The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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Posts from — June 2010

“I’ve not heard you say, sorry…”

When the wheels start wobbling on the green and white Mexican bus, they generally fall off, one by one, sooner rather than later. This was the case in the match against Argentina.

The first Argentine goal, created from Messi to a clearly off-side Carlos Tévez, set the wobble in motion. Immediately afterward, Rafa Márquez took matters into his own hands and delivered nasty fouls to both Messi and Tevez. Then, Osorio lost his bearings and offered the ball to Higuaín, who scored, and the match was over. The thing the Mexicans had going for them in this World Cup was their verve and composure, and they lost both within the space of a minute.

It was a disappointment. Yet another match, and probably another after that, of having to watch Diego act like a juvenile Gary Coleman. It’s teeth-gnashing stuff. The hugs, the kisses, the gestures from the touchline unworthy of a coach, flinging himself into the arms of assistents, taunting FIFA officials, and the vile comments to the media. Uffa. The whole concept of dignity seems lost on the little man.

June 28, 2010   Comments Off on “I’ve not heard you say, sorry…”

A Reckoning

Perhaps the myth of Italian managerial nous has finally been shattered, though I somehow doubt it. When it really mattered against Germany, it was clear that Fabio Capello had done nothing to improve England. Unlike Germany, he included no young players in his squad, did not change the defense, and seemed unable to get the English professionals to play at a high tempo. In truth, despite the goal that wasn’t, Germany ripped England to shreds.

The inquest in England will last for months. The players will be denigrated for not giving their all, but Capello’s reputation will emerge only slightly tarnished. This is wrong. The proof is in the results. England are a ponderous, static, predictable lot. They were not unlucky in this tournament. No coach, regardless of reputation, can make them into something they’re not.

I’m not gloating about this. Just sad. In the end, Capello was worse than either Steve McClaren or Sven-Göran Eriksson, whom the English press still trash as soft, incompetent bumblers. What’s the answer? There is no answer, except to give English citizenship to as many Premier League players from other countries as possible.

June 27, 2010   Comments Off on A Reckoning

Last act of a bitter defeat

Unfortunately, Bradley got it wrong in the first half, as he did against Slovenia. He had to bring on Edu after 30 minutes and added Feilhaber in the second half to create shape and add numbers in midfield. However, Bradley does learn from what he sees on the field, which is a distinct improvement in American coaching. Moreover, he has the good sense (and players) to make positive adjustments.

I thought it was a deserved result for Ghana. Our central defense, while good, is not world class. We overachieved in this tournament, as is our wont, but over achievement can only take you so far. Still, it was a gutsy and classy performance on the part of the U.S. team, of which we can be justly proud.

June 27, 2010   1 Comment

It Could Be Me

Last night before the deluge, I introduced myself to my son’s new neighbors—two attractive and hardworking young Americans with a child. They’re making positive changes to the property and I congratulated them on their efforts. They had spent years following the real estate market in my son’s neighborhood. The property they got was a foreclosure. A man, his wife, and their children had lived in the house he built for decades. He made the mistake of adding a second mortgage to pay for his children’s education. Then the shit hit the fan. Loss of job, inability to meet the mortgage payments, foreclosure, loss of everything. One family benefits from anothers’ devastation. The zero-sum game that is American life. Too old to get another job. No safety net. Which is why Americans think they can never have enough. You never know, do you?

What interests me is the morality of it. Those who benefitted thought of it simply as an opportunity. A transaction. There was no stigma attached. It explains so much about us. No quarter asked or given, ever. No mercy. No conscience. Not even a second thought about another person’s misery. For we all know too well, there but for the grace of God (or my unrelenting aggression) go I.

June 26, 2010   Comments Off on It Could Be Me

Learning the hard way

Brian Krebs (in KrebsOnSecurity) has stated the obvious in a recent post—that security programs are playing catch-up with most viruses (sometimes lagging weeks in detecting them) and that Windows users cannot depend on their anti-virus programs as fool-proof defenses. Common sense is also required. He states: “If you’re depending on your anti-virus product to save you from an ill-advised decision — such as opening an attachment in an e-mail you weren’t expecting, installing random video codecs from third-party sites, or downloading executable files from peer-to-peer file sharing networks — you’re playing Russian Roulette with your computer.” Those really are the three main culprits: (1) untrusted e-mail attachments, (2) untrusted codecs for video players, or (3) executables from unknown sources. You are crazy if you open any of these. Trust me. I’ve learned the hard way.

June 26, 2010   Comments Off on Learning the hard way

Jottings

It was disappointing to hear that Bastian Schweinsteiger might miss the England game. In the previous matches, he was better than Ballack at running the team, making key stops and intelligent passes, and adding coherence to the German attack. Literally, everything went through him. I don’t think Germany can beat England without him.

The statistician Nate Silver is giving even odds in the Ghana-U.S. match. I think the edge should go to Ghana who have better players and are better organized. It will depend on how well Bradley prepares the United States team for its African opponents. They were not ready for Slovenia and went down two goals. If Bradley does his job, it should be a very close match.

My only regret so far is that Chile did not eliminate Spain. Cooler heads might have prevailed. Still, the South Americans have done wonderfully well as a whole. Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Brasil have all come through. If you include Mexico, it makes six of sixteen teams. The United States’ style of play is more Latin than European, so one might actually say seven teams. By the way, I agree with Dunga’s critics. Without Kaká, Brasil “park the bus” as well as any European team playing at their most cynical. It is a disgusting spectacle from such a talented team.

June 26, 2010   Comments Off on Jottings

Uffda

France, Italy, and now Denmark are out of the tourament. Is there a new generation of French, Italian, or Danish players who can achieve the skill, polish, and resiliance of previous teams? I sincerely hope so. Of the three, Italy were the most hopeless and Denmark the most respectable. Still, they were teams selected on the basis of hope and a belief that the past would magically recreate itself, rather than good sense. Sometimes tradition is a good thing. Mostly, it’s not. The results were all too predictable.

June 25, 2010   1 Comment

Gar nicht

Yesterday I watched the United States-Algeria match via a German feed, because it was the only HD source I could find. Interestingly, the commentator was certain that Dempsey was offside when he scored his goal, even after seeing the replay which clearly showed he was onside. It was amusing, because my German friend was equally as certain about other questionable decisions. Of course, everything depends on your point of view. In his defense, he knew a number of Algerians who played or had played in the German leagues. I kept saying, “Gar nicht,” but, of course, he couldn’t hear me.

Clint Dempsey was a warrior, even taking a fist in the face for his troubles at one point. I do hope Harksie and others stop implying that Clint is lazy or not fully dedicated to the cause. In the end, he was instrumental in Donovan’s goal with 92 minutes on the clock. It was neat and clinical. Outlet to Donovan, who pushed the ball to Altidore who passed to Dempsey in front of net, who followed up and created the rebound which Donovan finished. The goal was well deserved. Interestingly, Donovan had disappeared for much of the second half. Maybe he was saving himself for the opportunity he knew would come.

Former President Clinton was interviewed after the match and said that all great conflicts eventually become head games. I had to laugh. So Clintonesque. Maybe for you Bubba, but not necessarily for the rest of us.

I still think something is horribly amiss in the England camp. They upped the tempo several times against Slovenia and were dangerous whenever they did, but generally did not play up to their standard. I don’t think anyone knows what’s wrong—the media, the players, or Capello himself. I certainly haven’t a clue. I don’t buy any of the reasons given—tiredness, stress, pressure, discontent with Capello’s methods, unreal expectations, etc. Perhaps some of the players are as just jaded as I am with football. Too many matches in such a short period of time.

Still, on the positive side, Capello’s English has improved considerably since he began his reign as England manager. Kudos, Fabio! Parla un buon inglese.

June 24, 2010   Comments Off on Gar nicht

The French

I find it strange that no one anywhere supports the French players. I have not heard or read anything other than sarcasm, criticism, and nastiness. There is no attempt to see the issue from the players’ perspective.

Given their situation—a talking head for a coach, unreal expectations in France, an extremely nasty media, no support from their own federation, sending their best forward home and banning him from further competition because of a private argument with the coach, and sponsors abandoning the team because the players dared to express themselves—who would not take matters into their own hands? But, of course, as pampered, overpaid prima donnas they are expected to represent their country no matter what the circumstances, right? I find it brave that the players have finally had enough of a bad sitution and are no longer taking it like victims. Am I the only person in the world who believes this?

Would it not have been better to finally eliminate the source of the problem—Domenech himself—and send Laurent Blanc to the team hotel post haste? But, of course, loyalty to country trumps everything, doesn’t it, even if your country is wrong.

June 21, 2010   Comments Off on The French

Drop In, Drop Out

I’ve been in hospital for a few days, starting at midnight on Tuesday when I went to the emergency room with sharp pains in my gut. Everyone from the guy who admitted me to the staff assumed I was having a gall bladder attack. I got an EKG first, to eliminate the possibility of a heart attack, and then a series of blood tests to check my enzymes. Then I had ultrasound to see how my gallbladder was doing. When this proved negative, I had a CT scan that showed a clot in a vessel near my lower intestine (technically, a thrombosis). In essence, my intestine had stopped working and my gut hurt like hell. To ease the pain, they injected me with Dilaudid which is like getting a small hit of smack. Unfortunately, the drug lasts for an hour and then you hurt like hell again.

I then spent the next two days in hospital. The vascular surgeon who was called in consult decided that the clot was in a benign spot and would dissolve by itself in time. The real issue was the possibility that my body would form additional clots. It was a surrealistic experience for me, because I knew what had caused the clot but couldn’t tell the doctors.

My existence then devolved into one of pain, broken by constant interruptions by staff and renewed injections of Dilaudid. My mind was free to roam.

There was a spiritual element to my illness that I could readily see, caused by hatred I needed to resolve if I was ever to get well again. It reminded me of the wonderful scene in one of Carlos Castaneda’s books where Don Juan encourages him to take on a powerful sorceress. He wanted to show Carlos that curses are real and can be very powerful. We are cursed when we project harm to another, and they, in turn, are cursed by the harm they project toward us. Although we no longer believe this in our society, surviving can be a matter of life or death. So I forgave the person who has been trying to harm me. My thought process went like this: Do I want this person to suffer as I am suffering? The answer at first was a complacent yes. But over time it became a definite no, and the problem was resolved.

Today I called my parents to wish my dad happy Father’s Day. Mom answered the phone. I said I’d like to talk to Dad but that I had something to say to her first. I wanted to tell her of my hospital experience. She started screeching into the receiver, no, no, no, like a stricken animal. She refused to listen to anything I tried to say. I finally hung up and sent Dad a card instead. Though I was surprised by my mother’s reaction, I wasn’t upset. I’ve seen her this way on other occasions. Being an 86-year-old caregiver for a 91-year-old bedridden, demanding, churlish male is not the easiest thing in the world.

It would be a sad story, I suppose, if I were not so happy and hopeful. I worship that force in the universe that seeks balance in our lives. We ignore it at our peril.

June 20, 2010   Comments Off on Drop In, Drop Out