Friday, May 21, 2010


Movie: MacGruber

I'm a huge MacGyver fan and I thought a parody of the series would be a lot of fun, though I will admit the couple of sketches of this I'd seen on Saturday Night Live didn't have me laughing. Unfortunately, most of the jokes in this fall dismally flat. There are basically three kinds of jokes: (1) horribly graphic sexuality, profanity, and nudity overplayed to mock the original series' wholesomeness; (2) awkward and bizarre gags that fail (like MacGruber carrying around the removable stereo from his car, apparently worried someone would steal his 1980s casette deck); and (3) brilliant skewing barbs of parody that are quite good. Unfortunately, the first two predominate, and though those aren't entirely without humor, they are never very funny and mostly make you feel repulsed. Those jokes in the latter category are so few and far between that there is little to recommend this film. I think I laughed out loud twice in the entire film. I cringed quite frequently, though. There's nothing redeeming about this movie at all. It's not funny and it's mostly disgusting with vulgar humor that alienates the core audience for it (MacGyver and Saturday Night Live fans). Extremely disappointing and I would advise you approach with caution and ankle-level expectations (you'll still be disappointed).


Thursday, March 12, 2009


Movie: MacHeads

An interesting documentary on the "cult of Macintosh," the crazy fans who love Apple's computers. I'm not sure if this would appeal to non-fans; in a limited way it attempts to explain them, but doesn't go far enough to make this a sociologically valuable piece of research. Instead, this is mostly going to appeal to Mac fans as a way to show that they are not alone in their insanity (it proves there are other, crazier people out there). The film basically interviews a wide variety of Mac fans, but the interviews aren't too much more than "I love Macs" or journalists giving brief computing history lessons. In other words, there's not much new here (unless you don't know the history). It's still a fun journey for Mac fans, and it is interesting (but probably only once). It might actually be more valuable many years from now as a really neat look back at 2007 (a lot was filmed at Macworld Expo 2007 when the iPhone was first announced). Already Apple's position in the global market has increased dramatically from then and if the trend continues and in a decade Apple is bigger than Microsoft, this would be a fascinating look back at a time when Apple wasn't so popular. Worth seeing if you're a MacHead.


Friday, September 3, 2010


Movie: Machete
Director(s): Robert Rodriguez

Probably not for everyone's taste, but I enjoyed this a lot. If you liked Grindhouse you'll like this (you'll remember this film came from one of the fake movie trailers within that film). It's ultra-everything -- violence, sex, acting -- it's just over-the-top fun. It's like the coolest late night movie ever. The plot surprised me by being more complicated than I expected. I thought it was a simple revenge flick (Machete going after the people who killed his family), but the story involves a corrupt politician and the Texas border war. It's really too convoluted at times and the film's probably 20-30 minutes too long. There are also strange gaps in logic and some characters magically seem to know everything that happened to other characters even though they weren't there. But you don't see a film like this for the plot. This is all about crazy stunts, cool badass killers, and hot chicks. Some of the stuff that happens is so outrageous as to be absurd -- like the film's tongue-in-cheek homage to Die Hard -- hilarious! Unfortunately the film isn't quite up to the Grindhouse standard: some of the acting is downright horrible (e.g. Steven Segal), and after all the build-up, the ending is a letdown (nothing too dramatic or outrageous happens). I think the filmmakers got distracted by the complex plot and immigration politics and got too serious at the end. The bottom line is that his is a film of moments: tons of hilarious and terrific set pieces and scenes, mixed in with a few awkward ones that don't work, and the sum total isn't great art. It's fun, stylish, and I'm sure it'll be a cult classic (like Grindhouse), but it falls a little short of my high expectations. That said, it's worth seeing if you're into this type of film. Like Piranha 3D, it's a blast.


Thursday, January 10, 2002

MacWorld Expo

I don't like big cities. I've been to San Francisco a handful of times, and usually the only thing going through my mind is "When can I leave?" However, this time I was taking a full day off of work to go to MacWorld Expo, and I had no pressing engagements or schedules to keep. I looked at the day as an adventure, and decided that I'd just enjoy whatever happened. Perhaps that new attitude helped. Whatever the reason, I had a good time, despite the traumas and few negative experiences.

It started out with the difficulties of getting to San Francisco. Even though I was driving through San Jose at 9 a.m., traffic was still bad, which surprised me: I figured everyone would be at work by that time. Driving in the City was even worse, though I tried to relax and tell myself to be calm. Nothing too terrible happened: I almost got run over by a fire truck; a few cars honked at me for not knowing what I was doing; I got stuck behind an armored truck for a bit when it pulled over for a pickup and the traffic going around wouldn't let me out; and I drove the same parts of downtown SF several times, trying to figure out how to get where I needed to go. In the end, I figured out the secret to driving in the big city: there are no left turns. If you can get there by turning right, you're fine, but with no left-hand turn lanes, you're toast if you want to go left. Of course the parking garage I'd selected was to my left, so I ended up having to do a complex loop to my right and then go past the road I was on to end up to that road's left and come back up it with the parking garage on my right. It took me a couple tries, but without a schedule, I didn't have to worry about being late.

MacWorld Expo was very exciting. My entrance badge hadn't arrived in the mail as promised, but they found on the computer in a few seconds and printed me one on the spot. Within ten minutes of arriving, I was inside the Expo. Moscone Center, where it's held every year, is divided into two buildings, North and South (you can move between the buildings via a wide corridor that goes underneath the street that divides them). I started off at the smaller North Hall and was very pleased with all the booths. Everyone was friendly, demonstrations of products were lively and exciting, and I got some free stuff (T-Shirts, CDs, etc.). It had been oh, maybe eight years since I last went to a MacWorld Expo -- I prefer the Seybold show, as it's devoted to Electronic Publishing -- and I was surprised to note that even I could see that the show was smaller than in the past. Curtain partitions had been erected around the perimeter so you wouldn't notice that the booths didn't extend all the way to the edges of the huge room. I don't know if the show wasn't sold out because of the economy or Sept. 11, but either way it was a touch sad. The expo organizers should have given more space to each exhibitor and used up that extra space: it would have felt like it was full. At any rate, the vendors who were there were excellent, and I discovered a number of products I'd never heard about, so that was good. At the REALbasic booth I met several of the REALbasic folks (REALbasic is the programming language I use), people I've talked with for years via email but never met in person. It was gratifying to walk up and not even have to introduce myself -- they recognized my name from my columns and the software I've written. Later, in the South Hall, I ran into Matt Neuburg, author extraordinaire, the guy who introduced me to REALbasic via one of his articles. We had a great chat and he said he was eager to contribute to my REALbasic Developer magazine.

The South Hall was filled with larger exhibitors, including a monster Apple site which contains hundreds of the new flat-panel iMacs. They were impressive, by the way. I'd read the technical specs before coming and knew they're excellent values, but seeing them in person you really get a feel for how fantastic those screens look. In the pictures, the new iMacs usually look like a bizarre kind of desk lamp (I call them iLamps). But in person, you really don't notice the base: the screen takes all your focus, and with it in front of you, it covers up the base. The result is that the computer is the screen. Very cool effect but one that must be experienced in person. Overall, however, the South Hall disappointed me: most of the vendors were big huge companies, like Canon, Olympus, HP, Epson, etc., that are only peripherally Macintosh related. It was good those companies were there, sure, but their offerings are skimpy and not exactly innovative (gee, another scanner, another printer, whoop whoop). I liked the booths of the small vendors best. Here you were often talking with the actual programmer who wrote the software, or the president of the company would be giving you the demo of the product. It was a much more personal atmosphere. Some of the larger places were giving impressive demonstrations, especially the video and 3D software products, but those places were crowded, the demos long and technical (some of that software takes years to master and that assumes you're already a video expert or artist), and the ones with chairs never had a free seat (I suspect most people just wanted to get off their feet). My suggestion to the Expo people would be to encourage more smaller exhitors. One thing I'd love to see, being a shareware author myself, is a shareware arena. Set up a large section with dozens of small booths, and allow several hundred shareware authors to promote their products. Each author wouldn't necessarily get an exclusive booth but perhaps a set few hours each day. The cost would be free or minimal: just travel and living expensives to be at the Expo would be more than many authors could afford, but the benefits would be tremendous. I'd love to be able to demo my software to live people, meet users face to face, and listen to suggestions and problems and ideas for improvements. I'm sure I'd reach a new audience, people that hadn't heard of Z-Write before, or didn't understand it but suddenly do when seeing it demonstrated.

By four-thirty I was exhausted. I'd wandered through the entire show, seen just about everything I wanted to see, and I was lugging around my big bag of Expo goodies and my digital camera. I decided to call it quits and get some food. It felt great to sit and relax for a while. I ate a leisurely meal and started reading the new programming book I got at the Developer's Depot booth. After dinner (I took an hour), I wandered over to the Yerba Buena Gardens area that's on the back of the Moscone Center. It was surprisingly pleasant. There's a nice fountain and a neat waterfalls and a little park. There's a museum or something, too, but I didn't go inside. I went over to the Sony Metreon building, which I'd heard about but never seen, and I wasn't that impressed. It's basically just a mall with restaurants, a multiscreen movie theatre, and a few Sony stores (there's a Playstation store and Sony Style, which sells Sony electronics and DVDs). One thing was cool: a series of kiosks which would beam a Metreon map and movie timetable to your Palm handheld. I had my Handspring Visor with me and was tempted to try it, but I didn't really need the info, and it just seemed unbelievably geeky, so I didn't bother to try it. I'm sure it works as advertised. In the Sony Style store I got a neat demo of a hardware/software package for the Mac that lets you control your entire Sony stereo system, in particular, Sony CD changers. You can connect up to 12 changers and the software automatically gets the ablum and song titles from the Internet for you, and then it can control the changers and play the correct CD/song when told to do so. You can even mix CDs and MP3s together in your playlist! It was very impressive, with some features that I really like. For instance, you can tell the randomizer to only play songs you've haven't heard in the last week (or month or 3 months)! There were also a zillion methods of organizing or searching the songs. It was very powerful, but the setup's expensive: $300 and that doesn't include the CD changer or the stereo system!

Finally, it was time to go to the REALbasic user group meeting. There was about a dozen of us there, and we got to share our concerns and suggestions with the REAlbasic team, and they gave us some hints and details at what improvements we can expect in the future. It was a great session: I was impressed at how open the RB guys were. They were honest and frank and willing to admit there were flaws in the product, and eager to hear from us users at what they could do to make it better.

It was ten o'clock by the time I got home. My parking garage bill was for $18, I got occosted by a begger wanting money for something I couldn't understand (he mumbled terribly), and I discovered a huge blister on my left heel from all the walking. Next time, better shoes. But overall, a good day. A pleasant change from the ordinary. I wouldn't want to do that every day, and I certainly wouldn't want to live in the City, but I'm glad I went. I've put up some pictures of MacWorld Expo, if you're interested.


Friday, January 10, 2003

Macworld Expo San Francisco

This week was the big Expo, and I went every day to promote my magazine. I got to go to the Steve Jobs' keynote address, which was amazing, as usual. Apple introduced a lot of new software and some new PowerBooks. Plus, everyone at the keynote got a free copy of Apple's new Keynote presentation software (which is excellent). I had quite an adventure driving in San Francisco in the dark in the rain, including getting stuck on a steep hill. I think I'll take cabs from now on. Overall, though, it was a good show and a good week.


Sunday, October 1, 2000

Mad Max

Movie: Mad Max (1979)
Director(s): George Miller

For some reason I'd never seen this film, the first of the series. Terrific! Much smaller and better than the sequels, this has fast action and good shoot-em-up style, but with some thoughtful story-telling. Max is a cop who's out for revenge after hoodlums murder his wife and child. Similar to Mel Gibson's recent Payback, but not as clever.


Tuesday, September 2, 2003

The Magdalene Sisters

Movie: The Magdalene Sisters
Writer(s): Peter Mullan
Director(s): Peter Mullan

What's shocking about this film is that it's based on reality. It tells the story of a group of girls in Ireland in the 1960's (not so long ago) who are deemed sinners by society (i.e., they've had sex out of wedlock) and locked away in a convent laundry facility. Here the girls do penance with back-breaking labor, eat modest food, and have no privacy or rights of any kind. The nuns rule with the rod and the girls are not permitted to leave. They are scarcely permitted to talk! No one may visit them, not even family. Society is ashamed of them and wants to pretend they don't exist. While supposedly they're here for a finite length of time, the truth is they're here forever, and it's basically a slave camp. The film tells the story of three girls sent to Magnalene (we also get to know a fourth), and how they handle being there. They want to escape, but are afraid: the penalty could be severe. One girl is rescued by her brother, another locked up in a mental hospital, but the others must fight back to survive. It's a terrific story, a bit one-dimensional (not much complexity here), but well-told. The Catholic Church is upset by this film, and for good reason: we see priests taking advantage of the girls, nuns abusing them, and other horrors. It is possible that things were not as bad as depicted in the film, and I'm sure most nuns are not as evil as the one portrayed here. But considering that the girls did nothing to deserve their fate (no actual crime), it's criminal that they could be locked up like this with no rights to stop it. The scariest thing of all is that the last Magdalene laundress closed in 1996 -- just a few years ago!


Sunday, September 17, 2000


Movie: Magnolia
Writer(s): Paul Thomas Anderson
Director(s): Paul Thomas Anderson

One of the more successful episodic films I've seen, this movie blends the stories of multiple semi-related characters into one. Starts off excellently, but unfortunately, the build-up is for naught, as the film peters out without much of an ending (or explanation or revelation). Very long, but I didn't really notice as the characters and situations were interesting, especially the bits about the "quiz kid" boy being forced to compete on the game show to win his dad money. Excellent subtle performances. Only thing that felt odd was the excessive profanity -- every character seemed obsessed with using the F-word as many times as possible in every sentence. Do real people talk that way? I didn't think so until I watched the behind-the-scenes "diary" on the DVD (very good, btw), and it showed that writer/director Anderson talks just like that. I guess he's a genius. Whatever.


Friday, May 23, 2003

Maid in Manhattan

Movie: Maid in Manhattan

Simple little Cinderella remake about a maid in a fancy New York hotel who's mistaken for a guest by a wealthy senatorial candidate. A romance blossoms, but when the secret's revealed, will the fantasy end? Yeah right. Completely predictable, but still done with charm. At least with this kind of movie you know exactly what you're getting.


Monday, August 28, 2006

A Maiden's Grave

Book: A Maiden's Grave
Writer(s): Jeffery Deaver

Terrific story about a hostage situation, with typical Deaver twists (though these are mostly predictable). A group of escape criminals take over a schoolbus with two teachers and eight girls of various ages -- the children and one of the teachers are deaf, all out on an outing. The main character's an FBI hostage negotiater who is older and wise but not perfect. We really get into the head of the deaf teacher, learning what it's like to be deaf, and the whole novel is filled with tension and hard to put down. Excellent.


Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Malibu's Most Wanted

Movie: Malibu's Most Wanted

Silly semi-parody movie about a white boy who wants to be a rapper and talks "black" -- but when that potentially threatens his father's campaign for governor, his dad hires black actors to pretend to carjack the boy and "scare the black out of him." Amusing premise and the film has a few funny moments, but it's generally too loud, too predictable, and too inconsistent. Mildly fun, but don't go out of your way for it.


Friday, April 4, 2003

A Man Apart

Movie: A Man Apart

This film has a lot of problems, but the main one is that there's no action for the first hour. For an action film, that's lame, but for an action film starring Vin Disel, that's terrible, because it means he must pretend to act for that first hour. Tip for Vin: take a hint from Stallone and don't take roles which require you to talk in complete sentences. Vin would be great in a film like Rambo: First Blood, but in a film like this where he's supposed to be emotional because his wife was killed by a drug cartel, it's just pathetic. The guy has a single expression on his face the whole movie and he utters lines as though he's struggling to read. Aside from Vin's weak performance, there just isn't enough action in this film. The plot is weak as well (though it has potential). Mostly these flaws are magnified by the film's glacier pace. I'd say run the film at 2x and trim the first hour to ten minutes and you'd have a decent little action piece.


Sunday, April 2, 2000

The Man in the Iron Mask

Movie: The Man in the Iron Mask

I thought this was supposed to be a lame modernization of a classic novel, one of those films where they cast a lot of big name stars and the whole thing stinks. It turned out to be a serious, well-done movie. The writing was good, most of the acting was spot on (the casting was excellent), and the story terrific. But there were portions that confused me, either because I don't know that much about the characters or their time period; I found certain scenes to be rather staged and overdramatic as a result. (Like the ending, where the bad guys suddenly change sides. Their motivation was not well explained.) Cool flick. Might get old on a second viewing (once you know the plot); have to wait and see.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Man of the Year

Movie: Man of the Year

This is fine concept -- a political comic gets elected president of the United States -- but the film is too uneven and can't even follow it's own humor advice getting much too serious at times and even turning into a spy thriller at times. It's got some great stuff -- funny lines, Robin Williams, fake news segments, a SNL appearance -- but then it has awkward scenes that don't work and storylines that aren't connected (What did the manager's hospital stay have to do with anything?). in the end, while it's got some political bite, it needs to go much further (like Wag the Dog did). Not as bad as I expected, but you won't be laughing that much.


Monday, May 3, 2004

Man on Fire

Movie: Man on Fire
Director(s): Tony Scott

This is a strange and uncomfortable movie. It's two different movies in one and doesn't make a lot of sense. The script definitely needed another rewrite. It's about a troubled man with a mysterious past who takes on a job in Mexico as the bodyguard for a little girl. When she's kidnapped and killed, the guy takes it on himself to track down the kidnappers and kill them one by one. In the first half we meet the guy and see his relationship develop with the little girl. At first he wants to be cold and doesn't want to be her friend, but she gradually wins him over. It's touching and sweet, innocent and tender. But after the kidnapping suddenly the movie is explosions, blood splatter, and violent torture. It's an uncomfortable switch. The first half feels like a light-hearted family comedy; suddenly it's a dour, grim action movie. In his quest for revenge the guy has no scrupples whatsoever and it seems a deliberate tact on the part of the filmmakers to make us question if the guy's a good guy or not. That's not a good tact because the film should be telling us that, not forcing us to decide without giving us all the information. It makes watching the action uncomfortable. In Kill Bill: Volume One, another revenge flick, the attitude of the film tells us to root for the heroine even if we don't know why she's killing or if it's justified. I enjoyed the action in that movie, but not in this one.

Another problem is the ending, whch is bizarre and doesn't make much sense. I guess their's some "justice" to it, but I was expecting more. (Spoiler alert: stop here if you don't want the ending revealed.) In the film the bodyguard trades himself for the girl. That's weird because the guy already has the kidnapper's brother -- wouldn't he trade his brother for the girl? Yet he wants his brother and the bodyguard -- weird. Finally, I was expecting -- especially after earlier seeing the bodyguard's expertise with explosives -- that he would blow himself up with all the bad guys. But that didn't happen. Instead he was apparently killed but the film tacked on some text to reveal that the kidnapper was later caught by the authorities. What kind of wimpy ending is that? Lame lame lame. At least let him take out 30 bad guys in a bang, making his trading of himself make some sense. As it was he just let himself be slaughtered and it was just dumb.

Overall, a lame and poor excuse for a film. Not worth your time. If you want, rent it and watch the pleasant first half, but stop when the girl's kidnapped. Or just start it there and see it as a mediocre action film. But both parts together just don't fit and the ending is just pitiful.


Friday, January 7, 2000

Man on the Moon

Movie: Man on the Moon (1999)
Writer(s): Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
Director(s): Milos Forman

Recommendation: learn something about Andy Kaufmann before you see this movie; you'll enjoy it more. I watched an Andy biography prior to seeing the movie and I'm really glad I did. Andy was a complex man -- by the time the movie explains enough of him to make sense to you, the film's nearly over. That said, this is an great film. Carrey's performance is fantastic -- he not only does Andy, but all of Andy's alter-egos (Andy was a man of a thousand faces). I never watched Taxi or really even heard of Andy before this movie, but I can tell he was a performer I would have liked. He basically enjoyed fooling people by pretending to be things he wasn't. He was the ultimate "boy who cried wolf." The film plays up the ironies inherent with such a character, showing us how the tabloid newspapers refused to run stories of Andy having cancer, when he really did, because they didn't want to be fooled by another Andy prank. This movie is a real mind-trip into the head of Andy Kaufmann. He's such a fascinating man I'm going to keep an eye out for him; I'd like to see more.


Sunday, October 13, 2002

The Man Who Wasn't There

Movie: The Man Who Wasn't There
Writer(s): Coen Brothers
Director(s): Coen Brothers

Terrific, awesome, fantastic film. This is filmmaking as it was meant to be. Great story, great acting, great moody black-and-white cinematography, great everything. I love the black humor. The story's about Ed, a barber who fell into the trade and doesn't think of himself as one. He's played by Billy Bob Thornton and I think it's Billy's best role and performance ever. Just awesome. He hardly talks and Billy's got to convey his character through subtle facial expressions, posture, and gestures. Anyway, it's 1949 and Ed hears about an investment in a new thing called dry cleaning, so he decides to blackmail his wife's boss to get the $10,000 he needs to invest. His wife's having an affair with her boss and he (anonymously) threatens to expose the affair unless he gets the money. This starts a complex chain of wild events. Eventually the boss is killed and Ed's wife is jailed for the murder. From there it just gets more wild! I won't say more because I don't want to give all the twists and turns away. Let's just say that nothing turns out the way you'd expect. Brilliant film.


Monday, December 27, 1999

The Man with Two Brains

Movie: The Man with Two Brains (1983)
Writer(s): George Gipe and Steve Martin
Director(s): Carl Reiner

One of my favorite Steve Martin movies. I was surprised none of my cousins had seen it -- I guess it's an Eighties movie. We laughed throughout, so either it was funny, or it was just because it was one in the morning. (My other Martin favorites are Roxanne and L.A. Story.)


Monday, August 2, 2004

The Manchurian Candidate

Movie: The Manchurian Candidate
Director(s): Jonathan Demme

I wasn't that crazy about the original, but then by the time I saw it I'd seen the same plot about fifty times in various TV shows. This film is decently done -- it's not a frame-for-frame remake but modernized and made relevant -- but there's no heart. I didn't really care about the characters: they were all stereotypes. There are some excellent performances and the direction is good, but at the end I was asking "Why?" Why did they bother to do that? Why did I bother to see it? Is the problem of mind-controlled politicians really something I need worry about? The bottom line: well done but not worth the bother.


Thursday, December 21, 2006


Movie: Mandelay
Writer(s): Lars von Trier
Director(s): Lars von Trier

This is von Trier's followup to the incredible Dogville; it picks up where there first left off, with the girl and her father leaving Dogville. (This time the girl is played by Bryce Dallas Howard instead of Nicole Kidman; I didn't think that would work, but it was fine.) The family travel into the south and happen upon a plantation called Mandelay where Blanche discovers that slavery is still very much in force. She is shocked and horrified and vows to free the slaves -- yet like all good intentions, the results are not as she expected. Are the slaves better off free? Without any assets or education, are the slaves actually free? Many such questions are asked as the film explores racism from many angles. I found this fascinating, especially in light of what's happening today in Iraq where we get similar adverse reactions from those freed from oppression. Unfortunately, while this film has some of the elements that made Dogville so astonishing, it lacks drama and punch. There are a few twists, and it tries hard to be shocking, but doesn't live up to the first film. It's not bad, exactly; I suppose if you hadn't seen Dogville you'd find it remarkable. Unfortunately most people who see this would have seen the first and in comparison this one pales. It's still interesting and worth seeing if you liked Dogville; just don't expect the same magic a second time.


Sunday, April 15, 2001


Book: Manhunter (1986)
Writer(s): Michael Mann (book by Thomas Harris)

Good film adaptation of the book. Faithful. The ending's a little weak, descending into a stereotypical action shoot-out thing, but overall classy and well done. This is the film that first brought Hannibal Lector to the big screen and though he doesn't have much screen time, he's well done by Brian Cox. Some of the best psychological stuff from the book doesn't get translated to the screen as well as I'd have liked, and the film seems mild compared to Silence of the Lambs, but it's certainly worth seeing.


Wednesday, December 15, 1999

Mannheim Steamroller: The Christmas Angel (Music Special)

What a neat DVD! In Dolby surround sound, the music is incredible. I love Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas music, and what's better than their classic tunes set to motion on ice? Here we've got a simple children's story, narrated by Olivia Newton-John, and the story acted by world-famous ice skaters like Dorothy Hamill, Elvis Stojko, and others. It's great. Children and adults will both love it. (I got mine at Costco, but Amazon doesn't appear to sell it yet.)


Friday, May 21, 2004

Manny and Lo

Movie: Manny and Lo

Excellent little gem of a film. It's about two sisters, 15 and 11, who are on their own when the oldest, Lo, discovers she's pregnant. Realizing she's in over her head, she and her little sister Manny kidnap a maternity store clerk to help her deliver the baby. Funny as a black comedy, with oddly touching performances (a very young Scarlet Johansson steals the show and makes the film work), it's a fun, quirky little adventure. Though nothing too unexpected happpens, I liked it a lot.


Friday, August 8, 2003

Marc in the News

Shameless self-plug: I'm mentioned in a Wired News article that was posted today.


Thursday, December 14, 2000

Marc's DVDs

Well, I've finally gotten around to doing it. I've posted a list of the DVD movies I own. There's a permanent link at the top of my main news page, so you can check it any time to see if I've bought anything new. DVDs have become my new drug: I can't stop buying them. I have nearly 250 now. Keep in mind I only bought my first DVD player in August 1999! (I technically have three DVD players now, but two of them are DVD ROM drives in my computers, so I don't know if those count.)

My DVD page is pretty cool: you can view the list by Title, Genre, Director, Marc Rating, etc. I put the whole thing into a custom database I made so I can easily update it as needed. I'll be adding more categories and information as time passes. For now I just wanted to get the main thing up. Let me know of any suggestions you have to make it better and I'll try to accommodate you.


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Marc's Trip

Today I leave on my big trip. Grandpa's still at Oakwood but will be discharged next week -- my mother will stay with him at my house until I get back on April 4. Meantime, I'm heading to Austin, Texas, for the REAL World 2006 conference, then on to Houston to see my cousin Tami, on to Nashville where I'll rent a car and drive to Maryville, Tennesee to see my aunt and Alabama where I've got some cousins and an uncle. I fly back next Thursday via San Jose where I'll spend the weekend and come back home the following Monday. Whew! It makes me tired just thinking of it! But flying beats last year's driving expedition.


Saturday, December 31, 2005

March of the Penguins

Movie: March of the Penguins

I wasn't super excited about this documentary. Though I wanted to see it, my attitude was more like the way one views health food. I mean, how interesting can penguins be? To my surprise I was gripped by this amazing drama! It tells the story of how penguins -- the only creatures that can survive Antarctic winters -- travel many miles across the frozen desert to the nesting grounds where they were born. There they mate and the female eventually lays an egg. Then, exhausted by her ordeal, she makes the long trek back to the ocean while the male sits on the egg. Two months later she's back with regurgitated food for the newly hatched baby. The fathers have gone without food for four months and now they get to trek to the ocean to swim and find food. This cycle of swapping off parenting duties continues through summer, until the chick is big enough to survive on its own. It's just amazing that anything can survive such fierce winters. Many don't, of course; chicks die, parents die (and if a parent dies, the chick dies as well, since it cannot be left alone). It's a brutal, cold world, yet the beauty of these creatures is evident in their play. They joy they express at finding their mate or their chick is heart-warming. This is an amazing film, one you will definitely learn from. I found myself wondering for the first time why I'd never considered becoming a marine biologist. It really sounds like an interesting field (I had no idea we knew so little about penguins). Great film.


Sunday, July 10, 2005

Maria Full of Grace

Movie: Maria Full of Grace

Really good film about a pregnant seventeen-year-old Columbian girl who is desperate for money and becomes a drug mule. She has to swallow over 60 thumb-sized rubber-coated pellets of drugs, fly to New York, and give them to those waiting for them. If a pellet leaks, she's dead. It's a harrowing tale, realistically done, revealing the horrors of such a life. But I liked that the film did this in an in-depth, personal way, showing us the anquish and challenge via close-ups of the girl's face instead of images of blood and other gruesome details. For example, in one crucial scene, while on the airplane to New York, the girl isn't feeling well. She has a bowel movement in the tiny airplane bathroom and is horrified to find one of the pellets in the toilet. She cannot be caught with it on her person, and yet she cannot lose it: the drug dealers know exactly how many pellets she has swallowed and if she loses even one, they will hurt her family in Columbia. So she's forced to re-swallow the pellet she just evaculated. It's a scene that could have been filmed to titilate, shock, or repulse a viewer, yet it's not filmed in any of those ways. Instead it's done in a cold, gritty, realistic fashion, where the girl just does what she has to do. We see the distaste and nervousness on her face, but the scene is not at all graphic or distateful. The power of the scene comes from the restrained emotions of the actress, where we sense her desperation and determination by what she's willing to do, not gory detail or gruesome special effects. Excellent film, surprisingly tame considering its serious subject matter. I loved the ending.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Marie Antoinette

Movie: Marie Antoinette

This is one of those films where the trailer's better than the movie. The trailer is brilliant: fun, funky, exciting, sexy, with a heavy rock beat. The film has some of that fun, but only on occasion -- much of the time the film's much too serious, with boring scenes of 18th century French court formality. There are some nice moments of humor -- the scene where a chilly naked Marie has to impatiently wait while women of various nobility are privileged to help her dress is hilarious in mocking royal ridiculousness -- but unfortunately those are few and far between. But the film's biggest flaw is that at the end we still don't know much more than we started about the characters: Marie seems to have had her life dictated for her, and other than a little partying and a couple tender moments with her daughter, we don't learn much of what makes her tick. And she's the deepest character we explore -- the rest are mere mysteries or shallow stereotypes. Though I liked Kirsten Dunst in the role of Marie, the whole thing was so mild and tragic I was terribly disappointed not to see her get her head chopped off at the end. Conclusion? Mildly entertaining.


Friday, October 13, 2006

The Marine

Movie: The Marine

The premise appealed to the guy in me -- a marine's wife is kidnapped by jewel thieves on the run so he goes after them, one man against many -- but the film didn't deliver much more than what you see in the trailer. It did have a few great lines and scenes (the black robber character was hilarious) but those were unfortunately well outweighed by mediocre action and an illogical script.


Sunday, October 29, 2000


Movie: Martin
Writer(s): George Romero
Director(s): George Romero

Story about a 17-year-old vampire. Unusual, well-done, but slow-moving, and for some reason, not really my taste. I found it rather boring.


Sunday, January 28, 2001


Movie: Marty
Writer(s): Paddy Chayevsky

I've been wanting to see this film for ages, though I really didn't know what it was about. I knew it won Oscars for best film, director, and actor (Ernest Borgnine). The story is great: very low key, about a humble butcher (Borgnine) who at 34 lives with his mother and isn't married. The film seems predictable -- Marty finds a humble school teacher and they develop a relationship -- yet some how it is fascinating. I watched for about twenty minutes and then realized I'd really been watching for forty-five; I hadn't even noticed. Very sweet, simple, and elegant, with humor, gentleness, and some valuable life lessons. Well worth your time.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Mary and the Giant

Book: Mary and the Giant
Writer(s): Philip K. Dick

This is one of Dick's rare mainstream novels, which are among his best works. This one tells the story of a unique young lady in 1950's Northern California as she struggles with existential issues and a disatisfied life. It's remarkable in many ways, though the story's simple and elegant, and it really captures life in the 50's. I liked it a lot, but I'm a PKD fan -- it might leave some people wanting more.


Thursday, June 15, 2000

The Mary Kay Letourneau Story

Movie: The Mary Kay Letourneau Story

This was a made-for-USA movie I missed the first time around. I rarely pay attention to scandals, but this story was interesting, mostly because Mary didn't think she'd done anything wrong as the sex had been consensual. Oddly, she was treated as a rapist, which shows us the silliness of our judicial system. Well done TV movie, with good (if lurid) performances from the boy, Penelope Ann Miller (who played Mary), and the boy's mother (who was the best).


Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Movie: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Director(s): Peter Weir

I wasn't too excited about this film, but when I heard the promos compare it to Gladiator I knew I didn't want to see it (I hated Gladiator -- it's one of the worst movies of all time). However, it was supposed to be good, and I decided it was my duty to see it. You know what? Unlike the pawning Gladiator, this one gives us a more subdued Russell Crowe. Sure, he's the ship's captain, but he's not perfect, and we sometimes see the doubt in his eyes, and we definitely see the tremendous burdens he carries (the lives of his crew, the fate of Britain, etc.). The story is unusual in that it's about the cat-and-mouse game between two ships off the coast of South America in the Napoleonic era. Crowe is the British captain and he faces a phantom ship, a French privateer that is larger and more powerful and seems to sneak up on them like a ghost. In the film we get an amazing look at what life was like in those days: how extraordinarily difficult even the simplest things were, and what primitive weapons and medicine were like. The film strives for authenticity and does an excellent job; however, the frentic battle scenes at the end are so realistically chaotic it's impossible to tell what's going on. You just basically hear explosions and see wood splintering and swords slashing and musket's flashing and people screaming and have to wait until the end to figure out what happened (you can't tell which side is which in the battle). The film's too long, but the story's different and interesting, and the visit to the Galapagos Islands was neat (though I wish they'd left out the superfluous and unrealistic hints about Darwinism). Overall I liked the film. It's not great or wonderful (not hugely original), but well-done, and the fact that we haven't seen a film like this in a long time makes it appealing. But it feels a little more educational and than entertaining.


Friday, September 12, 2003

Matchstick Men

Movie: Matchstick Men

Terrific film! Nicholas Cage stars as a con artist struggling with reality: he's obsessive compulsive to the max (he cleans his house constantly), and he begins seeing a shrink to help him cope with life. He learns he's got a daughter he's never met from an ancient relationship, and she wants to meet him. The fourteen-year-old girl is the antithesis of him -- wild, uncontrolled, impulsive, sloppy -- and when she has an argument with her mother, she moves in for a week. The daughter is played by Alison Lohman (White Oleander) and she's astonishly awesome. Like a real teenage girl, one second she's happily giggling, the next she's sobbing as her life is over. The result throws Cage over the edge, completely into unfamiliar territory. The girl wants to learn how to grift, and after some tears and persuasion, Cage teaches her how to con. It's obvious that the daughter's presence in his life is tremendously healing, and Cage talks about them becoming a family (he's going to file for joint custody). But then, of course, disaster. A big con goes bad, there's death and mayhem, and a big (but not completely unforeseen) twist. The twist is gimmicky and tends to erode much of what we thought we knew about the film, but it still works, mostly because of Cage's unexpected reaction to betrayal: it turns out to be the thing that kicks him out of his nest and into real life. The final scenes are charged with emotion and drama and finishes nicely, offering us a pat-yet-not-so-pat ending. I really liked this film, mostly because of the dramatic performances by Cage and Lohman. In retrospect you realize there's not as much depth as you thought while watching it, but the film still works. It may not be the most profound movie of the year, but it's fun, has great characters, a twisty plot, excellent direction, and is definitely worth seeing.


Tuesday, September 21, 1999

The Matrix

Movie: The Matrix (1999)
Writer(s): Andy Wachowski & Larry Wachowski
Director(s): Andy Wachowski & Larry Wachowski

Frankly, I was disappointed by this movie. I'd heard lots of good things about it -- mostly that the story was really good (as in, it wasn't just a special effects movie). The story didn't do much for me. It was completely predictable. This might just be because I've been working on my own (unfinished) virtual reality novel and I threw out this plot about five years ago as being too cliche. Basically, the plot has Keanu Reaves as a guy who finds out his whole life is an illusion and it's up to him to save humanity from the machines that enslave them. (The whole bit about machines taking over the earth was ludicrous.) Still, the movie was well done, the special effects interesting (thought not great -- the "fast" fights were strangely slow), and some of the characters were pretty cool (Laurence Fishburne was great as Morpheus). But it certainly was not the spiritually moving, thought-provoking movie I'd come to expect based on the reviews. I got it on DVD with lots of extras and I haven't even bothered looking through them -- who really wants to study this limp movie like a religion?


Saturday, May 10, 2003

The Matrix

Movie: The Matrix

In preparation for the sequel coming out, I decided to watch the original film again. As you may remember, I hated the original -- the depth of my hatred was proportional to the amount that most people loved it. While I still agree with my original assessment, I did like it much better on second viewing. For one, I knew I should ignore the silly spirituality hocus-pocus and just enjoy the movie as an action film. In that regard, it's really pretty good. Note that my perspective is tattered a little because I saw it first on DVD and by that time I'd seen the "unique" special effects mimicked in TV commercials and other films, so they didn't have the "wow" factor they must have for original movie-goers. I still think the film has too many logic flaws to make any sense at all (why in heck is a software agent harmed by virtual bullets???) -- but then I'm a computer programmers so I probably think of this stuff at a lower level than most people, who just enjoy the action. The arbitrariness of what's "real" and what's not real makes me feel I'm just being manipulated by the authors, who can change whatever rules they want in control of their plot (whereas good writers allow the plot to come to them and don't force scenarios). But if I ignore that and the meaningless "The One" psychobabble, I can enjoy this movie on a pure entertainment level. I am looking forward to the sequels, though I'm purposely keeping my expectations low. That way I won't be disappointed.


Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Matrix Reloaded

Movie: Matrix Reloaded

I can scarcely believe it myself: not only did I like this movie, I liked it better than the original. This time the action is so over-the-top it's almost into parody, yet the seriousness of the situation (Zion is in peril) keeps things on a level keel. The video game music during the key action sequences (very Tekken-like) personifies the film which feels like an elaborate video game. Those action sequences are like video clips in games -- the cool payoff to slower expositional scenes, which are like game puzzles you must solve before you can advance. The story is complex and overlong and unresolved (the film ends with "To be concluded"), but it does pay out new details about the Matrix, the machines that run it, and the human world of Zion. The biggest revelation -- major spoiler alert! -- is that the Oracle and all her prophecies were fake, controlled by the machines in order to manipulate Neo in doing exactly what they wanted. I liked that. However, there are still many questions, and the film continues to toy with its own rules to reality. For instance, it's implied that a software agent (Smith) somehow transfers himself to reality (out of the Matrix) and controls a traitorous human. That makes no sense at all. Still, this isn't a thinking person's film, despite the fancy pseudo-philosophical dialogue. It's an action flick. It's well done, with several impressive climaxes that drew gasps from the audience. The fights are often too long and repetitive, but generally do build appropriately. Overall, a good fun ride. The bummer is that we have to wait until November for Matrix Revolutions.


Thursday, November 13, 2003

The Matrix: Revolutions

Movie: The Matrix: Revolutions

Not as bad as I expected. A bit long, and the all-digital special effects war gets a little old after a while, but a decent conclusion to the trilogy. Nothing too new in the story: it ends the way you'd expect, with Keanu "The One" saving the day. How he does this is a bit unclear and probably frustrating to true Matrix fans, but frankly I'm not one of those who finds much intelligence in the "philosophy" of the Matrix, so I really couldn't care less: I'm just glad it's over.


Friday, July 11, 2003


Movie: Max

Disappointing, lackluster film. I loved the concept -- a fictional look at Hitler's life before his rise to power, while he was a struggling artist -- but unfortunately the film doesn't get much beyond the idea. It's slow moving (i.e. boring) and Hitler's odd rantings aren't particularly interesting. It's a nice try, but it fails.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Max Payne

Movie: Max Payne

This was a disappointing and strange movie. The film has an identity crisis. It's filmed like a comic book adaptation, but the plot is strictly real-world: all the "otherworldly" stuff you see in the promos that made it look intriguing turn out to be drug-induced halucinations. The story is trite: a cop whose wife and child were killed three years earlier is still seeking justice, and his investigation eventually lead him to a dangerously addictive drug developed at the pharmaceutical company where his wife worked. The drug turns some people into super-soldiers; the rest it causes severe halucinations that cause suicide. Apparently his wife was killed to protect this secret. It's all rather predictable, and though the movie is shot with some interesting flair and visuals, the weak story and average characters pretty much render the look moot. It's all flash without content. Avoid.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit, and the Era of Predatory Lenders

Movie: Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit, and the Era of Predatory Lenders (2006)

Fascinating documentary from 2006 about the whole predatory lending trend, with plenty of hints and warnings that seem prescient after the 2008 credit collapse. I was worried this would get political and while it hints at that (especially an unnecessary dig at Bush at the end), it's generally even-handed and pokes at both political parties (they are all to blame). There are some sad moments as we see people whose lives have been devastated, like the mother telling about how the credit card companies lured her college freshman son into such massive debt that he committed suicide and today she still gets credit card offers in his name -- that's like getting get-well cards from your son's murderer. Excellent film and worth watching, especially if you're interested in the topic of financials and the economy.


Saturday, August 16, 2008


Movie: May

Strange black comedy about a bizarre afflicted girl named May who's been damaged by her domineering mother and grows up to be weird and struggles to make friends so she kills them and stitches the body parts together to make a "perfect" doll to be her friend. It's got some good moments, but it's a little too realistic in the murders and serious tone to be a comedy and in the end it's just depressing. My favorite moment was the very cool art movie the girl's boyfriend directs and shows her: it's black and white and starts out as a cute couple having a romantic date and then start getting physical, and suddenly the two are biting chunks of flesh out of each other and ripping off limbs -- hilarious. (May's reaction is to take the film literally, as though that's actually how people make love, and she's puzzled when her boyfriend rejects her.) Worth seeing if you like strange.


Friday, March 23, 2001

Me, Myself, and Irene

Movie: Me, Myself, and Irene

Extremely uneven film. Had a few good moments, some amazing performances by Jim Carey, but the story was too fragmented and much of the comedy just didn't work. Some of the humor was just crude bathroom humor that even Carey seemed uncomfortable with, and other scenes just weren't funny, like the business with the cow that wouldn't die. Weak.


Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Mean Creek

Movie: Mean Creek

Interesting film that didn't seem at all controversial to me; I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. The film has a low-key plot: a group of teens go to pull a mean prank on a jerk for revenge, but things don't go as planned and the kid dies, leaving the survivors to face their guilt. What makes the film work is the realistic teen dialog, terrific performances from a young cast, an appressive atmosphere of doom throughout, and the way the script incorporates and demonstrates interaction between three age groups of kids (remember, for teens and pre-teens, just a couple years is like a decade, so even slight differences in age puts people in different groups). Unfortunately, the whole of the film didn't quite live up to the sum of its parts for me. I was left a little empty, wanting more and not getting it. The film really needed an extra twist at the end, something to hammer home a moral or modify the simple story we'd already seen. It's still a solid story and good movie, but it just misses being great by a hair. I also found the guilt by the main group to be a little unrealistic. For some of the characters it makes a lot of sense (they are sensitive and guilt is natural), but for the older brother, for instance, I thought it was overdone. That's in part because the death is partially accidental (one could argue almost completely accidental), so all the guilt is questionable. However, the reality is that these kids were feeling guilty before anything happened -- they were feeling guilty about what they were going to do. Unfortunately the audience doesn't feel that as much as the guilt later one, making the latter guilt have more importance than it should. Overall, an interesting film, but it doesn't break new ground in teen behavior or anything. If the kids hadn't shown any guilt -- like in River's Edge -- that would be more significant. That these kids are actually repentent is what's remarkable.


Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Mean Girls

Movie: Mean Girls
Writer(s): Tina Fey

This was excellent; the plot's predicatable to an extent -- new girl has trouble fitting into school and figuring out who her real friends are and screws up but succeeds in the end -- but the perspective is fresh, coming from a female writer. High school cliques are mocked, girls obssession with fashion and appearance, etc. It's a bit like Clueless crossed with The Breakfast Club. Not particularly deep, but fun and funny, and well-directed and acted.


Sunday, November 10, 2002

Mean Machine

Movie: Mean Machine

This is a remake of The Longest Yard (which I've never seen), except that instead of American football in an American prison, this is soccer (real football) in an English prison. Basically, the former English team captain gets drunk and assaults an officer and gets thrown in jail. There, he's recruited by the warden to coach the guards' football team. Instead, he proposes to coach a team of inmates against the guards' team. Of course others don't like this, and he must earn the respect of his fellow inmates before they'll trust him. All this leads to a climatic soccer match. Decently done, but unfortunately the premise makes it predictable, and the whole "will he throw the match" suspense at the end was pointless, since we knew he wouldn't (audiences would never have forgiven the filmmakers for doing that). I liked the soccer references, though I suppose some Americans wouldn't get them (like one of the guards telling a group of prisoners they'd just gotten a "yellow card" -- in soccer, that's a caution, or warning). Though the DVD does include American and British versions on it (I watched the British). At least I understood this one: if The Longest Yard included a lot of American football strategy and jargon, I probably wouldn't have understood it.


Friday, January 28, 2011

The Mechanic

Movie: The Mechanic

I haven't seen the original film, though I've heard good things about it, and I can't compare the two. But being a remake, I was leery of this, and that proved justified as this feels like a by-the-numbers remake with little originality brought to the new version. Other than a new cast and a modern setting, there's not much too this movie. The premise is interesting: a hit man is hired to kill his old friend and then takes on his friend's angry son as an apprentice. That opens all sorts of moral quandaries, but they aren't really explored as the hit man character is little more than a robot. The feeling I got is this tries to be Unforgiven but without the intelligence and depth. The beginning is slow, without much action, and the latter half of the film is too much action. The film thus has inconsistent pacing. It has an inconsistent feel, too, sometimes gritty and at times too slick and cool. We're also not given much in the way of character development. The old mentor is killed off so early we don't really understand his relationship with the killer, and the young new guy, while interestingly morose, hated his father so his revenge motivation feels ill-fitting. It's not a terrible film by any stretch. It's well-done and pretty good, but it's just not great. I am skeptical it could be an improvement over the original (I plan to see that soon and find out). A fun rental.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Mechanic

Movie: The Mechanic (1972)

This is the 1972 original film (watched via Netflix streaming -- yeah!) and it is astonishing how much better it is than the remake. I don't get the point of redoing a film if you're not going to make it better in at least one perspective. I was surprised at how closely the new film follows this one in many regards: some of the best parts of the new one are straight from the old one (e.g. cassette/phonograph playing classical music while studying hidden wall of assassination details). But the real problem is that every time they change something, they change it for the worse. For example, in this film the training of the apprentice hit man is more involved and feels more realistic and natural. The new one has the apprentice going out for his first solo within minutes. The whole "agree to train" aspect of the relationship is far better in the old one as well. In the new one, the hit man knew his old friend's kid. In this one, they were strangers who met shortly before the father's death. The funeral scene is almost identical, but I really liked the way the hit man sees the potential in the young man, when the kid's girlfriend threatens to kill herself and he watches passively as she slits her wrist and waits to die. That shows the kid's heartlessness. In the new film, the kid wants to go after the carjackers who supposedly killed his dad, but since he hated his dad, that motivation feels misplaced and artificial. The actual killings in this film are also much better, more realistic and interesting, and I liked the exoticness of a trip to Italy for a big job, though I wasn't crazy about the gangland-style shootout -- it didn't feel like the intellectual hit man's style. This film had more philosophical musings, which I liked, and the new one should have had even more of that, instead of less. Here we see more of a glimpse of the hit man's guilt (sadly missing from the remake), and I liked the way they handled the ending far better in this one (the young man's greedy motivation is far more believable than revenge). After seeing this one, I recommend it over the remake wholeheartedly.


Thursday, September 11, 2003

The Medallion

Movie: The Medallion

I'd heard this was a poor Jackie Chan film, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. Sure many of the special effects were digital, but they needed to be with this kind of plot. The idea is that there's this ancient medallion and it can bring you back to life after death and give you supernatural abilities, and so those abilities had to be done digitally. The bigger problem with the movie is that it doesn't get to the main plot point until nearly half-way through (that's when Jackie dies) which makes the first half seem rather pointless. (Why not just get to him dying right away?) The tone of the film is also odd: one of the minor characters at the beginning, an overplayed idiot, turns out to be a major character and one of the good guys (I never would have guessed from the initial scenes). Since he's the only person in the whole movie playing for slapstick comedy, his scenes, while funny on their own, really clash with the rest of the "serious" film. The movie's got a few fun moments, a few neat effects, but is generally quiet forgettable, but that's not unlike most Jackie Chan movies.


Sunday, February 4, 2001

Meet the Feebles

Movie: Meet the Feebles
Director(s): Peter Jackson

Wow, what a wickedly perverse, freaked out film! If this had been done with human actors it would have been extreme, but not this extreme. This is the equivalent of finding your favorite children's cartoon character in a bar, swearing, drunk, and high on crack while raping a woman.

Australia director Jackson (who's now filming Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy) brilliantly satires everything under the sun by doing the film with puppets. Watching puppets behave like disgusting humans (complete with foul language, vomiting, bowel movements, crude sex, drug abuse, and violence) really shows you the insanity of society. Trust me -- watching various animal muppets get their heads blown off by a submachine gun will change your perspective on life (either for the better or the worse). Not for the faint of heart, but hilarious for those who can handle it. It's like a cross between a perverted Alice in Wonderland and South Park (there are several wicked songs, though I didn't find this film as offensive as South Park, because here there's a satirical purpose).


Saturday, October 28, 2000

Meet the Parents

Movie: Meet the Parents
Director(s): Jay Roach

Excellent movie! Just the perfect mix of realism and exaggeration. The plot's simple: Ben Stiller plays a young man ready to marry his girlfriend, only first he must meet her parents. The parents are cautiously welcoming, but everything goes hilariously wrong. What I liked was that no one goes out of their way to make Stiller feel uncomfortable; what happens is a matter of clumsiness, bad luck, and Stiller's own push to appear the perfect son-in-law. Classic example: in a "friendly" water volleyball match, Stiller's team is criticizing his repeated mistakes. Finally Stiller has had enough. He rears up and hammers home a terrific spike -- and gives his girlfriend's sister a facial, on the eve of her wedding. Suddenly everyone's acting like Stiller's a serial killer. You feel tremendous sympathy for poor Stiller -- no one does the hapless-but-likable victim better. Hilarious, well-acted, well-written. A bit silly in places, but doesn't really hurt the film overall.


Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Meet the Robinsons

Movie: Meet the Robinsons

Not bad. At times I was worried this was drifting into typical recent-Disney crap where the story's just a loose excuse for lame jokes, but fortunately this came back around with a solid story at the heart. The story's about an orphan boy who is into inventing. Since he's too geeky to get adopted, he decides to invent a memory machine that will help him find his mother who abandonned him as a baby. Then we've got an over-the-top villain (complete with melodramatic black cape, pencil mustache, and yellow-toothed evil grin) who's traveled back in time to sabotage the memory machine, and a young boy time traveler who takes the inventor to the future where he meets the boy's wacky family. Some of the characters, like the toothless Grandpa, seem like excuses for those lame jokes I was talking about, but in the end the inventor boy has to learn a lesson, save the future, and find a family. Not quite up to Pixar standards, but better than recent Disney animations.


Friday, November 5, 2010


Movie: Megamind

Fun movie. On the surface the premise seems sadly derivative, cribbing our superhero storyline almost word-for-word from Superman and others. It's so obvious and deliberate it's apparently supposed to be part of the humor, but it comes across more as cheap and unimaginative than clever. But once the film gets going, it branches into more innovative territory by answering the question, "What would happen to a supervillain who actually kills his superhero nemesis?" The film also explores the "don't judge a book by its cover" cliche. None of this is particularly well-done, but it gets better as the story goes on, and when the supervillain is faced with a new nemesis, he has to decide if he's going to be good or evil.

I rarely laughed out loud at the feeble jokes that were obviously designed to be laugh points, but despite a mediocre script, the film is a lot of fun and quite entertaining. The voices are great, and the love story subplot is compelling. Megamind's incompetent villain comes across as sympathetic. Overall, I liked it. It's far from perfect, but a solid B- or C+. There are certainly much worse films out there.


Sunday, December 30, 2001


Movie: Memento
Director(s): Christopher Nolan

Wow, what a fantastic film! This, by far, is the best movie of 2001. It really pushes the film-making envelope. I was hesitant seeing it. I'd heard it was good, and also heard it was a little weird. Sometimes that's a good thing, but sometimes it makes for an "arty" film that's pretentious and boring. This was neither. It's a fascinating film noir where how the story is told is just as important as the story.

The concept is simple: the main character's a former insurance investigator who's searching for the man who raped and killed his wife. He wants to kill the murderer. There's one key problem, however: the man's brain injury has left him no short term memory. It's not amnesia: he knows who he is and where he came from, but he can't make new memories. So if he meets you, in five minutes he's forgotten it and he's introducing himself again. This makes criminal investigation a challenge, to say the least.

The guy has a solution to his problem: he takes instant pictures and writes notes to himself. The "my car" picture tells him which car in the parking lot is his. A photograph of a motel reminds him where he's staying. He can't use the telephone because he'll forget who he's talking to without a face in front of him. It's a bizarre life.

Director Nolan gets us into this life with an unusual gimmick: we experience the film in reverse. I mean the entire film is backwards! We see the end, where he kills the man who murdered his wife, first. Then we go backwards through his investigation, step by step. The film is entirely made up of flashbacks!

This no doubt sounds confusing. But astonishingly, it isn't. Everything is extremely clear (more than in many films). Normally we know the past and the future is unknown. In this case, we know the future -- he kills the murderer -- but we don't know the past. Just like him. But unlike him, we've seen the future and can remember it, so when we're seeing something from his past, we can put the two together.

The result is incredible: as we put the pieces together, we're constantly reevaluating our assumptions. For at each event, we assume that what we are seeing is reality. And it is, to an extent. The problem is that it's reality based on the guy's notes: he makes decisions based on what his previous self told him. This is the ultimate "blind-leading-the-blind" scenario! So a friend in one scene is an enemy, or maybe-enemy, in the next (previous). But since the guy can't remember what happened earlier, he can't tell when he's being played. A good example of this is how the motel clerk rents him a second room, just to see if he'd notice. He doesn't, and is paying for two rooms. And the scummy clerk openly admits this, knowing he'll have forgotten by the next time they meet!

I won't give away all the twists and turns of the plot: just go rent this film and watch it. It's amazing. You'll never think of reality in the same way again. It reminds me a great deal of the mind-bending stories of Philip K. Dick (especially A Scanner Darkly) and of the Terry Gilliam film 12 Monkeys (which toys with time in a similar manner).

This is the kind of film you can see again and again: I can't wait to watch it another time and see all I missed in the first pass. Deep, complex, with fascinating kaleidoscopic characters that are always shifting. Excellent acting, by the way. Superior all the way around.


Monday, June 26, 2006

Memorial Service

Today we had the Memorial Service for Grandpa. I had an invasion of relatives (about a dozen stayed at my house), which was nice and kept me distracted. First we stopped by the cemetary and watched a short presentation as Grandpa's ashes were placed in a crypt next to Grandma. That was very difficult for me. I couldn't watch but had to look away. During the Service I was to give a eulogy, which I wasn't sure how to do. Though I was close to Grandpa, I really only knew him for a fraction of his life. It's rather a challenge to summarize 91 years on the planet! I thought I was going to go later in the service, but apparently things were switched around and I was told, seconds before the thing started, that I would go on right after the opening prayer. That didn't give me time to reread and practice, which meant I was more unpolished than I preferred, but I was more worried at being overcome with emotion and being unable to finish (we had a backup reader if I couldn't make it). Fortunately, except for a minor flub or two, it went okay, and the main thing was that people really appreciated my unique perspective of Grandpa. My eulogy told stories about what I learned from him and thus at least wasn't dry and boring (which was what my aunt had wanted). I think Grandpa would have liked it.

After the Service we had a pot-luck dinner at the church, which was neat, as I was able to see some people I hadn't seen since I was a teenager. Grandpa had been one of the people who'd started the monthly pot-luck tradition at that church and they still do it today, though the church has had different leadership for many years now. Funny the way things like that stick.

I have created a Memorial Page for Grandpa on my website. It contains links to all my "Adventures with Grandpa" newsletters, pictures and audio/video clips, as well as audio files of the entire Memorial Service. I also broke out just my Eulogy, in case you just want to listen to that (it's much shorter than the entire service). It's all MP3 and MPEG, so it should work on any computer platform.


Friday, July 5, 2002

Men in Black II

Movie: Men in Black II

Disappointing sequel. Sure, it was fun, and there were some good gags, but most of it was a retread, and while I thought the premise of agent J recruiting agent K in this film (the reverse of the first) had some hilarious potential, it turned out to be a minor affair (K had his memory restored and that was that). The original picture had a great plot with multiple things happening and multiple tasks for the heroes to accomplish: this one was far too linear, and the film over too soon. Good for video, but don't bother with the theatre.


Friday, November 6, 2009

The Men Who Stare at Goats

Movie: The Men Who Stare at Goats

This one is pretty much what the trailer shows: a quirky tale of military psychic experiments told mostly in flashbacks while a reporter has adventures with an odd ex-army officer who supposedly has psychic powers. It's funny and charming and well done, but in the end it all seems a bit silly (the wimpy ending re-enforces this). I liked it, but it's not a must-see. At least it's speedily paced, humorous, and not too long.


Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Menace from Earth

Book: The Menace from Earth
Writer(s): Robert Heinlein

A neat little collection of science-fiction stories by Heinlein. I had not read these elsewhere, but they're very good. There's an interesting time-travel one that is too predictable and goes on too long (we see the obvious ending long before the main character does), and one about a flood that seems to have nothing sci-fi about. One of the best is the title story, about a 15-year-old girl who lives on the moon (she loves it and hates heavy earth) and wants to be a spaceship designer. She and her teenage partner have formed a company and are already working on the engineering. She's very mature for her age, at least in terms of intelligence, but naive in terms of emotions. The "menace" referred to in the title is a beautiful earthwoman, who, it seems, has drawn her partner away from work on the spaceship design. Could she be jealous? Of course not! Don't be absurd! She and her partner are just friends, associates, work-mates. She's just worried about their business, of course. Without her partner, it will go down the tubes. In the end, of course, there's a twist that reveals the truth to all, and it's a wonderful little character study with some nice sci-fi accents. Great collection.


Saturday, March 18, 2000


Movie: Merlin (1998)
Writer(s): Edward Khmara (story) and David Stevens
Director(s): Steve Barron

I missed this mini-series on TV (I think I recorded it, but who knows), so I rented the DVD. Not bad. Impressive (but flashy) direction and special effects. (The director used lots of gimmicky transitions, both for exotic effect and to speed scenes. My favorite was a shot where a woman in white is lying on a bed and we see a tiny black dot moving on her chest. As the camera pans left, the dot grows, and suddenly we see it's a tiny man on a miniature horse. Suddenly everything becomes clear, the woman fades away, and the horse is riding across the white sand of a desert. I replayed it several times. Amazing.) The film itself tries to pack a little too much into one story. It's like a soap opera, or a Greek myth, with Gods and mortals screwing each other over right and left (literally and figuratively). It's cool seeing all the big stars, and many, like Sam Neil (as Merlin) and Miranda Richardson (as evil Queen Mab) are excellent. Overall, it's big, flashy, and there isn't much depth. Fun, but nothing permanent. Odd religious conflict inserted. Historically accurate, but poorly done.


Monday, July 17, 2000

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc

Movie: The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc
Director(s): Luc Besson

This film astonished me. I'd expected something terrible, based on the vicious remarks of the critics, but this film wasn't bad at all. In fact, I liked it. It's not a great film, but even the somewhat miscast Milla Jovovich is likable as Joan. I wasn't impressed with the overdone dream sequences (which are strangely unexciting and listless) or the elaborate but boring battle scenes, but by the story. The line between faith and insanity is a narrow one, and every religious person has at one time or another questioned their faith, asking the same questions Joan asks herself in this film. How many of us could face a panel of learned judges and defend our faith? The power of the story of Joan comes from her mystery: was she really a messenger from God? Insane? Self-deluded? Asking those questions of Joan tests our own faith, and forces us to answer the same questions about ourself.


Friday, March 2, 2001


Movie: Metropolis (1925)
Writer(s): Fritz Lang
Director(s): Fritz Lang

Strange, but remarkable film. It tells the tale of the future city of Metropolis, where the worker class toils relentlessly in the bowels of the city, while the elite live in luxury in the skyscrapers above. The city master's son, Freder, learns of the worker's plight, and tries to help them. He meets the beautiful Maria, the leader of the rebellion, who preaches peace. But Freder's father has the evil inventor create a robot in Maria's image, and the robot tricks the workers into violence, which is exactly the excuse Freder's father wanted so he can use violence back. Remarkable for being able to tell such a complex story without sound, so far back at the dawn of cinema. While the quality of the film is poor in terms of film quality, there were many impressive special effects (such as the electric fields and the dream sequences), and the acting was excellent. I found the film's pace to be lethargic, especially compared to the high-speed visual storytelling I'm accustomed to, but silent films had to explain the story solely with visuals and minimal text, and of course film was so new audiences were not as savy as modern moviegoers. Definitely worth your time.


Wednesday, April 16, 2003

The Mexican

Movie: The Mexican

This good have been a good film except it's got 90 minutes worth of material and spreads it out over two hours. Thus all the scenes drag, and what little action there is isn't enough to wake you up. The premise seemed routine to me -- everyone wants a priceless pistol called "The Mexican" -- but in the end it does make a little more sense than it seems on the surface. There's some great stuff here: Brad Pitt as a loser sent off to fetch the gun for his ganster employers, and Julia Roberts as his girlfriend who's kidnapped by a gay hit man who's holding her hostage to ensure her boyfriend comes back with the gun. The scenes with Julia and the gay hit man are terrific, definitely the best part of the film, but even they drag occasionally and they give the film a very different feel from the action flick the rest of the movie purports to be. Julia and Brad have broken up, and she's just hideous to him whenever she's with him, nagging and screaming at him, so much so that her character is repugnant to the viewer. But in the scenes with the hit man she's sweet and nice and charming -- very odd change of character. Brad's character is likewise strange: he's such a idiot we have trouble relating to him or feeling too sympathetic since he creates most of his own problems. Both of these problems could have been minimized by tighter editing: with a faster-paced film we wouldn't have time to be as bothered by such issues, and of course Julia wouldn't have time to get on our nerves as the Shrew. Overall this isn't a bad film, but it's not great either. It's falls into that dreadful "average" category. The sad thing is it had great potential and could have been really good as the material that's there is excellent, it's just spread out so much it's almost incoherent.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Miami Vice

Movie: Miami Vice

I wasn't too excited about this. The casting seemed uninspired and I didn't really care much about the film's plot (incomprehensible in the trailers), though I liked the TV series. Unfortunately, this turned out to be nothing like the TV series. I kept waiting of the great Miami Vice theme song to get me addrenalized and in the mood and it never happened -- not even during the closing credits! Basically, other than the names of the two lead characters and the Miami setting, this film is nothing like the TV series. Gone are the distinctive visuals, replaced by gritty, out-of-focus hand-held camerawork that's just nausiating. The plot's a convoluted dark mess of confusion -- Crocket and Tubbs go undercover to sting a drug lord -- and the ending shootout is strangely cold and uninspiring. I read later the film cost $140 million to make, which shocked me: I would have guessed maybe $50 million tops, most of that going to the leads. There just isn't much action or stuff happening. On it's own the film would rate an average. It's not terrible but there's nothing special about it. But comparing it to the TV series, there's just not enough flair and 80s over-the-top drama, and it rates lower than an episode of the TV show.


Thursday, November 15, 2001

Michael Card/Sara Groves Concert

The concert was excellent -- almost 3 hours long (I guess that made the $22 entry fee worth it). Michael Card started, then Sara began accompanying him, then she sang "The Word," and after the huge applause, Michael said, "I've been trying to come up with a better way to introduce Sara Groves, but I haven't come up with anything better than that." Then Sara sang several and told some stories (including one or two I hadn't heard). Then Michael came back and did the bulk of the show, and finally Sara came back and they finished together with a few duets.

I really liked Michael Card. I'd never heard him before. I bought a bunch of his CDs and a book he wrote. He has a similar style to Sara. He plays guitar or piano and tells stories like Sara. He reminds me of Keith Green (my favorite Christian artist).

Afterward, I went backstage and saw Sara and she dragged me to the RV to see Kirby (her son). He's huge! Almost a toddler. I told her, "I guess that's what happens when you only see a baby once a year." He kept watching me with these giant blue eyes. Sounds like touring is a real strain and stress, but its also got its joys. They seem to be doing well. They saw my mom at the Visallia (?) concert on Tuesday.

Sara will be back in this area on Sunday, Dec. 9. This one is without Michael Card. I don't know the time or anything, but there's a number for the church on Sara's website. It's in Menlo Park.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Michael Clayton

Movie: Michael Clayton

This is stylistic and interesting, but way too convoluted. You feel manipulated and confused from the start as we watch some dramatic things happen and suddenly go to a flashback that takes up almost the rest of the film. It is kinda neat the way you see the events of the beginning with a different eye later in the film once you know what's happening, and that perspective does add power to those events, but unfortunately for much too much of the film you are just bewildered with no idea what is going on or where the film is going. Once everything's stripped away the plot's really simple: a New York legal firm is defending a pesticide company against a lawsuit that's been dragging on for over a dozen years when the lead lawyer gets a crisis of conscience after uncovering dramatic evidence of the company's guilt. Michael Clayton, the firm's "fixer," is brought in to contain the situation, but then he has a crisis of conscience as well, and when he becomes a threat to the law firm, someone tries to kill him. It's all very dramatic and well acted, and it fortunately falls just short of pretentious, but unfortunately not all that much really happens, and because of the way information is withheld from the viewer until the very end, it's confusing. Still, it's turns out to be a good film, just not great. You just have to watch it on faith that things will eventually make sense and then it's pretty good.


Tuesday, May 16, 2000

Mickey Blue Eyes

Movie: Mickey Blue Eyes

Very cool light comedy, mixed with serious gangster stuff; a bit tedious and too serious at times, and the finale's way over the top. Favorite moment: The "THE THE END" title at the end (you have to see the film to get the joke).


Monday, February 7, 2011


Movie: Micmacs
Writer(s): Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Jeunet is one of my favorite directors of all time and he doesn't miss a beat in this film, which is an ingenious delight from start to finish. The entire story is basically an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine, as tiny, seemingly insignificant things, lead to major events. Our hero's father is killed by war when he's a child and years later the orphaned man is accidentally shot in the head by a stray bullet. The doctors have to leave the bullet in his head as it's too dangerous to remove it, and he ends up jobless and homeless. He falls in with a quirky band of fellow homeless folk who live in a wonderful junk yard where one of them fashions marvelous machines and automatons from the wreckage. Other crazy characters include a former world record holder as a the human cannonball, "Calculator," a girl who can at a glance tell you the size, weight, measurements, and distance of anything (her father was a surveyor and her mother a seamstress), a woman contortionist, and more. One day our hero comes across the two rival arms dealers who built the weapons that killed his father and injured himself and he decides to embark and complex plot to pit them against each other so they destroy themselves. All his friends help in marvelous ways, from the contortionist who is delivered past security inside a box to Calculator, who assists them calculating trajectories. As usual with Jeunet, the film is basically a series of sight gags -- illusions and tricks and clever camera angles. He tops himself in this one, with hilarious bits such as background advertising billboards that match the scene we're watching (winking self-promotion) and an explosion that's so powerful it blows the clothing off a swimsuit model on a calendar. One of my favorite scenes involves a minor fantasy when our hero's stuck in traffic outside a soccer game: he imagines the game's commentators mentioning the "new rule" adopted whereby there's a land mine hidden on the field somewhere, a ploy to add spice to the match. Sure enough, one of the players suddenly blows up! Priceless. Another terrific moment is when our hero has an "ah ha" moment and we hear the swelling orchestral music and as the camera pans we suddenly see a real-life orchestra playing behind him! Wonderfully meta! Though the story gets a little overly complicated and involved, it concludes the way we want, with justice served on the evil arms dealers, but the point of this film isn't the destination but the journey. Every scene is a visual treat, and the performances are fantastic. Quirky, odd, and utterly endearing, this is a film I could watch over and over. Don't miss this French masterpiece.


Monday, January 3, 2005

Mid-west Trip

My mother and I are heading east for the next week. My cousin's getting married in Missouri on Saturday and we're taking advantage of the opportunity to visit some relatives in the area. We leave Wednesday, but the trip sort of started today, as my mother had to come over from the coast to bring Grandpa some clothes -- he's been put into a facility in Forest Grove (40 minutes from me) where he'll stay while we're gone. Now we're facing the task of deciding what to do with him long-term. If he can't walk, my mother can't take care of him, so probably our only choice is to put him into long-term care. It's not something he wants, and we'd probably have to sell the beach house (meaning my mom will be without a place to live), but it's not like there are many other choices. My mom was originally planning on coming here tomorrow but it doesn't make sense for her to come over today and then again tomorrow, so she'll stay here tonight as well. I've got a ton of packing and planning and work to do before we go.


Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Mid-west Trip

Wow, what a day! Though our flight wasn't until noon, we still had to get up early and leave the house by nine. Crazy the way that works, but you need to get to the airport a couple hours early (to park the car, get through security, etc.) and I am an hour or so from the airport. The flight was packed and my mom's expandable carryon proved too big to fit into the overhead bins so it had to be checked (Why do they sell carryon-sized luaggage that expands to be too big?). The outgoing flight was slow to leave (I don't know why), so we arrived in Reno thirty minutes behind schedule. We didn't get off the plane there, but sat for a while and looked at all the snow. Then it was off to Phoenix where we had a two hour layover before our next flight. The food at the Phoenix airport was terrible. We arrived in Nashville a little early, at about 15 after eleven, but it was still midnight by the time we got my mom's checked bag, got the rental car, and checked in to our motel room. A long day.


Friday, January 7, 2005

Mid-west Trip

Yesterday we drove to Maryville, near Knoxville, to visit my aunt and her husband (who is ill). It was a great visit. We also got to see my cousin Jodi (who I haven't seen since I was a kid) and her family (she has three great children). Today we (I should say I) drove for eleven hours as we went from Maryville to Eminence, Missouri. That's in the middle of the Ozark mountains near nothing. It's about half-way between Paduca and Springfield, if that means anything. Anyway, it was a long, long drive across all of Tennessee, up into Kentucky for a spell, then halfway across Missouri. It rained a lot and there were flood warnings. Not long after we left Paduca there were reports on the radio of the Ohio river there flooding there. We were also delayed by a multi-car wreck on I-40 before Nashville. We saw two ambulances go by, but the main vehicle in the accident appeared to have gone over an embankment and we couldn't see anything but the rescue workers. We did see a few other banged up vehicles that appeared to be rear-enders that couldn't stop in time. It made me drive carefully, let me tell you. Fortunately the weather, while wet, wasn't terrible. We got into Eminence late, missing most of the evening dinner reception, and after a short while at the dinner word was out that it was starting to freeze and people should get to their motels ASAP. Sure enough, as we were getting settled in our motel room, the rain had turned to sleet and was icing on the cars. The "outdoor" wedding scheduled for tomorrow has been changed to indoors, thank the Lord.


Monday, January 10, 2005

Mid-west Trip

It was a nice wedding Saturday, with some good family time afterward. The turnout was surprisingly good, perhaps a hundred or more people. Several relatives on our side of the family came from nearby Springfield, which was nice. Funny that my California cousin would meet and marry a girl from Missouri (our family has a lot of Missouri connections and I lived up in Springfield myself for a time). Sunday I woke up with a full-on cold: I'd been fighting it since before Christmas, a slight sore throat that warned of more. But all the travel and lack of sleep brought it on full and this morning I couldn't swallow without screaming. We stopped at a Wal-Mart and I stocked up on cold medicine. The rest of the trip is appropriately hazy. We drove to Springfield yesterday and stayed with my great-Aunt and Uncle. Today we headed for Alabama. This was a bit unexpected, but when I talked with my Uncle Jack on Friday, he mentioned he was only two hours from Nashville, so we decided instead of returning via the northern route, we'd go south and come up to Nashville from below, passing through Alabama and visiting Jack and my cousins. It meant less time in Springfield, but I haven't seen Uncle Jack and family since I was nine years old. We thought we'd go as far as Memphis but apparently stopped in West Memphis, a city that's apparently in Arkansas, not Tennessee. Weird.


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Mid-west Trip

Our trip is finally over. It was only a week, but felt like a month. On Tuesday we drove to Leighton, Alabama, which is west of Huntsville and in the middle of nowhere. It was great, though. We got to see my Uncle Jack and Aunt Wanda, and my cousins JJ and Corina and their families (they both have spouses and kids I'd never met). JJ barely remembered me -- he was probably only about four the last time I saw him. I was worried it would be a little awkward seeing relatives I haven't seen in so long, but it was great. I don't know how or why we drifted apart (this country's just too large), but it was great to see them again. I'm glad we made the effort and they really appreciated it. We couldn't stay long at all -- just had dinner -- and then we were off to Nashville. We arrived before midnight and crashed, my flu or cold or whatever wiping me out. I was slow going in the morning, but there was lots to do. We had to return our book-on-CD to Cracker Barrel restaurant (they have a nice lending program), fill up the rental SUV with gas, return the vehicle, and check into our flight home. Fortunately the weather cooperated and everything was on schedule. After the mess on the west coast for a while there, it was dry and our flight into Oakland was routine. We had a two-hour layover there, then it was back home to Portland. I was exhausted and sick and just wanted to sleep, but my mom was already trying to figure out how to deal with Grandpa and his situation.


Friday, January 5, 2001

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Movie: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Director(s): Clint Eastwood

Odd movie. Quirky and humorous, sort of like Northern Exposure of the South, yet about murder. The essential plot: a wealthy gay man is accused of killing his lover, but he claims self-defense. Well-done, but much of the focus is on the unusual local characters (the drag queen, the voodoo doctor) instead of the plot, which I found a little pointless. The murder itself was also strange: the timing of it made me think it was contrived and premeditated, but the wealthy guy did some incredibly stupid things that made him seem guilty, which was weird if he murdered with the intent of getting off. Apparently this is based on a true story: the book sounds better than the movie, which greatly condensed several trials.


Monday, August 25, 2003

Midnight Runner

Book: Midnight Runner
Writer(s): Jack Higgins

Normally I love spy thrillers and I'm not too critical of them, but this one was bad. The concept was terrific: the wealthiest woman in the world, an heir to an Arab oil fortune, declares vengeance on former IRA gunman now British secret agent Sean Dillon, his boss, an American Senator, and the Senator's friend, the President of the United States. Unfortunately, that's about as exciting as it gets: after that set up I expected a lot and instead I got a mishmash of dropped plots and non-action.

First problem: dropped plots. The American Senator and President feature initially, but later are forgotten completely and have nothing to do with the book. The Senator's daughter is killed by the wealthy woman, and he initially vows revenge (against the counsel of the President), but ends up doing nothing. Higgins spends a lot of time at the beginning letting us know the history of this man, reliving his Vietnam experiences, etc., and then... nothing.

Next problem: lackluster action. While the rich woman talks big, she doesn't just try to kill her enemies. You'd think she'd be hiring killers, planting bombs, etc., but no. She has dinner with them! They chat about how she is planning on killing them. She keeps hinting to her cousin about this big plan she has in mind, and when it's finally revealed, it's a plot to blow up her own oil pipeline and thus destroy the world economy and ruin the U.S. President's popularity. Gee, that's brilliant. Wasn't that the plot of a recent James Bond film?

We finally get some action toward the end of the novel, but it's too late. We're bored to tears by then, and the action's so brief and odd (killing is usually so quick it's over before it's begun, and the good guys and bad guys do more talking with each other than shooting) it's unsatisfying.

The book has a few nice points, but that's the problem: it feels like a jumbled collection of semi-related stories jammed into a single book with a rough plot loosely tying the mess together. Lame.


Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Midwest Trip

Today I embark on my road trip to Chicago via Houston. Yes, that's bizarre, but that's the way it works. I'm going to the REAL World Conference in Austin next week, and instead of flying, I'll drive and visit relatives in Houston, Missouri, and Illinois. It will be a lot of driving but should be fun!


Sunday, April 4, 2004

Midwest Trip

Whew! I'm back from my long trip! Here's what I did. I departed on March 17th for Arizona and stayed near Phoenix, then made it to Fort Stockton in Texas the next day. On Friday I arrived in Houston, where I stayed with my cousin, Tami, and her husband, Scott. Tami just had a baby, Rowan, in January. He's now over 14 lbs. and growing! He's just adorable. A very happy baby, laughing and smiling all the time. After a few days with them, I went to the REAL World Conference 2004 in Austin while my mother (who flew in from Oregon) stayed with my cousin. After the conference we drove to Missouri, and then to Illinois. I caught up with my 9th grade English teacher in southern Illinois, then in Chicago we visited with relatives. On Thursday I started the long drive home (my mother flew back to Portland on Friday). I stayed in Des Moines, Iowa; Rock Springs, Wyoming; and Winnemucca, Nevada. I arrived home this afternoon. I drove over 6,000 miles! I'll post some pictures soon; I'm too tired right now.

Overall, this was a great trip. While driving across deserted states like Nevada and Wyoming is boring, you get a better feel for the country driving. I really enjoyed seeing the differences in the various states; different foods, stores, accents, people, pace of life, etc. It was a terrific experience -- it's been a long time since I've done it.


Monday, December 26, 2005

Might As Well Be Dead

Book: Might As Well Be Dead
Writer(s): Rex Stout

Pretty good Nero Wolfe novel. This time Wolfe's hired to find a rich man's lost son and discovers the boy's in prison and has just been convicted of murder. Not wanting to tell the father such bad news, he decides to prove to boy innocent, as he suspects a frame.


Friday, July 7, 2000

Mighty Aphrodite

Movie: Mighty Aphrodite

Hilarious, surrealistic, somewhat profound, and occasionally crude Woody Allen film. Terrific performance by Mira Sorvino.


Wednesday, May 28, 2003

A Mighty Wind

Movie: A Mighty Wind

Another mockumentary from the folks who brought us Spinal Tap and Best in Show. This is another success, this time about folk music from the 1950's. It's hilarious. The "plot" is about a modern day reunion show of several folk groups, but we get to see plenty of grainy black-and-white video clips and photographs of the original performances. Great stuff. There are two problems with this movie. One, these mockumentaries are done with such conviction, it's hard to tell when they are being funny. The humor is occasionally of the outrageous "ha ha" variety, but much of the time it's more subtle, making you unsure if you heard right or if you're supposed to laugh. A perfect example is the scene were the goody-goody wife of the New Mainstreet Singers is telling about her past and how she started out in San Francisco doing some "short films," and as she continues we gradually realize she's saying she was a porn star! Hilarious. Another problem with this movie is that the folk songs are too good. They are too real. Maybe they are real, I don't know, but they're actually quite good songs, and that takes some of the sting out of the parody. It's like when someone tries to do a sketch about singing badly and then sings well: it kills the humor. Not a terrible flaw, but it's more difficult to see the funniness in the songs. Overall, a great film, though. Lots of fun.


Sunday, April 7, 2002


Book: Mindbend (1985)
Writer(s): Robin Cook

This is an older (1985) Cook book (ha ha) about the evils of businesses invading medicine. Instead of concentrating on just that, however, Cook throws in a few other gimmicks: the evil business is brainwashing doctors into increasing the number of unnecessary abortion so that the company's labs have plenty of fetal tissue to use in their fetology research. Well, that's a lot of stuff going on, and the mess it makes is, well, a mess. Worse, Cook's main characters are so stiff and artificial and he forces conflict with such a blunt pen it's aggravating. He has the hero husband fighting with his wife for no logical reason. He's a medical student and doesn't trust his wife's doctor (who it turns out is controlled by the evil business), so she promptly leaves him and goes home to mama! Their relationship strains credibility and makes one wonder why they were together in the first place. The idiot guy stubbornly refuses financial help from her parents, preferring to drop out of medical school instead, and his own parents are barely on speaking terms with him -- get this -- because his older brother died in Vietnam (somehow they blame him). All this character assassination is done to force the plot: that the young man takes a job with a drug company whose parent happens to be the company controlling all the doctors and stealing fetal material. Of course, he discovers this and investigates. And thus we begin a race between him and his wife: can he find proof of the company's illegal activities before his wife can abort the baby he doesn't even want? Still, you're reading this absurd mess hoping something exciting's coming, and boy does it ever! (That's sarcasm, for the clueless.) The hero figures out the company's brainwashing methods: a combination of drugs and surgery, performed on doctors when they take medical seminar cruises sponsored by the evil corporation. Even better: these doctors have chips planted in their heads so they can be controlled by remote control! Even more absurd, these doctors are being remote controlled to make them order drugs made by the evil company! Absolutely ludicrous, though I suspect more than a few drug companies would love the concept. In the end, of course, the hero wins, gets back with his wife (who doesn't have the abortion), and even makes up with his dad. That all happens in the final three pages. Despite this being a quick read, I can't recommend this book at all: it's lame all the way around, though I did manage to finish it. I just wish I hadn't wasted the time. There is good news, though: this book has totally gotten me over my fear of writing a bad novel. If a book like this is a best seller, I have nothing to worry about.


Friday, July 26, 2002

Minority Report

Movie: Minority Report
Writer(s): Philip K. Dick
Director(s): Steven Spielberg

Well-done film. Not as thought-provoking as Philip K. Dick's stories usually are, this movie went more for flashy special effects and action sequences instead of mental struggles. Still, it was a good tale well-told. The plot deals with a "precrime" cop: based on the predictions of psychics, he stops murderers before they can commit their crime. Supposedly the system is flawless -- the psychics are always correct. However, when he learns that he's wanted for a future murder, he begins to question the system. The ending unravels into a typically Hollywood-style conspiracy (the bad guy is obvious from the beginning of the film as he's too good an actor for a minor role), but it's still a fun ride. The futuristic look of the film is unusual and interesting, though occasionally it feels artificial (I prefer the more realistic, gritty futures of films like Brazil and Delicatessen). The film's a bit too long and talky in places (which feels awkward mixed with the action sequences), but overall I liked it very much and my criticisms are nit-picky.


Friday, July 14, 2006


Movie: Mirrormask
Writer(s): Neil Gaiman

I knew nothing about this film and wasn't sure what it was or if I was interested. It turns out it's an amazing fantasy film about a girl who goes into a dreamland inspired by her own drawings where she becomes trapped and has to solve a mystery in order to escape. The visuals are amazing and the story is delightful. The film is obviously targeted toward children, but it's not childish. I enjoyed the film a lot and will be buying my own copy (this was a rental).


Friday, March 25, 2011

Mischief (1996-2011)

Tonight I had to say good-bye to a close friend of nearly 15 years. A month or so ago I noticed Mischief was sleeping more than usual and he seemed to be a little depressed. He hadn't been eating well for the past few months. I thought Mayhem was stealing his food, but separating the two didn't seem to help. After I returned from my week away, I immediately knew something was wrong: he was dreadfully thin and he was so tired he could barely raise his head. He wouldn't eat and he wasn't responsive. He just sat and stared in a daze. I took him to the vet. Last time he was there he was over 11 pounds; this time he was 5.6. I don't think he ate at all the whole time I was gone. Tonight the vet gave me the sad news: his kidneys had shut down and he was anemic, which pretty much means there's no hope. She thought he had less a week (she was surprised he survived the night, though the fluid treatment she gave him helped). I spent a last few minutes with him. His eyes were alert and was he affectionate, but I noticed he didn't purr. (He hadn't purred at all since I returned, even when I rubbed his favorite spot under his chin.) He moved his head actively, but not his body. I think he was too weak to do more.

It's very sad, but at least he didn't suffer too much. I knew he was getting old but I hadn't expected him to go so soon and so suddenly. I was shocked at how emotional I was -- I'd mentally been preparing myself for the worst the last few days but it was very hard to let him go. At least I have Mayhem to comfort me (and me him, as I can already tell he's wondering where Mischief went). Here's a painting of Mischief I made on my iPad:

He was a wonderful and loyal friend.


Sunday, June 24, 2001

Miss Congeniality

Movie: Miss Congeniality

Fun little caper. The trailers pretty much tell you the whole story, but Sandra Bullock is perfect for this kind of role, and some of the other casting (William Shatner and Candice Bergen) was inspired. Won't tax your brain.


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Miss Potter

Movie: Miss Potter

I'd been wanting to see this and it was the airplane flight to Houston. I missed a little bit when I dozed off and the mono headphone connection was very pour, but I got the gist of it. It's pretty good. It's the simple, real-life tale of children's author Beatrix Potter and how she got published and her tragic romance. Nothing too dramatic or exciting, but elegantly done.


Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The Missing

Movie: The Missing
Director(s): Ron Howard

Some critics don't like this film, though I'm not sure why. I found it riveting. The story's simple, the characters more complex. Set in the Western era in New Mexico, a tough single woman with two children makes a living working hard on the land and doubling as a Healer. We meet her father, a white man who abandoned her as a child to take on Indian ways. One day a band of renegade Indians led by a savage Indian witch doctor kills her lover and kidnaps her oldest daughter. The army's supposed to hunt them down, but are going in the wrong direction, so she reluctantly accepts help from her estranged father to track the band. Together, the woman, her father, and her youngest daughter, head off after the renegades. They must catch them before they get to Mexico where they'll sell all the girls they've captured. But what will happen once they actually catch up with the Indians? How will they get her daughter back? Ah, that's the adventure part of the film, and I won't spoil it for you. The film's exciting, interesting, and gruesomely shows how tough life was back in those days. It also tries hard to be a character drama, with strong acting and dramatic conflict. Unfortunately, it fails to an extent in that regard, for much of the conflict feels artificial. The woman reacts so violently to her father when he initially shows up that it's surprising how much she relents later. Her hatred of him for abandoning her comes across as extreme: I'm not sure I buy it. The circumstances aren't explained well enough for me to understand (for instance, there's no mention of how old she was when he left). There are mysterious hints of what was possibly a rape (the first child the result), which would explain part of the woman's rage, but this also isn't clearly explained (I guess we're supposed to infer that a 30-year-old mother with a 15-year-old child was young when she had the baby, but even there no specific ages of the characters are given, so the woman could have been 25 or 35). The father's motives for leaving are left mysterious leaving us unsure of him (his explanation is to tell an Indian story about a brave who followed a hawk and kept going because the hawk kept going). Generally such vagueness just muddles the story; fortunately the action-driven plot (find and rescue the girl) keeps the story moving. The action's good, and realistic, considering we're talking about a woman and a bunch of girls against seasoned, desperate Indian warriors. I did find the whole "shaman" (witch doctor) aspect of the story disturbing, in particular the scene where the guy uses her hair to make her sick though she's miles away. While I don't have a problem with other aspects of the witch's capabilities (for instance, blowing a powder into a man's face making him go blind), that one strains credibility. And since the woman doesn't die or anything, I'm not sure what that added to the film. Sure, it convinces her to accept the "magic" protective necklace her father gives her, but since we never come back to that in the rest of the film, why bother with the scene? The film was long -- they should have just edited out that entire sequence and sped things along. Overall, though, I liked the film. With it's simple plot, however, I'm not sure how it will hold up to repeated viewings, but it's worth seeing once.


Thursday, May 25, 2000

Mission Impossible II

Movie: Mission Impossible II

Excellent action flick, 100x better than the original. The plot is simple and performances are decent, but this doesn't try to pretend to be anything but a shoot-em-up. If you don't like action, forget it. (For some reason these movies have none of the psychological manipulation aspect of the TV show, which is what I liked best, but this one is fun and stylishly done.)


Sunday, December 24, 2000

Mission Impossible II

Movie: Mission Impossible II
Director(s): John Woo

Fun actioner with some unique and innovative stunts. The plot meanders like a river and doesn't make sense if you analyze it, but that's to be expected. More of a James Bond film than an MI story, but still good.


Friday, May 5, 2006

Mission Impossible III

Movie: Mission Impossible III

I hated the first film, which was horrible and way overplotted, but the second was good. This one falls in between the two. It's not as good as the second but not nearly as bad as the first. It's got some good moments, but they just don't play that MI theme enough. For me, that's what makes the movie (and the TV show). I hear that theme and I get goosebumps and whatever happens on screen is automatically cool. Here they only played it once, briefly, at the beginning, so that was the only cool part of the film. As for the plot, who cares? It's action, not psychology like the TV show. This has a decent villain (Philip Seymour Hoffman in grand form) and your typical double agents (gee, quel surprise). There's drama, but it's forced and we're not emotionally tied to any of the characters so it's not like we really care. We just want to see cool missions and unfortunately there's not enough of that (the ones shown are mediocre, at best). Overall, I'd say ho-hum, though watching this is not a terrible way to spend an afternoon.


Friday, September 27, 2002

Mission to Mars

Movie: Mission to Mars
Director(s): Brian DePalma

This was kind of a cross between Apollo 13 and 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's a serious film, a realistic look at a fictional manned mission to Mars. The space ships and the problems the crew run into are handled pretty much the way we'd handle them today (no magical SF inventions here -- for instance, the journey takes six months one way). However, that serious approach clashed with the occasional technical inaccuracies: clouds and wind on Mars? astronaut takes off helmet but doesn't explode?

The plot is simple enough: a strange force on Mars destroys the original mission crew, so a rescue crew heads to Mars to find out what happened. Of course they find evidence of Martians -- aliens who lived there long ago. Ho hum, and farfetched. However, I still like the film. It's more lightweight than it wants to be, and some of the drama is rather contrived, but it's still interesting and occasionally rivoting. Not great but not terrible.


Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Missouri Trip

I just returned from a five day journey to my childhood home, Springfield, Missouri. Since I lived there during the key formative years of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade, I always say that I "grew up" there. I have happy memories of many days in the woods near my grandfather's house, exploring caves, finding snakes and wild animals, picking blackberries by the bucketful, and doing daredevil bicycle stunts. The place is different now, with homes where there used to be trees I climbed, but it still has an Ozark feel. No matter where I settle down, there will always be a little Ozark in me.

I stayed with and had good long conversations with my Great-Uncle Lloyd and Great-Aunt Nita. When I lived in Springfield, we went to Lloyd and Nita's every Friday night. He's an artist and would let me go to his workshop and draw with his marking pens. (Now, like me, he does virtually everything on computer.) They've lived in Springfield just forever, and I was astonished to realize that Nita has been a member of the Central Assembly church choir since 1947! Now that's dedication!

Speaking of dedication, I got to learn a bit about my family's incredible history. I grew up knowing my grandfather and other relatives were prominent in the Assemblies of God denomination, but I had no idea to what degree. It was fascinating to visit the new A/G Museum and see pictures and artifacts detailing the history of the Assemblies and find out that my ancestors were part of that history (going back to the earliest days of the Protestant movement in the 20th century). It's humbling and makes you feel like you're part of a bigger picture. Since my father was killed when I was a baby, I've always felt a lack of history, like I came from nowhere. I know that doesn't make sense, since I was close with grandparents and relatives on both sides of my family, but it's just the reality I felt -- a little isolated. (Having no siblings contributed to that I'm sure.) Anyway, it was neat to see a glimpse of the lives my ancestors had and see them as real people, not just names on a family tree chart. It also balanced well with seeing some of my second cousins, the new generation who are out to set their mark on the world (and doing a good job of it, judging by the success of singer Sara Groves -- Lloyd found it amusing that he used to be known for himself, then he was "Dwight's Dad," and now he's most famous as "Sara's Grandfather").

Wildlife Museum & Bass Pro
On Saturday we went to the new National Wildlife Museum that just opened in Springfield. It was impressive: several ecologies within a huge building you walk through. There were many living animals and a number of stuffed exhibits (like the giant polar bear). My favorites were the otters, who loved to play.

The Bass Pro shop, apparently the largest in the world, was impressive. Picture three or four Costco warehouses with multiple levels full of outdoor gear, boats, sporting goods, a restaurant, a museum, a barber shop, artist gallery, all intertwined with an indoor waterfall, aquarium, and hundreds of mounted animals and you've got a fair idea of what it's all about. Wow, boy did I have a headache after seeing all that stuff! (Superstores tend to overwhelm me and turn me into a blithering idiot.)

Airport Security
This was my first trip after 9/11, and it was indeed an eventful experience. Most security measures were pretty standard, but there were some differences. For instance, my laptop had to go through the X-Ray machine by itself (separate from the bag), and they also scanned my coat. At San Jose, the guard made me take a swig from my water bottle -- I have no idea why. In Springfield, security was even tighter: they used the metal detector wand on me, and it beeped at a wadded up foil chocolate wrapper in my pocket!

Perhaps they are overdoing things a bit: I saw a sign prohibiting baseball bats as carry-ons, for instance, yet old people carrying canes were allowed those. But it was interesting that I didn't hear a single complaint from any passengers. Everyone cooperated and was in good humor, despite the delays and annoyances of the extra security.

BTW, if you're interested, you can see pictures from my trip using this link.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Mistress of Justice

Book: Mistress of Justice
Writer(s): Jeffery Deaver

A disappointing early Deaver book, this is about a female jazz pianist who works as a paralegal at a law firm and ends up becoming an amateur sleuth when a senior attorney brings her under his wing to find him a stolen legal document. Unfortunately, the web of complicated potential criminals is far too large and there are way too many sub-plots going on. The law firm is in political upheaval as half the board wants to merge with another firm while half oppose it, so there are all kinds of shenanigans going on as different powerful lawyers try to sabotage or encourage the merger. Meanwhile we've got mysterious suicides and potential murder attempts. This goes on for way too many pages while we haven't a clue what's going on. Finally, just in time, the stolen legal document is found, the bad guy caught, and everything seems concluded... but the book just keeps on going. After several dreary chapters when nothing happens, the girl finally figures out the obvious -- that a suicide was really a murder, and we're back to our huge suspect pool. The final conclusion, with the typical Deaver twist, is not outrageous or even unlikely, but it is disappointing and feels forced and artificial. It's like Deaver's trying too hard. I'd recommend the condensed version of the book if you feel you must.


Sunday, October 15, 2000

MLS Cup 2000: Chicago vs. Kansas City

Soccer: MLS Cup 2000: Chicago vs. Kansas City

Amazing game. Chicago came in with the best offense in the league against K.C.'s best defense. Who would win? Chicago started things off with potent offense, but couldn't quite stick the ball in the back of the net. Then K.C., on a sudden counter, put themselves ahead ten minutes in! Chicago wasn't the least bit worried, however, and they set up camp in K.C.'s penalty area and took shot after shot. But none of them went in. In the second half it was more of the same. Chicago brought in more offensive players off the bench, giving K.C. a few opportunities for counter-attacks, but neither team's defense would give in. K.C. keeper and league MPV Tony Meola blocked shot after shot, and even Chicago's Thorton had to make a couple good saves. Every two minutes you just knew Chicago had finally scored, only to see the ball somehow miss the target or be stopped. It was maddening. But soccer's not a game about possession: whoever scores the most goals wins. And this time that was Kansas City, 1-0! So for only the third time in MLS history, the league has another first time winner. (The others were D.C. and Chicago.) It's a great sign that the league is maturing and producing more than just one or two championship caliber teams. The level of soccer in this game was incredibly impressive: on both defensive and offensive skills, both teams were excellent, and I think the world would do well to notice that Major League Soccer has arrived. (Don't feel too sorry for the Fire: they still have an Open Cup championship to fight for, against the Miami Fusion.)


Sunday, October 21, 2001

MLS Cup 2001: San Jose Earthquakes vs. L.A. Galaxy

Soccer: MLS Cup 2001: San Jose Earthquakes vs. L.A. Galaxy

Absolutely unbelievable. I was at the Britannia Arms in Almaden again, this time before 9 a.m. There was already a crowd of about 100 waiting for the place to open! At least I got a seat this time (latecomers did have to stand). The game it self was great. For some reason I wasn't worried. I think part of that was that the real achievement had already been done: for the Quakes just getting to the finals was incredible. If they'd lost I don't think I'd have been that disappointed (though losing to LA would have been yucky). The Quakes started of great, really pressuring and making L.A. look tenuous as they struggled to defend. But a brilliant long-ball counter-attack gave L.A. an early lead. San Jose had never lost all season when scoring first, but had the opposite record when giving up the first goal: thus it was a bit worrying to see them go down early. But the Quakes fought back and an innocuous ball to the center by Ian Russell fell to Landon Donovan's feet and with one move he turned and blasted perfectly into the upper corner of the goal! Incredible goal, and it gave the Quakes the momentum in the second half, where they outshot the Galaxy 12-3 (at one point). But though Donovan and several other Quakes came incredibly close in the second half, no one could break the tie. I worried that a fluke goal would ruin the Quake's party, but San Jose's defense was absolutely superb, stealing the ball away from the feet of the L.A. offense on numerous occasions. In "golden goal" overtime it was obvious both teams were exhausted: the weeks of intense playoff games and a fast-paced game today had taken their toll. But the fresh legs of Canadian International, Dwayne DeRossario proved the difference-maker. A long feed to him on the left and he went right at the goal. The defense was slow at closing him down, so he took advantage, duked to the right and shot a curling ball that beat the keeper to give San Jose the championship! Incredible! What a fantastic conclusion to a fairy tale season. From worst in the league last year to champions this year! Even better, it was well-deserved: San Jose outplayed all the teams they faced. Awesome. Final: 2-1 San Jose!


Sunday, November 23, 2003

MLS Cup 2003: San Jose Earthquakes vs. Chicago Fire

Soccer: MLS Cup 2003: San Jose Earthquakes vs. Chicago Fire


Sunday, November 18, 2007

MLS Cup 2007

Soccer: MLS Cup 2007

Today the Houston Dynamo defeated the New England Revolution 2-1 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. to win their second consecutive MLS Cup. It is only the second time in the history of the league that a champion has held on to their crown (DC United did it in 1997).

It was a cracker of a match, with Houston, ironically, having the fewer chances but capitalizing when it counted — the exact opposite of their season where they would have tons of chances in a game but few finishes.

Typical of Houston (and the San Jose incarnation), they do it best through adversity, giving up a headed goal to Taylor Twellman early in the first half. But Houston was calm. After all, just a few weeks ago they were two goals down to Dallas in the playoffs and won that series 4-2. And who can forget last year's immediate comeback against this same New England team in the final?

Houston's been a second half team all season and this game was no exception. They kicked things up a notch in the second half, coming out with more aggression and determination and fixed some of the defensive lapses they showed in the first half. New England, it must be said, looked like they thought they'd already won (shades of last year's Cup), and failed to be as aggressive as they could and scorned a few gorgeous opportunities.

The comeback for Houston started with a fabulous sequence of pressure by the Dynamo, getting the ball deep into New England's box and creating several dangerous chances. A Houston corner kick was rejected, but aggressive play from Dynamo Captain Wade Barrett kept the ball in play at the near sideline and he managed to toe-poke the ball to teammate Brian Mullan who fed a long ball into the box. It skittered across to Dwayne DeRosario on the far side and he managed to cross it hard into the box. It was too hard for Jaqua who was crashing in but it fell gloriously to Joseph Ngwenya. But he flubbed his left-footed shot as the ball went through his legs. But the Revolution defense didn't clear the ball and Joseph didn't quit, taking a second swipe at the ball with his right and sliding it underneath Revs' keeper Matt Reis to level the score.

No game is complete without controversy and this came in the 64th minute when Cano Smith and Craig Waibel clashed in the box. Smith wanted a penalty kick (it was shoulder contact, not a foul) but the ref waved it off. Smith and Waibel had words, however, and then Cano — a mere yard from the referee — out-and-out head-butted Waibel in the jaw! Shockingly, this outrageous display of temper and unsportsmanship — little different from Ricardo Clark's kick to Carlos Ruiz that earned him a league-record nine-game suspension — was dealt with merely a yellow card by referee Alex Pruis. I don't like to see red cards in finals, but that was deliberate and regardless of the amount of contact (Waibel dodged most of the blow), it should have been a red. It was no different from Zidane's head-butt in the World Cup final. (That said, a red would have tainted the result and I'm perfectly happy with the final score.)

Late in the game New England had a couple opportunities but couldn't capitalize. One of the best was a cross through the box with Twellman waiting at the back post for a certain tap-in goal, but Dynamo goalkeeper Pat Onstad (my Man of the Match) flew in and got his fingertips to the ball to snare it with a fabulous saving play. Even better, the rebound was easily dealt with by the Dynamo defense and a counter-attack started.

Exactly forty seconds later, the Dynamo scored at the other end. Ngwenya's good hold-up play on the right wing got the ball to Waibel who'd run up in support and he played it to a wide open Brad Davis just outside the box. Davis' gifted left foot placed the ball perfectly in the box for De Rosario who snapped his head to the ball knocking it into the far corner past a helpless Reis. The defending champions were now leading with less than twenty minutes to go.

The final few minutes saw some tremendous pressure from New England and an unbelievable save from Onstad. In the 87th minute the Revs took a corner kick which eluded the Dynamo defense and reached Larentowicz who met it with a diving header just three yards out. It was bullet of a shot that should have been a goal — but Onstad was well-positioned and the ball ricocheted off his legs and was successfully cleared by Houston.

Amazing, and plays like that had to hit New England's confidence where it hurts most. They never looked the same after that save, with Houston defending with authority and the Revs struggling. This was epitomized by play from DeRosario in the 91st minute when Jay Heaps twice tried to play a long cross to the box and both times DeRo leaped in front and blocked it with his back. If you can't put in a simple cross from the half-field line with just one guy in front of you, what can you do? Disheartening, to say the least. The final play was a long feed from Reis that went right to his counter-part, Onstad, and the game ended without another chance for New England.

While I feel deep sympathy for the Revs — I've been a fan of theirs for years, since their underdog days (us long-term San Jose fans related to them), and I can't imagine what it is like to lose three finals in a row — I have to give the Dynamo the win in this one. While they defended more than I preferred, their defense wobbled but didn't break, and they pressured aggressively (even when the game was tied) and took two chances and converted. If you look at all the little things in the match — the way the forwards helped out on defense, the work rate, the relentless pressure, their calmness in the face of mistakes — Houston deserved this championship. Nowhere was this more evident than the reactions of each team when they gave up their first goal: the Houston players nodded, clapped each other on the back, and gritted their teeth, while the Revs cursed and moaned and looked at each other in bewilderment and frustration. And remember, Houston did this without two key players in Brian Ching and Ricardo Clark, which is the hallmark of a championship team.

Hat's off to New England who fought hard, and played aggressive, attractive soccer. They have accomplished a lot: three straight finals and an Open Cup trophy is an amazing achievement. Their day will come.

Congratulations to the Houston Dynamo! You guys were wonderful all season. You battled through adversities, injuries, national team call-ups, trades, and the inevitable human error. In the end you've repeated as champions, which people who know sports say is always much harder than winning the first one.

Soccer's a team sport, and Houston (going back to the San Jose days), is the embodiment of team spirit. I hope they never lose that. It's what makes this group of rag-tag cast-offs from other teams greater than the sum of its parts.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

MLS Cup 2008

Soccer: MLS Cup 2008

I got to attend MLS Cup in person this year at the Home Depot Center in LA. It was great and I even got to meet some soccer players (see them here). The only bummer was that my team, the Houston Dynamo, got shockingly knocked out in the first round of the playoffs by New York, a team that only got in the playoffs via the back door. Houston were supposed to win their record third in a row, but my buying MLS Cup tickets early jinxed them. Still, we were seated near the New York fans who were rowdy and singing all game long, which was entertaining. The game itself was a little hard to follow in person: we were behind the one goal and action at the other end of the field was difficult to see, and with all the chaos around it, it was hard to focus on the game. But that's okay: it was just fun to be at the party. The game was a good one, with both teams scoring and Columbus deservedly winning 3-1 (they'd been the best team all season).


Saturday, September 30, 2000

MLS Playoff: Chicago at N.Y. (Game 2)

Soccer: MLS Playoff: Chicago at N.Y. (Game 2)

Losing the first game 3-0, New York was in a must-not-lose situation. For inspiration, they brought back injured All-Star keeper Mike Ammann, who's been out with terrible injuries (broken ribs, punctured lung) since his August 16 collision with league-leading scorer Mamadou Diallo. Ammann was supposed to be out for the season, but he was ready to play. His teammates responded with a terrific goal by Mark Chung late in the first half. He got two chances: the first blast was blocked by his own teammate, but the rebound went right to his foot and he put it away with a second powerful blast. In the second half, things were tighter, and though New York poured it on initially, and Chicago came back with chances of their own, the two keepers kept the score the same. Finally, after missing or having his shots saved, "El Tran" Valencia was able to increase the Metrostars lead and finish off the Fire. Who goes to the MLS Cup final on Oct. 15 will therefore be decided in the third game next Friday in Chicago.


Tuesday, September 19, 2000

MLS Playoff: Chicago at New England (Game 2)

Soccer: MLS Playoff: Chicago at New England (Game 2)

What a day for soccer! First the U.S. Olympic team makes history, and then the playoffs really get going when New England makes a dramatic come-back to beat Chicago and force a third game in the series. New England looked a much better team than Chicago, dominating possession and chances, and only a mistake at the back letting Chicago snag a goal in the 80th minute. Defender Maricio Wright answered back for the Revolution, scoring a terrific header in the 85th minute. (Wright had an own goal in game one, so this was a great consolation.) You can tell by how passionately the players are playing that it's playoff season!


Sunday, September 24, 2000

MLS Playoff: Colorado at Kansas City (Game 3)

Soccer: MLS Playoff: Colorado at Kansas City (Game 3)

With K.C. having the best defense in the league and only needing a draw, and considering the two teams only had one goal in the previous two playoff games (K.C. won the first 1-0 and the last was 0-0), I figured this would be a low scoring game. K.C. seemed on track scoring early, and Colorado had no offense at all. Coming into the second half Colorado still had a chance, but then K.C. scored two goals to make 3-0! The Rapids battled on, however, almost immediately getting a goal back by Paul Bravo with a terrific turn and shoot at the top of the box, but with only a few minutes left it didn't look like the Rapids could do. In the final minute their pressure paid off with a penalty call, but there wasn't time for anything else and the game finished 3-2, with Kansas City advancing to play Los Angeles in the semifinals.


Friday, September 15, 2000

MLS Playoff: Dallas at NY (Game 1)

Soccer: MLS Playoff: Dallas at NY (Game 1)

Good game, with away team Dallas going up early, but NY came back to make it a game, and won in the last seconds of overtime with a goal by "El Trane" Valencia. Final: NY 2, Dallas 1. Dallas missed a penalty kick that should have won it for them.


Friday, September 29, 2000

MLS Playoff: L.A. at K.C. (Game 1)

Soccer: MLS Playoff: L.A. at K.C. (Game 1)

Take two great goalkeepers, and teams with the best offenses and defenses in the league, and you've got a scoreless draw. But that doesn't mean the game wasn't interesting. It wasn't great, but there were plenty of chances, and Hartman (L.A.) made eight saves. This draw means there will definitely be three games in the series; game two is in L.A. on Tuesday.


Friday, October 6, 2000

MLS Playoff: L.A. at K.C. (Game 3)

Soccer: MLS Playoff: L.A. at K.C. (Game 3)

With L.A. winning game 2, Kansas City was desperate for a win. If they win, they push the series into a 20-minute sudden death "mini-game" in which the victor advances and the loser goes home. All L.A. needed was a draw to advance to the final. Unfortunately, L.A. played like it. Cobi Jones rarely made an entry into the penalty area -- it was all Hernandez, by himself. The game was scoreless until a good run by Chris Henderson resulting in a penalty kick for K.C. The resulting conversion was enough to win the game and go into the sudden death mini-game. Whoever scored would win. L.A. still didn't seem interested in doing much more than sending Hernandez in alone, while K.C. attacked and attacked. L.A. managed one weak shot on goal that was deflected, and then a dreadful mistake at the back let in "Danish Dynamite" Miklos Molnar alone against Kevin Hartman. He calmly dribbled around the keeper and chipped it into the net, and Kansas City is going to the final for the first time ever!

So the final is set: Kansas City versus Chicago, Oct. 15, 2000, televised on ABC.


Thursday, September 14, 2000

MLS Playoff: L.A. vs. Tampa Bay (Game 1)

Soccer: MLS Playoff: L.A. vs. Tampa Bay (Game 1)

1-0, L.A. Galaxy. Slow, defensive-oriented game with a penalty as the only goal. Mamadou Diallo was marked out of the game and missed his one or two chances. First of "best of three" series doesn't leave Tampa out of it, but getting a win in L.A. is going to be a challenge.


Sunday, October 14, 2001

MLS Playoff: Miami at San Jose

Soccer: MLS Playoff: Miami at San Jose

Wow, what a fantastic and what a fantastic atmosphere at Spartan Stadium in San Jose. The place was packed, and I mean packed. The main parking lot was full and we had to park in a lot much further away and the delay meant I missed the first ten minutes of the game. But that was okay, since the Quakes didn't score until the sixteenth minute, just after I'd found my seat and gotten settled. The chance looked like nothing at all: a loose clearance in Miami box went to Manny Lagos who fed it to superstar Landon Donovan in the box. He was surrounded by four players, so it didn't look dangerous at all. But he took the ball to the left toward a group of three defenders, then rolled the ball backward with his left foot, did a 180 to retrieve the ball with his right. That gave him space on the right since the defenders were on his left. The fourth Miami guy was on the right but behind Donovan. He spun back around another 180 to face the goal, taking the ball with him, and slid it toward the right post. It went right into the back of the net! Fantastic goal. Then, ten minutes later, a bizarre event. I didn't see what happened as I was following the ball, but two players collided on the far side of the field. Suddenly the ref was showing the red card... to a San Jose player! The place exploded with boos. Then there was another red card: to Diego Serna of the Fusion. Now the stadium rocked with cheers! When I saw this on the TV replay, it was clear that Zak Ibsen did kick Serna when they collided. I couldn't quite tell what Serna did, though it was a bit of a tussle. But Ibsen's "kick" was weak and hardly connected yet Serna rolled over in agony like he'd been shot, so perhaps the card came for being overdramatic. Either way, the cards shouldn't have been red: yellows would have been more appropriate, though it's understandable that you don't want players retaliating. Also, after the first game was so physical, the league wanted the refs to crack down. The bottom line is that both teams were still even, at ten players each, and the game continued. In the second half, Landon was given a yellow for diving in the Miami penalty area. Another bad call: a closeup of the replay clearly shows the defenders elbow catching Landon in the jaw, knocking him down -- he wasn't pretending at all! It didn't matter, though. Just minutes later, Landon feeds Ian Russell on the left side. He was completely alone and ignored, so he swivels to the right to get some space on his marker and curls perfectly into the top right corner of the goal. Beautiful! San Jose hasn't lost all year when scoring first, and their confidence showed. After that it was all Quakes. A right scoop pass by Mulrooney (reminiscent of Donovan's play of the week earlier in the year) and Lagos first-timed it into the net. With 18 minutes left, Donovan was back defending a bit, when McKinley did a ridiculously reckless tackle over the back of Donovan, and he was promptly red-carded. Miami was now down to 9 men and they pretty much gave up. It was like a practice game for San Jose. They passed the ball around and Miami didn't even try to get it. Finally, San Jose would push the goal and bit and Miami would defend, but they rarely made any kind of a run toward goal themselves. After the McKinley ejection, Coach Yallop intelligently took Landon off (no sense risking him getting a second yellow or getting injured when the Quakes are up by three), and put in DeRosario. I told my cousin that DeRosario would score, and sure enough, with just a few minutes left, he did just that. He darted onto a weak backpass by a Miami defender and took the ball toward goal. The keeper came and dove, DeRosario dribbled around him and calmly put the ball away. The Quakes win it four to nothing! Now the series is tied one win each: San Jose has to go to Miami and win, and then they qualify for the Championship. Wow. What a season. From worst to first. Amazing. Go Quakes! Final: 4-0 San Jose.


Friday, September 15, 2000

MLS Playoff: New England at Chicago (Game 1)

Soccer: MLS Playoff: New England at Chicago (Game 1)

Excellent, action-filled game, but NE really suffered when rookie defender Rusty Pierce went down with an injury and the team had to reshuffle into a more defensive posture. Final: NE 1, Chicago 2.


Friday, September 22, 2000

MLS Playoff: New England at Chicago (Game 3)

Soccer: MLS Playoff: New England at Chicago (Game 3)

Usually playoff games are low scoring affairs, and sometimes there's even suspense. I'd been rooting for underdog New England, but seventeen minutes in it was 3-0 Chicago. They never could catch up (though they had a few chances), and Chicago, with Stoitchkof of a tear, finished things off 6-0 to set and tie and bunch of playoff records. Wow!


Friday, October 6, 2000

MLS Playoff: New York at Chicago (Game 3)

Soccer: MLS Playoff: New York at Chicago (Game 3)

With each team winning one of the series, the drama was set: whoever won this game, would go to the "superbowl" -- MLS Cup 2000 final, on Oct. 15 (on ABC). Chicago had home field advantage and everything seemed to be going their way. They got a fluke goal in the fourth minute, followed by one of the best goals of the year from Stoitchkov, where instead of crossing, he blasted it just under the crossbar (placing it with the perfect amount of height so that NY keeper Mike Ammann couldn't reach it and making it dip after passing Ammann to go under the bar). With a 2-0 lead, it seemed Chicago had it made. But a minute later, Valencia stole a goal at the other end. Then, four minutes after that, Valencia scored a second! With the score tied 2-2 at the half, it was anybody's game. The second half was the keeper's game, with both making good saves, but the most of the offense for both sides was muted. Finally, with just a couple minutes to go, Ante Razov got in behind New York's defense and ran in alone on Ammann. Ammann had saved a shot in a similar circumstance before, but this time Razov put it away, and Chicago's in the final.

What a great game! Earlier I'd thought Chicago-New York sounded like a dream final, but unfortunately the way the playoffs are structured, those teams cancel each other out and there's no way they can both make it. Still, even though it wasn't the final, it was great to see these teams battle it out over three games. New York's had an amazing turnaround, and they've got to be proud of themselves for such an incredible season (worst to nearly first).


Saturday, September 22, 2001

MLS Playoff: San Jose at Columbus

Soccer: MLS Playoff: San Jose at Columbus

Round One, Game One: Terrific game and terrific result. San Jose had never won at Crew Stadium, but because Columbus had the edge in head-to-head competition during the season (the teams were tied on points) Columbus got home field advantage. San Jose came out storming with a goal from Landon Donovan just five minutes in, a Manny Lagos goal in the 31st minute, and another goal from Donovan just before the end of the half. That stunned Crew Stadium and took the crowd out of the it; Columbus scored on a penalty kick in the second half to give them a slight chance, but some gutsy defending by the Quakes kept them ahead. In the end, San Jose preserved their lead and won game one. Final: 3-1 San Jose.


Wednesday, October 10, 2001

MLS Playoff: San Jose at Miami

Soccer: MLS Playoff: San Jose at Miami

With two of the best teams in the league, I expected this to be a hard-fought battle, and it was. Unfortunately, Miami showed little of the skill and creativity they displayed during the regular season, instead concentrating on fouls and hard tackles, especially against the heart of San Jose's attack, 19-year-old superstar Landon Donovan. The first half was the better half, with the Quakes out-playing Miami but failing to score. In the second half San Jose came out rough and hesitant, and Miami took advantage to pressure them. After several terrific saves by keeper Joe Cannon, he was beaten by a nice chip by Preki for the only goal of the game. San Jose fought back fairly well, but Miami simply bunkered down and defended, and in the end San Jose couldn't get the equalizer (though they came within inches on a least one occasion). Overall, a decent game, though frustrating for a Quakes fan. San Jose played very well for most of the game, looked a little ragged for a bit after the goal, and ended strongly, but they've definitely got to work on their finishing, especially toward the end of the game (they tend to hold back a little defensively instead of all going forward for a goal). I'm looking forward to this Sunday's must-win game 2 at San Jose: I've already got my tickets. Final: 1-0 Miami.


Wednesday, October 17, 2001

MLS Playoff: San Jose at Miami (Game Three)

Soccer: MLS Playoff: San Jose at Miami (Game Three)

Absolutely amazing, historic! I sensed history and decided to watch this game at a pub -- the Britannia Arms in San Jose -- and boy I am glad I did. The atmosphere was incredible: the place was packed to standing-room only. One person joked there were more people there than at a typical Earthquakes game! Once the game got going, there were constant cheers, jeers, and other vocal expressions in support of the Quakes and in mockery of the Fusion. It was great. The longer the game went without either team taking a lead, the higher the tension mounted.

Zero-zero at the half, it continued that way in the second half. San Jose definitely dominated play, controlling the ball and having the most chances, but they couldn't quite break down Miami's defense. Miami was bunkered most of the game, defending desperately, but they did manage a few breakaways -- and San Jose's goalkeeper extraordinaire Joe Cannon came up huge, making several game-saving blocks.

Finally, the game went into sudden death overtime. The hundreds gathered at the Brit watched with bated breath and sweaty palms. I dreaded the thought that a fluke goal by the outplayed Fusion would end the Quake's season. Then the Quakes earned a corner kick (one of nine in the game) and Mulrooney put the ball in play. In the center of the box, Jimmy Conrad headed it high and away from the goal. The Miami keeper had stepped out a bit on the cross, and now he dived frantically back to the goal. But Troy "The Beast" Dayak -- winner of the ACE Comeback of the Year award for his best season ever after two years off due to a horrible neck injury -- leapt up and headed the ball into the goal! It was a golden goal of fantastic consequences. Suddenly, San Jose, the worst team in Major League Soccer last season, is going to the championship this Sunday!

To get there they beat the best team in MLS, the Miami Fusion, as well as the Columbus Crew. Incredible!

What I REALLY like are these stats from the four semifinalists (cumulative of all the playoffs).

Goals Scored Goals Against
Chicago 7 5
Miami 5 10
Los Angeles 9 9
San Jose 12 2

Note that San Jose did this in five games, while all the other teams played six! They face this L.A. Galaxy this Sunday (9:30 a.m. Pacific on ABC) and it should be an awesome game. Both teams hate each other, have aggressive playing styles, and want to win their first championship.


Thursday, September 21, 2000

MLS Playoff: Tampa Bay at L.A. (Game 2)

Soccer: MLS Playoff: Tampa Bay at L.A. (Game 2)

L.A. just whooped on Tampa. Though L.A. had only managed four goals in their last three games, they came up with FIVE goals in this one. Tampa's Mamadou Diallo had two goals, but it wasn't enough and they are eliminated from the playoff picture.


Friday, November 13, 2009

MLS Playoffs 2009: Houston at LA

Soccer: MLS Playoffs 2009: Houston at LA

A disappointing game. Houston loses 2-0 to LA in overtime and not in a good way. This game is marked with controversy as twice the lights went out and caused 18-minute game delays. Each time Houston was playing well and the delay threw them off their rhythm and gave the Galaxy time to regroup and get organized. Houston also scored a goal that the ref disallowed for a weak call. Basically two players went down in the box in what looked like standard jostling and the ref blew his whistle late, after Houston put the ball in the goal. The players who went down were off the ball and had nothing to do with the play and many referees would have allowed the goal. Frustrating. Houston finally gave up a goal in overtime on a David Beckham set piece when the Dynamo could clear in a goal-mouth scramble and LA touched it over the line. Certainly not a pretty goal, but one that counts. Houston was still in it, though, as there was plenty of time left, but to give LA credit, they came to life after they scored. Before that they looked beaten and tired, constantly defending Houston's attacks, but the goal revived them as they suddenly started playing much better. Substitute Alan Gordon broke away on the right wing and though he's really not a good goal scorer and shouldn't have worried the back line that much, Houston overreacted and clipped him in the box for a clear penalty which Landon Donovan converted. That pretty much ended it, though Houston did hit the crossbar in the final minute or so.

The bottom line in this one is that Houston, though a very good team, did not quite have that extra something of past years. Though I love Stuart Holden, the team still misses Dewayne DeRossario, who could bring that bit of magic. The team had too many close games this season, especially against teams they clearly outplayed (like this one). In those games the Dynamo were hard to beat but failed to score. One of those games was against LA during the regular season: that home draw was the tie-breaker that allowed this Western Conference Final to be played in LA, and ultimately, with the game going to overtime, that home field advantage was what helped LA win it. I think Houston could have turned it around if LA hadn't revived after their goal: they didn't settle into a shell but started playing better than they had all game, and forced Houston into making desperation mistakes as the away team tried to get back in it. I guarantee if this game had been in Houston, the result would have been different.

All that said, I'm strangely not that depressed. I'm frustrated and annoyed, and certainly disappointed, and I'll definitely root against LA in the final, but Houston did their best and it wasn't quite enough. Ching had a game-winning header that Ricketts pushed over the bar to keep the game scoreless and that was the game right there. The tough calls and awkward stoppages give the Dynamo something to gripe about, but in years past they had the quality to overcome such disadvantages and this year they did not. (Designated Player Ladin, who came on for Oduro, did little. He was slow and still not on the same page as his teammates. If he's the replacement for DeRo, that's not a good replacement.)


Wednesday, September 26, 2001

MLS Playoffs: Columbus at San Jose

Soccer: MLS Playoffs: Columbus at San Jose

What a day! I knew this was going to be a good day when I scored my lowest score ever in my morning golf game, and I had a feeling going to the Quakes game that evening that destiny was in the making. This was an amazing, incredible experience. San Jose has long been the whipping dog of MLS, not making the post season since MLS' first year of existence in 1996. To see them not just succeed, but play superbly well, was inspiring. They deserved this win and more. They just toyed with Columbus -- which aren't a bad team -- and I saw some quick passing sequences that took my breath away. Absolutely world class. I don't want to praise them too much: they are a young team, and there were a few frantic scrambles and some lucky breaks, but they are playing impassioned soccer like champions.
Manny Lagos scored the first goal just eight minutes in. Donovan spread the field by slipping the ball wide to Wade Barrett on the left, right below where I was sitting. From my view in the stands, it was clear what was going to happen and everyone began standing up in anticipation. Wade's cross was absolutely perfect, and Manny just needed a slight head flick to send it to the back post. Fantastic!
At halftime it was still 1-0 and I was a little nervous: would San Jose turn into the team of old and give up a late equalizer? Would they sit back and become defensive? The answer was a decided "No!" They attacked right from the start of the second half, not even giving the Crew a chance at offense as they were too busy defending. The Quakes' attacks didn't produce a goal, but they played smart and patient and didn't get carried away with attacking and give up a goal at the back. With about 20 minutes left, coach Frank Yallop -- easily my vote for coach of the year -- took off Agogo and put in regular season scoring leader Ronald Cerritos. Within one minute he scored a goal with a great header.
That second goal pretty much settled the match. The Crew became desperate, fouling regularly, but they were a beaten team and knew it. (Interestingly, no San Jose player received a yellow card in this game.) The deal was sealed with fifteen to go when 19-year-old superstar Landon Donovan (who else) pulled a nifty move. Inside the box, he received a pass from Agoos with his back to the goal. He chested it down and twirled: his second touch was a blast into the back corner of the net! (You can see video of the goal here.)
All in all, it was a terrific performance that gets the Earthquakes their first semifinal berth ever. As the only team this season to win their quarterfinal series in just two matches (all the others must play a game three), they've got a ton of confidence going into the semifinal series where they'll face either defending champions Kansas City or league-leading Miami. I was nervous about Miami, who've been the best in MLS all year, but with San Jose playing like this, no longer: bring 'em on! The Quakes can take 'em and will take the Championship!


Wednesday, September 25, 2002

MLS Playoffs: Columbus Crew at San Jose

Soccer: MLS Playoffs: Columbus Crew at San Jose

The Quakes have been playing with fire lately, struggling to score and leaving huge gaps in their defense. Tonight they got burned. They poured on the pressure early, but couldn't break through: the Crew got the first goal and San Jose had to struggle back on a huge goal by Landon Donovan. But then the defense collapsed late in the game to give a gift goal to the Crew. It was a good battle, though the ref was terrible. He didn't directly cost San Jose the game, but he destroyed any rhythm the team had by his haphazard and random calls. He also didn't call some pretty rough fouls by the Crew, including one that should have been a yellow and probably a red. A frustrating game for the Quakes, like many recent ones. They just aren't in form, aren't scoring, and can't defend. At this rate, they don't deserve to advance. Final: 2-1 Columbus.


Saturday, November 3, 2007

MLS Playoffs: Dallas at Houston

Soccer: MLS Playoffs: Dallas at Houston

This was the big second-leg playoff match between Dallas and Houston with Dallas coming in with a 1-0 lead from last week's home result. This time it was Houston at home and with over 30,000 fans in orange cheering them on, Houston was determined to win. Strangely, I wasn't too nervous about this one. Houston was playing well with huge chances right off the kickoff and I just felt they would win. Even when Dallas got the first goal and it was a 2-0 lead, I felt Houston would get it back. In second half, things started to go the Dynamo way as Arturo Alvarez got himself red-carded seconds into the half and it was 11 on 10 the rest of the way. Coach Dominic Kinnear promptly took off a defender and added an attacker (Stuart Holden). With 23 minutes to go and still needing two goals just to tie it, I still wasn't worried (which surprised me). The team was playing so well it was just a matter of time. Now the pressure which had been intense, went up to the breaking point, and Stuart scored the first goal for Houston. The momentum built from there as soon Brian Ching tied it up. We went into 30 minutes of overtime and just a few minutes in Brian got his second and now Dallas were on the losing end. A moment later and it was all over as Brad Davis scored a freakin' awesome freek kick. The overtime was played out but Dallas never had a chance. Houston win the game 4-1, 4-2 on aggregate, and advance to the Western Conference Final. Go Houston!


Saturday, November 10, 2007

MLS Playoffs: Kansas City at Houston

Soccer: MLS Playoffs: Kansas City at Houston

In a first for Major League Soccer, the same two teams that met last year in the final will meet again this year. New England won their game on Thursday against Chicago in a dreary 1-0 affair, and tonight the Houston Dynamo soundly defeated Kansas City 2-0 in a match where the Dynamo defense was so stout KC never got a single shot on goal! Oregonian Nate Jaqua scored in the first half and Dwayne De Rosario scored in the second, and KC never had a chance. This sets up a repeat of last year's Cup, which Houston won on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw. This is terrific, for both teams are excellent and both teams are motivated to win. Neither will be satisfied with another draw and penalty shootout: Houston wants to prove that last year was no fluke and that they deserve the title, and New England just wants to win a trophy (this will be their fourth final and they haven't won one yet). So tune in Nov. 18th on ABC to see what should be a terrific battle.


Tuesday, October 3, 2000

MLS Playoffs: Kansas City at L.A.

Soccer: MLS Playoffs: Kansas City at L.A.

L.A. took control 15 minutes in as their relentless pressure opened up a chance for Cobi Jones's goal, but fifteen minutes after that Matt McKeon's 30-yard bomb nearly blasted a hole in the back of the L.A. net. The game remained scoreless, though exciting, until overtime, when suddenly an asleep L.A. awoke just two minutes in and scored the golden goal that could send L.A. to the final: if they can tie or win in K.C. this Friday. Danny Califf's late goal was similar to the one he scored in the Olympics (he just returned and was put in as a sub in this game).


Sunday, November 16, 2003

MLS Playoffs: Kansas City Wizards at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS Playoffs: Kansas City Wizards at San Jose Earthquakes

Oh my Lord, stop my beating heart! After last weekend's heart-in-mouth affair already widely acknowledged as the best soccer game in U.S. soccer history, the Quakes do it again. They can't seem make anything look easy. In this game for the right to the Western Conference Championship trophy and a place in the MLS Cup next weekend, the first half finished zero-zero. It wasn't at all boring, however: there were good chances on both sides, with the edge to San Jose as having the best opportunities. But the second half was when things got going. The offside trap failed for San Jose and a KC player got behind the defense and scored. I wasn't worried. In fact, I figured the goal would urge San Jose forward. Sure enough, that's exactly what happened. The Quakes rallied and a few minutes later equalized! But then, disaster: the far side ref blew an offside call and allowed KC a goal that shouldn't have counted. This was particularly revolting for a playoff match considering the stakes, but worse because the Quakes were the better team. But the team didn't give up and fought back and Brian Mullan, who's had an awesome season and was a big influence in last weekend's game, scored a terrific goal off a sharp feed from Ian Russell. The game was tied again with just minutes left! We go to Golden Goal overtime. This is true heart-in-mouth time as the slightest mistake from either team could give away the game. The first fifteen minutes the Quakes are on their heels a bit as K.C. pushes for a late winner. The Quakes had taken off a defender for an extra forward when they needed a goal so they were a bit exposed at the back at times, but sheer guts and battling kept the game tied. In the second fifteen the Quakes dominated and had several great chances, including a handball in the box that should have been a penalty kick, but the ref didn't give it, and another play moments later that also looked like a penalty but wasn't given. It looked like we might have to goal to penalty kicks to decide the winner. But finally, with just three minutes left to play, magic from the Quakes. A KC clearance drops the ball to Ronnie Ekelund who heads it to Landon Donovan, the young superstar who'd had a terrific game but missed a half dozen chances. Landon immediately passes it back to Ronnie, who kicks the ball into space in the penalty area. Landon darts between two defenders to latch onto the ball and calmly slices it into the goal. It's a fantastic Golden Goal to send the Quakes to the MLS Final next weekend at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles! Unbelievable. Two incredible games in a week. A five-goal comeback win followed by a three-goal comeback win. Amazing drama. This sets up the dream final, San Jose versus Chicago, the best in the West versus the best in the East. The game airs on ABC next Sunday, the 23rd, at 12:30 p.m. Pacific time. Judging by these last couple of games, it should be a battle for the ages. Wow.


Sunday, October 24, 2004

MLS Playoffs: Kansas City Wizards at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS Playoffs: Kansas City Wizards at San Jose Earthquakes

Can you say wonderful? How about awesome, amazing, superb? The fourth place Quakes played like a dream today, with the first place Wiz hardly having a chance the whole game. We were aggressive, dominating all over the pitch. K.C. didn't want to place defense all night but was forced to as we created chance after chance (we outshot them 15-4 in the final analysis). Onstad only had to make one save all night, at the end of the game, while K.C.'s keeper, Bo, made a number of saves, a couple of them quite spectacular. The most impressive was a tip-over of a cracking volley by Brian Ching in the first half. San Jose opened the scoring on a great end-line run by Dwayne DeRosario. Somehow his shot/cross ended up in the goal from an impossible angle. Supposedly there was a slight deflection from the K.C. defender, but I couldn't really see it on the replay. If there was it, it was so slight I'm not sure it would have made that much of a difference. I think it was just a great goal. DeRo had a fantastic chance for a second moments later when he was one-on-one with the K.C. keeper, but Bo tipped the ball off the post and the Wizards were able to scramble the ball away. In the second half, San Jose came out blazing with more of the same: solid defense and aggressive tackling, quick passing, and more goal chances. The second goal came on a corner -- San Jose's ninth! -- when Goose's curling ball found Waibel on the far post to thigh the ball into the net. What an important goal! In this first playoff round it's total goals in two games that win, so taking a two goal lead to Kansas City is huge. K.C. will have to beat us by three goals to advance to the Conference Final. I'm sure our players are supremely confident they can do that. It won't be easy as K.C. will be desperate to score, but if they push forward too much we'll have opportunities to score ourselves, and with our speed I think we'll do it. That game is next weekend with the Conference Final (against the winner of the L.A.-Colorado series) the weekend after that. Awesome game, great play, dream result. Final: 2-0 Earthquakes.


Sunday, November 9, 2003

MLS Playoffs: L.A. Galaxy at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS Playoffs: L.A. Galaxy at San Jose Earthquakes

Unfreakin' believable! This was the best soccer game I've ever seen in my entire life! I went to the game depressed, knowing we would likely lose and not advance in the playoffs after our 2-0 loss last week in L.A. We haven't been playing well and things looked grim. To advance, we'd have to win 3-0... which would be 3-2 on aggregate (total) goals. We've only scored a couple goals in our last five games or so, so that seemed to be a tough challenge. To top it off, the rain came on the weekend and it seemed we'd have to play in the rain. Would that cramp fan attendance?

The answer was no. Spartan Stadium was packed and the crowd in excellent voice. Fortunately, it didn't even rain until after the final whistle. Earthquakes' coach Frank Yallop changed the line-up significantly, which was good. But the Quakes started off poorly, quickly giving up two goals in the first twenty minutes! The crowd was stunned. Now our 2 goal hole was a 4 goal hole! We'd have to score 5 goals to advance! But the players didn't let it get them down. They began to fight, and by half-time we'd tied the game on goals by Goose (free kick) and Landon Donovan (well started by Jamil Walker). Early in the second half Walker gave the Quakes the lead and hope started brimming. Just one more goal would tie the aggregate -- could we do it? As time began to run out, nerves began to rattle. Would this be another sad defeat? No! With minutes left, Chris Roner is brought into the game and score in the final minute! The game is tied and we go to sudden death overtime. There are a couple scary moments early in overtime where L.A. had a chance or two, but then the Quakes came back with more and more pressure. Then, in a dream scenario, Rodrigo Faria, a late addition to the Quakes who hasn't scored all season, scores the Golden Goal and sends the Quakes to the final!

The most amazing game I've ever seen. Coming back from 4 down is just impossible. Yet the Quakes did it. Being in the stadium was amazing. When Chris scored the tying goal in the final minute, I literally could not even hear the announcer report the goal: the crowd was so loud it was deafening. That screaming went on at that intensity for several minutes. I totally think the crowd helped contribute to the team, lifting the players. After the game, everyone in the stadium (except the few Galaxy fans) were screaming and cheering. We just couldn't stop screaming. It was so freakin' unbelievable. What a game. I still feel like I'm dreaming. GO QUAKES! Final: 5-2 Earthquakes.


Saturday, October 29, 2005

MLS Playoffs: LA Galaxy at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS Playoffs: LA Galaxy at San Jose Earthquakes

The atmosphere was great with a sizable, pumped up crowd, but it was not meant to be. The Earthquakes were starting behind the eightball with a two-goal deficit from the first leg in L.A. The team worked hard, but L.A. already had a lead and just needed to defend. Without needing to attack, they could keep eight or nine players on their half of the field and it was tough to get through. I thought San Jose would use the high-pressure techniques they've done in the past, but they were a little flat and trying too hard to keep their no-doubt wild emotions under control. The result was an addreneline rush that meant many passes and crosses were overhit, and too calm play when attempting to dribble through the Galaxy defense. The first half was uneasy, but the Quakes calmed when they scored on an L.A. mistake. Galaxy keeper Kevin Hartman cleared the ball right to Quake Brian Mullan, who accepted the gift by crossing to teammate Brian Ching who headed the ball into the far corner. Great goal. Unfortunately, it was in the 42 minute, late in the first half. We were now only one goal down, but I figured the Galaxy would score -- they have the talent to do so. The Quakes played with more passion in the second half, looking for that tying goal, but mid-way through their offensive drive caught them out and a great through-ball from Donovan led Ned Grabavoy and he carefully touched it around Quakes' keeper Pat Onstad to tie the game 1-1 and restore the Galaxy's two-goal lead. After that, the Galaxy simply wasted time. They did little ticky-tack fouls and took their time on restarts (Hartman even put on his groundskeeper hat at one point and tried to clear the field of paper streamers that had fallen from the stands). Unfortunately, the lame referee did nothing to prevent this, and in the last twenty minutes, when the Quakes needed two goals to advance, they struggled to find a rythmn and break down the Galaxy defense. They almost succeeded on a couple occasions, but bad luck or a good save from Hartman prevented a goal. If the Quakes had scored, I think that would have driven them all out for that tying goal, but they couldn't get that one and as the clock ticked on, the knowlege that they needed two goals to tie loomed heavier and heavier. The fans fell quiet and with the refs' final whistle, the best season ever for the Earthquakes (second best all-time in MLS), ended with a whimper. The final 1-1 score meant that LA advance and the Quakes' season is over. It was a disappointing end to a glorious season. I'm not sure what happened, exactly; we certainly lost it early in the first leg and couldn't regain it. To their credit the Galaxy played very well, far better than at any time during the regular season. They concentrated for 90 minutes in both games and worked hard for the result. It's tough to come back against a determined team like that, especially one that continues to counter with offense instead of collapsing into a shell (like the Galaxy team of 2003 infamously did in the Earthquakes' amazing five-goal comeback). After the game I was bummed, and I wished the game could have been a little more even and competitive. I also felt some bitterness about the MLS playoff format that essentially negates the whole regular season. All the Quakes got out of beating LA by a whopping 19 points in the regular season was home field advantage in the second leg of the playoffs. The playoffs are basically a whole new season and positioning doesn't matter at all. In fact, I think the format helped LA: by playing first at home they had confidence to go away and get a result, and being the underdog they were prepared to work harder than the Quakes to get the goals they knew they needed (they knew they needed a large lead going into tonight's game). The Quakes, on the other hand, seemed overconfident about their ability to score on their home field. They really needed four goals tonight, and even for the Quakes, that was a tall order. Goals are rare in soccer and it's one thing to score them one-by-one as you need them, but scoring a set number is very tough. Still, the Quakes had a fabulous season, and I can't complain too much. They won the respect of a lot of teams around the league and even the Galaxy admits the Quakes are a better team.


Saturday, September 28, 2002

MLS Playoffs: San Jose Earthquakes at Columbus Crew

Soccer: MLS Playoffs: San Jose Earthquakes at Columbus Crew

I don't usually report on televised MLS games (just the games I attend), but this is the playoffs, and San Jose's performance tonight makes them the first team eliminated from the playoffs. It just wasn't meant to be. The Quakes played okay, but didn't dominate, and let the Crew have a lot of dangerous chances. We had one guaranteed goal as Conrad got within a couple yards of the goal with only the keeper to beat, but his shot missed the entire goal. There's a reason he's not a striker. The first half was nil-nil, but San Jose's lax defense undid them in the second half, allowing the Crew to score. Eight minutes later good work by Donovan and Graziani leveled things, but it was really a lucky goal as somehow Ariel's slight touch got the ball through a forest of Columbus players on the line. For a time I thought that maybe the Quakes were really going to do it: a tie or a win and they'd have home field advantage in the next game and maybe they could win that. They'd certainly be psyched up and have a good chance. But instead the defense broke down exactly the same way they did in San Jose, with a long ball over the back line to Cunningham, who slid a cross over to an unmarked Garcia, who finished it off against Joe Cannon. Just terrible defending. Goose looked slow, Robinson was erratic, Manny struggled, and we missed Mulrooney and Ekelund (both out injured). Graziani and Donovan worked hard, but two players don't make a team. What seemed to come so easily last year, as though we were fated to win, was a struggle this time, and the Earthquakes just didn't have what it took. They looked tired and out of sorts, frantic in their defending, and hardly ever took shots. I'm not saying they were awful -- just poor in comparison of how they used to play. Something just didn't work this season. Perhaps it was Goose and Landon missing for a huge chunk with World Cup; perhaps Landon's a known quantity in the league now and doesn't get the breaks he used to; perhaps it was just the mix of injuries. Who knows? Something will need to be fixed for next year. At least LA lost their second game against KC in a 4-1 rout. Come on KC, win! I'd love the see LA knocked out early as well. Final: 2-1 Columbus.


Saturday, October 30, 2004

MLS Playoffs: San Jose Earthquakes at Kansas City Wizards

Soccer: MLS Playoffs: San Jose Earthquakes at Kansas City Wizards

Well, so much for that. It's the end of a troubled season for the Quakes. No miracle finish this time. They had a two goal lead coming in and played so well last weekend I thought they were going all the way to the Cup, but tonight they came out flat, gave up an early goal, then Brian Ching scored... in our own net! With the total goals tied, it looked like we were going into overtime, when a minute before the whistle somehow K.C. got a great goal from distance. The Quakes had chances but never looked themselves and never seemed to be trying that hard until the last quarter hour or so: the story of this season. For some unknown reason -- overconfidence? apathy? -- the Quakes did that all season long, not waking up until they were down a goal or two. This time it knocked us out of the playoffs and ended our season. Oddly, I'm not that depressed. In part that's because it felt like a deserved loss. If we'd played like last week and lost I'd be upset, but in this case the better team won. Also, with the playoffs happening right in the middle of my move to Oregon, the Quakes advancing would have been a real distraction and in a way I'm almost relieved I don't have to worry about it any more.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

MLS Soccer: Portland Timbers 0, Colorado Rapids 1

Soccer: MLS Soccer: Portland Timbers 0, Colorado Rapids 1

A wild game full of chances. In the first half, Timbers created some chances but blew them, while Colorado looked extremely dangerous when they attacked, forcing several critical saves out of Timbers' keeper Troy Perkins who was huge. The second half was much better for the home team, which kept possession and limited the Rapids to no real serious chances while created a ton of opportunities for themselves. But the Timbers' finishing was woeful, as they just couldn't score. They shot high, they shot wide, they even got a few on goal only to see the chance saved by Rapids' keeper Pickens. It looked like for sure it was going to be a disappointing nil-nil at home for Portland, when in stoppage time, out of nothing, a FK was floated into the box and an open Rapids player put his header on goal. Troy made the save again, but the rebound fell right to a Rapids player who had an open corner of the net in front of him and I thought it was all over. But somehow Troy made another save on that try, though the ball wouldn't stay for him and slipped out into the crowded box and no one could clear and then Drew Moor blasted in the dramatic late winner for Colorado. Portland had one more huge chance in the final minute after that, but again the shot was over the bar and that's all she wrote. Disappointing, for sure, but strangely, this did not feel like a defeat at all, mostly because the Timbers clearly outplayed the defending champs who were on their heels all night. The crowd had a great time and the cheering was loud and strong and spirits were high even after another home loss. If Portland can keep playing like this, they will win games. It's just frustrating that they can play that well and not score and lose.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

MLS Soccer: Portland Timbers 3, New York Red Bulls 3

Soccer: MLS Soccer: Portland Timbers 3, New York Red Bulls 3

One of the craziest games I've ever seen. Anyone who can watch soccer like this and not be entertained is dead. Once again the Timbers came out flat and coughed up a terrible goal just five minutes in, allowing NY to run rampant right through their defense. Though that was pretty much all NY did in the half, Portland gave the ball away constantly, didn't pressure when NY had it, and defended frantically. It was men against boys with the Timbers only got one off-target shot the whole half -- the most exciting thing was the contestant winning a thousand dollars during the halftime show. I held out little hope for a victory and prayed for a tie and feared what the second half would bring. I don't know what happened in the locker room, but though they had on the same jerseys, a different team came back on the field. From the kickoff they swarmed over NY who staggered back unable to stop the assault and within minutes Captain Jack Jewsbury buried a grounder to the back post. Former New Yorker Kevin Goldthwaite had come on for Portland to start the second half and I'd joked to my friend that he would score against his former team. Well, the coach looks like a genius, because a moment later, he does, a nifty backheel right in front of the net started off by a Jewsbury free kick through the box. Five minutes and Portland lead! It was amazing. The stadium was in delirium. Portland continued to dominate though NY did occasionally look dangerous when they tried to break out. Then Perlaza gets to the endline on a great run. No Timbers were in the box for the cross so he just puts it across the face of the goal. I don't know if he saw Keel sliding but if he did it was a brilliant play because former Timber Keel couldn't stop his slide and his momentum just carried the ball into his own net! What made this even funnier was that I'd joked before the game that Keel would score an own goal as that would be fitting with the theme of scoring when playing against your former club. The whole stadium erupted with cheers and jeers when Keel's picture was put on the big screen. Hilarious. But things go somber when with 20-something left Thierry Henry has a brilliant double give-n-go on the left side and breaks into the Portland box and professionally slips it past Perkins to bring one back for NY. Yikes. Nail-biting time. But Perlaza as another breakaway into the box and NY's goalkeeper Greg Sutton brings him down. Perlaza was looking for it, but still a clear penalty. So, after Portland's recent adventures in penalty taking, who would take it? Captain Jack steps up and I was worried: it felt like an extra-heavy burden to take on. Sutton's a monster of a keeper, too, at over 6'5" and I think all that made Jack try too hard to put the shot in the corner and it came off the post. Arrgh! So the game is still 3-2 and tight. But the Timbers continue to play well and dominate and probably should have had another goal for their troubles. They hold out into the four minutes of stoppage and things are looking good. That's when chaos erupts as Henry pushes one of our players to the turf in an off-the-ball scuffle. The ref consults with his linesman and then pulls out the red for Henry! The superstar is off! With only a few seconds left, Portland has this one wrapped up, right? Not so fast. A ball up the right wing into space is harmless enough as Goldthwaite is there to clear it... but instead of just blasting it into the stands he hesitates, perhaps wanting to control it, and then when he's in serious danger of losing the ball he panics and rushes his clear, whiffing on it. New York's DeRosario takes the gift up the right wing and manages to get in a hard cross from the endline. No one from NY was really in the box so it was a harmless situation, but the ball struck Wallace in the arm and the the assistant ref waves his flag frantically. I don't think the main ref was going to give it, which seemed fair since it was more ball-to-hand instead of hand-to-ball (and the rulebook does say handballs must be deliberate), but with the assistant so adamant (my impression is that assistants seem to be more literal about calls than center refs who use their judgement on calls), the ref awards NY the last-second penalty and DeRo ties it up with the final kick of the game. Arrgh! Only a point when Portland should have had three. But still, this didn't feel like a loss because they'd played so well (if you forget the first half). The team is struggling to put on a full 90-minute performance and if they get so they can do that, they could be a formidable team considering the way they played against Colorado last week and NY this week. But they've got to stop the foolish mistakes and allowing defeated teams back into matches. Fun game to watch, though.


Saturday, July 28, 2001

MLS: All-Star Game

Soccer: MLS: All-Star Game

I got to go to this game in person and it was an awesome party! San Jose's Spartan Stadium was packed to overflowing (over 23,500 fans). The game ball was brought in (or should I say down) by two world champion "skysurfers" who dropped into the stadium from 10,000 feet. It was truly exciting to see these guys loop upside down just fifty feet above the heads of the fans and then swoop down onto the field and land right in the center of the green! Then, during the national anthem, two jets did a flyby of the stadium. Very cool. And then the game itself was awesome: San Jose's own Landon Donovan was the MVP of the day, scoring three goals in thirty minutes. The West had a 4-0 lead but lost it late in the first half when the East suddenly game back with a series of goal to go into the lockers 4-3. After the break, the East's Mamadou Diallo scored to equalize, then the West broke out again, only to give up two goals after that to trail for the first time in the game. It was looking grim for the West when in injury time Landon scored yet again to tie the game and set a huge record for the All-Star game (no player had ever scored more than two goals in the All-Star game before). The topper was when two players, Jim Rooney of the East and Donovan of the West both celebrated their goals by removing their shirts to reveal Brandi Chastain-style black sports bras! Great fun, great goals, and great soccer.


Saturday, August 4, 2001

MLS: Chicago at Colorado

Soccer: MLS: Chicago at Colorado

Okay game. Good "win" for Chicago: Colorado really needed the three points. They started off well with a goal from Balboa, but Jamar Beasley equalized and that's the way it finished. Final: 1-1.


Sunday, May 13, 2001

MLS: Chicago at New England

Soccer: MLS: Chicago at New England

I can't believe it, but New England finally gets their first points this season, beating mighty Chicago. First, NE was awarded a questionable penalty which Cate finished. In the second half, Nowak scored a marvelous goal from an impossible angle to tie the game. But neither team could break the other and the game went into overtime. Just a fifteen seconds in, Okoh scored to give New England the win. Final: 2-1 New England.


Saturday, August 18, 2001

MLS: Chicago at San Jose

Soccer: MLS: Chicago at San Jose

Terrific, high-paced game, with the Quakes having tons of chances (including a few sitters), but failing to capitalize. Donovan played well, but he can't do it on his own, especially against a team as organized as the Fire. Still, though the Fire are arguably the best team in the league, San Jose looked good and weren't overwhelmed, though their possession play was more frantic and haphazard than Chicago's. Disappointing result, especially considering all the chances (the Fire's Zack Thorton had nine saves), but nothing to be ashamed of. The Quakes lose their first home game since the home opener! Final: 1-0 Chicago.


Saturday, April 7, 2001

MLS: Chicago Fire at Columbus Crew

Soccer: MLS: Chicago Fire at Columbus Crew

Today is the start of Major League Soccer action and if this game is any indication of what's in store, it's going to be good. The level and speed of play seemed higher than ever, probably partly due to a number of internationals like Josh Wolff, who forgot that MLS is supposed to be a slower-paced game. The first half was all Chicago, with young DaMarcus Beasley just burning up the field. He not only demonstrated great speed and stamina, he show terrific ball skills, dribbling past defenders and delivering excellent passes. Wonderful, and the kid's only 18! His feed provided the game's first goal, by Wolyniec. After that things quieted as the Fire didn't seem as desperate and Columbus showed virtually no offense. In the second half Columbus still wasn't playing, which was disappointing, until suddenly, Dante Washington found himself open with the ball floating toward him, and he used his head to put it just inside the post. Suddenly the team and the fans came alive! From that moment on the game was fantastic: hard tackles, end-to-end action, shots for both sides, and great saves by both keepers. This continued right to the end of the game when Aguilera was sent off for Columbus for a bad tackle. The advantage didn't last long, however, when Lewis was sent off for Chicago as the last man who took down Washington on a break-away. In the dying seconds of the game Columbus Crew substitute keeper Tom Presthus made two great saves to keep them alive, and with literally two seconds left on the clock, his counterpart Thorton made a great save of his own. The game went into MLS' silly ten minutes of overtime, but since it's Golden Goal, it was exciting. Chicago's Guitierrez was sent off when he threw an elbow reacting to a foul, but even with nine men Chicago spent most of the time in Columbus' penalty box. But it was all for naught: the game ended with no more goals, so each team gets one point. Columbus escaped the indignity of losing their home opener, and the Fire have a respectable road point. Final: 1-1.


Saturday, June 2, 2001

MLS: Chicago Fire at D.C. United

Soccer: MLS: Chicago Fire at D.C. United

Odd game: fun, but blighted by some strange referee decisions. Moreno scored early for D.C. and they held the lead and looked far better than Chicago for most of the game. But then a poor clear and an odd bounce gave Eric Wynalda a slight chance and he finished it beautifully to tie the game. Amazing, that was Chicago's first shot of the entire game! Then came a very questionable penalty kick award for the Fire: a handball in the box in which the ball was kicked at the player. Kovalenko put the penalty kick away. Later, a similar call was not made on the other end: why can the ref at least be consistent? Final: 2-1 Chicago.


Saturday, May 31, 2003

MLS: Chicago Fire at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: Chicago Fire at San Jose Earthquakes

Well, the Quakes were unbeaten going into this game, but I had a nervous feeling. Our leading scorer, Brian Ching, was injured mid-week and out, as well as Richard Mulrooney and several other starters. Most of the replacements inserted into the lineup were playing for the first time all season as they were either rookies or coming off an injury. Even worse, by half time two of those were injured and had to be replaced! By the end of the game we had only one sub left! The new line-up definitely struggled, but didn't play as badly as the final score indicated. Offensively the Quakes created a number of chances and put pressure on the Fire, but defensively there were serious lapses that in the end cost us the game. In the first half the Fire scored first, but when the Quakes scored the goal didn't count because the linesman claimed the ball had crossed the end-line before being played back in. It was a tight call and extremely questionable, especially since Manny put in the goal so sweetly. In the second half things immediately went downhill as a defensive mistake gave the Fire the ball in the area and allowed them to score. Just when I was beginning to wonder if anything would go right, the Quakes Chris Roner scored off a corner kick. Suddenly the momentum was there. Manny Lagos was really putting on the pressure when he was hip-checked in the box and flattened. Astonishingly, the ref didn't call the penalty. He didn't even award a free kick or anything! The TV replays showed it was a clear foul, but the ref was just blind (or being paid by Chicago). That was frustrating because it would have tied the game. Things got even worse minutes later when the Fire scored a third goal. Yet the replay of that goal clearly showed the Fire player who received the ball was several yards offside. But the same linesman who'd cancelled the Quakes' goal in the first half for being an inch out of play now didn't call a player yards offside! Ridiculous. After that the game was pretty much over, and though DaMarcus Beasley did add another in injury time to really warp the score, it didn't make much difference. It was an extremely frustrating day. The Quakes played better than they should have considering half the team hadn't played all season, and without the refs mucking up the calls, the game could have finished 3-3 or even better -- who knows what would have happened if the Quakes had been able to tie the game. But instead it finished 4-1, an unfair score if I ever saw one. MLS really needs to do something about the refs. I just don't understand how they can get away with such blatant manipulation of results. I understand close calls, but these weren't close at all -- there needs to be some sort of accountability system for these refs that change the results like that. Oh well. We'll have to see how the Quakes fair over the next few weeks. They've got three road games, and Landon Donovan will be gone for the Confederations Cup in France. It's going to be a real battle. Final: 4-1 Chicago.


Saturday, July 5, 2003

MLS: Chicago Fire at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: Chicago Fire at San Jose Earthquakes

After the Quakes' fantastic 4-4 draw on Wednesday in New York, I think they were tired and goaled-out, because while they tried hard, they weren't sharp. They gave away passes, couldn't finish chances, and seemed afraid to shoot in the box (on several occasions, a good chance was wasted when the shooter passed to another player who promptly lost possession). But at least the defense held (though barely at times) and the Quakes didn't lose. The final was nil-nil.

The most exciting aspect of the night was the car accident I got in on the way to the game!


Saturday, April 28, 2001

MLS: Chicago Fire at Tampa Bay Mutiny

Soccer: MLS: Chicago Fire at Tampa Bay Mutiny

Great game, though I was disappointed that Mamadou Diallo couldn't play because of last week's red card. The hero of Wednesday night's USA game was back for more, this time for his club team. Early on Josh Wolff pressured the Tampa defense and they brought him down in the penalty arc. A free kick was given and Wolff took it, curling the ball in -- a splendid goal! Can anyone stop this kid? Well, Demmin can: minutes into the second half he brought down Wolff with a terrible tackle from behind, nearly crippling Wolff. Josh had to leave the game with a sprained ankle. Unfortunately, Demmin only got a yellow card. His partner, John Maessner, however, wasn't so lucky, drawing a red for dragging down DaMarcus Beasley by his shirt while on a breakaway. That pretty much finished it for Tampa: they had very little offense before, and playing ten men against Chicago's defense isn't easy. Final: 1-0 Chicago.


Saturday, July 14, 2001

MLS: Colorado at Chicago

Soccer: MLS: Colorado at Chicago

Excellent game. It was all Chicago. Colorado's Robin Fraser was ejected just 30 minutes in for taking down Jamar Beasley. Still, somehow Colorado held on, with keeper Garlick putting up some great saves. Finally, with overtime looming, an amazing lob by the great Stoitchkov won the game for Chicago. A long bomb from Chris Armas at the back went over everyone except Stoitchkov, who let it bounce once, then chipped it over Garlick. Awesome goal. Final: 1-0 Chicago.


Sunday, May 27, 2001

MLS: Colorado at Columbus

Soccer: MLS: Colorado at Columbus

I wasn't too excited about this game because both teams are so low in the standings. In the past, that meant that the teams weren't very good. But surprisingly, both Columbus and Colorado are excellent teams: their positions in the standings just represent how strong the league has become. This game was terrific: Brian Maisonneuve got Columbus off to a great start with a goal in the fourth minute, but not long after that Balboa's shot cruelly hit the post and refused to go in to tie. Minutes later, Balboa got another chance and this time he finished it. Then John Spencer scored to put Colorado up a goal. Shortly after the half Ross Paule scored to give the Rapids a two goal lead. Then it all fell apart as Colorado stopped going forward and tried to just defend. Perez got an easy goal when he was open at the top of the box and received West's cross from the endline. Then West got his own goal in the 82nd minute to tie the score. A through-ball put Brian McBride one-on-one with the keeper, but his shot was blocked by a terrific save by David Kramer. But the rebound went right to West who finished beautifully, giving Kramer no chance on a second save. In overtime, Columbus almost scored right from the gate, and then Colorado had a terrific chip by Bravo that hit the post. In the end, though, the tie score held. Final: 3-3.


Wednesday, June 20, 2001

MLS: Colorado at New England

Soccer: MLS: Colorado at New England

I wasn't expecting much, but this was a terrific seesaw game! Chris Carrieri, the number one draft pick this season, just traded to Colorado from San Jose, put in a weak shot from 25-yards out. Somehow the keeper let it slip under him and into the goal. Minutes later, John Spencer's header had the Rapids up by two. But wait: Carrieri's poor back pass gave the ball to Johnny Tores who took the one-on-one with the keeper well and finished with a goal in the 26th minute. Things were quiet until late in the second half when another burst of goals was produced. Chronopoulos got the equalizer for the Revs, then Asad put New England up by one with two minutes to go. It looked like a sure win, but Colorado came back with an injury time goal from Bravo. Great stuff! Final: 3-3.


Saturday, July 21, 2001

MLS: Colorado at Tampa Bay

Soccer: MLS: Colorado at Tampa Bay

It was all Bravo as he scored twice in the first twenty minutes (the second on a rebounded post shot that John Spencer put in). Final: 2-0 Colorado.


Sunday, April 22, 2001

MLS: Colorado Rapids at L.A. Galaxy

Soccer: MLS: Colorado Rapids at L.A. Galaxy

Rather a boring affair. There were lots of valiant runs but neither team really had that many dramatic scoring opportunities, though the keepers did make a few key saves (especially Colorado's Brown). Hendrickson got the game's only goal late in the first half. Good result for L.A., but they should have won 3-zip. Final: 1-0 Galaxy.


Saturday, July 12, 2003

MLS: Colorado Rapids at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: Colorado Rapids at San Jose Earthquakes

Today the only team that could surpass San Jose in the standings was New York, and when they were losing 3-0 against New England, I thought the game was wrapped up and was feeling good about tonight's Quake game. Then New York came back to tie it! Admitedly, they had help, as New England gave them an own goal and fell apart defensively, but still, it was a bad sign. San Jose was missing our goalkeeper, Richard Mulrooney, and Landon Donovan to the Gold Cup competition, and I was not surprised to see the team struggle. At first it looked like Colorado's defense was porous and we'd score, but after missing a half dozen chances, it was Colorado's time to start pushing and they nearly scored on several occasions. Finally they did score when a Quake defender forgot to clear the ball and it went right to a Colorado player who put it away. The Quakes tried hard in the second half, but then gave away a second goal, and it just didn't look like the Quakes had it in them to get the game back. They had no flow in the offensive end. They'd get the ball in Colorado's penalty box and pass it around, with no one willing to take responsibility and shoot. Eventually they'd give the ball away and be frantically defending a rapid counter-attack. The Quakes had a few chances, but either didn't take them, completely missed, or had them stopped by the Rapids' keeper. Sucky game. It's our third loss of the season, our second at home. That's terrible, especially to one of the bad teams in the league (though Colorado's finally looking good and played fairly well tonight). The Quakes really looked mediocre, and there was no spark between the midfield and the offense. They miss Mulrooney and Donovan terribly. Final: 2-0 Colorado.


Saturday, July 17, 2004

MLS: Colorado Rapids at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: Colorado Rapids at San Jose Earthquakes

Awesome, awesome, awesome. The champions have been struggling, losing three in a row putting them in last place in the Western Conference. They haven't been playing well and injuries and national team callups and red cards have made for changing lineups and struggles to get anything to work. Well, on Wednesday the team went to Portland and knocked the Timbers out of the Open Cup competition, a nice 3-0 victory that I think really gave the team some confidence. Landon himself even said that the team practiced much better on Friday after the victory. They came into this game reved up for a win and got it handily. They dominated from the start, finishing the first half with 10 corner kicks to the Rapids zero. They had a number of great chances (including a fantastic volley by Mullan), but former Quake keeper Joe Cannon blocked the shots. But about twenty minutes in he couldn't stop Brian Ching's goal. It was a beautiful passing sequence, a work of art, involving several players with quick one touches finally feeding a streaking Ching who turned a fired a low ball into the corner of the net. I swear I could watch that goal a thousand times and not be bored by it. Truly a magnificent work of art. But for all their chances, the score was still only 1-0 and Colorado almost tied it up when John Spencer beat Onstad to a ball to tip it high over the keeper's head. I thought for sure it was drifting into goal but it bounced off the post!

In the second half, I worried the Rapids would make changes and attack relentlessly, and they did, earning their first corner kick. But though the Quakes' defense bent, it didn't break, and five minutes into the second half San Jose had their second goal. It was a breakaway started by a clear from the back headed forward to Landon Donovan in the midfield. He headed the ball to himself, then used his foot to flick it over the defender. Then it was all speed as Landon darted around the defender and took off toward goal, just him versus Joe Cannon (his former roommate and good friend). Perhaps the battle of the minds made him hesitate, but he didn't fire a shot right away, and a bump from behind from the defender put him off stride and he lost the ball to Cannon. But support was coming as another Quake got the ball and put in a cross to an open Landon standing in front of a nearly open net. But his left-footed shot came off the post! Landon didn't give up but ran after the ball, got it, and fed Ramiro Corales who was rushing forward, and his tight cross somehow went through everyone, arriving at the feet of Ching, who calmly kicked it across the line -- a shot of maybe two feet -- for his second of the day! What a wild sequence! At first I dreaded, as probably the players did, that this would be yet another great play that didn't result in a goal. Landon's miss was the kind that makes you feel cursed, like you can't score with the goal right in front of you. The Quakes have had more than their share of jinxes this season -- it's felt like that many times already -- so it was depressing watching yet another play not score. But when the ball finally went it, a simple tap-in, what a relief! A huge confidence booster. The miss spurred Donovan on and five minutes later he scored a goal for himself. Richard Mulrooney was fouled near the top of the box as he played the ball to Mullan, and since we had advantage, the ref did not stop play. Mullan took a few steps and put in a beautiful, pinpoint cross that Landon darted onto, sprinting past two defenders and redirecting the hard cross right between Joe Cannon's legs! A beautiful goal; what timing and teamwork! Great stuff.

Unfortunately the Quakes' defenses problems still existed, and they allowed Colorado a late goal. It was a terrific long-range strike by Seth Trembly from about twenty yards out after he'd run around in a circle in the mid-field and gotten himself some space. Great goal, but bummer the Quakes can't get shutouts the way they did last year. But I'll take the win. Final: 3-1 Earthquakes.


Saturday, August 28, 2004

MLS: Colorado Rapids at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: Colorado Rapids at San Jose Earthquakes

Not a lame game by any means, though a disappointing result. The Quakes dominated the whole game, but couldn't score. Colorado keeper and former Earthquake Joe Cannon was a wall, controlling his box, catching and punching crosses, and stopping a number of point blank chances. It seemed like surely the Quakes would break the deadlock at some point, but the Quakes never really got angry enough to attack desperately. There was one sequence where they tried, but Colorado actually looked dangerous on the counter, and after that San Jose didn't want to risk giving up a goal. The Rapids did have a chance to two, but our keeper only had to make a couple routine saves. I wonder if Coach Kinnear should have put in our subs earlier, tried to get a win. It was obvious the players were tired (they've played two games a week for several weeks now) and creativity was lacking. Subs wouldn't have hurt and might have inspired something. The Quakes really deserved a win based on aggressive play, but they couldn't finish and so we got yet another tie at home. That's two points lost. With a win we would have jumped to third, but this tie and Dallas' win over Chicago drops us back to the bottom. Fortunately, all the teams are tightly bunched now, and despite being in last place in the West, the Quakes are only four points from first! We do have a game in hand on everyone but K.C. and most of our final games are against Western Conference opponents, so the Quakes have it in their power to finish in the lead if we go on a good run. But with World Cup qualifying in full swing, it looks like we'll be missing Landon Donovan and Brian Ching to the National Team, meaning we'll have to win some of those key games with our B team. That's asking a lot, but we'll see. Final: 0-0 draw.


Saturday, June 9, 2001

MLS: Columbus at Chicago

Soccer: MLS: Columbus at Chicago

Good game. Jamar Beasley scored late in the first half for the game's only goal. Final: 1-0 Chicago.


Saturday, June 23, 2001

MLS: Columbus at Dallas

Soccer: MLS: Columbus at Dallas

Good game. Columbus had never won in regulation at Dallas and it didn't look like this would be the day. Graziani poached a goal early for the Burn, but a wide open Mike Lapper put in a header off a corner kick that tied the score. Then Columbus as dealt a harsh blow as Cunningham was ejected for stepping on an opponent -- it looked to me like he was just stumbling for a place to put his foot. Playing a man down, Columbus was surely out of it: but then Brian West finished one of the best goals I've seen this year. He caught a long ball from the back, trapped it beautifully with one touch, and slotted it past the keeper so smoothly it was almost unfair. You have no idea how difficult that was! Terrific goal, which also won the game for the Crew. Final: 2-1 Columbus.


Saturday, August 11, 2001

MLS: Columbus at San Jose

Soccer: MLS: Columbus at San Jose

Great game. Ronald Cerritos struck an amazing volley from 25 yards out to give the Earthquakes the early lead. But it was wiped out less than two minutes later when the Crew equalized. Joe Cannon made a great first stop, and the follow-up was blocked, but Cunningham managed to sneak the third try through the posts. Just before the half Cerritos struck again to give SJ the lead again, but once again, the Quakes gave up a goal minutes later, early in the second half. Warzycha's free kick was deflected to throw off Joe Cannon and it went into the goal despite his hand touching the ball. After that the game seesawed, with both sides having good chances, including a couple great ones from Donovan. But in the end, even after ten minutes of overtime, the game finished a draw. Final: 2-2.


Saturday, May 17, 2003

MLS: Columbus Crew at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: Columbus Crew at San Jose Earthquakes

All I can say is Game of the Season! At least so far. Wow, what a game! It's a bummer there wasn't a bigger crowd and the game wasn't on national TV. This was a clash between the best team in the East (not counting New York's leapfrog over Columbus with their win earlier in the day) versus the only unbeaten team in the league (Chicago were unbeaten until they lost in New England today). Columbus and San Jose games have developed into a powerful rivalry -- we knocked them out of the playoffs two seasons ago (the year we won the championship) and they knocked us out last year. Last year we won against them at home but lost in Columbus. What would this season be like? How would San Jose, as the league's best defense, having given up only two goals the entire season, fair against the Crew's terrific offense?

The game started off with terrific pressure by San Jose. Several early chances didn't go in, but 30 minutes in Brian Mullen puts in a sweet one-time shot that beats the keeper. It looked like a dream start, especially when the Quakes had several chances to increase the lead. Then the ref decided to get involved. I missed what happened live at the game -- I was watching the ball as it did not go into the Quakes' goal -- but suddenly the ref was calling a penalty kick. On the replay which I watched at home, the call looked weak to say the least. The Crew's Jeff Cunningham went down, supposedly on a push from Weibel. Whatever. The call was made and Brian McBride converted easily, tying the score. In the second half, it was all Quakes. Sort of. Minutes in on a terrific feed from Donovan right up the middle, Brian Ching is in alone on goal. He slides it under the keeper and it's 2-1 Quakes. But the celebrations don't last long, and Columbus looks dangerous. The Quakes give away balls in the mid-field and every time the Crew nearly scores. Cunningham gets loose in the box and scores on a great header to equalize. So much for San Jose's vaunted defense -- we've just doubled our goals against in one game! But the game wasn't over. A free kick 30 yards out is given to the Quakes, and left-footed captain Jeff Agoos steps up. He bends it around the wall and into the top corner of the goal! Amazing! Bend it like Goose! But can the Quakes hold on to the lead? My heart was in my throat. But of course I knew we had an ace: Landon Donovan hadn't scored yet. It was his turn, right? Sure enough, with three minutes in the game Donovan breaks away down the left side. He cuts inside -- the angle's tight, and there's a defender and a goalkeeper to beat. No problem. He jigs, takes a step, fires, and scores. It's 4-2! The Quakes have another win! I joked to Dave, "Do you think the Quakes can hold on to a two goal lead with two minutes left?" Bad joke. In injury time, Columbus scores. It was another bit of poor defending, a man unmarked in the box, and bingo, it's 4-3. Wild! Would the game ever end? Yes, it finally did, and the Quakes remain the only undefeated team in the league! They also jump to 14 points in the standings, above all other teams (New York is second with 13). Best of all, with L.A.'s draw, the Quakes are now 10 points ahead of the hated Galaxy. Incredible! They're playing awesome, scoring goals (not counting last week's tough zero-zero draw with Chicago), and working well as a team. When we get our injured starters back, we could really be on fire. This could be another championship season. I sure hope so -- the guys deserve it. Final: 4-3 San Jose Earthquakes!


Saturday, June 21, 2003

MLS: Columbus Crew at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: Columbus Crew at San Jose Earthquakes

After being out of town for a couple weeks and missing being able to watch Earthquakes games, it was great to return home to Spartan Stadium. Despite missing Landon Donovan (on Team USA in France) and others through injury, the Quakes won and tied their last two games. They aren't playing perfect soccer, but they are gutting out performances, and it's great to see. Tonight was another of the same. The first half was a little sluggish, with the Quakes not working too hard and Columbus slowing down the play and sparking on the counters. Quakes' goal-keeper Pat Onstad almost scored -- his long kick bounced behind the Crew defense, catching the Crew keeper off his line and forcing him to backpedal and tip the ball over the crossbar to keep from going in. Hilarious! The Quakes had a few good chances, but nothing clicked. Then the Crew's 'keeper, Jon Busch, got injured on a play and was subbed. The first goal was awesome. Left fullback Todd Dunivant was next to the sideline, right in front of me when he passed the ball right to a Crew player. Spurred by the mistake, seconds later when he got the ball again, he delivered a long pass up the left wing. It was passed forward Brian Mullan, who ran onto it and scored, sliding the ball into the far side netting. It was cool to see such a key play happen right in front of me (my season ticket seat is in the front row). Going into halftime with a lead was great, but I worried because Columbus can be deadly (McBride hit the post on one chance). Sure enough, about ten minutes into the second half, the Crew was left open and got a hard shot on goal. Onstad made a terrific block, but the rebound fell right to McBride, who immediately kicked it in. It was a similar bad luck goal to the one we gave up in Columbus, where the ball bounced right to McBride. A little while later there was a huge scuffle. I missed the start of the innocent, but apparently the Crew's Mike Clark hit Manny Lagos and Manny went nuts, attacking him. Both players were shown red cards. But things got better when rookie Jamil Walker was put on. He scored the tying goal in L.A. on Wednesday, and I was eager to see him in action. He started off with a lot of fire, which was great to see. Then, in the 77th minute, he scored the game-winner. It was awesome. Richard Mulrooney was on the left side and back-heeled a 10-yard pass to Ian Russell that caught the Crew off-guard. Ian blazed up the left side and fed a ball inside to Walker, who blistered a shot through the crowd of defenders and goal-keeper to give the Quakes the win! Terrific game, terrific result, and I just can't say enough about how hard these young players are working. Players like Mullan who was tossed away by the Galaxy have really worked hard to prove themselves, and the rookies are learning from that spirit and giving it their all. The club has the feel of the 2001 championship team where the team works as a whole and there are no superstars. After the dream start this year I wasn't sure if the Quakes were real or other teams were weak, but when decimated by injuries the Quakes are still getting results, I am now confident this team has what it takes to win another championship. With today's win they now lead MLS with 21 points, one point ahead of the Metros and Kansas City. K.C. comes to town next Saturday, and that should be a real showdown with the two best Western teams battling it out for three key points. Landon Donovan should be back from France (with today's lost to Brazil the U.S. is eliminated from the Confederations tournament and play their last game tomorrow), and hopefully some of the other Quakes are healed and ready to play. Final: 2-1 Earthquakes.


Wednesday, September 8, 2004

MLS: Columbus Crew at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: Columbus Crew at San Jose Earthquakes

With four top players missing for national team duty (Donovan, Ching, Onstad, and DeRosario) the Quakes played short-handed again. They managed an impressive away victory on the weekend, but Columbus came in gunning for a 0-0 draw. They milked the clock whenever they could, relied almost solely on counter-attacks for their offensive play, and packed it in at the back and defended nine men deep. The Quakes dominated possession and play, creating a lot of decent chances, but few actual shots on goal (lots of almosts and what-ifs). What impressed me was the way the Quakes defended, with lots of early pressure and hardly letting any Columbus player have two touches on the ball. In the end, the Quakes seemed content with the zero-zero result, something I don't like to see, and even Coach Dom didn't try to shake things up with aggressive substitutions. Thus when the Crew had a slight opportunity in stoppage time and managed to score when tall Tony Sanneh went unmarked in the box, the Quakes ended up with a loss they didn't deserve. Such is the breaks. The result doesn't hurt the Quakes in the Western standings, but it doesn't help. We could have jumped to a solid second; instead we remain in fourth. Our destiny is still in our hands as we face L.A. this weekend: that game is really a must-win now. With only two home games left and all Western opposition, losses now will doom us. We must win or miss the playoffs. Final: 1-0 Crew.


Saturday, June 9, 2001

MLS: D.C. at Dallas

Soccer: MLS: D.C. at Dallas

A slaughter: Rhine's heel pass set up Suarez, then he got his own fifteen minutes later. Martinez really set the margin when he scored late in the game. Final: 3-0 Dallas.


Sunday, June 17, 2001

MLS: D.C. at K.C.

Soccer: MLS: D.C. at K.C.

Excellent game, with another surprising win for D.C. No goals until the second half, but then Conteh got one followed by 16-year-old Guaranta a minute later. He got a second goal ten minutes later to really hammer home the victory. What's up with former champs K.C.? They're starting to struggle. Final: 3-0 D.C.


Saturday, July 14, 2001

MLS: D.C. at New England

Soccer: MLS: D.C. at New England

D.C. definitely dominated this game. They started and finished with goals from 16-year-old Quaranta, sandwiched with a goal from Moreno. Sunsing gave New England a little respect, but it wasn't enough. Final: 3-1 D.C.


Wednesday, June 13, 2001

MLS: D.C. at New York

Soccer: MLS: D.C. at New York

New York took an early lead with Faria's goal, but the Metro's Tim Howard kept them ahead with a number of great saves. But Jamie Moreno equalized for D.C., and then rookie Lisi sent forward a terrific through-ball for Conteh, who stayed onside and cleverly slid the ball under Howard for the winner. Final: 2-1 D.C.


Saturday, July 21, 2001

MLS: D.C. at New York

Soccer: MLS: D.C. at New York

D.C.'s hero and goat was Carrey Talley, who's goal put them ahead, but who's own goal gave the win to New York in the final minutes. Billy Walsh tied the game for the Metrostars. Final: 2-1 New York.


Sunday, June 24, 2001

MLS: D.C. at Tampa Bay

Soccer: MLS: D.C. at Tampa Bay

A wild game! Steve Ralston scored for Tampa in the 8th minute, quickly followed by Diallo in the 23rd, breaking his the three-game scoring drought (the longest in his MLS career). Newcomer Barclay managed to get himself open and onside on a run against the keeper and finished against Mike Amman like a pro. Three up in the first half it seemed like Tampa had it made, but Moreno's header brought D.C. back early in the second half. That seemed like it, but then Armstrong was given way too much time to shoot and his long rocket cut the lead in half. Unfortunately for D.C., that was in the 90th minute. Final: 3-2 Tampa Bay.


Sunday, April 15, 2001

MLS: D.C. United at Chicago Fire

Soccer: MLS: D.C. United at Chicago Fire

ESPN thoughtfully pre-empted the first half, only showing the second, but since there were no goals in the first half, I guess I didn't miss much. Wolff scored early in the second half, and after several near misses and post shots by Kovalenko, he got his goal in the 78th minute. D.C.'s frustration reached its peak when their captain and best player, Etcheverry, lost his temper and was red carded in injury time. Not smart. Final: 2-0 Chicago.


Wednesday, May 2, 2001

MLS: D.C. United at Miami Fusion

Soccer: MLS: D.C. United at Miami Fusion

Preki got the first goal on a penalty kick, but when D.C. got the same chance, Moreno missed! Albright finally got D.C. a goal, but then Jim Rooney got another game-winner to add to his impressive collection. Final: 2-1 Miami.


Sunday, May 6, 2001

MLS: D.C. United at NY Metrostars

Soccer: MLS: D.C. United at NY Metrostars

What a great game! D.C.'s Moreno scored twice: a penalty kick in the first half and a tap early in the second. For a while, it seemed that New York was done, but suddenly they came to life. In the 79th minute Clint Mathis continued his incredible play of late, picking up a scrap ball and putting it in the net. With just two minutes left, Faria's volley from the top of the box beat former Metro Mike Ammann to tie the score. It looked like overtime was in the cards, when out of nowhere, Villegas brought the ball from the end line and into the penalty box. Somehow he wasn't stopped. He passed the ball to a teammate who's shot was blocked, and Villegas got it again and put it away for the injury time game winner! Incredible come back! Fantastic game. Final: 3-2 New York.


Sunday, August 24, 2003

MLS: D.C. United at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: D.C. United at San Jose Earthquakes

What's to say about this game? The guys gave it their all. It was a 3 o'clock kickoff and blisteringly hot and I wasn't running for 90 minutes. The action was all Quakes: Pat Onstad hardly had to make a save all afternoon. Landon Donovan hit the cross bar and had several other close chances, as did a few other guys. Brian Mullan was subbed early for Dwayne DeRossario, who's been out injured all season, and it was good to see him get some minutes. He's still a bit rusty and this was an excellent game for him to face some real competition. He had a few near chances, but looked uncertain when it came time to finish or deliver that killer pass. But toward the end of the game he went forward eagerly, managing to catch up to a ball at the endline and deliver a perfect cross in front of the goal mouth. The pass beat goalkeeper Nick Rimando and cut off the defense: Ramiro Corrales just had to tap it into the goal to give the Quakes the lead. D.C. tried hard after that, but it was too little too late. The Quakes win and remain at the top of the league. Did I mention it was hot? Final: 1-0 Earthquakes.


Saturday, May 1, 2004

MLS: D.C. United at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: D.C. United at San Jose Earthquakes

After struggling last week in an extremely poor performance against Colorado, the Quakes are back with an improvement, but are still not the championship team from last year. I am not too worried, however. They show glimpses of their old form and just need more time to settle down. If they can peak toward the end of the season the team should be fine, make the play-offs, and defend their championship in the final again.

This game was a huge sellout (18,000 packed into tiny Spartan Stadium) because it was 14-year-old Freddy Adu's first visit to the Bay Area. And he started his first match! It was cool to see Freddy -- my season ticket seat is front row and he was almost close enough to touch -- but other than a few nice plays, he really wasn't a factor in the game. That's too be expected: keep in mind he's only 14 and though he's got fantastic skills, it still takes a while to get used to playing at this level. He'll be fine. I just worry the media will put too much pressure on the league, creating an atmosphere where the non-soccer watching public will expect Freddy to do awesome stuff and when he doesn't, they'll fade away. Freddy will do awesome stuff: just maybe not this year.

Not counting the Freddy factor, this was still a decent game. The Quakes had tons of early changes and scored in the first half off a Jeff Agoos free kick and Troy Dayak header. Great goal. But in the second half the heat (it was a 1 p.m. kickoff and quite warm) seemed to take its toll. Landon played 90 minutes for the USA against Mexico on Wednesday and it showed as he faded late in the half. None of the Quakes really sparkled in the second half. A bit of missed marking and poor timing gave D.C. a tiny opening and they took it, with Dema Kovalenko scoring. I felt that was harsh, because ten minutes earlier Dema should have been red carded. He had a violent foul against Brian Mullan and was yellow carded. In the very next play he deliberately shoulder-charged Mullan into the sideline, knocking Brian down. He didn't even try for the ball, just took out the man. That's normally an automatic yellow. If I was the ref I'd give it even faster considering he'd just been booked -- a yellow's supposed to be a warning after all -- but this ref decided to be merciful and just called a foul with no second yellow card. Poor decision in my opinion, but we really can't say it decided the match since the Quakes didn't really deserve a win considering their lackluster second half. But they certainly didn't deserve to lose and a point each seems like a fair result in the end. Final: 1-1.


Saturday, July 21, 2001

MLS: Dallas at Chicago

Soccer: MLS: Dallas at Chicago

Strange game. Graziani put Dallas in front in the 11th minute, but Stoitchkov was given two penalty kick chances (the second one extremely questionable). He missed the first (sent it wide) but finished the second to equalize. In overtime his splendid cross went right to Wynalda's head and he finished it perfectly, giving Chicago the Golden Goal win. Final: 2-1 Chicago.


Wednesday, June 6, 2001

MLS: Dallas at Tampa Bay

Soccer: MLS: Dallas at Tampa Bay

Kreis won this game on a free kick in the 15th minute. Final: 1-0 Dallas.


Saturday, April 28, 2001

MLS: Dallas Burn at NY/NJ Metrostars

Soccer: MLS: Dallas Burn at NY/NJ Metrostars

You want goals? We've got goals! New York dominated this rivalry last year, and it looks like they're going to do so again this year, though the Burn aren't going to take it without a stiff fight. Villegas scored 22 minutes in to give NY the lead, followed by a wonderful goal from Mark Chung in the 32 minute. Tab Ramos beat his man to bring the ball along the end line, but instead of crossing into the box the way all the Burn defenders expected, the passed the ball in the opposite direction to an onrushing Chung who connected fully with his left foot. I was expecting a wild shot over the goal as usually happens but instead the ball went low and sped like a bullet right into the back of the net! Amazing goal, possibly a goal of the year candidate. Terrific stuff. In the second half it looked like NY might have some problems when Comas was sent off, but then Clint Mathis (who scored nine goals last year against Dallas, including one game were he had five, an MLS record) got two in seven minutes! One of them was a 75-yard run that possibly ranks as the best goal ever in MLS. Minutes later, in the 72nd minute, Farrer got one for the Burn, but it looked like it was way too little. But a penalty kick in the 90th minute gave Dallas hope, but time ran out before they could do more. Oh yeah -- I almost forgot to mention Chung's second half penalty kick which Matt Jordon saved. The result could have been even worse for Dallas! Final: 4-2 New York.


Saturday, April 14, 2001

MLS: Dallas Burn at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: Dallas Burn at San Jose Earthquakes

I don't know what happened since last week, but the Quakes came out asleep for this game. I went to the game expecting a victory -- the Burn isn't the strongest team, especially away, and with San Jose's form last week, it should have been a decisive home opening victory. Instead it was a miserable loss. The game was slow, the Quakes spent more time passing the ball back to their own half than going forward, and there were very few quality chances. The ref blew the whistle every time two players brushed against each other, and for some odd reason, play was completely halted every time there was an injury: no stretcher was brought to carry the injured guy off so the game could keep moving. The result was a real stop-and-go affair, and San Jose never got any momentum going. The Burn played mostly defense (SJ keeper Cannon only had to make one save all night and that was in injury time), but scored in the 18th minute on a counter-attack. That turned out to be all they needed as San Jose couldn't get a shot on target to save their life. Quite pathetic. Worst of all, the stadium was packed. It was nearly sold out. They even ran out of programs. I got one of the last $15 tickets while some of the people behind me had to pay for $25 seats because that's all that was left. Though the game was crappy, the event itself was a lot of fun. The fans were in good spirits (most were used to San Jose losing), the atmosphere was entertaining, and the fireworks show at the end of the game was spectacular, almost worth the price of admission alone. (They cleared out one end of the stadium and most of the fireworks exploded just a hundred feet or so above the stadium so the flash lit up the entire place and the booming explosions hurt my ears. Very cool.) As far as soccer goes, let's hope this was just a fluke. Final: 1-0 Burn.


Saturday, July 26, 2003

MLS: Dallas Burn at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: Dallas Burn at San Jose Earthquakes

Sometimes the stars are against you; sometimes fate seems in your favor. Everything went the Earthquakes way tonight. Not only did they soundly trounce the visiting Burn, but New York lost to Colorado, and K.C. to Chicago, leaving the Quakes at the top of the entire league!

The game itself was fairly routine. The Quakes dominated from the start with a high pressure defense that blended well into a fierce attack. The guys just ran their boots off, never giving Dallas a second on the ball. In the first half, the Quakes scored twice. The first goal was mishandled by Dallas in the box and after bouncing around a bit, passed out to Chris Roner on the right who crossed the ball into the box where Brian Mullan was standing unmarked. He instantly roofed the ball into the top of the goal, giving the keeper no chance to stop it. 1-0 Quakes. About ten minutes or so later, on a deep free kick that was practically a corner, Captain Jeff Agoos' curling cross found Manny Lagos at the far post and he headed it in for a two goal lead. Great stuff. The second half was more of the same, though the Quakes didn't actually score for a while. There were a number of key chances, including several fantastic saves by Dallas keeper D.J. Countess. He stopped several players point-blank: the score could have easily finished 6-0. Late in the game Dallas almost got back in it with a terrific chance for former Earthquake Ronald Ceritos. He received the ball about three yards out and turned to goal with a sharp shot, but Quakes' keeper Pat Onstad was there and blocked the shot to preserve the shutout (he leads the league in shutouts and goals-against average). Toward the end of the game substitute Jamil Walker was really giving Dallas problems with his speed and dribbling skills, and in a bizarre play, he was elbowed in the penalty box when the ball was elsewhere. The center ref had his back to the play but fortunately the assistant ref saw it and flagged it, and after conferring with him the ref awarded the Quakes a penalty kick. (Oddly, the player who committed the foul was not given a card.) Goose finished the penalty easily, and the Earthquakes ended the night with a sound victory and go into the All-Star break on top of the entire league. Awesome. Final: 3-0 Earthquakes.


Saturday, September 27, 2003

MLS: Dallas Burn at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: Dallas Burn at San Jose Earthquakes

Wow, I thought last week's televised game was awesome, but this time I got to see the Quakes turn it on in person. Last week the Dallas Burn were supposed to be eliminated from the playoffs when they played the top team in the East, the Chicago Fire. Instead they came out and won, beating the Fire 2-0. Which Burn would show up? Which Quakes? The answers started immediately after kickoff. Right away the ball was kicked out of play and the Quakes' awesome rookie Todd Dunnivant took the throw-in. He's famous for his ability to throw long, and boy did he deliver. From the sideline on the Quake's half of the field, he threw the ball over the back of the Dallas' defense. Dewayne DeRosario darted onto it, and as the Burn keeper came out to cut down the angle, Dewayne slid it under him to the far post for the opening goal. This goal set an amazing MLS record for the fastest goal in American soccer history at eleven seconds! Wow!

But that was just the beginning. I knew Dallas isn't as bad of a team as their record indicates, and they showed it. Minutes later they tied the game on a corner kick that was headed into the goal. The crowd was stunned. But three minutes later the Quakes were back ahead when Donovan pressured away a ball just above the Quakes' penalty area, sliding it to Chris Roner and darting ahead. Chris fed the ball back up the sideline, but it got away from Donovan as the Dallas defense picked it up. But Landon didn't stop his run, continuing to pressure the defense. His pressure astonishly paid off as he won the ball and took off with a one-on-one with the keeper. But the angle was poor so Donovan did the unselfish thing and squared a ball over to an onrushing DeRosario who easily put it into an empty goal. The fans were going mad -- three goals in just eleven minutes. But we hadn't seen anything yet.

Just three minutes later, the Burn amazingly leveled the game again! The Quakes best defense in the league fell apart as Ali Curtis got ahold of a bouncing ball in the penalty area and managed to knock it around Pat Onstad to tie the score. The crowd went into stunned silence. My brother and I were freaking out -- could our hearts stand this kind of up-and-down emotional rollercoaster? Well, we needn't have worried. The Dallas goals seemed to inspire the Quakes who didn't want to pull a Chicago and lose to the worst team in the league. They attacked with vigor and fury, and by the end of the half, the Quakes were leading 4-2! Both additional goals were scored by none other than Landon Donovan. The first was a simple ball over the top where Landon beat the offside trap and made the finish against the keeper look easy. The second was a great Brian Mullan cross which Donovan calmly headed into the goal at the near post, eeriely reminiscent of his great World Cup goal last summer. What was amazing about the goal was that Donovan started the play in his own half and ran all the way to the goal leaving Dallas in the dust. That kid can run! According to the league: "The six-goal first half set a number of League records, including the fastest four, five, and six goal totals in MLS history. The 4-2 score line equaled the largest first half total ever recorded in League play, tying the record set by Dallas v. Colorado (June 16, 2001) and Columbus v. Chicago (June 2, 2002)."

In the second half, it was obvious the Burn were beat, as they couldn't get past Pat Onstad who made a handful of excellent saves. The Quakes certainly didn't stop, with Dewayne DeRosario duplicately Donovan's effort last week with a hat trick! He scored his third with his back to the goal, whirling and kicking without even looking, cleaning beating the Burn defense and keeper with a darting shot that curled into the far corner. Amazing! After never having a hat trick in team history until last week, the Quakes do it again a week later. Insane. The win eliminates the Burn from the playoffs (sadly, their first time not making the post-season leaving L.A. as the only team to make the playoffs every year) and puts San Jose eleven points ahead of second-place Colorado Rapids in the Western conference and six points ahead of everyone else in the league (awesome). With two more home games and a game in Colorado and L.A. left, San Jose has a chance to really distance themselves from everyone in the next few weeks. We'll see what happens. Final: 5-2 San Jose Earthquakes.


Wednesday, July 7, 2004

MLS: Dallas Burn at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: Dallas Burn at San Jose Earthquakes

After Sunday's awkward (and unfair) loss to the Galaxy Scum, the Quakes really needed a win tonight against the last place Burn. Unfortunately, I knew from the start that wasn't going to happen. The score was 0-0 as I arrived at the stadium. By the time I got to my seat with my dollar hot dogs (it was value night), the Burn had scored (just five minutes in). In the first half the Quakes were just terrible. I swear they connected more passes with Burn players than their own teammates! Unfortunately, the Quakes' playing style is all passing-based, so if they can't completely passes, they have no offense. They did manage to get one goal (off a corner, not a passing combination), and DeRosario criminally missed an open net to give the Quakes the lead. I don't know what he did -- he was alone in front of an open goal with the ball at his feet -- but somehow he booted it over the goal. Was he trying to be fancy or something? It certainly didn't look like it was spinning or bouncing weird (usually the reasons for a bad shank). Just side-foot it in, dude! When the Quakes gave up an awful goal late in the game with just minutes left, I wasn't surprised at all. The players were just letting the Burn guy go right through the defense and stood around and watched him line up and take a shot. Goal-keeper Pat Onstad stood on his line and just watched the ball go in -- it was like he thought it was going wide and didn't even try to stop it. Very bizarre. When the Quakes earned a penalty kick in stopage time and had the chance to tie it, I told my brother "Watch Cassar [Burn keeper] stop it." Sure enough, he did. Dallas won, deservedly. Not because they played great -- they were pretty lousy -- but because we played horrible. No rhythm, no communication, no passing, no creativity, no spark, no drive, no nothing. The worst performance in years. We haven't played this badly since we last lost to the Burn in April 2001 (a terrible game I still have nightmares about). There was also so coaching strangeness. Granted, we really missed Brian Mullan (he got that ridiculous and unfair red card on Sunday when Carlos Ruiz dived and Hollywooded that he'd been shot), but Coach Kinnear made some unusual moves. First, he started both Donovan and Ekelund in the midfield, which didn't work at all as neither saw the ball in the first half. Late in the game when Donovan was pushed up front, he played much better, actually running and creating a few chances. For MLS, I think Landon's better up top, especially when paired with DeRo or Ching. Ching and Dwayne are too much alike to play up top together. Then the coach put in Chris Brown for an injured Ian Russell at minute 21, but in minute 72 he replaced Brown with Alvarez! Then he took out central defender Ryan Cochrane and put in Todd Dunnivant (later I found out Ryan was injured). But this wasn't a game lost by coaching decisions or a single player: it was a team effort. Nobody played well (I swear Craig Waibel was the best player on the pitch), everyone was giving away passes (even our core of Donovan, Ekelund, and Mulrooney), DeRo played like he was the only one on the field, only passing when there was no Earthquake player around, and while Ching did his usual job, he'd not the kind of player who's effective by himself: he needs teammates. The ref did suck, but not as bad as usual. He made one puzzling mistake. Twice when the Quakes had the ball in their offensive half and were attacking, the ref ordered our player to kick the ball out of play because a Burn player was injured. Why didn't the ref just blow the whistle to stop play? Bizarre. But it got unfair when the Burn were attacking and one of their own players was down elsewhere on the field and everyone was shouting at the Burn to kick the ball out and they did not. Did the ref then order the Burn player to stop the play by kicking the ball out? No, he waved play on! Ridiculous and the ref should never be allowed in MLS again for blatant unfairness like that. But of course that wasn't what cost us the game at all. As far as the game went, we did that to ourselves, and the ref actually gave us a gift with the penalty which we spurned.

Usually I'm so depressed after a Quakes loss I can't go to sleep or get out of bed the next day, but for this game I was actually glad we lost. If we play that like, we deserve to lose, and I hope the players learn from it. This is a very competitive league and you cannot just go out and give a half-hearted performance and expect to get anything from the game. Final: 2-1 Dallas.


Saturday, August 21, 2004

MLS: Dallas Burn at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: Dallas Burn at San Jose Earthquakes

Wow, fantastic night. The weekend began with a downer in that AEG, the owners of the Quakes, officially announced a deadline: if the Quakes are not bought by local investors or a local stadium deal isn't figured by Sept. 27 -- yes, a mere month away -- the Quakes will be relocated next year, most likely to San Antonio, Texas. Friday a huge rally in San Jose was scheduled, and tonight was a tribute to the original Earthquakes, the 30th anniversary of the original 1974 NASL team. In honor of those players, the Earthquakes wore red retro uniforms, quite a switch from traditional Quake blue. There was a good-sized crowd on hand and even Krazy George was back, beating his drum and riling up the fans who were in excellent voice. Besides the relocation drama, this was a huge game for the Quakes. Last in the West, this was a must-win against a Conference opponent. The game started with Dallas getting a couple early chances, but within a couple minutes the Quakes were humming and got an early goal with a terrific Ramiro Corrales left-footed strike. Donovan broke through with the ball on goal, took a defender with him to the side and played a fluff ball to Ramiro who blasted it into the far post netting. San Jose controlled play well after that. The Burn had some possession and created a couple chances, but nothing truly threatening. San Jose really dominated with some fantastic combination play. A quick series of passes sent Ronnie Ekelund in alone on goal, but Burn keeper Jeff Cassar managed to block the shot with his face! Sadly, he paid for the fine save, having to come out of the game as his left eye was nearly swollen shut. The Quakes' continued pressure paid off and soon we were on the board again with another Ramiro goal... sort of. Off on the left he came into the box and took a low-percentage shot. Unfortunately for the Burn, their defender's feeble block only succeeded in wrong-footing the keeper and generating an own goal. In the second half the Burn came out wanting to be strong but San Jose wouldn't have it, continuing the route with another combination goal. Several touches in the Burn half resulted in Ekelund feeding Mulrooney who passed forward to Ching who chested it down to Donovan. Landon immediately slid the ball into space and Ching turned and was on-on-one with Scott Garlick, the Burn's replacement keeper. Ching scored to give us a 3-0 lead and himself a league-leading eleventh goal of the season. After that it was routine, with the fans screaming with joy, the Quakes making the Burn look pathetic, and the home team squandering several good chances to add to the score. In the end the Quakes get themselves out of the cellar (the Burn deservedly get that spot), hold on to a nice shutout, and snag a priceless three points. And hopefully it will be a performance that will inspire a local ownership group to keep the Quakes here. Final: 3-0 Earthquakes.


Saturday, August 7, 2004

MLS: DC United at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: DC United at San Jose Earthquakes

Hooray! The Quakes get a much needed shutout and an even more needed win. The pregame had some drama as yesterday the league suddenly announced that Landon Donovan wouldn't play as he would be suspended for his anti-ref gesture in the Quakes' home game two weeks ago. After billing this as a "Landon vs. Freddy" shootout (they gave away posters with that message), Landon wouldn't play. Good to see the league backing up the refs even if it means benching their superstar, but the timing is awkward. Anyway, I was a little unsure how a Donovanless Quakes would play. It turns, very well. Partly that was because D.C. just wasn't playing well, but mostly it was because the Quakes were excellent. They controlled the play, passed the ball around like they owned the field, created gobs of chances, and finished a couple of them. The Quakes totally dominated the first half, with Ching missing a sitter five minutes in, Waibel's shot cleared off the line by a defender, and Ching hitting the post twice before the end of the half! Fortunately, they did at least get one in the goal. After DeRo was taken down near the corner, Goose's free kick bounced inside the box and D.C. couldn't clear, sending it right to a Quake who took the ball back into the box, where Mullan's initial shot was blocked but cleared right back to him, and his second a low slider to the opposite post that a DC defender couldn't keep out. Wild, but a great goal. In the second half, DC came back and had a few chances. Onstad had one great save in the first half and in the second he made another one, two key plays in the game for him. The Quakes relaxed a little too much for a while, but fortunately didn't give up an equalizer. Then as they began to attack more, Mullan put in a great cross that DeRosario finished with an amazing volley right into the upper net, giving the keeper no chance to save it. Fantastic goal, certainly a goal of the year candidate. Final: 2-0 San Jose Earthquakes.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

MLS: Houston vs LA

Soccer: MLS: Houston vs LA

This was my first chance to watch the Houston Dynamo in person and it was an excellent performance. They got a bit lucky, facing an devastated LA team and gave up a poor goal off a corner kick, but totally dominated and controlled the game. It was tied after the half but seconds in to the second period Mullan's great play caused him to be fouled in the box and earned Houston a penalty kick which Dewayne De Rossario converted easily. With the lead again, Houston crushed the Galaxy with pressure, winning every second ball and every 50-50. Other than a couple chances, LA could barely get the ball out of their half of the field. The pressure finally gave when two Galaxy defenders each stopped thinking the other had the ball and Houston's Ricardo Clark stuck out of a foot to poke the loose ball past a helpless Joe Cannon. Joe again kept his team somewhat in the game as he made a number of fine saves. With the win Houston again are atop the Western Conference table and clinch a playoff spot, and LA's chances of making the playoffs are nearly gone.


Saturday, June 9, 2001

MLS: K.C. at Miami

Soccer: MLS: K.C. at Miami

Terrific game, with Miami showing off their great offensive power. Chacon started things with a goal in the 22nd minute. Things went a bit dry, but in the second half Serna came alive with a quick goal followed by Preki picking up loose ball in the penalty area. K.C. keeper Tony Meola injured himself on a save and was substituted. McKeon finished off a penalty kick to give the Wizards a bit of hope, but that was quickly dashed by second goals from Chacon and Serna! Final: 5-1 Miami.


Saturday, June 23, 2001

MLS: K.C. at San Jose

Soccer: MLS: K.C. at San Jose

Wonderful game. K.C. showed very little offense and it was all San Jose. Canadian DeRosario got some luck when the defender's clear ricochetted off his body and into the goal, giving the Quakes the early lead. In the second half, defender Nick Garcia (rookie of the year last year) took down DeRosario when he was on a breakaway, and Garcia was justly given the red card as he was the last man. That really opened things up for San Jose, who poured on the offense, but somehow K.C. kept the ball out of the net for a good while. It was injury time when things finally broke down and Junior Agogo's run down the right left Ronald Cerritos open on the left, and Ronald didn't miss finishing Agogo's cross. Final: 2-0 Quakes, who are unbeaten in 11 straight games!


Saturday, June 2, 2001

MLS: K.C. at Tampa Bay

Soccer: MLS: K.C. at Tampa Bay

Poor Tampa's really been struggling without striker Mamadou (he's still on suspension). Today they got back defender Steve Trittechuh who broke his fibula just before the season started. Amazingly, eleven minutes in -- his first minutes this season -- he scored a goal! His header put Tampa in front and things were looking good. But just nine minutes later a simple defense mistake let in K.C. and Gomez equalized. Early in the second half, another slight mistake gave Lassiter a tiny chance and he took it instantly, burning Tampa for the goal. After that K.C. just held on for the win. Final: 2-1 Kansas City.


Saturday, May 19, 2001

MLS: Kansas City at Chicago

Soccer: MLS: Kansas City at Chicago

Chicago dominated, with an early goal from Kovalenko followed by a terrific score by Nowak. In the 70th minute Nowak was ejected for retaliating, but Chicago managed to maintain their lead. Final: 2-0 Chicago.


Sunday, May 6, 2001

MLS: Kansas City at Los Angeles

Soccer: MLS: Kansas City at Los Angeles

I must admit, while K.C. does put up the results, I don't like their defensive style. Here they scored early and against the run of play on a penalty kick by McKeon, and that pretty much was all the offense they wanted to show. L.A. kept pushing and pushing, but failing to finish. (K.C. Keeper of the year last year Tony Meola had a lot to do that!) Finally a penalty kick the other direction tied matters, but L.A. couldn't move ahead and K.C. seemed happy with a tie. But in a wonderful twist, Olympian Danny Califf scored in overtime to give L.A. the win! Ha ha, K.C. Go home empty handed! Shots: 17-2 for the Galaxy, who just dominated. Final: 2-1 Los Angeles.


Saturday, April 19, 2003

MLS: Kansas City Wizards at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: Kansas City Wizards at San Jose Earthquakes

It was opening day at Spartan Stadium, and the second game of the double-header was the Quakes hosting K.C. A huge 17,000+ crowd on hand made for a wonderful atmosphere in a packed stadium. And wow, did the Quakes dominate! They pushed and pushed and had chance after chance, but either missed shots or K.C. keeper Tony Meola blocked them. He had 5 saves in the match, including a heart-stopping parry in the final seconds. Unfortunately, chances and possession don't win games, and late in the second half of a zero-zero game something horrible happened. New Quake keeper Pat Onstad punched the ball to clear it, but it went straight up. As the ball was coming right back down in his area and several Wizards were closing in, he realized his mistake. He then went to tip the ball over the goal, but in his panic knocked it into his own goal! Just horrible. I feel bad for Pat, but it really was bad goal-keeping. You never hit it toward your own goal unless you are positive there's no chance of it going in. (That's why you'll usually see keepers actually bend their wrist over the crossbar when they tip a ball over -- they want to make sure it's not bouncing off the bar or doing anything but what they want.) Going down a goal after dominating for so long was harsh, and with only 15 minutes left the Quakes had an up hill battle. Fortunately, they rallied and a fantastic through-ball from Landon Donovan put Mullen through and he finished to level the score. The battle continued into ten minutes of overtime, and though San Jose had several more chances (Ching got a free header in the box but mistimed his jump and bobbled it off his shoulder wide of the goal) including a Ching-Mullen combo in the final seconds that should have been the winner except for Meola who slapped it wide. That was the last play of the game and both teams share the points. Not a terrible result for San Jose, especially considering the new squad and all the players missing with injuries, but definitely a disappointment. San Jose has a tough match against uberrivals Los Angeles next Saturday and they'd better figure out how to finish those chances. L.A.'s gotten three 1-1 draws on the road to start the season, and they'd love to steal three points at Spartan Stadium. Still, the Quakes are playing well. The back looks strong, but the way MLS is today, the slightest mistake at the back will cost you, and I worry about them giving away the occasional easy goal. At the front they are proving to create opportunities and I'm impressed by the play of newcomers Ching, Mullen, and Dunivant. Landon's playing well, and though he hasn't scored yet, he's set up three goals, which is great considering how tightly he's marked. Considering this is really only half the team right now (the rest are injured), the Quakes are doing awesome. Final: 1-1 draw.


Saturday, June 28, 2003

MLS: Kansas City Wizards at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: Kansas City Wizards at San Jose Earthquakes

For a battle between the two top teams in the league, the first half was mediocre. There were a few chances both way, but the teams seemed to be cautious more than aggressive. In the second half things got wilder. Tackles were harder, and the ref began throwing around cards (eventually K.C.'s Nick Garcia got his second and was tossed), but though the Quakes certainly dominated the game, they couldn't quite break throw. Meola had a few great saves, and the Quakes couldn't quite complete a few other chances. The game finally went into overtime and finished nil-nil. A point each still leaves the Quakes on top of the league in points, but with a couple road games coming up I hope we don't look back and see two missed points there. Still, it was a good game. Both sides had chances, both sides played well. Neither could quite get the momentum needed to actually win, however, though the Quakes certainly came the closest. A fair result. Final: 0-0.


Saturday, October 9, 2004

MLS: Kansas City Wizards at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: Kansas City Wizards at San Jose Earthquakes

Terrific game, though the Quakes didn't get the win they needed and deserved. Even though half the team was missing (national team call-ups for Onstad, DeRossario, Donovan; injuries for Goose; suspension for Dayak) the others really worked hard and put forth a great effort. Conway had little to do in goal because the team pressed forward so much and everyone worked hard on defense. The guys created tons of chances, hit the woodwork three or four times and forced K.C.'s keeper make a half dozen excellent saves. There were a couple goal-mouth clearances and a missed penalty kick call as well. All this made for an exciting game with a big crowd (over 25,000), but unfortunately there were no goals. The result means San Jose have a must win-or-tie next weekend against Dallas in Dallas to make the playoffs. While I'm confident they can do it, it's not a good situation for the defending champs.

There was one funny bit toward the end of the game. The ball was out for a K.C. goal kick but there were two balls on the field. Ching was near one he threw it out. It hit the advertising board and came right back. He then kicked it out and it hit Bo and came back again! It was like the ball wouldn't get off the field. The crowd was laughing -- it was a nice tension release. Fun moment. Final: 0-0 draw.


Monday, June 18, 2001

MLS: L.A. at Miami

Soccer: MLS: L.A. at Miami

Terrific game. L.A. has never lost at Miami, but this time one expected Miami's form to prevail. But L.A. didn't back down from Miami's offense. Serna got an early goal for Miami, but Lalas headed in an equalizer for L.A., followed by an Ian Bishop own goal to give L.A. the lead. Then Cienfuegos put in a brilliant goal: he caught the pass with his left foot, then stuck into the roof of the net with his right. Amazing. It looked all L.A. then, but in the second half, captain Jim Rooney's diving header brought Miami back within one. It looked dicey for a bit, but Miami kept pressing and L.A. went back on their heels. Rooney was again involved, sending forward a great pass behind the defense that Serna just blasted into the far corner. Great play, terrific equalizer, and Miami have still only lost one game all season! The result's also great for San Jose, who maintain their 3 point lead in the Western Division. Final: 3-3.


Saturday, June 9, 2001

MLS: L.A. at San Jose

Soccer: MLS: L.A. at San Jose

Awesome game! The two Western rivals battled for supremacy and the new 'Quakes claimed victory. Landon Donovan scored midway through the first half, and Ian Russell extended San Jose's lead ten minutes into the second. L.A.'s Sasha Victorine scored a great goal off a header off a corner kick to make the final twenty minutes interesting, but Landon's second goal in injury time put the matter beyond doubt. San Jose's terrific form is not an accident: they are playing incredibly well this season. Final: 3-1 San Jose.


Saturday, June 2, 2001

MLS: L.A. Galaxy at Columbus Crew

Soccer: MLS: L.A. Galaxy at Columbus Crew

Boring game. Neither team looked great. The goals came in a sudden burst a few minutes into the second half. L.A. scored and a minute later Perez tied it for the Crew. After that, the teams resorted to their tactic of not scoring again, even after the game went into overtime. The Crew tried, but couldn't figure out the formula. Final: 1-1.


Saturday, May 12, 2001

MLS: L.A. Galaxy at New York Metrostars

Soccer: MLS: L.A. Galaxy at New York Metrostars

Undoubtedly Clint Mathis is the most exciting and best American player to emerge from Major League Soccer. In this game he assisted on the first goal by Villegas, then got his own great goal later. The guy's unstoppable: a goal or assist in his last 12 games in all competitions. He now leads MLS with 7 goals. Final: 2-0 NY.


Saturday, May 22, 2004

MLS: L.A. Galaxy at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: L.A. Galaxy at San Jose Earthquakes

Yes yes yes yes! It seems like every trip to Spartan Stadium is special these days. The Earthquakes are rife with injuries and still haven't regained their championship form of last year, but things are starting to gel. After last week's victory in Dallas, a win at home against our archrivals, the L.A. Galaxy, who led the Western Conference by six points, was crucial. Memories of last fall's tremendous come-back were there, of course, but it's important to note that of the eleven Quakes who started that game, only five of those players started this one (mainly due to injury). L.A. had some injury problems of their own, but not nearly as bad as the Quakes. Midfielder Ronnie Ekelund was out and so Landon Donovan was moved back to play his role with Ching and DeRosario up top, a combination fans have been wanting for a long time. (Last year DeRo recovered from his injury about the time Ching went down, so they never had a chance to play together.)

San Jose came out storming, and the first half -- really the entire game -- was almost all Earthquakes. Chance after chance after chance was had, with L.A. keeper Kevin Hartman making a slew of excellent saves to keep the Galaxy alive. DeRosario was a monster, really aggressive and threatening every time he got the ball. After thirty minutes or so it started to get a little worrisome. With so much domination it's easy to get overconfident and make a defensive mistake. I worried the Gals might score on a counter. They did have a chance or two, the strongest being Cobi Jones' header which came off the crossbar, but the ball did not go in. Then on a brilliant corner kick Brian Ching was at the top the box and when the other Quakes moved away, dragging L.A. defenders with them, he went unmarked into the seam and banged home a terrific header to give the home team the lead just before the half. After the half Ching continued right on. A Mulrooney through ball sent DeRo up the wing and his pin-point cross eluded Hartman and found a rushing Ching who chested it into the goal. A minutes later another defensive mistake sent Brian Mullan in on goal. He's missed a few sitters recently and I could see him hesitate. I was sitting at the perfect angle, directly behind him on his way to goal. I was saying to myself "Go for it, shoot!" and he did! The ball went right past Hartman and into the far corner, a brilliant goal!

But all couldn't be perfect for the Quakes. The make-shift defense has cracks and a bit of bad luck came when a routine shot from Herzog was deflected to wrong-foot Pat Onstad and end up in the goal. Three-one was still a strong lead, but I knew that getting just one would energize the Galaxy and it did. They scrambled and managed to score with a glancing header off a free kick. With only a one goal margin things were really tight now: everyone was no down reliving the miraculous comeback from last November and wondering if the turnaround would be in the other direction this time. But those fears were quickly put to rest via a marvelous performance from Dwayne DeRosario, my man of the match. Hounded by several Galaxy players over on the left side, DeRo spun around, eluding them, and took the ball toward goal. A cut back lost another defender, and then he moved back toward goal in the free space and sent a low grass-buzzing shot into the left side of the goal past a diving Hartman. Four-two! The packed stadium went insane, the Galaxy's spirits slumped, and I knew we had the game wrapped up. The Quakes played good controlled soccer for the final ten minutes or so, not letting the Galaxy have much of a chance and creating a few shots to keep their defense nervous. Then it was over, a rallying 4-2 victory for the Earthquakes, and L.A.'s dreams of revenge vanquished. It was a terrific team performance, with good defense, great attacking play, and tons of unbelievable hard work and running. To show how lopsided the game was, San Jose set a new team record of a whopping 29 shots in the game and Pat only had to make four saves (he had ten last weekend in Dallas). Just awesome. The Quakes are now just three back from the Galaxy in the West and second place in the entire league, and we have a game in hand on L.A. Sweet. Final: 4-2 Earthquakes.


Saturday, September 25, 2004

MLS: LA Galaxy at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: LA Galaxy at San Jose Earthquakes

Not much to say about this game. It was a sellout crowd -- over 27,000 -- but the game was a snoozer. The finishing of both teams was terrible, and neither created many chances. There were some physical battles but both teams seemed more worried about giving up a goal than scoring. The result was a scoreless draw. This really hurts the Quakes' chances of making the playoffs. Final: 0-0.


Saturday, June 25, 2005

MLS: LA Galaxy at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: LA Galaxy at San Jose Earthquakes

I don't usually write about televised games, but I'll make an exception for this one. I should have been at the stadium, but I'm in Oregon now and 750 miles away. I was certainly there in spirit, however, to cheer our team and boo the traitor Landon Donovan who switched to our archrivals the Galaxy Scum in the off-season. Games against LA are always intense, but the build-up to this game was incredible, heightened by the Landon move and the Galaxy's inability to win away from home. I really hoped the Quakes the would have a good game and they started off well, containing Landon and LA well and creating some good chances. But the goal didn't come until two thirds of the way through the first half, which had me a little nervous (though Quakes' keeper Pat Onstad didn't have to make any saves). the goal was the result of terrific combo play with Brad Davis linking to Cerritos who crossed to Moreno who finished. Great stuff. In the second half, the Gals came out with a little fire and generated a scary moment about ten minutes in when a simple corner kick turned into a series of chances. Pat made the first save off a point-blank Kirovski header, then parried the second and third follow-ups. The ball still wasn't cleared, however, and when the ball came in a fourth time, he ruthlessly punched it out. It fell to another Galaxy player who took a shot that was blocked by the Quakes who then went on a terrific counter-attack with Chung alone at the top of the LA box. Unfortunately, he thought he had more time than he had and a great tackle by the Galaxy defense took the ball away. But the Quakes were enlivened by that play and began to push harder, and not long after that a chance on goal created some confusion in the Galaxy box where a back-pass to the goalkeeper Kevin Hartman ended up in the goal! A two-goal lead was just what the Quakes wanted, and the rattled Galaxy foolishly gave up another own goal just a couple minutes later when Marshall's header went past Hartman. Two own goals! Hilarious, but not undeserved by San Jose at all, who should have been leading by that score anyway. In the end, the 3-0 victory was just as it should have been, for other than that one flurry and a chance of a Landon free kick, Pat had nothing to do all night. A fantastic night for San Jose, deserved revenge on Landon, and a continuation of the Gals' road woes. Final: 3-0 San Jose.


Saturday, April 26, 2003

MLS: Los Angeles Galaxy at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: Los Angeles Galaxy at San Jose Earthquakes

I timed my return from Oregon around this game as I couldn't afford to miss the Quakes' big game against our rivals, the Galaxy. I didn't dare hope the Quakes would win -- last year's disappointing results with L.A. striker Ruiz sneaking goals while offside are too fresh in my mind. Even if the Quakes managed a lead, I figured Ruiz would be up to his old tricks and figure out some lowbrow way to steal a goal. But to my surprise the Quakes dominated the game. I figured San Jose would come out strong, but what was unexpected was that L.A. never got going. The Quakes controlled the pace of the game and forced L.A. constantly on the retreat, protecting their goal. Oh, they had a few chances, and there were some heart-pounding moments around the San Jose goal (especially considering our goalkeeper's mistake last week), but in general it was the Quakes who threatened the goal the most. Unfortunately, actually getting the goal proved tough, as their keeper made saves or our final shots were a hair off target. Finally, however, mid-way through the second half, Brian Ching was taken down by a Galaxy defender in the penalty box. The ref immediately pointed to the spot -- a penalty kick! Up stepped Landon Donovan who calmly put away the goal. The Quakes were ahead 1-0! It was pandemonium in the stands, but everyone was nervously wondering if the Quakes could hold on to the lead. Indeed they could: the Galaxy never had a chance. Though it was a slim margin and I'd have preferred a rout, a win is a win, and the Earthquakes now sit atop the Major League Soccer standings with seven points (unbeaten in three games, their best start in team history). Awesome. Worth coming home for. Final: 1-0 San Jose.


Wednesday, August 1, 2001

MLS: Miami at D.C.

Soccer: MLS: Miami at D.C.

Good game. D.C. started early with Conteh scoring twice, including a back-heeled goal that was incredibly impressive. Miami came back in the second half with goals from Chacon and Serna to tie things. In the ten minutes of overtime that followed, neither team could score. Final: 2-2.


Saturday, July 14, 2001

MLS: Miami at Los Angeles

Movie: MLS: Miami at Los Angeles

Excellent game, though the league-leading Fusion are suddenly impotent for three games straight. Hernandez gets a header over keeper Rimando to put L.A. ahead in the 8th minute. Then a PK is awarded to Miami, but Hartman, amazingly, stops Preki's left-footed blast! Miami had some good chances, but the post and Hartman kept them out. Late in the game Adam Frye wins a scramble in the box to slide a ball into the goal. In injury time, Jones is taken down in the box for a PK, and Vanney finishes it off. (One side comment on Vanney: I like him, but he had an instance just before the PK where he refused to give the ball back to the other team when they wanted to put the ball back in play quickly. Vanney childishly kept the ball away, which started a scuffle and nearly a fight, and of course after that the ref had to award yellows to both teams. Vanney should have been given a yellow immediately by the ref, or maybe even a red. I can't stand that sort of ridiculous time-wasting, especially by a team that's ahead by two goals. Obviously Miami shouldn't have reacted violently to Vanney's move, but part of the reason players do that is because the refs don't punish that kind of time-wasting properly. If the refs would regularly send off players that do that, it would stop in a hurry, let me tell you. Once the ref blows the whistle on a play, the ball should just be left where it is and whichever team is supposed to take the kick ought to pick it up and put it back in play.) Final: 3-0 Los Angeles.


Saturday, August 4, 2001

MLS: Miami at New York

Soccer: MLS: Miami at New York

Cool game. Faria had three chances in the first ten minutes and finished one of them to give NY the lead, but Preki later equalized when he was set up by a poor NY clear and he drove in a perfectly flighted left-footed chip over keeper Tim Howard who was off his line. But Miami was having other problems: McKinley was sent off with a red card in the first half, and in the second Bishop followed leaving them down by two. Then Mark Chung got his second goal of the year and the game winner. Final: 2-1 New York.


Saturday, May 26, 2001

MLS: Miami at Tampa Bay

Soccer: MLS: Miami at Tampa Bay

Tampa without Mamadou Diallo is like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without peanut butter and jelly. The poor team just can't accomplish anything. (Mamadou is on a four-game suspension for attacking a fan that insulted him. This is his second serious suspension this season: let's hope he learns to control his temper.) Anyway, this game was all Miami. After a few post shots and other great chances squandered, captain Jim Rooney buried a deceptive free kick where Preki didn't take the shot but rolled the ball to him. Minutes later, Chris Henderson finished, and in the second half, Diego Serna got on the board twice to silence his critics. His first goal was hilarious: he hit the post in the first half and this shot did also, but the rebound came right to his head and he headed it over the keeper and into the empty goal. Final: 4-0 Miami.


Sunday, April 22, 2001

MLS: New England Revolution at D.C. United

Soccer: MLS: New England Revolution at D.C. United

Not a bad game, though rather strange scoring. Abdul Thompson Conteh (formerly of San Jose Earthquakes) scored on a header just 9 minutes in for D.C., but late in the half when D.C. was supposed to go up two goals after a penalty kick was awarded them, Calley's shot was saved by Jurgen Summer. The second half was a reverse of the first half. Two minutes in New England was awarded a penalty and Harris took it. Mike Ammann blocked the shot, but the rebound went free and a charging Okoh pounced on it to tie the score. Then, toward the end of the game, it Conteh who scored again, this time on a volley in the box off a corner kick. Great action in the second half, both keepers performing well, especially Ammann, who made several spectacular saves to keep D.C. in the game. Unfortunately for the Revs, this is their third defeat in three games, though they didn't play that badly. Final: 2-1 D.C.


Wednesday, May 9, 2001

MLS: New England Revolution at D.C. United

Soccer: MLS: New England Revolution at D.C. United

What a crazy game! Poor New England: they just can't get it together. Six games and six loses! And they face mighty Chicago on Saturday. Abdul Thompson Conteh sure loves the Revs: he's scored all his goals against them. Six in two games! Here he had a first half hat trick: then added a forth in second half. A complete rout. New England's defense is just non-existent. Ironically, in another game played at the same time, L.A.-Tampa Bay, Mamadou Diallo also scored four goals (that game ended 4-4, though I didn't see it). Why in the world did San Jose get rid of Conteh? Final: 5-0 D.C.


Saturday, April 28, 2001

MLS: New England Revolution at Miami Fusion

Soccer: MLS: New England Revolution at Miami Fusion

Good game, though a little slow. Harris showed some great moves for the Revs, but couldn't put together a series of them to actually score. Miami didn't do much and looked weak, but with just ten minutes to go, Chacon got open and scored yet again (he's currently in the lead for most goals in the fewest minutes played in MLS). Miami held on to give the Revs their fourth defeat and zero points for the season. I hope that bodes well for San Jose as the Revs come to visit next weekend and the Quakes are hungry for a home win. Final: 1-0 Miami.


Saturday, May 5, 2001

MLS: New England Revolution at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: New England Revolution at San Jose Earthquakes

Well, San Jose's up to their old trick again: giving up critical goals at the end of the match. I saw this game in person, and it was a wild one, though it started slowly. New England keeper Sommer was magnificent: making almost a dozen fantastic saves in the game. Dayak scored a half hour in, but I happened to have turned my head and missed the goal! Where are the replays for a live game? In the second half, San Jose continued to pour on the offense. DeRosario got a goal when Sommer made his first mistake and dropped the ball. Then Ibsen put the Quakes up 3-0 with ten minutes to go. New England had shown little offense and it looked like it was going to be a rout, but knowing San Jose, I didn't hold my breath. Sure enough, with just two minutes left, former Quake Wright did like he did last year, scoring for his new team. His header gave the Revs some hope and they pushed forward. Wade Barrett fouled Sunsing -- easily the Revs' best player -- in the box to give up a penalty. Joe Cannon blocked Johnny Tores' penalty kick, which was awesome, but in the confusion surrounding the rebound, Barrett managed to knock the ball into his own goal! Fortunately, that was the end of the scoring. A good win for San Jose, but it was a shame to give up two easy goals so late. Final: 3-2 San Jose.


Sunday, September 7, 2003

MLS: New England Revolution at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: New England Revolution at San Jose Earthquakes

Great atmosphere, part of the double-header Sunday following the U.S. women's match. With Chicago's tie on Saturday, the Quakes needed a win to reclaim top spot in the league, as well as distance themselves from Colorado (whom they lost to last weekend). Things started out well as the Quakes pressured and had some near chances, but quickly went sour as a counter-attack gave a goal to New England. A fantastic through-pass by Steve Ralston beat two defenders and sent Pat Noonan in alone on goal. Quakes' keeper Pat Onstad was out quickly to shut down the play, but Noonan flicked the ball over Onstad as he dove, and the ball trickled into the open net. It was against the run of play and so quick the home crowd was stunned. But just a minute later the Quakes struck back! Brian Mullan threaded the ball into the New England penalty area to an open Dwayne DeRosario. It took Dwayne a touch to settle the ball, but no one closed him down, and his second touch was to blast the ball high into the net giving the Rev's keeper no chance. One-all into the half! The Quakes came out aggressively in the second half, and soon took the lead. DeRosario was again involved, this time in a run up the side. He opted to go toward the center, sliding the ball over to an open Ramiro Corrales. He waited, then put in a perfect ball to Landon Donovan in the box. Landon's header was hard and on target, but a sprawling Adin Brown punched the shot away. The rebound, however, fell into a crowd of players in the penalty area. Ronnie Ekelund managed to get the ball to Landon, who was open, and he easily finished it into the far corner. With the lead the Earthquakes sat back more than they should have, but fortunately the Revolution's offense sucked and the Quakes' weren't burned. They never really threatened, though the Quakes had a couple more near chances. Just before the end there was a scuffle between Brian Mullan and Rusty Pierce and both were given yellows -- but it was Rusty's second, and so he was off with a red card. Somehow the ref found five minutes of injury time to add on, but the Quakes dominated that, nearly increasing their lead. In the end the Revs just couldn't compete. The Quakes win, going to 43 points, nine points higher than the second place team in the Western Conference and three higher than Chicago, the top team in the East. Awesome, baby. Playoffs here we come! Final: 2-1 San Jose.


Saturday, July 24, 2004

MLS: New England Revolution at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: New England Revolution at San Jose Earthquakes

Wow, what can I say about this game? Plenty, of course, but it left me speechless for a quite a while. First, the Inconsistent Quakes of 2004 are back. After last week's power demolishing of Colorado, the Quakes came out flat and uninspired in the first half. Nothing much happened and the players didn't seem too eager to even try for a goal. We soon gave up a goal and I thought that would motivate the players, but they seemed content to go into the locker room only down by one with a whole second half to tie it up. We did get one great chance before the half when Brian Ching's header was cleared off the line by NE. In the second half the Quakes looked a little brighter, but still nothing like the champions. Then Todd Dunivant made a crucial mistake at the back when his feeble clear (he was under no pressure but I guess thought he was) went right to the Rev's Cancela who quickly finished from the top of the box. Now down by two goals, the Quakes seemed stunned. They began to play a little harder, but still not enough. The ref didn't help matters, as he was inconsistent calling fouls and dives, and didn't really have control of things the entire game, allowing it to get rather chippy. He topped off this error by ejecting Troy Dayak in his first game back after months of injury, for a supposed elbow in the NE penalty area. A straight red seemed harsh -- there's always lots of contact in the box on a corner kick -- and it was strange to see that happen during a Quakes offensive play (usually reds go to defensive plays). Dayak's hugely popular with the fans and when the walked off to a chorus of "ref you suck" he took of his shirt and waved it, stirring up the fans. That seemed to revie the team as well, who felt hard done by. A few minutes later two things happened almost simultaneously. First Brian Mullan was hacked down off the ball along the sideline, but play continued. Brian's ball went back to Waibel, who put forth a long 35 ball into space for DeRosario, who was able to get onto the ball behind NE's defense and score. But then it turned out the linesman had flagged the original foul against Mullan and apparently the ref blew his whistle, perhaps mistaking the flag as indicating DeRo was offside. But instead of simply giving the Quakes the advantage and allowing the goal, the moron ref cancelled the goal and awarded San Jose a free kick for the Mullan foul! That's like winning the lottery then being told, "Oops, you didn't win the million, you won the ten grand." Yeah, the ten grand's nice, but you thought you'd won the million. Anyway, it was still a two-goal defficit for the Quakes who began to battle a bit. As the game continued, both fans and players were disgusted. The ref had ruined things, though to be fair, the Quakes had dug themselves the two-goal hole. The Quakes had some good chances, but couldn't finish. NE keeper Matt Reis made some excellent saves to keep his clean sheet. As the 90th minute approached, I was furious we were not only going to lose at home, but lose to a weaker team when we hadn't played that badly (this was not like the Dallas game where we deserved to lose). The crowd was strong and vocal, and suddenly, there was magic. Landon Donovan got free in the box for a split second and hammered home a left-footed shot into the top corner. Now the crowd went ballistic. It was an electric atmosphere just like last year, in the 5-2 playoff rout of LA. Everyone in the stadium believed the Quakes could do it. We were screaming like mad and the players were pumped. Immediately they were back on the attack. The ref had indicated four minutes of injury time and two had elapsed but there was still time. The Quakes pressed forward again, and again, and suddenly, there it was. DeRo got free on the left and his cross somehow got through and Brian Ching was there with a foot inches in front of the NE defender. 2-2! In an amazing comeback, the Quakes had, in three minutes, playing a man down, forced two goals to tie the game! Wow! I can't say great things about the first 90, but those injury time minutes were priceless. Unbelievable stuff. Champion stuff. Guts and glory. Wow. The result is only a point at home, not great, but far, far better than a loss, and if the team can build on this, we're in for great things. I just hope the team can figure out why they can't play like that constantly. Why have to wait until Troy gets an unfair red to get mad? Why have to wait until the ref calls back a valid goal? Come on: use the anger from this game in future games. We're in last place in the West (we'd be tied for second if we were in the East) and we've got to start winning games, especially at home. Final: 2-2 draw.


Saturday, April 2, 2005

MLS: New England Revolution at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: New England Revolution at San Jose Earthquakes

One of the coolest things about the timing of this trip was that I was able to end up in San Jose the weekend of the Earthquakes' opening game of the season -- awesome! It felt a little surreal going to a game now that I live so far away, but the stadium atmosphere was a familiar feeling. The game was good. Not great, but good. The Quakes looked awesome in the first half, totally dominating with a solid two goal lead, but in the second half they got too comfortable and pressed forward too much and forgot to defend: New England came back into it with two goals to tie it up and that's the way it ended. At least it wasn't a loss -- that would have been horrible -- but it still felt a lot like one. Blowing a two goal lead at home doesn't inspire confidence. Still, the game showed that San Jose can score and play, though their defense -- what used to be their best attributed -- needs a lot of work. Fun evening, though. I will miss this dreadfully.


Sunday, August 6, 2006

MLS: New England vs. Chivas USA

Soccer: MLS: New England vs. Chivas USA

Too hot for a good game, and I was distracted by the 90,000+ people at the stadium, but there were some decent moments and a couple good goals. The game finished 1-1.


Thursday, May 24, 2001

MLS: New York at Kansas City

Soccer: MLS: New York at Kansas City

For the first time this year I was impressed by Kansas City: they actually attacked and didn't just defend. New York couldn't score, and they kept K.C. out of the net. It looked like a zero-zero draw for sure. Then, in injury time, new striker from Jamaica, Lowe, headed in a great ball to give K.C. the win. Final: 1-0 K.C.


Saturday, June 23, 2001

MLS: New York at L.A.

Soccer: MLS: New York at L.A.

A rather dull game, which stayed nil-nil until three minutes to go. Then suddenly Cobi Jones put together a great run down the left side, dribbled past several defenders, and then crossing to a wide open Hernandez who finished it expertly. One minute later, Hernandez caught a long through ball and put that away as well: just like that, L.A. had won. Final: 2-0 L.A.


Sunday, June 3, 2001

MLS: New York at New England

Soccer: MLS: New York at New England

What's wrong with New York? They've sure slacked off as of late. They didn't play great today, though they did score in the first half. But they were outplayed: only their goalkeeper kept them in the game, making a half dozen terrific point-blank saves. In the final minutes, Ritchie Williams took down Jonny Tores for a penalty kick, which Cate finished well to tie the game in the 90th minute. In extra time, New England had two or three great chances, but once again were stopped by the keeper. Final: 1-1.


Saturday, May 19, 2001

MLS: New York at San Jose

Soccer: MLS: New York at San Jose

Terrific game I got to see in person. Though the crowd was small (about 7,000) it was great to see San Jose play well at beat the number one team in the league. The first goal came in the 26th minute. Manny Lagos somehow managed to keep the ball from going over the end, beat a couple defenders, and put in a shot. The shot was blocked but the rebound fell right to Wade Barret, who put in a great curling shot! I was right by that sideline and got to see the goal close-up: wonderful. New York didn't really pressure San Jose much (the Quakes' midfield successfully stopped attacks from starting), but keeper Joe Cannon did make a few key saves, including on diving block right near where I was sitting. Very exciting. In the second half, a through-ball from Mulrooney got to Landon Donovan, who calmly took the ball into the penalty box and slotted the ball home from the penalty spot for a historic goal: Landon's first in MLS. This guy might only be nineteen, but he plays like a veteran. I'm so impressed with how he handles himself on the field, not just in skill, but temperment, spirit, and attitude. He's a real star. Final: 2-0 San Jose.


Sunday, October 5, 2003

MLS: New York Metrostars at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: New York Metrostars at San Jose Earthquakes

Not much of a birthday present here. The Quakes came out and laid a goose egg. The Metrostars were without superstar Clint Mathis (red card last weekend) so I figured the Quakes had the definite edge, especially considering they scored nine goals in their last two games. But nope: this one was all New York. They scored early and held on. A big part of the problem was the referee, who was terrible. Of course home crowds tend to be biased, but players on both teams were obviously confused by his arbitrary calls. One time a foul is called one way and minutes later an identical foul isn't called. Later on the same foul goes the other direction. Bizarre. That didn't leave the Quakes with much confidence in the ref. When the Quakes tied the score with a great goal late in the first half, the ref disallowed the goal, apparently saying Dewayne DeRosario fouled an opponent while scoring. Late in the game the side ref blew an offside call to allow the Metrostars a chance. The Quakes were forced to give up a corner, and on that corner kick New York scored. That's an excellent example of how poor refereeing trickles down and has direct effect on the play. In the final minutes of play the Quakes scored a second goal -- and again the ref disallowed it! Supposedly this time it was a Quake handball. Both plays happened so quickly it's hard for me to truly judge (though I was in the perfect position for the offside call that wasn't made while the side ref was ten yards out of position), but I find it incredible that two goals could be discounted. There are some conspiracy-minded Quake fans who feel MLS wants New York to do well as they're such a prime media market and think the league actually distorts the results -- this sure feels like it. It doesn't really mean anything to us as the Quakes still lead the league and are well into the playoffs, but the win was huge for New York who've been struggling as this puts them into the playoffs. Just a disappointing, frustrating day for Earthquake fans. Final: 2-0 Metrostars.


Saturday, May 8, 2004

MLS: New York Metrostars at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: New York Metrostars at San Jose Earthquakes

WOW! What a game! The Quakes have been off to a slow start this season and really needed a big win at home after two ties. Things started off poorly with a quick long-range goal from New York, but picked up with a terrific bit of play from Landon Donovan -- a slick backheel to free Brian Ching who finished wonderfully. A few minutes later, new Quake member Chris Brown got his first goal, also with a nice assist from Landon, who had a fantastic game. But the lead didn't last long when Vaca struck a laser into the upper left corner of the goal from a mile away. Just ridiculous. The Quake defense just gave him too much time and space. The Quakes came right back with a great opportunity from Landon who dribbled his way into the box and almost scored. A moment later, he did score -- in the box he juggled the ball keeping it away from the defenders and finished it was a splendid side volley. Goal of the Year candidate in my opinion. That goal gave the Quakes the lead just before the half and it looked like ideal timing... until NY's Fabian Taylor equalized on yet another long bomb that beat Pat Onstad. I don't really blame Pat that much on the goals as it was more the defense that gave the Metros so much time to shoot, but man, that was a wild first half. Six goals!

In the second half the Quakes played better. It was obvious they were bound and determined to win this match. Landon was a phenom, just everywhere, and every touch productive and dangerous. It looked like things had gone the Quakes way when a run by Donovan was stopped by a foul and the ref ordered a penalty kick. Except that a moment later the ref reversed his own decision after discussing matters with his assistant ref. Crazy! Why not consult first and decide second? As it was the ref's mind-changing was disappointing and confusing for the player. Yes, on the video replay it did look like the foul was outside the box so it shouldn't have been a penalty -- but why call it and then change it? And why no yellow card on the break-away foul? Stupid refereeing. A few minutes later the Quakes were given a penalty kick. It was a foul on Mulrooney in the box and Ekeland finished it easily. The one goal lead was padded to two when defender Craig Waibel headed home a Jeff Agoos free kick. Things were looking much better but then Goose foolishly tripped Glen in the box and New York was given a penalty of their own, which they quickly converted. The Quakes still led, but the game was now tight. The ref got involved again when he didn't eject New York's Glen after he deliberately shoved Waibel into the wall off the pitch, and when an elbow to Ching's jaw went uncalled: it should have been another penalty kick. Those moments came back to haunt the Quakes when in the 90th minute a harmless shot by Eddie Gaven was deflected by Glen into the Quakes' goal: the score was now tied at a whopping five each! That's the way she finished; another draw at home for the Quakes. But what a game! Every goal was quality and show individual or team brilliance. Extremely entertaining, though heart-in-mouth for Quake fans. Wow, ten goals! That's a tie for second place for most goals in a match (it's only happened twice before and only one game had more goals, an eleven goal match by LA in 1998). Just crazy. The Quakes had the offensive hunger of last year, though: I expect them to keep it up! Final: 5-5.


Saturday, June 12, 2004

MLS: New York Metrostars at San Jose Earthquakes

Soccer: MLS: New York Metrostars at San Jose Earthquakes

Fantastic game! I knew it was going to be good when, while walking to my seat, I got a free T-shirt. Being in the front row I never get one as the rally team always throws them behind me. But tonight an errant throw meant it hit a slew of outstretched hands and bounced into the open path, right in front of me. I snatched it! When I got to my seat, a whole girl's team (the "Salinas Kiwis") was sitting right behind me and they were delightful, with constant chants, songs, and ear-piercing screams. They knew their soccer, too, understanding what was happening on the field. Great to see such energetic fans and they attracted a lot of attention in the whole area. It made the game so much more fun. In fact, the security guard sitting right in front of me with his back to the field toward the end of the game had gotten so into he said he wanted to take off his yellow jacket and sit next to me and enjoy the game!

The game itself was important, as the Quakes were missing several key players (DeRosario, Onstad, and Donovan) to international call-ups. How would we play? New York was even more depleted, missing seven key players. No way this was going to be another 5-5 shootout! The Quakes dominated from the start, but it took a while to get things going. The ref was throwing out yellow cards right and left, for niggling fouls in some cases, and not even calling fouls for some rough play. It made for an uneven match. The side refs weren't much better, with a number of blown offside calls. Once again, weak officiating in MLS. But the Quakes battled on, dominating play but not able to connect with the final ball in the box. Finally first blood was drawn when a free kick was given at the corner of the box. Captain Jeff Agoos was brilliant: his pin-point placement of the curling shot could not have been stopped by any keeper; it was just a couple inches inside the far post and driven so hard the keeper could only watch it score. In the second half, the Quakes dominated even more, with a number of great chances that were blocked or missed. Then, against the run of play, the ref called a ridiculous foul on Richard Mulrooney. Richard isn't a big guy but he got up and headed the ball away on a clearance but collided with a NY player on the way down. Ref called a foul and gave Murooney a yellow card! Absurd. But worse was to come on the resulting play when New York's shot made it through the Quake wall and was well-blocked by backup keeper Jon Conway. Unfortunately, the rebound hit Goose and bounced up and hit the crossbar. It was just bad luck that it fell right to a Metrostar who easily headed it into the goal. The game was tied. The crowd was not at all happy with the ref, who was booed constantly after that, but the game continued. Again, a number of great chances for the Quakes as they got into dangerous situations in New York's box. There were at least two cases for penalty kicks, a blatant one on Ching and a potential one on Mullan, but the ref gave neither. Finally the Quakes broke through when a long ball over the back line was chested down by Ching (there was some question it might have struck his hand, but it didn't look intentional to me on the replay). Ching was alone in the box with only the keeper to beat. He deked left, foiling the keeper, but the ball got a little away from him and it looked like he was going to lose it as a defender was arriving. But Ching brilliantly pulled the ball back, shielding it from the oncoming defender with his foot, then, falling away from the goal, turned and flipped the ball into the open net! An awesome goal, totally done with heart and determination and not giving up on the play. Sweet! With only a few minutes left the game was iced when the other Brian (Mullan) proved he can be brilliant as well. He dribbled past a couple defenders into New York area and was double-teamed. A slick move split the defenders and he broke between them and onto the ball. However one of the defenders appeared to foul him in the box and Mullan went down. The defender backed away, not wanting to be called for a penalty kick, and with the ball right near Mullan the ref waved play on. Brian saw that and leaped to his feet and began dribbling. He ran along a whole line of white Metrostar defenders before suddenly turning and driving the ball back in the direction he'd come, into the corner of the goal. The NY keeper didn't even move! Brilliant goal, just totally awesome.

With the game now 3-1, the fans went nuts. I don't know who started it, but tonight being seat cushion night, someone in the West stands (where I am) threw their cushion onto the field. Instantly it was joined by a dozen others. Within seconds there were twenty, thirty, fifty, over a hundred seat cushions flying through the air. It was spontaneous and amazing. Both sides of the stadium were throwing their cushions and the field was covered with them! The sky was filled with them! It was incredible, very exciting and wild. Of course you're not supposed to throw things on the field and the game was delayed while the field was cleared, but it was fun. The ref tried to punish San Jose by adding a whopping five minutes of extra time at the end (clearing the cushions took maybe three minutes), but the defense held strong (Jon Conway had an excellent game, strong and confident, making only a few saves but lots of important catches and punches to defuse threatening attacks). The Quakes win! Terrific game, great performance without some key players. Everyone stepped up and worked hard. What a great team. A championship team. Final: 3-1 San Jose Earthquakes.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

MLS: New York Red Bulls vs. New England Revolution

Soccer: MLS: New York Red Bulls vs. New England Revolution

My cousin Phil has a season ticket package for the New York Red Bulls and gets a free membership to a sort of pre- and post-game club at the stadium. We arrived a the stadium an hour early and went to this pub for drinks and sandwiches (my grilled chicken was huge and delicious): much healthier eating than stadium fare. The game itself was excellent: New York and New England are big rivals and the atmosphere was great. Unfortunately, New York's defense was occasionally amateurish, and mistakes cost them. Though the Red Bulls dominated and should have won, they created tons of chances by kept failing to score. Then they left Taylor Twellman unmarked on a corner kick for the Revolution's first goal. But New York fought back with a goal of their own just before the half. In the second half it was a repeat: more NY pressure and attacking chances galore but no Red Bull goal, and then one half-chance for Twellman and he converted his second. Fortunately Angel got one for New York to tie it before the final whistle, but it was still a frustrating and disappointing day for Red Bull fans. Even worse, New York had a goal unfairly disallowed: the replay showed it was not offside and there was no foul and it should have counted, but the ref called it back, costing the Red Bulls two points in the standings. But it was still a fun game with plenty of goals and I was certainly not disappointed.

After the game we headed home, but got stuck in horrible traffic on the George Washington Bridge where repair crews had it down to one lane. It took us a full hour just to cross the bridge! Another late night but we consoled ourselves with Baskin Robins' ice cream and rewatched the game's key moments on TV.


Sunday, April 15, 2001

MLS: New York/New Jersey Metrostars at Colorado Rapids

Soccer: MLS: New York/New Jersey Metrostars at Colorado Rapids

Great game. Wide open with gobs of shots by both teams. Both keepers were excellent, stopping shots right and left, several amazing saves. Alvarez got on early for New York, and though Clint Mathis had a bunch of chances (he was voted man of the match), none of his would sink in (he hit the post several times, and other shots were saved). Late in the game, with seven minutes to goal, a frantic Colorado finally breached the NY defense. A clever backheel gave the ball to veteran Balboa and he ran onto it and smacked it home, a real blast into the upper corner, giving the keeper no chance to save it. The game went into extra time, and there were many heart-stopping saves, but no more goals. It was a well-deserved draw. Final: 1-1.


Saturday, May 26, 2001

MLS: San Jose at Chicago

Soccer: MLS: San Jose at Chicago

Good game with plenty of end-to-end action. San Jose looked good at times, but Chicago generally dominated. It was pouring rain and the ball was difficult to control. The first half was a lot of wild play. In the second half, both teams started to apply some serious pressure. Finally, San Jose broke. On a corner kick, as keeper Joe Cannon rose to intercept, a teammate headed the ball over his head and Cannon fell to the ground. The ball went right to Andrew Lewis who faced an empty net: he buried it. There was still plenty of time, but San Jose couldn't capitalize on any of their chances (and there were some good ones). Finally, the game went down to the final minutes. "Don't give up," I said to the TV, though I knew it was hopeless. Fortunately, the team didn't. They kept pressing forward, trying for that unlikely last minute goal. With less than a minute left, the ball went to Donovan at the top of the box. The pass was behind him, and hard, and he had Fire on his back: so he slid into the ball, driving it out toward a teammate. That happened to be Zak Ibsen running onto the pass. He blasted it -- and I excepted it to zoom 40 miles over the net the way most such charges do -- and instead it went like a bullet, 25 yards into the net! In the final minute San Jose had tied the game! Neither team scored in the overtime, though San Jose had a number of key chances (Chicago didn't really threaten) to win. Great game, essentially a win for San Jose who maintain their lead in the Western Division. Final: 1-1.


Saturday, June 2, 2001

MLS: San Jose at Colorado

Soccer: MLS: San Jose at Colorado

Great game! Just a dozen minutes in Landon Donovan scored his second goal of the season. He somehow managed to control an awkward through-ball that got to him in the box. He second touch was a slight chip which passed over former San Jose keeper David Kramer and into the goal. Thirteen minutes later, Colorado gave up a soft goal to Jeff Agoos. The defender was given space above the box and he shot a bomb from twenty-five yards out. It shouldn't have been a problem for Kramer, but he misjudged it and it bounced right in front of him (always a problem for keepers) and into the goal. In the second half, a poor pass from Donovan (his foot stubbed the ground as he kicked) gave the ball to Colorado. The Rapid player kicked the ball forward into space for Spencer who was then one-on-one with Cannon, and the Scottsman got the second goal in two games against the Quakes. But San Jose didn't panic and played well despite Colorado's pressure, and finished with the win. Final: 2-1 Quakes.


Saturday, July 21, 2001

MLS: San Jose at Columbus

Soccer: MLS: San Jose at Columbus

Good game, though the result didn't go San Jose's way. They played the better of the two teams, however, and deserved the win, putting in the most shots and really making Columbus work to keep them out of the goal. Perez caught San Jose out on a counter-attack in the 18th minute to put Columbus up, but Jeff Agoos's determination and drive forced a goal in the final minutes of the first half to equalize. It looked like San Jose was building the momentum, but minutes into the second half, Elcock's seemingly harmless run into the corner proved deadly when he drove a perfect shot from an impossible angle and it went into the net. A very impressive goal. Final: 2-1 Columbus.


Wednesday, August 8, 2001

MLS: San Jose at New England

Soccer: MLS: San Jose at New England

Awesome game! Coming off their incredible 5-1 win over Dallas, New England had some momentum, but San Jose doused cold water on that quickly. Coach Yallop changed the lineup slightly, starting Agogo and benching Cerritos, and the results were dramatic. Landon Donovan played like a pro, scoring two goals and two assists in the game. (The second was a penalty kick which he didn't miss the way De Rosario did last week.) Agogo got two goals of his own (his first in a Quake uniform), and no rout would be complete without Manny Lagos scoring a goal. New England got their own penalty kick (roofed by Cate) on a questionable call against Lagos in the box. San Jose's penalty was a handball by former Quake Mauricio Wright who was red carded. Two other red cards were given out late in the game, one to Alvarez of New England and one to Corrales of San Jose. But the Quakes were just glad to be back in form. Final: 5-1 San Jose.


Sunday, June 17, 2001

MLS: San Jose at New York

Soccer: MLS: San Jose at New York

A good nil-nil result, though I wish San Jose could have scored late to earn the three points. At least they keep their unprecedented unbeaten streak going. Final: 0-0.


Saturday, August 4, 2001

MLS: San Jose at Tampa Bay

Soccer: MLS: San Jose at Tampa Bay

A frustrating game for the Quakes. They fought and fought, but a combination of bad luck and great goalkeeping kept the ball from going into the net. A mistake at the back allowed Josh Keller a shot, which he finished, and Danny Pena chipped a head over Joe Cannon to put Tampa up by two. De Rosario had a chance to get one back on a penalty kick, but he didn't strike it well and Adin Brown intercepted it to preserve the shutout. Brown was truly impressive, saving nearly a dozen sure goals in the game. Not a good result for the Quakes, who with their second loss in a row, need to get something going (though they remain in first place in the West). Final: 2-0 Tampa.


Saturday, April 12, 2003

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Colorado Rapids

Soccer: MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Colorado Rapids

Though the official launch of season eight of Major League Soccer was last weekend when L.A. tied Columbus, today was the first full slate of games. The Quakes have struggled against Colorado in Denver and with the news that our forward Dewayne DeRosario is out for the season with an injury, I didn't have much hope. The team's gone through a huge amount of changes, though a few of the champions from 2001 remain, including Landon Donovan, Manny Lagos, Richard Mulrooney, Ronnie Ekeland, and Jeff Agoos. But without seeing the new guys, I didn't know what to expect. Wow! First thing that happens, a mere 56 seconds into the game, the Quakes score! Brian Ching (the first Hawaiian player in MLS) scored on a break-away from the left side. With Colorado stunned, the Quakes pressed on the offense, and twenty minutes later rookie Todd Dunivant got open on the left and with a one-on-one against veteran 'keeper Scott Garlick, calmly slipped it through Garlick's legs to give the Quakes a two-goal lead! The game was practically over at that point, with the Colorado rarely threatening. In the second half, however, things changed as the Rapids came out storming. A long ball was sent into the Quake's half and an attempted clearance by a defender came off as a deflection, sending the ball high behind the Quake's back line. Two Rapids beat the offside trap and headed toward goal. New keeper Pat Onstad stopped the first shot, but the ball rolled to the second man (Zizi Roberts) who put it into the empty net. It was a combination of bad luck for San Jose and alertness for Colorado. After that the game was on, but neither team could really do much else, though there were a few near chances. In the end, though, the Quakes held on to the lead and start off the season with a terrific away win. The next two games are at home and I now expect a lot from this team. Come on, Quakes! Let's have a repeat of the Champion year!


Saturday, May 12, 2001

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at D.C. United

Soccer: MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at D.C. United

Wow, what a great game! Ian Russel got things going for San Jose in the 36th minute with a fantastic 50-yard run up the right wing, beating several players and finishing beautifully. In the second half, Denton returned the favor, scoring on an impressive run of his own. Minutes later, Moreno gave D.C. the lead on a penalty kick. It seemed like D.C. was gaining momentum, but before they could take advantage, Manny Lagos equalized for San Jose! The game continued level, with D.C. really pushing and San Jose seeming unable to beat the D.C. defense. Worse, the Quakes went down a man when Ibsen was ejected with ten minutes left. But Manny Lagos became the hero when, in injury time, he scored the game winner! San Jose not only jumps to ten points with the win, but because L.A. lost their game, San Jose is tied with them and Kansas City, though because of goal differential, the Quakes are in first place! Final: 3-2 San Jose.


Saturday, October 16, 2004

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Dallas Burn

Soccer: MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Dallas Burn

I normally don't write about non-local games, but this one was crucial as the playoffs were on the line. First a word about Major League Soccer. I'm a huge MLS fan. I love this league even better than the world leagues. There's something special about having our own league here, about being able to go to a game and meet these players in person, even if the quality of play isn't always world class. I think the current playoff structure in MLS is stupid with eight out of ten teams making the playoffs -- it makes the regular season games meaningless and explains why so many of those games aren't as exciting as they should be. I sure hope that next year they reduce the playoffs to six teams. Since it will be a twelve-team league that means only half make the playoffs which would be appropriate. Then we'd see teams battling in every single game since all games matter. But with all that good stuff said about MLS, sometimes they do some bonehead stuff. Like not having this game, easily the most important game of the season for the Dallas Burn and San Jose Earthquakes, on television. I pay for the soccer package on DirecTV and this game wasn't on that, let alone on local TV. That's just ridiculous. How can this be considered a "major league" sport if it doesn't put crucial playoff games on TV??? MLS, fix it! Since this wasn't on TV I had to listen to it on Internet radio. At least that worked, but it's not as good as being able to see the goals

Now, about this game. The Quakes were in the driver's seat: a win or a tie and they advance while the Burn had to absolutely win. But when the Burn scored early (twelve minutes in) my palms began to sweat. Then the Quakes came back big time: two goals in two minutes, one from Ching and one from Ramiro Corrales. Now the Quakes were really in the driver's seat because Dallas would have to score two more goals to advance. Then in the second half the Burn scored -- I have no idea how since the radio makes it hard to visualize -- and now the margin was the slimmest. The slightest mistake as the Burn assaulted the Quakes' back line could allow a goal and eliminate last year's champions from the playoffs! My palms were sweating and I couldn't breathe for the final fifteen minutes. Every time the Burn got the ball in the Quakes' penalty area I was nervous. In the final minutes Ching hit the crossbar, almost guaranteeing a San Jose Victory. But Dallas had their own heart-in-mouth moment in injury time when a Cory Gibbs header skimmed the Quakes' crossbar. It was that close. But the final whistle blew with no change in the scoreline: the draw means that the Earthquakes are in the playoffs! Whew. This team sure likes drama. Final: 2-2 tie, Quakes advance.


Saturday, April 28, 2001

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Kansas City Wizards

Soccer: MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Kansas City Wizards

Good game! The Quakes looked very good, far more dangerous than defensive-oriented K.C., and newcomer and potential superstar Landon Donovan got his first start in MLS and did great. He didn't score, but was dangerous, and I was very impressed with his play: he definitely does not play like a 19-year-old. Some of his through-passes, traps, and shots showed incredible control and audacious confidence. It's going to be awesome to see him develop at San Jose: I predict good things. San Jose's defense held together much better at K.C. than in previous matches, though toward the end of the game the Wizards did pressure and almost scored on several occasions. Keeper Joe Cannon made some good saves to keep the Wizards out, and some hard defensive work saved the day on a number of occasions. Things were a little hairy at times but the Quakes didn't panic and seemed confident: I hope they play as well next week at Spartan Stadium. Though neither team scored, I'd put this down as a win for San Jose: a valuable point on the road and a stop to that dreadful two-game losing streak. Final: 0-0.


Saturday, September 20, 2003

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Kansas City Wizards

Soccer: MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Kansas City Wizards

I usually don't write about televised games, but this one was special. Not only did the Quakes play brilliantly, but they set several club records in the process. First, the win not only puts them at the top of the league again, the 46 points is the most San Jose has ever gotten in a season -- and there's still five games left to play (15 potential points)! But the story of the night was Landon Donovan, who not only scored his personal season best of 10 goals, but netted the first ever hat trick (three goals in a single game) for the Earthquakes! Even better, these weren't simple goals. For the first goal, Landon faked out a defender like his was going right but instead slid the ball to his left foot and finished it into the back of the net for a gorgeous 1-0 lead. The Quakes extended the lead in the second half with defender Eddie Robinson's first goal of the season (an excellent header), but Donovan wanted more. His second goal was the best goal I've seen all season (even better than the Quake's awesome team goal in the 4-4 draw against New York earlier in the year). Landon started the play near mid-field, dribbled through two defenders, splitting them completely, broke in on two more defenders, sliding the ball to Dwayne DeRosario on the right while he dove left. The pass opened up space and Dwayne took the ball to the right and then crossed it in front of the goal where Donovan was heading. With a burst of acceleration he darted forward and beat a defender (former Quake Jimmy Conrad) and goalkeeper to slip the ball into the goal. The hat trick was complete late in injury time when Donovan got open at the top of the box and easily beat Meola to score his record third goal of the game. Wow, what a match! What a performance from Donovan, right as the team heads into the playoffs! This should boost the team's confidence (which was already high) and really give the other teams something to think about when facing Landon. Terrific win.


Saturday, September 11, 2004

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at LA Galaxy

Soccer: MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at LA Galaxy

Of course the real purpose of our trip south was to see our team beat the hated Galaxy. Unfortunately, that did not happen, but I had a good time anyway. The Home Depot Center is an impressive facility, though the food offers could be a little more varied (and cheaper). We had good seats in the Earthquakes section. I was a bit surprised there weren't more: only about 75 of us showed up. But we were loud and apparently threatened the 26,925 Galaxy fans in attendance (it was a sell out) because they weren't especially nice. Most were in good spirits and it was just friendly taunting (the Galaxy mascot had fun mocking us), but a few were nasty, including some idiots tossing beers and trash our way. The HDC security were too inept or unconcerned to stop it. The game itself was a bit of a disappointment. While we started okay and held the Gals off initially, I could tell our team was tired and not really into it. Their spirits were there but their bodies were not. This was the team's third game in a week and for two of those we played without three key starters, which mean backups had to do a lot more work. Landon and Ching, our two national teamers, just got back from the U.S. game in Panama, and they looked tired from all the travel. Landon didn't want to shoot but just passed the ball as soon as he got it. Ching out of it in the first half, but got a few chances in the second as he fought hard, but his touch was a hair off and things just weren't gelling for the Quakes in the Galaxy box. In the end, the Galaxy got a lucky goal off a crossbar rebound that fell right to the foot of an LA player, and a second goal during a counter-attack when San Jose had everyone pushed forward. Onstad probably should have saved that goal as it almost missed and just needed a slight touch to push it wide, but he was slow off his line and didn't cut the angle quite enough. The Quakes did get one back late when a poor clearance got Ronnie Ekelund the ball near the top of the Galaxy box. He took one touch to move the ball into position and cracked a brilliant shot off the underside of the crossbar to beat LA keeper Hartman. The ball bounced back out of the goal but had clearly crossed the line. That got the team going for a few minutes and for a while it looked like the Quakes might eke out a point. But with the Quakes pushing up so much the Galaxy's counter-attacks were extremely dangerous: they could have scored a couple more times but desperate defending managed to stop them just in time. Coach Dom put in some subs at the end but it was too little too late. The Quakes lose two in a row, not good in such a tight conference. Fortunately, Dallas lost to D.C. today, so we're still in fourth place. The top of the conference is extremely tight now with three teams within one point of each other. The Quakes still have their destiny in hand: all our remaining games are against Western opponents, so if we beat them, we can force ourself a playoff position. If we lose, however, they jump above us, so we just cannot lose. Win or tie are the only options left. If we win a lot we could even end up at the top of the group, though I think that's dreaming considering the inconsistent play of the team. But I'd still like to see it! Final: 2-1 LA Galaxy.


Sunday, April 8, 2001

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Los Angeles Galaxy

Soccer: MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Los Angeles Galaxy

Unbelievable game! San Jose has consistently been one of the worst teams in MLS. This year they've got a lot of new exciting players and are promising better results. Well, talk doesn't cut it: actions do. And San Jose delivered in their season opener at rivals L.A. They started things off in a storming fashion, with Dayak heading in a goal nine minutes in. San Jose remained composed and focused, and their plan worked: Cerritos scored in the 24th minute, and that was followed by a great goal from Canadian International DeRosario just minutes later. Three goals in less than 30 minutes! Unbelievable! L.A. looked legitimately outclassed. In the second half, San Jose made the mistake of sitting back on their lead. They allowed L.A. some possession, which built their confidence. Finally they began breaking down San Jose's defense. With just ten minutes left Victorine's kick slipped the ball through and L.A. were on the board. they fought hard, pouring on the pressure, and suddenly Frye got open and scored (on a ground ball that Cannon dove for and should have kick-saved). Only one goal separated the teams and L.A. were hungry for one more. But San Jose played well, defending intelligently and composed, and managed to keep the Galaxy from scoring again. Incredible start for San Jose, which hasn't won their home opening in three seasons. (In fact, last season they didn't win an away game until round 21!) Final: 3-2 San Jose.


Saturday, April 21, 2001

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Miami Fusion

Soccer: MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Miami Fusion

Good game, though not a good result. Early on San Jose held their own, but toward the end of the first half everything fell apart. The first two goals were giveaways. In the 39th minute Miami put a cross through the box and a Quake defender deflected into his own goal. Minutes later, in first half injury time, poor defending left newcomer Chacon open for a split second and he took advantage of his chance, scoring his third goal in three games for Miami. In the second half, Ian Russell got a goal for San Jose, but I didn't get to see it because Fox Sports Bay Area cleverly edited out San Jose's only goal of the game "due to time constraints." Yes, the baseball game preceeding the Quake's game went too long so they showed the entire first half, then jumped to the 52minute of the second half, skipping the Quake's only goal. Makes perfect sense. After all, what local people would want to see San Jose score? Aren't we all Miami fans??? Oh well, I suppose it was a good goal. The goal gave San Jose drive and they played much better in the second half, really pressuring Miami and came very close to equalizing on several occasions, but couldn't quite make it. Miami looked dangerous on several counters, but Joe Cannon make some excellent saves and the defense came to the rescue on other occasions. Good game overall for the Quakes: much better than last week's fiasco. Despite the result, I now have a little hope for the season (especially considering that Donovan and Goose were absent for national team duty). Final: 2-1 Miami.


Sunday, October 5, 2003

MLS: Shake with the Quakes

Soccer: MLS: Shake with the Quakes

Unfortunately the "Shake with the Quakes" event after the game -- an exclusive party for season ticket holders -- had a bit of a cloud over it due to the loss to New York. It wasn't so much the loss as the manner of the loss. I even talked with a player or two about it, and got a kind of mysterious shrug as in "What else could we do?" or "How could that referee be so bad?" I suggested we just pretend the game never happened and he agreed. It was cool meeting the Quakes. I got my Landon Donovan T-shirt signed by a dozen players (okay, eleven players and one assistant coach). The guys were awesomely nice and in good moods despite being pestered for autographs and coming off a harsh loss. I joked with DeRosario that it was a good thing he plays with his feet after seeing him sign so many autographs. He laughed and massaged his hand which was no doubt sore. There were a number of soccer-related activities around at the party (mini-games, goal shooting, giant air slide, etc.), but they seemed all geared toward very young kids (kinda lame). This year the event was held in a back parking area in a much smaller area than last year's event, making it extremely crowded, which was disappointing. But they did serve burgers: it was a nice catered spread with several side dishes including yummy fruit salad. Once again the "autograph alley" thing was lame as different players were scheduled to be there at different times, but the wait in line was probably an hour, meaning it was tough to get your target player's signature. Most players wandered the event after their turn in the booth, though, and were willing to sign if you asked. Overall a good event, though it'd be nice if they fixed a few of the problems (like the long entrance line) for next year.


Saturday, August 11, 2001

MLS: Tampa Bay at Chicago

Soccer: MLS: Tampa Bay at Chicago

Maesner started things off well for Tampa, but a penalty kick by Wynalda equalized things late in the half. He scored again in the second half -- a header on a feed from Nowak -- and Nowak added one of his own later, and that was the end for Tampa. Final: 3-1 Chicago.


Monday, June 18, 2001

MLS: Tampa Bay at Columbus

Soccer: MLS: Tampa Bay at Columbus

Tampa really needed a win and got the opposite. Carlos Valderama put his foot in his mouth and got himself ejected in the 13th minute by harassing the ref and so Tampa had to play almost the whole game one man short. But Columbus was sparkling. Dante Washington was awesome, scoring a hat trick. He started in the 30th minute, then Duhaney added a goal ten minutes later. Quill got one back for Tampa in the second half and for a moment it seemed like Tampa might regain control of the game. But a terrific goal when Washington pulled keeper Garlick out and back heeled the ball right into Cunningham's path who put the ball into the empty net broke Tampa's spirit. Washington hot his second a few minutes later, followed by another from Cunningham. Finally, Washington topped things with the completion of his hat trick and the Crew wiped the floor with poor Tampa. Final: 6-1 Columbus.


Wednesday, July 18, 2001

MLS: Tampa Bay at Dallas

Soccer: MLS: Tampa Bay at Dallas

Tampa's struggles continue as Dallas just dominates. Kreis got things going with a goal off an indirect free kick late in the first half, and then Graziani put in a rebound in the second to push the Burn forward. Rodriquez's penalty kick put the result beyond question. Final: 3-0 Dallas.


Saturday, July 14, 2001

MLS: Tampa Bay at San Jose

Soccer: MLS: Tampa Bay at San Jose

Great game! After a loss to Colorado last weekend, I wondered if San Jose would rebound (unlike Miami, which has lost several in a row). Rebound they did. San Jose clearly dominated play, and their defense was fairly solid, even without Jeff Agoos at the back (out with an injury). Former Mutiny player Manny Lagos got revenge with a 4th minute goal to put San Jose ahead. DeRosario puts forth a great through-pass to Manny who fights off two to get some room and slip it past keeper Adin Brown. Tampa fought back with some good chances of their own, but Cannon and San Jose kept the ball out of their net. In the second half, the Quakes poured on the offense, forcing Adin Brown in a dozen spectacular saves: he was easily the man of the match for the Mutiny. He stopped point-blank chances from Donovan, DeRosario, and Cerritos. Then the Mutiny got a break: a slight touch in the box brought down Diallo who equalized on the penalty kick. It looked like we were heading to extra time but then, with literally seconds left, Donovan ran toward the Mutiny's back line with the ball. Faced with a wall of players he pulled back and ran away, only to suddenly turn and lift the ball with a delicate lob over the defense. Keeper Adin Brown saw the danger and started to come off his line, but he was too late: a darting Manny Lagos, brilliantly spotted by Donovan, ran onto the lob and headed it perfectly over the onrushing Brown to give the Quakes the win! Final: 2-1 San Jose!


Saturday, April 21, 2001

MLS: Tampa Bay Muntiny at New York Metrostars

Soccer: MLS: Tampa Bay Muntiny at New York Metrostars

Great game! It got off a little slow, at least for Tampa, who kept giving opportunities to New York. Then in the 28th minute Alvarez got sent off to drastically change the game. With only ten men, New York should have faltered, but instead they dominated, continuing to find holes in the Muntiny's defense. Ramos broke down the left, beat his man and put in a great cross, and Comas finished. The score really should have been 3-0 or 4-0 by the second half, but man of the match Scott Garlick kept out a half dozen of New York's shots. In the second half, the Mutiny took their time, but finally scored on a marvelous long-range strike by Ralston in the 74th minute. That broke the ice, and four minutes later, Diallo's cross to a sliding Josh Keller, who hadn't been playing well to that point, finished it off to take the lead. But Diallo, who's collision last year with New York keeper Mike Ammann fueled the New York-Tampa rivalry, reacted badly when beat by Mike Petke and tackled him. He got the ball and I thought he only deserved a yellow, but it was a bad tackle and the ref immediately produced the red. With both teams at ten men, it seemed like New York had some hope, but when the pushed forward, Tampa countered beautifully, and Curtis scored on a breakaway. Final: 3-1 Tampa Bay.


Sunday, March 4, 2001


Movie: Molly

Why haven't you heard of this film? It's very good. It's basically a retelling of Flowers for Algernon with a woman as the lead, but well done. (If you aren't familiar with Flowers, it's about a retarded man who becomes smart through a medical experiment and then slowly becomes dumb again.) Elisabeth Shue gives an excellent performance -- by the end of the film I'd forgotten it was her and was thinking of her as Molly. A film like this could come across as overly sentimental or forced, and I was prepared to not like it, figuring it was just another "disease of the week" movie. But Molly is very well done, appropriately low-key, with lots of humor and very little melodrama. Quite remarkable, really. I'm surprised it didn't get more press. One of the things I liked best about the film was its realistic portrayal of the caretaker, Molly's brother, as he deals with feelings of guilt for neglecting Molly and the struggle to form his own life. Molly, as a character, is wonderful: she's 28 but has the mind of a child. She's not self-conscious at all and reacts to situations exactly like a child. For instance, in one classic scene, while watching a play of Romeo and Juliet, she gets up and runs onto the stage to slap Juliet to wake her up and show Romeo that he shouldn't kill himself because she's only sleeping. A big part of the story is the way Molly's love of life infects everyone she meets, including her brother. Best line of the film: at a restaurant, where during a moment of quiet, Molly suddenly screams, to everyone's horror. "There was a silence," she calmly explains. "I screamed for everyone." Wow, that's good, really good. Very deep. Two thumbs up for this one. It's sweet but not saccharine, occasionally profound, and often moving. Well worth 87 minutes of your time.


Monday, May 30, 2005

Mona Lisa Smile

Movie: Mona Lisa Smile

Definitely a Dead Poet's Society clone, except this time with women, but still well done. It's not as serious or deep as the other, and its rather negative (and naive) message seems to be that being different is better than traditional values, with no regard to the actual differences. The plot is simple: a bohemian California teacher comes to teach art history at Wellesley and changes the lives of her conservative students. There are a few unexpecteds that make things not too predictable, but I found the lack of persuasive arguments to be the film's weakest aspect. Instead of confronting the traditional values with logic or emotional arguments, the characters simply accept that they cannot change institutions and leave. I don't really understand the point.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Monk: Series Finale

Today was a sad day as what frequently was one of the best shows on TV for many years came to an end. I don't know why it ended; if ratings were low or the creators were burned out, but I'm still pissed about it. When they announced last spring that this fall season would be the end I thought my heart would stop. Monk has consistently been one of the few shows I can watch any time, any where, in any mood. It is funny, heartwarming, intriguing, clever, and just all-around wonderful. Other shows sit on my DVR for months before I get around to watching them (I've got 15 episodes of House queued up right now and I love House, but I have to be in the right mood). Monk I often watched the same day (on special occasions I managed to save it for watching during Sunday dinner). It was not always perfect or consistent, and sometimes it got repetitive and predictable, but the thing about Monk is that I didn't care: even a bad episode of Monk was better than most good episodes of other shows.

This final two-part episode resolves all the show's mysteries. While I'm glad it ended that way instead of suddenly and without any resolution, I'm not that impressed with the conclusion. Yes, Monk finally solves his wife's murder, and no, that doesn't magically cure his OCD (though it helps), but the mystery itself didn't seem too mysterious (it was extremely predictable) and Monk didn't have to do much sleuthing or anything brilliant to capture the bad guy. The finale tries to hit so many notes and resolve so many things it feels scattered and weak. My preference would have been to have changed this around: had him solve the murder in a brilliant way in part 1, then deal with all the ramifications and resolutions in part 2. Instead they tried to spread the murder across both episodes and crammed the resolution into the last half hour and it felt forced and awkward for me. Not so poor that it ruins the series, but not going out with a bang as I would have wanted. Monk needed to do something brilliant in this episode, some thing only Monk could do, and instead he has the murderer handed to him on a silver platter. Lame. I still love this series, though. I hope it lives forever in reruns and I really hope the books continue and I would love for USA to do a Monk TV movie once a year like they did with Columbo and Perry Mason and other series.


Tuesday, January 13, 2004


Movie: Monster

This is a disturbing film about the life of real-life prostitute/serial killer Aileen Wuornos, who was executed in 2002. She's played by the usually glamous Charlize Theron, who's unrecognizable (using make-up to physically transform herself the way Nicole Kidman did in The Hours). Theron is impressive; it's truly a tour-de-force, but I wonder how she was able to sleep at night after performing. Wuornos is a frightening character: intensely bitter and angry about her horrible childhood (pregnant and on her own at 13), she's terribly independent and irrationally violent, she's forced into countless degradations as a prostitute, and is desperately lonely and wants to be loved. When she meets Shelby, a young lesbian struggling to make sense of her life, the two form a relationship. Shelby still has the innocence Wuornos lost long ago and so Wuornos will do anything for her lover, including murder. After failing to get legitimate work, she goes back to prostitution. When a john rapes and tries to kill her, she kills him, and after that she can't stop: she lures men into remote areas and kills them. The killing scenes are remarkably well done, violent and bloody, with Aileen weeping with rage and guilt as she shoots them. It's a powerful film, very sad, but while it paints Wuornos as a sympathetic characters, I don't think (as some have said) it argues that she should be excused from her behavior. The only real problem with the film is that it feels empty -- there is no hope, nothing good to come, and it ends tragically, with her being executed. It's just a waste of a life. It's worth seeing simply because of the remarkable performances (Christina Ricci's awesome as Selby) and the unusual story (there are very few female serial killers), but in the end I don't suppose one gains much, except learning that some people have really crappy lives.


Tuesday, July 25, 2000

The Monster (El Monstre)

Movie: The Monster (El Monstre) (1994)

A huge fan of Roberto Benini's Life is Beautiful, I found this older movie hilarious. It's not as serious as Life, and a touch crude in places (it's about a guy mistaken for a notorious sex-killer, where all the "innocent" situations he gets himself into are perceived as perverted and bizarre by the police), but funny and filled with charm and wacky physical humor.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Monster House

Movie: Monster House

Not quite what I expected. At first some of the death references and gory plot bits seemed out of character for a children's animated film, but in the end most of these are resolved (I won't spoil it by explaining but just trust that things aren't quite as dark as they seem initially). The animation is pretty good, varying from astonishingly realistic (landscapes and the house) to surprisingly poor (the kids' hair isn't drawn as individual hairs but a simple lump on the head which doesn't change with wind or events). The characters are interesting, though other than DJ, the main child, we don't get too deep, and the character of the house is strangely non-sympathetic. But overall I liked it. I wouldn't give it two thumbs up, but at least a solid one.


Saturday, January 18, 2003

Monster's Ball

Movie: Monster's Ball

Incredible film. It's fascinating that I just happened to watch another great film dealing with racism (Rabbit-Proof Fence), and now this one. I knew little about it going in except that Halle Berry won an Oscar for performance. Turns out its a love story about a racist man falling in love with a black woman. The first half deals with tragedies in the lives of both, and I watched the second half dreading that something terrible would happen (fortunately, it didn't). It's a wonderful story about two ordinary, real people who need each other. Terrific.


Saturday, November 17, 2001

Monsters, Inc.

Movie: Monsters, Inc.

Cool movie! The plot is simple: harmless monsters live Monstropolis and collect the screams of children to power their city. But modern children are becoming jaded and more difficult to scare, so there's a power shortage (since I live in California, the shot of a newspaper heading proclaiming "Rolling Blackouts Scheduled" made me laugh). Then a child accidentally enters Monstropolis, contaminating the city. It's up to two monsters to protect her and return her home.

Not as wild and free as Shrek, and quite not up to the literary standards of A Bug's Life and Toy Story, but excellently done. I love the subtle detail in the humor (such as the "Grossery" store in the background) which gives adults things to smile about. The story itself isn't dramatically different, but it's fun. The animation is nothing short of awesome, almost photo-real in places.


Friday, November 24, 2000

Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life

Movie: Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life

Hilarious comedy from the masters of the absurd, this film purports to explain the meaning of existence through a series of sketches. We explore topics such as birth, sex education, middle age, and death. Occasional profundity shows its head (such as the scene where a couple go to a restaurant to order a conversation, not a meal), but occasionally the humor is the more obvious puerile kind. Like most sketch movies, the quality varies. Best of all is the opening short, "The Crimson Assurance," a terrific Brazil-like film by Terry Gilliam. It opens with a ship of slaves being whipped to work harder, then morphs that into the same old men working at desks as accountants. From there, the men overthrow the suits and put a pirate flag and set forth on the "accountancy" (emphasis on the final syllable). Hilarious and yet quite deep on many levels.


Friday, October 9, 2009


Movie: Moon

This film sounded fascinating: a low-budget sci-fi adventure about a guy alone on a station on the moon who starts seeing things and going crazy from being solitary. It also sounded somewhat predictable, since the plot I just revealed doesn't include room for a lot of surprises. However, the film turned out to be even better plotwise, as there is a rational explanation for what the guy sees (and it's far more satisfying than the old insanity chestnut). That said, I did find some flaws and the film left me slightly disappointed. Perhaps that because my expectations were too high. I hadn't expected a rocking shoot-em-up adventure, but I did find the film sluggish in places. Sometimes there was action but it wasn't compelling. Bigger than that, however, is the strangeness of the people. When the main character sees another version of himself he doesn't react the way we'd expect: there's no shock or even curiosity. The two people basically ignore each other, which made no sense to me. Later they do talk and confront one another. Now perhaps the first guy assumed the other guy was an illusion and that's why he ignored it, but that should have been made clear. I found that strangeness off-putting and it distanced me from the character, made me less involved, less intrigued. Like I mentioned earlier, the actual revelation in the plot is excellent and satisfying, but it would have been even better if I'd been more involved. There's also a certain amount of meaningless business: action for the sake of doing something, but it doesn't propel the plot much. Sometimes that can work, but in this film it felt forced and several times I was telling myself, "Come on, get on with it." There were other strange flaws. I'm not sure I can reveal them without spoiling things, but I'll do my best. One example is the main computer character that controls the moonbase. I was never quite sure what to make of him (it?). He seemed to know what was going on and have all the answers, but the human never directly asked him to explain. At minimum I would have expected him to ask and the computer refuse to answer or in some other way deflect the question. Strange. Another strange flaw was the whole business of the blocked communications system. Supposedly live communications with earth are down and -- minor spoiler alert here -- the human figures out that the signal is being jammed. But apparently this jamming is being controlled by the computer, who is lying to the human about the transmitter being damaged. It didn't make much sense to me why the signal needed to be jammed if the computer controlled the transmission anyway! Why couldn't the computer just say it was broken? How would the guy know? (There are some reasons for this in the film; they are just not clearly explained.) There's one other minor flaw and that is the very end of the film where the film ends too abruptly while there was still story to be told. I wanted to find out what happened next and though there was a one-line hint, the film stopped. It felt odd, as though the producers originally had more but ran out of money and just ended it there. Awkward.

All this said, however, these flaws are fairly minor. It's a good film. Perhaps not great, but definitely above average. The explanation for the weirdness is excellent. The story is mostly compelling, except that some of the weird stuff that happens can be off-putting and confusing. The performances are awesome. Sam Rockwell is amazing. The two versions of himself seem completely different even when dressed identically. I'd say the acting is one of the best reasons to see this. I just also add that this film doesn't at all feel low-budget: the sets and setting are tremendously well-done and everything feels realistic. I definitely recommend this film. It's not for all tastes, can be a little slow (very much like 2001: A Space Odyssey), and there are some minor technical and story flaws, but overall this is a unique experience that is worth your time.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Book: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Writer(s): Robert Heinlein

Though I'm a huge Heinlein fan, this was not a book that ever caught my interest. I'm not sure why: it turns out the plot is fantastic. It's about a moon colony launching a rebellion against their masters on earth and is filled with history, politics, technical information, psychology, and more. Sometimes it gets tedious and slow (it's a long novel), but I loved the whole underdog story and it's amazingly realistically presented. A few things are funny from the modern perspective: for instance, they have a lot of advanced technology, but still use wired phones and print newspapers. That's a minor nitpick and doesn't interfere with the story. Excellent.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

More iPad Thoughts

I've had a few days to use this thing and think about it a bit more. As with anything new, experiences are mixed, but am learning more how to use the iPad and how it can fit into my life. What is most interesting is the way my perspective is changing. Things I had assumed before I got it, I'm not so sure about any more.

For instance, I never really considered the iPad as a "real" computer. For me, it would be more of a consumption device, not a laptop. But already that perspective is changing. First, this thing is so light and yet still functional, that I am finding it a joy to use. It is blazingly fast -- apps launch instantly and scrolling, zooming, and other functions feel so quick and responsive that I just love using this. There are still many areas where it cannot replace my laptop, but some of those are unique to my needs: for many people, an iPad is all the computer they need.

Another area is typing. Prior to trying the iPad, that was a minor concern. I am comfortable with my iPhone typing, so I wasn't too worried, but I also wasn't sure it would be that much better. My first tries at typing on iPad were a disaster: I struggled and made constant errors and the process felt painful. But today I decided to really try to type as though this was a real keyboard, with all hands on the home keys. To my shock and amazement, it works far better! It's not perfect, and I still make some errors, but I just need practice. I downloaded a typing app and with 10 minutes of practice I found I could type "The quick brown fox jumped over a lazy dog" at a rate of 60 words per minute without a single error! (More significantly, it felt comfortable and effortless, as typing without physical keys requires only the faintest touch.) That is impressive, and convinces me that with a little work I could do just fine without a real keyboard and probably be almost as fast. In fact, because my main problem seems to be carelessness on my part of using the wrong fingers (especially for keys like Q, where I'm used to a hard keyboard where I can feel the right key) and the iPad keyboard works much better when you use the correct fingers, getting good on iPad will probably improve my regular keyboarding.

The biggest obstacle is punctuation, as those characters are oddly placed, but practice will help with that. The auto-correction works much better when you use your hands in the right position. It must be optimized for that: when I used two fingers, like I prefer on iPhone, auto-correct didn't work most of the time. (And yes, in case you were wondering, this post was written entirely on my iPad. Compared to my previous post, which felt like I was running uphill with weights on my limbs, this time it feels like running on a level surface with no excess weight: far smoother. Ultimately still tiring, but not bad at all.) The biggest problem with iPad typing is that many won't give the glass keyboard a chance -- they'll give it the 30 second try and when it doesn't work they'll give up and connect a Bluetooth keyboard.

Another change is my attitude toward the 3G version. Originally I wasn't in the least bit interested in that model. I did not want another monthly fee, and I figured I already had mobile internet on my iPhone. Besides, I work from home and I'm usually there and so WiFi is all I need. That's all my laptop has and it's worked fine for me.

Now that I have an iPad, I'm am rethinking that. First, this thing is so light and useful, I can picture myself taking it with me everywhere. It really is like carrying a magazine. Where I only take a laptop when absolutely necessary, iPad I can take to the doctor's office to read books on in the waiting room or when meeting someone at a restaurant. That means that with iPad, I'm more likely to be away from home with it. Second, because iPad is based on the iPhone OS, most of the apps expect you to have an internet connection. It is surprising how many rely on that feature and don't work at all or  suffer from a major lack of functionality without internet. I had considered demoing it to someone and realized that the demo would be limited because so many of the coolest apps wouldn't even work without an Internet connection.

I had been planning on purchasing a new iPhone this summer. After all, I've got the original version and it will be three years old. But doing so undoubtedly means upgrading my cheap data plan to the new 3G plan that costs $15 more per month. Suddenly I am thinking, if I'm going to pay that anyway, maybe I'd be better off to just get an iPad data connection and keep my old phone. It works fine. I'd have the best of both worlds. (The best option of all would be a new iPhone that would give my iPad a mobile hot spot, but tethering still isn't available here thanks to ATT's greed/incompetence.)

I won't make a decision on this for a while: I'll wait and see what features the new iPhone this summer has, and what my costs might be, but it is interesting that I'm considering the 3G iPad when just a few days ago I was dead-set against it!

Apps I've had more time to play with various iPad apps and I can report on them now. First, let me say that after using native apps, running iPhone apps in double-size mode is painful. Apps that you run only occasionally or for a brief tasks aren't too bad, but you really want native apps on this thing. I have some apps that are merely displaying info from a website, and I find using those sites on Safari is easier than using the doubled iPhone app.

Fortunately many of my favorites have already been rewritten, and they are great. Words With Friends is excellent in full screen. One of my most important finds is a terrific PDF viewer called GoodReader that is only a dollar (I think that's a limited time offer). It gives you several ways of wirelessly transmitting your files to it, which is far better than Apple's approach which requires hooking your iPad to your computer via USB and using iTunes. I tested my magazine in the app and it worked great: all the links worked (it even displays web links right within the app so you don't have go into Safari) and you can add your own bookmarks. Recommended.

The new IMDB app is incredible on iPad. The interface features a lot more photos, quite large thumbnails, in fact, and the presentation of the information is different and excellent for the most part. (My main complaint is that the full casting info is now a popover window, so when you scroll down a long list and click on an actor to read about that person, when you come back, the popover is collapsed and now you have to scroll through the list again to find where you were. On the iPhone, leaving a list and coming back to it puts you right where you were on the list. I don't see the advantage of using a popover control for long lists like the cast. It's great for quotes or trivia, though.)

I bought a racing game just to try the feature of "steering" the entire screen to turn and it really was fun. I'm not much of an "action" gamer and I'm usually horrible at driving games, but I came in second in my first race which felt like an accomplishment. I put it down to the more natural controls -- I've never used a steering wheel controller and other controls have always felt awkward for driving. Though the iPad is light, it is solid, and I wonder how the weight feels after holding the thing up for hours while playing -- but perhaps that's good exercise!

I haven't been much of a news reader in the past decade: I overdosed during the "hanging chad" election and have boycotted all news since. I find news websites to be ridiculously cluttered and distracting, but I have downloaded several news apps for iPad and I must say, I am impressed. Some, like the USA Today app, are simple, but work well, with a multicolumn newspaper-like layout. (That app is clever: it shows two columns in portrait orientation and three in landscape. It also has a nifty navigation feature: scrolling vertically goes through the current article, but swiping left-right moves you to the previous or next story.) The BBC app had some bugs (stuff wasn't showing up), but showed promise and I think will always be free. With apps like these, I might start reading the news again! (Another interesting app I found is one called SkyGrid that is a sort of news aggregator. You put in a term, like "iPad" and it returns all sorts of web articles on that topic. It updates continuously, with trending topics toward the top. Tapping on a link brings it up within the built-in browser, so browsing through material is quick and convenient. Early days, but this could end up being one of my favorite apps.)

It is worth noting that many iPad apps are buggy. For instance, I downloaded a simple drawing app and it looks neat but I can't get the eraser to work. That makes the app rather useless until that's fixed. As an early adopter, I don't mind these problems -- most developers got their iPads on Saturday like me and are working frantically to fix bugs now that they can test their apps on a real machine.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

More New York

Sunday morning I again had minimal plans. I was to meet Peter later for Spamalot, but my morning was open. Phil had to babysit his daughter, so he would be occupied. I headed off in search of breakfast and adventure. Phil had told me of a good soccer bar where I thought maybe I'd stop by to check out the Manchester United-Chelsea match. I noticed it was "near" the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue and I really wanted to see that famed glass cube, so that sounded like a good starting point. I actually got on the correct "downtown" subway train and got off at 59th and walked. I spotted a sit-down breakfast place where they made omelets to order and had a delicious breakfast (with potatoes grilled with peppers and onions and real fresh-squeezed orange juice). Refreshed, I head off toward the Apple Store, passing places like Bloomingdales and other landmarks. Just as I got to the Apple Store my phone rang it was Peter, wanting to meet for lunch at 12:15 on 8th and 42nd Street. Since I was on 5th and 59th, I'd have a bit of a walk, which was fine.

The Apple Store is amazing: I thought the glass cube was just sort of an advertisement, but it's the actual entrance. You descend a spiral staircase of glass stairs and you're in a huge open space filled with people and electronics. The place is vast and packed with customers -- there must have been at least 200 people at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. The store is open 24/7 and I'm told it's nearly always busy. I wandered around and checked out the myriad accessories on display (a far better selection than at most stores). I wasn't there to buy anything, though it was tempting: with so many people pulling out their credit cards you felt compelled to join in the fun. I overheard at least seven different languages. Most Apple Stores just have a "Genius Bar" -- this one had an "iPod Bar" and a couple other help locations as well. One gal was giving a live demonstration of the iPhone: a camcorder was positioned above her hands and the video feed displayed on several huge Apple monitors around a table so customers could watch exactly what she did with the iPhone and learn how to operate it. Another guy stood in front of a huge stack of iPod Nanos and sold them: if that was all you were buying you could just go to him and he'd ring you up on his portable credit card scanner and off you'd go. I watched and he was pretty much constantly busy, selling a nano a minute.

After the Apple Store, I walked the width of Central Park (the "short" dimension), which takes like ten minutes. I passed the smelly horse carriages with tourists lining up to pay money to ride around the park. The park itself has always amazed me: it is so huge and beautiful with ponds and lakes and winding paths, all right in the middle of the city.

Then I walked down 7th Avenue. At one point I looked up and realized I was passing Carnegie Hall. Walking around New York is like that: you never know what you'll find. I (eventually) hit Times Square, walked through the theatre district near Broadway, and found that 8th Ave. was blocked off for a street fair. It reminded me of the open markets in Dakar: throngs of people, vendors everywhere selling everything you could imagine. I'd eaten just a couple hours earlier but my high activity and all the food smelled so good I was soon hungry again. I met Peter at about twenty after and we found a nice Mediterranean place for lunch. My "shwarma" was not a sandwich like it usually is, but it was good (not the best I've had, though). There was plenty of food, however: Peter and I were both stuffed when we finished. At close to two we headed off to the theatre.


Friday, April 23, 2004

Morvern Callar

Movie: Morvern Callar

This critically acclaimed film with a bizzare title sounded great: when a girl's boyfriend commits suicide, she publishes his novel under her own name. It turned out, however, that was only a minor part of the story. The movie's mostly just following this girl as she tries to figure her life out. I found it tedious and boring. Another annoying thing: the film alternates between long, extremely quiet scenes with no dialog to loud, noisy, dance club scenes where the music's deafening. That was jarring and unpleasant. Overall, while I was curious about this strange woman, I was not intrigued enough to endure her boring life and follow the rather plotless storyline. It's well done and some people might find it interesting, but I was just bored. A disappointment, but perhaps my expectations were too high considering what I'd heard.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mother Night

Book: Mother Night
Writer(s): Kurt Vonnegut

Fantastic novel, very different from Kurt's humor stuff. This one is the story of a purported Nazi criminal from WWII told first person from his prison cell in Israel where he awaits trial and execution. As his story unfolds, we learn new pieces of information about the guy that make him sympathetic (i.e. he might have been a double agent working for U.S.). We learn about the good things he did as well as the bad, and he's quite willing to accept the blame for his faults. There are a number of little twists in the story, which keeps it moving, but the main thing that makes it work is the personality of the narrator. It's a remarkable story. It gets a little convoluted toward the end, but the ending itself is thought-provoking and makes you wonder question absolutism.


Wednesday, December 3, 2003

The Mothman Prophecies

Movie: The Mothman Prophecies

Bizarre piece of dump about people who see a strange moth-like figure just before they die. Apparently it's a myth that goes back thousands of years and a reporter tries to figure it out. Is the mothman extraterrestrial? Is it trying to warn us or did it cause the deaths? Mildly intriguing at times, but generally incomprehensible with an ending that's unfortunately anti-climatic because we really don't care any more by that point. Stay far away from this film if you value your intelligence.


Monday, December 24, 2001

Moulin Rouge

Movie: Moulin Rouge

Intriguing, unusual musical. Set in the infamous Mouline Rouge nightclub in Paris in 1899, the story is a romance between the club's leading singer and a fresh-faced writer. The plot's somewhat of a farce, with mistaken identifies and hilarious set pieces, but the love story is real and very well done. Nicole Kidman is excellent as the ill-fated courtesan, but while Ewan McGreggor's singing isn't bad, his singing performance is artificial. I was impressed at the way Nicole was able to sing and act at the same time (Ewan couldn't do that, though his acting, when he wasn't singing, was very good). The gimmick of the film -- that the songs are variations and adaptations of modern rock songs -- is hokey at first, but grows on you, and in the end added just the right touch of humor and cleverness to a great old-fashioned love story. Excellent; I was very impressed and enjoyed it thoroughly.


Saturday, November 6, 2004

Moving Sale

Things went surprisingly well. This was the first time I'd ever had a garage sale, though I remember helping at my cousin's once many years ago. I'd prepared by placing a classified ad in the local paper and online; I even created a web page for the sale and put a link to it in the newspaper ad (better than paying extra for long text in the paper). At about seven this morning when I was out getting the sale ready and chatting with a neighbor, two different cars passed and asked about the sale! Wow, those garage sale people really get started early! I told them the sale didn't start until nine, but about 8:30 someone asked to look and I said sure, though I was still setting stuff out. A woman who'd called last night about the storage shed came by (early) to pay for it. She also bought my collection of shelves and brackets. That seemed to start a flood. By nine-thirty I'd sold a bunch of stuff: half the videos, the air conditioner, and more. By noon I'd sold a few more things, then it got very quiet. Over the afternoon I only had a couple visitors. It seems the garage sale trade happens early. I didn't sell a couple large pieces of furniture (primarily my kitchen hutch and loft bed), but I did sell the bedroom armoire, my stereos, almost all the videos. Only a few books sold, which was fine: I'd rather exchange them at a used bookstore anyway. I'd been thinking of selling them for a dollar (which seems cheap to a book lover like me) but someone told me I'd never sell them unless I went to fifty cents or less. Overall, I'm pleased with the sale. It brought it a little bit of cash, but mostly means I have less junk to haul to Oregon.


Sunday, June 17, 2001

Moving Weekend

This weekend I was in Fresno helping move all my parents junk in preparation of a move to Oregon. Amazing that a house can have so much stuff. Heavy stuff, too! I'm very tired.


Friday, September 17, 2004

Mr. 3000

Movie: Mr. 3000

Predictable comedic fair, but truth in advertising in that you get what you expect. The gimmicky plot: a jerk of a former baseball star who's built his post-baseball career around the fact that he had 3,000 hits suddenly discovers a counting error means he only had 2,997 hits, so at age 47, he goes back to playing to try to get three more hits. Of course he learns how not to be a jerk in the process, and everything ends happily ever after. Typical Hollywood, but well-done. It's not a laugh-a-minute or anything, but has a lot of smiling moments, some cool scenes, and a satisifying conclusion. Bernie Mac is flawless in the lead.


Friday, June 10, 2005

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Movie: Mr. and Mrs. Smith

This is a film where you get exactly what you expect. It's nothing intellectually challenging or unpredictable, but the chemistry between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie is electric and it's a whole lotta fun. The two star as a married couple who each secretly work as paid assassins for different companies. Because of the elephant in the room neither will talk about (their secret jobs), their marriage is in the tank. Soon each have discovered the other's secret and thinking the other was only pretending to fall in the love, their romance turns to anger and they try to kill each other in a spy-versus-spy comedy of failure. Eventually, of course, their fighting turns to lovemaking and all's right with the world. Very cool, pretty, and loudly violent, with a suprisingly decent message about marriage at its core. Two thumbs up!


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Mr. Brooks

Movie: Mr. Brooks

This is an odd film. The main character is a cold-blooded serial killer -- yet we like him. He's struggling with his "addiction" to murder, which makes him sympathetic. There isn't much of a plot, really, just a few lose tangles about his daughter who might have his same disease, an admirer who's blackmailing him into taking him in as an apprentice killer, and a lady cop who's tracking him but is distracted by her own divorce chaos. Still, the story works, and the visual gimmick of having the killer's dark thoughts show up as a separate actor is intriguing. However, the ending's a struggle and too convoluted for true satisfaction. I really liked parts of this but other aspects were poor, so overall I give it a slight thumbs up. Don't expect genius, though at times it's clever and interesting. And I suppose it doesn't hurt that the film is set in Portland, Oregon, near where I live.


Saturday, November 16, 2002

Mr. Deeds

Movie: Mr. Deeds

It's fascinating the way Adam Sandler can play such an appealing ordinary guy. In this film he inherits $40 billion, but doesn't change his personality. He's just a guy from a small town and doesn't care about the money. Some might perceive him to be an idiot, but he's just a guy. Though the plot's completely different, the spirit's the same as in Happy Gilmore and other Sandler movies: poor schlub makes good. For a light comedy, it's very good. For a great film, it's okay.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu

Book: Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu
Writer(s): Lee Goldberg

I had no idea there were Monk books. I'm a giant fan of the TV show and quickly bought all three books. This was the first one I read and it's terrific. The "Blue Flu" is the San Franciso police calling in sick (since they can't legally strike) and Monk ends up being temporarily instated as Captain, during which he solves a number of baffling crimes with a team of other misfits detectives who'd been fired for being nutty (like him). The book captures the hilarious spirit of Monk just like the show, but there's a lot more depth here, and I liked that he solves multiple mysteries instead of just one. Excellent!


Monday, October 25, 2010

Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop

Book: Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop
Writer(s): Lee Goldberg

Better than average Monk book. He solves a ton of little mysteries, which I like, but the one drawback is the main "dirty cop" story doesn't really get going until halfway through, which made it a little easier to set the book down. Another negative of most Monk books is what I think of as the "Rockford Files Flaw," which is where the main character always has bad things happening too him. It gets depressing reading about a character constantly suffering. But while this book starts out that way (he loses his job) it includes some too-good-to-be-true things that you just know are going to turn sour later on. Fortunately, it's still an entertaining ride, though too much of the book is devoted to highlighting Monk's idiosyncrasies. (By now, anyone who likes these books knows Monk and the TV show and doesn't need explanation.)


Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants

Book: Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants (2007)
Writer(s): Lee Goldberg

Another excellent Monk novel, this one classically tongue in cheek about the TV show's history. On the show, the actress who played Monk's assistant in the first couple seasons was replaced. In this book, his new assistant meets the former one, and sparks fly. Monk, of course, is so selfish he wants both assistants to cater to his eccentric whims (he'll pay each only half a salary, of course). But of course there's a murder involved -- several, in fact, and Monk solves the crimes in his inimitable way. It's well done, though the murderer is quite obvious (I knew the moment the character was introduced), but Monk isn't about inscrutible mysteries but the fun of Monk using his OCD to figure it out.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mr. Monk Goes to Germany

Book: Mr. Monk Goes to Germany
Writer(s): Lee Goldberg

While I'm a huge fan of Goldberg's Monk books, this one has too little mystery and too much exposition. The problem is that to get the paranoid Monk to Germany is no easy task -- and we, the reader, have to sit through every tedious minute of him traveling, freaking out at foreign stuff, etc. It gets tiresome and old after just a few pages, and yet that's most of the novel. Yes, he does solve a few murders, but they are few and far between. I don't know if the series is running out of steam, but I'd like to see a lot more mystery solving and less "Monk is weird" stuff. While extremely well-written, it's just not that interesting.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii

Book: Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii
Writer(s): Lee Goldberg

Another good Monk book. This one is okay. We don't get to see enough mystery solving as it takes the whole book to solve the two main crimes. While spending time with Monk is interesting, it's also tedious, as he is predictably neurotic (and compulsive). Fortunately, it reads quickly. In this story, Monk's assistant Natalie goes to Hawaii for a wedding and Monk tags along (you'll have to read it to find out the how and why). While there Monk causes amusing chaos with the hotel staff and solves the murder of a hotel guest. The most important thing in a mystery is the resolution and at least this one has a good payoff, but the build-up is a little long for me.


Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse

Book: Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse
Writer(s): Lee Goldberg

Another good read, though not quite up to the level of the first one. It dragged a little in the middle as Monk early on identifies the killer but then has to figure out how to prove it. This gets a little tedious as there's little suspense. But the resolution is excellent, and there's plenty of entertaining Monk adventures in the process.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mr. Monk in Outer Space

Book: Mr. Monk in Outer Space
Writer(s): Lee Goldberg

Another excellent Monk book. In this one Monk has to find the killer of the creator of a 1970s sci-fi TV show with a cult following... basically a clone of Star Trek. Monk has a real hard time relating to these "freaks" who dress as aliens and have their ears surgically altered, but it gets worse when he discovers that his brother Ambrose -- a shut-in who hasn't left his house in 30 years -- is a huge fan of the show and has written half-a-dozen books about it (including a language guide). To solve the mystery Adrian must use his brother's expertise of the show. As usual, there is plenty of Monkism, and the TV show stuff is funny, but though extremely well-done, everything's a bit milder than usual -- I didn't find myself laughing out loud the way I have with other Monk books. Perhaps I'm just getting used to the character or expecting too much? The murder mystery part of things is also well-done with clues and good Monk solutions, but it too felt a bit too basic. I also wasn't crazy about the action-involved ending, which had Monk in jeopardy for his life as he insanely confronts a hit man. That doesn't sound too Monkish to me -- he's terrified of pillows, so wouldn't he call for backup? But still: this is classic Monk and it's never bad and if you're a fan of the series, you'll want to read this.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mr. Monk in Trouble

Book: Mr. Monk in Trouble
Writer(s): Lee Goldberg

A delightfully unusual Monk book in that in this one he goes back in time! Sort of. The story takes place in the fictional Old West town of Trouble, a town that during the gold rush had a man named Monk who was remarkably like today's Monk. Part of the novel is a diary written by a woman who writes about Monk's exploits in the 1800s, and part of the novel is the modern story of Monk visiting the tiny town of Trouble to solve a murder there. This was fun and a nice change from the regular Monk stories which tend to sound alike after a while, but I have two criticisms. The Old West detective stories all seem to revolve around the same theme of people faking gold discoveries and such, and I wasn't all that intrigued by the modern murder which seemed very paint-by-numbers. That said, just the exotic setting makes this one worth reading. I wouldn't be opposed to a whole novel of the original Old West Monk.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Mr. Monk is Miserable

Book: Mr. Monk is Miserable
Writer(s): Lee Goldberg

Much better than Mr. Monk Goes to Germany, though peripherally similar. This one takes place in Paris but has a much more satisfying murder investigation, though there's still much too much tedium about Monk in a foreign country and Natalie writing about visiting tourist landmarks. The plot is a bit novel in that Monk "witnesses" a murder in pitch black restaurant and figures out that everything's linked to the "Freegans," a group of hippies who live underneath Paris and live off trash that others throw away (a lot of gourmet food, considering it's Paris). Clever and interesting, though the books are starting to feel too similar. (Of note: I read the Kindle edition of this on my iPhone!)


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mt. Hood Trip

Today I went with a visiting friend up to Mt. Hood. I hadn't been then since I was a kid. It turned out to be the perfect day to go: some snow, but not enough for skiing so the place was quiet and nearly deserted, and the weather was clear and almost balmly (we didn't even need chains or snow tires to get up there). We took a tour of Timberline Lodge, one of my favorite places, and I learned a lot about its history I didn't know. The most interesting fact for me was that since it was built out of the Great Depression, they recycled everything, so tons of the building is made from unusual parts. (My favorites are the water fountain made from a large ash tray and chains on the fireplace grate that were actual tire chains the construction crews used to get up the mountain!) We had a nice picnic lunch outside (where a naughty crow made off with our bag of grapes until he dropped it and we safely retrieved them) and we took a lot of terrific pictures. You can see some pictures I took here. Enjoy!


Monday, July 22, 2002

Mulholland Dr.

Movie: Mulholland Dr.
Writer(s): David Lynch
Director(s): David Lynch

Fascinating film. The mystery isn't that mysterious: it should feel a little cheap (the "twist" near the end could have felt too much like the infamous Dallas "it was a dream"), but Lynch's marvelous direction keeps things interesting and the ending fits. Even if you don't know what's going on, the film's mesmerizing to watch. I want to watch it again to study it (Lynch's films are always rewatchable), but I liked it a lot.


Thursday, July 22, 2004

Mulholland Drive

Movie: Mulholland Drive (2001)
Writer(s): David Lynch
Director(s): David Lynch

This week is Lynch week, I guess. It's been a while since I saw MD and on reviewing it again, it's even more brilliant than I thought the first time. Lynch is unquestionably the deepest filmmaker ever, and he proves it with this movie. On the one level people can dismiss it as a mere gimmick, that the key twist toward the end is just a fun trick. For many filmmakers that would be the case. But not with Lynch. He begins where others stop. Where others stop at the gimmick and think that's cool, that's rad, he begins there and wraps the complex around that, going deeper and deeper into complex psychology of humanity. He reminds me of Philip K. Dick in that regard. Dick always had great twists but never relied on them. All I can say is that if you've only seen this film once, you haven't seen it. And if you dismiss it, you're dismissing it much too early. There are reasons for everything in a Lynch film, and while it can often feel random and bizarre, it's not: there's a pattern and explanation to everything. I shall have to write an essay on this film.


Wednesday, June 19, 2002

The Mummy Returns

Movie: The Mummy Returns

I hated the original, which was bizarre and incomprehensible, but I liked this one. It was silly and pointless, but it knew that and had fun with it. Lots of cool special effects (digital creatures, landscapes, etc.) and some good action. The plot's some ridiculous thing about -- heck, I have no idea. Just go along for the ride and enjoy the scenery.


Friday, August 1, 2008

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Movie: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

The earlier Mummy movies were kind of fun and this one tries to fit in with the tradition, but its campy feel, lame jokes, and pointless plot feel flat and tired. It's not the worst movie ever made by a long shot and is mildly entertaining, but it's disappointing compared to the previous ones in the series and that right there should tell you something.


Friday, December 30, 2005


Movie: Munich
Director(s): Steven Spielberg

Not a film for the faint of heart, I found the violence in this film to be extraordinarily grim and messy, extremely realistic, not cartoon-like as in action movies. The story itself is grim: after 11 Israeli atheletes are gunned down by Arab terrorists in Munich in the 1972 Olympics, Israel secretly puts together a covert team to hunt down and kill those responisible for Munich. The story is fascinating: it's a story of revenge and death; it's a story about the difficulties and dangers of tracking down killers; it's a story about murder, unjustified and justified (if there is such a thing); it's a story about the inner workings of governments, of secret black ops, of obeying the orders of your bosses regardless of what horrible thing they tell you to do. Ultimately the film's a morality play, but unlike traditional morality plays, this one doesn't have any anwers, only complex questions. Spielberg doesn't tell us if he agrees with the Israeli play or condemns it: he just provokes us to think about which side we're on. Obviously terrorists need to be punished, and since they have no morals about killing innocents for the purposes of terror, why should we have qualms about assasinating them? Yet are we bringing ourselves down to their level if we act like them? Those are just a few of the questions the film proposes. It's a powerful and moving film and one everyone should see. I normally ignore the whole Israeli-Arab thing as I find it dreary and over-complicated and endless, but I was surprised that in this film I was thoroughly entranced by the complexities. There's a great scene where an Arab and a Jew argue their viewpoints (the Arab thinks the Jew is German) and it brought the faults of both sides to the forefront and makes each think of the other in a different light. Good film.


Tuesday, October 5, 1999

Murder at the National Gallery

Book: Murder at the National Gallery (1996)
Writer(s): Margaret Truman

I'll be blunt by beginning by saying that this was a feeble book. I suppose part of my negative impression stems from expecting a traditional murder mystery, a la Agatha Christie. This is more like a political/spy thriller. Truman has written a slew of best-selling "Murder..." books, all centered around Washington, D.C. I dread the thought that they are all like this one. First, there are several murders, not one, the first occurring nearly halfway into the book, and the only one actually at at the National Gallery at about the four-fifths mark! The structure of the story is strange: important characters are introduced early but not sketched out until very late in the book, and the heroine -- I guess she's the heroine -- is nothing more than a stick figure. She basically does absolutely nothing more than look pretty and receive a few phone calls, yet she's treated by the author (and the others in the book) as the grand savior! The plot deals with stealing a $50 million painting, which ought to be exciting, but the plan is so full of holes there's no question the perpetrator is going to fail. The only mystery in this book is why I read it.


Saturday, October 19, 2002

Murder by Numbers

Movie: Murder by Numbers

A decent mystery movie with Sandra Bullock as a detective trying to nail two high school students for murder. The main problem is that we know from the beginning the students did it and framed someone else, so there isn't much mystery. There's some attempts at characterization, with Sandra's character haunted by her past, but that's mediocre at best. What's interesting are the characters of the two high school students, a bored rich kid and an intellectual geek who knows all the forensic secrets of the police. Unfortunately, the ending is rather ordinary: I would have much prefered a Primal Fear type ending (where the geek gets away with it) -- that would have been cool.


Sunday, September 23, 2007


Movie: Murderball

At Peter's loft in Brooklyn we watched this cool documentary on "Wheelchair Rugby," a violent sport for paraplegics. The documentary's whole point is about how we misjudge people and make assumptions of capability based on what we see are handicaps: in reality these guys are superb athletes, incredibly competitive, and the film captures their drama well. It's a touch manipulative, like all documentaries, but it's well-meaning and though the subject matter is occasionally lurid as though trying to hype things, it's an important topic everyone should explore.


Tuesday, October 31, 2000

The Murders in the Rue Morgue

This is a short story, not a book, so one might wonder why I write about it; but it's a remarkable story, one I've never before read, and it's made quite an impression upon me. Poe begins with a lecture on the difference between mere intelligence and the analytical mind. What I liked about this was how he reveals the flaw inherent to the game of chess (proficiency is merely indicative of a strong memory more than any analytical skill). Chess has always puzzled me because skill at it is considered a sign of intelligence, yet I've found it to be more tedious than challenging. Poe has confirmed what I always thought! The actual story of the murders is a fascinating story of detection, with a brilliant (and completely logical) conclusion. The trick is the same as how magicians fool audiences -- with distraction. The murders are so brutal and horrible they confuse you, causing your mind to go into the wrong direction. Fascinating. (I am pleased to report I figured out the solution long before the end of the story, but I must admit I had an unfair advantage: my mind was still filled with images from the book I just finished.)


Saturday, April 22, 2000

Muriel's Wedding

Movie: Muriel's Wedding

What an incredible movie! Funny, serious, bizarre -- it's got everything. Hilarious and wacky, with a surprisingly profound side. Terrific performances. A must see!


Friday, August 11, 2000

The Muse

Movie: The Muse

Silly fun, somewhat superfluous tale of a script writer who's career is on the skids but is revived by a mysterious woman who's supposed to be a "Muse." Okay, but I couldn't figure out why, whenever someone said "She's a muse!" people instantly associated her with the muses of Greek myth. My first association would be have that it's some sort of jargon or new age term. Weird blend of comedy and the supernatural.


Saturday, April 21, 2001

The Music Lovers

Movie: The Music Lovers (1971)
Director(s): Ken Russell

Not a pleasant film, but unquestionably a remarkable one. This tells the story of Tchaichosky, the Russian composer. Russell deals with the man's complicated past and fantasies but an excellent technique of interchanging and intercutting fantasy sequences and reality. For instance, when T meets his future wife, her real image is intercut with his fantasy image, and he falls in love with her... or is he in love with his fantasy? The story is dark and brutal. The composer's a genius, but his personal life is a mess. There are strong hints that T was homosexual and that his marriage fell apart because it was a lie. After marriage, he couldn't compose until he went away from his wife. She slowly descends into madness, and the final scenes of her living in the madhouse are truly sickening. (I felt sorry just for the actors, not to mention the characters.) T himself drinks contaminated water and contracts cholera and dies horribly, the way his beloved mother died. Very bizarre, very sad. It's a movie about people torn with conflicting passions, secret fantasies and ideals, and the unforgiving nature of genius. Complex, but distasteful.


Friday, December 26, 2003

The Music Man

Movie: The Music Man

This musical is proof that you only need one or two good songs to have a musical. Other than "Seventy-Six Trombones" and a couple others, most of the songs are forgettable, but the story -- about a con artist trying to sell band equipment to a small Iowa town who falls in love and comes clean in the end -- is excellent. The film's too long, and much of the dialog is extremely dated. Like the girl whose favorite expression is "Ye Gods!" Huh? What's up with that? Some of the choreography feels dated as well, and looks rather silly. But then most musicals suffer from that as few people in real life burst into coordinated song and dance -- it feels artificial. The film actually benefits from that with some nice theatre-style lighting effects, dropping out the background and highlighting the characters, which works well to emphasis the people. Several of the dance sequences are well-shot as well, particularly "Shipoopi" with its overhead camera. Overall I was pleased I saw this (though I didn't watch the entire thing -- I missed a few songs in the middle), but it violates too many of my musical no-nos to be considered decent, but though uneven, it has a few nice moments.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Must Love Dogs

Movie: Must Love Dogs

Surprisingly good romantic comedy. By definition the plot is predictable -- a divorced woman struggles with dating as an older woman and finds a nice divorced man -- but there are a few twists to keep things interesting (though some feel artificial and forced). Overall it's not great but not bad. Diane Lane carries the film.


Sunday, March 30, 2003

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Movie: My Big Fat Greek Wedding

I never saw this in the theatres, the smash sleeper hit that won America's heart and wallet. It's surprisingly good. Light and predictable, but entertaining and fun. The best part was Nia's sarcastic narration, but unfortunately that was only in a few places: the film needed more of that. The story of two cultures clashing when a Greek girl dares to marry a non-Greek boy is light, and a lot of the humor is repetitive (Gee, the Dad doesn't like the new son-in-law, who would have thought), but it's a happy story, wittily told, and I can see why it was such a hit. In fact, I had no interest in the TV show, but I might check it out now.


Tuesday, May 4, 2004

My Boss' Daughter

Movie: My Boss' Daughter

A surprisingly okay comedy. It tries too hard at times and there's too much gutter humor, but in general it's not too bad. Certainly not as crude and lame as it sounded from the previews. The plot's about a regular guy who's interested in his boss' daughter and ends up house sitting for the guy. Everything goes wrong to ridiculous extremes (strange visitors, distruction and mayhem, etc.) but ends up happily ever after. Predictable but has some good moments and the basic romatic storyline is okay.


Thursday, December 21, 2000

My Dinner With Andre

Movie: My Dinner With Andre (1981)
Director(s): Louis Malle

This is an incredible, fascinating film. It literally is a man having dinner with a friend and their conversation, but what a conversation! They talk about life and death and reality and dreams and masks and acting and pretending and being alive but dead inside and what it all means. Great stuff. Certainly not boring. Unfortunately, other than the unique presentation, most of the philosophy unearthed is stuff I explored long ago. If I'd seen this in high school it probably would have blown my mind because my own thoughts at that time were running along these same lines. Excellent, especially if you're into pointless philosophical and existential exploration.


Saturday, October 7, 2000

My Dog Skip

Movie: My Dog Skip
Writer(s): Book by Willie Morris

Wonderful, wonderful film about a boy and his love for his dog. Similar to my favorite book Where the Red Fern Grows (though it's not as epic). (Note that the film version of Where the Red Fern Grows was absolutely terrible; the worst film adaptation I've ever seen.) This could easily have tumbled into sentimentality, but the filmmakers do a good job of keeping things real. If you can watch this without watery eyes, you've got no soul.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

My Gun Has Bullets

Book: My Gun Has Bullets
Writer(s): Lee Goldberg

This is the first non-Monk of Lee's I've read and I wasn't sure what to expect. My first surprise was that the wonderful witty humor I love from the Monk books is fully on display here, in this hilarious skewering of Hollywood television industry. My second surprise was the decidedly adult nature of the writing and plot: sex scenes, murder and gore, porn stars, and a lot of rather disgusting imagery abound. It's done for appropriate reasons, for the most part, and it's meant to be funny, but it's sure a switch from the G-rated Monk series. It perhaps needs a warning label for Monk fans. Beyond that, it's actually a pretty great read. It's wild, perhaps too wild, as some of things were so over-the-top they pushed me into disbelief (such as the sitcom dog that bites a man's hand clean off). But I love the core concept of a mobster simply killing off the competition in his time slot so the TV show he's financing will get better ratings. The plot's crazy, with blackmail, murder, and everyone in TV land out to destroy everyone else, but if you take it as parody, it's works. My favorite was the fake networks and TV shows: they are hilariously ridiculous but enough like real shows to be fully plausible, and some actually sound cool enough to get on the air (like Frankencop, about a cop pieced together from dead body parts). Lee has been in TV for ages and it shows, as he nails everything Hollywood. (Some aspects are dated, as it's obvious the book was written in the mid-1990s.) It's a terrific education in the making of television as well as an entertaining spoof. There's more action than mystery solving, though, but it's still fun.


Friday, July 21, 2006

My Super Ex-girlfriend

Movie: My Super Ex-girlfriend

Fun silly movie that's a little too dark and serious at times. None of the characters are fleshed out and the neurotic super-heroine is just crazy -- her romantic appeal is implausible. But that's nitpicky stuff in such a silly film: you watch this for the comic bits and just enjoy the fluff.


Wednesday, October 27, 1999

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Book: The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Writer(s): Agatha Christie

It's been a long time since I've read this book, or any Agatha Christie for that matter. I forgot how literary she was -- with mysteries one thinks primarily of plot, but this is a well written book. Compared to many Poirot novels this isn't my favorite, but you keep reading to find out what and how Poirot solves the murder. Christie's spoiled me for other mystery writers -- I have yet to find any that even vaguely come close to her deft touch. She's the best! There are a number of Christie books I bought but haven't read; I really must dig them up and get reading. I love her mysteries, especially Poirot stories.


Saturday, February 12, 2000

Mystery Men

Movie: Mystery Men (1999)
Writer(s): Bob Burden (comic book series by Dark Horse) and Neil Cuthbert (screenplay)
Director(s): Kinka Usher

I realized something while watching this: a humorous premise does not make a humorous movie. Too many gimmick films rely on their wacky premise to get laughs and don't put in enough humor in script to make it funny. This thing sounded great but falls flat: there's nothing funny beyond the initial concept of a some inept wannabe superheroes.


Monday, October 20, 2003

Mystic River

Movie: Mystic River
Director(s): Clint Eastwood

Intense film about perception, violence, love, friendship, and fate. The plot's simple: a group of childhood friends are now older, married, and have lives, but still live in the same New Jersey neighborhood. One's life has been forever scarred by an incident of child abuse. Another fell into crime but managed to get out of it... or did he? The other became a cop. The three are brought back together when the daughter of the former thief is found murdered, and the sex victim is the prime suspect. As tensions and suspicions mount, we're not sure who wears the white hat and who wears the black hat. This ambiguousness is at the heart of the film as it forces the viewer to think about the nature of violence, justice, and fate. The ending is disturbing and left agonizingly unresolved, exactly like violence in real life (which isn't neatly wrapped up like cinema violence). Excellent film, but slow-paced, and unlike the awesome Unforgiven, the pace doesn't build to a frantic conclusion that makes the waiting pay off. Some might find it depressing; others would just call it sadly realistic. Definitely worth seeing, however. Excellent, near-fantastic performances from a number of excellent actors (Marcia Gay Harden, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Laura Linney). Should win some awards.