Sunday/ fascinated by ‘Inmyeonjo’

The Inmyeonjo is a legendary animal that appears in East Asian mythology and Buddhist scripture as a fantastical creature with a human head and a bird’s torso. It dates back 2,000 years to the Goguryeo period in Korea. [Picture: Yonhap News]
I loved the pagoda and the traditional Korean costumes [Picture: Panasonic]. The black and white floor image shows a few shadows at the bottom right. The spectacular imagery on the stadium floor was created by several synchronized ‘large venue’ laser projectors (made by Panasonic). Each put out as much as 30,000 lumens of light, and weigh 83 kg/ 185 lbs.  Cost : some $60,000 apiece. The Intel ‘Shooting Star’ drones from the opening ceremony made a come-back to form the image of Soohorang in the sky (the official mascot). The drones are quadcopters with 6 inch rotors. (Shout-out to the South African flag in the bottom right of the picture). The final screen grab shows a nice Asian blossom/ flower motif. The panda bears in the foreground is the connection to the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.
This is just a little lonely that the 2018 Winter Olympic games are over‘ (clumsy but cute translation of a Twitter post, from Japanese).  Yes, it is over.

Congratulations to the US Women’s Hockey team, and the US Men’s Curling team with their gold medals, and to Norway for their record 39 medaIs, 14 gold!

I watched most of the closing ceremony tonight.  I see Inmyeonjo/ 인면조 (the ‘human-faced bird’) from the closing ceremony caused a stir among Korean netizens.


Wednesday/ flawless

I loved the short pairs program of Chinese figure skaters Sui Wenjing and Han Cong. Their music was k.d. lang’s dreamy, languid rendition* of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, and the skaters delivered a flawless and emotional performance. Wow.

*Lang sang it at the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

This video still from ‘Reigning world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China lead the field after the pairs’ short program on Wednesday, setting them up for China’s first pairs gold medal since 2010. Their emotional, solid short program to K.D. Lang’s “Hallelujah” scored 82.39 points. They took the silver for pairs.

Friday/ one Korea: the dream is fading

It was great to see the unified Korean team come into the Olympic stadium for the opening ceremony. One could argue that Korea is the only divided country that remains in the world.  For example, there was North and South Vietnam (united in 1975), East and West Germany (united in 1990), and South North and South Yemen (also united in 1990). And yes, the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, but one cannot see it become one country again.

I read that support for Korean unification is fading, though. Some 50% of young South Koreans regard North Korea as an outright enemy, that they want nothing to do with. The harsh reality is that there is a yawning chasm between the economies of the countries. The per capita income difference between the South and North is 20 to 1. For West Germany and East Germany it was 3 to 1.

Here come the Koreans, the unified team entering the Olympic stadium during the opening ceremony. It is not a first: unified Korean teams marched in the opening ceremonies of the 2000, 2004, and 2006 Olympics as well. Real unification? Very hard and very real obstacles remain. [Picture from]

Thursday/ the quad king disappoints

Hey! The 2018 Winter Games is underway.  US figure skater the ‘quad king*’ Nathan Chen (18) made his debut on Friday in Pyeongchang, but disappointed.  He failed to properly execute the quad triple toe, and fell on another jump, ending up in fourth place.  ‘Was it nerves? What went wrong?’ inquired an interviewer.  “I wasn’t nervous,’ Chen said. ‘I felt pretty comfortable, I was relaxed and ready to go.’ He did admit that he ‘got ahead of myself. I think I was a little too excited.’

*Chen is the first figure skater to land five quadruple lutz jumps (four rotations) in one program. These jumps take a lot of energy, physically and emotionally.  Chen is also the only undefeated men’s skater in the world this season.

Nathan Chen falls during the Olympic team event (men’s single figure skating short program) on Friday in Pyeongchang. [Photo: Robert Hanashiro, USA TodaySports]

Sunday/ the underdog is a champ

The front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer, on Monday morning,

Philadelphians are celebrating the the streets, after their Eagles defied expectations and best the New England Patriots 41-33 in Superbowl LVII.

Eagles quarterback Nick (‘Saint Nick’) Fowles started the season as back-up quarterback for his team. He replaced regular quarterback Carson Wentz in December when Wentz tore a knee ligament.

Fowles didn’t inspire a lot of confidence at first, but played brilliantly in the post-season playoffs, and ended up being voted Most Valuable Player.  Wow.

Here is a collage of some of the highlights of the game. That’s Patriots quarterback Tom Brady top left, and Eagles QB Nick Foles to his right. The Patriots briefly took the lead in the fourth quarter, but then tight end game had a nail-biting finish, but then Zach Ertz got a touchdown, and the Eagles stopped Tom Brady from drawing even and forcing the game into overtime. [Picture stills from]

Sunday/ Roger that: it’s number 20

I had to take a nap this afternoon! I watched the Australian Open Men’s Final in the wee hours of Sunday morning, from 1 am to 4 am. It was totally worth it. Roger Federer won his 20th Grand Slam* championship, at 36, which is unheard of in modern men’s pro tennis. (Both numbers: the 36 and the 20).

*A Grand Slam tournament is one of the four big ones: Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon or US Open.

Some screen shots from the live feed. Clockwise from the top left: Chilic (say ‘Chill-itch’) pumped up after winning the second set | Australian movie star Chris ‘Thor’ Hemsworth and friend were in the crowd | Roger That, says a fan t-shirt (I want one) | A tearful Federer at the podium, after winning | Wife and No 1 supporter on the tour, Mirka – an ex-tennis professional herself, in the player guest box | Another tennis legend, Australian Rod Laver, taking a picture of the big TV screen. Laver won all four Grand Slam titles in 1962, and again in 1969 – a feat unmatched by anyone else in the history of the game.

‘Keep your eye on the ball’. Federer working his magic. [Picture: Ben Solomon/ Tennis Australia].
Cilic chasing down a ball. The ‘impossible’ Western Forehand grip that he has on his racquet, is used to put extreme topspin on the ball. I never really used this grip when I played tennis; my impression is that it only became widely popular after my generation of tennis players. [Picture: Ben Solomon/ Tennis Australia].
It’s Federer’s 20th Grand Slam title, 6th Australian Open title. On Saturday, Caroline Wozniacki won her first Australian Open and first Grand Slam tournament. [Pictures: Tennis Australia]

Tuesday/ Hyeon ‘The Wall’ Chung

There’s a new kid on the (Australian Open 2018 tennis) block: South Korean Hyeon Chung.  Chung is 21 yrs old, and nicknamed ‘The Wall’ for his ability to return all incoming serves.

He reached the AO Men’s semi-final by beating American Tennys Sandgren on Wednesday (Australia time). In the previous round, he took out former World No 1 Novak Djokovic in a great match.

Chung and his new coach, South African Neville Godwin, will have to pull out all the stops for his next match, though : against World No 2 – and arguably the world’s greatest tennis player ever, Roger Federer.

Update Fri 1/26: Chung had to throw in the towel and retire from his match against Federer, due to a blister on his foot. He was down 1-6 , 2-5.

Hyeon Chung from South Korea, in his quarter-final match against American Tennys Sandgren. [Photo: Ben Solomon/ Tennis Australia]
Chung’s double-handed backhand. [Photo: Ben Solomon/ Tennis Australia]

Tuesday/ Pyeongchang’s Pyongyang problem

Soohorang  (rough translation ‘protection tiger’) and Bandabi (‘half moon bear’), the mascots of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games and Paralympics. [Source: THE WALL STREET JOURNAL]
‘Pyeongchang has a Pyongyang problem’ reports the Wall Street Journal in an article about the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, now less than four months away.

Pyeongchang is only 40 miles from the border with North Korea (capital: Pyongyang), and ticket sales have been slow.

Accommodation for tourists close to the sites is limited as well. On the bright side, fund raising and construction of the venues have met key milestones.


Wednesday/ no USA! in World Cup 2018

Oy vey, what a disappointment! Tuesday’s World Cup Qualifying soccer match of the USA vs. Trinidad & Tobago, ended in a 1-2 loss for the Americans.

After losses of 1-2 to Mexico and 0-4 to Costa Rica as well, it meant that for the first time since 1986, the USA did not qualify for the World Cup.  ‘You can’t get a draw, a tie, against Trinidad? You don’t deserve to go to the World Cup’, said an exasperated Taylor Twellman afterwards, in an epic rant on sports network ESPN.

Twitter (#USMNST) was set alight by soccer fans : video of chimpanzees kicking soccer balls; ‘well, they had to beat both Trinidad AND Tobago’; ‘dear Donald Trump, I’m getting tired of all the winning’; ‘On a side note, I’ve been to Trinidad and Tobago. It’s a lovely country’.

Lionel Messi. He scored all three goals in the match against Ecuador.

I see the Dutch team (called ‘Oranje’ for their orange jerseys) did not qualify, either. Aw.

The Argentinians came perilously close to the same fate, but they have superstar Lionel Messi, and he scored three goals in their critical match against Ecuador, securing their place in World Cup 2018.

South Africa’s ‘Bafana Bafana’ team is still in contention in Africa Group D, but will have to win both match-ups against Senegal in November.

Australia’s ‘Socceroos’ will travel to Honduras in a play-off match, in their quest for a fourth-consecutive World Cup appearance.


Sunday/ number 8!

[@Wimbledon on Twitter]. There’s an 8 in there, for the eight Wimbledon championships that Roger had won, the most of any player, ever since the tournament was first held in 1877.
I got up at 6 am this morning to watch Roger Feder (Swiss, he turns 36 on Aug 8!) and Marin Čilić (Croatian, 28) play in the 2017 Wimbledon final. Federer won in what was a one-sided match with Čilić saddled with a painful blister on his toe.   The best part for me to watch, was Federer’s little tour afterwards through the VIP lounge, here. His family was there, of course, and Prince William and Kate, and Rod Laver, Stefan Edberg, and many other well-wishers, saying ‘well played’.

I hope in a London that had recently suffered a spate of terrorist attacks, and the terrible Grenfell fire, the tennis brought some sense of normalcy back.  I sorely appreciate Roger’s grace – in his speech on the court, and in his tour of the lounge afterwards.

Sunday/ Superbowl overtime, a first

Tom Brady, Patriots quarterback, with the Vince Lombardi trophy after the game.

American football fans and other on-lookers (me) watched the Superbowl tonight. I really thought the Atlanta Falcons had it in the pocket with their 28-0 lead in the third quarter. But no! the Boston Patriots caught up with them, and with 28-28 at full time, the game went into overtime and .. the Patriots were first to score, sealing their 5th Superbowl win with a touch-down, 34-28.

Below the surface of it all churned some ugly politics.  The Dutch newspaper Volkskrant reports that it all seemed like a 2016 Presidential election replay.  Trump* is friends with Patriots quarterback Brady and coach Belchick. Neo-Nazis such as Richard Spencer tweeted that the ‘white team’ Patriots must win over Atlanta from the South. The carefully crafted Superbowl commercial about Adolphus Busch (German-born), coming to America to brew Budweiser beer, was seen by some right-wingers as supportive of immigration – prompting them to call for a boycott of Budweiser beer.  Man. Give it a rest!

*Trump left the viewing party at Mar-a-Lago in the third quarter, apparently giving up on the Patriots .. but (of course) tweeted his congratulations after the win.

He’s got it!

One for the record books : number 18 Grand Slam championship win for Federer,  4½ years after his 2012 win at Wimbledon.  A great and amazing tennis match between two great competitors!

Some tweets have a little goat icon in by Rogers’ name, since Roger is now officially the ‘G.O.A.T’, the greatest of all time, in tennis.

Monday/ go, Rodger!

Rodger Federer is 35, has four young children and a postoperative knee – and 17 Grand Slam singles wins.  So : he is playing for gravy in the 2017 Australian Open, as the New York Times says.   This year’s tournament has already seen world No 1 Andy Murray ousted, as well as 6-time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic.  Federer is meeting a Russia-born German called Mischa Zverev (age 29), in the quarterfinal.  It was Zverev that beat Andy Murray.   Go, Rodger!

Federer is meeting Zverev in the quarterfinal. Zverev beat No 1 Andy Murray. Stan Wawrinka is already through to the semi-finals.
Federer posted a 30 minute video of a practice session on Twitter.


Sunday/ is that a nuclear reactor in your coat?

I did not watch the football NFL and AFL championship games on TV this afternoon, but I see the enormous sideline coat (if one can call it that) of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was made into a meme* on Twitter.   (The Patriots advanced to a record ninth Superbowl final, against the Atlanta Falcons).

*a humorous image, video, or piece of text that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in his enormously bulked up coat, keeping him warm on the sideline. And is that the bare arm of No 11 of Julian Edelman, on his right? Does he not need a jacket? Someone, get the man a jacket!


Sunday/ football overdose

IMG_6787 sm
Check out the enormous warming jacket (I think that’s what it is) that No 11 Julian Edelman (on the left) is wearing.  He plays for the New England Patriots (from the greater Boston area).

It was a BIG weekend for the National Football League with four play-off games.  Looking back, I am a little shocked to realize how much football I had watched ! Probably more than I have watched all season, yikes.  The Seahawks beat the Carolina Panthers here on our home turf on Saturday to go through to next weekend, where they will meet the Greenbay Packers from Wisconsin.

The standings in the NFL playoffs after this weekend’s games.