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Showing posts from August, 2014

Diego Costa Bookends Everton

Simply incredible soccer today at Goodison Park with Everton at home vs. Chelsea; more of a boxing match, actually, which Chelsea ultimately prevailing 6-3. It was a lot closer than it looked though, and maybe should've been 3-3. Everton scored an own-goal and Chelsea's first two were a little "offsides-y" if you ask me and just about everyone else at the match (including, probably, Chelsea).

Chelsea came out swinging with two very early goals, the first one by Diego Costa to keep his three game scoring streak going. After that it was simply a cracker of game. Probably the most exciting football I've seen all year. I realize I must say that once a blog post but THIS TIME IT'S TRUE. Such a fast-paced, attacking game, I barely had a chance to recover from the previous goal in time before the next one was flying in. And? What should be the perfect way to cap-off the game but with Diego Costa clipping in a crisp low-angle goal from just two or three yards outside…

Newcastle United Can't Polish-Off Crystal Palace

Bollocks!! What a frustrating end to and otherwise exciting, gritty 90 minutes of soccer....

My pet, mid-table obsession, Newcastle United, have played pretty luke-warm ball to this point--a lot of earnest mid-field possession and some decent defense, but without a single goal (or really even a convincing chance) in two games. All of that changed today.

I tuned-in at about the 10' mark and the Magpies were already down, apparently having conceded a goal in the first 30 seconds of the game. Anyway, I could see the intensity in their eyes and in their relentless, almost frantic attacking play: they were not going down easily.

After a tense 30 or so minutes in which they seemed to control the game, Daryl Janmaat dumped in a little one-yarder that had been pinballing around in the box a bit. Not the prettiest goal, but Newcastle had tied the game heading into the half.

Crystal Palace looked determined coming out of half time and it was clear the tenor of the game had changed in their …

New Yorker Fiction Review: "Wagner in the Desert," by Greg Jackson

Sometimes the more I like a story the longer it takes me to write about it. Partly I'm waiting to collect my
thoughts and not rush my blog post; partly I'm waiting to see if the story provides me any "after-shock." By after-shock I mean whether or not the story comes up in my thoughts over the next week or whether any deeper meaning becomes apparent. Sometimes, I hesitate out of the simple reluctance of not wanting the experience to be over, and knowing that there's no way my 500 word blog post (no matter how long I spend on it) is going to do justice to how much I liked the story.

In this case, it's a bit of all three. To me, this story is distinctly "un-New Yorker"-ish, therefore it hit me like a searing bolt of lightning. What we have here is a truly contemporary voice that places itself within the context of the literary tradition it's trying to advance; a voice that belongs wholly and completely to 2014 while engaging with the great ficti…

Premier League Week 2: A few random thoughts

I've no idea how long I'll be able to keep up my dedicated EPL fandom before time and scheduling
constraints and my own admittedly-short attention span get in the way; however, for the time being I've decided to keep a running tally of my thoughts each week on the games I do manage to catch:

Newcastle v. Aston Villa: Woke up at 7:45 EST to watch this nil-nil snoozer, which for me (a non morning person without kids) was a real accomplishment for a Saturday morning. My eagerness paid off in a total of about five shots on goal (between both squads) and a lot of mid-field shimmy-shammying that nearly put me back to sleep. Remy Cabella was largely ineffective and the sparkle already seemed to have worn off him. Striker Riviere seemed to get a few more runs, which hopefully means the Magpies will come alive in subsequent weeks and score...I don't know...A GOAL OR TWO? I've watched 180 minutes of Newcastle soccer so far this season and -- apart from a few hair-raising mom…

Premier League Opening Weekend: The games I saw

No use boring you with a complete Premier League digest or something "informative" like that when you can just as easily look on http://www.espnfc.us/ or any number of sites for that kind of detailed, factual information. Instead, let me give you my impressions of a few games I watched this weekend:

Tottenham vs. West Ham United: I feel like Tottenham should have steam-rolled West Ham but West Ham had far more chances in the first half, even a missed penalty kick by Noble which could have completely turned the tables on the game and probably saved them (at least) a tie. I was in a bar watching this game on a tiny, far-away television and couldn't hear the announcers or see the players very well. So in terms of tactical observations or who were my stand-out players...I've got "nil" for you. Tottenham did manage to sneak in an injury time goal off the boot of Eric Dier, saving them the win and their dignity. Right now Tottenham is my adopted Premier League te…

U.S. Open Cup Semi-Final: Seattle Sounders v. Chicago Fire

Last night I tuned-in online, via ussoccer.com, for the semi-finals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, apparently the oldest soccer tournament in the U.S. and the third longest-running soccer tournament in...the world? Really? Okay...

Hosted and covered by ussoccer.com, the "coverage" of the game was quaintly bad: there seemed to be only two cameras (only two...are we spoiled or what?); a gantry camera positioned at an uncomfortably low angle to the field, and an on-field camera for replays. The one announcer in the booth, Ross Fletcher, had to basically entertain himself, as he had no one to bounce off of; and the little, home-made graphics looked like they were done by the local junior high A/V club. Still...it all added to the game's charm...

...a charm which quickly faded as the Seattle Sounders steam-rolled the basically ineffective Chicago Fire. As I understand it, Chicago are floundering in their conference; they're in eighth place out of 10, with a 5-4-13 recor…

MLS Game o' the Week: Seattle Sounders v. Houston Dynamo

After showing up at the bar promptly at 8:00 pm to watch Sporting Kansas City (and my beloved Graham Zusi) vs. Vancouver, I was informed that the game wasn't nationally televised. Anyway, I stayed to watch the MLS Game of the Week:  Seattle Sounders (complete with Clint Dempsey) vs. the Houston Dynamo.

Seattle ended up getting the 2-0 win but in pretty un-convincing fashion; a shot from Marco Pappa in the 69th minute deflected off a Houston defender into the goal, and a 75' minute penalty kick goal from Gonzalo Pineda. I say "un-convincing" because, even though Seattle seemed to out-shoot Houston, the game was a lot closer than the score suggests and, in fact, I was more impressed Houston's play than Seattle's.

Houston midfielder Brad Davis was particularly impressive. He just seemed to have a way of moving the ball forward and making chances for the strikers; virtually every time he got the ball, you knew something good was going to happen. Unfortunately, th…

New Yorker Fiction Review: "Apple Cake," by Allegra Goodman

Issue Date: July 7 & 14, 2014

Title: "Apple Cake"

Author:Allegra Goodman

Plot Summary: Jeanne, the youngest of three elderly, close, yet constantly-bickering sisters, lays on her deathbed, dying of lung cancer at age 78. Her older sisters, Sylvia and Helen, are still in perfect health. As Jeanne's adult children and their families, as well as those of her sisters, visit their dying mother/sister/aunt/grandmother, the dysfunction (relatively mild though it is) in the family gets revealed. In particular, Helen and Sylvia bicker about whose apple cake is better. What's lost in all this family tension and in-fighting, is genuine attention to Jeanne and her mental state, which Jeanne bears with a true youngest sibling's trickery and manipulation. When she gets fed up of them waiting for her to die, she simply decides not to, and goes on living for nearly two months. When she finally concedes the fight, her sisters quarrel over her last wishes and, as usual, it become…

Indy Eleven vs. Ft. Lauderdale Strikers...or...Quality and the lack thereof

I've been watching enough soccer lately that I think I can dispense with my American fan's lament over committing another two hours (more if you include driving time) and about $40 all-told just to watch another, bloody, scoreless tie. But it still frustrates me...

A 0-0 tie is like a dull ache you can't locate and can't cure; it's the quiet ringing in your ears that keeps you from sleeping; it's the spot on your back that you can't itch. Furthermore, I feel ambiguous towards last night's game, both in terms of the play and in terms of idea of going back to watch the Indy Eleven play.

As a novice football consumer (did I just say "football"?), I've been going further and further down the quality chain over the past few weeks, in an effort to keep the embers of my new-found fanhood alive, from World Cup, to Premier League, to MLS, and now to NASL (and soon on to some college ball once Butler and IUPUI start up); the differences are subtle …

Guinness International Champions Cup Final: Man Utd. vs. Liverpool

On Monday night Manchester United and Liverpool played-out the final of the Guinness International Champions Cup, a pre-season tournament between eight of the top European club teams contested on American soil. Great not only for the promotion of soccer in the U.S. but a welcome fix for burgeoning soccer junkies who can't wait until the start of the English Premier League season.

Liverpool seemed to dominate the first half; every 30 seconds it seemed like striker Raheem Sterling was racing down the left side of the field, getting open for a thru ball and getting at least a run on goal if not a shot. But alas, he never put one in. Liverpool's only score in the half came from a Stephen Gerrard penalty kick in the 14th minute. 
Manchester United came back after the half and almost immediately began to dominate the game. Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata scored within three minutes of each other (55' & 58'), lifting Man U to 2-1. The final nail in coffin came much later in the…

English Fever Pitch vs. American Fever Pitch

To introduce a new wrinkle into the tired old Book vs. Film Adaptation debate (since books almost always win), today I'm taking a look at a sub-category of that debate: Film Adaptation vs. Film Adaptation. Today I'm concerned with the two different adaptations of Nick Hornby's 1992 memoir Fever Pitch from the two different sides of the pond: England and the U.S.

On one hand....we have Fever Pitch (1997 - U.K.): Stars Colin Firth and Ruth Gemmell, takes place in England and is actually about soccer; sort of brings Hornby's memoir to celluloid life by fabricating a "love story" and pitting the main character's love of Arsenal Football Club against his Adult Life and the fact that his girlfriend is pregnant and all that. Interesting because the film completely does away with the age-old and trite question of "will he get the girl?" by having the girl (a co-worker) come on to him early in the film and then dealing more with the arch of their relation…

New Yorker Fiction Review: "The Pink House," by Rebecca Curtis

Issue: June 30, 2014

Story: "The Pink House"

Author:Rebecca Curtis

Review: As part of my self-appointed quest to monitor and write about the short fiction in The New Yorker (and now Playboy; maybe The Atlantic soon, too) I find myself subjected to all sorts of stories of various forms, subject matters, and degrees of quality...which is precisely the point: to read and truly acquaint myself with a wide swath (or at least a wider swath) of the best contemporary fiction being produced. Occasionally I find myself totally un-impressed and even insulted by the poor quality of a particular story; most of the time (too much of the time) I find the story well-written but un-inspiring. Once in a while, however, I am knocked upside the head by a story (and an author) that draws me back into the short fiction reviewing game and reminds me why I do this. "The Pink House," by Rebecca Curtis, was just such a story.

First awesome thing about this story: the "meta" element. …

Graham Zusi Scores v. Philadelphia Union

During the World Cup, my buddy Tom and I developed an all-abiding (perhaps even creepy) fascination with USMNT striker Graham Zusi, ever since he was subbed in late in the US v. Ghana game and contributed the game winning assist, sending a corner kick in the 85th minute to John Brooks who scored to put the US up 2-1. Had Zusi not sent the assist in that game, we probably would have thought nothing more of him than that he was a guy with a hair bun and a funny name. However, when Zusi dealt that fateful corner kick, 10 minutes after coming off the bench, we were hooked: Zusi fans for life.

Zusi earned a spot on the starting 11 for the rest of the World Cup. He even made another assist in the following game vs. Portugal, which sadly turned into a heart-rending 2-2 draw off an injury-time goal by Portugal. Some said his play in the next two matches (losses against Germany and Belgium) was sub-par; I myself don't remember him doing much after that, but the U.S. team itself didn't …

Jenny Lewis at the Murat Amber Room

The only reason--and I mean the absolute only reason--I know about Jenny Lewis is because my girlfriend's a huge fan. For the uninitiated, Jenny Lewis is a solo singer/songwriter who was once a part of the bands Rilo Kiley and Jenny & Johnny.

Both of those groups offered up good, upbeat (mostly), well-rounded and in-offensive rock-and-roll with funny, sensitive lyrics about sex, relationships, drugs, careers, existential crises, and all the good stuff 20-somethings have to figure out how to deal with. Jenny basically does the same, only she's demonstrated the ability to mature and evolve at a satisfying rate; probably ensuring that she'll continue to have a career.

This kind of music is, in a word: Nice. You can play it when you're in the car with your mother, you can put it on in the background while you're doing house chores, you can play it while you're selecting what to watch on Netflix, and if you want you can delve a bit deeper and get some insights …