26 June 2011

A few remarks about the Gold Cup final

Mexico midfielder Giovani Dos Santos.
That's with one 'n,' spell checkers.
(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Hats off to the Mexican soccer team for their 4-2 comeback win over the U.S. tonight.  El Tri has had its share of controversy during this Gold Cup, but coach José María de la Torre has done a great job healing a squad Howard Cosell* would have called "a team in disarray."  The emergence of Gio Dos Santos (Tottenham) and Javier "Chicarito" Hernadez (Manchester Utd.) as English Premier League superstars has helped, but I'd bet Javier Aguirre wouldn't have done as well with this talent.

U.S. keeper Tim Howard.  (AP)

It's the Stars and Stripes who are experiencing disarray now.  The defense has taken a couple of giant steps backward in the past year.  Tim Howard's play in goal has seriously slipped.  He needs to stop worrying so much about his sucky defenders and start worrying about himself.  Carlos Bocanegra -- the U.S. captain -- was just awful tonight, losing track of Pablo Barrera on the go-ahead goal at 50', then setting up Dos Santos's spectacular goal with a poor clearance in the 76th minute.  As often as they overran the U.S. defensive midfield, I started wondering whether the Mexicans would get tired.  [They didn't.]

Oh, yeah:  does Bob Bradley want to explain the logic to me again?  He sat his best players for the first half against Spain, and ended up losing 4-0 at home... so his team could then lose at home to Panama?  I understood his need to build the bench, but that was ridiculous.  More generally, Freddy Adu's emergence notwithstanding, I'm seeing way too much backsliding on the team as a whole.  Qualification for Brazil three years hence is now looking much harder.  The 2009 Confederations Cup helped the U.S. tremendously as it prepared for the World Cup, but Bradley won't have that aid this time.

I'd call for Bradley's dismissal, but then I'd have to suggest a replacement -- and I can't think of one.  Part of the trouble is that coaching the U.S. men isn't exactly a plum position.  It's like being the gridiron coach at Kentucky:  you'd be working in the glamorous SEC, but at a place where your sport isn't king.  [Text me when UK wins a BCS bowl game.]

Back to the CONCACAF champions.  Mexico has looked great, but frankly, Honduras and the fading U.S. are the strongest teams they've seen in a long while.  El Tri does have a guest appearance in the Copa América, the South American championship, coming up, so more serious tests are coming in a hurry.

And would it be too much to ask el Tri to leave the black kits in North America?  The only teams that should be wearing black uniforms are the ones that actually have black as a team color.  Like the basketball teams at Duke, Gonzaga and Butler, and almost any team at Oregon, the Mexican soccer team doesn't qualify.  They all should dump the all-black kits, because they're wrong, wrong, wrong.  On top of that, they're wrong.

On second thought, this kit actually looks decent.  Since it doesn't have any green on it, maybe the FMF could license it to a side that could really use it, like Germany.

* Not aging yourself much, are you, Abu?

18 June 2011

Friday Double: A little bit of this...

[Hey, it's still Friday in Pac-12 country.  That counts, doesn't it?]

One of the really neat things about HBO's best series is their collective attitude towards original music.  Some series, like Rome and Band of Brothers, have their own soundtracks.  Others, like The Wire and The Sopranos, use tracks only for the main and end titles; any music in between is purely incidental.

Deadwood fell somewhere in between.  It had an original opening title, and lush performances of 19th-century songs accompanied the credits.  What little soundtrack music producer David Milch saw fit to use was adapted -- and it was also very effective.  "Iguazu," a stunning 1998 guitar piece written and performed Argentinian composer Gustavo Santaolalla, backgrounded some of the series' most tense and dramatic action scenes -- including a desperate pursuit of a runaway horse that turned the entire series.  Here, it serves as the basis for a simple music video featuring some pretty desert scenery.

This is one of my favorite pieces of adapted soundtrack music, but Santaolalla has since written soundtracks of his own, including Oscar-winning scores for Brokeback Mountain and Babel and a terrific score for The Motorcycle Diaries.  He's probably best known to casual moviegoers for "The Wings," the signature theme for Brokeback.  As it turns out, I dislike "The Wings" because it fits that movie almost too well.  Had it fit any better, it would have distracted from the movie instead of enhancing it.

That particular line has been crossed, and other great film composers have committed that turnover.  Not for the first time, I present Jerry Goldsmith; and once again, it's for work he did for the Star Trek franchise.  Here's  "The Cloud" from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).  As this music plays in the movie, the starship Enterprise is entering a vast, mysterious object that turns out to be much more than just a cloud.

The problem wasn't the music, which is gorgeous; nor was it the vast grandeur of this particular flight of the Enterprise.  Either one, taken alone, is mesmerizing.  It's the combination of the music and the visuals that caused me, and the movie, such grief.  The whole composition was so hypnotic, it put my oldest sister and at least one of her friends, with whom I saw it, to sleep -- and they were hardly alone.  Even though no one actually brought (let alone smoked) a joint into the movie room, I found myself nevertheless wondering where I could get some more of that bad-ass weed.

The moral, of course, is that soundtrack music can sometimes be too good.  Critical plot turns shouldn't become their own drinking games, but that's what Goldsmith accidentally accomplished here.

11 June 2011

Fantasy trade rejected...

Trade scheme, as "reported" by thechicagodope.com

...because it's way too broad.  Anyway, I have Baja California Sur playing defense/special teams for the Fluttering Horde next season.  Maybe just trade the Texas GOP for Acapulco?

Anyway, here's some amusing snark from the Chicago Dope: Texas traded to Mexico in four-state deal.

08 June 2011

Wearing number two for New York: Anthony Weiner

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) Colombian defender Andrés Escobar
It's weird how the human mind works sometimes.  Or maybe it's just my mind.  ¿Quién sabe?

I've been trying to figure out exactly what to make of the case of Anthony Weiner.  At first, I dismissed Andrew Breitbart's charges that the New York City congressman had sent pictures of his crotch to complete strangers.  I figured that it was another sleazy Breitbart mind trick.  Rep. Weiner first claimed that someone hacked his Twitter account and sent the offending picture.  Since I don't use Twitter enough to know much about it, that claim seemed reasonable.  When Weiner later refused to deny that the picture was of his crotch, well, I stopped believing him.

What we have, then, is a congressman who sent a picture of his own genitals to women who may or may not have wanted to see it and lied about it.  In the process, Rep. Weiner didn't prance like a chihuahua puppy into Nancy Pelosi's doghouse.  He didn't just jepoardize own career and possibly his marriage.  He has probably deprived the progressive movement of a voice -- his -- that it could really use in the House of Representatives.

And of what other spectacle did this sorry episode remind me today?  An own goal in soccer.  Check that:  a specific own goal, scored almost 17 years ago.

SB Nation's World Cup Blog has an excellent overview of the tragedy of Andrés Escobar, but here's a short version.  Colombia came to the U.S. as a dark-horse favorite to win the 1994 World Cup, only to open with a shocking 3-1 loss to Romania.  Needing to defeat the host Americans to keep their hopes alive, Colombia instead allowed an overwhelming U.S. counterattack at minute 35.  Escobar, an emerging superstar as a defender, tried to deflect John Harkes's pass out of danger -- only to do this instead:

The ensuing 2-1 loss to the Americans eliminated Colombia, and Escobar got the blame.  [Not fair! The U.S. would have found some other way to win that day.]  Ten days later, some angry Colombian shot him dead outside Medellín.

Colombian football has yet to recover.

The more I think about, the more eerie the parallel appears.  Like Andrés Escobar, Anthony Weiner was a rising star in his field.  Like Escobar's mistake in Pasadena, Weiner's miscues may end in severe damage to his cause.  I just hope some crazy person doesn't decide to make the comparison complete.

It will be bad enough for the progressive movement if Anthony Weiner's career (or his marriage) is all that dies.

03 June 2011

Friday Double: The smell of her own ego

I've avoided discussing former half-term governors on this blog, simply because some of them get far more attention than they deserve.  I can understand why Illinois governor emeritus Rod Blagojevich hogs media attention; he's fortunate to have convinced TV networks to help with his massive legal bills.

That brunette atop this post, however, is another matter.  She's not just a teabagger, she's an outright Dominionist, someone who would have the United States transform into the neo-Crusader theocracy depicted in Julian Comstock.  It's only a remark she made in her attempt to hijack Rolling Thunder this weekend that prompted me to even mention her (or Blago):
I love that smell of the emissions.
Yes, I also loved the smell of those emissions, when they came from my grandfather's well appointed Glastron boat... forty years ago.  It was like sniffing glue.  By the time I turned seven, I realized that gasoline fumes weren't the best thing to be breathing.  Evidently, lady, you never picked up on that.  There are way too many of those gas fumes floating around, pumping out way too much carbon; and, like too many on your side of the aisle, you don't care about that any more than Lt. Col. Kilgore worried about napalm in Apocalypse Now.

On the plus side, the whole episode reminded me of a couple of songs that pretty well capture the most recently failed Vice-Presidential candidate.  When I first saw this hilarious bit of preening from  narcissistic Gaston, the villain in Beauty and the Beast, I knew that the whole movie would be a winner, unlike most of Disney's animated output from the 1990s.

If that described Caribou Barbie so perfectly, I wouldn't have needed this much darker piece from Little Jackie to also describe her.  It's not something I usually let anywhere my playlists -- the music is annoying enough without the lyrics -- but it fits too well today to resist.  Enjoy.

02 June 2011

NBA Finals that suck. Like this year's.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Let's get one thing straight: this year's Miami Heat is not a championship squad.  They will win the NBA finals, anyway, with what amounts to a three-man rotation.  [Mike Bibby?  Joel Anthony?  Comrade, please.]

In the first place, this season didn't have any championship-level teams.  The Lakers have collapsed, the Mavericks haven't played at full strength for most of the season, the Spurs and Celtics have both passed their expiration dates, and the Thunder are too young.  The same goes for the Bulls, whose bench had the strength to overcome Miami's Big Three until rookie center Omer Asik fractured a leg.

Now that I think of it, none of the Heat's playoff opponents finished at full strength.  Asik's departure left the Bulls too weak to keep up, one round after the Celtics lost Rajon Rondo in their series against Miami.  In the Finals, whose second game tips off tonight, Dallas is missing Caron Butler, someone who's had great success defending LeBron James.

The other reason the Heat will win is that their cynical style of basketball is impressing the referees.  Your offense doesn't need to be efficient if you can trick the refs into constantly calling fouls on the other team.  It works for Miami because, unlike earlier implementations of Pat Riley's "force basketball" stratagem, this one's players can shoot free throws.  To his credit, Riley also remembered to get players who can defend this time.  [For that, Anthony gets my full marks.]  But just because the Heat are better at bullying their opponents than the 1990s Knicks doesn't mean I like them any better.

Not that I'm any fan of the Mavericks.  In the past, I haven't had the energy to detest Mark Cuban, but was it really necessary to stiff Doris Burke after dismissing Oklahoma City?  Maybe I'll like the Mavs better next year, but this just ticked me off.  It leaves me wishing that neither team could win the Finals.  In fact, I rather feel like I'm being asked to choose between the Ku Klux Klan and Westboro Baptist.  At least that matchup is providing some amusement.

Naw, I think I'll catch the Canucks-Bruins series instead.

Update (D-Day + 67y):  Okay, this series may not feature the best teams ever, but it now appears to be a contest between evenly matched teams.  The Mavs may have moved my forgiveness date way up before this comes to a close.