Planetary props to the City of London for a monumentally memorable 30th Olympiad. It was obvious from the opening ceremonies that these would be games nobody would soon forget. From the queen jumping out of a helicopter to Charles Dickens wearing a top hat at Stonehenge contracting black-lung disease during the Industrial Revolution or whatever was going on there. Beautiful, is what it was. And odd.
Then for two weeks, the world's greatest athletes captivated global attention by setting records and shedding tears and pulling hamstrings in familiar events and sports we didn't even know existed. Men's rhythmic marathon gymnastic BMX diving?
It continues to amaze how every four years, humans continue to incrementally evolve to be faster and stronger and higher and longer and as far as synchronized swimming is concerned, creepier.
The weather was oh-so-British; mercurial, unpredictable and tipsy by dark. And added kudos must be laid at the feet of England's capital city for keeping the contests pretty much controversy- free. Except, of course, the momentary ugliness that was the women's semifinal field hockey match between Great Britain and Argentina. AKA: The Falklands War II. This time it's personal! Utilizing less-lethal sticks.
One can never entirely keep politics out of games or games out of politics. The two have too much in common. For instance, we cheer for our team no matter what opponents they line up against. And if a player switches sides, that's fine too. As long as they wear our uniform. So essentially, what we root for is laundry.
Score is kept and grudges held for generations. Contestants blindly resort to any strategy within the law to win, often finding themselves on the wrong side of strictly legal. And invariably one over-caffeinated idiot will try to psych out the other side with smack talk about somebody's mama.
You might say it was a turbulent week for Mitt Romney. You could also say a light lemon sugar wash makes for ineffective mosquito repellent. He claims to have totally left Bain Capital to run the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics even though his company handed the government multiple signed documents stating otherwise, and now financial questions plague his campaign like a swarm of dive-bombing bees in a bathroom stall.
The presumptive GOP nominee finds himself in the uncomfortable position of having to convince skeptical voters someone can serve as a firm's president, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, sole stockholder, junior janitor and cafeteria server in a plastic hairnet and still have absolutely nothing to do with the direction of the company or anything that's going on. You might say he's invoking a modified Wall Street bankers' defense.
It boils down to whether he played any active role after leaving in 1999 and his subsequent retroactive retirement. Whatever that means. He says no, dividends be damned. And all those SEC filings listing him as boss were simply corporate publicity moves, like Donald Trump putting his name on various hotels and statuesque fashion models. Which many psychologists define as an edifice complex.
Adding to the confusion, in 2002, Willard successfully disputed tax records listing him as an inhabitant of Utah because he was required to have seven years of residency in Massachusetts for gubernatorial eligibility. Then again, who would quarrel with having a president who could live in two places at the same time?
All of America should drop to its knees and thank the GOP for attempting to provide us with replacement fireworks. As you undoubtedly know, cities all over the country this year were forced to cancel Fourth of July festivities due to fear of fire, glitchy computers and twitchy bureaucrats. Like there's another kind.
The Republican House took great pains to salve our sensory-deprived souls by trying to set off enough indoor fireworks to make the San Diego Big Bay Bust look like a fluttering votive candle. It was designed to be a spectacular explosion fueled by ego, obstinacy and behavior so self-absorbed, the casual bystander might assume we were in the middle of an election year.
For the 33rd time, all House business slammed to a grinding halt to accommodate another vote to repeal Obamacare. Again. Thirty-three times. Let's look at that, shall we? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33.
You got to give the majority party credit for being able to flog this dead horse without getting any flying bits on them. Thirty-three times is at least 32 times more than the administration ever tried to sell this bill to a public overwhelmingly in favor of its component parts.
They persevered even though everyone knows there's a better chance of flamingoes flying out of monkey butts than the Senate ever signing on. And getting past a presidential veto, substitute polka-dotted pterodactyls for the flamingoes.
From out of the green mist enveloping the campaign doldrums they come. Relentlessly. Doggedly. Cattedly. Trudging, blank-faced and soulless. Armies of cash-hungry zombies brandishing partisan pickaxes, shovels and crowbars, with only one goal rattling around their feverish brains. Campaign booty. Pieces of eight. Entire 8s. Eight-figured 8s.
We're in that lazy seam that marks the home stretch to the National Conventions, with little else to occupy opposing squads than raising moolah to prepare for the epic upcoming battle. Negative ads don't grow on trees, you know.
The peripatetic participants are as frenzied as reef sharks in shallow, tuna-rich waters trying to raise a little bit of money here, some more money there, how about all that money -- everywhere. At this point, the staffs are so laser-focused you'd think they were being pursued by the hounds of fund-raising hell. Maybe they are. Or the ghost of John McCain's '08 late October.
In May, President Obama picked up a measly $60 million versus $76 million for the presumptive Republican nominee ,and those figures were considered by most experts to be a drop in the Suck-It bucket. Slack City. Chump change. Must have been distracted. Weren't really trying. Had their minds on other things. It was Sweeps Week.
Disregard the almanac. And the calendar. Forget whatever the meteorologist or the astrology charts or your next-door neighbor with the hair growing out of a mole shaped like the state of Delaware on his nose told you. The true wormhole opening to summer is not the upcoming solstice on Wednesday, June 20th; it is, has been, and forever shall be the last Monday of May -- Memorial Day.
Memorial Day: when the world alters unalterably for every kid and teacher and parent and water-park operator across the land. By now, the cages have either sprung open or the locks are being picked, and the imprinted DNA of every true-blooded American tingles in anticipation of the ten-to-twelve weeks of school-free adventures looming ahead like a sun-kissed valley below a fog-enshrouded summit. Even those of us who don't get to stop and romp in the valley are able to recall extended days when we did, and can't help but grin wistfully.
Officially, the last Monday of May was carved out as a peaceful respite to lay a wreath at the tomb of all the young men and women who sacrificed their lives for the security of our nation, not to mention the multitude of valiant drivers tragically lost in Midwestern automobile races.
Unofficially, it's the time for the whole of America to stop in the headlong momentum of the year to lean on a freshly painted picnic table and catch our collective breath.
You don't need a psychoanalyst to detect the latent theme running through the endorsements currently showering Mitt Romney like broken rain gutters pouring down on a concrete toadstool. And that premise is ennui. "Mitt? Really? Yeah. Okay. Whatever." Makes tepid sound like a crazed bellow. With wild enthusiasm as MIA as World Series trophies in the Wrigley Field display case. Within the last 104 years, that is.
Someone should warn NASA because we are approaching stratospheric heights of apathy here. The only thing these highly solicited testimonials have accomplished is given a face to listless. The guy needs industrial-strength hip waders to slog through the thigh-high lethargy.
George W. Bush carved a precious three seconds out of his busy schedule to make a momentous announcement from the inside of an elevator telling an ABC news crew, "I'm for Mitt Romney" as the doors closed on him. Not that the candidate-in-waiting was particularly lusting after 44's imprimatur, which some might call the Kiss of Campaign Death. But it effectively does nail down the eminently sought-after spoiled rich kid vote.
Rick Santorum got around to his ringing endorsement 13 paragraphs into a 16-paragraph email sent out to supporters after midnight. The only subterfuge he neglected to employ was to disguise it in semaphoric code. And these are Romney's big-time Republican buddies. You'd think they were having their teeth pulled with families held at gunpoint on a listing catwalk yawning over an erupting caldera.
It's been like that ever since the nominee became presumptive. Politicians oozing from the woodwork with the same kind of energetic frenzy fifth-grade school girls normally reserve for haggis-flavored ice cream studded with garlic pickle chips.
You got to know this is just the beginning of a series of sluggishly recalcitrant pledges of approbation. Here are some other passion-challenged tributes we can expect over the coming weeks.
Now the general election has unofficially begun, you and I and pretty much everyone dear to us, except of course, beleaguered Kansas City Royal fans who eat BBQ at least twice a week, are about to be buried under such a blizzard of polls, we'll be lucky to evade frostbite burns.
The two campaigns are poised to pivot like a fat kid on roller skates clutching an expiring candy store coupon -- based on whatever data they receive from their intensely studied focus groups of potential voters. Because of ongoing leaps in technology and research, this time around the polling community has gravitated towards something called micro-demographics.
Small, nimble groups have replaced the old lumbering matrices of yesteryear. No longer does America have to duck while designations of Soccer Moms and NASCAR Dads are thrown our way, having become hopelessly outdated and appallingly unwieldy due to their exceptionally large sampling. These are tinier tastes, which can be more easily targeted like lasers taking out flies on Wisconsin barn roofs a mile and-a-half away.
For instance, according to 2008 exit polls, unmarried men unable to program their own DVRs were 3 percent of the electorate -- a group Barack Obama won by 56 percent to 51 percent. But among tall red-headed women who wore green on purpose, he lost by a daunting 59 percent to 40 percent. Obviously, you can see the trend, one that does not seem to have abated during this election cycle.
Remember way back when his own staffer said Mitt Romney had the convictions of an Etch-A-Sketch? Well, stand back, because as we speak, the former governor of Massachusetts is being flipped over and shaken so hard the fillings in the back teeth of his whole family are starting to rattle and cascade like some great crumbling Utah Butte.
Fear not the rubble, little ones. This simply means we're entering general election territory, so anything Mitt Romney might have said up during the primary... no longer applies. We're beginning anew. Re-shuffling the deck. The winter of our discontent has been made glorious summer by this Son of Dork.
We're not even playing the same ballgame anymore. Fast-pitch hardball has morphed into beach volleyball before our very eyes. And the sand's been replaced with money. Unlike the previous six months, the object is no longer about how hard you hit the ball, rather how long it stays in the air. On your side of the net. You may recall this from pre-video game childhood as Keep Away.
A Republican primary is consumed with hard right angles. No quarter asked for, no quarter given. The general election is much more soft focus. Nice, round, spongy contours. Less muscular retorts, more sly evasions. Gauze is being spread over the lens and next comes the two fingers of Vaseline. Best keep a towel handy.
Already the severely conservative former governor has turned into a moderate kind of a regular guy. Mr. Hyde sunk behind the lab island and Dr. Jeckyll rose to walk forward with an outreached hand. Mister "It's okay to call Susan Fluke a slut" is now the soul of Chivalry.
Let us talk of many things, of Cabbages and Kings. Of Ultimate Arbiters. The Court of Last Resort. SCOTUS. The judicial graveyard where appealers go to die. The Supreme Court of the United States, which reluctantly deigned to hear testimony on a subject so obviously beneath them, it was an effort to keep their left eyes open: Obama Care.
Due to the rarified air of the highest court in the land, the arguments were solemn, dignified and incisive. "Obama Care Sucks!" "Does not." "Does So." "Does Not." Like that, only in elevated lawyer language.
The Supremes, made up of six Catholics and three Jews -- and doesn't that sound like the dance card at a KKK Lawn Burning Jamboree -- agreed to stoop from their lofty perch to consider the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. And to that purpose they carved six whole hours from their busy docket. The equivalent of eight episodes of "American Idol," without commercials. And no Steven Tyler, so they got that going for them.
Justice Antonin Scalia was frustrated: "Do you expect us to go through each part of this law?" Of course not. That's why they call them briefs. The Act, as rammed through a Democratic Congress, is 2400 pages long. Or 2700. They're still not sure. Shouldn't they be sure? By now? A lot of stuff can happen in 300 pages. We've all read Harry Potter.
For some odd reason, vegetables were referenced. Repeatedly. Scalia facetiously asked: "Everybody has to buy food... therefore you can make people buy broccoli?" Hmm. Seems to possess an unhealthy fixation with broccoli, a member of the cabbage family, mentioning it eight times. The traumatic result of a pre-adolescent dinner revolt?
The thing is, Tony, if you don't buy broccoli, my grocery bill doesn't go up. Stores don't offer differing prices for rich people broccoli and poor people broccoli. And you won't ever be prevented from buying broccoli because you got a weird looking oyster in your cart.
No. It's not over. Well, okay, it's kind of over. But the Republican nomination is not totally-otally over. As it very well should be. How over? So over, the fat lady not only sang, she should be back in her hotel room kicking off her shoes easing into a recliner with the remote in one hand and digging deep into a three-pound box of marzipan with the other. Yes, that over.
Could have nailed this puppy to the headboard a month ago, but after every sledgehammer-type primary door slam, Team Romney somehow manages to stumble in bright media glare on dead-flat asphalt, ripping knees out of focus group-approved, perfectly faded jeans, to lay bleeding on the tarmac.
First it was "likes to be able to fire people," then "not concerned about the very poor." Yeah, we kind of knew that. But now all those allusions to the front runner being a distant android or impassive cyborg or corporatized zombie have been shelved because one of his own staffers offered up a more perfect crystallization: the "Etch-A-Sketch" candidate. The major difference being the child's toy works via magnetism, a concept that continues to elude the former Governor of Massachusetts.
Hard to imagine a worse, more apt analogy. Gumby, perhaps. Yo-Yo Man. Slip and Slide. Speak and Spell. Silly String. Chutes and Ladders. Mister Potato Head. No, wait. That's Newt. Funny thing is, Bain Capital owns Toys R Us, so Mitt will actually make money off his opponents' frenzied press-conference accessorizings. Never let a little thing like fraudulence get in the way of profit, eh Mitt? Truly, you are a malleably nimble free-marketeer.