July 30, 2012

You Go, Girl

As the Summer Olympics get underway, let’s give a cheer for Melpomene.

At the first Modern Olympiad in 1896, when women were prohibited from competing in any event, a Greek woman known to history only as Melpomene respectfully asked permission to run with men in the long-distance race between Marathon and Athens. When Olympic officials refused her she jumped into the race from the sidelines and finished the course at the back of the pack. You don’t always have to win the gold medal in order to make your point.

So think about Melpomene as you watch the world’s best marathon runners slog through the streets of London next week. Consider the fact it took 32 years for any women’s track events to be added to the Olympics and more than another half century before women could run in Olympic races longer than 800 meters.

As for the marathon—Oh dear, no. Women were far too delicate for a road race that covered 26 miles. They would faint. They would swoon. They would most certainly damage their health, especially their feminine parts. Besides, insisted the International Olympic Committee, there weren’t enough women around the world who wanted to train for a marathon. (more…)

July 25, 2012

Profoundly Uncool For 55 Years


Another Lakefair has come and gone in my part of Puget Sound country.

There’s nothing cool about Lakefair.  It’s one of those rah-rah, civic-boosting, small-town summer festivals that dates from the days of American Bandstand and Leave it to Beaver, the kind with a “court” of princesses and a big parade down the main street of town. It’s retro—really retro—and not in a hip sort of way.

A surprising number of people I know won’t go anywhere near it. They’re either too highbrow or too right-on, with the blue state voter’s aversion to corn dogs and cotton candy.

“Lakefair, ugh,” they say, rolling their eyes.  They see nothing charming in a crowd of sunburned Americans standing in line for curly fries. “We try to leave town that week.” (more…)