Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What do... Arsenal signings Arteta, Benayoun, Mertesacker, Santos and Park have in common? They joined after Demolition Day and missed out on the 8-2 mauling and will not need psychological treatment. The most embarrassing day in the clubs history will not be forgotten soon... but after watching the recent capitulations to Spurs, Liverpool and Newcastle, a good hammering was always inevitable.

The conspiracy theorists say Wenger played a weak team against Man U to force the board into spending some money. What has been difficult to fathom is the media silence by Stan Kroenke, majority owner whose sightings are as scarce as Big Foot.

The hope is that these experienced acquisitions will paper over the deficiencies of Djourou, Koscielny, Traore etc. One can only hope... and maybe some competition will revive the career of the lard-arsed Russian, Arshavin.

Gervinho shows promise and might well be better than Nasri. Fabregas is one of a kind, but there is the chance that Jack Wilshere will step into Cesc's role and perhaps flourish. The next few months will be interesting at The Arsenal.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Six Flags over Texas

The six flags that once flew over Texas are: Spain, France, Mexico, Republic of Texas, United States of America, and the Confederate States of America.

Instead of listing them all out, the amusement park in Arlington took the lazy route and went with "Six Flags". The boys had free admission courtesy of their school and we left it until the last possible day to go. Maybe in procrastinating we hoped the weather might have begin to cool off. Wrong. It was hotter than blazes and we lasted maybe five hours in the sweltering heat and took in less than half the rides. The best ones were where a good soaking was involved. Must say, the Texas Giant (tallest wooden hybrid roller-coaster in the world) lived up to the hype.

The Titan was gut-wrenching as well.

After almost losing our lunch on the coasters we finished our day on the sedate merry-go-round and quickly headed home to the A/C.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Movie Review: The Guard

Brendan Gleeson as Sgt. Gerry Boyle ("The Guard") sets out to do for the "Wesht" of Ireland what Harry Callahan did for San Francisco. Instead of "Are you feeling lucky punk?" we get some very funny repartee between Boyle and his FBI straight man played by Don Cheadle, (e.g. "I thought black people couldn't ski? Or is that swim?") as they chase some drug-dealing villains across Galway.

Although most of the best lines are in the trailer and the plot is a bit predictable, it is saved by an excellent performance by Gleeson and his onscreen chemistry with Cheadle. Also notable is the scene-stealing Fionnula Flanagan as Boyle's mother. The kid with bike and dog are also charming.

I cannot quite recall how the line was delivered in the movie but in the trailer, the woman when seeing Don Cheadle at her door shouts "Ta fear gorm ar an doras". "Gorm" is blue, not black... Maybe an inside joke? Still, The Guard is well worth seeing.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Motor City Madness

Last week, a quick two day visit to Detroit to see The Motor Company afforded (no pun intended) an afternoon to visit The Henry Ford Museum and the legendary Rouge plant. The museum was great, the assembly plant was jaw-dropping.

The Henry Ford Museum houses JFK's Lincoln from that fateful day in 1963 (cleaned up of course - actually it was in service through the Carter administration).

The museum has what has to be the largest collection of steam engines anywhere in the world. One of these contraptions is so big that apparently they built the museum around it. Then there is the Allegheny locomotive, built in 1941 and weighing 600 tons. "Behemoth" does not adequately capture the size of this thing.

We somehow conspired to miss Abe Lincoln's chair and the Rosa Parks bus. The auto section was being redone and we only got to see a few cool cars one of which, a Bugatti Royale, is (if an original and not a reproduction) worth over $10 million. The way it was sort of out in the public makes me think it was a copy. Only six of these 12.7L works of art were built and Wikipedia does not list the Ford Museum as an owner. It could be on loan but this thing was just sort of sitting in the middle of an aisle...

The tour of the Rouge plant was incredible. The plant itself dates to 1917 and at one time the factory was about a square mile in size and at its peak in the 1930's had over 100,000 workers. Over the years it has churned out boats, tractors, Model A's, Mustangs and Thunderbirds. Almost every component from engine to screw was made here. It has since been downsized, revamped, retooled and automated. The best selling vehicle in the US*, the venerable F-150, is assembled here to the tune of 54 per hour. That's right, just about every minute, a brand new F-150 in XL, XLT, Lariat, single-cab, crew-cab etc, is completed. The assembly is a thing of beautiful precision. Parts show up in just-in-time fashion (thank you Japan) and at each station, two or three of the UAW's finest spend about a minute completing a few tasks as the truck creeps along to the next spot. Our vantage points focused on what was almost the end of the line. We watched mesmerized as workers fitted the interior, added the manual to the glove box, glued on trim, added the Ford logo, installed the wipers, etc. The only downside: no photo's allowed.

Henry Ford got the concept of the auto assembly line from the slaughter houses. In the Rouge plant, the line snakes back and forth through the cavernous building a multitude of times. We got to see maybe 10% of the process. It was fascinating to see all the different colored cabs and box beds come in from different directions on two different lines but yet be matched perfectly in terms of color at the meeting point. The robot that affixed the windscreen was just too cool. But Mr. Roboto has replaced thousands of jobs; the plant now employs about 6,000.

*In 2010, sales for Ford’s F-Series truck were 528,349, up 28 percent. The F-Series was the best-selling truck in America for the 34th year in a row and the best-selling vehicle, car or truck, for the 29th year in a row.

One final note, our hotel was next to a mall where I found a Redwings t-shirt for the princely sum of $2. Easily the coolest logo in all of sports...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tomato Killer

Pictured with a quarter, is a one of the 4" long caterpillars that feasted on my tomato plants and devoured the lot in about two days. These are veritable eating machines, munching through leaves at a rate that was almost audible. They eventually turn into hawkmoths, which are capable of hovering like a hummingbird. The ones that I caught did not get that opportunity.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Too bad Alcatraz is closed

Mark McGovern came to the US on June 20th 2011 and in San Francisco on June 25th lined out to play Gaelic football for Ulster San Francisco against the the San Francisco Celts. Early in the second half, in an "off the ball incident", Mark was floored by a vicious blow to the head. As he lay prone on the ground, a Celts player standing over him was heard to say "You will not get up from that!" Mark, all of 22 years old, went into seizures and ultimately a coma.

Despite there being 28 other players, a referee, a couple of linesmen, coaches, spectators, apparently no one witnessed the assault. Or at least no one has the gumption to come forward and name the perpetrator. As of today, five weeks later, no arrests have been made. There is a "person of interest" who has hired an attorney and will not speak directly to the cops... Go figure.

If this were to happen on Main Street Anytown, surely witnesses would cooperate, the assailant charged and would now be awaiting trial. However, in the close knit and closed mind circles of the Bay Area GAA, it is deemed better to protect their own and close ranks. Why the SFPD has not subpoenaed the lot of them is beyond me.

Meanwhile, Mark remained in a coma until just the other day. His family and girlfriend travelled over from Fermanagh immediately after the attack and have maintained a bedside vigil since. Mark has tried to speak and just this week managed a few tentative steps with help. Several weeks of care in SF General Hospital will not be cheap. We can only hope that Mark's condition continues to improve. He is now in a rehab facility and his condition upgraded from serious to fair. Throughout the weeks of his ordeal, Mark has battled a liver problem, pneumonia and infection.

Regardless of Mark's recovery, the flip side and aggravating fact is that his assailant walks free. Who knows what prompted the attack? A rough tackle beforehand, angry words exchanged, etc. It is noted that American born players who try their hand at Gaelic football feel they have something to prove and act is if it is American Football without the pads and helmet. They think nothing of tackling with a closed fist, making no effort to play the ball. No matter what prompted the attack, the assailant should "man-up", come forward and express remorse, beg forgiveness and pay towards Mark's medical bills and the expenses of Mark's family.

If Mark continues to improve, it will be interesting to see if he can recall what happened and name names. Will he press charges? This is a clear case of assault and battery. I have followed this since it was first reported will continue to monitor the outcome. I will be disappointed if the thug that cold clocked Mark does not get jail time. Like I said, too bad Alcatraz is closed...

Of course, an arrest would mean the SFPD actually took action and showed some interest in the case. By now, the assailant has probably moved on. Mark's condition is bad enough - the fact his attacker remains free is incomprehensible and casts a negative pall of indifference over the SFPD and cronyism over the SF GAA. Every young GAA player in Ireland (and the US) should be put on notice that the Bay Area is not a safe place to play ball. Moreover, the SF Celts are a team to be avoided. They will take cheap shots and you will be left in a fetal position, warned that you will not get up... and no one will intervene.