Soccer fans: Always up for a good brawl, anywhere, anytime

Among the more interesting aspects of the World Cup is the fanaticism it invokes.

As the world’s most popular sporting event – 3.2 billion people watched the last World Cup, in 2014 – it’s bound to attract a number of zealots. But often the circumstances of such passion prove more than slightly curious.

Take yesterday’s match between Poland and Senegal. One wouldn’t expect there to be too much conflict between fans of countries more than 3,000 miles apart, but, then again, this is the World Cup.

Which is why approximately four dozen Polish and Senegalese soccer fans brawled while watching a live screening of the game – in Antwerp, Belgium!

Benches and fists were thrown in the donnybrook, which occurred after an argument started.

“It got out of hand and people started throwing chairs,” bar manager Johan Peeraer told local paper Gazet van Antwerpen.

While disturbances have been rare during this year’s World Cup, certainly rarer than in past Cups, the fact that fans from an Eastern European country and an African country brawled while in a North Sea city watching a game played in Moscow is fascinating.

I suppose it’s the equivalent of me and two dozen buddies brawling with the same number of angry Uruguayans in a cantina in Baja California while watching a Formula 1 race in San Marino. Except, this only seems to happen in soccer.

It’s almost enough to make up for the deadly boredom of the sport.

(Top: Poland and Senegal locking horns Tuesday in World Cup action.)

Advertisements

Should we save endangered animals from asinine campaigns?

Example of poor use of social media: The above Twitter post by an organization called Save Animals Facing Extinction.

“Poachers are hunting elephants in extinction. We could lose them FOREVER! Should we stop poaching immediately?”

Then, in a box, “Should We Save Elephants From Extinction?”

Short answer: I suppose. Slightly longer answer, with a caveat: Yes, if we can eliminate the above inanity, possibly by having the idjits who came up with this campaign trampled by a herd of rogue elephants.

Even if one ignores the insipid questions, “Should we stop poaching immediately?” and “Should we save elephants from extinction?” (But won’t someone think of the illegal ivory and elephant-foot wastebasket industries?) the link in the Twitter post takes you to a … petition page, where you can add your email address and zip code.

That’s it. That’s how Save Animals Facing Extinction is going stop poaching and keep us from losing elephants forever(!)

The organization has a decent website, with links on how individuals can contribute money, but you wouldn’t know it from the Twitter post. You have to find it on your own.

Endangered species have it hard enough; this sort of tommyrot makes a mockery of their plight.

Fighting a long-dead enemy with intellectually dishonest tactics

Nothing seems to get the modern-day journalist riled up like the Confederate States of America.

More than 150 years after 11 Southern states opted out of the Union, journalists and a variety of others are falling all over themselves to take on the Confederacy, whether it’s attacking Confederate monuments, the Confederate flag or, as here, Confederate Memorial Day.

The reasoning for such brave assaults on a cause that ended more than 15 decades ago is simple: it’s for the good of mankind:

A memorial to a dark part of American history was recently unveiled in Montgomery, Ala. The memorial opened the same week when the state of Alabama, and several other Southern states, celebrate Confederate Memorial Day, an official state holiday. It was also fitting that the memorial is located in Montgomery, the first capital of the Confederacy.

Called the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, it is the first monument of its kind in America. It addresses the legacy of enslaved blacks, the terror of lynchings, and racial segregation.

So writes an emeritus professor of surgery and humanities at the University of Toledo in a piece that appeared in the Toledo Blade. Because, of course, slavery, lynching and segregation are associated only with the Confederacy. In fact, it’s increasingly become gospel among some that the Confederacy existed solely to enslave, lynch and segregate blacks. Any other argument isn’t worthy of the light of day.

Or this from the editorial board of the Biloxi (Miss.) Sun Herald:

Confederate Memorial Day is divisive. It attempts to obscure the fact that slavery was the reason for the war. It is not, as some will undoubtedly argue, about honoring the bravery and sacrifice of those on the losing side. … This is not about erasing history. Mississippi and the former Confederate states have set aside battlefields and museums in the name of preserving history.

Unfortunately, with most of these self-righteous scribes it’s fruitless to try to discuss the myriad causes of the War Between the States, which included federal economic policy such as the Morrill tariff, taxes that were seen as unfairly burdening Southern citizens, States’ rights, expansionism, and, yes, slavery.

But to say the Confederate States of America existed solely to ensure the continuation of slavery is inaccurate.

As historian Thomas DiLorenzo has pointed out, “In 1861, Southern slavery was secure, although not perfectly so. The 1857 Dred Scott decision had just ruled that slavery was constitutional and that the document would have to be amended in order to end slavery. (Abraham) Lincoln announced in his First Inaugural Address that he had no intention to disturb Southern slavery, and that, even if he did, there would be no constitutional basis for his doing so.”

So, while it would most certainly be incorrect to say that slavery played no role in the War Between the States, it would equally incorrect to say that the war was waged by Southerners solely for the right to enslave other human beings.

However, attacking the Confederacy is an easy target for progressive journalists and other like-minded folks. After all, it’s easy to take a stand on an issue (especially if one doesn’t make the effort to fully understand it) that was settled more than a century and a half ago.

This is not unlike the great uptick in ex post facto civil rights’ support that’s taken place at media outlets and big business over the past 35 years.

Today’s modern journalist, for example, is completely convinced that had they been of age 50-plus years ago, he or she would have gladly walked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and his supporters and faced down the tear gas and billy clubs on the marches from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.

In reality, they would have almost certainly have done just what nearly all their counterparts at Southern newspapers and businesses did in the 1950s and ’60s: either ignored the issue or blamed them on radical influences.

Right or wrong, we’re all products of the periods we grow up in, which is something these self-proclaimed prophets of enlightenment either won’t realize or don’t want to acknowledge.

Historical revisionism to boost one’s own ego is the worst kind of intellectual dishonesty. If you don’t like the Confederacy because some of the folks who wave the battle flag today aren’t as educated as you, don’t speak as well as you or don’t share your same sophisticated views, then just say so. If you disagree with the concept of secession, argue the issue on its merits.

But don’t use a simplistic interpretation of one of the most complex periods of American history as a soapbox to brag about your progressive mindset.

Banana peel peril largely extinct; allusion remains in comedy

Most comedy must at least be partially based in reality to work. An audience unable to relate to a subject is usually an audience that isn’t going to laugh because they can’t make a connection to the joke or story being told.

For that reason, most people under the age of, say, 85, have had a hard time relating to the idea of slipping on a banana peel. Yet, it has remained a comedy staple practically since the invention of motion pictures.

This seems as counterintuitive as the French love of Jerry Lewis.

Apparently, though, slipping on banana peels was once a very real concern; hence, their role in comedy.

Consider this 1918 story, under the headline “Banana Peel Gets Verdict,” taken from the Greenwood Index, a South Carolina newspaper:

We note that some days since a suit was brought against the city of Columbia (S.C.) by a party who had received a severe injury as the result of a fall on account of having stepped upon a banana peeling that was thrown on the sidewalk.

This verdict should be a warning to every town to enforce more rigidly the ordinance against throwing these peelings on the sidewalks. We suppose that there is not a town that has not such an ordinance, and yet there is a great deal of unconcern about enforcing it. It is a common thing to see these peelings on the sidewalks of Greenwood, and numbers of persons have had accidents on account of it.

There used to be an ordinance against spitting on the sidewalk, but we seem to have thrown it down, too. It might not be a bad idea to let it be known that more attention will be given to it, and the one prohibiting banana peeling on the sidewalks.

Believe it or not, the banana peel was considered a genuine public hazard at one time, writer Laura Turner Garrison wrote in Mental Floss explained when examining how the banana peel gag became so popular in comedy.

“In the mid-19th century, a man named Carl B. Frank began importing Panamanian bananas to New York City,” according to Garrison. “The fruit quickly became a popular street food throughout America, but the surge in urban migration and lack of sanitation regulation posed a major problem in cities. People often tossed their garbage into the streets, leading to a general foul stench and public waste buildup. A fresh banana peel might seem non-threatening, but a rotting banana peel was a slime-covered booby trap.”

Around 1880, Harper’s Weekly rebuked those who tossed their banana peels on a public walkway, as this would likely result in broken limbs, and some Sunday Schools warned children that an improperly discarded peel would not only definitively lead to a broken limb, but that the individual unfortunate enough to suffer the broken would inevitably end up in the poorhouse due to this injury, Garrison added.

The banana peel gag has been a fixture in comedy since the beginning of the 20th century, with the routine widely accepted to have originated on the Vaudeville stage.

“The gag first appeared on the silver screen in the Harold Lloyd silent film The Flirt,” Garrison wrote. “While sitting in a restaurant, Lloyd’s character diligently peels a banana then tosses the skin on the floor. A snooty waiter walks by with a full tray, slips and falls. Chaos ensues.”

Buster Keaton employed the gag in his 1921 film The High Sign, and Laurel and Hardy used it in The Battle of the Century (1927).

It’s continued to be a regular feature in both comedies and cartoons over the decades through to the present, even though most viewers today likely can’t recall ever seeing a rotting banana peel on a sidewalk.

Perhaps the reason the banana peel gag remains viable is that while few of us have experienced slipping on a rotten peel, we have all slipped and fallen. And, like most things, when it happens to someone else it’s pretty funny.

(Top: New Yorker Cartoon by Liam Francis Walsh.)

Freedom of speech and the right to show off your lack of class

I don’t know what motivates this sort of thinking. Narcissism? Misandry? Boorishness?

It’s unfortunate that even amid a tragedy that claimed 16 lives and injured 15 others, some can’t help but wave their social justice warrior capes.

On the positive side, the above individual would appear to be far outnumbered, as more than $15 million has been raised for those involved in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash and their families.

Yes, we all have the right to voice our opinion, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should do so each and every time a thought enters our mind.

As wiser folks have said: “It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

Poor fish in rich pond seems like a heavy burden to bear

More than 20 years ago while living south of the San Francisco Bay Area I attempted to reduce my 2-1/2 hour commute by moving closer to my job, located in San Francisco’s financial district.

The best deal my then-wife and I could find was half of a run-down duplex in a run-down neighborhood in an ugly part of an ugly suburb. Yes, we were enamored.

The duplex featured almost no yard, was in desperate need of extensive renovation and was located in a neighborhood loaded with gang graffiti, lots of blacktop and cookie-cutter structures.

I couldn’t haven’t imagined a less appealing environment, especially given that it was still 30 miles from my office. Still, it was the least-expensive housing option we could find within an hour of the city.

The price in 1996 was $267,500. We literally decided within minutes of walking out of that duplex that we would have to move out of the Bay Area in order to buy a home.

Things, apparently, are even more expensive now.

Consider that a burned out home in San Jose is selling for $800,000. The realtor representing the seller said the asking price is reasonable given the housing market and its location.

Realtor Holly Bar tried to downplay the price by stating that it’s the lot she’s selling, not the house.

“They did leave it standing so you can remodel it versus tearing it down so you save a lot of money when you can leave a wall up and do a remodel versus a complete teardown,” she said.

The latest numbers in California’s Santa Clara County show the median price for a single-family home is $1.4 million, according to television station KTVU.

Barr said that less than 24 hours since posting the listing on Facebook 10 potential buyers have contacted her. She anticipates it will sell in a few days.

I’ve often wondered how individuals, even those with high-paying technology jobs, sleep at night having to make mortgage payments of such proportions. If there’s an industry downturn and you lose your job, it’s a lot harder to hold onto your home when your monthly housing payment is $3,000, $4,000 or $5,000.

The region does have nice weather, plenty of amenities and other opportunities that are hard to come by elsewhere. Still, when burned-out homes are selling for $800,000 and the median price of a single-family home is $1.4 million, one wonders if another housing bubble is about to make itself felt.

Austrian telemarketers, pig-dogs and missed opportunities

One of the great things about fancy new cell phones is that they tell you the location of callers. I suppose they’ve done this for quite some time, but I only joined the 21st century late last year when, after 16 years of mediocre flip phone service, I reluctantly upgraded to an Android phone.

This came in handy earlier this week when I saw that I had an incoming call from Austria. I don’t know anyone from Austria or in Austria. In fact, the only people I know of from Austria are Mozart, Emperor Franz Joseph, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Hitler. It seemed unlikely any of them would be phoning, so I ignored the call, just as I ignore any number I don’t recognize.

In retrospect, I missed a chance to try out my puerile German. While I speak extremely poor French, my German is utterly abominable, consisting of “Guten Tag,” Guten Morgen,” a couple of rudimentary sentences and the occasional derogatory remark.

I could have opened the conversation with “Guten Tag, du bist ein Schweinhund!” which translates to “Hello, you’re a pig-dog.”

I figure given my lack of contacts in Austria, it was most likely a telemarketer, so why not try out a little foreign invective, even if I was addressing someone I didn’t know with the casual form of the verb “to be.” They were calling me, after all.

Of course, they probably wouldn’t have understood me and simply hung up, but hey, I would have gotten a chuckle out of it. “Sticking it to those damn telemarketers!” That sort of thing. We take our victories where we can get them.

Speaking of the word Schweinhund, one has to admire the Germans’ ability to level an insult. Not just a pig, not just a dog, but a pig-dog. I’ve seen dogs that act like pigs, but I don’t think that’s what Schweinhund is all about.

One of my daughters has made friends with a German exchange student and she recently asked her friend if there was such a word as Schweinhund. The exchange student’s face lit up. “Ya, Schweinhund! How do you know this word?!?”

My daughter, drolly: “My dad uses it, often while driving.” It made the exchange student’s day to hear an insult in her native tongue.

I wonder if my daughter, were she studying in, say, rural Romania and had a Romanian friend ask if she knew the word “jackass” would light up similarly?