Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How to Get a 0-0 If You're Chelsea And You're Playing Barca in the Champions League in 2009

Before this afternoon's Champions League semi-final between Barcelona and Chelsea (in Barcelona), I was eager to see the tactical and physical consequences of two of the best teams in the world--both in form, comprised of contrasting squads in terms of size and skill, used to playing in two very very different leagues--smashing against each other for 90 minutes.

Considering a CL system that awards double aggregate points for away goals, I was honestly surprised by how Chelsea's coach Gus Hiddink lined up his boys. They came out in an unabashedly defensive line-up, with recent favorite right side attacker Nicholas Anelka replaced by a defensive holding midfielder in Obi Mikel.

It was obvious from the outset (as well as the fact that their first few possessions were marked by passing it all the way back to goalkeeper Petr Cech) that Chelsea was in Barcelona with one mission in mind, double points for away goals be damned: Get a nil-nil, 0-0 result. Get back to London next week on even terms and pull ahead then.

Barcelona came out with their standard line-up except that experienced Mexican internationl Rafael Marquez replaced Barca horse Carlos Puyol in center defense.

So here's the main thing you have to do, as Chelsea, to get a scoreless draw (or a win, of course) at Barcelona:

Protect your center backs. Barca's danger this year ostensibly comes from their three-pronged attack--Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto'o, and Lionel Messi from left to right--but in reality derives from the midfield play of Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Those two are incredibly adept at finding the holes in between the defensive midfielders and the central defenders. If they receive the ball there, and turn, they find themselves facing the the backpedaling central defenders at pace. From that position, they can go for it themselves by beating the defender or shooting, OR, they can pass it to each other, Henry, Eto'o, Messi, or anyone else who's joined the attack.

Here's what it looks like when your two center backs are exposed and some combination of the world's best attacking team is coming at you (in this case, Iniesta finishes):

And that's exactly what Chelsea had to avoid.

How? By putting midfielders Obi, Michael Essien, Michael Ballack, and Frank Lampard in conservative, defensive positions in front of the two center backs, John Terry and Alex.

Now, keep in mind that this set-up leaves just Florent Malouda and Didier Drogba as feasible attacking options, plus Malouda was tracking Barca right back Dani Alves back most of the game, and you see just how committed Gus's boys were to keeping Barca out.

(And don't get me wrong, it's not that Terry/Alex is a bad centerback pairing--it's one of the best in the world. Protecting your center backs keeps them from having to make dramatic, lunging, goal saving tackles.)

In the end, Chelsea succeeded with their shape. They sacrificed width (Anelka would have provided that) with defensive mettle, and as a result it was much harder for Iniesta and Xavi to operate in the middle of the attacking third. The evidence is clear: Iniesta and Xavi settled for an unusually high number of long distance shots and never found their customary decisive ball into Henry, Eto'o, Messi, or anyone else in a dangerous position around the Chelsea box.

Just once were they caught out, where Barca were able to play a ball through the middle into Eto'o he received the ball for the first time with enough space to turn and face a center back one-on-one. He promptly burned Terry, then Alex, only to be saved brilliantly by Cech, which brings us to the next point.

Petr Cech used to be one of the top top top goalies in the world, hands down. Since his head injury, though, he's had a few less than totally stellar seasons. It was absolutely critical for Chelsea's game plan that Cech was flawless.

Well, he wasn't flawless. He looked shaky in his first touches and had to punch a few balls out that a more comfortable keeper would have caught, but he made the saves when Chelsea needed him to. He handled Henry, Xavi, and Iniesta's longer shots and was strong against Eto'o and Alexander Hleb's breakaways. So check that.

It's interesting: Chelsea's line-up looked a lot like the Jose Mourinho days, when they'd kick it up to Drogba up top, and he'd play it into some quick wingers running in the outside channels.

The main difference today was that no one was running off Drogba. Actually, the Barca centerbacks did a good job winning the long balls to Drogba, making it difficult for Chelsea to keep position in any kind of forward position. But that's the thing. Chelsea never even tried to push up. They were remarkably disciplined, never getting caught up in a forward position and leaving a counter attack open.

THAT's what's so interesting about the next match! Chelsea has to come out. And as soon as they start moving forward, will Barcelona be able to find the space that was denied them all game?

We shall see...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dempsey FTW!

Clint Dempsey had two crucial goals for Fulham in a win at Manchester City yesterday. Fulham are now in 8th place in the prem. Good for them.

Dig it:

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Poke Her Face

Here's something that continues a couple mainline JJ themes. A ridiculously good remix that I would argue is better than the original (see this and this) plus a version of Lady Gaga's Poker Face.

It's called "Poke Her Face" (ha.) and was put together by Kanye and some friends, namely Kid Cudi, Common, 'Ye, and A-Trak. Enjoy.

Bsto's Thesis

Hey JJers, this might be entirely masturbatory, but I thought I'd put up a quick link to my thesis, just in case people want to read it.

So here: Title page. Real deal Holyfield.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Video Premiere: Jozy Da Savior Edition

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

My apologies for making you listen to John Harkes, even for less than two minutes--but it's worth it to see Jozy Altidore's hat trick this past Wednesday in the USMNT's World Cup qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago.

Not sure if he is the savior of American soccer, but he's 19, and probably our most talented player right now. The best news? He's playing in Europe right now. Eat your heart out, LD. Originally signed by Villareal (where he was training with Robert Pires, Nihat, and Joan Capdevilla), he was sent to Second Division team Xerex to get more playing time and ease his aclimation to Spanish culture.

Here's his only goal in La Liga, from back in November:

He's got some time to grow before the World Cup, so here's to a successful run in La Liga next season and more highlights!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

FSC Gets the Champions League

...and all I get is this free t-shirt?

In all seriousness, though, Fox Soccer Channel has picked up the rights to next season's Champions League. Big news? Certainly, because it speaks ill of ESPN's commitment to the beautiful game.

ESPN owns the rights to the next two World Cups and did a great job televising last summer's Euro Cup. They also supposedly bid a large sum to televise English Premier League games, though from what has been gathered, that was just for the British rights--not the rights to show games in the US.

Why does it matter? Because ESPN is basic cable, and ESPN has more than one station to program these games on. As it is, it's impossible to watch Arsenal Champions League games on television because of ESPN's love of Manchester/Liverpool/Chelsea, but at least the chance is there. I don't even want to think about what could happen if the games are on one station (I'd do the probability of seeing an Arsenal game, but this isn't the "fair dice" that they talk about in statistics class, so I'll pass).

The ratings for Champions League games are solid, especially considering that the games are shown in the middle of the day. 255,000 households on average per game? Over one million for the final during the middle of the day? UEFA is making a huge mistake in letting it go to FSC. I know it probably came down to the money, but if they care about the teams becoming brands in the United States, it would be in their best interests to have the game on the station in 98 million households as opposed to 34 million households.

Of course, the argument is that if you care about the Champions League, you've already got FSC anyway. Fine. That keeps the numbers static and does not foster growth.

Shame on you, UEFA. And shame on ESPN for deciding, for the very first time, that it was not worth the investment. It can't be that FSC could have outbid ESPN by that much...

...then again, FSC is owned by Fox, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also happens to own SkySports, the company that bought the rights to most of the British air rights of the EPL games.

It's a similar situation across the pond--SkySports is premium cable while other sports networks are not. At least, though, they've got access to the stadiums to go out to the games if they wish.


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Heeb Magazine Must Be Hilarious—Fake Holocaust Memoir Writing Contest

Note: This is posted at InTheMoment, Moment Magazine's blog. Still quite pertinent to JJers, methinks. I'm curious what you all think about it. Am I overreacting?

In their most recent gimmick, Heeb has outdone even their own high standard of Jewish tomfoolery. Really outdone it. The idiosyncratic Jewish quarterly has announced a fake Holocaust memoir writing contest.

Entirely out of jest, the publicity stunt comes from the exposure of fake Holocaust memoirs by Herman Rosenblat and Misha Defonseca.

The contest's rules include the following:

7. We reserve the right to mock any and all entries.
8. We reserve the right to publish and mock the winning entry.
9. "Memoirs" shall be defined as a form of writing, not a collage, short film or interpretive dance piece.
11. No parking baby. No parking on the dance floor.
12. No use of the words "tumescent," "engorged" or "moist," unless they are referring to cake
13. No previously published fake Holocaust memoirs
15. We are not liable for anything, anytime, anywhere, no givesies backsies, infinity.

The Holocaust, it's true, is easy joke fodder. Almost every stand-up comedian, Jewish or gentile, has at least one Hitler or Nazi joke. And okay, irreverence is Heeb's M.O. But it's an entirely different thing to use farcical memoirs to openly mock what really did happen in the Holocaust.

It's hard to imagine a survivor—perhaps an author of legitimate Holocaust memoirs—reading about the contest and finding it as hilarious as Heeb thinks it is. For that reason, it's hard not be offended by their charade. It's insensitive to say the least, and, were one to consider the struggles of survivors themselves, downright cruel.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Landon Donovan, Go Back Abroad!

Landon Donovan is back from his brief loan spell at German league giants Bayern Munich. He goes from playing with Franck Ribery, Luca Toni, Miroslav Klose, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and other world class players (Lucio's my boy, and don't forget Podolski) to playing with Stefani Miglioranzi, Chris Klein, and Dema Kovalenko (Becks isn't back until later in the summer) and other MLS mainstays.

Well. That sucks for him.

Not that I have even the slightest smidgen of pity for the guy. He decided long ago to be the face of the MLS, and even though most of this country doesn't give a crap about the MLS or any of its body parts, I give him credit for trying to build up the game here.

There's a major problem, though, with his noble bravado. He knows that playing overseas is the best way for American players to get better. And surely he knows that the only way Americans are really going to start paying attention to soccer is if the Americans get really really good at it.

So his work in trying to promote soccer in the States is self-contradictory: the best way for him to promote the game is not to be the face of the MLS but to go abroad, get better, and help the US in the international tourneys. I say without the slightest hesitation that Clint Dempsey has done more good for American soccer by winning a starting job at Fulham, holding it down, and playing critical roles in Fulham's wins over Chelsea, Manchester United, and Arsenal this season than Donovan will have done in years in the MLS.

According to the Guardian, Donovan said,

"It was very instructive watching the other guys on the team -- how (Franck) Ribery gets the ball, how Miroslav Klose moves into space to get the ball, how Luca Toni would look to receive, those things will help me a lot," he told reporters.

"Training at that level makes you better. Playing games at that level makes you better."

So what's left for him in the States? My suggestion is for him to get back abroad as soon as possible. Even though he did not have a remarkably successful time at Bayern, he did play. And just look at his quote! Even practicing with the best in the world makes you better. There is no doubt that other clubs in Europe that would take him. How could he even fathom going back to LA Galaxy practices!?

Just under 30 years old, Donovan is at the tail end of his physical peak. Whatever he does, he should act soon. He's running out of time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Abou Diaby FTW!

One of the most frustrating players on Arsenal because he can score goals like these...

...with real aplomb. Super control, surprising speed and balance, and poised finishing.

Yet since his horrific ankle break/dislocation in May 2006, he has failed to stay fit for any length of time; and in the time he has been fit, he hasn't played with the kind of consistency that would make him one of the best players on the team.

Well, but he's only 22...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

the future.


I understand that we know care about what celebrities do..who they're dating, where they eat, what club they go to (JJ staffer ederms did a bit of paparazzi-ing on his most recent jaunt to LA) and the like, but we care about THIS?

I'm amazed. Either it was a slow news day or ....well, I don't know what other excuse there can be.

Monday, March 9, 2009

nothing changes.

So, Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" is good...but this is the best one ever.

Yeah, it's in Japanese, and yeah, it's jpop, but the only thing you need to know is that Hamasaki Ayumi is actually kind of talented (she does all of her own arrangements and writes her lyrics). The song boils down to one lyric--"It could all be so simple: I want your love"


Nothing changes.

And on that note, I need to study for my Asian security midterm.

Friday, March 6, 2009

friday video premiere

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

I'll be the first to admit that I hate Lady Gaga's "Just Dance". In fact, I may be the only person to admit it. It's a lousy song.

But, I also have to say that her song "Poker Face" is amazing.

The chorus' key is just amazing, and the "My po-po-po-po-po-poker face" bit is so good. If I could combine those parts with the beginning of Wing's "Live and Let Die"("you know you did you know you did you know you did"), I am convinced I would be left with the greatest song in history. I'm not even joking.

I was also amazed by this:

Listening to her music, you think she can't really sing and it's all digital and she has no talent. Her voice actually shines here, and she can play the piano. Yeah, she's not fantastic as a pianist, but it's still impressive.

I'm also impressed by the bow on her head--it's her own hair, bowed onto itself. Amazing.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Goofy Mixtape

Hey JJers. Isn't Arsene great?

Aaaaanyhoo. Here's a mix of goofy songs, mostly hip-hop, whose humor derives either from a ridiculous concept, overt flamboyance, or just straight goofiness. About three of them came up consecutively on my party shuffle, and I just decided to extend it into an all out mix. There are some songs with naughty words, so it's not all sfw. Sorry.

Download the .zip file here. It's the one called "IfKirkWasTheAandR." (And don't forget to download some of the other JJ mixes up there, all those classics.)

Track list:

stay up viagra--88 keys + k west
alphabet aerobics--blackalicious
just anotha crazy click--three six mafia + ludacris
a word from fresh breath mouthwash--dj qbert
iz they wildin us & gettin rowdy wit us--busta rhymes +mystikal
thugged out since cub scouts--cunnlynguists
be healthy--dead prez
why you wanna get funky...--del tha funky homosapien
the tale--dj cam + ty
nappy heads (remix)--the fugees
super boo--kid cudi
blame it on the jager--soul position
buddy--de la soul
ebonics--big L
big girls need love too--blueprint
suck my dick--lil kim
bonus cricket--kid koala
throw some (cousin cole remix)--k west


i did this awhile back. and, heaven forbid this turns too journal-y, but these are the lessons that i think i've picked up thus far. i was inspired a bit by those esquire "the way i see it" interviews, where there's never a question--the answers from the interviewee are just...there

the universe tends to work itself out.

nothing is static. constants change and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that—not now, not ever. static is equitable to stagnation, and that's the worst thing for progressive, growing people.

mostly everyone I love is far away. and there's less wrong with that than one would think. that realization of "everyone I love is far away" hits once in awhile, and of course, it hurts a lot at first. but you've got to say "there's a reason I love them"—and there is. Their gifts and talents take them to far-off places where they can ply their craft. "They're incredible people, and that's why you love them"…and when you realize that it's a gift to have them and to love them and to be loved by them. and they know where to find me. and I know where to find them. and that will never change.

we're always exactly where we need to be.

big problems are usually blown out of proportion and are never really worth worrying about. it's the little things that creep out of nowhere that one should watch out for—but they're impossible to see until they're there, so, really, it's not worth worrying about anything. worrying is so counter-productive. so don't worry. ever.

zero percent of the time do we ever one-hundred percent fail.

love is simple: it's when you truthfully care more about said person than you do yourself. it's a simple concept, but it's hard to realize or achieve or find—like learning to fish and actually fishing. and on the fishing note, both love and and fishing about being simultaneously proactive and incredibly patient.

when in doubt, leave it out--unless it's the truth. it's always about the truth. always.

deciding on taking a jacket in spring is hard. it's like being prepared for the worst and hoping for the best. but, then you'll end up carrying something in your hands that you don't need to worry about—it just turns into another thing you may lose, and we all know we already have way too many things that meet that criteria in our lives.

putting yourself out there may seem corny, but do it. it'll be better for all parties in the end. best case scenario? you'll end up with a friend and a good story. worst case scenario? you've got a good story and a jerk who you didn't really want in your life anyway. we do miss one-hundred percent of the shots that we don't take and only 57% of the shots that we do. I'll take my chances, thank you very much.

don't shave for a few days. it's a subtle rebellion.

make sure your clothes fit. you don't want to look like you're living someone else's life.

as long as you know your aim is true, you're golden. everything else will come.

it's never as late as it seems…or it's always way later than you think. rule of thumb: infomercials? not late. "becker"? this comes on after infomercials. once becker is on, you know it's probably a bit too late to get a restful, fulfilling sleep. sorry.

don't ever try to have it all figured out. you never will. of this, I am absolutely sure.

whether you work on something for four hours or forty or four hundred, you'll still find something wrong with it. always always always.. learn to say when. It's like giving your work birthmarks and scars—they're representations of who we are at that particular point in time. Our imperfections are beautiful and are more telling of who we are than anything else.

To revisit "becker" (in a way): seeing "saved by the bell" is never a bad thing—once this is on, it's actually tv's best attempt at apologizing that you were up all night and trying to make it up to you by saying "good morning" as best as it possibly can.

I used to think that if clothes made the man, music defined the soul. but I listen to the spice girls, and I am not a pre-pubescent girl (and never was, to the best of my knowledge). conversely, I also listen to merzbow. Accordingly, I do not think I am clinically insane. somewhere between the two, though—which actually isn't saying much about me other than that I'm pretty normal.

that robot voice in Michael jackson's "PYT" at the bridge? why? on that note, I'm impressed Kanye could incorporate the chipmunk voice in the song in one of his own pieces and have it sound exactly like the chipmunks that can be found in 36% of his other songs.

you'd be surprised at how little people talk about you.

you'd also be pleased to know that someone is always thinking the world of you.

Ironically, from the mouth of thom yorke: lighten up, squirt.

at your convenience

here is the link to the kanye west "storytellers" videos.


kanye just gets it. what struck me most (other than the performances) were the responses on the page. kanye isn't trying to be artistic--he is an artist. i don't understand why artist is such a bad word to so many people. but the lighting (my goodness, the lighting...if i could describe what i'd want my bedroom to look like, i finally have a point of referene), the instrumentaton and the histrionics of it all...it's just perfect.

and, i actually like "808s and Heartbreak" more than Thom Yorke's "Eraser"...so there.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

on second thought.

Last night, I was watching Kanye West's "Storytellers" on VH1. Not only did it make me want to listen to "808s and Heartbreak", but it made me want to examine Kanye's songs that are criminally underrated.

By underrated, I mean, essentially, that the song wasn't a single and gets neglected when Kanye's canon is being spoken of. This was mostly motivated by the fact that 'Ye didn't perform "Paranoid" which is easily the best song on "808s" and yet will probably not be a single off of the album.

So, here goes.

"The College Dropout"

This record has two primary underrated tracks. First up is "We Don't Care"

It's hard to name the first track on an album "underrated", because first song's are the opener and always get listened to. However, this song just doesn't get the mention deserves.

Next up is "Family Business"

Poignant. Kanye talking about being their for your family. Though none of my family gets into trouble the way 'Ye's does, the message is still there.


Late Registration

This album also has two underrated tracks: "Celebration" and "We Major"

Such a good beat and typically hilarious Kanye lyrics.

"We Major"

This song is SO UNDERRATED that there were next to no videos for it on youtube. Go figure. Probably the most celebratory piece in his repertoire, it was somehow skipped over as a single.



This one is easy: "Everything I Am"

Sadly, the only video for this song I could find was a Dwyane Wade highlight reel

808s and Heartbreak

With Kanye already recording his next album (he said it's coming out this summer), this song will unfortunately probably never be featured as a single. It's unfortunate, because it's probably one of the top five tracks that he's ever done.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Distance and the Holocaust

(Photo of the electric fence at Sachsenhausen concretation camp by bsto.)

Last night I couldn't sleep after reading Tadeusz Borowski's short story within the eponymous book "This Way For The Gas Ladies and Gentlemen."

Having taking classes and written on both tragedy and comedy, I find it is the combination of the two that makes the most effective emotive impact. Regarding Holocaust literature, think Maus, by Art Spiegelman (who I will get to speak to in April). Anyway we can talk about dark humor another day.

...I couldn't sleep last night.

But honestly, I knew that I could have if I had really tried. I hadn't shed a tear. And it comes down to one thing:


Distance is our asset right now. Now is the perfect time to study the Holocaust. We--my generation--are removed enough to face the facts without being paralyzed or suffocated by them; we are far enough from Germany to avoid getting sick of seeing artifacts, evidence at every street corner. Even as I was affected by "This Way For The Gas Ladies and Gentlemen," I knew I could sleep.

Still, we are close enough to be touched by real survivors, to see a grandfather struggle to pronounce the word "Auschwitz" not because of his experience but because of what could have been his experience. We are close enough to know what the Holocaust really was.

Our generation, therefore, has the biggest burden to shoulder. No one-on-one interviews with survivors or first-hand witnesses. They will mostly be gone by the time we finish graduate school, certainly before we reach 40.

No. We will be the ones who delineate the canon, who write the policies, who adjudicate between representations and memories of the Holocaust.

It's a responsibility and an honor. But our time, of course, is flying by.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Facebook's 25 Things Are Alright With This Guy

I'm just going to come out and confess it (ha, like those ridiculously ubiquitous Proactive commercials that start with Jennifer Love Hewitt confessing her "love affair" with acne cream):

I really like the Facebook 25 things phenomenon. I don't think it requires a whole bunch of Stephen Marche-esque cultural analysis. Like, I don't think the phenomenon derives entirely from a narcissistic generation of indoor kids who lack real contact with the outside world and require such a medium to satisfy the Neanderthal desire to talk about themselves.

No. I think that when they're done right the 25 Things notes are funny, enlightening, and nothing close to a waste of time. But the key phrase there is "done right." Nobody wants to read self-congratulatory acceptance speech gobbledygook; nobody cares about the cliched factoids that tell us nothing about yourself or your life; and it's just downright inappropriate to include overly personal information on your sexual drive and bathroom habits.

The key is this: All our Facebook profiles are an exercise in public relations. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we all construct a public image of ourselves that leads to opinions and judgments from onlookers. The 25 things phenomenon fits in neatly with this paradigm.

In essence, it's just an extension of the "info" section on our profiles. And that's the whole fun. Don't lie: you loved making a list of favorite movies and favorite TV shows. You loved deciding whether it was ironically funny or potentially immature-seeming that the only book you included was "Everybody Poops."

So go ahead, Facebook. Do what you do. I'll be watching.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Video Premiere: Manhattan Island Monkey Edition

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

This week's video is from one of the best Woody Allen movies evurr:

The opening scene of Manhattan, god bless it.

I may be the only JJer who listens to classical music in a context besides studying, but I have no doubt that we can all enjoy George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue together here. Don't let United Airlines ruin it for you. It is an astounding piece of music. Really. It's playful and buoyant, it's smooth and rich--kind of like the girl of your dreams. And what more could you want from music?

As it is proclaimed so prominently on the back of the DVD box, Woody scored the entire movie to Gershwin. The composer's cosmopolitanism, the way he composed popular, jazzy, Broadway, as well as classical masterpieces, befits the movie because even though it's not always merry, it's ALWAYS urban.

That opening scene is so well shot, too. Woody mixed it up with far away shots of the island, close up and personal shots of humanity; then moving shots following still shots; wet scenes interspersed with dry ones--it's a legendary montage, capped with that epic fireworks show that feels nothing short of celestial.

Now how's THAT for singing someone's praises. Yeah I'm sprung.

OK, check out this progression:

From original Gershwin:

Very pretty. Move to a bit more spunky version with Billie (this video is crazy!):

Then to the Sublime application:

Doin Time - Sublime

We could end with the Pharcyde version, but that would involve spending too much time trying to find it on the increasingly slow cafe interwebs, so just take my word that Gershwin goes much, much further.

Woot woot!

Happy Friday!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Blah Blah New Music Blah Blah Your Face


Adele won best new artist or sumtin last night at the Gramsauce so it just shows my knack for falling in love with party shuffle songs that catch my attention mid-studying. Take, for example, this thingy I put up on my fb wall last week:

Why'd it catch my attention? Maaaan, as soon as you hear those opening hits you just FEEL Biggie coming at you in "Dead Wrong." That's a disgusting song, with lyrics as brutal as the lyricist's death, but it's also an epic beat. This video is hilarious (a) because it's cornier than Hugh Grant, and (b) like 75% of the words are bleeped out. Dig this version, with a super young Eminem keeping up with heinous lyrics of his own:

So you can tell why I love that Adele version so much. It not only takes what was so good about the Gangsta Era (the music) and adds to it; it also takes you by surprise with the inventive use of an old beat--which is to say, it is a damn good remix.

Good work, Kickdrums.

Good work, JJers.

Happy Monday, or sumtin.

Thoughts on Casualties in Iraq & Afghanistan

Note: I did not personally know LCpl. Anderson or his family. This was an assignment for a class. I chose to write about LCpl. Anderson because of his age and because he was killed in action in Iraq.

Lance Corporal Norman W. Anderson III was killed in Iraq on October 19, 2005 by a suicide car bomber in Karabilah, a town on the Syrian border. His mission was to prevent insurgents from crossing between Iraq and Syria. LCpl. Anderson’s gravesite was one of the markers at Arlington that I was attracted to because he was 21 years old when he was killed in Iraq, making him a little more than three years my senior. This is someone I could have gone to high school with and the fact that LCpl. Anderson and I both come from very small communities is a fact that resonated with me.

Parkton, MD is a town of 6,600 located near the Pennsylvania border. My own hometown, Lancaster, MA, is a small town in central Massachusetts with a population of 7,380. LCpl. Anderson attended Hereford High School, a school I imagine to be very similar to Nashoba Regional, the high school I attended. After LCpl. Anderson was killed in Karabilah, his high school held a memorial for him before a home football game.

The visual I have of this memorial service is one I have formed from reading about LCpl. Anderson and his hometown. However, I feel like I have constructed a fairly accurate picture nonetheless. I picture the lights illuminating a football field, with both teams on bended knees as his former football coach addresses the crowd. The sense of belonging to a community was strong in Lancaster and I imagine the same to be true of Parkton. I don’t mean any romanticized or trite sense of superiority that often comes when people speak of the small towns they come from. Just that in a town of a few thousand, you are aware of the fact that your town is small and that in one way or another you are familiar with everyone on a very basic level.

Thus, in my memorial service, the people of Parkton would stand silently and watch as family members and former teammates recounted the life of LCpl. Norman W. Anderson III. Many people would cry, some would be overcome by an awkward sense of cowardice that, in light of LCpl. Anderson’s unimaginable sacrifice, makes them feel as though they are unworthy of even partaking in a moment of remembrance on his behalf. At least, that’s the feeling I kept coming back to as I passed the graves of World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans until I finally arrived at the edge of section 60 where soldiers from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom are buried. This feeling amplifies itself considerably when I realize that many of these soldiers are only slightly older than I am. Some of them are even younger. While I lived my life these past 8 years free from the thought of ever having to serve in the military, these people signed up to serve and ended up dying for it.

I don’t think I harbor any foolish notions about the glory of war. I am not even particularly patriotic. However, men and women like LCpl. Anderson will always overwhelm me with the epic tragedy of their sacrifices. I even feel guilty for wondering to myself as I look at the headstones of these soldiers if they actually believed in what they were doing. As it turns out, that isn’t always easy to discern. LCpl. Anderson’s godmother reported that before his death he had told his mother to “please remember I’m doing what I wanted to do.” However, one of his friends from home said that at LCpl. Anderson “didn’t seem too happy; he didn’t know why he was there.” This observation came at LCpl. Anderson’s wedding. He had returned from a tour in Afghanistan to marry his high school sweetheart. They spent their honeymoon at a Baltimore Inner Harbor hotel because he had to ship out to Iraq soon after the wedding day.

            The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have shaped my generation’s perception of conflict in a way that the historical memory of World War II or Vietnam, accuracy of these memories aside, could not. It is interesting that even in the middle of these two wars, the historical memories of these conflicts are being written with two conflicting narratives, epitomized by Parkton, MD’s own reaction to the death of one of its citizens in Iraq. The WBAL news report emphasized LCpl. Anderson’s commitment to Country, God, and the Corps. It contained the quote from his godmother. It was adding to the narrative of noble sacrifice that people, and this is not exclusive to small towns, want to believe in. As Americans, we want to know our fighting men and women died courageously and committed to the mission and ideals we hold dear. In this story, there is no room for doubt about a soldier’s commitment to the mission. There is no place to question why a boy joined the Marines while still in high school or why a on his tombstone it does not list, as with Korea and Vietnam, the conflict he died in but rather the mission he died for: Operation Iraqi Freedom. Perhaps in fifty or one hundred years people won’t remember so well the ambiguity of the Iraq War. They might even confuse it with the Persian Gulf War. However, if any of these people visit section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery and take the time to look at the grave of LCpl. Norman W. Anderson III, they’ll see that he died for the freedom of a downtrodden people and think, “Well at least he died for a good cause.”

            This is not to suggest that that isn’t the case. However, it seems that it isn’t honest to the memory of LCpl. Anderson, a man who himself may have harbored misgivings about an ambiguous fight in distant country. This is the other narrative of the war. One where we decry the leaders who lead us down the path to war. Where phased withdrawals and Vietnam comparisons shout down those who think we need to stay the course. In this narrative, the picture of LCpl. Anderson that his former coach keeps in his office and the memorial service in Parkton, MD are not seen as fitting tributes to a soldier. Instead they only serve as tragic reminders of the futility of the Iraq War and the countless Parktons who have had to memorialize their fallen soldiers. This also is a dishonest way to view the death of LCpl. Anderson. The two mutually exclusive narratives of these wars are fighting the battle over our national memory.

            While at Arlington, I saw a family mourning a soldier at a grave near to where LCpl. Anderson is buried. Seeing them there, more than anything, drove home what I have always felt to be the real problem with casualties and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Troops are supported and people call for troops to be brought home. Soldiers serve honorably and soldiers’ deaths are reported in newspapers. However, troops and soldiers have families. In the case of LCpl. Norman W. Anderson III he had a mother and a father, a best friend and a godmother, and a wife of a few months. He was a person who played football at Hereford High School. He grew up in Parkton, MD. In the memorial service I constructed in my head, I hope that the people looking out onto the field, in addition to the feelings of inadequacy and patriotism and pride they might be feeling in the wake of LCpl. Anderson’s sacrifice, would take the time to remember that he was a unique individual before he was a symbol of a noble cause or a failed war. 

Friday, January 30, 2009

Blagojevich....Burnt Toast

First off, the irony of this photo is wonderful (pay close attention to the street name).

Blagojevich, your plane is boarding: Yesterday, the state senate voted 59-0 to remove this clown from office. Patrick Quinn, his former running mate and lieutenant governor, was named his replacement. All I can say is it's about time and I look forward to Illinois politics no longer being the laughingstock of the world.


Friday Video Premiere

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

Note: this is also posted at Sportscentric.

Puma has a history of audacious projects that, for one reason or another, always end up falling short of expectations. Remember those ridiculous one-piece soccer kits they proposed? (Look right.)

Their most recent collaboration with fashion icon Alexander McQueen is another project that seems destined to fall woefully short of their goals.

Dig the "movie"--to call such a project an "ad" would be positively beneath them, ha--above.

Directed by the sooo-hot-right-now Saam Farhamand, this, erm, collection of moving pictures is supposed to impress us with Puma's artistic vision? Their sophisticated attempts at unifying athletic wear with cosmopolitan notions of style and dance?

I can't speak for others, but the lasting sentiment I get from the piece is not inspiration;
it's more in the realm of the weird and off-putting. The music is cool, I'll give them that. I would love to partake in an epic, rainy duel with that music in the background. But that's about all this has going for it.

Two words keep coming to mind when I watch this: impersonal and farfetched. Like the "Until Then" ads (below), this piece is impossible to relate to and therefore unattached to my own experience. I am not impressed with the choppy images we get of what might well be impressive human movements.

This does not make we want to buy Puma gear.

We know that Puma is not Nike, or Adidas. They should be saluted for thinking outside the box in their attempts to gain entry into the sportswear circle of gods. And maybe the concept of McQueen's "ManCat" as a "creative reference" (whatever that means) will bring a cadre of fashionistas to Puma. But this piece is, literally, too narrow to grab and incorporate potential customers--it does more to turn them away.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday Video Premiere

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

This week, we've got another installment of "instances where the remix is better than the original song".

This week's song is Friendly Fires' "Paris"

"Paris" is a great song--full of stacatto, hazy guitars, dance rock time signatures, and delayed guitar laser beams. The band's usage of two drummers who employ bare minimum drum kits is also interesting.

But, Aeroplane's spacey, italo-disco remix of "Paris" is just better. This was difficult--because the original song is really beautiful...especially the ending, when it turns into a better version of U2's "City of Blinding Lights" (clearly showing that modern rockers still pay deserved deference to U2).

The fat, retro, analog (sounding) synths are so blissful and etheral, and adding incredibly timely handclaps as well the girls of Au Revoir Simone to the mix just make for a beautiful remix. This version is sensual and breathless, and it features not one but TWO memorable synth lines.

I also like how the promise of "I'll find you/that French boy/You'll find me/that French girl" is utilized in both versions (and not switched, as is common knowledge in covers done by bands with singers the opposite sex of the original band). In the original version, these lyrics are fitting--the vocalist seems to be promising someone to start a relationship with the
"partner" moving with him to Paris (you've got to think that the relationship between the narrator and the song's intended recipient is strange..it sounds platonic, but as if one party wants it to be more than that). But, in the Aeroplane remix, it's almost as if the song's protagonists will be re-born as the "French boy" and "French girl" of the other party's dreams.

Both songs are really stirring, and while the Aeroplane remix gets a bit dodgy for a bit during the bridge, I must admit that, once again, this is a song that has a remix better than the original song itself.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

odds and ends

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

Unfortunately, a heinous act has once again hit Virginia Tech. An accounting grad student was decapitated at an Au Bon Pain restaurant by a man she knew. This act is incredibly sick and despicable, and our condolences go out to her family.

So many questions...but the biggest one is "How exactly did someone get decapitated in a restaurant?" No one saw a struggle at all? I don't know how courageous I am, and if I saw someone brandishing a gun, I'd quickly run away (when I saw one man start beating another while standing in line to watch Notorious last week, I quickly ushered my girlfriend away from the scene because I was scared that people would be carrying heat), but if I saw someone trying to cut off the head of another person with a knife, you can bet I'd jump into the fray.

I'm really ashamed of CNN's reporting, too. That last line? "Authorities say on April 16, 2007, Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 students and professors before killing himself." ...because, uh, only authorities knew about that?


As called for by the JJ Collective, Manchester United and AIG will not renew their sponsorship deal beyond 2010.

I think it's a year too long, especially with President Obama calling for more transparency and cutting pork spending. I mean, is it really in the best interest of a federal government owned corporation that was saved by the bailout to continue to pay to sponsor one of the world's richest sporting clubs?


And, it seems that it didn't take long for the wrongs of former President Bush to come out of the woodwork.

Really, really scary stuff when it comes down to it. Let's hope President Obama moves us away from this KGB-esque spying on innocent civilians.

And, interestingly enough, the White House does not have Wi-Fi, and presidents are usually advised against using personal computers in the White House.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Video Premiere

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

This week's video involves the newly crowned Fifa world player of the year, to whom Nike made this viral ad/homage:

Cristiano Ronaldo (who should be called "Cronaldo" in order to separate him and the best Ronaldo at the time of his emergence) may have won the world's best player award last week. But he sure as balls didn't win any more fans. A quick recap:

Here's why you may love Ronaldo:

  • He's the best dribbler in the world; when a move of his comes off right, it seems to defy the physical limitations of earth. He can do ridiculous freestyle tricks, and has uncanny control:

  • He has a unique form of striking the ball from free kicks; when he kicks it right, the ball swerves in a manner that seems to defy the physical limitations of earth.
  • He cries. A lot. That shows passion, that shows commitment.
  • He has scored some important goals in big games.
  • He's good looking, and has a Portuguese accent.
But there's a reason why Nike's above video is meaningful, and I'm not talking about some cheesy cliche like "Your hate makes me unstoppable." The reason why Nike created something good here is that Cronaldo is one of the easiest players in sports to hate.

Here's why you should hate Cronaldo:
  • He dives enough to ruin the game for the average American viewer. The number one complaint of American viewers towards soccer these days is no longer "Wahhhh wahhhh, there aren't enough goals, soccer is boring." Now it's, "those guys are such wimps, why do they fake injury and fouls?" Cronaldo is the premier diver in soccer. If you hate diving, you don't like Cronaldo.
  • Worse than just diving, he's a drama queen. He stays on the ground flopping around like a fish out of water and it's really embarrassing just to watch.
  • He has a tendency to lash out at opposing players, commiting gross fouls that could cause serious injury.
  • He plays for Manchester United.

I know. It doesn't add up. And honestly, I don't HATE the man. But I don't like him. It's hard to hate anybody who can do the things he does with a soccer ball; he's literally invented a new set of moves for younguns to replicate. But his diving is terrible and hurts the game I love.

So now you know, if I'm in that Nike commercial, I'm pulling down the black screen.

Here's a good compilation:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

football odds and ends

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

...and we've got it from both sides of the Atlantic.

First up--Mayor Ravenstahl of Pittsburgh decided to get rid of the "Raven" in his last name because his hometown Steelers are playing the Ravens in the AFC Championship game this weekend.

His proposed new name? Steelerstahl. Interestingly enough, Stahl means "steel" in German.


The Guardian has also taken interest in what the new Philadelphia MLS team will call themselves. I'm glad that they also hate the name "Real Salt Lake" (because we all know there is an abundance of royal families in Utah), but in true Guardian fashion, they haven't got a real solution.

And, the same paper also reports that ESPN is expected to bid for the rights to televise the English Premier League. It is unclear if these rights would be for ESPNs British operations or if they would extend to the States and the Pacific Rim, but this would all be moot if ESPN bought out Setanta, as has been frequently bandied around as of late.

With ESPN carrying Euro 2008 this summer as well as the World Cup (in partnership with parent network ABC) as well as some European Qualification matches for the 2010 World Cup, you've got to think that the company aims to make regular football...errmm, soccer....coverage more regular. Yes, the company has the Champions League, but that competition has such an erratic and irregular schedule that it would only behoove ESPN to nail down a weekly list of games. I mean, what else is the company showing on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Bowling? Women's Trick Shot Billiards?

ESPN is losing out on a key audience by not having regular soccer programming. But, perhaps buying Setanta and keeping that station's soccer rights on Setanta makes the most economic sense. ESPN will not realize a greater profit simply by showing soccer games, so why not acquire a pay network and put it under your umbrella? That way, the expanded coverage more than pays for itself.

Cheers. Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

five in the morning.

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

The hook to this song was stuck in my mind for days...knowing no words to it other than "five in the morning..." meant it was going to be a tough task to find the song.

Enter google. Yeah. That would have worked, except I had no other lyrics. Finally, a more astute fan of trashy r&b figured out that i was missing the word "it's" before "five in the morning" and found the song in seconds. Special thanks to Jessica Nakashima for making my dream of finding this song come true and for also making me look like a Google n00b.

Anyway, I had no idea that the song I was looking for was so...raunchy? Ridiculous?

You be the judge:

This song is either horribly brilliant or incredibly terrible. It's either incredibly post-modern, satirical and sarcastic or it is speaking about the fans of the band.

I really can't tell. I mean, it's a song about phone intercourse. Is it serious? Is it not serious? It's so hard to tell if rappers are ever satirical (I mean, is this NSFW song by Riskay satirical or honest? Does it matter?).

If this song is a social statement on online hook-ups, it's astoundingly brilliant. I mean, the song admits that he "made a mess in his pants". And, it's hard to tell if the woman who supposedly comes to his house in the Range thirty minutes after saying she would come over really ever went to his abode or if he imagined the entire thing through their phone session.

And, even if it isn't satirical--well, I mean here is a group of men who are willing to state that they don't take home girls from the club. No, no--they go home from the bar and call up the "hotline".

Either way, I guess this song just floors me. It's either cryptically venomous or brutally honest and open.

(And how is this entire group called Pretty Ricky? Are they all named Ricky?)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Kanye West Primer for my Pops

Paranoid feat. Mr. Hudson - Kanye West

Here's the track list of a Kanye West primer I made my dad. I left out a lot of the hit singles because they're (a) overplayed and (b) not 'ye's best stuff, just his most head-bangable. I also stuck strictly to songs from his albums; I left out remixes or guest tracks he's appeared on.

Tell me what you think.


Good Morning (intro)
Hey Mama
It All Falls Down
Street Lights
Homecoming (ft. Chris Martin)
Love Lockdown
Heard 'em Say
Drive Slow
Coldest Winter
We Major
Paranoid (ft. Mr. Hudson)
Everything I Am
Family Business

Monday, January 12, 2009

school daze.

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

Very rarely is a remix better than the original song.

Here is an example.

MGMT "Electric Feel"

(This is not the original video, as I could not find an embeddable version of that one...but, here's a link to it)

It's actually pretty hard to top this song--it's got great synths, a funky bassline, and quasi-Bee Gee's-esque vocal stylings. The lyrics are top notch, and the song is just so damn catchy.

But, we found a remix better than the original version

Granted, almost anything Justice does turns to gold, but they made one of the best songs of 2008 even better.

Justice add their trademark, punchy synths--devoid of everything but buzzsaw low ends-- as well as their now infamous sped up vocal trick (a la vintage Kanye West--jeez, did I really just call some of Kanye West's stuff vintage?).

You can't help but love the cheesy, '70s Moog Voyager type sounds over the beat at the bridge (these remind me so much of the early '80s learning programs they teacher in first grade would always put on in class..the series she liked most was the one about scarcity...which I interpreted as "scare city"--either way, we should avoid both things, shouldn't we?)

There you have it. An example of two great songs where the remix ekes out the original as the better version.

Have you got any examples?