Thursday, July 20, 2006

Across the Golden Gate

I recently finished reading the novel Golden Gate by Vikram Seth. It's not my usual fare -- it's much more literary than the stuff I usually read -- but a friend had recommended it as "probably the finest piece of literature I've ever read" so I thought I'd try it.

It's about a group of friends living in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1980s, and their relationships, loves, losses, etc. There is a male-male relationship, which some people may find off-putting, but the treatment of it is pretty decent -- it's one relationship among several. Some of the story is happy; some of it is sad.

But what really makes this book special is not the subject or the plot, but that the entire book is in rhyming verse. Even the table of contents, acknowledgements, and dedication are in verse! And it's not your basic iambic pentameter, either. While it's impossible to imagine the characters' dialogues happening as written, I found myself rereading paragraphs out loud just because they were so luscious to roll around in my mouth.

I got it out of the local library. You might try that, or you can get Golden Gate on Amazon.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

It All Comes Down to the Last Minutes

One thing that amazes me about football (soccer) is how strongly defensive and low-scoring the games usually are. The Italy-Germany game today was scoreless until the 118th minute. The outcome of the entire game was decided in a period of about two minutes at the very end. That's almost two hours of watching twenty men running full tilt around a large field, following a little ball around and knocking each other down seemingly at every opportunity, while two other guys each stand in a small area hoping they don't have to do anything. Wouldn't it be nice if we could know ahead of time that nothing would happen for the first 117 minutes of the game? Then we could go about our daily lives, doing the laundry, getting work done, and so on, and then just pop in to see the last couple of minutes.

Ah, but that's not the point, you say. The point is to watch the Beautiful Game, to appreciate the clever strategies of the coaches and the players, to laud the heroics of the keeper diving to save that impossible shot, to marvel at the teamwork and interplay among the players, and to wonder at those miraculous kicks and headers that bury the ball in the back corner of the net.

But I did that already. It only took me the first forty-five minutes of the game, other than waiting for that elusive goal. So now what am I supposed to be doing?

On the good side, soccer players are generally a nice lot to look at. They are healthy and in very good shape, well-built and muscular without being overdone (and Germany's Lehmann certainly has some very good definition in his thighs! :-) ). Most are good examples of their races, the Koreans, the English, the Germans, the Angolans, the Brazilians, and so on, each with distinctive facial and other characteristics (and I find them all attractive). All are superbly honed into running, kicking, diving machines. Some, well aware of their status as handsome football hero, wear their long locks in a ponytail a la Ronaldinho, while others bleach their hair at the tips, mousse it like Beckham, or shave it all off.

In American football, the players wear helments with facemasks, huge pads on their shoulders and elsewhere, and they are completely covered except for possibly calves and forearms. No glowing skin, no muscle definition; nothing to see that makes a player look unique. And off the field they become these big huge guys like William “The Refrigerator” Perry of the Chicago Bears, bragged about how much food he could eat. He weighs well over 300 pounds, and there are other players now who weigh a lot more. Sorry, not my personal idea of attractiveness.

In soccer, the players wear shorts, shirt, shoes, and knee socks with shinguards. That's it. My World Cup vote for best uniforms goes to the Angola team. Nice tight shorts, a strong color scheme of black, red, and yellow, what's not to like? Those shorts show off their glistening muscular legs to perfection. And after the players on all the teams have been running around for a while, their shirts get soaked with sweat and become almost see-through. Many players even take them off immediately after the game, providing a nice show of toned tummies, backs, and shoulders.

Ah, the pleasures of football. Well, maybe I can manage to sit through another session of overtime play...

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