December 27, 2006

Headwaters of the Minnehaha

Posted by eroberts at 4:58 PM

December 22, 2006


If you knew the history of Australia claiming the talents of New Zealand born and bred musicians (only this one web reference on a hasty google search) then the above, from Minneapolis' Electric Fetus will be perversely amusing.

Posted by eroberts at 5:07 PM

December 18, 2006

Tokyo Olympiad

Anyone with any interest in running history should rent and watch Tokyo Olympiad. Directed and produced by Kon Ichikawa this is the best moving footage of the Olympics I've seen from before the era of mass-televised coverage. The movie is in color, which instantly sets it apart from all the other Tokyo coverage I've seen (e.g; these YouTube links) If you are expecting, say, full coverage of the 10,000m you'll be disappointed. But they do have 3 minutes in full, clear color including the whole last lap and it is amazing to see how many lapped runners Mills, Gammoudi and Clarke had to pass as they swapped the lead in the last 400m. Other, shorter, races are covered in full.

The coverage is artistic, rather than functional, There could be coverage of more events in its 170 minutes. You might get frustrated at the women's 80m hurdles being replayed from multiple angles—from the front, focusing on their leg muscles etc—while the men's 1500m gets only the briefest finish shot. But that would be to miss Ichikawa's intentions of recording the human drama and artistry of the Olympics.

It is not entirely track and field, with gymnastics and swimming also being covered. But the "other sports" get surprisingly little coverage. Track and field, and especially Abebe Bikila's marathon, receive the most footage.

There is no plot to the coverage, so it's quite possible to watch it in snippets when you have the chance. I've been watching it while doing my daily stretches. It might make for good relief from boredom on the treadmill. However you watch it, if you instantly recognize some of these names—Hayes, Clarke, Gammoudi, Packer, Roelants, Odlozil, Tyus—you'll get more than a little enjoyment out of this film.

Links: New York Times review. Wikipedia

Posted by eroberts at 7:52 AM

December 14, 2006

Hand off

Now that winter is sort of upon us (I was doing strides on the soccer field wearing shorts this morning. This is not a normal thing, mid-December, in Minneapolis) it's the appropriate time to ask a question that has long puzzled me: Who, other than RoadRunner Sports models, wears long pants and a thermal top when running, but no gloves??

This kind of dressing decision is absolutely and totally mystifying to me. Gloves are always the first thermal element I put on. There are times I'm happy to be out running in a t-shirt, shorts, and gloves. Typically this is when it's between 40 and 50, sunny and relatively calm. If it gets a little colder the next thermal item I will add is the long-sleeved thermal top. Colder still (below 35°F) or planning to do something a little quicker and not wanting to needlessly strain a muscle I'll add something warm on the legs.

Most serious-looking runners I see round here appear to follow similar dressing conventions. Gloves are one of the first things they put on when the temperature drops. The folks I see without gloves on below freezing days tend to be the same people wearing cotton sweatpants and tops, in other words, people not making the most comfortable running clothing decisions to begin with.

But perhaps other people have better circulation in their hands than I do, and like their legs toasty warm relative to their hands. Comment away!

Posted by eroberts at 2:13 PM

December 7, 2006

Be kind to the blind and the seeing

American money, specifically the bills, are visually unappealing. This has always struck me as a little odd, since Americans tend to do the ceremonial and decorative aspects of public life quite nicely.

For example, the American flag is very nice; the national anthem is uplifting if overplayed and sung in a key that renders it often done badly. I guess it really is the thought that counts is what I think when I hear people mangle the Star Spangled Banner; American public architecture is, on average, much better than where I came from. I've rarely seen a New Zealand post office building that inspired, but some of the American post offices in small towns and large cities are fine examples of functional and beautiful public buildings.

Perhaps the unappealing money is part of the same trend that makes American stamps hit-or-miss. There are some great ones out there, but then there's the poorly done American flag stamp, and some other insipid ones that manage to poorly render inspiring artefacts like the Statue of Liberty.

But anyway, the bank notes. I'd occasionally wondered, as apparently foreigners from many countries do, what the visually impaired do to distinguish the bills all of the same size and all of the same basic color scheme. Clearly the truly blind don't care what the bills look like--perhaps only that they are of different shapes--but the partially sighted apparently find it functional to have bills of different colors.

In any case, the blind are a small minority in American life. Multi-colored currency with attractive, varied designs is a pleasant if minor way of enhancing everyone's life. A little bit of public artwork everytime you open your wallet. The best American bank note is the $2 bill, which along with its portrait of Jefferson has a rendition of the Declaration of Independence on the obverse. But when did you last get a $2 bill? This is way better than the succession of similar looking classical revival buildings on the flipside of most of the notes.

But things change slowly in public life in America. A country founded in a revolutionary moment now goes with the instinct to conserve what its founders might have the impulse to change were they around today. Clearly (clearly!) I'm not the person to lobby for changing the color of the money. Foreigner and all that. Yet even if I were, I can hear the attacks now. Do I not like George Washington? What do I have against the Lincoln Memorial? Etc etc ... Actually, I think Washington should stay. But Ulysses Grant on the $50! There must be better candidates, even from within the pantheon of 38 other presidents not already on the money.

Posted by eroberts at 4:51 PM