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France and Its Summer Vacations

August 19th, 2019 · No Comments · France, Languedoc, tourism, Travel

If you are reading this in the U.S., brace yourself.

In France, all employees get five weeks of paid vacation per year.

Five weeks. More than a month. And that does not include one-day public holidays, which can reach double digits in a given year.

We know about France and its summer vacations because we live in the south, about 30 minutes from the Mediterranean Sea, where plenty of sun is dependable and vacationers come chasing it. Most of them live in the northern half of the country, which can be gloomy even in the summer.

Catering to millions of internal tourists is a big industry, in France, and a significant source of revenue for businesses in the south.

Tourists will need to be fed and housed, unless they are camping (and more than a few do) and entertained.

The trouble with those five weeks off is that, historically, the French, like most Europeans, prefer to take several of them in August, thank you very much.

However, it does not make sense to have the whole of the country vacationing in the same month, so in recent decades France (at least) has spread out the “high” season to include most of July. (Yes, revolutionary.)

And observers have noted that the folks who travel in July are not quite the same as those who hit the beach in August, leading to epic traffic jams, especially on the north-south routes, on freeways rarely more than three lanes wide, and with every second vehicle some sort of camper/RV.

These separate sets of tourists have their own names, in French. The July people are known as Juilletistes (zwee-eh-teests). The August people are known as Aoutiens (oo-tee-ins) — based on the names of the two summer months.

And let the stereotyping begin!

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Zero Appetite for Dangers of ‘Competitive Eating’

August 15th, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Let’s get this straight right off: There is no future for competitive eating. It is tacky, gross, wasteful and Just Plain Dangerous, with links not only to chronic medical conditions but also to fatalities.

You perhaps have viewed, via television, one of the episodes of professional gluttony. Hot dogs are the preferred edible but other contests have been known to center on hamburgers, pie, pizza, chicken wings, asparagus …

And, also, tacos.

Like the tacos a man in central California was bolting during an amateur taco-eating contest at the Fresno Grizzlies baseball stadium on August 13.

Which apparently led to the death of the 41-year-old man, perhaps from a clogged airway, according to a spokesman for the Fresno County Sheriff’s Coroner office, the Fresno Bee newspaper reported.

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‘Field of Dreams’ Game: A Celebration of Black Sox?

August 10th, 2019 · No Comments · Baseball

Many baseball fans love the idea of the ballpark hacked out of a corn field in Iowa to serve as the focal point for the baseball movie Field of Dreams.

It is not a one-shot prop. It is not generated by a computer. It is acres of land where corn once grew, carved out for a film many fans consider the best baseball movie ever made.

Major League Baseball will take advantage of the romance and fondness associated with the movie — “Build it and he will come” — on August 13 of next year, when the Chicago White Sox play the New York Yankees among the corn in a game that will count in the standings and the statistics. A real game. Life imitating art.

So far, so good. But aren’t we forgetting one awkward reality of the Field of Dreams story?

The bit that seems to both recognize and forgive the 1919 Chicago White Sox — who threw the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds in the biggest scandal in U.S. sports history.

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What’s in a Name? A Lot, When it is Oberjuerge in France

August 9th, 2019 · No Comments · France

It is a hard name to pronounce. No question. Oberjuerge. Go ahead, take a whack at it. What is your best guess?

It has been anglicized, a bit, if that helps your guesswork.

Here in the south of France, where we are based, locals officials and merchants will attempt to pronounce the name rather than concede up front they have no real idea how it should sound. Mostly because the French do not want to be over-familiar and use a given name in a formal setting.

And it does little or no good to spell it for them, because spelling is a nightmare of French pronunciation of the English alphabet.

So, with no further temporizing, here are some of the best guesses, via francais.

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MLB-TV, the Dodgers and Orel Hershiser

August 6th, 2019 · 1 Comment · Baseball, Dodgers

Kind of a Triple Crown, as far as I am concerned.

The not-expensive set-up with MLB-TV to choose among various live games during the European night and early morning; the Dodgers doing what they do (destroy the National League); and the pleasure of listening to the cerebral and chatty Orel Hershiser, who serves as color commentator to play-by-play man Joe Davis on the SportsNet LA telecast.

This is the first time in this decade that I have been able to see significant chunks of live baseball, most certainly including the Dodgers.

Let me tell you, it’s one thing to have a mental image of what a player or a team looks like, and quite another to see them in game action. Cody Bellinger is tall. Max Muncy doesn’t look like an athlete. Gotta give Justin Turner credit for making himself memorable — the enormous red beard and his trademark top shirt buttons unbuttoned, showing the Dodger Blue undershirt.

What I am most interested in, at this moment, is Hershiser, who dissects every game, often from the remarkably cerebral point of view of pitcher, catcher and batter.

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Dodgers Whiff on Deadline Day

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

Anyone who has watched the 2019 Dodgers for a half-dozen games already knows what is going to keep this team from its first World Series championship since 1988.

The bullpen.

Yesterday, the club had its last chance to address the problem under the new trade deadline of July 31 … and chose not to. “We’re good, thanks” is what they said, in effect. “We’ll roll with the guys we’ve got.”

Or, the exact same attitude they carried into the World Series in 2017 and 2018, which they lost in seven and five games, respectively.

A number commonly cited over the past week suggests that the bullpen was responsible for five World Series game defeats in the past two seasons. (It just seems like it was six or seven.)

Get ready for more October meltdowns — if one of the richest clubs in baseball gets that far.

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Cycle Fans: Sports’ Biggest Optimists

July 28th, 2019 · No Comments · France

I love cycling fans. They won’t quit on their sport no matter how dangerous, complicated, seedy or drug-drenched it gets. They are there for it, all the time.

Living in France, a person can hardly escape cycling — in particular during the Tour de France, which rode into Paris to wrap up proceedings today in the 21st stage.

The problem with their sport, however, is its tendency to generate high crimes and misdemeanors as it rolls through time.

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Dodger Stadium Remodel: Nice, But How about the Nuts and Bolts?

July 24th, 2019 · No Comments · Baseball

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Two years ago I suggested it was time to tear down and replace Dodger Stadium, perhaps the least comfortable big-league ballpark still in use.

That has not happened. And some fans made clear to me that they believe tearing down Dodger Stadium was a horrible ideal.

But I will concede the Dodgers did the next-best thing:

They are remodeling the facility, with an emphasis on a two-acre multipurpose area between the current pavilions, “deep center field”, if you will, where the stadium will have a recognizable front door, for the first time, and lots of new amenities.

I applaud this. Mostly.

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One Giant Leap for Mankind

July 21st, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

The moon landing of July 1969 somehow has always seemed fresh, in my mind. Even when we view it in black and white. (It was 1969, after all.)

That sense of recall seems a blessing for the aged of the world, given that no one under the age of 55 can hope to recall much of anything, as we saw it then.

It was a huge story, of course. Two men walking on another piece of our solar system, our galaxy.

I was 15 at the time, and I was sitting in the den with my parents, waiting and watching for the time when Neil Armstrong, and then Buzz Aldrin, descended the ladder from the lunar module, which had successfully touched down on our white and seemingly chalky satellite.

One of the first things that comes to mind, when reflecting back on July 20, 1969?

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I Get That

July 20th, 2019 · No Comments · Sports Journalism

Interesting, how the usage of phrases ebbs and flows. Especially when it is in the guise of false respect — a common point of view when arguing about sports.

For decades, and maybe even before that, the expression “with all due respect” ruled the false-respect roost.

It worked like this: Person A made a statement taking a stand on an issue. Person B then got his turn to speak, and we came to recognize, immediately, when he was about to go all contemptuous on Person A.

By using “with all due respect”.

To the point that “with all due respect” came to mean the polar opposite of what the words originally conveyed. No respect was ever due.

It was merely a social convention that came to mean “I ought to call you a blithering idiot from the jump except that I am fake-polite to idiots and animals, and while my grandfather might actually have had a tiny bit of pity for fools, I do not — but I lay the thinnest of veneers over that by not laughing aloud and by using the old expression.

“With all due respect …”

With all due respect, that phrase is on the way out because of another phrase just as sarcastic and dismissive is taking its place and is particularly common in the sports world.

“I get that.”

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