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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

Righteous Indignation

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

When I lived in Belfast seven years ago, I became aquainted with the writing of the BBC correspondent Fergal Keane. Keane had travelled in Rwanda after the genocide there in 1994, and he wrote about it movingly and disturbingly.

Having been exposed to the reality of that situation, I was quite reluctant to see the film Hotel Rwanda. I finally saw it a couple of weeks ago, and seeing it prompted my interest in what other reporting had been done on the genocide and the failure of the U.S. and the U.N. to do anything about it. I found a Frontline documentary called The Ghosts of Rwanda. It's a two-and-a-half hour long piece detailing what happened, how the western world was made aware that it was going to happen, and how the most powerful nation in the world stood by and watched it happen.

Well, all of this interest has directed my attention to the situation taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan, a situation that Colin Powell described in congressional testimony as "genocide." American actor Don Cheadle has also become a spokesman for the Darfur crises, hoping to capitalize on the popularity of Hotel Rwanda (there's a bit at the front of the Hotel DVD where Cheadle calls people to act by learning more about what is going on). Also, Frontline:World has produced a documentary about Darfur, called, The Quick And The Terrible.

And now there is the "Be A Witness" campaign, a group of activists trying to raise the level of public awareness about the situation (in which government-backed militias are burning villages, raping women, and killing civilians). Specifically, the campaign is attacking mainstream American media for its' lack of reporting on Darfur (compared to its' obsessive reporting on, say, Tom Cruise). Go to the site. Watch the ad. Send the email.

I'm not one of those bleeding-heart activist types. I'm far too cynical for that. But the fact is that at the close of the 20th century the western world stood by wringing its' beauracratic hands while nearly one million people were shot, strangled, and hacked to death by government-backed citizen militias in Rwanda. Most Americans knew nothing about it, because most media outlets provided very little coverage of it. And here we are again. While the superpowers of the world are watching, genocide is again taking place. Yet the average American or European (myself included) knows next to nothing about it.


posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 4:24 PM | link | 0 comments |

Quote of The Year

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Vince Vaughn, to a reporter, on the subject of people obsessed with celebrity gossip:

"Go kiss someone and go get something to eat and take a nap, you're going to be fine, kid."

posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 9:20 AM | link | 1 comments |

Rice Roughed Up

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Condoleeza Rice and her entourage got roughed up by presidential security in Sudan. Elbows were thrown, reporters were shoved, and equipment was seized in what sounds like one of the worst cases of diplomatic handling ever. To her credit, Rice verbally smacked down the President and his security, saying, ""It makes me very angry to be sitting there with their president and have this happen. They have no right to push and shove."

Rice was there, of course, to tour genocide-ravaged Darfour region. She made it clear while she was there that the west looks with skepticism upon the notion that the new collaborative government in Sudan has the committment to ending the violence that they say they do. The State Department has unwaveringly called the situation (in which thousands have been murdered in their homes and thousands more have been displaced to refugee camps) "genocide." Given the eerie similarities between this catastrophie and the one in Rwanda in 1994, the American vocabulary is encouraging. And perhaps now that our leading lady has been roughed up by those who are supposed to be the diplomats and peacemakers, perhaps now we will establish our own committment to resolve the situation--at all costs.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 3:59 AM | link | 0 comments |

Would You Like Some Wine With That?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

In case you were wondering, I was kickin' it in San Fran last week.

I sipped some wine and ate some gnocci in North Beach . . .

I hung out with the loveable Dr. Scott Strawn. . .

I saw the Golden Gate Bridge in my new Padres throwback lid . . .

And I attended the wedding of the impossibly hip Josh McPaul.

What a trip. Thanks guys.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 8:36 PM | link | 2 comments |

More Global Sport

Friday, July 08, 2005

I have had a bad habit in the past year of starting a book in a frenzy of enthusiasm and not finishing the third chapter. Book after book has literally thrown itself off of the library shelves at me, only to sit neglected on my coffee table for a few weeks (long enough to collect some overdue fines), neglected, hurt.

But alas, here is one I actually finished: Franklin Foer's How Soccer Explains The World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization. For the sports fan, for the soccer enthusiast, for the politerati, or just for people who enjoy a good read, this book is the ticket.

Iin fact, the soccer enthusiast and the expert in globalization might actually be disappointed. As one review laments, the book doesn't really deliver on the title: it doesn't provide an explanation of the world through soccer, nor does it offer any kind of theory of globalization. In fact, some familiarity with the broader points of the globalization thesis could be required.

That said, the books is delightful. Each chapter describes the state of soccer in a different part of the world (Serbia, Scotland, Brazil, The U.S., just to name a few), using the game as a lens through which to view broader cultural shifts and trends. For example, the Glasgow Rangers/Celtic rivalry is a manifestation of the catholic/protestant conflict that has riddled Scotland and Northern Ireland for two centuries. It's a violent expression of the grievances each side has against the other; it's the everyman, drunk, sportsfan turned paramilitary at the scoring of a goal.

Or consider the example of the corruption of Brazilian soccer officials. Students of globalization have almost universally conceded that the "development" aims of the 1960's (whereby developed nations poured money into under-developed countries in the faith that progress would inevitably result) were an abysmal failure. In places like Brazil, strong cultural currents undermined whatever gains money would have yielded. Sadly, nepotism and corruption were one of the dominant cultural factors. And what better illustration of that than the Brazilian soccer leagues? Foer's explanation is illuminating to the point of being chilling.

When it comes to Franklin Foer, I am (as they say) "a fan." I used a number of his essays and articles in the New Republic to write a seminary paper of sports and globalization. This book will make even the most casual reader a fan too.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 7:22 AM | link | 0 comments |

You Take The Good, You Take The Bad

Only days after announcing plans for the first ever international baseball tournament to use professional players--a World Cup of baseball--the International Olympic Committtee has now voted to drop baseball and softball from the olympics.

Americans are, of course, stunned and upset. But how many of them know that baseball has only been an olympic medal sport since 1992? How many of them were upset when the U.S. failed to even qualify for the 2004 Athens games? How many of them can name even two players on the 2000 gold medal team? The manager?

At the heart of our displeasure over the decision is a feeling of rejection; the European-heavy IOC has reached across the Atlantic and slapped the peanuts-and-cracker-jack grin right off our face. I, personally, don't really care. I think the good news this week far outweighs the bad. The 16-country international tournament that will begin next March will far surpass anything olympic baseball could have ever attained, especially since teams and owners were never going to allow professionals to play on olympic teams.

And, if baseball wants to follow soccer's queue one step further, they can institute an under 21 or an under 18 version of their tournament, giving amateurs the chance to engage in international competition. Because that's what the olympics is, at best: a chance for amateur athletes to test their mettle against other olympic amateurs. The NBA approach of sending Dream Teams of pro's to the olympics messes that up terribly (and, further, it has backfired on the NBA, since the generation of Eastern Europeans and Central Americans who marvelled at the Jordan and Bird dream team of '92 are now kicking the pants off their successors).

In the end, these sports and their leagues are brands. And brands have to compete in a globalized economy, so the olympic decision hurts. But the potential is far, far greater for the new tournament than the olympics ever was.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 6:12 AM | link | 2 comments |

And So It Begins

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

While he's busy ordering the flying of the confederate flag, Missouri Governor Matt Blunt is also cutting a swath through the medical coverage of poor Missourians. Blunt's first round of Medicare cuts goes into effect today, and the region's largest provider of medical services for the under/un-insured has already announced that it will have to cut several of those services.

Because someone in my church was a high-level staffer for the campaign of Blunt's opponent, Clair McCaskil, I paid little attention to the race, assuming that the Democratic McCaskil would win (she did, after all, oust the incumbent Democrat in the primary). Now I'm wishing I would have paid more attention.
posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 6:37 AM | link | 0 comments |