols.
In the event, I have discovered it to be completely enthralling as it has offered play distinguished by the most amazing skills one could ever hope to see.
In fact, this new form of the international game, in which each side has only twenty overs (six balls to the over) to make its runs, turns out to be the game that most of us who have played cricket have always played. Most cricketers go out on Saturday afternoon around 1 o’clock, bat until the team is out, and then put the opponents in to bat and try to score more runs. The only thing missing from our version of the game that I played at high school was the limitation to 20 overs. Otherwise, it was almost identical in form.
But marvellous though these games have been --- one only  has to remember that the bowlers are among the best in the world, and they are really, really trying to get those batsmen --- also among the world’s best --- out, which is easier than in the most standard versions of the game because the batsmen, whether they like it or not, have to force the pace of scoring if they are not to be stuck with some easily-beatable low total of runs scored --- it is not the values of this new form of cricket that I want to write about today. It is the pre-monsoonal Indian heat that has caught my attention, as the players remark about how hot it is out there, and visibly begin the wilt in these tough conditions.
I once experienced this heat myself, when I visited India in 1951, straight from the moderate climate of New Zealand, and took up residence in an little adobe house in a refugee colony that had been erected 85 miles north of New Delhi.
I have no idea what the temperature was during this season, but I can tell you  it was  unimaginably hot, and beat anything I have ever experienced before or since.
As the days, weeks and months passed, the heat steadily grew, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, and there was almost no relief from it, the only slackening in its intensity during the day arriving each morning for maybe half an hour at about 5.30 am just before the sun rose. When this happened at 6 am, one was immediately plunged back into the full fiery intensity of the Indian summer. And that intensity during the day reached its peak in the early afternoon, a time at which every sane person who could do so retired into his or her house behind windows that were painted blue in an effort to reject the sun’s rays. One began to understand how it was that the British Raj retired at this time of year to the hill stations that have become legendary in accounts of British India --- places like Simla, which my wife and I visited for a few days, Poona, (now called Pune), where we were briefly before the onset of this heat, Pondicherry, and various other towns whose names now escape me. But even the Indians themselves could not deal with this heat, although they had to endure it year after year as their colonial masters frolicked in the cool of the mountains.
The intense heat continued  until the moment the sun went down in the early evening: but somehow there was no relief even then, because the moment the sun’s direct rays disappeared, everything seemed to become hotter. At that moment, one could place one’s hand against the wall of one’s house, and it felt like you were in an oven.
I will never forget one moment when it rained briefly, and everyone in the village stood outside in the rain, arms flung towards heaven, yelling and laughing with the relief. But it was soon gone, and we were back into the furnace.
This is the kind of heat that has been assailing the cricketers as they play this tournament, and I am able to sympathize with how they feel.
Personally --- of course I wasn’t eating very well during these months --- I quickly developed a severe case of diarrhea which only disappeared after I moved in mid-summer to the gloriously beautiful, and since tragically destroyed Vale of Kashmir. Both of us, my wife and I, managed to recover while there. But by the time we returned to mainland India in September, the monsoon had actually arrived, and the very moment we hit the plain our diarrhea returned in full force.
Maybe on some other occasion I could write something about the delights of having such a disease in the Bombay of those days --- a horror show if ever I was subject to one.
And I have noticed in the cricket fraternity that many of the visiting cricketers from other countries can fall suddenly and mysteriously ill with that sickness known in Mexico as Montezuma’s Revenge.  That they are able to play such wonderful cricket in these circumstances says much for their tenaciousness and guts. I take off my hat to them (or would if I wore a hat)
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