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sports

Some context:

Liverpool is one of the most storied clubs in English soccer. They were founded in 1892. They have won the top flight of English soccer 18 times over the years, although their most recent was back in 1989-90, before the First Division became the Premier League that everyone knows today. Five times they have won the European Cup, which is more times than any other English team. Their home, Anfield, is world famous, and has been their home since their founding in 1892. Their fans are famously loyal ... they have a song, the venerable "You'll Never Walk Alone", which was originally from a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. A version performed by the Liverpool band Gerry and the Pacemakers hit the top of the UK charts in 1963, and it became the soccer team's anthem, played before every home game. That this is important can be seen whenever an Anfield match is televised here in the States ... the announcers never talk over the crowd's singing. Here is an especially spirited rendition ... their opponents were Borussia Dortmund, who also use the song as their anthem, so supporters for both teams joined in:

Today, Anfield welcomed Barcelona for the second match of two in the Champions League semi-finals. Barcelona had beaten Liverpool at home 3-0, which meant Liverpool was behind before today's match even began. Not only that, two of Liverpool's biggest stars, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, were out with injury. And let's not forget that the greatest player of all time, Leo Messi, plays for Barcelona.

Liverpool got an early goal: 3-1. Early in the second half, they got two more: 3-3. And then came a smart, tricky corner kick, when Trent Alexander-Arnold noticed that the Barcelona players were busy getting set up. He took the kick before they were ready, Divock Origi scored: 4-3.

That was the final score. Liverpool advance to the Champions League final.

That's enough context. Here is what happened after the match:


reaction

Anyone who has spent any time on YouTube knows the way it can become a giant time suck. You go there to watch one video, and by the time you leave the site, you've watched ten. I've been watching a lot of "reaction videos" lately ... I know that's what they are called, there's a Wikipedia page about them. They are exactly what you think: videos of people reacting to other videos, which often/usually appear on your screen along with the person doing the reacting.

Perhaps my favorite, which I have posted here before, is a compilation of fans of The 100 watching a key scene from the show that features (SPOILER FOR SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED YEARS AGO, BUT WHATEVER) the return of a beloved character thought to be gone for good.

An ironic note: Lexa's earlier death was a perfect example of Dead Lesbian Syndrome, the worst since Tara in Buffy. Fans were outraged ... many said they would never watch again. But in the above scene, we saw that while we can never forget that stupid death, showrunner Jason Rothenberg knew his character, and knew how to send her off properly (even if it took 9 episodes to get there). The 100 has just begun its 6th season, with a 7th already in place, but for me, Lexa's return remains the most emotional scene in a series that is full of them.

My recent binge has been focused on someone who calls himself Modern Renaissance Man. He gave himself the right handle, as a look at his Patreon page demonstrates: "videos, comedy relief, ministering, counseling, advice". As I type this, he has uploaded 963 reaction videos to his YouTube channel. What I find fascinating is that he is knowledgeable about music (he is, in fact, a musician in addition to everything else he does), but he is fairly young and not necessarily familiar with the classic tunes of older times. It can be a delight seeing his response to things that he has never heard, things that us old timers have heard so many times the songs become almost meaningless. Here is the first one I watched:

There is no way for me to go back to the moment I first heard this song. The next best thing is watching someone else hear it for the first time.

One more, a favorite song of mine, and a favorite video of mine as well:

Finally, something a little different, but again, an example of something us geezers have memorized but which might be new to others:


thoughts on kentucky

A few scattered thoughts, the day after the Kentucky Derby, many of which I have written about before. First, a post from 2012:

I’m looking at the will of my great-great-great-great-great grandfather on my mom’s side of the family. John Cralle II died in Virginia in 1757. Some excerpts:

To Thomas Cralle Lamkin, son of Mary Jones, widow and relict of Charles Jones, late of Northumberland County five negoes vixt: Little Ben, Isaac, Peggs Bess, Blacka Top and Aggy. If he should die before he arrives to age or day of marriage, his mother Mary Jones to enjoy two of the said slaves that may be left at his death, she to have her choice during her natural life, then to revert to my children the remaining part

To son William Matthews Cralle nine negroes vizt: Chnce, Cate, and their daughter Bess, Frank, Alice, Stephen, Cate, Dominy, and Edmond.

Mulatto man Will, may be free at my decease.

To son Rodham Kenner Cralle three negroes vizt: Harry, George, and Nanny and my watch.

To daugher Mary Foushee my silver tankard, and negro wench Rose Anna

Rest of my estate both real and personal to be equally divided between five children Kenner, John, Rodham, William, and Mary, except Ben and Matthews whom I give to my son Kenner, son John to have Rachel, Old Ben to make choice of his master among my children.

From "How African-Americans disappeared from the Kentucky Derby", by Katherine Mooney:

When the horses enter the gate for the 145th Kentucky Derby, their jockeys will hail from Venezuela, Florida, Panama and France. None will be African-American. That’s been the norm for quite a while. When Marlon St. Julien rode the Derby in 2000, he became the first black man to get a mount since 1921.

It wasn’t always this way. The Kentucky Derby, in fact, is closely intertwined with black Americans’ struggles for equality, a history I explore in my book on race and thoroughbred racing. In the 19th century – when horse racing was America’s most popular sport – former slaves populated the ranks of jockeys and trainers, and black men won more than half of the first 25 runnings of the Kentucky Derby. But in the 1890s – as Jim Crow laws destroyed gains black people had made since emancipation – they ended up losing their jobs....

Soup Perkins, who won the Kentucky Derby at 15, drank himself to death at 31. The jockey Tom Britton couldn’t find a job and committed suicide by swallowing acid. Albert Isom bought a pistol at a pawnshop and shot himself in the head in front of the clerk.

The history of the Kentucky Derby, then, is also the history of men who were at the forefront of black life in the decades after emancipation – only to pay a terrible price for it.

And finally, an anecdote I have told many times. When my maternal grandmother was alive, she always looked forward to the Kentucky Derby. She was born in Kentucky in 1903, although it appears she had moved to California by the time she was 7 years old. Each year, when they played "My Old Kentucky Home" at the Derby, she would cry. I don't actually remember this happening, but I definitely remember her telling me about it on several occasions. It mattered to her.

Her name, before she later married, was Georgia Catherine Cralle. She was descended from the aforementioned John Cralle II.

As in my earlier mentions, I don't know what to make of all of the above.


what i watched

Snowpiercer (Joon-ho Bong, 2013). When I first saw this in 2015, I was still at the beginning of my fascination with recent Korean film. I've often wanted to share those films with my wife, but at least when we are at home, we're limited by subtitles (she doesn't object to subtitles, but she is usually knitting as we watch, so being able to understand dialogue without looking at the screen matters). Snowpiercer is said to be 80% English (who did the accounting on this factoid?), and beyond that, it's the kind of movie I think my wife would like: futuristic sci-fi action with a recognizable cast led by Chris "Captain America" Evans. As I noted at the time, you wouldn't go to Snowpiercer for an introduction to modern Korean cinema ... it’s more American than Korean. But that makes it a good introduction for someone who is knitting. (She has also seen Boon's Okja, and liked it.) #476 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century. For some reason, I buried some of my best thinking about Snowpiercer in a tagged-on paragraph the first time I wrote about it, so I'll cut-and-paste a bit of that here, changing my original focus:

The construction of Snowpiercer is ingenious ... it’s also perfect for a good six-page essay in an honors class for college undergraduates. The class structure presented in the film is clearly delineated, and while you could watch Snowpiercer simply as an entertaining action movie, it is almost impossible to miss the underlying themes about class. That’s why it would make a good topic for an undergraduate essay: there is something to talk about, but it isn’t hard to find. It would also make a good topic for an extended essay that closely broke down the presentation of class, critically analyzing what Bong has done. But I’m not going to write either of these on this blog, not a six-page essay, not a chapter for a book. I’m going to write a paragraph, or two or three. And in the case of Snowpiercer, once I’ve mentioned the basics, I don’t see the point in adding a paragraph to state the obvious: that the cars on the train represent various social classes, that even if the nominal hero manages to take the train away from the nominal villain, nothing concerning classes will have been truly answered, that the two young people who escape the train are the future because they don’t conquer the train, they escape it. I could say all that, but if you watch the movie, you’ll figure it out for yourself. And unless I’m prepared to write 2500 words on the subject, I’m better off just sticking to a paragraph.

The Nerdwriter offers an interesting (spoiler-filled) take on the movie:

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974). Fear Eats the Soul continues my very gradual introduction to the work of Fassbinder. (I watched my first, The Marriage of Maria Braun, in 2009, and my second, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, in 2015.) Still to come is Berlin Alexanderplatz, the 14-part, 15 1/2-hour long TV series which I have had on my By Request list for a very long time ... it has been hard to find, but now it's on the Criterion Channel so I don't have any excuses. I feel like I'm still searching for the common thread in what Fassbinder I've seen. Not that it doesn't exist, but watching three films over the course of ten years is not conducive to the discovering of commonality. I've liked them all. The story of a May-December romance (better described as June-November, I think), Fear Eats the Soul doesn't limit the examination of difference to the ages of the two romantic leads. Brigitte Mira, who plays Emmi, a woman in her 60s, had already had a long career in show business, but it was Ali that made her something of a household name in Germany. (She went on to become a Fassbinder regular and lived another 30 years.) Emmi is a realist who is surprised to find herself in love with Ali, a couple of decades younger than her. Ali is also surprised, but their affection seems genuine. Ali is played by El Hedi ben Salem, who like his character is a Moroccan living in Germany (in real life, Salem had moved to Germany to be in a relationship with Fassbinder). The film takes place a few months after the massacre at the Munich Olympics, and Arabs are the victims of prejudice in part because of that event. Thus, the struggles of the couple are not limited to their age difference. Emmi's family and workmates all disapprove of her marrying an Arab, and as problems arise in the relationship, the reasons are less because they are different ages and more because they come from different cultures. Salem's acting is amateurish, which works well here, emphasizing the awkward state of living outside your culture. And mention should be made of Barbara Valentin, "the German Jayne Mansfield", who underplays her oozing sexuality and serves as a visual and emotional contrast to Emmi. This movie is said to be based on Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows, but I think the connection is more that Fassbinder was influenced by Sirk than that the specific movies are tied together (although they do have similar basic plots). #135 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time.


music friday: pink, julia michaels, billie eilish

Last.fm tracks my Spotify listening, and a couple of days ago, they gave me my April listening report. Some of it was obvious ... I listened to a lot of Pink, who we saw in concert in the middle of the month. My most played track was "Walk Me Home" from her new album, Hurts 2B Human, and a new video of that song, featuring the Sink the Pink collective, has been released:

Under a set of "discovery" tables, I found that my personal new discovery was Julia Michaels, which has another Pink connection, as she was the opening act at the recent concert. Here is the Michaels track I played the most in April, which happens to also be the song she opened with at the concert (and which is coincidentally called "Pink"):

Finally, there is the "Mainstream-o-meter", which compares your top artist of the month against the overall top artist. I got 53%, whatever that means, largely because I played a lot of Billie Eilish. I suppose I should be proud that at 65, I'm still listening to new artists like Michaels and Eilish, but the truth is, I had no idea how popular they already are ... "new to me" doesn't necessarily mean "new to everyone". Here is Eilish with "bad guy" ... I think she looks like a 17-year-old Aubrey Plaza in this video:

Bonus: the tables say Kris Rodgers & The Dirty Gems were my most obscure artist of the month.


throwback: the vietnam veterans memorial

[This is the third time I have posted this. I wrote it for a California American Studies Association conference 22 years ago today, May 2, 1997. The audience for the paper was small, but I think I did right by the words I had written, and more than one person told me it was a strong piece. I present it, unchanged.]

 

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, popularly referred to as "The Wall," stands between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.. The decision to locate it between these two enduring testaments to America was a conscious one, and the design of the Wall reflects the importance of its presence in such honored company; the instructions for the original design competition which resulted in the wall required that it "harmonize with its surroundings, especially the nearby Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial." Maya Lin's final design is a two-winged wall, with each wing pointing to one of the other monuments. However, despite the intentions to connect the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial to Washington and Lincoln, a visitor is quickly aware of key differences between this memorial and the others.

Most obviously, the Wall is a testament to death, a list of 57,709 Americans dead or missing in action in the Vietnam War. There is little celebratory about the Wall; one does not experience it and think fondly of "The Father Of Our Country" or "The Man Who Ended Slavery." Instead, one enters into a personal relationship with Americans who died in the service of that country. The Wall invites us to contemplate the awfulness of all those deaths, to wonder what lives were lived by the tens of thousands named on the Wall, to wonder as well how our own lives are different because of the presence of so many dead.

While the Wall is a public memorial, to be visited alongside other people, it evokes many private feelings. For all the seeming endlessness of the names, there is nothing expansive about the Wall. Visitors turn inwards, alone with their thoughts and memories. The interactions are personal, not necessarily communal. The Wall does encourage interaction, in a way the monuments to Washington and Lincoln do not; one listens to tour guides at the Lincoln Memorial, but tour guides seem out of place at the Wall.

However, the Wall also draws individuals out of their shells. Your experience with the Wall might be private, but the presence of so many gifts, trinkets, war memories, letters, flowers, all left by visitors to the Wall, presents for the dead to be sure, but also presents for the living, are a way for us as individual visitors to be a part of the Wall community. When we leave something at the Wall, we are becoming co-creators of the work of art (and the Wall is, among other things, very much a work of art). In her competition submission, Maya Lin wrote, "The Memorial is composed not as an unchanging monument, but as a moving composition to be understood as we move into and out of it."

We come to the Wall as individuals or as families; we experience it in private, inwardly; yet we leave it as part of the community of America. The Wall has a tremendous, mysterious ability to make us feel part of something larger than ourselves, even as we confront it with our silent thoughts. The Wall brings us together. Bill Clinton, speaking at the Wall, once said, "Let us continue to disagree if we must about the war, but let us not let it divide us as a people any longer.... At this monument, can any American be out of place ... ? I think not."

One often hears talk about "healing" when the Wall is discussed. A particular, specific, example of this came recently when a half-size replica of the Wall came to Berkeley as part of a nationwide tour. Longtime Berkeley resident, anti-war activist, and veteran Country Joe McDonald was one of the organizers involved in bringing the mini-Wall to Berkeley, and his participation emphasized the contradictions many found in the appearance of this memorial in such a leftist hotbed as Berkeley. This "Wall of Healing," like the original Wall, marks a new era in America's relationship to the Vietnam War, one where we reach the time of healing. (Jan Scruggs, the veteran who came up with the idea for a Vietnam veterans' memorial after watching The Deer Hunter in 1979, said that his hope was that it could "bring about some healing for the country.") This awful national nightmare, to borrow a phrase Gerald Ford used in a different context, needs to be over; we as a community must move beyond partisanship and recognize our common losses. The war itself was bad enough; what it did to the U.S. was frustratingly inescapable. We should not have to sustain our agony forever. We should finally be able to accept that time moves on, that in allowing the war to retain its power to fragment our society, we are still in effect "losing the war." As long as we let the old feelings gnaw at our national psyche, we will remain "losers." And so we move on, and the symbolism of the Wall's presence in Berkeley seemed to be an especially useful version of this needed reconciliation with our past. If a city of so much anti-war activism could finally open its arms to the Wall of Healing, then surely we have moved to a new and better place.

If, indeed, that is what is involved. We do desire closure, we do need to move on, we do need in some ways to bury the hatchets. There is something heartbreakingly human about these needs. However human those needs seem, though, they should not be accepted uncritically. We should not be too eager to buy into this latest attempt to corral us as a culture into believing the version of events presented to us, just because it makes us feel better. Feeling better may have everything to do with being human; it is unclear how much feeling better has to do with history, or with our future.

The design for the memorial was chosen via a competition, the rules of which were fairly simple. Contestants were told that the design must be "apolitical," to heal, not reopen old wounds. From the beginning, the memorial was seen as a monument to reconciliation. Again, the need for such a reconciliation is understandable, but the assumption that healing could be "apolitical" is problematic, since the desire to remove political content from the memorial was in itself a political move. The question becomes, what political purpose could it serve to insist upon apolitical meaning to a memorial to the Vietnam War?

An important part of this process of "healing" is the manner in which a memorial designed to honor the memory of valiant Americans is used to help us forget some of the essential reasons for the existence of the war that killed those Americans in the first place. The Wall eloquently asks us to remember all 57,709 dead or missing Americans, but the intentions of those who put together the Wall is that it be "apolitical," that is, to forget the past, rather than remember it. It places the thousands of forgotten soldiers at the front of our consciousness, and surely this is a good thing. It reminds us that every life is important, that we should never forget those who gave their lives in the name of us as Americans, and surely this is a good thing. It intentionally forgets the "politics" that placed Americans in this war to begin with, though, because this memorial is not only about remembering, but also about healing, and anyone who remembers the terrible turmoil which engulfed the nation during the war knows very well that such turmoil is not conducive to reconciliation, is not a good way to help heal a country and its people, and so the memorial is "apolitical." It brings individual mourners together as a community of healed Americans, with its wings pointing to Washington and Jefferson and our hearts and minds directed away from the disturbing "political" ramifications of the war.

The databases associated with the Wall, which make for easy searching through the 57,709 names, are magnificent tools for individuals obsessing about the Wall, its meanings, the names and the lives and deaths of those listed on it. Our attention may be directed away from the "political" aspects of the Wall and the war, but that attention must go somewhere, and these databases do an excellent job of collating information about all of the names. There are catalogs at the memorial site, where visitors can look up specific names and find their location on the Wall. The combined effect of all these databases is to allow us to bring individual soldiers to our consciousness. The physical and emotional immenseness of the Wall can overpower visitors; the sheer numbers can make it difficult to focus on individual people. ("These names," Maya Lin wrote, "seemingly infinite in number, convey the sense of overwhelming numbers, while unifying these individuals into a whole.") But the database focuses our attention. Let us stop for a second and consider some of the people whose names appear on the Wall.

Private First Class James C. Ward of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was born on January 26, 1948, coincidentally the date of my mother's 20th birthday. (The databases encourage this kind of random personal connection to the names, as if we might better know the lives of the dead if we can just attach them to events in our own lives.) On October 11, 1965, PFC Ward died. You can find his name on the East panel. At his death, he was 17 years, 8 months, and 16 days old. He was the youngest American casualty of the war. Eleven other Americans died in the war at the age of 17.

Kenna C. Taylor died at 62, the oldest American casualty.

Five thousand, five hundred and seventy-seven Californians died in the war. Three hundred thiry-eight men named "Steven" (with a "v") died in the war. Four people named Rubio died in the war. Seventeen Americans from Berkeley died in the war. Seven Americans from my home town, Antioch, California, died in the war. On September 28, 1968, the night of which I first kissed the woman who later became my wife, eighteen Americans died in the war.

You can do this kind of thing forever when poring through the databases. You can get lost in the numbers, the names, the dates, the minutiae. You're drawn in, much as you're drawn in to the memorial itself when you first arrive at the top of one of the two wings. In every case, the haze into which your mind enters insulates you momentarily from the "real world." This is yet another way in which the Wall elicits personal, private responses. This most public of all events, an unpopular war played out nightly on the teevee news, is recalled in solitary, away from the tumult which accompanied the war when it actually happened.

And perhaps this is part of the healing process, as well, although the databases, obviously, are not the Wall. Still, the Wall puts the names into granite, gives them substance, unifies them, in Lin's words, into a whole. The databases, many of them online, at least one, "Beyond the Wall: Stories Behind the Vietnam War," on CD-ROM, allow us to peruse the names at our leisure, to relive our experience of the Wall as the Wall allows us to relive our experience of the war. To the extent these experiences allow us the opportunity to re-examine our ideas about the war, they are fruitful beyond mere healing (although healing is anything but mere, and my intention is not to belittle the need for healing and reconciliation). The problem arises, though, that any honest re-examination of the Vietnam War would necessarily include an appraisal of the political roots of that war, a war that people on all sides seemed to agree was a disaster, although their reasons for thinking it a disaster varied considerably. And once we move to an appraisal of the political ramifications of the war, we've moved beyond the healing process, we're right back where we started, grumbling and fuming and suffering, reliving the antagonisms and the hatreds. It's easy to see why this would be counter-productive to the process of healing. But it should also be clear at this point that we can not just choose to forget the parts of our past that make us uncomfortable, that we can not allow our desire for reconciliation to change how history is written.

The Vietnam war was a terrible thing. This trite statement needs to be said. It was a terrible thing because 57,709 Americans died in it. It was a terrible thing because many, many more Vietnamese died in it. It was a terrible thing because imperialism is a terrible thing, it was a terrible thing because we, as a nation, made some hugely regrettable political decisions about our place in the world and our role in Southeast Asia. Many Americans thought this war was a terrible thing while it was happening, and their public expression of their despair, their attempts to change the political climate of the United States of America, led to near-cataclysmic upheaval in American society. Among the victims of this upheaval were those veterans who returned home from a bad war to find they were underappreciated by their countrymen. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial does its part towards re-integrating those veterans, and the 57,709 who were left behind, into our society once again, and we must welcome them back with open arms.

But we must be vigilant; we must remember. We must remember it all. We can not let the healing process blind us to the political ramifications of our presence in Vietnam. A memorial helps us to remember; we honor the Vietnam Veterans Memorial when we refuse to forget.

One recurring aspect of the various presentations of the Wall is the reading of the names. Speakers working in shifts read the names off the Wall, one by one, from first to last. This marathon of name-reading reminds us, almost as much as the Wall itself, of the enormity of lives lost. In the spirit of those readings, and in honor of all who died in Vietnam, I would like to read here, on May 2nd 1997, as part of the California American Studies Association convention, the names of the 37 Californians who died in Vietnam on May 2nd.

Paul L. Abraham 
Terry J. Allen 
Jose C. Alvarez 
O.D. Brunner 
Steve Butorovic 
Daniel Carrasco 
Willie C. Clark 
Frank R. Corona 
Michael D. Craig 
Thomas E. Diefenderfer 
Lawrence J. Englander 
Edward A. Escobar 
John A. Frick 
Eugene Gastelum 
John M. Henderson 
Larry Herrera 
Nathaniel H. Jackson 
Daniel C. Johnson 
Richard R. Landers 
Michael D. Lee 
Thomas W. Mallon 
William A. Mansergh 
Glenn R. Mearns 
Jon L. Messer 
Otto P. Meyer 
Willie L. Moses 
Lloyd F. Mousseau 
Douglas E. Partridge 
Dale K. Porterfield 
Robert A. Romo 
Leopoldo P. Serna 
John C. Sherman 
Geoffrey R. Taylor 
Ismael J. Valdez 
Clyde J. Valstad 
Thomas M. Walker 
Alonzo D. Woods