Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Blazing Saddles and Transatlantic Postmodernism

[Note to my regular readers who come here for women's golf coverage:  I'm airing Mel Brooks's 1974 film Blazing Saddles tonight as part of SUNY Fredonia's American Studies film series "Myths of the American West," so decided to share a draft of my opening comments here at Mostly Harmless (which is, after all, "for fun").  I'm aware of the 5-car collision that has lead to my favorite golfer Ai Miyazato withdrawing from this week's LPGA event (and onechan's favorite Paula Creamer being a likely WD candidate) and obviously wish them and everyone else involved in it a full and speedy recovery.]

[Note to my non-regular readers who are coming here after watching Blazing Saddles (or missing it):  Hope you enjoy this post and are curious enough after reading it to browse around for other posts here that you may find interesting!]

I was four years old when Blazing Saddles was first released in American theaters and until Shannon McRae--the director of American Studies at SUNY Fredonia and organizer of the program's film series "Myths of the American West"--took seriously my half-joking suggestion to include it in the series and invited me to introduce it, I had never seen it in its entirety until this month.  In a semester when I'm teaching American Identities, Introduction to African American Literature and Culture, and Critical Reading, I'm particularly pleased to take Shannon up on her kind offer, and offer a few comments as a new viewer of a movie that's been well-known (even to me) for decades, comments that will hopefully be as useful to students in my classes this semester as everyone else who braved the rains to make it out here tonight.

Growing up, I put Blazing Saddles in the mental category of comedies too raw for me to watch, a remarkably capacious category that in the '70s and too far into the '80s included everything from Monty Python to Mad magazine to Saturday Night Live to just about every famous stand-up comedian of the time.  If this reference helps people place where I was at, probably Benny Hill was the rawest thing I got access to before graduate school.  Yes, I grew up in a small town in central NY and failed to take advantage of 2nd grade in Palo Alto and 7th grade in Chapel Hill.  Nevertheless, I was obsessed with everything comical and comics-al.  In high school I started a cartoon series called The Gray Area that, despite its being far too derivative of The Far Side, was seen, nay loved, by regular readers of the Pennysaver and other fine local publications for far too many weeks.  Me, I loved everything from Gilligan's Island to Scooby Doo, from Diff'rent Strokes to The Facts of Life, from Benson to Newhart, from Doctor Who to The Greatest American Hero, from Airplane! to Ghostbusters, from The Muppet Show to The Tracey Ullman Show, from Tom and Jerry to Rocky and Bullwinkle (in reruns, duh) to Calvin and Hobbes to Mork and Mindy, from any DC comic Ambush Bug appeared in (even though I was almost exclusively a Marvel fan) to the animated version of The Tick.  Sure, I hated the Smurfs and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but otherwise I was pretty easy to please.  And I was a fan of The Simpsons before The Simpsons was The Simpsons, man!  (It goes without saying from the title of this blog what my favorite was, though!)

All of which is to say that when I go to grad school in the early 1990s I was perfectly primed to understand and appreciate what many still misunderstand and denigrate even today as a French theoretical import:  postmodernism.  As someone who saw The Simpsons parody of the end of The Graduate long before I ever saw The Graduate, who loved it when Beavis and Butt-head were watching a Johnny Cash video and decided it was gangsta rap, and who came of age in a hip hop culture rife with allusion and remixing and pastiche, I didn't have to think twice about Jean-Francois Lyotard's notion of "incredulity toward metanarratives" as a core characteristic of postmodernism.

So it's all too easy and obvious now for me to look back at Blazing Saddles and see it as yet another exemplar of American postmodernism.  It's certainly not an original point to make, as a quick google search will show you (I recommend posts by Mark Bourne and Mike Sutton on this aspect of the movie).  But what is originality, anyway?  Just another stinkin' metanarrative--right, JFL?  Perhaps it's slightly more original to claim that Mel Brooks and Monty Python were engaged in a transatlantic comedic one-ups-man-ship that was perfectly postmodern.  In the same way that Brooks and his co-writers, including Richard Pryor, were playing with myths of the American west and poking fun at founding narratives of the modern United States, Monty Python was taking on English legends of the Holy Grail and western icons of Christianity--and at roughly the same time.  Check me on this.  And, as you watch Blazing Saddles tonight, consider some of the debates over postmodernism that occupied so many western intellectuals in the last third of the 20th century:  is postmodernism all sound and fury, signifying nothing?  is it, in the final analysis, the laugh track of late capitalism? are its politics of race and gender and sexuality and [fill in the blank] reactionary, liberatory, laughable, nostalgic, or what? is postmodernism a thing of the past, and if so, how do we react to it today (and what comes after that post-?) if not, if we are still living in and with postmodernism, what does Blazing Saddles compare to in contemporary and recent culture?

There's so much more to be said--about what light Blazing Saddles may shed on black-Jewish relations in the late civil rights era, for instance--but I think it ought to wait until after the movie.  Don't you?

Monday, February 25, 2013

HSBC Women's Championship Preview & Pairings

Before I get to this week's topic, let me say that if you missed this past weekend's tournament, you missed one of the strangest finishes I have ever seen. I don't think that I have ever seen a player on the final hole needing a six to win, taking an eight. The fact that it happened to a 17 year old, certainly made it harder to watch. Last year when I.K. Kim missed that 12-18 inch putt to blow the Kraft Nabisco, that terrible feeling we had watching her bury her face in her caddy's chest won't be forgotten for a long time. I didn't think we would have to see something that heart wrenching again so soon. Seeing Moriya wiping the tears from her younger sister's eyes by the 18th green, is another picture that will not be forgotten for some time. I hope she can shake this off, and it will not cause any long term career problems.

The LPGA Tour moves to Singapore this week, for the playing of the HSBC Women's Championship. The tour will then come home to the United States, after a one week break.

This will be tournament #3 of 28 this year.

Just like last week's tournament, in spite of the limited field (just 63 players), it will be one of the strongest fields of the year. Fifty-six of the top 60 on the LPGA Priority List, and 18 of the top 20 ladies on this week's Rolex Rankings, will be teeing it up. The only star player missing will be So Yeon Ryu. My strength of field rating is 78.5%.
Here are the key details:

Course:  Sentosa Golf Club, The Serapong
Location:  Singapore
Defending Champion:  Angela Stanford
Winning Score: 66-70-71-71 = 278 (-10)

Final Field:  63 Players
Par:  36/36 = 72
Yardage:  6,600 Yards
Purse:  $1,400,000

This week's sponsor exemptions are Michelle Wie & Ariya Jutanugarn.

Here are the pairings for the first round.
Here are the television times:
Feb 28 - GC 12:30 PM-2:30 PM EST
Mar 1 - GC 12:30 PM-2:30 PM EST
Mar 2 - GC 6:30 PM-9:30 PM EST
Mar 3 - GC 7:00 PM-9:30 PM EST

For the last time I will remind everyone planning on watching the telecast, that because of the time difference each round will be long over before it is televised. Be careful not to visit websites that will post results or other spoilers. No spoilers will be posted here. As stated before the tour will be in the United States starting next week eliminating this problem in the future.

Titleholders Update:
Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu, and Beatriz Recari are the latest additions.

Rolex Movers of the week:
Some nice moves this week: Beatriz Recari moves from #53 to #40, Ariya Jutanugarn from #171 to #57, Lizette Salas from #82 to #63, and Gerina Piller from #91 to #79.

Other Tidbits:
On the Semetra Tour, Jaclyn Sweeney won the Gateway Classic by 2 strokes over current LPGA member Alena Sharp. Future LPGA star Jaye Marie Greene made her professional debut with a very impressive 5th place finish. Emily Talley made her successful debut a 12th place finish.

Almost going unnoticed, Beatriz Recari has finished T4th and T3rd in her 2 tournaments this year.

My picks for this week's tournament:
1- Na Yeon Choi
2- Yani Tseng
3- Inbee Park
4- Stacy Lewis
5- Ariya Jutanugarn
6- I.K. Kim
7- Danielle Kang
8- Lexi Thompson
9- Jessica Korda
10-Paula Creamer
11-Jiyai Shin
12-Shanshan Feng

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Honda LPGA Thailand Sunday: Must-See TV (Non-Spoiler Post)

Hey folks, set your DVRs for the final round of the Honda LPGA Thailand today!  I won't be giving away what happened right now, and if you don't want to know, don't click on the above link.  But if you do, be sure to look at the scorecards of the top half-dozen finishers....  Wow!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Frost Delay in Mesa, AZ, Makes Bruins Wait in Symetra Tour Opener

Tiffany Joh is near the top of the leaderboard in the Symetra Tour's kickoff event of 2013 in Mesa, Arizona, but she and fellow members of the Tour's UCLA posse Stephanie Kono and Brianna Do are waiting out a 90-minute frost delay.  Send them--and the rest of the field--some good vibes today!  T-Joh's channelling Will Ferrell on twitter, so you know she's going to have a nice day....

Can Ariya Jutanugarn Hold Off a Hall of Famer and the Player of the Year in Her Home Country?

Stacy Lewis opened the Honda LPGA Thailand with a sizzling 63 and got to -12 through 38 holes, but then she opened the door the rest of moving day to a 17-year-old sensation whose petition for a waiver to enter Q-School the LPGA denied late last season.  Ariya Jutanugarn fired a 32 on her Friday back 9 to close the gap on Lewis, then bounced back from a double bogey on the 9th hole yesterday with 5 straight birdies to climb to -13.  Even though she closed out her round with 3 bogeys and a birdie to "settle" for a 33 on the back (making it 10 straight holes and counting without a par!), the younger Jutanugarn still found herself with a 3-shot lead on Lewis (thanks to the Player of the Year's 3-bogey run to finish her day), Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak (who's been putting the lights out), and Beatriz Recari (who's been driving for show and putting for dough, despite her walkoff bogey).

Also hoping to do to Ariya what Ji-Yai Shin did last week to Lydia are Inbee Park at -7, So Yeon Ryu and Lizette Salas at -6, and Na Yeon Choi, Shanshan Feng, and Gerina Piller at -5.  Needing a miracle today to put themselves in the mix are Amy Yang at -4, Shin herself at -3 (who's tied with Lexi Thompson, Angela Stanford, and Ayako Uehara, among others), and Ko, Ai Miyazato, and In-Kyung Kim at -2.  With lots of big names stuck in neutral (Tseng, Creamer, Lincicome, Pettersen, Wue, Webb), struggling (Ueda, Seo, Kerr, Yoo), or hurting (Inkster, Nordqvist, Gulbis, Pressel, Hurst, Woods), it's a little harsh to pick on Ariya's older sister and LPGA rookie Moriya for finishing double-double yesterday to post an 80 (only the 5th of the week out of the 70s), but I'm sure imoto would be very happy to hear about a younger sister beating out her older sister, so I'm going to finish my post with that little tidbit!

Just think how happy imoto would be if the LET Q-School medalist and former top-ranked women's amateur in the world were to make her 1st LPGA start as a pro her 1st LPGA victory....

Monday, February 18, 2013

Honda LPGA Thailand Preview & Pairings

Congratulations goes out to Jiyai Shin for winning the first tournament of the 2013 season. Jiyai held off a charging Yani Tseng to capture the ISPS Women's Australian Open. The Constructivist's full recap can be found here.

The tour moves to Thailand this week for the playing of the Honda LPGA Thailand.

This will be tournament #2 of 28 this year.

Don't be fooled by the fact that this is a limited field event. This will be one of the strongest fields you will see all year for a non-major event, 18 of the top 20 ladies on this week's Rolex Rankings will be teeing it up. Even more impressive than that, 56 of the top 60 ladies on the LPGA Priority List will be in attendance. My strength of field rating is 80%. Way up from last week's 49.5%.

Here are the key details:

Course:  Siam Country Club, Pattaya Old Course
Location:  Chonburi, Thailand
Defending 2X Champion: Yani Tseng
Winning 2012 Score:  73-65-65-66 = 269 (-19)

Final Field:  70 players
Par:  36/36=72
Yardage:  6,469 Yards
Purse:  $1,500,000

Here are the television times:
Feb 21 - GC 9:00 AM-12:30 PM EST
Feb 22 - GC 9:00 AM-1:30 PM EST
Feb 23 - GC 2:00 PM-6:00 PM EST
Feb 24 - GC 1:30 PM-6:00 PM EST

Included among this week's sponsors exemptions will be: Michelle Wie, Cheyenne Woods, Lydia Ko, and both Jutanugarn sisters.

Once again I will remind everyone planning to watch the telecast that Thailand is 12 hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Time, so be careful of spoilers on other websites. The tournament will be long over, and the results posted before the telecast is shown. I will not post any spoilers here.

Here are the pairings for \round one..
Getting Married Hasn't Helped
Apparently marriage hasn't helped Amanda Blumenherst's game. Amanda, who had an awful second half last season, missed the cut this week by 12 strokes.

The Pancake Mix
Former University of Alabama star Brooke Pancake made her debut as a LPGA member this past week with mixed results. The good news is that she made the cut and finished in red figures. The bad news was she faded down the stretch and finished at 3 under par, good for 55th place.

Hard to Believe Fact of the Week:
Maude-Aimee Leblanc, was disqualified after the first round for signing an incorrect scorecard. She signed for a 3 on the 9th hole, when in fact she took a 4. 

Titleholders Update:
Jiyai Shin, Yani Tseng, and Moriya Jutanugarn, were the first three players to qualify.

Rolex Movers of the Week:
Jiyai Shin moved from #8 to #6. Beatriz Recari's 4th place finish was good enough to move her from #58 to #53. Carlotta Ciganda moved from #48 to #42.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ji-Yai Shin Holds off Yani Tseng and Lydia Ko in LPGA Season Opener

Ji-Yai Shin knows a thing or two about winning young and winning often, so when she and 15-year-old Lydia Ko took a 6-shot co-lead into the final round of the Women's Australian Open, I was hoping we would have a very special Sunday at the Royal Canberra Golf Club, especially considering that Ko had recently garnered her 3rd professional victory in her home country of New Zealand, that Shin had had a front-row seat to Ko's out-of-this world performance last August in her 1st LPGA victory, and that Shin's own return to the very top of the women's game seemed to have been sparked by watching Ko perform like--well, like a "Final Round Queen," which just happens to be one of Shin's own nom de golfs.

What I didn't expect to happen was that a certain #1 player in the world would give both Shin and Ko a run for their money.  Ya Ni Tseng dropped to -8 for the week when she bogeyed her opening hole, but from then on she played like a champion, with birdies on her next 3 holes in a row, an eagle on the par-5 6th, and 3 birdies in her last 6 holes to post a sweet Sunday 66 and finish at -16.  Which is 1 shot behind where the co-leaders started the day and would normally be a nice little asterisk and sign of things to come for Tseng, but Ko started double bogey-bogey and Shin kept reaching the -18 pinnacle and slipping off it.  She did it Saturday with a bogey on the par-3 17th and she did it on Sunday with a bogey on the par-4 5th.  With Ko fighting back to -16 thanks to gutsy birdies on the 4th and 5th holes and hanging tough with pars over her last  4 holes on the front, Shin needed to get it in gear, but she bogeyed the par-4 12th instead to drop back to -16 just as Ko birdied it to get back there after a bogey on the 10th.

From there on, though, Shin played like we've come to expect from her when the chips are down.  In the face of Tseng's closing birdie barrage and Ko's closing stumble (2 bogeys and no birdies in her last 5 holes), Shin iced her 11th career LPGA victory with back-to-back birdies on 14 and 15.  Since Tseng failed to birdie the 18th for the 3rd time this week, Shin didn't need to do anything else over her final holes but hold on, and she finished in style with 3 straight pars.

So it was a huge week for Shin, who's now won 3 of her last 7 starts.  I'll double down on what I said after her Women's British Open win last fall--watch out for her the rest of the season!  Others to watch out for include rookie Moriya Jutanugarn (70-70-70-69) to tie Beatriz Recari for 4th and pass Gwladys Nocera and Carlota Ciganda; Mariajo Uribe, who garnered a top 10 despite a Saturday 79; and Jennifer Song, who shook off a second-round 74 to post a top 20.

Can't wait for next week when Ai and Mika Miyazato kick off 2013 on the LPGA!

[Update 1 (12:12 pm):  Here's more from Brent Kelley, Bill Jempty, and Ruthless Mike!]

Monday, February 11, 2013

ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open Preview & Pairings

The wait is over. After a  three month break the LPGA season will kick off this week with the playing of the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open.

The long layoff it seems, wasn't long enough for most of the LPGA stars. Either that or Commissioner Michael Whan forgot to inform his players that there is a tournament this week.The following players will not be playing in this event:

Inbee Park, Na Yeon Choi, Ai Miyazato, Suzann Pettersen, Shanshan Feng, Mika Miyazato, Amy Yang, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Sun Young Yoo, Hee Kyung Seo, Sandra Gal, I.K. Kim, Candie Kung, Se Ri Pak, Hee Young Park, Julie Inkster, Meena Lee, Natalie Gulbis, Morgan Pressel, and Momoko Ueda.

This will be good news for the players who are way down on the Priority List, as they will be able to get into a tournament very early in the season. Cheyenne Woods and Lydia Ko, are two of this week's sponsor exemptions.

This is the first of 28 tournaments this season. Here are some of the key details:

Course:  Royal Canberra Golf Club
Location:  Yarralumla, Australia
Defending Champion:  Jessica Korda (won a 6 player playoff)
Winning Score:  72-70-73-74=289 (-3)

Final Field: 156 players
Par 36/37=73 (Yes this is a par 73)
Yardage:  6,679 yards
Purse:  $1,200,000

Here are the television times:
Feb 14 - GC 12:30 PM-2:30 PM EST
Feb 15 - GC 12:30 PM-2:30 PM EST
Feb 16 - GC 3:00 PM-6:00 PM EST
Feb 17 - GC 3:00 PM-6:30 PM EST

For anyone planning on watching the telecast, I would advise you not to visit the LPGA website. Australia is 16 hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Time, and the results will be posted long before we get to watch the telecast. I will not post any spoilers on my blog until after the completion of the final telecast.

Here are the Pairings for the first 2 rounds:

My strength of field rating (which is based on the participation of top players on both the LPGA Priority List and the Rolex Rankings), is just 49.5%. This could very well remain the weakest field the entire season. Only 20 of the top 50 players on the Rolex Rankings, and 6 of the top 15 players on the LPGA Priority list will be teeing it up.

Other Tidbits:
Fifteen year old Lydia Ko has done it again. It seems that she wins every time she tees it up. Lydia who won last year on the LPGA tour, now adds an L.E.T. trophy to her collection. She also has a win on the ALPG. Lydia won the ISPS Handa NZ Women's Open (with a score of -10), by one shot over Amelia Lewis. This was even more impressive when you consider Angela Stanford (+7), Anna Nordqvist (+5), and Sophie Gustufson (+4) all missed the cut.

Rolex Movers of the week:
Lydia Ko moves from #38 to #30 in the world rankings.

Monday, February 4, 2013

My Top 30 Predictions of 2013

We are just a week or so away from the first LPGA tournament of the year.
Here are my top 30 picks for player of the year:

1-   Inbee Park - If she putts like the second half of last season, it could be a runaway win.
2-   Seo Yeon Ryu - How did she get this high on my list in just one year?
3-   Stacy Lewis - Last year's winner will be in the mix again this year.
4-   Yani Tseng - Don't count her out just yet, especially if she plays well early.
5-   Jiyai Shin - If she stays healthy watch out.
6-   Na Yeon Choi - Needs to have better final rounds to compete for this title.
7-   Suzann Pettersen - Needs to show us much more consistency.
8-   Ai Miyazato - Needs to win her first major to get enough points to threaten.
9-   Shanshan Feng - Has streaks where she is one of the best in the game, but not enough of them.
10- Paula Creamer - I see another major victory in 2013. Don't count her out.
11- Azahara Munoz - Time for her to step up to the next level.
12- Mika Miyazato - I think she has hit her ceiling.
13- Lexi Thompson - Won't be an elite player yet, but getting closer.
14- Amy Yang - Is this the year she finally wins?
15- Karrie Webb - Showing no signs of slowing down.
16- Cristie Kerr - On the decline.
17- Chella Choi - Moved up a level last year. I expect a similar season.
18- Angela Stanford - Usually finds a way to win one every year.
19- Brittany Lincicome - A sleeping giant, with the emphasis on sleeping.
20- Sun Young Yoo - Has the potential to finish much higher than this.
21- I.K. Kim - Still hasn't recovered from the Kraft disaster. Could finish anywhere from 8-40.
22- Sandra Gal - I think she will stay at her current level for many years. Her game is solid but limited.
23- Anna Nordqvist - Was better two years ago than she is today.
24- Chie Arimura - She will probably win Rookie of the Year, but she is playing in the big leagues now.
25- Hee Kyung Seo - Has to prove to me she can play well under pressure before I rate her higher.
26- Brittany Lang -  I needed another American!
27- Carlota Ciganda - If she plays this tour, she could be dangerous.
28- Se Ri Pak - Still plays real well when she is healthy.
29- Danielle Kang - Will be playing full time this year. Her potential is unlimited.
30- Sydnee Michaels - After a real good second half in 2012, look for her to continue to improve.

All right it is only 1:30AM my time, how about some bonus material? Here are my top picks for Rookie of the Year:

1-   Chie Arimura - Wouldn't you expect someone already ranked number 20 in the world to win?
2-   Caroline Masson - Ranked number 48 in the world, she will be there if Ms. Arimura fails.
3-   Ayaka Uhehara - Like Chie Arimura above, she is a JLPGA star. Could contend for this title.
4-   Moira Jutanugarn - Could be a pretty good player, she just isn't anywhere near as good as her younger sister who will win this award on the L.E.T.
5-   Esther Choe - The Symetra Tour Player of the Year is the best of the rest.
6-   Brooke Pancake - Straight out of college, she lacks the experience of the above players. A future top player, but she will have to fight hard to finish in the top 80 on the Money List this year.
7-   Victoria Elizabeth - Had a breakthrough year on the Symetra tour in 2012. As a category nine player, she will get plenty of opportunities. She is only 20 years old.
8-   Felicity Johnson - Has two wins on the L.E.T.
9-   Austin Ernst - This LSU standout could be a sleeper.
10- Lisa McClosky - A four time All-American at USC and Pepperdine, she has all the tools.

Other Tidbits:
The Ladies European Tour kicked off their 2013 schedule this past weekend with the playing of the Volvic RACV Ladies Masters. Congratulations goes out to the winner Karrie Webb.

The L.E.T will move to New Zealand this coming weekend. Some of the LPGA players teeing it up in preparation for the LPGA opener the following week include: Sydnee Michaels, Belen Mozo, Angela Stanford, Ryann O'Toole , and Beatriz Recari.

Rolex Movers of the week:
Karrie Webb, coming off her L.E.T. victory moves up from #17 to #12.
Jessica Korda, who finished 5th in the same tournament, moves from # 78 to #72.