Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Holocaust Remembrance Week 2008--Not Just Auschwitz

Where we're running a series of posts in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, which this year is on Friday, May 2.

I used a poem for the art in Monday's Holocaust Remembrance post, so today I'll use a painting.

I remember learning about this painting (right)--Lager, 1982--while in Germany. It's by Sigmar Polke and I was shown it as a contrast to the majority of the art that was coming out of Germany after World War II. Artists struggled for decades to incorporate some kind of coherent German aesthetic into their work--considering the country was divided, history (which makes identity) was burdensome, and a cloud of guilt followed everyone wasn't an easy task.

Yet their attempts were, in my opinion, a reflection of the nation's (and world's) reaction to what had happened from 1933-1945. Look at these cheerful works by Ernst Wilhelm Nay, for example. They reek of rationalization and ignorance to me. Or how about the famous "Concept Spatiale" (1959) by Italian Lucio Fontana? Sort of a creative way to get your anger out, don't you think?

The point is, I think that S. Polke's painting above is a more mature reaction to Germany's history. That it was painted in 1982 is meaningful, for by then there was time for an entire generation to come between the now and the Holocaust.

The reason why it is mature to me is that it is able to acknowledge the horror and the grotesqueness of the Holocaust and its concentration camp system--the fact that there is such an explicit rendering of a camp is itself important--while also pointing to the gray area in what the Holocaust really was. Whether he masked the area where the prisoners would be as a statement of victim anonymity, Germany's ignorance, or simply because their suffering is as dark as their cover--I don't know.

Even though the painting features a concentration camp, I wanted to write today a bit about how the concentration camp system is overstudied. The fact is that the Holocaust is far more than the forced labor, or the extermination camps like Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The death camps are the most visible aspect of the Holocaust. And I wouldn't dispute the validity of this focus. But the fact is that the Einsatzgruppen also killed about one million Jews, the same number as Auschwitz.

Einsatzgruppen means "task force" in German, and they were in effect a special unit. As the German armies pushed East into Russia in 1941, these units filled in behind and disposed of the Jews in former Russian/Polish territories. They eventually became mobile killing units.

At first, these units killed mostly male Jews because the pretext that they were only killing political and physical threats still sufficed. The Germans also encouraged local anti-Jewish pogroms so that Jewish deaths could appear to be the result of grassroots hate.

But then Heinrich Himmler (who was in charge of the Einsatzgruppen) and others in charge decided they didn't want an entire generation of avengers to reach adulthood, and they began killing everybody.

Some of the killings you have probably heard about--Babi Yar, or "Erntefest"--and I don't think I have to go into much detail regarding the methods of killing or number dead, etc.

Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men, which I've linked to in numerous previous posts already, describes one such unit in thorough disgusting detail. He tells of the amount of alcohol that was distributed by the higher-ups before the killings, and about how the previously regular German police forces were hardened and transformed into cold blooded mass murderers.

I wanted to write all this up so that when we think of the categorical destruction of the Jews in the Holocaust, we think of more than just the concentration camps, the death camps, and the ghettos. The fact that these units were created specifically to round up civilians in former Russian territories and summarily kill them tells a whole other story.

It deepens our understanding of the Nazi plan to kill the Jews and helps us recognize the abhorrent ways they went about it. After all, these were eye-to-eye deaths. Human-to-human. This wasn't about pressing bodies into a gas chamber and shutting the door.

This was about killing one person at a person at a time...

...and they killed 1.3 million this way.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

excuse me while i kiss the sky.

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

At the JJ Collective, we like to keep it as high brow as possible. We haven't talked about Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton (though bsto jokingly named Britney Spears the most relevant musician in the world last year), nor have we delved "celebrity sex tape" phenomenon...

until now.

Don't worry, no links or anything--because I don't really care to look at them (and because it's actually more about ideas of the thing than the thing itself)

Supposedly, a company has 11 minutes of 40 year-old footage of what is purported to be Jimi Hendrix having sex with multiple women.

Obviously, I'm not a huge fan of the idea of this being released. I'm not a huge Jimi Hendrix fan, either, but I don't know--the man has passed away (quite some time ago, as well)--it just seems a bit sacrilegious.

It would be overly simplistic to say that we've become too fascinated with sex--the world has always been fascinated by it, it's just that we're more open to talking about it now than at any other point.

On one hand, it's a reproductive thing and a basic part of human life. The craze has to stem from the fact that we don't believe celebrities are "real people" like us--and these sex tapes humanize them. I don't like the argument that "they're celebrities--they give up their right to privacy by being public figures". This is ridiculous.

But, I guess what it comes down to is the fact that I'm arguing with people's psyches. We can't control what intrigues us--we just do. I can't win an argument with someone over their basic rationale.

And, in a sense, if it's getting taped, you have to see the camera--he could have stopped it, I guess. But then the argument that "he may not have known the camera was even there" or "he thought it was going to be seen only by a select group of people" comes into play. Again: privacy.


The most funny thing about the entire thing is that a "Jimi Hendrix expert" was brought in to analyze the tape--and he concluded that the man was not Hendrix because "the man had different nostrils" and "wore more rings than Hendrix would have worn".

The fact that someone could get paid to know this much about a person is incredible. Part of me thinks this man is denying it is Hendrix because he does not want to think that Hendrix could be fallen by such a modern sort of "shame".

But this sort of celebrity worship and intrigue that pays this man's bills, isn't it? How will these tapes change the way people perceive Hendrix? Will it make him relevant to people (the Perez Hilton set) who otherwise have only heard the name Hendrix but otherwise know nothing about the man?


To me, it's this simple: Hendrix was a human. He breathe, he ate, he slept, he traveled. He also happened to be a brilliant guitar player (generations beyond his time), and, for this reason, we care about the mundane things that, collectively, captured and became his existence.

And, because of this gift/talent of being able to play guitar so
prodigiously and so prophetically, all of those things immediately matter to the world. This includes his sex life.

Maybe people watch sex tapes because they want to see how crazy--or how
pediastrian--the private lives of celebrities are. People probably watch sex tapes for the same reason that people watch tmz--because we want to see how these celebrities eat and shop and walk around cities and want to feel validated that our own existences are roughly the same--that, simultaneously, these celebrities are less non-human than we think and that we are perhaps more less-ordinary than own lives lead us to believe. It diminishes them while vaunting us.

I just hope that this Jimi Hendrix "expert" isn't denying the possibility that it is Hendrix doing the deed on the tape because he doesn't want to see Hendrix as anything less than the vaulted god that he obviously sees Hendrix as (otherwise, why would he have chosen to be a Hendrix expert? at the very beginning, at least, it had to be because he idolized Hendrix).

Whether or not this is Hendrix doesn't change the basic fact that he was, in fact, a human (even if his guitar playing suggests otherwise) and that Hendrix ate and slept and breathed and had sex like the rest of mankind has always done, does now and will continue to do indefinitely.

The basic fact is this: we all know he had sex. We all know that everyone, at some point in time, will have sex. Why does being on camera distort what it all actually means? I don't get what being on camera changes. Does it make it any different? What social norm is being broken? Does it change the actual act? Why is it so appalling that this gets caught on camera when we all know we all do exactly the same?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Holocaust Remembrance Week I--Other Genocides

Where we're running a series of posts in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, which this year is on Friday, May 2.

The point of studying any genocide is to find the kernel of life-meaning that each carries. I firmly believe that the Holocaust sits at the pinnacle of human existence. The German intellectualization, rationalization, and physical implementation of the Holocaust truly astounds me. When I zoom out, far away from the emotions that entangle such thinking, I find myself almost impressed with the organization and execution of the Holocaust--not to mention the mental/emotional blockades required to carry out such disgusting actions.

But then we must zoom back in. And what is there at the bottom if not humans? And we must ask ourselves, what in the world could possibly induce humans to slaughter so many people?

The answer to these questions takes us into what we are really made of. I am a follower of the opinion of historian Christopher Browning, who, in his book Ordinary Men (above) follows Reserve Police Battalion 101 and concludes that they were utterly normal. That there was nothing innately evil about the men who killed so many.

Of course, such an analysis leads to the biggest question of the Holocaust: who's to say that if any one of us was in the position of the rank-and-file Nazis, we wouldn't have done exactly what they did?


This week we're going to be running posts for Holocaust Remembrance, and though we at JJ realize that it's not exactly the most pleasant reading, it is above all necessary--even, or rather especially, when you don't particularly feel like dealing with it.

And that's going to be the only apologetic utterance you'll get out of this one in regards to dealing with Holocaust Studies on an otherwise completely not self-righteous blog.

Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi (right) writes about the Holocaust's position in the center of human history in The Drowned and The Saved:

Years ago, Norberto Bobbio wrote that the Nazi extermination camps were "not one of the events, but the monstrous, perhaps unrepeatable event of human history." The others, the listeners, friends, children, readers, or even strangers, sense this, beyond their indignation and commiseration; they understand the uniqueness of our experience, or at least make an effort to understand it. So they urge us to speak and ask us questions, at times embarrassing us: it is not always easy to answer certain whys. We are neither historians nor philosophers but witnesses, and anyway, who can say that the history of human events obeys rigorous logic, patterns.

The fact is that any intelligent human who cares about the sorts of things that lie at the foundation of humanity--indeed, of existence itself--would do well to take a long, thorough look at the Holocaust.

So why should I be defensive about running a week of Holocaust posts? We'll fight through it, Ok?



Sometimes we find it difficult to position the Holocaust appropriately within the history of genocides and terror throughout human history. People too often separate one from the other, and usually based on personal biases. So if you talk to Armenians, they would no doubt elevate their genocide above the Jewish one, and both would probably distinguish theirs from the Cambodians', the Bosnian, the Rwandans', or the Sudanese's.

And I've been guilty of it too, as you can see in this mammoth piece I wrote after visiting Sachsenhausen concentration camp last summer.

Certainly, on a human scale, it is foolish to try and compare genocides or argue about which one is worse. It's a grotesque exercise, really, because it carries an implicit satisfaction. And though it might provide momentary pleasantness for a victim to hear that what they went through was the absolute worst, upon any sort of inspection they would realize how arbitrary such a label is.

That being said, I think that the Holocaust's position at the forefront of the recognizability chain is not unfair for the simple fact that it was intertwined with World War II. We all know that WWII implicated so much of the world, for so many years, and because the Holocaust was involved with it (as well as the fact that the Holocaust's victims were western, white, and related to Americans), its status as the most recognizable genocide is understandable and fair.

However, to say that one genocide is "worse" than another one is ridiculous. It would elevate the lives of one nation above another. Of course, this would mean that we also can't call one genocide "better" than another one, which means that as soon as something is labeled a genocide there's simply no justification not to interfere.

It's interesting that Primo Levi predicted where the other genocides would occur. He said that the Western world is too sensitive to genocides right now, but the Third World is at risk. And sure enough, while Bosnia was interfered with, Rwanda was let to run, and Cambodia's genocide was likewise unencumbered.

(Last Friday, I mentioned the genocide trials going on in Cambodia right now. This will be worth following for the next weeks.)


Part of this week's posts will be Holocaust art. If you readers have any favorites, put them into the comments.

Here's Dan Pagis's "Written in Pencil in a Sealed Boxcar"

here in this transport
I am eve
with abel my son
if you see my older son
cain son of adam
tell him that I

Photos from Wikipedia and

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Video Premier

Every Friday, we're highlighting a specific video (or two, or three) for your end of week enjoyment.

Happy Friday everybody! Sun's out, semester's winding down, Cubbies are winning, and even though the Democratic party is exploding, Cambodia's botching their genocide trials, and the evil Spurs might go through, we just can't help but enjoy the day.

Check out the video below for the JJ Collective's first "Friday Video." It's "Us Placers," by Kanye, Lupe and Pharrell's group Child Rebel Soldiers. They're on the Glow in the Dark tour right now.

There's a couple things I like about the video, even besides the song. If you listen to the lyrics (especially the verses by Lupe and Kanye) you see that the song is mostly about the often pained life of a star.

Lupe's verse lists a star's accoutrement, but ends it with the loaded phrase, "All the money in the world don't make it painless." Kanye says, "I try to keep that balance/ After MTV that’s a Real World Challenge."

The video (which is not official, by the way, it was done by some YouTube director "Vashtie") is poignant because of the use of kids' innocence. The child actors who play CRS are not completely comfortable in front of the camera--you can see "Kanye" often looking away, like Snoop did in his earlier videos--and so they seem to be eschewing the spotlight, which fits the lyrics perfectly.

Plus, the kids in the video are not stars, they're (presumably) not yet corrupted by fame, and so the video is also a kind of wistful realization of CRS' dreams.

What do you think?

I like the song, too, although its sparseness was at first offsetting. There's nothing besides the piano, Thom's wailing, and that hazy electronic percussion that you can find all over Thom's solo album "The Eraser"--but in the end, I was won over by the piano taken straight from the first song on Eraser, "The Eraser," which is below.

I mean, you can see how much CRS leaned on that song.

By the way, The Eraser has some ridiculous album art. (Thank you, Stanley Donwood.)

Photos from

Thursday, April 24, 2008

a fine mess.

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

Honolulu is abuzz over Beckhamania. Yes, the LA Galaxy may have come in third place (out of four teams) at the Pan Pacific Tournament in Honolulu two months ago, but Beckham's ghost--and sweaty game shirt--still lingers in the Aloha State.

Two boys (and former best friends!) are going to court over who is the rightful owner of the game-worn shirt that Becks tossed to the boys. Both boys claim that Beckham pointed at them. One boy claims it is his because he "held up his Beckham sign for the duration of the game". The other set of parents supposedly got an authentic signed jersey from Beckham via a family member who had access to the Galaxy's locker room at half time...and tried to trade this for the game worn shirt.

I kid you not.

My suggestion? Pull a King Solomon--and whoever begs for the uniform not to be cut in half is the rightful owner. And, like one commenter said--the Advertiser talked to the Galaxy's general manager, Alexei Lalas...couldn't they just have gotten him to ask Becks who he meant to give the shirt?


One Slate writer is calling for Barack Obama to drop out of the Democratic Presidential Nominee race. Yes, Chris Wilson is aware that Obama is ahead and is not suggesting a Johnathan Swift "A Modest Proposal" recommendation--Wilson believes that by pulling out of the race by saying that he does not want to further hurt the Democratic Party's chances of winning the 2008 Election because of an ongoing battle while McCain campaigns unchecked. By being noble in this sense, Wilson writes, Obama will get the masses (and the political pundits) back on his side and will win the 2012 Election...because McCain will clearly become the favorite in this year's election and Obama will become even stronger in 2012 because of his appeal to young voters--of which there will be more (logically) in the next election.

Our thoughts? It's great, in theory, but Obama wouldn't do it--he's already gone this far. Hillary Clinton is just fracturing the party--the only real hope she has of winning is taking the super delegates, but to hold out that long really is going to hurt the Democrats, because with Hillary's continuously dirty tactics, Obama's own image will suffer (and at the hands of someone of his own party).

It would also be counting one's chickens before they hatched to think that Obama would pose a serious threat to an incumbent president. Middle America is very happy with the status quo, and it's going to be hard to swing moderates off of an incumbent president (not even Dubya him-illogicalidotic-self could do this, mind McCain would really have to make a mess of it to give Obama a real chance in 2012).

My biggest concern is this: If Obama does go on to become the Democratic nominee for President and subsequently loses to McCain (remember, McCain is ALREADY campaigning for the presidency while Obama is forced to continue to fight it out with Hillary "No Campaign Money" Clinton), how much negative publicity will this give him? I feel that losing to McCain would be a bigger blow for his presidential future than losing to Hillary would be.


The April 21st issue of the New Yorker was incredibly captivating (a fascinating story on elevators included), but this story, on the architecture of airports, particularly caught my eye.

As a college student from Hawaii, I spend quite a bit of time in airports, and I actually enjoy the experience. I usually walk around airports during my (lengthy) layovers and sketch them out (to the best of my ability, anyway). The massive steel girders always intrigue me, and the idea of airports being this temporary home for people--comforting them after heart-wrenching goodbyes and preparing them for ecstatic hellos--is very poetic.

It is also easily discernible that we at the Collective take a keen interest in architecture, and i was interested in what an architect (or at least one in training) had to say about the airports

Interestingly, the aspiring architect I spoke with wasn't all that concerned with speaking about the airports. Jessica Sano, an architecture major at USC, said that she felt that pictures were already a step removed from actually beholding a site--and that reading a critique of buildings is thus two steps removed.

I replied that the point of reviews, in my eyes, is to distill the world as much as possible because people have neither the time nor resources to go and see everything (the same goes for film, book, and music reviews). If people feel that they would enjoy what is being described in the reviews, then they will take on the subject matter for themselves.

Ms. Sano replied that point of reviews is to judge--that they never give a fair, impartial view of the subject being discussed and that they are by nature subjective. Taste is relative, she said, and the we should try to write objective descriptions--not partial reviews.

With that being said, here is a great picture of one of the airports mentioned--Barajas International in Madrid:


And my favorite feature in any airport I have personally seen--at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport:




have a great weekend

from London, with love.

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

Last night, Radiohead was Conan O'Brien's musical performer. The band "phoned in" their performance from London...

At first, it struck me as strange. I mean, it just seemed like Conan wanted the band on the show--and I thought perhaps the band agreed to do their appearance "tongue-in-cheek"--but I was wrong (a side note: Radiohead were Conan's first musical guest ever..back in 1993). I wonder who people thought would flop first: Radiohead or Conan? I'm sure the fact that both are incredibly relevant (Radiohead are the world's biggest band, and Conan is set to take Jay Leno's seat) is a shock to most.

Performance here

However, it hit me a minute into the performance in that the band are going on a green crusade (I tuned in late because, yes, I was watching a marathon of "Little People, Big World")--they said that they did not want to play arenas out in the middle of nowhere because they wanted to reduce their carbon footprint (however, their American tour is taking place in large American arenas, out in the middle of nowhere thanks to livenation...yay clear channel!). Thom is a pretty big activist--anti-nuclear weapons, anti-war, anti-meat eating(I think he's on a gluten-free diet as well) you know. I also then remembered reading that the band are considering buying new gear in every city that they play in so that they don't have to travel around with lots of big rigs full of gear (again, to reduce their carbon footprint).

I googled it today, and, yes, the band are preparing for their upcoming tour and did not want to fly across the Atlantic
. By refusing to fly just to perform on the show, Thom maintains that the band are cutting out "the equivalent of driving one's car around solidly for a year"..and, you know, it goes with NBC's whole "Green Week" campaign.

I know, I know--I should be a detective. Hello captain obvious!

The band are at their best--Thom's jibber-jabbering on and on, and though this is far from one of my favorites off of "In Rainbows", it was great late night viewing.

However, a more upbeat song from "In Rainbows' " second CD, "Bangers & Mash" can be seen in incredibly high quality (and you don't even need a great computer for it to look beautiful) here

And a great live version of "Bodysnatchers" from the Scotch Mist webcast

..and my favorite "In Rainbows" track, "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi", live

...and, for good measure, Radiohead's live cover of the New Order performed (but Joy Divison written) classic "Ceremony"

Matza Shortage!!

Took a while for me to realize that there really was a matza shortage. I went to three different stores the other day before giving up, never thinking it was some kind of systemic issue. But it's true that I couldn't remember the last time matza was so hard to find during Passover, and I was reeling--I mean, should I have known that all the stores were going to be sold out? Should I have bought the first box I saw a month ago??

Neither the NYTimes nor the Jerusalem Post could give a conclusive answer why, mentioning work shortages and technical problems as possibilities.

The LA Daily News made it seem like the biggest problem is that Trader Joe's and Costo simply decided not to carry it. This seems really weird to me, because it's a guaranteed sell. For those who have never experienced or seen someone go through the eight days of matza over-saturation that is Passover, let me say that Jews rely on matza during this time for their fundamental sustenance.

This would be like if all the wings and pizza places just decided not to sell wings on the day of the Super Bowl.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

why i love u2 (part II)

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff) Here's the second part of my u2 post. Before you u2 fans get all worked up and say "Where's 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' or 'Beautiful Day' or 'One' "--know that those are great songs that I feel are a) overrated b) beloved enough The following are songs that have stuck with me that I feel people need to acquaint themselves with.

"Where the Streets Have No Name"
The synth swells at the beginning send chills down my spine every time I listen to this song...and the closing lines are among my favorite ever committed to tape: "Where the streets have no name Where the streets have no name We're still building Then burning down love, Burning down love And when I go there I go there with you It's all I can do Our love turns to rust We're beaten and blown by the wind Blown by the wind Oh yes, in dust See our love turn to rust And we're beaten and blown by the wind Blown by the wind Oh, when I go there I go there with you It's all I can do" Bono has a way of sending out the softest, most poignant lines and just absolutely destroying everything around him (in a good way). The "it's all I can do" is so earth-jarringly destructive and lovelorn that all one can really do is sigh--and the Edge's delayed guitar is really the perfect backdrop for said destruction. And, if you want to read into it--the song is said to be about developing nations or heaven. Whichever. Bono is versatile, you know?


"Sweetest Thing"
Again, depending on who you believe, this song may or may not be a song for Bono's wife, written when he forgot her birthday. This is an incredibly beautiful song
And check out this cool lego version of the video.


"Stay (Faraway, So Close!)"
I feel that this is a great exercise in storytelling--less of a song and more of a vignette. And, the contradictions that Bono favors-- close--are apparent in the title itself. Bono's "ooohhhhhh" wailing also gives me the shivers every time this song gets played. And, the song's closing, with: " Three o'clock in the morning It's quiet and there's no one around Just the bang and the clatter As an angel runs to ground Just the bang and the clatter As an angel hits the ground" with the bang is just such a beautifully understated way to end such an unassumingly pretty song.


"With or Without You"
I feel that it's appropriate to end with this one, because it's among my favorite songs ever. I told my mom (at a young age) that I wanted this to be played at my wedding. I mean, it's not the most positive of songs, but it's just so moving. Again, the song is built on nothing more than light bass and the Edge playing an ebow (come on, you know Sigur Ros are huge u2 fans). I'd like to think Bono's singing for the girl he just can't live without (and, sometimes, can't live with), but others say it's a very religious piece. Again, whatever--that's what makes art great: it becomes whatever the beholder wants it to be and lends itself to that perfectly. Utada Hikaru did a really pretty version of this song as well.

And there you have it. Now, if you really didn't enjoy the songs (but actually listened to them), I'll have no problem if you completely write u2 off.
it's all i can do.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day Cheese Sauce

I thought it was pretty funny that this year, 4/20 was celebrated as, basically, advanced Earth Day.

Well Earth Day has come at last, with much publicity. Have you done something to help the environment today? I yelled at one friend when her napkin flew off the table, but someone else picked it up and threw it out for us.

Even though its purpose is noble, Earth Day has to be one of the cheesiest "holidays" of the year. Dig some of these Comics I read today:

--Mutts gets a shoutout because McDonnell used a Robinson Jeffers quote (here's my favorite Jeffers poem, hands down).

--Dennis the Menace is always good for some cheese.

--Speed Bump wasn't so cheesy--that's because Dave Coverly usually finds some weird distinctive angle to make a point.

--On the Fastrack was almost funny here. Almost.

--Treehugger has some other good ones.

Happy Earth Day!

Our Generation's Ignorance

Earlier today, I was reading "The Drowned and The Saved" by Primo Levi--the last book for the class on the Holocaust I'm taking--when I saw a kid from that same class walking towards me. We made brief, insignificant eye contact and he nodded at the book, saying, "That book sucks."

He was walking past me, and I had my headphones on, but I exposed one ear and called after him. "Why does it suck?"

He goes, "I don't know. It just does. It's real hard to read, especially at the beginning."

After he was gone, I couldn't read anymore. I just kept turning the book over in hand, flipping through its pages, thinking to myself: we're screwed, we're so screwed.

It's something I've had to argue against constantly when we've discussed books in that class. The other students feel compelled to say whether or not the book was "a good read." Some felt that the "Diary of David Sierakowiak" was a bad read because "it says on the back of the book that he died in Lodz, it ruined the ending for me."

RUINED THE ENDING?!!!!!! What is this? It takes all the strength I have not to blow up when they go on about how these books are easy or hard to read. I mean, part of the point that Levi and others spent so much of their worldly energy trying to get across is that OF COURSE it's not easy--but that the only way we can possibly get to the bottom of all this is to fight through the intellectual, emotional, personal, and traumatic barricades that stand in the way of remembering the lessons of the Holocaust.

And I can't help but worry for the future of humanity when this kid--one of the smartest kids in the class, there's no doubt--feels like it's appropriate to judge Levi's writing like it was a comic book. And I realize that my disappointment and anxiety is not reflected by the majority of my generation. And I realize that we're screwed.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Penn Primaries, Obama's b.s.?

The talk surrounding the Obama campaign's recent switch to more aggressive tactics is confusing. How much is he actually ratcheting up the rhetoric? This Washington Post article (front page), for example, is all about his "offensive." But it doesn't quote anything specific he has said.

And it's especially confusing because when Hillary plays straight out of the Karl Rove handbook and releases a fear mongering ad featuring Osama Bin Laden, it makes you want to speak out against it--it is only natural to speak out against that kind of crap.

So Obama's in a bit of a quagmire because he's spoke out repeatedly repeatedly repeatedly about not being caught up in the attacking part of campaigning, that he's more focused on the future and change and blah blah blah, but he's in danger of appearing like a wispy hope mongerer if he gets all aggressive now.

On the other hand, if there ever will be a time to be inconsistent and attack, it's now.

The Pennsylvania primary will probably play a big role in the nomination and if Obama can come out within 10 points of Clinton, it should be enough to carry him through.

But what do you do as a politician who claims to be focused on changing the way politics is run when the way politics is run is chipping at your ankles? Do you stoop down and succumb, taking off the gloves and shooting back? Or do you try and transcend it all, hoping and praying that the voters appreciate it?

Truthfully, no matter what he does I think Obama's going to lose Pennsylvania by more than 10 points, and I think we're in for a brutal summer in which it will be difficult for Obama to keep up his pace with the hungry, fanged Clinton campaign chomping at him.

why i love u2 (part I)

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

One of the biggest crimes committed by my peers is their constant disdain and distaste for one of the world's most important bands--u2. People my age seem to be hung up on what is perceived to be Bono's "Jesus complex".

This is a terrible reason to hate an incredibly influential and powerful band. I disagree strongly with said "Jesus complex"--Bono cares about international politics and has a soapbox from which he can express his misgivings about the progress of the developing world. It'd be one thing if he was another celebrity who was speaking about things he had no idea about--but this isn't the case with Bono.

However, I'm not going to argue over this point. I want the band to speak for itself. Even if you don't agree with Bono's politics (or the way in which he goes about speaking about his views), you can still enjoy one of the world's most underrated/overrated bands.

(Their '80s and early '90s output is criminally underrated. It is their new material that leaves such a rotten taste in everyone's mouth)

I myself was not sold on the band (I found Bono off-putting), but a friend of mine (Chris Fujino...who has two music myspaces) showed me the light. I just want to pay it forward.


"New Year's Day"

Depending on who you believe, this song is either a love song from Bono to his wife (a recurring theme in u2's songs) or about the Polish solidarity movement.

The Edge pulls double duty here, alternating nostalgic a piano line with searing guitar riffs.

Bono is at his finest, crooning:
"All is quiet on New Year's day
A world in white gets underway
I want to be with you, be with you, night and day
Nothing changes on New Year's day
On New Year's day"

I'm not going to wax poetic about Bono's lines--but they're pretty incredible. Just because the calendar has turned over doesn't mean the world is at peace--it doesn't make anything any easier.

These sorts of contradictory/mutually exclusive statements are a theme in my favorite u2 songs, as you'll soon see.


"Sunday, Bloody Sunday"

Another political/quasi-love song, "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" speaks about the strife in Northern Ireland--clearly "one day we can be as one" speaks to the hope that one day Ireland will be united as one.

An amazing piece. Again, the interplay between Adam Clayton and Larry Mullins, Jr is immense and the Edge is on point, mixing his trademark twinkling harmonics with barbed-wire guitar lines.

"Two Hearts Beat as One"

With the inclusion of another song from the album "War", I feel that it becomes fairly obvious what my favorite u2 album is.

"Two hearts beat as one" is just an incredibly simple yet moving line--and "can't stop the dance/honey, this is my last chance" sums up a resigned hopelessness of the narrator. The power of early u2--the youth and exuberance and hope and hopelessness--has not been matched by any band since.

"Two Hearts Beat as One" speaks to the band's ability to create loud, moving pieces by using periods of near silence--look no further than the verses themselves, where sparse musical arrangements are dominant.

"Bullet the Blue Sky"

The band's "The Joshua Tree" record was recorded in America and serves as sort of a love letter from an awed yet jilted lover--look no further than this song for that.

Again--almost nothing but bass and drums during the verses, culminating with sinister slide guitars during the pre-choruses (and second verse) colliding with Bono's voice.

" This guy comes up to me
His face red like a rose on a thorn bush
Like all the colors of a royal flush
And he's peeling off those dollar bills
Slapping them down
One hundred, two hundred
And I can see those fighter planes
Across the mud huts where the children sleep
Through the alleys of a quiet city street
You take the staircase to the first floor
Turn the key and slowly unlock the door
As a man breathes into a saxophone
And through the walls you hear the city groan
Outside is America"

Supposedly, the song is about Bono's experiences in El Salvador, and the juxtaposition between American buying power and military might and third world poverty is evident.

I don't think there is a more brooding or angsty u2 song--they may have more angry tunes, but this one is truly a sinister piece.

"I know there's a problem..Ronald Reagan's the problem...."

And among the hundreds of brilliant lines that Bono has sung, this one is hard to top:

" Across the field you see the sky ripped open
See the rain through a gaping wound
Pounding on the women and children
Who run
Into the arms
Of America"

I'm sorry, but if you don't think Bono gets it, then you're not listening to u2 at all.


I know this one was a bit heavy--I'll lighten it up in my next u2 post. I promise.

Until then, look at the band in their incredible '80s stride.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Haterzz and Shtuffs

See this Obama vid yet? There's like a thousand versions of it on YouTube. It's become enough of a phenomenon that the Washington Post put it on the front page of their Style section. Whatever, I just think it's funny:

It would be interesting to see how Obama's professed appreciation of hip-hop affects his votes. According to the WaPost article above, the Post's Richard Cohen said the shoulder shaking was "contemptuous and aloof" and "not smart." He obviously overlooked how freaking funny it was, though...


We at JJ like to keep our readers up to date on various cool music that is less visible or so obviously good that people pass it up. Jhuff alerted me to Boys Noize and the album "Oi Oi Oi" last week.

It's good enough stuff that GW's hip-hop group Famous Corners hyped the crowd with & Down (below) at their show at GW's Battle of the Bands on Thursday.

Here's some good tracks:

& Down:


Yeah it's pretty loud head banging type stuff, but it's good for you every once in a while. Kind of like those real spicy Asian soups that clear your sinuses, you dig?


Arsenal finally won a game! 2-0 over hapless Reading earlier today. Good to see Walcott getting a start, and Adebayor actually scoring. Not to be overly harsh on Adebayor (who's had an amazing season just as good as Torres'), but can you say too little too late?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Op-Ed From Hell

There's so much I could say about the Washington Post's decision to run this column by Hamas's Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar. But I find its grossness too obvious and, beyond this short overview, I think I'll just leave it to readers to think for themselves.

Under the pretext of praising Carter's willingness to meet with Hamas, al-Zahar took the opportunity to give us the regular Hamas line on Israel. Here's the most outrageous snippet: "Sixty-five years ago, the courageous Jews of the Warsaw ghetto rose in defense of their people. We Gazans, living in the world's largest open-air prison, can do no less."


Because, you know, Israel deports thousands of Gazans off to extermination camps where they're systematically slaughtered.

To their credit, the WaPost's Editorial board ran this Editorial on the other side of the fold criticizing al-Zahar's piece and even Carter's meeting with Hamas.

Considering the WaPost's innumerable Editorial mess-ups--like the great Charlotte Allen bit a while ago--I was at first more angry at them then at al-Zahar's verbal diarrhea.

After a while to think it over, however, I've decided that it's a good thing that the world can see a concentrated and focused expression of the Hamas line. I have no doubt that those who see for themselves what Hamas stands for will side even more strongly with the view that the Palestinian's chance at getting their own state and finding peace with Israel is only dampened by the noxious influence of such despicable snakes.

albums and things

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

2008 is nearly 1/3 over, and there are a few albums that immediately stick out in my mind as my favorites


Quiet Village "Silent Movie"

Quiet Village is a British duo who mix calypso and jazz beats with samples from movies. My favorite song on the "Silent Movie" is "Can't Be Beat", followed closely by "Pillow Talk"

an mp3 of "Circus of Horror" can also be found here

Cut Copy "In Ghost Colours"

Cut Copy follow-up their seminal album "Bright Like Neon Love" with the clubbier, housier "In Ghost Colours"

Vampire Weekend "Vampire Weekend"

Yeah, I know everyone and their mom (and everyone who loves Paul Simon's "Graceland") already love this album. That doesn't mean that it isn't worthy of a mention here.

I really enjoy Walcott (and pretend it's about Arsenal's Theo Walcott), and you can't go wrong with their huge single from last year, "Mansard Roof" (loving the "Weekend Update" montage at the beginning of the video, by the way)

M83 " Saturdays=Youth"

Yeah, they're never going to top "Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts" (and probably no electronic post-rock album ever will), but "Saturdays=Youth" is leaps and bounds better than "Before the Dawn Heals Us"

The Helio Sequence "Keep Your Eyes Ahead"

Much moodier than their last effort, "Love and Distance", the band finally expands their sonic palette--"Keep Your Eyes Ahead" is a full realization of the duo's talent.


Radiohead "In Rainbows"

I know it was released online for whatever price you chose last October, but it was released in brick-and-mortar shops on New Years Day this year. And, looking at this beautiful live video of "Bangers and Mash" while also recalling the greatness of songs like "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi", "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" and "Bodysnatchers" (live video here), it'd be criminal to not put "In Rainbows" here.


My favorite two singles this year are quite obvious:

Janet Jackson's "Rock With You"

as well as Estelle (ft. Kanye West) "American Boy"

(which is also a big favorite of bsto's)


my best old find this year?

Al B. Sure!'s "Nite and Day"

The Cool Kids' record "The Bake Sale" promises to be a real banger as well.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

nba mvp.

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

It's time to name the NBA's Most Valuable Player, and this year may be the tightest ever. Additionally, the NBA Playoffs promise to be the most thrilling in recent memory--if not ever--and I don't remember ever being this excited to watch basketball--not even when my Lakers went on their run of three straight NBA titles.

Bill Simmons, ESPN's "The Sports Guy", recently finished his list. Simmons is everything we try to be at the Collective--his writing is smart, sharp, witty and irreverent (and always includes obscure pop culture references).

Here is his list, broken up into part I and part II

In case you weren't aware, Simmons is a huge Celtics fan. He also picked Kevin Garnett as his MVP (sorry to ruin it for you if you didn't read it).

However, I simply could not disagree with him anymore.

The argument that most people have against Kobe Bryant is the fact that critics claim that if Kobe is indeed given the award, it's because he is widely considered to be "the greatest player to have never been named MVP". THAT description is apt--but I do not think he deserves it just to rectify this wrong.

Simmons argues that: His teammates were much, much, MUCH better. Statistically, Kobe's stats don't stand out from his numbers the previous four seasons, although there was a five-week stretch right after the Gasol trade when he played the most inspired all-around basketball of his career. Then Gasol went down and it turned into The Kobe Show again. If No. 8 -- er, No. 24 -- wins the MVP, then we need to go back and retroactively make him the unanimous 2005-06 MVP as well, because it was much more impressive when he dragged that putrid Lakers team to 45 wins.

Kobe SHOULD have been named MVP for that accomplishment--instead, it was given to Steve Nash, who led the best team in the West (which is something many suggest should be done in the race between KB24 and CP3). I don't think the best player in the West should be given the award, but Kobe clearly deserved it that year. He was plainly and clearly robbed.

(With Kobe, the underlying implication is he's on your side … as long as you're playing well. Anyone who has watched him in person during the past few years knows exactly what I mean.)

This may have been true in seasons past. However, it's commonly accepted that Kobe has changed as a teammate--chest-bumping Ronnie Turiaf, deferring shots to Derek Fisher and Sasha Vujicic. It's just plain wrong to say this about Kobe THIS YEAR.

Simmons on Chris Paul: There's a difference between genuine affection (the way Paul and his teammates interact) and contrived affection (the way Kobe and his teammates interact).

Again--this sounds like someone bittering the Cold War-era New England hatred for anything with any ties to Lakers Showtime. NOT TRUE.

To me, it's this simple--Kobe should have been given the MVP in 2005, making the "Greatest player to never be named MVP" tag obsolete then. He wasn't, and there's nothing we can do about it.

However, Simmons' statement that "only Kevin Garnett's season will be remembered". How can such statements be made when we haven't even crowned a champion? Garnett missed ten straight games this year due to injury--I just don't see how this qualifies one for an MVP trophy. Yeah, the Lakers weren't as good when Gasol was out for nine straight games with his ankle injury--should we name him MVP just because his absence was noticeable?

Obviously, the answer is no.

Simmons goes on to say that Kobe's numbers this year are not different from those in past years, then he states this: "You can't measure Garnett's impact with individual statistics"..

The same can be said of Kobe. His numbers may be on par with the rest of his career stats, but he is involving others around him better than ever before.

The Celtics were the prohibitive pre-season favorite to win the NBA title. They were EXPECTED to top the East--so don't let anyone saying Boston's turn-around should garner Garnett the MVP sway you.

In the off-season, Kobe publicly ripped the Lakers' front office apart. He wanted to be traded and seemed to burn every Los Angeles bridge he had built. It seemed he'd be wearing his 24 in Chicago, trying to top his idol, MJ, in the house that MJ built. I even

This Lakers team was not supposed to even make the playoffs.

Then, somehow, they clicked, even before getting Gasol. They were playing great, and Kobe was showing that he grew up. His maturity married WITH HIS STATS make him the MVP. Yes, he got Gasol as well (and, the city of Los Angeles probably subsequently got Kobe to be a Laker for life with the Gasol move), but Garnett has Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Sam Cassell. The Lakers line-up is good, but it does NOT have the star power of the Celtics squad.

Without Ray Allen and/or Paul Pierce? The Celtics are no different than the Timberwolves teams (WITH CASSELL) that could only get out of the first round in the West ONCE.

It is just incomprehensible for anyone to say that Kobe is not the MVP unless they're making a case for Chris Paul--there's a team that came from nowhere. I would have less of a problem with Chris Paul being given the MVP trophy than Garnett.

To me, it's this simple: Kobe is the Michael Jordan of our time. Clearly, he is not as talented and does not transcend basketball the way MJ did--but he's clearly in another league from anyone else in the NBA. He is head and shoulders above everyone else (Lebron will have his time, but it isn't now--he still has some trophies to win).

Can you IMAGINE Michael having deserved the MVP but never being given it?

In the pantheon of greatest NBA players of all-time, you've got to name Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Shaq, Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson as the best to have ever played the game.

And Kobe clearly belongs on that list. I'm not going to lie--I clearly love Kobe Bryant and mooted following him to the Bulls in this post.

I also talked about the Lakers theoretically getting Garnett
. And, now that the two are among the top candidates for MVP, let's play this game:

Kobe and Garnett are both Lakers. Kobe has a dip in his stats. KG puts up his career averages. Do we give the MVP to Kobe or to Garnett? Simmons would say KG, because he made all the difference. BUT THE INFRASTRUCTURE IS STILL AROUND HIM. Just because he comes in to town doesn't mean he's that much more valuable than the stars around him.

Kobe is putting up great numbers and is involving his teammates better than ever. The Lakers have won the West for the first time since the first year of their three latest championships. He has an inferior team to Garnett's.

The Sports Guy had no response to the fact that "his dad got rid of his Celtics tix online in four minutes" and that "Garnett stands on the sidelines and cheers". The Sports Guy had no rebuttal and named him the MVP.

You could get rid of Lakers tix at the office in under a minute, and Kobe hams it up with his teammates while on the bench--this has become very visible as of late, when the Lakers have blown out the Spurs and the Hornets (both playoff bound teams) by 20 points.

I live in LA, I have always loved the Lakers, and I believe that Kobe is the greatest player of this generation.

All of that is for nothing, though--because it would be a gross injustice to the game of basketball if anyone but Kobe is named MVP.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Lupe's New Vid, etc.

First off, I hope all you readers got a chance to see Lupe's new "Paris, Tokyo" video, which he released yesterday. Here's a link.

As I was watching it for the first time, I kept asking myself when it was going to cut to some bedroom scene with all those cute girl-thangs he was meeting in Egypt, Paris, etc.

And I waited, and I waited...and was amazed that though he's enticed by all the local honey he remains faithfully in touch with his main girl back home (sending her postcards and more postcards) and only gives those other girls a friendly hello--or allo.

Eventually there's that super sweet scene with Lupe returning home, and I'm like, "What a guy."

Nah Right also posted a link to this interview Lupe did with the Guardian.

It's a good piece with lots of focus on Lupe's nerdiness, which seems totally blown up to me. I mean I've heard people describe Pharrell, or Kanye, or now Lupe as nerds. This is totally ridiculous. Maybe it's just me, but don't people stop calling each other "cool" or "nerdy" after, I don't know, 8th grade?

The fact is, no one who makes as much money with as much fame or as much creative talent as those guys can ever be called nerdy. Reading comic books makes you nerdy? Caring about shoes makes you nerdy? Hardly.

When I was in high school and there were kids winning all this money for their national science competitions, I was never like, "That kid's a big nerd." I was like, "Man, I wish I got $500 for setting things on fire."


In other music news, Building JJ co-founder and Music Chair Jhuff alerted me to Pitchfork media's new video site the other day, and it's distracted me from school work ever since.

One warning: their videos are by default on the highest volume level, so if you're wearing headphones (like I was), make sure and turn that volume down lest your brain gets scattered all over the room.

Jhuff said he loved these videos quality--especially the one of Radiohead playing "Bangers and Mash," which is my favorite from CD2 and had me wowing over Thom's drumming--but I'm loving how many different kinds of music are represented.

There's also a video of an interview with Vampire Weekend (another current Jhuff favorite); J Dilla's "Nothing Like This" which is in Jhuff's Elecroslow II; and some Madvillain.

So enjoy some sweet video watching, readers. Speaking of Madvillain, here's my favorite (and real short) song from their album "Madvillainy":

Monday, April 14, 2008

So Long Arsenal 2007/2008 Season, So Long's over. Wenger conceded the league after Arsenal blew yet another lead against a top team (following their 1-0 and 2-1 leads at Chelsea and Liverpool, respectively) and lost in bogus heartwrenching form at Old Trafford earlier today.

What's most important to remember is that at the beginning of the season, many "experts" predicted Arsenal to finish lowest of the top four or to fall from Champions League qualification.

With hardly a handful of games left, I sincerely hope the squad finishes with their head up. Well, maybe everyone besides Adebayor, whom Hleb spoon fed chance after beautiful chance today.

We all have to keep in mind two main things:

First, that this team is still ridiculously young, and Wenger seems committed to keeping the core together. Our most important player, Cesc, is not even 21 yet. Although we could definitely benefit from a bit of experience and depth, I don't see a problem in keeping this team's core together. JHuff may disagree, but I feel that blowing up this whole team now would be a huge waste. Let's give them another chance, with a full squad...

...and that brings us to injuries. Arsenal have had to deal with more damning injury crises than any other team in the top four. When you look at the broader perspective, you have to be pleased with the team's point total (and how they held the premiership lead for so many weeks!) considering many of our most important players like Rosicky, Van Persie, and Eduardo were out.

That being said, I was so angry during the Manchester game today that I broke our La-Z-Boy. Ugh.

How many chances do we need? How many times does a team get to excruciatingly dominate a game and not score before we fans start taking limbs and family members as collateral?

We all appreciate the way they play, let's hope next year we'll get the results to show the rest of the world.

Obama vs. Elitism

When I first read the other day that Clinton and McCain had begun attacking Obama as elitist, I was immediately impressed by the strength of the offensive.

I mean, first and foremost, both McCain and Clinton were attacking--democrat and republican, joined in their fight against Obama!

But mostly, I just think this is a good way to get at Obama.

"Duh," one friend and Obama supporter told me. "All presidential candidates are elitist. How much money do they make a year? Exactly. Besides, you want your president to be highly educated and run in high circles. If that makes him/her elitist, fine."

And I of course agree that I would prefer a cosmopolitan president to a provincial one, but we're still not getting to the main reason why I feel these shots at Obama are stronger than most.

The main reason relates in part to what makes Obama so appealing to college kids, travel abroad alumni, entry-level young urban pros, suburbia, and the intelligentsia. It's his rhetoric, his typical "why I want to be President" and "why I'd make a good President" speeches.

The fact is that the hope and optimism, while touching the above groups of people, have less affect on those who want to hear specific plans for making their lives better.

And I honestly believe that they'd rather be fed specific plans and be lied to than told all about change and yes we cans.

So much of Obama's impact lies in his ability to transcend the political realm as we know it. We love him for the way he doesn't go along with the typical candidate technique of lying out of your a-crack just to pick up votes. We love how his focus is on the deepest questions of American politics, be they race or Congressional ethics or Presidential power.

But you have to ask yourself this question: if you're a lower-middle class citizen, particularly hard hit by the current economic "issues" (to say the least), how taken are you with someone who wants to transcend the only system of help you've known your whole life?

Obama called these people bitter
. And when you break it down his stance makes more sense--after all, if these people have only known one system and it has FAILED them time and again, why not support this cavalier cat who wants to change everything about the system?--but you have to wish he had chosen a less condescending and patronizing word as "bitter."

Although I have already professed my appreciation for Obama's rhetoric, I now find myself hoping he didn't make a colossal error here.

We know that Clinton and McCain are going to bring it now, with just over a week until the Pennsylvania primaries. The main question now is whether Obama can find a way to tweak his rhetoric so as to not only shield himself from the current attacks but also to win enough votes to take the state (he's currently behind in polls).

OR--will we see him lose but keep his significant delegate lead, keeping the fight alive until the convention, leaving McCain with all the time in the world to assemble his troops and reload.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Arsenal 2-4 Liverpool


Wow wow wow wow wow. What is there to say really? Arsenal's season is as good as over, while Liverpool has, for the second year in a row, squeezed through yet another round of the CL to keep their season alive.

Yesterday I wrote that Arsenal wouldn't go through because of their scoring problems. And, indeed, Adebayor missed a wide open chance in the second half, just him and the goalie. That chance would no doubt have changed the game completely if he had converted it.

But in the end Arsenal were able to score. Diaby had a great goal that had some beautiful one-touch passes and some horrible goalkeeper positioning to thank in the first half. And, of course, Theo Walcott created a goal that hearkened Thierry Henry's very best, and even (dare I compare it to an American sport??) Memphis's Derrick Rose.

And just as they did last Wednesday at Emirates Stadium, Liverpool bounced back and took control of the game after Arsenal scored--eventually tying it through a Hyppia goal that reminded me of Onyewu vs. Mexico, taking the lead through a clinical Torres goal, and then winning through a really bad horrible disgusting penalty call.

You know, this game will go down as one of the greatest Champions League ties ever. It had all the makings of a classic--two old time rivals, three GREAT goals--but the fact that it hinged on a terrible referee decision will scar it forever.

I don't care what anyone says. There is simply no argument that can justify Babel's PK being called and Hleb's last week being waived off. There is no argument, that is, except for bad officiating, which is exactly what we saw. And though I'm tempted to follow my farther's eternal advice, "It's never the ref's fault," because Adebayor should have scored his wide open chance, I can't leave it at that.

I wrote yesterday about the homefield advantage, the 12th man, that Anfield provides. But I didn't know that it had as much affect as Old Trafford on the outcome of games. Besides the ref's blatant PK atrocity, there was also the conspicuous absence of the correct amount of extra time. If I told you that there were three goals and four substitutions in regular time, would you have expected THREE minutes of extra time?

Look, I don't want to be a big cry baby about the game. The fact is that Liverpool is through, and because Gerrard made the PK, because they defended well after finally taking the lead for good, because they didn't concede another goal last week, for all these reasons and more, Liverpool deserve the win. I will, of course, be rooting for them down the stretch.

All I ask is that as much as today's game will be remembered as classic, it should also be remembered as a disaster.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Arsenal vs. Liverpool PREVIEW

I don't feel so good about the game tomorrow. Arsenal are going into one of if not the most difficult stadium to visit in the world, to play a team that manages to morph into a real contender when it comes to big Champions League ties, who have the world's best crunch time player and a forward that can score at any time, plus Liverpool have the advantage with the away goal they stole at Arsenal last Wednesday.

I also don't feel good about the meek way Arsenal have been scoring of late. They've needed headers off set pieces, not from open play, and not from the breaking down of other teams' defenses. Plus, they've had huge problems finishing off their nice moves.

On the other hand, Arsenal have without a doubt had the better of Liverpool in recent years, and they usually don't capitulate to pressure at the Kop.

If we break down the game a little further we'd find a really interesting matchup between two teams that have shown this season that they can both play stunningly beautiful soccer when they fancy, but that have been underwhelming for big chunks of the season. Liverpool's run of poor form came in the middle of the season, when their series of ties and losses knocked them out of League contention. But they've since recovered, thanks partly to the great form of Torres, but also to the return of Xavi Alonso.

Arsenal, on the other hand, are still fighting through their season's rough patch (which has been going for a good six weeks now). They've been racked by injuries and bad chemistry, and worst of all, it seems as though their inability to finish has infiltrated their collective psyche: now, when they miss a shot, the players don't look like it's only one miss, they look like it's indicative of some larger impotence. It's just like the end of last year--a psyche that Eduardo and others had shaken earlier this year. Ugh.

If we break it down even further we'd find a Liverpool team that is completely comfortable packing it in and holding out for a CL victory. What's more, now that they have Torres with Gerrard playing in behind him, they are even more dangerous on the break than 2005 or last year, when they made the CL finals.

The biggest problem, and I know I'm repeating myself, is that Arsenal can't score anymore. At least, they're not scoring convincingly. The worst part is that they're having difficulty scoring and breaking down teams when they're defensively set. This means that they're most dangerous on the break (indeed, they've always been) but we shouldn't expect Liverpool to be taking many risks and leaving themselves vulnerable to many counter attacks tomorrow.

If I had to point to key players, I'd point to Gerrard for Liverpool (DUH.) and Van Persie for Arsenal. I'll never forget Van Persie's first games for Arsenal. He came on a few games in the last ten minutes and scored the kinds of left foot rocket-goals that have become his staple. If Arsenal are to progress, it will be in part due to the Dutchman's left foot, AND AND AND AND AND his being fit, which I know is iffy at best.

So what can we predict?

We know that Liverpool picks up their game in the CL, but we've also seen how Arsenal can fight back this season. We've seen them perform best with their backs against the wall.

Still, the way they've failed to finish wide open chances in their recent run of ties has really made me skeptical of their attacking abilities. Even though they've shown they can score in the CL this year, even away in tough venues like the San Siro, I'm going to have to pick Liverpool to either keep the tie 1-1 or beat Arsenal in extra time/Pks.

I know it's hard to imagine Arsenal being held scoreless, so maybe it's more realistic to consider them being beaten in extra time/PKs. Just think of it this way: if you had to bet your life on Arsenal winning this game--knowing their recent troubles and injuries--would you? You know, I might--but it would only be out of loyalty.