Thursday, September 22, 2011

Serena is fined $2,000. What is the Price of Repeated Bad Court-side Behavior?

Gone are the days when the bad boy of 1980's tennis John Mcenroe could verbally harass court umpires with his tirade and avalanche of harsh words--and not be fined and punished.

Times have changed because the rules have changed. Rules have changed because the fans expect the etiquette of traditional tennis to be honored.

Each Grand Slam tournament sets its own standards and rules. White is still the required court wear at Wimbledon while the USTA allows multicolored tennis garb.

But would the All England Tennis Club allow such verbal abuse to be answered with a slap on Serena's wrist? (She earned $1.4 Million and was fined just $2,000)

My guess is probably not! She might even be banned from future Wimbledon competition.

Evidently, the USTA committee did not feel that Serena's conduct was serious--"did not rise to the level of a major offense under the Grand Slam Code of Conduct."

What do you think?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Stamford's Mayor Pavia Unveils Memorial to 9/11 with Ceremony at the Government Center

In front of a packed audience of local citizens, city workers, firefighters, police, EMS and Marine Corps League representatives, Mayor Pavia unveiled a remembrance to 9/11.

The City received a 15 inch part of the World Trade Center Building in February and wasn't quite sure what to do with it. A very creative lady,  Krisella Garcia Bosak, saw the piece of metal and asked the Mayor if she could do something very special with it.

Here is a video clip of the unveiling.

Kristella's husband Jerry Bosak and his parents donated the memorial which will reside in the Government Center lobby.

Stamford Government Center Ceremonies Remembering 9/11: Part I

On 9/11, Stamford commemorated the tragic events that occurred 10 years ago with a series of speeches and the dedication of a sculpture at the Government Center.

The ceremony began at 8:30 AM  with a solemn march of the Connecticut Firefighters playing their bagpipes. Here is a video clip.

Mayor Pavia was one of several excellent speakers. He reminded us that despite the sadness and grief, the remembrances and services are a 'celebration' of our spirit as a people, our strength as a country and our determination never to forget those perished in their line of duty, doing what they knew how to do best.

Here is a video clip of his speech. 

Part II will continue on my next post with a video of the unveiling of a sculpture designed from a fragment from the World Trade Center site. 

Glenbrook Stamford Remembers 9/11

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

US Tennis Open 2011: Can Tennis Players be Too Nice?

The US Open Tennis Championship 
Flushing Meadows, New York 

Chris Ellsberry, a writer for The Stamford Advocate inspired my last tennis blog about #1 female tennis player Caroline Wozniacki being a class act off the court as well as on the court at the New Haven Tennis Open.

Next comes along Tom Perrotta a writer for the Wall Street Journal who asks: Is Women's Tennis Too Nice? 

He cites many excellent examples  of friendship between rivals, both on the women's and men's circuits. (For this reason, I urge you to read the entire article.)

Wozniacki visited Serena Williams at home when she suffered a pulmonary embolism and also invited her foe Victoria Azarenka (now ranked number 3 by the WTA) to her Monaco home where they dined and then visited the aquarium and beach together.

"She (Wozniacki) talks to everybody, she's very fun all the time," said Gisela Dulko, the veteran pro from Argentina. "She's always smiling."

How times have changed says Lisa Raymond who turned pro in 1993 and with Liezel Huber won the 2011 ladies doubles tournament beating defending champs King and Schvedova  4-6, 7-6, 7-6 .

Lisa is quoted as saying, "If anyone even mentioned Monica Seles or Steffi Graf, it was like, 'Ahhhhhhhhh!' You would never talk to Steffi Graf in the locker room, and I like Steffi. There was just this aura."

Tom rightly poses the key question: will this trend toward friendship and doing small deeds of kindness displayed by arch rival tennis giants inhibit their toughness and competitiveness and thus bring down the level/quality of playing? (He also queries why there are fewer tennis prodigies reaching their peak in their teens. Recall Graf , Seles, Capriati and Martina Hingis of the 1980's and 1990's--but this is getting off subject.)

The answer to the above key question is a definitive NO! Hey, it was just a short while ago that we witnessed the Williams sisters slugging it out to the finish in 8 different Grand Slam Finals matches . Admittedly, they got along very well off the courts--and we have witnessed the more argumentative Serena muscle her way past her sister in six of their eight meetings.

Thank you Tom Perrotta for an excellent article with lots of quotes.

Perhaps the most memorable one was from Samantha Stosur, the first Australian lady to win  the US Open since Margaret Court Smith in 1973-- with a stunning upset of the favorite Serena Williams in  straight sets 6-2, 6-3:  "If Federer and Nadal can seemingly get along so well, then why can't everyone else? They've got one of the greatest rivalries in sports."

Thank you Woz, Azarenka, Nadal and Federer to name a few of the current players for being outstanding role models, displaying modesty, humility and humanity by performing small acts of kindness!

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Monday, September 12, 2011

The Ferguson Library Bookmobile is a Stamford Tradition: It's Worth a Visit When it comes to your Neighborhood

The Ferguson Bookmobile has a history spanning over 70 years. It first made its appearance in the late 1930's and appeared like the one pictured below.

The sides of the vehicle would open up and people would come to browse the books which were neatly placed on bookshelves. It was a great way to bring the library to communities,  especially to the children. Turn of the River, Belltown, Glenbrook and North Stamford communities that benefited from the local visit; after all the city had only one library at that time.   

Sometime in the early 1940's, the Bookmobile was upgraded into a vehicle resembling a tiny school bus pictured below.

  A Stamford resident sent Ferguson Library this photo for its archives. It was taken on Webb's Hill Road off of Long Ridge Road during the winter of 1942 when he was 6 years old.   He says he remembers "the excitement of the arrival of the bookmobile and going up inside. Somehow the shelves would be pulled down and opened up, but I don't remember the details."

Today the Bookmobile can be seen in its latest incarnation all about town. 

Last Wednesday, I was able to catch up with the Bookmobile as it was parked at the Glenbrook/Shop-Rite Center from 12:15 to 2:15. The rains from tropical storm Lee had just let up and I stopped at the Bookmobile just to check out the latest offerings.

What a surprise I was in for!

I was delighted to find the latest in fiction, non-fiction and DVDs and the staff friendly and helpful in locating items.

I quickly found a copy of Senator Joe Lieberman's just published book The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath, John Grisham's latest novel, The Confession  and the Coen brothers cult movie A Serious Man, on DVD.

The schedule for the Bookmobile through January 2012 can be found on the Ferguson website.

So, in these extremely difficult economic times, take a moment to patronize this valuable free resource when it visits your neighborhood and keep a Stamford legacy going.

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Caroline Wozniaki number one women's tennis star displays world class off the court

Caroline Wozniacki at the 2010 US Open 

Kudos to Chris Ellsberry of the Stamford Advocate who first reported how the 22 year-old blond, blue-eyed, lithesome Wozniaki has taken New Haven 'by storm' in the recent Open tennis tournament held there. 

We all know that she has been ranked the number one women's tennis player for nearly a year. Indeed, at the baseline she is rock solid and plays near-perfect tennis.

But, it is off the court where she truly excels. On a non-play day, she is espied by Ellsberry roaming the Connecticut Tennis Center "hours on end, lighting the place up with her megawatt smile."

She can be found at the USTA Smash Zone signing autographs and posing "for pictures with hundreds of kids."

At the Cybex treadmill for breast cancer research, she ran three miles in front of an admiring crowd.

When  ladies tennis star Steffi Graff was a no-show at a The Teekanne tea party meet-and-greet, Caroline gladly filled in for the former tennis great.

It's very clear that she has an exemplary character, giving of herself, off the court wherever and whenever she is needed. It is no surprise that the entire Yale football team of 100 has come out two years straight to watch her compete.

It also comes as no surprise that she has won the New Haven Open four consecutive years including 2011!

Hats off to Caroline and to Chris Ellsberry for an inspiring story!

In my next blog, I will write about perceptions of Caroline's character from the perspective of another writer at the 2011 US Open.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

The US Open at Flushing Meadows: The Ups and the Downs. Delight with the High Quality of Play

Arthur Ashe Stadium at the US Open 

It is approaching 4:30 AM here in southeastern Connecticut and raining very hard.

We are about 30 miles from Flushing Meadows where the US Open is 'trying to be played.'

We here in the tri-state area enter our third consecutive day of potential washout and its likely that the tournament will be extended into Monday and possibly Tuesday next week.

The rain is a result of tropical storm Lee, which brought 10-15 inches of rain to Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, moving up the Atlantic coast  mixing with a persistent northeast cold front pushing in our direction.

The result is extreme frustration for the players. They are under pressure by tournament director Curley to squeeze in matches so as to have the  women's and men's finals on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

A riveting example of disappointment was a much frustrated Nadal who was interviewed on ESPN  after he had left the court after only 15 minutes of play; he had started his round of 16 match with Gilles Muller at 12 noon, played only three games and was down 0-3!  Though the court conditions were not optimal (the backcourt was still wet), he appeared amenable to play.

(A trio of players: Nadal, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray had marched into the tournament director's office to protest the resumption of play at noon when it was obvious to all that it was still raining!)

Meanwhile, the commentators led by John Mcenroe were discussing the lack of a movable roof over Arthur Ashe or Louis Armstrong stadiums.  It seems that when the facility was being planned  in the mid 1990's, Mac had urged the USTA to include a sliding roof  (much like Wimbledon introduced and Roland Garros has planned for 2015!) only to be shot down. The cost now is prohibitive running up to $200 million. This is a near impossible engineering feat for the Ashe venue because of its sheer size and it is not likely to happen for Armstrong due to cost.

The problem with covering only Armstrong is accommodating the 22,000 plus fans from the larger Ashe stadium to the Armstrong facility that barely holds 10,000 fans.

On the bright side is the excellent online weekend coverage by the US Open website. We tennis fans were able to view up to 6 matches simultaneously aided by a reliable PIP screen. (This was a boon as the Tennis Channel was pulled from our Cablevision system over a monetary dispute.)

The streaming HD quality images online were outstanding. We were able to witness exciting matches- especially the number one seeded Wozniacki versus number seventeen seeded Kutsnetsova. The latter played the highest level of tennis in the first set only to be upended by a stronger Woz in an thrilling three setter:  6-7, 7-5, 6-1.

Another memorable match was the five setter between the eighth seeded American Marty Fish and eleventh seeded  Jo Wilfred Tsonga; it was a tight match that featured Fish finishing at the net 87 times via his serve and volley and Tsonga winding up at the net 47 times (but only once on a serve and volley).  (Thanks to the New York Times' Straight Sets blog for the numbers.) This was tennis reminiscent of the era of fast grass court tennis at Wimbledon and Forest Hills (when the Open was played there.) Tsonga pulled out the match in the fifth set; the score was 6-4, 6-7, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2
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Friday, September 2, 2011

Memorable Quotes from the Essays of Arundhati Roy, Extraordinary Indian Novelist and Activist

Arundhati Roy: Indian novelist, essayist and activist 

I recently blogged about my discovery of Arundhati Roy from India , a winner of the Mann Booker Prize for outstanding fiction in 1997 and since then known for her extraordinary activism in fighting for the rights of the powerless  in her India that flaunts a rapidly and explosively expanding economy; India is a nascent, emerging global superpower.

Here is a sampling of the resonant, often poetic,  prose of Arundhati Roy:

"You know The God of Small Things became more and more successful. And I watched as the city I lived in the air became blacker and the cars sleeker, the gates grew higher and the poor were being stuffed like lice into the crevices and all the time my bank account burgeoned and I began to feel as though every feeling in The God of Small Things was traded in for a silver coin and if I wasn't careful, I would become a little silver figurine with a cold heart."
 (quoted from the documentary Dam/Age.)

"I stood on a hill and laughed out loud.

I had crossed the Narmada [River] by boat from Jalsindhi and climbed the headland on the opposite bank where I could see, ranged across the crowns of low, bald hills, the Adivasi [tribal] hamlets of Sikkra, Surung, Neemgavan and Domkhedi. I could see their airy fragile, homes. I could see their fields and the forest behind them. I could see little children with littler goats scuttling across the landscape like motorised peanuts. I know I was looking at a civilization older than Hinduism, slated-sanctioned (by the highest court in the land)- to be drowned this monsoon when the  the waters of the Sardar Sarovar resevoir will rise to submerge it.

Why did I laugh?

Because I suddenly remember the tender concern with which the Supreme Court judges in Delhi (before vacating the legal stay on further construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam) had enquired whether tribal children in the resettlement colonies would have children's parks to play in. The lawyers representing the Government had hastened to assure them that indeed they would, and , what's more, that there were seesaws and slide and swings in every park. I looked up at the endless sky and down at the river rushing past and for a brief, brief, moment the absurdity of it all reversed my rage and I laughed. I meant no disrespect. "
 (from an essay, The Greater Common Good and recited in part by Roy at the beginning of the  documentary, Dam/Age)

The minister says that for India’s sake people should leave their villages and move to the cities. He’s a Harvard man. He wants speed. And numbers. Five hundred million migrants, he thinks, would make a good business model.

Not everybody likes the idea of their cities filling up with the poor. A judge in Mumbai called slum-dwellers pickpockets of urban land. Another said, while ordering the bulldozing of unauthorised colonies, that people who couldn’t afford it shouldn’t live in cities.

When those who had been evicted went back to where they came from, they found their villages had disappeared under great dams and quarries. Their homes were occupied by hunger, and policemen. The forests were filling up with armed guerrillas. War had migrated too. From the edges of India, in Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland, to its heart. So the people returned to the crowded city streets and pavements. They crammed into hovels on dusty construction sites, wondering which corner of this huge country was meant for them.
( an excerpt  from the Introduction  The Penumbrates)
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Discovering Arundhati Roy: An Exceptional Indian Novelist, Essayist and Activist

Arundhati Roy speaking at
Harvard University in April 2010

While browsing the weekend edition of the Financial Times back in June, I came across the lead article in the Life and Arts section that intrigued me. It was about an Indian writer who had won the Booker Prize for the best fiction in 1997, The God of Small Things. (More on this linguistic poetic/prose masterpiece in  a later blog.)

What amazed me was that Arundhati Roy, far from following up her sudden success (and financial fortune) with another piece of fiction, has spent the last 14 years of her life fighting the abuse of those with power over the powerless.  This is evidenced by the abuses of the touchables against the untouchables (in part as a result of the lingering caste system), a corrupt government awarding wireless licences through bribery and a rampant, voracious bunch of capitalists and industrialists eager to exploit the millions of poor underprivileged farmers for their own private financial gains.

She has recently spent weeks living among the Maoists soldiers in central India who are fighting the Indian government troops and the mining companies; the latter are bent on dispossessing millions of natives from their ancestral tribal lands in the Indian state of Chattisgarh to mine bauxite for aluminum.

She has been most vocal in her fighting for the rights of millions of dispossessed (aboriginal) farmers along the Narmada River where the government is building hundreds of dams and flooding the lands of peoples who have been living there longer than the Hindus have lived in India. Her experiences are documented in her latest book, Broken Republic.

In the DAM/AGE video, an excellent and moving documentary, she details the arithmetic. Over 3600 dams have been built in modern India resulting in 56 million people being displaced by them since 1947. 60% are Adavasi and Dalit, indigenous people and untouchables.

These figures become more significant and 'chilling', she claims, when you consider that Adavasi account for only 8 percent and the Dalits another 15 percent of the country's population; this "opens up a whole other dimension to the story. This is the algebra of infinite justice. The ethnic otherness of their victims takes some pressure off the nation builders. It's like having an expense account. Someone else pays the bills--people from another country another world. India's poorest peoples are subsidizing the lifestyles of their richest." (Roy reading from her book The Greater Common Good.)

These displaced people have no place to settle but in slum areas of big cities living in makeshift huts and are often forced to beg to make a living.

The big cities are becoming squalid and filthy, overrun by millions of displaced farmers and their families kicked off their hereditary lands from which they have for hundreds of years sustained their lives.

The above depressing scenario is the Mumbai (formerly Bombay) we have seen recently in the recent blockbuster movie Slumdog Millionaire (2008).

The above scenario is the Calcutta depicted in the movie City of Joy (1992)- starring Patrick Swayze.

For her outspokenness and participating in marches in  Delhi, Roy was accused of criminal contempt of court- accused of  "lowering the dignity of the Supreme Court -scandalizing it and lowering its authority and that's a criminal offense."

She had to wait months for the outcome of the hearings.

She was convicted of criminal contempt and sentenced to one day's imprisonment. She then opted to pay a fine of 2,000 rupees (30 Pounds) rather than be incarcerated for 3 months.

Her life is truly amazing and perhaps her next novel will deal with her decade long experiences of swimming in the 'river of life.'
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