so I read that Charles Barkley switched from the Republican Party to the Democrats and is thinking about running for Alabama governor - pretty cool. The Republicans were predictably pissed off:
The head of the state GOP said she has no idea whether Barkley is serious when talking about a future race for governor as a Democrat. "To be governor requires more than a publicity stunt. It requires real leadership," said Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh.

Uh, your name is Twinkle. That basically renders anything you say moot. I'd rather have Governor Charles Barkley than Governor Twinkle.

Plus, Twinkle, can you go one on one against Godzilla? I think not.


so I read on DCist today that the National Zoo is having a vote to name their three new tigers. All of the names are Swahili, which is stupid - tigers don't live in Africa. Lions do, but not tigers. Thus the movie "Lion King," which took place in Africa and was not about tigers. I mean, why not just name them Pedro, Vladimir and Samantha or something completely unrelated? Or pick three Swedish names or three Eskimo names. It's so dumb. You'd think the Zoo would actually try to educate people somehow, rather than fool people into thinking tigers are from Africa. They ought to name them Hindi, Malay or Javanese names, where tigers actually live, and teach people a thing or two. Or give them English names if they don't care to do anything sensible anyway.


so I read about this video of Stereogum the other day, I think it's fantastic - cool song, cool video. It's "Knights of Cydonia" by Muse. It makes me want to go out and buy the CD.


so I've been watching the Tour de France a lot recently, it's interesting stuff - for one thing, they ride literally 2,000 miles in about two weeks, which is crazy. Also, the scenery is beautiful - little villages, castles, huge mountains, churches, etc. Since it's on all day, the commentators talk a lot about the history and little stories and stuff about where they're riding.

There's also a lot of strategy which is pretty interesting. Since the tour is based on time and also by points awarded, whoever finishes first in each stage isn't always the overall first place person - whoever has the best total time is the leader, and gets the yellow jersey that they always talk about on TV. Plus each stage (which last a day each) is divided into different parts, and whoever wins (and finishes second, third and so on) in each part of each stage, called "sprints," gets a certain number of points. So whoever has the most points gets the green jersey, even if they might be way behind in the overall time. So it's strategy - do you go for the yellow jersey, the green, or just try win a stage, which is pretty prestigious in itself? And then, to add to the confusion/interestingness, the people who finish first, second and third at the end of each stage get some time subtracted too, so finishing first might give you a big boost.

And on top of that, there's the polka-dot jersey for the best mountain climber, as the top finishers in the parts of each stage that are climbs get points too. Pretty crazy.

Some other interesting stuff I like is the term "peloton," which is the big mass of riders that ride together to draft off each other and thus conserve energy - I just like the word. There are also lots of motorcycles with cameramen riding on the back photographing the race that swerve in an out of the race, plus various cars - doctors, the team cars with drinks and spare parts and such, and so on. There's also a Team Discovery Channel, which always makes me laugh because it reminds me of the Simpsons episode where the kids were infiltrating Shelbyville - they divided into groups of two and the first two teams came up with cool names like "Omega Team" and "Team Strike Force." Then Martin, the nerd, called his team "Team Discovery Channel."

The teams basically serve as helpers to their best rider, riding in front of him to let him draft, and sometimes they work as a mule, letting their team car catch up with them, then getting bottles of water for their teammates handed to them while still riding, then stuffing all the bottles of water into their shirt. It must be harrowing, and it's pretty interesting to watch. Then they have to ride extra hard to catch up with their team and hand out the stuff.

The doctors are pretty interesting too. They ride in a convertible, and if somebody gets hurt (a bee sting, falls off the bike, whatever) they'll slow down and let the doctor's car catch up, then hang on to the side of the car as it drives along as the doctor does whatever, just like Marty McFly in Back to the Future. Nuts. The TV station keeps track of the riders' heart rate as well, which is interesting.

And the most famous American now in the tour, Floyd Landis, had a hip injury awhile ago. They had surgery on it a couple times and eventually blood flow stopped to the top of his femur, so it died! Basically he's riding with part of a dead bone in his leg, so it just sort of rubs. And he's still doing pretty well. Yow.

Wikipedia has a good (but somewhat confusing) overview OLN, the station that shows it, has a good site too.


so I like the soccer. This is a pretty funny video by some Austrian guys about Zidane's headbutt.

And here's a BBC (I think) clip of a lip-reader figuring out what Materazzi said to Zidane.

so I just saw this article about the Italian soccer player Materazzi, who was head-butted by Zidane in the World Cup final. He says he did insult Zidane (duh) but didn't call him an Islamic terrorist, and claimed not to even know what that is. Come on. I guess he didn't notice September 11 or the London or Madrid bombings. What a dope.


so I've been enjoying the World Cup. What I don't like, however, are articles about how the US doesn't care about soccer and the World Cup is generating only yawns, like this one from Reuters. It seems to me that the World Cup is a lot more popular than it used to be. While it's still damn near impossible finding a soccer jersey (see my odyssey on DCist), it seems that a lot more people are talking about it. Everybody in my office followed the US games, and even some of the other games - people would say "hey, Brazil just scored" and the others paid attention. My dad said he recognized the same thing in Tennessee, and even random people in elevators have talked about it with me if I'm wearing my US jersey. And these are mostly people who hadn't followed soccer at all and knew very little about it before.

But if you're comparing the popularity of soccer in the US to its popularity worldwide, obviously it's going to come up short. Soccer is, and probably will remain, at least the 5th or 6th most popular spectator sport in the US, behind the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, college sports, etc. There's nothing wrong with that - people like multiple sports, and our country is so sports crazy anyway, that still leaves lots of fans to go around. But comparing it to other countries, where soccer is by far the most popular sport, is not fair, I think.

One of the problems I think about soccer breaking into the American mainstream is the language used in the press - it's this weird form of British sports English, where half the time I don't understand what they're even talking about, and the other half of the time it sounds silly - and I like soccer. One of the first things is that countries are plural in these stories "Argentina have not been doing well so far..." etc. In American English, it should be "Argentina has..." just like it's "New York has won many championships" or whatever. And a frequent criticism of the American team is that they lack "passion." What the hell does that mean? They're just zombies out there, robots who have no emotion when playing? That's silly. Other soccer terms are unclear, like "pace" which means speed, "fit" which means healthy or not injured, "class" meaning skill level (kind of), someone "did well to shoot that" or whatever, meaning it was a nice play, "sides" meaning teams, "fixtures" being schedules or something like that, and so on. I much prefer reading about the games on the Washington Post and other American papers than Yahoo's official site, which has all the British-soccerisms. While I know what they mean now, after reading about soccer for years, I can see how it might frustrate casual US fans - you shouldn't have to translate the news about your own team.

There was also a big outcry overseas after coach Bruce Arena called out some of the US players, saying they didn't play well. This is hardly a shocking thing in US sports, but foreign folks were going crazy about it. And there are other subtle differences in attitude about soccer in the US and elsewhere, like Europeans on the Yahoo chat complaining about Americans not having a better team, with comments like "there are 300 million Americans, how can they not field 11 good players?" as if soccer is the number one sport in the US. I also hate when Europeans and Latin Americans complain about Americans calling it "soccer." Sorry, the name "football" was used by our version, and that version was (and still is) a lot more popular than soccer in the US. We're not going to introduce more confusion just because other people call it football. They call basketball "baloncesto" in some Spanish-speaking countries, who cares?