A little chess humor. Very little.
In the world of chess, Fabiano Caruana is like Tiger Woods, Tom Brady and Serena Williams wrapped into one. He is America's premier grandmaster, and though his name isn't quite a household word yet, there are all kinds of reasons for readers to take note of him. For one thing, he is the only American to compete in the title fight for the World Chess Championship since Bobby Fischer defeated the Soviet Union's Boris Spassky in a 1972 classic Cold War match.
There's no Cold War intrigue this time. Caruana is competing against reigning champion Magnus Carlsen, 27, of Norway. They are currently competing in a grueling 12-match showdown in London that, so far, has yielded neither victor nor vanquished but lots of draws. Actor Woody Harrelson added some humor when he was given the honor of making the first move in the opening match on Nov. 9. He reached for one of Caruana's pawns, then brushed his hand backward to knock down Caruana's king. Harrelson smiled broadly, then turned beet red when the two players were slow to get the joke. World champion chess players are a serious bunch.
Stan Lee, the creator of Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk and other indelible superhero characters that graced the colorful pages of comic books for decades, died last week at age 95. But his legacy of explosive imagination and plain old-fashioned storytelling lives on.
Stanley Martin Lieber began his career in 1939 as an assistant at Timely Comics, Marvel's precursor. His early duties included making sure the inkwells were full for the artists. When he began writing text, he chose a pen name — Stan Lee — because he fancied himself a potentially serious writer and was embarrassed by the low literary stature of comic books.
No one did more to change that stature than Lee himself. Over the years, his characters began standing out to fans for their complexity, frailty, human flaws and even complex personal lives, something truly new in the comics galaxy. His towering creation, Spider-Man, remains Marvel's most beloved character, not to mention a Hollywood behemoth.
Superhero Stan Lee died Nov. 12.
Pardon the slight delay before takeoff ...
It's very important to pay your bills on time, as Europe's biggest cut-rate airline, Ryanair, discovered after French authorities seized one of the airline's planes on the tarmac as 149 passengers were preparing to board. It appeared that the airline hadn't paid a $610,000 outstanding tab from flights made in 2008 and 2009, and French authorities had reached the limit of their patience.
The airline wouldn't tell the passengers what was going on, only that boarding had been delayed. An airport police officer finally leveled with them about the problem. They received a $5.75 food voucher for their trouble during the five-hour delay. It wasn't even enough for a sandwich. It appears that you really do get what you pay for.
... and after landing
Passengers on an Air France flight from Paris to Shanghai also experienced a slight delay this week. A problem in midflight caused their plane to make an emergency landing in the Siberian city of Irkutsk. The 282 passengers waited six hours on board, but when repairs couldn't be made, they had to disembark to all the joys that Siberia's wintry weather can offer. There they stayed for the next three days.
You were saying?
It was pretty clear from the moment the words came out of his mouth that "Saturday Night Live's" youthful, big-grinning star, Pete Davidson, was royally screwing up. In a pre-election commentary two weeks ago, Davidson attempted to poke fun at the black eye patch worn by Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican seeking election to the U.S. House. Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL, lost his right eye in Afghanistan in 2012.
NBC found itself inundated with angry viewer responses. Last Saturday, Davidson tried to make amends on the show's "Weekend Update" segment by inviting Crenshaw for a rebuttal. Crenshaw — now congressman-elect — deadpanned his way through Davidson's embarrassed apology. When it was his turn to speak, Crenshaw halted in mid-sentence because his phone had started ringing. His ringtone was Ariana Grande's "Breathin'" — instantly recognizable to Davidson because she had been his fiancee before their breakup two weeks earlier. Ouch. If Crenshaw can keep that same sense of humor on Capitol Hill, Congress will be in a far better place.
Youth is wasted on the young
We live in a world of options and choices never imagined by our ancestors. In 2015, Rachel Dolezal was discovered to be a white woman impersonating a black person, and she was so good at it that she was named head of the NAACP office in Spokane, Washington. When asked to explain, Dolezal suggested race is a choice and she chooses to "identify" as a black person.
Now, a Dutch man argues that age also should be optional. Even though Emile Ratelband is 69 according to Earth time, he wants to identify as a 49-year-old because he is having difficulties finding the right women to hook up with on Tinder, a dating app. So he asked a court for legal permission to officially change his age. It might be easier if he legally changed his planet. Mars takes 687 days to orbit the sun, which would put Ratelband's age at about 37, almost equal to his IQ.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH