Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Age gap

“I wrote a book in which I worked with professional athletes and Olympic medalists to settle a series of long-running sports debates. The questions I heard most often had to do with gender: How big is the gap between the top male and female athletes?

“One of my initial findings was jarring: the women’s Olympic record in the 100 meters, set in 1988 by superstar Florence Griffith-Joyner, is virtually identical to the U.S. record for 14-year-old boys - also set in 1988, by the less heralded Curtis Johnson. The winning time of 2008 women’s gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser? Well over a tenth of a second slower than Johnson’s.

“Nor is the 100 meters an aberration. In sport after sport, evidence shows that the top female professional athletes in the world are on par with the best American 14- and 15-year-old boys. Nearly every female Olympic record in speed, strength and endurance events falls between the records set by the best American 14- and 15-year-old boys.”

- Todd Gallagher, writing on “Olympian Political Correctness” on Aug. 22 at National Review

Political brands

“It may have become possible for serious candidates to aim their general-election campaigns almost exclusively at their bases - this is the so-called ‘51-percent strategy’ - rather than reaching out to undecided voters. …

“Today, a voter’s decision to support one candidate over another may well have little to do with that candidate’s positions on specific issues. It is, rather, an ideological fashion statement, a declaration that one is a certain kind of person, whose tastes on a wide variety of cultural matters can be reliably inferred from his political preferences - and vice versa. ‘If you drive a Volvo and do yoga, you are pretty much a Democrat,’ said Ken Mehlman, who managed President Bush‘s 2004 presidential campaign. ‘If you drive a Lincoln or a BMW and you own a gun, you’re voting for Bush.’

“The now-familiar phrases ‘latte liberal’ and ‘NASCAR conservative’ are expressions of this development. So is the widely read satirical Web site, whose authors catalogue the cultural preferences of urban white liberals.”

- Terry Teachout, writing on “America Sorts Itself,” in the July-August issue of Commentary

Subversion, man

“Can Judd Apatow be called a subversive force in Hollywood? If you believe so (and I do), you could rightly point to a handful of factors. The comedies he produces overflow with raunch. … In addition to being obscene … his films are thrillingly and madly literate, a jumble of pop culture scholasticism and white-boy hip-hop jargon that is intricate enough to erase the line between stoopid and genius. And at a time when Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise can’t be guaranteed to open a film, Apatow has created a revenge-of-the-nerds alternate universe in which an actor who looks like Seth Rogen can become a movie star.

“But there’s an additional factor of subversion at play. ‘Knocked Up’ was just a glorified sitcom, but starting with the inspired ‘Superbad,’ and then with the underrated ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall,’ Apatow has presided over movies that have no plots - that spill forward with casual abandon, wandering down blind alleys and turning those alleys into full-blown highways, which twist and turn with the rambling stoned logic of ‘70s movies.”

- Owen Glieberman, writing on “Pineapple Express” on Aug. 5 at Entertainment Weekly

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