Spain wins World Cup, but not TV; Soccer from a soccer mom view

pivot soccer

Image via Wikipedia

Would soccer catch on in the U.S if our TV screens were bigger? Maybe so, but I still doubt it. Twenty-two — until you start tossing them out for misbehavior  — guys kicking a tiny ball up and down a field at warp speed without even the excitement of racking up a goal in regulation so you can stop and catch your breath, or a commercial break so you can go to the bathroom, I’m just not sure soccer will ever make it in America. Of course, your TV screen is probably bigger than ours, which is OK. On the giant screens at bars and coffee shops all along San Francisco’s Fillmore Street Sunday there was an awful lot of hoopla. There may have been some business for the restaurant owners, but it looked like a great deal more hooping and hollering than drinking.

It is safe to say that this space has been into soccer longer than any other T/S space. Dating, actually, from the day that #1 son came home from hanging out at some local playground circa 1968, and we said, “You’ve been doing what? A round, black-&-white ball you just kick? Soccer moms had not yet been invented, but this one was, at that moment. Three kids, a combined total of about 36 years at a minimum of 2 or 3 games per week; you do the math. The in-house soccer dad coached so many of them that he and his co-coach had to coach the local high school coach, who had never heard of soccer until then either. But our scruffy, inner city team beat the hoity-toity suburban high school for the state title in 1970-something (it’s all a blur) so it was certainly worth it.

Pro soccer, though, that’s another whole deal. By now every kid in the U.S. has kicked around a soccer ball, half of them are addicts, and still they grow up to be non-fans. Go figure. I think it boils down to the screen size, the warp speed and the lack of bathroom commercial time.

And it’s too bad. The primary emotion I recall from about a century-worth of soccer-game watching was empathy: everybody felt sorry for the goalie’s mom. Didn’t matter if your team scored the goal, you still felt sorry for the goalie’s mom.

The world needs a little more empathy. Meanwhile this space has to quit typing and send condolences to our good friends in Amsterdam.

Does this sound exciting? New TV channel for the over-50s

As if there weren’t already about 500 more TV channels than anyone can possibly manage, news comes from Britain about Vintage TV’s plans to launch in a few months.

It is the generation that has had it all: five decades of peace and prosperity, technological and social revolution bringing longer and more fulfilled lives, followed by fat pensions. Now, when they are tired of roaring about on their new motorbikes, working out at the gym or renovating their Umbrian farmhouses, the baby-boomer generation will be able to relax with its own television channel.

Vintage TV, which is due to begin broadcasting in September, is aimed at the over-fifties. It will focus on culture and music from the post-war rock’n’roll years – from the Berlin airlift to the fall of Mrs. Thatcher. The presenters lined up for Vintage, which will be available to 10 million viewers via Sky and Freesat, include veteran broadcaster Paul Gambaccini, 61. The Who singer Roger Daltrey, 66, Blondie’s Debbie Harry, 64, Yes keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman, 61, are also set to appear.

One of the innovations on the 24-hour channel will be newly commissioned videos for 500 hits that were in the charts before they became a compulsory accompaniment for the MTV generation in the 1980s. The creators of Vintage said the programming would provide a “destination” for the fifty-somethings who find their interests squeezed by broadcasters looking to attract younger viewers.

No amount of Googling produced an answer to the burning question of whether Vintage TV will be offered to U.S. viewers, but couch potatoes have to hope. And this space, which does advertise itself as focusing (more or less) on issues of concern to over-50 generations, felt you should hear it here first.

We thought they had it all – now baby boomers get own TV channel – TV & Radio, Media – The Independent.

Is technology addiction messing with your brain?

my brains - let me show you them

Image by Liz Henry via Flickr

This is your life? Beginning at breakfast — or perhaps earlier, in the bathroom — one sizable screen with multiple streams of news, stock reports and data updates across the bottom; tweets in a box on the left; the iPhone nearby holding stacked up e-mails, IMs and calls that went into the mailbox? If so, you are not alone. As a matter of fact, it seems almost no one is alone, or disconnected from technological communications, any more. In the words of New York Times writer Matt Richtel, “This is your brain on computers.”

Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information.

These play to a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. The stimulation provokes excitement — a dopamine squirt — that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored.

The resulting distractions can have deadly consequences, as when cellphone-wielding drivers and train engineers cause wrecks. And for millions of people … these urges can inflict nicks and cuts on creativity and deep thought, interrupting work and family life.

While many people say multitasking makes them more productive, research shows otherwise. Heavy multitaskers actually have more trouble focusing and shutting out irrelevant information, scientists say, and they experience more stress.

Richtel follows a family of four through their technology-addicted lives: they go on an oceanside vacation, but soon are all on their electronic devices; one day at the beach is mercifully unplugged. But on routine days, few moments are unplugged.

“And scientists are discovering,” Richtel reports, that even after the multitasking ends, fractured thinking and lack of focus persist. In other words, this is also your brain off computers.”

“The technology is rewiring our brains,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse and one of the world’s leading brain scientists. She and other researchers compare the lure of digital stimulation less to that of drugs and alcohol than to food and sex, which are essential but counterproductive in excess.

Technology use can benefit the brain in some ways, researchers say. Imaging studies show the brains of Internet users become more efficient at finding information. And players of some video games develop better visual acuity.

More broadly, cellphones and computers have transformed life. They let people escape their cubicles and work anywhere. They shrink distances and handle countless mundane tasks, freeing up time for more exciting pursuits.

For better or worse, the consumption of media, as varied as e-mail and TV, has exploded. In 2008, people consumed three times as much information each day as they did in 1960. And they are constantly shifting their attention. Computer users at work change windows or check e-mail or other programs nearly 37 times an hour, new research shows.

The nonstop interactivity is one of the most significant shifts ever in the human environment, said Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco.

“We are exposing our brains to an environment and asking them to do things we weren’t necessarily evolved to do,” he said. “We know already there are consequences.”

We just don’t fully understand what those consequences might be. This space worries. Couldn’t we get our adrenaline the old-fashioned way?

Your Brain on Computers – Attached to Technology and Paying a Price – NYTimes.com.

Forget Barry & Tiger. Cal Ripken is still my hero

Today’s news says it’s all over for Barry. A lot may be over for Tiger, since Pepsi says their eponymous drink will be canned — or not canned, as the case may be. Still, it’s hard to feel terribly sorry for either of them. Barry never showed much affection for his fans, and Tiger apparently didn’t have enough affection for his family to keep them out of the sordid spotlight. But I suspect neither will wind up in the poorhouse unless they find new ways to abuse the public trust. For Barry, today’s news, reported by John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, just looks like a confirmation of last year’s news:

Barry Bonds’ agent finally acknowledged Wednesday that the home run king is done playing baseball.

‘It’s two years since he played his last game, and if there was any chance he’d be back in a major-league uniform, it would have happened by now,’ agent Jeff Borris told The Chronicle. ‘When 2008 came around, I couldn’t get him a job. When 2009 came around, I couldn’t get him a job. Now, 2010 … I’d say it’s nearly impossible. It’s an unfortunate ending to a storied career.’

I’m just not sure it couldn’t have had a happier ending. If, perhaps, he had seemed to care more about the fans who made him rich and less about the stuff he was stuffing into his body in the presumed interest of getting richer. Maybe Tiger can find a happier ending, if he gets his act together before he hits retirement age himself; golfers don’t hit it quite as early.

There is a caveat which should be entered here: 99% of my sports information comes second hand from my husband, who has the uncanny ability to read complex books and magazines with one eye while digesting unbelievable hours worth of every known sport on TV with the other. But who didn’t follow, first-hand, the steroid saga of Mr. Bonds? And who could possibly be missing all the interminable coverage of the Woods family tragedy?

For a while I occasionally watched Barry Bonds do magic at the plate, and for a while he made such an attractive hero. I never saw Tiger except on the small screen, but at first he seemed such an attractive hero. So now I’m left feeling just a tiny part of one more national betrayal.

But here is the good news: Cal Ripken will be in Secaucus, NJ at the World Series MVP and Heroes Show on December 12.

Let’s all go to Secaucus.

Mr. & Mrs. Salahi vs Emily Post

Tired of the party crashers who won’t disappear? Aren’t we all. But since they are now accepting bids for TV appearances or something, they are clearly going to need a lot more high-priced agents and lawyers and publicists, and the least we can do in this space is offer a few more lines of coverage to help out.

One thing seems to be missing in all this. We are obsessing about security, and celebrity status or lack thereof, and too much or too little media coverage, and the excesses of reality TV which I have to admit to never having seen. But what about decorum? Could we sit the Salahis down with Letitia Baldrige? Preferably in a small, closed room? Lock them up in there (just Mr. and Mrs. Salahi, that is) until they finish Miss Manners’ Guide to Excrutiatingly Correct Behavior, every last word?

I grew up on Emily Post myself. Extend a hand contrary to the way Emily instructed (Ms. Salahi’s casual finger-work on Vice President Biden’s chest? Good grief) and one would suffer terrible, unrelenting embarrassment.

I think these people don’t know how to spell embarrassment. And as my Emily Post Book of Etiquette-bearing mother would say, “More’s the pity.”

How's your brain fitness today?

Pick five random numbers, say them out loud. Now say them backward. No fair using props. You have now exercised your brain, and your brain appreciates it.

Alvaro Fernandez, co-founder and CEO of SharpBrains, author of The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness, enthusiastic speaker on healthy brains and how to keep them, addressed a group at the New York Library — great spot for exercising brains — recently and another in San Francisco a few days later. If you’ve ever despaired over forgetfulness or worried about some day getting Alzheimer’s, Mr. Fernandez will brighten your day. Much as the gym trainers promise you your muscles can be strengthened, Alvaro Fernandez can convince you those neurons can multiply and prosper. With an energy and demeanor to match his several degrees, he may one day be the Jack Lalanne of brain fitness.

The San Francisco audience was made up of members of San Francisco Village, the second such aging-in-place organization in California. (Other village-concept communities are springing up across the country, preferred options for many seniors who want to stay in their homes.) Most of them highly active and engaged, they were receptive to Fernandez’ proposals about how to stay that way.

Fernandez began by offering facts to debunk a few popular myths about brain function: Lifelong neuroplasticity means we can always help our brains evolve through lifestyle and activities; brain function can be affected by a variety of things, from yoga to cognitive therapy; and nothing is carved in stone that says brains deteriorate with age. In short, you might not be able to avoid Alzheimer’s completely if it’s in your genes and your karma, but you might well be able to forestall it with vigorous exercise.

Four “pillars of maintenance” will keep the brain fit, Fernandez says: good nutrition, stress managment, physical exercise and brain exercise. Potato chips and TV are not on the pillars list. The best comment of the event, in fact, probably came from author/healthy aging expert and SF Village advisory board member Walter Bortz, MD, who quoted a Harvard study that revealed “watching TV is like staring at a brick wall.”

Your brain is, when you come right down to it, not interested in the TV.