Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Travel itinerary

I have lots of travel ahead in the weeks to come with little rest in between. Today I depart for New England. I'll arrive in Boston, drive north, take a quick overnight stop in the old home town to stay with my Dad, and early tomorrow morning will head to Burlington, Vermont where I am on the program for the Northeast Workshop in Southern African Studies.

I get home late Tuesday night and the next day head to Chapel Hill, where I will be giving a talk at the Wilson Special Collections Library in a program titled "The Long Road to Parchman: North Carolina and the Desegregation of Interstate Busing." I'll be discussing the Journey of Reconciliation and the Freedom Rides in North Carolina. From there I'll fly straight to the Southern Historical Association's annual meeting in Baltimore.

I'll return from Baltimore for just a few days before heading on to the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA) meeting, where I am giving a paper on the 2010 World Cup. Then it's back for a few days before one last trip to Washington, where I am giving a paper on gender, race and South African track and field at the Sport and the Global South Conference at George Mason University. I'll also squeeze a quick trip up to Williams for Homecoming while I'm at it. And it all ends with a socer tournament in Austin.

I've somehow even managed to avoid canceling any classes during this crazy month or so.

Posting will be light, it goes without saying, but I leave you with this assessment of Liberia's fascinating but fraught presidential election.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The FPA Great Decisions National Opinion Ballot: On Somalia

Over at the Foreign Policy Association I assess the Somalia-related questions in this year's FPA Great Decisions National Opinion Ballot.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

South Africa Sport Report

Over at the FPA I have written a postmortem on the Springboks and Bafana Bafana. The Boks lost 11-9 to Australia in the quarterfinals of the Rugby World Cup in a game they absolutely dominated in every way but the scoreboard. Bafana crapped out of the African Cup of Nations in a way that boggles the imagination with the sort of coaching decision you'd expect from Andy Reid.

Jack White Does U2

You can access an awesome Jack White cover of U2's "Love is Blindness" via Spin here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

San Angelo

Recently a Washington Post travel writer traveled back to his home town of San Angelo, Texas, not so far from Odessa (by Texas standards) to discover What Makes San Angelo Distinctive. More to the point, he was curious about why the National Trust for Historic Preservation this year ranked San Angelo among its dozen distinctive destinations. Like so many people he left his hometown without thinking there was much special about it, was happy to leave, and other than to see family is rarely in any haste to return.

I've spent a little bit of time in San Angelo -- Mrs. Dcat and I have enjoyed the old downtown area, a little strip with an old whorehouse and nifty boutiques and some good restaurants and bars. And I am a mamber of the Texas State Historical Commission's Board of Review, so I have some affinity for the National Trust. I'm not sure if I'd make a special trip from out of state just to see San Angelo on its own, but if you get anywhere near West Texas it is certainly worth a visit.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Red Sox Post-Mortem

You know, I really did think the days of epic collapses and thus mourning were behind Red Sox fans. I assumed that 2004 cleansed those sins and put us in a different world. I also assumed that the Red Sox existed in a world where they simply could not collapse like that. With the ability to spend money, if not at a Yankees-esque pace at least at a rate that is the envy of the majority of the sport, I thought we might be collapse-proof.

Well, I was wrong. Now, 2004 and 2007 have changed many things. Had this past month or six weeks taken place in the absence of those two titles I may well have been looking for a tall building. But those titles really did change so much. We might have just experienced an epic collapse, and we still have a long and let's say problematic history as Red Sox fans. But there is nothing particularly special about this sort of suffering. I don't think what I am experiencing is dissimilar to what a Braves fan of similar passion has been going through over the last few weeks. Well, ok. Maybe it's a little worse.

And the repercussions are beginning to hit and to hit hard. Terry Francona moved on to other opportunities, which is to say he was fired but no one wanted to be accountable for it. And frankly reading between the lines it seems that Tito was frustrated by what he perceived as a lack of management support and by something perhaps more frustrating and worrisome -- a potentially divided locker room. There is lots of room to speculate as to who might or might not be poisoning the well and without substantiation I have no interest in repeating what rumors I've read and heard. But it seems quite possible that a new manager will be stepping into a situation in which he will have to clean things up a bit in the clubhouse. I worry that we are going to realize just how good a job Tito did in managing egos and personalities these past eight years and how tough that is to replicate.

Meanwhile it looks very much like Theo Epstein could be on his way out. The way I am reading things is that he may want more power, which would come at Larry Lucchino's expense. Let's keep in mind that while Theo is a local boy, I think that actually adds to the pressure. He bagged out once, in bizarre circumstances involving a gorilla suit after 2005, and maybe he looks at that Cubs job and sees a real opportunity. I think it's safe to say that if he could bring the Cubs to a World Series as GM and head of baseball operations he would become one of the most legendary front office figures in the history of the sport.

Of course it's not necessarily that easy. I don't want to lose Theo and I did not want to lose Tito, so I am a bit concerned with the direction of the franchise right now. Our money actually adds pressure inasmuch as this team should never, ever be in a rebuilding phase. Yet when I look at that roster I see an awful lot of missing pieces and to make matters worse I hear all of these rumors about a really ugly, selfish locker room that reminds me of nothing so much as the 1980s Red Sox and I cringe. Despite what many of us thought after their offseason last year the Rays are not going away. And the Yankees are even better positioned to reload every year than we are. Of course I also hope we are not rash. Don't start thinking about how to unload Crawford. Don't start having a fire sale. Don't start thinking that we cannot possibly re-sign any of these guys. In a way if we do lose Theo I hope we hire from within because the last thing you want is some new guy coming in and thinking he has to overhaul the whole damned team.

So baseball is done. Call me provincial, but I won't be watching much of these playoffs. Sure, I'll peek in to see if the Yankees lose. But the flipside of paying attention to baseball enough to see if the Yankees lose is that sometimes those bastards don't lose. I'll be damned if I can figure out how they did it this year. I still look at that roster and I do not necessarily even see a playoff team, never mind a division winner or World Series contender. But credit where credit is due. They got it done when it counted and the Red Sox are watching at home. Wait 'til next year . . .

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Julius Malema: Supernova?

Posting has been light lately. Yes there will be a Red Sox postmortem.

In the meantime, I wrote a bit about South Africa's volatile ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema at the Foreign Policy Association today. Go read that.