Saturday, January 31, 2015

2015 AUS OPEN: Men's Final Preview (and Semifinals Review)

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] vs. Andy Murray (GBR) [6] 
This is my post previewing the men's final at the 2015 Australian Open. Last year I incorrectly predicted that Rafael Nadal would defeat Stan Wawrinka in the men's final of the 2014 Australian Open. This year I correctly predicted that Serena Williams would beat Maria Sharapova in the women's final and also correctly predicted 2 of 2 women's semifinals2 of 4 women's quarterfinals2 of 2 men's semifinals and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals.

Men's Semifinals Review: How They Got Here
Novak Djokovic
 (SRB) [1] d. 
Stan Wawrinka (SUI) [4] 7-6(1) 3-6 6-4 4-6 6-0.  After two years where these two provided scintillating tennis at this tournament this time the match-up failed to live up to the hype. Both players were surprisingly flat and out of sorts, both hitting more errors than winners. Djokovic was -22 (27 winners to 49 errors) while Wawrinka was even worse, at -27 (42 winners but 69 errors). Most observers expected a fifth set again, but no one could have expected that this time that fifth set would be a bagel won by Djokovic (instead of last year's 9-7 win by Stan and the 12-10 win by Nole in 2013). Wawrinka clearly just ran out of gas in the end, finally succumbing to the pressure of defending his surprise title from last year.

Andy Murray (GBR) [6] d. Tomas Berdych (CZE) [7] 6-7(6) 6-0 6-3 7-5Last year's finalist Nadal was expected to be in this semifinal, perhaps playing Roger Federer again but instead Andy Murray was able to benefit by beating Nick Kyrgios (who beat the person who eliminated Federer in the 3rd round) while Berdych played the match of his life to demolish Nadal in straight sets (including a rare bagel set!) in the quarterfinals. Despite having a career head-to-head over Murray, Berdych was unable to play his best tennis, while Murray continued his re-energized play, not panicking after he lost the first set tiebreak and taking advantage of a lull from his opponent to bagel him and use that momentum to cruise to victory.

Men's Finals Preview: Who Will Win? 
This must be the first time in a long time that both finalists have won a bagel set in their immediate previous match played. Although Djokovic is the World #, has a 15-8 career head-to-head lead (including winning all 4 matches played on hardcourts in 2014) and seven major titles to Murray's two I give Murray a very good chance to win this match. The Brit has a 5-4 lead in tour finals and the two are 2-all in their four major finals (2011 Australian Open, 2012 U.S. Open, 2013 Australian Open and 2013 Wimbledon) with each of them alternating victories. Murray is 2-5 in major finals overall while Djokovic is 7-6 and in particular is 4-0 in Australian open finals.

For most of the tournament Djokovic played like he was unbeatable, not losing a set through the first five rounds, and demolished a top 10 player like Milos Raonic. However, what I saw in his match against Wawrinka is pretty troubling. If that Nole shows up, I am confident that Murray will win. Murray has lost two sets to reach the final, but both were tiebreakers against very good opponents (Grigor Dimitrov and Tomas Berdych) and Murray won every other set he played. The stats indicate that Murray is playing slightly better than Djokovic overall, with 58 more winners than errors (compared to Djokovic's +54). I agree with Murray that it will be an upset if Murray wins this match, but that's what happened last year. Maybe we can have two years of surprise champions?

MadProfessah's prediction: Murray.

2015 AUS OPEN: Serena Beats Sharapova For 16th Consecutive Time To Win 19th Major

As I predicted yesterday, Serena Williams defeated Maria Sharapova for the 16th match in a row to win her 6th Australian Open and 19th grand slam title, 6-3 7-6(5). This win means that Serena is now only 3 behind Steffi Graf's 22 majors and improves to an incredible 19-4 in major finals and an undefeated 6-0 in Australian Open finals.

For Sharapova, the #2 player in the world it must be frustrating to have had so many opportunities and so many losses in the last 11 years. However, on the bright side, this was one of the Russian's better performances against Serena. It was only the third tiebreak set in 42 sets the two have played against each other, and one of the very few where Serena has failed to break her serve, despite having multiple opportunities, including one at 4-5 that was a Championship point! 

In the second set, Serena started hitting more errors, but also, more aces. In the first set she hit 3 aces and 3 doubles faults, but in the second set she had only one double fault and hit 15 aces (including one on her third championship point, the first on her own serve). At some point in the future (although probably not in a major final) Sharapova will reverse the streak (I think). Another thing Sharapova can look forward to is that she is 5 years younger than Serena and can possibly have success when Serena either exits the stage or her game starts to deteriorate with age.

As for now, though, Serena looks well placed to reach or exceed Graf's 22 majors and possibly even Margaret Court's 24!

Friday, January 30, 2015

2015 AUS OPEN: Women's Final Preview and Semifinals Review

Serena Williams (USA) [1] vs Maria Sharapova (RUS) [2]

This is my post previewing the women's final and reviewing the women's semifinals at the 2015 Australian Open. Last year I correctly predicted that Li Na would defeat Dominika Cibulkova in the women's final of the 2014 Australian Open. This year I correctly predicted 2 of 2 women's semifinals, 2 of 4 women's quarterfinals, 2 of 2 men's semifinals and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals.

How They Got Here: Women's Semifinals Review
Serena Williams (USA) [1] d. Madison Keys (USA) 7-6(5) 6-2. By her performance against the World #1 Madison Keys demonstrated that her breakthrough results of beating 2-time Grand Slam champion Petra Kvitova and 7-time major champion Venus Williams on her journey to the 19-year-old's first major semifinal. Keys rushed to a 3-1 lead in the first set before Serena was able to right the ship and break back to even the score. The match continued on serve until the tiebreak, with Keys demonstrating her ability to match (and perhaps overmatch, on the forehand side) the 18-time major champion's powerful groundstrokes. Then, in the tiebreak Keys was able to save 2 set points with consecutive aces before Serena won the set on her 3rd set point with a service winner. In the second set it was Serena who sprinted out to a 5-1 lead and despite having 7 match points in this Keys service game, Serena was unable to impose her will on her opponent, instead she was forced to serve out the match in her next service game. Hopefully, Keys will take confidence from this result to improve her day-to-day result on the women's tour and try to replicate this success at the other majors.

 Maria Sharapova (RUS) [2] d. Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) [10] 6-3 6-2. Sharapova has been playing some of her sharpest hard-court tennis in years, which her left-handed compatriot discovered right away when Makarova was unable to convert any of the four game points she enjoyed in the first two games of the match and quickly found herself down 0-3. With a lead on the scoreboard Sharapova could really go for her shots and this forced Makarova to go for too much in order to compensate, and making far too many errors to ever make this semifinal much of a match, which was a pity because Sharapova had previously displayed frailty against another Russian earlier in the tournament. In fact, ever since she survived two match points against Alexandra Panova in the second round Sharapova has been playing with increased intensity (which is saying something since it is not like Sharapova plays lackadaisically at the worst of times.)

Who Will Win: Women's Final Preview
By getting to the final, Serena insured that she will retain the World #1 ranking despite what happens in this match. Of course everyone knows that Serena has won their last 15 meetings over the last ten years, and in 2007 played what I consider one of her best matches of her career by demolishing Sharapova 6-1 6-2 in the women's final. It's really hard to explain why the rivalry is so one-sided in Serena's favor but the statistics are ugly. In the last 15 matches the two have played the Russian has struggled to win games, let alone sets. In 7 of those matches Sharapova failed to win more than 5 games! She has only won 3 sets and lost 30.

With that being said, Sharapova is playing excellent tennis and does have the game to beat Serena, it is just hard to see how this will come to pass if Serena is healthy and motivated. And the one person she will always be motivated to beat is Sharapova. It is Serena's 23rd major final and 6th in Australia (she is 18-4 overall and 5-0 in Melbourne). It is Sharapova's 10th final and she is 5-4; she's lost Australian Open finals to Victoria Azarenka (in 2012) and Serena in 2007. She has also lost a Wimbledon final to Kvitova and a French Open final to Serena.

MadProfessah's prediction: Serena in 2 sets.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

QUEER QUOTE: Mormon Church Expresses Grudging Support For LGBT Non-Discrimination

Today's Queer Quote comes from an unlikely source, Elder Dallin Oaks of the Mormon Church, discussing the Church of Latter-Day Saints new position in support of LGBT non-discrimination, with the HUGE caveat that it allow exemptions for "religious beliefs." I have previously blogged about several Utah politicians' willful ignorance of civil rights law (namely Gov. Gary Hebert and Dallin Oaks himself) and this latest move by the Church reflects this misapprehension.
"We call on local, state and the federal government to serve all of their people by passing legislation that protects vital religious freedoms for individuals, families, churches and other faith groups while also protecting the rights of our LGBT citizens in such areas as housing, employment and public accommodation in hotels, restaurants and transportation — protections which are not available in many parts of the country."
However, what this means in practice does not sound or look like what most LGBT people would call civil rights protections. Instead, what it looks like to Andrew Rosenthal at The New York Times is that the Mormon Church wants "The Freedom To Discriminate."
“Mormon leaders still want to hire and fire workers based not only on religious beliefs, but also on behavior standards known as honor codes that require gays and lesbians to remain celibate or marry someone of the opposite sex. The church also wants legal protections for religious objectors who work in government and health care, such as a physician who refuses to perform an abortion, or provide artificial insemination for a lesbian couple.”
As the Human Rights Campaign points out, this position is not faithful to the principles of equal rights for all.
“We share the church’s commitment to freedom of religion. We embrace the principles of the First Amendment and believe churches do and should have the right to make determinations about who fills their pews. But non-discrimination protections only function when they are applied equally. It should be stated that there are countless LGBT Mormons, and Mormon allies, who support equality, not in spite of their faith but because of it. All Americans should have the right to be employed, receive housing and services in environments free of discrimination. We await the day the church embraces that fully, without any exceptions or exemptions."
It shall be interesting to see how this develops...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2015 AUS OPEN: Men's Semifinals Preview

The men's semifinals are now set at the 2015 Australian Open. This year, I predicted 2 of 4 women's quarterfinals correctly and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly.Last year I correct predicted 1 of 2 men's semifinals and 1 of 2 women's semifinals. I have also previewed this year's women's semifinals.

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] vs  Stan Wawrinka (SUI) [4].  This is the match everyone has been waiting for when the draw was released. For the last two years one of the best matches of the year has been played between Djokovic and Wawrinka at this tournament. In 2013, Djokovic won their amazing 4th round showdown 12-10 in the 5th set and ended up winning the tournament. Last year, Wawrinka won their almost equally amazing showdown in the quarterfinals, and went on to win the tournament. So, the pattern would indicate whomever wins this match will likely win the tournament. I think that is going to be Djokovic, who has been playing flawless tennis, and has yet to drop a set. Wawrinka definitely impressed with his straight set dismissal of #5 seed Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinal but I think the main reason Djokovic will win is that he has a dominating 12-3 head-to-head record against Wawrinka (and two of those losses were early in their careers). The last set these two played was a 6-0 won by Nole. I don't think that will happen, but I don't see Stan winning this match. Mad Professah's Pick: Djokovic in 4 sets.

Andy Murray (GBR) [6] vs. Tomas Berdych (CZE) [7] Rafael Nadal (ESP) [3]. This was supposed to be the showdown between Federer and Nadal in the semifinal, if things had gone according to seeding. But after Nadal easily dismissed Federer in last year's semifinal, like he has in all six Grand Slam matches the two have played since 2008, this Federer fan was not looking forward to another result like that, but an off-day dismissal in the third round still stings. Berdych is playing inspired tennis, and his straight set beatdown (of a clearly underprepared Nadal 6-2 6-0 7-6(5) in the quarterfinals is a major accomplishment that should give him confidence against a player he has always matched up well against in the past. The two are 3-3 on hard courts and 1-1 in Grand Slam matches, although I think it is significant that Murray won their 2012 meeting at this same stage at the U.S. Open, on his way to winning his first major. Regardless, I think this match will be quite close, especially since Berdych now has Murray's former fitness coach Jez Green Dan Vallerdu in his camp. However I doubt that any new insights Jez provides will be enough  to swing the result. Mad Professah's pick: Murray in 5 sets.

2015 AUS OPEN: Women's Semifinals Preview

The women's semifinals are now set at the 2015 Australian Open. Last year, I predicted 1 of 2 women's semifinals correctly and 1 of 2 men's quarterfinals correctly. This year I correctly predicted 2 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 3 of 4 men's quarterfinals (blogger ate the post!).

Serena Williams (USA) [1] vs Madison Keys (USA) Venus Williams (USA) [18] Petra Kvitova (CZE) [4]. Madison Keys is the breakout teenage female star of this year's Australian Open. The question is, following similar star-making turns by fellow teenagers in 2013 (Sloane Stephens) and 2014 (Eugene Bouchard), whose career path will she follow, the American or the Canadian? Hopefully, it will be the latter's not the former's. Keys impressed me with her mental and physical fortitude to gut out a win against her idol Venus Williams in the quarterfinal, despite repeatedly falling behind a break in the deciding set. This demonstrates why someone like Lindsey Davenport agreed to work with Keys and why her name has been bandied about as a future multiple slam winner for years. However, beating Venus at this stage in her career is one thing, taking out her 18-time major champion sister is quite another. Especially since Serena looks like she has righted the ship and demolished last year's finalist Dominika Cibulkova like it was a first week warm-up match, not a quarterfinal. Serena has won this thing 5 times before, usually in odd years, and has never not won the tournament when she reaches the semifinal. Then there's the extra wrinkle that Keys definitely injured herself in her win over Venus, things do not look well for a teenage finalist. Only seven players have ever defeated both Williams sister at the same tournament, and the people who did it at a major are multiple slam winners: Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin and Martina Hingis. Does Madison Keys belong on this list? We'll know soon! Mad Professah's pick: Williams in 2 sets.

Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) [10] vs Maria Sharapova (RUS) [2]. Makarova did well to dismiss a surprisingly uncombative Simona Halep in the quarterfinals, giving up only four games. As other observers have pointed out, the lefty Russian is "sneaky good" and is peaking somewhat late in her career by reaching two consecutive semifinal runs at majors. However no one, perhaps even Makarova herself, believes that she can actually win a major. Maria Sharapova definitely believes she can win any major, and has been playing the best tennis at this one of anyone at the top of the women's game and may be rewarded with the #1 ranking again. She put on a master class against Eugene Bouchard (a.k.a. Sharapova 2.0), making a not-very-subtle statement to the heir apparent that Masha is not ready to leave the big stage and that others need to wait their turn. The question is, is she really ready to finally turn around a decade-long losing streak to Serena Williams in the final? That will definitely indicate mental toughness. Mad Professah's pick: Sharapova in 2 sets.

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: New Greek PM Is Left-Wing And Unabashed Atheist!

The new Prime Minister is Alexis Tsipras. In addition to being the youngest Greek Prime Minister in over 150 years at age 40, he is also the very first Prime Minister to be sworn in using a non-religious oath.
It's hard to overstate what a rupture this marks with the ceremonial culture of Greece. For as long as anybody can remember, every senior office-holder, from socialists to right-wing dictators, has assumed the post with a ritual involving Bibles, crosses and often holy water, sprinkled about with a sprig of basil. The opening words of the Greek constitution recall the theological formulas of the early church which predate by the Hellenic state by more than 1,300 years: "In the name of the holy, consubstantial and indivisible Trinity......"
Most of the European Union is freaking out over the Greek elections because the party that Tsipras leads is also staunchly against the austerity measures that have cause unemployment in Greece to hit record numbers and has vowed to end them, eve if it means that the country reneges on its huge debt and is forced to stop using the Euro as its currency. There are worries if Greece leaves the Euro that the entire financial mechanism collapse.

It's nice to see that rejecting financial orthodoxy is not the only thing Tsipras will be known for!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

QUEER QUOTE: Alabama LGBT Politician Threatens Hypocritical Legislators With Outing

Patricia Todd has for a longtime been the only openly LGBT elected official in the Alabama state legislature. With a federal judge striking down Alabama's state constitutional ban on marriage equality last week (and on Sunday issuing a 14-day stay on her decision from going into effect to allow the state to fruitlessly appeal to the 11th Circuit) a number of conservative politicians in her state have been spouting a lot of nonsense about "family values" and "defending the sanctity of marriage."

Representative Todd has had enough hypocrisy from politicians opposing marriage equality in the name of family values while breaking their own marriage vows and said these words which are today's Queer Quote.
"I will not stand by and allow legislators to talk about ‘family values’ when they have affairs, and I know of many who are and have. I will call our elected officials who want to hide in the closet out. It is pretty well known that we have people in Montgomery who are or have had affairs. I just want them to be careful what they’re saying, some of it might come back to stick on them."
I have always been in favor of outing closeted politicians in the interests of media fairness. I think it is also a reasonable tactic when faced with hypocrisy. However, I also know that legislation gets accomplished through relationships with colleagues and Rep. Todd may have made herself less able to work with some colleagues because of these words. But I think it was worth it, and I love these other words she said: "But I know I’m on the side that is going to win and I’m sorry they’re so ignorant."

Sometimes you just gotta tell the Truth!

Hat/tip to Joe Jervis and New Civil Rights Movement

Monday, January 26, 2015

2015 AUS OPEN: Women's Quarterfinals Preview

The women's quarterfinals are now set at the 2015 Australian Open. Last year, I predicted 1 of 4 women's quarterfinals correctly and 1 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly. I will also preview the 2015 Australian Open men's quarterfinals.

Serena Williams (USA) [1]  vs Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) [11].mSerena Williams got revenge on Gabine Muguruza in a hard-fought 2-6 6-3 6-2 win that was a lot closer than the score indicates. Cibulkova, last year's surprise finalist here, played what most observers are calling the best match of the tournament to date in her win over 2-time Australian Open champion Vika Azarenka, coming down from a break in the final set to prevail, 6-2 3-6 6-3. Interestingly, it was Cibulkova who took more risks and went for more when the stakes were raised in that contest, which served her well when her main weapon, the forehand down the line, spanking the line. . Serena has never lost to the hard-hitting pint-sized dynamo, and after being forced to raise her game against Muguruza, I'm confident she will be ready to dispatch the Slovak. Mad Professah's Pick: Williams in 2 sets.

Venus Williams (USA) [18] Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) [6] vs Madison Keys (USA) Petra Kvitova (CZE) [4]. Venus Williams has made a believer out of a lot of observers who have been quietly (and some not so quietly) calling for her retirement. She not only survived a near death experience when Camila Giorgi served for the match in the 3rd round, against Radwanska, Venus was boken in the ver first game of the third set. However both final sets ended with the same dominating score: 6-1. This demonstrates that the 34-year-old American still has what it takes to close out a hard-fought match deep in to a major tournament. Madison Keys is finally having the breakthrough that her athletic prowess has been indicating that she should have been having. She dismissed current Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the third round, outhitting one of the top Big Babes of Tennis. Can Madison really dispatch someone she has looked up to and idolized since she was 4-years-old and is the reason she is a professional tennis player? She can, but somehow I don't think she will, at least not this time. Besides, I think Venus will use her superior movement to exploit Madison's deficiency in this area, something she often did to Madison's coach, Lindsey Davenport.Mad Professah's pick: Williams in 3 sets.

Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) [10] vs Simona Halep (ROU) [3]. Makarova always playes her best tennis in Ausatralia, having earned a lot of big scalps down under (as both Williams sisters know).In the last year, Makarova has been starting to make her presence felt at the other majors as well, with a semifinal berth at the 2014 US Open. Her lefty spin and excellent movement can be a devastating combination, now that she has the belief that she can hang out there with the elite of the game. Her mental toughness will be tested in the extreme against the resiliency of Simona Halep, however, who generally wins the matches she is supposed to win and rarely loses to people lower ranked than she is. Mad Professah's pick: Halep in 3 sets.

Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) [7] vs Maria Sharapova (RUS) [2].  Again, this match-up between the two closest ranked opponents in the Final 8 should make for the most compelling tennis but when you look at their head-to-head record Sharapova has won all three meetings, although their semifinal match at the 2014 French Open was one that really could have gone either way, and Bouchard is well aware of that. Sharapova knows that she is playing with house money having survived 2 match points in the 2nd round against unheralded Russian Alexandra Panova while Bouchard has let the pressure of expectations lead to complications when she was closing out huge leads against players she would be expected to beat. Mad Professah's pick: Sharapova in 3 sets.

EYE CANDY: Pierre Abena

Pierre Abena is beautiful, multiracial model of Italian and Cameroonian descent from Paris who now lives in Los Angeles. He has his own website at and is also active on Instagram and Facebook. He is represented by the Wilhelmina Models agency. The only information I have for him is that he is 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds. He doesn't seem to have a Model Mayhem page and even his own website does not mention his age. Regardless, I am sure you will agree with me that he is definitely Eye candy material!

Hat/tip to ManCrush

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Trailer For SyFy's The Expanse (#GameOfThronesInSpace) Is Out Now!

So psyched to see that the first trailer for SyFy's The Expanse television show is out now!

2015 AUS OPEN Day 8 Preview: Serena vs Muguruza, Venus vs Radwanska, Vika vs Cibulkova

The Australian Open heats up today with the rest of the quarterfinal field being decided. Currently, Genie Bouchard(7), Maria Sharapova(2), Ekaterina Makarova(10) and Simona Halep(3) are already in the quarterfinals.

The four matches to be completed today are Aga Radwanska versus Venus Williams, Serena Williams versus Garbine Muguruza, Vika Azarenka versus Dominika Cibulkova and, lastly, Americans Madison Keys versus Madison Brengle.

The male quarterfinalists are Andy Murray(6) who will face Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios, and Rafael Nadal(3) who will face Tomas Berdych(7).

Saturday, January 24, 2015

QUEER QUOTE: Obama Hopes Supreme Court Makes "Right Decision" In Marriage Case

President Barack Obama gave an interview with YouTube celebrity GloZell Green where he expressed support for a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court that will legalize marriage equality throughout the country.

What he actually said is today's Queer Quote:

My hope is that they go ahead and recognize what I think the majority of people in America now recognize, which is two people who love each other and are treating each other with respect, and aren’t bothering anybody else, why would the law treat them differently? Why? There’s no good reason for it, and so as a consequence I’m hopeful the Supreme Court comes to the right decision. 
As far as me personally, just to see all the loving gay and lesbian couples that I know are great parents and great partners, the idea that we would not treat them like the brothers and sisters that they are that doesn't make sense to me.
Let's hope The Nine are listening!

2015 AUS OPEN Day 6: Keys Upsets Kvitova, Venus and Serena Both Reach R16

Madison Keys has long been touted as the next big thing in women's tennis from America. Keys is a multiracial 19-year-old with a huge serve and big groundstrokes on both sides. She faced 2-time major champion Petra Kvitova in the 3rd round of the 2015 Australian Open and surprised many by eliminating the #4 seed in straight sets, 6-4 7-5, to reach her first second week in a major.

It was a very good day for American women, with both Williams sisters coming back to win 3-set matches. The bigger surprise was the 4-6 7-6(3) 6-1 win by Venus Williams over pint-size powerhouse Camila Giorgi, since Venus had not reached the second week of a major since  2011 Wimbledon. The more disturbing match was Serena Williams win over Elina Svitolina because the World #1 started extremely sluggishly, losing the first set 6-4. Although she garnered a 4-0 lead in the second set, it was not easy, but more of a war of attrition. Svitolina is a good player and managed to win another two games before Serena became more engaged and swept the last 8 games, winning 4-6 6-2 6-0.

Amazingly, there are now 4 American women in the round of 16 and 3 of them are in the same quarter: Williams, Keys, and Madison Brengle. The top seed here is Aggie Radwanska who will face Venus, while the Madisons face off for the other quarterfinal slot.

Serena is on track for a blockbuster quarterfinal with Victoria Azarenka, provided that Serena gets past Garbine Muguruza, the same youngster who gave her her worst beating ever in a major at last year's French Open, and Vika beats last year's Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova.

Other potential mouthwatering matches are Maria Sharapova versus Genie Bouchard and Simona Halep against Ekaterina Makarova.

Friday, January 23, 2015

OMG! Federal Judge Strikes Down Alabama's Ban On Marriage Equality

Wow. Look at the map of marriage equality now. By my count there are 38 states that are dark blue (or "sapphire") because they have marriage equality in effect right now. Just visually this makes the point that the Supreme Court will basically be in "mop up" mode when it decides marriage equality cases this term and probably turns the remaining dozen red and yellow states to the uniform sapphire of the rest of the Union.

Today a federal judge in Aabama appointed by Presiudent George W, Bush on the recommendation of both Republican U.S. Senators struck down Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage in a cogent and coherent, 10-page decision and refused to issue a stay. Alabama is in the 11th Circuit, where the Supreme Court has already refused to issue a stay on a federal judge's decision from going into effect (in Florida). So same-sex couples are gonna be getting married in Selma, and soon! Nice historical conjunction with the Martin Luther King, Jr holiday.

Hat/tip to Equality On Trial!

2015 AUS OPEN: Federer(2) Suffers Upsetting 3rd Round Exit To Seppi

Roger Federer's run of consecutive semifinals at the Australian Open will end at eleven, due to a loss in the 3rd round of the 2015 Australian Open to Andreas Seppi of Italy. The last time Federer failed to make the 4th round of the Australian Open was in 2001!

Federer never looked like he was playing his best tennis throughout the match, although he pulled together a few strong points at a time, his game never gelled and he lost 6-4 7-6(5) 4-6 7-6(5).

Federer was gracious in defeat, praising his opponent's play and chalking up his disappointing result to a "bad day" at the office. Seppi had never beaten Federer in 10 previous meetings and had in fact, only won one set in all those meetings. The loss was reminiscent of what happened to Federer when he lost to Tommy Robredo for the first time in the Fourth Round of the 2013 U.S. Open (a match I saw in person from the front row).

There were signs things were not going well for the 17-time champion in Melbourne. In the round before, Federer lost the first set easily to Simone Bollelli of Italy but there he managed to right the ship more quickly and won the next three sets for a 3-6 6-3 6-2 6-2 win. That did not happen against the more determined and steadier Seppi, who siezed his opportunities and played well throughout.

The difference between Federer's loss to Robredo and his loss to Seppi yesterday was that the Robredo loss came after a string of disappointments in the majors that year while this loss is much more surprising since it happened at the beginning of a year following a year when Federer played well and reached a major final (2014 Wimbledon). Federer did have  a longer season than usual (winning the most matches on tour and the 2014 Davis Cup) and a busier off-season but this surprising loss could be an indication that the upside of the 33-year-old's career is not as high as some of us more ardent fans (like myself) had hoped. Can he really win another major? Andy Murray says yes. Interesting, because one of the primary beneficiaries of Federer's absence, is Murray, who would have been scheduled to meet him in the quarterfinals (followed by Nadal in the semifinal and Djokovic in the final).

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: "Boy Who Came Back From Heaven" Admits He Made It All Up

The author of "The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven" has recanted his story, and the publisher is pulling the best-selling book from book shelves in response.

The Washington Post covers the story:
Referring to the injuries that continue to make it difficult for him to express himself, Alex writes, “Please forgive the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short. … I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.”[...]
There is considerable disagreement about when Alex first recanted his testimony and objected to the book, which has reportedly sold more than 1 million copies.
Maggie Rowe, senior publicist of Tyndale, released an updated statement Friday evening, saying: “Earlier this week Tyndale learned that Alex Malarkey, co-author of ‘The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven,’ was retracting the story he had told his father and that he recounted in the book they co-authored for publication in 2010. It is because of this new information that we are taking the book out of print. For the past couple of years we have known that Beth Malarkey, Kevin’s wife and Alex’s mother, was unhappy with the book and believed it contained inaccuracies. On more than one occasion we asked for a meeting with Kevin, Beth, Alex and their agent to discuss and correct any inaccuracies, but Beth would not agree to such a meeting.”
Why didn't they just put the book in the fiction section where it belonged all along? How could people be so gullible? Oh, yeah, these are the same people who believe in all-seeing, all-knowing, entity who lives in the sky and follows human events continuously. Srsly.

Hat/tip to Joe Jervis

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

2015 AUS OPEN Day 2: Williams Sisters Sail Through 1st Rd; Kei,Milos,Woz,Kvitova,Aggie Also Thru

Day 2 of the 2015 Australian Open featured appearances by several Americans, led by Venus Williams and Serena Williams, who both won their first round matches in straight sets, losing only 4 matches each.

Other notable winners on Day 2 were Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, Feliciano Lopez (10-8 in the 5th against American Dennis Kudla), Gael Monfils on the men's side. On the women's side local favorites Samantha Stosur and Casey Dellacqua won their first round match, as did tournament favorites Aggie Radwanska and Petra Kvitova won while there were a few more surprising upsets with good hard-court players Jelena Jankovic(15), Andrea Petkovic(13) and  Flavia Pennetta(12) all succumbing to much lower-ranked opponents.

In the two popcorn matches of the day, Vika Azarenka dispatched Sloane Stephens in straight sets, while young American lefty Taylor Townsend acquitted herself well in her loss to Caroline Wozniacki.

Monday, January 19, 2015

2015 AUS OPEN Day 1: Ivanovic(5),Kerber(9),Gulbis(11) Upset; Rafa,Raja,Andy,Masha,Halep,Genie Win 1st Round

The Happy Slam has begun! The 2015 Australian Open, with defending champions Stanislas Wawrinka on the men's side and no defending champion on the women's side (due to Li Na's retirement) began yesterday.

On Day 1, there were a slew of upsets on the women's side with two of the Top 10 seeds exiting in pretty shocking upsets when Ana Ivanovic (who reached the final here in 2008) and Angelique Kerber (who has been underperforming in the majors since she entered the Top 10) both lost. Other seeded players who wasted the long flight Down Under were: Svetlana Kuznetsova(27), Sabine Lisicki(28), Carla Suarez Navarro(17) and Lucie Safarova(16).

On the men's side #11 seed Ernests Gulbis lost a match to Aussie youngster Thanasi Kokkinakis while the other Aussie phenom Nick Kyrgios did well to win a five-setter. The only other seeded player to fall was #15 seed Tommy Robredo.

So, who did win? The usual suspects: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych all won their 1st round matches, as did Grigor Dimitrov, in a much-0hyped showdown with flashy Dustin Brown. On the women's side Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep, and Genie Bouchard all won their first round matches.

On day 2 both Williams sisters will be in action, along with Novak Djokovic. One popcorn match is Victoria Azarenka versus Sloane Stephenes while another is Caroline Wozniacki versus Taylor Townsend--I think it's gonna be a rough day for the Americans!

EYE CANDY: Isaiah Rojas

Isaiah Rojas is a 25-year-old model from New York City. According to his Model Mayhem page he is 6-feet tall, 185-pounds with size 13 feet! Rojas came to my attention through Gorgeous Sexy Guys.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

My 10th Blogiversary: A Decade Of Blogging!

Now that the 2015 Australian Open is starting I realize that it has been almost exactly 10 years since I started blogging regularly. My very first post was in 2003 but I didn't start posting updates regularly (basically every day) until January 14, 2005. So, consider this my decadal blogiversary post.

As I think about starting my eleventh year of blogging I am pretty sure I will not be blogging as frequently as I have in the past (i.e. more than 2 posts per day on average), but it will be my goal to average out to 1 post per day (30 or so per month or roughly 300-350 per year). There may be times when there are more posts (i.e. around Grand Slam tennis tournaments) and there may be times when there are fewer (like when I'm on vacation or busy with my day job). Very many of my peers have stopped posting regularly (like Craig Hickman, who is know an elected Maine State Representative and Pam Spaulding, primarily for health reasons) but I think my blog is still useful and I enjoy doing it. I have also become more active on Twitter, like Andres Duque of Blabbeando, who has also stopped blogging regularly.

I hope my readers will still read what I have to say, and provide feedback. I really appreciate every and all comments.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

SATURDAY POLITICS: Molina Snags Endorsements By Villaraigosa, Boxer, Cedillo

This week former Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina announced endorsements of her race for Los Angeles City Council by three prominent Democratic politicians: U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and current Los Angeles City Councilmember Gilbert Cedillo.

The revelation of three big names at once is being viewed (by some political observers) as a misstep by Molina, since typically one unveils big-name endorsements piecemeal in order to get media attention for each one separately. However, even if that is true, it is pretty significant that Molina was able to get the endorsement of a current colleague of her opponent, incumbent City Councilman Jose Huizar. Additionally, Villaraigosa supported Huizar as his replacement back in 2005 when he ran (and won) his race for Mayor. The current Mayor, Eric Garcetti has not yet endorsed in the race.

The Los Angeles County Democratic Party has endorsed Huizar. The primary election will be held March 3, 2015. If the public approves two disingenuous, dubious and dangerous charter amendments in that same election, the winner of that race will get to serve an unprecedented 5-and-a-half year term.

In other interesting political developments, Villaraigosa is making more encouraging noises about running for Boxer's Senate seat in the June 2016 primary, even though Attorney General Kamala Harris made her intentions known earlier this week and most people expected Villaraigosa to be more interested in the 2018 Governor's race, not the 2016 Senate race. Maybe the former Mayor is getting antsy at waiting, or is he afraid that he won't make the top 2 in a crowded field that will likely include Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, Treasurer John Chiang and many more?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Marriage Equality Cases Will Be Decided By US Supreme Court This Term!

Great news! The United States Supreme Court agreed to hear (granted certioari) in a number of consolidated cases from all four states in the Sixth Circuit that could lead to a ruling striking down all state-based laws that prohibit same-sex couples from getting married and states from recognizing those marriages. Two years ago on June 26, 2013 the Court ruled that the Congress could not enact a law to prohibit recognition by legally married same-sex couples for federal purposes.

There are currently 36 states (and the District of Columbia) with marriage equality, so the ruling by the Supreme Court would likely strike down the bans in the 14 remaining states.

The specific question the Supreme Court will ask parties to address in briefs and oral arguments are:
 1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex? 2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state? 
It is likely there will be oral arguments in April (90 minutes on Question 1, 60 minutes on Question 2) and a final decision issued in the case(s) by June 2015.

Woo hoo!

Hat/tip to Chris Geidner!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

2015 OSCARS: Actual Nominations Announced

Below are the actual nominations for the 87th annual Academy Awards. You can compare the actual nominations to my predicted nominations from yesterday.

American Sniper
Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Gone Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Theory of Everything

7 correct predictions, 3 wrong.

Best Director
  • Clint Eastwood, American Sniper
  • Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
  • Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman
  • Richard Linklater, Boyhood
  • Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Ana Duvernay, Selma
  • Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game
3 of 5 predictions correct.

Best Actress
  • Amy Adams, Big Eyes
  • Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night
  • Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
  • Julianne Moore, Still Alice
  • Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl 
  • Reese Witherspoon, Wild
4 of 5 predictions correct. I had actually gone back and forth between Cotillard and Adams for the last slot and just picked the wrong one at the last moment.

Best Actor
  • Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
  • Benedict Cumberbatch,  The Imitation Game
  • Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Michael Keaton, Birdman
  • Mathew Oyelowo, Selma 
  • Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
3 of 5 predictions correct. I had intended to include Redmayne in the Selma slot.

Best Supporting Actress
  • Emma Stone, Birdman
  • Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
  • Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
  • Meryl Streep, Into The Woods
  • Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer
  • Laura Dern, Wild
4 of 5 predictions correct. I had really hoped that the academy would recognize Swinton's amazing work in Snowpiercer.

Best Supporting Actor
  • Ethan Hawke, Boyhood 
  • Alfred Molina, Love is Strange 
  • Edward Norton, Birdman
  • Mark Ruffalo,  Foxcatcher
  • J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
  • Robert Duvall, The Judge
4 of 5 predictions correct. I underestimated the Academy's love for Duvall.

Best Original Screenplay
  • Birdman 
  • Boyhood
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The LEGO Movie
  • Nightcrawler
  • Foxcatcher
4 of 5 predictions correct. I had really thought that the Academy would recognize the surprising brilliance of The LEGO Movie.

Best Adapted Screenplay
  • American Sniper
  • Gone Girl
  • The Imitation Game
  • Inherent Vice
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Whiplash
4 of 5 predictions correct. I was convinced that The Academy would recognize the brilliance of Gillian Flynn's adaptation of her own book Gone Girl but I completely underestimated the mutual antipathy between David Fincher and Oscar voters.

Overall I predicted 26 of 35 correct (74%) of the top 7 categories. If you consider the that I got 7 of the 8 Best Picture nominations correct then my percentage goes up to 76.7%.

Total Nominations
  1. Birdman (10) Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel (9)
  2. Boyhood (9) The Imitation Game (8)
  3. The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything (7) The Theory of Everything, Boyhood, American Sniper (6)
  4. Selma,  Gone Girl, Interstellar, American Sniper, The Grand Budapest Hotel (5) Interstellar, Foxcatcher (5)


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