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Showing posts from March, 2017

USMNT vs. Panama Tonight: The Hex continues...

No "The Hex" is not a curse that's been placed on the U.S. Men's National Team by a voodoo doctor (although, one might think that's actually the case with American soccer). "The Hex" refers to the final round of World Cup Qualifying that takes place among six teams in the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central, and Caribbean Association Football) which is the international organization the U.S. resides in.

On Friday night the U.S. walloped Honduras to the tune of 6-0, finally getting on the board in terms of qualifying points. Tonight, we'll see if the USMNT can do the same thing to Panama. I know next to nothing about the Panamanian team except that we're 1-1-1 against them over the past two years. Not exactly a heartening record. But let's hope the confidence and practice from Friday's match will carry over and produce -- at least -- a strong showing.

Who is in The Hex at this point (in order of points ranking):

Mexico
Costa Rica
P…

New Yorker Fiction Review #170: "Of Windows and Doors" by Mohsin Hamid

Review of a story from the Nov. 14, 2016 issue of The New Yorker...

Sometimes the Fiction Section of The New Yorker serves up pretty light fare. Not so this time.

"Of Windows and Doors" by Moshin Hamid is just about as real as it gets, depicting the struggles of a young man and woman trying to first deal with life and then escape life in their war-ravaged home country, presumably Syria.

I appreciated this story because I, like I'm sure a lot of people, have essentially turned a blind eye to what's going on in the Middle East, other than occasionally reading a news story or stopping to listen more closely when something about it comes up on NPR. I hear names of cities and military actions and numbers of people killed in this or that horrific bombing. But essentially, it might be happening on another world. A story like this brings the carnage to "life" so to speak, in a way that news reports never could, and this is why fiction -- story -- is so important an…

International Break: A necessary bummer

When you follow European or South American league football -- which in almost every country other than the U.S. the professional league matches take place on Saturday and Sunday -- eventually you're going to come up against the dreaded "international break" in which league play stops for a weekend because all of the best players compete for their national teams.

Don't get me wrong, World Cup qualifying matches are fun, and important, but when you look to, for example, Premier League football as your primary source of weekend daytime entertainment, the international break always comes as a bit of a slap in the face.

Tonight I'll be watching, or at least keeping an eye on, the USMNT vs. Honduras, which I'm hoping we'll win handily; however, NCAA basketball is likely to provide much more interesting sport for the evening, and I'll have to wait another week for my beloved EPL action. Life is hard.

New Yorker Fiction Review #169: "Are We Not Men?" by T. Coraghessan Boyle

Review of a story from the Nov. 7, 2016 issue of The New Yorker...

Okay, it's official: A T.C. BoyleNew Yorker story has, for the first time, failed to impress me.

Lot's of TCB's stories take place in a warped or twisted near-future based on some aspect of the current trajectory of human society, or else completely fantastical. This story takes its plot and surroundings from the idea of "genetic engineering" and how it could be used and mis-used. TCB creates an odd, but not-too-out-of-the-realm-of-possibility future in which we've used genetic engineering to design "wild" and domesticated animals, even give our own children certain desired attributes.

With these kinds of stories, the danger always is that the author spends too much time explaining the "rules" and outlines of the fictional world instead of focusing on the characters and the story. Usually TCB is pretty good about this. Not in this case, however, and the story comes off soun…

My Found Danish Chair: A victory over time and impatience

I don't typically blog about home furnishings but...what can I say. I'm in the business half of my 30s. You get older and you start getting more domesticated, like it or not. Such is life.

Seven years ago, in the Spring of 2010, I found this Danish mid-century chair sitting on the side of the street where I lived in Indianapolis, next to someone's garbage, with some ratty disgusting cushions on it. As one does in a college town (or college part of town) when one is in school, I grabbed it. It was and still remains the greatest "dumpster dive" find of my entire life.

Since the existing cushions were a no-go. I had just the frame of the chair. As I said, I was in grad school. Not exactly "flush." But I figured at some point -- soon -- I'd come across some cool looking cushions or find some in a department store, or find someone to make me some, whatever.

Well, the chair sat in my living room, cuhsionless except for when I threw a crappy lawn-chair ma…

New Yorker Fiction Review #168: "Back the Way You Went" by Anne Carson

Review of a short story from the Oct. 31 issue of The New Yorker...

If I thought this story sounded familiar in some way, it's because I reviewed a very similarly un-enjoyable Anne Carson story from The New Yorker almost exactly a year ago. Proving how much farther behind I am now, last year I reviewed, on March 24, 2016, a story from the Jan. 11, 2016 issue. Sigh.

Anne Carson is a poet. So naturally when she writes prose (if that's what you can call this piece) it's going to have that disjointed, stream of consciousness feeling, and she's not going to feel like she has to obey the "rules" that fiction writers have to. At least that's what I've discovered from reading the prose that poets write. Just like when I try to write poetry it comes out distinctly "prosey."

What am I trying to say? I did not enjoy this story on the first read-through, or the second. I get what she was trying to do, it just didn't work for me.

Next...

Celtic v. Rangers: Now THIS is football

This AM while waiting for the FA Cup match between Tottenham and Millwall (which naturally was a depressing 6-0 rout) I caught the tail-end of a match between long-time Scottish Premier League rivals Celtic FC and Rangers FC. Now, I've heard of this rivalry, thanks to Franklin Foer's eye-opening and educational book How Soccer Explains the World, but never actually seen either of these teams play. Never even seen a SPL match before today.

I think you might be able to deduce from the title of this blog post that the game made a big impression on me. I've never seen such speed, physicality, and passion on a football pitch as I witnessed in the final 20 minutes of this game. I'm hesitant to make a generalization about the entire SPL -- after all these two teams are at the absolute top of the league and this rivalry is on the City-United or Yankees-Red Sox level -- but still, talk about a great game to watch as my introduction to Scottish football.

To me, the hallmark of …

New Yorker Fiction Review #167: "An Honest Woman" by Ottessa Moshfegh

Review of the short story in the Oct. 24, 2016 issue of The New Yorker...

Getting closer to being caught-up here, folks. Sort of...

Became acquainted with Ottessa Moshfegh last year with her incredibly captivating and dark short story "The Beach Boy." While this current story doesn't quite measure up, Mosfegh uses the same sort of dark, suspenseful "stringing-you-along" technique that works pretty well, even if it doesn't ultimately deliver anything, in the case of either story. What I ask myself is: does it really matter what happens at the end as long as you've enjoyed the ride? To borrow a great sentiment from my old friend Andrew (a master of contradiction): "It does and it doesn't."

In this story, a man in his 60s, named Jeb, meets his attractive young neighbor, tries to hook her up with his nephew, and then he himself tries to make a pass at her after inviting her into his home on false pretenses. All the while he makes vague, misogy…

Barcelona Defeats PSG 6-1 (6-5)

Okay, does anyone else out there think the UEFA Champions League is fixed and ergo complete bullsh*t?

Barcelona FC came into this game down 0-4 to Paris St. Germain after the first leg of their Round of 16 game in Paris. Because of the bizarre way the Europeans do tournaments, the two teams play twice -- once in each team's home grounds -- and the aggregate score is what matters. Meaning, even if Barcelona won this game by a score of 3-0 they still would not have advanced, because the aggregate score would have been 4-3 in favor of PSG. Get it? Yeah, neither do I.

But basically, Barcelona needed to score at least five goals in order to emerge victorious and advance to the next round. And god forbid that not happen...

People are already calling this the greatest comeback in Champions League history. And whatever, who am I to argue, I've been following soccer closely for three years. Maybe Barca deserved it. But to me the whole thing smells a little "match fixy." Why?

New Yorker Fiction Review #166: "The Edge of the Shoal" by Cynan Jones

Review of a short story from the Oct. 17, 2016 issue of The New Yorker...

Easily one of the worst and most difficult to read stories I've read in the NYer in a long time. And I knew it right from the first couple paragraphs. I don't see how you can make someone getting struck by lightning into a boring story, but Cynan Jones has accomplished this.

Plot: A guy goes fishing alone in a boat and gets struck by lighting. He tries to get back to shore. Full stop.

I have a few problems with this story:

1.) I understand that he's Irish, but none of his terms seem to make sense and it's difficult if not impossible to figure out what he's talking about at any one time during the story. A "kayak" to my mind is a covered, canoe-like boat with a hole for person to slide in...but my man's over here talking about a "sail" and a "mast" and about laying down in the boat and about the boat's first-aid kit. Wha? Also, never heard of breaking a fis…

Premier League MOTW: Arsenal v. Liverpool, at Anfield

No question here: Arsenal v. Liverpool, Saturday at 12:30 PM EST, is the match to watch this week. Odd how it always seems to shake-out so that there's only one -- at best two -- matches between Top Six teams in any given week. Most of the other matches are pretty middle-of-the-road fare unless you've got a dog in the fight.

Liverpool have been fighting for significance in the league, teetering on the brink of a Champions League spot with who but Arsenal just one point out in front of them. Liverpool's had a bad 2017 so far and I don't think anyone would argue. A nice win vs. Tottenham a couple weeks ago ended a really ugly skid but then Leicester got the better of them last week.

Arsenal have been consistently "Arsenally" muddling through the season and still smarting after a stomping by Bayern in the Champions League. Alexis Sanchez has signalled his displeasure with the club. Mesut Ozil is having a weird, bad season. Renewed calls for Arsene Wenger's …

USWNT Defeats Ze Germans 1-0

Why is it that our women's national soccer team can beat the German women's national soccer team, but our men's team can't even come close to beating their German counterparts? Can anyone explain this to me? Hell, the men's team lost to Costa Rica just a couple months ago. I mean, I get it. But all the same, it perplexes me.

It wasn't a particularly pretty game. The one goal came from a cross that pinballed around the box a little before the wily Lynn Williams tucked the ball in goal off a sweet rebound. Otherwise, the match wasn't much to look at but it's a nice win. Oh, and apparently there's something called the SheBelieves Cup.