“In betting on races, however, there are two elements that are never lacking: hope against hope and an incomplete recollection of the lessons of the past.” -E. V. Lucas, Visibility Good
Note: For a little perspective, see my post on the Belmont Stakes from a year ago, “Belmont 2008.” Original titles, I know.
I didn’t work the Preakness Stakes in 2006, but I watched it on television. The previous three years had seen highly promising horses win two of the three legs of the Triple Crown, and we watched Funny Cide, Afleet Alex, and Smarty Jones slip from the public’s favor the second they were nosed out of a sweep. In 2006, Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro seemed to be getting as much hype as these three hopefuls combined. NBC devoted most of their pre-Preakness coverage to the horse, following him from the stable to the paddock to the post. I still remember that moment, a few furlongs into the race, when everyone realized that something had gone wrong. Barbaro twisted and stuttered—Edgar Prado was quickly and skillfully pulling him up—and he half limped, half sprinted to the side as the cameramen grudgingly tracked the rest of the race. Bernadini won easily, and everyone turned back to Barbaro, surrounded by trainers and doctors, looking so much smaller without his saddle as he gingerly raised the right hind leg on which he could no longer stand. I’ve watched it again recently, and it’s still heartbreaking. The bigger story is a compelling one—the long, costly battle to repair and rehabilitate Barbaro after an injury that is normally met with swift euthanasia, his eventual death and the resulting scrutiny into unsafe breeding and racing conditions—but that moment on the track remains one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. Continue reading
“Hope is the bedrock of this nation; the belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us; by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is; who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.” -Barack Obama, after winning the Iowa Caucus
Four years ago, I cast my very first presidential ballot. I was 19, living in one blue state and voting absentee in another, and there was something vaguely unsatisfying about putting a little X next to John Kerry’s name. I was voting against George W. Bush—who terrified me, a memory that’s hard to reconcile with our 2008 keep-as-low-a-profile-as-possible president. Bush’s first term marked a strange time to grow into a thinking member of the electorate: September 11th, the hyper-patriotism that followed, the lead-up to the war in Iraq, the invasion of Baghdad, the Patriot Act, and Abu Ghraib. I didn’t think we could afford four more years, but a slim majority of the American public disagreed with me. I cried on election night, and when I woke up the next morning, I wrote an editorial for the campus newspaper that basically endorsed resigned disillusionment. There was hope and there was fear, and the latter had prevailed. Reading over the piece now, this passage stands out:
“Someone once asked me why women don’t gamble as much as men do, and I gave the common-sensical reply that we don’t have as much money. That was a true but incomplete answer. In fact, women’s total instinct for gambling is satisfied by marriage.” -Gloria Steinem
Note: More apologies for another month-long delay. The racing season proved to be more taxing than usual. One day a man said to me, “If you’re single, then I love you.” This story, which I wrote a year ago, is in the same vein.
Two years ago, I had a regular window in the Lower Clubhouse. A good portion of my customers were serious career gamblers: big bets, big tips, and a whole lot of leering. I’m good with casual flirting, good with being called sweetheart and baby doll and brushing off little flashes of male perversion. “I haven’t won a single race in two days,” a man once told me, looking desperate and a little bit angry. “Take off your top for me.” His friend just laughed. “Don’t mind him, he’s drunk.”
Most of our customers are men and I’d say two thirds of the tellers are women. You hear plenty of horror stories about men taking things too far: waiting for tellers after work, threatening to follow them home, the sorts of things I imagine strippers face regularly. But we’re not so overtly sexual; some of us aren’t sexual at all. Customers ask us out but I don’t know anyone who follows through.
“‘Wall·E’ can’t help but send out a powerful and even frightening environmental message. Though G-rated, its dystopian vision of what the perils of consumer excess have in store for the planet is unnerving without trying too hard, bringing to mind the old truism that Walt Disney and his company (Pixar’s parent) have scared more people than Alfred Hitchcock.” -Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
Note: Minimal spoilers in this post – not much beyond your standard movie review. But really, you should go out and see “Wall·E” immediately!
There was a group of snarky children sitting behind me in the movie theater the other day. We had come straight from happy hour to “Wall·E,” and I wasn’t in the mood to listen to sullen kids shouting, “Lame!” during the previews. “Wouldn’t it be weird if you grew up watching so much computer animation?” my coworker whispered as we suffered through the fifth trailer for a sub-par movie about talking animals. I thought that if the children behind us were any indication, we’d have incredibly high standards for animated films. Nothing would dazzle us; the bigger and flashier, the better. They whispered loudly through the charming short film that preceded the main feature. But as the screen darkened with the first expanse of outer space and the strains of “Hello, Dolly!,” (“Out there, there’s a world outside of Yonkers”) the kids finally fell silent.
Filed under movies, music
“A little rebellion now and then is a good thing.” – Thomas Jefferson
A few weeks ago – right around the time that he and Nancy Pelosi ordered superdelegates to rally around Barack Obama – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid came to speak at the Commonwealth Club. He has a new book out, one that chronicles his journey from a ridiculously impoverished childhood to success on Capitol Hill. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen or heard the senate majority leader; he just might be the most unassuming, mild-mannered (meek) politician in Washington. Plugging his book on “The Daily Show” a few days earlier, the senator was weirdly unresponsive; Jon Stewart had to stop short of waving a hand in front of his face and asking if he was still awake. Basically, you wouldn’t expect him to invoke the vitriol of the far Left. You’d think that they’d save that for one of the Club’s (many) conservative speakers. If that’s the case, maybe you’ve never heard of Code Pink.
“That is the stupidest story I ever heard, and I read the entire Sweet Valley High series.” -Moe, “Homer the Moe,” The Simpsons
I read a lot when I was younger. Standard kids stuff, Narnia and Little House on the Prairie and all that. Then in sixth grade, I read Julius Caesar for a book report. It was a big leap, but I managed to trudge through it, relying heavily on the footnotes. It should have been the start of my literary life: next Macbeth, then Dickens, then, I don’t know, Proust? But something happened that year, something complicated and indescribable, and pretty soon, I was on my way to owning and/or reading every book in the entire Sweet Valley franchise.