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The NFL’s Answer to ‘Frozen’

December 15th, 2019 · No Comments · Football, NFL

Perhaps you have heard about the successful Disney movie entitled “Frozen II” — a thing with princesses of a northern kingdom, spirits, trolls, a magic salamander and lots of ice.

The National Football League, which appeals to a slightly different demographic, has a similarly successful sub-zero event.

It’s called Chicago at Green Bay.

It is the oldest rivalry in the NFL — renewed today for the 200th time — and holds a variety of records. Definitely including lots and lots of games played out of doors in two of the league’s coldest cities.

Generic football fans tend to be interested in this match-up no matter how the two teams are doing in the standings. Because it has a plot line that fans like to follow.

The weather.

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Will the Jeopardy! ‘Greatest of All Time’ Tournament Really Tell Us Anything?

December 10th, 2019 · No Comments · Jeopardy!

This week, competition began taping among the three men playing in what will be a prime-time event for the game show “Jeopardy!

Astonishingly, the show seems more popular now than at any time in its 36-season run — in part because of James Holzhauer, who won 32 games last spring and and racked up unheard of totals in prize money — $2.7 million in 33 games.

The tournament likely will take advantage of Holzhauer’s cash successes, which figure to drive viewers to the tournament meant to identify the greatest player of all time (often abbreviated as “GOAT”).

The format is simple: The three players with the highest cash-winning totals in the history of the “answer and question” game are competing for a $1 million first prize, with the laurels (and bragging rights) going to the man who first wins three games.

Thus, the competition could last three days, or it could go seven, if each of the three wins twice.

Setting up what would be an all-the-marbles Game 7.

It is a capital idea, to bring in the three highest money winners in the game’s history, with the results to be broadcast on ABC beginning January 7.

But … is it fair? Will it really tell us what we want to know — who is Best All Time? Or will it be more like “Who Is Best in December of 2019?”

Consider the contestants:

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In Full Flight: Escaping France as Population Takes to the Streets

December 5th, 2019 · No Comments · France, Paris

Of all the dreamy ideals France and Paris elicit among visitors or expatriates, one joker in the deck often goes overlooked:

The French predilection for taking to the streets in protest whenever they are unhappy with their government.

And, just now, they are plenty unhappy with the regime of Emmanuel Macron, the country’s president.

To the point that unions called for a general strike — asking all of the country’s unions to “down tools” beginning today, Thursday, December 5 — to remind the government that French workers are in charge when it comes to policy.

As the strikers were gearing up for action on Wednesday, we were on an Air France A-380 jumbo jet traversing the North Atlantic. Getting out of Dodge, you might call it.

(Though it was simple dumb luck and slightly cheaper prices that put us in the air one day ahead of the storm.)

Visitors and expats tend to overlook one major aspect of the French experience:

The country at many times seems nearly ungovernable.

Before addressing the big issues of the general strike, let me describe one “small” incident that played out on a narrow country road in the south of France.

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Failing at a Signature Move

December 2nd, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Signatures are important. They attach a person to a document. They can seal important transactions. They can be legally binding. They also can be seen as a collector’s item.

I tend to take note of a person’s signature. I make evaluations on signatures. Or their less formal friends, autographs.

How people sign their names: Doesn’t it tell us something about them?

Signatures can be things of significance but also things of beauty. They can display a practiced, well-trained hand with respect for the name and the letters therein.

Or they can be ugly, unintelligible scrawls.

Me and my signature? A train wreck. A nervous scribble that cannot decide if it wants to be bold … or legible … or stylish … and ends up being a sloppy and unreadable and even childlike.

It was watching Donald Trump, current president of the United States, sign his name that brought this up again, for me.

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Holiday Turkey and Some Brazen Breast Augmentation

November 28th, 2019 · No Comments · France

For the fourth year running we hosted a Thanksgiving dinner in our little town in the south of France.

We expanded the invitation list by two people to take it to 10, counting the hosts, and it went off pretty well.

Well, it kinda had to be memorable, given that we had a turkey with augmented breasts.

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Newspaper Wars: In Retrospect, Few Winners, Many Losers

November 26th, 2019 · 1 Comment · Journalism, Newspapers, Sports Journalism, The Sun

It seems a bit ludicrous now, given the carnage in print journalism, how important “beating” the local opposition was for us.

When I wrote a long blog entry, in 2008, I declared an end to what was nearly a 100 Years War between two suburban newspapers in the Inland Empire of Southern California.

I worked 31 years for one of those newspapers, and being better and faster than the other guys was something everyone in the newsroom cared about.

First, let’s link to the post of May 19, 2008, in which I declared the war over — with us at The San Bernardino Sun, being defeated by our arch-rivals at The Riverside Press-Enterprise.

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Attention SEO Fixers: I Do This for Fun, not Profit

November 21st, 2019 · No Comments · Spam

We all have our spammers.

In the not-so-distant past mine have been allegedly inexpensive prescription drugs from Canada, sexual aids and the Nigerian prince who wants me to hold money for him for a small fee.

I did not respond to that stuff — just mark it as spam and click “delete forever” … and over the years most of it went away and I received, “Hooray No Spam Here!” notes from gmail.

That did not mean spam no longer clutters my inbox; it has just morphed in a way I did not expect:

It now comes mostly from people who will “fix” my site so that I will get more hits and make more money on ads …

Which mostly means they don’t get how this blog operates.

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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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