Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The Super Bowl in Las Vegas and an easy dish ...

My husband and I visited Las Vegas in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Then, it was not the popular city it is now. I remember that it was a city in the center of the Nevada Mohave Desert where there were some casinos and motels. In my memory the city is pictured as in the two top photos of the vintage postcards below.
A few years ago we stopped several hours at the Las Vegas airport on our way to Los Angeles. This airport had greatly been updated. There were slot machines everywhere: in the concourses, the gates, and more. Later I read an airport article stating that the Las Vegas Airport slot machines had generated one billion dollars in all-time revenue.
I even bought a postcard for my cousin in France showing the Las Vegas Eiffel Tower replica (50% of the Paris tower.)
Now, Las Vegas is famous for its large luxurious casinos with top international entertainers. In 2019 2.9 million visitors came to its five-star resort hotels, gourmet restaurants, the various shopping malls, high-end stores and 24/7 entertainment. It is the largest city in Nevada. The new Allegiant Stadium, a domed multi-purpose stadium, was opened in 2020. At 1.9 million dollars it is the second most expensive stadium in the world, after Los Angeles 5.5 billion stadium. Allegiant Stadium claims that it is the first NFL (National Football League) stadium powered by 100% renewable energy. On February 11, 2024, Las Vegas hosted its first Super Bowl there, a highly publicized football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers.
For my overseas blogging friends I'd like to mention that sports are very important in the USA. Football is the #1 sport, American football that is, played here and in about 30 other countries, compared to the other football, the one called "soccer" here but played in 211 countries around the world. Many children in the US start playing football at about 12 years of age. It is played in high schools, colleges and universities, plus professionally. Nearly 1.04 million high-school athletes (with 16,000 teams) and 81,000 college athletes (with 858 teams) play football in the US. Football has a huge impact on a college, on its culture and campus life. Colleges and universities make more money from sports, and are more interested in sports than academics, education, travel, arts, etc. A winning team will boost a university enrollment. Enormous amounts of fans will crowd college football stadiums to cheer their school team. My late husband did not watch much sport on television, unless it was a big game between Ohio State University's Buckeys team and another university. He was an Ohio State University alumnus. My youngest daughter is a fan of the "Dawgs," the University of Georgia's Bulldogs team where she graduated, and my son-in-law is a fan of the rival GA team, the Yellow Jackets, from Georgia Tech University where he graduated. But since both took their medical residencies at Ohio State University, they are fans of the Buckeyes, too. Fans like to wear their university team's tee-shirt and buy team merchandise.
The National Football League (NFL) has the highest average attendance of any professional sports leagues. The Super Bowl, its championship game, ranks among the most-watched sporting events here with the highest average attendance. The league in 2023 had an annual revenue of around 18.6 billion dollars. In 2023, sports generated $520 billion in revenue to the U.S. economy. It can be understood this way: a million seconds is 12 days, a billion seconds is 31 years and a trillion seconds is 31,688 years. Top professional football athletes can obtain salaries of more than 55 million dollars a year. I mention all this because money is what drives the USA. With such a huge audience, companies paid up to $7 million for a rare 30-second advertisement slot on television. By November 2023, all commercial slots had been purchased for the Super Bowl of February 11, 2024. Companies try to come up with unusual, innovative or funny commercials; they also use well-known celebrities for their ads to stand out. The commercials are watched attentively, and rated. In the commercials below pop-star Beyoncé is on the left, actor Ben Affleck on the left of the center photo and actor and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is on the left in the right picture.
Some people who are not avid football fans still watch the Super Bowl Halftime shows. Most colleges feature marching bands and drill teams during their shows; the Super Bowl did too when it started in 1967. But in 1993 the Super Bowl featured Michael Jackson. That year more fans watched him than the game. Since then the Super Bowl Halftime shows have been headlined by some of the most popular contemporary musicians. Some of the past entertainers have been: The Rolling Stones, The Who, Sting, Paul McCartney, Bruno Mars, U2,Bruce Springsteen, The Temptations, Tony Bennett, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, Lady Gaga, Janet Jackson, Diana Ross, Britney Spears, Madonna, Prince, etc.
This year the Super Bowl generated more media frenzy because there was the added attraction of the relationship between Taylor Swift the pop culture superstar and the Kansas City Chief tight end Travis Kelce. Taylor's fans all over the world, called the Swifties, are obsessed with the relationship. They were agonizing because Taylor Swift, on her worldwide Eras Tour, was performing in Tokyo Saturday night February 10th, the eve of the Super Bowl, and might not show up in time. To illustrate what a big deal the Swift-Kelce romance is, the Embassy of Japan in the U.S.A. issued a statement to reassure the fans.
But no fear, Swift quickly flew on her private jet and covered the 5,500 mile journey to Las Vegas in time. Another 882 private planes landed for the game in the Las Vegas airports as well. Well-known celebrities from entertainers to politicians and sports stars were seen at the Super Bowl, such as Jay-Ze,Beyoncé, Paul McCartney, Canadian singer-songwriter Justin Bieber, Elon Musk, California Governor Gavin Newsom, Lady Gaga, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sheryl Crow, Shaquille O Neal, talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, and many more. The romance has generated an intense amount of attention and provided millions in revenue to the KC Chiefs and other marketing companies. I have not watched a Super Bowl in a long time but decided to turn my kitchen TV on the game and watch it while cooking. I also took some photos from the television.
Since I did not want to spend much time cooking I decided to cook something in one pot only. I had two egg yolks leftover from baking some meringue cookies earlier and came up with a type of spaghetti carbonara, but without the spaghetti. I called it Super Bowl Carbonara, It was fast and easy in my cast iron frying pan. I wouldn't say it was a 5-star recipe but something simple and stil pretty good. You may wish to give it a try. The recipe is below.
Super Bowl Carbonara: 2 packages of Ramen noodle soup, any flavor because only noodles are used, spice packs are omitted. 2 egg yolks. 1/3 green pepper, chopped, and 2 green onions, sliced, white parts separated from green parts. 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling when done. 2 cups warm water, plus another 1/2 cup for egg mixture. 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon each of thyme and oregano, salt and pepper to taste. 1 tsp olive oil. Fry bacon in cast iron frying pan or other pan, remove to paper towel. Remove bacon fat but leave 2 tablespoons in pan and add 1 teaspoon olive oil. Fry green pepper and the white parts of the green onions in the pan, remove. Add 2 cups warm water to pan and add the Ramen noodles. Bring to a boil while flipping the noodles and separating them with two forks. Sprinkle salt, pepper and seasoning. Turn heat to medium-low. When noodles have softened (about 2 or 3 minutes or so) turn heat off. While noodles were cooking add 1/2 cup warm water to egg yolks in a small bowl (or if too much water left in noodles, use that.) Whisk Parmesan cheese in eggs. Toss egg mixture into noodles, turn heat on low, and keep tossing a minute or two until creamy. Add crumbled bacon, the green parts of the onions, and the cooked green pepper and white parts of green onions. Serve sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese. Voila.
As an aside, one of the players for the Kansas City Chiefs at the Super Bowl, Lucas Niang, is French and has dual citizenship. His parents moved to the US from France. His father is French and his mother from the Ivory Coast, or Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa. Lucas speaks fluent French. Here he is below.
After the meal I went to watch the game on my large TV in the den. It looked like the San Francisco 49ers were ahead but then the game turned to the Kansas City Chiefs. We had some glimpses of Taylor Swift in her suite cheering with her friends. She was wearing her gold necklace with the number 87 - that is her boyfriend Travis Kelce's tee-shirt number.
The game became gripping during the overtime. The end escaladed quickly to a thrilling victory for the Kansas City Chiefs, their third Super Bowl victory in the last five years. They defeated the San Francisco 49ers 25-22 and declared champions.
Travis Kelce hoisted the Lombardi Trophy on the podium and then descended onto the field. He joined Taylor, saying "Come here, baby girl." They hugged and embraced.
This game gathered the highest ratings since the Apollo II 1969 moon landing. A staggering 123.4 million viewed the game and 202 million watched at least part of the game across all TV networks and via streaming. The insane amount of attention being paid to the Taylor-Travis romance helped with teenage girls watching the Super Bowl for the first time. The reason for this fascination is because this is the classic American romance in a way: the cheerleader or most popular girl falls for the handsome football star. Or in this case, Taylor Swift (voted woman of the Year 2023 by Time Magazine,) the pop culture megastar is dating the popular and talented Kansas City handsome tight end = two famous people making their fan base swoon. Dr. Helen Fisher, an anthropologist and a senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute who has studied the chemistry of romantic love said: "It was charming, so real, so human, so unrehearsed and so dramatic." She explained that the phenomenon behind the interest in this romance is called "emotional contagion." She added it is the same as why we tear up when our friends cry or get hungry when those around us are eating. This is the type of fantasy love story the American public loves.
Everyone needs a little romance in their life!

Monday, February 5, 2024

Snow and ice in Nashville, Tennessee

After my last trip to the North Georgia Mountains I was planning to write three blog posts: one on apple orchards in Ellijay, one on my trip up Fort Mountain State Park and one on Cherokee Chief Vann House Historical Site. So many photos were taken that my old laptop could not handle downloading them in a normal amount of time and, in addition, I was preparing my trip to Africa. I left for Addid Ababa, Ethiopia, in mid December, and then spent 10 days including Christmas in Cape Town, South Africa. After another week spent on a safari in Tanzania I was in Nairobi, Kenya for New Year. After another stop in Addis Ababa I returned to Nashville in early January (blog posts will follow when my laptop is set up.) Less than a week after my return to Nashville the weather turned very cold. It was a shock to the system to go from the mid to high 90 F (35C) in Tanzania to 7 to 10 F (-13 C and below) in Nashville, and below 0 F at night (-18 C.) Below is the view from my bedroom window when I got up on Monday January 15, 2024, next to the street view from behind my front room plantation shutters. (View in heading courtesy Parthenon Park, Nashville.)
It snowed non-stop that day, most of the following day, then it turned to ice. It did snow again several days later before the first snow had melted. In the South, winter season begins in October and ends in March. Data shows that in an average winter Nashville gets 4.7 inches of snow. From the night of January 14 to January 15 about 9 inches of snow fell in my backyard thus producing more snow that day than during an entire winter. This broke the previous 1944 record of 2.2 inches in one day. January 15, 2024, was very cold but it was just snow, ice had not formed yet. Some children, daring the cold, were sledding near the closed Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville. Not many people have sleds around here, so the children used cardboard boxes, laundry boxes, flat boards, etc. (Photo courtesy WSMV News.)
Painting below is "Snowday, 1948" by John Philip Falter, American, 1910-1982.
The sun came up a couple of days later; it was pretty, but still dangerously cold and icy.
No cars were driving by on my road and no one was walking either; everything stayed white and silent. Only birds gave signs of life.
There was no mail for a week, no deliveries of any type. I would have liked to walk around town and take pictures, but I could not walk outside. I had planned to drive to Georgia to make sure my house there was fine, but was "ice bound" for that week. I was fortunate that my neighbor helped me down my icy steps so I could drive to Georgia on Tuesday January 23rd, a week after the start of the snow. The steps were still covereed in ice, as well as my walkway.
No snow plow cleared out my street, which is a "boulevard" and in the center of Nashville. The city has just several snow plows, 15 years old. They ordered 37 new snow plows last year but as a result of supply chain problems they only received one of them. Crews were out trying to clear the roads but only the interstate highways, highways and large main roads were serviced. No side street, subdivision or small connecting or secondary roads were cleared; they remained iced over the whole week. At least traffic was sparse as you can see below from the Tennessean newspaper's photographs.
The top left photo is of I-65 just past Nashville toward Birmingham, Alabama. Interstate 65 (I-65) is a major north-south interstate highway connecting between the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. Traffic on this highway is usually pretty steady. The bottom right photo shows runner Sam Skinner on a Brentwood road. Brentwood is about 15 minutes south of Nashville and is where my daughter and family live. Sam is a musician, a guitar player. One of the songs he composed is called "Cold." I wonder if he is from up north for running like this on an extremely cold arctic day? Actually, my daughter who went to Antarctica in 2022 told me that she had not been as cold there as it was in her backyard... Here she is below in Antarctica in 2022. The other two photos are from her backyard in Brentwood this January 19, a sunset photo and one of the frozen lake and golf course club house.
One of my neighbors who moved not long ago from the state of Wisconsin said it was so quiet and peaceful in Nashville when it snowed compared to northern states - no snow removing equipment, no electric snow blowers, no snow plow trucks, hardly any vehicles and no people walking. The snow stays clean and pure white. The City of Nashville gov. told us "Don't venture outdoors for fear of death" - adding that "One can die from hypothermia within one hour when exposed to temperatures below zero. Go out only in a true emergency" - no problem! Nobody was interested into venturing out and risking frostbites. Unfortunately 36 people still lost their lives and over 300 were injured in the state of Tennessee due to snow during that time. Some died of cold from being stranded in their cars or, of exposure after abandoning their vehicles and walking away but not equipped to fight the cold or snow. Antioch in photo below is a neighborhood of Nashville.
I read a blog from a lady in Chicago, Illinois, who moved to Tennessee. She wrote" "In Chicago, snow plows are out on the street as soon as it starts snowing. People put on their warm boots and give themselves an extra 15 minutes to go where they need to be. This is compared to Tennessee - everyone panics, "Snowday" is declared as soon as one snowflake falls from the sky, and they then hibernate until the dusting on the roads melts away." (Click on collage to enlarge.)
Some hearty souls did venture out as you can see from the photos above, courtesy the Nashville Metropolitan Police Dept. The top photo is a salt crew working near Vanderbilt University. The golf course and park were empty, though. Beautiful photos would have been easy to snap I'm sure, but I could only watch from my windows. Below is the sun going down from my back deck, and that was toward the end of the week (still a lot of snow...)
A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.” - Carl Reiner, American comedian, 1922-2020.
Beautiful painting above from Claude Monet, French painter and founder of impressionist painting, 1840-1926, entitled Snow Effect, a street in Argenteuil.
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