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A Celebration 100 Years in the Making

November 11th, 2018 · No Comments · France, Languedoc

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918, World War I came to an end.

That is, the long and bloody war ended at 11 a.m. on November 11.

One hundred years later, France celebrated its century-old victory over Germany by instructing all churches to ring their bells for 11 minutes, beginning at 11 a.m.

It was the centieme anniversaire de l’armistice. (The 100th anniversary of the Armistice.)

That marked the start of festivities and remembrances throughout France, including in our village in the south of the country — where a significant fraction of the population gathered in the town square.

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The Great War: France Will Not Forget

November 10th, 2018 · No Comments · France, Germany

In the photo on the left, a young mustachioed French soldier from a century ago is dressed in his parade best as he stares coolly at the camera. His left hand is behind his back and his right rests on a table, near his red kepi and what might be a bayonet. It is the kind of photo young men posed for, ahead of going to war, in 1914.

The photo on the right shows the same soldier, with the same mustache and the same cool regard for the camera, apparently sitting on a bed … a hospital bed, it would seem … and he holds his bare left arm across his chest. The observer cannot help but notice that his arm is horribly swollen.

The soldier’s name is Marcel Poujol, and he would lose his burned arm to amputation. But he may have considered himself lucky, three times over.

He survived a shell that killed most of his comrades. He would not be going back to the trenches of what the French call La Grande Guerrethe Great War — to become one of the 1.4 million French war dead. And he would be able to live and work in his hometown of Nizas, in the Languedoc region of southern France, raising a family that includes his living granddaughter, our friend Marie-Claire.

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The Willie Mays Ball: Baseball History Down the Drain?

November 7th, 2018 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

I was perhaps 9 or 10 when we visited some relatives of my mother’s in the Bay Area city of Richmond. Just across the water from San Francisco.

We went there every few years, and I was always a little agitated by it, because I didn’t really know these people, not like my aunts, uncles and cousins down in Long Beach.

They were a childless husband and wife, as I recall, and the woman was a fairly near relative of my mother. They seemed old to me, so maybe they were in their 40s?

And I remember all this because of one salient factor:

The Willie Mays Ball they gave us.

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Ranking Ten Pro Sports Teams I Loathe

November 4th, 2018 · No Comments · Barcelona, Basketball, Champions League, Dodgers, Football, Lakers, Lists, NBA, NFL, soccer

Have I done this before? After 10-plus years I must have. But know what? I’m not going to check because the 10 teams I love to hate changes a bit, from year to year. This list would probably be unlike any other I might have done.

For instance, most of my life I have wished bad things on the San Francisco Giants, and many Los Angeles sports fans would suggest I still should. But I was impressed that the Giants reached the World Series three times in five years (2010, 2012, 2014), and won all three. Those teams were cleverly constructed, the players were likable.

Sorry. They don’t make the list.

It’s difficult, actually, to hate 10 teams. Hate is a strong word. Perhaps we should go with “strongly dislike”.

So, yes, this is a list, and as usual we’re going to start with the less repellent and work up to “most strongly dislike”.

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Taking French Halloween Inside

November 1st, 2018 · No Comments · France

This is Year 3 of living in a small town in the south of France.

Our first October here, a local resident assured us that Halloween is not a “thing” in this part of the country. Further north in France, but not here. Not really. “Not part of our culture.”

And then at least 20 kids found our front door and rang our bell, and we scrounged up enough stuff to take care of them all.

A year ago, we were in Seville, Spain … and they seemed to celebrate Halloween there.

So, Halloween, not so weird, here in western Europe, and we bought candy this time, to be ready.

And then we found out the town had decided to regularize Halloween and the trick-or-treating, which features demands/threats just like in the States, except tweaked a little. Instead of “trick or treat” it is “des bonbons ou des Sorts!” — Candy or a spell!”).

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Next Up for Los Angeles: The Rams

October 30th, 2018 · No Comments · NFL, Rams

So much for the Dodgers. Realists had no hope for them, once they coughed up Game 4 and, truth be told, even if they had tied the series at 2-2 … them winning two of three from Boston, with two of those games played at Fenway … well, it just seemed really unlikely. The Red Sox were clearly the better team

Luckily, generic fans of Los Angeles sports have another team upon which they can place their hopes.

That would be a certain team that plays in the Coliseum. And we are not talking about the USC Trojans.

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From Up 4-0 to Down 9-4: Let’s Play the Blame Game

October 28th, 2018 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

Do you do this? Something goes badly wrong for your team, and you spend a minute or five replaying the events in your head, and settle on what you believe led to your team’s destruction.

I do that. Especially in regard to baseball, which is a start-and-stop game chock-full of decisions, choices, options.

And the Dodgers’ crushing, 9-6 defeat in Game 4 of the World Series, after holding a 4-0 lead through six innings, is ripe for a session of “whom to blame”?

We start with the least blameworthy events, and end with the most.

–Rich Hill’s walk of Xander Bogaerts to open the seventh inning. With the Dodgers giddy after Yasiel Puig’s homer capped the bottom-of-the-sixth eruption. Hill was, of course, a huge plus for the club, throwing six scoreless, but whatever chance he had of going another inning or two may have ended when he put the leadoff man on. Not even striking out the next batter, Eduardo Nunez, taking Hill to 91 pitches, kept him in the game. If he opens the inning with two outs, maybe manager Dave Roberts lets him finish the seventh and two guys mentioned below never enter the game.

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Up All Night: The Dodgers and the 2018 World Series

October 27th, 2018 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

If this thing goes seven, we may be zombies. Or vampires. Undead creatures of the night.

We certainly will suspect we have shifted into a new time zone, one where our “days” dissolve into evenings.

Over in France, I woke at about 6 a.m. Saturday, local time. Looked at my watch. Feared World Series Game 3 might be over. Since it began at 2:09 a.m., in France.

Ha.

Ha-ha.

It was 1-1 in the middle of the ninth, and late-arriving viewers (such as moi) were not going to watch a few outs made in an inning or two.

This one had another nine innings to go in a game that lasted a postseason record 7 hours and 20 minutes.

And for Dodgers fans just tuning in, it meant three-plus extra hours of unexpected, on-the-precipice baseball that ended with the home team winning on a home run by Max Muncy — at 1230 a.m. in Los Angeles, 3:30 a.m. in Boston and 9:30 a.m. in France.

By which time those of us who were awake and interested were emotionally drained.

I met the day already exhausted.

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Why You Should Back the Dodgers Over the Red Sox

October 23rd, 2018 · 1 Comment · Baseball, Dodgers, Lists

This is a list of reasons why regular folks around the baseball world should support the Los Angeles Dodgers over the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, which begins tonight in Beantown.

First and foremost?

–The Dodgers have not won the World Series in 30 years. The Red Sox have won it three times since 2004, and expect the rest of you to join them in their selfish pursuit of a fourth championship in 15 years. Hey, it’s L.A.’s turn! There are Dodgers fans 35 years old who have no recollection of Kirk Gibson and the 1988 World Series.

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Dodgers and Red Sox: A Rivalry in the Making?

October 21st, 2018 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox are two of the half-dozen most prominent Major League Baseball teams. In theory, then, they should be rivals of some sort. Perhaps bitter rivals.

But they are not. And have not been for a century. A time frame that does much to explain why they enter the 2018 World Series on Tuesday as polite and respectful opponents.

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