Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “world cup”

The Stars and Stripes Freeway

Yesterday was a landmark moment in my life. I stood before Old Glory and took the Oath of Allegiance. I am now an American citizenship.  This is a culmination of an arduous process full of bureaucracy more than anything spectacular. But what began as essentially a pragmatic step transformed into a meaningful process.

There is a lot wrong with the United States of America. The team here at Left Coast Voices has highlighted so much that needs to change if we are to truly reflect the vision and values of this country. But there is something incredibly inspiring about this country. Maybe you need to be an outsider to see it.  

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Leaving the citizenship ceremony, I was overwhelmed with the desire to do something…American. We settled for hamburger and fries – the burger, of course, wild salmon or Zen-practicing fowl (I am still from Berkeley), and the fries would be chips and eaten with a fork (the rumors that the Queen defriended me on Facebook are false). 

What I wanted to do was jump on my Harley, blast Bob Seeger or Bruce Springsteen and hit the open road. Now, notwithstanding that I do not own a motorbike, wouldn’t know how to listen to music while on one, and that my family and gecko would be distinctly uncomfortable hanging on as I negotiate the curves of the beautiful Highway 1, I was totally ready.

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I guess a Mustang would do the job too provided it had a sun roof to throw back.

But there is something about the Open Road. I was born on an island where in a few hours in any direction and you would reach the ocean. I spent half my life in an even smaller country whose borders were never open for me to safely cross.

I have read Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, each several times. I feel a surge of adrenaline whenever we leave the Bay Area heading north for a vacation or south to my good lady’s family. I used to spend hours planning the right music and where to stop. I once went three hours out of my way, detouring as an adventure (this was before gas reached $4 a gallon), hoping to see…what?

I fantasize that when retired, Mrs. Blogs and I will RV across this beautiful country. I have a friend doing just that and I love reading his stories.

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I have included many scenes from these road trips in Unwanted Heroes and its unpublished sequel. As I made the transition into fantasy, the landscape, trees and even stone hamlets found their way into my world building. I wrote earlier that you can find fantasy everywhere and the open road is such rich fodder for authors.

But for now I want to avoid Odessiya and other mythical realms. I am in America and the magic of the open road is a connection to share with my fellow Americans. If you don’t believe me, check out Lana Del Rey’s amazing video: Ride. 

And for those of you who are worried, I have not abandoned my roots in a purge of patriotism. Come June 12, my half century celebration, I will still don my England soccer shirt and cheer the Three Lions. Some habits run too deep.

 But after they crash out of the World Cup, I can console myself and hit the open road with my friends and fellow countrymen and women:  Bob, Bruce and Lana.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, The First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out withAlon on Google+

Balls – Tom Rossi

I’ve been watching the Confederations Cup, an international soccer tournament, on tv for the past few days, and I see that a problem has not really been fixed.

For the 2010 World Cup of Soccer (Futbol), Adidas introduced a new ball unlike any that had been seen before. Adidas holds the contract with FIFA to provide the soccer balls that are be used in the games. This contract provides plenty of opportunities for Adidas to make some serious money.

Adidas wondered how it could really cash in, and they came up with a way to make everybody say the name “Adidas,” over and over again: they came out with a new, really crappy ball. And that ball, or its very similar offspring, is still in use.

Video: The Jabulani in action…

The Adidas “Jabulani” ball has no stitches. It’s panels are bonded together in a kind of heat/glue process that makes the outer surface completely smooth. This makes for what aerodynamicists call “laminar” airflow around the ball, at least until the air gets to the back of the ball, where it makes a slight vacuum, due to turbulence.

Huh? Don’t worry about the technical stuff. What matters is that the Jabulani acts like a beach-ball. When a player kicks it up into the air, it slows down drastically, almost floats in suspension, and then falls back to the ground, significantly short of where you might expect from its original trajectory.

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This causes passes through the air to travel so slowly that the defenders can get to the landing spot before the ball reaches the intended receiver. As a result, it essentially takes away the long pass as a strategy in many situations and thereby significantly alters the game of soccer.

Several good teams could not adapt, in the 2010 World Cup, to these changes. These teams had long used the long pass as an integral part of their strategy. Adidas essentially changed the outcome of many matches with their new beach-ball (although Spain might have won the whole thing, anyway – they had a great team).

I’m frustrated by the slowdown in the game when I watch, anymore. Scoring hasn’t suffered, due to the fact that the new ball curves like crazy on shots, but midfield play certainly has. The lack of the threat of a long pass has allowed defenses to swarm around the ball more, almost like in an AYSO game for eight-year-olds.

Video: Cute, but this isn’t what World Cup play should look like.

Is this another of my occasional digressions from politics into sports? Not really. This is a clear example of a giant corporation making a mess of something, strictly for the purpose of increasing their already massive profits.

The World Cup is a fantastic event that brings the countries of the world together, in peace, in civilized competition. Aside from a few incidences of hooliganism, it’s a chance for teams and fans from around the world to rub shoulders, have a beer together, and talk about their different lives and loves. It’s an incredible opportunity for fun, interaction, and sewing the seeds of peace.

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Adidas hasn’t really changed all that, but the World Cup has been tainted by their greed. Now, there are rumors that, despite record profits in recent years. Adidas in testing a new ball that more closely resembles the balls of the past. Let’s see if they can fix it in time for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

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-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Forgot my Birthday?

Last year, my birthday fell during the once-every-four-years World Cup (soccer). I thought I could slow the aging process down by deciding that, like the World Cup, I would have a birthday once-every-four-years.

A great tribute to the peaceful South African revolution

So what do I want for my birthday? Something between my own house, world peace, and one of my books becoming a New York Times Bestseller. If you can arrange any of those three, please do. If you feel you have to prioritize (really, how long have we been friends?) then I suppose world peace comes first,

Otherwise, I am going to list 10 organizations that I have highlighted over the past year. Instead of buying me a fine bottle of wine or a box of chocolates that will have me working out for hours at the gym (after thoroughly enjoying them), why not consider donating the exorbitant amount of money you were going to splash on me to one of these great organizations. Please click on the link to the organization that catches your fancy.

1. The Lower Ninth Ward Village – a community center that will provide the only way to keep children in a safe environment over the summer.

2. Save A Child’s Heart – a hospital in Israel that gives free medical heart procedures to children from any country or religion in the Middle East and beyond.

3. One Voice – helping Israeli and Palestinian youth demand a non violent and just solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

4. Jewish Funds for Justice – sending students to work in disaster-struck areas of the world and teaching the value of social justice.

5. World Reader – providing sustainable e-book solutions to children in Africa and other poor regions, allowing them to grow through reading and education.

6. Habitat for Humanity – a community helping to provide people with homes.

7. Jewish Heart for Africa – leveraging sustainable Israeli environmental technology to help the poorest rural African communities.

8. Darfur & The Berkeley Stove – providing stoves for women in Darfur, thereby avoiding the need to put themselves in violent situations.

9. Project Homeless Connect – offering bi-monthly services to the homeless of San Francisco.

10. Kiva Loans – a micro-loan organization that helps people create businesses to lift themselves out of poverty.

They are all good causes and I know there are many more. But it is amazing how just a small gift can save or change a person’s life. What a way to celebrate your birthday!

Thank you. Wanna slice of birthday cake?

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Movies That Matter – Invictus

One of my defining episodes as a teenager exploring social activism was the anti-apartheid movement. I attended my first demonstration with them, asked people to sign petitions, and had a Free Nelson Mandela sticker on my pencil case. When people were asked to play their favorite song at the local youth center, I offered up Biko by Peter Gabriel.

I always get excited for the soccer World Cup. This year was different. It was not just for the once-every-four-years’ festival of my favorite sport, but the recognition of how far South Africa has come. In a world of hate, corruption, violence and extremism, South Africa is a beacon of what can be achieved.

The overthrow of a brutal, racist system did not spiral into the bloodshed and vengeance that so many feared. The brave and difficult decision to heal memories and move on are a tribute not only to Nelson Mandela, but to every South African who committed themselves to this part.

Invictus was a landmark movie. It is a fictionalized the true story of South Africa hosting the rugby World Cup, as they exited the dark ages of apartheid. In the year leading up to the tournament, the team comes together to be an example of unity that trickles down through society. In an interesting parallel, Mandela needs to deal with integrating his personal security detail with the South African police detail.

I am not usually much of an actor/actress observer, but both Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon are awesome in their roles. I was skeptical that anyone could possibly ‘play’ a man who is truly a living icon, a larger-than-life inspiration for me. But Morgan Freeman is terrific.

It might be a sign of age, but there is something urgent in wanting to share a historical period of time that you lived through and ensure that generations to come will never forget it. I feel this sense of urgency when I talk with Holocaust survivors.

Invictus helps to fill this role. I will buy the DVD, and will sit my sons down to watch it. They will enjoy the movie, as it is a great movie. And then I will share my own story with them, and try to pass on my memory to the next generation.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

England Forever, South Africa As Well

One of my defining episodes as a teenager exploring social activism was the anti-apartheid movement. I participated by attending demonstrations, asking people to sign petitions, and I had a Free Nelson Mandela sticker on my pencil case. When people were asked to play their favorite song at youth club, I would offer up Biko by Peter Gabriel.

I am writing this blog 48 hours before the soccer World Cup in June 2010. I am excited, not just for the once-every-four-years’ festival of my favorite sport, but the recognition of how far South Africa has come. In a world of hate, corruption, violence and extremism, South Africa is a beacon of what can be achieved.

The overthrow of a brutal, racist system did not spiral into the bloodshed and vengeance that so many feared. The brave and difficult decision to heal memories and move on are a tribute not only to Nelson Mandela, but to every South African who committed themselves to this part.

I am a Brit. I will support the English soccer team no matter what. But I sincerely hope that South Africa, by some miracle, have a great run in the World Cup.

They deserve it.

Good Writing,
Alon
http://wwww.alonshalev.com/

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