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Tourists and Anarchists Share Precarious Paris

November 16th, 2019 · No Comments · France, Paris

Protests across France, and particularly in Paris, were the topic of the day on news channels.

If Paris has seemed like a weekend battle zone for the past year … well, it often has been.

It was 52 weeks ago that a grass-roots movement erupted across many areas of France, and especially in Paris, that led to arrests, injuries and plenty of destruction, most of it aimed at police and property.

A loose confederation of Frenchmen, one in which anyone who claimed to speak for the group was immediately ostracized, nearly brought the country to its knees a year ago with attacks against toll booths and road blockades, especially at roundabout traffic choke points.

It was never quite certain where the group would strike, but it soon had a name: The Gilets Jaunes — the Yellow Vests, in English — referring to the high-visibility vests many of the protesters wore.

We took the train up to Paris today for the 50th birthday party of a friend and former colleague, and it was a strange few hours as we walked around the city and went from districts of tourist-driven energy and gawking … and at other times almost into the middle of clashes between massed police and demonstrators, who seem to become more destructive as the past year went on.

An example:

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Rams Fans: Your Team Peaked in 2018 and Now Is Heading South

November 12th, 2019 · No Comments · Football, Los Angeles Rams, NFL

Write it down. The “new” Los Angeles Rams reached their zenith in a 54-51 nationally televised victory over the Kansas City Chiefs a year ago, improving to 10-1 and looking very much like a championship team.

They did, in fact, reach the Super Bowl last season, but they were awful, against the New England Patriots, and lost 13-3 in the lowest-scoring, and perhaps dreariest Super Bowl ever played.

And now? The 2019 Rams are 5-4, third in the NFC West and looking at a difficult set of games in their final seven encounters.

So, yes, the Rams team that exploded on the scene under Sean McVay in 2017 (11-5) and was even stronger (13-3) the following season … may already have shot their wad and are headed south, back to NFL irrelevance.

Remember, the plan for the Rams, when they arrived, was to draft a quarterback and be a solid contender in time for the 2020 season, their first in the palatial new stadium being completed in Inglewood.

Instead, Year 1 for the Rams in their new digs may turn out to be a season when the club struggles to win more games than it loses.

How did this happen? How did a team that went 24-8 over the previous two seasons reach a point halfway through the 2019 season where they are no longer in the “best team” discussion? And, in fact, appear to be falling like a rock.

We start with Jared Goff.

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Ah, OCD and Another Rock Kicker!

November 11th, 2019 · No Comments · Baseball, France, Sports

And there I was, thinking maybe I was the only person in France who made it a habit to kick rocks off roads.

A week or two ago, as we approached one of the entrances to the local “big” city, I looked to my left, and a woman, wearing pants, maybe 45, kicked a rock off the asphalt.

I took notice. Another step or so later, she lined up another rock and kicked that one too, right to the curb. It was not a one-shot thing. It was a pattern!

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Kawhi Sits and Clippers Fans Stew

November 8th, 2019 · No Comments · Basketball, Clippers, NBA

Los Angeles Clippers supporters have been waiting a long time for their team to win an NBA championship. Or play for a championship. Or even get into the Western Conference finals. None of which the club has accomplished.

Which seems to have made many of them impatient.

They figured Kawhi Leonard, architect of the Toronto Raptors championship last season, was the marquee signing of the offseason, and they are eager to see him out there playing for the red, white and blue.

But, apparently, they did not carefully read up on the situation pertaining to Leonard and how much he will play under a system sometimes known as “load management”.

Kawhi sat out Wednesday’s game with the Milwaukee Bucks so as not to wear down his body in the season’s first month.

The idea is to keep him fresh-ish during the 82-game regular season. Leonard has a history of injuries, including a mysterious thigh injury that cost him most of the 2017-18 season.

Not surprisingly, a lot of fans think “load management” is a load. Like those who turned out to see the Clippers play the Bucks, led by MVP candidate Giannis Antetokoumnpo.

Said one, to ESPN:

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The Righteous Wrath of a Hometown Journalist

November 5th, 2019 · No Comments · Journalism, Long Beach

I grew up in Long Beach, California. My mother and siblings still live there. Several nieces, too. I haven’t lived in the city since 2009, and have not spent a lot of time in it since 1976, but it remains my hometown, and I have the Long Beach State baseball cap to prove it.

Which is why I make a point to read a little online newspaper, the Long Beach Post, which is the most significant surviving media presence in a city of 495,000.

The Post is a handful of kids and veterans trying to do journalism at its most basic level.

That handful of people includes one very-well-known — in Long Beach — individual, name of Tim Grobaty, columnist for the Post, as he was for the Long Beach Press Telegram before it.

I might still have been at school at Long Beach State when Grobaty started writing for what is now a shriveled remnant of a newspaper.

Grobaty is a Long Beach lifer, to my knowledge, and he is the kind of writer with a mandate to, well, tell it like it is, on the news side.

Grobaty seems to prefer the light and happy and curious, around Long Beach. But, in line with the best general columnists, he can rain down fire and brimstone on powerful people whose actions anger or disturb him.

In this case, Grobaty went Defcon 1 on the mayor of the city, shaming him for his inattention to local events as Long Beach endured a siege of violence that led to six dead and nine wounded in a span of three days last week.

Grobaty believes a mayor should be the reassuring face of a city when his constituents are hurting or frightened, and he finds Robert Garcia, the Long Beach mayor, derelict in his duty for the greater part of a week.

And Grobaty is ticked off.

Read about it here.

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Rugby World Cup: A Rush, Under the Circumstances

November 2nd, 2019 · No Comments · Rugby, World Cup

This thing started just the other day! September 20. That was just last week … or last month … or nearly last month.

The ninth Rugby World Cup concluded today in Japan. South Africa overwhelmed England 32-12 to end the 20-team tournament on its 43rd day. And people complain that the baseball playoffs are too long.

This was my first rugby final, and it started at 10 a.m. local (France) time because the matches were being held in Japan, where it was night.

It has been mentioned, on this blog, that my brain generally seems to reject the concept of rugby. To me, it is the primitive older brother of American football that never learned the forward pass.

When living on the western side of the Atlantic, a sports fan can pretty much ignore rugby. But when they wheel out the big rugby nations here at the end, the New Zealand, England, Australia, Ireland, South Africa crew … just to remain conversant in your neighborhood, where the expats live, you need to know who is who. And — get this — France is a serious rugby country, too. Crazy, right?

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Howie Kendrick and a Place in Baseball History

November 1st, 2019 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

It was getting late for Howard “Howie” Joseph Kendrick.

He had a solid career. Of course he did. No one lasts 14 years in Major League Baseball without being solid. Solid enough to be paid $65 million over those 14 seasons. Good enough to have played in an All-Star Game in 2011 and received an MVP vote in 2014.

But it would not be unkind or unfair to suggest that Howie Kendrick — at 36 and in the twilight of his career — had never done something truly memorable in his baseball career. Nothing that would make a batch of baseball fans stand up and say, “Howie Kendrick? Of course I remember Howie Kendrick!”

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One NBA Fantasy Draft

October 22nd, 2019 · No Comments · Basketball, Fantasy Baseball, NBA

As the NBA season opens tonight, let’s pretend and believe some readers are interested in seeing how it went for a semi-ancient (both the league and the owners) in a six-team league.

Who went first?

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Cruising the Mediterranean, Epilogue

October 20th, 2019 · No Comments · tourism, Travel

We had a fine time. Almost-perfect weather, from Venice straight through to Rome/Civitavecchia, plenty to see and do but also time for relaxation and conversation.

A look back at 10 nights and 11 days onboard the Celebrity Constellation, fixing some oversights and passing on some thoughts about the trip.

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Cruising the Mediterranean, Day 10: Naples

October 19th, 2019 · No Comments · tourism, Travel, World Cup

The final full day on the Celebrity Constellation cruise offered a menu of attractions that pretty much overwhelmed even the most ambitious of shore-going travelers.

Start with Naples itself. One day cannot adequately convey the history and energy and madness of the First World city that most closely resembles a Third World city.

But then you might want to take a trip out of town. One option? The memorable ruins of Pompeii, destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius 20 centuries ago, but leaving behind a ghostly tableau of how Romans lived and played in the First Century AD.

Another option? A boat over to the island of Capri, known for a blue grotto, upscale tourism and the former home of the brutal Roman emperor Tiberius.

How about a bus trip to Sorrento, where ceramics of the sort many travelers adore are made by the truck load every day.

Or a boat ride down the Amalfi Coast, or a gastronomic tour of Napoli?

We went with Topic 1: A bus tour of the busiest, nuttiest, loudest big city in the civilized world. Hey, at least the garbage was being picked up this week. Or most of it, anyway.

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