…and down the stretch they come: ALDLAND’s 2012 Kentucky Derby Preview

Horse racing is an intriguing pairing of human and bestial talent. And money. The preparation that lasts years is tested in two minutes. Like any endeavour that involves large amounts of resources, extensive preparation, and flashpoint testing, predictability is highly prized. Here, however, it remains elusive. It is that absence of ultimate predictability, however, that keeps the sport and its accordant culture alive.

Since my only possible qualifications for writing a substantive post on horse racing at this juncture come from an evening watching harness racing at Vernon Downs five years ago and spending last week in Lexington, during which I saw plenty of horses and horse farms, but no horse racing, let me direct you to a collection of stories and other online features that will help you get ready for this year’s Kentucky Derby:

Beyond this pre-race coverage (such as it is), we will be live blogging the event beginning sometime on Saturday afternoon. Stay tuned for more details.

Finally, my win-place-show prediction, based on the same thing for which war is good, is:

  1. Union Rags
  2. Gemologist
  3. Take Charge Indy

Two other horses to watch are Daddy Long Legs and Bodemeister. Of course, you can watch all of them at once, and I’d advise that. It isn’t too difficult.

No matter what your style, be sure to check back here on Saturday afternoon for ALDLAND’s live blog of the 2012 Kentucky Derby.

Love, Boxing, and Hunter S. Thompson (via Los Angeles Review of Books)

When John Kaye sent this report it made me realize that two of my great literary touchstones — Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Tristram Shandy — have much more in common than I had ever noticed. They are both colossal failures of mission, spectacular performances of the art of being sidetracked, of being shanghaied by errant attention, or, perhaps, perfect examples of the way art is, at its best, a perversion, a turning away from more straightforward intentions. This piece was commissioned elsewhere to be a brief reminiscence of a weekend in New Orleans. We prefer this Shandean, heavyweight version.         — Tom Lutz

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(via Los Angeles Review of Books)

The Two-Fisted, One-Eyed Misadventures Of Sportswriting’s Last Badass (via Deadspin)

George Kimball hung upside down some 70 feet in the cold Manhattan air, still in need of a cigarette. Well, the doctors had said smoking would kill him, hadn’t they? The previous autumn, they had found an inoperable cancerous tumor the size of a golf ball in his throat and given him six months to live. Five months had passed. He’d finished his latest round of chemotherapy, and now George, 62 years old and recently retired from the Boston Herald, was at the Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom in 2006, to cover a night of boxing for a website called The Sweet Science.

He’d never set foot in the place before. He didn’t even know what floor he was on when he went for a smoke between fights. There was a long line at the elevator so he went looking for a backstage exit and stepped out into the winter night, onto a tiny platform seven stories over the sidewalk. And then, as George would later tell the story, he plunged into darkness.

His leg caught between the fire ladder and the wall. He knew right away it was broken. He dangled from the fire escape like a bat—except bats can let go. He tried calling for help but his voice was too weak from the cancer treatments; he could barely whisper. Also, he wanted that fucking cigarette. A security guard, ducking out for his own smoke, found him, and it took another 20 minutes before the paramedics could get George on his feet. They wanted him to go to the hospital for X-rays but George talked them out of it. His wife was a doctor, he explained, and with all the chemo, he had more than enough painkillers at home.

He went back to his seat to watch the last two fights. Afterward, he hobbled to a drug store and bought a knee brace, an ice pack, a large quantity of bandages, and a lighter to replace the Zippo he lost in the fall. Two days later George would go to a hospital to set his broken leg. But that night, he went home. His wife Marge cleaned the scrapes on George’s arms, and he took a big hit of OxyContin. Then he filed his story on the fight. … Read More

(via Deadspin)

Movie review: The Rum Diary

Hot wings do not a dinner make, and, typically, the work of a good author does not a good film make. And yet, last Sunday night provided an experience to the contrary on both counts. Sort of. A dozen wings and double that in Budweiser fluid ounces, alone, will not commend anyone to longevity or short-term comfort, but the film adaptation of Hunter Thompson’s early, long-unpublished novel, The Rum Diary, is a success.

Johnny Depp reprises his role as a Thompson protagonist/stand-in from 1998’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to portray Paul Kemp, a mainland American journalist and aspiring novelist who lands in Puerto Rico in 1960 looking for some money and, he hopes, his voice as a writer.

Not quite a comedy, not quite a romance, not quite a political drama, not quite a history, The Rum Diary has everything and nothing all at once. I tried reading the book once, in Iceland, but I couldn’t finish it because it didn’t seem to have a plot. I later realized that I hadn’t understood it, but, having borrowed the book the first time around, I never finished reading. It isn’t unlike Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises as an account of what it was like to live in a place and a culture at a certain time, told from a particular perspective of a semi-outsider who largely took an observational posture but also wanted something for himself.

There’s no need to get pretentious about this, though– indeed, that’s pretty much the opposite of the point– even if the author of the underlying work was writing a book about writing that same book. The movie version of The Rum Diary had the Sunday-night audience paying attention, laughing, and enjoying the vistas– scenic and human– and well-crafted dialogue, even if they weren’t too terribly informed about the story’s origin.* Highly recommended.

* As the cameras are pulling back from the puertorriqueño scenery and just before the closing credits roll, the screen shows something like “In memory of Hunter S. Thompson 1937-2005,” to which the young gal behind us asked, “Is that a real person or something?” A good question.