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Monday, May 22, 2006

Homage to the Indy 500, or Driving Really Fast in a Circle, et al

I'm no Gene Simmons, but I figure the time is nigh to get out front and talk about my re-burgeoning love for the Indy 500 – the only event where cars drive a whole bunch of circles in a row that is worth watching. (That's not the official slogan in case you're wondering …)

If you wish to by-pass the Indy 500 stuff, scroll down as much more follows …

So, I stumbled across this old NPR bit about the Indy 500 and Jim Nabors' annual performance of "Back Home Again in Indiana." Robert Siegel's intro seems wrong, even if I am a bit less than objective, as I can attest that Hoosiers love this song. Thankfully, the commentator confirms this.

So, Jim Nabors will sing this year as well. But who knows how many years it will be until Gene Simmons himself dons the make-up and ends up crooning about the moon along the Wabash.

As far as this year's race goes, the storylines seem pretty familiar, if only with a few twists. Robin Miller, a former Indy Star columnist now writing for Speed TV dot com, smirkily describes a few of these.

Sure, it's still all Danica Patrick, all the time. She has become quite a hot endorsement commodity off the track but still might shock people by actually doing well in the race itself.

The Andrettis are pretending that Michael's focus is on helping out his son rather than laying claim to the title that eluded him much the same way it eluded his father. Oh yeah, and a Foyt per usual stands to complicate things for the Andrettis.

On the race itself, the Indianapolis Star sugar coats things a bit in its role as P.R. man, denying the perception held by everyone more than 50 miles beyond I-465 – that the race is dwindling in popularity due to its 1996 split from CART and the savvy of its stock car cousins.

Quick primer for those who don't know what "post-split" means: the 500 used to be the only race America watched. Then some racers started to disagree with Tony George, owner of the Speedway and son of race founder Tony Hulman, about car specifications, royalties, and some other stuff. So, the disagreers split and formed CART with all of the best racers, while George kept the 500 and formed the Indy Racing League with all of the second tier guys. That was 1996. As the Star yields, "It has been muttered for years that the Indianapolis 500 isn't the same, that the glory days are long gone."

ESPN's John Heylar writes that "Sponsors have also left open-wheel cars for stock cars in droves – turned off by the open warfare in open-wheel racing and turned on by the burgeoning NASCAR fan base." The Speed TV dot com guy says that the day is nigh and any more delay in a re-merger could be fatal, Danica-mania be damned!

Anywho … that's that, and I guess we'll see what happens.

Filed under "Wicked Weird" …

The L.A. werewolf sends me this. Here is a really unsettling story about the state of Iraq's pop cultural cognizance in the wake of the war. I guess it's worth recognizing that, at least they have an excuse, unlike France in its fixations.

In Maine …

The Press Herald provides a nice feature on the spring skiing allure of Tuckerman's Ravine on New England's highest peak, Mount Washington. This remains in my imagination among one of those "to do" excursions I hope to cross off before I am a drooling retiree in some nursing home.

First District (Maine) Republican hopeful David Emeryhopes thatthis visit by a certain prominent party-mate proves fruitful in his aim to unseat incumbent Governor John Baldacci. Portland Phoenix writer Lance Tapley says Emery has a decent shot in a field of three, due to his name recognition and moderate social politics. This Colby College professor thinks that Emery's focus on cutting spending will help him in his bid. The Courier Gazette publishes one of those local boy done good type pieces about Emery, Rockland native.

Not to be ignored by the public, the Greens got their convention on, re-nominating their occasional standard bearer, Pat LaMarche.

The Lewiston Sun Journal reports that Baldacci is beginning to line up the endorsements. As does the northward looking Portsmouth Herald. Polling indicates that Baldacci is holding strong despite the chorus of criticism that suggested some weakness in his campaign. At least one commentator suggests that Baldacci has seen the worst and should coast to re-election.

And in a not-so-shocking line of argument, Maine's syndicated uber-columnist Al Diamon writes about Maine's troubles in light of his other favorite topic – beer. Actually, his piece raises a huge question about the most ubiquitous and ongoing political argument in the state – are Maine's heavy taxes bad for its economy? He notes, in comparison with dreary analyses of Maine's economy issued by the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center, which he writes could "could find bad news in free beer,":
The Corporation for Enterprise Development, a Washington-based nonprofit, had a
less-skewed take on the state's economic situation. Earlier this year, the
group's annual survey of business-growth potential concluded, “Maine has
demonstrated that it is a good place to live, but an unremarkable place to
work.” Maybe free beer would help.

So it is, so it shall ever be …

Outside of the political realm, Camden children's book author and friend of a friend Chris Van Dusen was honored over the weekend for his amazing talents with the pen.

The rest of the world…

Chief Justice John Roberts is beginning to sound like former Chief Justice Earl Warren. He suggests that the High Court could deflate the arguments of judiciary rippers by issuing more unanimous opinions, rather than 5-4 opinions, demonstrating a less partisan view of the Constitution. Why not? It worked in Brown v. Board of Education.

My Intro to International Relations professor at U.S.M., Mahmud Faksh, writes that the relationship between the U.S. and the Arab world has reached a lamentable point. As Professor Faksh notes, asks, and answers:
Indeed, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, America was held in high esteem as
a benevolent power unlike Britain, France or czarist Russia. And the American
missionaries-turned-educators in the region were admired as the pioneers in the
realm of general civic and higher education. Liberal America, the "shining city
on a hill," was true to form, as encountered by the Arabs in the classrooms of
the colleges the missionaries had founded. … What went wrong with this promising
state of affairs? What brought about the transformation of America's historical
march in the Arab world from a benevolent liberal democrat to an overbearing
imperial dem- ocrat?

Maine Sunday Telegram's guy in D.C., Bart Jansen notes that The Senate is in a sorry state and shows no signs of improving. You don't say?

Washington Post's Sebastian Mallaby is ready for the global warming PR showdown and predicts an Al Gore upset of big petroleum. The Post's media dude Howard Kurtz considers Gore's reemergence. He points to this interesting Campaign 2008 piece by the always lovely Dick Morris appearing in The Hill, which includes this now stale bit of historical comparison:
The idea that he was an incompetent candidate has been replaced in Democratic
iconography by the idea that he was cheated out of the presidency. The hiatus
has healed his reputation with the base in much the same way that the negative
rap on Nixon for losing in 1960 was ameliorated by the Goldwater wipeout of

I'm telling you, folks. Gore will win the '08 Democratic nomination and is at least even odds to win the presidency. There. I said it.

From the World of Sports …

A Waterville-based writer suggests a few nicknames for Barry Bonds. Bob Ryan doesn't think it's funny and throws the asterisk card.

Boston Globe's Stan Grossfeld issues another interesting feature piece, this time writing about a popular positive thinking psychologist who works with several well known baseball player clients.

Wily Mo Pena is apparently working hard to improve his game, and some are noticing results.

In other news, David Wells is pissed at the media again. Wells' star again appears to be rising due to the continuing failure of the present fifth starter to demonstrate that he deserves the job. Especially, as the Yankees prepare for a Fenway visit.

The Washington Post's Thomas Boswell thinks that the Nationals are less likely to dish Alfonso Soriano back to the Yankees than many have been projecting. Boswell posits that the newly positioned leftfielder may also be accidentally positioning himself as the franchise's poster child, and thus impossible to trade without suffering the team's image in the fans' eyes.

The Patriots are looking at a couple of veterans to help out at LB for 2006-07. University of Minnesota's o-coordinator leaked to a local paper that Bill Belichick appears to be giddy about number one draft choice and former Gopher Lawrence Maroney:

"(Belichick) said it's been a long time since he's had a running back accelerate
through the hole like Maroney," Browning said Thursday. "He also said Laurence
has fit in well with the other players."

Color me similarly giddy ...


Anonymous Tim, the Fighting Slug said...

Hey, kid, since I live a mile from the vile pit that is IMS, I think I am in a unique position to believe many of the people who left are coming back, e.g. there was traffic last weekend! As a person who loathes motor sports, there's nothing more sad than that traffic. Sure, it isn't NASCAR traffic, but there's more than has been of late.

Short of the Republican National Convention, where can you find more nice, church-going white people than a NASCAR race? Jesus, I wish they would stay home.

9:03 AM

Blogger Rikki said...

I think your cries fall flat ...

I'll venture to say that the mere fact that the house rests within the corporate boundaries of a place called "Speedway, Indiana" might qualify as "constructive notice" if not "actual notice" that a bunch of drankin' types might clog your town's roads and perhaps pass out on your lawn on 1-3 weekends per year.

On the flipside, you get to sit on the school committee with Mrs. Rose Hulman. Praise Allah!

9:36 AM


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