Friday, August 31, 2012

If Only CNN, MSNBC, and Fox Could Do This

Politician Jon Huntsman on the Colbert Report
Former GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman appeared on the Colbert Report yesterday, and the ex-Utah governor's willingness to address the real substance of what's wrong in American politics was refreshing.

In just a few short minutes, Huntsman manages to tackle the worst corruptors of the American political process (Super Pacs and the absence of term limits), as well as policy issues related to jobs, the national debt, and the economy.

Huntsman also showed his humorous side, quipping about the polygamist ancestor he shares with Mitt Romney and telling us what he really thinks of Romney - but doing so in Mandarin Chinese.

It's sad that (1) Americans don't elect more genuine and thoughtful leaders like Jon Huntsman to national political office and (2) Americans have to rely on Comedy Central to showcase the kind of useful and honest conversation we should be able to see on "real" news channels.

You can watch the clip of Huntsman on Colbert here.
(Just wait out the advertisement - it may play twice.)

Chehon's Inspired Solo on SYTYCD

With three weeks left in season nine of So You Think You Can Dance, only six dancers are left in the competition.

The three men and three women who remain on the show are immensely gifted dancers, but none is more talented than 23 year-old Chehon Wespi-Tschopp.

Chehon's story is an interesting one. Born in Chicago, Chehon (pronounced key-on) was adopted in early childhood by Swiss parents, who then moved their family to Australia and later to Switzerland.

With the support of his adopted family, Chehon left home in his early teens to pursue his passion for dance at the Royal Ballet School in London. Since graduating, he has become a professional dancer, performing for two seasons with the Los Angeles Ballet.

While he is low-key and humble and sometimes even awkward in on-camera interviews, Chehon is elegant and intense when he takes the stage to dance. In July, we posted a moving contemporary routine Chehon performed with his dance partner Witney, and since then he has continued to impress.

This week, it was a solo performance from Chehon that blew me away. Though his solo only lasted a minute or two, the young dancer was particularly inspired to pour everything into the performance, as his (adorable) mother Edith had flown in from Switzerland to see him dance.

With the fluidity, grace, and power of his movement, Chehon paints the stage like a canvas.

Daily Zen - Friday, August 31

Misplaced gold is easily found, misspent time is lost forever.

                  ~ Loy Ching-Yuen

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Awesome Moments in Live Hurricane Reporting

I've always enjoyed that awkward moment when the meteorologists who warn civilians to hunker down and stay inside during a hurricane end up venturing outside mid-storm. And when things don't go as planned - that's entertainment.

This one is for you Jim Cantore.

Daily Zen - Thursday, August 30

All that is important is this one moment in movement. Make the moment important, vital, and worth living. Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused. 

                    ~ Martha Graham

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Turn It Up - Charlie Parker Does Gershwin

"Bird Lives" sculpture 
by Robert Graham 
Influential jazz saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker was born on this day in 1920.

During a short but significant career, Parker established himself as an inventive and gifted saxophone soloist and as one of the great jazz innovators of all time.

He is also credited with heavily influencing the development of bebop.

Parker, who battled an addiction to heroin that began during his teenage years, died at New York's Stanhope Hotel in 1955 at just 34 years of age.

If words were sounds, Parker's version of Gershwin's Summertime would be the dictionary definition of "sublime."

Daily Zen - Wednesday, August 29

For fast-acting relief try slowing down.

                    ~ Lily Tomlin

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Novak Djokovic Responds to Boy's Marriage Proposal During U.S. Open Practice

Novak warming-up in Cincy.
Photo: Jeff McKown
How do you become a fan favorite? Enjoy what you do and show it.

During a practice session this week at the U.S. Open, a boy shouted a marriage proposal to Novak Djokovic, the No. 2 ranked tennis player in the world.

Novak's response was charming and fun. The smart aleck kid doesn't get Djokovic's hand in marriage, but he does get an awesome surprise.

You can watch the young fan's encounter with Novak in the clip below.

(The proposal and Novak's response occur in the first 2 minutes and 30 seconds. The rest of the clip, while fun for tennis types, is Djokovic's serving practice.)

Here's a fun mini clip (14 seconds) Djokovic shared on Twitter this week. In the video, the star Serbian athlete shows off his serving accuracy with the help of a very brave member of his training/coaching team.

Daily Zen - Tuesday, August 28

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.

                 ~ Albert Schweitzer

Monday, August 27, 2012

Turn of Phrase - A Mother's Love for a Murderer

Clothing designer
and murderer,
Jeffrey Johnson
"I don’t blame police in New York for shooting my son because he killed somebody, but for me, he hasn’t changed. 

He’s still the kindhearted, caring person who loved all kinds of animals and I’m sure he loved us. 

You know a mother always tries to look for the best in you."

- From the mother of Jeffrey Johnson, after learning her son murdered a co-worker last week in midtown Manhattan. In a subsequent showdown with police, Johnson was shot and killed on the sidewalk in front of the Empire State Building.

So many people were physically or emotionally injured or destroyed in this single incident - Steven Ercolino (the 41 year-old murder victim), his grieving family, the 9 pedestrians who all survived but were hit by stray bullets during the shootout, the police officers who were involved, and of course Jeffrey Johnson.

There's so much more to a news story than we get in the headlines and initial reporting. In America, our attention span is short and we move on quickly to the next big thing, seldom taking time to consider the enormous ripple effect of events like this. For me, Jeffrey Johnson's mother provides a poignant reminder.

Daily Zen - Monday, August 27

Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. 
               ~ Howard Thurman

Sunday, August 26, 2012

US Open - Predictions, Draws and TV Coverage

U.S. Open tennis kicks off on Monday August 27, and some of the biggest names in the sport will be in action on the first day of America's largest tournament.

Play begins at 11am (Eastern) with last year's women's champion Sam Stosur taking on Petra Martic of Croatia in Arthur Ashe stadium. 

Subsequent first day matches on the main show court feature Olympic gold medalist Andy Murray, this year's French Open champion Maria Sharapova, and multiple U.S. Open winners Kim Clijsters and Roger Federer.

You can find the exact order of play here, and the complete draws for both men's and women's singles here.

As usual, unraveling the mysteries of U.S. television coverage is more challenging than understanding a David Lynch movie. In a nutshell, it goes like this for the first five days (thru Friday):
  • ESPN 2 coverage runs twice daily: 1-7pm (Eastern) and 7-11pm (Eastern) and features the top-billed matches in Ashe stadium. 
  • Tennis Channel coverage runs daily from 11am-7pm (Eastern) and includes matches played on secondary courts (other than Ashe).
CBS jumps in with coverage this weekend, including Labor Day Monday, and then again when things heat up near the end of the two-week tournament for the quarters, semis, and finals. If that's too much to keep sorted, and it probably is, here's a link to the complete television schedule.

The 2012 Open is sure to offer some intriguing storylines and maybe a few surprises.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Weekend Zen, August 25-26

The one unchangeable certainty is that nothing is unchangeable or certain. 
                 ~ John F. Kennedy

Friday, August 24, 2012

Top Tweets - Lance Armstrong Calls It Quits

I can't pretend to know the truth about the doping accusations against 7-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong.

According to the US Anti-Doping Agency, the evidence against Armstrong is overwhelming, and the cyclist is giving up the fight against the allegations to avoid the awful embarrassment of the truth.

In a statement released by Armstrong, he characterizes the entire USADA investigation as an unfair witch hunt, and says he will no longer fight the charges because "enough is enough."

When I can't decide where the truth lies in a public dispute such as this, I do the only thing I can. I turn to Twitter for perspective. And, jokes.

Turn of Phrase - Ebert's Thumbs Up to Obama

Roger Ebert, film critic
"We need health care in this country. I suspect many of those opposed to it have never had to go through a health ordeal like mine. 

They may think they are well off and can handle their own expenses. They have no idea."

- From a short essay by Roger Ebert, movie critic and cancer survivor.

Ebert and other like-minded pop culture liberals (musician Paul Simon, comedian Patton Oswalt, author Lemony Snicket, etc.) are participating in an online endeavor called 90 Days, 90 Reasons, which is the brainchild of writer Dave Eggers and entertainment agent Jordan Kurland.

The goal of the 90 Days project is to "restart the fire" around the Obama campaign. Through a series of short essays written by various pop culture figures, one per day in the 90 days leading up to the election, the project highlights 90 reasons President Obama deserves a second term in office.

Daily Zen - Friday, August 24

When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.

                     ~ Tecumseh

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Turn of Phrase - No Parole for Lennon's Killer

Mark David Chapman
Photo: Reuters / NYCPD
"Despite your positive efforts while incarcerated, your release at this time would greatly undermine respect for the law and tend to trivialize the tragic loss of life which you caused as a result of this heinous, unprovoked, violent, cold and calculated crime."

- From Sally Thompson, deciding member at the parole board hearing of convicted murderer Mark David Chapman.

Thirty-two years ago Mark David Chapman killed John Lennon, shooting him four times in the back outside the musician's New York City apartment. The state's Department of Corrections has just announced that Chapman, who was sentenced 20 years to life, has been denied parole a seventh consecutive time.

What if John Lennon had lived? Just imagine.

Daily Zen - Thursday, August 23

What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.

                       ~ Mother Teresa

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Daily Zen - Wednesday, August 22

If you project all sorts of hatred and jealousy, they will rebound on you with compound interest.

                   - Swami Vivekananda

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Turn of Phrase - Lessons From a Rape Survivor
"I can’t stand by and watch these men who have no personal experience with sexual assault pretend to know so much about it.

I do know about rape. I received an education of the highest degree, and now it’s my turn to teach."

- From Renee DeVesty who was raped when she was 19 years old. DeVesty has subsequently become a lecturer, activist, and an advocate for rape survivors.

Like most Americans, Republican and Democrat, DeVesty was appalled by the hurtful and ill-informed comments of Missouri Representative and U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin, who during a recent interview stated that women's bodies have natural defenses against pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape." 

I've struggled for two days to identify exactly what it is that I want to say about Akin's ignorance, but when I read Renee's poignant account of her rape experience today, I realized my perspective is not the important one to share.

Women like Renee have bravely stepped forward to tell us everything we need to know about rape. All we need to do is listen. You can (and should) read Renee's story here.

Daily Zen - Tuesday, August 21

Our deeds, good or evil, follow us like shadows.

                   ~ Buddha

Monday, August 20, 2012

Turn It Up - Singer of Hippie Anthem "San Francisco" Dies

Singer Scott McKenzie died Saturday in Los Angeles at the age of 73. You may not know McKenzie by name, but you will certainly recognize his best-known work, the 1967 counter-culture hit "San Francisco."

If you're going to San Francisco, you're gonna meet some gentle people there. 

Not sure if that's still true these days, but if you visit Haight Street, you'll definitely meet some people with flowers in their hair. RIP Scott.

Daily Zen - Monday, August 20

Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer. 

                     ~ William S. Burroughs

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Around the Grounds at the W&S Open

It's thrilling to see the world's best tennis players competing on the courts at the Western & Southern Open, but many of the most memorable moments from my annual tennis pilgrimage to Cincinnati happen off the courts.

Here are a few candid photos from around the grounds this week.

In an intimate venue like the Linder Family Tennis Center, you run into players everywhere.

Philipp Petzschner of Germany hanging out.

Milos Raonic getting some exercise.

Finland's Jarkko Nieminen playing frisbee.

Austrian Jurgen Melzer waiting for a court.

Spain's Marcel Granollers heading for a seat at a match.

Julien Bennetau, kindly stopped for a photo.

Players frequently sign autographs for fans after matches or practices.

Spanish player Feliciano Lopez.

Novak Djokovic, world #2.

Young Bernard Tomic of Australia.

Top Canadian doubles player, Daniel Nestor.

You can also stop by and watch live TV broadcasts from the ESPN / Tennis Channel outdoor studio.

Ian Eagle and Justin Gimelstob on-air.

Gimelstob's post-match interview with Djokovic.

I was also lucky enough to be invited up to the center court commentary booth to visit my favorite TV broadcasters Nick Lester and Robbie Koenig, with whom I've become Twitter friends.

Robbie and Nick calling the Federer semi-final
from high above center court.

Me and my Twitter buddies, Nick and Robbie.

And after a long day of wandering the grounds and court-hopping under the pounding summer sun, sometimes you just need a break.

You can buy a cold adult beverage at the Corona Beer Garden.

Kick back with a beer in front of the giant screen TV.

Relax and spend quality time....
...with your awesome friends.

Or just enjoy the breathtaking sunset.