Battle of the Sexes: The Political is Personal

I remember September 20, 1973 when Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in three straight sets at the Houston Astrodome in the Battle of the Sexes.  I remember when Ms. magazine debuted and when Virginia Slims was a sponsor of the magazine and women’s tennis, when people debated about the merits of letting cigarettes bankroll feminism, but feminism needed the money. I recall when it was fashionable for men to call you “little lady” and drape their arms around your shoulders in casual conversation. I remember when tennis rackets were made of wood.

When Rackets Were Made of Wood

The movie, Battle of the Sexes, brings the story of the King/Riggs match to life.  The film gets the tennis right; the film gets a lot of things right. Wooden rackets weighed 25-30% more the aluminum ones, and the racket face was much smaller, which means players couldn’t hit the ball anywhere as hard. Tennis then was much more a game of strategy — ball placement, serve and volley, and the strategic use of the lob. The tennis match choreography shows this to great effect. To the modern viewers, the play may seem oddly lethargic, almost as if it was in slow-motion. That was the reason Riggs beat Margaret Court, known at the time as The Arm because her height advantage gave her more power and a longer reach. Riggs wasn’t faster; he played more strategically and was wilier about placing the ball. After all, if you can play wearing scuba flippers or wearing a hoop skirt, then your play is about wrist movement, not power.

The trailers for the movie and many of the reviews don’t mention Margaret Court, but she’s a core part of the film, which I appreciated. King would never have played Riggs if he hadn’t already beaten the #1 women’s tennis player. The movie even hints at Court’s rampant homophobia which has made recent headlines, a topic that would have not been included in any biopic of this subject made before the 1990s.  Emma Stone is a credible King, but Steve Carrell is a drop-dead perfect Riggs, a showman playing tennis in a dress or with a drink in his hand to win a bet, a game of slow but deceptively accurate shots. Continue reading “Battle of the Sexes: The Political is Personal”

A Minor Issue with Some Grits

I went to make myself some grits on Friday night for dinner. As the water was boiling, I pulled the container out of the pantry and noticed that the plastic ziploc bag was neither air-tight nor water-tight as it was supposed to be. This turned out to be a problem where, for at least ten seconds, I considered whether the grits were still salvageable because, after all, people in India wouldn’t waste food. I determined that reclaiming the bottom third of a $2.89 box of grits was not worth whatever dire ailments might ensue.

Then, it turned out there was a similar issue with what we thought was a tightly-sealed container of steel-cut oats. Crumbs. Mildew.  As we unearthed a few more containers, my wife said, “Do you remember that problem we had with water damage a few years back?”

Uh-oh. That was quite a few years back, during the great recession if I recall, when I was out of work for a short spell, and we were moving money around to pay for a leak that required rebuilding and replastering the wall at the back of the hall closet which is on the other side of…. Oh, the pantry.

Well, these things happen, a small problem that you dig under, and suddenly it’s a large problem. Half of a Saturday gets devoted to cleaning out and assessment, followed by trips to the hardware store, powering up the Black and Decker tools, consultations with experts i.e. your DIY friends and the internet, and half of Sunday, and all of it far more involved than you planned for.

Continue reading “A Minor Issue with Some Grits”

Not to See the Eclipse

Road Trip II: Up to Portland

Summer jobs when you’re in college are a grind  — hot, low-paying, mostly boring. Chasing shopping carts around in a parking lot. Xeroxing rolodex cards. Interpreting cheeseburger orders in sophomore-level Spanish through the drive-thru window. Our daughter Lee has been pulling 5:30 am shifts most of the summer, unloading the trucks at Homegoods, schlepping rugs and mirrors around for hours. If she’s lucky and they give her a full shift, then she spends the second half smiling at customers who give long elaborate stories about why they have no receipt but want to return this ceramic dog with a chip in it.

It seemed to me she deserved a road trip before heading back to school, so we were determined to take one. A close friend lives just up in Portland. That’s only two days drive. Synchronize your watches! Pack up the car! We’re heading north!

Continue reading “Not to See the Eclipse”