Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Blogocalypse Carnival Is Coming! The Blogoc--We Interrupt This Announcement With More LPGA Blogging

Well, I'll hopefully get to see some of it on TV in Fukuoka later today, but I couldn't wait to point out that this Kraft Nabisco Championship is shaping up to be a classic. Se Ri Pak (-4) is going for her first win here and sixth career major. Paula Creamer (-3), Meaghan Francella (-3), Stacy Prammanasudh (E), and Lorena Ochoa (+1 after quadrupling the par-3 17th), are looking for their second win of the season. Europeans Suzann Pettersen (-4), Catriona Matthew (-1), and Maria Hjorth (-1) are looking for their first win of the year, along with Brittany Lincicome (-2), Shi Hyun Ahn (-1), Morgan Pressel (E), and Sarah Lee (E). Even amateur Stacy Lewis (+1) has a chance to win. And if these leaders falter, anyone between two- and four-over could come out of nowhere with the first really low round of the tournament and steal a win (despite the fact that you can count the number of rounds in the 60s thus far in this tournament on two hands).

This will definitely come down to the back 9 on Sunday, where scores have been high all week. The last 6 holes are some of the best in golf. I can't tell you how many people have come to the 13th tee under par for the day and walked away from the 18th green over par. But there are birdies to be had even in that stretch and anything can happen on 15 through 18.

Given that this is a major on national TV, these kinds of stories should be well covered. But there are interesting subplots worth following, as well.

The "If Only for That One Nine" Syndrome: There are several golfers a few shots over par who would be right in the thick of things now but for one disastrous nine, among them Karrie Webb (40), Mi Hyun Him (41), Christina Kim (41), Angela Stanford (39), and Sherri Steinhauer (40). I'd put these players as favorites to vault into the top 10--and long shots for the win. (Stacy Prammanasudh and Lorena Ochoa would be in this group, as well, but they actually are in contention.)

The Super Sophs Still Have a Chance to Dominate the Top 10: Meaghan Francella's 69 looks like it puts her in the final or next-to-final group on Sunday. The only other person to break 70 today was Ai Miyazato, who at +2 (like Jee Young Lee) is still chasing Morgan Pressel, whose 70 today brought her back to E for the tournament, with a realistic chance of winning. Brittany Lang is next at +3, but she was one of the few leaders to move backwards in a big way on Saturday.

Race for the Top 20: There are a lot of great golfers with a chance to salvage a moral victory from a disappointing tournament and get some momentum for the rest of the season. Annika Sorenstam, Juli Inkster, Julieta Granada, Laura Diaz and Jimin Kang all hung tough Saturday and could pass a lot of people ahead of them right now who will be dealing with the pressure of being in contention in a major on a Sunday. My friend Moira Dunn was three-over for her final four holes on Saturday but still shot a 72, which puts her at the front of this pack at +5.

And yes, the Blogocalypse Carnival will be here at the end of the day. Patience!

[Update: We went out to a small city called Karatsu to see cherry blossoms today, so I missed the golf on TV; in any case, here are the pairings for round 4!]

Friday, March 30, 2007

Haneda Airport LPGA Blogging

My flight for Fukuoka boards soon, but I have time for some quick reactions to the LPGA's first major of the year. I even got to watch some of the Kraft Nabisco Championship's first and second rounds at my hotel, so for once I won't just be reacting to the leaderboard!

Lorena Ochoa's swing is looking great and despite a double bogey on her sixth hole of the second round came back with 4 birdies and a bogey in her final twelve holes. I got to watch Lorena's back 9 on the first day; she was paired with Karrie Webb and it was great to see them both playing well. I missed Webb's mid-round collapse the second day, but she's still in the top 20 at +3. As tough as the course is playing, if she can get back under par on Saturday, she still could have a chance to win. The birdies are out there--I watched Paula Creamer's back 9 on the second day and if she had putted just a little bit better she could have done three shots better than her 67--but so are the bogeys, so it's not inconceivable that all 9 people under par through two rounds could move backwards and open the door for the rest of the field.

I should get a chance to watch the Ochoa/Creamer/Petterson pairing, as Japanese TV should cover the weekend play because all four Japanese golfers in the field made the cut. I was also happy to see all the NYers make the cut, with Meaghan Francella T10 at even and Moira Dunn and Laura Diaz looking to break out from the middle of the pack, where Annika Sorenstam and Jeong Jang, both of whom I expected to see in the top 10 at this point, are also trapped. Another interesting story to follow is the steady play of Se Ri Pak and Shi Hyun Ahn, both of whom are within two shots of the lead, right behind Suzann Pettersen and ahead of Catriona Matthew, who continue their excellent play this year. Soon-to-be-Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak is looking to complete a career Grand Slam--the Kraft Nabisco is the only major she hasn't won.

Natalie Gulbis is officially slumping, having missed another cut by a wide margin. Also missing the cut were Seon Hwa Lee and Meena Lee. So we may have to start talking about a Mostly Harmless jinx, as I picked all three to contend for #1 on the money list and in the world this year.

Here are the pairings for Round 3. You'll note that Moira and Ai-chan are playing together, as are Se Ri and Shi Hyun. Should be fun--do yourself a favor and watch it on network TV this weekend!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

More Charming Than Kawaii

Off to Tokyo for a conference, after which I'll subject you all to some more LPGA blogging. While I'm gone, you should check out all the episodes of a country between the worlds on teh YouTubes. Here's one to whet your appetite:

The Japanese is at my level and the surrealism is more charming than kawaii. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

On Liberal Guilt and Conservative Paranoia

OK, it's time to get over my giddiness of late and get back to politics. (Sorry, I've lived most of my life in a climate where spring lasts roughly three weeks in May and am now in the midst of veritable explosions of cherry blossoms.) My theme today is liberal guilt and conservative paranoia.

Let's start with some definitions and examples. There are many varieties of liberal guilt: among them, feeling bad about a situation you actually have something to do with but disavowing any relation to it; feeling bad about a situation and acknowledging your complicity in/responsibility for it but having no intention of doing anything to change it; feeling bad about your lack of success at changing the situation; getting angry at those in the situation for failing to respect how bad you feel about it; and so on. For a case study, check out the comments over at Berube's latest (and its spillover), where leftists and liberals of all varieties are tearing into each other in comments for not stopping the invasion of Iraq. You need a scorecard to tell all the factions apart!

The dominant strand of conservative paranoia, on the other hand, is quite simple: get them before they get us. Pick a random post from any of the Dick Vader/Darth Cheney dead-enders left in Right Blogistan for an example; I won't dignify them with a link and I leave the mocking to the professionals.

(While I'm doing the link-o-rama I should note that for other offerings of definitions and explorations of examples, you should check out what Anonymous Liberal, Amanda Marcotte, and Lindsay Beyerstein have written in the past several months.)

OK, now that I've got the stage set up, it's time for the plot. To argue that the War on Terra has brought out the worst reflexes of U.S. liberalism and conservativism and empowered those who have most given in to them, as I'm going to do in this post, is bad enough, but to suggest that close to the root of the problem are tendencies toward liberal guilt and conservative paranoia is worse. Pop psychologizing. Oversimplifying. Haven't liberals acknowledged Audre Lorde's critiques from the 1970s? Haven't conservatives outgrown Richard Hofstader's critiques from the 1960s? Hasn't American political culture moved on since then? If you clicked on any of the above links or have ever encountered a rhetorical question in your life, you won't be surprised that my answer is "not quite."

Let me emphasize from the outset that I am not making an argument for moral equivalence between what I called in the comments on Berube's Crooked Timber post "U.S. Sovereignty Liberalism" and "U.S. Dominion Conservatism." I am a lot more worried about the latter's paranoid logic than the former's guilty feelings. Here's Dominionist "logic": given how ugly America's history and foreign policy have been (though they hardly ever acknowledge this publicly), given how many people around the world are angry at the U.S. (but to ask "why so many more since the U.S. invaded Iraq?" is treasonous), and given 9/11 (which changed everything, duh), we'd better go get them before they come for us again (with "them" a particularly flexible and shifting target). The run-up to and the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq are perfect examples of why paranoia makes for bad national security "strategerizing," which raises the question of why the "liberal" response for far too long ranged only from rolling with the paranoia to criticizing the failures of execution of the old "the best defense is a good offense" strategy that stems from it. (You know, except for such weirdos as The Nation and much of Left Blogistan, whose wisdom and prescience earns them about as much respect and deference these days as those days.) Could liberal guilt have been the straw stirring the Kool-Aid that the corporate media and too many Democrats have been drinking for much of this century?

Since it's so difficult to gain perspective on one's own culture and history, let's take a quick look at Japanese Prime Minister Abe's terrible March, particularly the outcry around blogtopia (h/t: skippy) and the world to his insistence that the Japanese military did not coerce the "comfort women" into sexual slavery during World War II. Having mocked his claim myself, I wonder if all the people who are so forthright in their criticisms of Japanese conservatives' unwillingness to face the past frankly are willing to apply the same standards to U.S. liberals and conservatives when it comes to atrocities made in America. Would we see an outpouring of support in the U.S. if the Japanese Diet were to respond to Rep. Honda's proposed sexual slavery resolution with one of their own, calling for the U.S. President to take responsibility for, say, the U.S. government's endorsement of slavery, Indian removals, and so on, up to the fire bombing campaigns and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WW II, the entire Vietnam War, and the sexual violations by U.S. military personnel around bases all over Asia since the invasion and occupation of the Philippines? Or would we see the same kind of defensive and/or guilty reactions from U.S. political elites as we've been seeing from all-too-many mainstream Japanese politicians this past month?

It seems to me that liberal guilt and conservative paranoia are flawed strategies for dealing with the fact that citizens of a nation inherit all its history, not just the parts that they would like to remember or are convenient for them to memorialize. Just because my ancestors came to the U.S. from Poland and Hungary just before the 1924 Johnson-Reed Act shut down most U.S.-bound immigration for decades does not diminish the responsibility for the legacies of slavery all living Americans (and not only Americans) have to live with. Continually wallowing in guilt or repeatedly whirling in paranoia at our situatedness--our differential implicatedness--are worse than useless. In addition to wasting energy and distracting attention, both responses, while failing to exorcise responsibility, forestall exercising it. I'm not talking about reparations or apologies here; I'm talking about thinking through what restorative justice might look and act like.

While debates over our cruise down the road to Iraq are intensifying as we all wonder if the Bush team is really going to take that scary-looking exit for Iran, we don't need to go back to the nineteenth century to start the paranoia-guilt dialectic in motion. What I believe is fueling the War on Terra's version is the fact that during WW II the U.S. was the first and only nation-state to use what was at the time the ultimate WMD: the dropping of atomic bombs on civilian populations. Liberal guilt and conservative paranoia can't square the circle that the indiscriminate bombing of civilians was a war crime when Japan was doing it to China in the late 1930s yet became a key tactic for ending "the good war" when the Allies were doing it to the Axis just a few years later. U.S. historians have been arguing over the case for the air war and the use of atomic weapons for generations, but the mainstream political culture is still stuck in the same kind of "consensus" that allowed the right to successfully demagogue the proposed Smithsonian Enola Gay exhibit in the mid-1990s. But no matter how controversial it is within the U.S. to criticize the decision-making process that lead to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, no amount of internal controversy can erase the fact that America is exceptional in the WMD sweepstakes. The lesson conservative Dominionists take from this example of American exceptionalism can be found in the two Bush national security strategy documents. What most U.S. Sovereignty Liberals take from it is the need to distinguish good exceptionalism from bad exceptionalism, which helps explains why the principles they put forward for doing so receive so much criticism (from each other, from Dominionists, and from those who are more skeptical about the history of U.S. sovereignty).

If you a U.S. citizen, whatever your politics, you have inherited Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Whether you believe the atomic bombings were indefensible or justifiable--whether you see them as crimes against humanity or the least bad among terrible options during a time of War Without Mercy--your standing as an American citizen alone puts you in a position of unavoidable responsibility. Keep in mind that every justification for the atomic bombings that makes Japanese civilians responsible for everything the Japanese government did from the 1890s to the 1940s can be applied with greater force to the U.S. citizen/U.S. state relationship at any point in U.S. history. If American democracy is by, for, and of "the people," then as a legal member of that collective you bear some responsibility for what has been done in your name by the U.S. government, even if it took place before you were born, even if you tried to stop it.

Liberal guilt and conservative paranoia obscure and evade the fact that citizenship entails responsibility as well as rights. Perhaps soon post-9/11 Americans will come to understand that acting out on one's own paranoia only creates more and newer enemies while indulging in or seeking absolution from one's guilt does nothing to turn enemies into allies.

Better Go Find a Diabetic to Shake Down

I couldn't find a single version of the opening to Miffy in Japanese, so I'm forced to play my trump card in response to the Benzon kawaii offensive: Onegai My Melody!

Special bonus: click on the uploader's name for all the episodes--cuteness speaks an international language (although in this case it's Japanese). If any of you have seen FLCL, I think its weirdness was inspired by "My Melo"'s....

Monday, March 26, 2007

"D'oh!" Factor

Reading this post by Sifu Tweety on yet another of Greg Easterbrook's insistently ignorant science articles, this one published in a recent issue of Wired, I found myself wincing.

Our daughter's been with this fine young man for years now, and my wife asked her just before Christmas what kind of present he'd like, and then told me to hurry up online and order a subscription to Wired for him. Now, this young man is a natural born hipster from my way of thinking, and it surprised me he'd want something so, well, mainstream compared to what I've gathered of his taste in stuff over the years — Wired the Saturday Evening Post of the tech crowd, nn? Maybe I'd been misreading him all this time. Still, as is so often the case, I did what my wife asked, and she reported back to our daughter.

"Wired? …Wired!!!? No, no, noooooooo! Not Wired!! Wire!"

Yet another stubbed toe memorializing our inexorable progress into the Valley of the Geezers.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Cuteness to the Max

I raise you "Sugar Baby Love," the opening theme from Little Snow Fairy Sugar. It doesn't get any cuter than this:

In keeping with ultimate cuteness, the central story is about how middle-schooler Saga completes grieving for her mother even as her snow fairy friends become full-fledged snow fairies by finding their "twinkles." I can tell you right now that the show never ever tells you what a twinkle is. But nonetheless you know what it is when the show is over.

I'm guessing that onechan might well get into the waffos (waffles) and maybe the bubble baths, but twinkles are probably a bit sophisticated for her.

On a completely different tip, here's a mashup that combines the opening music* and visual styling for Cowboy Bebop with the characters from Azumanga Daioh:

*By the fiercely talented by Yoko Kanno, who's also done the music for the Ghost in the Shell franchise.

Here's a somewhat different take on Azumanga Daioh:

The little cute one is Chiyochan, a genius who went from 6th grade to high school. In the middle of that video you see a sequence where the girls are at the beach and one of them, Sakaki, daydreams that she's riding a dolphin. That is a very clever little piece of film-making, though it loses something without the dialog.

Not-Quite-Live-Blogging II: PGA and LPGA Tune-Up Edition

You know you love it! (But if you don't, head over to Citizen of Somewhere Else for more BerubeWatch and daddy blogging, or just scroll down for baseball and bad music, and we'll pretend this post never happened.)

While we wait for the contenders to get to the first tee, let's flag two big stories lazy LPGA journalists need to start covering.

Who's going to be the best of the LPGA Super Sophs this year? There was a lot of attention paid last year to the Rookie of the Year race, what with Ai Miyazato running away with the Q-School tournament, Morgan Pressel turning pro, Julieta Granada winning the million-dollar paycheck in the inaugural ADT Championship, and Seon Hwa Lee outlasting all of them to win the title. Well, so far this year, 7 of the top 14 money winners are members of that class of 2006. As of 4:00 am today (Japan time!) in the Safeway International, Jee Young Lee and Teresa Lu are in a race to see who can crack the top 10, Julieta Granada, Brittany Lang, and Morgan Pressel are fighting to eke out top 20s (Lu has joined them as of 5:00 am), and Seon Hwa Lee, Ai Miyazato, and Kyeong Bae are struggling to pass Veronica Zorzi and Nina Reis and make it into the top 50 (they couldn't do it by 5:00 am, although by 6:00 it looks like Lee may get into the top 50 if people ahead of her keep faltering). And at the end of the day they'll all still be chasing last week's winner Meaghan Francella on the 2007 money list. That's 11 sophs in all, seven of whom are already super by any standard. Who's afraid of the Sophomore Jinx?

Who among the LPGA's big names of the past decade who have struggled the last few years will get back on track in 2007? I'm talking Grace Park, Mi Hyun Kim, Laura Davies, Carin Koch, Sophie Gustafson, and Laura Diaz in particular. And will Karrie Webb, Se Ri Pak, Juli Inkster, and Pat Hurst be able to build on their successes in 2006? Add Annika Sorenstam to the mix and it'll be interesting to see how the stars who started in the 1990s will stack up in 2007 against all the now-seasoned competitors who started their careers between 2000 and 2005 as well as all the young 'uns.

All right, the last groups have started at Superstition Mountain--and Suzann Pettersen has cut Lorena Ochoa's lead to one stroke after only 3 holes, and has caught her after 5. (Looks like that 100-Yen Nishijin Crystal Ball is as reliable as ever--Jeong Jang is hanging in there, too, injured wrist and all. [Whoops, cancel that as of 6:15 am--she ballooned to a 39 on the front--maybe that crystal ball is better than I thought.]) At Doral, nobody among Saturday's top 10 has made a run at Tiger yet--looks like a race for second from here. I'll be back with updates as interesting things happen.

[Update 1 (6:42 am): Suzann Pettersen, Mi Hyun Kim (T11), and Brittany Lang (T16) have the rounds of the day thus far, all at five-under, although Pettersen, with 5 birdies in her first 7 holes, the lowest 9-hole score of the tournament (31), and a 1-shot lead over Lorena Ochoa through 12, is clearly the biggest story. Unlike Lorena, Tiger has a comfortable 5-shot lead after his front nine.

In other stories I've been following this week, Irene Cho took top rookie honors, shooting a solid 70 to finish at -3, with a chance to get in the top 20 if people still on the course falter. Angela Park did a free-fall down the leader board after double-bogeying the tenth for the second day in a row, although a late birdie pulled her within a shot of Paige Mackenzie. Among the Super Sophs, a costly bogey on 17 brought Jee Young Lee back to four-under on the day and -7 for the tournament (T6); Morgan Pressel fired a 68 to give herself a chance for a top-10 finish; Julieta Granada shot a 69 to tie Lang at -4 and guarantee herself a top-20 finish; and Teresa Lu is grinding her way back into a chance for a top-20 finish after a rocky start to the day. Among the vets, Laura Diaz is leading the way at four-under through 14 to bring her to -9, alone in 3rd, followed by Sophie Gustafson at -7 (T6); Laura Davies shot a 69 to put her even with Kim and Pressel; and Annika Sorenstam and Grace Park are getting left in the dust while Pat Hurst is going backwards fast, although they can't be as disappointed as defending champ Juli Inkster, who finished at the back of the pack.

BTW, if you want to read more about Korean LPGA stars and rookies, check out Seoul Sisters 5.1 (14 March 2007).]

[Update 2 (8:36 am): What a finish! Lorena Ochoa birdied 4 of her final 5 holes to hold off Suzann Pettersen, who did everything she could to win--firing the low round of the day (66), tying Ochoa as the only two players with all four rounds in the 60s, and beating Ochoa by being under par for each of her 8 9-hole rounds (Ochoa was at par for two of hers)--yet nevertheless lost by two shots to the soon-to-be world #1.

Laura Diaz (-10, T3 with Jeong Jang, who showed me that crystal ball of mine is flawed, after all) and Jee Young Lee (-8, alone in 7th) ended up joining today's 67 club. Vets Catriona Matthew, Sophie Gustafson, and Rachel Hetherington all posted 69s to join Annika Sorenstam and Shi Hyun Ahn in the top 10. Paula Creamer and Hee-Won Han finished one shot out of the top 10 at -6.

See why the LPGA is more exciting than the PGA this year? Tiger faltered a bit down the stretch but still won by two. Ho hum.]

[Update 3 (4:53 pm): Lorena Ochoa, in an interview after her victory: "It's very nice to see people that you know and especially to the workers here. When I went and talked to them on Tuesday, I think, I was spending time with them, and I told them, ‘Feel free to come and celebrate with me,' because this trophy is for all of you. It was very nice to see the reaction and to see them close. Hopefully they enjoy the day as much as I did. I'm very proud to be Mexican, and thank you to all of them for being here and, just working so hard throughout the year." Geoff Ogilvy, after Tiger's victory at Doral, commenting on the fact that "Woods has won 27.5 percent of his tournaments": "He only wins 30 percent of the time he tees it up," Ogilvy said. "I probably only play 13 or 14 tournaments that he plays in a year. I've got seven or eight chances he's not going to win. It's kind of inspiring." The power of hope through statistics, PR?]

[Update the Last (3/27/07, 7:35 pm): Time to get excited for the LPGA's first major of the year! As you can see from this week's Rolex Rankings, Lorena is as close to Annika as she's ever been. Once the LPGA updates its money list, I'll link to it here.]


My first union job was working as a vendor for the Harry Stevens concessions company, which proudly and maybe even accurately claimed to be the inventor of the hot dog. Or the hot dog bun, or the bun/hot dog combination, I forget which. It's been a long time.

The Harry Stevens company followed Horace Stoneham out West when he moved his Giants ball club to San Francisco, and because I lived in the right parish at the right time, and the manager of the company, Mr. Kelly, looked to his daughters' schoolmates for workers, my brothers and I found ourselves staggering around Candlestick Park during baseball season selling what passed for edible food in those days: popcorn and soda and peanuts in the shell and "coffee" and occasionally, yes, hot dogs, although hot dogs were usually taken out by vendors with more seniority. I worked hundreds of ballgames.

Which is only to say that when it comes to baseball, particularly when it comes to San Francisco Giants baseball, I feel the same abiding attachment of anyone who's drawn a paycheck in any field feels toward that endeavor, even though it's been decades since my last transaction involving a paper cup of lukewarm beverage on 20% commission.

…Spring arrives, and hope.

Giants ballclub logo

I admit it. I hope the Giants win on Opening Day, and on the succeeding day I hope they'll win then, too, and then on the day after that I hope they'll win, again, and by the intractable rules of mathematical induction it's pretty clear that the element of hope is being distributed equally along the entire range of Giants games each and every season on a day-to-day basis. In sum, I hope they'll win every game. I have no reason to think my hope can be realistically satisfied, but there it is.

On the other hand, smart people like Bill James have spent years now trying to put the analysis of the game of baseball on a firm statistical foundation — a very rational impulse considering the time, effort, and money people have lavished on the game over the years. Who wouldn't want to have some basis for believing that player X on Club Y is going to deliver Performance Z based on the range of possibilites allowed for by the game? If only there were some successful system for understanding why things turn out the way they do, it could be applied directly to discussions of the game and its players. Then the likelihood of my hope could be plotted against cruel reality, assigned to some confidence interval or other, and the grave leveler of sober expectation used to tamp down the hope which, unbidden yet inevitable, springs.

But still…

The YouTubeocalypse Strikes Back: Just for Roxanne

Over at Pandagon, Roxanne just complained about the way living in Japan has eroded her Insufferable Music Snob taste and cred. (I made a similar complaint just a little while ago to norbizness at Happy Furry Puppy Story Time.) I was going to try to make her feel better in the comments by leaving a few links to Pretty Cure theme music, but rather than deface Pandagon, I'll just declare YouTubeocalypse on her right here and now.

From Max Heart (the opening song--live!):

From Splash Star (consistently the best theme music of the franchise--onechan loves doing the ending dance!):

From Pretty Cure 5 (the ska ending!):

Go ahead and mock, but if you watch them three times a day for just a week, you'll love be addicted to them. I've been doing it for months....

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Quick Answers to Easy Questions

Will Tiger's final-round collapse last week and Lorena's two years ago this week affect them as they try to defend 4-shot leads Sunday at Doral and at Superstition Mountain? No. They'll win going away.

Will Alberto Gonzalez still be Attorney General of the U.S. in May? No. President Bush just reaffirmed his support for him. Get ready for the Rumsfeld treatment.

[Update 6/6/07: WTF! How does Gonzalez still have his job?!]

Nice Stories, Sad Stories

All right, so the second round of the Safeway International is finally over. Conditions were much more conducive to scoring yesterday, especially after a cold and wet morning turned into a sunny afternoon (until another weather delay brought the day to an end and forced half the field back onto the course early this morning).

And people went low: Lorena Ochoa had two eagles on her way to a stunning 64, bringing her to -11 and putting her 3 strokes ahead of her nearest competitor. Sophie Gustafson shot a 66 to vault into a tie for 8th with Annika Sorenstam, Mi Hyun Kim, and Laura Diaz at -3. Gloria Park shot a 67 to get to -6 and a tie for 4th with Jeong Jang (whose wrist is injured, so don't expect too much from her this weekend), while Teresa Lu's matching 67 put her among the 27 players under par after two rounds. All in all, there were more than three times as many golfers in the 60s in the second round as in the first.

Let's hear it for the moms: Catriona Matthew, playing in her first tournament since giving birth late last year, is Ochoa's nearest competitor, at -8. Hee Won Han, five months pregnant and playing in her last tournament before taking her maternity leave, is tied for 6th at -4.

The Rookie of the Year race heats up: Irene Cho (T12 at -2) and Paige Mackenzie (who followed up a 79 with a 68 to barely make the cut at +3) look to make up ground on Angela Park, whose bogey on the 17th seemed to have sealed her fate below the cut line, but whose astounding eagle on the 18th lifted her to a tie for 45th at +2.

By the skin of their teeth: Two of my favorite golfers, Ai Miyazato and Grace Park, had the worst second rounds of anyone who will still be playing on the weekend. But they're joined by 17 other players who just made the cut at +3. It'll be interesting to see who can turn it around in the last two rounds, and who goes from bad to worse.

Close only counts in...: Did you know that all but one of the nine players who missed the cut by one stroke at +4 (including NYers Moira and Meaghan, dammit!) have won on the LPGA Tour (and the one who hasn't is a rookie who bogied her last hole to miss the cut)? Well, now you do.

Put it behind you: Who would have thought before the tournament began that Cristie Kerr (whom I still think is the best American on the LPGA right now), Karrie Webb, and Natalie Gulbis wouldn't even come close to making the cut? That's golf for you.

Oh, and by the way: There's actually a pretty interesting top 10 chasing Tiger at Doral. You can check the Safeway round 3 pairings if you're so inclined. Me, I'm calling it a night.

Announcing TolkienWatch

Here at Mostly Harmless I've boldly staked out pop culture blogging claims to Star Wars, Disney, Japanese kids' tv, Pretty Cure, the LPGA, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, SMAP, Adult Swim, Beavis and Butthead, and Dick Cheney (not necessarily in that order). I now want to follow up on JP Stormcrow's tribute to Lord of the Rings by kindly asking you all to point your browsers to new blog Hug the Shoggoth and marvel at the use of Tolkien to advance the argument. Now that's blogging! Feel free to recommend other quality Tolkieniana out there in comments.

Gotta go check and see if Moira, Meaghan, and Se Ri are going to miss the cut at the Safeway International by one freaking shot (it would be the second year in a row this happened to Moira)--and if Lorena is going to use the last four holes to pull away from the field or not. Love those weather delays--second round should end just in time for bedtime....

Friday, March 23, 2007

Adventures in Domesticity

Imoto is showing signs of Second Child Syndrome. Now that she can crawl, cruise, and even take a step or four on her own, nothing that onechan has touched in the past five minutes is safe from her. The tsuma and I were able to use the Distraction Technique and the "Fair" Trading Technique on her older sister well into toddlerhood, but imoto falls for nothing. If she wants to go somewhere, get something, or do something and you get in her way, be ready for some serious baby frustration and anger. Because we give her much more space to play on her own than we did onechan, she's used to doing what she wants when she wants, so is less patient with interruptions or other agendas. Or maybe it's a combination of teething and growth spurt. In any case, she's much more purposeful and determined than onechan was at her age--it even shows up at mealtime. Onechan loved to be spoon-fed all kinds of baby foods from 6 months up; imoto can't stand baby food and thinks spoons are teething and gravity check devices. Although she was later to "solid" foods than her big sister, she insisted on feeding herself almost from the start. This has lead to two major near-choking incidents, because she has a habit of stuffing her face (as if she's afraid onechan will take her food or something). Because we never had to deal with any of this from onechan--by contrast, she scared us to death with three falls off the high bed in her first year and a half (zero total bruises)--it's definitely the scariest part of taking care of imoto.

Onechan is a handful in a different way, due in part to the influence of the older kids (and they're all older than her) at the yochien and in part to her ongoing adjustments to and imitations of her younger sister. If you say something interesting and then tell her she shouldn't say it, she's guaranteed to say it. I just made the mistake twice in the same evening, putting nonsense syllables we were going back and forth with into the word baka, which is quite the put-down among the under-6 crowd (stupidhead/fool/idiot don't quite capture its edge), and then referring to myself as a loser because of my various klutzinesses throughout the day. Yup, she's discovered new ways of enjoying the perverse satisfaction of defiance--not just through the usual "I'm a baby! I'm sleepy! I'm hungry! My feet hurt! I can't walk! Daddy, wait for me!" that she still performs at the top of her lungs on sidewalks all over Fukuoka when she wants me to carry her--but now through playing with edgy words. For a minute there, it felt like the Latin class from hell this evening as I was washing dishes: "Daddy's a loser! I'm a loser! You're a loser!"

Fortunately, both girls have great senses of humor, so it's pretty easy still to joke or silly them out of bad moods. Blowing razzberries on everyone near me before bathtime did the trick for imoto. Onechan pulled herself out of a fit induced by my refusal to carry her to the bathroom to brush her teeth by accidentally gargling in the middle of a toothbrush-in-mouth soliloquy about her trials and tribulations, which lead to her gargling and giggling her way through to its end.

On the Pretty Cure parody front, onechan and I came up with sidekicks for the team: Gohan Girl and the Gohan Kid. Think the Wonder Twins or (this will date me) Wendy and Marvin from The Superfriends meet even-more-kawaii versions of young Gohan from the Dragonball franchise. The inspiration is the fun fact that just as onechan has started to become a neater eater, imoto has picked up the slack by getting rice all over her body and the floor most every meal. Yup, Uh-Oh Diva Girl is passing the mantle of Gohan Girl down to her younger sister, who is too young yet to scoff at hand-me-downs. So, thanks to the power of young kids' messy eating, the Pretty Cure Parody Team will be backed up by pre-schooler powerhouses. [Update 3/24/07: Got another one--Cure Nande ("the power of a young girl's questions" [nande=why?])]

Yeesh, one half-day at the office and I start gushing about the musume futari. More ammo for the anti-children contingent among the Mostly Harmless crew, I'm afraid. Can you tell I don't want to get back to work? (In my defense, this really is vacation time for professors in Japan--the new semester doesn't start for a couple of weeks yet, and the work left over from the fall semester is usually done by mid-March.)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Link Love: Returning Favors

Berube premieres at Crooked Timber--oh, the frivolity!

spyder premieres at WAAGNFNP--oh, the personal hygiene!

PZ Myers enters a new contestant in the Blogocalypse Sweepstakes Carnival at Pharyngula--oh, those misreaders of Mayans!

Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon and Bitch Ph.D. at, well, Bitch Ph.D. show why Texas is the most progressive state in the Union--oh, for the days when $500 went an entire pregnancy!

Another weather delay at the LPGA's latest means about a quarter of the field isn't likely to finish today. Scores are high. With the low score for the day only a 68 and only 4 of the 19 players under par thus far safely in the clubhouse, anyone who can keep it within a couple of shots of par today has a chance to win. (In a four-round tournament this early in the year, you can expect one bad round from just about everyone in the field.)

Funny line of the day, courtesy of onechan's yochien, from a newsletter segment on what to tell your kids when you're pregnant.

KID: Why is your belly bigger, mama?
MAMA: Because there's a baby inside.
KID: You ate a baby?!

A Personal Note

Netflix is just fine, it's wonderful to have access to almost any film or T.V. series an eye could possibly want to see, and I'm close enough to the local distribution center that the turnaround time involved in sending back and receiving DVD's is practically next-day.

Still, …is it something about me, or is it something about the algorithm Netflix uses to make suggestions about what I might like to watch that offers me Ricky Gervais's latest T.V. series?

Extras: Season 1 (2-Disc Series)

Because you enjoyed:


The Battle of Algiers

City of God

True, I come from a family noted for breaking out into guffaws at the most inappropriate moments. But let the record show I remained relatively somber during those last two movies. Honest.

First Steps!

Imoto took her first steps today--four of 'em, in the middle of onechan's yochien's last-day-of-school party. Bittersweet day for everyone else, as two of the favorite teachers in the place aren't coming back for the new school year in April. Lots of food, lots of tears, lots of playing. I got to take my "bad monster" act to onechan's friends and it turns out they all do excellent Pretty Cure and Dragonball Z moves. Running around barefoot with a bunch of 3-to-5-year-olds in 60-degree-plus weather makes two nice days in a row. (Oh, and we broke the century mark in visits again. No doubt thanks to Claire's encouragement!) Trying to send some good vibes to my friend Moira as she takes to the tee against just about everyone in the top 50 in the LPGA this week. Got to go now--the tsuma wants to get to her blog (sorry, it's in Japanese) and is accusing me of sounding like Doogie Whoever (somebody help us out here!), MD, in this post. Now she's telling me how old I am for not watching it. Fun!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

First Full-Length WAAGNFNP Post Serious and Thoughtful--Who Would Have Guessed?

Check out Dr. Free Ride's take on science and belief at the earliest opportunity. It will go down in history as the first full-length WAAGNFNP post.

The children--they are rejoicing!

Nice Day

The first day of spring is a national holiday here in Japan, so the tsuma, onechan, imoto, and I took the day off. Which meant that in between playing the bad monster in the various Pretty Cure fight scenarios onechan cooked up, trying to teach her baseball and golf when I couldn't take the role-playing (non-cosuplay so far!) any more, making sure imoto didn't kill herself during her increasingly-bold forays into akachan-sized crannies of the apartment, and fighting with the tsuma over computer access (on which more in a second), I was able to check in on the WAAGNFNP site every so often and nag Oaktown Girl, spyder, and christian h about it over email--and see that the bread crumbs I left heralding its advent at, among other places, Bitch Ph.D., Pandagon, Crooked Timber, and Pharyngula produced the best day in Mostly Harmless history, visit-wise (I'd say "take that, Claire," but she would sneer patiently smile and softly sigh at our only breaking the 100-visit line and then 150-visit line for the first time today). Apparently there's an audience for what we're about to start doing at the WAAGNFNP come closing time on the West Coast...nice to know!

What I also found out over the course of the day is that the tsuma had (ok, has) a huge crush on one of the heroes of Legend of the Galactic Heroes (which, from the brief conversations we had during the day while new YouTube pages were loading and the longer talk we just had after she maxed herself out this evening while the kids were asleep and I was reading paper, sounds to me like the most important sf anime tv series ever) that rivals her SMAP guy crush. Which lead to an interest in the show so intense that she [REDACTED]. (Great story, eh? Sorry, I answer to an even higher authority than the WAAGNFNP's MOJ.) Anyway, she had a great time today in AnimeLand, which is just as good a place to celebrate the coming of spring as any. And I have another incentive to learn Japanese! (BTW, we did go out for dinner to a Korean BBQ place and just missed experiencing the high temps in the low 60s, so we weren't total otaku, ok?)

So, thanks, everyone, for being interested enough in the WAAGNFNP to get to it for today through Mostly Harmless. Y'all come back again real soon, hear?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The WAAGNFNP Is Coming! The WAAGNFNP Is Coming!

To a website near you! Today! Go!

Spring and All

It's spring in Japan! The Constructivist household is heading off on a cherry blossom bus tour later this morning and the Mostly Harmless crew has an explosive announcement to make upon our return. [Update: the tour was cancelled and we couldn't wait!] Now, though, here are some spring-like things for you all to look at, listen to, read, and hopefully enjoy....

The cover of the graduation brochure at onechan's yochien:

Yochien Graduation

Yes, they have a graduation ceremony for the pre-school kids who will be entering the official school system in April--and these are their self-portraits. Sugoi kawaii deshita! Or rather, as the Hakata kids would put it, cho kawaii!

Tsuma and I scoured the YouTubes for two Japanese kids' tv song-and-dance numbers in particular, but apparently NHK does a good job of protecting its copyrights, so you'll have to click here, then click on the right (musical) button and then click the blue (musical) button to listen to one of them, "biolantan." I guarantee you won't be able to get it out of your head, even if, as it turns out, the lead singer who composed it (and the even better one you can only buy right now) admitted the lyrics are pure nonsense. I'll take that over the impure nonsense oozing from the White House any day.

Speaking of which, General J.C. Christian just opened the unofficial campaign HQ of Disco Rudy over at Second Life. And AltJapan gets into the spirit of Celebrity Death Match via google trends. Sounds like he's been reading a certain Arbitrary But Fun Friday at a certain ex-Blogue, whose auteur apparently has blog scratch fever. Gotta love the spring!

One last thing: English-subtitled versions of Legend of the Galactic Heroes on teh YouTubes get scanty after the first 9 episodes, but you can brush up on your Japanese by working your way backwards from here and supplementing it with this. Maybe Adult Swim will get March Madness and make a deal to get all 110 episodes translated and aired by 2010!

[Note: Mostly Harmless will be hosting the Blogocalypse Carnival on April Fool's Day 2007. Start your keyboards and send your links to the[underscore]constructivist18[at]yahoo[dot]com no later than the morning of Saturday, March 31. Anything that combines bloggy with apocalypsy matters will at least be considered.]

Monday, March 19, 2007

What the World Really Needs Now: YouTubeocalypse Meets Blogocalypse Carnival

Yup, it's official! Mostly Harmless will be hosting the Blogocalypse Carnival on April Fool's Day 2007! So start those keyboards and send your links to the[underscore]constructivist18[at]yahoo[dot]com no later than the morning of Saturday, March 31. Anything that combines bloggy with apocalypsy matters will at least be considered. Apologies for the short notice, but hosting arrangements had to be worked out with a certain Party's higher-ups, and you know what they say about the wheels of Justice.

On a lighter note, here's a cheery clip (with ninjas!) that always brightens the spirits of the Constructivist household whenever we catch it on Japanese kids' tv in the morning or afternoon. Consider it inspiration for your blogocalyptic efforts, if not as The Official Dance of the End Times:

Sunday, March 18, 2007

What the World Needs Now... a good parody of the Pretty Cure franchise. Look, Mostly Harmless botched International Women's Day, forgot to blog against the Iraq invasion/occupation on both massive protest days this past weekend, and even missed Pi Day. But what could be more relevant in our topsy-turvy screwed-up world than the way corporations help young girls entertain themselves? One way they do this is by selling an idealized version of girlhood (which leads to other kinds of sales that the tsuma and I have learned how to postpone if not block entirely simply by repeating the mantras, "takai!" [expensive] and "when you're old enough to buy it for yourself," whenever onechan says, "I want that!"). So what does Pretty Cure's version reveal about gender in Japan? That's a subject for another post, after onechan and I have watched our way through more episodes.

But in between coloring in the Yes! Pretty Cure 5 girls' hair in the cheapo coloring books we did buy for her, drawing cartoons of onechan and her friends with Pretty Cure hair ("draw a maru [circle]!" for the face [so she can do the rest]), and discussing why it may not be a good thing to actually have ponytails that go all the way to the ground, we have come up with a few new characters. When the Pretty Cure 5 characters transform (in this season it's called metamorufose rather than the usual henshin), they spout something about "the power of a young girl's..." (dreams, passion, anger, whatever), at least according to the folks who give you the almost-instant subtitles on the YouTube (wikipedia gives you more literal, that is, WTF? translations, btw). When you add in the silliness of some of their names (Cure Rouge, Cure Lemonade, Cure Mint...), you have great material for parody.

So I started with Cure Yada (the power of a young girl's defiance). Onechan countered with Cure Coughy (the power of a young girl's sickness). I shot back with Cure Gelato (the power of a young girl's sugar high), Cure Itai (the power of a young girl's overreaction), and Cure Cranky (the power of a young girl's sleepiness). Onechan is still working on her response. We'll be collaborating on character designs and plots this spring. More later! more golf not-quite-live-blogging. Tiger, Vijay, and Sergio are chasing Vaughan Taylor at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Bay Hill has been playing brutally tough this week, as only 18 players are under par right now and many really good players are in double digits over par, so anything can happen. If I wake up in time to catch the back nine, I may share my reactions. But I should probably save myself for the upcoming majors--the Kraft Nabisco Championship at the end of March (after I get back from the Fulbright meeting in Tokyo, that is), and of course The Masters at the beginning of April. And before then the field at this weekend's Safeway International is stellar--Ai, Lorena, Moira, and Meaghan will be there, so I will, too, so to speak.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Postmodern Americana

Rocky & Bullwinkle. The Muppet Show. The Simpsons. Hip hop.

If you ever need to explain pomo to a friend, or exemplify it in a classroom, you could do worse than show a "Fractured Fairy Tale," play a clip from "Homer Bad Man" (you know, the Gummi Venus de Milo episode), or explain sampling. Feel free to elaborate in comments--imoto is up and in danger of waking up onechan! Time to entertain a ten-month-old!

[Update: Now that Pretty Cure 5 is over, I had time to check out Chris Clarke's DisneyWatch. I suggest you do, too, after checking out the latest Berube manifestation.]

Friday, March 16, 2007

YouTubeocalypse III: Americanization/Japanization

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the original Gatchaman opening:

(This is what the tsuma was watching while growing up in southeastern Japan.)

Now sharpen your powers of observation and check this out from Battle of the Planets (aka G-Force):

(This is what I was watching while growing up in central NY. Not to be confused with Star Blazers, which my dad often got up at 6 am to watch with my brother and me. More on that later)

Those who think globalization only means Americanization should consider the implications of their comparisons of these clips alone. But those who think it means pure transnationalism should do the same, for national cultures have always been good at assimilating foreign influences (it's kind of what they do).

[Update 3/22/07: You. Must. See. This.]

Case in point: Legend of the Galactic Heroes. When you get a free hour-and-a-half, watch the first four episodes and let me know if you're not hooked. Here's the first to get you started (if you're the impatient type, skip from it to episode 3):

Once you get past the terrible quality of the subtitles (there's never been an official U.S. release--and as long as neoconservatives and neoliberals have such a disproportionate influence on American political culture, there never will), you'll no doubt notice its obvious influences, from dashes of Robert Heinlein, Joe Haldeman, and Orson Scott Card to truckloads of E.E. "Doc" Smith, Isaac Asimov, and Star Wars. (SF purists no doubt will condemn me for adding amazing fantasy writer Guy Gavriel Kay to the list, while historians will point out that my claim of influence needs documentation. To the former, I say, "whatever"; to the latter, I say, "yeah, yeah--wanna do it for me?")

And yet, Legend of the Galactic Heroes is much more than the sum of its American influences or interesting only for its resonances with transnational SF traditions. Whether you read it for its implicit commentary on World War II and the Cold War, or its proleptic applicability to the War on Terra (did I mention episode 3? yes? well, check episode 4, too!), it's exactly the kind of historical anime I wrote about when this blog was young and innocent and fresh that represents and enacts a working through of Japanese history. Through its playing with the "space opera" tradition and term--yes, there is opera in the soundtrack, it deals with many themes from German Romanticism, and its Reich Empire borrows freely from 19th C Prussia and mid-20th C Germany--it gets you critical of the leaders of both sides and of the war itself within the first few episodes. Plus it has an international interplanetary Jewish conspiracy in its mysterious, officially neutral third party planet that looks like a parody of the Foundation series to me. It's even possible it influenced Dan Simmons as he was working on his Hyperion and Endymion series and George Lucas as he was gathering ideas for his Star Wars prequels. But as I haven't even gotten to the end of the sixth episode yet, I'll throw these out as teasers rather than definitive claims.

Watch the whole thing (all 110 episodes) yourself, as we've been known to say in blogoramaville once or twice....

Thursday, March 15, 2007

This Begs for the Berube Treatment

I get an email newsletter from a guy who runs a hedge fund. No idea why. He says he sends it out to over a million people a week. Maybe he's hoping Congress someday allows the middle class to invest in hedge funds and is trying to build a potential client list. Who knows? Anyway, one of the nice things he does is send out articles by George Friedman of Stratfor for free to us. That, and summarize debates among investment analysts, bankers, and academics--you know, the capitalist priesthood--over how to interpret the global economy.

So anyway, in his most recent essay that popped up in my inbox, Friedman uses a poker metaphor of dubious merit to explain why Iran and the U.S. have been publicly negotiating with each other in recent weeks. Strike one. And along the way he repeatedly refers to the Bush administration as "crippled." Strike two. Feel free to read the essay to find the third strike.

I think the WAAGNFNP needs to get apocalyptic on Stratfor. This is a job for the Chairman-for-Life! If only there were some means by which he could transmit his words to us over teh intertubes....

YouTubeocalypse II: Japanese Juxtapositions

In one corner, You Gotta Quintet doing The Village People:

In the other, SMAP with The Stylistics:

Ladies and Gentlemen, start your keyboards! (Click fast, because new SMAP material gets pulled from YouTube after a few weeks.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Where Can You Find the Buffy on the Intertubes?

The Kugelmass Episodes (picking up where he left off a while back) and Wax Banks (he continues the next few days, too). Just in case Shannon M needs a break from her real life or wants to introduce her teen ward to the wonders of Buffy.

Disclaimer: it may or may not be true that Shannon M and I were part of the same Buffy "reading" group at some point in the last decade.

Factoid: and that she goes by Shannon Q elsewhere. Who knows how many letters of the alphabet she has annexed without anyone noticing?

This message has been approved by the Committee to Enlist Shannon M and Sloucho to Take a Break from Working for a Living and Cajole peter ramus into Getting a New Computer.

[Update 3/19/07: For doctoral level Buffistas only.]

Where Can You Find the Funny on the Intertubes?

The funny can be found in Claire's posts at The Weblog. It may also be found in norbizness's posts at Happy Furry Puppy Story Time. They have been moving up this year's Timex Rankings (for bloggy fun) faster than Meaghan Francella on the Rolex Rankings.

This message has been approved by the Committee to Enlist Shannon M and Sloucho to Take a Break from Working for a Living and Cajole peter ramus into Getting a New Computer.

This Has "Sloucho" Written All Over It

Let me tell you a few things about Sloucho. Special bonus: all of them are true.

He is one of the leading Fantasy Football pundits on satellite radio. He was one of the best things about Epinions. He's been a drummer in two of the greatest bands you've never heard of, although not in this one. He founded the Texas School of Deconstruction in the early 1990s. He published the book based on his dissertation in the 2000s, before any of the several novels he wrote during grad school, which sadly remain unpublished (except in Pushcart Prize nominated short stories). He and I spent far too many hours researching video games not to have finished the book we planned to write together on them five years ago by now. He is the friend I mentioned in a comment a little while back who's been trying to sell me on Family Guy. He is against children. He is currently experiencing the joys of tenure-track purgatory after years in adjunct hell. When is he going to finish that science fiction novel? Not even he knows.

And he was put on this planet to respond to this.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Onechan's Japaneses

One of the moments I always enjoy teaching from Gloria Anzaldua's Borderlands/La Frontera is the chapter in which she lists the many varieties of Spanish she speaks and describes the code-switching she does in her everyday life. (I'm following the literary critic's convention of speaking of a work in the present tense, even though it is past and its author has passed.) So it made me happy to hear from She-Who-Will-Not-Be-Mentioned-On-Blogs that even though onechan is only 3, she already combines four varieties of Japanese in her everyday speech: her mama's Chiba dialect, her cousins' Okinawa dialect, her yochien playmates' Hakata dialect, and her dad's bad Japanese. Good examples of the third include saying "doshtato" for "doshtano" (what's going on?) and "cho kawaii" for "sugoi kawaii" (super cute). The Okinawan dialect inserts a lot of "sa"s, "ota"s, and "shitota"s at or near the end of common words and phrases. For those, whether outside or inside Japan, who buy into the myth of national homogeneity, the linguistic diversity even within one well-travelled sansai onnanoko is the beginning of a rebuttal. And John Lie's Multiethnic Japan makes the case against ethnic homogeneity.

Another sign of the GNF

Q. Where should you set your irony-meter for this one?

Jumping to the GNF

Here's a short from Osamu Tezuka from 1984. You have to wait 'till the end to behold a glorious GNF.
And then a trip to the Other World.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Take This, Glenn Greenwald! or, Not-Quite-Live-Blogging the LPGA

I shall out-update you today--this I vow. (Updated below.)

I was going to start this post by congratulating Moira Dunn for grinding out her round on a day that hasn't been giving up many birdies--or if it was to some, like Lorena Ochoa and Mi Hyun Kim, taking them away with many bogeys--and making her second birdie to tie Annika Sorenstam for fourth in the second round of the MasterCard Classic. But I just went back to the leaderboard and found out she just double-bogeyed the 5th hole (her 14th) to fall back into a tie for ninth with Lorena Ochoa and a host of others. (Now 8th. They update their scores faster than I can type, it seems.) It will be very interesting to see how she handles this. Back when we were playing together in the 1980s, she had an even worse temper than I did, which is saying a lot--and I heard rumors that in her early years on the LPGA it was holding her back. But if a kid like Beth Bader can bounce back from a triple bogey on the par-5 18th hole of her first round and be having one of the best second rounds of the tournament (-4 for the day, surpassed only by Angela Stanford), I don't see why a veteran like Moira can't recover, especally with two par 5s coming up. But those last few holes on the front 9 can be tricky today--they killed Mi Hyun Kim's round, for instance. OK, here's the update: only a par on the par-5 6th hole--back in T9. Back with more later, after I get some sleep.

[Update 1 (3:58 am): How could I go to sleep when there were three dramas to follow as round two came to a close? (Not only Moira's fate, but the top of the leaderboard and the cut line, as well.) Here's what stands out to me now that round two is history.

Moira made another closing double-bogey on a par-4 preceding a par-5, this time on the 8th hole. Was she looking ahead to the par-5s and thinking ahead to making birdies and getting into in the top 3? Was the pressure of being in contention for her second win getting to her? Was it the temper? Whatever the cause, she couldn't birdie either of her final par-5s and is now in a tie for 26th at -1. Professional golf is cruel.

I hope Moira gets paired with Mi Hyun Kim--maybe they both can bounce back from deeply disappointing second rounds and get back into the top 10 by the end of the tournament. Or maybe playing with rookie Angela Stanford Park would inspire her. [sorry, I was sleepy--and, btw, it looks to me like Moira and Mi Hyun are in the same final round pairing--TC 5:08 pm] Many things can happen after a round like this, but two in particular stand out. With the pressure of being in contention off, Moira might go back to playing good golf. Or with money pressure dogging her and doubts and frustrations creeping in, she could go from bad to worse. Golf is just that way.

Annika Sorenstam must be furious after bogeying her final hole, the par-5 9th, to fall from a tie for third with Seon Hwa Lee at -6 to a tie for fourth at -5, now three shots behind the leader Meaghan Francella (a two-time NY State Junior champion, I just found out--but can she hang with the big names after posting two consecutive career-best LPGA rounds? she's had a lot of time to rest since finishing her second round yesterday--but also a lot of time to worry) and two behind Stacy Prammanasudh (who clearly is the hottest player on the tour right now). But then, Lee and Prammanasudh must also be disappointed by their matching bogeys on the 8th hole, their 17th, which was a two-stroke swing with Francella, who birdied the 8th on Saturday.

By contrast, Lorena Ochoa must be feeling pretty good about making her 6th birdie of the day on the 9th hole, also her final one, which got her to only four shots out of the lead, tied for 7th. If she weren't rusty (as evidenced by her making 6 bogeys in 36 holes, well above her career average), she'd be running away with the tournament (or at least right there with Lee and Prammanasudh, who have also made their share of bogeys). Oh well, woulda coulda shoulda, as my mom would always say to me when I complained about my latest score as a teenager....

Jeong Jang and Christina Kim showed what kind of professionals they are by weathering mind-numbingly disastrous "middle 18s" and holding on to make the cut. It would have been easy for them to pack it in after free-falling off the top of the leaderboard, but they're too tough for that. Expect good final rounds from them.

Natalie Gulbis and Paula Creamer missed the cut, but Paula showed what a fighter she is by putting up a late charge and birdieing 4 of her last 7 holes after doing nothing good the previous 29, while Natalie showed how to squander an opening-round 69 with a triple-bogey on her first 9 and a double-bogey on her second. What makes this just a little bitter for Paula is that the cut line suddenly moved from +2 to +3 in the final forty-five minutes or so of the round; if she could have just birdied the par-5 9th, she would have made the cut. But good for Nina Reis, who bounced back from a 77 to just make the cut with a 70 in her second round (almost as good as Marisa Baena's 77-69!)--and too bad for Kim Williams, who came one 18th-hole birdie shy of pulling a BaenaReis. The less said of Julieta Granada's entire tournament and Maru Martinez's double-bogey on the 17th that put her below the cut line, the better. On the bright side, Meena Lee vaulted into a tie for 15th place with a 69 today, guaranteeing her first paycheck of the year and vindicating my pre-season confidence in her.

Prediction: it's going to come down to Lee, Prammanasudh, Sorenstam, and Ochoa on the back 9 later today or early tomorrow...and Lee wins it.]

[Update 2 (8:10 am): This day can't end soon enough for Moira. Can we get another weather suspension of play, Astaroth? She's one of the few golfers over par in the opening holes of the final round--which was delayed by almost three hours due to dangerous weather yet again--and is firmly ensconsed in the middle of the pack at E after 5 holes (T38). Do they use air horns in Mexico to notify golfers of the end of the day? To paraphrase Melville, "Call it! Call it, quick!" Or how about, "Blow that horn! Ring that bell! (with apologies to Paul Robeson)?]

[Update 3 (10:15 am): Back from dropping off onechan at her yochien and overjoyed to see play was suspended 20 minutes after my last update. Praise Astaroth! Moira has 12 holes tomorrow to get herself back in the race for the top 10. At the end of the day Sunday, it's great to see Grace Park and Shi Hyun Ahn in the middle of this race in their first tournament of the year, as both struggled in the second half of last year. Brittany Lang and Cristie Kerr have grinded (ground?) their way into the mix, as well. Right now there are about twenty people who still have a chance to win if the leaders all falter, but I stand by my prediction in update 1.... Back in the evening, my time!]

[Update 4 (1:49 pm): Hey, we're all about the gender-equity here in our first not-quite-live-blogging-the-LPGA post, so I'm happy to report that Charles Howell III's final round -6 earned him enough to be on top of the PGA money list for 2007. When short guys do well on the PGA, you'll hear about it here from me.]

[Update 5 (4:49 pm): Since Glenn Greenwald's updates total for the entire weekend was a paltry 3, I'll extend this one-time-only-deal to count all his Saturday-through-Monday blogging updates to his total.]

[Update 6 (4:59 pm): Poor Lorie Kane! She had played her way into the race for the top 10 but signed an incorrect card after her second round and got disqualified. Julieta Granada forgot to sign hers entirely--another DQ--although she's probably so disgusted with her performance this weekend it couldn't get any worse in her eyes.]

[Update 7 (5:12 pm): Meaghan Francella blogs! Will blogtopia (h/t skippy) offer her mo' better support than her fellow NYer at MH has?]

[Update 8 (3/13/03, 3:41 am): Oh, ye of little faith and much sleep. Meaghan Francella has a chance to shoot her third consecutive 68 and win the tournament, despite a fantastic -6 round from Annika today, the best of the tournament. Wish I hadn't overslept and missed all the drama. More soon--she's on the 18th!]

[Update 9 (3:44 am): It's playoff time! Super Soph vs. Swedish Sensation!]

[Update 10 (4:18 am): While everyone gets organized at Bosque Real, it's worth recapping a few other things. Twin double bogeys killed another good round of Moira's--she had battled her way to -2 through 13 when the wheels came off again this round, as in the second, dropping her (with a nice birdie following the second double-bogey) to +1 for the tournament. Free-falling from T4 to T45 can't feel good, but that's what going 8-over on just four of the final 36 holes will do to you. You can't blame it all on her being a NYer, either, as Laura Diaz birdied three of her final five holes to claw her way to -2 and a top 20 finish, joining Cristie Kerr and Brittany Lang, who kept grinding as predicted, along with others at T19. And of course the person trying to deny Annika her third straight MasterCard Classic victory is a NYer. Way to go, Francella! On a day when Lorena's and Seon Hwa's and Stacy's birdie barrages rather surprisingly (to me) ended, you hung in there and played your own game while the World #1 was birdieing 7 of the first 14 holes--and made a crucial birdie right after an uncharacteristic late Sorenstam bogey to pull even with her and give yourself a chance to win in regulation.

Congrats also to Kyeong Bae, Angela Stanford, and Shi Hyun Ahn, who all shot 67s to get into the top 10. Condolences to Grace Park and Mi Hyun Kim, who could never get their rounds going and finished T35. And never mind my earlier prediction that Christina Kim and Jeong Jang had some momentum going into the final round; Jang began her day with a triple and hung in there the rest of the day to finish with a 75 (T63) and Kim made a bogey to offset each of her three birdies to finish the tournament at +2 (T50). So much for the Mostly Harmless Crystal Ball--I knew I shouldn't have bought it at that 100-Yen Store in Nishijin. Although I stand by my earlier characterization of what it's going to take to do well in a tournament with such a deep talent pool in the LPGA and predictions for the season.]

[Update 11 (4:22 am): I'll bet the Golf Channel is kicking itself for its decision not to televise this event's final day. If they have any brains, they left a camera crew there and got some footage, at least; and if they're really smart, they'll have figured out a way to televise the playoff live. As for me, I'm stuck watching the main page for progress reports. So the playoff format is to keep playing the 18th hole until they stop tying it. They tied it once, so they're still playing....]

[Update 12 (4:56 am): I've been supplementing with all the other sports websites you'd,, CBS, the various major golf publications with an online presence--and I have to say, if Tiger Woods was in a playoff against, oh, say, Camilo Villegas, would you expect to scramble to find any mention of it? Because you could make an argument that Annika should be a bigger story in the golf world than Tiger (you'd lose, but it would be a good one) and that the LPGA offers far better competition and more compelling stories than the PGA this year (although a few people by the names of Howell, Mickelson, and Singh are trying to prove me wrong). Whatever. It just annoys me that even the Golf Channel doesn't know how to cover, much less promote, women's golf.]

[Update 13 (5:14 am): Francella wins on fourth playoff hole! Wow! Head over to her blog to congratulate her!]

[Update 14 (5:40 am): Doesn't look like Greenwald's Salon overlords smile upon his love of the update--or maybe his readers haven't gotten into controversies that he feels a need to respond to over the past few days. Whatever the case, looks like the Mostly Harmless (14) vs. Unclaimed Territory (3) Update Playoff will end up having been much less exciting than the Francella-Sorenstam one!]

[Update the Last (3/14/07, 7:25 am): Take a look at the current money list and Rolex rankings when you get a chance! Francella jumped 253 spots to #77 in the world--that's gotta feel good. Moira fell 10 spots to #218. Hey, but at least she's #94 on the money list, hanging with Juli Inkster and Lorie Kane and Wendy Ward, as opposed to not showing up on it at all....]

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Odds and Ends

Because this is the Official Star Wars Blog of the WAAGNFNP: via Think Progress, John McCain is no Luke Skywalker (you think? Amanda at Pandagon IDs him as a Cheney wannabe); via boing boing, a link to Abba the Hut; and via a commenter to the last link, Jabba: The Musical.

Onechan is getting smarter: she loves her Pretty Cure bandaids we bought in a moment of weakness, so was overjoyed to scrape her finger a couple of days ago and finally have the opportunity to actually use them. I only change them when they get wet and explained why to her several times the day it happened. Yesterday she was complaining I had put one on too tight, and after a while I told her there's no way I'm replacing it until after her bath that night. So she thinks for a second and makes a dash for the bathroom. Upon her return, she tells me, "I washed my hands." Bandaid gets changed. She is 3. I am doomed.

Imoto has my proportions: she's ten months old, fits into 6-month-old pants and an 18-month-old top. Somehow the doctor telling my tsuma not to worry about her short legs was not that reassuring. Especially when she assumed that the foreigner she is married to must be tall, which I most certainly am not.

Anyone know how to take a screen shot? The link in my last post to the LPGA leaderboard is dynamic, which is not that big a deal, since by the end of the tournament it'll give you the option of looking back at the day 1 leaderboard (or if it doesn't you can still see that Dunn shot a 69 in the first round for yourself), but I would like to know how to do this for other reasons.

BTW, play has been suspended again in the LPGA Mexico event, for the second day in a row. Morning scores had been either very high or very low. Last year's Rookie of the Year Seon Hwa Lee birdied her last four holes in her first round and a couple more in her second to reach -5 through 31 holes--she must be disappointed at the stoppage, along with Angela Stanford, Meena Lee, Meaghan Francella (the current leader at -8), and a few others who were tearing up the course, while the ones who played badly enough to guarantee their missing the cut must be thinking of withdrawing. None of the leaders who played in the morning yesterday got to start their second rounds yet--I think the ideal situation for them would be the delay lasting just long enough to cool the jets of those who have been catching up with or passing them but short enough that they get in 7-12 holes today. That way if they're off today the damage they do to their cause can be fixed with a good long day tomorrow, and if they're on it probably means they're going to be on for the entire event. Worst case scenario is only getting a few holes in: with the altitude and the course being crowded early because the cut line wouldn't have been established, trying to get in more than 30 holes tomorrow would be exhausting. Better for them not to play at all today, which would guarantee the tournament going over to Monday (I hope the LPGA refuses to have weather-shortened events this year).

I'm rethinking my position on Pretty Cure 5: I've seen a few of the new episodes of Pretty Cure 5 with English subtitles on the YouTube, and it's growing on me. The bad guys hate dreams and friendship and are all corporate, while the dialogue among the friends who eventually become PC is less sappy and saccharine than I anticipated. Plus the ending song isn't bad. Making the first of the cute fluffy refugees from the other world destroyed by the bad guys able to transform into a cute guy who becomes a teacher at the girls' school, and on whom one of the characters seems to have a crush is teh weak, though, as is the opening song. And when are they going to have a Cure Yada, who pontificates about the power of a young girl's defiance as she does her thankfully brief and relatively tasteful henshin (transformation)? (So far it's been all sentimental, though strangely moving to me, stuff like "the power of a young girl's dreams.") She-Who-Will-Not-Be-Mentioned-on-Blogs and I still agree that moving from 2 or 3 to 5 main characters is going to weaken the characterization and relationships and keep the family subplots that made Max Heart and Splash Star so charming to us out of the show. If the girls get up early enough, we'll watch some more on teh YouTubes before the new show airs this morning. This is what I'm reduced to without Adult Swim.

LPGA Update

It's the weekend--and I can't wait to do some LPGA blogging. Here's why. You'll note big names in the top 10 at this point in the first round (play has been suspended) of the MasterCard Classic down in Mexico, like my picks for great years Annika Sorenstam (-3) and Mi Hyun Kim (-3), along with Natalie Gulbis (-3) and Stacy Prammanasudh (who's leading at -5--talk about a hot start to 2007 for the LPGA's leading money winner and only player in the field with a winning streak to extend). You'll see that Lorena Ochoa and Jeong Jang didn't shoot themselves out of the tournament, although they're already 4 and 5 shots off the lead, respectively, with only two rounds to go. What you'll probably overlook is that Moira Dunn is tied for 6th place at -3. Why should you care? Why do I care?

Well, I can't really answer the first question, so I'll stick with the second. I was paired with Moira in the first-ever junior golf tournament I ever played in. I tied her that day, although I doubt I ever did as well against her the rest of my quite undistinguished junior golf career. (If you ever happened to visit onechan's and imoto's grandma and grandpa's house a few years ago, you'd have seen literally dozens of golf trophies that my younger brother won, along with one of mine--and that was literally won by entering more tournaments than my nearest competitors; that and playing just well enough in them to get the most points over the course of the season in my age group. They've since forced my brother and I to take the trophies to our houses, which obviously has been much more of a burden for him than me, what with the four kids under 6 and no space and all. And yet somehow he gets to play more golf than me. Probably helps that he works in the golf industry....) By the time I started playing Division III college golf in the Northeast (the only level and region I could have possibly played college golf in), Moira and I were no longer playing together very much at all, but for a few summers in the 1980s we were friends and rivals. (And yes, she could outdrive me from the start, dammit.)

So of course I've been following Moira's LPGA career since she turned pro in the mid-'90s. It's been a roller coaster. Peaks include her first (and only win) in 2004, a 64 in 2001 (in a tournament in which she tied Annika Sorenstam for second, at -18), two top tens in majors (in 2004 and 2005, years in which she finished 35th and 42nd on the money lists, respectively--her best finishes since 2001, when she was 32nd), and winning $1.8M in her 12-year career. Unfortunately, last year was one of the worst in her life--bad driving, bad putting, bad results--and she dropped to 115th on the money list. She remains an "exempt" player, which means she can get into most tournaments she wants to play, but only because of her 2004 win, which will no longer "count" for determining status for the 2008 season.

In 2007, then, Moira Dunn is playing for her career. Missing the first two cuts of the year, as she did in Hawaii, is not unexpected for a golfer who grew up in central NY (I'd say upstate, but NYCers would think I mean Westchester County!)--where right now the low temperatures are hovering around zero Fahrenheit (winter came late, cold, and snowy). Since she doesn't normally start playing really well until mid-summer, a good finish in Mexico would be just the start to the season she needs.

So keep an eye on Moira Dunn this year, Oaktown Girl, and see if you can get Astaroth, Gojira, and 3Tops to intimidate the golf gods into smiling on her this year!

Friday, March 9, 2007

You Want Kawaii? You Can't Handle Kawaii!

This is only a test. Look out world: I can now post from my Flickr photostream to Mostly Harmless. (By the way, is anyone else not seeing the title or text until you scroll down and scroll back up? The problem seems to disappear when this post is no longer on top.)

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Least Harmless Historical Analogy Weekend

So high-ranking State Department official Eliot Cohen says the U.S. is in World War IV. In response, let me offer a possible candidate for Least Harmless Bloggy Misuse of an Historical Analogy of 2007.

Let's play devil's advocate and suppose for a moment that Cohen is right. Do you think that makes Iraq America's Belgium (for Germany in WW I), Manchukuo (for Japan in WW II), or Afghanistan (for the Soviet Union in WW III)?

Or wait, is it possible these are decent analogies? How likely is it that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq will end up being one of those initial successes that turns out to be the seed of a larger defeat?

BTW, the Manchukuo one (the puppet government Imperial Japan set up in Manchuria after their 1931 invasion and occupation) actually comes from Capra's Why We Fight series of WW II propaganda films, which argued that difficulties in holding Chinese territory and exploiting resources in it drove the Japanese government to decide to invade SE Asia to gain access to its natural resources, which necessitated a quick strike against the U.S. at Pearl Harbor and in the Philippines to deter their biggest rival in the region. (Not to mention my sense that many [though thankfully not all] of Capra's critiques of fascist regimes could be levelled against the Bush-Cheney administration.) I know, I know, weak, right?

Discuss (when you can tear yourself away from commenting on Berube's first official Pandagon weekend posting). And if you think these are bad, wait till you hear why my reading of Thomas Bender's A Nation Among Nations suggests links between the unexpected rise of revolutions in the 18th C western hemisphere following England's decisive defeat of France in that century's global war and the rise of liberation movements that attempted to put an end to European colonialism following WW II--and its implications for our not-really-all-that-postcolonial world now that the U.S. since the 1990s has been in roughly the same position as England was in the 1760s, geopolitically speaking.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

YouTubeocalypse: For the "Japan is..." Crowd

This one is for zuzu, who unfunnied an anemic post by d--far below their usual standards. It's also for everyone who hopped on the Japanese Self-Defense Forces' manga logo meme bandwagon and who participates in the burgeoning "Japan is weird" bloggy genre.

Commenters at Feministe veered between participation in and critique of zuzu's "Japan Is Slightly Terrifying" title for a promo shot of Hello Kitty Airline (a Taiwanese outfit, as was pointed out, part of a Taiwanese multinational consortium, as wasn't). Disney came up a bit, of course--it's not like America isn't brimming with cutesy and completely corporatized cartoon characters. In fact, Disney recently bought Studio Ghibli (that's why there was that Miyazaki marathon on A&E last year). Kind of a metaphor for or just plain old example of something--but what?

But I digress. I don't claim to be a big expert on Japan or anything. I didn't even hear of this band called SMAP, which is the biggest band in the history of Japan and the biggest boy band in the history of the world (despite no longer being close to even having been boys) until She-Who-Will-Not-Be-Mentioned-on-Blogs revealed to me the heights and depth of her fandom a few years ago. (Which is not at all about being an otaku, she emphasizes--otaku are so into things few others care about they'll only talk about their obsessions, not that she has anything against otaku, having married one, she hastened to add.) OK, so SMAP is bigger than the Beatles. They've taken over Japanese media of all kinds. Kimura Takuya, Kimutaku as his fans call him, is the undisputed heavyweight of the group (although SWWNBMOB has decided she's transferring her affections to some other guy in the group, not that I would ever admit to feeling jealous of a pop icon). Which is one way of setting up this little clip, Kimutaka's version of the "para para" dance thing that was popular seven or eight years ago in Japan.

Analyze Critique Mock Beat this!

Yup, Mostly Harmless is out to start a YouTubeocalypse. (Calling all Benzons....) [YouTube publishes the embedding code to the right of the video; you just have to copy it into your post, as I did above--BB] Laughter may now commence over my screwing up the code Adrian gave us for needing help making those cute windows show up (I used ' instead of ", for crying out loud!).