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Showing posts from February, 2017

New Yorker Fiction Review #165: "Deer Season" by Kevin Barry

Review of a short story from the Oct. 10, 2016 issue of The New Yorker...

Something possessed me to listen to this story instead of read it. IDK why or if it makes a difference in one's appreciation of the story, but Kevin Barry has a cool Irish accent that makes the word "thighs" -- for example -- sound like "ties." And who better than the author themselves to know how to massage a story properly so as to bring out its full meaning. Also, it was late and I didn't feel like reading.

Powerful and engaging story about an Irish girl on the verge of her eighteenth birthday who decides that she needs to lose her virginity before she goes back to school for her final semester of...university? High school? I was never sure how they do it in Europe. So she seduces a local drifter and causes him to be run out of town after it's found out that they slept together.

I think Hemingway said something about love, sex, war, and death being the best material for writers…

Leicester Defeats Liverpool 3-1

If ever a team needed to win a game, that team was Leicester FC and that game was today's match against Liverpool. The embattled Premier League Champs have taken to the skids basically since the season started and the club have just sacked their manager Claudio Ranieri to boot. Thus, today's convincing victory over Liverpool came as sweet manna from heaven and I can only imagine is an enormous relief for interim manager Craig Shakespeare. Nothing like starting off with a big fat juicy three points vs a top six club, especially when you're teetering on the edge of the relegation zone. Leicester have a long, long way to go to get out of the woods. And today's win doesn't mean all of a sudden the club's problems are fixed, but it's a nice breather. Goals by Vardy (28' & 60') and Drinkwater (39') for Leicester, and Coutinho (68') for the Reds.

500th Blog Post

Technically this one is 501.

Okay, at this point I know you're fed-up of me pointing out my own blogging landmarks, but they all three seemed to come within a month of one another: 10 year blog anniversary, 100,000 pageviews, and my 500th post. There's a nice symmetry, or a nice coincidence at work here.

New Yorker Fiction Review #164: "To the Moon and Back" by Etgar Keret

Review of a story from the Oct. 3, 2016 issue of The New Yorker...

Love me a good Etgar Keret story, ever since I read my first one back in January 2015, called "One Gram Short." Keret comes from Israel and writes in Hebrew so his work is translated (natch, cause I can't read Hebrew) and his work has a deeply cynical, dark feel to it but also a deep humanity. I equate him to a literary Louis C.K.: a cynical, jaded guy who deep down is a frustrated, geeky 14 year old kid with tap on his glasses who just wants to be normal.

"To the Moon and Back" is a funny story about a father who tries to act upon a strange request from his young son in order to prove how much he loves him and to feel like a good father. What comes across is (what must be) the endless frustration of dealing with a toddler on a daily basis and also the lengths people will go to in order to appear important in their children's eyes, even if those lengths are ridiculous. Not sure I'd have …

100,000 Page-views?

So, sometime quietly over the past couple days, my lifetime page-view count for this blog drifted over the 100,000 mark. Even though most of those  page-views are either 1.) my own, or 2.) "views" from bots or scammers in eastern Europe, I still can't help but be a little bit pleased at having reached the milestone.

So if you've ever clicked on this blog (and apparently you have) Thank You for helping me feel a little bit less like just another random guy with a keyboard shouting into oblivion about stuff no one cares about. Really...thanks.

Top Soccer Story: Ranieri Out as Leicester City Manager

Less than a year after hoisting the Championship trophy of the English Premier League and leading his club to one of the most historic championship runs in the history of the EPL, Claudio Ranieri has been fired from his job as manager of Leicester City Football Club. Professional football is a m*therf*cker. What could have gone so terribly wrong that Leicester City, who ran away with the championship last year, are now one measly point away from the relegation zone?

Some say it's because their squad isn't deep enough to compete in the UEFA Champions League (where they're actually doing pretty well) and the Premiership at the same time. Others say it's Jamie Vardy's collapse. Others say Ranieri "lost the locker room" because of his strange tactical decisions this year. Whatever the reason...he's out. And that's life in the cruel world of English professional football.

A number of managers like Jose Mourinho and Jurgen Klopp have come out in suppor…

New Yorker Fiction Review #163: "A Short History of Zaka the Zulu" by Petina Gappah

Review of a story from the Sept. 26th, 2016 issue of The New Yorker...

Unfortunately, they keep making weeks faster than I can get through my back issues of The New Yorker, so I've fallen now five (5) months behind. But it's not like fiction goes bad or anything, so...

It took me three tries, on three separate days, to get past the first page of this story, and I'm not sure why. I think it has to do with the "voice" being too reminiscent and too removed. Even when I finally sat down and determined to get the story under my belt, I faded in and out of attention while reading it. Just to test myself -- to see if it was some internal problem of my own like momentary ADD -- I read a John Cheever story right afterward and had no troubles. A compelling story is a compelling story, whether it's about devious middle class white people in 1960s Long Island or about boys in a prep school in Zimbabwe.

No reason to pile-on here. I made an honest effort, but didn't en…

Alexis Sanchez to Leave Arsenal This Summer

Arsenal are muddling along as Arsenal do, especially smarting after the recent 5-1 trouncing defeat to Bayern Munich last week in Champions League play, and now their world-class striker and practitioner of the Dark Arts Alexis Sanchez has signaled his intent to leave this summer. Not sure how this works, precisely, since his contract goes until 2018, but I'm guessing it's just his way of saying: "Someone please step-in and buy me." And, given that we're talking about a guy who averages about 15 goals per year in league play (he's already got 17 in the EPL this season) he'll definitely be going to one of the biggest clubs in Europe, though I'm not sure if any other EPL clubs are interested and there's only a few who could possibly afford him at that. It will be a sad day for English football if and when he does leave the EPL because he's one of the hardest working and best-finishing strikers to ever play the game.

Another Reason Why I Love English Football & Why You Should Too

Among the many reasons to love the beautiful game (and there are reasons to hate it, mind you) are spectacles like today's FA Cup match between Arsenal FC and Sutton United FC.

For those who don't know, the FA Cup is a knockout tournament that takes place during regular season play and includes the first 10 -- yes ten -- levels of English professional football. Arsenal are in the Premier League, the equivalent of the NFL or the Major Leagues. Sutton United are not. Sutton are in the fifth division, also called the National League, meaning they'd have to get promoted four times in a row in order to be in the same league as Arsenal. The fact that they made it into the fifth round of the FA Cup, to even be on the same field as the likes of Arsenal, is absolutely historic for the club and is one of those rare moments that makes the FA Cup what it is.

There's no real equivalent of this in American professional sports, but let's just say it's kind of like the New Yo…

Handicapping the Oscar Nominated Short Films - Live Action Category

So the other night I went to the local art house cinema to watch the "Oscar Shorts" -- something I've never done until this year. I saw the live action films and plan to go back to watch the animated shorts at some point soon. For once in my life it'll be nice to know what's going on when this category comes up on Oscar night.

Here below are the films, a brief synopsis, along with my own personal ranking and what I think the odds are of each one winning:

1.) Sing (Hungary)

Synopsis: A young girl attends a new school and eagerly joins the school choir, only to find out a dark truth about the choir teacher and her teaching methods. Touching, well-paced, emotional, and ultimately light-hearted.

My Ranking: Second place. Incredibly well shot and I love the way it takes seriously and dramatically the emotions and every day lives of children. Phenomenal acting. Great, simple, dead-ahead plot, and a nice rewarding twist at the end.

Will it Win: No. It was artfully done and…

Referee Mark Clattenburg to Leave EPL for Saudi Arabia

Warning: This bit of news registers at about a 7.2 on the soccer Geek-o-Meter. 

Referee Mark Clattenburg -- a familiar face (if not name) to almost any Premier League football devotee -- is leaving the EPL to work in the Saudia Arabian Football Federation.

The "Saudi Arabian Football Federation," you say? Indeed. Apparently the head ref of the SAFF (also and Englishman) just resigned, and so Clattenburg will be taking that job, helping to shape-up the state of refereeing in the league.

New Yorker Fiction Review #162: "How Can I Help?" by Rivka Galchen

Review of "How Can I Help?" from the Sept. 19, 2016 issue of The New Yorker...

Three Rivka Galchen stories in three years...not bad. I've started to like Galchen's stuff a lot more over the years. It's dark, smart, funny without really trying, and also extremely insightful without really trying. All of those vague compliments apply to the current story, "How Can I Help?" It's a story about birth-order, personality, jealousy, self-acceptance, and what it feels like to be the outsider looking in all your life. Something which some of us understand, and others of us don't.

In the story, a young woman who has her life together looks with restrained dismay and genuine worry at her older, prettier, but much less productive and organized sister. Throughout the story (a 1st person reminiscence over years but spanning just a few weeks in real time), we see the relationship between the two unfold, even follow them through the older sister's pregnancy …

Two Playboy Fiction Reviews: Stories from Walter Kirn and Jon Raymond

From the Jan/Feb 2017 issue of Playboy...

I can dimly remember having heard of Walter Kirn somewhere in my literary dabbles. Upon a quick closer look, he's the author behind the films Up in the Air (2009) and Thumbsucker (2005). I haven't seen either film, but I know of their existence, and I therefore realize this guy must be, in the words of Ron Burgundy "kind of a big deal." He's also married to Maggie McGuane, daughter of one of my favorite writers, Thomas McGuane. Not that that scores him any points in my heart.

His story in this month's Playboy, called "Finishing," is about a teenager who works at an ice cream shop and is having his job gradually replaced by a dexterous, ice-cream serving robot named "Lenny." One of the few things that keeps Tyson Millner from being completely replaced by Lenny the robot is that Lenny cannot seem to put the cherry on top of the ice cream sundaes properly. This becomes a hilarious tongue-in-cheek meta…

Your Premier League MOTW for Week 25: Liverpool v. Tottenham

No question here: Liverpool v. Tottenham at Anfield, 12:30 PM EST Saturday, Feb. 11th

Liverpool are having a dismal 2017 and are coming off a 2-0 defeat to 18th place Hull City last week. Right now they're sitting at fifth place, on the edge of Champions League placing and on the edge of significance in the league. They need a win here.Tottenham sit in second place, a full nine points off the leaders, Chelsea. The title race may or may not already be baked at this point but to stay in it, they need a full three point performance. They're not doing great away from home this year, however, having won only four of 12 on the road, and they have historically had trouble at Anfield.Overall, I'm looking for a great battle between two strong midfields and for Liverpool to use the home field advantage to turn their season around with a convincing win vs. the Spurs.Just to go ahead and make it interesting, I'm saying Liverpool find their stride and properly do the Spurs to the tu…

China Watch: Newcastle's Cheick Tiote to China

Long-time Newcastle United midfielder Cheick Tiote is the latest to sign a contract with a Chinese club and he's not even going to the first tier of Chinese football, known as the Chinese Super League. Apparently he'll be playing for Beijing Enterprises Group FC, in Chinese League One, which is technically the second tier.  P.S. Beijing Enterprises Group has to be the world's worst name for a soccer team (the world's best name being BSC Young Boys, from the Swiss Super League). Beijing Enterprises Group sounds like a paper corporation set up to hide the earnings of some wicked, Chinese crime over-lord who has one eye and lives on his own island where he sits petting his white kitty and waiting for Bruce Lee or James Bond to come looking for him. Beijing Enterprises Group?? Really???

Giving up Caffeine: Rooibos, rooibos, and more rooibos

About 10 days ago I made the earth-shattering decision to give up caffeine for a while. That means no coffee and no tea. Actually, I broke down and had a cup of tea on Saturday AM while watching my English football. But other than that, I've been zero caffeine since last Monday. What have I learned?
In my case, this really hasn't been that difficult. For the past six-eight months I've been a coffee fiend. I'm talking about three or four double espressos a day. However, surprisingly I've given up the bean without much temptation to relapse. The lesson? It may not be as hard as you think to get rid of caffeine. Then again...you may not posses the same inner fire and ninja discipline that I have. You'll have to try and see. I feel more in tune with my body, less anxious, and I sleep better. When you're not whacked out on coffee, you can listen to your body a lot better and also the residuals don't hang around at night while you're trying to get some shu…

2017/18 EPL Schedule Released, and other notes

For those geeky enough to care, the EPL schedule for next season has been released. The 2017/2018 EPL season will begin on August 12th 2017 and end on May 13th 2018. 

It must be interesting to make the actual game-by-game schedule, however, because all of that has to wait until they know which teams are going down and which are coming up, something that can take until the very last week of the season.

***

Liverpool's 0-1 loss to Hull on Saturday a.) means they're permanently out of title contention and b.) makes this a really awful year so far for the Scousers and Jurgen Klopp, having one only one (1) game so far this season, an FA cup match against Plymouth Argyle FC (which was a replay, btw).

***

Chelsea got sweet revenge against Arsenal, putting the Gunners down 3-1 in payback for the 3-0 drubbing Arsenal gave the Blues back in September, right before Chelsea Manager Antonio Conte made the much heralded switch to the 3-4-3 formation that put the team in it's stride and h…

Looking Back at 10 Years of Blogging

Can you believe it? I've had this blog going for ten years. Yes. Ten years and 487 blog posts!

My very first entry was Feb. 4th, 2007, after Super Bowl XLI (41) between the the Colts and the Bears, in which I was ranting about how boring it was or something. Anyway, I still remember that night very vividly. I lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn and I was working as a journalist at the time. I don't remember precisely what possessed me to start a blog, but I do remember being very enthusiastic about it at the time. That enthusiasm has waxed and waned over the years -- from 30 posts in my first year, to a low of just four (4!) in 2010, to an all-time high of 82 in 2016. My subjects of coverage have changed pretty drastically as well.
Generalized 10th Anniversary Thoughts on this Blog and Blogging in General: I used to call this blog "The Libra" until a friend suggested it was pretty cheesy to name a blog after your zodiac sign. I think I changed it in 2011, sort of the second…

Your Premier League Match-o-the-Week: Chelsea v. Arsenal

Chelsea vs. Arsenal, Saturday, Feb. 4th at 7:30 AM

Did you say 7:30 AM on a Saturday?? Yes. It ain't easy being a fan of the English football, but one does it. You set the alarm. Maybe you make it up at 7:45 after a little snooze. Put on your sweats. Flip on the game, which is probably still 0-0 and in the nascent stages. Start the kettle. Make some tea. And nestle into the couch to sort of "sleep-watch" the first half...and your day as an EPL fan has begun.

Why is this game so important/interesting? Well, for one thing, it's the only "top-six" match-up on the dance card this weekend. But also...
Chelsea, the league leaders, are so far ahead that people are questioning whether anyone can catch them or whether they're the inevitable EPL title winners. They're a championship team in top form, and fun to watch.Important game for Aresnal as they're tied for second place right now with North London rivals Tottenham, and the old Tot'num Spurs play 1…

New Yorker Fiction Review #161: "Invasion of the Martians" by Robert Coover

From the Sept. 12th, 2016 issue of The New Yorker...

I'm now officially so far behind, I don't even know why I'm continuing to do this. Adding to that, my subscription has elapsed after like four years and I haven't renewed it, mostly because it was a gift subscription. So...after I get done with the 2016 issues (which could take me all of 2017 at this rate) we'll see if I keep this going.

Robert Coover has appeared in the pages of the NYer about five times since I've been reading the fiction regularly. And while I haven't always enjoyed every story, he's a name that I like to see when I look at the mast-head, and I always read his stories eagerly. He's known for writing in a sort of fairy-tale or fable style, which is really easy and mostly fun to read and which I'm told literary critics and professors call "fabulism" and even "meta-fiction" (the story within  the story, or a story that is self-consciously a story), which I e…